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The word Hinduism is an English word coined by Europeans at the beginning of British
rule in India around 183! This is why the religion we call Hinduism is so hard to define!
"ll the beliefs and myths that ma#e up Indias culture are all grouped under the broad
phrase of Hinduism! $edism is the proper term for the ancient religion that has its roots
in Indias distant past! The $edic religion isnt li#e any other present%day religion nor is
it e&clusi'e or confined to India! It is uni'ersal and doesnt trace bac# to a single prophet
or seer! $edism teaches that truth is always complementary( not contradictory! This path
ne'er feared the ad'ancement of science either! The $edas contain the origin of religion(
ethics( morality( and the sciences! Bac# at the dawn of time there were no temples(
mos)ues or churches! E'eryone worshipped the same *od and *od was only addressed
according to His +ature( "ttributes and ,haracteristics! There is archeological e'idence
that many countries ha'e $edic roots dating bac# -( years or more!
The Main Ideas of Vedanta
.ollowing are some of the main tenets of $edanta/
*od is one without a second( absolute and indi'isible! Though impersonal( beyond name
and form( *od assumes 'arious personal forms to re'eal itself to us! *od is our soul! 0e
are primarily consciousness( part of the cosmic consciousness!
"ll of the incarnations 1manifestations of *od on Earth2 are actual embodiments of
3i'inity! +o one incarnation can be regarded as the only manifestation of that 3i'inity!
There is no accident in the cosmic uni'erse! Human destiny is go'erned by the law of
cause and effect!
0e are born on earth repeatedly to finish the unfinished wor# of reali4ing our di'inity!
"lthough we suffer because of actions( we can control oursel'es and hence our destiny!
There is a higher state of consciousness which can be achie'ed in this human birth!
There are many ways to achie'e union with *od( through the intellect( emotions( actions(
and the will! " specific path or a combination should be followed to reali4e the aim and
ob5ecti'es of life!
$edanta stresses the idea of self effort! It encourages e'ery indi'idual to reali4e *od
within by the practice of certain methods( called 6ogas( which channel the tendencies we
already possess and lead us to *od! The ideal is to practice a harmonious balance of these
four yogas/
Bhakti Yoga: This is the culti'ation of a de'otional relationship with *od through
prayer( ritual and worship! In this practice( the human emotions are gi'e a 7*odward
turn!7 Their energy is used in search for *od within!
Jnana Yoga: This 6oga is the approach to *od through discrimination and reason! The
goal is freedom! "ll of our miseries in life are caused by seeing difference( and so the
5nana yogi tries to brea# through this delusion by seeing *od e'erywhere!
Karma Yoga: The path to *od through selfless ser'ice to others is 8arma 6oga! By
wor#ing in this spirit( the *od within each person is worshipped!
Raja Yoga: This is sometimes called the yoga of meditation! It is the soul of all the
yogas! The emphasis here is on attuning the mind to *od and truth through concentration
and mediation!
The three primary characteristics of *od as defined by the $edas were defined as creator(
preser'er and destroyer! These three attributes were later personified as the *ods of
Brahma( $ishnu and 9hi'a!
Brahma is the creati'e aspect of *od! B:"H;" 13ay of2 "lso #nown as a <8alpa<!
7!!!one day of Brahma consists of a thousand cycles of four yugas( or ages/ 9atya( Treta(
3'apara and 8ali! The cycle of 9atya is characteri4ed by 'irtue( wisdom and religion(
there being practically no ignorance and 'ice( and the yuga lasts 1(=>8( years! In the
Treta%yuga 'ice is introduced( and this yuga lasts 1(>?@( years! In the 3'apara%yuga
there is an e'en greater decline in 'irtue and religion( 'ice increasing( and this yuga lasts
8@-( years! "nd finally in 8ali%yuga 1the yuga we ha'e now been e&periencing o'er
the past A( years2 there is an abundance of strife( ignorance( irreligion and 'ice( true
'irtue being practically none&istent( and this yuga lasts -3>( years! In 8ali%yuga 'ice
increases to such a point that at the termination of the yuga the 9upreme Bord Himself
appears as the 8al#i "'atara( 'an)uishes the demons( sa'es His de'otees( and
commences another 9atya%yuga! Then the process is set rolling again! These four yugas(
rotating a thousand times( comprise one day of Brahma( and the same number comprise
one night! Brahma li'es one hundred of such years and then dies! These hundred years by
earth calculations total to 311 trillion and - billion earth years! By these calculations the
life of Brahma seems fantastic and interminable( but from the 'iewpoint of eternity it is
as brief as a lightning flash!7
Vishnu is the sustaining( fostering( stabilising and strengthening aspect of *od! He ta#es
care of the 7:tham7 or 7:ta7 C the rhythm of righteousness in the world! $ishnu
incarnates in order to re'i'e the practice of 3harma in the world! The word $ishnu
means that which is omni%present!
Shiva represents the disintegration and dissolution aspect of the one Brahman 1*od2!
3estruction goes hand in hand with creation! "ll that is born must die! "ll that is
produced must disintegrate and be destroyed! This is an una'oidable law!
.rom the perspecti'e of $edanta the 9upreme *od is Brahman/
Definition of Brahman: Brahman is the transcendent absolute being that per'ades and
supports all reality! That which is "bsolute( fills all space( is complete in itself( to which
there is no second( and is continuously present in e'erything( from the creator down to
the lowest of matter!
;ore on 6oga/
Bhakti Yoga
Bha#ti is a 6oga of de'otion or complete faith! This faith is generally in the *od or
supreme consciousness in any of the forms! It may be Bord :ama( 8rishna( ,hrist(
;ohammed( Buddha etc! It may be a *uru for his disciples!
