Tuesday September 25, 2018

Self-Realization alone leads to Moksha

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By Nithin Sridhar

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 12

Photo Credit: memyinnerthoughts.blogspot.com
Photo Credit: memyinnerthoughts.blogspot.com

God is central to all religious traditions. The conception of this God which is referred by the term ‘Brahman’ in Hinduism is very different from the conception of God in Semitic religions.

In the last two installments, the two questions: “Where is God?” and “How to define God?” were taken up. In this installment, let us look into another important question: “How to reach/realize God?”

It was pointed out before, that Brahman is both transcendent and immanent and He exists both beyond the universe as well as within the hearts of every creature. And attaining unity with this Brahman is termed as ‘Moksha’ or liberation.

Conventionally, Moksha is described as “liberation of an Individual from the cycle of birth and death.” So, transcending death and never returning back to this Karmic cycle is the hallmark of Moksha. It must be pointed out that death need not refer to only the discarding of the physical body. Death is the best metaphor to denote change. Through death, an individual moves from one body to another, from one life to another, and from one realm to another.

Therefore, transcending death truly means transcending these changes and attaining a state of eternal changeless existence. This eternal changeless existence is nothing but Brahman itself, which is described as changeless existence (Satyam), objectless awareness (Jnanam), and part-less Infinity (Anantham) by the Taittiriya Upanishad (2.1.1).

So, how does an individual who is endowed with a body and mind, which by its very nature is very limited in its existence and awareness, attain the supreme state? Svetashwatara Upanishad (3.8) says:

vedAhametaM puruShaM mahAntamAdityavarNaM tamasaH parastAt |

tamEva viditva atimrutyumeti nAnyaH panthA vidhyate ayanAya ||

Translation: I have realized this Great Being (mahAt puruShaM) who shines like the sun, and who is beyond darkness of ignorance (tamasaH). Only by realizing Him one can transcend death and there is no other path than this.

This mantra is very significant. It says that there is no other way to transcend death and attain Moksha other than ‘realization of Brahman.’ Therefore, one can attain Brahman, only by the realization of Brahman. In other words, Moksha does not involve going to any realms of existence, be it realm of Gods, or forefathers, or that of Hiranyagarbha.

It is stressed that, though Moksha is portrayed as the ultimate goal of life, it is not a goal in the sense of travelling to some place, or attaining some powers, or some high meditation state. Instead, it is saying, that Moksha is nothing but the realization of the true nature of Brahman (which is called as BrahmaJnana or Atma Jnana).

In the previous installments, we saw that Brahman stays in the Hrdaya (hearts) of all beings as their innermost Atman/Self. Hence, realization of Brahman is nothing but realization of Brahman in one’s own Atman. The Vedanta teachers call this “BrahmaAtmaAikyam” i.e. perceiving the unity and non-difference of Brahman and Atman, God and Innermost Self.

Therefore, we can refine our understandings of Moksha further and define it as “being established in one’s own Innermost Atman, which (being non-different from Brahman) is by very nature existence, awareness, infinite, and blissful (anandam).” And the only way to attain this Atman and become established in it is through Atma-Jnana, the realization of the innermost Self.

Photo Credit: krishnaunlimited.com
Photo Credit: krishnaunlimited.com

Adi Shankaracharya also stresses this point in his Vivekachoodamani. He says (verse 413): “Meditate on that Atman which is your Self, which is devoid of all limitations, which is verily existence, knowledge, and bliss Absolute and is non-dual. (By this) you will no longer be under the influence of birth and death.” Hence, Shankaracharya also asserts that it is only by realization of the Self through meditation on the Self, that one becomes free from the cycle of birth and death.

There is one issue that needs to be dealt with here. A question may arise, why do the scriptures say Moksha is possible only through the Knowledge/Realization of Self? How is knowledge connected to liberation from birth and death?

Hindu scriptures point out that, the very creation of the world has been accomplished by Brahman through his mysterious power of Maya. Using this Maya, Brahman who is Birthless, Changeless, and Limitless appears as taking birth, undergoing changes, and subjected to limitations. Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita (4.6) states that: “Though I am Birthless, Undecaying by nature, and the Lord of beings, (still) by subjugating My Prakriti, I take birth by means of My own Maya.” (Swami Gambirananda’s translation). The same has been expressed in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.5.19) that says: “Lord on account of Maya, appears as manifold.”

Therefore, the manifestation of the Universe and all its objects is not a real and permanent creation or transformation. Instead, it is only an apparent manifestation. Just as a mirage makes water appear where there is no water. Similarly, through Maya, one Infinite Brahman appears as multiple objects, each of them subjected to various limitations. It is for this reason, the Universe is described as product of Ignorance or Avidya. Here, the ignorance, refers to the ignorance of the true nature of Atman. An Individual identifies his self with his body, his possessions, and his mind. These false identifications arise because of the ignorance that his true Self, the Atman is beyond the limitations of the body and the mind.

As the ignorance is the root-cause of this world and the cycle of birth and death, the only way it is possible to transcend this karmic cycle is by realization of the true Atman, by which the ignorance is destroyed. It is for this reason the scriptures stress that only through the realization of Atman, that one can attain Moksha.

