The Endless Variety of Hinduism

Gandhi himself said that, “If I know Hinduism at all, it is essentially inclusive and ever-growing, ever-responsive. It gives the freest scope to imagination, speculation, and reason.” Here are a handful of quotations from Wendy Doniger’s astonishing book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, that say much the same thing. Religion, as always, is variety, response,…

The Great Myths #48: Creation as a Question (Hindu)

Here is the great Nāsadīya hymn, from the Rig Veda, where the mystery of creation is illustrated by a collection of unanswerable questions: There was neither non-existence nor existence then; there was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. What stirred? Where? In whose protection? Was there water, bottomlessly deep? There…

The Goddess Instructs the Gods (Kena Upanishad)

Here’s one of my favorite bits from the Hindu Upanishads, chapters three and four from the Kena Upanishad. The goddess Una takes the male gods to school:   Brahman, according to the story, obtained a victory for the gods; and by that victory of Brahman the gods became elated. They said to themselves: “Verily, this…

The Great Myths #44: Sacred Language & Two Hymns to Speech (Hindu)

Rig Veda 10:71: The Origins of Sacred Speech Bṛhaspati! When they set in motion the first beginning of speech, giving names, their most pure and perfectly guarded secret was revealed through love.       When the wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve, then friends recognized their…

The Great Myths #31: The Child Krishna & the Universe in His Mouth (Hindu)

One day when Rāma and the other little sons of the cowherds were playing, they reported to his mother, “Kṛṣṇa has eaten dirt.” Yaśodā took Krishna by the hand and scolded him, for his own good, and she said to him, seeing that his eyes were bewildered with fear, “Naughty boy, why have you secretly…

The Great Myths #25: The Monster Kirttimukha & the Face of Glory (Hindu)

The Indian legend of the “Face of Glory” begins, like that of the Man-Lion, with the case of an infinitely ambitious king who through extraordinary austerities had gained the power to unseat the gods and was now sole sovereign of the universe. His name was Jalandhara, “Water Carrier,” and he conceived the impudent notion of…

The Great Myths #15: The Horse Sacrifice (Hindu)

Rig Veda 1:162 – The Sacrifice of the Horse Mitra, Varuṇa, Aryaman the Active, Indra the ruler of the Ṛbhus, and the Maruts – let them not fail to heed us when we proclaim in the assembly the heroic deeds of the racehorse who was born of the gods. When they lead the firmly grasped…

The Great Myths #8: This Whole World is Dwelt in by the Lord (Hindu)

This whole world is to be dwelt in by the Lord, whatever living being there is in the world. So you should eat what has been abandoned; and do not covet anyone’s wealth. Just performing works in this world, you should desire to live your hundred years. Thus, and not otherwise, in fact, does work…

Uma Instructs the Gods (Kena Upanishad)

And here’s one of my favorite bits from the Hindu Upanishads, chapters three and four from the Kena Upanishad. From the translation of Swami Nikhilananda: Brahman, according to the story, obtained a victory for the gods; and by that victory of Brahman the gods became elated. They said to themselves: “Verily, this victory is ours;…

Young Krishna & the Universe in His Mouth

Listen to the latest episodes of my podcast, and subscribe to it here. One of my favorite stories from Hinduism comes from the Bhagavata Purana, on the childhood of Krishna: ….One day when Rama and the other little sons of the cowherds were playing, they reported to his mother, “Krishna has eaten dirt.” Yasoda took…