A Way of Life for Whole of Mankind
What is the best way in which humans should live their lives. People in every religion, feel that their way of life is the best way and that others should also adopt the same. With the advancement in science and technology, let us not look at this important aspect in an old fashion but examine it with a dispassionate angle.
Living communities in the world are divided in the names of religions they profess. What is religion and how it affects the way the human live?
The word religion has often confused even the best of human minds. The essential purpose of religion is to elevate humanity to a consciousness of Bliss (which is God) by removing man’s threefold suffering-physical, mental, and spiritual. With the passage of time this great purpose merely got reduced to observance of certain set of rules and precepts. This gave rise to dogmas, beliefs, customs and separate distinctions leading to differences in understanding.
Brief History of Religions
From pre-historic times three main religions, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism, have come down to humanity. Judaism failed to absorb Christianity and got pushed away. In India sect after sect arose to shake Hinduism from its very foundation but could not succeed; rather these sects themselves got absorbed in the Indian way of life called Hinduism. Why, probably because Hinduism is not a religion in commonly understood terms comprising set of dogmas and beliefs but it is a proven way of life which has helped mankind from millenniums to know its true nature and that of the Infinite which is its source. Let us have a wider look at it with an open heart.
What is the origin of the so- called Hindu way of life?
The origin of the Hindu way of life is said to have come from the Vedas which contain revelations that are related to human life in accordance with design of the Cosmic Director. The Vedas are not merely books containing certain dogmas, faiths or beliefs; they provide a direct touch to the cosmic laws governing man’s life on earth. They are not revelations or beliefs of one man; they are science of Infinite itself, applicable to all inhabitants of the earth alike. They are the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by highly advanced souls known as Rishis, from time to time. Just as laws of Gravitation or magnetism existed even before their discovery and would even exist when the humanity forgets them, so it is with cosmic or spiritual laws of the Cosmic Director.
A note in Chapter 8 of ‘The Autobiography of a Yogi’ mentions:
‘The Vedanta, summaries in the Vedas, have inspired many great Western thinkers. The French historian, Victor Cousin, said: “When we read with attention the philosophical monuments of the Orient- above all, those of India-we discover there many a truth so profound—that we are constrained to bend the knee before the philosophy of the East, and to see in the cradle of the human race the native land of the highest philosophy.”Schlegel observed: “Even the loftiest philosophy of the Europeans, the idealism of reason as set forth by the Greek philosophers, appears-in comparison with the abundant life and vigour of Oriental idealism- like a feeble promethean spark against a full flood of sunlight.”
What are the basic concepts of the Hindu way of life?
The basic concept is that he is not the body but in him resides the immortal soul. His soul is a circle whose circumference is nowhere, but whose centre is located in his body and that death means only changing one body to another.
The true or perfected person in this concept wants to act in the world through the guidance of his soul which is a reflection of omnipresent in him. He feels that all are brothers and sisters in the world—heirs of immortal bliss, children of one and only one God.
God is one, He is everywhere, the pure and formless One, the Almighty and the all merciful. He is our Father, Mother, Friend and Beloved. He bears the burden of the Universe and helps us to bear the little weight of our lives.
What is the keynote of this concept?
The keynote is that people following this concept unite themselves with every religion. They do not want others to change to their way but are satisfied to see everybody seeking God in his own way.
In the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, Swami Vivekananda presented a paper on ‘Hinduism’. Everybody in the Parliament was startled with his revelations. What the world needed was a faith that had no fear of truth. He told people that the Hindu faith is theirs as well as his. Hindus do not merely tolerate, but they unite themselves with every religion, praying in mosques of the Mohammedans, worshiping before the fire of Zoroastrians and kneeling before the cross of Christians. The Hindu gathers flowers from all faiths, binds them together with the thread of love and makes them a wonderful bouquet of worship.
