Joined: 03 Jan 2005
Location: London, UK.
|Posted: Wed Jul 11, 2007 4:23 am Post subject: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva
|Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva!
By Dr Joshua David Stone
Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion with over 500 million followers. Hinduism began in India, and over two-thirds of its followers live in India. Its followers believe that Hinduism goes back over 4000 years, and is the oldest of all religions.
The objective of Hinduism is to achieve union with God which the Hindus call Brahman. Brahman is the all pervading God. The term Atman refers to the Eternal Self which is our true identity. The sacred Hindu writings called the Upanishads point out that Brahman and Atman are one.
According to Hindu doctrines, the ideal life consists of four stages.
1. The period of discipline and education.
2. The life of the householder and active worker.
3. Retreat for the loosening of the bonds.
4. The life of the hermit, preparing for death and union with God.
Hindu worship is individual as contrasted with group and congregational worship of some of the other major religions. Most houses have a room or a corner of a room for worship (puja). Where there are pictures or a statue of a particular image of God.
Hinduism recognizes tens of thousands of lesser gods that all come under the umbrella of the one God Brahman. Hinduism also recognizes the divine descent of an Avatar. An Avatar is a God realized being on earth. The two main Avatars of Hinduism are Rama and Krishna.
Rama lived over twenty thousand years ago and Krishna lived around 5000 BC. There have been other Avatars, however, these two are the most well known and revered. Mahatma Ghandi said in his autobiography that one of the keys to his success was the chanting of the name of God all day long. The name he chanted was Ram or Rama.
Ghandi was also greatly influenced by the sacred Hindu book, "The Bhagavad Gita". The Bhagavad Gita is the story of Krishna. The book, "The Ramayana" is the is the story of Rama. The Bhagavad Gita is part of a much larger book called the Mahabarata. When Ghandi was assassinated the last words he said were Ram. For Krishna said, in Bhagavad Gita, that where you go when you die is the last thought in your mind as you die. Ghandi went to Ram or God.
Sai Baba, who is now living in India is the most popular Avatar since Krishna. Krishna, of course was a past life incarnation of the Lord Maitreya who is the president or head of the Great White Brotherhood. Sai Baba, in reality, is much more popular than even Krishna or Rama, in terms of the present time of history.
What is meant by this is that when Krishna and Rama lived their lives were focused in small villages and not very many people realized that they were divine incarnations or Avatars. Sai Baba, because of our modern society, media, books, airplane travel, has been able to reach far more people than Krishna or Rama ever did at the time They lived.
Of course, after their death their legends , as studied from the Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita, has spread greatly. So Hinduism recognized that many people need a "personal God" that they can feel close to and visualize in their mind. This has often, unfortunately, been construed to be polytheism, which is not true.
The fact is that God’s infinite universe does have infinite numbers of lesser Gods that run the universe at stepped down levels of frequency. Hindus recognize that all these millions of lesser gods are all a part of Brahman.
Hindus recognize Brahman first. then it is broken down to the famous Hindu trinity of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. Brahma, I should say is different than Brahman. There are three main sects of Hindus; Those that worship Brahma, those that worship Shiva, and those that worship Vishnu. Brahma is referred to as the male manifestation of Brahman. He is the Creator Aspect of the Trinity. Vishnu is the preserver and Shiva is the destroyer.
Brahma was once an important god but has declined in popularity over the centuries. The two most important sects are those that worship Shiva and Vishnu. Vishnu is worshipped in the form of the Avatars. He has supposedly had ten incarnations. The two most famous are, again, Rama and Krishna.
Sai Baba has said that He is an incarnation of Vishnu also. Although He also said that He is an incarnation of the Lord Dattetreya. The Lord Dattetreya is the incarnation of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu all in the same body. I think you are beginning to see the profundity of Sai Baba.
It is also understood that Sai Baba is the Cosmic Christ. Lord Maitreya is the Planetary Christ, Sai Baba holds the same position on the Cosmic level (see chapter on Sai Baba).
The path of worshipping Shiva is also very popular along with one other smaller Hindu sect that worships the Divine Mother aspect of God. She has been described as the embodiment of Shakti energy. Among the aspects of the Mother energy most widely worshipped is that of the wife of Shiva, Parvati. Vishnu’s wife is Lakshmi, who is the Goddess of Good Luck and Good Fortune.
