• Our beliefs determine our thoughts and attitudes about life, which in turn direct our actions. By our actions, we create our destiny. Beliefs about sacred matters–God, soul and cosmos–are essential to one’s approach to life. Hindus believe many diverse things, but there are a few bedrock concepts on which most Hindus concur. The following nine beliefs, though not exhaustive, offer a simple summary of Hindu spirituality.
  • Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.
  • Hindus believe in the divinity of the four Vedas, the world’s most ancient scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial hymns are God’s word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion.
  • Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution.
  • Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds.
  • Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha, liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be deprived of this destiny.
  • Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments and personal devotionals create a communion with these devas and Gods.
  • Hindus believe that an enlightened master, or satguru, is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry, meditation and surrender in God.
  • Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, noninjury, in thought, word and deed.
  • Hindus believe that no religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine paths are facets of God’s Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.
  • Hinduism, the world’s oldest religion, has no beginning–it precedes recorded history. It has no human founder. It is a mystical religion, leading the devotee to personally experience the Truth within, finally reaching the pinnacle of consciousness where man and God are one. Hinduism has four main denominations–Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism. 

Carvaka

Carvaka system is more a philosophy of life than a theory of Ultimate Reality. This philosophy is concerned with man‘s eternal urge for pleasure (Hedonism). It has its novelty in challenging all the traditional values of Indian people.

God, soul, heaven, rebirth, adrsta, etc. cannot be believed in because they all are beyond perception. Thus, Carvaka establishes materialism.
1. The world is made up of four perceptible elements. Carvaka rejects ether or akasa because its existence cannot be perceived. It has to be inferred.


2. Carvaka metaphysics does not believe in the existence of God. It does not accept god as the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world. Carvakas do not accept the existence of anything which cannot be perceived. As God cannot be perceived, therefore there can be no God. God as an omniscient,omnipotent, omnipresent being is only an imagination.

It is not necessary to believe in God as the creator of the world. The whole universe, animate as well as inanimate, is composed of the four basic elements —earth, water, fire and air. Living beings are born of them and they merge into them after death. The world is not moving towards any definite goal I teleology created by God.

3. The world comes into existence by the spontaneous combination of material elements. lt is by their nature and laws inherent in them that they combine together to form this world. Thus, Carvaka believes in naturalism or svabhavavada. It is also called as mechanistic, that is, yedrecchvada because it denies the existence of conscious purpose behind the world‘s creation and explains it as mere mechanical combination of elements.

4. The Carvaka philosophy does not believe in the law of causation and its universality. Law of causation maintains that every
effect must have a cause 
and the cause and the effects are necessarily related.
This relation is invariable 
and it depends upon concomitance. Everything in the world is due to some cause. The things of the world are causally related to  one other.
But the Metaphysics of Carvaka philosophy does not accept such a view.According to it, the causal relation is not necessary
and invariable. The law of  
causation does not explain the diversity of the world.


The relation of cause and
effect is not unconditional. The Carvakas hold that every effect may not have a cause. The inherent nature of things is the cause of the diversity of the world.
There is no cause of the inherent energy or nature of things. They maintain that it is not true that a definite effect always
arises from a definite cause.
Because we cannot perceive the incidents of future so from a definite cause many effects may arise.

 According to Carvaka Metaphysics, the inherent nature or power of things is the ultimate cause of the universe. As it is alreadysaid, the things of theuniverse originate from the inherent power of the fourbasic elements.

Therefore, the Carvakas call them ‗Bhutachatustaya‘;they are the Earth(Khiti), Water (Apa), Fire (Teja), and Air (Marut).


Therefore, the Carvakas accept Naturalism instead of casuality to explain the diversity of the world. They use the word ‗Svabhava‘ or ‗Nature‘ (Ydriccha) to indicate the inherent energy of things. From this nature the diversity of the
world originates, sustains and destroys. Again, they said that behind the causal relation there is no inherent necessity.
According to nature of the 
things, all events occur on their own. Behind thehotness of fire, coolness ofwater, sharpness of thorns, there is no agent or cause.These happenaccording to their nature. Nature has no cause; it isth e cause of itself.


5.
There is no soul or atman.
Being materialistic, the Carvakas do not believe in the existence of an invisible, unchangeable and immortal soul. According to them soul is a product of matter. It is the quality of the body and does not exist separately outside the body. We do not perceive any soul; we perceive only the, body in a conscious state.


According to Carvaka, the so-called soul is simply the conscious living body,that is, Dehatmavada or Bhutachaitanyavada. The
non-material soul is never 
perceived. On the contrary, we have direct evidence of the identity of the self with the body like ―I am fat
. If the l would be different from body, such sentence would become meaningless.


Consciousness does not have any independent status.But, then sit can be argued that consciousness is not perceived in any of
the four perceptible 
elements, then how it qualifies body?


Carvaka replies by saying that when material things combine in particular ratio and quantity, they give rise to consciousness.
They explained it with the 
help of two examples:


1. molasses on fermentation gives intoxicant and 

2. betel leaf, supari, etc gives reddish tinge on chewing.

