Currently there have been two major events in the world – one is international Yoga Day and the other is the decision by the Supreme Court of America.
International Yoga Day, June 21, was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 2014. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice or discipline that originated in India. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his UN Address suggested the date to be June 21 as the International Day of Yoga as it is the longest day of the year (Summer Solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and has special significance in many parts of the world.
From the perspective of yoga, the Summer Solstice marks the transition to Dakshinayana. The first full moon after Summer Solstice is known as Guru Purnima. Lord Shiva, the first yoga practitioner (Adi Yogi) is said to have begun imparting the knowledge of yoga to the rest of mankind on this day and became the first guru (Adi Guru). Dakshinayana is also considered a time when there is natural support for those pursuing spiritual practices.
On June 26, 2015, the United States became the twenty-first and most populous country to legalize same-sex marriage, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. The court ruled that the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the Due Process and the Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
As the only English-speaking country to still resist same-sex marriages the decision of the US has implications for us in Australia.
Marrying these two events together, what should be the appropriate reaction of the Hindu community.
Whether one approves of homosexuality or not, is irrelevant. In most countries throughout the world homosexuality is legal. The 79 countries where it is illegal are mostly in Africa, the Middle east and Indian sub-continent, and Malaysia to Papua New Guinea.
What would Sage Patanjali, the father of Yoga have decided on this matter? According to Patanjali the author of the Yoga Sutras, the human existential problem is dukha or lack of happiness. All beings are pursuing happiness and trying to avoid suffering. The cause of our personal suffering is due to ignorance of our essential nature (avidya). Ignorance leads to the assumption of false identities (asmita) which in turn results in attraction (raga) and aversion (dvesha) — these two forces result in immersion in samsara, clutching, clinging, attachment and further suffering and rebirth.
Having diagnosed the problem, Patanjali then gives the fourfold medication (bhashaja-catushtaya). These four practices are the essential practice for all Yogis to facilitate their spiritual development.
1. Maitri — friendliness to all sentient beings, opening up to others, allowing others into our space, being non-judgemental and accepting of others – with all their flaws and idiosyncrasies.
2. Karuna — compassion. This is the active desire to alleviate the suffering of others and not just sympathy. To do all we can to lessen the suffering and disadvantage of others who are striving for happiness.
3. Mudita — empathetic joy. To cultivate joy in the happiness of others and to rejoice with their achievements in self-determination.
4. Upeksha — equanimity, non-attachment to our personal views and the practice of the above three. It also refers to indifference to what others do, to legitimately achieve their happiness projects.
Conclusion in the light of Yoga.
Gays and lesbians are born that way due to samskaras (subliminal conditioning) from their previous incarnations. It is not a “life-style” choice based on free-will. They, like all beings, are all striving to maximise their happiness and avoid suffering. Marriage equality would contribute to their security and happiness and would be good for society through family stability.
Our spiritual duty therefore is not to judge them according to our personal prejudices and bias but to accept them for who they are and allow them to be.
Compassion requires us to do everything we can to facilitate their accomplishment of their goals of social equality and equal rights and never to obstruct their legitimate pursuit of happiness.
With empathic joy we should rejoice in the gay community’s joy in their achievement of marriage equality.
And we should be indifferent and non-attached to what others are doing to be happy as long as no one is harmed and no one else’s rights are being infringed.
Pandit Sri Ram
"The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved —Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions." — Gore Vidal
Monotheism is the belief that there is only ONE god. All three monotheistic religions supposedly all worship the same sky-god - Yahweh/God/Allah but all hate and fight with each other!
Since the dawn of time all humans have been natural polytheists (believing in many gods). The great civilizations were all polytheist, the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, Mayans, Aztecs etc.
The major polytheistic world religions today are Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. While Buddhism does not accept the idea of a Godhead, the Buddha acknowledged the existence of the Hindu gods.
Hinduism has a large range of beliefs — monism, deism, henotheism, pantheism and pan-en-theism, polytheism as well as monotheistic sects (which are more henotheistic than pure monotheistic. Hindu monotheism is informed by the doctrine that the Ultimate Reality can be approached in many ways and the God/ess takes whatever form his/her devotee desires.)
Monotheism as a premise leads to some seriously unfortunate results!
