Tuesday, October 27, 2015

RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD--IN RHYME---Part 5 --HINDUISM

This is the poem I'm most proud of.  To digest a vast religion like Hinduism and dare to summarize the gist of it into a short poem was my most ambitious project. To test my accuracy, I sent it to a Hindu teacher and asked if I'd gotten it right. He wrote back and congratulated me and said yes.
I (modestly) believe that the 5th verse of this poem is the most condensed theology ever written as it states in 11 words the essence of nearly all religious belief: That eternity is acting in time.




Hinduism

Only one thing has ever existed:
Hindu’s call it Brahma.
The universe is Brahma “dreaming.”
Hindus call this “cosmic drama.”

All the stars and all the planets,
Real and solid as they seem,
At their core are purest spirit;
Grand illusion, Brahma’s dream.

Thus the universe is Brahma’s
Grand and cosmic stage
Where He’s playing all the parts,
Directing, writing every page.

The play began at zero
With the bang of cosmic shatter.
In a billion fleeing galaxies
Spirit “descended” into matter.

Omnipotence--self-limited,
Oneness--multiplied,
Omniscience--went to dimness,
Omnipresence--localized.

In breathtaking cosmic self-deception;
He put divinity “on the shelf”;
To go adventuring in time
Simply to amuse Himself.

Somewhat like the king who,
Bored with endless royal pomp,
Slips into a pauper’s clothes
To enjoy an earthy romp.

There were things He yearned to do,
Commonplace with you and me,
Simple finite earthy things,
Impossible in eternity:

Like risk, make love, learn and grow,
Strive and fail, hurt and cry,
Do great evil, be redeemed,
Live a life, be born and die.

So Brahma put Himself “to sleep”
In an act of Godly scheming,
And dreams a dream so cleverly,
That He does not know He’s dreaming.

Our galaxy is Brahma whirling;
He hides inside a trillion lives,
Enjoying bold performances,
Creativity and surprise.

He is the cobra and the mongoose;
He is the innocent child at play.
He’s everything both good and evil;
He’s both predator and prey.

Both tragedy and triumph are
Equal fun in Brahma’s eyes.
It’s all a game of let’s pretend;
No one ever really dies.

When our bodies die, we are reborn,
Shortly back into the game.
And our new body is what we’ve earned
With deeds of good or shame.

Our duty’s to play the role we’re “in,”
With all the courage that we’ve got,
With depth of feeling and fervent passion
Like the actor George C. Scott.

You and I are Brahma conscious,
Dim and flickering though it be,
And when I look you in the eye,
It’s Brahma looking back at me.

Once you know that God is you,
You are free to enjoy the game.
Or you can opt yourself right out;
Return to Brahma whence you came.

The thousand gods that Hindus worship
Are merely aspects of the one,
As a thousand rainbows are
Reflections of a single sun.

Since life is drama, Hindus can answer
The toughest theological knot:
Why is there evil in the world?
Why, just to thicken the plot!

Curiously, Hindus believe that history
Rolls faster and faster downhill.
What began as splendid perfection
Decays to the darkest of ill.

The universe will end in chaos.
Our world will vanish like steam.
As matter dissolves into spirit
When Brahma wakes up from his dream.


RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  Einstein's idea that matter creates space and that time is relative to speed is considered the most subtle thought that humanity has produced.  I agree---and I propose that the second most subtle thought was this GUESS at what existence might be all about.  The Baghavad Gita has dazzled thinkers all over the world.  I have attempted to boil it down to these 21 verses.

Sadly, most Indians know almost nothing about the religion they profess---any more than Christians know theirs.  They are caught up in superstition and magic like all the others. No better--no worse.

That we do not know the purpose--if any--of existence is a bitter pill for all of us to swallow.  Only the brave can do it.  ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE SWALLOWED THE PILL CAN LEGITIMATELY SPECULATE.  All others are brainwashed and cowardly believers--who will wreck our world (overpopulation, crazy, frozen ethics, pretensions to certainty, taliban-like fanaticism) if reason does not prevail.

