The Vedanta summaries in the Vedas, have inspired many great Western thinkers. The French historian, Victor Cousin, said: “When we read with attention the philosophical monuments of the Orient – above all, those of India – we discover there many a truth so profound… that we are constrained to bend the knee before the philosophy of the East, and to see in this cradle of the human race the native land of the highest philosophy.” Schlegel observed: “Even the loftiest philosophies of the Europeans, the idealism of reason as set forth by the Greek philosophers, appears – in comparison with the abundant life and vigor of Oriental idealism – like a feeble Promethean spark against a full flood of sunlight.”
A passage in Eusebius relates an interesting encounter between Socrates and a Hindu sage. The passage runs: “Aristoxenus, the musician, tells the following story about the Indians. One of these men met Socrates at Athens, and asked him what was the scope of his philosophy. ‘An inquiry into human phenomena,’ replied Socrates. At this the Indian burst out laughing. ‘How can a man inquire into human phenomena,’ he said, ‘when he is ignorant of divine ones?'” The Aristoxenus mentioned was a pupil of Aristotle, and a noted writer on harmonics. His date is 330 B.C.
– Autobiography of a Yogi.
The best way to understand most religions, is by looking at what it was – not what it is. We are in a very clouded period of time – and the sparkling Magik of religion is now very much lost to us.
So, when we look at Hinduism while it was still pure, the wisdom that emmanates is mind boggling..
For instance, there was a time when Hindus worshipped whores as akin to Goddesses. This was the vast open-mindedness they possessed. They did not do this as a manner of advertising brothels – let’s not equate it to today’s mindset. They simply saw that divinity manifests through every form, and that every form is equally precious. They would worship the ground that whores would walk upon. Then, the word whore was a sacred ornament – like the Temple Priestesses of Aphrodite.
The word Aryan – which means “One who knows himself”.. first originated in Hinduism, and it isn’t a defintion of race, or culture. It’s a marking of a state of mind – or mindlessness.. however you wish to see it. A state where one truly knows who he is in the ultimate form. This was an Aryan. An Arhant.
What I particularly respect, is that 6000 years ago, the sages of the Indus Valley never dated their divine writings. They saw the truth of timelessness, and the illusion of time – and saw no necessity to date anything. Because of this western historians to date have trouble tracking the history of Hinduism.
I’ll share an excerpt from Autobiography of a Yogi .. because this does well in explaining India as it was seen through the eyes of the greeks:
The Greek historians have left us many vivid and inspiring pictures of Indian society. Hindu law, Arrian tells us, protects the people and “ordains that no one among them shall, under any circumstances, be a slave but that, enjoying freedom themselves, they shall respect the equal right to it which all possess. For those, they thought, who have learned neither to domineer over nor cringe to others will attain the life best adapted for all vicissitudes of lot.” 41-6
“The Indians,” runs another text, “neither put out money at usury, nor know how to borrow. It is contrary to established usage for an Indian either to do or suffer a wrong, and therefore they neither make contracts nor require securities.” Healing, we are told, was by simple and natural means. “Cures are effected rather by regulating diet than by the use of medicines. The remedies most esteemed are ointments and plasters. All others are considered to be in great measure pernicious.” Engagement in war was restricted to the Kshatriyas or warrior caste. “Nor would an enemy coming upon a husbandman at his work on his land, do him any harm, for men of this class being regarded as public benefactors, are protected from all injury. The land thus remaining unravaged and producing heavy crops, supplies the inhabitants with the requisites to make life enjoyable.”
Intensely interesting stories have been minutely recorded by Greek historians and others who accompanied or followed after Alexander in his expedition to India. The narratives of Arrian, Diodoros, Plutarch, and Strabo the geographer have been translated by Dr. J. W. M’Crindle to throw a shaft of light on ancient India. The most admirable feature of Alexander’s unsuccessful invasion was the deep interest he displayed in Hindu philosophy and in the yogis and holy men whom he encountered from time to time and whose society he eagerly sought. Shortly after the Greek warrior had arrived in Taxila in northern India, he sent a messenger, Onesikritos, a disciple of the Hellenic school of Diogenes, to fetch an Indian teacher, Dandamis, a great sannyasi of Taxila.
“Hail to thee, O teacher of Brahmins!” Onesikritos said after seeking out Dandamis in his forest retreat. “The son of the mighty God Zeus, being Alexander who is the Sovereign Lord of all men, asks you to go to him, and if you comply, he will reward you with great gifts, but if you refuse, he will cut off your head!”
The yogi received this fairly compulsive invitation calmly, and “did not so much as lift up his head from his couch of leaves.”
“I also am a son of Zeus, if Alexander be such,” he commented. “I want nothing that is Alexander’s, for I am content with what I have, while I see that he wanders with his men over sea and land for no advantage, and is never coming to an end of his wanderings.
“Go and tell Alexander that God the Supreme King is never the Author of insolent wrong, but is the Creator of light, of peace, of life, of water, of the body of man and of souls; He receives all men when death sets them free, being in no way subject to evil disease. He alone is the God of my homage, who abhors slaughter and instigates no wars.
“Alexander is no god, since he must taste of death,” continued the sage in quiet scorn. “How can such as he be the world’s master, when he has not yet seated himself on a throne of inner universal dominion? Neither as yet has he entered living into Hades, nor does he know the course of the sun through the central regions of the earth, while the nations on its boundaries have not so much as heard his name!”
