What is the dominant Hindu belief in America?
In America, the dominant Hindu belief is called Vedanta.
Of all the conflicting schools of Hinduism, Vedanta has had
the most profound overall influence:
Vedanta ("the End of Vedas") was the school which
gave organized and systematic form to the teaching of the Upanishads. While the other
schools are almost or wholly extinct, Vedanta is still very much alive, for nearly all the
great Hindu religious teachers of recent centuries have been Vedantists of one branch or
The influence of Vedanta on Indian thought has been
profound, so that it may be said that, in one or another of its forms, Hindu philosophy
has become Vedanta. (24)
Hinduism is, truly speaking, the religion and philosophy of
Since the texts of Vedanta are contradictory and impossible
to interpret uniformly (26) various schools of Vedanta have arisen.
The dominant Vedantic school in America is called advaita
or the "non-dual" school. This belief teaches that there is only one impersonal
God called Brahman. Brahman alone is real--everything else is considered a dream of
This form of Hinduism teaches that as part of its
"sport" or "play" (lila), Brahman exuded or emerged the
universe as part of itself, but then "covered" it with what is called maya
or illusion. This illusion is the entire physical universe that we see around us,
including all stars and planets, the sky, trees, rivers, mountains and all people as well
However, Hinduism also teaches that Brahman exists
"beneath" this illusory universe. In other words, Brahman resides "in"
and "underneath" the material creation, including man. This explains why the
goal of Hinduism is to go inward to allegedly discover that one's true nature is God or
Hinduism aims at supposedly revealing one's inward divine
nature by "contacting" Brahman through occult practice.
This idea that the world is an illusion "hiding"
Brahman is a key teaching of Hinduism in America. As our next questions will demonstrate,
this teaching has profound practical implications.
What are the beliefs of Hinduism concerning the
world in which we live?
Because Hinduism teaches that the world is ultimately an
illusion, a "dream" of Brahman, the basic philosophy of Hinduism can be
described as nihilism. The Oxford American Dictionary defines nihilism as: "(1) a
negative doctrine, the total rejection of current beliefs in religion or morals; (2) a
form of skepticism that denies all existence" (28). Thus, in the end Hindu practice
leads to nihilism, e.g., "The experience of samadhi [Hindu
"enlightenment"] is, literally, a death to the things of this world" (29).
Nihilism is exactly what the Hindu gurus in America teach:
Swami Vivekananda - The world...never existed; it
was a dream, maya. (30)
Paramahansa Yogananda - I don't take life seriously
at all....It's all a dream. (31)
Ram Dass - What responsibility?...God has all the
responsibility. I don't have any responsibility. (32)
Meher Baba - Mere mind and mere body do not exist.
Da Free John - All of this life, past and future, up
and down, in and out, is just an hallucination....What is that great universe?....It is
absolutely nothing....In our [spiritual] enlightenment, the entire appearing universe is
impotent, no longer the intentional creation of holy God at all....Birth, the world, and
the whole affair of life become nonsense, no longer impinge on you, have no implication
whatsoever, absolutely none....Ultimately, there is no world. (34)
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh - Your so-called
society....Is a conspiracy against man....Whatever you call real life is not
real....Society is rotten....I am not at all concerned with society....[we are] escaping
from illusions and escaping into reality [through "enlightenment"]--hence it's
not really escapist. (35)
There is no purpose in life....the questions are
meaningless, the answers are even more so...[life is a] meaningless, fruitless effort
leading nowhere--...this whole [life is] nonsense...you simply live: there is no purpose.
Aurobindo/The "Mother" - One lives
in Auroville [the spiritual community] in order to be free of moral and social
According to Hinduism, Brahman is wholly indifferent to
what goes on in the world. Brahman is impersonal; it does not speak, it is
unconcerned with good or evil. It is unconcerned with men and women. It has no cares
because it has no feeling. It is unconcerned with morals because it has no values. Thus,
the one who "knows" Brahman knows there is no right or wrong nor is there a
world in which they actually happen. In Hinduism the truly "enlightened"
individual is indifferent to all actions.
