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Everything posted by kimfelix

  1. Regarding the Bhagavad Gita: I think it is significant that in Arjuna's description of his vision of the vishva rupa he does not mention Shiva as being present within the form he sees, although he does mention Brahma.
  2. In the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, the Shiva Purana, the Linga Purana and the teachings of the Shaiva Acharyas such as Meykandar Shivam it is established that Shiva is the Supreme Deity. In the Mahabharata both Shiva and Vishnu are revealed as the Supreme Deity and in some passages Krishna is shown to be a devotee of Shiva. In the Nara-Narayaniya Parvan of the Mahabharata's Shanti Parvan (Book 12) Narayana Rishi says to Bhagavan Shiva, yas tvam vetti sa mam vetti yas tvam anu sa mam anu, navayor antaram kimcit, 'One who knows you knows me as well, one who follows you follows me; there is no difference at all between us.' So the matter is a complex one and different texts seem to give different versions on this matter. There are many indications in various scriptures that Shiva is the Supreme Deity. Sometimes the statements appear sectarian, establishing Shiva as superior to Vishnu, and sometimes they are syncretist, revealing Shiva and Vishnu as two aspects of the same deity. And of course there are also sectarian statements from the Vaishnava perspective establishing Vishnu's supremacy over Shiva.
  3. In his book 'Hindu and Muslim Mysticism', Robert Zaehner suggests that the advaitic tendencies in Sufism arose from contact with Vedanta in India. This, however, would be disputed by most Sufis. But if it is the case then you might reasonably say that Sufi interpretations of the Koran are derived from Shankaracharya.
  4. But is there ever a time when heavy criticism, even of a personal nature, is called for? I ask this because this kind of polemic is quite a common feature of religious discourse. Christian missionaries compare murti puja to devil worship. If one feels one's views represent the absolute revealed truth then anyone who presents an alternative view is arguing against God. And what about atheists? Should they be called fools? And do the acharyas ever write in that way about their opponents?
  5. I have been carefully reading the debate over the dvaita and the visishtha advaita interpretations of Vedanta and I was wondering where Gaudiya Vaishnavism was located in these terms. I had heard that Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy was achintya bheda abheda, which seems closer to visishthadvaita than to dvaita, despite the sampradaya links to Madhvacharya. So does Gaudiya Vaishnavism and ISKCON follow dvaita as proposed by Madhvacharya?
  6. I am new comer to your group so please forgive me if I am speaking out of turn. There have been a couple of recent threads which on the one hand have included some very interesting discussions but have also got to be very heated and even abusive. Those holding the opposite view have been called 'morons' or 'idiots'. My question is whether this type of verbal aggression is ever justified. For me, it seems incongruous that discussion of high spiritual matters should be conducted in this manner but I can see that where people feel passionately about their beliefs they will have their emotions aroused by opponents. What do you think? Are there some occasions on which a very aggressive or even abusive line of discourse should be adopted? And if someone takes that sort of tone, how should one respond? My own feeling is that verbal aggression does nothing to benefit either the speaker or hearer; just the opposite. It also seems that the emotions aroused are not particularly spiritual but are based on a sense of personal self-esteem. But the point about how to conduct debates with different types of opponents is one that interests me and I would welcome the thoughts of others. And as I said, some of the actual subjects that were being debated were very interesting, but I didn't feel like joining in with the rough boys. So I will start a new thread with another line of inquiry that came to mind.
  7. You might have to be a bit careful with the Padma Purana. For one thing it has been heavily interpolated and there are a number of different recensions of the Sanskrit text. So verses appearing in one manuscript are often absent from others. Moreover, the Padma Purana is not a Vaishnava text in the same way as the Vishnu Purana or the Bhagavata. Its opening books seem to be devoted to Brahma and in particularl to the tirtha of Pushkara. The name Padma refers to Pushkara, as it is believed that a petal from Brahma's lotus fell to earth there, which is why it has the name Pushkar. Anyway, the point is that in certain passages Vishnu is taken as being one of the Adityas and the abode of Vishnu seems to be situated in svargaloka rather than in a spiritual domain. Hence using the Padma Purana in debates over Vaishnava theology can be problematic.
  8. Referring to the contempt some Hindus show for people born in lower castes, Vivekananda said, "How easy it is to speak glibly of Vedanta, how difficult to follow its least precept." I think it was Gandhi who said, "India was lost the day we invented the word mleccha". Contempt for others is always incompatible with advaita darshan. This is the powerful statement of verse 6 of the Ishavasya Upanishad.
