Hinduism is the main religion of India, having evolved over several thousand years.
It has no creed nor firm institutional structure, although the belief in reincarnation runs through almost every form of Hinduism.
Instead of revering one holy book like the Bible or the Koran, Hinduism relies on a variety of sacred scriptures. The oldest are the Vedas (1500-1200 BCE), with the Rig-Veda being prominent among them.
Later, the dharma sutras and dharma shastras appear (500 BCE – 500 CE). These ancient codes of conduct, numbering over 5,000 separate titles, were composed in Sanskrit. They spell out rules and regulations for a wide variety of situations. And they legitimized the caste system and the ideal Hindu stages of life (asrama). They were legally binding in India until contrary legislation appeared in 1955-56.
The Upanisads (1000-600 BCE) are an introspective set of scriptures dealing with the eternal self and its relation to temporal life.
Also important are the two epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. While the Bhagavad-Gita belongs within the Mahabharata, most scholars believe it is was added later to the epic, crystallizing various strands of existing Hindu belief.
The most important gods of the Trimurti (Skt. = three forms, sometimes loosely translated as “Trinity”) are Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Preserver) and Siva (Destroyer and Cosmic Dancer). But many other deities, called avatars, and their consorts are privately and publicly worshipped (e.g., Krishna-Radha, Hanuman, Ganesha, Kali).
In some strands of Hinduism the Buddha is believed to be a demonic avatar. This is probably because Buddha’s teaching challenged the Hindu priestly and caste traditions.
From the 1800′s, the Indian gurus Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekenanda, Sai Baba, Sri Aurobindo, Paramahansa Yogananda and Sri Rajneesh have been prominent. Meanwhile the Indian poet, dramatist and musician Rabindranath Tagore pioneered an innovative, internationally based ashram-style university at Santiniketan and Mohandas Gandhi, who championed the Bhagavad-Gita, has been internationally known as a key political and spiritual figure.
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The English word Christ is derived from the Greek term, Khristós, meaning annointed or the annointed one. Christians believe that Jesus, “the anointed one” is the only Son of the Old Testament (OT) Lord, Yahweh.
Born miraculously by God’s intervention through the Virgin Mary, Jesus was raised by Mary and his foster father Joseph. According to the New Testament (NT) account, Christ fulfills OT prophecy by dying on a cross in order to redeem mankind from the original sin of Adam and Eve.
The following OT passages are said to prophesize the coming of Jesus: Psalm 132:17, 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Daniel 7:13-14. The OT books of Isaiah, Hosea and Jeremiah are also regarded as blueprints for later NT ideas.
Most Christians, Catholic and Protestant, agree that Christ belongs within the Holy Trinity of The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. Some thinkers see this Trinitarian aspect of Christianity as a weak or invalid type of monotheism.
Gnostic Christians, on the other hand, generally see Christ as a manifestation of the Good Light of God, something everyone can attain within oneself, despite living in an essentially evil world.
Some contemporary Hindus, those who see themselves as liberal or progressive, might see Christ as an avatar—one among many incarnations of God. Whereas traditional Hindus would tend to see him more as an, at best, partially liberated messenger. This is because traditional Hinduism clearly outlines past and future avatars, and Christ isn’t on that list.
Muslims say Christ is a prophet but not the Son of God.
Contemporary Jews often see Jesus as a good, peaceful man but not the Messiah, whom they’re still waiting for. Both Jews and Muslims take exception to the idea that a man could be equal to God.
Generally speaking, non-Christian religions tend to directly (or subtly) repudiate the claim that Christ is the unique Savior of Mankind. While it’s often regarded as not okay to criticize non-Christian religions, Christianity is quite accustomed to receiving the harshest, most severe criticisms from all corners. And the historical fact of the crusades, inquisitions, and the sexual abuse of minors (and the Catholic Church’s sheltering of those who are guilty of this crime) doesn’t help matters much.
Christ says that he doesn’t come to destroy but to “fulfill” the Ten Commandments of the OT. So, according to the NT, the two most important commandments, from which all of the others hang, are:
- Love God
- Love one another
This positive take on OT laws is found in the Gospel of Matthew:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”†
† Matthew 22:36-40 (New International Version) http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A36-40&version=NIV
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Popular images depict him riding a white horse with wings known as Devadatta (God-given.) In these images, Kalki is brandishing a sword in his left hand and is intent on eradicating the corrupt destitution and debauchery of Kali Yuga.¹
Modern interpreters of the Kalki story tell of various prophecies, often linked with their own particular religious beliefs. But probably nobody knows just what this old Puranic prophecy means, and whether or not it contains more than a mythic significance.
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Sankara (c. 700 – 750 CE)
Hindu philosopher, mystic and theologian, born in Kerala, India.
Sankara is an outstanding figure in Indian history who advocated Advaita Vedanta. His commentaries on scripture such as the Baghavad-Gita and Brahma-sutras outline the Advaita philosophy, which teaches the non-duality and absolute identidy of atman and brahman.
