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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

                 
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 another. (23)

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 Vedanta. (25)

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 Brahman--an "illusion."

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 (27).

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 Brahman.

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. (33)

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. (36)

Shree Aurobindo/The "Mother" - One lives in Auroville [the spiritual community] in order to be free of moral and social conventions. (37)

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 nothing.

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. (40)

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 India:

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 arms.

The development of altered states of consciousness

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, etc.

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 demonization.(46)


Footnotes

23. A. L. Basham, "Hinduism," in R. C. Zaehner (ed.), The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1967, p. 237.

24. "Vedanta" in Encyclopedia Britannica Micropaedia, Vol. 10, p. 375.

25. Swami 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.

29. Christopher Isherwood, "Introduction" in Christopher Isherwood, ed., Vedanta For The Western World, NY: Viking Press, 1968, p. 20.

30. John Yale, ed., What Religion Is in the Words of Vivekananda, New York: The Julian Press, 1962, p. 64.

31. Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, Los Angeles, CA: Self Realization Fellowship, 1975, pp. 218-219.

32. Ram 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 Ankerberg, 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. 16-17.

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 94702.

46. "Meditation", John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Can You Trust Your Doctor?, op. cit., Chapter 10.


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