Wednesday 27 Aug 2014
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Hinduism through Q&A

Questioning is always encouraged in Hinduism. Upanishads and Holy Gita  are written entirely in question answer form.

You can read the general questions about Hinduism below. If you have a question which is not here send us an email, and we will be happy to reply.

 

This section is created from Hinduism Through Q&A by Swami Harshananda

 

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This objection, which is very common, has been raised without a proper understanding of the great and sublime principle behind image worship. No Hindu ever worships these images considering them as God Himself. Though they are insentient images it is the conscious and sentient God that is brought to the mind by them even as we remember the living and conscious person when we see his photograph. If even this is objected to, then, the Christians who worship the crucifix, the Muslims who adore the Kaaba stone or the patriots who honor the national flag all of them will have to be dubbed as idolators! Read More ...
God exists. He is the creator and controller. His grace gives us happiness and peace. His wrath brings about sorrow and suffering. Mankind all over the world has cherished this belief in some form or other.  Once it is conceded that such a God exists, there must be an easy means of approaching Him and propitiating Him. That is the temple. The temple is the structure we put up with devotion for the residence of God when He descends to this world for our sake. It is something like the camping of the king of a State in a part of his territory. Read More ...
Puja or worship is a loving entertainment of God, even as we entertain our friends and relatives whom we love. The several steps involved in such worship may be briefly stated as follows: Read More ...
Pita (worship), Homa (sacrifice) and other similar religious rites are considered as sacred and holy acts. It is the Rishis (sages), the originators of our religious traditions, that have given us these rites including the procedure and the mantras to be used. Hence it is quite proper that we conform strictly to the pattern of the rites and the language in which they have been transmitted to us. This produces a solemn and sacred atmosphere. Read More ...
Celebration of festivals and sacred days is a common phenomenon found in all religions. The common masses, though they may gain some knowledge through philosophy, and wisdom through mythology, are not satisfied at heart unless they can perform some rites and rituals associated with religion. Celebration of festivals and sacred days affords them such opportunities. Performing these will give them peace and joy. At the social level, greater unity and co-operation are achieved. Also, festivals help in the dissemination of religion and culture. Read More ...
A routine daily life in this humdrum world generates boredom very soon. Undertaking pilgrimages on such occasions will reinvigorate the mind, in the same way as recharging a battery that is rundown. How can a place of Pilgrimage contribute to this? No doubt, God exists everywhere, but He is Manifest more tangibly in these places of Pilgrimage even as milk is drawn through the udder, though it permeates the entire body of the cow in a subtle form. Read More ...
This is a fundamental problem. Or, rather, it is the symptom of a fundamental problem. Hence, one should go to its root, to be able to solve it. The Pandas and priests exploit the pilgrim for the sake of money. Its cause is poverty. Lack of proper education and culture has worsened it further. As a result, they have lost whatever respect and status they once enjoyed in our society. That these professions are hereditary is another cause for their degradation since they can get them without any competition or training. Read More ...
In such matters as this, it is the Sastra or the scripture that is our authority. Lord Sri Krishna has declared in the Gita that He incarnates Himself in this world whenever Dharma (righteousness) declines and Adharma (unrighteousness) gets the upper hand. He restores the spiritual balance by punishing the wicked and upholding Dharma. This is our final authority for the doctrine of Avatara or incarnation. Read More ...
Though this question appears to be short and simple, it concerns a very profound subject discussed in our philosophical works. Read More ...
It is exactly this that has been called Maya, Ajnana or Avidya! Because of it, we forget our real nature as Atman, identify ourselves with the body, senses and mind, and consequently suffer. How and when we came under the subjection of Maya is a problem that can never be solved. Read More ...
