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Aham Brahmasmi – The Selfish I and the Selfless I Monday, Aug 6 2007
The Hindu Concept of God Monday, Jun 25 2007
aatma and allah and atma and christianity and church and concept and god and gurudev and hindu and hinduism and hitxp and islam and jesus and muslim and paramatma and quantum mechanics and veda and vedas and vedic and Velankani and Velankanni 7:11 pm
First and foremost, let me clarify that unlike most people think, Hinduism is not a religion in strict sense. It is more of a culture than a religion.
So what is the difference between a culture and a religion?
Religion centers around the God. Where as a culture centers around the way of living. Which is why you find in India for instance Chrisitian or Muslims following the Hindu culture! Even in Bangladesh you can find hindu cultures in muslim life! Chrisitians of Velankani in Tamilnadu follow the hindu culture. Velankanni is a Christian pilgrimage center, here Mother Mary is worshipped by Puja like how hindus do, Chariots are pulled like in hindu temples, there is the concept of prasadam (divine food) in the church like how Hindus give prasadam in the hindu temples.. etc
All other major religions of the world have a propounder, a person who founded the religion. Hinduism has none! Which is why it is called Sanaathana Dharma meaning eternal religion! No debate is blasphemous in Hinduism! Customs can be questioned any time! It does not dictate terms to people saying what woman or men should wear as dress etc. It is always open to debates. There has never been a ‘holy war’ in Hinduism in the name of God! The very existence of God can be debated in Hinduism. Many ancient Indian Hindu texts contain such debates!
Coming back to the concept of God in Hinduism, unlike other religions like Christianity or Islam, it does not talk about a God who stays outside the universe and creates/destroys this universe. Instead here Universe itself is the God! Universe is a self aware Paramaatma (the universal soul) and everything else in the universe is a part of this God! We are all Aatma (souls) whose goal is to realize and unite with this Paramaatma (Universal Soul). Even quantum mechanical physicists like Bohr,Heisenberg, Shcrodinger etc got interested in Vedic texts and Hinduism when they saw that quantum level consciousness of particles was already explained in Hinduism!! For more details read the books like The Dancing Wu Li Masters, The Tao of Physics etc
The Vedas compare creation to a spider’s web, that the spider creates and then lies within. God is both the container of the universe and what is contained in it.
Which is why the sacred vedic texts of Hinduism say ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ which means I am God. This is because I, you and all are a part of this Universal God! Which is also the reason why you find 33 crore Gods in hinduism!! Since Universe itself is the God, everything else and everybody else in the Universe is also a form of God! Which is why Hindus worship water, rain, thunder, earth, moon, sun, stars, sky, humans, trees, plants, animals, air, father, mother, elders, light, wealth, knowledge, anything and everything that you find in this universe as God!
Which is also the reason why a Hindu if by accident happens to touch an animal or a person or a book etc by feet accidentally, then immediately he/she will do a symbolic gesture by hand asking to be forgiven for having shown disrespect to the God in that animal/person/book or whatever by accident…
The hindu prayer that has to be recited every day early morning as soon as one gets up ends saying “…paadasparsham kshamasva me” which means “Oh Mother Earth, Please forgive me for I will be touching you with my feet for the rest of the day!”. Such a nice concept. Can a culture get any more beautiful than this?
Now comes an even more beautiful part of the Hindu Concept of God. The sacred Vedic texts say “Ekam Satya Vipro Bahuda Vadanthi” which means “God is one. Learned scholars call him/her with different names”. This simple yet so wonderful concept makes it unique among all religions! You cannot be a Christian and say I will worship Vishnu or Allah! Christianity doesn’t allow that. You cannot be a Muslim and say I will worship Shiva or Jesus!! Islam doesn’t allow that.
But you can be a Hindu and still say that I will worship Jesus or Allah! Hinduism has no objection. In fact it says you can worship God in any name! Which is why you can find Hindus in India going to Churches, Jain temples, Buddhist temples, Sikh Gurudwaras etc. If all religions were as open minded as Hinduism there would have been no religious fanaticism or religious hatred on this planet and Earth would have been a better place to live in! There would have been no terrorism either!
