Tuesday, May 24, 2005

from The Hindu Temple Society

Hinduism allows every individual to choose his own path for God realization, compatible with one’s own spiritual inclinations. While some take up jnana or karma margas, many find that bhakti marga is more suitable to them. In this path, one worships his ishta devata and eventually merges his mind in his ishta devata at which stage, he realizes that there is only one Supreme Being, which manifests itself in different forms. For the saadhakas (aspirants practicing bhakti marga), our temple provides an opportunity to advance spiritually.

Everything in Hinduism begins with the worship of Lord Ganesa, who is installed as the main Deity in our temple. With an elephant head and human form, He represents universality of creation. All creation is said to begin with Sound, and He is that primal Sound Om or pranava out of which the universe is manifested. When Shakti (Energy) merges with Shiva (Matter) both Ganesha (Sound) and Lord Skanda (Light) are born.In Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesha is the first son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Pãrvati (a manifestation of Universal Mother.) By worshipping Lord Ganesha, a devotee seeks Divine grace for removing obstacles and for achieving success in his endeavors in the physical world and for all attaining progress thereafter. Since success in all religious acts as well as in worldly matters is the motive force behind all human actions, Hindus worship Lord Ganesha seeking His blessing before undertaking such activities.

Lord Shiva is worshipped both with and without form, most commonly without form as the Linga. Images of Lord Shiva show Him as a very handsome youth, white as campor, His strong and smooth limbs besmeared with ashes. He has three eyes - the third eye being on the forehead between the eyebrows. The powerful gaze of Lord Shiva’s third eye annihilates evil, and is the reason that evil - doers fear His third eye. He has four arms, two of the arms holding the Trishula (trident) and Damaru (drum) while the other two are in the Abhaya (protection - giving) and Varada (boon-giving) Mudras (poses). He has a crown of long matted hair from which flows the river Ganga. He also wear the crescent moon as a diadem. A tiger-skin and an elephant-skin adorn His body as His garments. There are serpents all over his body forming a necklace, the girdle, the yajnopavita (sacred thread) as also arm-bracelets. Lord Shiva represents that aspect of the Supreme Reality which continuously recreates, in the cyclical process of creation, preservation, dissolution and recreation. He annihilates evil, grants boons, bestow grace, destroys ignorance, and awakens wisdom in His devotees. Since the attributes of Lord Shiva are numerous, images of Lord Shiva vary in symbolism.

Sri Pãrvati, is the mother of Lord Ganesha & Lord Kãrtikeya. She is also called by many other names and is considered as the Mother of the Universe (Jaganmãtã). The second son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Pãrvati is Kãatikeya, also known as Kumara, Skanda, Subrahmanya, Shanmukha, or Muruga. He is the Lord of Righteousness, Who protects dhrama by destroying evil. Lord Shanmukha (depicting as a six-headed Deity, symbolizing five senses and the mind) signifies that the five senses and mind must be in harmony for mental, intellectual and spiritual growth. He has two Consorts, Valli (symbolizing Icha Shakti,or desire) and Devasena (symbolizng Kriya Shakti, the power of action.) He also has in his hand a “Vel” (Jnana Shakti) which removes ignorance. The Vel is not a mere weapon. It is a Deity in its own right. Lord Shanmukha’s sister known Saravanabhavãyai also known as Jyothi has been installed in a small sanctum next to Lord Shamukha in our temple. The vãhana of Lord Subrahmanya is peacock. This is a bird whose behavior is unpredictable, as its moods are influenced by weather conditions. A peacock therefore, symbolizes ego, which causes unpredictable behavior in human beings Lord Muruga’s use of the peacock as His vãhana conveys the idea that control of one’s ego is necessary for spiritual advancement.

Lord Vishni symbolizes the aspect of the Supreme Reality (Brahman of the Upanishads) that preserves and sustains all things and beings in the manifested world. Although there are some variations in images and pictures of Lord Vishnu, He is generally depicted in a human form with four arms. He is portrayed carrying in his hands a conch (Shankha), a chakra (discus) and a mace (gada). He wears a crown, two earrings, a garland (mãla) of flowers around His neck and a gem (kaustuba) on his chest. He has a blue complexion and wears yellow clothes. The Lord is shown in a reclining posture on a thousand-headed serpent (named sheshanag). The serpent stands with its hood open like a canopy over the head of the Lord. His vãhana is the eagle (which is the national bird of the U.S.A.)

Sri Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual. The word “Lakshmi” is derived from the Sanskrit root Lakshya meaning aim or goal of Life, which includes wordly prosperity as well as spiritual prosperity. In Her images and pictures Sri Lakshmi is depicted in a form with four arms. She wears red clothes with a golden border and is seated on a lotus. She has gold coins, a half-open red lotus, and a golden, fully blossomed lotus in Her hands.

Since the beginning of human race people all over the world have believed the planets of the solar system had an influence on human life and history. The Navagrahas or the nine planets of the sun are regarded by Hindus to shape the lives of individuals, nations and the course of history. Worship of Navagrahas signifies that divine grace compliments human effort. It provides man the much needed inspiration during times of turmoil in life.

Our sages have perceived that chanting Navagraha Mantras everyday with devotion enables one to overcome one’s adversities and achieve happiness in life. As per trdition, the nine planets are: Ravi or Soorya (Sun), Soma or Chandra (Moon), Mangala, Kuja or Angãraka (Mars), Budha (Mercury), Bruhaspati or Guru ( Jupiter), Shukra (Venus) Shani ( Saturn), Rãhu and Ketu. The seven days of the week are named after the first seven planets. Rãhu and Ketu are not planets but ascending and descending nodes of the moon.

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