Consciousness is awareness and has four states – unconscious (dreamless sleep), subconscious (dream-filled sleep), conscious (waking state) and superconscious (Turya, Samadhi). In normal daily life, consciousness helps the senses to see the objects of the world with thoughts of acquisition, rejection and resignation. Dhyana purifies consciousness. Samadhi leads consciousness towards the soul.
Consciousness, though single, directs multiple thoughts, sometimes creating disparities between words and deeds. It is indirectly responsible for numerous activities, and becomes the source of desires and their fulfilment. If it stops directing thoughts, the need to culture the consciousness towards transformation does not arise.
Consciousness is the veil between body and soul. It can be pulled in two directions; outward toward its mother, prakriti or inward towards its father, purusa. If consciousness is sea, its movements (vrittis) are the ripples. Composition of body, soul and consciousness are explained as under:
Composition of body:
The body is composed of seven different sheaths viz. skeletal (structure), physiological (energy), emotional (mind), intellectual (intellect), blissful, consciousness and soul (annamya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijanamaya, anandamaya, citta and atman respectively). Blissful sheath is called as causal body (Karana sarrira). Physiological, emotional and intellectual sheaths form the subtle body (suksma sarrira), and the skeletal sheath is the gross body (karya sarrira).
As per Kapil’s Samhya darshan, Prakriti is the root material, from this consciousness (Mahat) is produced. From consciousness, springs ego, intelligence, mind, five subtle elements (tanamtras), five senses of perception, five organs of action and five gross elements.
Soul (purusa, atman, seer):
The soul is absolute pure knowledge, eternal, changeless, formless and has no particular location. Universal soul or Parmataman is seed of all individual souls and free from influence of nature (Prakriti). It is unalloyed.
Consciousness is the fluid enveloping the mind, intellect and ego. The fluid tends to become opaque due to its contact with the external world via these three components which receive sensory impressions. The result is that the soul is obscured.
Perfect God, the Creator of Imperfections
Today in the world, the prominence of logic over emotions is growing. One of the commonly asked questions is why God created all the imperfections and evils in the world which caused sufferings to the human beings. Why there isn’t happiness and goodness all over. In Hinduism, the question has been researched since Vedic time. It is attempted here to solve the riddle.
Vedanta-Sutras say God (Brahman) is the most essential part of the system and world has originated from Him. Vedantins accept Brahman as Sat-Chit-Ananda & Ananta. It means Existence-Consciousness-Bliss & Infinite. As per Vishnu Purana, God possesses six most glorious powers viz. Sovereignty (Independence), Omnipotence (all powerful, capable to do everything, Supreme), Omniscience (updated knowledge about everything), Immateriality (not composed of matter) and has endless manifestation.
When we closely watch, everybody wants to be independent, powerful, prosperous, famous, healthy and to be always happy & satisfied (blissful). But miseries come in forms of diseases (physical, mental & genetic), poverty, misfortune, non-fulfilment of desires, loss of wealth, bad family life etc. So the living beings that are being created by the God face evils, imperfections and miseries.
Miseries, Evils & Imperfections:
Bhagwan Vyasa in Shrimad Bhagavad Mahapurana has mentioned three causes of miseries. These miseries caused by the body and mind (Adhyatmika), by another living entity (Adhibhautika) and by nature (Adhidaivika). Patanjali Yoga Darshan informed that these three causes result into pain, heat distress and bad memories. Rishi Patanjali further explained, when the person feels deficiencies in comforts and due to which develops anger, malice, greed, attachments etc.
Causes of miseries & Imperfections:
The miseries/sufferings are experienced in the mortal body. Bhagwan Krishna in Bhagavad Gita has mentioned (in chapter 3) in the theory of Karma that mental tendencies, character, potentials etc. are formed by the virtuous and vicious actions (karmas) done in past. Rishi Patanjali has explained that the reservoir of past deeds form the Karmashya which is the root cause of five afflictions/sufferings viz. Avidya (ignorance), I-am-ness or egoism, desires, hatred & attachment to life. These accumulated karmas are enjoyed / suffered. There is continuous flow of pleasure and pain till the karmas are extinguished. In the yogic sense, Avidya means something that goes far beyond ordinary ignorance. Avidya is a fundamental blindness about reality, self (soul) and God (Brahman).
