Topic started by a.ratchasi (@ 188.8.131.52) on Tue Dec 2 20:15:43 EST 2003.
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.
This is something that was sent to me by a friend.
Makes a good read for those with vague knowledge of what Hinduism is all about.
Here is is...
What is Hinduism?
It is the true culture of Indians in India. Many call it "A way of life." It is not an organized religion like Christianity or Islam. It has no founder. It has no Pope. It has no hierarchy. Just a lot of scriptures. In Hindu scriptures, you are actually studying about the history and culture of India, like in 66 books of the Holy Bible you are actually studying about the culture and history of the Jews.
Hinduism and Judaism are mothers of all modern religions in the world. Buddhism, Sikhism and to some extent Jainism and Zoroastrianism came from Hinduism. Of course, Jainism existed during Rig Vedic Period. Statues of Rishabha, the first Thirthankara and founder of Jainism was found in the Mohenjadaro, Harappa excavations. Islam and Christianity came from Judaism. Judaism, Islam and Christianity have Abraham as the common father figure. All three have many common prophets. There is even mention about Jesus Christ many times in the Holy Koran.
Coming back to Hinduism, C.S. Lewis, the great author and theologist wrote, finally it will come to two religions. Hinduism and Christianity. The first [Hinduism] will grow absorbing ideas and concepts from everywhere and later [Christianity] will keep away from everything that is foreign to it. What C.S. Lewis wrote is very true.
Hinduism cannot be destroyed, even if we burn every Hindu scripture and kill every Hindu theologian on earth. Hinduism or Hindu Culture is a very dynamic living, breathing Reality. Strength of Hinduism lies in its most amazing ability to adapt to different circumstances and different ages while maintaining its very strong continuity with the past. How does it do that? That is a billion dollar question.
Who is the founder of Hinduism?
No body in particular. It is the research output of countless learned men called Rishis who were Christ like masters, through centuries.
Who is a Hindu?
I believe anyone who search after truth is a Hindu. There is One and only God and One Truth. The very first book of Hindus named Rig Veda proclaim, "Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahudha Vadanti". (There is only one truth, only men describe it in different ways). So a Jew or a Christian or a Moslem who is in search after truth is automatically a Hindu. There are about 800 million Hindus in the world. There are more than 800,000 Hindus in the U.S., and about 160,000 in Canada.
What Attracts One to Hinduism?
The concepts of utmost freedom of thoughts and actions. That's what attracts many to Hinduism. Hinduism never forbids any one to question its fundamentals. On one side, in Hinduism, you may come across people worshiping pests like rats, and still on other side you will come across concepts parallel to Quantum Physics and Neil's Bohr Theory of nuclear structure and reactions. On one side Advaita (There is only one) philosophy is discussed and promoted, still on other side Dvaita (Two duality) philosophy is discussed and promoted. Hinduism never ever banished any one, since he or she wrote a wrong scripture or did not observe a particular ritual.
There was never a Salman Rushdie (author of Satanic Verses) in Hinduism and never will be there one. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, even atheists can call themselves as Hindus. That is very true. In fact the Charvaka philosophy or Nastika philosophy, (existed during the Vedic period) founded by Charvaka rejected the existence of God and considered religion as an aberration. Voltaire in Essay on Tolerance wrote: "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death, your right to say it." Hinduism is the symbol of what Voltaire wrote.
When did Hinduism Take Birth?
Nobody knows. If you go by Hindu mythological stories, Hinduism is trillions of years old. If you go by Max Muller, the German philosopher, it is at least 8000 to 9000 years old. Hinduism might have started as Dravidian civilization and later merged with Aryan civilization. Of course, my friend David Frawley has written a wonderful book, explaining that Aryan Invasion of India never happened and it is a myth.
However studying the relics of Mohenjadaro and Harappa excavations, I conclude, relics of the Indus civilization shows merging of many cultures and concepts. The Indus Valley was home to the largest of the four ancient urban civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and China. Harappa and Mohenjodaro were cities in the Indus Valley civilization that flourished around 2,500 B.C. in the western part of South Asia. The roots of Hinduism can be traced to this civilization. The language spoken here is believed to be from Dravidian family, which includes Tamil.
