Category: Religion

Rosicrucianism

According to the author Manly P. Hall, there are four distinct theories about Rosicrucianism:

1) There is an assumption that the Rosicrucian Order existed historically in accordance with the description in Fama Fraternitatis which appeared in print in 1614. This pamphlet reminds the reader of God’s goodness, warns the intelligentsia of following false prophets and ignoring the true knowledge, and makes clear that a reformation is necessary.

2) Some Masonic brethren accept the historical existence of the “Brotherhood of the Rose Cross” and believe that it originated in mediaeval Europe as an outgrowth of alchemical speculation and that Johann Valentin Andrea, a German theologian, was the founder and might have reformed an existing society established by Sir Henry Cornelius Agrippa; some believe that Rosicrucians represented the first European invasion of Buddhist and Brahmin culture; and still others believe it was founded in Egypt during the philosophic supremacy of that empire.

3) The third theory takes the form of a sweeping denial of Rosicrucianism claiming that it was entirely a product of imagination.

4) The fourth theory asserts that the Rosicrucians actually possessed all the supernatural powers with which they were credited. According to this theory, the true Rosicrucian Brotherhood consisted of a limited number of highly developed adepts who possessed the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone and knew the process of transmuting the base metals into gold but taught that these were only allegorical terms concealing the true mystery of human regeneration through the transmutation of the “base elements” of man’s lower nature into the “gold” of intellectual and spiritual realization.
There are quite a few books and articles about Rosicrucianism in print and online. Online can be found two works by the German Theosophist, Dr. Franz Hartmann:

  1. With the Adepts, an Adventure among the Rosicrucians
  2. Cosmology, or Universal Science, Containing the Mysteries of the Universe regarding God, Nature, Man, the Macrocosm and the Microcosm; Eternity and Time, by means of the Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians.

The founder of Anthropology, Dr. Rudolf Steiner, has given numerous lectures, titled “Theosophy of the Rosicrucian”.

The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucianspublished in 1918 can be found online as well. In this book the reader learns that the Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians is believed to have been built up gradually and carefully, by the old occult masters and adepts, from the scattered fragments of the esoteric teachings which were treasured by the wise men of all races. The legend runs that these fragments of the Secret Doctrine were the scattered portions of the old esoteric teaching of ancient Atlantis—the bits of the great mass of the Atlantean occult teachings which were scattered in all directions by the great cataclysm which had destroyed that great continent. The few survivors of the Atlantean civilization carefully preserved these Fragments of Truth, and passed them on to their chosen students and capable descendants.

The old Masters who made it the object of their lives to gather together these scattered fragments, and to reconstruct the Occult Doctrine of the Atlanteans, found a portion of their material in Egypt, in India, in Persia, in Chaldea, in Medea, in China, in Assyria, and in Ancient Greece, and also in the mystic records of the Hebrews, such as the Kabballah and the Zohar. The common source, however, may be regarded as distinctly Oriental. The great philosophies of the East, in fact, may be said to have been built upon the base of these still more ancient teachings. Moreover, the great Grecian Secret Teachings are believed to have been based upon knowledge obtained from this same common source. So, at the last, the Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians may be said to be the Secret Doctrine of Atlantis, transmitted through the descendants of the people of that great center of occult knowledge.
The Rosicrucians teach that that there are Seven Cosmic Principles present and operating throughout the Cosmos, and extending even to its smallest activities. These Seven Cosmic Principles are as follows:

1) The Principle of Correspondence (manifests in a certain correspondence or analogy between manifestations of the various planes of activity in the Cosmos and is indicated by the old Hermetic aphorism: “As above, so below; as below, so above,” and by the Arcane axiom: “Ex Uno disce Omnes,” or “From One know All.”)

