Grandiose time scales

Hinduism’s understanding of time is as grandiose as time itself. While most cultures base their cosmologies on familiar units such as few hundreds or thousands of years, the Hindu concept of time embraces billions and trillions of years.

The Puranas describe time units from the infinitesimal truti, lasting 1/1,000,0000 of a second to a mahamantavara of 311 trillion years. Hindu sages describe time as cyclic, an endless procession of creation, preservation and dissolution. Scientists such as Carl Sagan have expressed amazement at the accuracy of space and time descriptions given by the ancient rishis and saints, who fathomed the secrets of the universe through their mystically awakened senses.

(source: Hinduism Today April/May/June 2007 p. 14).
Professor Arthur Holmes (1895-1965) geologist, professor at the University of Durham. He writes regarding the age of the earth in his great book, The Age of Earth (1913) as follows:
“Long before it became a scientific aspiration to estimate the age of the earth, many elaborate systems of the world chronology had been devised by the sages of antiquity. The most remarkable of these occult time-scales is that of the ancient Hindus, whose astonishing concept of the Earth’s duration has been traced back to Manusmriti, a sacred book.”

When the Hindu calculation of the present age of the earth and the expanding universe could make Professor Holmes so astonished, the precision with which the Hindu calculation regarding the age of the entire Universe was made would make any man spellbound.

(source: Hinduism and Scientific Quest – By T. R. R. Iyengar p. 20-21).

 

Alan Watts, a professor, graduate school dean and research fellow of Harvard University, drew heavily on the insights of Vedanta. Watts became well known in the 1960s as a pioneer in bringing Eastern philosophy to the West. He wrote:
“To the philosophers of India, however, Relativity is no new discovery, just as the concept of light years is no matter for astonishment to people used to thinking of time in millions of kalpas, ( A kalpa is about 4,320,000 years). The fact that the wise men of India have not been concerned with technological applications of this knowledge arises from the circumstance that technology is but one of innumerable ways of applying it.”

It is, indeed, a remarkable circumstance that when Western civilization discovers Relativity it applies it to the manufacture of atom-bombs, whereas Oriental civilization applies it to the development of new states of consciousness.”

(source: Spiritual Practices of India – By Frederic Spiegelberg Introduction by Alan Watts p. 8-9).
Dick Teresi author and coauthor of several books about science and technology, including The God Particle. He is cofounder of Omni magazine and has written for Discover, The New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic Monthly. He says
“Indian cosmologists, the first to estimate the age of the earth at more than 4 billion years. They came closest to modern ideas of atomism, quantum physics, and other current theories. India developed very early, enduring atomist theories of matter.

Possibly Greek atomistic thought was influenced by India, via the Persian civilization.”
The cycle of creation and destruction continues forever, manifested in the Hindu deity Shiva, Lord of the Dance, who holds the drum that sounds the universe’s creation in his right hand and the flame that, billions of years later, will destroy the universe in his left. Meanwhile Brahma is but one of untold numbers of other gods dreaming their own universes.

The 8.64 billion years that mark a full day-and-night cycle in Brahma’s life is about half the modern estimate for the age of the universe. The ancient Hindus believed that each Brahma day and each Brahma night lasted a kalpa, 4.32 billion years, with 72,000 kalpas equaling a Brahma century, 311,040 billion years in all. That the Hindus could conceive of the universe in terms of billions.

The similarities between Indian and modern cosmology do not seem accidental. Perhaps ideas of creation from nothing, or alternating cycles of creation and destruction are hardwired in the human psyche. Certainly Shiva’s percussive drumbeat suggests the sudden energetic impulse that could have propelled the big bang. And if, as some theorists have proposed, the big bang is merely the prelude to the big crunch and the universe is caught in an infinite cycle of expansion and contraction, then ancient Indian cosmology is clearly cutting edge compared to the one-directional vision of the big bang. The infinite number of Hindu universes is currently called the many world hypothesis, which is no less undocumentable nor unthinkable.

