What Do Hindus Believe?

 

Hindus hold specific beliefs that are clear but hard to define. It is even harder to pinpoint who is or isn’t a Hindu. In my view, any person who identifies as a Hindu, who subscribes to the general beliefs Hindus hold, and who does not belong to another religion is a de facto Hindu. Others may use other criteria if they seek to pinpoint who is or is not a true Hindu.

It is hard for those who have not experienced Hinduism to understand its powerful tenets because they are subject to interpretation and evolution. For example, Hinduism is premised on a belief in God, but it does not mandate this belief. Thus, an atheist can be a Hindu. Moreover, the idea of God is somewhat fluid, given varying notions of what the supreme spirit is or is not, the Lord’s avatars or incarnations, and the presence of a pantheon of lesser gods.

The essence of Hindu belief derives from its goal, to attain oneness with God and liberation from the cycle of birth and death. This attainment is viewed as nirvana, the state of ultimate bliss. Ways to reach such oneness are described in scripture.  Mythology also contains tips on becoming good enough to achieve nirvana. Goodness attaches to the soul which is a spark of God’s divinity and power.

Like the existence of God, the reality of karma and reincarnation is taken for granted by Hindus. These beliefs comprise a fundamental world view which is considered the truest and most sensible explanation for how life, death, and the universe work. The Hindu worldview is not a subject of debate but rather is a starting point for debates on derivative themes such as how best to accrue good karma or how God and karma interact.

Hindus tend to disengage both from defending the validity of their faith and from trying to persuade others of its merit. Their understanding negates arguments like reincarnation cannot exist because the earth cannot accommodate so many people and their remains. They do not feel a need to explain that Hinduism acknowledges the many planes of our universe which transcend the limits of time and space.

Hindu belief encourages philosophy, mythology, and rituals to flourish. It accepts science. It embraces differences in individual perspectives. It produces a rich medley of customs and traditions. It provides harmony in the face of the unknowns that confine human understanding. It gives balance throughout the trials and tribulations that we all endure and it gives enhanced meaning to our journey through life.

Please see Chapter 1 of On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar for further discussion of this topic. We welcome your views and thoughts.

Seeing, Knowing, and Understanding God

Although God cannot be understood by the mind, God can be known by the spirit. In chapter seven of the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjun that he will understand God after knowing Him. God says the He knows all beings, but they do not know Him. People cannot see God because confusion and desire cover their minds, but they can reach God by seeking Him.

The Sanskrit language distinguishes between spiritual knowledge (seeing, knowing) and rational knowledge (understanding). We can come to know God only by seeking Him. Trying to understand God is a path to knowing Him, yet we cannot understand God without knowing Him. This is an apparent paradox, not a real one. It means that we must take steps toward understanding God in order to experience God. While the absolute cannot be understood by our finite mind, it can be known by our infinite soul. However, the soul can only experience the truth if the mind strives for it to do so. Reason or understanding is a path that leads to spiritual knowledge, but only spiritual knowledge has the power to reveal God.

Read more from On Hinduism or buy the book at Amazon.com.

 

Death or Transition?

Recently I lost a loved one. His death left me empty and wordless. I was deeply upset when everyone started making references to his passing or his transition. I was angry when at his funeral as people passed his lifeless body and threw flowers at his feet as if those acts had meaning. My love was no longer here. He was not with me or with anyone. He was dead, gone, vanished. How could anyone pay homage to the shell that used to hold his life and his spirit?

But then I realized that he is with us. He is present in memory and in the effect of his words, deeds, smiles, and love. Even if to me, his physical absence means death, his soul has indeed moved to another plane. Thus, it is fair to say that his being transitioned or passed to a place unknown where it will endure.

At first, I thought it was ridiculous to pray for a soul to rest in peace. I believed and still think that souls are beyond our prayers. I think our prayers cannot change a soul’s destiny once it has left the body. But, I also understand that we don’t know what a soul’s or spirit’s journey entails or in what time frame it travels, or how our thoughts and wishes may reach or affect it. Since we know nothing, it is possible that our prayers do have meaning. In any case, they may serve to calm us and they certainly show the living that we loved and honored the person who died.

 

An Excerpt from The Pokhraj

The following excerpt is from The Pokhraj, by Irina Gajjar.

The Landau dinner party was turning out to be a success. Natalya had planned the evening weeks ago as a surprise birthday celebration for her husband. Victor relished having guests in his home. He basked in their appreciation of his elegant condominium and its view of the city and he was comfortable and at ease on his turf. Thus, tonight, even though he purported to dislike organized festivities – particularly birthday parties, and most particularly his own – he was pleased. Forgetting that he “hated being happy on command” and that he was categorically opposed to gifts, his spirits were high. The group was small enough for intimacy and his guests were good friends, all fun to be with.

They were at about the same place in life as he and Nat were and they shared common interests. The women, like Nat, were attractive and they sparkled with insightful wit. And his presents were to his liking. Besides a broad band gold ring inset with three little diamonds from Nat, he received a bottle of his favorite champagne, Veuve Cliquot, a copy of the Kama Sutra, a dozen glasses with the insignia of Harvard University – his alma mater – Sauvage cologne and The Warrior Angel trilogy on micro disc.

