Vedic Worlds: Naraka

The seven lower worlds described in the Vedas are located in Naraka, the netherworld belonging to demons and souls that have become distanced from goodness and God.

Naraka is the plane of lower consciousness. Its regions are temporary hells of the mind and the universe. They are places where souls may wander for many ages or for just moments. Ancient scriptures accepted the relativity of time and space.

Thus, according to Vedic literature the duration of any soul’s existence in any world depends upon whether the time experienced by a particular soul expands or contracts and upon the time scales that are in play when souls migrate from world to world.

Hinduism believes that the destination of our soul depends upon our nature at the time of our death. Our nature is made up of different combinations of three attributes or qualities called gunas in Sanskrit.

These are sattva which is purity and truth, rajas which is desire driven activity, and tamas which is ignorance and inertia. Our actions and aspirations during our life create the sum of the attributes that make up our aura at death and determine what happens to our soul. Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita describes the essence of the Hindu understanding of reincarnation in just a few short lines:

If when we die,
we are mostly Sattva,
our spirit gets born again in the world of the wise and the pure.
If we are mostly Rajas,
our spirit gets born again on earth.
If we are mostly Tamas,
our spirit gets born in the body of a dumb, ignorant being.

For more on Vedic Worlds, read On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

Vedic Worlds: Bhuloka

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Vedic scriptures speak of fourteen worlds. Seven of the worlds exist on three higher planes: Bhuloka, the first world or the earthly plane; Antarloka, the second world or the subtle, astral plane; and Brahmaloka, the third world or the causal plane of God. These three planes can also be viewed as dimensions.

Bhuloka is the dense outermost dimension of being and consciousness. It is the physical world perceived by the senses. Antarloka is the intermediate dimension, the sphere of gods and higher beings, that exists in between the earthly plane and God’s plane. It is a subtle, astral dimension of consciousness. Brahmaloka belongs to Lord Brahma, the Creator. It is both the highest and the innermost dimension. It is pure spirit. Brahmaloka is also known as Karanaloka, the causal plane or as Sivaloka, the plane of Lord Siva the Destroyer who, through destruction, causes a new cycle of creation. To reach this plane is to become entirely absorbed or dissolved in the Divine Spirit and to merge into or become One with the eternal God. To enter Brahmaloka is to end the cycle of birth and death.

Learn more about the Vedic Scriptures in On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

 

The Gita on Winning

 

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Lord Krishna tells Arjun and all of us in The Gita that fighting is not about winning but about doing your duty. In His words:

 

You are lucky to have a chance to fight in
this war.

For your duty will take you to God.

And if you do not fight,

you will be giving up your duty.

Giving up duty is a sin.

The Gita, Chapter 2, Verses 32, 33 

 

Of course as in many texts, the war and fight is both real and symbolic. It is the struggle between good and evil. Our enlightenment will determine whether or not we are on the side of goodness.

Although we clearly seek to win, the fight matters more than the outcome. God explains:

 

     But if you fight,

     You will either go to heaven or win victory.

     So, Arjun arise.

     Make up your mind to fight.

     Fight and do not worry about how the war turns out.

      Do not care if you win or lose.

The Gita, Chapter 2, Verses 37, 38

 

It is only by focusing on our actions rather than on their results that we fulfill our obligations to ourselves, to mankind and to worlds.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord Krishna Says Fight!

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At the start of the Mahabharata War, Lord Krishna Tells Arjun to go and fight.  At the conclusion of the Gita, Arjun agrees saying, “I will fight.”

The question I raise is when must we fight? Can we or should we pick and choose our battles or wars? Can we abstain?

Lord Krishna’s message suggests that we do not have the luxury of choice. He tells Arjun that it is his duty to fight and that failing to do so would be failing God Himself.

So there we have it. If we are placed in the midst of combat, we must play our role. We cannot sit back, relax and shake the ugliness off our backs. It is our duty to fight to the best of our ability.

While we cannot have faith in the outcome, perhaps we can have faith that our force is for good and will help determine the outcome.

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

Letting Go of Objects

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From The Gita: A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture 

By thinking of objects, a person starts to want them. And a person who always wants things cannot have them all. Then she gets disappointed. Her disappointment makes her angry. Her anger confuses her. She loses her mind and is ruined. She has no peace.

