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Hinduism – 5

Photo writeup: Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya and Guru Madhavacharya

Hinduism says that God is one but allows people to realize Him in different forms suited to their spiritual evolution. It is democratic in spirit and does not make any hard and fast rules regarding the concept of God though there is crystal clear clarity of what is what. There is no attempt to even propagate Hindu religion at any time in its history. Certain other religions like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism were born in India and have been in existence till date. Hinduism never fought with any of those religions but treated them as its own offshoots. This is religious tolerance. When some kings took up Buddhism, it started spreading far and wide. Then, to sustain Hinduism three gurus came on the scene one after the other.

Also read: Hinduism – 1

Since Hindu philosophy is complex it needed a lot of explanation. Sankaracharya, a venerable guru, put forward the theory that God is one and that there is nothing else. The world and all the things we see and experience are said to be maya (illusion). We perceive that One in different forms, shapes and sizes as different things. There are so many things made of wood and each one has a different name like chair, cot, table etc. Though they look differently the fact is they are all basically wood. Similarly by changing our shirts we do not become different men. Just because we do not look beyond the physical appearance we are unable to see the underlying oneness of things. This argument is called “Advaita” (no second/ Oneness). It says that man can attain mukti (liberation) from maya when he realizes the underlying Oneness which has been always in existence and he could not find It because of his ignorance. This is called Gnana Marga (Path of Wisdom) to attain liberation. Sankaracharya moved on foot across the length and breadth of India challenging the Buddhist monks and defeating them in argument with his Advaita and affirming the greatness of Hinduism. Because of him India remained Hindu and Buddhism left to countries like China, Japan and many other countries on the Eastern side of India.

Also read: Hinduism – 2

Sankaracharya’s Advaita was palatable to the informed and the wise only. So Ramanujacharya, another guru, proposed “Visistaadvaita” (better Advaita) based on Bhakti (devotion). This is known as Bhakti Marga (Path of Devotion). This path gave importance to ritual and prayer. It appealed to many who cannot understand the subtleties of Advaita. In fact Sankaracharya himself declared “Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam, Govindam Bhaja Moodha Mathe” (Pray to God fool). According to Ramanujacharya’s Visistaadvaita, liberation is when individual soul unites with the Universal soul. That is to say man unites with God after his death because of his devotion and good deeds.

Guru Madhvacharya too tried to simplify things in his own way. He advocated “Dvaita” (two) theory which says individual soul is different from the Universal soul and there is no question of merging of the two. His approach is also based on devotion, following rituals and doing good deeds.  For him liberation is not having rebirth.

Hinduism says that God is one but allows people to realize Him in different forms suited to their spiritual evolution. It is democratic in spirit and does not make any hard and fast rules regarding the concept of God though there is crystal clear clarity of what is what. There is no attempt to even propagate Hindu religion at any time in its history. Certain other religions like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism were born in India and have been in existence till date. Hinduism never fought with any of those religions but treated them as its own offshoots. This is religious tolerance. When some kings took up Buddhism, it started spreading far and wide. Then, to sustain Hinduism three gurus came on the scene one after the other.

Also read: Hinduism – 3

Since Hindu philosophy is complex it needed a lot of explanation. Sankaracharya, a venerable guru, put forward the theory that God is one and that there is nothing else. The world and all the things we see and experience are said to be maya (illusion). We perceive that One in different forms, shapes and sizes as different things. There are so many things made of wood and each one has a different name like chair, cot, table etc. Though they look differently the fact is they are all basically wood. Similarly by changing our shirts we do not become different men. Just because we do not look beyond the physical appearance we are unable to see the underlying oneness of things. This argument is called “Advaita” (no second/ Oneness). It says that man can attain mukti (liberation) from maya when he realizes the underlying Oneness which has been always in existence and he could not find It because of his ignorance. This is called Gnana Marga (Path of Wisdom) to attain liberation. Sankaracharya moved on foot across the length and breadth of India challenging the Buddhist monks and defeating them in argument with his Advaita and affirming the greatness of Hinduism. Because of him India remained Hindu and Buddhism left for countries like China, Japan and many others

 on the Eastern side of India.

Sankaracharya’s Advaita was palatable to the informed and the wise only. So Ramanujacharya, another guru, proposed “Visistaadvaita” (better Advaita) based on Bhakti (devotion). This is known as Bhakti Marga (Path of Devotion). This path gave importance to ritual and prayer. It appealed to many who cannot understand the subtleties of Advaita. In fact, Sankaracharya himself declared “Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam, Govindam Bhaja Moodha Mathe” (Pray to God fool). According to Ramanujacharya’s Visistaadvaita, liberation is when individual soul unites with the Universal soul. That is to say man unites with God after his death because of his devotion and good deeds.

Guru Madhvacharya too tried to simplify things in his own way. He advocated “Dvaita” (two) theory which says individual soul is different from the Universal soul and there is no question of merging of the two. His approach is also based on devotion, following rituals and doing good deeds.  For him liberation is not having rebirth.

Also read: Hinduism – 4

Rajendra Singh Baisthakur
Rajendra Singh Baisthakur
Rajendra Singh Baisthakur had been a Lecturer in English. He is a poet, critic and translator. His interests are Literature, Philosophy and social media.

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