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  1. GHHF: How to tell Hinduism to Your Child?
    – K Aravinda Rao
    Part 1 (1 & 2 Chapters)

    Dr. K. Aravinda Rao, IPS, the author of the book “How to Tell Hinduism to your Child?” holds PhD in Sanskrit. He had a distinguished career in Andhra Pradesh holding a number of positions in the safety and security departments. He was appointed as Director General of State Police in 2010 and retired in 2012. He also worked as the Additional Director General of State Intelligence Department the Additional Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad, Inspector General of Police (Greyhounds) and IGP (Crime Investigation Department).

    Global Hindu Heritage Foundation was very happy to receive his permission to share the book to our readers. We will be send two chapters at a time so that it would allow the readers and the students to digest the material before they receive the next set of chapters. “The present book is to give the modern students and parents an appreciation of the statute philosophical inquiry, universal values, and pluralism of Hinduism and enable them to look at their own religion with esteem in the present competitive environment.” Please enjoy reading the book.

    Part 2 (3 & 4 Chapters) will follow next week.

    Chapter – I : Need for the book

    1.1. Globalized children

    I write this book for the parents of today’s globalized children. Students of higher classes can read it on their own. The subject is old but it has to be told in modern terms.

    Perhaps, about fifty years ago, this book was not quite necessary, particularly as we grew up in rural India. We were credulous children, never doubting anything that our parents or grandparents told about gods, heaven, hell and all such stuff. We celebrated all festivals joyously and boisterously, worshiping which ever was the deity concerned. We would worship Sri Rama on the day of Rama Navami, worship the mighty god Shiva on the night of Shiva Ratri or goddess Durga on the day of Durgashtami. It never occurred to us to question why we had different gods and goddesses. We were willing to believe and admire when we were told about the demons slain by Rama or Krishna or Durga. Our childish curiosity was only about which god was more powerful – Whether it is Hanuman or Rama. Whatever answer was given by our elders was quite alright for us.

    Social change has brought about a great disconnect with the traditional life style, the rituals and festivals associated with them. Our school education is not giving any exposure to the child about religion and parents too are isolated in a working environment. The modern child in India grows in an economically competitive environment without any idea about cultural heritage.

    This may appear good, because a child will grow up with a scientific, questioning spirit. But as we see around, religion has become a globalized subject like all other aspects of human life and the other religions are seen marketing their religions in an intelligent but aggressive way. This is done at the community level by people who go about telling about their religion, at the level of media through debates questioning several traditional festivals, at the level of films by ridiculing Hindu manners and in a number of other ways. A modern child is unwittingly exposed to all this and he starts doubting whatever little religion he sees at home. There are questions about why we have several gods, as to whether we worship idols and so on. It is a testing time for the parents. They have to update themselves if they have to answer their kids.

    1.2. Competing religions

    It is also an unfortunate development that the secular nations of the west are turning to be active defenders and propagators of their religion. This is the result of the conflict between two dominant religions of the world. Sociologists observe that while the 20th century was the century of secularism, the 21st century is emerging as the century of religious revival. The twentieth century saw communism, Maoism, rivalry between communism and capitalism and such ideological issues. This scene has changed and we now see religious extremism and civil wars between religious groups in several countries.

    Indian children growing abroad do face strange troubles. Schools abroad do give some introduction to major world religions, including Hinduism. While other religions can be easily understood and explained in a simple way, Hinduism is found to be difficult because of several religious texts and several traditions of worship. As such, it is likely to be improperly explained. Children sometimes get totally negative impressions by such presentations and sometimes get depressed because of ridicule from peer groups. The parents at home are ill-equipped to handle such challenges.

    1.3. Two types of Questions

    There can be two types of questions on Hinduism. There are primary questions like – ‘why do we worship several gods?’, ‘are we idol worshippers?’, ‘are we asked to do work without expecting the fruit of it?’, ‘is everything destined by our karma?’ and such type.

    There can be secondary questions like – ‘what is the significance of vermillion or tilak on the forehead?’, ‘what do we dohārati or circumambulation in a temple?’, ‘what is the significance of the sacred thread?’ and such type.

    1.4. In this book

    In this book I have tried to answer the questions of first type, which are more fundamental and important. The first type can be answered only if we understand the basic philosophy of the Upanishads. The latter type is related to religious practice.

    Hence a few chapters on philosophy have become inevitable and I apologize to the readers for the difficulty caused. They have to be digested slowly. I will present the basic facts based on the primary texts – the Vedas, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. This would cover the philosophical queries.

    All other books such as purāna-s, Mahabharata and Ramayana are secondary texts, based on the philosophy of the primary texts. These relate to religious practices, rituals, festivals and ethical life. I have also explained certain social issues like caste and untouchability.

    You may not straight away start teaching the contents of the book, but may wait for the query from your child. The children are bound to ask the questions discussed in this book. It will be good to tell them when they do ask about it.

    I have used the IAST transliteration key for the Sanskrit terms, for parents who have some idea about it. It is my request to parents that they may get the pronunciation right or skip the Sanskrit lines if they so wish

    Chapter – 2 : Who are Hindus?

    2.1. Our name and spread

    A commonly accepted derivation for the word ‘Hindu’ is like this. The ancient Persians, in their texts, referred to the river Sindhu as ‘Hindu’, as it was their way of pronouncing the sound ‘s’. They also referred to the people who lived around the river as Hindus. This name was adopted by various others who came to India either as invaders or visitors and the name got attached to us. This word is not in the Vedas or major purāna-s. Some scholars do say that the word ‘Hindu’ is found in the purāna-s and also give a derivation, but this is debated.

