Hinduism An Introduction to the Sanatana Dharma Simple Background • ―Hinduism‖ is a 19th-century word – Persian: hindu – Sanskrit sindhu (―river‖) – Religions from the Indus Valley – ―Indian Religion(s)‖ • 750+ million ―Hindus‖ in India • 30+ million ―Hindus‖ abroad • Third largest religion in the world Definition of Hinduism Indian Supreme Court 1966 (reaffirmed 1995) • Acceptance and reverence for the Vedas • A spirit of tolerance • Belief in vast cosmic periods of creation and destruction • Belief in reincarnation • Recognition of multiple paths to salvation and truth, • Polytheism • Philosophical flexibility (no single dogma) Partition of India 1947 Though relatively stable, there is still some conflict, such at the Ayodhya Temple. Hinduism is one of the oldest extant religious traditions in the world. From at least 2500 BCE there were people living in the Indus Valley. Several cities with advanced plumbing, architecture, and populations of 40,000+ (e.g., Harappa and Mohenjo-daro) flourished. Some scholars have hypothesized that the ―Aryan Invasion‖ is the key event in the founding of Indian civilization and Hinduism. (2000-1500 BCE) Now other scholars have questioned the ―invasion‖ theory in favor of more organic theories of cultural dispersion. The earliest forms of Hinduism are often called ―Vedic.‖ (2500-800 BCE) Dominated by a priestly class concerned with ―fire sacrifices.‖ The fire rituals communicated with the gods, influenced them, and restored the vital powers of the universe. Dyaus Pitr (cf: Zeus & Jupiter) Agni (god of fire) Soma (a god & a drug?) ―If I were asked under what sky the human mind . . . has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions to some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant--I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human a life . . . again I would point to India.‖ -- Max Müller. ―"I should have been glad to acquire some sort of idea of Hindu theology, but the difficulties were too great.‖--Mark Twain What do people want? What do people want? • Pleasure What do people want?* • Pleasure • Success: wealth, fame, power – competitive (& precarious) – insatiable (potentially) – centers on the self (lower-case ―s‖) – achievements are ephemeral *based on Huston Smith’s, World Religions What do people want? • Pleasure • Success: wealth, fame, power Together, we can think of these two as the ―path of desire.‖ What do people want? • Pleasure • Success: wealth, fame, power • Duty What do people really want/desire? What do people want? • Pleasure • Success: wealth, fame, power • Duty What do people really want/desire? 1. ―being‖ 2. ―knowing‖ 3. joy What do people want? • Pleasure • Success: wealth, fame, power • Duty What do people really want/desire? 1. ―being‖infinite being 2. ―knowing‖infinite awareness 3. joyinfinite bliss What do people want? • Pleasure • Success: wealth, fame, power • Duty • Liberation (moksha) – ―Liberation from the cycle of existence (samsara) often identified with a state of knowledge in which the phenomenal world and its concerns are shut out in favor of a mystical identification with the ultimate, changeless ground of all things.‖--Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy – ―release from the finitude that restricts us from the limitless being, consciousness, and bliss our hearts desire‖--Huston Smith Life’s Limitations • pain (physical and psychological) • ignorance • restricted being Four Paths reflective through knowledge Jnana (yoga) emotional through love bhakti (yoga) active through work karma (yoga) experimental through experiment raja (yoga) [hatha] yoga = ―union‖ Common Preliminary Commitments Cultivate habits of: – non-injury – truthfulness – non-stealing – self-control – cleanliness – contentment – self-discipline – compelling desire Jnana Yoga/Path Path to oneness with God through knowledge--a transforming intuitive discernment--turning the knower into that which she/he knows. •Reflecting on the nature of the Atman--The self which is eternal and (in Advaita) identical with Brahman (sacred Power/Divine Being) •Shifting self-identification to the ―abiding part‖ of her nature •―I am Witness‖ approach to his own history/life •―Brahman is all, and the Self (Atman) is Brahman‖ (Mandukya Upanishad, 2) Bhakti Yoga/path Directs towards God the love that is at the base of every human heart. •Probably the most popular and frequently practiced form •Tends to insist on God’s otherness: ―Pray no more for utter oneness with God . . .