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Hindu Deities: Gods and Goddesses
Discussed in our YogaLife Academy Newsletters

About Hindu Gods and Goddesses: Each of the Hindu gods or goddesses represents some aspect of our humanity, and when we call their names, we are invoking the qualities they represent. It is similar to mythology and archtypes. Ganesha is a well known favorite to call upon when you need to have some obstacles removed or wish success in a new enterprise. In each newletter of 2007, we will tell you about one of Hindu deities and invoke their blessings. Please take this gesture as a metaphor, and know that we are not asking you to worship an elephant or any other representation. This excerpt and photo are compliments of vishvarupa.com, an excellent source of information on this topic.
   

 

Ganesha

About Hindu Gods and Goddesses: GaneshaGanesha is the Ever-Blissful, elephant-headed deva (god) who is lovingly worshipped and revered by millions of people worldwide. Although Ganesha is known through the Hindu religion, Shri Ganesha transcends religion and is loved by many non-Hindu's. The son of Shiva and Parvati, Shri Ganesha, is the God of Good Luck and Auspiciousness and is the Dispeller of problems and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the God of wisdom, wealth, health, celibacy, fertility and happiness. Ganesha is glorified as one of the five prime Hindu deities (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti and Ganesha) whose worship confers immortality and liberation.” Known as Vinayaka, he “is the deity who removes all bad qualities, instills good qualities and confers peace on the devotee who meditates on him. Vinayaka means that he is totally master of himself. He has no master above him. He does not depend on anyone. He is also called Ganapathi. This term means he is the lord of the ganas, a class of divine entities. This term also means that he is the master of the intellect and discriminating power in man. He possesses great intelligence and knowledge. Such knowledge issues from a pure and sacred mind.” May Ganesha's blessings shine upon you. Namaste, Maheshvari

     
   

Lord Brahma

About Hindu Gods and Goddesses: As we continue our exploration of Hindu dieties, we turn to Lord Brahma, the Creator God. This information is taken from www.wikipedia.org and www.rudraksha-ratna.com

About Hindu Gods and Goddesses: Lord BrahmaLORD BRAHMA:  Within the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, Brahma is the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. Lord Brahma, the Creator God of the Trinity appears seated on a lotus (a symbol of glorious existence). He has four heads and hands. In each hand he holds a sacrificial tool, the Vedas (knowledge), a water pot and a rosary or mala respectively. Unlike most other Hindu Gods, none of his arms holds a weapon. The four faces of Brahma are said to represent the four Vedas (sacred texts). The lotus symbolizes reality, and his heads also represent four ways we perceive that reality, namely: the mind, the intellect, the ego and conditioned-consciousness.

I have often wondered why I see so many statues of Vishnu and Shiva and none of Bramha. A story in connection with Brahma's four heads is that when Brahma was creating the universe, he made a female deity known as Shatarupa with a hundred beautiful forms. Brahma became immediately infatuated. Shatarupa moved in various directions to avoid the gaze of Brahma, but wherever she went, Brahma developed a head. Thus, Brahma developed five heads, one on each side and one above the others.

In order to control Brahma, Shiva cut off the top head. Also, Shiva felt that Shatarupa was Brahma's daughter, having been created by him. Therefore, Shiva determined, it was wrong for Brahma to become obsessed with her. He directed that there be no proper worship in India for the "unholy" Brahma. Thus, only Vishnu and Shiva continue to be worshipped, while Brahma is almost totally ignored. India today has only three temples dedicated to Brahma alone as opposed to the thousands of temples dedicated to the other deities in the Trinity.

Ever since the incident, Brahma has been reciting the four Vedas in his attempt at repentance. Lord Brahma's vehicle is a swan (hans) which is known for its judgment between good and bad. His consort is Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning. The daily alteration of light and dark is attributed to Brahma. Life in this world is a manifestation of the three principles of creation, sustenance and destruction. The apparent destruction is only an essential forerunner to creation.

Lord Brahma is invoked for to help us surrender the ego and better serve humanity. He can be invoked for creative inspiration and flashes of new thoughts to discover the secrets of nature.

