There is devotion and devotion, that is, piousness, which is careful awareness turned inward, and outer-directed feelings, even frenzy. But id-based feelings that is jutted outwards onto others may do havoc and be used for ugly plots.
In The Crest-Jewel of Liberation's verses 16-34, the first Shankara talks for piousness, that sort of devotion that is intentness inwards, toward one's soul and spirit.
Piousness suggests intentness of the soul on its own nature. [p 10-12] . . . Piousness may also be called intentness on the reality of the Self. [p 12] [More]
Introduction: Loving Madly
The Siva Purana is dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva (Siva). The extant text comprises 24,000 verses (slokas). It teaches differently than texts that hail Vishnu above others, and differently about Narada, a guru personage that among Vishnu worshippers is told to be great.
So what purana texts help us against getting vulnerable and maybe limping along the road of life? Such texts and portions of texts help us to turn Self-ward and supplement that with good fortune too. That is the idea. Against it, there are many con artists and fakers in the world. The question is which gurus are among them, and who the truly great ones are. Indians are told loosely that maybe nine out of ten gurus are counterfeits, by the way. Ramakrishna says:
People with little occult power gain such things as name and fame. Many of them want to follow the profession of a guru, gain people's recognition, and make disciples and devotees. Men say of such a guru:
In the same place, Ramakrishna likens such a guru to a well off prostitute ruining herself.
How can you be on your guard if what some gurus are marked by, cherish and talk glowingly of, are things to keep reserve about, and you are out of your waters? It should be greatly rewarding and fruitful to go into the Essence, and from then on judge as to what is beautiful and free from mistakes. Maybe all sorts of moral development depend on such Inner Integrity.
Let us now look at a guru prototype that a guru like Paramahansa Yogananda promotes by things he tells.
Narada plays a prominent role in many Puranic texts. According to legend, Narada roams around and causes quarrels among gods, goddesses, and humans. He is also known by some as one of the great devotees of Vishnu, and has a special place in Vaishnava traditions.
The guru Narada is typically linked to devotionalism among devotionalist yogis. A book on bhakti (devotion), is attributed to him [Prabhavananda 2000]. In it, it is claimed:
[Bhakti] is deathless or as sweet as nectar . . . One who attains it becomes intoxicated . . . Giving away the social and Vedic customs including religious activities is termed as a form of this renunciation [Sutras 3, 6, 8, passim].
Claims from the Narada Bhakti Sutras in P. R. Ramachander's translation [2002–2009] thus include: "Love for God Vishnu makes you deathless, immortal. Bhakti intoxicates to the point of making you fall from Vedic customs. And it is the easiest path to God, and needs no proof." There is a claim on holiness too. From this it should be easy to see that stubborn claims go along with a dogmatism that does not want to be frankly investigated by sensible people who demand good evidence.
In the Bhagavad Gita it is held that there are several ways that are best also. And what do we see far and wide? People who get drunk on love, drop away from life one by one - they too. Are they deathless? A good way to God does not have to bar proper inspection. To the contrary. And then we have to find out if deathless means physically deathless, or deathless in any other way or ways. What can it be? Amrita, the nectar of immortality, is it a part of ancient myths or more than that? [Kalama Sutta]
Amrita is a Sanskrit word that literally means "immortality", and is often referred to in texts as nectar. The earliest occurrence is in the Rigveda, where it is one of several synonyms of "soma", the drink which confers immortality on the gods. It is related etymologically to the Greek "ambrosia", and it carries the same meaning. [WP, "Amrita"]
Also, on a more common level of loving, we see that people stop loving each other, or fall from loving each other much, and so on. One problem is that people cannot control feelings and love as dictated or wanted. So can you cultivate love unaided? And wanting to love is not to love either. It is not that easy. So when an Americanised guru says "Love God, for I say it, but without having sex" does he specify necessities and tell you how, when, where, and why, for example? Or is it something flimsy that others than yourself profit by on your behalf or on the backs of gullible others? The last question is probably the most important of them all. Check what happens to devotees over time, and find out if their good resources are kept, for example, and whether all are put to good use or well spent.
