A Look at Hinduism

Reference: Hinduism
Reference: The World’s Religions by Huston Smith

[NOTE: In color are Vinaire’s comments.]

“If I were asked under what sky the human mind…has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions to some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant—I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human a life…again I should point to India.” ~ Max Müller

On July 16, 1945, in the deep privacy of a New Mexico desert, an event occurred that may prove to be the most important single happening of the twentieth century. A chain reaction of scientific discoveries that began at the University of Chicago and centered at “Site Y” at Los Alamos was culminated. The first atomic bomb was, as we say, a success. 

No one had been more instrumental in this achievement than Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Los Alamos project. An observer who was watching him closely that morning has given us the following account: “He grew tenser as the last seconds ticked off. He scarcely breathed. He held on to a post to steady himself…. When the announcer shouted ‘Now!’ and there came this tremendous burst of light, followed…by the deep-growling roar of the explosion, his face relaxed in an expression of tremendous relief.” This much from the outside. But what flashed through Oppenheimer’s own mind during those moments, he recalled later, were two lines from the Bhagavad-Gita in which the speaker is God: 

I am become death, the shatterer of worlds; 
Waiting that hour that ripens to their doom. 

This probably refers to verse 10:34 of The Bhagavad Gita. The philosophy of Hinduism directly confronts even death.

This incident provides a profound symbol for this chapter’s opening, and Mahatma Gandhi’s life can join it in setting the stage for the faith we are about to explore. In an age in which violence and peace faced each other more fatefully than ever before, Gandhi’s name became, in the middle of our century, the counterpoise to those of Stalin and Hitler. The achievement for which the world credited this man (who weighed less than a hundred pounds and whose worldly possessions when he died were worth less than two dollars) was the British withdrawal from India in peace, but what is less known is that among his own people he lowered a barrier more formidable than that of race in America. He renamed India’s untouchables harijan, “God’s people,” and raised them to human stature. And in doing so he provided the nonviolent strategy as well as the inspiration for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s comparable civil rights movement in the United States. 

Hinduism has always stood for knowledge and rationality instead of violence.

Gandhi’s own inspiration and strategy carries us directly into this chapter’s subject, for he wrote in his Autobiography: “Such power as I possess for working in the political field has derived from my experiments in the spiritual field.” In that spiritual field, he went on to say, “truth is the sovereign principle, and the Bhagavad-Gita is the book par excellence for the knowledge of Truth.”

Truth is seeing things as there. Truth emerges from seeing continuity, consistency and harmony in all reality.

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