Religion is a werid thing, In Ireland there is alot of secterian attacks. I dont understand why people abuse them because of their religion.
I know exactly what you are talking about it is a terible thing you have to go throught. most of the people here have no idea how bad it is in Ireland.
It's that bad it spills over here. Not to the extent of bombs and all the rest.
Well in scotland at least i know that england gets bombed.
We are a second home in a way and have the organge order marching everywhere it is terible but i cant stand them and support the other side as you might know.
And people think terrorism is a new thing it would be funny to see how long some american people last in Ireland i have been told by some here that they get scared at trivial things even though in Ireland you actualy have reason too.
Ok i have went on a bit so i will stop this is a deep subject as you know.
On topic i have no religeon i was given this choice and am thankfull rather than being baptised and beliefes being forced onto me i was allowed to decide if i wanted to get involved
I'm catholic, but sincerely i don't believe so much... I go rarely to church, and i pray God just at home, 'coz i suppose if He does exist He can listen 2 us even if we don't go in "his house".
4 me, moreover, church is only a human thing, nothin' to do with God.
I trust God, i trust Him, but church is only a lie and a loss of time, in my view.
I'd like to know more all religions, because i think we all can learn somthing by them. In particular Asian religions are so wise, in my thought. _________________ "Verra' un giorno..."
By Alessandro Manzoni.
Добавлено: Пн Окт 10, 2005 3:39 am Заголовок сообщения:
I haven't chosen yet :)
I think that even if god exists he is very unhappy about people creating religions, & hopes he never had sent his son to us. Look at how we are divided just because of the difference in interpretation. I think I'll just talk to God straight, without passing through a religion _________________ Жизнь слишком коротка для очевидных ошибок. НаТ
Зарегистрирован: 10.10.2005 Сообщения: 72 Откуда: Tacoma, WA
Добавлено: Пн Окт 10, 2005 7:12 am Заголовок сообщения:
I'm a christian. I was never baptised and some people have told me that i'm not a christian because of that. But I don't think that being baptised means that its required of you to follow any religion or that its required to be baptised to be of religion. I'm not a 'hardcore' christian so to speak, but I will speak up when I feel the need to. Thats gotten me in to trouble before but I don't care. _________________ “I flee to decemberunderground. As you exhale, I breathe in the water underground and I'll grow pale without you” —“The Interview,” AFI
funny, I just took my exam in my world religion class on Hinuism a few weeks ago (I took the one on Buddhism yesterday). Its buddhism that is more of a way of life and a set of lessons. Hindus have 3 main gods and each god has innumerous incarnations. Pretty much, they only share the idea of moksha....you know what, I know this is insane but ill copy my study notes on them here...
I. The religion now called Hinduism is a broad range of religions in India. The name Hinduism, given to this religion in the 19th century, was derived from the Persian word “Hindu.” The word “Hindu” means “river” and had nothing to do with religion, but originally referred to the people who lived in the Indus River Valley. It later came to be used for all people who lived in India. About 80 per cent of India’s one billion people regard themselves as Hindus. Hindu became a reference to their way of life including religious life and religious philosophy (religious world view). Life was regarded as an ongoing force of the larger cosmic whole. At any moment, a person will always be in the process of becoming — more than the person was the moment before.
Theosophy is wisdom about that which is divine. Theosophy, in its normal way of use, is religious philosophy. In Christian circles, the use is normally referred to as theology, and all theology is Christian theosophy. In Judaism, theosophy is expressed through what the Rabbis teach and the way that they construct their understandings of God and Judaism, etc. It is the same with the Hindu thinkers. As they try to describe the different elements of religious thought, it is their theosophy.
The problem with Hinduism is that there is no single theosophy that is standard for the whole religion. Hinduism defies being reduced into a few principle concepts or ideas or theosophical categories. There is no one set of writings that is basic to all religious practices. There is not even universal agreement on what all the gods are in the religion. And there is far from universal agreement about how to go about fulfilling religious obligations. Expressions of Hinduism vary from near naked ascetics wandering from one holy site to another, to private in-home rituals, to festivals that are attended by Indians from all over India, to extremes of meditation, even to goat sacrifices (though at most quite rare, from the Vedas and the Brahmanas it is necessary to include such sacrifices as possible expressions). Furthermore, sacrifice in Hinduism, which existed even in its early classical period, has been replaced today almost universally by ideas of honor and worship of the Hindu gods.
In Hinduism, outside of agreement on Reincarnation and the need to achieve Moksha by overcoming the effects of karma, there is little agreement. Each god has a role of its own, and each god has his own theosophy.
For Hinduism the fundamental question is not sin and righteousness. The question is duty, order, and karma. Basic to Hinduism is the idea of Dharma, the idea that there is a natural order in the universe that should be maintained. Still further, one's religious obligation is to maintain that order. In other words, doing one's duty involves knowing what the right order is and then doing it or maintaining it. When you do what is right for your caste (your level in society), then what happens is you aren't accumulating Karma. When you don't do what is right for your role/level in society, you accumulate Karma. In the Hindu theosophy, as conceptual understanding developed, the futility of getting rid of this karma through trying to live a good life was increasingly realized. In Hinduism, the very best that a person can do is to live the very best life possible within one's own caste. But a farmer, for instance, or a merchant can never become a nobleman in this life. So, the idea is that one should become the best farmer or the best merchant that one can be. Focusing on the merchant, one might say, perhaps, that making a great deal of money is an evidence of being the best merchant possible. But to do that, one may have to either violate some religious tenants (such as compassion), or have to "step on" other people. In either case, bad karma results even when trying to fulfill one's Dharma. And that Karma is going to remain forcing the merchant into the transmigration to another life.
For Hindus there are a variety of beliefs and an even wider variety of practices. There are 406 million Hindus who worship some 330 million gods and goddesses. In different areas of India there are regional variations in the way that the religious tradition is practiced. Go to a place in northern India and there may be some very different religious traditions than in a place in southern India. There is another complicating factor. A Hindu need not be following just one god. There may be several gods, in which case each one will have its own different practices, and the individual has to integrate all of these into the way the religion is practiced. Many of the localized gods are identified with the great gods of Hindu tradition: Brahma, Vishnu, or Shiva. So when a person is worshipping a traditional god, the person may at the same time think of it as worshipping one of these greater gods. Thus, the gods overlap and form cross-identifications.
