Harmony of Religions
Hindu sages declare
that there is no one religion that teaches an exclusive road to
salvation. All genuine spiritual paths are valid and all great religions
are like the branches of a tree -- the tree of religion. This doctrine
lays foundation for the Hindu ideal of universal harmony.
There is but one
Supreme Being, Who is absolute existence, absolute knowledge and
absolute bliss (satchid-ananda). He is both immanent and
transcendent, and both Creator and Un-manifest Reality. There is no
duality of God and the world, but only unity. God can be worshipped and
prayed in the form of a chosen deity (Ishta Devata) in the
temples and in the home shrines.
non-violence (in thought, word and deed), non-injury and non-killing.
The Hindu Dharma teaches that all forms of life are different
manifestations of Brahman. We must therefore not be indifferent to the
sufferings of any of the God's creatures. This doctrine creates love for
humans between themselves as well as with other forms of life and
encourages the protection of our environment.
Hindus believe that
wisdom is not an exclusive possession of any particular race or
religion. Hindu Dharma allows an individual to select a religious
discipline in accordance with one's own religious yearning and spiritual
competence. Hindu Dharma recommends the guidance of a spiritually
awakened master (guru) for attaining perfection in life.
Dharma is the law that
maintains the cosmic order as well as the individual and social order.
Dharma is of four kinds: universal dharma (rita), human dharma (ashram
dharma), social dharma (varana dharma) and individual dharma
(svadharma). All four dharmas together are called sanatana
dharma, the original name of the Hindu religion. Universal dharma
includes the natural laws associated with the physical phenomenon of the
universe, such as the laws of matter, science and planetary motions.
Human dharma means the human actions which maintain the individual,
social and environmental order. Social dharma is exemplified in human
actions associated with professional, social, community and national
duties and responsibilities. Individual dharma consists of individual
actions associated with one's individual duties and responsibilities.
The Hindu doctrine of dharma states that right action must be performed
for the sake of righteousness and good must be done for the sake of
goodness, without any expectation of receiving something in return.
Unity of Existence
Hindu sages have
declared that the cosmic energy is a manifestation of the Universal
Spirit (Brahman). The entire universe is a play between Brahman,
or the cosmic consciousness, and the cosmic energy. Brahman has become
all things and beings of the world. Thus we are all interconnected in
Law of Karma
The word karma
literally means 'deed or action,' but implies the entire cycle of cause
and its effects. According to the Law of Karma, every human action-in
thought, word, or deed-inevitably leads to results, good or bad,
depending upon the moral quality of the action. The Law of Karma
conserves the moral consequences of all actions and conditions our
future lives accordingly. We ourselves create our future destinies by
our own choices each minute. Every child born in this world is born to
work out its own past deeds.The doctrine of karma (karmavada)
is based upon the theory of cause and effect. According to this
doctrine, God is not responsible for the pleasure or pain of His
creatures. They suffer or enjoy owing to the consequences of their own
bad or good deeds.
The doctrine of
karma is actually the law of harmony and equilibrium. It adjusts
wisely, intelligently and equitably each effect to its cause. But, it is
also the law of opportunity, which allows an individual to change his
past for a better future. The past karma of an individual
consists of two parts, prarabdha karma and sanchita karma.
Prarabdha karma is the part of one's past karma which is
to bear fruit in the present life of the individual. Sanchita
karma is accumulated karma of the previous births, which is
to bear fruit in the future. Prarabdha karma of an
individual consists of two components: fixed and variable.
The fixed component of
karma is beyond our control and consists of that component of the
past karma which determines one's parents, the family and the
country in which a child must be born, the general features of the
physical body that the child will eventually develop and the social and
religious environment in which the child must grow. The variable
component of the past karma remains latent in the subconscious
mind of the child in the form of samskaras (natural habits and
tendencies). It is this variable part of the past karma that one
can overcome by initiative and free will. ]
particular incarnation is determined by the overall balance of past
karma. If the overall balance is positive (i.e. overall good
karma), the individual will be born in an environment that would be
naturally conducive toward the onward progress of his soul. In a
particular incarnation, only those innate tendencies (samskaras)
are manifested for which conditions are favorable in that incarnation.
Ultimately we must go beyond all karma, good or evil. The
greatest virtue does not seek to change the world or improve us but to
rest in harmony with the peace of what is.
According to the doctrine of predestination, everything happens only
according to God's will. Individuals do not have any control over
events. This doctrine appears to contradict the doctrine of Karma. Hindu
dharma however, accepts both the doctrines as valid. In the doctrine of
karma a person holds himself responsible for his actions, whether good
or bad. But through intense spiritual practice a person's mind can be
made to acquire higher and higher degree of purity. At a certain high
level of mental purity the spiritual aspirant feels that he is only an
instrument in the hands of God. At this high level of spirituality the
doctrine of predestination becomes the only valid doctrine.
