One more thing ! ......

Layers of Hinduism !!


|| om tat sat ||

" I am only greeting Christians on Xmas" texted my friend.

"Am I not Christian enough to be greeted" I responded.

He quickly responded " I am not secular enough"

" I do not know about Secularism but I only know of "Samatva" which is the core of our ancient Hindutva", I responded.

That was a light hearted conversation between friends.

But it did light a few thoughts.

By Christian I meant it as the adjective instead of the noun one would assume. Being a Hindu sold on the idealism of Gandhi I think I am a good Christian too in the best sense of that word. Again, as a Hindu sold on idealism of Gandhi I can only think of Hinduism at the highest layer. At that layer you are as good as the best of Christians or best of Buddhists or best of many other religions which I may not have known much about. Ultimately at that layer you are the best human being

This brings me to the layered structure of Hinduism. One would wonder. Why so many layers? Could it not have been just one layer, the highest layer?

First let us remember that Hinduism was a way of life in vogue in the earliest period of known Indian History. At that time that was the only way of life. Without any doubt, it was practiced differently by different people.

The Charvakas believing in living life to the full, with no God, no hell or heaven too, lived making fun of those following Vedas. Those Charvaka Hindus were probably practicing Hinduism of layer zero.

Hinduism evolved with time. The gods in early Vedic lore changed from the symbols of omnipotent nature with many nearly equals to the Supreme being of the Upanishads. Practice of Hinduism evolved at all stages of life from childhood to old age.

Enquiry became part of life early and in Vanaprsatha which is the last stage of life, enquiry reached the pinnacle. A way of life built with very complex processes from Vedic age too evolved, with minimal processes at the Upanishadic way of life prescribed for people in Vanaprastha.

But even as the enquiry evolved and provided deeper insights, the common way of life of hankering after rewards continued. Those who chose the path of enquiry traveled their way, some even reaching the pinnacle, while many others remained in a state of hankering after fruits.

There were many paths and many variants of the Supreme being and liberation. Knowing Upanishads was certainly an aspiration, attaining liberation may have been an aspiration only if one started on the journey.

Thus, there were un-announced layers of Hinduism.

The ultimate goal of attaining liberation was brought into a clearer view only at the highest layer of Hinduism. The actual liberation itself elaborated as a matter of experience. It is not a goal to be achieved or line to be crossed. It is only to be experienced.

That finest layer Hinduism is Advaita - where there is no second, where there is only one Supreme being. That supreme being is not one giving out rewards or punishments. That Supreme being does not take over our sins. That Supreme being will not help us move over to the Heaven for all the good deeds. He is only a witness to our actions. As a witness, he may trouble us. He is none other than the "Self" within us.

This is the conclusion arrived at by Hindu dialectics. The conclusion was reached after a process of lot of negation like what the Supreme being is not, as well as what "Self" is not. 

If one were to start with this conclusion arrived at after deep enquiry of Self as the Supreme being as the hypothesis then many of the questions that remain unanswered at various layers simply dissolve. The questions which seem to be legitimate at the middle layers like how souls migrate, why one soul seemed to be more favored than the other, or why a million souls perished at one single stroke in Nagasaki. Was it an act of en masse liberation or punishment for those souls? etc. All such questions loose relevance.

Shankaracharya established this Advaita on firm foundations based on its roots in the three foundational documents of Hinduism (Prasthanatrayi) and established Centers of Hindu enquiry at the four corners of the country.

Shankaracharya also penned the most exquisite prayers for the Gods such as Ganesha, Vishnu, Siva and other Goddesses.

The 'Kanakadhara stotram' was a hymn to a Goddess. According to the legend Gold coins were rained by the Goddess in response. Thus, establishing the reward seeking layer one of Hinduism as a legitimate layer, albeit a starting point.

It is a starting point where we have myriad gods with powers, whom we may please to achieve our gross ends.

The travel from that step of praying for rewards, to moving away from rewards and focusing on "Nishkama Karma", or actions without desires", "performing actions" for "Lokasangraha" or for the good of community , "Samatva" equanimity towards all entities and nonentities etc., is all at the individuals level and is based on the individuals enquiry and individual achievement.

This layered picture emerged because at every layer there were unanswered questions, requiring the answers which lead to the next layer and next layer till we reach that layer where all questions are either answered or questions become irrelevant considering the knowledge of that layer.

And at that final layer for those who experience that, all questions are irrelevant.

||om tat sat||