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Note: if you have no discipline to read and do not think critically, do not take this assignment. The essay must answer the question directly. Must have CRITICAL thoughts and DEEP analysis, Remember is philosophy.Requirements:1- The essay must have 500 to 600 words. -Good grammar and a structuring of sentences-. Make a title for the essay.2- You must choose ONE of the two questions. 3- You must read the article BEFORE answering. Do not copy anything from the internet. They must be YOUR Own Thoughts.4- Do not cite too much. With one or two citations is enough.option 1Huston Smith on the Origin of ReligionIn discussing Hinduism, Huston Smith explicitly floats an account of the origin of religion, and its function in human life. Does that account strike you as the sort of thing that insiders (i.e. members of various faith communities) would accept or reject? Why or why not?Option #2THE FUNCTION OF SAMSARAThe mainstream Western religions certainly have nothing even remotely resembling the Hindu notion of long cycles of births, lives, deaths, and rebirths. Why is that, do you think? What is the function of that idea of Samsara in Hinduism? Do the Western Religions, with which you are familiar, have another way to satisfy this function?NOTE: PLEASE READ THE ARTICLES, DONT COPY FROM INTERNET.


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recalled later, were two lines from the Bhagavad-Gita in which
the speaker is God:
II. Hinduism
If I were asked under what sky the human mind…has most deeply
pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found
solutions to some of them which well deserve the attention even
of those who have studied Plato and Kant—I should point to
India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we who
have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks
and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the
corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life
more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more
truly human a life…again I should point to India.
Max Müller
On July 16, 1945, in the deep privacy of a New Mexico desert,
an event occurred that may prove to be the most important single
happening of the twentieth century. A chain reaction of scientific
discoveries that began at the University of Chicago and centered
at “Site Y” at Los Alamos was culminated. The first atomic bomb
was, as we say, a success.
No one had been more instrumental in this achievement than
Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Los Alamos project. An
observer who was watching him closely that morning has given
us the following account: “He grew tenser as the last seconds
ticked off. He scarcely breathed. He held on to a post to steady
himself…. When the announcer shouted ‘Now!’ and there came
this tremendous burst of light, followed…by the deep-growling
roar of the explosion, his face relaxed in an expression of
tremendous relief.” This much from the outside. But what flashed
through Oppenheimer’s own mind during those moments, he
I am become death, the shatterer of worlds;
Waiting that hour that ripens to their doom.
This incident provides a profound symbol for this chapter’s
opening, and Mahatma Gandhi’s life can join it in setting the
stage for the faith we are about to explore. In an age in which
violence and peace faced each other more fatefully than ever
before, Gandhi’s name became, in the middle of our century, the
counterpoise to those of Stalin and Hitler. The achievement for
which the world credited this man (who weighed less than a
hundred pounds and whose worldly possessions when he died
were worth less than two dollars) was the British withdrawal
from India in peace, but what is less known is that among his
own people he lowered a barrier more formidable than that of
race in America. He renamed India’s untouchables harijan,
“God’s people,” and raised them to human stature. And in doing
so he provided the nonviolent strategy as well as the inspiration
for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s comparable civil rights movement
in the United States.
Gandhi’s own inspiration and strategy carries us directly into this
chapter’s subject, for he wrote in his Autobiography: “Such
power as I possess for working in the political field has derived
from my experiments in the spiritual field.” In that spiritual field,
he went on to say, “truth is the sovereign principle, and the
Bhagavad-Gita is the book par excellence for the knowledge of
Huston Smith “Hinduism” – page 1 of 47
What People Want
If we were to take Hinduism as a whole—its vast literature, its
complicated rituals, its sprawling folkways, its opulent art—and
compress it into a single affirmation, we would find it saying:
You can have what you want.
This sounds promising, but it throws the problem back in our
laps. For what do we want? It is easy to give a simple answer—
not easy to give a good one. India has lived with this question for
ages and has her answer waiting. People, she says, want four
They begin by wanting pleasure. This is natural. We are all born
with built-in pleasure-pain reactors. If we ignored these, leaving
our hands on hot stoves or stepping out of second-story windows,
we would soon die. What could be more obvious, then, than to
follow the promptings of pleasure and entrust our lives to it?
