Hindu Traditions"It is the same India which has withstood the shocks of centuries, ofhundreds of foreign invasions, of hundreds of upheavals of mannersand customs. It is the same land, which stands firmer than any rock in the world, with its undying vigour, indestructible life. Its life is of the same nature as the soul, without beginning and without end, immortal; and we are the children of such a country." Swami Vivekananda Representative of Hindus Parliament of Religions Columbian Exposition, Chicago World Fair 11 September 1893
Hindu Traditions"It is the same India which has withstood the shocks of centuries, ofhundreds of foreign invasions, of hundreds of upheavals of mannersand customs. It is the same land, which stands firmer than any rock in the world, with its undying vigour, indestructible life. Its life is of the same nature as the soul, without beginning and without end, immortal; QuickTime™ and a YUV420 codec decompressor are needed to see this picture. and we are the children of such a country." Swami Vivekananda Representative of Hindus Parliament of Religions Columbian Exposition, Chicago World Fair 11 September 1893
India and Mother Ganges Mother Ganges• an isolated land and also a fascinating cultural breeding ground • Ganga Ma: the child is like its mother
Hindu: A Name With Issues A Name With Issues• colonial name• BUT: a colonial name that hides the many traditions that make up Indian religion
Multiplicity• a plurality of traditions, a family of beliefs• like a palace that was once a two-room cottage
The Sacred• dharma? not really• the essentials of practice: may look different from what is generally thought of as “religion”
Origins: Indian or Indo-European? Indo-European?• Indian: the Harappa culture• Indo-European: the Aryans
Origin: Harappa Culture Harappa Culturetwo• archaeological excavations revealed ancient towns in northwestern part of India• a culture dating to 2000 BCE or before
Origin: Harappa Culture Harappa Culture• had a written language• examples of mother goddess, pipal tree and seven-being image: will all be important in later Hinduism
Origin: Indo-European Indo-European• Sanskrit: the godslinguistic similarities with reveals• Greekof Latin mentioned in the early many and Hindu writings were the same gods who had been worshiped by the Greeks and Romans and there were similar gods in Iranian literature
Origin: Indo-European Indo-European• one theory: Aryan Invasion• another theory: Aryan Migration
Origins: This Matters . . . Why? This Matters . . . Why?• taps into much larger issues of Western imperialism• This was ours before you got here.
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Origins: Worship• all agree: essential to the early worship of the gods were sacred chants, which the priests knew from memory• the priests believed these chants had power of their own, and they passed them orally from father to son
Vedic Period: circa 2000-500 BCE circa of the priests, in written form,• the chants 2000-500 BCE make up the core of the earliest Hindu sacred literature: the Vedas•,• (this we know; but where it all came from? see debate above)
the Vedas• Veda comes from the Sanskrit word for sacred lore or knowledge: related to the English words vision and wisdom• scholars date their composition to between1500 and 600 BCE, but . . .
the Vedas• Hindus consider them to be much more ancient: they are revealed scripture (in other words, “we didn’t make this up.”)• the Vedas are shruti, revealed to rishis
4 Vedic Collections• the Rig Veda: Rig meaning hymn, Veda meaning knowledge = hymn knowledge
4 Vedic Collections: • Atharva Veda: “knowledge from the teacher Atharva” and a little different . . .• Helpful when playing the Lottery
4 Divisions of Vedic Collections• Samhitas: hymns-earliest parts• Brahmanas: detailed ceremonial rules, added later
4 Divisions of Vedic Collections• Aranyakas: “forest books” additions to make rituals nonliteral and symbolic• Upanishads: “sitting near the teacher” philosophical works-most recent, composed around 600 BCE
For example . . .• the Rig Veda has 1028 Samhitas• See? Easy!
Sacred but Unfamiliar• the Vedas are considered the most sacred text by most educated Hindus• . . . even though they are not books kept in the home, most Hindus would not recognize their contents, and the majority of the texts are only known to specialists and scholars
Sacred Sound• the Vedas instead are understood to be texts that represent eternal sound, eternal words• these sacred sounds are believed to have been passed down from generation to generation without change
Sacred and Restricted• want to be a true Hindu? venerate the Vedas• Brahmins only
Sacred and Debated• several philosophical schools have debated the origins of the Vedas, but all agree the Vedas are the most sacred works in Hinduism
Sacred.• some parts of the Vedic collections have been recited for at least 2000 years without significant change: amazing.
Early Vedic Religion (1500-500 BCE) (1500-500 BCE)• the religion of the Vedas seems to have consisted of the worship of mainly male gods• many of the gods of the early Vedic period showed European influence
Sounds Familiar...• Agni, Hindu god of fire= Latin word for fire, ignis• Soma= god of the moon and “expanded consciousness” brought on by ritual drink
old-fashioned gods• the gods most Hindus recognize today (Sri, Vishnu) are rarely mentioned in early Vedic hymns (samhitas)• Indus, Rudra, Surya, and Ushas were gods (and one goddess) who apparently didn’t last in popularity
Rig Veda: Most Important Veda • composed circa 1000 BCE • hymns in the Rig Veda contain accounts of the creation of the universe
• is still important today, and has been for three thousand years• the universe arose from the division and cosmic sacrifice of a primeval superperson
Divided Super Person: Divided People Divided People• contains within it the first explicit reference to the varnas, or classes of Hindu society• this understanding of creation set in place the religious and social countenance of the Hindu tradition
divided body:divided classesdivided classes“From his mouth came the priestly class from his arms, the rulers. The producers came from his legs; from his feet came the servant class.”
