Sikhism: The Fifth Largest Religion in the World

Sikhism symbol

Sikhism: A Tradition Striving for Unity and Truth

Sikhism guru_nanak
Guru Nanak

Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world(one of the fastest growing, too) and originated in Northern India in 1469. Sikhis (meaning disciple or learner) are monotheistic, believe in the unity and equality of all mankind, engage in selfless service, and strive for the prosperity of all life. There are over 25 millions Sikhis in the world.

Sikhism originated in a guru tradition in 1469; Guru Nanak was the first to establish what because a religious tradition over the course of centuries. Ten gurus followed in Guru Nanak’s footsteps and after the death of the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, the Guru Granth Sahib became the literal embodiment of the eternal, impersonal guru and serves as a guide for Sikhi’s.

The Ten Sikhi Gurus (each represents a divine attribute) are:

  1. Guru Nanak – Humility
  2. Guru Angad – Obedience
  3. Guru Amar Das – Equality
  4. Guru Ram Das – Service
  5. Guru Arjan – Self-sacrifice
  6. Guru Hargobind – Justice
  7. Guru Har Rai – Mercy
  8. Guru Harkrishan – Purity
  9. Guru Tegh Bahadur – Tranquility
  10. Guru Gobind Singh – Royal Courage

A couple of the Sikhi gurus are also Bhakti saints giving Hinduism an interesting relationship with the origins of the Sikh religion. The goal of the Sikhi is unison with the divine and they believe that no one tradition has a monopoly on the divine and emphasizes the “five thieves” of god’s presence: lust, rage, greed, attachment and conceit.

The Origins of Sikhism

Sikhism was created in the Punjab region, which is between India and Pakistan. In the time of the first Guru, Guru Nanak, there were two competing religions of the Muslims and Hindus. Legend says Nanak went into a river at 28, proclaimed there is no Hindu or Muslim, only god and that he continued to bring Sikhism into the world.

The 5th Guru, Arjan was a scholar and helped to build the Sikh religion by creating the first scripture. However, he was seen as a threat by the state and executed for his faith in 1606.

The 6th Guru, Hargobind eventually moved to militarize the community and the Sikhs learned to fight to preserve their faith. They became relatively peaceful until Tegh Bahadur, the 9th guru, was executed in 1675 by Aurangzeb, the Moghal Emperor. The Moghal Empire consolidated Islam in South Asia, and spread Muslim (and particularly Persian) arts and culture as well as the faith.

The 10th Guru, Gobind Singh, created the Khalsa as a military group so that they could forever defend their faith.

The Sikhs continued to rebel against Muslim oppression and eventually became a state of their own. But then they were defeated by the British. Then they became peaceful for a while, until 1919 when there was a massacre of over 400 dead and 1,000 wounded by British soldiers who fired on a crowd of protesters. A few historians signify this event as the beginning of the decline of the British Empire in India.

The Sikhi god: Ik Onkar

Ik Onkar is the Sikhi word for god and means ‘all pervading spirit’. This spirit has no gender, is beyond time and space, is without form, beyond the comprehension of humans, but not completely unknowable. The spirit is visible sikhism_ik_onkareverywhere to the spiritually awakened through the heart or “inner eye”. The religion prescribes meditation to allow for communication between god and man.

The Opening Line of the Mool Mantar:

“There is but one all-pervading spirit, and truth is its name! It exists in all creation; it does not fear; it does not hate; it is timeless and universal and self-existent, you will come to know it through seeking knowledge and learning!”

The ultimate goal of a Sikh is to be completely united with god. They achieve this state of liberation (mukti) by focusing on god rather than themselves.

Maya: the Worldly Illusion

Maya is a spiritual concept that has evolved over time and crosses over nearly every eastern religion in one way or another. Literally, Maya means delusion, extraordinary illusions of power, the veil of perception, magic, and “unreality”.

These worldly illusions are viewed as a direct opponent of realizing god in this lifetime (the goal of the Sikh is to realize god). It is believed that the object of Maya, or object of the senses, lust, desire, attachment, ego, greed, and anger which are known as the 5 thieves and are believed to take away from the individual’s relationship with god by distracting and hurting the individual.

Once god is fully realized, the individual is considered jivanmukta and liberated in this lifetime, which is a belief also shared in Hinduism. After this liberation, the individual is ceaselessly united with Brahman (the supreme truth underlying all of reality, but hidden by it). Sikhs also believe in reincarnation and karma.

The Khalsa – the Nation of Sikhs

The Khalsa is the collective body of all Sikhs. The Khalsa was initiated on March 30 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Sikh guru. The word Khalsa means “sovereign”, “free”, or most often “pure”. Being initiated into the Khalsa is a type of baptism and males are entitled Singhs (lion) while females are titled Kaurs (princess).

The Khalsa is responsible for all executive, military, and civil authority in the Sikh society. They are considered the pinnacle of Sikhism and perform no rituals and believe in no superstitions. They only believe in god who is the master and creator of all, the only destroyer/creator.

A Sikh is defined as any human being who faithfully believes in one immortal being; ten gurus, from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, the teachings of the ten gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth guru.