Hinduism has the strange capability to absorb and grow from all quarters and that is why in it you can see relics of all other civilizations like Egyptian, Celtic, Mayan, Greek, Roman etc. To me it does not matter the exact date it was born, since nobody can prove or disprove the exact date. I am more concerned about what it has to give to the world.
What was the original name of Hinduism?
Sanatana Dharma or Righteousness Forever was the original name of Hinduism. It was Persians who invaded India during 6th century B.C. who gave the name Hinduism meaning the religion of people living near the Indus river. In Persian the letter H and S are pronounced almost the same so they mistook the word Sindhu (Sanskrit name for Indus) to H and then started calling Hindus and Hinduism.
What is the language in which the Hindu scriptures were written?
Sanskrit older than Hebrew and Latin. The first words in English language came from Sanskrit. The word mother came from Sanskrit word mata and father came from Sanskrit word pita as per the PBS video "The Story of English". Believe it or not the word geometry came from a Sanskrit word named Gyaamiti meaning 'measuring the earth'. The word trigonometry came from the word Trikonamiti meaning 'measuring triangular forms'. Sanskrit, which literally means "cultured or refined" was the classical language of India and is the oldest and the most systematic language in the world. Forbes Magazine, (July, 1987) wrote: "Sanskrit is the mother of all the European languages and is the most suitable language for the computer software."
How was Hinduism Started?
According to Hindu scriptures it started as Shruti that which is heard. The great seers of ancient times called Rishis who had perfected themselves have heard in their hearts, eternal truths and they taught those truths to disciples by telepathy and later they wrote them in books. Vedas and Upanishads are known as Shruti literature rest is called Smriti that which is remembered literature.
All Hindu scriptures were considered as revealed truths of God. In fact Hindu scriptures say that all Hindu Scriptures were written by God. According Christian theologians Holy Bible is considered to be Holy Spirit inspired book. According to Mimamsa school of thought, all Shruti literature existed all through eternity in the form of sounds. Therefore those sounds of words of Vedas and Upanishads are very important to Hindus.
What are the Sacred Books of Hinduism?
The very first sacred books of Hinduism are called Vedas. Vedas means knowledge. There are four Vedas and they claim to teach men the highest aspects of truths which can lead them to God. Vedas and Upanishads are Shruti scriptures. The word Veda came from the root word "vid" meaning "to know". Vedas are the very first scriptures of Hinduism. Vedas as per scriptures was written by God. Vedas state "Self Ralization" is one and the goal of human life. Vedas also discuss in detail rituals and ceremonies to attain self-realization. There are 4 Vedas. They are:
Rig Veda Knowledge of Hymns 10589 verses
The Hindu Rig Veda is the foremost book of Hindus. It is the oldest book in the world. Nobody knows when Rig Veda was written. According to Bal Gangadhar Tilak it was written in 5000 BC. German philosopher Max Muller dates 1500 BC. According to some it took centuries to write this book from 1500 B.C. to 500 B.C. Rig Veda is older than Gilgamesh (2500 B.C) and the Old Testament.
The very first Veda, Rig Veda very clearly shows that it was written, when nomad man first settled down on the banks of rivers like Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus etc. That is the reason why, in Rig Veda, you see, people are worshiping natural powers like lighting, rain, Sun, fire (Agni); water; air, that effects cultivation. It consists of 1028 hymns, comprising of 10,589 verses in 10 chapters known as Mandalas. 33 gods are worshiped in Rig Veda. There are 100 hymns addressed to Soma; 250 addressed to Indra; 200 hymns addressed to Agni; Many addressed to Surya. Few addressed to Ushas, Aditi, Saraswati, Varuna and Asvins. Lord Vishnu is a minor god in Rig Veda.
One of the most important statement came from the Rig Veda is "Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahudha Vadanti" meaning "Truth is one but men describe it differently". Lord Vishnu has minor importance in Rig Veda. Name of Lord Siva is mentioned as Rudra. Soma in Rig Veda is intoxicating drink to gods. The word Sura came those who drink an intoxicating drink which I think is Soma. The word Asura came from those who do not drink that drink. Another word that caught my attention in Rig Veda is the word Rta which means some kind of cosmic order. I think the word Dharma originated from the word Rta.