According to ancient tradition of the people of the Hindu Valley, Hinduism developed from three sources:
(1) from the rural people of the Hindu Valley (2500 BCE-1500 BCE),
(2) from the more developed Tamils of the Dravidian (aborigines) culture, and
(3) from the Verdic religion of the Aryans who invaded northern part of India (c. 1500 BCE) and brought their oral text called Rigvedas. (Vedas means “eternal truth.”)
Many Hindu scholars and nationalists dispute this claim and refuse to accept the claim that their traditional religion was foreign-born. Hence they prefer the alternative name of Sanatana Dharma (eternal religion”).
II. The Dravidians and Aryans
It is believed that the Dravidians were a very sophisticated civilization. They lived in large cities with crosshatched streets and surrounded by a large, well-built wall. The houses were brick, sometimes two stories in height. They had a canal system, sewer systems, indoor plumbing, and because they were centered along the Indus River valley, they carried on trade up and down the river. There are terracotta and stone sculptures, especially of the male animal and the female human which are suggestive of their religious system. Seals (like signet ring seals) bear animals in trees (seals of ownership). There are also female figurines, donuts (stone or ceramic round things), and phallic stones. These suggest that the people were simple agriculturalists who practiced what is called a nature religion, probably one that focused on the creative powers in nature. Included in this was probably something related to the cleansing role of water and it possible that some form of meditation may have been practiced. This is really all that can be said, even on a suggestive level, about the lifestyle and religion of the Dravidians.
The Aryans were a nomadic or semi-nomadic, tribal and wandering people. Anthropologists believe that the Aryans were the ancestors of Indo-Europeans, who migrated to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and western Europe all the way through central and eastern Europe, across many areas of Asia and southeast Asia, perhaps all the way to the Far East. The basis for this concept is that they seem to share similar elements of society, language, and religious tradition.
One of these groups of people is believed to have swept into India about the year 2000 BCE. Aryans, in spite of their nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle, used chariots in warfare, and bronze weapons. The chariots and bronze weapons allowed them to hold military superiority over the Dravidians. So, whenever they moved into India, they were able to move in quickly and with a superior military force.
When they came into India, they brought their oral scriptures with them - the Rigveda. Even to this day, there remains an emphasis on this oral aspect in Hindu scripture. That is to say that the verbal transmission not only transmits the text and preserves it, but it also helps the one who is memorizing it - to absorb it into their own lives and follow its teachings. About the year 1000 BCE these oral scriptures were actually committed to writing. Thus, Hinduism is derived from an ancient scripture known as a Veda, and as a religion is referred to as Vedantism. Vendantism in India is essentially the revealed knowledge of god or of eternal truth.
The Aryans preferred male gods to the female gods of the Dravidians. The Aryans had no tradition of temples, but they seem to have made sacrifices to the Aryan gods at temporary altars. There were a number of deities (gods) that they worshipped. One was impersonal power. Another was the god of human obligations. There were the gods of contracts, fire, sun, and the national deity among others. The most important thing about the Aryans cosmology was that there is a divine order to the universe and human responsibility is to discover and to live in accordance with the divine order and to preserve that divine order. Sacrifice was commonly prescribed for maintaining the relationship between the human and the divine realms. The most important of these was the Soma sacrifice which involved the use of intoxicants. The idea of the sacrifices was that they were essentially to keep order in the universe, the cosmos, to prevent it from becoming chaotic. If the proper sacrifices were not presented at the proper time in the proper way by the proper people, the world might just kind of explode in chaos. The priesthood were the people specifically trained to do those things that were required at the proper time in the proper way.
III. Hindu Notion of Divinity
For Hinduism, their cosmology (how existence is perceived) is that everything is an extension of divine the substance. Among the millions of divinities who were the primary deities in Hinduism? What is Hindu notion of divinity? The primary deities are:
1. Brahman. He is the Supreme Deity (God), the creator god. Brahman basically creates out of himself. Thus everything is an extension of the divine substance. Therefore, everything created is in some sense divine. He is normally represented as four heads, and is also represented as a ball of fire out of which the universe comes.
2. Vishnu also known as the Pervader (the one who takes many forms) is the sustainer and provider god. He has preserving, restoring and protecting power. When he sleeps creation is withdrawn to a seed and rises again when he wakes up. He is blue in color signifying infinity. His followers are one of the largest Hindu groups and are called Vaishnavites. Vishnu has, according to Hinduism, appeared on earth in nine, some say ten, different incarnations or manifestations. Buddha is one of those incarnations. Rama is another.
3. Shiva is the god that judges and destroys, and is generally thought of as the Destroyer god. Essentially he judges behavior, but the idea of judgment is not for punishment but for cleansing, for purging, so that ultimately all of created existence will ultimately be drawn back into the divine substance. In this sense, he offers salvation. Because of this notion, for Hinduism, ultimately everyone will be saved because, ultimately, all will be purged away and all that was created would be drawn back into the divine substance. Shiva is associated with the Ganges in association with its cleansing and purging just as the power of Shiva to cleanse and purge becomes a life source. A popular cult associated with Shiva is called shivaism. In the Hindu concept, the ultimate religious goal is to return to Brahman - a return to ultimate reality, a restoration back into the divine substance.
Two fundamental ideas that we need to understand at the outset is first, the unity of the gods in the Hindu notion of divinity. Vishnu explains the unity as follows: “Only the unlearned deem myself (Vishnu) and Shiva to be distinct; he, I and Brahman are one, assuming different names for the creation, preservation and destruction of the universe. We as the triune Self, pervade all creatures; the wise therefore regard all others as themselves.” The second idea in the Hindu notion of divinity is that Brahman is the ultimate god, the highest god, but this is ultimate reality rather than personal being. It is on the order of a force or a power rather than in the personal terms found in Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. The distinction is extremely important. If God is an impersonal power or force, it makes a difference in the cosmology of its followers. What separates a person's soul from Brahman is Karma. Fundamentally, all karma is bad. So-called good karma is too inadequate in comparison to the bad to wipe away bad Karma. Basically, the state of Hindu thought today is you will never achieve Moksha - reabsorption into the divine essence - through trying to get rid of Karma. You have got to find some other way.