Whether God is Creator of Imperfect World:
It is incorrect to think that the world, beings, or any of the creations of God are imperfect. It is worth mentioning that Vedas identified six basic creations viz. Supreme Being (God), Souls (Jivas), Non-material stuff (Shuddhsattva), matter (Prakriti), outward consciousness (Dharmabhuta-Jnana) and Time (Kala). All the creations are perfect in it.
Rishi Kapil in Samkhya Darshan has explained that Prakriti has three attributes viz. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in equal proportion in latent state. In Samkhya darshan, Rishi Kapil has postulated that Prakriti is cause of world (chapter-1). Two elements viz. intellect & ego are produced by Prakriti and 21 elements arise from ego. These twenty one elements are five subtle tanmatra (forms or visibility, taste, smell or odour, touch and sound); five organs of senses, five organs of actions, five gross elements and manas. These are the root cause of mortal body without these actions (karma) cannot be done (chapter-3). When the proportion of three attributes of Prakriti is not equal, Tanmatra continue to have tendency to build gross body. Avidya (Ignorance) is bondage of Jivatma with mortal body. The bondage is broken only when spiritual wisdom is gained about Jivatma and God. Hence, the Avidya and bondage with body create miseries, evils and imperfections.
The Vedas teach that the soul is divine, only held in the bondage of matter; perfection will be reached when this bond will burst, and the word they use for it is therefore, Mukti — freedom, freedom from the bonds of imperfection, freedom from death, misery and re-birth.
God's creation is both sacred and perfect. However, since he also envelops his creation with Maya (delusion) and subjects it to the modifications of Nature, it may appear to be imperfect, just as the light from the sun appears to be imperfect when the sky is filled with clouds.
Why God is unaffected:
These co-existent eternal entities attain partial modification owing to the dependence on another (Paradhina-visesapati) which justifies His claim to be all-creator. The modifications are of two kinds. One kind of change can transform the basic nature of the substance, as when the milk changes into curd. The substance itself is lost and something else takes its place. The non-eternal types come into being in their entirety, undergo change in nature and they perish.
The change in the regard to eternal entities is not of this kind. In case of eternal substances, the creative process consists in generating new temporary traits without modifying the substratum which is co-eternal with the creator. The change is not a change of basic nature (Dharmi-svarupa) but is the generation of many traits or subsidiary characteristics which can be eliminated without impairment to the substance in question. For example, Prakriti evolves Mahat and subsequent categories when it is stirred by the will of the God, but when creative process terminates at the end of the creative cycle, the eternal substance Prakriti remains in its pristine form, and again brings forth the world when the new cycle starts. The change in the Jiva, who is by nature a center of intelligence and bliss, is generated by ignorance (Avidya). Consequently, he gets bound to various kinds of bodies. When ignorance is affected by the grace of God, the Jiva subsists in his own basic nature which cannot be modified by all the bodily changes.
Hence, the God, as the great creator, generates these changes producing new characteristics of a temporary nature without impairment to the basic nature of the substances which are coeval with him.
India borne religions (namely Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism) are uniquely different from most of the world’s religions in “Philosophy of Re-birth”. Liberation from Re-birth is the ultimate goal of human being and to be free from sin, sorrow, hunger, thirst, desires volitions etc. and be one with Supreme Being.
Sri Krishna has elaborated four paths in Bhagavad Gita for achieving the goal of liberation viz. the path of unconditional devotion (Bhakti-yoga), the path of selfless action (Karma-yoga), the path of True Knowledge (Jnana-yoga) and the path of Meditation (Dhyana-yoga). Initially, the path of Bhakti is more suitable for the person of emotions; the path of Karma for the person of actions; the path of Jnana for the person of high intellect and the path of Dhayana for the focused person. All these four paths are inter-dependent and have goal i.e. Salvation or Liberation.
Bhakti is preceded by a deep understanding of the majesty, omnipotence and omniscience of the Independent entity, the Supreme Being (God). The practice of Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga is essential in practice of Bhakti Yoga. Spiritual wisdom and Vairagya are not possible without bhakti. Without spiritual wisdom, bhakti is blind and without bhakti spiritual wisdom is lame. One should have controls over habits and desires. In Bhakti, duties of life have to be done without desire or fruits of actions or attachment and for success in this one must have an understanding of oneself as the Atman and practice meditation on almighty which combines all the paths.
In the discipline of Navdha Bhakti, self-surrender is ultimate aim which needs absolute self-surrender and dedicating oneself to the almighty.