(source: Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science – By Dick Teresi p. 159 and 174 -212). For more refer to chapter Advanced Concepts).

(Source: ‘Hindu Wisdom’: ‘Surya’s Tapestry’)

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What of the Afterlife?

First, what is the Afterlife? It is an assumed locale for the departing souls (spirits) from Earth. It may be the Heaven mentioned in certain religious documents. It would certainly not be the hell(s) imagined by those who seek to induce better moral behaviour on Earth by frightening their religious followers.

My first clairvoyant surprised me by saying of what he referred to as the ‘Other Side’, “It is not that different from here; and you will not meet God.” As a metaphysical Hindu believing in the reality of the reincarnation process (for the existence of which there is plenty of evidence), I view the Afterlife as an R & R Depot or a Way Station. It would give me a break from the hell of Earthly lives – like walking on a bed of hot coals to get to a grassy patch; and then repeating the process again and again.

Were one to be lucky to have a broadly programmed path of a personal destiny (as I am able to claim), then one may seek to learn (and understand), while in the Afterlife, the significance of human life on Earth, of Man’s place in the Cosmos, and what the Cosmos might be all about. I have been promised that I can continue my learning in the Afterlife. I do like that.

I must admit to having been pre-occupied in recent years (with Death patiently awaiting) with thoughts such as : where is this Afterlife located?; insubstantial entities will not need an environment of substance; I do not want to be involved with other spirits in the way this happens on Earth; and how will I be able to acquire the learning I seek?; and so on.

Then, I had a strange dream recently. I was in a physical environment of my liking (the details do not matter here) in what I felt is the Afterlife. I heard human voices in the distance, but no one came into view. Peace prevailed. As in my present reclusive life. This life was imposed upon me, but it is acceptable as consistent with the guidance offered by Hinduism. Hinduism recommends that, once one has completed one’s commitments to family and society, one could withdraw from society to live a life of contemplation and meditation.

For example, a cave in the Himalayan mountains had been the meditation home for 3 years of the yogi who had come down to Malaya to guide my widowed mother and I about our respective futures. Years later, when I detected a coherent pattern in my life, I wondered whether he had been sent to us. I remember that he was clearly at peace, and apparently unaffected by the cold of the mountain.

In my more comfortable retirement ‘cave’ I too have achieved peace (after a turbulent life). While the dogs do bark (and snap), this caravan will move on, ignoring those who foolishly insist that only their beliefs mist prevail. Certainty is, in my experience, not a human condition.

The message I received through my dream about the Afterlife is that spirits create their own environment in the Afterlife; and that any contact with other spirits can only be on a mutually-agreed basis. My spirit guide may have been responsible for this message. Strangely, I read about a similar perception at about that time. This coincides with scientist Rupert Sheldrake’s concept of ‘morphic resonance’ – “a process that involves action at a distance in both space and time.”

For ex ample, discovery by one person can be followed by comparable or similar discoveries by others, without any contact between them. I instance the way birds began to open the tops of milk bottles all over the world near-simultaneously.

I know from my real experiences that the Afterlife is nearby (therefore in an interacting dimension), and that it is the residence of spirits such as my uncle and those he referred to as ‘higher beings.’ I look forward to an interesting sojourn.

The mystery of Consciousness

Consciousness in humans is awareness. Seems right, does it not? Can I say anything comparable about animals and plants? Kirlian photography suggests a level of sensitivity in plants to being cut or burnt; some plants have reportedly shown such sensitivity even when a neighbouring plant is adversely treated. This is not good news for us, especially vegetarians. Is sensitivity equal to awareness? (Semantics can be a nuisance, can’t it?)
As for animals, judging by family pets, do they not display both awareness and sensitivity (as human do)?

Examining consciousness further: Are we conscious in deep sleep? Or, is there something we refer to as the subconscious which alerts us to possibly-threatening sounds? What about warning smells? Or, a dream which effectively warns about safety or security?