IV. The Caste System
First of all, there was a divinely ordained structure in society which in some sense mirrored the structure in the divine realm. And therefore, if human experience reflects such an order, it means that one must keep that same order in the human realm. This is done by what is known as the major occupational groupings or the caste system. What is the caste system? It is a very highly structured type of society in which there is no movement between one level and another. The Aryans seemed to have had a caste system of four levels.
1. The highest level in the caste system was the priest - Brahmins. The Brahmins or priests were the ones responsible for seeing that religion was carried out in the proper way and so forth.
2. The second level is the Kshatriyas. These were the warriors or nobility.
3. The third level was the Vaishyas, what you could call the peasants, farmers, small-time independent farmer, maybe even the middle class when they reach the point where they have a middle class.
4. The fourth level is the Shudras. They are related to the Aryans but in this system, they are at the very bottom level. They were the artisans and manual laborers.
5. Still, below these original four groups are the Pariahs or outcasts. When the Aryans came into India and took over the territory of the Dravidians, they had a whole new group of people who are outside the caste system entirely (the “outcastes”). Hence, the term outcast. Under the Aryan system, there was no place for them (the Dravidians). They become the ones who clean out the sewers and pick up the cow dung off the street, etc. They are what are also known as the untouchables. There is no place for them in the society. They must do the work and the jobs that nobody else wants to do and nobody else is willing to do.
What is especially significant about the caste system is that it determines nearly everything else about a person's lot in life - what will be eaten, clothing which will be worn, type of vocations pursued, possibilities for marriage, places of residence, etc. Even though since Gandhi (1948), officially the whole caste system has been outlawed, it is so fundamental to the lifestyle and religious system of Hindus that it continues to survive in an "underground" manner.
V. Religious Observance and the Rise of Revival Movements
As the Aryans invaded India, they did not do so in a single large invasion, nor a sweeping conquest over an immense geographical area. Rather, they conquered a section of territory, settled, assimilated the region into their rulership, then continued to another section, as Dravidians fled before them. The impact was to create a vast number of slightly different regions, all at different levels of assimilation, and lacking in social, political, and even linguistic universality. This has resulted in a society and culture today of many different languages, customs, and even different personal religious beliefs. In different regions or towns of India, different gods are considered most important, and there are many localized religious observances. There are, however, a few aspects of the Hindu religion held in common across India, and it is these which we will focus upon.
Ritual observance in the Aryan system was primarily aimed at assuring a materially happy life in harmony with all of the cosmic order. It was the Veda that provided the knowledge for this to happen. This was what the religion was centered around. Rituals, sacrifices, and day-to-day experiences through the caste system were to be in harmony with the universal cosmic orders. If successful, then material happiness and eternal happiness for the individual was found.
The Vedas: (1) The oldest of the Vedas is known as the Rigveda and essentially consists of praise (like a hymnal). This existed before the Aryan invasions. However, as assimilation and a broader area over which the Aryan world ruler began developing after the beginning of the conquests, the priests became even more concerned to preserve the rituals and sacrifices according to the ancient system. This led to two additional sacred scriptures: (2) the Yagurveda and (3) the Somaveda which are closely related. Both of these are primarily associated with instructions for sacrifice. The Somaveda is focused primarily on the Soma sacrifices, the most important of all the sacrifices. (4) The Atharvaveda was developed later. It was primarily composed of spells and magic by which worshippers could obtain what they wanted in this world from the divine realm.
The Brahmanas (priestly sacred texts): With the additional Vedas, and with the political and social, and religious worlds becoming more diverse due to the expansion of the Aryan world, the role of the priesthood became even more important. This resulted in the development of an almost "divine" priesthood and a body of commentary known as the Brahmanas. These commentaries - the Brahmanas - were prepared basically by the priests to instruct the priests in carrying out the sacrifices. The Brahmanas began to emerge or develop around 1500 BCE and they continue to be compiled down to about 1000 BCE.
By the year 1000 BCE, the role of the priest was becoming very sterile, very routine. They were still an important element in society but by the year 1000 BCE, whatever personal involvement there may have been to religious experiences was gone and the religion was becoming very routine, very methodical, very ritualistic. There is not any personal application. It is all what the priest does and nothing else.
The Revival Movements: There were reactions to the priestly ritualism and religious sterilization. First, new groups of writings were developed to revitalize inner devotion and to help personal approach to sacrifice. These writings were the Aranyakas by the Kshatriya clan. A new movement began to develop among the Kshatriyas (the warriors and nobility group), in part as a counterweight to the immense role in society which the priests had assumed, and in part because of the desire for a more personal religious experience. This was formed out of the notion of sacrifice as something more than just what the priest did. The resulting idea was one of inner or personal sacrifice. Through inner sacrifice, it was thought that one could do mentally what the sacrifices that the priests perform intended to do in a physical sense. In other words, it will bring a right relationship with the whole universal order. It would not then be just the "priest's religion" any longer. This transformation was so dramatic and thorough that whereas 3500 years ago the priests performed blood sacrifices to maintain the order in the universe, today no Hindu performs blood sacrifices for anything. Now the only sacrifices are internal sacrifices.
The Aranyakas (literally, forest books) were written to help people who wanted to follow this path of inner sacrifice to do so when they would go into the forest for meditation (personal retreats). They would take these books and they would meditate upon them. This meditation would help them not only then, but in the future, to understand and appropriate the meaning of the sacrifices of the religion.
The other line of action was the emergence of ascetic life. The goal of this movement was to seek personalization of the religious experience through ascetic activities. Ascetism is forsaking this world and everything having to do with this world for the purpose of religious devotion. The ascetic life took three major forms or paths: Ajavikas, Jainism, Buddhism, and Upanishads.
(1) The Ajavikas (ascetic) path: This ascetic life is based on the notion that everything in the universe is absolutely predestined. No one can do anything to change either the present situation or the course of future events. Whether by inner sacrifice or presenting sacrifices, none of that does anything to change the present or the future course of events. Therefore, the only thing that a person really can do in a religious sense is to try as much as possible to keep from being involved in this world so as to accumulate as little Karma as possible. Essentially this means doing nothing or being nothing. This brought about the practice of what is called extreme asceticism. The Ajavikas were the extreme ascetics. Their asceticism involved eating as little as possible; drinking as little of as few things as possible; wearing as little clothing as possible (usually nothing); living in the least quality housing as possible (usually no house or residence but wandering naked and eating when and where food is found). They have nothing to do with sex, forming relationships, politics, vocations, etc. While this movement didn't really last or grow and was not self-sustaining, it influenced the development of the practice of self-denial in Hinduism. It also fostered a certain degree of cynicism in religious beliefs (the notion that there is nothing one can do to influence the present or the future, so all study, inner sacrifice, priestly sacrifices, and pilgrimages, are of doubtful value). They became fatalists in the sense that the only thing that they could do was to avoid accumulating as much as possible any bad karma.
