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RLG205H5 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Vedic Sanskrit, Aruni, Indus River

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David Miller
Study Guide

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1. Structure of Varna and Jati & differences:
Varna can be translated from Sanskrit and means “colour”. It is one of the four Aryan classes of society in
the 1500-200 B.C.E . Varna refers to symbolizing colour as the basis of determining the hierarchy of the
classes. The Brahmans and Brahmins are the priests and the religious elite who are considered pure and light. The
Brahman teach the veda, which means ―wisdom‖. The next important individuals down from the highest social
hierarchy are the Kshatriyas whom are kings, nobles, military men and political elite. Their duty is to protect the
people with their arms. These two varnas are considered the purest. The next class are the Vaisya, they are the
merchants who sell items and tend cattle. The Shudras are the labourers, ,farmers, commoners and peasants who
work for the upper classes. The untouchables are considered impure. The first three are considered the lighter
people and therefore come first on the social system and then the darker people become the labourers.
The first three classes were also called “twice-born” classes as they had the right to obtain an initiation into the life
of a Brahmin through an initiation ceremony involving a sacred thread.
The Jati system is determined by birth. The term Jati is related to the idea of the lineage or kinship group. Under
the Jati system, a person is born into a Jati with ascribed social roles and endogamy, i.e. marriages take place
only within that Jati. Jati refers to a system of class that involves all living things, such as, humans, animals,
insects, and plants. Karma means “by your actions,‖ and they believe that. People were born into a class
because of deeds (karma) done in their previous lives. A member from a higher class cannot perform the same
rituals as a member from a lower class and vice versa. The Jati system is radically different from the Varna system.
A jati is indentified in a local setting by whom its members will accept food and water and which Jatis will serve
them. However, the jati moves up the social scale as a group. A jati can improve their position in the class
system by advancing economically and by creating a pure, legendary origin.
The differences between the two systems of classification are that the Varnas, provide a more stable model for
a stratified social order in which each group is clearly defined. The traditional view is that the jatis represent
a proliferation of social groups from the varna system. Jati indicated a mere specialisation in a particular art, craft or
profession. The relationship between the varnas and jatis is complex. Some beliefs are that the varnas evolved into
the jatis. Major factors of the Caste system were: Endogamy: One could only marry within their caste
gotras. Commensality: One could not eat with a member of a higher or lower class.
Indra and Agni Characteristics and Functions in Vedic religion:
In Vedic religion, which was brought about by the Invading Aryans, Indra was the God of the Atmosphere. His
human counterpart is Khsatriya. He is described in the Rig Veda as a warrior chieftain with a thunderbolt for a
weapon like the Greek god, Zeus. He is accompanied by a band of young warriors called the Maruts, who hold
lightning as their spear and are the gods of the thunderstorm.
Indra, is the warrior king, empowered by soma, who destroys obstacles with his thunderbolt group. His most
famous myth is the destruction of the snake Vrtra (obstacle) symbolizing cosmic chaos, thus freeing waters from the
sky. Indra on his adventures, which seem to reflect the warrior ethos of Vedic society: Indra captures the cows as
the Aryan warriors would have gone on cattle raids to neighboring groups. After Indra defeats Vrtra in battle, the
waters are released, the sun shines once more and Vrtra‘s cattle are liberated.
Indra also engaged in battle with Dasas.
Agni means fire. The fire god. He is the sun in the sky and the lightning. He is associated with the Earth and his
human counterpart is Brahmin (priest). Agni is one of the two most significant devas (god) placed on Earth. The
Brahmins form his human counterpart and they offer sacrifices to him, he says: ―I give to you; you to me‖. As the
mouth of the Gods, he devours the offerings and as a priest, he brings back the gods to share the sacrificial feast.
Agni is particularly the sacrificial fire and he transports the dead to the realm of Yama, the lord of death, and
transports, and purifies all offerings to the realm of gods. The mythology of Agni plays on the idea of fire being
hidden within the world and awakened by the fuel-stick, which kindle him.
3) Chandogya Upanishad, Uddalaka Aruni, the father uses symbols to teach his son, Shvetaketu:
Upandishads literally means “to sit down near to”. Atman refers to the soul (individual soul as a part of
the cosmos).
Shvetaketu, the grandson of aruna and the son of uddalaka aruni, was sent to gurukul forest ashrama
of a guru in ancient India) to study Vedas.
- The father told his son about the unifying principle of all the knowledge his son has acquired, the metaphysical
side of unity in diversity, the one substratum lying hidden within every name and form. He further adds
about all pervading Self or Atman as the basic Reality of every being and he does that by using different
analogies. For instance, as the bees, make honey by collecting the pollen from different flowers and trees. The
bees bring all the different pollen from distinct locations and form it into one substance: honey. In
addition, it is similar to the reference of the rivers that run toward the east (i.e. the ganga), and the western (i.e. the
sindhu). The river becomes one with the sea and has no distinction even though it can from another
location. It is like a droplet of water that falls from the sky, when it falls into the ocean, you can no
longer see it and it becomes apart of the large vast ocean. With both references of the examples, they both
are similar metaphorically to the the individual soul (Atman) is one with Sat (the ultimate reality or ground of
being or totality of the cosmos), but does not realize this due to ignorance. Jas individual rivers or pollen
become one with the ocean or the honey and lose their individuality, individual souls are made of the same
substance as Sat (Being) and eventually become one with Sat. Once more, Uddalaka repeats, “That is
Atman. That art thou, Shvetaketu” or in other words, Shvetaketu‟s soul was also a part of the totality
of Sat.

