Jewel in the Lotus: Deeper Aspects of Hinduism

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Theoretical formulations apart, Hinduism involves treading a spiritual path, and there are many. It is these individual pathways involving a creative interaction between the Guru and the disciple that provide the circulatory life-blood of Hinduism, making it a powerful vehicle for inner growth and spiritual realisation. In this context the experience of individuals who have trodden the path is of great value. The present book Jewel in the Lotus revolves around the life experience and teachings of Mumtaz Ali, better known as 'M'.

Some may find it surprising that a person born a Muslim should have such a deep insight into and experience with the Hindu tradition, but the real spiritual path knows no boundary of race or religion, sex or creed, language or nationality. And the mystics of all the world's great religions - the Rishis, the Siddhas, the Tirthankaras, the Bodhisattvas, the Sufis, the Gurus and the saints haveall illuminated one or other facets of the immeasurable resplendence of the Divine. I have had occasion to know 'M' over the last few years, and we have spoken together on several occasions including a three-day workshop on the Kena Upanishad over which I presided.

He combines an excellent grasp of the Upanishadic teachings with deep insight into the heart of the spiritual tradition based on his own remarkable experiences. This book in which he has dealt with some of the deeper aspects of Hinduism will, I am sure, be of great interest to students of contemporary religion, as well as seekers for truth around the world. Review This Product No reviews yet - be the first to create one! Need help? Partners MySchool Discovery. Subscribe to our newsletter Some error text Name.

Email address subscribed successfully. A activation email has been sent to you. Please click the link in that email to activate your subscription. Sitemap Index. Saraswati is especially celebrated at schools in Vasant Panchami on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of Magha of the Indian lunar calendar.

It is believed to be the time when Saraswati was born. White, the main theme of Saraswati image plays a significant role on this day. Statues of Saraswati would be dressed in white clothes and be adorned by devotees with white garments. Children would be given their first lesson in reading and writing on this day. All Hindu educational institutions conduct Saraswati puja on this day. Saraswati has played an important role in Hinduism and has influence in other regions as well. She is known and worshiped under the name of Benzaitan as a Goddess of wealth in Japan and China.

The symbolic meaning behind image of Saraswati: Although Hinduism emphasizes the formless of the universe and divinity, it is important for people to worship and show devotion through physical manifestations of deities like paintings and music in order to experience the divinity.

The images of deities are usually symbolized and carried meanings representing teaching and power. The image of Saraswati is not an exception. From this verse that often recited to invoke the blessings of Saraswati, we can have a general impression about Saraswati and her power. Saraswati is mostly associated with the color white which signifies the purity of knowledge. In most of her images, she wears white sari and seats on a white Nelumbo nucifera lotus. White sari shows the she is the embodiment of pure knowledge.

Sitting on the white lotus, Saraswati is rooted in the Supreme Reality thus represents the Supreme Knowledge. Also, just like lotus that roots in mud but blooms with purity, Saraswati with her lotus seat suggests her transcendence of physical world. It inspires people to transcend physical limitations to receive true knowledge. Saraswati is often portrayed as a beautiful, modest woman with four arms. The two front arms, holding a book and a mala in another, indicate her presence in the physical world and the two back arms, holding a lute called veena, signify Her presence in the spiritual world.

The four hands also represent the four elements of the inner personality, which are mind manas , intellect buddhi , pure consciousness citta and ego ahamkara. The book in the rear left hand is Vedas, which is the earliest sacred book in Hinduism. It signifies pure and total knowledge as well as intellect that acquired to promote prosperity of mankind. By holding Vedas in her hand, it suggests that Saraswati holds all knowledge in her hands. The mala in Saraswati rear right hand signifies concentration, meditation, and contemplation that required for gaining union with god.

A mala is a string of Hindu prayer beads. It is commonly used to keep count of repetitions while chanting and reciting mantras or the name of deities so that the prayer could concentrate on the sound and power behind mantras. In her front hands, Saraswati plays a musical instrument called Veena. Veena is a string instrument that requires great control and skillful manner with rhythmic mind. By playing Veena, it conveys that people should tune up the mind and intellect to live in harmony with the world and attain deeper understanding of life.

As Veena represents music that requires control and skills, it also shows that Saraswati is the Goddess of arts, crafts and technology. Saraswati usually uses a swan as her vehicle. It is said that the sacred swan has a sensitive beak that enables it to distinguish milk from a mixture of milk and water.


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Therefore swan symbolizes the power to discriminate between good and bad, right and wrong, the valuable and useless. Another notable feature of a swan is that it can stay and swim in water without getting affected by the waves. By using swan as her vehicle, it shows that Saraswati has a strong power of judgment, without getting attached to or influenced by the waves of the world or illusions maya on the path towards Divine Spirit.

