Site Map
Core Matters of Hinduism
Section › 2   Set    Search  Previous Next



Goddess of Wealth. The money from her front hands, the two golden lotus flowers in her two other hands, and the elephants that keep pouring water, symbolise plenty.

Nikhilananda and His Work

These articles contain extracts from Hinduism: Its Meaning for the Liberation of the Spirit - a treatise by Swami Nikhilananda (1895-1973). The book deals with the Hindu faith from a practical religious point of view, and contains some of the swami's reflections.

Nikhilananda was born Dinesh Chandra Das Gupta. After graduating from the University of Calcutta, he first entered journalism, and then joined the Indian freedom movement. He was put away in an English prison camp for some time too.

He was later initiated in yoga by Ramakrishna's widow, Sarada Devi, and met many direct disciples of Ramakrishna too. They encouraged him to study Hindu scriptures, which he did. In due time he founded the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York and headed it until he died in 1973.

Nikhilananda lectured at universities, churches, and synagogues. His most important works include translations of The Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita, biographies of Holy Mother (Sarada Devi), and Swami Vivekananda. The swami also translated The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna into English. The Gospel was voted as one of the ◦"100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century" by the American scholars convened by Philip Zaleski and HarperCollins publishers.

Nikhilananda's compilation of the works of Swami Vivekananda under the title of Vivekananda: The Yogas and Other Works is an astounding work too. Another swami book to mention is Man in Search of Immortality. Besides he published many articles.

Many of the works of Swami Nikhilananda are translated into various European and Indian languages. They are recognized as authoritative, interpretive texts on Vedanta.

I give you some extracts from his Hinduism below, chapter after chapter. Page references are put in brackets, so you may find and reflect on these keynotes in the Swami's wider context if you will. That could be helpful to some. Hopefully, the culled extracts clarify central parts of what Hinduism is.

- TK

From Nikhilananda's Foreword

The world's malady is spiritual. There is the eternal soul and eternal reality. [15]

Physical sciences, like religion, are govemed by universal laws, If they are animated by certain spiritual ideals, they can help to build an ideal world. Religions, too, if informed by the scientific spirit of reasoning and experimentation, can rid themselves of superstition and dogmatism. [15]

Explanations of Hinduism are often incorrect and misleading when given by non-Hindus. It is quite difficult for an outsider to enter into the spirit of a religion he or she has not been brought up in. Hinduism does not repudiate the world, negate social values, or forbid the enjoyment of legitimate pleasures; it points the way to enduring happiness both here and hereafter, and to the highest good also. [13, 14]

Nor is Hinduism opposed to rational thinking. One of the universal prayers of the Hindus asks for 'clear intellect.' And Upanishads exhort students to study both science and super-science, or the 'lower knowledge' and the 'higher knowledge'. With the help of the latter he attains to immortal Being. [14]

Indifference and intolerance is not any good help. [15]

1. The Spirit of Hinduism

In the Hindu tradition, reason saves the aspiring devotee from avoidable errors and pitfalls, and sound work helps in purifying the mind or heart. [20]

In the history of the world, India is an ancient nation whose soul could not be destroyed by ruthless conquerors either by force or persuasion. [27]

Indian people shared common spiritual ideals and therefore did not disintegrate as a nation. Diversities of ritual and belief, of food and dress, caste and social behaviour, language and politics, have not been able to destroy this deeper spiritual unity. [19]

Hinduism has left an impress on the entire culture of India, and gives courage to face the problems of life, and a vision of a human's great destiny. Through Buddhism, India has influenced the spiritual culture of Ceylon, Burma, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, and other countries of Asia. [19]

Hindu religion has shown the futility of mere discursive reasoning -- Hinduism baffles attempts to give it an easy and convenient definition. [20, 21]

Hinduism is not a set of abstract philosophical/theories unrelated to life or dogmas to be accepted with blind faith; it combines both philosophy and religion, reason and faith, and promises to votaries a direct insight into reality. [20]

Based essentially on the teachings of the Vedas, Hinduism is secondarily derived from the moral and religious precepts of many prophets and saints, philosophers and lawgivers of ancient, medieval and modern times. It is also enriched by new truths emerging from the experiences of women and men. [21]

Truths were discovered, not created, by seers who had rare insight. And according to Hindu philosophers a conclusion regarding a spiritual truth depends on verdicts of scriptures, reason, and personal experience. [21]

As for the much-embracing nature of Hinduism: the Vedas preach an impersonal reality as ultimate truth, and not the Personal God. Yet there is room for such a God and for other divinities. [21]

Spiritual experiences are attainable by every human being. [22]

The satisfaction derived from ruthless competition with others, or from unkind treatment of lower creatures [etc.], in the end brings frustration. [23]

The Vedas enjoin it upon all to treat with kindness subhuman beings, such as bests and birds, which help to promote human happiness. [23]

The Vedas emphasise that happiness on earth and in heaven is transitory. [23]

Liberation is possible only through the knowledge of the self or Brahman. [24]

Disciplines vary. [24]

Through the experience of God, "the knots" of a man's heart "are cut asunder". [25]

