Shiva

Representations of Shiva, also called Maheshvara, often show him sitting cross legged in meditation or else dancing. Shiva is Lord of Dance, Nataraja, and Lord of Animals, Pashupati. He is sexual energy symbolized by the phallus. The Destroyer is white in color, has multiple faces and a third eye filled with visionary and destructive power. The Ganges River flows from his matted hair, the moon adorns his head, a cobra garlands his neck, and he carries the trident.

Shiva’s wife, Parvati, is the great mother goddess. She is the personification of female energy known as Shakti and revered as the power behind all creation.

God as the force of destruction appears in the Gita as a frightening power beyond reality and beyond unreality. This manifestation induces both terror and ecstasy. It makes demons flee and saints bow down in awe.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar. To read more or purchase the book, visit the website at www.irinaspage.com.

 

 

Nothingness

Belief in the world’s illusory nature gives rise to belief in the reality and greatness of nothingness. AN understanding of nothingness relates to the understanding of mathematics which embodies the concept of zero. At the same time, belief in nothingness is a significant aspect of Hindu belief in God. Nothingness is greater than creation which comes and goes as worlds appear and disappear in cycles. Nothingness existed before God undertook creation and God alone transcends nothingness. Devout Hindus seek to attain enlightenment which is akin to becoming lost in the supreme blissfulness of God who is as much nothing as He is everything.

Some people revere God as an infinite force requiring no further definition. But others find it difficult to work the idea of an intangible, unfathomable, all powerful God into worship or life. Thus, Hinduism facilitates faith by giving God a multitude of physical forms that represent his multiple attributes. It is next to impossible to know these countless forms and names. In ritual ceremonies, priests recite as many names as the worshipers have the patience to repeat or hear while they toss a leaf or a petal for each name into a vessel as a symbol of their acknowledgment.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. Read more from Irina or learn where to buy the book at www.irinaspage.com.

The Idea of God

Hindu philosophy is premised on the idea of God, not on a belief in God. Thus, the divine force, howsoever it may be perceived, or even if it is disregarded, is ever-present. Hinduism does not demand faith in God. Rather it provides links to the idea of God. Those interested can click on a link at any time.

What then describes Hindus if not faith in God, or acceptance of the tenets of Hinduism, or following the dictates of Hindu scriptures, or performing specific rituals? Responses often given to the question “Who is a Hindu?” include: followers of Hindu traditions, believers in Vedic philosophy, persons who follow dharma (a complex inclusive terms representing maintaining balance, staying on the path of truth, and fulfillment of duty), persons of righteousness, persons who will perform Hindu sacraments, persons who live a Hindu lifestyle, persons who uphold Hindu values, seekers of God, and persons who profess themselves to be Hindu.

The above replies are all correct, but none is definitive, given the wide diversity in individual beliefs. The last statement is probably the closest to the best answer. Nobody can judge the belief of a particular Hindu, but persons who believe themselves to be a Hindu know what they believe. Thus, a Hindu may be best described as someone who calls himself Hindu and who does not adhere to any other religion.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar. To learn more about the book, visit the website at www.irinaspage.com. You can purchase the book directly from Amazon by clicking this link.

God’s Multiple Roles

Hinduism sets forth a comprehensive world view. However, the breadth, depth, and boundlessness of this view may perplex those unaccustomed to following alternative trains of thought. For example, though Hindus take God’s multiple roles of Creator, Preserver, Destroyer for granted, others may consider these roles in conflict, failing to take into account that they represent the cycles followed by the universe.

Similarly, non-Hindus may consider worshipping an absolute God incongruent with worshipping the many gods in the Hindu mythological pantheon. These super beings illustrated in books and posters and on big and little screens live in the other worlds or in the imagination. But shouldn’t we wonder at our imagination? Isn’t imagination also a world? Isn’t the source of human thoughts and ideas as real as the universe? Isn’t the output of the human mind as real as the world which is illusory in itself?

This excerpt is from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar. Read more at www.irinaspage.com.

Behavior Influencing Karma

 

Different Hindus perceive the relationship between God and karma in different ways. Some go as far as to say that karma determines the future and God does not exist or matter at all. Some equate the divine force with karma or believe that God creates karma and hence see no issue regarding interaction between the two.

Yet other individuals and Hindu schools of thought, more conventionally, see God as the dispense of karma, which He possibly tempers with divine mercy. Whatever their particular viewpoint, Hindu philosophers and laymen agree with the viewpoint that good behavior earns merit and improves their karma and that misfortune is the product of prior bad behavior. Even those who do not fully believe in karmic power generally consider the idea of karma a plausible guideline for ethical living.

