Saturday, 12 September 2015

Vedic Astrology in India

Indian astrology relies on the speculation of fate. The nice and the dangerous actions of the previous life decide your destiny or Karma of your current life, and the actions of your present life decide your future Karma. In response to Indian astrology an individual is born at that place, on that day and on that second when his individual destiny is in good mathematical concord with the progress of the celebs in heaven.

But it surely doesn't preach total dependence on fate. Astrology lets you recognize exactly what you have been born with, exactly what your potentialities are, the constraints, your strong points and your drawbacks. Precisely what kind of life partners and professions go well with you and to anticipate can be indicated. It also prescribes numerous remedial measures to ward off the unhealthy effects and to enhance the good results. Astrology is your roadmap of destiny. But it surely your destiny is in your hands. The scriptures guide us by telling us precisely what is sweet and what is bad; what to do and what to not do; easy methods to do and how to not do. You are given a chunk of land and the seeds to sow. How much effort to place in to it, exactly what quantity of manure and water so as to add and when methods to reap the produce is your job.

After that it's you who must act utilizing your data intelligence, discrimination and experience. Destiny is like a sport of playing cards the place you cannot assist the playing cards which have been dealt to you however the way to play them is in your hands. It's possible you'll get good cards but when you play badly you'll lose and in addition it's possible you'll get dangerous cards and nonetheless might win when you play carefully. Don’t blame the roadmap if you happen to get drunk, drive badly and have an accident!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Op-ed: The unblessed of Calcutta

It is not necessary to put down all other social workers in India, and in Calcutta in particular, to highlight the good work done by Mother Teresa

I hate to spoil Mother Teresa’s big day — but then, I can’t spoil it anyway. The few voices of dissent have been drowned out by the great beatification bandwagon. A handful of rationalists, a few doctors in a district in West Bengal, India, the lone voice of Christopher Hitchens, who penned the no-holds-barred attack Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. That’s about it. Oh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad have called Mother Teresa’s ‘miracle’ a fraud — but they have their own miracles to tout.

Indeed, giving organisations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad another issue to go to town about might be added to the list of the harm laid at Mother Teresa’s door. For she has done harm, just as she has done great good, and especially as a Calcuttan I would be failing in my duties if I did not speak up about it on the occasion of her fast-track beatification by the Pope.

Anyone who spends her life in the service of some of the poorest people on earth is a ‘saint’ anyway as far as I am concerned. So I appreciate whatever service Mother Teresa provided to the poor and destitute and accept her as a fellow-Calcuttan. How pathetic, then, that the Catholic Church clings to regulations that needed to record a ‘miracle’ — some kind of super-natural feat, to be conjured up at any cost — before the Vatican could officially bestow beatification on her.

This has forced her Order to come up with the story of a woman in West Bengal whose tumour was allegedly cured miraculously by the magical powers of a locket of the Mother long after Mother Teresa had died. The story has been called a hoax by the doctors who treated the woman as well as by her husband, tainting Mother Teresa’s beatification with the smear of fraud.

I don’t mind the Pope making Mother Teresa a ‘saint’ — this is something internal to the Catholic Church and none of my business. But I do have a problem when recognition of Mother Teresa by her own Church has to be based on a lie. Why couldn’t her work be enough to merit recognition? The very process of making her a ‘saint’ has further encouraged superstition and obscurantism. Perhaps many other poor people will now decide to go for a Mother Teresa locket when they are ill, instead of going to a medical clinic. That certainly does not serve the cause of humanity.

Perhaps the greatest harm she did to the very poor she said she served was her total opposition to both abortion and contraception, in accordance with her orthodox Catholic faith. She worked in a sea of poverty that is India, yet opposed one of India’s most important anti-poverty policies — its population control programme. When I visited her orphanage I was grateful to her for taking in babies abandoned in the streets of Calcutta, but there would be fewer abandoned and unwanted babies all around if India’s family planning programme were more successful. She had the right to her own faith, but her public work based on that faith collided with what was better for society.

For someone about to become a saint, Mother Teresa was cosy with nasty dictators like the Duvaliers of Haiti and notorious swindlers like Charles Keating of the USA. She did not hesitate to declare that the Duvaliers loved the poor, and did not care that Keating had stolen a lot of money from people who weren’t rich, just because he gave her some. In fact, she received lots of money from lots of people and it is worrying when Christopher Hitchens reports that none of it is accounted for through any public audit. It is also true, as Hitchens points out, that her institutions offer only simple, rudimentary service, so the vast funds do not seem to have been used to upgrade and modernise the care provided.

Some people have criticised Mother Teresa for proselytising in the guise of caring for the dying and destitute. Frankly, if a sick man died with dignity in her home having technically become a Catholic, it is infinitely preferable to his dying a non-Catholic in the gutters of Calcutta. More important is the question, how many of the ‘dying’ would have benefited from modern medical care available in Calcutta?

If Mother Teresa did not provide medical care to those who needed it when it was readily available, that would be reprehensible. In her last years Mother Teresa herself received some of the best medical care in modern facilities with whole teams of doctors and nurses looking after her every time she was taken ill. Her critics say that the destitute who died in her institution were not afforded the same option.

Those who criticise Mother Teresa have been accused of trying to hide their embarrassment at the reality of a foreign woman spending her life caring for desperately poor people about whom so many of their countrymen do nothing. This is the most grotesquely unjust insult to the many individuals in Calcutta who serve the poor and disadvantaged throughout their lives. Some of them are associated with religious orders, some are not. Some are foreign too, but most are Indian.

Unlike Mother Teresa, many other social workers seem motivated towards helping eradicate poverty. Most are limited in scope, constrained by limited budgets. It is not necessary to put down all other social workers in India, and in Calcutta in particular, to highlight the good work done by Mother Teresa. Nor should it be necessary to be blind to the harm caused by the rigidly orthodox faith of Teresa, the Blessed of Calcutta.

VIA:Sarmila Bose is Assistant Editor, Ananda Bazar Patrika, India & Visiting Scholar, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

Kaaba or Idol Worship?

Kaba or Idol Worship?