But a person who stops wanting things is free from attachment. She is free from loving things and free from hate. Such a person is on the path that leads to peace. How can a person without self control have peace? And without peace, How can she have happiness?

Letting go of constant state of wanting more is a place that some people have an easier time getting to than others, but ultimately it’s what brings us peace. Objects should have little worth in comparison to family, friends, love, and health.

While it might not be an easy road to get there, it’s certainly something to work for and possibly a good New Year’s resolution for 2017. Focus on what truly matters and give far less importance to wanting more objects.

 

People Who Brag about Nothing

 

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People who brag about what they do not do annoy me. These types brag that they do not bathe after 11 a.m., or they do not eat potatoes, or they do not drink alcohol or tea or coffee, or they do not use hair brushes, only combs. The may sit in a living room spreading their oily hair and combing out falling strands all over the floor, but they proudly refrain from using a brush.

Reasons for what they do not do may arise from religious or other traditions, or from thin air, or from superstition or from sheer nonsense. Whatever the reasons for not doing stuff, not doing something is nothing to show off about. I personally don’t like walking under ladders or crossing black cats because I am superstitious. But I know this is ridiculous. Someone dear to me is repelled by bananas, but then again she does not act as if banana avoidance is a virtue.

Let’s brag about accomplishments, keep our bragging low key, or even better, let’s not brag. But that is difficult. Years ago a respected elder suggested that it was okay to brag about non-professional achievements, though I do not understand why. Still it is important not to brag about not bragging.

 

 

 

The American Way

 

Unlike many other democracies, the American democracy is adversarial. This means we work on the basis of disagreement. Our political parties, our laws and our courts are founded on the idea that the truth emerges when proponents of opposing positions argue and the people decide judge via a jury or a judge.

The adversarial system is derived from Roman law and it differs from the inquisitorial system which originates in the Napoleonic Code. Curiously, civil courts in the Great State of Louisiana continue to operate more inquisitorially, in accordance with their French heritage. In courtrooms, the adversarial system provides a bigger more dramatic role for attorneys whereas the inquisitorial system entails more probing by the court.

Our adversarial system spills into politics and the two party system which provides a winner and a loser in elections. Thus, for better or for worse, our politics are contested and our government works more on the basis of compromise rather than of collaboration.

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In the United States, we do best when we have two strong parties. When one of the parties begins to fall apart, things get out of control. Independent parties do little more than create upsets.

This year Americans are extraordinarily and almost evenly divided in their politics. Our nation is increasingly diverse and our opinions are significantly divided by demographics. Thus, whatever the outcome, a large number of people will be dissatisfied. Hopefully the winners will be able to keep us all calm, accepting and hopeful. But what if they are not able to accomplish this feat? The wait for the outcome is nerve racking.

The Gita on Moderation

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I am a great fan of moderation. It offers the best of all worlds. Moderation says everything should be practiced in moderation, even moderation. So the practice of moderation does not prohibit an occasional splurge.

The Gita praises moderation. Lord Krishna tells us that a yogi is a wise, calm, devout and happy individual. God adds:

Oh Arjun, a Yogi cannot eat too much or too little.

She cannot sleep too much or too little.

She must measure everything:

eating, sleeping, working and relaxing.

Everything she does should be just right and even.

A Yogi is never afraid.

The Yogi whose mind is concentrating on  God does not shake.

He is steady like a candle in a room where there is no wind.

The Yogi’s mind does not move away from the truth.

 

See The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, by Irina Gajjar [Ch. 6, Self Control]

 

 

Debate and Aftermath

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The first presidential debate was more than strange. It seemed surreal. Those of us who have watched prior political debates were shocked. New viewers were probably far more entertained than they expected. I think it is difficult to consider this a good thing because much of the entertainment came at the expense of dignity. And the titillating drama continues.

On the other hand, the 2016 contest is engaging a good chunk of the world and provoking more of us into following the goings on and into thinking and feeling about them. We Americans are compelled to consider who we want to be as a nation and as a member of the world community. We are looking at our media and considering its importance and its interaction with social communication. We are considering the difference between generalization and individualization. We are both embarrassed and proud. We appreciate the importance of our personal participation national and international movements and we are evaluating our values.

This is the good part. Awaiting the outcome is the scary part.