Infinite Forms

Hinduism

Infinite Forms
Monday, August 13, 2018

If you have ever traveled to India, you realize that Hinduism is less a religion and more a 5,000-year-old culture, formed by such ancient sources as the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita, and communicated in thousands of other ways. Hinduism is the product of millennia of deep self-observation, human history, a confluence of cultures, and innumerable people seeking the Divine and seeking themselves.

Hinduism has been described as the most tolerant of the world religions. Hinduism is much more comfortable with mystery and multiplicity than are the three Abrahamic religions. This is symbolized by thousands of gods and dozens of primary deities in Hindu literature and tradition.

Inter-spiritual teacher Mirabai Starr says that “Hinduism is actually quite monotheistic or better said monistic. The Upanishads assert that there is only one supreme, divine reality.” [1] The ancient, diverse tradition led to the overwhelming consensus and conclusion that the Atman (True Self/Individual Consciousness) is the same as Brahman (God). This is summarized in the well-known Sanskrit phrase Tat Tvam Asi, loosely translated as “Thou art That.” This is the final extent and triumph of nondual thinking (advaita): God and the soul are united as one.

Reflect on how the Perennial Tradition’s emphasis on the oneness of God with everything is presented in these sacred texts from both Hinduism and Christianity:

My true being is unborn and changeless. I am the Lord who dwells in every creature. Through the power of my own appearance, I manifest myself in finite forms. —Bhagavad Gita 4:5-6

In the beginning was only Being; One without a second. Out of himself he brought forth the cosmos and entered into everything in it. There is nothing that does not come from him. Of everything he is the inmost Self. —Chandogya Upanishad, Chapter 6, 2:2-3

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things came to be, and not one thing had its being but through him. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwells among us. —John 1:1, 3, 14

From his tradition of Judaism, rabbi Rami Shapiro offers this rather simple explanation of these profound texts: “Just as the same lump of clay can take on infinite form and remain itself unchanged, so God takes on infinite form while never being other than God.” [2]

References:
[1] Mirabai Starr, “Unitive Consciousness: An Eastern Perspective” (an unpublished webcast from the Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015).

[2] Rami Shapiro, Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent: Sacred Teachings—Annotated & Explained (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2013), 66.

Image Credit: A Hindu Woman in Yoga Asana Meditation (detail), Lucia Puertas, 2010, river Ganges, Varanasi, India.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The Bhagavad Gita does not counsel that we all become monks or solitaries. Rather, the true synthesis is found in a life-long purification of motive, intention, and focus in our world of action. The Gita calls the active person to a life of interiority and soul discovery. How can we do “pure action”? Only by gradually detaching from all the fruits of action and doing everything purely for the love of God. —Richard Rohr
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