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3 years ago  ::  Nov 27, 2010 - 7:48PM #11
M_Raghavan
Posts: 7

To properly understand who the avatharas are, it is important to recognize the role that the Supreme Being has from a Vaishnava perspective.


To us, this world is His, and He is its Sole Benefactor.  Being the Ultimate, God has no reason to come to Earth to restore Dharma, since with a mere glance the very Universe is operating in accordance with His Blessing.  Consequently, the reason for descending to world of the souls is to be there for them, to bring solace to them, to free them from fear and worry.


Consequently, each Avathara of Vishnu is a metaphor for the Supreme Being's Well Wishing Concern for His World, and His willingness  to do anything for us to make us feel at peace, with no expectation of return.


In this context, where would Gautama Buddha and Mahavir Jain, play a role, as they were both atheists who felt that each person was responsible for his/her own salvation?


 

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3 years ago  ::  Nov 27, 2010 - 9:31PM #12
Serenit
Posts: 5

Nov 27, 2010 -- 7:48PM, M_Raghavan wrote:


To us, this world is His, and He is its Sole Benefactor.  Being the Ultimate, God has no reason to come to Earth to restore Dharma, since with a mere glance the very Universe is operating in accordance with His Blessing.




It might be comforting to believe so, but a closer examination of  the oldest texts in both the Rig Veda and Pali Canon show that originally  Vishnu was a young deva newly arisen in the  Kamma Loka. Alteration was added in later texts. 


 


Nov 27, 2010 -- 7:48PM, M_Raghavan wrote:


Consequently, the reason for descending to world of the souls is to be there for them, to bring solace to them, to free them from fear and worry.



Fear and worries are transient emotions.  They are emotional states of mind that can be transcended through mental discipline and meditation practices. Such practices taught by the Buddha aim to lead a practitioner to a state of equanimity and  awakening within oneself.  This is the untapped potential in humans.


Nov 27, 2010 -- 7:48PM, M_Raghavan wrote:


In this context, where would Gautama Buddha and Mahavir Jain, play a role, as they were both atheists who felt that each person was responsible for his/her own salvation?




 The Buddha served as a living example of the potential in each human being, just like a butterfly is an example of the potential within each caterpillar. In discovering the path to Awakening, he opened the way for others to find awakening within themselves by his instructions. In the Buddha's dhamma, instead of worshiping someone outside oneself we  are taught the way to  look within and awaken to reality. The Buddha himself and many of his awakened disciples can travel in these heavenly realms in this very life.  However, that is not the main goal of the path.  Instead,  it is to transcend even these higher planes.


The Buddha did not deny the existence nor forbid the worship of the  popular gods, but such worship is not Buddhism and the gods are merely  angels who may be willing to help good Buddhists but are in no wise  guides to religion, since they need instruction themselves.  The focus  of the Noble Eightfold Path is not so much about worshiping god,  achieving heaven in the next life ( perhaps for a number of lay devotees  but not bhikkhus/ bhikkhunis), experiencing Brahma consciousness in  this life or the next. The reason is that in all these realms, beings  are subject to rebirth after some period of time. It is like going  around in circles in the round of rebirth despite all the effort and  striving. Therefore, the purpose of the holy life in the Buddha’s path  is about liberation from the cycle of rebirth and experience Awakening  in this very life ( some might take longer, depending on the person).   The Buddha himself realized Awakening after about 6 years of practice.   He  enter into Sunyata,  dwell in rapture, sukkha ( happiness) ,  tranquility, equanimity, and the like , also visit any realms he feels  like in this very life , here and now. He is liberated from all rebirth  in samsara now and after parinirvana.


To have a better idea of where the Buddha fit in in this vast universe, one can take a look at the 31 planes of existence in Buddhist Cosmology :


en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_Cosmology...


 


Jainism emphasizes:  asceticism , self-mortification, or torturing the body, as a means of purifying the soul and obtaining supernatural powers.


Buddhism is similar to Jainism regarding no animal sacrifice. However, the Buddha wouldn’t suggest his disciples to take up  self-mortification, or torturing the body. The middle way is neither  indulgence in sensual desires nor is it self- mortification. Also the  Buddha doesn’t place emphasis on supernatural powers . When it happens, it is just the icing on the cake.