Hinduism has never condemned a rich and full life in the world or extolled poverty as a virtue in itself. -- A Hindu proverb says, 'Fortune in full measure resides in trade and commerce, one half of that in agriculture, and one half again of that in service to the government; but the goddess of fortune quickly runs away from a, beggar.' [25, 27]

2. The Godhead and Creation

Reality experienced at the transcendental level is called Brahman. [29]

Brahman is identical with the self of man, known as atman. [29]

The supreme Brahman is pure being. [30]

The supreme Brahman is my self, my self within the heart, greater than the earth, greather than the sky, greater than heaven. [31]

Hindu philosophers often describe the unconditioned Brahman as Satchidananda,, existence-knowledge-bliss pure and absolute. [32]

Pure existence is the same as pure knowledge and pure bliss. [32]

Brahman is consciousness, knowledge, light. [33]

Brahman is bliss. [34]

There is no real and enduring joy in the finite. [34]

The wave is not essentially different from the sea. The sea is the same sea, whether it is peaceful or agitated. [36 Hinduism gives a spiritual interpretation of the universe. [37]

Brahman is maya . . . with clear intellect. [38 mod]

An outlook: "There is no creation, and that is ultimate truth." [39]

Creatures are born from bliss. [41]

A finite mind cannot understand maya's true nature. [42]

Conditioned Brahman creates, preserves, and destroys. Pure being is untouched. [42-43]

Science and technology are to have a positive regard for nature. [43]

Sound, touch, form, taste, and smell are of sense-perception, yet have subtle counterparts. [44-45]

Spiritual truths are expressed through some of those who have grasped them. [45]

Devotees of a Personal God often become narrow-minded, and regard themselves as superior, claim special privileges, and cause many quarrels. [47]

Reason and spiritual intuition are faculties of one and the same [deep] mind. [48]

3. The Soul and Its Destiny

The ripening individual soul becomes aware of its divine nature, even during its embodied state. [cf 49]

Isvara (a Personal God), is looked on as the conditioned Brahman. [49]

Both Isvara and jiva [individual spirit, soul] are manifestations of Brahman on the relative plane. However, Isvara keeps maya under his control whereas the jiva is under maya's control. [50]

The supreme soul assumes through maya a body and becomes individualized. [50]

The jiva follows an upard or a downward course. [50]

The mind is an inner organ. [51]

Prana [life-energy] has five functions: regulating the breath; carrying downward unassimilated food and drink; pervading the body, ejecting the contents of the stomach through the mouth or conducting the soul from the body at the time of death; and carrying nutrition to every part of the body. [51]

'As the jiva does and acts, so it becomes; by doing good it becomes good and by doing evil it becomes evil – it becomes virtuous through good deeds and vicious through evil deeds.' [51-52]

The doubter of the self is himself that self or consciousness. The denier of the self likewise. [53]

Five sheaths or kosas re to be reckoned with: (1) The gross physical sheath, (2) the sheath of the prana, or vital breath, (3) the sheath of the mind, (4) the sheath of the intellect, (5) and the sheath of bliss.]

They are called sheaths, because, like a sheath concealing an object, they conceal the self. These sheaths are described as being one inside another, the physical sheath being the outermost and the sheath of bliss the innermost. The gross sheath contains within it the finer, and the finer sheath permeates the grosser. [54]

Thus, when it is said that the sheath of the vital breath is inside the gross physical sheath, it really means that the former, which is finer than the latter, permeates it. Atman is the finest entity. It is inside all the sheaths and permeates them all. [54]

The sheath of intelligence reveals more of the luminosity of atman than the gross physical sheath. [54]

The body can be a help to its witnessing "rider" self - just as a horse is helpful to its rider. [55]

The sheath of the prana, or vital breath, is finer than the physical sheath. [55]

The sheath of the mind is finer than the sheath of the prana and grosser than the sheath of the intellect. [55]

Finer than the sheath of the intellect is the sheath of bliss. That bliss is stimulated by external factors, and is there in deep, dreamless sleep. [55]

Knowledge of the supreme spirit is accompanied by a total transformation of character. [55]

Should consciousness ever be broken, another consciousness would have to be postulated as the witness of this break. [58]

Self-love is innate in every normal person. [59]

The happiness of being in heaven, being an effect, cannot last forever. [59]

The soul can exist independent of the body. [59]

Rebirth is governed by the law of karma. [59]

The embodied soul seeks its freedom. [60]

What is called fate or destiny is the accumulation of tendencies created by past actions and thoughts. [60]

Fate can be altered by new actions. [60]

Actions (karma) can be sorted in three sorts: (1) The most impact-giving things you did in your last life condition your present shape and its functionings. (2) A second, classified group of past actions is those that are designed for bearing fruit in a future life. (3) Actions done in this life can influence both this life and future lives and their conditions. [Cf. 61]

A soul is born again and again, high or low, depending on the merit or the demerit of its actions. [62]

Through a human body liberation is generally attained. [62]

Those who have led a life of extreme wickedness are reborn as subhuman beings at some time. [62]

Brahmaloka, the highest heaven [plane of Brahma, realm of Brahma], is gained by those who have led an intense spiritual life on earth and sought the reality of God but not gained the complete deliverance sought after. Some of those who live in Brahmaloka ["highest heaven"] get freed while there, and some return to earth. [62]

