To most monists God is immanent, temporal, becoming. He is creation itself, material cause, but not efficient cause. To most dualists, God is transcendent, eternal, Creator--efficient cause but not material cause. Aum.
To explain creation, philosophers speak of three kinds of causes: efficient, instrumental and material. These are likened to a potter's molding a pot from clay. The potter, who makes the process happen, is the efficient cause. The wheel he uses to spin and mold the pot is the instrumental cause, thought of as God's power, or shakti. The clay is the material cause. Theistic dualists believe in God as Lord and Creator, but He remains ever separate from man and the world and is not the material cause. Among the notable dualists have been Kapila, Madhva, Meykandar, Chaitanya, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant and virtually all Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologians. The most prevalent monism is pantheism, "all is God," and its views do not permit of a God who is Lord and Creator. He is immanent, temporal--material cause but not efficient cause. History's pantheists include Shankara, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Plotinus, the Stoics, Spinoza and Ashvaghosha. The Vedas proclaim, "As a thousand sparks from a fire well blazing spring forth, each one like the rest, so from the Imperishable all kinds of beings come forth, my dear, and to Him return." Aum Namah Sivaya.
The Saivite Hindu lifestyle is very special, very binding, strengthened by: the pancha nitya karmas; the Monday family home evening and the daily family meetings; the knowing that each child is and has been totally a part of the family, maybe for hundreds of years; the knowing that there is karma to be worked out within the family--feelings of happiness, unhappiness and misunderstandings, all to be resolved; and the knowing that there is a purpose for them all being together and that they may all be together until mukti, liberation from the cycle of rebirth. All this and more distinguishes the Saivite family from all other families on the planet.
It is on the astral plane, the inner world of this world, that twenty-four-hour life takes place. Beings there do not have to sleep. The positive activity of the astral world within the house or the apartment transforms it into a home, or if negative into a hotel room. To stabilize this astral activity and make sure it is positive, the home puja is performed by every Saivite family daily. Scriptures are read, the yamas and niyamas are fulfilled and all difficulties, large and small, are resolved before sleep. Divine ancestral devas are coaxed to live in the home, as well as devas from nearby temples where the family frequently worships. This magic makes the home into a spiritual abode, not unlike a temple itself.
Children are always treated with great respect and awe in a true Saivite home, for one does not always know who these young ones were in past lives. They may be incarnations of a grandmother, grandfather, aunt or uncle, dearly beloved mother, sister, brother, respected father, distant related yogi or rishi. Who are they? What is their destiny to fulfill in this life?
The answers lie in the voice of the universe, the mystical Saivite astrological system laid down by the rishis of yore. The family's astrologer carefully explains the nature of each child, and how it will develop, flourish and unfold year after year. This gives the parents knowledge and hope, courage and understanding, tolerance and forgiveness, and all the other fine qualities that all Saivites want to cultivate within themselves. In raising the children and simultaneously realizing that each is a part of Siva's well-ordered universe and has entered the family with his or her own prarabdha karmas to be lived out, the parents are neither excited nor dismayed when the predicted characteristics begin to manifest within the child. Yes, the Saivite home is a factory, an intricate mechanism manufacturing spiritual unfoldment for every member of the family.
Siva's followers encourage and inspire children so they always feel they belong and are significant. If upsets occur, parents use loving, positive strategies such as time-out, logical consequences and denial of privileges. Aum.
Many Hindu teachers in the West teach purely advaitic meditation, with no theism or religious practice, but most who have come to the West from India were raised in Hindu homes. They have within them a firm religious, cultural foundation for yoga. Many do not pass the religious culture on to their Western devotees, however. In an orthodox Hindu community they would most likely teach in a more traditional way. Advaita philosophy is appealing to the Westerner. It does not require a change in lifestyle.
The nondual, advaita-based meditations do bring the devotees out of the conscious mind, but more often than not lead them into the subconscious. It is here, within the subconscious, that unresolved problems with family and one's own personal ego begin to appear. Without a proper religious-cultural background and traditional Hindu belief system, these problems are difficult to handle. This turmoil is certainly not the purpose of advaitic meditations, but it is a by-product. The wise guru trains his devotees in traditional Hindu culture and values and teaches the beginning yogas, as well as temple protocol, music, the arts and dance. All these should be mastered to build a proper subconscious foundation within the mind. Karma yoga and bhakti yoga are the necessary prelude to the higher philosophies and practices.
Group meditation is all right, as the group can really help the individual, as does the individual help the group. Intense meditation awakens the samskaras, the impressions of the past, and intensifies the prarabdha karmas, bringing them into manifestation before their time. It has a greenhouse effect.
No one should perform intensive meditation alone until he or she can serve selflessly and accept praise and blame and criticism without complaint or resentment, but with a sweet smile. Only when a devotee has reached this stage is he or she firmly on the kriya marga, which will lead quite naturally to the yoga marga. Then, finally, raja yoga and other kinds of more refined, intensive sadhanas can safely be performed. These will clean up the karmas of the past without mental pain, once the proper foundation has been set within the mind and character of the devotee.
The progressive sadhanas of karma yoga, bhakti yoga and then raja yoga are like clearing a path of its stones. First you remove the big stones. Then you walk back along the path. You still see big stones, but they are half the size as the first ones that were removed, and you remove these as well. Then you walk back along the path and remove more stones that stand out as large, and on and on until the path is clear. It is a refinement process.
The seeker on the path has to be soft, pliable, easy to get along with, as well as firm-minded. Therefore, bhakti, which is love in action, is a necessary prerequisite to success on the San Marga, the straight path to God, toward merger with Siva. All kinds of yogic techniques can be practiced, but they hold no fruitful rewards for those who are not firm-minded and not strong in the essential virtues. The prideful, antagonistic and difficult-to-get-along-with people must soften their hearts. This is done through bhakti and karma yoga. These practices alone will free the devotee from the anava marga--the path of building up and keeping the personal ego strong. The anava marga is a difficult path to leave for the San Marga, but the results on the San Marga are so much more rewarding in the long run.
It is often postulated by certain Indian schools of thought that once you reach a certain stage, bhakti should be set aside because it is dual by nature. But a devotee arriving into a high state of consciousness does not give up his love for God and the Gods. His devotion does not stop; rather it becomes more intense. He does not stop eating, relating to family, friends and other devotees. These are all dual things, too. Yes, it is true that some teachers preach this doctrine. But to avoid the charya marga, having perhaps never been on it, and say, "I am on a greater and much higher one; I don't have to do that" is another philosophy, not ours.
In Saiva Siddhanta, the margas are progressive stages of character building. They are a foundation for good character, which is built on bhakti. Proper habit patterns created through the daily sadhanas of karma yoga and bhakti yoga lay this foundation within the mind, body and emotions. In case a devotee fails in pursuit of the higher yogas, he will always have his success on the charya marga to rely upon. For someone to say, "I now intellectually understand the Vedas and do not need to express love and devotion" is sad indeed. One who had really realized the truths of the Vedas would never say this.
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These daily Master Course lessons are drawn from Gurudeva's 3,000 page trilogy on Hindu philosophy, culture and metaphysics, available in the full-color volumes of Dancing, Living and Merging with Siva at our Minimela online store.