One of the most prominent hymns of Rig Veda "Purusa-Sukta Purusha (man) and the Primordial sacrifice of Purusha for the betterment of man and the world". Another one is "Creation Hymn.
Caste system started in Rig Vedic period. The Rig Vedic Hymn, known as Purusha-Sukta (Mandala-x, 19th hymn, 12th verse) states: "The Brahmin was Purusha's (cosmic man - the first principle of Sankhya Philosophy in Hinduism) mouth, the Kshatriya his arms, the Vaisya his thighs and Shudra his feet.
Yajur Veda Knowledge of Liturgy 3988 verses
Yajur Veda deals with knowledge of rites. This Veda is based on Rig Veda. It contains rules and regulations explaining how to conduct rituals. It consists of prose as well verse. This Veda is indeed a priestly handbook, even describing the details of how to make an alter. Sacrifice is one of the most important aspect of this Veda.
Sama Veda Knowledge of Music 1549 verses
Sama Veda deals with the knowledge of chants. Sama means "melody". The classical Indian music originated from this Veda. This Veda is also based on Rig Veda. Verses from this Veda is sung when "Soma Sacrifice" is performed. Sama Veda is similar to Psalms in Christianity. To some extent much of this Veda is a repetition of the Rig Veda sung in melodious format. Invocations of this Veda is addressed to Soma (moon or the narcotic drink Soma); Agni (fire); Indra (god of heaven). One of the Upanishads that came out of this Veda is Chandogya Upanishad.
Atharva Veda Knowledge given by Sage Athrvana 6000 Verses
Atharva Veda contains the knowledge given by sage Athrvana. Some state that sage Athrvana did not formulate this Veda but was the chief priest in the ceremonies associated with it. Atharvana who is mentioned in the Rig Veda was considered as the eldest son of Lord Brahma (God of creation). Atharva Veda is also known as Brahma Veda, because it is still used as a manual by Hindu priests and Brahmins. Ayurveda is a part of Atharva Veda.
A large number of Upanishads came from Atharva Veda. Belief it or not, much of Hindu exorcism of devils came from this Veda. At the same time, the oldest records on Veda do not talk about this Veda. There is absolutely no reference about this Veda in the Chandogya Upanishad or in the Brahmana tests or in the Jatakas or in the Bhagavad Gita. That very clearly shows Atharva Veda was non-existent when other 3 Vedas were composed.
Ayurveda The Hindu Medicine Scripture consists of more than 100,000 verses initially. Still it is considered as a upa Veda of Atharva Veda.
More Books of Hinduism
Samhitas basic texts for hymns to deities, formulas and chants. The Sanskrit word Samhita means "put together".
Brahmanas description as well as directions for performance of rituals. The word originated from the word Brahmins. Brahmins are the original Hindu priests and they follow Brahmans to conduct rituals.
Aryanakasb contain Mantras and interpretations of rituals. This book also known as "the forest books" since book is used by saints who meditate in the forests.
Upanishads texts revealing ultimate truths by different saints. Upanishads teach men that there is One and Only thing and that is BRAHMAN. You and I are just reflections of Brahman. Or we are indeed God... Upanishads teach us "Tat Tvam Asi" That Thou Art. In fact, the word Upanishad can be broken down as upa (near) ni (down) shad (sit) meaning that teachings of Upanishads were conveyed from masters to students when students sat very next to masters and nobody overheard those teachings.
There are a total of 108 Upanishads. Principle ones 13. Some of the Upanishads are named after the sages who answered all questions. Some as per the first word in the Upanishad.
1. Isa Upanishad, 2. Kena Upanishad, 3. Katha Unpanishad, 4. Prasna Upanishad, 5. Mundaka Upanishad, 6. Mandukya Upanishad, 7. Aitareya Upanishad, 8. Taittirya Upanishad, 9. Chandogya Upanishad, 10. Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad, 11. Kaushitaki Upanishad, 12. Shvetashvatara Upanishad, 13. Maitri Upanishad.