     
   

Lord Vishnu

About Hindu Gods and Goddesses: As we continue our exploration of the mythology of Hindu dieties, we turn to the second god of the trinity, Vishnu, the Preserver, who represents the force of sustaining good in the universe. Photo and text adapted from www.wikipedia.org and www.siamese-dream.com

About Hindu Gods and Goddesses: Lord VishnuLORD VISHNU: Vishnu is regarded as a major god in Hinduism and Indian mythology. He is thought as the preserver of the universe, while two other major Hindu gods, Brahma and Shiva, are considered the creator and destroyer of the universe, respectively. Vishnu is described as being the color of clouds (dark- blue), four-armed, holding a lotus, mace, conch and chakra. In the Bhagavad Gita, Vishnu is also described as having a 'Cosmic Form' which is beyond the ordinary limits of human sense perception. As the preserver of the cosmos, Vishnu upholds the universal laws. Unlike Shiva, who often seeks refuge in the forest to meditate, Vishnu constantly participates in worldly affairs, ensuring that all is well.

When order prevails in the universe, Vishnu sleeps on the coils of Sesha (serpent), ruler of the Nagas. As Sesha floats along the cosmic ocean supporting Vishnu, the universe unfolds from Vishnu's dream. But when there is disorder in the universe, Vishnu either mounts his vehicle, Garuda (eagle), and battles with the forces of chaos, or he sends one of his Avatars (incarnations) to save the world. It is believed that Vishnu would have ten such Avatars, the most popular being Rama and Krishna. The full list of ten Avatars is: the fish Matsya, the turtle Kurma, the boar Varaha, the man-lion Narasimha, the dwarf Vamana, the warrior-priest Parashurama, the prince Rama, the cowherd Krishna, the sage Buddha-Mayamoha, and the one yet to come, the horseman Kalki.

Vishnu is said to use both force and guile to ensure the stability of the universe. His consort Laxmi, Goddess of Wealth and Power, offers him the wherewithal to maintain the integrity of the world. Today, Lord Vishnu is one of the most highly revered deities. His name means “Pervader” and he is the symbol of sustaining goodness. In the epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, he is glorified through the Avatars Rama and Krishna. Vishnu is invoked as the All-Pervading essence of all beings, who supports, sustains and governs the Universe.

     
   

Lord Shiva

About Hindu Gods and Goddesses: As we continue our exploration of the mythology of Hindu dieties, we turn to the third of the triad of great gods, Lord Shiva, the Destroyer. The other two members of the trinity, discussed in two previous newsletters, are Brahma, the Creator, and Vishnu, the Preserver. Shiva is the most often called upon of the three. The following write-up is from www.siamese-dream.com and the illustration is from www.IloveUlove.com

About Hindu Gods and Goddesses: Lord ShivaLORD SHIVA: “Shiva is often referred to as the Destroyer, but it might be better to think of him as the God of Transformation, since he is often associated with creation that comes out of destruction. But Shiva has different aspects that appear at different times. He is often depicted as the destroyer, and will appear as a naked ascetic accompanied by demons, encircled with serpents and necklaces of skulls.

Sometimes Shiva wanders into crematoriums, smears his body with ash and dances in the light of the funeral pyres, reminding all about the transitory nature of material things. Sometimes the creative force of Shiva is depicted, and in particular Shiva is represented by a phallus, known as the linga. Other times Shiva is seen as the god of meditation and asceticism. He will be depicted sitting cross-legged with his eyes half-closed. Another common form is that of Shiva Nataraja. This is Shiva (shown here) engaged in a cosmic dance. It is believed that the energy from this dance sustains the cosmos, and when Shiva is finished with this dance, this universe will end and a new one will begin."

Also associated with Lord Shiva is the snake curled three times around his neck, representing the past, present and future, signifying that creation proceeds in cycles, though Lord Shiva himself transcends time. His trident symbolizes his three powers: will, action and knowledge. He wears a tiger skin, representing that he is the source of all creative energy. Shiva also wears a Rudraksha necklace. "Rudra," another name for Shiva, means "strict or uncompromising" and "aksha" means "eye, " and the beads symbolize how Lord Shiva adheres to his cosmic laws firmly without compromise. The 108 beads, known as the "tears of Shiva," have been worn by yogis of India for thousands of years as an aid to health, self-empowerment and a fearless life. Also prominent is Lord Shiva's third eye, representing his ability to burn up anything which might hinder spiritual insight.

Lord Shiva's consort is Devi, Divine Mother Energy, who appears in many forms including Durgha, Kali and the more peaceful Parvati. Together they have two sons, Ganesha, the elephant God, and Kartikeya, a hero and slayer of demons.

