Shiva

Representations of Shiva, also called Maheshvara, often show him sitting cross legged in meditation or else dancing. Shiva is Lord of Dance, Nataraja, and Lord of Animals, Pashupati. He is sexual energy symbolized by the phallus. The Destroyer is white in color, has multiple faces and a third eye filled with visionary and destructive power. The Ganges River flows from his matted hair, the moon adorns his head, a cobra garlands his neck, and he carries the trident.

Shiva’s wife, Parvati, is the great mother goddess. She is the personification of female energy known as Shakti and revered as the power behind all creation.

God as the force of destruction appears in the Gita as a frightening power beyond reality and beyond unreality. This manifestation induces both terror and ecstasy. It makes demons flee and saints bow down in awe.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar. To read more or purchase the book, visit the website at www.irinaspage.com.

 

 

Nothingness

Belief in the world’s illusory nature gives rise to belief in the reality and greatness of nothingness. AN understanding of nothingness relates to the understanding of mathematics which embodies the concept of zero. At the same time, belief in nothingness is a significant aspect of Hindu belief in God. Nothingness is greater than creation which comes and goes as worlds appear and disappear in cycles. Nothingness existed before God undertook creation and God alone transcends nothingness. Devout Hindus seek to attain enlightenment which is akin to becoming lost in the supreme blissfulness of God who is as much nothing as He is everything.

Some people revere God as an infinite force requiring no further definition. But others find it difficult to work the idea of an intangible, unfathomable, all powerful God into worship or life. Thus, Hinduism facilitates faith by giving God a multitude of physical forms that represent his multiple attributes. It is next to impossible to know these countless forms and names. In ritual ceremonies, priests recite as many names as the worshipers have the patience to repeat or hear while they toss a leaf or a petal for each name into a vessel as a symbol of their acknowledgment.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. Read more from Irina or learn where to buy the book at www.irinaspage.com.

God’s Multiple Roles

Hinduism sets forth a comprehensive world view. However, the breadth, depth, and boundlessness of this view may perplex those unaccustomed to following alternative trains of thought. For example, though Hindus take God’s multiple roles of Creator, Preserver, Destroyer for granted, others may consider these roles in conflict, failing to take into account that they represent the cycles followed by the universe.

Similarly, non-Hindus may consider worshipping an absolute God incongruent with worshipping the many gods in the Hindu mythological pantheon. These super beings illustrated in books and posters and on big and little screens live in the other worlds or in the imagination. But shouldn’t we wonder at our imagination? Isn’t imagination also a world? Isn’t the source of human thoughts and ideas as real as the universe? Isn’t the output of the human mind as real as the world which is illusory in itself?

This excerpt is from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar. Read more at www.irinaspage.com.

Behavior Influencing Karma

 

Different Hindus perceive the relationship between God and karma in different ways. Some go as far as to say that karma determines the future and God does not exist or matter at all. Some equate the divine force with karma or believe that God creates karma and hence see no issue regarding interaction between the two.

Yet other individuals and Hindu schools of thought, more conventionally, see God as the dispense of karma, which He possibly tempers with divine mercy. Whatever their particular viewpoint, Hindu philosophers and laymen agree with the viewpoint that good behavior earns merit and improves their karma and that misfortune is the product of prior bad behavior. Even those who do not fully believe in karmic power generally consider the idea of karma a plausible guideline for ethical living.

What are your views on karma? Do you feel your good behavior earns merit and that your misfortune is a product of your prior poor behavior? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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

The Bhagavad Gita’s Message

 

While the Bhagavad Gita embodies orthodox Hindu belief, there is considerable flexibility in the interpretation of this belief. In my view, the Gita sets forth pathways to the achievement of goodness which leads to complete happiness. Such goodness brings us revelation and release from the cycle of birth and death.

There are several pathways to become totally good and to attain the bliss faithful Hindus presumably seek. They all result in detachment from the material world and a merger into God. This merger can be achieved through devotional worship, or through pursuit of knowledge, or through performance of good deeds.

The question remains as to how God is defined. What is that which starts out as a spark within us and ends up as the God whom we absorb or who absorbs us?  In the Gita, The Lord Himself provides extensive explanations as to who He is, but in the end the explanations are so inclusive as to become just about everything. God even tells us He is everything, though everything is not God.

It is often said that journeys are not about reaching a destination, but about the journey itself. But the journey of life cannot be meaningful without a destination and for believers the Gita gives meaning and to both.

For more information, check out Irina Gajjar’s book The Gita at http://irinaspage.com/philosophy/the-gita-sacred/

 

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.