2) The Principle of Law and Order (manifests in the presence and manifestation of a regular sequence, and orderly procession of phenomena in the universe of things. It is voiced by the celebrated axiom of a leading scientist that “The Universe is governed by laws.” The spirit of this principle of truth is embodied in the very term “The Cosmos,” which term is derived from the Greek term “Kosmos,” meaning: “The world or universe considered in connection with perfect order and arrangement, as opposed to Chaos.” In the occult teachings of the Rosicrucians it is impressed upon the student that “there is no such thing as Chance,” in so far as Chance is used in the sense of “uncaused happening.”)

3) The Principle of Vibration (manifests in the manifestation of a state of vibration in everything in the Manifested Cosmos. It is voiced by the old occult axiom: “Everything vibrates.” Science now tells us that not only is every particle of matter, or every mass of matter, in a state of continual vibration, but also that light, heat, magnetism, electricity and every other form of natural force results from a state of vibration. The occultists go further than this, and assert that even on the mental and spiritual planes there is ever manifest a condition of vibration.

4) The Principle of Rhythm (manifests in that universal regular swing or time-beat which is apparent in all the manifested world, from its highest to its lowest manifestation. The ancient occult axiom “Everything beats time” expresses this fundamental fact of the Cosmos. Rhythm means: “Regularly recurring motion, change or impulse proceeding in time-measured, alternating sequence.”)

5) The Principle of Cycles (manifests that universal circular direction of process or progress which is apparent in all the manifested world, from its highest to its lowest manifestation. The spirit of this principle was expressed in the ancient occult axiom: “Everything proceeds in circles.”)

6) The Principle of Polarity (manifests that universal fact of “the pairs of opposites,” or “the antinomies,” which is apparent in all the manifested world, from its highest to its lowest manifestation. The spirit of this principle was expressed in the ancient occult axiom: “Everything has its Opposite, which is the other pole of its manifestation.” One of the most surprising features of this discovery is that we have to understand that the two contrasting sets of qualities are really but two aspects or phases of the whole thing—the real thing, or thing in itself—the unity of the two, instead of being two separated and distinct things. Or, stating it in other words, we discover that the two opposing sets of characteristics are merely relative to each other, and together form a correlated unity and balanced whole.)

7) The Principle of Sex (manifests in the universal presence of sex distinction and activity which is apparent in all the manifested world, from its highest to its lowest manifestations. The spirit of this principle was expressed in the ancient occult axiom: “Sex is omnipresent and all-pervasive in the universe. All creation is generation, and all generation proceeds from Sex.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

Despite the fact that I have heard about allegations of misconduct about Sogyal Rinpoche I decided to read the book.  I wanted to focus on the message and not the messenger.   And if you find The Tibetan Book of the Dead extremely challenging and complicated but are interested in the topic you might like it.  It is clear, informative and insightful and very accessible because Ringpoche made complex concepts understandable and useable. Compassion and mindfulness are emphasized numerous times and we as readers can find tools that will help us face the inevitable truth that we are all going to die, at some point. The author skillfully shares his own wisdom, that of  other masters, and anecdotal evidence of what may happen when we physically die, and the stages we may go through during the process.

Topics discussed include the Bardo states, reincarnation, the concept of karma, and fear of the unknown. The Eastern way of looking at death as only a ‘transition’ is explained in a simple manner. The book helps one to understand the true meaning of the phenomena called death and this understanding could help one to reduce the irrational fear of death.

There is quite a substantial amount of Tibetan ritual encased in this book though and not everything might be useful for those who are not interested to delve too deeply into Tibetan Buddhism or trying to find a Guru.  Dalai Lama cautioned against rushing into commitment to a lama. “In Tibet”, he says, “it could take 12 years before a lama-disciple relationship was established.”

But what the readers learn in the book may be deeply meaningful. I personally liked that he reminded us to be loving an compassionate, no matter what others do to us; that we are responsible for everything we do, say or think; that true spirituality is to be aware that if we are interdependent with everything and everyone else, even our smallest, least significant thoughts, words, and actions have real consequences throughout the universe.

He further points out that it is extremely important to realize the nature of our mind because that way we realize the nature of all things and that we in the West are terrified to look inward, because our culture has given us no idea of what we will find. In his opinion spiritual truth is not something elaborate and esoteric but common sense.

