some views of India

The Abrahamic religions are not dominant in some parts of the world.  We wonder if the Abrahamic religions’ ideas and teachings seem as foreign, alien and even perhaps weird to those raised in an Indian religion as Indian religious and spiritual concepts appear to Bible believing Christians and Talmudic Jews.  (No doubt, male circumcision and the idea of a “chosen” people are very alien concepts to the peoples of India.)

India has given rise to what we know as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.  (Much later, Sikhism was an attempt to reconcile Hindu concepts with Islam in northernmost India in the late Middle Ages.)  For us, the philosophy supporting Indian religion appears to be deeper and more profound than the Western philosophy that was used to support Christianity.  Albeit at the village level in the local shrines and local festivals, Hinduism appears to be polytheistic, at the highest level, the Vedas present a monotheistic view.  The major argument appears to be whether God is impersonal (the impersonal Absolute of the idealist philosophers) or is a person (has a personality, a supremely transcendent personality as in Lord Krishna).  The Bhagavad Gita speaks of a personal God (Krishna) who is eternal, immortal, all-powerful and all-knowing.

We now begin sharing pictures taken in India this past February when our blog’s photographer was on holiday in northern India with her family.  The advantage for the Western tourist is that English is spoken by many of the Indians one meets on the streets and on the various tours.

 

 

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anthropomorphic God or theomorphic humans

We are taught in Christianity that we human beings are created in the image and likeness of God.  However, there are some who will assert that we humans impute our own characteristics on to our image or concept of God.

Thus, one could frame this question: Do humans make God into their image, or are humans created in God’s image (both physically and in our spiritual nature)?

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death in eastern thought – part one

Why do we fear death?

3 possible reasons are fear of the unknown, fear of the cessation of consciousness, and fear of hell-fire (punishment).

The next moment is an unknown to us.  Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. The next time you get into your car a reckless or drunk or drugged driver might kill you in a smash-up.  Unknowns are ever-present in this life.

If one’s fear of death is really the fear of the end of one’s consciousness, you can easily discard this silly fear.  If bodily death ends your consciousness, you won’t be aware (conscious) of being without consciousness.  You won’t be around, so to speak, to regret the loss of your consciousness.  We might say one would have the peace of the grave.

As to fear of hell-fire, if you have lived a loving and moral life why would you fear the prospect of hell-fire?  Have you refrained from harming others – all others (even those tiny and defenseless)?  True, many people are in a state of denial as to how they have lived their lives – but that is a possible topic for another day.

Another consideration is that death, like being born, is something that we do completely alone.  We cannot do it in a group setting or context.  Even when several individuals are killed at once, say in a building collapse or from a bomb exploding, each dies as an individual.  It is not a group death but rather a death for several distinct individuals.

Here is one of our pics from a mausoleum, columbarium and crematorium complex.  It reminds us of human mortality.

 

columbarium 7

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the kali-yuga: our world in context

According to the Vedic philosophy of India, the world is currently in the Kali-Yuga, or the age of discord and quarrel, the age of spiritual darkness, spiritual ignorance.  Some people will not accept this premise, but most will agree this is a very troubled, unloving world at present.  In the Vedic understanding, there are 4 principal ages (in each cycle) of which the present one is the lowest or most degraded with the shortest life spans for humans and with the least spiritual development.  The present age of Kali began approximately 5,000 years ago and is to last for more than another 400,000 years.  Perhaps, these ages are allegorical.  In this age, man is very degraded in his consciousness and that is why he is so selfish, so violent, so destructive.  (For Christians, this may seem similar to the concept of a “fallen” nature.)  Few people are interested in spiritual development.

For those who are at a lower level of consciousness, who are not very spiritually inclined it as though they are stuck at the level of the lowest chakras.  These individuals are prone to pursuing sense gratification to the exclusion of other higher goals.  It is not helpful to these people when they make a false god out of sense gratification, out of their appetites.  This is evidence of their ignorance of our true identity as spirit souls.  They are stuck at a bodily level of consciousness and identify with the physical body.

Some would say altering our genetic code, our cells’ DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), would be needed to make humans less aggressive, less violent, and less destructive.  But, I am not so deterministic.  A more evolved, higher level of consciousness can be achieved today, now, if we make the serious effort to cultivate it.

A sad fact is that a fraction of what is spent on the world’s armed forces each year would end hunger in the world.

Atheists’ minds are closed.

Many church men’s minds are also closed.

All this can serve to temper one’s expectations.  But, as Lao Tse (or Lao Tzu) said “It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.”

Ramana Maharshi (died 1950) told his followers that if they wanted to do something for the world they ought to do something for themselves first.  He explained that if they became better (more loving) people they would then affect the world in a positive way.

