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Karma: What Goes Around Comes Around Meaning and Every Action Has Consequences

Karma: Every action has consequences

The idea of karma illustrates that every action has consequences that go beyond a mere human lifetime.

Karma is a law of causality that first appeared in the Upanishads, the sacred texts that expound the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, produced in India between c. 1500 and c. 500 BCE. Karma is also a key concept in Buddhism and Jainism.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “It is God’s inviolable law that karma never fails to produce its effect.”

The term karma means “action” in Sanskrit, and refers to the idea that every action has a specific set of causes and effects. Ethically, karma is a metaphysical record of a person’s moral worth. When someone commits an evil act, they acquire karma; when someone does good, they acquire merit, which cancels out karma. Karma is linked to samsara (the cycle of reincarnation) because when people die, their karma determines the type of rebirth they will have in the next life.

In Hinduism, this is closely tied to the varna (caste) system: a virtuous life eradicates karma and guarantees rebirth in a higher caste that is more capable of attaining moksha, a state of unity between a person’s atman (true self) and Brahman (ultimate reality).

The Meaning of Karma

'The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying' by Sogyal Rinpoche (ISBN 0062508342) Max Weber wrote in The Religion of India (1916) that “Karma doctrine transformed the world into a strictly rational, ethically-determined cosmos; it represents the most consistent theodicy ever produced by history.” Schools of established Indian philosophy have established more or less sophisticated paradigms of the psychological processes that typify the relations between karma, rebirth, and spiritual fulfillment. Tibetan Dzogchen Lama Sogyal Rinpoche wrote in ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’,

In simple terms, what does karma mean? It means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with its consequences. It is said by masters that even a little poison can cause death, and even a tiny seed can become a huge tree. And as Buddha said: “Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain.” Similarly he said: “Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit; even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel.” Karma does not decay like external things, or ever become inoperative. It cannot be destroyed “by time, fire, or water.” Its power will never disappear, until it is ripened.

In Buddhism, life is characterized by suffering; the goal of spiritual cultivation is to eradicate karma and attain nirvana, a state in which all karma is nullified and a person can exit the cycle of rebirth. In Jainism, expunging all karma leads to moksha, a blissful state of liberation from samsara. In Hinduism and Buddhism, people receive karma only for intentional acts, whereas in Jainism, even unintentional acts can generate karma.

Karma in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy

Understanding Karma

Karma is a principal doctrine to Indian theology and has a similar meaning in both Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. It represents the proposal of universal justice, the conviction that in the end, good will be rewarded and wrong doing penalized. Karma is an objective force functioning to meet out outcomes of actions. The concept of karma is in contradiction of the understandings of the Western Abrahamic beliefs (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) where a personal God adjudicates individual souls at the end of time and dispenses rewards or castigations in proportion to one’s actions in life. Karma is involuntary and not a judgment of one’s conduct but merely a outcome occurring by way of action. 'What the Buddha Taught' by Walpola Rahula (ISBN 0802130313) The Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Walpola Rahula wrote in ‘What the Buddha Taught’

The theory of karma should not be confused with so-called “moral justice” or “reward and punishment.” The idea of moral justice, or reward and punishment, arises out of the conception of a supreme being, a God, who sits in judgment, who is a law giver and who decides what is right and wrong. The term “justice” is ambiguous and dangerous, and in its name more harm then good is done to humanity. The theory of karma is the theory of cause and effect, of action and reaction; it is a natural law, which has nothing to do with the idea of justice or reward and punishment.

Every volitional action produces its effects and results. If a good action produces good effects and a bad action bad effects, it is not justice, or reward, or punishment meted out by anybody or any power sitting in judgment on your action, but this is in virtue of its own nature, its own law. This is not difficult to understand. But what is difficult is that, according to the karma theory, the effects of a volitional action may continue to manifest themselves even in a life after death.’

Karma is Complex

'Karma: What It Is, What It Isn't, Why It Matters' by Traleg Kyabgon (ISBN 1590308883) Karma is frequently spoken of as the law of return, that whatsoever you spread toward others in behavior will return in due course. Contrasting the Western monotheism which postulates only one life for each person, in Eastern beliefs the individual has an entire series of lifespans in which to progress their spiritual and ethical development. The wheel of existence in both Hindu and Buddhist thought is a series of births, lives, and deaths over infinite eons. The individual soul or karmic core gets passed along through consecutive incarnations until spiritual development leads to final union with the divine ground of Being. In Hinduism this is viewed as Brahman, and in Buddhism, this is simply termed enlightenment, or the fully awakened state.

Karma has become a popular term in New Age spirituality; all actions can be good or bad karma, contingent on their ethical characteristics. The Lama Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche wrote in ‘Karma: What It Is, What It Isn’t, Why It Matters’,

The Buddha, radically interpreted the individual as a compound of many different elements, physical and mental – a psychophysical complex. Therefore our feelings, thoughts, emotions, memories, dispositions; our perceptual capability, our cognitive capacities, and our physical conditions – all are constantly interacting and impacting each other.

