Religion & World Religions (II)

A seed is a cause for the tree which is the effect. The tree produces seeds and becomes the cause dor the seeds. As Sri Swami Sivananda puts it “Things do not happen in this universe by accident or chance in a disorderly manner. They happen in regular succession. They follow one another in a regular order. There is a certain definite connection between what is being done now by you, and what will happen in the future. Every action produces a threefold effect. It gives you an appropriate reward or fruit. It also affects your character. It leaves behind an impression in your mind. This impression will urge you to repeat the act again. The impression will assume the form of a thought-wave in the mind on account of a stimulus, either external or internal. An action produces an effect in the world also”91. The philosophical lexicon of Hinduism is very rich in content and character. Hinduism believes that behind the apparent diversity of cosmic phenomenon there runs a common soul and in the veil of extrinsic diversity there lies ultimate unity. This ultimate reality is called Brahman, which designates the state of pure consciousness. Brahman is possessed of being, consciousness, and bliss, dependent on nothing else for existence. Thus Capra beautifully puts it “Brahman, the ultimate reality, is understood as the ‘soul’, or inner essence of all things. It is infinite and beyond all concepts; it cannot be comprehended by the intellect, nor can it be adequately described in words”92. An important allegory that follows is that human soul is the manifestation of Brahman and in this context soul is termed as Atmon. This resemblance of human soul with super human Brahman is the essence of Upanishads. Another important recurrent theme in Hinduism is that the world is God and in the end becomes God again and as such the specter as it appears to us is nothing but the creativity of divine will called Lbo. Under this thesis it comes to note that Brahman is the great magician, who creates the sensation of appearance of world to our sensory perceptions, but the world in reality doesn’t exist. This play of Brahman is termed as Maya is Hindu philosophy, but this Maya doesn’t imply the non-existence of world, it rather implies the imperfection of senses of the observer who fails to see non-existence behind existence. Thus Hinduism refers to man as being trapped in the void of non-existence, the spell of which he can break via different ascetic practices. The most important point that concerns us here is that Hinduism sees human as a manifestation of divine or in some inexplicable manner related to the divine it presents to us a picture of man that really befits him as the paragon of creatures. On the one hand man is the manifestation of Brahma and on the other hand he is endowed with the faculties of intellect and analysis and if he exploits his intellect in discovering his real self, then undoubtedly he will unravel all the mysteries of existence. But unfortunately, the ultimate end of Hindu philosophy lies in freeing oneself from the spell of illusory world. It is good to delve in seclusion into the cave of one’s inner conscious, but in doing so we cannot ignore the outside world, for man has been created not to surrender or escape from the phenomena of nature, but to conquer and exploit them to the fullest of his capabilities. Thus on the whole the positive end of Hinduism is that it invokes in man the sense of his essence and strengthens his relation with the divinely omnipotent Brahman, but on the other hand it deprives man of his will to octby which it could have conquered the universe. On bitter note I may also add that, due to human intervention, the superstructure of Hinduism was devaluated to such an extent in ensuing periods that despite recognizing the similitude of man (aatma) with God (parmatma), Hinduism (possibly its unlawful followers) fabricated caste system and established the worst form social exploitation which was erected on non-sensual dogmas, illogical beliefs and social inequality with upper classes deemed as special creations and lower classes being exploited by them. They failed to appreciate the unity of man. At one end it preached a lesson of communion of earthly (man), with divine (Nargin) but on the other end it sought animals like cow and trees like neem more sacred and prior to individuals belonging to lower social stratum”.

It was as a response to these dogmas that Buddha raised his voice, which ultimately led to establishment of a new religion caned Buddhism. According to. Buddhist tradition, Shakyamuni (a name meaning “Sage of the Shakya Clan”) is the founder of Buddhism (he is also sometimes referred to as “Siddhartha Gautama”). Shakyamuni was born around 490 B.C.E to a royal family who lived in a palace in the foothills of the Himalayas. Shakyamuni grew up with many luxuries and married a beautiful princess, but he still was not happy. He longed to see what was beyond the palace gates, thinking that a clue to his search for the meaning of life lay beyond the safety and luxury of the palace. At the age of 29, Shakyamuni left the palace on four separate occasions to explore. He was deeply affected by what he saw. During his first trip outside the palace, he saw a very old man who was bent over and had trouble walking. As Shakyamuni passed by in his carriage, the old man peered up at him, his eyes squinting from his severely wrinkled face. In his second outing, Shakyamuni observed a sick man, walling in pain. During his third excursion, Shakyamuni came upon the still and lifeless body of a dead man. Shakyamunl was shocked and saddened by the sights of old age, sickness, and death. During his fourth outing, he saw a wandering monk, a seeker of religious truth. These four outings and what Shakyamuni saw (old age, sickness, death, and a seeker of religious truth) are called the “Four Sights.” Meeting the monk inspired Shakyamuni to leave the palace, his wife, and his newborn son. He wanted to understand more about life, why human beings suffered, and how one could help relieve suffering in the world. Thus, he began his religious quest. Shakyamuni began his search for enlightenment. According to Buddhist belief, enlightenment is the experience of true reality, an “awakening” through which one could comprehend the true nature. According to Buddhists “Every aspirant to Buddhahood passes through the Bodhisatta Period —a period of intensive exercise and development of the qualities of generosity, discipline, renunciation, wisdom, energy, endurance, truthfulness, determination, benevolence and perfect equanimity”. In the course of his spiritual evolution and severe meditations of seven years, Buddha finally attained enlightenment under the celebrated Bodhi tree. As Fritjof Capra narrates “he suddenly obtained the final and definite clarification of all his searches and doubts In the act of unexcelled, complete awakening, which made him the Buddho,that is ‘the awakened-. As a result of this enlightenment, the reality of world was disclosed before Buddha in the form of four noble truths, these four eternal truths are a very important aspect of the Buddhist teachings. According to Buddha it is our incapability to comprehend these noble truths that we are chained in an unending sequence of Birth-Death-rebirth. He said the realization of these noble truths can lead to ultimate enlightenment and can emancipate man from the yoke of worldly concerns. Thus it Is no wonder that Buddha’s first sermon the Dhommochakkoppavattona Sutra to the five monks at the deer par k near Benares, the Buddha spoke primarily of four noble truths.

  • The first noble truth states the outstanding characteristic of the human the situation, dukkha, which is suffering or frustration. This frustration comes from our difficulty in facing the basic fact of life, that everything around us is temporary and impermanent.
  • The second noble truth deals with the cause of suffering, trishno, which is clinging, or grasping. It is futile grasping of life based on a wrong point of view called Avidya, or ignorance in Buddhist philosophy. Trying to cling to things which we see as firm and permanent, but which in fact are transient and ever changing, we are trapped in a vicious circle where every action generates further action and the answer to each question poses new questions.
  • The third noble truth is that the pain and suffering can be ended. It is possible to transcend the vicious circle of Sarasota, to free oneself from the bondage of Karma and to reach a stage of total liberation called Nirvana. It is equivalent to the state of Moksha in Hindu philosophy, and being a state of consciousness beyond all intellectual concepts.

…to be continued

 Amir Suhail Wani is a freelance columnist and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought.