Bhakti Maarga (path) or Bhakti Yoga in Hinduism
Bhakti Maarga or Bhakti Yoga is a spiritual path of Sanatana Dharma wherein an intense devotion is offered to a personal god. Bhakti (share) is a thoroughly relational approach to one’s god. It is emotionally experiential, and built upon an active shared relationship with one’s deity. Bhakti is the most popular Sanatana Dharma path in India. Bhakti can be summarized by two words: Overwhelming love! This love is directed toward one’s personal god. It is lived out through discipleship to the god who is a personal friend.
Saivites and Vaishnavites in Hinduism
Saivites are devotes or worshipers of Siva. Siva “is a personal, many-faceted manifestation of the attributeless supreme deity” (85). Siva, in older traditions was one of three aspects of deity, but Saivites worship Siva as the totality of all three.
Vaishnavites are devotes or worshipers of Vishnu. “Vishnu is beloved as the tender, merciful deity” (86). In one myth, concerning Vishnu, a worshiper kicks the sleeping god, in order to test the gods temper and reaction. Vishnu is kicked awake but reacts lovingly by rubbing the kicker’s foot rather than abusing him. Vishnu, therefore, is the all loving, long-suffering, patient god. Vaishnavites worship this god.
Caste Sytem in Hinduism
The caste system has historically shaped life in India and it continues to do so. The caste is divided along social status and class lines. The divisions are: Brahmins (priestly class); Kshatriyans (nobility); Vaishyas (farmers and merchants); Shudra (laborers); Untouchables (outcasts). These castes were formed as a result of an early (Vedic age) dedication to high standards of ritual purity for priests. Priests need to be well trained to perform public sacrifices and rituals. Consequently, a specific social or occupational group was formed (Brahmins). This formation led to the formation of other special groups and an entrenchment in caste. Developments of the caste lead to caste membership by birth (hereditary). Marriage across caste divisions was prohibited, sometimes even by death.
The most notable opponent of the caste system was, of course, Mahatma Gandhi.
Ahimsa or non-violence in Jainism
Ahimsa is the term attributed to the practice of non-violence by adherents of Jainism. Human beings, according to the Jain way, are not superior to any other creature with which we share the planet. Consequently, human beings have no right to hurt, destroy or manipulate their existence(s). Adherents of Jainism take this concept very, very seriously. “Jains believe that every centimeter of the universe is filled with living beings, some of them minute. A single drop of water contains 3,000 living beings. All of them want to live” (119). Jains believe that even our simple act of breathing potentially kills thousands of creatures that want to live. They, as a result, will wear a mask to prevent fro harming them. Too, Jains are strict vegetarians. Harming other creatures leads to “karmic burden” and can detrimentally affect Samsara (cycle of birth/death/rebirth).
Mahayana Buddhism (aka “The Greater Vehicle”) is the “liberal” or “mystical” school of Buddhism (Mahayana, Theravada, Zen). A good example of the “liberal” or “mystical” ethos of the Mahayana school can be seen in the differences between it and the Theravada school (orthodox) regarding the historicity of Buddha: “In Theravada, Buddha is an historical figure who no longer exists but who left his dharma as a guide. By contrast Mahayana regards the Buddha as a universal principle” (151). This divergence from Theravada is indicative of the Mahayana penchant for spiritualized interpretation, mysticism, and monastics.
Zen Buddhism signifies the transplanting of Buddhism from India to China. Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. This transplanting was not totally free of syncretistism. Aspects of Daoism were incorporated into Buddhism along the way, for example.
“Zen claims to preserve the essence of the Buddha’s teachings through direct experience, triggered by mind-to-mind transmission of the dharma. It dismisses scriptures, Buddhas, and bodhisattvas in favor of training for direct insight into the true nature of one’s own mind, known as Buddha-nature” (158). One way to enter into such a unifying experience is discovered in practices such as “Zazen,” which is understood as “sitting meditation.” This is not mere sitting, however; it is sitting in thought which is not informed or caused by external stimuli or objects. The aim of this practice â€“ and all of Zen practice â€“ is enlightenment (satori). Enlightenment is understood as “a unification of all existence” (nothing is separate from oneself).
Work Cited: Fisher, Mary Pat. “Living Religions.” Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 1991.