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    BrahmaVishnu Saraswati Vaishnavism Rama Krishna

    Shiva Lord Nataraj Parvati Kali Durga Shaivism

    Dissolution

    Devi Shaktism

    GaneshaConsort

    Trimurti

    Brahman Atman Jiva Om

    Moksha

    Maya Samsara

    Kundalini

    Chakras

    Darshan

    Puja

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    Gods and Goddesses

    andAvatars of

    Hinduism

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    There can really be asThere can really be as

    many Hindu Gods as theremany Hindu Gods as thereare devotees to suit theare devotees to suit themoods, feelings, emotionsmoods, feelings, emotions& social background of the& social background of the

    devotees."devotees."

    --SriSri RamaKrishnaRamaKrishna

    Countless Gods

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    Brahman

    Brahman refers to the Absolute Reality inHinduism.

    All other deities are personifications of

    aspects of Brahman. Brahman is eternal without beginning or

    end, transcendent, unchanging,

    omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, and

    without attributes

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    Brahman

    Take a glass of water. Add some sugar itwill dissolve into the water and you wontbe able to see it or remove it. Now taste

    the water and you will taste the sugar inevery drop of the water.

    In this analogy the water represents the

    world and the sugar represents Brahman,though invisible Brahman is omnipresent(everywhere.)

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    Brahman Brahman is the highest conception of God in Hinduism

    Brahman is transcendent (beyond time and space, beyondwords), but can roughly be described as Satchitananda - sat:(being): chit ( awareness): ananda (bliss)

    Brahman can have no form (above) this Nirguna Brahman

    Or Brahman can take a form (as a God or Avatar); this isSaguna Brahman: the noblest reality encountered in the world.

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    The many gods of Hinduism represent different aspects of one

    and the same ultimate reality, Brahman.

    Hinduism views the cosmic activity of the Supreme Being as comprised ofthree tasks: creation, preservation, and dissolution and then recreation.

    Three deities (Trimurti) represent these tasks: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

    Brahma Vishnu Shiva

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    Atman Atman is the term used in Hinduism to

    describe Brahman within a person.

    Before enlightenment the Atman is known

    as the jiva.

    The Atman is indestructible and after the

    death of the body it either achieves

    Moksha or is reborn into another body.Rebirth is determined by the law of

    samsara and karma.

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    Trimurti The three main Gods in Hinduism are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva

    They are actually the same reality (Brahman), but representseparate aspects of Brahman, and have separate personalities in

    the scriptures and to their respective devotees

    The are commonly called the Creator (Brahma), the Preserver(Vishnu), and the Destroyer (Shiva)

    Mnemonic: G.O.D. = Generator, Operator, Destroyer

    Each God of the Hindu pantheon has a Goddess as His partner whois His equal in every respect

    Each God has a animal vehicle`

    Each God or Goddess can and does take birth as a human

    These beings are called Avatars

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    10

    In Hinduism all Gods and Goddesses (and Avatars) are

    Manifestations of the formless Brahman

    Om is a word,

    designating a

    cosmic sound or

    vibration that is all

    pervading.

    It is the most

    common name of

    God.

    It is the same as

    Brahman.

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    BRAHMA SARASWATI

    (creator (creativity)

    Main Hindu deitiesBRAHMAN

    (suptreme spirit)

    VISHNU LAKSHMI

    (preserver) (good luck & wealth)

    SHIVA PARVATI

    (destroyer) (mother

    figure

    MAHA YOGI

    AVATARS

    RAMA KRISHNA

    NATARAJ(Lord of the dance)

    DURGA(war)

    LINGUM

    (fertility symbol)

    KALI

    (death)

    GANESH (good luck)

    Son of Shiva & Parvati

    10 incarnations

    of Lord Vishnu

    in human oranimal form

    including

    Buddha and

    Kalki (still to

    come)

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    There are three major devotional traditions:

    Vaishnavism (worship of Vishnu)

    Generally vegetarianWorship Vishnu or his avatars Rama and

    Krishna.

    Oriented towards duty and tradition.

    Shaivism (worship of Shiva)Worship focuses on union of opposites,

    especially creation and destruction.

    Tend to emphasize ascetic practices.

    Shaktism (worship of the Goddess (or Devi)

    Worship the goddess as ultimate reality.

    Not as likely to be vegetarian.

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    Note: although Brahma iscalled the `creator`, at times

    creation can be ascribed to

    the other gods and goddesses

    (e.g. Shiva or Devi, thegoddess)

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    Everything about theEverything about the

    depiction of Hindu Godsdepiction of Hindu Godsand Goddesses has aand Goddesses has a

    symbolic meaning.symbolic meaning.