Culture, Observations, and Rituals of Sikhism

Most Sikhs wake up early to meditate on the name of god. Then he/she bathes in a pool of nectar (I’m not really sure what this means, probably some type of sweet herbs and spices). Then he chants the name of the lord. All sins, misdeeds, and negativity is erased through this process. When the sun rises, the Sikh is to meditate on the name of god again. The idea of the Sikh’s existence is to worship god so that they can maintain a close relationship to god.

There are 5 K’s(panj kakaar) or articles of faith that baptized Sikhs are obligated to wear:

  1. Kesh – uncut hair, usually tied and wrapped in a Dastar (a style of turban)
  2. Kanga – a wooden comb, usually under the dastar
  3. Kachera – cotton undergarments worn by both sexes to symbolize chastity
  4. Kara – an iron bracelet, a weapon and a symbol of eternity
  5. Kirpan – an iron dagger of differing sizes. In the UK it is very small and in Punjab it can be up to three feet long.

Sikhs are also very interested in music, many instruments were supposedly created by gurus. These instruments include the Rebab, the dilruba, the taus, the jori, and the sarinda. They would often play drums or Nagaras while marching into battle.

The Modern Sikh and Sikh Statistics

There are about 27 million Sikhs worldwide and 83% live in India. 76% live in Punjab where they form Modern_Sikh2/3rds of the populace. Sikhs were some of the first to migrate to Britain from India and were used in the Indian Civil service and so were spread out over the entire British empire. Many have spread throughout Europe and Northern America.

The caste system is still very prevalent within the Sikh religion, even though their gurus denounced the system. Untouchables, or Dalits still face harsh discrimination.

The first gurdwara (place of worship) was established in the United States in Stockton, California.

Discrimination against Sikhs has risen since the 9/11 attacks. They are said to be often confused with Arabic or Muslim Middle Eastern men because of their turbans and CNN suggested an increase in hate Crimes against Sikh men after the attacks. I’ll leave it to a few clips from CNN and other news to show you what I mean by discrimination (it involves racism and persecution because of ignorance).

  • The U.S. has the highest murder rate of affluent democracies. America had an extreme homicide rate of 5.4 per 100,000 people in 2008-2009, compared with a 1.43 rate in England and Wales and a 1.3 rate in Italy. Japan has 1/10 of the murders of the US. Don’t be surprised about how often this happens.
  • [September 24th, 2013] A Columbia University professor who wrote about hate crimes against Sikhs may have become a victim of one himself when 12 to 15 people attacked him while shouting anti-Muslim slurs, police said.
    Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh and a professor of international and public affairs, said the attackers were yelling “get Osama” and “terrorist” when they swarmed him Saturday night near Central Park in New York.
    “There were about 20 of them. A few surrounded me, and started punching me,” Singh said, according to the Sikh Coalition. He suffered injuries to his face, including displaced teeth and a possible fracture in his lower jaw. CNN ARTICLE
  • [August 5th, 2012] There was a shooting of 6 people in Wisconsin in a hate crime on August 5th 2012. ‘He said members described the attacker as a bald, white man, dressed in a white T-shirt and black pants and with a 9/11 tattoo on one arm — which “implies to me that there’s some level of hate crime there”.’The gunman started shooting in the parking lot, then entered into the temple and proceeded to open fire. Most of the victims were leaders of the church, men with turbans. CNN ARTICLE
  • [September 13th, 2015] A Sikh American man says he was taunted as a “terrorist” and “bin Laden” by another driver this week, and then beaten unconscious in his car. Police in the Chicago suburb of Darien are investigating the alleged incident as a hate crime and a road rage incident that escalated into a violent attack, Chief Ernest Brown said. CNN ARTICLE
  • [January 6th, 2016] A $10,000 reward is being offered in the slaying of a 68-year-old Sikh man brutally murdered in a central Fresno convenience store on New Year’s Day. They have video of a light-skinned suspect between 16 and 18 with a red hoodie that waited outside for about 5 minutes for a man named Gill to be in the store alone. Once Gill (Sikh man without any Sikh attire on) was within about a foot, the suspect stabbed Gill repeatedly. Gill tried to push himself away, retreated and picked up a golf club. The suspect knocked Gill to the ground before returning to the cash register, which he could not open. He then took something from a shelf and walked out of the store in the same direction from which he approached. Gill died of his wounds minutes later. Sikhs were anxious about heading back out into the community because of another attack that occurred on December 26th. FRENSO BEE ARTICLE
  • [March 2nd, 2016] Balwinder Jit Singh says a passenger beat him while calling him a terrorist and a suicide bomber last year in Inglewood. YAHOO NEWS ARTICLE

So this is very real, and its happening right now. This article from THE INTERCEPT talks about how Donald Trumps campaign makes it extremely hard on Sikh’s because hatred and violence are condoned. These are Americans that are discriminated against in our own country. And in lots of cases the police turn a blind eye, refuse to investigate, or whatever nonsense racism and ignorance they can make up. But this seems to happen a lot and we, as a nation, should not allow this kind of intolerance or ignorance. This is the 5th largest religion in the world!

