Warrior Ascetics

Ascetic life was historically a life of renunciation, non-violence and spiritual pursuit. However, in India, this has not always been the case. For example, after the Mongol and Persian Islamic invasions in the 12th century, and the establishment of Delhi Sultanate, the ensuing Hindu-Muslim conflicts provoked the creation of a military order of Hindu ascetics in India. These warrior ascetics, formed paramilitary groups called ‘‘Akharas’’ and they invented a range of martial arts.

“Nath Siddhas” of the 12th century AD, may have been the earliest Hindu monks to resort to a military response after the Muslim conquest. Ascetics, by tradition, led a nomadic and unattached lifestyle. As these ascetics dedicated themselves to rebellion, their groups sought stallions, developed techniques for spying and targeting, and they adopted strategies of war against Muslim nobles and the Sultanate state. Many of these groups were devotees of Hindu God Shiva, and were called “Mahants” in honor of their Lord who is referred as Mahadev (God of Gods). Other popular names for them was Sannyasis, Yogis, Nagas (followers of Lord Shiva), Bairagis (followers of Lord Vishnu) and Gosains from 1500 to 1800 AD.

Warrior monks continued their rebellion through the Mughal Empire, and became a political force during the early years of British Empire and colonization. In some cases, these regiments of soldier monks shifted from guerrilla campaigns to war alliances. The significance of warrior ascetics rapidly declined with the consolidation of British Empire in late 19th century, and with the rise in non-violence movement by Mahatma Gandhi.

It is said that some of these Hindu Warrior Ascetics were treated as folk heroes, aided by villagers and townspeople, because they targeted figures of political and economic power in a discriminatory state, and some of these warriors paralleled Robin Hood’s lifestyle.

END.

Ashram

An Ashram in Hinduism is one of four age-based life stages discussed in ancient and medieval era Indian texts. The four ashrams are:

Brahmacharya (student)

Grihastha (householder)

Vanaprastha (retired)

Sannyasa (renunciation)

The Ashram system is one facet of the Dharma concept in Hinduism. It is also a component of the ethical theories in Indian philosophy. Under the Ashram system, the human life was divided into four periods. The goal of each period was the fulfillment and development of the individual. While some Indian texts present these as sequential stages of human life and recommend age when one enters each stage, many texts stated the Ashrams as four alternative ways of life and options available, but not as sequential stage that any individual must follow, nor do they place any age limit.

 

1. Brahmacharya

Age: Till 24

DescriptionBrahmacharya represented the bachelor student stage of life. This stage focused on education and included the practice of celibacy. The student went to a Gurukul (house of the guru) and typically would live with a Guru (teacher), acquiring knowledge of science, philosophy, scriptures and logic, practicing self-discipline and learning to live a life of Dharma (righteousness, morals, duties).

 

2. Grihastha

Age: 24-48

DescriptionBrahmacharya represented the bachelor student stage of life. This stage focused on education and included the practice of celibacy. The student went to a Gurukul (house of the guru) and typically would live with a Guru (teacher), acquiring knowledge of science, philosophy, scriptures and logic, practicing self-discipline and learning to live a life of Dharma (righteousness, morals, duties).

 

3. Vanaprastha

Age: 48-72

Description: The retirement stage, where a person handed over household responsibilities to the next generation, took an advisory role, and gradually withdrew from the world. Vanaprastha stage was a transition phase from a householder’s life with its greater emphasis on Artha and Kama (wealth, security, pleasure and sexual pursuits) to one with greater emphasis on Moksha (spiritual liberation).

 

4. Sannyasa

Age: 72+(or anytime)

Description: The stage was marked by renunciation of material desires and prejudices, represented by a state of disinterest and detachment from material life, generally without any meaningful property or home (Ascetic), and focused on Moksha, peace and simple spiritual life. Anyone could enter this stage after completing the Brahmacharya stage of life.

 

END.

