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Hinduism Powered By Docstoc

 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
• Belief in reincarnation
• Recognition of multiple paths to salvation and truth,
• Polytheism
• Philosophical flexibility (no single dogma)
Partition of India
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)
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

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
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. joyinfinite 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
         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)
                 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
            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:
                       Being Itself
raja yoga/path (cont.)

  Eight Steps: (hatha yoga)

  1. Five Abstentions: injury, lying, stealing,sensuality,
  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‖)
• 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
                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

   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.
[1]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
• 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
• 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
     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.
• 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
• 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
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
                  • 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
                  • 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
•   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)
•   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

Hatha Yoga.