 

References:
  1. Institute of Sikh Studies
  2. Sikhs dot-org
  3. BBC Religion
  4. Sikh Coalition
  5. Sikh Net
  6. Maya Wikipedia
  7. Sikhism Wikipedia
  8. Religion Facts

Evil and the Evolution of Morality

The Idea of Evil Giovanni Domenico Ferretti, Cain and Abel, 1740

Evil and Humanity

Evil and morality are thought structures for defining good and bad actions. Definitions of evil vary according to the culture, time, and context of the people who are defining it. An absolute definition is illusive. Many describe it as a supernatural force in our world. Some say that it is led by satan, the opposite of god. In Catholicism, this would refer to lucifer’s betrayal of god and descent into hell. Evil ascribes a certain kind of ignorance, selfishness, neglect, ignorance, and amorality.

Logical Beliefs about how evil exists

There are four different logical possibilities regarding evil, one of which you will fall into. Moral relativism is the belief that morality is shared amongst a group of people, but relative to individuals. That means that each group of people believes themselves to be ethically or morally superior to the others; most philosophers question the idea of an objective morality. It holds that morality is flexible to the cultures that employ it. Most critics of this view claim that this creates a logical conundrum, whereby judgements of morality cannot be applied.

The second possible belief is moral absolutism, where you believe that particular actions are inherently right or wrong and that certain restrictions on behavior shouldn’t be violated. Immanuel Kant’s views on duty and rights can be placed into this category. For instance, if you believe that violence should never be used even in self-defense, than you are morally absolutist about violence being wrong.

Moral universalism, or moral objectivism is the meta-ethical position that some systems of ethics apply themselves universally to a like group of individuals. For instance, all humans should not steal. This is directly opposed to moral relativism or nihilism because it creates a common standard by which all beings should act. This is an Abrahamic belief, meaning it is shared amongst the biggest religions in the world: Christianity, Islam, and also Judaism. This is the view that the United Nations adopted in 1948 after WWII, in Paris.

Amorality is the disregard for morality. This is different from immoral, which refers to the subject views of the agent/doer. Any being that is not able to act with judgement is categorically amoral. Friedrich Nietzsche rejected morality by saying that he had to for non-moral reasons. Moral Nihilism is an offshoot of this, whereby someone would consider killing someone as neither moral or immoral, which is pretty much the direct opposite of moral objectivism.

Now, you understand probably where you fall, but it is important to remember that animals, most particularly domesticated animals with exposure to human values and behaviors can develop a sense of morality as well; just think about your dog or cat. You can also be certain that this exists within animal communities for the sake of well-being for the entire community, but evolving as a sort of natural phenomenon (think of a flock of bird, or school of fish that work together by instinct).

Morality as an Evolution for Social Species

So let’s explore how morality has evolved to become what it is today, certainly led by the virtuous altruism and nihilistic amoral exemplars from the human race.

Carl Jung talked a lot about evil as a shadow-side inherent in each human, but believed to be a separate force from themselves by each individual. People project their own shadows onto others; their insecurities, fears, stresses, etc. He believed the story of Jesus to be an account of God facing his own shadow side.

Morality is certainly an evolutionary lens of humanity; we invented its examination over the course of our evolution. Morality is system of ideas about right and wrong, originating with mythology and evolving most drastically with religion. Most scientists argue that human moral behaviors can be traced through animal behaviors and instincts. Many scientists argue that there is an intrinsic science behind morality, though social scientists general consider morality to be a construct.

Evidence suggests that all life on Earth has a single common ancestor, a small single-celled organism that lived 3.8-3.5 billion years ago. But as we learn more and more about horizontal gene transference, which is the primary mechanism of gene transfer within micro-organisms, we are starting to understand that this single common ancestry might have evolved differently than we currently hypothesize.

This has led to mammals and social societies within animal species with specific hierarchies where each individual knows their place. Social order is maintained by rules of expected behavior and consequences for actions. Higher functioning primates like our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos often reciprocate social behaviors and remembers favors, favorites, preferences, empathy, attachment, bonding, and altruism. Vampire bats reciprocate by sharing blood regurgitation with their bat friends, or those in dire need of feeding. Certain monkeys and dogs refuse to act unless rewarded properly and fairly for their actions.

Chimpanzees lives in groups of about 50, forming complex societies with distinct and unique hierarchies. Paleolithic hominids (2.6 millions years ago to 10,000 years ago) lived in groups of a few hundred individuals. Malcolm Gladwell mentions that humans have a limit of about 50 close friends and 300 in their extended circle, which is of course aided by advancements in technology. As community size increased, morality evolved as a means of control, cohesion, and solidarity. As the number of individuals within communities increased, so did the complexity of these hierarchies and moral systems until things like religions, cults, and more complex societal functions began to emerge.

How are Human Morals Different?

Humans societies have two major differences that separate our societies from primate and higher functioning animal societies. We enforce our moral codes more strictly with punishments, rewards, and reputation building. Humans also have a degree of abstract reasoning and objective judgement that is not present in the animal kingdom.

Morality has evolved so far that it has created a sense of human altruism that is even greater than the urge to pass on genes in many instances. This theory of collective social mind that humans can infer or transfer to each other with high levels of intelligence is an evolution that is displayed in primates, but never as heavily or significantly as in humans. Neither is the altruism that humans display towards the collective.

Psychologists believe that religion may have evolved from morality and used supernatural principles and entities to keep the group cohesive and allow the collective to adapt to the ever evolving needs of the collective with enhanced chances for cohesive survival.