‖--Song of Tukaram •Strives to adore God with every fabric of one’s being (as opposed to acknowledging union) •Tends towards incarnational representations of the deity--an ishta •But: Lord, forgive three sins that are due to my human limitations, Thou art everywhere, but I worship you here; Thou art without form, but I worship you in these forms; Thou needs no praise, yet I offer you these prayers and salutations. Lord, forgive three sins that are due to my human limitations. karma yoga/path By wise and proper involvement in the work of the world, one can also move towards God/moksha. •by identifying oneself with the transpersonal Absolute (a la jnana) •every action performed on the external world reacts on the doer •work performed in detachment from the empirical self •by shifting affection to external ―person‖ (a la bhakti) •work for God’s sake instead of my own •work done selflessly •―He who does the task/Dictated by duty/Caring nothing/For the fruit of the action/ He is a yogi. (Bhagava- Gita, VI:1) •The Tale of the Yogi and the Scorpion raja yoga/path Disciplined bodily and mental activity designed to explore the nature of the true self. Layers of human being: bodies minds subconscious ___________________________________ Being Itself raja yoga/path (cont.) Eight Steps: (hatha yoga) 1. Five Abstentions: injury, lying, stealing,sensuality, greed 2. Five Observances: cleanliness, contentment, self- control, studiousness, contemplation of the divine 3. asanas (postures, e.g., ―the lotus position‖) 4. breathing 5. contemplation (turning inward) 6. concentration (leave the mind alone) 7. merging of subject/object; out of time; 8. samadhi: sam=together with, adhi=the Lord Stages of Life • The student • Householder (pleasure, success, duty) • ―Retirement‖ • sannyasin (―the one who neither hates nor loves anything‖) Caste System • Beginning with Aryan intrusion (2nd m. BCE)? • Four (plus) castes: Brahmins (seers) Kshatriyas (administrators) Vaishyas (artisans, farmers, craftsmen) Shudras (unskilled laborers) -------------------------------------------------------------------------- ―untouchables‖ (today: ―dalit‖) God • Brahman (etymology: br=breath, brih=to be great) – sat: being – chit: awareness – ananda: bliss • ―neti . . .neti‖ -- a kind of ―negative theology‖ (Nirguna Brahman of the philosophers) • Saguna Brahman: the noblest reality encountered in the world. • Sri Ramakrishna claimed both were equally correct • God can be thought of as Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu), and Destroyer (Shiva) • But in many Hindu expressions God is transpersonal: beyond it all Hindu Pantheon Though affirming Brahman as ―ultimate reality,‖ Hinduism is highly polytheistic. The Hindu Pantheon is structured around ―divine couples‖ (male-structure/form::female-energy/matter) who serve different functions in the universe; in a way, they point to the various forces in life/the cosmos. Many deities are depicted with a ―vehicle‖—an animal with whom they are often portrayed. The ―Trimurti‖ is organized around Brahma (creation), Vishnu (maintenance), Shiva (destruction). Brahma (creation) Consort/wife: Saraswati, goddess of knowledge and speech. Vehicle: hamsa or swan (seven swans). Vishnu (maintainer of the universe) Consort: Lakshmi (good fortune and prosperity) Vehicle: ―Garuda‖—eagle/human hybrid Vishnu appears in many avatars (traditionally ten, the last, who has not yet appeared, is Kalki, who will come when he is most needed). The two most important avatars of Vishnu are Rama and Krishna. Shiva (the destroyer) Consort(s): Kali (et al, Sati, Parvati, Lalita, Durga . . .) Vehicle: Nandi, the Bull Ganesha (son of Shiva and Parvati) Devi (the goddess) is sometimes worshipped as the supreme manifestation of Brahman. All other gods and goddesses would then be considered emanations of her. Devi (Devanagari: दे वी) is the Sanskrit word for Goddess. Devi is synonymous with Shakti, the female aspect of the divine, as conceptualized by the Shakta tradition of Hinduism. She is the female counterpart without whom the male aspect, which represents consciousness or discrimination, remains impotent and void. Goddess worship is an integral part of Hinduism.Devi is, quintessentially, the core form of every Hindu Goddess. As the female manifestation of the supreme lord, she is also called Prakriti or Maya, as she balances out the male aspect of the divine addressed Purusha. ManifestationsDevi or the divine feminine is an equal conterpart to the divine masculine, and hence manifests herself as the Trinity herself - the Creator (Durga or the Divine Mother), Preserver (Lakshmi, Parvati & Sarswati) and Destroyer (Mahishasura-Mardini, Kali & Smashanakali ) . Source: The Goddess Files People • Individual souls (jivas) enter the world mysteriously • They begin as the souls of the simplest forms of life and reincarnate/transmigrate (samsara) into more complex bodies until they enter human bodies • Souls in