NOTES FROM the BOOK:
Am I A Hindu?
by Ed Viswanathan, published by Halo Books, copyright 1992.
book is a question and answer type dialogue between an American born boy who asks his father many questions about Hinduism. The
father is a Hindu man.
[p.1] "There is one truth, only men describe it different ways." Hinduism pursues only absolute truth.
[p.2] "Hinduism has no problem facing any type of question.....it absorbs new ideas like a sponge ....Hinduism recharges itself with modern thoughts. Technology, psychology, parapsychology and genetics all enrich Hinduism."
"Within Hinduism, you can think and argue on any subject. You can even make statements like 'There is no Krishna or Rama' and still be a Hindu. It has no hierarchy, it has no establishment and it has no governing body."
[p.4] "Nobody knows what is right or what is wrong; Nobody knows what is good or what is bad; There is a deity residing within you; Find out and obey its commands."
"...please do not take the above statement as a licentiousness and do things as one's emotions dictate. Emotions within a person are very deceptive. They can come out with intellectual authority and make every action look meaningful. They even dupe great saints and seers into believing in their own personal egotistical sentiments and acting very foolishly."
[p.5] "IS HINDUISM THE ONLY WAY TO GOD-REALIZATION?"
" ...Hindus consider it absurd to state that any other true religion of the world is false."
"In the Bhagavad Gita (4:11) Krishna (a Hindu word for God) says: 'Whatever and whichever way men approach Me, even so do I accept them; whatever paths they may chose finally lead to Me'..... From these lines, one can easily understand that Hinduism does not project itself as the only way to God-realization. It claims no monopoly on wisdom. It tolerates all forms of thoughts. A Hindu Yogi will never try to convert a person from another religion to Hinduism. Instead he will try to make a person's faith steadfast in his/her own religion. The Gita says, 'In whatever form a devotee seeks to worship Me with faith, I make his faith steadfast in that form alone.'"
"So, in Hinduism, you can worship the Almighty, which is formless and timeless, as Krishna, Jesus, Allah, Moses or as anyone or anything. As long as you have faith in that form of the Almighty, you will be following a true religion and you will ultimately realize the truth, even if you are following a crude form of worship. No one can be lost, according to Hinduism. In whichever way one may seek God, one is always in the path of God."
[p.6] "When someone calls 'It' Jesus Christ, 'It' comes as Jesus Christ; when someone calls 'It' Lord Krishna, 'It' comes as Lord Krishna. The great Muslim mystics, the Sufis, said, Wheresoever you turn, there is the face of Allah. In all forms of worship, ultimately the worshiper will transcend the name and form of his/her personal god. All of them started with their attachment to a personal god and finally ended up with an almighty which is timeless and formless.... The word Islam means submitter to the will of Allah, and Allah has no proper definition.... No religion has a monopoly on God."
[p.7] "DOES HINDUISM BELIEVE IN FORCIBLE CONVERSIONS?"
"Not at all. A true Hindu never proselytizes, but Hindus gladly greet anyone who wants to join Hinduism out of love for Hindu ideals. The Bhagavad Gita urges everyone to follow the religion in which he/she was born. Hindus never make false promises to convert someone to Hinduism.... Just like Hindus, Jews are also very tolerant of other believers of other faiths..... Jews never actively propagate their faith.......Hindus look at religion as a basic science .....There is only one truth."
[p.8] "IS HINDUISM TOLERANT OF OTHER RELIGIONS?"
"In Hinduism, tolerance is not simply a matter of policy but an article of faith. Even today when Jews are being persecuted all over the world, in Cochin, India, they have absolute liberty to worship in their synagogues."
[p.9] "Swami Vivekananda said, 'I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. As different streams having different sources all mingle their waters in the sea, so different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to God.'"
"Hinduism not only allows but actually encourages one to seek truths from all sources.... After studying Hinduism well, a Hindu should read and study all other true religions. Then he/she will be able to see Hinduism as the encyclopedia of religions."
[p.10]"....In Hinduism there is no hierarchy....There are many monasteries in India..... All of them are independent of each other, and all propagate Hindu ideals in their own individual ways without criticizing each other.....Nobody is excommunicated in Hinduism, and nobody is persecuted in Hinduism."
