The 5 Major Problems with Hinduism (esp. the Caste System)

Biggest Hindu Temple: Akshardham (the Hindusim & the Caste system)

Modern Hinduism

As humans, we like to idealize about things that we don’t necessarily experience. The grass is always greener where you aren’t.

Recently, this has occurred quite often in the way that Westerners view eastern religions in the yoga community. I definitely experienced this before I saw the religions in action when I visited southeast Asia.

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions on the planet and is the primary religion in Southeast Asia and India. It is the world’s third largest religion, after Islam and Christianity with one billion followers.

Hinduism is far more of an aggregation of diverse traditions, rituals, and philosophies rather than an organized religion. Despite this traditional disparity, which has unified since ancient times, modern Hindu philosophers have helped to universalize the religion into several core concepts:

  • There is a divine nature in all beings
  • Dharma and right living
  • Social Justice
  • Peace
  • Shared sacred literature

Together, these concepts combine to make up the modern philosophical view of the Hindu religion, which is really more of a category of rituals and traditions than an organized religion. The diversity of the religion is astounding.

Hinduism has had a profound effect upon India and has helped to form the social and cultural norms that have spread throughout southeast Asia. In reconciling the religion’s philosophical ideals with the modern culture of India and other Asian countries we can start to see some major problems with the religion’s traditions in regards to the functioning of humanity within their society.

These problems begin to show up in the structure of a society, as well as cultural tendencies, individual habits, and norms that are commonly accepted by the population. The following are the six major problems with the philosophical tradition:

  1. The Caste System
  2. Ahimsa
  3. Samsara
  4. Moksha
  5. Marriage
  6. Responsibility

The Caste System

The caste system, or separation of classes is probably the largest problem within the Hindu philosophies. People are born into their caste and cannot change it. There are five social classes defined by the Vedic philosophies: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras, and Dalits. Varna, meaning class, and Jati, meaning caste, will help us to understand how the caste system is structured and implemented.

Brahmins are priests and teachers and are engaged in obtaining the “highest” spiritual knowledge. They are traditionally holy men with training from the age of 5, but can also be warriors, fishers, or other such professions. One usually continues the profession of their father and ancestors.

Kshatriyas are military elite and rulers. During wartime they protect and during peaceful times they rule. These were typically not chiefs, but the ruling elite.

Vaishyas were the class of farmers and cattle rearers until the more modern period where they transitioned to become money lenders, traders, and land-owners. There are lots of sub-castes in Vaishyas and there have been revolts by the class throughout history.

Shudras are the final caste in the system besides untouchables, or Dalits. Their duty and function is to serve the other castes, which has many potential problems for the members of the class. Some scholars believe that members of the caste were rejected by the other classes and therefore became the lowest class on the metaphorical totem pole.

Dalits are arguably not a caste, but rather untouchables and those rejected by society at large and make up about 20% of the population. India has passed several laws to protect this group of people because they are historically very discriminated against. They are also known as the casteless people.

One is born into a caste based on their family and are derived based on their occupation, though it wasn’t always the caste (get it?). The modern version of the caste system is a result of the colonial British Empire and served to provide administrative structure for the regime. It is essentially similar to slavery and modern India’s government has fought this discrimination with affirmative action, job reservations, and government jobs for the lower castes.

It’s pretty easy to see how the caste system promotes slavish living conditions and discrimination. It has influenced other religions and other countries, especially in the Indian subcontinent and is very visible in the social structures of most of the southeast asian countries. The promotion of the caste system is the biggest problem in Hinduism.


Ahimsa is the concept of non-harm and means not to injure and applies to all living beings. Although the concept has many positive functions in human society, it promotes passivity for injustice and is probably one of the largest contributors to the reason that the caste system exists at all. Non-harm in nature is not possible, as the consumption of living matter is completely necessary for the sustenance of life. I am not saying that peacefulness isn’t possible, but life itself is somewhat of a violent process.

Certain individuals require meat for optimal nutrition. Animals shouldn’t feel guilty about living according to their nature, which humans have defined as immoral. So Ahimsa is a great ideal and peace is something we all should strive for, but it’s not necessarily possible in the reality we live in. Even your body is a battlefield for bacteria and micro-organisms. It is simply the way of things in the world.

The concept itself beckons respect for all of life. This is something that is very positive, as it denotes appreciation and promotes consideration of the divinity of all beings. Therefore, if you hurt a living being, you hurt yourself, according to the concept. However, in practice, you must injure other beings to feed yourself. Plants, trees, fish, and all of life is used for humanity to prosper so why are animals different?

Essentially, Ahimsa renders people very peaceful, which is positive, but it can also lead to passivity and acceptance of things that probably should not be acceptable. An example of this is the caste system. As we go down this list, you will start to see some patterns arising that play off of each other and contribute to a climate that is the Hindu religion in modern India. Gandhi was one of the primary promoters of Ahimsa.


