Hinduism simplified for today's generation

Archive for September, 2014

The beliefs of Hinduism, Sanatan Dharm

Hindus believe that all religions have a common goal of salvation, though their paths may vary and hence all paths deserve our respect and tolerance.

Hindus believe that to interpret religious teachings one has to first surrender to God by self-discipline, removing ones animal instinct, selfless service to mankind for only then the true meaning of the religious teachings is revealed and properly understood. You cannot just read books, do some rituals and proclaim to be religious.

Hindus believe that God is indescribable, formless, omnipotent and omnipresent. The belief in idol worship is only a means to communicate with the infinite by using something that is concrete to visualize, apply virtues and pay reverence to. Each idol, the deity is looked upon as either, the infinite God, the mother, father, child or beloved to enable communicating with the infinite with love and reverence just as we would with our loved ones.

Hindus believes in ahimsa, non-violence and that all life is sacred and deserves our respect. The truth about non-violence is often misunderstood as someone slaps you on one cheek, you show the other. The true meaning of non-violence can only be understood by a realized soul. All we can strive is to remove hatred from our minds. Fighting for a righteous cause that benefits mankind is justified, fighting for ones own self-defense is justified, fighting to save ones family is justified, fighting against injustice through proper means is justified, however there is always a very thin line between what is justified and what is not. For most of us we can only try to do the right thing and pray to God to keep us from becoming selfish and justifying violence for ourself or others.

Hindus believe in karma, such that every action has a reaction. Good or right  actions yield goodness and wrong or bad actions yield all negative things. The fact that we are our minds is strongly taught in all Hindu teachings and hence the rituals to keep the mind occupied and focused on the higher goals of spirituality and goodness for mankind.

Hindus believe in reincarnation of the soul and that ties to the principle of Karma. Each birth of the soul is an opportunity for self-realization and achieving liberation. We perfect ourselves birth after birth to reach the goal of merging with the infinite.

Hindus believe that the four Vedas – Rig, Yejur, Sama and Atharva are divinity’s message to humankind. The early thinkers and seers who could realize God, were able to transfer that knowledge generations after generations through verbal and written texts. The Vedas are considered the final authority on the teachings of Sanatan Dharma.

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Vedic Chant expressing spirit of worship through symbols

“O Lord in my worship I have attributed forms to Thee, who art formless. By my hymns, I have, as it were, contradicted Thy indescribable nature. By going on pilgrimage, I have, as it were, denied Thy omnipresence. O Lord please forgive me for these three transgressions.”

This Vedic Prayer reminds the seeker that God is beyond form, indescribable and omnipresent. So, consider what you do every moment as a devotion to Him alone and give it your best, because God is in every form, every knowledge known and unknown to humankind and present everywhere and in everything with different manifestations.

God, Goddesses and their symbols

सिद्धिबुद्धिप्रदे देवि भुक्तिमुक्तिप्रदायिनि । मन्त्रमुर्ते सदा देवि महालक्ष्मि नमोस्तु ते ।
“Devi Mahalakshmi, giver of intelligence and success, worldly enjoyment and liberation. Mystic mantas are your form. Obeisance to Thee.”

Each God and Godess symbolize a virtue through a mantra. Focus on the mantra in the form and you will imbibe that virtue.

An easy way to start with Hinduism

The best way to start knowing Hinduism is by reading the 2 ancient epics of India, the Ramayan and Mahabharat. Most people think that Hinduism is all about thousands of Gods and their temples and the rituals etc.etc. Unfortunately all of that is Hinduism as it appears to an outsider looking at it from a 30,000 feet view. The true meaning of Hinduism and a Hindu life can only be understood by reading epics like Ramayan and Mahabharat and many other scriptures written by ancient thinkers. The reading has to be associated with questioning of each and every event especially why the characters in these epics did what they did and what were their motives and what was the outcome. Internalize these readings and then move on to the scientific and philosophical teachings of the Vedas and the Upanishads. Then when all that is read and internalized, can one read the Bhagvad Gita and understand it. You may as well read the Bhagvad Gita and try to understand Hinduism, but it will take repeated reading, thinking and true life experiences to know the esoteric meanings of each verse and the depth of the underlying wisdom. Eventually you will realize that reading is not enough and that you must do and experiment with what you have learned. That is when true Hinduism will start to reveal itself to you.