(2) Jainism (the Jains): arose out of the teaching of prince Vardhamana. That he was a prince is a reflection of what was happening in the mainstream of the religion at the time. At the top of the caste system was the priests. A prince is at the second level. This immediately implies that there is going to be some degree of distance between his perception of Hindu practice and the traditional perception primarily involving the priests. He rejected the idea of physical sacrifice. Further, he asserted that the Hindu gods were uninvolved in the world so that everything depends on oneself. However, unlike the Ajavikas, the Jains don't believe that there is nothing that can be done to change the present and the future. They believe that there are things that can be done to change these, but everything depends upon the individual. Within every individual there is a spark of life - a spark of the divine called Jiva. The spark of divine essence has the potential within it to overcome all of one's Karma. The question is how do you do it?
In a manner similar to the Ajavikas, the Jains assert that one must withdraw from active participation in this lifetime. But the asceticism of the Jains is not nearly as extreme as that of the Ajavikas. Rather, the Jains withdraw into a monastic-style community where they live away from the normal cares and occupations of life, but where they continue to provide for their own needs, at least at a minimal level. For those who accept the basic idea but aren't ready to retreat in so severe a fashion these should follow those occupations that are most closely associated with what Jainism represents so that they accumulate as little Karma as possible. In a future life, they can then come back and be a Jain when they are more ready to live the more rigorous observance through Jainism.
3. The path of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddhism): Gautama was the son of a minor nobleman. He also rejects the notion of sacrifices in Hindu religion, he rejects also the Vedas as they basically prescribed the sacrifices and dictated the social structure that became the caste system, and he also rejects the caste system. As with the Jains, he believed that the Hindu gods were generally uninvolved with humanity. He also believed in the necessity of a personal search and a reliance on oneself to achieve whatever it was that a person would achieve. He focused on one issue, the concept of suffering (the idea that being separated from the divine essence is suffering, and therefore life itself is suffering). If one could overcome suffering, then one could achieve in a single lifetime that reabsorption into the divine essence. Buddhism was probably the single most important movement, other than Hinduism itself, that came out of the development of Hinduism. We will deal in much more detail with these concepts separately.
4. The Upanishads: Still another approach was that which was set forth in the Upanishads (a volume of essays and religious reflection compiled between 500 BCE and 100 CE), and would eventually develop into mainstream Hinduism. It would be about 100 BCE when Patanjali would set forth the first major approach to modern Hindu religious practice. In the Upanishads, the Hindu triad, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva takes shape. For them Brahma is Absolute, Mystery, and Unknowable. Upanishads is more contemplative in practice and also philosophical and speculative in thought. The Upanishads sets forth the notion of Moksha as the goal of the religion, as absorption into the divine realm from which one was taken at creation. It identifies the Atman with Brahman as well as being the divine essence within a person. Atman is the eternal soul that is reborn millions of times and in many modes or forms. The Karma-Samsara cycle, however, prevents the Atman from being released, whereby one attains Moksha. Also, in the Upanishads, certain religious disciplines are suggested as methods for dealing with what is otherwise an impossible human situation. For instance, contemplation focused on the Atman empowers people to cope with the caste system.
VI. The Soul and Incarnations
Hindus believe that all existence - in fact, not just human existence, but all existence such as animals, plants, all living things - have a soul (Atman plus Karma); that soul has been in existence since beginningless time; in other words, since eternity past. That soul passes through an innumerable number of Rebirth/Redeath Cycles - as it goes from one form of existence to another (plants and things like that to animals and eventually to a level within the caste system) - seeking its real self - the Brahman that is within. In this process a person will gradually climb up through the caste system until eventually reaching the level of a Brahmin, that is a priest. And what lies beyond the priesthood is achieving that unity with the divine essence, called Moksha.
Once a person achieves the level of being born into a human existence, then it is the merit or demerit that determines whether when one is born the next time as a Brahmin, a nobleperson, a Shudra, etc. It takes many lifetimes for a person to discover their true inner self. So, a Hindu just simply expects not to do it in one lifetime. That doesn't excuse one from doing what can be done in one lifetime toward that end. On the other hand, Hindus see no reason why they should be penalized, for instance, in hell, for being unable to achieve the goal of finding their real inner self (which is the basic religious focus for Hinduism) in just a single lifetime. This is an important distinction from monotheistic religions.
What happens to the soul, which is the Atman plus karma, between incarnations? That is, between death and rebirth? Each one of the Hindu gods has their own heaven, and one's soul goes temporarily to the heaven of one of these Hindu gods before the next lifetime. In order to do that, though, one has to have done a special deed or good action to that particular god, for instance, having built a temple to that god, having endowed a monastery on behalf of that god, or supplying the priesthood with their needs - some special, major act of good or kindness. Then that person's soul, which is the Atman plus Karma, is believed not necessarily to go immediately to another lifetime but rather, in a sense, enjoys a "vacation" in between in the heaven of one of these gods.
As Hinduism developed during the centuries, the religious situation was increasingly perceived as virtually insoluble. Religious actions alone could not overcome the effects of Karma, whether the practices involved responsible living according to one's position in the caste system (Dharma), offering of sacrifices (as priests might do), use of rituals, or going on pilgrimages. During any individual lifetime, a person accumulates Karma, which surrounds the Atman like the layers of an onion. This Karma prevents the release of the Atman, and forces the Karma-Samsara cycle, resulting in reincarnation into another lifetime. However, in each subsequent lifetime, rather than successfully overcoming one's Karma, one accumulates more Karma, making release of the Atman even more remote. This continued existence of Karma forces even more lifetimes of reincarnation (remember all Karma is regarded as bad by Hinduism - even the so-called good Karma - because any Karma forces reincarnation and makes achieving Moksha more remote). Therefore, some other way had to exist in order to achieve Moksha and to overcome the problem of Karma accumulation. The traditional Vedic religion more or less indicated that it was done by the priests, the sacrifices, maintaining order in the universe, etc. But this approach had become increasingly remote and sterile to personal involvement in the religion. What is the way out? And is there a way out?