Samsara is the repeating cycle of birth, death, and rebirth believed by most eastern religions. The idea is that your current life is one of many past and future lives that all affect what you are experiencing now. Karma is what affects your destiny, but the Buddha taught that there was no beginning to the cycle, just an end that comes with Moksha, or liberation from the cycles of deaths and rebirths.

Obviously, this can breed complacency in life as well. There is no evidence to suggest that any of this is real (subjective data is not evidence) and it can lead, again, to acceptance of behaviors and circumstances that might otherwise be fought against. It also takes away from the present moment and can allow an individual to blame circumstances outside of reality for their current predicaments.


Moksha is the concept of liberation from Samsara. This is the end goal of the Hindu ascetic’s karma and life. This is essentially an equivalent to heaven for the Hindu and denotes enlightenment, though it differs from the Buddhist ideals of enlightenment because in the Hindu religion, Moksha requires death. It represents self-knowledge, self-realization, and freedom, but also the completion of a fulfilled life of Dharma.

Again, this can create complacency, but on the flip side it can create acceptance for difficult circumstances and hope for the future. It also lends itself to an idealization of the end of life, rather than the present which can be negative. Moksha is a powerful idea, but again there is no evidence to suggest that reality does in fact work this way, so it can lead to delusional behavior.


Hindu marriage is a traditional union where two individuals join together to pursue Dharma and Moksha and is recognized by law. Consummation is normally required for the marriage to be validated and most rituals lead to the consummation of the marriage. Marriage is normally arranged by the family, but is not necessarily an indicator of higher divorce rates, or unhappiness in the relationship. Modern India is changing this, as individuals are starting to appreciate choosing their spouse, rather than having their marriage arranged.

Marriages are arranged according to a variety of factors including: astrology, genealogical records, parental relationships, and wealth. Normally, parents arrange the marriage, but in modern urban India, this is changing rapidly.

There are eight types of Hindu marriage, but their differences are mostly ritualistic in nature. Divorce is supposedly extremely rare in Indian marriages.

The biggest problem with Hindu marriage is that there is almost no choice in the relationship. Though many individuals are happy, there are certainly those that aren’t and that are required by their culture and religion to maintain the relationship. If you take the view that marriage should always be eternal this might be a positive thing, but if you believe in free-will and individual happiness you might think this is negative. Hindus tend to be very accepting of their marital circumstances so normally they don’t disclose the circumstances of their relationship freely and tend to be oppressed because of gender roles in India.


There are always positive and negative aspects of philosophical concepts, depending upon how they are implemented. Many of these problems can also be very positive, such as increasing acceptance of circumstances and ability to cope with harsh realities. However, some also lead to very negative things, such as not caring about the environment, massive pollution, separation of people by genealogy, and extreme poverty for those who are not accepted by the culture’s standards. Discrimination is relatively normal in the Hindu religion and especially in southeast Asia and the Hindu religion definitely contributes to this.

Many aspects of Hinduism are positive, but these are the major negative issues with the religion. Philosophy is often paradoxical, so if anything is unclear please comment below. Additions are also always welcome!

Saraswati | Sarasvatī | सरस्वती


Saraswathi is a Hindu goddess, part of the trinity with Lakshmi and Parvati; she is a representation of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom, and learning. The three forms of the female goddess assist Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahman their partners while they sustain the universe . The goddess is revered by Jains and Buddhists as well as Hindus.

Saraswathi’s name is meaningful; Sara means essence, Sva means oneself so together they mean essence of oneself. It means to fill oneself with knowledge like with water and this goes further into her ancient mythological status as a divine river goddess, the best of river mother goddesses from the Rigveda.

Saraswathi is also meant to refer to a cleansing knowledge or knowledge that purifies the essence of a person, which can also refer to enactment of the arts such as music, dancing, language, and eloquence.

Saraswathi is usually depicted with four arms holding objects: a book (the vedas, a crystal mala or rosary (represents the power of meditation, inner reflection, and spirituality), a pot of water (the power of purification), and a musical instrument (typically a veena representing arts and sciences). Saraswathi is also associated with anuraga, the love for the rhythm of music which represents all feelings and emotions expressed through music. Saraswathi is associated with the swan which is often located at her feet and is said to discriminate between water and milk, drinking only milk as a sign of discernment. The swan is also a symbol of spiritual purity and perfection.

Saraswathi is also worshipped in the areas surrounding India and has influenced many of the following countries: Myanmar, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia. She also has a festival in Bali that has a long history. She is also worshipped in various places in India.

Saraswathi is a popular god worshipped in modern times and especially in southern India can often be seen as revered deity in daily life.

