Tuesday December 12, 2017

Fallacies in criticism of idol worship

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Photo: bongosaurus.wordpress.com

By Nithin Sridhar

An Analysis of Hindu Symbols and Practices: Part 2

Idol worship has been extensively criticized by people from diverse background. The rationalists and modern day liberals more or less dismiss it as superstition. We saw this in the article by N. Anandan. Max Muller where he considered Idol worship as a sign that Hindus are still in the state of noble savagery and had proposed that Hindus should be civilized through European and Christian influence. (1)

Dr. Ambedkar had questioned the rationale behind the practice of Prana Pratishtapana and in the recent times, Kancha Ilaiah, Dalit rights activist and writer, has linked Idol worship with rigid Caste system and has claimed that Caste divisions will become irrelevant only when idol worship becomes irrelevant.

But, the staunchest criticism of Idol worship has come from within the tradition. Swami Dayananda of Arya Samaj who had given the clarion call for returning to Vedas, has also criticized idol worship in the severest of words.

Photo: http://www.dattapeetham.com
Photo: http://www.dattapeetham.com

Some of these criticisms are outright racial or castiest or simply biased, but other criticisms are more out of misconceptions and ignorance than biasness. Let us briefly analyze some of these criticisms against idol worship.

One of the most repeated criticisms is that the priestly class encourages it to fill their own pockets, and that people are fooled into thinking that by worshiping an idol a person will be free from his sins. It is also claimed that idol worship prevents the development of a scientific bent of mind and the values of hard work and dedication.

This oft-repeated claim ignores the glaring fact that a larger majority of priests sustain on very low income bordering on poverty in many cases. Though many temples are indeed very rich, that money rarely goes to the priests. A large number of temples are under state government control, so if anybody’s coffers are filling, it is those of government. Even in the case of temples under private control, many temples are involved in social and culture activities that have only contributed to the welfare of society. Therefore, a donation to the temple is not being ‘wasted’ as it has been alleged.

If it be claimed that money is being misused due to corruption in temple boards, it is easy to point out that corruption is in government bodies as well as other NGO’s as well. Corruption is a national wide phenomenon that is not unique to temples. The fact is, people do not go to the temple with an intention to fill the coffers of the temples. Instead, they go because, in those places, people attain calmness and mental satisfaction.

People always have the option to worship at home and slowly attain a perception of the divine presence at home itself, so that mental calmness and bliss can be attained at home itself. The various practices of worship, including idol worship has been propounded for that very reason. But, not everyone is able to practice it. Temples are built as a place of worship for such people who cannot connect with God at home.

Hence, the criticism that temples have been constructed to loot the people by fooling them is based on ignorance and per-conceived biasness.

As far as the criticism that Idol worship prevents scientific bent of mind or the ability to work hard, one can only laugh at such baseless assertions. These assertions assume that a devotee is by nature superstitious. Well, many people may practice one or the other superstitions including those who are known for rationality, but such practices by itself do not make people become unreasonable and irrational. The foundation of the science of worship is as much built on the strong foundation of rationality as modern scientific thought.

Logic and rational inquiry are inseparable aspects of spiritual pursuit. But they, in no manner, contradict the devotion aspect of spiritual pursuit. Both of them, when pursued together, will lead to the purification of the mind and help a person become spiritually elevated.

Photo: ushaharding.blogspot.com
Photo: ushaharding.blogspot.com

Regarding the question of hard-work, in Gita it is said, one should work hard by giving up all hankerings for the result. In fact, it is the only way a person can truly work hard. As long as a person is attached to the fruits, he is more worried about the results than his current work. A devotee on the other hand, does his duty and surrenders the fruits to God. Hence, he is free from any anxiety or worry. Therefore, devotion that includes Idol worship, allows a person to truly understand the value of wisdom and work, and does not deny those values to the practitioners.

Another important criticism against idol worship is that idol worship is not instructed in Vedas. Further, it is claimed that Vedas prohibited Idol worship. Though it is true that there is no clear instruction that idols as such must be worshipped in the Vedas. We do find references to the usage of the term “Pratima” (symbol or image or likeness) in the Vedas.

