The Essence of Hinduism

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The three words Om Tat Sat represent the essence of Hindu philosophy.

Om means the absolute, endless, eternal spirit of God and Truth. It is a powerful term in meditation. Sometimes in meditation we can feel this word ringing within. Hindus assert that the word Om has the power to wake up our spirit and reveal our inner light.

Tat is a complex word meaning simply that or more deeply “That” that is. In the phrase Om Tat Sat, the word Tat implies that God is a truth or a force.

Sat means true or real. Sat says that what is true is real and what is real is true. Pure Sat is light and happy and lasts forever. Hindu philosophy views the temporal world we perceive as illusionary or as maya. Although the world of perception is measurable and verifiable, it is not real because it is mutable and subject to destruction.  Sat transcends the universe.

 

 

The Truth about Hinduism

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Following in Penguin’s footsteps, another Indian Publisher, Aleph Book Company has pulled Wendy Doniger’s On Hinduism. This six hundred and eighty page collection of essays is a serious effort to confuse, distort and disparage the world view of Hindus. Doniger takes bits and pieces of tradition, custom, legend, and philosophy and mismatches them to create a grotesque portrayal that is untrue. She falsely asserts that Hindus are both polytheistic and monotheistic. In fact, Hindus believe in a single God, with many forms. God is separate from gods, demons, or legendary heroes.

 

In contrast, my work, Irina Gajjar’s On Hinduism, is an accurate and concise one hundred and eighty page book that depicts and explains Hindu belief, philosophy, scripture, legend, and custom in historical context as well as in the context of the twenty first century.

 

My work makes clear the Hindu belief that God or Brahman is the single divine force behind and beyond everything.  Brahman is fathomless. Brahman precedes the creation and survives the destruction of worlds and universes. The trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are humanized aspects of the One God who creates, who preserves and who destroys the world we know.

 

Hindus know that, while there is no end to Gods names and forms, God is only One.

 

The Lord said:

“Look! I am in hundreds of thousands

of different forms, and colors and shapes.

Arjun, see in my body, the whole world

and anything else you want to see.”

(Gita 11:5, 7)

 

 

 

On Hinduism by Doniger or Gajjar?

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Penguin Books did well to scrap Wendy Doniger’s work. In her Foreword to On Hinduism, Doniger herself proclaims to be a “hot-blooded ex-ballet dancer” interested in stories rather than a real “sanskritilogist,” someone like me whom she disparages as interested only in verbs and nouns.

In India, Penguin has determined that it would be best not to defend Doniger’s flawed perspective at the expense of offending those who know, live and honor Hinduism. The misrepresentation in her work lies more in her distorted construction, absurd insinuations and misleading conclusions than in her errors of fact. Her books are like puzzle pieces wrongly put together resulting in a grotesque and disorderly collection of bits of images that don’t fit with one another and are therefore, though interestingly prurient, horribly jarring. Her assemblage is not so much haphazard as it is deliberately misleading.

It is my view that all religion is an opinion about the universe and that books about religion are opinions about opinions. To this end anyone is free to form an opinion. However scholarship mandates order and respect for truth. Hinduism is a multi-faceted and organized world view. It distinguishes scripture from legend and myth. It separates ethics and morals from belief. It entertains divergent philosophies and respects science. It is based on premises and principles. It embraces progress and change. It is most of all a search for truth and harmony. It is the oldest major religion on earth. It is sophisticated and its followers, from the least to the most educated, are sophisticated because they must make their own judgments. Hindu scripture does not tell us what is good but rather to believe in goodness.

The revolt of strongly committed Hindus against Doniger’s assault has both backfired and succeeded. On the one hand, the publicity generated by controversy has propelled Doniger’s work to the level of a best seller. On the other, the same controversy has brought about a burgeoning interest in understanding Hinduism. 

Author Irina Gajjar holds a PhD in Ancient Indian Studies from Bombay University, and studied Sanskrit in India for ten years. She speaks eight languages, including Gujarati, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Roma­nian, and French. Her recent book On Hinduism is a faithful and comprehensive explanation of a world view held by about fifteen percent of the world’s population.

