Dharma

A person who does everything for God’s sake

Is free and becomes a part of God.

Doing your duty for God’s sake

Is the secret.

(Gita 23)

 

Religions create communities that are united by shared philosophy and belief. These communities in turn develop socio-cultural value systems. As the socio-cultural composition of a community evolves, the religion that gave it birth must adapt itself or reinterpret itself to endure. However, it must do so without surrendering any of its basic beliefs or principles. Otherwise the religion becomes diluted and ceased to be itself.

Hinduism has had a long and vigorous life and throughout it has upheld the Vedic value system known as the Eternal Law, or the Sanatana Dharma.

A value may be a principle, an ideal, a standard, or a priority. It is a lodestar that determines what matters to a person, to a family, and to a community. It determines what choices people make, where they direct their efforts, and how they develop and maintain relationships. A value is not a religious belief, but it reflects the ideas that religious beliefs endorse.

The value system of Hinduism seems to have emerged as a full blown system, already part of the society in which it matured. Early Vedic scriptures contain its seeds, seeds that continue to blossom and bear fruit today. From the onset, Vedic literature has explicitly valued family life and the nurturing of children, hospitality, self-esteem, the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of prosperity, the pursuit of happiness, respect for elders and teachers, living in harmony with all beings, avoidance of needless violence, and most importantly, fulfillment of duty. Doing one’s duty means following the path of righteousness or living in accordance with the principle of dharma which embraces all other values.

Click here to read more from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

 

The Gayatri Mantra

The Gayatri Mantra, dedicated to the Goddess Gayatri, Mother of Vedas, is one of the most important chants in Hinduism. This mantra expresses the essence of the Vedas. It contains only fourteen syllables, but its compact, complex eloquence is difficult to express in languages other than Sanskrit. It means:

Om
Truth
Earth
Air
Heaven
May the Brilliant Glory
Of the Supreme God
Enlighten Our Minds
Enlighten Our Thoughts
Enlighten Our Meditation

(Rig Veda III.62.10)

Read more about the Gayatri Mantra in On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar.

 

A Fictional Horoscope

The following horoscope of a fictional character initially came from my imagination. The actual horoscope followed several months later and matched everything I had planned for the baby. The astrological reading was based on a birth date and hour. In my novel, I blended the details already developed for the character, including her name, with the details sent to me by a reputed astrologer.

Here is how it starts:

“This reading is for Sheela Landau, a strong girl born in Kumbh Rashi (sign of the water jug). The time and place of her birth -3:50 a.m., January 1, 2001, Houston Texas, USA- indicate that she would benefit from a name that begins with the sound Sh, S, or G.

“Sheela comes to her family with a strong need to complete the development that was cut short in her last life. She has chosen parents that have the power and intelligence to help her, but to use their power to the fullest, they will have to find ways to cope with Sheela’s stubbornness.

“In her most recent previous life Sheela belonged to an educated and religious family that lived in a large city on the eastern coast of America. She had one half-sister and no brothers. Her father was an immigrant who left the country of his birth at a young age. He died prematurely, and his baby daughter was raised by a loving stepfather. Her mother was conceived in Europe, but was born in America. The mother was a professional and her insistence on working outside the home, even though she had a well-to-do husband and children, created something of a scandal in her time.

“Sheela was lean, agile and graceful. As a child, she silently longed to study ballet, but she never expressed this longing to her parents because she thought she was too tall to become a dancer. Her dream of becoming a dancer was one of many unfulfilled dreams.

“In her present life Sheela will reunite with two souls remembered from at least one earlier life. These souls and Sheela’s soul will meet again in at least one future incarnation.

. . .

Read The Pokhraj, by Irina Gajjar to the rest of this horoscope and to consider how much a good astrologer might foresee, even in the case of an imaginary person.

Moving to Other Worlds 

 

 

I believe that we travel in and out of other worlds. We appear, vanish, die and daydream ourselves away from our universe, or galaxy. Who knows what is really going on with all this. But I feel certain that what we think does not come out of the blue and there is enough literature, fiction, history and speculation about the nature of universes or multiverses to give my notion substance, if not validation.  

In one of my fictional works, the following passage describes a mysterious disappearance that is a kind of time/space travel. It pertains to a person whose parents vanished: 

Recollection flooded Liera. He had heard the concert that played only once before, the night prior to his parents’ disappearance. It was the final evening of his summer holiday and his mother and father had taken him to hear the Antarctic Rim Symphony that was on tour in New New York. The next morning, he returned to the Academy, one of the finest boarding schools in the Second Rim. Seven days later the Director summoned him and told him that he had been classified as an orphan.  

“What do you mean my parents disappeared. People do not disappear,” Ira shouted. 

But people do disappear. The real questions are what happens next and where were they before they appeared. 

See New New York, 3000 Years Later by Irina Gajjar. 

God, King of the Universe  

 

The notion of God as the King of the Universe feels odd to me because it humanizes a force that I view see as way beyond humankind. Still, personification of the Lord occurs throughout most major religions. Imagining God as our King reflects our human need to envision divinity in our image and to empower it as our ruler.  