In Taittiriya Saamhita of Krishna Yajurveda, one can find verses that say “The image of the year, which men revere in thee, O night” (Verse 5.7.2) and “Thou art the measure of a thousand, thou art the image of a thousand, thou art the size of a thousand” Verse (4.4.11). In the former mantra, the deity of the Night is being called as an image of Samvartsara (a year). Hence, the night is indeed worshiped as a symbol, as an image of the year. Similarly, in the latter verse, the Devata is being referred as an image of a thousand.

These verses do not directly speak about idol worship. Yet, they have spoken about Devatas being symbols or reflection of different phenomenon. This is the very essence of Idol worship. As explained in the previous article, Idol is first and foremost a symbol, a reflection of a specific aspect of Brahman. Hence, one uses the idol to form a mental image of the Devata, so as to perfect the concentration and meditation. The Vedas are hinting at such usage.

Further, in the Aranyakas and Upanishads, we find various forms of meditation, wherein different props are used to practice meditation on Brahman. It is argued that, various names of God are just aspects of Brahman, and hence, worshiping idols representing various Devatas are faulty. This assertion has value in the sense that if a person worship a Devata, with or without the idol, considering the limited name and form itself as the ultimate reality, he indeed does not attain ultimate Moksha. Lord Krishna himself says so in the Bhagavad Gita (9.25) that those who worship ancestors, go to them and those who worship deities as ultimate reality go to them, but they don’t attain Moksha. This is true irrespective of whether one uses Idol or not. If a person beholds only the limited nature of Devatas invoked in the fire of Yajna (sacrifice) as ultimate reality, even that is faulty.

A proper way of worship is to consider the Devatas as the manifestation of Brahman, and as being non-different from Brahman in essence and further consider the names and forms of Devatas as limiting principles assumed by Brahman itself. This equally applies to idol worship or fire worship or any other aspect of worship. It is in this context that the statements of Brahmasutras that speak about Saguna Brahman worship taking one to Brahmaloka and not Moksha is to be understood.

Photo: chipsnchutzpah.wordpress.com
Photo: chipsnchutzpah.wordpress.com

Now coming to the issue of prohibition of Idol worship in the Vedas, a few mantras from the Yajurveda, Isha Upanishad, and Kena Upanishad among others, are often quoted to show that Vedas prohibit idol worship, the chief of them being Sukla Yajurveda mantra that says “There is no image of the Supreme God” (Verse 32.3). But, on a closer analysis, it only refers to the fact that Brahman is one infinite whole without a second entity. It is speaking about the absolute nature of Brahman. In fact, the quoted portion is only a half verse. The full verse reads (translation by Ralph T.H. Griffith’s): “There is no counterpart of him whose glory verily is great. In the beginning rose Hiranyagarbha, etc. Let not him harm me, etc. Than whom there is no other born, etc.” Hence, there is no injunction here against image worship.

The case is more or less same with other often quoted verses. Moreover, we have statements as in the Isha Upanishad (Verse 1), where it is said, God is immanent and inhabits all the objects of the universe or in Kena Upanishad that clearly depicts through an analogy that, the essence of various Devatas be it Agni, Vayu, or Indra is Brahman itself and hence, we must worship that Supreme Brahman through all Devatas. These clearly uphold that, there is no fault in idol worship, as long as one realizes that one is worshiping the Supreme Brahman.

In the Bhagavad Gita (7.19-21), Krishna says that those people who do not have mental discrimination (being afflicted with desires), worship various deities, and God helps them by sustaining their faith in those deities and giving them their desired results for that worship. In other words, even if a person cannot worship a deity (with or with idols) as being the very manifestation of the Supreme Brahman, even then, God/Brahman will sustain him and help him in spiritual progress.

Therefore, there is clearly no prohibition of Idol worship in the Vedas or other scriptures. The scriptures only point out that, it is better if a person worships a Devata by realizing that the Devata is only a manifestation of Brahman, but even otherwise, the worship of Devata will yield corresponding fruits and will help a devotee to slowly evolve spiritually.

Coming to the issue of Idol worship and Caste discrimination. It has been claimed that every caste has their own unique idols and hence this paves way for caste identity and discrimination. Hence, it is claimed that caste identity can be removed only by removing idol worship.

