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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Workshop on Hinduism

UNDERSTANDING HINDUISM
Workshops by the Foundation for Pluralism

Contact: Mike Ghouse
Cell: 214-325-1916
Office: 972-919-4466
Email: Mike@FoundationforPluralism.com
Website: www.FoundationforPluralism.com


Dr. Hasmukh Shah and Swami Nityananda Prabhu conducted the presentation. We invited friends to write about Hinduism in 600 words, and we are pleased to present the following write ups from:
Pratap Bhogilal
  1. Sunil Maini, CPA
  2. Raghu Trivikraman
  3. Akbar Hussain
  4. R Sivasankar

Please note that all articles will be edited to insure inclusive claims to the truth. We welcome presentations of 600 words or less. Please send to Foundationforpluralism@gmail.com . These will be posted at the Religion section of www.Foundationforpluralism.com and shared on several forums.

The Foundation for Pluralism and the World Muslim Congress has launched an educational series to promote goodwill and understanding among different faiths. The goal is to bring people of different faiths together and provide a platform for them to share about their beliefs, their systems and their wisdom, while expanding the knowledge zone of each group. Our Mission is driven by the need for peaceful co-existence of the humankind.

We believe knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance and appreciation of a different point of view. The very purpose of religion is to bring peace, tranquility and a sense of balance to an individual and aggregate that into a society for peaceful co-existence. The biggest single reason for conflict is the arrogance, and all religions have a formula to reduce that through prayers to the almighty. Spirituality and Arrogance are inversely proportional to each other. Greater the arrogance, lower the spirituality and vice versa. Greater humility amounts to greater spirituality.

The event is a tribute to those who are willing to think beyond the box. We have planned the educational series for all the religions this year and eventually, hope to include all faiths. We hope at least a few of the attendees would walk out with an open mind and an open heart towards their fellow beings. It is difficult to shed the prejudices, but once we do, there is genuine freedom in it. We are committed to presenting the wisdom of each religion.

The workshops are titled “Understanding Religion” On our calendar we have listed the workshop for every faith that we could work with. Please mark your calendar for 4th Sunday of each month between 6 and 8:30 PM at Crowne Plaza Hotel at 14315 Midway in Addison. The Pluralism Calendar is at: http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Calendar.asp


In the month of March we did a program with Jainism with Dr. Vastupal Parikh and Dr. Pradeep Shah, and in April I presented the workshop on Buddhism, and in May, we will be presenting a workshop on Zoroastrianism by Dr. Firdosh Mehta and Dr. Poras Balsara. Please join us, you must confirm attendance to: Confirmattendance@gmail.com

Programs are the initiatives of: Foundation for Pluralism & World Muslim Congress Office : 2665 Villa Creek Dr, suite 206, Dallas, TX 75234 (972) 919-4466.
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Basic Concepts of Hinduism
Pratap Bhogilal

God

Belief in God is the starting point of religion. As a Hindu, the God believed in is universal, omnipotent and omniscient. God is both personal and impersonal and beyond human comprehension. God is both “Sakara”’ with a human form and “nirakara” without any material form.

God appears periodically in human form, known as ‘avatar’ or incarnation. The popular avatars are Rama and Krishna. As Lord Rama, He personified the ultimate in human conduct and character. As Lord Krishna, the master of Yogashastra, He showed how to combine day-to-day living in this world of toil and turmoil with love for the entire creation.

In the ultimate analysis, not a leaf stirs without God’s will. Though our ego gives us an inflated opinion of ourselves, we are all instruments in the hands of God.

Soul
The idea of a soul is a dominant one in Hinduism. Though it is not seen nor can it be described, the belief in a soul above and beyond this body is always dominant. Many learned scriptures have dealt with the nature of the soul, and its relationship with a universal and omniscient God.

Transmigration

The belief in a soul is also linked to the idea of transmigration. One passes through six stages in life - birth, growth, existence, old age, disease and death. Beyond that lies another birth. The discussion on soul, death and beyond is elaborated in “Kathopanishad” which gives a rousing call “Wake up, stand up boldly, get a learned person to guide you. Like razor’s edge the path to tread is sharp and difficult, but nevertheless go that way.”

The process of transmigration from one birth to another birth can be put an end to by achieving liberation or ‘moksha’. It is also described as ‘nirvana’.

The meaning of all this appears to be getting freed from the compulsions of a body, overcoming its four-fold desires. As mentioned in the sacred book “Srimad Bhagavat”, these fourfold desires are wealth, power, fame and sensual pleasures. Adi Shankaracharya had categorized the desires under three heads, “Vishaya Vasana” (desires for sensual pleasures), “Shrutivasana” (desire for knowledge) and “Lokavasana” (desires for worldly recognition or fame and name).

