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Introduction to World Religions Fall 2005 Dr. Hannah Schell

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1 Introduction to World Religions Fall 2005 Dr. Hannah Schell
“Krishna, master of all yogis, revealed.. His transcendent divine Form, speaking from innumerable mouths, seeing with myriad eyes, of many marvelous aspects, adorned with countless divine ornaments… full of revelations, resplendent, boundless, of ubiquitous regard. Suppose a thousand suns should rise together into the sky: such is the glory of the Shape of Infinite God.” - The Bhagavad Gita Ask students to explicate quotation – what kind of view of the divine is this? Hinduism I Introduction to World Religions Fall Dr. Hannah Schell

2 First: pie! What is Hinduism – the paradox; general overview, getting situated geographically, historically, and culturally The “anthropology” of Hinduism – view of human beings, human life (individually & collectively) The basic metaphysics of the Hindu worldview – review of major concepts Agenda

3 The religion pie

4 Hinduism is an ethnic religion…
There are a total of nearly 1 billion Hindus (900 million) in the world. Countries with the highest percentage of Hindus: Nepal (89%) and India (79%) Within the United States, Hindus are clustered in New York (0.6%), New Jersey (0.3%) and Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, and Wyoming (each with 0.2%) Source:

5 Maps of India Source of maps: (map on left) map on right:

6 I. What is Hinduism? Term “hindu” means “river,” specifically the “Indus”. A paradox: Hinduism is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuous, recorded religion. Dates to the Rig Veda (finalized by 1200 BCE). But…. Hinduism is also the youngest – only in the 19th century that the many indigenous Indian religious formations come to be collectively named (by outsiders), “Hinduism.” Hinduism is a broad, varied group of inter-connected traditions that dominate the religious history of South Asia (Sharma, 9). “There are Hindus but there is no Hinduism.” - Wilfred Cantwell Smith, The Meaning and End of Religion, 65.

7 Broad Timeline Vedic Period (1500-600 BCE) – The Vedas.
Classical Hinduism (500 BCE – 1000 CE) BCE) – the great epics, the Mahabharta (which includes the Bhagavad Gita) and the Ramayana; the Puranas (stories of gods and their incarnations). Building of temples. Medieval Period ( ). Muslim rule over north India lasting until 1858; development of the texts of Hinduism; emergence of many sects, devotional poetry, sanctity of the cow, over and against Islam. Modern Hinduism ( ). Christianity as the new religious threat; emphasis on religious experience rather than Vedic authority. Contemporary Hinduism (1947-today). Emergence of Hindu nationalism; emigration of Hindus to the west. Vedas, sacred texts – “that which was heard” – eternal, unchanging, immutable. Written in ancient language of Vedic, precursor to Sanskrit Brahmins are the custodians of the Vedas Material includes details about rituals, wisdom teachings, speculative treatises, creation stories, epic tales of great battles, descriptions of many gods Includes the “Upanishads” – mystical interpretation

8 Watch video now.

9 Vedic Period ( BCE) Reference to texts known as “The Vedas,” which include hymns, explanations of the sacrifices Also, descriptions of early deities (Indra, Agni, Soma) describe the mysterious power of Brahman The “Upanishads” (sessions – “additions” to the Vedas c BCE)

10 Vedic hymn to Indra “The chief wise god who as soon as born surpassed the gods in power; Before whose vehemence the two worlds trembled by reason of the greatness of his valor; he, O men, is Indra…. Who made firm the quaking earth who set at rest the agitated mountains; Who measures out the air more widely, who supported heaven: he, O men, is Indra… Even heaven and Earth bow down before him; before his vehemence even the mountains are afraid. Who is known as the Soma-drinker, holding the bolt in his.. Hand: he, O men, is Indra.” - From the Rig Veda, The World’s Wisdom, ed. Philip Novak, 2. Source of image above:

11 On the origins of the world
“Then even nothingness was not, nor existence. There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it. What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping? Was there then a cosmic water, in depths unfathomed? Then there were neither death nor immortality, nor was there then the torch of night and day. The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining. There was that One then, and there was no other. At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness. All this was only unillumined water. That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing, arose at last, born of the power of heat. (continues…) .

