There have been numerous books and commentaries written about the Hinduism that it would be quite difficult to precisely define this religion. As mentioned before, all the four religions have same roots. During the course in history, there have been minor deviations in practices from these Vedas in each of the religions. Although the Buddhism and Jainism theoretically do not consider the Veda to be the authority yet their teachings closely resemble the ones mentioned in the Vedas.
There were practical problems also. First of all, the Vedas were passed on from one generation to other by recitation in a very precise manner so that there were no deviations in pronunciation of any of the hymns etc. The Vedas are considered to be Apourusheyam - which means that it was not created by any man but they are divine. There were four rishis (sages) who were considered to be the seers of the Vedas. The Vedas are without beginning; they exist through the Kalpas.
There are fourteen texts or books which contain the essence of the Hinduism. They are:
1. The four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Saama and Atharva).
2. Six Vedangas or auxiliaries to the Vedas: (a) Shiksha which is euphony and pronunciation; (b) Vyakarana - grammar; (c) Chhandas - metre; (d) Niruktha - etymology; (e) Jyotisha - astronomy and (f) Kalpa or the procedure.
3. Meemaamsa - interpretation of Vedic texts.
4. Nyaaya - logic.
5. Puraana - mythology, and
6. Dharma Shaashtras - codes of conduct.
These fourteen are called the Vidyasthaanas (Vidya - knowledge, sthaana - place). In addition to these fourteen, there are four more which are called Upaangas or appendices to the Vedas and these are: (a)Ayurveda - science of life; (b) Arthashaashtra -science of wealth or economics; (c) Dhanur Veda - science of weaponry such as missiles; and (d) Gaandharva Veda - treatises on fine arts like music, dance and drama.
All of the above books, epics etc. were written by sages and the language was Sanskrit which itself has undergone a lot of changes with the passage of time. In the past common people did not have enough time to read and understand them. Therefore the difficult concepts were expressed in the form of Puraanic stories which nevertheless state the same truth and which could be useful in the daily life. The essence of the Vedas were later on presented in the form of Prasthantrayi which are:
1. The Bhagvadgita 2. The twelve Upanishads, and 3. The Brahmsutras.
All these books are schematically shown in Fig. 2.
Each of the Vedas is divided into Samhita, Braahmana, and Aaranyaka. Samhitas are written in the form of mantras and they bring out the purport of the Vedas. They contain the main text. Next come the Braahmana and then the Aaranyaka. The Braahmana mentions about the Vedic karmas to be performed and they also explain how they are to be performed. These explain how the mantras discussed earlier should be converted into actions. Aaranya in Sanskrit means forest. The human life in those days was supposed to be divided into four parts; in the first 25 years, one spent time as a student and celibacy was recommended; in the next 25, years one led the life of a householder; in the third part, one gave up worldly belongings and went to the forest for meditation and contemplation; and finally, in the last 25 years, one was supposed to come back to the society and import or exchange knowledge gained over the years. Therefore, the Aaranyaka portions of the Vedas are meant to explain the deeper meaning or philosophy behind what was mentioned in samhitas or in the Braahmanaas.
The Upanishads, also called the Vedanta, come after the Aaranyakaas. It dwells on the direct method i.e. jnana maarga (path) of realizing the Truth. These deal with philosophical enquiries about the reality. The ultimate goal or objectives of the Vedas are contained in the Upanishads. The understanding of the Upanishads means gaining the Absolute Knowledge or the Knowledge of the Brahmana. No other knowledge is required after that.
2 THE SACRED BOOKS OF THE HINDUS
One can now clearly see that the life was supposed to evolve in a logical way from the early childhood to the death of a human being. The concept of sanyas( renunciation ) from the childhood did not exist in those days. Everyone was supposed to evolve through the stages.
The Brahmsutras contain the explanations or the interpretation of the Upanishads ( also called Vedanta) by various gurus or aachaaryas. They consist of three parts which are Sutra, Bhaashya and Vaartika. Sutras are aphorism with minimal use of words to express a thought. Bhaashya is the commentary, and Vaartika is the glossary commentary or note, of the work.
The whole of Rig Veda Samhita is expressed in the form of verses. The Samhita portion contains 10,170 mantras or Riks. These are in the praise of gods (devatas). Agni (fire) is considered as one of the most important gods. The fire should be taken as the purity of the soul or the glow of the soul's awakening. This Veda is considered the most important of all the Vedas by many. The description of Usha ( dawn ) are done very beautifully here. Poet Kalidasa has written several poems in Sanskrit based on some of the Riks on Urvasi and Purooravas.
The chief purpose of this Veda is to give a practical shape to the hymns mentioned in the Rig Veda, in the form of the yajna or worship. This Veda is known in two forms, one is called Shukla Yajur Veda and the other is called the Krishna Yajur Veda. The first one was learnt by Sage Yajnavaalkya whereas the other one is the traditional one.
This Veda holds special importance to those who believe in Advait philosophy, i.e. those who believe in non-dualism. Important contributions in this area have been made later on in the ninth century A.D. by Adi Shankaracharya, his disciple - Sureshwaraachaarya (Mandan Mishra), and his disciples.
Saama means "Shanti" peace. Many Riks mentioned in the Rig Veda are set to music in melodious hymns in this Veda. Saama Gaana (singing) are the basis of seven swaras or notes which are fundamental to Indian music systems. The same mantras that are mentioned in the Rig Veda are set to musical notes and thereby conducive to the spiritual evolution of the self.
Atharva means a purohita, a priest. There was a rishi by this name and he brought to light this Veda. The mantras in this Veda are in prose as well as in verse forms. Some of these mantras refer to gods who are not mentioned in other Vedas. This Veda also deals with the subject of creation. Prashna, Mundaka and Maandukya Upanishads are part of this Veda.
