The key purpose of this essay is to highlight my experiences of my spiritual visit in a Hindu temple a few blocks down. India is the birthplace of one of the oldest religions of earth, Hinduism and being raised in a Christian family in Florida, I have gone through many Christian rituals and as my parents were true believers of eternal power, somehow love and respect for Holy Father has been deep-rooted in me for years. Almost a year back, I visited a Hindu temple in order to compare and contrast the rituals and the ideologies of both the religions, as I felt that all I know is about my own religion, but in order to attain the unknown and to be able to attain nirvana I would definitely require knowledge of the other religions and their beliefs and point of views. For quite a long time the rich Hinduism intrigued me as I got to learn something about Hinduism from some of my acquaintances from my university. The thirst for knowledge got increased in a rapid manner and I finally ended up visiting one of the most beautiful Temples near my neighbourhood. This essay will explain the basic aspects of Hinduism and along with that a brief comparison of Hinduism and Christianity shall be present in this essay.
When I first visited the temple, I was amazed to see where people doing a ritual named ‘aarti’, to complete that particular ritual they need to collect some specific items and devote them to God. After that they light candles and keep those items in a pot made of dried paper and float the pot in water body. This ritual is performed on a daily basis by hundreds of visitors and local people. They perform this in order to appease the Gods. I learnt that there is a particular place in Hardwar (India) where this ritual is performed daily by hundreds of people, is named as Har-kiPauri( Feet of the Lord) by Lord Mahadeva is meant here. In Hinduism there is a special place for Mahadeva and Kali. They are believed to be a couple, where Mahadeva is calm and his wife Kali or Mahakali is the goddess of destruction. When Mahadeva in enraged he can become the cause of destruction too, and then he will become Bhairava and destroy all the evil. Mahadeva or Shiva is the God who is considered to be the first yogi. In Christianity the three most important elements are Father, Son and the Soul (Trinity) and in Hinduism, there is Trimurti (the creator or Brahma, the preserver or Vishnu and the destroyer or Shiva) (Purzycki et al. 2016).On the other hand, it is believed that as in Hinduism there are Shiva or Mahadeva and Parvati or Kali as a couple, in the Abrahamic religions there are Adam and Eve, the first humans. But this theory is not that satisfactory for the most of the believers of both the religions as there are many conflicting theories behind it.
In the temple I happened to have a long conversation with a yogi, who was nearly in his late 60s. He enlightened me with a few Indian values and histories and I strongly believe that that particular conversation made me achieve whatever I possess spiritually or the thought process of mine that I acquired during that visit. Yogi Abhedananda took us to her place where we saw that they have made a commune of about 20 monks and nuns (yogi and yogini). I was surprised to see that almost every individual of that commune have strong academic background and all of them were established in their regular life, but to attain salvation they left that world and came out searching the eternal truth. In the path of searching these people eventually got together and built this commune with love and compassion. They believe that our nature is our mother. She nourishes us all and along with that she can destroy all. They believe in Mahakali, who is the epitome of power, potency, rage and compassion (Axt, Ebersole, andNosek 2014). In other words they are called ‘Shaktas’ (followers of Kali), I was kind of amused to see their point of view, for me this was a whole new thing. The old man continued to say that Mahakaili is considered to be the first of the Gods and Goddesses according to their belief. She is the nature, she is the mother of all, and she is the creator along with the destroyer (Shin 2016). The deity of Kali is like a woman whose eyes are red due to intoxication and fierceness is seen at her glance, she in her four hands holds a skull filled with blood, in another hand he holds a sword and in another she holds the head of a demon whom he slaughtered and in another hand there is the symbol of blessing in Indian culture. They believe that Kali is the most powerful and the nature is matriarchal, according to this commune the social status of the women are much higher and they are respected as symbol of fertility, nourishment and destructive force and motherly kindness. I got to know that there are various characters of Adi Kali (old goddess), at times she is Durga, who acquired power from all the gods and goddesses and killed a demon named Mahisasura and saved the world (Axt, Ebersole, andNosek 2014). In another myth she is Parvati, Shiva/ Mahadeva’s wife. I learned according to Hinduism Mahakali and Mahadeva are married and the creator of the world. I was deeply moved by their stories, but this was not all I got there.
Later I visited another famous Shiva temple that day and I met some Shaivists (followers of Mahadeva), these people told me quite similar story, but they believe that Shiva is the creator. In both the beliefs the main characters are the same, thus I perceived that in Hinduism Shiva and Kali are one of the most important and interesting characters(Purzycki et al. 2016). I realized that Hinduism is not only restricted in puja (appeasing the gods by offering fire, food in front of their deities), but the truth is deep-rooted in the nature. One has to attain it by conquering desire of the five senses. Individuals have to be free from any kind of desire and then only his or her soul can be free (Shin 2016). Unlike Christianity, Hinduism does not believe that after death people go to heaven or hell. According to Hinduism, after death, the soul or consciousness becomes an element that is neither male nor female, and it will reincarnate until the soul attains nirvana or the eternal truth. The consciousness is a very important factor in Hinduism. According to Hinduism the soul has no gender; it is a form of energy that is immortal (Aktor 2015). Soul can change the body and remain constant until and unless it finds salvation. The soul might attain salvation in first or second birth as in any form, be it a male or a female human, or it can take birth in forms of animals too. The key is to attain salvation, and karma plays an important role in this context. The more sin an individual commits the more distant the soul becomes from salvation and the better an individual’s activity is the more the soul will get closer to achieve nirvana (Axt, Ebersole, andNosek 2014).