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The atman is the basic reality of every being and is presumed to have evolved as this universe. The
Atman transcends all the worlds. It is uncontaminated. He who is aware of only the Atman is ever in
Bliss. Therefore by adopting the right method and means of knowledge one can know the essence of
Atman everywhere in this universe; and ``Thou Art That Atman`` (*THIS QUOTE IS IMPORTANT!*).
Shvetashvatara Upanishad the One God who ―rules over the perishable and the self (JIVATMAN)‖ and who is identified with
- The One God in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad who ruled over the perishable and the Jivatman, who is identified
with Brahman is Shiva or his Vedic counterpart Rudra
- There are several methods used to identify Brahman or Shiva in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad. A question
method is used to ask: What is the cause of the cosmos? What is the ground of being? Is it the female
womb (yoni)? Or is it the Male Person (Purusha or Lingam/phallus)?
- According to the Upanishad, the cosmos is created by the union of the male (spiritual) and female
(material) principles (Shiva and his consort Shakti/Devi). Even in the Indus Valley civilization, Shiva
was symbolized by an erect phallus (lingam) with a base in the yoni to show the union between male
and female principles.
- However, while Shiva was initially just one god among many, the Shvetashvatara Upanishad identifies
him as the First Cause and the efficient cause who emanates, sustains and reabsorbs the universe into
his own substance.
- He rules over the perishable and the imperishable (the Self or Individual soul called Jivatman). He is a
personal god who transcends the finite and infinite. However, even though Shiva lives within one‘s innermost
soul, he is not identical with it, unlike the Atman=Brahman synthesis in Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads.
- The main goal of the SU is for the Jivatman to gain moksha (liberation) from the cycle of birth, death
and rebirth (samsara) by invoking Shiva‟s grace (prasada). Moksha can only be gained by Raja Yoga
(introvertive monistic-theistic mysticism). The immanent god is known (jnana) through Yoga and the
transcendent god is known through bhakti (loving devotion)
- In effect, a triad is formed in the end between Shiva (Brahman), Shakti (Prakriti or Nature or Matter)
and Jivatman.
In the Mandukya Upandishad: the three psychological stages of meditation:
Through Raja Yoga meditation, the meditator becomes a ―Brahman Knower‖ liberated from rebirth – samsara.
Mandukya is most likely author of Upandishad. It is twelve verses long. The waking state is outwardly cognitive.
Senses are active on objects of external world empirical knowledge. Duality between subject and object. The
dreaming state is inwardly cognitive. The brilliant mind and the mind object come together. Rational knowledge and
reasoning. Plato judged the dreaming state as a higher form of knowledge (*IMPORANT*). Aristotle held this as
empirical knowledge. The dreamer dreams a dream while holding his mind fast. The last psychological state is deep
sleep. Deep sleep state is like the unconscious state. It is ―unified, cognition – mass‖. Meditation is a higher state of
consciousness - another state of awareness. In deep sleep, the mind and body fuse. You get a feel of bliss
―Ananda‖. Dhyana is like deep sleep, the mind and object fuse and goes into Samadhi. You cannot explain the
experience, you can only analyze it. you have to meditate to experience it. The three psychological stages coming
together form ―AUM‖; the waking state is A, the dreaming state is U, and the deep sleep state is M.
The theory of action of Raja Yoga Sutra (200 B.C.E) has eight stages that one has to go through in performing
meditation and achieving moksha. The first two stages are Yama and Ni-Yama which are moral perfection. One must
refrain from stealing, violence, covetousness and must remain celibacy, truthful and loving. One must practice self-
restraint from bad acts. Ni-Yama also requires studying, reading of religious books and devotion. The third stage is
Asana, which is meditational posture. In Sanskrit, ―Asana‖ literally means sit. One must sit and achieve complete
relaxation and control their breathing. It is a state of mind through physical activity. The fourth stage is Prana
Yama, which is regulation of breath leading to integration of mind and body. Through regulating the breathing and
practicing awareness on it, one learns to control prana. The fifth stage is the Pratyahara, which is abstraction of the
senses, withdrawal of the senses of perception from their objects. Pratyahara is bringing the awareness to reside
deep within oneself, free from the senses and external world. One must be in a state in which they are removed
from all five senses. The sixth stage is the Dharana which relates to concentration and the mind becomes one with
the object. Concentration merges into meditation. The next stage is Dhyana meditation. The Japanese called it
―zen‖. The meditation travels up the backbone and up to the head (*IMPORTANT POINT!*). This leads into the last
stage with is Samadhi which is absorption and moksha (release). The body and mind fuse. In this state, the
individual realizes his/her oneness.
