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Title: 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 HinduismIndian 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
  • 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 Smiths, 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?
  • being
  • knowing
  • joy

What do people want?
  • Pleasure
  • Success wealth, fame, power
  • Duty
  • What do people really want/desire?
  • being?infinite being
  • knowing?infinite awareness
  • 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
  • release from the finitude that restricts us from
    the limitless being, consciousness, and bliss our
    hearts desire--Huston Smith

Lifes 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 Gods otherness Pray no more
    for utter oneness with God . . .--Song of
  • Strives to adore God with every fabric of ones
    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
  • Thou art everywhere, but I worship you here
  • Thou art without form, but I worship you in these
  • Thou needs no praise, yet I offer you these
    prayers and salutations.
  • Lord, forgive three sins that are due to my human

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
  • by shifting affection to external person (a la
  • work for Gods 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, VI1)
  • 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 subconsciou
s ___________________________________ Being
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
  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 samtogether with, adhithe Lord

Stages of Life
  • The student
  • Householder (pleasure, success, duty)
  • Retirement
  • sannyasin (the one who neither hates nor loves

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 brbreath, brihto 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/formfemale-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
vehiclean animal with whom they are often
portrayed. The Trimurti is organized around
Brahma (creation), Vishnu (maintenance), Shiva
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
Garudaeagle/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 ????) 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. 1ManifestationsDevi
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
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Digambaras all possessions, including clothing
    are hindrance to liberation
  • Shvetambaras detachment is in the mind (and not
    wearing clothes can also cause injury e.g., if
    you light a fire to stay warm)

The only objects a Digambara monk is allowed to
carry are a water-pot and a fly-whisk of peacock
  • Some see them as rather different from Hinduism
  • Guru Nanak, ca. 1500, had encounter leaving him
    to seek a path to God that didnt require strict
    identification with Islam or Hinduism.
  • In keeping with Hinduism, it affirms the ultimacy
    of a supreme and formless God beyond human
  • 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
  • Five ks (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
(1960sMaharishi Mahesh Yogi)ascetic
Hinduism. International Society for Krishna
Consciousness so called Hare Krishnas (1960s
Swami Prabhupada)bhakti Hinduism. Hatha Yoga.
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