After you have swallowed the bitter pill--you can legitimately speculate. It is a fun and perhaps psychologically useful thing to do. The Baghavad Gita is the most elegant speculation to date.  Far better than Christianity.  So If you feel the need for a WHY to your life---try this theory on.  It is a happy why-in the big picture.  And it has a plausible answer the question of why is there evil in the world, (verse 19)

22 comments:

Michael said...

Randy, I enjoyed the poem…particularly the compressed ideas in the 5th stanza and the rhythmic echoing in the 10th stanza, “And dreams a dream so cleverly/That he does not know he’s dreaming.”

Now to contribute substantively to the discussion, I offer this intellectual and moral challenge, on the 19th stanza’s message that “Why is there evil in the world?/Why, just to thicken the plot!” and the closing sentence of the blog entry that it constitutes “a plausible answer the question of why is there evil in the world.”

The explanation for existence, including the chaos and evil, offered by this understanding is that “God” was “bored,” and therefore effected the circumstances whereby he could be “amusing himself,” having “an earthly romp,” and so on.

But if this is supposed to answer the “problem of the existence of evil,” it seems like one has forgotten the premise of the question. The premise of the question was that surely the Divine is good, merciful and omnipotent. But if so, how could he allow so much suffering/evil? If the answer is that God was bored, wanted to amuse himself, to romp around and have fun, or even to challenge himself in the guise of a limited being, and thus created the circumstances that guarantee the unimaginable cumulative agonies of billions of creatures—what becomes of the original premise that he is merciful? How is this desire for “drama,” to break up the boredom, morally superior—or more merciful—than sadistic young boys cutting off cats’ tails, or murderous scientists injecting the AIDS virus into healthy people to create some drama, or bored old men starting wars and bombing cities in order to regain a sense of vitality?

It seems to me that only if one’s primary moral value is “drama” (or one’s own “fun” or “interesting” adventures regardless of the suffering it causes to others)—which is not the expressed morality of any religion or moral system I know of, and is actually a pretty good working definition of a sociopath—could one posit the yearning after “drama” or “amusement” as a satisfactory answer to the problem of how a moral God could have allowed so much evil in the world. (Indeed, would we consider it a wonderful example of mercy and morality, and emulating highest spirituality, if someone burned down our house or destroyed our truck or trailer, or raped our daughter—or put us in grave jeopardy of all these and much worse happening—simply because he wanted to give his life more “drama” and “interest”? I rather suspect we would call the police, and that our reaction to such cruelty or reckless disregard for others would not be spiritual awe, but primal rage.)

And if one has dropped the notion that God is merciful and moral, then one is not anymore asking the question of “How could a Good, merciful, omnipotent God allow so much suffering/evil?” And, of course, an answer should only to be considered good if it addresses the original question. Is there something I’m missing?

But again, I enjoyed the post—and appreciate the substantive material being covered, with artistic flair too.

Wayne Wirs said...

Beautiful poem Randy. One of your best.

@Micheal on God and the nature of Evil: Similar to the Hindu's "Brahman forgetting Himself," we have to ask ourselves, "What is life without Free Will?" How could a god truly experience himself if he knew the outcome of every situation?

In the Garden of Eden story, God didn't build a WALL around the tree of knowledge (of good and evil), but simply said, "Don't eat from that tree." Right there, Man was divinely given free will---he wasn't denied access to the Tree, just warned away from it.

Evil arises from Man's selfishness, a selfishness that is given free rein with Free Will. A selfishness that was awakened from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil (or SELF-AWARENESS). Personally, that's my interpretation of the Hindu theory of the "Divine Drama."

Kimbopolo said...

Lovely, lyrical.

Michael said...

Wayne, thank you for your thoughts.

If I’ve understood you correctly, you are framing the Hindu view of theodicy—defending God in the face of evil and suffering—as essentially the same as perhaps the most common general theodicy argument made by contemporary Christians and other religious believers—the free will defense (supplemented by the idea long associated with Judeo-Christian heritage, that human sin and selfishness has caused the world’s evil).

But if I’ve read Randy’s above blog entry correctly, not only does he not make mention of the (human) free-will explanation for evil, he seems to argue that the Hindu explanation for the presence of evil is unique. According to your understanding, i.e., the free-will theodicy, Hinduism gives the same argument as contemporary religious people in Christianity and other religions.

