Hinduism Aum , is the most sacred symbol in Hinduism, is like calling god's name towards you. This name is generally said three times, before chanting any prayers.
Introduction to Hinduism
The world’s oldest existing religion; (5500–2600BCE) .
The third largest world religion w/ ~ 905 million faithful in India and Nepal.
Originated in the Indian subcontinent.
Official language of India is Sanskrit, and so the sacred texts of Hinduism are written in Sanskrit.
Hinduism is a conglomerate of diverse beliefs and traditions, so it has no single founder or regulating hierarchy.
Vast body of sacred scriptures developed over millennia.
Vedas and Upanishads are the foremost in authority, importance and antiquity. Puranas and Bhagavad Gita are central texts as well.
All scriptures are divided into two categories – revealed ( shruti – of divine origin ) and remembered ( smriti – of human origin )
Four prominent themes of Hinduism
Dharma – religious or righteous living
Karma – Sanskrit for ‘action, work or deed’. “It is considered the moral law of cause and effect.” (Smith, 30)
Samsara – the cycle of action, reaction, birth, death, and rebirth
Moksha – liberation from samsara, also known attaining nirvana or samadhi
It is difficult to summarize any ‘universal’ belief or practice of Hinduism, but these are prominent themes.
Nature of the divine
Hinduism is a diverse system of thought with beliefs spanning monotheism , polytheism , panentheism , pantheism , monism and atheism .
It is sometimes referred to as henotheistic (devotion to a single "God" while accepting the existence of other gods).
All are somewhat of an oversimplification of the complexities and variations of belief.
Michaels, A (2004), Hinduism: Past and Present (5th ed.), Princeton University Press
Major divinity figures
Brahman - the supreme spirit in Hinduism.
is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything beyond in this universe.
The nature of Brahman is described as transpersonal, personal and impersonal by different philosophical schools. Michaels, A (2004), Hinduism: Past and Present (5th ed.), Princeton University Press
Major Divinity Figures – cont’d
Atman - the spirit or soul — the true "self" of every person is eternal – a divine spark.
It is ultimately indistinct from Brahman. The goal of life is to realize that one's atman (soul) is identical with Brahman, the supreme soul. Monier-Williams, Monier (1974), Brahmanism and Hinduism: Or, Religious Thought and Life in India, as Based on the Veda and Other Sacred Books of the Hindus , p20-37
It is the eternal core of the personality that survives after death and that transmigrates to a new life or is released from the bonds of existence.
Atman underlies all the activities of a person, as Brahman (the absolute) underlies the workings of the universe.
To know this truth brings bliss; the Atman is part of the universal Brahman, with which it can commune and fuse.
Reference: " atman ." Encyclopædia Britannica . 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 23 Oct. 2007 < http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9010116 >.
Major divinity figures (devas)
Trimurti – in Sanskrit means ‘three forms’.
It is a concept in Hinduism "in which the cosmic functions of creation , preservation , and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva”. These three deities have been called "the Hindu triad" or the "Great Trinity". Flood, The Purāṇas , p. 139, (2003)
Brahma – the Creator, is the deva (god) that serves the cosmic function of creation. (BIRTH)
It is not to be confused with the Supreme Cosmic Spirit in Hindu Vedanta philosophy known as Brahman
Vishnu – serving the cosmic function of renewal and preservation. (LIFE)
the master of and beyond the past, present and future, one who supports, sustains and governs the Universe.
Shiva – the Destroyer or transformer of evil. Serves the cosmic function of dissolution or destruction that precedes re-creation. (DEATH)
What Do People Want?
Hinduism, the oldest religion, says people want four things. Two lie within the Path of Desire.
First, people seek pleasure.
This is very natural since we are born full of senses, which guide us from dangerous pain (fire, sharp sticks, etc. = death) and guide us toward pleasurable things (sunsets, beautiful flowers, consummating a marriage = new life).
Hinduism does not scorn this, but it does not hold pleasure as the highest good.
“ Like everything else, hedonism requires good sense. Not every impulse can be followed with impunity”. Small pleasures must be sacrificed for “long-range gains” (Smith, 14).