    It is estimated that nearly one-seventh of the world’s population are Hindus, who are followers of the most ancient religion alive today. It is the fourth largest religion in the world after Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Both Buddhism and Hinduism originated in India, but Buddhism spread to China and other South Asian countries, while Hinduism is now mostly confined to India, though at one time it had spread to other countries too.

    2.2. Santana Dharma

    The real word for Hinduism is ‘sanātana dharma’. This was the word used to denote the religion and culture before the British popularized the word ‘Hindu’. ‘Sanātana’ is that which is permanent in nature and ‘dharma’ is that which holds the society together. It means the code of conduct which holds for all times for social harmony and integration. Religion and religious rituals were part and parcel of this dharma.

    Sometimes it is said that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. It means that Hinduism is not like other religions. In other religions, there is only one book and one belief system about god, heaven and the devil. Hinduism has a number of belief systems under the umbrella of one single philosophy, as we shall see in great detail.

    If you look at the map of the present day India, Himalayas are in the north-east, bordering China. Pakistan is on the north- west. At the time of origin of what we call Hinduism, the name of the country was ‘Bharata-varsha’, covering areas right up to the present day Afghanistan on the north-west and up to Myanmar in the east. The sister of the King of Kandahar (Gandhara) was the grand old lady Gandhari, the mother of the hundred Kauravas whom we see in the great Indian epicMahabharata. All this land from Afghanistan to Kerala was the land of sanātana dharma. We had very friendly relationship with another mighty empire of olden days, that is, China. A large contingent of Chinese soldiers, a golden sea of people, fought on the side of the Kauravas in the epic battle of Mahabharata.

    2.3. Cultural unity of India

    Historically, the whole of Indian continent was one cultural unit. All our prayers and rituals show this. See our daily prayer:

    gaṅge ca yamune caiva godāvari sarasvati .
    narmade sindhu kāveri jalesmin sannidhimkuru ..

    This is recited by all those who do their daily prayers anywhere in the country. It is an invocation to all the rivers of the country invoking their holy waters into the chalice. The prayers also refer to the whole of Bharata-varsha. We do pilgrimage to the twelve famous shrines of Shiva (Jyotirlingas), the eighteen shrines of Shakti (śakti-pīthas) wherever we may reside. Even an unlettered Indian, located anywhere in the country, would owe allegiance to all these shrines, which have become part of the Indian psyche. One has to listen to the mahāsaṅkalpam (a long hymn to our mother land) which is recited at the time of marriage, in order to understand the glorious vision of our country.

    Mahabharata and Ramayana contain several descriptions of the geography of Bharata-varsha, as it was then called. There are details of several small kingdoms and their geographical details. Mahabharata describes the kings who took part on behalf of Kauravas or Pandavas in the war. Sanskrit abounds in such description of kingdoms. All these underline the cultural oneness of India.

    The cultural unity of all tribes with the mainstream population has also to be noted. The great epic Mahabharata describes how the five exiled princes stayed with the tribes and took their help while staying in the forest. Yudhishtira sends them as spies to observe the governance by Duryodhana. Similarly, Ramayana describes how the chiefs of several tribes were invited on the eve of proposed coronation of Rama. Later, when Rama was in exile, he moved with the chiefs of tribes and took their help. There is a famous episode in which Rama held discussion on dharma with Sabari, a tribe’s woman. All this shows that the tribes were an integral part of Indian culture.

    Prof. Stephen Knapp notes how Indian culture spread to several East-Asian countries because of its sheer greatness of culture and not by military might. Extensive research has been done by him about how merchants were responsible for the spread of Hinduism in Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and such countries. The languages and diction of these countries bear testimony to the cultural connections.

    Parents may see:

    • See “Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence” and other books by Stephen Knapp


    As many of you know that SaveTemple Office was opened in June 2012 in Hyderabad. Office is located in Khairatabad. Four full time employees are working on the update of our website, Aalayavani Web Radio, Aalayavani magazine, conducting various activities to preserve and protect Hindu Temples and Culture. Our budget is approximately 2 lakh rupees per month. We request your generous donation to conduct activities to promote unity among Hindus and restore the glory of Hinduism.

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    Part 2 (3 & 4 Chapters)
    Chapter – 3 : Religion – A Set of Beliefs

    3.1. Social Need
    We see two aspects in any religion. The first is the usefulness of religion in bringing about social harmony and compliance to a moral code. The very word religion is from a Latin root ‘ligare’, to bind. It binds people to certain common norms. This is what is called the utilitarian view.

    The second is about the content of teaching. We have to see as to what is the degree of truth or probability in various things told by religion, and how far is it compatible with the rational thinking and the scientific world view. If what religion tells is like a school boy’s tale, the school boys of today are unwilling to suspend their reason.

    Some refute the utilitarian view and argue that religion is also the cause for great massacres and genocides on earth. Glaring examples can be seen if we look into the history of genocide. There are also claims of superiority of one religion over the other. These claims can never be settled. They were only settled by wars, conquests and conversions. This book does not discuss these.

    3.2. Religion: A Set of Beliefs or Postulations

    I hope you will not dispute that no one has seen either heaven or hell and come back to us to tell what it is. We have to admit that any religion, as we see now, is structured round a set of beliefs – beliefs regarding creation of the universe by God,

    about heaven which is the God’s abode and where good people go after death, about hell where the bad folks go and suffer for their bad deeds. Such beliefs existed all over the world and different religions visualized their own God forms, their own versions of heaven and hell, and their own norms about good or bad in society.

    A majority of people take the belief system as the absolute truth and even now they do. This gives a lot of importance to the religious structure and the people in charge of that structure. Votaries of religion have always held that religion instills good values, social discipline and order. Religion served the purpose of binding the society as a culturally homogenous unit.