  9. Namas te bhaktajan. The Isha Upanishad is a very difficult text and the verse you have quoted is one of the most difficult to understand. The translation you give renders sambhava as the 'cause of all causes' but I am not sure that is the right meaning. Moreover in verse 12 it is stated that one who worships sambhava (sambhuti) enters into the darkest ignorance. What is the meaning of the three verses (12-14)? It states that sambhuti and asambhuti both lead to darkness when worshipped separately and hence one should worship them both together. But what is meant by sambhuti and asambhuti? The latter is equated with vinasha in v14. Shankaracharya's commentary on v14 is highly contentious, showing the problems he had in finding a viable solution. Despite the word Isha in the title, the Isha Upanishad does not seem to present a theist or personalist doctrine and nowhere does it recommend worship of the Isha. This discussion of Upanishads seems a bit out of place on this thread, so apologies for that. It is an interesting topic, however.
  10. Namas te, Dark Warrior. This is the problem isn't it? If one has a particular preconception and then finds an Upanishad doesn't match that preconception, it is necessary to come up with an interpretation to show that the text doesn't actually mean what it appears to mean; there is a hidden meaning. When a text names its Deity as Shiva, Rudra and Hara I take it as meaning just that, and is therefore Shaivite. I can fully appreciate that this poses problems for Vaishnavas, but I am still inclined to accept what the Upanishad actually says and not what others would like it to say. If the Upanishad wants to teach us that Narayana is the Supreme Deity, why does it say that it is Rudra who is devanam prabhavas chodbhavas cha?
  11. By the time the Mahabharata reaches the Bhagavad Gita in the Bhishma Parvan (Book 6) the debate over dharma is well advanced. In the Vana Parvan and again in the Udyoga Parvan we find disagreements in the Pandava camp over whether waging war was consonant with dharma. However, Yudhishthira is usually the person who is most opposed to war and at one point states that kshatriya dharma is sin and no better than the behaviour of dogs fighting over a piece of meat. In the Gita, Arjuna seems to be cast in the role of Yudhishthira. Krishna has already shown himself to be on the side of war and argues consistently for that course of action. In the Gita, however, he presents new arguments to support that position and has relatively little to say about kshatriya dharma. The main points he makes in favour of war are firstly the immortality of the soul, then the Karma Yoga, then God as the controller of life and death and finally the supremacy of bhakti. In a sense the Bhagavad Gita is one of several contributions to a debate that runs throughout the Mahabharata. Even at the very end it is not resolved: Yudhishthira does not accept that Duryodhana has a right to heaven just because of his adherence to kshatriya dharma.
  12. In Tantric forms of dharma the deity is installed by means of mantra within either a sacred image or a living person. The mantra is within the guru and the mantra is identical with the Deity. Therefore the guru is the living embodiment of the Deity and can be worshipped in the same manner as one performs murti puja. This is the guru puja ceremony. And because the mantra is fully installed within the guru he can initiate disciples by transferring the empowered mantra to them.
  13. Verse 16.8 seems here to be being taken out of context. If one reads the whole description of the asuri sampad it does not seem to apply to one who follows the Advaita Vada. It is about a person who driven only by selfish desire and performs acts of violence that harm others in his pursuit of his goals. The nihilist ideas referred to are those put forward by selfish people who will not accept moral restraints. It isn't really about a philosophical position. Tolerance is certainly a value that is stressed by Bhagavad Gita. It is the essential meaning of 6.9 and is included in the daivi sampad as kshama. We see in 9.15 and 12.3-4 that the Gita accepts both approaches to spiritual realisation though overall it does seem to favour the bhakti marg.
  14. Raghu, there are a number of verses in which the Shvetashvatara Upanishad names the Deity as Hara (1.10), Rudra (3.2, 4.5, 4.12, 4.21) and Shiva (3.5, 4.14, 5.14). The words Girishanta and Giritra (3.5-6) would seem to refer to Shiva's abode in Kailasa. The theology of the Upanishad is rather similar to that of the Bhagavad Gita, which quotes it on occasion, but it is equally similar to the Shaiva Siddhanta. I don't see much within it that would make me think it is a Vaishnava text.
  15. I am not sure that the quotation from Prabhupada refers to Gandhi. Isn't more likely to be about the real asuras of the Puranas such as Ravana, Hiranyakashipu and Vrika. If the quote is about Gandhi then I would seriously question Prabhupada's judgement!
  16. Yes, but he states quite plainly that the inspiration for his conduct was always the Bhagavad Gita. He does not say the same about the Bible or Quran.
  17. I would agree that the Shvetashvatara proposes a form of qualified dualism with Shiva as the Supreme Deity. But I think you would be hard pressed to find an emphasis on bhakti there. There is acceptance of separate Deity but not much by way of instruction to engage in acts of worship or to develop a mood of devotion. There is very little about bhakti in the major Upanishads.
