Hindu Dieties

"Shiva meditating Rishikesh" by Iqbal Mohammed - http://www.flickr.com/photos/blaiq/75116239/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shiva_meditating_Rishikesh.jpg#/media/File:Shiva_meditating_Rishikesh.jpg

Shiva’s Freedom

Death is the ultimate freedom. This is Shiva’s gift to all of life.

Mahadeva, or the supreme deity, also known as Shiva is the destroyer and transformer of all of life. He is limitless, unchanging, eternal, formless, and the ultimate yogi; one who has joined with the death of all things.

Shiva is often displayed slaying demons with his trident. When not in battle, he is practicing yoga alone on Mount Kailash in his ascetic lifestyle of renunciation. His third eye sees all and the Ganges river itself flows from his hair.

Shiva is quite possibly the oldest god in history, dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization; however, his worship has lost none of its potency and he is worshipped across southeast Asia.

Shiva is joined with the supreme self, the Brahman.  Shiva powerfully deals destruction and death to make room for Brahma to create in the world. He smears his body with the ashes of the dead representing the impending death of all beings. He dances to his drum bringing fiery and fierce death to all whose time has come to pass from this world.

Shiva is a very fierce representation of what will eventually happen to all of us. A precedent to the grim-reaper, he represents what comes for life eventually and acceptance of this is the greatest freedom. Fear of death.

If we can see past our own ego, we can realize that we never really existed in the first place. It is an illusion to think that we matter more than the matter we are made up of. Even our idealisations of past figures in history are false representations. No one that is alive now actually knew who Jesus was. Nor Moses. Nor anyone else that has died over a hundred years ago.

It is important to remember that life is short. Make the most of each day. Gratitude for challenges, lessons, and difficulties that force us to grow. Once you let go of your ego, you can be free. Shiva, yoga, and ascetic practices will help you to let go. Freedom is in your mind, no one can give it to you or take it away from you. Everything else is just an illusion.

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Lakshmi_goddess of wealth

Lakshmi | Lakṣmī | लक्ष्मी

Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity, love, fortune, and is considered the embodiment of beauty. She is the wife of Vishnu and carries his active energy. Her fours arms represent purusartha, or the four primary aims of human life: Dharma, Kama, Artha, and Moksha and representations of her can be found in many Jain monuments as well. In Nepal and Southeast Asia, Vasudhara mirrors Lakshmi with some minor differences. She is Vishnu’s source of strength while maintaining the universe.

When Vishnu incarnated on Earth, Lakshmi took form as Sita (when Vishnu became Rama), Radha (Krishna’s lover), Rukmini, and Satyabama. In ancient Hindu scripture all women are declared to be embodiments of Lakshmi. The marriage between Lakshmi and Vishnu is the paradigm for Hindu religious wedding ceremonies. Their relationship forms the basis for partnership in Hinduism.

Archeologists suggest that Lakshmi’s worship may have originated around 100BC. Statues and iconography have been dated from the second half of the first millennium CE. In modern India, Lakshmi is regarded as the goddess of wealth and Diwali and Sharad Purnima are festival celebrations held in her honor.

Lakshmi is another great example of a deity that evolved in the ancient Hindu texts and was mentioned only once in the Rig Veda as a kindred mark or sign of auspicious fortune. In the later Arthara Veda, she evolved into a deity with multiple incarnations and large amounts of plurality and is associated with good luck, good fortune, prosperity, success, happiness, and the good. Later, she is regarded as the incarnation of beauty, and the goddess of fortune and was associated with Vishnu. In later myths, she is associated with the creation of the universe, giving diverse gifts to many of the other gods (ie Indra gets force and Sarasvati receive nourishment). In the later epics, such as the Mahabharata, she personifies wealth, riches, beauty, happiness, loveliness, grace, charm, and splendor.

The word Lakshmi is derived from lakṣ (लक्ष्) and lakṣa (लक्ष) which mean to perceive, observe, know, understand and goal, aim, or objective. This together form knowing goals, or perceiving and understanding objectives.

Lakshmi is usually sitting or standing on a lotus flower and carries a couple in her hands which represent the ability to grow beautifully from dirty or filth in circumstances. She is also seen with elephants (symbolizes work, activity, strength, rain, fertility, and abundance) and an owl (symbolizes striving to observe and discover when surrounded by darkness, that also becomes blind in daylight, a reminder to refrain from greed and ignorance after knowledge and wealth is acquired).

