4b Hindu doctrines, schools, and history - samsara, moksha, and Vedanta
Variations/disagreements amongst various schools of thought within Hinduism include
Whether Samsara (realm of reincarnation - trap) is real or illusory. A product of ignorance?
Disagreement on Moksha (liberation), whether it comes in degrees or whether it is all or nothing. Whether it’s attainable in this life, if not is it something that comes after the reincarnation cycle.
Moksha’s ultimate stage involves a “union” with Brahman. Two views on this:
- Absolutists believe the union is ontological (you become or realise you are Brahman)
- Theistic Hindus thin of it as a psychological or relational union with God/Brahman (essentially going to heaven, the realm where God is).
3 of the 6 orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy:
Sankhya/Samkhya school – dualists (distinguishes between matter and self). Self (purusha) is pure consciousness. There are many sleves. They deny Atman is Brahman. They don’t believe in an ultimate reality, thus this school contradicts the Upanishads. There are later versions of this school which do include God however. Liberation is knowledge of one’s true self.
Yoga school. Yoga school has been closely associated with Samkhya. It can be theistic or absolutist, thus can be centred around gaining a relationship to a personal God or centred around impersonal Brahman. Focusses on controlling one’s senses, body and mind. They recite mantras. Their goal is to attain a state of pure consciousness called Samadhi: the mind is absorbed into the ultimate or being one with it. They also believe masters of this discipline can fly, levitate, do miracles, stop their heart from beating etc..
Vedanta school – traditionally was a scriptural school (interpreting the Upanishads). It tries to systematise the teaching that there’s only one being – Brahman. It tries to clarify what it means to say Atman is Brahman. Primarily Vishnaivite. 3 main subgroups in this school, 2 biggest:
Advaita Vedanta – Non dualism (no distinction between Atman and Brahman). Samsara is illusory. To get the cure (Moksha) is to have a non-conceptual awareness that Atman is Brahman.
Visistadvaita Vedanta – qualified non-dualism (in one sense a distinction can be made). Samsara is real. To get the cure (Moksha) is to go to Vishnu’s heavenly realm to enjoy him forever.
4c Hindu doctrines, schools, and history - Islam, and Christianity, and Modern Hinduism
Impact of Islam on Hinduism. This began in earnest in 1021 when Muslims (al Ghavni) conquered northwest India
Most notable Muslim rule in India: The Mughal/Mongol empire c. 1526-1857
Possibly a quarter of the population converted to Islam. As a reaction and interaction with Islam the monotheistic views of Hindusim was strengthened in some cases. There was also syncretism, Guru Nanak is thought by some scholars to have combined Hinduism and Islam.
Christianity also had an effect on Hinduism. Big impact came with colonialism and British imperialism (1777-1947). Today 2.3% of Indians are Christian. British scholars actively preserved some Hindu texts. They brought the printing press to India. Contact with British and Indians stimulated a number of reform movements.
Rammohum Roy (1774-1833) was influenced by Unitarian Christians (non-Trinitarian Christians who happened to be modernists). He argued there was an original Vedic tradition which was later corrupted. Roy thought it was originally monotheistic, mythology free and was aniconic. Roy founded a group, inn 1828, called Brahmo Samaj – a group which tried to purge Hinduism of idol worship and polytheism. This group still exists today.
Ramakrishna movement (1836-1886). A devotee of Kali. He was a convinced religious pluralist. Ramakrishna is widely worshipped in India today. Controversial character in Western writings.
5b Hindu Practices - Gandhi's pluralism and death
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 by a Hindu nationalist (people who believe india should be a Hindu country – extreme proponent of hindutva, hinduness) held to religious pluralism. He opposed:
Caste discrimination (untouchability).
Communalism (basing politics on religious groupings – people voting in blocks) [There was also the problem of communal violence in the subcontinent – Gandhi tried to stop this]
Experimented with brahmachariya (an attempt in eliminating all desire in the face of temptation). Part of this spiritual experiment was to sleep in bed with naked teen girls. He did not have sex with them. At some point before his death he stopped doing this. There are pictures of him with teenage girl helpers.
Screencast lectures by Dr. Dale Tuggy, for his INDS 120 World Religions - a college course surveying the traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and introducing students to the terms and classic theories of Religious Studies.