One who is tired of births and deaths and heavy-laden with the experiences of the phenomenal world, longs for that bliss which resides behind the heart. [63]

Reality is Brahman and always exists. [63]

The knowledge that the self is one with Brahman is liberation. Liberation is not the effect of knowledge, but knowledge itself. [64]

The embodiment of the self is apparent and not real. [64]

About the enlightened person the Upanishads say: 'Having always been free, he realises his freedom.' [64]

A knower of atman is called a jivanmukta; he is free while living in a physical body. [65]

A free soul is like a person who, having been asleep, has again awakened. The attainment of self-knowledge is not a static condition; it indicates the soul's entrance into a new realm of consciousness. [65]

Often the liberated soul behaves like an ordinary person in respect to hunger and thirst, and is active. The spirit within him is always at peace. Death has no terror for him; he is thus an embodiment of fearlessness. [65]

A free soul remains largely undisturbed and unruffled. [65]

A free soul is bound neither by the injunctions of the scriptures, nor by the conventions of society, nor by the imperatives of ethics. [65]

The greatness of a free soul can be known only by another free soul. [66]

A free soul moves in the world unnoticed by others. [66]

To ordinary men the free soul is an enigma. [66]

Sometimes the free soul acts like a fool, sometimes like a sage, sometimes he (she) is honoured, sometimes insulted, sometimes completely ignored – thus lives a free soul. [66]

Without riches, yet the jivanmukta (free soul) is content; though outwardly active, though apparently enjoying the fruits of action, though dwelling in a finite body. [66]

A free soul no longer thinks in terms of bondage and liberation, which are concepts of the impure mind but never belong to atman, the spirit ever free. The enlightened soul sees neither bondage nor liberation. [66]

A free soul, while living in the body, may experience disease, old age, or decay; may feel hunger, thirst, grief, or fear; may be a victim of blindness, deafness, or other deformities; but he is not overwhelmed by them. [66-67]

A man who sees a play on the stage may enjoy it to his heart's content; likewise, a free soul living in the midst of the joys and sorrows of the world enjoys them as the unfolding of a play. [67]

Where could the soul of the knower of atman go? Out of compassion a free soul may of his own free will again assume a human body and work for the welfare of mankind - or he does not come back to the world of darkness, bondage, ignorance, and illusion [this world]. [67]

4. Hindu Ethics

Hindu ethics is mainly personal, and for the attainment of the highest good. [68]

Ethics that deals with social welfare, has also been considered by Hindu thinkers. It is based upon the Hindu conception of dharma [law, righteousness, duty], related to a man's position in society and his stage in life. Such ethics is a means to help the members of society to create an environment helpful to the pursuit of good that transcends society. [68]

Hinduism further speaks of certain universal ethical principles which apply to all humans irrespective of their position in society or stage in life. [68-69]

Hindus think that custodian gods place obstacles in the path of those who seek liberation from samsara [the wheel of births and deaths]. [69]

Upanishads do not deny the value of social ethics. We read: 'As the scent is wafted afar from a tree laden with flowers, so also is wafted afar the scent of a good deed.'[69]

Among the social virtues are included 'hospitality, courtesy, and duties to wife, children, and grandchildren.' [69]

Every normal person has a threefold debt to discharge;

  1. His debts to the gods are paid by worship and prayer;
  2. A debt to the rishis [seers] that spiritual culture is due to, is paid by study of scriptures;
  3. A debt to worthy ancestors that we have received physical bodies from, is paid by getting children to carry on "the human affair" to their ability. [69]

It is held that proper and fit conduct has a spiritual value. [69]

Hindu ethics prescribes the disciplines for a spiritual life, which are to be observed consciously or unconsciously as long as a man lives. [69]

In one of the Upanishads we find the Creator's advice for self-improvement. He said: 'Da,' which is the first letter of three Sanskrit words: self-control [enough], charity, and compassion [dama (self-restraint, self-control. Compare yama and tapas), dana (also: generosity), and daya (compassion)]. [70]

In the Bhagavad Gita humans are divided into four groups, determined by their actions and virtues [including capabilities].

  • People of knowledge, thought, and learning, including science;]

  • People of action and valour,]

  • People predominantly marked by desires, possessiveness, and acquisitive enterprise;]

  • People well enough suited to the realm of manual labour. [71]

Each of them has its own hygiene, so to speak. The exploitation of one by another undermines the strength of the whole of society. [71]

The Bhagavad Gita describes the virtues of the four castes, and their duties.]