Thus, consciousness is by-product of matter. Just as lever secretes bile,matter secretes consciousness. A particular combination
of the elements 
produces consciousness, though these elements do not separately possessit. The actions attributed to the soul are really the actions of the body.
Consciousness is the result of an emergent and dialectical evolution. It is an epiphenomenon, a byproduct of matter.
Death of body means death of individual. So, there is no possibility of proving immortality of soul. All questions regarding
previous life, after-life, 
rebirth, adrsta, heaven, hell, etc. becomes meaningless.

There are two types of Carvakas

Dhurta or cunning Carvakas
It considers the conscious body to be thesoul. With that body the soul exists and with it the soul perishes. Consciousness can be experienced only in the body. S0,consciousness has no separate existence of it own itsoutside the body.
The Susikshit or educated Carvakas:

They maintain that the soul has eternal knowledge and perishes with the body. The soul does not migrate from one body to another.Thus,

1. Some of the Carvakas are Dehatmavadin,i,e. those who identify body and soul.
2. Others are Indriyatmavadin; they consider the senses to be the soul.
3. There are some others known as Pranavadin, they regard the soul as nothing but the vital principle (Prana).
4. Again, some other are Atmamanovadin, for whom there is no difference between mind and soul.
On the whole according to Carvaka philosophy, when the body is destroyed nothing is left. Therefore, there is no eternal, immortal soul beyond thebody. The Carvaka view of soul is known as ‗Dehatmavada or Bhutachaitanyavada.

Arguments for Dehatmavada or Bhutachaitanyavada:

 

1. When the body is nourished by foods, then the consciousness or intelligence is also nourished. The nutritious food and drinks make our bodies healthy; as a result, consciousness or soul is also nourished. Hence,conscious is also a bodily thing.
2. Human mental development and capabilities have grown according to bodily nervous system. To establish this fact the Carvakas cite the example of sheep.
Human celebral nervous system is more developed and complicated than that ofthe sheep. Accordingly, human intelligence is more developed than that of the sheep. From this example it is proved that intelligence is a product of bodily mechanism.
3. When our body turns to be disordered or unwell, then our mental power or consciousness decreases. This proves that consciousness in caused, by body.

4. When man grows old, his body turns to be thin or light. Accordingly the intellectual capacity turns to be weak. Therefore, thebody is the store of consciousness.
5. Our day activities, conducts also prove that consciousness is nothing but the body. When we utter ‗I‘, actually this ‗I‘ indicates the body and also the soul. Hence, the body is the soul or consciousness.

 

Shamkaracharya’s advaitavada

Brahman

“Brahman satyam, jagat mithya, Jivo Brahmaiva naparaha.”

According to Shamkaracharya, Brahman is the only reality. It is absolutely  indeterminate and non-dual. Hence, Shamkaracharya‟s philosophy is known as advaita-vada, that is, unqualified monism. Brahman is the only and ultimate reality. It is beyond speech and mind. It is indescribable because no description of it can be complete.

According to Shamkaracharya, everything that exists originates in Brahman, subsists in Brahman and is merged into Brahman. Brahman is self—explained, self-luminous and pure consciousness. Brahman is sat, that is, indubitable. Brahman is chit, that is, consciousness. Brahman is Ananda, that is, bliss, Hence, Brahman is sacchidananda. Brahman is essentially pure existence, pure consciousness and pure bliss. These are not attributes, but the very essence of Brahman. These are not different. That which is existent is conscious, the conscious is blissful and the blissful is existent. Sacchidananda are not gunas in ordinary sense, they are very nature and aspects of Brahman.

Brahman is nirguna. It is essentially indeterminate. Indeterminate does not mean devoid of qualities, but beyond all qualities because empirical qualities involve contradictions whereas Brahman is beyond all contradictions. Hence, it could be best described as neti, neti…, that is, not this, not this, because every determination is negation. Brahman is one, partless, indivisible and distinctionless.

But, Brahman, the ultimate reality, when viewed through the glasses of ignorance appears to the ignorant jiva as jagat and Ishwara.

In this metaphysical scheme, Shamkaracharya admits three levels of reality such as:

1. Illusory, that is, pratibhasika.

2. Empirical, that is, vyavaharika.

3. Transcendental, that is, parmarthika.

The rope-snake illusion or the state of dream appears to be real only at the pratibhasika level, but are refuted at the empirical level. Again, the empirical level or vyavaharika level is the experience of the wakeful state such as to know the rope as rope. This level of reality is collective and comparatively more durable than pratibhasika level, but it is still refuted at the transcendental level. The transcendental level of reality is irrefutable in all the times and hence, Brahman is the only uncontradicted reality.

Samkacharya denies the role of pramana in knowing Brahman. Brahman can be neither perceived nor inferred but sruti can remove ignorance and helps getting immediate, intuitive knowledge of Brahman.

According to Shamkaracharya, Brahman is devoid of all differences (abheda) Brahman is devoid of sajatiya bheda as there is no reality alike Brahman. It is devoid of vijatiya bheda as there is no reality other than Brahman. And it is devoid of swagat difference as Brahman is devoid of all internal differences in Samkara‟s philosophy; the main proof for the existence of Brahman is the spiritual experience. But as a philosopher, Samkara has tried to give systematic testimony to prove the existence of Brahman.

