Spiritual Goals and Practices of the Hindus
In the Brahmanda universe (literally, creation of Brahma), the soul (jiva), whether human, animal, or celestial, moves from one life to the next in a cycle of birth and death called samsara. The movement of a soul depends on its karma, or its worldly behavior. According to Hindu doctrine, the soul is in one of three states: the physical body, the psyche, or the causal or spiritual state. All worldly beings can be reborn in animal, human, demonic, or divine states depending on their behavior in the life they have just left. The human being is the only creature who can ultimately become a quintessential soul, breaking out of samsara, but since we are imperfect, we are unaware of this advantage, so we identify with the three-body cycle rather than reach further for salvation.
Salvation follows union with the Brahman, also called absolute reality or cosmic energy. This union can be achieved through the system of discipline and meditation known as yoga. To attain salvation, a Hindu must completely identify with and be absorbed into the Absolute by abandoning all notions of permanence and acknowledging the ever-changing nature of the universe. Yoga is the most direct way to reach salvation, but ritual is also essential. Through charity, humility, faith, and worship, Hindus believe people can be reborn in increasingly higher states until they reach salvation. Intense love for one god, bhakti, is another means of release, especially for Hindus of the lower social castes, who are denied access to certain religious rituals.