The great Hindu saint of the 19th century, Rama Krishna, for a time, was a devotee of the Divine Mother aspect of God. There are many minor gods that the Hindus worship and pay homage to, and call on as needed. One is Ganesh, the elephant headed god. Hindus call on Him when they have obstacles in their life.
Hanuman, the monkey God, is the embodiment and perfect example for selfless service. For it was Hanuman who helped Rama in the story of the Ramayana, get back his wife Sita, who was kidnapped by an evil demon.
Some of the other minor Gods are Durga, the warrior goddess. Kali, the bringer of war and destruction, Indra, the war and water god, Surya, the sun god. Chandra, the moon god. Saraswati the goddess of wisdom, and Agni, the god of fire.
As we can clearly see, Hinduism is quite a colorful religion. One last note here, I would like to make about Sai Baba. He has also said that He is the embodiment of Shiva and Shakti, in this lifetime. In His last past live as Shirdi Sai Baba, He was the embodiment of the Shakti energy. In His future life as Prema Sai Baba, He will be the embodiment of just the Shakti energy. So Sai Baba is the embodiment of Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, and Shakti all in the same body. There has never been another like Him in the history of Hindu tradition. He is all the Gods in one body.
There are pictures of the gods and goddesses in almost every home and shop, and the smell of sweet incense is everywhere. Another very interesting thing about Hinduism is that there is not one single book like the Bible or Koran or Dhamapada of Buddhism that espouses its teachings. There are, in actuality, many different sets of books. I have mentioned two already in the Ramayana and the Mahabarata which contain the Bhagvad Gita. Then there is the Upanishads, the Vedas, the Puranas and others.
The main message of the Upanishads is that each person or soul (Atman) is part of the world soul (Brahman). The world soul, Brahman, is within all things. Through the cycle of reincarnation, man finally realizes Brahman through realizing that he is the Eternal Self (Atman).
The Bhagavad Gita, which means "Song of God", was written by Vyassa, who was an incarnation of the Buddha. It is the story of Krishna and His disciple, Arjuna. Krishna is Arjuna’s (Spiritual Warrior) spiritual teacher and charioteer. It tells of a great war and battle that is about to begin between two sects of the family of Arjuna. The Bhagavad Gita is the conversation that ensues between Krishna and Arjuna.
Arjuna loses his faith and clarity, and is consumed by negative ego, just as the battle is about to begin. The Bhagavad Gita is the story of how Krishna re-awakens Arjuna to the divine realities of life.
The Bhagavad Gita, in my personal opinion, is one of the most profound books ever written. This being the case, I have decided to dedicate a whole chapter in this book to its discussion. It is Krishna’s (Lord Maitreya - as written down by Buddha - Vyassa) revelation of God to Arjuna. It may be one of the most influential spiritual books ever written on this planet.
There are many universal ideals in Hinduism such as truthfulness, kindness, unconditional love, the fulfilling of one’s dharma (mission), selfless service. One of the keys to understanding Hinduism is the primary desire of all Hindus to achieve moksha (liberation) from the wheel of rebirth. The idea is to get rid of all desire except for this all pervading desire which comes through the realization of the Atma (Eternal Self). This is a state free from the bondage of karma. This is achieved, in part, later in life through the renunciation of the over identification with the material world.
Another path or set of teachings that are intimately involved with the path of Hinduism is that of yoga. The Hindus recognize many paths back to the creator and this is embodied in the yogic teachings. The many paths of yoga is such a profound subject that I have dedicated an entire chapter to this subject which I have called "The paths to union with God".
During morning, afternoon, or evening worship, the devout Hindu sits in front of their altar and meditates, prays, and reads spiritual texts. Incense is often lit, and flowers and food are sometimes placed on the altar. The Hindus believe that their sacred text, the Vedas, was revealed by God to seers called Rishis in ancient times. Sai Baba attests to the truth of this fact.
In Hinduism it was predicted 5000 years ago that a future Avatar would come called the Kalki Avatar, at the end of the Iron age. Sai Baba is that Avatar the Hindu religion has been waiting for. The unique thing about His coming is that He transcends Hinduism, for He says that He is in all forms and will come to you no matter what form of God you worship even if it isn’t one of the Hindu gods.
