HINDUISM & BUDDHISM

HINDUISM (Religion of truth and beauty)

Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of Nepal. It is the oldest living major religion of the world. Hinduism is often referred to as Sanatan Dharma (meaning the eternal law). The eternal law that sustains, upholds, surely preserves by its adherents. The four major sects of Hinduism are;

  1. Shaivism: Shaivas believe that Shiva as the Supreme Being, all in all, the creator, preserver and destroyer. Mt. Kailash, Mrigasthali, Pashupatinath, Rikheshwor, Shivapuri, Gosaikunda, Haleshi, Gupteshwor are few names of holy places for Shiva followers. They worship Shiva- Linga; the union of lingam and yoni which represents the "indivisible two-in-oneness of male and female, the passive space and active time from which all life originates". Celebrated as the birthday, Shivaratri is the most holy night in Hinduism
  2. Vaishnavism: Worship of Lord Vishnu or his associated Avataras, principally Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God. Its beliefs and practices are based especially with concepts of Bhakti Yoga, a part of Bhagavad Gita. Muktinath and Barahachettra, Janakpur is holy place for Vishnu followers. They are strictly vegetarian and worship Saligram, Pipal and Tulsi as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
  3. Shaktism: Doctrine of power or doctrine of the Goddess is a denomination of Hinduism that focuses worship upon Adi parashakti or Shakti or Devi or Parvati (Divine mother) as the absolute, ultimate Godhead. Practitioners of Shaktism, focus most or all worship on Shakti, as the dynamic feminine aspect of the Supreme Divine. Saraswoti, Laxmi and Parvati are the consort of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwora respectively.
  4. Smartism: Smarta means "relating to memory, recorded in or based on the smrti, based on tradition, prescribed or sanctioned by traditional uses or law". The term Smarta refers to adherents who follow the Vedas and Shastras. Smartas are followers and propagators of Smriti or religious texts derived from Vedic scriptures. Smartas believe that the worshiper is free to choose a particular aspect of God to worship. They consider Surya "Sun" to be an aspect of God.
    Many consider that Hinduism is not a unified religion, there is no single book like Bible or Kuran and there is no single person who could explain all of its teaching. That is why it gives the impression that Hinduism is not a religion but only "a way of life". The word 'Hindu' came from the name of place 'Sindhu' who were the Aryan civilization around 2000 BC. Beside agriculture and farming they engage themselves to study Vedas- book of knowledge dating at least 5000 BC. The Vedic Gods were the embodiments of natural phenomena like; Indra (Rain), Surya (Sun), Agni (fire), Yama (death) etc.

Note: Nepal is a pious place of Vedic Sanatan Dharma (eternal truth of Vedas). It is not a particular Hindu country or Buddhist country but indeed, the origin place of Vedas, the father of all the religions; Hindu, Muslim, Taoism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity etc. Vedic Sanatan Dharma is the main root and the other religions are just branches / twigs. The great saint Veda Vyas, born in Damauli Nepal, is the composer of 4 Vedas. And, Guru Gorakhnath is the preserver of Vedas / nature / universe. Gorakhnath is the awakened form of almighty God Shiva.

Long later, languages as modern Sanskrit and writing as Deva Nagari letters appeared between 800 BC and around 500 BC people began to think upon philosophical quest; Aatma (human soul) and Paramatta (Supreme soul). Mahabharata is the great epic of Hinduism, a discussion of the four "goals of life" or purusharthas. The latter are enumerated as; dharma (right action), artha (purpose), Kama (Pleasure) and Moksha (Liberation). Ramayana and Bhagawat Geeta are the part of Mahabharata. The authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to Vyasa Rishi. Then, they wrote different Upanishadas trying to explain the phenomena of soul, Maya, Karma and Moksha. Later they conclude their quest with four ways to Moksha 'Salvation':

Some Hindu believe there is only one Supreme God, others believe in two or three or it can be 33 billions of Gods / Goddess. However, the three major God known as Trinity are:

Brahma (the creator): Literal meaning of Brahma is wisdom or consciousness. It is to say consciousness is the creator of this universe and your destiny. Wisdom is the creator of your environment. Brahma is not worshiped by many people these days. His face is not seen in any idols. His wife Saraswoti is the Goddess of knowledge /music.

Vishnu (the preserver): Vishnu is regarded to be the preserver of the moral order Dharma. He is the only Hindu God who incarnate from time to time. The incarnations were; Matsya, Kurma. Varaha, Narashima, Bamana, Parsuram, Ram, Krishna. Balaram, Buddha. The consort of Vishnu is Laxmi, Goddess of prosperity and wealth.

Maheshwora (the destroyer): God Shiva has many names and forms. Maheshwora is another name of Shiva. He is regarded as the God for destruction for new creation as Hindu believe in continuity and re-birth. God Shiva is worshiped at Shiva- Lingam (union of two sexual organs) which means continuity of creation. 'Om Nama shivaya" is the Mantra to address God Shiva. Consort of Maheshwora is Parvati, the Goddess of Shakti (power).

