In the Light of Theosophy

What is the essence of Hinduism? The question has become topical of late. Some treat Hinduism as a jumble of creeds and rituals, ideas and beliefs, in which numerous streams flow. Such a perception, writes Shri Jagmohan, Union minister for tourism and culture, "arises primarily from the failure to perceive it in its historical perspective, and in the inability to separate the pure from the fake, the profound from the profane, and the lofty from the low." (The Times of India, May 11)

Hinduism today is in a sorry state. The author grades Hindu thought and practices at three levels:

The first level would cover the core of Hinduism, its fundamental message of unity in diversity of man, nature and religion. The second level would be of the beliefs and practices which came into existence in response to the needs of the common folk who could not grasp its intellectual core and had to depend on temples and images of deities. At the third level would come the spurious rituals, rites, cults and superstitions.

Reform of Hinduism would involve total elimination of the third level, refurbishing of the second level and polishing of the first level....

It is time we restored the long-lost dynamic equilibrium of Hinduism....One of the strongest thrusts of reformed Hinduism would be to arouse awareness about the need for a reasoned faith. Most Hindu myths and rituals, parables and legends, have deep meaning. Their inner rationality must be explored and laid bare; otherwise they might be used as tools for exploiting the common folk. It is, therefore, necessary that Hinduism retains no myth or ritual underneath which reasoned faith cannot be discovered.

Irrational faith cannot bring out spiritual emancipation or orderliness in society. Reasoned faith, on the other hand, takes man to higher stages of spirituality. The Upanishads say: "The rational man has to grow into a spiritual man. That is the task set to each individual if he has to fulfil his destiny as a human being."

In its highest and purest form, Hinduism means belief in the cosmic spirit that pervades every part of life....This spirit, this divinity, is within every man. He has only to awaken his mind and search for it within. And one can do this without following any rigid creed or fixed path. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna: "Through whatever path men come to me, I accept them through that very path."

The Vedantic belief of one divinity pervading all living beings is nothing but a spiritual call for equality, fraternity, liberty and justice. As the Gita says: "Seeing the same God equally present in everything, one does not injure the Self by the self, and so goes to the highest goal."...If I serve the poor or the sick, I serve the divinity in the poor and the sick. Could a more rational and spiritual basis be found for the creation of a humane, compassionate and just social order than this? Is it anything but spiritual secularism?

As long as the Indian mind is not reformed and the Indians, 80 percent of whom are Hindus, remain what they are, there is little chance of the country saving itself from recurring crises.

How can success be defined? Mike George, a Senior Management Consultant and Editor of the magazine Heart and Soul, has this to say:

Is success simply a completion of the next task, another job well done, a promise kept, an exam passed, a medal won, a mountain climbed? Whatever we believe success to be will have a profound influence on our life. If we were to follow the trends of the world, then success would be measured by acquisition. The more you have, the more successful you are. More can be almost any quantity—objects, money, properties, celebrity, fame, fans, and in terms of position, it simply means higher....

Even our education systems are geared to producing people whose character and skills are shaped and developed to produce More. Economic growth is the yardstick for national success based on the production and selling of More. And amidst all this we continue to avoid the connection between the philosophy of More and the unprecedented levels of unhappiness, abuse and breakdown of human relationships worldwide....

So what does it mean to be successful? At what level, in what context and by whose standards?....If we were to give ourselves the time to explore this question we would likely arrive at the fairly obvious insight that success is not a material thing, it is not something that can be possessed, it is a state of being. We might call it contentment, or happiness, or even peace. These are the deepest and most meaningful symptoms of success, but only when they are not dependent on anything outside ourselves. (Purity, May 2002)

Other signs of success, writes Mike George, include: to be able to act with total honesty and integrity; to be content with oneself and have others be content with you; to be able to be peaceful and stable when all around you are in crises or chaos; to value what you are more than what you have; to accept full responsibility for all thoughts, feelings, words and actions; to be able to see past the weaknesses and mistakes of others and focus on their inherent goodness; to be able to let go of the past; to give without the desire for anything in return. All these are intangible measures, which no one else can measure except oneself.