Which is also the reason why unlike other religions you will find no missionaries or evangelists in Hinduism who promote Hinduism and want to convert entire world into Hinduism! Hinduism does not believe in religious conversions either by force or by bribing or by appeasement. You can be a Hindu and still be a Christian or Mulsim at the same time! You can even be a Christian or Muslim and say that you dont believe in Hinduism, and still Hinduism looks at you as a great soul! It does not say that you will be punished or sent to hell or will become a sinner for not believing in Hindu God! You can even be an atheist! You can say that you don’t want to call the Universal soul as a God! In fact Atheism is like a subclass of Hinduism! Charvaka who lived in 600 BCE was an atheist and pioneered a materialistic movement within Hinduism and even Madhavacharya (he was a 14th century philosopher who wrote a wonderful book Sarva darshana sangraha with a lot of material on atheism, dont confuse him with Madhvacharya of udupi) etc were Atheists and still followed the Hindu Culture!
Infact, the sacred Hindu texts, the Vedas talk more about humans and life than about God! They say, ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ which means ‘The entire world is a single huge family’! Look at the beauty, they don’t differentiate between people of this religion or that religion, entire Earth is a single family! The vedas also say ‘Sarve Jana Sukhino Bhavantu’ which means ‘May all the people live happily’. Again here all humans are considered equal, there is no differentiation between Hindus and others!!
God if exists, is after all one and the same. You call a Rose by any name, and still it continues to be a Rose. Why should we fight for the name? It doesn’t make any real sense, does it?
By the way, if you are interested, you can also read about the role and status of women in the ancient Indian vedic culture here.
Mokshapath – Snake and Ladder Thursday, May 31 2007
aatma and ancient and british and game and gurudev and hitxp and India and indian and kannada and ladder and moksha and Mokshapat and Mokshapath and nirvana and paramapath and paramatma and rebirth and salvation and snakes and soul 7:30 pm
Snake and Ladder is an ancient Indian game which was brought to west by the British in 1892. It was called Mokshapath meaning Path to Salvation. In sanskrit Moksh=Salvation and Path=Path !!
Let us understand its basics.
The vedic (hindu) belief about life and death is of rebirth. One life form might be reborn as any form of life after its death. A human in this birth might be reborn as an insect in his next birth. A frog in this birth might be reborn as a human in its next birth!
This cycle of life and death and rebirth continues, which is why the vedas say that ‘soul never dies’! Depending on how well a soul spends its life doing good things, it can be freed from this cycle of life, death and rebirth and attain Moksha (Probably enter heaven and live happily ever after!).
So the aim of life is to attain this Moksha or Nirvana! Vedas say that it is extremely lucky to be born as a human and that one should not miss this opportunity to get the most out of it. One has to use this to get Moksha where a normal soul (Aatma) gets united with the Universal soul (Paramaatma) and is freed from the cycle of birth and death! There are stories in vedas where even other life forms like animals attained Moksha by their good deeds! So its not limited to humans alone!
Well, these things interest me from a point of enquiry as to what we really are? Where did we come from? What is all that is going on here
In kannada there is a poem which says
‘Allide Nammane Illi bande Summane’
which means ‘My house is out there, I came here just for some time pass’
Well, another kannada poem says
‘Niddegomme Nitya Marana Edda Sala Naveena Janana’
which means, ‘A daily death every night we sleep, a new birth every morning we get up’! What a wonderful thought!
Coming back to the original topic of Snake and Ladder, this game originated in ancient India and was called ‘Mokshapath’ which means the path of salvation. The ultimate goal of the game was to achieve salvation by reaching the top. Every time a person does a bad deed, he ends up at the snake’s mouth and is demoted in the game of attaining salvation.
Every time a person does a good deed, he ends up at the ladder’s bottom and is promoted upwards in the game of attaining salvation.! The aim of this game was to teach children the basic tenets of hindiusm that lies in the vedas. Good deeds we move up in life. Bad deeds and we move down in life. The ladders represented virtues and snakes vices.
The game was drawn out on a cloth divided into blocks called houses, each representing emotions. For ex: the snake at hinsa (violence) would take one down to mahanarak (great hell) while ladder at Vidyabhyas (education) would take one up to the Shastras (knowledge). The game was played with dices and cowrie-shells.
In the original game, these were the squares where ladder was found to move upwards.
- 12 was faith
- 51 was Reliability
- 57 was Generosity
- 76 was Knowledge
- 78 was Asceticism.
Snakes were found at the following squares.
- 41 was for Disobedience
- 44 for Arrogance
- 49 for Vulgarity
- 52 for Theft
- 58 for Lying
- 62 for Drunkenness
- 69 for Debt
- 73 for Murder
- 84 for Anger
- 92 for Greed
- 95 for Pride
- 99 for Lust
1oo was the square of Moksha or Nirvana! The ultimate goal of the game. You win when you reach the 100th square!
The british took this game to England from India in 1892 and called it “snakes and ladders” (which I feel is a rather very uninteresting name, compared to Mokshapath – Path of Nirvana )