Lord Shiva is the Lord of mercy and compassion. He protects devotees from evil forces such as lust, greed and anger. Shiva destroys evil, grants favors, bestows grace, removes ignorance and awakens wisdom in his followers. We call upon Lord Shiva to help us destroy what needs to end and create positive changes. A favorite mantra to honor Lord Shiva and call for our transformation is – “Om Namo Shivaya.”

 

Goddess Saraswati

About Hindu Gods and Goddesses: In recent issues, we discussed the Hindu trinity: Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Now we turn to the feminine, and look at their consorts. Saraswati, the consort of Lord Brahma--the Creator, is the first of three prominent goddesses of Hindusm. The others, Lakshmi and Durga, will be the topic of upcoming issues. The following information is from www.wikipedia.org and www.lotussculpture.com

About Hindu Gods and Goddesses: Goddess SaraswatiGoddess Saraswati was the first being to come into Brahma’s world. It is said that Lord Brahma became the creator of the world with Saraswati as his wisdom. Brahma was so infatuated with Saraswati that he grew a head in every direction to stare at her beauty. Saraswati turned into various creatures (taking the form of a cow, mare and bird) to avoid Brahma’s lustful pursuit. As a goddess with multiple forms, she became known as Shatarupa, personifying material reality, alluring yet fleeting. Angered by his display of unbridled passion Saraswati cursed Brahma for filling the world with longing that is the seed of unhappiness, focusing on the flesh instead of the soul. Along with Shiva, she accused him of not being worthy of reverence, and decreed: “May there be hardly any temple or festival in your name.” Under Saraswati’s teachings, Brahma acquired the ability to sense, think, comprehend and communicate. He began looking upon the chaos with eyes of wisdom, enabling him to see the beauty within.

Saraswati is the goddess of learning and the arts (e.g., music), and is often seen playing a string instrument called the veena, which represents perfection in all arts and sciences. She is also worshipped as the goddess of thoughts of truth and forgiveness. It is likely that she originated as a river Goddess because her name in Sanskrit means "she who has lakes or pools" or “one who flows,” which aparently was applied to thoughts, words or the flow of a river. As a river/water goddess, Saraswati symbolizes fertility and prosperity. She is associated with intelligence, consciousness, cosmic knowledge, creativity, education, enlightenment, music, the arts, purity and power. Saraswati is not only worshipped for secular knowledge, but for the true Divine knowledge essential to achieve freedom or enlightenment. According to some scriptures, Saraswati is said to be the only Goddess to be revered by all of the three great gods of Hinduism--Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Saraswati is often depicted dressed in pure white, seated on a white lotus, which symbolizes that she rests on the Absolute Truth of the Highest Reality. Her four arms represent the four aspects of human personality: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. A white swan often rests nearby, sometimes two. The sacred swan when offered a mixture of milk and water, is able to drink the milk alone. The swan thus symbolizes the ability to discriminate between good and bad or the eternal and the fleeting. A peacock is sitting near Saraswati, hoping to serve as her vehicle. However, since a peacock depicts unpredictable behavior and ego, Saraswati chooses the swan as her vehicle, for knowledge dominated by ego can destroy the world.

As the feminine energy and knowledge aspect, or shakti of Brahma, Saraswati reigns as the goddess of knowledge, speech, poetry and music. Proponents of Vedanta philosophy believe that only through the acquisition of knowledge does one reach the final path to moksha, or liberation from reincarnation. Thus, they believe that only through devotion to Saraswati and continuously seeking true knowledge with one's complete attention can one attain enlightenment.

A mantra to call upon Saraswati’s blessings is “AUM AING SARASWATYE NAMAHA AUM.” The seed syllable “AING” is the condensed form. To hear this mantra chanted, visit www.sanatansociety.org

 

Lakshmi (or Shri)

Sri Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth and Fortune
Lakshmi (or Shri) is the Hindu goddess of wealth, good fortune and the lotus flower, as well as the goddess of luck, beauty, courage and fertility. This information and photo are excerpted from www.vishnarupa.com, a rich resource of information on Hindu gods and goddesses.

