A spiritual practice or spiritual discipline is the regular or full-time performance or devotion of actions and activities undertaken for the purpose of inducing “self realization”, “awakening” and “enlightenment”, which frees us from all pain and suffering.
“What you are looking for, is already where you are looking from””
~ St Francis of Assisi ~
Self-inquiry, The practice can be quite simple. You begin by asking, “Who am I?” or “What am I?” or “What is here right now?” You can also use any other question that directs your attention to your sense of “me” or to your direct experience of your existence and/or experience in this moment. If your attention is flowing to an outer sensation or experience, then you can ask, “To whom is this sensation or experience happening?” The obvious answer is that it is happening to “me.” And so then you ask again, “Who or what is this me?” Repeating these questions as each new experience or sense of me arises takes the experience more and more deeply into the inner aspects of your being.
There is an advanced and very direct self observation technique, it is the constant attention to the inner awareness of “I” or “I am” recommended by Ramana Maharshi as the most efficient and direct way of discovering the unreality of the “I”-thought. Ramana taught that the “I”-thought will disappear and only “I-I” or self-awareness remains. This is a very profound technique and with constant practice can activate, “self realization” or an “awakening“ into the heart of truth and absolute freedom.
“No one succeeds without effort… Those who succeed owe their success to perseverance”.
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi ~
Awakening is a self discovery process, it occurs spontaneously, for whatever reason, the ego or false self somehow let’s go so that a higher self or spirit can arise within. Spiritual awakening implies the return of what the Taoists call the original spirit, or what Jung called the true self, it is this return of spirit that makes us truly human.
Self inquiry is a powerful tool that can help the awakening process. A key is seeing the illusion of the ego or false self, you are not your body, you are not your mind and you are not your character. These are constructs of conditioning, this is something the body mind complex will find impossible to intellectually understand.
To help you in the awakening process, in a meditative environment, start with surrendering and letting go of everything you think are and everything think you know. Just for a short time remain empty, practice being no one, no thing, no where, in no time and in no space, just be aware of being aware, identify as awareness. Practice this regularly and you may just discover your true nature.
There are some excellent spiritual teachers on You Tube that teach this type of direct seeing, such as Ramana Maharshi, Papaji, Mooji, Sadhguru, GP Walsh, Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass, Allan Watts, among many others, find one that resonates with you.
“Step into the fire of self-discovery. This fire will not burn you, it will only burn what you are not.”
~ Mooji ~
Non-Duality, In spirituality, nondualism, also called non-duality, means “not two” or “one undivided without a second” Nondualism primarily refers to a mature state of consciousness, in which the dichotomy of I-other is “transcended”, and awareness is described as “centerless” and “without dichotomies”. Although this state of consciousness may seem to appear spontaneous, it usually follows prolonged preparation through ascetic or meditative/contemplative practice, which may include ethical injunctions. While the term “nondualism” is derived from Advaita Vedanta, descriptions of nondual consciousness can be found within Hindusim , Buddhism, Sufism, and western Christian traditions.
The Asian ideas of nondualism developed in the Vedic and post-Vedic Upanishadic philosophies as well as in the Buddhist traditions. The oldest traces of nondualism in Indian thought are found in the earlier Hindu Upanishads such as Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, as well as other pre-Buddhist Upanishads such as the Chandogya Upanishad, which emphasizes the unity of individual soul called Atman and the Supreme called Braham. In Hinduism, nondualism has more commonly become associated with the Advaita Vedanta tradition of Adi Shankara.
In the Buddhist tradition non-duality is associated with the teachings of emptiness (sunyata) and the two truths doctrine, particularly the Madhyamaka teaching of the non-duality of absolute and relative truth, and the Yogochara notion of “mind/thought only” (citta-matra) or “representation-only”. These teachings, coupled with the doctrine of Buddha nature have been influential concepts in the subsequent development of Mahayana Buddhism , not only in India, but also in East Asian and Tibetan Buddhism, most notably in Chan (Zen) and Vajrayana.
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart. If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinion for or against. The struggle of what one likes and what one dislikes is the disease of the mind“
Taoism, or Daoism, is a tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao. The Tao is a fundamental system that represents the principle that is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists.
