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Lecture 6

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Carleton University
RELI 2732
Angela Sumegi

Week 6 Notes Hindu Perspectives Slides: • Sindhu - ancient Indian (Sanskrit) name • Indos - ancient Greek name • Hindu - ancient Persian name • The Vedas – sacred scriptures of the Hindus • Composed between 1500 BCE and 600 BCE • Verses of praise to the various gods of the Aryan peoples – • Surya - sun god • Candra - the moon god • Agni - god of fire • Indra - god of storms • Yama - the lord of death. Stratification of Vedic Aryan Society – The priestly (Brahmin) class who memorized the Veda, and conducted the fire ritual which was the main religious ritual – the warrior/ruler class whose job it was to protect the people, – the merchant class who constituted the commercial sector of society – the servant class, landless labourers who served others and worked the land. Sanātana Dharma • the eternal or constant dharma • Two aspects: Social and family duty Eternal cosmic law or Truth Three paths to liberation (Moksha) • Karma marga - the path of ritual action associated with the ancient sacrificial religion of the Vedas • Jñāna marga the path of knowledge related to the later Vedic tradition of the Upanishads • Bhakti marga the path of devotion related to worship and devotion to a particular deity KARMA = Action • In the Vedic period 1500 – 800 BCE Karma = the ritual action of the sacrifice • In the Upanishads 800 – 600 BCE Karma is associated with the intention behind the action Four Realms of the Vedic universe • The celestial realm inhabited by sky gods • The atmospheric realm inhabited by gods of the atmosphere like the wind and storms, • The earth inhabited by humans and gods of the earth e.g. river gods, mountain gods • Underworld or World of the Fathers inhabited by the dead ancestors Unchanging Reality • Two aspects: • Brahman – refers to unchanging reality on a cosmic or universal level • Atman (individual soul) – refers to unchanging reality on a personal or individual level • Samsara = unending cycle of rebirth and redeath • Keeps on going due to self-oriented action (karma) • Moksha = liberation from samsara Ideal Stages of life of an upper caste male (According to the Laws of Manu c. 100 CE) • Student • Householder • Retirement • Renunciation Naciketas in the House of Death (Yama) • Naciketas’ three boons (favours) That his father will not be angry with him How to perform the fire sacrifice To know what happens when we die Tad etad This is That This = Atman That = Brahman The innermost self of the individual (Atman) is not other than God, the universal ground of existence (Brahman) HINDUISM  Classical Hinduism centres around 2 concepts -- dharma and karma  Dharma has 2 aspects— 1. the guiding principles for life and behaviour—the ethics that guide both rulers and subjects - Dharma as social duty 2. the eternal cosmic law of the way things are. The universe has an order and harmony about it—and it is the aim of the external dharma, the ethical rules and principles, to enable the person to live a life that is in harmony with this eternal cosmic law. Karma = the principle of action and reaction. Actions of body, speech and mind generated either by positive or negative intentions and their positive or negative consequences. Factors of unity—  Veda – the sacred scripture -- all of the four main traditions of Hinduism claim to be based on the Veda although they each follow their own line of interpretation.  there is an aspect to every living being that is undying, unchanging, an immortal and eternal unchanging essence or soul (atman) –  there is also the belief that the universe and everything it encompasses rests on an ultimate source or foundation—Brahman—that which is the source of all existence, the basis of all conscious activity and the essence of joy or bliss.  The ultimate goal of life in Hinduism is to recognize and experience the oneness between the inmost essence of the individual person -- Atman and the absolute ground of existence - supreme being, Brahman. There are differing interpretations of the nature of Brahman and the relationship between the individual and the cosmic but the immortality of the soul and the idea that liberation/salvation/moksha is the union of the individual and the absolute is accepted by all traditions.  three paths related to death, afterlife and moksha or salvation in hinduism— 1. the path of ritual action, related to the ancient sacrificial religion of the Vedas 2. the path of knowledge related to the later Vedic tradition of the forest- dwelling seers captured in the texts called the Upanishads 3. the path of devotion (bhakti) related to worship and devotion to a particular deity Path of Ritual Action  Karma is a word signifying action – in th Vedic period 1500-800 BCE it referred to the ritual action of the sacrifice that brought about effects such as good crops and wealth.  In the Vedic age, religion centred around divine powers or gods (devas) who were closely associated with the powers of nature. They were divided into 3 classes – celestial gods, atmospheric gods, and terrestrial gods.  The universe was divided into 4 realms the celestial realm, the atmospheric realm, earth and underworld - the land of the ancestors or the World of the Fathers  After death one went to the World of the Fathers. Sons performed annual death rituals during which offerings were made for the benefit and comfort of the ancestors. If these rituals were neglected, it was said that the ancestors would go hungry in the afterlife.  The Vedic offerings were made to Agni the god of Fire who was the intermediary between the realms.  The Vedic fire sacrifice was more than a ritual that appeased the gods. It was a way of communicating with the other realms – the gods depended on the sacrifices and offerings, just as the ancestors depended on the funeral rituals for their well-being. Therefore universal harmony and balance depended on the efficacy and continuity of ritual.  If the sacrifice was carried out properly, then it was thought to have great power – even the gods could not prevent the results of a properly conducted sacrifice. So a good afterlife was not dependent on the gods, but on whether or not the rituals had been properly performed. The path of Knowledge and release from rebirth  From the later Vedic period c.800 BCE come ideas of the immortal soul, atman, that resides in a mortal body, is released at death and is reborn life after life so long as karma continues to operate. Moksha or liberation occurs when the soul transcends all karma.  Two prominent terms in the Upanishads are Brahman and Atman – 1. Brahman refers to the universal, absolute foundation and ground of existence 2. Atman refers to the individual, inmost essence of living things – the eternal, unchanging soul  The goal of spiritual life is called moksha - liberation
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