Now, Dr. Hiro G. Badlani brings you Hinduism: Path of the Ancient Wisdom, an easy-to-understand guidebook that delves into Hinduism's spiritual and historical perspectives. For more than ten years, Dr. Badlani has passionately channeled his resources and inner reflections into learning about this ancient religion. His meticulous research, combined with guidance from spiritual masters, sages, and swamis has brought forth in this volume.
This mini-encyclopedia covers all aspects of Hinduism in a series of small chapters. Spiritual teachings form the book's core, for without the spiritual teachings, what function can any religion play? Still, however, information is presented in a non-dogmatic manner, stressing the basic unity and homogeneity of all religions.
With its powerful narrative and roots in spiritual storytelling, this book is perfect for anyone who desires authentic information on Hinduism. Engaging with this book will not only educate you, but imbue you with personal peace and happiness, becoming an experience both elegant and empowering.
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Path of the Ancient Wisdom
By Hiro G. Badlani
iUniverseCopyright © 2008 Dr. Hiro G. Badlani
All rights reserved.
The World of Cosmic Consciousness
Unlike the Western concept of linear time, the Hindus accept time as cyclical, with neither beginning nor end. At first, the concept of the Vedic kalpas (time units) might seem absurd, but when these figures are compared with modern astronomical scientific data, it is amazing to notice the patterns of similarity between the two. How could it have been possible to discover all this without any technology, without instruments, and without any computers? Ancient Hindu seers, or Rishis, who are credited with having invented the zero and decimal phenomenon, seem to have had a deep insight of cosmic events, based on the fundamental principle of harmony.
Although some scientists now concur with the viewpoint that the universe is eternal, most accept the modern scientific opinion that the whole cosmos was created by a "big bang" about 18 billion years ago. Our solar system was created 4.5 billion years ago. The solar system is a part of a larger galaxy of stars, the Milky Way. If we were seated in a spaceship zooming at the speed of light—186,000 miles per second—it would take 100,000 years to traverse from one end of the Milky Way galaxy to the other.
There are billions of other galaxies of stars like this one. Hindu scriptures have given stunning descriptions of these infinite, countless solar systems (brahmands) in the cosmos. The galaxies have been there from eternity. But the most surprising thing is that all these stars, their satellites, comets, and other phenomena are positioned with a faultless precision. Just by the direction and size of the shadows, we can calculate the time of day up to a fraction of a second. The ancient Hindu Rishis studied these complex astronomical structures minutely, giving the world authentic and deep knowledge of astronomy and astrology.
The Hindu Vedas also mention the time periods as kalpas. The time periods mentioned in these Vedic kalpas defy our imagination. One large time-period kalpa consists of 1000 smaller units, known as mahayugas. The current mahayuga is further subdivided into four parts:
Satyayuga period: 1,728,000 years
Tretayuga period: 1,296,000 years
Dwaparyug period: 864,000 years
Kaliyuga period: 432,000 years
The total age of the current mahayuga is calculated as 4,320,000 years.
The present period of time is kaliyuga.
The mythological significance of the various periods has been explained as:
Satyayuga represents age of total purity.
Tretayuga represents age of three-quarter purity.
Dwaparyuga represents age of half purity.
Kaliyuga represents age of total impurity.
Hindu Rishis stated that there are eternal cycles of evolutions, or srshti, and dissolutions (pralaya) taking place in the cosmos. Modern science is only now coming to grips with this understanding of the cosmic phenomenon. Even rocks, which are millions of years old, have a pattern. We can calculate the age of a rock by patterns of deposits through the millennia. A tree leaf has a unique design that has been constant for ages. This harmony and rhythm compels us to believe that our universe is built on a most solid foundation and that there is a supreme power, which regulates the universe. All these milky pathways of billions upon billions of stars have been in existence and have functioned for uncountable millennia. They existed before any religion came, before the earth was formed, before Lord Rama or Lord Krishna came, before Hindu Rishis or sages came, before any human being walked on the earth. The Rishis, however, recognized this cosmic phenomenon, and they called it Brahman—the transcendental, the supreme, the eternal soul, which pervades everything, everywhere, at all times. The world is there, and we are there because of this source of power behind us. In fact, all our power and intelligence is simply extended to us from this eternal source. The concept of universal Brahman sowed the seeds of spiritual unity. In modern times, this concept of Hindu thought has been vindicated by the use of the term panentheism, which is associated with many ancient religions and describes the Divine as the immanent principle of the entire cosmos.