Gautama Buddha in Hinduism

Gautama Buddha is viewed as an avatar of the Lord Vishnu in Vaishnavism. Buddhist teachings do not rely on the Vedas, are atheist and deny the reality of the self or Atman. Hindu philosophers classified Buddhism as Nastika or heterodoxy within the scheme of Hinduism.

 

 

Buddha as an Avatar of Vishnu

In 8th-century royal circles, the Buddha started to be replaced by Hindu gods in Pujas. Before the eighth century, the Buddha was accorded the position of universal deity and ceremonies by which a king attained to imperial status were elaborate ceremonies entailing gifts to Buddhist monks and the installation of a symbolic Buddha in a stupa. This pattern changed in the eighth century. The Buddha was replaced as the supreme, imperial deity by one of the Hindu gods (except under the Palas of eastern India, the Buddha’s homeland). Previously the Buddha had been accorded imperial-style worship (puja). Now as one of the Hindu gods replaced the Buddha at the imperial centre and pinnacle of the Cosmo-political system, the image or symbol of the Hindu god comes to be housed in a monumental temple and given increasingly elaborate imperial-style puja worship.

This also was the same period of time the Buddha was made into an avatar of Lord Vishnu. Some sources say that it was Sugata Buddha also called Adi-Buddha who was the avatar of Lord Vishnu. In the Dasavatara stotra section of his Gita Govinda, the influential Vaishnava poet Jayadeva (13th century) includes the Buddha amongst the ten principal avatars of Vishnu and writes a prayer regarding him as follows:

“O Keshava! O Lord of the universe! O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of Buddha! All glories to You! O Buddha of compassionate heart, you decry the slaughtering of poor animals performed according to the rules of Vedic sacrifice”.

This viewpoint of the Buddha as the avatar who primarily promoted ahimsa remains a popular belief among a number of modern Vaishnavism organizations, including the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

 

 

Buddha as an Inspirational Figure

Other prominent modern proponents of Hinduism, such as Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Swami Vivekananda, consider the Buddha as an example of the same universal truth that underlies religions:

Vivekananda: “May he who is the Brahman of the Hindus, the Ahura Mazda of Zoroastrians, the Buddha of Buddhists, the Jehovah of the Jews, the Father in Heavens of Christians, gives strength to you to carry out your noble ideas!”

Radhakrishnan: “If a Hindu chants the Vedas on the banks of the Ganges… if the Japanese worship the image of Buddha, if the European is convinced of Christ’s mediatorship, if the Arab reads the Quran in the mosque… It is their deepest apprehension of God and God’s fullest revelation to them.

A number of revolutionary figures in modern Hinduism, including Mahatma Gandhi, have been inspired by the life and teachings of the Buddha and many of his attempted reforms. Steven Collins sees such Hindu claims regarding Buddhism as part of an effort – itself a reaction to Christian proselytizing efforts in India – to show that “all religions are one”, and that Hinduism is uniquely valuable because it alone recognizes this fact.

 

 

Interpretations, Opinions & Reactions

According to Wendy Doniger, the Buddha avatar which occurs in different versions in various Puranas may represent an attempt by orthodox Brahminism to slander the Buddhists by identifying them with the demons. Helmuth von Glasenapp attributed these developments to a Hindu desire to absorb Buddhism in a peaceful manner, both to win Buddhists to Vaishnavism and also to account for the fact that such a significant heresy could exist in India.

The times ascribed to one “Buddha” figure are contradictory and some put him in approximately 500 CE, with a lifetime of 64 years, describe him as having killed some persons, as following the Vedic religion, and having a father named Jina, which suggest that this particular figure might be a different person from Siddhārta Gautama.

Kumārila Bhaṭṭa disregarded the connection of Buddha with Hinduism, he regarded Buddha as the one who “transgressed dharma laid down for Kshatriyas and he took himself to the profession of a religious teacher, one who ‘deceives himself’ and acts contrary to the Vedas”.

