Heretical Imperatives in Hindu Tradition and Mine
World religion scholars Esposito, Fasching, and Lewis suggest a diaspora model of religion where we live in a community where our religion is no longer the dominant, but one of many (96-7). Heretic is used in a positive sense as we choose the paths our religion takes us, co-existing with other religions that will help us see deeper paths in our own (33). This definition of heresy is close to what Catholics call tradition. For example, the meaning of the Trinity is found in scripture and in all the future interpretations of scripture that the Church Teaching Community approves of. This paper will study how Hinduism added on beliefs to adapt to history in premodern, modern, and postmodern situations. How Hindus added to their tradition will give me insight in how Catholics view the concept. Tradition is happening right now. How I look at God affects how I act. Is God a creator of a perfect world that humans are trying to get back to, or a creator of an evolving world that we must help realize?
traces the origins of Hinduism to the Vedas, collections of hymns of praise and
requests to deity that were introduced
by Aryan invaders prior to 1500 BCE (279).
The Upanishads were additions to the Vedas around 1000BCE. The Hindu religion becomes more ascetic with retreat and meditation as ways to increase religious life. Upanishad means “sitting near devotedly.” Believers sit near their guru, who teaches them how to achieve a higher mental state through the art of yoga, through which they get in touch with their karma, their way of living and thinking to advance to higher spiritual stages. This life is a prison (samsara). The guru will teach how to break free from this world and enter into the life of their soul or atman (282). Hinduism is turning from the idea of many gods in the original Vedas to one central God, Braham.
Mainstream Hinduism (Classical, 600BCE) arose from additional Sanscrit texts, purâna, that focused on stories of deities helping humans achieve the samsara-karma-moshka cycle (289-91). Samsura is the everyday world above which one must arise (moshka) to the world of the soul. The idea of bhakti, devotional faith, develops and is added, or developed more (icons, darshan, etc.) to the concept of karma. We also see the idea of reincarnation develop, especially in the “purana/add-on” of Vishnu and his avataras. Vishnu reincarnates or appears in human descendants (avataras) who battle evil forces. Hinduism is ecumenical. Many sects can claim to be descendants of Vishnu and other deity (295). This multi-god system can help people find their own karma by studying qualities of respective gods.
Post classical Hinduism through to the Islamic era also has its share of add-ons.
Many saints help keep Hindu continuity in the face of the Islam threat. Tantric Hinduism advocated new forms of spiritual exercises. Tantric means “weaving,” and the tantric gurus teach how to weave Hinduism with new religious ideas(303). Also, in this era, the nirguna “sants,” with their “impersonal Brahman, cried out against the social injustice of the caste system. The saguna Hindus believed in a personal form of the high deity. They would be in favor of the caste system since they saw themselves as being not mere avataras of Vishnu, but the real lords themselves (305, 311). The Sikh movement is a Moslem “add-on” to Hinduism. Sikh theology deals more with real life (earning an honest living, giving alms), and less on asceticism and caste values. Sikhs still join Hindus in major Hindu festivals (311).
More add-ons happened in the modern era. The Brahmin class rebelled against British colonization by reforming their own religion. Râmakrishna globalized Hindu religion by seeing Hindu deity compatible with other religions’ deity (315). Ghandi’s notion of ahimsâ, or non-violent rebellion, lead the way to a more powerful political rebellion. The spinning wheel metaphor (317) tells Indians not just to make their own cotton, but to make your own ideas through reading.
The Postmodern age sees a new add-on in the BJP, a political party returning to fundamentalism against the Ghandi founded secular people’s party. Postmodernism’s reaction to the “sins of science and modernity” can go in the direction of fundamentalism, or it can go to new interpretations of the sacred truths. Questions arise as to whether Hindus affect their next reincarnation or whether their Karma indicates the direction they are going (323). Ritual acts push and encourage them in the right moral direction. There is still more emphasis on ritual actions and icons than beliefs, but there is also a questioning of what is and is not real Hinduism. The “guru-busters” hunt the false teachers (336). Interpretation is growing more and more important (322-23).
We all have better tools to interpret our religion now. Maybe our creator God is in the future and it is up to us to realize the better world. Living beside Hindus may help us concretize important actions. Our puja offerings will be real payments of charity to fix the broken parts of the world. Our prasad (the remains of Hindu sacrifices used by the family for future reincarnations) will be charity and friendship poured back on itself allowing us to keep adding on to our tradition.