Law Of Karma

The law of Karma is another essential concept of Hinduism. It is a very scientific law. For every action, there is a reaction. If actions are good, the result will be good; if bad, the result will be evil. One gets the fruits of one’s action depending on what one does. One can deceive the world at least for some time, but one cannot deceive oneself.

“Mahabharata” has beautifully described this law of Karma. It says: “Even if there are a thousand cows in a grazing ground, the little calf comes only in search of its own mother. Similarly, whatever one does in life comes back in search of one”.

There is no escape from consequences of one’s actions because of the law of Karma.
While in earlier ages the fruits of one’s actions were said to accrue in the next birth, or late in life, in the present “Kaliyug”, they are said to materialize very early, sometimes by end of day!

Purushartha (Human Effort) & Daiva (Destiny)

The law of Karma raises an interesting question: There is a concept of human effort (Purushartha) as the source of gains in life, as against “Daiva” which means Destiny. In other words, there is a belief that one gets what is due to one whether one exerts or not because of one’s destiny.

The best explanation I think is “purushartha” or human effort is necessary, “Daiva” is the “prerana” or inspiration from the God which leads one to put in these efforts.
“PUNYA” (MERITORIOUS DEEDS) AND “PAPA” (SINS)

One of the strongest impressions of the world is in terms of good or evil deeds. We are born to do as much good as possible and to avoid anything evil. The power of good and the merit which accrues form it, is indescribably great. The power of good and the accruing merit (Punya) is so great that it lasts beyond one’s death and the next generation benefits from it. In contrast, evil deeds and the sins which arise from it are such that it brings not only worldly disrepute but also various ill consequences.

Dharma

What is Dharma? Broadly, it means Righteousness: Etymologically, whatever is upheld by virtue of the inherent characteristic of anything is its Dharma. For instance, the dharma of sun is to give light and heat, of the ruler to maintain law and order and protect his subjects, of a householder is to look after his family.

“Srimad Bhagavata” describes “Dharma” as comprising four components. “Satya” or truth, “daya” or compassion, “tapa” or penance (self-discipline in modern world) and “dana” or charity, giving not only one’s money, but more important one’s talents and time in the service of one’s fellow human beings.

In Mahabharat the ultimate victory of the Pandava princes, led by Yudhisthira also know as Dharmaraja (the king of dharma, literally) guided by Lord Krishna who is pledged to uphold “dharma” in the world, emphasises the supremacy of “dharma” in life.

Service Of Fellow Human Beings

One of the ideas ingrained in Hindus from early childhood is of service to fellow human beings. Called “Paropakara”, one common saying is “Paropakararthamidam Shareeram” i.e. “this body is a tool for serving one’s fellow human beings”.
It is not what you give in sacrifice, but the spirit of sacrifice behind it which is all important.
Service of one’s fellow human beings is a duty which should be performed with utter selflessness.
Loyalty To Benefactors & Repayment Of Debt Of Gratitude
One of the basic concepts of Hinduism is of discharging the debt of gratitude to various benefactors.
The debt of gratitude to one’s mother can never be fully discharged. Adi Shankaracharya has pointed out how great is one’s mother. Mother’s blessings are the surest means of obtaining success in life. Gratitude towards one’s father as also “guru” or teacher is important.

The concept extends to Nature from which one gets sustenance and benefits.
Basically all religions, in essence, emphasize the importance of DUTY, COMPASSION towards fellow human beings and aspiration of every soul to reach God.
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Spectrum of Hindu Beliefs
Sunil Maini

1) Hinduism is based on the Vedas. The Vedas are divine revelations to the ancient sages. The oldest hyms are as old as 6500-7500 BC.

2) Hindus believe in the authority of the Vedas and other scriptures in deciding issues of ethics, merits, sins, duties and values.

3) Hindus believe there is only one Reality called Brahman (Bruh-mun), (the Limitless God) which appears as the world of beings and matter. The Self of all beings is no different from God.

4) Hindus believe that God is One but his names and forms and functions are infinite. He can be worshipped in various ways. ("God is One.... Wise people call him / worship him in various ways".....Vedas).

5) Hindus also believe in the authority of the self-realized masters, rational thinking and in a conscience in deciding the major issues of life.

6) Hindus believe in the Laws of Karma (Action). This is the divine Law of Justice in Action. Depending on our actions and the attitude with which they are performed we get the appropriate result in the future. Nobody can escape these laws. We reap as we sow. Whatever good and bad we are experiencing is the result of our actions performed in the past.