Human beings have now started to realize how tiny a particle of this vast infinite cosmos of the Divine they are and should not, therefore, become arrogant about their own accomplishments and achievements, however big they might be. The ancient Rishis also recognized the utter vulnerability and weakness of man. They recognized the futility of man to depend upon his ego. They compared man to a wave of the ocean; it rises and moves because it is with the ocean. Separated from it, the wave will perish in a moment. They compared the man to a whiff of air, to a bubble of water, to a speck of dust, and to a grain of sand. Again and again they reminded mankind to be vigilant. They reminded man to strive to remain in connection and union with the source, the eternal God. Hindu Rishis sang and wrote thousands of hymns in tribute to this supreme power.
Union with the Divine, or yoga, as it is translated, is man's avowed final destination, according to the Hindu philosophy. The Rishis taught that man can benefit only by accepting this authority of the Supreme Divine with grace and humility; that his best interest lies in becoming a compliant member of the cosmic family of the Supreme. He should therefore not become antagonistic to others; rather, he should choose a path of reverence and service to all beings. He should abandon the way of hatred and adopt the way of love and respect.
All religions teach the same thing in different ways. They teach that man must accept God in his own best interest. Pramukh Swami, the spiritual head of the Swaminarayan sect, who has personally supervised the erection of over five hundred elegant Hindu temples throughout the world in addition to many other philanthropic activities, was asked how he managed to do so much, despite his advanced age. He replied, "I completely trust the Supreme Lord. As I trust that the sun will rise in the morning and set in the evening, I trust that all things of life will be done with His grace. I don't take any responsibility of the doer-ship on my shoulders. I simply work as per His instruction." This simple spiritual attitude has yielded miraculous results, not only for Hindus but also for the saints, sages, and even ordinary people of all religions and all cultures throughout millennia.CHAPTER 2
Earth and its solar system started to form around five billion years ago. Life came into existence soon after, first in the form of plants. The earliest living creature on Earth was a single-celled organism. For more than three billion years, there were only these single-celled marine organisms. Then more complex aquatic and land animals appeared.
The Indian subcontinent was formed from glaciers about forty million years ago. Where there are now the mighty Himalayas, there once were oceans—there is evidence of fish fossils in the rocks of the Himalayas.
Man descended from apes around six million years ago. This is the time he started to walk on his two hind limbs; that is, he became a biped. The first appearance of man was in the Sahara region of the African continent. From there, man moved to the east, west, north, and south.
Man is superior to other beings because of his highly developed brain. This organ has billions of specialized neurons and neurological pathways with which we think and can use our free will. Before this development, beings functioned only through instinct. The human brain, however, did not develop in one single step. The modern brain came into existence only forty thousand years ago. The main feature aspect that differentiates our brain from that of our early ancestors is its capacity to restrain our instinctive behavior—the activity of the lower brain—by its voluminous gray matter, which is much less developed in lower animals. The human brain has over fifteen billion nerve cells, called neurons. It is believed that only 10 to 20 percent of these are ever used. This in itself offers a great potential for further human development.
Hindu Rishis seem to have acquired an intuitive knowledge of this evolutionary process. The first four incarnations of Lord Vishnu were in the forms of the matsya (fish) avatara, kurma (tortoise) avatara, varaha (boar) avatara, and nru-singha (half-lion and half-man) avatara. The next incarnation of the vamana (dwarf) avatara also points to the short stature of man in the earlier periods.
