Like believers, skeptics come in many stripes and all those who genuinely seek to understand that which is beyond the capacity of our minds to grasp engage in a noble endeavor. The author of the Introduction to On Hinduism, Ravi is a skeptic. He is logical, but his premises differ from mine. Here is an excerpt from his writing:
“I have faith, that I do not inhabit my body, but I am because of my body. The establishment of a 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 solely serve as a potent synonym for human identity.”
Ravi does not explain what the soul is. But whatever he thinks it is, he claims it cannot exist without the body. Thus, he could be right but only if he can define the soul that does not exist independently of the body.
There are many words implicit in the notion of freedom. The term means liberty or self-determination. It means freedom of conscience, independence from others, the chance to choose.
But circumstances, destiny, opportunity and our own choices restrict freedom. Actually none of us is completely free. We certainly wouldn’t like it if those around us were entirely free. We would be baffled if we were completely free, with no boundaries, no safety nets and no standards or values by which to abide.
At the same time we cannot live or pursue happiness if our freedom is arbitrarily restricted by others for purposes of their own.
Ganesh, fondly known as Ganpati, is one of the most popular figures in Hinduism’s pantheon representing God’s manifestations as well as divinities, heroes and demons. The characters symbolize qualities we admire, or fear or love while the personifications arise from a collective consciousness brought to life. There are several versions of stories about how Ganpati, the elephant god, got his head. One of the favorites is this:
One day Ganpati was guarding the bathroom while his mother was taking a bath. His father, Lord Shiva, the Destroyer, came home after a long trip. Ganpati didn’t recognize him and wouldn’t let him in the bathroom. Lord Shiva got so angry at being kept out that he cut off Ganpati’s head.
When Parvati, his mother, saw what happened, she cried and cried. But her husband said, “Don’t worry, I’ll get him a new head,” and Lord Shiva ended up giving His son an elephant head.
Ganesh’s Mother was still very sad and upset. She said that no one would like her son with an elephant head. But Lord Shiva fixed it so everyone would love and worship him. He made sure that all Hindus pray to Ganpati before they pray to God and before they embark upon any important endeavor.
A computer decides whether we are human by or not on the basis of whether or not we can copy weirdly drawn letters and numbers.
Beyond that, those who know inform us that Homo sapiens -meaning knowing men or wise men- are the only surviving species of humans. Of course the species includes women, although no one has felt the need to mention them and we woman have permitted ourselves to be subsumed in the term man.
Neanderthals were also man but, not presumed wise, perhaps because they did not survive. However they are believed by some to have had instinctive knowledge in the sense of knowledge that they were born with rather than knowledge they learned about things like flora and fauna. Fans of Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series think this is true.
Authorities have explained that we human beings are distinguished from other forms of life by our ability to communicate with words, to manipulate symbolism, to become educated and/or to appreciate what was or is or will be beyond our immediate perception.
In my view, a better explanation of a human being is someone characterized by term humanity. I think people who are filled with and exercise kindness, compassion and empathy are human.
Are we our brothers’ keepers? People have always been searching for answers to this question. To what extent do we have to help others? When, under what circumstances and to what extent should we or must we share our resources with those who need them. And how should we give help, as human beings or as taxpayers of a nation?
To many of us the answers are obvious, even if complex. Unfortunately we often disagree on the answers that we consider so obvious. But then again, if we live in a democracy, we will eventually get it right if we remember that we are accountable to our conscience and that our government is accountable to us.
Yoga is an ancient discipline. It is far more than mind and body exercise. It is a way to perfect yourself. Yoga teaches us to achieve release from all unhappiness and thereby to obtain ultimate joy. The beauty of Yoga is that its practice helps us become calmer, happier and more balanced.
Yogis are persons who progress on one of the three main pathways to liberation. Hinduism calls them Bhakti Yoga, the path of actively loving worship, Jnana Yoga, the path of learning and Karma Yoga, the path of good action.
The following yoga poses should be done in a warm room, and it helps to have a place where you know you won’t be interrupted. Focus on your breathing throughout each pose. It often helps to visualize breathing in the blue sky and breathing out the gray, helping rid your body of stress.
Points to remember:
- Move slowly in and out of the yoga poses
- Keep your breath smooth and even throughout the practice.
- Never strain or force yourself beyond your current abilities.
This simple breathing exercise brings your attention to the present moment, as well as calms your mind.
