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Hinduism II Love as a path to salvation: Hindu Gods & goddesses Introduction to World Religions Fall 2007 Dr. Hannah Schell Agenda for class meeting Review basic concepts of the Hindu worldview Atman = Brahman Can God be described? God without attributes vs. God with attributes

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hinduism ii

Hinduism II

Love as a path to salvation:

Hindu Gods & goddesses

Introduction to World Religions Fall 2007 Dr. Hannah Schell

agenda for class meeting
Agenda for class meeting
  • Review basic concepts of the Hindu worldview
  • Atman = Brahman
  • Can God be described? God without attributes vs. God with attributes
  • Hindu gods & goddesses:

The Hindu “triad” of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva

i review of basic concepts
I. Review of basic concepts
  • This world is samsara – an illusion, the unending cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth
  • The spiritual goal, and one of the four aims of human life, is moksha, or liberation.
  • There are several paths to moksha, including knowledge, action and devotion.
  • Atman=Brahman (see next slide).
atman brahman the basic metaphysical insight of hinduism
Atman = Brahman (the basic metaphysical insight of Hinduism)
  • Brahman – the Supreme Being; Being Itself/ the ultimate, the transcendent, the Godhead.[from br – to breathe and brih – to be great; see Smith 47].
  • Brahman is being, awareness, and bliss (47).
  • Atman – the self or soul; the hidden self; the part of the human being that is more than the body, more than the personality.
  • But, Atman = Brahman!
  • The philosophers call this “monism” – the idea that all reality is fundamentally comprised of one ‘substance’ or character.
atman brahman
Atman = Brahman

“Behold the universe in the glory of God: and all that lives and moves on earth. Leaving the transient, find joy in the Eternal: set not your heart on another’s possessions…

The Spirit, without moving, is swifter than the mind; the senses cannot reach him: He is ever beyond them. Standing still, he overtakes those who run. To the ocean of his being, the spirit of life leads the streams of action….

Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fear.”

- Isa Upanishad, The World’s Wisdom, 9.

an american version of the same idea
An American version of the same idea

“Standing on the bare ground, my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, all mean egotism vanishes.

I become a transparent eyeball-I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me-I am part or particle of God.

The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances-master or servant, is then a trifle, and a disturbance. I am a lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I have something more connate and dear than in the streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1836).

key points from the smith reading
Key points from the Smith reading
  • Souls (jivas) come of age in the universe over the eons
  • Transmigration of souls from one life to the next, in accordance with karma
  • The world is ultimately maya – deceptive, tricky
  • The world is lila – the play of the divine in the cosmic dance (see Smith 55).
ii can god be described
II. Can God be described?
  • God-with-attributes (Saguna Brahman)
  • God without attributes (Nirguna Brahman)

Nirguna Brahman is an example of negative theology:

“Oh Thou, before whom all words recoil.”

(Quoted by Smith, 47).

example of negative theology creation story from the rg veda
Example of negative theology:Creation story from the Rg Veda

There was neither non-existence nor existence then; there was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. What stirred? Where? In whose protection? Was there water, bottomlessly deep? There was neither death nor immortality then. There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day. That one breathed, windless, by its own impulse. Other than that there was nothing beyond. Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning; with no distinguishing sign, all this was water. The lie force that was covered with emptiness, that one arose through the power of heat.

(see handout for rest of passage).

god with attributes
God with Attributes
  • Influence of the great epic literature –
    • The Ramayana
    • The Mahabharata, which includes the Bhagavad Gita, “Song of the Blessed One.”)
  • Also, the Puranas – collections of stories about the gods and their incarnations.
the theology of hinduism
The “theology” of Hinduism

God with Attributes:

  • Vedic Deities
  • Deities of classical Hinduism:
    • Brahma (the creator)
    • Shiva (and his consort)
    • Vishnu (in his many avatars)
vedic deities
Vedic Deities

Indra: “King of the Gods” – a warrior, a king, associated with thunder.

Agni: “The priest of the Gods” – the god of fire, associated with lightning, fire, the sun.

