This spring I started re-reading the Mahabharata for the first time since I was about twelve years old. It is a Hindu epic that culminates in a war between two sets of cousins. The picture above shows the war about to start, and the warrior Arjuna is having doubts about fighting against his own family. He kneels on the ground to ask Lord Krishna for counsel. Krishna explains why Arjuna should fight, and why following his duty as a warrior is the right thing to do. The dialogue between the two is captured in the Bhagavad Gita, perhaps the most important religious text in Hinduism.
This dialogue plus the ensuing war took place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. According to Wikipedia, Kurukshetra was in the present-day Indian state of Haryana. I’ve been wondering about this claim. How do we know where Kurukshetra was? And how do we know that Ayodyha, the site of Lord Rama’s kingdom, was next to Faizabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh?
Hinduism is a cyclical religion. That is, Hindus don’t believe time flows in a single direction. There are four ages, or yugas, and right now we are in the Kali Yuga. Between each yuga the world is destroyed and recreated. The Mahabharata occurred in the previous age. According to the Mahabharata the world ended after the war, and our age began.
So if the world was destroyed, what does it even mean to assign a physical location to Kurukshetra? When Hindus say the world is destroyed, do the countries and continents more or less stay in the same spot? Does archaeological and physical evidence transition from one age to another? Do all humans die, or just some of them?
As I wrap up my series of posts on Hinduism, I come back to questions like these. I wonder if I’ve drifted away from my childhood faith because I’ve tried to intellectualize it more than it is meant to be. Hinduism, even more than Christianity, is an experiential religion. I really shouldn’t be thinking about it so much.
If you should just do it but not think about it, doesn’t that beg the question of why you should “do” this religion rather than another? Or is that a Christian/Western type of question in the first place? : )
Ha! Now you’re getting it:-)
I too am in the process of reading an epic. It is the Lord of the Rings trilogy written by J.R.R. Tolkien, a Roman Catholic scholar. Three movies have been made from the trilogy and you have probably at least heard of them. In the trilogy, Tolkien writes about the history of “Middle Earth” occurring in ages that possibly seem modeled after the Hindu yugas. I assume he could have gotten the idea for them from some knowledge of the Hindu religion.
Yugas and Tolkien’s ages have in common destruction at their end. Christianity also has the idea of the destruction of the world at the end of this age. Where the Hindu and Christian ideas diverge is, of course, what comes after the destruction. It appears that for the Hindu the new world is pretty much “same old, same old” while the new world of Christianity is a realm of eternal blessedness. Christians also believe that they can begin to experience the new age while still living in this one.
I would like to invite you to look further into Christianity. I write this knowing that you would most likely cause difficulties in your family if you were to convert to Christianity or even indicate a serious interest in it. Jesus told his disciples that this would be the situation of those who believed he was the Son of God. I don’t know any way to tell you how to avoid this difficulty. It is one of many things you will have to face if you were to change to being a Christian. Still, those who pay the price of faith in Christ are promised a great reward both now and in the age to come.
Really appreciate this comment, and especially your sensitivity about the family issues. I assure you that I am looking further into Christianity.
Thanks again. Always appreciate your comments.