There are two primary expressions and emotions involved with morality: the first is disgust; the second is shame. Both of these contribute to a social punishment system that is very active in the world around us today, especially on the internet.

Religion, Morality, and Evil

Finally, here is a list for each religion, categorizing how it’s doctrine thinks about evil:

  • Hinduism – Dharma divides right from wrong with strict systems of morality based on actions.
  • Christianity – any thought or action against the will of God is immoral.
  • Judasim – evil comes into existence through the actions; humans are responsible for choices.
  • Islam – there is no concept of absolute evil. Evil is lack of good, or disrespect of Allah.
  • Buddism – Desire is the root of all evil, but more focused on suffering and ignorance.
  • Sikkhism – evil evolves depending on one’s location along the path to liberation.

Conclusion

Remember that I am doing my best to be impartial here; if you feel like something is missing please add a comment! Evil is certainly something that has evolved with humanity and continues to evolve today, though I did my best to steer clear of any news on the subject.

This wraps up my discussion on the idea of evil, morality, and the evolution of what is right and wrong. I’m hoping to write my next article about Aristotle his concept of “the good”, if you have anything you want me to mention or discuss, let me know!

References:

  1. Evolution of Morality
  2. Last Universal Ancestor
  3. BBC
  4. Morality in Islam

Islam – The Fastest Growing Religion in the World

islam_hajj_saudi_arabia

ISLAM:

The Religion of Muslims and Mohammed

Islam is a monotheistic religion that believes in the prophecy of Abraham through the Qur’an,which is considered to be the verbatim word of god (Allah), and Mohammed’s (600CE) example . Mohammed is considered to be the last prophet of god. Any adherent to the religion is called Muslim.

Practitioners believe god is all-powerful, incomparable, and that the purpose of their existence is to worship god. Muslim adherents believe their faith is a complete and universal truth passed down from Abraham, Noah, Adam Moses, and Jesus. They consider the Qur’an to be the final revelation of god and believe strongly in 5 pillars or concepts at the foundation of Islam.

Islam_Mosque

The Five Pillars:

  1. Faith – the creed of Islam recited under oath
  2. Prayer – also known as salat, these are rituals prayers during the day
  3. Zakat – alms giving and supporting the poor
  4. Fasting – performed usually during Ramadhan
  5. Pilgrimage to the mecca to follow in Abraham’s footstep ritualistically

There are two primary sects of the religion: Sunni(75-90%) and Shia(10-20%). 13% of Muslims live in Indonesia, 25% in South Asia, 20% in the Middle East, and 15% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its followers comprise 23% of the world’s population.

Islam in the Modern World

Islam is one of the most submissive religions in the world. They recite oaths of submission to god’s will and believe the purpose of their existence is to worship god, which puts them in a state of complete surrender. This surrender leads to them feeling safe and at peace with their existence under god. They consider the Qur’an to be the true and unaltered word of god. They believe their holy books are the truth.68% and 80% of Shias lived in four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq. Islam also has many laws that affect nearly every aspect of life for adherents. Islam has many very strict beliefs which has led to misinterpretation and misunderstanding over the past millennia, especially within the religion of Islam. One of these misunderstood concepts is the concept of Jihad.

Most Muslims are NOT Violent!

It is important to understand that even though people in America and the Western world think that Islam might be a violent religion, it is the exact opposite. 6.5% of the Muslims in the world felt that the attacks of 9/11 were justified and represents about 65 million Muslims; still a very large population, but a small percentage of the 1.65 billion muslims.

There are a few beliefs in Islam that when combined, create beliefs that create room for justify truly extremist acts such as 9/11, because of various verses in the Qur’an and different influential leaders promoting extremist action. There is absolutely an in-group that is created within the believers of Islam where the believers feel that they are special and correct in their beliefs, especially opposed to Christians, Jews, and other western religions.

The beliefs of Jihad, Predestination, and many of the literal interpretations of the Qur’an have led to an explosive anti-hero/terrorist movement in many of the sects that are highly devotional and in poorer countries with less education and rights. This has led to holy wars in the 1980s in Northern Africa and the Middle East and culminates in Osama Bin Laden’s declaration jihad against the United States and subsequent attacks on New York on September 11th. Bin Laden was a part of al-Quaeda whose goal was Islamic world domination, but this is an extremist group. The vast majority is Muslims are not members of al-Quaeda or ISIS and even the members of those groups are most likely deluded and heavily traumatized.

ISIS: An Evolution from Al-Quaeda

ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a salafi jihadist militant and extremist group that has proclaimed itself the caliph recently, on June 29th 2014, which means religious, military, and political power of muslims worldwide. Of course, the vast majority of muslims want nothing to do with this, but the insurgence has spread recently into northern Africa and has gained momentum. The group has significant momentum since it is formed from the remaining members of al-Qaeda, but at this point the two have separated completely in ideologies and ISIS has become a unique entity in and of itself. The Syrian Civil war was an excuse for extremists to militarize in conjunction with Iraqi militants and jihadists fleeing the presence of the United States military.

Now the two forces of al-Qaeda and ISIS are competing for militant recruitment in places like Yemen and Syria. There is also a presence in the Philippines, Libya, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Afganistan, and of course in Iraq.