Another key principle of the Hindu faith is the need to overcome maya or illusion. It is that state of consciousness that is over identified with the material universe and hence creates the illusion of separation and lack of unity with God. There are many paths to achieving this transcendence of man as can be seen in the chapter on yoga.
Hindus very much believe in the Law of Karma. The physical body that the soul lives in during the next life will depend greatly on one’s action in this life. If one does good deeds that one will be reborn at a higher level. This leads us to an understanding of the Hindu caste system, for it is tied to the understanding of rebirth to the Hindus.
Hinduism divides society into four large classes. At the top are the Brahmins (differentiated from Brahman, and Brahma) who are considered the purest and perform all religious ceremonies. Next are the Kshatriyas, who are the rulers and warriors. The third group are the Vaishyas who are the traders and craft workers. Fourth are the Shudras, the ordinary workers. The fifth group are outside the caste system called the "untouchables", who do all the dirtiest jobs. This classification has been outlawed in modern India but attitudes are sometimes slow to change. Caste plays an important part in the life of a Hindu. It would probably determine your job, whom you married, economic status, and who you would share food with.
Respect for elders is also a very important part of the Hindu value system. It is the elders who actually choose marriage partners for their children or grandchildren. The bride then usually goes to live in the groom’s home. Old people’s homes in America would be, and are, very shocking to the Hindus.
Every new born has an astrological horoscope done, which I personally think is a fantastic ritual and service to the child. The name the child is given usually has to do with some special religious meaning. The most important ceremony of childhood is the initiation of the sacred thread. It usually takes place between the ages of eight and eleven. It is a sacred ceremony where the Brahmin priest hangs a long loop of thread made of several strands twisted together over the boy’s left shoulder and under his right arm. This sacred thread is then worn from that day onward the rest of the life. This ceremony is looked on as a second rebirth. Those who wear the thread are called "twice born". After this ceremony the boy begins to study the sacred writings and religious rituals.
The schools in India do not have courses in Hinduism, but teach morals and ethics of all religions (which is sadly lacking in the American educational system). Displays and plays are performed honoring all the different religious leaders.
An astrological reading is also done before all weddings to determine the ideal time. The Hindu understanding of marriage is different from America’s. Love comes gradually after marriage, not before. It would have to be this way because the parents or elders arrange it.
Spiritual pilgrimages are a very important part of the Hindu religion. They are not required, however it is greatly desired by many devout Hindus. The Ganges river is far the most holy place. The water of the Ganges is said to wash away a person’s sins. Most Hindus try to bathe in it at least once in their lifetime.
Mount Kailasha, in the central Himalayas is also a sacred spot to many Hindus for it is sacred to the God, Shiva. One of Hinduism’s greatest temples is the spectacular Jagannatha Temple in the city of Puri. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gather here for a festival held in June or July. Jagannatha is a form of the God, Vishnu. At this festival an image of Jagannatha is carried through the streets of the city in a type of parade.
Cremation is a standard practice for all Hindus. The body is placed on a raised platform and covered in sandalwood. Rituals are performed and hymns recited which remind the mourners that the body dies, but the soul is eternal. Death to the Hindus is a celebration, not a mourning sad ritual, as in our Western culture. The Hindu’s recognize that the incarnated personality is now a free spirit and they are very joyous about this new life for their loved one. The actual lighting of the funeral pyre is done by the elder son or another family member.
Hinduism teaches to have compassion for all living things. Ghandi exemplified this in his teachings of non-violence. This is also demonstrated in the not killing of the sacred cows that wander the streets of India.
In Hindu cosmology, a universe projects from Brahman and endures only for a cycle of 4,320,000,000 human years. Then it is breathed back into the heart of Brahman. (See chapter on the In breath and Out breath of Brahman). This process is repeated over and over again. In Hindu mythology, Brahman appears in the form of the God, Brahma to create each universe, the form of Vishnu to sustain it, and the form of Shiva to eventually destroy it.
Integral to every Hindu is to see God in everything. This includes trees, rivers, cows, and ants. This ideal of non-violence applies to animals as well as humans. Most Hindus are also vegetarians. It is also interesting to mention that nowhere in the world is asceticism considered such a national ideal as in India.
Since moksha or liberation from the wheel of rebirth is the greatest ideal for all Hindus, death is the biggest event of their life. This is why many Hindus travel to the holy city of Benares when they about to die.