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The Hindu Spiritual Tradition

Historical Perspective


Swami Vivekananda, the teacher credited with introducing Hinduism to the western world, presented a paper at the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago, September 1893. He shared a history and a Hindu perspective on the origins of life. He said the Hindus received their religion through revelation, the Vedas, now sacred texts. He said the Vedas are not books so to speak, but the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons into different times.

Hinduism provided a basis for many of today's spiritual and philosophical beliefs about soul evolution, energy, eternity, and consciousness. Hinduism has no founder or date of origin, and the authors and dates of most Hindu sacred texts are unknown. Scholars describe modern Hinduism as the product of religious development in India that spans nearly four thousand years, so it is the oldest surviving world religion. The first sacred writings of Hinduism, which date to about 1200 BC, were primarily concerned with the ritual sacrifices associated with numerous gods who represented forces of nature. A more philosophical focus began to develop around 700 BC, with the Upanishads and development of the Vedanta philosophy. Around 500 BC, Buddhism emerged from Hinduism as well as some other new belief systems.
About 80 percent of India's population embraces Hinduism or what is called the eternal religion. There are 900 million Hindus worldwide, making Hinduism the world's third largest faith (after Christianity and Islam).

In the 20th century, Hinduism began to gain popularity in the West. Its different worldview and its tolerance for diversity in belief made it an attractive alternative to traditional Western religion. Hinduism gave rise to religious movements like Hare Krishna and New Age and the incorporation of Indian beliefs and practices (such as the chakra system and yoga)
in books and training on health and spirituality.
Hindu religious life takes many forms; it might take the form of devotion to God or gods, the duties of family life, or concentrated meditation. Source: www.religionfacts.com/hinduism 


Hindu Vedic Symbol

Hindu Beliefs

Huston Smith, in The World's Religions, describes Hinduism as the religion that says you can have what you want. It accepts the basic drives and motivations of people and the principle that these evolve within each person. Hinduism embraces a great diversity of beliefs. One can believe a wide variety of things about God, the universe and the path to liberation and still be considered a Hindu.

This attitude towards religious belief has made Hinduism one of the more open-minded religions when it comes to evaluating other faiths. Probably the most popular (and famous) Hindu saying about religion is: "Truth is one; sages call it by different names."
Beliefs common to all who follow Hinduism:

  • the existence of an enduring soul that moves from one body to another at death (reincarnation);

  • the law of karma that determines one's destiny both in this life and the next

  • the authority of the Vedas (the oldest Indian sacred texts) and the Brahmans (priests);

The ultimate goal of all Hindus is release from the cycle of rebirth (samsara). For devotional Hindus, this means being in God's presence, and for those who are more philosophical, it means uniting with God as a drop of rain merges with the sea.


Brahman: Ultimate Reality

Most Hindus venerate one or more deities, but regard these as manifestations of Ultimate Reality. So who, or what, is the Ultimate Reality that is behind the universe and all the gods? In the Rig Veda, it is referred to as "the One." In the Upanishads it is called "Brahman," "the One," and several other names.

Shiva Statue

Shiva - The Cosmic Dancer 
Personifies the Dynamic Universe


The Sanskrit word karma means "actions" and refers to the fundamental Hindu principle that one's moral actions have unavoidable and automatic effects on one's fortunes in this life and condition of rebirth in the future.
In these later texts, especially the Upanishads, the polytheism of the earlier Vedas has evolved into a pantheism focused on Brahman, the supreme reality of the universe. This concept remains a key feature of Hindu philosophy today.

Upanishads ("Sittings Near a Teacher")

The word "Upanishad" means "to sit down near," bringing to mind pupils gathering around their teacher for philosophical instruction. The Upanishads are philosophical works that introduce the now-central ideas of self-realization, yoga, meditation, karma and reincarnation.

Purpose of Life

In Hinduism, there is not just one purpose of human life, but four:

Dharma - fulfilling one's purpose;
Artha - prosperity;
Kama - desire, sexuality, enjoyment
Moksha – enlightenment.

Hindu Techniques & Meditation

The religious life of many Hindus is focused on devotion to God (perceived as Brahman, Shiva, Vishnu, or Shakti) or several gods. This devotion usually takes the form of rituals associated with sculptures and images of gods in home shrines. More philosophically-minded Hindus ignore the gods altogether and seek Realization of the Self through intense meditation. Still others focus primarily on fulfilling the social and moral duties appropriate to their position in life.
These various approaches are regarded as equally valid, and in fact are formally recognized as three paths (margas) to liberation:

bhaktimarga (the path of devotion),
jnanamarga (the path of knowledge or philosophy)
karmamarga (the path of works and action).