Of these the main are as follows: —

1. Proof from Scriptures — Samkara has developed his philosophy on the basis of the Upanisads, Gita and Brahma Sutra. Hence, the verses of these scriptures are the greatest proof to admit Brahman as the ultimate truth. The numerous great sentences like “I am Brahman” “All is Brahman” etc., scattered in different Upanisads are proofs of the concept of Brahman in Advaita philosophy. In the sequence of time Brahman precedes Vedas, while in the epistemological sequence Vedas precede Brahman. Hence, there is no fallacy of circular reasoning here.

2. Etymological Proof — Brahman is a substratum of the universe, since as Samkara points out, “because it is according to the root Brh”. The root Brh means evolution. Hence, literally speaking Brahman means all transcending existence. Like the ontological proof of Descartes, Samkara has tried to prove the existence of Brahman by the literal meaning of the word. It goes without saying that Deussen was not true when he said that there is no such proof in Indian philosophy. By attributing infinity and other similar qualities to Brahman, Samkara has referred to its literal meaning.

3. Psychological Proof — After giving the etymological proof, Samkara has said that being the self of all the existence, Brahman is known to everyone. But further emphasizing the above statement Samkara points out that every man feels the existence of his own self and no one is ignorant of it. Thus, it becomes a complete scientific argument, since it not only points out to positive evidence, but also negates all evidence in opposition.

4. Teleological Proof — The world is so systematic that its origin cannot be admitted as material. Hence the very system of the universe is a proof of its conscious cause as Brahman.

5. Regressus ad infinitum by not admitting Brahman as the original cause — According to the Upanisads the world has no beginning. It is the reflection(vivarta) of the ultimate reality. This ultimate reality is the original cause of Brahman. If it is asked that what is the cause of the Brahman, it will be subject to the fallacy of regressing to infinity, since the question of the cause will always arise. Hence, the existence of Brahman as the ultimate cause of the universe is self-proved.

6. The proof of immediate experience — The intellectual proofs regarding the existence of Brahman are only helpful to understand Him intellectually. But beyond the mind, intellect and senses, the only valid proof for the existence of Brahman is immediate experience. By immediate experience all dualism disappears and one realizes the non-dual Brahman. It is the object of Sadhana.

It is not proper to try to understand the entire Advaita philosophy by means of intellect alone. It is only after direct experience that one can grasp the essential meaning of Vedant. It has been rightly said that Vedanta cannot tell us what is Brahman, but only what the Brahman is not. Brahman is described so that one may not take it to be a nihil. According to Upanisads, Brahman is an object of experience, the intellect should not reason about it. It is hence that the saying goes: “Silence is Brahman.”

Characteristics of Maya

1) Like the prakriti of Samkhya, it is something material and unconscious as opposed to Brahman whidh is pure consciousness, thought unlike prakriti, it is neither real nor independent.

2) It is beginning less.

3) It is the inherent power of Brahman. The relation of maya and Brahman is unique and is called „tadatmya‟. It is neither identity nor difference nor both.

Maya is energized and acts as a medium of the projection of this world of plurality on the non-dual ground of Brahman.

4) It has dual aspect. In is negative aspect, it conceals (avarana) reality and acts as a screen to hide it. In its positive aspect, it projects (viksepa) the world of plurality on the Brahman. e.g. Rope is perceived as snake. Here, ignorance conceals the true nature of rope and projects on it the snake.

5) It is indescribable and indefinable. It is neither real nor unreal nor both. It is not real because it has no existence apart from Brahman. It is not unreal because it projects the world of appearance. It is not real as it vanishes at the dawn of knowledge. It is not unreal for it is true as long as it lasts. Hence, it is indescribable.

6) It has a phenomenal and relative character. It is an appearance only (vivarta).

7) It is removable by right knowledge. For example, when rope is known, rope-snake vanishes.

8) It is of the nature of superimposition (adhyasa). It is an error like that of ropesnake. It is the superimposition of characters of one thing over another. It is comingling of the subject and the object, mixing up of truth and error, coupling of the real and unreal. Its locus (asraya) as well as object (vishaya) is Brahman and yet Brahman is really untouched by it just as magician is unaffected by magic or rope is unaffected by snake.

Thus, maya is not only absence of knowledge; it is also positive wrong knowledge.It means infinite appears as finite. It means unlimited and non-dual atman,appears as limited jivas. It produces false notion of plurality and difference. It operates in three ways:

A. As positive wrong knowledge (projection).

B. As doubt.

C. As absence of knowledge.

In reality,  it can do no harm to ultimate reality just as mirage Water cannot make sandy desert muddy.

Shankarites replies as

1. It may be said that Brahman is the seat of avidya. Avidya being not real, the monism of Brahman is not destroyed. Brahman is not affected by it just as rope is not really affected when mistaken as a snake, Shell does not become silver if it is mistaken as that, mirage cannot make sandy desert muddy.

