Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Out of the three million three hundred thousand gods we have, are they all linked to the one Supreme God? And if so does it really matter which one we chose to pray to?
Answer; There is what we call the “Godhead” or the single Divine Essence known in Sanskrit as Brahman – the Absolute Reality which is the totality of all existence. This single absolute Reality takes three forms for Creating, Maintaining and Transforming the Universe. These three forms are known respectively as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Each one of these has a female counterpart;
Brahma – Sarasvati, Vishnu- Lakshmi, and Shiva-Parvati or Durga.
As the Creator Brahma’s energy is known as Sarasvati – the goddess of learning because creation takes place through the medium of knowledge. As the Preserver Vishnu’s energy is known as lakshmi the goddess of prosperity and compassion, It is through wealth and compassion for all living beings that preservation of the world takes place. Shiva as the transformer has as his energy Durga also known as Kali who is the goddess of Time because it is through the medium of time that all transformations take place. These are known as the High Gods of the Trinity (Trimurti) they are all aspects of the same Supreme being with various sub-manifestations such as Rama, Krishna etc.
Below them there are countless other gods (with a small g) who have an administrative function in ruling the universe, like the god of the wind – Vayu, the god of rain – Indra, the god of fire – Agni , Yama – the god of death etc.
These lesser gods are given offerings when we do elaborate ceremonies but are not worshipped individually – they are like the Christian angels.
The trinity on the other hand are worshipped individually by devotees, each choosing an aspect that they are particularly attracted to.
When I learned about our gods as a child. I was told that each god specialises in a particular area of speciality. Does that mean that if a person desires wealth they should pray to Goddess Lakshmi? (and if they desire beauty or intellect or both, there are different gods that they should pray to so they can be granted boons by the relevant gods)
Answer; When it comes to praying for material things – it is not a good idea because you will get whatever is due to you according to your Karma not according to the intercession of various gods! What you should pray for is the welfare of all beings – not selfish, transient material benefits. The Sacred texts tells us that the outcome of every project depends on three factors, Karma, the grace of the gods and personal effort. But since the first two are not knowable you should rely entirely on PERSONAL EFFORT!
3. What is Hinduism’s stance on pre-marital sex? Do the sacred texts say anything against it? And if people do have pre-marital sexual relationships and have several different sexual partners throughout their life do they create bad karma or not?
Answer; All your activities involving others should be guided by the principles of loving kindness, compassion and care for their wellbeing and a preparedness to accept the responsibility for your actions! If two people mutually, spontaneously and freely without being coerced by each other, decide to engage in pre-marital sex being guided by these four principles, then there is no problem as long as they are prepared to deal responsibly with pregnancy, unwanted children, HIV, herpes, parental approbation etc.
What about people who are gay? Is there anything wrong with that according to Hinduism?
Answer; According to the Scriptures there are three sexual identities, heterosexual male, heterosexual female and a mixture of both - homosexual/trans-sexual/bisexual etc. – both male and female. All beings pass through these three types of births, so everyone was once male, female and gay at some stage in the past and will be so at some stage in the future. These relationships too should be governed by the above principles. Relationships between human beings (gay or straight) are condemned as immoral only when there is exploitation, coercion, cruetly, lack of sensitivity and using the other for one’s personal gratification without caring about their needs and wellbeing.
Hinduism states that there are many other life forms living on other planets. But is it possible that we have been visited by these extra terrestrial life forms who are also Hindus?
Answer – being a Hindu means following the “Universal Path of Right Living” or DHARMA. The basis of Dharma is truth, love, compassion, charity, generosity, friendliness, peace, wisdom, contemplation, tolerance etc. If the Extra terrestrials are following this path then they are “Hindus”. We certainly believe that this earth has been visited by beings from outer space!
In order to be a true Hindu do I have to be inaugurated/inducted/baptised like in Christianity? By this I mean is there a particular prayer that I should perform?
