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HINDUISM

Life after death and planes of existence

Jayaram V

At the most basic and fundamental level, where a common man is concerned, Hindu scripture describe heaven as “svargam” and hell as “narakam”. The heaven is inhabited by devas, sages, and many great and noble souls who performed good deeds upon earth. It is a pleasure oriented world in which the beings experience unlimited pleasure, but no pain and no death. Without the discomforts of earth existence, such as aging, worry, hunger, disease and death, they lead pleasant lives, surrounded by heavenly music, auspicious objects and sceneries, celestial dancers, chanting of divine words and incredible joy.

Indra is the ruler of the heaven with Rati as his wife, lightning as his weapon and Aairavat, the white elephant as his vehicle. Interestingly the seat of Indra is not permanent. So like the politicians of today, he is always concerned abut protecting his throne from possible contenders and the demons of the nether worlds.

The hell is a dark world, filled with evil doers and their relentless cries of pain and agony, undergoing different kinds of torture and punishment as a consequence of their bad deeds in their previous lives. Unlike in other religions, the hill of Hindu religion is not ruled by an evil persona, but by yama, a god of highest virtue, endowed with self-discipline and unmatched judging power. Aided by his court minister chitragupta, who keeps an account of all the deeds done all the people upon earth, he administers justices and accords punishments to the beings who arrives at the doors of hell after completing their lives upon earth.

For many Hindus these two worlds are as real as their own.

The possibility of going to heaven or hell through performing good or bad deeds in this world, coupled with a strong belief in the theory of karma, is what regulates the behaviour of an average Hindu and influences his or her code of conduct upon earth. At a much deeper level of understanding, Hindu scriptures do not conclude with the description of just one heaven and one hell. Frankly, Hindus well versed in scriptures, do not believe in just one heaven or one hell.

They believe in multiple heavens or worlds of light and multiple hells or world of darkness stretching across the vast spaces of the manifest universe. According to Hindu cosmology, creation is an endless phenomenon and as mysterious as the mystery of the Divinity itself. Creation is God’s play (leela) and measuring its dimensions is not possible even for the gods. The universe consists of multiple worlds, layers and planes of existence, some known and some unknown, some within the field of awareness and sensory knowledge and some much beyond.

These worlds are inhabited and controlled by different powers, beings, objects, energies, deities and mysterious events. it is difficult to specify how many such worlds are identified by the scriptures.

They are indeed many. Just as the mind can envision many worlds and objects in it’s infinite inner space, the Hindu cosmology comes up with a universe of infinite dimensions and innumerable possibilities. In the Paingala Upanishad we come across a description of the many worlds created by Brahman:

Out of the elements thus quadruplicated, He created many millions of Brahmandas (macrocosms), fourteen worlds appropriate to each (of these macrocosms) and globular gross bodies appropriate (to each of these world).”

It is interesting that today’s scientists are also talking about the same concept in a more scientific and organized way trying to explain the possibilities of parallel universes and coexistence of multiple realities in the same space and time dimensions. This is akin to the vision of a spectacular scale which the ancient seer saw, that does not preclude the possibility of either evolution or theories of quantum physics, mathematical or particle bases of the origin of the universe or relativity.

Thousands of years ago Hindu seers spoke about atoms and finer particles forming the basic building blocks of the object matter of the universe.

In some of the Upanishads we come across mainly three planes of existence, Bhur (the earth), Bhuva (heavenly worlds), Suvah (Solar worlds) and Maha (The highest worlds). The famous Gayatri mantra refers to these three worlds.

The Bhagavad-Gita mentions two paths which a soul may follow after leaving the body depending upon the time of death and the nature of deeds performed.

They are the path of light, also called the path of devas and the path of the night, also called the path of the pitra devas or ancestors. The first one leads to the world of the sun and the second one to the world of the moon.

The scripture also mentions that those who indulge in heinous deeds and accumulate very bad karma,do not qualify to follow either of these two paths, but go down and descend into fiendish hells where they suffer for a long time till they are cleansed and purified.

According to the Bhagavad-Gita going to either hell or heaven has its own limitations. Beings who go to these worlds are bound to return to earth once the merits or demerits of their previous karma are exhausted.

Life in these worlds is also not permanent and secure as they are also subject to change and flux and attacks from beings of darker worlds.

So the scripture suggests that human beings should look for a permanent solution by aiming for union with the Divine through control of the senses, devotion to God and by performing deeds as an offering to God. complete liberation is possible only when men transcend their lower and higher desires and withdraw into themselves to attain the highest world of supreme Brahman. However, there is no unanimity among the deferent sects of Hinduism, as to what constitutes the Supreme Abode of God. For the Vaishanavites it is vaikunth, for the Shivites it is Kailash and for the jnana margis it is Brahmalok.

