Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Hinduism (World Religions: A Whirlwind Tour)

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I

see some familiar faces. Can you hear me in the back? Good.

Um...

One correction to the introduction. Its 330 million gods and goddesses.

Million.

Give or take. We have one hour.

Let's hit it.

330 million gods and goddesses.

Um... polytheism?

As in more than one, [God] ism? Well, it depends on who you talk to.

There are Hindus who argue that their religion is

actually monotheistic, and that's one of the things that we want to talk about today.

Where do we even begin?

I mean it took a long time

to develop that many faces for the divine, right? And that's what we've been talking about so far.

How is it that we picture the divine? What does...

"He"

look like, or "She," or in this instance

"They." Or perhaps even "It" look like. How is it that we imagine God to be? What

metaphors, and it's some level they are all metaphors. What metaphors

do we use? Or to put it another way, what how have we constructed the divine?

In our minds, and not just our individual minds, but our social minds, right, to try to understand. What is

at the end of the day perhaps beyond

understanding. And

I think

the religious tradition of Hinduism gives us an excellent opportunity

to think about that, so

welcome to the adventure, and

let's see what we can figure out.

Um...

This is so complex.

What you can do is,

as with any religious tradition, trace the evolution of thinking as time goes on. And

with hinduism [we] have plenty of time [to] work [with] because,

well for one thing... Maybe I should back up.

The first thing we need to realize is that there really is no such thing as Hinduism!

Okay? That is, it that is a name [that] is a blanket, if you will, that we toss over an incredibly complex

cultural phenomenon. A

mixture if you will of beliefs and

practices and myths. And you know what myth means from the week before last.

Not fairy tales, but religious stories. And

the word "Hinduism" doesn't even come from the Indians.

Who named this religion Hinduism?

Well who owned India until the middle of the 20th century right? The British!

Yes.

Yes.

And they themselves were struggling to understand. What was going on religious studies have wrestled,

scholars have wrestled with it my dear colleague, Dr. Amy Allocco, is an expert in

Hinduism. Her work is mainly in South India. She studies snake goddesses...

Which sounds fascinating?

She has taken many students here to India with her.

And I hope others will go as well. I'm also happy to see some students here today.

If you asked a hindu:

What is your religion? They will say

"Sanatana-Dharma"

Now that's not Carlos Santana from the sixties band okay, no, Sanatana-Dharma

which means something like the eternal religion and what they're [saying] is our religion has always been here and

I think [at] some level pretty much every religion argues the same thing, right?

They will trace [it] back to the very beginning for reasons of Authority right And again,

that is the way that they have constructed their own self images,

religiously socially speaking.

330 million gods and goddesses what you see as time goes on in

the myths coming from the sacred scriptures of the Hindus, the Vedas, the Upanishad,

the Bhagavad Gita.

What you see is an evolution of thinking about the divine right and you can imagine how difficult it might be to keep up with

330 million gods and goddesses. For instance, if every one of them had a holiday

Well, we would never get anything done, right?

But one of the things that I challenge you to do today that I really [encourage] you to do,

whatever your own

religious, sociocultural background,

try, if you can, to

step into these other shoes, to look out that window on the divine and

understand as much as we are capable of doing,

what it must be like to understand the divine in

this way?

Imagine if you will

by some stroke of

Luck or God's will [or] a karma,

which is a little more relevant in this context, that you had been born in India. If indeed you

Yourself were [not] born in India. Imagine you grew up in

this context and what you had been taught from your mother's knee, right,

is that there are many gods and goddesses. Each of them different. Each of them unique.

Then for the first time you hear that [there's] a religion that has only one [God]?

How does [he] keep up with everything?

right only [one]?

Only one.

Well, what happens in the history of Hindu thinking is that,

the religious philosophers

begin to talk about the possibility, at least, and over time it becomes something of a certainty, that

yes, there are

[330] million different gods and goddesses.

Each in its own way unique, but they are all part of a much larger

reality. And I don't want to use the term "being" because when I do

I'm afraid Gandalf is going to sneak back into your heads, that Western image of God is a being. Remember

we did the circles in the west. We tend to think of the divine

creating the world and so that we're separate from the divine and we have to get back to the divine?