The distinguishing feature of the Vedas is that they do not specify only a certain way to be followed in life. They say - any good path followed with loyalty and any god worship in whatever way, will lead one to the true goal. They have no objection to the pursuit of diverse paths. Thus Vedas alone have such a breadth of vision so as to say that the same truth can be realized by following diverse paths.
To understand the message of the Upanishads, one may get some help from Fig. 3 which shows concentric shells which are four in total. This figure also shows a direction indicated by an arrow. The smaller the radii of the shells the subtler are these things for the humans to understand them. For example, a human body represented by the outermost shell is the easiest to see and comprehend. A physical pain in the body can be very easily explained even by a child but it would be relatively difficult for him to explain his mental conditions. Our body has five sense organs or they can also be called as the equipments for the perception of the external world. The mind contains memory and it is also a seat for internal emotions and disturbances. Therefore it is referred to as the internal equipment which shows the internal condition of a person. The mind is subtler than the body. If we go further inside, we reach the intellect which is the ability of discrimination. To achieve this ability one should be able to judge right or wrong actions etc.. The subtlest of all is the Atman which is considered to be pure consciousness in the Upanishads. It is qualitiless and is not affected by sorrow or pleasure experienced by the human beings. This is the Real Self and not separate from the Creator. It can neither be wetted by water nor burnt by fire. It lives through the Kalpas. The Atman is not affected by birth or death. These are only the outer three shells which are affected.
To experience the blissful state, one has to withdraw from the external world and focus internally and transcend the experiencing of space and time. This concept is called the meditation.
We go through pains or pleasures when we experience the outside world through our external instruments (ears, eyes etc.) or through our memory of different types of events (mind). If we can try to focus one - pointedly with dispassion or with indifference, our mind will be calm like the surface of a lake without any ripples. Our witnessing of the external world creates response within us just like ripples in the water. If we continue for sometime like this, we would be meditating and would go beyond the concept of space and time. It would require considerable practice to achieve perfection which is called the state of Samadhi. In this state one experiences the blissful state which cannot be experienced through sensory pleasures.
To those of us who are not convinced that they are in some way represented by Fig. 3, what happens if some one else asks us who we are ? What is going to be our reply? Are we just the body, for example - hand, feet, eyes etc.? The answer is no, because we can still be alive without any of these and we can have awareness without any of these. The same thing applies to mind and intellect because different people have very different qualities of these, and also, all of these undergo changes as a person is born and then goes through the life process; but there is something which remains the same. The thing which is always there, is the Atman.
The omnipresence of the Atman is explained from our daily life observation. When one living being (Jiva) sees another one suffering from sorrow or pain, the first one also experiences the pain, and such a pain is not experienced when a non living thing is destroyed. This process of the identification between the two living beings must be felt through a continuum or a medium. Thus the Atman must be omnipresent. It is qualitiless because we cannot discern it by any known qualities that are known to us through our sense organs.
It is the most important epic of the Hindu religion. It is difficult to pinpoint the date of the occurrence of the events mentioned in the epic. Lord Rama was one of the four sons of King Dashratha who belonged to the Surya (Solar) Dynasty of the kshatriya kings having the capital at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. In those days rishis had great respect in the society and were always consulted by the kings. Lord Rama travelled to Janakpur where King Janaka ruled. He was very knowledgeable and was a great Karma Yogi. He organized a "Swamvar" where various kings and princes were invited. In this festival his daughter, Devi Sita, could marry anyone who would lift the bow given by Lord Shiva. No one except Lord Rama could do this and was chosen by Devi Sita to be her husband. Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya and in course of time King Dashratha decided to abdicate the throne and make Lord Rama, who was his eldest of four sons, the king. But his youngest of the three wives, Kaikeyi, compelled King Dashratha to banish Lord Rama to the forest for 14 years and got her son, Bharat, declared to be the king instead. Lord Rama went to the forest with Devi Sita as well as his brother Lachhmana who
also insisted to accompany Him. They had one more brother named Shatrughna, who stayed at Ayodhya. King Dashratha had three wives - Kaushalya whose son was Lord Rama, Sumitra whose sons were Lachhmana and Shatrughna and Kaikeyi, whose son was Bharat. King Dashratha died due to grief, because he had banished Lord Rama. But for Lord Rama, the palace and the forest were the same things. He was a vairaagi.
In the forest there were demons ( raakshashaas ) who harassed sages living there. Their ( of the demons ) king - Ravana, who was the king of Sri Lanka, abducted Devi Sita by deceit. Lord Rama, with the help of monkey king - Sugriva and Lord Hanumana, conquered over Sri Lanka and killed Ravana. In the meantime, in Ayodhya, prince Bharat refused to accept the throne. He carried on the affairs of the state in the name of Lord Rama. Finally, Lord Rama came back to Ayodhya and started living happily there.
One day a washerman expressed doubt about Devi Sita's character because she was imprisoned in Sri Lanka by Ravana. Lord Rama was the king of Ayodhya as well as Devi Sita's husband. He faced a difficult problem but he considered the good of the society to be his primary responsibility and the husband-wife relationship to be secondary, which was quite permissible under the Vedic laws. He always upheld the Vedas. He banished his pregnant wife, Devi Sita, to the forest where his son, Lava was born. This act of banishing the innocent wife has always been a subject of controversy among the Hindus who look at this event from Samsarik (worldly) angle and often do not understand the actions of the Siddha or Sthitprajna as defined in the Gita which is discussed later on here. An action is judged right or wrong
based on the frame of mind with which it is done. For example, killing another person for the purpose of robbery is wrong but the same act to defend oneself is not considered wrong. All the actions of perfect people (Siddha) are to be considered right because they perform actions with perfect state of mind. Other examples of such people in our history are, Lord Mahavira, Lord Buddha and Lord Christ to name a few. Devi Sita lived in the Aashrama of sage Valmiki. One day, when Devi Sita had gone somewhere, Lava got lost, so sage Valmiki created Kusha from the grass, and told Devi Sita that he was her son. In the meantime, Lava also came back. Thus Lord Rama had two sons.