This teaches one to apply knowledge with discrimination and to swim across the waters of life to see the Divine Spirit without being influenced. Sometimes a peacock is shown beside the Saraswati gazing at her. The peacock changes according to weather that symbolizes the fickleness of human mind.

It also represents the arrogance and pride. By choosing swan over the peacock as her vehicle, it indicates the teaching of Saraswati that unlike peacock, one should remain undisturbed by external and changing factors as well as the self-ego in the pursuit of true knowledge and eternal truth.

This teaching is also shown in her modest appearance that mostly only the ornament she wears is a garland of pearls as described in the verse. Although the ultimate goal of Hinduism is the moksha, the complete release from the limitations of being an individual, Hinduism also encourages devotees to pursue life goals like Kama, pleasure , artha economic power and dharma social and religious duty. Arts, science and pure knowledge is important to both general life goals and the final spiritual deal as arts and science would help to achieve general life goal and divine knowledge would lead to moksha.

Saraswati, originally considered as a river goddess but later worshiped as the Goddess of speech and Goddess of knowledge and arts, would bring devotees inspiration of artistic creation, knowledge leading to transcendence of the physical world. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, Kinsley, David R. Berkeley: U of California, Molloy, Michael.

Benedict Wong Dr. Gowler Religion Q — 01J 24 November Hinduism has been shown to have a progressive tension between sacrificial religion to obtain a fortunate rebirth, and renunciation to secure liberation from rebirth. The ideals of renunciation to secure liberation from rebirth has been growing in popularity.

This is a result of the Brahmin orthodoxy, which can be seen in the pursuit of the four goals of life. The four goals of life that are deemed worthy of pursuit are 1 Dharma , 2 artha , 3 Kama, 4 moksha. The four stages of life, mainly for the men of the household are 1 sisya , or brahmacarya , 2 Grihastha , 3 vanaprastha , and 4 samnyasa. These categories complement each other, and link with the samskara system, giving a framework for the lives of an orthodox Hindu.

Very briefly, the first phase of life is the Brahmacharya , or the celibate student. During this period, the student is supposed to prepare for his future profession, family, and other social and religious obligations. The second phase of life is the Grihastha , or the married family man. This phase is when the man is supposed to get married and earn a living supporting his family. At this stage of life, Hinduism supports the pursuit of wealth artha , and the indulgence in sexual pleasures kama. At that point, the man should move to the third phase of life.

However, many men have trouble moving on past the second phase as they do not want to change their lifestyle to one of asceticism. Vanaprastha is the third phase of life and is known as the retired life phase, or as the forest hermit phase. This phase of life occurs around the retirement age of 48 to 72 years old. Another way to determine when the householder has entered the third phase of life is when his children have children of their own, as tradition recommends the man to enter into his period of retirement.

This phase of life is also known as the forest hermit because vanaprastha splits into residence prastha in the forest vana.


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He has to bequeath his possessions to them because they have greater material needs as they are going through their first and second phases of life. The man is entering the third phase of life then moves out and proceeds to live in a hut in the forest. In the forest, the man is supposed to read scriptural texts and learn from sagely renouncers.

The life of the hermit is supposed to be a celibate one. However, the wife could engage in some social and conjugal relationships with her husband. Also, though the man is supposed to be completely cut off from this family, he can still seek advice from family members if it is necessary.

It is not common for the modern Hindu to enter this stage of life. Most elderly Hindus will continue to live in their family homes with their children. There are, however, quite a few who retire to the hermitage asrama of a well-regarded religious teacher, or to relocate to a town with some religious renown. Banaras, a place once known as the Forest of Bliss, is still a popular retirement site, although it is mostly urban now.

Further, the modern retired Hindu men and women may go on occasional pilgrimages to different religious sites. They may visit these different religious sites, taking up abode in asramas in places such as Tiruvannamalai , or Pondicheri , or Haridvar or Rishikesh , for weeks at a time. The fourth phase of life is Sannyasin. This phase is also known as the wandering ascetic or renouncer phase. However, to the modern practicing Hindus, a young person can choose to skip the householder and retirement stage to renounce straight away worldly and materialistic desires.

That young person can then dedicate the rest of their lives to spiritual pursuits, particularly moksha. The fourth phase of life is not one that is regularly practiced anymore.

Traditionally, the Samnyasins are expected to leave their family and loved ones and perform their death rites. They are supposed to burn their sacred threads, abandon the household fire, and wander the world in search for the final and highest goal: Liberation or moksha. The lack of requirement has led to a wide variety of practices for those that do go through the last stage of life.

