Author Archives: Vera Fields

Hinduism Asserts that Complete Fulfillment in Human Life

“Get up and set your shoulder to the wheel-how long is this life for? As you have come into this world, leave some mark behind. Otherwise where is the difference between you and trees and stones?-they too come into existence, decay, and die,” once said Swami Vivekananda. What makes for the complete fulfillment of human life? Although several answers may be provided to this question, Hinduism asserts that complete fulfillment in human life includes God-realization. Hinduism pinpoints the ultimate goal of human life as the achievement of moksha or freedom for the individual soul from the cycle of rebirth. According to Hindu philosophy, the supreme consciousness of this world is that of God. The purpose of our lives as human beings is to transcend our finite being and realize our infinite being, our divinity.

To begin with, Hinduism teaches us that this world is a manifestation of God. Hindu philosophy asserts that God or Brahman is the one absolute reality. Beyond all elements of the material universe and transcending all worldly limitations, God is sat chit ananda, an unlimited source of knowledge, bliss, and truth. This world is created and maintained by His power. As Lord Krishna remarks in the Bhagavad-Gita, “Know that all beings have their birth in this [the world]. I am the origin of all this world and its dissolution as well” (7:06). The world itself is maya, an illusion, in the sense that it has a temporary reality, in contrast with the absolute reality of God. As such, it is a training place for our individual souls to grow and break free from the worldly bondage to which we are held.

It is by the power of God that individual souls are born as human beings in this world. Hinduism teaches us that the individual is an embodiment of atman in the human body. Atman, or the “God within,” is the immortal soul of the individual that is hidden deeply behind the layers of the individual’s ego. Unlike other religions, Hinduism does not preach that the individual is a born sinner. Rather, it asserts that humanity is divine, but born unaware of this divinity. As Swami Vivekananda remarks, “Ye divinities on earth – sinners? It is a sin to call a man so.” Hindus believe that the individual is unable to discover atman due to avidya or ignorance which results from the maya of the world. The goal of human life is to transcend this maya and come to terms with the true nature of oneself by realizing God.

Until the individual soul achieves moksha, it passes through several earthly transmigrations by the process of reincarnation. Each time the individual soul is born in this world, it is subject to the natural laws of this world, samsara, such as death. Yet, even as the finite body that the soul inhabits perishes, the soul itself does not die. The Bhagavad-Gita supports these ideas, proclaiming, “Just as a person casts off worn-out garments and puts on others that are new, even so does the embodied soul cast off worn-out bodies and take on others that are new” (2:22). When the soul achieves the status of human being, it inherits personal responsibility, free-will, and effort. As such, the path of the soul is guided by the individual’s choices or karma. By virtue of the individual’s actions in this life, he or she will be reborn on earth to reap the fruits of his or her previous actions. The only way in which we can free ourselves from this cycle of life and death is by uniting ourselves with God. Thus, the ultimate goal of human life is to realize God.

As previously discussed, complete fulfillment of human life can occur only through God-realization. However, en route to such fulfillment, an individual must also fulfill other aspects of human life. Hinduism identifies three goals, dharma, artha, and kama, whose successful fulfillment, during worldly life, progressively leads to the accomplishment of the fourth and final goal, moksha. The first of these goals, dharma, refers to individual duty. Dharma is the path of righteousness and morality that the individual must adhere to. A human being must meet his or her obligations to his or her self, family, and society, as designated by his or her stage of life. Strong devotion to one’s svadharma or individual dharma, as prescribed by the individual’s role in the world, places the individual on the path towards spiritual perfection. The Bhagavad-Gita alludes to the importance of svadharma when Lord Krishna remarks, “Better is one’s own law though imperfectly carried out than the law of another carried out perfectly. One does not incur sin when one does the duty ordained by one’s own nature” (18:47).

