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Author Topic: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions  (Read 516 times)

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Offline BlytheTopic starter

Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« on: March 06, 2013, 01:02:48 PM »
Okay, this is a topic I like to speak about.

First, let me start off with a quote:
"The Sanskrit word moksha derives from the root muk, which has many connotations: to loosen, to free, release, let loose, let go and thus also to spare, to let live, to allow to depart, to dispatch, to dismiss and even to relax, to spend, bestow, give away and to open. Philosophically, moksha means “release from worldly existence or transmigration; final or eternal emancipation.” But moksha is not a state of extinction of the conscious being. Nor is it mere unconsciousness. Rather it is perfect freedom, an indescribable state of nondifferentiation, a proximity to, or a oneness with, the Divine.
Moksha marks an end to the earthly sojourn, but it may also be understood as a beginning, not unlike graduation from university. Apavarga and kai valya are other apt terms for this ineffable condition of perfect detachment, freedom and oneness."
--from "What Is Hinduism?" Chapter 3: god, soul and the world, page 38.

I've heard a lot of varied debates about Hinduism, and I'd like to stay that for me, this quote has some significance. In my world religions class a few years ago, my professor mistakenly told me about how the liberation of the soul takes place at the expense of the individual, that identity is lost. This quote, I believe, proves it is not entirely true. Yes, there is a nondifferentiation, a closeness to the Divine that eradicates physical individuality, but the soul continues. The soul opens and expands. I always wanted to interpret this idea not as the death of individuality, but as the expansion of the personal consciousness, the soul as it would be if it could know all other souls.

Any ideas to contribute, anyone? I'm open to including other religions in this discussion.

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Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2013, 01:36:15 PM »
Like many East Asian religions, Hinduism at its core believes that along with the physical state of reality and action, there also exists an indescribable energy pervasive through all beings and existence as a whole.  Hindus refer to this as a ‘divine’ energy that represents our origins.  In my perspective, our current state as living beings is a compartmentalized form of some of that repository of energy.  In other words, our soul, free-will, and conscious mind are intangible and represent that divine energy – and is merely compartmentalized or restricted within our physical bodies for the time that we are alive. 

The concept of ‘moksha,’ like you quoted, is not an extinction of the conscious mind, but merely a re-uniting of our internal energy back to where we originated from.  In other words, it is freeing our minds from the restrictions we impose on it from our physical bodies.  Meditation is very related to this – as it represents allowing our internal energy to supersede the emphasis we place on the physical realities in our life – at least for a moment.   

Hinduism is a unique religion in the sense that while there are unifying principles within all of its sub-belief systems, they manifest themselves different.  The more traditional Hindu concept of “moksha” is essentially analogous to the god Brahma, found in polytheistic Hinduism.  Brahma is seen as the Creator god – who created all other gods.  In other words, in polytheistic Hinduism, Brahma represents the ever-present repository of energy, from which all of our souls originate.

I wholeheartedly agree with your statement that, “there is a non-differentiation, a closeness to the Divine that eradicates physical individuality, but the soul continues.”  In fact, I don’t even see the loss of physical individuality as being an unfortunate element.  If anything, it is a constant reminder to me that every living being on Earth possesses a soul that is essentially made from the same source of energy as my own.  While our physical beings might create walls between us while we are living, achieving the state of “moksha” – or “nirvana” in East Asian philosophy, is essentially a unification of all life.

Offline BlytheTopic starter

Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2013, 02:42:52 PM »
Let's take a moment to note the resemblance to Buddhism. I think it's worth exploring, as Buddhism influenced so much during its inception, development, and spread.

Another quote:
"Now human beings are constantly giving off physical and spiritual forces in all directions. In physics we learn that no energy is ever lost; only that it changes form. This is the common law of conservation of energy. Similarly, spiritual and mental action is never lost. It is transformed. Thus Karma is the law of the conservation of moral energy."

This is from this link, which I found interesting and informative, although grossly short and oversimplified: http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/reincarnation.htm

This idea of karma being the "recycling" of moral energy is appealing, but tranmigration isn't as much a factor in Buddhism as it is in Hinduism. So I'd like to pose that, in Buddhism, we see a something more akin to what my old professor mentioned--something closer to the loss of individuality; I saw it as a huge dividing chasm between the two concepts.