And agents themselves are also continually interacting with other agents. Logically, then, we need not compelled to identify ourselves with a single thing, a core element to our psyche, as it is really a matter of being in a state of flux. In this sense, karma could be said to operate as streams of networking karmic processes, where all kinds of living, breathing individuals are involved. The really important principle to grasp about this approach is to look closely at things, for things in their nature are complex. Acknowledging this will bring us great reward in fact. Doing the opposite, looking at things in a very simple way, keeps us trapped in ignorance.

Due to the prevalence of Hinduism and Buddhism throughout Asia, karma has become a central moral paradigm. The doctrine of karma has influenced the spiritual beliefs of numerous traditions, including Sikhism, Falun Gong, and Theosophy.

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History and Architecture of the Achyutaraya Temple Complex, Hampi, Capital of the Vijayanagara Empire

Achyutaraya Temple Complex, Hampi

Achyutaraya (1530–42 A.D.) temple complex is an imposing and magnificent cluster of temples in Hampi. However, it is called Achyutaraya Temple, an inscription of 1534 A.D. refers to this as Tiruvengalanatha or Venkatesha temple, and King Achyutaraya built it in 1539 A.D.

Achyutaraya Temple Complex, Hampi

The temple consists of a garbhagriha, antarala, pradakshinapatha, sabhamandapa, mahasabhamandapa, kalyanamandapa, Devi shrine etc. All these are enclosed in two prakaras one within the other.

Achyutaraya Temple Complex, Hampi

The outer prakara has main gates at northern and western directions, whereas the inner prakara has the gateways at north, east, and west. All these gateways had gopuras, which are in ruined condition now.

Achyutaraya Temple Complex, Hampi

The square garbhagriha, which originally had an image of Lord Venkatesha, is now empty. Its doorway is ornamented and has Vaishnava dvarapalas and Gajalakshmi at the lintel. Above the garbhagriha is a Dravida type sikhara. The square sabhamandapa has four pillars in the middle set on an elevated floor in the centre.

Achyutaraya Temple Complex, Hampi

The mahasabhamandapa stands on thirty pillars set in five rows. The pillars exhibit typical Vijayanagara features. To the south-west is the Devi shrine and its garbhagriha is empty now. Its sabhamandapa has a sculpture, which has been identified as that of King Achyutaraya, the builder of this temple.

Achyutaraya Temple Complex, Hampi

The sculptures of this temple exhibit good workmanship. The bass-reliefs of combination of bull and elephant arrest our attention. The pillars in general are neatly executed with elegantly carved sculptures of gods and goddesses.

Achyutaraya Temple Complex, Hampi

To the west is a large and rectangular kalyanamandapa or marriage pavilion. It has over one hundred pillars with sculptures of Garuda, Hanuman, and Vishnu etc.

Achyutaraya Temple Complex, Hampi

In front of this complex are low-pillared mandapas, which had bazaars, or markets where merchants used to stock in heaps pearls and other precious stones and sell them. Many foreign travelers have graphically described this pearl bazaar the type of which never existed anywhere in the world except Hampi. That was the glory of Vijayanagara.

Achyutaraya Temple Complex, Hampi

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Splendors of Sculptures and Architecture of Hazara Rama Temple, Hampi

Hazara Rama Temple in Hampi

Hazara Rama temple is one of the most elegant temples in Hampi. Its construction was started in the year 1513 A.D., under the orders of Krishnadevaraya and was completed before the end of his reign.

Horizontal friezes Hampi Hazara Rama Temple.jpg From Bangalore, it was extensive journey of 353 kilometers to Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagara empire, our first stop, along a uncomfortable narrow tarred road. We reached Hampi at about 6:30 p.m. and parked under a tree whose branches canopied throughout the road. Close by was the Hazara Rama (a thousand Ramas) temple which was splendid in the depending dusk. It is a quadrilateral temple complex set within well-tended lawns, destined for the secluded worship of the Vijayanagar kings. The air was cool and gleaming twilight rays moderated the sharp lines of the granite edifice. We admired the fine statuettes on the outer walls encircling the complex exulting when we recognized the figures.

Hampi's Hazara Rama Temple: Sculpture of Kalki holding in his four hands sankha, chakra, sword, and shield and riding a horse Actually, it is a royal chapel or a private temple for the use of the royalty. The temple opening to the east has a flat roofed dvaramandapa with symmetrical pillars. Passing through the doorway one enters into a square rangamandapa, which has blackstone tall pillars. These pillars are very attractive and contain sculptures of gods and goddesses, like Ganesha, Mahishamardini, Hanuman and different forms of Vishnu.

The sculpture of Kalki holding in his four hands sankha, chakra, sword, and shield and riding a horse is especially noteworthy. The rangamandapa has entrances to the south and north and the western entrance leads to the sanctum. One of these doors leads to the open enclosure from which the garbhagriha and its beautiful vimana become visible.