Q. People in general however feel that Hindus also follow certain fixed set of dogmas, blind beliefs and are superstitious. Such a thing did happen in Hinduism. The reasons for this could be traced to the following:
Oncoming of Dark Ages
With the oncoming of the Dark Ages period of the Yuga Cycle of 24,000 years (700 BC to 1700 AD), the whole of the humanity had gone into stark ignorance. This affected the Hindu mind as well. In a free Hindu way of life had entered dogmas, blind beliefs and superstitions. These made Hindu way of life also to look alike other faiths viz. Christianity and Islam (two main faiths in the world). Both these faiths were however born in dark ages- Christianity around 400 A.D and Islam around 600 A.D. Buddhism, a sort of rebel child of Hinduism, also took birth in this age. It looked modern to most of the Asian Continent as it came with simple laws of living. What Hinduism then needed was organizing and consolidating its own ideas and placing before the masses its true values. This was initiated and done by Swami Vivekananda by presenting a paper on Hinduism in the Parliament of Religions. This sent a message to the sister nations what India can give to the world. Vivekananda proclaimed in strong voice “If one religion be true, then all the others must also be true.” With Swamiji’s speech in Parliament Hinduism had been recreated, it was given a new life. Vivekananda gave to Parliament and the world at large, a message of his whole people as determined by their whole past.
Q. Is there any doctrine behind the Hindu way of life?
The doctrine behind Hindu way of life are the Vedas which emphasize that God be worshiped through love only. He is One Beloved dearer than everything else in this life and the next life. The same doctrine was taught by Lord Krishna. He taught that a man ought to live in this world like a lotus leaf which grows in muddy water but is never soiled by that water.
And it may be good to love God for the sake of a reward in this or next life, but it is better to love God for love’s sake. He is the only object of love. All love flows from Him alone. A prayer of a Hindu is, “I do not pray for anything: I do not ask for anything. Let Him place me wherever He likes.”
Q.What is the practical way to approach God?
God’s mercy comes on the pure hearted. He reveals Himself to the pure heart. The Hindu does not want to live upon words and theories only. He wants to realize and know God. The Hindu way of life or the Sanatan Dharma (religion) which they follow does not consist in struggles and attempts to believe in a certain doctrine or dogma, but in realizing; not in believing but in being and becoming. Thus the whole object of Hindu system is a constant struggle to become perfect, to become divine to reach God and see God. After achieving perfection he lives a life of eternal bliss. It is a common religion of all sects in India.
Q. Superstition is a great enemy of man, and bigotry is still worse. Why does a Christian go to Church? Why is the cross holy? Why is the face turned towards the sky in prayer? Why are there so many images in the Catholic Church? Why are there so many images in the minds of Protestants when they pray?
Vivekananda said “My brothers, we can no more think anything without a mental image than we can live without breathing.” By the laws of association, the material image calls up the mental idea and vice- versa. This is why the Hindu uses an external symbol when he worships. It helps to keep his mind fixed on the Being to whom he prays. He knows very well as all of us know that the image is not God, is not omnipresent and that it is only a symbol. Like people of other religions, Hindus have also associated with the ideas of purity, truth, omnipresence and such other thoughts with different images and forms. Vivekananda went on to explain that the difference between a Hindu and others is that some people devote their whole lives to their idol of a church and never rise higher. For them religion means an intellectual ascent to certain doctrines and doing well to their fellows. The whole Hindu way of life is, however, centered in realization. Man is to become divine by realizing the divine.
George Bernard Shaw said:
“The apparent multiplication of gods (in India’s religions) is bewildering at first glance. But soon you discover that they are all the same God in different aspects and functions. There is always one uttermost God who defies personification. This makes Hinduism the most tolerant religion in the world, because its one transcendent God includes all possible gods.”
Self-realization has been the keynote of Paramahansa Yogananda’s work of decades. He named his worldwide organisation as Self-Realization Fellowship, whose first aim is to disseminate, among the nations,
knowledge of definite scientific techniques for obtaining a direct personal experience of God. He mentions in his Autobiography of a Yogi that ‘Sanatan Dharma’ is literally the eternal religion. It is a name given to the body of Vedic teachings. Sanatan Dharma came to be called Hinduism because the Greeks who invaded the north-western under the Alexander the Great (300 BC) designated the people on the river Indus as Indoos or Hindus.