Soma: deification (but not personification) of a hallucinogenic elixir from a plant.

vedic deities13
Vedic Deities

Sarasvati: goddess associated with a river, also learning, sometimes identified with speech; truthful words.

watch video now
Watch video now.

Video clip from Understanding Hindu Tradition (1994); clip is approximately 15 minutes.

the path of devotion
The path of devotion

“Always glorifying me, striving, firm in their vows,

Paying me homage with devotion, They worship me, always disciplined…

I am the universal father, mother, granter of all, grandfather,

Object of knowledge, purifier, holy syllable OM, threefold sacred love…

Men who worship me, thinking solely of me, always disciplined, win the reward I secure…

The leaf or flower or fruit or water that he offers with devotion, I take from the man of self-restrain in response to his devotion.

Whatever you do- what you take, what you offer, what you give, what penances you perform – do as an offering to me, Arjuna!

You will be freed from the bonds of action, from the fruits of fortune and misfortune; armed with the discipline of renunciation your self liberated, you will join me..

If he is devoted solely to me, even a violent criminal must be deemed a man of virtue, for his resolve is right… Keep me in your mind and devotion, sacrifice to me, bow to me, discipline your self toward me, and you will reach me!”

From the Bhagavad Gita, included in World Religions; Eastern Traditions, 2nd ed. (37).

the triad of hindu divinity
The triad of Hindu divinity
  • Brahman (the creator)
  • Vishnu (the preserver)
  • Shiva (the destroyer)

The “trimurti” (three forms) – 8th century.

brahman the creator
Brahman, the creator

The first-born being, seated on a lotus that stems from Vishnu’s navel

vishnu the preserver
Vishnu the preserver
  • The ultimate reality, the source of the universe
  • Usually shown as a dark blue man wearing a crown, with four arms, with four objects associated with him:
    • A conch shell
    • A discus
    • A mace
    • A lotus
  • Vishnu is concerned with the welfare of mankind.
vishnu the all pervasive one
Vishnu: the “all-pervasive one”

Appears in the world in several incarnations (avatars) to rid the world of evil and establish dharma or righteousness (Oxtoby, 40).

Avatars: literally, “descents”; incarnations of the deity into bodily forms.

“For the protection of the good and the destruction of evil-doers, and for the re-establishment of dharma, I come into being in successive ages.”

- Bhagavad Gita (Qted by Zaehner, 91).

vishnu s avatars
Vishnu’s avatars
  • Matsya - fish
  • Kurma - tortoise
  • Varaha - boar
  • Narasinha - man-lion
  • Vamana- dwarf
  • Rama with the battle-ax
  • Rama
  • Krsna (Krishna)
  • Buddha
  • Kalki - who brings the end of the aeon.
“ I have no record of austerities; I do not possess any subtle knowledge; still, I cannot be quiet even for a moment without you, O Lord lying on the serpent-couch! O Father! I will not be too much of a burden to you!…

I desire that if I saw you, I would impetuously take you and simply swallow you; but, stealing a march over me, you yearned for me and drank me off completely, O dark, cloud-like God… O you impatient Lord!”

- Alvar poet (Tamil - South India, 6th c.)

Vishnu as Krishna with Radha

“Krishna, master of all yogis, revealed.. His transcendent divine Form, speaking from innumerable mouths, seeing with myriad eyes, of many marvelous aspects, adorned with countless divine ornaments… full of revelations, resplendent, boundless, of ubiquitous regard. Suppose a thousand suns should rise together into the sky: such is the glory of the Shape of Infisnite God.”

- The Bhagavad Gita

consort sri or laksmi good fortune or wealth
Consort: Sri or Laksmi(Good Fortune or Wealth)

“Lakshmi, mistress of material abundance (artha) goes wherever there is Vishnu, guardian of righteous conduct (dharma) bringing with them their son, Kama, lord of worldly pleasure.”

Source: http://www.indobride.com/stories/laksmi.htm

prayer to vishnu
Prayer to Vishnu

Lord, you dwell in everything, you are everything, you take all forms and you are the origin of everything. You are the Self of all.

You, the Self of all beings, the Lord of all creation, you are the source of all that exists. You know everybody’s desire.

