God: Beyond the Grasp of Human Thought

While Hinduism understands that God is beyond the grasp of human thought, it also acknowledges God’s tremendous power over our human minds and lives. As the quest for the enlightenment is the quest to become one with God, Hinduism strives to bring humankind to oneness with divinity.

Hindu philosophy gives great importance to the soul or spirit which it distinguishes from the mind as well as from the body. Hinduism equates the spirit with God. Chapter thirteen of the Bhagavad Gita explains that the spirit cannot be described, that it cannot act, that it is always pure and endless as the sun and the sky. God is considered the greatest spirit Thus, to Hindus, finding our soul is akin to finding infinity within us. It equates to achieving perfection which can only be attained by a highly evolved soul, a soul that over many lifetimes has superseded the limitations of humanness.

This excerpt is from Irina Gajjar’s book, On Hinduism. To learn more about this book or other books by Irina, visit the website at www.irinaspage.com.

 

The Road Map to Our Actions

The Bhagavad Gita fills our minds with imagery that corresponds to our emotions and our imagination. It provides something of a road map to help us direct and manage our actions. Perhaps most significantly, it responds to questions that human intelligence cannot answer yet never stops asking. These questions have been posed by philosophers and scientists, by seekers of God and seekers of truth, by people who wonder and by people who doubt. Lord Krishna’s answers go beyond what we know, but do not contradict what we know. What His words really tell us, is that if we look hard enough and long enough and if we care enough the answers will be revealed.

Read More from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

 

Why Did God Create the World, If He or She or It or They Did?

Our world’s religions tell varying tales of creation, but for the most part, they involve God in some way. We hear stories of how and why and how quickly our world came to be. According to the Bhagavad Gita, in which many Hindus believe, either literally or symbolically, the world was God’s idea. Furthermore, Lord Krishna, in Chapter Ten, explains that He causes the world to appear and disappear simply because He wants it to.

At the same time, the whole purpose of life in the view of many religions is to obtain happiness in the afterlife.

I think these notions are somewhat odd. They suggest that our existence is an exercise in futility. We and the whole world did not exist. Then God creates the world and us and then it all will disappear. Yet our goal in this life exercise is to be as good as possible in order to make our non-existence blissful.

Many of us recognize that in the course of our activities and behaviors, our journeys mean more than reaching our destinations. So, though we are focused on our goals, most of our energy is expended in transit. We also recognize that the effects of our journeys are what we leave behind.  But to what end?

Why do you think we exist?

Read more from Irina Gajjar at www.irinaspage.com

Atman

The Gita understands God to be both the knower and the known, or that which we wish to know. He is the great soul, the individual soul called Atman. He is spirit. God is the knower of the universe and the knower of the “field” which means the human body as well as all embodiment. “Field” refers to place or area, like “field of knowledge.” The term field implies that the body is a place where action or conflict occurs. Lord Krishna delivered the Bhagavad Gita on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, also known as the field of Dharma or righteousness.

Hinduism sees the body and the mind as one unit, separate and distinct from the soul:

The body is a collection of many things.
It is made up of ether, air, fire, water, and earth.
These are called the five subtle elements.
The body is also made up of mind
and the five senses of hearing,
touching, tasting, and smelling.
Wanting, hating, happiness, unhappiness, and courage
are also part of the body.

(Gita 13:5, 6)

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

How We Visualize God

The Gita develops around the concept of a universal God who can be envisioned, though not understood on a human level, and around the idea that life’s purpose is to attain unity with God. This precept is implicit as are other fundamental beliefs like reincarnation. When the Gita makes explicit references to such ideas that are a familiar part of Hinduism, It does so for emphasis or analogy rather than for evaluation. It reiterates them and alludes to them in different contexts, but the beliefs themselves are treated as givens, not as theories. They considered beyond question, though not beyond interpretation:

She who always worships God faithfully
Crossed past the world
And becomes a part of God.

(Gita 12:26)

Perhaps the most awesome verses in the Gita are those that speak of God’s power and grandeur, depicting Him in all aspects and all forms. God is earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, reason, the seed of all beings, Om, and the Self. God lives in the heart of all living things. Everything that is glorious or brilliant or strong is a spark of His brightness. He is the essence of life. God is Brahma, the Creator who caused the world to be and from whom all things come. He is Vishnu, the Preserver. In this form God is a wonderful sight adorned with jewels and weapons, and heavenly garlands, and covered with fragrant paste. He holds the whole world by just a flicker of His divinity. As the Destroyer, He is Shiva who makes all the worlds afraid. He appears in multiple colored forms. He has large shining eyes and a wide open mouth filled with terrible teeth. His awful brightness burns the universe.