The first attempt at monotheism took place in Egypt and was actually a complete failure. The first originator of monotheism was the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep IV, who changed his name to Akhenaten. His aim was to establish the worship only one god – Aten (the sun). It was a radical change and was rejected by the population. In the beginning, the pharaoh was tolerant of others, but gradually he turned into a religious fanatic, an ominous portent of things to come in future centuries, because monotheism has never been about harmony. Akhenaten’s experiment failed and shortly after his death in 1336 BC the religion of Aten ceased and the traditional Egyptian polytheism was restored. The pharaoh’s religious reform was rejected by the people and monotheism had to wait for a second attempt. That’s how the very first appearance of the idea of a single god, so distant and different from all the other deities, turned out to be a disaster and the threat was successfully stopped in Ancient Egypt, but not for good. That’s almost without doubt monotheism’s biggest loss in history.
Tragic conclusion of the Monotheistic premise.
1. The deity of monotheism is always a sky/male with a definite bias for males and a concurrent prejudice against earth/females.
2. The separating of humanity into the chosen/un-chosen people, the elect/damned, the believers and non-believers. The chosen, elect, believers are of course elevated above the un-chosen, damned, unbelievers. We thus have a hierarchy of human value and the greatest of all crimes is rejection of, or disbelief in the sky-god. The believers (Christians and Muslims) have a duty out of 'compassion' for unbelievers to convert them to the great benefits of the sky-god's mercy and grace. (Judaism excepted.)
3. God naturally 'loves' his chosen ones and will admit them to his heaven and therefore he must obviously hate the un-chosen ones because he will burn them in hell for all eternity! The Koran categorically declares Allah's disgust and hatred of the unbelievers, whereas Christianity has a rather schizoid proposition that their sky-god actually "loves" the unbelievers until they formally reject him and then he will smite them with all his might and torture them for all-eternity. The result —racism and the dehumanizing of the other, and the laying down of the ground work for conversion by force, coercion, exploitation, discrimination, enslavement and colonization — in order to save the pagans from themselves.
4. The one god also happens to be the ultimate source of all law and his clergy are the arbitrators. This god also governs the world through his moral laws and is very jealous and zealous about their adoption by all humankind.
5. Furthermore every monotheistic religion because of its absolutist claims, has one self-elected group which represents the 'true' way to believe in, and worship the sky-god. Every one in the community that dissents from this 'orthodox' dogma is an 'heretic'. Heretics need to be 're-educated', expelled or killed. So monotheists will always split into heretical and deviant sects and argue among themselves and invariably this will lead to violence:— physical and mental. (Somehow the Jewish sects have remained composed among themselves but the history of the Christian and Islamic sects is blood-soaked and sectarian wars continue today among the Muslims.)
One of the most common insults that Hindus endure is the question:— "Why do you guys believe in so many gods and we believe only in the ONE TRUE GOD?" This question itself assumes that monotheism is a self-evidently superior intellectual position to have. I always answer with a challenge:— "Name me one single tangible, universally beneficial contribution that monotheism has made to the world!"
Let's take a look at a few of the major ones--
1. Democracy — Greek
2. Modern legal system — Roman
3. Mathematics — Greek and Roman — Zero supplied by the Hindus.
4. Astronomy — Greeks, Mesopotamians and Hindus
5. Medicine — Western — Greek, Eastern — Hindu and Chinese.
6. Philosophy & free enquiry — Greek, Roman, Hindu, Buddhist etc.
7. Science & technology — flourishes under pagans and atheists. Most scientific advances have been strenuously resisted by the custodians of monotheism. (Most climate change deniers today would be linked to a monotheistic belief system.)
8. Fine Arts — flourished under pagans and was deprecated by Jewish monotheists. Later adopted by the monotheists to propagate their ideology among the pagans.
9. Environmental custodianship — promoted by all pagans.
10. Charter of human rights — atheists and pagans
11. Multiculturalism — all polytheistic societies by their very nature are inclusive and accepting of others.
13. Libraries — Greeks, Hindus and Buddhists. (Christians and Muslims are notorious for their habit of burning books and indeed entire libraries. (The Great libraries of Alexandria and Nalanda are examples.)
It is true that Christians and Jews under the influence of atheists and humanists have nurtured and improved on all of these above mentioned factors but only by resisting the ordained representatives of the sky-god. Many of the medieval thinkers and scientists were burned alive by the church!
The contribution of monotheism.
Monotheists would argue that their ideology contributes 3 'unique' values:--
1. Value of life
2. Justice and equality
3. Social responsibility
All of these are found in the preexistent pagan religions. In fact paganism generally has a higher regard for all life forms. The Bible prescribes killing as the most common form of punishment - even for picking up twigs on the Sabbath!! The code of Hamurabi which pre-dates the Law of Moses (given by Yahweh) was far more humane and just. Social responsibility as well as responsibility to the other beings and the environment has always been the basis of Hindu and Buddhist Dharma. None of these values are unique to monotheism, in fact one could argue that they are the result of pagan influence!