Idols are considered to be another means of representing and meditating upon the Ultimate Ishwar/God which cannot be easily appreciated by human minds. Thus humans created idol of God to show their respect to Him and offer their gratitude. Vedas however do not prescribe idol worship because they offer alternate and more effective means to worship and thank God – through noble actions, noble thoughts and noble emotions. The Vedic approach also saves us from various potential pitfalls of idol worship like human tendency to attempt to fool God by assuming that his/her job is done after the bowing down or ritual of worship. It also ensures that dumb minds do not start taking an idol to be actually God and not mere a piece of stone. And most importantly, the Vedic view is that the root cause of all grief is ignorance or Avidya. And eradication of Avidya implies that everything should be considered what it exactly is. Thus a formless Ishwar must be worshipped like a formless entity alone, through Yogic methods, to achieve salvation.
Nonetheless, Vedas, while not recommending idol worship, are also not intolerant to those who perform idol worship. The only means that Vedas prescribe to eradicate the habit of idol worship is through spread of Vidya or true knowledge, compassionate relationship among all humans like that between mother and child, and allowing time and space for each soul to discover the truth by itself rather than being forced to believe in something through threat or force. That is why, in Vedic culture, while many saints and scholars have been worshippers of formless Ishwar and many others have been idol worshippers, they have debated with each other in peaceful and cordial manner to come closer to truth without terming each other as Hell-seekers, apostates or scoundrels. This is the way of the civilized as inspired from the Vedas.
There is however one cult – Islam – that claims to be completely monotheistic and against idol worship and has had a history of banning idol-worship through all possible forceful and deceitful means. Idol worship, as per Islam, is greatest sin. And if someone worships an idol, despite he or she being how-so-much noble, gentle, saintly or good-hearted, there is no way he or she can go to Heaven and will have to burn in Hell forever. The doors of Heaven are closed forever for a person, who despite the best qualities, is an idol worshipper. And he or she has no choice but to burn in Hell forever and drink boiled water till eternity. A rapist, pedophile, murderer, cheat can still have access card to enter Heaven if he shuns idol worship and embraces Quran, Muhammad, Allah without idols, Angels and Judgment Day without any application of brain.
So much has been paranoia against idol worship in Islam, that even pictorial or artistic representation of any animate entity is haram or banned.
In this article, we shall not analyze idol worship in general or the cause of hatred of Islam against idol worshippers. We would simply analyze if indeed Muslims are not idol worshippers? As we shall see, it is impossible for anyone to be a Muslim without being an idol worshipper. And the greatest example of this idol worship is Kaba worship. No Muslim can be a Muslim if he does everything else as per Quran, but refuses to bow down to Kaba in his passion to avoid idol worship of all forms.
Our dear old friend, Zakir Bhai, gives 6 arguments to prove that Kaba worship in reality is not worship. The arguments are as intelligent as his overall intellect exhibited in his other articles and videos. (Though I still admire the confidence with which he puts forth the most stupid argument, and still gets a big applause from his semi-literate audience. I wish I had the same shameless confidence or had access to such a great audience that would clap on my silliest PJ’s!)
For novices to Islam, let me set the context. Kaba is a square building in Mecca which is the most sacred place for a Muslim. Kaba used to be worshipped in a set ritualistic manner since ages before advent of Muhammad. And while Muhammad tried to stop almost prevalent practices of his times, he curiously allowed continuation of the same Kaba worship and kissing of black stone there. The other practice that he continued to be allowed was circumcision. While all the Mecca dwellers were butchered by Muhammad’s army in ‘Holy’ war (Zakir Naik gives evidence of Vedas to prove that Muhammad killed 60,000 people of Mecca!), still he could not stop the Kaba worship in same ritualistic manner, perhaps because the affection of the people towards Kaba in that era was too strong to be mellowed down by sword. So an exception was made for Kaba in Muhammad’s Islam. And hence, if you want virgins of Heaven, better not ask any questions and simply go round the Kaba without applying your mind.
(I have just provided gist of story as propounded by Islamic scholars. I personally do not believe in Muhammad being author of all verses in present Quran in first place)
So here are the brilliant arguments of Zakir Naik. (Note that we will not dwell into whether the black stone is washed after kissing by so many people, or the hygiene aspects of millions of people kissing the same stone and mixing each other’s saliva. Zakir Naik having been an MBBS sometime ago, may evaluate this better.)
Argument 1. Kaba is Qibla (direction) and since we Muslims believe in unity, we face in the direction of Kaba while praying.
a. Muslims believe in unity according to Zakir Naik! More than 100 sects of Islam today are in support of his claim! Sunni, Shia, Qadiyani, Khoja, Wahabi, Bohra…..all support him with unity! Can anyone still dare to ask him that if muslims were/are so united, how could more than 100 sects within Islam come into existence?
b. What is the need of unity during the prayers? Should not one be free to pray as per one’s own choice? If unity is required everywhere then why not eat, drink, and sleep at the same time and in same direction? If I want to pray in any direction, why will not God accept it?
c. Many Muslims pray alone in their houses most of the times. How does Qibla (direction) matter in this case when there is no one to get united?
d. Do Muslims actually have unity in direction while prayers? When a Muslim in east of Mecca faces west, at the same time a Muslim in west of Mecca faces east! Both face opposite to each other! If Zakir Naik says this as unity then two armies facing each other should also be considered as united and thus friends!
e. To which direction a Muslim will bow, who is just opposite of Mecca on spherical earth ? He has both options to bow to his east or west! How does the concept of unity work there?
f. Very few Muslims know that inside Mecca no direction is needed. People can face and bow down to any direction they want. This exposes the fallacies of Zakir’s claim of unity blatantly. Zakir says that Muslims should bow down to one direction only, so that they can remain united. One can ask him; don’t Muslims inside Mecca need unity? And if they can remain united without bowing down to a common direction inside Mecca, why can’t they do it outside too?
g. This is very strange that after so much of efforts to remain united, today, most of the bombers and their victims are Muslims!
h. Uthmaan, third Caliph of Islam, compiler of modern Quran was killed by none other than Muslims led by Aisha’s brother and Abu Bakr’s son while he was offering prayer. Can there be a greater example of unity during prayers than this? (Remember that Aisha was Muhammad’s beloved child wife with whom Allah had divinely fixed his marriage!)
Argument 2. Kaba is at the centre of the earth.
a. According to Zakir’s science, Kaba is at the centre of the globe but science says that every point on a sphere is geometrically same. In this way every place on earth is centre. If Zakir means equidistant from both poles, he is wrong. Kaba is at 21 degree north on globe which means that if it is at a distance of 30 units from North Pole, it has to be 50 units distant from South Pole!
b. Anyway, whatever may be the case with Kaba’s latitude and longitude, one thing is clear. There are infinite number of places on earth which either have same latitude or same longitude as that of Kaba. So there is no reason why Kaba should be given a special status.
Argument 3. We Muslims circumambulate the Kaba because it represents that there is only one God just like there is only one centre of a circle.
a. Many hindus circumambulate their holy places. But then why is that Shirk in the eyes of Zakir Naik if circumambulation can mean “just believe in one God”?
b. During “Aarti”, a Hindu ritual, in which prayers are offered by devotee, the plate is moved around making circle with a unique centre! So Hindus also believe in one God and they show it by moving the plate so that it makes circle with one centre!
c. Can a Muslim circumambulate his house or a temple for this purpose? If yes, why do Muslims go for Hajj? How does circumambulation of the temple or a house different than that of Kaba?
d. Can Zakir Naik give any reference from Quran or Sahih Hadith, which supports his claim of “one centre-one God” concept behind circumambulation?
e. If I interpret the circumambulation as “a circle has infinite points inside it and thus there are infinite Gods in Islam”! How can Zakir refute my claim?
f. If circumambulation means “one centre-one God”, why don’t Muslims do it in their mosques along with their prayers every time? If one says that prayers already include One God philosophy then circumambulation at Hajj is needless as Muslims offer their prayers there too!
g. According to Zakir Naik, unique centre of a circle represents One God. Is it not Shirk to believe the centre of a circle similitude of God? If Muslims themselves believe in such representations of God, why do they condemn non Muslims for their idols? If such rituals in the name of One Allah can be accepted by Zakir Naik, why can’t he accept the idols as yet another representation of God’s different qualities in different forms?
Argument 4: Bukhari [2-56-675]-Umar told muslims that he kissed the black stone only because Muhammad did so, otherwise this stone can neither benefit me nor can it cause me harm. This is the proof that we Muslims don’t worship the Kaba.
a. Now Zakir Naik has the testimony of Umar that, kissing black stone is not idol worship because there is nothing special about that stone other than Muhammad kissed it. Can we ask, why did Muhammad kiss the stone then? There must be something special with the black stone so that Muhammad kissed it.
Umar sees nothing special with black stone and thus Zakir says kissing it is not idol worship! By the same logic, since Muhammad kissed it, he would certainly be convinced of its divinity and thus kissing it is idol worship and Muhammad did it! Since Muhammad was a bigger authority than Umar, kissing black stone is idol worship! ( I know this one would be too complex for madarsa minds!)
b. If Umar and Muslims kiss black stone just because Muhammad did so, and if it is not idol worship, it is no less than human worship since following someone’s order even without thinking its right or wrong shows the ultimate belief of the followers of a person in him. This is Shirk to believe someone other than God to be ultimate. So it is up to Zakir Naik what he wants to be, an idol worshipper or a human worshipper! In both cases, Islam would send him to Dozakh (Hell).
c. By the same logic, Hindus and Christians can say that they do idol worship because this is written in their books and their ancestors did so. If their ancestors would have not done this, they also would not be doing so! How will Zakir Bhai refute their claim?
Argument 5: At the time of the prophet, Sahabas (companions of Muhammad) used to stand on Kaba and then give the Azaan. Can any idol worshipper do that? This is the proof that we Muslims don’t worship Kaba.
a. Great logic! But all the Hindus on Ganesh Utsav throw their idols in the rivers! Can any Muslim do that with black stone? Since no Muslim can do that, it proves by Zakir’s logic that Hindus don’t worship idols but Muslims do!
b. Can any Muslim today, to debunk the claims of non Muslims of idolatry in Islam, touch the black stone with his feet?
c. If Kaba is just a Kibla (direction), can Zakir Naik hammer it down just like his Arab masters did with the idols of Hindus while they invaded India? (If anyone is hurt by this, please read those verses of Quran which order Muslims to break idols of others and kill the idolaters)
Argument 6. We Muslims don’t bow to Kaba, we only bow to Allah.
a. Zakir Naik says that Muslims actually bow to Allah, but for unity they bow in one direction. But as we know, Allah is on seventh heaven, should not then Muslims face upwards which is the actual direction of Allah instead of facing Kaba, which is a mere stone?
b. Every idol worshipper says that he bows to his God only, but for the sake of physical representation, he bows before idol. Why then Zakir Naik sees Shirk in the idols of others but “Tauheed” in bowing, kissing, circumambulation of a stone called Kaba?
Now we will quickly summarize the similarities and dissimilarities between idol worship and Kaba worship.
1. Muslims bow down to Kaba. Hindus bow before idols.
2. Muslims claim to remember Allah while they bow to Kaba. Hindus claim to remember Eeshvar while bowing before idol.
3. Muslims circumambulate and kiss the Kaba. Hindus do Aarti before idol and fold their hands.
1. Muslims bow Kaba five times a day whereas most of the Hindus hardly bow to idols once a week.
2. Muslims don’t have liberty of choosing their direction of bowing whereas Hindus can face whichever direction they want by choosing appropriate direction of idol.
3. Hindus throw their idols after they perform their rituals especially on some occasions but no Muslims can ever think of doing so with the stone of Kaba.
4. Hindus fold their hands before idol just to give respect to God but Muslims kiss the black stone because Muhammad did so.
The above analysis proves that if Hindus are idolaters for performing certain rituals, Muslims are no less than idolaters. In fact Muslims, in addition to idol worshippers, are human worshippers as well, which we have proven above.
Further, idol worship by Hindus has some rationale behind it, and is not obligatory to save one from Hell. Islam idol worship of Kaba is must to save one from Hell and get 72 virgins in Paradise.
We request our Muslim brothers and sisters to think about it with an unbiased mind and then draw conclusions themselves. We also request all Hindus, Christians and public in general to start worshipping the Ultimate in the most perfect manner – as described in Vedas – through noble thoughts, noble actions and noble meditation as prescribed by the path of Yog.
Remember: “God is existent, intelligent and blissful. He is formless, omniscient, just, merciful, unborn, endless, unchangeable, beginning-less, unequalled, the support of all, the master of all, omnipresent, immanent, un-aging, immortal, fearless, eternal and holy, and the maker of all. He alone is worthy of being worshiped”.
Let us worship God/Ishwar in the way He actually is, and achieve ultimate bliss for one and all. That is the sole purpose of our life and that is also the need of the hour. Let us start worshipping Ishwar in the truest form, unite together, and bring back the era of bliss, prosperity and salvation for everyone. Let us worship Ishwar in same manner as Ram and Krishna worshipped them. Let us arouse the Ram and Krishna within us and be the best devotees of Supreme Lord!
May the truth prevail! Let us work towards making truth prevail! Let us come back to the Vedas!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Vedic Village 2015 - by VHP Melbourne, Victoria,Australia