As in so many other spiritual books we read of the importance of meditation and that the gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. But we need to create the right inner environment of the mind for our meditation. We should sit quietly, the body still, the spine straight and allow thoughts and emotions to rise, to come and to go, without clinging to anything or making any judgments. The point is not how long we meditate; the point is whether the practice actually brings us to a state of mindfulness and presence; but we do need to practice regularly.

In the chapter about Karma and Rebirth he reminds us that the effect of our actions depends entirely upon the intention or motivation behind them, and not upon their scale. In addition he points out that we can use every situation, however seemingly hopeless and terrible, to evolve.  He recommends that we examine our actions, and become really mindful of them, so we can detect that there is a pattern that repeats itself in our actions.

In the edition from 1993, which I have read, we can read anecdotal evidence from people with near-death experiences and the author answers a few questions about death in Appendix Two, which I personally found very useful.  The readers can also find different mantras and practices to prepare for death.

Meister Eckhart

One of the reasons I picked this book is that I find the introduction by Oliver Davies very illuminating. He starts with an overview to Meister Eckhart’s life and explanations of his thoughts about Oneness, Creation, The Ground of the Soul, The Birth of God in the Soul, and Detachment. He further discusses his methods and the European intellectual tradition in regards to Eckhart’s work.

My favorite part is The Talks of Instruction because he explains his thought on true obedience, the most powerful prayer, the undetached people who are full of self-will, the value of renunciation, on detachment and possessing God, and how we should perform our works in the most rational way.  He tells us to make a constant effort in spiritual progress and how temptation to sin always aids our progress; explains the virtue of the will and what to do if we cannot find God. He continues by talking about sin, repentance; true confidence and hope; on the two kinds of certainty of eternal life, how to remain peaceful when confronted with oppression, how to enjoy food and cheerful company and he explains why God sometimes allows good people to be hindered. Meister Eckhart ends this book with thoughts on spiritual endeavor and how to find the right path.

In The Noble Man he explains that we possess in ourselves two natures, one that is body and the other spiritCompare with the concept of personality (body) and individuality (spirit) in Theosophy under Philosophy; he speaks of the nobility of the inner man, that is the spirit, and the worthlessness of the outer man, that is the flesh and that the seed of God is in us; he also points out that “it is in Oneness that God is found, and they who would find God must themselves become One.”  And he emphasizes that we have to know ourselvesCompare with To Know Yourself and Self-Healing, Yoga and Destiny under Spiritual Development in order to know God.

The German and Latin sermons are easy to read and cover different issues and passages from the Bible.

Statements from the German sermons that caught my attention included his recommendation to take note of our weaknesses and overcome them; that all the commandments of God proceed from love; that God is in all things, that he made all things and remained within them; that we should love our neighbors as ourselves; and that we should become free of ourselves and of all things. He tells us that our blessedness does not lie in our active doing, rather in our passive reception of God. His explanation in sermon 15 about Holy Trinity, that distinction within the Trinity comes from its unity, reminded me of the explanation of Elisabeth Haich in Initiation about the triangleSee page 244 in the free online-pdf version of the book or compare with Initiation under Metaphysics.

My favorite Latin sermon is the last one, a very short discourse about what we should bear in mind with respect to the words of prayer.

He repeats more than once that a relationship to the Good comes from within rather than without. He also rejects the importance of forms of worship and insists on an interior acceptance of self-love as a necessary precondition to the love of God and others.

 

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

In the introduction of the book we find out that in December 1945 an Arab peasant made an astonishing archeological discovery in Upper Egypt. Rumors obscured the circumstances of this find–perhaps because the discovery was accidental, and its sale on the black market illegal.

The manuscripts soon attracted the attention of officials of the Egyptian government. They bought one and confiscated ten and a half of the thirteen leather-bound books, called codices, and deposited them in the Coptic Museum in Cairo. But a large part of the thirteenth codex, containing five extraordinary texts, was smuggled out of Egypt and offered for sale in America.