Smriti Literature consists of large number of books.
Vedangas scriptures attached to Vedas.
1. Dharma Sutras Codes of Manu, Yatnyavalkya etc
2. Jyotisha Astrology and Astronomy
3. Kalpa rituals and legal matters
4. Siksha phonetics
5. Chhandas measurements
6. Nirukta Etymology
7. Vyakarana Sanskrit grammar
1. Ayurveda Hindu science of health and longevity
2. Dharnur Veda Hindu science of archery and war
3. Gandharva Veda Hindu science of Music
4. Artha Shastra Hindu science of governing by Kings
Darsanans Hindu Jnana Yoga Path of Knowledge
1. Nyasa Sage Gautama wrote Nyaya sutras
2. Vaisheshika Sage Kanada wrote Vaisheshika sutra
3. Samkhya Sage Kapila - Gita starts with this philosophy
4. Yoga Sage Patanjali wrote Patanjali Yogasutra
5. Mimamsa Sage Jaimini wrote Mimamsa Sutra
6. Vedanta Sage Veda Vyasa
Vedanta (At the End of the Vedas) meaning it started at the end of Vedic age, has two parts : 1. Advaita Philosophy - One Only - great exponent Adi Sankara and 2. Dvaita Philosophy - Two - almost all Vaishnava Saints.
Itihasas or Epics : Mythological Scriptures
1. Ramayana story of Rama, written by Valmiki. Ramayana is the story of Rama and princess Sita. Valmiki wrote the whole Ramayana as the narration of a crying dove (who just lost her lover to a hunter's wicked arrow) to him. This beautiful poem consists of 24,000 couplets. Lord Rama is one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu and Ramayana is a story which projects Hindu ideals of life. There are many versions of Ramayana. The Hindi version was written by sage Tulsi Das The Malayalam version (Kerala state) was written by Thuncheth Ezuthachan. The original text was written in very stylish Sanskrit language
2. Mahabharata story of Pandvas and Kauravas 220,000 verses, 18 chapters Bhagavad Gita is part of this scripture. It is lengthier than Homer's ODYSSEY. It consists of episodes, dialogues, stories, discourses and sermons. It contains 110,000 couplets or 220,000 lines in 18 Parvas or sections or chapters.
Apart from 18 parvas there is a section of poems in the form of an appendix with 16,375 verses which is known as Harivamsa Parva. So in total there are 19 Parvas, even though many saints do not consider the last Parva as an important parva. The Bhagavad Gita is part and parcel of Mahabharata.
Is Bhagavad Gita the Hindu Holy Bible?
Bhagavad Gita is a part of the epic Mahabharata, appearing in the middle of the great epic. Many consider Bhagavad Gita as the most important scripture of Hindus. If the entire Upanishads can be considered as cows, then the Bhagavad Gita can be considered as milk. It is the essence of the Vedas.
Bhagavad Gita consists of 18 chapters and 700 verses. It deals with all type of Yogas, means of self-realization. It is in the form of a very lively conversation between the warrior-prince Arjuna and his friend and charioteer Lord Krishna, at the outset of the great Mahabharata war, in the middle of the battle field. Just before the beginning of the war, Arjuna refused to fight, when he found he had to kill thousands of his own kinsmen to be victorious in the war. Lord Krishna advised him on a very large variety of subjects in a question and answer format. At the end, Arjuna took Lord Krishna's advice and fought and won a very fierce war. Gita has an answer to every problem a man may face in his life. It never commands anyone what to do; Instead it discusses pros and cons of every action and thought. Throughout Gita you will not come across any line starting or ending with Thou Shalt Not. That is the reason why Gita is the darling of millions of seekers of truth throughout the world.
