THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY

A lecture delivered by Swami Vivekananda before the Graduate Philosophical Society of Harvard University, on March 25, 1896.

Swami-Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda 1963 – 1902

The Vedanta philosophy, as it is generally called at the present day, really comprises all the various sects that now exist in India. Thus there have been various interpretations, and to my mind they have been progressive, beginning with the dualistic or Dvaita and ending with the non-dualistic or Advaita. The word Vedanta literally means the end of the Vedas — the Vedas being the scriptures of the Hindus (1). Sometimes in the West by the Vedas are meant only the hymns and rituals of the Vedas. But at the present time these parts have almost gone out of use, and usually by the word Vedas in India, the Vedanta is meant. All our commentators, when they want to quote a passage from the scriptures, as a rule, quote from the Vedanta, which has another technical name with the commentators — the Shrutis. (The term Shruti — meaning “that which is heard” — though including the whole of the Vedic literature, is chiefly applied by the commentators to the Upanishads.) Now, all the books known by the name of the Vedanta were not entirely written after the ritualistic portions of the Vedas. For instance, one of them — the Ishâ Upanishad — forms the fortieth chapter of the Yajur-Veda, that being one of the oldest parts of the Vedas. There are other Upanishads (2) which form portions of the Brahmanas or ritualistic writings; and the rest of the Upanishads are independent, not comprised in any of the Brahmanas or other parts of the Vedas; but there is no reason to suppose that they were entirely independent of other parts, for, as we well know, many of these have been lost entirely and many of the Brahmanas have become extinct. So it is quite possible that the independent Upanishads belonged to some Brahmanas, which in course of time fell into disuse, while the Upanishads remained. These Upanishads are also called Forest Books or Aranyakas.

The Vedanta, then, practically forms the scriptures of the Hindus, and all systems of philosophy that are orthodox have to take it as their foundation. Even the Buddhists and Jains, when it suits their purpose, will quote a passage from the Vedanta as authority. All schools of philosophy in India, although they claim to have been based upon the Vedas, took different names for their systems. The last one, the system of Vyâsa, took its stand upon the doctrines of the Vedas more than the previous systems did, and made an attempt to harmonise the preceding philosophies, such as the Sânkhya and the Nyâya, with the doctrines of the Vedanta. So it is especially called the Vedanta philosophy; and the Sutras or aphorisms of Vyasa are, in modern India, the basis of the Vedanta philosophy. Again, these Sutras of Vyasa have been variously explained by different commentators. In general there are three sorts of commentators (3) in India now; from their interpretations have arisen three systems of philosophy and sects. One is the dualistic, or Dvaita; a second is the qualified non-dualistic, or Vishishtâdvaita; and a third is the non-dualistic, or Advaita. Of these the dualistic and the qualified non-dualistic include the largest number of the Indian people. The non-dualists are comparatively few in number. Now I will try to lay before you the ideas that are contained in all these three sects; but before going on, I will make one remark — that these different Vedanta systems have one common psychology, and that is, the psychology of the Sankhya system. The Sankhya psychology is very much like the psychologies of the Nyaya and Vaisheshika systems, differing only in minor particulars.

All the Vedantists agree on three points. They believe in God, in the Vedas as revealed, and in cycles. We have already considered the Vedas. The belief about cycles is as follows: All matter throughout the universe is the outcome of one primal matter called Âkâsha; and all force, whether gravitation, attraction or repulsion, or life, is the outcome of one primal force called Prâna. Prana acting on Akasha is creating or projecting (4) the universe. At the beginning of a cycle, Akasha is motionless, unmanifested. Then Prana begins to act, more and more, creating grosser and grosser forms out of Akasha — plants, animals, men, stars, and so on. After an incalculable time this evolution ceases and involution begins, everything being resolved back through finer and finer forms into the original Akasha and Prana, when a new cycle follows. Now there is something beyond Akasha and Prana. Both can be resolved into a third thing called Mahat — the Cosmic Mind. This Cosmic Mind does not create Akasha and Prana, but changes itself into them.

We will now take up the beliefs about mind, soul, and God. According to the universally accepted Sankhya psychology, in perception — in the case of vision, for instance — there are, first of all, the instruments of vision, the eyes. Behind the instruments — the eyes — is the organ of vision or Indriya — the optic nerve and its centres — which is not the external instrument, but without which the eyes will not see. More still is needed for perception. The mind or Manas must come and attach itself to the organ. And besides this, the sensation must be carried to the intellect or Buddhi — the determinative, reactive state of the mind. When the reaction comes from Buddhi, along with it flashes the external world and egoism. Here then is the will; but everything is not complete. Just as every picture, being composed of successive impulses of light, must be united on something stationary to form a whole, so all the ideas in the mind must be gathered and projected on something that is stationary — relatively to the body and mind — that is, on what is called the Soul or Purusha or Âtman.

