Hinduism and the US congress: mono and polytheism
Posted: 28 July 2007 11:29 AM   [ Ignore ]
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THIS could go under “politics” or “religion” ...

Hindu Groups Ask ‘08 Hopefuls to Criticize Protest
By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 27, 2007; A04

U.S. Hindu organizations are urging presidential candidates to denounce the protesters who disrupted the Senate as the first-ever Hindu opening prayer was being delivered this month.

Ante Nedlko Pavkovic, Katherine Lynn Pavkovic and Christan Renee Sugar—identified in the Christian media as a couple and their daughter—were removed from the Senate floor and arrested by Capitol Police on July 12 after they began shouting, “This is an abomination,” and asking for forgiveness from God.

<snip>

Several Christian organizations spoke out against the prayer, before and after it was delivered. The American Family Association circulated a petition, urging its members to contact their senator to protest the prayer. “This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world,” it read. The Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America issued a statement saying the prayer placed “the false god of Hinduism on a level playing field with the One True God, Jesus Christ.”

Soooo many things to say here. Of course, to start, we shouldn’t be allowing sectarian prayer on the floor of Congress. However, if we are going to allow prayer, then clearly it should involve all sides of the issue. Indeed, if we are going to allow discussion of religion, we should also allow a non-religious or atheistic perspective as well.

But the bigger question in this case is about bigotry and intolerance. Oddly, the article goes on to claim that the Christians were most worked up by their belief that Hinduism was polytheistic, and the Hindus responded that “this criticism reflects ignorance of the monotheistic underpinnings of their faith”.

Claiming Hinduism is monotheist is really not accurate. Or to the extent that it is, one might also claim that Greek, Roman and Norse mythology were also monotheistic in that they had a ruling god (Zeus, Jupiter and Wotan, respectively). Yes, there are some interpretations of Hindu theology that make it into a variety of monotheism, but IMHO that does a poor job of replicating what goes on on the ground.

So it seems that the Hindus have been cowed by the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic conception of god into twisting their faith into a variety of monotheism, at least for US consumption. I find that an odd development. I mean, it’s as though there were some standard somewhere that says “monotheism is better than polytheism”. Where does that come from? hmmm

The further irony is that Catholicism is manifestly polytheistic in just the way that Hinduism is. (Well, Hinduism is a bit more explicitly polytheistic, in that their gods are claimed to live mythical lives and have interactions together). The Catholic pantheon is full of supernatural creatures that listen, act and respond to prayer. I am referring, of course, to the mass of saints, to Mary, etc. On the ground, in Catholic churches, I would venture to claim that most believers are interested more in their local saint, in Mary, or in some “intermediary” than in god or Jesus. Each town in Europe, each european country, has its local saint to whom the local cathedral is dedicated, and to whom petitions are sent. This is monotheism in name only.

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Posted: 28 July 2007 12:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Many hindus have been monotheistic throughout history.  Certain areas of india especially only have one god and this varies from place to place.  There isn’t really a zeus or a thor that is ubquitous.  Some areas don’t actually worship any of the main Gods that one would associate with hinduism at all.

Added after googling the story:

besides, the catholics don’t seem to have been involved in this.  They all seem to be from the puritan (baptist and pentecostal) religions.

[ Edited: 28 July 2007 01:01 PM by narwhol ]
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Posted: 28 July 2007 04:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Well, not really. There are Vaishnavites (who worship Vishnu) and Shaivities (who worship Shiva) for instance, and I am sure there are some who worship Brahma as well. Each of these schools takes their preferred god as the more important, ruling god in the same sense that Zeus, Jupiter or Wotan was the ruling god. But all of these Hindus recognize the other gods—they just believe them to be lesser gods. Nevertheless, they may direct prayer at the lesser gods as well, depending the content of the prayer. For example, if they are looking for good luck in business they may well pray to Ganesha instead. E.g., from Wikipedia,

Ganesha is one of the most-worshipped divinities in India. Worship of Ganesha is considered complementary with the worship of other forms of the divine, and various Hindu sects worship him regardless of other affiliations.