Now, this appears as a totally baseless conclusion. It may be true that certain communities worship certain deities more frequently than other deities. In fact, we have the concept of Grama-devatas (village deities), Kula-Devatas (family deities) and Ishta Devatas (personal deities). The three are rarely the same. But, just because different castes and communities at times worship different deities, it does not mean, there is a caste identity among the deities as well! People in urban areas irrespective of their castes have mostly abandoned the worship of deities of their native villages.

Worship is a religious and spiritual practice. It is a historical fact that, there has been caste discrimination in the past (sometimes even in present) regarding entry of Dalits into certain temples. But, this is not even remotely related to the practice of idol worship as such. The Brahman is one and He manifests in infinite forms. Hence, a devotee, a dalit or not, can attain same spiritual benefit by visiting the temple of a village deity or the so called lower caste deities, as he/she attains by visiting any big or upper caste temples. The only key is that the idols must be properly consecrated, a proper puja must be regularly carried out, and most importantly, the devotee must have sincere devotion and connection with the deity.

Hence, there is no direct connection between caste discrimination and idol worship. If the worship of different deities by different castes is a concern, it can be easily rectified by worshiping deities that are considered as being from different castes. To believe that removing idol worship somehow removes caste identity and discrimination is a fallacy. The caste identity is deep rooted and can be removed only by harmoniously working towards unity and reformation. It cannot be achieved by attacking symbols and practices of Hinduism like idol worship without understanding their real essence.

Therefore, it can be easily seen that most of the criticisms against the Idol-worship are based on a shallow understanding of Hinduism. A proper understanding will clearly establish Idol-worship as a valid spiritual path that would help one eventually attain Moksha. Let me conclude with a quote from Swami Vivekananda:

All of you have been taught to believe in an Omnipresent God. Try to think of it. How few of you can have any idea of what omnipresence means! If you struggle hard, you will get something like the idea of the ocean, or of the sky, or of a vast stretch of green earth, or of a desert. All these are material images, and so long as you cannot conceive of the abstract as abstract, of the ideal as the ideal, you will have to resort to these forms, these material images. It does not make much difference whether these images are inside or outside the mind. We are all born idolaters, and idolatry is good, because it is in the nature of man. Who can get beyond it? Only the perfect man, the God-man. The rest are all idolaters.

“So long as we see this universe before us, with its forms and shapes, we are all idolaters. This is a gigantic symbol we are worshipping. He who says he is the body is a born idolater. We are spirit, spirit that has no form or shape, spirit that is infinite, and not matter. Therefore, anyone who cannot grasp the abstract, who cannot think of himself as he is, except in and through matter, as the body, is an idolater. And yet how people fight among themselves, calling one another idolaters! In other words, each says, his idol is right, and the others’ are wrong.”

More in the Series:

Part 1- The Practice of Idol Worship in Hinduism

Part 3: Hinduism and Cow

Part 4: Yajna, Madhuparka, and the use of beef

Part 5: Origins of beef consumption in India

Part 6: Beef Controversy: Beef parties and the celebration of violence

  • P G Kutty Nair

    The entire argument against idol worship focuses on Hinduism, and it is ironical that the likes of Kancha Ilaiah and the Christian evangelists join this bandwagon of critics, ignoring their own religious practices involving idol worship. Their objection is only to the idols in the temples. The innumerable images and statues of Christ, Mother Mary and the Saints that you see in churches are mere art pieces! The idols of Buddha, a web article points out, are the largest sold religious idols, but Mr Ilaiah is unaware of it!
    The only difference between an ‘image’ and an ‘idol’ is that the idol is a solid form of an image. Therefore, if idol worship is bad, image worship is bad, too! If it is argued that both are bad, then the question is what is objectionable in image worship — ‘image’ or ‘worship’. Even evangelists and Iliah cannot retain their religious identity without worship; so obviously worship is not the villain of the piece. The rationalists, too, ‘worship’ other senior rationalists, and maybe they have their own idols among cricketers or pop stars! That brings ‘image’ under question. We all know that ‘thought’ and ‘image’ are twins. A thought visualised is ‘image’, and that image solidified is ‘idol’. The rationalist may want to call it a statue, but we, the lesser intellectuals, are accustomed to regarding our parents as father and mother and not as just man and woman as the rationalists may do.