A large number of people describe themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious.’ But practice of spiritual virtues can coexist with a detached understanding of traditional religious claims; that religious belief is defined by the practice of virtues. Spirituality may have religious fervor but it is not religion totally.
Spirituality inspires to be more mindful, accepting, grateful, compassionate, and lovingly connected to others. These virtues oppose both the conventional social ego's attachment and arrogance, and any habitual, unreflective religiosity.
What is Spirituality:
Word spirituality derives from the word spirit. There is an individual spirit (individual soul) and a Supreme Spirit (God).
Spirituality is inner journey to establish connection with the divine. In Sanskrit, Spirituality is known as Adhyatma. It is derived from two words Adhi and Atman (Atmanaha). Adhi means pertaining to the topic and Atman means the Soul. The spiritual attitude is to find meaning for every suffering. The moment the explanation for suffering is found, suffering becomes less.
What is spirituality in Hinduism:
Spiritual goal in Hinduism is renunciation. Renunciation of fame, dearest ones, and properties, even one’s own bodies i.e. ego.
There are different methods of spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, yajna, chanting of names or mantras, etc. The spiritual practices should be done minimum twice a day i.e. morning and evening. At one time, it was four times a day, then it became three times a day.
The gist of all worships is to be pure and to do good to others. Worship means entering a mood of purity and holiness. Full purity comes only from a condition of desirelessness. In the early stage of spiritual life, we desire things and God also. By connecting desires to the God, the mind goes up gradually. Real devotion comes when we look upon people as the manifestation of God and while serving the former, look at his divine core. As per philosophy of Vedanta, Brahman alone is real, the universe is ultimately unreal and the individual soul is no other than the Universal soul.
Why to be spiritual as per Hinduism:
The body and mind are transient and have limitations. But the soul (Atman) is permanent and repository of all strength, hope and energy. Each soul is potentially divine. By attuning oneself to the self, one could gain strength, hope and energy.
The liberation (salvation, mukti) is ultimate aim of life. The liberation is the freedom-physical, mental and spiritual. Political, social, cultural, and other freedoms are only the fragmentary aspects of real freedom. In the age of mobile, the freedom of movement and free thinking has been restricted. But the freedom is cry of soul.
How to be spiritual as per Hinduism:
The spiritual disciplines in Hinduism are grouped according to the predominance of various faculties of human being viz. intellect, emotions, will power and activity. Different faculties are dominant in people of different temperament. Based on that, people having dominance of intellect, may adopt spiritual discipline of Jnana yoga; likewise for people of emotions, Bhakti yoga; people of will power, Raja yoga and people of activity, Karma yoga. But all the yogas have same destination and merge into “Renunciation & Surrender to almighty”.
The four paths are defined as under:
The second method is to practice little detachment. An average man cannot work without definite gain. But the idea of physical gain gradually is replaced by other types of subtler gains, such aesthetic enjoyment and intellectual pleasure. These are also gains, but of a subtler type. These are spiritual gains. Sri Krishna said in Gita, “Whatever you do, offer to me.” Then you will free from bad effects of all karma and also from the good effects. Both are bondage. Both credit and discredit should go to the master. Normally, people take credit and offer discredit to the almighty.
Reference: Vedanta & Vivekananda by Swami Swahananda
Tranquillity of Mind
There is an old saying, “Watch your thoughts; for they become words. Watch your words; for they become actions. Watch your actions; for they become habits. Watch your habits; for they become character. Watch your character for it will become your destiny. ”
As per modern science, the thoughts are mostly negative and triggered by external stimuli. Thought precedes desire. In Sanskrit, thought is called vritti. All sense experiences are thought modifications. When a thought modifies, it does not lose its nature. It just takes different forms, but does not transform. Thought is also called ‘mind-stuff.’
In Hinduism, all the mental abilities viz. intellect, decision making, receptacle of senses, thought-process, memories, etc. are grouped into four internal organs (Antahkarana) viz. Manas (the receptacle of senses & place of thoughts), Buddhi (Intellect & decision making), Ego (the self-consciousness or Ahamkara or pride or asmita) and Chitta (stored memories or impressions). Once one understands one’s mind, he understands his life. Beyond these four internal organs is “eternal Self”. Awareness, alertness and adoration of Self are required to discover it. Light is Self, pure ‘I’ and shadow is the Conditioned Consciousness, impure ‘I’. The shadow has no existence without this light.