The Four Ends of Human Life
The four ends of human
life are dharma, artha, kama, and moksha.
Dharma is the first human goal and forms the foundation for the pursuit
of the other three goals. Dharmic actions are those individual, social,
political, and professional actions which are based upon the four
virtues: truth, ahimsa, morality and ethics. Artha means
to earn wealth in accordance with dharma.
Kama is to
satisfy one's mental and intellectual desires in accordance with
dharma. Moksha denotes spiritual perfection, which is
attained automatically when one leads a life that is dedicated to
Every child born on
this earth is required to repay three debts in his (or her) lifetime.
The first debt is to God and the repayment requires regular prayers and
worship, and selfless service to all of God's creatures. The second debt
is to the sages and saints, who have revealed truths in scriptures. The
third debt is to one's ancestors, parents and teachers. To help
individual repay the above three debts, the Hindu sages have organized
life into four stages: studentship (Brahmacharya Ashrama),
householder stage (Grhastha Ashrama), retirement (Vanaprastha
Ashrama) and renunciation (Sannyasa Ashrama).
Death and Lokas
According to Hindu
dharma, when a person dies, his gross physical body (physical body)
is left behind and the soul with the subtle body (consisting of the
mind, intellect, sense organs, motor organs and vital energies) goes to
a different plane of existence. Such a plane of existence is called
loka in Sanskrit. Although popular belief is that there are three
lokas (svarga, martya and patala), the scriptures
speak of fourteen lokas, including the earthy plane (Bjurloka).
The lokas are Satyaloka, Tapoloka, Maharloka, Janaloka,
Svarloka, Bhuvarloka, Bhurloka, Atalaloka, Vitalaloka, Sutalaloka,
Rasatalaloka, Talatalaloka, Mahatalaloka and Patalaloka.
Among these, the first
six are considered the higher lokas, while the last seven are
considered to be lower lokas.
The Hindu dharma
says that the unfulfilled desires of departed people are primarily
responsible for their rebirth. The true reincarnating entity is the
causal body, wherein our karmic impressions are stored. It is
possible for one soul to take more than one birth at the same time,
either high or low. Less evolved souls may only experience a prolonged
deep sleep between incarnations. These usually incarnate into the same
location on earth and seek a similar life experience. Very advanced
souls may enter into a deep meditative trance and may reincarnate
Each human being,
regardless of religion, geographic region, colour or creed is in reality
atman clothed in a physical body. In the Hindu view, atman
(soul, self or sprit) is the source of the human will. Since atman
is divine and immortal, the human will is potentially powerful. An
individual is not born a sinner, but becomes a victim of maya
(cosmic ignorance). The true soul is beyond the mind and does not
function through thought. The goal of the soul in evolution is merging
into the divine of the inner Self. This brings about freedom from the
cycle of rebirth. The essence of life is to see our Self in all beings
and all beings in our Self. Each soul has to grow itself and must be
free to gain the experiences it needs. Any soul can turn around and move
to the truth. Liberation from the world is not abandoning the world but
merging into the world and beyond, becoming the all encompassing. This
state has been called by various names like nirvana, kaivalya, mukti
Moksha or Mukti
The ultimate goal of
Hindu religious life is to attain spiritual freedom called nirvana,
kaivalya, mukti or moksha i.e. freedom from the cycle
of birth and death in the phenomenal world or union with God. Mukti
or moksha is everything and nothing, everyone and no one. A
liberated soul possesses divine qualities such as purity, omnipresence
and omnipotence, and is beyond any limitations. Moksha is
automatically attained when one leads a life dedicated to dharma,
artha and kama.
Hindus believe that God
incarnates Himself on earth (avatara) to uphold righteousness
whenever there is a loss of virtue. The Bhagwad Gîta thus
declares, "whenever there is a decline of righteousness and predominance
of unrighteousness, I (God) embody Myself. For the protection of the
good and for the destruction of the evil-doers and for the
re-establishment of righteousness, I am born from age to age.
OM is the most
sacred symbol in the Hindu dharma. Aum (OM) is the sound of the
infinite. Aum is said to be the essence of all mantras, the
highest of all mantras or divine word (shabda) and
brahman (ultimate reality) itself. Aum is said to be the essence of
the Vedas and is considered as the sound of the Sun, the sound of Light.
By sound and form, AUM symbolizes the infinite Brahman (ultimate
reality) and the entire universe. A stands for Creation; U stands for
Preservation and M stands for Destruction or dissolution.
This is representative
of the Trinity of God in the Hindu dharma (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).
The three portions of AUM relate to the states of waking, dream and deep
sleep and the three gunas (rajas, satva, tamas) The three
letters also indicate the three planes of existence, heaven (swarga),
earth (martya) and netherworld (patala).