India Glossary
Rita

India Glossary
Brahman
   In ancient Hinduism, sacrifices performed for the gods (devas ) were vital in obtaining the material benefits given to humans by the gods. The efficacy or power (brahman ) of these sacrifices was determined by their being performed in exactly the manner and order prescribed. The proper order of a sacrifice was called Rita. Eventually, this concept of Rita would become in Hinduism one of the key concepts of the Indian world view, meaning first something like "moral order" and later "cosmic order" or "cosmic law."


China Glossary
Tao

Egypt Glossary
Ma'at

   In the Rig Veda, Rita controls all the changes and operations of the universe including the actions and thoughts of the gods (how does this compare with the Egyptian idea of Ma'at or the Chinese Tao?). The early Hindus seem have had a dualistic picture of the universe which was composed of two distinct areas in much the same way as the Persians imagined the cosmos (who divided the universe into Truth and Lie); one area was the realm of Being (Sat), and the other was the realm of Non-Being (Asat). The former realm was governed by Rita whereas the latter was characterized by chaos or Lie (Anrita ). The gods as well as humans were all subordinate to Rita , so that Rita could itself be imagined as an abstract, unitary force or divinity by itself.


India Glossary
Caturvarnas

Karma

Samsara
   In the Upanishads, Rita works itself out in the ethical realm of human society through karma, or action. This idea first appears in the Brahmanas, in which it is stated that every human being comes into the world pre-fashioned by themselves. What does this mean? Whatever you do determines what you become in this life and, by means of samsara, in the next life. In relation to Rita , then, karma means something like "the law of the deed": every act, moral and otherwise, is the result of some previous act which caused it. Everything you do is caused by what you have done in the past and in turn will cause your future actions. (How does this differ from ideas of "destiny" or "fate" you've encountered in other cultures?) In particular, karma determines which of the caturvarnas, or "four colors (castes)" one will be reborn into. Therefore, since all of society is organized according to these castes, the very structure and stratification of society reflected Rita in the here and now.

Richard Hooker



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1994, Richard HookerRichard Hooker
Updated 10-02-97