Jewel in the Lotus (Deeper Aspects of Hinduism)

However, there are some common themes. The only possessions that the renouncer is allowed to carry is a staff for support of their old age, and a bowl into which they have different householders donate food and give offerings. Also, renouncers are expected to be constantly on the move. They are nomadic ascetics because they need to avoid remaining too long in one site so as to not develop any attachments to particular places or to take the generosity or companionship of particular persons.

Lotus Flower Meanings

For some, the path of renunciation is a form of severe asceticism. The behavioral state of a person attempting the fourth phase of life can be found in the Bhagavad Gita. For example, in hymn 5. Such a person, free from all dualities, easily overcomes material bondage and is completely liberated, O mighty-armed Arjuna. Other characteristics of the person renouncing include non-violence, disarmament, chastity, non-desirous behaviors, poverty, self-restraint, truthfulness, kindness to all living beings, non-stealing, non-acceptance of gifts, non-possessiveness, and purity of speech and mind.

These characteristics, however, are not exclusive to the fourth phase of life. The ultimate goal of the renouncer is to attain moksha or liberation. The definition of liberation, however, differs from traditions. For Yoga traditions, for example, liberation is experiencing the highest Samadhi, or deep awareness in this life. Being a renouncer is ultimately a means to decrease and ending ties of all kind. Granted some people see renouncers as people who abandon society and live a reclusive life.

If the renouncer succeeds, the end is a liberated, free, and blissful existence. Transitioning from the second phase of life to the third is an extremely challenging task. Further, leaving a family behind to pursue religious ambitions can be close to impossible if one is not fully committed to the religion. However, if one can successfully transition into the third phase of life, the transition into the fourth and final phase of life would be must smoother.

Further, transitioning from the third phase of life to the fourth is even more difficult. However, if the recluse is successful in that he can separate himself from all worldly possessions, he may find it easier coping with life as an ascetic. Also, if the renouncer can attain moksha or liberation, the benefits greatly outweigh the costs of living an ascetic life. After all, the final goal of having a liberated, free, and blissful existence is the reason people follow the religion in the first place.

Hinduism is a religion to almost a billion people in this world. Majority of Hindus live in India and Nepal. It is the main religion of India and has been for thousands of years. The origin of the religion is thought to have started prior to B. E, which is when the Harappa Culture of the Indus Valley thrived. Today, Hinduism is generally known to be a polytheistic religion that unites the worship of many gods with a belief in a single divine reality Molloy A pivotal part of this great religion is puja, which is a form of worship that an individual addresses to the image of a deity or a pair of deities.

This image or an icon of a Hindu deity is called a murti. Hinduism also emphasizes the importance of trying to find salvation through Bhakti Yoga, which is a method people utilize to show devotion. The history of puja is elementary in the sense that there is not much information of its origin. There are no textual or archeological evidence that Aryans, people that lived in India during the Vedic period, worshiped gods in iconic forms. Scholars believe that puja became popular during the later puranic age of C. Cush, Robinson, and York This period was known for theism and the popularity of temple building.

Gradually, puja swapped places with vedic sacrifice yajna, which was the main ritual of the time. Unlike yajna, which had to be performed by priests and was meant to appease a deity, puja can be performed by anyone and it means to honor the deity. Puja soon became even more popular after the Bhagavadgita legitimized it as the core of Bhakti, loving devotion. In contrast to animal sacrifice, puja is the offering of vegetarian food, flowers, and incense to a deity.

While the offerings to a deity are usually the same, some deities accept other offerings as well, such as blood Flood Through puja, a devoted person seeks contact with the gods and he or she does so by offering gifts or prayers to the god. Apart from gods, Brahmans, teachers, virgins, children, cows and other animals, plants, books, the earth, a water jug, or stones can be the focus of a puja as well Michaels In homes, puja is usually performed before the icon of a deity placed in a separate or purest room of the house and the prayer is usually uttered by a layperson.

The first thirteen years of my life were spent in Bangladesh, where the second biggest majority of people in the country were Hindus. Tenants on the ground floor of our building were Hindus. On my way to school every morning I passed by their window and I remember having all my senses aroused. I remember seeing and hearing the performing of the prayers in front of miniature deity statues.

I also remember the strong but pleasant smell of incense and loud ringing of the bell from the puja. I have also seen the Hindu temples, or mandir, many times where the icons of deities — murtis — were much larger and a larger number of people perform the prayers together. If the puja is performed in the temple, the temple priest usually conducts it. During the puja in temple, the murti is also bathed and dressed.

