Learning from our religious big brothers: Hinduism

December 19, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 9:57 am   Category: Uncategorized

One of my favorite “doctrines” within the LDS faith is the charge to go and seek out the good of other faiths and to bring them home to Mormonism. This is an effort to do this. If anyone out there is a true expert on Hinduism, apologies abound and corrections are welcome.

The Problem of Evil has been a delightful pointy stick which many have used to argue against the existence of God. For a long time, I thought the LDS church had a unique out for this particular problem, the eternal existence of souls. I was wrong, but not in the way you may be thinking.

In Hinduism, the jiva (soul, also sometimes used interchangeably with atman or true “self”) is also without beginning or end. Most Scholars believe that Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world that is still in practice today. Many also consider the religion to be henotheistic (devoted to a single God while allowing and accepting the existence of other divine beings). The parallels with Mormonism are interesting, and seeing as Hinduism has had such a long life, compared to the relative newness of the LDS faith, it can be very worthwhile to seek out those things which are of “good report” within the Hindu faith.

One such example is Avidyā. In the Hindu philosophy, avidyā is the causeless source of evil in the universe, and “connotes the principle of differentiation which is implicit in human thinking. It stands for that delusion which breaks up the original unity of what is real and presents it as subject and object and as doer and result of the deed. What keeps Man captive is this avidyā. This ignorance is not lack of erudition; it is ignorance about the nature of Being. It is a limitation that is natural to human sensory or intellectual apparatus. This is responsible for all the misery of man.” [1]

Joining this concept with LDS teachings, we could tie this easily in the ideas of pride and self-deception, and thus further into sins. Avidyā is the “deep and unmet need” which springs for sin. Avidyā is the delusion which comes from self-deception, which is, of course, being false to the true “self”.

Further, Some Schools of thought hold that it is the eradication of avidyā which should be the ultimate goal of every person, as it will lead automatically to the realization of the self (atman), in context with the whole (Brahman – a concept somewhere between Super String Theory, Divine Universal Law, and “the supreme spirit”, God, Heavenly Father, etc. ). This realization is called moksha, which is a “transcendence of phenomenal being”.[2] Think of it as sort of a “six sigma” approach to divine improvement, where a person works on their weaknesses over the course of their life until the reach Nirvana, or a stilling of cravings (putting off the natural man? Determinism?). Of course, in LDS thought, there is the teaching that man can not ultimately eradicate avidyā from himself, and ultimately needs help from beyond himself to do such. This is where the Plan of Salvation and Atonement come into play in the soteriology in the LDS camp. I am currently unaware of a corollary in Hinduism, but I definitely wish I hadn’t tossed out the Bhagavad Gita I owned in college.

[1]- here. Interestingly, the concept of avidyā is also found in Buddhism as well.
[2]- here. For Geoff, this is related to “liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth and all of the suffering and limitation of worldly existence” Pf Course, even without the concept of MMP, I think this idea is fairly compelling from an LDS worldview.

23 Comments »

  1. In Hindu thought, kundalini refers to the psychic or cosmic energy that lies dormant in most people. It is sometimes identified with Shakti, the Great Goddess who is equated with divine energy and it is considered to be a path to enlightenment.

    Many equate kundalini with the Holy Spirit.

    When kundalini is activated it acts like Joseph Smith’s account of manifestations by the Spirit:

    D&C 85:6 Yea, thus saith the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things, and often times it maketh my bones to quake while it maketh manifest, saying:

    Comment by Howard — December 19, 2007 @ 10:59 am

  2. Nice post Matt. I will have to read up a little more on Hinduism.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 19, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

  3. Thanks Geoff.

    I had meant to include this in the post, as an afterthought, but forgot. I thought that was a pretty neat thing for the Ensign to do.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 19, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

  4. One thing I have found interesting is that the Hindu Religion and the Buddhist religion are so interconnected,(In fact, some consider Buddhism a subset of Hinduism) while being so different on fundamental points such as the existance of self, the existance of deity, and the existance of any eternal thing.

    It gives me hope for a common philosophy of goodwill between western athiests and their religious counterparts.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 21, 2007 @ 7:10 am

  5. Hinduism is a branch of the indoeuropean root religion, much evolved. To date it as “the oldest” means denying the neopagans their claims to being a continuation of Greek/Roman/etc. and to denying that Judaic thought is indoeuropean.

