Fri Apr 13, 2012, 10:12 PM
Vehl (1,915 posts)
Hinduism is a Way of Life, and Life tends to be Organised Chaos
I got this article forwarded to me on email, and I find it to be a very good one, one that traces the origins of the Vedanta schools of Hindu philosophy.
Before posting the article, a brief overview.
Vedanta literally means "End of the Vedas" (Also interpreted as the "Culmination of the Vedas").
The Vedas were Hindu hymns from around 2000 BC which talk about pretty much everything under the sun. Even though the core of the Vedanta philosophies already existed in the Vedas, they were simply overwhelmed by the ritual so commonly found in the Vedas. Thus by around 2000-1500 BCE Hinduism has become entirely dependent upon rituals and worship of the god/s (except for a select few who chose the paths of Yoga(meditation) and Jana(knowledge)).
These Yogis(Those who practiced Yoga) and Janis(Those who sought knowledge..be is spiritual or scientific) were disgusted by the ritualism they saw around them..and brought about a revolution by writing/collating a series of works known as the Upanishads(also known as Vedanta). Some were pure materialists...some were scientists..some Atheists, some agnostics....Atomists...men and Women who decided that the rigorous ritual and worship of the god/s do not lead to any positive end and took it upon themselves to rid Hinduism of the Vedic Ritualism. Their work gave Hinduism some of its most lofty and sublime philosophical traditions, especially the non-dualist philosophies(Advaita Vedanta) which pretty much eliminated most of the Vedic ritualism and the Vedic pantheon.
The following is their story.
Hinduism is a Way of Life, and Life tends to be Organised Chaos
The beauty of being a Hindu lies in your freedom to be who you want to be. Nobody can tell you what to do, or what not to do. There is no initiation and or baptism. Hinduism is a way of Life. There is no central authority, no single leader of the faith. No one can pass an order to excommunicate you, or like in some countries, pass a decree that orders ‘death by stoning’ for walking with a ‘strange’ man.
We don’t appreciate our freedom because we can’t feel the plight of others who aren’t free. Many religions have a central authority with awesome power over the individual. They have a clear chain of command, from the lowliest local priest to the highest central leader. Hinduism somehow escaped from such central authority, and the Hindu has miraculously managed to hold on to his freedom through the ages. How did this happen?
Vedanta is the answer. When the writers of Vedanta emerged, around 1500 BC, they faced an organised religion of orthodox Hinduism. This was the post Vedic age, where ritualism was practiced, and the masses had no choice but to follow. It was a coercive atmosphere.
The writers of Vedanta rebelled against this authority and moved away from society into forests. This was how the ‘Aranyakas’ were written, literally meaning ‘writings from the forest’. These later paved the way for the Upanishads, and Vedanta eventually caught the imagination of the masses. It emerged triumphant, bearing with it the clear voice of personal freedom.
This democracy of religious thought, so intrinsic to Vedantic intelligence, sank into the mindset of every Indian. Most couldn’t fathom the deep wisdom it contained, but this much was very clear, they understood that faith was an expression of personal freedom, and one could believe at will. That’s why Hinduism saw an explosion of Gods. There was a God for every need and every creed. If you wanted to build your muscles, you worshiped a God with fabulous muscles. If you wanted to pursue education, there was a Goddess of Learning. If it was wealth you were looking for, then you looked up to the Goddess of weath — with gold coins coming out of her hands. If you wanted to live happily as a family, you worshiped Gods who specially blessed families. When you grew old and faced oncoming death, you spent time in contemplating a God whose business it was to dissolve everything — from an individual to the entire Universe.
Everywhere, divinity appeared in the manner and form you wanted it to appear, and when its use was over, you quietly discarded that form of divinity and looked at new forms of the divine that was currently of use to you. ‘Yad Bhavam, tad Bhavati’… what you choose to believe becomes your personal truth, and freedom to believe is always more important than belief itself.
Behind all this — was the silent Vedantic wisdom that Gods are but figments of human imagination. As the Kena Upanishad says, “Brahma ha devebhyo vijigye…” — All Gods are mere subjects of the Self. It implies that it is far better that God serves Man than Men serve God. Because Men never really serve God — they only obey the dictates of a religious head who speaks for that God, who can turn them into slaves in God’s name.
Hindus have therefore never tried to convert anyone. Never waged war in the name of religion. The average Hindu happily makes Gods serve him as per his needs. He discards Gods when he has no use for them. And new Gods emerge all the time — in response to the current needs. In this tumult, no central authority could survive. No single prophet could emerge and hold sway, no chain of command could be established.