- Sit down in a comfortable position on the floor, in a chair, or on a bed, placing one hand on your belly and one hand on your rib cage.
- Close your eyes as you take deep breaths and focus on the movements of your body as you breath in and out. Feel the lift of your belly and the expansion of your ribs on your inhalations. Notice the slight compression of your ribs and the drop of your belly as you exhale.
- Release your arms and focus your mind on your breath for 5-10 minutes, inhaling and exhaling fully.
Corpse Pose, also called, Savasana, is one of the most relaxing poses in yoga.
- Lie flat on your back with your feet hip-width apart and your arms slightly away from your sides, so air can circulate around your body.
- Roll your shoulders down and back as you lengthen your neck.
- Take a mental note of areas in your body that are holding tension as you take deep breaths and focus on relaxing your muscles.
Child’s pose is a kneeling pose that is done in many different types of classes to cool down and relax.
- Kneel on your mat with the tops of your feet flat on the floor.
- Sit back on your heels, and slowly lean forward resting your chest on your legs and your forehead on the floor.
- You can place your arms on the floor by your sides so your palms are facing up., or extend the arms overhead for an added upper back stretch. If Child’s Pose is difficult for you, place a pillow on your thighs to support your upper body.
Standing Forward Bend
The standing forward bend uses the force of gravity to gently stretch your back, legs and shoulders.
- Stand with your feet together and your hands by your sides.
- Bend your knees slightly and distribute your weight evenly between your feet.
- Pull your abdominal muscles in as you bend forward at your hips and waist. Allow gravity to pull your upper body and arms toward the floor.
- Taking deep breaths, hold this position for 30 seconds to two minutes.
- Return to standing by bending your knees, and placing your hands above your knees to support your lower back as you stand up.
The soul is defined and denied in many ways. It is defined as spirit. It is explained as the immaterial essence of a being or as the core or character of a thing. It is denied as non existent because it cannot be measured or seen or because it only survives as long as the body it inhabits survives.
Believers think the soul is eternal. Some believe it is reincarnated time and time again until it becomes part of an absolute called God. Others think a soul can inhabit an atom. Many believe the soul can be saved or damned. Skeptics think it is an erroneous concept held by mankind.
Perhaps the soul is more than all it is alleged to be. Perhaps it is less. If it more, than it can arise in anything that exists, living or not. If it is less, than perhaps it is the greatness of nothing.
New New York 3000 Years Later is a work of science fiction. In this work, New York City continues to be the financial center and the pulse of Mother Earth. It is run by a few persons of intelligence and good will who are overshadowed by self-serving politicians and lazy bureaucrats.
The new New York today represents New York State which is striving to become friendlier to business enterprises.
According to the fictional New New York, the world is at a good place 3000 years in the future. Our planet is united. Everyone speaks the same language. Everyone is required to honor a revelation that says, “One Spirit! One World! One Word!”
How do you suppose that works out?
Katherine E. McBride, the Fourth President of Bryn Mawr College gave the commencement addresses when I received my Master of Arts Degree. Her remarks created a future furor in an era when feminism was still burgeoning. Bryn Mawr, an almost all female university was furiously dedicated to educating women and to their not utilizing their education to promote their husbands’ careers.
Recently an op-ed suggesting that college was the best place to find suitable husbands created a furor. Thus we note that this notion though not new remains highly sensitive. But McBride specifically said in her address, “Only our failures Marry.”
Years later the Alumnae Bulletin insisted that the quote was wrong and that the President had instead said, “Our failures only marry.” Not true.
Photo by: Shaligram
Is it a coincidence that in Hindu mythology the Avatars of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver, coincides with the life forms that Darwin attributes to evolution?
The word Avatar is often translated as incarnation or manifestation, but it means descent. Of the three aspects of God as understood by Hinduism, only the Preserver has descended to our planet. The Creative and Destructive aspects of the Divinity are not associated with earthly existence. But to preserve existence, Lord Vishnu descended nine times: as a fish, as a reptile, as a land animal, as a giant man lion – symbolizing human ascent from the animal kingdom-, as a dwarf, as Lord Rama, as Lord Krishna and as Lord Buddha, the Enlightened One.
Lord Vishnu’s anticipated final incarnation is as Kalki predicted to be a phenomenon who will deliver the world from evil and darkness.