Syntheses

 

 

1.    The Great Confluence:

a.    Early Vedic values, beliefs, and practices = World-maintaining, Brahmanical orientation

                                              i.     The world and our lives in it are to be maintained, perfected, celebrated

                                            ii.     Emphasis on rituals and the Brahman priests who perform them

                                          iii.     Primary focus on human relations with the gods (very early Veda) and the power of the sacrificial ritual, especially yajna (later in early Veda)

b.    Late Vedic values, beliefs, and practices = World-renouncing orientation

                                              i.     The world and our lives in it are characterized by suffering and we must seek liberation

1.    Understood in terms of samsara (re-death and our bondage to it) and karma.  These ideas not clearly in use until around 800 BCE.

2.    Emphasis on renunciatory practices of sanyasa (including ascetic lifestyle, yoga, and meditation) and the gurus and renouncers (sanyasis) who teach and exemplify the path of liberation (moksha, a new aim).

3.    Primary focus on achieving moksha and the realization of one’s divine identity (Atman = Brahman).

                                            ii.     The two orientations are sometimes refered to in terms of “action” vs. “non-action”

                                          iii.     The “lively tension” (Kinsley) between these two great rivers of tradition gives rise to:

1.    Incorporation of the Aranyakas and Upanishads and their associated world views into the Brahmanical traditions.

a.    These texts come to be considerd as shruti, revealed texts of the Vedic corpus.

b.    They are then considered at the culmination or “end” of the Veda -- Vedanta

2.    New syntheses of the two – characteristics of what is called “Classical Hinduism”

 

I.  Notions of Dharma

c.    Definition again: The word dharma refers to (a) the cosmic and social order and (b) the rules pertaining to it.

                                              i.     Dharma as structure, samsara as flow

                                            ii.     Dharma as contextual, according to caste, stage of life, sex, comic era.

d.    Texts:

                                              i.     Early Vedas – From Rta (esp. it’s elements of cosmic order) to dharma

1.    Rigveda: Purusha Sukta

2.    Shruti texts – part of the Vedic corpus

                                            ii.     Bhagavad Gita – each person responsible for own duty, social function, upholding order of society and so contributing to welfare of society as a whole

                                          iii.     Dharmashastras (“treatises on dharma”) – individual well-being and prosperity dependent on order of society and cosmos.  Disorder is a constant threat (collapse of caste distinctions, etc.)

1.    Manavadharmashastra or Manusmrti

2.    Smriti: texts that are divinely-inspired but not “revealed” (as in shruti).

 

2.    Varnadharma: the dharma-focused tradition are often concerned with the maintenance of caste system in order to preserve social and cosmic stability

a.    Caste or varna: the Aryan ideal of social order

                                              i.     Bhramans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, Sudras

b.    Hierarchy:  Purity and impurity

c.    Complementarity: division of labor

d.    Contextual nature of dharma

 

II.  Syntheses

 

1.    Purusharthas:

a.    Dharma (virtue), Kama (pleasure), Artha (wealth, success, power) / Moksha (ultimate liberation)

2.    Ashramadharma:

a.    Brahmacaryastudenthood.  Study of Vedas.  Lasting about 12 years after initiation (upanayana).  Education in home of preceptor, ritual skills, in exchange for service to teacher.  Terminates with marriage.

b.    Grhastya – householder.  Devoted to enjoyment of life, duties of care for family, acquisition of artha.
When one’s children are adults, temples graying.

c.    Vanaprasthya – life in the forest. Hand over worldly affairs to sons.  With wife.  Devote oneself to moksha.

d.    Sanyasa – world renunciation.  Life of homeless ascetic, possesses nothing, desires nothing but liberation

3.    Bhagavad Gita:

a.    The great War of the Mahabharata

b.    Arujuna’s dilemma: to kill or not to kill

c.    Action (in the world) vs. non-action (sanyasa)

d.    Krishna’s counsel:

                                              i.     Nishkamakarma: Action without attachment to the fruits of one’s actions

                                            ii.     No karma accrued

                                          iii.     Live in the world and move toward moksha