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Books > Hindu > Vaishnav > The Heart of Hinduism (The Eastern Path to Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination)
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The Heart of Hinduism (The Eastern Path to Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination)
The Heart of Hinduism (The Eastern Path to Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination)
Description
Preface

This book is written to provide convenient access to the essence of the Vedic/Hindu philosophy, and quick and easy understanding of its core principles and concepts. This book is to help preserve and protect the genuine Vedic doctrine and show the basis upon which it is founded, the cause of its conclusions, and what is it ultimate goal. The numerous verses that are quoted or referenced will provide extra clarity for this purpose. It is also presented in an easily understandable format wherein a person can quickly gain the insights and depths of the Vedic philosophy without the confusion that many people who are new to this may encounter. Therefore this book can also be used as a handbook and guide for a clear to one’s own personal and in-depth spiritual development.

The Essential Heart of Hinduism

When we say “heart” of Hinduism, we mean a couple of things. First, we can mean the essence of its doctrine. The essence of Hinduism refers to the core of its philosophy that is upheld and supported by the Vedic scripture. Thus, if a philosophy or viewpoint is not corroborated by Vedic Principles, as found or explained the Vedic texts, then it cannot really be considered a part of the Vedic path. Furthermore, if a religion disagrees with the Vedic dharma, then it also cannot be a part of the Vedic tradition, or Hinduism.

Amongst all of the outlooks and views found within it, no matter whether it is Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Advaita (believing the Absolute is impersonal) or dvaita (accepting the Absolute as a Supreme person), and so on, we can ask, “what is the most essential part of it? What is the most important knowledge to know? Behind all of the stories, legends, traditions and mysteries, what is the core of its philosophy that I should understand? What is it that is most importantly emphasized in the Vedic texts? So in discussing the heart of Hinduism in this context we mean getting to the essence or core of it. This is what we will be presenting.

As we go through this volume, will first uncover this by a logical analysis of the Vedic scripture and it contents and conclusions, which will be quite revealing when viewed in full. Then we will understand the heart of Hinduism through its experience, which is revealed through its methodologies or systems of practice.

The “Devotional” Heart of Hinduism

The ‘heart’ of Hinduism also means the devotional heart. This side of is wherein we can awaken our loving and devotional nature toward God to the highest degree. There can be no heart without an emotional connection and outlet for an exchange of love from one being to another. Thus, the heart of Hinduism also implies the loving connection between the individual and the Supreme person. Without this devotional side, there is really no heart to it and it remains only philosophy and technique without an emotional awakening or reciprocal exchange between the finite and the Infinite. This process is especially systematized in detail in the method of Bhakti-yoga. Such devotion is found in varying degrees in most of the Vedic systems such as in the process of Shaivism with dedication to Shiva, as well as in the process of Shaktism dedicated to the Goddess and so on. However, it is especially emphasized and elaborated in the Vaishnava systems dedicated to Vishnu and Krishna.

This devotional process assists one to develop a loving connection with God that can be so deep that it spiritually awakens one to the stage of complete God-realization. If practiced thoroughly and sincerely enough, one can arouse a strong and close relationship with the Supreme Being. Then the person revives the spiritual connection between himself or herself and God, a and all of God’s parts and parcels, the innumerable living being. Then the person sees God everywhere and s never alone without God’s association. This is the devotional ‘heart’ of Hinduism. In such a state of consciousness, a person can reestablish a steady line of reciprocation or communication between himself or herself and the Supreme Being. The process of Bhakti or devotion is the means by which we call the Supreme Being to reveal Himself to us. If the Infinite cannot reveal Himself to the finite jiva soul or individual, then He is not the Supreme. In such a revelation, this high level of reality is open for us to experience. In such no longer remains only an unreachable curiosity or mystery to us.

So both of these aspects of the ‘hearts’ of Hinduism will be fully disclosed herein through the use of numerous references from the Vedic texts.

Introduction

We are all spiritual travels in this universe. In all of this creation there are millions of planets and millions of mysteries that this universe holds within it. Yet, out of so many levels of understanding and revelation, the mysteries that have motivated humanity more then anything else are the question of who are we, where have we come from, why are we here, and what is the purpose of life? These questions have been answered in varying degrees by particular cultures and methodologies in all parts of the world. How to reach the insight and understanding of these questions has always been the quest.

All of the ancient cultures and societies of this planet, whether Egyptian, Oriental, Incan, Mayan, Indian, etc., Knew of this fact. Many of these cultures tried to explain whatever level of knowledge they knew on three levels: mythical, scientific, and experiential. They all left hints and explanations of this information in their architecture, art, language, and scriptural texts. Sometimes this information was kept in the utmost secrecy, only to be given to those who had shown that they were worthy after having passed through a process of initiation.

Unfortunately, most of the above-mentioned cultures no longer exist, leaving us only to interpret, as best we can, whatever remnants they left us. However, one such ancient culture still exists today, which continues to preserve and live according to its ancient knowledge and tradition. It is the oldest indigenous culture on the planet. This culture is found in Vedic India. It dates back no less then 5000 years and as research has shown reached further back to the earliest antiquity. In fact, historically it has no particularly beginning. Historians have only attempted to date its origins by trying to trace its connections with other cultures. This enables us to research and uncover many links that it contains with numerous other ancient traditions and the message they have left behind for us.

Over the ages, interest in India and the Eastern philosophy had never waned. It had continued for as long as people have wanted clearer insights into the nature and purpose of life. It has held the key for numerous philosophers who wanted a deeper understanding of the world and its mysteries. This is because the Vedic philosophy can be applied universally, beyond local traditions and separate cultures.

About The Name Hinduism
Hinduism is a convenient umbrella term under which is grouped a wide number of schools of thought, sects, concepts, and methodologies for acquitting higher spiritual understanding. Therefore, it can be elusive in attempting to apply a concise description to it, which then can be inaccurate. In this way it can be confusing not only for those who are new to it but even for some who were born into it.