1. Knowledge people take to control of the mind and the senses, have insights, and are satisfied with simple living and high thinking. They may or may not be leaders of society or have high positions by virtue of spirituality. [71]

2. Persons of action may learn to excel in deeds of heroism, resourcefulness, and sovereignty from battles. [71]

3. Acquisitive persons may go into agriculture, cattle-rearing, and trade and thrive through it. [72]

4. Persons suited to manual labour, may in turn get occupied with physical labour. [72]

Caste is also determined by spiritual attainments. [72]

The higher one's position in the caste system, the greater is one's obligation to members of the lower castes. 'It is a law of spiritual economics,' said Mahatma Gandhi, 'it has nothing to do with superiority or inferiority.'[72]

The disciplines for spiritual development are ideally not withheld from anyone. [72]

A second element in the organisation of the caste system is varna or colour. Indigeneous Indian peple and peoples of other races who entered India, were gradually absorbed into Hindu society, where they were assigned places in the caste system according to their apparent physical or mental aptitudes. Gradually the contrast between colours was toned down by intermarriages. Through permutations and combinations many subcastes also came into being. [72-73]

Hindu society in some ways backed up unity in diversity and friendly coexistence, and inter-dining and intermarriage under certain conditions. [73]

In olden times when a Brahmin did not live up to Brahmin virtues, he was demoted, and a sudra, by acquiring or showing higher qualities, was promoted. Conduct was more important than birth. An Upanishads tells of Satyakama, a young boy who wanted to study the Vedas. When he asked his mother about his lineage, she said that she did not know it because she had conceived him when, as a young woman, she had been preoccupied with many household duties and had had no time to ask his father about his lineage. When the teacher that Satyakama approached for the Vedic knowledge heard this from the boy, he was impressed with his truthfulness and outspoken nature and concluded that his father must have been a brahmin. [73-74]

On account of exploitation, the masses became weak and the country fell an easy prey to powerful invaders from the outside. Islam and Christianity took advantage of the injustices that prevailed in Hindu society and made easy converts, especially among those who were denied social privileges. [74]

But it should not be forgotten that the caste system even in its rigid form, rendered good service to Hindu society during the days of foreign domination. [74]

Contact with the West revealed to the Hindu leaders many drawbacks in their society and made them aware of the need for drastic changes. Since India got political freedom, laws are being enacted to gradually eliminate taboos about marriage, inter-dining, and social intercourse. [74]

Sankaracharya points out that a conflict between the upholders of spiritual culture [Brahmins], and the protectors of that culture [kshatriyas], makes society disintegrate. [75]

An industrialised society is largely controlled by the power of wealth and labour. [75]

Even at its best, however, one cannot expect perfection of the caste system. [75]

The good and evil of the rule of society by the four castes have been pointed out by Swami Vivekananda in a letter from the 1890s to an American friend. Among other things he exposes,

When the priest (brahmin) rules, there is a tremendous exclusiveness on hereditary grounds – the persons of the priests and their descendants are hemmed in with all sorts of safeguards – none but they have any knowledge . . . Priests cultivate the mind, for through the mind they govern."

The commercial (vaisya) rule is marked by blood-sucking power. By their reign, culture begins to decay.

The labour (sudra) rule will try to distribute physical comforts – There will be a great distribution of ordinary education, but extraordinary geniuses will be less and less. . . . Now is the time for the last – they must have it – none can resist it . . . Let this one be tried – if for nothing else, for the novelty of the thing.

Let every dog have his day in this miserable world. [75-76]

Outside the pale of society are the untouchables, whose contact pollutes others, Hindus firmly believe. Aryans, proud of their spiritual culture, shrank from them, but some sought to assimilate them through education. [76]

In the past many Hindu religious leaders have protested against untouchability and regarded it as a blot upon society. [77]

Apart from caste, a person's duties, in the Hindu tradition, are determined by the stage of life he belongs to. [77]

The journey of life toward the shrine of truth, is seen as having four stages. Each stage has its responsibilities and obligations. [77]

After the first years of childhood, the first stage of life covers the period of study, when a student cultivates his mind and prepares himself for future service to society. He becomes acquainted with the cultural achievements of the folk. When the studies are completed, the teacher gives the pupil the following instruction, as described in one of the Upanishads:

Speak the truth. Practice dharma. Do not neglect the study [of the Vedas]. Having brought to the teacher the gift desired by him, [enter the householder's life and see that] the line of progeny is not cut off.

Do not swerve from the truth. Do not swerve from dharma. Do not neglect [personal] welfare. Do not neglect prosperity. Do not neglect the study and teaching of the Vedas. Do not neglect your duties to the gods and the Manes [forebears].

Treat your mother as God. Treat your father as God. Treat your teacher as God. Treat your guest as God.

Whatever deeds are faultless, these are to be performed – not others. Whatever good works have been performed by us, those should be performed by you – not others. Those brahmins who are superior to us – you should comfort them by giving them seats.

Now, if there arises in your mind any doubt concerning any act, or any doubt concerning conduct, you should conduct yourself in such matters as brahmins would conduct themselves – brahmins who are competent to judge, who [of their own accord] are devoted [to good deeds] and are not urged [to their performance] by others, and who are not too severe, but are lovers of dharma.