human bodies are engaged in issues of freedom and responsibility (karma) • Is this fatalism? – there is choice – ―natural‖ causes factor in – ultimately the soul gets what it wants • The Tale of the Magic Kalpataru Tree The World • A multiple world with innumerable galaxies (horizontally), innumerable tiers (vertically), and innumerable cycles (temporally) • Moral world in which karma is always operational • a ―middle‖ place; will never replace paradise • maya (an element of illusion) • a place of human growth • lila (site of exuberant divine activity) There are three major devotional traditions: Vaishnava (Vishnu) Generally vegetarian Worship Vishnu, Rama, Krishna Oriented towards duty and tradition Shaiva (Shiva) Worship focuses on union of opposites, especially creation and destruction Tend to emphasize ascetic practices. Shakta (Devi) Worship ―the goddess‖ as ultimate reality (Bengali) Not as likely to be vegetarian Hindus worship principally through seeing (Darshan) an image of the divinity. Shrines can be anywhere, in great temples, by the road, or in the home. Puja is the act of worship, offering them fruit, flowers, incense, water, or cloth in order to symbolize an offering of the self to the god/goddess. In some cases deities are processed through the streets (at festivals, etc.). See Diwali Video. Sometimes the worshipper will take a pilgrimage to a sacred place, the most well-known being Benares, on the Ganges River. Jainism • There are about 4 million Jains today, most of them ―lay people‖ • Historians consider Jainism to have been founded by Mahavira (599-527 BCE) as a reaction to the conservative Brahminism of the 6th-century BCE • In general, they do NOT accept the Hindu Scriptures or rituals, but they do share a belief in the transmigration of souls • The most obvious characteristic of them is their devotion to the principle of ahimsa, or non-injury – monks wear a veil – even lay people forbidden to drink after sunset Jainism (cont.) • Jains are followers of the Jinas, or ―tirthankaras‖ (the ford-makers, who reveal the path to moksha) • They believe 24 tirthankaras appear in every half cycle • Mahavira is the 24th tirthankara in this cycle • A contemporary of Buddha, Mahavira renounced the world at the age of 30, and after 12 years as a wandering ascetic achieved enlightenment • He then converted 12 disciples who structure his teachings into the Jain Scriptures • He died in meditation and became a liberated soul Jainism (cont.) • Jain monks commit to the Great Vows: – non-injury (ahisma) – truth-speaking (satya) – sexual abstinence (brahmacharya) – non-stealing (asteya) – detachment from persons, places, and things (aparigraha) • Lay people take the ―lesser vows‖ which try to apply the great vows to more ―normal‖ modes of living: e.g., strict vegetarianism, no work that involves the deliberate destruction of life (e.g., hunting no, farming okay). • In the fourth century CE a major split occurred: The only objects a Digambara monk is allowed – Digambaras: all possessions, including to carry are a water-pot and clothing are hindrance to liberation a fly-whisk of peacock – Shvetambaras: detachment is in the mind feathers. (and not wearing clothes can also cause injury; e.g., if you light a fire to stay warm) Sikhism • Some see them as rather different from Hinduism • Guru Nanak, ca. 1500, had encounter leaving him to seek a path to God that didn’t require strict identification with Islam or Hinduism. • In keeping with Hinduism, it affirms the ultimacy of a supreme and formless God beyond human conceiving • In keeping with Islam, it rejects the notion of avatars (divine incarnations), caste distinctions, images as aids to worship, and the sanctity of the Vedas • Follows Hinduism, but not Islam, in affirming reincarnation • Five k’s (in Punjabi): – uncut hair (conserves vitality, draws upward) – comb (cleanliness and order) – steel bracelet (shackles one to God) – undershorts (one always dressed for action) – dagger (originally needed for self-defense) • Seek salvation through union with God, by realizing, through love, the Person of God, who dwells in the depths of their own being. • World renunciation does not really figure in their faith. • About 13 million Sikhs in the world Though not really a proselytizing religion, Hinduism, especially in its most philosophical and meditative forms, has made a number of converts in the West. Swami Vivekananda (appeared at the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893)—philosophical Hinduism. Transcendental Meditation (1960’s—Maharishi Mahesh Yogi)—ascetic Hinduism. International Society for Krishna Consciousness— so called ―Hare Krishnas‖ (1960’s Swami Prabhupada)—bhakti Hinduism. Hatha Yoga.