Once, Lord Rama was performing Ashvamedh Yajna which was customary for the kings those days. During this yajna, they would leave a horse to go around different kingdoms. The system was that if any of the other kings who did not accept the sovereignty of the king who was performing the yajna, had to hold the horse in his kingdom, to show the act of defiance. In other words, the holding of the horse amounted to a declaration of war with the king who was performing the yajna. Lava and Kusha, who had good training as a kshatria princes, held the horse without knowing that Lord Rama was their father. There was a battle between the father and the sons as a result of this, and when Devi Sita came to know about the actual events, she settled the matter. Eventually, these princes became the king of Ayodhya.
In the Ramayana, the humans lived ideal lives, therefore this era is long remembered as the Ram Rajya or which is considered to be the best possible rule. It had a democratic set up and every one was considered equal. The relationships between father and the son, a husband
and a wife, a brother and another brother, king and his subjects, a son and his step mother and vice versa, were all ideal. It was almost like a utopia but definitely not unachievable. There are a lot of families in India who model their lives based on Ramayana and thus are free from many of the ills of the society which we find these days. The difference between the society now a days and those days is that we have much more material wealth now but at the same time, there is a lot of greed, lust, craving for power, and weapons of mass destruction also. The overall effect is that more people are suffering from psychological and physical diseases. The society is looking in the wrong direction for solutions.
Rishi Valmiki wrote the Ramayana in Sanskrit and later on it was rewritten by various people in different regional languages of India. One of the most notable ones was written by Saint Tulsidas in Avadhi language in the 17th century. In recent times, it has been produced by Shree Ramanand Sagar for telecasting and it had phenomenal success which shows that even in the recent times the truth prevails.
Many centuries after the event of the Ramayana, there was a battle for the throne in Kurukshetra near Delhi. It was between the 100 sons of King Dhritrashtra who was blind, and 5 sons of Pandu who were Dhritrashtra's younger brother's sons and the rightful claimants to the throne. In other words, the battle was fought between the cousins. The names of Pandu's sons were Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahdeo. Arjuna was the greatest archer of his time and was the favourite of Lord Krishna who was asked by the Pandavas to fight for them. The Dhritrashtra's sons were called the Kauravas, who were deceitful, mischievous, and sinners whereas the Pandavas believed in the truth and justice. The Pandavas had tried, by reasoning and persuasion, to avoid the war but the Kauravas did not listen to them.
At the beginning of the battle which lasted for 18 days, Arjuna felt dejected and depressed. He did not feel that getting the kingdom after killing his own king would be worth. He did not consider going to the war with his cousins would be the right kind of action. Therefore, just as the battle was about to begin, he told Lord Krishna who was his charioteer, that he would not fight. The Lord explained the truth to Arjuna for brief period of time and his preachings, as a collection, are known as the Gita. In the Gita, the truth and right actions etc., are explained. After listening to the Lord, Arjuna got the jnana and fought the battle along with his brothers. The Kauravas lost and were killed. The Pandavas ruled for a long time until Lord Krishna's leaving the human body at Dwarka. Finally, all the Pandava brothers took sanyas (renunciation) and went to the Himalayas, leaving the kingdom to Arjuna's grandson. The Mahabharata has been produced by Shree B. R. Chopra for television viewing, and it also has had remarkable success. Again, revealing that the truth prevails even in this age.
If we compare the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the evil forces were destroyed from the earth in both of these. The Lord himself resorted to violence, in the case of the Ramayana but he recommended violence in the other case to protect the Dharma ( truth ) which he preached, was the highest duty of a human being. This is the marked difference between the Hinduism on one hand, and Buddhism or Jainism or Christianity, on the other . The next question is under what condition should one resort to violence in the Hinduism? Should one resort to violence for every small thing? The answer is no. The violence should be used only as a last resort. The relative truths expressed in the descending order are: Satya (truth), Ahimsa (non-violence) and Brahmacharya (celibacy), which means non-violence is the higher relative truth and has to be upheld in place of celibacy if one has to make a choice between the two. Thus Satya is the highest priority and one should resort to violence to uphold the truth or Satya. This Satya should not be confused with telling a lie or a truth as is commonly known. One has to judge the Satya from the circumstances. For example, suppose some one is chasing an innocent person to kill him. That innocent person runs and hides in your house. The criminal comes and asks you if that innocent person was in your house? The Satya, in the present circumstances, is to save the innocent person. Therefore, even by telling a lie, which is considered a sin in normal circumstances, one should save the innocent person's life and this act of telling a lie is justified and is the Satya under these conditions. It is never an external action which is considered wrong or right but it is the Frame of Mind with which it is done, is the determining factor.