Mind & Miseries:
The mind is restlessly chasing vasana objects to enjoy the hidden nectar of pleasures. We see men and women tirelessly spending time and energy to satisfy the insatiable mind. The people get older and diseased, yet the search for pleasures never ends. Experience of sensual pleasures creates impressions (vasanas or tendencies), impressions create memory of pleasures, memory of pleasures creates attachments to it, and attachments inspire to do good or bad karmas/actions which accumulate karmas leading to re-births. Mind demands repetition of past experiences. Since pleasant memories are preferred to pain memories, we run after former. But when the person feels deficiencies in the comforts, seven disorders develop - Kama (Lust or desire), Krodh (Rage, anger or hatred), Lobh (Greed), Moh (delusory emotional attachment), Ahankar (Ego or pride), Mada (passion) and Matsarya (envy, jealousy).
Shri Krishna explained Arjuna in chapter 2 of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita that the man dwelling on sense-objects develops attachment for them; from attachment springs up desire, and desire (unfulfilled) causes anger (2.62). From anger arises delusion; from delusion, confusion of memory; from confusion of memory, loss of reason; and from loss of reason one goes to complete ruin (2.63). The flowing stream of thoughts in the mind which follows in the wake of the wandering senses carries away his awareness as the wind (carries away) a boat on the waters (2.67).
Stream of Thoughts:
Manas is the factory of thoughts. Experts estimate that the mind thinks between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day. During waking state, the manas is predominantly rajasic, and it repeatedly participates in the multiplication of thoughts. But in sleep state, due to natural, self-canceling process and overwhelming tamas, the multiplication of thoughts comes to end. The process self-canceling process culminates in deep sleep. When there is no thought, one enjoys Ananda or bliss.
Regrets of the past, anxieties of the future and excitements of the present are the channels of mental energy. Doing the given duty with complete focus without distractions of thoughts of past experiences and likely gains or failures, is thought management. One can choose to watch the thoughts, or walk along with them, or plunge in and swim. When we plunge in and swim, we are at the mercy of the current. When we walk along with our thoughts with great awareness, the manas stays alert and efficient. But when we choose to watch our thoughts, we stay free. A five steps meditation process reorganizes the mind and makes it free:
Tranquility of Mind:
Tranquility or Serenity of mind is a milestone in the path of spirituality. Serenity of mind is basically “thought management”. We need to shift our attention from senses to thoughts supporting them and from the thoughts to the awareness supporting every thought. Awareness is known as Prajnana. It supports both Jnana (extensive knowledge) and Vijnana (intensive knowledge).
Composition of Universe – The Hindu Perspective
Modern Science discovered that the universe is constituted of space, time, seen matter (stars, galaxies, planets, nebulas and interstellar gas), unseen matter (dark matter), life and energy. Ordinary matter accounts for only 4.9% of the contents of the Universe. Dark matter accounts for 26.8% of the cosmic contents. Dark energy, the energy of empty space, is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate and accounts for the remaining 68.3% of the contents. Hence, the modern science identified six basic constituents’ viz. space, time, visible matter, dark matter, life and energy.
It is worth mentioning that ancient Hindu philosophers researched, much before the modern science discovered constitution of universe, identified six basic substances viz. Universal Consciousness or Supreme Being (Ishvara), Souls (Jivas), Non-material stuff (Aprakrta or Shuddhsattva), matter (Prakriti), outward consciousness (Dharmabhuta-Jnana) and Time (Kala). All the substances are divided into two main classes’ viz. insentient, inanimate or lifeless (Jada) and Non-animate, animate or living (Ajada). Living category of substances are Brahman (Ishvara), Jiva (Atman), Suddhsattva and Dharambhuta-Jnana. Non-living category of substances are Prakriti and Time.
During the medieval period, Ramanujacharya and Nimbarakacharya, the exponents of Hindu Philosophies of Vashishtadvaita and Dvaitadvaita respectively, explained the constituents of the Universe. Ramanujacharya included above six substances among the constituents of universe but Nimabarkacharya did not mention Dharmabhuta-Jnana.
