Towards Understanding Hindu Culture, Rituals and Traditions….Part Fourteen (THE CONTRIBUTION OF SAINTS AND SIDDHARS)

(We go to the Museum and see the remains of ancient human civilizations dating back to thousands of years. We get overawed by these artifacts. These modern museums serve as channels for the present day humans to go back in time, mentally, to those times when civilization was primitive. But what about those times when there were no museum? Also, we are able to pre-date human history for thousands of years. What if we are wrong, and that our human history dates back to much more than a few thousand years? Difficult questions…..)

Modern man buries space capsules containing material that can be dug up in the future. In 1939, a time capsule was buried in the ground as part of the New York World Fair as part of their exhibit. It weighed about 400 kgs and was made from an alloy of silver, chromium and copper to withstand the eroding qualities of soil over time. It contained many things like a newsreel, a microscope, a dictionary, a calendar, and other texts, including some crop seeds and even a doll with a book detailing the creation and the purpose of the time capsule. It is supposed to be opened by the year 6939 A.D. Many countries, including India, have buried time capsules at many places. At present, four time capsules are floating in deep outer space, lest some alien or our own mankind discover it in some distant future. Debate has been raging on regarding the exact use of time capsule, mainly due to the challenge of preserving the articfacts or data contained in the time capsule.

The Ancient Siddhars of India have long transcended these problems of preserving data and culture. They never had any time capsules. They have done a remarkable job of preserving data, culture and practices of yoga and other key knowledge resources THROUGH THE PASSAGE OF KALI YUGA. It is said that just before Kali Yuga started, the 18 siddhars convened astrally on a mountain in South India to determine how to guide mankind during the dark ages of Kali Yuga. The works that they have left, are testimony to the high thinking of the siddhars. If Hinduism is still able to retain many of its ancient culture and traditions, due credit must be given to the invisible Siddhars who have influenced Indian culture subtly and silently.

Many of their messages were left in their works of literature, or monuments. The Chidambaram temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is supposed to be built according to various measurements like the number of breaths a human being breathes on an average in a day, and the number of nadis in the body, (72,000) etc. In the Palani Temple dedicated to Lord Muruga, the Nava bhashana idol of Lord Muruga, made by the great Saint and Guru of Maha avatar Babaji, Boganathar, has mystified even scientists. Bogar had made the idol using 9 different secret herbal mixtures that has defied the test of time and has withstood the passage of Kali Yuga admirably well. It was Sri Bogar who advised the architects during the building of the Great Temple at Thanjavur.

Sri Bogar, who went to China, became the great Lao Tsu when he took on the dead body of a Chinese youth. Such incredible stories abound about all the 18 Siddhars – but all the siddhars had only the welfare of mankind at heart and were greatly concerned about where exactly mankind was going.

There is a debate on the exact number of siddhars. Some books suggest 18 as the number. Others suggest much more, as even today, many siddhars live in obscure privacy, away from public knowledge. However, Agasthyar, Bogar, Thirumoolar, Ramadevar, Konkanvar, Karuvurar, Pambaati, Macha muni, Nadi devar, Goraknath, are some of the siddhars who have kept the destruction of culture at bay. The present living siddhar is Maha Avatar Sri Babaji, made famous by Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi”. Books by Sri Marshall Govindan and Yogi Sri S.A.A.Ramiah offer one a closer view of the great siddhar, Sri Sri Babaji Nagaraj and the siddha tradition.

The culture, traditions and rituals of Sanatana Dharma are not there in any one book, they are interwoven in the everyday ordinary lives of millions of Indians, and also helped by enlightened beings such as Siddhars from time to time…..

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(This is a picture of one of the saints who lived in Vasanthapuram, Vellore – near the Railway cantonment. I do not know his name. But I often saw him as a child. He is not there anymore. Sometime during the 1970s, we were told that he went into an underground chamber to attain Maha Samadhi and asked the entrance to the underground room to be closed. The temple is still there, and the entrance, still closed……No one knows whether he is alive or not. But people in and around the locality often get guidance from him in the form of dreams……)

TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING HINDU CULTURE, RITUALS AND TRADITIONS…..

PART ONE

(This is being written for some of the almost “western” Indians who read, breathe, and  live in western concepts, and, armed with an university degree, often “question” the various traditions and customs, without bothering to know the real value of these traditions and customs…)

In every religion, there are customs and rituals that are practiced for some purpose. Most of the time, these customs and rituals lose their meaning when they are not understood. Most of these customs and rituals are intertwined with societal customs and habits, and they become a tradition….