Before resorting to violence, all possible measures should be exhausted as was done in the Ramayana when the Lord sent Amgada, Sugreeva's nephew to persuade Ravana to return Devi Sita to the Lord and ask for forgiveness from Him. Only when Ravana did not pay any heed to such efforts, violence was resorted to. In the case of Mahabharata also, the Pandavas asked for five villages or even lesser area of the land, but Kauravas did not listen. The Lord told Arjuna in the battlefield that he had already tried all possible means to avoid this war, therefore he should not get dejected or feel depressed as to who gets killed in the battle whether it is Bhishma or any of his cousins. Any of them could have easily judged between the right and the wrong actions. Even Bhishma, who was a great dharmaatma (pious, virtuous), did not use his intellect properly in this matter. The event clearly shows that even the `word given' has to be conditional i.e. it cannot be kept under all conditions to avoid its misuse, as it happened in the Ramayana by Kaikeyi. Even today, it is commonly experienced, especially in the case of arranged marriages in India. The marriages are settled or arranged based on false information. Under such conditions, any one who is cheated can go back on the deal without feeling a sense of guilt because the entire deal is not based on the truth. Giving a word or taking a vow, does not mean that it will be honoured under all conditions because Satya has priority over Ahimsa which in turn has priority over Brahmacharya. This fundamental principle of Hinduism is not discussed very clearly in many of the religious or moral books. The literature on the Hinduism is so vast that a number of hypocrites get away by telling lies and by providing false information.
One of the main problems with the Hinduism has been that the scriptures were written in Sanskrit; that too, in a very old form. Most of the people did not know Sanskrit in the olden days and they do not know even now; therefore misbeliefs, superstitions etc. were held by ordinary people. In the last century, several reform movements took place in India; one in Bengal by swamis like Rama Krishna, Vivekananda etc. and the other one in Gujarat by Swami Dayananda Saraswati. In this century also, there have been very impressive scholars and swamis like Chinmayananda, Dayananda, Viditatmananda, Krishnamurthy etc. The Vedas and other old scriptures have been translated into English, Hindi and other regional languages so that ordinary people can read and understand them.
It is said that the Gita is nothing but the essence of the entire Upanishads (Vedanta). Sage Vyasa compiled the Vedas, the Mahabharata including the Gita and Shreemad Bhagvad, a remarkable performance in the history of mankind.
In the First Chapter, there is the description of both the opposing armies. Most of the kings of smaller kingdoms within India, had taken sides. Arjuna is dejected at this sight and says to the Lord who was his charioteer, that by killing his own cousins and other relations, he does not think that the kingdom of the three worlds (Triloka) was worth it.
In the Chapter 2, the blessed Lord says that such thoughts did not suit Arjuna, the kshatriya prince. He should not be weak hearted and effeminate. Arjuna expresses his confusion as to how he could kill people like Bhishma, Dronacharya, whom he revered. To this, the Lord replies that from the time immemorial there were two ways in which persons who have acquired the knowledge of the Brahmana, have led their lives; men like Suka, gave up worldly life and led the lives of the mendicants whereas, others like King Janaka have spent their time in worldly activities according to their own duties (Dharma) for the good of the society. The first mode is called the Samkhya Nistha and the other, Karma Yoga. The Lord tells Arjuna that he was lamenting for those for whom he should not be lamenting, if he had the right knowledge. The knowers do not lament the dead or not dead ( the death is examined here). What is death and what is killing? The answer is that man is not identified by the body alone but with body and Atman. The Atman was there yesterday, it is there today and it will live forever. Therefore the words, kill or die cannot be properly applied to Atman. On the other hand, the body which is perishable, will definitely die whether today or after 100 years. Since the Atman definitely acquires another body, according to the karma, there is nothing to lament for.
This Atman is never born nor does it ever die. It is unborn, ever lasting, immutable and primeval. It is not killed though the body is killed. Just as a man casting off clothes puts on others and new ones, so does the Atman cast off old bodies and become united with new ones.
Weapons do not cut it; fire does not burn it; water does not make it wet; the wind does not dry it up. It is uncleavable, uncombustible, permanent, all pervading, stable, immovable and everlasting. It is imperceptible, unthinkable and immutable. Knowing this, the Lord says, Arjuna should not lament the death of others.
One who is born, death is certain and one who dies, birth is certain. Therefore it would not be proper for Arjuna to grieve over the dead - says the Lord. In this way, He recommends the second path to Arjuna. It is worthwhile discussing the two paths in some detail here. The first path which is Samkhya and which can also be said to be the path of renunciation is as an acceptable and a noble path but the person must be cut out for this path. A sanyasi (a renounced person) wanders around in search of truth and does not have a family. In addition, has to lead a life of a celibate. This concept is common to all the four religions i.e. to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Christianity. In the Vedic era, one lead this life in the last two stages of life. It should be also made clear that if a sanyasi deviates from celibacy, or a guru preaches something and does exactly opposite, then one should not infer that the religions or the teachings are wrong. One should always separate the teacher from the teachings for the correct inference.
The Lord has referred to the second path of Karma Yoga as Yoga and quite a few people confuse it with Pantajali's Yoga which is definitely not the same. Sage Patanjali lived in Pataliputra in Bihar in the 2nd century B.C. which was a Buddhist era in India. Mahabharata took place many centuries earlier than Patanjali's time.
In short, in the entire Gita, a Combination of Jnana (knowledge), Devotion, and Karma is Recommended for the Release or Moksha, otherwise we continue to go through the cycles of births and deaths, according to the Karma Theory. The Karma Theory of Hinduism is slightly different from that of Jainism.
How is the Karma Theory explained? In a given family there are many children. Even if the parents and society treat them almost in an identical way, yet they can be quite different in nature. How do we explain this? This is explained by the Karma Theory according to which there are two kinds of Karmas - (1) Aarabdha (commenced) and (2) Un-Aarabdha (uncommenced).