These, then, are the beliefs of Hinduism in America
concerning the world we live in. Ultimately, the world we live in is an illusion, worth
Yet ironically, the Hindu gurus claim they offer people a
transcendence and "meaning" to life which Western materialism has cruelly denied
them. In truth, however, both Hinduism and materialism end in exactly the same
place--nihilism. This is why influential guru Da Free John asserts, "Upon this
absolute Truth [of the despair of nihilism] we must build our lives" (38).
But, switching to noted atheistic philosopher Bertrand
Russell brings no change: "Only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair can the
soul's habitation henceforth be safely built" (39).
Nevertheless, people who seriously adopt a nihilistic
philosophy should relize that it can profoundly affect them. Consider the description of
the truly "enlightened" soul as given by the great Hindu saint Ramakrishna:
But the man who always sees God [Brahman] and talks to him
intimately has an altogether different nature. He acts sometimes like an inert thing,
sometimes like a ghoul, sometimes like a child, and sometimes like a madman....He is not
conscious of the holy and the unholy. He does not observe any formal purity. To him
everything is Brahman....People notice his ways and actions and think of him as insane.
Further, any culture which adopts such a philosophy can
also be profoundly affected. India is living proof that what a people are committed to
inwardly is powerfully manifested outwardly. India's so-called "Wisdom from the
East" carries a heady price tag. A small part of this cost is discussed by Paul
Molnar. Writing in the National Review he recalls his feelings after a trip to
It's the utter degradation of the scene; the squalor,
defecation, hashish, the pus-filled wounds on the backs of the holy men, pilgrims pushing
and crowding into temples where a sweetish stench dominates--all that, plus the dead.
It was hard, afterward, to sort out my impressions, to pull
them together. Paul Claudel once wrote to friends, during his travels and ambassadorships
in the Far East, that oriental religion is the devil's invention. In these ecumenical
times one is not supposed to say such things. Yet that is my inescapable conclusion. The
faith of the worshippers is, without any doubt, sincere, even fervent....But the objects
of worship are brutal, inhuman deities who know how to scare, punish, avenge, mock and
cheat, not to elevate and forgive; and the environment surrounding the worshippers repels
rather than attracts: horrid, grimacing idols with cunning or cruel stares; incredibly
gaudy vulgarity, copulating monkeys, defacating cows, mud, stench, garbage. Hippies are
drawn to this witches' brew, and the reason is not far to find.
What attracts and keeps them here is the degradation: of
reason, of self-esteem, of vital forces, of faith in God and man. Here they find
innumerable gods and none at all; everybody may do this thing just like the monkeys and
the cows, sinking slowly toward the Ganges or Nirvana. Intelligence and purposefulness
dissolve on the trashheap, the body rots until it becomes one with the road, the grass,
the dung. The great nothingness envelops all, and the ashes go into the river. (41)
What gave India all this--and more? No one can deny it was
the religion of Hinduism, a religion millions of Americans are now welcoming with open
The development of altered states of
In most Eastern practices, including those of Hinduism, the
development of altered states of consciousness is encouraged. Millions of people today are
pursuing such altered states, thinking that these will produce a condition of spiritual
"enlightenment." Altered states can involve a variety of different
experiences--everything from hypnosis and other trance states to yogic kundalini arousal,
shamanism, lucid dreaming, drug states, meditation and biofeedback induced consciousness,
But pursuing these states can be dangerous because altered
states of consciousness also tend to open the doors to spirit possession. As we commented
in another text:
Historically the linkage between pagan cultures and the
manipulation of consciousness for occult purposes, such as spirit possession, has been
strong. This indicates that the spirit world has a vested interest in encouraging the
exploration of altered states of consciousness along specific lines, especially those
devoted to spirit contact. The history of Eastern religion, Western occultism, modern
parapsychology, etc., constantly reveal the importance of developing altered states of
consciousness for contacting other dimensions. Revelations of the spirits themselves often
stress their importance for this very purpose. (42)
Nobel scientist, Sir John Eccles once commented that the
human brain was "a machine that a ghost can operate." His statement illustrates
the truth that given the proper conditions, the human mind can become an open door
permitting the influence of spirits. Altered states of consciousness are one principal
method offering the proper conditions. (43)
A major study on altered states of consciousness revealed
that of almost 500 societies observed, over 90% considered the experience of trance states
and spirit possession as being socially acceptable (44). And now also in America, the
influence of Hindu gurus and their occult practices are making trance and possession
states socially acceptable. Today, in many quarters what was once called "spirit
possession" is now simply termed "altered consciousness."