The characteristics of the substances as under:
He possesses six glorious powers viz. Sovereignty, Omnipotence, Omniscience, Immateriality, Independence and endless manifestation. In Vishnu Purana, these powers are described as under:
The manifestation of Prakriti from the state of latency (Parlaya) into Patency (Srishti) is in stages and in that sense may be called as evolution. These stages are as under:
Religion stands for spiritual unfoldment and not for mere creeds and rituals. The primary function of religious discipline is saint-making. Religion has fostered the development of high virtues. Dogma, ritual, philosophy all has their importance only to the extent that they lead the spiritual aspirant to direct experience of truth. Science is the search for truth in the external world whereas religion is the search for truth in the internal world. Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa in 19th century, the Guru of Sri Vivekananda, experienced the oneness of all religions by practicing the respective paths and realized their Ishtas (God).
All religions have its own ideal or Ishta. But core of all religion is same. Ethics is common denominator in so many religions. From oneness flow all the moral and ethical values. Once one has realized the indwelling divinity of his own nature, he automatically sees the same divinity dwelling equally within all beings and all things.
Religion has inspired people to great spiritual heights, but it has also been the source of much strife in the world. In order to develop yearning and passionate love of God (anuraga) one also had to cultivate dispassion (viraga) and the renunciation of lust and greed. Passion for God-realization should be the highest goal.
What is Religion:
As per Oxford Dictionary, Religion is the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. Every religion has got four aspects viz. philosophy, rituals, mythology and scriptures. Besides this, religions have got pilgrimages, fasting and charity. Most of the religions have a book also. All religions which originated later have a book for their propagation.
What is Religion in Hinduism:
Hinduism being the most ancient religion has multitude of philosophy, rituals, scriptures, mythology, cosmology, festivals, pilgrimage sites, spiritual practices, worship systems etc. to feed the varied temperamental people. It accommodates all types of people rather than people to adjust into prescriptions of religion. This shows that Hinduism is more progressive and dynamic.
Hinduism is referred as Sanatana Dharma, the eternal way". It is primarily revealed in the Vedas. Sanatana Dharma is time-tested and has its foundation on science and spirituality. Sanatana Dharma provides solutions for every problem of life and facilitates immortality.
People require faith for sustenance and inspiration. Philosophy is the core of religion. The body of rituals helps to retain the ideas. Rituals have been described as concretized philosophy. Philosophy when put into practice, and in a more complex form that will be ritual. Rituals of the religion perform the role to bind people. The body of mythology, with tales of saints and sages, and the deities and others, provide a sort of support for the spiritual ideas that we uphold. There is a body of conduct – how to behave in life, a body of moral principles.
Religion is useful for the individual to help in his weaker moments, to give them strength to conduct his life, and to inculcate certain virtues for the good society, and then religion must also take him stage by stage from this to the trans-social level of finding out the ultimate truth. Truth is nothing but God.
Religion ideals inspire higher motives and endeavors in people. Religion instills the qualities necessary for peace and unity by inspiring people to be virtuous, loving, sympathetic, altruistic, and non-violent. Religion is the only direct agency to teach people these higher virtues.
Hinduism is not only most ancient religion, but also inculcates discipline in every sphere of life including environment, society and entire world. Hinduism has developed on sound footing of science and spirituality. It is practically not possible to highlight every aspect of Hinduism in this article but a few points are mentioned as under:
As per modern science, the almighty that has created this world has made division of work in the basic structural, functional, and biological unit i.e. cell. The cell membrane acts for protection (Kshatriya), DNA for long-term storage of knowledge (Brahmin), RNA for information transport (Shudra) and Mitochondria for producing energy (Vaishya).
Reference: Vedanta & Vivekananda by Swami Swahananda
World has been big riddle for both, western scientists as well as ancient Hindu rishis. However, for the living beings, world is the objects perceived through the five sense organs viz. eyes, ears, tongue, nose and skin. Whatever one sees, hears, smells, tastes and touches; he experiences in the mind. These accumulated experiences, past & present, form the world for him. Therefore, the worlds of two persons are never same.
Western and Indian philosophers analyzed the mind. For the western philosophers, mind is subject and rests are objects. Indian philosophers probed it further through recording experiences that mind is also an object. It is consciousness or jivatma which activates mind to work. Actually, jivatma is the subject in Indian philosophy and rest is object.
Constitution of the World:
As per western scientists, during the Big Bang, all of the space, time, matter, and energy in the Universe were created. This giant explosion hurled matter in all directions and caused space itself to expand. As the Universe cooled, the material in it combined to form galaxies, stars, and planets.