According to the Sankhya philosophy, the reactive state of the mind called Buddhi or intellect is the outcome, the change, or a certain manifestation of the Mahat or Cosmic Mind. The Mahat becomes changed into vibrating thought; and that becomes in one part changed into the organs, and in the other part into the fine particles of matter. Out of the combination of all these, the whole of this universe is produced. Behind even Mahat, the Sankhya conceives of a certain state which is called Avyakta or unmanifested, where even the manifestation of mind is not present, but only the causes exist. It is also called Prakriti. Beyond this Prakriti, and eternally separate from it, is the Purusha, the soul of the Sankhya which is without attributes and omnipresent. The Purusha is not the doer but the witness. The illustration of the crystal is used to explain the Purusha. The latter is said to be like a crystal without any colour, before which different colours are placed, and then it seems to be coloured by the colours before it, but in reality it is not. The Vedantists reject the Sankhya ideas of the soul and nature. They claim that between them there is a huge gulf to be bridged over. On the one hand the Sankhya system comes to nature, and then at once it has to jump over to the other side and come to the soul, which is entirely separate from nature. How can these different colours, as the Sankhya calls them, be able to act on that soul which by its nature is colourless? So the Vedantists, from the very first affirm that this soul and this nature are one (5). Even the dualistic Vedantists admit that the Atman or God is not only the efficient cause of this universe, but also the material cause. But they only say so in so many words. They do not really mean it, for they try to escape from their conclusions, in this way: They say there are three existences in this universe — God, soul, and nature. Nature and soul are, as it were, the body of God, and in this sense it may be said that God and the whole universe are one. But this nature and all these various souls remain different from each other through all eternity. Only at the beginning of a cycle do they become manifest; and when the cycle ends, they become fine, and remain in a fine state. The Advaita Vedantists — the non-dualists — reject this theory of the soul, and, having nearly the whole range of the Upanishads in their favour, build their philosophy entirely upon them. All the books contained in me Upanishads have one subject, one task before them — to prove the following theme: “Just as by the knowledge of one lump of clay we have the knowledge of all the clay in the universe, so what is that, knowing which we know everything in the universe?” The idea of the Advaitists is to generalise the whole universe into one — that something which is really the whole of this universe. And they claim that this whole universe is one, that it is one Being manifesting itself in all these various forms. They admit that what the Sankhya calls nature exists, but say that nature is God. It is this Being, the Sat, which has become converted into all this — the universe, man, soul, and everything that exists. Mind and Mahat are but the manifestations of that one Sat. But then the difficulty arises that this would be pantheism. How came that Sat which is unchangeable, as they admit (for that which is absolute is unchangeable), to be changed into that which is changeable, and perishable? The Advaitists here have a theory which they call Vivarta Vâda or apparent manifestation. According to the dualists and the Sankhyas, the whole of this universe is the evolution of primal nature. According to some of the Advaitists and some of the dualists, the whole of this universe is evolved from God. And according to the Advaitists proper, the followers of Shankaracharya, the whole universe is the apparent evolution of God. God is the material cause of this universe, but not really, only apparently. The celebrated illustration used is that of the rope and the snake, where the rope appeared to be the snake, but was not really so. The rope did not really change into the snake. Even so this whole universe as it exists is that Being. It is unchanged, and all the changes we see in it are only apparent. These changes are caused by Desha, Kâla and Nimitta (space, time, and causation), or, according to a higher psychological generalization, by Nâma and Rupa (name and form). It is by name and form that one thing is differentiated from another. The name and form alone cause the difference. In reality they are one and the same. Again, it is not, the Vedantists say, that there is something as phenomenon and something as noumenon. The rope is changed into the snake apparently only; and when the delusion ceases, the snake vanishes. When one is in ignorance, he sees the phenomenon and does not see God. When he sees God, this universe vanishes entirely for him. Ignorance or Mâyâ, as it is called, is the cause of all this phenomenon — the Absolute, the Unchangeable, being taken as this manifested universe. This Maya is not absolute zero, nor non-existence. It is defined as neither existence nor non-existence. It is not existence, because that can be said only of the Absolute, the Unchangeable, and in this sense, Maya is non-existence. Again, it cannot be said it is non-existence; for if it were, it could never produce phenomenon. So it is something which is neither; and in the Vedanta philosophy it is called Anirvachaniya or inexpressible. Maya, then, is the real cause of this universe. Maya gives the name and form to what Brahman or God gives the material; and the latter seems to have been transformed into all this. The Advaitists, then, have no place for the individual soul. They say individual souls are created by Maya. In reality they cannot exist. If there were only one existence throughout, how could it be that I am one, and you are one, and so forth? We are all one, and the cause of evil is the perception of duality. As soon as I begin to feel that I am separate from this universe, then first comes fear, and then comes misery. “Where one hears another, one sees another, that is small. Where one does not see another, where one does not hear another, that is the greatest, that is God. In that greatest is perfect happiness. In small things there is no happiness.”