VII. Classical Hinduism: The Way to Moksha (The Four Major Paths of Yoga)
By the year 500 BCE, along with various movements to personalize religious experience and to find a non-priestly path to religious success, mainstream Hinduism began to focus on the practice of Yoga (which means religious discipline). By this time, the essential ideas (above) of Hinduism had emerged. Also developed were the basic elements of Hinduism: the necessity of intellectual or mental sacrifice - inner sacrifice; the importance of control over the world's forces (that was what the sacrificial system was all about, control over the world's forces); and finally, meditation, yoga, religious disciplines to achieve success. Between humans and the divine realm no relationship really existed, nor was there any clear connection between the god's heavens and Moksha. The gods are there to assist one on the way toward Moksha - and to give rest between one incarnation and the next. The idea of gaining the benefits of being like a priest were sought through inner sacrifice, an approach based on self-effort, which might be called Karma Yoga (the way of action).
(1) Karma Yoga emphasizes the performance of proper deeds and actions. In an earlier time, this was more or less the primary way in which Hinduism was practiced. Today Karma Yoga is regarded as the conjunction of two other forms of Yoga: Jnana Yoga (yana yoga – the way of knowledge or logic) and Bhakti Yoga (bati yoga – the way of devotion). For a Bhakti devotee, Karma Yoga says that in all that you do, do it as unto the Lord rather than for self-interest or gain so that everything that you do is sacred. For Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga says to do what is required because it is required; concentrate on fulfilling each duty as it arises, accept loss, pain, or shame with equanimity considering that these are teachers whereby one achieves calmness, even in the midst of intense activity.
(2) Jnana Yoga: After 500 BCE, a spiritual and bodily discipline known as Jnana Yoga developed, based on self-knowledge. The practice of Jnana Yoga was thought to succeed in achieving Moksha because, through contemplation, one could cut through the layers of Karma to discover the real self that is within (Atman), which can then be released. Though the Atman (one's inmost being) is considered virtually identical with Brahman (divine essence), since divinity is not personal Jnana is not perceived as self-absorbed. The idea in Jnana Yoga is, via meditation, to climb into yourself and walk around finding the divine person that is there. It is like taking an onion, running a knife through it and then pulling it back to expose the inner essence that is there. That is what Jnana Yoga intends - to release the inner essence that is there, to open it up, and let it out. There are four stages in the process of Jnana Yoga. The idea is that you do this not just one time in one situation but throughout your life:
• Introduction of the idea of an Atman within.
• Distinguish between one's persona or personality (surface self) and the true inner being - the Atman.
• The Atman becomes the outer self, known as detachment. There are two stages in the detachment:
- During reflection, meditation, quiet moments.
- While an event is actually occurring.
(3) Bhakti Yoga: By 300 BCE, there developed yet another approach known as Bhakti Yoga, which is something on the order of devotional discipline. Instead of a discipline of the mind through self-knowledge, it is a discipline of the heart. The idea is that through intense devotion to a god or manifestation of a god, one can overcome the effects of Karma and achieve Moksha, just as the manifestations of that god were able to do so. In essence, one seeks to become, through devotion, a manifestation of a particular Hindu god. From this approach, Moksha is thought by many today to be achieved primarily by the gracious love of an adorable one (the god or manifestation of a god one chooses), a reward which is bestowed upon worshippers. Moksha then, in modern Hinduism, is not primarily achieved through a specific, prescribed set of actions, but rather is achieved largely through the devotion of a worshipper to an adorable one. Devotion in Bhakti includes prayer; personal acts of devotion; ritual and ceremony; pilgrimages; and may involve myths, symbols or images (aids on which to focus and with which to identify). Another form of devotion is meditation. Meditation could be done by repeating the name of the god chosen to follow, repeating it over and over and over. Another focus of meditation might include the ways in which a person can relate to another. The Greeks identified four forms of love: parent/child, friend/friend, lovers, self-sacrificing. So meditation and practical devotion might involve the various ways that one can love god through these different types of love.
The choice of which manifestation to which one will practice devotion is an individual one. Today, some of the better known possibilities include Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus. Christianity is regarded by modern classical Hindu religion as one "brilliantly lit Bhakti highway to God". The thing is that where Christianity would say it is THE way to God, the Hindu would say that it is not the only way. One interesting aspect of Bhakti is that in Bhakti, those that follow this approach draw a distinction between Brahman and Atman. They do not see the Atman as identical to Brahman. Rather they see divinity in a personal way, as totally other, as personal, and as one to be adored and loved exclusively for himself.
Bhakti Yoga is the kind of yoga that allows one to go about the regular routine of daily life while becoming increasingly devoted to a god. Jnana Yoga is generally monastic because, fundamentally, it is necessary for one to withdraw into intense, protracted contemplation. One needs a guru that helps lead in the process, or at least it is very helpful to have a guru to lead, to discover the inner self and let it out.
(4) Raja Yoga: A fourth Yoga, more difficult to understand, is Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga perceives four layers to human existence, proceeding from the exterior to the interior. The outer layer is the body. Then comes an inner layer of the mind. A still deeper inner layer is the subconscious (soul). At the very center of the individual lies the Atman, which also is identified as Brahman. The aim in Raja Yoga is to practice prescribed mental exercises and to observe their subjective effect. This action proves the validity of the four-part notion. To follow this approach requires a guru who prescribes these exercises, each exercise validating that the body, or the mind, or the subconscious, or the Atman is really there. This is thought to lead one into a deep sense of self-knowledge, and concentration whereby one experiences "the beyond which is within," a momentary ecstasy in which one is in unity with the divine realm.
Today, it is common practice for faithful Hindus to use all four types of yoga to some degree or another, but generally whatever best suits their personality is going to be the one that they tend to follow more than the others. Any one of these four is equally okay. Not only that, but the individual Hindu is free to create a hybrid of these four. This means any combination and in any degree. Whatever works for an individual is acceptable. Furthermore, this combination might change over the course of a lifetime.
