Monday, January 15, 2007

Shaivism and Vaishnavism

New religious contexts require a new body of scriptures. These were produced in form of the Puranas, Agamas Tantras and hymns. Two of the principal sect that developd during this period are Shaivism and Vaishnavism. 1- Shaivism is the cult of Shiva. The beginnings of the Shiva cult have been traced back by some scholars to non-Aryan phallic worship. Although this is not conclusive, it is clear that the Vedic god Rudra ("the Howler") was amalgamated with the figure of Shiva ("Auspicious One") that emerged in the period after the Upanishads. Shiva is inseparable from Parvati (also referred to as Shakti). There is no Shakti without Shiva and Shakti is His expression; the two are one, the absolute state of being -consciousness and bliss. Shaivism, like some of the other forms of Hinduism, spread in the past to other parts of Southeast Asia, including Java, Bali, and parts of Indochina and Cambodia. 2- Vaishnavism is the worship of Vishnu and his various incarnations. Vishnu has been the object of devotional religion (bhakti) in his incarnations or avatars (especially as Krishna and Rama). Like most other gods, Vishnu has his especial entourage: his wife is Lakshmi or Shri, the lotus goddess, granter of beauty, wealth, and good luck. Vishnu's mount is the bird Garuda, archenemy of snakes, and his emblems are the lotus, club, discus (as a weapon), and a conch shell, which he carries in his four hands. Vaishnava faith is essentially monotheistic, whether the object of adoration be Vishnu or one of his avatars. Characterized by a continual consciousness of participating in God's essence, Ramanuja, however, complete self-surrender (prapatti) came to be distinguished from bhakti as a superior means of spiritual realization.