To be trapped in samsara, in ignorance, is this synonymous with identity and individuality? This is something we see in both religions, and I feel as if the two deal with it slightly differently. If we look at one take on Nirvana in Buddhism:

"Nirvāna is meant specifically—as pertains gnosis—that which ends the identity of the mind (citta) with empirical phenomena. Doctrinally, nibbāna is said of the mind which "no longer is coming (bhava) and going (vibhava)" but which has attained a status in perpetuity, whereby "liberation (vimutta) can be said." "  From Wikipedia (link): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana#Buddhism

This more directly states the death of an individual, the "death of the mind." So is there room for individuality in Hinduism but not in Buddhism? Thoughts?

Sorry if my arguments aren't as fully fledged as they should be. I'm a little rushed and sleepy.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2013, 03:14:08 PM »
Not sure if you've seen it, and it's a slightly different (but related) topic, but there's a thread on Taoism that you might find interesting:

http://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=74038.0

We briefly went into the similarity between Eastern philosophies and physics - specifically quantum physics - in the later pages.

Offline BlytheTopic starter

Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2013, 03:23:11 PM »
I will go look at that thread, Oniya. It seems very fascinating. Once I read it and get some updated ideas, I'll revise and add to what I have in this thread to make it more comprehensive.

Offline BlytheTopic starter

Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2013, 10:01:20 PM »
All right. Oniya, I decided to take the time out to read the entirety of that thread. I found it informative, enjoyable, and a touch out of step with what I am familiar with about Eastern philosophy and religion. Taoism has never been my strong point.

But the mentioning of quantum physics within that thread leads me to discuss a bit of that with the idea of reincarnation in mind--that thread was rather inspiring.

I found this article to be helpful in clarifying my thoughts below:
http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2009/07/everymans_guide_to_quantum_the.html

All possibilities occur in divergent parallel universes contained within a multiverse. Within this multiverse, if we use string theory, there are one-dimensional points that are so small that distance and size become almost the same thing. It is, perhaps,  the simplest state of existence. If this is true, what I contemplate is what is mentioned in the above article, that perhaps our souls (he claims "minds" in the article, but the mind and brain are the same and easily explained with biology) are a way of implementing order in chaos. What if our soul is a one-dimensional expression that allows us to impose order in an ultimately meaningless state?

What if that one-dimensional point, unburdened from a body that exists in three dimension, our soul, is what we return to and come back again from? We migrate back to a simpler dimensional existence where concepts such as individuality have no meaning. And in that point, where distance and size do not have meaning, souls return again to one another, experiencing the ultimate moment of what is divine?

That is all for now. I'm sorry if this all comes off as science-religious nonsense babble. I'm not sure I have a strong grasp on the concepts I mentioned, either. I had to do some online looking to get it simplified.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2013, 10:11:55 PM »
Well, technically, a point has no dimensions - it just 'is' - which is still very much in keeping with what I've read of Eastern Mysticism.

I've seen something like that, only kind of 'backwards', if you'll forgive a little math-babble.  What if the soul is actually something of higher dimension that intersects the physical realm for a while before withdrawing?  Just as a cube can look like many different shapes as you pass it through a plane, the soul could take on a variety of forms, from birth to death, and even be connected to other souls on that higher level (the way that your hand could look like five circles if put through a plane, but is still one 'thing'.)  And, it could even make multiple trips through the physical realm, possibly presenting a different 'cross section' each time.

Offline Caehlim

Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2013, 06:53:29 AM »
Any ideas to contribute, anyone? I'm open to including other religions in this discussion.

Does that include secular thought? Because I'm not religious, but I found your original quote quite moving.

I'm a big believer in transcendence. There are many problems in life that are a result of unnecessary conflict, either internally against yourself or between people, nations or other groupings. Not all problems, not by a long shot, but I believe that if we overcame these unnecessary conflicts we could focus all out attention on solving those real problems out there.

I think that the best possible future for mankind would involve embracing the sort of empathy and understanding that your post described.

I also believe that you could reach such an enlightened state without losing all individuality. If everyone was 'enlightened' I think we would still have differences between ourselves, we just wouldn't let it get in the way of communication and understanding.

What if that one-dimensional point, unburdened from a body that exists in three dimension, our soul, is what we return to and come back again from? We migrate back to a simpler dimensional existence where concepts such as individuality have no meaning. And in that point, where distance and size do not have meaning, souls return again to one another, experiencing the ultimate moment of what is divine?

Interesting ideas and what ifs has brought science to the wonderful place that it's at now and will be at the heart of future discoveries. But it's important that you don't go looking for the ideas you already believe in in science. That's not how it works. You have to look at the universe objectively without trying to read ideas you're familiar with into what you're seeing.