Once you toss in sin, then you have a real mess. You have a real challenge on your hand, right?

It's all about how do we develop this relationship?

How do we [maintain] it through prayer a conversation between two separate beings, if you will, right, but in the East

generally speakingthe circles are not separate, but concentric, that we are born

into the midst of the [divine]. In fact, we ourselves are

divine, and not just humans,

but all creatures. The [Earth], the very cosmos itself, is

holy, is sacred, is

divine, is possessed of

energy of life.

And the hindus come to see that all of those many gods and goddesses are

simply different [faces] of this one

[divine]. And they give the divine a name: Brahman. Listen to how I say that: Brah-man.

Brah-man.

The term originally meant "breath." As

in to breathe, right?

Breath, the Divine breath, the breath of the universe. And it's actually a common notion in

several of the religious traditions. For instance,

if I may step into Judaism for just a moment, not to steal my own thunder or anything, it wouldn't be the first time

In

the Jewish Scriptures and of course they become the Christian scriptures as well, when it is said that in the [beginning]

God created the heavens and the Earth, and the Earth was without form and void and

the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Those primordial waters out of which all things come. Well

the actual term for spirit in Hebrew is "Rula" and, again listen. Rula.

It's the breath. The breath of God moved on the face of the waters. In the new testament,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

"Pneuma" as in pneumatic tires. Again, you get this notion of the divine breath. So

again, if the universe itself, if the cosmic, and oftentimes in the ancient world, the universe is pictured as a gigantic human.

Excuse me, a gigantic male.

Imagine that, right, who's telling this story. It's not Eve. It's Adam, right, as a

gigantic human being. Of which we are all part, right?

Then the [spirit] is the [breath]. The soul of that

cosmos, of that divine.

And again we can dismiss this as some ancient,

perhaps even primitive,

myth. These poor ignorant savages,

how could they [ever] think of the universe that way? When we, with all our scientific knowledge

know that it's just a collection of atoms, right?

We're spinning, at an incredible rate, on a planet that is spinning at an incredible rate.

Or the star that is spinning at an incredible rate

around a black hole.

Which itself is spinning at an incredible rate of speed, right, through this vast universe. Well,

scientists are coming to understand

that in a way the universe itself, in

our construction of it, our

understanding of it, is all of a piece.

That the very same

energy, if you will, that drives the stars, [that]

[keeps] everything spinning,

also pushes our hearts, keeps our lungs pumping. We are stardust. We are golden.

To quote Joni Mitchell, one of my favorite musicians from back in the day.

Brah-man, right, originally it means breath. It comes to mean the breath of [the] universe, [and] you could think of

Brah-man, and

[I] don't mean to be unkind but just to help illustrate some what, as having a split personality.

Only it's not the three faces of Eve. It's the [330] million faces of Brah-man.

The same divine, but showing itself in different ways. Now,

some of you, I would imagine, are Christians, or you know enough about Christianity to know about the Trinity, right?

God is one, but

not.

Those Christians.

How'd they come up with that one? One but not. Does it not sound a little familiar to you though?

[I] mean, if you compare it with the hindu understanding of 330 million in one, right?

And

each, you know, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, they each play different roles. And yet, they are

somehow

mystically

one in the same. You can think of Brah-man in that way.

[330] million different personalities if you will. And I use personalities advisedly, because the root of that term

"persona" comes from the Greek

*phone rings* Hello? That was a phone ringing for you. Elsewhere. Um where was I?

See this is, technology is of the devil! Okay. It's of the devil. Oh.

So tempting right, so marvelous in its own way, so seductive and yet [oh].

Or maybe, I'm just, yeah, scatterbrained.

330 million gods. I know we're talking about hinduism, okay?

Thank you!

Good job.

You're a good tribe. Persona. It means "mask," right, so like a

tragedian .An actor in the Greek tragedies who might wear several faces during one of those plays.

Brah-man does the same. If you need water, you need rain for your crops. You should talk to Indra, the storm

god, and Brah-man will come to you in this form. Now

[if] we have time today, I want to talk in particular about at least a couple of these

manifestations, if you will, of the divine. Of

the cosmos, of Brah-man.