The outer wall of the prakara and Horizontal Friezes are great attraction at Hampi Hazara Rama Temple

The outer wall of the prakara also built of stone is a great attraction in this temple as it is divided into five horizontal friezes, each containing from the bottom upwards rows of elephants, horses, and Krishnalila stories in addition to some gods like Subramanya, Ganesha etc. Particularly interesting are the stories relating to Rishyasringa, Putrakameshti yaga, Sita svayamvara scene in which Sivardhanush is being carried.

To the north of the main garbhagriha is the shrine for the goddess. Though it is small in dimensions, it is very attractive from the point of view of ornamentation. The antarala of this shrine has on its eastern wall bas-relief of God Narasimha. On its doorway is found a Vaishnava saint giving something to a king. Some scholars have identified this as Vyasaraya and the king as Krishnadevaraya. At the northeast is the Kalyana mandapa built in 1521 A.D.

Hazara Rama Temple in Hampi This is the only temple situated in the core of the royal zone between the residential and ceremonial enclosures. Dedicated to Vishnu in his aspect as Lord Rama, this 15th century temple, is the finest example of a compact Dravida Vimana type of temple. In plan it has a sanctum, vestibule, pillared dance hall, with an entrance porch to the North and South. The Eastern porch is extended into an elegant pillared pavilion. There is a shrine for the goddess to the North which is also elegantly sculpted.

The temple is known for its sculpted friezes depicting the Ramayana, in three tiers, running all around the main shrine, and the narrative sculptures of the Lava—Kusha story on the Devi shrine. It is because of this that the temple was called the Hazara Rama. In addition, the temple is also known for the narrative sculptures of the Bhagavata, especially of Bala Krishna, and the sculpted polished pillars of the Mahamantapa (main hall). It was undoubtedly, the temple of the royal patronage.

Thus, the Hazara Rama temple at Hampi is a special temple built within the palace enclosure and on this account, it may be construed that this was built exclusively for the royalty for their personal use and contains good decorations and ornamentations done by the expert sculptors and architects of the Vijayanagara Empire.

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Meditation: Controlling one’s own mind to realize a new mode of consciousness

A carving of the Buddha sitting in meditation pose

The practice of meditation encompasses a range of techniques that can be used by individuals to cause their mind to experience a different level of consciousness. Meditation can be focused on many different goals, including self-regulation, religious experience, building internal energy sources, and relaxation. Typically, meditation is a practice that involves training the mind to engage in a particular habit of reflections. In some traditions, meditation involves attempting to separate the mind from the other experiences of the body, whereas others emphasize a physical element of meditation by encouraging repetitive action or vocalizations. The great Hindu spiritual teacher Swami Sivananda once said, “Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness.”

Many religious traditions developed practices that were intended to move the individual beyond the experience of the immediate self, and all of these can be considered forms of meditation. The earliest recommendations for the use of meditation can be found in the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, produced in India between c. 1500 and c. 500 BCE, and in ancient Buddhist texts, which promote meditation as essential for a path to enlightenment. In Tibetan Buddhism, meditation is both a path toward inner reflection to know oneself better and a path ultimately to move beyond the limits of the self.

In several traditions, meditation is intended to have a calming effect on the mind, which is why the term is often used nowadays to refer to a range of quiet relaxation techniques that do not necessarily have religious meaning. Even in the modern world, the idea of meditation usually means more than just relaxation, however. Communication with a reality that goes beyond the typically limited experience of consciousness requires that consciousness be transformed in some way. Thus, most religions include a form of prayer that can be considered a kind of meditation.

'Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism' by Chogyam Trungpa (ISBN 1570629579) Over 40 years ago, in his seminal book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, the Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche talked about how we misuse meditation as a defense against what we do not want to feel.

Ego is constantly attempting to acquire and apply the teachings of spirituality for its own benefit. . . . We go through the motions, make the appropriate gestures, but we really do not want to sacrifice any part of our way of life. We become skillful actors, and while playing deaf and dumb to the real meaning of the teachings, we find some comfort in pretending to follow the path.

This variety of meditation is in many respects quite different from what is conservatively understood as “meditation” in our contemporary culture. Meditation buttonholed as a somatic habit consists of two aspects. The first involves paying attention to our body, transporting our conscious intention and focus to and into our physical form. Devoutness is an opening of your heart to the promises you seek—the promises of peace, freedom, or awakening.

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Architectural Grandeur of the Historic Varahaswamy Temple in Mysore Palace Complex

Sri Varahaswamy Temple, Mysore Palace Grounds

When sightseers visit Mysore, the capital of Wadiyar dynasty, the most-frequented places include the Chamundi Hill, Palaces, Krishna Raja Sagara, Kukkarahali Lake, Jaganmohana Art Gallery, Brindavan Gardens, Lalitha Mahal Palace, Mysore Zoo, specially for the Dasara festival. Though the Wadiyars were well known for their religiosity, it is unfortunate that most of the temples built by them in the premises of Amba Vilas Palace are either overlooked by the natives or ignored by the tourists who get scarce knowledge about them.