“ Only the stupid will lie, steal or cheat for immediate profit or succumb to addictions” (Smith, 14). Hinduism says seek it intelligently.
What Do People Want?
Pleasure eventual loses its zeal:
“… b/c it’s too trivial to satisfy one’s total nature. Pleasure is essentially private and the self is too small an object for perpetual enthusiasm” (Smith, 14).
Eventually one seeks worldly success with its three prongs (music video):
“ Its satisfaction lasts longer b/c it’s a social achievement and as such involves the lives of others” (Smith, 15).
Good for the development of individual, household responsibilities, and society – dignity and self-respect/community)
Like pleasure, worldly success also focuses on the self and ultimately is unsatisfying.
Worldly success is limited in four ways:
What Do People Want?
Worldly success is limited in four ways:
1.“Wealth, fame and power are exclusive, hence competitive and precarious” (Smith, 15).
2. “The drive for success is insatiable…when one makes these things one’s chief ambition …one’s lusts cannot be satisfied”.
“ Poverty consists, not in the decrease of one’s possessions, but in the increase of one’s greed, wrote Plato” and “In Hinduism ‘ To try to extinguish the drive for riches with money is like trying to quench a fire by pouring butter over it’” (Smith, 16).
3. Centers on the self and we seek something greater than ourselves to fulfill our deep desire for life. Country house, sports cars and posh vacations aren’t enough.
4. The gains of wealth, fame, power are ephemeral – they do not transcend our death.
The way of pleasure and worldly success are not to be scorned. Hindus say, “Do not turn from desire until desire turns from you”. It is a nature stage of development to adult maturity.
What Do People Want?
Path of Renunciation has greater attraction for those who have outgrown the path of desire.
“ If people could be satisfied by following their impulses, the thought of renunciation would never arise” (Smith, 17).
Hinduism makes distinction between chronological age vs. psychological age, and therefore it takes several lifetimes to make this journey.
Renunciation for what? – for the community
Community has an importance that no single life can command…”Let us then, transfer our allegiance to it, giving its claims priority over our own” (Smith, 19).
Will-to-get is transformed into will-to-give
Will-to-win is transformed into will-to-serve
Duty will also leave the human spirit unfilled: respect and gratitude from peers, self-respect from doing one’s part
This goal is unfulfilling because community, and the history it rests within, are ultimately tragic because they refuse to be perfected, to be transformed into our greatest hopes and desires.
We desire something more…
What Do People REALLY Want?
“ Is this all?” pleasure, worldly success and the community
No, life holds other possibilities.
“ We really want being , no one wants to die.
We really want to know ; we have an insatiable curiosity.
We really want joy , to be happy and for others to be happy too” (Smith, 20).
And we want these three things infinitely . Since science has been able to double the life of human beings people aren’t twice as ready to die, not even a little bit more ready.
Infinite being, infinite knowledge, infinite bliss is what we really want = liberation or moksha
How do we attain moksha?
All of these work together, but each person, due to his or her personality, will follow one path predominately.
Traits underlying each yoga: non-injury, truthfulness, non-stealing, self-control, cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, and a desire to reach the goal.
Derived from the word ‘yoke’
‘ To unite (yoke together)’
‘ To place under disciplined training’
both connotations are employed in this sanskrit word
People have spiritual personality types, so people follow different paths to Enlightenment – to God – that capitalize on their strengths.
“ Shortest and steepest ascent to liberation” (Brodd, p54) – path of philosophical reflection. Why Brahmins most often choose this path?
Thinker is to discriminate (discern) between the surface self (ego) that is distracted by the clamor, glitz and noise of the world and the true, larger self that is buried under layers of ego.
3 rd – shift one’s identification FROM the finite to the infinite (refer to oneself in third person) – to see the world from a broad perspective (detached from positive or negative).
Goal of jnana yoga is to acquire knowledge of extraordinary insight, deeper not broader.
Somewhere in the wave of our ‘super-information’ age knowledge has been lost, and somewhere in the race for knowledge (masters and doctorate degrees) wisdom has been lost.