Important thing is the person interested in following this path should ha'e 'ery strong
emotional bond with the ob5ect of faith! The flow of emotional energy is directed to this
ob5ect! ;ostly people suppress their emotions and that often reflects in the form of
physical and mental disorders! This Bha#ti 6oga releases those suppressed emotions and
brings the purification of inner self!
,ontinuous meditation of *od or ob5ect of faith gradually decrease the ego of the
practitioner( which further pre'ents new distractions( fic#leness or e'en pain and induces
strong bonds of lo'e! 9lowly the practitioner looses the self identity and becomes one
with the ob5ect of faith( this is a state of self reali4ation!
Karma Yoga
8arma 6oga is a path of de'otion to the wor#! Dne looses his identity while wor#ing(
only selfless wor# remains! This state is 'ery difficult to achie'e! *enerally some
rewards or incenti'es or outcome follows the wor# and one is attached to this reward or
incenti'e! This is not the 8arma 6oga! +on%attachment with the wor# and becoming the
perfect instrument of the super consciousness in this manifested uni'erse is the ultimate
aim of 8arma 6oga!
In the initial stages of 8arma 6oga( indi'idual possesses strong sense of ego and
consciously or unconsciously he is attached to the fruits of his efforts or at least praise or
recognition but by continuous in'ol'ement in the wor# and change in mental attitude( one
can surely disassociate himself from the ego and his own personality!
In this state the wor# becomes worship to the *od( it becomes spiritual( also the
indi'idual becomes e&pert( s#illed and 6ogi! He achie'es stability of mind in all
conditions( he is not disturbed or e&cited or happy in any of the situations! He becomes
di'ine E his actions represent *od<s will!
The essence of 8arma 6oga as e&tracted from <Bhag'ad *ita< says/ The world confined
in its own acti'ity e&cept when actions are performed as worship of *od! Therefore one
must perform e'ery action sacramentally and be free of your attachments to the results!
Ashtanga Yoga 1Fatan5ali<s "shtanga 6oga % Eight .old Fath2
9ee The 9utras of Fatan5ali/
Jnana Yoga
Gnana 6oga is the process of con'erting intellectual #nowledge into practical wisdom! It
is a disco'ery of human dharma in relation to nature and the uni'erse! Gnana 6oga is
described by tradition as a means to obtain the highest meditati'e state and inner
Gnana literally means <#nowledge<( but in the conte&t of yoga it means the process of
meditati'e awareness which leads to illuminati'e wisdom! It is not a method by which we
try to find rational answers to eternal )uestions( rather it is a part of meditation leading to
self%en)uiry and self%realisation!
9ome of the components of Gnana 6oga are/
+ot belie'ing but realising
9elf%awareness leading to self%analysis
E&periencing #nowledge
:ealising the personal nature
3e'eloping intuiti'e wisdom
E&periencing inner unity

atha Yoga
The term Hatha 6oga has been commonly used to describe the practice of asana
1postures2! The syllable <ha< denotes the pranic 1'ital2 force go'erning the physical body
and <tha< denotes the chitta 1mental2 force thus ma#ing Hatha 6oga a catalyst to an
awa#ening of the two energies that go'ern our li'es! ;ore correctly the techni)ues
described in Hatha 6oga harmonise and purify the body systems and focus the mind in
preparation for more ad'anced cha#ra and #undalini practices!
The Hatha 6oga system includes asana along with the si& shat#armas 1physical and
mental deto& techni)ues2( mudras and bandhas 1psycho%physiological energy release
techni)ues2 and pranic awa#ening practices! .ine tuning of the human personality at
increasingly subtle le'els leads to higher states of awareness and meditation!
Kunda!ini Yoga 1.rom the Tantras2
This system of 6oga is concerned with awa#ening of the psychic centers or cha#ras(
which e&ists in e'ery indi'idual! 1Flease refer to the figure2 There are si& main cha#ras in
the human beings!
The mind is made up of different subtle layers! Each of these layers progressi'ely are
associated with the higher le'els of consciousness! Each of these le'els are related to the
different cha#ra or psychic center located throughout the psychic body! There are no of
other cha#ras apart from the si& main( which are associated with planes below the human
le'el! In all we ha'e cha#ras that connect us to animal le'els of mind( to the instincti'e
realms of being or to the sublime heights of consciousness!
In 8undalini 6oga( higher%le'el cha#ras are awa#ened and also the acti'ities associated
with these higher psychic centers!
The basic method of awa#ening in'ol'es deep concentration on these cha#ras and forcing
their arousal! "sanas( pranayama( mudra and bandha and other forms of 6oga such as
;antra 6oga are also used to stimulate the awa#ening!

Kri"a Yoga
The word #riya means <acti'ity< or <mo'ement< and refers to the acti'ity or mo'ement of
consciousness! 8riya also refers to a type of practical or preliminary practice leading to
total union( the final result of practice! 8riya 6oga does not curb mental fluctuations but
purposely creates acti'ity and awa#ening in consciousness! In this way all faculties are
harmonised and flower into their fullest potential!
8riya 6oga originated in anti)uity and e'ol'ed o'er time through practise and
e&perience! The full form of 8riya 6oga consists of o'er = #riyas out of which only >
or so are commonly #nown!
The #riya practices are inscribed in numerous tantric te&ts written in 9ans#rit! To date
only a few of these ha'e been translated into other languages/ The most authoritati'e
magna opus on the sub5ect of 8riya!
The practices of 8riya 6oga were propagated by 9wami 9atyananda 9araswati from
secret teachings described in the 6oga and Tantra 9hastras! The #riyas( as taught by
9atyananda 6ogaH( are one of only two systems of 8riya 6oga recogni4ed the world
o'er( the other being that of Faramahamsa 6ogananda!