As to what can be said for and against such an attempt (the “FWT”—free will theodicy) to defend the belief in God’s existence and goodness and omnipotence—such arguments and debates can be found in many books and on many websites. And because it doesn’t seem to me to be what Randy is arguing for in the above blog entry, I will refrain from commenting on it…so as not to hijack the comment thread. (It’s so easy for comment threads to go far afield, especially on complex issues about which many people have passionate views.) Only if he chimes in and says that he did indeed mean to introduce Hinduism as making the free-will theodicy argument for the presence of evil would I think it would be appropriate for me to address that argument in detail in this comment thread.

But you’re certainly right that many religious people of various faiths do put forward the free-will theodicy defense.

Anonymous said...

Agree awesome stuff

ron said...

Being a non believer in any comprehensible God. I embrace this Hindu story overall where I am unable to give any credence to any other religion. (I except Buddhism as I view that more as philosophy) I see "good" and "evil" as totally relative. Having said that I Grant that if someone hurts or kills my loved one I would (at least for a time), view the insistent as Very Evil! Again I think that is due to it's proximity to me. Once again I think that "good & "evil" and the very act of judgeing the event as relative.

Randy said...

Thanks all for the kind and wise words. I believe that Michael has nailed it again. to summarize succinctly--the key question is: DOES ADVENTURE TRUMP PAIN? And the amazing Hindu answer is Yes. That is the genius of the Baghavad Gita---to speculate beyond our tiny, human situation into the mind of God and inquire what possible motive could there be for this dramatic world we live in.
The lesser speculations--all other religions--are stumped when asked why a good, merciful God would permit all this suffering. Only the Hindu answer makes sense to us: It must be part of a bigger picture--it is an illusion--part of a wonderful, grand drama--that we are all participating in.
And therefore we are all parts of divinity and we have a part to play in this drama. We have a temporary self to inhabit and freedom to play our part well or poorly.
And this picture of things predicts a super dramatic ending---total chaos and then awakening to the Glory that was God before he put himself to sleep.

Wayne is mistaken: Human freedom and our bad choices cannot make sense of the world's suffering BECAUSE SO MUCH OF IT IS OUT OF OUR HANDS----namely the NATURAL EVILS of tornadoes and volcanos etc. Moral evil can be explained by free will but not natural evil.
To see the world as drama is so superior to seeing it as test.

Michael said...

Randy, I commend you for staking out a bold position on Hinduism, and defending it even though it conflicts with currently conventional views on morality. Chesterton famously said, “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” If one takes ‘inconvenience’ one step further into pain, one has the outline of the above-proposed take on Hinduism.

My view on these matters is different, however, and here’s why. Man models himself after his gods. Or, to be more precise, man models his gods after himself—his own extremes, both good and evil, and then goes about either living up and down to the standards of his gods…or changing his gods.

That’s why it was a great moral advance when humans began conceiving of just and compassionate deities. This change both reflected a view of proper human functioning as being just and compassionate, and it also furthered such development by holding up as the ideal—in the character of God—as a Being embodying the traits of justice and compassion.

Such an improvement in the design of gods had its complications—most obviously that such ideals can never be completely or consistently lived up to…but only slightly less obviously that the real world, even the non-human and pre-human world, as our eyes see it can only with a great deal of mental gymnastics be made to reflect a God who much values either justice or compassion. (Hence the need for complex and abstract theologies.)

And it was only after certain portions of humanity had civilized God that there arose this problem of trying to reconcile “nature red in tooth and claw” with a civilized God. Thus, to say that Hinduism is genius because it doesn’t have the problem of explaining evil in the world, is a little like saying that the horse and buggy is genius because it doesn’t have the aeronautical problems that airplanes do, such as the need for artificial fuel, the difficulty with vertical landing, or the inability to clamber up and down hills and run through forests.

