The Hindu Way of
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 worlds great
religions. Everyone knows of course, that Hinduism exists. Even so, it is confused in many
peoples 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.
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, Indias 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
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.
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 mans presumption at setting the standard of perfection at his own level of
material "accomplishments". This attitude must seem comparable to an ants
airy dismissal of descriptions of an elephant as "absurd exaggeration". To judge
civilzation by mans 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 hearts
innermost desire. Nightclubs, a rising stock market, a traffic-clogged highways cant
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 havent 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
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
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 cant be so, therefore it isnt 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
Gandhis 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
didnt lament their lives as sinful! They didnt beg for Gods 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 Indias 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 doesnt even consider the
hearts 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 wouldnt 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 Indias Jagadis Chandra Bose and Germanys 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
"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