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    Everything about the depictionEverything about the depiction

    of Hindu Gods and Goddessesof Hindu Gods and Goddessescan be taken eithercan be taken either literallyliterally oror

    symbolicallysymbolically andandphilosophically, depending onphilosophically, depending on

    the level of the believersthe level of the believersunderstanding.understanding.

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    BrahmaBrahma

    It is often said that the Hindu pantheon has three gods at itsIt is often said that the Hindu pantheon has three gods at itshead: Brahma, the creator of the universe; Vishnu, thehead: Brahma, the creator of the universe; Vishnu, thepreserver of life; and Shiva, the destroyer of ignorance.preserver of life; and Shiva, the destroyer of ignorance.

    Brahma is a representation of the impersonalBrahma is a representation of the impersonal brahmanbrahman in ain ahuman form, usually with four faces facing the cardinalhuman form, usually with four faces facing the cardinal

    directions and four armsdirections and four arms

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    Brahma (Creator) and Saraswati, his Consort/wife.

    Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge and speech.

    Her Vehicle is the swan.

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    19

    Goddess Saraswatisymbolizes Divine Knowledge

    Saraswati

    means the

    one who

    gives the

    knowledge

    of ones

    own Self

    and

    Universe.

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    Vishnu (maintainer of the universe)Consort: Lakshmi (good fortune and prosperity)

    Vehicle: Garudaeagle/human hybrid

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    VishnuVishnupreserves the working order of thepreserves the working order of the

    universeuniverse

    Lord Vishnu the PreserverLord Vishnu the Preserver

    "Only the unlearned deem"Only the unlearned deemmyself (Vishnu) and Shivamyself (Vishnu) and Shiva

    to be distinct; he ,I, andto be distinct; he ,I, andBrahma are one, assumingBrahma are one, assumingdifferent names for thedifferent names for thecreation, reservation andcreation, reservation anddestruction of thedestruction of theuniverse.universe. We, as the triuneWe, as the triuneSelf, pervade all creatures;Self, pervade all creatures;the wise therefore regardthe wise therefore regardall others as themselves."all others as themselves."

    ~~ Vishnu explains the Nature of the TrinityVishnu explains the Nature of the Trinity(trimurti)~(trimurti)~

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    Vishnu appears in many avatars (traditionally ten, the

    last, who has not yet appeared, is Kalki, who will come

    when he is most needed).

    The two most important avatars of Vishnu are Rama

    and Krishna.

    Krishna (right) and Arjuna, his disciple, devotee and friend (left).

    Gods are traditionally depicted as blue.

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    Shiva

    The Great God of yogisand yogic practice

    Often represented asKing of Dance

    Often represented in

    meditation in theHimalayas

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    ShivaShivaShiva destroys the world at the end of time. He alsoShiva destroys the world at the end of time. He also

    destroys ignorance by granting enlightenment.destroys ignorance by granting enlightenment.

    Lord Shiva the DestroyerLord Shiva the Destroyer

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    Shiva destroys the world at the end of time. (It returns

    to an unmanifest form).

    The image ofShiva as the Cosmic Danceris veryphilosophically complex.

    In part, it is seen as the image of Shivas rhythmic play

    which is the source of all movement within the universe.This is represented by the circular or elliptical frame

    surrounding the Lord.

    Secondly, the purpose of his dance/play is to release thesouls of all men from the snare of `maya` or cosmic

    illusion .

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    Shiva (in the guise of the destroyer) has Kali as his

    consort. Kali destroys demons, i.e. the (selfish) human

    ego and its negativities. This causes enlightenment.

    Shiva the Cosmic Dancer Kali

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    Shiva as Lord Nataraja, the Divine Dancer, in

    Spiritual Bliss.

    Dwarf - demon offorgetfulness

    Snake - Kundaliniyogic energy

    Drum -pranaenergy

    Fire - apanaenergy

    Two hands in themiddle - blessingof fearlessness

    Head Ornaments- Sun, moon andfire

    27

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    Shiva Nataraja, the

    Lord of the Dance.

    The third eye on the

    forehead of the Lord is a

    symbol of his omniscience.

    The cobra wrapped around

    his neck represents the

    Kundalini, a divine energy

    present, but asleep, in

    every living being at the

    base of the spinal cord.

    Through spritual practices

    the sleeping kundalini

    awakens, and as it moves

    up the spine, it awakens

    spiritual centres along the

    spine, bringing various

    spiritual experiences and

    powers. When it reaches

    the top of the head, one

    achieves enlightenment..28

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    29

    THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SHIVAS DANCE

    First, it is an image of his rhythmic play which is the source of all movement within the

    universe. This is represented by the circular or elliptical frame surrounding the Lord.

    Secondly, the purpose of his dance is to release the souls of all men from the snare of

    illusion.

    Lastly, the place of the dance is actually within the heart.

