"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

India: Rethinking God, His Oneness, Intuition Over Reason

My last few notes on Historic India by Lucille Schulberg


"Even as he reaffirms the ancient concept of oneness, Krishna reveals a shift in the concept of god and of man's relation to him. God, or the prevailing spirit behind the universe, remains one with creation, but he is no longer impassive; he is a personal god who loves man, who desires love in return and - most significant - he is a god who will assist man in his course through life."

"Such a god as Krishna is a far remove from Brahman, the impersonal world spirit put forth in the Upanishads.  Krishna's words indicate how the concept of the deity have evolved.  By the Fourth Century A.D. the loving kind of deity of which he spoke had grasped the hearts of the people -- and as it took hold there arose a new form of worship appropriate to such a god." 

I think it is interesting to consider the concept of oneness and how it is understood by different religions.  Here you see these words and may think of monotheism in the Islamic sense..especially if you aren't familiar with Hinduism at all and are just reading this quote plucked from its context.  Yet this oneness is a oneness of God with his creation.  Not "there is no god but God."   Hindus worship a variety of gods though they have their favorites.  (The book states "Vishnu, Shiva and Shiva's wife in several guises get the lion's share of" worship, that is bhakti: "a form of intense personal devotion.")  Likewise, the Trinitarian Christian's concept of oneness is also different from what a Jew or Muslim would understand it to be.  Perhaps two becoming one in marriage is a simple though imperfect way to better understand how three persons can make up one God.

Also isn't this quote interesting in that God is no longer impersonal, he loves and desires love in return? Also he will help us throughout our lives.  I couldn't help but think of Jesus's words about God loving us and us loving Him.  The assisting part reminds me of the Holy Spirit who would be sent to guide us into all truth.  Did this also make you think this way?


In the 9th century one of the greatest Indian philosophers Shankara "did for Hinduism what the 13th century Thomas Aquinas did for Christianity: he took his religion apart and examined it in minute detail, then drew the pieces together again in one cohesive whole."  He preferred the impersonal Brahman rather than the "concept of a warm and loving deity," yet "he persisted in writing eloquent hymns in praise of Shiva."  He wasn't a fan of Buddhism yet "employed missionary techniques similar to theirs."  After accepting without question his religious scriptures as divine revelation, he set about verifying his faith through reason yet in the end discarded reason in favor of intuition which was "the ability to seize on truth without recourse to reason."  Intuition was to be prized more than reason.  "All knowledge, he said, is warped and inconclusive, for the senses impair man's grasp of reality. Hampered by illusion and ignorance, man sees many forms where there is in truth only one reality -- Brahman: a reality that is changeless, timeless and unified in all things."


The final chapter dealt with the Muslims coming into India. Here is how the author contrasted Hindu and Islamic beliefs.

Muslims -- rigid monotheism; no God but God and Muhammad is His prophet

Hindus -- flexible theology; a "private affair" where each was able to find religious truth "in God, gods or a godless intellectual concept"

Muslims --  "all Muslims were brothers and that all men were equal before God regardless of their class or color"

Hindus --  "social inequality was the law of the universe and that if there was such a thing as blasphemy, it was to be found in the act of tampering with social order"

Any thoughts, corrections or observations on any of this?  What do you think of the shift of God from impassive to loving and personal and helpful to people?  Shankara preferred the former. Which do you like more? What do you think of Shankara's views about intuition trumping reason? Do you agree that "the senses impair man's grasp of reality" so knowledge is "warped and inconclusive"?  Other thoughts or comments?


Lat said...

My long comment is missing!

Suroor said...

Susie, I'll comeback to this. I'm preoccupied with something at home today.

Suroor said...

"Do you agree that "the senses impair man's grasp of reality" so knowledge is "warped and inconclusive"?"

Yes, I do.

I would love the idea of a loving and personal God but I often wonder if that is also just an idea that some of us sensitive ones have created because God is not always loving. He *tests* and *punishes* and is *angry*.

I was also thinking about the caste system yesterday and while driving back from work a thought occurred to me - in Islam no Arab is better than a non-Arab. Agreed. And all people are equal before God and stand shoulder to shoulder in a mosque. Agreed. But doesn't that also ensure that we are only talking about Muslims? I mean no Arab is better than a non-Arab as long as both are Muslim because a Muslims *IS* better than a non-Muslim and in a mosque no non-Muslim will be standing shoulder to shoulder with a Muslim. Isn't that a caste system based on faith? Wondering ...

