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