Critical Podium Dewanand
HINDUISM-AN INTELLECTUAL APPRAISAL by SK Balasubramanian, Ph.D.
Sacrificer SK Balasubramanian, Ph.D.
Sacrifice code wfor0391
Sacrifice date 25 march 2009
HINDUISM-AN INTELLECTUAL APPRAISAL
259, Bund Garden Road,
Ph: +91-20-2612 0627
I am enclosing a recent article of mine on Hinduism.
It counters all the negative opinions of American theologians, recently
circulated by you.
If acceptable, this article may be circulated and comments invited.
I have no objection to its being reproduced in any form.
HINDUISM-AN INTELLECTUAL APPRAISAL
Alone amongst the religions of the world, Hinduism is based on
evolution. It has neither a founder nor a date of foundation. It had
evolved over ages by debate and consensus. Conflict resolution by
rational and reasonable choice is its forte. It accepts plurality to
promote creativity in society.
In a unique manner it is a religion of Joy. It celebrates the
joy of life. Its Gods are neither severe nor demanding. Krishna in the
Aryan tradition and Murugan-Skanda in the southern tradition represent
the holistic approach of the religion. Both these Gods are celebrated
for the various facets of their genius. They are fondly accepted as
infants for their mischievous games, loved for their youthful zest,
respected for their valor and venerated for their wisdom.
Quintessentially they sum up human evolution.
Hinduism understood that life provides a messy milieu and
pluralism is the only solution to the problems. It defined the goal of
life as creative achievement. Competition and co-operation were looked
on as two sides of a coin. One implies the other. Competition without
the human cost that it often entails and co-operation without loss of
focus were chosen as the processes by which humanity should evolve.
After several thousands of years this approach still retains its
OM is the Infinite Reality that pervades the universe. It is
all-inclusive. It is looked upon as infinity that cannot be added to or
subtracted from. In short it is the singular entity, the "Whole"
Poorna in Sanskrit.
OM poornam adaha, poornam idam, poornat poornamudachyate
Poornasya poornamadaya poornameva avashishyate.
That is infinity, this is infinity, infinity arises from infinity
Taking infinity's infinity out leaves behind infinity.
It means that Infinity is not affected by any operation on it.
OM manifests itself as Brahma, the creator, in its anthropomorphic
version and as Hiranyagarbha or the golden womb in the inanimate
version. Logically every being has to be a part of the infinite. If it
excludes anyone, it is no longer infinite or the whole. This is the
basis for the Upanishadic postulate that "I am the Brahman"
Brahmaasmi) or "You are that (Tat Twam asi)." It means I blend
the infinite in a seamless manner. This is the logic of Advaita or
Hinduism formulated a fourfold approach to creativity called
the Purushaarthha or the goal of life. The four components of the
concept are Dharma, looked upon as evolutionary ethics, Artha or the
creative generation of wealth, Kaama that encompasses the mighty
instincts that are the moving forces of life and the minor desires
that embellish human efforts and finally Moksha, the evolutionary
solution to existential problems. These have a parallel number of
stages of life known as Ashramas. These are Brahmacharya or student,
Grihasta or householder, Vaanaprasta and Sannyasa or renunciant.
Vedanta defines the technique by which the convergence of Sannyasa
and Moksha is achieved.
Moksha is liberation from the shackles of existence. These are
known in modern parlance as the phobias and fears, inhibitory complexes,
unnatural conditioning and irrational impulses. These and the
deficiency in sensual perceptions, known as Maaya, are to be overcome.
Shankara suggested the following steps to achieve Moksha.
Nirmohatve nischala chittam
Nischala chitte jeevan mukhtih.
In good company one learns objectivity;
Delusions disappear in objectivity;
Equanimity arises from the undeluded state;
In equanimity lies liberation.
Objectivity is the most important first step. In fact one can say with
confidence: "Objectivity is the operative word of Vedanta."
Artha is the generation of wealth. Looting was not part of the
process. It was not allowed even to a victor in war. The story of Porus
telling Alexander that he (Porus) expected to be treated in a manner
befitting his royal status illustrates this concept. To Alexander this
was new. He had looted Persepolis and burnt down the library there.
That was not Hinduism.
Hinduism recognized the importance of wealth in human welfare.
It did not look upon wealth as repulsive. Not for the Hindu is the
Christian axiom that "It is more difficult for a rich man to enter
Kingdom of Heaven than it is for a camel to pass through a needle's
eye." As we shall see later prosperity, as part of social evolution,
is considered a divine blessing. The meek shall not inherit the earth
except for the small part required for their grave. A Tamil proverb
asks one to "go over the rolling seas and earn wealth." In this
Hinduism differs radically from Christian teaching. Islam treats wealth
in amoral terms. It seems to follow a cynical Tamil proverb: "The
proceeds of a dog do not bark."
Generation of wealth depends upon manufacture, trade and
agriculture. In all these activities natural elements play a part. That
is why there is no binding code for the Vaishyas. They are
unpredictably far too dependent upon Nature.
Kaama is a compendium of instincts ranging from the powerful sex
instinct to commonplace desires. Desire, in any measure of intensity or
at any level, as such is not objectionable. Gita sanctifies it by saying
"Dharma aviruddo aham bhuteshu kamo asmi" "I am kaama that
militate against Dharma." (VII, 11) Buddhism holds desire even in
mildest sense as the cause of misery. Desires, as the fount of actions
and effort, are not blameworthy. The cause of misery is not desire but
the unreasonableness of it. As long as desire is realistic and the
assessment is objective there is no scope for misery. In fact one may
define misery as a measure of lack of realism. Misery is inversely
proportional to realism.