 

 

My Thoughts on Wendy Doniger

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I was asked to give my personal thoughts after I posted an article on Penguin India agreeing to trash Wendy Doniger’s book on Hinduism, so I thought I’d share my views here.

As a self declared hot blooded ex-ballet dancer interested in stories rather than a real  Sanskritist, Doniger is hardly qualified to comment on the history of Hinduism. Her  misunderstood opinions have no place in scholarship and have been offending both scholars and Hindus for years. Penguin has done well by stopping distribution of her works.

Please see my book On Hinduism, for a true versus an alternative representation of Hindu belief. Check out ForeWord’s September 2013 review of this work.

Worlds, Universes, and Multiverses

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Lately I have been considering the terms world and universe and using them both, in the singular and in the plural in my writing, along with the word multiverses. Technically, the term world refers to our planet and the term universe refers to all creation. Multiverses are defined as potential worlds that may or may not exist.

In my view, the word  “world”  goes  beyond our planet and that worlds exist on other planes, but perhaps even in our minds and dreams. The word “universes” in the plural suggests to me suggests that our universe is cyclical as stated in Hindu scripture. I think “multiverses” implies the cyclical existence of universes that that come and go in spacetime beyond our perception.

Are We Evolving or Just Fickle?

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Just about all children tell their parents “But you said…” My grandfather told my father who told me under such attack, “I have evolved.”

It is a wonderful thing to truly evolve. But it is not a wonderful thing to be inconsistent for convenience or to compromise for personal gain. To evolve is to be open. It is good. To be fickle is to be unprincipled. It is bad.

If we pause, think and look within, we will know the difference as it pertains to ourselves. As for others, we have to guess as best we can. But others don’t matter as much as we do. We matter most to those nearest and dearest to us, but even more to ourselves.

One Spirit! One World! One Word!

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The governing philosophy of the planet earth in my book New New York is One Spirit! One World! One Word!  This is a philosophy of unity, at least in theory.

One Spirit means that humankind is united as part of the unfathomable greater spirit that pervades the world. One World means that people throughout the planet are united in purpose. One Word means that to communicate adequately, all people on earth must speak one language.

How can such a well intentioned plan go wrong?

 

Life and Death in Hindu Belief

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Medical and legal definitions of life and death vary. These definitions are important for purposes like maintaining life in pregnancy or for organ transplants. But philosophical distinctions matter for understanding and peace of mind.

According to Hindu belief, death occurs when the spirit leaves the body.

Chapter 13 of The Gita explains that the body and the mind are one. The body consists of five subtle elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. It also consists of the mind and of the five senses of hearing, touching, seeing, tasting and smelling. Consequently our emotions are also connected to our bodies.

In contrast, the soul is part of the unfathomable, eternal and boundless spirit we call God.

 

 

Intertwined Karma

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Karma is the concept that activity bears fruit. In Sanskrit, karma means activity. This idea is not too difficult to embrace. On the other hand, it is a challenge to grasp the vast interactions between the karma of an individual or a group and karma’s consequences which can be global or beyond global in magnitude.  I believe that a person, a movement, a nation, our planet and perhaps the universe all have their karma.

There is no doubt that our karma is intertwined with billions of other karmas. Yet to understand how this reality works is truly mind boggling.  The best image I can make in my mind is of karma as a multidimensional fluid network that dances while it intertwines and unleashes itself.

My Father and Hinduism

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My father was a seeker of answers to spiritual mysteries. He was religiously eclectic and particularly believed in Zen Buddhist philosophy and in the Quaker worldview. He was a passionate admirer of Mahatma Gandhi. However he could not quite wrap his arms around Hinduism. It was too much; it offered too many options and alternatives. The answers he found in the translations of the Gita he read confused him.

I wish my father could have seen that Hinduism is as integrated as it is adaptable to personal interpretation, views, to changing society and to spirituality; it is inclusive yet not intrusive.

One of my life’s missions has been to reveal Hinduism to the world in all its simplicity and richness. My works, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture and On Hinduism make it clear that that Hinduism is straightforward if you accept yourself as interpreter.