  • Krishna Kumar

    Once again, Nitin, you use wrong words, and show us that you are not fully observant of the details. You use ‘Caste’, which is a foreign term which has a different connotation than Varna and Jati. You do not show the difference, thus arming the Ilaiah crowd. I think Mr. Kutty Nair below nails you down correctly. Please continue to write, but make sure you understand the terms, the larger kurukshetra that is out there. I recommend you read Mr. Rajiv Malhotra’s book, ‘Being Different’ , which outlines Sanskrit non translatables correctly. Use the term directly, without using an equivalent English word. English is a very inadequate language to express the complex Sanatana Dharma principles.

  • P G Kutty Nair

    The entire argument against idol worship focuses on Hinduism, and it is ironical that the likes of Kancha Ilaiah and the Christian evangelists join this bandwagon of critics, ignoring their own religious practices involving idol worship. Their objection is only to the idols in the temples. The innumerable images and statues of Christ, Mother Mary and the Saints that you see in churches are mere art pieces! The idols of Buddha, a web article points out, are the largest sold religious idols, but Mr Ilaiah is unaware of it!
    The only difference between an ‘image’ and an ‘idol’ is that the idol is a solid form of an image. Therefore, if idol worship is bad, image worship is bad, too! If it is argued that both are bad, then the question is what is objectionable in image worship — ‘image’ or ‘worship’. Even evangelists and Iliah cannot retain their religious identity without worship; so obviously worship is not the villain of the piece. The rationalists, too, ‘worship’ other senior rationalists, and maybe they have their own idols among cricketers or pop stars! That brings ‘image’ under question. We all know that ‘thought’ and ‘image’ are twins. A thought visualised is ‘image’, and that image solidified is ‘idol’. The rationalist may want to call it a statue, but we, the lesser intellectuals, are accustomed to regarding our parents as father and mother and not as just man and woman as the rationalists may do.

  • Krishna Kumar

    Once again, Nitin, you use wrong words, and show us that you are not fully observant of the details. You use ‘Caste’, which is a foreign term which has a different connotation than Varna and Jati. You do not show the difference, thus arming the Ilaiah crowd. I think Mr. Kutty Nair below nails you down correctly. Please continue to write, but make sure you understand the terms, the larger kurukshetra that is out there. I recommend you read Mr. Rajiv Malhotra’s book, ‘Being Different’ , which outlines Sanskrit non translatables correctly. Use the term directly, without using an equivalent English word. English is a very inadequate language to express the complex Sanatana Dharma principles.

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7 spectacular Hindu Temples to visit in Incredible India

Have you ever considered visiting a temple while you are struggling in life? A temple visit is enough to give you strength, calm you down and help you to reconnect with divine. Go for a temple walk. Here is a list of 7 spectacular Hindu temples in Incredible India

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Hindu Temples
Akshardham Temple, Delhi (www.akshardham.com)
  • Hindus have more sacred sites, festivals and pilgrimages, more yogis, monks and sadhus, an older and vaster literature than any religion – Dr. David Frawley

Temples in Hinduism holds a very important place. Hindu temples are popularly known as mandiram, devaalayam or devastanam, meaning the shrine, abode or place of Ishwar. Hindu temples are at once a collective work of art, the adobe of Ishwar, a symbol of the cosmos and a path leading the worshipper into contact with the God, from the temporal to the eternal. Hindu temples are valued and respected both as a means of enabling worship in the presence of God and as a way to uphold Indian culture and dharma. Here is a list of 7 spectacular Hindu Temples in Incredible India you will love visiting as many times as possible in your lifetime.

1. Somnath Temple, Gujarat

Hinduism
Somnath, Gujarat (Image Credit : Shaurya Ritwik)

The Somnath is believed to be the first among the twelve jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. Somnath Temple has been looted, destroyed and resurrected 17 times. In AD 1026, Mahmud of Ghazni first looted the temple, and then came Afzal Khan, the commander of Ala-ud-din Khilji and later Aurangzeb. While the barbaric looters are sleeping in their grave, Somnath still stands as a pillar of Hinduism, as a sign of resistance. Somnath is the place where you can connect with history and your source. Best time to visit Somnath : Well, any time of the year.

2. Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Hindu Temples
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Meenakshi Temple is known for its beautiful architecture. It is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, and her consort, Sundareswar, a form of Shiva. The temple was almost completely destroyed in the year 1310 following the invasion of the Islamic conqueror Malik kafur. Most of the Islamic rulers were noted for their intolerance towards Hindu temples, the invaders destroyed most of the ancient sculptures of the temple. The temple was rebuilt by the Hindu Nayaka dynasty ruler Vishwanatha Nayakar in the 16th and 17th century. According to the Tiruvilaiyatal Puranam, of the list of 68 pilgrimage places in Shaivism, four are most important: Kashi (Varanasi), Chidambaram, Tirukkalatti and Madurai. The sacrality of Madurai is from this temple.

3. Jagannath Temple, Puri, Orissa

Hindu Temples
Jagannath Temple, Orissa (AKL)

Jagannath temple was built in the 12 th century by Raja Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. It is one of the Char Dhams of Hinduism in Incredible India and is situated on the Nilgiri Hill. The temple is known for its annual Ratha Yatra, which attracts millions of Hindu devotees every year. It is said that the divine mahaprasad of the temple is prepared under the scrutiny of goddess Lakshmi. During Rath Yatra, idol of Jagannath along with Subhadra and Balabhadra are placed in huge chariots and brought out to the street. Thousands of people pull the sacred chariot. The main chariot is around 45 feet high. These rathas are constructed new every year. It has wood-carved horses and charioteers. Rath Yatra is held every year during the month of Asadha as per Hindu calendar.

4. Kailashnath Temple, Ellora, Maharashtra

Hindu Temples
Kailashnath Temple, Ellora (Image Credits: AKL)

The Kailasha Temple or Kailashnath Temple is one of the largest rock cut ancient Hindu temples. A megalith carved out of one single rock, it is considered one of the most remarkable cave temples in India because of its size, architecture and sculptural treatment. It is a prime example of extraordinary ancient Hindu architecture. Visiting this temple will definitely give you a ride to our glorious ancient past.

5. Konark Sun Temple, Orissa

Hindu temples
Konark sun Temple, Orissa (Image Source : Wikimedia Commans)

Konark houses a colossal temple dedicated to the Sun God in Orissa attributed to king Narsimhadeva about 1250 CE. Even in its ruined state it is a magnificient temple reflecting the genius of the architects that envisioned and built it. The ruins of this temple were excavated in late 19th century. The Konark temple is famously known for its architectural grandeur and for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work. The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants. A flight of steps lead to the main entrance. If you are in Orissa you can not miss one of the most spell binding temple in Incredible India, Konark sun Temple.

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6. Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand

Hindu Temples
Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand (Image Credit: Shaurya Ritwik)
Hindu Temples
Prime Minister Modi at Kedarnath (Twitter)

Kedarnath is among one of the holiest Hindu temples of Incredible India with Lord Shiva as its residing deity. The temple was built by Pandavas and revived by Adi Shankaracharya himself in the early 8th century. The temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of India and the main temple of Panch Kedar. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April (Akshaya Tritriya) to Kartik Purnima (the autumn full moon, usually November). During the winters, the vigrahas (deities) from Kedarnath temple are brought to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six months. You must visit Kedarnath, one of the most important pilgrimage in hinduism to feel the beauty of nature and divinity.

7. Chennakeshava Temple, Belur, Karnataka

Hindu Temples
Chennakeshava Temple, Karnataka (Image Credit : Wikimedia)

The Chennakeshava Temple, also referred to as Keshava, Kesava or Vijayanarayana Temple of Belur, the erstwhile capital of Hoysala kingdom is a 12th-century Hindu temple in the Hassan district of Karnataka state, Incredible India. This Hindu temple is another testament to the amazing artistry of ancient Incredible India. This place will give you sense of pride regarding what our ancestors left for us.