Vedanta had injected an organised chaos into Hinduism, and that’s the way it has been from the last thirty five centuries. Vedanta is also responsible, by default, for sustaining democracy. When the British left India, it was assumed that the nation would soon break up. Nothing of that kind has happened. The pundits of doom forgot that the Indian had been used to religious freedom from thousands of years. When he got political freedom, he grabbed it naturally. After all, when one can discard and/or change Gods why can’t one discard leaders? Leaders like Gods are completely expendable to the Indian, predomonantly Hindu mindset. They are tolerated as long as they serve the people, and are replaced when needs change. It’s the triumph of people over their leaders, in true democratic manner. Strange how the thoughts of a few men living in forests, thirty five centuries ago, can echo inside the heart of the Indian, majority of whom profess Hinduism. That’s a tribute to the resurgent power of India, and the fearlessness of its free thinking people.
“Hinduism is a Way of Life, and Life tends to be Organised Chaos !”
7 replies, 2052 views
Hinduism is a Way of Life, and Life tends to be Organised Chaos (Original post)
|Voice for Peace||Apr 2012||#1|
Response to Vehl (Original post)
Fri Apr 13, 2012, 10:32 PM
Voice for Peace (12,718 posts)
1. fascinating, thank you!
The Hindu creation myth was my favorite of all I've read.
I don't remember it all, but related especially to the cyclical
nature of life, the yugas, and so on. Instinctively it feels to
me we are living in the kaliyuga & transitioning to satyuga.
Of course the myth is extravagant and colorful, attractive
to me, and not believable. Except the essence of it -- this
creation coming in and out of existence, over and over, with
predictable patterns -- really delightful.
Response to Voice for Peace (Reply #1)
Sun Apr 15, 2012, 12:44 AM
Vehl (1,915 posts)
6. Good point!
I appreciate how you correctly point out that these myths are not to be taken at face value, but are to be used as pointers which convey some core concepts to the general populace.
Speaking of Yuga cycle, Yesterday was the New Year for Hindus who follow the solar calender .(We also have Hindus who follow the Lunar calender, and also those who follow a Lunisolar calender, they have their new years on different dates). April 13th marked the year 5114 of the Kali Yuga. I find it interesting that the current sub-cycle of the Hindu Calender, and the Current iteration of the Mayan calender are only 12 years apart
As for creation myths,we Hindus have quite a few of them, and strangely(well, for non Hindus) enough, we hardly pay any attention to the creation myths!. I will bet that a considerable number of Hindus would not even know how creation came to be!(even the version they are supposed to be following)
This is because the "cyclical nature of everything" is so thoroughly entrenched in the Hindu psyche that creation and destruction seem to lose all sense of importance. In Hindu cosmology there are infinite universes and infinite worlds where beings live. Humans were not the first nor the last..nor are we special. Thus the "god created humans on planet earth as his special children" dialogue found in most other major religions is not found in Hinduism. We are not "special" in this universal scale. Now add infinite universes which exist alongside ours...and more which come into existence/cease to be every instant and we will soon notice how fast the creation of our universe loses its importance.To further dampen ( ) any enthusiasm in a quest for a story of creation, Vedanta schools of Hinduism posit that at the most basic level everything in this universe(s) is the same.
Krishna alludes to this in the Gita (From the epic Mahabharat)
"There has never been a time when you and I have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist."
Bhagavad Gita on change
“Fear not what is not real, never was and never will be. What is real, always was and cannot be destroyed.”
All this has Time for its root. Time, is indeed the seed of the universe, O Dhanajaya. It is time again, that withdraws everything at its pleasure.
-- Vyasa to Arjuna (The Book of the Clubs, Mahabarat)
I was collecting some info for a post on the Mahabarat, so I didn't have to search to find the above quotes, in case you were wondering how I was able to find these quotes so easily
Response to snagglepuss (Reply #2)
Sun Apr 15, 2012, 12:19 AM
Vehl (1,915 posts)
4. What Hindus?
Hinduism (I loath to use that term as it definitely is not a religion in the Abraham sense...its a Dharma) does not generally poke it's nose into what people should or should not do.
The issue of female babies, and caste-based discrimination have nothing to do with Hinduism, and everything to do with the local/regional customs of the people. On one hand you see some who do not value female babies, on the other you see a people who elect the second female head of state in the world.So how exactly does Hinduism play into this?
You will find Hindus ranging from pure atheists,monists,pantheists,panentheists,agnostics,atomists.....all the way to Aghoris (who are cannibals!). Such diversity coupled with the Hundreds of ethnic groups/subcultures produce a cultural milieu that is as diverse as one can imagine. It has been so for millenia, and will continue to be the case in the years to come. Even India's national motto is "Unity in Diversity".