Raja Yoga
:a5a 6oga usually refers to the system of yoga that is described in the 6oga 9utras of
9age Fatan5ali! In this ancient te&t 9age Fatan5ali describes eight stages of yoga which are
#nown collecti'ely as :a5a 6oga!
:a5a 6oga is a comprehensi'e yoga system which deals with the refinement of human
beha'iour and personality through the practice of the yamas 1restraint2 and niyamas
1disciplines2I attainment of physical health and 'itality through asanas 1postures2 and
pranayamas 1pranic breathing techni)ues2I management of mental and emotional
conflicts and de'elopment of awareness and concentration through pratyahara 1sensory
withdrawal2 and dharana 1concentration2I and de'eloping the creati'e aspect of
consciousness for transcendental awareness through dhyana 1meditation2 and samadhi
1absorption in the uni'ersal identity2!
Kashmir Shavism
Tri#a 9hai'ism is a form of Hindu religion that belie'es in one *od( which they call
Farama9hi'a( who creates the uni'erse within Himself out of his own pure cosmic
conscious Being!
Farama9hi'a literally means 79upreme "uspiciousness7! He is considered to be
essentially pure infinite featureless consciousness 1called 9hi'a2! But this 9hi'a aspect
has an acti'e creati'e side called 9ha#ti! It is this e'er%acti'e 9ha#ti that creates(
operates( and destroys endless uni'erses!
Dur own consciousness( which appears so tiny and limited( is not 5ust a part of the cosmic
consciousness( but actually is the supreme consciousness in totalJ It 5ust appears small
and limited due to creati'e acti'ity of supreme conscious 9ha#ti which has a 'eiling
deluding aspect 1;aya 9ha#ti2! It is through this 'eiling deluding power that 9ha#ti then
transforms the supreme conscious e&perience into the e&perience of infinite finite
conscious beings inhabiting different limited non%sentient uni'erses! The disco'ery and
o'ercoming of this ;aya 9ha#ti is then the #ey to spiritual liberation % the reali4ation of
one<s own true nature and complete liberation from the wheel of 8arma % of life and
death! This process whereby the 9upreme ,onsciousness hides from itself through its
own 'eiling power( and then liberates itself through seeing itself as it really is( is
described in 3@ steps 1or Tatt'a%s2 of conscious creati'ity and delusion and liberation!
These 3@ steps( or principles of creation are actually part of a larger system of
contemplation 1called 9adadh'an2 which fits the 7principles of creation7 into a
framewor# that includes on the one hand the actual worlds that are created( and on the
other hand( the sub5ecti'e processes by which non%conscious worlds emerge from
supremely pure cosmic consciousness!
Tri#a 9hai'ism does not consider anything to be good or bad per se( but instead as only
being part of the ongoing creati'e acti'ity of that pure infinite consciousness! But within
this process beha'ior does lead to conse)uences! Thus good beha'iors that help others
1for e&ample2 leads to mental and physical freedom and power in this life or future li'es(
whereas bad beha'iors would lead to increasing physical and mental bondage and
limitation 1called the Baw of 8arma2! But the most important acti'ity is reali4ation of
one<s own true identity with the supreme consciousness which leads to spiritual liberation
which is complete freedom from the wheel of life and death!
9wami Ba#shman5oo was the last li'ing master of 8ashmir 9hai'ism and taught that in
order to create this uni'erse( Bord 9hi'a conceals his nature by
manifesting himself in an infinite 'ariety of beings! Here he loses himself in the drama of
life! Then( by his own sweet will( he re'eals his true nature and ele'ates himself again to
the state of 9hi'a! This is #nown as the 3ance of 9hi'a! ;y webpage describes it li#e
*od and his creation are Dne! 6et *od hides himself from his creation to gi'e himself
the 5oy of disco'ering *od! *od is both ,reator and the ,reated! This is also #nown as
the 0isdom of Balance! The Kncreated *od and The ,reated *od are Dne( yet the
creation is attached to the grand illusion of separateness! 0hene'er *od<s creation
disco'ers *od( *od disco'ers himself all o'er again! *od delights in the dance of hiding
and disco'ering his glory! The ,osmic 3ance of 9hi'a!
6our life is your part in this awesome ,osmic 3ance! 6our birth begins with your *od
,onsciousness hid from you! If you ha'e not disco'ered your unlimited potential in this
life you will die( and your soul will go to the unseen state awaiting its chance for another
birth! This is the gem of #nowledge #nown as :eincarnation!
6ou are a child of *od because you come from *od and you can return to *od! "s *od<s
child your destiny is to grow up to become *od as ,hrist is *od or as Buddha is *od!
Historically( Tri#a 9hai'ism 1a form of the Hinduism2 de'eloped around ? "!3! in the
area that is now the state of 8ashmir in the northwestern corner of India! It<s de'elopment
in this area is what gi'es it it<s popular name of 78ashmir 9hai'ism7!
Tri#a 9hai'ism<s ma5or historic roots are in the indigenous pagan religions and the
Tantric religion found in that area! It<s ma5or distinguishing characteristic is it<s 'ery pure
and logically consistent Tantric monotheism 1agama2!