2. Avidya does not really conceal Brahman even as a cloud does not really conceal the sun.

3. Avidya is called positive only to emphasize the fact that it is not merely negative.

4. Maya is called indescribable because of the genuine difficulty of our finite intellect to reach reality.

5. Its knowledge could be secured by arthapatti pramana.

6. The words Real and Unreal are taken by Shamkaracharya in their absolute sense. Real means real for all times. In this sense, Brahman alone can be real.

Similarly, Unreal means absolutely unreal like the hare‟s horns which this phenomenal world is not.

Jagat

Samkara‟s views According to Shamkaracharya, Brahman is the only reality. From the ultimate point of view, Shamkaracharya does not make any distinction between Brahman and jagat. Jagat is nothing but Brahman. While quoting the Upanishads, he says, “Brahman satyam, jagat mithya”, that is, only reality is the Brahman and jagat is only mithya or illusion. It is only from practical point of view that jagat exists and world of plurality is seen. This is, in fact, the point of view of the ignorant jiva.

Shamkaracharya‟s main problem was how to reconcile the Upanishadic account of creation with the denial of plurality. On one hand, Upanishads describe the process of creation while on the other hand, it denies plurality. According to Samkara, reconciliation of these apparent contradictory views lies in understanding creation as a magic show.

For example, just as a magician seems to create many coins from a single coin,Brahman seems to create the world with its manifold things from itself. But, it is obvious that spectators are deluded by the trick of the magician. The source of magician‟s power to create many coins lies in the ignorance of the spectators. As soon as this trick is known, ignorance is removed and spectators are no longer deceived.

Similarly, to the ignorant jiva, Brahman is seen as world of many things. Shankaracharya explains creation in the light of an ordinary illusion (adhyas) such as:

In an ordinary illusion, a rope is perceived as a snake or is mistaken for a snake. The cause of this illusion is ignorance on the part of perceiver. His ignorance conceals the rope and further superimposes upon this snake. Here, snake is not unreal. It is also not real, because as soon as real knowledge of rope is realized, this will be contradicted. So, this is mithya or illusion.

Similarly, maya performs two functions: it conceals the true nature of Brahman and superimposes upon it the world of plurality that is jagat. So, jagat is neither real nor unreal. It is mithya. This is just like mirage-water,‟ dusty surface of the sky, conchsilver, dream, etc.

The world is only an appearance. It is not ultimately real. It becomes sublated when knowledge dawns. But, so long as we are in this world, we cannot take it to be unreal.

It is a practical reality. Shamkaracharya claims some sort of reality even for error and illusion. It is the real which appears and hence, every appearance must have some degree of truth in it, though, none can be absolutely true.

Objects seen in dreams are quite real as long as dream lasts. The water in its dream can quench thirst in dream. It is only when we are awake that we can realize the falsity of the dream state. Similarly, as long as we are engrossed in ignorance, the world is quite real for us. Just as form, bubbles, ripples, waves, exist separately, though, in fact, they are not different from water. Similarly, the subject and object, the enjoyer and the enjoyed do exist separately, though, in fact, they are not different from Brahman. The manifold world of experience is the effect. The highest Brahman is the cause and the effect has no independent existence apart from cause.

Although the world is mere appearance, its ground or substratum is real. if there were no Brahman, then there would be no Brahman. As the snake is rooted in rope, the world is rooted in Brahman. Although the world is an appearance, it is always present or pre—existent in Brahman in an un-manifested form. In that way, Shamkaracharya accepts the satkaryavada theory of causation. However, Brahman is not really transformed. It is only reflected as the world of plurality. So, Shamkaracharya believes in Brahman-vivartavada.

 

It has been criticized that how can unreal maya cause the real Brahman to appear as the phenomenal world and how false personality through false means can reach the true end? If the world is unreal, then unreal means like Vedanta texts cannot lead to final liberation. If the world is real, then it cannot be maya. Opponents say that one bitten by rope-snake does not die.

Shamkaracharya replies that a thorn pricked in body can be taken out with the help of another thorn and there are many instances in this life which shows that even unreal things appear to cause real things. e.g. Reflection in mirror is unreal. But, it can correctly represent the object. A roaring tiger in a dream is unreal, but it can make a dreamer tremble with fear and may awaken him.

Shamkaracharya further says that if imagination of beaten by rope-snake is very strong, it may result in heart failure or some psychological disaster. Again water in dream can quench thirst in dream. Thus, the objection loses its force when it is remembered that many fold world is taken to be real as long as the essential unity of the jiva with Brahman is not realized.

The opponents hopelessly confuse two different points of views — the empirical and the absolute. It is only from absolute point of view when right knowledge is attained, that the Vedanta declares the world to be unreal.

The words Real and Unreal are taken from Shamkaracharya in their absolute sense.

Real means real for all times. In this sense, Brahman alone can be real. Similarly, Unreal mews absolutely unreal like the hare‟s horns which this phenomenal world is not. Hence, this world is neither real nor unreal.

Thus, none can condemn this world as unreal. He who does this is not qualified to do so and he who is qualified to do so will not do so as he would have risen above finite language and thought.