Tao literally means “way”, but can also be interpreted as road, channel, path, doctrine, or line. In Taoism, it is “the One, which is natural, spontaneous, eternal, nameless, and indescribable. It is at once the beginning of all things and the way in which all things pursue their course.” It has variously been denoted as the “flow of the universe”, a “conceptually necessary ontological ground”, or a demonstration of nature. The Tao also is something that individuals can find immanent in themselves.
The active expression of Tao is called Te, also spelled and pronounced De, or even Teh, often translated with Virtue or Power, in a sense that Te results from an individual living and cultivating the Tao.
The ambiguous term wu-wei constitutes the leading ethical concept in Taoism. Wei refers to any intentional or deliberated action, while wu carries the meaning of “there is no” or “lacking, without”. Common translations are “nonaction”, “effortless action” or “action without intent”. The meaning is sometimes emphasized by using the paradoxical expression “wei wu wei”: “action without action”.
In ancient Taoist texts, wu-wei is associated with water through its yielding nature. Taoist philosophy, in accordance with the I Ching, proposes that the universe works harmoniously according to its own ways. When someone exerts their will against the world in a manner that is out of rhythm with the cycles of change, they may disrupt that harmony and unintended consequences may more likely result rather than the willed outcome. Taoism does not identify one’s will as the root problem. Rather, it asserts that one must place their will in harmony with the natural universe. Thus, a potentially harmful interference may be avoided, and in this way, goals can be achieved effortlessly. “By wu-wei, the sage seeks to come into harmony with the great Tao, which itself accomplishes by nonaction.”
Ziran, (“self-such”, “self organisation”) is regarded as a central value in Taoism. It describes the “primordial state” of all things as well as a basic character of the Tao, and is usually associated with spontaneity and creativity. To attain naturalness, one has to identify with the Tao, this involves freeing oneself from selfishness and desire, and appreciating simplicity.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
~ Lao Tzu ~
Buddhism is a spiritual religion founded on the teachings of a mendicant and spiritual teacher called “the Buddha” (“the Awakened One”, 5th to 4th century BCE). Early texts have the Buddha’s family name as “Gautama” (Pali Gotama).
The basic doctrines of early Buddhism, which remain common to all Buddhism, include the four noble truths,.
Existence is suffering (dukhka), suffering has a cause, namely craving and attachment (trishna), there is a cessation of suffering, which is nirvana, and there is a path to the cessation of suffering, (magga).
The eightfold path of right views,
- Right resolve
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right concentration
Buddhism characteristically describes reality in terms of process and relation rather than entity or substance.
Experience is analyzed into five aggregates (skandhas).
- Material existence (rupa)
- Sensations (vedana)
- Perceptions (samjna)
- Psychic constructs (samskara)
- Consciousness (vijnana)
The central Buddhist teaching of non-self (anatman) asserts that in the five aggregates no independently existent, immutable self, or soul, can be found. All phenomena arise in interrelation and in dependence on causes and conditions, and thus are subject to inevitable decay and cessation.
The casual conditions are defined in a 12-membered chain called dependent origination (pratityasamutpada) whose links are,
- Old age
With this distinctive view of cause and effect, Buddhism accepts the pan-Indian presupposition of samsara, in which living beings are trapped in a continual cycle of birth-and-death, with the momentum to rebirth provided by one’s previous physical and mental actions (Karma). The release from this cycle of rebirth and suffering is the total transcendence called nirvana.
From the beginning, meditation and observance of moral precepts were the foundation of Buddhist practice. The five basic moral precepts,
- Refrain from taking life
- Refrain from stealing
- Refrain from acting unchastely
- Refrain from speaking falsely
- Refrain from drinking intoxicants
Members of monastic orders also take five additional precepts:
- Refrain from eating at improper times
- Refrain from viewing secular entertainments
- Refrain from using garlands
- Refrain from using perfumes, and other bodily adornments
- Refrain from sleeping in high and wide beds
- Refrain from from receiving money
Their lives are further regulated by a large number of rules known as the Pratimoksa. The monastic order (sangha) is venerated as one of the
three jewels, along with the dharma, or religious teaching, and the Buddha. Buddhism gave rise to later ritualistic and devotional practices called Puja,
- Mantras – Buddhists may chant repetitively, as this is a form of mediation.
- Chanting – Buddhists may sing the scriptures.
