SLOKA 9 FROM DANCING WITH SIVA
WHAT IS THE DEVOTIONAL VAISHNAVA SECT?
Vaishnavism is an ancient Hindu sect centering on the worship of Lord Vishnu and His incarnations, especially Krishna and Rama. Largely dualistic, profoundly devotional, it is rich in saints, temples and scriptures. Aum.
The worship of Vishnu, meaning ”pervader,” dates back to Vedic times. The Pancharatra and Bhagavata sects were popular prior to 300 bce. Today’s five Vaishnava schools emerged in the middle ages, founded by Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka, Vallabha and Chaitanya. Vaishnavism stresses prapatti, single-pointed surrender to Vishnu, or His ten or more incarnations, called avataras. Japa is a key devotional sadhana, as is ecstatic chanting and dancing, called kirtana. Temple worship and festivals are elaborately observed. Philosophically, Vaishnavism ranges from Madhva’s pure dualism to Ramanuja’s qualified nondualism to Vallabha’s nearly monistic vision. God and soul are everlastingly distinct. The soul’s destiny, through God’s grace, is to eternally worship and enjoy Him. While generally nonascetic, advocating bhakti as the highest path, Vaishnavism has a strong monastic community. Central scriptures are the Vedas, Vaishnava Agamas, Itihasas and Puranas. The Bhagavad Gita states, ”On those who meditate on Me and worship with undivided heart, I confer attainment of what they have not, and preserve what they have.” Aum Namo Narayanaya.
LESSON 164 FROM LIVING WITH SIVA
PLEDGES AND BLESSINGS
Love marriages that are not arranged by the parents are also fully acceptable if the astrology is excellent, the parents on both sides agree and the young lady and the young man are of the same religious denomination. Of course, these ideals cannot always be met, and if not, more support will be needed from family and friends to make the marriage a success.
Before the wedding, the bride and groom each writes out a covenant by hand, pledging loyalty to one another and formalizing their promises, ideals, expectations and love. The couple share and discuss these documents together, read them carefully and make necessary revisions until 100 percent agreement is achieved. Like a ship’s chart, these detailed vows can be referred to if the relationship gets off course. Each of the two families makes a written pledge as well, signed by the mother and father of the groom and the mother and father of the bride, stating what they promise to do and give toward supporting this marriage in the areas of artha, kama, dharma and moksha. Also most welcome are written testimonies in support of the marriage from grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles and aunts, sisters and brothers, as well as from other members of the religious community. This is also a time when anyone among family and friends may, in deepest confidence, even anonymously, share with the family preceptor any obstacles to this marriage that should be known and understood. A full, honest disclosure of the boy’s life and the girl’s life, including sexual experiences, should be made to both families and to the kulaguru.
From the time of inquiry into a match, several months should be allowed for the jyotisha acharyas and shastris to assess compatibility. The whole process of arranging a proper match for a son or daughter often takes two or more years. There should never be a sense of urgency for this or any other lifetime commitment. As Jnanaguru Siva Yogaswami so wisely said, ”No hurry. No worry. No sorry.” Nor should the arrangements ever be forced on the boy or girl. They remain free to cancel the process at any time if the match does not seem suitable to them.
When all agreements have been reached, the boy’s mother adorns her new daughter with a gold necklace. Generous gifts are exchanged between the members of both families to bind the two families together in love and loyalty. Rejoicing begins with the formal engagement party, when the boy and girl exchange gifts, such as engagement rings. Later, they read their pledges to each other in the presence of elders. All arrangements and ceremonies culminate on the wedding day, when members of both families join to wish the couple a righteous, prosperous, happy life leading to the ultimate goal of enlightenment. During weddings or related ceremonies, the vegetarian diet should in no way be compromised. Meat and other nonvegetarian foods should not be served, even to please guests of other religions or communities. All Hindus attending should be requested to dress in formal Hindu attire.
SUTRA 164 OF THE NANDINATHA SUTRAS
DHARMIC USES OF MONEY
Siva’s close devotees of means utilize their wealth to strengthen their community and their lineage, to support temples, publish books, establish endowments and scholarships, and to sponsor elaborate rituals. Aum.
LESSON 164 FROM MERGING WITH SIVA
INTELLECT AND THE INSTINCTIVE MIND
The first steps on the spiritual path consist in learning to harness these tendencies and impulses and transmute their energies into the higher nature. But we should not think of the instinctive mind as ”bad,” for it controls the basic faculties of perception and movement, digestion, elimination, ordinary thought and emotion and the many other vital functions of the physical being. Animals, birds, fish, reptiles and insects are the personification of the instinctive mind. Living mainly in the areas of fear, they react immediately to change. Their driving forces are sustenance, sex, shelter and security for their young and themselves. It is these instinctive drives that are the most difficult impulses for humans to deal with. They are, for people, the seeds of all the desires of all the entanglements within the four areas–sex, money, food and clothes–which we capture in one word, desire. Yes, it is desire that propels humanity onward.