According to the Advaita philosophy, then, this differentiation of matter, these phenomena, are, as it were, for a time, hiding the real nature of man; but the latter really has not been changed at all. In the lowest worm, as well as in the highest human being, the same divine nature is present. The worm form is the lower form in which the divinity has been more overshadowed by Maya; that is the highest form in which it has been least overshadowed. Behind everything the same divinity is existing, and out of this comes the basis of morality. Do not injure another. Love everyone as your own self, because the whole universe is one. In injuring another, I am injuring myself; in loving another, I am loving myself. From this also springs that principle of Advaita morality which has been summed up in one word — self-abnegation. The Advaitist says, this little personalised self is the cause of all my misery. This individualised self, which makes me different from all other beings, brings hatred and jealousy and misery, struggle and all other evils. And when this idea has been got rid of, all struggle will cease, all misery vanish. So this is to be given up. We must always hold ourselves ready, even to give up our lives for the lowest beings. When a man has become ready even to give up his life for a little insect, he has reached the perfection which the Advaitist wants to attain; and at that moment when he has become thus ready, the veil of ignorance falls away from him, and he will feel his own nature. Even in this life, he will feel that he is one with the universe. For a time, as it were, the whole of this phenomenal world will disappear for him, and he will realise what he is. But so long as the Karma of this body remains, he will have to live. This state, when the veil has vanished and yet the body remains for some time, is what the Vedantists call the Jivanmukti, the living freedom. If a man is deluded by a mirage for some time, and one day the mirage disappears — if it comes back again the next day, or at some future time, he will not be deluded. Before the mirage first broke, the man could not distinguish between the reality and the deception. But when it has once broken, as long as he has organs and eyes to work with, he will see the image, but will no more be deluded. That fine distinction between the actual world and the mirage he has caught, and the latter cannot delude him any more. So when the Vedantist has realised his own nature, the whole world has vanished for him. It will come back again, but no more the same world of misery. The prison of misery has become changed into Sat, Chit, Ânanda — Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute — and the attainment of this is the goal of the Advaita Philosophy.

  1. ^The Vedas are divided mainly into two portions: the Karma-kânda and the Jnâna-kânda — the work-portion and the knowledge-portion. To the Karma-kanda belong the famous hymns and the rituals of Brâhmanas. Those books which treat of spiritual matters apart from ceremonials are called Upanishads. The Upanishads belong to the Jnana-kanda, or knowledge-portion. It is not that all the Upanishads were composed as a separate portion of the Vedas. Some are interspersed among the rituals, and at least one is in the Samhita, or hymn-portion. Sometimes the term Upanishad is applied to books which are not included in the Vedas — e.g the Gita, but as a rule it is applied to the philosophical treatises scattered through the Vedas. These treatises have been collected, and are called the Vedanta.
  2. ^The Upanishads are said to be one hundred and eight in number. Their dates cannot be fixed with certainty — only it is certain that they are older than the Buddhistic movement. Though some of the minor Upanishads contain allusions indicating a later date, yet that does not prove the later date of the treatise, as in very many cases in Sanskrit literature, the substance of a book, though of very ancient date, receives a coating, as it were, of later events in the hands of the sectarians, to exalt their particular sect.
  3. ^The commentaries are of various sorts such as the Bhâshya, Tikâ, Tippani, Churni, etc., of which all except the Bhashya are explanations of the text or difficult words in the text. The Bhashya is not properly a commentary, but the elucidation of a system of philosophy out of texts, the object being not to explain the words, but to bring out a philosophy. So the writer of a Bhashya expands his own system, taking texts as authorities for his system. There have been various commentaries on the Vedanta. Its doctrines found their final expression in the philosophical aphorisms of Vyasa. This treatise, called the Uttara Mimâmsâ, is the standard authority of Vedantism — nay, is the most authoritative exposition of the Hindu scriptures. The most antagonistic sects have been compelled, as it were, to take up the texts of Vyasa, and harmonise them with their own philosophy. Even in very ancient times the commentators on the Vedanta philosophy formed themselves into the three celebrated Hindu sects of dualists, qualified non-dualists, and non dualists. The ancient commentaries are perhaps lost; but they have been revived in modern times by the post-Buddhistic commentators, Shankara, Râmânuja, and Madhva. Shankara revived the nondualistic form, Ramanuja, the qualified non-dualistic form of the ancient commentator Bodhayana; and Madhva, the dualistic form. In India the sects differ mainly in their philosophy; the difference in rituals is slight, the basis of their philosophy and religion being the same.
  4. ^The word which is “creation”, in the English language is in Sanskrit exactly “projection,” because there is no sect in India which believes in creation as it is regarded in the West — a something coming out of nothing. What we mean by creation is projection of that which already existed.
  5. ^The Vedanta and the Sankhya philosophy are very little opposed to each other. The Vedanta God developed out of the Sankhya’s Purusha. All the systems take up the psychology of the Sankhya. Both the Vedanta and the Sankhya believe in the infinite soul, only the Sankhya believes there are many souls. According to the Sankhya, this universe does not require any explanation from outside. The Vedanta believes that there is the one Soul, which appears as many; and we build on the Sankhya’s analysis.
By Jura Nanuk