- Pleasure and Luxury is the first extreme in the life of Buddha, which lasted from age 1-29.
- Sidhartha‟s father, King Suddhodana, built 3 palaces, one for each season.
- In order to his son keep away from any signs of old age, sickness and death,(to make sure the prophecy of the one monk
that Sidhartha would become a Buddha instead of a royal leader) he was surrounded by 40000 dancing girls all the
- He was married to Yashodhara at the age of 16.

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- He won the bow contest, which proved that he would be an able ruler. This symbolizes the first phase or extreme where
he is seeking to hold the material things permanent. Also, the first phase symbolizes the philosophy of materialism.
- At the age of 29, when Buddha came across four symbols, he renounced the worldly pleasures. The symbols were an old
man, a diseased man and a dead man. He, then realizes that nothing is permanent.
- He also comes across a monk (one who renounces the world to seek moksha), seeking permanence. Inspired
by the monk, Sidhartha sets out to seek permanence.
- He carries with him only 1-3 robes, a begging bowl, a needle, razor, belt and a water strainer and he had to eat
repulsive food that was obtained by begging. He chose Alara Kalama to be his first teacher to learn tapas and
techniques of meditation.
- However, unsatisfied by this, he became a disciple of Uddaka Ramaputra, where he learnt the technique to attain nothingness
through meditation. Still unsatisfied by it, he along with the 5 ascetics led by Kondanna, entered the forest to
practice severe austerities of self mortification and seek wisdom through these practices.
- All these practices symbolize extreme spiritualism and asceticism. As he was seeking to hold the spiritual
things permanent, the second extreme symbolizes the philosophy of extreme asceticism.
- However, after realizing that these austerities were leading him nowhere, he compromised that a middle way between
the extremes of luxury and self-mortification would be better to keep a person sound and satisfied.
- 5 ascetics symbolize the second extreme
o Thinking to free the soul that doesn‟t exist
- After realizes no soul ect he goes under a tree and a villager sees him gives him rice milk
- Mara tries to tempt him
- In that eve after defeating Mara he gains enlightenment and becomes the Buddha
- Analogy that there are eight flames that are blown out. What is blown out? IGNORANCE
- What is reborn is the energy
- Realizes the four noble truth
- After the enlightenment and meets the 5 ascetics and are given the teaching and the 4 noble truths and the 2
- month of Visakha (May-full moon), while Buddha was practicing extreme asceticism,
- peasant girl named Sujata sympathized with him and offered him milk rice.
- Buddha then realized that the extreme asceticism were leading him nowhere and he compromised that a middle way between
the extremes of luxury and self-mortification would be better to keep a person sound and satisfied.
- sat under the Bo-tree, (the tree of enlightenment), facing west to achieve enlightenment.
- Mara, the tempter, tried to distract Siddhartha with his army of 1000 leagues that extended 3000 miles and elephants 150
leagues high.
- attacked with whirlwind, rain, shower of rocks, weapons, live coals, hot ashes, sand, mud, darkness, discus and mountain
- Siddhartha defeated Mara by overcoming these obstacles to achieve enlightenment. This was witnessed by Mother Earth,
- enlightened Buddha could see samsara in space and time.
- realized four noble truths, which made him attain nirvana, the blowing out or extinguishing karmic energy.
- Two main teachings:
o Dharma (righteousness) in the Buddhist tradition, were the four noble truths and to follow the middle path instead of
the two extremes. A summary of the four noble truths was that the karmic energies are made up of lustful craving
for something permanent in a situation where nothing is permanent and being ignorant of the fact that nothing is
o There is no soulan atman.
8. Hindu theism has a monotheistic base where Ishvara is the creator.
- ― HE (ISHVARA=Lord), desirous to create the various creatures (cosmos) from his own body and having concentrated first
created the waters (AP= female) and put his seed into them.
- In the Hindu theistic world view of cosmogony, the laws of manu state that Ishvara, the lord, creates various cosmos
(creatures) from his own body.
- The analogy used was a spider creating its web. A spider makes a web from its own body. Similarly, Ishvara creates the
cosmos from his own body.
o The spider is the material cause for the web and Ishvara is the material cause for the cosmos.
- The first thing Ishvara created was the waters and put his seed into them.
- The waters symbolize the female and He puts matter into it with life and consciousness. (Devi means Goddess)
- That seed became the golden egg like the sun in splendor and within the egg, the cosmos was born.
- Brahma was the first creation of Ishvara, Brahma is the lesser god. In the Hindu theistic cosmogony, Ishvara is the
spiritual principle, who is the first uncaused cause, which causes everything to be the way it is (efficient cause as he
desires to create the cosmos, does not happen unintentionally).
- The Devi is the material principle or the female principle who represents the waters or the womb, where
Ishvara puts his seed with life and consciousness. This results in the cosmic egg.
- Brahma is the first creator within the cosmos.
- Hindu Theistic World view later Philosophical school
o Ramanuja
- Qualified Non-Dualism (oneness)
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