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.

Lord Krishna shows His Gentle Form

 

In Chapter 11 of The Gita, in answer to Arjun’s request, God gives Arjun a divine eye. Thus empowered, Arjun sees God in His powerful beauty, with multiple faces, eyes and mouths, and with magnificent jewels weapons, garlands and clothes. His form is covered with fragrant pastes and glows with the light of a thousand suns.

Arjun perceives the entire endless universe and contained within God and he sees God without beginning, middle or end. He sees nothing but God’s overwhelming brilliance.

The verses describing this vision of the Lord put into words the emotions and thoughts of believers and devotees who try to imagine and explain their certainty about the existence of a benevolent Creator and Preserver to whom they are devoted. The descriptions bring to life ideas that are beyond description or explanation but self-evident to many.

In my opinion, the notion of God evidences a truth that is real because it lives in human hearts and minds though it cannot be quantified or qualified in expressions or images. Human notions, howsoever inexplicable, are powerful. They do not arise from nowhere and cannot be dismissed as nothing.

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

Divided 

People of the world have been united and divided for as long as we can remember. City states warred for territory. Religious loyalists sought to impose their beliefs through both kindness and viciousness. Social groups fought to promote their values and to protect their status. Immigrants and emigrants crossed mountains, oceans ,and deserts going to seek fortunes or to escape from natural and man made disasters.

Thus, we organized ourselves into groups that collided with other groups. We identified with those who resemble or reflect ourselves and rejected those who differed in appearance, or belief, or custom. We forged alliances and fought enemies with different peoples at different times. Such behavior seems inherent to our humanity.

Many of us continue to force our beliefs, methodologies, and customs on others, believing them to be more truthful or superior. Of course we cannot impose our appearance on others except by blending our races over time. Our attitudes about racial mixing, though, are fraught with prejudice, attraction and other factors that are not totally clear even to ourselves.

Still, some of us resist and “otherizing” people who differ from ourselves. We try to appreciate at least some differences.

Today we are most focused on a political divide which encompasses all the other divides: racial, economic, social and cultural. We are most divided in our notion of unity. How should we govern ourselves and be governed? How should we behave publicly? Should we be polite or honest? What does civility mandate?

What is our responsibility to our fellow man, to our world and to future generations? Can we do or be me better? Can we achieve a more peaceful world? How much of our behavior is determined by our history and our destiny?

What do your think?

For some historical and philosophical insight consider the story of the great Mahabharata War which pitted families and friends against one another. See an analysis on pages 80-86 in On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

Lord Krishna Says Fight!

medieval-war-soldiers-army-military-knights

At the start of the Mahabharata War, Lord Krishna Tells Arjun to go and fight.  At the conclusion of the Gita, Arjun agrees saying, “I will fight.”

The question I raise is when must we fight? Can we or should we pick and choose our battles or wars? Can we abstain?

Lord Krishna’s message suggests that we do not have the luxury of choice. He tells Arjun that it is his duty to fight and that failing to do so would be failing God Himself.

So there we have it. If we are placed in the midst of combat, we must play our role. We cannot sit back, relax and shake the ugliness off our backs. It is our duty to fight to the best of our ability.

While we cannot have faith in the outcome, perhaps we can have faith that our force is for good and will help determine the outcome.

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

The Gita on Moderation

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I am a great fan of moderation. It offers the best of all worlds. Moderation says everything should be practiced in moderation, even moderation. So the practice of moderation does not prohibit an occasional splurge.

The Gita praises moderation. Lord Krishna tells us that a yogi is a wise, calm, devout and happy individual. God adds:

Oh Arjun, a Yogi cannot eat too much or too little.

She cannot sleep too much or too little.

She must measure everything:

eating, sleeping, working and relaxing.

Everything she does should be just right and even.

A Yogi is never afraid.

The Yogi whose mind is concentrating on  God does not shake.

He is steady like a candle in a room where there is no wind.

The Yogi’s mind does not move away from the truth.

 

See The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, by Irina Gajjar [Ch. 6, Self Control]

 

 

What Is Really Reality?

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In his introduction to On Hinduism, Ravi Heugle disagrees with my views on Reality. Ravi is a self-described skeptic, if not quite an atheist.

From a philosophical perspective, Ravi accepts only that which can be perceived, measured and verified as real. On the other hand, I believe the opposite. I consider that perceptions, measurements and verifications pertain to the material world which is not real because it is impermanent and in a state of flux. I think that reality exists beyond our perception. It transcends dimensional worlds. The Gita explains that reality is eternal. The perceptible world is Maya, or illusion.

What do you think? Share your thoughts by commenting directly on the blog or on Facebook.

See Ravi Heugle’s A Skeptic’s Perspective introducing Irina Gajjar’s . See also, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina Gajjar.