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A heritage the world mostly ignores

Goddess Ganga. A Nepali peinting via Tumblr

Goddess Ganga – a Nepali painting
via Tumblr

Renowned as a land of colour, the home to Yoga and Buddhism, and a curious range of sciences but ostracised as being third world with unacceptable levels of poverty and crime, yet India has a long heritage that few appreciate.

India was home to the worlds first civilisation with cities, water supplies and sewerage systems while Europeans were still living in caves at the end of the last ice age.  What we call as India today is only a fraction of its former land area. It was never a nation in the modern sense, but a collection of nation states stretching from Persia to the Pacific including much of central Asia, and all coexisted in cooperation for a collective well being.

India has a long history of pluralism that pre-dates Christianity and Islam, and pre-dates all “secular” governments.  Over the last 2,000 years when most countries have been at war over religious ideology and the enforcement of conformity, India gave shelter to the dispossessed and the refugees of hatred. Jews, Parsees (Zoroastrians) and even Christians came to India to avoid persecution. And what did they find?

With the notable exception of the Mughal invasion, genocide and forced conversion to Islam, and the Portuguese Christians doing the same for Christianity in Goa, they all found relative peace. India is a place  where, except for rare occasional conflicts, the various Dharmic religions of Hinduism (Vaisnavism, Saivism, Shaktism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, etc. all lived in relative peace.

Even today, India is one of the world’s safest countries in which to live because the Indian people are grounded in a reality that helps them to be tolerant and inclusive of others. In fact they have been tolerant to their own detriment as on many occasions hundreds of millions of Hindus have died at the hands of extremist invaders.

Can anything even remotely similar be said about any of the Christian or Islamic countries for the last 2,000 years? It’s only in the last century that most Christian countries have stopped murdering people for being the “wrong” kind of Christian or wrong colour, and most modern Islamic countries are still battlegrounds.

But India is home to a different way of understanding life and coexistence that was established long before the Biblical date of creation.  The way of seeing life and what some refer to as Hindu religion or Hinduism was widespread across the world before Greece and Rome became forces to be reckoned with. What we call as Hinduism spread not by the sword, but through human kindness and understanding.

Hinduism and the sciences

Hindus know that existence is within

In terms of definition, the meaning of the word yoga equates to the achievement of enlightenment, yet we call it the path. What we call as Hinduism is the science of yoga applied for the well-being and continuation of civilisation in harmony with nature.

Western civilisation dominates and manipulates nature for profit whereas Hinduism integrates and cooperates with nature. It is quite clear that the Western model is failing us because if we want to maintain our current level of comfort and technology we already need several more planets to supply the materials to meet our needs.

Some of the technologies we use today were developed in India thousands of years ago. Some technologies like aircraft were never developed because they foresaw that over time such machines would be detrimental to life on earth. But while India remained an agrarian country, they explored the globe and gained a level of scientific knowledge that today’s modern scientists are still struggling to come to terms with.

The Hindu model of science is inclusiveness whereas the Western model is dissection and the study of things in isolation. Western scientists are beginning to arrive at places that Hinduism had already discovered thousands of years ago and when modern scientists get stuck, they turn to Hinduism for the answers.

After all, it was the Buddha who first described the internal components of an atom and we must remember that the basis of our language and mathematics came from India, and most of what we attribute to the Greeks and Arabs originally came from India.

At the core of Hindu understanding is the knowledge that we can only experience existence inside our own minds. Our five senses feed information to our brains and it is our brain or thinking mind that determines how we perceive.

So when today’s scientists like Stephen Hawking attempt to define the nature of life and question if life has any purpose, Hindus are quietly amused because they know that they are life and they are life’s purpose.  But perhaps one of the saddest things is that modern science although it relies heavily on ancient Hindu knowledge does not actually acknowledge the scientific achievements within Hinduism because those achievements were made through direct observation and not the modern scientific method.

Hinduism and yoga as solutions to world problems

Yoga is the science of life, it is about paying attention to detail and acting accordingly in a way that only generates positive karma. Hinduism is the integration of yoga into daily life in such a way that happiness and joy become one’s normal state of being.

Just think when did you last feel really happy or joyful. So many people I know are happy on payday and then they go back into a state of tolerable misery for the rest of the week. Western civilisation has made happiness the result of external circumstances and many have come to the conclusion that there is never any real peace of mind.