A portion of the total karma, i.e. the commenced one is responsible for our actions in this life and there is no escape from these. But one can totally anhilate the uncommenced karma by acquiring Knowledge. On the other hand, the actions which we are performing in this life will also have an accumulating effect. In this way, the cycles of births and deaths have to go on until we acquire the Moksha or the right knowledge or the liberation which ever we prefer to call. The state of Jnana means brahma-bhuta (merged in Brahman) or the Brahmi-State. In this state, one acquires spiritual knowledge and conquers over the sense organs. In this state, the man reaches the Mahat-Element (Parameshwara).
The Lord asks Arjuna to perform desireless actions, which is very important in our daily lives. He tells Arjuna that his (Arjuna's) authority extends only to performance of action; the fruits of actions are beyond his authority. It does not mean that he should cease to perform actions. One should have a mental state which is equable towards an action being fruitful or unfruitful. If we develop such equability of the mind, our life will be much more meaningful and we will have lot less mental stress.
The Blessed Lord tells Arjuna that a sthitaprajna person abandons all desires of his heart and is pleased by himself in his own self. His heart is not agitated in the midst of calamities; he does not have longing for pleasures. His reason is steady because his mind is without attachment to all things. His senses are drawn inwards.
The man who contemplates on objects of the senses, the intimacy with the objects grows. From this intimacy desire arises and when there is an obstruction in the matter of the satisfaction of the desire to possess those objects, there arises anger; from anger arises indiscrimination and from it confused memory. This confused memory results in destruction of reason and then the total destruction of the man.
The paragraph above is quite applicable in our daily lives. Most of the ills of our society are due to non realization of the truth mentioned here. It is the incessant appetite to possess furniture, cars, houses etc., leads persons to get into heavy debts, which creates imbalance in his or her behaviour. Such actions lead to family problems and even deaths in some cases. By not controlling the desires properly, a number of people invite problems.
The Second Chapter contains the essence of the Gita. Great knowledge can be acquired by going through all the eighteen chapters, but for this book, the first two chapters give sufficient insight into the philosophy of the Hinduism.
In the Chapter 13, Lord Krishna discusses with Arjuna the 20 Values necessary for the seekers of Truth. These values are:
1. Amanitvam - Exaggerated self respectfulness or self worshipness. It is quite often found that people demand respect from others. Such thoughts arise because, deep in their minds, they have doubt about themselves. If they are completely certain then there is no need to demand respect from others. 2. Adambhitvam - A dambhi is one who pretends to possess abilities which he does not have. Therefore, a quality opposite to this is desirable. In the first case above, the person had some qualities but he or she was not sure of it. 3. Ahimsa - Non-violence. 4. Ksanti - Accommodation. A person shouldcalmly accept the behaviour of others or situations which he or she cannot change. 5. Arjavam - Rectitude. It means alignment of words, actions, and deeds. When there is arrow like alignment between the three then it is called Arjavam. 6. Aacharopasanam - Service to the teacher. It means a frame of mind where the student surrenders his or her personal ego; subordinates likes and dislikes before his teacher and also, respects the teacher. The student as well, shows devotion. 7. Shaucham - Cleanliness, outer as well as inner (mental). 8. Sthairyam - Steadiness. 9. Atmavinigraha - Mastery over mind. It requires control over thoughts, emotions, etc. so that one does not act impulsively or have nervous breakdowns. It requires firm control over the mind. 10. Indriyarthesu Vairagyam - State of dispassion towards sense objects. 11. Anahankara - Freedom from an individualized I-ness. It means that one should think in terms of the totality which is the Brahman. 12. Asakti - Absence of the attitude of ownership of a thing. 13. Janma-mrityu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosa-anudarshanam - It means that we should have equanimity towards birth, death, sorrow, happiness etc. in our lives. 14. An-abhisvangah Putra-dara-griha-aadisu - It means that one should not have excessive attachment towards wife, son, house etc. in life. 15. Nityam Samachittatvam Ista-anista-upapattisu - One is recommended to have same attitude towards successes or failures. We should be the same whether we got what we wanted or we did not get what we wanted. 16. Mayi cha Ananya-yogena Bhaktih Avyabhicharini - One should have steadfast devotion to the Lord. 17. Vivikta-desha-sevitvam - One should have a high value for a solitary place which is most often necessary for meditation and contemplation. 18. Aratih Jana-samsadi - One should have a lack of craving for the company of friends and relatives i.e., one should not be surrounded by people all the time. 19. Tattva-Jnanaartha-Darshanam - It means we should always be looking for the Truth or the Reality in this life. 20. Adhyatma-Jnana-Nityatvam - It recommends one to study the Upanishads where the knowledge of the Truth is discussed.
One can refer to the Gita for the details about these Values. Swami Dayanand has written an excellent book on these Values.
From the discussions earlier, it is quite clear that the body (Kshetra) is destructible or mutable and the Atman (Kshetrajna) is immutable or indestructible. In the past, there have been three main schools of thoughts which have considered mutability or immutability in the world.
NYAYA SCHOOL (Kanada School)
According to this school, the root cause of this universe are the atoms (paramanu). As these atoms combine chemically, physically etc. which means reactions at the atomic, molecular or macro-molecular levels, they acquire new qualities as a result of the union. There are atoms of the mind and of the body - so they believed, and when they unite, life results. The atoms of earth, fire, water, and air are fundamentally different from each other. The fundamental atoms of earth have four qualities, namely - form, taste, smell, and touch; those of water, fire, and air, three, two and one respectively. In this way, the entire cosmos is filled with atoms. There are no other root causes of the world other than the atoms. The commencement of the mutual coalition of the original and permanent atoms results in all the perceptible things in the world coming into existence.
One of the problems with this theory was that it could not answer the questions - how the initial motion or the reactions were started? It also did not explain the difference between the living beings and non-living beings.