The way to God through love, path of selfless service – most popular of the yogas, in which feelings are more real than thoughts
Christianity is seen as a brilliantly lit path/HIGHWAY of bhakti yoga
Outgoing, not self-love of Atman, but insists on God’s otherness. Love is only experience through the other. (p33 of Smith)
Unlike Jnana yoga, in which an adherent identifies her atman as indistinguishable from the Brahman, Bhakti yogis remain other from God in order to adore the personal nature of God.
Finally, the natural object for love is a person who possesses attributes…avatar of Brahman – Krishna, Rama, Jesus Christ, Buddah
Three features of this yoga’s approach:
Japam is the practice of repeating God’s name incessantly, constantly focuses the mind and heart in adoration and thanksgiving (p35 Smith)
Changes of love – love assumes different nuances according to the relationship involved: (friends, parent to child & visa versa, man and woman, beloved servant to master)
Worship of one’s chosen ideal or ishta. God has innumerable forms and each is a symbol that points to something beyond. None exhaust God’s actual nature.
Karma yoga: starve your EGO to reach your ATMAN
Path to liberation, or moksha, through work .
Shrinking and starving the EGO by seeking to serve the other
Selfless service unsheathes our ‘diamond beings’ and our eternal Truths shine through
Hinduism says work is the staple of life
one doesn’t have to go to a monastery to be close to God, we can find God in the work of our lives.
“ Thou art the Doer, I the instrument” (Smith, 38).
Gandhi’s life was an example of one who journeyed this path:
“ To be true…one has to lose oneself in continuous and continuing service to all life…for me there is no escape from social service; there is no happiness on earth beyond or apart from service” (Brodd, 53).
One can approach Karma yoga with the heart or the intellect
Jnana yoga – transcendent Brahman
Bhakti yoga – imminent Krishna
For Karma yogi, point of life is to transcend the smallness of the finite self.
“ If I chop down a tree that blocks my view, each stroke of the ax unsettles the tree; but it leaves its mark on me as well, driving deeper into my being my determination to have my way in the world. Everything I do for my private wellbeing adds another layer to my ego and in thickening it insulates me more from God” (Smith, 38).
For those in tune with their bodies, as a way of spiritual enlightenment to gain access to the God that dwells in our deepest recesses.
Not that India is more interested in her bodies than the West, but its focus is different
West – interested in strength and beauty
India – interested in precision and control over every bodily function
STAGES of LIFE
People are different and people move through different stages in life.
“ How should you live? That depends upon not only what kind of person you are but what stage of life you are in” (Smith, 51).
Four stages (traditionally for boys/men)
Retirement / Forest dweller
Wandering Ascetic / sannyasin
Stages of life: STUDENT
Begin at ages 8 – 12 w/ rite of initiation
Lasted 12 yrs -> marriage
Lived in home of teacher like an apprenticeship, rendering service to teacher for instruction (Yoda/Luke Skywalker)
Primary responsibility is to learn and receive w/ open mind from teacher
Cultivate habits and form character
Not encyclopedic knowledge
This is a serious time of preparation: a boy will stored up for a time when much will be demanded of him.
A time when physical powers are at their zenith
Interests and energies are naturally turned outward toward:
One also seeks the first three things humans want:
Pleasure in marriage (family)
Worldly success (vocation)
Third stage of life comes when energies wane and second stage becomes toilsome, repetitious and dull
Stages of life: Householder
Stages of Life: Retirement
Can begins with arrival of 1 st grandchild
Relief from social obligations is appropriate as energies wane so that one can come to understand life before it concludes
Engage in a spiritual quest
To find meaning in the mystery of existence – the final and fascinating challenge
Traditionally, husband (w/ wife if she wants) sought solitude from society in remote regions, hence the name Forest Dwellers (p53, Smith)
Stations of Life: sannyasin
WANDERING ASCETIC at peace with DEATH
Return to society detached from normal attractions and distractions of social life
Engaged with world but not attached to it
Bhagavad Gita, “one who neither hates nor desires” (Brodd, p51)
Returns as a different person: “wish to remain a complete nonentity on the surface in order to be joined to all at root” (Smith, 54)