Bhakti-yoga is the dharma (sacred duty) of pure devotion and surrender to God as understood in Hinduism. It may involve the use of images depicting a favored deity, believed to be a manifestation of a unified Godhead. Some Hindus say this is the highest path in yoga, while others maintain that jnana-yoga is supreme.
The Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavata Purana and Puranas are important scriptures which expound the philosophy of Bhakti. Hindu movements in which bhakti is the main practice are called bhakti movements—the major schools are Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.
- Bhagavad-Gita (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna: Glossary (adamcmadison.wordpress.com)
- Karma Yogi: Hindu-In-Action (rollingwithvishnu.wordpress.com)
- Various Vaishnava Schools and Srivaishnavism (thtsiteseminars.wordpress.com)
- What is bhakti (thehindu.com)
- Benefits of Yoga for New Moms – Exercising (everydayfamily.com)
- How to Survive the Kali Yuga (rollingwithvishnu.wordpress.com)
- The Right Motivation? ~ Vrindavan Rao (elephantjournal.com)
- King Kulasekhara & The Alwars and Nayanmars (rollingwithvishnu.wordpress.com)
- Everyday Bhagavad-Gita. ~ Vrindavan Rao (elephantjournal.com)
The Bauls are the wandering devotional minstrels of West Bengal, India. They belong to a longstanding bardic tradition that poetically glorifies God while rebuking worldly hypocrisy. Many practice left hand tantra. And living off alms, they are the peace, love and freedom “hippies” of West Bengal.
Today their timeless songs may be heard on trains and at public fairs called melas. The Bauls’ poetry had a tremendous influence on the Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, the outstanding Bengali figure who founded the open air, asram-style Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan.
But perhaps most important about the Bauls, they manage to accept people from both Islam (Sufism) and Hinduism (Vaishnavas) in a country where the tension between these two religious groups is usually so thick you could cut with a knife.
- Review: Two books on Bauls (enfolding.org)
- Tagore-Ocampo memorabilia reveals enigmatic relationship (vancouverdesi.com)
- Where a poet’s vision lives on (ndtv.com)
- Mamata Banerjee paints with artists (vancouverdesi.com)
- Tagore-Ocampo memorabilia reveals enigmatic relationship (indiavision.com)
While many New Age believers cite the belief in chakras as a surefire science of body and spirit, they usually don’t realize that chakra theories vary significantly among different Asian religious traditions.
Texts and teachings present different numbers of chakras. Also different physical structures are considered chakras. David Gordon White thus emphasizes:
The chakras are, in the most general sense, ‘wheels’ or alleged centers of power located along the spine, beginning at the anus/base and ending at the crown of the head.
Spiritual energy is said to travel in a channel (nadi) upward along the spine, homogenizing at each chakra much like floors along an elevator route. Individuals at various stages of spiritual development focus on and identify their consciousness with respectively different chakras (energy centers). The anus/base chakra is said to contain the lowest and crudest of spiritual energies, while the crown/top chakra is associated with ultimate spiritual awareness, beyond the confines of desire, the body, space and time, etc.
In this regard, Hinduism outlines a variety of spiritual tantras (rules, disciplines, theories). Although those outlined in the Kubjikamata Tantra became more or less standardized, with chakras specified at the anus, reproductive organs, navel, heart, throat, between the eyes and the ‘thousand-petalled lotus’ at the crown of the head.
In Hindu mythic belief raw power (Shakti) resides at the anus/base. Once awakened she rises, serpent-like, energizing each chakra as she passes upward, ultimately to unite with Siva at the crown chakra. At this point the aspirant allegedly experiences absolute bliss by virtue of linking personal consciousness with absolute reality or God.
By way of contrast, some Buddhist Tantras mention only four chakras, located at the navel, heart, throat and between the eyes/crown of the head.
Again, some people seem to accept one chakra theory as the gospel truth. In reality, however, there are many competing theories. The tendency for some to hold fast to a single chakra theory might have something to do with the human desire to understand and control. Rather than humbly acknowledging our human limitations concerning ultimate reality, some suppose they’ve got it all figured out with a manmade theory. Ironically, this narrow-minded, closed off attitude may hinder an experience of the mystery and grace of God.
Another sad possibility is that vulnerable people with a bit of money but not much knowledge are hoodwinked by manipulative, sham gurus and cheesy New Age teachers who’ll do anything they can to keep their wealthy clients on the hook.
- My First Set Of Chakra Stones (kristencoffin.wordpress.com)
- Learning About Chakras (thedailysisterhood.wordpress.com)
- Chakra Affirmations (reflectionsonlifethusfar.wordpress.com)
- Guest Post: An Introduction to Energy Healing and the Chakras (brendamarroyauthor.com)
- Chakra Meditation Exercise (greaterlifenow.wordpress.com)
- The Relaxed Soul: The Power of Chi Given Unconditionally (omtimes.com)
- My Second Set Of Chakra Stones (kristencoffin.wordpress.com)
Dharma is the idea of sacred duty in Hinduism. The concept originates from India’s ancient legal texts, so it’s not surprising that “doing the right thing” within this belief system is usually bound up within specific caste and gender biases, which many today would see as hopelessly backward.
