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What is Hinduism?

Hinduism is the ancient religion of India practiced today by one billion people all over the world, with no founder and stretching back unknown thousands of years in India's earliest known civilizations. Hinduism is called Sanatana Dharma, eternal faith. It is based on the Vedas and other scriptures. Four beliefs are most central.

  • First is belief in one supreme God who created the universe and abides everywhere within it. He/she is all and in all.

  • Second is belief in the law of karma, the principle of cause and effect, action and reaction.

  • Third is belief that the cosmos is governed by the principle of dharma which is divine order, righteousness and duty.

  • Fourth Hindus believe in reincarnation the natural process of birth, death and rebirth.

While these four convictions are essential in Hinduism, belief alone is not enough to propel us forward on the path. It is our actions and behavior that are the keys to spiritual progress. Hindus seek to experience God and our inner selves through temple worship, meditation, yoga, pilgrimage and devotional singing (Kirtan). They enjoy a rich family life and ageless traditions of culture. They honor gurus, saints and sages. They worship many gods who are grand helpers to the Supreme Being.

The three pillars of Sanatana Dharma are scriptures, temples and gurus. Today Hinduism is like a great banyan tree (the same tree that the Buddha attained enlightenment under) whose limbs represent the many variations of this ancient faith. The four main branches are denominations of Saivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism. Each has a multitude of guru lineages, religious leaders, priesthood, sacred literature, monastic community, schools, pilgrimage centers and tens of thousands of temples. Since Hinduism has no one central authority these are like four independent religions sharing a vast common heritage of history and culture and belief.

Hinduism is a mystical religion leading devotees to personally experience its eternal truths within themselves, finally reaching the pinnacle of consciousness where man and God are forever one.

Challenge here is how do you choose a couple of points out of all of that?

God is in me; God is in you. Namaste, that is what this means.

Reincarnation is important. We need a time-frame. A reasonable time frame and that's what reincarnation gives to us. A sense that this process is going to take more than one lifetime. It's definitely not a Western secular or western religious concept. In a western secular concept everything should be packed into one life. It's very frustrating to try and do everything in one life. It's like breakfast, lunch and dinner at once. It just doesn't really work. Therefore, we need a positive attitude toward reincarnation. We don't want to get frustrated by how slow our progress can seem at times. Nor do we want to sit back and say: Well I've got lifetimes to accomplish this. Why should I strive too hard in this one? You know, we kind of have to find the middle ground where we advance as much as we can. My personal feeling on this is that I would rather work very hard in this life so that my next will be that much easier, what choice do we really have?

That's the point. In each lifetime we should be striving to advance as much as we can according to what's permitted by our karma (action) and dharma (duty). Just working through karma is advancement but it doesn't seem like it at the time, actually it is very difficult, but there is no getting around it. So, sometimes a lot of karma can come in one lifetime and you have the sense you're not moving forward spiritually dealing with karma, but it's part of the process too. But another type of progress can be made when life is more sublime. We can go more deeply within ourselves.

Reincarnation gives us a time frame. And then we need to understand the karma and dharma which guide how we live in that time frame. We need to find our natural dharma, our natural case in life and fulfill the duties of that to it's fullest.

Karma, we need to be wise in how we act and in terms the future we were creating. And we need to be accepting of what comes to us and not react to it or retaliate. Otherwise that karma doesn't go away. If it comes and we react and retaliate then it's just, it was gone for a second between the karma came and went and reacted and retaliated but it came right back. So wisdom in handling karma is good.

Then we get: ...belief alone is not enough to propel us forward. Unfortunately! Its a good start but eventually we have to do the work as well.

Faith.. If you look up faith in the dictionary it says something like: Accepting as true that which you cannot prove.That is the definition of faith. We're just taking it, I'm taking it on faith.We really don't have the ability to know if it's correct or not. So some religions are based on that but Hinduism is not based on that.

There is said to be three stages of faith.

  • First one is blind faith. This is just accepting things without really having studied them or really accepting them based on the attainment or understanding of someone else. It's blind faith. We're influenced by someone else. They obviously have it all figured out and we take it for granted that they're right. So if that person goes away we can lose our blind faith. It's not very strong at all.

  • Then we have informed conviction. That's after we've studied something. Studied for a few years on it and have an understanding of the philosophy and it's behind everything in the religion. Understand the basic principles, how it works. So that's the stronger. It doesn't go away because somebody leaves the room. It's based upon an intellectual understanding but it's limited. It can only go as far as the intellect. It can't experience the deeper truth but it does give us a stability in faith.

  • Then we have personal realization or experience and that's the mystical side, and the most fun!

So eventually we can experience everything, but it can take a few lifetimes. Just because we can experience it doesn't mean we'll experience it in this lifetime.That's belief or faith.

Spiritual progress.

Beautiful description of spiritual progress in the Trilogy. Sanskrit name: "Adhyatma vikasha." Adhyatma is the soul, the spiritual nature. Vikasha is becoming visible. So isn't that a nice idea? As we talk about what people really are criminals and terrorists. That we're divine beings but it's sure not visible. It's totally covered up. What's it covered up by? Well strong instinctive mind in that case. The intellect isn't there yet. It's covered. So we need to uncover it, make it more visible and that's what we see in spiritual people. We can see it. It's there. It's in all of us but it's easier to see in the guru, a spiritual person, some one who's taken the coverings off, the spirituality is really visible.

So we start in the mud. The lotus flower is the example, also used symbolically for this reason. Come up through the water and we get up on the surface of the water and then the bud starts to open. So, it starts in the mud. Then the mud, of course, is the instinctive mind. The water represents the intellectual mind. So it's quite a distance there. We start in the instinct, we develop an intellect. But, we have no sense of God, really. Then when we pop up, we start to get a sense of God. That's spirituality or superconsciousness is the air. But the bud is still closed. So we have a sense God exists but then we have to open the bud through continued practices. When the bud is fully opened then that's fully experiencing God.

Last point. Three pillars of Saivism: Scriptures, temples and Gurus.

If we utilize all three then you really have a well rounded understanding and experience of the religion. If you leave one out then it's less and if you only have one then your understanding and experience is limited. So if what you have encompassed all three then it has the different aspects. We can benefit a lot from scripture, but too much scripture makes us intellectually proud. We can out debate anyone with our knowledge of scripture. That's not the goal of Hinduism, right? Intellectually proud and a great debater. We need the temple. Temple helps us develop humility so we don't have intellectual pride. It balances that out. But the scripture helps us not go into superstition in the temple.

Superstition is something which everybody believes, but which doesn't exist in scripture. So you need scripture to control the worship and then you develop devotion. Devotion and humility are the qualities that come from temple worship. It takes you up to a certain level, but then the guru's needed to really give you the spark for meditation, give you the deeper wisdom. So, that allows you to go beyond the scripture and devotion. If there's no gurus around no one maybe to go in there in scripture and devotion. So that can take you up to a certain point which is good but it won't open the flower, shall we say. Won't cause the lotus to bloom.

For me, Hinduism is a uniting force in a world that continues to want to divide.

We can only begin by answering some fundamental questions, let these be some answers towards a deeper personal practice.


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