Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hindu Gods - Hanuman Bajrang Bali interpretation and lessons

Hanuman Bajrang Bali Hindu GodLord Hanuman is one of the most revered god in hindu mythology! Lord Hanuman is not only the most powerful but also the most humble gods in the hindu pantheon. As you'd readily notice, it is extremely difficult to be "most powerful" and "most humble" because a powerful individual (taking humans for example) develops vain pride (arrogance) and is no longer humble. On the other hand, humility is seen as a sign of weakness. One has to develop a significantly superior spiritual outlook to be both powerful and humble! Further, truly understanding Lord Hanuman is also truly understanding Human Psyche and how to be successful at everything you do!

Lord Hanuman as a kid - Hanuman was not your normal godly gods as a child. Instead Hanuman is notHanuman Bajrang Bali Hindu Goded to be remarkably naughty as a child! It might come as a surprise but pulling saints/sages beards, dousing sacred fires, drinking offered water and in general pestering peaceful saints in very "ungodly" ways were just some of the things Hanuman used to do a kid!! As you can see, Hanuman was very different and unpredictable when compared to others. To add to it, he had superior powers to even begin with so that they just couldn't shut him in some room to keep him away! This is also related to the fact that Lord Hanuman is Rudravtar! Rudra-avatar means an incarnation of Lord Shiva's rudra aspect (rudra means angry). Now you see one of source of kid Lord Hanuman's personality.

So how Hanuman is the most poweful god of all the Hindu pantheon - It's a long story but to summarize - Hanuman as naughty as he was a child, thought that the rising Sun was some kind of fruit and flew away to grab it! Since no one could stop him, the king of gods, Indra had to hit Hanuman with Vajra to stop him. Remember that Vajra is Indra's most powerful weapon and Hauman, as strong as he was to begin Hanuman Bajrang Bali Hindu Godwith, became unconscious. Soon, all the gods were reprimanded for this and all gods gave part of their powers to Hanuman back! This is what made Hanuman the strongest being in the universe and also made Hanuman one of the eleven Chiranjivis (Immortals)!

But why Hanuman is unable to use his powers - Following, the aforementioned events, gods realized that now Hanuman is stronger than even all the gods put together and if he stays on his old ways then no one knew what might happen!! Yeah, we are talking about a kid more powerful than anyone in the universe loose! So, a sage decided to "curse" Hanuman to the effect that Hanuman was forbidden the use of his own powers until someone reminds him to use them! In other words, Hanuman was cursed so as He no longer could remember his powers that he had residing inside him, and Hanuman's extremely powerful abilities effectively became dormant!

Jamawant reminded Hanuman of His powers in Ramayana - So Hanuman's powers stayed dormant for a big part of His life till they were needed by Lord Rama. Yes, you can see that everything has a reason in Hindu mythology; even giving a naughty disastrous child the powers of universe had a reason! In this case, the main reason to give Lord Hanuman those powers was to help Lord Rama! Ravana demon defeated by HanumanSo, Jamawant reminded Hanuman of His powers and whooooaaaa.....Lord Hanuman became bigger than biggest mountains, flew over oceans, slew millions of demons, leveled cities with his mighty tail, uprooted and carried whole mountains on his back and what not! Lord Hanuman once deafeated even the demon Ravana who had subdued Death herself!!

But Human stayed humble - Yes, this is a really important part of the mythology here! Lord Hanuman served Lord Rama as a humble servant even after all of his powers were revealed. In the terms of powers, Lord Hanuman is not too different from Lord Rama but the core differHanuman Bajrang Bali Hindu Godence is that Lord Hanuman acts as a humble servant and Lord Rama acts as a master but in the essence they are both one and the same! This is in accordance with Lord Krishna's message in Geeta that after a point both devoted and devotee become one and the same. This is what is called Nirvana.

