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What We Are All Searching For: Hinduism’s Perspective

KAITLYN SZILAGYI, Health and Beauty Editor

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Religion seeks to provide answers for what we experience throughout our lives, to explain the existence of all there is, and provide a method of encountering the absolute.

Hinduism offers an explanation for what human beings seek or hope to gain from life as well as what it is that keeps people from accomplishing such gains, and the different methods of overcoming these obstacles and strengthening one’s connection to the absolute.

More than anything, human beings have three specific desires: to exist, to know, and to feel joy infinitely.

“A distinctive feature of human nature is its capacity to think of something that has no limits; the infinite,” wrote Huston Smith in his book The World’s Religions. The three causes keeping people from their desires include physical pain, frustration from lack of success, and boredom.

According to Hinduism, there are four ways of passing beyond perfection and becoming one with the absolute, which we shall call God in this article.

The first path is Jnana yoga: the way to God through knowledge. In this yogic path, Smith writes, one must “distinguish between the surface self that crowds the foreground of attention and the larger self that is out of sight.”

The next is Bhakti yoga: the way to God through love, which is the most widely practiced way. On this path, one must do his or her best to adore God fully, in all of His forms. One method of demonstrating this love and adoration for God is called japam, a practice of reading and repeating God’s name.

Karma yoga is the way to God through work, which can be done in the form of either jnana—knowledge and study of God—or bhakti—devoted service. The secret to Karma yoga is to work on God’s behalf, rather than your own, to detach from the work you complete, without seeking to reap reward and without experiencing any sort of grief or dismay at any possible outcome.

Last but not least, there is Raja yoga: the way to God through psychophysical exercises. This form exists for those with an aptitude for experimentation. However, these experiments are designed and implemented to test the self and the mind. In Raja yoga, one would undertake mental exercises, such as meditation, to understand the capacities, limitations, and effects of meditation and exercise on his or her mind.

Hinduism would posit that the world human beings live in exists on several levels and is not limited in space and time. Humans live in a moral world where the rule of karma is continuous and everlasting; what comes to us in life is directly correlated and caused by our own actions and the positive or negative energy we put into the world.

The world human beings live in is a temporary dwelling; a place humans visit on their way to paradise, a spirit’s true endpoint. We live in a world that tricks us into believing temporal and ephemeral possessions and circumstances are lasting and true goods. It is a world that serves, Smith writes, as a “training ground upon which people can develop their highest capacities.”

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