    Howard, I don’t think that drinking soma was an essential part of what Joseph Smith was talking about though ;)

    Kidding aside, some interesting points made.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 21, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  6. Stephen M, It also denies the sometimes LDS perspective that the “Mormon way of doing business” is the eternal way and has always been around as the root of all religions, including Hinduism. But I was just paraphrasing my sources, best I could.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 21, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

  7. Stephen,
    Soma no!
    But here’s something to think about, what is the halo in early Christian art if it isn’t the aura of the crown charaka?

    Comment by Howard — December 21, 2007 @ 12:44 pm

  8. You guys are incorrigible. Next thing you will be comparing the fact that Joseph’s DNA was not distributed to kundalini practices.

    Howard, I think you win the point.

    Matt, I think the entire Indoeuropean root language and religion are interesting artifacts.

    Not to mention the grain cults that overlayed them.

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — December 22, 2007 @ 10:22 am

  9. And no tantric yoga suggestions.

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — December 22, 2007 @ 10:23 am

  10. I really, really enjoyed your post Matt. I was raised Mormon but never really felt it fit me. After a mission in Japan I stopped going, though I’m usually happy to speak well of the LDS church to people.

    But of course you never shake off the religious training of childhood and oddly enough, although I don’t ‘practice’ hinduism, I’d probably describe myself as very hindu in my religious thought.

    Hinduism was the only religious thought that could fill the Mormon-shaped hole.

    Comment by Kirk R — December 22, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  11. http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=785265

    Some nice music, btw.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 22, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

  12. Ok, I admit, I was looking for the fiction you were writing. Add it to your profile, please?

    http://www.soundclick.com/members/default.cfm?member=bamboom

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 22, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

  13. Stephen, i’m not in a hurry to upload my fiction for the moment, but i’ve emailed you an example. thanks for the complement on the tunes. i’m quite enjoying bits of your blog…

    Comment by Kirk R — December 22, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

  14. Just read it Kirk. You actually write better than fan fiction, with a strong voice. I’m afraid I don’t write anywhere near that well, or with as much pain.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 22, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

  15. The Hindu outlook helps with the pain. Mormonism never did, nor was willing to even deal with those levels of reality except in a plastic way, though it’s still a functional and admirable religion generally.

    Stephen, I didn’t want to hijack Matt’s thread.

    Comment by Kirk R — December 22, 2007 @ 5:09 pm

  16. It’s all good Kirk, I was raised Catholic but converted to the Church in 1998. I am sorry you fell away from the LDS church, but understand making a change. I try never to talk bad about Catholicism and find much admirable in it.

    I think Hinduism, in someways, has a lot to offer Mormonism,especially in terms of understanding the value of being an uncreated spirit and what that means.

    And of course, I don’t find Mormonism plastic, nor it’s capacity to deal with any issues in reality unable, but I don’t really know what you are talking about, so I won’t be rude and pry.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 22, 2007 @ 6:26 pm

  17. I didn’t mean to be rude in using the word ‘plastic’, that’s only in relation to my own experience, which is, as you say, too personal to talk about here. Hinduism’s vision corresponds to the larger cosmic view that’s embedded in Mormonism but is largely invisible or shied away from in daily LDS discourse.

    Perhaps not only does Hinduism have this discourse to offer, but itself could maybe benefit from some of the practical aspects of Mormonism. Hinduism talks bluntly and profoundly about the big picture – while blurring the edges of how this can be more practically energised in daily living. Mormonism concretizes this big picture in daily practice while rendering the big picture – in its ‘sunday school’ discourse – more two-dimensional than it actually is.

    Hope that clarifies a bit.

    You win some, you lose some.

    Comment by Kirk R. — December 22, 2007 @ 7:14 pm

  18. Fair enough Kirk I don’t know enough about the practical religious practice day in and day out of Hinduism to comment on that one.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 22, 2007 @ 8:18 pm

  19. Much of dealing with pain relates to where you find it and what part of the faith you encounter.

    Joseph Smith and others knew a lot of loss and a lot of pain. But in our modern world, too many people see pain/loss as (a) a sign that one is not one of the elect (the way the Calvanists did) and (b) something that isn’t part of their life in modern times.

    The perspectives on pain and loss from a hundred years ago are much different, especially among “man on the street” types and many of their leaders.