So what can we learn from Lord Hanuman in real life - If we remove all the mythical powers and curses business, we see that Hanuman gained confidence and was able to realize his powers when someone told him that he could. But this applies to everyone! Even regular mortals like us!! We all have "powers" to do what is necessary and good for us and those around us but those "powers" that we always have remain dormant until someone tells us that we can! This gives us confidence! This is different from the motivation that says "we must". This is the motivation that says that "we can" and not "we must"! The "we can" thing helps us become at ease and gain the necessary confidence to do what we "must".

Now thinking of this such deep and important meaning of the simple tale of Lord Hanuman, I'm just wondering if this simple mythical tale of Hanuman is just a fanciful fable or is it also trying to convey the fundamental laws of human psyche and the theory of motivation? Is it trying to convey things much more meaningful than a "monkey god and his fancy powers"!!

To learn more about Shiva and duality, click - Shiva Shankar Nataraj and Duality

To find how Shiva consumed eternal poison and how christianity originated from Hinduism, click - Did Christianity originate from the story of Shiva and Halahal?

To learn about the meaning of Hindu Trinity, click - The Real meaning of Hindu Trinity (Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What does Swastik (Swastika) symbol mean

Hinduism Symbols Swastik Swastika Meaning Philosophy
Swastik (or Swastika) means different things in different cultures and religions and because it's so incredibly popular and spreads across cultural boundaries it can be a symbol of both good and bad depending on the context. In Hinduism though, Swastik is a symbol of good though and stands out because of the incredibly insightful philosophical depth involved in the idea behind it!

Yes, Swastik (or Swastika) is an extremely special symbol in Hinduism and I'll be elaborating on it in more details in the rest of the article but before that let me provide some background information first -

Archaeological origin and history of Swastika (Swastik) - Hinduism Symbols Swastik Swastika Meaning PhilosophyBefore delving into the religious perspective, I'd like to explain how Swastik (Swastika) could've originated. Indus Valley (Harappa) is one of the earliest places where Swastik (Swastika) is found and these civilizations were mainly basket weaving ones and if you notice, the symbol of Swastik (Swastika) resembles the basket weave design (basket weave pattern picture on the left). So, that gives us some indication as to how Swastik (Swastika) might have originated in history. I should also note that Swastia (unlike many other ancient symbols) has its origins at reasonably advanced stages of the ancient societies. Also, we may observe that Swastik (Swastika) is a symbol of good rather then bad from a strictly archaeological point of view.

Now, I'd like to explain Swastik (Swastika) from a religious point of view -

Swastik (Swastika) in Hinduism and India - Swastik (Swastika) has been a symbol of good luck from time immemorial in Indian (Hindu) homes. Swastik (Swastika) can be seen drawn at doors, walls and many auspicious places in Hindu homes to signify good luck and well being. Swastik (Swastika) is also found even more prominently around many festivals and coming from a hindu family. As a kid, I've drawn Swastik (Swastika) myself on the walls in my home around Diwali for a long time.

Meaning of Swastik (Swastika) in Hinduism religion - Swastik, even if overall a symbol of good luck and well being, might mean different things in different sects/region/aspects of Hindu religion. I'll go over all of the below -

1) Swastik (Swastika) is associated with the symbolism of Lord Vishnu - 108 diffrent symbols are associated with Lord Vishnu and Swastik is one of them. Swastik (Swastika) can be seen drawn on the right palm of Lord Vishnu or sometimes held in hand or held or drawn in Hinduism Symbols Swastik Swastika Meaning Philosophysome other form around Lord Vishnu.

2) Swastik (Swastika) as a symbol of Brahma (one of the Trinity in Hinduism) - One interesting thing about Swastika is that if it's viewed from above then it looks as if its pointing in all directions simultaneously! This coincides with the four "all seeing" faces of Brahma and therefore at times Swastik might be associated with the symbolism for Brahma.

