I am trying to help my son but am mired in too much information. Can someone tell me what are some ways that the basic beliefs of Hinduism are related to each other? He has to make something called a mandala and find a theme that links the basic beliefs.
Many thanks if someone can help.
I can completely understand your predicament. Figuring out how the beliefs of Hinduism are related can be quite a task if you don't know where to start. Let me begin by sharing what a mandala is and give you some further ideas about how to design a mandala to reflect the theme that connects Hinduism.
A mandala is simply a circular design that is often symmetrical and provides a visual representation of something else. To put it another way, a mandala is a circular, symmetrical symbol. Mandalas often radiate outward, providing a nice representation of cosmic truths. The mandala is a VERY traditional and spiritual symbol in the religion of Hinduism, so I can see why the assignment asked your son to begin there.
Next, I want to approach Hinduism and how the beliefs of that religion are related to each other. What I would consider to be the "basic beliefs" of Hinduism are what all Hindus believe. You have been "mired in too much information" mostly because there are countless beliefs and nuances in Hinduism that NOT all Hindus believe. (For example, Hinduism is a religion more of "The Eternal Way" instead of a religion of a particular god or gods. In fact, many Hindus don't believe in God.)
Stated simply, all Hindus believe in four beliefs about the soul: dharma, karma, reincarnation, and moksha. Let's look at each in turn. Let's begin with dharma because it can generally mean the "spiritual law" of basic "goodness" that should govern all humans on earth. This relates directly to the next belief of karma which means "action" and is a reference to all of the actions our souls take (either good or bad) that will determine our soul's next reincarnation (and, in fact, the number of reincarnations our soul will have until it reaches maturity). Reincarnation, then, is the idea that a soul will take on a different flesh body many times (some people say seven) during its journey to moksha. Finally, moksha is the ultimate goal of the soul on earth: complete freedom. It is bliss that is total and eternal accompanied by a kind of emptiness that is similar to another concept called "nirvana." Once a soul has reached moksha, Hindus believe it is unlikely that the soul will need to be reincarnated again. Oneness with the eternal is then achieved and will continue in the afterlife.
All Hindus also believe in many "eternal duties." Some of these are as follows: "honesty, ... patience, forbearance, self-restraint, compassion, non-violence, ... purity, goodwill, mercy, patience, ... generosity, and asceticism."
Finally, let's gather these ideas into a possible mandala. I would suggest using the Ashoka Chakra, which is simply a wheel with many spokes (there are usually 24 spokes representing 24 wise sages, as there are in the Ashoka Chakra in the middle of the Indian flag, but for our purposes, I would suggest only 16). I have included a link that includes a good picture. The reason why I am suggesting that particular shape is that it is in the middle of the flag of India. Any teacher who sees the Ashoka Chakra as the base for a mandala will know that the student has done his/her research on the beliefs of Hinduism.
I would make four main (fat?) spokes representing the soul. (Perhaps your son could even write the word "soul" in the middle of the wheel?) The four main spokes should be the four main ways of the soul on its journey: dharma, karma, reincarnation, and moksha. (Please see above for further descriptions.) Perhaps these main spokes could simply be the written words in large capital letters, each making up one spoke (and if you want to get more specific, your son could write a brief description or draw a picture near the spoke to give as an example).
In between the four main (fat?) spokes, I would include three minor (thin?) spokes in between each. These would represent the "eternal duties" listed above. Perhaps, again, the minor (thin?) spokes could simply be words with small letters written in very thin marker, perhaps not even reaching the edge of the wheel to separate them.
In conclusion, we have seen the basic beliefs of Hinduism in regard to the soul are dharma, karma, reincarnation, and moksha. We have also listed some of the eternal duties and combined all of these ideas into a mandala that involve the spokes of a wheel. Hopefully this will help your son with his assignment.