In the Gita, Lord Krishna tells us He has many forms including prayers, fire, sweets, eternity, perpetuity, destruction and the heat in the sun. Yet, further to God’s absoluteness, endlessness and everythingness, He specifically tells us that He is our King:  

I am the king of the Universe. 

I am its Father and Mother and Grandfather. 

I am making things and taking things  apart. 

I am being born and dying 

and I am living forever. 

                         —  The Gita, Chapter 9, Verses 17 and 18  

 

These passages give believers freedom to shape their belief in any respectful way they can.  

See The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina Gajjar. 

 

The Universe in God

Then Arjun saw in God the whole universe.

Then Arjun, full of wonder,

with his hairs standing on end’

bowed down to the Lord and pressing his hands in prayer said:

Oh Lord,

I see all the gods and thousands of beings in

You.

—The Gita, Chapter 11, verses 14, 15

 

Consider the idea of the whole universe, of everything imaginable, contained within the being of its Creator. This vision represents the vastness of all existence that lives in the confines of our imagination, reason, and belief. This is a remarkable perspective.

See Chapter 11 of The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, by Irina Gajjar.

What Is Goodness?

We are told by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita that goodness is many things. It includes bravery, purity, contemplation of the soul, worship of God, study of holy texts, strength, straightforwardness, truthfulness, peacefulness, kindness, gentleness, the absence of anger, detachment, repentance for transgressions, forgiveness, humility, truthfulness and vigor.

This is a comprehensive set of qualities. Though most of us would agree that these qualities do represent the better side of humans, some might of us, particularly those of us who are not inclined toward orthodoxy, may question whether the worship of God and the study of holy texts equate with traits like kindness.

I wonder why God, who is all powerful, all knowing, and present everywhere seems to have a great need to promote Himself and to persuade us to believe in Him [or Her?] Can’t we just take the force that is God for granted and move on from there?

See Chapter 16 of The Gita, a New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture.

A Skeptic’s Critique of the Hindu View of the Soul

In his introduction to my book On Hinduism, Ravi Heugle questions the validity of the soul’s existence. He equates the soul to the mechanism that moves a watch or clock. Ravi writes:

The soul will render itself superfluous to any consistent description of a life form. In describing a watch, if we understand all mechanisms and principles of operation, no additional idea or concept is necessary to explain its purpose, function of state. I have faith that I do not inhabit my body, but I am because of my body. The establishment of a unified blueprint of life by science will exile the soul and the assumption of the existence of the soul will prove itself to be invalid. Thereafter, the soul will solve serve as a potent synonym for human identity.

I believe this analysis disavows the soul because our human minds lack capacity to define their nature. Yet, lack of definition or explanation does not negate the soul’s existence, even if we can only grasp at the outer edges of its reality.

What is your view of the soul?

See A Skeptic’s Perspective in On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

Fictional Astrology

Astrology is an opinionated science. There is something to it, but it is not reliable. It is subject to interpretation and it is certainly fodder for quacks and manipulators. Yet we cannot totally ignore the influence of stars, so we view their influence as comforting or disquieting depending on the messages we get.

I have seen cannily accurate personal histories written about friends and relatives that described their lives in surprising detail. The astrologers picked pages out of a collection of supposedly ancient texts. I have seen written good and awful predictions come happily or horribly true. I have seen skeptics become believers and believers turn into cynics. But my strangest astrological experience has been with a prediction pertaining to a fictional character.

I was writing my first novel, The Pokhraj, and decided upon a date for the birth of its protagonist. I submitted the date and circumstances of birth to an astrologer in order to use the predictions in formulating my character’s personality and future. However, the horoscope did not arrive and my character evolved. So, I decided I would proceed writing and alter the horoscope if and when I received it or else I would make one up. After all, the work was fiction.

Much later I finally did get the requested horoscope and to my great surprise everything matched what I had already written.

See The Pokhraj, by Irina Gajjar

Zero

The notion of zero is philosophical as well as mathematical in Hinduism. Here is an explanation:

The Sanskrit word for zero is sunya which translates as “nothingness.” Brahman, God in his formless, immutable, timeless, memory-less state prior to Creation, is called Nirguna Brahman or Brahman with no attributes. Nirguna Brahma exists in nothingness. With the happening of Creation, Nirguna Brahma becomes Saguna Brahma, the God with attributes who is Ishvar. Zero symbolizes God in nothingness. Zero added to or subtracted from any number does not change the number. The sum of zero and zero is zero. Zero added to or subtracted from itself remains zero. Multiplied by itself, zero is still zero. However, the addition of zero to the right of any number (without a decimal point) increases it up to infinity and its addition to the left of any number (with a decimal point) decreases it down to the infinitesimal.

Zero’s complement must be “everythingness.” Everythingness differs from everything just like “nothingness” differs from nothing. The idea of zero embraces the idea of its opposite, totality. We say God is everythingness and nothingness because we have no better words to describe the unfathomable existence or nonexistence that transcends itself. Thus, zero to Hinduism is more than a mathematical tool. It represents God’s truth that lies beyond human experience and the material world, truth that is just beyond the reach of the human mind.

See Chapter Three, Monotheism in On Hinduism, by Irina N. Gajjar