Yet within yoga and Hinduism, peace of mind is the foundation of life, if you’ve not found peace and a source of happiness within yourself, you are not yet completely human.  Most people suffer this internal discomfort and when it’s too much to bare, we have a wide range of medications to ease the pain and enable people to subsist. It’s ironic that the wealthy Westerner is so unhappy and the impoverished Hindu is very happy. This is because we are looking at life the wrong way.

The science of yoga does not require that you twist your body in any particular way it’s mostly about relaxing and paying attention and then acting on the results to improve your life.

Hinduism or to more correctly say Sanatana Dharma is about creating a relaxed lifestyle so that the nature of life can be appreciated. Many people look at Hinduism and they see it as a system of polytheistic beliefs, but that is incorrect.

Within Hinduism there is the central idea that there is only one God who is the source of all life. But God is dual with both masculine and feminine aspects, therefore God is neither male nor female, but both. It is only from a Hindu lifestyle that millions of people have come to know this as a fact through their own personal experience and consequently an equitable society was created and flourished prior to occupation.

There are many Hindus today who have not realised this and many are content to believe. But one of the key facts about Hinduism is that beliefs are not necessary, all that is needed is a relaxed attitude and an inquiring mind. Also there is no intermediary between any individual and the divine.

In Christianity and Islam, religion is structured so that for the ordinary person to know God, they must work through the church and the priesthood who will then intercede with God on their behalf. This of course is a service that must be paid for and many churches today have us believe that the more you give to the church, the more you get back from God.

In Hinduism, generosity to others comes very naturally but there are no fees to give to any church though in Hinduism there are temples instead of a churchs. Churches are typically places to pray and ask God for favours, but temples are places to go and recharge your internal battery and become more inspired. There are no fees to pay but in well-maintained temples, the energy is so strong that the people feel filled with joy and they are happy to give some small token.

Within the temples and in the homes of many Hindus we see the images of many deities. Many people think these are gods that people pray to for favour, but in reality these are technological objects. We must remember that what we consider as God, the nature and force of life is inherent throughout all existence.

This means that God exists in each and every cell of your body, in the breath take in and the breath you breathe out, and even the substance of your thoughts. God also exists within inanimate objects because even the stone or a piece of plastic contains that creative principal because without it, it would not exist.

The Hindu deities which we see as pictures or statues represent elements of life

shivaThe image of Shiva (right) serves as a reminder of the inclusiveness of life, the images of Shiva and his wife Parvati serve as a reminder that it takes two to tango and that our existence is dual in the sense of positive and negative, yin and yang, inner and outer, masculine and feminine. In other words, the two go together and there is no one without the other.

In a way the deities all serve as tools or a technology to help us integrate what we see as our life and the world around us. So while the Western world looks to dominate and commercialise nature, Hinduism is about becoming one with nature. Dominance eventually leads to the death of one or both whereas unity ensures the collective survival of all.

India has been weakened by 1000 years of aggressive occupation and today it continues to be attacked socially and economically. But Hinduism if you like is the flower of India and as we know, and for 300 years Westerners have been going to India to soak up its wisdom and gain their own immortality. In a way, some of the great yogis from India like Paramahamsa Yogananda who taught yoga in the West and all the travellers who have flocked to India in recent years have spread the seed of yoga and Hinduism.

Yoga has become a great corporate enterprise in the West and become somewhat distorted from its true purpose yet purely by chance some people get what yoga is and they prosper. On the other hand, Hinduism has also taken root and growing in the hearts and minds of millions of people.

Those who take Yoga or Hinduism and find it works not only find peace of mind but an internal source of joy and wisdom that is not dependent on any external phenomena. This has nothing to do with wearing Indian clothing, it’s more about bringing yourself to a state of being where instead of enduring life or as some say ‘doing life’, life becomes a continual celebration.

As Western market forces destroy nature by clearing the forests and ploughing up the flower beds to make way for profitable enterprises, Hinduism offers salvation and a sane lifestyle although it’s hard to see at first because Western civilisation appears solid yet it has no real foundation. In contrast, Hinduism looks a bit crazy, but it’s build on a rock solid foundation. Where are you building your house?

Bryon Morrigan
To respect Hinduism is to Respect Our Ancient Roots and the original post

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