3) Swastik (Swastika) as a symbol for Surya (Sun god) - This sort of follows from the previous points in many ways. Sun is sometimes associated with various symbolisms used for Lord Vishnu and Swastik can be sometimes used as a symbolism for Surya (sun god) too! Also, since the top-down Swastik (Swastika) has this peculiar multi-directional (or direction-less depending on how you look at it) characteristic, it's again associated with the mid-day Sun's rays falling in all directions simultaneously. So, as you may observe, this association is pretty strong from both religious and nature worship point of view and even more so in the ancient times when nature worship was indeed at it's pinnacle.

4) Swastik (Swastika) as a symbol of life and preservation - This sort of follows from Hinduism Symbols Swastik Swastika Meaning Philosophythe above points. Swastika is one of the symbols of Lord Vishnu and Lord Vishnu in turn is associated with the preservation of life (as in one of the Trinity in Hinduism) so Swastika is seen as a symbol of life and preservation. Further, Sun's rays are directly associated with good crops and more enough food for the winter season so the overall association of Swastik (Swastika) with life, preservation and well being, as a symbol of the Lord Vishnu (preserver of life), Surya god and Sun's rays (good crops, food production) is reinforced. So we observe that even from a strictly pagan religion and basic sustainability point of view Swastika (Swastik) becomes a very important symbol of good luck and well being.

5) Swastik (Swastika) as a symbol of stability - This is kinda part of the whole overall well being thing but there is one more thing I should note about the structural aspect of Swastika. Swastika, as (might be) originated from the Basket weave design, also signifies stability because this basic structural component, of the big structure (let's say a basket), ensures that the big structure (based on Swastik design) will hold. This basic idea adds to the well being aspect as can be noticed and makes Swastik (Swastika) even more important.

6) Swastik (Swastika) as part of Ashtamangala - Ashtamangala (or Ashta-Mangala) is part of a tradition in Hinduism (and Hinduism's offshoots) that refers to eight sacred symbols as an offering to God (gods) on various auspicious occasions. These symbols might differ from region to region and sects to sects but Swastika has been seen to occur quite prominently in various combinations along with other symbols like Conch/Shell, Sinh (Lion), Bull, Lotus, Wheel, Mirror, Matsya / Meen (fish), Elephant, Dhwaja (Flag/Banner), Kalasha (vase) etc. It's even more prominent in Ashtamangalas in Shwetamber Jainism but in other Ashtamangalas sometimes Swastik is replaced by related symbols like Endless Knot and such.

7) Swastik (Swastika) as a symbol of Ying-Yang (wàn 萬) in China and Manji/Omote (萬) in Japan - Hinduism Symbols Swastik Swastika Meaning PhilosophyThis is not really related to hinduism but historically we know that far eastern (chinese and japanese etc) religions (buddhism basically) are really offshoots of Hinduism. More specifically, Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism and the Hindu symbols have been carried over to China and Japan still retaining more or less the same basic philosophies. So we see that in China it is found to be again associated with well being and luck directly and Ying-Yang indirectly. In Japan it changes slightly to mean Ying-Yang but the fundamental symbolism stays the same. If you look closely, the symbol Ying-Yang itself resembles Swastik, Ying-Yang is sort of a more round version of Swastik.I mentioned the meaning of Swastik in these far eastern cultures because it's primarily carried over from Hinduism and Buddhism is for the most part modified Hinduism.

The deeper philosophical insights into the real meaning of Swatik (Swastika) in Hinduism - Above points that I made do the job of explaining the contextual meaning and significance of Swastika in Hinduism and related religions. The most important and often overlooked or misunderstood aspect of Swastik (Swastika) is the one related to the Chinese Ying-Yang symbolism. Before I go about explaining this aspect of philosophy behind Swastika, let me explain why I chose the Chinese Ying-Yang symbol here. The Chinese Ying-Yang symbol is closely related to a major Hindu philosophy called Nivritti and Pravritti! Ying-Yang is basically about the duality of the universe and in some context it can refer to the the Evolution and Involution of nature the same was Pravritti and Nivritti do. I understand that the very topic of Nivritti and Pravritti deserve it's own article (if not a few books) so I won't be able to do justice to the topic of significance of Nivritti and Pravritti in Hinduism in the current post but I promise to write another fuller article dedicated to Nivritti and Pravitti and how they relate to Hinduism; suffice to say here that Nivritti is involution and Pravitti is evolution of nature and how human life unfolds.