But first I wanted to say [a] word. And again, I am generalizing.

I'm not sure how else to do this. Um, a

word of

comparison between

the scriptures of the western religions.

Judaism. Christianity. Islam. And

the scriptures of the Hindus, the Vedas, and

other works, right.

In the West we seem [to] have a

very definite idea about who God is.

Not what, but who, and I don't just mean visually okay?

If you think about

one of the major components, certainly of Judaism and Christianity,

and

the same kind of attitude adheres

among Muslims, right.

We think and I say we, right, westerners

think that they know God

so well that they know what He wants for us. And they know it with a great

measure of certainty.

Thou shalt.

Do this. Thou shalt. Not

do that. That's how

intimately we understand the will of the divine.

Still it is left to us to figure out ,you know,

how that is supposed to work itself out in our everyday lives, and many is the debate that has occurred on that score.

But

you may get a little bit of that kind of

attitude. I think of it...

Here's my English major showing, okay?

But I think of the western scriptures as being written in the declarative mode. This is the truth.

This is the truth. To the extent that on occasion

it

switches over into the imperative mode. You shall do this.

You shall not do that, right?

And of course you get other attitudes, but I think that is something of the tenor.

And you can correct me if I'm wrong. Some of you know better than I do, right.

In the scriptures of Hinduism and,

somewhat as well in the scriptures of buddhism, and certainly in the scriptures of taoism, as we shall see in in a couple of weeks.

What you find is

more the

interrogative mode.

Instead of "This is the truth," it seems to be more

"What is the truth?"

Not "this is who God is and this is what he wants," but "who is the divine?" What is the divine?

It seems... It strikes me more pondersome. A

more of a wondering, right, which,

in some ways might

indicate a measure of security.

Now if life is crazy, and

out of control, and you're scared,

what do you usually look [for]? Somebody needs to tell us what to do, right?

Do you think of those weeks and months after 9/11?

We wanted the government to step up,[help] us out here. We're hurting, right. We're scared. What do we do?

And,

that's what the government did, right? That's what governments do.

And now of course

the situation has changed, and we have some time to [think], and one of the things we get to think about is

those weeks and months after [9/11].

And

were we doing the right thing?

And

did we ask the government for the right thing? If you know anything about the debate, about, you know, we lost some

right to privacy during those times, and now we're beginning to see the ramifications of those measures that were taken.

You know, the whole use of drones. I mean all these different issues, and I know I'm chasing a rabbit here

but I think it's an important one. Happens to be a political rabbit. How can you talk about religion without talking about politics?

I apologized to my grandmother one more time.

The two things she told me never to talk about...

Here I am making a living at it, right?

oh

life is strange.

And beautifully. So the interrogative mode. It seems to me that

wondering

It could be considered something of a luxury. Life's got to have a little bit of order and a sense of security to it

for us to be able to sit [down] and really think

and, and, and,

ponder and ponder. Now again, that is a, just a radical generalization.

But if you do look into, and I hope that you will,

the Vedas, particularly the Rig Veda.

Again, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.

I wonder, I'd be interested to know if you if you think I'm onto something there.

Now there's another thing that happens.

As time goes on and [you] don't see it in the early scriptures of hinduism.

But it grows as time goes on. It's this notion...

Again, I picture it with those concentric circles, right, that Brah-man is...

Let me borrow a term from Paul Tillich, okay, German theologian philosopher.

Being

itself, not "a" Being, right even with a capital B, right, but being

itself. Whatever is, is a part of the divine.

Including you and me and everything else.

You see this notion coming to the fore in Indian thought, and there's a moment in the Upanishads in particular,

when a brief,

deceptively simple statement is made. And

again, this is somewhat idiosyncratic, but I'm not the only one who thinks it. If you could identify the heart of hinduism

I think it would be this.

You want to learn a little sanskrit?

It won't hurt you.

*Sanskrit*

*Sanskrit*

*Sanskrit*

*Sanskrit*

*Sanskrit*

Can I hear you say it *Sanskrit*

*Sanskrit*

Translated that means:

"That you are."