28th February 2015 welcomed the much-awaited Vedic Village 2015, an expo of Indian arts, culture and tradition, organised by Vishwa Hindu Parishad Victoria at Clayton Community Centre. This celebration of Vedic civilization hosted a variety of workshops, stage shows and stalls, enjoyed by the enthusiastic crowd of Melbourne families, young and old.

The event opened at 11am with the sounds of Dhol and an auspicious welcoming chant of “Ganesha Atharvana Seersham” by children from the Telugu community. As the day progressed, the whole centre became a hub of Indian sounds, smells and flavours. The talks and workshops had several eminent speakers who presented with aplomb. The morning sessions wowed the audience through talks by Sri Uma Mahesh on “Matrukas, VedicSyllables”, Dr Santosh Kumar Yadav on “Detoxification & Nutrition in Ayurveda”, Sri Karra Bhaskar Rao on “the system of Astrology” and Art of living on “Breath control in Meditation”. The phenomenal quality of these engaging workshops showcased Melbourne’s wealth of Vedic knowledge.

The afternoon sessions upped the tempo even more with workshops on Vedic maths by Sri Mahesh Mishra of Vedic Maths Academy, games by HSS and a highly energetic dance workshop by Ms Meghana Sanam of Just Natch. Face painting, free book give away, balloon twisting for children, and mehandi (henna) for the ladies added to the colour and kept the audience busy.
As if the workshops weren’t entertaining enough, the cultural shows, compered by Ms Rashmi Kesari, including the “Chanda Melam”, the traditional Kerala Drums, and a bhangra dance by the Local Melbourne Punjabi group “Federation of Bhangra” kept the audience on their toes and dancing to the music. The event also hosted a melodious ‘Sarang’ performance by Sri Saby Bhattacharya with his accompanist Sri Pandurang Torvi on Tabla, which enhanced the taste of dosas by Chennai Express, chat and North Indian food by Raj Catering, and sweets and rajma chawal on offer. More irresistible foot tapping and clapping followed for the “Kolatam/Chekka Bhajana folk dance called “Gokulam” presented by the Telugu community, a Mridangam recital by disciples of Guru Yogan Kandaswamy, VHP Bala Samskara Kendra performance of "Dasa Avatara", a high energy folk Marathi dance and finally a performance of the traditional Indian classical dance, BharataNatyam.

The cultural exhibition also had a pictorial display of Vedic achievements – from astronomy, sciences, maritime history, ancient mathematics, medicine, the legal system, architecture to languages and much more. It attracted the interest of the visitors, some trying to capture the essence of this display with their mobile cameras! Free reading was organised by ISKCON and the ever-popular jewellery, handmade garland and traditional clothing stalls were filled with swarms of people throughout the day.

Kreative Krab quilling was an eye opener to many and the delicate handmade cards featuring birthday wishes to Naana and Nanni were quite popular. Stall owners such as Monash Link, a not for profit community agency delivering heath services were all praise for VHP Vic’s event. Carolyn from MonashLink remarked, "Many thanks for allowing MonashLink to hold a stall at the Vedic Village event on Saturday. I spoke with several men and women, many of whom were unfamiliar with MonashLink, so it was worthwhile to attend and promote MonashLink services to the Indian community."

A lucky draw by ISKCON was won by V.P Muthukumar and Provincial Financial Services Services also gave away a generous gift hamper.

VHP Victoria’s Vice president Dr Anil Asthana, the concept developer of Vedic Village spoke about VHP Victoria’s dedication to community initiatives such as Vedic Village. Smt. Sahana Santanu, thanked City of Monash and VMC for being the main sponsors and supporters of the event and VHP Victoria President, Smt Geeta Devi, fittingly remarked “It is our tribute to Sanatan Dharmic values, which are reflected in 21st century Australia and all over the world, taking various forms of expression”.

The Chief guest, Honourable Alan Griffin MP for Bruce, in his speech, noted the common values that India and Australia share and how this common bond brings together the people of these regions. Guest of honour Sri Nirmal Chawdhary, Consul and Head of Chancery from the Consulate General of India in Melbourne and Smt.Vijaya Vaidyanath, CEO of Yarra City Council also graced the event and presented mementos to artistes.

The young VHP team of organisers, including Dr Anil Asthana , Sri Ganesh Jaygan and Smt Krishna Sharma strived to present an accurate and effective depiction of Vedic culture and its traditions, consistent with VHP Victoria’s commitment to raising the awareness and appreciation of Vedic civilisation.

