Hindu traditional view

Bijoy Misra bmisra at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Tue Dec 29 12:52:19 UTC 1998

Comments on Hindu traditional views
Any assertion that a Hindu traditional view is akin to
a fundamentalist Christian view is wrong.  I have lived half
of my life in India and half in west and the following
is my observation.

No Hindu believes that God is a man and hence no one
believes that there is a time scale for the creation.
Creation is an unseen God's will and manifests itself
with various life forms, which are incarnations of God.
God resides in everyone's heart and (in an elitist way)
permeates everywhere.  The underlying principle always
is God is much larger and hugely unquantifiable object
and hence it's best left to inner realization and
spiritual visualization.  Icons, dieties come into
play and they become symbols towards the journey in
discovering God.

While the above might sound philosophical, an illiterate
Hindu unserstands the concept and humbly accepts the
largeness of the universe and God.  It's not clear to me
how the average person accepts the oneness of the universe,
which seems to be a very difficult concept intellectually
and scientifically.

History and terrestrial lives become a speck in this large
canvas and a concepts of rebirth and reincarnation kick
in to maintain a continuity.  Hindus buy this easily and
that gives them a sense of discipline against disorder and
immorality (as much as humanly sustainable) and the necessary
recourse to punishments and inferior births.

Amidst these are statements like "God lived here", "God spoke
the following", "God, help the nation" and these have been
profitably used by preachers to create a faith and initiate
a cult.  Once God's dwelling is curtailed, the cultists
would favor their dwelling against others' and these have
been viewed by modern historians as new traditions.  It's
my firm belief that an average Hindu is more philosophical
than a cultist.  In this sense, the average Hindu does not
follow a religion, but follows a set of practices that the
family inherits and posseses a deep inner sense of divinity
towards a mystic and cosmic creator.

The above is definitely at odds with any christian view on
creation and invoke a sense of time-bound history to the
happenings in the universe.  It's not clear to me how
the illogical time scales have been literally used by
Christian preachers to create a sense of awe among people.
My only speculation is that any missionary activity has
to show a sense of imminence and long time scales don't help
in creating an urgency.  I have not researched this well
to appreciate the motivation.

This discussion is not for people who would create a Hindu
supremacy through political force or using national
chaunvinism.  An average Hindu never believed in superiority
and still does not.  Some people use the religion to create a
small local profit and that is more in the realm of sociology
and economics.  Such efforts are not new, neither are they
confined to any country.  The beauty is that a large fraction
of human population philosophically appreciates the largeness
and eternity of consciousness and this fraction seems to be
growing. The further beauty is that it happens in spite of the
cults to throttle it.

Happy New Year to all of you..

Bijoy Misra
Cambridge, MA.

On Tue, 29 Dec 1998, Robert Zydenbos wrote:

> N. Ganesan wrote:
> > <<<
> > I believe I have read somewhere, I think it was in introduction to
> > Sankara's Gita Bhashya (I am not sure of the translator - Swami
> > Panavananda
> > ???) that the BG is placed as far back as 3102 BC which was the date for
> > the Mahabharata war and the beginning of Kali Yuga. ...
> > >>>
> >
> >   Just reading Eric Wolf's People without History.
> >   When the chronological thinking came to India,
> >   first from Muslims, and then Europeans, Hindus
> >   have a problem.
> I have a book titled "Universal History", written by an American lady
> savant in the 1870s. There she writes that although there are some
> strange people who claim that the earth is millions of years old, we can
> safely dismiss such speculations as deranged and evil, since the Bible
> clearly says that the world was created in 6006 BC and there are no
> solid reasons why we should think otherwise.
> So what we often have to deal with in discussions on the Internet is not
> only a Hindu problem. Even though scholars had already accepted
> historical thinking, fundamentalist Christians in the US a hundred years
> ago used arguments very similar to those which their Hindu counterparts
> brandish today.
> Even if it is true that traditional India has an unhistorical /
> antihistorical tendency (cf. also Hajime Nakamura, _Ways of Thinking of
> Eastern Peoples_), the attitude that says we should pick up an old text,
> ardently believe in it and construct the whole of history on that text
> is not exclusively Hindu. But percentagewise, it seems more a Hindu
> problem today than, e.g., a Muslim or Christian one.
> Perhaps it would be a nice study to find out relative differences in
> historical / chronological consciousness between various Hindu
> traditions. E.g., it seems that in Karnataka Maadhvas seem relatively
> more historically conscious than Smaartas, which could be due to the
> Maadhva belief that the world is real, whereas for Advaitins it is all
> maayaa and hence does not really matter.
> --
> Dr. Robert J. Zydenbos
> Mysore (India)
> e-mail zydenbos at bigfoot.com

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