In other words, Pravitti is about a human's actions Hinduism Symbols Swastik Swastika Meaning Philosophyacting as both source and end of the causality loop; and Nivritti is the opposite process of trying to break free from this infernal causality loop by understanding the true nature of universe. Please remember that both Pravitti and Nivritti are absolutely required for the universe to work, it's just that Pravitti is about choices that we semi-consciously make (through causality) while Nivritti is about the choices that we consciously make. It gets a bit deeper though with many tangents but they are unrelated to the current Swastik (Swastika) topic and I'll be writing more about them in the Pravitti vs Nivritti article. But the takeaway part of it is that Swastik (Swastika) has a strong association with deeper concept of Pravitti and Nivritti. How though? Basically, Swastik (Swastika) can also be viewed as pointing in two opposite directions at the same time (let's say left and right or up and down). You might argue that it's pointing towards more than two directions but the key point here is that Swastik (Swastika) is pointing towards *opposing* directions *simultaneously* (keywords being "opposing directions" and "simultaneously"). As you can readily observe, it directly related to the simultaneous coexistence of opposites aspect of Ying-Yang and Pravitti-Nivritti. This is a very fundamental concept in almost all eastern philosophies and even western philosophies (Abrahamic religions) have some vestiges of this in things like coexistence of God and Satan and Good and Evil etc. And Swastika signifies this Ying-Yang, Coexistence of opposites and Pravitti-Nivritti philosophy beautifully by it's peculiar geometry!

So this was about the meaning of Swastik (Swastika) in Hinduism with some light thrown on the origin of the symbol and how it applies to some core philosophies around the world. If you'd like to write a comment or ask a question, please feel free to use the comment box below. I'll appreciate any comments and corrections from the knowledgeable readers and will be happy to elaborate more on my understanding of Hinduism and it's core philosophies.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Meaning of Hindu Symbols and Symbolism in Hinduism

There are many different types of Hindu symbols or symbolism in Hinduism (if I may). I'll interpret some of the religious symbols (Hinduism only) below -

1) Aum in Hinduism (or What does Aum mean in Hinduism) - Aum (also spelled Om) is one of the main symbols used all over in Hindu religion. The reason that Aum is considered so important and sacred is that, in Hinduism, it basically signifies Moksha or Nirvana or Salvation. It is considered the essence of all and everything. Aum can also refer to Brahman, that is the all pervading, more than the sum of Universe, consciousness and both the beginning and the end of everything. No doubt Aum is the most important sacred and mystical symbol in Hinduism and I've a big article dedicated to it, please read here - What does Aum really mean? (link is coming soon)

2) Swastik in Hinduism - Swastik in Hinduism also carries very deep philosophical significance. Fundamentally Swastik signifies well being, stability and in a way references Brahma (of the Trinity). It's used in almost all Indian (Hindu) homes as a symbol for luck and well being. It's also a common practice to wear it in necklaces and other jewellary. It's mostly drawn in red or yellow but depending on the part of India and occassion various other colors can also be used. To find out the deep philosophical significance attached to the Swastik, please read here - What does Swastik (Swastika) really mean?