A commendable effort by the youth leaders and definitely a one-of-its-kind event not to miss in Melbourne’s future!
Source: Internet

Monday, 6 April 2015

Hinduism Words and Meanings

Easy to understand meanings:
AartiInvocation ceremony or a welcoming ceremony. Normally involves waving a lamp gently in front of the deity.
AcharyaSpiritual teacher who teaches by setting an example.
Advaita VedantaNon-dualism. Philosophy of Monism in Vedanta. Teaches that the individual soul and God cannot be different.
AhimsaVirtue of non-violence. Abstain from harming any living thing. Not to hurt harm or kill by word, deed or even in thought.
Antim KriyaCremation of the body. The final rite (Samskar).
AryaNoble one.
Arya SamajHindu reform movement started by Dayananda Saraswati (1825 - 1883). Literally means society of nobles. Believes in formless God. Brought many social reforms. Revived ancient ritual of 'Havan' - worship through fire.
AsceticismAustere practices to control the mind and body.
AshramaFour stages of life. Hermitage or monastery. 'That which is obtained by effort.'
AstangaThe eight limbs of Raja Yoga. Disciplines for the mind and body.
AtmanUltimate reality manifesting as the 'I' in the individual. The real self. The silent witness. Without any attributes. It is imperishable and eternal. It does not die with the body.
AumSacred symbol and the sound representing God.
AvatarLiterally 'One who descends'. God descends to earth for the good of mankind; to establish religion and destroy evil. Vishnu is said to come to descend ten times.
AyodhyaPopular place of pilgrimage. Rama's birthplace. On bank of river Saryu in North India.
Bhagvad Gita'Song of the divine'. Contains 700 verses in eighteen chapters. Spiritual dialogue between Krishna and Arjun. Book of authority for Hindus. Teaches renunciation and love of God in the form of Krishna.
BhagvatPopular Purana. Dealing with the life story of Krishna.
BhajanDevotional singing. Normally sung communally.
BhaktiStrong love for God. Devotional approach to spirituality.
Bhakti margWay to God through devotion. Involves worship and adoration in order to build relationship with the divine.
BrahmaGod viewed as the creator in puranic stories. Has four heads. Holds scriptures. Shown sitting on a white lotus.
Brahma-charyaCelibate living. 'Acting in a manner to reflect that everything is manifestation of 'Brahman'.
Brahama-charya AshramStudent life. Celibacy. Concentrate on studies. Respect elders. Begins with Upanayana ceremony at the age of about eight. Kind of Baptism. Introduction to the main prayer in Hinduism called the Gayatri.
BrahmanUltimate reality manifesting or projecting itself as the universe and everything. Hence Sanskrit word for the universe is Shrusti (projection). Considered to be without qualities (nirguna). Nearest words to describe Brahman are: -Asti - existence itself. Bhati - consciousness. Priya- blissful. Brahman with qualities (saguna) is described as the personal God.
Brahmo SamajSocial reform movement started by Rammohun Roy in nineteenth century. Advocates formless God with qualities.
Buddha'The enlightened one'. Siddhartha Gautama (~500BC) attained this state. Hindus consider him to be the ninth avatar of Vishnu.
CamphorBurnt during Puja ceremony, to signify the burning of the ego.
Caste systemDivision of society into groups reflecting and defining division of labour. Degenerated as it was deployed as a hereditary trait. Outlawed by the Government of India.
ChakrasPsychic nerve centres - mainly along the spinal column.
ChastityAbsolute celibacy in word deed or thought. It is considered to be desirable for spiritual progress.
DanaAct of giving - charity.
Darshan'To catch sight of' - refers to visiting a holy place to see the image of God.
DeviFemale form of God.
DeityForm of God being worshipped.
Dharma (sanatan)Religion of right conduct. Righteous living. That which sustains society and civilization. The intrinsic, innermost quality of everything (including the physical universe). Cosmic order. (Sanatan means:- eternal, everlasting, universal).
DhyanaOne pointed concentration on the object of meditation.
DiwaliFestival of light. Autumn festival celebrated with lamps to mark the day Rama returned from exile.
Durga'The inaccessible.' Mother goddess in the form of the warrior. Holding divine weapons. Sitting on a tiger (ego) for destruction of evil. Seen wearing a red sari.
DussehraTen day autumn festival honouring Goddess Durga
Dvait VedantaDualistic form of Vedanta. Teaches that the individual soul is essentially different from God.
FastingTotal or partial abstinence from food. Austerity practiced for spiritual merit on special dates.
GaneshElephant headed God originates from the puranic tales. Son of Shiva and Parvati. God of good luck. Remover of obstacles. Shown with mouse as his vehicle. Holding sweets - symbol of the sweet nature of the divine.
GangesMost sacred river for Hindus. Flows from Himalayas. Puranic story of how it washes away the sins of those who bathe in it. The ashes of departed are immersed in it.
GayatriMost important prayer in Hinduism. Ascribed to sage Vishwamitra."Let us meditate on the glorious effulgence of that supreme being who has created the world. May she enlighten our hearts and direct our understanding"
Grihasta AshramHouseholder stage of life. Graha means house. This stage provided the financial support for all other stages. Teaches righteous living. Looking after the family and society. Begins with the marriage ceremony.
GunasMeans qualities. The Universe is considered to be composed of a mixture of these three qualities called 'Gunas'. These three gunas are: Sattva (balance, calmness, knowledge) Rajas (action, passion, forces in the universe) and Tamas (darkness, inertia, ignorance)
GuruSpiritual teacher.
HanumanMonkey faced God from story Epic Ramayana. Great devotee of Rama. Personification of strength. Sometimes shown holding mace and sometimes a mountain both symbolic of strength.
HavanAncient ritual of worshipping God through fire. Relationship built with higher beings by offering ghee and grains to the fire.
HinduWord derived from mispronunciation of name of river Sindhu. (Sindhu means river or ocean).
HoliSpring festival. Celebrated by sprinkling coloured powders and waters. Also related to the puranic story of Prahalad.
IncenseUsed in Puja ceremony. It burns and gives forth a sweet scent.
Jain (Jin)One who has conquered. Name of the religion founded by 'The Jins' is called Jainism.
JapaRepetition of God's name (normally using beads).
Jnana margWay to God through 'knowledge'. Using discrimination.
KaliMother Goddess in the role of the all destroyer. She clears the slate to restart the cycle of creation. Shown wearing a necklace of skulls. Shown standing on Shiva - (represents Brahman - her support).
KalkiFrom Puranic tales. The 10th avatar of Vishnu - yet to come.
Karma(law of)Law of Karma (action) is used to mean the law of cause and effect on personal terms. 'What you sow, is what you will reap.' We have to bear the consequences of all our actions - if not immediately then in later life. Does away with God sitting in judgement. We are responsible for our own destiny. If misunderstood can cause indifference to the suffering of others or can cause fatalistic behavior.
Karma margWay to God through 'action'. Path of Selfless action. Action is considered better than 'inaction'.
KrishnaEighth incarnation of Vishnu. Author of the Gita - book of authority for Hindus. Teaches selfless action.
KundaliniThe coiled up energy at the base of the spinal column. Through practice of Raja Yoga (meditation) one hopes to awaken this energy to rise up along the spinal column and reach the inner brain. This experience produces super-consciousness. Union with God - called Samadhi.
LakshmiConsort of Vishnu, goddess of wealth and beauty. Shown wearing red sari and offering gold coins to her devotees.
Maha-bharataEpic of Hinduism - 100,000 verses. Story of Pandav and Kaurav brothers. One of the smriti texts dealing with issues of politics, philosophy and spirituality.Credited to Sage: Ved Vyas.
Mahatma Gandhi(1869-1948)Mahatma means great soul. Gandhi used spiritual tools like satya (truth) and ahimsa (non-violence) which won independence for India from the British rule. He called his method Satyagraha, Insistence on truth.
MalaRosary. Beads - turned during Japa.
MandalaGeometric shape as symbol of divinity.
Mantra'That which leads the mind to God.' Usually a sacred verse. Often name of God.
ManusmritiBook dealing with ethics, morality and codes of conduct written by sage Manu.
MargaPath - a way to God. The four methods used are: Jnana Marga (through intellect), Karma Marga (through selfless deeds), Bhakti Marga (through love and devotion) and Raja Yoga (through meditation).
MayaThe power that makes God 'appear' as the universe.
MokshaLiberation from the cycle of rebirth. Final union with God.
MonismAdvaita philosophy which teaches of one underlying unity hidden under all diversity. Does not differentiate between souls and God.
MurtiThe image of God being worshipped. Pratima better word - means the image that leads one (Prati-towards) to God.
NamasteSalutation meaning: 'Reverence to God as you'
Natraj'Lord of the dance'. Shiva shown in dance of creation. Holding drum -symbol of creation. Fire - symbol of destruction. Standing on a dwarf - symbol of ignorance.
PantheismBelief that all of reality is in essence divine.
ParvatiConsort of Shiva. Mother Goddess. Personification of power. Shown as an ordinary woman.
PatanjaliFounder of the Yoga school of philosophy and the practice of meditation called Raja Yoga.
PrashadSanctified food. Food that was offered to the deity at the time of worship.
PratikSymbols of God. (From Prati - 'that which leads to')
PratimaImage of God. The image that leads to God.
PrayersPrayers Including the Gayatri…..Prayers
PujaMeans 'Adoration'. Worship in the home or temple.
PuranasMythological texts of Hinduism (there are 18 maha- puranas).
PuriPlace of pilgrimage. City on the East-coast on the Bay of Bengal. Considered to be the abode of Vishnu. Krishna worshipped here as 'Jagganath' -lord of the universe.
RadhaConsort of Krishna. Depicts love of the individual soul for the supreme soul - God.
RamaHero of the epic Ramayana. Considered to be the Ideal man. Ideal son. Ideal King and Ideal personality.
Ramakrishna(1836-1886)Recent day prophet of Hinduism. Portrayed unity behind different sectarian and religious movements.
RamayanaOne of the two epics of Hinduism. Relates the story of Rama and Sita - ideal man and woman. Written by sage 'Valmiki'
Re-incarnationBelief that: - Individual souls are born again and again. Cycle of rebirth.
RishiComes from Sanskrit Drish (to see). Refers to the founders of Hinduism. Rishis claim first hand spiritual experience. They hold authority in spiritual matters.
Sacraments(Rituals) Outward signs of inward spiritual progress. Samskars. Rites of passage.
Saha-dharminiName given to wife after marriage ceremony - meaning companion for spiritual progress.
Samsara'Stream of existence'. Cycle of birth and death. Theory of reincarnation.
SamskarasRites of passage - religious ceremonies to mark entry into different stages of life. 16 main ones. Literally means 'Purification ceremony'.
Sanatan DharmaAnother name given to Hinduism. Sanatan means 'eternal or universal'. Dharma means: Righteous living; That which sustains (society and civilization); The intrinsic nature of everything - external and internal.
Sannyas AshramThe final stage of life as an ascetic. Renounce individual family as the whole world has become your family. Give up trivial things in order to gain something majestic.
Sannyasi'One who renounces'. Monk. One who enters the final stage in life. Can begin when one has strong urge to find God. Aims of sannyas - personal salvation and for the good of mankind.
SanskritAncient language of India. Considered to be the basis of all Indo- European languages. Means - polished.
SannyasFinal stage in life. Complete renunciation - time spent in search of God. Treating whole mankind as the real family.
SaptapadiSeven steps taken during the marriage ceremony.
SaraswatiMother Goddess as the mother of all learning, art and music. Shown wearing a white sari - holding Veena and scriptures.
SatyaSanskrit word for 'truth'.
ScriptureWriting believed to be divinely inspired.
ShaivismApproach to God in the form of Shiva.
Shakti'Energy' - depicted as mother goddess, the consort of Shiva.
ShankaraPhilosopher-teacher of the Advaita school of philosophy.
Shiv PuranaPuranic tales to do with Lord Shiva.
ShivaOne of the forms of God in Hinduism. Shown in meditation with a snake curled round his neck. Smeared in ashes. Shown with three eyes.
Shruti'That which is heard' - The books of authority for Hindus. Consists of the four Vedas (Rig, Sama, Yajur, Atharva).
SitaIdeal wife of Rama. Depicts patience, calmness and grace. Ideal role model for Hindu women.
Smriti'In Memory' - Books written by men - has less authority. Contain the mythological texts (puranas), epics (Ramayana and Mahabharata). Manu smriti -the text on ethics and codes of conduct for society.
SwadhyayaStudying scriptures.
LordSwaminarayanHead of the 'Swami Narayan movement'. Set up by Sahajananda Swami (1781-1830).
Swami'Master'. Term for holy man or monk.
SwastikaSymbol of auspiciousness from the four corners of the world. Swasti - means well being.
TheologySystematic formulation of beliefs.
TilakMark on the forehead - to awaken spirituality.
Tirtha'Crossing over place'. Name applied to places of pilgrimage, place to cross over to a spiritual plane. Places chosen for geographic, historic or mythological reasons.
UpanayanaOne of the Samskars. Sacred thread ceremony. Involves rite of initiation. Introduction to Gayatri. Begin first stage of life as a celibate.
UpanishadsThe texts normally found in the end portion of the Vedas dealing with the philosophy of Hinduism. Means to 'Sit near to destroy ignorance'. 108 main upanishads.
Vanaprasta'Forest dweller'. Third stage of life (retirement). Withdraw from worldly desires. Spend time in prayers and meditation.
Varanasi(Kashi) Most holy place of pilgrimage for Hindus. In North India, on the bank of river Ganges. Considered to be the abode of Shiva. Place of learning. Temples of Shiva and mother goddess (Annapurna).
VedaFrom Sanskrit word 'Vid' - to know. Books of knowledge. Books of authority in Hinduism. Divided into four texts.(Rig, Sama, Yajur, Atharva)
VedantaThe conclusion of the Vedas. The philosophy of contemporary Hinduism. Explores the essential nature of man, God and the universe.
VishnuGod in the form of the preserver of the universe. Normally shown with four arms holding discus, shell, mace and a lotus. He is said to descend to earth ten times as the 'Avatars' for the good of mankind.
VivahMarriage ceremony. Taking on responsibility.
Vivekananda(1863-1902)Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. Major advocate of Hinduism to the West. Emphasizes on divinity in all living things and rational approach to spirituality.
VrindavanPlace of pilgrimage, where Krishna sported as a child. On bank of Jamuna river in north India. Near Govardhan mountain.
YatraSpiritual journey.
YogaLiterally means: 'To be one with'. Means: Path to God through meditation (psychic control).