No. This is in fact one of the misconceptions about Hindu values of life. The Hindu scriptures prescribe Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (physical pleasures) and moksa (liberation) as the four goals to be striven for in life, by every person. These have been termed Purusharthas. In the first stage of life (childhood and early youth) one should acquire Dharma as also knowledge of secular sciences through education and discipline under competent teachers who teach the essence of the scriptures. Read More ...
We know from our direct experience that we are separate from the dress we wear or the house we live in. Similarly we are separate from the body, the senses, the mind and egoism. When this fact is directly experienced our essentially blissful nature is fully manifest. It is this state that is described as Moksha. In this state there is total annihilation of all sorrow and suffering. After the fall of this body there will be no rebirth. Read More ...
Meaning of the word ‘anta’ is end or essence. Since the Upanishads form the end portions of the Vedas and contain their essence, they have been termed as Vedanta. The Brahmasutras (of the sage Badarayana) which try to systematize the teachings of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita which has been described as the milk from the cows of the Upanishads, as also all other works based on these, have been included under the term Vedanta. Read More ...
Yoga is that which unites (yuj to yoke) the Jivatman (the individual soul) with the Paramatman (the Supreme Self or God). Any path of spiritual discipline which help achieve this union is Yoga. Yogas are generally considered four in number: Jnanayoga, Bhaktiyoga, Rajayoga and Karmayoga. The path of Vedanta already described under question 20, is called Jnanayoga. Read More ...
In this connection one is reminded of such terms as Guru (teacher), Sishya (disciple), Ishtadevata (the favourite deity for contemplation), Mantra (divine mm or the spiritual formula), Pranava (the syllable Om), Diksha (initiation), Dhyana (contemplation) and Japa (repetition of divine name or spiritual formula). What do they mean? Guru is one who dispels the darkness of ignorance and bestows the light of knowledge. Spiritual life is impossible without the guidance of a Guru. As regards his qualification, he is expected to know the essence of scriptures and be established in God. He should have infinite compassion and sympathy towards the disciple. Read More ...
There is rebirth for human beings and it is Karma that causes it. It is common experience that an injury caused by a few seconds' exposure to fire will take several days (= 30 millions of seconds!) to heal up. On the same analogy, for reaping the fruits of aft our actions, both good and bad, done in a lifetime we need several lives. This will be possible only if we admit future lives. During the recent decades, a lot of investigation has been carried out in the field of rebirth, or reincarnation, as it is More commonly called, resulting in the publication of several good books. Read More ...
The theory of Karma is just an extension of the well-known maxim: 'As you sow, so you reap', to the inner world of moral values. If there is an effect, there must be a cause for it. If the experiences of this life good or bad cannot be traced to tangible causes of this life, the causes must have existed in a previous life. This is the logic behind the theory of Karma. One is bound to reap the results of one's actions at a future time if not today. This is unavoidable. Read More ...
universeThe secret behind the creation of this world - as also the process of creation the mystery surrounding the phenomena of birth and death, the problem of good and evil, the ultimate goal of human life and other questions akin to these - have been taxing the human intelligence from time immemorial, ever eluding any intelligible solutions. Our Rishis have offered their solutions to these, based on their own mystic experiences as also the dictates of the Vedas. The 'Shad darsanas' or the six systems of philosophy are a direct result of their experiences and researches. In them we find several explanations regarding creation. Read More ...
Many of the Dharmasastras permit even the Brahmanas to accept food from persons who are of pure character, whatever their caste. Hence the Hindu scriptures do not certainly come in the way of inter dining. Perhaps, in the present day Hindu society this may go a long way in integrating its various warring groups. The same Dharmasastras have accepted 'Anuloma vivaha', according to which men of higher caste groups could marry women of the lower caste groups. 'Pratiloma vivaha', the converse of the rule, was also prevalent even from ancient times. Hence it is to be conceded that inter caste marriage has not been prohibited by the Hindu religious works. Read More ...