The fact is that true Hinduism is based on Vedic knowledge which is related to our spiritual identity. Such an identity is beyond any temporary names as Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or even Hindu. After all, God never described Himself as belonging to any such category, saying that he is only a Christian God or a Muslim God, or a Hindu God. That is why some of the as Hindus. The Vedic path is eternal and beyond all such temporary designations. Furthermore, Hinduism did not start with any particular savior or prophet. That is why India had held a special place for all sincere spiritual seekers.

The term Hindu essentially comes from the need to express a people of a certain locality and does not necessarily refer to religion or way of life, even though the word is being used like this now. [This is more thoroughly explained in Appendix Nine.] The Vedic culture is more appropriately called Sanatana-dharma. The name Santana-dharma is more accurate because it is based on Sanskrit and related to the true and eternal nature of the soul. The word Sanatana means eternal and dharma can be interpreted to mean a few different things, including the nature of something. Like the nature or dharma of sugar is to be sweet. If it is not sweet then it is not sugar. This dharma does not charge. Similarly the nature of the soul is to be eternal and spiritual, and engage in spiritually loving relationships, especially with the Supreme Being, That is the position and the path of Sanatana-dharma. If a person exhibits something other than this then the soul’s real position had been forgotten clouded over, and in need of regaining the spiritual position.

So Sanatana-dharma incorporated the universal spiritual principles and truths that related directly to the soul, our real identity which can be applied anywhere at anytime, in any culture and to any person regardless of race pr bodily status. This is the true essence of Vedic knowledge.

What is Vedic

Some people, however, look at the Eastern tradition of Hinduism as being confusing. There seems to be so many avenues that are avenues that are included within Hinduism, or so many gods that a person can worship. There can be such a variety of rituals and practices. So, what is the essence of this path? What is the most effective way to proceed? What is the most important aspect of it to under stand.

Actually when we analyze the essence of the Vedic tradition, it is really not so complicated at all. To begin explaining what is really Vedic we can under stand that the word Veda had its root in the Sanskrit vid, which means to know, or simply knowledge. The word Veda also has three root meanings, representing its connection with the power of God, namely 1) that Vedic knowledge is eternal; 2) Veda is the essential knowledge itself which means that it provides knowledge of God, or that we can know the Supreme through the Veda, and 3) Veda gives the most desirable thing to the souls, which is the Divine Bliss that comes from our connection with God.

Actually when we analyze the essence of the Vedic tradition, it is really not so complicated at all. To began explaining what is really Vedic we can understand that the word Veda has its root in the Sanskrit vid, which means “to representing its connection with power of God, namely 1) that Vedic knowledge is eternal, 2) Veda is the essential knowledge itself, which means that it provides knowledge of God, or that we can know the Supreme through the Veda, and 3) Veda gives the most desirable thing to the souls, which is the Divine Bliss that comes from our connection with God.

As most scholars on Vedic philosophy know when you say Vedas you refer to the original four Vedas; the Rig, Yajur, Same and Atharva Vedas. From the four main Vedas are branches or appendices called Brahmanas, which relate to rituals and ceremonies. Form these are derived the Aranyakas. The Upanishads are the appendices (the secret and esoteric knowledge) of the Aranyakas. When you say Veda (without the s) you not only refer to the four Vedas but also to the Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads, or all the texts that are considered Shruti. Shruti is considered the original revealed knowledge which was unveiled to self-realized sages. Shruti also means that which is heard as an oral tradition. It was first heard from God and then was heard in the association of other sages. In this way, it was protected from being misunderstood or misused. It is this sound vibration that will awaken mankind’s higher awareness and inclination to attain the spiritual dimension, thus providing the means for mankind’s liberation from material existence.

The remaining parts of Vedic literature consist of the Mahabharata and Bhagavad-gita, the Ramayana and the Puranas. These are the Itihasas or histories and supplemental portions of the Vedic literature, which are called Smriti, or that which is remembered. The Puranas are especially an elaboration of the original Vedic concepts and philosophy of the four Vedas and Upanishads. When we say “Vedic literature”, it refers to both Shruti and Smriti in general way. However some scholars think that the Shruti is more importance then the Smriti. So some may object to the way I alternately use the words ‘Vedas’ and ‘Vedic literature’ to refer to the same thing which includes all of the Vedic texts both Shruti and Smriti.

The reason I do this is that I present Vedic evidence from any portion of the Vedic literature, and I often use quotes from the Puranas. To leave out the supplemental portions of the Vedic literature would deprive the reader of an enormous amount of Vedic knowledge and elaborated explanations. Further more, some of the greatest if spiritual authorities, like Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvachrya and others, have presented Smriti as valid evidence of spiritual truths and wrote commentaries on Bhagavad-gita. In fact Madhvacharya, in his commentary on the Vedanta-sutras (2.1.6), quotes the Bhavishya Purana, which states; ‘The Rig-Veda, Yajur-veda, Sama-veda, Atharva-Veda, Mahabharata, Puncharatra and the original Ramayana are all considered Vedic literature. The Vaishnava supplements, the Puranas, are also Vedic literature. “Even the Chandogya Upanishad (7.1.4) mentions the Puranas as the fifth Veda. The Srimad Bhagavatam (1.4.20) also clearly agrees with this; ‘This four divisions of the original sources of knowledge (the Vedas) were made separately. But the historical facts and authentic stories mentioned in the Puranas are called the fifth Veda.’

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.5.11) also related: “The Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Vedas, the Itihasas, Purana, Upanishads, verse and mantras, sutras, and the spiritual knowledge mystic doctrines or Upanishads, Pithy verses, aphorisms, elucidations and commentaries. From Him, Indeed, are all these breathed forth”. Thus, they all have important in presenting. Vedic information, and one would not be biased toward one set of shastra or scripture to exclude the other.