The goal of the group is to found the Sunni Islamic State under the caliph who is believed to be the successor to Muhammed. This Salafi group promotes religious violence and regards all others as infidels or apostates. This is a waves of religious fundamentalism that enforces rituals with capital punishment and execution. The religion is their foundation for growing power of the religious state.

This is one of the most interesting sects of the religion, but represents a minority; though they are proficient at using social media to display their horrific actions. They are regarded by the western world as extremist terrorists and rightfully so. Even the majority of their own religion deem them to be deluded extremists.

Positive Aspects of the Islamic State

The vast majority of the adherents of Islam do not fit the profile I described above. In fact, the majority of the Muslims that I have met have been extremely kind and well-wishing, welcoming and neighborly. I even met a very peaceful guy from Yemen while I was in India whose family was involved in the Civil War. It is very sad for everyone to see this kind of violence and trauma and there is not much logic that can explain why it occurs.

Ritual Prayers

Salah or Salat must be performed five times a day with no exemptions. Salat is intended to focus the mind upon god and is seen as a personal communication with him of gratitude and worship. Lines of the Qur’an are recited in Arabaic. Mosques are places that are available for prayer, or as places or study, or learning.

Discipline

Both fasting, alms giving to the poor, and pilgrimages are required in the religion, yielding trials of great difficulty for adherents.

Home Life

The religion is primarily focused on life at home, though many religious texts sanctify the beating of women. There is special etiquette and diet including no meat, carrion, alcohol, or blood. Marriage in Islam is a civil acceptance where the groom is required to pay for the bride as a part of their contract.

Criticisms of Islam

Criticism of Islam has existed since its inception, for obvious reasons as the religion is a reformation from Judaism and Christianity. Early criticism came from Christians as radical heresy and later appeared more significantly from Judaism.

The majority of the criticisms are the morality of the life of Mohammed, issues relating the authenticity of the Qur’an and other questions of human rights, especially in regards to women. The questions of the founder’s authenticity and the authenticity of holy works are the criticisms of every major religion including christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism.

Conclusion

Islam obviously has its own ups and downs as a religion, but its impact upon the civil rights of humans has to be mitigated if the religion will survive in the western world. However, much of the extremist propaganda is currently growing in northern Africa and the Middle East, of particulate note to the United States and Europe. This will be a religion whose ideals are dynamic and that changes drastically to fit the changing cultures of its proprietors.

 

I would love to hear about any experiences that you have had with the Islamic adherents that you have met or any other surprises you have gotten from adherents of the religion. Check back in a week to pagayogi.com for my next article on the ideals of Islam and how terrorism and heroism have intersected to form an ideology that is changing the world.

References:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Islam Origins
  3. An Overview of Islam
  4. The Belief System of Islam
  5. Problems in Modern Islam
  6. The Biggest Problem in Islam
  7. Heavy Review of Islam
  8. 25 Deadly Terrorist Attacks
  9. FBI on Terrorism
  10. Islam and Violence

 

Idealization in the Psyche

jesus&buddha

A core function of the human mind is dreaming, or imagining events that haven’t actually taken place. This can occur while sleeping, while bored during the day, while exercising, pretty much any time when your attention is free, this is possible for the mind. If you are intensely focused on something, for instance your breath, then the mind cannot create these abstractions or false realities. This is part of the Maya that Buddhists and Hindus believe is the illusion of this world.

I’ve heard a lot about spirituality in the last 3 months; I’ve heard that the Buddhas enlightenment meditation was about 4 hours long, I’ve learned that the mind will ceaselessly process events for seemingly no reason, I’ve learned that Buddhism is absolutely a religion, and I have come to the conclusion that the Western and Eastern spiritual religions are two sides of the same coin; the quest for power.

The Buddha and Jesus Christ are treated very similarly in their respective religions of Buddhism and Christianity. Each is somewhat of a key holder to salvation from the world; the Buddha through enlightenment, and Jesus through heaven. Being educated by Jesuit priests has its advantages; I believe it is a requirement to have a PHD in both Theology and Philosophy. Eight years at Jesuit schools has taught me a lot about how to understand and interpret mythology, which religion can effectively be compartmentalized under.

Proper understanding of any literature requires analysis of three major factors : historical events, cultural rituals, and most importantly language. It is impossible to understand what writers were attempting to say in ancient times without understanding their lifestyle, educational background, and historical circumstances. These three things cross over into each other (ie language is a cultural phenomenon and history consists of many important rituals and customs), so having a decent understanding of all three circumstances is important to understand the meaning of what is being said.

If we look at most modern-day christianity, a lot of this contextual information is forgotten, therefore disregarded which causes us to completely lose the meaning of the original text. You need this contextual information to understand what the author is trying to express.

A lot of people don’t understand the bible but quote it regularly; I hesitate to say most, but I don’t think I would be wrong. It is an ancient book written for ancient times and most of it was passed orally before it was ever written, including all four books about Jesus’ life. Even with all of the available knowledge regarding historical, cultural, and linguistic circumstances, we still have a very small picture into the life of someone like Jesus. So we idealize about the individual person in nearly every way, because we allow our brains to construct “the perfect” human. This is essentially what the ideal of Jesus epitomizes in Christianity, an individual that sacrifices everything for his community, even though he receives no recognition for it.