As a Hindu ideal, dharma is doing one’s divine duty in an apparently impersonal manner. In essence, the mind is said to be fixed on God while correct action is performed without care for the personal “fruit” of those actions.
The belief that one’s actions may be entirely untainted by personal biases and desires seems questionable. And this is no scholarly quibble. Orthodox Hinduism, for instance, advocates killing as the appropriate dharma for members of the kshatriya caste. And in domestic affairs, the dharma of the wife is often marked by servitude to her husband and family, a position widely held to be sexist.¹
The idea of surrendering to God is nothing new but each religion tends to define the notion of appropriate surrender differently. Despite the obvious problems with the idea of dharma, recent social movements within India are compelling the middle classes, especially, to become increasingly aware of the often conflicting distinction between the idea of universal human rights and this ancient view of religious duty.
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¹ India, where 80.5 % of the population say they’re Hindu, has recently been labelled the worst place to be a woman, with Canada being the best. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/13/us-g20-women-idUSBRE85C00420120613
- Dharma (energymuse.wordpress.com)
- Dharma (supanca08.wordpress.com)
- what is Dharma? (simplemeditation4health.wordpress.com)
- Merit or Duty Part 2: Breaking out of the imaginary caste system at work (balancedaction.wordpress.com)
- Attacks against the Vedic Agama connection – Vijaya Rajiva (bharatabharati.wordpress.com)
- Krishna, Buddha and Christ: The same or different? (Part 2) (epages.wordpress.com)
- The Golden Rule… (thedailysisterhood.wordpress.com)
- A Question of Beliefs (agapestin.wordpress.com)
- It’s Time To Understand HOW THINGS ARE (globalrowingclub.com)
- Why am I a Hindu……!? (badaga.wordpress.com)
Most religious and mythological traditions attest to the reality of demons. For the most part, demons are regarded as dark, evil spiritual beings whose sole purpose is to wreak havoc on individuals and the world.
In Hinduism, demons appear in the Puranas as Rakshakas (evil beings capable of shape-shifting) and tramp souls. Also in Hinduism the, at one time, god-like asuras of the Vedas devolve into demonic spirit beings which, the mystic Sri Aurobindo says, try to place false and harmful ideas into the minds of impressionable, vulnerable human beings.
In Tibetan Buddhism, immediately after a person dies a priest reads the Tibetan Book of the Dead aloud over the dead body, instructing the departed soul how to avoid different spiritual lights and deceptions that demonic beings use to try to trick the deceased into falling into another earthly incarnation. And Mahayana Buddhism portrays many hells, each presided over by horrific entities
In China demons are thought to be able to inhabit dead bodies and haunt various places, both inside and out.
Demons in China… are capable of animating dead bodies, haunting cemeteries, cross roads, and the homes of relatives. Some live in Hades…others inhabit the air. Many are hungry ghosts, the spirits of those who have had no proper burial or who have no decendants to feed them sacrifices.¹
Traditional Roman Catholicism doesn’t envision the demon in terms of a psychoanalytic, physiological id or Jungian shadow archetype, as is fashionable in some circles today. Instead, traditional Catholicism makes no bones about the belief in demons. The Prayer Against Satan and The Rebellious Angels, published in 1961 by order of H. H. Pope Leo XIII refers to various “spirits of wickedness,” “diabolical legions” and “infernal invaders” that are to be driven away with the help of this solemn prayer.
Contemporary Catholicism, however, is incorporating secular and psychiatric perspectives on demons, but arguably in a clunky manner that seems to conform to ancient and medieval styles of analyzing issues. This shouldn’t be surprising as certain aspects of Catholic theological discourse borrow from Aristotelian and Thomist analytical categories and modes of analysis. And as history suggests, deeply entrenched patterns of thought and practice usually take time to be positively redirected.
In secular society alleged demons are often described as nothing more than a product of the imagination, hallucinations, an arrested or disturbed personality, mutated chromosomes, or the much debated idea of chemical imbalances. Along these lines the Catholic Catechism makes a sharp distinction between “the presence of the Evil One,” on the one hand, and current understandings of mental illness on the other:
The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.²
In contrast to the arguably underdeveloped either/or perspective outlined above, a more productive and responsible approach would intelligently consider different perspectives — physiological, psychological, cultural, transpersonal and spiritual — using as many of the analytical tools that are available to us in the 21st century.
Having said that, we should also keep in mind the very real possibility that God could permit a fundamentally good and ‘well adjusted’ person to be afflicted by evil, as we find, for instance, in the Old Testament Book of Job.
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¹ S. G. F. Brandon, A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, 1971, p. 230.
² Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1673.
- Audio of exorcism performed in Germany, 1976 (NoiseMadeMeDoIt.com)
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The relationship between faith and action raises some interesting questions, many of which are largely overlooked in contemporary society.
For starters, most religions advocate the necessity of action to keep faith alive. Action, in fact, is highly regarded in Western culture. But the meaning of the term ‘action’ is often loaded with cultural assumptions and, therefore, misunderstood.
