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.

Paths to God

 

The Karmayogi does everything for God.

His mind is on God while he acts.

He wakes, sleeps, hears, touches,

smells, speaks, and breathes thinking of God.

He understands that he himself does nothing

But that God does everything through him.

God uses him to get things done.

The person who offers all he does to God

Is as untouched by sin as a lotus leaf by water.

The Karmayogi is pure.

(Gita 5:6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

 

 

Yoga is the path which people can follow to become one with God. It is the path of attaining perfection so that we can know God and then merge into Him. A variety of paths can take us perfection, but they all come together at the end. However, the twists and turns along the way have created many views within Hinduism.

Hindu schools of thought are organized into different systems that go back to Vedic times and continue to evolve and flourish today. The distinctions between them turn on slightly different perspectives of God’s nature and of what the best paths to the goal of self-realization may be. Self-realization means finding God within ourselves. It is enlightening or seeing God’s light and becoming freed from the cycle of birth and death. Enlightenment leads to becoming one with the absolute eternal spirit that transcends the universe.

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

Hypocrites in The Gita

The Gita sums up the definition of a hypocrite as follows:

A person who pretends not to care about the body,

but who really keeps on wishing for enjoyable things

is called a hypocrite.

Such a person is a fool.

The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 3, verse 6

In order to attain Oneness with God, the Gita teaches that we must become detached from the feelings and desires created by our bodies. The above verse warns against faking piousness and pretending detachment rather than striving to achieve it.

Hypocrisy is tempting to those who wish to appear devout and even to those who wish to view themselves as devout. But in the Gita Lord Krishna repeatedly tells us that just trying to become close to God is very good and leads to happiness and wisdom. Regardless of how we view God or our truth, we should face ourselves honestly and be real.

Learn more about the the Gita in my book, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture.

Who Is a Hindu?

The question, “Who is a Hindu?” is much harder to answer than the question “What is Hinduism?”

Historians, teachers, scholars, and gurus have disagreed about Hinduism for centuries and continue to disagree. Hindus themselves agree even less about who they are and what they believe. The reason is that Hinduism, which clear and simple, is a universal faith. Hinduism has powerful tenets, but they are open to interpretation and evolving scientific truth.

Respect for individual thought runs deep. Alternatives abound. Hinduism is easy to understand for Hindus, but complex or varied explanations create confusion in the minds of those who have not absorbed or been absorbed by Hinduism. Numerous and divergent ideas, images, and theories confuse strangers to Hinduism while Hindus themselves find giving answers to outsiders difficult because they never considered the questions.

To believers or followers of Hinduism, their religion is a premise, a starting point, rather than a conclusion or ending point. Hinduism can be views as a springboard and make leaps of faith. This is why describing a Hindu as a believer in Hinduism is accurate, but at the same time incomplete and redundant.

It must be true that no Hindu believes everything that has been preached in the name of Hinduism. The majority of Hindus have not even read Bhagavad Gita or the Gita in its entirety, which is a pity as this short quintessential scripture that contains the distilled essence of Hinduism is one of the greatest writings ever written.

Yet Hindus remain staunch and sophisticated in their affiliation. Their mindset is composed of philosophy, spirituality, and ethics, all colored by ritual, mythology, and tradition.

Goodness

In the view of Hinduism, sinfulness and goodness are mixed in or characters. Our natures contain different proportions of these qualities or tendencies and we should strive to behave in a manner that develops good tendencies and wipes out bad ones. While our goodness is helping others.

It is self-control and worshipping God and having pujas and studying the Vedas and the other holy books.

It is calling out God’s names and glories and suffering for your beliefs. Goodness is being straight and strong in body and mind.

Goodness is realizing God does things through you, that you do not do them by yourself.

Goodness is not wanting, being kind of all and not caring about the pleasures of your body.

Goodness is gentles and being ashamed of your mistakes and not being lazy.

Forgiveness, strength not being mean and not being proud are goodness.

These are signs of someone who is good.

(Gita 16:1,2,3)

This passage shows that goodness is not tied to any particular code of conduct nor does it arise from obeying a particular set of rules. There are no clear cut rules a person can follow to become good. Rather, acting virtuously cultivates goodness and the state of goodness causes a person to act virtuously. Vedic philosophy views goodness as a state of being that can be achieved through self-conditioning. It is  pursuit that lasts for lifetimes.

People who sincerely aspire to goodness attain goodness. Those who wish to become brave, pure, pious, disciplined, worshipful, knowing, tranquil, truthful, kind, gentle, modest, energetic, forgiving, and strong will become these things and will become good.

They will become wise and good decisions. They will perform noble deeds that will benefit the world. They will find themselves on the path to enlightenment and they will find happiness. They will attain salvation. Hinduism offers no shortcuts to salvation. It offers no single principle that people can embrace to be saved if they are not good. In order to be freed, a person must first become good.

 

Excerpt from On Hinduism 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.

Seeing the Beginning of the World and More

The James Webb Space Telescope is set to launch in 2018. It will be able to fly through time and report back on the formation of the first galaxies. It will be much more powerful than the Hubble and who knows what it could find. I find this to be mind boggling.

Will it find aliens perhaps on the seven new earth-like planets discovered orbiting a dwarf star [only?] 40 light years or two hundred and thirty five trillion miles away? The star has been said to be ultra cool which I guess means not hot at all but it also has to mean cool as in wonderful.

Of course there are those who believe that we have already been visited by aliens who bequeathed us cultures which seemingly popped up fully formed out of the blue in the Middle East, in the Indus Valley and/or in the Americas. While such notions cannot be proved and feel far-fetched, they cannot be disproved either. Nor do we have better explanations for the origins of civilizations.

But now soon we will know a great deal more about the universe, about worlds and possibly about other creatures like or unlike ourselves and we will certainly wind up with even more questions.

See irinaspage.com to explore her works, ideas and philosophy.

Ideas

My father loved philosophical conversations. He said such talks were about “the philosophy of a matchstick,” suggesting that such conversations do not lead anywhere. What is there to discuss about the stick of a match?

But talks about ideas or philosophies should not be trivialized. They reveal and help formulate beliefs and values. They define boundaries, frames of reference and directions.

Nevertheless discussions about nothing can be problematic when context is missing. While we may talk, or read, or write about beliefs and views, we must also recognize that they mean nothing in the abstract. They lead nowhere without context.

So do they have a point? I think they do. Discussions help us formulate, then refine and finally give a voice to ideas. Thus, they are the foundations upon which actions are built.

God and Karma 

Different Hindus perceive the relationship between God and karma in different ways. Some go so 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.

Yet other individuals and Hindu schools of thought, more conventionally, see God as the dispenser of karma, which He tempers with divine mercy. Whatever their particular viewpoint, Hindu philosophers and laymen generally agree with the notion 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, tend to consider the idea of karma a plausible guideline for ethical living.

From On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar, Chapter One, Hindus and Hinduism; also available for purchase on Amazon.