Birth and Rebirth in the Buddhist Religion

According to Buddhist thought, the soul does not retain its attributes at death any more than a wave retains its identity when it dissipates in the ocean. An analogy often used to illustrate Buddhism’s perspective of the cycle of birth and rebirth is that of a candle that lights another candle as it flickers and becomes extinguished.

Buddhist belief in the process of birth and rebirth is validated by the testimony of Lord Buddha Himself, who upon enlightenment came to know all the details of His hundreds or thousands of past lives. He stated that His present life would be His last. Although Lord Buddha would not include God in His teachings and did not claim to be divine, His followers came to worship Him.

Buddhists pay Him homage, if not as God, then as the Enlightened One and Hindus see Buddha as the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver.

Read more about Birth and Rebirth in the Buddhist Religion in On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar.

The Legend of Ganesh/Ganpati

 

Several legends explain how Ganesh/Ganpati got an elephant’s head. The most popular one tells that his mother Parvati created him out of the sandalwood paste on her body and of the river Ganges. Then she told him to guard her bathroom while she bathed.

Lord Shiva, Parvati’s husband, had been away and when he returned he did not recognize his son and was angry at Ganesh for keeping him away from his wife. As a result, Shiva struck off Ganesh’s head.

Parvati became devastated. To comfort her, Shiva promised to restore Ganesh to life. He told his attendants to bring him the head of any sleeping being they found who was facing north. In a while, the attendants returned with an elephant head which Lord Shiva affixed to Ganesh.

Parvati was not consoled. She told Shiva that no one would respect her son with a big elephant head on his shoulders. So Lord Shiva promised that all worshippers would forever pray to Ganpati before praying to God and would invoke Ganpati’s blessings before beginning any important undertaking in life.

In this manner, Ganpati became the leader of the people, the lord of success, the remover of obstacles, and the destroyer of evil. He is honored in most Hindu homes and establishments and people celebrate him every year in a big ten-day-long festival held in August or September. True to Shiva’s word, Ganpati has become a part of every Hindu’s life.

 

You can read more from On Hinduism and other titles, by Irina Gajjar at www.irinaspage.com.

Paths to God

 

The Karmayogi does everything for God.

His mind is on God while he acts.

He wakes, sleeps, hears, touches,

smells, speaks, and breathes thinking of God.

He understands that he himself does nothing

But that God does everything through him.

God uses him to get things done.

The person who offers all he does to God

Is as untouched by sin as a lotus leaf by water.

The Karmayogi is pure.

(Gita 5:6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

 

 

Yoga is the path which people can follow to become one with God. It is the path of attaining perfection so that we can know God and then merge into Him. A variety of paths can take us perfection, but they all come together at the end. However, the twists and turns along the way have created many views within Hinduism.

Hindu schools of thought are organized into different systems that go back to Vedic times and continue to evolve and flourish today. The distinctions between them turn on slightly different perspectives of God’s nature and of what the best paths to the goal of self-realization may be. Self-realization means finding God within ourselves. It is enlightening or seeing God’s light and becoming freed from the cycle of birth and death. Enlightenment leads to becoming one with the absolute eternal spirit that transcends the universe.

Read more from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar at http://irinaspage.com/philosophy/on-hinduism/

See the World in God

Goddess Aditi

 

God said:

“Look! I am in hundreds of thousands

of different forms and colors and shapes.

See in me all twelve sons of Aditi,

the eight Vasus,

the eleven Rudras who are gods of destruction, the twins

who are the gods’ doctors, the forty-nine

wind gods, and many, many other

wonderful forms never seen before.

Arjun, see in my body, the whole world

and anything else you want to see.”

                                              Gita, Chapter 11, verses 5, 6, 7

 

Aditi is the mother of the gods. Her twelve sons represent the signs of the zodiac and the Vasus represent the elements of the universe or aspects of nature. It is Lord Krishna’s intention in this verse to encompass the totality of creation and to open the vision of everything to us. Not only that, but additionally He tells us that everything is whatever we wish to see.

 

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

Isn’t It Wonderful

Isn’t it wonderful that with all the destructive power we humans have acquired, we are still here on our planet alive and kicking?

Humankind seems to have a collective survival instinct. We move ahead, risk our own survival to annihilate our opposition and at the brink, we pull back.

Individually and collectively, we make friends and enemies. To some extent, our relationships are based on our need to expand our power, influence, and territory. But that is not always it. Feelings based on similarities and differences in our physical selves and in our ideologies play a part. Then again perhaps karma plays a part giving rise to jealousies and other emotions harbored from earlier existence.

Off and on we decide to progress toward peace, but peace does not truly prevail. It does not seem to be in our nature. However, mercy and kindness and helpfulness battle with aggression, meanness, and animosity so we hang in the there and even thrive. I doubt we will improve, but let’s hope we hang in there.

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

When People Hurt

 

Most people do not cope well with badly hurt feelings. Sometimes they cope so badly that they commit suicide. This awful problem is growing and becoming increasingly visible.

I wonder whether addressing hurt feelings as a mental health issue is a mistake. I am not sure that hurting so badly that you cannot stand it is the same as being unstable. I am not sure that a person who is more unhappy than afraid of dying is abnormal in any way.

