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
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami
The Guru of the Nandinatha Sampradaya, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami due to visit London soon. The Nandinatha Sampradaya run the Master course, which I am currently studying, and my family and I will be able to meet him during his visit.
I do not have a Guru, at least one present in the physical world, though I do feel that I am being guided. I don’t really know how I will feel meeting Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami. Through reading the Master Course books, I have come to know the author, Bodhinatha’s predecessor Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. The books speak on a spiritual level. I know that since Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami selected his successor, Satguru Bodhinatha must be a true Guru, a holy and wise man. Is he my Guru though? The Master course advises:
Don’t be too hasty in picking your guru. That is the best advice. Maybe it’s not for you in this life to have a guru. Maybe next life or the life after that. There’s no hurry, and yet there is a great sense of urgency on the spiritual path, a great sense of urgency. Don’t go hunting for a guru. Just be alert enough to know when you encounter him.
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
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
Many people think of Hinduism as polytheistic. In fact most Hindus are monotheistic, and Shaivas, fall into this category. How do the other Hindu deities, Vishnu, Ganesha, Krishna, etc. fit into this perspective. Ultimately there is nothing but Shiva. All the other Gods, in fact everything is a creation, emanation, or view of Shiva. The way that the multiplicity of different Gods are viewed.
Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva, (the Trimurti)
Probably the most iconic image in Shaivism is the Nataraja, Shiva as Lord of the Dance. This pictures Shiva in the dance of creation, preservation and destruction. In this form Shiva holds a drum in one hand, representing creation, the fire of destruction in another. One of his right arms is in the Abhayaprada Mudra, a gesture meaning “no fear”, signaling preservation. His fourth arm is held in an elephant trunk like posture, alluding to Ganesha, the removal of obstacles, again showing help and preservation to all people. It is clear from this that Shiva holds the properties of Vishnu and Brahma. In other words Vishnu and Brahma are alternative views of Shiva. Whereas a Vishnava or would see things differently I don’t think it is useful to talk about better or correct views; this is out view as Shaivas and we acknowledge that others may see things differently. Shaivas (and Vishnavas) believe in a good and merciful God, and all will be redeemed so this means there is no need for the type of conflict with other beliefs that we see in Islam and Christianity. Continue reading
The Himalayan Academy master Course Books
I previously wrote that after completing the Chinmaya International Foundation’s “Foundation Level” e-vedanta course”, I was not going to continue with their advanced course but take the Himalayan Academy’s Master Course. I thought it might be useful to give some first impressions of the course, though I have been following it for just over two weeks, so it is a very early impression. I have not even completed my first self-assessment yet!
I ordered the books and the self-assessment PDFs, which are sent via email. When I ordered the books I had thought that they seemed rather expensive, but when they arrived the size, weight and sheer quality Continue reading
Posted in books, hinduism, religion
Tagged conversion, himalayan academy, hindu, master course, saiva, saivism, shaiva, Shaiva Siddhanta, shiva, spirituality
Last week I completed the Chinmaya International Foundation’s “Foundation Level” e-vedanta course. The course consists of 12 monthly lessons. At the end of each month there is a set of questions, and these are sent to the acharya at CIF for marking. The course is quite challenging, as in addition to the lessons a sādhana, or discipline is recommended. At a cost of $100 for a whole year of study it is excellent value – at the time I registered this was £50.
The course was very informative, describing the basics of Hindu Vedantic philosophy. It has enabled me to understand many terms and discussions and the discipline of regular spiritual practice has helped me advance spiritually. The only minor criticism of the course material is that sanskrit words are not shown in IAST or an equivalent, or in Devanāgarī. This means that I don’t know how to pronounce some of the terms I learned, and it led to me being confused by thinking that mālā (prayer beads) and mala (impurity) were two meanings of the same word!
Though I would recommend the course as an introduction to Hinduism and Vedanta, I will not be taking the advanced course. There are several reasons for this. Continue reading
The Book of Shiva, by Namita Gokhale is an extremely informative and rather strange book. It describes the way representations and views of Lord Shiva and the way he is worshiped today and was worshiped historically. It is illustrated with drawings similar to the one on the cover. They show all elements of the various manifestations clearly but are somehow not inspiring.
The text varies in style, sometimes talking enthusiastically and with feeling about a real live belief, and at other times becoming almost detached and reading like an anthropological report. Continue reading
Lord Shiva is the great God, more than I could imagine. Perfect love, truth. The eternal creator, sustainer and destroyer. The one who veils us in ignorance and allows us the delight of lifting the veils. The simple lord, who is infinitely grateful for a seconds prayer from a devotee, though he is deserving of an eternity of praise. The one who will redeem all. The true consciousness and true self in every living thing. He is the whole universe, a whole universe for every atom in the universe and more yet he knows all. He is the light and the darkness. He is master of the physical, the mental and the spiritual. He is the giver of all, and the taker of all that is not real and eternal.
Aum Namah Shivaya!
I have been looking at the way various different worshipers view Shiva as God. This is only one aspect of the differences, worshipers may have different practices, traditions and emphasise worship, medditation or jnana (learning and understanding). In trying to prepare this post I have discovered one thing, wordpress does not do tables well. I have therefore put the table into this post as an image, and made it available as a pdf file. The table looks at various groups worshiping Shiva and how Shiva relates to various Hindu views of God. These views are explained as follows:
Ishwara is God as the great lord. This is God the supreme controller, but is a personal God.
Brahman is God in the absolute, omnipresent form of God, often described as the Cosmic Spirit, or Paramatman (Supreme Soul). Brahman can not be related to by bhakti or devotion but reached and experienced through meditation.
Shiva appears in many forms. The abstract form of the lingam (sanskrit for mark or sign) helps us concentrate on the mysterious nature of Shiva, that is beyond comprehension or representation.
The lingam reminds us of the presence of God within all of creation, and within us all.
Then there is the canonical form of Shiva, meditating with the moon in his hair, holding the trident and drum. Continue reading