The temples in and near the Mysore Palace are:

  • Shweta Varahaswamy Temple
  • Ambujavalli Mahalakshmi Temple
  • Gayatri Temple
  • Trinesvaraswamy Temple
  • Kodi Kala Bhairava Temple
  • Kodi Someswara Temple
  • Bhuvaneshwari Temple
  • Prasanna Krishnaswamy Temple
  • Khille Venkataramana Swamy Temple
  • Lakshmiramana Swamy Temple
  • Kote Anjaneyaswamy & Kote Ganapathy Temples
  • Sri Panduranga Vittala Temple
  • Vara Prasadi Ganapathy Temple
  • Kote Maramma Temple

Consecutive Mysore Maharajas built some of the temples in the Palace during the 14th and 15th centuries. The purpose of building these beautiful temples by the Maharajas was to reestablish the welfare and affluence of the royal family as well as their subjects.

If prudently scrutinized, one can find a temple at all directions. Most of the temples in the Palace are built in such a way that it presents a perfect symmetrical structure in the Palace complex. Even today, pujas in these temples are performed very faithfully. Most tourists are not aware of these temples’ presence as they are secluded and the attention is only on the Mysore Palace.

The famous Mysore Palace has a vast enclosure surrounded by a fort. Within this fort were built some temples, mostly for the personal use of the royalty. One such temple is Sri Varahaswamy temple.

Actually, the entire temple is a Hoysala structure as if built by the Hoysalas at this place. However, it is mentioned that this temple was built by Dewan Poornaiah with the architectural and sculptural slabs that were available at a Hoysala temple in Shimoga. Thus, it is a reset Hoysala temple during the period of Dewan Poornaiah when Krishnaraja Wadeyar III was the Mysore king. From this point of view, this is an excellent example of reconstructing a temple at a far off place when the technology of this type had not been developed as it is today. The temple has a mahadvara and a huge stucco gopura at the entrance.

Hoysala Architecture in Sri Varahaswamy Temple of Mysore Palace

The temple has a basement of horizontal moldings of different types. In fact this temple was built on this basement. There are three horizontal moldings at the bottom over which are found the wall with pilasters and niches. In the middle of the wall runs round the entire temple another eve-like molding over which the wall continues. At the roof level is a decorative eave and additional moldings. The sikhara is of a typical Hoysala type with various tiers.

The temple consists of a garbhagriha, an antarala, navaranga and a mandapa of the later period. The garbhagriha doorway is well executed with minute decorations. The navaranga has well carved pillars also. The garbhagriha has a fine stone image of Shweta Varahaswamy. This image was originally at a place called Srimushna in South Arcot district of Tamilnadu. The Mysore king Chikkadevaraja Wadeyar (1673–1704) brought this image from Tamilnadu and consecrated it at a temple in Srirangapatna.

Garbhagriha has a fine stone image of Shweta Varahaswamy in Sri Varahaswamy Temple, Mysore When this temple was destroyed during the period of Tipu Sultan, this sculpture was shifted to Mysore and consecrated here in 1809. The utsavamurti (image meant for procession) of the temple was also a gift of king Chikkadevaraja Wadeyar. There are also images of Manvalamuni and Vedantadesika donated by Krishnaraja Wadeyar III. The inner wall of the prakara has a painting of the coronation of Sri Rama done in 1865. The navaranga also has some paintings of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Thus, the temple is one of the interesting temples within the precincts of the Mysore palace.

Every year, hundreds of devotees participate in the Bramhotsava of Lord Shwethavarahaswamy located in the Palace premises with religious fervour and gaiety. Hundreds of devotees witnessed the auspicious event as the decorated chariot of Lord Shwetha Varahaswamy, went round the Palace premises. More than 15 vedic scholars led by head priest of the temple chant slokas praising the mightiness of Lord Varahaswamy.

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The Majestic Gopuram and other Architectural Highlights of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangapatna

Architectural Highlights of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangapatna

Srirangapatna, very near to Mysore city, is on the banks of the river Kaveri and is thought of as one of the holy places in Karnataka. It formed a part of Ganga, Hoysala and Vijayanagara kingdoms and afterward it became famous as the capital of Tipu Sultan. However, it is famous as a sacred place because of the river Kaveri and the Sri Ranganathasvami temple.

Sri Ranganathaswamy temple at Srirangapatna is one of the larger Dravidian temples in Karnataka. Customarily famous as the Gautama Kshetra, it is said that a Ganga feudatory by name Tirumalayya built this temple in 894 CE, and named this place as Srirangapura.

Ranganathaswamy: Vishnu reclining on the huge coils of Adishesha with seven-hooded head. Temple in Srirangapatna.

The garbhagriha has an immense image of Vishnu lounging on the huge coils of Adishesha with seven-hooded head. The God is shown as sustaining his head on his right hand while his left hand is stretched over his body. He wears a tall crown and other ornaments. Near his legs are images of Kaveri or Lakshmi and sage Gautama. This is one of the most beautiful reclining images of Vishnu. The sukhanasi has well designed ceilings with lotus in the center. The navaranga is a fine structure and contains round bell-shaped and eight-pointed star shaped pillars. On two sides of the navaranga doorway are two gigantic dwarapalas.