 

About Hindu Gods and Goddesses: Lakshmi

"Lakshmi governs all forms of wealth and success and the paths, means and results of all forms of prosperity.... As the the consort of Lord Vishnu (Narayana), who is the God of Preservation, Lakshmi Devi is the goddess of health and beauty. Sri Lakshmi, the Mother of the Universe, embodies sublime beauty, siddhi (supernatural powers), peace, strength, balance, auspiciousness, opulence and wisdom. Because Lakshmi possesses all of these good and noble qualities, she embodies infinite wealth~ symbolizing that good and noble qualities are the only wealth we can keep.

Lakshmi Devi is always depicted sitting or standing on a lotus with golden coins flowing in an endless stream from one of her hands~ symbolic of when the lotus of wisdom blossoms, the wealth of good and noble qualities appears and Lakshmi's blessings are present." May you enjoy the good fortune of Lakshmi's blessings.

 

Parvati

Parvati
The Power and Consort of Shiva


About Hindu Gods and Goddesses: ParvatiIn his book Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Swami Harshananda calls Parvati "the power and consort of Shiva, the god of disintegration and destruction." He tells us that an overwhelming majority of the goddesses of Hinduism are aspects and variations of Parvati, who has been worshipped since ancient times. (P. 91)

In her first incarnation as Shiva's wife Daksa, she reviled him and died in sacrifice, ending her own life. Later she was reborn as Parvati, named for being the daughter of the king of mountains, "Parvataraja." She performed intense penance and austerities until she succeeded in pleasing Shiva and making him accept her again as his consort. During these times she refused to eat and her mother named her "Uma," meaning "u-ma or do not" do this austerity. "Uma" also means "the Luminous or Serene One." Since Shiva is also called "Bhava," his consort is known as "Bhavani."

Like Shiva and perhaps the majority of us, Parvati has two aspects: the gentle and the terrible. Parvati, Uma and Bhavani respresent her mild aspects, and Durgha and Kali represent the terrible aspects which she manifested to fight demons and save the universe. (We will save Durgha and Kali for upcoming issues.)

Though born human, Parvati became, through hard penance, the consort of Shiva and became "Mahadevi" or "Maheshvari," the great mighty goddess who possesses all of the qualities of the goddesses who emerge from her. And as the supreme mother of the universe, she is also called "Amba" and "Ambika," both words meaning "mother."

As Bhavani, Parvati, Uma, or Amba, she is usually shown with Shiva and their two sons Ganesha or Karttikeya. At these times, she is depicted with a benign countenance and only two hands; one holding a blue lotus and the other hanging free.

According to Swama Harshananda, Parvati "is the power inscrutable, by which the whole universe is permeated and energized. She is the personification of all wealth, power, beauty and virtues. She is the embodiment of sacrifice, the highest knowledge concerning the spirit, as well as knowledge of the secular sciences. It is she who bestows wealth -- both material and spiritual -- dispels difficulties, and annihilates the evil ones. Her beauty as well as her valor, is incomparable." (pp. 106-107) I am most honored that my first Yoga master, Yogi Amrit Desai, gave me the Sanskrit name "Maheshvari" to carry with me and live into. Parvati embodies all of the myriad qualities each of us aims to cultivate and enjoy. May her blessings be upon us.

Sources: Swami Harshananda, Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Madras, India: Sri Ramakrishna Math Printing Press, 2003, ISBN 81- 7120-110-5.
www.freeindia.org/parvati

 

Durgha, Divine Protectress

A figure in Indian mythology who symbolizes protection against negative forces is Durgha, the Protectress.

The Goddess Parvati, mentioned in a previous issue, appears in both gentle and fierce forms. Both Durgha and Kali (to be discussed in our next issue) represent the terrible aspects she manifested to fight demons and save the universe. According to Indian myth, "One of the most invoked forms of the Great Goddess Parvati is her manifestation as the youthful, multi-armed deity who successfully battles the mighty buffalo demon that symbolizes the elemental powers of brutish ignorance. In this incarnation she is referred to as Durgha, the 'Unattainable'.The Great Goddess Durgha was born from the energies of the male divinities when the gods lost the long, drawn-our battle with the demons."
(Quotations are taken from www.exoticindia.com; photo are compliments of www.vishvarupa.com)

As the story goes, the energies of the gods united, throwing flames in all directions, from which a unique light emerged as a female form of overwhelming omnipotence. "The awesome three-eyed Goddess was adorned with the crescent moon. Her multiple arms held auspicious weapons and emblems, jewels and ornaments, garments and utensils, garlands and rosaries of beads, all offered by the gods. With her golden body blazing with the splendor of a thousand suns, seated on her lion or tiger vehicle, Durgha is one of the most spectacular of all personifications of Cosmic Energy."

