> agama shastra, temple worship <

> SIVANANDA – agama, Einführung < > SIVANANDA – tantra yoga <

Santanadharma & Celestial Hierarchy in Christianity

The Veda is the root of all ŚÄstras (mūla-śÄstra). All others are based on it. The Tantra is spoken of as a fifth Veda. …

When we hear the word ‘Tantra‘, our minds conjure up images of bearded, saffron-clad, ash-smeared faces of ‘aghori babas‘ whose tantric (occult) rituals include eating the flesh of the dead, meditating in cremation grounds and engaging in ‘sacred sex‘. These babas  belong to the ‘tamasic‘ branch of Tantra, which is known as ‘Shaakta Pantha‘.

The Tantra Shashtra as defined in our scriptures does not bear any relation to the black arts mentioned above. Our ancients considered Tantra Shashtra as one of the most important Hindu sacred texts and extolled it in their writings. In ancient Hindu scriptures, references to ‘Tantra Shastra‘ and ‘Agama‘ (*)mean the same thing.  Let us see what these Agamas tell us.

(*) pronounced ‘Aagama‘ – A as in ‘Arnould‘

Agamas explain how humankind should incorporate the principles of Dharma as defined in the scriptures in their daily activities. They explain that man should acknowledge his debt of gratitude to the Lord in his daily activities and direct all his energies towards obtaining liberation or Moksha (eternal bliss). To help man attain this, the Agamas cover a variety of subjects like:

devotion, meditation, philosophy of Mantras, temple-building, imagemaking (idol-carving), charms and spells, mystic diagrams, domestic and social observances, public festivals etc.

The Agamas are of three kinds:
1. Vaishnava-agama.
2. Shaiva-agama.
3. Shaakta-agama.

Vaishnavagama considers Vishnu as the Supreme principle. One of the most important of these Agamas is the Pancharatragama. This Agama is believed to have been preached by the Lord himself. Vaishnavas consider the Agamas as authoritative as the Vedas and call them ‘apaurusheya‘ i.e. not created by human intellect.

Pancharatragama contains among other things, temple-building and image-making specifications and procedures, which have been explained in detail by Sri Madhwacharya in his book called ‘Tantra Sara Sangraha“ which is based on the original ‘Tantra Sara‘. The original Tantra Sara is now lost to us.
The ‘Tantra Saara Sangraha‘ is a relatively small work, which consists of 400 verses (shlokas) divided into 4 chapters.

The First Chapter deals with Mahamantras and the system of offering pooja. The Second explains how to perform ‘hOma‘, specifying the measurements of the ‘yajna kunda‘. The Third deals with all aspects of temple architecture right from choosing the ideal location to the precise measurements of the structure.

The measurements of the ‘prathima‘ (idol) to be installed and the size of each and every part of the ‘prathima‘ have been defined with precision. In the Final chapter Sri Madhwacharya has listed about 70 ‘saatvic‘ mantras to enhance the aura of holiness of the place.

Gods in > sanatana dharma <
As it is written about hierarchy among divine beings in Hinduism, I think I’ll offer some more of my thoughts on this subject.

Non-Hindus refer, not very respectfully though, to Sanatana Dharma’s numerous Gods and Goddesses and call it a polytheistic religion.

Many Hindus tend to be apologetic and embarrassed by this, which I think is totally unwarranted. This embarrassment stems from a total lack of knowledge of the basics of our own religion.
As said earlier, one of the chief tenets of Dwaita philosophy is Gradation of souls in the astral plane. The ultimate goal for any adherent of Sanatana Dharma is attainment of Moksha. Moksha, according to Dwaita, is the state of being in which the soul, after accumulating requisite amount of ‘punya‘ (*) is released from the bondage of rebirth and is given a place near God where it enjoys eternal bliss.

[*‘punya‘ can be described as the credit accumulated by your good deeds on earth, in your account in the Bank of Heaven]

Moksha, according to Dwaita, can be granted only by Vishnu and not by any lesser ‘gods‘. This shows that there is only One omnipotent power in the universe.

Advaita differs from Dwaita by saying, in Moksha, the soul merges (becomes one) with the one God of the universe.

(Also zweierlei Sichtweisen: Entweder ungefähr wie beim Christentum nach dem Tod oder Verlust der materiellen Substanz, oder wie bei Yogaphilosphie während des spirtituellen Wachstums -eventuell- noch bei  Lebzeiten der eigenen materiellen Substanz.)