What are your views on karma? Do you feel your good behavior earns merit and that your misfortune is a product of your prior poor behavior? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Read more from Irina Gajjar at www.irinaspage.com.

Does Love Conquer Hate?

 

While love may win over hate in the long run, it does not seem to do so in the short term. Hate and fear move us more than love. They release adrenalin, increase energy, and cause frenetic action. Love, on the other hand, is calming, contemplative and causes restraint.

The notion of going high when others go low is uplifting, but falling is easier than climbing.

So where does this leave us? I think we must recognize two things: First, love can win over hate and it can uplift individuals and societies. Second, we cannot rely on love without taking both offensive and defensive actions against hate. We must love energetically and fight vigorously against hate.

 

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The Bhagavad Gita’s Message

 

While the Bhagavad Gita embodies orthodox Hindu belief, there is considerable flexibility in the interpretation of this belief. In my view, the Gita sets forth pathways to the achievement of goodness which leads to complete happiness. Such goodness brings us revelation and release from the cycle of birth and death.

There are several pathways to become totally good and to attain the bliss faithful Hindus presumably seek. They all result in detachment from the material world and a merger into God. This merger can be achieved through devotional worship, or through pursuit of knowledge, or through performance of good deeds.

The question remains as to how God is defined. What is that which starts out as a spark within us and ends up as the God whom we absorb or who absorbs us?  In the Gita, The Lord Himself provides extensive explanations as to who He is, but in the end the explanations are so inclusive as to become just about everything. God even tells us He is everything, though everything is not God.

It is often said that journeys are not about reaching a destination, but about the journey itself. But the journey of life cannot be meaningful without a destination and for believers the Gita gives meaning and to both.

For more information, check out Irina Gajjar’s book The Gita at http://irinaspage.com/philosophy/the-gita-sacred/

 

Goodness, Kindness, and Religion

 

Most religions equate goodness with godliness. The idea is that belief in some higher force promotes better behavior. Preachers and teachers explain why or how we will ultimately be rewarded by heaven or karma or the Lord if we do things like turning the other cheek, or forgiving, or praying or obeying authorities or helping our neighbors.

Meanwhile, we also have learned that our human behaviors and tendencies are to a large extent genetic. Our genes determine what foods we like, how open we are to religious beliefs and endless eccentricities in addition to our physical characteristics.

No doubt our circumstances mold our characters somewhat and they certainly affect our levels of happiness, our ability to grow and many behaviors, but I wonder about the human trait that I consider the most important: kindness. What makes some of us much kinder than others? Are there kindness genes?

One thing I have seen is that whatever our religious beliefs or feelings may be, they are not related to kindness. Still religious advice is mostly good especially if we take it as something we should practice rather than something we impose upon others.

Read more from Irina Gajjar at www.irinaspage.com.

 

UFOs or UMPs

Starting in late in May of this year, reports of UFO’s or Unidentified Flying Objects have been resurrected. The US Military calls these things in the sky Unexplained Military Phenomena and the newest sightings have even become the subject of classified briefings to Congress.

Vague photos appeared on television and can be seen online. Reporting, based on statements from Navy pilots, notes that the objects performed maneuvers which are far beyond the capacity of our forces or of anything known to us.

As in the case of previous UFO sightings or purported sightings, these newest ones have made it into the news. Thus, the issue of extra-terrestrial beings and their potential relationship to humankind becomes hot again. But there are never answers or explanations or even speculations. Instead, invariably, questions around sightings are suddenly dropped like hot potatoes. Why is there never follow up?

Read more from Irina Gajjar at www.irinaspage.com

Knowledge

Hinduism defines knowledge as more than the acquisition of information. Knowledge pertains first and foremost to knowing God. This covers everything from seeking God, to knowing about God, to understand God, or to feeling God. Chapter seven of the Bhagavad Gita, “Knowing God,” offers a road map to the unveiling of the mystery of life. It explains that of the countless people who exist, only a few seek God and that of those few, only a handful gain a true understanding of divinity.

True knowledge pertains to understanding the Creator who causes the worlds and is the “life principle” or the essence of life. In his incarnation as Lord Krishnas, God says that He is composed of earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, reason, and the self. He tells us that He is the wetness in water, the light in the moon and sun, and the sacred symbol Om which encompasses God and the Universe:

 

I am the manliness in men

And the smell of the earth

And the brightness in fire.

Ia m life in living things.

I am the seed in all beings.

I am the wisdom in men’s minds.

I am the strength of the strong and the wish in your heart.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. To read more or to buy the book, visit the www.irinaspage.com/onhinduism 

 

(Gita 7:9, 10, 11)