Salutations to you, the omnipresent, who are inseparably linked with the universe. You are the first object of all meditation.

- From Vishnupurana, Ch. XII

vishnu summary
Vishnu summary
  • Understood to be the ultimate reality, the source of all creatures
  • Frequently depicted as blue
  • Comes in avatars (manifestations) such as Krishna or Rama.
shiva the destroyer
Shiva: The Destroyer

Associated with

  • the lingam
  • Supreme yogi
  • The bull, Nandi
  • Trident, crescent moon
  • Dancing Shiva
  • Consort, Parvati
  • Son: Ganesha

The myth of the curse of Shiva

“We bow to you, O lord of the gods and people.. We bow to you, the eternally successful yogi, the support of all the universe, the highest ruler, the highest reality, the undying, the highest place… You are quality of sound in space; you are the origin and dissolution of creatures. You are the perfume in the earth, the fluidity of the waters, the brightness of fire… You destroy all the worlds; you are Time, the Ender, made of death. You alone maintain the three worlds, and you alone create them, o lord… In one way or in many ways, you create the worlds and destroy them, O god.”

- Brahmanda Purana (Textual Sources, 86).

(Read full story on page 85-86 of Textual Sources).

shiva the lingam
Shiva & the lingam

Associated with the lingam – a phallic symbol that represents fertility, generativity, creation, power.


Elephant-headed Ganesha

  • Remover of obstacles
  • Associated with literature, being a student
  • Playful, mischievous
shiva bhakti
Shiva bhakti

I love the Handsome One;

He has no death

Decay nor form

No place or side

No end nor birthmarks.

I love him, O mother. Listen

I love the Beatufiul One

With no bond nor fear…

So my lord, white as jasmine, is my husband.

Take these husbands who die,

Decay, and feed them

To your kitchen fires!

Better than meeting

And mating all the time

Is the pleasure of mating once

After being far apart.

When he’s away

I cannot wait

To get a glimpse of him.

Friend, when will I have it

Both ways,

Be with Him,

Yet not with Him,

My lord white as jasmine?

- Mahadevi (poet-saint from the 12th century). Sources of Indian Tradition, 2nd ed. 349-350.

hymn to shiva poem by sankara
Hymn to Shiva (Poem by Sankara)

I worship Siva in my heart,He can be known through the Vedas,He is delightful to the heart,He has destroyed the three cities.He is before all time and has three eyes,He looks majestic with his head of matted locks,He wears snakes as ornament and antelope skin for a dress,He is the Great God, gracious Lord of Souls,He is consciousness and bliss,The companion of Parvati.O Lord of Souls!The one sun that is visibleTakes away the darkness from the earth.Your splendor surpasses that of a thousand suns.Why do you not become visible and take away my darkness?Destroy that night of mine and show yourself to me!

shiva summary
Shiva summary

Note that Shiva includes all of the following elements:

  • Ascetic element
  • Erotic element
  • Familial element
  • Known as the god of grace as well as the god of destruction
ramakrishna 1836 1886 all is one
Ramakrishna (1836-1886): All is One

“My dear friend, when you hear one of the glorious Divine Names – be it Allah, Tara, Krishna, or whichever revealed name is closet to your heart – if tears of ecstasy come spontaneously to your eyes or if the sensation of weeping springs forth secretly in your heart.. This is authentic confirmation that you are awakening… You will not have to renounce the formalities of religion. Formalities of every kind will simply disappear from your being… Even the Divine Names most intimate to you will eventually disappear, and you will commune directly with the One Reality, which precedes and which emanates all names and forms…

“Gradually yet inexorably, one is drawn into the living heart of worship. Simplification and intensification occur. Finally, the practice of religion merges into the source of religion. One abides blissfully in the supreme Source, even as this infinite fountain continues to flow with all the precious sacraments, all the powerful forms of worship and meditation ever revealed to humankind.”
  • Ramakrishna (1836-1886); quoted in The World’s Wisdom, 43-44.
  • [Gandhi once said that Ramakrishna’s life enables one to see God face to face; 40].