The Eternal Way — Center for Action and Contemplation

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The Eternal Way

Hinduism: Week 1

The Eternal Way
Monday, September 14, 2015

Like so many Westerners, I grew up knowing almost nothing about Hinduism, even though it is by far the oldest of the “Great Religions.” Because many of us had never met a true Hindu, and Hindu dress, various gods, and temples seemed so foreign to ours, we did not take Hinduism seriously. That’s what happens when everything is seen in reference to one’s self—whenever one’s nationality, era, and religion are the only reference points.

Most of us likely dismissed Hinduism without ever reading a single text of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, or much less the ancient Vedas. So we disregarded the usually unconscious commandment of religious people that “older is better” and closer to the Source. We too easily forgot that Christianity is the “Johnny-come-lately” as compared to Hindu and Buddhist Scriptures, and many other spiritual poets, seers, and philosophers besides. Our inclusion of the Jewish Scriptures in our own Christian Bible (two thirds of it!) should have cued us that we are building on, inclusive of, and dependent on other religions older than ours. Most Christians seem to have never thought of this, for some reason.

Some practitioners refer to the ancient texts that formed Hinduism as “the eternal law” or the “eternal way.” Hinduism draws upon inspirations, we might now say, from the collective unconscious or the Eternal One Spirit. Western scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various East Asian cultures and traditions with diverse roots and no single founder. Thus it is much more comfortable with seeming paradoxes or contradictions. Hinduism begins with complete confidence in the One, whereas Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, while calling themselves monotheistic, are actually much more preoccupied with the parts than the whole. Within Hindu scriptures, each story or text seems to stand on its own, and yet in the end creates a rather mystical world view.

Christians must be honest enough to know that the Holy Spirit was not first discovered on Pentecost Sunday somewhere around the year 30 AD. Surely Peter was right when he said, “The truth that I have come to realize is that God does not have favorites, and anybody of any nationality who respects the Divine and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35). The majority of human creation could not possibly have been just a throw-away exercise on the part of what would then be a very indifferent and inefficient God. Yet the three monotheistic religions often seem to act as if that were the case—as if God did not start becoming God until we came along. Of course, if our imagined God is that indifferent, it allows us to be quite indifferent too! Whereas a “God of all the earth” (Psalm 47:8 and throughout the Hebrew Scriptures) will inevitably create people of all the earth.

Gateway to Silence:
Moving toward love and union

Image credit: Mariko Bhakti Hirakawa at Veerupaksha Temple, India; photo by Ramnath Bhat
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