S I V A # Different as$e%ts of the &reat &od

The cult of 9hi'a already had its roots in the pre%$edic period! :eplaced pro'isionally by
Indra during the first centuries of the pre%$edic period( he was to be born again to
become the culmination of Hinduism! The Brahmans classified him under se'eral aspects
The ,reator *od( who gi'es life and ta#es it when he wishes! He has the power to create(
destroy and to recreate indefinitely /
SIVA' the (ord of $ea%efu! s!ee$( the god of dreams and unconsciousness(
which returns strength to tired bodies(
R)DRA' the (ord of tears' caused by the death of belo'ed ones(
MA*SVARA the (ord of Kno+!edge' the god whose intelligence controls
the mo'ements of the uni'erse that it created( and that wise men call the &reat
&,D / the place that concentrates all indi'idualities to ma#e D+E Being( D+E
0ith the help of the goddess 9H"8TI( 1 the great goddess of omnipresent energy that
gi'es life and motion to the gods2( 9HI$" can coordinate the three energies or
fundamental powers that form the main nature of kno+!edge /
1! the $o+er to understand 15naana2( >! to +ant 1iccha2( 3! to a%t 18riya2
.inally( SIVA is Ka!a' the $o+er of time( that uses and destroys( because e'erything
in this world( e&istence and non%e&istence( 5oy and pain depend on time which is also
identified with 6ama( the ruler of the #ingdom of the dead( 1the Maha-harata2!
Shiva' the infinite god( is also considered as the comforter who remo'es physical pain
by mental and spiritual means( using silence and the obscurity of the unconscious(
comparable to a night of sleep without dreams! The union of SIVA .the su-stan%e/
+ith Shakti .the omni$resent energ"/ is the foundation of all creation!
In the same way the union of the !ingua .0ha!!us of Shiva/( the masculine organ( and of
the 6D+I 1the feminine organ2( becomes the symbol of the union between time 1male2
and s$a%e 1feminine2!
The religion of the phallus is part of a 'ery ancient ritual that was used by the"ssyrians
and EgyptiansI in particular under :amses II( who had a 'ery large harem! He used the
fertili4ation of his women to gi'e birth to many warriors( 1and therefore a big army2! This
made a much more secure army for the Fharaoh than using mercenariesJ
7 0hen Shiva and his energi1ing $o+er .Shakti/ unite( the spar# of desire appears and
the uni'erse springs from the feeling of the lo'e .Kara$atri' (ingua Rashas"a/!!!
7 9hi'a di'ided his body into two hal'es( one was male and the other female! .rom their
union the uni'erse was born! .Manu Smriti/
9e'eral goddesses were considered to be the wi'es of 9HI$"( but subse)uently Devi or
Mahadevi 1whose stomach contained the uni'erse2 became his main wife!
3E$I is also honored under a double aspect/ one is 3E$I the good +ife of Shiva' and
the other is KA(I the +arrior!
7 .rom the point of 'iew of the 2reation 1of our world2( 9hi'a is the 3onor of the seed
1bi5a'an2( $ishnu is the 6oni%%1the recei'er2( Brahma is the semen that unites them! 9o
9hi'a is the donor of seed( Brahma is the seed and $ishnu is the uni'ersal matri&( the
earth that recei'es and fructifies the grain! 7 .(inga $urana3/

VIS4) and SIVA :
t+o divinities in ,ne entit"

7This great Being( the Indestru%ti-!e ,ne( who surrounded us before our birth( and was
there before the ,reation of the uni'erse! This great *od of all beings is the transcendant
supreme god!7 .Kara$atri' Maheshvara' Sanmarga3/
;ore than one thousand names are gi'en to 9hi'a in the 9hi'a Furana and the Bingua
Furana /
The Being with three eyes and fi'e faces( the ,rown of the moon( the Bord of
mountains( the Bord of the crac#ling fire( of the ancient hairy man in the brush(
the image of the waters( the Knchangeable!!! The fire of "gni that burns( warms
and restores life!!!
Rudra is the (ord of tears( because he ma#es men mourn when a lo'ed one
lea'es or dies! But :udra also means the one that remo'es pain!
7:udra the terrible( the ,ne +ho !ives in ever" %reature! He protects all li'ing beings
and will rein%arnate them until the end of time7 .Shetashvatara )$anishshad/
9hi'a is therefore not only the *od that destroys life( but as life is born again after death(
he is also the one who recreates all life in the world( under new forms! e is $art of the
2reation Trinit" of the +or!d and of !ife!
7 The &reat#&od is ever"+here' -ut +e %an not see him! He is the ,reator( the ruler of
the world( He is the su4erain of the Immense#Being' the Immanent and the 8ing of the
9#y!7 .Maha-harata 56' 57/
7e has no -eginning' no midd!e' no end3 e is the on!" ,4*' the ,mni$resent7
The mar'elous( the 5oy of the heart( 1Kma2
The first of the gods( the 9upreme :uler(
The ,reator( the Bord of 9leep(
The :uler of the 9#y( the Indestructible(
His radiance is abo'e all
e is the immanent' the vita! -reath'
*terna!' e is ever"thing that +as and +i!! -e'
8nowing that one %an meet death'
Because there is no other +a" that leads
Toward the Biberation 1of the soul2!!!
.Kaiva!"a )n$anishad 8#9/
Bron1e of Vishnu#Shiva from the :Vth %entur" # Museum of the 0rin%e of ;a!es

BRAMA # T* &R*AT B*I4&

Brahma is a form personifying immensity! The religious sages called <Brahmans<
educate the faithful to maintain respect for the traditions and to e&plain the meaning of
them and their symbols to the members of the Hindu religion!
,onsidered from the start as the god that personifies E$E:6THI+*( he is the/ Sour%e of
the universe' the 2reator' the <2osmi% man<3 His cult decreased slightly in fa'or of
$ishnuL9hi'a( the god with two faces!
"s wind transports the tides and deserts of sand( Brahma is the ,rigina! s$irit( the Dne
that transformed the primordial watersI e is in Vishnu and Vishnu is in him! e is the
eterna! organi4ing .orce( the *reat ;aster of the world( the Bord of the 0ord( the Dne
that shapes us and helps us to be born again!
