I was very surprised and honoured to find that this blog has been chosen as one of The Chakra’s Top Ten Hindu Blogs. There are so many excellent blogs on the web that can’t help feeling that this is undeserved. It will … Continue reading →
Hindus and Jews share more than just a symbol
A few days ago I read some comments that were rather disparaging of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The commenter was a Hindu who lumped all Abrahamic religions together as proselytising and intolerant. Of course there are many Christians and Muslims who are tolerant and accepting of other beliefs, but as far as Judaism is concerned the accusation misses totally, it goes against the faith’s basic teachings. Unfortunately the linked comments are not the only time I have seen this “lumping together” of Judaism with Christianity and Islam on the web.
Judaism is not a proselytising religion. Though accepting converts, Judaism does not actively seek them. In fact traditionally people wanting to convert are turned away three times before being accepted. Jews do not want everyone in the world to become Jewish. Just like Hindus they believe that this is their way, but others may follow a different path. But what do Jews think about Hinduism?
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Right hand counting (explained in text). Click on image to see lager view.
Hindu mantras are traditionally repeated 108 times, using mala beads to count the repetition. Shaivites traditionally count on rudraksha beads, whereas Vishnavites us beads made from the stems of the tulsi plant.
There are times when it is useful to chant japa without mala beads. I recently read a facebook post that described a fairly complicated way of counting to 108 using your fingers. I found this method rather confusing, so I thought that it might be useful to describe a method that I use.
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An open-air Hindu Lingam from Lepakshi
The shivalingam is probably the most important Shaivite symbol. The symbol may take many forms, most usually a post with a rounded top. This form makes the pouring of sacred fluids such as milk or water easy. Though many shivalingams are man-made, some are natural. Naturally occurring oval stones from the Narmada River are often used in worship. Some temples also have natural shivalinga, among the most famous being the Amarnath temple, which has a natural ice lingam.
There are many symbolic meanings to the shivalingam. The oval shape represents the universe. The shivalinga is sometimes depicted with four faces. This form is known as the Panchamukha, or five faced shivalingam; the fifth face is said to be invisible and looks directly upward to the heavens. The panchmukha Shiva is a form of sadashiva or eternal Shiva.
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- The Shatkona
The Shatkona is a symbol for Shiva and Shakti. It is made from two trikonas, Shiva is represented by the upward pointing triangle (△) and Shakti by the downward pointing triangle (▽). Shiva represents the masculine side of God and the parashiva, the all pervasive mysterious form of Shiva without qualities. Shakti represents the feminine side of God and the parashakti, the power of Shiva. The upward-pointing triangle can also represent purusha (the supreme being), and the downward-pointing one Prakṛti, or the world seen as mother nature.
Overlapping they remind us that all these are qualities of one God, neither male nor female but encompassing both (✡). This symbol appears in the twelve-petalled Anahata chakra, or heart chakra. In the West this symbol is more commonly associated with Judaism, where it is known as the Star of David.
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Shiva as Dakshinamurthy, the Guru
In my previous post I wrote about my forthcoming meeting with the Satguru of the Nandinatha Sampradaya, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami. At the time I did not know what to expect. As you can probably tell from my post I was prepared for the meeting be just talking to a wise and holy man. I was not sure that I would feel any connection with him as a Guru. My spiritual path has involved more searching than finding, and I did not want to build up hopes or expectations that might not be met. Continue reading →
the hindu temple of shri venkateswara (balaji) in tividal, birmingham.
I have been rather lax about posting recently, and it is several weeks since we visited the Venkateswara mandir in Birmingham, UK. This is a very impressive temple, as can be seen in the picture (courtesy of San Sharma, released on the creative commons license). The main temple is fronted by two smaller temples, one dedicated to Shri Ganesha and one to Shri Murugan (Kartikaya). The The main temple has Venkateswara at the centre, and also had other deities including Lakshmi and Hanuman.
Like all the other Mandirs I have visited, we were all made welcome. I mention this again, because I think it important that westerners know that they will be welcomed, many are worried as I was before my first visit to a Hindu temple. We received a blessing and Jal (holy water). Unlike the gulab jal (sweet rose-flavoured water) that I have received in other temples, this jal was spiced with what I thought was a hint of ginger. A commenter has since told me that it was not ginger,but thulasi (tulsi) leaves, cardamom and saffron.