The notion of immoral gods—super-powerful beings not bound my principles of justice or motives of compassion—is more ancient and primitive, and perhaps more honest, than the notion of just and compassionate gods. Interestingly, even the Bible, whose later religious devotees saw in God all sorts of theological perfection, in its early books depicts God as flighty and non-omniscient (creating man and quickly regretting having done so), dangerously impulsive, and easily mollified by sweet smells and worship (destroying nearly all life in Noah’s flood and then regretting have done so and pledging never to do so again after smelling the sweet scent of the burn offerings offered up by the survivors).

Indeed, one can say that one clear project of the Bible is the gradual “civilizing of God.” That is, taking the wild and unpredictable pagan gods and gradually “educating” and “shaming” them into standards of justice and compassion. This process went in fits and starts, and was not the only process in, or influence upon, the Bible, and was certainly far from instant or complete…but the Bible was among other things a reflection of the process of civilizing our conceptions of God. (See continuation…)

Michael said...

(Continued…) And so (for a couple of examples out of many) we see Abraham lecturing God on the need to exercise justice on the matter of Sodom and Gomorrah, and to not destroy the cities if there remain some innocent people there; and we find Moses, attempting to moderate God’s wrath by appealing to shame and reputation, telling God, “What will the Egyptians say (about you) if you destroy the people of Israel? They will say you only took them out of Egypt in order to kill them in the desert.”

To summarize: A wild and uncivilized god has no rules binding him—but humans can either learn no lessons from such a god, or learn only antisocial lessons. Every primitive tribe begins with gods like these—forces that are to be feared, submitted to, bribed, etc., because such gods have no scruples and can easily destroy you or your crops, etc. To me, positing an uncivilized god--who values the individual stimulation of adventure more than the pro-social consideration of justice and compassion--is not a superiority. It is a primitiveness. Again, though, primitive as it is, it may be a more honest reflection of reality—a reality that seems more plausible to have been the result of either blind forces or, if a conscious force, than a force not much concerned with compassion or justice.

In the big picture, conceptions of both primitive gods and the evolving God of the Bible partake in the fallacy of projecting our own minds and hearts, our own motives and emotions, conscious needs for stability and justice, for love and acceptance and safety, etc., onto the universe—both in positing a conscious Creator or conscious Force(s), and in attributing to such Beings mammalian tendencies.

Adventure is no less a human motive than justice or compassion. And it is no more rational to insist that the universe was created by, or is run by, a Super-being who values adventure (as humans and certain other species do) any more than it is rational to insist that the universe was created by or is run by a Super-being who values compassion or justice. Both are forms of projection. More honest is to say that we do not know if the universe had had a conscious Creator or is run by any Super-being(s), and if it did or is…we do not know that it has any motives or emotions like ours.

But if choosing between insufficiently-honest claims and projections about Super-beings, I should perhaps prefer the one that like the old-time movies at least tried to set up heroes whose emulation could improve society—those yearning for justice and compassion—and not the later movies who people the hero-screen with morally bankrupt characters, driven by greed or adrenaline rushes, whose emulation can only lead to more corruption and chaos.

Of course, these matters involve processes with too many variables, identified and unidentified, to effectively examine in a cause-and-effect way. So I say all the above—especially as it relates to which influences create which results in societies—in the spirit not of certainty but of honest attempts at reason and discourse.

And, again, I appreciate the substantive focus of the blog entry.

Stuart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stuart said...

Yes, this is a very good poem. The English teacher in me wants to object to "Hindu's" when you are simply making it plural. The apostrophe s is really a possessive that you used correctly elsewhere. I think "Hindus" would have been fine. Of course, the possessive of a the plural Hindus is Hindus'.

Anita said...

This is an excellent poem, Randy, probably your best. I prefer the former one just because I like Buddhism as a philosophy.
In general, I enjoy religions. They are such creative adventures of the human spirit even though they have caused chaos, war and misery. You have created a remarkable series and I enjoy it tremendously...

Wayne Wirs said...

Randy said: "Wayne is mistaken: Human freedom and our bad choices cannot make sense of the world's suffering BECAUSE SO MUCH OF IT IS OUT OF OUR HANDS----namely the NATURAL EVILS of tornadoes and volcanos etc. Moral evil can be explained by free will but not natural evil."