Versions of Gita
The very first English translation of Gita was done by Charles Wilkins in 1785, with an introduction by Warren Hastings, the British Governor General of India. One of the most popular translation was done by Sir Edwin Arnold, under the title The Song Celestial. There are many translations of the Gita and one of most descriptive translation on Gita was done by Swami Sri Prapupada of International Krishna consciousness. Almost all saints in India have published their versions of the Bhagavad Gita. Recently the Self Realization Fellowship, California have published an excellent translation of the Bhagavad Gita. Most intellectuals in the world go through Gita at least once in their life time. Aldous Huxley wrote: The Bhagavad Gita is perhaps the most systematic scriptural statement of the perennial philosophy" in his introduction of the The Song of the God by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. Gita won the interest and admiration of great intellectuals such as Von Humboldt of Germany and Emerson of America. It has influenced thinkers like Hagel and Schopenhauer.
Father of Atom Bomb and Bhagavad Gita
Robert Oppenheimer, the very first Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission and father of Atom bomb was a great admirer of the Bhagavad Gita. He learnt Sanskrit during Manhattan Project to understand the true meaning of Gita. He really shocked the world, when he quoted a couplet from Gita (Chapter 11:12) after witnessing the first Atomic Explosion in the state of New Mexico. Later when he addressed congress regarding Atom Bomb he said Atom Bomb remind him of Lord Krishna who said in the Bhagavad Gita, "I am death devourer of all".
Puranas 18 are most important
Mahabhagavatam is the most read important scripture of ISKCON (Hare Krishan). Puranas are religious stories which expound truths. Just like the parables told by Jesus Christ, these stories are told to common folk to make them understand the higher truths of life. According to Jesus Christ "Mysteries of the universe are revealed to those who are spiritually awake, but to others those mysteries have to be explained in parables". On that Puranas are called the Vedas of the Common folk, for they present the mysteries through myth and legend. Six puranas addressed to Lord Vishnu are 1-Vishnu Purana 2-Narada Purana 3-Srimad Bhavata Purana 4-Garuda Purna 5-Padma Purana 6-Varaha Purana. Six Puranas --addressed to Lord Siva are 1-Matsya Purana 2-Kurma Purana 3-Linga Purana 4-Vayu Purana 5-Skanda Purana 6-Agni Purana. SIX Puranas addressed to Lord Brahma are 1-Brahma Purana 2-Brahanda Purana 3-Brahma-Vaivasvata Puranaor Brahma-Vaivarta Purana 4-Markandeya Purana 5-Bhavishya Purana 6-Vamana Purana . Apart from that we have 22 minor Puranas
Agamas Sectarian Scriptures
They are a group scriptures worshipping God in particular form and they describe detailed courses of disciple for the devotee. Like Upanishads there are many Agamas. They can be broadly divided into three sets of Agamas.
Vaishnava Agamas worship God as Lord Vishnu
Saiva Agamas worship God as Lord Siva
Sakti Agamas worship God as Mother Goddess.
Believe it or not there is no Agamas for Lord Brahma (God of creation). Saivates have 28 Agamas and 108 Upa Agamas (minor agamas). Saktiates recoganizes 77 agamas. I am not sure about the actual number of the Vaishna Agamas. Vaishanavates consider Pancha Ratra Agamas as one of the most important agamas. Each Agama consists of Philosophy, mental discipline, Rules for constructing temples and Religious practices.
Started during Vedic age, Tantras consists of cosmology, erotic exercises etc. Tantra is very important and very vast. Sanskrit word Tantras means to expand. Tantrism researched into Astronomy, Astrology, Palmistry, Cosmology. Chakras and Kundalini power etc are the contributions of Tantras to the world. Of course Tantras also states salvation through sex. In any other religion scriptures like Tantra literature will not be tolerated. In Christianity, the first person William Tyndall who translated Holy Bible into English was mercilessly burnt at stake, and copies of his Bible burnt, since church did not like his version of the Holy Bible! That is why I take my hats off to Hinduism.
Charvaka Hindu Materialism
Just like Tantras, Hinduism tolerated Chrvaka philosophy. Its founder was Charvaka. The most important book was Brihaspati Sutra. I am stating things in past tense since I am not aware if copies of this book are available in India. According to Charvaka, "Material world alone exists and our knowledge comes from sense perception". This philosophy openly propagated that there is no God, the Law of Karma has no basis and that the Vedas were written by clowns. It adds " Enjoy life while you can, for once cremated, you will never return to earth." There are still a lot more scriptures in Hinduism. I should say that there are more than 1000 scriptures in Hinduism.......We will now start discussing about each individual scripture....