On the path to God-realization, the second major aim is the fulfillment of artha or wealth. Although this goal is not an end in itself, its fulfillment is necessary for the achievement of moksha. In order to live in the spiritual world, an individual must first be able to live in the physical world. As such, a certain degree of wealth is necessary before an individual can begin to seriously contemplate God. As it is commonly remarked, “poverty is a social evil.” When human beings are unable to meet their material needs, they cannot claim spiritual goods, as poverty can force people to abandon their personal beliefs, morals, and dignity for the sake of survival. Although wealth cannot permanently satisfy our lives because of its transient nature, it is a primary goal that must be fulfilled before we can progress on to the higher level goal of spirituality.

During human life, we must also fulfill a third goal, that of kama or pleasure, before fully entering the spiritual realm. This goal refers to a human being’s individual physical and mental wants. Hinduism asserts that the fulfillment of human desires is necessary for spiritual progress. A person who moderately satisfies his or her innermost desires grows spiritually because he or she is able to channel his or her energy in a positive direction. For example, a person who is married feels pleasure through his family, and inadvertently exudes this happiness as love for his family, thereby reducing his own selfishness in the spiritual realm. Thus, the fulfillment of kama is also necessary in human life for spiritual growth because it heightens our consciousness of the world.

Dharma, artha, and kama, though worthy goals, are not ends in themselves; they are merely steps leading towards the greater goal of God-realization. How can we fulfill this ultimate goal of human life? Hinduism teaches us that though God is one, the paths to reach Him are many, because we are all different. Based on our individual personalities, Hindu philosophers prescribe one of four different types of yoga or training to achieve union with God. Bhakti yoga is a form of yoga in which a devotee adores God with all of his heart. In contrast, jnana yoga is for reflective people who seek to know God through knowledge. In karma yoga, a devotee performs his or her allotted tasks, submitting the fruits of his or her labors to God. Finally, in raja yoga, an individual unites with God through psychophysical exercises that discipline the body and mind. Regardless of these different paths to God, the goal remains the same, union with God. The Bhagavad-Gita identifies this goal, saying, “As a lamp in a windless place flickereth not, to such is likened the yogi of subdued thought who practices union with the Self” (6:19).

Attainment of moksha fulfills our human lives because it makes us one with this world. When we become aware of our innermost being, we are at once merged with God. As Lord Krishna teaches in the Bhagavad-Gita, “He who sees Me every where and sees all in Me; I am not lost to him nor is he lost to Me” (6:30). Freed from desire and weakness, we are able to live contently, with access to God’s infinite bliss. When we realize God, we truly become human, because we are capable of feeling the compassion that God has for us, and of serving all beings unconditionally as though we are serving God. The only aspect separating humanity from the classes of animals is our ability to know God. Through God-realization, our human consciousness is elevated and we become sharers of eternal being. As Swami Vivekananda remarks, we realize that “each soul is a star, and all stars are set in that infinite azure, that eternal sky, the Lord.”

Complete fulfillment of human life can only occur through God-realization. Hinduism avows that our purpose as human beings is to become one with God. Unless we assiduously work towards this goal, we will not be able to fully appreciate our humanity. God is waiting for each of us to come to Him; all it takes on our part is to have full faith in Him. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna assures us of His divine grace saying, “Believe in Me as sole refuge, cast aside all doubt and come unto Me. I shall save you from all sins. This is truth, friend. Cast off your fear” (18:66).

The Role of Yama and Niyama Steps of Yoga In the Provision of Essential Human Ethics

Before exploring the steps of Yama and Niyama of eight-fold Yoga, we must ask ourselves this simple question: What are the essential human ethics? According to Hinduism, ethics pertain mainly to our conduct, which being based in moral concepts, is considered to be the ultimate foundation of our spiritual and practical life.

The attitude we have toward things and people outside ourselves is called Yama. “Yama” has many different meanings. It may mean discipline, restraints, or rein, but in the present context it is used to mean “self control, forbearance, or duty.” There are five different Yamas, through which we, as individuals, interact with and relate to the outside world: Ahimsa (harmlessness), Sathya (truth), Asteya (abstention from stealing), Brahmacharya (control of the senses), and Aparigraha (diminishing materialistic desires). When we sincerely adopt these moral principles in our daily life, each and every act of interacting with the world would become utmost ethical, as it would be based on pure intensions devoid of violence, falsehood and selfish desires.