Temple worship and the rest is an integral part of Hindus, but thats only the means to reach the ultimate goal of self-realization. So, dont get fooled by the pictures of Gods and Godesses that are used to depict Hinduism, but dive deeper into its real meaning and understand the way of life a Hindu lives by reading from the ancient epics instead.

Hinduism and the caste system

I’m purposefully trying to keep this post as short as possible. To get to the essence of the post you might as well jump to the last paragraph.

plate42Throughout history you can find many references where humans have used religion as a weapon to abuse the weak and illiterate. This includes Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions. The caste system is one of such weapon.

The caste system is always attributed to Hinduism as if it were unique to the religion. It has given Hinduism a bad name throughout the world. The fact is that a similar distinction or hierarchy of people in a society is present in other religions and they also have used it as a weapon to abuse the weak however it is not as much discussed as the caste system of Hinduism.

So what really is this caste system?

Let me state what it is not. It is not a grading system for humans and it is not something you are born into.

The Brahamin, Kshatria, Vaishya and Sudra are the 4 classifications of people by their intrinsic nature. The further categorization is actually made by their predominant temperament, gunas specifically Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. If you want to know more about gunas then check my earlier post.

The earliest reference to Varna and Jati can be found in ancient Hindu books of wisdom, the Vedas and Upanishads. Here is my analogy, think about it as the way plant and animal species are classified and categorized based on qualities and traits so is a particular classification applied to human beings. But one needs to remember that all plants and animals are an integral part of an ecosystem. The reduction or increase of any one species can cause an imbalance and destroy the entire ecosystem. Basically every entity within an ecosystem is equally important for survival. Similarly the Varna and Jati is only used to refer to a persons qualities that fit into a particular skill set and temperament that enables the society to function. Now another analogy is of various roles performed by people in an institution to achieve a common goal with the assumption that all are equal to each other outside of their role. Each role is equally important to keep the institution functioning and profitable, just like in a family where everyone works together to achieve wealth, health and progress so do people with various abilities and temperaments work together to keep the society functioning.

What can we do about it?

Forget it! Don’t focus on it. It’s clutter for your brain. There are many important things to do in life! The the bottom-line is that these classifications are irrelevant to what we do in our day to day life today. With the industrial revolution, development, automation and the arrival of the age of information such segregation is no value and hence such concepts need to be challenged, debated and probably eliminated in favor of imbibing the discipline of self-improvement and self-realization. Only when everyone aspires to the highest ideas will the society flourish and live in abundance.

Does offering Gold to God really matter?

If we agree to the fact that everything is Brahman and that God is omnipresent and omnipotent, then God is everything, within us and outsigoldde us. In that case would offering Gold to God really matter? You must have heard about Tirupati temple. This is where people offer Gold to God in the hope of getting more wealthy, fulfilling desires and even attaining spiritual success. There is nothing wrong in offering Gold, however Lord Krishna says in the Bhagvad Gita that whosoever offers me anything even a leaf or a fruit or a flower or themselves pleases me. So, why offer Gold? The rational behind offering Gold to God perhaps was to test a persons quality of “Aparigraha” non-greed. This would mean the person offering Gold would have to offer all of their available possessions with the thought that it is God only who gave me this Gold so I give it back and in return ask for spiritual enlightenment. However, people go to temples to fulfill more desires, more greed and end up with more pain and suffering and continue the cycle. This is how pathetic our beliefs have become. We all should question such beliefs and dive deep to understand them. This is the only way of truly attaining spiritual success.

True Hinduism is also on Twitter

Started with #GajananMaharaj stories. Next is Ramayan and of-course all the other articles on this site will go to twitter too. Keeping the posts to 140 characters forces brevity and clarity. It is a rewarding challenge. I’m excited to tweet about my passion, the search for true Hinduism and sharing my experiences with others.

https://twitter.com/ontruehinduism