The Mahabharata (Adi Parva 1.267) explains the necessity of understanding Vedic Knowledge with the help of the Puranas. “One should expand and accept the meaning of the Vedas with the help of the Itihasas and Puranas. The Vedas are afraid of being mistreated by one who is ignorant of the Itihasas and Puranas. “This is quite similar to what is related in the Prabhasa-khanda (2.93) section of the Skanda Purana, where it is said, “I consider the Puranas equal to the Vedas…. The Vedas feared that their purport would be distorted by inattentive listening, but their purport was established long ago by the Itihasas and Puranas. What is not found in the smritis: And what is Vedas along with Upanishads but who does not knew the Puranas is not very learned.” In this way, we should understand that one’s eduction in Vedic culture and science is not complete if one excludes the understanding and knowledge give in the Puranas.

The Purpose of the Vedic System: Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination

Throughout the history of civilization there has been an undying inquisitiveness and search for understanding who we are, where we have come form, what our true identity is, what the purpose of life is, and what is the ultimate, Absolute Truth. This quest, whether open and obvious or subtle and secretive, continues day after day, there year generation great generation, in every millennium. It may manifest in many forms. Scientist and researcher looks for the absolute origin of life, or the absolute cause of the universe. Others may take to a religion or may study some of the many cultures of the world in hopes of finding philosophical answers. We may find this quest taking place amongst thousands or millions of people at a time, or only amongst a few who might be sparsely scattered across the face of the earth. But no one can stop it.

Not rules, politicians, governments of armies have been able to completely stifle this ever-present curiosity that exist to some degree within us all.

The essence of the answers to this quest for purpose and identity have always remained as the seeds of all metaphysical and spiritual philosophies, whether they have grown to fully blossom and be understood by society or only remained as sprouts that were overlooked by a civilization that was spiritual tually unaware. In either case, these seeds of universal knowledge are found everywhere, in every culture, and when compared together can assemble a puzzle of explanations that can bring the world closer to being a united society. Thus what appears to be a variety of cultures religions legends traditions, and viewpoints that do not support each other, may actually be different version of what once was the originating culture many thousands of years ago.

Most people due to family relations, are born into a religious cultures and are raised to think that their religion is the best. This is to be expected, but thoughtful individuals will wonder where and how their religion began and developed. And the most thoughtful will wonder how it compared to other cultures of spiritual paths. Naturally, the superficial aspects of religions such as the dress the traditions, rituals, and even the legends, may have variations and differences. Yet, the essence and ultimate purpose of most religion are often quite similar. However religion is never meant merely to be a belief system or a number of concepts or ideas that are blindly accepted as truth. Blind following is fundamentalism, which is the foundation of dogma. This may go on to lead to tyranny. Religion is never meant merely to be a process which freely enables one to reach the stage of fully realizing by direct perception and experience the nature of spiritual reality.

By taking to an authentic spiritual path, you begin to progressively change an inner part of you, particularly your consciousness. This is the purpose of the Vedic system. It provides knowledge of the higher dimensions, and gives the facility or methodology that can help change or purify your consciousness so you can has a direct perception of the spiritual strata. As your consciousness evolves, you can begin to perceive that which is spiritual. This is the difference izing it. This is where illumination and empowerment for the individual comes in, which brings forth real freedom. When one truly realizes his or her one remains on an elementary and inexperienced platform. This is why the spiritual customs and practices of Eastern cultures often remain a mystery to many people of the West. They cannot perceive the essence or purpose of it, or they simply feel that there is no need for them to try and understand it. Lack of realization is also what separated the serious followers from the frivolous and common a natural means by which the powerful spiritual knowledge. And if a religion or path understanding the mysteries of spiritual realization then he or she should move on to explore one that does, if that is what a person is sincerely seeking. Although all spiritual paths are meant to lead one toward the same goal of spiritual enlightenment not all paths are the same in terms of their capacity to bring one to full spiritual realization.

Full spiritual realizations, however are not likely to happen overnight. It may take some time to attain such levels of experience and understanding. As already mentioned the seeds of universal knowledge is especially elaborated within the Eastern philosophy, particularly in the Vedic texts of India.

Back of the Book

This is a definitive and easy to understand guide to the essential as well as devotional heart of the Vedic/Hindu philosophy. Using numerous references, it gives you access to the most important knowledge presented in the Vedic texts regarding your real potential and spiritual identity. Thus, it is especially good for anyone who lacks the time to research the many topics that are contained within the library of Vedic manuscripts and to see their insights wisdom.