Lakshmi | Lakṣmī | लक्ष्मी

Lakshmi_goddess of wealth

Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity, love, fortune, and is considered the embodiment of beauty. She is the wife of Vishnu and carries his active energy. Her fours arms represent purusartha, or the four primary aims of human life: Dharma, Kama, Artha, and Moksha and representations of her can be found in many Jain monuments as well. In Nepal and Southeast Asia, Vasudhara mirrors Lakshmi with some minor differences. She is Vishnu’s source of strength while maintaining the universe.

When Vishnu incarnated on Earth, Lakshmi took form as Sita (when Vishnu became Rama), Radha (Krishna’s lover), Rukmini, and Satyabama. In ancient Hindu scripture all women are declared to be embodiments of Lakshmi. The marriage between Lakshmi and Vishnu is the paradigm for Hindu religious wedding ceremonies. Their relationship forms the basis for partnership in Hinduism.

Archeologists suggest that Lakshmi’s worship may have originated around 100BC. Statues and iconography have been dated from the second half of the first millennium CE. In modern India, Lakshmi is regarded as the goddess of wealth and Diwali and Sharad Purnima are festival celebrations held in her honor.

Lakshmi is another great example of a deity that evolved in the ancient Hindu texts and was mentioned only once in the Rig Veda as a kindred mark or sign of auspicious fortune. In the later Arthara Veda, she evolved into a deity with multiple incarnations and large amounts of plurality and is associated with good luck, good fortune, prosperity, success, happiness, and the good. Later, she is regarded as the incarnation of beauty, and the goddess of fortune and was associated with Vishnu. In later myths, she is associated with the creation of the universe, giving diverse gifts to many of the other gods (ie Indra gets force and Sarasvati receive nourishment). In the later epics, such as the Mahabharata, she personifies wealth, riches, beauty, happiness, loveliness, grace, charm, and splendor.

The word Lakshmi is derived from lakṣ (लक्ष्) and lakṣa (लक्ष) which mean to perceive, observe, know, understand and goal, aim, or objective. This together form knowing goals, or perceiving and understanding objectives.

Lakshmi is usually sitting or standing on a lotus flower and carries a couple in her hands which represent the ability to grow beautifully from dirty or filth in circumstances. She is also seen with elephants (symbolizes work, activity, strength, rain, fertility, and abundance) and an owl (symbolizes striving to observe and discover when surrounded by darkness, that also becomes blind in daylight, a reminder to refrain from greed and ignorance after knowledge and wealth is acquired).

Lakshmi also has a multitude of other names: Padma, Kamala, Padmapriya, Padmamaladhara devi, Padmamukti, Padmakshi, Padmahasta, Padmasundari, Vishnupriya, Ulkavahini, Ambika, Manushri, Mohini, Chakrika, Kamalika, Aishwarya, Lalima, Indira, Kalyani, Nandika, Nandini, Rujula, Vaishnavi, Samruddhi, Narayani, Bhargavi, Sridevi, Chanchala, alaja, Madhavi, Sujata, Shreya, Maheshwari, Madhu, Madhavi, Paramaa, Janamodini, Tripura, Tulasi, Ketaki, Malati, Vidhya, Trilochana, Tilottama, Subha, Chandika, Devi, Kriyalakshmi, Viroopa, Vani, Gayatri, Savitri, Apara or Aparajita, Aparna, Aruna, Akhila, Bala, Tara, Kuhu, Poornima, Aditi, Anumati, Avashyaa, Sita, Taruni, Jyotsna, Jyoti, Nimeshika, Atibha, Ishaani, Kalyani, Smriti and probably her most used abbreviation, Sri.

In Eastern Indian traditions, Lakshmi is regarded as a form of Devi, along with Durga or Shakti. Lakshmi, Parvati, and Saraswathi are regionally considered to be from of Durga in West Bengal and Odisha, which are usually considered separate in India. She is the personification of spiritual fulfillment and is the embodiment of Param Prakriti, which purifies, empowers, and uplifts the individual.

It is obvious that Lakshmi represents an elusive and evolving subject of wealth and prosperity as well as the divine feminine aspect of spiritual energy. She is a powerful symbol in Hinduism and is worshipped often in modern India with statues and symbolism apparent in many of the places that I am currently near in Mysore. Her evolution is as interesting as her origins and I continue to find tremendous insight in the symbolism applied to her forms.


Krishna | कृष्ण depiction of Krishna

Krishna is one of the most celebrated and loved gods in the Hindu pantheon and is generally recognized as an avatar of lord Vishnu, one of the trimurti. Krishna is a god of love, sometimes depicted as a god-child playing a flute, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero, or as the supreme being as described in the Bhagavad Gita.