Largely unknown to most people, devotional forms of yoga may pose severe problems, says Ramakrishna. Devotional practices are told of in the Ramakrishna biography. Some of the classifications: Three kinds, two stages, and the "how-to" is to regard God as one's Parent, Master, Friend, Child, Husband, or Sweetheart. Finally the devotee considers himself as the mistress of the Supreme Being [Gupta 1942, Introduction, "Vaishnava Disciplines"]
I don't say devotion is bad and goes wrong in every seemingly crazy case. But to remain on the safe side, cater to your balances, watch out, and do not succumb to duping tricks that perhaps play on unfulfilled or starved emotions. Do not be made an underling for it either. It should be good to know that the best tricks are those you are hardly ever made aware of, and that clever haters could make you love them.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi says: "When a heart, shallow as a pond, seeks to rise high in waves of love, it creates a muddle and brings out the mud that was so far gracefully hidden. - Maharishi, in "Love and God" [More]
So there is perhaps more to learn about love and devotion.
As for gurus, they may or may not be true gurus. In the great Hindu heritage we find suggested that nine out of ten gurus are counterfeits. They may or may not be fair, may or may not work for your good but are they good enough?
Among gurus are also very bad gurus, wicked, deceiving, plotting guys. In the Indian heritage you find stories that illustrate how such gurus may deceive and work havoc in cold blood, also due to partiality. That outlook goes against idealised concepts and cherished ideas among such as North Americans today. Some who get initiated by counterfeit gurus may be in danger of losing integrity, self-respect and getting battered without sensing it at first.
Below is a retelling of a long story from the Siva Purana in English translation, a Unesco work [Shastri 1969]. The story is about the devotionalists' cherished guru prototype Narada. And what is the lesson that the tale brings? Good faith is misused to form victims.
❋ Where they hail Narada, why not ask for good evidence instead of freaking out?
A Story of Plots
The guru prototype Narada was established to lead astray women and men and get rid of those straight, fair guys - behind a grin of dirty, devotional fervour and rigmarole. The following extracts are from the Siva Purana (Shastri 1969).
God did so. The nicely decorated cities were even joined together. There were many castles and pretty horses, elephants and playgrounds, and finally halls for kingly studies. Heroic non-Indians lived there together, people who had bull-like shoulders and broad chests. Some were of warlike temperament, others were calm. They were very well protected. A long time went by, and the inhabitants lived happily, ruling over the good kingdom they had got control over. But then main Hindu gods started to envy the happy inhabitants of the three cities. They visited the Creator-God Brahma in sheer distress and sought a cunning way to kill the happy ones. He laughed and said:
"Do not be afraid. Shiva (or manhood) will kill them. These polite folks have flourished due to my favour. They do not deserve to be wiped out at my hands." (p 802-9)
At this the Hindu gods crawled to Shiva and tried to endear themselves.
"Hail, destroyer of mankind, you who can be reached through good conduct and who are the paramount liberation from our good conduct too, eventually (p 810-13)
Shiva objected to the slandering Hindu gods when they proposed a plan to kill the inhabitants of the three cities. He did it in this way:
"A meritorious guy is the presiding ruler of the three cities now. He who quite often does meritorious deeds should not be killed by any sensible persons. How can I knowingly commit malicious deeds to my friends? There is a great sin attending on even casual malicious actions. There is no expiation for ungrateful ones. Those buddies of mine should not be slain by me as long as their goings are straight and fair enough. (Make an end to that first. Then the rest is easy.)" (p 815-6)
The Indian gods became miserable and dejected once again. They crawled on to god Vishnu, who saw through their minds and said,
"Listen to what I have to say. I, who once laid down the rules of great kingly conduct, have to admit: The virtuous guys cannot be destroyed by our magic now. What I must do is to thwart their uprightness. Then I can kill them by devious magic. Next I shall destroy the three cities." (p 816-9)
Now he sent the other gods away, each to his dwelling, and they left with bent heads. At once god Vishnu created a duplicate of himself and called him Arihat. He said to that robot like monster, "I shall create a deceptive holy text. Strain yourself to extend it. Even magic arts shall be at your command." (p 820-1)
On hearing this, the robot king Arihat, which looked exactly like Vishnu, recited the main tenets in the deceptive philosophy god Vishnu had thought up for that case, after Shiva had furnished the golden clues on how to go forwards in the crooked way of deceit to outsmart brave and good ones and benefit Hindu gods.
The straight and fair city-inhabitants could be deformed and routed out without limit when they first were fooled away from being upright and decent. That was Shiva's masked meaning, and Vishnu meant to carry it out in earnest, to make a must of cheating and killing on top of envy - even if no inhabitant had ever given offence.