Professor Gilles Quispel, a distinguished historian of religion at Utrecht, in the Netherlands urged the Jung Foundation in Zurich to buy the codex and succeeded. When he discovered that some pages were missing, he flew to Egypt in the spring of 1955 to locate them in the Coptic Museum. He borrowed photographs of some of the texts and when he deciphered them, he realized that it contained the Gospel According to Thomas; yet, unlike the gospels of the New Testament, this text identified itself as a secret gospel. Quispel also discovered that it contained many sayings known from the New Testament; but these sayings, placed in unfamiliar contexts, suggested other dimensions of meaning. Other passages, Quispel found, differed entirely from any known Christian tradition.

The finder later admitted that some of the texts were lost–burned up or thrown away. But what remains is astonishing: some fifty-two texts from the early centuries of the Christian era–including a collection of early Christian gospels, previously unknown. Besides the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip, the find included the Gospel of Truth and the Gospel to the Egyptians Another group of texts consists of writings attributed to Jesus’ followers, such as the Secret Book of James, the Apocalypse of Paul, the Letter of Peter to Philip, and the Apocalypse of Peter.

What was discovered at Nag Hammadi were Coptic translations, made about 1,500 years ago, of still more ancient manuscripts. The originals themselves had been written in Greek, the language of the New Testament. About the dating of the manuscripts themselves there is little debate. They have been placed at ca. A.D. 350-400.

The texts had been buried and their suppression as banned documents were both part of a struggle critical for the formation of early Christianity. The Nag Hammadi texts, and others like them, which circulated at the beginning of the Christian era, were denounced as heresy by orthodox Christians in the middle of the second century.

This campaign against heresy involved an involuntary admission of its persuasive power; yet the bishops prevailed. By the time of the Emperor Constantine’s conversion, when Christianity became an officially approved religion in the fourth century, Christian bishops, previously victimized by the police, now commanded them.

But those who wrote and circulated these texts did not regard themselves as “heretics. These Christians are now called gnostics, from the Greek word gnosis, usually translated as “knowledge.” Those who claim to know nothing about ultimate reality are called agnostic (literally, “not knowing”), the person who does claim to know such things is called gnostic (“knowing”). But gnosis is not primarily rational knowledge. The Greek language distinguishes between scientific or reflective knowledge (“He knows mathematics”) and knowing through observation or experience (“He knows me”), which is gnosis. As the gnostics use the term, we could translate it as “insight,” for gnosis involves an intuitive process of knowing oneself.

And to know oneself, they claimed, is to know human nature and human destiny. Yet to know oneself, at the deepest level, is simultaneously to know God; this is the secret of gnosis.

The main ideas in the gnostic gospels are:

1) While Orthodox Jews and Christians insist that a chasm separates humanity from its creator, meaning that God is wholly other, some Gnostics believe that self-knowledge is knowledge of God and that the self and the divine are identicalCompare with Reincarnation & Karma under Metaphysics. By knowing oneself, one might understand human nature and destiny.

2)  The “living Jesus” of these texts speaks of illusion and enlightenment, not of sin and repentance, like the Jesus of the New Testament. Instead of coming to save us from sin, he comes as a guide who opens access to spiritual understanding. But when the disciple attains enlightenment, Jesus no longer serves as his spiritual master: the two have become equal–even identical.

3) Orthodox Christians believe that Jesus is Lord and Son of God in a unique way: he remains forever distinct from the rest of humanity whom he came to save. Yet the gnostic Gospel of Thomas relates that as soon as Thomas recognizes him, Jesus says to Thomas that they have both received their being from the same source:

Jesus said, “I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become drunk from the bubbling stream which I have measured out…. He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him.”

4) Gnostics emphasized spiritual “resurrection” (i.e,. spiritual rebirth) and physical “resurrection” (i.e., reincarnation). Christian Gnostics held the view that if spiritual resurrection was not attained in one lifetime, then the soul would be subjected to as many reincarnationsCompare with Theosophy under Philosophy, The Bhagavad Gita under Religion and Quantum Physics under Science as it takes until spiritual rebirth is attained.