B.R. Ambedkar, denied that Buddha was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Among the 22 vows he gave to the Dalit Buddhist movement, the 5th vow is “I do not and shall not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. I believe this to be sheer madness and false propaganda.”

In 1999, at the Maha Bodhi Society in Sarnath, Jayendra Saraswathi of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham and S. N. Goenka, after having a mutual discussion, gave a joint communique agreeing on the following three points:

  1. “Due to whatever reason some literature was written in India in the past in which the Buddha was declared to be a re-incarnation of Vishnu and other various things were written about him, this was very unpleasant to the neighboring countries. In order to foster friendlier ties between Hindus and Buddhists we decide that whatever has happened in the past should be forgotten and such belief should not be propagated.
  2. A misconception has spread in the neighboring countries that the Hindu society of India is organizing such conferences to prove its dominance over the followers of the Buddha. To forever remove this misconception we declare that both Vedic and Samana are ancient traditions of India (Lord Vishnu belongs to the Vedic tradition and Buddha belongs to the Samana tradition). Any attempt by one tradition to show it higher than the other will only generate hatred and ill will between the two. Hence such a thing should not be done in future and both traditions should be accorded equal respect and esteem.
  3. Anybody can attain high position in the society by doing good deeds. One becomes a low person in society if one does evil deeds. Hence anybody by doing good deeds and removing the defilement’s such as passion, anger, arrogance, ignorance, greed, jealousy and ego can attain a high position in society and enjoy peace and happiness.

We agree on all the three things mentioned above and wish that all the people of India from all the traditions should have cordial relations and the neighboring countries should also have friendly relations with India.”

END.

Lord-Buddhas-Life

Women in Vedic Culture

The Vedic tradition has held a high regard for the qualities of women, and has retained the greatest respect within its tradition as seen in the honor it gives for the Goddess, who is portrayed as the feminine embodiment of important qualities and powers. These forms include those of Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of fortune), Goddess Sarasvati (the Goddess of knowledge), Goddess Durga (the Goddess of strength and power), and other Vedic Goddesses that exemplify inner strength and divine attributes. Even divine power in the form of Shakti is considered feminine.

  1. Throughout the many years of Vedic culture, women have always been given the highest level of respect and freedom, but also protection and safety.
  2. There is a Vedic saying, “Where women are worshiped, there the gods dwell”. Or where the women are happy, there will be prosperity.
  3. Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers‑in‑law, who desire their own welfare. Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased; but if they are not honored, there will be no rewards.
  4. Hence men, who seek their own welfare, should always honor women on holidays and festivals with gifts of ornaments, clothes and food.
  5. If there is a lineage in which daughters and the daughters-in-law are saddened by ill treatment, that lineage would be destroyed. When out of their grief these women curse these households, such households lose their charm, prosperity and happiness.
  6. Furthermore, in the Vedas, when a woman is invited into the family through marriage, she enters “as a river enters the sea” and “to rule there along with her husband, as a Queen, over the other members of the family.” (Atharva-Veda 14.1.43-44). This kind of equality is rarely found in any other religious scripture.
  7. Plus, a woman who is devoted to God is more highly regarded than a man who has no such devotion.
  8. In the matter of Dharma, in the days of Vedic culture, women stood as a decisive force in spirituality and the foundation of moral development.
  9. There were also women Rishis (sages) who revealed the Vedic knowledge to others. For example, the 126th hymn of the first book of the Rig-Veda was revealed by a Vedic woman whose name was Romasha; the 179 hymn of the same book was by Lopamudra, another inspired Vedic woman.
  10. There are a dozen names of women revealers of the Vedic wisdom, such as Visvavara, Shashvati, Gargi, Maitreyi, and Apala. Every one of them lived the ideal life of spirituality, being untouched by the things of the world. They are called in Sanskrit Brahmavadinis, the speakers and revealers of Brahman.
  11. In fact, in early Vedic civilization women were always encouraged to pursue spiritual advancement without hindrance.

