Hindu views on God and gender

Hindu views on God and gender

In Hinduism there are diverse approaches to the understanding of God and gender.

While most Hindus focus upon God in the neutral form,Fact|date=August 2008 Brahman being of neuter gender grammatically, there are prominent Hindu traditions that alleviate God in the female conception, even as the source of the male form of God. Hinduism, especially of the Samkhya school, views the creation of the cosmos as the result of the play of two radically distinct principles: the feminine matter (Prakriti) and the masculine spirit (Purusha). Prakriti is the primordial matter which is present before the cosmos becomes manifest. Prakriti is seen as being "...the power of nature, both animate and inanimate. As such, nature is seen as dynamic energy" (Rae, 1994). Prakriti is originally passive, immobile and pure potentiality by nature . Only through her contact with the kinetic Purusha she unfolds into the diverse forms before us. The idea of Prakriti/Purusha leads to the concept of the Divine Consort. Almost every deva of the Hindu pantheon has a feminine consort (devi). [ [http://www.adishakti.org/forum/concept_of_shakti_hinduism_as_a_liberating_force_for_women_1-18-2005.htm The Concept of Shakti: Hinduism as a Liberating Force for Women] ]

Smarta and Advaita

The Smarta tradition, which by and large, follows Advaita philosophy believes all forms, male and female, to be different forms of the impersonal Absolute, Brahman which is of neuter gender and can never be defined.Brahman is viewed as without personal attributes (Nirguna Brahman) or with attributes (Saguna Brahman, equated with Ishvara) as God. In Advaita Vedanta, Ishvara is simply the manifested form of Brahman upon the human mind. Thus according to Smarta views, the divine can be with attributes, Saguna Brahman, and also be viewed with whatever attributes, (e.g., a female goddess) a devotee conceives.

Vishnu and Shiva

In Vaishnavism and Shaivism, which are exclusive monotheistic denominations of hinduism, [ [http://www.dvaita.org/docs/srv_faq.html#who= Dvaita Documentation: Vaishnava FAQ ] ] , and [ [http://www.shaivam.org/shpintro.htm Shaivam - An Introduction ] ] , like the Judaeo-Christian traditions, God, Vishnu or Shiva is personified as male when, in fact, God transcends gender and gender is simply used for embodied human beings to worship. For example, Shaivites and Vaishnavites worship God in non-anthrormorphic images, the linga and saligram respectively. Furthermore, for example, the principle that God's true nature is sexless is emphasized in the Vishnu sahasranama, a prayer reciting the 1000 names of Vishnu. Just as Muslims focus on (God) Allah's 99 "attributes" that are stated in the Qur'an, the holy book of the Muslims, many Hindus worship Vishnu daily by chanting his names which are also attributes.

Thus, the first few names, of Vishnu sahasranama, in particular, do not describe features of Vishnu in detail and hence are not anthropomorphic in nature and instead focus on His inherent nature or characteristics such as pervading the universe and as destroyer of sin. While Vishnu is commonly portrayed with human features, Swami Tapasyananda, in his book, "Bhakti Schools of Vedanta", reminds readers that Vishnu pervades everything and is not anthropomorphic. He has no particular material form but can manifest in any form, and is a center of all force, power, will, auspiciousness, goodness, beauty, grace, responsiveness, etc. As Swami Tapasyananda said, "Vishnu is the Indwelling Spirit in all beings and the whole cosmos constitute His body." As Vishnu is the all-pervading Spirit and the Supreme Personality, anthropomorphism is deemphasized in Vishnu sahasranama.Thus, like Judaism and Islam, God's inherent nature transcends gender but Vishnu but has been traditionally referred to using male grammatical gender.

Additionally,the power of God in those religions is anthropomorphically viewed as female, or Shakti. However, God and his power are indivisible, unitary, and the same. The analogy is that fire represents God and the actual heat Shakti. In one example, Lord Śiva assumed a form and split into two halves of male and female indicating the origin of the Ardhanarishvara - the union of substance and energy, the Being and his Shakti (force).

Shakti

Shaktism, on the other hand, is a denomination of Hinduism that worships Shakti, or Devi Mata -- the Hindu name for the Great Divine Mother -- in all of her forms whilst not rejecting the importance of masculine and neuter divinity (which are however deemed to be inactive in the absence of the Shakti). In pure Shaktism, the Great Goddess, or Devi, is worshiped as nothing less than the highest divinity, Supreme Brahman Itself, the "one without a second," with all other forms of Divinity, female or male, considered to be merely her diverse manifestations. In human beings, she is seen as the power of intelligence (buddhi), compassion (daya) and divine love (bhakti), among her many other functions (Sharma, 1974; Goswami 1995).

In his seminal "History of the Shakta Religion," N. N. Bhattacharyya explained that " [those] who worship the Supreme Deity exclusively as a Female Principle are called Shakta. The Shaktas conceive their Great Goddess as the personification of primordial energy and the source of all divine and cosmic evolution. She is identified with the Supreme Being, conceived as the Source and the Spring as well as the Controller of all the forces and potentialities of Nature. Nowhere in the religious history of the world do we come across such a completely female-oriented system."

Alternative interpretations of Shaktism, however -- primarily those of Shaivite scholars, such as Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami -- argue that the feminine manifest is ultimately only the vehicle through which the masculine Un-manifest Parasiva is ultimately reached. In this interpretation, the Divine Mother becomes something of a mediatrix, who bestows advaitic moksha on those who worship Her. Thus, these Shaivite views often conclude that Shaktism is effectively a sub-denomination of Saivism, arguing that Devi is worshipped in order to attain union with Siva, who in Shaktism is the impersonal unmanifest Absolute. This remains a minority view in Shaktism proper, which considers Siva as an equal and inseparable aspect of Devi.