Many of God's emissaries, or devtas, also have been depicted in other animal forms, such as cow (gaoo-mata), bull (nandi), cobra (naag), bird (garud), and monkey (Hanuman), etc. When understood in context, although it might have looked comical to an outsider, worshiping these animal gods is, in fact, pertinent and even rational. They are all our ancestors and forefathers in a way!
More than that, this viewpoint that animals are our ancestors would pave the way for the Hindu philosophies of compassion, non-violence, vegetarianism, and ecological protection. In ancient times, Hindus did partake of animal meat—many Hindus still do. But over the course of time, an awakening evolved that considered animal killing as sinful. In fact, such a forceful surge erupted that a large section of society opted to follow the new faiths of Jainism and Buddhism to comply with these ideas and abolish the old rituals of animal sacrifice. A Hindu is taught to see God in all beings. As a symbolic gesture, he is asked to keep a portion of his food aside to be served to animals and birds every time he sits for his meals. Millions of Hindus perform this ritual religiously, even today. What appeared to be so awkward—to bow before a passing cow—now has earned a grand dignity. Hindu thought recognizes that all creatures have a sense of feeling.
There are two main views in Hindu philosophy, the Advaita and the Dvaita. According to the Advaita philosophy, every being, human as well as non-human, is the manifestation of one Divine. There is unity among all beings and even non-beings. Thus, nothing and no one is the other person or the alien. According to the Dvaita philosophy, there also are no strangers, enemies, or aliens. In this philosophy, however, man is not the same as the Supreme God. He may consider himself as a wave of an ocean but not the ocean itself. There is a subtle difference, but the link of spirituality is maintained in both. In no case is there any feeling of vengeance, hatred, or malice. Violence may be a last resort, after exhausting all other avenues of correction, but even the violence needs to be perpetrated with compassion and good will.
Our most respected modern saint, Dada Jashan Vaswani, says, "The twenty-first century belongs to these innocent, dumb animals. If we cannot take enough care of them and protect them from cruelty and violence, we ourselves are doomed." Indeed, this is a beautiful thought for mankind.
Hindu scriptures the Upanishads have emphasized the oneness of all creation. We cannot possibly stop wars in our world until we remove the feelings of duality and polarity toward other creatures. It may seem impractical or a tall order to think on these lines today, but tomorrow belongs to this sacred philosophy of cosmic unity. Human civilization has walked a long distance in order to accept women, the downtrodden, ethnic minorities, and exploited people on equal terms—an acceptance that would have seemed quite odd and impractical only a century ago. Now, it is the turn of these dumb beings.
Hindu scriptures have many sacred hymns in which God is worshipped for showering His bounty on all the beings of the universe. One such hymn reads:
Om Sarve Bhavanthu Sukhina
Sarve Santhu Nira Maya
Sarve Bhadrani Pashyanthu
Ma Kashchith Dukkha Bhaag Bhaveth
May all be happy
May all people be healthy
May all see only auspicious things
May none suffer
The Origin of Religion
God created man, and then man created religion. The first human beings walked upright as recently as six million years ago; that is, man walked on his two hind limbs instead of on all fours, as his ancestors had. Religion, however, came into being less than ten thousand years ago.
Hindu Rishis had an ingenuous approach toward religion, or dharma, as they would call it. They conceived that when a thing or being is created, its dharma is imbedded in it. For example, the dharma of fire is to burn. Hindu sages then meditated long to discover the dharma of man, the manav dharma. They conceived dharma as the inherent duty in accordance with the laws of the cosmos.