Ahimsa, means harmlessness or nonviolence. Believing and practicing non-violence displays our consideration towards all living beings. By following this essential ethical behavior, one can expect not only a peaceful social life, but a rich spiritual one as well. The second Yama; Sathya, meaning truthfulness, plays a vital rule in not just eight-fold Yoga, but in many aspects of Hinduism, and other religions as well. The immense power of truthfulness combined with non-violence, demonstrated by Mahatma Gandhi, resulted in freeing a nation of 500 million people from its 200 years of foreign rule without shedding a drop of blood. It cannot be stressed enough how important Satya is as a human ethic in our daily life; its absence can poison not only one’s family life, but also the social life as a whole. Another principal rule of Yoga is Asteya, meaning, “to abstain from stealing.” This being such a widely broken rule in our society today has resulted in high crime rates and distrust. Asteya is an essential ethical principle as it teaches us that it is simply wrong to obtain anything that does not belong to us. Brahmacharya is a movement toward the essential truth. Brahmacharya suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, and not to take advantage of a situation or be greedy. After all, greed is the root cause of all sins including all unethical acts and immoral behaviors that take us away from the righteous path to God.

Like the five Yamas, the Niyamas are not exercises or actions to be simply studied. They represent far more than an attitude. Compared with the Yamas, the Niyamas are more intimate and personal. They refer to the attitude we adopt toward ourselves. The five Niyamas are Sauca (cleanliness), Santosa (happiness due to contentment), Tapas (body fitness), Svadhyaya (introspection or self-evaluation), Isvarapranidhana (laying all actions at the feet of God).

Sauca means cleanliness of both the inner mind and the outer body. Cleansing the body on a regular basis relates to the basic human ethic of showing respect towards oneself and others around. Cleansing our inner-self can be cultivated through the regular practice of Yoga, and also by keeping the body rid of harmful chemicals, such as alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Another important Niyama is Santosa, the feeling of being content with what we have. There are occasions when we work hard to get something. We get very disappointed when we do not get the desired result. Some people may get into extreme depression as a result. We let ourselves into such hopelessness because we lack the discipline of being content with what we have. We should accept that there is a purpose for everything – that God has a plan for each one of our lives. We should accept the fact that we will not always get everything we want. Things do go wrong. This is the reason why Santosa is so important, as it teaches us to appreciate what we have. The next important Niyama; Tapas refers to the activity of keeping the body fit or to confront and handle the inner urges without outer show. Isvarapranidhana means “to lay all your actions at the feet of God.” While the Yamas teach us to do the best we can under all circumstances, the Niyama of Swadhaya encourages us to adopt continuous quality improvement through self-evaluation. After putting forward our best effort, Isvarapranidhana teaches us to offer the fruits of our actions to God in our daily prayers.

As a result of following the moral principles in Yama and Niyama Yoga, we will expect to experience a certain peace within ourselves and with others. Many times, people find themselves feeling depressed or overwhelmed by life. Many of these same people also may resort to seeking professional help and medicines to help overcome these problems. Little do they realize that if these simple ethical values are followed, it could diminish their problems faster than any medication could. If everyone would adopt and follow these simple ethics of human life, taught by Yama and Niyama in eight-fold Yoga, it would purify human nature and contribute to the health, happiness and harmony in our entire world.

It Is Essential to Learn and Perform Pooja to God Almighty in Hinduism

It is essential to learn and perform pooja in Hinduism. So, what is Hinduism? Hinduism is a religion that originated in India and mainly practiced in India. It is also practiced in other countries such as, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. People of the Hindu religion believe in many Gods and Goddesses that are all forms of one God who symbolizes power. Each form of a God or Goddess symbolizes a different power, such as knowledge, strength, or wealth. Hinduism is open minded to other religions and respects their practices and beliefs. Hinduism believes in doing things the right way, following the path of righteousness or “Dharma.” It teaches us about many essential values such as being truthful, loving, respectful, and peaceful. Hindus also believe that greed, selfishness, and anger will take a person nowhere.