Sri Aurobindo (1872 – 1950) wrote about his integral yoga.  He spoke of first going within one’s self and then raising one’s consciousness higher from within.  At a higher level of consciousness, it becomes easier to shed fears, hate and self-centeredness.  Ascend to the higher chakras of consciousness, and attain a broader perspective and become more spiritually evolved.

What can you do as an individual?

Be that additional candle in the darkness.  Cultivate love in your heart – and share it with others.  You won’t be able to change the whole world, but we are in desperate need of more individual contributions now.  As well, cultivating love in your heart will mean that you are better preparing yourself for what comes after this life.

end of essay

We include two pictures with this essay.  The first is an empty ceramic sugar bowl.

 

sugar bowl 3

 

This next image is of a framed picture or painting that Lucy has had for many years.  It predates our meeting each other in the 1980s.  It is called the 100 Birds.

 

100 birds

 

. . . .  no blogger is greater than blogging itself  . . . . 

copyright 2014 – larrysmusings.com

some thought provoking insights from Radhakrishnan

The quotes below are from a used paperback found in a used bookstore many years ago. The Hindu View of Life, by Radhakrishnan, The MacMillan Company, New York, second printing 1968, 92 pages.  This book is based on lectures the author gave at Oxford in 1926.  It can be quite surprising what one may find in a used bookstore.

Our featured image, previously posted, is from early January, 2013.  My wife took this from the car while I was driving.  A winter scene in the high elevation desert.

 

snow 2

 

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888 -1975) was educated in India during the time that his native India was a colony of the British Empire.  He lectured on eastern religions in England before World War II.  He wrote much on philosophy and religion.  (Indeed, one might say that he was a philosopher of religion.)  Later in life, he was for a time, the vice president of India in the early 1960s.  We have already reviewed, after a fashion, his work An Idealist View of Life in an earlier essay in early 2013 (see link at bottom).  From a Vedic perspective, he gives us a different view of some of the things we believe in the West.

(Although Radhakrishnan from his writings seemed to hold to the impersonal Absolute view of God, his surname is formed by joining Radha (the consort of Krishna) and Krishna (the supreme personality of Godhead).  This seems a little ironic to me.)

In no particular order here are several quotes from the book.  We will comment when it is necessary to add the appropriate context for readers, and to give our view, if appropriate.

Speaking of modern Indians, modern Hindus:

“. . . . Today we seem to be afraid of ourselves, and are therefore clinging to the shell of our religion for self-preservation.  The envelope by which we try to protect life checks its expansion.  The bark which protects the interior of a tree must be as living as that which it contains.  It must not stifle the tree’s growth, but must expand in response to the inner compulsion.”  (page 91)

“The history of philosophy in India as well as Europe has been one long illustration of the inability of the human mind to solve the mystery of the relation of God to the world.  The greatest thinkers are those who admit the mystery and comfort themselves by the idea that the human mind is not omniscient.”  (page 49)

“. . . . The variety of the pictures of God is easily intelligible when we realize that religious experience is psychologically mediated.

“It is sometimes urged that the descriptions of God conflict with one another.  It only shows that our notions are not true.  To say that our ideas of God are not true is not to deny the reality of God to which our ideas refer.”  (page 20, emphasis mine)

Here we would interject to say that not all understandings (or concepts) of God can be correct given that many are in contradiction with one another.  A skeptic might say that all of these could be in error and not be true.  Would the skeptic concede that one of these might be true?

(Now, please, dear readers, do not be angry with me – I only present the reality of the dilemma.)

On religious violence because of intolerance:

“. . . . They invoke divine sanction for the cruelties inflicted on the conquered.  The spirit of old Israel is inherited by Christianity and Islam, and it might not be unreasonable to suggest that it would have been better for Western civilization if Greece had moulded it on this question rather than Palestine.  Wars of religion which are the outcome of fanaticism that prompts and justifies the extermination of aliens of different creeds were practically unknown in Hindu India.  (page 40)

Here one recalls the bloody war in Germany between Protestants and Catholics that depopulated whole districts in the first half of the 1600s.  As well, Islam today (and the entire history of Islam) is pretty much described in the quote above.  In more than one previous essay, we have warned that if one fails to govern one’s religious fervor with reason, one may descend into fanaticism (which leads to violence).

“. . . . When two or three different systems claim that they contain the revelation of the very core and centre of truth and the acceptance of it is the exclusive pathway to heaven, conflicts are inevitable.  . . . .  To obliterate every other religion than one’s own is a sort of bolshevism in religion which we must try to prevent.  We can do so only if we accept something like the Hindu solution, which seeks the unity of religion not in common creed but in a common quest.”  (page 42)

The “quest” may be interpreted by some to mean salvation, and by others to mean spiritual evolution and spiritual growth (maturation).