We could say, for instance, that Trappist monks are more inwardly active than externally so. These monks, being one of the more contemplative sort, believe that their internal prayer life has positive effects on other people, just as the great saints believed that they interceded for other souls.
So if his beliefs are true, the Trappist monk is extremely active, but most of us don’t see it that way.
Faith-based action also takes a more worldly form, a form which everyone can easily understand and appreciate. Here I’m talking about charities and goodwill missions that serve the needy.
In most instances, it’s likely that a continuum exists between contemplative and worldly action. And it seems that those disposed to contemplation understand the good works of worldly folk but the converse is rarely true. This, perhaps, explains why in Hinduism the path of knowledge (jnana-yoga) is said to be more difficult than the path of action (karma-yoga). Active people often become hostile towards contemplatives. And sometimes they can even be abusive.
Along these lines, some orthodox and gnostic Christians, alike, interpret these words of Jesus Christ to his disciples as a warning to keep an eye out for vulgar materialists:
Mind you, no discussion of spirituality and abuse would be complete without calling attention to the opposite situation where charismatic gurus with an abundance of numinous powers swamp gullible disciples and, in so doing, are just as abusive toward individuals as vulgar materialists can be to potential saints. The abuse is different. But it’s still abuse.
In less extreme scenarios it seems reasonable to suggest that contemplatives and active individuals can keep each other in check, providing, or course, the rules of fair play are observed. By this I mean that some contemplatives can get smug, lazy, and authoritarian. And a good kick in the pants from an active person might, in some instances, actually help to realign them to their saintly calling (if not perhaps in the way that the active person envisioned it).
By the same token, the active person at times needs to be ‘toned down’ by the wisdom of the contemplative. For if a contemplative is truly focusing on God (and not some strange power), over time they should begin to accrue at least some wisdom that others could benefit from.
- Courageous faith in action through volunteering (northamptonjesuscentre.wordpress.com)
- Kentucky’s Trappist monks get shout-out in Food Network magazine (ashleeeats.com)
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In the Samkhya philosophy of Hinduism there are three main gunas (Skt. string or tendency) of rajas, sattva and tamas. These gunas refer to the qualities that apparently constitute material nature (prakṛti) and a corresponding consciousness within living beings.
Sattva is the highest of the three gunas, and refers to calm, light and peaceful attributes of the personality.
Rajas relates to “excitement, action, passion or force,” and also refers to a mysterious force said to be contained in vaginal fluid, which some yogis allegedly took inward through the urethra to facilitate mystical union.
Tamas refers to the personality attributes of darkness, slothfulness, grief, fear and laziness.
Also, the three gunas are respectively associated with creation (rajas), preservation (sattva) and destruction (tamas), signifying the key elements that go into the essentially cyclic Hindu cosmology.
- Yoga Sutra 2.21 (yoginisadhaka.wordpress.com)
- The gene and sattva,raja,tama(three gunas or qualities) (gadadhar.wordpress.com)
- Yoga Sutra 2.10 (yoginisadhaka.wordpress.com)
- Working with our Gunas and finding balance (blissfularewe.com)
- I fell in to a burning ring of Rajas… (tamalamarama.wordpress.com)
- The 3 Qualities of the Mind (library2humanities.wordpress.com)
- abhyAsa : karmabandhana : the bonds of karma – applying Gita Slokas to my context. (ancientindians.wordpress.com)
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)
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Garhashtya is the second Hindu asrama¹ (Vedic stage of life) in which the male generally enters into the marriage bond as a sacred duty and exercise in sexual self-control.
In this stage the man becomes a householder, replete with children and fulfils his dharma by taking a job according to his caste position.
¹ In Hinduism this is the traditional belief, stemming from the Veda, that spiritual aspirants belonging to the “twice born” castes should proceed through four asrama, or stages of life. These stages are: brahmacharya, garhashtya, vanaprashta and sannyasa.
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(a) In natural medicine homeopathy is a so-called “alternative” approach to healing based on the belief that illness arises from an imbalance of internal and external elements. The basic premise is that the basic life force, a sort of vital energy, needs to be rebalanced or realigned to restore health.
This is normally achieved by the practitioner assessing the whole patient, and not just the area of illness. From this assessment, what is believed to be the appropriate substance is administered, usually in a highly diluted mixture.
Critics say that the mixture is so highly diluted that whatever original substance was supposed to be administered is not present in the final solution.
Critics also say that, although the odd individual may show signs of improvement, homeopathic medicine does not stand up to scientific scrutiny. Unlike allopathic (i.e. conventional) medicine, there is absolutely no statistical evidence that it works.
As as structuralist thinker, O’Flaherty tends to see the vast and baffling repertoire of Hindu myth in terms of binary opposites.
Siva, for instance, regulates the balance of the universe though (seemingly) ungodly activities, such as tempting the Pine Forest Sage’s wives. Siva’s attempt to seduce the sages’ wives breaks the sages’ meditation, the power of which threatens the balance of the cosmos.¹
While they may appear to be quite different, both the alternative medicine and mythological studies definitions of homeopathy point to the notion that problems may be corrected by restoring balance.
¹ See Wendy Doniger, Siva: The Erotic Ascetic p. 173.
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