"Hinduism started with ....'That which is heard'. The Christ-like masters of the Vedic age ......heard eternal truths in their hearts and taught their disciples telepathically, by actual transfer of thoughts. Only later did languages like Sanskrit and Pali emerge. For long periods of time there were no written texts. The Vedas and Upanishads were taught in chanted lyrics."
[p.11] "We know that thought is the best medium of realizing true knowledge, but since we cannot transfer thoughts, we express them in languages. Verbal language is better than written language in expressing thoughts."
"Unluckily, even the first edition of the King James version (of the Bible) had more than 300 errors in it (see the book: How We Got the Bible by Neil R. Lightfoot). This only shows how difficult it is to write thoughts into words."
[p.12] "English right now is spoken by the vast majority of people -- its vocabulary has developed abundantly, and it has become the prime means of conveying thoughts. So English may be the only language in the world which can express truths in a more understandable format. Fortunately for us, we also have mathematics, physics and other sciences to aid us in understanding subtle truths today."
"....Understanding is something very personal. For example, E = mc2 may be just a few letters for common folks, but to students of science they speak volumes. So eternal truths can be understood only if we evolve high enough to understand them. This is true of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and all other religions."
"Taoism states that impressions of life cannot be conveyed by words. The Chinese mystic Lao-Tse said, 'He who knows never tells. He who tells never knew.' ...It will be correct to conclude that the human mind can never conceive the ultimate truths of the universe."
"Gauthama Buddha very clearly stated that only by transcending human existence can one understand the supreme reality."
[p.13] "DO YOU REALLY THINK WORDS CAN BE MISINTERPRETED AND MISUNDERSTOOD?"
"Yes indeed. I feel that if Christ or Krishna or Buddha came back today, they would use electrons, DNA, electro-magnetism, and other scientific concepts to explain subtle truths."
[p.14] "...religious scriptures should be properly scanned to get proper meanings rather than considered as true in every written word."...
[p.15] "This is true of Hinduism and all other religions including Christianity." Catholic Encyclopedia: "An agnostic is not an atheist. An atheist denies the existence of God; an agnostic professes ignorance about his existence. For the latter, God may exist, but reason can neither prove or disprove it."
[p.16] "Most religions use the fear of God and hell to make people believe in them. This you will never come across in Hinduism, where a believer, an atheist and an agnostic can happily co-exist."
"Hinduism has its share of atheists and agnostics. The Charvaka philosophy and to some extent the Vaisesika philosophy question the existence of a personal God. Kanada, the founder of Vaisesika philosophy, only mentioned God as 'That' in all of his writings."
[p.18] "One thing I know for certain. We are all part and parcel of nature.... On one side [the physical] we are just an amalgamation of chemicals, we are just an array of DNA molecules. On the other side, we are conscious entities."
"All religions of the world have not fully explained many of their fundamental principles."
[p.19] St. Thomas (an apostle of Jesus) started Christianity in India in about the year 52 A.D.. "Most of the teachings of St. Thomas in India had a close resemblance to Hindu teachings. The world knows very little of the teachings of Thomas today."
"Some parts of the lost original text of the Gospel of Thomas were found in 1945." (Book: The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels, Vintage Books.)
"It is said that by 189 A.D., much of south India had a very large population of Christians. It is said that a bishop from India attended the great Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.."
Christianity spread a lot in India around 1498. By 1599, the Catholic Church was well established in India. Christian missionaries brought mass education to India. Christian Missionaries worked right along with Hindu theologians to eradicate the evils in Hindu society. Several Hindu reformers were influenced by the compassionate aspects of Christianity.
[p.21] No one individual founded Hinduism. It is the research output of many learned men known as Rishis, all of whom were Christ-like masters.
[p.28] "...both Hinduism and Judaism are the 2 mothers of all world religions."
[p.29] "...I feel that being truthful to oneself is the most important aspect of Hinduism."
"WHAT ATTRACTS YOU TO HINDUISM?"
"Utmost freedom of thought."
[p.30] "So in Hinduism, you can argue on any subject and you don't have to accept anything until you arefully convinced of the truth behind it. Again, Hinduism has no monopoly on ideas. Ideas are the unwritten laws of the universe; they are open to all who are in the relentless pursuit after truth."