5) The importance of Logos, the part of God that acts in the world. It is the perfect unity of the human and the divine. Everyone has the Logos within them and it is for this reason that Genesis describes humanity as created “in the image and likeness of God.” The Logos is the divine Spirit in humanity.

The identity of the divine and human, the concern with illusion and enlightenment, the founder who is presented not as Lord, but as spiritual guide sounds more Eastern than Western. Some scholars have suggested that if the names were changed, the “living Buddha” appropriately could say what the Gospel of Thomas attributes to the living Jesus and wonder if Hindu or Buddhist traditions have influenced Gnosticism. It is not conclusive but it is possible that what we call Eastern and Western religions, and  regard as separate streams, were not clearly differentiated 2,000 years ago.

The book has six chapters and Pagels does not attempt to summarize or examine in detail the Gnostic Gospels. She focuses instead on how Gnosticism affected the rise of the orthodox church that declared the Gnostics heretics.

We also learn that Gnostics maintained equality amongst individuals and established no fixed orders of clergy and that they allowed all individuals to seek to know God through their own experience and to achieve personal enlightenment through rigorous spiritual discipline and self-discovery.

The Christian church on the other hand developed a religious structure to encourage social interaction amongst individuals and required only that individuals accept the simplest essentials and put emphasis on a variety of church rituals.

The two most interesting chapters for me were “God the Father/God the Mother” in which she elaborates on the fact that instead of a monistic and masculine God, many of the texts speak of God as a “dyad who embraces both masculine and feminine elements”; and “Gnosis: Self-Knowledge as Knowledge of God”, in which we find out more about techniques of spiritual disciplines, such as getting rid of physical desires practicing meditation and praying. The author mentions that much of the gnostic teaching on spiritual discipline remained, on principle, unwritten because Gnostic teachers shared most of it only verbally. Gnostic teachers had to take responsibility and pay individualized attention to each candidate and each candidate had to devote energy and time – often years – to the process.

 

 

Here are some websites that provide additional information on this book and topic:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/pagels.html
http://reluctant-messenger.com/reincarnation-gnostic.htm
http://www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/?p=10036
http://www.examiner.com/article/do-gnostics-believe-reincarnation

Religion

Each of us connects with the word “religion” very specific ideas. The word religion (“respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods,” “obligation, the bond between man and the gods”) is mentioned as a description of the religious life for the first time in Cicero’s  “De natura deorum”. Some modern scholars favor the derivation from ligare “bind, connect”.

There are two world traditions, which have formed the cultural and ethical basis of the world, as we know it. Both have an unbroken history going back thousands of years.

1) Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths of Middle East origin, recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with Abraham, the founding father of the Israelites.

Judaism is the oldest Abrahamic religion, originating in the people of ancient Israel and Judea.

Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The Christian faith is essentially faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and as Savior and Lord.

Islam is based on the Quran, one of the holy books, considered by Muslims to be revealed by God, and on the teachings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

2) The Vedic tradition, also termed Dharmic tradition, are a family of religions that have originated from the Indian subcontinent. They encompass Hinduism and three other religions that have spawned from it—namely Buddhism, Jainism, an Sikhism.

Hinduism includes Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shrauta among numerous other traditions. Hinduism includes a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of “daily morality” based on karma, dharma and societal norms.

Buddhism was founded by Siddhattha Gotama who aimed to help sentient beings to end their suffering by understanding the true nature of phenomena, thereby escaping the cycle of suffering and rebirth that is, achieving Nirvana.

Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence for all forms of living beings in this world.

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded on the teachings of  Guru Nanak and ten successive Sikh. Sikhs are expected to embody the qualities of a Sant-Sipāhī—a saint-soldier, have control over one’s internal  vices and be able to be constantly immersed in virtues clarified in the Gutu Granth Sahib.

