Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Hindus speak of Unity

The days grow shorter as we denizens of the northern hemisphere approach the winter solstice and, as often happens this time of year, my thoughts stray toward the nature of existence, toward the concept of God. And following up on my post, yesterday, commemorating Eid al-Addtha, I want to explore a little further the idea of henotheism, as practiced by Hindus.

Merriam-Webster defines henotheism thusly:
henotheism: the worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods
Years ago, in the heady days of the Mahatma Candy phenomenon, musician/philosopher-king/hopeful-muser Dan Binmore and I had a conversation about Hinduism which I still carry with me as a succinct layman's explanation of the faith.

As Dan explained it to me, Hindus generally believe in a single God, just as do the major western faiths. But the Hindus believe that there are many manifestations of God, and from these manifestations they derive their pantheon: Annapurna, Ganesha, Kali, Krishna, Vishnu and countless other deities.

Indeed, the Hindus further believe that everything, every rock, tree, human being, blade of grass, electron orbiting an atomic nucleus --literally everything is a part of God. God is the Universe.

Alone in an infinte sea
And, continuing on this idea, it follows that there is nothing beyond God. Think of a single creature, perhaps a jellyfish, floating in an endless sea of emptiness. Naturally, such a creature would desire to understand itself, to see itself. And so, this creature would find methods by which to do so.

And this, the Hindus contend, is the function of life, of living forms. Plants and animals (including humans) are organs, if you will, of the living God, by which God examines itself. So, each of us lives out his or her life in the Universe, providing input and stimuli to the Whole. Eventually, our corporeal forms break down and return to the Whole, only to take a new form and begin the cycle again. (Hence, the Hindu belief in reincarnation.)

This explanation, which Dan related to me in one of our many rewarding conversations, is beautiful in its simplicity, and also explains why Hindus are, indeed, henotheists. Each god, each deity, whether it is a pagan dryad or Christ the Savior, is but another manifestation of the One. As are we all.

So, there it is...in a nutshell, my understanding of the Hindu faith. Perhaps it is overly simplistic. But, I don't know... must truth be complex?

In any case, this is what happens when the days get short and I fall to brooding. Aw, hell... maybe I should just stick to politics.

(Happy Birthday, Mia!)


Dan Binmore said...

Man, I hope I was right.

Shus li said...

Seasonally Associated Brooding Disorder? Nah. Just the ongoing spiritual metacognition.

As the years relentelessly roll by and over me, my spirituality becomes less and less definable (is that a word?).

More and more I just pay attention to what resonates....like the idea of each rock, the air, water, and even we lousy humans being part of a great divine. I like the Karuk creation myth, which speaks of all of us spirit beings agreeing to take on form way back in the beginning of creation.

I can get behind spiritual paths which seek to honor and care for other beings. I can't get behind any religion that promotes race hatred, patriarchy or destruction of our Earth.

Thanks for the thoughtful lesson on Hindu core beliefs.