Maybe it's just a vocabulary thing, but in my book, "evil" is man-made. Natural disasters aren't evil, they are just the result of natural forces (weather systems, underground pressures). To imply that all natural disasters are evil is to imply they are all instigated by a divine intelligence ("God hates those people!") and that's not only silly, but tosses out science and cause and effect.

Lions aren't evil because they kill antelope.

But as to natural disasters causing suffering, I think the Buddhists have the best answer for that (and solution by transcending the personal self): In life, pain is a requirement, while suffering is completely optional.

Michael said...

Wayne, because Randy addressed the following issue in this comment thread, I understood it to "fair game" to address it, too, and not consider it taking the thread too far afield.

On your comment that "Maybe it's just a vocabulary thing, but in my book, "evil" is man-made. Natural disasters aren't evil..." it would be helpful to note that the distinction Randy explcitly makes--between natural evil and moral evil--and the use of "natural evil" to refer to bad circumstances or events that cannot be reasonably blamed on humans, have been commonly accepted terms and concepts in discussions of philosophy and theology for a very long time. For a popular explanation of the above, see this Wikipedia page on "Natural Evil": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_evil

The essential design of nature--as we see it now and as we have no responsible reason to believe it has ever been much different relative to this issue--includes incalculable amounts of pain...and has included incalculable amounts of pain for many millions of years before humans were even a species, let alone could have somehow "ruined" the world and this "sin" be used an an excuse for a Creator allowing trillions of non-human beings to experience pain. This problem--the pain and distress involved in the design of nature--is, in part, what has long been referred to as "natural evil."

And you are right that "Lions aren't evil because they attack antelope." But He who supposedly created a world in which antelope are consistently attacked by lions and leopards and hyenas, etc., has designed a system that includes a great amount of fear and pain...and without a lot of mental gymnastics cannot reasonbly be said to be particularly compassionate. Indeed, he might be argued to be evil.

But, of course, the word "evil" is not important to the argument. What's important to the argument is the straightforward incompatibility of religion claiming that an all-knowing, all-powerful God, who is also good and compassionate, is the Creator of the world. If there is a Creator, he cannot be particularly compassionate, given that the design of nature requires immense pain--predation, illnesses, famine and starvation, orhpanhood, floods, lightning-lit forest fires, and much more.

And, again, unless someone chooses to believe the anti-scientific-evidence notion that humans were created before other species (instead of many millions of years later than so many), on top of the unfounded folk-and-Bible tale of an Adam sinning and somehow ruining the world, on top of the cruel and immoral notion that even if there was an Adam and he did sin that somehow this justifies making all his billions of descendants suffer--let alone making the trillions of poor animals of other species suffer--again, in a world and a punishment system supposedly set up by an all-powerful God who could have set up the system differently--yes, there is a problem for religion in the presence of nature-based pain in the world.

If you and I--who are far from omniscient--were to design a backyard sanctuary in which even ten animals would experience terrible pain, we might well be arrested for culpabiity in animal cruelty, and we would have to argue mightily that we didn't intend the suffering and didn't know it would happen. That a God who is supposedly omniscient (and therefore knew what would happen) and also supposedly omnipotent (and therefore could have designed the world differently) created a world in which trillions of non-human animals have experienced pain (again, even before humans were a species and had an Adam to supposedly ruin things, or theology to make excuses for their gods) makes him far more culpable.

And I do understand that the arguments you are presenting are those of defenders of traditional religion, and that many religious people find them sufficiently persuasive.

Mogue said...

Religion and philosophy are products of man's capacity to conceptualize and speculate. Without this 'higher' brain function we would just follow our natural programming like all the other life forms. At least science tries to make sense out of life by sticking with observable or inferable data. Morality is a human concept, nothing more. If you are hiking in the Alaskan wilderness and a hungry grizzly starts eating your body it is nothing personal, just lunch from it's point of view. When things go wrong in our lives we scream 'Why Me?' to the heavens and there has never, ever been an answer because the sky has no ears. There is no God, no Creator, no warm and fuzzy Universe who loves us and cares about us and wants us to be happy. That is just projection on our part. We can no more comprehend how we fit into the 'Big Picture' than a suddenly sentient cell in a tiny segment of my little finger can. From it's point of view all there is is a seeming infinity of other cells all following their mysterious programming. Imagination can be fun and useful for creating art and music, but for understanding the great mystery of existence it is woefully inadequate. At the end of the day we really have no clue what is going on here. Beliefs are not facts. Reality is what is staring you in the face here and now. You have this body with it's plethora of needs, urges, sensations, quirks, etc. I follow blogs like Randy's and Wayne's for the slice of life posts about different places they travel to, people they meet, photos they take, etc. Wayne's 'Tao/God/Her' is just a concept in Wayne's mind, nothing more. But if it adds spice and mystery to his life, what's the harm? I prefer to strive for a clear perspective that is as free from conditioned beliefs as possible.