Hare Vishnu: "Initiate them. Go there and destroy these men and women. Your cult shall certainly expand. (p 821-2)
The robot king massed gruesome, false teaching to become worthy of guru-giver respect. He did it in a thrice:
"Hell itself is functioning right here," he uttered. Then the deceptive sage, followed by disciples in the Indian way, entered the three cities and created illusion. He tried as best he could to fascinate, and failed. (p 821-3)
His illusory tricks and schemes did not work among the staunch city-inhabitants. It was then that Shiva transmitted guru-telepathically to Vishnu to summon the false and ruthless Narada. Narada is often held to be a prototype of a devotionalist guru.
Narada was ordered to go to the three cities and delude the residents there. Narada was an expert in godly, strong magic, and quickly met with the Arihat teacher who stood there and spoke in a non-discreet way. What Narada did, was to get himself initiated, sure that he could float on his reputation among non-initiates. Next he told the king of the three cities,
"This sage who initiated me, surely masters all kingly knowledge. I suggest you go and get yourself initiated."
By this the governor was deluded enough to exclaim and hail, "Since Narada has been initiated wee too shall be initiated."
The governing guy was deluded by Arihat too, and begged him to initiate him, saying, "I shall become a disciple." (p 823-4)
As could be predicted, perhaps, the heretic sage, the counterpart of Vishnu, professed to be eternal, and spoke with emphasis, "If you are ready to do just as I decree, I shall initiate you. Otherwise not."
The king said, thankfully, "I shall carry out whatever you command, and I shall not transgress."
Now the guru had him, as an expert in Hindu magic. The guru said - and this is a quite protruding sermon: (p 825)]
"Our bodies perish. God the creator has a body that perishes too. Non-violence is the greatest virtue. (p 826-7)
He next criticised the womanly virtues of chastity. And the fascinated men practised rites of seduction - gaining other men's wives. (p 830)
Finally evil reigned on top. "Blessing" them with extreme delusion of intellect, perpetrated by the illusion of Vishnu, Narada became contented. Narada and the heretic sage (Vishnu's robot) were not defiled, though, because of lord Shiva. (p 830)
As Shiva willed, the capacity of the king and his kin became stunted and thwarted. (p 831)
Now the Indian gods came creeping up and hailed the god that terminated goodness to let evil take the upper hand - by initiation, fervent guru bossing, leading astray. The former upright ones were led astray by the tops among Indians.
God the Creator hailed god Shiva here: "It is at your own bidding they have been deluded. You induced them." (p 834)
Hearing these words, the Indian gods were delighted. But they soon lost heart again - terrified at the thought of the dangers of battle. Spineless gods gave up and fled in great confusion. Unnerved they fled. One crawled on his knees; it was Indra. Now Vishnu had the guts to say,
"Say this holy sound: "Om. Namah. (To Shiva). Subham. Subham. Kuru. Kuru. Sivaya Namah Om." (p 836)
If you repeat it extremely much, Shiva will do what you beg, if you are meticulous about it. And Shiva popped up and said,
"The long mantra you mutter is highly meritorious and auspicious. It generates godly pleasure. It yields cherished desires and brings about happiness and so on." (p. 839)
This was warfare by muttering and mental incantations. Now god Shiva got a godlike wagon to ride in. Vishnu had to assume the form of a kingly bull under it. He had to kneel down and crawl on the ground. God Shiva steadied the horses, and now he could ride towards the three cities at last. Before he could attack full well, he ordered the Hindu gods to become animals. All the gods became animals. Now god Shiva was the lord of animals moving about in the sky.
Shiva shot one arrow, and burnt the three cities with that one shot. A great many who lived there were burnt to death. (p 843-50)
To believe in tales seems infirm to some
The devotionally minded Yogananda talks warmly of Narada and for devotion too. But you should see that many are led astray by misplaced devotion, and take care. Maharishi holds that the highest to get to by yogi training is to develop "Supreme Knowledge, the ultimate goal of man's life", and that the path of Yoga, Karma (action), Bhakti (devotion) and Gyana (knowledge) are not really different paths, but rather mark different successive steps on the progressive path to perfection:
One simple path of ascending order from waking state of consciousness to transcendental counsciousness to Cosmic Consciousness to God-Consciousness and from there on to the state of Supreme Knowledge was mistaken to be four parallel paths - path of Yoga, path of action, path of devotion and path of knowledge . . . Some would start with the path of devotion and naturally would not meet with success, because devotion to God is not a thing to start with on the ordinary level of waking state of consciousness. The path of devotion to God is significant only after gaining Cosmic Consciousness. Plunging into the path of devotion to God before gaining Cosmic Consciousness is like an unqualified man trying to act qualified. The whole procedure remains baseless, progress is just not found. [In Dragemark 1972:202]
Ramakrishna says it too: "Love of God: Such love . . . is not for ordinary men. [Gupta 1942:679]
In short: There may be fit ways to love, markedly unfit ways, and hanky-pankies too.