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Next, varieties of foods are offered, along with the burning of incense, loud ringing of bells and banging of drums. Then the murti is dressed in sacred clothes, adorned with perfumes, and decorated with new jewels. The murti also often receives a dot of red turmeric on its forehead. Along with ringing bells, the deity is then offered boiled rice and fruits, which are later consumed by the priests. The puja is now almost complete, and might include loud drumming, pipes, and the blowing of conches at this time. A priest will then take a lamp, known as the arati lamp, to devotees who cup their hands over the flames and touch their eyes and faces, bringing the light and warmth of the deity to themselves Flood Finally, the devotees accept turmeric powder or white ash from the priest to mark their foreheads and the puja is over.

Puja tends to vary in rituals in different places. At the famous temple of Guruvayur on the Kerala coast, which attracts many thousands of pilgrims, five daily pujas are performed Flood They occur between dawn and sunset. Many wonder, how a Hindu chooses to decide which deity shall be the object of his or her devotion.

While there is no one simple answer to the question, some generalizations do exist. First of all, there are several kinds of deities. For most of these deities a devotee simply cannot decide. The decision is made by the circumstances of his or her birth. Hindus also celebrate many festivals throughout the year. Most of these festivals include puja, darsana, and devotion shown toward the respective deity. But, some of these festivals are more prominent in certain areas than others. Puja for the goddesses Durga and Sarasvati are usually celebrated more and with particular fanfare and devotion in Bengal.

On the other hand, birthday of the elephant-headed deity, Ganesa, is special to Hindus of Maharastra and Rajasthan region of India Kumar Having lived in Bangladesh, I have seen the importance of Durga Puja in the region. It is known to be one of the biggest holidays for Hindus in Bangladesh.

As previously mentioned, expressing bhakti, which means devotion, to a deity is what makes puja an integral part of Hinduism. Bhagavad-Gita, which is revered as one of the most important texts of Hinduism, recommends spiritual paths as well as quiet contemplation to achieve salvation. Yoga, which means union, is methods that can be used to live spiritually.

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Yoga allows people to perfect their union with the divine Molloy Out of the major forms of yoga, Bhakti Yoga is closely related to puja. It is known as the devotional yoga. During the early transitions of Hinduism, around C. While the vatakalai emphasized the Sanskrit scriptures and salvation through traditional bhakti-yoga, the tenkalai emphasized the Tamil scriptures and surrender to the lord by his grace. According to Ramanuja, who was an early Hindu theologian, bhakti yoga entails both love and knowledge in a shape in which a person is completely submissive to god. This means that the self must take refuge or surrender at the feet of the deity.

Bhakti yoga can involve various expressions of devotion. These devotions are mostly rituals performed in pujas, such as chants, songs, food offerings, and the anointing of the murtis. The ultimate goal of a Hindu is to be released from the cycle of life, and achieve moksha — complete freedom Molloy By performing or participating in puja, the person is able to worship and seek contact with the divine deity through its physical manifestations. Cush, Denise, Catherine A. Robinson, and Michael York. Encyclopedia of Hinduism.

London: Routledge, Michaels, Axel, and Barbara Harshav. Hinduism: Past and Present. Olson, Carl. Rinehart, Robin. Contemporary Hinduism: Ritual, Culture, and Practice. While ages and specifics of rituals vary by region and, occasionally, village, the history that has led to some of the universal practices remain as the foundation for the vibrant, colorful ceremonies that occur today.

Karma , the belief that everything that occurs is the consequence of past deeds and Dharma , or duty, fortifies the general belief that unhappy marriages, especially if attributed to the wife, are the result of bad actions they committed in a past life Ravindra.

Family, in fact, is so important that the marriages are arranged, with varying requirements per region. Once a prospective bride or groom is found, both families are typically allowed to vet the family and prospective husband or wife before agreeing to the marriage. Some inspections are simple and fast, while others may be rigorous or extensive and the type may vary based on urban or rural location of the families involved. The practices of the inspection vary depending on area, as in the city finding and vetting a prospective bride or groom are typically combined, as ads are placed in newspapers, typically stressing beauty and education in a prospective bride, and education and earning capacity in a groom Hawley.

Most urban brides are around the age of seventeen, as they usually wait until graduation from high school, and sometimes college, to get married. Despite early marriage, most village marriages do not partake in the guana consummation ceremony until after the bride has reached puberty Hawley. In Northern and Central India, monogamy is generally practiced, while some rural Hindu men may take multiple wives and the women of some Himalayan groups may have several husbands Hawley.

After a bride and groom are vetted and chosen by both families, the pre-wedding rituals begin. In this ceremony, the two families meet to make the engagement official by choosing a muhurat , or auspicious date and time based on horoscopes, having the elders of both families bless the couple, and having the bride and groom receive gifts Gullapalli. In South India, the Janavasam is a tradition where the groom is paraded around the town on a chariot or open car the evening before the wedding Gullapalli.

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