Radha Krishna

The common separation of Sakti and saktiman, i.e. Female and Male principle in god arrives at the conclusion Sakti and saktiman are the same. [Surendranath Dasgupta,A History of Indian Philosophy (1991) p. 31] Each and every god has its partner, 'betterhalf' or Sakti and without this Sakti he is sometimes viewed being without essential power. [ Santilata Dei, Del Santilata, Vaisnavism in Orissa (1988) p. 167] It is not uncommon feature or Hinduism when worship of a pair rather then one personality constitutes worship of God, such is worship of Radha Krishna in traditions worshiping Krishna, as "svayam bhagavan", who is male, include preference and veneration to his Radha, who is worshiped as supreme. [cite book |author=Beck, Guy L. |title=Alternative Krishnas: regional and vernacular variations on a Hindu deity |publisher=State University of New York Press |location=Albany, N.Y |year=2005 |isbn=0-7914-6415-6 |oclc= |doi= |pages= [http://books.google.com/books?id=0SJ73GHSCF8C&pg=PA68&dq=Radha+is+supreme&ei=PTeWSLa_BouCjwGTyY2sDQ&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U0UsEEDGzKto2Ryf-_UW0R2kzuyRw p. 68] ] Its an accepted view that union of Radha and Krishna may indicate the union of Sakti with the Saktiman, and this view is existing well outside of orthodox Vaishnavism or Krishnaism. [Kakoli Basak, (1991) Rabindranath Tagore, a Humanist - p. 11 ]

From the Vaishnava point of view the divine feminine energy ("shakti") implies a divine source of energy, i.e. God as "shaktiman". "Sita relates to Rama; Lakshmi belongs to Narayana; Radha has Her Krishna." As Krishna is believed to be the source of all manifestations of God, "Shri Radha, His consort, is the original source of all "shaktis" or feminine manifestation of divine energy. [Harvnb|Rosen|2002|p=54]

A number of interpretations according to traditions possess a common root of personalism in the understanding of worship. Specifically Caitanyaite Gaudiya Vaishnava doctrine and mission is fiercely "personalistic," proclaiming the supremacy of Krishna, the identification of Caitanya as Radha-Krishna, the reality and eternality of individual selves, and a method for approaching the absolute reality and the Deity as a person first and foremost. [Harvnb|Valpey|2006|p=110]

Jiva Goswami in his "Priti Sandarbha" states that each of the Gopis exhibits a different level of intensity of passion, among which Radha's is the greatest. [Harvnb|Schweig|2005|p=125]

In his famous dialogs Ramananda Raya describes Radha to Caitanya and quotes, among other texts, a verse from Chaitanya Charitamrta2.8.100, before he goes on to describe her role in the pastimes of Vrindavana. [Harvnb|Schweig|2005|p=126]

One of the prominent features of Manipuri Vaishnavism for example is worship of the forms together, in this tradition, among others, devotees do not worship Krishna alone, but Radha-Krishna. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=g-wbAAAAIAAJ&q=Manipur+Radha&dq=Manipur+Radha&lr=&client=firefox-a Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature - p. 4290] , Amaresh Datta, Mohan Lal,1994] "Rasa" and other dances are a feature of the regional folk and religious tradition and often, for example, a female dancer will portray both 'male' Krishna and his consort, Radha, in the same piece. [Harvnb|Schwartz|2004|p=35]

"Ardhangini": the cornerstone of relationships

The concept of Ardhangini, of women being an equal part of men and vice versa, and without either, both are incomplete, is extensively proliferated in Hindu society, especially the rituals of Hindu weddings.

While the bride must recognize her husband as her Lord, the husband is to appreciate the wife as the source of his position and strength as provider, protector of his household, which is essentially and practically generated and maintained by his wife.

This relationship is theologically symbolized by the marriage of Shiva and Uma, whose relationship and symbiotic love is a cornerstone of two major Hindu ideologies, Shaivism and Shaktism. Their eternal love-making describes the unity of their form and function.

Shiva and Uma are interlinked and inseparable. Uma is the core of the Goddesses Durga and Kali, who are the female forms of Shiva, the Lord Destroyer.

ee also

* God and gender
* Ardhanari
* Feminism
* God
* God (male deity)
* Goddess
* Sky father

Notes

References

*cite book
author=Schwartz, Susan
title=Rasa: performing the divine in India
publisher=Columbia University Press
location=New York
year=2004
pages=
isbn=0-231-13145-3
oclc=
doi=
accessdate=

*cite book |author=Rosen, Steven |title=The hidden glory of India |publisher=Bhaktivedanta Book Trust |location=Los Angeles |year=2002 |pages= |isbn=0-89213-351-1 |oclc= |doi= |accessdate=
*cite book
author=Valpey, Kenneth Russell
title=Attending IAST|Kṛṣṇa's
IAST|Caitanya Vaiṣṇava mūrti-sevā as devotional truth
publisher=Routledge
location=New York
year=2006
pages=
isbn=0-415-38394-3
oclc=
doi=
accessdate=

*cite book
author = Schweig, G.M.
year = 2005
title = Dance of divine love: The Rasa Lila of Krishna from the Bhagavata Purana, India's classic sacred love story.
publisher = Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ; Oxford
isbn = 0691114463


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