Ways of Devotion - Bhakti


I. Bhakti: Hindu Devotionalism

1.    The rise of devotionalism in India

a.    Rise of temples as religious centers

b.    Other traditions: pilgrimage, festivals

c.    Narrative traditions

2.    The populist nature of devotionalism: Appeals to the poor, uses the vernacular, links lower levels of society with orthodox, upper class devotees in their attitudes toward the divine

3.    The three great theistic traditions associated particularly with Visnu but also with Siva and Devi the Goddess. 

a.    Vaisnava, Shaiva, Shakti

4.    The narrative traditions of devotional Hinduism:

a.    The two great epics: Mahabharata and Ramayana

b.    The Puranas: Mythological and ritual treatises. Sanskrit.  Puranas “stories of the ancient past.”

                                     i.     Vast body of complex narratives containing genealogies of deities and kings, cosmologies, law coded, descriptions of ritual and pilgrimage.

c.    Devotional poetry.  Vernacular languages (particularly Tamil)



II. Puja


1.    The Meaning of a god’s presence in an image:

a.    The presence of the divine in the murti is indicative of the love the divine has for the worshippers

b.    The divine descends from the celestial realm to the earthly realm out of love and compassion for human beings

                                     i.     Avatara:  A specific form in which the deity descends to earth

c.    Embodiment or manifestation of the deity

1.    Process of divine going from formlessness to form

2.    Image is simply a place for the divine to inhabit for worship

3.    The image itself/alone is not divine

2.    The ritual uses of images

a.    Puja: rites of devotional worship and honor

b.    One uses all the senses in Puja

1.    See the deity and be seen by deity (darsan)

2.    Touches the image and then touches one’s own body to establish the presence of the deity

3.    Hears the mantras, ringing bells

4.    Tastes consecrated food

5.    Smell incense

c.    Puja enacts a certain kind of relationship between humans and gods: A relationship of divine-human reciprocity

3.    Darsan: auspicious seeing

a.    Giving and taking Darsan

                                     i.     Seeing and being seen by the deity is vital in order to receive blessing

                                    ii.     Darsan can be received/taken from gurus, temples, sacred places such as Himalayas, photos of the images and films.

4.    Prasad: offerings of food

a.    A transaction of a pure food: the worshipper makes an offering and then receives back what the deity does not eat

b.    The food returned has now been blessed, purified, you take in god