All Hindu male Gods are assigned with a consort as wife (Shakti) and they have their own family. The most popular family is of Shiva and Sati (later Parvati) and their son Ganesh (God with elephant head) and Kumar. All the God and Goddess have their own vehicle to ride; Shiva (Ox) Sati (Tiger), Ganesh (rat), Kumar (Peacock).

Goddess: Hindu's most common Goddess is Kali and is represented as black and destructive. She is worshipped with sacrifice of animals. Only five types of male and matured animals are sacrificed. Actually, the animals we sacrifice represent the weakness we have within ourselves; Duck (Laziness), Goat (Blind sex), Sheep (Blind follower), Chicken (coward-ness), Buffalo (Blind gangrenes). The sacrifice does not mean to kill the animal but symbolizes cleaning owns sin and forgiveness.

Dashain is celebrated on the occasion of victory of Goddess Durga upon devil. It is celebrated for 10 days. The first day starts with Ghatasthapana, keeping Jamara (germination of 9 different grains). On the 7th day saptami, animals are sacrificed to the Goddess on Kal ratri (the dark night) to celebrate her victory over evil. 8th day is the feast day among all communities but specially, Newar celebrate gracefully and typically serving delicious food in banana leaf plate. On Nawami, the 9th day, people clean machine / vehicles and worship with animals / eggs and pray for the safe journey throughout the year. The next day on Dashami (Tika) people dress up well and visit elders to receive Tika as a means of blessing. In the following days of Dashain, families and friends unite, feasts are consumed, blessing is imparted and gifts are exchanged. Children as well adults enjoy Ping 'big swing'

Dipawali, the festivals of lights, is observed in honor of Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth and good fortune. Tihar / Deepawali festival is celebrated for consecutive 5 days worshipping Crow (messenger), dog (humble guard), Cow (mother goddess), Ox (crop production), and brothers / sister (for mutual love and prosperity). A few days before Tihar preparation are seen in full swing for cleaning and whitewashing to houses. All are in festive mood and return birthplace. On the 3rd day (cow day), Laxmi Puja is observed on the occasion of Deepawali by burnings oil- lamps and singing Bhailo / Deusi. This is to invite Goddess Laxmi to their doorsteps. This tradition was initiated by the people of Ayodhya to express their boundryless joy when Lord Rama returned after his fourteen years exile.

The last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika, and celebrated by sisters worshipping their brothers for blessing and success in their ventures. This festival is one of the cheerful moments in Nepal because it offers opportunity for being together and sharing happiness.

Mysterious truths in Hinduism Gorakhnath or Gorakshanath is the awakened form of God Shiva. People well know him as the incarnation of God Shiva in Yoga form. He is the Nath Yogi connected to Shaivism. He is the creator of universe and the preserver of Vedas. Nepal is the origin of Vedic Sanatan Dharma (the religion of eternal law as explained by Vedas) and all the religions of the world including Hindu, Muslim, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianism, and Jainism are the branches / twigs of

Vedas.

Vedas say Guru Gorakhnath is the awakened form of God Shiva (the Adinath). The religious Hindu texts describe that Guru Gorakhnath resides in the foothills of Nepal Himalaya. The name of Gorkha takes after the name of Gorakhnath. The sign of Living Gorakhnath can be observed at Mrigasthali, Daman and Pokhara.

Guru Gorakhanth is believed to be the founder of the Nath Sampradaya and it is stated that the nine 9 Naths and 84 Siddhas are all human forms created as yogic manifestations to spread the message of yoga and meditation to the world. It is they who reveal the truth of Samadhi and salvation to mankind. Romolo Butalia an Indian writer of Yoga history lists the works attributed to Gorakshanath as "Guru Gorakhnath is thought to have authored several books including the Goraksha Samhita, Goraksha Gita, Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, Yoga Martanada, Yoga Siddhanta Paddhati, Yoga-Bija, Yoga Chintamani"

It is still believed his existence is now around us for the welfare of humanity and balancing the law of nature. Guru Gorakhnath is regarded as the ninth Natha preceded by his Guru Matsyendranath. He is believed to have traveled whole world in various forms and appearance. Osho regarded "Gorakhnath as one of the four great innovators of Hindu religion alongside Patanjali, Buddha, and Krishna. Without Gorakh there would be no Buddha, No Krishna, no Kabir, no Nanak, no Dadu, no Farid, and no Meera."

Non-the-less, many legend states that Guru Gorakhnath is the founder of Hatha Yoga (breathing techniques) and the eternal sage appeared in the form of light. He is not limited to the one period of time or to the particular locality. Gorakhnath is the represent of the spiritual laws which are based on the Eternal Laws of the Universe (Sanatana Dharma). We cannot write about him due to our inefficiency but we can sincerely say that he is shapeless, formless, omniscient and the radiant of light. He is residing in our every breath throwing tender beam of truth, bliss and beauty.