In Hinduism we also encounter another argument concerning the possibilities of life after death. According to this the body is made up of five elements, known as mahabhutas. These are earth, fire, water, air and ether.

After the death of a person, elements of the gross body merges into the gross elements of the earth, which are basically the earth, fire, water and air, while the subtle bodies (Jiva constituting prana, manas and vignana) go to the subtle or ethereal worlds along with the soul. After exhausting karma in each of these planes and shedding the respective bodies there, the soul returns again to earth with a few memories and samskaras of the jiva to undergo further evolution.

On the individual plane, Hindu scriptures identify the heaven an hell in the human body also.

The heaven is the pleasure principle in our consciousness and it is created by the movements of the senses whose ruler is Indre, the sixth sense, the mind itself.

The hell is the pain principle, which is created by evil thoughts and desires and the suffering we undergo because of our wrong deeds. Beyond of these two are the world of deep sleep (Suvah) and the transcendental world of bliss (corresponding to Maha).

Thus we can see Hindu cosmology offers a very complex structure of the universe, in which are not necessarily the only places to which human beings go after death.

Heavenly existence is not permanent. So also the existence in hell. It is the karma which is the ultimate deciding factor. And it is through karma a person moves in the labyrinth of worlds, till he or she is permanent released into the highest abode of god.

Source : hinduwebsite.com


Thirumanthiram - The holy songs of Saint Thirumoolar

Legend has it that St. Thirumoolar lived and meditated in the Himalayas for 3000 years. Each year he will wake up from the state of Samadhi and compose a song. Thus the holy songs he composed are three thousand.

In his songs he treated on the life of man - his different stages and brought out the fact that in the end he would reach the elevated state of merging with the soul supreme. Says Thirumoolar in song no. 1677. “Those who do not understand the purpose of life to reach the lotus feet of God Supreme will get thrown about here and there like a piece of wood caught in the waves of the sea.”

Those born on earth should not live like animals, but strive to lead a good life, so that one has no rebirth. This is possible only if one has reached the state of Sublimation, when one changes the emotions arising from the activities of the five instincts and reaches a higher and move desirable state.

In stanza no. 2090 the saint says.

“One has got this birth, a rare and valuable event, but if one does not worship the Lotus full of the God Almighty and live a way wild life, then woe unto the one - who has missed the chance to be one with the Omnpoternt spirit - the Paramathma.

The goal of every Jewathma is to merge with the Paramathma. For that the jeevathma should laid a good life, and be spiritually inclined, and attain the Blissful state of Nirvana - give up all attachments and think only of the goal to be reached. It takes a strong will to reach that state which comes by spiritual practice or sadhana.

Thirumoolar talks of how man sails to sea the athma though he involves himself in the six religious. He is trapped by delusion and having strong attachments with the wife and children, finds it hard to break through. Hence he suffers entrapped by Maya or delusion. Further in stanza 2982, Philosophises the nature of an individual to seek God in all the countries and gets exhausted. Finally the individual comes to realise that God is within the country called the body.

The saint says how he once thought that the physical body was a hindrance in realising the Truth - the Absolute Truth. But on realising Sivam is within, I am abiding in the body chanting the fire sacred words. Namasivaya and Aum the Pranava Manthram. In other words he insists the physical body is necessary to house the Jeevathma, so that it will meditate on and worship the infinite by chanting the Manthrams.

The aadi sivan who behaves as the life, beautiful Vishnu an Brahma who is stated on a Lotus are all one. One doesn’t realise sivam and love means the same - God is love, one thinks each one is separate. Once one realises that God and love means the same, one attains the state of Sivam.

The 1604th stanza goes as follows:

“Manthiramavathum ma marun thavathum
Thanthiramavathum thanangalavathum
Sumtharam avathum Thooneriyavathum
Enthaipiran than inaiadiyame.”

Manthras and medicines,
Strategies and charities
Beauty and punty

Are all at the feet of my Lord who created me.

Thirumoolar was a Siva worshipper. He attributes all worthy qualities to his creator.

The saint talks of the Athma - soutl thus:

It is neither male nor female nor hermaphrodite. Eyes are not needed to see it nor ears to hear - It could be seen and heard without there physical structures. It is one that is realised by the innerself. It is the Glory of God.

Finally he talks of the five senses that are in the body occupied by the athma. There senses are referred to as cows which run wild without the cowherd. If they are controlled by the cowherd, they would do wonders.


Vattapalai Kannakai Amman Temple Festival

The annual festival of Vattapalai Amman Temple in the District of Mullaitivu will conclude today (24.5.10) with Pongal celebrations in which large crowds from all parts of the Northern Peninsula are expected to congregate.