    3.3. Philosophy versus Religion

    Throughout history, there have been a lot many people who questioned such belief system. No one has seen God or heaven or hell but the books so solidly talk about these things. Hence, the non-believers or atheists had their own postulations about creation and about the human being’s role in the universe.

    We assume that scientific spirit is a product of modern times. It is not so. Logical thinking is as old as human mind. The ancient Indians (Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and others) had developed elaborate systems of logic. So did the Greeks, Romans and others. These thinkers were called philosophers, the lovers of truth. But quite often, the philosophical thought had nothing to do with religious structure. People of religion talked of a personal god in all grandeur while the philosophers tried to reason out and postulate. We can notice this among the western philosophers who, sometimes, talk almost on the same lines as the Upanishads but they were like rebels, and some were excommunicated by the clergy. Religion and philosophy were on a course of clash.

    3.4. Two Levels of Truth

    The Vedas talked of two levels of truth, one called parā, the supreme level and the other was called aparā, the lower level. The higher level corresponds to philosophy and the lower level to religion.

    Indian sages examined the human mind and senses, the way they cognize the universe, the limitations of such cognitions and the nature of Supreme Reality. We find that the sages (we call them ṛṣi-s in Sanskrit) who gave Upanishads used elaborate reasoning in trying to know what is the ultimate reality, or God, as we call. They also realized that religion is a social need and that only a tiny minority indulges in philosophical quest. Hence the sages endorsed religion at the level of the common man in the early portions of Vedas and discussed philosophical issues toward the end of the Vedas. The belief system relating to rituals was accepted as a lower level of truth while the philosophical inquiry was regarded as theabsolute level of truth. Hence we find stories of gods, demons and rituals at one level, and about human mind and its intricacies at another.

    A distinct feature of these stories is that they are symbolic or allegorical tales, conveying the Vedic teaching to the common man. We shall see this in good detail in the forthcoming chapters.

    Chapter – 4 : Hinduism – Evolved from a Philosophical Base
    What distinguishes the Vedanta philosophy from all other philosophies is that it is at the same time a religion and a philosophy. -Max Muller

    4.1. Our Interface with Religion

    When we go to a temple we have the priest chanting some prayers, breaking a coconut which we offer and giving us some delicious snack which was earlier offered to the god. The priest chants prayers which are composed in Sanskrit which most of us do not know. (Sanskrit was once known to everyone in society and hence the prayers were in Sanskrit). We go to different temples and see priests chanting different prayers. We do not know what the prayers mean but we have a good feeling of listening to some awe-inspiring sounds and an impressive ritual. We hardly realize that the prayers contain deep philosophical ideas.

    Religion can be presented in two ways.

    It can be told as a myth about the God, the demons (Satan, as called in western religions), heaven, hell and related structures. The god has given some commandments and one has to obey. This will satisfy an innocent believer.
    Religion can be an honest enquiry about the nature of Supreme Being. We have to keep in mind that it is the man who is trying to know what is god. For that we have to know how far our instruments of knowledge are useful. The instruments we have are the five senses and the mind which coordinates them. Someone who wants to propose a religion has to keep this in mind and postulate an idea of god, demons, heaven and hell.
    If we look at the world religions, a majority of them fall under the first category. Religions have a sacred book which is said to contain the word of god. All people have to obey unquestioningly. There can be description of heaven with gold pavements, fabulous mansions and heavenly damsels. In contrast, there is a dark dungeon with hellish fires to punish the non-believers.

    Hinduism approaches this subject at two levels, as I said above.

    At the level of philosophy it talks of the human being (all living beings in general) and his senses and mind. In an episode in Taittiriya Upanishad, a son goes to his father (who is a sage) and asks him to tell about the Supreme Reality. The father says – ‘you have got a body with flesh and blood, the five senses and mind. You have also got the vital force which is enabling the body to live. Meditate on these and try to know truth’. The son starts thinking about them and finally arrives at the truth. We shall see in a later chapter. The idea here is to show that the sages had a logical approach to reality.
    At the level of common man the sages did not prescribe a single belief system or mode of worship to a single deity. Whatever human mind can conceive is only a partial truth, says the Kena Upanishad. No one can say ‘this is what is god, this is the way heaven is’. Hence the sages permitted different modes of worship which are all accepted as tentative or interim level of truth. This is the reason we find several gods being worshiped. We will see more about this in a later chapter.
    4.2. No Single Prophet in Hinduism

    Hinduism was not propounded by a single prophet. It did not originate in troubled times. There was no political power en-forcing it and suppressing dissent. The basic texts like the Vedas evolved over a period of a few centuries. Sages who renounced the world and speculated over the mysteries of the universe have given to us certain observations or ‘revelations’ in the form of Vedas. These books talk about both religion and philosophy.

    The Vedas thus talk at two levels, as we learnt. From the point of an ordinary man, they tell about various rituals and the fruit of such rituals. The common man is happy with them. At some point of time people start wondering about the nature of god. Vedas talk about the second level too. The end portions of the Vedas are totally devoted to this. The uniqueness of Vedas is that both philosophy and religion are described in the same texts by the same sages. They took a comprehensive view of society and addressed persons of different maturity levels.

    Religion and belief system are accepted as a lower level of truth or empirical reality (vyāvahārika satyam) for the purpose of social guidance and harmony. Logical contemplation on the nature of reality is accepted as the absolute level of truth(pāramārthika satyam). The latter was told to persons trained in rigorous self-discipline, while the former was for everyone. Most people are usually happy with the lower level, conducting rituals, seeking boons from different gods and seeking forgiveness. Very few are normally seen to be bothered about the higher level of truth.

    This book, of course, tries to give a simple account of this philosophical stuff, as that is the only way we can answer the questions of skeptics. Questions about religion will be discussed in greater detail.