“O bride! May the knowledge of the Vedas be in front of you and behind you, in your centre and in your ends. May you conduct your life after attaining the knowledge of the Vedas. May you be benevolent, the harbinger of good fortune and health, and live in great dignity and indeed be illumined in your husband’s home.” (Atharva Veda, 14.1.64)

  1. It is not without reason then that women are identified with Shakti in Vedic civilization. If women are kept suppressed, this Shakti will be denied to the family and the society, thus weakening all of them.
  2. The nature of motherhood of women was always stressed in Vedic India. After all, we often find women to be the foundation of family life and of raising the children properly. Women usually provide the love and understanding and nurturing for the development of their children in a way that is unlikely from most men.

“The teacher who teaches true knowledge is more important than ten instructors. The father is more important than ten such teachers of true knowledge and the mother is more important than ten such fathers. There is no greater guru than mother.” (Mahabharata, Shantiparva, 30.9)

  1. Our own life is a gift from our mother’s life. We were nourished by her, we spent nine months in her womb, and her love sustained us. Even now we are loved by our mother. This includes Mother Nature and Mother Earth, which is called Bhumi in the Vedic tradition. The Earth planet is also like a mother because everything we need to live, all our resources, comes from her. As we would protect our own mother, we must also protect Mother Earth.
  2. Women in motherhood, after giving birth to a child that they have carried for nine months, is the first guru and guide of the child and, thus, of humanity. Through this means, before any child learns hatred or aggression, they first know the love of a mother who can instill the ways of forgiveness and kindness in the child. In this way, we can recognize that there is often a strong woman, either as a mother or as a wife, behind most successful men.
  3. In exhibiting the qualities of motherhood, women must be warm and tender, strong and protective, yet also lay the foundation of discipline and the discrimination of right from wrong. Furthermore, in the home it is usually the woman who lends to providing beauty in decorating the house and facility for an inspirational atmosphere. Also, she must usually provide the nutritious and tasty dishes that give pleasure and strength for the fitness and health of the body.
  4. By their innate sense of motherhood and compassion, women also make natural healers, care givers, and nurturers. Those women who have this intrinsic disposition for caring will also be natural upholders of moral standards and spiritual principles. By their own emotional tendencies and expressions, they are also natural devotees of God.
  5. In ancient India the Sanskrit words used by the husband for the wife were Pathni (the one who leads the husband through life), Dharmapathni (the one who guides the husband in dharma) and Sahadharmacharini (one who moves with the husband on the path of dharma–righteousness and duty). This is how ancient Vedic culture viewed the partnership of husband and wife.
  6. When a husband and wife are willing to be flexible to each other’s needs and move forward in love and mutual understanding, the relationship can go beyond equality to one of spiritual union. This means that each one appreciates the talents of the other, and views the other as complimenting what each one already has. This also makes up for the weaknesses or deficiencies of the other. In this way, each can provide support, encouragement and inspiration to the other. This ideal can only be achieved when they properly understand the principles of spirituality. It is also said that where the husband and wife get along well, Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of fortune) herself dwells in that house.
  7. It is also considered that a wife who serves a spiritually strong and qualified husband automatically shares in whatever spiritual merit he achieves because she assists him by her service.
  8. In the Vedic tradition it is common to see the pairing of the Vedic male Gods with a female counterpart, thus combining both sets of powers and qualities that each would have. We can easily see this in Goddess Radha with Lord Krishna, Goddess Sita with Lord Rama, Goddess Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu, Goddess Durga with Lord Shiva, Goddess Sarasvati with Lord Brahma, etc. Thus, we have the combination of male and female Divinities that make the complete balance in the divine spiritual powers.
  9. In Vedic history, all women should be respected and honored for the potential and talent they can provide to keep the family together, as well as bare and raise children, but also for the many women, who have taken up the cause to preserve, protect and carry on the spiritual standards found in Vedic culture.