That you are. In other words. You are that. Well, you are what?

You are what?

You are

Brah-man.

You, your individual soul, your outline, if you will, right. That's the little circle.

Are Rahman, the Big Circle,

one in the same. One in the same. And

if the life of a hindu could be defined,

and we're not just talking [about] one life here, right, the whole reincarnation thing comes in here. Over these many lives.

Your job, if you will,

your assignment if you choose to take it, right, is slowly

but surely, to dissipate the boundary between your circle and the circle of the divine.

So that the oneness you already have right, but because of the illusions of life and

because of the karmic muck that we

mentioned last week, right, that accrues [on] us as we do bad things and fail to do good things.

As you straighten that out, as you

lose that, as it dissipates, right, in your life, in your lives,

you come to experience who you have been all along from your very first life.

I suppose is the lowest life form and I'm not sure what would be the...

an Amoeba?

Well, let's go even farther than that right we in the West thinking of life in terms of the animate and the inanimate

[alright], that's our construction of it, but here if all things are animate. Maybe we start out as a

sand pebble, I'm not sure how you would be a good sand pebble...

To come back as, you know, a higher life form maybe stay out of people's shoes. I don't know!

But there's that moment when it is actually said *sanskrit* You are

that. And you know,

where I stand that is such a radical notion to consider. That you yourself are,

always have been, always will be,

Brahman. You're [divine], right. You're divine. And so how do we live into that?

How do we live into that and that's one [of] the major questions

addressed by the hindu religious tradition. As it is in every single

one of

the religious traditions. In other words, not only who are we?

Where do we come from?

Where are we going?

But the ethical question

arises. What do we do in the meantime? How do we live a good life? How do we live our own,

divinity, if you will,

We can't cover all 330 million gods and goddesses today.

But that's [okay]. Hinduism is a very patient religious tradition. You have many lifetimes to get that done. But

it does suggest that you get busy, okay?

What I'll do today is concentrate [on] three, and especially on two, of those gods and

goddesses. Now again, Dr. Allocco is a specialist ,particularly in Hindu goddesses, right? I just

keep from stepping into her territory. I'm sure she would mind. I'm going to concentrate on some of the male depictions of the divine.

But there are three who hold a great deal of significance for hindus, and they're known as the "Trimurti."

The Trimurti.

*Spells the Trimurti* And that first syllable gives you a clue. The Tri-murti.

We have a few words in English that start with "tri-." Can you name one for me?

Triangle, there you go! Triad, right, you know, we're in the [Piedmont] Triad region, [and] it implies what?

Three-ness. Yes. The three of the main gods of Hinduism would be

"Brahma," not Brah-man, right,

but Brahma. You just dropped the "n" off the "ma," right?

Brahma

Shiva

And you see this build a couple of different [ways]. It's all transliterated so pick one and go [with] it. These are either "s-i-v-a," or

"s-h-i-v-a." You also hear it pronounced in different ways, [Shiva]

and Vishnu.

"V-i-s-h-n-u." Vishnu, for those of you taking notes.

[Brahma] is understood to be the creator God.

Who brings the Universe into being. And

then Vishnu steps in and takes over. He is the the "God of Maintenance," if you will. He keeps the universe

going for as long as it does, and

then, when it's time is up, he hands it over to Shiva. And

Shiva steps in. Shiva is known, well, in many different ways, but one [of] his major roles is the destroyer

god, right. To destroy the universe.

Are these good gods? Would a good god destroy the universe?

Maybe?

Well...

Let's look at a couple [other] religious traditions.

Let's bring it home for [the] moment. I assume for most of you.

Does the Christian God create the heavens and the Earth. But of course!

Does He, right, does he also destroy the

universe in the end?

Oh yeah. Is he considered to be a good guy. Oh

Yeah, right. Oh, yeah.

But one of the things that is fascinating to me about this story, this myth, if you will, right. Again,

no value judgment about truth or non-truth this religious story about how the universe came to be, right, and you get an arc,

right, the creation, the maintenance, the destruction.

Well in the western religions, that's pretty much the end of the story, isn't it?