The buddha is very similar to eastern traditions. A lot of the knowledge passed from the Buddha was also passed down orally; but instead of the 70-100 years gap before Jesus’ teachings were written, the Buddha’s teaching were first written about 400 years after he died. This leaves a rather large margin for misinterpretation in the writings of both holy books. He was also a “perfected” human, though his path was different he achieved enlightenment and unison with the divine.

Most scholars accept that the Buddha lived and founded a monastic order and that he was a younger contemporary of Mahavira (the Jain teacher). But very few are hesitant to say much more than this, because of the convoluted theologically influences historical events. The same is true with Jesus, most scholars accept that he lived, died, and founded an order in the process. But scholars of both traditions believe that the traditional texts are not at all historically reliable.

Both the Buddha and Jesus led tremendous cultural revolutions that were anti-establishment; Jesus against rabbis and Jewish pharisees, and the Buddha against Hindu ascetics and Brahmins that constructed the caste system. Both taught about freedom that can’t be obtained externally and both were very misunderstood then, and now. And both were lost to time, never to be truly understood because of lack of reliable information. This has created a complete idealization of both figures, so much so that individuals consider them to be the gateways to the divine.

Why am I writing about this? To exemplify a constructive process of the mind, called idealization. We do this with people we look up to, idolizing and making up idealistic personalities for them. Modern music, movies, acting, etc creates plenty of this. It is part of how we dream, we look up to the individuals we think of as the most successful, or the highest quality. Then we try to be more like them to improve our functioning within society.

We need to step away from these ideals and understood the people around us as humans, rather than idealizing about your favorite artist, a model whose body is unforgettable when photo shopped. Jesus and the Buddha were both humans. There really isn’t any evidence to show otherwise, so that is my position that I am sticking to, because instead of creating an impossible ideal to strive towards, now you have a concrete human that you can measure your own progress against.

Being anti-establishment is important; it’s what allows the establishment to grow and evolve to better fit the needs of the unfortunate underprivileged. Both leaders were completely anti-establishment, in my opinion. They were leading revolutions. Remember that the next time you go to church, or a temple. Jesus literally taught against established religion. I don’t remember Jesus ever going to church, nor the buddha building a temple where he wanted to meditate. The Buddha was enlightened under a tree! And both were focused on being and existence and you can tell because they didn’t write anything about themselves! They were busy teaching people how to stop thinking about how virtue can make you happy. So focus on being happy now, like these awesome dudes!

 

Temples in Mysore

Patanjali Statue from the Jois Shala

Another photoblog. For those of who actually like my writing, I have published a lengthy article on the tenets of Maya, or reality.

palace_sculpture
palace_sculpture
hanuman_statue
hanuman_statue
Hanuman_Rama
Hanuman_Rama
Shiva_Temple
Shiva_Temple
Lakshmi
Lakshmi
Temple_Sculptures
Temple_Sculptures
Shiva_Family
Shiva_Family
Krishna_depiction_children_school
Krishna_depiction_children_school

IMG_8674

vishnu_temple
vishnu_temple

IMG_8785 IMG_8801

small_temple
small_temple
Patanjali Statue from the Jois Shala
Patanjali Statue from the Jois Shala
ganesha_temple
ganesha_temple
wall_panel_Shiva_temple
Vishnu_wall_panel_Shiva_temple
Mysore Temple Loudspeakers
Mysore Temple Loudspeakers
Temple in Mysore
Temple in Mysore
Garuda
Garuda

The Buddha

Buddha_mountain

buddha_w_tree

 Siddhartha Gautama

Siddhartha Gautama, or the buddha, is the sage whose teachings were interpreted to form Buddhism. ‘Buddha’ means awakened one, or enlightened one and is titular for the first awakened being of an age. Siddhartha is the supreme buddha (Sanskrit सिद्धार्थ गौतम  |  samyaksaṃbuddha) and taught a middle way between the opposing philosophies of indulgence and asceticism in the eastern regions of India in about BCE. Most of the traditions of Buddhism were passed down by oral tradition through monasteries and about 400 years later were committed to writing.  The majority of scholars today believe that he did indeed live during the Mahajanapada|महाजनपद era in India thus making him a younger contemporary of Mahavira, the Jain teacher.

The Buddha had teachers, many that are very notable: Alara Kalama, Udaka Ramaputta who appear to have taught him meditative techniques. He was also influenced by many contemporary thinkers like Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Ajita Kesakambali, Pakudha Kaccayana, Sanjaya Belatthaputta, and the Vedic Brahmins. There are many traditional biographies that historians disagree with, but that are very interesting for understanding the religion as a whole.

The Buddhacarita is an epic Sanskrit poem by Asvaghosa, who wrote in classical Sanskrit. The Lalitavistara Sutra, Mahavastu, and the Nidanakatha are other accounts of the Buddha’s life, leading to different traditions and accounts.

He was born a Sakya, either in Uttar Pradesh India, Nepal, or Piprahwa, but tradition states him as being born in Lumbini, Nepal. The Buddha denied being man or god, but the stories of the scholars bring light to the man after whom the religion is based.