Whatever Yoga or combination of Yoga practices a person chooses, there are some general aspects of religious practice which apply for all. First of all there are some moral preliminaries which apply regardless of which Yoga a Hindu follows. The moral preliminaries are in two parts, positive and negative. On the negative side, one is to abstain from injuring any one or thing and also to abstain from falsehood; from stealing; from sensuality; and from greed. On the positive side, one should observe cleanliness and also, contentment (peace in whatever circumstance one is in); self-control; studiousness; and contemplation of the divine (meditation).
VIII. The Goal of Yoga and Steps of Meditation
In seeking liberation of the Atman, the whole idea of cleansing becomes important. In Hinduism, cleansing also has both a negative and a positive sense to it. In the negative sense, cleansing is denial and death to self. It is the god Shiva to which the Hindu worshipper turns for this. Shiva is the destroyer god, which destroys the finite to enable the infinite to come forth. In the positive sense, cleansing in the Hindu concept is enlarging one's view of life, its events and its problems, from the perspective of divinity. This involves detachment, training oneself to step back and view the world as a third party. For instance, pain would be viewed as a detached observer rather than one who is experiencing it. The way in which one learns to do this is through discipline - yoga. It is training a body and mind, ultimately, toward absorption with the infinite/divine/ultimate reality. As such, the ultimate goal of yoga is to release the Atman from the finiteness of life (flesh, mind, Karma).
The practice of Meditation is perhaps the feature most connected with Hindu religious tradition, though for the Bhakti practitioner, meditation may play little, if any, role in religious life. Meditation involves a number of steps:
1. Centering down, which is simply withdrawing from the world and settling the mind, heart, thoughts, emotions, etc.
2. Assume and practice using the lotus position.
3. Practice controlling respiration. The idea is that control of respiration helps focus attention away from the outer world.
4. Concentration. The moment one's eyes are closed there are dozens of things that start going back and forth across the mind. The idea here is to focus on one thing - to eliminate the distractions.
5. Meditation upon the object of focus - meditate so completely that there is no longer an awareness of separateness from that thought, a state which is known as Samadhi. This is to have achieved Moksha on a momentary basis, though it is not full Moksha. In this stage of absorption, the mind continues to think but as if seeing and comprehending what is invisible, totally caught up into the subject of contemplation.
Finally, the personal devotion of Bhakti has a particular form which is commonly followed:
Before rising, utter sacred sound "Uhmmm," then utter the name of one's god or gods. Proceed before the sacred shelf or shrine room where there are pictures or images of each god. Mark the forehead with ash or paste as symbol of submission to god(s). Present offerings (flowers, lit candles, food) on the altar. At dawn, midday, or sunset recite the most sacred of Vedic verses. Repeat these acts, sitting barefooted and facing east - then meditate. Bathe at midday, meditate, and make offering. Finally, worship in evening before retiring. Daily, act to honor parents and ancestors; give shelter to guests or alms to the poor; and feed animals, especially cows (incarnation of the god Brahma). Practitioners of Bhakti might be found routinely at a temple service.
IX. Writings in Association with the Yoga: The Epics and the Puranas
This Yoga emerged in association with a new era of writing, which included accounts contained in what are known as the Epics and the Puranas. Taken together, what the epics and the Puranas did was to urge a sense of devotion on the part of the Hindu towards one or another of the gods. These books established something like a hierarchy of the deities. Behind everything is Brahman, which is in and around and permeates everything. This is the divine essence - the divine life force. Then there is the triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. These are the great gods - the creator god, the sustainer god, and the destroyer god. Then come all kinds of lesser deities, the other 330 million, organized in a hierarchy in regard to each of them. Each has different roles and different relationships to humans and different relationships that they play in society. Hindu reflection established a very strong association between Brahman and the god Shiva. The god Shiva destroys - for redemption, for re-creation, for making anew. It was not just destruction for the sake of destruction, but destruction for the sake of re-creation.
In addition, the Epics and the Puranas discuss divine incarnation or manifestation. Embedded in the Epics and Puranas are commands essentially to worship, to devote oneself, to give oneself to this god or that god or this goddess or that goddess, whatever the case may be. The notion represented here is much more emphatic than just devotion, however. It is to be so devoted that one's own identity is lost in the identity of the gods and goddesses, to become, as it were, that god or goddess. In so doing, one overcomes the effects of Karma just as the god or goddess is not subject to the effects of Karma. To jump ahead, a Hindu today tends to utilize what is known as Bhakti Yoga, almost exclusively, with the belief that if one is faithfully devoted to the gods in this life, then at death, that person will achieve Moksha and be united with the divine realm.
The Puranas deal mostly with such things as creation and the end of the universe, devotion, why a particular temple existed or why a particular god was venerated there. These conveyed a sense of divine presence to Hindus and developed the association between local gods and goddesses, and their relationship to the greater gods of Hinduism. The Epics, on the other hand, deal with manifestations of the god Vishnu as a human in order to guide humans toward right living and achieving Moksha. Together, the Puranas and the Epics help convey the sense that the Hindu deities are not just remote and uninvolved with humanity. Rather they are very real and are personal. Corporate devotional activity, in fact, often focuses on these gods through the use of dance, drama, and storytelling. The Puranas weave the varieties of localized religious belief and practice into an overall Hindu religious tradition. The Epics are foundational for devotional practice. There are two main epics. One is known as the Mahabharata. The other one is known as the Ramayana.
The Ramayana is a short book which recounts the life of the next to the last incarnation or manifestation of the Hindu god Vishnu. Rama must rescue his wife when she is kidnapped, and through the story he is regarded as the example of perfect man, husband, father, son, in all things: the way he treats women; the way he treats other people; the way he interrelates with the government, etc. Rama is a divine manifestation that comes and lives among humans successfully achieving Moksha during his lifetime. By devoting oneself to this manifestation, one thereby may also overcome the effects of Karma.