What does it mean to perform pooja and why do we have to learn how to perform it? Pooja is when you pray to God and make offerings to God. It can be just a simple prayer or it can be a whole ritual! It teaches discipline and devotion. Praying to God makes a person humble and less arrogant. By praying to God, you start to not think so much about yourself and your greatness and start focusing on God and His greatness. People also learn about getting into a routine of praying daily, weekly, monthly, or maybe even yearly! Learning how to perform a pooja is essential. If you learn how to perform a pooja, you will become a brighter and wiser person. You will end up knowing much more than other people. Not many people know how to perform a pooja, because most of the poojas are complicated. There are various types of poojas for various different reasons, and one needs to know the appropriate chants and rituals. So, it is essential to learn how to perform poojas.

How does pooja help you? Pooja can clear a person’s mind. After you perform pooja, you usually start to feel good about yourself. No bad thoughts come to your mind, only good thoughts. Praying also helps you concentrate more. When you pray, you tend to do better at work and study and learn better in school.

Some people prefer doing pooja on their own and other people pray in groups together. There are two different types of pooja. One type of pooja is a satvic, and the other type is rajasic. A satvic pooja is when you calmly sit down and perform a simple pooja by focusing on God, praying and meditating upon Him. The other type of pooja, rajasic, is when a person performs an elaborate pooja to show the world what a great person he or she is, because they are praying to God. This type of pooja is not as effective as a satvic pooja because in a rajasic pooja, you are trying to show off, and while you are doing so, your mind will not be on God. Therefore, a satvic pooja is more effective.

I agree that it is essential to learn and perform pooja to God. Praying to God makes a person feel calmer and it clears and opens up their minds. Taking part in performing a pooja helped me learn about my religion. This way, I got a chance to learn more about the various Hindu Gods, Goddesses, beliefs, and practices of Hinduism. In my family, we do a pooja once a week with a few other families.

What is the purpose of performing a pooja? Hinduism believes that the purpose of a human’s life is to reach God. To reach God is a very difficult thing for a human to do. Only people who follow the path of righteousness, or “Dharma” will be able to reach God. It takes a lot of discipline and concentration. One of the purposes of performing a pooja is to discipline your mind. To do so, you must set aside a time everyday to sit and pray. By doing so, you are already disciplining your mind to a daily routine. Another way to discipline your mind is to sit and meditate. By meditating you learn how to set aside all of your thoughts and the thoughts that float by in your mind and concentrate more on God. Praying and chanting is another way to reach God. This also helps you discipline your mind. Finally, pooja is not the only way to reach God. Being a truthful person and making efforts to maintain peace throughout mankind can also help you reach God. A person’s goal in life should always be to reach God and to follow the path of righteousness.

Teenage Years

Puja is important in everyone’s life, especially a teenager’s. The years of teenage play a key role in what kind of personality traits the teenager will develop in the future part of their life. Puja helps the teenager acquire sattvic traits. Puja instills faith in a teenager; it also provides a sense of order in his/her life. Puja is done in a very specific and precise manner. Every sacrifice, every offering, and every chant has a meaning in puja. The meaning of puja has to be realized in order to get the benefits, punya (good luck), and the sattvic qualities. That is why it is essential for teenagers to learn the meaning of puja while they are doing puja. The doing of puja is of no avail if the teenager does not comprehend the meaning behind it.

