Forming A Base Of Knowledge

alex1987's picture

Average: 4.4 (5 votes)

In exploring this website, it seems most of the active users are from India and/or are of Indian origin. The fact that several people have reached out and said hello (and then some) is very encouraging. I am sure it is a matter of some interest to see an American-born former Christian embracing a faith from the other side of the world.

Perhaps I should share some information on how I am educating myself on spiritual matters.

There is a lot to my story (starting off as a Christian, learning about many other world faiths including Judaism, the Baha'i Faith, Zoroastrianism, and Sikhism), but I will save those for another time. In particular, my memories of growing up Christian contain some rather uncomfortable feelings and memories - I should quickly add, nothing as severe as having parents who disowned me or sexual assault, nothing like that at all - that take a lot of energy to revisit. Thank you for your patience with that.

I currently do a lot of work with the Sikh Coalition in New York City, including advocacy and media work. The Sikh faith is a beautiful religion of peace and one towards which I only have the utmost of respect. I suppose you could say I fall somewhere between Hinduism and Sikhism in terms of my beliefs. I am a monotheist, but I appreciate the notion that the multiple Hindu gods are simply essences, facets, or manifestations of the same God-head.

Where I find myself differing with Sikhism (and some Hindus) is the notion of advaita. I favor vishishadvaita, the qualified monist belief that while we are all part of God, our souls maintain their individuality, even after moksha.

Where I find myself agreeing with Sikhism (and differing from many Hindus) is the various rituals. I believe meditation, prayer, and reading scripture is sufficient - now, you the reader are certainly welcome to differ with me, but let me add that I think whatever actions you find necessary to commune with the almighty are not wasted. To each his own, as we say.

That said, my pursuit rests in jnana yoga, the path of knowledge. I first picked up the Upanishads - the Easwaran translation - and I loved each one of them. I found Easwaran's introductory essay to be one of the finest treatises on belief that I had encountered in quite some time, and each Upanishad was uplifting and enlightening. Easwaran was an excellent guru, and his translations did the subject matter much justice.

My next step was to get a grounding in the Hindu faith. I come from an academic background and found myself taking Srinivasan's rather unfortunately titled 'Hinduism For Dummies' with me everywhere I went. It gave me facts, paired with the indelible insight of someone who has known the faith from birth. His portion on the philosophies of Hinduism was exceptional.

It was at this point that I came to a crossroad. The biggest problem with Hindu text is that while a good translator like Easwaranji makes beautiful passages in English, a bad translation is like wading through quicksand. Sadly, there are no great translations of the Vedas in the English language. The one Srinivasan recommended is what is essentially the only widely-available one: the R.T.H. Griffith translations from the late 19th Century. Some proved better than others in terms of ease - Griffith translated all for Vedas into a sacred liturgical form of English rife with THEE, THINE, THOU, and numerous archaic terms - "kine" instead of "cattle," for instance - that is not an easy read. (The Sama Veda was the easiest to read.)

That said, I found Easwaran's translations of the Gita and of the Dhammapada last week along with Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi. I'm looking forward to reading them all in due time, starting with Yogananda's book. (It is the 13th edition, published in 2007.)

Besides all the reading I am doing, I am also trying to squeeze in time at least once a day to sit and meditate while listening to an OM mantra. All I can say is that it works - my only problem is managing the time to do it!

I am looking forward to your feedback on all this. In the meantime, peace and love to you all.


davids's picture

Alex, why do you find such a

Alex, why do you find such a need to adhere or to navigate based on religions? I would maybe understand doing so based on spiritual doctrines (and even with these ones I would be careful) - the religions contain so much mind clutter that was added on top (and many times in place of) the true essence over the centuries.

I have once noticed that the most remarkable ones that I came across and that contributed to my spiritual growth the most were sages that were not affiliated to any organized religion. I hardly ever heard of some religious figure who became self realized in our days and of course it is not accidental.

davids | Mon, 12/17/2012 - 20:52
alex1987's picture

I certainly agree with you on this.

I certainly agree with you on this - and I should add that I really like the idea posited throughout Hinduism that all paths lead to God, as well as the Baha'i Faith's founder Baha'ullah and his notion that all religious founders were manifestations of God for their time and culture - but I do think it is a conscious choice to navigate by religion.

What I like the most about Hinduism is that it is hardly a label inasmuch as it is an umbrella for a variety of approaches to spirituality and God, with the big thread holding it all together is an emphasis on good works and turning inward to meditate on the Self.

You are right about modern sages who find enlightenment - Yogananda saw parallels between Jesus and the Hindu tradition, Meher Baba also saw unity among all religions - but I do firmly believe all paths lead to God. The matter at hand, for me at least, is finding the path that works most for me.