What is the Hindu Concept of God?
Hindus believe in One and Only God Brahman which expresses itself in trillions of forms. Hindus do not believe God has human form or any other form. God is nameless and timeless. But there is nothing wrong to worship a God with name and form (nama-roopa), since man cannot conceive anything without any name and form. In fact, in the Shruti scriptures of Hinduism, God or Brahman has been described as Saguna Brahman (God-Brahman with attributes) as well as Nirguna Brahman (God-without attributes. In the Upanishads, God is described as NetiNeti (not this-not that) method. So first Hindus worshiped 33 natural gods in the Rig Veda. Then Hinduism came to the realization that there is one and only God - Brahman. Just like one and only Sun shines over the mountains of Afghanistan, dry deserts of Saudi Arabia; Penthouse of New York, there is one and only God which is present in the Hindu temple, Christian church, Moslem Mosque, Jewish synagogue, Buddha Vihars and Sikh Gurudwara.
If there is only One God, Why Hindus worship many God forms?
During the time of Upanishads, when the Hindu Rishis (scientists of that day) said there is only One God Brahman, they found out that laymen could not understand that concept. So they wrote Itihasas (epics) and Puranas [mythological stories] filled with many gods, with the concept that when you worship any God form, you are actually worshiping one and only God Brahman. Lord Krishna reiterated that point by saying, "Call me by what ever name you like; Worship me in any form you like; All that goes to One and Only Supreme Reality." So a Hindu when worshiping any God form is actually worshiping One and Only God Brahman. In Christianity One God expresses himself in three forms, Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.
In Hinduism One God Expresses itself in trillions of forms. That is the reason why Hindus have no problem in calling Jesus and Buddha avatars (incarnations) of God, even though Buddha did not reorganize the authority of Vedas or belief in Brahman.
Believe it or not there is no word Trinity in the entire Holy Bible and it originated only after emperor Constantine became a Christian. He did that to fuse pagan Rome to Christianity. Only mention of Trinity concept of God in the Bible, is in the St. Matthew's account of Christ's last command to the apostles, "Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the son and of the Holy Spirit" [MAT 28:19.] According to Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia the Trinity doctrine was not established until 363 A.D. It says that Trinity is the result of three or four centuries of theological development. The New Catholic Encyclopedia also states that devotion to Trinity had begun in monasteries at Aniane and Tours, during 8th century.
Why Hindus Workshop Idols?
Show me any person [except may be Jews], who does not believe in an idol, image, or symbol and I will show you the greatest liar on earth. All religions have some concept of God with name and form, but Hindus alone have the courage to admit that fact.
The Cross in the Christian church, the picture of Jesus Christ, the statue of Mary, statues of patron saints, even the black stone in Kabba are all idols. If anyone bow in front of any of them, they are breaking laws of Old Testament [LED . . . 26:1, and EX 20:2-5.] Idol worship is every where and I never ever met a man who does not worship something or someone. In fact, the first sculpture of Christ was in the form of a small boy holding on to a sheep. Now, everywhere in the world, people have pictures of Christ according to their culture. A loving young white man in USA, a tough man looking like a judge in Russia, a nice black man in Africa and a man looking like a typical man from China with a sheepish beard in China.
I respect all those pictures. Believe it or not, all of them are idol worships. Once again, God is spirit...No word or image can describe or depict God or can encompass the greatness of God. God is neither the father nor the mother. Since man cannot conceive anything without name and form, man has the right to worship God with a form. At the same time, every worship leads to a God without any name and form in course of the development of the seeker in spirituality.
What are the Hindu Moral Codes?
Hindu moral codes are written a collection of books called Dharma Sutras. Hindu moral Codes are the integral part of Hinduism and they come under the big umbrella called Dharma. It is very difficult to translate the word Dharma. Some of the codes are Ahimsa (non-killing), Satya (truth), Dharma (duty), Karuna (compassion), Virya (fortitude), Dama (self-restraint), Saucha (Purity).
What is an Avatar?
