Friday, June 5, 2009

Hindu Symbols

Here is an overview of a few important Hindu symbols.  Together they are powerful and the basis of the faith itself.  They are not necessarily directly connected, but because they are all part of the Hindu faith they are part of the whole


Remember the definition of religion:


A system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.



This is a sacred sound and greatest mantra in the Hindu faith.  Om, which can also be spelled Aum has three sound within it (a-u-m) which add to the meaning.  The three parts symbolize, the three worlds, the three major gods, and the three sacred scripts of the Veda.  In the Hindu faith they believe in a three realms of the world: The Bhuloka, the Antarloka and the Sivaloka (the earth the ether and the heaven).  Because Om encompasses the three realms, it embodies the spirit of the Universe.  Indian beliefs include the idea that God created sound and molded the universe out of that sound.  Om is the foundation of sound.  The three major gods in Hindu faith are known as Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva.  These three are known as the Hindu Trinity.  Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver, and Siva is the destroyer.  Together they make the world run in harmony.  The three major scripts of the Veda are the Rg, Yajur, and Sama.




The Bindi is a dot worn on the forehead right above the nose.  It is a type of Tilak (we will get to that later).  Married Hindu women traditionally wear the Bindi.  Is symbolizes the energy of women and is said to protect her and her spouse from evil. However, today, it has less of a religious meaning and has a more decorative connotation.  Now, unmarried girls are wearing elaborate Bindis as form of jewelry.  This is just an example of the changing times.




This is a very odd symbol.  Some people may actually find it vulgar.  It is a representation of a phallic organ resting upon a female sex organ.  Together they represent fertility.  It is a powerful symbol of temples of Siva.  The symbol is revered and honored with gifts of flowers and food.  This is to please Siva, for Siva is the destroyer.




The Lotus flower in Hindu faith symbolizes beauty and non-attachment.  The Lotus floats on the water, stays pure and does not become tarnished.  Hindus believe in reincarnation.  People’s souls are reborn because they want to be reborn.  The pleasures of the earth are obviously great and people become attached to them and want to experience them.  After many rebirths, hopefully one will learn to not become attached to the pleasures and thus not need to be reborn.  Once someone has reached this point they have found their true self (the immortal soul).  At this point everything vanishes and they will vanish.  The lotus represents the principles that Hindus strive for.




This symbol comes out of a Hindu religious movement that was started in 1955. Ananda Marga Pracharaka Samgha (AMPS) was the name of the movement.  This name has to do with the “path to bliss.”  The upward triangle symbolizes external actions.  The downward pointing triangle represents the mindsets and internal actions, such as self-realizations.  The rising sun represents the advancement of ones spirituality while keeping the external and internal work in balance.  The swastika represents the good fortune that one receives through spiritual achievement.




The right hand swastika is a symbol for Vishnu and the sun god Surya.  The left hand swastika is the symbol for the goddess Kali and darkness.  The right hand swastika is mainly used to bring good fortune.  It can be seen in building designs, weddings and other major festivals.  This is a perfect example of how the Hindus incorporate their many gods into everyday life to remind themselves the right way to live.



This symbol is very similar to the Bindi.  It is a mark on the forehead.  The Tilak for a man is a straight line and a dot for a woman.  The slight differences in lines or dots help distinguish between the different sects of Hinduism.  The Tilak is made out of clay or ash, which give many of them a reddish color.  The Tilak is applied everyday to very serious Hindus.  All Hindus wear a Tilak whenever they visit a temple (even non-Hindus are given one when they visit a temple) and on special religions ceremonies (weddings).  The mixture that the Tilak is made from cools the forehead and helps mediation for it makes one more focused.




This is the sign for Shiva the most revered deity in the Hindu faith.  The three prongs stand for the three part of the Hindu trinity:  Creator, Preserver and destroyer.  It also represents the three most important powers.  It is a symbol for Will, action and wisdom, which are all three traits that one must possess so that they will no longer desire the pleasures of the earth and vanish for they have freed their soul.




This is a very sacred symbol that represents the universe.  It is similar to the Mandala sand paintings that Buddhist monks make.  They both symbolize cosmogenic development.  Cosmogenesis is the knowledge of the development of the universe.  It has to do with the idea that there are seven levels of intelligence (we are at the lowest when we are enthralled with the pleasures of the world).  The absolute is the center of the Yantra is the absolute truth.  The outer edges are the material world.  These are made in two-dimensional or three-dimensional images or shrines.  The places they are made in are very sacred grounds and an elaborate ritual takes place in which a deity’s power is put into them.  They are then meditated upon to have visions of the unseen (absolute truth). 

So how do these fit into the definition?  The Om creates a long lasting mood and a general order of existence.  When anyone meditates with this mantra, they are reminded of how everything came to be and through thinking about this, they will reach knowledge of their true self.  The Bindi and the Tilak create motivations in men and women.  Evey time one sees another wearing a Tilak, they are reminded that should worship and strive to find their true self so that can cease to exist.  The Linga creates an aura that makes the moods and motivations uniquely realistic.  This reminds people of fertility and birth.  Through this comes reincarnation and the striving to rid oneself from the pleasures of the world.  The lotus also creates motivation for the people to strive for their true self.  The flower grows above mud and stays free of the filth just as people want to live above pleasures and be free of them.  The Trishula also creates motivation for it symbolizes the traits one must have for them to be free of the material earth.  The Praktik make the moods and motivations more real for it is a very recent symbol.  It shows how things can change with the world just as people need to change their ways to become free.  The Yantra has the most power.  It creates and order of existence.  It symbolizes the whole path one follows to free themselves from the world.  Together they all work in harmony to make the Hindu religion real and have followers who believe.


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