Now, with regard to persons spoken against, you should conduct yourself in such a way as brahmins would conduct themselves – brahmins who are competent to judge, who [of their own accord] are devoted [to good deeds] and are not urged to their performance by others, and who are not too severe, but are lovers of dharma. This is the rule. This is the teaching. This is the secret wisdom of the Vedas. This is the command [of God]. This you should observe. This alone should be observed. [77-78]

With marriage, a person enters the second stage. A normal person requires a mate; his biological and emotional urges in this respect are legitimate. Debarred from marriage are those rare souls who "forsake the world" [drop out of society, more or less] at the call of the spirit.[78]

Marriage is a discipline for participating in the larger life of society. Children endow marriage with social responsibilities. Hinduism does not regard romance as the whole of the married life. Husband and wife are co-partners in their spiritual progress, and the family provides a training ground for the practice of unselfishness. [78]

A healthy householder is the foundation of a good society, discharging his duties as a teacher, a soldier, a statesman, a merchant, a scientist, or a manual worker. He should be busy to acquire wealth and enjoy pleasures, but not by swerving from the path of righteousness. [78-79]

Five duties of a householder: study and teach the Vedas; worship gods daily; offer the spirits of worthy, departed ancestors food and drink as regulated; show kindness to domestic animals; and be hospitable to guests, the homeless, and the destitute. [79]

When the skin wrinkles, the hairs turn grey, or a grandchild is born, one is ready for the forest or a quiet place. And now the pleasures and excitements of youth appear stale and physical needs are reduced to a minimum. Time had better be devoted to reading some scriptures and meditating very well. [79]

During the fourth, added stage a man renounces the world and social laws and is now a friend of gods and animals. No longer tempted by riches, honour, or power, he turns away from the vanities of the world, devoting himself to Self-consciousness. [79]

Well has it been said: 'When a man is born, he cries and the world laughs; but let him lead such a life that when he dies, he laughs and the world cries.' [79]

The conception of dharma - righteousness, duty, religion, law - is derived from a root which means to support. [80]

A person's true dharma is something with which he is born as a result of his actions in previous lives and standing. [80]

A man must not give up his imperfect dharma, determined by his inborn nature. He should follow his own dharma and should not try to imitate the dharma of another. [80]

The Mahabharata epos narrates the stories of a housewife and an untouchable butcher who realised the highest truth and became teachers of the knowledge of Brahman. [80-81]

Hinduism recognises four legitimate and basic desires: dharma or righteousness, artha or wealth, kama or sense pleasure, and moksha or freedom through communion with the Self-God. The first three values belong to the realm of worldly values; the fourth is called the supreme value. The fulfilment of the first three paves the way for moksha - According to an injunction of Hinduism, first comes the body and next the practice of religion. [Compare Abraham Maslow's B-needs.] [81]

Dharma in the sense of duty for its own sake is regarded as empty and dry by Hindu thinkers. [82]

Enjoyment, if properly guided, can be transformed into spiritual experience, whereas suppression of legitimate desires often leads to an unhealthy state of body and mind, and delays liberation. [81]

Artha, or wealth, is legitimate. Pious householders provide for the monks' few necessities in recognition of their efforts to keep alive great spirituality. But a man of the world without money may not keep body and soul together. Money gives leisure, which is an important factor in the creation of culture. But money must be earned according to dharma, otherwise it debases.]

The third legitimate desire is kama, enjoyment of sense pleasure, such as conjugal love, appreciation of art, music, or poetry. Life becomes drab and grcy unless one cultivates aesthetic sensitivity. [81]

Wealth and sense pleasure are of value to the degree they create a yearning for bliss. [81]

Since society consists of individuals, if individuals are virtuous, prosperous, and happy, then social welfare will also exist as a matter of course. [82]

Hindu philosophers always exhorted people to promote social welfare - do some good to others - as a part of spiritual discipline. [83]

The strong often invoke the law of karrna to justify their exploitation of the poor, and many remain helpless in their suffering. [83]

The rich and the powerful are often too selfish to remove these drawbacks. [83]

Who is constantly engaged in doing his duties may find no time for good meditation, study, recreation, or other things his soul yearns for. [84]

It helps to create inner calmness so as to grasp giant truths well. [85]

A middle path of temperance is extolled in the Bhagavad Gita and by Buddha. [86]

Righteousness is threefold: physical, verbal, and mental. [86]

Verbal righteousness includes gentle enough speech conducive to welfare of good ones. [86]

Broadly speaking, virtue is what is conductive to the welfare of others, and oneself too. [Cf. 86]

Unrighteousness leads to pain and misery eventually, but it may take more than one life. [87]

The yoga philosophy of Patanjali enumerates the important virtues as follows: non-injury, truthfulness, abstaining from stealing, chastity, and non-attachment to material objects. Non-injury (ahimsa), and truthfulness (satyagraha) are sovereign virtues emphasised by all religious Hindus. they were part of Mahatma (Mohandas) Gandhi's liberating strategy too. Gandhi applied noninjury as a discipline for the individual and for the Indian nation. [87]

Truthfulness implies the ascertainment of facts by such valid proofs as direct perception, correct inference, and reliable testimony. In addition, truthfulness demands that facts must he described without any intentional deceit or unnecessary verbiage. Such truthfulness is often lacking in diplomatic statements and political discussions. [87]

Great truthfulness should not unnecessarily hurt the feelings of good persons. [87]

The Bhagavad Gita speaks of the spiritual virtues as 'divine treasures' in the search of Self-awakening. [88]

Ignorance belongs to demons. Demoniac natures "do not know what to do and what to refrain from. Purity is not in them, nor good conduct, nor truth. They say, for example, "The world is devoid of truth, without a moral basis, and without a God." Holding such views, these souls of little understanding, rise as the enemies of the world to destroy it. Full of hypocrisy, they hold false views and act with impure resolve. They are given up to strive by unjust means to amass wealth just to satisfy their passions. Deluded by ignorance, bewildered by many fancies, they fall to the lowest depths of degradation." [Gita passages, abridged]]