The teenager’s mind is a composition of hyperactivity, rajasic thoughts, tamasic thoughts, and sattvic thoughts. Puja helps the teenager’s mind focus on the good sattvic thoughts. The more the teenager focuses on sattvic thoughts, the better he/she becomes. The mind is the reins that control the five senses which are the horses, which are in turn controlled by the charioteer who is the intellect. The jeeva is the chariot, which is safely controlled by the intellect. Yamadharmaraja in the Katho Upanishad tells this to Nachiketa. The teenagers are like the chariots, which are safely controlled by the intellect. If the teenagers do not let the intellect control the chariot, the whole chariot will go hayw! ire. When teenagers think bad thoughts, they let the five senses (horses) take among them. In puja, all the five senses in mind are used to worship God. We use the sense of touch to bow our head on God’s feet, we use it to clean the God’s idols, and last but not least, we use our sense of touch to wave the incense sticks around God. We use our sense of smell to smell the sweet aroma of the incense sticks. We use our sense of taste to eat the godly prasad, which has been offered to God. We use our sense of sight to see God’s control, which make the chariot in turn not go to the desired place. Teenage is the time where most of the beliefs are rooted inside the head. Because of this, teenagers have to build a strong foundation for good thoughts so that they will not be affected later on in their life by bad things. In conclusion, puja helps the life of a teenager in many ways.

In theory, it is easy to say to keep the five senses in control is very easy, but practically keeping the five senses in control is very hard. That is why our great sages and saints devised different methods to control the senses. One use his/her mouth to sing praises on the lord and one uses their hand to wave the incense sticks and aarati around the God. An individual uses their nose to smell the sweet incense. One can use his tremendous sense of sight to see the all-loving, all-forgiving, and all-sweet face. Not only does puja keep the five senses in control, it maintains good hygiene for the person, too. Every day, doing puja at a certain point of time promotes discipline in the individual’s life. That is why it is im! portant for us for us teenagers to do puja, because it provides order, discipline, and faith in our lives.

By doing worship, our instinctive forces can be tamed to become more humble. Today, teenagers are submitting more to their materialistic tendencies rather than their spiritual and ethical values. Religious education must not be left only to temples, schools, etc. It must be undertaken by the family, which exerts a more powerful influence in the life of the individual. It is now in the hands of our generation, to keep the worship alive, and pass this on to the next generation. It is not an easy task in our multi-cultural, multi-ethical, and multi-religious society. But, if the elders keep the religious values open, and more understandable, listening honestly to teenagers problems and doubts regarding the different kinds of worship (puja) and then are willing to try out explaining solutions, maybe teenagers today will experience the real joys of puja in their own life while growing up and maturing. It is always good to make puja the way of life, rather than part of life.

“If You’re Happy and You Know It…”

For many of us, our lives are spent in pursuit of happiness. As children, we wanted new toys or a trip to the amusement park. As childhood passed into adolescence, we sought happiness in other things: doing well in school, the attention of friends. Young adulthood flies by in the quest for knowledge, a career, and fulfilling childhood dreams. For parents, happiness lies in the success and contentment of their children. At every stage of our lives, we are constantly searching for something – that one thing that we believe will bring us happiness. But it is human nature to always crave something more; we can never be completely content with what we have. The minute we attain our goal, we immediately start yearning for something else. These material things that we spend our lives in pursuit of can only bring us temporary satisfaction. The key to finding true happiness lays in something much more powerful and much harder to attain.

Hinduism teaches us that the ultimate goal of human existence is moksha, or becoming one with God. People suffer through many lifetimes trying to achieve good karma by following the path of dharma, or righteousness. Many times, the temptations of the human existence lead us astray. In trying to satisfy our smallest desires, thinking that these will bring us happiness, we succumb to adharma, unrighteous conduct. We must learn to put off these frivolous desires in order to achieve complete fulfillment in life. This fulfillment can only be attained through the realization of God.

While the things we seek in life may not bring us total contentment, we must learn to find satisfaction in following the path of dharma. In the simplest sense of the word, dharma means doing one’s duty in life. As we carry out our responsibilities, we are essentially performing the duties God has prescribed for us; and in doing so, we can obtain a sense of fulfillment. Following the path of dharma brings us closer to God realization, and in turn, closer to true happiness.