Krishna is described in the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana, and the Vishnu PuranaHe is also named Vasudeva, Bala Krishna, Gopala, Govinda, so you may hear these names mentioned where they are referring the Krishna.

Krishna’s skin color is usually black or dark blue which is due to the word’s use as an adjective to mean black or dark blue. The waning moon is called Krishna Paksha meaning darkening. It is sometimes referred to as “all-attractive”. Most of the variances and differences occur regionally, but is easily recognized in depictions.

Krishna is often shown with cows, which is significant as representing him as a divine herdsmen, as is often shown as a baby stealing butter from the neighbors houses. It is generally accepted as possible that Krishna dates as far back in time as Shiva, to the Indus Valley Civilization, but neither can be proven to date before that time period.

In depictions for the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is often shown with multiple arms and multiple heads which denote power with attributes of Vishnu such as the chakra or as a charioteer.

Sometimes you will hear Krishna referred to as Bala Krishna and this is the child-god form of the deity and is often worshipped. He is seen as having conceived himself as a being that is one with Vishnu. This is a divine conception, rather than a virgin conception as in the bible. While his mother was pregnant, it was said that she was hard to look at because of the light that accompanied her radiance. They say that this light is in reference to a Vedic hymn that expresses an unknown divine, or golden child.

If you study Krishna, you will start to see a lot of parallels with Jesus, if you are familiar with Christianity. Both are sun-gods, or represent the ‘light of the world’. Both also seem to have been grounded in the god Osiris which is an account of a demigod of the sun, and the potential first influence of this story is from the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia. Some believe there to be multiple Christs, some believe that Christ was completely fabricated in about 400AD to unify the Roman Civilization under a single symbol. Most of Christianity’s roots are pagan, which largely influences the Christian Calendar to circulate with the seasons. There is a good amount of evidence that say Jesus did exist, though the bible’s accuracy is another question entirely. Almost all scholars agree that the writers were successors to the original tradition and wrote the 4 new testaments over 50 years after Christ’s death and crucifixion, so it is generally agreed that the bible is not a historically accurate document, by any means.

Moving back to Krishna, he is best known as Arjuna’s charioteer and advises Arjuna when he comes to the battle distraught and unwilling to use his bow to fight. The Gita talks about righteous war, the nature of the divine, and the eternal nature of the cosmos, which is depicted in a conversation between Arjuna and Krishna.

The relationship between Vishnu and Krishna is often debated and is viewed as complex and diverse, though many consider Krishna to be a full incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

In about the 6th century AD a movement started in India called the Bhakti movement, which then spread into the United States in 1965, when Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada visited New York from West Bengal. Krishna’s name was chanted in many public places in the US and was spread by the ISKCON (institute for Krishna consciousness). There are also stories of Krishna in Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, and other Indian and southeast asian religions.

Krishna’s flute is often used as symbolism to represent revelation of the divine and Krishna is depicted with it quite often. It represents a divine dance that is the nature of the divine and that the revelations of divine come about through this mystical dance with the divine. It is said that whenever he plays, you cannot help but dance.

Here’s a little mental picture of what it might be like to experience Krishna:

You are walking through a softly floored canopy of oak trees, hiding the sun with their small leaves. Soon, you hear a soft sound in the distance, a sweet melody that you can help but want to hear more of. So you move closer, but find that you do not know the direction that the sound is coming from. So you sit, to determine where this beautiful sound could possibly be coming from.

As you sit, the sound becomes a bit louder and you begin to realize that the sound was coming from inside of you all along. And as you sit quieter, more still, more peacefully, the music gets louder and louder, until you can’t hear anything else at all. It begins to overwhelm you until you open your eyes, and there, standing before you, is a small dark blue boy, maybe 10 years old, smiling at you in a way that makes you feel the dampness of your skin.

His eyes are whiter than stars and his gaze darker than the night. The boy pulls out his flute and begins to play. Soft at first, melting your thoughts and giving you nothing to do but feel, this boy becomes more and more enraptured by the song, bringing you with him. But you soon realize that this is no boy, nor a girl; in fact, the little child has qualities of both, but perfected. As you begin to rise and then dance with the flute, you lose all track of time, where you are, even who you are. The dance is all there is and it is you, unbroken, relentless, fearless in the dark of night.

Soon you begin to tire, and though the music grows sweeter, you can no longer listen because of your fatigue. Suddenly, a light opens, splitting through you like a knife.

You open your eyes to a purely white room, 4 walls, and a single bench, cushioned, for you to sit on. The child walks into the room, but now you can tell that something in the child has changed. With a quick grin and a wink, the boy disappears and in his place is a man with hundreds of heads and many arms, though all perfectly aligned with his body in a way that you could never explain. You can hardly see the figure clearly, he is betrothed in light. Each time you try to get a better look, the figure gets blurry once again.

