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


Arjuna’s Imbalance

ArjunaLast Sunday, the nuclear physicist who gave the discourse at my temple spoke on the topic of darshan. He mentioned what the actual definition of it is, as well as how loosely the term is tossed around these days. In his discourse, he mentioned that in the middle of the Bhagavad Gita, which is pulled from the middle of the Mahabharata, Arjuna received Vishwaroopa-darshan by means of Sri Krishna. He also noted that darshan typically doesn’t (or shouldn’t in its original meaning) apply to being in the presence of holy people. No matter how revered your guru might be, that individual is still a human person and as such is no more a part of God than you or I. I suspect that this knowledge plays a big part in why Hinduism is the only major world religion which doesn’t point back to one human founder. In reality, when we do things like guru-pada-puja we’re not technically worshipping the guru or his/her paduka/sandals. As with all other Hindu worship, what is actually worshipped is what the image represents, the Presence it holds during the puja. But all of that is truly neither here nor there.

Not long ago, I was reading a newly-bought version of the Bhagavad Gita with verse-by-verse commentary provided by Swami Chinmayananda. Chinmayananda is a really great teacher, I think. I’ve seen videos of his live speeches and read some of his works, and his approach to Self-Realization seems to be really balanced. On that note, I really enjoy the format/layout of this particular Gita, although I’m typically not fond of Gitas like this one or the purport-full one so popular with ISKCON because I find them to be more than a little slanted. The interpretations offered in these purports reminds me of the bias found in differing versions of the Christian Bible. With that in mind, I’ve usually resorted to collecting various translations of the Gita as well as Sanskrit dictionaries and when I do a study of a shloka, it usually involves pulling numerous books from my shelves and cross-referencing like you wouldn’t believe. The result, which I’ve grown to trust increasingly over time, is that the Guru usually guides me instead of relying on a guru. But that also is just about neither here nor there.

Right now I have literally twenty different Gitas from twenty different backgrounds/sources.

While reading the Swami Chinmayananda translation with commentary, I discovered an idea that I’d missed until now. Arjuna was a really messed up individual. In many circles, whenever he’s mentioned, it’s usually in reverence. Usually Arjuna is presented in a bhava of compassion. He’s so bothered by the sight of seeing family and friends on the opposing side of the war that he literally crumbles before it all.

I don’t buy it. I mean, yes, he crumbles, but Arjuna is emotional and out of control with those emotions. That’s it in a nutshell. Chinmayananda suggested that Arjuna is delusional and filled with immense levels of attachment. According to the swami, Arjuna physically exhibits symptoms of psychological imbalance and unrest -as much is mentioned by Arjuna himself in the Bhagavad Gita. Although it escapes me, modern psychology actual has a word/diagnosis for Arjuna’s psyche/body exhibition. The man was not well.

Arjuna may well have been a fabulous Kshatriya, but aside from being a skilled and respected killer of humans, he was a veritable mess. The scientist giving the discourse I mentioned earlier is far more knowledgeable than I am on the Gita and the Mahabharata, and he was of the mind that Arjuna had good reason to know that Krishna was more than “special.” And yet he was pretty much blind to this. He received counsel from Sri Krishna and repeatedly argued with it. Then, after explaining so much to him, Sri Krishna gives Arjuna “second sight” and revealed His universal Form, Vishwarupa. I’m pretty sure Arjuna requested this, and when he received what he said he needed to supposedly dispel his doubt for good, what happened? He begged the Lord to “put it away.”

I think after all this nonsense and back-and-forth with him, I’d be like, “Arjuna, you clearly aren’t ready for all this. I think you need to spend the next 4,000 years as an insect” and be done with it. A person with his depth of delusion and attachment needs major help. And major help he received!

Claiming that Arjuna was crippled by compassion bothers me. Compassion never cripples. To assign something as noble and beneficial as compassion or kindness to Arjuna is simply making excuses. Krishna continues to work with Arjuna through the rest of the Gita. He offers His student even more wisdom and comfort… and after all this, clear into the very last chapter of the Gita, Krishna says that Arjuna is still filled with pride and is foolish. But at least he’s no longer scared, right?

I mentioned earlier that I have 20 different versions of the Gita. These different Gitas are “by” the likes of Hindu leaders such as Swami Rama, Swami Swarupananda, Swami Chinmayananda, Winthrop Sargeant, P. Lal, Sri Krishna Prem, Edgerton, George Thompson, Prashant Gupta, Kim and Chris Murray, P. S. Mehra, Acharya Vishnu K Divecha, Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Satchidananda, and Srila Prabhupad. Some come with commentary and some don’t. And while I do think the commentary is naturally slanted, I’m thankful for the different perspectives they present for looking at this scripture. They definitely give the inner Guru something to chew on.

Om Shanti!