3) ShivLing in Hinduism - Shivling (or Lingam) in hinduism is one of the most controversial symbol and you can always find people from different religions picking on Hinduism using Shiv Ling as an (unfair) example. Let me come with it outright - yeah Shivling can very well be a symbol of fertility and as is seen in almost all religious symbols, it's quite common for some symbolisms to have reference to male fertility and the like. But the story doesn't really end there as that is just one severely limited way of understanding the symbolism. In Hinduism, Shivling (Lingam) is seen in various aspects and the aspects (or attributes) mean different things. Please read in more details - What does Shivling (Lingam) really mean? (link is coming soon)

4) Trident in Hinduism - Trident is one of the more complicated symbol in Hinduism because it signifies both good and bad. On one hand Trident one of the weapons held by Lord Shiva and on the other, it has a very deep philosophical significance linking to Trinity in Hinduism (other religions too perhaps). As you can readily see, it's a symbol of war (being a weapon) while also explaining the hindu concept of "oneness in many". I already wrote a lot about this concept in my earlier article about Trinity - Trinity in Hinduism - so I won't repeat it here. But another thing that I'd like to quickly mention is that, in very general terms I also like to interpret Trident as symbolifying a double edged sword! How so? This is kinda very obvious if you are familiar with various hindu mythological stories - Lord Shiva is known to have two completely different personalities, please read more here - Lord Shiva (link coming soon).

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism Comparison - How God is viewed

Hinduism Islam Christianity Buddhism religions coexist
In this post I will begin with briefly explaining the very concept of God as explained in different religions followed by comparison of how God is viewed in different religions with how God is viewed in Hinduism.

I'll be including the major religions of the world - Islam, Christianity and Buddhism for this comparison. I was wondering if I should add Jewism as well but seems like there is not some fundamentally radical differences between Christianity and Jewism as the root or the source remains the same. (Same applies to Islam as well but I added it because it is a bit more radical than Christianity and Jewism). So the final comparison will be among Hinduism, Islam, Christianity & Buddhism. I can add Jewism and more if requested by the reader. Also, please remember that this comparison is just about how God is perceived among different religions so there is a lot more that is left out.

Islam :

Hinduism Islam Symbol Allah"Say: He is Allah, The One and Only."
"Allah, the Eternal, Absolute."
"He begets not, nor is He begotten.And there is none like unto Him."

So, basically God is some unique omnipotent type of entity. Some kind of being external to the universe that just persists, has consciousness and can do stuff. It seems to be siting up there somewhere and watching us all, maintaining records of our daily lives. Allah in no situation will do evil/wrong stuff, create demons and things and will always side with Humanity.
Also, he's bestowed humans with a book about how to live the right way. Thinking of god in some physical form is blasphemy and such a thing can't be God. Moreover, seems that converting others will add to your points gained for heavens.

Christianity :Hinduism Christianity Symbol
Almost the same as the Allah in Islam. Check out the link - http://www.submission.org/god-bible.html

Christianity also seems to have the concept of Satan which is some sort of Dark or Evil God. As powerful as the "good" God and causes evil in the world and all demons creatures are created by him as God always do good stuff.
God favors Humans and has created rest of the world for us and just us. Only humans are entitled with souls, all other lifeforms are soul less. Again it has "the" book.

Buddhism :
Hinduism Buddhism SymbolIt basically says that there is some higher power beyond doubt but its difficult for us mortals to understand it and believing or not believing in it won't change anything; what really matters to us is living our life in the right way (right way means the way in which all are happy).
It originated from Hinduism and can be thought of as the basic philosophy of all religions minus impractical idiologies.

Hinduism :
Hinduism Religion Symbol AumConception of God started in Vedic Hinduism as nature gods, like Sun God, Moon God, Wind God and so on. That was just the start of hinduism and later by the time of upanishads, philosophers removed the "nature-gods" establishing him/her/it as an all pervasive entity.

This philosophy says that God is not some entity external to the world watching us all, its basically everything and more. A possible analogy would be energy that can manifest itself in countless ways.We are free to think of it the way we want to. It can be static/unconscious and/or dynamic/conscious (jad/chetan) and it can be with or without attributes(color/shape etc saguna/nirguna) and it can be conscious or unconscious.