Esposito, John L., Fasching, Darrell J., and Lewis, Todd. World Religions Today. New
Sophocles’ Antigone, Creon’s
edict refusing burial to a treacherous brother promotes national unity, but the
In the Shang era of Chinese history (1575-1050 BCE) there was reciprocity between the living and dead. Food and honor were bestowed on the dead at elaborate burial sites. In return, the dead showered blessings on the living (439). By the Han era ( 1027 BCE – 220 CE), there was a belief that proper tombs facilitated exchanges between the living and the dead (441).
Confucius, 551-479 BCE, taught members of society how to become fully human (ren) through li, which consisted of ethical propriety, good manners, and the cultivation of ritual performances, and ancestor veneration (441-2). The focus of li was on filial conduct (hsaio) and brotherly love (t’i). Through a series of hierarchal relationships, we are bonded to our husbands and wives, to our elders and younger brothers, to our friends, and to our rulers and ministers. Confucianism is a practical philosophy/religion that expects us to live in harmony in society (443, 444). The family metaphor was extended to the community, state, and heaven. Confucius emphasized proper funeral and ancestor rituals.[ii]
Daoism, developed by Lao Zi in the same era as Confucius, was a major philosophy that encountered Confucianism. Dao is the primal force of creation from which yin yang (heaven/earth) forces emerge in harmonies. To experience the dao we must let go and pursue the path of non-interference (wu-wei), much like water (444). The goal of Daoism is more individualistic than Confucianism. Daoism, and Buddhism, which were to come into China and then Japan from trade routes with India (220-617 CE), also stressed the importance of burial rites and the manipulation of the death passage to everyone’s benefit (448-9). These death rites united their societies not only to their ancestors and gods, but to their own community members. Confucianism (neo-confucianism) would adapt Daoist practices and form correspondences from the individual to the heavens (455-6). [iii]
colonialism and the age of modernity saw a decline in Confucianism. Western
values deemphasize the group in favor of the individual where more innovation
is possible (468-9). The Literati Confucianism (strict state control) ended,
but Confucianism still was a major factor.[iv]
The Jesuits had difficulty in
Postmodern era, Communism (Mao and Deng
Good luck icons (fu) still
exist in homes of Chinese officials. The state recognizes the need to accept
religion as a necessary tradition to keep national solidarity. Fu yu (literally
fishing for good luck) icons are abundant. In Mary Oliver’s poem “Some herons,
” the blue heron is a Chinese preacher and the white heron is a poet. They
along with two other beautiful herons fish in a stream trying to capture the
silver lines in the dark silk water that are made by the wind or the movement
of life below the water.[v]
The herons are examples of the diffused East Asian religions where believers
search the harmony and depth of their beings. Antigone
and the people of
Esposito, John L., Fasching, Darrell J., and Lewis, Todd. World Religions Today. New
Otto, Rudolph. The Idea of Holy. Trans. John W.
Oliver, Mary. Owls and
Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays.
Necessary Useless Exiles: Jewish
The Jewish are a people loved by God, chosen to live in a promised land if they remain true to the covenant established in the Torah. Interpreting the Torah, including the meaning of “the promised land,” is a major part of their struggled history. Poets, according to French Symbolist poet Stephane Mallarmé, interpret the world. All experiences are destined to end up in the Book. For the Book to last, it has to reach the Stage where the audience will preserve its truth. Mallarmé compares the stage with the Catholic Mass altar where the truth of the Incarnation is preserved by the Faithful. Jewish history is about the struggle of interpreting their book, the Torah, and how it is brought to its stage in Jewish rituals. This paper will look at Judaism as a Book religion. The idea of book and its interpretation will show the importance of Judaism’s history, the conflict between Rabbinic and Hasidic Judaism, modernity’s struggle with Reform Judaism, Orthodox and Secular Judaism, and the interpretation of the sacred space promised to them by God. What it means to be a Jew will make us all question what it means to be what we are.