The Uniqueness of Hinduism

By Subhamoy Das/About.com Hinduism

hinduism1

Hinduism does not have any one founder, and any one core doctrine to which controversies can be referred to for resolution. There is also no point in time when it could be said to have begun. It does not require its adherents to accept any one idea, and thus is cultural, not creedal. The unique concept of the Absolute “Brahman” that cannot be equated with “God” is also exclusive to Hinduism.

Hinduism is also marked by an attitude which seems to accommodate religious and cultural perspectives other than one’s own, and so is characterized by a rich variety of ideas and practices resulting in what appears as a multiplicity of religions under one term ‘Hinduism’.

Hinduism is perhaps the only religious tradition that is so diverse in its theoretical premises and practical expressions that it is like a compilation of religions with a history contemporaneous with the peoples with which it is associated. According to philosopher Jeaneane Fowler, Hinduism can never be neatly slotted into any particular belief system — monism, theism, monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, panentheism — for all these systems are reflected in its many facets.

By Jura Nanuk

Hinduism for Beginners

By Subhamoy Das/About.com Hinduism

Hinduism
If you’re new to this faith, here’s where to begin. In this simple introduction to a complex religion, get your basic questions on Hinduism answered and explained in brief.

What is Hinduism?:

Hinduism is the world’s oldest extant religion, with a billion followers, which makes it the world’s third largest religion. Hinduism is a conglomeration of religious, philosophical, and cultural ideas and practices that originated in India, characterized by the belief in reincarnation, one absolute being of multiple manifestations, the law of cause and effect, following the path of righteousness, and the desire for liberation from the cycle of births and deaths. 

How is Hinduism unique from other religions?:

Hinduism cannot be neatly slotted into any particular belief system. Unlike other religions, Hinduism is a way of life, a Dharma, that is, the law that governs all action. It has its own beliefs, traditions, advanced system of ethics, meaningful rituals, philosophy and theology. The religious tradition of Hinduism is solely responsible for the creation of such original concepts and practices as Yoga, Ayurveda, Vastu, Jyotish, Yajna, Puja, Tantra, Vedanta, Karma, etc. 

How and when did Hinduism originate?:

Hinduism has its origins in such remote past that it cannot be traced to any one individual. Some scholars believe that Hinduism must have existed even in circa 10000 B.C. and that the earliest of the Hindu scriptures – The Rig Veda – was composed well before 6500 B.C. The word “Hinduism” is not to be found anywhere in the scriptures, and the term “Hindu” was introduced by foreigners who referred to people living across the River Indus or Sindhu, in the north of India, around which the Vedic religion is believed to have originated. 

What are the basic tenets of Hinduism?:

There is no “one Hinduism”, and so it lacks any unified system of beliefs and ideas. Hinduism is a conglomerate of diverse beliefs and traditions, in which the prominent themes include:

  • Dharma (ethics and duties)
  • Samsara (rebirth)
  • Karma (right action)
  • Moksha (liberation from the cycle of Samsara)

It also believes in truth, honesty, non-violence, celibacy, cleanliness, contentment, prayers, austerity, perseverance, penance, and pious company. 