As per Hindu Philosophy, Vaisheshika Darshan, founded by Kaṇada Kashyapa around the 2nd century BC, explains about the universe, living beings, soul and moksha. The darshan has explained that the world is constituted by nine items which contains five physical matters – solid, liquid, gas, space and energy (Panchbhoot – Prithvi, jal, vayu, akash and agni) and four non-physical matters - time, direction, soul and manas (kaal, atma, disha, manas-मन).
(An article on Vasishesika Darshan is published on this website on 13.08.2018 under the category of philosophy)
Real cause of World:
In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (chapter 2, Brahmana 2), there is a detailed conversation between Ajatashatru and Balaki Gargya wherein Brahman, the ultimate reality is profoundly explained. Sri Shankaracharya propounded Advait philosophy wherein he went a step further and explained that it is Brahman where the objects appear. The objects have no independent existence and therefore relatively unreal. Hence, Brahman is absolutely real.
(An article on Vedanta Darshan or Brahma Sutra – key of Upanishads – is published on this website on 24.8.2018 under the category of philosophy)
Form of World:
Shri Krishna in Shrimad Bhagwat Gita has beautifully explained about the form of the world in fifteenth chapter of Purushottam Yoga.
“ऊर्ध्वमूलमधःशाखमश्वत्थं प्राहुरव्ययम् । छन्दांसि यस्य पर्णानि यस्तं वेद स वेदवित् ॥ १५-१॥ अधश्चोर्ध्वं प्रसृतास्तस्य शाखा गुणप्रवृद्धा विषयप्रवालाः । अधश्च मूलान्यनुसन्ततानि कर्मानुबन्धीनि मनुष्यलोके ॥ १५-२॥“
World of human body has been further explained very well in ten points:
Five main Prana
Five sub Prana –
Permanent liberation from world of human body:
Shri Krishna in Shrimad Bhagwat Gita has further explained about permanent liberation from world of human body in fifteenth chapter.
“न रूपमस्येह तथोपलभ्यते नान्तो न चादिर्न च सम्प्रतिष्ठा । अश्वत्थमेनं सुविरूढमूलं असङ्गशस्त्रेण दृढेन छित्त्वा ॥ १५-३॥ ततः पदं तत्परिमार्गितव्यं यस्मिन्गता न निवर्तन्ति भूयः । तमेव चाद्यं पुरुषं प्रपद्ये । यतः प्रवृत्तिः प्रसृता पुराणी ॥ १५-४॥ निर्मानमोहा जितसङ्गदोषा अध्यात्मनित्या विनिवृत्तकामाः । द्वन्द्वैर्विमुक्ताः सुखदुःखसंज्ञैर्-गच्छन्त्यमूढाः पदमव्ययं तत् ॥ १५-५॥“
Charity is giving help voluntarily to the person in need or the organization set up for the purpose. The word charity originated in late old English to mean a "Christian love of one's fellows," Charity is done out of compassion.
In Hinduism, various Hindu scriptures such as Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramcharitramanas etc., have highlighted importance of donation or daan. Under Pancha maha yajnas, every householder has to do five offerings to Devatas, Ṛishis, Pitris (departed ancestors), living beings and human beings. These offerings or charities are obligatory as against voluntary offerings done in west.
Sri Vivekananda’s concept of charity is the service of all beings in the spirit of the God. The ideal of service is inspired by reverence and humility. The giver thanks to the receiver and the receiver stand up and permit.
The practice of giving to the needy is Charity. Charity may be in cash or kind; directly or through a charitable organizations. Charitable giving may be as a religious act. Donations may be voluntary or obligatory under the law such as Corporate Social Responsibility. However, private charity has almost come to end after inflation, break down of joint family system, new taxation system and with the rise of the standard of living.
Many social charity institutions are coming up. But the danger of drying up of voluntary charity is always there which increases their dependence on government. Further, the donor misses the spiritual joy of giving and seeing the effect of his gifts immediately or in course of time. The social worker, through whom the donation is given, may not always feel uplifted. The receivers often ‘demand’ things as their right. There is always a danger of misuse in institutionalized donation.
Breaking of joint family system is rendering women and children helpless. A few old homes, Vanaprastha Ashramas (homes), children Ashram (Anathashrama) etc. came up.
Charity in Hinduism:
In Hinduism, every householder was expected to perform five daily duties or sacrifices. These are called pancha maha yajnas. These are offerings to Devatas, Ṛishis, Pitris (departed ancestors), living beings and human beings. These are called as Dev Yajna, Rishi Yajna, Pitr Yajna, Bhuta Yajna and Manushya Yajna respectively.
