by Jayaram V
According to the Shankaracharya of Kanchi, the gods are
among the living beings. They are divinities who exists within us and also
outside us as beings of light and pure delight. Through our actions and
offerings we provide them with sustenance. They possess superior
knowledge and have mastery over the elemental nature, which they use to help us in return for the offerings we make
to them through our sacrifices. They respond positively or negatively to our actions and intentions
according to our sincerity and devotion. It is important that we know this and
their active involvement in our lives by making them happy through our
actions and offerings. Each and every human being, irrespective of gender, creed and
caste is a cosmic person (Purusha) capable of experiencing the highest,
purest and limitless consciousness. The devas can help us in
experiencing that consciousness to the extent of our faith and our
commitment. They also help us in achieving our material goals provided
we remain virtuous on the path of righteousness or dharma.
Just as there is diversity among men, there is
diversity among gods also. The gods belong to different classes referred
by such names as Devas, Kinnaras, Kimpurushas, Yakshas, Siddhas, Saranas, Gandharvas and so on.
As immortal beings they live in the moment and not subject to the problems of aging or death.
Eternal and ever youthful, they thrive on pleasure. Yet God has subjected them to hunger and passion and made
them receive our oblations so that they can respond to our
actions and act as our spiritual guardians and allies.
We cannot see the gods directly with our naked eyes for they belong to the
celestial sphere and possess subtle bodies that are invisible. However if we perform our obligatory duties sincerely, we can please
them and experience their presence in our lives. It is erroneous to
believe that we enjoy the wealth we make or the pleasures we seek.
Pleasure and comfort, happiness and joy belong to the domain of the
devas and they are the rightful owners of these experiences. These are
the offerings we can make to them sincerely and with detachment,
acknowledging them as
different manifestations or aspects of the highest and supreme God. They
grow in strength to the extent they are satisfied with our offerings and
help us in turn with their powers.
explains that our gods exist in three different forms or
levels to do their obligatory work and fulfill their dharma in God's
creation. By knowing these
levels of their existence and understanding their functions and roles, we can align ourselves with them and benefit from their superior
knowledge and divine powers. These three levels are adhidaivika (divine
adhibhuta (elemental beings) and adhyatmika (inner beings).
The adhidaivika is their highest and purest form. In this form they exist in the
heavenly world of Indra called devaloka and in the middle region. We can communicate with these
beings through sacrifices, penances, austerities and inner purity and obtain their
blessings. It is important that we do not take them lightly or show any
signs of disrespect. The
devas are real beings who keep a watch over us. They are sensitive,
positive and subject to passions. They remain on the side of the divine
and face the evil forces as they constantly try to unseat them
from their heavenly abodes. They can help us in removing our
negative and evil tendencies. They can play a role in our inner
purification. They can play an important role in neutralizing the
negative influences in our lives through their positive vibrations. They are easy to
approach, easy to please and easy to communicate since they are familiar
with Sanskrit. The vedic people believed in them, relied upon them and sought
their intervention in every aspect of their lives. Through sacrifices,
invocations and by making regular offerings they kept them happy. It is in our own interest to believe in them and
their abilities and seek their blessings and cooperation for our
material and spiritual well being.
Adhibhuta is their next level of existence. In this level they reside in nature in elemental
form in the tattvas (principles) and pancha mahabhutas or the five great
elements of Prakriti. In this aspect as adhibhutas they act as divine guardians
of nature or Prakriti. They keep an attentive watch on how nature is being used by
the beings who are involved with it and bound by it. As guardians of
nature they may even create obstacles if we try to disentangle ourselves
from Prakriti without their help. If we pollute nature or misuse its
elements or powers, they know instantly and keep a record so that when
the time comes we become accountable for our irresponsible actions.
If situation becomes intolerable and the survival of earth is endangered
they take up the matter with higher
divinities and seek their help. In human beings this may result in
heightened awareness or a greater concern for environmental protection
and protection of endangered species. Or a solution or invention may
suddenly crop up in our consciousness which will result in dramatic improvement or efficiency in our use of natural resources or reduced
dependence upon some limited resource. We can seek the intervention of gods in their elemental forms
through prayers. Hindu gurus urge their followers to
participate in group meditations or yajnas and invoke the help of higher
divinities for human or global welfare.
