Dharma

A person who does everything for God’s sake

Is free and becomes a part of God.

Doing your duty for God’s sake

Is the secret.

(Gita 23)

 

Religions create communities that are united by shared philosophy and belief. These communities in turn develop socio-cultural value systems. As the socio-cultural composition of a community evolves, the religion that gave it birth must adapt itself or reinterpret itself to endure. However, it must do so without surrendering any of its basic beliefs or principles. Otherwise the religion becomes diluted and ceased to be itself.

Hinduism has had a long and vigorous life and throughout it has upheld the Vedic value system known as the Eternal Law, or the Sanatana Dharma.

A value may be a principle, an ideal, a standard, or a priority. It is a lodestar that determines what matters to a person, to a family, and to a community. It determines what choices people make, where they direct their efforts, and how they develop and maintain relationships. A value is not a religious belief, but it reflects the ideas that religious beliefs endorse.

The value system of Hinduism seems to have emerged as a full blown system, already part of the society in which it matured. Early Vedic scriptures contain its seeds, seeds that continue to blossom and bear fruit today. From the onset, Vedic literature has explicitly valued family life and the nurturing of children, hospitality, self-esteem, the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of prosperity, the pursuit of happiness, respect for elders and teachers, living in harmony with all beings, avoidance of needless violence, and most importantly, fulfillment of duty. Doing one’s duty means following the path of righteousness or living in accordance with the principle of dharma which embraces all other values.

Click here to read more from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

 

The Gayatri Mantra

The Gayatri Mantra, dedicated to the Goddess Gayatri, Mother of Vedas, is one of the most important chants in Hinduism. This mantra expresses the essence of the Vedas. It contains only fourteen syllables, but its compact, complex eloquence is difficult to express in languages other than Sanskrit. It means:

Om
Truth
Earth
Air
Heaven
May the Brilliant Glory
Of the Supreme God
Enlighten Our Minds
Enlighten Our Thoughts
Enlighten Our Meditation

(Rig Veda III.62.10)

Read more about the Gayatri Mantra in On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar.

 

God, King of the Universe  

 

The notion of God as the King of the Universe feels odd to me because it humanizes a force that I view see as way beyond humankind. Still, personification of the Lord occurs throughout most major religions. Imagining God as our King reflects our human need to envision divinity in our image and to empower it as our ruler.  

In the Gita, Lord Krishna tells us He has many forms including prayers, fire, sweets, eternity, perpetuity, destruction and the heat in the sun. Yet, further to God’s absoluteness, endlessness and everythingness, He specifically tells us that He is our King:  

I am the king of the Universe. 

I am its Father and Mother and Grandfather. 

I am making things and taking things  apart. 

I am being born and dying 

and I am living forever. 

                         —  The Gita, Chapter 9, Verses 17 and 18  

 

These passages give believers freedom to shape their belief in any respectful way they can.  

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

 

The Universe in God

Then Arjun saw in God the whole universe.

Then Arjun, full of wonder,

with his hairs standing on end’

bowed down to the Lord and pressing his hands in prayer said:

Oh Lord,

I see all the gods and thousands of beings in

You.

—The Gita, Chapter 11, verses 14, 15

 

Consider the idea of the whole universe, of everything imaginable, contained within the being of its Creator. This vision represents the vastness of all existence that lives in the confines of our imagination, reason, and belief. This is a remarkable perspective.

See Chapter 11 of The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, by Irina Gajjar.

What Is Goodness?

We are told by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita that goodness is many things. It includes bravery, purity, contemplation of the soul, worship of God, study of holy texts, strength, straightforwardness, truthfulness, peacefulness, kindness, gentleness, the absence of anger, detachment, repentance for transgressions, forgiveness, humility, truthfulness and vigor.

This is a comprehensive set of qualities. Though most of us would agree that these qualities do represent the better side of humans, some might of us, particularly those of us who are not inclined toward orthodoxy, may question whether the worship of God and the study of holy texts equate with traits like kindness.

I wonder why God, who is all powerful, all knowing, and present everywhere seems to have a great need to promote Himself and to persuade us to believe in Him [or Her?] Can’t we just take the force that is God for granted and move on from there?

See Chapter 16 of The Gita, a New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture.