The National motto Satyameva Jayete naanrtam means this. There
are two Sanskrit words for 'truth'. Satyam is the absolute Reality. Rta
is the human perception of Reality or truth in English. It is limited
by the subjective element. Anrtam is defective perception or delusion.
The axiom means "Reality prevails over delusions". Realism is
rock on which Hindu perceptions and precepts stand.
Kaama, being subject to Dharma, is against rape and forced or
unlawful marriages. Such forms of gratification are not acceptable. So
is the exploitation of women in weak position. In particular any
offence against a daughter in law or sister in law is against the moral
code. It is here that Hinduism differs radically from Islam and its
practices. Mohammed is said to have married his own daughter in law
Zainoba after a legal fiction of a divorce by an all too obliging
adopted son Zaid. Mohammed claimed to have received divine dispensation
both for the divorce and his marriage to her. In fact after this
incident Mohammed's favorite wife, Ayesha, said: "God is too obliging
to His prophet."
Solomon was the wisest of the kings of Israel. On God's orders
he built the first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. He was borne by Bathsheba
to David, the second Israeli king. She was earlier married to Uriah, a
Hittite soldier. David got him killed in a battle to facilitate his
marriage within the bounds of the Ten Commandments. Such legal quibbling
is not permitted in the Hindu law. Only recently Israelis have come to
terms with the immorality of such actions. Muslims have yet to confront
Projection of one's anticipations far into future is not advised
in the Gita. Design for the future or plan is a form of projection. When
coupled with determination it is known as sankalpa in Sanskrit. Sankalpa
is the deadly sum of desire, design and determination. "One who does
give up sankalpa cannot become a Yogi." (VI, 2) Determination and
obstinacy deprive one of objectivity and are responsible for misery,
one's own and, more tragically, that of others. While desire is not bad,
sankalpa, interpreted as mulish obstinacy without consideration of the
cost, is the forerunner of misery. Sankalpa carries within it the seeds
of decline and decay. Single-track approach to life should be avoided.
One should be alive to the new vistas and options as they open up.
Evolution is the corner stone of Hindu belief. This is the only
religion that glorifies excellence as divine. Chapter X of the Gita
bears this out. "I am Vishnu amongst the Adityas" starts Krishna
goes on to identify every one of the best amongst Gods, humans, animals
and inanimate objects as divinely endowed. Among the brilliant stars of
the sky God is Ravi the brightest on earth. Among the Rudras he is
Shankara; amongst the rakshasas he is Kubera the God of wealth; God is
Brihaspati among the Purohitas and Skanda of the Generals. He is Kapila
of the Siddhas. He is Vaasudeva among the Vrishnis and Rama among the
soldiers. Among the rishis he is Brigu and Vyasa of the Munis. He is
Ushana among the poets. Among the Vedas the blessed one is Saama Veda.
Among the Asuras he is Prahlada; and Chitraratha among the Gandharvas.
He is the Ashwattha tree and among the elephants He is Airavata and
Uchhaishravas among the horses. Among the Fishes he is the Shark. He is
Anantha among the snakes and Vaasuki among the poisonous snakes. He is
the ocean among the lakes and Himalyas among the hills. He is Meru
among the peaks. Krishna concludes:
"Wherever there is brilliance,
Satva, prosperity and durability recognize the presence of divine endowment."
(X, 41) In short Excellence is divine.
In fact the Hindu definition of Divinity is the best I had
come across. "Deivee Sampat Vimokshaya , Nibandaaya aasuri mata,
(XVI, 5) The Divine aspect should liberate the human mind while the
Asura aspect enslaves it. Whatever expands your horizon and inspires
you to higher levels of accomplishment is divine. That which binds one
down to limited concepts and ideas is enslaving and is to be considered
Hindu evolution is different from the Darwinian evolution,
summed up in the phrases 'Natural Selection' and 'Survival of the
fittest.' The implication of Darwinism is that there is competition in
life and survival depends upon elimination of the competitor. Life is
viewed in adversarial terms. Extrapolation of these concepts would lead
one directly to Friedrich Nietzsche and the Brave New world of Aldous
Huxley. Nietzsche postulated the emergence of superman by elimination
the inefficient, inept, less intelligent and incapable human beings in
society that had got rid of compassion by the prior appearance of
Anti-Christ. Huxley imagined a future society, (After Ford, as he called
it) in which humans are hatched in hatcheries and tailored to fit the
requirement of a society defined in hedonist terms. By conferring
divine grace on every form of life and other objects the Hindu evolution
does not subscribe to competition among the living systems. It
envisages symbiotic coeval forms of life at different levels.
The catholicity of the Hindu religious approach is brought out
by the Upanishadic prayer:
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
Asato ma sat gamaya
Mrityor ma amritam gamaya.
This is to be translated in modern idiom as:
Lead thou me from
Ignorance to enlightenment
>From the unreal to the Real
>From the transient and evanescent to the immanent and eternal.
The Gita confirms the divine spark in every one of us in the Shloka
Ishwara sarvabhootaanaam hriddesho Arjuna tishtati
Bhraamayan Sarvabhutaani yantraaroodaani maayaya
God resides in the heart of all living beings
Mechanically activating them by Maaya.
Hinduism is not limited by a personal or exclusive God.
IT IS TO THIS ETHOS THAT WE PAY HOMAGE TODAY.
Critical Podium Dewanand
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