0hen the uni'erse is destroyed( $ishnu will sleep floating on the causal ocean! "fter one
day for the gods( 1or a billion years for men2( Brahma will appear out of the na'el of
He will %reate ne+ heavens and ne+ +or!dsI then rest on a lotus flower in the shape of
the earth 1there are man" a!!usions to this : Mats"a 0urana' Maha-harata Vama
$arvan' Bhagavata 0urana2!
But as time $assed' Brahma=s inf!uen%e was modified by the followers of $ishnu and
e!!enism( and would be belie'ed to fulfil a prediction of 9hi'a( that he had reached the
a&is of the world or the top of the ligua of lightJ
;an often needs to re5ect certain beliefs and legends in his own interestJ The three
"'ataras that were assigned e'entually to the 9upreme *od $ishnu/ the boar( the turtle
and the fish were to the considered to be the as$e%ts of Brahma!!!
;oreo'er( does not man ha'e the tendency to consider himself as a god himself( and
sufficient to himself( but dangerous to all those that cross him M
In mythology( Brahma has four heads and four fa%es( and in his four arms holds the
$edas( a scepter( a bow( a begging bowl and the :ig'eda!
"s *od the .ather he is usually represented as an old man( with a white beard! His home
is in the deep forests 1Brahma%'rinda2( the symbol of the uni'erse!
Brahma is often represented as the source of the mo'ement of the cosmos( the breath of
life 1prana2( the wind that mo'es the primordial waters( and who by the 'ibration of the
wa'es creates the microcosm that is to the origin of e'erything!
Thus at the heart of the microcosm( 'ibration becomes breath( the 'ital breath born of
warmth( li#e the wind! .iran"a#gar-ha' Siddhanta/!
In the $edas( the ,reator is called 0rogenitor .0raja#$ati/I later $ishnu and 9hi'a also
recei'ed this creati'e aspect of which Brahma is the original substance!
*enesis 1!> !!! *od<s spirit mo'ed upon the face of the watersI and &od said / 7Bet there
be a firmament in the midst of the waters and let it di'ide the waters from the watersJ7
In the same way the Brihad#aran"aka tells us/ In the beginning there +as on!"
;AT*R! .rom this water was born reality 19atyam2I from this reality( 1which was the
Immense%Being( Brahma2( was born the Frogenitor 1Fra5apati2
These two passages confirm that life came from the 0"TE:!
Brahma teaches men the Baw of Ferfection that permits them to conform to the ,osmic
Baw! This Baw of perfection can not be applied indifferently to all( as each person has a
different perception of moral principles!
Dne day and one night of Brahma( the Immense Being( is e)ui'alent to a #alpa di'ided
into 1- portions of time( managed each by a ;anu( 1a #alpa being e)ui'alent to 8 @-
"ccording to Hindu te&ts( we are a$$roa%hing the end of a Ka!$a at the $resent time(
-ut the fina! A&* of darkness' the Yuga ka!i( will not start for se'eral millions of
The istor" of Re!igion in India
$edism D'er'iew
$edanta is one of the world<s most ancient religious philosophies and one of its broadest!
Based on the $edas( the sacred scriptures of India( $edanta affirms the oneness of
e&istence( the di'inity of the soul( and the harmony of religions! $edanta is the
philosophical foundation of HinduismI but while Hinduism includes aspects of Indian
culture( $edanta is uni'ersal in its application and is e)ually rele'ant to all countries( all
cultures( and all religious bac#grounds!
" closer loo# at the word 7$edanta7 is re'ealing/ 7$edanta7 is a combination of two
words/ 7$eda7 which means 7#nowledge7 and 7anta7 which means 7the end of7 or 7the
goal of!7 In this conte&t the goal of #nowledge isn<t intellectualNthe limited #nowledge
we ac)uire by reading boo#s! 78nowledge7 here means the #nowledge of *od as well as
the #nowledge of our own di'ine nature! $edanta( then( is the search for 9elf%#nowledge
as well as the search for *od!
0hat do we mean when we say *odM "ccording to $edanta( *od is infinite e&istence(
infinite consciousness( and infinite bliss! The term for this impersonal( transcendent
reality is Brahman( the di'ine ground of being! 6et $edanta also maintains that *od can
be personal as well( assuming human form in e'ery age!
;ost importantly( *od dwells within our own hearts as the di'ine 9elf or "tman! The
"tman is ne'er born nor will it e'er die! +either stained by our failings nor affected by
the fluctuations of the body or mind( the "tman is not sub5ect to our grief or despair or
disease or ignorance! Fure( perfect( free from limitations( the "tman( $edanta declares( is
one with Brahman! The greatest temple of *od lies within the human heart!
$edanta further asserts that the goal of human life is to reali4e and manifest our di'inity!
+ot only is this possible( it is ine'itable! Dur real nature is di'ineI *od%reali4ation is our
birthright! 9ooner or later( we will all manifest our di'inityNeither in this or in future
li'esNfor the greatest truth of our e&istence is our own di'ine nature!
.inally( $edanta affirms that all religions teach the same basic truths about *od( the
world( and our relationship to one another! Thousands of years ago the :ig $eda
declared/ 7Truth is one( sages call it by 'arious names!7 The world<s religions offer
'arying approaches to *od( each one true and 'alid( each religion offering the world a
uni)ue and irreplaceable path to *od%reali4ation! The conflicting messages we find
among religions are due more to doctrine and dogma than to the reality of spiritual
e&perience! 0hile dissimilarities e&ist in the e&ternal obser'ances of the world religions(
the internals bear remar#able similarities!
