Thursday, March 22, 2012
To Be Happy or Not to Be; that is the Question
Whatever takes form is false.
Only the formless endures.
When you understand
The truth of this teaching,
You will not be born again.
—Ashtavakra Gita 1:18
According to Juan Mascaró, Hindu religion bespeaks of an acceptance of all religions in the sense that the central theme focuses, not on the doctrines of the various religions, but on the spirit behind all religions. It claims that no single religion is better than any other and that all people are on the pathway to God at varying levels, living their current life and the next in reincarnated form until they have lived sufficiently well to become yoked to the Supreme Cosmic Spirit, Brahman. Although reincarnation offers many chances of reaching perfection life after transmigrated life, it also means failure in the previous life. The Hindu scholars suggest that reincarnation is not a desirable path. In essence, reincarnation signifies procrastination from the union with Brahman by living multiple lives in apathy and laziness like a perpetual and vertical slinky.
The bottom line for the Hindus is that Happiness requires work. As all are flawed in one way or another, misery naturally abounds. Without the hard work to build character and conform to truth, all must continue to transmigrate into a lower form until they resist the false and conform their lives to truth, which will ultimately lead to the coveted universal life as Brahman.
The Hindus claim that all must have the highest faith to become Brahman. They believe that everyone conforms to one of the three gunas of faith: sattva, rajas or tamas. Sattva signifies the faith of someone without blame—spotless. His fruit is joy and knowledge and he is ascending upward in his faith. The faith of rajas is characteristic in someone ruled by passion, craving, activity and greed. He loves his possessions and is attached to activity; his fruit is unhappiness and he goes nowhere. Finally, tamas describes the faith of one who is absentminded, slothful and tends to sleep excessively. His fruit is ignorance. He becomes negligent by obfuscating knowledge and directs himself perpetually downward. The object of the Hindu is to suppress the lower two forms of faith and until that happens he finds no joy in life. From the faith of sattva, comes happiness, but misery is born of the lower two faiths.
Gaining the faith of sattva prepare the Hindu for yoga, the root of which means “to yoke,” and literally signifies yoking oneself to commitment. The ultimate aim of yoga is a spiritual purification and self-understanding leading to union with Brahman. Krsna, in the Bhagavadgita introduces Arjuna to a yoga of knowledge and a yoga of action. The yoga of action is to devote oneself to his own task, that which God has given him—in Western terms, we might call it personal mission. The key is not to seek the recognition or glory for performing the action. Says Krsna of the yoga of action, “…pursue the daily tasks disinterestedly, for, while performing his acts without self-interest, a person obtains the highest good.” Then Krsna explains that the yoga of knowledge is true knowledge that helps individuals learn how to control the mind and senses in order to become free from the bondage of ignorance and passion, “For there is no means of purification the like of knowledge; and in time one will find that knowledge within oneself, when one is…perfected by yoga.” The yogi engages in the yoga of action and knowledge by restraining the mind and the senses. He therefore yokes himself to the commitment of tasks and knowledge that purify and cleanse his Atman. Again, observance or non-observance to yoga accounts for happiness or misery.
From the Upanishads, including the Bhagavadgita, it is apparent that the Hindus believe in a sort of salvation from sin and death. According to the Taittiriya Upanishad, the seven needful things to wash sins away are righteousness, truth, meditation, self-control, peace, ritual, and humanity. This means that only through individual actions are we cleansed from sin. The power of death comes to every mortal body, but to save it from this, the Hindus believe that the spirit, or Atman, which never dies, must rule the body. The Chandogya Upanishad says, “…If a man is ruled by his body then this man can never be free. But when a man is in the joy of the Spirit, in the Spirit which is ever free, then this man is free from all bondage, the bondage of pleasure and pain.” Hinduistic salvation then lies both with correct choice and allowing Atman, our true self, to lead us from bodily pleasure and pain.
To summarize, the Hindu religion is the process of baby steps of progression or digression with the just reward of joy and happiness or misery and suffering, respectively. Each successive life depends upon the individual choices made in the previous life and is manifested by entering a new higher or lower body. Whether the Hindu scholars feel that reincarnation ought to be avoided or not, I do not see a reason for any individual to reduce the amount of lives lived, for there is not any greater reward given to the one who reaches Brahman sooner than he who slowly prods along in life after successive life. The only difference is that the former finds happiness sooner and the latter delays it to remain miserable in his seemingly endless suffering. For the Hindus, each individual is his own personal Savior and Exaltation to Brahman falls exclusively to the effort of the individual himself. Perhaps Shakespeare prescribed Hindu happiness best when he wrote, “To thine own self be true.”
 Juan Mascaró, The Upanishads, (London: Penguin Books 1965), Introduction, 11-12
 Gary B. Swanson, Who is You?, http://www.perspectivedigest.org/article/42/archives/16-3/who-is-you, Perspective Digest: A Publication of the Adventist Theological Society, 2011
 J. A. B. van Buitenen, The Bhagavadgita in the Mahabharata: A Bilingual Edition, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981), 127, 135
 “As he sits on his seat, let him pinpoint his mind, so that the workings of mind and senses are under control, and yoke himself to yoga for the cleansing of his self.” —Ibid., 95: 2nd paragraph.
 Ibid., 83
 Ibid., 89
 Juan Mascaró, The Upanishads, (London: Penguin Books 1965), 109
 Ibid., 125
 Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1: Scene 3, 78