- Mala – Buddhists may use a string of beads to help them focus during worship.
- Meditation – Buddhists may use meditation to open themselves to a higher state of awareness.
“Attachment is the root of suffering” ~ Buddha ~
Hermeticisum, Is a profound spiritual practice and study of “The seven principles”, which are the foundation of Hermetics. They were outlined by famed author Hermes Trismegistus.
Hermes also known as Thoth, lived in Atlantis and Egypt for over two thousand years. He was known at the time he lived throughout the world, as the Master of the Masters. who is believed to have written the Emerald Tablet and the Corpus Hermeticum (two highly influential, ancient teachings).
These texts hold the secrets of the far older, mystical wisdom from Ancient Egypt and are said to cause a change in anyone who reads them.
The principles of truth are seven; He who knows these, understandingly, possesses the magic key before whose touch all the doors of the temple fly open. – The Kyballion
The Principle of Mentalism
The all is mind; the universe is mental. – The Kyballion
This principle embodies the understanding that everything in the universe is created by thought or mind. There is nothing that exists in the material universe where this is not the case.
The great Edgar Cayce in his Universal Mind channelings, would over and over again say “thoughts are things”. The entire universe was created by the thought of God. We, as God’s sons and daughters, create our reality both metaphysically and physically by the power of our minds. The great law of spiritual psychology is that it is our thought that create our reality. Everything that exists is spirit. Matter is just densified spirit. Spirit is just refined matter. All is just energy.
The Principle of Correspondence
As above so below: as below, so above. – The Kyballion
This famous aphorism was created by Hermes. What this law means is that the thoughts and images that we hold in our conscious and subconscious mind will manifest its mirror likeness in our external circumstance. The outer world is a mirror of our inner world. If we hold thoughts of poverty we will have no money. If we hold thoughts and images of lack of good health, this will manifest within our physical bodies.
The thoughts and images we hold in our mind will attract their physical likeness to us in our external circumstance. This law works unceasingly for the good or the bad. By understanding this law we can use it for our benefit instead of our detriment. The most profound application of this law is seen in the life of Sathya Sai Baba. Whatever he thinks instantly manifests, even on a material level. He creates physical objects with the wave of his hand, and he says he does this by just thinking and imaging upon what he wants to create. This is the same law just sped up. Earth is a school for practicing these laws of mind and spiritual control. Imagine what would happen if the average person on the street were manifesting his thoughts instantly as Sai Baba does. If he had a negative thought about someone at this level of vibration it might actually physically kill this person.
Imagine what all the negative thoughts and emotions would instantly do to one’s health. For most of us it is a good thing that things don’t manifest that quickly yet, or we would be in a lot of trouble. The higher we go in vibration and initiation, the quicker your manifestation of your thoughts will occur. That is why the spiritual path at these higher levels has been called the straight and narrow path, and is visualized like a pyramid that gets narrower as you move towards the apex.
The Principle of Vibration
Nothing rests; Everything moves; Everything vibrates. – The Kyballion
This principle explains the difference between the different manifestations of matter and spirit. From pure spirit all the way down to the grossest level of matter is a continuum of varying degrees of vibration. Every atom and molecule is vibrating in a certain motion, speed, vibration, and frequency. It is the combination of these frequencies that determine the form of any given object, be it of a physical or metaphysical nature. Everything is in motion, and is vibrating, and nothing is at rest. Even a physical object, as for example a chair, is really in a state of motion. The atom, and electrons are vibrating, and there is space between these atoms and molecules. This is true of the atom as it is true of the solar system, galaxy, universe, and super universes. For the omniverse is nothing more than a large atom. As above so below.
Sai Baba can take a physical object and transform it into a new object in a physical sense by just changing this motion. We do the same thing, for example, with our bodies by how we think. The entire universe is in a state of motion evolving about the great central sun.
Every atom is a mini-universe within every molecule of our physical bodies. How we think will manifest our feelings, emotions, action, health, and what we attract to ourselves because energy follows thought. The ideal is to create a motion that is determined by your Higher Self, rather than by the lower self, or negative ego. Each of the seven initiations is a higher level of vibration and motion.