The Mahabharata is the story of the struggle for "world" (i.e. a part of India) domination between two ancient Indian families. The important passage that is regarded as scripture for many Hindus is the Bhagavad Gita (meaning the “song of the Lord’). In this passage, the warrior Arunja is a young man but a proven warrior. He is heading toward the field of battle in a chariot. The chariot driver is Krishna, is a manifestation of the god Vishnu. As the chariot proceeds toward the battle, Arunja suddenly is gripped with the fear that because some of his brothers are fighting with the enemy, it is possible that he could find himself fighting with one of his own family. This would incur great Karma, he supposes, and directs his chariot driver to turn aside from the battle. Instead, Krishna continues directing the chariot into the battle and counsels the young warrior concerning truth. He indicates that there is a deeper issue of living up to responsibility; that failing to do so is where Arunja would incur Karma. It deals with religious discipline (Yoga), specifically identifying Bhakti Yoga as the highest form of Yoga, and personalizes Brahman as a loving god (rather than the usual impersonal force. The Bhagavad Gita makes reference to the idea of an adorable one (a Bhagavan or Avatar – the earthly incarnation of a deity). This adorable one is the divine manifestation to whom the worshipper chooses to commit himself in Bhakti (devotion). The Epic thereby encourages Bhakti commitment and devotion to a Bhagavan or Avatar.
X. Writings that Supplement the Vedas
Some of the written sources for Hindu religious tradition and practice have already been mentioned. The Vedas, the Brahmanas, and to some extent the Aranyakas all focused on things outside of individual religious experience. But as people wanted to become more and more personally involved in religious practice, a series of writings developed, providing prescriptions of how to do that.
Vedas: These dealt mostly with sacrifice but also with other things about the universe that were believed to have been handed down from the divine realm, according to the Aryan tradition, to ancient wisemen who then passed them on to others. In a nutshell, the Vedas were believed to be divine revelation of truth. The believer who accepts these notions of truth contained in the Vedas is called an Astika. Priests are all Astikas. The Jains and the Buddhists, who reject the notion of truth in the Vedas, are Nastika, the term used for those who reject the notion of truth in the Veda. Today he Vedas are still important for Hinduism, but the Vedas have been added to as the religion has undergone change.
Sutras: One supplement to the Vedas is the Sutras, which also supplement the Brahmanas. The Sutras prescribe sacrificial acts and ceremonies for individual households - not priests - to carry out. The focus is on the individual and individual households - religious acts, sacrifices, offerings, ceremonies, that each individual household carries out as devotional acts.
Sastras: Another supplement to the Vedas is the Sastras. These are instructions for human conduct and human relationships. These provide the ethics of Hinduism. The Sastras are instructions on how to act, and on relationships between people generally. Among the things covered are not just relationships between people, but also issues of law, relationships between the individual and the government, and the way the government ought to be constituted (the way it ought to operate, the responsibilities it ought to have towards the people it governs).
XI. Temples, Pilgrimages, and Other Hindu Religious Expression
Hindus from all walks of life, regardless of caste, Yoga, or where they live (inside or outside of India), maintain a home shrine. The idea of the home altar is to reinforce the relationship or presence of the one worshipped in the home and to aid in personal acts of devotion. In addition, there are village temples and great temples, and Hindus often go on pilgrimages to holy sites in India.
Temples are regarded as residences of the deities. Usually a temple is erected at the place where it is believed a particular deity was manifested to humans in some very apparent and powerful way. Local temples are especially accessible to the local population. The local gods are frequently identified with Vishnu or Shiva, or with Rama or Krishna, but then Rama or Krishna are manifestations of Vishnu. This means that for a Hindu, the major Hindu gods are essentially localized for them to worship. As one worships the local deity, it is also understood that the worship is also directed toward the greater Hindu gods as well.
Structurally, temples and shrines are usually surrounded by a wall which encloses a courtyard. Within that courtyard, there is a tank of water for ritual cleansing (whether it be for washing the feet to cleanse oneself, or for cleansing an offering). In the courtyard there also will be a small sacred room or building containing an image of the particular god or goddess venerated at that site. The priests perform daily ceremonies and activities related to that god as if they were servants in a royal court. On a daily basis they get the god up, bathe it, clothe it, feed it (offerings), and present offerings of flowers and incense. They oftentimes chant a mantra (a brief syllable like "uhmmmmm"), singing it over and over as they are going through the entire day's activities.
Pilgrimages to holy sites and festivals are also acts of worship and devotion toward the Hindu gods. These help the devotee to grasp the human/divine relationship. When one goes to a place where it is believed that a god was manifested, or to a place of religious significance such as along the Ganges River where it is believed submerging in the river can wash away Karma, there is a greater sense of identification to be perceived between the worshiper and the divine realm. Pilgrimages may be made to rivers, mountains, coasts, shrines of various gods - anywhere where human/divine contact is believed to have occurred. Before departing on the pilgrimage, one would worship the god Ganesha, which is regarded as the one which controls the success of any venture. One of the most popular of the pilgrimage sites is a place called Varanasi, which is on the Ganges River. Varanasi is one of the most significant for several reasons: it is a place that Shiva is reported to have lived; and it is said that there are two white footprints of Vishnu that are visible there. It is also said that Rama worshipped at Varanasi. It is the site where the god/human interaction is thought to have been the strongest. One annual festival is celebrated at this site, the Dussehra festival. During this festival the whole Ramayana story is reenacted. Other activities associated with pilgrimages vary, but typically may include performing various rites such as bathing and presenting offerings. Offerings of incense and flowers are the most common. Bathing requires certain rites, such as shaving the head, donning a particular robe, or fasting for a certain number of days. Many of these things depend on caste.
At a site called Allahabad, also on the Ganges River, in February a festival takes place called the Magh Mela. This pilgrimage includes performances of religious plays and preaching of sermons by different priests or outstanding religious persons. This resembles, in some ways, an old time camp meeting or revival in American religious history.
Another way in which Hindu worshippers, especially those no longer residing in the land where their temples are located, seek to continue to keep their Hindu traditions alive and vibrant has been through organized groups that would meet together for prayer or singing and for communal acts of devotion. Much of this approach has come out of the western experience of the prayer meeting. On the other hand, there is a practice native to India that in recent years has become popular in America among Christian groups, known as Ashrams. The idea was imported from India by Christian missionaries. It is similar to a retreat center. The purpose of the Ashram is to provide the Hindu with a place for reflection and growth as a personal religious retreat. Each Ashram has its own particular goal. Sometimes it might be to discover a deeper sense of spirituality; at other times there is teaching in order to bring traditional Hindu ideas and modern ideas together. The daily discipline at an Ashram includes such things as lectures by various religious leaders, periods for meditation and the facilities to do the meditation, food and lodging (usually with an ascetic emphasis), and group devotion.