The theory of this school was based on two propositions:
1.Nothing new comes into existence in this world.
2. All qualities which are to be seen in created products (Karya) must be found, at best in the subtle form in the cause (Karana) of it from which it was produced. In other words, the subtle possesses all the qualities of the gross which comes out of the subtle.
According to this proposition, the elements of the seed absorb other elements from the air, fertilizer, etc. to form a tree. The seed does not get destroyed in the process and then finally, the tree comes out of it. Similar examples can be taken in the process of the transformation of ice into water and vice versa. If we take a product made due to a chemical reaction or a physical transformation, the atoms are always present in the reactants and the products, they are never destroyed. If we take the nuclear reactions, the matter is transformed into energy and from the Einstein's Theory of Relativity, we know that a given amount of matter has the potentiality of converting into a definite amount of energy. Thus the proposition is valid even there.
The Samkhya Doctrine about the diversity of objects, for example - stones, gold, silver, trees, etc., was that their diversities were neither permanent nor fundamental and that the fundamental substance in all the matters is only one. This doctrine seems quite remarkable, considering the search presently, for the fundamental particles, in the field of High Energy Physics. It is quite surprising that, (a) the life of the creation in this cycle ( Kalpa ) was predicted to be close to 8 billion years which has been mentioned earlier, (b) the cyclic nature of the creation and destruction of the universe was mentioned, and (c) the existence of one fundamental element was also theorized. This fundamental element at the root of all the things in the universe is known in the Samkhya philosophy, as the Prakriti. All things which arise out of the transformation of Prakriti are called Vikriti. According to the Samkhya Theory, the Prakriti also has three qualities namely, Satva (the placid), Rajas (the active), and Tamas (the ignorant). The theory also assumes that there are many spirits (Purusha) in this universe and different combinations of Prakriti and Purusha give rise to all living and non-living beings. The Purusha is qualityless. The Moksha or the liberation, occurs when the Prakriti leaves the Purusha. This is because the Purusha does not act; it is therefore the Prakriti which is responsible for all our actions.
This school agrees with most of the Samkhya theory but it considers only one fundamental element which is the Truth. It, through logical analysis, shows that everything we see in this world is the modification of the same Truth. The word `Mithya' has been used for all modifications. According to this school, Truth never changes with time and is called THE GOD or the First Cause. Therefore, everything we see around us, are the modifications of the same Truth. Every living or non-living beings have come out of the same Truth. In this way, the Advait (Non-Dual) philosophy disproved the multi-Purusha theory of the Samkhya school. The thoughts of the Nyaya School were disproved by those belonging to the Samkhya School. The Buddhist religion came later on. The concepts discussed above will be very useful in understanding the philosophies of Jainism and Buddhism .
Before ending the discussion on various schools of thoughts, a few words on the three qualities (gunas) will be in order here. A Satvik person is very pure in heart; he is pious, active, desireless, i.e. he is full of good qualities. A rajasik person is desire-driven, he possesses a lot of things and very active, but all his actions are done for the purpose of getting something. A tamasic person is lethargic; would sleep all the time; would not be active and would like to eat stale food.
This philosophy does not accept the Prakriti and Purusha as defined by the Samkhaya School, as the fundamental elements but considers only one element as the fundamental and calls it THE TRUTH (THE GOD), PARABRAHMANA. It is based on entirely different concepts altogether.
It says that this Truth is the substructure of everything we see or experience ordinarily. What we experience is based on our sense organs which have their own limitations. For example, when we see a lightning in the sky, we also hear thunder after some time. The eyes are sensitive to energies between certain wave lengths in the visible region of the entire energy spectrum and the ears hear the sound whose energies are in certain other wave length range. Outside their ranges, they are not sensitive. For example, they are not sensitive to the radio waves for which we need other electronic devices to receive the signal or information. In the same manner, the sensitivity of smell is very high among certain animals than what we humans have. The bats use the electro-magnetic waves to locate their prey; they do not necessarily see the way we see things. To acknowledge the existence of something, we rely on the information provided by the sense organs, e.g., touch, colour, smell, shape, density (weight) , etc., but never the matter of the Substance Element (vastu-tattva). If the fundamental element is qualitiless then we cannot, through the means of the sense organs, know about the existence of such elements.
According to the Vedanta, there exists only one fundamental Truth not conditioned to time and space. What we see or hear in our lives in the external world is the appearance of that Truth to our eyes or ears and this has been termed as a modification, or maya or avidya, or moha, or ajnana, or a lila, in various Hindu scriptures. The actual or real Truth is qualitiless, therefore imperceptible to our sense organs.
How can we describe this fundamental element to others? It is not like anything that we have ever seen or heard of. It is not describable. In the Vedas, they have proved its existence by saying `Neti-Neti (not this - not this)'. The qualitiful world appears to us to have come out of this qualitiless Truth; but, in fact, it is the same Truth (Satya). This ambiguity is explained from an example of a rope seen by a man when it is almost dark. The rope appears to him like a snake and as long as he does not know that it is a rope, he would act to protect himself from the rope appearing as snake to him. But once he knows that it is a rope, then the fear will never be there in his mind. His view of the rope will change forever. The rope was a Mithya but the snake was the `relative truth'. There is only one absolute Truth in Vedanta which has been called The God. Similarly, for those of us who are not Realized Ones, the world appears to us as full of mortals, but to the Realized Ones, there is God everywhere. It is said that God cannot be seen by our ordinary eyes but we need Divine Eyes or Knowledge to experience the existence of God. Experiencing God is beyond logic and also beyond the field of materials science - so the Vedantists say.