If not, how did this practice develop? What steps have been taken by the Hindu reformers to eradicate this evil? There are no two opinions about the urgent need for eradication of untouchability, which is universally considered as a blot on the Hindu society. Neither in the Vedas nor in the Dharmasastras do we find any sanction for this abominable practice. Read More ...
According to the Value system propounded by Hinduism, Moksha or spiritual emancipation is the ultimate goal of life. However, emotional weaknesses like attachment and aversion or lust, greed, and anger always raise their ugly heads to thwart man's spiritual progress. With an uncanny insight into human psychology our ancient Rishis (sages) have prescribed a way of life which affords enough scope and opportunity for the fulfillment of all legitimate desires and instincts, while keeping them under a healthy check. Read More ...
What are the Samskaras that are still extant and applicable to all sections of Hindus society? Our life can be compared to a Yajna, a sacrifice. Even as the implements of a sacrifice are cleaned and purified, every Hindu is expected to cleanse and purify his body and mind through certain rites. These rites prescribed for such purification are termed Samskaras (sacraments). Though these are religious rites, they have a social dimension too. The Samskaras are usually listed as sixteen. Read More ...
The Sastras declare that an individual is polluted by physical impurities while residing in the mother's womb and by Ajnana or ignorance in later life. Read More ...
Also, are there moral and ethical principles universally applicable to all sections of Hindu society? The concepts of good and evil, sin and virtue exist practically in all religions. There is an oft quoted saying that defines Punya (virtue or good) as doing good to others and Papa (sin, evil) as harming others. Sin is acquired when one does prohibited actions or forsakes the ordained duties. This retards one's spiritual progress and Positively harms the society as well. Read More ...
Hinduism has looked at the status and position of woman from two standpoints. As a soul in bondage, the goal of her life also, like man's, is Moksha. Hence all the moral and spiritual disciplines like purity of mind, self-control, devotion to God and austerities, prescribed as means thereof, apply to her too. Thus, in this respect she enjoys equal freedom with man. However, the fact that she differs from man both biologically and psychologically, has not been overlooked. Accordingly, she has been entrusted with certain special duties and responsibilities and given some privileges. Her role as the chief guiding force in running the family and in the internal management of the home, has amply been recognized. The well-known adage that a griha (home or house) is no Griha by itself and that it is the Grihini (the mistress of the house) that really constitutes the Griha, proves this point. Read More ...
When we observe the evolution of Hinduism through the ages and recognize that it is still a powerful living faith in spite of the various vicissitudes it had to pass through, we are obliged to concede that there must be some basic enduring quality. Read More ...
The sages of the Upanishadic age, were the forerunners of all the reform movements. The religion of the Rigveda, which was simple and elegant, had by the period of the Brahmanas, deteriorated into a bewildering maze of sacrifices, which the common people could not understand, let alone perform. So, these sages rejected them and advocated meditation on and knowledge of the Atman as the essence of our religion and thus saved it. Read More ...
 Somehow they do not seem to hold forth much promise as instruments of reform. How can these institutions he rejuvenated and reactivated? Some of the modern Mathas and religious institutions are a direct outcome of this latest reform movement. For instance: Brahma Samaj, Arya Samaj and the Ramakrishna Mission. Read More ...
An ideal daily routine for a Hindu could perhaps be suggested as follows: Rising from bed before sunrise; obeisance to the family deity and to the Ishtadevata; ablutions and bath; personal prayers; meditation and recitation from scriptures; breakfast after offering the same to the family deity; activities pertaining to one's profession and maintenance of the family without transgressing Dharma; group prayers in the evening in the family shrine along with all the members of the family followed by supper; short prayers or obeisance to the family deity before retiring to bed. Read More ...
Firstly, we have to lead a good life as suggested in the foregoing section. This can generate the power necessary for rebuilding our society.  Secondly, we have to develop strength physical, intellectual and spiritual and harmonize these aspects of strength into one strength, that of character. Transcending all the internal differences to achieve unity in spite of diversity is the need of the hour. Establishing Vyayamasalas (gymnasiums), conducting study groups to disseminate our religion among our own people, holding group prayers in the chief temples of the village or town at least once in a week these three activities can help in the development of the three aspects of strength indicated above. Read More ...