There are other religions that can’t be put into one of these two world traditions, among them Shinto (the indigenous spirituality of  Japan), Zaroastrianism (an ancient Iranian religion and philosophy), Taoism (a religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao meaning “way”, “path” or “principle”), Confucianism (an ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius) and Baha’i Faith (a monotheistic religion emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind).

The development of religion has taken different forms in different cultures.  But we have to remember that the great teachers never founded a religion. It is the followers that established and promoted the different churches, replete with their own beliefs, dogmas, rules, rites, rituals and other governing persuasions.

Each great teacher emphasized different ideals and virtues.   The ideal is the selfless aspiration to help uplift humanity and a virtue is the fulfillment of the ideal.  In other words, an ideal is a virtue we promise to practice. In the end there is a basic unity of the world’s religionCompare with The Universality of Golden Rules in Religion even if they emphasize different ideals because any particular ideal includes all the others for its altruistic completion.

 

RELIGION TEXT IDEAL TEACHING TEACHER TIME
Hinduism Vedas Divine Duty, Wisdom Vyasa and Unknown +2000 – 600 B.C.
Judaism Torah Righteousness Moses ca. 1250 B.C.
Shinto Kojiki & Nihonji Godliness Unknown 660 B.C.
Zoroastrianism Zend Avesta Purity, Truth Zoroaster/Zarathushtra 660 – 583 B.C.
Jainism Siddhantha Angas Harmlessness Mahavira Vardhamana Jnatriputra 599-527 B.C.
Buddhism Tipitakas Compassion Siddharta Gautama Sakyamuni Buddha 580 – 483 B.C.
Taoism Tao Teh Ching Simplicity Lao Tzu 570 – 517 B.C.
Confucianism The 4 Books & The 5 Classics Altruism, Propriety Confucius 551 – 479 B.C.
Christianity Holy Bible Love, Forgiveness Jesus 105 B.C.
Islam Koran Divine Surrender Abulqasim Mohammed ca. 570 – 632 A.D.
Sikhism Adi Granth Devotion Guru Nanak 1469 – 1538
Baha’i Faith Kitab-I-Agdas Peace Mirza Husain Ali Nuri 1817 – 1892

 

Sources for this article:

Escudero, B. (1994). Basic Unity of the World Religions. Summar Sophia Series, Volume 4, Number 9

Jewish Virtual Library. Abraham. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/abraham.html

Renkewitz H. (1980). Religion aus Das Moderne Bildungsbuch.

Vedic and Abrahamic Thoughts. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://veda.wikidot.com/vedic-and-abrahamic-thought

 

 

The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita opens with blind King Dhritarashtra asking his secretary, Sanjaya, to narrate the battle for control of Hastinapura between his sons, the Kauravas, and their cousins, the Pandavas. The Kauravas are not the rightful heirs to the kingdom, but they have assumed control, and Dhritarashtra is trying to preserve it for his son Duryodhana. Sanjaya tells of Arjuna, who has come as leader of the Pandavas to take back his kingdom, with Krishna first as his charioteer until Arjuna surrenders to Lord Krishna and requests the Lord to instruct him.

Arjuna believes that killing is evil and that killing one’s family is the greatest sin of all and therefore puts down his weapons and refuses to fight.  Consequently Lord Krishna starts to explain to Arjuna why it is his dharmicthe moral transformation of human beings or behaviors considered necessary for the maintenance of the natural order of things duty to fight and how he must fight in order to restore his karmadeeds, actions.

Lord Krishna talks about reincarnationCompare with Quantum Physics under Science and The Gnostic Gospels under Religion and explains the eternal cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth. The purpose of this cycle is to allow a person to work off their karmaCompare with Theosophy under Philosophy and Self-Healing, Yoga and Destiny under Spiritual Development, accumulated through lifetimes of action. If a person completes actions selflessly, in service to God, then they can work off their karma, eventually leading to enlightenment. If people act selfishly, then they keep accumulating karmic debtCompare with To Know Yourself under Spiritual Development.