 


 

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3 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2010 - 3:30AM #13
M_Raghavan
Posts: 7

The term Vaishnavism, as it suggest that the Supreme Being is seen as a Vedic Deity.  In actuality, the Deity that the original Vaishnavas worshiped was called "ThirumAL".  The word "mAL" suggests expansiveness, which in Sanskrit is roughly translated as "Vishnu", pervasiveness.


The cognizance that the world is pervaded by A Supremely Loving Spirit is Vaishnavam in essence. 


The role of Avathara in the original Vaishnavite tradition was seen only in a metaphoric context, as symbolizing the Supreme Being's Willingness to Redeem souls from suffering.  The literal understanding of Avathara as an actual historical event came only with the Bhagavatha Puranam, which is believed to have been written after the Azhwars.


Now with regards to Buddhism and peace of mind, it is up to the individual to come up with his/her own "bliss", with or without the help of the Gods.


The Tamizh Traditions are contrary to this, arguing that since the Supreme Being Cares without condition, any effort on the part of the individual to realize Him would be pointless.  Rather it is the Lord's Love for Us that we should be aware of, as it gives us peace and strength to deal with life.

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3 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2010 - 4:06PM #14
Serenit
Posts: 5

Nov 28, 2010 -- 3:30AM, M_Raghavan wrote:


The role of Avathara in the original Vaishnavite tradition was seen only in a metaphoric context, as symbolizing the Supreme Being's Willingness to Redeem souls from suffering. 




So the idea that Buddha is an Avathara of Vishnu was actually not in the Vaishnavite tradition originally .


 


Nov 28, 2010 -- 3:30AM, M_Raghavan wrote:


The literal understanding of Avathara as an actual historical event came only with the Bhagavatha Puranam, which is believed to have been written after the Azhwars.




Indeed, the texts indicate that this was a later addition.


 


Nov 28, 2010 -- 3:30AM, M_Raghavan wrote:


The Tamizh Traditions are contrary to this, arguing that since the Supreme Being Cares without condition, any effort on the part of the individual to realize Him would be pointless.  Rather it is the Lord's Love for Us that we should be aware of, as it gives us peace and strength to deal with life.


 From an Earlier post: Being the Ultimate, God has no reason to come to Earth to restore   Dharma, since with a mere glance the very Universe is operating in   accordance with His Blessing.




If with a mere glance the very Universe is operating in accordance with his will, then how come we see all kinds of natural disasters, diseases, violence, and other sufferings facing the people of the world everywhere on the planet.  If he is so powerful, then we would think that he could in fact make this world a peaceful and happy habitat if he so wishes. But how come he didn't ? We believe that he is an all loving supreme being who cares without condition , then how come he didn't use his ultimate power to do any thing about it.  There are people being burned alive over an argument about a dog. Women being tortured for their dowry. People being discriminated against because they are born from a certain parents or family. Countless animals being sacrificed as an offering . If he is all loving and all powerful, how come he watched these sufferings without taking any action .


According to the law of cause and effect, through our actions we reap what we sow. Therefore,  through our own effort  we get ourselves out of the mess we created. This is where the teachings on self discipline to improve ourselves and the world comes in handy. In the Maha-Saccaka Sutta  the Buddha told of his realization of the functioning of cause and effect after having purified his mind with the four Jhanas: 



"When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished,  rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to  imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of recollecting my past  lives. I recollected my manifold past lives, i.e., one birth,  two...five, ten...fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many  eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of  cosmic contraction & expansion: 'There I had such a name, belonged  to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my  experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away  from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name,  belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such  my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing  away from that state, I re-arose here.' Thus I remembered my manifold  past lives in their modes & details. "This was the first knowledge I  attained in the first watch of the night.




"When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished,  rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to  imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the passing away  & reappearance of beings. I saw — by means of the divine eye,  purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away &  re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior,  beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with  their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body,  speech, & mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and  undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up  of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation,  the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who  were endowed with good conduct of body, speech & mind, who did not  revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under  the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after  death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly  world.' Thus — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the  human — I saw beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned  how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate  & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma. "This was the second  knowledge I attained in the second watch of the night."



 

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3 years ago  ::  Nov 29, 2010 - 12:09AM #15
M_Raghavan
Posts: 7

Isn't it ironic that the ones who are cursing some Personal Deity are the ones who are not the ones being burned alive, whose animals are not being sacrificed.  When we ourselves are in trouble, we are the first to pray to the same One we blame to get us through the problems.