Having heard—for it is commonly alleged—that India is ascetic,
other-worldly, and life-denying, we might expect her attitude
toward hedonists to be scolding, but it is not. To be sure, India
has not made pleasure her highest good, but this is different from
condemning enjoyment. To the person who wants pleasure, India
says in effect: Go after it—there is nothing wrong with it; it is
one of the four legitimate ends of life. The world is awash with
beauty and heavy with sensual delights. Moreover, there are
worlds above this one where pleasures increase by powers of a
million at each rung, and these worlds, too, we shall experience
in due course. Like everything else, hedonism requires good
sense. Not every impulse can be followed with impunity. Small
immediate goals must be sacrificed for long-range gains, and
impulses that would injure others must be curbed to avoid
antagonisms and remorse. Only the stupid will lie, steal, or cheat
for immediate profit, or succumb to addictions. But as long as the
basic rules of morality are obeyed, you are free to seek all the
pleasure you want. Far from condemning pleasure, Hindu texts
house pointers on how to enlarge its scope. To simple people
who seek pleasure almost exclusively, Hinduism presents itself
as little more than a regimen for ensuring health and prosperity;
while at the other end of the spectrum, for sophisticates, it
elaborates a sensual aesthetic that shocks in its explicitness. If
pleasure is what you want, do not suppress the desire. Seek it
This India says, and waits. It waits for the time—it will come to
everyone, though not to everyone in one’s present life—when
one realizes that pleasure is not all that one wants. The reason
everyone eventually comes to this discovery is not because
pleasure is wicked, but because it is too trivial to satisfy one’s
total nature. Pleasure is essentially private, and the self is too
small an object for perpetual enthusiasm. Søren Kierkegaard
tried for a while what he called the aesthetic life, which made
enjoyment its guiding principle, only to experience its radical
failure, which he described in Sickness Unto Death. “In the
bottomless ocean of pleasure,” he wrote in his Journal, “I have
sounded in vain for a spot to cast anchor. I have felt the almost
irresistible power with which one pleasure drags another after it,
the kind of adulterated enthusiasm which it is capable of
producing, the boredom, the torment which follow.” Even
playboys—a type seldom credited with profundity—have been
known to conclude, as one did recently, that “The glamour of
yesterday I have come to see as tinsel.” Sooner or later everyone
wants to experience more than a kaleidoscope of momentary
pleasures, however delectable.
Huston Smith “Hinduism” – page 2 of 47
When this time comes the individual’s interests usually shift to
the second major goal of life, which is worldly success with its
three prongs of wealth, fame, and power. This too is a worthy
goal, to be neither scorned nor condemned. Moreover, its
satisfactions last longer, for (unlike pleasure) success is a social
achievement, and as such it involves the lives of others. For this
reason it commands a scope and importance that pleasure cannot
This point does not have to be argued for a contemporary
Western audience. The Anglo-American temperament is not
voluptuous. Visitors from abroad do not find English-speaking
peoples enjoying life a great deal, or much bent on doing so—
they are too busy. Being enamored not of sensualism but of
success, what takes arguing in the West is not that achievement’s
rewards exceed those of the senses but that success too has its
limitations—that “What is he worth?” does not come down to
“How much has he got?”
India acknowledges that drives for power, position, and
possessions run deep. Nor should they be disparaged per se. A
modicum of worldly success is indispensable for supporting a
household and discharging civic duties responsibly. Beyond this
minimum, worldly achievements confer dignity and self-respect.
In the end, however, these rewards too have their term. For they
all harbor limitations that we can detail:
1. Wealth, fame, and power are exclusive, hence competitive,
hence precarious. Unlike mental and spiritual values, they do not
multiply when shared; they cannot be distributed without
diminishing one’s own portion. If I own a dollar, that dollar is not
yours; while I am sitting on a chair, you cannot occupy it.