His story was elaborated upon time and again in tradition after tradition, but the ending is always the same: Siddhartha sits under the Bodhi tree for 49 days and becomes enlightened. The buddha awakes. He realized the cause of suffering and how to eradicate it with use of the four noble truths striving to attain Nirvana|निर्वाण or the ultimate stillness. Hindus refer to this as an extreme egolessness, or quietness of the mind and unison with Brahman. The buddha described it as perfect peace.

The buddha lived and taught for a long time, and his death seemed to be somewhat voluntary, though his last meal might have been pork. Tradition even dictates that he may have been somewhat sexist, refusing women into his following at first. At first, the buddha didn’t even want to teach! He doubted that human could grasp the subtlety of his message, or the intricate complexity of its meanings.

The authenticity of much of the buddhist religion’s traditions are in question, but they seem to be at least based on the original Gautama. The core principle of buddhism, dhyana, or object-based meditation is maintain across all traditions, as is the concept of liberating insight. However, scholars believe that the buddha’s teachings were likely personal and that the eightfold path and four truths may have been expounded upon after the buddha’s passing. Many find evidence only for a middle path or middle way. Some Hindus regard the buddha as the ninth incarnation of Vishnu.

The stories you have heard and likely largely exaggerations of the buddha’s birth and upbringing. There really was a buddha, very long ago, though his teaching was likely very different from its depiction today and was likely very personalized to each individual, though he never claimed to be a god. This remains one of the core tenets of Buddhism, that there is no god and that the universe is somewhat tailored to each of us individually, though we are part of a larger whole. Humans are subject to the wild laws of karma and continue in samsara until we achieve moksha, or liberation. For more on the religion, please see my article on buddhism.

You don’t need to be Saved

This article might offend you if you are Christian, so if you are, you are forewarned.

There is one concept that exists within all of the Judeo-Christian religions that I completely disagree with and I believe is consistently misinterpreted as a foundation for the faith that accompanies the religions that stem from Abraham. Original sin. This cascades from the book of genesis into the entire religious tradition and causes a separation between humans and their environment as “the land of the corrupted”. It makes the entire world evil, because at the core of the human race, there is this flaw described in Genesis as the fruit of knowledge.

I think that somewhere along the line, mis-interpretations led to ignorance of the original meaning behind the story, that man is caretaker of his land. We are unifiers, creators, builders, sustainers, and our gift of intelligence means that we must learn how to sustain the system that we are a part of. And to view the entire world as flawed and sinful by nature, must be very depressing, hopeless, except for the afterlife, which leads to a tremendous fear of death and precipitation upon the moment of exiting this realm of consciousness (or going to heaven, whatever).

So what I am saying is, there is no original flaw, just the chaos of the universe, which people like to interpret themselves as the victim of until they are let into the pearly gates for their subjugation of suffering in this world. The truth is, this world is suffering, and yet, that is what makes it so beautiful. Without conflict, there is nothing. So rejoice in the somethingness, the thereness, the presence, instead of worrying about what is not, what could be or what should be. It’s not that you don’t want to think about how things might be different, but looking back can only take you to imperfect and subjectively biased memory, so let go.

There is nothing wrong with you. You are not a sinner. And that idea was developed by humans to try to teach people how to live more fruitfully and harmonically with their neighbors. That is the biggest reason why the 10 commandments were developed by men, influenced by the code of Hammurabi. You are an animal, like a dog, just a whole hell of a lot smarter.  Think of how lazy you like to be, you can sit in bed all day, no problem. We all can, we do it when we are sick. I have this argument with people a lot, but I really don’t think humans are too much smarter than animals. Maybe I am biased because of my language major, but I honestly believe that the only major difference between a human and an animal is our language processing which leads to increased complexity of social interactions which has led us to a collective consciousness, which is now directed mostly by interactions on the internet.

I am a big fan of Jesus’ work, however, I don’t like the church or any formalized establishment that claims to teach Jesus’ work because he was inherently anti-establishment. I don’t think he would be super stoked about the church, at all. I also think that he would be pretty pissed at Joel Osteen for being such a tremendous douchebag. I mean, go to his website, it looks like the ’08 Obama campaign, “Give hope”, “hope now”, “encourage yourself to be more encouraging” and all of that self-improvement bullshit that really only has to do with you wasting your time and money listening to his voice, which is probably really enjoyable for some people.

So yeah, I think our friend Jesus would be pretty fucking pissed at how things have turned out with his teachings, from misinterpretations to blatant disregard for metaphorical storytelling and mythological literature. There are no magic tricks, apart from the love the Jesus teaches being transformative in the highest degree, but let me ask you, have you ever felt this love at church? Blinding light, bliss, peace, nothingness? I don’t think this kind of stuff happens at church, but it definitely does in mediation, and if you look back to Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, what the fuck you do think he was doing out there? Enjoying the blistering sun and probably big lack of water and proper sanitation? No way, he was probably breaking down his body and mind so that he could discover the core of his humanity and become aware of the awe-inspiring forces at work inside of his body and mind. (which if you think logically about what humans have written about god, it has to be self-referential to the life that already exists, because we are essentially the top of the food chain)

So why the hell do people go to church, when it wasn’t ever mentioned by the propagator of the religion. “Yeah” he said. “Go once a week, then when you die, you be let into an all inclusive resort on a cloud with a big golden gate and everyone you’ve ever met will be to congratulate you on your life”. The kingdom of heaven that Jesus was talking about had nothing to do with death! He was talking about the mental state of consciousness when you exist in this world. He was explaining relative psychology and true happiness, not some technique for ensure that you can life forever in heaven.