Perhaps the act of suicide is indeed sinful as stated by some religions. Even though we all die, many people of faith believe only God should mandate the timing and manner of our passing. Suicide is probably selfish to the extent it imposes senses of loss, guilt, and misery on those left behind. But perhaps it is just a forgivable act brought on by intolerable, exhausting unhappiness.

Maybe society or just individuals can find better ways to acknowledge and heal hurt and to prevent the use of harmful and addictive substances as a first line of defense against sadness.  Maybe we can find better ways to bring out and dispel unhappy feelings. Maybe we can find unobtrusive ways to prevent those seeking isolation from wallowing in their distress.

Perhaps we could focus on education. Maybe, like other intelligence, emotional intelligence can be cultivated. Criticizing and disparaging pain does not work. Maybe we can find ways to foster happiness and to teach that it comes from within. Maybe we can do more to immunize people from hurt created by others and to foster self-worth.

Here are three things I was told we need to be happy:

  • Something to do
  • Someone to love
  • Something to look forward to

Taking and teaching these steps could be a start.

 

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

A Hindu View of Reincarnation

 

Because the Gita and other scriptures consider reincarnation a self-evident doctrine, they do not make arguments to support its truth. This is much the case with most of the doctrines that are a part of scared Vedic literature. However, philosophers and teachers have made many arguments in support of their perspectives or interpretations of both doctrine and scripture. They have taught that reincarnation explains many things.

It explains why some people suffer while others do not or why some children are born with exceptional talent. It accounts for memories and emotions that seem to come out of the blue and it accounts for reports of extraordinary experiences in other dimensions.

It accounts for thousands of near death experiences reported but those who went to other realms and returned to tell what they saw and heard. Rather than rejecting these reports because they go beyond what is strictly possible, Hinduism considers many of them truthful and valuable testimony.

Quote starts with “Because the Gita and other scriptures consider….” and ends with “many of them truthful and valuable testimony.”

See On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar, Chapter Six, Karma and Reincarnation.

 

Unequipped

Most if not all people are unequipped to deal with the feelings life bestows upon us. While we have the ability to figure out ways to cope with our environment, we are less successful in coping with emotions. The term “emotional intelligence” suggests this is something we can measure and work on but I think that we as a species we are deficient in this area.

In terms of coping with matters like fear, anger, jealousy, humiliation, greed or disappointment, we are like skinless animals left out in the cold. And while we have the intelligence to create heat shelter and body coverings to keep warm, we do not have emotional intelligence to ward off unhappy feelings. The best we can do is deal and carry on. We try to figure out if our responses and reactions are sensible or kind or whatever, but don’t feel much better until something resolves. We use mechanisms like faith, reason, distraction or withdrawal but these tactics help only to an extent.

Some time ago I took an emotional intelligence online quiz, answered about 150 questions and scored 61%. In exchange for revealing personal information and possibly a fee, the quiz offered me training to improve, but I chose not to.

I wonder how many of you would do significantly better or worse or if the quiz was rigged to give everyone a mediocre score.

Conflict

Human beings have been struggling with conflict forever. We are conflicted within ourselves and we engage in problematic conflict with others. Even though we cannot survive alone and need interaction with others to live successfully, we struggle to get along well.

Consider this: Babies who are not held and coddled do not take nourishment and die. At the same time, as soon as they grow up a bit one of their earliest words is “no.” “No” comes right along with mama or da or brr for whatever or bum for bang.

Conflict arises from inter-dependency, boundaries, needs, wants and identification or mere irritation. We have conflicts on individual, familial, societal and national levels. It never goes away and can at times be all around us.

Sometimes it is purposeful and sometimes it is meaningless. Conflict may be suppressed, or it may bubble up or it may become violent, but it doesn’t go away. If it resolved, new conflict eventually sprouts up.

We act out conflict to diffuse it by playing games and organizing competitions where we practice sportsmanship. We create laws, we make alliances, we sign treaties and we hold elections in hopes of averting conflicts that could destroy us. That is the good part of our nature. Happily, so far, we have survived conflict. But now we wonder if the newest conflicts will arise when or if humans confront alien species and we worry over how they will turn out.

Rad more from Irina at www.irinaspage.com

Big Bang and Scary Robots

While most of us believe that the universe started with a big bang, it seems that a growing number of scientists disagree with this theory. Apparently, no one really knows how the universe did start but at the beginning it was not there and then it was. Also, if the big bang or whatever started the universe, did actually happen, it happened not in space but rather inside space. The difference is that the big bang did not create the universe out of nothing; instead it started inside nothing. Some theories say the universe is inside out. Plus, it is assumed that our universe is not unique. It is merely one of many universes known as multiverses.

Whatever the universe is, there is some consensus about when it came into being: about 13.7 billion years ago. And our universe is not only expanding, but it is also speeding up. It is hard to imagine what that implies.

Hats off to scientists who venture to understand and to explain the universe. However, these same scientists tell us that artificial intelligence is much better than we are at figuring stuff like this out. Of course, artificial intelligence can only figure things out based on data we humans provide. But robots are better than we are at compiling data and using it to arrive at conclusions.

So, is the fact that artificial intelligence is superior to ours scary?

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