She manifested to combat the buffalo demon when the male gods had failed. Her victory against egoic forces bent on dominating and controlling the universe is said to be one of knowledge over ignorance and truth over falsehood. During the battle, the world shook, seas trembled, and she summoned the omnipotence to defeat the entire army of demons and their leader, the buffalo demon. After winning the battle, she simply disappeared, showing no expression of ego.

"Durga's name literally means "Beyond Reach". In the Ramayana,she appears when called by Rama to help him rescue Sita and defeat Ravana, ensuring the triumph of good over evil. It is believed that the Mother Goddess controls the fate of all. All her incarnations are spontaneous manifestations to help protect mankind.

For readers who enjoy sanskrit mantra, a mantra to invoke Durga's protection is --
"Durga: Om Dum Durgayei Namaha" which means 'Om and Salutations to that feminine energy which protects from all manner of negative influences." May each each of us enjoy the feeling that we are always protected. (Mantra excerpted from namadeva@sanskritmantra.com)

 

Kali, The Protectress

Kali, the Protectress, is often greatly misunderstood in her destructive response to the demonic. This excerpt from the vishvarupa.com website well describes the depth and scope of Kali's awesome power-

"Who can comprehend the Divine paradox of Mother Kali? Fierce, black in color, large, shimmering eyes, destructive, triumphantly smiling amidst the slaughter of billions of demons, wearing a necklace of skulls and a skirt of severed arms, glowing effulgently like the full moon in the night sky, holding the head of a demon, a Trident that flashes like lightning and a knife etched with sacred mantras and infused with Divine Shakti, Kali stands peaceful and content, suffused with the fragrances of jasmine, rose and sandlewood!

Kali is the Guardian. The Protectress. The Mother. Kali is Dharma and Eternal Time. Kali shines with the brilliance of a Million Black Fires of Dissolution and Her body is bathed in vibuthi (sacred ash). Shiva is under Her Feet and the Great Devotee, Ramprasad, envisioned Kali as stepping upon a demon that was transformed, by Kali's touch, into Lord Shiva Himself!

Just as the night sky appears black due to its fathomless depth and as the ocean appears deep blue due to it's fathomless depth~ so too Kali appears dark due to Her Infinite depth. Kali assumes the form that reflects the attitude and bhava (emotion) of the person who approaches Her. If Kali is appraoched with the bhava of Motherly Love, She assumes the form of Lakshmi. If Kali is approached as the Guru, embodying Wisdom, Art and Education, She assumes the form of Saraswati. The demons approached Kalika with the bhava of destruction and evil. Consequently, the Divine Mother assumed the form of their Destruction by reflecting, in form, their own Evil. In truth, Kali is all of these forms and beyond them. It is for this Ever-Loving, Evil-Dispelling, Supreme Manifestation of Dharma, Mother Kali, for whom the website www.vishvarupa.com is dedicated. Enjoy and much Peace to you!"

 

Krishna and Radha, Union of Divine Love and Bliss

"The RADHA-KRISHNA amour is a love legend of all times. It's indeed hard to miss the many legends and paintings illustrating Krishna's love affairs, of which the Radha-Krishna affair is the most memorable. Krishna's relationship with Radha, his favorite among the 'gopis' (cow-herding maidens), has served as a model for male and female love in a variety of art forms, and since the sixteenth century appears prominently as a motif in North Indian paintings. The allegorical love of Radha has found expression in some great Bengali poetical works.

Krishna's youthful dalliances with the 'gopis' are interpreted as symbolic of the loving interplay between God and the human soul. Radha's utterly rapturous love for Krishna and their relationship is often interpreted as the quest for union with the divine. This kind of love is of the highest form of devotion in Vaishnavism, and is symbolically represented as the bond between the wife and husband or beloved and lover.