Contents

Preface XIII
The “Essential” heart of Hinduism * The “Devotional” Heart of Hinduism
Introduction XVII
About the Name “Hinduism”*What is vedic* The purpose of the Vedic System Illumination, Empowerment and Freedom* The Uniqueness of the Vedic System
PART 1Understanding The many levels of Spiritual Truth in the Vedic texts
Chapter 1A Review of vedic culture * The four Primary Vedas* Thirty three Million Gods?* Brahmanas and Aranyakas* The Upanishads* The Upa-Vedas and Vedanta* The Sutras and Supplements * The Smritis * Vedanta and Vedanta-Sutras * The Itihasas* The Puranas* A Review of the Puranas* The Srimad Bhagavatam* The Preeminent Nature of the Srimad Bhagavatam* Different Paths in the Vedas* The Ultimate path to the Absolute* Conclusion * Vaishnavism
Chapter 2The Yoga Processes 67
Purpose of religion* Hatha-Yoga* Karma Yoga* Jnana-yoga* Yoga* Raja Yoga * Instructions on Raja Yoga From Bhagavad-gita* Mystic powers* Kundalini Yoga* The Chakras and Koshas* Laya-yoga* Kriya Yoga* Mantra-Yoga* The Grace of God* Bhakti-yoga
Part II Understanding The Characteristics and positions of the Vedic Gods The Devas and Devis
Chapter 3 The Identity of lord Shiva and Goddess Durga103
Krishna Devotees are Dear to Shiva is Dear to Them* Lord Shiva’s position * Shaivism* The Shivaratri Festival* The Shiva Lingam* The Goddess Durga* The Identity of Durga and Difference between Mahamaya and Yogamaya* The Shaktas and Tantrism* The Tantras* How Shiva and Durga The Considered the mother and Father of the Universe* How Lord Shiva Appeared in this World * How lord Shiva assists in the Universal destruction * Lord Shiva’s Ultimate spiritual Advice
Chapter 4Lord Brahma 147
Brahma’s main Function* How Brahma is manifested From Lord Vishnu* Brahma and The Dawn of Creation
Chapter 5Lord Vishnu 156
Lord Vishnu is an Expansion of lord Krishna* The Function of Lord Vishnu
Chapter 6The Goddesses 169
Lakshmi* Sarasvati* The Meaning of Navaratri* Gayatri* Srimati Radharani
Chapter 7Ganesh and Murugan181
Ganesh* Murugan* Ayyappan
Chapter 8The Minor Demigods 189
Adityas* Agni* Asvins * Indra* Kubera* Maruts* Soma* Varuna * Vasus* Vayu* Visvadevas* Yama* The Navagrahas* Surya
Chapter 9Shri Krishna 201
Differences in Realization and perception of the Supreme* who is Sri Krishna? * What Sri Krishna says about himself* The Mistake of Accepting Krishna as a Representation of something higher* Krishna is the source of all creation. Krishna is the source of all incarnations of God* why lord Krishna Descends into this world* How Lord Krishna Took Birth in the Material world * Janmastami- Krishna’s Birth Festival* Misunderstanding the Activities of lord Krishna* The beauty of Krishna* How to understand God* Result of failing to know Krishna* Krishna;s Eternal Spiritual Abode
Part IIIThe Essential Teachings of Lord Krishna The Heart of the Hindu Path Sanatana Dharma
Introduction 241
Chapter 10What is knowledge 243
What Lord Krishna says to be most important knowledge* how this vedic knowledge is Descending Down Through time
Chapter 11The Rarity of Human Birth248
Chapter 12The Temporary nature and purpose of Material Existence 250
The affects of Maya* Real Fulfillment
Chapter 13Our Real Identity as spiritual beings 255
The Living being in material existence* seeing the spiritual unity between us
Chapter 14Reincarnation and the Immortality of the soul265
Chapter 15The ways of spiritual development and freedom 270
Jnana-Yoga*How to perform karma yoga
Chapter 16How to Practice Mystic Yoga 280
Worshiping the Brahman; Lord Krishna’s impersonal aspect* Lord Krishna’s instruction on Yoga* It is not easy for one to reach spiritual perfection in this from of yoga* The essential points In this yoga system* Devotional Meditation frees one from the Illusion * The Highest levels fo spiritual enlightenment* The mystic perfection attained Through Yoga * The way to mediate* Leaving the Body Through Yoga: The Ultimate perfection
Chapter 17Recognizing the Energy of God Everywhere 300
Chapter 18Lord Krishna as the Supersoul 305
Chapter 19Realizing Lord Krishna as Bhagavan, the Supreme being308
The Process of Devotional Service –Bhakti –Yoga* The Foundational Principles* The Essential ways for Developing Love for Krishna* The Way to worship the Deity from of the lord * In the End You go back to Krishna* why lord Krishna advises us to engage in the process of Bhakti yoga* Those who Render Devotional service to lord Krishna* Those who do not Take up Devotional service* Bhakti yoga gives the same results as mystic yoga and more* How to mediate or Think of lord Krishna* Chanting lord Krishna’s Holy Names* The Bhakti Process Erases Past karma* Even the Worst Sinners Can be Delivered and reach peace* The Conclusive Decision is up to us* The Need to Spread this knowledge
Chapter 20Those who will Remain in Material Bondage 331
Chapter 21Those who are Eligible for liberation 337
Chapter 22Real Liberation means Returning to Lord Krishna 342
Chapter 23Krishna The Ever Loving God346
Chapter 24About Other Forms of religion and activities 352
A Closer look at effect of the modes of material nature* Different Qualities in the modes of nature* Observing the interactions of the modes of material nature* Types of knowledge in the modes* Types of Foods in the modes* Types of actions in the modes* Types of residences in the modes of conclusion and Ultimate purpose of the Vedic system –how to become free from the modes of material nature
Chapter 25How to be a spiritual person in the material world363
Helpful Duties for women* On Serving Parents* Criticizing others* Duties of a ruler
Part IVThe Devotional Heart of Hinduism: Awakening The Loving Connection
Chapter 26The real purpose of Yoga and religious systems 373
Chapter 27The Spiritual Path for the present age 386
Bhakti Yoga* How Bhakti yoga works* Devotion to Vishnu is best way to Salvation* Different Types of service* Bhakti Yoga is the most practical method of spiritual advancement* Rare association with Devotees* The Devotee’s direct experience and reciprocation with God* The ecstasy of devotional service
Chapter 28Mantra Yoga A Necessity fro this age 408
The Om Mantra* Om Meditation Technique* Chanting the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra* Lord Vishnu’s Names are more Powerful than the Greatest Holy places * The Power of the Maha-Mantra: How it works * Attaining Liberation Through Chanting* God Inaugurates Chanting the holy Names* How to Chant the Maha Mantra* Conclusion
Chapter 29The One world Religion 463
Appendix AThe 108 Upanishads 475
Appendix BSri Caitanya Mahaprabhu477
Appendix CThe Four Ages485
Appendix DThe Significance of Deitiesand Deity Worship 491
Appendix EThe Meaning of the Phrase “God is love”495
Appendix FSpiritual Enlightenment: A Cure for Social Ills499
Appendix GThe Avataras of lord Krishna503
The Lord incarnated in Each Universe* The main Incarnations of the supreme being* The Manu Incarnations* The Yuga-Avataras* The Shaktyavesha- Avataras
Appendix HThe Detailed Account of the Formation of the Vedic Literature and Its Branches 515
Rig-Veda* Yajur-Veda* Sama-Veda* Atharva-Veda* The Puranas
Appendix IAbout the Name “Hindu”521
Appendix J Vegetarianism: Strongly Recommended In Vedic Scripture 529
Appendix KVedic Culture: The Last Bastion of Deep Spiritual Truth537
Deity Photographs 537
Chapter Notes545
References 575
Glossary 585
Index597
About Stephan Knapp611

The Heart of Hinduism (The Eastern Path to Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination)

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2006
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Preface

This book is written to provide convenient access to the essence of the Vedic/Hindu philosophy, and quick and easy understanding of its core principles and concepts. This book is to help preserve and protect the genuine Vedic doctrine and show the basis upon which it is founded, the cause of its conclusions, and what is it ultimate goal. The numerous verses that are quoted or referenced will provide extra clarity for this purpose. It is also presented in an easily understandable format wherein a person can quickly gain the insights and depths of the Vedic philosophy without the confusion that many people who are new to this may encounter. Therefore this book can also be used as a handbook and guide for a clear to one’s own personal and in-depth spiritual development.