  18. Dark Warrior, as you say, there are apparent contradictions. I was just querying your earlier statement that there is not even the hint of any contradiction. An apparent contradiction would seem to be a hint at least. The Kena Upanishad states 'tad eva brahma tvam viddhi nedam yad idam upasate' whilst the Gita on several occasions urges upasana. Similarly, in the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya says that worship of anything separate from oneself must be based on notions of duality and hence is ruled out. The Gita seems to suggest that worship of a separate Deity is the highest path. Of course these 'apparent contradictions' can be explained from a number of perspectives, which is why Shankara's Gita Bhashya is so different from those of Vaishnavas such as Ramanuja. But I still think 'there is no hint of any contradiction' is an overstatement. The issue of 'apparent contradiction' is one that must be taken very seriously.
  19. I think Gandhiji tried to follow the Gita's teachings on karmayoga very carefully in his life. He does not seem to have been motivated by selfish desire in his political actions and to have tried to adhere strictly to his vision of dharma. I admire him greatly.
  20. Dark Warrior, I am not sure about your claim that there is not a hint of contradiction in the Vedic texts. For example, the Kena Upanishad and the Bhagavad Gita appear to have opposing views on upasana. Of course the commentators can reconcile the differing statements, but there is at least a hint of contradiction there. Others seem to suggest that first you have a little faith and so you try to follow the path that is recommended and then you gain the experience that confirms the revelation of scripture. If only it could be so for all. There are many who have followed the spiritual path so carefully but have not gained the experience. So they give it up. Apostasy is rife in all expressions of religion. That suggests that it is not quite such a simple matter. And then there are so many texts and so many different paths open to us. Where does that little bit of faith come from? It really isn't like having faith in going to Australia. All who go there have a common experience of arrival and come back and tell of it; it is not like that with spirituality, it is such an individual thing. I think at times I have tried to have faith and even pretended to have it, which is shameful, but when I confronted myself with a cruel honesty I knew I was just hoping and so pretending. In any case I have to rely on my own powers to interpret an experience, to decide whether or not it is spiritual. I think at times I claimed to have had spiritual experience, but how could I tell the difference between something emotional and something spiritual? I don't know what a spiritual experience is. And at other times I think I was deceiving myself because I wanted so much to be a person of faith; it makes life so much clearer.
  21. Do not Vedantists accept three pramanas or sources of truth, pratyaksha, anumana and shabda--perception, inference and revelation. It is usually accepted that spiritual truth is beyond the reach of the mind and senses--this certainly seems to be the view of the Upanishads--and so one has to accept the shabda-pramana, the truth revealed by the Veda. This would seem to be a demand for faith in a revelation of truth that lies beyond reason. The insistence on the limitations of our intellect appears quite reasonable, but there doesn't seem to be much difference between the idea of a shabda pramana and faith in a scripture.
  22. Having read through this discussion, I am interested in the statement that 'anatta' appears in one of the Upanishads. I would welcome a reference for that if it is possible. I think anatta is the Pali version of the Sanskrit anatma, so if it appears in that form it must be from one of the later secondary Upanishads of the Atharva Veda.
  23. Theist, thank you for your careful and thoughtful answers. What you say makes a lot of sense. I am not sure about the chaitya guru; perhaps he is speaking to me too quietly, perhaps I don't have the capacity to hear or perhaps he is toying with me. To be honest, in my heart of hearts I am not a believer in God and haven't been for a number of years. When I am absolutely honest, this is the message I seem to hear. But I have been raised by a specific culture, which has imposed certain thought processes upon me and I suspect that this is what I am hearing. It's just the cultural brainwashing to which all individuals are subjected. Of all the Vedic texts, it is the Kena Upanishad that I find most inspiring because it gives no real answers! And to Bhaktajan, I find it hard to have any philosophical certainties. What do I know? I have read the Gita, Upanishads, Vedanta Sutras and Puranas very carefully as well as other scriptures from other cultures but in the end it comes down to me to reach a decision as to the truth or otherwise of what I have read, and like I said, 'What do I know'. Any decision I make on that will doubtless be based on my cultural conditioning rather than any insight into the truth. If I do have any absolute beliefs I think it would be in kindness and gentility. We can each hold different visions of God but kindness always brings me warmth and violence and unkindness brings grief. I am sorry this is such a low level of realisation; I am afraid it is all I have.
  24. I have read through all those quotations from Prabhupada carefully. The gist of it seems to be 'You don't have the capacity to understand the truth, therefore you must rely on authoritative sources.' That seems completely reasonable, but, how can I determine which authority I should follow? There are so many books, teachers, gurus etc out there and in deciding that I will follow this text or this guru I have to rely on my own intellectual powers--but these are not adequate. I can't know what is the truth and so I can't possibly know which source is genuine.
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