Radha, daughter of Vrishabhanu, was Krishna's lover during that period of his life when he lived among the cowherds of Vrindavan. Since childhood they were close to each other - they played, they danced, they fought, they grew up together and wanted to be together forever, but the world pulled them apart. He departed to safeguard the virtues of truth, and she waited for him. He vanquished his enemies, became the king, and came to be worshipped as a lord of the universe. She waited for him. He married Rukmini and Satyabhama, raised a family, fought the great war of Ayodhya, and she still waited. So great was Radha's love for Krishna that even today her name is uttered whenever Krishna is refered to, and Krishna worship is though to be incomplete without the deification of Radha.

One day the two most talked about lovers come together for a final single meeting. Suradasa in his Radha-Krishna lyrics relates the various amorous delights of the union of Radha and Krishna in this ceremonious 'Gandharva' form of their wedding in front of five hundred and sixty million people of Vraj and all the gods and goddesses of heaven. The sage Vyasa refers to this as the 'Rasa'. Age after age, this evergreen love theme has engrossed poets, painters, musicians and all Krishna devotees alike."

May we each and all experience such union of Divine Love and Bliss.

Excerpted from www.hinduism.about.com
Photo courtesy of www.vishvarupa.com

 

Krishna, God of Divine Love and Bliss

SRI KRISHNA: According to www.vishvarupa.com, "Krishna (Krsna) is the Ever-Blissful Embodiment of Transcendent Beauty who captivates the hearts and minds of all beings. The deep devotion for Krishna is realized through Krishna's Divine Opulances. Krishna plays the flute~ particularly at night ~ exuding sweet fragrances of sandlewood and jasmine and glowing in divine splendor. This symbolizes Krsna calling out to all free souls who are lost and are attached to sensory objects. So this God assumes a Form that captivates and attracts the senses of all beings. The result is a sacred love and ardent devotion that purifies and illumines." His name, Krishna, "can mean several things: Dark Complexioned, Cloud Colored, Black, Strong,Erotic, All Attractive, Blissful, Existence,-Knowledge-Bliss. In 'kr-s-na,' the root 'kr' indicates 'existence' and the syllable 'na' indicates 'bliss.'"

Further description of Krishna from www.hindunet.org notes that "because of his great Godly power, Lord Krishna is another of the most commonly worshipped deities in the Hindu faith. He is considered to be the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu. Shree Krishna delivered the Bhagwad Gita on the battlefield to Lord Arjuna."

"Shree Krishna, like Lord Rama, is also known for his bravery in destroying evil powers throughout his life. The Lord is usually depicted as playing the flute, indicating spread of the melody of love to people. He is also shown with his childhood devotee and love, Radha. The Lord is usually remembered and worshipped as Radha-Krishna. "

"The pair symbolizes the eternal love between people and God. Many portraits of Krishna depict him surrounded by shepherd maidens (called gopis) who gather to him, with ardent devotion attracted by his loving flute. Lord Krishna is also shown with his pet cow, his childhood favorite." He wears a peacock feather and is often accompanied by a peacock.

We can call upon Lord Krishna to experience the "sacred love and ardent devotion that purifies and illumines.'' In the spirit of Sri Krishna, I wish Divine Love and Bliss to all!

 

Hanuman, Monkey God

Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God, is the epitome of devotion and is regarded as an incarnation of Shiva. He has the form of a monkey, and the lightness and speed of the wind, being the son of Vayu, the wind God.  Hanuman is always depicted holding a mace as a sign of his might and generally has Rama's impression tattooed on his chest. "Hanuman is the provider of hope, courage, devotion and intellect." ( www.thebuddhagarden.com)

According to sources at www.hinduisn.about.com, "Hanuman, the mighty ape that aided Lord Rama in his expedition against evil forces, is one of the most popular idols in the Hindu pantheon. Believed to be an avatar of Lord Shiva, Hanuman is worshiped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion. Hanuman's tale in the epic  Ramayana-- where he is assigned the responsibility to locate Rama's wife Sita abducted by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka - is known for its astounding ability to inspire and equip a reader with all the ingredients needed to face ordeals and conquer obstructions in the way of the world."

Hanuman valiantly led his army of monkeys and bears to build a bridge from India to the island of Lanka, where Sita was being held captive. During the war, Hanuman flew to bring the Sanjeevi Mountain, full of medicinal herbs to revive Lakshmana who had fallen. As Hanuman's armies attacked, Prince Rama rode on Hanuman's shoulders and fired an arrow into Ravana, killing the demon and liberating Sita.