So, are you ready for a “Walk to Temple”? The wonderful Hindu temples Incredible India has can not be comprehended in a list, there are lakhs of them, visit them to connect with your roots, to get acquainted with Dharma which is eternal.

 

– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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On Gita Jayanti let us look into the timeless wisdom of Bhagavad Gita, holy book of Hindus which inspired millions

Bhagavad Gita is the timeless wisdom of Sanatan Dharma for mankind. One of the most widely read book which inspired millions of people all across the globe. Read how you can shape your destiny through timeless wisdom of Bhagavad Gita

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Bhagavad Gita Jayanti
Bhagwan Krishna revealing Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna in Mahabharata

“Fear not, what is not real, never was and never will be, what is real, always was, and can never be destroyed” – Bhagawad Gita, doctrine of universal truth.

 
Today on occasion of Bhagwad Gita Jayanti I would like to  share my personal and social experiences with the eternal source of knowledge, Bhagawad Gita, book which inspired millions of readers for thousands of years. It’s no surprise that the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita has inspired countless people throughout history; being India’s best gift to mankind. Bhagawad Gita is undoubtedly the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed. 
 
The purpose behind revealing Bhagwad Gita to Arjuna by Shri Krishna was to remove his confusions at the battlefield in Kurukshetra. Similarly, all of us are so much confused in life, but we never turn to the source which can remove these confusions. Not only Arjuna, but every one of us is full of anxieties because of this material existence and scheme of things we are into. The purpose of Bhagavad Gita is to deliver mankind from the nescience of material existence. 
 
I fortunately at very young age was introduced to Bhagawad Gita by my Nana ji, who also happens to be the reason behind my deeply rooted interest in indic studies, indian philosophy, bhakti and spirituality. What Bhagawad Gita gave me in life can not be comprehended in words, it has always been the guiding force in my life, it acted as a beacon of light when life seemed all dark. After being a constant companion of Bhagwad Gita, my life changed drastically, I am sure this holds true for everyone who has been grasping the eternal flowing nectar of Bhagawad Gita. To say that I can explain Bhagawad Gita will be foolish on my part, its an ocean and I might have been blessed to grasp few drops of it. But it certainly gave me new perspective of life beyond this material world, I became more truthful to my duties and most importantly I learnt the act of letting go. The scripture of Bhagavad Gita contains precious pearls of wisdom which ought to be read by all, irrespective of one’s age, caste, color or religion.  The most important benefit envisaged by Bajgwad Gita is the “inspiration for the man to lead a ‘Dharmic life,” a fact often forgotten by the modern man who is too much troubled in making: name, fame, accomplishments, financial achievements, power and ability to control the resources. 
Bhagavad Gita Jayanti
Shri krishna in Mahabharata as “Parth Sarthi”
 
A person can acquire proper meaning in life, a deeper realization of his true identity, and attain a level of self-confidence and peace only by inward reflection and realisation which can never be reached through ordinary, materialistic studies or endeavors. Furthermore, teachings of Bhagavad Gita bring us to our higher potential in everything we do, materially or spiritually. This is the power and the importance of the Bhagavad Gita and the instructions of Shri Krishna found within it.

Gita Saar is the essence of Gita, reading this will inspire you to know Bhagwad Gita further, trust me, its the best gift you can give to yourself or anyone : 

“Whatever happened, it happened for good.
Whatever is happening, is also happening for good.
Whatever will happen, that too will be for good.
What have you lost for which you weep?
What did you bring with you, which you have lost?
What did you produce, which has perished?
You did not bring anything when you were born.
Whatever you have taken, it is taken from Here.
Whatever you have given, it is given Here.
You came empty handed and you will go the same way.
Whatever is yours today, will be somebody else’s tomorrow
And it will be some others’ later.
This change is the law of the universe
And the theme behind my creation.”

– Shri Krishna

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Bhagavad Gita Jayanti
Narendra Modi gifting Bhagavad Gita
Recently, It was so heartening to see Indian Prime Minister Modi gifting Bhagwad Gita to different nation heads. “I have nothing more valuable to give and the world has nothing more valuable to get,” the Prime Minister rightly said. Bhagawad Gita is the identity of India, it is the essence of Sanatan Dharma, the foundation rock of spirituality and guiding force for thousands of years to come.
 