12 - From the Vedas, The World’s Wisdom, 6-7
In the beginning, desire descended on it – that was the primal seed, born of the mind. The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom know that which is, is kin to that which is not. … But, after all, who knows, and who can say whence it all came, and how creation happened? The gods themselves are later in creation, so who knows truly whence it has arisen? Whence all creation had its origin, he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not, He, who surveys it all from highest heaven, he knows – or maybe even he does not know.” - From the Vedas, The World’s Wisdom, 6-7 Source of image:

13 The Upanishads philosophical text that extends the concept of Brahman to mean supreme, infinite, impersonal Reality Describes pure being, consciousness, and bliss. Development of the concept of yoga (path) Makes reference to the sacred syllable, om.

14 II. The “anthropology” of Hinduism
Stages of human life View of human life – the Four Aims Yogas: different paths Social location (caste) The Infinite Self – Atman = Brahman Source:

15 The stages of human life (asramas)
Student Family/Householder: family, vocation, communal duties (Smith, 51). Forest dweller (retirement) Ascetic (sannyasin): “one who neither hates nor loves anything” (Smith, 53). Total renunciation of the worldly life; total devotion to spiritual self-realization (Sources, 229).

16 The third stage “When a householder sees his skin wrinkled and his hair gray and when he sees the son of his son, then he should resort to the forest. Having given up food in villages [by cultivation] and abandoning all his belongings, he should depart into the forest, either committing his wife to the care of his sons or departing together with her… He should be constantly engaged in study and should be self-controlled, friendly toward all, spiritually composed, ever a liberal giver and never a receiver, and compassionate toward all beings…” - Manu Smriti, Sources, 229. Source of image:

17 The four aims of human life
Kama (pleasure) Artha (wealth, fame, power) Dharma (duty) Moksha (liberation)

18 Kama: the pursuit of pleasure
Kama Sutra (Aphorisms of love) helps spell out the science of material gain and pleasure. The cultured person to be educated in the arts and sciences, including, dancing, singing, acting, flower arranging, gambling, distillation of spiritous liquors, sewing and embroidery work, first-aid, metallurgy, cooking, chemistry, posture, dueling, gymnastics, dyeing, architecture and engineering, calligraphy, swimming, leatherwork, archery, driving horses and elephants, composition and solution of riddles and other puzzles, nursing and rearing of children, etc. Abridged list. Sources of Indian Tradition, 2nd ed. 256.

19 The man of taste and culture…
“He must get up early in the morning, answer the calls of nature, wash his teeth, smear his body with just a little fragrant paste, inhale fragrant incense, wear some flowers, give the lips a rub with wax and red juice, look at his face in the mirror… and then attend to his work… After eating comes playing with parrots and myna birds and making them talk; and indulging in cock and ram fights and in other artistic activities; also attending to the work he has with his friends and companions…. At the end of it, in his own apartments… he awaits… his beloved who has given him an engagement, or else sends her a message and himself goes to meet her… Such is the daily routine.” - Vatsyayana, Kama Sutra, Sources of Indian Tradition, 2nd ed. 257.

20 Artha: wealth, fame and power
“Only if a king is himself energetically active, do his officers follow him energetically. If he is sluggish, they too remain sluggish. And, besides, they eat up his works. He is thereby easily overpowered by his enemies. Therefore, he should ever dedicate himself energetically to activity… During the first one-eighth part of the day, he should listen to reports pertaining to the organization of law and order and to income and expenditure. During the second, he should attend to the affairs of the urban and the rural population. During the third, he should take his bath and meal and devote himself to study….” - Artha Sastra, Sources of Indian tradition, 2nd ed. 242. King Gyanendra with Queen Komal (Nepal) Source:

21 Dharma: duty, law, obligation, proper action, right behavior
“Dharma is the foundation of the whole universe… By means of dharma one drives away evil. Upon dharma everything is founded. Therefore, dharma is called the highest good” (Sources, 217). “Better one’s own dharma, though done imperfectly, than another’s well performed. Better is death in the fulfillment of one’s own dharma. To adopt the dharma of another is perilous…” (From the Bhagavad Gita, Sources of Indian Tradition, 218).

22 Moksha: liberation/salvation/deliverance
From what? The endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. From the unsatisfactoriness of existence Offers freedom from ignorance, brings the truth Variety of ways of attaining moksha – through the different yogas (paths)

23 Yogas (path; also bindings)
“When the five senses and the mind are still, and reason rests in silence, then begins the Path supreme. This calm steadiness of the senses is called Yoga. Then one should become watchful, because Yoga comes and goes… When all desires that cling to the heart are surrendered, then a mortal becomes immortal, and even in this world he is one with Brahman. When all the ties that bind the heart are unloosened, then a mortal becomes immortal. This is the sacred teaching.” - From Katha Upanishad, World’s Wisdom, 14.