    Part 3 (5 & 6 Chapters)
    Part 3 (5 & 6 Chapters)
    Chapter – 5 : The Sacred Texts of Hindus
    In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and so el-evating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life; and it will be the solace of my death. They are the product of the highest wisdom. – Arthur Schopenhauer, the German Philosopher

    If you visit a bookstore where religious books are sold and look for books on Hinduism, you will find a number of divergent books. You may not know as to which one is the main text and which is not. Hence, it is necessary to know which are primary and which are secondary. We do not have a single text attributed to a single prophet, as in other religions. Instead, we have several works which were revealed by sages over a period of time.

    5.1. Primary texts:

    As I mentioned in the introduction, Hindus regard three texts as their primary texts – the Vedas, the Brahma Sutras and theBhagavad Gita.

    The Vedas: The most ancient and primary texts for the Hindus are the Vedas. The time of their composition is uncertain. Traditionalists even today maintain that the Vedas are directly revealed from the Supreme Being, called Brahman. But it can be reasonably established that they were revelations of several ṛṣi-s who had left their families, retreated to jungles and contemplated about the mysteries of the universe with an unbiased mind. It was a time when there were no rigid boundaries for the countries as we see now, and it appears that they were composed at five to six thousand years ago. It is undisputed that the Rigveda is the oldest human document available. The language used is Vedic Sanskrit which is fairly distinct from the classical Sanskrit.

    The antiquity of Vedas was never in question till the Europeans came to India. Several European scholars started studying Vedas in addition to the whole mass of Sanskrit literature. Their writings had profound impact on the European thought process. A recent book, ‘American Veda’ by the American writer Phillip Goldberg makes an interesting reading. It traces the impact of Indian philosophy on the West starting from Schopenhauer (the German philosopher of seventeenth century) till modern day. (The book is a compulsory reading for every Indian scholar).

    The European scholars like Max Muller were bewildered by the sheer volume and depth of Indian philosophical thought. It was not similar to what they encountered in other colonial countries. Their first problem was to fix the time of composition of the books. They could not accept the Indian view that the Vedas were composed thousands of years ago, as the Biblical scholars and religious heads like Bishop Ussher had established that God created the Universe in 4004 B.C. and nothing on earth could be dated prior to that. They accepted the Biblical chronology and so they had to map all other cultures and societies on the Biblical time scale. With all this, there is some agreement now amongst scholars that they were composed during the period between 2000 and 1500 B.C.

    The initial portions of these Vedas contain lyrical eulogies for different deities. Along with these are described certain rituals called ‘yajña’ in order to propitiate these deities. In addition, there are forms of meditation on various deities. All these are at one level which is traditionally called the karma kānḍa, i.e. the portion of Veda which deals with Gods and rituals and what we now call religion. This is what is referred to as the lower level of truth or empirical reality.

    It is the end portions of Vedas which were the cause of serious interest among philosophers all over the world. These end portions are called Upanishads, and their teaching is called ‘Vedanta’ – ‘anta’ meaning ‘the end’ or the final word of the Vedas. This is what is referred to as the higher level of reality or absolute reality.

    These portions of Vedas are deliberations in what is now called philosophy. The subject matter is not social philosophy or political philosophy as we see in the West, but the deliberation is on the nature of the Supreme Being, the nature of creation, the nature of human, mind and senses. The final startling conclusion of the Vedas is that the individual and the Supreme Being are essentially one and the same.

    Brahma Sutras: Vedas, we know, were composed over a period of a few centuries in different parts of the country. Though the central philosophy is the same, the language and expression differ in them. It was necessary to explain certain apparent contradictions and demonstrate a unity of thought in the Vedas. The Brahma Sutras do this job. These are aphoristic statements (sūtra-s) discussing important issues in philosophy and also religion. For instance, they discuss whether god can be a personal god or impersonal entity. They also discuss whether there are several gods or one and whether we have to worship all gods or any one. This book is for rather advanced students as it has serious philosophical discussions.

    Bhagavad Gita: This is the most important for Hindus. The first thing we have to know about it is that it is not an independent text, but a small portion (700 verses) of the mighty epic Mahabharata (100,000 verses). This epic deals with the great battle between two groups of royal kinsmen, ‘Kauravas’ and ‘Pandavas’. It is encyclopedic in nature. It has several long passages about statecraft, about morality, about religion and about philosophy. Bhagavad Gita is one philosophical passage. It is a compulsory reading for every Hindu, if one desires to have an idea of the central doctrine of the Vedas. A traditional verse has metaphorically compared all the Upanishads (the end portions of Vedas) to cows, Lord Krishna, the narrator to the milkman and Arjuna, the listener, to the calf. While the calf is the immediate beneficiary of the nectar called Gita, we are all the incidental beneficiaries.

    We are going to know about Gita in an exclusive chapter.

    5.2. Secondary texts: –Iitihāsa and Purān a.

    The Vedic sages had a scheme for transmission of knowledge. They gave the core texts in the form of Vedas. As the philosophy of Vedas (Vedanta) is not easily understood by all, they wrote popular texts to spread the message of Vedas. These popular texts are the itihāsa and purān a-s. These are the secondary texts.

    Sage Vyasa’s line from the first canto of the great epic Mahabharata defines the framework of these texts:

    ‘itihāsa purān ābhyām vedam samupabṛ hayet’.

    ‘The message of the Vedas has to be popularized through the itihāsa and purān texts’,a it says. If Veda were to be compared to a text of law, the above secondary texts can be compared to the studies in case law. For instance, if the Veda says ‘satyam vada’ (speak truth), the secondary text gives several examples of people who implemented this injunction, and how they came out successful in spite of facing several problems during the course of such implementation.

