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The Hindu Way of Awakening
By J. Donald Walters ( Swami Kriyananda)
excerpts from his book The Hindu Awakening: Its Revelation, Its Symbols

Hinduism is often omitted from rosters of the world’s great religions. Everyone knows of course, that Hinduism exists. Even so, it is confused in many people’s minds with what they think of as Buddhism. For Buddhism fits into their concepts of what a religion ought to be. For one thing, it is founded by one individual, Gautama Buddha, who was a historic personage like Moses, Jesus, Lao Tse, Mohammed, and Zoroaster. Buddhism, moreover, like most other religions, has an organized structure, a set of specific dogmas, and an officially recognized way.

Hinduism, in its plethora of symbols and images, is endlessly complex and therefore endlessly misunderstood, but its true mission is both simple and universal: soul-enlightenment. In other words, its focus is the ultimate attainment, Self-realization in God.

Even today, thousands of years since they were first expounded by the ancient rishis (spiritual sages), the religious teachings of India nourish what continues to be the most spiritually grounded civilization in the world.

Scriptures based on true revelations are never melancholy, pessimistic, or depressing. True scriptures conveys a spirit of infinite hope.

The insights of which the Hindu teachings are based were revelation in the highest sense of the word. An aspect of the greatness of the Indian scriptures, indeed, lies in their own claim to universality. In this Vedic revelation is in the words of the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, " sublime as heat and night and a breathless ocean. It contains every religious sentiment, all the grand ethics which visit in turn each noble poetic mind….: eternal necessity, eternal compensation, unfathomable power, unbroken silence.

Symbolism in India:

Symbolism, for two reasons, plays a greater role in the religion and art of India than in those of other nations. For one thing, India’s is the oldest continuous civilization in the world. Its traditions extend back long before recorded history. For another, the Indian mind, having established itself firmly in the belief in a transcendental reality, is completely comfortable with an exuberance in its expression of images and allegories that comes from knowing and accepting that everything is illusory anyway. The profusion that has merged from this cheerful "come one, come all!" attitude might be compared to an old tree, grown gnarled and twisted with age, its branches of tradition spreading outward in all directions with abandon. Thus, the lofty teachings of the Vedas and Upanishads had to be clothed in symbolism and presented in allegories. The purpose of concealing them was in part to protect the truth from profanation, and in part also to ensure their endurance during centuries of spiritual darkness.

Dating Indian Civilization:

Archaeologists reject out of hand the rapidly growing body of evidence that advanced civilizations existed in ancient times, for it contradicts their neatly framed picture for prehistory: Primitive hunters settling down eventually to till the land, then building cities, and only slowly and reluctantly renouncing superstition with the dazzling appearance on the scene of Galileo, Newton, and the rest of the gang of scientific ghost busters.

The new myth is that primitive man evolved from the ape a few hundred years ago, and from then onward grunted and clubbed his way through the vaces and backwoods of what is called the ‘Stone Age, to emerge somewhat awkwardly a mere 3,000-4,000 years ago into the relative sophistication of the Bronze Age. Since then he strode, increasing self-confident, into the modern age, where he now stands proudly in the full glory of his bulldozers, tractors, skyscrapers, and spreading pollution.

If anything can that tickle the Divine sense of humor, it must surely be man’s presumption at setting the standard of perfection at his own level of material "accomplishments". This attitude must seem comparable to an ant’s airy dismissal of descriptions of an elephant as "absurd exaggeration". To judge civilzation by man’s ability to create tools, merely because modern man has achieved some skill in this regard, is too typical of human arrogance to be accepted without the raised eyebrow of skepticism.

In ancient India, the criteria of cultural advancement were far more refined than those of present-day Western culture, which might justifiably be termed "toolism." Advancement in those far-off days was judged by what every human being really wants from life. The ancients realized that human desires will never be satisfied by material fulfillment alone. The goal of life, they understood, is Self-Realization. That is indeed why the human race was created: to realize the essence of all being in Infinite Consciousness.

Material tools can never fulfill the heart’s innermost desire. Nightclubs, a rising stock market, a traffic-clogged highways can’t fulfil it. Nothing outside ourselves can ever satisfy us for long. Everything disappoints, in the end. Excessive reliance on "toolism" as the means of fulfillment has brought mankind to the brink of self-destruction, whether through atmospheric pollution, global epidemics, or nuclear warfare.

Archaeologists object, " if mankind was highly advanced in prehistory, why haven’t our excavations unearthed the tools that his advancement should have produced?" Their question simply betrays a materialistic prejudice.
Wet cell batteries have been found among ancient artifacts in Baghdad, Iraq. They were recognized as such by Wilhelm Konig, a German engineer, during a visit to the Baghdad museum.
A hole, perfectly round, was discovered in the skull of an antelope dated circa 100,000 years ago. Such a clean penetration could have been caused only by a high speed projectile, such as rifle bullet. Any primitive weapon – a spear or an arrow, for instance, would have shattered the bone.