God is what we think He is and basically Hinduism says that God or rather this whole universe is nothing more then our perception of it (Maya). So, some invisible being sitting somewhere at the edge of universe maintaining your life history is as much God as your dog or the snow falling before me. In Hinduism, you can even start worshiping your chair! So statues are fine too if they help in any way to conceptualize God.

Infact, the Hindu Gods like Shiva, Vishnu, Hanuman etc are not considered the supreme, one and only entities as Allah or the Christian version of It......rather, they represent some very specific aspect of the supreme all pervasive being. So, everyone is free to choose gods to worship (or should I say a philosophy of life) based on his her values and interest.

Concept of Satan or Anti-God is non-existent in Hinduism and demons etc (if any) are also created and taken care of by God and the evilness of demons is also just our perceptions (for eg we can be demons for the animals/plants we eat). So, all living beings are entitled to have souls (if there are souls).

Also, lesser gods are possible and they are different from regular humans and oak trees in that they might be of different shapes/sizes/powers etc. You are free to believe what you want and even if you become atheist, still it will be all the same (no wrath of god for the blasphemy as in Islam and possibly christianity).

Since God is everything, incarnating is no big deal. There seem to be some standard incarnations, depicting various philosophies or ways to live our lives.

For eg, Rama's way - stick with your values and right and wrongs, create examples for others, this is what will create a still better society; and Krishna's way of life - what matters is your and your social circle's happiness and satisfaction, "right" is what keeps u and your loved ones alive and healthy, create your own rules, what matters is you, but do keep tab on what you do or don't do as what goes around, comes around and don't run away from what you must do (Law of karma in nutshell)......But these holy books, ideas etc are not created by God, these are all written by human beings, so you don't have to follow anything....its all upto you..... So, your being atheist or theist doesn't matter an iota to your salvation or life or anything else....its just your perception of what IS.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hindu Gods - Shiva Halahal origin of Jesus in Christianity

Shiva Shiv Mahesh HalahalIn Hindu mythology, Shiva is also said to have consumed Halahal, the eternal poison, to help protect the world from its evil effects. Apparently, in ancient times gods and demons tried to churn the deep seas to extract the hidden treasures in there and aside from the treasures, Halahal also came out of the churning!

This Halahal was the worst forms of poisons and threatened to destroy all that there was and gods (under Indra) approached Lord Shiva for help. Lord Shiva, being the caring deity He is traditionally viewed as, saved the universe by consuming the poisonous Halahal himself.

Lord Shiva didn't drink Halahal all the way down though; instead Lord Shiva stopped it and in a way stored Halahal in His throat. This is the reason that you might notice Lord Shiva's throat colored as dark blue in most of the Lord Shiva's pictures or statues that you see.

This little bit of mythology has many different meanings relating to Lord Shiva, Halahal poison, lowly gods and demons, the churning of the ocean and so on. The most prominent and relatively easier to understand though is the progression -

1) Beings (humans, lower gods, demons etc etc) do something.
2) The activity results in bad consequences
3) Lord Shiva saves them

Now, doesn't it kinda look like the whole christian mythology? Jesus died for human's sins and gave them another chance. In the same way, Lord Shiva took the eternal Halahal poison upon Himself to save the universe and to give the universe another chance. This parallel is uncanny and it kinda makes sense that the idea of Jesus dying for human's sins has somehow originated from the hindu mythical story of Lord Shiva drinking Halahal poison to save the world!

To learn more about Shiva and duality, click - Shiva Shankar Nataraj and Duality

To learn about Shiva's Rudravtar Hanuman, click - Hanuman Bajrang Bali Rudravtar

To learn about the meaning of Hindu Trinity, click - The Real meaning of Hindu Trinity (Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh)

To learn more about the birth of Christianity from Hinduism, click - Is Jesus Christ derived from Lord Krishna?