What are the key Hindu scriptures?:

The basic scriptures of Hinduism, which is collectively referred to as “Shastras”, are essentially a collection of spiritual laws discovered by different saints and sages at different points in its long history. The Two types of sacred writings comprise the Hindu scriptures: “Shruti” (heard) and “Smriti” (memorized). They were passed on from generation to generation orally for centuries before they were written down mostly in the Sanskrit language. The major and most popular Hindu texts include the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. 

What are the major Hindu deities?:

Hinduism believes that there is only one supreme Absolute called “Brahman”. However, it does not advocate the worship of any one particular deity. The gods and goddesses of Hinduism amount to thousands or even millions, all representing the many aspects of Brahman. Therefore, this faith is characterized by the multiplicity of deities. The most fundamental of Hindu deities is the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – creator, preserver and destroyer respectively. Hindus also worship spirits, trees, animals and even planets. 

Who is a Hindu and how to become one?:

A Hindu is an individual who accepts and lives by the religious guidance of the Vedic scriptures. While the teachings of the Hindu tradition do not require that you have a religious affiliation to Hinduism in order to receive its inner teachings, it can be very helpful to formally become a Hindu because it provides one a formal connection to the “world’s oldest continually existing enlightenment tradition.”
By Jura Nanuk

Brahman of the Vedas

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By Dr. Frank Morales/About.com Hinduism

A unique concept of the absolute

Let us look at what Hinduism holds to be the Absolute. The ultimate goal and Absolute of Hinduism is termed “Brahman” in Sanskrit. The word comes from the Sanskrit verb root brh, meaning “to grow”. Etymologically, the term means “that which grows” (brhati) and “which causes to grow” (brhmayati).

Brahman is not “God”
Brahman, as understood by the scriptures of Hinduism, as well as by the ‘acharyas’ of the Vedanta school, is a very specific conception of the Absolute. This unique conception has not been replicated by any other religion on earth, and is exclusive to Hinduism. Thus to even call this conception of Brahman “God” is, in a sense, somewhat imprecise. This is the case because Brahman does not refer to the anthropomorphic concept of God of the Abrahamic religions. When we speak of Brahman, we are referring neither to the “old man in the sky” concept, nor to the idea of the Absolute as even capable of being vengeful, fearful or engaging in choosing a favorite people from among His creatures. For that matter, Brahman is not a “He” at all, but rather transcends all empirically discernable categories, limitations and dualities.

What is Brahman?
In the ‘Taittariya Upanishad’ II.1, Brahman is described in the following manner: “satyam jnanam anantam brahma”, “Brahman is of the nature of truth, knowledge and infinity.” Infinite positive qualities and states have their existence secured solely by virtue of Brahman’s very reality. Brahman is a necessary reality, eternal (i.e., beyond the purview of temporality), fully independent, non-contingent, and the source and ground of all things. Brahman is both immanently present in the realm of materiality, interpenetrating the whole of reality as the sustaining essence that gives it structure, meaning and existential being, yet Brahman is simultaneously the transcendent origin of all things (thus, panentheistic).

The Nature of Brahman
As the primary causal substance of material reality (jagatkarana), Brahman does not arbitrarily will the coming into being of the non-Brahman metaphysical principles of matter and jivas(individuated consciousness), but rather they are manifest into being as a natural result of the overflowing of Brahman’s grandeur, beauty, bliss and love. Brahman cannot but create abundant good in a similar manner to how Brahman cannot but exist. Both existence and overflowing abundance are as much necessary properties of Brahman as love and nurturing are necessary qualities of any virtuous and loving mother.

Brahman is the Source
One can say that Brahman Itself (Him/Herself) constitutes the essential building material of all reality, being the antecedent primeval ontological substance from whence all things proceed. There is no ex nihilo creation in Hinduism. Brahman does not create from nothing, but from the reality of Its own being. Thus Brahman is, in Aristotelian terms, both the Material Cause as well as the Efficient Cause of creation.

The Final Goal & the Final Cause
As the source of Dharma, the metaphysical ordering principles inherent in the design of the cosmos, Brahman can be viewed as the Formal Cause. And as the final goal of all reality, Brahman is also the Final Cause. Being the ontological source of all reality, Brahman is the only substantial real that truly exists, all other metaphysical categories being either a) contingent transformations of Brahman, having their very being subsisting in attributive dependence upon Brahman, or else b) illusory in nature. These views about the nature of Brahman are in general keeping with the theological teachings of both the Advaita and the Vishishta-Advaita schools of Hinduism.