Source: Internet

Hinduism for Schools

Hinduism: The word 'Hindu' comes from the name of a river called 'Sindhu' that flowed in Northwest of India. The name of that river was mispronounced as 'Hindu'. Hence the people who lived in that part of the world were called 'Hindus'. The knowledge of God that comes from this part of the world is called 'Hinduism'. Most of the Hindus still live in India but a large number now live in many other parts of the world.

Symbol: Aum is an important symbol. It is the sound heard in deepest meditation and is said to be the best name for God.

Founders: Hinduism does not have one or two prophets who lived a very long time ago, but has hundreds of prophets who teach religion throughout all ages.

The special name given to these prophets is 'Rishi'. It means someone who can 'see' God. If one can meditate deeply one too becomes a 'rishi'. Some of these ancient 'rishis' were young boys and girls. These sages are highly respected by all Hindus, as they possess the knowledge of God.

Prayers: The most popular Hindu prayer is called the 'Gayatri' It translates:-

'Let us meditate on the glorious effulgence of that supreme being who has created the universe may she enlighten our hearts and direct our understanding'.

Scriptures: The knowledge of God that the 'rishis' gain is passed on to mankind. This knowledge is called the 'Vedas'. They form the main scriptures of Hinduism. They were written in a very ancient language called 'Sanskrit'. Another book of authority is called the Gita.

The mythological books of Hinduism are called the 'Puranas'. These books contain interesting stories about God. Children like to learn about God through such stories. 'Ramayana and Mahabharat' are two major history books with stories of Hinduism.

Symbols: Apart from Aum Some of the other symbols are:-

Lotus: This symbolizes beauty and purity manifesting itself from the impure.

Swastika: This denotes good luck from all corners of the world (symbol of auspiciousness)


Shrutis: are the books of authority for Hindus. The word - shruti literally means 'that which is heard'. It is so called because these scriptures were passed on by word of mouth. They are said to contain spiritual knowledge acquired through deep meditation. The main set of texts is called the 'Vedas'. The portions of the Vedas that contain the philosophy of Hinduism are called the 'Upanishads'. 'Bhagvat- Gita' is another text that is considered to be a book of authority. It literally means 'the song of the divine'. Even though this text is not part of the Vedas, most Hindus consider this to be a text of great importance. It is the spiritual dialogue between Arjun and Sri Krishna from the epic Mahabharata.

Smritis: are the scriptures of lesser authority for Hindus. They contain mythological texts like the Epics- Ramayana - Story of Rama and Sita. Mahabharata - Story of the Pandav Brothers overcoming adversities with the help of Krishna.

Puranas -There are 18 texts called Mahapuranas. They contain mythological stories of various Gods and Goddesses. These texts provide an easier way to learn Hinduism. Manusmriti is one of the texts of Hinduism that imparts ethics, morality and codes of conduct. All Smritis are considered to have lesser authority than the Vedas. 