 

Isvara

Shankara’s views

According to Shamkaracharya, Brahman is the only reality. It is absolutely indeterminate and non-dual. It is beyond speech and mind. It is indescribable because no description of it can be complete. But, Brahman, the ultimate reality, when viewed through the glasses of ignorance appears to the ignorant jiva as God.

Brahman conditioned by maya is called Isvara or God. Isvara is the personal aspects of the impersonal Brahman. For us, Isvara is all-in-all. Finite thought can never grasp Brahman. Therefore, all talks about Brahman are really talks about Isvara. Even the word unconditioned Brahman really refers to the conditioned Isvara because the moment we speak of Brahman, he ceases to be Brahman and becomes Isvara.

Thus, Isvara is the sat-chit—ananda, that is, existence, consciousness and bliss. He is the perfect personality. He is the lord of Maya. He is immanent in the whole universe.

He is the soul of souls as well as the soul of nature. He is the transcendental. He is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the universe. He is the object of worship; He is the inspirer of moral life. Thus, qualified Brahman is Isvara. The description of Brahman which Ramanuja gave at a much later date is essentially an elaboration of Shamkaracharya‟s Isvara.

Brahman conceived as the possessor of the undifferentiated maya is Isvara. It is the conception of the God existing prior to creation, but possessed of the power -of the creation. Brahman possessed of subtly differentiated maya is Hiranyagarbha. God in this aspect would be the totality of all subtle objects. Brahman possessed of maya differentiated further into gross objects is called vaisvanara. This aspect of God is the totality of gross objects, the entire manifested world including all the jivas. Sometimes evolution is compared to three stages of the individual, namely, deep sleep, dreams and wakefulness. Isvara is God in deep sleep, Hiranyagarbha is God in dreaming state and Vaisvanara is God fully awake Shamkaracharya explains the concept of Isvara with the help of an analogy such as description of shepherd in a drama as king, ruler and conqueror is only from the point of view of stage and his role there in. It is merely a description that is accidental (tathastagunas) and which does not touch his essence.

The magician is juggler only to those who are deceived by his illusion. Similarly, those who believe in the world-show think of God through this show calls him its creator, sustainer, destroyer, etc. It is the maya which conceals the true nature of Brahman,the ultimate reality and super-imposes upon it the quality. As a result, what we see is saguna Brahman. However; from the ultimate point of view, Brahman is nirguna and distinctionless. It is indescribable. Brahman is same as God and God is same as Brahman„: It is only from practical point of view that Isvara is real. It becomes unreal only for him who has realized his oneness with Brahman by rising above his speech and mind.

Through these two points of view, that is practical and ultimate point of view; Shankaracharya tries to reconcile the immanence and transcendence of God. The world so long as it appears is in God, but God is really not touched by the imperfections of the world.

Though God as creator is only apparent. Yet, his importance and value should not he ignored. It is only through lower standpoint that we can gradually mount up to the higher. Shamkaracharya believes in the gradual revelation of truth. Thus, at the first level, the world alone is real. At the second, world and God and at the last, only God.

This last state is absolute monism of Shankaracharya. He therefore believes in the utility of worshipping God because this purifies the heart and prepares one for gradually reaching the highest view.Shankara‟s conception of God is different from that of Nyaya philosophy in the following aspects:

1. The God of Nyaya is an individual creator. Samkara„s God, in spite of being a creator, is infinite and perfect. The God of Nyaya is without demerits, ignorance, etc. He is the basis of merit, knowledge and Samadhi, the existence, consciousness and bliss, omnipotent and the controller of the karmas and yet the creates and sustains the world like a father and is guided by the actions of the individual. He is omniscient, eternal, conscious and pure bliss and yet he has desires. Hence he is an individual. He creates the universe due to compassion. His purpose is the spiritual evolution of the individual. Samkara has criticised such a conception of God. If the creation is according to karmas, there is hardly any place for compassion and if the compassion has still the same role to play, God becomes partial and imperfect.

2. The God of Samkara is immanent as well as transcendent. The God of Nyaya is beyond the universe. In both God is an instrumental cause, but in Samkara‟s philosophy, God is also the material cause.

3. Nyaya tries to prove God on the basis of the Samanyatodrsta inference. Samkara, like Kant admits that the existence of God cannot be proved by an intellectual argument, but its only proof is the scripture.

4. According to Nyaya philosophy, every efficient cause requires necessary knowledge, desires and efforts as in the case of human action. But according to Samkara, only knowledge is sufficient. There is no need of desire and efforts of the creator in creation, because if it is so it needs an earlier desire and earlier effort, since there is a problem of creator and so on and thus one arrives on the fallacy of regressus and infinitum.

Though Samkara does not accept Iswara as ultimate reality, yet like a systematic philosopher he gives proofs for the existence of God. These arguments are as follows:

1. Cosmological Argument – The valid and systematic world of multiple names and forms cannot be a creation of material Prakrti as that in Samkhya philosophy or that of the movements of atoms in Vaisesika philosophy. In the Tarkapada of his famous commentary on the Brahman Sutra of Badarayana. Samkara has elaborately criticized the theories of creation in Samkhya and Vaisesika philosophies. It goes without saying that the traditional arguments against the theory of creation do not apply on Samkara‟s views.2. Teleological Argument – In the creation of the world there appears a system, an order, a harmony. The structure of various animals and above all that of the human beings can puzzle even the greatest minds. Even the best artist finds satisfaction in attempting to copy the Nature, hence how can this beautiful world be the work of some unconscious material Prakrti?