Brahman is the Ultimate Reality
All reality has its source in Brahman. All reality has its grounding sustenance in Brahman. It is in Brahman that all reality has its ultimate repose. Hinduism, specifically, is consciously and exclusively aiming toward this reality termed Brahman.

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DR. FRANK MORALES
Also known as Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya, Dr. Frank Gaetano Morales was born in New York and has been practicing the ancient tradition of Yoga spirituality for over 30 years. After living the life of a celibate monk for years, he was ordained as a “brahmana” (a spiritual teacher and priest) in 1986. He is one of the few non-Indian spiritual teachers to be accepted by both the orthodox Indian Hindu community, in addition to Western spiritual seekers, as being a fully authentic and recognized spiritual teacher. Dr. Morales is widely renowned for his unapologetically authentic and traditional approach to teaching Hinduism.

By Jura Nanuk

What India can teach the rest of the world about living well

Yoga-thon - mass yoga class  on the Times Square, New York City, June 2010.

Yoga-thon – mass yoga class on the Times Square, New York City, June 2010.

India has been described by some traditional texts as Sa Prathama Sanskrati Vishvavara, the first and supreme culture in the world. To this day, the South Asian country remains a hotspring of ancient wisdom on mind-body health and spirituality.

This wisdom has been steadily permeating American life for the past century. Mindfulness — the cultivation of a focused awareness on the present moment, a concept with origins in ancient Indian philosophy — is “gaining its fair share of attention” in the West, with increasing numbers of Americans practicing meditation, according to a recent New York Times Magazine cover story. Words like “guru,” “karma” “nirvana” and “om” are firmly situated in our cultural vocabulary, and yoga and meditation have become the favorite pasttime of everyone from supermodels tohigh-powered CEOs.

The Indian way has spread far beyond the U.S., and tourists from around the world are flocking to the densely-populated country in search of inner peace. India is the fastest-growing destination for wellness tourism, with an average of 22 percent annual growth, according to recent data from Stanford Research Center funded by Spafinder Wellness.

Here are 10 reasons we should look to India as an example of what it means to live well.

It’s the birthplace of yoga.

 Arguably India’s most popular export, yoga (Sanskrit for “divine union”) has been passed down from guru to student for many centuries. Traditionally, yoga is practiced with the goal of stilling the thoughts of the unruly mind so that the individual can eventually achieve moksha (liberation). Aside from yoga’s spiritual aims, the physical and mental health benefits of the practice are extensive.

They view health from a holistic perspective.

The ancient Indian wisdom system of ayurveda is founded on two guiding principles: 1) that the mind and body are inextricably linked, and 2) that the mind has more power than anything else to heal and transform the body, according to The Chopra Center.

This Indian “science of life” has used natural remedies to treat a wide variety of physical ailments for centuries, and modern science is just beginning to catch on to its wisdom. Through dietary and lifestyle changes, ayurvedic principles are used to prevent and treat illnesses, and to help individuals achieve optimal health and well-being.

They embrace vegetarianism.

An estimated 80 percent of India’s population identifies as Hindu, and the traditional Hindu diet is vegetarian. In the traditional yogic text the Mahabharata, a vegetarian diet is said to be sattvic — meaning that it is linked with purity, goodness, and enlightenment.

“The practitioner of yoga has to adopt a vegetarian diet in order to attain one-pointed evolution and spiritual evolution,” master practitioner B.K.S. Iyengar writes in “Light On Yoga.”

Additionally, a vegetarian diet has been linked with major health benefits, includingincreased longevity and a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

They have strong family values.

In Indian culture, there is a strong emphasis on family as the primary social unit, and families tend to be large, providing a strong social support system and network of community ties (a key factor in longevity). Indian families often live together in multi-generational “joint family” units.

“Through a multitude of kinship ties, each person is linked with kin in villages and towns near and far,” according to the Asia Society. “Almost everywhere a person goes, he can find a relative from whom he can expect moral and practical support.

They cook with turmeric.

Turmeric is a popular spice in Indian cooking, and it’s a superfood that can boost longevity and ward off illness. The spice has long been used medicinally in the Chinese and Indian traditions, and for good reason: Turmeric is packed with anti-inflammatory properties, and is also anti-carcinogenic, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Plus, it makes a delicious (and colorful) curry.

By Jura Nanuk

Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra

 

Maha-mantra

This transcendental vibration, by chanting of:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

…is the sublime method for reviving our Krishna consciousness.

