Guidance about Hinduism, for a Doctoral Thesis

Dear S,
     Now that I have a notion about your objective with the manuscript, I can say, that you have done well.
     Allow me to share some of my suggestions from a Hindu perspective since that is what you have expected from contacting me.
     If one is analyzing the behaviour of a human being from a spiritual angle that they have cultivated through the religion they follow, through the belief system they prefer and entrust, the analyzer would be more equipped and better prepared if they go a bit deeper into that particular belief system (‘religion’ for want of an alternate nomenclature), explore the fundamentals, origin, peculiarities, popularity and practice parameters of that religion. If one is searching the cabinets for a particular piece, it would be sensible to explore the lower shelves than reach out to the top ones straight away.
     Especially expedient would be to study the philosophy of that faith that would have a direct bearing to the follower’s functioning, and in this case within the context of their hedonic or eudaimonic well-being.
     ‘Hinduism’, to be blunt about it, is not a religion. It is ‘anadhi’, without a traceable origin, ‘apourusheya’, without a founder, and ‘Anantha’, endless with an 184 infinite ending. Based on the concepts of ‘Sanatana Dharma’, eternal righteousness, it is a discipline that follows a certain philosophy that guides the inquisitive ones towards understanding the ‘meaning of it all’, of ‘what it is all about’, who and where we are, and how best we can make it, if you are keen about it. ‘Hinduism’, preferably addressed as Sanatana Dharma, may be called the faith of those who remained following that philosophy bequeathed from its principles and derived from the teachings of the wise from the past, from the Vedas, Upanishads and such scriptures that predate the concept of true religion by millennia. Hinduism became a religion when others who preferred to be ‘others’ thrust such a name on them.
     If humanity were to be compared to passengers in a train getting on from some beginning and taking off to an unknown destination, several sets of the commuters opt to exit in different stations when enlightened guides attracted them to follow and accept their leadership. They all established, multiplied, enlisted others and settled as inhabitants of their chosen cities, that they called ‘regimented religions’. After many stations and many established ‘religions’, those who continued on the train remained as ‘Hindus’ following their scriptural indoctrination and cultivated philosophical habits. If one chooses, the train may be replaced by a space rocket, dropping passengers on different planets and moving on.
     As per the instructions followed by the Hindu scriptures, the ultimate goal of those ‘passengers’ is to attain ‘Moksha’, ‘Nirvrithi’, bliss, salvation, by blending with the ‘Absolute Consciousness’, the Brahman, the God factor, if you may. That ‘happiness’ is their ultimate destination, of no more births as they become part of the ONE ORIGIN. (Taittiriya Upanishad, 2.7.1). As per their Karma, they may have to take several trains to reach that goal. And through each of such rides, they gain or lose traction getting closer or falling farther back, until they reach the goal, if ever.
     According to Hinduism, during each life (or ride), there are three types of happiness; Physical (Bhouthika) comforts of life, sensual enjoyment and bodily pleasures, Mental (Manasika) sense of fulfillment, freedom from worries, afflictions, and anxieties, and Spiritual (Adhyatmika) freedom from the cycles of births and deaths, and union with self. (Hinduwebsite.com).
     Few thoughts about your article: Overall you have covered the essentials of Sanatana Dharma, touching upon the Atman, Brahman, Atma Sakshatkara, Absolute Consciousness and how to reach ultimate happiness, the Bliss.
     You have surmised that Arjuna enjoys happiness through the pride of his mastery in archery, pleasing his master Drona, but we feel that it is more with reference to his ego and false pride rather than to impress the teacher. Your 185 reference to Rama and his going on exile and thus resulting in his father’s death is totally off mark as per our teachings. He did it for two reasons; as a dutiful son protecting the father’s pride and dignity to keep his promise, and to be able to carry out the purpose of his incarnation to kill Ravana. And attaining wealth is encouraged, but only through moral pursuit. Bhagavad Gita (2.47) explicitly explains ‘Karmanye vaadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kada Chana’, you have the right to perform, but not entitled to the fruits of your action. Do your duty, but don’t be attached to the fruits of your labor. Your example of Duryodhana is a perfect lesson against immoral, unscrupulous, behavior and greed.
     Wishing you the very best with your dissertation and for a bright future.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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