Now, let me ask a question in return, Buddhism suggests that the nature of this world is suffering.  So, the fact that there is so much suffering should be taken for granted, i.e., why should we care?  Ours should be to find our own peace.


If we see this world as His, it becomes a form of worship to behave well, to do good to our fellow living beings, to see ourselves as instruments to His Good.  If we know that we are under His Care, then maybe we can stop focusing on our own problems, which are left to His Care, and start thinking about others.  In fact, the Tamizh tradition suggests that the ultimate purpose of our life is not our individidual salvation, but a willingness to be of service to others.

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3 years ago  ::  Nov 29, 2010 - 10:54PM #16
Serenit
Posts: 5

Nov 29, 2010 -- 12:09AM, M_Raghavan wrote:


Isn't it ironic that the ones who are cursing some Personal Deity are the ones who are not the ones being burned alive, whose animals are not being sacrificed.  When we ourselves are in trouble, we are the first to pray to the same One we blame to get us through the problems.



Even so, it doesn't explains why they have to pray ferociously due to  having to endure these catastrophe when having an all loving God who can  control everything with a mere glance.

Being all powerful would  mean that he could indeed do something about the sufferings that people  in the world have to endure ( ie.. Cancer, tsunami, war, etc..) if he  want to. But why wouldn't he want to if he was all loving, unless he wasn't all powerful and wasn't the creator.


It is true that in Buddhist Cosmology's 31 planes of existence, there are various types of powerful devas who often come to aid good people in times of need and you can pray to them. However, they are not creators of the Universe. Indeed, many of them are very loving. However, pride and jealousy do exist in devas. Fully enlightened arahants are free of defilements. Awakened arahants are mentioned in the texts as having the ability to travel to these planes in their bodies this very life. Much was told about all these planes of existence by the Buddha ( Awakened disciples as weill) . His information came from direct visit to these planes and from his divine eye after Awakening.


 


Nov 29, 2010 -- 12:09AM, M_Raghavan wrote:


Now, let me ask a question in return, Buddhism suggests that the nature of this world is suffering.  So, the fact that there is so much suffering should be taken for granted.




Buddhism doesn't explains the operation of the world as coming from or dependent on an All Powerful and All-loving God that could do anything with a glance but doesn't do anything to relieve the sufferings of the beings in the world.


1. The Buddha doesn't teach that life is suffering. The First Noble Truth is simply a genuine recognition of the existence of suffering in the life of sentient beings .


2. Next, the Buddha moves on to understand the cause and points out what it is.


3. He then figures out what makes suffering cease and mentioned that in the Third Noble Truth.


4. Finally, he taught the technique to end sufferings, and that is the Noble Eightfold Path mentioned in the Fourth Noble Truth.


 


To make it easier to understand we can look at a simple example:


1. Your doctor sees you notice that you are not well. He recognizes and admits to you that you are sick ( ie.. a lung disease)


2. He then told you the cause of the disease ( ie..too much smoking)


3. And told you what would make the disease go away ( ie... abandon smoking cigarettes )


4. Also the taught you the steps to successfully quit smoking , because not everyone knows how to quit smoking on their own without instructions from a professional.


 


As you can see, the Buddha's explanation of the functioning  and suffering existing in the world as based on the law cause and effect. He also gave the solution to suffering by teaching a way to end sufferings within ourselves.  He did not say that there is suffering in life and nothing can be done by people, and that they simply have to live with it or pray desperately. This puts the responsibility back into our hands, and motivates us to take action to improve our situation.


 


Nov 29, 2010 -- 12:09AM, M_Raghavan wrote:


If we see this world as His, it becomes a form of worship to behave well, to do good to our fellow living beings, to see ourselves as instruments to His Good.  If we know that we are under His Care, then maybe we can stop focusing on our own problems, which are left to His Care, and start thinking about others.  In fact, the Tamizh tradition suggests that the ultimate purpose of our life is not our individidual salvation, but a willingness to be of service to others.




Realistically speaking, each of us have to much desires of our own. Therefore, day in and day out we spend much of our time racing against the clock to fulfill our endless personal desires. There is not much room left to focus on doing things for the benefit others. However, it might be possible for people to focus on others once they are content within themselves by reducing unnecessary desires. Enlightened Arahants are often selfless beings who do things for the benefit of others because they are content within in every moment. Just the 3 basic necessities are enough. There is no need for them to chase after or pursue any worldly goals in order to experience pleasant abiding. Much of their time and energy are freed up to focus on helping their fellow human beings.