    The Upanishads are called the śruti while the secondary texts are called smṛti. The latter follows the former like a faithful follower, says Kalidasa, poetically (Raghuvamsha 2-2).

    The primary texts can be compared to the software of religion and the secondary texts its hardware. It is these secondary texts which were followed by the society and which created the ethical edifice of religion.

    The epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata were called as itihāsa (closer to historical narrations) and the mythological tales were called purān a-s. Rama of Ramayana and Pandavas of Mahabharata could have been historical characters whose history was glorified in the epics called itihāsa. They were called avatāra-s, the reincarnation of God. The purān a-s, however, are many in number and they belong to different traditions of worship. Some extol Shiva as Supreme, some extol Vishnu as the Supreme and some others extol Shakti. They give a picture of various deities who were being worshipped in different parts of the country, as we saw above.

    Later day sages of purān a times seem to have brought the belief systems popular in different parts of the country under the umbrella of Upanishadic thought. They did a great job of harmonizing different systems. They also blended the mythological symbolism with the philosophy of the Upanishads.

    The mythological tales called purān a-s have something more to offer. The Vedas and Upanishads postulate the philosophical concepts. These concepts are told in the form of allegorical tales by the purān a-s.

    Though secondary in nature, these are very important from the point of view of value building in society. The family values and social values are still intact in the Indian society because of the hundreds of stories from Ramayana, Mahabharataand the purān a-s, which have gone into the collective memory of even illiterate villagers. These secondary texts played an important role in keeping the society together even when the Hindu society was under severe attacks in the last one thousand years.

    However, in case of doubt on any philosophical concept, we have to go to the primary texts and not to the secondary texts.

    Parents may see:

    ‘The American Veda’ by Ph
    Google search – ‘Ussher c
    Chapter – 6 : Introducing the Idea of God

    6.1. An Exercise
    If we can gather a group of intelligent people and give an assignment to come up with an idea of what could be God who would have created this universe, they could come up with the following three scenarios.

    1) God – A cosmic super cop, with functions, name and form:

    This is the basic level of thinking where God is someone who is infinitely more powerful than everything in the Universe, that he is having a form like Vishnu, Rudra or Durga and that his or her abode is up above in the skies, or that he or she would punish the wrong doers and reward the good and so on. Here, the God is having a form and some attributes, in other words, some functions. Vedanta calls it ‘sākāra (‘with form’) and sagun a’ (‘with functions’) level.

    2) God – formless, but with functions of controlling the universe:

    This is a slightly improved level. Here God is someone for whom we cannot think of any shape, but he is an infinitely powerful being and he has the functions of rewarding the good and punishing the bad. In other words, he is a ‘nirākāra’(formless) but sagun a (with functions). This is the level at which all religions end. The western religions talk of a formless God, but of one who has all the above functions. Among the Indian schools of philosophy, the logicians (called tārkika-s), the ‘sāṅkhya-s’ and the Patanjali yogis believed in such a concept of God.

    3) A nameless, formless, functionless entity:

    The third group which says so, is thinking on the lines of the sages of the Upanishads. Upanishads say that what we call the Supreme Being (God) cannot be something saddled with the mundane supervisory activity of the world. They further say that the Supreme Being cannot be something which can either be called a male or a female or that it is in a human form. This being, whatever it is, cannot even be the something which is creating and maintaining the universe, drawing up some rules and regulations for all the celestial bodies to move in their orbits, and rules for humans to follow. If that entity were to have all these duties, then it would be somewhat like a cosmic super-cop. God cannot be someone who is fond of a chosen tribe and who is punishing the other tribe like a group leader.

    6.2. God is Infinite Existence of Consciousness

    This is the level called nirākāra (formless) and nirgun a (attribute-less). Apart from the Upanishads no other religious text in the world talks of this level. God is Existence, Consciousness and Infinitude (satyam, jñānam anantam Brahma), as the

    Taittiriya Upanishad says. It is not a Being or a person as we conceive at the first two levels. These three words need some explanation.

    Satyam is something whose existence cannot be negated or denied in past, present and future. All things in the world undergo change and decay. The human life is for mere hundred years and the life of the planet earth is only for a few more million years. This universe itself was not there a few billion years ago. But this principle called existence was always there even prior to the origin of the universe. In fact, the concept of time is associated with events and hence time is an appearance in that Existence, which precedes time. Existence of all beings and things is only a reflection of this Supreme Existence.

    Jñānam means consciousness or intelligence. It does not mean that God is all knowing, but it means that it is of the nature of intelligence, whose intelligence is reflected in all beings.

    Anantam is infinitude. There is nothing which can be outside of it. The nearest example is space, which pervades the whole universe. Vedanta says that even space is an appearance in that Supreme Being, which is here denoted by the word infinitude. What all we see is pervaded by It and not apart from It.

    It is thus clear that as per Vedanta the ultimate reality is neither a man nor a woman nor is it in a human or any living form. It is of the nature of existence, consciousness and infinitude.

    The principle of existence is all over the cosmos. Everywhere we see things and say ‘this exists’ ‘this exists’ and so on endlessly. There is a principle of existence which is underlying all things we see.

    Likewise, the whole cosmos is permeated by consciousness, in other words, intelligence. Consciousness is manifesting along with existence in all things we see whether they are sentient or insentient. The human mind is said to be a smart ‘reflector’ of this consciousness in comparison with all other things. In fact, the human being himself is called a reflector of this consciousness.

    The next attribute for the ultimate reality is infinitude. Existence and consciousness are all pervading. What all we can conceive and beyond that too is that ultimate entity.

    For the purpose of usage we have to give some name to this Supreme Being. Vedanta calls this entity Brahman. The word literally means ‘infinitely expanding’. This Brahman is referred to in neuter gender. We refer to it as ‘It’. What all universe we see should obviously be the creation of this entity, one naturally presumes.