Among the SRF (Self-Realization Fellowship) gurus, Krishna is venerated - he is understood to be one of the incarnations of the deceptive, fraudulent God Vishnu - And Krishna says he is Narada, presented as an undermining, deft guru criminal in the story above, which is part of classical Hindu literature.
The story tells that Hindu devas (gods, even) are not always nice and fair, may dupe, use trickery and magic, and wreak havoc and destruction in the long run, like animals (the ending).
Tantric view of Goddesses
I have no reason to suspect all gods and goddesses to be murderous satans. But it is part of Tantric lore that some such beings are dangerous. In The Ten Great Cosmic Powers (Dasa Mahavidiyas) by S. Shankaranarayanan, this nuanced view is elaborated on. The author says, "There is a regular hierarchy of Gods, and some gods and Goddesses are closer to the human level than the higher Gods, and more readily accessible. They have capacities and powers beyond normal human possibility, and there are higher and lower classes of them. Some respond readily to the approaches of those who seek their help, but they do so mainly for their own purpose, using the human to that end. "They may . . . answer the call of the seeker in the beginning but in the end they let him down . . . once their purpose is fulfilled. The seeker is misled, his inner progress comes to a standstill if it does not end in disaster." Such beings "mislead the seeker with petty glamorous gifts, induce a false sense of progress and siddhi, prevent the dawn of real Jnana which would expose their whole game and succeed in enslaving the man for their purpose". His soul is thus betrayed into misadventure, writes the author [Shankaranarayan 1975:2-3].
Shankaranarayanan also tells there are also higher, benevolent deities, and "Make an effort to ascend to them", for "they do him the utmost good." Above or within these again, are still higher deities with cosmic functionings, and such deities are known as mahavidyas (literally: "great understandings", also "great paths"). "Nothing short of Self-Realization, atma saksatkara, is the goal of these Vidyas," he maintains [Shankaranarayan 1975:3].
That is a Tantric view.
The Panthenon of Hindu Gods Has Changed Much
Gods that once were popular in India, are not so today, and vice versa. Some (concepts of) gods and goddesses have mingled and fused, also. In some cases it is well to know the origin and contexts of concepts.
Moreover, "the earliest [Vedic] texts have the Asuras presiding over moral and social phenomena (e.g. Varuna, the guardian of Rita, or Bhaga, the patron of marriages) and the Devas presiding over natural phenomena." But a negative understanding of asuras developed in Hinduism over time, so that "In later writings, such as the Puranas . . . we find that the "Devas" are the Godly beings and the "Asuras" the demonic ones."
"Neither the Rigveda's Asuras nor the Gathas' Daevas are demons." Basic, Vedic gods are cognate with the Indo-aryan ahuras, (Sanskrit: asuras). Many Rikvedic gods of Hindus are in fact asuras. "The venerated Varuna, Mithra, Indra, Rudra, Agni, Aryaman, Pusan and Parjanya are all Asuras without being demonic . . . the RigVeda's Asuras are all exalted Gods." [Wikipedia, s.v. "Asura"] [Link]
"Vedic lore contains numerous elements which are common to Indo-European mythological traditions, like the mythologies of Persia, Greece, and Rome, and that of the Celtic, Germanic and Slavic peoples. The Vedic god Indra in part corresponds to . . . Zeus and Jupiter," says Wikipedia [s.v. "Vedic mythology"]. See also the "List of Hindu deities" there for a broader overview.
Prahlada, son of a demon king
As for massive guru help, if it truly helps your family, your garden things and so on, "fie" can hardly be the proper response. Now:
There were conflicting parties in antiquity, they upbraided and branded each other's side and cherished beliefs. Some elements hardened later, for example into the caste system of India. Still, allow for exceptions to the "rule". See for example the Puranic tale(s) about Prahlada, son of a "demon" king.
Prahlada is famed for exclusive devotion (bhakti) to Vishnu, despite the attempts of his father Hiranyakashipu to turn him from it - first by warnings. They were soon followed up by attempts to poison him; to get him trampled by elephants; and to get him bitten by venomous snakes. It did not help. Prahlada was then ordered to sit on a pyre, but he remained as difficult to get rid of as ever. And in the end Vishnu appeared in the form of half a lion and half a man and killed his father. Then Prahlada was made the new king of those demons.