Non-conventional medicines, also called alternative or com-plementary medicines, comprise all alternatives to mainstream Western medicine that is often referred to as conventional medicine. One question that is often asked about these non-conventional methods is: Are these alternatives scientific? Prof. Rolf Sattler, in a talk delivered by him at the International Seminar on "New Perspectives on Holism and Non-Conventional Medicine," said that endless discussions on whether alternative medicine is scientific do not appear to be very useful unless two conditions are met:

1. We have to recognize that alternative medicines are very diverse and that "science" has many meanings ranging from a very narrow to a very wide extreme. Exploring this richness of meanings and consequent applications can be much more beneficial to the health of the individual and society than insisting on a particular demarcation of science and non-science....

2. Regardless of what our view of science may be, it is important to go beyond it. With regard to medicine this means that the healing arts and spirituality in a non-sectarian sense should be emphasized. They may help us to further our personal development, allowing us to become aware of the profound wholeness that unites us with our environment and the universe. Such awareness may evoke a feeling of awe and reverence so that we experience wholeness and holiness.

It is significant that the words "whole" "holy" and "health" are derived from the same etymological root indicating the profound relatedness of wholeness, holiness and health. In so-called primitive societies such as native peoples of America this relation has been of great importance and has vastly contributed to the health of these people, their environment and the planet. In western mainstream culture we have largely ignored this vision and therefore have suffered ill health individually, socially and globally. The ecological crisis and many related health problems at different levels are closely related to a lack of an appreciation of the whole and holy. It is encouraging, however, that there is a growing awareness of this lack. Spirituality in a non-sectarian sense and alternative holistic medicines may help us regain the balance that sustains health at the individual, social and global levels. (Holistic Science and Human Values, Transaction 5)

There is indeed more to health and healing than just the physical body and conventional means of healing. Any system of healing that ignores the whole man is bound to have its limitations.

That diseases do not have just a physical cause is being driven home to us in many ways. Just a few years ago it was believed that medicine could win the war against disease. But now old adversaries are coming back and new infections are emerging, exposing us all to serious, sometimes unexpected, threats. It is being realized that human ingenuity cannot best the microbes.

Diseases that are emerging or reemerging around the globe include ebola, dengue, yellow fever, tuberculosis, malaria, cholera—and the list goes on. A feature in National Geographic (February 2002) paints a grim picture:

At least 20 major maladies have reemerged in novel, more deadly, or drug-resistant forms in the past 25 years. Worldwide, scientists have discovered at least 30 previously unknown human diseases for which no cure exists, such as Marburg disease and AIDS....

"The world definitely favours the bugs; microbes have the advantage," says Jim Hughes, Director of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. "There are a lot more of them than us. Their generation time is minutes instead of years. They evolve rapidly. And, of course, we aid and abet them in many ways—by travel, commerce in foodstuffs, transportation of animals, and our abuse and overuse of antibiotics. We're playing right into their hands."...

The recent emphasis on bioterrorism obscures a more pedestrian but equally important truth about infectious diseases: Even without the element of intentional terror, diseases are a huge source of human suffering—and a tremendously destabilizing force. Nearly half of the world's premature deaths are caused by infectious diseases....It may not be obvious in the healthier nations, but from a microbe's point of view the world today—even with modern antibiotics and fancy vaccines—remains a virtual smorgasbord. With the recent reemergence of some of these diseases in richer nations, there is a growing recognition that no nation is an island....

The watchword is "surveillance," and it is the linchpin in the battle against emerging diseases.

The lesson of infectious diseases is that the world is one. Says David Heymann, executive director of communicable diseases at the World Health Organization in Geneva, "Countries have to realize that infectious diseases, regardless of their origins, can travel widely and affect anyone." No nation, no matter how rich or seemingly protected, can be assured of a healthy and peaceful future as long as any nation is still an active breeding ground for the world's many and varied scourges.

For the first time, say researchers, they have established a direct link between the amount of cigarette smoking children see in films and their decision to try smoking. A team of scientists led by pediatrician James Sargent asked 4919 American schoolchildren between the ages of 9 and 15 about the movies they had seen. The team then calculated the number of smoking scenes each movie contained. Children exposed to the largest number of smoking scenes were two and a half times more likely to start than those exposed to the fewest scenes. And the team accounted for factors such as rebelliousness and whether the child's parents smoked.

In a previous study, Sargent found that star power may also contribute: Adolescents whose favourite actors smoked were much more likely to be smokers "Movies are a bigger influence than anything other than whether the child's friends smoke," says Sargent. (Reader's Digest, May 2002, Indian ed.)

The movie industry has to take responsibility for this.

NATURE never deceives us; it is always we who deceive ourselves.

—Jean Jacques Rousseau

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