In front of the navaranga is a large pillared courtyard with an opening near the dhvajastambha. Most of the pillars in this courtyard are of Hoysala workmanship, of different designs such as square shaped, star shaped, cylinder shaped etc. It is believed that later some of the Hoysala pillars have been used here to restructure the pillared courtyard and perhaps the navaranga also. There are some minor shrines housing Manavalamuni and Srivaishnava Alwars. On the south-west is a shrine of Lakshmi as Ranganayaki, the consort of Ranganatha, a sculpture of the Vijayanagara period. Some of the pillars have 24 forms of Vishnu with labels.

Garuda is the mount (vahana) of the Lord Vishnu, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple of Srirangapatna

To the east is the pillared large mukhamandapa of late Vijayanagara period. All these are enclosed within the vast prakara wall, which has an striking mahadvara with a stucco gopura of five tiers with kalashas. Thus, the Ranganathaswamy temple is a temple multiplex built in various periods, and is famous all over Karnataka for the fine reclining Ranganathaswamy image.

History of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangapatna The oldest inscription regarding the temple dates back to 894 AD. It is believed that Tirumalaya, a secondary king of the Ganga dynasty, built the shrine and named the town Srirangapura. Supplements to the temple were made during the successive centuries by Hoysala kings, Vijayanagara rulers and Wodeyars of Mysore.

Ranganathaswamy Temple is built in Dravidian style and faces east. A seventy foot tall gopura envelopes the gateway. The main murti worshipped in the temple is that of Sri Ranganathaswamy in a reclining posture on the coils of seven-hooded serpent Ananta. Goddess Lakshmi, who is known as Ranganayaki, sits near his feet. There are two huge dwarapalaka sculptures guarding the doorway to the assembly hall, which has neatly cut granite pillars typical of Hoysala architecture. There are abundant secondary shrines in the temple which houses murtis of Sri Rama, Krishna, Narasimha, Gopalakrishna, Sudarshana and Lord Vithoba.

Architectural Highlights of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Dravidian style

The significant festivals in the temple are Lakhsha Deepotsava or Makara Sankranthi Brahmotsava in Pushya month (January), Ratha Saptami Brahmotsava in Magh month, Magh Purnima, Sriranga Jayanti in Vaishakh month, and Uyyalotsava in Ashada month.

Sri Ranganatha pilgrimage sites along the river Kaveri The temple attracts a large number of visitors all through the year. It is one of the five important pilgrimage sites along the river Kaveri for devotees of Ranganatha. These five sacred sites are together known as Pancharanga Kshetrams in Southern India. The other Pancharanga Kshetrams are the famous Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple (Srirangam), Parimala Perumal Temple, Sarangapani Temple, and Sri Appakkudathaan Perumal Temple.

The other attractions in Srirangapatna consist of the Gumbaz / Mausoleum of Tipu Sultan, Daria Daulat (The palace of Tipu Sultan,) Water Gate, Garrison Cemetery, Scott’s Bungalow, Lord Harris’s House, Tipu Sultan death memorial, and Sangama (the amalgamation of the three holy streams that create the island of Srirangapatna.) The Srirangapatna fort is a big monument. The total length is 5 km and renovation needs huge funds and large number of skilled workers. Restoration work on the fort has been pending for a long time, but has not been undertaken due to lack of money. Not only the fort, other major monuments from the period such as gun houses, the rocket launch site, and the remains of Tipu’s palace in Srirangapatna are in bad shape too. Prominently, the remains of Tipu’s palace in front of Sri Ranganathaswamy temple needs to be preserved and popularized among tourists. The sites have a huge tourism potential if preserved and presented well.

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Caste System in India

Caste System in India - The division of society into four hereditary social classes

The caste system, also known as the varna system, is a hierarchical social structure prevalent in the Hindu nations of India and Nepal. Its origins trace back to the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, produced in India between c. 1500 and c. 500 BCE, and it is a central theme in the 700-verse Bhagavad Gita (c. 1000 CE).

The division of society into four hereditary social classes. The great Indian mystic poet Kabir said, “Now I have no caste, no creed, I am no more what I am!”

The caste system divides Hindu society into four hereditary social classes. Highest are the Brahmins, who are priests and teachers. Next come the Kshatriyas, who are political leaders and warriors. Third are the Vaishyas, who manage agriculture and commerce. The lowest are the Shudras, who work as servants for the other three castes. Those who are cast out of the varna system are known as “Untouchables” because contact with them was thought to defile the other castes.

Four factors contribute towards caste dominance: 1) land ownership 2) numerical strength 3) political power and 4) high ritual status in the social hierarchy. The dominant caste may not be ritually very high but enjoy high status because of wealth, political power and numerical strength. Caste pockets create locally dominant caste. People who belong to a particular caste prefer to settle in a particular area. Caste is often specific to a particular village or area or region. Local dominance can translate into regional dominance. Best example of the principle is the concentration and domination of Vokkaligas in south Karnataka in the old Mysore region and of Lingayaths in north Karnataka in the districts bordering Andhra Pradesh. These dominant castes are accorded high status and position and have control over all the fields of social life in that area.