    If Brahman is such formless and nameless entity, what is the status of Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti and other deities? This we shall know in the following chapters.

    If we look at the world religions, they usually talk of a formless god, but the god is a male, so human, so partisan to his chosen tribe and so jealous that he punishes those who worship any other deity. He also creates man in his own image. He sends believers to heaven and non-believers to hell. It is to the credit of our ancient sages that they analyzed this issue dispassionately and proposed the above concept of Brahman.

    The parent may also see:

    Part 4 (7 & 8 Chapters)
    Chapter – 7 : How did Universe Come About?
    It (Hinduism) is the only religion in which the time scales correspond to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma, 8.64 billion years long, longer than the age of the earth or the sun and about half the time since the big bang. – Carl Sagan in Cosmos

    We have to use a little bit of terminology in this chapter.

    7.1. Material for the Universe

    When we see any object it is natural for us to assume the presence of a creator. The created object is called the effect and the creator is the cause. When we take the example of an earthen jar, we see that clay is the raw material (called thematerial cause) and the potter is its maker (called the intelligent cause). The question now is, as to what is the cause of the universe we see, who is its maker and wherefrom the material has come?

    Different religions give different versions of creation of Universe by God. Upanishads give a different picture. A passage from Taittiriya Upanishad (2-1) of Krishna Yajurveda tells like this:

    The all pervading space emerged from the eternal Consciousness.

    From space, emerged air. From air, emerged fire,

    And from fire, emerged water

    Earth as we see, has emerged from these waters. The plant kingdom originated thereafter. Plants became the food for the living beings, And thus, all the living beings emerged.

    We are concerned about us. The above passage says that all living beings, including humans came from the plant kingdom, which is called ‘annam’, the food, because they eat and get eaten. We too are called food. The sage, on discovering that he is nothing greater than ‘fodder’, cries out ‘I am food, I am food, I am the eater, I am the eater’.

    The above description by the Upanishad is almost close to the scientist’s view of the origin of earth. It is the hot airs or the nebulae which condensed to become fluid and thereafter to solidify in order to become all the stars and planets. Vedanta is not saying that there is a creator who is sitting high above in skies and creating the cosmos from out of some material.

    The idea of ‘all illumining’ ākāśa i.e. space, which was the origin of all, is something surprising at a time when all other cultures accepted only four elements i.e. earth, water, fire and air. These five elements are like the raw material for all the living beings as we shall see later.

    What is the material with which Brahman created the universe and where did it come from? Let us try to follow what Vedanta says.

    In the earlier chapter we saw that Brahman is Existence, Consciousness and Infinitude. In other words, it is consciousness existing infinitely around. It is not of the nature of a personal God. There cannot be anything un-pervaded by It.

    In such case if we accept any material outside what we have called Brahman, then, Brahman would be a limited entity, however powerful it may be. Therefore the material should be from the Brahman itself.

    If we agree that the material is from the Brahman, then, we would be assuming that Brahman is an entity with limbs or parts in it. It is facile to say that Brahman took out a part from itself and fashioned the cosmos. Brahman having limbs or parts would also make it a very limited entity. It would hit the definition ‘infinitude’ which we noted above.

    If we think that Brahman changed itself into the cosmos just as milk changes into curd, then Brahman no longer exists having transformed itself into the universe. This cannot be the situation. Brahman would become a changing and impermanent entity. This would again hit our conception of Brahman.

    The only option which remains is to say that it is the Brahman which is ‘appearing’ as the universe, while itself not undergoing any change. It is the unchanging material cause and also the intelligent cause of the universe. (Vedanta calls this the abhinna nimitta – upādāna – kāran )am.

    7.2. The Concept of Māyā.

    The Brahman has no doer-ship, we saw. It cannot be having the duty of being the creator. How is it that space, the other elements and universe emerged from that? The scriptures introduce a sort of interface called ‘māyā’. This is described asa sort of enveloping and manifesting power in Brahman. It envelopes the real nature of Brahman and makes it appear or manifest as the universe. In other words, you and I are the same consciousness, appearing as individual entities. All the animals, plants and all inanimate things we see are all manifestations of the same consciousness.

    We have landed in a situation where we say that the cosmos is ‘appearing’, all appearances are not real. This is a question which has perplexed the minds of the sages who revealed the Upanishads. Science, till recently, maintained that consciousness has come out of matter. Vedanta on the other hand, says that matter is appearing from consciousness. Science appears still undecided about the issue. The Vedantins too are undecided, and hence, they said that the existence or otherwise of the universe cannot be asserted. It is neither real nor unreal (neither sat nor asat).

    Vedanta says that this creation is a temporary appearance in māyā. It appears and disappears. It is not a one-time activity of God. In fact, what we call creator is only a function in māyā.

    Western Religions talk of only one creation. The Vedas talk of recurring cycles of creation. There is a creation, sustained for some time and then which resolves into the above said māyā.

    All the above discussion may not be easily understood by the common man. Hence the later texts, called purān a-s, told the above in a figurative way. The power of creation was called Brahma, a four headed god, whose consort is Saraswati (symbolizing wisdom). The power of sustenance was called Vishnu, whose consort is Lakshmi (symbolizing wealth). The power of resolving the universe was called Rudra, whose consort was Shakti (symbolizing the power of destruction). We will know about these god forms in later chapters.

    The parent may also see:

    Taittiriya Upanishad (2-1) any translation with a traditional commentary. How did Universe Come About?
    Googlesearchfor‘Usscherronology’foracomparati understanding.
    Google search Carl Sagan’
    http://www.wikiquoteforErvinSchrodinger’s.orgremarkson Vedanta.
    Chapter – 8 : Man and Creator from the Absolute Point of View

    8.1. Understanding Consciousness

    We saw above that god did not abruptly stand in the space and create the whole universe. We merely saw a phenomenon called creation and that Brahman (consciousness) had no direct activity called creation. The question follows as to what is the human being (and other beings) and who is the creator?