Anonymous said...

You should do a poem about "Global Warming Religion" as it fits the mold of most all religions. Just do a google search for it and you will find a lot of material.


Terri Reed said...

You'll want to read this article about religious and non-religious children's altruism
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/11/06/study-religious-kids-are-jerks.html

Randy said...

Thank you Terri: I read the article and it is indeed eye opening.--I'm urging everyone to read this from the daily beast: "Religious Kids are Jerks"
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/11/06/study-religious-kids-are-jerks.html

Johnny Bloggs said...

Sigh. I used to think you were quaint from your videos & that documentary, but you seem downright nuts with this one. While other religions aren't exactly shining rays of light, Hinduism can only be appreciated with a diminished intellect & copious amounts of tolerance for plain old BS. It reads more like a communist rag or those socialist/liberal blogs. All is one, one is all. All is a dream, nothing means anything. Pain is nothing, pleasure is not real....yawn. And find me a clean toilet in Bombay, preferably not in the middle of the street in public.

I was born in a Hindu family, albeit without the superstition & god-awful cultural hogwash. So I am better positioned to critique your half-baked views on it. At least Christians worship a guy nailed to a cross as Son of God not his penis. Yes, there are millions of deities that these infidels worship, some are in human form, some half-animal, some animals & one curious object of worship is Shiva's penis. Now I understand the importance of procreation as much as the next woman, but putting your hands up & praying to a penis carved in stone is something I'd much rather leave to self-hating middle aged hippies.
Now you wouldn't find much love for the nature worship found in pagan Norse religions would you? Even though they come without the moronic ideas in Hinduism. And a million times more eco-friendly & sustainable lifestyles in them. (Not to mention the clean heated toilets in Oslo ;)

Well too white for you probably. Yup, it is that obvious Randy ;->

Randy said...

Thank you Johnny: You make me wonder if my rants are as off center as yours. It's likely a waste of good mental energy--but what the hell--Its the thing that I do---so here goes:
Do you get that I don't believe any of these religions? That I summarize them as a challenge to myself and insight for my readers. The Hindu poem is a summary of the myth found in the Hindu Holy book Baghavad Gita?
It's an elegant myth that most Hindu's could not summarize--any more than most Christians could give you the gist of their myth.
I certainly agree that secular societies have cleaner toilets.

lonnie helzer said...

Dear Randy,

You and I are the exact opposites. You name it, religion, philosophy on life, political views to name a few. I was drawn to your website because of the short movie you were in. I want to do what you do...travel and be engaged with my own life. I am waiting on the right trailer (inspired by you). I would like to think that I am an open minded Christian, I like to know what other people think and what they believe. Closed minded Christianity is ignorance with a little bit of pride thrown in. I think we have the same backgrounds (southern baptist) if I remember your story correctly. I am not ignorant of my own faith. I believe i know how to defend my own faith. Would you from time to time be willing to engage me in conversation about the Christian faith as related to your own thoughts and postings? I will never be disrespectful to you or any of your subscribers.
I really love the stories about your travels. You are one of my (little) travel gods.

Respectfully, Lonnie H.

Randy said...

Lonnie: Thanks for the kind words and the offer to engage. Of course I would be willing to engage you. Send me an email: randythepoet@yahoo.com and I will send you my phone number. Better yet , let's arrange a path crossing. May I suggest that you get the tiny book by Sam Harris entitled Letter to a Christian Nation. It would frame the discussion nicely.