I mean, what you get after that is, you know, you're dancing in robes and playing harps, right, on the clouds

[for] ever and ever, amen.

Not so here.

Not so here. That's not the end of the story. If anything it's really just the beginning.

Because once

Shiva has finished his work, Brahma steps back up and

recreates the universe.

Vishnu

re-maintains the universe. Eventually,

Shiva will destroy that universe once again. Only [to] have the cycle repeat, and repeat.

Rinse and repeat, and repeat.

So it seems as if

not only do individual souls, or "atmans,"

go through a reincarnation cycle. But the cosmos itself goes through a...

Well, I guess you could call it a reincarnation cycle, right. Birth, death, and rebirth.Now, we had some fun last week

talking about the big bang theory didn't we. Not the TV show,

but the scientific theory, right.

And if you look at it, it reads a lot like a creation story, does it not.

Yeah. Not... Certainly not usually considered to be religious...

But it strikes me as [a] myth nonetheless. A story that we tell ourselves to explain to ourselves where we came [from], who we are,

where we're going.

But again, does the big bang happen only once?

I was taught [that] it did just once, right. You get the big bang,

everything in the universe is flying outward at a high rate of speed.

There's that spinning again, right. But it reaches a certain point, and

this is only one theory among many, but still it reaches a certain point where it can't stretch anymore.

And then it begins to shrink, and shrink, and shrink over the millennia until eventually you get...

Let's call it "the big crunch".

Big bang.

Big crunch, right.

One-shot deal.

Just like the way that we have constructed our own

lives, our understanding of our [own] lives in the West, is we get one life. Isn't that what you were taught?

Is it just me? Did I get gypped? One life, that's it, man. You know, no pressure!

You got to get right! You got one shot! And if you don't...

Woe be unto you, right?

Yeah, when you hear that as a 6 year-old.

But it's...

There are scientists now who are beginning to argue?

That the big bang hasn't happened only once. That

you get the big bang, a

zillion years later, you get the big crunch. But then,

bang,

crunch, bang, crunch, bang, crunch, like the universe wasn't large enough already, [right]?

Now we get to imagine even more.

In a repetitive cycle.

Were these ancient hindu thinkers perhaps onto something?

Is it a similar metaphor?

I mean were they just gazing at their navels? Because oftentimes these ancient religious people get dismissed, right?

Not really talking about the "real world."

But I wonder, you know, did they not have some clues. I mean some of these people were

astrologers, you know. They understood the stars. They knew a great deal about the universe. And

honestly, I have heard hindus say that hinduism is not a religion. It is a science.

It is a science. It is the science of the soul, if you will, right. And

yes, you all over there in the West are really good with your science about studying

material, right, [in] the material universe you're making great progress. But

when it comes to matters of the soul... Which you might

translate into the psychology of the individual human being.

We still have a ways to go [on] that.

We struggle here in the West, for all of our goods, right. All our technological progress, shall

we say.

Still...

You know that little smartphone?

That little smartphone that has so connected us, right, in so many different ways.

Yes, and no, right. Some good points. Maybe some not so good. I mean, it's great a little tool, right?

And I spend time on social media. I'm a

fan of the "Facebooks," if you will. Right, Twitter, that's a whole other thing. I don't tweet.

Because tweeting is for the birds, okay? I'm just saying!

144

144 is all you get!

I'm not a short story writer. I'm a novelist forget about it, right!

I'll stick with email at least for the time being. But yes it has connected us in these little ways, right.

I've got, you know... How many Facebook friends do you have?

Okay.

Friends, really? That's great. Collect them like beads, right, like baseball cards. How many of those

"friends" are going to drive

30 minutes at 3 o'clock in the morning to help you change the tire on your car? That's a friend!

It's not someone who likes your stuff right? That's a friend.

I don't mean [to] demean it, but I see the effects that it has. I see the effects, even on myself.

I wonder if the more we are connected through our technology in these small,

somewhat shallow, ways, right, because most of the conversations are over here. And believe me, I'm not a lurker,

okay. Not creepy old guy. But

so many of the...

phone conversations that I overhear are somewhere along the lines of "where are you?" and "what are you doing?" First thing.

