Democracy

 

Churchill is believed to have said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.” Most of us who live in democracies think this is absolutely true. Also, most of us pretty much take our democracies for granted. We think it is a given in our nations and that it will last for the foreseeable future.

We do not realize, that government by the people, of the people and for the people may not endure. We forget that democracy did not last even two centuries in Greece, where it was born and that it is not the order of the world any more than other forms of government. Dictatorships, benevolent and malevolent, oligarchies, communism, imperialism and ebb and flow on our planet.

I am frightened by the fragility of democracy. I worry about the tensions that threaten it. I think the demise of democracy is a scary prospect and I hear alarm bells ringing across the globe and at home.

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

Conflicted

We, the human members of our planet, of our nations and of our communities, are conflicted. On the one hand, we want to belong, to fit in and to share our lives with others. On the other, we want to own our personal space, to stand out and to keep our privacy.

Not only are we conflicted in our interactions, but our natures which resist discipline tempt us with intemperance. For example, we want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to eat a lot without getting fat or feeling stuffed. We want to be couch potatoes and feel fit. We want to party, but not feel exhausted. We want to sleep but also be productive.

Calibration can help us manage our conflicted selves. If we balance our opposing urges by practicing moderation, we can experience greater harmony. But too much moderation is boring and unstimulating. So, I note that everything should be practiced in moderation, even moderation.

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

Life Principle

The mind and body are part of nature and matter rather than an essential or integral part of the God, although God is everywhere. In his manifest form, God personifies the same subtle elements that make up the body plus mind, reason and the self:

 

I am made of the earth, water, fire, air,
ether, mind, reason, and the self.
These eight things are one side of Me
is what makes the whole world exist
and is called the “life principle.”

(Gita 7:4, 5)

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

 

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/

Blahs

 

As we enter the fall in the northern hemisphere, many of us struggle with casting off the blahs. Summer ends, vacations are done with and it is time to muster up our energy. Of course, the blahs come and go for many of us at different times, but as fall approaches we get increasingly sluggish.

While sloth is a sin and many teachings and preachings tell us to act with vigor, the blahs are not laziness. They are a response to a changing environment. They help us prepare for colder darker days ahead.

I like the coziness of autumn and winter. It is nice to get away from endless sunlight and heat. It is nice to huddle a bit and settle indoors. It is good to find quieter joys and to eat warmer food. I welcome the blahs.

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

Choices

To some extent, our lives are determined by the choices we make. But to what extent are our choices real? This question underlies most human dilemmas.

Arjun’s doubt about whether it would be better to be killed than to fight and kill his enemies is the focus of The Gita which synthesizes Hindu philosophy. Here, God explains why Arjun must fight and He shows us that Arjun really does not have a choice.

Yet, human decisions though tethered are not fully predetermined. They depend upon our nature, our capacity to judge, our circumstances, our mood and upon the choices we made in the past. At the same time, our current actions and inactions affect our future as well as the futures of all who are touched by what we do or do not do. Thus, as much as our choices arise from our karma, they create it.

Fortunately, we are not always aware of the many big and little choices we make throughout our days. If we were fully aware of them, we would probably go crazy. Still, though fettered or made in haste, our decisions matter. So, we must do the best we can, heeding our consciences and the advice of those we respect.

      See Chapter Six, Karma and Reincarnation in On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar.

Battlefield of Sharma

 

Violence and destruction is not always harmful. Burning fields to improve their fertility is a good thing. It is different from starting a wildfire that will burn and destroy forests. The Gita speaks of a moral war, explaining that the soul cannot be killed and that the body does not matter at all. The Mahabharata and the Gita illustrate rather than explain what constitutes a moral war. Lord Krishna speaks on the “Battlefield of Sharma.”

The noble hero, Arjun, does not want to slay his enemy. He does not want a kingdom, or victory, or pleasures. He would rather his enemy kill him than kill them. Lord Krishna convinces Arjun to fight, leaving the outcome of the war in God’s hands:

Do not care if your fighting brings pleasure or pain,

Victory or defeat.

Just do your duty.

In this way you will be free.

(Gita 2:38)

These lines make it clear that Ahimsa, or nonviolence, is not strictly a pacificist doctrine. It may not even be a doctrine as much as awareness, a consciousness of what human beings need to do to maintain universal harmony and balance.

Read more from On Hinduism at www.irinagajjar.com.

 

Birth and Rebirth in the Buddhist Religion

According to Buddhist thought, the soul does not retain its attributes at death any more than a wave retains its identity when it dissipates in the ocean. An analogy often used to illustrate Buddhism’s perspective of the cycle of birth and rebirth is that of a candle that lights another candle as it flickers and becomes extinguished.

Buddhist belief in the process of birth and rebirth is validated by the testimony of Lord Buddha Himself, who upon enlightenment came to know all the details of His hundreds or thousands of past lives. He stated that His present life would be His last. Although Lord Buddha would not include God in His teachings and did not claim to be divine, His followers came to worship Him.

Buddhists pay Him homage, if not as God, then as the Enlightened One and Hindus see Buddha as the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver.

Read more about Birth and Rebirth in the Buddhist Religion in On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar.

The Legend of Ganesh/Ganpati

 

Several legends explain how Ganesh/Ganpati got an elephant’s head. The most popular one tells that his mother Parvati created him out of the sandalwood paste on her body and of the river Ganges. Then she told him to guard her bathroom while she bathed.

Lord Shiva, Parvati’s husband, had been away and when he returned he did not recognize his son and was angry at Ganesh for keeping him away from his wife. As a result, Shiva struck off Ganesh’s head.

Parvati became devastated. To comfort her, Shiva promised to restore Ganesh to life. He told his attendants to bring him the head of any sleeping being they found who was facing north. In a while, the attendants returned with an elephant head which Lord Shiva affixed to Ganesh.

Parvati was not consoled. She told Shiva that no one would respect her son with a big elephant head on his shoulders. So Lord Shiva promised that all worshippers would forever pray to Ganpati before praying to God and would invoke Ganpati’s blessings before beginning any important undertaking in life.

In this manner, Ganpati became the leader of the people, the lord of success, the remover of obstacles, and the destroyer of evil. He is honored in most Hindu homes and establishments and people celebrate him every year in a big ten-day-long festival held in August or September. True to Shiva’s word, Ganpati has become a part of every Hindu’s life.

 

You can read more from On Hinduism and other titles, by Irina Gajjar at www.irinaspage.com.