The ,neness of *>isten%e: )nit" in Diversit"
The unity of e&istence is one of the great themes of $edanta and an essential pillar of its
philosophy! Knity is the song of lifeI it is the grand theme underlying the rich 'ariations
that e&ist throughout the cosmos! 0hate'er we see( whate'er we e&perience( is only a
manifestation of this eternal oneness! The di'inity at the core of our being is the same
di'inity that illumines the sun( the moon( and the stars! There is no place where we(
infinite in nature( do not e&ist!
0hile the concept of oneness may be intellectually appealing( it is ne'ertheless difficult
to put into practice! It<s no hardship to feel oneness with great and noble beings or those
we already lo'e! It<s also not too much of a stretch to e&perience a sense of unity with the
trees( the ocean( and the s#y! But most of us bal# at e&periencing oneness with the
coc#roach or the ratNlet alone the obno&ious co%wor#er whom we barely tolerate! 6et
this is precisely where we need to apply $edanta<s teachings and reali4e that all these
manifold aspects of creation are united in and through di'inity! The 9elf that is within
me( the "tman( is the same 9elf that is within youNno matter whether the 7you7 in
)uestion is a saint( a murderer( a cat( a fly( a tree( or that irritating dri'er at the four%way
7The 9elf is e'erywhere(7 says the Isha Kpanishad! 70hoe'er sees all beings in the 9elf(
and the 9elf in all beings( hates none! .or one who sees oneness e'erywhere( how can
there be delusion or griefM7
"ll fear and all misery arise from our sense of separation from the great cosmic unity( the
web of being that enfolds us! 7There is fear from the second(7 says the Brihadaranya#a
Kpanishad! 3uality( our sense of separation from the rest of creation( is always a
misperception since it implies that something e&ists other than *od! There can be no
other! 7This grand preaching( the oneness of things( ma#ing us one with e'erything that
e&ists( is the great lesson to learn(7 said 9wami $i'e#ananda a century ago!
! ! ! ! The 9elf is the essence of this uni'erse( the essence of all souls ! ! ! 6ou are one with
this uni'erse! He who says he is different from others( e'en by a hair<s breadth(
immediately becomes miserable! Happiness belongs to him who #nows this oneness( who
#nows he is one with this uni'erse!
The 2on%e$t of Ma"a
$edanta declares that our real nature is di'ine/ pure( perfect( eternally free! 0e do not
ha'e to become Brahman( we are Brahman! Dur true 9elf( the "tman( is one with
But if our real nature is di'ine( why then are we so appallingly unaware of itM
The answer to this )uestion lies in the concept of maya, or ignorance! ;aya is the 'eil
that co'ers our real nature and the real nature of the world around us! ;aya is
fundamentally inscrutable/ we don<t #now why it e&ists and we don<t #now when it began!
0hat we do #now is that( li#e any form of ignorance( maya ceases to e&ist at the dawn of
#nowledge( the #nowledge of our own di'ine nature!
Brahman is the real truth of our e&istence/ in Brahman we li'e( mo'e( and ha'e our
being! 7"ll this is indeed Brahman(7 the KpanishadsNthe scriptures that form $edanta
philosophyNdeclare! The changing world that we see around us can be compared to the
mo'ing images on a mo'ie screen/ without the unchanging screen in the bac#ground(
there can be no mo'ie! 9imilarly( it is the unchanging BrahmanNthe substratum of
e&istenceNin the bac#ground of this changing world that gi'es the world its reality!
6et for us this reality is conditioned( li#e a warped mirror( by time( space( and causality
Nthe law of cause and effect! Dur 'ision of reality is further obscured by wrong
identification/ we identify oursel'es with the body( mind( and ego rather than the "tman(
the di'ine 9elf!
This original misperception creates more ignorance and pain in a domino effect/
identifying oursel'es with the body and mind( we fear disease( old age and deathI
identifying oursel'es with the ego( we suffer from anger( hatred( and a hundred other
miseries! 6et none of this affects our real nature( the "tman!
;aya can be compared to clouds which co'er the sun/ the sun remains in the s#y but a
dense cloud co'er pre'ents us from seeing it! 0hen the clouds disperse( we become
aware that the sun has been there all the time! Dur cloudsNmaya appearing as egotism(
selfishness( hatred( greed( lust( anger( ambitionNare pushed away when we meditate
upon our real nature( when we engage in unselfish action( and when we consistently act
and thin# in ways that manifest our true nature/ that is( through truthfulness( purity(
contentment( self%restraint( and forbearance! This mental purification dri'es away the
clouds of maya and allows our di'ine nature to shine forth!
9han#ara( the great philosopher%sage of se'enth%century India( used the e&ample of the
rope and the sna#e to illustrate the concept of maya! 0al#ing down a dar#ened road( a
man sees a sna#eI his heart pounds( his pulse )uic#ens! Dn closer inspection the 7sna#e7
turns out to be a piece of coiled rope! Dnce the delusion brea#s( the sna#e 'anishes
9imilarly( wal#ing down the dar#ened road of ignorance( we see oursel'es as mortal
creatures( and around us( the uni'erse of name and form( the uni'erse conditioned by
time( space( and causation! 0e become aware of our limitations( bondage( and suffering!
Dn 7closer inspection7 both the mortal creature as well as the uni'erse turn out to be
Brahman! Dnce the delusion brea#s( our mortality as well as the uni'erse disappear
fore'er! 0e see Brahman e&isting e'erywhere and in e'erything!
Karma and Rein%arnation
Human suffering is one of religion<s most compelling mysteries/ 0hy do the innocent
sufferM 0hy does *od permit e'ilM Is *od helpless to act or does he choose not toM "nd
if He chooses not to act( does that mean he is cruelM Dr merely indifferentM
$edanta ta#es the problem out of *od<s court and places it firmly in our own! 0e can
blame neither *od nor a de'il! +othing happens to us by the whim of some outside
agency/ we oursel'es are responsible for what life brings usI all of us are reaping the
results of our own pre'ious actions in this life or in pre'ious li'es! To understand this
better we first need to understand the law of #arma!