Krishna presents three main concepts for achieving enlightenment– renunciation, selfless service, and meditationCompare with The Yoga Sutras under Spiritual Development. All three are elements for achieving ‘yoga,’ the union with the Divine. Krishna says that the truly divine human does not renounce all worldly possessions or simply give up action, but rather finds peace in completing action in the highest service to God and without being attached to the outcomeCompare with The Four Agreements (the fourth) under Spiritual Development. As a result, a person must be aware of the three qualities of the mind – the three gunas – and avoid their traps: rajas (activity, anger), tamas (ignorance, lethargy), and sattva (existence, reality).

Sattva could be the hardest trap to overcome because it could captivate one with its bliss attained on this stage. It entails qualities such as harmoniousness, calmness of mind, a highly developed consciousness, the ability to control one’s emotions, prevalence of the state of subtle and joyful love, absence of egocentrism and violence. Krishna emphasizes that one has to go higher than sattva, to mergence with God, and this calls for new efforts, new struggle with oneself. It is impossible to bypass the sattva guna. It is impossible to merge with God without mastering the qualities inherent to this guna.

Krishna says that he who achieves divine union with him in meditation will ultimately find freedom from the endless cycle of rebirth and death.

Arjuna suddenly understands enlightenment when Krishna appears to him in his divine state, and now has complete faith in the yogic path. At that point Krishna reveals to him that love comes from a person’s selfless devotion to the divine, in addition to an understanding that the body is subject to endless rebirth until humans let go of their body’s cravings and temptations and aversions to end that cycle.

The Gita ends with Krishna telling Arjuna he must choose the path of good or evil, as it is his duty to fight the Kauravas for his kingdom. That way he is correcting the balance of good and evil, fulfilling his dharma, and offering the deepest form of selfless service. After hearing the instructions of Sri Krishna, Arjuna is ready to fight.

Sanjaya, after narrating this conversation to Dhritarashtra, predicts victory for Arjuna, the supreme archer, for he is surrendered to Krishna, the master of all mystics

There are numerous versions, commentaries and summaries online.  I have purchased the kindle edition of  Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God. The appendix of this edition contains an explanation of the cosmology of the Gita and explains concepts such as Brahman, the three aspects of Ishwara, Prakriti and points out that Hinduism accepts the belief in many divine incarnations, including Krishna, Buddha and Jesus, and foresees that there will be many more. I also have read the interpretation by Swami Chinmayanada which is excellent but very detailed.

You can find a more detailed summary of the Gita here. This review is inspiring and I found this site helpful for my summary.

What The Buddha Taught by Walola Rahula

This book is available free online and this is an article summarizing it and providing links to related articles.

Here are the most important points:

  • Buddha claims no inspiration from any God or external power.
  • Man is his own master and there is no higher being or power that sits in judgement over his destiny.
  • Man has the power to liberate himself from all bondage through his own personal effort and intelligence.
  • Man’s emancipation depends on his own realization of Truth, and not on the benevolent grace of a God or any external power as a reward for his obedient good behavior.
  • The root of all evil is ignorance and false view.
  • This spirit of tolerance and understanding has been from the beginning one of the most cherished ideals of Buddhist culture and civilization (no shedding of blood). What is essential is seeing the thing, understanding it.
  • But in Buddhism emphasis is laid on seeing, knowing, understanding, and not on faith or belief.
  • The moment you see, the question of belief disappears.
  • To be attached to one thing (to a certain view) and to look down upon other things (views) as inferior – this wise men call a fetter.

In Buddhism it is important to understand the question of suffering, how it comes about, and how to get rid of it, and then to work accordingly with patience, intelligence, determination, and energy.

The central tenants of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths.

The First Noble Truth: “The Noble Truth of Suffering (dukkha)”

Happiness is a part of life, a part of dukkha, but like everything else it has no permanence.

The Five Aggregates of Attachment or Suffering:

  • Aggregate of Matter
  • Aggregate of Sensation
  • Aggregate of Perception
  • Aggregate of Mental Formation
  • Aggregate of Consciousness

The Second Noble Truth: “Arising of Suffering”

This addresses man’s desire or craving. All the evils in the world are produced by selfish desire. This “thirst” or attachment is not only for wealth, power, and sense-pleasures, but can also manifest itself in attachment to ideas, opinions, theories and beliefs. This arises from an organism’s “desire, the will to be, to exist, to re-exist, to become more and more.”

