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Parvati is said to be the daughter of the Himalayas and a model for the ideal wife. Sometimes called Devi, she is generally regarded as a benevolent, nurturing and protective figure.
In one variant of the myth, Parvati is the reincarnated Sati (who formerly took her own life). At the request of Vishnu she stops the distraught Siva from undergoing his terrible dance of cosmic destruction.
Some regard her as the exemplary shakti.
Often regarded as the son of Siva and Parvati,¹ Ganesha (or Ganesh) is a widespread Hindu god that’s been worshipped from about 400 CE to the present.
Literally losing his head after a burning glance from Sani, it was replaced with that of an elephant, as it remains today.
The Mahabharata mentions Ganesha as the scribe who wrote down that epic according to Vyasa’s dictation. And he’s said to embody the apparently primal sound of the AUM mantra.
Ganesha is also important to Jains and has a significant role in Asian Buddhism and Indian art in general.
To many monotheists, the idea of worshiping some kind of mix of animal and human god is difficult to understand. Some defenders of the practice, however, note that animals are held to be sacred in many spiritual traditions—for instance, in Shamanism. So the idea is not just particular to Asian religion.
- Brandy Tweets Her New Ganesha Tattoo (bellasugar.com)
- Deva Shree Ganesha – 90 Sec Promo – Agneepath HD 2012 (5abisongs.wordpress.com)
- Ganesh mantra for fulfillment of worldly desires (prophet666.com)
- Encomium: to Ganesha (andrewbwatt.wordpress.com)
- Images of the Beej Mantra of Ganesha (prophet666.com)
- Lord Ganesha’s ‘Investigation’ by Hitler Stirs Protests (ktrmurali.wordpress.com)
- Ganesha, The Mahabharatha and Complexity as a Narrative Device (futurelab.net)
- Eddie Stern performs a Ganesha puja (theconfluencecountdown.com)
- Gauri Pooja and Ganesha Chathurthi (gorirajkumari.wordpress.com)
Also known as metempsychosis and transmigration, reincarnation is a manmade theory based on beliefs found in different philosophical systems and religions, including ancient Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Jain, African and New Age perspectives.
Reincarnation usually involves ideas of karma and grace. It’s believed that after the death of the physical body, the soul (or in some schools, temporary personality attributes) returns for another birth.
In most traditions the self is on an evolutionary path from unconsciousness to consciousness–that is, from lower to higher, or gross to subtle forms of consciousness.
In some branches of contemplative Hinduism, the soul is said to begin in the mineral world and then move upward to the vegetable and animal kingdoms. Eventually it takes birth as a human being. After learning about and practicing good ethics from innumerable human incarnations, the soul may reincarnate in astral and heavenly realms before reaching ultimate liberation, awareness and bliss.
But bad ethical choices send the evolutionary process into reverse. If a human being abuses their freedom, they may reincarnate backwards into the animal kingdom or possibly further down into one of various temporary hells.
According to popular wisdom it’s often said that God provides perfect punishments and rewards for one’s deeds. So generally speaking, if one makes good ethical choices in an embodied life, one gains merit and reincarnates into a more auspicious life the next time around.
However, if one makes bad ethical choices, one returns to a less auspicious life. Again, the alleged purpose of reincarnation is to instruct the soul, preparing it for an ultimately perfect, eternal existence. The exact nature of this perfection is described differently among various schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism.
Once complete liberation is achieved, the soul (or temporary personality attributes) no longer returns to a body, gross or subtle. This idea is expressed in an old Taoist tale, paraphrased as follows:
A man had led a dissolute life and reincarnates as a horse. After a few years the horse grows weary of being whipped by his masters, refuses to eat and dies. He then returns as a dog. Despising this incarnation the dog bites his master’s leg who has him destroyed. He returns as a snake. By now he’s finally learned his lesson. One must play out the hand one is dealt, patiently seeing it through to learn how to be virtuous. As a reformed soul, the snake avoids doing harm to other animals by eating berries and tries to keep itself out of danger. But one day the snake mistakenly dies under the wheel of a cart. Pleading his case before the King of Purgatory, he finds himself reborn a man—a reward for his good intentions (Raymond Van Over, ed. Taoist Tales, New York: Meridian Classic, 1973, pp. 52-53).
According to this view, suicide is like ‘skipping school’ (in the cosmic sense) and causes regression to a less desirable birth.
But not all believers in reincarnation would take this attitude. Some believe that the very same kind of life situation would arise again, as if the suicide is forced to repeat the same cosmic classroom he or she didn’t pass the first time around.
Meanwhile some New Age thinkers say that every life is consciously chosen prior to birth.
In most Asian religions God’s grace can mitigate or even erase the effects of bad karma, a fact often overlooked in specious critiques of reincarnation.
African pre-colonial tribal beliefs about reincarnation differ from Asian variants. African ancestors are believed to reincarnate into one or several descendents to give a particular family more power. Somewhat similar to the Asian idea, however, the African Ibo believe that one chooses between two bundles before birth – one bundle holds auspicious fortune, the other inauspicious. While the spirit tries its best to choose a favorable incarnation, a formerly evil person undergoes a difficult incarnation as a human or animal.