Hindu texts justify this system based on karma and rebirth. A person’s actions in this life determine their gunas (qualities) in the next: Brahmins are characterized by sattva (intellect), Kshatriyas by rajas (action), Vaishyas by both rajas and tamas (devotion), and Shudras by tamas alone. These gunas predispose a person toward certain types of work, and society functions best when people do the jobs to which they are suited. Each varna has its own spiritual discipline: Brahmins follow jnana (knowledge), Kshatriyas pursue karma (action), Vaishyas practice both karma and bhakti (devotion), while Shudras undertake bhakti. In the twentieth century, Mahatma Gandhi criticized the social injustice of the caste system, and it was reformed as a result of his protests.

Caste Dominance and Caste System in India

It is the unity and cohesion of the caste as a group that makes the dominant caste more pronounced in village affairs. The dominant caste is dominant not because of any single factor but because of the combination of several factors. Land ownership is a crucial factor in establishing dominance. With the introduction of adult suffrage, numerical strength has become a crucial source at the disposal of a caste. A caste should have numerical strength if necessary to use physical force against the challenge of other power castes. But numerical superiority alone is not an important factor. In some of the surveyed villages the dependent castes have numerical strength.

The Supreme Court of India has ruled against preferential treatment for medical students belonging to schedule castes (SC), schedule tribes (ST), and other lower castes, who were aiming for specialist medical training. The ruling, which could have widespread implications in India, stated that such favouritism was “contrary to national interest”.

While India’s 1950 Constitution abolished the notion of untouchability, many peoples’ attitudes remain unchanged, although the 200-million-plus Dalits represent a powerful voting bloc.

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Om Mani Padme Hum: The Essential Mantra of Tibetan Buddhism

Om mani padme hum, the great mantra of Tibetan Vajrayana

A mantra is a powerful and significant set of syllables, repeated in worshipping incantations. The most famous is ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ (Sanskrit, ‘Om, jewel of the lotus, hum’), an essential mantra of Tibetan Buddhism.

Om Mani Padme Hum: The Essential Mantra of Tibetan Buddhism The great Tibetan mantra, Om mani padme hum, engraved on metal and rock. It is also frequently printed on prayer flags and written on slips of paper and stuffed into the heart of a prayer wheel, so that with each flutter of each one of the flags and every turn of the prayer wheel, the vibrations of the mantra are sent out into the atmosphere. The purpose might be to create a positive force field around oneself and one’s community, and of course, to expand one’s merit.

The great mantra of Tibetan Vajrayana is Om mani padme hum. Inscribed on prayer wheels that are kept continuously turning and on multi-colored prayer flags that flutter benedictions in all directions, this mantra is central to the Tibetan way of life. Although the words mean “Hail the Jewel in the Lotus”, the mantra is believed to have consequence beyond the literal.

The great Tibetan mantra, Om mani padme hum, engraved on metal

At one level, the jewel and the lotus can be seen as the dharma and the Buddha. At the tantric level, the mantra represents the intercourse of the Buddha with his feminine sakti, or Avalokiteshvara with Tara. While mani and padme share a grammatical association, om and hum are syllables that cannot be straightforwardly translated.

At a solely syllabic level, the six syllables of the mantra have been interpreted as corresponding with the six paramita (perfections) of the bodhisattva. These are generosity, patience, meditation, morality, energy and wisdom. One way or another, the mantra has also got absorbed with the idea of accumulating merit in the form of good karma, and part of the spirited turning of prayer wheels and the constant chanting with prayer beads is geared towards the end of notching up as many Om mani padme hums as possible. This reverberation is an important part of the Tibetan laity’s life of dharma. Centuries of being regulated to suit diverse human breathing and speaking patterns has rounded the edges of the mantra, so that it no longer has the clear-cut edges of the original Sanskrit, and has settled more or less in the comfortable groove of being Om Mani Peme Hung.

The great mantra of Tibetan Vajrayana Om mani padme hum inscribed on prayer wheels

Dr. Filchner offers us here a general talk about a remarkable expedition that he carried through, notwithstanding immense difficulties, in Tibet for the purpose of cartographical surveys. He gives us a diary exemplified by fine photographs and interesting little sketches, and in this way offers us a most valuable supplement to Sir Charles Bell’s account. The expedition discussed is between Lanzhou and Ladakh along the north side of the Hedin Mountains or Trans-Himalaya. It is only within fairly recent times that the Trans-Himalaya has been evidently documented as a range, thanks largely to the investigations of Dr. Sven Hedin. It is therefore particularly interesting to have an account of a journey along this northern flank, and we look forward with interest to the publication of the scientific results.