Where are you? Suddenly, we become really fascinated with location. Maybe it's GPS. I don't know. But "where are you?"

and "what are you doing?

But where are those lengthier conversations? And where is that human connection, right?

Have you had [a] chance to Skype? You know what I thought, where you're looking at a laptop, usually a laptop, right?

And there's that... how did they get that person in that box?

Chaplain Fuller for the first time I ever saw you, you were inside a box, right? You were in a laptop!

I'm like okay, magic, smoke and mirrors.

And yes, again, it connects us with people who are far away. Whose faces

we might not [see] but the time we spend with our technology increasingly? I fear that it steals from us

those moments of real humanity between

two people, right. Where you have time to sit and actually move beyond

those pregnant pauses. I

mean, one [of] the signs that you are with someone who is, or soon will be, a friend...

It's when you have that first

quiet moment that

[could] be awkward

but it isn't.

That it's okay for you just to sit with each other or stand with each other, right?

I mean, that is a moment of humanity. It's a silent one, but again. It's not the declarative.

It's not the imperative. It might actually become

the interrogative, right. A moment to ponder together

what it might mean to be alive. And

some of you have been in truly long-term relationships, and you know what I'm talking about. There's

a comfort level that can come. That it's ok

just to [be] together you know I have to do something not have to say something, right?

So.

Thus endeth the sermon on technology, okay?

It's actually kind of awesome in many ways and anyway...

Oh, boy.

18 minutes.

All right, we're going to give it a shot. Let's talk about Shiva for a little bit. And

then we'll talk about Vishnu.

Brahma we'll leave for another time. Perhaps another lifetime, right. Let's talk about Shiva, and then we'll talk about

Vishnu. In and of themselves, but also, I think, as representative somewhat of...

Of

Indian culture. At least as it has been understood historically right that it is [a] mixture of cultures.

Well like every culture really.

But certainly her. Because we're talking hundreds of millions. Doesn't India have now over a billion people?

Am I right about that?

A billion. A billion people. That makes even 330 million seem like a small number doesn't it?

Shiva

is fascinating. For one thing, he is a study in contrast. He is understood as [the] God of Fertility.

But also of asceticism. Asceticism self-denial,right. Both a God of Creation

But also a God of Destruction. We've already seen him play the role of destroyer in the trimurti, right?

A mixture if you will of what is usually understood to be good and evil.

Oftentimes, Shiva is depicted as...

He's dancing. He's dancing God, right. Sometimes you'll see him dancing in a circle [of] fire, right?

So he's going to make it big in [Vegas]. I'm thinking. Circle of fire. He's the dancing

God. And here, let's go back to those concentric circles again for a moment.

It is said that this is a different creation narrative, okay, from the trimurti.

That Shiva himself plays all three roles of creator, maintainer, and

destroyer. And the way that he does it is

he gets up to dance. Because as you and I now know we are all part [of] the divine,

right, we are all part of Shiva. We all dance with Shiva. In fact we are Shiva's dance

Did you know [that] the things that you did today were actually a part of Shiva's dance?

You're welcome.

Right?

We dance with Shiva! And as long as Shiva dances,

that's the universe. That's the cosmos having its existence! For however long it lasts, right. Again,

there's that depiction of the universe as a gigantic

being. An

anthropomorphized being. A being that looks a lot like humans, right. And

as long as he dances the universe

flourishes, right. But what happens when you dance? Well, it happens a lot more quickly for me now than it did back in the day

You get tired!

Don't you, yeah?

And eventually you're going to go sit down, right? When you stop [doing]... Well, when Shiva, [when] that happens to Shiva, when he

eventually stops dancing,

the universe lapses into it's original chaos. It goes away. But then, I don't know,

did he step to the bar?

Have a beer and get a second wind? Just work with me here.

I'm trying to come up with a metaphor here.

Right, um, he gets back [on] the dance floor. It goes at it again, and there it is: the universe

back again, right.

And there's another

creation-destruction myth, if you will, that is somewhat similar.

Shiva is also understood to be something of a meditating go. And again,

we've talked [about] how meditation is so important, particularly in the Eastern religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, and

Taoism.

