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Hindu Mythology

Discussion in 'Asian Mythology' started by Israel Khan, Jan 21, 2021.

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  1. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    I have just started reading a book published by Penguin Classics called Hindu Myths. It is translated and put together by Wendy Doniger who has compiled all her favourite stories together.

    I have finished the first section about Prajapati and Brahma and the different variations of the creation myths in the different source materials, the Rg Veda, the Brahmanas and Upanisads, Mahabharata and Puranas.

    I have a history in the monotheistic religions, mainly the Bible, but since I have left the JW's I have been continuing my passion of studying religions. I started off reading a book on Ancient Egyptian beliefs, which fascinated me. Now I am reading a book on Hindu myth. They are so different and even though they are confusing because I am being chucked in the deep end, the stories are colourful and fascinating, and they are very creative.

    So, I must say that I am confused! I have just figured out that Prajapati and Brahma are the same being and that Agni the god of fire which was the first creation to come from Brahma, and since fire is essential to sacrifice in order to maintain cosmic order, my understanding is that sacrifice essentially was the first creation, so universal order is the most important aspect in Hindu philosophy.

    Then I read another story about the first man, Manu (I think) who had 1000 eyes, 100 hands, and 1000 feet, who was split apart in order to be the foundation of creation.

    And then there is the incest, which to me seems to me to say that the sky is father of the earth, his daughter, and they had sex and his semen spilled on the ground which created everything, which I understand to be the rain falling to earth to create primordial life.

    I have no idea if I am interpreting everything correctly or if there even is a right interpretation.

    I am used to reading the bible which in most part follows a narrative and isn't so conflicting with its accounts. My question is: what are the purpose of Hindu myths? Is it supposed to tell a coherent truth or is it largely to make one think? I understand that the different stories are the result of different local tribes coming up with stories?

    I also find polytheistic religions to be highly metaphorical and creative. Is that the point? Is it to get us to think of universal truths rather than specific deities?
     
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  2. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    FYI, Doniger is decisively anti-Hindu. Please don't take her ideas about Hinduism seriously. She's very Freudian.

    As to myths, mostly they are stories with lessons. I think your last sentence expresses the main idea.
     
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  3. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    I did not know that about Doniger. But so far I have not come across anything in her writing that is anti Hindu. Rather her book is making me more interested in the mythology. Do you have any books that you could recommend?
     
  4. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    I'd recommend ... https://www.amazon.ca/Myth-Mithya-D...f5ec9&pd_rd_wg=uiGld&pd_rd_i=0143423320&psc=1 It's written by a Hindu.

    Doniger subtitled one of her books 'an alternative history' where she took great liberties. There has been a long standing debate between Hindus and several western Christian indologists, Doniger being a primary one, and Michael Witzel another. When western curricula writers call on 'experts' to write their curricula, they use western indologists rather than Hindu scholars. Both America, and Great Britain, and probably more, cast Hinduism in a negative light, compared to other faiths.

    Approaching something from a strict scholarly method does it injustice, because it takes the fun, and feelings out of it.

    But sure, go ahead.
     
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  5. sun rise

    sun rise "This is the Hour of God"
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    In my studies, I found it much better to approach an understanding with the 'heart' leading rather than the head.

    Just one example of how I approached the Battle of Kurukshetra where Lord Krishna is given as Arjuna's charioteer. I don't have a view on the historical evidence, but I took the description as at least partially symbolic. The meaning for me is that if the Lord is your guide and your path is determined by Him, you will be going in the right direction.

    I can guess but have nothing beyond ignorance about the significance of 100 and 1000. It is true that the kali yuga (dark age) is given as 1000 Deva years, for example, but beyond that I can't go. Hindu units of time - Wikipedia

    And it could easily be a problem of translation especially if one is not a deep student of the original.
     
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  6. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    Thanks.

    Yeah, western scholars interpret religion from their view, with their prejudices, ignoring the fact that the different cultures have different worldviews. We have the same problem with African religion, because the actual indigenous people pass their knowledge of their religion orally, they are very secretive about it and there is a language barrier. So what happened is that Western scholars just observed and used comparative religious expertise to understand African religion, but the actual meaning behind them was actually different. If one speaks to African scholars or Sangoma's then the story is very different.

    Now, I don't mind western scholars because I would see religion in much the same way that they do. But they have tinted glasses which cloud their judgement.
     
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  7. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    Wouldn't it be true that there must be a union of mind and heart in understanding a religion? To me, just by what I have read now, the mythology seems to be expressing some highly intellectual and thought provoking topics.
     
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  8. Marcion

    Marcion Self-realisation and Service to the Universe

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    Some of the stories in Indian culture are not entirely mythical such as the Mahabharata and certain stories or parts of those stories about Lord Shiva (and his family).
    The little I have read about Indian myths has been through the talks of the Indian (non-religious) philosopher P.R. Sarkar who spoke mostly about their origins.
     
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  9. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    Who is Lord Shiva? I only know about the god Shiva who is part of the Trimurti.
     
  10. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Oh dear,
    For Saivites like me, Shiva is God, period. Not the anthropomorphic version you find in mythology. That's not even part of my faith. I worship Shiva in three perfections, none of them like that.
    The Trimurti is incredibly rare in actual Hinduism and was only put forward (from some obscure texts) into encyclopedias by western scholars looking for something comparable to the Christian trinity. The 3 main names and versions of God, in Hinduism, are Shiva (for Saivites), Vishnu or one of his avatars (for Vaishnavites) and Shakti (the feminine aspect) usually in the form of Kali or Durga. (for Shaktites) All of them are God, period, to the adherents of those sects, respectively.
     