It was considered to be one of the five main duties. Shree Krishna in Shrimad Bhagavad Gita has explained three types of donations viz. Satvika, Rajsika and Tamsika. The detachment begins by donations and forgiveness. (A comprehensive article on charity named as “Act of giving - Charity, Donation or दान” has been published in this website on 2nd March, 2019 under the category of Puja & Bhakti.)
Service of deity:
During the medieval period, the philosophers such Ramanujacharya, Nibakacharya, Madhavacharya, Vallabhacharya etc. introduced the system of services to be offered to the deity. Service in the form of Navdha Bhakti of the deity (listening, kirtan, meditating, service, worship, salutation, servitude, comradeship, and total surrender) was accepted by Sri Madhavacharya.
Broadly, ten types of worship or service are included viz. Ritual worship of deity, Arti, Bhajan or Kirtan, Darshan or taking audience of a deity, Prasad – offering and eating sacred food, Pravachan – talk or lecture on the scriptures, Havan – the sacred fire ceremony, Japa/Meditation/Prayer – internal practices of worship, Parikram/Pradakshina – circumambulation and Seva – active service, to the deity.
Shri Vallabhacharya, who started Pushti Marga, had introduced Shringar (adoring), Bhog (offering food) and Raag (melody & music) in service of deity. During the day, eight darshan (glimpse) of deity is permitted – after waking up (Mangla), after taking bath (Shringar), after breakfast (Gval), after mid-day meal (Rajbhog), afternoon nap (Utthanpan), after evening snacks (Bhog), bath before evening meal (Sandhya) and after evening meal & before going to sleep (Shyan).
Service of poor & downtrodden:
Swami Vivekananda, the disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, who lived for around thirty nine years (Born on 12th January 1863 & died on 4th July, 1902), wrote
“Who loves all beings, without distinction, He indeed is worshipping best his God”.
He believed that service to the poor, the miserable and the weak is doubly beneficial. If we forget God in the temple the whole service is practically a loss whereas in case of service to poor at least the sufferings will be physically mitigated. Hence, it is more useful.
He said: Service cannot degenerate into charity. A person becomes charitable either to get rid of beggar or to get name and fame or if it is a purer motive, out of sympathy. Altruistic actions are performed for one’s own sake. The ideal of service is inspired by reverence and humility. The giver thanks to the receiver and the receiver stand up and permit. The worshipper can only serve and adore, not pity and help. No service is small, for all work is God’s service and he takes as much care of the means as of the end.
Reference: Vedanta & Vivekananda by Swami Swahananda
In most of the world’s religions, three lokas (world) are mentioned viz. Heaven, Hell and Earth. But in Hinduism, there are fourteen lokas. These fourteen lokas together are called as Brahmanda. Seven lokas are above earth and seven lokas below earth. All this together extends over millions of Yojanas (one Yojana equal to 13 Kilometer approx.). The various lokas or regions are situated one over another. Earth is the center of the Brahmanda. The God has created countless Brahmandas (Cosmic shells) floating in His creative will like particles in a beam of light. The fourteen worlds are enumerated in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Second Canto, fifth Chapter. The lokas also find mention in Vishnu Purana, chapters 3 & 6.
Earth is unique as salvation can be attained on it. Salvation is the state free from the cycle of birth and death and a state of absolute and eternal bliss.
Above the earth are seven worlds of increasing spiritual splendor. Covering that is a belt of darkness surrounding the upper part of Anda-lataha. The lokas above earth are as follows:
1. Bhur-loka – It is the earth.
2. Bhuvarloka – It is located between earth and sun and abode of munis and siddhas. It is identified with Earth's atmosphere and the space which is in the immediate neighborhood of Earth.
3. Svar or Swarga loka - It is located between sun and polar star and abode of Indra and other demi-gods. Some Puranic references equate Suvarloka to the Solar System. As per these the Suvar loka is consisted of nine sub divisions or sectors:
a) Druva Mandala (Polar star Region),
b) Sani Mandala (Saturn Planet Region),
c) Brihaspati Mandala (Jupiter Planet Region),
d) Angaraka Mandala (Mars Planet Region),
e) Sukra Mandala (Venus Planet Region),
f) Budha Mandala (Mercury Planet Region),
g) Nakshatra Mandala (star fields visible at night),
h) Chandra Mandala (Moon Region),
i) Surya Mandala (Solar Region).
