Hindu mysticism and scripture
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2008-09-23
The September 2008 visit to Singapore and Malaysia included a television presentation on What is Hinduism. Only a Hindu would say: "I'm of all religions." Mysticism, the personal experience of God is mainstream in Hinduism. Scripture: the Agamas, without which we couldn't have puja, the Vedas, the only scripture common to all Hindus. Soul destination. Liberation is achieved when all karmas are resolved and God is fully realized. Live life moving toward the goal of moksha.
Good Morning everyone. Nice to be back. We were twelve days in Singapore and Malaysia. Very fruitful trip.
In Singapore, the group there, the Hindu Center, they teach quite a few children. It's decided that our publications are very helpful in their teaching program so they're planning to acquire a number of them including I think, some fifty copies of What is Hinduism, planning to promote that in a broad way. So, we're looking forward to working with them on each trip through Singapore and providing them with something they can use in their teaching program, either something printed or a DVD, something that their teachers will find valuable.
In Malaysia we entered the realm of promotion, I think the first time we've really promoted the seminar on a large scale. So we ended up on television for one thing. To me, it's new the idea that you can promote Hinduism on television in Malaysia. It's just a new idea. Didn't use to be that liberal. Only religion on television in Malaysia used to be Islam but Hinduism has it's place now, so we were part of an hour show. It's a channel that primarily runs programs from India from Sun TV which is the channel of course, which our silpis watch all day, when they're off, Sun TV. Lots of Tamil soap operas, whole morning's worth. So, there's a program that we were on is one hour program, interviews. The program's in Tamil so that in our slot they also had Kuppusamy our kulapati there, senior kulapati, explaining things in Tamil. He would be asked questions in Tamil and then I would be asked different questions in English. So we weren't just translating, it was more interesting than that. So, lots of people saw the television show; we also had a small add in one of the major newspapers which brought in lot of response. So, altogether we had, about a thousand people came to the seminar which is the most we've ever had by far. They packed the hall, people couldn't even, the hall got so full no one else could come into the hall. So, who knows, maybe another thousand walked away, but I doubt it.
I asked them: "How many haven't been to one of our seminars on 'What is Hinduism' book before and about two thirds hadn't been before. So, only some three hundred plus people had been there before and six hundred some were brand new to the teaching. So that was interesting to find out so that helped me to shape some of my comments in an introductory way so that it wasn't assumed that anything was known by anyone.
So as part of the seminar What is Hinduism we have one section on, based on Chapter 1. Chapter 1 contains within it two of Gurudeva's talks: Hinduism The Greatest Religion In The World and The Joys Of Hinduism. Both of them are there.
As you know Gurudeva created the talks some, early eighties probably, some twenty five years ago. Not for Hindus to go around and bang non-Hindus on the head and say: My religion's the greatest in the world, it's better than yours. You know, that wasn't the idea even though it sounds like that maybe. "Hinduism the greatest religion in the world." It's more to take the idea and reprogram your own attitude toward Hinduism if you're a Hindu. So it's to increase Hindu pride in Hinduism. That Hindus are the only religion in the world that some of, some Hindus will say: "I'm of all religions." When asked: "What religion are you?" "I'm of all religions." So of course, if someone says that, you know they're a Hindu. No one else would say that. And they're just not proud enough of their religion to say: "I'm a Hindu." So, Gurudeva wrote the talk to try and increase Hindu pride by explaining the major reasons it's a great religion. So I think there's about six different reasons in there, that Hinduism is a great religion. So each time I take one of the major reasons and develop it as a full topic.
So, in this presentation, some mysticism. Hinduism is a great religion because of it's system of mysticism or personal experience of God. Gurudeva talks about it extensively in the Hinduism, the Greatest Religion. He says things like: In Hinduism mysticism is mainstream or out front, it's part of the main religious thrust. It's not off on the side and looked at or tolerated as a practice. If you really want to be a mystical thing you can go off on the side and here do this. Like Sufism is off on the side of Islam, for example. So I couldn't say that in Malaysia. Datuk Vaithialingam prepped me before the talk. He's the president of the Malaysia Hindu Sangam. Don't talk about two things, Islam, don't mention the word Islam. And don't talk about current politics. Cause Malaysian politics is like a soap opera. If you miss one day you don't know what happened. You don't know who's Prime Minister, who's Assistant Prime Minister, did the opposition take over the government, you know. You have to watch every day, the news, otherwise the whole government could change on you while you're on vacation. So, had to avoid those two topics which I did.
So, that's the point of, that Gurudeva makes is it's mainstream meaning: It's well documented, it's a common practice, a Hindu sees someone meditating and they know what it is. They know he's meditating. They may not meditate themselves but at least it's understood: This is meditation, this is a core practice within our religion.