Lakshmi also has a multitude of other names: Padma, Kamala, Padmapriya, Padmamaladhara devi, Padmamukti, Padmakshi, Padmahasta, Padmasundari, Vishnupriya, Ulkavahini, Ambika, Manushri, Mohini, Chakrika, Kamalika, Aishwarya, Lalima, Indira, Kalyani, Nandika, Nandini, Rujula, Vaishnavi, Samruddhi, Narayani, Bhargavi, Sridevi, Chanchala, alaja, Madhavi, Sujata, Shreya, Maheshwari, Madhu, Madhavi, Paramaa, Janamodini, Tripura, Tulasi, Ketaki, Malati, Vidhya, Trilochana, Tilottama, Subha, Chandika, Devi, Kriyalakshmi, Viroopa, Vani, Gayatri, Savitri, Apara or Aparajita, Aparna, Aruna, Akhila, Bala, Tara, Kuhu, Poornima, Aditi, Anumati, Avashyaa, Sita, Taruni, Jyotsna, Jyoti, Nimeshika, Atibha, Ishaani, Kalyani, Smriti and probably her most used abbreviation, Sri.

In Eastern Indian traditions, Lakshmi is regarded as a form of Devi, along with Durga or Shakti. Lakshmi, Parvati, and Saraswathi are regionally considered to be from of Durga in West Bengal and Odisha, which are usually considered separate in India. She is the personification of spiritual fulfillment and is the embodiment of Param Prakriti, which purifies, empowers, and uplifts the individual.

It is obvious that Lakshmi represents an elusive and evolving subject of wealth and prosperity as well as the divine feminine aspect of spiritual energy. She is a powerful symbol in Hinduism and is worshipped often in modern India with statues and symbolism apparent in many of the places that I am currently near in Mysore. Her evolution is as interesting as her origins and I continue to find tremendous insight in the symbolism applied to her forms.

 

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krishna.com depiction of Krishna

Krishna | कृष्ण

Krishna is one of the most celebrated and loved gods in the Hindu pantheon and is generally recognized as an avatar of lord Vishnu, one of the trimurti. Krishna is a god of love, sometimes depicted as a god-child playing a flute, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero, or as the supreme being as described in the Bhagavad Gita.

Krishna is described in the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana, and the Vishnu PuranaHe is also named Vasudeva, Bala Krishna, Gopala, Govinda, so you may hear these names mentioned where they are referring the Krishna.

Krishna’s skin color is usually black or dark blue which is due to the word’s use as an adjective to mean black or dark blue. The waning moon is called Krishna Paksha meaning darkening. It is sometimes referred to as “all-attractive”. Most of the variances and differences occur regionally, but is easily recognized in depictions.

Krishna is often shown with cows, which is significant as representing him as a divine herdsmen, as is often shown as a baby stealing butter from the neighbors houses. It is generally accepted as possible that Krishna dates as far back in time as Shiva, to the Indus Valley Civilization, but neither can be proven to date before that time period.

In depictions for the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is often shown with multiple arms and multiple heads which denote power with attributes of Vishnu such as the chakra or as a charioteer.

Sometimes you will hear Krishna referred to as Bala Krishna and this is the child-god form of the deity and is often worshipped. He is seen as having conceived himself as a being that is one with Vishnu. This is a divine conception, rather than a virgin conception as in the bible. While his mother was pregnant, it was said that she was hard to look at because of the light that accompanied her radiance. They say that this light is in reference to a Vedic hymn that expresses an unknown divine, or golden child.

If you study Krishna, you will start to see a lot of parallels with Jesus, if you are familiar with Christianity. Both are sun-gods, or represent the ‘light of the world’. Both also seem to have been grounded in the god Osiris which is an account of a demigod of the sun, and the potential first influence of this story is from the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia. Some believe there to be multiple Christs, some believe that Christ was completely fabricated in about 400AD to unify the Roman Civilization under a single symbol. Most of Christianity’s roots are pagan, which largely influences the Christian Calendar to circulate with the seasons. There is a good amount of evidence that say Jesus did exist, though the bible’s accuracy is another question entirely. Almost all scholars agree that the writers were successors to the original tradition and wrote the 4 new testaments over 50 years after Christ’s death and crucifixion, so it is generally agreed that the bible is not a historically accurate document, by any means.

Moving back to Krishna, he is best known as Arjuna’s charioteer and advises Arjuna when he comes to the battle distraught and unwilling to use his bow to fight. The Gita talks about righteous war, the nature of the divine, and the eternal nature of the cosmos, which is depicted in a conversation between Arjuna and Krishna.