Their third level of existence is called
adhyatmika. In this form the gods exist as inner divinities in the microcosms of all beings, including plants and
animals. The lower life forms may not contain all the divinities, but in proportion to
their level in the evolutionary scale. Since at this level gods reside
in the beings, they are affected by our thoughts, desires, actions and the qualities of nature.
suffer if there is a predominance of a negative quality, beings lead impure or irreligious lives,
starve the gods without offerings, neglect or
abuse the own well being, do not perform their
obligatory duties or abandon dharma and indulge in selfish, egoistic and evil actions. If
a large number of people cause them pain and suffering through these
activities, the divinities complain to the Trinity
about the conditions and seek their intervention, which usually results
in an incarnation or direct intervention.
Since the divinities exist in us as adhyatmika devas, to avoid bad
karma, we have to keep our thoughts and actions in harmony with them. We
have to exercise great caution in what we do, what we think and what we
say. We need to maintain physical and mental discipline and practice
purity of thought, action and intention. We need to offer them our joys
and sorrows, the food we consume and the sense objects we enjoy. We need
to strive to improve the quality of sattva by being selective in what we
eat and with whom we associate ourselves. We need to recognize our
bodies as temples of gods and act accordingly so
that we can live in the company of gods and in harmony with them to
realize our true divine nature. As conscious individuals we have a
responsibility not only towards ourselves and our spiritual and material
goals, but also towards the whole gamut of divinities and energies who
have agreed to be part of our existence, sharing our experiences,
staying with us and helping us in our quest for truth.
The devas are exempt from performing any karmas or sacrifices. They
are the recipients of our offerings and fruit of our actions. Besides,
if they perform sacrifices they have to make the offerings to
themselves. So the gods are not obligated to perform any sacrificial
duties. But they have a responsibility or God assigned function to keep
a watch on our actions on earth, protect us from evil, help us in our
spiritual practices and in return enjoy the offerings we make through
our rituals, sacrifices and actions. By nature pleasure loving, they
however experience pain and suffering inflicted by our actions and
scripture is innate to gods. So they all possess scriptural knowledge. However like men,
the gods of devaloka and of the middle sphere do not possess the
knowledge of self. Part of creation, with a beginning and an end, they
are also subject to some limitations of Prakriti and some aspects of
maya or illusion. They can also improve their position in the cosmic
order by performing penances and contemplating upon Brahman. However
they cannot do this by themselves with their subtle bodies. They have to
take birth as a human beings and possess human bodies to accomplish it.
History is replete with instances of such beings living upon earth in
flesh and blood as saints, seers, sadhus and gurus with innate knowledge
of scriptures, working selflessly for the welfare of the humanity and
promoting the message of God and godly virtues.
Hinduism is called a way of life because it enjoins us to live divine
centered lives with gods as our witnesses and work for our salvation, by
cultivating inner virtue, performing our
obligatory duties as sacrificial acts, surrendering ourselves to God
with faith and devotion and aligning
ourselves and our energies with our higher nature and spiritual aims.
The Hindu way of life treats human endeavor as a continuous sacrificial offering in which man
assumes the status of Purusha (the
cosmic being) both as an object and subject of the sacrifice, in which the body becomes the ritual place,
desires and actions become the offerings and all the inner divinities
and the inmost self or atman become the recipients. Our lives are
therefore sacred. We are sacred and our minds and bodies are sacred too.
Whatever we think and do must therefore be done with a heightened sense of awareness,
virtue, morality and responsibility so that our actions do not betray
our true purpose and
result in negative karma.
The gods are our companions in our spiritual journey. By keeping them
happy and contended we achieve the four aims of human life, dharma
(virtue), artha (wealth), kama (enjoyment) and moksha (salvation). As we move forward on the
spiritual path, more and more divinities join us to attend to our new
needs and take care of our increasing difficulties, while some become
silent partners having fulfilled their purpose. Truly, our existence upon earth
is a celestial journey of epic proportions in which we sing and dance,
weep and cry, change our roles and bodies, names and forms, places and
situations as we make our way through the deep forests of dark ignorance,
wide deserts of intense suffering, islands of happiness, tunnels of deathly silence and enchanting
worlds of pure brilliance till we finally reach our true home, the land
of Brahman and Atman.
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