Myth and Ritual
points out that the theme of exile and return is central to Jewish history. The
Exodus, where the covenant of the promise land is made with Moses, and the
Babylonian Exile, where the Jews broke the covenant, are two key moments
(128-9). Their history or story is not one of unconditional guarantee to David,
but a pattern of exiles and returns because of the breaks in the covenant in
the Torah by the people, as in the Babylonian exile where the people worshipped
the Egyptian, then Babylonian idols, rather than the true God. The destruction
Rabbinic and Hasidic
teachers interpreted The Torah orally after the second destruction of the
The Talmudic study moved Judaism away from the formal temple and priests to synagogues and private homes of local rabbi teachers. Religion was privatizing and questions arose as to what makes one a Jew (130-2). With the Enlightenment and modernity, Jews were starting to be accepted as citizens. Reformed Judaism answered the needs of Jews who wanted to keep the essence of their religion, but belong to the state as well. They embraced the rational-ethical system of the prophets, but were not insistent on the Talmud as revelation (157). Not tied to a specific land, and thus adaptable to the diaspora, Reformed Jews still insisted on belonging to a religious community (157). The Orthodox movement countered Reform Judaism. Resistant to change it regarded the Torah as the only truth (158). Conservative Judaism was a compromise (160). Peter Berger’s “heretical imperative” (158) comes positively to play in modernity. You have to “choose” the type of Judaism you want to follow. This choice comes after an important interpretation of your history “book” of what it means to be a Jew.
Secular movements arose in modernity. Zionism interpreted the Scriptures in a more social way. The Messiah was a militant figure with David and Moses as models of the military leaders Jews would need to get their land back (166). The socialist and Zionist movements made it possible for the State of Israel to come into existence.
The Holocaust, followed by the establishment of the State of Israel, provided another exile-redemption story (172-3). This time, however, as Elie Weisel claims, God broke the covenant. Jews are no longer required to keep the covenant because of God. Now they must do it on their own free will (173). Maybe an artist like Weisel will be able to “explain” the unity of Jewish experience in a way acceptable to extremist factions. Mallarmé has a swan caught in the ice for not having flown South.* The swan is brilliant, but has a look of scorn in his useless exile, useless because he could have flown South. The swan-poet hopes for a break through in the ice. The hard lake can be the hostile audience or the inability of the poet to break through with the right words. The metaphor is in exile of ordinary language. We need the right metaphor and the right poet. For the time being, we have to have the courage to stay in exile and search for new entries to Mallarmé’s Book that we all will want to celebrate in worship.
Esposito, John L., Fasching, Darrell J., and Lewis, Todd. World Religions Today. New
“Crayonné au théatre.” Oeuvres completes.
Smart, Ninian. The Religious
The virgin, the lively and the beautiful today
Is it going to tear open for us with a blow of its drunken wing
This hard lake that haunts under the ice
The transparent glacier of flights not flown.
A swan of former times remembers that it is he
Magnificent but who without hope gave himself up
For not having sung the region of life
When sterile winter poured out its trouble.
All his neck will shake off this white agony
By space inflicted to the bird who denies it
But not the horror of the ground where his feathers are caught.
Phantom that to this place his pure brilliance assigns him
He immobilizes himself to the cold look of scorn
That wears during his useless exile the swan.
Le vierge le vivace et le bel aujourd’hui
Va-t-il nous déchirer avec un coup d’aile ivre
Ce lac dur que hante sous le givre
Le transparent glacier des vols qui n’ont pas fui.
Un cygne d’autrefois se souvient que c’est lui
Magnifique mais qui sans espoir se délivre
Pour n’avoir pas chanté la région où vivre
Quand du stérile hiver a resplendi l’ennui.
Tout son col secouera cette blanche agonie
Par l’espace infligé à l’oiseau qui le nie
Mais non l’horreur du sol où le plumage est pris
Fantôme qu’à ce lieu son pur éclat assigne
Il s’immobilise au songe froid de mépris
Que vêt parmi l’exil inutile le cygne.
Hindu Tactics for Liberation: Symbolic Works of Mercy: Lib Theology/Mysticism vs Prophetic
has a connotation of being based on meditation with a liberating desire to be
free from this world where there is a complex social caste system from which
souls can transmigrate. Usually these qualities would not favor an engaged
social liberation theology. By studying political social interpretations, we
will be able to get a deeper understanding of the complexities of Hinduism, and
get a richer understanding of our own religion. In this paper, I will explore
the mystic/prophetic distinctions made by Hans Küng
showing how they fit in with the Hindu ways to God. A discussion Rahner’s definition of symbol and sacrament will draw light
on the struggle between dualist and non-dualist approaches to God. This will
allow us to see how the
Mystical and Prophetic Religions
Religion , according to Hans Küng, is a many layered realization of a relationship that takes in human kind and their world and
connects them to an ultimate reality (an absolute like God, Brahman, Nirvana).
