In the 21st century the Hindus have the opportunity of re-inventing themselves. India has been free from foreign powers for over 65 years. Poverty is down, education is up. Economy is prospering. Time is ripe to reaffirm our heritage.
What is the heritage? What is the Hindu world view? The primary Hindu scriptures, called the Shrutis, describe the Hindu world view. The Puranas, Smritis, Mahabharata, Ramayana and every other book dear to a Hindu mind belong to the category of secondary scriptures. In popular press when people refer to the injunctions of the Hindu shastras (scriptures) they generally mean the secondary scriptures. No doubts, the secondary scriptures are of great importance to the Hindus, but one has to remember that they are subordinate to the primary scriptures. The injunctions of the secondary scriptures are to be rejected when they contradict with the teachings of the primary scriptures.
So, what do the primary scriptures say? The Upanishads, Gita and Brahma Sutra are considered the primary scriptures. There are many Upanishads. Eleven of them are considered authoritative. Kena Upanishad states just as the spider web comes out of the spider, and hair from the body, so did everything in the world from the Supreme. There is nothing secular around us, everything is divine. The very first sloka (verse) of Isa Upanishad, one of the most ancient of all Upanishads, starts with a statement that the entire universe is covered with divinity. Call It God, call It Paramatma, It is the cause of our origin and existence; It is also the material of construction. The world is an endless manifestation of the Supreme; we revere everything. It is not just “Matri Devo Bhava Pitri Devo Bhava.(Let Mother be your God, Let Father be your God..).”, it is not just “Namastasai Namastasai Namastasai Namo Namah (I bow down to Devi, I bow down to Devi..)”, it is everything. Pita, Mata, Acharya (spiritual teacher), Atithi (unannounced guest at your door), Devi are just a few apt examples that help us orient ourselves. Others, no matter how awkward no matter how apparently unqualified, deserve the same reverence. This is the reason that during any pujas we recite mantras in an all embracing spirit – Aum Dharmaya Namaha (I bow to righteousness), Aum A-Dharmaya Namaha(I bow to unrighteousness), Aum Vairagyaya Namaha (I bow to the spirit of renunciation), Aum a-Vairagyaya Namaha (I bow to the spirit of non- renunciation), and so on. Katha Upanishad states that the entire universe is beaming with intelligence (divine intelligence called Chit).
Rest of the Hindu world view is simply a deduction from this primary statement. There is no such thing, for example, as privilege of men over women, or upper caste over lower caste. The Swetaswetara Upanishad emphatically declared that man and woman, the youth and the old are just various faces of the divinity. Gita has delineated human family in four groups (Varnas). This classification was done not to differentiate families and communities in a hierarchy, but to categorize individuals based on their individual inclination and past deeds. Offspring of a Brahmin could be a Kshatriya or a Sudra, according to this definition. In Vana Parva of Mahabharata such discussion on Varna (caste, as popularly referred) is explained in detail during the dialogue between Yudhisthir and the great serpent The Hindu world view draws our attention to the understanding of unity. No matter how different we may appear from each other, no matter how different our capabilities are from one another, we are equal in the end. Everybody deserves veneration because we all have divine background.
Now that we know the big picture let us explore a couple of familiar topics. The first one is about the goal of life. From the rarified indefinable pure conscious Atma came the physical universe in a seemingly chaotic fashion where nothing remains the same for long. In this bewildering world (called Samsara), for reasons unknown, we forget our immaculate identity, get engaged in matters unbecoming of our true credentials, and display behavior inappropriate to our true nature. Why the world process confuses us of our true identity is a mystery, called Maya. In a state of perennial confusion we relate ourselves to the limited, consider ourselves limited, underestimate our potential and resort to greed, passion, deceit, fear, anger for survival. The Hindu world- view declares that the goal of life is to realize our true identity, not by just reading it in the book or instructed by a teacher, but by realizing it ourselves. Our true identity is the all knowing deathless entity that always remains pristine, unaffected by our ever changing physical circumstances and surroundings. This true identity is called the Self (Atma in Sanskrit). Our body will die, but our self will always exist; the self simply gets reborn in another body. The Self is beyond any form and definition; otherwise it would be subjected to laws of nature and decay with time. Only three attributes are applied to it as a hint to what it is. They are Sat(existence absolute), Chit (knowledge/ conscience absolute) and Ananda (eternal bliss). When a person realizes his true identity he goes beyond fear and unhappiness; sees everyone as part of himself and himself as part of everyone. He becomes the Self, and is not reborn. This state is called Moksha or liberation. This is where the human journey toward perfection ends. The primary Hindu scriptures declared over and over again that going to heaven is not the goal of life. Neither heaven nor hell is permanent; they cannot be our ultimate destination.
The other topic is karma. Hindus believe in karma. How does karma theory fit in the world view? Popular concept of karma is generally used in a negative connotation. Why is a person poor? Past karma, is a common answer. To be sure, Hindu world view on karma is not this simplistic. Hindu world view was not created to cleverly maintain social order by telling the poor people to accept their lot. Theory of karma is related to cause and effect. Some of the illustrations of cause and effect are easy to understand. Students who study diligently generally do well in exam. People who spend more time in practicing music would likely become good musicians.
Karma theory is applicable to a person’s attitude and inclinations generated by the actions and attitudes over a series of past lives. The Gita says that just as the aroma of flower is carried from one place to another so are a person’s attitudes and inclinations carried from one birth to the next. This is what karma theory expounds. Being born in the same family one person could be kind, another greedy, one could be a go getter, the other could be listless. Such attitudes and inclinations could be related to karma in past births; otherwise such diversity of behavior of people raised under similar environment is not easy to explain. Karma theory is not related to monetary and social positions though it could be argued that certain behavior and inclinations could be loosely conducive to social position and wealth.
Behaviorally we are the products of our past karma, from this birth and from the previous ones. That does not mean we have to let our past karma dictate our future. Hindu world view is emphatic about the efficacy of determined effort on this very birth. Gita calls it Abhayasa Yoga. When the mind wants to waste away in indolence Gita encourages the striver to keep motivated and strive for perfection. Gita shows that the way to cut past karma asunder is by persistent efforts, and not through magic or shortcuts. Gita never talks about submitting to fate. Gita, the premier scripture for the Hindus, preaches better future for individuals and for the society through uncompromisingly tenacious efforts. Gita stresses on yoga for efficient work; Gita never talks about taking rest.
Taking a bath at the Ganga helps, but that by itself will not lead us to liberation. Performing pujas helps, but that will not lead us to liberation. Offering refuge to cows could help, but that will not lead us to liberation. Fasting helps, but that will not lead us to liberation. Reading scriptures helps, but that will not lead us to liberation. Showing respect to elders and teachers helps, but that will not lead us to liberation. Why so! Because moksha cannot be formulated in a cause and effect scheme. The best teacher (Acharya) can only point to it by hints. Katha Upanishad emphatically reminded us (with Lord Yama lamenting) that the indefinable cannot be grasped with definable means.
So, the journey continues, for both the saint and the sinful. This is a breath taking image. When my vision captures the whole humanity travelling together, rich and poor, powerful and the meek, famous and the ordinary, scholar and the illiterate, benevolent and the cruel, on the same endless path I develop fellow feeling and compassion. Then one criticizes less, preaches less, hates less and loves more. Katha Upanishad point out that such frame of mind is a tough act. Mundaka Upanishad says that such pursuit requires a strong mind and a strong body. The Gita assures us that it is within our capacity
This is our world view.
Hari Om Tat sat.
Source: WHN Media Network