The Essential Heart of Hinduism

When we say “heart” of Hinduism, we mean a couple of things. First, we can mean the essence of its doctrine. The essence of Hinduism refers to the core of its philosophy that is upheld and supported by the Vedic scripture. Thus, if a philosophy or viewpoint is not corroborated by Vedic Principles, as found or explained the Vedic texts, then it cannot really be considered a part of the Vedic path. Furthermore, if a religion disagrees with the Vedic dharma, then it also cannot be a part of the Vedic tradition, or Hinduism.

Amongst all of the outlooks and views found within it, no matter whether it is Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Advaita (believing the Absolute is impersonal) or dvaita (accepting the Absolute as a Supreme person), and so on, we can ask, “what is the most essential part of it? What is the most important knowledge to know? Behind all of the stories, legends, traditions and mysteries, what is the core of its philosophy that I should understand? What is it that is most importantly emphasized in the Vedic texts? So in discussing the heart of Hinduism in this context we mean getting to the essence or core of it. This is what we will be presenting.

As we go through this volume, will first uncover this by a logical analysis of the Vedic scripture and it contents and conclusions, which will be quite revealing when viewed in full. Then we will understand the heart of Hinduism through its experience, which is revealed through its methodologies or systems of practice.

The “Devotional” Heart of Hinduism

The ‘heart’ of Hinduism also means the devotional heart. This side of is wherein we can awaken our loving and devotional nature toward God to the highest degree. There can be no heart without an emotional connection and outlet for an exchange of love from one being to another. Thus, the heart of Hinduism also implies the loving connection between the individual and the Supreme person. Without this devotional side, there is really no heart to it and it remains only philosophy and technique without an emotional awakening or reciprocal exchange between the finite and the Infinite. This process is especially systematized in detail in the method of Bhakti-yoga. Such devotion is found in varying degrees in most of the Vedic systems such as in the process of Shaivism with dedication to Shiva, as well as in the process of Shaktism dedicated to the Goddess and so on. However, it is especially emphasized and elaborated in the Vaishnava systems dedicated to Vishnu and Krishna.

This devotional process assists one to develop a loving connection with God that can be so deep that it spiritually awakens one to the stage of complete God-realization. If practiced thoroughly and sincerely enough, one can arouse a strong and close relationship with the Supreme Being. Then the person revives the spiritual connection between himself or herself and God, a and all of God’s parts and parcels, the innumerable living being. Then the person sees God everywhere and s never alone without God’s association. This is the devotional ‘heart’ of Hinduism. In such a state of consciousness, a person can reestablish a steady line of reciprocation or communication between himself or herself and the Supreme Being. The process of Bhakti or devotion is the means by which we call the Supreme Being to reveal Himself to us. If the Infinite cannot reveal Himself to the finite jiva soul or individual, then He is not the Supreme. In such a revelation, this high level of reality is open for us to experience. In such no longer remains only an unreachable curiosity or mystery to us.

So both of these aspects of the ‘hearts’ of Hinduism will be fully disclosed herein through the use of numerous references from the Vedic texts.

Introduction

We are all spiritual travels in this universe. In all of this creation there are millions of planets and millions of mysteries that this universe holds within it. Yet, out of so many levels of understanding and revelation, the mysteries that have motivated humanity more then anything else are the question of who are we, where have we come from, why are we here, and what is the purpose of life? These questions have been answered in varying degrees by particular cultures and methodologies in all parts of the world. How to reach the insight and understanding of these questions has always been the quest.

All of the ancient cultures and societies of this planet, whether Egyptian, Oriental, Incan, Mayan, Indian, etc., Knew of this fact. Many of these cultures tried to explain whatever level of knowledge they knew on three levels: mythical, scientific, and experiential. They all left hints and explanations of this information in their architecture, art, language, and scriptural texts. Sometimes this information was kept in the utmost secrecy, only to be given to those who had shown that they were worthy after having passed through a process of initiation.

Unfortunately, most of the above-mentioned cultures no longer exist, leaving us only to interpret, as best we can, whatever remnants they left us. However, one such ancient culture still exists today, which continues to preserve and live according to its ancient knowledge and tradition. It is the oldest indigenous culture on the planet. This culture is found in Vedic India. It dates back no less then 5000 years and as research has shown reached further back to the earliest antiquity. In fact, historically it has no particularly beginning. Historians have only attempted to date its origins by trying to trace its connections with other cultures. This enables us to research and uncover many links that it contains with numerous other ancient traditions and the message they have left behind for us.

Over the ages, interest in India and the Eastern philosophy had never waned. It had continued for as long as people have wanted clearer insights into the nature and purpose of life. It has held the key for numerous philosophers who wanted a deeper understanding of the world and its mysteries. This is because the Vedic philosophy can be applied universally, beyond local traditions and separate cultures.

About The Name Hinduism
Hinduism is a convenient umbrella term under which is grouped a wide number of schools of thought, sects, concepts, and methodologies for acquitting higher spiritual understanding. Therefore, it can be elusive in attempting to apply a concise description to it, which then can be inaccurate. In this way it can be confusing not only for those who are new to it but even for some who were born into it.

