An extract on #landscapeporn
Karma translates literally as action, work, or deed, and also refers to a Vedic theory of "moral law of cause and effect". The theory is a combination of (1) causality that may be ethical or non-ethical; (2) ethicization, that is good or bad actions have consequences; and (3) rebirth. Karma theory is interpreted as explaining the present circumstances of an individual with reference to his or her actions in past. These actions may be those in a person's current life, or, in some schools of Hinduism, possibly actions in their past lives; furthermore, the consequences may result in current life, or a person's future lives. This cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth is called samsara. Liberation from samsara through moksha is believed to ensure lasting happiness and peace. Hindu scriptures teach that the future is both a function of current human effort derived from free will and past human actions that set the circumstances.
Hindu society has been categorised into four classes, called varnas. They are the Brahmins: Vedic teachers and priests; the Kshatriyas: warriors and kings; the Vaishyas: farmers and merchants; and the Shudras: servants and labourers.
The Bhagavad Gt links the varna to an individual's duty (svadharma), inborn nature (svabhva), and natural tendencies (gua). The Manusmiti categorises the different castes.
Some mobility and flexibility within the varnas challenge allegations of social discrimination in the caste system, as has been pointed out by several sociologists, although some other scholars disagree. Scholars debate whether the so-called caste system is part of Hinduism sanctioned by the scriptures or social custom. And various contemporary scholars have argued that the caste system was constructed by the British colonial regime.
A renunciant man of knowledge is usually called Varnatita or "beyond all varnas" in Vedantic works. The bhiksu is advised to not bother about the caste of the family from which he begs his food. Scholars like Adi Sankara affirm that not only is Brahman beyond all varnas, the man who is identified with Him also transcends the distinctions and limitations of caste.
James Mill (17731836), in his The History of British India (1817), distinguished three phases in the history of India, namely Hindu, Muslim and British civilisations. This periodisation has been criticised for the misconceptions it has given rise to. Another periodisation is the division into "ancient, classical, mediaeval and modern periods". An elaborate periodisation may be as follows:
Prevedic religions (pre-history and Indus Valley Civilisation; until c. 1500 BCE);
Vedic period (c. 1500500 BCE);
"Second Urbanisation" (c. 500200 BCE);
Classical Hinduism (c. 200 BCE-1100 CE);
Pre-classical Hinduism (c. 200 BCE-300 CE);
"Golden Age" (Gupta Empire) (c. 320650 CE);
Late-Classical Hinduism - Puranic Hinduism (c. 6501100 CE);
Islam and sects of Hinduism (c. 12001700 CE);
Modern Hinduism (from c. 1800).