2SourceThe World’s Religions, 50th Anniversary Edition, Huston Smith (hereafter “Smith”)
3What People WantSmith tells us Hindus hold that people want 4 main things … that there are 4 “legitimate ends” in life:PleasureSuccess‘To make a difference’Being, Knowledge, & JoyAlso, Hinduism tells us all 4 are good, and we can have them all.
4What People Want – Pleasure (1) If you recall our discussion of the Hedonic Calculus, and ‘orgasmatron’ thought-experiment, Hinduism not only has considered such a life, but, according to Smith, claims we all will experience such life “in due course.” Smith, p14 The “worlds above this one, where pleasures increase by powers of a million at each rung,” however, are not ordered by superscientists employing an experience machine. Instead, wisdom in seeking pleasure, much like Bentham’s calculus, provide guidance to ensuring life saturated in “delights.”
5What People Want – Pleasure (1) Smith tells us that Hindus believe such a life, while entirely permissible and good, will not satisfy us. (At least, it will not satisfy human nature … more on that later.)The argument from Smith, p14:Pleasure is too trivial to satisfy one’s total nature.Pleasure is essentially private, and the self is too small an object for perpetual enthusiasm. Therefore,Pleasure is not all that one wants.What should we make of this argument?
6What People Want – Pleasure (1) Let’s consider reason #2 first:Pleasure is essentially private, and the self is too small an object for perpetual enthusiasm.Smith supports this reason by citing Soren Kierkegaard’s Sickness Unto Death:In the bottomless ocean of pleasure … I have sounded in vain for a spot to cast anchor. I have felt the almost irresistible power with which one pleasure drags another after it, the kind of adulterated enthusiasm which it is capable of producing, the boredom, the torment which follow.Boohoo! lol! … Poor Soren, in the ocean of pleasure. Does our orgasmatron-life suffer from a lack of “perpetual enthusiasm”?More directly, does pleasure entail boredom? Pleasure Boredom?
7What People Want – Pleasure (1) Consider reason #1, then… Pleasure is too trivial to satisfy one’s total nature. This claim Smith appears to think is either self-evident, or otherwise not in need of bolstering. What does it mean, “one’s total nature”? How strong a reason is this? (Would success, ‘making a difference’, or knowledge, existence, or joy be valued if they held no pleasure?) Smith is convinced pleasure is insufficient for a fully satisfying human life. (Consider John Stuart Mill and Aristotle here) With the comment “everyone wants to experience more than a kaleidoscope of momentary pleasures, however delectable,” Smith moves on. (What do you make of the word ‘experience’ above? Is life just experiences?
8What People Want – Success (2) Smith calls this “the second major goal in life,” with 3 prongs: Wealth Fame Success Power Hinduism again fully endorses the value of these 3 kinds or components of success. They “confer dignity and self-respect,” as well as provide the basis for supporting a household and fulfilling civic duties (‘making a difference’ … the 3rd thing we want). Smith, p15
9What People Want – Success (2) So, why isn’t the successful life fulfilling? (Well, it is … more on this later … but it isn’t fulfilling for human nature) Criticism #1: “Wealth, fame, & power are exclusive, hence competitive, hence precarious.” Smith, p15 Criticism #2: “The drive for success is insatiable.” Smith, p15 “Poverty consists, not in the decrease of one’s possessions, but in the increase of one’s greed.” –Plato “There are two ways to have enough: One is to acquire more, the other is to desire less.” –GK Chesterton
10What People Want – Success (2) So, why isn’t the successful life fulfilling? (Well, it is … more on this later … but it isn’t fulfilling for human nature) Criticism #3: The same problem pleasure had: success centers on the self, and the self is too small for “perpetual enthusiasm.” (but, what if you don’t like other people, and don’t care about the universe or things outside your own life?) Criticism #4: Worldly success cannot satisfy because its achievements are ephemeral … Wealth, fame, & power do not survive bodily death. “You can’t take it with you.” (but, don’t Hollywood types seek fame just for its eternality? “Fame! I’m gonna live for ever! I’m gonna learn how to fly! La la la” ???)
11Path of Desire / Path of Renunciation Smith notes that Hindus locate pleasure and success on “the path of desire,” and by desire they mean ‘personal desires’ … desires for our own satisfaction. A question arises here: we are looking at 4 things people want. We call people’s wants desires. What other kinds of desires are there? Aren’t they all personal desires? Smith gives no direct answer to that question that I can find. The Path of Renunciation seems to hold onto the notion of people pursuing what they want, and while the first stop on the path, “the community” or ‘making a difference’, has the focus now not on ourselves per se, but on the “greater,” “less trivial” desire to do one’s duty toward others (live for others! … there are songs about this!), when we get to the 4th thing people want, it looks like we come back to the self once again. (Recall, the 4th thing people want is existence, knowledge, & joy … those look like the self, right?)
12What People Want – Making a Difference Smith calls this desire the desire for “the community.” Something greater than ourselves. I’ve been using ‘to make a difference’ as a name for this desire since it has been a motif in ad campaigns by do-gooders of all stripes. Much charity work is done employing the slogan ‘make a difference’, but charity isn’t the key idea. Duty, according to Smith, is the key Hindu concept regarding this 3rd thing people want. What is confusing here: no one want to do their duty. Duties are annoying. Throughout history, moral philosophers have titled their works “Of Duty and Interest,” contrasting what we owe others with what we can permit for ourselves. Smith’s point, p18-19, seems to be that after exhausting pleasure and selfish gain, maturing souls seek satisfaction from the “notable rewards” of doing their duty. There are no criticism at this point save one: after transforming from the “will-to-get” to the “will-to-give,” … from the “will-to-win” to the “will-to- serve,” people still aren’t fulfilled with this type of life. Because it ends.
