Stone Age Beliefs:
The Palaeolithic humans did believe in life after death. We know they suddenly started believing in it because they were leaving or possibly eating their dead relatives. They then dreamt about these dead people and thought that these people are still alive so they must have another life. As they did not know what dreams actually were, they were sure they were right. We are sure they had a basic language and could draw, so they all knew everyone else was seeing those people too.
They then began to bury the dead. First, they would put them in the foetal position because they knew that was the position babies were in the womb. So if you are born like that you must be re-born in the same position. They sprinkled the body with a red powder made of dried berries to represent blood so they could have the life power to be re-born. Next, they would tie up their arms and legs so they stayed in the foetal position because when you die, rigor mortis sets in your body goes stiff and then you can’t move. So when rigor mortis sets in, they will stiffen up in the foetal position. They then dig a shallow gave and place the body inside because if they had been buried in a deep grave, they would not be able to escape in their next life, but if it was a shallow grave they could. Before they covered up the grave, they would put some things like jewellery, weapons and food so they would have some possessions in their next life. This was quite a reasonable thing to do because they didn’t know what dreams actually were and would think they were seeing people in their next life.
This simple belief of re-birth is similar to Hinduism and Buddhism, as they all believe you will be born again. It is different because the Stone Age people believed you always had the same body, even in the next life. Hindus believe you change bodies and could be anything like a fly or rat to a pig or human. Buddhists believe you can be born into different worlds as different things.
Hindus believe in reincarnation, so when you die you will be born again, as either a human or animal. This is why they are vegetarian because they believe they would be eating their ancestors. Their Atman is their soul. This is what is re-born into a higher, lower or the same caste depending on their Karma. Someone who ends their life with a low Karma is bad and will be re-born into a lower caste. Someone who ends their life with a high Karma is good and will move up a caste. This is called the caste system, and you have a very high Karma in the highest caste you will reach Moksha. Moksha is heaven for Hindus and reaching it is a Hindus’ goal in life. Samsara is what a Hindu believes about life after death (the cycle of birth, death, re-birth).
But if every Hindu reaches Moksha eventually and does not return to Earth, why are there more Hindus on earth now than there was before? You cannot make new souls, and the human race has been around long enough for every Hindu Atman to reach Moksha, so their belief system in this respect is a paradox.
There are no main divisions of groups in Hinduism, but each individual must find their own path to reach Moksha and God. There are four main paths or yoga’s to choose and different people will believe in a different one or a combination of them to get to God. Bhakti yoga is the path of love and whoever follows it feel naturally drawn to God, and will worship and develop a special relationship with their choice of deity ( the form of god e.g. baby Krishna). Raja Yoga is the path to God by meditation. Once you have forced your mind to become completely still, you can reflect on God and he can be experienced. Karma Yoga is the path of action. This teaches you to keep working, but any work must be self-less. When you do good things to others, you become closer to God. Jnana Yoga is a way of reaching God through reason and intellect. This path makes you really see what is out there and what life is all about. You must begin to hate the world so you are not distracted and then focus the mind on what is real or unreal.
Nirvana describes the Buddhist belief of life after death. Nirvana means to blow out. Buddhists believe in the Samsara- the cycle of birth, death and re-birth. Samsara is the Buddhist’s idea of Hell, and there are many worlds in the Samsara and you can be born into any of them. All of these worlds are seen as bad but some can be better than others. They also believe in Karma and that to every action there is a consequence. They all want to escape the Samsara, but they do not believe in the caste system. When you do escape the Samsara you do not go anywhere, but as nirvana says, you are blown out like a candle.
This is similar to Hinduism because they both believe in the Samsara and that it is like hell. They both believe in Karma but Buddhists are different because they do not believe in the caste system. They are different, as Hindus believe once you escape the Samsara, you go to heaven with God, but Buddhists believe you go nowhere.