Yet, howsoever the ancients described God millennia ago and however we may visualize God today, the Bhagavad Gita explains:

God is beyond what your mind can understand.
God likes the sun
far beyond the darkness of ignorance.

(Gita 8.8)

 

Hypocrites in The Gita

The Gita sums up the definition of a hypocrite as follows:

A person who pretends not to care about the body,

but who really keeps on wishing for enjoyable things

is called a hypocrite.

Such a person is a fool.

The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 3, verse 6

In order to attain Oneness with God, the Gita teaches that we must become detached from the feelings and desires created by our bodies. The above verse warns against faking piousness and pretending detachment rather than striving to achieve it.

Hypocrisy is tempting to those who wish to appear devout and even to those who wish to view themselves as devout. But in the Gita Lord Krishna repeatedly tells us that just trying to become close to God is very good and leads to happiness and wisdom. Regardless of how we view God or our truth, we should face ourselves honestly and be real.

Learn more about the the Gita in my book, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture.

Who Is a Hindu?

The question, “Who is a Hindu?” is much harder to answer than the question “What is Hinduism?”

Historians, teachers, scholars, and gurus have disagreed about Hinduism for centuries and continue to disagree. Hindus themselves agree even less about who they are and what they believe. The reason is that Hinduism, which clear and simple, is a universal faith. Hinduism has powerful tenets, but they are open to interpretation and evolving scientific truth.

Respect for individual thought runs deep. Alternatives abound. Hinduism is easy to understand for Hindus, but complex or varied explanations create confusion in the minds of those who have not absorbed or been absorbed by Hinduism. Numerous and divergent ideas, images, and theories confuse strangers to Hinduism while Hindus themselves find giving answers to outsiders difficult because they never considered the questions.

To believers or followers of Hinduism, their religion is a premise, a starting point, rather than a conclusion or ending point. Hinduism can be views as a springboard and make leaps of faith. This is why describing a Hindu as a believer in Hinduism is accurate, but at the same time incomplete and redundant.

It must be true that no Hindu believes everything that has been preached in the name of Hinduism. The majority of Hindus have not even read Bhagavad Gita or the Gita in its entirety, which is a pity as this short quintessential scripture that contains the distilled essence of Hinduism is one of the greatest writings ever written.

Yet Hindus remain staunch and sophisticated in their affiliation. Their mindset is composed of philosophy, spirituality, and ethics, all colored by ritual, mythology, and tradition.

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.

The Gita on True Happiness

 

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According to the Bhagavad Gita, the purpose of reaching God is to attain true happiness. Here is what Lord Krishna says:

Those who truly love Me know

I am God of the whole world.

They know I am the friend of all

They who really love Me

Know everlasting peacefulness

And everlasting happiness.

The Gita, Chapter 5

These words are quintessential in their simplicity and universality. At the same time philosophers could write and many have written volumes on how to interpret them.

In Chapter five, Lord Krishna discusses the best path to salvation. Arjun wants to know whether the pursuit of knowledge and renunciation are better than the performance of good actions. The answers in this chapter are as simple or complex as one wishes to make them.

On the one hand, the clear answer is that good action is the better path because it is easier. On the other hand, this reply differs from passages in Chapter 4 where we were told that knowledge is the best path to salvation as knowledge is the boat that crosses over the ocean of sin.

Some of us wonder about these contradictions. Scholars explain that the chosen paths depend on the choosers. More specifically the choice depends on the nature of the soul of the seekers of God or happiness or peace. Yet not all of us are perplexed by inconsistencies. We just know that the paths converge.

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

 

Which Came First, The Chicken or The Egg?

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We human beings have always wondered about whether the chicken preceded the egg or vice versa. More seriously we wonder about what came before the big bang. But some scientists think the universe did not come from anything but merely appeared where it had not been apparent before.

If this is the case, than the whole universe is an illusion [Maya] rather than a reality as stated in Chapter 7, (verses 12 and 13) of the Bhagavad Gita. This fits with God’s description of Himself as the only reality.

But we cannot confuse the universe or even God, who would be the Truth that exists transcending the appearance and disappearance of the universe with occurrences within the universe of dimensions. Those occurrences are manifestations of karma.