As living spiritual souls we are all originally Krishna conscious entities, but due to our association with matter from time immemorial, our consciousness is now polluted by material atmosphere. In this polluted concept of life, we are all trying to exploit the resources of material nature, but actually we are becoming more and more entangled in her complexities. This illusion is called maya, or hard struggle for existence for winning over the stringent laws of material nature. This illusory struggle against the material nature can at once be stopped by revival of our Krishna consciousness.

krishnai-dev-ki-108-name-ofkrishna-ji-108nameofkrishna-thehindufacts-the-hindu-facts-2Krishna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind. This consciousness is the original energy of the living entity. When we hear the transcendental vibration, this consciousness is revived and the process is recommended by authorities for this age. By practical experience also, we can perceive that by chanting this maha-mantra, or the great chanting for deliverance, one can at once feel transcendental ecstasy from the spiritual stratum.

When one is factually on the plane of spiritual understanding, surpassing the stages of sense, mind and intelligence, one is situated on the transcendental plane. This chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is directly enacted from the spiritual platform, surpassing all lower status of consciousness, namely sensual, mental, and intellectual.

There is no need of understanding the language of the mantra, nor is there any need of mental speculation, nor any intellectual adjustment for chanting this maha-mantra. It springs automatically from the spiritual platform, and as such, anyone can take part in this transcendental sound vibration without any previous qualification and dance in ecstasy. We have seen it practically. Even a child can take part in the chanting, or even a dog can take part in it.

This chanting should be heard from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord so that immediate effect can be achieved. As far as possible, chanting from the lips of a non-devotee should be avoided, as much as milk touched by the lips of a serpent causes poisonous effect.

The word Hara is a form of addressing the energy of the Lord. Both Krishna and Rama are forms of addressing directly the Lord and they mean, “the highest pleasure eternal.” Hara is the supreme pleasure potency of the Lord. This potency, when addressed as Hare, helps us in reaching the Supreme Lord.

Srila Prabhupada

Srila Prabhupada

The material energy, called maya, is also one of the multi-potencies of the Lord, as much as we are also marginal potency of the Lord. The living entities are described as superior energy than matter. When the superior energy is in contact with the inferior energy, it becomes an incompatible situation. But when the supreme marginal potency is in contact with the spiritual potency, Hara, it becomes the happy, normal condition of the living entity.

The three words, namely Hara, Krishna, and Rama, are transcendental seeds of the maha-mantra, and the chanting is a spiritual call for the Lord and His internal energy Hara for giving protect the conditioned soul. This chanting is exactly like the genuine cry of a child for its mother. Mother Hara helps the devotee achieve the grace of the Supreme Father, Hari or Krishna, and the Lord reveals Himself to the devotee who chants thismantra sincerely.

Therefore no other means of spiritual realization is as effective in this age of quarrel and hypocrisy as the chanting of the maha-mantra:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Video : The Story of the Swastika

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For many, the swastika has become a symbol synonymous with the Nazis and fascism. But this film reveals the fascinating and complex history of an emblem that is, in fact, a religious symbol, with a sacred past.

For the almost one billion Hindus around the world, the swastika lies at the heart of religious practices and beliefs, as an emblem of benevolence, luck and good fortune.

Jesus and Krishna

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Both Jesus and Krishna were Gods borne by mortal woman, but this just a beginning of the story about their similarities. Their lives and teachings have much more in common.

The Christmas story about the birth of Jesus Christ is famous all over the world. The gospels are telling us how Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem shortly before the birth of Christ. They were poor and suffered many hardships, culminating in having to stay and give birth in a stable. After the birth, the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt as the newborn’s life was threatened by the cruel king Herod. Afraid of the prophecy that he will lose his throne to new King of Jews, Herod was desperately trying to kill all newborn male children in the village of Bethlehem.

In the case of Krishna, the King in question was not Herod but Kamsa. As legend says, Krishna’s parents, Devaki and Vasudeva, had already been in the dungeon of the tyrannical king Kamsa for several years when Krishna was born. Kamsa was holding them captive because of a prophecy that warned him that thee child of his cousin Devaki would destroy him. Just like Herod, Kamsa, too, committed the crime of infanticide, killing all of Devaki’s children as soon as they were born. But all his plans failed because the Lord Vishnu appeared to Devaki and her husband Vasudeva, announcing that he himself would soon be born as Devaki’s eighth child. Vishnu helped Vasudeva in miracoulosly escaping from jail and bringing newborn Lord Krishna to safety.

Similarly, the infant Jesus also had to be saved from the wrath of the cruel emperor Herod, with the only difference that God warned Mary and Joseph by means of an angel, urging them to flee with the child to Egypt.