Sankara was highly critical of the Buddha and is often held responsible for driving Buddhism out of India. In his commentary on the Brahma-sutra, he writes
The Buddha exposed for the sake of instruction, three mutually contradictory doctrines, either having manifested thus his own incoherent garrulity or his enmity towards all living beings, having erroneously assumed that they would be confused.†
Indeed, Sankara and his followers regarded the Buddha as an evil avatar since he tried to sway the masses away from the sacred Veda.
But some Hindu philosophers interpret this in an overall positive light by saying the Buddha’s apparent deception restored balance as Hindu priestly functions were becoming too hypocritical and elitist. » Atman, Brahman, Moksha, Ramanuja, Scholarship, Self, Visistadvaita
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In Hinduism Vishnu is the second deity of the Hindu Trimurti (i.e. triad) of Brahma, Visnu, and Siva.
He rides the great eagle Garuda with his consort, the goddess of prosperity and good fortune, Lakshmi, at his side.
Hindus believe that the universe passes through endless cycles of creation and destruction.
While Brahma is seen as the creator of the universe, Vishnu is the benevolent preserver and Siva is at times regarded as the cosmic destroyer.
Vishnu is said to have had nine incarnations (avatars) on Earth, including Krishna. The tenth avatar, Kalki, is yet to come and will ride on a white horse.
It is believed that Kalki will reestablish dharma in our present age of alleged moral decline, the Kali-yuga.
On the World Wide Web
- The incarnations of Visnu at http://www.sanatansociety.org/hindu_gods_and_goddesses/vishnu.htm
» AUM , Avatar, Underworld, Visistadvaita, Yuga
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Adi Da (aka Free-John, Da 1939- ) Originally Franklin Jones, Adi Da is an American guru born in Jamaica, New York. He has also gone under the names of Da Free-John, Bubba Free-John and Heartmaster Da.
Adi Da claims to have reached enlightenment at age three years. In their Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult, Mather and Nichols note that this achievement did not last. In his college days Adi Da explored different forms of hedonism, to include LSD and open sex.
To this criticism Adi Da replies that his activities were an essential stage within his path of discovery.
Adi Da also says he is an incarnation of the Brahman. Like many New Age enthusiasts, he denigrates organized forms of Christianity. And like most Hindus and devotees of Hinduism, Adi Da counters the Christian claim that Jesus is the only son of God.
For Adi Da Jesus is one of many avatars or “incarnations,” not unlike that which Adi Da, himself, claims to be.
But Adi Da is not just critical of organized Christianity. He, in fact, contests all organized religions, claiming the truth of the spiritual quest may be found in one’s own heart.
To realize this apparent truth, veils of selfishness and ignorance must be recognized and dispelled.
Ironically, his California group gatherings and North American tours exhibit many of the characteristics of organized religion, with Adi Da at the center.
Listed in several cult and manipulation internet indexes, Adi Da has founded the Free Communion Church/Dawn Horse Fellowship and Laughing Man Institute.
While claiming to be beyond any particular system, he studied under and has theological affinities with several Hindu gurus, the most salient affinity being the belief in reincarnation. It has also been suggested that he possesses psi abilities and can read the thoughts of his disciples, an alleged ability known as siddhis in Hindu and Buddhist belief systems.
Some call Adi Da a religious genius, others a profound theologian and yet others suggest he’s the head of a “dysfunctional organization” for sincere but sorely misguided seekers (Source » http://www.adidaarchives.org ).
On the World Wide Web:
- http://www.adidam.org/ (Official web site)
- http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/misc/adida.cfm/ (Mixed opinion)
- http://guruphiliac.blogspot.com/2005/06/big-adi-daddi.html (Negative opinion)
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In Hindu thought, God comes to earth to restore order whenever morality becomes too imbalanced.
Jesus Christ is sometimes seen as one of a series of avatars.
In orthodox Hinduism, there are generally ten avatars of Vishnu.
The first is Matsu, a fish. His story parallels that of Noah‘s ark.
For some medieval Hindus like Sankara and his followers the Buddha is regarded as an evil avatar since he tried to sway the masses away from the sacred Veda.
But Hindu philosophy also interprets this in an overall positive light. Not entirely unlike the Christian idea that God permits evil for a greater but not immediately apparent Good, many Hindus say the Buddha’s deception restores balance as Hindu priestly functions were becoming too hypocritical and elitist.
Hinduism, however, teaches that those who persistently continue to be deluded by evil are on a path to hell-but not forever, as with Christianity. This is because Hindus believe in reincarnation.
The Ten Traditional Hindu Avatars are:
- 1. Matsya: the fish
- 2. Kurma: the tortoise
- 3. Varaha: the boar
- 4. Narasimha: the man-lion
- 5. Vamana: the dwarf
- 6. ParashuRama: the axe wielder
- 7. Rama: Rama of the Ramayana
- 8. Krishna
- 9. Buddha
- 10. Kalki: the white horse, yet to incarnate
An avatar is also a term used in cyberslang to denote “a digital representation of a participant in an online environment” (Jonathon Keats, Control + Alt + Delete: A Dictionary of Cyberslang, Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2007, p. 11).
This, of course, is a graphical – as opposed to an audio or textual – representation, such as the small icons visible in the “Recent Comments” area at this web site.
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