Hinduism embraces a great diversity of beliefs, a fact that can be initially confusing to Westerners accustomed to creeds, confessions, and carefully-worded belief statements. A person can believe a wide variety of things about God, the universe and the path to liberation and still be considered a Hindu.
Still, there are some beliefs common to nearly all forms of Hinduism that can be identified. These fundamental Hindu beliefs may include:
- the authority of the Vedas (the oldest Indian sacred texts) and sometimes of the Brahmans (priests);
- the doctrines of samsara (an enduring soul that transmigrates from one body to another at death, based on the law of karma) and moksa (liberation from this cycle)
- belief in an Ultimate Reality or Supreme Being (Brahman) who created and pervades the universe
Note that a specific belief about God or gods is not considered one of the essentials in Hinduism. Most Hindus are devoted followers of one of the principal gods (Shiva, Vishnu or Shakti), and often others besides. Most Hindus regard these as manifestations of Brahman, the one Supreme Being, but not all.
Hindus may be polytheistic, monotheistic, or monistic [all reality is one]. There are even orthodox Hindus who are atheistic. Many Hindus believe there is one God (Brahman) who can be worshipped in many forms. (Introduction to World Religions, 3rd ed., p. 193)