Founders: Hinduism is unique in that it does not rely on the spiritual experiences of just one or two prophets of ancient times. It is able to refresh its message of spirituality through the teachings of different prophets throughout all ages. These prophets are sometimes referred to as:

Avatars: - which literally means 'one who descends'. Hindus say that God literally descends to earth for the good of mankind. Hindus refer to Rama, Krishna, and Buddha as avatars. Prophets of other religions are also referred to as avatars.

Some recent Avatars are: -
Chaitanya (1485-1534)
Ramakrishna (1836-1886)

There are many more avatars.

Religious teachers:

Acharya: Means spiritual teacher - those who teach by example.

Famous Acharyas of Hinduism who propounded various schools of philosophies are :

Shankracharya (788-820) - Advaita philosophy

Ramanujacharya(1017-1137)-Qualified Advaita
Madhavacharya(1197-1280)- Dvaita philosophy
Vallabhacharya-(1479-1532)- Qualified Dvaita

Saints: Hinduism has been blessed with hundreds of saints through the ages. They proclaim first hand experience of God. Some famous saints are:

Tulsidas (1527-1623)
Meera 1450-1512)
Tukaram (1607-1649)
Kabir (1440-1518).

Swami: Means a master - title normally given to a monk.

Guru: Means spiritual teacher.

Role of Sectarian movements: Hinduism encourages all sectarian movements. It says: 'As we are all different the way we think of God or approach God will necessarily be different'. All religions and all sectarian movements within those religions are valid pathways to find God hence all deserve respect.

Interfaith in Hinduism: The above teachings allows one to be true to one's own faith without compromise and yet lets others follow their own faith without hindrance. This teaching is at the heart of Hinduism. The Vedic text relating to this teaching reads: 'One ultimate reality approached in many different ways.' This verse is very relevant for the multi-faith society we live in and tells us how people of different faiths can relate to each other without having to patronize or compromise their own faiths. Such pluralistic teachings are useful for any 'Interfaith ideals' we may wish to pursue.

God with form: Hindus believe that one can think of God as a person (with shape) or one can think of him not as a person (without shape). It is like the example of ice and water. Ice takes on a shape but water does not seem to have any shape and yet they are both really the same thing. There is only one God but Hindus like to think of him/her in the form of their liking.

God as a person: It is easier to build a relationship with God if one thinks of him as a person. Some Hindus like to think of God as their real father in heaven. But why only as a father? Many Hindus like to think of God as their real 'mummy' in heaven. Hindus can choose the way they wish to think of God. The important thing is to love God. It makes no difference how one wishes to see Him. One is allowed to pick and choose the way one thinks of God. Some like to think of him as Krishna. Some like to think of God as the Mother Goddess Durga - with many arms - holding many divine weapons. Some Hindus like to think of God as a little child. They do not like to think of God as a grown up person. All these different ways to approach God are acceptable in Hinduism. There is only One God in Hinduism but one can choose how he/she looks.

God without form (but with qualities): Some Hindus do not like to think of God having the shape of a man or a woman. How can God be without any shape? We all believe in truth, love, power and such. None of these have any shape and yet we all believe in them. Hindus say that this is how one can think of God without shape. Some Hindus use fire as a symbol to think of God without any shape.

God beyond form and formless: These are not the only ways one can think of God. Hindus say that there are many more ways one can think of God. If we concentrate and find out who we truly are - we find that: - 'We are really God'. This is very difficult to believe, but Hindus say the 'real you' is called 'Atman' - God as your true self. That is why the greeting used by Hindus is:- 'Namaste' - I bow down to God as 'you'. The highest worship of God is then thought to be 'Service to mankind'. Hurting any living thing is considered wrong becomes it is the same as 'hurting ourselves'!

God with Form: Hindus say that it is not enough just to believe in God. We have to make an effort to find God. One of the best ways to find God is to think of him/her as a person. This allows us to build a relationship with him and thus allows us to get closer to him. Many Hindus have found God in this manner. The form of God they choose then becomes very special because it is a tried and tested path used by a person to reach God. This is why we see God being portrayed in so many different ways in Hinduism. These are all different ways used by different people to reach the same God. Many people including some Hindus get confused when they see so many different forms of God. Vedas - the scriptures of Hinduism teach: - "There is only one God but there are many different ways to reach him".

Different Forms of God:

Brahma: God seen in the role of the creator of the universe. He is shown with four heads looking in all four directions. He is sometimes shown holding scriptures, beads, and a water pot.

Vishnu: God seen in the role of the preserver of the universe. He is normally shown with four arms holding lotus, mace, discus and conch.

Mahesh (Shiva): God seen in the role of the destroyer of the universe. Shown sometimes as 'Natraj' holding a drum as a symbol of creation and fire as a symbol of destruction. Hinduism says that if God is the creator of the universe then God is the only one who can be the destroyer of the universe. Sometimes he is shown as 'Shiva' with a snake curled around his neck.

Rama and Krishna: Avatars ( God descending to earth) like Rama and Krishna are also the forms of God Hindus like to worship.

Mother Goddess: Some Hindus like to think of God as their mother in heaven.

She is sometimes shown as the consort of Shiva and is addressed as: -  
Parvati: Goddess referred to as Shakti (Energy).

Durga: Parvati in the role of a warrior. Shown sitting on a lion or a tiger and holding many divine weapons.

Kali: Parvati in the role of the 'all-destroying' mother goddess.

Sarasvati: is shown wearing a white sari and playing the Veena. She is referred to as the Goddess of all learning.

Lakshmi: Is considered to be the goddess of wealth and beauty. She is shown wearing a red sari and offering gold coins to her devotees.

God without form but with qualities: Some Hindus like to think of God as being formless. The best way that they can describe God is as Truth and Love. They say that if we try and find out the real nature of these qualities, we can find God. They do not like to think of God with form. Two recent movements in India that promoted this approach to God are called: Arya Samaj and Brahmo Samaj. They both promote God as impersonal but with qualities like truth and love. Swami Dayananda Sarasvati (1825-1883) was the founder of the Arya Samaj. Ram Mohan Roy was the founder of Brahmo Samaj. Both these movements brought about important social reforms within Hinduism.

God with and without form: Most Hindus are not very keen to think of God as being formless. The best explanation of God as being both with and without form came from a recent Hindu prophet called Ramakrishna (1836-1886). He explained why there is no contradiction in thinking of God as being both with and without form. He gave the example of ice and water.   It is the same thing with and without shape. He says that the love of the devotee freezes the formless God into the form of his choice. Hence any approach to God is fine. Any form of God we decide to worship is fine. He said God is both with and without form and much more.

Brahman and Atman - God beyond form and quality: Hinduism also teaches that God can be beyond form and quality. Hinduism refers to God as the ultimate reality -'Brahman'. It teaches that this ultimate reality 'appears' as the physical universe. It adds that this same ultimate reality also 'appears' in a more clear form as all living things. Hence they are sacred as they represent an image of God. Mankind is the most sacred image of God as it represents the most transparent manifestation of God. What sparkles in all of us as the 'I' say Hindus is a clear reflection of God. The name given to God as our true self is called 'Atman'. This is one way in which we can think of God as being beyond form and quality - just as the witness to everything.

Cycle of Life: Hindus believe that after we die, we are reborn. This cycle of being born again and again is called reincarnation. Most of us cannot remember anything about our past lives but there are some who can remember. The most important thing that comes with us when we are reborn is our character. That is why we see children born in the same family with such different characters. That is why some children are born as geniuses - they had developed their skills in past lives.
Can we be reborn as a butterfly? Some think that this would be fun, but it is highly unlikely. We start off being born as a lower being like the plant but we slowly evolve and are reborn as higher and higher beings until we become human. It would be difficult to be reborn as a lower being after we have developed a human character.
Can we stop being reborn? Yes, only after we find God. That is the final destination. We have to reach God to stop this cycle of rebirth. This is called moksha.
Law of Karma: Hindus say that we have to bear the consequences for all that we do. Just like if we foolishly cut our finger - we immediately feel the pain and scream. Sometimes what we do now does not bear results immediately, but catches up with us later on - sometimes in later lives. This is called the Law of Karma. We reap what we sow. This means we have to be very careful in what we do. If we do hateful things, we will have to bear the consequences and bear hateful things later on. If we do good things then we will get good results later on. We are responsible for everything that happens to us. It is our past actions (karma)catching up with us.
Different ways to reach God:Religions: Hindus say that all religions are different ways to find God. They say that we can reach God through any of these different ways. No one religion is better than others. This way of thinking about many religions all teaching about the same ONE God is called 'Pluralism'.
Different ways to reach God within Hinduism: Within Hinduism there are lots of different ways to find God.
Some 'clever-clogs' like to use their intelligence to find God - this way to God is called path of knowledge (jnana marg).
Then there are others who just fall in love with God - the method they use to find God is called the path of devotion (bhakti marg).
There are also some that like to use concentration and find God. This method of finding God is called path of meditation (raja yoga).
Some people like to be very active. They love to work. The method they use to find God is called path of action (karma marg).
No one method is better than others. The method we choose should reflect our own character and abilities.

