Symbolic Aspects

Symbolic Aspects

As it is the aim of any religion to guide human beings to lead a moral life, similar to the quests of modern science and technology, the methodology adopted in Hinduism by the ancient sages of India is to present the knowledge of the Universe and guidelines to life, symbolically in several objects, events and rituals of that have convenient access to ordinary human beings. These in fact have undergone small variations in the course of time depending on the socioeconomic conditions of the communities and the geographic conditions where they live.
The very concept of reincarnation of the soul after death is symbolic of the scientific Laws of Conservation of Energy (life force) and Matter (the human body), thus the human power of creating anything new, which requires some knowledge, is symbolized in the form of 'Brahma' with Knowledge personified in his consort, as Saraswathi, the human power of preservation of wealth is personified as Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi, the power of destruction or constructive change is personified in Shiva with the required energy in his consort Parvathi.

The seven horses of the Sun God suggest symbolically the seven colors of the rainbow in the sky, or those of the spectrum from the white light. Whether Rama of Ramayana and Krishna of Mahabharata existed as we were told or not, they ultimately symbolize the best qualities in human beings, namely; love, honesty, truthfulness, morality, wisdom and divinity. It is a common saying "live like Rama and learn from Krishna" though these two 'gods' had somewhat diametrically opposite situations in their life stories. The ten  Avatharas or incarnations of God in the Hindu mythology seem to be symbolic of the theory of evolution, from 'Matsyavatar' to 'Kalikavatar' the gradual evolution of life as it first started in water, then gradually onto land, and finally to the present day state of Man. They also symbolize the developing stages of the spiritual path to perfection. The stories associated with each incarnation seem to suggest symbolically that the energy levels in the life form of the particular incarnation or time period.

There are several other deities symbolic of the highest in human beings themselves. Lord Ganesha, with the head of an elephant symbolizes the power of removing obstacles in one’s progress, Hanuman, with the monkey figure, is the symbol of extreme loyalty and extraordinary energy, Mother Durga with ten hands and multiple weapons has been created to symbolize the superiority of woman power, to destroy evil (personified as Mahishasura) which could not be conquered by any other male ‘god’. Similarly there are several auspicious events such as Makara Sankranthi, Shivratri, Diwali and several objects and logo like idols, the swastika, OM, etc. symbolic of disciplines and concentration required for proper orientation of the human mind which has been recognized as the center of all activities in the Universe. Thus Hinduism seems to suggest a symbolic character of all that modern Science has revealed and is still discovering about our Universe.

Other religions also have symbols of their own; for example, the 'Dharma Chakra' or 'Wheel of Laws' in Buddhism is symbolic of duties in life; the five 'Kakas' together with a dagger and a shield in Sikhism are symbolic of valour and defense of faith; the Cross in Christianity is a symbol of sacrifice and love; the Menorah of Judaism with seven lights is a symbol of God's creation of this world in seven days; the Cauldron of Fire is a symbol of purity in Zoroastrianism etc. A deeper study of these aspects particularly in relation with modern science and technology will greatly help to follow an appropriate direction in our study of the Sanathana Dharma and in the progress of human beings.

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