3. Don’t Forget Money
We might expect that a religion devoted to spiritual enlightenment would have scant concern for money and possessions.
But Hinduism surprises and challenges us by suggesting that - despite everything - what it calls ‘artha’ or a concern for material prosperity has a place within a wise life.
Hinduism is not directing us towards crass materialism.
It doesn’t want to exhaust us with overly rich foods or attention-seeking displays of wealth.
But it is aware - with a touching practicality - that many good and elevated things require a degree of financial support in order to go well.
One won’t be able to undertake spiritual exercises unless one is able to take a considerable amount of time off from practical duties every day.
Meditation on nothingness can be substantially assisted by having a servant or two to take care of the laundry and the housekeeping.
Hindus traditionally direct their hopes for material comfort to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity.
One of the most popular of all Hindu deities, she is typically represented holding two lotus flowers that speak of spiritual liberation as well as material good fortune.
She is usually accompanied by at least one elephant, a symbol of power and strength, and a swan, an animal that is at home both in the air and in the water, and thereby speaks of an ability to combine competence in the material and spiritual realms.
Lakshmi understands, and would never condemn, one’s appetite for a better house or a more high paying job.
Her role isn’t to make us feel guilty about wanting more wealth, it is to remind us that the true point of money is - in the end - to enable us to forget about money.
4. Don’t Turn Against Sex
We have come to expect very little by way of encouragement or sympathy in relation to sex from religions.
At best, a blind eye, at worst, a constant hounding and reminder of the evils of the flesh.
But Hinduism surprises us; it made the remarkable step of placing sexual fulfilment - ‘kama’ - among the four ‘puruārthas’, or aims of human life, alongside ‘dharma’ (morality), ‘artha’ (prosperity) and ‘moksha’ (spiritual liberation).
Hinduism’s respect for sex was rooted in a particular understanding of what lies behind our erotic feelings.
These do not stem - as has so often been alleged - from a base animal impulse; they are a means by which we can sense the unity of the universe (‘brahman’).
Normally, we live beneath a veil of illusion which persuades us of the separateness of all things, bodies included, but our sexual desires push us to break down the barriers between ourselves and others.
We might colloquially say that we are turned on, but through a Hindu lens,
at the core of our excitement is the sense that we are breaking down the illusion of separateness and taking a small but important step towards oneness with what we can, without exaggeration, following the religion, term the universe.