They also show that:
1. The Brahman (God) is real.
2. The world (Jagat), that is, all names and forms in the world are mithya or perishable.
3. The Atman of a man and the Brahmana, are fundamentally ONE and the same and not two.
4. Truth is beyond space and time.
Rishi Yajnavaalkya told, his second wife Maitreyi, Gargi, Varuni and others, and King Janaka, that everything discussed above was the mystic import of the Vedanta. Some of the Great Sentences ( Mahavakyas ) that have been said in the Upanishads are:
1. Tat tvam asi (Thou art that).
2. Aham Brahmasmi ( I am the Parabrahmana ).
The word mithya does not mean `non-existence' or illusion in that sense otherwise it would be the farthest interpretation of it from the Vedantic philosophy. It means that it is not what we think it is. The question is, who knows what it is ? The answer is that the ones who know, are the Seers of the Truth, i.e. they are the Realized Ones. They, through the Jnana or Knowledge, i.e. those who symbolically possessing the Divine Eyes, know what it is. It appears as the modification of the Truth to us. Finally, Moksha is obtained when we get the Knowledge irrespective of the paths we follow. For example, Shankaracharya took the path of renunciation (sanyasa), and King Janaka, the karma yoga.
Until the Mahabharata, which is estimated to be around 1500 B.C., this religion evolved very systematically, starting from the Karma Kanda (Meemaamsa) to the Jnana Kanda (Upanishads). People use to make offerings to Vishnu even before the Mahabharata. Thus the devotional practice did exist even before. After the Mahabharata war, rishi Vyasa compiled Shreemad Bhaagvad, the Mahabharata including the Gita and the Vedas. The Bhagwat religion emphasized on the glories mentioned in the first two, and the followers of this sect were the Vaishnavites. There was another reason for this; by this time, there was degradation in the religion also. People would kill animals and offer them as a sacrifice which was opposed by the followers of the Jainism who opposed any kind of violence. They were also opposed to the domination over the religious matters by the brahmin caste. They opposed the untouchability of the shudras. Thus the Vaishnavites were devotional but were against animal sacrifice in the yajnas but were within the Hindu religion. Lords Rama and Krishna are considered to be the reincarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Shavites were the devotees of the Lord Shiva and similarly, there were those (Shakta) who considered the Shakti or Kali or Durga as the Supreme in this universe. These three were the main three sects within the Hinduism which are even there now. These distinctions are much more pronounced in South India where the temples of the Shaivites and Vaishnavites are separate and even the marriages between these sects, among the brahmins especially, were not common. In Bengal, there are significant number of devotees of Shakti or Kali.
Buddhism started during the Lord Buddha's time but was spread far and wide by King Ashoka in the third century B.C. He sent missionaries all over the known world. We should bear in mind that Alexander had come to the borders of India before Ashoka and the Greeks had their presence in the Pataliputra, the capital of King Ashoka. During his reign, the Hindus or Jains were becoming Buddhists and remained so, until the beginning of the ninth century. In the eighth and the ninth centuries Kumarilla Bhatt and Shankaracharya opposed Buddhism which had also degenerated by then. Shankaracharya went around India and set up Hindu monasteries at Dwarka, Puri, Sringeri, and Jyotir Math ( Badrinath ), in the four corners of India. He believed in the Vedanta but was not opposed to idol worship. He personally installed idols in various temples in India. From his time, even amongst Hindus, people could become monks from early childhood which was practised in the Buddhism.
Later on, in the nineteenth century, there were reform movements within Hinduism, one in Gujarat by Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who believed in going back to the early Vedic Period but he was opposed to the idol worship. Surprisingly, he did not have many followers in Gujarat but they are there in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, and Western Uttar Pradesh. Around the same time, in Bengal also, there were movements like Brahmo Samaj and which was replaced by the Rama Krishina Mission. Swami Rama Krishna was a devotee of Goddess Kali but later on his ideas were broadened, and the present form of this mission was given by Swami Vivekananda. It is also a Vendantic mission similar to that of Shankaracharya's. They accept idol worship and have monks who practice celibacy.
In summary, one can say that broadly speaking, there are five sects among Hindus presently in India and they are (a) Vaishnavites, (b) Shaivites, (c) Shakta (Worshipper of Kali, Durga etc.) (d) Arya Samajees (followers of Swami Dayananda Saraswati) and (e) Believers in Rama Krishna Mission.
If we analyze carefully, some of the confusions about many Gods of Hinduism will go away. The Vendantic (monotheism) concepts were not so easy, therefore the brahmins tried to simplify the religion for the common masses. One also has to remember that Hinduism is not an institutionalized religion, so that well coordinated instructions could be given by those who acted as the heads of the institutions, as was possible in the Buddhism or Christianity . The Hinduism is a highly decentralized religion. No two temples are affiliated to each other. In the olden days, each rishi had his own ashrama (hut) and those who wanted to learn from him, could go there. He did not operate under any one. The ideas were exchanged when they visited and discussed with each other along with their disciples. There was free exchange of ideas, and money or wealth was never involved.These people were supported by householders, or the kings or they got their basic needs from the trees in the forest.
Anyone visiting India will see a statue having three faces of faculties of God which are Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the sustainer), and Shiva (the destroyer). This concept comes because everything we see is qualitiful in the creation. Everything we see is created, sustained and ultimately destroyed. Who does all this? Nothing happens in his world except for the will of the God . From the Vedic period, people have been praying the Sun (Surya), the air (varun), the rain (the Indra), and others. They are not considered to be Gods but like `gods' in the Greek mythology. They are not considered to be the Supreme Being.