The contribution of monotheism has primarily been suppression, oppression and ideological wars. Depending on where monotheism was forcibly imposed, hundreds to thousands of years of religious oppression backed up by enormous political violence have given the false impression that monotheism was a natural development in human society. Its followers killed off their opponents, burned their libraries, smashed their temples, and then wrote new books explaining their view of what happened. Dead men and burned books make it hard to learn anything but the victors’ stories.
“The conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. The Islamic historians and scholars have recorded with great glee and pride the slaughters of Hindus, forced conversions, abduction of Hindu women and children to slave markets and the destruction of temples carried out by the warriors of Islam during 800 AD to 1700 AD. Millions of Hindus were converted to Islam by the sword during this period.” (Will Durant — Story of Civilization)
War Among Monotheists
Why do monotheistic religions fight so many religious wars? The track record is spectacular, beginning with the Zoroastrians during the Persian invasion of Greece, continuing with the eradication of the pagans under Constantine's successors, the wars of the Arian Heresy, the invasion of Christendom by the Muslims, the Crusades which were wars on monotheist Christians to liberate their holy sites from the monotheistic Muslims, the Muslims invasion of India and the Hindu holocaust. While back in Europe we had the Albigensian Crusade, the Hussite Rebellion, the Thirty Year's War, and so on throughout the middle ages up to the Middle East conflicts today. Even the ancient Egyptians had a brief fling with religious violence during their short-lived experiment with monotheism under Akhenaten before they gave it up as a bad job.
No sooner did monotheism triumph politically wherever it was established than it began to disintegrate. The force of arms imposed a unity that sacred books could never come close to achieving. When that imposed unity ended, the result was war, as passions once directed against Pagans became fratricidal, pitting Protestants against Catholics, both against smaller heretical sects, Christians against Jews, Sunnis against Shias and so forth — all because the opposing party had differing views on the sky-god and his plan for humankind! Freedom of thought and intellectual independence was and still is the principle enemy of monotheism!
Anyone knowledgeable about Western history knows hundreds of years of religious war and more than a thousand years of religious persecution characterized Europe after it became dominated by Biblical monotheism. Most of the killing was Christian killing Christian after they had exterminated older faiths.
In modern history we are still suffering under the tyranny of monotheism. Most of the current wars on the planet, terrorism, bloody massacres and persecutions are a direct result of monotheism. The entire Middle-east is engulfed in bloody and horrendous conflict right now — all justified by monotheism only.
Monotheism has produced directly, or indirectly contributed to the following blights on humanity:--
1. Wars of ideology and persecution of free-thinkers (intellectual deviants)
2. Colonization and proselytization with exploitation of resources
3. Destruction of native civilizations and cultures (mainly in the Americas.)
4. Racial discrimination laws (USA and African colonies mainly).
5. Environment degradation and exploitation of resources and animals
6. Gender bias and misogyny as well as the stigmatization, murder and oppression of non-heterosexuals.
7. Psychological trauma in individuals (through indoctrination and guilt).
8. Suppression of free thought and discourse (through blasphemy laws.)
9. Sexual repression and puritanical morality.
I stand up today proud to be a polytheist!!
David Hume has argued that monotheism is less pluralistic and thus less tolerant than polytheism because the former stipulates that people pigeonhole their beliefs into one.
Auguste Comte argues, "Monotheism is irreconcilable with the existence in our nature of the instincts of benevolence" because it compels followers to devote themselves to a single Creator.(The Catechism of Positive Religion pg 251)
James Lovelock criticized monotheism, due to its idea of a transcendent almighty father, he says about monotheism, "seems to anesthetize the sense of wonder as if one were committed to a single line of thought by a cosmic legal contract."
Sarvepalli Ramakrishna — "The intolerance of narrow monotheism is written in letters of blood across the history of man from the time when first the tribes of Israel burst into the land of Canaan. The worshippers of the one jealous God are egged on to aggressive wars against people of alien cults. They invoke divine sanction for the cruelties inflicted on the conquered. The spirit of old Israel is inherited by Christianity and Islam, and it might not be unreasonable to suggest that it would have been better for Western civilization if Greece had molded it on this question rather than Palestine. (Quoted in "A Primal Perspective on the Philosophy of Religion", by Arvind Sharma, page 29)
 The belief that nothing actually exists but the Absolute Reality i.e. God, the world is an illusion.
 belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe
 adherence to one particular god out of several, especially by a family, tribe, or other group.
 a doctrine which identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God.
 the belief or doctrine that God is greater than the universe and includes and interpenetrates it.