An overwhelming power takes ahold of you and you can no longer see the light. You close your eyes one last time and breath, aware of your full exhale for the first time. And you find yourself seated, comfortable, with the soft grass beneath you and the strong trees above. But still, you hear a gentle flute music in the background, waiting for you to begin dancing once again.




The concept of Dharma is elusive to describe due to the complexity of the concept; it does not translate directly into english and is a complex esoteric Indian term to describe a vocation, calling, or path of righteousness that an individual follows in life. This extends out to the dharma of the world as a whole, which is either aligned or imbalanced (in which case it will soon be rebalanced). The idea exists in all of the Indian religions, most notably Buddhism and Hinduism, where Dharma is considered to be the path of duty and virtue that is right with the order of the universe. The path is righteous and winds in accordance with the laws of Karma until the cycle of Samsara is broken and Maya gives way to Moksha. The ultimate journey Dharma leads to the doorway of enlightenment.

Enlightenment is the unlocking of the mind and freedom from the illusions of consciousness, more particularly thoughts. Thoughts take away from your ability to be present and receive the beauty and feel of the world around you, so at this point in the evolution of consciousness they are not necessary. Union is felt between all beings and awareness is supreme, a light against the darkness of ignorance. At least that is what it is supposed to be like.

Ultimately, enlightenment has to be a spectrum, relative, as all things are. People that push the envelope, disrupt, change us, evolve us, these are the ones that are bringing enlightenment to the world. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, modern musicians, peace advocates, technologists pushing the world forward like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are all people bringing enlightenment to our lives, but its hard to get to the truth of their lessons in the face of the lies that we are told from our first thoughts.

“(stop thinking) just do it”
“What’s (missing) in your wallet?)”
“The best part of waking up (is our shit coffee) in your cup”

We are bombarded with commercials and TV that convinces us to think about things certain ways that do not in any way conform to reality. Many people in the world succumb to the illusion that the world depends on things, when in fact the world depends upon human time. Instead of being focused internally, many are focused externally on survival, on being able to feed hungry mouths and try to win measures of comfort and vacations from your job that allow some measure of relaxation and bliss in an otherwise unfulfilling lifestyle. But the world is slowly changing.

People are learning to prosper and how to share abundance. Nice things are only as nice as the people you can share them with and comfort is something that every human should have access to, but we are slowly learning how to take care of ourselves. The world is still divided and disconnected, but slowly it is connecting itself, using tools like the internet, cell phones, satellites, and so much more. We have hope for the future because it seems like a mass awakening is occurring, people are waking up.

Practices like yoga and meditation are quickly becoming very available to the wealthy of the world, and soon after, the noble arts of internal surrender, meditation, reflection, breathing exercises, and energy movement will become available to everyone. In order to truly unite the world, people must unite through action; words mean nothing and have no weight when it comes to character. People are going to learn to prosper in ways that the world has never before know. I strongly believe that yoga is going to be one of those ways, I think the world is going to reform with the spread of eastern philosophies and ideas in the West.

The world is learning to find its Dharma. The question of dharma beckons the questions of existence: Why does life exist? Does life have a purpose? What is the next step of evolution? Dharma attempts to answer these questions by saying that it is life’s purpose to be lived fully, completely. The next step of evolution is peace and life was meant to flourish and spread and unite the universe in life. Being is the purpose of all things.

Dharma can also be considered vocational, or like a job. For instance, a doctor would have a dharma of helping sick people, or a computer programming would have a dharma of making more efficient algorithms for people to connect through the internet. I believe I find my dharma through teaching and practicing yoga, but it is far more complicated than just that. Music, traveling, friends, and family to name a few factors.

According to Hinduism, the stability of the universe is dharma, the earth, gravity, the laws of physics are all propagated by this righteous force that is leading life. Dharma is intrinsically related to truth, or the natural and changeless state of all things, also known as Satya. The Buddha is the one that lived Dharma and his release into nirvana gives a model for us to follow.

I think that perhaps the way to the true core of your being, of find your true dharma, is through silence and being alone. The buddha was alone for extended periods of time, many believe that Jesus was isolated as an Essene for his formative years, and many of the most famous transcendentalists isolated themselves. So did the most famous of philosophers. It gets to the core of your humanity, what is at the base of your existence. Your temporality.

I think this is what I am going to try to do in India. See how much stillness I can find within myself. Maybe on the way I’ll find some truth.



Vishnu is my favorite god, I think he is the best representation of the type of god that sustains the universe out of all the mythologies and religions. Vishnu has light blue skin like clouds, and is eternal powerful; he works in unison with Shiva to maintain the universe. Vishnu lives in Vaikuntha, the realm of eternal bliss and happiness and the resting place for the souls who have attained Moksha, or liberation from Samsara. His abode lies beyond space, time, and the material universe, immeasurable and infinite. He sits on Ananta Shesha, his snake with a thousand heads in an ocean of milk, the Ksheera Sagara. He has ten avatars, or incarnations including Krishna and Rama. His purpose is to rejuvinate Dharma and give the universe sustenance. But he is popularly known as the one to grant Moksha, or release from the material world.