Stages of Life


Hindus are expected to pass through four stages (ashramas) over the course of their life:

1. brahmacharga, which takes place during the school years, is focused on acquiring knowledge and developing character
2. grastha, the middle years, is focused on worldly pursuits and pleasures such as marriage, family and career
3. vanaprastha, when one's children reach adulthood, is a time of increased focus on spiritual things
4. sanngasu, in the last years of life, one may abandon the world entirely for a life of contemplation.


Yoga Teacher Training Poster (click photo for info)


Major Hindu Practices

Ayurveda – a system of medicine and healing that is becoming well-known again today. It is based on four basic types of personality and body makeup; it aims toward balancing energies for wellbeing through nutrition and other therapies.

Yoga – practices focused on physical and spiritual goals. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit yuj and means "union" or "yoke." Yoga involves several forms of practice and discipline. "At its core, yoga means union, the union of body, mind, and soul; the union of the ego and the spirit; the union of the mundane and the divine." Deepak Chopra 

There are several types of yoga; here are three:

o Hatha Yoga is meditative movement focused on "asanas" or physical postures and breathing. It's health benefits are now well-known in the west, including flexibility, balance, improved muscle tone and endurance. Tranquility and vitality are also benefits.

o Kundalini Yoga is a tantric form of yoga focused on awakening the kundalini, the latent psychic energy that lies at the base of the spine, and making it rise through the seven chakras to the top of the spine.

o Raja Yoga is considered the "royal road" to reintegration, a path to the divine through self-exploration, delving into the unconscious mind to Being itself. Its method is "willed introversion" through meditation to find and experience the "beyond that is within."

Yoga Poster by Liz Cook (click poster for info)



Some Hindu Techniques

Yoga Breath or Complete Breath – breathing is central to the practice of yoga and other forms of meditation and healing. As we know, breath is life. Begin with visualizing your lungs and mid-section as a cup. Straighten your spine.
Place the palm of your hand on your navel and begin inhaling slowing into your palm; feel your lower belly expand (your hand will move outward if you are breathing correctly) , filling your lungs from the bottom up as you fill your "cup" with air. Inhale to a slow count of 8. When you have completing filled your lungs, relax and hold the breath for a count of 8;
then, slowing exhale to a count of 8, emptying your lungs as you would a cup, from the top first to the bottom. Do at least three to seven complete breaths before beginning meditation or to simply to relax. Complete breath can be done sitting upright or lying prone.

Namaste Greeting – The gesture (or mudra) of namaste is a simple act made by bringing together both palms of the hands before the heart, and lightly bowing your head. In the simplest terms it is accepted as a humble greeting straight from the heart and reciprocated accordingly. It is a soul greeting and a simple way of saying, 'the light in me salutes the
light in you.'

Puja - Puja is a religious ritual which some Hindus perform every morning after bathing and dressing but prior to taking any food or drink. Puja is seen as a way of relating humans to the domain and actions of the divine, and can be performed for anything considered divine, from Vishnu to a holy tree.

Hindu Temple in New Delhi

Hindu Temple in New Delhi


Technique: Anointing with oil

Supplies and preparation: 1-2 tbsp of oil either massage oil or olive oil, or as last resort vegetable oil from kitchen. The whole groups stand in circle around the small container of oil and send energy for 10-20 seconds.
Divide into two groups: one is healer and the other is receiver.  Ask if you may cleanse the person.  Cleanse the head area only.  Then the healer dips index and middle finger lightly in oil and make “cross” or “circle” on the third eye area of the recipient. Change rolls.  When all completed, share on the experience both as a receiver and sender of healing energy. 
Participants may desire to blot third eye area with tissue to avoid staining clothing after completion of technique.
In the Hindu religion, may women wear a red dye in the third eye area in their daily lives to open up their “seeing” abilities.


Technique: Chakra Meditation

Chakras are “wheels of light”, organizing principles of the nonphysical self, that enliven and regulate the physical endocrine system of the body. They are moderated by consciousness. Yoga works with the chakra system as do many avenues of meditation and spiritual growth.
A simple meditation based on Hindu wisdom is modified from the work of Dr. Franciso Coll.

Relax in a seated posture, and:

1. Close your eyes and focus on the crown of the head; breath slowly and visualize the color red permeating the back of the head, neck and shoulders. Keep visualizing the color while relaxing for 30 seconds or more;
2. Keeping eyes closed, move your attention to the base of your spine, continuing to breathe slowly and visualize the color orange;
3. Move your attention to a place below your navel, and breathe into the lower abdomen the color yellow, seeing your reproductive organs filled with light and the color yellow. remaining there for at least 30 seconds;
4. Direct your focus now to the solar plexus area. Visualize the color blue and breathe the blue into your stomach, kidneys and other organs in the area;
5. Move your attention next to your chest, focusing green light into your heart chakra, bathing lungs and heart and thymus gland with light and color;
6. Raise your awareness and focus on your throat the color purple. Breathe into the thyroid and throat area the light of purple energy;
7. Finally, raise your focus of attention to your third eye, your forehead, and see the crystal clear white energy permeating there. Breath and relax for at least 30 seconds.
Finally, visualize the flow of energy through your chakra system, quickly, seeing  clear water flowing through each center, opening the energy and flow of your life force.