The Hindu Festival Calendar
The celebration of the festivals has social benefits. Among the benefits are: help release tension and stress, provide energy to cope with harsh economic and political conditions, social alienation and degradation due to the caste system. Below are the most important of the Hindu festivals often associated with the divinities and the changes of the season.
January: Lohri – celebrated in the Punjah to mark the end of winter
February: Pongal Sankranti – a feast held in South India to celebrate rice harvest
March: Holi – National celebration of Spring and the New Year.
Shivaratri – a national honoring of Shiva; fasting and all night vigil takes place in
temples dedicated to Shiva
April: Sri Vaishnavas – an honoring of Vishnu
May: Rathyata – birthdate of Lord Jagannath celebrated with chariots in Puri.
August: Jammashtami – the birthdate of Krishna, a national celebration, a day of fasting
September: Dusserah – a celebration of the triumph of good over evil in honor of Deva or
Ganesh Chaturthi – birthday of Ganesh celebrated nation-wide in India.
October: Diwali – the return of Rama from exile; a national celebration in honor of Rama and his
Shaivism: Shavism was begun in South India around 800 CE. It stressed hermit-like service to Shiva and a belief in one god that represented the energy of life. The spokesman and teacher, Shankara, taught that the soul is an essential part of the godhead and Brahman is the only deity. In other words, Shiva is a manifestation of Brahman and the one god, Brahman, is life-giving energy. He also emphasized that humans should spend their life seeking their soul via Jnana Yoga. This sect continues in India still today.
Brahma Samaj: The goal of Brahma Samaj is to modernize Hinduism for an urban middle class. Throughout most India's history, there were very few cities and no middle class. In the caste system, there is not even a place for a middle class. The goal of the Brahma Samaj was to modernize Hinduism for a new urban middle class. The movement arose in the late 1700s and early 1800s when the British East India Company was increasing its control over the country. The British presence brought a good deal of commerce to India, resulting in a growing middle class. The spokesman for the movement was Ram Mohan Roy. He concentrated on devotional Hinduism rather than its mystical aspects. This was something that the urban middle class could do because every observant Hindu had shrines in their home. They may not have had the time or opportunity to go to a temple or engage in long periods of meditation, but they could perform devotional acts at home altars when they got up in the morning by offering food and drink to the gods, saying some prayers, and offering flowers. These acts of devotion were emphasized in his approach. Idol worship, the caste system, and sutte were all condemned. Sutte was the practice in Hinduism wherein a widow would cast herself on the funeral pyre and be consumed with her husband's body in an act of grief, sorrow, and identification with him. Brahman Samaj was a little too radical for its day and gained only a limited following, but it did initiate some limited social reform.
Rama Krishna: Rama Krishna began as a mission founded in Belur, Calcutta, India in 1897. It was introduced by Swami Vivekananda. Vivekananda taught that all persons are potentially divine. Everybody has the essence of divinity within as a result of creation itself. Religious responsibility requires that each person should work to unleash the unlimited power of the divine essence which is within. He went beyond just the use of Jnana Yoga to insist that Bhakti Yoga should also be an essential part of Hindu religion in order to gain Moksha. He taught that all religions lead to the same goal which is union or absorption into the divine essence. In the same fashion since all religions lead to the same goal, he believed that all religious figures in history are manifestations of the same divine energy or reality. Whether it be Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, or any other religious figure in history, these are manifestations of the same divine reality. Regardless of the religion one chooses, according to Rama Krishna the goal is one and the same end. Therefore, he suggested that Hinduism was really the universal religion for all humanity. It was like an overarching religious umbrella which included all of the different religious expressions of all humanity. An associate of his, Sri Ghose (1872-to 1950), introduced a slightly different form of yoga, Integral Yoga. In Integral Yoga, rather than withdrawing from the world either to follow Jnana Yoga or Karma Yoga or Raja Yoga, Integral Yoga was used to unite both the world and religious devotion.
Transcendental Meditation: Based in the Netherlands, the Transcendental Meditation was an idea propagated by Maharishi Yogi. It required no particular religious belief at all, but advocated the use of 20 minutes a day of yoga-style meditation to reduce stress and to "connect" with whatever is transcendent, whether it be God or Brahman or Vishnu or Jesus.
Hare Krishna. Hare Krishna is actually a modern revival of a 15th century devotional sect named Chaitanya. The sect employs a shaven head, a yellow robe, music, dance, and chanting as a means to achieve ecstatic union with the divine realm in a mystical-type devotion. The devotion service consists of chanting the mantra Hare Krishna while participating in dance movements building into an ecstatic experience. Consistent with traditional Hinduism, this union with the divine essence is believed to be the same as attaining Moksha.
Gandhi: Gandhi was not really a major Hindu religious leader, nor did he establish a religious tradition. He was primarily a political leader; but he was definitely influenced by Hinduism in his advocacy of nonviolence. And some who followed Gandhi saw certain religious precepts in his approach. He preached nonviolence for the purpose of understanding the truth and resolving conflict. Ghandi regarded nonviolence as an expression of devotion to truth. In a religious sense truth became the divine essence and devotion to that truth formed a religious system in some ways.
Four Desirable Goals of Life
1. The pursuit of legitimate and appropriate behavior – responsible living (Dharma)
2. The pursuit of legitimate worldly success (artha}
3. The pursuit of legitimate pleasure (karma)
4. The pursuit of eternal release of rebirth and a unification with the Absolute (Moksha)
*Four Stages of Life a Hindu will Pass Through
1. Student life – a learner (brahmacarya)
2. Householder – family head (grihastha)
3. Meditation – one who withdraws for reflection (vanaprastha)
4. A world-renouncer – spiritual seeker (sannyasin)
well I was catholic before I mean that I had a catolic education but I've got no practice anymore now,
In fact I can't considerate my personnal life and the religion, because christian hate people like me, I live with a girl so you can imagine how it's difficult to live you faith!
Well actually we don't 'hate' people like you. We just don't agree with you. Only the stupid christians do. Our faith teaches us not to hate so if any christian says that they hate you then they are not acting christian at all. I myself follow the disagreement, but I also feel that its the persons decission and that I shouldn't attempt to change that decission. Although no faith is what it used to be so people will choose to be foolish. _________________ “I flee to decemberunderground. As you exhale, I breathe in the water underground and I'll grow pale without you” —“The Interview,” AFI