An Avatar is an incarnation of God. Whenever God come down to earth in any form then Hindus call that an Avatar. According to that definition, Christ can be considered as an Avatar, even though there is no mention about Jesus Christ in any of the Hindu scriptures.
What is Salvation according to Hinduism?
Hindu salvation concept is different from Christian salvation concept. Hindu salvation is known as Self Realization. In Hindu salvation a person realizes that he is not the body, but the immortal soul (Adman) within. That is the reason why Hindu salvation is known as self realization or "Realizing that he is the Immortal self and not the perishable body. In Hindu salvation the identity of the soul is lost when it attains salvation. Hindu salvation can be compared to a pinch of salt trying to find the bottom of the ocean. The moment the pinch of salt touches the surface of the mighty ocean, it becomes part and parcel of the Ocean. Similarly, when a person seeks after God according to Hinduism, becomes One with God when he attains salvation. Hinduism never ever boasts monopoly on salvation. In fact, as per Hinduism, any one even an atheist can attain salvation. A Jew, Christian and Moslem can attain salvation, irrespective of whether they read any Hindu scriptural book.
What is the Law of Karma?
Hindus believe in life after death. They also believe in the Biblical concept "Whatever a man soweth, that shall he reap". That is the basis of karmic law. Every action and every thought has a result. Hindus believe that every thought and every action is weighed on the scale of eternal justice. The law of karma is one of cause and effect. Nobody can escape from the Karmic debt. I believe Christ took care of the Karmic debt of all the apostles so that he can make them fishermen of men.
What happens to us when we die?
According to Hinduism, the body alone dies. the soul within the body never dies, But the path the soul takes is decided upon the past actions which are known as karmas. So the actions of former body does not die with the body. Past actions are attached to the body and they decide what kind of body the soul takes in the next life. When an individual soul exhausts all its karmas and merges with God then Hindus say that soul has attained salvation.
Does that mean one has to take millions of lives to achieve salvation?
No, absolutely not. That question is the question many ask. Hindu scriptures, especially the Bhagavad Gita very clearly says that one can attain salvation in one life, provided one surrender his will to the will of God 100%. Lord Krishna said: "Those who surrender all actions to me and regard me as the supreme goal and worship me with whole hearted devotion, will be saved by me from repeated births and deaths." In another verse, Lord Krishna said: "Give up all your righteous and non-righteous actions and come to me; take refuge in me. Then I shall free you from all sins; grieve not." That me who is mentioned is not the Lord Krishna but the absolute soul or God. Krishna is one of the representations of that God. That God can appear in another form like Christ or without any form or name at all.
How can one attain Salvation?
Through four paths
1 Jnana Yoga Path of Knowledge
2 Karma Yoga Path of Selfless Actions
3 Bhakti Yoga Path of Devotion
4 Raja Yoga Path of Breath Control and Pranayama
Most of all religious devotees of all religions are Bhakti yogies whether they believe in Hinduism or not. Very good Christians go to church everyday and surrender themselves to the deity of Christ are Bhakti Yogis. So too Moslems. Hinduism is the only religion that explains the four paths very well.
What is Aum (Om)?
It is the Hindu word. It is a syllable that stands for absolute. It is uttered in the beginning as well as at the end of all Hindu prayers. To some extent it is the logos of the Holy Bible.
Do you believe that John 1:1 came from the Hindu Scriptures?
Yes, I think so. Long before JOHN 1:1 [70 AD] was written, Hindu Vedas [ at least 5000 BC] wrote the same thing "Prajapathi Vai Agre Aseet" In the beginning was Prajapati, The Brahman, The God "Tasya Vag dvitiya Aseet" with whom was the word: "Vag Vai Oarama Brahman" and the word was verily the Supreme Brahman - The God. John 1:1 states: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God."
Why do women wear a dot on their forehead?
That dot is supposed to be the meeting point of eye brows. That important point is called Angina Chara or spiritual eye. Everyone is supposed to protect that. In fact all saints protect that point with sandalwood paste. But later women alone started protecting that area.
What is Namaste'?