Hindu Gods - Shiva Shankar Mahesh Nataraj

Shiva Shankar Mahesh Nataraj Hindu GodsShiva is arguably of the most important deity in Hinduism. He is part of the hindu trinity and also called Shiva, Shankar, Mahesh, Shiv, natraj, natarajan and by many other names.

Shiva represents a true duality in many forms - Shiva is both a benefector (as bholenath) and destroyer (as Rudra), Shiva is ascetic but He also gives importance to Grahastha-ashram, Shiva as Nataraj relates to both death and life - so the duality hidden in various aspects of Shiva again shows the basic idea of duality in various Hindu philosophies.

Shiva is many times associated with the "destruction" aspect of nature but I must clarify that "destruction" is not a synonym for "death" in this case. Instead, destruction is more of a symbol of beginning of new things (end of things is implicitly beginning of something new and remember that every beginning also has an end and an end is not necessarily an evil thing). In symbolic terms, Shiva's Tandav form of dance is a synonym of doomsday and it is said that whenever Shiva assumes his Nataraj (or Natraj or Natarajan) form of being, it results in doomsday.

Shiva Shankar Mahesh Nataraj Hindu GodsShiva as the most powerful God in Hinduism - Shiva is perhaps the most powerful and most feared Gods in Hinduism. Again I should mention that it doesn't mean that if all Gods fight with each other then Shiva would come out as first; that is not the correct way of understanding it. Instead, Shiva represents that "aspect" of the all pervading Braham and Shiva can be seen as the sum total of all the nature's raw power in the universe.

Shiva as the ultimate Yogi - Yes, Shiva is also the most revered Yogi who controls all aspects of Yoga. I should clarify that this Yoga is not the stretching exercises that have become popular in last few decades, rather Yoga goes far beyond. Stretching exercises are a start but the goal of a real Yogi is to gain true control of all aspects of reality (body, mind, souShiva Shankar Mahesh Nataraj Hindu Godsl and beyond). Shiva masters all aspects of Yoga and thereby He masters the reality itself.
Shiva as bholenath - Another interesting aspect of Shiva is his role of Bholenath! Bholenath literally means a god who is simple minded. This is exactly opposite of Shiva as the most powerful deity to be feared. But inspite of all the power and rage, all Shiva "asks for" is true devotion and if the devotee has a pure heart then even the most insignificant offerings will please Shiva. At the same time, Shiva is very easy to displease as well (as I mention in the next section) and both gods and demons alike have suffered through his anger at one point in the mythology or other! The most notable instance being when the demon Ravana, blinded by his powers, angered Shiva and Shiva but after realizing that he is in no way comparable to Shiva (remember that Ravana had conquered death herself), Ravana came up with Shiva Tandav Strota (Strotam) that is still an unmatched masterpiece in Sanskrit literature.

Shiva as Rudra (and Rudravtars) - Rudra means "angry" and as Shiva is Bholenath, Shiva also represents the primodeal rage. So, the Rudra aspect of Shiva can be seen as the exact opposite of Bholenath aspect of Shiva. Rudra can be seen as the pure fierceness, rage and destrutive nature of the universe and probably that's what makes Shiva so fearsome too. Apart from doomsday and Tandav ntratya though, some aspects of the Rudra have incarnated periodically. There have been ten rudra avatars but the most notable Rudra avatar is Hanuman. It can be observed as Shiva's Rudra incarnation and Vishnu's incarnations represent the same duality as observed in other Hindu philosophies.

Shiva as Nataraj (Lasya and Tandav) - Nataraj, as I mentioned earlier, is another dual aspect of Shiva. Nataraj literally means the God who dances but Nataraj means much more than that! Basically the type of Shiva's "dances" can be divided into two forms - Lasya and Tandav. Lasya is related to the beginning of the universe while Tandav relates to the end of the universe. Most people know of only Tandav but Lasya is just as important in understanding the true nature of Nataraj. Again, I should note that Shiva represents the duality of nature in various ways and the Nataraj aspect of Shiva is one way of understanding this Hindu philosophy.

