Harmonics of the Soul, Part 4: Odds and Ends

And now for the honorable mention portion of our program, featuring those religions which I am as yet too unfamiliar with to have been much influenced by them.

  • Hinduism has impacted me primarily as an object lesson in how NOT to conduct a religion. E.g., do NOT turn your back on the world in search of the truth behind the illusion. Do NOT mindlessly obey the precepts of caste and authority in order to fulfill your purpose in life. Hinduism, in my limited experience, seems to be the religion most suited to keeping the rabble in line and contented with their lot.
  • Buddhism gets an honorable mention for it’s emphasis on giving up attachments, which seems like a good idea even though I have some trouble reconciling it with a philosophy of engagement with the world.
  • Islam garners an honorable mention for begetting Sufism, which begat the poet Hafiz, who’s devoutly romantic writing I have recently fallen in love with.
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  1. On 1:
    Agreed. Even their method of meditation is designed to close one to the world.

    On 2:
    Your trouble reconciling the two ideas is reasonable. I often had the same sort of confusion when I first started getting into buddhism, which is my “declared” religion. Here’s two examples to hopefully illustrate the meaning of “freedom from attachment” and “engaged in the world” from a buddhist perspective.

    Imagine that you’ve spent the last four years lovingly building a house with your own two hands. On the night which you move in, the house is struck by lightning and burns to the ground. Most people would cry and moan and crumple into a little ball of depression. Those are the people who were attached to the outcome of their efforts. They feel that their efforts neccesitate a certain response from the universe. Instead of dealing with what is, they deal with what they feel is what should be. The ostensibly buddhist reaction would be to feel glad that you and your family all survived and begin to build another house. After all, there’s no getting the old house back, so why be upset over it?

    Along the same vein is just about any cleaning chore. Why sweep the porch when we know that the removal of dirt will soon be undone? We live in a world where nothing is permanent. In such a world, it can be argued that nothing is worth doing since nothing will last. In fact, if we shed our expectations of an outcome as definite or neccesary, then we are free to enjoy the act itself. If one settles down and makes a conscious decision to do a thing no matter the outcome, a surprising amount of joy can be found. Freedom from attachment is not freedom from existence. Instead, it is pure moment-to-moment existence.

    Two great reads, no matter if you decide to look much deeper into buddhism or not, are Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The Miracle of Mindfulness” and Alan Watt’s “The Way of Zen.” Both allow an outsider to explore the day-to-day practice of buddhism without having to outright adopt it.


    1. Thank you for a very useful reply. The latter book you mentioned was already on my Amazon wish list; I’ve added the former as well.

  2. Hinduism only gets an honorable mention in my book for one reason: yoga.

    Well, that, and they do have some beauty to their culture. Try reading Kipling, for example. Yeah, I know it’s fiction, but fiction can still carry a lot of reality about a culture… or at least the reality of what the author saw in it.

    Besides, they don’t have a uniform set of beliefs or scriptures. They have various writings, some of which have gained western popularity, thousands of which we’ve never heard of.

    As far as the world not existing, though, that is a bit silly. If the physical world doesnt exist, how do you know anything exists, except as a dream in the mind of God? And even if it *was* all a dream, that means you’re a dream too, and so the physical world is every bit as real as you are, or are not. I, too, seriously dislike the caste system, as well as reincarnation in general. (Jungian super-concious may let you share the memories of someone deceased for some odd cosmic-burp of a reason. Maybe the dead person likes you, how should I know? “Reincarnation Instant Breakfast” would make the world quite meaningless, though, with as much memory as most of us would appear to have of former lives. Much more logical to believe that the people with these memories have somehow been hit by the “shared subconcious” memories of someone else, and that these memories, like dreams, are given by God (and/or a sympathizing dead person) in order to help you make changes to benefit yourself, your situation, or some other such thing… sorry for the rant. )

    Speaking of dreams, I probably ought to be having one.

    1. Isn’t one of the teachings of Hinduism that the material world is nothing more than Shiva’s dream?

    2. Kipling was one of the dearest companions of my childhood, and remains one of my favoritest authors in the world.

  3. You should look into Aghora, at least as an intellectual idea. It is the ‘left hand path’, whereas Hinduism is the ‘right hand path’. Its adherents are held to be outside of the caste system. Many of them live in the “burning grounds”, living off of the offerings left for the dead and the dead themselves. They are similar to Satanists in their hedonistic tendencies, but do not revere “evil”. It is an interesting viewpoint, if nothing else, and there are some interesting ties to other, more mainstream, religions… if you pay attention.

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