    Let us take the example of the ocean. What all you see is water, but in different shapes like giant waves, small waves, bubbles and foam. We see them all collectively as ocean. Waters do not undergo any change whether it is a giant wave, a petty wave or mere froth.

    Take another example of space. The space in a room, the space in a vessel, the space in a huge building and the infinite space outside are all but space. The space does not undergo any change because of its apparent limitations like vessel-space, room-space or a building-space.

    The Supreme Being was called Brahman, as we recall. It is consciousness existing infinitely all around. Upanishads say that there cannot be anything other than consciousness. In such case where do we map the human being or the creator?

    In the above chapter we saw the lines from the Upanishad about the emergence of the universe. It told that all living being

    have come out of the plant kingdom. All these beings (both an-imals and plants) starting from a blade of grass to mighty trees and starting from an ant to a dinosaur do have some intelligence. This is to feed themselves, protect themselves and also propagate themselves. It means that all these beings seem to be a mixture of intelligence plus some other raw stuff. It is flesh, blood and bones in the case of mobile beings (called jaṅgama) and fibrous stuff in non-mobile beings (calledsthāvara).

    8.2. Individual Mind and Consciousness Animating It

    Upanishads say that what we call mind in the living beings is merely an insentient material, but very sensitive material capable of reflecting the consciousness (Brahman). It is somewhat like a mirror reflecting the consciousness. It is capable of interacting with the world around it by the senses and mind activated by the same consciousness. Thus we note that the living beings are associated with some bit of consciousness, which we call it intelligence. This tiny bit of intelligence is called the individual self, jīva (it includes plants and all animals). We may compare this with a tiny wave in the ocean of consciousness or a mere pot-space in the space like consciousness.

    8.3. Cosmic Mind – Iswara

    If we visualize all the beings in the universe collectively and look at it at a cosmic level, we can call it the cosmic mind. The cosmic mind has certain additional abilities like governing the heavenly bodies like the stars, sun and the moon. In other words, the cosmic mind is in charge of the cosmic order. This cosmic mind is called Iswara, the Lord and creator of the universe. We may compare this cosmic mind with the giant wave or with the building-space.

    What we noted as Brahman is not limited to the universe. Universe is a temporary manifestation in the Brahman consciousness. This can be compared to the ocean or the space in terms of the above examples.

    All living beings have limitations of space and time. They live and die for a specific time in a specific place. Even the cosmic mind, is a limited entity compared to Brahman consciousness.

    The jīva consciousness and the Iswara consciousness are said to be delimited, while the Brahman is infinite.

    Iswara is called the creator, and he is as much a limited being as the jīva, though he pervades the universe.

    Consciousness cannot be taken as a substance which can be divided into parts but the expressions such as ‘pot-space’ are only for the sake of illustration. Another example given is that of the same sun getting reflected in different water bodies and appearing as different. Shankaracharya uses these comparisons in different places to illustrate the point the consciousness is one and the same in all beings whereas the delimiting factors (the mind in which it gets reflected) can be different.

    Iswara, the empirical god at the cosmic level is a manifestation in the Supreme Consciousness called Brahman, due to the power called māyā as we noted earlier. An ocean is a manifestation of water and so too a wave. The ocean is called the cause and the wave is called the effect, though they are both water. Even so, the Supreme Consciousness manifesting asIswara is the cause and manifesting as jīva is the effect.

    Vedanta has to take into consideration the requirements of human society. At all times, human beings thought of a God form and submitted himself to His or Her will. This was a convenient and happy arrangement. It is a sort of utilitarian view of religion. The ancient seers did not want to dismiss this and hence, accepted different God forms but then treated them as a lower level of truth (vyāvahārika satyam) i.e. which is true at a transactional level (as we noted earlier). The higher level of truth, or the real truth, at the absolute level, is that Brahman has nothing to do with creation as we understand.

    For the purpose of devotees, God or Iswara who is accepted at an empirical level can be a man or a woman. Thus we see a number of Gods and Goddesses in our religion.

    God is ‘intelligent’ (in the sense that he has the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance and dissolution) and Brahman is intelligence, i.e. consciousness.

    The functions of creation, sustenance and dissolution are functions which we attribute to the cosmic mind Iswara but not to Brahman. These functions are given various names,

    Whatever you call it, it is the cosmic being with different functions and different names. It is the cosmic being Iswara who has functions like creation, sustenance and dissolution of the universe. Each cosmic function is visualized as a God. The function of creation is called Brahma (different from the Supreme Brahman which we saw above), a four-headed deity who keeps on creating the universe. He requires intelligence for creation and that power of intelligence is visualized as his consort named Saraswati.

    The function of sustaining the universe is visualized as Vishnu, a male deity and a powerful one. All resources are required for sustenance of the universe and these resources are visualized as a female deity named Lakshmi, who is said to be the consort of Vishnu. Similarly, the function of dissolution of universe is visualized as Rudra, or Shiva and his power of dissolution is visualized as a female deity named Shakti, who is the consort of Shiva.

    The Sanskrit word for power is śakti, which is in feminine gender. Hence these powers are visualized as wives of the Gods. It is not as though these Gods have many wives and live a polygamous life. When we say that the popular god Lord Venkateswara has two wives it means that he has two types of power – the resources (Lakshmi) to sustain the universe and the power to restore dharma on earth (Bhudevi, the goddess of earth).

    8.4. All Forms are One

    While talking at two levels, and writing different prayers for different deities, the sages left enough hints in the mantras to show that all god forms were, indeed, one.