The relationship between Vishnu and Krishna is often debated and is viewed as complex and diverse, though many consider Krishna to be a full incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

In about the 6th century AD a movement started in India called the Bhakti movement, which then spread into the United States in 1965, when Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada visited New York from West Bengal. Krishna’s name was chanted in many public places in the US and was spread by the ISKCON (institute for Krishna consciousness). There are also stories of Krishna in Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, and other Indian and southeast asian religions.

Krishna’s flute is often used as symbolism to represent revelation of the divine and Krishna is depicted with it quite often. It represents a divine dance that is the nature of the divine and that the revelations of divine come about through this mystical dance with the divine. It is said that whenever he plays, you cannot help but dance.

Here’s a little mental picture of what it might be like to experience Krishna:

You are walking through a softly floored canopy of oak trees, hiding the sun with their small leaves. Soon, you hear a soft sound in the distance, a sweet melody that you can help but want to hear more of. So you move closer, but find that you do not know the direction that the sound is coming from. So you sit, to determine where this beautiful sound could possibly be coming from.

As you sit, the sound becomes a bit louder and you begin to realize that the sound was coming from inside of you all along. And as you sit quieter, more still, more peacefully, the music gets louder and louder, until you can’t hear anything else at all. It begins to overwhelm you until you open your eyes, and there, standing before you, is a small dark blue boy, maybe 10 years old, smiling at you in a way that makes you feel the dampness of your skin.

His eyes are whiter than stars and his gaze darker than the night. The boy pulls out his flute and begins to play. Soft at first, melting your thoughts and giving you nothing to do but feel, this boy becomes more and more enraptured by the song, bringing you with him. But you soon realize that this is no boy, nor a girl; in fact, the little child has qualities of both, but perfected. As you begin to rise and then dance with the flute, you lose all track of time, where you are, even who you are. The dance is all there is and it is you, unbroken, relentless, fearless in the dark of night.

Soon you begin to tire, and though the music grows sweeter, you can no longer listen because of your fatigue. Suddenly, a light opens, splitting through you like a knife.

You open your eyes to a purely white room, 4 walls, and a single bench, cushioned, for you to sit on. The child walks into the room, but now you can tell that something in the child has changed. With a quick grin and a wink, the boy disappears and in his place is a man with hundreds of heads and many arms, though all perfectly aligned with his body in a way that you could never explain. You can hardly see the figure clearly, he is betrothed in light. Each time you try to get a better look, the figure gets blurry once again.

An overwhelming power takes ahold of you and you can no longer see the light. You close your eyes one last time and breath, aware of your full exhale for the first time. And you find yourself seated, comfortable, with the soft grass beneath you and the strong trees above. But still, you hear a gentle flute music in the background, waiting for you to begin dancing once again.

 

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ब्रह्मन्/Brahman, God, and Death

Brahman is a Hindu concept describing the energy force behind the universe, the unchanging truth of why the universe is, and the source behind it. This is very different from the god Brahma, who is known as the creation aspect of the divine pantheon and is a part of the Trimurti with Shiva and Vishnu. He is not regarded in quite the same way as the great cosmic spirit, which is everlasting and greater even than the Hindu deities as the source behind creation and sustenance of the cosmos.

Jiva-muktis or liberated beings are human beings that have realized Brahman and thus their become aware of their true self; described as consciousness bliss and the highest achievable reality. However, this type of self-actualization does not accord with the Buddhist ideals of enlightenment, nirvana, which denote an awareness of the nothingness inside and with this awareness great peace and release from suffering.

Brahman in modern-day Hinduism denotes absolute reality, unchanging, the source and return of all things. Within the Hindu religion, this is an argued point and even Buddhism denotes Brahman’s as divine forms having attained Nirvana. Certain Buddhist and Hindu schools seem to collide here, though it happens later in the Buddhist tradition when scholars begin to identify Nirvana with Brahman. But the Buddha seems to have rejected the idea, saying that the desire from Brahman leads to suffering. He could find no evidence of the personal, or cosmic soul. Jains completely reject the idea of a creator god, because the universe has always been.

Brahman denotes the cosmic god that many people of the modern west refer to as “the universe”. It is the idea of cosmic divine energy that is representing when saying Namaste and recognizing the divine in another. In this way, Brahman is inherently Hindu because of their belief in the divine unison of all things.

Atman is a Sanskrit word that means inner-self or inner soul. To obtain liberation, a human must acquire self-knowledge to realize that one’s true self is identical with that of the transcendent Brahman. This refers to the Hindu idea of breaking down the body to get to the divine soul within. This is the Hindu path to enlightenment, through one of the schools of yoga. It is through realization of the Brahman within that on attains enlightenment, according to the Hindu traditions.

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