Ways to God: There are as many ways to God as there are people. Everyone has to find his/her own way to God. We have to make the best use of our own abilities. We can pick and choose any of these ways, or a combination of any of these major ways. They are called the four yogas or margs (paths).

Bhakti Yoga: Bhakti means intense love for God. This path is suited to people who feel naturally drawn towards God. The devotee spends his time in prayers, worship and constant remembrance of the deity of his choice. His daily routine consists of these activities. He may read scriptures, sing devotional songs, tell beads and only socialise with people of similar temperament. He carries out worship with great love and care. He develops a special relationship with the deity of his choice in order to get closer to Him. Some like to think of God as their real father or their real mother.
Some even think of God as their sweetheart. Some may take the attitude that they are just the servants of God. Others like to think of God as their best friend. All these attitudes help them feel closer to God. The greatest advantage of this path to God is that the end product "Intense love of God" - is also the very instrument used to achieve that goal. Hence many people consider this path to be the easiest way to God. The difficulty is that only few people feel such intense love of God! If the devotee expects anything in return for his devotion, his love (bhakti) is considered to be unripe. When the devotee wants God only for the sake of God and nothing else, his love is mature and is then called parabhakti.

Raja Yoga: Essentially raja yoga teaches the path to God through meditation. Many mistake the word yoga to mean postures and physical exercises. The term for these activities is - Hatha yoga. Hindus realise the importance of a healthy body for spiritual progress; hence these exercises were introduced. Sage Patanjali developed the system of raja yoga. It consists of eight steps. The first two are called Yama and Niyama. These prescribe ten disciplines to be observed in daily life before we are ready to practice meditation. They require practice of truthfulness, celibacy, cleanliness non-violence, austerities etc. in daily life. Next comes Asana - suitable sitting posture for meditation. The main requirement is to sit upright with the backbone kept straight. The aim of Raja yoga is to develop intense concentration whereby we are able to become more 'awake' than we are now. It requires a dramatic change in the level of awareness we experience. Hindus claim that it is in this higher state of awareness that all prophets come face to face with God. Spirituality then becomes first hand experience and transforms the individual into a God-man. The goal of raja yoga is to develop one pointed concentration (dhyana) and thus achieve union with the ultimate reality - God. This is called samadhi.

Karma Yoga: is often called the path of action. Krishna teaches in the Bhagavat Gita, "Action is better than inaction". This forms the basis of this particular path. It says that we cannot really avoid action. Even if we sit in the remotest place our mind will still continue to conjure up images and be active. The best thing is not to stop acting but to act in a manner that helps to cleanse the mind. The simplest method recommended is to continue to act but to offer the fruits of our action to God. Thus we begin to develop a sense of detachment in the midst of all activities. The ultimate reality as our true self is best described as the witness looking out through the body. By following this practice of non-attachment to our actions we get closer to our true self as the witness.

Jnana Yoga: This is often described as the way to God through intellectual ability. This path claims that to find God we need to clear our vision of reality. We all know that as we develop sharper intellect the same world begins to appear in a different light. With the advance of science we now view the world in a completely different way than the ancient man. Jnana yoga says that this process should be sharpened even further. We require greater mental evolution in order to see what is really out there and what we are all about. This can be achieved by using the tools of discrimination and dispassion. First we need dispassion towards the world in order to become less distracted. Then we need to focus on what is real and what is unreal that is called discrimination. The best example of a Jnana Yogi is perhaps 'Shankracharya'.

Raman Maharshi - used sharp intellect to see through the apparent world.

Ramadas with Krishnabai - used constant repetition of the name of Sri Rama
Vivekananda - master of Raja yoga and yet involved in unceasing activity.

Worship: Hindus say any activity we do that takes us closer to God is called worship. There are no hard and fast rules about worship. The best time for worship is considered to be dusk and dawn when everything seems to be peaceful.

  • Shrine room (or shrine): is the place where worship is done in the house.
  • Deity (the form of God being worshipped) is placed on a raised and well-decorated platform.
  • Water may be sprinkled around the shrine as a symbol to purify.
  • Flowers may be offered as symbol of offering our heart to God.
  • Fruit and cooked food may be offered to God. At the end of the worship this becomes holy (prashad) and is distributed and eaten by everyone.
  • Incense may be burnt - the sweet scent goes everywhere to symbolise God being everywhere.
  • Bell may be rung to awaken the deity and also to block out other disturbing sounds.
  • Tilak - (mark on the forehead) may be made to awaken spirituality. The mark is usually made with red powder (kumkum).
  • Prayers or sacred verses may be sung.
  • Aarti (waving a lamp in front of the deity) ceremony may be carried out to invoke and welcome the deity.
  • Camphor is burnt to symbolise burning of our egos.
  • Japa or telling beads while repeating God's name may be carried out.
  • Sacred scriptures may be read, or meditation may be practiced after the prayers.

Temples: Hindus say temples are the homes of God on earth. There are no hard and fast rules about when to go to the temple. Hindus go to the temple to get 'darshan' (catch sight of God they worship). We may take some fruits or flowers or other items as offerings. When we arrive at the temple we remove our shoes before entering the temple. There is normally a bell that we ring to announce our presence to God. The main deity (form of God being worshipped) is normally kept in the inner shrine. The outer walls may have smaller shrines showing other deities. The worship is similar to the worship in the home using the same kind of artefacts. There may be corporate singing ('bhajans') accompanied by musical instruments. We may observe the 'aarti' ceremony (a lamp is gently waved in front of the deity in a clockwise direction). The lamp is passed around and everyone cups their hands over the lamp to receive blessings. We may go round the image / deity to pay our respects. When we leave we receive 'prashad' (food that was offered during worship).

Four stages of life: Ashramas

Ashramas: - Can mean hermitages. Ashrama also means different stages in life. According to Hindu thinking the aim of life is to find God. In order to achieve this, life is subdivided into four stages called Ashramas. This practice has been abandoned since the middle ages, but some of the values it portrays are relevant today.

Brahmacharya: - This marks the first stage of life. It begins at the age of about 8 when the child is ready to begin his studies. The child is expected to lead a celibate life. He stays with the teacher, learning the scriptures as well as other skills. The importance of discipline and respect for the elders and teachers are stressed. The values to be learnt from this stage that are still relevant are concepts of celibacy, self-restraint, concentration in studies and respect for elders / teachers.

Grihasta: - This second stage of life begins with marriage. One enters the householder stage and starts a family. One earns a righteous living. One looks after all family members including the elderly, guests and children. One is supposed to work for the good of the society as a whole (dharma). This stage allows one to acquire wealth (artha) and fulfill legitimate desires (kama). This stage in life is the key stage, as it acts as the financial support for the other three stages of life. It has relevance today in teaching values of righteous living, carrying out one's duties, not just looking after one's own family but also doing good work for society as a whole.

Vanaprastha: - This is the third stage of life. The scriptures say 'when the skin becomes wrinkled' one begins this stage. It literally means - 'the stage of the forest dweller.' It encourages withdrawal from family duties. It is a stage of retirement. One acts as the advisor in the family and passes on the duties of running the household to the younger members of the family. One withdraws from worldly desires in order to attend to one's spiritual needs. Normally one continues to live with the family but spends time in contemplation and meditation.

