Notions of God

In Chapter 8 of The Gita, Lord Krishna gives us a descriptive view of God’s characteristics. Even assuming we believe in a supreme divine force, this view stretches the limits of our intellect and

imagination. Lord Krishna Himself acknowledges that Brahma, the spirit of God, exists beyond what our mind understands. But He encourages our efforts to grasp what we cannot grasp because, He tells us, God can be reached by the wise.

Brahma exists beyond ignorance and shines like the sun. Brahma is Time. He endures for thousands of ages consisting of thousands of days and thousands of nights. Brahma Is permanent and indestructible. He is beyond the world. Brahma is the origin of everything and He is the resting place of those who are liberated from the cycle of birth and death.

Regardless of whether or not we believe or hope to believe, the possibility of Brahma can fill a huge void in our spirit. If we carry a spark of divinity within ourselves, we have a place and a role in the universe.

See On Hinduism, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, by Irina Gajjar.

Hindu Myths and Legends

 

Hindu myths and legends illustrate Hinduism’s world vision in vibrant color. They portray worlds inhabited by people, by super people, by gods and demons, by legendary heroes and evil doers, by fantastic creatures endowed with extraordinary powers, and by great warriors wielding remarkable weapons.

These tales tell of places unbound by time or space, places that exist in our imagination, and places we can visit today. They tell of flight through the heavens. They discuss creation and destruction. They speak of God’s manifestations and God’s power. They bring laughter and tears and they thrill, frighten, comfort, and teach generation after generation of Hindus. Ancient stories told and retold never lose their fascination. They weave themselves into the fabric of Hindu life and take on new life when fresh miracles come about or when nature and science amaze us with feats that we once thought could not be performed outside of our imaginations.

Among the most intriguing narratives in Hindu mythology are the stories related to the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver, in the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The term avatar is understood to mean incarnation or manifestation, but the actual translation from Sanskrit is “descent.”

People do not worship all the avatars and all are not human. Hindus adore Rama and Krishna above Vishnu’s other incarnations, but Vishnu came as a savior in all of them. Hinduism has consistently viewed Vishnu as the savior. While Brahma is the Creator who starts cosmics and Shiva is the Destroyer who ends them, Vishnu, the Preserver, is the one who strives to maintain cosmic order, intervening whenever needed. It is interesting to note that the order of the avatars’ appearance parallels the sequence of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Vishnu’s first descent is in the form of a fish, a creature of the water. Matsya saved a ship attempting to escape from a great flood and guided it to safety. The second avatar was in the body of Kurma, a tortoise who restored the nectar of immortality to the gods. The tortoise is a reptile, a life form that followed fish in the evolutionary sequence. Lord Vishnu incarnated for the third time in the body of a land animal, Varaha, the boar. Varaha saved the Earth from the demon who carried her to the bottom of the ocean. After a battle which lasted a thousand years, the boar rescued Earth and restored her to her rightful place in the universe.

Narasimha, the giant man lion, was Vishnu’s fourth descent and the last which took place in the Satya Yuga, the earliest age in Hindu cosmology. Narasimha symbolizes the emergence of mankind from the animal kingdom. Vishnu manifested in this form to save Prahlada from his father, a demon who was enraged by his son’s devotion to Vishnu. Narasimha destroyed the demon and made Prahlada ruler of the earth and the underworld.

The fifth, sixth, and seventh avatars of Vishnu take place in the second age known as the Treta Yuga, a period when man progressed from the stone age, to the iron age and then to a society ruled by kings. Thus, while Vishnu’s first four incarnations relate to struggles with demons and the forces of nature, the next three are about social and political struggles among men.

In His fifth incarnation, Vishnu appeared as Vamana, the dwarf who restored heavenly and earthly power to the gods and in his sixth, He appeared as Parashurama, Rama with an ax. His mission was to rid the world of evil and Parashurama went around the world twenty-one times killing bad kings and re-establishing the rule of the virtuous ones. Vishnu’s seventh incarnation was as Lord Rama, widely worshipped and glorified in the epic Ramayana.

Vishnu’s eighth avatar is as Lord Krishna who came to earth to preach the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna is probably the most deeply beloved of God’s avatars. His descent occurred in the third age known as the Dvapara Yuga. Vishnu’s ninth avatar, as Lord Buddha, the Enlightened One, took place in the fourth and current Yuga known as the Kali Yuga. Buddha preached a doctrine of reform that became Buddhism.

 

Read more of The Gita on Irinaspage.com or purchase your Kindle copy today at Amazon.com.

 

The Hindu Calendar

Excerpt from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar

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In Hindu thought, God alone creates, sustains, and destroys time. God also has the power to expand and contract time. As time cannot be realized apart from God, God is time. Brahma’s sleep and wake cycles make time happen.