Paintings of rural indian women - Oil painting (4)

Gender According to Hinduism

Throughout the history and the traditions of Vedic society, women were also examples for maintaining the basic principles in Sanatana-dharma (Hinduism). This honor toward women should be maintained today by the preservation of genuine Vedic culture, either in the country or in the institutions.

Unfortunately, these standards have declined primarily due to the outside influences that have crept in because of foreign invaders, either militarily or culturally. These foreign invaders who dominated India mostly looked at women as objects of sexual enjoyment and exploitation, and as the spoils of war to be taken like a prize. The oppression of women increased in India since the Moghul empire rule. As such foreigners gained influence and converts, decay of the spiritual standards also crept into Indian and Vedic culture. The educational criteria of Vedic culture also changed and the teaching of the divinity of motherhood was almost lost. The teaching changed from emphasis on the development of individual self-reliance to dependence on and service to others. Thus, competition replaced the pursuit for truth, and selfishness and possessiveness replaced the spirit of renunciation and detachment. And gradually women were viewed as less divine and more as objects of gratification or property to be possessed and controlled, or even exploited.

This is the result of a Rakshasic or demonic cultural influence, which still continues to grow as materialism expands in society. Money and sensual gratification have become major goals in life, though they alone cannot give us peace or contentment. Instead they cause us to develop more desires in the hopes of finding fulfillment while leaving us feeling hollow and ever-more restless without knowing why.

Mahatma Gandhi once wrote that the way we treat our women is an indicator of our barbarism. Whereas men may have greater physical energy than women, the latter clearly have more internal and emotional energy.

In real Vedic culture it is taught that every man should view and show respect to every woman, also his own wife, as to his mother, and every little girl with the same concern and care as his own daughter. It is only because of the lack of such training and the social distancing from the high morals as this that this teaching is being forgotten, and the respect that society should have for women has been reduced.

In this way, the change in the attitude toward women in India (and across the globe) was due to a loss of culture and of the true Vedic standards and a lack of understanding true Vedic spiritual knowledge. Thus, it should be easy to see the need for organizations that will keep and teach the proper views, which were once a basic part of the genuine Vedic traditions.

When the position of women declines, then that society loses its equilibrium and harmony. In the spiritual domain, men and women have an equal position. Men and women are equal as sons and daughters of the same Supreme Creator. However, you cannot bring the spiritual domain to this Earth or enter the spiritual strata if your consciousness is focused on the differences of the sexes, and thus treat women poorly. One is not superior to the other, spiritually speaking, but each has particular ways or talents to contribute to society and to the service of God. So men should not try to control women by force, but neither should women forcefully try to seize the role of men or try to adopt the masculine nature of men. Otherwise, imbalance results in society, just as a car will not move properly when the tires on one side are out of balance. Of course there are exceptions in which some men are naturally good at feminine roles and some women are talented in masculine occupations. But the point is that women and men must work cooperatively like the twin wings of a bird, together which will raise the whole society. If there is a lack of respect and cooperation, how can society be progressive? After all, how can there be a spirit of cooperation and appreciation between men and women when instead there is a mood of competition or of disrespect for one towards the other? It is this mood in materialistic society that is increasing in both family and corporate life which contributes to social imbalance and not to a smooth and peaceful society.

Every girl should have the opportunity to learn spirituality along with modern education to help her reach her full potential. Of course, this can also be said of boys. No one is born hating another, but this is learned in materialistic societies from wrong association. Only later in life does a person learn the ways of liking their own kind and disliking anyone who seems different. Genuine spiritual knowledge is the alternative to bring a change in such a society and stop the hating and quarrel that go on because of perceiving bodily and external differences between us.