The fact is that true Hinduism is based on Vedic knowledge which is related to our spiritual identity. Such an identity is beyond any temporary names as Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or even Hindu. After all, God never described Himself as belonging to any such category, saying that he is only a Christian God or a Muslim God, or a Hindu God. That is why some of the as Hindus. The Vedic path is eternal and beyond all such temporary designations. Furthermore, Hinduism did not start with any particular savior or prophet. That is why India had held a special place for all sincere spiritual seekers.

The term Hindu essentially comes from the need to express a people of a certain locality and does not necessarily refer to religion or way of life, even though the word is being used like this now. [This is more thoroughly explained in Appendix Nine.] The Vedic culture is more appropriately called Sanatana-dharma. The name Santana-dharma is more accurate because it is based on Sanskrit and related to the true and eternal nature of the soul. The word Sanatana means eternal and dharma can be interpreted to mean a few different things, including the nature of something. Like the nature or dharma of sugar is to be sweet. If it is not sweet then it is not sugar. This dharma does not charge. Similarly the nature of the soul is to be eternal and spiritual, and engage in spiritually loving relationships, especially with the Supreme Being, That is the position and the path of Sanatana-dharma. If a person exhibits something other than this then the soul’s real position had been forgotten clouded over, and in need of regaining the spiritual position.

So Sanatana-dharma incorporated the universal spiritual principles and truths that related directly to the soul, our real identity which can be applied anywhere at anytime, in any culture and to any person regardless of race pr bodily status. This is the true essence of Vedic knowledge.

What is Vedic

Some people, however, look at the Eastern tradition of Hinduism as being confusing. There seems to be so many avenues that are avenues that are included within Hinduism, or so many gods that a person can worship. There can be such a variety of rituals and practices. So, what is the essence of this path? What is the most effective way to proceed? What is the most important aspect of it to under stand.

Actually when we analyze the essence of the Vedic tradition, it is really not so complicated at all. To begin explaining what is really Vedic we can under stand that the word Veda had its root in the Sanskrit vid, which means to know, or simply knowledge. The word Veda also has three root meanings, representing its connection with the power of God, namely 1) that Vedic knowledge is eternal; 2) Veda is the essential knowledge itself which means that it provides knowledge of God, or that we can know the Supreme through the Veda, and 3) Veda gives the most desirable thing to the souls, which is the Divine Bliss that comes from our connection with God.

Actually when we analyze the essence of the Vedic tradition, it is really not so complicated at all. To began explaining what is really Vedic we can understand that the word Veda has its root in the Sanskrit vid, which means “to representing its connection with power of God, namely 1) that Vedic knowledge is eternal, 2) Veda is the essential knowledge itself, which means that it provides knowledge of God, or that we can know the Supreme through the Veda, and 3) Veda gives the most desirable thing to the souls, which is the Divine Bliss that comes from our connection with God.

As most scholars on Vedic philosophy know when you say Vedas you refer to the original four Vedas; the Rig, Yajur, Same and Atharva Vedas. From the four main Vedas are branches or appendices called Brahmanas, which relate to rituals and ceremonies. Form these are derived the Aranyakas. The Upanishads are the appendices (the secret and esoteric knowledge) of the Aranyakas. When you say Veda (without the s) you not only refer to the four Vedas but also to the Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads, or all the texts that are considered Shruti. Shruti is considered the original revealed knowledge which was unveiled to self-realized sages. Shruti also means that which is heard as an oral tradition. It was first heard from God and then was heard in the association of other sages. In this way, it was protected from being misunderstood or misused. It is this sound vibration that will awaken mankind’s higher awareness and inclination to attain the spiritual dimension, thus providing the means for mankind’s liberation from material existence.

The remaining parts of Vedic literature consist of the Mahabharata and Bhagavad-gita, the Ramayana and the Puranas. These are the Itihasas or histories and supplemental portions of the Vedic literature, which are called Smriti, or that which is remembered. The Puranas are especially an elaboration of the original Vedic concepts and philosophy of the four Vedas and Upanishads. When we say “Vedic literature”, it refers to both Shruti and Smriti in general way. However some scholars think that the Shruti is more importance then the Smriti. So some may object to the way I alternately use the words ‘Vedas’ and ‘Vedic literature’ to refer to the same thing which includes all of the Vedic texts both Shruti and Smriti.

The reason I do this is that I present Vedic evidence from any portion of the Vedic literature, and I often use quotes from the Puranas. To leave out the supplemental portions of the Vedic literature would deprive the reader of an enormous amount of Vedic knowledge and elaborated explanations. Further more, some of the greatest if spiritual authorities, like Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvachrya and others, have presented Smriti as valid evidence of spiritual truths and wrote commentaries on Bhagavad-gita. In fact Madhvacharya, in his commentary on the Vedanta-sutras (2.1.6), quotes the Bhavishya Purana, which states; ‘The Rig-Veda, Yajur-veda, Sama-veda, Atharva-Veda, Mahabharata, Puncharatra and the original Ramayana are all considered Vedic literature. The Vaishnava supplements, the Puranas, are also Vedic literature. “Even the Chandogya Upanishad (7.1.4) mentions the Puranas as the fifth Veda. The Srimad Bhagavatam (1.4.20) also clearly agrees with this; ‘This four divisions of the original sources of knowledge (the Vedas) were made separately. But the historical facts and authentic stories mentioned in the Puranas are called the fifth Veda.’

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.5.11) also related: “The Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Vedas, the Itihasas, Purana, Upanishads, verse and mantras, sutras, and the spiritual knowledge mystic doctrines or Upanishads, Pithy verses, aphorisms, elucidations and commentaries. From Him, Indeed, are all these breathed forth”. Thus, they all have important in presenting. Vedic information, and one would not be biased toward one set of shastra or scripture to exclude the other.