According to Dwaita there is only ONE God (truth). He is Vishnu (auch als Prinzip der Luft/Äther zu sehen). All other beings, mortal or supernatural, are lesser to Him. Such beings may be Devas, Gandharvas, Apsaras, Kinnaras, Brahmarishis and a host of other atmas and jivas. Vishnu is not a mere Deva. He is the Paramatma. All the powers of these lesser celestial beings flow from Him. If a person desires moksha, he/she should pray directly to Him. Lesser gods cannot grant you that because their powers are limited. (Bhagavad Gita – Jnana Vijnana Yoga – Chapter 7 Verses 20-23)

Advaita differs fundamentally from Dwaita in almost all respects. But when it comes to God, it also says that there is only one superpower up there referred to as ‘Brahman‘. All the other forms of God are just sort of illusions because of the power of Maya of Brahman (ungf. verschleierte Sichtweise des Egos, siehe Yoga Philosophie). So we can see that both these foremost philosophies of Sanatana Dharma refer to One God only.

There are many references to the existence of One God only in the Vedas. For eg. the following verse can be found in the Rig Veda, the oldest and the most sacred of all Hindu Scriptures :

ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti
The Truth (God) is one; however scholars express it in different ways. [Rig Veda 1.164.46]

Celestial Hierarchy in Christianity

Christianity professes belief in One God. However, it also acknowledges the existence of lesser heavenly beings which are organized into several orders or Angelic Choirs. These beings are called Angels.

There are three major orders (or choirs) among Angels given below in descending order of rank:
In the First Order, which is the closest to God, are:
• Seraphim
• Cherubim
• Thrones

In the Second (lower) Order, are:
• Dominions
• Virtues
• Powers

In the Third Order, are:
• Principalities
• Archangels
• Angels

These angles have names like Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Jophiel, Chamuel etc. Lucifer was originally an angel of the First Order and after a falling out with God was banished to hell after which he became known as Satan.
Each type of angel has separate duties assigned to it. Moreover, every Christian believer has a personal guardian angel assigned to him at his/her at Baptism. Now, how many Christians are there in this world? And they laugh at just (?) 33 million Hindu deities (lesser Gods) !
Seraphim are the topmost in the hierarchy and are closest to God. They are described as very tall having four faces and six wings. Cherubim were also originally depicted as having four faces (human, lion, bull and eagle), four wings and ox’s feet. In later times however, the Cherubs have been pictured as chubby, rosy-faced, winged infants.
And they make fun of Hindu Gods with non-human faces and multiple arms !!

This misconception about Hinduism being a polytheistic religion probably stems from the fact that the English Language has no names in its vocabulary for the groups of heavenly beings mentioned in Hindu philosophy.

While ancient Indian philosophers had recognised the different classes of beings in the astral plane and gave different names to them in Sanskrit, the West put them all under one umbrella and called them all as Gods. Whether it was from a total lack of understanding of Hindu philosophy or with a malafide intention to denigrate Hinduism, one cannot say.

A proper study of Hindu (und Yoga) Philosopy will show that there is only one God referred to as „Paramatma“ or „Brahman“ and the rest are mere ‘Deva(s)‘ and other beings named above. In fact, one can liken the Hindu pantheon to a well run corporation. In a corporation, there is the CEO, the Boss, at the top, who has absolute power. Then there are Vice Presidents, General Managers, AGMs, DGMs, Managers, Officers, Clerks and other menial staff.

Each has a specific job assigned to him. The power of the Head of each Department is limited to the area of work assigned to him. He has power to give small petty benefits to those working under him, like allowing someone to go home for the day early, sanctioning leave, sanctioning petty expenses etc. He cannot interfere in another’s area. Only the the Boss can elevate an employee to a higher position. If a particular Head of the Department would like to promote a deserving employee, he has to bring his case to the Boss, who is the only person who can approve it.

Likewise according to ancient Indian Philosophy, there is the „Paramatma“ at the top of the hierarchy. All others are subservient to Him. Each has been assigned separate areas of work. Eg. Vayu is the Lord of the winds, Indra is the Lord of Thunder, Varuna is the Lord of rain and the oceans etc, Agni is the Lord of the fire and the carrier of all things offered in the ‘yagna‘. All these beings report to and are under the control of ‘Paramatma‘.

These lesser Heavenly Beings have the power to give humankind only limited material benefits and only He has the power to grant eternal bliss to any deserving humanbeing.
This is, in fact,’Corporate Governance‘, at its best and you thought Corporate Governance is a modern day concept?

Temples of the Gowda Saraswat Brahmin community