“. . . . Love of wealth is disrupting social life and is tending to the suppression of the spiritual.  Wealth has become a means of self-indulgence, and universal greed is the cause of much of the meanness and cruelty which we find in the world.  Hinduism has no sympathy with the view that ‘to mix religion and business is to spoil two good things’.  We ought not to banish spiritual values from life.”  (page 78)

Atheists, agnostics, hedonists, and yes, many church goers (of all faiths) are guilty of banishing spiritual values from their daily lives.

“. . . . If a tradition does not grow, it only means that its followers have become spiritually dead.  . . . .”  (page 17)

“. . . . Precious as are the echoes of God’s voice in the souls of men of long ago, our regard for them must be tempered by the recognition of the truth that God has never finished the revelation of His wisdom and love.  . . . ”  (page 16)

“. . . . There can be no final breach between the two powers of the human mind, reason and intuition.  . . . .”  (page 14)

“. . . . The spiritual element in man allows him freedom within the limits of his nature.  Man is not a mere mechanism of instincts.  . . . .”  (page 54)

“The Hindu attitude to religion is interesting.  . . . . . Intellect is subordinated to intuition, dogma to experience, outer expression to inner realization.  . . . . Religious experience is of a self-certifying character.  . . . . The mechanical faith which depends on authority and wishes to enjoy the consolations of religion without the labour of being religious is quite different from the religious faith which has its roots in experience.  . . . . Blind belief in dogma is not the faith which saves.  It is an unfortunate legacy of the course which Christian theology has followed in Europe that faith has come to connote a mechanical adherence to authority.  . . . . We call it faith simply because spiritual perception, like other kinds of perception, is liable to error and requires the testing processes of logical thought.  . . . ”  (pages 13 – 14)

A few words of clarification are appropriate here.  Later in the book, Radhakrishnan speaks to sin and morality and the law of karma.  Thus, it would be a mistake to think that he thinks one can live a spiritual and constructive life without also striving to live a moral life. Hedonism and licentiousness are not espoused in Hinduism.  Also, I think he is making the point that one must live his/her faith and not merely give lip service to it.  For the Christian who fails to take the Christian principles out into the world, into daily life, once he/she leaves the church house, he/she would not really have the faith, would not really be practicing it.

This final quote is interesting.  (From lectures given in 1926?!)

“. . . . But the modern woman, if I may say so, is losing her self-respect.  She does not respect her own individuality and uniqueness, but is paying an unconscious tribute to man by trying to imitate him.  She is fast becoming masculine and mechanical.  Adventurous pursuits are leading her into conflict with her own inner nature.”  (page 64)

We have already written essays on women, and on feminism pro and con.

We could not find one passage that we looked for, perhaps it was in another of the books by this author that we have.  But I recall reading that Radhakrishnan points out that we in the West make an assumption that heaven is both a static state or condition and a never-ending place of residence for those who get there.  From memory, I seem to recall he says something to the effect that we assume that God would never tire of hearing His praises sung – as though Heaven would be one very, very long church service.  I, too, find this a bit of a stretch. There would be no possibility of growth, or of learning new things?  It may be that Heaven is a temporary (not “for ever”) stop on our spiritual journey and there may be future assignments for us.

Also, of possible interest to some readers is this earlier essay.

https://larrysmusings.com/2013/02/20/idealist-philosophers-impersonal-absolute-and-our-individual-consciousness/

Best wishes to all.

copyright 2014 – larrysmusings.com

the bodhisattva – some thoughts

the bodhisattva – some thoughts

Being a Christian (though probably not a good one) with a Vedic bent to my outlook and with a pinch of Taoism and Zen thrown in, I don’t often treat of Buddhism on this blog.

After the existential angst in my essay on Friday, the idea of the bodhisattva came to me out of my memory of readings on Buddhism many years ago.

As I recall, the bodhisattva is an enlightened soul that standing on the cusp, the very threshold of Nirvana, consciously and freely chooses to forego entrance to Nirvana so as to help all other sentient beings achieve enlightenment and liberation (release from the continuous round of birth-death-rebirth (samsara), release from the wheel of terror-joy). The vow of the bodhisattva is that he/she will not enter Nirvana until all other sentient beings have entered it first.

The bodhisattva, he or she, is motivated by compassion for all other sentient beings (who all suffer).  Because having suffered so over many lifetimes, he/she is acutely, poignantly aware of how others suffer.)