Vishnu is a self-born deity. This again promotes the universe as an infinite expansion-regression system, with neither end nor beginning, which I find fascinating. This coincides with the Jain believe that the universe is infinite and has always been. It also has interesting similarities with Satya, the idea of truth, in that it is immeasurable, immutable, all-pervading, and absolute.

The Rig Vedic texts, one of the oldest existing documents, refer to Vishnu as the sun. Religion is essentially the same in that it is different forms of sun worship. Because if you really stop to think about it, the sun is the source of life for this planet. I think without it, it wouldn’t take long for everything on earth to die. Maybe it would take less than a week.

Vishnu’s ideological figure evolved over time into the consort of HariharaLakshmi, Lord Narayana, Purusha Sooktham, Vishnu Purana, and was made more distinct from Shiva, Brahman, and Surya (the sun god, who sun salutations are devoted to). Hanuman is often seen with Vishnu, in temples dedicated to Rama, Krishna, and Narasimha. Shiva and Vishnu have joined forms in one story, kind of like fusion in Dragonball Z, to form Harihara. Many of the more advanced philosophical Hindu teachers consider the both gods to be different aspects of the supreme being.

Vishnu is a popular god of Buddhism, especially in Sri Lanka, where many shrines are dedicated to him as the protector of Buddhism. He has 10 incarnations, a few notable ones that have associations with yoga poses are: Matsya (Matsyandrasana), Kurma (Kurmasana). He is also Krishna, Rama, and the Buddha. He returns to the universe to kick-ass and destroy demons as Rama, or to eradicate suffering as the Buddha, or to restore balance by saving the world from King Bali. Vishnu has too many names to count.

Vishnu, like many other Hindu gods, has many arms to represent his ability to work simultaneously, his supreme power and existence not bound by space or time. he holds a conch, a chakra, a mace, and a lotus flower in four of his hands when he is depicted, representing the universe, enlightenment, strength and eradication of demons, and divine perfection as an individual unfolds. His flying mount, the eagle garuda, represents the soul and the divine truth of the Vedas.

His godly powers are omniscience, sovereignty, manipulation of energy, strength, vigor, splendor, generosity, and compassion. A lot of these qualities are shown through Krishna, which is probably the most popular form of Vishnu. In AUM, he is the “u” and the vowel sound that rings deeply like ooooo. He sustains and creates.


Ganesha – The Hindu Elephant God


The Remover of Obstacles

The hindu god Ganesha is a powerful archetypal symbol. He represents the removal of obstacles, and transcends religion to be a sacred symbol to all of India, including the Hindus, Jains, Buddhists. His elephant head makes him easy to identify and he is also the patron god of the arts, intellect , and wisdom. As the son of Shiva, he is also known as Ganapati and Vinayaka and has survived for the last 1,600 years accumulating thousands of names and pseudonyms along the way.

Etymology of the word “Ganesha”

The name Ganesha is a compound sanskrit word where ‘gana’ (गण) means group, categorical system, or multitudes and ‘isha’ (ईश) means lord or master. Often ‘gana’ refers Shiva‘s retinue or followers, making Ganesha the master Shiva’s head follower. Some take this even further and refer to Ganesha as the master of the elements or lord of the systems of knowledge. Ganapati (गणपति) is a synonym for Ganesha and means lord of the group; ‘pati’ translates into ruler or lord. Ganesha is also commonly referred to as Vinayaka after which the eight buddhist temples in Maharashtra were named Ashtavinayak (ashta – eight, vinayak = Ganesha). The final noteworthy name for Ganesha is Vighneshvara (विघ्नेश्वर) meaning the remover of obstacles (vighna) which is Ganesha’s primary function as a part of the Hindu pantheon.

Stories of the Son of Shiva

Ganesha is very often portrayed as a child, where he functions as the


son of Shiva and protector of his mother, Parvatti. He is known for his mental agility and ability to learn quickly through the removal of obstacles; he is often invoked when starting a new business or buying a car or house. Ganesha is a clever god and is closely associated with the sanskrit term buddhi, meaning intelligence and wisdom. Over the years Ganesha has evolved to mean different things to different parts of the world; for example, he is commonly worshipped in Indian homes, invoked at meals and times of prayer; he is also worshipped by merchants in Bali, Indochina, Thailand, and Cambodia as the god of material success and prosperity. He is one of the most widespread gods of the eastern religions and has hundreds of different particularities of meaning to the different cultures that idolize him.

