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Dhamma, Dharma and the lack of God

This was a spur of the moment thing. As mentioned in the audio, I was getting tired of writing and have been meaning to delve into sound. The original was over 8 minutes, full of anecdotes from my studies in India (1987-89), which I felt backed up my points. Realizing, however, that the stories were situation dependent and, not wanting to be guilty of generalizing, I made some edits. I also edited some minor verbal stumbling that detracted from the flow but left enough in to keep it “live.”

The scant notes for this were hastily prepared: Two or three dates, scribbled down on a piece of paper… quickly memorized before recording. The rest is from memory, so there is some imprecision. Here are a few clarifying points that you might want to look over while listening:

One of the things I’ve realized about talking is that you can’t get too complicated. What I’ve said here is both general and incomplete. I’d be happy to further discuss any of the points made here in the comments area. It’s easy to be a coward and insult people behind their backs. Much harder to engage them in a positive way and see if maybe there was a bit more to their thinking than initially presented. 🙂

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Puranas – Diverse body of Hindu myth

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Indian pupils dressed as Hindu god Lord Krishna are restrained by a teacher after a quarrel as they awaited their turn in a fancy dress competition to celebrate ‘Gokul-Ashtami/Janmashtami’, the birth of Lord Krishna, at a school in Mumbai on September 1, 2010. According to Indian mythology and the Hindu Puranas, Krishna is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who took birth to kill his maternal uncle the evil king Kansa and free the people of Mathura and other nearby towns from his cruelty and save them from his evil clutches. AFP PHOTO/Indranil MUKHERJEE

In Hinduism the Puranas (Sankrit: old, ancient) are a rich and diverse body of mythology, detailing topics such as grace, retribution, homeopathy, cosmic cycles of destruction and rebirth, karma and karma transfer.

The Puranas originated in the Gupta period (4th century CE); they include the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Bhagavad Gita is part of the Puranic narrative and most scholars believe it is a later addition to the Mahabharata.

Although the Sanskrit root of the word “Puranas means “old” or “ancient,” the Puranas are not the oldest – nor are they held as the most authoritative – of Hindu Scripture. However, they are widely influential.

The Puranas include cosmos creation myths such as the Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean). These ideas spread to southeast Asia. It is represented in the Angkor Wat temple complex of Cambodia, and at Bangkok airport, Thailand (immediately above) – via Wikipedia

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Rajas – The active force in Hindu belief

Rajas is a Sanskrit term from the Samkhya philosophy of Hinduism referring to “excitement, action, passion or force.” It is one of the three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas), which together constitute all of the attributes of nature and the psyche.

Samkhya Yogi women who have taken celibacy vows and devoted their life to temple, idol of Ghanshyam Maharaj has been installed in Kalupur Swaminarayan temple and served by Sankhya Yogi women devotees.

Rajas is not to be confused with Raja (a king or prince). However, a monarch is likely to be well endowed in qualities traditionally ascribed to rajas. Saints would be stronger in sattva. And sloths in tamas.

Rajas also refers to a mysterious force said to be contained in vaginal fluid, which some yogis allegedly take inward through the urethra to facilitate mystical union. This may seem like a strange claim, but one has to remember that some yogis apparently perform unusual or amazing feats involving a level of mind and muscular control beyond the reach of most of us. Couple this with the Hindu belief in essential male and female forces, and the practice becomes more understandable.

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Skandhas

Important to Buddhist belief are the five skandhas or “aggregates of attachment” said to be the source of all suffering. The skandhas are:

  1. matter or form (rupa)
  2. sensation (vedana)
  3. perception (samjna)
  4. mental formations (samskara)
  5. consciousness (vijnana)

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Taken together, the five skandhas contribute to the impermanent personality and the illusion – so Buddhists believe – of individuality.

Impermanent and subject to change, skandhas may reappear from one life to another. But this reappearance is discontinuous, like an old candle burning out with a new candle being lit (a common Buddhist analogy used to try to illustrate the belief in discontinuity).

Whether or not one agrees with every aspect of Buddhist teaching, the skandhas offer a conceptual alternative that could be applied to a critique of the Hindu view of reincarnation.¹

The two religions of Buddhism and Hinduism may seem similar at a glance. However, Buddhism clearly differs from the Visistadvaita school of Hinduism because, for Buddhists, the soul too, and not just its attachments, is usually seen as illusory and without permanent existence.

¹ See, for instance, Reincarnation: A New Look at an Old Idea – Part 3.

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Jainism

Structure of Universe as per the Jain Scriptures.

Structure of Universe as per the Jain Scriptures (click for larger image) via Wikipedia

Jainism [Hindi jina: conquerer] is an apparently non-violent Indian religion, founded by Vardhamana Mahavira (c. 540 BCE).

Jains believe in karma, reincarnation and asceticism. They practice a strict form of ahimsa. Some monks wear masks over their faces so as to not injure insects while breathing. And Jain priests delegate others to cook for them so as to avoid the sin of killing micro-organisms.

Critics see this practice as hypocritical. However, monks and Nuns also wear masks and sweep in front of themselves as they walk to avoid harming insects.

The goal of Jainism is to become a Jin, a perfectly liberated soul. And their extreme pacifism comes from the belief that every living creature possesses a soul.

Today’s estimated six million Jains reside mostly in India; they worship in temples, shrines and privately at home.

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