However, simply performing our duties alone will not lead us to God. Many times, life throws us obstacles that make it difficult to do the right thing. Conflict is an inherent part of human life, and there are always temptations waiting to lead us astray. In order to find the strength required to adhere to dharma, we must first put our faith in God. There is a beautiful poem that someone once gave me that I find myself reading whenever I need inspiration. The poem, written by an unknown author, is titled “The Difference”. It shows us how important it is to pray each day, and illustrates how difficult everyday tasks can become without God’s blessing.

I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn’t have time to pray

Problems just tumbled about me,
And heavier came each task.
“Why doesn’t God help me?”
I wondered. He answered
“You didn’t ask.”

I wanted to see joy and beauty.
But the day toiled on gray and bleak;
I wondered why God didn’t show me
He said, “But you didn’t seek.”

I tried to come into God’s presence;
I tried every key in the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
“My child, you didn’t knock.”

I woke up early this morning,
And paused before started the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.

I know that I can personally attest to the sense of contentment I feel during my morning prayers, or the feeling of peace when I am singing bhajans at the temple. When I finish, I always feel stronger, ready to face the challenges of the day. I believe that having this devotion is the first step toward true happiness. At times, our faith is the only thing keeping us afloat when it feels like we are drowning in troubles. By realizing that all things happen by God’s will and by believing that our faith can and will get us through the hard times, we come ever closer to God realization.

My faith in God and in Hinduism has always helped me get through the challenges I have faced in life. Hinduism teaches us that no one path to God alone is correct; different people follow different paths, but as long as they have devotion, they may ultimately attain salvation. I feel blessed that my religion allows me to accept the beliefs of others along with my own. Without this sense of open-mindedness that Hinduism encourages, I would not have been able to draw such inspiration from this beautiful poem. By understanding that there is only one God, no matter what form he is worshipped in, we can accept the ideas of others and learn from them. In doing so, we come one step closer to the realization of God.

If devotion is the first step, then righteous conduct must follow soon after. Once we put faith God’s omnipotence, it becomes easier to carry out our duties and to follow the path of dharma. I was taught early on that within each of us there is a small part of God – atman – that can show us the right path in life. The difficult part is casting off the temptations of the physical body and allowing the atman to lead us to righteous conduct. The key to happiness in this life is realizing that by following the path of dharma, we are following God. Very few people can take the final step toward complete realization of God. Only those who are strong and dedicated can renounce the materialistic aspects of life and enter into the life of a sanyasi, or ascetic. Once they have freed their minds and bodies of the distractions of this world, they spend their days in God’s worship. Having achieved this last stage in the human life, these honorable ascetics may obtain salvation upon death.

For most of us, however, the duties and responsibilities of daily life prevent us from being able to renounce the material world. This is not to say that we cannot find happiness in the pleasures of day-to-day life. Rather, we must somehow be able to bring God into our everyday actions. When I was young, my parents taught me to always be respectful of other people – all people, whether they shared my beliefs or not. They wanted to teach me was that God was in everyone, and to disrespect someone would be disrespecting God. By understanding this fundamental idea – that God is in everything – we can take the first steps toward complete realization of the Almighty. Seeing God in those around us, as well as in nature, can help bring peace into our everyday lives. Faith and devotion can bring us closer to God by helping us carry out our duties and keeping us on the path of dharma.

In the great epic Mahabharata, even the noble Arjuna struggles to comprehend the meaning of human existence. Lord Krishna instructs him, telling Arjuna to simply do his duty, leaving the rest in God’s hands. Upon imparting the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, Lord Krishna reveals his true form to Arjuna as Bhagavan himself. Very few people will ever be blessed enough to experience God in all of his glory, as was the great warrior Arjuna. We can only pray that through our devotion, God will give us the strength we need to face the toils of life.

If we can make it through life following the principles of dharma, while continuing to have faith in God, we have done that all we can. During the good times as well as the bad, we must remember that by God’s blessing, we have been given the opportunity to experience human life. Life is a gift, and we should live it as righteously and honorably as we can. We must learn to cast aside the desires of the material world and seek to come closer to God in everything we do. By having faith in God’s will and by carrying out our responsibilities, we can hope to some day realize God’s great power and in doing so, achieve true bliss and ultimately, moksha.