Symbolic Significance of Ganesh

Ganesha’s most famous attributes are his huge belly and elephant head, which one story depicts resulted from Shiva’s anger at finding a stranger guarding Parvatti, Shiva’s wife. He later learned that Parvatti had made Ganesha out of clay and that the boy that he had just beheaded was their son; he replaced the head with that of an enlightened white elephant and Ganesha was allowed to live. Ganesha typically has four arms, representing his divine omnipotence and is often depicted eating a sweet. He is most often depicted without a vahana, but is known to ride a mouse, a snake, a peacock, and a lion. Most often he is shown on a rat, which was known in India as a pest and killer of crops and is interpreted by many to be a negative symbol of desire and greed. Ganesha subdues the mouse and makes him his primary means of travel. Many historians agree that he has evolved from obstacle creator to remover over the past centuries, but both seem to be integral functionings of his character.

The sacred sound of AUM is also identified with Ganesha. He is said to see past, present, and future simultaneously and AUM represents Brahman, Vishnu, and Shiva all simultaneously their combined power of creation, which Ganesha invokes by removing obstacles. He is also the resident of the first chakra, the Muladhara. He guides all other chakras and is therefore the guardian of the wheels of life.

Skanda is Ganesha’s brother, although regions will differ in opinion as to who was born first. There are many stories of their conflicts as Ganesha rose to prominence in 600AD and Skanda fell in popularity; Skanda was referred to as elder in the north and may very well represent the conflicts between northern and southern India in ancient times. Ganesha may have been a Brahmacari, or celibate, but he is also depicted with one to three wives quite regularly. Buddhi, intellect,  Siddhi, spiritual power, and Riddhi, prosperity, are often personified as Ganesha’s goddess wives. He is also associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of luck. He also has two sons, Ksema (prosperity) and Labha (profit) according to the Shiva Purana.

A Unique God in the Hindu Pantheon

All Hindu denominations use Ganesha to invoke prayer; he is a powerful symbol of the moving of energy and instigator of change. He is also an elephant, which is extremely powerful and sacred in India and represents a higher level of consciousness to many.

I have used the primary energies of chanting Ganesha to fantastic benefits, there are many invocations that have positive psychological effects and pranayama exercises that have powerful physiological effects. The chant I’ve used often is “gam ganapataye namo namah” meaning “the devotee bows/ offers salutations to the lord of the world”. It is a powerful chant and after about 5-10 minutes, the mantra starts to seep into the unconscious mind. The energies of sanskrit are primary and very old; the internal energies evoked should not be underestimated, especially when the symbols and meaning of the mantra are understood.

Ganesha is a god that is unique across the various religious and spiritual practices. He is always shown with an elephant head and huge stomach, though variation will show different symbols and representations of his form.

This post is also significant because it is the first post on my newly hosted website; I am trying out a new hosting provider instead of the complimentary WordPress hosting. Please let me know what you think, I welcome all feedback openly!

What does Ganesha mean to you? How do you create new beginning in your own life or manifest change? What symbols in your own life are equivalent to the elephant god who rides a mouse?



Hinduism is a religion and a philosophy. It is quite possibly the world’s oldest religion. Officially recognized as the world’s third largest religion Hinduism is far more complex than its description implies. Hindu holy books contain epic mythological tales from the beginnings of civilization and cascade through the ancient world to the present day. Rigid is one thing that Hinduism is not; it is far more flexible than the western religions and is more of a moving framework for believing in the multi-faceted nature of the divine rather than a set of principles or dogma towards reaching a singular divinity that the community shares. This is quite a bit different from a religion like Catholicism, which is rich in theological dogma, hierarchy, and has a streamlined and specific rules for following the faith.

Hinduism is a diverse religion, having main influential sects with different moral and virtue systems and overall being a flexible and philosophical point of view rather than rigid, common beliefs. The major scriptures of Hinduism are rich with detail and expound upon stories that were passed down for hundreds if not thousands of years. The major Hindu books and scriptures are: the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Puranas, the Manusmrti, and the Agamas. Part of the name Hindu comes from them living near the powerful Indus River, which was also home to the most ancient civilization known to man, the Indus Valley Civilization.

Hinduism is extraordinarily unique. This is because it is mostly a compilation of Indian traditions, rituals, ideals, worship, and pilgrimages. There are several sacred texts that have the classification of Sruti (“revealed”) and Smriti (“Remembered”) and the texts include the VedasUpanishads (both Śruti), MahabharataRamayanaBhagavad GitaPuranasManusmṛti, and Agamas. It is also unique because of its multileveled approach to spirituality and inconsistent internal conflicts. For instance, there are sects of the religion who worship Shiva as the supreme deity and others who worship Vishnu as the supreme lord of the universe, and yet others who view the supreme being of the universe as Krishna.

