Saturday, April 01, 2006

40 Days of Lent - Day Thirty-Two

The Hindu Holy Trinity

Within the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. Brahma grew in a lotus out of the navel of the sleeping Vishnu. This means the creator grew out of the preserver. A contradiction, I know, but what can you do? The daily alternation of light and dark is attributed to the activity of Brahma, which reminds me: tomorrow is daylight savings time. Don’t forget to turn your clocks ahead one hour.

In order to create the world and produce the human race, Brahma made a goddess out of himself. One half was woman and the other half was man. Brahma called the woman Gayatri, but she also became known by many other names such as Saraswati.

Vishnu is the preserver and protector of creation. Vishnu is the embodiment of mercy and goodness, the self-existent, all-pervading power that preserves the universe and maintains the cosmic order Dharma (rules of existence, the basic “is” of what is).

Vishnu is often represented resting on the coiled serpent Shesha, with Vishnu's consort Lakshmi massaging his feet (aaaaah!). Vishnu never sleeps (ew!) and is the deity of Shanti, the peaceful mood. Vishnu does not however tolerate Ego.

Shiva is the destroyer of the world, after which Brahma again creates the world and so on. Shiva is responsible for change both in the form of death and destruction and in the positive sense of the shedding of old habits. Shiva is the god of the yogis, self-controlled and celibate, while at the same time a lover of his spouse. Another contradiction, yes, but I am happy for Mrs. Shiva. Shiva lives on Mount Kailasa in the Himalayas. The vehicle of Shiva is the white bull called Nandi (the joyful). He is often seated on a tiger skin or wears a tiger skin, with the tiger representing the mind.

Shiva’s dance represents both the destruction and the creation of the universe and reveals the cycles of death, birth and rebirth. His Dance of Bliss is for the welfare of the world. Under his feet, Shiva crushes the demon of ignorance called Apasmara Purusha, caused by forgetfulness. One hand is stretched across his chest and points towards the uplifted foot, indicating the release from earthly bondage of the devotee. The fire represents the final destruction of creation, but the dance of the Nataraj is also an act of creation, which arouses dormant energies and scatters the ashes of the universe in a pattern that will be the design of the ensuing creation. I like the idea of the apocalypse as a form of dance rather than plagues and demons tormenting people. This doesn’t mean I necessarily want to see such a dance, however.


Mom said...

A question or two...obviously, she is not one of the 3 major gods of Hinduism, but where does Kali fit in? I would assume she is allied with Shiva.
Another question...what do you know about Mithraism? Mary Stewart wrote a lot about it in "The Crystal Cave" the first book of her Arthurian trilogy. I think it had its origin in Persia.
Your blog is very interesting...I look forward to it each day.

Julie said...

Mitras worship originated in Persia and was one of the many sun god cults in the Middle East and Mediterranian areas. Like many cults it had secret initation rites, and it became very popular with Roman soldiers, as Isis worship was popular with Roman women. Because of its popularity, the early Christian church worked aspects of Mithras into the iconography of Christ. Many very early portrayals of Christ are almost identical to the young, beardless Mithras, with the sun rays (a halo) behind his head. December 25 was the day celebrated as Mithras' birthday. The worship travelled throughout Europe with the Roman legions.

the hanged man said...

Julie -
Did you know all that off the top of your head or did you have to do any research (by the way, I initially typed "worship" instead of "research" in the previous sentence, which changes the whole meaning).

Julie said...

No, I just knew it off the top of my head. Like Carol's son, I guess I'm also kind of a Cliff Clavin. If I were to follow a pre-Christian religion, I'd worship Semele, the Moon.