"In Hinduism alone one can see the strange coexistence of an atheist, an agnostic and a theist. ...In Hinduism one can find a religion tailor made for each of us, whatever may be our way of thinking."
"Hinduism recognizes the fact that people are on different levels. matters do not apply or appeal to all persons in the same manner."
[p.31]"Hindus believe in one God expressed in different forms. Hindus do not believe that God has human form or any other form as described in mythology or in the biblical Genesis. ...God did not make man in His own image as the old Testament says, but instead man made God in his own image. God is indeed a timeless and formless entity. When Moses asked God, 'Who are You?' the answer came from the burning bushes, 'I am what I am'. That clearly proves that Jehovah ('I am') is not a being with human attributes. The Holy Bible also states that 'God is spirit' (John 4:23-24), and that he who worships Him worships in spirit. Psalms 139: 7-10 states that God is a spirit that is everywhere. Luke 24:39 states that spirit does not have flesh and bones. No word or image can express or describe the magnitude of God."
[p.32] Hindu concepts of God:
1) "All came from that which cannot be defined called Brahman (monism)." 2) "All came from That, so all existence is good and divine (pantheism)." 3) "There is only one God (monotheism)." 4) "All of us are Gods. This, of course, is just like saying that if you analyze one drop of seawater, then you know everything about the entire sea, or that if you the properties of electricity within the light bulb, then you know all about the electricity in the entire network." 5) To search for God is like a pinch of salt finding the depth of the ocean, it becomes part and parcel of the ocean. Similarly, a devotee who seeks God becomes part and parcel of That."
"WHAT EXACTLY IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOD AND US?"
"It is a tough question to answer since God is beyond all definitions. But to some extent I feel the answer is the same difference between the energy in the light bulb and the energy of the entire network of electric power. The energy in the light bulb is the exact replica of the energy in the network, but light bulb energy is very small unless it is constantly links with the network energy. So even though we are indeed God, we do not have the power of God unless we constantly link with God. That can be achieved only by surrendering the individual will to the will of God. That is more easily said than done."
[p.33] Each of us is the center point of the universe. But that 'I' is one. "There is no more 'you' and 'I'. There is no more subject and object. One and one only.... one 'I' which is the universe." "Hindus believe that there are eternal truths and they are open to everyone who seeks them, even if they are ignorant of Hindu scriptures or Hindu ideals. So a true Christian or a true Muslim or a true Jew is automatically a true Hindu. Truths are existing forever."
[p.34]" Many call Hinduism a personal religion. "Each Hindu prays and meditates alone. Bhajans (devotional group singing) are part of the modern trend in Hinduism. ...According to Hinduism, each person's religion is unique. He / She is seeking within for all answers, so we have to conclude that Hinduism is a personal religion."
"The Hindu aims of life are human goals. They are: 1) right conduct; 2) material gain; 3) sexual love; 4) salvation. "All men try to achieve all 4 goals in their life."
[p.35]" In Hinduism, creation has neither beginning nor end. It is a continuous process. Birth and death are part and parcel of creation. Millions of galaxies take birth everyday and millions of galaxies destroy themselves everyday."
"....energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Hindus use the word manifestation when they talk about creation. Creation is manifested out of Nature, and then it goes back into its original source."
"...there is a rhythm of life, and man's ignorance of this important fact is creating all problems for him....life is cyclic as well as rhythmic." "All matter, including you and I, has rhythmic movement within it, and our quest should be to create a proper rhythmic harmony within ourselves."
[p.36] "According to Mantra Yoga, all living things in all states of existence have bodily forms fully attuned to certain frequencies of vibration. Mantra, a system of syllables made with particular frequencies of vibration is used to change one's vibrational frequency to a better state."
"You feel happy when you sit near an ocean because your vibrations try to synchronize with the frequency of the waves....Earth and the universe are in an eternal cosmic dance." (The Tao of Physics, Fritjof Capra.)
"I feel the mysterious 'I' or 'ego' is the greatest paradox in life. We always say 'I', 'mine', 'my son', 'my house', 'my car', etc., but do we know the answer to the question 'Who am I?' When the soul leaves the body at the time of death the dead body does not say 'I am here outside the body.' Yet when body and soul join together we hear 'I' all the time."