3. Only a conscious God can be the creator of this universe. He creates the world to fulfill the purposes of the individuals. He is omniscient and so he creates the universe according to the desires of the individuals. Taking the seeds of names and forms of the Maya he creates a systematic world. The system explicit everywhere in the creation testifies to the purpose of the creator. This is the teleological argument to prove the existence of the conscious God as creator of the World. .

4. Moral Argument

One finds a wide difference in the Status of different individuals in the world. One enjoys pleasure while another suffers pain. One is born with a silver spoon in his mouth another cannot make both ends meet, even after much labour. If the world is a moral order, why is there all this injustice? If the creator and sustainer of the world is not a wicked spirit, why is there so much pain, misery and sins?

It is to give a moral interpretation of this inequality that Kant has taken resort to the postulate of God. Samkara brings here the doctrine of Karmas. All the inequality in the lots of the individual is due to their past karmas. Only the doctrine of Karma can satisfactorily give a moral interpretation of such wide difference found among the individuals and beings.

According to Mimamsa philosophy, this Karma is an imperceptible power, named Approve which creates the good and consequence. But if this Approve is itself an unconscious power, how can it create the good and bad consequences?

It can be done only by some conscious power. Hence, according to Samkara it is only God who awards and punishes the individuals according to their Karmas.

He is the controller of all actions. This is the moral argument to prove the existence of conscious God who systematically awards and punishes different individuals according to their deeds.

SANKARA: SELF, BONDAGE AND LIBERATION

We have found already that Sankara believes in unqualified monism. All distinctions between objects and objects, the subject and the object, the self and God are the illusory creation of maya. He holds fast to the conception of identity without any real difference and tries to follow it out logically in every respect. He accepts, therefore, without any reservation, the identity of the Soul and God that is repeatedly taught in the Upanisads.

Man is apparently composed of the body and the soul. But the body which we perceive is, like every other material object, merely an illusory appearance. When this is realized, the reality that remains is the soul which is nothing other than Brahman.

The saying, „That thou art‟; means that there is an unqualified identity between the soul, that underlies the apparently finite man, and God.

We have to understand, therefore, the word „thou‟ to imply pure consciousness underlying man and „that’ to imply also pure consciousness which forms the essence of God. Between these two, complete identity exists and is taught by the Vedanta.

Owing to ignorance, the beginning of which cannot be assigned, the soul erroneously associates itself with the body, gross and subtle. This is called bondage. In this state it forgets that it is really Brahman. It behaves like a finite, limited, miserable being which runs after transitory worldly objects and is pleased to get them, sorry to miss them. It identifies itself with a finite body and mind (antahkarana) and thinks „I am stout,‟ „I am lame, „I am ignorant.‟

Thus arises the conception of the self as the „Ego‟ or I‟. This limited ego opposes itself to the rest of existence, which is thought to be different from it. The ego is nor, therefore, the real self, but is only an apparent limitation of it.

The Rational Basis of Sankara: Conception of Self:

It should be clearly mentioned at the outset that Sankara does never think that the existence of the self (atman) need be proved by any argument. The self is self-manifest in everyone. “Everyone believes that he exists, and never thinks „I am not‟. But there are so many different kinds of meaning, attached to I or „self that it requires a good deal of analysis and reasoning to find out what, the self really is.

One method of enquiry is the analysis of language. The Word „I‟ seems sometimes to imply the body (e.g. „I am fat), sometimes a sense (e.g. „I am blind‟), sometimes a motor organ (e.g. „I am lame„), sometimes a mental faculty (eg. „I am dull‟), sometimes consciousness (e.g. „I know‟). Which of-these should be taken to u be the real essence of the self?To determine this we have to remember the true criterion of reality. The reality or the essence of a thing is that which persists through all its states. The essence or the reality behind the world of objects was found, in this way, to be pure existence because while other things about the world change and perish, this always reveals itself in every state. In a similar way it is found that what is common to the body, sense, mind, etc., with which the self identifies itself from time to time, is consciousness. The identification of the self with any of these means some form of consciousness or other that is the consciousness of the self as the body („l am fat‟) as a sense („I am blind„) and the like.

Consciousness is, therefore, the essence of the self in whichever from it may appear. But it is not consciousness of any particular form, but simple consciousness, common to all its forms. Such consciousness is also pure existence since existence persists through all forms of consciousness. The different particular and changing forms of consciousness can be shown, from their contradictory natures, to be mere appearances, in the same way as the different forms of existence were shown to be so before.

This conclusion is further supported by the linguistic expressions „my body,‟ „my sense,‟ „my intellect,‟ etc. which show that the self can alienate itself from these (body, sense, etc.) and treat them as external objects distinct from itself. These cannot, therefore, be regarded as the real essence of the self. It is true one also sometimes says „my conscious-ness‟. But such an expression cannot be taken literally, as implying a distinction between the self (as possessor) and consciousness (as possessed). For, if the self tries to distinguish itself from consciousness, it only assumes the form of distinguishing consciousness. Consciousness thus proves inseparable and indistinguishable from the self. So my consciousness must be taken in a metaphorical sense.