“I’d drive a hundred miles for this dinner,” Victor said with a warm smile. His remark was worn with repetition, but it was endearing because its sincerity was fresh. Indeed the meal was superb. Natalya was an excellent cook and she had stayed away from the office this Saturday in order to go all out. She served a salmon baked in pastry, a baby lamb roasted with herbs, a vegetable ratatouille, new potatoes, home baked bread and salad. The birthday cake was Victor’s favorite, a babá au rum.

Conversation was animated over the background of string music. Victor and Sunil Khanna were talking about stocks. “I’m betting on a 20 percent gain in the market this year,” Sunil said. “That’s unlikely. I’m staying invested because I don’t know what else to do, but I’m being selective. It could be a while before we have another real bull run, Victor opined. “The bottom line is that we don’t have a stock market any more, only a market of stocks.”

 

To purchase, The Pokhraj by Irina Gajjar, visit our Amazon Link.

 

 

Freedom of Personal Belief in Hinduism

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/.

Dharma

 

The idea of dharma is a central belief of Hinduism. Its meaning cannot be easily described or translated. Like karma, it is a fundamental concept.

The essence of Dharma is duty, but it is more. It is a universal principle as well as a personal principle. Hindu scripture says:

Dharma is truth.

It is said that

one who speaks truth

speaks dharma

and one who speaks dharma

speaks truth.

Bhridaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.14

Dharma embraces family life, social life, and spiritual life. It is the guideline known as Sanatana Dharma meaning Eternal Law or Eternal Order which actually defines Hinduism.

Read more on Dharma in On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. You can purchase the book on Amazon.

Vaishnavites

Vaishnavites are the largest denomination within Hinduism. Vaishnavites worship the personal form of Lord Vishnu and all his avatars, particularly Lord Krishna and Lord Rama. Their belief merges dualistic Dvaitism and with monistic Advaitism. Dvaitism views the soul as pure love of God and as separate from consciousness. However, Dvaitist philosophers maintain that the soul and consciousness merge when the soul becomes enlightened and frees itself from the body. Thus they consider Bhakti Yoga, or the Yoga of devotion, as the best means of attaining the perfection of spirit that enable the individual soul to become on with the universal soul.

To read more from On Hinduism, visit our Amazon Link to purchase the book.

The Shaivites

Hindu homes often contain an altar which is generally dedicated to the deity worshipped by the family, most usually Lord Krishna, Shiva, or one of the many manifestations of the female God force that has various names, like Durga Lakshmi, or Devi. Shrines and temples dedicated to particular deities may also become regular pilgrimage destinations for devotees. Yet other mainstream Hindus exercise their religion within the frameworks like eclecticism, atheism, or secularism without leaving Hinduism’s embrace.

Shaivites worship Lord Shiva above other aspects of God. Shiva, the awesome and frightening aspect of God, represents destruction, the force that leads to regeneration. Shiva’s energy is also Shakti, the force which is inseparable from female creativity. Shiva Shakti is often perceived as one impersonal, genderless power. Shaivism is monistic or Advaita meaning that matter and consciousness are viewed as one in God.

Shiva is probably the earliest manifestation of God that existed in Hinduism. Lord Shiva has been identified with the Rigvedic God of wind and storm who was described as benevolent and kind. The Sanskrit meaning of Shiva is “auspicious.” Shiva is thought to have also been worshipped in the Indus Valley Civilization which flourished before the predominance of Aryan culture in India.

Tune in next week to learn about the Vaishnavites in another excerpt from On Hinduism from Irina Gajjar. To purchase the book, visit our Amazon link.

Hate vs. Love

 

Just considering the world, people, and history, it seems that momentum is greater when it comes to hate and anger than when it comes to love and goodwill. Going high in response to going low does not appear to produce as much energy as retaliating.

Most religions do not acknowledge or deal with this concern. They suggest detachment, leaving matters to the Lord, or succumbing. Meanwhile, problems and anger fester and grow with destructive outcomes.

Meditations seeking to promote peace and faith in a higher power are occasionally organized by institutions associated with religion, sometimes on very large scales. But no meditations or prayers or thoughts are promoted to overcome negativity arising from fear and fury. No prayers or discussions are held to consider defeating the evil that provokes anger.

Some answers lurk in the notion that anger and hatred are individual emotions whereas ideals like world peace and harmony are beyond our control, but in my view this suggestion is insufficient. So is the idea that evil depends on our viewpoint. We know it when we see and feel it.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how best to amplify our response to evil.

Knowing God

 

Although God cannot be understood by the mind, God can be known by the spirit. In chapter seven of the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjun that he will understand God after knowing Him. God says the He knows all beings, but they do not know Him. People cannot see God because confusion and desire cover their minds, but they can reach God by seeking Him.

The Sanskrit language distinguishes between spiritual knowledge (seeing, knowing) and rational knowledge (understanding). We can come to know God only by seeking Him. Trying to understand God is a path to knowing Him, yet we cannot understand God without knowing Him. This is an apparent paradox, not a real one. It means that we must take steps toward understanding God in order to experience God. While the absolute cannot be understood by our finite mind, it can be known by our infinite soul. However, the soul can only experience the truth if the mind strives for it to do so. Reason or understanding is a path that leads to spiritual knowledge, but only spiritual knowledge has the power to reveal God.

Learn more about Irina’s book, On Hinduism. You can purchase the book on Amazon using this link.