When Brahma sleeps, the universe ceases to be.
When He awakens, He recreates it.
Brahma’s day lasts a thousand ages and Brahma’s night lasts a thousand more.
Only the wise know this truth about Time. (Gita 8:17)

Hindu astronomical and astrological studies measure time differently for different worlds and differently again for God. Fine-tuned calculations show that ancient sages perceived our planet as part of a much bigger universe or universes or multiverses brought in and out of being by God.

Several parallel worlds exist with their own space-time on multiple planes. As humans we have just begun to skirt their edges but using our minds as vehicles and our calculations as fuel, we have been traveling throughout the universe for millennia.

Human time is limited. It is short. According to the ancient Hindu calendar, a human year consists of 360 days divided into twelve solar months or thirteen lunar months. The lunar months are divided into fortnights of about 14 days each that are composed of one waxing and one waning lunar cycle.

Two months make a season and three seasons a semester, or half a year. Two semesters add up to a year. An extra month added every third year reconciles the lunar calendar to the solar calendar.

Ancestral time is the time experienced by our ancestors who have moved on to other worlds and other dimensions. Their time lasts much longer than human time. A human fortnight consisting of approximately fourteen days equals one ancestral day. An ancestral year is 5,040 human days.

The lifespan of ancestors is one hundred of their years or 504,000 human days which equate to nearly one thousand four hundred human years. Time experienced in the worlds of gods and demons—superhuman powers endowed with divine and demonic characteristics—is even longer.

A human year, calculated as three hundred and sixty human days in the Hindu calendar, equals one day and night cycle for gods and demons. Thus, the one hundred year lifespan of deities and demons adds up to about thirty-six thousand human years.

Far greater than any other time is Brahma’s time which Hinduism reckons in kalpas or eons that in turn are composed of ages. Hindus have divided Brahma’s kalpas into four ages or yugas during which cosmic order has consistently deteriorated and human behavior worsened. The yugas become progressively shorter in duration.

The earliest yuga lasted over one million, seven hundred thousand years and the current yuga, known as the Kali Yuga which dawned about 3000 bce is expected to last for only 432,000 years. According to Hindu cosmology, Brahma undertook creation of the cosmos two kalpas ago. This works out to 8.64 billion years, several billion years less than the estimated age of the universe according to modern science.

The most recent scientific calculation estimates that the universe came into being after the big bang about 13.7 billion years ago give or take one hundred and twenty million years. Hinduism envisions Brahma’s existence in terms of billions and even trillions of years. It visualizes the scope of creation as infinite.

Modern science has not really spoken on how much longer the universe or world or our planet will last. Nor has it spoken on what its scope may be. It is reasonable to consider these two questions interlinked. The duration of the universe must depend on what it encompasses.

The Hindu vision is of a universe that expands and contracts in time and space, one that moves in and out of reality and in and out of consciousness, a universe that dissolves and regenerates itself, that is created by God and that is God. But God is more than the universe. God’s greatness is enormous but it can also be miniscule and even if the universe ceases to be, God does not. Thus, God and creation are as infinitesimal as they are infinite.

To Read More from On Hinduism, visit Irina’s Amazon Page or website.

 

 

God’s Three Acts: Shiva, the Destroyer

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Act Three – Shiva, the Destroyer

Hindu Philosophy understands that the universe appears and disappears in space-time. Its destruction is performed by God. Though essentially unfathomable, Lord Shiva, the Destroyer, represents the human knowledge that existence can be frightening.

The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva embodies a human depiction or explanation of the forces that create, preserve and destroy existence.

Read the the first two acts here:

Act One: Brahma the Creator

Act Two: Vishnu the Preserver

See On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar

The God of Hinduism

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From earliest times, Hindus have thought and written about one God called Brahman. Brahman is an all-encompassing truth who has no shape or form but as the essence of Divinity, He flows into many manifestations.

“As Creator of the world, God is called Brahma. As Preserver, God is called Vishnu. As Destroyer, He is named Shiva. These three aspects together form the Trinity, the totality of a single God. From the Trinity, originate God’s thousands and thousands of forms and names.”

from About Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar [to be published soon].

Peace and War

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As human beings, large numbers of us wish for global happiness and kindness. We believe in world peace though we have little notion about how this can be achieved. We have studied war and considered whether our biological natures are responsible for the repeated large and small scale conflicts in which we have engaged for ages.

While I know no more than most people, it seems to me that conflict just like cooperation is inherent in the cycle of existence. I cannot think of anything that exists without its opposite. Order degenerates into chaos. Creation entails destruction. Birth brings death. When we stop growing, we degenerate. We evolve and devolve. Utopia leads to dystopia. Conquest entails defeat.

But in between peace and war, there is preservation. Hindu philosophy sees three aspects of life power celebrated in the forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. These divine forces celebrate creation, preservation and destruction. Preservation is our window of opportunity to act benevolently in order to maintain stability and goodness. It is in acts of preservation that I think we are most likely to be helpful to our world and its people.