Evidence has been found of the possibility that nuclear explosions occurred in ancient times. Large areas of vitrified sand have been discovered in the Gobi desert and elsewhere, evidence of such intense heat as might not be explicable otherwise.

And records have been found in India detailing the ancient existence, and construction, of flying machines.

Archaeologists, being human like everyone else, deny this abundance with a sneer. "It can’t be so, therefore it isn’t so". Napoleon, no bit-part actor on the stage of time himself, described history as " a lie agreed upon ".

My present point, then, is to re-state without apology an age-old belief in India that in ancient times mankind reached a stage when civilization was far more highly advanced than it is at present. Indeed it is amusing to reflect on Mahatma Gandhi’s reply to the question, "What do you think of Western civilization?" With a smile Gandhi remarked: "That is a wonderful idea!"

Philosophy, Religion, Science, or – What?

The Hindu Way of Awakening, emphasizes experience over theory, and intuition over logic. Its aim is to inspire the longing for blissful union with God.

When Western missionaries first arrived in India and tried to familiarize themselves with its ancient teachings, they were bewildered by such seemingly impious and presumptuous declarations as, "I am Brahman(God)." Where, in these sentiments, were the traditional sentiments of humility and self-approach? The rishis didn’t lament their lives as sinful! They didn’t beg for God’s mercy. Beg! Quite the opposite, they seemed to expect grace as their divine right. Besides-a lesser point to be sure-where were their religious institutions? their hierarchies of priests? Who, in short, was in charge? In the end, the missionaries decided that those rishis abstractions belonged, not to theology, but more properly to the realm of philosophy. Philosophy, then, surely was the safest category in which to file away their teachings and, hopefully, to forget them.

 But India’s teachings were not speculative. They were based on divine revelations. Because the statements were so categorical, a few Indians have proposed that they belong in the realm of science. Indeed, the revelations are so cosmic that they approach more closely the findings of physics and astronomy than the pious pronouncements of preachers.

Scientists, however, unlike the ancient rishis, claim no absolute knowledge of anything. Their knowledge is intellectual, and is based on outer experiment rather than on direct inner experience. Science doesn’t even consider the heart’s feelings and the intuitive aspects of consciousness, without which human understanding, limited to intellection, is like a man hopping along the street on one leg.

The greatest difference between the ancient rishis and modern scientists is the rishis’ apparent lack of dependence on tools and technology. True, the rishis made claims so cosmic that even modern physics seems only to be catching up with them, (and realizing, after every scientific break-through, that the ancients were there long before them)". Even as recently as a century ago, the West was still reeling under the impact of the discovery by geologists that the earth was formed eons ago, and not in 4004 B.C. as theologians had determined.

It is human nature to accuse others of any faults one possesses in himself. They accused the rishis of arrogance and presumptuous for claiming to have realized oneness with God. They also concluded, that the Hindus, are a hopelessly pagan people, amazingly resistant to conversion: they hold bizarre beliefs to which no pious person ought to listen.

 The missionaries wouldn’t face that, when Jesus Christ made the same statement, and the Jews accused him of blasphemy for making it, he answered them that the scriptures themselves make this claim for everyone." (* "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?" John 10:34) Mystical experience, however, lies outside the power of priests and organizations to control.

The Gnostics of early Christendom believed in seeking personal spiritual experience. For this reason, they were branded as heretics. The Church succeeded at last in suppressing the entire Gnostic movement. So did the Sufi mystics who were persecuted by their Moslem co-religionists.

India, alone, among the great world religions, preserved the deeper spiritual teachings undisguised and undiluted. It was able to do so precisely because religion in India was never formally organized. It had no priest hierarchy.

The result has been an excessive diversity in the outer aspects of the religion, but it has also been an extraordinary development of the inner.

India, has accomplished in the field of spirituality what, in the world of finance, the free market (as opposed to a controlled economy) has succeeded in doing: The individual seeker has been left free to explore and develop his own spiritual potentials. Other scriptures have hinted at the deeper truths of inward religion. But the priests in every religion seldom quote those passages, which they rightly see as threatening to their institutional preeminence.

India concealed deep truths behind a veil of symbolism, and offered only the tip of the iceberg, as it were for those earnest seekers to see who might want to know more. Symbolism and outward religion are synonymous. Few people are capable of even imagining transcendental truths. Symbols, for the majority, take the place of that which lies above rational comprehension.

  Even the rocks, according to the ancient teachings, manifest a certain glimmering of awareness. This claim has been made by famous scientists such as India’s Jagadis Chandra Bose and Germany’s Karl Bonhoeffer, both of hwom succeeded in stimulating a response in apparently "inanimate" matter. Their conclusion is that no clear dividing line exists between "animate" and "inanimate" matter.

"God sleeps in the rocks," proclaims the Indian scriptures, "dreams in the plants, stirs toward wakefulness in the animals, and in mankind is awake to his own ego-individuality." God is beyond all possibility of definition. The Bhagavad Gita, the best known scripture of India, states this point clearly: "Though I manifest Myself in all things, I am identified with none of them.

 

 

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