Think about that for a moment or two.

What if you were at that point?  You are literally ready and able to attain full and permanent release from the suffering we all endure, and at the very last moment you freely decide to forego this release – for how long?!  Many, many kalpas (eons or ages) that it will take for all other sentient beings to achieve enlightenment.

Of course, at that point of spiritual development, you have evolved past petty egoism and selfishness.  Yet, still, this is hard to wrap one’s mind around – the total self-sacrifice for others.

 

blue design cup

 

a not so random thought

Contrast this ideal of all-encompassing compassion with the adherents of Islam who ardently believe that if you will not convert (to Islam) then the world would be better off with you dead, and that you (yourself) would be better off dead.

Copyright 2014 – larrysmusings.com

the 2 sides of the coin of justice and the lack of justice in this world

the 2 sides of the coin of justice and the lack of justice in this world

The police in New York City

They chased a boy right through the park

In a case of mistaken identity

They put a bullet through his heart

(from the song, Heartbreaker, 1973, The Rolling Stones)

Whether referring to a real or an imagined incident, these words tell of injustice.

 

lotus

 

Often, the first thing that comes into our minds when we hear the term justice is punishment for bad actions, or for the people who commit terrible deeds.  Yet, that is only one of the 2 sides of the coin of justice.  The other side is some type of recompense for the wronged, for the injured.  The making whole of those harmed is sometimes over looked. And, of course, for some – the dead – recompense is not possible, at least not in this world.

We see everyday much injustice around us.  As well, the news media day after day informs us of injustices, terrible crimes, and tragedies occurring throughout the world.  It is no exaggeration to say that every second of every day has some injustice, some pain, some hurt for someone somewhere in this world of 7 billion souls.

Aside from the suffering inherent in the human condition, much suffering and injustice is inflicted by people on each other.  This is true at the individual level of human interaction and at the collective level of society and the interactions among nation states.

Why?  Why so much injustice?  Or, rather, why is there not more justice in this world? These questions are not new.  As injustice and tragedy have always existed, so too these questions, or similar ones, have entered people’s minds in every generation.

In the Vedic philosophy or religion of India, karma, the inexorable law, is used to explain what befalls us during our time on Earth.   Justice is achieved through the operation of this law (that was set in motion by God). There is a certain logic to this law of karma, at least at the conceptual level.  We addressed this concept of karma previously in the essay “the law of karma in question” (April, 2013).  In that essay, we asked if this karmic explanation (or rationalization?) is plausible, or satisfying, given that many people who suffer terribly throughout their lives do not give much evidence of being malicious or evil individuals.  (For those who believe in reincarnation, is it likely that a person’s disposition, or moral character, would change by 180 degrees from the immediate previous life to the current lifetime?)  For some, it may appear that this concept of karma is akin to blaming the victim(s), and is thus not very persuasive, nor comforting.

Before proceeding with our main thesis, let us note just a few current injustices around us.

One wonders about those whose last act is to commit mass murder (suicide bombers, terrorists) and who expect that they will then be welcomed into some type of paradise state after doing so.  Similarly, gruesome atrocities are being committed today in Syria and elsewhere by murderous fanatics.  Injustices done and no justice to be found.

What about the injustice done to children (and to their mothers) when their father abandons them, before or after they are born?  Today, in the US, this abandoning children and their mothers is at epidemic levels, especially in the black communities across the nation.  What a terrible disadvantage (both economic and emotional) these children are at throughout their entire childhood.  Many of these children are scarred for life.  Again, injustices done and little or no justice to be seen.

What of those in positions of power who either recklessly or wantonly abuse their authority?  Consider the current Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts.  In a 5 to 4 decision in late June, 2012, he attempts to rewrite the law (The Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obama Care”) so as to make the law pass the test of constitutionality.  (That is not the job of the justices.  The law as passed by Congress and signed by the President is to be tested.  If the law fails the Constitutional test, it is to be struck down, and the Congress can then revisit the issue and draft a new law that does not violate the Constitution.)  I bring this up because so much hardship and suffering is being experienced now by many millions of Americans because of the so-called Affordable Care Act.  John Roberts is responsible for this injustice inflicted on the American people every bit as much as the politicos in Congress who voted for this law.  Injustice, on a massive scale, without any justice or remedial actions, at least not to date.

Some people will choose not to believe in God because of this lack of justice in this world – but, I think that is a mistake.  Yes, the grievous lack of justice and the fact that much terrible suffering comes to good people does seriously strain one’s faith in God, at times. For some, it is not their belief in God (in His existence) that is weakened or threatened, but rather their faith in the goodness of God, and/or their hope that we as human beings matter in the eyes of God that can be weakened.

