Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hindu learning

Lest you think my discomfort with organized religion is limited to Christianity, here's a Hinduism post. I am an equal opportunity faith out there satisfies me, so I keep trying to learn and write.

I've read the great survey of religion by Huston Smith, "The World's Religions." It overviews the 7 major religions in a thoughtful way. Let's jump right in to what he says about Hinduism.

Hindus believe we are not limited to our mortal brains or bodies. They think there is an infinite being (Christians would say the Godhead or Holy Spirit) within each of us. They think life should be about reaching the infinite (accessing our Godness) and there are four paths to do so.

The first is the way to God through knowledge. It's not just about learning or thinking, but is "rather an intuitive discernment that transforms, turning the knower eventually into that which she knows." When you learn, your knowledge is not the sum of the facts in your head; you assimilate what you know and become a changed property. Hindus work at realizing that the thinker possesses more than just her finite self. Knowledge is infinite. Those who believe we only use 10% of our brain see the possibility of expansive thinking.

Anyway, the author then says the thinking Hindu will reach a certain level of detachment from their finite self. As they learn, they will see the difference between "the skin-encapsulated ego" and the infinite potential, or God, in us. They will look at their life and day to day activities from the third person, as in "there goes Alice, going to the dentist and getting gas." She is a witness to her mortal life, watching "her unsubstantial history with as much detachment as she lets her hair blow in the wind."

"Seated in the dentist's chair, she thinks, 'Poor Alice, it will soon be over.' But she must play fair and adopt the same posture when fortune visits her and she would like nothing better than to bask in the praise she is receiving." Smith, p. 31, 32.

It's as if Hindus want to let life wash over them and reserve emotion about all of it. Instincts, guts, feelings, passion: that is all the domain of the mortal and it keeps us from our Infinite godness. We are passive, waiting for life to happen to us and acting as if nothing affects us.

I can't buy this detachment. It's yet another religion that rejects our human instincts in favor of a Godly standard of perfection. There is no ownership with this detachment, no heartache and no joy. This life, the gift that is this life, is relegated to a cheerless dress rehearsal ('it will soon be over'). How can our precious existence be called an "insubstantial history?" Why do we keep seeing the same theme in major religions....grin and bear it through this life and you will find your reward later.

This is all we've got people. There is no heaven or hell after death. You are substantial, your actions and feelings and triumphs and failures are precious and worthy. The human is the infinite, you are the God. To be fair, Hinduism has it right when they say "the knower turns into that which he knows." When you learn the truth about religion's limitations, when you lift the veil that religion has enrobed you in, You become God, you become your potential. "Then through a glass darkly, now face to face." There is no greater feeling than returning to this natal inborn knowledge. We just have to have the courage to make a clean sweep of the dusty outdated dogma that clouds our God-view.

I'll talk about the second Hindu path to God next week.

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God, to have these guys in a room together again....