The word 7#arma7 comes from the 9ans#rit 'erb kri( to do! "lthough #arma means
action( it also means the result of action! 0hate'er acts we ha'e performed and whate'er
thoughts we ha'e thought ha'e created an impression( both in our minds and in the
uni'erse around us! The uni'erse gi'es bac# to us what we ha'e gi'en to it/ 7"s ye sow(
so shall ye reap7 as ,hrist said! *ood actions and thoughts create good effects( bad ones
create bad effects!
Menta! Im$rints
0hene'er we perform any action and whene'er we thin# any thought( an imprintNa
#ind of subtle groo'eNis made upon the mind! These imprints or groo'es are #nown as
samskaras! 9ometimes we are conscious of the imprinting processI 5ust as often we are
not! 0hen actions and thoughts are repeated( the groo'es become deeper! The
combination of 7groo'es7N sams#arasNcreates our indi'idual characters and also
strongly influences our subse)uent thoughts and actions! If we anger easily( for e&ample(
we create an angry mind that is predisposed to react with anger rather than with patience
or understanding! "s water when directed into a narrow canal gains force( so the groo'es
in the mind create canals of beha'ior patterns which become e&traordinarily difficult to
resist or re'erse! ,hanging an ingrained mental habit literally becomes an uphill battle!
If our thoughts are predominantly those of #indness( lo'e( and compassion( our character
reflects it( and these 'ery thoughts will be returned to us sooner or later! If we send out
thoughts of hatred( anger( or pettiness( those thoughts will also be returned to us!
Dur thoughts and actions aren<t so much arrows as boomerangsNe'entually they find
their way bac# home! The effects of #arma may come instantly( later in life( or in another
life altogetherI what is absolutely certain( howe'er( is that they will appear at some time
or other! Kntil liberation is achie'ed( we li'e and we die within the confines of the law of
#arma( the chain of cause and effect!
0hat happens at death if we ha'en<t attained liberationM
0hen a person dies( the only 7death7 is that of the physical body! The mind( which
contains a person<s mental impressions( continues after the body<s death! 0hen the person
is reborn( the 7birth7 is of a new physical body accompanied by the old mind with the
impressions or 7groo'es7 from pre'ious li'es! 0hen the en'ironment becomes
conduci'e( these sams#aras again reassert themsel'es in the new life!
Than#fully( this process doesn<t go on eternally! 0hen we attain *od%reali4ation or 9elf%
reali4ation( the law of #arma is transcended( the 9elf gi'es up its identification with the
body and mind( and regains its nati'e freedom( perfection and bliss!
"n "bsurd Kni'erseM
0hen we ta#e a hard loo# around us( the world doesn<t seem to ma#e much sense! If we
go by appearances( it would seem that countless people ha'e escaped the noose of fate/
many an e'il person has died peacefully in bed! 0orse( good and noble people ha'e
suffered without apparent cause( their goodness being repaid by hatred and torture!
0itness the HolocaustI witness child abuse!
If we loo# only on the surface( the uni'erse appears absurd at best( male'olent at worst!
But that<s because we<re not loo#ing deeplyI we<re only 'iewing this lifetime( seeing
neither the li'es that precede this one nor the li'es that may follow! 0hen we see a
calamity or a triumph( we<re seeing only one free4e frame of a 'ery( 'ery long mo'ie! 0e
can see neither the beginning nor the end of the mo'ie! 0hat we do #now( howe'er( is
that e'eryone( no matter how depra'ed( will e'entually( through the course of many
lifetimes and undoubtedly through much suffering( come to reali4e his or her own di'ine
nature! That is the ine'itable happy ending of the mo'ie!
3oesn<t the law of #arma ma#e $edanta a cold and fatalistic philosophyM
+ot in the slightest!
$edanta is both personally empowering and deeply compassionate! .irst( if we ha'e
createdNthrough our own thoughts and actionsNthe life that we are leading today( we
also ha'e the power to create the life that we will li'e tomorrow! 0hether we li#e it or
not( whether we want to ta#e responsibility or not( that<s what we are doing e'ery step of
the way! $edanta doesn<t allow us to assign blame elsewhere/ e'ery thought and action
builds our future e&perience!
3oesn<t the law of #arma then imply that we can be indifferent to our fellow beings
because( after all( they<re only getting what they deser'eM
"bsolutely not! If a person<s #arma is such that he or she is suffering( we ha'e an
opportunity to alle'iate that suffering in whate'er way we can/ doing so would be good
#arma! 0e need not be unduly heroic( but we can always offer a helping hand or at least
a #ind word! If we choose not to do whate'er is in our limited power to alle'iate the pain
of those around us( we<re chal#ing up bad #arma for oursel'es! In fact( we<re really
hurting oursel'es!
Dneness is the law of the uni'erse( and that truth is the real root of all acts of lo'e and
compassion! The "tman( my true 9elf( is the same 9pirit that dwells in allI there cannot
be two "tmans! ,onsciousness cannot be di'idedI it<s all%per'asi'e! ;y "tman and your
"tman cannot be different! .or that reason $edanta says/ Bo'e your neighbor as yourself
because your neighbor I9 yourself!
Harmony of :eligions
7Truth is oneI sages call it by 'arious names(7 the :ig $eda( one of $edanta<s most
ancient te&ts( declared thousands of years ago!
