Sample Scholarship Essays

Hinduism

.. is taught that Vishnu is the supreme cause, thus identifying him with Brahma, and also that his special work is to preserve: In the beginning of creation, the great Vishnu, desirous of creating the whole world, became threefold; Creator, Preserver, Destroyer. In order to create this world, the Supreme Spirit produced from the right side of his body himself as Brahma; then, in order to preserve the world, he produced from his left side Vishnu; and in order to destroy the world, he produced from the middle of his body the eternal Shiva Some worship Brahma, others Vishnu, others Shiva; but Vishnu, one yet threefold, creates, preserves, and destroys: therefore let the pious makes no difference between the three. In pictures Vishnu is represented as a black man with four arms: in one hand he holds a club; in another a shell; in a third a chakra, or diseus, with which he slew his enemies; and in the fourth a lotus. He rides upon the bird Garuda, and is dressed in yellow robes. This deity is worshipped not only under the name and in the form of Vishnu, but also in one of his many incarnations.

Whenever any great calamity occurred in the world, or the wickedness of any of its inhabitants proved an unbearable nuisance to the gods, Vishnu, as Preserver, had to lay aside his invisibility, come to earth in some form, generally human, and, when his work was done, he returned again to the skies. There is no certainty as to the number of times he has become incarnate. Ten is the commonly received number, and these are the most important ones. Of these ten, nine have already been accomplished; one, the Kalki, is still future. Some of these Avatars are of an entirely cosmical character; others, however, are probably based on historical events, the leading personage of which was gradually endowed with divine attributes, until he was regarded as the incarnation of the deity himself. These are Fish (Matsya), Tortoise (Kurma), Boar (Varaha), Man-Lion (Narasimha), Dwarf (Vamana), Rama-with-the-Ax (Parasurama), King Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and the future incarnation, Kalki.

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Preference for any one of these manifestations is largely a matter of tradition. Thus, Rama and Krishna are the preferred ones. The classical narrative of Rama is recounted in the Ramayana by the saga Valmiki, who is the traditional author of the epic. Rama is deprived of the kingdom to which he is heir and is exiled to the forest with his wife Sita and his brother Laksmana. While there, Sita is abducted by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka.

In their search for Sita, the brothers ally themselves with a monkey king whose general, Hanuman (who later became a monkey deity), finds Sita in Lanka. In a cosmic battle, Ravana is defeated and Sita rescued. When Rama is restored to his kingdom, Sita’s chastity while captive is doubted. To reassure them, Rama banishes Sita to a hermitage, where she bears him two sons and eventually dies by reentering the earth from which she had been born. Rama’s reign becomes the prototype of the harmonious and just kingdom, to which all kingdoms should aspire.

Rama and Sita set the ideal of conjugal love; Rama’s relationship to his father is the ideal of filial love; and Rama and Laksmana represent perfect fraternal love. In all but its oldest form, the Ramayana identifies Rama with Vishnu as another incarnation and remains the principle source for Ramaism (worship or Rama). In the Mahabharata, Krishna is primarily a hero, a chieftain of a tribe, and an ally of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Mahabharata. He accomplishes heroic feats with the Pandava prince Arjuna. Typically he helps the Pandava brothers to settle in their kingdom, and when the kingdom is taken from them, to regain it. In the process he emerges as a great teacher who reveals the Bhagavadgita, the most important religious text of Hinduism.

In the further development of the Krishna myth, it is found that as a child, Krishna was full of boyish pranks and well known for his predilection for milk and butter. He would raid the dairies of the gopies (milkmaids) to steal fruit, milk, and butter, and would accuse others for his misdeeds. Krishna is the most celebrated deity of the Hindu pantheon. He is worshipped as an independent god in his own right, but is also regarded as the eighth incarnation of Vishnu. In the course of life he was supposed to have had 16,108 wives and 180,008 sons. In the epic he is a hero, a leader of his people, and an active helper of his friends.

Shiva is the third person of the Hindu Trinity. As Brahma was Creator, Vishnu Preserver, in order to complete the system, as all things are subject to decay, a Destroyer was necessary and destruction is regarded as the peculiar work of Siva. It must be remembered that, according to the teachings of Hinduism, death is not death in the sense of passing into non-existence, but simply a change into a new form of life. He who destroys, therefore, causes beings to assume new phases of existence – the Destroyer is really the re-Creator; hence the name Siva, the Bright or Happy One, is given to him, which would not have been the case had he been regarded as the destroyer, in the ordinary meaning of that term. According to the ancient Indians, Shiva primarily must have been the divine representative of the fallow, dangerous, dubious, and much-to-be-feared aspects of nature. He is considered as the ultimate foundation of all existence and the source and ruler of all life, but it is not clear whether, Shiva is invoked as a great god of frightful aspect, capable of conquering impious power, or as the boon-giving Lord and protector. He is both terrible and mild, creator and agent of reabsorption, eternal rest and ceaseless activity. These contradictions make him an ironic figure, who transcends humanity and assumes a mysterious grandeur of his own.