The Principle of Polarity
Everything is dual; Everything has poles; Everything has its pair of opposites; Like and unlike are the same; Opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; Extremes meet; All truths, are but half-truths; All paradoxes may be reconciled. – The Kyballion
This is a fascinating principle and law. Take, for example, heat and cold. Though they are opposites they are really the same thing. It is merely a matter of degree. The same could be said of spirit and matter. They are really the same thing. They could be likened to water. Freeze water and it becomes ice (matter). Boil water and it evaporates and becomes gaseous fumes (spirit). They are identical in nature, but different in degrees.
If you look at a thermometer where does heat terminate and cold begin? In actuality it is totally relative to one’s body type and individual preference. This same principle applies to all pairs of opposites, light and dark, large and small, hard and soft, positive and negative.
The same principle also applies on the mental plane of reality. Take, for example, love and hate. They are the same thing but different degrees. The importance of this law comes in the understanding of one’s ability to transmute and change the vibrations from one extreme to another. This, in reality, is the study of alchemy.
The alchemists of the middle ages were preoccupied in changing base metals into gold. This is possible as Sai Baba demonstrates so clearly and instantly. However the real meaning of this comes in the understanding of changing one’s base thoughts and emotions into spiritual gold or soul realized energies.
Hate can be transformed by the power of your mind into love (gold). Your lower self can be transformed into your higher self. Your physical body can be transformed into your light body (ascension). Separation can be turned into oneness. Guidance by your negative ego can be turned into guidance by your soul, using the art of polarization. An empty bank account can be transformed in a full bank account. We just need to polarize our consciousness differently. A person who is run by the emotional body needs to become polarized in their mental body. A person who is identified with their mental body or intellectual self may need to become polarized to the soul. A person merged with soul will need to become polarized to the monad. A person merged in the monad will need to become polarized to God. All varying degrees of the same thing.
The Principle of Rhythm
Everything flows, out and in; Everything has its tides; All things rise and fall; The pendulum swing manifests in everything; The measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; Rhythm compensates. – The Kyballion
This law stated above, we see manifesting in every aspect of our lives. We see it in the tides of the oceans. We see it in our need for sleep after a day of work. We see it in the creation of a star and sun and its eventual collapse. We see this law operating in the rise and fall of nations, and even in the operation of the omniuniverse. For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.
We see this in our breathing, and we see it in the way God breathes. God breathes out creation and then He breathes in creation. We see this in the movement of stars and in the science of astrology. As the earth moves through the different signs of the zodiac. We also see this law operating in the mental states of man, where the Hermetic practitioner finds its greatest and most useful application. The Hermetists apply the mental law of neutralization.
The Hermetist cannot annul or cause this principle to cease operation, however, they have learned to escape its effects upon themselves to a certain degree. The degree to which this is obtained depends upon one’s application of this law and upon one’s level of initiation at later stages.
Hermetists have learned how to use this law instead of being used by it. The Hermetist’s understanding the previous law of polarity, polarizes himself at the point at which he desires to rest, and then neutralizes the rhythmic swing of the pendulum which would tend to carry him to the other pole. I am speaking of this now on the mental and emotional level.
The Master does this by the use of will and detachment to create a state of consciousness that is not swung backwards or forward like a pendulum. The masses of humanity live on a mental and emotional roller coaster. The ideal is to attain a state of consciousness of divine indifference, evenmindedness, equanimity, inner peace, joy, unceasing happiness and bliss.
This is best explained by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, which is the same teaching of the Hermetists. The idea is to stay even minded, whether you have profit or loss, pleasure or pain, sickness or health, victory or defeat, rejection or praise.
This is just a matter of where you polarize your mind and state of consciousness. There is a point of neutrality or objectivity, or divine detachment, that is not caught up in the pendulum swing between these rhythms and polarities.
There is a state of consciousness called God consciousness where you don’t have to have a bad day. At the highest application of the use of this principle of neutrality, it is even applied into the physical body as well, for example, Sai Baba never sleeps. He doesn’t need food. He never gets tired. He can bilocate and be at two places at the same time.
This is the Ascended state of consciousness, when the monad or spirit merges completely with the physical vehicle as well, and the physical body is turned into Light. The duality becomes transcended. Whether you are on an emotional roller coaster or evenminded and have unceasing equanimity and joy is determined by your attitude and the polarization of your mind. This is why the understanding of these principles are so important.