0e are all see#ing the truth( $edanta asserts( and that truth comes in numerous names
and forms! TruthNspiritual realityNremains the truth though it appears in different
guises and approaches us from 'arious directions! 70hate'er path people tra'el is ;y
path(7 says the Bhaga'ad *ita! 7+o matter where they wal#( it leads to ;e!7
*ver" Re!igion as a &ift
E'ery religion has a specific gift to offer human#indI e'ery religion brings with it a
uni)ue 'iewpoint which enriches the world! ,hristianity stresses lo'e and sacrificeI
Gudaism( the 'alue of spiritual wisdom and tradition! Islam emphasi4es uni'ersal
brotherhood and e)uality while Buddhism ad'ocates compassion and mindfulness! The
+ati'e "merican tradition teaches re'erence for the earth and the natural world
surrounding us! $edanta or the Hindu tradition stresses the oneness of e&istence and the
need for direct mystical e&perience!
The world<s spiritual traditions are li#e different pieces in a giant 5igsaw pu44le/ each
piece is different and each piece is essential to complete the whole picture! Each piece is
to be honored and respected while holding firm to our own particular piece of the pu44le!
0e can deepen our own spirituality and learn about our own tradition by studying other
faiths! Gust as importantly( by studying our own tradition well( we are better able to
appreciate the truth in other traditions!
Different 0aths to the Same &oa!
$edanta says that all religions contain within themsel'es the same essential truths(
although the pac#aging is different! "nd that is good! E'ery human being on the planet is
uni)ue! +ot one of us really practices the same religion! E'ery person<s mind is different
and e'ery person needs his or her own uni)ue path to reach the top of the mountain!
9ome paths are narrow( some are broad! 9ome are winding and difficult and some are
safe and dull! E'entually we<ll all get to the top of the mountainI we don<t ha'e to worry
about our neighbors getting lost along the way! They<ll do 5ust fine! 0e all need different
approaches to fit our different natures!
3espite e&ternal 'ariations in the world religions( the internals are more ali#e than not!
E'ery religion teaches similar moral and ethical 'irtuesI all religions teach the importance
of spiritual stri'ing and the necessity of honoring our fellow human beings as part of that
7"s different streams ha'ing their sources in different places all mingle their water in the
sea(7 says an ancient 9ans#rit prayer( 7so( D Bord( the different paths which people ta#e
through different tendencies( 'arious though they appear( croo#ed or straight( all lead to
The Avatar: &od in uman ?orm
9wami 9hi'ananda( one of :ama#rishna<s disciples( said/ 7If *od does not come down as
a human being( how will human beings lo'e himM That is why He comes to human
beings as a human being! Feople can lo'e Him as a father( mother( brother( friendNthey
can ta#e any of these attitudes! "nd He comes to each in whate'er form that person
Throughout the ages( spiritual renewal has come to humanity through *od manifesting in
human form! The 9ans#rit word 7a'atar7 literally means 7descent of *od!7 ;ost of the
world<s religions ha'e been gi'en impetus and direction by these spiritual giantsNthe
incarnations( prophets( and messengers of *od! Gesus and Buddha( :ama and 8rishna(
;oses and ;uhammad( ,haitanya and :ama#rishnaNall ha'e been torchbearers in the
world of spirituality( pouring new energy into religions that were sliding into hypocrisy
and self%indulgence!
The Bhaga'ad *ita declared thousands of years ago/
0hen goodness grows wea#(
0hen e'il increases(
I ma#e myself a body!
In e'ery age I come bac#
To deli'er the holy(
To destroy the sin of the sinner(
To establish righteousness!
Dne of the great distinctions between 0estern and Eastern thought is that the 0est tends
to thin# in terms of linear timeNthe world and human history ha'ing a definiti'e
beginning( middle( and end! Dn this hori4ontal time line( *od has specific( historical
inter'entions! In contrast( the East thin#s in terms of great cycles/ ascension and
descension( creation and destruction( growth and decayI these cycles are seen as
continually repeating wa'es in an eternal cosmic process! ,i'ili4ations( religions( and
indi'iduals are all part of this ongoing cycle! The appearance of the a'atar is essential to
this eternal mo'ement of spiritual decline followed by regeneration!
"ccording to $edanta( spiritual truth is eternal and uni'ersal/ no particular religion or
sect can ha'e a monopoly on it! The truth that ,hrist disco'ered is the same truth that was
re'ealed to the sages of the KpanishadsI it is the same truth that 8rishna and Buddha
taught as well! *autama said that there were many Buddhas before him( and in the years
to come there will be many more manifestations of *od on earth!
Is there a purpose in all thisM 6es! .irst( e'ery a'atar has a specific message to impart to
humanity/ ;uhammad taught e)uality and the brotherhood of humanityI ,hrist re'ealed
the primacy of *od<s lo'e o'er the letter of the BawI Buddha re5ected priestcraft and
taught people to be lamps unto themsel'esI 8rishna taught mental e)uanimity and
detached actionI :ama#rishna taught the ideal of the harmony of religions! Each
incarnation has a message particular to the age in which he appears!
The second reason why the a'atar incarnates is to reestablish the one eternal religionN
spiritual truth! 0hile e'ery a'atar has specific teachings( all incarnations come to pour
spiritual fire into a world sin#ing into religious mediocrity! +o matter where the a'atar
appears on earth( the entire world is uplifted and regenerated by his ad'ent!
3oes this mean that( according to $edanta( *od can be reali4ed only through his personal
aspectM +o! 3oes this mean that $edanta says that we must thin# of *od as a personM +o!
0hat $edanta says is that *od can and does manifest through human form( and that( for
most people( it is easier to meditate upon and lo'e a *od with form rather than a
nebulous idea of infinite being( consciousness( and bliss! ;any people achie'e spiritual
growth through meditation upon the a'atarI they are followers of the path of bha#ti yoga!
Those who are more intellectual than emotional may well achie'e greater spiritual
awareness through 5nana yoga!
$edanta 9ociety of 9outhern ,alifornia