13What People Really Want – Being, Knowledge, & Joy Consider Paradoxes of PleasureClearly people want to exist, to know things, and to feel good. Those things are pleasant. How is it we are not just back to pleasure? Smith supports this Hindu idea with examples of people desiring Being, Knowledge, & Joy, but it makes little sense until he adds that we desire these things infinitely. Infinite being. Infinite knowledge. Infinite joy. The Hindu term for becoming liberated from the limitations on these three is Moksha. In understanding the sentence above, don’t think of your soul flying free of your body, living forever, learning everything, and feeling joy throughout eternity. The Hindu position is, you already have infinite being, infinite knowledge, and infinite joy, but they are being restrained or limited in this life.
14What People Really Want – Being, Knowledge, & Joy How on earth do we already have infinite being, knowledge, and joy? That sounds crazy! Hindu investigations of the basic nature of the universe led them to conclude ultimate reality, Brahman, is beyond existence & non-existence, eternal, unchanging, etc. When investigating the basic nature of human beings, they came to see the ultimate self having the same features. The identification of Atman and Brahman followed naturally. Atman is Brahman!
15Religious Life…From this point on, learning about Hinduism is learning about the practices implied by the vision of ultimate reality and the ultimate self.The remaining slides give a brief depiction of 2 things.How restrictions on Being, Knowledge, and Joy are removedHow reincarnation and personality types figure in Hindu religious life.
16Removing Restrictions on Atman - Joy Joy is restricted by 3 thingsPhysical painSuffering cause by thwarted desiresBoredom with life in generalRegarding 1, Hinduism suggests a sort of mind- over-pain skill development, as we’ve all heard of yogis who demonstrate mastery over pain.Regarding 2, the desires of people are malleable, and so, we can ensure our desires are satisfied by simply taking pleasure in, desiring, the right things. Take pleasure in a good game rather than your team winning and you will be happier!Regarding 3 … boredom is alleviated when we don’t ruin our awareness of the awesomeness of reality with confusion and inaccurate perception.
17Removing Restrictions on Atman - Knowledge Knowledge is restricted by ignorance, but what kind of ignorance is a problem?Smith is quite general here. His points:Science suggests the mind is like an “ice berg” with most of it invisible.Having a “summarizing insight” into everything may be all that is meant (infinite knowledge would then, perhaps be ‘knowledge of the infinite’).The mind is mysteriously deep … cites psychologist Carl Jung, who suggested we may have “racial memories” that “summarize the experience of the entire human species.”
18Removing Restrictions on Atman - Being Smith’s points here are rich and interesting…Spatially: It is possible to “identify” self as many things. We normally do so with our bodies, until challenged to rein in such ideas (in the context of finding the “true self” or “ultimate self”). But we can expand our conception of self outwardly. Family, pro football team, etc., can become self: we take it personally when our team loses. “Why did WE lose today!” … we might say to other fans … knowing they was well identify with the team.Temporally: As children we seem to identify with minute time-slices of ourselves. When our ice cream cone goes plop, we lose our minds as though it was the meaning of our whole life. As we get older, we gain perspective … see ourselves as spread out in time. The sages see their present life as a day or hour of life, rather than the whole of it.So, in these two ways, at least psychologically, we can remove restrictions on being, or view the restrictions as illusions.
19Four Paths to God…The practice of Hinduism depends on which of 4 personality types (with some mixture of types occurring) practitioners have. They are:ReflectiveEmotionalActiveExperimentalHindu practice in removing the clunky self of pre-enlightenment so that the divine self can dominate is guided by Yoga, disciplined training in how each type of person can reach enlightenment experientially, and not merely as abstract understanding.Read pp26-50 if you’d like to know the details. I will not test you on that material.
20ReincarnationWarn out garmentsAre shed by the body;warn out bodiesAre shed by the dweller. Bhagavad-Gita (II:22)Finally, we get the answer to why we must say pleasure and success are fulfilling to some, but not to human nature (see slides 29 & 33).According to Hinduism, each jiva (soul) begins in primitive life forms and graduates steadily until reaching the level of human beings. There, souls no longer grow and improve automatically. Once clothed in a human body, the soul attains self-consciousness, and with it, “freedom, responsibility, and effort.” (Smith, p64)
21KarmaOnce the soul achieves human status, its progress toward identification with Brahman is ruled by karma, the “moral law of cause and effect.” Smith mentions how Abrahamic religions also endorses the principle “As a man sows, so shall he reap.” But they also seem to endorse chance, “the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.” In contrast, Hinduism’s karma is a tightly sealed system of desert. You get precisely what you pay for. No more. No less. Future incarnations are determined by our choices and can move down as well as up in maturity or insight. Selfish choices strengthen the ego and make the journey harder; “compassionate and disinterested” choices move us forward.Does this make sense? How does your or my freedom logically limit this law of karma?
22KarmaFinally, the soul learns enough and leaves behind attachment to the empirical self. Smith, p67, says … What happens then? Some say the individual soul passes into complete identification with God an loses every trace of its former separateness. Others, wishing to taste sugar, not be sugar, cherish the hope that some slight differentiation between soul and God will still remain – a thin line upon the ocean that provides nevertheless a remnant of personal identity that some consider indispensible for the beatific vision.