4. Mahar or Marar loka or Gandharba loka, the region of celestial spirits – The abode of Bhrigus and other enlightened saints. It is deserted at the end of kalpa but not destroyed. It can be equated to the region (Stellar Neighborhood) of stars.
5. Janaloka – The abode of Brahma’s children. These live as long as Brahma whose lifespan is one
kalpa. It can be equated to the Milky Way galaxy.
6. Tapoloka – The abode of vairagis (ascetics) who are un-consumable by fire. It can be equated with the inter-galactic structures like the Local Group of Galaxies.
7. Satyaloka – The abode of Brahma where he resides along with immortals. It can be equated to the Universe itself containing several Worlds of Galaxies.
8. Vishnu loka – The abode of Vishnu (sometimes called Brahma or Rudra loka) and those who are free from re-birth.
There are seven nether (Posterior) lokas below the earth. These can be layers inside the earth. Covering that is pitch darkness surrounded by Anda-kataha (the shell of the egg-like cosmos). These lokas are as follows:
1. Atala - Atala is ruled by Bala – a son of Maya – who possesses mystical powers. It can be equated with upper crust.
2. Vitala - Vitala is ruled by the god Hara-Bhava – a form of Shiva, who dwells with attendants including ghosts and goblins as the master of gold mines. It can be equated with lower crust of earth.
3. Sutala - Sutala is the kingdom of the pious demon king Bali. It can be equated with Asthenosphere of earth
4. Talatala - Talatala is the realm of the demon-architect Maya, who is well-versed in sorcery. Shiva, as Tripurantaka, destroyed the three cities of Maya but was later pleased with Maya and gave him this realm and promised to protect him. It can be equated with upper mantle of the earth.
5. Mahatala - Mahatala is the abode of many-hooded Nagas (serpents) – the sons of Kadru, headed by the Krodhavasha (Irascible) band of Kuhaka, Taksshaka, Kaliya and Sushena. They live here with their families in peace but always fear Garuda, the eagle-man. It can be equated with mantle of the earth.
6. Rasatala - Rasatala is the home of the demons – Danavas and Daityas, who are mighty but cruel. They are the eternal foes of Devas (the gods). They live in holes like serpents. It can be equated with outer core of earth.
7. Patala - The lowest realm is called Patala or Nagaloka, the region of the Nagas, ruled by Vasuki. Here live several Nagas with many hoods. Each of their hoods is decorated by a jewel, whose light illuminates this realm. It can be equated with inner core of earth.
1. These fourteen worlds (lokas) also represented within human body. The seven upper worlds viz. Satya-loka, Tapo-loka, Jana-loka, Mahar-loka, Svar-loka, Bhuvar-loka and Bhu-loka, are represented in human body by energy centers of Sahasrara chakra, Ajna chakra, Vishuddha chakra, Anahata chakra, Manipura chakra, Swadhisthana chakra, Muladhara chakra respectively. The seven lower worlds Atala-loka, Vitala-loka, Sutala-loka, Talatala-loka, Mahatala-loka, Rasatala-loka and Patala-loka are represented in legs from thighs to toes.
2. The seven upper worlds are also invoked by Gyatri mantra. The Gyatri Mantra, found in Rig veda, and authored by the sage Vishwamitra, is as under:
ॐ भूर्भुव स्व: | तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यम् | भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि | धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात्
The mantra makes an appeal to the almighty through various lokas as under:
a) Om represents the whole of reality and beyond.
b) The first line of this verse is about the Bhur, Bhuva and Swar Lokas (the Earth, its atmosphere and the Solar System).
c) The next lines are about the other lokas.
It is an appeal to the almighty – The almighty (ॐ), the spiritual energy (भूः), the destroyer of the sufferings (भुवः), the embodiment of happiness (स्वः), the luminous like sun (तत्), the creator of the world (सवितुः), the most exalted (वरेण्यम्), the destroyer of sins (भर्गोः), the divine (देवस्य); the reciter meditate (धीमहि) him to enlighten the intellect (धियोः यो न:) and inspire for good deeds (प्रचोदयात्).
Note: Please see my article giving complete explanation of Gyatri mantra on 21.07.2018 namely “Gyatri Mantra– the seed of Bliss.