Hinduism, also known as Sanatana Dharma, is a wonderful religion and a way of life. Most of the core concepts of Hinduism are hidden behind abstractions, rituals and customs. Great Truths are often hidden in all these abstractions, rituals and customs because the person who walks the path, is supposed to know. In Hinduism, most of the beliefs are not read in books. They are lived. However, unlike written books in other religions, Hindu Dharma largely has many unwritten rules and concepts that are passed on from generation to generation as traditions, rituals and customs. And soon enough, the meaning behind those rituals is lost…

One of the things that often confounds a westerner is the plethora of Hindu Gods. They say that there are 330 crore Gods and Godesses in Hindi religion. This diversity also define the democracy that one finds in Hinduism. Hindu religion is very democratic. In a household, for example, one member may worship Ganesha while another may worship Kali and yet another may just worship God as “Jothi” like Sri Ramalinga Adigalar. Again, one may follow the Gita, one may follow the Ramayana, or one may not even be able to read – yet, all of them may be Hindus. The Hindu way of life is so broad minded that you’ll find Jesus Christ or Allah or Guru Nanak in many a Hindu household, for the Hindu believes in the “diversity” of Gods and “unity” of the concept of One God. And from the plethora of Gods, the Hindu often picks and chooses that form or aspect of God needed for him/her at that moment of time. For example, when he/she is leaving the house for a journey, he/she may pray to Lord Ganesha or Lord Hanuman as they are more heroic Gods – best suited to protect the traveler. Or, if he/she wants to pray for good health of a family member, he/she may pray to Dhanvantri – the physician of the Gods – Or if he/she wants to do well in studies, Goddess Saraswathi may be the best bet – and so on. At the same time, the Hindu religion does not specify roles very strictly. For example if a person likes to worship only one God or Goddess for everything, that is also fine. The finest aspect of Hinduism is it’s flexibility and adaptability.

Hinduism lives in its rituals and customs. By following the rituals and customs, the Hindu is supposed to know the abstract truths behind the rituals and customs. Often, Abstractions like a lingam, define the Hindu’s logic of life. Unfortunately, the average modern Hindu in India is an educated and knowledgeable person who does not want abstractions to define his/her religion. He/She wants Hinduism to be out in the open, baring all the truths that it has concealed for centuries. And sometimes, when such truths are laid bare, they not only lose their charm, there is also the danger of misuse, using those very truths….

Again, in Hinduism no one agency or individual has the right or knowledge or power to unleash the wisdom of Hinduism to the masses – This will be decided by Kala Bhairavan, the God of Time. Like the Greek God of Time, Chronos, (chronology is derived from this word) the Hindu religion has Kaala Bhairavar. Kaala Bhairavar is an ascpect of Shiva the fearful. Again, Maa Kaali is known as the God of time in some sects – So one should not ask as to whether Kaal Bhairavar is the actual God of Time, or is it Maa Kaali? – The answer is found again in many puranas, stories and traditional customs. The important thing is to worship either one who suits our temperament.  Again, it is not important whether the Hindu worships the male or female variation of the Time God, as long as he/she understands the concept of time, and the role of the Time God in his/her life. So, when the time comes for the blossoming of the Hindu religion, in whatever fashion decided by collective Karma, the Time God, Kaala Bhairavan, acts – he acts according to the tenets of Time. (There is not one single Guardian of Hinduism – there are 330 crore Gods and Goddesses, it is a huge collective army of Gods and Goddesses!)

Hinduism does not prescribe that the person practicing Hinduism should follow this book, or wear these kind of clothes, or speak only Sanskrit, etc. The practicing Hindu is a very ordinary person, who follows many things apart from Hinduism, since Hinduism is so flexible to accommodate other ideas also.

The core concepts of Hinduism are very close to Nature. Pancha Boothams – the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and akash* – occupy a very important place in the average Hindu’s life.  During Ganesh Chathurthi and Durga Puja, it is the worshipping of the earth element at home and strengthening of the earth element that is being done ritually. The 5 elements are associated with Chakras and the Root Chakra supposedly get charged to the full when the earth element is brought home and worshipped.

(* – the fifth element is known as akash, space, ether, vacuum, etc – the tamil equivalent of the fifth element is “VIN” – Vinveli for short)

( To be continued….)