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  11. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    Oh no. So basically I am reading the work of western scholars and they aren't even getting God's right and making up their own stuff?!

    So are those three versions of God expressions of different qualities of him/it?

    Why do you worship Shiva and not the other two main names?
     
  12. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Yes, unfortunately.
    The three versions are, at the core, identical, although the focus in Vaishnavism, and Shaktism, is more on the manifest part. Same God, different names, and depictions.
    I worship Shiva because that's the version of Hinduism that called me. It 'felt' better to me.
     
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  13. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    Ok. Cool. So what would be the difference between Shiva and the rest that called you? Are there different rituals and philosophy associated with it?
     
  14. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Traditional Saivism in itself has 6 main schools: Kashmir Shaivism, Shaiva Siddhanta, Virasaivism, Pasupati Saivism, Siddha Siddhanta, and Siva Advaita. There are also Smartas (another school where several Gods can be seen as Supreme, and the devotee picks their favorite) whose ishta (chosen God) is Shiva, and Puranic Shaivism, where the focus IS on the myths and anthropomorphic stuff.

    Rituals vary by sect, as well as by geography. SriVaishnavism, Saiva Siddhanta, and Smarta in the South of India would be quite similar ritualistically, but not philosophically.
    Hinduism has rich diversity, as you might have guessed by now.
    Siva called me personally by the Nataraja dancing image. Siva as Nataraja is the main murthy on my home shrine. As you suggested early, it's all in the heart, and therefore difficult to explain. The best I could do is say that I feel remarkably inner and at peace in a Siva temple, and I've been to a few.
     
    #14 Vinayaka, Jan 21, 2021
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  15. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    Thanks. Hinduism must be quite a bit diverse. If Saivism has 6 main schools and some minor schools, I can only imagine how many schools there are in total considering that other gods must have schools as well.

    So what is the purpose of ritual in Hinduism? Is it to maintain the order of the universe?

    What would be Hinduisms ultimate purpose if there is any? From what I have read it is to end your cycle of reincarnation so that you can join the true reality?

    Hinduism seems extremely different from Christianity. It seems as if Christians had to create a strawman in order to attack the religion because the religion is too complex and the worldview is alien to them.
     
  16. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Ritual is at two levels: symbolic, and mystic reality. So it depends on the Hindu. Ancient texts called the Vedas and Agamas have explicit detail for a ton of ritual. It uses sound and motion to beseech the presence of God, or ask for specific blessings. A well trained Agamic priest has memorized a day or so without repetition of Vedic and agamic verses. Things like specific architecture in a temple, village design, house design, timings, and more are all in there.

    In part, it would be to maintan the order of the universe, but more generally, it's simply to beseech the presence of God. I do daily ritual and have visualisations associated with it. The better the priest, the more commitment and will put in, the more concentration you can muster up, the better it works. I've seen lightbulbs pop at high points in pujas, people fall in prostration, tears of bhakti, etc. It's the norm in certain places.

    Yes the ultimate purpose is moksha, which is the natural outcome of many lives well lived. There also preliminary goals in the meantime, which makes life more fun all around.

    Thanks for having an open mind. Yes,, the worldview is alien, but that also works the other way around. I simple cannot get my head around the excessive quoting of scripture, nor the need for 'a guy' to lead. I'm most likely way more lost at that stuff than you are at this.
     
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  17. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    What do you mean by symbolic and mystic?

    Why would one beseech the presence of God? Is it the same reason why Christians would worship theirs.

    Thanks for educating me. I think that there is a fundamental worldview difference between the Monotheistic religions and others. A cultural difference even. My problem is the logic behind them. Monotheism is straight forward and pretty linear. Polytheism seems like there are different paths to the same place and that story and ritual matter more than any consistency. It is extremely philosophical. Monotheism is a follow the leader type of religion whereas in polytheism human philosophical ingenuity is acceptable and that it is intellectually personal.
     
  18. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    'By symbolic, I meant some folks see the entire process, including the statues of the Gods, as symbolic of something else, abstract, and not actually there. It's like pretending. In the magical versions, it's not pretending. The devotee believes the presence of God is right there. So when offering food, for example, the smbolic type would see it as acting out a drama, whereas the well trained priest will be offering the prana (essence of the food, life-force) to the presence (astral body) of the deity.

    You beseech the presence of God to obtain blessings. They can be general or specific. It's like inviting royalty into your home. During puja the veils between worlds are weakened.

    Yes, Hinduism is personal, on many levels. Devotees have personal relationships with God and Gods.
     
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  19. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    Pretty much. They are also ways of teaching lessons to people who could not read, which was almost everyone. The puranic story of the marriage of Shiva and Parvati is hilarious (genuinely funny) on the face of it but it teaches a couple of lessons, one being the old "don't judge a book by its cover" (or a god by his appearance), and another that God is very forgiving despite being gravely insulted, and even has a sense of humor about it.
     
  20. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    She's condescending towards Hinduism. Max Mueller gets a bad rap, but he was a product of his times and corrected himself when necessary.
     
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