Technique: Chakra Healing Meditation

Sit quietly with eyes open or closed as desired.  The referee reads the following script to the participants:
Breathe deeply in through your mouth and out through your nose. Visualize your breathing in a stream of energy from the universe that enters your body at the back of your head, flow down your backbone, up the front of your body and out your forehead area.

Imagine the stream of energy is first filling up the first chakra, in the back of your head.  Imagine the red color flowing into your neck, shoulders and upper back area.  Feel this area become energize and relaxed.  Feel your arms down to the fingertips being energized with the red light.
Now, imagine the stream of energy flowing into the coccyx area below your waist on the low back area.  Image the color now changing to orange.  Image the color flowing down the legs all the way to the feet and then flowing back up the rest of the body in the front.  Feel a sense of direction, aspiration, and courage.  Have a sense of clearing a removing any resistance to your moving forward with your path.
Now shift your attention to the reproductive area, the lower pelvis.  Fill the pelvic bowl up with a bright yellow light.  As the bowl fills, have it overflow upward toward the abdomen.  Picture this overflowing bowl as your well of creativity, abundance, and spiritual center.  Imagine a sun that has come down from the sky and shine from this area outward to the rest of the world.

Leaving that area now, move above to the higher abdominal area.  Imagine a beautiful blue light shining there.  Picture a deep sense of service and empathy with all humanity and a sense of oneness with all. See that blue light flowing from the solar plexus outward over your whole body.

Now moving further up the front of the body, picture the heart center as a green light.  See green light streaming in from the universe.  Picture the heart area expanding and swelling with love for yourself and your purpose. Feel charged with a sense of your desire to live your purpose and the fulfillment of doing so.

Moving up the anterior body, center your attention on the throat area.  A beautiful purple light is shining there.  With your loving attention it expands and pulsates.  You have a sense of healing and removal of all obstacles to communication. Your love for yourself and what you have come to share expands and fills you with joy.

Finally, you move your attention to the forehead area.  Focusing on the area between your eyebrows a brilliant white light flows into and out of your third eye.  You feel a sense of completeness.  A sense of desire to share of your wisdom with the world.  You notice that the white light splits into the colors of the rainbow like a prism and then just as quickly returns to the white light spectrum.  A sense of completeness, a sense of coming full circle embraces you and you fill whole.

Rest for a moment before returning to your awareness of the room and place that you are in.
Regroup what you have gotten for yourself from experiencing this chakra balancing experience.  
Share your experiences with the others that made this journey with you.


Don't Worry, Be Happy Card

Meher Baba  "Avatar of the Age"

"Don't Worry, Be Happy," Bobby McFerrin's 1988 Grammy Award winning song, was inspired by a popular quote of Baba's seen in numerous Baba posters and inspiration cards.


wikipedia info on Meher Baba 

Meyer Baba website


"Lay Down -Candles in the Rain" by Melanie (song inspired by Meyer Baba & Woodstock)
 lyrics    youtube1    
  her clairaudient inspiration at Woodstock

Don't Worry, Be Happy Card, 1966




Hindu Messages, Prayers, Verses


"There never was a time when there was no creation." Swami Vivekananda

"I am a spirit living in a body. I am not the body. The body will die, 
but I shall not die." Swami Vivekananda

"As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, keep it." Mahatma Gandhi

"The source from which the world and the mind rise and into which they set
 is termed Reality, which does not rise nor does it subside." Ramana Maharishi

A Hindu Prayer

"Oh, Lord, forgive me three sins that are due to my human limitations: 
Thou art everywhere, but I worship you here; 
Thou art without form, but I worship you in these forms; 
Thou needest no praise, yet I offer you these prayers and salutations. 
Lord forgive three sins that are due to my human limitations."

Sources for Further Exploration of Hinduism

"Bhagavad-Gita" translated by Barbara Stoler Miller
"The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga," by Deepak Chopra, M.D.
"The World’s Religions" by Huston Smith 
"The Philosophies of India" by H. Zimmer
"The Art of Mental Prayer" by Frost Bede


Video: "India & the Infinite: The Soul of a People" by Huston Smith, Elda Hartley


Movies: "Gandhi", "A Passage to India"


 (C) Copyright  2001-2008 W.C.F., All Rights Reserved