It is impossible to truncate the teachings and glory of Bhagavad Gita into one page and I know that it would be sheer stupidity on my part to even think so. But I hope many of you will  get a copy of Bhagwad Gita on this auspicious occasion of Gita Jayanti, read it, distribute it, cherish it and experience the magic in your life. Gita teaches many things and as Mahatma Gandhi had said “No matter how many times Gita is read it teaches something new every time we read it”

 

–  by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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Sins in Hinduism: Facts, Meaning,Philosophy,Types & Atonement

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Sins in hinduism
The sins in Hinduism can be washed away with devotional means. Pixabay.
  • Sin is regarded as an impurity arising in one’s body as a consequence to his own evil deeds. It is an effect that can be neutralised through various practices to lead your life into Moksha or liberation.
  • A liberated being or Jivanmukta is purified of all his sins who does not have to go through any further sins and rebirth. In order to make your soul pure and sinless, practice every deed with God’s grace.
  • The Sins in Hinduism, sinful conduct and their remedies have been referred to in Hindu Scriptures such as in Upanishads, Bhagavadgita, Yoga Sutras, Manu Smriti and Garuda Purana. 

As stated about sins in Hinduism, sin may form up with disobedience to God’s divine laws of Dharma. It may however be difficult to follow, but is considered obligatory for humans. The sins in Hinduism can be forgiven if Dharma is upholded as a service to God through self-effort and pure devotion to God.

Sins in Hinduism
Meditation is considered as the easiest from of removing sins in Hinduism. Pixabay.

What is the meaning of Sins in Hinduism?

The word Pāpam (paap) is often used to describe sins in Hinduism as mentioned in the Vedas and Hindu scriptures. Punyam (punya) is the opposite (antonym) of sin. It does not acquire an equivalent word in English since the concept of sins in Hinduism is different in western culture and Christianity.

Separating the word, ‘Pa‘ means to drink, inhale or absorb. ‘Apa‘ means water, combinedly meaning consuming or drinking impure water or poison. Pāpam also denotes evil, wicked, mischievous, destructive, inferior, corrupt and guilt.

It is believed that the sins of Hinduism manifests in the body with the impurities of worldliness (vishaya-asakti). The human body becomes subject to various poisons (visham) such as egoism, greed, ignorance, selfishness, desires and so on, which emerge with our attachments with worldly things (vishayas). These poisons of sins make the humans to take rebirths and deaths until they are removed completely. In the Hindu culture, Lord Shiva is regarded as the destroyer and the healer who gets invoked by devotees prayers and can remove or destroy such poison or sins to grant them liberation.

Sins in Hinduism
The sins in hinduism have been depicted in the scriptures. Pixabay.

What is the Philosophy of Sins in Hinduism?

The sins appear from physical, mental or oral actions, due to the impurities or poisons pertaining to Dharma and Hinduism. The poison of sin is stimulated if one harms intentionally to others or oneself by way of pain and suffering continuing the cycle of rebirth and death.

The repurcussions of sinful acts or karma are fault or mistake (aparadha), worry or anxiety (cintha), impurities or imperfections (doshas), evil intentions (dudhi), evil qualities (dhurta lakshana), immorality (adharma), demonic nature (asura sampatti), chaos or disorderliness (anrta), mental afflictions (klesha), destruction (nirtti), karmic debt (rna), sorrow (shoka), darkness or grossness (tamas) and suffering (pida). Others include: inferior birth, birth through demonic wombs, downfall into hells, increased suffering to ancestors, adversity, loss of reputation.

Sins in Hinduism
Visit Pilgrimage shrines to erase your sins in Hindusim. Pixabay.

What are the types of Sins in Hinduism?