I love to learn about different religions, especially the mythology behind the traditions. Edward Trafton, an excellent teacher at Jesuit High School, introduced me to the Hero’s Journey when I was eighteen and I tend to follow that framework to examine the different religious beliefs and practices of the world. I grew up Catholic, so I went to church when I was young. Lots of church. I still find I can almost recite the entire mass, though I end up at a church about once every two years. Usually for Easter. I was thoroughly exposed to the various religions of the world with my Jesuit education, which concluded at Gonzaga U. After a long time, the Catholic traditions stopped resonating with me, and in high school I questioned my belief in god because I saw all the problems with the church. I regained a personalized version of faith by the end of high school and then college helped to strengthen my conviction in a customized belief system. Hinduism is the most interesting religion in the entire world, in my opinion. There is so much room for gray area, interpretation, and it in no way claims to be dogmatic. I’m drawn to the metaphysical concepts that tell about life and the explain how to avoid suffering in the events that occur in our lives. The stories mean something different to each person, so having thousands of people making their own translations and interpretations makes things pretty complicated. Hinduism is a puzzling spiritual practice and is so fragmented that claiming to be “correct” or “right” about god would be silly.

It has been my experience that rigidity in anything causes suffering. This includes belief systems and religions. I think that religion is really about community and spirituality, learning how to co-exist with one’s self and with one another. Religion is no longer a necessary aspect of our world, though people tend to believe that it is. Contemporary French culture helped to drive the Catholic out of me, and replaced it with a mindset of existential choices that spreads across multiple religions, and draws the best concepts into my belief system. Hinduism has become the most prominent of these simply because of the focus on internal dialogue, the connection of the body and mind (which in Catholicism is non-existent. Even church is a labor on the spine and pastors look to be anything but healthy and alcohol is prevalent in everything), and on the cultivation of internal awareness. I am critical of religion because I believe that we are evolving beyond it.

Religion, really, is about community. It’s about learning to share what we have and co-operate our minds and bodies together. Directing focus internally creates so much awareness that it forces people to become more aware of their surroundings and of their behaviors. It is extremely powerful and any way to cultivate internal focus tends to be good. Catholicism definitely has benefits and I see them in people who I love so I respect the religion, but I also believe that we, as a species, will evolve beyond organized religion in the future. You could even say that certain parts of the world are going to have to let go of their religions if they want to prosper and live in peace. But humanity still has many core differences in belief that we have to work through until we can become a global community, rather than separated and organized into countries, states, governments, etc. Once we realize that we are all the same (I think we all share 99.999999 of our DNA…not positive on that figure), everyone will be a lot better off. We have to stop creating in-groups and isolating ourselves with the people around us to truly enjoy the global community.

The Mahabharata | महाभारतम्


The Mahabharata is one of the two major epic stories written in Sanskrit in ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. The main works contained in the Mahabharata are the Bhagavad Gita, an abbreviated Ramayana, the story of the princess Damayanti, and the Rishyashringa. The primary focus of the Mahabharata are the Purusarthas or four goals in life: Dharma – righteousness, Artha – prosperity, Kama – desire, and Moksha – spiritual liberation. Vyasa is the attributed author and is also a character in the work, though much of the information about his life conflicts with the work itself (many believe that the origins of the stories were written in about 800 BCE while the texts claim him to have lived from 3000-1500 BCE. He is also immortal according to Hindu legend and an avatar of Vishnu, meaning that he is still considered to be alive.

The Mahabharata is an extremely long work and is known as the longest epic poem with over 200,000 verses. There are over 1.8 million words in the epic, roughly ten times the size of the Odyssey and the Iliad combined. Ganesha, the god of unblocking obstacles, was said to have written the epic as long as Vyasa did not stop his dictation; Vyasa agreed to dictate under the condition that Ganesha must understand each verse as it was written. Many scholars compare its world-wide importance to Shakespeare, the Bible, the Qur’an, and the greek epics.

The story depicts a struggle for power amongst several dynasties. The climax occurs with the battle of Kurukshetra where the Pandavas, five brothers married to the same woman, were victorious over the Kauravas, their cousins. The epic ends with the death of Krishna, the coming of the fourth age where man degenerates from duty and morality. This is recognized as one of the first theories of a just war, which would be later debated around the world for centuries. This continues today with articles like the Geneva convention and the just war theory of the Vatican.

The story is quite long and detailed and really could go on for multiple pages. But essentially this led to some of the biggest advancements in theology and philosophy of the ancient world. It undoubtedly trickles down into our world today, influencing us in the way we view the world. My favorite part of the story is the battle with Arjuna also known as the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna explains the ways of yoga and detachment. The Mahabharata is long, fragmented, and disorganized, but the lessons from the stories are timeless and the themes are apparent even in today’s culture.