The Mahabharata (Adi Parva 1.267) explains the necessity of understanding Vedic Knowledge with the help of the Puranas. “One should expand and accept the meaning of the Vedas with the help of the Itihasas and Puranas. The Vedas are afraid of being mistreated by one who is ignorant of the Itihasas and Puranas. “This is quite similar to what is related in the Prabhasa-khanda (2.93) section of the Skanda Purana, where it is said, “I consider the Puranas equal to the Vedas…. The Vedas feared that their purport would be distorted by inattentive listening, but their purport was established long ago by the Itihasas and Puranas. What is not found in the smritis: And what is Vedas along with Upanishads but who does not knew the Puranas is not very learned.” In this way, we should understand that one’s eduction in Vedic culture and science is not complete if one excludes the understanding and knowledge give in the Puranas.

The Purpose of the Vedic System: Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination

Throughout the history of civilization there has been an undying inquisitiveness and search for understanding who we are, where we have come form, what our true identity is, what the purpose of life is, and what is the ultimate, Absolute Truth. This quest, whether open and obvious or subtle and secretive, continues day after day, there year generation great generation, in every millennium. It may manifest in many forms. Scientist and researcher looks for the absolute origin of life, or the absolute cause of the universe. Others may take to a religion or may study some of the many cultures of the world in hopes of finding philosophical answers. We may find this quest taking place amongst thousands or millions of people at a time, or only amongst a few who might be sparsely scattered across the face of the earth. But no one can stop it.

Not rules, politicians, governments of armies have been able to completely stifle this ever-present curiosity that exist to some degree within us all.

The essence of the answers to this quest for purpose and identity have always remained as the seeds of all metaphysical and spiritual philosophies, whether they have grown to fully blossom and be understood by society or only remained as sprouts that were overlooked by a civilization that was spiritual tually unaware. In either case, these seeds of universal knowledge are found everywhere, in every culture, and when compared together can assemble a puzzle of explanations that can bring the world closer to being a united society. Thus what appears to be a variety of cultures religions legends traditions, and viewpoints that do not support each other, may actually be different version of what once was the originating culture many thousands of years ago.

Most people due to family relations, are born into a religious cultures and are raised to think that their religion is the best. This is to be expected, but thoughtful individuals will wonder where and how their religion began and developed. And the most thoughtful will wonder how it compared to other cultures of spiritual paths. Naturally, the superficial aspects of religions such as the dress the traditions, rituals, and even the legends, may have variations and differences. Yet, the essence and ultimate purpose of most religion are often quite similar. However religion is never meant merely to be a belief system or a number of concepts or ideas that are blindly accepted as truth. Blind following is fundamentalism, which is the foundation of dogma. This may go on to lead to tyranny. Religion is never meant merely to be a process which freely enables one to reach the stage of fully realizing by direct perception and experience the nature of spiritual reality.

By taking to an authentic spiritual path, you begin to progressively change an inner part of you, particularly your consciousness. This is the purpose of the Vedic system. It provides knowledge of the higher dimensions, and gives the facility or methodology that can help change or purify your consciousness so you can has a direct perception of the spiritual strata. As your consciousness evolves, you can begin to perceive that which is spiritual. This is the difference izing it. This is where illumination and empowerment for the individual comes in, which brings forth real freedom. When one truly realizes his or her one remains on an elementary and inexperienced platform. This is why the spiritual customs and practices of Eastern cultures often remain a mystery to many people of the West. They cannot perceive the essence or purpose of it, or they simply feel that there is no need for them to try and understand it. Lack of realization is also what separated the serious followers from the frivolous and common a natural means by which the powerful spiritual knowledge. And if a religion or path understanding the mysteries of spiritual realization then he or she should move on to explore one that does, if that is what a person is sincerely seeking. Although all spiritual paths are meant to lead one toward the same goal of spiritual enlightenment not all paths are the same in terms of their capacity to bring one to full spiritual realization.

Full spiritual realizations, however are not likely to happen overnight. It may take some time to attain such levels of experience and understanding. As already mentioned the seeds of universal knowledge is especially elaborated within the Eastern philosophy, particularly in the Vedic texts of India.

Back of the Book

This is a definitive and easy to understand guide to the essential as well as devotional heart of the Vedic/Hindu philosophy. Using numerous references, it gives you access to the most important knowledge presented in the Vedic texts regarding your real potential and spiritual identity. Thus, it is especially good for anyone who lacks the time to research the many topics that are contained within the library of Vedic manuscripts and to see their insights wisdom.