Susanne said...

Lat, thankfully, it came to my e-mail. I'll post it for you.

From Lat:

"Did this also make you think this way?"

Yes it did,a long time ago.It's like how man wants God to be,personal or impersonal,far or near etc. I think God can be anything and everything.It's how we understand His/Her manifestation in this world and beyond.

Intuition and reason are both important but sometimes intuition wins esp when you feel strongly about something and decide to fulfill that urge instead.I saw a documentary in Animal Planet where a nursing lioness, who losses her cub,finds frantically to nurse a young.Do you who she chose? Her fav hunt! A young calf who lost it's mother! It was an incredible footage and the villagers couldn't believe their eyes when shown this.

Like the qoute,

"Hampered by illusion and ignorance, man sees many forms where there is in truth only one reality -- Brahman: a reality that is changeless, timeless and unified in all things"

I think it's the social inequality that some Indians couldn't handle and joined either Islam or Christianity.I don't know whether I'll agree with this fully,

"social inequality was the law of the universe..."
The natural world lives out accordingly as it's created.Is social inequality present in it?Maybe.We are the ones who say so.. Men are of the same species and we are not different like the cats and crocodiles are.Since we are identical we expect some kind of social equality and same treatment.That's why the caste system was/is seen as discriminatory in history.

Susanne said...

Suroor, do you have a loving and personal relationship with your children? :) I imagine you sometime punish and are angry with them. You may even test them so they will not be stagnant. I don't see that those attributes are proof that God isn't loving or personal. In fact I would think a God or parent who doesn't care about his children would let them stay shallow, would OK their bad behavior and never show that something they did was worth anger.

Interesting thought about the "Muslim caste system." I suppose we could do this for all faiths. I read something yesterday about a writer back in 1926 who compared Islam to an army. The call to prayer was like the wake-up call and lining up for a drill. It was an interesting thought. Maybe I'll post it one day and you can give me your feedback.

I really enjoyed your comment. Thanks much for the feedback!

Lat, I loved all that you had to say. I wonder if the Indians saw that people were unequal. In that some were poor, some had land, others were healthy, many were sick and thought that this must be the way it was meant to be so their belief system built up - not about making things different like helping the poor get out of their poverty, or helping the sick get better - so they just left things as they were thinking the gods meant it to be this way. It's either a great way to make yourself content with life believing the gods deemed it this way so let's leave things alone OR it's an awful way of looking at things because I read in some cases, the upper caste won't help out the lower caste believing they cannot tamper with what the gods warranted or the people's karma brought forth as a result of what they did in a previous life. It's like the people in lower castes had to endure their punishments without interference from those who could possibly help. It's actually quite fascinating to consider both aspects especially when you start comparing and contrasting them to other faiths.

That was so interesting about the lioness finding a young calf to nurse - incredible!

Thank you both for your thoughts! Really enjoyed them!

Suroor said...

I agree with the idea of God like a loving parent. But then I think about how many parents would let their child be abused and watch? How many parents would see their children get diseases - give diseases to them? How does that teach the child anything if the child won't even survive the disease or the disaster?

It is a tricky question. I have no answer.

Susanne said...

Good observation, however, I look at it a bit differently. Actually maybe I was brought up to think of it differently so I'm sure it has a lot to do with my faith and Christian worldview so to speak.

I see all the bad stuff as a result of our fallen world. Disasters happen, diseases come NOT because God wanted them to necessarily. Not because He likes seeing His kids suffer. But as a result of the sinful forces in this world, bad things happen. You reap what you sow.

The redeeming part to me has to do with Jesus. Just as the Hindus believe people are in the states they are in due to past sins in previous lives, I believe YES we all have sinned and we deserve perhaps a bad 'caste' in life, however, unlike the Hindus who are not willing to reach down to lower castes, Jesus did just this!

If you believe as I do,He is God Himself who reached down to this "lower caste" of humans on earth - He left heaven's glory to live among us! Imagine! - who do bad things *and* He offered redemption for a better life. Storms in this life, no doubt, but a promise that He would walk with us every step of the way.

And have eternal life with Him. My myth? Perhaps. But it's what gives me hope for each day. :)