Goodness, Kindness, and Religion

 

Most religions equate goodness with godliness. The idea is that belief in some higher force promotes better behavior. Preachers and teachers explain why or how we will ultimately be rewarded by heaven or karma or the Lord if we do things like turning the other cheek, or forgiving, or praying or obeying authorities or helping our neighbors.

Meanwhile, we also have learned that our human behaviors and tendencies are to a large extent genetic. Our genes determine what foods we like, how open we are to religious beliefs and endless eccentricities in addition to our physical characteristics.

No doubt our circumstances mold our characters somewhat and they certainly affect our levels of happiness, our ability to grow and many behaviors, but I wonder about the human trait that I consider the most important: kindness. What makes some of us much kinder than others? Are there kindness genes?

One thing I have seen is that whatever our religious beliefs or feelings may be, they are not related to kindness. Still religious advice is mostly good especially if we take it as something we should practice rather than something we impose upon others.

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

 

Knowledge

Hinduism defines knowledge as more than the acquisition of information. Knowledge pertains first and foremost to knowing God. This covers everything from seeking God, to knowing about God, to understand God, or to feeling God. Chapter seven of the Bhagavad Gita, “Knowing God,” offers a road map to the unveiling of the mystery of life. It explains that of the countless people who exist, only a few seek God and that of those few, only a handful gain a true understanding of divinity.

True knowledge pertains to understanding the Creator who causes the worlds and is the “life principle” or the essence of life. In his incarnation as Lord Krishnas, God says that He is composed of earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, reason, and the self. He tells us that He is the wetness in water, the light in the moon and sun, and the sacred symbol Om which encompasses God and the Universe:

 

I am the manliness in men

And the smell of the earth

And the brightness in fire.

Ia m life in living things.

I am the seed in all beings.

I am the wisdom in men’s minds.

I am the strength of the strong and the wish in your heart.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. To read more or to buy the book, visit the www.irinaspage.com/onhinduism 

 

(Gita 7:9, 10, 11)

Unity with God

Though Hindus know deeply that the ultimate aim of their faith is to achieve unity with God, daily life and worship generally focus on more immediate results. Karma may take ages to play out, but the laws of cause and effect that are its foundation may also operate more quickly. Divine intervention works hand in hand with karma that is created by human behavior. Thus, worship is a path to enlightenment and simply setting forth on this path has its own validity. Progressing on the path to God is not only about reaching a destination. Making the journey earns merit in itself.

Hindu scriptures and customs consider a wide range of activities as worship: fulfillment of duty, prayer, pursuit of knowledge, honoring elders and teachers, tending to shrines in the home, visiting temples, going on pilgrimages, bathing in holy waters, practicing moderation, fasting, performing rituals, chanting, engaging in meditation and yoga, attending and participating in ceremonies, listening to preachers, performing classical dance, and so on. These activities are incorporated into secular life. Though none of them are singly defining, it is virtually certain that routine customs and occurrences will engage just about every Hindu in some overt forms of worship. Mindsets may differ regarding the value or effect of these variegated activities, but participating in some of them unavoidable.

The vast array of practices that make up worship in Hinduism may befuddle strangers to such rituals. Although most ritualistic acts and sacrifices have specific and generally known purposes, collectively their aim is to enhance the mind’s focus and thereby to extend consciousness. These ceremonies as well as actions undertaken in the name of God or goodness acknowledge and revere a power higher and greater than the power of the human mind or the human heart. Whatever form worship takes, be it worship of God or of another deity, worship in any form acknowledges the existence of something greater than humankind. Chapter four of the Gita, “The Sword of Knowledge,” explains:

 

A puja is a ceremony for God.

It is a sacrifice.

The puja is Brahma [God].

The fire which is part of the puja is Brahma.

The person who performs the puja is Brahma.

Brahma is God’s everlasting power.

We cannot see or hear or feel Brahma.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. Learn more about the book at www.irinaspage.com

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 Hindu Divinity

 

The Hindu Divinity is the flame of truth envisioned by humans to be in harmony with the light that shines within. Because individual perceptions of the absolute differ greatly from one another, Hindu philosophy seamlessly conjoins and separates symbols, ideas, stories, and beliefs that pertain to God or to gods. As God is the Creator, the Destroyer, the Preserver as well as invisible, omnipresent, omnipotent, indestructible, and one with us, there is no perception that any divine representation or symbolism whatsoever could be flawed.

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

This excerpt is from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar. To learn more about the book or to make a purchase, visit the On Hinduism page.

 

God’s Glories

In Chapter 10 of the Gita, God describes Himself to humankind. We have differing views about creation as well as about the existence and nature of a higher power. Some of us question the validity of any assumptions about these notions.

But Lord Krishna speaks in light of orthodox Hindu opinions. He answers doubts about what the Divinity represents by telling us He is the best of whatever the human mind can imagine.

God says He is the most powerful of weapons, the lion of beasts, the holy Ganges of rivers, the cleansing wind, life, death, and the future. He tells us that He is beyond time and He is time itself. He is both the cause and the source of everything. He explains that while no one understands His power, the wise know He causes and moves the world.

See The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, by Irina Gajjar, Chapter 10.

Personal Beliefs

One of the vows in Hindu marriage ceremonies illustrates the importance of freedom of personal belief. Both the bride and the bridegroom encourage one another to develop their personal faith through worship that is free from interference.

The Gita crystallizes Hindu thought but it is too subject to interpretation. It does not require a Hindu to believe anything in particular. Instead, it glorifies goodness and truth and makes references to beliefs that are taken for granted. It addresses human doubts, questions, and fears and inspires physical and spiritual courage. This teaching illustrates the meaning of merging into God, soul, worship, knowledge, good deeds, karma, and reincarnation. It sets forth diverse and sometimes opposing criteria for attaining enlightenment or becoming on with the infinite which, according to Hindu theory, represents ultimate bless.

God is implicit, though debated in Hinduism. He is an idea that cannot be grasped by the human mind, a presumption regarding an absolute, awesome eternal energy worthy of adoration.

God is separate and distinct from the gods of mythology who romp about as did the gods in Greek and Roman myths. God is also separate from His human incarnations. Both in myths and in scripture, Divine Avatars act on behalf of God’s invisible, unfathomable form. Lord Krishna, an Avatar of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver, who is believed to be the source of all other Avatars, explains:

 

I am born from time to time

Whenever the good need my protection.

I am born to destroy the bad and help the good.

(Gita 4:7)

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

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.

 

Wonder

Everything we read or see or hear is processed through our experience, be it first hand or second hand or even more remote.

What I wonder about the most, are things people have no idea about. We cannot imagine shapes, or thoughts, or ideas that are entirely alien.

All our notions, be they of aliens, beings, creations, machines, natural phenomena, or whatever are permutations and combinations of familiar stuff. They are notions of what is known, and hence, fathomable. They relate to something we have seen, or heard, or touched, or tasted, or felt, or smelled, or inherited, or understood either first hand or via some communication from someone else.

I wonder if there is anything else out there: colors beyond those that exist in our rainbow, or beings that differ from those whose ancestry we have traced, or substances that are beyond our conception. I wonder what else could exist.

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

 

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