Similarly with fame and power. The idea of a nation in which
everyone is famous is a contradiction in terms; and if power were
distributed equally, no one would be powerful in the sense in
which we customarily use the word. From the competitiveness of
these goods to their precariousness is a short step. As other
people want them too, who knows when success will change
2. The drive for success is insatiable. A qualification is needed
here, for people do get enough money, fame, and power. It is
when they make these things their chief ambition that their lusts
cannot be satisfied. For these are not the things people really
want, and people can never get enough of what they do not really
want. In Hindu idiom, “To try to extinguish the drive for riches
with money is like trying to quench a fire by pouring butter over
The West, too, knows this point. “Poverty consists, not in the
decrease of one’s possessions, but in the increase of one’s greed,”
wrote Plato, and Gregory Nazianzen, a theologian, concurs:
“Could you from all the world all wealth procure, more would
remain, whose lack would leave you poor.” “Success is a goal
without a satiation point,” a psychologist has recently written,
and sociologists who studied a midwestern town found “both
business men and working men running for dear life in the
business of making the money they earn keep pace with the even
more rapid growth of their subjective wants.” It was from India
that the West appropriated the parable of the donkey driver who
kept his beast moving by dangling before it a carrot attached to a
stick that was fixed to its own harness.
Huston Smith “Hinduism” – page 3 of 47
3. The third problem with worldly success is identical with that
of hedonism. It too centers meaning in the self, which proves to
be too small for perpetual enthusiasm. Neither fortune nor station
can obscure the realization that one lacks so much else. In the
end everyone wants more from life than a country home, a sports
car, and posh vacations.
4. The final reason why worldly success cannot satisfy us
completely is that its achievements are ephemeral. Wealth, fame,
and power do not survive bodily death—“You can’t take it with
you,” as we routinely say. And since we cannot, this keeps these
things from satisfying us wholly, for we are creatures who can
envision eternity and must instinctively rue by contrast the brief
purchase on time that worldly success commands.
Before proceeding to the other two things that Hinduism sees
people wanting, it will be well to summarize the ones considered
thus far. Hindus locate pleasure and success on the Path of
Desire. They use this phrase because the personal desires of the
individual have thus far been foremost in charting life’s course.
Other goals lie ahead, but this does not mean that we should
berate these preliminaries. Nothing is gained by repressing
desires wholesale or pretending that we do not have them. As
long as pleasure and success is what we think we want, we
should seek them, remembering only the provisos of prudence
and fair play.
The guiding principle is not to turn from desire until desire turns
from you, for Hinduism regards the objects of the Path of Desire
as if they were toys. If we ask ourselves whether there is
anything wrong with toys, our answer must be: On the contrary,
the thought of children without them is sad. Even sadder,
however, is the prospect of adults who fail to develop interests
more significant than dolls and trains. By the same token,
individuals whose development is not arrested will move through
delighting in success and the senses to the point where their
attractions have been largely outgrown.
But what greater attractions does life afford? Two, say the
Hindus. In contrast with the Path of Desire, they constitute the
Path of Renunciation.
The word renunciation has a negative ring, and India’s frequent
use of it has been one of the factors in earning for it the
reputation of being a life-denying spoilsport. But renunciation
has two faces. It can stem from disillusionment and despair, the
feeling that it’s not worthwhile to extend oneself; but equally it
can signal the suspicion that life holds more than one is now
experiencing. Here we find the back-to-nature people—who
renounce affluence to gain freedom from social rounds and the
glut of things—but this is only the beginning. If renunciation
always entails the sacrifice of a trivial now for a more promising
yet-to-be, religious renunciation is like that of athletes who resist
indulgences that could deflect them from their all-consuming
goal. Exact opposite of disillusionment, renunciation in this
second mode is evidence that the life force is strongly at work.
We must never forget that Hinduism’s Path of Renunciation
comes after the Path of Desire. If people could be satisfied by
following their impulses, the thought of renunciation would
never arise. Nor does it occur only to those who have failed on
the former path—the disappointed lover who enters a monastery
or nunnery to compensate. We can agree with the disparagers
that for such people renunciation is a salvaging act—the attempt
Huston Smith “Hinduism” – page 4 of 47
to make the best of personal defeat. What forces us to listen
attentively to Hinduism’s hypothesis is the testimony of those
who stride the Path of Desire famously and still find themselves
wishing for more than it offers. These people—not the ones who
renounce but the ones who see nothing to renounce for—are the
world’s real pessimists. For to live, people must believe in that
for the sake of which they live. As long as they sense no futility
in pleasure and success, they can believe that those are worth
living for. But if, as Tolstoy points out in his Confessions, they
can no longer believe in the finite, they will believe in the infinite
or they will die.