That day was an eventful day for me because when we were returning from the Shiva temple, we found a commune of hippies among them some were followers of Hinduism, some were Islam and some were Rastafarians. These Rastafarians are not Indian by birth, they in search of nirvana ended up there. In their commune I learned to love the nature, to be content with minimum requirements and to search for the eternal truth by meditation, by spreading love, compassion and kindness to the world. This is another subpart of Hinduism that I encountered near my neighbourhood. I was moved by the progressive point of view of these people. These people have a strong faith on Shiva, whom they see as symbol of nature. For them Shiva is the oldest yogi who stays closer to nature and using holy flower he attained the truth by the path of meditation (Shin 2016). There are some plants which are considered to be holy according to Hinduism and there are 3 major plants which are used in order to appease Mahadeva (Axt, Ebersole, andNosek 2014). The members of this particular commune do not believe in the traditional way of appeasing the Gods and Goddesses, rather they believe that as God is omnipresent and omnipotent, whatever they will do, if they do that with love and passion, they will attain spiritual peace while doing that. Knowing the in unknown is the key motivator in Hinduism and when the soul learns the eternal truth, it becomes free (Agrawal 2016).
The theory of getting salvation completely differs from what we believe in Christianity. According to Christian beliefs, men acquired the original sin due to Adam and Eve, and they have to be loyal towards the Holy Father and take the path directed by him in the holy Bible (Shin 2016). After death, if he has earned enough piety he would get into heaven; else the soul will have to face pain in hell. According to Hinduism, after death the soul does not become free, it waits till it gets birth again(Aktor 2015). The chain of reincarnation becomes continuous until the soul attains the eternal truth(Purzycki et al. 2016). This is something that is very interesting for me as I was raised by an orthodox Christian family; these experiences were pleasantly surprising to me. Throughout the spiritual visit salvation and nirvana, these two terms were always there and from every sub-part of the Hinduism stresses on these two terms. Salvation is the key motive of the soul and in any order the soul has to acquire it in order to reach nirvana (Aktor 2015). When the soul attains nirvana it ceases to exist. The energy gets attached with the divine energy and it would not have to bear the pain of rebirth. In Hinduism rebirth is a curse, just like in Christianity men are born with the original sin (Agrawal 2016). But in Christianity death ends all, and on the other hand in Hinduism reincarnation becomes a continuous process. I have learnt many things during my spiritual visit to the Hindu temples and finally I thought that I should visit there more often and see if I could try some luck in there. I found a guru there in 3 blocks down, and started performing rituals with the Shakta commune. There we saw worshipping Mahakali and they offered alcohol to the deity, meat and red flowers in order to appease the mother of all. I learnt about ‘Gita’ and some books on the ‘holy Puranas’, from the Guru I learnt that Hinduism advocates peace and believes whenever evil tries to capture the world, divine power shall rescue the world and finish the evil powers, just like the story of Mahadeva and Mahakali. Whatever I learnt there in short if I try to explain, I would have to say that attaining the eternal truth would conjure up the notion of some spiritual accomplishment, the ego would like to keep it in that way, but it is the natural state of an individual that feels oneness with the divine energy (Aktor 2015). According to Hinduism, to attain the eternal truth or to know the unknown, we need to keep our senses open and we need to align the thought process of mind along with the soul or the consciousness. Then the main challenge would be to align the consciousness with the divine energy that can be perceived only by meditation or by any sort of spiritual experience (Agrawal 2016).
It can be said that the visit for spiritual quest was successful for me and a whole new chapter opened in front of my eyes. I believe that one should not get stuck with the traditional way he or she was taught to think. We should open our senses and accept everything the way it comes to us, otherwise we will be missing out the factors that might become beneficial in future (Purzycki et al. 2016). Had I been encompassed with the orthodox Christian beliefs only, I would have never been so comfortable with talking about salvation or the purification of the soul by the effort of man,. All I knew before this trip was that we are the ward of Holy Father and he will take care of us, but now, after learning a bit of Hinduism, I strongly believe that man can write their own destiny with hard work, appropriate planning, increased consciousness and will power.
Thus to conclude, it can be said that my spiritual visit was majorly successful and a whole new world of spirituality opened in front of me and I think that I will continue to practice some of the rituals that I have learnt from the of the commune of the Shaktas and the commune. I will never forget the advises of the yogi I came across there. These experiences already shaped me as the individual I am today and I am planning to have a longer stay in India to lengthen my quest to attain the unknown. To know the unknown and attain the unattainable is the primary quest of mankind if we refer to the original sin committed by Adam and Eve. This is one of the most primitive desire of humankind and I believe Hinduism rightly address that in order to let individuals find salvation in their own way. I strongly believe that there are many differences among the theories of Christianity and Hinduism, but the striking similarities are major and have to be considered. In both the religions stress on maintaining peace is seen, along with that in Christianity it is believed God is one and only. On the other hand according to Hinduism, God might have many forms, but there is one divine energy that governs the world. Both the religions speak about culture, awareness as a human being, being compassionate towards everything and to keep a free mind with will to adapt things be it spiritual or physiological. The main problem in today’s world is that individuals are becoming one tracked and to attain nirvana we should keep our minds free. We need to accept everything as a form of love from the divine power to align ourselves with the divine energy. Only by aligning our consciousness with the nature we can get the desired spiritual experience that we are thirsty for.
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