This reality embraces all things from the first to the last (170). Huston Smith
says that religion helps us transcend the smallness of the finite self ((38).
Are we seeking relief from our condition as an escape from this world, or as a
way to live better in this world? Hans Küng distinguishes between two types of religion. The
mystical is concerned with the religious experience of an immediate intuitive
experience of unity that abolishes the subject-object division (169). It is
turned inward with a goal of feeling a oneness with the divine, and a loss of
self (170, 175). In
The jnana yoga is the path or way through knowledge associated with Küng’s mystical religion. Smith says God is like the infinite sea of being under the waves of our finite selves. “The sea typified the all-pervading Self, which is as much within us as without, and with which we should seek to identify. Thus envisioned, God is impersonal, or rather transpersonal, for personalty, being something definite seems to be finite whereas the jnanic godhead is infinite”(33). This knowledge is intuitive. We try to arrive at a knowledge of the true self. We try to discover their atman, the God within (Smith 29-30). We examine all of our selves to arrive at the bigger self. Smith explains it using the rider in the chariot as a metaphor of the total self. The horses are the senses, the landscape life; the reins is the mind controlling the senses and the charioteer is the decision maker. Who is the “total” master? That is what the rider is looking for, using all his rational and spiritual skills (Smith 31).
The karma and bhakti paths to God are more in line with Küng’s prophetic religion because they deal more with this life, and with a personal god with whom humans can relate. The karma yoga is the way through work. You become what you do. According to Smith, this way can be “affective” where you lose yourself in your devotion to your husband, or child or cause, or “reflective,” where through duty to work you try to grasp your eternal self (38-40). Smith compares the karma yoga to a diet where you starve your finite self, looking for your essence (41). The bhakti yoga is the way of love and devotion. The god of this way is more personal. God is the “other” whom we must learn to love. We use myths in this yoga. In loving and worshiping God, we too become that love (34). Thus, myths help us establish ideals to aspire to (34). [vi]
Ninian Smart sees the essence of Hinduism as a blending of two forms of life: bhakti devotionalism and yoga or contemplation. The blending of these two has given rise to the major schools of Hindu thought (113-14).
Liberation Theology’s Place in the Two Religions
blend the contemplative with the devotion aspects of religion will determine
whether you work more for social justice in the world, or prepare yourself for
flight from the world to another place. Is my religion with a personal or
impersonal god? Is it a prophetic vision or a mystical experience? Does the nirguna concept
of an impersonal god promote more action against the injustices of the caste
system? Ravidas’s teaching (1450CE) implies that a
“formless ultimate” transcends all caste discrimination (Esposito 306). Norman
Thomas reasons that Ghandi’s way of being free from
desire (meditation) can make you free to help others (159-60). Ghandi’s idea of “no one saved until all are saved” is
close to the Catholic concept of the communion of saints. Truth here is more
impersonal and helps rise above social discriminations. Huston Smith sees karma
as the moral law of Hinduism. We must assume the moral responsibility of
our actions (64). Hans Küng sees the karma way as political and in the
“prophetic” line of religion (217) and sees
The Sacramental Symbol
A symbol is sacramental if it places the divine in our world. By studying the sacramental value of the symbols we can arrive at criteria for deciding which symbols to cultivate. Karl Rahner discusses the aspects of symbol to arrive at a clearer idea of the Trinity. A symbol is a greater known that gives access to a lesser known, like the mystery of the Trinity (225). A being comes to itself by expression of how it constitutes itself in the “other” ((230). We can only be aware of the “I” part of our being when we articulate it as an object. There is no way out of this reflexive situation, unless you are a complete mystic. We need myths to understand our being. Rahner would call them the derivatives of how each reality makes itself known (230). Each symbol has an eidos, a phantom/idea form and a morphe a material form (231). The essence of the reality of the symbol is what gives rise to it. Rahner explains:
“For how does the figure-forming essence of a being (material to start with) constitute and perfect itself? It does so by really projecting its visible figure outside itself as its – symbol, its appearance, which allows it to be there, which brings it out to existence in the world: and in doing so, it retains it – ‘possessing itself in the other.’ The essence is there for itself and for others precisely because of its appearance…” (231).