Important in the western religions too, but not nearly as much [so]. What is the chief ritual, would you say, in the western religions: Judaism?

Christianity, Islam?

Prayer, right. Again, you think of the conversation between those two beings.

Yes, there are prayers to the gods and goddesses.

But meditation is hugely important for one. For one thing you're not looking for the divine out there. Where's the divine?

At the very center [of] your being, right, so to meditate...

Really...

It's this inward

journey.

This inward search

for the divine. And Shiva again is known as a

meditating God. And so when Shiva sits down to meditate, unless he's doing standing meditation, right?

That is when the universe comes into [being]. You and I are the

meditation of

Shiva.

We're just a thought, right? We're just the thought. This is another... Oh,

how do I even say it?

It's another part of this construction of reality. That this world isn't

real. It's illusory.

The very thing [that] keeps us here. That keeps us from escaping to utter bliss, right,[is]

that we are so attached to the world.

We take it so seriously. And we believe that it is really real. Now again, we are [meaning-making]

beings.We need meaning. We need order

just to, you know, so that the world is not a completely crazy place.

And so what do we do? We construct. We construct our lives. We construct our relationships, right. A social understanding. an

Understanding of the cosmos. [I] mean, this very institution, is about both helping us understand

how to construct a world, but also the fact that this world is constructed, and if it has been constructed the way that it is,

then there are some things about it that can be changed. That can be deconstructed and

reconstructed. Racism comes to mind. Sexism comes to mind, right. Those kinds of things. They have been constructed over time.

They're not just realities.

All right, they can be adjusted at the very least...

Boy... I just took a right turn down an alley. Yes, [ten] minutes. Thank you.

Meditation.

You might as well get used, to this, okay. This is the way my brain works, or fails to. Come on

help me out here. Come on, tribe!

Right, yes, we are the

figments of Shiva's imagination, if you will.

Which might help us not to take ourselves quite so seriously?

I was going to say. You know we build these lives and we walk through them, right?

And maybe your life [is] humming along, and then, oh boy. Oh

boy.

Life's going to throw you that curveball, right, didn't see it coming.

Somebody you love

sick. You yourself

faced with a debilitating illness, maybe. Even, you know, the

harbinger of death itself. Or someone that you trusted, that you trusted absolutely,

turned out not to [be] the person you thought they were. And it breaks your heart.

It shatters your being, if you will. Well at least it shatters the current construction of your being right?

Not you [yourself], but this world that you've painted, right?

That, the stained-glass window through which you have viewed the world, right. It's shattered.

To me those are indications of what we're talking [about] here. That

[life] itself at some level might well be

Illusory. Not in a bad way. [It's] just that's what we do.

We make this meaning right to help us get through a day, to help us get through in life. And sometimes,

right, here comes the rock. And what do we do?

I would imagine all of us have been there at one time or another. If not

just stick around it's going to happen, right. We take those shards of glass and

we build a new window, right. We build a new understanding.

the Illusory Nature of Life.

In his own way, I think Shiva

symbolizes time.And how time moves forward.

The dancing God, the meditating God, Oh,

and one of... one of the ways in which he is depicted that...

One of the things that he does, okay, and it's going to be weird, but go with me, okay.

He goes down by the Ganges River, the holiest river in all of India, in fact, the holiest river in all the world.

Some hindus consider the Ganges River itself to be a goddess, right. I wish we thought of the Haw River over here

that way. We might... We might take a little better care of it, right?

Because our Karma happens to be flowing downstream, right, just as we're [getting] the karma from folks uphill.

He will go down, and you know what happens on the banks of the Ganges, right? Traditionally in India,

that's where they cremate the bodies of the dead, right. And Shiva will go down there

and he's going to dip his hands in those ashes and then smear them all over him and wear it like a

mask. Now what on Earth. Crazy god?

No, what is he doing there? What is he doing here?

Well for one thing he's recognizing the reality of death. Talk about a life shatterer, right.

I think this is where we started two weeks ago. Nobody here gets out alive, right, and we live our lives,

we construct them in the face of this, you know, oncoming reality sooner or later.

Right? There it is.

And what he's doing... He's looking at, well,

dead in the eye.