One night, in deep sleep in a strange room, I had what felt like a dream. My ‘dream’ was that my bed was collapsing while also tilting sideways? I jumped out of the bed, not quite awake, and switched on the light. What I saw was a big-framed picture, which had been hanging on the wall adjacent to the bed, had now slid to the ground with a crash, in the small space between the bed and the wall.

Was this the sequence of events? Sound of sliding, falling picture. I hear this in my sleep. My mind generates a warning in dream form. This led to my flight out of the bed. Was that evidence of consciousness during deep sleep?

Curiously, Eknath Easwaran, in his book ‘The Upanishads’, refers to the ‘states of mind’ of waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep as representing “layers of awareness, concurrent strata lying at different depths in the conscious and unconscious mind”. Awareness existing in layers? Awareness in the unconscious mind?

He also refers to ‘states of consciousness’: and challengingly asks – ”In the constantly changing flow of thought, is there an observer who remains the same?” The idea of an uninvolved observer within us represents the core of Upanishadic Hinduism. However, I can cite an experience which is suggestive of an internal observer.

As a young man, I once lost my temper (never before, never again). It was a highly-charged emotional reaction. Then followed a physical development: I was about to cause terrible harm to a fellow human. Suddenly, from somewhere in my mind came a thought: “What are doing, stupid?” (It was a very clear thought.) As a consequence, no harm occurred. On reflection – I seem to have been operating at 3 levels of consciousness.

Consciousness at a normal, operational, human level is certainly confusing. The following extract from Easwaran then takes consciousness from the Earthly level to the cosmic level. Relying on one of the Upanishads, he states “… the powers of the mind have no life of their own.  The mind is not consciousness; it is only an instrument of consciousness …”

So, what is Consciousness at the cosmic level? In a recent post, I asked “Does Consciousness explain Reality?” What a wonderful mystery.

Where resides my soul?

As a metaphysical Hindu (that is, one beyond rituals), I accept that the Cosmic Creator (not necessarily a physical entity), as both transcendent and immanent, may have a presence in all that is created. A fragmentary essence of this Creator could thus be within me. I have read that this presence is located in a walnut-sized space within my heart.

Is this presence my soul, the real me, that traveller through time, through repeated re-births? That cannot be. That is because each soul is said to be polished (improved morally or spiritually) through the reincarnation process, and then returned to be boundless Ocean of Consciousness (or Aether) from which it is said to have risen. A fragment or essence of the Creator will surely not need to be polished.

Rather, its role may be to remind me that, in times of travail, I need only look within me for succour and spiritual (and mental) peace. The lessons of Destiny – both personal and communal – do need to be accepted with equanimity.

My soul is clearly a unique insubstantial entity, the essential me, carrying the compound lessons acquired through a series of past lives. Does it remain a passive record keeper, uninvolved in the normal turbulence of life? Or, does it, in its own interest, influence me by allowing me intimations (on occasions) of my immediate past life?

I have become somewhat sensitised to this influence through: some instinctive responses to events; visions of a past life through auto-hypnosis; information offered by a psychic healer whose Spirit Healer can apparently read my past life traumas; and my ‘casual’ clairvoyant who saw me as I apparently appeared in my immediate past life. I await, with hope, further illumination.

Developing my ‘third-eye’ vision may enable me to become more intuitive about such matters. I doubt, however, whether the embodied I will ever know what the essential I (my soul) is doing.

What I would like to know is whether my soul resides in my body, or whether it surrounds me as an ethereal (or cloud) entity (like the Internet). When I die, will my soul gather my mind and its memories on its way, because they too exist in a ‘cloud’ around my brain?

Could I now explain how I recovered the memory which I had lost when I had a heart attack? Perhaps my memory exists at 2 levels; at a operational level, which can be damaged, and at a holistic ethereal level beyond bodily weakness.

Fascinating! Pity that I will be denied an answer. As my soul takes off to the Afterlife, it will not (I guess) be concerned by such Earth-based ruminations. The caravan must (and will) move on!