All suffering comes from one’s attachments, and wrong points of view.
The Principle of Cause and Effect
Every cause has its effect; Every effect has its cause; Everything happens according to law’ Chance is but a name for law not recognized’ There are many planes of causation, but nothing escapes the law. – The Kyballion
There are no accidents in the universe. Everything in the universe is governed by laws. There are physical laws, emotional laws, mental laws, and spiritual laws. By understanding these laws we can learn to operate in grace instead of karma. Many times we don’t know the cause for the reason things happen to us. This is because there are seven dimensions of reality in which causation can occur. As Edgar Cayce said, over and over again in his Universal Mind readings, “Every jot and tittle of the law is fulfilled.” No one escapes anything, even though it may appear like some people are, in truth, they are not.
The Hermetists understand the art of rising above the ordinary plane of cause and effect, to a certain degree. They do this by rising to a high plane of consciousness and, hence, becoming masters instead of victims, and causes instead of effects.
The average person on the street is an effect, not a cause. They are an effect and victim of thoughts, moods, emotions, desire, appetites, lower self, other people, biorhythms, the physical body, past lives, subconscious programming, heredity, the weather, astrological influences, vital forces, disincarnate spirits, glamour, maya, illusion, and the environment, to name a few. The Master rises above and has a great deal of mastery over these things the higher one evolves.
By the time of the sixth initiation and ascension, all of them are transcended. The Masters obey the causation of the higher planes, but they help to rule them on their own plane. At each level of initiation one goes up another plane of consciousness, and hence, can even become a greater cause.
The key for most people of the earth plane is to gain mastery over your mind, which will lead to mastery over your emotions and desires, and also mastery over your physical body and appetites. Djwhal Khul has called this mastery over your three lower vehicles (physical, astral, mental bodies).
The basic cause of your life are the thoughts and images you hold in your conscious and subconscious mind. By learning to be absolutely vigilant and only allowing into your mind thoughts of God, love, perfection, perfect health, prosperity, joy, oneness, and equanimity, then this is all you will create both inwardly and outwardly. For your thoughts cause your reality.
Your thinking must be subservient to your soul and monad (spirit), instead of your lower self and negative ego. When these lessons are mastered then there really is no reason to attend this school called Earth life, except for service to our brothers and sisters who have not learned these lessons.
In summary, be the cause, be the master, be the co-creator with God that you truly are, and then you are using this law and principle instead of allowing it to use you. If you are not a master, you are a victim. This is the law of polarity. Change your polarization with the power of mind and the power of your God given free choice.
The Principle of Gender
Gender is in everything; Everything has its masculine and feminine principles; Gender manifests on all planes.” – The Kyballion
Everything has a yin and yang. On the physical plane each person has a male or female physical body, however psychologically each person is androgenous with male and female qualities. Each person has a left brain and right brain.
In Chinese philosophy, the physical foods a person eats are divided into yin foods and yang foods. This law not only applies on the physical plane, but also on the emotional, mental and spiritual planes. Father God and Mother Earth, Yin types of emotions and yang types of emotions. Yin types of thoughts and more yang type of thoughts.
The key point here is that the spiritual path is the path of balance and integration. Buddha called this the middle way. He demonstrated that the path to God was not the path of self indulgence or asceticism. It is the path of balancing the male and female aspects within self and also balancing the heavenly and earthly aspects within self. The spiritual path is also the balancing of the three minds, the four bodies, and the seven chakras. It is also the proper balance between the soul and the ego. This is done by transcending negative ego, and hence, keeping the ego in its proper balance and relationship to soul, which is to let it take care of the physical body, but not interpret your life.
As mastery is achieved this balanced state becomes more habitual and won’t take as much work, time, and energy to try and stay in balance. This is achieved by “knowing thyself”, and understanding these universal laws and balances that govern our being. To know God, we must understand God’s laws.
The Hermetic teachings are found in all lands and all religions, their appeal is universal. In early days there was a compilation of certain basic hermetic maxims, axioms, and precepts, which were passed from teacher to student, which is called the “Kyballion”.
“Man is a little world ~ a microcosm inside the great universe.”
Hinduism is the oldest spiritual religion in the world, dating back more than 5,000 years. Originating in Central Asia and the Indus Valley, still practiced in the present day. The term Hinduism is what is known as an exonym (a name given by others to a people, place, or concept) and derives from the Persian term Sindus designating those who lived across the Indus River.