That is a part of what the Gita teaches. [88]

Buddhist thinkers hold that unrighteousness begins to accumulate from the day a man resolves to earn his living by plundering and killing others, though the resolution itself may remain unfulfilled for a long time. Likewise, a man begins to accumulate virtue from the day he makes a pious resolution. [89]

Buddhism also admits of institutional morality: the founder of an institution is responsible for its good and bad effects on others. [89]

Added: It is good to take care that what we take part in and earn our living inside - a firm, a corporation, whatever - is doing good and refrains from exploiting humans and animals and the plant life. Thus, the founder of a temple where animals are slaughtered, is guilty of immoral acts, but so are the main butchers there too. [TK and 89]

From the absolute standpoint Brahman alone is real and the universe and individual souls, as such, are unreal. But from the relative standpoint individual souls cannot be repudiated, nor birth and death, good and evil, virtue and vice, and other pairs of opposites. [89]

All individuals are in essence of the nature of the spirit. [90]

Whether one knows it or not, the oneness of existence is the source of mutual attraction. [91]

The husband loves the wife out of the spirit in both somehow. [91]

Ethics is concerned with life as it ought to be lived. [91]

Enlightened ones transcend the moral ought. Action flows spontaneously from the fullness of their hearts. The purpose of improving the world is meaningless to such ones. [92]

The world-process is the spontaneous manifestation of the spirit. [92]

The ignorant read a motive into the creation. [92]

Far too often a philanthropist is trying to soothe a guilty conscience or escape boredom. [93]

Sankaracharya says that a man should first see God in himself, and then serve others as manifestations of God. Such a man can perform fruitful action. "Evil does not overtake him. He becomes a knower of truth." [Upanishad extracts] [93]

5. Spiritual Disciplines 1 (Karma-Yoga)

The mind is by nature pure and clear, and capable of reflecting reality. [94]

The scriptures can only indicate the supramental reality, and never directly describe its true nature. [95]

The Reality should be applied in daily life. [Cf. 96]

Een though Hindu thinkers speak of four general types and an appropriate yoga for each type, each mind contains some of all the four traits. [96]

Preservation of the social order demands constant, vigilant action. [98]

One should not get [overly] attached even to pleasant sensations. [99]

False monks are a real nuisance to society. [100]

A follower of non-dualism, too, can attain self-realisation. [102]

A deluded person thinks he is the doer and the enjoyer of the fruit of actions. [103]

The enlightened person experiences oneness. [104]

6. Spiritual Disciplines 2 (Bhakti-Yoga)

Love operates at different levels. [105]

Love is expressed of itself. [Cf. 105]

Furthermore, love is based on enduring attraction. [106]

Through maya is "only the greatness of God". [Cf. 108]

It should help to direct the flow of love inwards toward one's Self. [Cf. 110]

A true devotee may possess all kinds of material goods. [111]

As the mind of the pupil becomes purer, she finds she can derive benefit from less than perfect guides too. According to Hindu mythology, God has been incarnated as a beneficial fish, a turtle, a-boar, as a creature half lion and half man, as a hunter, as an ethical man, and so on. [112-13]

A God-man can transmit spirituality to a seeker. [113]

Worship through images are accepted by Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. [113]

The liberal and tolerant person is generally devoid of intensity of religious feeling. [114]

Though a devotee must respect many Ishta devatas (chosen ideals), he remains completely loyal to his own.]

The tender plant of spirituality: The young sapling should be protected by hedges until it grows into a tree. [114]

A true devotee is like the pearl-oyster that dives deep to the sea-bed to lie there. [114]

A Chosen Ideal [Istha devata] is also worshipped as the Chosen Ideal by all others, under different names and forms; He is at bottom the all-pervading Brahman.]

The Bhagavad Gita says that a devotee should practise meditation, should not eat too much or too little, and should follow the middle path about rest, work, and sleep. In the end the Chosen Ideal appears as a living being, speaking and giving guidance. [115]

Swami Vivekananda: Love knows no bargaining. Love does not seek anything in return. The devotee loves God because He [She] is lovable. And glowing love knows no fear. [116]

A woman loves her sweetheart. [117]

If a man loves God, he offers loving service. [117]

A devotee does not injure an animal. [118

7. Spiritual Disciplines 3 (Jnana-Yoga)

True knowledge does not consist of mere information; it must transform a man's character and inspire the activities of his daily life. [121]

Four cardinal disciplines of Vedanta are: (1) discrimination; (2) no undue attachment, (3) control of the senses, forbearance, and an affirmative faith in Reality; (4)) Longing for truth with freedom. [Cf. 121-23]

Brahman is pure consciousness. [123]

There has to be a perceiving consciousness that is aware of the void, if a void is experienced. [124]

Four famous Vedic statements: 'That thou art (tat twam asi),' 'I am Brahman,' 'This self is Brahman,' and 'Brahman is consciousness.' [124-25]

Counsel: Meditate on your real nature [i.e, turn the attention inwards through good meditation]. It is beyond family and lineage and transcends space, time, and sense-objects. That Brahman you are. Meditate on this in you mind. [125-26 ]

