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Radha – From milkmaid to goddess

Radha Krishna by Balaji Photography via Flickr Radha Krishna by Balaji Photography via Flickr

In Hinduism Radha (Sanskrit = fortunate or successful) is an incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi. She appears on Earth as the female ghopi (cowherdess and milkmaid) who leaves her husband to become the playmate of the Hindu god Krishna.

Her loving and playful relationship with Krishna has become an integral part of the Indian popular imagination, comparable to Romeo and Juliet had Shakespeare not written a tragedy.

Radha is also interpreted on a higher, mystical level, symbolizing the soul‘s loving surrender to God. Contemporary Vaishnava religion in W. Bengal regards Radha as the ultimate female principle, the Goddess or Shakti.

While writing this I couldn’t help but note a loose parallel to Mary, the mother of Jesus. According to the Bible story, Mary was a humble teenager soon to be married to a carpenter (Joseph). Like Radha, she got a divine call. But she didn’t leave her husband nor humanity immediately to dance in the ethereal realms with God. Instead, she stayed on Earth and lived a real, difficult life, to the extent of watching her human/divine son die at the hands of some of the Jews and occupying Romans. Only after that terrible ordeal do both ascend to be with God.

An image like Radha dancing with Krishna in astral realms might be appealing to some wanting to sugarcoat or, perhaps, escape the world as quickly and easily as possible. But for those who believe that salvation comes from going through not only the joys but also the grind of life, the Christian story, as lamentable as it can be, may seem a bit more real.

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Gene Roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry listening to fans after his l...

Gene Roddenberry listening to fans after his lecture at the Student Union of the University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eugene Wesley Roddenberry (1921-91) was an American television and film producer best known for creating Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Apparently Roddenberry’s hands-on involvement with the popular Star Trek: The Next Generation dwindled away after the first few seasons. But TV execs kept his name in the credits, knowing it boosted credibility among fans.

Roddenberry was born into a Baptist family but came to reject religion, calling himself a humanist. This comes through in the Star Trek franchise, where religion is not eschewed but sometimes homogenized, suggesting that all paths are the same. A nice sentiment, this is an aspect of Star Trek that arguably oversimplifies. Otherwise, Star Trek productions tend to be intellectually satisfying.

Roddenberry also had a military background as a pilot. He flew commercially too. These experiences led him to envision a starship as a tight, military style outfit, with a clear line of command. After a commercial crash, he resigned from PanAm in 1945 and took up his career as a TV writer. The rest is history.

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Deity at the Sriranganathar Perumal Temple

Deity at the Sriranganathar Perumal Temple: Dilip Muralidaran

Ramanuja (1017-1137 CE) was an important Hindu sage and philosopher who believed that Vishnu was supreme and challenged the ideas of Sankara and the Saivites (followers of Siva).

Ramanuja developed the system of Visistadvaita or qualified monism.

Specifically, Ramanuja challenged Sankara’s claim that only the Brahman is real and individuality is illusory (maya).

For Ramanuja the Brahman is real and beyond pain and suffering but individual souls (jivas) emerging from and ultimately resting within the Brahman are also real.

While the Brahman is beyond the law of karma, the individual soul (jiva) is not.

As a result, the jiva experiences the pleasure and pain of earthly life.

Liberation from samsara, the round of rebirth due to karma, is gained through individual effort as well as the grace of God (as Vishnu).

As a consequence of his religious and philosophical innovation, Ramanuja was persecuted by a rival Hindu who happened to be a Saivite ruler.

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