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Architecture of the Famous Srikanteshwara Temple in Nanjangud, Mysore

Srikanteshwara Temple in Nanjangud, Mysore

Nanjangud located 25 kilometers from Mysore Nanjangud is a famous sacred town about 25 kilometers from Mysore. It is famous all over Karnataka because of the Srikanteshwara or Nanjundeshwara temple and people throng the porticos of this temple daily in large numbers. Fairytale has it that the sage Gautama stayed at Nanjangud and offered puja to the Shiva Linga, known as Srikanteshwara or Nanjundeshwara. The town attained holiness because of the “sangam” where the Gundlu and the Kapila join. The spot is called Parusharama Kshetra where the sage Parushurama is said to have been recompensed for the sin of decapitating his mother.

Nanjangud, also called as “Dakshina Kashi” (Southern Kashi)

Enclosed within a gigantic prakara its Dravidian stucco gopura is impressive. The small square garbhagriha with its cylindrical pillars in the antarala were built in the Ganga period of about ninth century. The mandapa in front of the original sanctum has lathe turned Hoysala pillars of 13th century. The dancing Ganapati is also a Hoysala sculpture. To the left of the main shrine is a shrine of Narayana and behind is a shrine for Chandikesvara. To the northwest of this is the Parvati shrine with a pillared sabhamandapa. The Parvati and the Narayana shrines as the gopura are the creations of the Vijayanagara period. To the right of the main shrine is a small shrine of Subramanya seated on the back of a peacock with seven-hooded Naga. The main shrine has a stucco sikhara of the Vijayanagara period. Mysore Wadeyars also made additions to the temple. The nine storied tall gopura of the Dravidian type was built by queen Devajammanni, queen of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III in 1849. Opening to the courtyard is a shrine for Nandi that is about 6 feet in height, donated by Dalavoy Vikramaraya. Another attraction is the huge stone bull which is 8ft in height. This was established by Dalavayi Vikramaraya in 1644. In its front is the Tulabhara mantapa. The ritual of weighing the devotees against any commodity is done here. Commonly people balance themselves against rice, jaggery, sugar etc.

The Maharajas of Mysore used to be illustrious devotees of Nanjundeshwara. Jayachamaraja Wadiyar was a celebrated believer and used to visit the temple on Mondays. In actual fact the Srikantadatta Wadiyar seems to be a favor from this God. The sanctified Sivalinga which is more than a thousand year old continues to fascinate devotees from far and wide.

Devotees of Nanjundeshwara, Srikanteshwara Temple

In addition to the main deity, there are many shrines for goddess Parvathi, Ganesha, Nataraja, Sharada, Subramanya, Navagraha etc. The twelve-monthly fair (Jatre) takes place during March–April which attracts thousands of devotees. Half-a-century ago, there used to be a dining hall called Shivakuta, opposite the temple kitchen. The devotees used to be served prasada here. Many old women used to take prasada here daily. Some of them had taken a vow not to use a plate or a leaf but to eat on the floor. This Shivakuta is not there today; today we have a luxurious dining hall.

Srikanteshwara Temple in Nanjangud, Mysore The vast prakara has decorated niches that house 122 images in all including Dikpalas, Virabhadra, Dakshinamurti, Tandavesvara and Shiva in various aspects, Ganapati, Saptamatrika etc. The linga in the main garbhagriha is about three feet in height, to which worship is offered. The Parvati image is about five feet in height and it is a beautiful sculpture of the early medieval period. Thus, the whole temple has a history of over thousand years starting from the tenth century. Krishnaraja Wadeyar III was a great patron of this temple and his statue with his queens is found in this temple. Traditionally this place is connected with Gautama and Parashurama and is on the banks of the sacred river Kapila. Even Hydar Ali and Tipu Sultan are said to have made some grants to this temple. According to popular belief, Tipu’s elephant got afflicted by an eye-ailment and no doctor (hakim) was able to heal it. Somebody suggested that he should pray to Sri Nanjundeshvara which he did. A wonder happened and the elephant’s eye was cured and impressed by this, Tipu called the god Hakim (doctor) Nanjunda. He gifted an emerald green Linga to the deity.

Architectural Highlights of Srikanteshwara Temple in Nanjangud

Architectural Highlights of Srikanteshwara Temple

A persistent idea in Indian philosophical, theological, and mythological systems is that of a cosmos expressed through a succession of emanations. Diverse traditions of dogma and practice share this vision of the advancement from the one to the many. Temple designs repeatedly exemplify the same kind of pattern. Within the diverse traditions of Indian temple architecture, an binding format is noticeable both in the formal structure of individual temple designs, which express a dynamic sequence of emergence and growth, and in the way in which temple forms develop right through the development of such edifying—often regional—traditions.

Another exclusive feature of this temple is the large number of Saiva sculptures made of stone and metal. On the left side of the prakara are found the stone sculptures of puratanas (Saiva saints) and of Siva himself in different forms and actions, such as Chandrasekhara, Andhakasura, Dakshinamurti etc. These were prepared during the period of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III. Thus it is a fine gallery of saiva sculptures. Another attraction is the stone sculpture of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III with his four wives. He gifted two wooden chariots (1819), silver horse, elephant, Nandi etc.

