Within Hinduism are a variety of schools and branches. The two schools that survived through the ages are Yoga and Vedanta. The surviving divisions are Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Smartism and Shaktism (Wilhelm, 1991). These numerous schools and branches have been formed to accommodate a variety of beliefs and views of the Hindu system. Each of the aforementioned schools and branches deal with different methods in which to enlighten the mind and lead a life of fulfillment.
As aforementioned, Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion, as well as its oldest. In fact, many Hindu documents and artifacts have been dated to the pre-Christ era. While there is no single founder of Hinduism, the roots of other religions and important eras in time can be seen within it, such as Vedic and the beliefs during Iron Age India. Buddhist philosophico-religious thought also influenced many of the Hindu traditions and beliefs (Eliot, 2007), especially in regard to using yoga and meditation as ways in which to reach internal peace and happiness, as well as external enlightenment.
Hinduism, though listed as being a religion, is anything but a religion. Hinduism consists of “thousands of different religious groups that have evolved in India since 1500 BCE (Levinson, 1998).” Hinduism is a way of life, consisting of numerous ways in which a person can better themselves. Therefore, it is unlike any other type of organized religion. Perhaps the only thing in common in shares with other religions is that it does not have any one founder, or any one founder that can be traced.
However, the differences between Hinduism and other religions are many. There is no specific theological system or concept of a single deity. Hinduism does not have a central religious authority or a prophet of any sort. There is no one religious text or book that Hindus must abide to; the texts that Hinduism does contain are not meant to be followed as rules,