It is the popular Hindu greeting performed by pressing two hands together and holding them near the heart. The whole act communicate to the world 'You and I are one. I salute and worship the God within you, which is a mirror image of myself".
Do Hindus Practice Monogamy?
Hindus practice monogamy and Hindus have stopped "child marriages in India by SAADA Act (1929) under the British. It is the Moslems in India who are allowed to marry four wives and Moslem Sharia law allows child marriages for Moslems in India.
Do Hindu Scriptures Forbid Abortion?
Yes they do. Hindu scriptures forbid abortion. From time immemorial, Hindus consider children as gifts from God. In the code of Manu, Manu forbids abortion. One of the worst acts described in the scriptures is Sis-Hatya meaning destruction of the unborn fetus. There are prayers in the Rig Veda to guard a growing embryo. Only time abortion is allowed is when the fetus is known to be defective as per Susruta Samhita, the Hindu Ayurvedic book.
What is Caste System?
There is nothing in Hinduism as complex as caste system. It emerged as a part of division of labor among people during the days of Rig Veda. The greatest apostle of caste system, was Sage Manu. He laid down all provisions governing caste system in Manu-Smriti.
Kshatriyas Fighters and warriors
Vaisya Business men
Shudras helpers of every one
Unlike in the Holy Bible, where Slavery is discussed and accepted even by St. Paul (Holy Bible verses Col. 4:11; Exodus 21:21 1: Lev. XXV:44- 55 Thessalonians 3:22), there is no statement in the entire Hindu scriptures to ill-treat lower castes, except Sage Manu's Code, where punishments of lower castes are severe comparing to punishments for the higher castes for the same offense. There is no word "untouchable" in the entire Hindu scriptures. Still caste system degenerated in India. It is indeed the greatest curse on Hinduism. It attacks the core of Hinduism. It resulted in large scale conversion of Hindus to other religions. I sincerely pray and hope, caste system eventually will go away, making it a relic of the history. Hindus should do what Christians did. Even though slavery is mentioned and accepted as a practice in the Holy Bible, even though during Civil war many such as Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America quoted from the Bible to support slavery, Christians took it upon their chin and eliminated slavery completely.
Once upon a time, India had 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes. Even there were 1,800 Brahmin castes in India. Even different Brahmin castes did not mingle themselves socially or otherwise, in ancient times. Last of all, ancient India, persecuted a large group of people called untouchables. Mahatma Gandhi said: "Untouchability is a crime against God and men." Ambedkar once wrote out of his own experience, "To the untouchables, Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors."
Why Hindus Practice Suttee (Sati)?
None of the Hindu scriptures mention about Sati. Suicide of the consort of Lord Siva, Sati, has nothing to do with Sati or Suttee. Suicide of queen Madri in the epic Mahabharata has nothing to do with Sati. Suicide of 16000 wives of Lord Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavatam has nothing to do with Sati. At the same time Suttee is the most horrendous way of widows jumping into the funeral pyre of their fallen husbands. It is an ancient ritual practiced by a warrior race of India called Rajputs. Nobody else in India, practiced Suttee. Once again, Suttee is never mentioned in any Hindu religious scripture. There is not even one episode of Suttee in the vast Hindu mythology.
Many state Hinduism is very Complex and Contradictory!
All religions are the result of the works of thousands of thinkers. Hinduism and Judaism are cultures and they are the mothers of all religions. New religions like Christianity and Islam took the best aspects of Judaism and made part of them. So too Buddhism and Jainism took the best aspects of Hinduism and made part of them. In Christianity, there were several housecleaning in its 2000 years of history. Hinduism on its part, never had any house cleaning in its history. Since Hinduism never tossed anything away, in it you will see in it primitive religion as well as very advanced thoughts.
I have repeatedly stated that Hinduism has the good, the bad and also the ugly aspects in it like any other culture or religion in the world. We have to boldly face facts and eradicate the bad and the ugly aspects, to better the lives of millions of Hindus, for years to come.
The greatness of Hinduism can be summerized in few words. "Freedom of Thoughts and Actions." That is what Hinduism stands for.
June 2, 2002
Ed Viswanathan is the author of the international bestseller "Am I a Hindu"?