Adherents of the faith know it as Sanatan Dharma (“eternal order” or “eternal path”) and understand the precepts, as set down in the scriptures known as the Vedas, as having always existed just as Brahman, the Supreme Over Soul from whom all of creation emerges, has always been. Brahman is the First Cause which sets all else in motion but is also that which is in motion, that which guides the course of creation, and creation itself.
There is no founder of Hinduism, no date of origin, nor – according to the faith – a development of the belief system; the scribes who wrote the Vedas are said to have been simply recording that which had always existed. This eternal knowledge is known as shruti (“what is heard”) and is set down in the Vedas and their various sections known as the Samhitas, Aranyakas, Brahmanas, and, most famously, the Upanishads, each of which addresses a different aspect of the faith and the purpose of life.
The purpose of life is to recognize the essential oneness of existence, the higher aspect of the individual self (known as the Atman) which is a part of everyone else’s self as well as the Over Soul/Mind and, through adherence to one’s duty in life (dharma) performed with the proper action (Karma), to slip the bonds of physical existence and escape from the cycle of rebirth and death (samsara).
Once the individual has done so, the Atman joins with Brahman and one has returned home to the primordial oneness. That which keeps one from realizing this oneness is the illusion of duality – the belief that one is separate from others and from one’s Creator – but this misconception (known as maya), encouraged by one’s experience in the physical world, may be overcome by recognizing the essential unity of all existence – how alike one is to others and, finally, to the divine – and attaining the enlightened state of self-actualization.
Brahmanism developed into the system now known as Hinduism which, although generally regarded as a religion, is also considered a way of life and a philosophy. The central focus of Hinduism, whatever form one believes it takes, is self-knowledge; in knowing one’s self, one comes to know God. Evil comes from ignorance of what is good; knowledge of what is good negates evil.
One’s purpose in life is to recognize what is good and pursue it according to one’s particular duty (dharma), and the action involved in that proper pursuit is one’s karma. The more dutifully one performs one’s karma in accordance with one’s dharma, the closer to self-actualization one becomes and so the closer to realizing the Divine in one’s self.
The physical world is an illusion only in so far that it convinces one of duality and separation. One may turn one’s back on the world and pursue the life of a religious ascetic, but Hinduism encourages full participation in life through the purusharthas – life goals – which are:
- Artha – one’s career, home life, material wealth
- Kama – love, sexuality, sensuality, pleasure
- Moksha – liberation, freedom, enlightenment, self-actualization
The soul takes enjoyment in these pursuits even though it understands they are all temporal pleasures. The soul is immortal – it has always existed as part of Brahman and will always exist – therefore the finality of death is an illusion. At death, the soul discards the body and then is reincarnated if it failed to attain Moksha or, if it did, the Atman becomes one with Brahman and returns to its eternal home.
The cycle of rebirth and death, known as samsara, will continue until the soul has had its fill of earthly experience and pleasures and concentrates a life on detachment and pursuit of eternal, rather than temporal, goods.
Helping or hindering one in this goal are three qualities or characteristics inherent in every soul known as the gunas:
- Sattva – wisdom, goodness, detached enlightenment
- Rajas – passionate intensity, constant activity, aggression
- Tamas – literally “blown by the winds”, darkness, confusion, helplessness
The gunas are not three states one ‘works through’ from lowest to highest; they are present in every soul to greater or lesser degrees. An individual who is generally composed and lives a good life might still become swept away by passion or find themselves whirling in helpless confusion. Recognizing the gunas for what they are, however, and working to control the less desirable aspects of them, helps one to see more clearly one’s dharma in life and how to perform it.
One’s dharma can only be performed by one’s self; no one may perform another’s duty. Everyone has arrived on the earth with a specific role to play and, if one chooses not to play that role in one’s present life, one will come back in another and another until one does so.
The concept of Eternal Order is made clear through the texts which are regarded as the Hindu scriptures. These works, as noted, fall into two classes:
- Shruti (“what is heard”) – the revelation of the nature of existence as recorded by the scribes who “heard” it and recorded it in the Vedas.
- Smritis (“what is remembered”) – accounts of great heroes of the past and how they lived – or failed to live – in accordance with the precepts of Eternal Order.