(Note: While I cannot prove the existence of a Cosmic Creator and the ways this all-pervasive, ever-existing essence may influence human existence, no sceptic can disprove such a belief. As for the reality of souls and the reincarnation process about which I have written, my experiences and reliable research findings over decades being real, cannot be denied.
Doctrinal religion does not offer needed illumination. Regrettably, some scholars cannot step out from their religion-imbued castles.)

Cross-cultural issues (1)

When people who had grown up or been acculturated in diverse environments come together, there may arise cultural tension, because of the manner in which human societies have developed over their histories. A strong distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’ seems to be the basal layer of human relationships. What triggers these tensions?

Normally, one is born into a collective, and is sustained in that collective until maturity. Then one becomes one of the legs upholding that collective. In most of Asia, even modernised Asia, this collective is the extended family, in its various forms and traditions. In the Ultra-West, the modern nations of the West created in recent centuries by European migrants, the collective is the nuclear family. The boundary of the Asian extended family will include three generations. The boundary of the nuclear family of the Ultra-West is most unlikely to include even the grandparents.

The cultural underpinnings and traditions of the communalism of the East are quite clearly identified, and enforceable in a subtle manner. Those of the individualism of the West are somewhat amorphous, yet effectively coherent, and apparently binding without coercion (except in the matter of religious conformity).

The reality in both situations is that there is a sense of belonging to a ‘tribe,’ especially when the ‘elders’ of this tribe, the priests and politicians, work hard at keeping separate their collective from other collectives. This separation implies the exercise of power or the display of superiority, reflecting competition for resources, or minds and souls. Fanciful? Or a realistic perception?

Competition between groups (or tribes) of Primitive Man or hunter/gatherer or nomad would have been over resources. Shamans and other self-appointed priests and their subsequently developed institutions, and god kings, would have sought power (and probably wealth). Add tribal leaders, the politicians, and there could result that basal relationship between ‘them’ and ‘us.’

With the ending of colonial rule in India, Ceylon, and Malaya, young people from these countries entered Australia in the early post-war period with, as I observed, no prejudice against white people as a whole. I was certainly taught not to be anti-British, while remaining anti-colonial. We had grown up within extended families in multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural territories where mutual co-existence and tolerance were evident; and we were educated.

We were also adequately acculturated to be superbly confident about our historical and cultural heritage. We did not expect the treatment we received in those early days when we landed in Australia.

Why did so many of the host-people display oral prejudice and discriminate against us, apparently because of our skin colour? We were well-dressed, and spoke courteously, and in educated English?

Was that the trigger? After demolishing the cultures of the First Peoples of Australia, demoralising them, and pushing them into a dim background, and in spite of not having been a colonial ‘power’, was the Anglo-Aussie affronted by the presence of educated and confident middle-class coloured young people paying their way?

 

 

My exposure to Hinduism In Bali

My tour guide in Bali was a Brahmin (a Balinese Brahmin). His Indian ancestor had arrived in the 9th Century. When he discovered that I am a Hindu, he was delighted. Everywhere we went, he introduced me as ‘Indu’! The responses were most pleasing. I was one of them.

We first observed a cremation. It was in the open – like the one for my father in Malaya. Whereas I and my relatives were required to turn away when the pyre was lit, here people watched. The presiding priest then left. He did not walk. He was carried on a palanquin by 4 men.

As he passed me, our eyes met. He could have been one of my relatives – by skin colour, shape and size of head. Was he a throwback to the first arrival?

On another day, we arrived at a temple. On one of the 2 pillars at the open gate, was a small basin with a little scoop. I was the only passenger who had exited the tourist bus with my guide. At the pillar, he took down the basin, filled the tiny scop with the water in the basin. I knew what to do. I cupped my right hand over my left, and received about a teaspoon of the water. As I sipped the water, I heard the collective gasp from the other occupants of the bus. I then reversed the process. My guide sipped the water and sprinkled the surplus water over his forehead, just as I had done with my tiny surplus.
To me, the water was holy water. It could do me no harm. And it did not.