[p.37] "...when the limited ego becomes the universal ego, we achieve everlasting happiness....Of course, to transform the limited ego into the universal ego is not an easy job, but by continual practice of different methods of God-realization we can achieve that Herculean task confronting all of us. According to Ramana Maharashi, finding the real 'I' is the supreme goal of a man's life, and his teachings are based on erasing the ego."
"Most of man's problems start when he fights with Nature."
"Going back to nature does not mean living like stone-age human beings. It only means to bring back truth, love, and peace in everyday life."
"Lao-Tse said that the world moves in a cyclic and rhythmic pattern, and man's happiness depends upon his capability to understand this rhythmic and orderly nature of the universe. Nature is the basis of Taoism.
[p.40] "...Adolph Hitler was influenced by the Tantric part of Hinduism. From where else did he pick up the swastika and his unique hand gesture which resembled the Hindu Abhaya Mudra? Anyway that is something for speculation."
[p.41] Hindu scriptures can be broadly classified into 2 groups. One is Srati ("that which is heard") literature and the other is Smriti ("that which is remembered") literature. Both are considered as "revelations of God", just like all Biblical literature is considered to be God-inspired.
"Vedas" = "knowledge"
"Dharma" = "cosmic and sacred order"
Dharma became the universal law and the moral law of Hinduism.
[p.58] "ISN'T THE 'CASTE SYSTEM' AN OUTRIGHT DISGRACE TO HINDUISM?"
"...please understand that through the Code of Manu [which created the caste system], you are witnessing an evolving society taking grass roots in the river beds of North India. So much of this code was intended for that time period and it has nothing to do with the modern society we live in. Similarly, if you read the Old Testament, especially Exodus, you will see statements regarding the treatment of slaves, etc.. We all know that you cannot treat anybody the way they treated slaves during Old Testament times.....history is part of every scripture, so much so that we should not hastily judge different statements in them. A society maturing out of dark ages is bound to make many mistakes."
"All religions of the world have given man an exalted position and provided woman with a demeaning position. Please understand that at that point in history, women were the weaker sex emotionally as well as physically. Today nobody would ever even dream of making a statement like that. Remember, the most popular democracy in the world, India, had a woman chief executive, and all of us throughout the world are still proud of the departed Indra Gandhi. People may agree or disagree with her policies, but all hats are off to her valor and capabilities. She is , as she wanted to be, the Joan of Arc of India."
"Please do not forget that Manu, who restricted the freedom of women, also said, 'Women are to be honored and adorned by fathers and brothers, by husbands and also by brothers-in-law, who desire much prosperity. Where women are honored, there the gods rejoice, but where they are not honored, there all rites are fruitless.'"
"Similarly, I have to tell you that the caste system is a disgrace to Hinduism. I don't think anybody with a right mind supports the caste system. It only helps Brahmin domination of the lower castes as well as causing the large-scale conversion of Hindus to Islam and Christianity. Please also remember that Buddha did not acknowledge the caste system, even the highest castes in India."
"So the caste system might have emerged from certain needs, but as time passed, it became a curse on Hinduism rather than a blessing. Gandhi said, 'If untouchability is part of Hinduism, I will discard Hinduism.'"
[p.62] "DO THE LAWS OF HINDUISM CHANGE FROM TIME TO TIME?"
"It used to be like that. The great Rishis [Christ-like beings] who guided Hinduism from one age to another made all changes as per the need of the time."
"[Hinduism] ...allows not only the introduction of new laws but also the production of new scriptures. Right now Hindu society has grown very big, and unfortunately most Hindus only know the mythological stories and a few lines from the Bhagavad Gita."
Brahma Sutras are a number of concise statements regarding the whole teachings of the Upanishads. They are also called Vedanta Sutras. They describe, in-depth, the nature of the Brahman. AGAMAS are Smriti (that which is remembered) scriptures, a group of literature dealing with the worship of God in many forms & they prescribe details courses of discipline for the devotee. There are many Agamas and they are divided into 3 main groups for: Vishnu, Siva or Sakti. These correspond to the three main branches of Hinduism -- Vaishnavism, Saivism, and Saktism. Vaishnavism Agamas praise the Almighty as Lord Vishnu. Saiva Agamas praise the Almighty as Lord Siva. Sakti Agamas praise the Almighty as the Mother of the Universe (name for Brahma).