Hanuman is also featured in another epic, the Mahabaratha. He stood by the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra war.  He stabilized and protected Arjuna's chariot by being present in the flag flying in the chariot.  He was thus honored with witnessing the worship and offerings firsthand. 
As I see it, while Ganesha helps us remove obstacles, Hanuman inspires us to leap past them to achieve outstanding, unstoppable success. When he sought herbs to heal the stricken Lakshmana, Hanuman did not stop to entertain his uncertainty as to which herbs were needed. He simply brought back the whole mountain! Hanuman inspires me to transcend the obstacles and remain devoted to serving in the name of Divine Consciousness.

May our invocation to Hanuman inspire you to face and transcend whatever ordeals may come to impact your path in the world. May he inspire us all to be devoted to service. Jai Hanuman!  -- Maheshvari

 

Lord Garuda, the Embodiment of Strength and Service
  
As described on sanatansociety.org-- "Garuda is the king of the birds and often acts as a messenger between the gods and men and women. Garuda has the head, wings, talons and beak of an eagle and the body and limbs of a man." He is said to have a white face, red wings and a golden body.
Garuda was the son of a great sage, Kashyapa. Since he was the son of the great sage, his wings had a peculiar quality in that every time they moved, verses from the Holy Vedas would be heard. The very presence of Garuda was thus a blessing and benediction. His immense powers were also a gift conferred upon his father the Valkhilya rishis, supernatural beings of miniscule size and immense spiritual accomplishments.

Garuda is said to have been born hungry, and while he was permitted to feast upon the natives, he accidentally swallowed and spit out a Brahmin, a member of the higher class that he was forbidden to touch. Still hungry, Garuda went on many escapades and every time he sat on a branch, it broke. (Photo is of Garuda carrying Lord Vishnu and Laksmi.)
                                                          
One time as Garuda caught a branch from falling, in fear that it might kill a Brahmin, Lord Vishnu spied him and asked what he was doing. (Lord Vishnu is one of the Hindu Trinity Godhead:  Brahma-the Creator, Vishnu-the Sustainer, and Siva-the Transformer.) Garuda told Vishnu that no tree or mountain seemed able to hold his weight, whereupon Vishnu offered him his arm to sit on and did not waiver at the weight. 

When Garuda was still hungry after eating, Vishnu offered him the flesh of his arm. After Garuda ate from Vishnu's arm, there was no wound at all. Garuda bowed his head to Vishnu, realizing his divine nature and became Vishnu's heroic friend for all time. In many Indian epics. Garuda carries Vishnu, serves him and others.

Garuda was able to snatch the cup of Amrita, the nectar of immortality that was zealously guarded, save his mother from her captives and prevent them from drinking the nectar. Garuda is known for his service, his concern for others and his impressive speed and strength. Among his many names, he is called "Chirad, the long eater" and "Garuda, the carrier of immense weight."
According to www. indiayogi.com-- "Garuda is popularly known as the vahana or vehicle of Vishnu. In this form he can be found in every South Indian temple dedicated to Vishnu and even in the temples of South-East Asia. However, his stature is far greater than this apparent submissiveness. Garuda and Hanuman are the strongest of the strong powers in the universe. Even Shiva and Vishnu would find it hard to match strength and abilities with them. Both these great beings, Garuda and Hanuman, have dedicated their lives to service instead of using their powers to rule over the cosmos. Hanuman's reward is that he will preside over the next cycle of creation as its Manu, Adam Kadamon, the First Man. Garuda's reward is immortality and a stature that is, literally, always above Vishnu...."  We will devote out next issue to Lord Hanuman.

May Lord Garuda's blessings shine upon each and all of us. Think of him the next time you do Garudasana, Eagle Pose. Namaste, Maheshvari

Maheshvari (Johanna Mosca, PhD), founder of Sedona Spirit Yoga & Hiking, is a certified Kripalu Yoga Teacher, Bodyworker and Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist. She is a 500 hour Registered Yoga Instructor and Director of the YogaLife Academy, a teacher training school approved by the Yoga Alliance. Dr. Mosca is past President of the Arizona Yoga Association and author of YogaLife: 10 Steps to Freedom-- A Study Guide to the Yamas and Niyamas. She may be reached at 928-282-9900, Sedona Spirit Yoga, P.O. Box 278, Sedona, AZ 86339, or by email at info@yogalife.net

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