And the two other main topics. We went through scripture. Scripture is very nicely explained in What is Hinduism with lots of great illustrations and there's two common misunderstandings of scripture that are addressed. The first is the Agamas. Well the Agamas are scriptures that provide all the details of temple worship, at least in the South Indian style. Everything regarding puja, homa, the construction of the temple, the installation of the murthi is all documented in the Agamas. Without the Agamas couldn't have puja. So, why is it that the Agamas are commonly left off lists of scripture in Hinduism? It's very strange. I think cause the lists of scripture are compiled by scholars perhaps. But there's so many traditions that right out front say: There's two shruti: Vedas and Agamas, two forms of shruti. Vedas are common to all and the Agamas depend on your particular denomination. So in Saivism there's sixty-four and in the South Indian tradition of those sixty-four, we have twenty-eight. So there's twenty-eight Saiva Agamas that are part of our spiritual tradition. As part of our effort to get the Agamas into their proper place we're also promoting them in Hinduism Today. When we started in Hinduism Today, I don't want to say that. A few years ago in Hinduism Today we created a page for the Vedas to emphasize the Vedas as Hinduism's common scripture. And now we're using the same page occasionally for the Agamas as an educational resource. Any Agama, not just Saiva Agama. So in the current, in the October issue of Hinduism Today, we have something from the Vaishnava Agamas, for example. Putting that forward to increase awareness of the importance of Agamas in Hinduism.
The other misconception regarding scripture comes up occasionally at conferences in the U.S. Everyone gets excited and enthusiastic and wants to do something. And so they want to put a Hindu scripture in all the hotel rooms in America cause we've got our own hotel chain, right. It's called the Patel Hotel chain. Huge number of hotels in America are owned by Hindus not all of whom are Patels. So let's put a Hindu scripture in the hotels of America. It should be the Bhagavad Gita, that's what gets said. And so, what's wrong with that? Well, that's what the presentation explains. It explains: Well there's four denominations of Hinduism. To Vaishnavas and to Smartas the Bhagavad Gita is smriti or secondary scripture. But to Saivites and Shaktas the Bhagavad Gita is not secondary scripture, it's not shruti, it's not part of the scripture that they follow. So, if you want a scripture that represents all Hindus the only one scripture is the Vedas. It's the only common scripture that all denominations of Hindus have is the Vedas. So you'd have to limit your scripture, scriptural choices to the Vedas. Otherwise, you have to chose from a variety of scriptures representing different denominations and make sure each denomination's key scripture is in there somehow. So that's clarifying cause the Gita gets put forward quite often as a common scripture, mistakenly. Then the third section, the major section from What is Hinduism was on Hindu family life. It's a great chapter with good pictures from What is Hinduism. So we tied it into the purusharthas and the two paths in moksha. Moksha as the, say the unique element of the Hindu approach to life. In other words the religious approach to life. All religions have some goal in mind for the soul. That's what makes religious people different from other people. If you're a religious person you're concerned about the soul and it's destination in the afterlife in terms of getting reborn. You know, there's a concern about the soul in that regard. So Hinduism's concern about the soul is described as moksha or the soul is stuck in a pattern of reincarnation until it achieves moksha and different Hindu denominations have slightly different concepts of moksha. Gurudeva's concept is beautifully defined in the lexicon of "What is Hinduism as well as the Trilogy, and we, as we know it is twofold. Liberation is achieved when all karmas are resolved and God is fully realized; something like that is what it says. So it's just not a question of realizing God, it's a question of resolving karma. So, that's why we emphasize the control of karma or we have the article Karma Management just to make a fun term. Managing our karma in a conscious way or thinking carefully about our actions and how are actions are either letting us resolve the karmas that come to us from the past or when they come we create a new one. All too often individuals, when karma comes, instead of accepting it and letting it go, retaliate in some way and that creates a new one. So our sum total karma isn't changing, we're just carrying forward the karma with changes slightly. But we don't resolve it. So understanding the importance of resolving karma as it comes is crucial to achieving moksha.
Then I give my, my usual joke on: I found a way to put an audience to sleep in five minutes, do you know what it is? That's to talk extensively about moksha. Everyone likes that. Because already, when I bring this subject up you know, you can say: Oh moksha, oh what. So I explain that moksha is hard for people to relate to. It seems so futuristic or something for monks to worry about. Well here I am, just trying to get through life and handle all my problems, you know. Why should I bother about moksha? Then I explain: Well moksha is the goal. And we need to make sure we're moving toward the goal. There's no point of living a life that 's not moving toward the goal. So we need the goal in mind to make sure what direction we're going in life even if we're not close to it. Are we heading toward it or are we moving away from it? Like that. So, it talks about the actions which help us move toward moksha which is just any kind of religious practice: virtuous service, devotional, meditative. Any kind of practice on a regular basis definitely means we're moving toward moksha.
So those were the three main topics I presented from the book. And it was well received. I think the vibuthi line, the book signing line was two hours. Every time I look up the line's the same length because the line goes out the door, you know. It's a single line, single file line that goes out the door so it stops at the door. So after an hour you look up and it's still going out the door, hour and a half it's still going out the door. It's not getting any shorter. Anyway lots of happy people got vibuthi and a number of books were sold. Everything: Lemurian Scrolls, pocket books, hard cover Trilogy books, What is Hinduism. There wasn't any particular one book that sold. I thought more What is Hinduism would sell. Unless we ran out which I don't think we did. There was a wide variety of books that came up for signature. I really don't know how many were bought and walked out the door without getting signed. So that was interesting. It was the first time we've advertised like that and brought in a broad group. Everyone's excited about doing it again a year from now.
Had a nice satsang in Malaysia. We didn't have one in Singapore because we were there two weeks before, had a second satsang in Singapore, well we skipped it. Plus Dohadeva's, was it father or mother died. Mother I think. Dohadeva's mother had passed on the day before so his house was where we had the Satsang. So the satsang in Malaysia filled the house and the courtyard and a few on to the street. So that's about as many as you can get cause you can't block the street.
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