The videos included in this post are the two mentioned in comments from the post before this. They are somewhat lengthy talks (as far as YouTube videos go) by a Doctor from the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies.

I this first video, which is the longer of the two, the speaker details pretty well how vast the collection of Hindu scriptures is and goes into some detail about selective Hindus can be in identifying which scriptures they will or will not adhere to. I found this interesting because it’s one of the aspects of the practice of Hinduism that I think really sets it apart from the other major world religions.

With many of the other major world religions there can be found a prevalent habit of picking-n-choosing which holy literature is most valid or applicable to today’s living. In their context (the context of the Abrahamic religions, for example), however, believers are quite literally talking from both sides of their mouth. They’ve already attributed ultimate sanctity and supreme authority to their holy texts and maintain that claim all the while they select which parts of the same text support the current goal or focus. Naturally, this leads to contradiction and hypocrisy – which I have found to be inherent in Abrahamic religions, specifically. You end up with a religion saying one and ONLY one text is holy (Only the Bible, or only the Q’uran), and then in that same text find them pointing to words that say you should kill someone wearing clothing made from cotton-polyester blends or who eats shrimp (Leviticus) while ignoring other parts of the same textual body that says we should love people as much as we love our own self (New Testament).

In Hinduism, according to the video, Hindus have an historic tendency to abandon entire bodies of scripture when then become irrelevant or create situations like the one mentioned above with the Abrahamics. An example cited in the video is of Gandhi’s stance on widow remarriage. The Manu Smriti / Dharma Shastras are clear that widows are not allowed to remarry. But this was challenged in a big way. Another example was that of wives seeing their husbands as gods – despite poor behavior on the husband’s part, including things like adultery. The speaker was among a group of Hindus and asked the women present about if they do this or would be willing to, and laughter was the answer he received in addition to a lady who went so far as to say that scripture was evil. For Hindus, it seems, the relationship to scripture is sacred insofar as the scripture itself makes sense and serves the purpose of benefiting the greater good, otherwise the scripture risks losing its sacred status in a very real way.

This next video is one in which worship itself is discussed a bit more. The speaker still touches a bit on scripture and its value, but relates it the actual process of worship within Hinduism. He points out that there are different varieties of Sanskrit, some of which are so poorly understood that there are yet words in our Vedas the meaning of which is not likely to be known ever. I appreciated this video because he discusses what murti wrship really means and does so in an intelligent way. He provides answers to some common questions that probably most Hindus would agree on and speaks some about the differences of belief within Hinduism in regard to prana, pranaprathistha, whether the murti is actually god or just the carrier, whether we really are in the presence of god when a murti is worshipped or whether we might be just as effective worshipping the god-amsha within instead. And I also really liked how he was knowledgeable about the Vedas and other better-know Hindu scriptures in regard to how little they actually “support” murti worship.

These videos are definitely informative and an overall good resources that may well answer a few questions for the wondering mind. If you have a free hour, or so, I would encourage you to watch these. If they don’t change your mind on one thing or another, then they may well at least help you understand the larger Hindu picture. It’s probably not entirely what you think.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti


Rules I’m Likely to Ignore, #348.76

So, I’ve been working on a book. Reading one, that is. I’m trying to get a few out of the way in the coming weeks, so that I can tackle reading a work of fiction (unusual for me to read) that was suggested by a pal. One of the books I’m working my way through currently is “Loving Ganesha,” by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. I like the title a lot because loving is meant to be both an adjective and an adverb. As you might guess, knowing that, the book details how Ganesha is a loving deity as well as how one might express love toward Ganesha.

The book is a gem to me. For starters, of all the shaivite literature I own this author is among the few who manage to convey concepts that are big and small alike in a manner that makes either easily digestible. This book in particular details many aspects of Ganesha, His lore, His background, His worship, and a ton of other things. The book holds about 550 pages, and in Chapter 12 I find myself about half way through.

Where I am now is mentioning some specifics of Ganesha worship and a few traditions surrounding it. One topic touched on is when it’s general unacceptable for one to enter a temple room or engage in puja. One such time is during a woman’s monthly cycle. Apparently, she’s supposed to avoid engaging in or attending puja or making of prasadam. She is still permitted to perform lots of other religious or spiritual activities, just not making prasadam or taking part in puja. In very traditional Shaivite homes, there is often a separate living quarters for a woman during this time, at the conclusion of which she burns any clothing that might have her blood on it, puts on a new garment and rejoins the household. Similar expectations apply to any member of the house who is injured in any form beyond a minor cut or scratch. The author cites esoteric reasons pertaining on one’s aura and susceptibility to asuric influences. Apparently, the person who this might apply to should also not be permitted to go to the actual temple either, although family may go there on that person’s behalf.

I don’t have to worry about a physical monthly cycle, but men do experience cyclic hormonal fluctuations not entirely unlike those of women. Further, I don’t like this notion of being so phobic of blood. Blood is, literally, an inherent part of any human’s physical existence. We don’t have a choice in this, and superficially speaking, I don’t think something a person has no choice in should be held against them. Also, I can only imagine what the physical menstrual cycle feels like for a female and that misery alone seems punishment enough. Barring them from worship goes too far for my taste.

Nothing in what I’ve read so far indicates anything close to “original sin,” a deplorable concept that permeates Abrahamic religions, but I think this notion that exposed blood is bad kind of hints at it – at least in my own interpretation. The reasoning that the person is more open to asuric influences seems counter-intuitive. Maybe I don’t understand Hindu worship as deeply as I suppose, but my heart-of-hearts tells me that any time someone is weaker than normal, for any reason, darshan would be good medicine. If someone can adequately explain to me how my thinking is misguided in this instance, I’m happy to think again. Otherwise, for now, all are equal and whole before my Ganesham and in His sight.

Om Tat Sat