My last few notes on Historic India by Lucille Schulberg
EVOLVING THOUGHTS OF GOD
"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?
INTUITION OVER REASON
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."
ISLAM IN INDIA
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?