Misunderstandings of Hindu terms in the West Assignment Help INSTRUCTIONS
In the “A Closer Look” section on page 75 of the textbook (3-3b), there is a conversation about popular misunderstandings of Hindu terms in the West (North America and Europe). Terms such as Karma, Mantra, Guru, and Avatar have religious meanings in Hinduism, but have acquired secular meanings in the West. One term missing from this conversation is yoga. Explore if there is a difference between the Hindu understanding of yoga and the Western practice of yoga, and then decide if the term should be included in that “Closer Look” section about misunderstandings of Hindu terms. Your initial post should include the following:
– Title your initial thread in a way that reflects the content of your post. Be creative (yet respectful) with the title as you provide a preview of the content (and attract others to read). Titling it “Hinduism Discussion” or something similar is unoriginal, does not entice others to read it, and could result in a deduction (the word “discussion” should not appear in the title anywhere).
– After researching yoga in Hinduism and the West, provide a conversation in which you compare and contrast the Hindu and Western practices of yoga.
– Based on this research, and your understand of why karma, mantra, guru, and avatar are considered misunderstood terms, decide if you think yoga should also be a term covered in that “A Closer Look” section. Explain your reasoning.
– Provide at least 2 MLA (Modern Language Association) format research source citations: MLA Citations.
Once you have established your thread, engage your classmates in discussion. This involves providing meaningful conversations in the threads of others as well as maintaining your own thread. Ensure that you provide original writing (do not copy the words of your sources), proper grammar, correct spelling, and appropriate punctuation in all of your posts. Also, do not provide your response as an attachment (it needs to be within the discussion forum window so that it is available to everyone) and do not click the “Add original post text” when replying. This is not only redundant, but it clutters up the thread with unnecessary content.
Dharma is the foundational concept in Hinduism, a wide-ranging term for righteousness, law, duty, moral teachings, religion itself, or the order in the universe. Dharma is also the god who embodies and promotes right order and living. The ancient Vedas emphasize the order of the cosmos, and dharma builds on it by emphasizing the correct ordering of human life. Dharma is more than a set of cosmic-order ideas applying in the same way to all Hindus. It’s specific to one’s place in the world: one’s social position, caste membership, stage of life, and gender. The dharma of a member of the warrior class is distinct from that of a laborer; the dharma of a youth differs from that of the father of a family, and a husband’s dharma differs from his wife’s.
A Hindu must conform primarily to his or her class and caste dharma. Hindu scripture teaches this, and it is a particular theme in the Bhagavad Gita. Following the social and religious rules of one’s caste leads to better reincarnation; neglecting it leads to a lesser reincarnation. For a man to leave his caste for a higher one is unthinkable. Opposing the caste system itself leads to a bad reincarnation. One could find oneself an outcaste, a lower animal, or an insect in one’s next life. This has led to a remarkably conservative social structure and explains why, even today, traditional Hindu values often frustrate attempts at social change for women, the lower castes, and outcastes. Hinduism divides life into four stages, each with its own particular dharma—what is seen as right for each stage. Samsara is the cycle of reincarnation, endured as a hardship by the spiritual essence of all living things. The jiva (individual soul) is subject to reincarnation, because it is only the jiva that earns reward or punishment in the next reincarnation (see the upcoming discussion of karma). One’s atman, the deeper soul identical with Brahman, is not subject to karma, but it goes along with the jiva. It travels with the jiva in samsara but is beyond it. Because actions in life involve choices, at every moment an individual is capable of making the choices to ensure a good situation in the next life. The Brihadaranyaka (bree-hahd-uh-RUN-yah-kuh) Upanishad 4.4.3 describes this liberation from samsara well: “Just as a caterpillar gets its front feet firmly on the next leaf before it leaves the one it is on, a soul creates its next life before it departs the present one.” This leads us to a fuller consideration of karma.
Karma is derived from the Sanskrit for “deeds” and is related to one’s behavior in preceding lives. After a person’s death, her or his spiritual essence is reborn in another life if any karma is attached to it. Whether one is rich or poor, healthy or sick, male or female, intelligent or not, talented or untalented, a member of a high or low caste, a Hindu or not, and endowed with many other life-defining traits depends on the karma inherited from the lives that have gone before. Karma explains all human inequalities. Although the conditions of an individual’s current life are determined in advance by her or his deeds in previous lives, individuals must assume personal responsibility for their present actions and the associated consequences. Karma is not fate, as we often hear today in North America and Europe. Fate is a random, uncontrollable power that determines human actions and events. Karma is the opposite of what fate means in the Western world. In karma, each person generates her or his own reward or punishment, which comes in one’s condition after reincarnation. Also, one hears muddled talk about group karma—for example, Hollywood actress Sharon Stone’s suggestion that the 2008 earthquake in China that killed seventy thousand ordinary people was some sort of karmic retribution for the Chinese government’s violent crackdown on dissent in Tibet. Stone said, “And then all this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and I thought, is that karma—when you’re not nice that bad things happen to you?”
A mantra is not a slogan or “words to live by,” such as “Her mantra is to enjoy life to the fullest” or “The candidate’s mantra of change was very powerful.” Rather, a mantra is a short mystical utterance of great sacred power, as illustrated by the greatest of all mantras, Om.
A guru is not anyone who acquires followers in any sort of movement, or a person who has wide authority because of his or her secular knowledge or skills. On the contrary, a guru is a private teacher of transcendent religious truth; a guru leads the student to full knowledge and release.
An avatar is not only a computer user’s self-representation in a three-dimensional model for computer games or a two-dimensional icon for Internet communities. In Hinduism, an avatar is an incarnation (different, human form) of a god, as, for example, Krishna is an avatar of Vishnu. This understanding of avatar was adapted by film director James Cameron in his 2009 blockbuster film by that name, in which a human mind is projected into the body of a human-like being.
Moksha means the “liberation” from rebirth that comes with the entry of the individual soul (atman) into the highest reality (Brahman). The idea of reincarnating endlessly is abhorrent to Hindus. The ultimate goal is to merge one’s atman with Brahman, like a drop of water enters the Indian Ocean. To achieve moksha, one must be rid not only of bad karma, but also of good karma; any karma at all causes rebirth after death. Although actions take place, if the self that does them is not egoistic, karmic results cannot attach to them. Paradoxically, one must even give up the desire to achieve liberation in order to reach it. (To illustrate this from everyday life, if you’ve ever had trouble falling asleep at night, you may have found that to fall asleep you must give up trying to fall asleep or must even try to stay awake.) Many Hindus, however, find that moksha is difficult to achieve, especially in a time when many Hindus believe that their religion is in decline. They are content to collect good karma and be reincarnated to a better life.
Three main paths lead to moksha, whether one finds it or not. There is a tendency among Hindus to see one chosen path as the best, but the paths are often combined as well. The way of active, obedient life—called the path of deeds (karma)—is doing ritual actions of worship and meditation, as well as carrying out daily conduct according to one’s own dharma, but without a selfish intent that causes bad karma. Second, those on the path of knowledge see the central problem with human beings as their inability to realize that they are living in an unreal world and that the only thing real is the spirit. The path of knowledge brings personal merging with the ultimate unity behind the visible things of the world, particularly knowledge of the unity of the individual soul and the world soul through yoga and meditation. Third, the path of devotion is a loving surrender and service to one’s main deity. Some who follow this path see their deity as a manifestation of the impersonal Brahman, but others see their god or goddess as the Supreme Being, with no Brahman above him or her.
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