If that story makes you squeamish at all, is

at least in part because of the way that we have constructed death.

In the West, right. That we're nervous around it. We don't want to spend time with it.

Three days you've got to get them buried or burned right? That's it?

That's it, right. Here's this whole other recognition of it.

And maybe that has something to do with reincarnation. If you thought you were going to live a thousand times...

Maybe there wouldn't be quite so much pressure?

Right? Yeah.

As I said, you know, hinduism is a patient

religio. If you don't get it right this time. It's okay. You're going to get your karma straightened out eventually.

It's also, and this is one of the things I really respect, [what] we might call a

Universalist religion. Everybody's going to make it!

Now... Alright, back to Christianity for a moment. Is everybody gonna make it to heaven?

Hell, no!

But

for the hindus?

Some of [us] are just gonna take a little longer than others, right. Maybe a few more hundred lifetimes...

Everybody's doing it, and again... It's not just about the humans. It isn't just about us.

They look beyond the human race. It's not just us. That's half of our problem.

What's gotten us into this mess is thinking that it's all about us. That we own everything, and we can do with it as we

will. No, no we're a part of that, right, what I do

to those creatures, right, to that river...

Karmically speaking comes back to me. It comes back to me, right. If I do good,

we [flourish] right if I do bad...

Not good, right. But slowly,

surely,

everybody,

everything,

right, is

moving, is growing

towards a state of perfection. And

bliss. *exhales blissfully*

Gotta love it. You gotta love it, now.

Okay, oh...

I...

I wish I could talk faster. Oh...

Well Vishnu. Let's just, alright, quickly Vishnu.

Vishnu is

probably going to sound a little more familiar to you, because one of the things that Vishnu loves to do is he loves to come

to Earth. And he's been here many times in many different forms, right? He's come as human, as a human being,

in the form of a human being. He's come as a fish, he's come as a wild hog, as a turtle, as a lion,

right. And if you think about reincarnation...

Again, we don't just come back as humans. If you really screw up as a human, you're gonna come back, as I don't know...

Yeah, assuming of course that humans are a higher life-form. I think the dolphins might have a thing or two to [say] about that.

We're only now becoming intelligent enough to actually realize, they've been talking about us all this time! Those dolphins!

And I don't know about you, but it looks like they might be laughing at us too, right?

Well...

Perhaps the most popular form of Vishnu for hindus. He comes to Earth as Krishna.

Look up Krishna, okay, "k-r-i-s-h-n-a"

Prrobably the most popular

hindu god in

the West. Krishna. Because of the Krishna Consciousness Movement. The Hare Krishnas.

Krishna is a really fascinating

figure. I

can only tell one story

and I'll have to tell it quickly. Oh, I wish I could talk [to] you about Hanuman, the Monkey King.

I love Hanuman the monkey. He's awesome.

But no, Krishna, among other things,

he's a flirt.

Krishna is a flirt, right? He's this really handsome god.

And

he loves to flirt with...

Well, there's a story in particular, where there's this group of cowgirls, okay, the shepherdess, if you will, right.

Who decided to take a

dip.

Shall we say, a skinny dip, in a pond, right. Krishna, this Krishna, okay?

Sneaks up and takes their dresses, right, and

refuses to give them back

until they step out of that pond [and] salute him in the traditional Hindu fashion. Which is not this, or

that, right, yeah, [exactly]. But this now what in the world a story like [that] doing in

sacred scripture.

It might even seem blasphemous to a westerner. I don't know. Well...

Maybe not, if you understand the divine to be truly human. [I] mean did Jesus have a girlfriend?

Of course not!

You can't have the western God doing that sort of thing, right? Oh, I wish I had another hour.

I know I don't. But oh that says so much about our body image, right our sense of ourselves

as sexual beings. It has so much to do with our religion. Well, I think what's what's happening

here. Is you see a recognition of

relationships. The holiness of relationships and again think about that for a moment when you meet somebody else I bow

to the divine. In fact, right now, I

Do. I bow to the divine in each of you. And I hope see you next week. Thank you everybody.

I'll be out here.

The Description of Hinduism (World Religions: A Whirlwind Tour)