Sloth and inadvertence are great enemies. [126]

It is good to drop futile talk when not engaged in meditation. [128

8. Spiritual Disciplines 4 (Raja-Yoga)

A student af yoga should cultivate an attitude of friendship toward those who are happy, and a certain indifference toward the evil. A yogi still struggling for perfection does not become a social reformer. [133]

A yogi tries to redress evils happening before his eyes, if he sees them, but he certainly does not create new distractions by going out to seek them. [133]

According to Patanjali, there is a unique relation between the Godhead and the word Aum (Om). Hindu philosophers regard Aum as the most generalised sound. Aum represents the whole gamut of sound-production. [134]

The undifferentiated sound finally merges in silence, which also is the final experience. [134]

The word Aum was not invented by any man. [134]

There are different kinds of concentration. One can concentrate on the external, gross elements and thus learn, their true nature. By means of such concentration a yogi gets to know of the subtle properties of material objects, and supernatural powers that bring about suffering if they are misused. [136]

The skilful yogi can withdraw his mind within so that it becomes one-pointed. [137]

The first two parts of raja-yoga, yama and niyama, denote, in a general way, self-control. [137]

The three last limbs of Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga - dharana, dhyana, and Samadhi - taken together are called samyama. [140]

Gross understanding may come by means of ordinary education, and very subtle insights by yogic disciplines [hopefully. Compare brain research into beta waves, etc.]. [Cf. 140]

One day the young Vivekananda prayed to Ramakrishna for the boon that he might commune with God in samadhi for several days at a time, opening his eyes occasionally to take a little physical nourishment. Ramakrishna reproached him and said, 'Why are you so eager to see God with eyes closed? Can't you see Him with eyes open?' [143]

Before his death Vivekananda said: 'May I be born again and again and suffer thousands of miseries . . ." Are there no better prayers than his? [144 Hum]

9. Tantra: A Way of Realisation

Maya veils and contains polarisation. [146]

A finite centre never ceases to be a 'point'. [146]

In every jiva-centre there are elements of individuality and eternal being, phenomenality and reality. The 'outgoing current' of maya reflects the outer world, and the 'return current,' reveals God. [147]

The jiva, caught in the outgoing current, perceives duality and so on. These distinctions are relative. [147]

The jiva is really Shiva (the Absolute). [147]

Man and woman can be equated in a way. [148]

The Tantric method of elevation consists of three steps: purification, elevation, and reaffirmation of identity on the plane of pure consciousness. [Cf. 149]

Spiritual awakening is described in Tantra by means of the awakening and rising of the kundalini. The head of the coiled and dormant kundalini serpent must be turned upward. This change of the direction of the serpent power is called unificative. The next step is elevation, that is, the outgoing current must be reversed. The last step is the regaining in mind of identity with Siva-Sakti. [150]

Kundalini is the basis of the spiritual experiences. Seeing light or a vision, or communion with the Deity, are manifestations of the ascent of the Kundalini, according to Tantra. [150]

Transformation, dynamisation, and sublimination of the physical, mental, and vital apparatus is possible through what is called the rousing of the Kundalini and its reorientation from 'downward facing' to 'upward facing.' [151]

The passage of the awakened Kundalini lies through the Sushumna. Sushumna is described as a kind of hollow canal through the spinal column, connecting the base centre (Muladhara chakra) near the bottom of the spine with the centre at the cerebrum (Sahasrara). Tantra speaks of six centres that Sushumna passes through; these centres relate to spheres or planes and are described in Tantra as different-coloured lotuses with varying numbers of petals. [151-52]

As the Kundalini rises through the Sushumna canal and touches the centres, these buds turn upward as fully opened flowers and the aspirant gets spiritual experiences. The goal in spiritual practice is to make the Kundalini ascend from the lower centres to higher centres, and thereby better awareness. [152]

During this upward journey of the Kundalini, the jiva is not quite released from the relative state until it reaches the sixth centre or plane (the two-petalled white lotus at the junction of the eyebrows, i.e., ajna chakra). [152]

Finally the Kundalini rises to the lotus at the cerebrum and becomes united with Absoluteness, and the aspirant realises a transcendental union with Siva-Sakti. [152]

As the physician of the soul, the guru occupies a position of extreme responsibility. [153]

The mode of initiation varies. Ordinary initiation is given by elaborate rituals. But by the higher type of initiation the disciple very soon becomes blessed with deep spiritual experiences. [153]

Mantras play a most important part in the Tantric discipline. The mantra is the sound-equivalent of the Deity, that is to say, chit or consciousness; the external image is the material form of the mantra. The sound-vibration is the first manifestation of chit and nearest to it. [153]

Tantra teaches that sound vibration can lead to the realisation of chit. Thus mantras are forms of concentrated thought of exceeding potency. [154]

A mantra and the deity with which it is associated are identical, the deity being the illumination embodied in the mantra. [154]

Mystical diagrams called yantras are used in Tantric rituals. A yantra is a diagrammatic equivalent of the deity, just as a mantra is its sound-equivalent. [154]

The actual proofs of mantra teachings lie in delicate experients beyond the reach and comprehension of the average person. [Cf. 155]