His myths describe him as the absolute mighty unique One, who is not responsible to anybody or for anything. As a dancer, his pose expresses the eternal rhythm of the universe; he also catches the waters of the heavenly Ganges River, which destroys all sin; and he wears in his headdress the crescent moon, which drips the nectar of everlasting life. Sometimes in the act of trampling on or destroying demons, he wears around his black neck a serpent, and a necklace of skulls, furnished with a whole apparatus of external emblems, such as a white bull on which he rides, a trident , tiger’s skin, elephant’s skin, rattle, noose, etc. He has three eyes, one being on his forehead, in reference either to the three Vedas, or time past, present and future and in the end of time, he will dance the universe to destruction. It is said that without his consort Mother Goddess, no Hindu god is much use or value to anyone.

He may strut about, but his powers are limited. To be complete he requires a Devi, Goddess, who takes many different names and forms, but always embodies Shakti. In some myths Devi is the prime mover, who commands the male gods to do work of creation and destruction. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, all three have their own consorts. Sarasvati, the goddess of wisdom and science and, the mother of Vedas, is Brahma’s wife. She is represented as a fair young woman, with four arms; with one of her right hands, she is presenting a flower to her husband, by whose side she continually stands; and in the other she holds a book of palm-leaves, indicating that she is fond of learning.

In one of her left hands, she has a string of pearls, called Sivamala (Shiva’s garland) and in the other a small drum. Lakshmi, or very commonly known as Sri, is the wife of Vishnu. Sri, the bride of Vishnu, the mother of the world, is eternal, imperishable; as he is all-pervading, so she is omnipotent. Vishnu is meaning, she is speech; Hari is polite, she is prudence; Vishnu is understanding, she is intellect; he is righteousness, she is devotion; Sri is the earth, Hari is the support. In a word, of gods, animals, and men, Hari is all that is called male; Lakshmi is all that is termed female; there is nothing else than they.

Lakshmi is regarded as the goddess of Love, Beauty, and Prosperity and is also known as Haripriya, The beloved of Hari, and Lokamata, The mother of the world. Uma or Kali, is the consort of the Hindu god Shiva in her manifestation of the power of time. As Shiva’s female consort and a destructive mother goddess, she inherits some of Shiva’s most fearful aspects. She is frequently portrayed as a black, laughing, naked hag with blood stained teeth, a protruding tongue, and a garland of human skulls. She usually has four arms: One hand holds a sword, the second holds a severed human head, the third is believed by her devotes to be removing fear, and the third is often interpreted as granting bliss.

Kali is beyond fear and finite existence and is therefore believed to be able to protect her devotees against fear and to give them limitless peace. The canon of Hinduism is basically defined by what people do rather than what they think. Consequently, far more uniformity of behaviour than of belief is found among Hindus, although very few practices or beliefs are shared by all. A few usuages are observed by almost all Hindus: reverence for Brahmans and cows; abstention from meat (especially beef); and marriage within caste (jati), in the hope of producing male heirs. Most Hindus worship Shiva, Vishnu, or the Goddess (Devi), but they also worship hundreds of additional minor deities peculiar to a particular village or even to a particular family.

Although Hindus believe and do many apparently contradictory things, each individual perceives an orderly pattern that gives form and meaning to his or her own life. No doctrinal or clerical hierarchy exists in Hinduism, but the intricate hierarchy of the social system (which is inseparable from the religion) gives each person a sense of place within the whole. Religion.

Hinduism

.. of nothing?”. Later, Uddalaka asks Svetaketu to dissolve salt in water and then asks him to taste it. Even though the boy cannot see the salt in the water, he can taste every part of it. Then Uddalaka compared two experiences to Brahman, saying that like salt, Brahman is present but unseen.

“This whole world has that as its soul; that is reality; that is Atman; that art thou, Svetaketu”(Chandogya Upanishad)(Zimmer 1951 p.360). 6 The Brahman is the Self and Self is the Brahman, that relationship was described by many metaphors in the Upanishads’. Here is one of them from Heinrich Zimmers ‘Philosophies of India”: “‘ Space is enclosed by earthen jars. Just as space is not carried along with the jar when this is removed [from one lace to another}, so Jiva [i.e., the Self when contained in the vessel of the subtle and gross body], like the infinite space [remains unmoved and unaffected.” It matters not to Space whether it is to be inside or outside of a jar. The Self, similarly, does not suffer when a body goes to pieces”.