It is the primitive customs as well as the sexist inventions in modern but materialistic society that force social trends to limit, subjugate or even exploit women in today’s world. Such a society does not allow the strength or ingenuity of women to arise or be recognized, at least not without a struggle both inside the mind of women and outside in the field of activity and occupation. Women need to muster the strength to overcome such limitations. It is not that the world does not need nurturing and healing right now, which is a common and normal trait in women. After all, how many times do we hear of women being accused of rape, or child abuse and molestation, or kidnapping and murder? These are mostly the crimes of men, imbalanced men but men nonetheless. There is also a connection between the way men destroy the environment (Mother Nature) and their exploitative attitude toward women. This must be corrected.

One difference that we often see between men and women is that there is often nothing harder to penetrate than the typical male ego, which often causes men to hesitate to show any weakness and to make a show of a tough exterior, while women often respond easily to love with love. However, love and compassion are not meant to be exhibited only by women or mothers. It is a state of being, a level of consciousness. It is an exhibition of one’s spiritual development to have care and concern, compassion and love for each and every being. It should be a common interest that everyone should be able to live a life of opportunity, development and progress for their own material and spiritual well being. And this concern is natural for both men and women who have reached this level of spiritual awareness, recognizing in many ways the similarities between us all, regardless of our sex. This is what is needed to help bring more peace and cooperation in the world, and another reason for protecting and emphasizing the traditional standards of spiritual understanding as found in the teachings of Sanatana-dharma, and the ones that managed to insert these teachings within them can be regarded as True Hindus.

Thanks to Stephen Knapp (source).

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Wow…never thought the journey was this huge…

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Lord Bhairava

Lord Bhairava

Lord Bhairava

Lord Bhairava the Terrible & Frightful, sometimes known as Lord Kala Bhairava, is a Hindu deity, a fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva associated with annihilation. He is often depicted with frowning, angry eyes and sharp, tiger’s teeth and flaming hair; stark naked except for garlands of skulls and a coiled snake about his neck. In his four hands he carries a noose, trident, drum, and skull. He is often shown accompanied by a dog. He originated in Hindu mythology and is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike. He is worshipped in Nepal, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand.

 

Legends

The origin of Lord Bhairava can be traced to a conversation between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu recounted in the Shiva Mahapuranam, in which Lord Vishnu inquired of Lord Brahma, “Who is the supreme creator of the Universe?”.  Arrogantly, Lord Brahma told Lord Vishnu to worship him as supreme creator. One day Lord Brahma thought, “I have five heads, Shiva also has five heads. I can do everything that Shiva does and therefore I am Shiva”. Lord Brahma had become a little egoistic. Not only had he became egoistic, he started to forge the work of Lord Shiva. Lord Brahma started interfering in what Lord Shiva was supposed to do. Then Lord Shiva threw a small nail from His finger, which assumed the form of Lord Kala Bhairava, and casually went to cut off one of Lord Brahma’s heads. The skull of Lord Brahma is held in the hands of Lord Kala Bhairava. From then on, Lord Brahma’s ego was destroyed and he became enlightened. He became useful to himself, to the world and was deeply grateful to Lord Shiva for his mercy from destroying Lord Brahma.

 

Worship

His temples or shrines are present within or near most Jyotirlinga temples, the sacred twelve shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva across India, including Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi and the Kal Bhairav temple, Ujjain. In Ujjain, one can also find the Patal Bhairav and Vikrant Bhairav shrines.

Kaal Bhairava temples can also be found around Shakti Peethas, as it is said Lord Shiva allocated the job of guarding each of 52 Shakti Peethas to one Lord Bhairava. As such it is said there are 52 forms of Lord Bhairava, which are in fact considered as manifestation of Lord Shiva himself.

In Karnataka, Lord Bhairava is the supreme God for the community commonly referred as “Gowdas“, especially for the Gangadikara Gowda caste, he is considered as the care taker and punisher.

The Hindu reformer Adi Sankara has written a hymn on Lord Kala Bhairava of Kashi which is called as Kala Bhairav Ashtakam.

Lord Bhairava decapitated one of Lord Brahma's heads

Lord Bhairava decapitated one of Lord Brahma’s heads