PLURALITY OF HINDU SPIRITUALITY



PLURALITY OF HINDU SPIRITUALITY

Another characteristic of Hindu spirituality’ is its pluralistic character.  This pluralistic character can be understood from the manifold ways in which Hindus have attempted salvation and it is well represented by two dynamic concepts in Hinduism.
The two concepts are adhikāra[1] and ishta-devata.[2]  The first one is called the doctrine of the spiritual competence and the second is the doctrine of chosen deity.  The first implies that a seeker of religious truth should choose a means of realization according to his/her ability.  Otherwise he/she will meet spiritual death.  According to the second concept a devotee can choose any deity of his/her own choice. 

8.1 Karma-Jnana-Bhakti
Instead of the usual pattern of presentation - karma, jnana and bhakti marga, a bird’s eye view of most of the Hindu spiritualities can be useful for the better understanding of the pluralistic character of Hindu Spirituality. 
Aryans of the Vedic period believed that sacrificial karmas will take them to heaven.[3]  This is called karma marga – the way of action.  In the Upanishads, importance is ‘meditation’[4] and ‘observation of the laws’.[5]  Meditation is focused upon the fact that Brahman alone is real.  This is called the Jnana marga or the way of knowledge.
In spite of the ‘synthetic nature’ of Bhagavad Gita, it emphasizes the “grace”[6] and ‘devotion of God’.[7]  This is called bhakti marga or the way of devotion. 
  
8.2 Devotion – Grace
The puranas are committed to the spirituality of ‘istadevata’[8] and ‘adhikara’[9] in the Bhagavata purana.[10]  God’s grace and devotion to him are suggested for salvation.  In the Vallabhacharya’s system, ‘prapatti (surrender to the will of God)[11] is the only means and goal to be attained by a devotee.  His method of spirituality was called ‘pushti-marga’.[12]  It has two interpretations.  One is the way of eating, drinking and enjoying oneself, the other is that it is the way of grace.[13]  The two interpretations are true.  In general all bhakti movements insist upon the grace of God.[14]  It is also true that the Vallabhas were known for their excessive and uncommon practices. This can further be substantiated from the fact that “Mira’s devotion to lord Krishna is an epitome of intense emotional relationship that embodies the highest level of conjugal love.”[15]  Saivism[16] stresses the importance of rituals along with devotion and grace in the process of realization.  In the Saiva Siddhanta sect “however, a woman can rise up to Siva’s abode, through the merit of her husband’s practice.”[17]  The highly ritualistic Tantra too stresses the need of ‘Kali’s grace’[18] and ‘devotion’[19] for salvation.

8.3 Philosophy – Grammar – Siddha
For the Nyaya – Vaiseshika, liberation is possible through the ‘right knowledge’[20] of the reality.  The Rajayoga advocates concentration and the Katha yoga proposes physical exercises for realization.  According to Mimamsa ‘Self can attain liberation by means of knowledge and the performance of obligatory duties in the right spirit’.[21]  The means of liberation, according to Sankara is the study of the Vendanta under a teacher who has himself realized Brahman.[22]  For the Grammarian “knowledge and correct use of words brings about both spiritual merit (dharma) which leads to heaven (svarga)”.[23]  Quite differently, “the Siddhas are antagonistic towards bhakti; they accept yoga as the only method of final realization.”[24]

8.4 Significance of Hindu Spirituality
It is obvious from the above discussions that religious experience differs from person to person and it cannot be expressed in a single form of worship.  This is a challenge to the religions which claim superiority.
The pluralistic character of Hindu spirituality is again the solution to the mystery of God.  God is addressed by different names.  No one can claim that his/her concept of God is the final one.  God is a mystery.  This mystery cannot be understood fully through any single stream of religious thought.  The diverse approaches to spirituality found in Hinduism testify to the manifold efforts of human beings to comprehend the ultimate Reality.  Unity in plurality is therefore the salient feature of Hinduism.
It will be contributive, if Hinduism, the majority religion in India, promotes ways and means to disseminate its greater spiritual values to its followers in order to make them instruments in the service of fellow divinities. This will help promoting peace and harmonious living in India.




[1] D. S. Sarma, “The Nature and History of Hinduism”, Kenneth Morgan edited, Op. Cit., p.5.
[2] Giorgio Bonazzoli, “Puranic Spirituality”, K. R. Sundararajan and Bithika Mukerji, edited, Op.
Cit., p.166.
[3] Yakub Masih, op. cit., p. 35.
[4] Ibid., p. 75.
[5] Swami Prabhavananda, op. cit., p. 64.
[6] S. N. Dasgupta, “Classical Forms of Devotional Mysticism”, Hindu Mysticism, Republished,
(New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1959), p. 119.
[7] A. L. Basham, The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism, ed. and annotated by
Kenneth G. Zysk (Delhi:  Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 91.
[8] Giorgio Bonazzoli, op.cit., p.166.
[9] Ibid., p. 176.
[10] Swami Vikrant,” Spirituality of the Bhagavata Purana”, Jeevadhara, Vol. XIII, No. 78, (November
1983), p. 415.
[11] Sudhindra C. Chakravarti, “Bengal Vaisnavism”, K. R. Sundararajan and Bithika Mukerji edited,
op. cit., p.53.
[12] Monier-Williams, Hinduism, op. cit., p.100.
[13] Gocindlal Hargovind Bhatt, “The School of Vallabha”, The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. III, 
P. 354.
[14] Sudhindra C. Chakravari, “Bengal Vaisnavism,” K. R. Sundararajan and Bithika Mukerji edited,
Op. Cit., p.49.
[15] Braj Sinha, “Mirabai:  The Rebel Saint”, K. R. Sundararajan and Bithika Mukerji edited, op. cit.,
p.141.
[16] Satis Chandra Chatterjee, op. cit., p. 235.
[17] Gavin Flood, An Introduction to Hinduism, Op. Cit., p. 164.
[18] Satis Chandra Chatterjee, op. cit., p. 215.
[19] K. Guru Dutt, “Shakti Worship in India,” Religion and Society, Vol. XXII, No. 4, (December
1975), p. 51.
[20] Satis Chandra Chatterjee, op. cit., p. 215.
[21] Ibid., p. 212.
[22] Ibid., p. 241, 242.
[23] Harold G. Coward, “The Reflective word: Spirituality in the Grammarian Tradition of India,”
Krishna Sivaraman edited, op. cit., p. 209.
[24] T. N. Ganapathy, “The Way of the Siddhas”, K. R. Sundararajan and Bithika Mukerji edited, op.
cit., p. 239.

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