A Skeptic’s Critique of the Hindu View of the Soul

In his introduction to my book On Hinduism, Ravi Heugle questions the validity of the soul’s existence. He equates the soul to the mechanism that moves a watch or clock. Ravi writes:

The soul will render itself superfluous to any consistent description of a life form. In describing a watch, if we understand all mechanisms and principles of operation, no additional idea or concept is necessary to explain its purpose, function of state. I have faith that I do not inhabit my body, but I am because of my body. The establishment of a unified 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 solve serve as a potent synonym for human identity.

I believe this analysis disavows the soul because our human minds lack capacity to define their nature. Yet, lack of definition or explanation does not negate the soul’s existence, even if we can only grasp at the outer edges of its reality.

What is your view of the soul?

See A Skeptic’s Perspective in On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

Zero

The notion of zero is philosophical as well as mathematical in Hinduism. Here is an explanation:

The Sanskrit word for zero is sunya which translates as “nothingness.” Brahman, God in his formless, immutable, timeless, memory-less state prior to Creation, is called Nirguna Brahman or Brahman with no attributes. Nirguna Brahma exists in nothingness. With the happening of Creation, Nirguna Brahma becomes Saguna Brahma, the God with attributes who is Ishvar. Zero symbolizes God in nothingness. Zero added to or subtracted from any number does not change the number. The sum of zero and zero is zero. Zero added to or subtracted from itself remains zero. Multiplied by itself, zero is still zero. However, the addition of zero to the right of any number (without a decimal point) increases it up to infinity and its addition to the left of any number (with a decimal point) decreases it down to the infinitesimal.

Zero’s complement must be “everythingness.” Everythingness differs from everything just like “nothingness” differs from nothing. The idea of zero embraces the idea of its opposite, totality. We say God is everythingness and nothingness because we have no better words to describe the unfathomable existence or nonexistence that transcends itself. Thus, zero to Hinduism is more than a mathematical tool. It represents God’s truth that lies beyond human experience and the material world, truth that is just beyond the reach of the human mind.

See Chapter Three, Monotheism in On Hinduism, by Irina N. Gajjar

God Loves Those Who Love God

Loving God is a key theme in the Gita. In Chapter 9, Lord Krishna tells us that loving God is the Holy Secret and the key to attaining ultimate freedom from cycles of birth and death. He explains that God is everything and everywhere. He is the creator and more because the very notion of the world is His. Thus, even the worst sinners are liberated by the love of God.

In Chapter 12 of the Gita, Lord Krishna describes all the good things that happen to those who love Him. He tells us that those of us who do love God are dear to Him. But He does not talk about loving humanity to the extent that He speaks of the power of our loving Him. It is through our understanding and love of the divinity that we merge into the Lord and attain ultimate salvation.

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

Did God Create the World?

A number of major world religions subscribe to the notion that God, such as God is understood, created the world or worlds or universe and all existence. Hindu scripture specifically tells us so. In fact, in the Gita, God Himself reminds more than once.

In Chapter 9, Lord Krishna tells us that the whole world was His idea, and was born from Him. It explains that a great wheel makes it turn round and round and that it appears and disappears repeatedly because He wants it to.

In Chapter 10 He explains:

Everything comes from Me.

Truth, wisdom, forgiveness, self control,

happiness, unhappiness, bravery, fear,

peacefulness, fame and shame

all come from God.

The Gita, Chapter 10, Verses 4, 5

 

At the same time the very God who takes credit for creation, declares His creation to be an illusion. It is “Maya” or make believe or magic and He tells us that only fools believe that the world is real. In His own words:

The wise who understand God pass beyond

the world.

They cross over Maya and reach Me.

The Gita, Chapter 7, Verses 14

Now why would God or the sages who gave to life to the ideas embodied in the Gita create a world that is illusory only for humankind to acknowledge this truth? Why would a power like God want to create worlds that come and go?

It seems to me that the reason does not fit within human logic. It is just that this is how it is.

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

Why Was God Born?

In the Gita, Lord Krishna Himself explains His incarnations:

You and I have passed through many births.
I know them all, but you do not remember.
I am born from time to time
whenever the good need my protection.
I am born to destroy the bad and help the good.

My birth is divine and those who understand this become part of
Me and do not have to be born again.

The Gita, Chapter 4, The Sword of Knowledge, Verses 5-9

These beautifully succinct verse encapsulates Hinduism’s fundamental beliefs: the existence of God, His powers to create and destroy, God’s benevolent intent, the importance of understanding divine power, the reality of reincarnation, and the meaning of salvation which is becoming one with God.

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