One afternoon, we witnessed the Ramayana depicted in a hotel. It was similar to the display I had witnessed in Buddhist Thailand.

Then occurred that annual day when no Balinese worked or went out. The place was strangely peaceful. On another day, I witnessed the procession of women carrying baskets of fruit on their heads on their way to their temple.

It was clear that the Balinese Hindus are as religious as are the Indians and Ceylonese of my experience. After the re-invigoration of Hinduism by the great Shankara in the 8th Century, this faith seems to have absorbed Buddhism. This would mean that, as one looked up to God, one would also look laterally at co-created fellow-humans, and with compassion.

As one who feels, deep within his soul, that he has been a Muslim, and Jew, and Christian in my many past lives, I am pleased to be a Hindu in this life. Hinduism is a useful religion in its concepts and cosmology. It is the only religion to offer a coherent view on cosmology. Strangely, many speculative scientific cosmologists seem to be in tune with Hindu philosophers.

Where next? The significance of reincarnation is to be offered learning, preferably understanding, of all that is.

Hinduism in Southeast Asia (2)

These are further extracts from Wikipedia

Today, vibrant Hindu communities remain in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Medan city of Indonesia and the Philippines mainly due to the presence of Indians, such as Tamil people, who migrated from the Indian sub-continent to Southeast Asia in past centuries.

One notably Southeast Asian aspect of Tamil Hinduism is the festival of Thaipusam, while other Hindu religious festivals such as Diwali are also well-observed by Hindus in the region. In Thailand and Cambodia, Thai and Khmer people practised Hindu rituals and traditions along with their Buddhist faith, and Hindu gods such as Brahma are still widely revered.

In Indonesia, it is not only people of Indian descent who practice Hinduism; Hinduism still survives as the major religion in Bali, where native Indonesians, the Balinese people, adheres to Agama Hindu Dharma, a variant of Hinduism derived from ancient Java-Bali Hindu traditions developed in the island for almost two millennia that often incorporates native spiritual elements.

Other than the Balinese, a small enclave of Javanese Hindu minorities are also can be found in Java, such as around Tengger mountain ranges near Bromo and Semeru volcanoes, Karanganyar Regency in Central Java, and near Prambanan, Yogyakarta.

Similarly, Hinduism is also found among the Cham minority in Southern Vietnam and Cambodia: just like the Javanese, the majority of them are Muslims but a minority are Hindu. In other parts of Indonesia, the term Hindu Dharma is often loosely used as umbrella category to identify native spiritual beliefs and indigenous religions such as Hindu Kaharingan professed by Dayak of Kalimantan.

The resurgence of Hinduism in Indonesia is occurring in all parts of the country. In the early 1970s, the Toraja people of Sulawesi were the first to be identified under the umbrella of ‘Hinduism’, followed by the Karo Batak of Sumatra in 1977 and the Ngaju Dayak of Kalimantan in 1980. In an unpublished report in 1999, the National Indonesian Bureau of Statistics admitted that around 100,000 she had officially converted or ‘reconverted’ from Islam to Hinduism over the previous two decades.[6] The Ministry of Religious Affairs, as of 2007 estimates there to be at least 10 million Hindus in Indonesia

The growth of Hinduism has been driven also by the famous Javanese prophesies of Sabdapalon and Jayabaya. Many recent converts to Hinduism had been members of the families of Sukarno’s PNI, and now support Megawati Sukarnoputri. This return to the ‘religion of Majapahit’ (Hinduism) is a matter of nationalist pride.

Next to Indonesian Balinese, today, the Balamon Cham are the only surviving native (non-Indic) Hindus in Southeast Asia. In Vietnam there are roughly 160,000 members of the Cham ethnic minority, majority of them adheres Hinduism while some are Muslims.[8] After centuries being dominated by Kinh (Vietnamese), today there are some effort to revive Cham culture.