In his Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda also mentions the views of Mahatma Gandhi in the matter of religion:
“I believe the Bible, the Koran and the Zend-Avesta to be as divinely inspired as the Vedas. Like every Hindu I believe in God and His oneness, in rebirth and salvation – I can no more describe my feelings for Hinduism than for my own wife – a feeling of an indissoluble bond is there. Hinduism is not an exclusive religion. In it there is room for the worship of all the prophets of the world. It is not a missionary religion in the ordinary sense of the term. It has no doubt absorbed many tribes in its fold, but this absorption has been of an evolutionary, imperceptible character. Hinduism tells each man to worship God according to his own faith or Dharma, and so lives at peace with all religions.”
Paramahansa Yogananda further goes on to explain in the footnotes of his Autobiography of a Yogi:
“The unique feature of Hinduism among the world religions is that it derives not from a single great founder but from the impersonal Vedic scriptures. Hinduism thus gives scope for worshipful incorporation into its fold of prophets of all ages and all lands. The Vedic scriptures regulate not only devotional practices but all important social customs, in an effort to bring every man’s action into harmony with divine law.”
In the immense literature of India, the Vedas are the only text to which no author is ascribed—The Vedas were a revelation by sound, “directly heard” (shruti) by the Rishis. It is essentially a literature of chant and recitation. For millenniums, therefore, the 1, 00,000 couplets of the Vedas were not written down, but were orally transmitted by Brahmin priests. Paper and stone alike are subject to the obliterating effects of time. The Vedas have persisted down the ages because the Rishis understood the superiority of the mind over matter as the proper means of transmittal.
By observing the particular order in which the Vedic words occur, and with the aid of phonological rules for combinations of sounds and for the relation of the letters, and by proving in certain mathematical ways the accuracy of the memorized texts, the Brahmins have uniquely preserved, from a dim antiquity, the original purity of the Vedas. Each syllable of a Vedic word is endowed with significance and efficacy. (Chapter 8 of the Autobiography of a Yogi).
In Paramahansa Yogananda’s organisations SRF (Self-Realisation Fellowship) and YSS of India(Yogoda Satsanga Society of India), the altars in temples, Ashrams and homes of devotees around the world are decorated with the pictures of Lord Krishna, Jesus Christ, Mahavtar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasya, Swami Sri Yukteswar and Paramahansa Yogananda. In the prescribed opening prayer, besides the names of the 6 masters, are included prayers to saints and sages of all religions. Long meditations of 6-8 hours are equally done on Janamashtami (Lord Krishna’s birthday) and Christmas (Jesus Christ’s birthday).
“The Hindu scriptures teach that man is attracted to this particular earth to learn, more completely in each successive life, the infinite ways in which the Spirit may be expressed through, and dominant over, material conditions. East and West are learning this great truth in different ways, and should gladly share with each other their discoveries. Beyond all doubt it is pleasing to the Lord when His earth-children struggle to attain a world civilization free from poverty, disease, and soul ignorance. Man’s forgetfulness of his divine resources (the result of his misuse of free will) is the root cause of all other forms of suffering
The main teachings in the Hindu Scriptures are:
The Hindu scriptures declare that those who habitually speak the truth develop the power of materialising their words. What commands they utter from the heart come to pass. Because the words are built on truth, all the scriptures extol it as a virtue by which man may tune his life with the infinite. Mahatma Gandhi often said “Truth is God”, his lifelong striving was for a perfect truth in thought, speech and act. Throughout the ages, the ideal of Satya (truth) has permeated the Hindu Society.
“Hindu scriptures also teach that family attachment is delusive if it prevents the devotee from seeking the Giver of all boons, including the one of loving relatives, not to mention life itself. Jesus similarly taught: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” – Matthew 10:37 (Bible).”
In the words of Swami Vivekananda:
“Here am I, one of the least of the Hindu race, yet proud of my race, proud of my ancestors. I am proud to call myself a Hindu.”
Recently, The Times of India, in its Newspaper of 16th March, 2013 reported:
“The Income-tax Appellate Tribunal of the Govt. of India had held that Hinduism was neither a religion nor a community. It consisted of a number of communities having different gods worshipped in different ways. Even the worship of God was not essential for a person who had adopted the Hindu way of life. The Tribunal further said, “Hinduism holds within its fold men of divergent views and traditions who have very little in common except a vague faith what may be called as the fundamentals of Hinduism.” According to it, the word ‘community’ meant people living in the same place, under the same laws and regulations and who have common rights and privileges. This may apply to Christianity or Islam but not to Hindu.