Something very similar is true of conventional Catholicism, where your local catholic may go to St. Stephen’s church to pray to St. Stephen, rather than praying directly to Jesus or god.

I am aware that there is nothing in the story about Catholics. They weren’t involved; it was the Protestant Christians who were. But my point is rather that why aren’t these Protestants yelling the same things when a Catholic priest gets up in front of Congress to pray? It’s a form of racist bigotry, IMO, that singles out the “foreign” religionists and not the white guys who practice something very similar ...

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Posted: 28 July 2007 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I know all about these things you mention here, but there are also villages in pockets of rural northren india where they actually don’t worship any of these that you mention and have their own local gods.  These people are still considered hindu.  I have never been sure as to why. 

As to the fundies, you are sort of right of course, the catholic patron saints of local churches are not regarded as Gods, but de facto they amount to minor gods.

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Posted: 28 July 2007 05:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Oh sure, there are all kinds of gods worshipped in India. Vishnu and Shiva are just the two most important ones ... sort of like Mary and Jesus in Europe.

“Hinduism” is sort of a catchall or grab-bag term, encompassing a number of interrelated local religions in India. But they do all tend to read the same (Vedic and Sanskrit) texts as holy (the Vedas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, etc.), and they view their gods as interrelated, as having a joint history and an ongoing mutual dialogue.

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Posted: 04 August 2007 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Hinduism is very hard to understand. I don´t think even the hinduists understand it…

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Posted: 04 August 2007 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Actually, I find it very fascinating and if you find the right person or book to explain it, it really isn’t that difficult to understand.  What I have learned of it, I have throroughly enjoyed it.  I’m taking another course about it next semester, only this is a full course, not some overview or anything like that.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 12:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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orthodox hinduism (the type of hinduism practiced mainly in rural india) uses a multitude of gods as role models as to how people should follow their “dharma” or moral obligation.

gods do differ from region to region; the majority of people from the indian state of maharashtra worship ganesha, while immediately north of maharashtra, in gujurat, people worship krishna.

liberal hinduism (what the urban intelligensia and the majority of the hindu diaspora practice) discusses dharma more directly, for example, by asking questions of ontology. (that particular school, vedanta, isn’t too different from martin heidegger’s work)

hindu prayers are actually pretty much divorced from devotion to god. hindu prayers, or mantras, are closer to meditation techniques than actual supplications to deities. aartis (often translated as “hymns”) are closer to the western conception of prayer.

and by the way, we’re “hindus.” not “hinduists.”

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Posted: 19 October 2009 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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HI all,

Hinduism is a misnomer for a way of life by the name, Sanatana Dharma , or sanskrit for ‘the eternal truth’.

http://www.hindiusmtoday.com is a good start for those who are curious about hindiusm.

I have been a hindu myself. Yet I am easily able to find it complementing science perfectly. Science as we know it is the science of the outer world. Sanatana Dharma deals with the science of the inner world. Modern day science hasn’t even provided a complete explanation even how the brain operates. Purpose of science as we know it, is thus limited to the world outside of our minds.

As far as the discussion regarding polytheism and monotheism, my opinion is that a single primordial awareness expresses itself through its infinite facets. One of it is called Ganesha, another Siva, another Vishnu etc. For those who are in the awareness suited to Vishnu gravitate towards Vishnu, those who are in the awareness pertaining to Siva gravitate towards Siva, just like an individual who is physically fit gravitate towards external sports, and those who mentally keen take up chess. Its as simple as that.

Truth is, all the so called religions have a deeper inner meaning, or a deeply mystical side to it. The key to it is awareness. When one is aware of his awareness, one begins to percieve the world differently. ( Prove me wrong by meditating on a fixed time for 3 months on a single mantra ).

There have been many stalwarts who have explored the inner science of mind throughout the world. There are many living ones too. Sri Paramahamsa Nityananda is one of them. His youtube channel is lifeblissmeditation. No. This is not intended as an advert for a youtube channel. But to those who intend to question the sanity of the true Sanatana Dharma, he is just one of the guys whom you will have to prove wrong. So good luck with that.

May that beyond knowledge reign supreme.

Skywalker

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