If Jesus were still alive, and you asked him to save you, what do you think he would say? He would probably say something like, “Why do you need me to free yourself to live in the liberation of the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, it’s all in your own head, if you want something to change, then go change it. But there is nothing wrong with you to begin with that you have to change.

Acceptance for the chaos of the world and willingness to continue on will save you from your own thoughts. You don’t have to know what happens after you die, you don’t have to think about the bad things you’ve done to become a better person. All you need is the somethingness of the present moment and a big breath in to enjoy your consciousness.

This is how I think about things so I am really not sorry for expressing myself. Come practice some yoga with me sometime!

Jainism | जैन धर्म

Jainism

Jainism is an Indian religion devoted to the practice of Ahimsa, self-control, and self-discipline and teaches that these are the pathways to liberation. Jainism is non-theistic, and modern Jainism is divided into two sects, Digambara and Svetambara. Jainists are renowned for their literacy and education and have the highest degree if literacy of any religious community in India and their manuscripts are the oldest in the country. Jain’s do not believe in a creator god, rather view the universe as eternal and self-sustaining; their proofs use logic and syllogism to refute creationist theories which have been used as examples in science and literature even in recent times. The goal of the religion is to achieve Moksha, liberation from the cycles of rebirth, where one is no longer interested in the functionings of the universe and attains nirvana.

A long time ago, Jainism was one of the most popular religions in India. Jains trace their lineage through a succession of twenty-four tirthankaras who created the religion, with Rishabha being the first and Mahavira the last. The religion has been in decline since the 8th Century because of the expansions of Hinduism and Islam and their oppression over the Jain religion.

Jainism is derived from the Sanskrit word Jin which means ‘to conquer’. This is a conquest over the desires, passions, and pleasures of the senses to win liberation, a victor is known as a Jina, or conqueror. Jaina Dharma (जैन धर्म) is another name for the religion which prescribes equality for all of life, a path of complete ahimsa, and emphasizes spiritual independence, intelligence, and exploration of subjective truth.

There is a body of wisdom taught by all Tirthankara known as the purvas. Due to the exclusively oral tradition of these teachings, they were lost during the ages due to famine that caused the death of many of the Jainist saints. The Jain Agamas are the canonical texts of the religion, comprised for forty-six works based of Mahavira’s teachings, who was the last Tirthankara. Jains encourage higher education their philosophy has had great impact on Indian culture.

The fundamental doctrines of Jainism are revolutionary: The Jain’s call the universe ‘Loka’ meaning world and say that it was not created, but has existed since infinity and has neither beginning nor end; Jains also believe that the universe is made up of six dravya, or substances called Jiva, Pugdala, Dharma-dravya, Akasa, and Kala; the Kalacakra or spinning wheel of time is eternal and beginningless; there are three dimensions of the universe, Urdhva Loka, upper world, Madhya Loka, middle world, and Adho Loka, lower world; Their concept of truth is called anekantavada, referring to the idea of subjective truths and that life is viewed with very limited perception which humans may have in much more limited quantities than we normally consider. These are only a few of the philosophical subjects that Jainism tackles with its theoretic metaphysics. I will be writing another article on them shortly, check back in a couple weeks.

Jain’s believe strongly in the cultivation of wisdom, knowledge, and education. They believe in five core principles: ahimsa, non-violence; satya, truth; asteya, non-taking; brahmacharya, refrain from sexual activity; and aparigraha, non-possessiveness. Worshippers of Shiva and the Buddha are the main reasons for Jainism’s decline, they were violent and contemptuous towards the Jain ascetics. The Vaishnava sects of Hinduism and the growth of Hinduism itself are what drove the decline of Jainism. Today, there are about 4.2 million around the world, spread throughout mostly Asia.

The Jains primary mantra is that of a prayer towards the good qualities of the gods, monks, and towards their spiritual teachers throughout the universe, praising and respecting their good qualities. The prayer is recited as follows:

Namo Arihantanam
Namo Siddhanam
Namo ayariyanam
Namo Uvajjhayanam
Namo Loe Savva sahunam
Esopancanamokkaro, savvapavappanasano
Mangalanam e savvesim, padamama havai mangalam

Jains fast and meditate often; monasticism is encouraged and respected deeply. Followers have neither possessions nor homes, but wander from place to place traveling barefoot without using any services and only accept food that is offered to them. Jains spend four months not traveling and wandering, known as Chaturmas when they teach the communities they join about religion and observe the rules from the Kalpa Sutra.

Jainism is one of the most interesting and unique religions in the world, currently it is making a resurgence in eastern Europe and various places in Asia. Its concepts are fascinating and I haven’t even gotten to half of them yet, stay tuned for my next article on Jain philosophy and probably another on Jain cosmology. I am really hoping that I can find more information when I get to India, although I don’t know how much of an influence Jainism will have in Mysore.

 

Hinduism

hinduism

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.