After this chastisement, surely the most caustic ever sent to assault the ears of the “Lord of the World,” the sage added ironically, “If Alexander’s present dominions be not capacious enough for his desires, let him cross the Ganges River; there he will find a region able to sustain all his men, if the country on this side be too narrow to hold him.
“Know this, however, that what Alexander offers and the gifts he promises are things to me utterly useless; the things I prize and find of real use and worth are these leaves which are my house, these blooming plants which supply me with daily food, and the water which is my drink; while all other possessions which are amassed with anxious care are wont to prove ruinous to those who gather them, and cause only sorrow and vexation, with which every poor mortal is fully fraught. As for me, I lie upon the forest leaves, and having nothing which requires guarding, close my eyes in tranquil slumber; whereas had I anything to guard, that would banish sleep. The earth supplies me with everything, even as a mother her child with milk. I go wherever I please, and there are no cares with which I am forced to cumber myself.
“Should Alexander cut off my head, he cannot also destroy my soul. My head alone, then silent, will remain, leaving the body like a torn garment upon the earth, whence also it was taken. I then, becoming Spirit, shall ascend to my God, who enclosed us all in flesh and left us upon earth to prove whether, when here below, we shall live obedient to His ordinances and who also will require of us all, when we depart hence to His presence, an account of our life, since He is Judge of all proud wrongdoing; for the groans of the oppressed become the punishment of the oppressor.
“Let Alexander then terrify with these threats those who wish for wealth and who dread death, for against us these weapons are both alike powerless; the Brahmins neither love gold nor fear death. Go then and tell Alexander this: Dandamis has no need of aught that is yours, and therefore will not go to you, and if you want anything from Dandamis, come you to him.”
With close attention Alexander received through Onesikritos the message from the yogi, and “felt a stronger desire than ever to see Dandamis who, though old and naked, was the only antagonist in whom he, the conqueror of many nations, had met more than his match.”
Alexander invited to Taxila a number of Brahmin ascetics noted for their skill in answering philosophical questions with pithy wisdom. An account of the verbal skirmish is given by Plutarch; Alexander himself framed all the questions.
“Which be the more numerous, the living or the dead?”
“The living, for the dead are not.”
“Which breeds the larger animals, the sea or the land?”
“The land, for the sea is only a part of land.”
“Which is the cleverest of beasts?”
“That one with which man is not yet acquainted.” (Man fears the unknown.)
“Which existed first, the day or the night?”
“The day was first by one day.” This reply caused Alexander to betray surprise; the Brahmin added: “Impossible questions require impossible answers.”
“How best may a man make himself beloved?”
“A man will be beloved if, possessed with great power, he still does not make himself feared.”
“How may a man become a god?”
“By doing that which it is impossible for a man to do.”
“Which is stronger, life or death?”
“Life, because it bears so many evils.”
Alexander succeeded in taking out of India, as his teacher, a true yogi. This man was Swami Sphines, called “Kalanos” by the Greeks because the saint, a devotee of God in the form of Kali, greeted everyone by pronouncing Her auspicious name.
Hinduism has one thing currently against it, which also, in a way, works for it…
It is one of the most heavily corrupted of all faiths – a sign, in a way, of how far corrupt every other religion can get. How badly we can miss the whole point.. I guess Christianity beats it though – perhaps by a little.. in so quickly having battered the message of Jesus. But the reason why it happened so quickly for Christianity is because the actual scriptures were .. what’s the word.. manipulated. Having finished this paragraph, I can no longer decide if one religion is more corrupt than another.
In Hinduism, however, the scriptures are intact. And yet, most hindus you will meet will have no idea about the essence of their religion. It is indeed covered in superstition, like a diamond covered in shit.
Now here’s the defining element for Hinduism. It is well aware that Creation is mono – it began as one… one Grand Thought… one insignificant thought.. either way… but it also recognises that that which you believe takes power. And so, Hinduism created a billion Gods… and each of these Gods came alive.
If you believe it exists, then it does.
So, what exactly is superstition, in the end?
I think to illuminate this little paradox, Naharjuna’s explanation of the three forms of reality is very useful:
On the first level, there is hallucinatory reality: Where, for example, you see a rope, and think you’re seeing a snake.
On the second level, there is practical or material reality: Where you see the rope and recognise it as a rope.
On the third level, is Ultimate Reality: Where you attain realisation, that there is no rope.
So, in the end, scientific investigation is the best way to discern the truths from the illusions – but by scientific, I don’t mean the secular socially constructed “what we say is fact” science that the west advertises so much.
I mean the science of meditation.
You can, in a way, think of reincarnation as much a folklore as ghosts.
Because in the end, you’re right here. Right now. Who gives a damn what you did in the past. The idea of psychology of working through your “past saddnesses” in order to be liberated is a fallacy – at most, a very slow process.
So what if you find out who you were in your past? What difference does it make?
I found out that I did some noble, saintlike deeds, but I also have commited acts of barbarianism. And I guess, so has everyone. It doesn’t change anything. Just as much as knowing about ghosts doesn’t change very much.
So, the question really is, What do you hope to achieve with Hinduism? If you’re looking for facts, the best place to find it is Within.
In the end, you will know your past lives… but you won’t care.
An excellent Documentary of Hinduism has been shared by a blogger here.