The Upanishads and the Axis Age and the Axis Age• ritual sacrifice gives way to philosophical inquiry• around 500 BCE, Indian civilization began to turn a different direction-this is an Axis Age
something must be in the water . . .• this was a period of intellectual ferment and questioning• it was the time of Guatama Buddha, the Jaina prophet Mahavira, Confucius, the major Hebrew prophets, and early Greek philosophers,
questioning• after many centuries, there began to be rejection and reformulation of Vedic beliefs and practices• may have been connected with resentment of the priestly class . . .
quest• some thinkers began to question the belief in many gods and began to search for a single divine reality
and not just the Brahmins, either!• the Upanishads record the evidence of this time of intellectual ferment and spiritual disciplines-often in the form of conversations• plus-in the Upanishads, these religious quests were not just for the hereditary priestly class (unlike earlier Vedic material), but anyone with the necessary experience can be a spiritual master
Upanishads: Karma and Samsara Karma and Samsara• karma and samsara are two central concepts of Hinduism, and they appear for the first time in the Upanishads
karma• literally, “action”• basically, “What comes around, goes around.”
karma: it is what it is• karma does not work because it is the will of God or Brahman, but simply because it is an essential part of nature• some teachers say: karma is neither intrinsically bad or good . . . just like rain
karma implies samsara• samsara: a continuing cycle of death and rebirth or reincarnation• the wheel of life: a circle of constant rebirth in a world full of change as well as struggle and suffering
samsara• Western thought: “You only live once.”• Hindu thought: an individual is constantly being reborn
stop the merry-go-round, please • samsara (rebirth) might seem attractive at first, because our life is so short • eventually, we might want to stop the wheel
moksha: freedom• from root word that means “to be released:” karma implies samsara, and moksha releases one from samsara• in the Upanishads moksha is the ultimate human goal
moksha: freedom from• freedom from the limitations of individuality (VERY non-Western thought)• freedom from grants perspective, kindness, release from egotism, and ultimately wisdom that releases the individual
moksha: liberation• in moksha, the pain of rebirth ends and the limits of individuality are overcome• this experiential wisdom allows the individual to become a-mrta: immortal, “without death”
Higher Knowledge• the Upanishads frequently explore the quest for a unifying truth• this is considered “higher knowledge,” which can only be evoked, not expressed in words (“lower knowledge”)
the quest for enlightenment• “What is it that, being known, all else becomes known?” - Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.3• this is what it is: experiential knowledge of the relationship between Atman and Brahman (and it’s not connected with Vedic or book learnin’)
Atman• some translate “Atman” as “soul” or “self”• but the notion of Atman is not an exact corollary to the notion of a soul . . . perhaps a better translation might be “deepest self”
What am I?• Hinduism does have the concept of an individual soul (jiva) that confers uniqueness and personality• but at the deepest level, Hinduism asks: Isn’t there more to me than this?
I am god.• the Upanishads teach that at the deepest reality of “what I am” is a divine reality, a divine spirit everything shares• so, the Upanishads teach that it is ok to say “I am god,” because at its deepest level, the reality is that everything is god.
and what is god? Brahman.• Brahman cannot be described any more than infinity can be contained• it pervades and yet transcends not only human thought but the universe itself
that’s helpful.• the word is Sanskrit and comes from a stem meaning “to be great”• “Brahman” originally stood for the cosmic power present in the Vedic sacrifices and chants which were controlled by the priests; Upanishads expanded this concept
it’s hard to explain . . . • Brahman as the frame of the universe• it can be experienced in time and space, but those who do experience it say it is beyond time and space
hints.• what is it to know Brahman? The Upanishads insist it cannot be fully put into words, but do give hints . . .• Brahman is the lived experience that all things are in some way holy because they come from the same sacred source
hints.• Brahman is the lived experience that all things are one• this experience of Brahman seems to defy common sense- the world is divided . . . or is it?
-According to the Upanishads, Brahman is -“the sun, the moon and the stars. -He is the fire, the waters, and the wind.”-Brahman is “the God who appears in forms infinite.” -- Shvetasvatara Upanishad
and now: Atman and Brahman Brahman• many passages of the Upanishads discuss the relationship between Atman and Brahman • most famous is found in the Chandogya Upanishad
You Are That.• You= Atman; That=Brahman• the Upanishads insist that Brahman is something that can be known, not simply believed in
You Are That.(you’d think that would settle it)(you’d think that would settle it) • the statement became the source of great philosophical debate for thousands of years • the Upanishads represent the beginning of Hindu philosophical thought-its best, in the opinion of some
But how?• the Upanishads are devoted to promoting an insight into ultimate oneness• how to achieve that insight or live it out in the everyday world? they don’t have much to say . . . it will be later Hindu commentators and practitioners who will develop those instructions