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“The various forms, like earthen jars, going to pieces again and again, He (Brahman) does not know them to be broken; and yet He knows eternally”(Zimmer 1951p.359). When talking about the Self (Atman) the famous description is “Nati, nati” (not so, not so), there are no words and symbols in human understanding to describe it, thus everything we know, every description we make, every symbol we construct is an illusion. Therefore, nothing known and used by people could be applied to Brahman. The question which evolves out of such a view is: “How would one get in touch with the Self, how is it possible not just to be aware of it but to physically touch it?”. Thus when one is aver of his/her true self he/she can know the reality that is 7 deathless. Upanishads give an answer to this question by describing three states of consciousness.

First is “the awakened state, where the sense faculties are turned outward, and the field of cognition is that of the gross body; 2. the dreaming state, where the field is that of subtle bodies, self-luminous and magically fluid; and the 3. the blissful state of dreamless deep sleep” (Zimmer 1951 p.362.). The dreaming state was described as a short glimpse into the other dimension: the realm of gods and demons. This realm was considered to be similar to the realm of awakened consciousness, because as well as the awakened consciousness dreaming state had its illusions and was not free from suffering that was a result of constant change. On the contrary, dreamless sleep was seen as something totally different because it only had a pure being with no consciousness, and therefore having no worries and no changes in itself.

Upanishads see a dreamless state as the manifestation and human experience of the existing real Self that knows no change and is unaware of all the illusions. That was considered the state in which Atman exists. Such philosophy enabled people to experience the state of deathlessness for themselves and gave beginning to the segment of Hindu religion that had experiential transcendence in its essence. 8 The view portrayed in the Upanishads’ was that in order to gain liberation from a cycle of death and rebirth, one must discover the truth of Brahman which is all existent. In order to find Brahman one must look inside and find the Atman (the dreamless existence), which is the real Self and, consequently, the Brahman.

When one succeeds in doing so, the truth will be revealed and the liberation from the realm of maya and therefore death will be attained once and for all. Philosophy portrayed in Upanishads’ implies that one can gain liberation by discovering the true Self. To do so is to follow the way of knowledge. Ignorance of Brahman was understood to be the cause for the endless cycle of birth, life and death. After gaining the truth, the knowledge of Atman, one is freed from the life in ignorance, and, therefore, freed from constant rebirth. The way to find Atman was to engage in deep meditation. A follower of the way of knowledge was to look inside and peel off layer by layer: any needs, senses, feelings, emotions, thoughts, and the awareness of the world, because all of that is an illusion which prevents one from seeing the true Self- the Atman.

When the yogi (one who is engaged in meditation techniques) will be able to put away the consciousness itself (by this consciously putting 9 him/her self into the state of dreamless sleep), he/she will attain the knowledge of the Atman through which becoming a part of Brahman unaffected by ignorance. Shankara describes the difference between the one who is searching for knowledge and the one who attained it as “The man of knowledge sees this first in meditation, with his senses withdrawn; but the man of Brahman even at the time of dealing with the world sees the Self who has entered into all beings. Now the senses and mind are functioning in the response to events in the world, but the Self is not felt to be identified whit the body and mind. It is universal, ‘Brahman, in the highest heaven’.”(Lingat .1973p.141) To conclude, when one examines the philosophy of Upanishads’ and the way of knowledge some connection to reality (as it perceived by those who just want to study the doctrine of the philosophy) could be found. Logically such philosophy could fit into the mind and then find support in experiences of its followers. Many yogis who follows the way of knowledge seem to find inner peace and understanding of life.

Transcendence offered by the philosophy of Upanishads’ seems to be real enough to follow the path which leads to it. That is why the philosophy of the way of knowledge was so widely accepted in the days of its emergence and later became a base for many other philosophies of India. Bibliography Robert, Lingat. The Classic Low Of India. University of California Press Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1973.

Zimmer, Heinrich, Robert. Philosophies Of India. New York: Pantheon Books, 1951. Chidester, David. Patterns Of Transcendence.

Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1990. Comtons Interactive Encyclopedia. America On-line 1995.