The ancient Persians in whose language the letter 'sa' got metamorphosed into 'ha', used to call this land of the river Sindhu (Indus) as Hindusthan or Hindudesh, the people as Hindus and their religion as Hindu Dharma. When looked at from this angle, all religions of Indian origin whether it is Jainism, Buddhism or Sikhism, become different facets of Hinduism. However, it is the religion dependent on the Vedas and practised by the Aryan race that has been generally included under the definition of Hinduism. Hindu tradition, more appropriately, calls it as 'Sanatana Dharma', a religion which is very ancient and comprises eternal values (Sanatana ancient and eternal). The word dharma connotes that which supports the universe (dhr to support) and means God Himself, in the ultimate analysis. Any path of spiritual discipline that leads to God experience, can also be designated as a Dharma though in a secondary sense. From the most ancient times right up to the modern days, the various paths of spiritual discipline prescribed in Hinduism, when followed seriously and sincerely, have been leading to God experience. They can certainly do so in future also. Hence the name Sanatana Dharma is very apt. {backbutton} Read More ...
If we are interested in living happily in this world, there must be the spirit of mutual co-operation amongst us. To help others when we are helped by them, nay, to serve the society to the extent possible, should be our motto. According to the Hindu concept, world does not mean only the human beings. It includes the animal kingdom as also vegetation and other aspects of nature. There are sentient beings who control these aspects and powers of nature. They are called Devatas or deities. The Yajnas and Yagas are the rites by which these deities are propitiated. The Shastras or holy scriptures are the basic authority for this concept. Read More ...
In Hinduism, the number of books, considered as sacred, is legion. However, only the more important ones, acceptable to the orthodox tradition and venerated by almost all sections, will be described here briefly: Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavadgita, the Smritis of Manu and other sages, Agamas, Puranas and Darsanas. The Ramayana, containing the life and deeds of Sri Rama, and the Mahabharata which deals with the story of the Pandava Kaurava princes as also of Sri Krishna have inspired the Hindus for millennia to face the problems of life. Read More ...
God is one only, one without a second. His nature is Sachitananda i.e., eternal Existence, Consciousness and Bliss. He is the creator of this universe. He creates it by His power out of Himself, sustains it and then withdraws it into Himself, once its purpose is over. This process goes on forever, in a cyclic order.  Read More ...
Is it not tantamount to accepting many gods? As If in approval of this tenet, don't we see these gods competing and conflicting with one another, if we are to believe the stories in our books? Though Hinduism concedes the existence of several gods or deities, it accepts only one God, the Supreme. Out of these deities, Indra and others are actually ordinary souls like us, who rose to those positions in the cosmic scheme as a result of the extraordinary religious merit they had acquired in the previous cycle of creation. Read More ...
The Vedas are the basic scriptures of Hinduism. Literally Veda means knowledge or wisdom. Shruti (that which is revealed), Agama (that which has been handed down as a tradition) and Nigama (that which gives us definite and decisive answers to the ultimate problems of life) are other appellations by which it is known. Since they were revealed, by the grace of God the Supreme, to the Rishis or sages in the depths of their intuitive experience, they have been described as apaurusheya, i.e. not created by any human agency. Read More ...
 Unlike the other religions of the world, Hinduism did not originate with any single prophet or at a particular period of human history.  Its uniqueness lies in its being based on the super conscious experiences and spiritual realizations of a galaxy of saints, sages and seers, each of whom could claim prophet hood. Read More ...
An ideal Hindu believes that different religions are like the different radii of a circle, leading to the same center, the center being God experience. Sri Ramakrishna stretches it still further in his unique saying, ‘Jato mat, tato path’ (As many people, so many paths) thus indicating that ultimately every human being has his own religion, religion here being understood as the road to the realization of God. Read More ...


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