The Trinitarian God pours himself out into the symbol of Jesus. God wished to be on the earth and Jesus is what God chose to be in free grace (237-8). Jesus, the son or logos is not God’s musical instrument. He cannot be reversed (238). The symbolic function of the Church is to be the presence of the Incarnation of the Logos (240). Hans Küng says that the sacred text or symbol differs from the fairy tale, which is just for entertainment (199). Symbols become idols when they become their own values (259). Rahner says that the “yes” in marriage is symbolic of the faithfulness and love of the partners. It is not the love itself, but it does cause it in a certain way (240-1). Can we use the “dualism” of symbol and its reality to help us understand the advaita vendanta theory of oneness?
Advaita and Love and Works of Mercy
Advaita Vedanta, a predominant philosophical
The Personal Ultimate Through Poetic Symbols
Religious experiences have to be expressed to be understood, and to avoid total egoism. The Hindu poet Tagore was not a non-dualist. He connected us with God through his poetry and writings. Love and works of mercy to others is the key to arriving at his ideal -- “the personal ultimate.” Donald Tuck explores the religious/social motifs of his poetry. His symbols of love, expressing silence and religious experience turn to social concerns. In a dialogue with the sun, a dewdrop laments that he is too small to take the sun unto himself, and thus his life is all tears. The sun in response yields to the dewdrop. He will become a sparkle of light in the life of the dewdrop, which now will be filled with a laughing art (Tuck 102). The worshipper and the worshipped become lost in each other in the above poem. My tears are the way to a deeper reality in union with others who are crying the same tunes. The mystical experiences of religion are complimented by the myths and symbols of religion in the real world. The Hindu ways of knowledge, love and work help me see the tears of love in my Catholic symbol of God – Jesus Christ.
Esposito, John L., Fasching, Darrell J., and Lewis, Todd. World Religions Today. New
Küng, Hans, Van Ess, Josef, Von Steitencron, Heinrich,and Bechert, Heinz. Christianity
and the World Religions: Paths of Dialogue with Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Trans. Peter Heinegg. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1986.
Panikkar, Raymond. “Advaita and Bhakti: Love and Identity in a Hindu-Christian
Dialogue.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 7.2 (Spring 1970) 299-309.
Rahner, Karl. Theological Investigations IV: More Recent Writings. Trans. Kevin
Smart, Ninian. The Religious Experience. 5th Ed. Upper saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall,
Smith, Huston. The
Thomas, Norman E. “Liberation for Life: A Hindu Liberation Philosophy.” Missiology
16.2 (Apr 1988) 149-160.
Tincq, Henri. “An Irruption of Truth: An Interview with Raimon Panikkar.” Trans.
Christian Century. 117.23 (
Tuck, Donald R. “The Religious Motif in the Poetry of Rabindranath Tagore.” Numen
21.2 (Aug 1974) 97-104.
[i] When the “water” becomes too active it clashed with cultures and does not work. I was thinking of Religious Daoism, for example which had a more alchemical concrete approach to the divine. When religion becomes too specific about eternity, it is less likely to be adapted by other thinkers from other cultures. The “kitchen god” (485-6) is another example of religious correspondance that is too tight.
[ii] For complete harmony, his disciple Mencius (371-279 BCE) advocated rule by the “Mandate of Heaven.” All of history was watching over rulers. If unjust, rebellion was advocated (443).
[iii] In early Japanese religion, Shintoism, there is a rapport with the creating primordial couple who created the kami, the deity responsible for the sun, the moon and other aspects of nature. The kami deity also engendered humans, with the imperial royal family being first. Thus there is a rapport between the gods and humans in the temples and in the burial places. The Japanese shamans facilitate the rapport between the gods and humans. The shrines of the gods and burial places are where they meet.
[v] Some Herons
A blue preacher The poet’s eyes
flew toward the swamp flared, just as a poet’s eyes
in slow motion. are said to do
On the leafy banks, when the poet is awakened
an old Chinese poet, from the deepest meditation.
hunched in the white gown of his wings, It was summer.
was waiting. It was only a few moments past the sun’s rising
The water which meant that the whole long sweet day
was the kind of dark silk lay before them.
that has silver lines They greeted each other,
shot through it rumpling their gowns for an instant,
when touched by the wind and then smoothing them.
or splashed upward, They entered the water,
in a small, quick flower, and instantly two more herons --
by the life beneath it. equally as beautiful --
The preacher joined them and stood just beneath them
made his difficult landing, in the black, polished water
his skirts up around his knees. Where they fished all day.
[vi] Smith also talks of a fourth way, the raja yoga, which consists of psych-physical exercises to clear the mind and think of God (43-4). This way seems compatible with the other yogas.