To sum up, the Hindu believes that this world is of no ultimate value because it is not permanent and that the only reality is something that he can get a glimpse of only through intense discipline and meditation. He believes that his soul has gone through a long cycle of birth, death and rebirth and that it is doomed to continue the cycle until it finds release in moksha (the infinite). The Hindu believes that the Upanishads give hin the wisdom he needs to reject this world in favour of the eternal paramatman toward which his soul is moving.
The teaching of the Upanishads still has a strong effect on the thought of Hindu religious teachers, especially those who came to the United States with the Vedanta philosophy.
But despite long-lasting popularity, the Upanishad teachings have had critics among those of Hindu faith. The Brahmans, for example, taught that the soul could be released to 'return to Brahman' only after reaching the Brahma class. This means, in effect, that the great masses of India who are poor and too illiterate to read the Upanishads are doomed to an endless cycle of samsara, death and rebirth. This view was challenged about 500 B.C. by Gautama Buddha who began to preach a 'middle way' of salvation. Buddhism disappeared in India about A.D. 1000 when a new form of Hinduism arose.
This 'popular Hinduism' quickly won favour with the people. New literature appeared, such as the long epic poems Ramayana and Mahabharata. There also appeared the Bhagavad-Gita, or the 'song of the gods', which describes a way of salvation through worship of the god Krishna. There also appeared the Puranas which contain erotic stories about the gods and are very popular among Hindu villagers.
New Hinduism allows for as many as 330,000,000 gods. Some 200 million people worship the god Vishnu and believe that he revealed himself to man at least 10 times. Vishnu has appeared as a giant turtle, as Gautama Buddha, and as Rama and Krishna, the two important heroes of the epic poem. Other millions worship Shiva, the god of fertility, whose rituals are as evil as those of the Canaanites whom Yahweh commanded the children of Israel to destroy.
'People's Hinduism' teaches that salvation can be attained by one of three ways: the way of works - that is, by following one's dharma, or duty; the way of knowledge as taught by the Upanishads; and the way of devotion to a god such as Vishnu or Shiva. The last way especially appeals to the lower classes (the vast majority of Indians) because it offers an easy way for their souls to make it to a higher class - and eventually moksha.