Monday, May 31, 2010

Lessons from the Aitareya Upanishad

I had known about the Upanishads for a while now, but I only recently decided to sit down and read them. They are the core scriptures of the Hindu school of Vedanta, which teaches primarily the doctrine that humanity is divine. When I did read them, I was astounded. I had never read a text so densely pumped full of meaning in every verse. I highly recommend them.

I've been reading them in order, and so it is natural that my first blog post about them should be about an excerpt from the first one, namely the Aitareya Upanishad. This short book of scripture describes the creation of the universe in terms of the creation of an individual soul, or Atman. However, there is something in the second chapter which I find particularly applicable in helping to understand Mormon scripture. Here is an excerpt from it:

  1. In the male first the unborn child becometh. This which is seed is the force and heat of him that from all parts of the creature draweth together for becoming ; therefore he beareth himself in himself, and when he casteth it into the woman, `tis himself he begetteth. And this is the first birth of the Spirit.
  2. It becometh one Self with the woman, therefore it doeth her no hurt and she cherisheth this self of her husband that hath got into her womb.
  3. She the cherisher must be cherished. So the woman beareth the unborn child and the man cherisheth the boy even from the beginning ere it is born. And whereas he cherisheth the boy ere it is born, `tis verily himself that he cherisheth for the continuance of these worlds and these peoples; for `tis even thus the thread of these worlds spinneth on unbroken. And this is the second birth of the Spirit.

In short, this says that the father is the son. Or, in less profound language, the son is an extension of the father. When the father begets his son, he takes the concentrated essence of his self (like his DNA) to make him. As the son grows and learns, the father grows and learns with him. Any triumph or failure of the son is the father's triumph and failure as well. And any good father will tell you that they care more about their children's success than their own. So, you could even say that the father is born again through his child. And you could even go farther and say that when the father gets his first grandchild, his lives through him as well. And it could continue for eternity, insuring that, at least in one way, you are immortal. And so, as it says, "the thread of these worlds spinneth on unbroken".

Now, I'm not saying that this doesn't apply to mothers and daughters as well. You have to understand that this was written in a male-dominated society. Plus, this is only partially a literal story; it is also a grand metaphor for the creation and workings of the universe. In this conception, you would consider the father to be the great Self, or Brahman. Brahman divides itself up to become different parts of the universe or people (the son), which aren't really creations of Brahman, but extensions of Brahman itself.

And so I would say it is with our Father in heaven as understood in LDS theology. He is a perfected being. According to D&C 88, "All things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things". So, what else is there for him to do? Not denying that the Father has a body (see my previous post about Light), he essentially is the universe and experiences everything. He seems to have reached the end of the road. There's nothing else left for him to learn or experience. And so, he does the only thing a person in that state could do: create. Thus we come into the picture. We are not creations of God in the sense that he makes us out of something external to him. Just like the son is made from the father's body, we were made from our Father in heaven's body.

But I would challenge the notion that once we were created, we became separate from our Father. Just like it says in the above quote from the Aitareya Upanishad, we are a part of him still. He lives through us. He experiences everything we experience. And when we get to the point where we have all that the Father has, and are also "in all things and through all things" we can do the same thing he did: have children. Then we live and grow through them just as our Father lives and grows through us. And we would also live and experience through our children's children, and our children's children's children, and so on forever and ever. We would never stop progressing and learning. I would say that this is one way the LDS church does believe in reincarnation: through the creation of spirit children.

So that's my take on the LDS doctrine of eternal progression through the eyes of a mystical school of Hinduism. I hope you have enjoyed this post. You can look forward to a much more frequent posting schedule in the future. Happy summer!

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