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

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 10

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 11

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Spiritual Ideas Sore At The World Hindu Congress

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new -- when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

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Hinduism
Government invites entries for first National CSR Awards VOA

At its best, speeches at the recently concluded World Hindu Congress echoed the soaring spiritual ideals evoked by Swami Vivekananda in Chicago 125 years ago.

Even Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsangchanalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), focused essentially on the need for unity and patience among Hindus while fighting obstacles, of which, he said, there would be many. The burden of excavating implied accusations in Bhagwat’s speech fell to his critics.

At the plenary session, the moderator requested speakers to address issues of conflict without naming the speakers or their organisations in the interest of harmony. Other speakers sought to unite the followers of all the great religions that took birth in India — Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Some of the speakers from Bhagwat to Swami Swaroopananda of the Chinmaya Mission, framed the issues before Hinduism in a moral paradigm. Ashwin Adhin, the Vice President of the Republic of Suriname, began his speech in chaste Hindi, later quoting cognitive scientist George Lakoff: “Facts matter immensely. But to be meaningful they have to be framed in terms of their moral importance.”

Hinduism
Buddhism relates sins to the characteristics one adopts. Pixabay

The dissonances, between the spiritual and the mundane, were to emerge later on the fringes of the seminars which were part of the Congress. Many of the delegates appropriated to themselves the mantle of a culture besieged by proselytising faiths. There were speakers who urged Hindus to have more children to combat their ‘dwindling population’. Posters warned Hindus of the dangers from ‘love jihad’ (Muslim men ‘enticing’ Hindu women).

In one of the sessions on the media, filmmaker Amit Khanna noted that religion had always played a prominent part in Indian cinema, starting with the earliest mythologicals. “Raja Harishchandra”, the first silent film, he said, was made by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913. He sought to reassure the audience on the future of Hinduism. “Over 80 percent of Indians are Hindus,” he said adding: “Hinduism has survived many upheavals for thousands of years. Hinduism has never been endangered.”

Other speakers, lacking spiritual and academic pedigrees, drew on an arsenal of simulated anguish and simmering indignation.

The nuances of history pass lightly over the ferociously devout and it took little effort to pander to an aggravated sense of historical aggrievement.

Hinduism
Swami Vivekananda used to stress upon the universal brotherhood and self-awakening. Wikimedia Commons

At one of the debates, the mere mention of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, elicited sniggers and boos. The speaker hinted at ‘Nehruvian socialism’ which had made the Indian economy a non-starter. He concluded with a coup de grace, to a standing ovation: “Nehru did not like anything Indian.”

The poet Rabindranath Tagore, who composed the Indian national anthem, had spoken of his vision of a country where the “clear stream of reason had not lost its way”. At some of the discussions, even the most indulgent observer would have been hard put to discern the stream of reason.

The image of a once great civilisation suppressed by a century of British rule and repeated plunder by invaders captured the imagination of many in the audience. Hanging above it all, like a disembodied spirit, was the so-called malfeasance of Nehru, the leader who had won the trust of Hindus only to betray them in the vilest manner.

These tortured souls would have been well advised to adopt a more holistic approach to Hinduism, and history, looking no further than Swami Vivekananda, who once said: “The singleness of attachment (Nishtha) to a loved object, without which no genuine love can grow, is very often also the cause of denunciation of everything else.”

Hinduism
The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures.

Historians have informed us that Nehru preferred his father’s intellect over his mother’s tradition but he was never contemptuous of religion. While he undoubtedly felt that organised religion had its flaws, he opined that it supplied a deeply felt inner need of human nature while also giving a set of values to human life.

In private conversations some delegates spoke of how their America-born children had helped persuade them to drop their pathological aversion to gays and lesbians. Despite their acute wariness of perceived cultural subjugation, the irony was obviously lost on them that Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code,(which criminalises gay sex) recently overturned by the Indian Supreme Court, is a hangover from the Victorian British era-embodied in the Buggery Act of 1533.

In the face of the upcoming elections in the US, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi’s decision to speak at the conference was a political risk. With a newly energised political Left, even the perception of being linked with “fascist” or sectarian forces could be political suicide in the critical November elections. Despite vociferous appeals to disassociate himself from the Congress, Krishnamoorthi chose to attend.

“I decided I had to be here because I wanted to reaffirm the highest and only form of Hinduism that I have ever known and been taught — namely one that welcomes all people, embraces all people, and accepts all people, regardless of their faith. I reject all other forms. In short, I reaffirm the teaching of Swami Vivekananda,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Given the almost pervasive abhorrence of anything remotely Nehruvian among a section of the delegates, it was a revelation to hear the opinion of Dattatrey Hosable, the joint general secretary and second-in-command in the RSS hierarchy. Speaking on the promise of a newly-resurgent India, Hosable said in an interview to Mayank Chhaya, a local journalist-author-filmmaker: “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new — when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

Also Read: Triple Talaq Now Banned in India

The quote is from Nehru’s famous Tryst with Destiny speech delivered to the Indian Constituent Assembly on the midnight of August 14, 1947 — proof, if any is needed, that the force of Nehru’s ideas can transcend one’s disdain of him. (IANS)