Hinduism: Some Thoughts
The bane of Human race today is that few have understood the true tenets of the very religion to which they belong. The fights and quarrels over religion arise basically from the undeniable fact that those who fight in the name of religion do not know fully what their own religion teaches. Unfortunately, most of the Hindus living through out the World, know less of Hindu religion than those belonging to other religions. While, I am not competent to usurp the role of a preceptor, I thought I could share, with my Hindu brethren, some of thoughts on the fundamental and basic features of Hindu Religion as I have understood from elders, religious preceptors, like Swami Vivekananda, and the great Paramacharyal of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, and books on the subject written by eminent philosophers like Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan.
Hindu religion is pre-historic and is timeless. It is said to have been revealed to us by the great Rishis and not written or originated by them. The Rishis are revered by the Hindus as great souls; some of the very greatest amongst them were women. With the super-natural powers attained through "Sadhana", they had the distinction of having "discovered" or "heard" the Vedas and explained them to the ordinary humans in this world through various scriptures. The four Vedas, which were brought to our knowledge through them are but accumulated treasures of spiritual laws discovered by different Rishis at different times.
The Vedas are explained in the form of questions and answers in the Upanishads. For the common man who cannot understand the high philosophy contained in the spiritual laws, Rishis narrated the essence of Vedas in Ithihasas and Puranas. The former consists of two important works namely, The Ramayana and The Mahabharatha. The latter are in the form of mythological stories of Gods and their powers.
The philosophical thoughts contained in the Vedas have taught the world tolerance and universal acceptance. Not only does a Hindu believes and accepts all religions as true, but also, in his own religion, he has freedom and choice of achieving goals. On the universal acceptance of all religions, Lord Krishna, the Avatar of MahaVishnu, reveals to Arjuna as follows:
"I am in every religion as thread, through a string of pearls. Whenever thou seest extraordinary holiness and extraordinary power raising and purifying humanity, know that I am there." Source: The Gita.
It is the character of tolerance and Universality which has preserved the Hindu religion against the various attempts by different sects to shake its very foundation. With each such attempt, the religion of Hindus has returned more vigorous and more fortified.
The Truth revealed in the Vedas is eternal; its spiritual laws are profound and all absorbing. The path evolved for reaching goals is appealing both to the most intelligent and the most mediocre. It is difficult for me to express within a few paragraphs, the essence of Vedic philosophy and its teachings. What I propose to indicate briefly here are the rudiments of the Hindu beliefs in regard to three important and vital aspects of Hindu Religion, namely (a)Existence of Brahman, the Ultimate Reality; (b)the Soul and its relationship with the Brahman; and (c) the paths set for the unification of the Soul with the Brahman or the Ultimate Reality.
(Many of the statements and explanations made below are taken from various authors and I have not quoted the individual source or given them in quotations as they are numerous. )
The first belief of the Hindu is in the existence of a Supreme Being. This Supreme Being is described in the Vedas as "unmanifest, unthinkable and unchanging, neither existent nor non-existent." He is immutable and unthinkable; He is the Lord of the Universe. Though He is the source of all that is, He is himself unmoved forever. Another reference made in the Vedas about the Supreme Being is given below:
"He is the God who is in fire, in water, who pervades the entire Universe, He who is in plants, in trees, to Him we make our obeisance again and again"
Only spiritual experience can provide us with proofs of the existence of this Supreme being.
The world is the platform where we witness active struggle between good and evil and God is fully aware of and deeply interested in restoring order in the world whenever evil forces dominates and try to destroy all that is good. He pours out his wealth of Love in helping mankind to resist and come out of "all that makes for error, ugliness and evil."
The Real is supra cosmic, eternal, spaceless, timeless Brahman who supports this manifestation in space and time. He fills our being, illuminates our understanding and sets in motion its hidden springs.
Whenever forces of evil threaten to destroy human values, God manifests himself in different forms and restores order to the world and saves all good people from misery and tribulations. In Hindu mythology, nine such avatars are said to have already taken place and one more is expected shortly. Two of these famous avatars are that of Lord Vishnu in the form of human beings called Rama and Krishna, about whom every Indian is familiar.
The Individual Self:
Hindus believe in the theory that the soul or the spirit in the body is divine and eternal. It is not created and has no death. It is temporarily held in the bondage of matter, and perfection is reached when it is freed from this bondage and this can happen only with the mercy of God. Once a man attains perfection, he is free from births and deaths and misery and enjoys the infinite bliss with God.
Thus, the individual self is a portion of the Lord, a real, not imaginary form of the Supreme, a limited manifestation of God. God's purpose of the world or the cosmic destiny for man is the realisation of immortal aspirations of divine life in and through this physical frame and intellectual consciousness.
Here comes the theory of reincarnation. The present is determined by the past actions and the future by the present. The soul will go on evolving up or reverting back from birth to birth and death to death, till it attains its perfection through the mercy of God.
The theory of reincarnation flows from two cardinal principles. One is soul is indestructible and that it acquires certain peculiar tendencies by past actions which binds itself from realising the ultimate Truth and reaching perfection. The second is that the soul, by the laws of affinity, takes birth in the body which is the fittest instrument for the display of that tendency.
Thus, the Hindu believes that every soul is a circle whose circumference is no where, but whose centre is located in the body, and death means the change of this centre from body to body. Nor is the soul bound by the conditions of matter, and it is free, unbounded, holy, pure and perfect, except for a transient stage of wrong belief that it is matter itself. It is somehow tied down to matter and once with the grace of God, it is freed, it becomes its self again.
How does the soul get freed from the bondage? The whole object of the Hindu System is to become perfect by constant struggle, to become divine, to reach God and see God; And this reaching of God, seeing God, becoming perfect, even as the Supreme is perfect in the heaven, constitutes the core of the Hindu religion.
The soul tears itself or gets released from its prison or bondage through different ways.
(i) Jnana Yoga, The way of knowledge.
(ii) Bhakti Yoga, The way of devotion.
(iii) Karma Yoga, The way of action.
Jnana yoga is an intellectual pathway to perfection through integration of body, life and mind and practice and attain complete self awareness.
Bhakthi yoga is a relationship of Trust and Love to a personal God. The devotee directs his whole being to God, with humility, obedience, readiness to serve, compassion and gentle love. Devotee longs to surrender himself, resources, self-will and experiences passivity. This is done through contemplation, conversation and singing His praise, His goodness, power and wisdom and doing all acts as His Service.
In the lower stages, the Hindu prays for wealth and life (material comforts). Later, it is meditation, identifying oneself with the good cause which is the God' s cause. In the higher stages, God is the final satisfaction. Then, Bhakthi takes the form of not only believing in God and to Love Him, but also becomes its own reward.
Karma Yoga, leads to detachment from desires and action done devotedly and whole heartedly, without attachment to its results. He lays claim to nothing and surrenders himself to spontaneity. Victory or defeat does not disturb him as it is willed by the Supreme and Universal Spirit. Whatever happens, the individual accepts without attachment or aversion and has love even for his enemy. Devoted each to his own duty, man attains perfection.