Om shanti, salaam, shalom, peace, and love,

alex1987 | Mon, 12/17/2012 - 21:21
Asanga's picture


You write very well.

One point.

You said, 'I believe meditation, prayer, and reading scripture is sufficient...' when you talked of Sikhism.

Seva is an important aspect of Sikhism, as well as Hindu thought.

Am sure you agree...

I am, yet I am not...

Asanga | Tue, 12/18/2012 - 16:09
alex1987's picture

A glaring omission!

Asanga - I can't believe I left that out! Yes, service/seva is an integral part of Sikh life, and it is something that I have actively incorporated into my own activities.

I regularly give money to the homeless, I have done media work with the Sikh Coalition, and I in fact work with them as a volunteer advocate for religious freedom and civil rights.

Obviously, giving back and aiding others is a crucial part of our existence - religious or not - and I regard this as a religious practice. One thing I learned from my parents and hold dear to me is the idea that "You may be the only God some people see," and I think of that every time I hold the door open for a stranger or help a woman carry her stroller up the subway steps. I wouldn't be arrogant enough to state that doing this will bring people enlightenment, but I know what it's like to have a bad day and how that one random act of kindness can put a smile on my face.

So yes, Asanga, I wholeheartedly agree with you!

Om shanti, salaam, shalom, peace, and love,

alex1987 | Tue, 12/18/2012 - 16:25
bonya basu's picture

I found my Inner Path....

Dear Alex it is nice to read all about you.It intrest me more that you are from the path of Jnana Yoga and i myself have keen interest in seeking knowledge...but being Hindu i still could not read Upanisad thoroughly as yet...of course i wish to read them whenever i have more time.

But dear friend don't miss to read the book..."Autobiography of a Yogi"...It is simply a MAGNETIC BOOK...It changed me completely...and after reading this book i ultimately found my path...which i was in search off.
There are different paths...with each of the path one can attain the highest goal...but always choose the path which suits your true nature...which gives a Ryhthmic way to unfold your INNER PATH.All the knowledge is present very much within Oneself....Various paths are the Keys to unlock your INNER DOORWAY!!!

With my little experience i can say meditation is the master key to unfold your Inner Wisdom!!!

Some meaningful Quotes of Sri Sri Paramhansa Yoganada....

"...The purpose of life is to ascend the six spinal centers, reinforcing the human consciousness progressively with greater and greater lights, until it is able to unite with the all-pervading, thousand-rayed brilliance in the highest center in the brain. This ascent of the consciousness through the spine may be achieved slowly through right actions and right thoughts. The yogi, however, chooses the quicker and more scientific method of meditation..."

"...It is an insult to your Self to be born, live, and die without knowing the answer to the mystery of why you were sent here as a human being in the first place. To forget God is to miss the whole point of existence. Learn to feel God, and to enjoy Him..."

Sri Sri Parmhansa Yogananda~

bonya basu | Wed, 12/19/2012 - 10:42
alex1987's picture

Thank you!

Bonya Basu - thank you very much for the kind words and support!

I'm about 60 pages into Yogananda's book, and I am loving every page.

I highly, highly recommend the Isha Upanishad. Gandhi once said:
"If all the Upanishads and all the other scriptures happened all of a sudden to be reduced to ashes, and if only the first verse in the Isha Upanishad were left in the memory of the Hindus, Hinduism would live for ever."

Om shanti, salaam, shalom, peace, and love,

alex1987 | Wed, 12/19/2012 - 20:28
bonya basu's picture

Thank you!

Thank you dear Alex...i will definitely read your recomendation!!!
If this book of Yogananda really attracts you...i can suggest two more books of Him...

"Man's Eternal Quest"

"The Divine Romance"

It really enlighten the mind...before coming to the path of 'Kriya Yoga"..i read all these books and convinced to follow the same....although there are many more books by Him...those are really benificial...when you are devoted to the path!!

May God guide you for your Divine Wisdom!

bonya basu | Thu, 12/20/2012 - 07:37
bonya basu's picture

For YOU!!!

Just after posting my reply to you...i was just reading this Random Quote(Upanishad)...Kriya Yoga is all about it to i thought of sharing it with you!!!!

"...That great,unborn Self,which is identified with the intellect and which dwells in the midst of the organs,lies in the akasa{ether}within the heart.It is the controller of all,the Lord of all,the Ruler of all.It does not become greater through good deeds or smaller through evil deeds. It is the Lord of all,the Ruler of all beings,the Protector of all beings...Knowing It alone one becomes a sage....

— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV:4.22

bonya basu | Thu, 12/20/2012 - 07:44