The resemblance of the lives of Christ and Krishna doesn’t end here. Both grew up among simple people and continued to have special bonds to simple folks throughout their lives. Christ recruited his disciples from fishermen while Krishna grew up among cowherds. During all of Krishna’s life Radha, a shepherd girl, was to be the woman closest to his heart. Both Christ and Krishna were seen as embodimentof love, peace and understanding; both performed miracles of various kinds.

The father of the Krishna Consciousness Movement AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Parbhupada once remarked: “When an Indian person calls on Krishna, he often says, Krsta. Krsta is a Sanskrit word meaning attraction. So when we address God as Christ, Krsta, or Krishna we indicate the same all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead”.

Hindus believe that Jesus, like Lord Krishna, is just another avatar of the Divine, who came down to show humanity in the righteous way of life. This is another point where Krishna resembles Christ, a figure who is both “fully human and fully divine.”

Krishna and Jesus were both saviors of mankind and avatars of God who have returned to earth at an especially critical time in the lives of their people. They were the incarnates of the Divine Being Himself in human form to teach human beings divine love, divine power, divine wisdom.

These two most admired of religious icons also claim to hold the completeness of their religions by themselves.

At many places in the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna said about His oneness with God: “I am the way, come to Me. Neither the multitude of gods, nor great sages know my origin, for I am the source of all the gods and great sages.” In the Holy Bible, Jesus also utters the same in the Gospels: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well…”

According to New Testament John the Baptist baptized Jesus in Jordan River and it marked a beginning in Jesus Christ’s public ministry. John the Baptist preached a baptism for the forgiveness of sins and in so doing he was preparing the way for the Lord.

Baptizing that John the Baptist was performing might have its roots in old Hindu ceremony Khumba Mela. According to Hindu beliefs, submerging one’s body in the water of the Ghanges River have purifying effects on body and spirit. Each year tens of millions of Hindus gather on the banks of Ganges to take part in that holly ceremony.

Both Christianity and Hinduism attribute miraculous powers to the consecrated water. Beside being used in Christianity in the sacrament of baptizing, the water sanctified by priest, known as Holly Water is used for blessing people, places, objects, as well as for repelling evil and protection from it. Hindus believe that water have spiritually cleansing powers. Small bottles with Ganges water taken during pilgrimage is kept near the pictures or statues of Gods in home altars or in the temples. Ganges water is used in ceremonies and if possible a sip of Ganges water is given to the dying person.

Christians are holding their palms together in prayer in the same manner how Hindu perform their traditional gesture Namste (Sanskrit for “I bow to you”), used both as a greeting and in prayer.

The fact that some elements of Christianity might be derived from certain Hindu ceremonies, customs and legends does not necessarily undermine the value of Christianity and the hope of salvation it offered to many. The Rigveda says “The truth is One, but sages call it by different Names”.

In reality, the parallels in the lives of these two great masters probably stem from the fact that both of them were embodiments of great spiritual, universal truths contained in Veda.

THE ROUTES OF KNOWLEDGE

Watching the world from our 21st century perspective with intercontinental flights and bullet speed trains, we sometimes forget that people were traveling thousands of years before those inventions. Horse is strong and enduring animal and on its back it is possible to travel many miles a day.

We all know of Marco Polo and his travels to India and China in 13th century. But Marco Polo was not the only one traveling so far. There were many other merchants from Europe doing the same – traveling far and wide to bring silk and spices from India and Far East. We know about Marco Polo because he was writer and he was writing books about his travels, and not because he was the only one traveling in those times.

Through the same routes that silk and spices were traveling, knowledge, myths and legends traveled as well. And it went both ways. It were not only Europeans who were traveling, there were people who were traveling from the Orient to Europe.

In 14th century Ibn Batuta, a Moroccan Berber Islamic scholar and traveler wrote about his journeys to different parts of Africa, Asia and Europe. Ibn Batuta also wrote about his travels and excursions and published his accounts of faraway countries he saw. Again, the same as in the case of Marco Polo, we know today about Ibn Batuta not because he was the only one, but because he was a writer so he left a written record of his journeys. Between Europe and Asia the exchange of knowledge and customs was greater than one might expect. Today cultures influence one another and so they did for thousands of years.

Being aware that ancient people were traveling to far places makes the link between Christianity and Hinduism more clear. Keeping this in mind, it does not look so impossible that baptizing people by submerging them in the river Jordan and the Hindus Khumba Mela ceremony performed at the banks of Ganges might have the same origin, or that the Rosary prayer beads used by some Christian denominations were inspired by the Hindu prayer beads called Japa Mala.

By Jura Nanuk