The stories are to sustain the faith that Vishnu always save his devotees and that people who do evil, will be punished in time.
Prahlada refused to give up goodness. He had to suffer for it; he was regularly and harshly ill-treated by his father for such deviant outlooks and behaviour, which ran contrary to his father's transgression business. In the end Prahlada inherited the throne, and most often it does not end that way. [Dimmitt and van Buitenen 1978, index]
Abraham Lincoln once made a remark about his heredity. Let President Lincoln add a liberating note to the Prahlada tale:
Speaking of his ancestry, Lincoln once humorously remarked,
Fair teaching, fair study on top of that
Good stories build a computing bank inside our heads. Various tales serve as platforms for shared cultural exchanges most often, and lots of lessons are derived from them. Classical fables attributed to Aesop, is our European standard example of how figurative elements bring fair handling norms in some cases.
The old Sanskrit work Siva Purana in Professor J. Shastri's four-volumed and Unesco-sponsored translation, is held to be excellent. In one passage, during a war, the powerful Taraka reveals this:
"Gods are shameless, especially Indra and Vishnu. Formerly, both of them had acted in violation of the Vedic path.
Vishnu is deceptive, defective and indiscreet, capable of deception with sinful intention. Kaitabha was beheaded by his roguishness. Vishnu forsook the Vedic path. He violated sanctity of vows and assumed the form of an enchantress.
Taking birth as Rama, he killed a woman. Bali's death was brought about by him with a vile trick. A Brahmin descendant was killed by him.
Sinful as he was, he forsook his own innocent wife for achieving his selfish ends and cut off the head of his own mother. Further, he insulted his own teacher's son.
Incarnating as Krishna he defiled the wives of others and forced them to violate the virtues of family. He contracted his marriages outside the established Vedic path.
Later he preached the atheistic philosophy called Buddhism (as Buddha) [Buddhism has it differently].
Indra, his elder brother, is a greater sinner [Indra is called king of gods]. On this most Hindus have to agree." (Shastri 1969:750-51]. (#3.4)
It is faulty to get stiffened in one's views about gods and goddesses without any all right evidence. That is one thing we should take to heart after studying the Hindu and Persian lore about devas and asuras and the demonization of each of these groups as the related Indo-aryan cultures diversified over time.
Today as in older times there exist divergent lines of rigid discipline and thinking. Within such divergent lines of thinking we find the devotionalist craze. it speaks of a mentality, but bhakti (devotion) is not really necessary for yoga, and never was said to be in the old works either.
Be on your guard; if not you might succumb to delicate distortions and subterfuges. Moreover, in old times, Vedic times, it was the custom that guru and possible disciple took a long look at one another before they engaged in a guru-disciple relationship. This trial period might take tens of years, even, and might not be easy. You can find many hints of how they fared in the Hindu classics presented on-site. [Link]
In essential Buddhism, devotionalist obsession is not thought much of. It is not required to make much of it. As Maharishi suggests, one may meditate till the source is opened and love flows. Shankara too holds that devotion, piousness, is to be turned inward to the Self.
Sages worship Brahman with devotion as the ultimate reality within their own selves, the essence of all organs. - Shankara (Hymn to Hari, v. 42)
That is the kind of devotion I'm for. But awkwardly taught and practiced devotion can serve to transgress the inward-turning by some murky "craze", alas. Yogananda has such teachings onboard. [Yogananda lore]
Beware of your inclinations and hope your goodwill and good beginner's faith is not abused or misled.
Dimmitt, Cornelia, ed., and J. A. B. van Buitenen, tr. Classical Hindu Mythology. Philadelphia: Temple University, 1978.
Dragemark, Elsa. The Way to Maharishi's Himalayas. Stockholm: E. Dragemark, 1972. EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Yearly.
Fuller, Edmund: 2500 Anecdotes for All Occasions. New York: Wings, 1970.
Gupta, Mahendranath. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Tr. Swami Nikhilananda. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1942. On-line.
Prabhavananda, Swami. Narada's Way of Divine Love: The Bhakti Sutras. Paperback ed. Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 2000. On-line: Google Books.
Ramachander, P. R. tr. Narada Bhakti Sutras . Velacherry: Celextel Enterprises, 2002- 2009. On-line.
Ramakrishna. Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna. 5th ed. Madras: Ramakrishna Math, 1974.
Shankaranarayan, S. The Ten Great Cosmic Powers. 2nd ed. Pondicherri: Dipti, 1975.
Shastri, J. ed: Siva Purana. Vols 1-4. Delhi: Banarsidass, 1969.
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