For example, consider the research of Tal Brooke, the
former premier Western disciple of India's super guru Sathya Sai Baba. Brooke offers a
powerful examination and critique of Eastern philosophy including the altered state of
consciousness found in the meditative disciplines of endless numbers of gurus. Altered
states of consciousness are revealed as potential ways to foster spirit contact and
possession (45). Yet those who experience spirit possession frequently define it merely as
an "altered state" of consciousness.
In conclusion, when Hindu gurus claim that their
yogic/meditative practices will produce a "higher" state of consciousness, the
practitioner should beware. As we have documented elsewhere, these meditation-induced
altered states frequently lead to periods of social withdrawal, mental illness and even
23. A. L. Basham, "Hinduism," in R. C. Zaehner
(ed.), The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1967,
24. "Vedanta" in Encyclopedia Britannica
Micropaedia, Vol. 10, p. 375.
Satprakashananda, Hinduism and Christianity,
St. Louis, MO: Vedanta Society, 1975, p. 9; cf. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Indian
Philosophy, NY: MacMillan, 1951, Vol. 2, p. 28.
26. "Vedanta" in Encyclopedia Britannica
Micropaedia, op. cit., p. 375; Paul Edwards' in Editor in Chief, "Indian
Philosophy" NY: Collier MacMillan, 1972, rpt., Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
Vol. 4, pp. 155-156; R. Garbe, "Vedanta" in James Hastings, ed., Encyclopedia
of Religion and Ethics, NY: n.d., op. cit., Vol. 12, pp. 597-598.
27. See Swami
Nikhilananda, "A Discussion of Brahman
in the Upanishads", The Upanishads, A New Translation, Four Volumes, New York:
Bonanza/Crown Publishers, Harper & Brothers, 1949.
28. The Oxford American Dictionary, New York: Avon,
1982, p. 601.
Isherwood, "Introduction" in
Christopher Isherwood, ed., Vedanta For The Western World, NY: Viking Press, 1968,
30. John Yale, ed., What Religion Is in the Words of
Vivekananda, New York: The Julian Press, 1962, p. 64.
Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, Los
Angeles, CA: Self Realization Fellowship, 1975, pp. 218-219.
Dass, "A Ten-year Perspective", The
Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 24, No. 2, p. 179.
33. Meher Baba, Discourses, San Francisco, CA:
Sufism Reoriented, 1973, Vol. 3, p. 146.
34. Bubba Free John, The Way That I Teach,
Middletown, CA: The Dawnhorse Press, 1978, pp. 226, 227, 238-248.
35. Bhagwan Shree
Rajneesh, "Society Is An
Illusion", Sannyas, March-April, 1979, pp. 3-5.
36. Bhagwan Shree
Rajneesh, I Am the Gate, San
Francisco, CA: Perennial Library, 1978, pp. 5-6.
37. Robert A. McDermott, The Essential Aurobindo,
ed. New York: Schocken Books, 1974, p. 24.
38. Bubba Free John, The Way That I Teach, op. cit.,
p. 239; cf., pp. 238-248.
39. Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other
Essays, NY: Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, 1957, p. 107.
40. Mahendranath Gupta, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna,
NY: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1977, p. 405.
41. Reprint of "Oh Benares" article from National
Review in SCP Newsletter, 1985, p. 22.
42. Primary references are supplied in John
Weldon, Can You Trust Your Doctor? The Complete Guide to New Age Medicine and Its
Threat to Your Family, Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991, pp. 287-301.
43. Ibid., pp. 146-147.
44. Erika Bourguignon, Religion, Altered States of
Consciousness and Social Change, Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1973, pp.
45. Tal Brooke, with research assistance by John Weldon, Riders
of the Cosmic Circuit, Batavia, IL: Lion Publishers, 1986, pp. 39-50, 107-139,
165-208, available from Spiritual Counterfeits Project, P. O. Box 4308, Berkeley, CA
46. "Meditation", John
Ankerberg, John Weldon, Can
You Trust Your Doctor?, op. cit., Chapter 10.
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