How infinite, formless consciousness, which is the self‟s essence, can assume particular forms is a problem which we already came across in another form namely, how pure existence can appear a particular objects.

So Maya is admitted by the Advaitin as the principle of apparent limitation and multiplication in this as in every other sphere. We can imagine Brahman, the Infinite Pure Consciousness Existence Bliss limiting itself by an all-overpowering Maya and appearing as the universe of finite objects and selves.

The individual (Jiva) can then be imagined metaphorically as but the reflection (pratibimba) of the Infinite Consciousness on the finite mirror of ignorance (avidya) and compared to one of the many reflections of the ‘ moon cast on different receptacles of water. Just as there the reflection varies with the nature of the reflecting water, appearing clear or dirty, moving or motionless, according as the Water is of one nature or another, similarly does the human self, the reflection of the Infinite, vary with the nature of the avidya.We saw previously that the human body, gross and subtle, is the product of ignorance, and the mind (the antahkarana) is one of the elements composing the subtle body. The mind is thus a product of avidya. Now, the mind may be more or less cultured; it may be ignorant, impure, swayed by passion or enlightened, pure and dispassionate. These differences can be said to constitute differences in the avidyas of the individuals. The analogy of reflection would thus explain how the same Brahman can appear as different kinds of individual selves, without really becoming different and only being reflected in different kinds of minds constituted by different avidyas.

The attempt to understand the appearance of individual souls on the analogy of images is called the theory of reflection (pratibimba-vada). One great disadvantage of this metaphor is that it reduces the souls to mere images, and liberation, which according to it would consist in breaking the mirror of ignorance, would also mean the total cessation of the illusory individuals.

Liberation

The attempt of Sankara and his followers is to show how the intrinsic, pure condition of the self can be regained. The fact that the blissful state of dreamless sleep is not permanent and man once more returns to his finite, limited, embodied consciousness on waking up, shows that there remain even in dreamless sleep, in a latent form the forces of karma or avidya which draw man into the world. Unless these forces, accumulated from the past, can be completely stopped, there is no hope of liberation from the miserable existence which the self has in this world.

The study of the Vedanta helps man conquer these deep-rooted effects of long standing ignorance. But the study of the truth taught by the Vedanta would have no effect unless the mind is previously prepared. This initial preparation, according to Sankara, is not the study of the Mimamsa sutra, as Ramanuja thinks.

The Mimamsa, which teaches the performance of sacrifices to the various gods, rests on the -wrong conception of a distinction between the worshipper and the worshipped.

Its spirit is, therefore, antagonistic to the absolute monism taught by the Vedanta Far from preparing the mind for the reception of the monistic truth, it‟ only helps to perpetuate the illusion of distinctions and plurality from which man‟ already suffers.

The preparation necessary for undertaking the study of the Vedanta is fourfold, according to Sankara.

1. (Due should, first, be able—to discriminate between what is eternal and what is not eternal (nityanitya-vastu-viveka).

2. He should be able to give up all desires for enjoyment of objects here and hereafter (ihamutrartha bhogaviraga).

3. Thirdly, he should control his mind and his senses and develop qualities like detachment, patience, power of concentration (samadamadi-sadhana—sampat).

4. Lastly, he should have an ardent desire for liberation (mumuksatva).With such preparation of the intellect, emotion and will one should begin to study the Vedanta with a teacher who has himself realized Brahman. This study consists of the threefold process:

i. Listening to the teacher‟s instructions (sravana),

ii. Understanding the instructions through reasoning until all doubts are removed and conviction is generated (manana) and

iii. Repeated meditation on the truths thus accepted (nididhyasana).

The forces of deep-rooted beliefs of the past do not disappear so soon as the truths of the Vedanta are learned. Only repeated meditation on the truths and life led accordingly can gradually root them out. When wrong beliefs thus become removed and belief in the truths of the Vedanta becomes permanent, the seeker after liberation is told by the teacher „Thou art Brahman.‟

He begins then to contemplate this truth steadfastly till at last he has an immediate realization of the truth in the form „I am Brahman.‟ Thus the illusory distinction between the self and Brahman at last disappears and bondage, too along with it.

Liberation (mukti) is thus attained.

Even on the attainment of liberation the body may continue because it is the product of karmas which had already home their effects (prarabdha-karma). But the liberated soul does never again identity itself with the body. The world still appears before him, but he is not deceived by it. He does not feel any desire for the world‟s objects. He is, therefore, not affected by the world‟s misery. He is in the world and yet out of it.

This conception of Sankara has become well known in later Vedanta as Jivanmukti (the liberation of one while one is alive). It is the state of perfection attained here. Like Buddha, the Sankhya, the Jaina and some other Indian thinkers, Sankara believes that perfection can be reached even here in this life. Three kinds of karma can be distinguished. Karmas gathered in past lives admit of a twofold division, those that have borne their effects (prarabdhi-karma) and those that still lie accumulated (Agama-karma). In addition to these two kinds, there are karmas which are being gathered here in thislife (sancita-karaa).