According to the karma theory, the effects of a volitional action may continue to manifest themselves even in a life after death.

The Third Noble Truth: “The Cessation of Dukkha

There is liberation, freedom from suffering, from the continuity of dukkha. It eliminates the root cause of suffering, and leads to liberation which is known as Nirvana.

The author explains that language is too poor to express the real nature of the Absolute Truth or Ultimate Reality which is Nirvana. One could describe it as cessation of the very “thirst”.
Absolute Truth: Extinction of desire, hatred and illusion. Absolute Truth is beyond duality and relativity.

Absolute Freedom is freedom from all evil, craving, hatred, and ignorance; from all terms of duality, relativity, time and space.

Absolute Truth: There is nothing absolute in the world; everything is relative, conditioned and impermanent, there is no Self or Soul (note: this has to be understood as “Self” as an “autonomous entity” because we are not really separate, autonomous beings – this website is somewhat helpful about this topic).

To see things as they are without illusion or ignorance is the extinction of craving “thirst”.

The Fourth Noble Truth: The Way leading to the cessation.

This Truth is the path that leads to Calm, Insight, Enlightenment, Nirvana. By taking the Middle Path we avoid two extremes. The one extreme being the search for happiness through the pleasure of the senses (low, common, unprofitable and the way of the ordinary people) and the other being the search for happiness through self-mortification in different forms of asceticism, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable.

This Middle Path is generally referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path:

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Thought (self detachment)
  3. Right Speech (no lies)
  4. Right Action (moral conduct)
  5. Right Livelihood (no harm to others)
  6. Right Effort (preventing evil, bringing good)
  7. Right Mindfulness (awareness of body and feeling, mind and ideas)
  8. Right Concentration

They are to be developed more or less simultaneously, as far as possible according to the capacity of each individual. They are all linked together and each helps the cultivation of the others. The eight factors aim at perfecting the three essentials of Buddhist training and discipline: Ethical Conduct, Mental Discipline and Wisdom

One should develop compassion (love, charity, kindness, tolerance) and wisdom (qualities of the mind) .

The way of life is self-discipline in body, word and mind, self-development and self-purification.

You have to rely on yourself and not on others.

6 Directions:

  • East (parents are sacred to their children)
  • South (a pupil should respect and be obedient to his teacher)
  • West (relationship between husband and wife – respectful, faithful, devoted)
  • North (be hospitable to friends, relatives and neighbors)
  • Nadir (Master should pay adequate wages, medical needs should be provided, occasional bonuses – Servants should be diligent, honest and obedient)
  • Zenith (Lay people should look after the material neeeds of the religios with love and respect).

Minimum moral obligations of a lay Buddhist:

  • Not to destroy life
  • Not to steal
  • Not to commit adultery
  • Not to tell lies
  • Not to take intoxicating drinks

Ten duties of the King:

  • Liberality, generosity, charity
  • High moral character
  • Sacrificing everything of the good of the people
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Kindness and gentleness
  • Austerity in habits (no luxury)
  • Freedom from hatred, ill-will, enmity
  • Non-violence (promoting peace).
  • Patience, forbearance, tolerance, understanding
  • Non-opposition, non-destruction (don’t oppose the will of the people)

The Universality of Golden Rules in Religion

Buddhism Hurt not others in way that you yourself would find hurtful. Udana-Varga 5,1
Christianity All things whatsoever ye would that mean should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets Matthew 7:1
Confucianism Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state Analects 12:1
Hinduism This is the sum of duty; do not onto others what you would not have them d unto you. Mahabharata5,1517
Islam No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. Sunnah
Judaism What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. Talmud
Native American Spirituality All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One. Black Elk
Taoism Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien
Zoroastrianism That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself. Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5

Adapted from “The Christopher Newsletter”