Excerpted from Hinduism by Hiro G. Badlani. Copyright © 2008 Dr. Hiro G. Badlani. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
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Table of Contents
ContentsGrateful Acknowledgments, xi,
The Influence of Hindu Philosophy on Thinkers throughout the Ages, xvii,
Preface: Why I Wrote This Book, 1,
1. The World of Cosmic Consciousness, 3,
2. Evolution, 7,
3. The Origin of Religion, 11,
4. Roots of Hinduism in the Ancient Cultures of India, 15,
5. Ancient Hindu Scriptures—An Ever Flowing River of Knowledge, 21,
6. Vedas—The Foundation of Hinduism, 29,
7. The Spiritual Teachings of the Vedas, 35,
8. Essence of the Vedic Philosophy, 39,
9. Vedas through the Passage of Time, 45,
10. Upanishads—Culmination of the Vedas, 51,
11. Spirituality in Everyday Hindu Life, 57,
12. The Secret of the Hereafter, 61,
13. The Code of Conduct, 65,
14. Consciousness—Cosmic Intelligence of the Divine, 71,
15. Soul—The Seed of Divinity77,
16. The Divine PaThof Virtue, 81,
17. The Hindu Trinity (Trimurti), 87,
18. Shiva—The Mystic Divine of Meditation, 91,
19. Sri Rama—The Lord of Propriety, 97,
20. Victory of Righteousness over Unrighteousness, 101,
21. Mahabharata—The War Within, 105,
22. Bhagavad Gita—The Song Celestial, 109,
23. The True Detachment (Vairagya), 113,
24. The Yoga of Action (Karma), 119,
25. Journey of the Spiritual Soul, 125,
26. Idol Worship—The Plethora of Gods, 131,
27. Goddesses in Hinduism—The Icons of Female Power, 137,
28. A Few More Spiritual Stars, 143,
29. Jainism—Renunciation and Nonviolence, 151,
30. Spiritual Teachings of the Mahavira, 157,
31. Buddhism Emerges, 163,
32. The Spiritual Teachings of Buddha, 169,
33. Srimad Bhagavatam—A New Trend in Hinduism, 177,
34. The Spiritual Teachings of the Srimad Bhagavatam, 183,
35. Srimad Bhagavatam—Continued Spiritual Teachings, 187,
36. Srimad Bhagavatam—Continued Spiritual Teachings, 191,
37. Hindu Renaissance—An Era of Sri Adi Shankar Acharya, 195,
38. The Era of Bhakti Yoga—The Golden Period of Devotional Faith, 201,
39. Sikhism—the Youngest Religion of the World, 209,
40. Sikhism—the Spiritual Teachings, 213,
41. Hinduism in Modern Era—Spiritual Masters of the Recent Period, 217,
42. Hinduism in Modern Era—Spiritual Masters of the Recent Period, 225,
43. Hinduism and Science, 233,
44. Meditation—The Spiritual Practice, 237,
45. Yoga—Union wiThthe Divine, 245,
46. Guru and the Holy Company (Satsanga), 249,
47. Ayurveda—The Most ancient Medical science, 255,
48. Vegetarianism—the Compassionate Way of Living, 259,
49. Hindu Society Today—the Dynamic Patterns in Motion, 265,
50. Hindu Wedding—Nuptials for Eternity, 271,
51. Hindu Mythology—The World of Sacred Fantasies, 277,
52. Symbols and Icons in Hinduism, 281,
53. Hindu Customs, 285,
54. Hindu Festivals, 293,
55. Hinduism and Interfaith—The Future Trends in our World, 299,
56. Hinduism and Fine Arts, 305,
57. The Evolution of Hindu Temples, 309,
58. The Abode of God is the Heart of Hinduism, 315,
59. A Pilgrimage through India, 319,
60. Hindu Temples in the United States and Canada, 329,
61. Hindu Temples in the Rest of the World, 337,
62. Hindu Prayers—The Trail of Divine Unfoldment, 341,
63. Hindu Prayers—The Ocean of Spiritual Pearls, 345,
Conclusion—A Legacy for Hindu Youth Diaspora, 353,