Though Venkateswara is associated with Vishnu as the destroyer of sins, the layout, ambiance and association made me think of Lord Shiva. Continue reading →
Recently students of the Himalayan Academy Master Course discussed affectionate detachment, or loving detachment. This describes God’s love to us, and the true love to which we should aspire. At first the “detachment” part may sound negative, like not really caring – but this is not what it means, it is love without any expectations, needs, or fears. Often our love comes with an expectation of things in return. Affectionate detachment is unconditional love, with no expectation or desire for anything in return.
Very few people can completely realise affectionate detachment in this life. Those on the householder or family path have duties and responsibilities that come before this. However sometimes people do exhibit something close to affectionate detachment in everyday lives. The examples of loving detachment that people came up with were the love for a small child who has a tantrum and hits his mother or father. The parent loves the child unconditionally, and because the child is small has no fear. Continue reading →
Someone recently commented that my blog was anti-Christian. It was certainly not my intention to be anti-Christian, though my condemnation of the fundamentalist, evangelical Christian Right may have given that impression.
A while ago I wrote an article “Muslims, friends of Hindus“. I had not written a post about the friendship between Christians and Hindus, perhaps because I take for granted the fact that there are many Christians who want friendly, supportive relations with other religions. In fact in Britain probably a majority of Christians would be against aggressive conversion tactics. Continue reading →
Continued from How I became a Hindu – part two which follows How I became a Hindu – part one.
Nataraja, Shiva the cosmic dancer.
One day, when surfing the Internet I came across a Nataraja, the image of Shiva as the cosmic dancer on eBay. Almost on impulse I purchased it. I found myself impelled to read up on the symbolism. The symbolism of the dance of creation, preservation and destruction struck a chord with me and immediately felt right.
I found that whenever I passed the Nataraja I could see that this image represented God, and I felt compelled to thank God for all that exists.
I live near to a Hindu temple, and I decided to visit. At first I was very nervous about just turning up, but I was made very welcome and the Pandit explained many things to me. I also bought and studied many books on Hinduism, as I knew that I had been called to this path. One of the books I bought was “How to become a Hindu”, which is published by the Himalayan Academy and available online. Continue reading →
Continued from How I became a Hindu – part one.
Having been brought up in a small town that was almost exclusively white and Christian, at University I met a number of people from all over the world and of all religions. In fact I have lived in ethnically diverse cities since then.
A mela in the UK
This in itself had a major impact on my understanding of Christianity as “the only way to salvation”. One of my closest friends at University was a Sikh, and whereas it is one thing to theoretically hear that people you don’t know will be destined for hell, it is quite different if you know this is talking about friends, fellow students, work colleagues, etc. It is obvious to anyone who meets people from many different religions and cultures that if God is loving, then it can’t be true that only those from one particular religion will be saved.
The strength of atheists’ arguments
I also met many articulate atheists. These were in general sincere, people of integrity and they had very logical arguments. Continue reading →
Posted in hinduism, other religions, religion
Tagged agnosticism, atheism, caucasian hindu, christianity, hindu, unitarian, universalism, western hindu, white hindu
I have been thinking about fundamentalists’ claims that everyone apart from “true Christians” will go to hell and be eternally tortured. They often try to reconcile this with a good, merciful and loving God by saying “it is written, it is the Law, and God cannot disobey the Law”. Unlike Christianity Hinduism does not have a definitive book. There are the Vedas of course, but these are more works of praise to God than Law or rules, and these are supplemented by agamas from each school. Christians, like Hindus, believe that God is omnipotent. It seems to me that if God writes the Bible as a definitive book that he must follow from that point until eternity then this is limiting his omnipotence. Metaphorically speaking God has created a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it; the Bible.
That is fair enough, but if God creates this rock which is so heavy that even he cannot lift it so that it will crush most of humanity forever then this cannot be an all-loving and good God. The God who would do this is not the God that I worship.