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The Bhakti Movement (pt 2)

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The Brahminical branch teaches that works and devotion lead to true knowledge (Upanishadic vision, tat twam asi). Bhaktis say that knowledge and works should lead to devotion.


II. Four Themes in the Bhakti Movement

A. Personal/popular over ontological/impersonal

1. Re-Reading of the Upanishads

a. God as personal and distinct

b. Transcendence/ immanence paradox

c. Anti Brahminical dissent – egalitarianism

d. Priority/superiority of bhakti over jnana marga and karma marga

e. Emphasis on antaryamin

2. Emergence of Puranic literature

B. Devotion over knowledge or ritual or caste

1. Bhagavad Gita (from the Mahabharata)

2. Harivamsa (supplement to Mahabharata)

3. Gitagovinda (12th century Sanskrit lyrical poem)

C. Ecstatic response and/or mystical union with personal deity

1. 18 major Puranas - Bhagavata Purana - adventures of Krisha

2. Bhaktisutras

D. Simplicity

1. Puja as an expression of devotion/adoration

2. Concept of 'mana' - touch or contact with deity via icon

III. Five themes of Bhaktism

A. Some concrete manifestation of the divine

B. The idol or the icon is a bridge between the soul and the divine

C. Power or spiritual blessing can be transferred from the idol to a


D. Being overwhelmed or enraptured in the presence of god

E. Desire for the company of other Bhaktis who have had similar ecstatic experiences

IV. The Role and Practice of Puja in Bhaktism

A. Meaning of Puja

1. Definition – a ritual symbolic offering to a god or gods in Bhakti Hinduism

2. Pa – ja (parayana – japa) repetition of the names of God, mental recitation of the names of God

a. Pu – ja (pushpam – flower, jal – water)

b. Pu – ja (purusha – ja – janma – to wake up, bring purusha to life within

B. Key elements of puja

1. Icon / idol of deity located in a ‘mandir’ (sacred space)

2. Sacred vessel (Purna kumbha) immediately next to icon / idol filled with water and/or rice, leaves, flowers and coconut

a. Pot symbolizes Devi / Lakshmi

b. Flowers – beauty and ornamentation of gods/goddesses

c. Rice – material wealth

d. Coconut – divine consciousness

3. Prasad – sacred offering of food, flowers, perfumed substances, and coconut milk

4. Lighting of oil lamp

a. Lamp, virtue, and know.- dharma

b. Oil, wealth- artha

c. Cotton, wick, and pleasure - kama

d. Light, itself, and liberation - moksa

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