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3 years ago  ::  Nov 30, 2010 - 3:19PM #17
M_Raghavan
Posts: 7

Realistically speaking, each of us have to much desires of our own. Therefore, day in and day out we spend much of our time racing against the clock to fulfill our endless personal desires. There is not much room left to focus on doing things for the benefit others. However, it might be possible for people to focus on others once they are content within themselves by reducing unnecessary desires.


I concur with you.  Vaishnavism says exactly the same thing.  But, by recognizing that there is some Reality that is responsible for our well-being, our own unfulfilled desires are seen as being not in our best interest.  Therefore we are free to focus our attentions on to others and their needs and unwanted desires.  An awareness of a Loving Spirit allows us to empty our minds to the attitude of that spirit.


One important thing to note here.   When we speak of ThirumAL, or Narayana, the Vaishnavites are not talking about a Personal Being in the sense of a God with a specific Form, who creates, and then ignores the Universe.  We are talking about the Spirit of Love that pervades and provides sustenance to this Universe.  He/She is Personal in the sense that it evokes feeling, love, compassion, etc.  The iconographic form of this Supreme Truth is intended as a metaphor and object of contemplation.  What we are really contemplating are the Good Qualities that this Being Encapsulates.


So, in either the Boudha or the Vaidika school of thought, we can blame "avidya", ignorance, as the nature of this world, and hence suffering.  Therefore, from a Vaishnava perspective, with the intentions of a Loving Being in mind, we can move forward in doing simple things of benefit to this world.  The Azhwars would argue, however, that such a mental state - called thadiya sesham in Tamil - which they identify with mOksha, liberation, is itself a gift of that same Divine Spirit.  So, our peace of mind is gifted to us to use for for bringing His Good to world.

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3 years ago  ::  Dec 01, 2010 - 8:41AM #18
Serenit
Posts: 5

Nov 30, 2010 -- 3:19PM, M_Raghavan wrote:


 " He/She is Personal in the sense that it evokes feeling,   love, compassion, etc. ... What we are really contemplating are the Good   Qualities that this Being Encapsulates."




 


In  the Buddha's dhamma we meditate on Metta ( loving -kindness). It  is a  way of planting in our mind the seed of compassion towards all  beings.  The  Buddha says that whatever one reflects upon frequently  becomes the  inclination of the mind.


Even in modern psychology we see a  similar concept, where  people  consciously plant a certain thought in  the subconscious through  repeated exposure or contemplation. Naturally,  it has a impact on our  thoughts and actions.


This concept can be  apply in a negative way in business psychology.   For example, in TV  commercials we are repeatedly exposed to images of  the same product  throughout the day. After a while, the alluring  characteristics of this  product goes into our subconscious mind. An  automatic deisre to have  that item can arise. Besides, we are more  likely to choose a product  that we are  exposed to/ see on a regular  basis than a product that we  have not seen .


Another problem I see today is that the news  often show stories of   crimes, robbery, murder, and various violent acts  commited by people.  Even our entertainment channels often shows  violence and other  tragedies. Some video games are full of violence.  Many people spend a  large amount of time plugging their minds into the  television and video  games everyday. Some watch the news in the morning  after waking up and  before going to sleep. These two time periods are  when the subconcious  mind is most receptive because that's when it is  more active than the  conscious mind ( right after waking, and before  falling asleep).


Today, the media is an outlet that increases  unnecessary desires and  aversion. However, it has the potential to  become an outlet for  promoting positivity in the world if the nature of  its content changes.


 





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3 years ago  ::  Jan 14, 2011 - 12:41PM #19
Hippychick
Posts: 4

Raised a traditional and practicing Christian, I am very much drawn to Sri Vaisnavia Hinduism.  Is it possible to integrate the two?  Thank you :)

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3 years ago  ::  Jan 16, 2011 - 8:59PM #20
M_Raghavan
Posts: 7

There have been many scholars who have written works to promote inter-religious understanding between the two faiths.


You may wish to read one of them online:


books.google.com/books?id=DyVfKEmEK2QC&l...


In addition to Prof. Carman, there are the works of Fr. Francis X. Clooney, S. J.  His most famous work - "Seeing Through Texts".


I would enjoy further discussion with you on this topic.

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