Malaysia-Singapore Visit Report Part 1
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2003-03-22
Jai Ganesha! Bodhinatha and Arumugaswami have returned from a very successful program in Singapore and Malaysia. Bodhinatha had a seminar with the teachers of a Master Course seminar in Malaysia, and answered a wide ranging of questions relating to teaching Gurudeva's comprehensive trilogy. In this talk, Bodhinatha discusses Siva worship and one particular false concept some Hindus have of seeing God Siva as something other than the Supreme Being. All religions are worshipping the same Supreme Being, and of course Saivites call this Being Lord Siva.
Good Morning, everyone! Nice to be back from our journey. Nice to be back to our Sun One Homa and get our phase off to a wonderful religious start.
Arumugaswami and I had a very successful program in Singapore and Malaysia. All the events went super well and lots of new doors opened as well, in terms of opportunities at the Hindu Center in Singapore and opportunities for working with the Malaysia Hindu Sangam. So we are very happy with all of that.
An interesting point was made at the Master Course seminar. On Saturday, we had a 3-hour seminar with the teachers of the Master Course. So far, they have taught a few one-day seminars and they are hoping to get a more active program where they teach one-day seminars followed up by weekly Master Course classes. They were asking various questions, some of them challenging, some of them very interesting in other ways.
One of the that was interesting ones had to do with the worship of Siva. I could tell by the way the question was asked, I forget exactly how it was worded, that he was not looking at it exactly the right way. I though about it for a minute and answered it on the spot. I thought about it afterwards and came up with a little page, I will read in a minute. But somehow, the person was seeing Siva first and the Supreme Being, not really seeing it. So he was worshipping Siva but had not really thought of it that he was worshipping the Supreme Being, somehow. But there was a distinction in his mind, Siva was Siva.
Whereas of course, the idea is all Hindus worship the Supreme Being, it is just that the different Hindu traditions and the different religions of the world have different ways of describing the Supreme Being. Different names, different traditions but there is only one Supreme Being. It is not a question of whether Siva is supreme over Vishnu, which is kind of the way he was looking at it. I guess in terms of Puranic story, we have Siva over here and Vishnu over here. It is like two teams, two soccer teams which one is going to win, which one is better.
Somehow, it was an externalized way of looking at it. So I wrote something in that regard, which we will put to use somewhere, I am not sure where. Here it is:
Have you ever heard a discussion between two or more Hindus as to whether Vishnu or Siva is the Supreme God? If you encounter Hare Krishna, of course you do. Who is the more powerful of the two and therefore deserving of worship? Each of these debaters quote different Puranic stories to support their point of view. Of course, they are missing the point, which is that all Hindus worship the Supreme Being.
Hinduism has four major divisions or denominations: Saivism, Saktism, Smartism and Vaishnavism as we know. Each calls the Supreme Being by a different name. Saivites - Siva, Saktas - Shakti, Smartas - Brahman and Vaishnavites - Vishnu. However, the important point is that each is worshipping the same Supreme Being. The name is different, the tradition is different but it is the same Supreme Being that is being worshipped by all Hindus.
There is an ancient verse from the Rig Veda that is often quoted in this regard, usually it is quoted in English, I will try the Sanskrit here, Ekam sat. Vipra bahuda vadanti. Which is translated as, "Truth is one, sages express it variously." Or, "Reality is one, the learned speak of it in many ways." Or, "The Universal Reality is the same but different people call it by different names."
This same statement from the Rig Veda can be expanded beyond Hinduism to include all the world religions. That there is only one Supreme Being and all the world's religions are in truth worshipping the same Supreme Being.
Therefore, if you are ever approached by someone of another religion, perhaps a Mormon knocking on your door, who states that their God is superior to your God, you can refer to this ancient Rig Veda verse and state with confidence that there is only one Supreme Being and you are in truth both worshipping the same Supreme Being but only referring to Him by different names.
Of course, we take all of that for granted. But it is interesting once you get out there in a place like Malaysia. This becomes an interesting point, an important point. To all of us, of course, we know that. But out there, you do get these two problems. One is within Hinduism, not looking at it correctly and the other is the influence or the challenge of other religions when Hindus are approached by missionaries of other religions.
What do they say when someone says, "Why do you worship so many gods? How can you have 330 million gods?" And, so forth.
So this is a way of answering them with confidence.