Path of Devotion and Love
Some Notes; Not a Summation: The way through love and devotion. It is the only yoga where Divinity is revealed as Gods and Goddesses. As there are many routes to the Divine, so too are there many Gods and Goddesses to lead the way. For the individual, he or she connect to Divinity via ishta (Sanskrit for "greatest one" or beloved), "one's chosen deity," the deity that one's own unique and particular predisposition connects to ideally, and there over 330 million and counting. Reflected in the last third of the Bhagavad-Gita, chapters 12 - 18. If you stopped someone around 1200 CE or today, and asked which yoga he or she followed, the response would likely be Bhakti Yoga. This is the yoga Hindu's equate with Judaism, Christianity and Islam, for many a form of Bhakti yoga.
Example of Balinese "Wayang Shadow Puppets" - seeing beyond the veil of maya
What is Smith suggesting when he says, "It is obtuse to confuse Hinduism's images with idolatry, and their multiplicity with polytheism." (Smith p. 29) Remember: act, but renounce the fruits of actions, i.e., don't get caught up with "attachments." The Gods and Goddesses are a conduit, the channel of one's love and devotion, through to the Infinite, and are not the end focus of one's love, an attachment. Also remember: Maya, the material form, is at the same time an illusion, yet as a precipitation of Brahman, it can also reveal the Infinite, helping facilitate your realization of the Ultimate. Thus, the overt representation of Shiva, for example, is not the focus of one's love and devotion (a Maya attachment), but the channel of your love to the Infinite, to Brahman.
Nevertheless, Bhakti yoga does suggest and may ultimately conceptualize the Infinite in a manner distinct from the other yogas.
Consider the Bhakti premise: the world is God's play, lila, the cosmic dancer, whose actions bring forth an "endless, graceful reenactment." Is the world of the senses and nature ultimately illusionary, maya, veiling the Infinite, or is it part of the dance, though distinct from and less then the Infinite?
Consider the Bhakti premise: Brahman is ultimate realization of Divinity. Is God formless, like a vast ocean without ripples, or with being and attributes, with waves and swells, a personal God?
Consider the Bhakti premise: the ultimate realization of one's existence is Moksha. Is that ultimate realization like a drop of water merged in a limitless ocean, losing every trace of its former separateness, or the "wishing to taste sugar," hoping that some slight differentiation between one's jiva and soul, and the Infinite God?
Consider conceptually what it takes to "love" someone, to "sacrifice" to someone, be "devoted" to someone?
Dualism it a key premise and distinguishing characteristic in Bhakti yoga, absent in the other forms of Hindu yoga. That is, there is something of substance and form, that is ultimately "you" (the subject), that seeks union with the ultimate Moksha, the Infinite Brahman (object), that also has some sense of substance and form.
The Gods and Goddesses - Brahman - Godhead; the Infinite and Ultimate Divinity in all phenomena, and is manifested in the inclusive trinity of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, the Trimurti, as well as in all other Gods and Goddesses:
- Brahma - the Creator
- Vishnu - the Preserver
- Lakshmi - consort of Vishnu; goddess of good fortune and wealth; she is associated with the festival of Divali as the bringer of blessings for the new year; female counterpart of Ganesha.
- Rama - one of Vishnu's earthly incarnations (one of ten avatars of Vishnu)
- Krishna - one of Vishnu's earthly incarnations (one of ten avatars of Vishnu)
- Shiva - the Destroyer
- Kali - one of Devi's incarnations (the female aspect of the divine); consort of Shiva; mother of all other Gods
- Kamadeva - god of love and the Apsaras
- Ganesha - step-son of Shiva, elephant-headed god of wisdom and business success; male counterpart of Lakshmi
- Hanuman - god of strength, humility and loyalty
Of Note: Consider the Carvaka School of Hinduism. With all its varied yogas, Bhakti being the most ceremonial, Hinduism could also produce an atheistic school. It was founded by Cārvāka, the around 600 BCE., author of Bārhaspatya-sūtras, though becoming less significant as a religious school after 1400 CE. In Sanskrit, chaari means "sweet" and vaak means "speaking," Carvaka denied the divinity of this or any world, no soul, no afterlife, no Gods, in fact, religious worship is foolish. Instead, focused on skepticism, seeking truth, integrity, consistency, and freedom of thought, as well as materialism, living a prosperous, happy, and productive life in this world. "As long as you live, live happily, take a loan and drink ghee. After the body is dead reduced to ashes where will it come back from."
Tirthayatra - The Pilgrimage and Expressions of Devotion:
Tirtha - a crossing place, a "ford" - a scared place.
Example of the Ganges - a Goddess Ganga, origin in "merciful foot" of Vishnu, and descending from heaven out of the head of Shiva
Tirthayatra - "journey to a ford" - a pilgrimage and diagram.
Example of Varanasi - (also called Kashi "luminous," Benares (old name), City of Light, City of Shiva, and City of Dead)
The goal is darshan - "seeing, experiencing and exchanging visions" in as many places as possible - a sort of "sacred sight seeing" - The goal of the pilgrimage is really the journey itself, and not so much the destination, per se. (Hence importance of "third eye" and chakras).
Example of Temple Replicas in Varanasi (of other temples from the Himalayas to southern tip) or in a Relief Map (showing all major pilgrimage sites in India) = can "see" and "exchange" just as effectively at these sites as with main temple of Vishnu
KEY Ritual activities include: bathing (first duty of any pilgrimage, not so much for cleansing as a "sweeping the road ahead"; and very one's last bath most critical), making offerings, offering prayer and repeating of God's name (puja), and cremation.
return to schedule