Contents

Preface XIII
The “Essential” heart of Hinduism * The “Devotional” Heart of Hinduism
Introduction XVII
About the Name “Hinduism”*What is vedic* The purpose of the Vedic System Illumination, Empowerment and Freedom* The Uniqueness of the Vedic System
PART 1Understanding The many levels of Spiritual Truth in the Vedic texts
Chapter 1A Review of vedic culture * The four Primary Vedas* Thirty three Million Gods?* Brahmanas and Aranyakas* The Upanishads* The Upa-Vedas and Vedanta* The Sutras and Supplements * The Smritis * Vedanta and Vedanta-Sutras * The Itihasas* The Puranas* A Review of the Puranas* The Srimad Bhagavatam* The Preeminent Nature of the Srimad Bhagavatam* Different Paths in the Vedas* The Ultimate path to the Absolute* Conclusion * Vaishnavism
Chapter 2The Yoga Processes 67
Purpose of religion* Hatha-Yoga* Karma Yoga* Jnana-yoga* Yoga* Raja Yoga * Instructions on Raja Yoga From Bhagavad-gita* Mystic powers* Kundalini Yoga* The Chakras and Koshas* Laya-yoga* Kriya Yoga* Mantra-Yoga* The Grace of God* Bhakti-yoga
Part II Understanding The Characteristics and positions of the Vedic Gods The Devas and Devis
Chapter 3 The Identity of lord Shiva and Goddess Durga103
Krishna Devotees are Dear to Shiva is Dear to Them* Lord Shiva’s position * Shaivism* The Shivaratri Festival* The Shiva Lingam* The Goddess Durga* The Identity of Durga and Difference between Mahamaya and Yogamaya* The Shaktas and Tantrism* The Tantras* How Shiva and Durga The Considered the mother and Father of the Universe* How Lord Shiva Appeared in this World * How lord Shiva assists in the Universal destruction * Lord Shiva’s Ultimate spiritual Advice
Chapter 4Lord Brahma 147
Brahma’s main Function* How Brahma is manifested From Lord Vishnu* Brahma and The Dawn of Creation
Chapter 5Lord Vishnu 156
Lord Vishnu is an Expansion of lord Krishna* The Function of Lord Vishnu
Chapter 6The Goddesses 169
Lakshmi* Sarasvati* The Meaning of Navaratri* Gayatri* Srimati Radharani
Chapter 7Ganesh and Murugan181
Ganesh* Murugan* Ayyappan
Chapter 8The Minor Demigods 189
Adityas* Agni* Asvins * Indra* Kubera* Maruts* Soma* Varuna * Vasus* Vayu* Visvadevas* Yama* The Navagrahas* Surya
Chapter 9Shri Krishna 201
Differences in Realization and perception of the Supreme* who is Sri Krishna? * What Sri Krishna says about himself* The Mistake of Accepting Krishna as a Representation of something higher* Krishna is the source of all creation. Krishna is the source of all incarnations of God* why lord Krishna Descends into this world* How Lord Krishna Took Birth in the Material world * Janmastami- Krishna’s Birth Festival* Misunderstanding the Activities of lord Krishna* The beauty of Krishna* How to understand God* Result of failing to know Krishna* Krishna;s Eternal Spiritual Abode
Part IIIThe Essential Teachings of Lord Krishna The Heart of the Hindu Path Sanatana Dharma
Introduction 241
Chapter 10What is knowledge 243
What Lord Krishna says to be most important knowledge* how this vedic knowledge is Descending Down Through time
Chapter 11The Rarity of Human Birth248
Chapter 12The Temporary nature and purpose of Material Existence 250
The affects of Maya* Real Fulfillment
Chapter 13Our Real Identity as spiritual beings 255
The Living being in material existence* seeing the spiritual unity between us
Chapter 14Reincarnation and the Immortality of the soul265
Chapter 15The ways of spiritual development and freedom 270
Jnana-Yoga*How to perform karma yoga
Chapter 16How to Practice Mystic Yoga 280
Worshiping the Brahman; Lord Krishna’s impersonal aspect* Lord Krishna’s instruction on Yoga* It is not easy for one to reach spiritual perfection in this from of yoga* The essential points In this yoga system* Devotional Meditation frees one from the Illusion * The Highest levels fo spiritual enlightenment* The mystic perfection attained Through Yoga * The way to mediate* Leaving the Body Through Yoga: The Ultimate perfection
Chapter 17Recognizing the Energy of God Everywhere 300
Chapter 18Lord Krishna as the Supersoul 305
Chapter 19Realizing Lord Krishna as Bhagavan, the Supreme being308
The Process of Devotional Service –Bhakti –Yoga* The Foundational Principles* The Essential ways for Developing Love for Krishna* The Way to worship the Deity from of the lord * In the End You go back to Krishna* why lord Krishna advises us to engage in the process of Bhakti yoga* Those who Render Devotional service to lord Krishna* Those who do not Take up Devotional service* Bhakti yoga gives the same results as mystic yoga and more* How to mediate or Think of lord Krishna* Chanting lord Krishna’s Holy Names* The Bhakti Process Erases Past karma* Even the Worst Sinners Can be Delivered and reach peace* The Conclusive Decision is up to us* The Need to Spread this knowledge
Chapter 20Those who will Remain in Material Bondage 331
Chapter 21Those who are Eligible for liberation 337
Chapter 22Real Liberation means Returning to Lord Krishna 342
Chapter 23Krishna The Ever Loving God346
Chapter 24About Other Forms of religion and activities 352
A Closer look at effect of the modes of material nature* Different Qualities in the modes of nature* Observing the interactions of the modes of material nature* Types of knowledge in the modes* Types of Foods in the modes* Types of actions in the modes* Types of residences in the modes of conclusion and Ultimate purpose of the Vedic system –how to become free from the modes of material nature
Chapter 25How to be a spiritual person in the material world363
Helpful Duties for women* On Serving Parents* Criticizing others* Duties of a ruler
Part IVThe Devotional Heart of Hinduism: Awakening The Loving Connection
Chapter 26The real purpose of Yoga and religious systems 373
Chapter 27The Spiritual Path for the present age 386
Bhakti Yoga* How Bhakti yoga works* Devotion to Vishnu is best way to Salvation* Different Types of service* Bhakti Yoga is the most practical method of spiritual advancement* Rare association with Devotees* The Devotee’s direct experience and reciprocation with God* The ecstasy of devotional service
Chapter 28Mantra Yoga A Necessity fro this age 408
The Om Mantra* Om Meditation Technique* Chanting the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra* Lord Vishnu’s Names are more Powerful than the Greatest Holy places * The Power of the Maha-Mantra: How it works * Attaining Liberation Through Chanting* God Inaugurates Chanting the holy Names* How to Chant the Maha Mantra* Conclusion
Chapter 29The One world Religion 463
Appendix AThe 108 Upanishads 475
Appendix BSri Caitanya Mahaprabhu477
Appendix CThe Four Ages485
Appendix DThe Significance of Deitiesand Deity Worship 491
Appendix EThe Meaning of the Phrase “God is love”495
Appendix FSpiritual Enlightenment: A Cure for Social Ills499
Appendix GThe Avataras of lord Krishna503
The Lord incarnated in Each Universe* The main Incarnations of the supreme being* The Manu Incarnations* The Yuga-Avataras* The Shaktyavesha- Avataras
Appendix HThe Detailed Account of the Formation of the Vedic Literature and Its Branches 515
Rig-Veda* Yajur-Veda* Sama-Veda* Atharva-Veda* The Puranas
Appendix IAbout the Name “Hindu”521
Appendix J Vegetarianism: Strongly Recommended In Vedic Scripture 529
Appendix KVedic Culture: The Last Bastion of Deep Spiritual Truth537
Deity Photographs 537
Chapter Notes545
References 575
Glossary 585
Index597
About Stephan Knapp611
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