Answer: there are forms of ‘initiation’ which are not compulsory and which are granted in order to confirm one commitment to pursuing the path of Right Living (Dharma). All orthodox Hindus do undergo some form of initiation at some stage when they are ready for it. One needs to approach a guru to receive formal initiation.
7My course/destiny for this life time has already been determined due to my past lives (I am relating to my sanchit karma) does that mean, that if my desire in this life time is to be an Actor that doesn’t make any difference because I am destined to be an accountant or bum?
Answer; see answer to question #2 – rely on personal effort – if you are destined to be a bum it will happen anyway - so try your best to be what you want to be!
If I commit suicide does that create bad karma and banish me to another 100 lifetimes on earth or any other planet before I can continue my spiritual journey?
Answer; Suicide is a coward’s way out – avoiding the responsibility for one’s actions – it is simply trying to cheat yourself. So one becomes a hungry ghost for a few life times and then finally one is reborn again on earth to carry on from where one left off – so it is a pointless exercise.
What should I do in order to obtain spiritual enlightenment?
Answer; Practice, practice, practice.
What should I do in order to be able to go to heaven?
Answer – do lots of good deeds – helping old ladies to cross the street, carrying pregnant ladies shopping bags etc. (But ultimately we believe that heaven is also a temporary state and so you will still have to come back here at some stage to carry on your spiritual evolution to Nirvana – the state of no return!)
Does Hinduism teach about hell?
Answer – there are certainly teachings in the Garuda Purana about hell but like heaven, hell is also a temporary state of suffering — a purgatory where our excessive negativity is purged and then we return to earth again to continue our spiritual evolution back to Godhead. It is important to note that it is only extremely evil deeds which afflict other living beings that lead one to hell. There is no "thought crime" or "crime of disbelief" that leads to an eternal state of damnation as taught by some Christians and Muslims.
Is Lust /desire/masturbating a sin in Hinduism?
Answer; A sin is defined as causing suffering to other living beings, so as long as one’s lust/desire/masturbation are not causing harm to anyone else – then they are neutral acts; neither good nor bad – they just are!!
Do we have to be a vegetarian in order to be a Hindu? If I eat meat (all meat including fish, beef chicken etc) am I creating bad karma? Or is it bad to eat meat but even worse to eat beef?
Answer; Vegetarianism is based on the principles of compassion for other beings. As such it is one of the many factors of the Path of Right Living (Dharma). Karma is caused by the intention to harm, simply eating meat passively without wishing the animal harm does not cause karma, but does not contribute to the welfare of other beings, therefore it is not a very skilful action. In other words eating meat per se is not a sin. If one needs to eat meat, it is best to eat lower life forms such as shell-fish, etc, and avoid the higher life forms such as beef. But it is better to give it up entirely – good for the environment as well as the health.
Is it a sin to drink alcohol in small or large quantities?
Answer; Again - a sin is defined as causing suffering to other living beings, so as long as one’s drinking does not cause harm to anyone else – then it is a neutral act. But the problem with alcohol, drugs etc is that in large quantities they cloud one’s judgement between right and wrong and cause one to do many things that one later regrets. It is better to avoid cause for regret than to wear the consequences of one’s stupidity – so above all, always think about the consequences of your deeds BEFORE you act.
Is it wrong to smoke ganja (cannabis)?
Answer: it may be illegal according to local laws to smoke or use ganja (cannabis) but it is not against the Dharma Shastra. Many sadhus use ganja as a means of enhancing their meditative practices. Having said that it is not recommended on health grounds. The use of any mind or mood altering substance like drugs, or alcohol can become addictive, the Shastra condemns all sorts of addiction as being destructive to oneself and one’s family. If these things are taken in moderation there’s no problem but once they take control of you then destruction is certain. So use discretion and moderation in all things.
What is the Hindu View on Stem Cell research? PDF
What is the Hindu view of the Good Life. PDF