In contrast to the belief in reincarnation, the Old Testament says that evil actions are repaid with evil, but not through reincarnation. Evil begets evil through one’s offspring:
The Lord…a God merciful and gracious…forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 34:7).
For when they were not yet born, nor had done any good or evil…not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said to her: The elder shall serve the younger.
The Christian New Testament view of the body and its relation to the afterlife is expressed in I Corinthians 15; 51-52; 2 Corinthians 5:1; I Thessalonians 4:14; John 3: 4-7.
Some suggest that the Catholic notion of purgatory was created as a Christian counterpart to the temporary process of punishment and purification as found in non-Christian theories of reincarnation.
» Anatman, Anthroposophy, Avatar, Cayce (Edgar), Chinmoy (Sri), Deva, Fenris, Free-John (Da), Gawain (Shakti), Hell, Hermes Trismegistus, Karma, Meno, Origen, Ram Dass, Parvati, Plato, Ramacharaka (Swami), Republic, Roberts (Jane), Samsara, Skandhas, Theosophy, Transmigration, Werewolf, Pythagoras
Siva / Shiva (Skt: kind, friendly)
A major Hindu god who, according to the dominant theory, evolved out of the mythology of the conquering Aryans in the Indian sub-continent.
A bit of a latecomer, Siva nevertheless replaced the earlier Vedic storm god Rudra by becoming part the Hindu Trimurti of Brahma, Visnu and Siva.
In popular folk mythology, Brahma is said to have created the universe, Visnu preserves it and Siva, through his cosmic dance, destroys it.
But this is only a general outline, for Siva first created Brahma and Visnu. And instead of merely destroying, Siva also regulates the universe.
In an incident with the Pine Forest Sages, Siva breaks the sages’ excessive meditation by literally seducing their wives. Otherwise, the tapas (Skt: heat, or spiritual force) generated by the sages’ prolonged and intense concentration would have disrupted the cosmic balance.
While sexually enticing their wives, Siva quite intentionally angers the Sages, disrupts their meditation and diffuses their excessive spiritual power.
Siva is not only a trickster, however.
With his third eye, depicted vertically on his forehead, he emits deathly rays of fire, not unlike the ‘phasers’ of Star Trek. Siva’s death ray incinerates demonic opponents residing in highly volatile spiritual realms.
But Siva’s third eye has a more passive aspect, symbolizing the locus of spiritual ‘seeing’ and peace. Siva’s third eye is sometimes, perhaps inaccurately, equated with Jesus’ teaching, “Let thine eye be single” (Matthew 6:22, Luke 11:34).
Siva is often depicted in temple carvings ityaphallically (i.e. with erect phallus). His linga (Skt: phallus) symbolizes his control over his divine creative power, just as in Hinduism the female yoni (Skt: vagina) represents the cosmic source or life-giving aspects of the divinity.
Siva also rides the sacred bull, Nandi and has a blue throat due to his partial ingestion of a poison which otherwise would have destroyed the universe.
His wife is Parvati and he’s said to reside at Mt. Kailasa in the Himalayas.
In Hindu devotional cults and Western popular spiritualism, Siva is, perhaps uncritically, identified with supposedly ‘active male energy’ that must be united with the Shakti – ‘passive female’ energy – to effect a union of these complementary cosmic energies within an given individual or couple–i.e. balancing the Shiva-Shakti.
» Aliens and Extraterrestrials (ETs), Anima, Animus, AUM, Chakras, Death and Resurrection, Ganesha, Homeopathy, Kali, Karma Transfer, Linga, Nandi, Parvati, Ramanuja, Shakti, Tantra, Tapas, Underworld, Vishnu, Yin-Yang, Yoni
On the Web:
- Other excellent CCL pics of Siva / Shiva (so many we had a hard time choosing for the above!): http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=shiva&l=cc&ss=2&ct=6&mt=all&w=all&adv=1
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This is a Sanskrit term for female power, sometimes called ‘serpent power’ because it’s said to rise upwards like a serpent through the chakras of the meditating yogi or yogini.
Shakti also denotes a general principle of creative, cosmic energy. When personified it takes the form of a goddess, such as Siva‘s consort Parvati, or Krishna‘s playmate, Radha.
In New Age parlance the term arguably signifies the empowered, holistic woman, as we find with figures like Shakti Gawain.
» Kundalini, Tantra, Raja yoga
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Puranas In Hinduism the Puranas are a rich and multivariate body of mythology, detailing topics such as grace, retribution, homeopathy, cosmic cycles of destruction and rebirth, karma and karma transfer. The Puranas originate in the Gupta period (4th century CE); they include the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Bhagavad Gita is part of the Puranic narrative. As such, most scholars believe it’s a later addition to the Mahabharata. » Demons, Parvati, Rakshakas, Sanskrit
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