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Following the pattern used in the previous article, we will analyze the way human nature is defined in relationship to Ultimate Reality, its origin and present condition. Beginning with Hinduism, we will continue with the other Eastern religions and finish with the perspective of monotheistic religions, especially Christianity.

According to the Vedic cosmogony of the golden egg Hiranyagarbha , both gods and men have their origin in an impersonal primordial entity Rig Veda 10, The Brahmana texts add the appearance of a creator Prajapati from the golden egg Shatapatha Br. The Purushasukta hymn Rig Veda 10,90 states that the product of the golden egg is the giant Purusha, and through his sacrifice by the gods the physical world was built, the four-caste system, the animals and the duality of sexes.

Religion and Human Nature - Oxford Scholarship

Although the Vedic hymns do not clearly state what role the most worshiped gods played in the creation of humans, they are responsible to the gods for how they live their lives. The prayers people address to Varuna, Indra, Agni or other gods denote a sinful human nature. The Upanishads state that the world finds its ultimate unity in Brahman, the impersonal matrix equivalent to the One of the Rig Veda 10, In their search for a fundamental entity of human nature, something that should be the unifying principle of all psycho-mental faculties, but above their temporal fluctuations, the Hindu rishis defined the concept of atman.


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In the Chandogya Upanishad 5,1,1 it is stated that breath prana is the "oldest and the best" principle that assures the functioning of all other psycho-mental capacities sight, speech, hearing, thought. Unlike all other manifestations of Brahman, atman is of the same ontological quality with Brahman; it does not fluctuate, it is expressionless, irreducible, eternal and pure:.

As we have seen in the previous article, these two darshanas are dualistic, accepting the real status of primordial substance prakriti beside purusha the equivalent of atman. None is the manifestation of the other.

Purusha and prakriti have different natures and do not aim to reconstruct a unique essence, as was the case in pantheism. Purusha , the self, is the spiritual entity that defines human existence. It is the eternal substrata of the individual being, devoid of any attributes and relations, without beginning or end, indifferent, autonomous, immutable and perfect, above senses, intellect, time and space. Purusha can have relations only with itself. It can know only itself and contemplate itself.

On the other hand, prakriti , the primordial substance, is capable of manifestation and produces all the physical and mental aspects of the world. Sattva produces virtue, wisdom and goodness; rajas produces passion, contradiction, agitation and wickedness; and tamas is responsible for generating ignorance, confusion, indifference and depression. The psychological human states are combinations of effects produced by the three gunas.

For instance, when the sattva dominates, the soul is calm and tranquil; when rajas dominates there is passion and nervousness; and with tamas in control humans are inert, lazy, and ignorant.

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Although there is not much known about how the initial balance between the three gunas was disturbed and how purusha got involved with the manifestations of prakriti , this situation is the source of all problems, the cause of purusha 's captivity in the illusion of psycho-mental activity. The confusion of the two opposite realities, the eternal purusha and the psycho-mental activities, is maya , illusion.

Persistence in this state is a result of ignorance Yoga Sutra 2,24 and starts the process of karma and reincarnation. Purusha will reincarnate as many times as needed, according to the deeds performed by the individual in ignorance of his true identity. All actions demand a fulfillment, or consummation, in the present or further lives.

Samsara works the same way as in pantheism, until true knowledge about the nature of purusha is attained. The world and mankind appeared through the dissociation of the primordial unity of Shiva and Shakti.


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In the Shiva Samhita 1,92 , a text that is common to both religious schools, is stated:. Out of the many forms of theistic Hinduism that exist today, we will analyze briefly only some aspects of Vaishnavism as it was stated by the great theistic Hindu thinkers Ramanuja and Madhva. There is also available a special article aimed at analyzing the theism of the well-known poem Bhagavad Gita. The works of Ramanuja and Madhva represent an extraordinary contribution to Hindu spirituality, by the special way they understood the relationship between humanity and divinity and the significance of salvation.

According to them, humans have a different nature from Vishnu, the personal god who is accepted as Ultimate Reality, and there is no impersonal atman -Brahman fusion that has to be attained. As the body cannot exist separately from the soul, the existence of the universe and of individual beings depends totally on Vishnu.

He conducts the souls; they cannot exist without him, but have also energies and activities of their own. The individuality of each soul jiva is not an illusion that has to be discarded through knowledge, but a metaphysical fact. Although they depend entirely on Vishnu, individual souls are real, unique, eternal, and possess intelligence and conscience.

The main cause of their present state is ignorance, defined as the illusory idea of independence from Vishnu, and manifested as the desire for seeking material goods. The souls enter into connection with material bodies according to the karma they acquired in previous forms of existence.

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Humans 'predisposed' to believe in gods and the afterlife

Karma is an instrument used by Vishnu to punish evil but also to remind humans of their true status and what they should actually seek in life. But the question of how souls first came under the power of karma is unanswered, because the cosmic process has no beginning. For Madhva too, matter and mankind depend totally on Vishnu.

The ontological differences between him, humans and matter are fundamental and eternal. However, the fact that Vishnu, souls and karma are all eternal and beginningless, poses difficulties in understanding the relationship between them. On the one hand, if Vishnu didn't create souls, he cannot have any role in sustaining them, and they have no reason to be responsible to him.

If one's soul is beginningless, it means it isn't created, which further means it isn't responsible to a deity. A soul can only be responsible to the deity who created it, as it is in the monotheistic religions. On the other hand, it is difficult to reconcile the supremacy of Vishnu with the self-sufficient law of karma.

The three phases in the existence of a soul are: 1 the dormant state; 2 the state of enduring transmigration; 3 the liberated state. Vishnu is the one who introduces the soul into the stream of transmigration so that it might discover its spiritual nature. It is stated that in the incarnated state, the physical and subtle bodies produce the illusion of independence toward Vishnu and also attachment to the physical world, perpetuating in this way the chain of samsara.

As a result of their accumulated karma, Vishnu chooses to have each soul undergo the fruits of his past labors. But on what authority? Why should he be the controlling force, giving each soul what it deserves? Don't have an account?

Philosophical patterns for a theory of human nature

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Keith Ward

Not registered? Sign up. Publications Pages Publications Pages. Search my Subject Specializations: Select Humans 'predisposed' to believe in gods and the afterlife. Retrieved September 21, from www. But there is a lot of scientific evidence that shows the chatter between mind and body goes two ways, and the body is an In a study, undergraduate psychology students were asked about their beliefs concerning the soul and afterlife Below are relevant articles that may interest you. ScienceDaily shares links with scholarly publications in the TrendMD network and earns revenue from third-party advertisers, where indicated.

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