To learn about the philosophy behind Hindu Trinity, click -
Real meaning of Hindu Trinity

To read about the Rudra Avatar Hanuman, click -
Hanuman the Rudravtar and Bajrang Bali

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hindu Gods - Indra and the pantheon (rest of it)

Following trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh) covered in last post we have rest of the pantheon or lower gods (so to say). The pantheon consists of Indra (god of rain and lightening) as its king/chief and other major gods serving under him would be Agni (god of fire), Varun (god of water), Vayu (god of wind), Surya (sun god), Chandra (moon god), Kaama or Kama (god of sensuality and desire) and more. These gods live in Swarga. Swarga being the heaven in Hinduism.

These "hindu gods" are not really "gods" per say though and here lies one sometimes confusing aspect of Hinduism. These "gods" are numbered in hundreds (if not hundreds of thousands) and they totally give the appearance of so many "Gods" in Hinduism. So what is the truth? Why are these "Hindu gods" not really "gods" even when they are divine and all?

Before answering these questions, give me a moment to explain the basic structure of the universe in some sects in Hinduism. According to Hinduism, humans are not the only intelligent life forms in the universe. Yeah it sounds a bit cliche' so to say but yeah thats how it is! Besides humans there are devas (gods), asuras (demons), nagas (underworld beings comparable to snakes/reptiles), pishach (not so benignant ghosts) etc etc and they are somewhere in the hierarchy being the trinity at the top , demons at the bottom and humans in the middle. They are basically just different life forms that a soul might or might not end up at depending on its Karma. A post on Karma later but Karma basically means deeds, so a soul with good deeds will end up higher in the hierarchy, somewhere being in hierarchy of life forms representing some result of the deeds it performed as a human.

Now with that background, we understand that these so called "hindu gods" are also just lifeforms. They are just a higher level of lifeforms close to divinity and since they live in swarga / heavens / paradise, they have access to all the good stuff in life including but not limited to rivers full of milk & honey, chocolates of their choice hanging on the trees and all the beautiful women they can handle! Ok, not the chocolates and probably not the beautiful women part but you get the idea!

Everyone living in heavens is also technically a divine being and can be thought of as a god or a lower god. Since even swarga / heaven has some little hierarchy of its own and the top guy there gets to be called Indra and be lord / king of all other guys take the jobs of Indra, Agni, Vayu, Surya, Chandra, Kama and so on. They also have some limited divine powers and frequently wage wars with demons and all. So this is where the idea of "hindu gods" comes in and as you see its more of a sort of an extradimensional model of the universe.

As you must've understood so far, these "gods" are just divine beings doing their time in heavens. Once they have used up their good Karma, they go back to being humans or some other life forms as per their balance of karma / deeds. Now one huge point to consider here is that human beings are not expected to worship these gods as they are more like just some high tech aliens like beings and nothing more. In fact, these gods are supposed to worship the one true God who is the creator of it all. The fact that humans shouldn't worship these gods is demonstrated in one of the key stories in Hindu mythology where Lord Krishna picks up a mountain on his index fingers to prove a point - defiance against Indra who is trying to psyche some villagers into submission. Lord Krishna basically tells the villagers to stop worrying about and fearing Indra because He is their true savior and Indra can't do anything as long as villagers understand the difference between a lower god and the one true God. This story comes from Mahabharata and is a key incident in hindu mythology signifying the end of all the little polytheism that had still remained.

Anyhow, there is still a lot more to say about it all and I've barely skimmed through hindu gods, the overall pantheon and how it relates to humans.

To learn more about Shiva and duality, click - Shiva Shankar Nataraj and Duality

To learn about Shiva's Rudravtar Hanuman, click - Hanuman Bajrang Bali Rudravtar

To find how Shiva consumed eternal poison and how christianity originated from Hinduism, click - Did Christianity originate from the story of Shiva and Halahal?