Brick and mortar gopura of Srikanteshwara Temple in Nanjangud

The Nanjundeshwara temple is one of the vastest in Karnataka. It is a temple complex of various periods. No less than four periods of its composition can be traced. It is a Dravida type structure. It is 385 ft long and 160 ft wide. The small sanctum (garbha-griha) was the earliest and built during the period of the Gangas or the Cholas (about 11th Century AD). The anterior mantapa in which the devotees sit was a later addition during the Hoysala period of the 13th Century AD. The next stage of construction took place during the Vijayanagara period. During this period, brick and mortar sikhara was constructed over the shrine. In fact, there is an inscription of Krishnadevaraya in this temple. The next stage of development took place during the period of Mysore Wadiyars, Dalavayis (Chiefs) of Kalale and Dewan Purnaiah. Actually most of the new constructions took place during the period of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III.

Most prominently, the brick and mortar gopura was built in 1845. This massive gopura is 120 ft high and is built in seven tiers. At the top of the gopura are seven gold-plated Kalasas, each about 10ft in height. Another attraction is the huge stone bull which is 8ft in height. This was established by Dalavayi Vikramaraya in 1644. In its front is the Tulabhara mantapa. The ritual of weighing the devotees against any commodity is done here. Generally people weigh themselves against rice, jaggery, sugar etc.

Rathotsava Chariot Procession

Rathotsava Chariot Procession of Srikanteshwara Temple in Nanjangud

A distinctive feature of this temple is that it has devotees from both Vaishnava and Srivaishnava sects. Srikanteshwara is a family deity of thousands of families in Karnataka and these families visit this temple regularly either or before performing major functions at their homes. The annual rathotsava or the chariot procession at Nanjanagud is a renowned religious ritual that attracts thousands of people from far and near. People turn out in droves for the yearly Panchamaha Rathothsava. The central Car Street was occupied by believers and pilgrims from Mysore and the nearby regions converge at the temple confines to get a peek of the recitation event which climaxed with the drawing of five chariots devoted to various deities. Rathothsava is preceded by an extravagant set of rituals at the Srikanteshwara temple with consecrated hymns accompanied by the conventional ensemble of musical instruments. After the rituals and special prayers, the first of the five chariots called the ‘Ganapathy Ratha’ is drawn by the devotees and this was followed by the ‘Chandikeshwara Ratha’, the ‘Gautama Ratha’, ‘Subramanya Ratha,’ and lastly the ‘Parvathi Ratha’. The cynosure of all eyes was the ‘Gautama Ratha’ which practically equals the height of the main tower of the temple and is supposed to be at least 90 feet high. Government authorities and law enforcement make exceptional preparations to transfer the chariots and to ensure that the chariots did not veer off the road anyway stationing cranes and other heavy machinery to cope with emergencies.

Dip in the Kapila river at Srikanteshwara Temple, Nanjangud

On Mahashivarathri festival, devotees show up on Nanjangud at daybreak to take a dip in the Kapila river before having a darshan of Lord Srikanteshwara. Special prayers began with the abhisheka and chanting of the Rudra Chamakam that continue right through the day. Chants of “Om Nama Shivaya” reverberated throughout the day. Rudra Chamakam, which is drawn from the Yajur Veda and is a description of Lord Shiva in his myriad forms, is considered significant during Mahashivarathri.

Mahashivarathri festival devotees in Nanjangud Thus, Srikanteshwara Temple in Nanjangud is one of the holiest of Shaiva pilgrim centers in Karnataka. Large Hindu temples are chiefly centers of learning, repositories of artistic and cultural relics, and sites for ceremonial endeavors.

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Mantra for Spiritual Transformation

A Mani stone enscribed with the six-syllabled Buddhist mantra of Avalokiteshvara

Mantras are sounds, syllables, and words as the source of spiritual transformation.

One of the primary goals for those who practice Hinduism and Buddhism is to experience a transformation of consciousness through particular acts of the mind and body. A mantra is a vocalized or written repetition of syllables, words, or phrases that helps to focus the mind and body in order to achieve this transformation. In some mantras, the words themselves become an action that can bring about the transformation. The sound or words of a mantra are representative of an ultimate reality that is meaningful beyond the understanding of the person who is pronouncing them. By performing a mantra, a person is able to place their mind and will in line with the ultimate reality.

The most recognizable mantra is the sound or syllable “Om.” According to the the Upanishads part of the Hindu Vedas, written between c. 1500 and c. 500 BCE-the syllable “Om” represents all of creation. Meditating while uttering this syllable brings the subject closer to realizing the connectedness of all things in the universe. Mantras are also meaningful in the Buddhist tradition, in which they have been expanded beyond vocalized sounds to include written language and characters. As Buddhism spread to China, the writing of mantras became more important as a form of meditation. In either form, vocalized or written, repetition of mantras is a common form of meditating on their fundamental truth.

The idea of a mantra is important for understanding the way that a person’s mind can be intentionally and completely focused on a certain task. Mantras are particularly useful in religious practices that strive to push the self beyond its own consciousness. Outside of religious traditions, the term “mantra” has come to refer to any phrase that is commonly repeated, typically one that contains an essential truth or guiding principle.

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