Recently on a mailing list a person posted the basic tenets of Jainism and Buddhism. He stated that Hinduism is too complex to have a distilled list of basic principles. Here is the list of the basic principles of Hinduism.
1. There is one God, who appears as everything and everyone in this world.
There are three stages in understanding this:
(a) God created this world.
(b) God has become this world, because He created the world out of Himself.
(c) God appears as this world, because He did not undergo any change when he became this world.
God is the unchanging principle beyond space, time and causation. This is possible only if He is Consciousness itself.
2. The aim of life is to realize God.
Everyone is after security (artha), happiness (kama) and peace (dharma). Real unconditional and permanent security, peace and happiness cannot come from anything finite. They can come only from the Infinite. By the definition of “permanency”, we have it intrinsically at all times. It is the self-discovery of the intrinsic security, peace and happiness that is the aim of life. When the aim is reached, the truth of the first statement is discovered by the person as a personal truth. Due to psychological reasons, the journey has to start outwards, find that it is not there, turn inwards and reach it.
3. There are several ways to realize God.
Every individual has to discover God for himself. The factors in this exploration are the social circumstance, body, mind, intellect, emotions, etc. As all these are different for different people, every individual has a unique path to realize God. For the sake of simplicity, the infinite number of paths are classified into a few based on dominant characteristics.
If you think deeply about these three points, you will find that they include all the principles of all other religions. That is why Swami Vivekananda calls Hinduism as the “meta-religion” – the superset of the essence of all other religions. He says that understanding the principles of Hinduism will help a Christian to be better Christian and a Muslim to be a better Muslim.