Some of the Hindus pray trees, monkeys, snakes, etc., but not all do. They do not consider anything created to be redundant. All of these have definite roles in the creation or in the preservation of the environment or in maintaining the balance in the nature. For example, a Hindu would not cut a tree which is green or, in other words, not considered dead. If it is dry, he would have no hesitation to cut it. The reason was the protection of the environment and also, they believed that there is life in the trees which are green. People, who were not so sophisticated or properly educated, were told that some gods lived on those green trees; so, these should not be cut.
Cow slaughter or eating beef is a very difficult concept in India. It is a very sensitive issue because not only in olden days, but even now, milk is in short supply. If people go on slaughtering cows, there would be no milk for the babies and one has to remember that a number of Hindus are vegetarians. Milk is one of the main sources of protein for the growing babies. Secondly, the male calf is still used as an ox in farming for tilling the land. India does not have mechanized farms. If all the cows are slaughtered, where would the oxen come from? Then the next question is, why not kill the cows which are too old, or which have stopped giving milk ? The tradition of India is based on non-violence as in Buddhism and Jainism which will be discussed later on, or a minimum of violence, because many Hindus consider that the violence is inherent in the creation ; therefore, complete elimination of violence is not possible. They do not feel the act of killing the cow to be right because it has given calves and milk, all through the productive period of her life. The Hindus believe that not only humans have Atman but even the animals also have them. This is the fundamental difference between Hinduism and Christianity where only humans are considered to have Soul.
The concept of idol worship has been very controversial in the entire human history. Most of the present day Hindus believe in idol worship because worshipping is easier. It is not easy for a human being to conceive the infinite God who is considered to be Imperceptible already discussed in the Vedantic Theory. The Upanishads are full of the discussions about such a God and there is no Hindu who does not believe in the Upanishads. The question is how can one attain peace and tranquillity? When a Hindu has an idol, he knows that it does not represent God in complete sense. It is like a child when he learns to ride a bicycle, he needs a training wheel. Once he learns how to ride, he removes the extra wheel (the third one). Similarly, people who attain higher states can concentrate or meditate without an idol. There are yogis who do not use idols at all. All through the history of mankind, the concept of idols have been misunderstood with the result that idols have been broken down in many temples. If someone gets pleasure or peace out of praying using the idols, he or she is not harming others; therefore it should not be considered as an offensive act by any one.
There are some who are opposed to the decoration or the beautification of the idols. Such a thinking, in my opinion, shows lack of knowledge or understanding. We decorate our homes, our rooms, etc. . It is only human to beautify and respect anything sacred. These symbols, which are idols for some, are holy books like Koran, or Guru Granth Saheb or the Bible, for the others. If they all give due respect to their scriptures, then why should someone who considers the idols to be his or her symbol, not do the same ?
To understand the idol worship better, let us take an example of two persons, out of which one is a believer in it and the other, not. What is the effect of the idol on these two, knowing that the idol is the same. The first one experiences or gets closer to the truth whereas, it does not have any effect on the other. Similar is the concept behind the construction or building of the churches or temples or mosques. At first, human beings make these buildings and then, depending on their faith or belief, derive benefits from it. All the religions which believe in the existence of God, also believe that the God exists everywhere. If it is so, then why go to the temples ? They all go to experience themselves closer to Godhood by elevating themselves within the environment of the temple. The statue or the `image ( Pratima )' is not God, a fact known even to a lay person. It is always the purity of belief or faith which takes humans closer to God. It is the self experience which is important and not any sophistication in logic or formal education.
If Charles Darwin had made his evolution theory known in India at the time he did in Europe, he would not have had so much of opposition in India. The concept of a human being evolving out of monkeys is quite acceptable to the Hindus. In fact, they believe that by good Karma, all species evolve and a human being is the best among the living species. The Hindus believe that transformation of the Atman is possible because of the Karma in a given life of the species whereas, Charles Darwin theorized that it was a process of natural selection. Because of the belief of the existence of the Atman in all living beings, the process of transformation poses no difficulty.
The caste division was started initially based on the aptitude of a person. Later on, those who were privileged, changed the system and made it based on the caste into which one was born. It is quite a surprising fact for those who have not lived in India. All the other religions which included Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Islam have opposed such divisions. Amazingly enough, it is still practised in the Indian sub - continent irrespective of the religions. When people got converted for whatever reasons, from one religion into another, they carried with themselves their caste identities. These divisions made the society very weak against external aggression. Even now, the politicians, without many exceptions, are making full use of the caste divisions and thereby exploiting the weaknesses of the society. They want to perpetuate this caste system because their elections are much simpler and easier. If they do not use the caste system then, their elections would be based on their actual performance.
According to the system, there were four castes: ( a ) the brahmins who carried out the tasks of religious matters and spiritual work, and were the intellectuals, ( b ) the kshatrias, who were the ruling class, ( c ) the vaishyas, the trading community, and ( d ) the shudras, the class which served the three mentioned earlier. The conditions of the shudras are slightly better now than what was before because their rights are well enshrined in the constitution of the country. It does not mean that they are equal now, which is quite difficult even in most advanced societies; but the only advantage in those societies is that the profession is not based on the caste into which one is born. However, even there if it involves a race, then again, it is similar to the caste system.
Hinduism had many schools of thoughts right from the beginning as shown in the Fig. 4. In the later periods, there were many alternate philosophies advanced by various swamis like Vallabhaachaarya, Maadhavaachaarya, Shreekaantaachaarya, Raamaanujaachaarya. An excellent discussion on their philosophies can be seen in the book entitled, " The Brahmsutras " by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the second president of India.
They have accepted the concept of the Atman as different from the Parmatman in some form of duality. But, all of them agree on the point that the salvation lies in the merger of the Atman with the Parmatman. For the merger, the human actions have to be same as those mentioned while discussing the Advait philosophy.