Offline BlytheTopic starter

Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2013, 12:04:35 PM »
Thank you, Oniya The idea works better the way you suggest it, the idea of a soul expanding and connecting. I suppose I thought of it the other way around because to me, losing certain individual aspects of myself would seem like shrinking, but that is, obviously, my own (mis?)interpretation of such an idea. I also suppose the reason that removing it to a set 1D point was that if you looked at the idea of the multiverse, hypothetically all souls can overlap at that one point in each multiverse, creating a kind of connection, but I didn't type that earlier, and I should have.

And Caehlim, secular thought is always welcome. I am an atheist, and I enjoy secular and religious discussion. The reason I discuss religion, though, is because I'm looking to find something beautiful in religious expression, even if I do not believe in it. I'm looking for those truly spiritual aspects of a religion, so I can admire the concept and beauty, the way an artist admire a particularly good work. I doubt I'll ever convert, but since becoming soured on religion, I have tried not to let I affect how I interact with other religious people. Hence finding beauty even in things I do not believe.

But onward to what you mentioned in my original post: for me, the concept of embracing and knowing all souls is exactly what I always felt the divine experience should be. Perhaps I will sound a little...odd...but what appealed to me about moksha was that...divinity was much closer and much more intimate. It does not constrain, for one of the meanings of moksha means to free, the eternal emancipation. This idea of freedom appealed to me.

I know that in Hinduism, they do believe it is possible to reach that state still alive. It is often referred to, I think, as "the death without dying."  Essentially, it's a Nirvana state. But the whole point of reaching it early to to guide others along the path.

I'll be a little more careful about looking at things subjectively; mostly it was an errant thought that I was curious about, as I had done a lot of reading and wondered if the transcendence idea could be applied to a study of dimensions. But I haven't studied things like that very long, so I may still flub here and there. I hope this won't upset you. I'm new to debating/intellectual discussion on a forum.

But another thought occurs to me: the idea of reincarnation, specifically. Supposedly, if you follow this ideology, if you fail to acheive that Nirvana, that karmic balance in your life, you are still bound within the samsara, the cycle of ignorance and pain. So...living a mortal existence is like a punishment?

It's an idea that blew my mind.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2013, 12:14:53 PM »
Well, despite being an otherwise very logical person, I do believe in reincarnation.  However, I also believe that where you 'spend eternity' is where you ultimately believe you will, good or bad.  So, if you're a devout Christian, and believe that you've lived a good life and when you die, you'll walk up to the Pearly Gates and get your wings, halo, and harp - that's where you'll be.  If you're someone who believes that you've lived a wicked life and will end up in a lake of brimstone, then there you are.  If you believe that you die and 'that's it', then that's what happens.  If you believe you'll end up in Valhalla, drinking mead and fighting to the 'death' in between feasts - Huzzah, pass the horn!

Me, I'm getting on the ride again.

Offline BlytheTopic starter

Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2013, 12:36:43 PM »
Oh, Oniya, if you haven't read the fantasy series of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, then you should. Within the series, the Grim Reaper often takes people to their afterlife...but it's different for everyone. The character known as Death has hinted throughout the series that what you believe is what you get. He also mentions that while it isn't fair, nothing is in fact fair, except maybe him. The best book to pick up and read regarding that series is "Small Gods." It's a parody of the Spanish Inquisition and a parody of Greek philosophy, and I think you would find it fabulous, particularly the idea that gods do not exist without belief, that belief is the food of the gods.

If I were to ever convert, it would likely to be a faith of Eastern origin. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism have all had their appeal, but I wanted to do more research on them. Although...Taoism is really more a philosophy than a religion,  seems.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2013, 12:54:10 PM »
Pratchett is one of my favorites. :-)  Along the same lines of the 'gods do not exist without belief', I have to mention one of the classic Star Trek episodes:  Who Mourns for Adonais?.  (Yes, science fiction has shaped a number of my personal philosophies, but I'll number Clarke's Law among those influences.)

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Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2013, 12:57:06 PM »
No discussion of gods-require-belief stories would be complete without mention of American Gods and Anansi Boys, for that matter.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Hinduism and Other Eastern Religions
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2013, 01:05:51 PM »
And if you bring Gaiman into a conversation involving Pratchett, you have to mention Good Omens;D [/hijack]

I'm a bit of a strange bird when it comes to religion.  I'm an eclectic polytheist by nature, but my relationship with my religion is not the 'You must do what God/dess says or suffer', but more of the 'Hey, got a problem that you're better at than I am.  I'll remember you - you remember me - we're good!'