The texts relating Shruti are the Four Vedas:
- Rig Veda – the oldest of the Vedas, a collection of hymns
- Sama Veda – liturgical texts, chants, and songs
- Yajur Veda – ritual formulas, mantras, chants
- Atharva Veda – spells, chants, hymns, prayers
Each of these is further divided into types of text:
- Aranyakas – rituals, observances
- Brahmanas – commentaries on said rituals and observances explaining them
- Samhitas – benedictions, prayers, mantras
- Upanishads – philosophical commentaries on the meaning of life and Vedas
- Puranas – folklore and legend regarding figures of the ancient past
- Ramayana – epic tale of Prince Rama and his journey to self-actualization
- Mahabharata – epic tale of the five Pandavas and their war with the Kauravas
- Bhagavad Gita – popular tale in which Krishna instructs the prince Arjuna on dharma
- Yoga Sutras – commentary on the different disciplines of yoga and self-liberation
These texts allude to or specifically address numerous deities such as Indra , lord of the cosmic forces, thunderbolts, storms, war, and courage; Vac, goddess of consciousness, speech, and clear communication; Agni, god of fire and illumination; Kali, goddess of death;, Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, remover of obstacles; Parvati, goddess of love, fertility, and strength and also the consort of Shiva and Soma, god of the sea, fertility, illumination, and ecstasy. Among the most important of the deities are those who make up the so-called “Hindu Trinity”:
- Brahma – the creator
- Vishnu – the preserver
- Shiva – the destroyer
All of these gods are manifestations of Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, who can only be understood through aspects of Itself. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are both these aspects and individual deities with their own characters, motivations, and desires.
They may also be understood through their own avatars – as they themselves are also too overwhelming to be comprehended on their own entirely – and so take the form of other gods, the most famous of which is Krishna, the avatar of Vishnu, who comes to earth periodically to adjust humanity’s understanding and correct error.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna appears as the Prince Arjuna’s charioteer because he knows Arjuna will have doubts about fighting against his relatives at the battle of Kurukshetra. He pauses time in order to instruct Arjuna on the nature of dharma and the illusion of the finality of death, elevating his mind above his interpretation of present circumstance, and allowing him to perform his duty as a warrior.
These texts inform the religious observances of adherents of Sanatan Dharma which, generally speaking, have two aspects:
- Puja – worship, ritual, sacrifice, and prayer either at a personal shrine or temple
- Darshan – direct visual contact with the statue of a deity
One may worship the Divine at one’s home, a personal shrine, or a temple. In the temple, the clergy will assist an individual and their family by interceding on their behalf with the deity by instruction, chants, songs, and prayers. Song, dance, and general movement in expressing one’s self before God often characterize a religious service. An important element of this is visual contact with the eyes of the deity as represented by a statue or figurine.
Darshan is vital to worship and communion in that the god is seeking the adherent as earnestly as the adherent seeks the deity and they meet through the eyes. This is the reason why Hindu temples are adorned with figures of the many gods both inside and externally. The statue is thought to embody the deity itself and one receives blessings and comfort through eye contact just as one would in a meeting with a friend.
This relationship between a believer and the deity is most apparent through the many festivals observed throughout the year. Among the most popular is Diwali, the festival of lights, which celebrates the triumph of bright energies and light over the forces of negativity and darkness. In this festival, as in daily observance, the presence of a statue or figurine of a deity is important in making connection and elevating the mind and soul of an adherent.
Diwali is probably the best example of the discipline of Bhakti Yoga which focuses on loving devotion and service. People clean, renovate, decorate, and improve their homes in honor of the goddess of fertility and prosperity Lakshmi, and give thanks for all they have received from her. There are many other deities, however, who may be called upon at Diwali to take the place of Lakshmi depending on what an adherent needs and what has been received over the past year.
The individual deity does not finally matter because all the deities of the pantheon are aspects of Brahman as is the worshipper and the act of worship. The details of the observance do not matter as much as the observance itself which acknowledges one’s place in the universe and reasserts one’s commitment to recognizing the divine unity in every aspect of one’s life and one’s connection to others who are traveling the same path toward home.
“For the soul, there is never birth nor death.
Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be.
He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval.
He is not slain when the body is slain.”