24 Yogas (paths to liberation)
Jnana yoga (knowledge): wisdom that is transformative Bhakti yoga (love or devotion): surrender, worship will lead to forgiveness. Karma yoga (action): path to God through work (Smith, 37). Raja yoga (psycho-physical experiments)

25 Jnana yoga (knowledge)
“There is a rider who sits serene and motionless in his chariot. Having delegated responsibility for the journey to his charioteer, he is free to sit back and give full attention to the passing landscape. In this image resides a metaphor for life. The body is the chariot. The road over which it travels are the sense objects. The horses that pull the chariot over the road are the senses themselves. The mind that controls the senses when they are disciplined is represented by the reins. The decisional faculty of the mind is the driver, and the master of the chariot, who is in full authority but need never lift a finger, is the Omniscient Self” (Smith, explicating passage from the Upanishads, 31).

26 Bhakti yoga (path of love or devotion)
Worship of God through an adopted form (istar) “Thou art everywhere, but I worship you here; Thou art without form, but I worship you in these forms.” (Invocation, quoted by Smith, 34). The last words of the Gita: “Letting go all dharma, take refuge in me alone; I shall deliver you from all sins; do not grieve” [38]. Source:

27 Karma yoga: Path to God through work or action
must act from duty (dharma), not for reward of praise. Must act without attachment to the consequences (even good karma can cause a form of bondage). “You can find God in the world of everyday affairs as readily as anywhere” (Smith, 37). “Not by nonperformance of actions does a man attain freedom from action; nor by mere renunciation of actions does his attain his spiritual goal… Do your allotted work, for action is superior to nonaction… Without attachment, always do the work that has to be done for a man doing his work without attachment attains to the highest goal.” (From the Bhagavad Gita, Sources, ).

28 Raja yoga (psychophysical exercises)
Exploring the “beyond that is within” (Smith, 43). Practice five abstentions – from injury, lying, stealing, sensuality, and greed. Five observances – cleanliness, contentment, self-control, studiousness and contemplation of the divine (Smith, 44). Source:

29 Source:

30 The basic metaphysics of the Hindu worldview
Brahman – the Supreme Being; Being Itself/ the ultimate, the transcendent, the Godhead. Atman – the self or soul; the hidden self; the part of the human being that is more than the body, more than the personality (Smith 21). But, Atman = Brahman! (And the realization of this will bring moksha, liberation, from the cycle of birth and rebirth - samsara).

31 Atman = Brahman “Behold the universe in the glory of God: and all that lives and moves on earth. Leaving the transient, find joy in the Eternal: set not your heart on another’s possessions… The Spirit, without moving, is swifter than the mind; the senses cannot reach him: He is ever beyond them. Standing still, he overtakes those who run. To the ocean of his being, the spirit of life leads the streams of action…. Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fear.” - Isa Upanishad, The World’s Wisdom, 9. Source:

32 The sacred syllable “om”
“I will tell you the Word that all the Vedas glorify, all self-sacrifice expresses, all sacred studies and holy life seek. The word is OM. That Word is the everlasting Brahman: that Word is the Highest End. When that sacred Word is known, all longings are fulfilled. It is the supreme means of salvation: it is the help supreme.” - Katha Upanishad, The World’s Wisdom, 17.

33 The sacred syllable continued
“This Atman [Universal Self] is the eternal Word OM. Its three sounds, A, U, and M, are the first three states of consciousness, and these three states are the three sounds. The first sound A is the first state of waking consciousness, common to all men… The second sound U is the second state of dreaming consciousness.. The third sound M is the third state of sleeping consciousness. The word OM as one sound is the fourth state of supreme consciousness. It is beyond the senses and is the end of evolution. It is non-duality and love. He goes with his self to the supreme Self who knows this, who knows this.” - From the Mandukya Upanishad, World’s Wisdom, 18.

34 Let’s try it.

35 Religions of Indian Origin
Focus on suffering, ego and liberation Religion arises out of a human need; human existence is an unending cycle of birth, death and rebirth; we are condemned to an eternal destiny of suffering and limitation. The cycle of birth, death and rebirth, is caused by our own subjective egos, by self-centered desire. It is possible to overcome this egocentricity by attaining a transcendent viewpoint that will liberate the spirit from the confines of the individual ego. Once this has been attained, the cycle of birth, death and rebirth is brought to an end. Adopted from T. Patrick Burke, The Major Religions: An Introduction with Texts, Blackwell, 1996.

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