Sannyas: - This is the final stage in life. According to the scriptures, this stage can begin at any time one feels a strong urge to find God. Sannyas literally means renunciation. It is often misunderstood to mean giving up everything. In fact it really means giving up the minor things in order to achieve the major thing(God). It is also misunderstood to mean giving up the family. It really means that you make the whole world your family. The aim of sannyas is twofold. One is to find God (some call this liberation or Moksha) and the other is to work for the good of mankind. He moves away from his family and lives the life of a monk. He spends time in meditation, worship, going on pilgrimages and doing whatever he sees fit to find God. The values that can be learnt from this ashrama are the values of renunciation. Without renunciation, how can we expect to achieve the highest? At some stage in life we have to develop dispassion for the worldly things in order to make spiritual progress.

Sacraments - rites of passage

Samskars - rites of passage. There are 16 rites of passages prescribed in the Hindu scriptures. These are religious celebrations to mark entry into different stages in life. The first samskar takes place before conception! The last one takes place after death. Some of the early samskars are: - Jatakarma: - After birth before umbilical cord is severed. Namakarana: - Naming the child. Annaprasana: - First feeding of cooked rice. Chaula: - First hair cut.

Upanayana: - It literally means getting closer to God. This is sometimes called the sacred thread ceremony. It marks the beginning of life as a student. It may take place when the child is about 8 years old. In ancient days, both boys and girls undertook this ceremony. A havan (worship through fire) is lit. The priest recites hymns. The father or the priest whispers the 'Gayatri mantra' into the child's ear. This marks initiation into religious life. The child is invested with a sacred thread that is draped over the left shoulder. The thread has three strands. They represent the three debts the individual bears. The first debt is to God, the second is to the forefathers and the third is to the spiritual teacher. The child is now fit to study the scriptures and carry out worship in the family shrine. He/she is now expected to begin serious studies of the scriptures.

Vivah (Marriage ceremony): - This ceremony marks the transition from the student life to the life of a householder. At the end of the studies the person is ready for marriage. A suitable partner is found and the Vivah ceremony is carried out. The ceremony may vary a great deal depending on local customs. There are some basic rituals that are observed at most ceremonies. They involve the bride's father offering the hand of the bride to the groom (Panigrahan). A havan (worship through fire) is lit. A priest will recite some hymns from the scriptures. The bride and groom will offer grains and ghee to the fire. This is to obtain blessings of higher beings. Fire is considered to be the witness to the ceremony. The bride and groom will walk around the fire four times. Every time the bride will put her right foot on a piece of rock. This is to symbolise her steadfastness in carrying out her duties as the wife. As a symbolic gesture, the bride and groom take seven steps together. The first step is for God. The other steps can be for health, wealth, strength, children, and happiness. The last step is for a life - long friendship between the husband and wife. The wife marks her forehead with red powder called kum-kum. The couple is showered with rice and petals to wish them well. The wife is now addressed as 'Sahadharmini' meaning partner for spiritual progress.

Antim kriya (final rites): - This is the final rite and involves the cremation of the body. The Hindu philosophy says that the body is just the outer garment of the individual. The real self does not die but goes forth and assumes another body in due course. The body is not considered to be important, so it is not preserved, but cremated. The body is bathed, clothed and placed in the coffin and taken to the crematorium. In India the body will be taken to the funeral pyre where the eldest son or male relative will set fire to the pyre. Verses from the Bhagavat Gita are recited to console the relatives. The ashes are collected and may be taken to India and immersed in the river Ganges.


Today this word is used to mean postures and physical exercises. It really means 'to join together' or 'to join with God'. Physical exercises help us keep our bodies healthy, which then helps to do the real yoga ('joining with God').

Raja Yoga:

This is true yoga and is called 'Raja Yoga'. It involves meditation. This is not easy. Very few people are able to meditate properly. Real meditation comes when we 'become more awake' than we are now. Can we become even more awake? Yes, when that happens we cannot even feel our own bodies and still feel 'very awake'. When we meditate successfully, others can come and tickle us and we won't feel a thing! Only when we meditate like this can we 'join with God' and learn all the secrets about God. Hindu prophets learn about God in this manner.

Festivals celebrate: - Mythological events, Historic events, Personal relationships or Seasonal festivities.

Diwali, is perhaps the most popular Hindu festival. This day celebrates the return of Rama and Sita from exile. It also celebrates the day Mother Goddess destroyed a demon called 'Mahisha'. On this day people light lots of lamps, visit relations, have feasts and firework displays.

Navratri celebrates the worship of Mother Goddess and her victory over evil.

Janamasthami celebrates the birth of Krishna.

Ramanavmi celebrates the birth of Rama.

Shivratri celebrates the worship of Shiva.

Guru Purnima honours the teachers.

Raksha Bandhan honours the relationship between brothers and sisters.

Holi celebrates the arrival of spring.

Philosophies: There are six schools of philosophy in Hinduism. They are all attempts to rationalise the teachings of the Vedas.

Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta are three schools that are considered to have stood the test of time.

Samkhya: Is perhaps the most ancient philosophy of the world.

Sage Kapila is said to be the author of this school of philosophy. It is almost impossible to date the work. Kapila attempted to classify the world into different categories. Dealing with matter, sense organs, mind, intellect and so on. Some of the findings of Samkhya are very similar to the way modern science views things. Samkhya states that the universe is created by the combination of two major categories. They are called Purusha (the individual) and Prakriti (nature).

Yoga: Is the name of the philosophy propounded by sage Patanjali in the post-Kapila era. The Yoga school has adopted most of the findings of Samkhya and added one further category - God. The practice of Raja Yoga or path to God through meditation is based on the teaching of this school of philosophy. In fact it can be said that Raja Yoga is the practical experiment suggested by the Yoga school of philosophy.

Vedanta: This is reputed to be the most popular Hindu school of philosophy. Vedanta has been the theology that has represented Hinduism for the past two millenniums. The term Vedanta literally means - end of Vedas, or conclusions of the Vedas. The teachings are supported by the Upanishads. The principal teachings of this school discuss the nature and relationship between God, the individual, and the universe. Vedantic teaching can be subdivided into two major categories.

Dvaita-vedanta: - (Dualistic Vedanta) talks of God as the supreme personality. Soul(s) and Nature are considered to be eternal and distinct from this God-head.

Advaita-vedanta: - (Non-dualism) says that there cannot be more than one eternal and infinite ultimate category - else they will limit each other. Hence it concludes that the individual soul cannot be different from God or the essential nature of the universe. It claims that in the final analysis - there cannot be 'more than one'. This 'non-dual appears' as many due to ignorance.

The differences:

It may seem that there are serious differences between these schools of philosophies. Vivekananda explains that these differences are more to do with semantics and technicalities than the validity of experiences of the enlightened souls or the explanations offered by various acharyas who promoted these different explanations to suit the needs of mankind in different circumstances.

Upanishads: - These are the sacred texts that form the basis of the Vedantic teachings. Upanishads literally mean sitting near the teacher. There are 108 Upanishads. 11 of which are very popular. These upanishads occur at the end portion of the Vedas (the books of authority for Hindus). They talk about the real nature of man as 'Atman'. They promote ideas about the real nature of the universe as 'Brahman'. They then proceed to discuss the possible relationships between them.

Ahimsa: - Concepts like non-violence and sacredness of all living things come out very naturally from these philosophic teachings. The reason why we should not hurt another living thing is because in reality we are harming ourselves say the teachings of Advaita. These kinds of conclusions form the basis of moral laws in Hinduism.

Bhagavat Gita: - This is another text which is considered to be authoritative for the Hindus. It literally means 'song of the divine'. It is in the form of a spiritual dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjun. It has 700 verses and captures the essential teachings of the upanishads. The central themes of Gita are the concepts of 'renunciation' and 'devotion to God as Krishna'.

Theory of Creation from Rig Veda 10.129 - Nasadiya Sukta There was neither non-existence nor existence then; there was
neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. What stirred? Where? In whose protection? Was there water, bottomless - deep?
There was neither death nor immortality then. There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day. That one breathed, windless, by its own impulse. Other than that there was nothing beyond. Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning; with no distinguishing sign, all this was water. The life force that was covered with emptiness, that one arose through the power of heat. Desire came upon that one in the beginning; that was the first seed of mind. Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom found the bond of existence in non-existence.

Their cord was extended across. Was there below? Was there above?
There were seed-placers; there were powers. There was impulse beneath; there was giving-forth above. Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen? Whence this creation has arisen perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows or perhaps he does not know.