Tantra insists that supernatural powers can be had by mantras, after the kundalini has risen and the practitioner realises his identity with Satchidananda. [Cf. 155]

Let us consider a Tantric ritual. The aim is to guide aspirants to realise both the supreme end of liberation and the secondary ends of wealth, sense-pleasure, and righteousness, according to their inner evolution and desires. [155]

Usually a Tantric ritual involves such as breath-control and meditation, and is aimed at transforming the deep mind well. [Cf. 155]

Several paths have been prescribed by Tantra for the awakening of the kundalini; one of these is called the 'left-hand' path, which is solidly based on the principle of reversing the process that creates animalistic bonds. [156]

Ingredients used by followers of this path are cereals, fish, meat, wine, and sexual union. Further, sexual union is said to be sacred of deep spiritual significance in that it brings about unification in a way. [157]

Tantra claims that its disciplines have a universal application; it admits the validity of the rituals of the Vedas, the discrimination and renunciation of the Upanishads, the purifying disciplines of raja-yoga, and the passionate love for the Deity described in the Puranas. [158-59]

It exhorts-the sadhaka to exercise will and self-effort, practise self-surrender, and supplicate for divine grace. Tantra promises its devotees not only enjoyment of worldly happiness but also liberation, and acknowledges that the power of the Kundalini can be aroused by the sincere pursuit of the spiritual disciplines recommended by all the great religions of the world.]

Ramakrishna went into ecstacy at the sight of a prostitute, of drunkards revelling in a tavern, and of the sexual union of a dog and bitch. He saw even a grain of sand and a blade of grass vibrating with energy. He acquired the various supernatural powers of yoga, and he spurned them all as of no spiritual value. [150-160]

Ramakrishna described to his disciples the movements of the rising kundalini: fishlike, birdlike, monkeylike, and so on. [160]

10. Hinduism in Practice

Popular worship in India is generally pervaded by a spirit of joyousness and merriment. [163]

Rites to be performed on special occasions have a deep religious significance. [165]

The goal of the Upanishadic teachings is the attainment of the unitive knowledge of Brahman. The direct knowledge of Brahman can be attained only by a fortunate few. The minds of average seekers are restless and attached to the world. [166]

The mode of worship is like that of the service usually rendered to a beloved guest or to an honoured king. [169]

Through religious festivals, pilgrimages, the observance of vows, and ritualistic worship, a Hindu cleanses his heart, renews his contact with God, and makes progress toward his spiritual goal. [171]

11. Interreligious Relations: A Hindu Attitude

Ramakrishna said, "God has been described in the Vedas as both with form and without. You describe Him as without form only. That is onesided." [179]

Great religions, founded on strikingly similar principles, believe in the existence of a soul which does not die. [182]

The realisation of God, can be achieved. Ritual, mythology, and philosophy may be considered the three important constituents of a well-organised religion. Faiths are conditioned by these three factors, and religious disagreements arise in these three fields. [184]

Universal religion is like universal brotherhood. [185]

How are we to promote the universal religion? Let us encourage the sincere, well-equipped, and earnest to dive. [Cf. 186]

Mankind is severely challenged today by scepticism and secularism. [187]

In order to promote the universal religion we must take a man where he stands to give him a lift. [187]

The world is a complex machine. Let us lessen friction by greasing the wheels, as it were. [188]

The idea of exclusiveness may create suspicion. A man with a sixth toe may be unique, but he is certainly not normal. [188]

There are many dangers ready to engulf humanity, and many possibilities to create a glorious world. Compare notes regarding achievements and failures. [189]

Help access to fit knowledge and very free use of it. Assert, 'Not destruction, but fulfilment," for example. [Cf. 189]

Core Hinduism, Sanatan Dharma, Literature  

Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Gupta, Mahendranath. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Tr. Swami Nikhilananda. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1942.

Himalayan Academy. What Is Hinduism? Modern Adventures into a Profound Global Faith. Kapaa, HI: Himalayan Academy, 2007.

Klostermaier, Klaus K. Hinduism: A Beginner's Guide. Oxford: Oneworld/Beginners Guide, 2008.

Klostermaier, Klaus K. A Survey of Hinduism. 3rd ed. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2007. – 700 pages.

Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. The Bhagavad Gita. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1952.

Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. Vivekananda. The Yogas and Other Works. Rev. ed. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953.

Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. The Upanishads. Abridged ed. New York: Harper/Cloister, 1964.

Nikhilananda, Swami. Hinduism: Its Meaning for the Liberation of the Spirit. Madras: Ramakrishna Math, 1968.

Nikhilananda, Swami. Man in Search of Immortality. London: Allen and Unwin, 1968.

Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. Drg-Drsya-Viveka. An Inquiry into the Nature of the "Seer" and the "Seen". 5th ed. Mysore: Ramakrishna Math, 1970.

Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. The Gospel of Ramakrishna. Abridged ed. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1974.

Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. Vedantasara or the Essence of Vedanta. 6th ed. Calcutta: Advaita, 1974.

Nikhilananda, Swami. The Upanishads, Vols 1-4. New York: Ramakrishna, 1977.

Core Hinduism, Sanatan Dharma, To top    Section     Set    Next

Core Hinduism, Sanatan Dharma. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2010–2019, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil [Email]