    My first exposure to Hinduism was Kali Durga, which probably isn’t a good one, though in college I started with an upper division philosophy class and Lord Yama’s Sutra. Though “Hinduism” is really a term like “Christianity before Constantine” — a very broad net indeed.

    Myself, I’ve felt a lot of pain. A long time ago I wrote this essay when I was asked to write my own funeral sermon (in the thought that I didn’t want one I didn’t like):

    http://adrr.com/living/ss_1.htm

    I’m older, and I write better, but much of it is still what I would like said at my funeral.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 22, 2007 @ 8:46 pm

  20. I found that a touching read Stephen, thanks. It’s hard for me to imagine dealing with that kind of pain. I have a child myself, though, and can at least feel what a giant-sized pain it would be.

    I think you’re right about Hinduism being a broad net. But who knows, give it several thousand years and Mormonism might become a broad net too.

    Matt, understanding the value of being an uncreated spirit and what that means.…after thinking about it I reckon that phrasing hits the nail on the head…thanks again for the post

    Comment by Kirk R. — December 23, 2007 @ 7:10 am

  21. Mormonism might become a broad net too.

    Only if they get rid of correlation. ;)

    Though Christianity is currently a pretty broad net itself, from the Santera variants to the monists and the Spong+ approach.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 23, 2007 @ 10:13 am

  22. Matt,

    I have some friends that are Buddists, Not Hindus. But since Buddha was Indian and travelled to China, I take it many of the teachings that are referred to the sould/God/Immortallity should be rather similar.
    My openion and again I can be wrong… Is that Hinduism is a great school of well being in a Physicall/mind structural connections. And many of us would do good by trying to meditate a bit more and feel the peace of mind they offer by entering in the Karma of their teachings. This is a point in which I see we can learn from their sources, like I do with my friends. Being in their house is an amazing sensation of quitness.

    The first problem I see with this type of approach though is the “wanting to live so much out of the Body to reach this peace” I dont see a God that gave us a capacity to have a physical body to want us to be out of it so much…do you see what I mean? Our Lds believe does not make that distinction and we seem to be the only ones thinking like that in this world…

    The second problem I see is the individual approch to the higher state. This is very much implanted in Kierkgaard´s religious state, A man is to reach God individually as if family or friends on earth would not matter at all. That also confuses me as being in a higher state of mind after I die will mean that my familly would not be there or friends, it does not attract me at all.

    The third problem I see is the loss of the indidual conscience given place to an unknown state which we can even end up being a rock or something like that in the aftermath.

    I think that the unique view we have of the after life is much more oriented to a plausible conclusion, meaning we are perhaps, as far as Im concerned the only church that seem to explain in essence the before, the present and the future of ourselves. Answering the terrible questions, as Hugh Nibley puts it we seem to be more a head that the rest of the world.

    Now as a way of living, fasting, eating, stretching, meditation, posture, etc we can very well learn with them as they seem more evoluted in that sense than US. And as we are to be perfect also in the body, that means that our “word of Wisdom” should apply some if not all of our bretheren Hinduist’s wisdom.

    Comment by Sérgio — December 30, 2007 @ 1:19 pm

  23. This is such an amazingly fresh discussion. I was raised LDS, but I don’t attend. But I found something of value in Hinduism and a spirituality I never had while attending church. I never felt like I could ever come to my own conclusion about anything in the LDS faith. I found that in Hinduism, because it officially lacks a centralized authority.

    There are some ideas anyone LDS might find interesting. Some guru centers offer proxy mantra writings on the behalf of someone else. Where someone writes the mantra a particular number of times and the perchaser gets the benefit, by virtue of having requested and paid for the service. Some gurus may also volunteer to take the burden of particular karma from someone else. I am not sure how that works, but someone commenting on that said they literally felt a burden lifted, which manifested physically on how they walked after that.

    The thing I found most interesting is the use of images, sound and phrases in meditation. Officially the church never advocated the use of images, such as idols, paintings or icons etc… But it really helps establish a mood when you can physcially look at particular imagery. If you look more closely the church makes more subtle use of images to frame experiences. The use of temples itself creates a particular mood. Images in the book of mormon, and pamplets, video and digtal images in movies. Such as the first vision are more subtle ways to create a mood and ideal, although they are not directly ‘worshiped’.

    Comment by James — January 1, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

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