Let us be clear. Hinduism does not say that everyone in his or her
present life will find the Path of Desire wanting. For against a
vast time scale, Hinduism draws a distinction the West too is
familiar with—that between chronological and psychological
age. Two people, both forty-six, are the same age
chronologically, but psychologically one may be still a child and
the other an adult. The Hindus extend this distinction to cover
multiple life spans, a point we shall take up explicitly when we
come to the idea of reincarnation. As a consequence we shall find
men and women who play the game of desire with all the zest of
nine-year-old cops and robbers; though they know little else,
they will die with the sense of having lived to the full and enter
their verdict that life is good. But equally, there will be others
who play this game as ably, yet find its laurels paltry. Why the
difference? The enthusiasts, say the Hindus, are caught in the
flush of novelty, whereas the others, having played the game over
and over again, seek other worlds to conquer.
We can describe the typical experience of this second type. The
world’s visible rewards still attract them strongly. They throw
themselves into enjoyment, enlarging their holdings and
advancing their status. But neither the pursuit nor the attainment
brings true happiness. Some of the things they want they fail to
get, and this makes them miserable. Some they get and hold onto
for a while, only to have them suddenly snatched away, and
again they are miserable. Some they both get and keep, only to
find that (like the Christmases of many adolescents) they do not
bring the joy that was expected. Many experiences that thrilled
on first encounter pall on the hundredth. Throughout, each
attainment seems to fan the flames of new desire; none satisfies
fully; and all, it becomes evident, perish with time. Eventually,
there comes over them the suspicion that they are caught on a
treadmill, having to run faster and faster for rewards that mean
less and less.
When that suspicion dawns and they find themselves crying,
“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!” it may occur to them that the
problem stems from the smallness of the self they have been
scrambling to serve. What if the focus of their concern were
shifted? Might not becoming a part of a larger, more significant
whole relieve life of its triviality?
That question announces the birth of religion. For though in
some watered-down sense there may be a religion of selfworship, true religion begins with the quest for meaning and
value beyond self-centeredness. It renounces the ego’s claims to
But what is this renunciation for? The question brings us to the
two signposts on the Path of Renunciation. The first of these
reads “the community,” as the obvious candidate for something
greater than ourselves. In supporting at once our own life and the
Huston Smith “Hinduism” – page 5 of 47
lives of others, the community has an importance no single life
can command. Let us, then, transfer our allegiance to it, giving
its claims priority over our own.
This transfer marks the first great step in religion. It produces the
religion of duty, after pleasure and success the third great aim of
life in the Hindu outlook. Its power over the mature is
tremendous. Myriads have transformed the will-to-get into the
will-to-give, the will-to-win into the will-to-serve. Not to
triumph but to do their best—to acquit themselves responsibly,
whatever the task at hand—has become their prime objective.
Hinduism abounds in directives to people who would put their
shoulders to the social wheel. It details duties appropriate to age,
temperament, and social status. These will be examined in
subsequent sections. Here we need only repeat what was said in
connection with pleasure and success: Duty, too, yields notable
rewards, only to leave the human spirit unfilled. Its rewards
require maturity to be appreciated, but given maturity, they are
substantial. Faithful performance of duty brings respect and
gratitude from one’s peers. More important, however, is the selfrespect that comes from doing one’s part. But in the end even
these rewards prove insufficient. For even when time turns
community into history, history, standing alone, is finite and
hence ultimately tragic. It is tragic not only because it must end
—eventually history, too, will die—but in its refusal to be
perfected. Hope and history are always light-years apart. The
final human good must lie elsewhere.
What People Really Want
It is difficult to think of a sentence that identifies Hinduism’
attitude toward the world more precisely. The world’s offerings
are not bad. By and large they are good. Some of them are good
enough to command our enthusiasm for many lifetimes.
Eventually, however, every human being comes to realize with
Simone Weil that “there is no true good here below, that
everything that appears to be good in this world is finite, limited,
wears out, and once worn out, leaves necessity exposed in all its
nakedness.” When this point is reached, one finds oneself asking
even of the best this world can offer, “Is this all?”
This is the moment Hinduism has been waiting for. As long as
people are content with the prospect of pleasure, success, or
service, the Hindu sage will not be likely to disturb them beyond
offering some suggestions as to how to proceed more effectively.
The critical point in life comes when these thi …
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