[p.66] Each agama consists of 4 sections: 1) Philosophy; 2) Mental discipline; 3) Rules for constructing temples; 4) religious practices.
Four methods of God-realization in Hinduism, known as Yogas or Margas. (A 'yoga' is used in many ways) The 4 Yogas are: 1) Jnana Yoga -- the path of knowledge, the Hindu philosophy; 2) Bhakti Yoga -- the path of devotion; 3) Karma Yoga -- the path of action; 4) Raja Yoga -- the path based on the practice Pranayama and thought-control. (These paths do overlap each other.)
[p.67] Jnana Yoga has 6 systems:
1) Samkhya system -- most ancient in the world, no personal God, it sees the universe with the forces of Purusha (spirit) and Prakriti (matter).
2) Yoga system -- (Yoga means 'to join'); resembles Samkhya system, based on dualism (seeing the universe as 2 -- subject and object), no personal God. Talks about God as 'it'. Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga are the 2 most important yogas.
3) Mimamsa system -- based on avoidance of rebirth.
4) Vaisheshika system -- (means 'particularity'), the "atomic" school of Hinduism. Teaches universe is 9 elements: earth, water, air, fire, water, time/space. God is referred to as 'That'.
5) Nyaya system -- logical analysis of the world and its atheistic nature, resembles Vaisheshika system.
6) Vedanta system -- ("Vedanta" = "end of Vedas"), teaches that God (Brahman) and the individual soul (Atman) are one and the same. According to this, nothing exists but Brahman. Human problem is not sin, but ignorance. The ignorance of the true nature of oneself results in endless cycle of birth and rebirth. Two branches of Vedanta: Advaita and Dvaita.
[p.69] Adi Sankaracharya: Founder of Advaita philosophy; saint with Christ-like powers; genius; "Sankara starts where Einstein ends"; lived 788 A.D. to 820 A.D.; wrote many poems, literature; established 4 monasteries in 4 corners of India; restored Hinduism from Buddhist destruction, said: Brahman alone is individual soul; people are bound by endless cycles of reincarnation due to ignorance. Ignorance is root cause of all problems. Knowledge eradicates and delivers one from bondage; the difference between God and man is a matter of degree. Ultimately, they are one and the same being. That which is within the man is called Atman [spirit], and that which embraces the universe is known as Brahman. They are one and the same like the space inside a cup and the space outside the cup are one and the same.
[p.71] Sankara Himself states......this material universe is indeed illusion or Maya, just figments of imagination. "Sankara never said that the world is not important. He only pointed out the fact that the world we see is not the real world."
Dvaita philosophy is philosophy of duality propagated by Madhava (1197 A.D.), who believed that devotion to God is extremely important. His beliefs: the world is real and there is a difference between man and God. There are 2 kinds of reality: independent and dependent. God is the only independent reality. Matter and self are dependent and controlled by God. Self is active and responsible for its own release from countless reincarnations by devotion to God.
[p.73] Ramanuja, 1st apostle of Dvaita philosophy, born in 1050 A.D., devotee of Vishnu said, "God is not an unqualified principle, but a very personal God who can be loved and understood through devotion. The difference between Advaita and Dvaita philosophies is degree, or level of perception."
[p.74] "Without duality-perception, action is impossible. We can see the world only because it is a series of contrasting dualities. According to Taoism the Absolute One becomes two in creation."
[p.81] One of the most important works in the Hindu philosophy is the Yoga Vasishtha writings, written 700 A.D., is 29,000 verses, and is a dialogue. One of the most important parts of Yoga Vasishtha is the doctrine of mind, stating that when the mind vibrates, the world comes into existence, and when the mind stops vibrating, the world is destroyed! Valmiki (the author) ends the Yoga Vasishtha with the statement that he who listens to the dialogue between Sage Vasishtha and Lord Rama will be liberated and will attain knowledge of the Brahman.
