This is solely an opinion piece. Nonetheless, it's something that's been plaguing my head where I've attempted to undo a lot of what I've been taught. When it comes to religion/spirituality, I'm now in the sensation where everything has to first pass my resonance in order for me to accept it. Looking at religions in general, it seems that no major religion today seems to be similar to how the ancients practiced it. Raised Hindu, the more I study about the Puranic stories, the more questions arise. Firstly, if the Vedas placed Varuna and Indra at the head of the pantheons, then how did Vishnu overtake such entities in the Puranas, which were written/channeled much later than the Vedas? There's a huge gap there. The same applies to Christianity, where much of the Gnostic teachings seems to be more inline with Eastern mysticism (check out the Gospel of Thomas), as opposed to modern Christianity which appears to have most of its roots in Catholicism, and Catholicism looks more like Mithraic Roman ideologies as opposed to Hebrew. Those following post Catholicism seem to either have narrowed down the Catholic teachings to uproot pagan elements, or follow a prophet/channeler who typically has a tie to some secret society. It's my understanding that King James commissioned Francis Bacon to draft the King James Version of the Bible, which gave the Bible a Shakespearean flare.
Vishnu, particularly the Vaisnava line practices Dvaita-Vedanta, or duality where the human spirit (atma) is different from the supreme reality (Brahman). Hence, such practitioners believe that worship is necessary. Advaita Vedanta, or non-duality believes that the human spirit (atma) and the ultimate reality (Brahman) are the same, we just need to tap into it. From my own meditative practices as well as internal experiences in studying this material, Advaita Vedanta is my own personal preference. Such preference has forced me to look at what I had practiced beforehand, duality/worship, with a sharp sword in order to undo what I originally use to be believe and practice.
Let's face it, religion and politics have historically been intertwined. Even when separated, politics would govern how one should act in the worldly arena, and religion was to govern the spirit in the afterlife. Hence, both modes seem to be ways for those on the higher up to either teach us a positive path, or lead us into significant control and manipulation. They were both forms of governing us and molding us into what the hierarchy deems to be appropriate. As a an ego-identity that chooses to look for spirit (Atma/Higher Self), I have chosen to sort through such hierarchies to find what is going to elevate me, and what is there to manipulate me. That includes diving into our beloved ancient stories to look for the truth, since much can easily be re-written in someone's favor.
In Hinduism, it seems that the philosophers of Dvaita Vedanta and Advaita Vedanta have been battling each other since the time of the Vedas. There have been teachers who have sought to synthesize the two school, including Swami Prabhupada who brought us ISKON. But even ISKON is heavily Vaisnava leaning and I can't find any Advaita principles in their practice as opposed to worshiping Krishna (Vishnu) as the collective Higher Self. Basically, Vishnu is known as the operator/manager of the universe in the Hindu trinity. Though the Vaisnava schools honors Shiva, the destroyer/transcendence, Shiva still destroys and transcends what Brahma created and Vishnu manages. The school of thought under Shiva, or the Saivite tradition, appears to be more in line with Advaita Vedanta as opposed to the Vaisnava line. Hence, Saivite versus Vaisnava.
Philosophically, I believe duality practice can help purify the heart, as one practices devotion to a higher source. But, non-duality is the next level to cleanse one's psyche. So I like aspects of both and believe a balance between the two is appropriate for me. However, because these religious philosophies do attempt to gain followers through attempts to show who is better, I feel like much that is written in our histories or religious belief systems are untrue.
As an example, I cannot correlate Vishnu, the manager of the Universe, with Buddha Shakyamuni, an individual who sought enlightenment beyond the Universe, the wheel of samasara. From what I have been taught, Buddha Shakyamuni was to be an incarnation of Vishnu. However, Buddha Shakyamuni's teachings seem more to be in line with Advaita Vedanta as opposed to the form-worship of Dvaita Vedanta. To further such teachings, particularly through Guru Padmasambhava, the enlightened Buddhist monk who brought Buddhism to Tibet, in taking a vow to the three jewels, you no longer bow to entities including Vishnu given his association to the Wheel of Samsara. So is Vishnu a manager of the Wheel of Samasara, or is he an enlightened entity above the Wheel of Samsara? If he is both, why can't we approach Vishnu for enlightenment?
From my research, I have found that when Buddhism was gaining dominance in India, the Hindu priestly class was in an upheaval. With Kings like Ashoka who hailed and propagated Buddhist philosophies throughout Asia, such teachings would send ripples through societal beliefs such as caste systems, etc. Buddha Shakyamuni had challenged it all, and spread the idea of finding one's own true nature, as opposed to the dualistic form worship. That seems like it would be enough to shake up the Hindu priestly class, the same way Akenaten shook up the Egyptian priests, the same way Jesus shook up the Hebrew Rabbis. And we know what opposition both Akenaten and Jesus faced from the priestly class.
From my own hunch, it seems the best way for the Hindu priestly class to stop conversions to Buddhism would be to adopt Buddha Shakyamuni into the pantheon. Hence, make Buddha Shakyamuni an incarnation of Vishnu so people don't need to fully convert. Though it is my understanding, where Brahmans cite to particular puranas , that Vishnu incarnated as Buddha to convert the "heretics", those that despised the Vedas. These texts sound like they prophesied Buddha Shakyamuni, but taking refuge in the three jewels excludes deities (form) within the Hindu pantheon. Hence, shots are fired back at the Brahmanic culture, the one Vishnu is to propagate.
Again, it seems better suited to associate Buddha Shakyamuni with Shiva and/or Advaita Vedanta given that both entities are about transcending form. Maybe it's because they both expounded Dharma, though I can't connect Krishna's (Vishnus) Dharma as described to Arjuna on the battlefield with Buddha's compassionate nonviolence. Even Oppenheimer referenced Krishna in witnessing the effects of the atomic bomb. Maybe it was just a different teaching for a different age. Nonetheless, I'm still having a hard time connecting the two and probably never will. In fact, those in Theosophy and the New Age connect Krishna and Buddha Shakyamuni not to Vishnu, but to Lord Maitreya, a little known figure in Hinduism.
Anyways, in diving in deeper, I'm noticing these inconsistencies are all over the place. It's interesting that we're taught to simply accept such ideas, to have "faith". Evidence is usually because it came from some enlightened sage or prophet. I think it's just basic channeling if anything, and even then, you have to sort through the other planes to ensure your information is solid. But we just don't know. Nonetheless, I'm asking these questions to undo what I have previously believed in search for a greater Truth.
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Overly educated and continuously exploring and revealing more behind the veil.
"It cannot be too highly emphasized that the mystic swims in the same waters in which the psychotic drowns."
-James Wasserman, The Mystery Traditions