(One thing we have observed over the course of our lives is that people have a need to believe in something.  And, people often believe what they want to believe.  Even the atheist believes in his nullity.  The ardent Marxist fervently believes in dialectical materialism.  Some people may believe that this world is a level of Hell.)

With all that is allowed to go on in this world, one may ask:  Does God not care about the injustices?  Some may go further and ask: Are we just play things to God?  Is all this injustice and suffering we see and experience just part of an ongoing entertainment for God?  (If we were polytheists, we would use the term “gods”.)  If one reads some of the ancient Greek mythology, you get the impression that is what early Western man thought. The gods were capricious and vain.  (Recall the story we are told in The Iliad.)  The vagaries of human existence were often caused by the capricious and unjust actions of the gods.

In the Vedic teachings, there is the concept of lila.  You have no doubt heard of maya – the illusion that leads us to believe that this world and its phenomena are ultimately real. Perhaps a better definition is the illusion that living in this temporal, material world is the ultimate purpose for man.  Lila is the divine play.  We are all participating in a play so to speak.  A terrible and tragic and, yes, an unjust play.  But it is a divine play as God is the ultimate controller of it all.  As well, God (Krishna) is the enjoyer and we, spirit souls, are the enjoyed.  The play does have a purpose, even if we cannot or do not see it.  Just food for thought.  The suffering appears to us as very real while we are here on Earth.  Of course, here on Earth we do not have the best vantage point or perspective, do we?  The majority of us are at a bodily level of consciousness.  We identify too closely with the body and its needs, and often pursue sense gratification.  If we could achieve a spiritual level of consciousness, we would no doubt view things differently.

Christians may protest that we ought not question nor complain about the suffering we endure on this earth given that Jesus also suffered terribly during His passion and crucifixion.  Thus, who are we to question injustice and suffering?  Still, suffering and injustice are painful to see around us (more so when there is little we can do to alleviate these), and even harder for us to experience and endure.

Five years ago (in early 2009), I read a book that offered an answer to this question of why we do not see more justice in this world.  The book is Heliotropium, Conformity of the Human Will to the Divine, by Father Jeremias Drexelius (1581 – 1638), TAN Books and Publishers, Rockford, Illinois, 1984.  (A more recent edition is available now.) Heliotropium roughly translates to Sunflower.  As the sunflower always seems to turn towards the sun, the individual human soul ought to turn to God in all things.

The answer Father Drexelius puts forth (drawing heavily from the Old Testament and from the writings of early Christians) is basically this 2 fold assertion.  Keeping in mind that we do see a small measure of justice here . . . .  1. If we, as men (generically, meaning men and women) saw complete justice enacted or delivered in this world, many of us might choose to think or believe there was nothing after this life.  If all were settled here on Earth, we would lose hope or belief in an afterlife.  2. If, at the other extreme, we were to see no justice at all here in this world, we might despair of, or doubt God’s existence, or of His caring about what goes on here on Earth.

No doubt there are other views, assumptions, conjectures, and opinions on this question of justice.  This essay is not intended to offer an answer, but is written to stimulate thinking.

Let me conclude with my thoughts in this area.  Personally, I believe that things can only be made right through or by God.  But this, of necessity, assumes that God is truly loving, just and merciful.  Sadly, as we all know from our experiences, this world is sorely lacking in love, justice and mercy.  I consciously and freely choose to believe that in some way justice will come in its proper time for both the innocent victims who need recompense, and for the those who harmed others through selfish, evil, and destructive motivations.  Sure, I cannot prove this belief to you.  It cannot be proved as we could offer proof that the Earth is round, a sphere, and not flat.  It cannot be proved in the way one could prove that 2 plus 2 equals 4.  Yet, I choose to believe in a God that does care deeply about what goes on here on Earth, and will make things right at some future point (on His timetable, not on ours).

And, I try to order my life around this belief (though I am no saint).  What I suggest to everyone is to strive to be just, loving and merciful in your lives towards others and towards yourself.  We cannot change this very flawed world at the macro level, but we can make a big difference, a positive, constructive, loving difference in the lives of those around us.  If you want to live a meaningful life, then make the effort to be more loving.  Help those who have suffered injustice and/or tragedy in their lives.  Work against those who perpetrate injustice, and condemn hatred and violence.

Whether you believe in the law of karma, or in a judgment day for us as individual souls, living a loving life is the best path to take if you desire a better future state of being.

Please feel free to forward this essay, or a link to it, on to anyone you know who may be interested in its contents.

Below, is a picture of a curio we purchased in a thrift store some years ago.

 

mask 6

 

Thanks for reading.