[p.83] The Mahabharata is longest poem in the world. Bhagavad Gita is part of the Mahabharata.
[p.87] "The Gita has an answer to every problem a man may face in his life. The Bhagavad Gita never commands one what to do. Instead, it gives the pros and cons of every issue and the final decision is left to oneself. Throughout the Bhagavad Gita, you will not come across seven one line starting with 'Thou shalt not'".
"When Christian scripture talks about permanent hell for sinners, the Bhagavad Gita proclaims salvation for all in various chapters (4:36, 9:30, 9:32). All of us, whether we believe in God or not, are destined to attain salvation one day. Only the time factor differs for the best and worst of us. The Gita exhorts, 'The truth shall set you free.'"
Robert Oppenheimer (1st chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission) shocked the world when he quoted a couplet from the Bhagavad Gita (chapter 11:12) after witnessing the very first atomic explosion test in the state of New Mexico. Later in a congressional hearing he said that nuclear bombs reminded him of the Hindu God, Lord Vishnu who said, "I am Death, the devourer of all."
The whole Mahabharata (which the Bhagavad Gita is part of) was spoken on a battlefield by Lord Krishna, the greatest teacher of all, to Arjuna, a great archer, to create a proper atmosphere to convey to the world the unwritten laws of the universe.
Veda Vyasa wrote the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavatam Purana.
[p.90] Lord Krishna is the Supreme Power who also "descended" into a world as Buddha and Christ and Mohammed and other prophets of the world.
In Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says, "I am the Way", and "Come to Me". In Holy Bible, Jesus says the same thing. Both came as the Infinite Power in finite forms.
[p.93-95] Lord Krishna died to fulfill the Karmic Laws of the universe. He died because he had killed someone. He willingly accepted death, left the physical body, and went to Vaikunta as Lord Vishnu after his work (as his incarnation as Krishna) was finished.
[p.97] Puranas are religious stories which expound truths, similar to the parables that Jesus told. Both the parables and the Puranas are told to common people to help them understand the higher truths in life. The word Purana means "ancient". Puranas always stress devotion to God. Most Puranas deal with creation and destruction of the universe, genealogy of the gods and saints, and details about the Solar and Lunar dynasties. Some, like the Mahabhagavatam, describe future events, like the Bible's Book of Revelation. The Puranas are written in question and answer form -- mostly stories of the Hindu gods and goddesses, supernatural beings, seers and men.
[p.99] Srimad Bhagavatam is very important to Hindus and Rama Krishna devotees. It consists of all the incarnations (avatars) of Lord Vishnu in detail. According to Srimad Bhagavatam, the universe and creation was willed to exist by God, as a sport (or Leela). A realized devotee sees himself as part of God.
Sruti -- "That which is heard"
2. Upanishads: 108 Upanishads (see p.43 for the most important)
Smriti - "That which is remembered"
1. Vedangas: Dharma Sutras (Manu Smriti, Gautama Smriti, Yatnavalkya Smriti)
Vedanta (Advaita and Dvaita systems)
Mahapuranas (see p.98)
6. Agamas: Vaishnava
7.Upangas: Logical, ritual form of thought
[p.101] Thirukural scriptures -- only one written in Tamil language.
-- holy bible of "Saivites" (people who worship Lord Siva -- Lord of Annihilation)
-- universal in nature, teaches a man the values of life. In a way it is an enlarged version of the 10 Commandments.
-- simple and short.
-- Jains love it because it exemplifies ideals of non-violence.
-- Dr. Albert Schweitzer called it: "One of the grandest achievement of the human mind."
[p.109] "When God comes down to Earth in any life form, then we call it an Avatar."
"Whenever there is a decay of Dharma (righteousness) and an outbreak of Adharma (non-righteousness), I descend Myself to protect the good, to annihilate the wicked and to re-establish Dharma. I am born from age to age." (Bhagavad Gita). Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Mohammed and others are all Avatars. They happen world-wide.
[p.110] Like Christians and Moslems, Hindus believe that another Avatar will come at the end of Kali-Yuga -- in 427,000 years!
[p.112] "To some extent, the Hindus' attitude to Buddha is similar to the attitude of Jews to Jesus Christ."