Worldviews; Undeniable Framework for One’s Identity for being Human.
“Get correct views of life, and learn to see the world in its true light. It will enable you to live pleasantly, to do good, and, when summoned away, to leave without regret.” Robert E. Lee.
Lee, an influential American Military Staff in the 19th century, simply tells people to get a correct view of life and the world. The quotation was merely a new exposition of the concept people already had deposited about God, Supreme Being, self, the universe, life and death etc. Nevertheless, people might not have been aware of those presuppositions in terms of what we call “Worldview,” despite the fact that they already had that notion in their mind in the developmental process of seeking some understanding of his/her own significance as an independent human being.
These piece of information leads us to say, without an ounce of doubt, that everyone has his/her own worldview, and no one can deny disagreeing on it. Billions of people around the world have some certain presuppositions which are more or less consistent but not precise about the world they live in. And those presuppositions are the driving mechanism for conventional human behaviors in everyday life activities. Basically, worldview is working as a skeletal structure of cognitive postulations to show the reality of life. At the same time, it provides the meaning and purpose of life. Here, I am going to lay ground for Christian worldview by presenting three different worldviews from three major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity respectively.
What is Reality?
Hinduism is the fashion of multitude deities and religious philosophies. The creation story of the universe and man varies from one sect of Hinduism to another. However, they have patterns which are developed in the course of its influence and are intertwined with each other in relation to the teachings. These patterns can be sorted out. The first one is henotheism. Webster dictionary explains it this way. It is the “belief in or worship of one god without denying the existence of others”. The idea of henotheism is from the ancient Vedas and later Vaishnavism and Shaivism. They are in harmony by stating the existence of many gods; yet, they state that one of them is more important than others. Second, the Upanishads and later Vedanta came up with another perspective that considers the impersonal transcendent being is the Ultimate Reality. It is known as pantheism. Third one is dualism which acknowledges two ultimate realities from the standpoint of the Samkhya and the Yoga darshana of Patanjali.
According to Shatapatha Brahmana (6.1.1), the universe began to exist from non-existence. It is the byproduct of unconscious emanation of a divine, Brahman. Upanishads also claim that Brahman is the ultimate reality. One of the hymns from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad goes like this:
As the spider comes out with its thread, or as small sparks come forth from fire, thus do all senses, all worlds, all Devas, all beings come forth from that Self The Upanishad (the true name and doctrine) of that Self is ‘the True of the True.’ Verily the senses are the true, and he is the true of the true.
By this explanation, Brahman is the ultimate cause for the existence of all physical and moral realms in the universe. But this view sheds light in the paradoxical explanation of the ultimate reality, since impersonal being cannot have a desire.
Who are we?
Human souls have no beginning. It is eternal. It is known as Atman which refers to the “non-material self, which never change. It is distinct from both the mind and the external body. This real self is beyond the temporary designations we normally ascribe to ourselves, in terms of race, gender, species and nationality.” The human soul is the blueprint of impersonal being, Brahman. So, the soul existed in the universe before man came to exist. By which it means, body is the temporal cage for the soul to rest for one life span until it reincarnates. In other words, soul is entrapped into temporal bodies.
The universe is simply an unreal and illusion (Maya), because “the true only reality is Brahman”. The universe is temporal and has certain time period for its existence. It is the mass of matters that is being created and destroyed over and time. The whole notion of creation of the universe is an illusionary act of the Supreme Being. They believe that there are three spheres within this universe: (a) the heavenly cosmos (b) the earthly realm and (c) the lower world.In spite of the narration of these three dominions in the universe, Hinduism does not have one concrete simple account of creation.
What is the Problem?
In this illusionary temporal universe, human beings are basically the puppets who bound to act forcefully by the certain laws. The universe is an ocean, full with pain and suffering. Humankind is not free from karmic law. Whatever you do in this life, you will get paid for that action in the next life. The indestructible soul transmigrates from one life to another in the life cycle. It knows its destiny and never misses it at all. However, the goal is to liberate the soul from taking innumerable rebirth and free itself from the Samasara and merge with the “Oneness of the universe”. There is not the distinctive way to break the chain of the karmic law and its cycle. Acharya Daya Prakash explains that “Just as the calf of a cow would find its own mother out of a thousand other cows, so also the karma would never miss the right person to whom it may belong” In other words, a man is predetermined to act certain way that he cannot resist acting and escape from the karma that he was supposed to do.
Since man is bound to his Karma, he is solely responsible for his salvation. Four possible ways to liberate the soul from the bondage of karmic laws have been major practices throughout history. One may escape from the endless birth cycle of life, death, and rebirth by choosing one of the four ways they are obliged. The knowledge of Way (Gyana Marga), the way of devotion (Bhakti Marga), the way of yoga (Raja Marga) and the way of action or deed (Karma Marga) are the paths that lead them to Oneness.
…Opposing Worldviews: Buddhism in Brief will be continued in the next post…