In a very real sense, we are like the spaceman in the photo above, totally dependent on our body, mind, emotions and personal identity to persist in life, just as he depends on his space suit and its supply of oxygen to enable him to exist in space. Take away our body, remove our emotions, erase our identity and what is left? Do we cease to exist? What are we really? Rishis assure us that we are immortal souls on a journey of spiritual evolution. We will take on many bodies, many lives, many different identities through the repetitive cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Each advent into a new birth is like an astronaut’s voyage into the great unknown.
The soul’s underlying joy throughout this adventure is to commune with a realize God, learning of its true nature in the great a classroom of experience, known as the world, or maya. The three realities of existence, God, Soul and World, constitute the fundamentals of Hindu theology, known as tattva-trayi in Sanskrit, describing a view in which Divinity, self and cosmos are a profound, integrated unity. Each and every soul is on the same journey, spanning many lifetimes. The path has been made clear by those who have gone before. The answers to life’s ultimate questions have been given time and time again, but still must be asked and answered by each soul in its own time: “Who am i?” “Where did i come from?” “Where am i going?”
Never have there been so many people living on the planet wondering, “What is the real goal, the final purpose, of life?” However, man is blinded by his ignorance and his concern with the externalities of the world. He is caught, enthralled, bound by karma. The ultimate realizations available are beyond his understanding and remain to his obscure, even intellectually.
Man’s ultimate quest, the final evolutionary frontier, is within man himself. It is the truth spoken by vedic rishis as the self within man, attainable through devotion, purification and control of the mind. On the following pages, we explore the nature of the soul, God and the world. Offered here is broad perspective that Hindus of most lineages would find agreement with, though in such matters there naturally arise myriad differences of perspective. To highlight the most important of these we offer a comparison of Hinduism’s four major denominations.
Next we explore the views of these four denominations on liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Finally, we present a chart of Hindu cosmology that seeks to connect the microcosm and the macrocosm and is a lifetime meditation in itself.