Hinduism

Hinduism
When Hinduism originated as a religion it was mainly concerned with sacrifices for ancestors. The sacred texts – called the Vedas – on which Hinduism was based were the main root of the many different branches of Hindu philosophy. The Vedas originated around 1400-1200 BC. They consisted of several different documents, the oldest of them called the Rigveda. The Rigveda is considered to be the foundation of Brahmanic Hinduism. The main body of Rigveda’s text contains mostly hymns dedicated to the ancient Hindu gods. The second text of Vedas is called the Yajurveda. It was written in 1200 BC. The main themes of Yajurveda are the sacred formulas recited by Brahmin priests during the performance of sacrifices. The third book of Vedas, Samveda (1100 BC), was also known as the Veda of chants. In its essence Samveda was an anthology of Rigveda writings. The last Veda is the Arthaveda (1200 BC).It consisted of hymns, incantations and magic charms. The original Vedic texts were mostly comprised of hymns to gods and rules of sacrificial rituals; the purpose of which was to provide ancestors with food and means of sustenance in the kingdom of Yama (the afterworld). As a result of their devotion people expected certain favorable influences in their lives, such as good fortune and yet better life in the kingdom of Yama after their death. Sacrifices were supposed to be a means of survival in the kingdom of Yama. As the Indian philosophies evolved, Hindus developed the concept of reincarnation. That concept came from the belief that no one is able to remain in the afterworld forever and eventually should return to the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Such views resulted in further development of Hindu religion, Hindu philosophers such as Manu questioned the concepts of Vedas and laid the foundation for a philosophy that transformed Hinduism from an ancestral religion to a set of very complex religious and philosophical beliefs. Eventually the attempts of the Vedic texts to satisfy people’s need to have contact with the sacred reality have become insufficient.
As Hindu religion became more complicated and people began to look for total freedom from the circle of death and rebirth the segment of Hinduism known as the way of devotion came into existence. Followers of the way of devotion based their beliefs on the myths about gods such as Shiva, Vishnu and Krishna. These gods were believed to be a manifestation of ultimate reality. Believers in the way of devotion were supposed to worship their god through sacrifices and rituals devoting their lives to the belief and were expected to be saved from the realm of maya by the manifestation of ultimate reality to which they entrusted their lives. The way of devotion was a mythical transcendence, because it was heavily based on the myth about the encounters between mortal humans and divine beings (for example the legend of Krishna and Arguna) that described the main doctrines of this part of Hinduism to its pursuers.
Following the age of Vedas, texts known as Upanishads came into existence (1000-500 BC). Unlike the Vedas, Upanishads did not talk about the rules of sacrifices and did not contain hymns to gods. Instead, those texts concentrated on the essence of reality and on the supreme being ruling the cosmos-the Brahman. The Upanishads contained one hundred and eight writings. The main theme of these writings was reality. In addition, Upanishads spoke of relationship between the world in which Hindus live, the Brahman, and the ultimate reality. In Upanishads Brahman was identified as the only true and absolute reality. . The question which evolves out of such a view is: “How would one get in touch with the Self, how is it possible not just to be aware of it but to physically touch it?”. Upanishads give an answer to this question by describing three states of consciousness. First is “the awakened state, where the sense faculties are turned outward, and the field of cognition is that of the gross body; 2. the dreaming state, where the field is that of subtle bodies, self-luminous and magically fluid; and the 3. the blissful state of dreamless deep sleep” (Zimmer 1951 p.362.). The dreaming state was described as a short glimpse into the other dimension: the realm of gods and demons. This realm was considered to be similar to the realm of awakened consciousness, because as well as the awakened consciousness dreaming state had its illusions and was not free from suffering that was a result of constant change. Dreamless sleep was seen as something totally different because it only had a pure being with no consciousness, and therefore having no worries and no changes in itself.
Shankara describes the difference between the one who is searching for knowledge and the one who attained it as “The man of knowledge sees this first in meditation, with his senses withdrawn; but the man of Brahman even at the time of dealing with the world sees the Self who has entered into all beings. Now the senses and mind are functioning in the response to events in the world, but the Self is not felt to be identified whit the body and mind. It is universal, ‘Brahman, in the highest heaven’.”(Lingat .1973p.141)
To conclude, when examining the philosophy of Hinduism and the way of knowledge some connection to reality could be found. Many people who follow the way of knowledge seem to find inner peace and understanding of life. This is why the philosophy of the way of knowledge was so widely accepted in the days of its emergence and later became a base for many other philosophies of India.
Bibliography
Robert, Lingat. The Classic Low Of India. University of California Press Berkeley, Los Angeles,
London, 1973. Zimmer, Heinrich, Robert. Philosophies Of India. New York: Pantheon Books, 1951.
Chidester, David. Patterns Of Transcendence. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1990.
Comton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. Electronic version.

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