Thursday April 25, 2019

Decoding the divine!

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By Nithin Sridhar

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 10

In the last few installments of this series, various tenets of Dharma (duty/righteousness) like Ahimsa (non-injury), Daya (compassion), and Kshama (forgiveness) were explained. In this installment, let us delve deep into the topic of Ishwara or Brahman that is usually translated in English as God.

The concept of God or the Almighty has been a matter of debate all over the world from early times of mankind. Various religions, philosophies, and even scientists have tried to answer questions regarding this Supreme Being. Though most people agree with the definition of God as one who is Supreme Almighty, there are many huge irreconcilable differences between the concepts of God of the Dharmic traditions and the Abrahamic religions.

Without getting into the debate surrounding these differences, the article will try to highlight the concept of God as understood, realized, and passed down in the tradition of Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Dharma) or Hinduism.

Any discussion surrounding the topic of God and His/Her/Its existence ultimately boils down to three questions:

What is God?

Where is God?

How to perceive/reach/realize God?

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history-of-hinduism.blogspot.com

Let’s take up only the second question: “Where is God?” in this installment.

In the Isha Upanishad, the very first mantra (verse) gives an answer to this question. It says:

IshAvAsyamida.NsarvaMyatki~nchajagatyAMjagat | (Verse 1)

This translates into God has a habitat everywhere. So, to the question “Where is God?” the Isha Upanishad answers that God is present everywhere and in all objects of the Universe. Accordingly, from a tiny blade of grass to a big mountain, God is omnipresent. This understanding can be more profoundly understood by the event of Prahlada and Hiranyakashipu as mentioned in Puranas. When demon Hiranyakashipu asked his son whether God is in the pillar? Prahlada replied in positive. When Hiranyakashipu tried to break the pillar, God in the form of Narasimha came out of the pillar and slayed the demon.

The gist of the incident is that God is everywhere, in all sentient and non-sentient objects. He is in the rocks, the wind, the planets, the star, the space, the microbes, the plants, the animals or even in humans. The next question that may immediately arise is: When it is said God is in humans, plants, or objects, where exactly is the God located in them?

Lord Krishna answers this question in Bhagavad Gita (15.15) thus:

sarvasyachAhaMhRRidisanniviShTo

Translation: And I am seated in the hearts of all

So, Lord Krishna says God is located in the hearts of all. Here “Hrdii” that is translated as “Heart” does not refer to physical heart. The non-living objects don’t have a physical heart! The “Hrdii” refers to the central essence of an individual’s existence. This can be better understood with an example.

Every circle has a center. The center is the essence of the circle. It is not only the most important portion of the circle but also the very origin of the circle. In fact, the dot which represents the center can be considered as a circle in itself but with “zero” or “near zero” radius. From this perspective, a circle with any radius is nothing but a “zero radius circle” (i.e. the center) whose radius has been increased to form a particular circle with a particular radius.

Similarly, “Hrdii” or “Hradayam” does not refer to a physical heart, but to the center of “individual’s existence” of any object living or non-living. So, even though God is present everywhere and in all objects, He can be fully and directly perceived and realized in the “Hradayam” of all creatures.

How exactly this realization could be gained is a topic for another article. But it is sufficient to say that from one school of thought in Hinduism, God who is actually called as Ishwara or Brahman (each term has a specific meaning and context) in Hinduism is not some superman kind of existence present in heaven or something. Instead, God is present everywhere and in the heart of all creatures.

More in this segment:
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 1
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 2
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 3
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 4
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 5
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 6
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 7
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 8
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 9

Next Story

Personal Encounter with ‘God’ May Bring Long-lasting Health

About 75 per cent of the respondents in both the non-drug and psychedelics groups rated their “God encounter” experience as among the most meaningful and spiritually significant in their lifetime

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12th-century Brahma with missing book and water pot, Cambodia. (Wikipedia)

A personal encounter with the “ultimate reality” or God — spontaneous or under the influence of a psychedelic drug — can bring positive changes in psycho’logical health even decades after the initial experience, says an interesting study.

In a survey of thousands of people who reported having experienced personal encounters with God, researchers from Johns Hopkins University report that more than two-thirds of self-identified atheists shed that label after their encounter, regardless of whether it was spontaneous or while taking a psychedelic.

The findings, described in a paper in the journal PLOS ONE, add to evidence that such deeply meaningful experiences may have healing properties.

“Experiences that people describe as encounters with God or a representative of God have been reported for thousands of years, and they likely form the basis of many of the world’s religions,” said lead researcher Roland Griffiths, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Johns Hopkins’ School of Medicine.

“Although modern Western medicine doesn’t typically consider ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ experiences as one of the tools in the arsenal against sickness, our findings suggest that these encounters often lead to improvements in mental health,” he argued.

People over the millennia have reported having deeply moving religious experiences either spontaneously or while under the influence of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin-containing mushrooms or the Amazonian brew ayahuasca.

This chance occurrence had forever immortalized the Feline species as being irrevocably intertwined with Goddess worship.
Idol of Goddess Durga.

The researchers say a majority of respondents attributed lasting positive changes in their psychological health — life satisfaction, purpose and meaning — even decades after their initial experience.

For the new study, the scientists used data from 4,285 people worldwide who responded to online advertisements to complete one of two 50-minute online surveys about God encounter experiences.

The surveys asked participants to recall their single most memorable encounter experience with the “God of their understanding,” a “higher power,” “ultimate reality” or “an aspect or representative of God, such as an angel.” They also asked how respondents felt about their experience and whether and how it changed their lives.

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Of those who reported using a psychedelic, 1,184 took psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), 1,251 said they took LSD, 435 said they took ayahuasca (a plant-based brew originating with indigenous cultures in Latin America), and 606 said they took DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine), also a naturally occurring substance found in certain plants and animals.

About 75 per cent of the respondents in both the non-drug and psychedelics groups rated their “God encounter” experience as among the most meaningful and spiritually significant in their lifetime. (IANS)