Knowledge of reality destroys the second kind and prevents the third and thus makes rebirth impossible. But the first kind which has already borne effects cannot be prevented. Hence the present body, the effect of such karma, runs its natural course and ceases when the force of the karma causing it becomes automatically exhausted, just as the wheel of a potter which has been already turned comes a stop only when the momentum imparted to it becomes exhausted. When the body, gross and subtle, perishes the jivan-mukta is said to attain the disembodied state of liberation (videha—mukti).Liberation is not the production of anything new, nor is it the purification of any old state; it is the realization of what is always there, even in the stage of bondage, though not known then. For, liberation nothing but the identity of the self and Brahman, which is always real, though not always recognized. The attainment of liberation is,therefore, compared by the Advaitins to the finding „of the necklace on the neck by one who forgot its existence there and searched for it hither and thither. As bondage is due to an illusion, liberation is only the removal of this illusion.

Liberation is not merely the absence of all misery that arises from the illusory sense of distinction between the self and God. It is conceived by the Advaitin, after Upanisads, as a stare of positive bliss (ananda), because Brahman is bliss and liberation is identity with Brahman.

Though the liberated soul, being, perfect, has no end to achieve, it can work still without any fear of further bondage, Sankara, following the Gila, holds that work letters a man only when it is performed with attachment. But one who has obtained perfect knowledge and perfect satisfaction, is free from attachment. 

Sankara attaches „great importance to disinterested work (nishkam karma). For one  who has not yet obtained perfect knowledge, such work is necessary for selfpurification (atma-suddhi), because it is not through inactivity but through the performance of selfless action that one can gradually free oneself from the yoke of the ego and its petty interests. Even for one who has obtained perfect knowledge o or liberation, selfless activity is necessary for the good of those who are still in bondage.

The critics of Advaita Vedanta have often urged that if Brahman be the only reality and all distinctions false, the distinction between right and wrong also would be false; such a philosophy is, therefore, fruitful of dangerous consequences for society.

 This objection is due to the confusion of the lower and the higher standpoint. From the empirical standpoint, the distinction between right and wrong, like other distinctions, is quite valid.

Tab Content

Q1.How to become a Hindu?

There is no official conversion process or ceremony for converting to the Hindu faith. Hinduism preaches the very principle that there is no need for conversion; It means you can become Hindu at your home by following Hindu cultural practices.

Q2.Do I have to go to temple and pray every day, If I became Hindu?

No, you don’t have to go temple every day, if you don’t want to go temple don’t go to temple it’s all up to you how you worship your god. You can worship your god at home. You can make small temple at your home, even you don’t pray at all, Hinduism give freedom to believer how he or she wants to worship his or her god.

Q3. Do I have to pray god five times in a day?

No, Hinduism don’t believe in number of times of pray. It’s up to you how many times you want to pray or no pray at all.

Q4.Do I have to follow strict vegetarian practice?

No, Hinduism promotes vegetarian culture because it is good for health or because Hinduism promotes non-violence. You can go for non-vegetarian diet if you want to because in India many Hindu people are non-vegetarian However, Beef is exception in Hinduism because it believed that cow and other milch animal give milk and other dairy product so it has status of mother in Hinduism However, Kerala state in India is an exception where many Hindus eat beef.

Q5. Can someone who doesn’t convert to Hinduism still follow Hindu ideals, such as karma and reincarnation?

Ans: Yes. Anyone can still follow Hinduism’s beliefs even if he or she doesn’t convert.

Q6. I’ve been raised as a Muslim. Can I convert to Hinduism?

Ans: Absolutely! You were raised Muslim by the choice of your parents. It’s time to choose for yourself now.

Q7. I want to get started in learning the religion of Hinduism, but I need help with what book to start out with. Any advice? Also, would the books be in English?

Ans: Read Bhagavat Geeta which is the most widely read book of Hinduism. This book is available not only in English but also in many other languages and is easily available on internet as well.

Q8. If I convert to Hinduism, which God Should I worship?

Ans: Well it is up to you, which god you want to worship there are 33 crores deities according to Hinduism, you can make your own god if you want to, Hinduism give you that freedom. You can worship your own god. Mostly people worship Lord Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu, Ram etc.

Q9. What does Hinduism offer that other religions do not?

Hinduism offers you complete freedom; you can pray to any deities, and prayer is not compulsory or a daily duty in Hindu dharma. Hinduism is a super scientific religion or way of life;

Other religion restricted women in multiple ways for instance clothing, restriction to religious places after sex, not able to pray side by side of man, wearing hijab or covering whole body etc. There is no such practices in Hinduism. In Hinduism women can become religious scholar while some western religion not allowing them so.

You don’t need strict adherence to religious practices in Hinduism. You can devise your own way to follow Hinduism in larger Hinduism.

Q. I want to convert into Hinduism however my parents won’t allow me to do so what should I do?

Ans:

Q. I want to convert into Hinduism however I fear religious persecution, what should I do?

Ans:

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