    Nataraj is a visual interpretation of Brahman. It is the representation of reality at the time

    of cosmic destruction. We being life forms, cosmic destruction would mean the

    disappearance of all life. The half moon shown in the head of Nataraj is a symbol only.

    The fall of the moon would result in cosmic destruction.

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    Kundalini theGoddess within

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    Kundalini

    We all have a divine energy within us called the

    Kundalini. The Kundalini, usually referred to

    either as a goddess or a serpent which s inactive

    in most people until awakened through spiritualpractices.

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    Kundalini `sleeps`at the baseof the spine. But when

    awakened, she rises throughthe `chakras`, energy centres in

    the spinal cord up to the brain

    bringing about enlightenment..

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    Chakras

    There are seven

    chakras along the

    spine. When these

    energy centres are

    awakened the

    spiritual practitioner

    achieves variouspsychic powers.

    Traditional Indian painting

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    Chakras are energy centres in

    the body that the awakenedkundalini energy rises through.

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    Contemporary Paintings of the

    Chakra system

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    Chakras

    Chakras are energy

    centres located along

    the spine through which

    the awakenedkundalini energy rises.

    There are seven

    chakras, each, when

    awakened, confers

    special powers on the

    yogi.

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    Devi (the goddess) is sometimes worshipped as the

    supreme manifestation of Brahman. All other gods and

    goddesses would then be considered emanations of her.Devi is the sanskrit word for Goddess. Sheis the female counterpart of each God

    without whom the , which represents

    consciousness or discrimination, remains

    impotent and void. Goddess worship is an

    integral part of Hinduism.Devi

    is,quintessentially, the core form of every

    other Hindu Goddess.

    Devi or the divine feminine is an equal

    conterpart to the divine masculine. She,

    manifests herself as her own Trinity.

    Saraswati + Brahma

    Lahksmi + Vishnu

    Parvati + Shiva

    Each of these forms has many other forms.

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    FeminineFeminine TheologyTheology --

    A Gift of Hindus to the World Hinduism is the ONLY major religion that worships God also as

    a woman. All other major faiths see God as a Fatherly figureonly.

    Even in Male oriented Hindud traditions, Devi plays animportant role.

    In Hindu Dharma, Wisdom/Knowledge, Prosperity, Power etc.,represented symbolically by feminine Hindu deities

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    Parvati, consort and equal of

    Shiva

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    40

    ArdhanaariishvaraArdhanaariishvaraShivaas Half-Woman

    Since God is actually Brahman, he isneither male or female. Hindus representthis in many ways.

    In the Shaiva tradition, God often

    represented as a half woman In the Vaishnava tradition, Vishnu often

    incarnates as a woman to preserve andprotect Dharma (Mohini avatar)

    When God is worshipped as parent,mother takes precedence over father

    aspect. Both Women and Men are manifestations of

    God (contrast: According to the Abrahamicfaiths, man was created in the image of God,and women from that mans extra rib!)

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    Durga

    another `demon`slaying form ofDevi

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    Shakti, the Powerful Devi, Killer of

    Mahishaasura

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    Ganesha

    (son of Shiva and Parvati)The Gods can have children.

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    Ganesha

    the Lord of success anddestroyer of evils andobstacles

    worshipped as the god ofeducation, knowledge,wisdom and wealth

    one of the five primeHindu deities

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    Everything about the Gods is SymbolicEverything about the Gods is Symbolic

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    Worship

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    Hindus worship principally through Darshan, seeing an

    image of the divinity and receiving its blessing and grace.

    Shrines can be anywhere, in great temples, by the road, but

    especially in the home.

    Puja is the act of ritual worship, in which the god is offered

    fruit, flowers, incense, water, honey or cloth in a special orderto symbolize an offering of the self to the god/goddess.

    In some cases deities are led in procession through the

    streets (at festivals, etc.).

    Sometimes the worshipper will take a pilgrimage to a sacred

    place, the most well-known being Benares, on the Ganges

    River.

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    A Hindu Priest performing a puja

    to the Goddess Kali.

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    The two main areas where

    puja is offered is in the templeor in the home.

    The home is the main centreof worship.

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    Most Hindu homes have a puja room, or

    at least a corner of the home where they

    can do a daily puja.

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    Kali temple

    Kolkata, India

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    Hindu temple interior,

    Singapore

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    Ancient Shiva temple at Rameswaram,inside

    walkway

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    Hindu temple, Toronto

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    Key TermsAvatar

    Brahma

    Vishnu Saraswati Vaishnavism Rama Krishna

    Shiva Lord Nataraj Parvati Kali Durga Shaivism Dissolution

    Devi Shaktism

    Ganesha

    Consort

    TrimurtiBrahman Atman Jiva Om

    Moksha

    Maya Samsara

    Kundalini

    Chakras

    Darshan

    Puja