    When you go to any temple and perform worship, you find the priests chanting the mantra from the Narayanopanishad –sa brahma sa śivah sa hari sendrah ṣsokarah paramah svarāṭ.

    “WhatwecallBrahma(thecreaistheor)sameasShiva,it is the same as Hari, (the sustainer), Indra, and the non-perishing Brahman”Allthese.arethesameasone’sownselfbecausethe consciousness is the same in one and all. We find several other mantras in the same vein. (Note the difference between Brahman and Brahma. The former is the infinite and the latter is the finite. The former is in neuter gender and the latter is in masculine gender).

    There are several minor deities, like the fire god, the rain god, the lord Yama (who is the one that awards the fruit of karma to a person) and so on. These have to be understood as universal or cosmic functions visualized as gods.

    When the creation itself is a temporary appearance in Brahman, it follows that all these deities are temporary appearances. Hence they are like tenure posts, valid as long as a particular cycle of creation appears in Brahman.

    There is no uniform description of the trinity in the Vedantic texts because the function of Vedanta is to show that Brahman is all pervasive and what we think as a human being is nothing but Brahman itself. Vedanta does not attach much importance to the description of deities. This resulted in a number of belief systems and stories of god under the broad philosophy of the Upanishads, as we shall see.

    8.5. Debate about Consciousness and Matter

    This discussion is about advaita (non-dualism), viśiṣṭādvaita (qualified non-dualism and dwaita (dualism). These are difficult concepts to be introduced to the students. It is difficult to discuss these in a primary text like the present one. However, a brief idea is needed for the parents who may be belonging to one of those traditions. Most of us, happily, do not belong to any tradition and so look at this issue without bias.

    We see the world around us, with all its variegated gifts to man. We see the beautiful rivers, mountains and forests which we freely exploit. Not only the humans but also the animals do this. The trees too, have intelligence to some extent and they know how to survive. Thus, we identify two aspects in nature – one intelligent and the other non-intelligent; one is the enjoyer and the other is the enjoyed; one is the knower and the other is the known; in other words, one is sentient and the other is insentient. The body is made of matter, but somehow it is also having intelligence.

    Are these two things or are they one? This is a question which engaged the sages who gave us the Upanishads. In chapter 7 we were examining as to what could be the matter for creation and we saw one view that consciousness itself manifested as the jagat, the universe, in other words, as matter. But this is only one view. This view is contested by other equally learned sages. We may briefly see their points of view.

    The first view (predominant view) is that there is only one entity, consciousness, which is manifesting as all the things which we see. How is it done, is inexplicable. That is why the idea of māyā was postulated and māyā, the creative or manifesting power in consciousness is something inexplicable (anirvacanīya). The consciousness itself has no attributes and no activity in it. This is the Brahman we saw in chapter 7.

    The second view is that there are two aspects – sentient (cit), and insentient (jaḍa), but both exist in the body of the Supreme Being Vishnu. This Supreme Being is with all glorious attributes – omniscience, omnipotence and so on. He is a personal god who is closer to religion than the attribute-free Brahman.

    The third view is that the two aspects – sentient and insentient, and they are two distinct things. Materialist philosophers of all types held this view. All diversity which we see is real. All sentience is from the Supreme Being Vishnu, and the universe is his creation. All differences – that between one individual and another, that between jīva and the world, that between jīva and Iswara – are all real and irreducible. The god is a personal god, as in the above case.

    The first view is what is called the non-dualism (advaita), the second view is known as qualified non-dualism(viśiṣṭādvaita) and the last view is known as dualism (dwaita). The prominent exponent of the first school is Sri Shankaracharya, that of the second is Sri Ramanujacharya and that of the third is Sri Madhwacharya. It is also the chronological order of the three masters.

    All the three teachers based their arguments on the basic texts, the Upanishads, because the Upanishads spoke of a god with attributes and also about a Brahman who is attribute-free. Sri Shankara called them two levels of reality, one at the level of religion, to guide the common man and the other at the level of absolute reality. The god with attributes is forupāsanā, and through such upāsanā, the Brahman without attributes has to be realized.

    It may be relevant to see that the changing times could also have impacted the thinking of these teachers. During the time of Shankara, the very existence of Brahman was questioned by Buddhists and others who advocated nihilism. Shankara was able to dispel the arguments of the nihilists and establish religion with a philosophy.

    There was considerable social ferment in the Hindu society by the time of Sri Ramanuja and hence he had to give more importance to a personal god and social harmony. He introduced bhakti, devotion to Vishnu, as a means to unite all sections of society. Thus we see the religious teachers, called Alwars, even from the lowest castes in society.

    By the time of Sri Madhwa, India was already under the ruthless invasion by the Muslims and hence, perhaps he had no great inclination to call the world as an appearance. He was a wrestler who is also said to have taken part in fighting the invaders. His followers consider him to be the reincarnation of Vayu, the strongest among the gods. Madhwa, like Ramanuja considered Vishnu as the supreme deity and as a personal god.

    This book has broadly adopted the non-dual approach, as it is the oldest way of interpreting the texts and also because we can answer all criticism relating to the multitude of gods, idol worship and many other questions at the philosophical level. Besides, it is able to cover all forms like Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Shakti or any other form or formless god.

    It is interesting for us to know that this debate about consciousness and matter is also the most important debate in science and the issue is yet undecided. Several modern physicists seem to be closer to the non-dualist way of understanding the universe.

    Parents may see:

    Erwin Schrodinger on Veda
    Part 5 (9 & 10 Chapters) will follow next week.
    Please go to site : http://www.savetemples.org/

  2. At that time the copper vessel becomes like a golden vessel, which doesn’t required to get cleaned.

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