7) Hindus believe that the life situation we have gotten depends on our past actions, but the future depends on the choices we make in the present. We have Free Will to improve our future.

8) Hindus believe in Reincarnation. A human being after death can temporarily go to heaven or hell and is again born as human, bird, animal, plant or any other life depending on it's Karma.

9) All life forms are considered divine and worthy of proper treatment and respect.

10) Hinduism states that value based living will make our life more peaceful and prosperous and will lead one to the ultimate goal of self-realization.

11) Hindus believe in the holistic approach to life.

12) Human birth is considered a rare opportunity to realize the Self. We can strive to attain Moksha (liberation, redemption, salvation, exaltation, mukti) only in the human birth.

Other:

A person(ality) consists of four distinct entities: body (which consist of the organs of action namely: hands, feet, tongue that talks, organ of sex and organ of excretion), mind (which controls the sense organs namely: eyes, nose, ears, tongue that tastes and touch –skin. Additionally it is the mind that feels the emotions namely: happy, sad, excitement, depression), intellect (which discerns between the right and wrong, just and unjust etc) and the spirit: which is eternal, imperishable and deals with such issues.
Mind + Intellect = Heart.

The three: 1) God (Brahman), 2) his power: nature or (Maaya) and 3) a being (human) (Jeeva or the embodied Self) are of the same age and are eternal. Maaya is the Lord’s power or Shakti and can not be other than Him, just as the strength of a wrestler can not other than the wrestler.

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Understanding Hinduism
Raghu Trivikraman

Hinduism is a religion that has no founder. It has no beginnings and has evolved itself from different people over the ages, observing human behavior, a keen observation of nature and drawing parallels to lay a foundation of principles that helps an individual attain God. That is why Hinduism is also referred to as Sanatana Dharma – Sanatana means Eternal and Dharma means natural law. These principles that have evolved over the years, are what has been spelt out in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and form the guiding principles of Hinduism.

According to Hinduism, God is one, transcendent, yet fully imminent and present in all things perceivable and conceivable. God being all Supreme, besides creating physical matter also created consciousness, a form of Energy that provides life in all living organisms of the Earth. The founders realized that the Human mind has limitations and does not understand abstractions as well as it understands things that are perceivable by sense organs. To facilitate the concentration of the mind on God using sense organs, people evolved God in the form of statues and idols.

Hinduism says that the ultimate Supreme God is truly omnipresent and omnipotent – it is for these reasons and because of lessons learned from nature, even natural elements of the Earth like Fire, Wind, and the planets are worshipped in the name of Agni, Vayu, Guru, Shani etc. As consciousness is there in every human being, when Hindus greet each other and when they say the prayer “Abhivadaye” they are actually saluting the God in each other. Some people have more Godly energy in them than others and so when great souls like Rama, Buddha, Krishna, Sai Baba, Raghavendra left Earth they still continued to be worshipped as God.

By observing nature, the founders knew that all materials on Earth gets recycled including the human body. It is based on this observation that they also laid the foundation for the belief that the Consciousness or Soul has rebirth. As scientists later have found, energy neither gets created or destroyed, but gets transformed and rebirth is transformation of the energy consciousness.

Every system has some self-correcting mechanism and when the atrocities in the world increases, God through the use of the rebirth tool, comes to Earth in the form of an Avatar and restores order. To emphasize the importance of every living being (including animals) required to maintain the system in balance God also came in the form of Varaha (Pig) and Hanuman (Monkey) or Narasimha (Lion).

The beauty of the loose fabric. Sanatana Dharma is that each and every person can worship God in whatever form one chooses. Because every human mind is unique in some way, it is imperative that every mind be given the freedom to decide in what shape or form God is to it. India, with people speaking different languages and different cultures, has been in peaceful co-existence for centuries, thanks to this flexible architecture.
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Understanding Hinduism
Akbar Hussain

The general concept of religion is something divine and ordained by God through a prophet to a certain group of people. But Hinduism can’t be defined by this general concept. This is a life style, a culture and a spiritual doctrine. If someone is looking for enlightenment, then investigate into Hinduism. Looking for emancipation go through the Hindu scriptures. Want to know God discover your own self to find him within you. Want to experience a philosophical religion go to Hinduism.

Many ignorant people think that Hindu religion is all about worshipping many gods and goddesses. This notion is entirely wrong. The Indian culture is based on romance and unity. This unity is attained by Leela. Leela is a divine play to discover the self and that needs understanding between the two souls. This is the reason we have Krishna and Radha. Through their Leela we saw the beauty of love and dedication and how it makes us great, selfless and generous.

