Letting your God live in You - The True Essence of the Hindu Way of Life


by Jayaram V

In the Godfather Trilogy, which is based on a story about an immigrant, Italian, crime family, there are some hidden truths that make you think about human behavior, life and death. In Godfather III, there is an interesting scene. The head of the Corleone family, Michael Corleone, goes to Vatican to sort out an important business problem in which he is embroiled. He arranges a meeting with Cardinal Lambert, a high profile Vatican official and a kind hearted, virtuous man, who is about to be appointed as the next Pope, who he believes is good enough to solve his problem without any hidden agenda.

They both meet in an open courtyard, with no other members present. Michael Corleone, uses the opportunity to explain the Cardinal the problems he is having with some members of the Vatican and a few selfish businessmen from the European Union, who are preventing him from finalizing a deal and saving the Vatican from a potential scandal. After listening to him, the Cardinal gently picks up a pebble from a nearby water fountain. Holding it with his fingers, he says, "Look at the stone. This stone is lying in the water for a long time. But the water has not penetrated it." Then he hits the pebble on the stone bench and breaks it into two. Holding the two pieces in his hands he says," Look, perfectly dry." As Michael Corleone continues to watch him with a puzzled expression, he continues, "The same thing has happened to the men in Europe. For centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity. But Christ has not penetrated. Christ does not live within them."

There is a profound truth hidden in that statement. It not only applies to Christianity, but to all religions in the world. Most people in the world practice some religion their whole lives, but the religion rarely lives in them. They wear their religions on their sleeves to establish their identities and feel secure in groups, rather than imbibing its true values and living them. India is regarded as a land of spirituality. Many great teachers and divine people were born there. The great seers of the Vedas revealed the knowledge of the Upanishads about 4000 years ago. The Buddha founded Buddhism and Mahavira revived Jainism about 2500 years ago. The country gave birth to four major religions of the world and countless schools of philosophy and teacher traditions.

These traditions, and many others that have become extinct, lived amidst the people of the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years. However, if you observe contemporary Indian society, you will realize that, leaving a few people aside, none of the traditions have penetrated the people living there. God does not live in them, although they worship him or his numerous forms. Because of it, today India is facing many social and economic problems. Due to lack of moral values, spirituality, order and discipline, the nation ranks high in corruption, suicide, violent politics, prostitution, human trafficking, violence against women, social inequalities, absence of civic sense, regionalism, casteism, and nepotism.

The same happened in China, Japan, and Fareast. The countries took to Buddhism, but the Buddha did not penetrate the hearts of common people there. Japan became an ally of Nazis during the second World War and unleashed unprecedented violence upon vanquished people. Koreans turned to dictatorship in the North, and materialistic Christianity in the South. China became a godless communist nation, while Fareast came under the influence of militant Islam. Islam, which is touted as the most peaceful religion, produced some of the most violent and heinous characters in world history.

Every religion has a ritual and spiritual component. Historically, in every part of the world, the ritual practices have consistently triumphed over the spiritual. In contemporary India, most religious people prefer indulging in outward observances of performing rituals, celebrating festivals, and offering prayers in temples, mosques and churches. They make their religions popular, colorful, and vibrant, but their essence, the spiritual knowledge which is meant to ennoble and uplift the human character, remains outside their hearts and minds. Unless the religion you practice becomes internalized and enters your consciousness as your very core, it has no value. If you live the religion outwardly, but if the religion does not live in you as your very essence, your thinking and attitude may not be much different from that of an atheist. Your life must be a reflection of your faith. It must permeate all aspects of your life.

In Hinduism everyone is a messenger of God. Everyone is an aspect of God. Everyone is expected to radiate the glory and the light of God and become lamps to themselves and their children. Hinduism is a way of life, because it is meant to be internalized and lived in word and deed. In Hinduism we learn that religious practice should not be confined to visiting temples and offering a few ritual prayers to gods, but must be integrated into life in such a way that everything that one does and every though that one thinks become offerings in the great ritual of life and creation.

The Vedic seers realized the importance of internalizing religion and rituals long ago. The Upanishads, Samkhya and Yoga, were born out of their effort to internalize the Vedic rituals and sacrificial ceremonies, so that gods could be nourished internally through living and breathing and the aims of creation could be realized through individual effort. They devised the methods of yoga as internal ritual processes to purify the mind and body and divinize it. For them, the human body became the sacrificial pit, the soul became the lord of the offerings, the embodied being (jiva) became the priest, his actions and possessions became his offerings. From that sacrifice emerged all the blessings as siddhis (perfections), freedom from affliction, knowledge, good health, longevity, progeny, wealth, name and fame, predominance of sattva, a place in the ancestral heaven, a higher rebirth, and liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.

The Vedic sages in their wisdom also envisioned the human personality as a microcosmic representation of the Cosmic Being (Purusha) Himself, with gods and worlds residing in the living body in their respective hierarchical spheres as in the universe. Since humans carried in them the whole manifestation in their gross and subtle bodies as reflections of Brahman himself, they are supposed to replicate his duties upon earth to uphold and protect the order and regularity of the world within them and outside them.

This is the essence of Hinduism. You are a divine soul. Your body is a mere clothing. The world is an illusion and so are all the phenomena. The rituals represent an inferior knowledge (avidya). They are important, but as the Isa Upanishad suggests, they should not be practiced at the expense of your self-transformation and liberation. All that is here is inhabited by Brahman and exists for his enjoyment. Therefore do your duty, as a part of God's universal family (vasudaika Kutumbam) and wish to live a hundred years here upon earth. Then you will not enter the sunless worlds of darkness (asurya nam te loka). It means you must let God soak into your heart and mind, and become a true inhabitant of your inner space.

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