In fact, the Pattini Cult was introduced to Sri Lanka in the second century AD when several temples were founded for the worship of Kannakai Amman. The story of Kovalan and Kannakai has been immortalised in the ancient Tamil epic poetry titled Silapadikaram by Illanbovadikal. Illango was a Tamil poet of Royal blood, being a brother of Chera King Senkattuvan (113-135 AC) who ruled at Thiruchchen Kottai in the Western Coast of South India.

The mighty King Senguttuvan established. Worship of Pattini Devi with great pomp and glory in the second century.

Neighbouring kings were all invited for the festive occasion to his capital city.

A statue of the Devi carved from a stone brought by the King from the Himalayas was ceremoniously consecrated thereby establishing worship of Kannakai Amman as a Goddess. King Gaja Bahu (111-135 BC) of Lanka who was also present at the consecration brought with him to Lanka an emblem of the sacred “Anklet” of the Devi gifted to him by Cheran Senguttuvan, landing with this precious relics at the Northern Port of Samputhurai (Jambukola) it was placed on a caparisoned elephant and with many elephants following behind a Royal procession was formed with flags, beating of drums etc.

The procession wended its ways conveying the sacred relic, to several places in the island. In fact, by Royal request temples were erected all over the island dedicated to her worship and the Pattini cult became established in Lanka.

The Cult spread far and wide and Pattini Devales and Kannakai Amman temples are found all over the island in the Northern and Eastern regions.

During the festival which lasts for nearly ten days the story of Kovalan and Kannakai is read and Fire walking ceremony and Kavadi take place to the accompaniment of Nathaswara in music, Bhajans and poojas.

As such, let us all worship the Vattapalai Kannakai Amman with devotion and receive her blessings. Kannagi the heroine in Silapadikaram is worshipped as Kannakai Amman.


Thiruvasagam of Saint Manickavasagar

Saint Manickavasagar’s real name was Vadhavoorar as he was born in a place called Thiruvadhavoor. When he sang songs in praise of God Siva, God Himself complimented his compositions and named his words as ‘gems.’ Hence he came to be known as Manicka (gem) Vasagar (words) - one whose words uttered are like gems is the meaning of the name.

The Saint found bliss in the thoughts of the God Supreme and was fully immersed in the absolute bliss of his God. He wanted nothing else. Each of his songs “Thiruvasagam” proves it. In one of his songs in the “Thiruchathakam he says - “I do not want the friendship of status of the Devas like, Indran, I will only seek the company of your duo less on Lord with them I will stay even in hell.” He sought the company of the spiritually enhanced devotees.

The saints devotional songs are not only gem like but are also soulful and so soul string, so much so that it is little wonder that it is said, “Do one does not melt for Thiruvasagam, one will not melt for anything else.” If the songs are rendered with feelings, tears will flow hours the face of anyone listening.

In the 19th stanza of the Thiruchathakam, he says.

How can I praise and hail Him, who is the sky and the earth, the wind and the light, the flesh and the life, who is the Truth and not, the king and who sways those who are egoistic proclaiming ‘I’ and ‘mine’ - How oli in what ways can I praise Him.

“Van ahi, mannahi
Vali ahi oli ahi
Onn ahi yuir ahi
unmayum ahi, Inmayum ahi
Kone ahi yan enathu
Enru avavavarai koothattu
Vanali ninraya
En solli valthiuvane.”

His most touching stanza also comes from the chapter Thiruchathakam where he asks God Siva.

“You gave yourself to me and took me unto you.

Oh shankara who is the victor.”
“Thanthathu unthanai kondathu enthanai
Shankara aar kollo sathurar?

He asks His attachment to the God Supreme is such, he challenges Him so - In simple words. “I got you O Lord.

You got only me. So who is the victor? Though it appears he gloats over as the winner, it brings out the deep seated attachment to God Siva of such nature are his words - verify a chain of purest gems -

When he hears the melodious calling of the cuckoo, he addresses the bid thus.

“O come cuckoo, call Him who could not be found by Brahma or Vishnu who appeared as a glowing pillar of light call Him with the spread hair, o cukkoo.”

Anything and everything reminds Him of the Almighty God Siva should he see young girls going out early in the morning for a river bath, he imagines himself as a maiden and taps on the doors to awaken the young maidens in his imaginations to get up and baths int he river and go to the temple where dowels God Siva should he see a dragon fly, he addresses the insect requesting it to sing the praise of his Lord.

He could see spiritualism even in the games played by young girls. In a game called “Ammanai” the girls throw some pebbles up and catch them.

To be continued

 

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