The Dharmashastras of the Hindu scriptures denote sin as Pātaka which represents the causes of one’s downfall or destruction (patanam).The following are the three types of sins in Hinduism: Mortal Sins (Mahapatakas), Secondary Sins (Upa Patakas) and Minor Sins (Prakirna or prasangika Patakas)

The Mahapatakas

These are the gravest and darkest sins in Hinduism leading to the worst downfall of the mortals into the darkest of hells. They can neither be neutralized or washed away without suffering. Some Puranas and Vedas indicate to devote oneself purely to God to remove such sins. The Dharmashastras have stated such five gravest sins termed as the Pancha Mahapatakas. In Hinduism,the company of sinners is also not advisable as associating with sinners will lead you to the same consequences.

The Upa Patakas

These secondary sins may emerge out of minor offenses that include incompetency to perform sacrifices regularly, displeasing the Guru, selling harmful and intoxicating drinks, disbelief in God, giving false witness, making false acclaims, and performing a sacrifice for an unworthy person or unworthy cause and engaging in illicit sex.

The Prakirna Patakas

These type of sins in Hinduism form the minor offenses committed intentionally or unintentionally out of ignorance or carelessness which can be removed or washed away by performing sacrifices (prayaschitta) or by punishments and requesting forgiveness. The law books regard more than fifty minor sins in Hinduism such as selling the wife, making salt, studying forbidden Shastras, killing a woman, marrying the younger son before marrying the elder one, killing insects and other creatures, ignorance to parents, accepting gifts without performing sacrifices,adultery etc.

What are the solutions to overcome Sins?

Fines and punishments

The Dharmashastras render both corporeal and monetary punishments for various offenses or sins in Hinduism, apart from the sufferings in hell or rebirth. According to Hindu scriptures, the ancient era saw immense difference in the application of punishments from caste to caste.

Confession

The best path to deal with sins of Hinduism is to surrender yourself infront of God and seek forgiveness with your own confession of the sin committed. The king was regarded as a similar figure to God who demanded a public confession (abhishasta) from the sinner.

Austerities and Atonement

By performing Vedic traditional rituals, the sins in Hinduism are removed by fasting, virtuous conduct, self-control, practice of nonviolence, truthfulness, austere living, practice of silence, concentration and meditation.

Sins in Hinduism
Your sins in Hinduism can be removed by Devoting yourself to the grace of God. Pixabay.

Rituals and sacrifices

The Vedas have recommended various rituals or sacrifices to wash away the the impurities (dhosas) arising from one’s birth, karma, relationships, place or direction related issues, vastu defects, dangerous diseases and evil conduct.

Prayers and Mantras

Vishnu Purana of the Hindu scriptures pronounce the effective importance of the continuous chanting of names of God (japam) in the Kaliyug. Some mantras and hymns are considered more significant than meditation and sacrifices to clean the impurities of the body.

Recitation of the Vedas and other Sacred Books

Knowledge (jnana) has the eternal power to remove the sins in Hinduism. It can be derived with regular reading up and learning from the scriptures of sacred importance.

Visiting pilgrimages

To grant your devotion and gratitude, Hinduism seeks to commit to Dharma by visiting holy pilgrimage place. It is a divine form of self-cleansing and experiencing peace and happiness.

Bathing in the sacred rivers

The sacred pilgrimages are mostly located near the banks of the rivers that are also treated as purifiers. Hence, bathing in those rivers lead your life into devotional worship as a purification rituals to overcome sins in Hinduism.

Yoga and Meditation

Pranayama and meditation are the suggested methods to practise peace and overcome past sins. They also form a major part of the austerities to cleanse the internal mind and body.

The blessings of saints and gurus

Saints, sadhus and mahatmas have been given a special status in Hinduism because of their respectful purity and virtue. They acquire divine knowledge and supreme powers, with which they cleanse those who approach them for blessings.

Sins in Hinduism
Worshipping the saints remove the sins in hinduism. Pixabay.

Virtuous conduct

Sinful karma can be countered with huge efforts into virtuous karma. The sins in Hinduism are washed away with kind and healthy conduct to everyone equally.

Charity

Dana (gift giving) or charity is very significant in Hindu Dharma. By conducting sacrifices and spiritual practices one must conduct charity as well. As a part of Vedas, the higher castes are under obligation to perform five daily sacrifices including offer food to gods, ancestors, sages, humans and creatures.

-Prepared by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram. Twitter @tweet_bhavana