Hinduism is a deeply philosophical discipline. The teachings of Gita, Upanishada and the Vedas are unique because these scriptures are meant to show us right path to emancipation or nirvana.

Upanishad says Hrishi Yagyavalkaya before going to Vanaprastha gave many
cows to his wife Maithrayee but she said what I will do with these, they are
not going to make me immortal?
Hinduism is dear to me because it’s attached to my life and culture. My songs, my dances and my prayers all are part of my life. My every step is guided by the teachings of Hinduism. This is the a religion that gave humans the honor to become God. He came in the shape of man, played with us and lived among us and gave us that great hope the he will come again and again whenever there will be injustice, torture, untruth, he will come to save the righteous and punish the evil. Tadathmanam srijanyahum yuge yuge.

Hinduism is untouched by any foreign influence because it’s entirelyattached to our lives. Many religion came and gone but Hinduism survived all the onslaughts. Many foreigners came to India but they could not shake the foundation of this religion based culture rather they lost themselves in this huge ocean. They found peace and solace here. They found a new identity here. They discovered the way to nirvana in India.

In this age of conflicts and contradictions, the principles of peace and prosperity can be attained if we learn from the great teachings of Hinduism. The dream of an ideal world where love and tolerance will flourish can be achieved through the ideals of Hinduism.

Akbar Hussain
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Understanding Hinduism
By R. Sivasankar


Sanatana Dharma (Path of Eternal Righteousness) or Hinduism is among the oldest of religions in human civilization. Every Religion has a core philosophy, from which stems the specific practice of the religion or worship.

The Philosophy of religion attempts to answer the fundamental questions of existence, “where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?” In answering these questions, Hinduism hinges on two fundamental assumptions: the theory of Karma, and its corollary theory of Reincarnation. The theory of Karma is a universal law of cause and effect; “what you sow, so you reap”. The practical limitations of reaping every result of one’s actions within one lifetime, coupled with the fact that not all humans are born equal lends support to the hypothesis of reincarnation, where cause-effect relationships continue from one lifetime to the next.

The four pillars of Hinduism help answer the question of the goals of human existence. These four are (i) Dharma or righteousness, (ii) Artha or material wealth, (iii) Kama or the fulfillment of natural desires, and finally (iv) Moksha or the union of the soul with the Universal Spirit, Para Brahman or simply stated, the one “God”, after which there is no more reincarnating.

The Hindus believe that each one of us is an immortal soul and not the body. Just as we change clothes every day, the soul changes its “body” in every reincarnation. Initially the soul is steeped in “avidya” or ignorance; Ignorance of our oneness with God. Everyone originated from God. Through a series of reincarnations, everyone eventually evolves until they regain the conscious identity of oneness with God.

The Hindus believe that there are many paths to “Moksha”. These include the paths of “inquiry”, “devotion”, “service or action”, “yoga meditation”, “ritual worship”, “japa”, “puja”, etc. A key figure in Hindu life is the “Guru” defined as the “dispeller of darkness”. The Guru helps one on the path of life, providing guidance on the precepts of “Dharma”, until the goal of “Moksha”.

Hindus generally attribute all human knowledge, power, wisdom, skills etc. as well as all forces of nature as originating from God. Para Brahman or God manifests in many forms, hence the worship of God in these many forms is often confused as worshipping many gods.

The practice of Hinduism has several common elements for specific ceremonies such as at times of birth, coming of age, marriage, and death.

It requires volumes to cover the entire span of Hindu scriptural texts. I will briefly mention a few. The four sources of knowledge are Shruti, Smriti, Ithihasa and Purana. The Vedas, part of Shruti are further divided into four headings, Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanishad. These are conveyed through Bhasha, in a fivefold aspect, Brahmanda, Nada, Bindu, Pinda and Akshara. Manu’s Smriti is considered to be the Hindu equivalent of Hammurabi’s laws. Among the Ithihasa, the Mahabaratha and Ramayana are the most famous. The Bhagavad Gita, a part of the Mahabaratha is considered by many Hindus to be the Hindu Bible, if there be such an analogy.

As many scriptures attest, the ultimate end of knowledge is love; love for God, love for fellow human beings, love for all of God’s creation. It is said that the great sage Vyasa, who is said to have composed many of the scriptures felt a great void after many of his works. It was only after he was directed to compose his great scripture of love and devotion, the Bhagavatham, that he felt a sense of peace, joy and fulfillment.

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