BUDDHISM (Religion of Compassion)

Buddhism is a religion and philosophy based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama (later Buddha meaning the awakened one) who was born in Kapilvastu Lumbini in 567 BC. It has become one of the most popular religions in the world because of its simplicity, compassion, forgiveness and truthfulness. Although Nepal is the birthplace of Buddha, it is still regarded as Hindu country because Buddha is said to be the 10th incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Siddhartha Gautama was born in Shakya family from the king Suddhodhana and Queen Mayadevi. When Queen Maya Devi was on the way to her paternal home she gave birth to the son at Lumbini. It is said the baby walked 7 steps just after the birth.

Gautam was grown in comfort and luxury life that his father has arranged. He was predicted by an astrologer that Sidhartha would become a sage in future. Therefore, his father tried his best not to have any lacking and avoid his son from being hermitage. Gautam was a pleasant child but used to spend more time thinking and asking serious questions than enjoying richness of the palace. His father got worried with the nature of his son and decided to tie up conjugal life with Yasodhara so that Gautam would engage in marriage life. But instead, he became restless when he saw sick people, old man and corpse when he was out for a sight-seeing. Then, he began to ponder upon eternal questions about the suffering and universal law. On a tranquil full moon night, he decided to leave the palace (luxury), family (attachment) even little sweet son Rahul in search of cause of sorrow.

He wandered many places and consulted with Gurus of those days, meditate in the deep jungle without food and water for several months but still could not get the truth. He realized that enlightenment is not possible with empty stomach and took rice-pudding offered by Sujata, lower caste girl. Suddenly, on a full moon day he was showered with true knowledge. Then he went on preaching to different parts of Nepal and India. He earned lot of respect and renown from his first sermon held in Sarnath. He passed away at Kushinagar at the age of eighty-two, again in the full moon day of Baishakh.

Note: Full moon of Baishakh is very important for Buddhists because the three great happenings; abandon of Palace, Enlightenment and decease of Buddha was occurred on this day.

It is believed that Queen Mayadevi gave birth from her armpit in a standing position holding Sal tree (Shorea Robusta). The boy walked 7 steps on 7 Lotus. Therefore, the statues and painting depicting the birth of Buddha is very important and famous for Buddhist. Likewise, Sal tree, the number 7, lotus is considered as sacred in Buddhism

.

Buddha's Teachings were very simple and based on four Noble Truths, The Eight Fold Path, Nirvana, Karma and Morality.

The Four Noble Truths

The Eight Fold Paths

NIRVANA (Salvation or Moksha): The Buddha described Nirvana as the perfect peace state of mind that is free from craving, anger and other afflicting states. When a man attains Nirvana he has no greed, desire, and ego. Buddha preached that we can attain Salvation easily by following eight fold- paths. And we are free from the chain of birth and death. But the Law of Karma determines our life.

KARMA: Our life is governed by our actions. Just like the saying "Reap as you sow", we get bad result if we perform evil actions and good karma brings happy life. The eight fold path directly governs the whole Karma.

MORALITY (Pancha Sila or 5 ethics): Abstain from Killing, Stealing, Lying, Intoxication, Illicit sex). These are the 5 ethics that must be followed by all Buddhist.

Branches of Buddhism With the passage of time Buddhism is divided in three sects. All they follow eight fold-paths, four noble truths, Sutra and Sila more or less. But it differs in the way of presentation and philosophy as described below:

  1. Hinayana (Abandoned Vehicle): The focus is more on practice for individual liberation and must live ascetic life. One must give-up all the worldly pleasures to achieve Nirvana. Literal meaning of Hinyana is narrow path. Critics say Theravada is the synonym of Hinyana. But to my knowledge, it is the school of elders following ancient teachings. It is the predominant religion in Sri-Lanka. It is relatively conservative. They don't involve in killing but eat meat.
  2. Mahayana (Great Vehicle): They meditate for the benefit of all sentient and salvation can be achieved by following eight fold paths, no need to live ascetic life. Maroon robe is their dressing way and strictly vegetarian. In course of time, it spread to China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Bhutan and Malyasia.
  3. Vajrayana: (Diamond Vehicle): Vajra is referred as thunderbolt which is indestructible substance and can penetrate to any obstacle. It can penetrate ignorance. It is an inevitable object for Tantric Buddhism. They use various Tantra-Mantra, Esotoric arts to describe spiritual images. Vajrayana is a complex and multifaceted system of Buddhist thought and practice which evolved over several centuries, especially in Tibet, Mangolia and Nepal. Excessive use of Mudras, Mantras, Mandala and Chakra can be found in Vajrayana. It is very much influenced by Hinduism.

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