Sloka 36 from Dancing with Siva
What Are the Four Stages on the Path?
The path of enlightenment is divided naturally into four stages: charya, virtue and selfless service; kriya, worshipful sadhanas; yoga, meditation under a guru's guidance; and jnana, the wisdom state of the realized soul. Aum.
Charya, kriya, yoga and jnana are the sequence of the soul's evolutionary process, much like the natural development of a butterfly from egg to caterpillar, from caterpillar to pupa, and then the final metamorphosis to butterfly. These are four padas, or stages, through which each human soul must pass in many births to attain its final goal. Before entering these spiritual stages, the soul is immersed in the lower nature, the anava marga, or self-centered path, bound in fear and lust, hurtful rage, jealousy, confusion, selfishness, consciencelessness and malice. Then it awakens into charya, unselfish religious service, or karma yoga. Once matured in charya, it enters kriya, devotion or bhakti yoga, and finally blossoms into kundalini yoga. Jnana is the state of enlightened wisdom reached toward the path's end as a result of Self Realization. The four padas are not alternative ways, but progressive, cumulative phases of a one path, San Marga. The Tirumantiram says, "Being the Life of life is splendrous jnana worship. Beholding the Light of life is great yoga worship. Giving life by invocation is external worship. Expressing adoration is charya." Aum Namah Sivaya.
Lesson 346 from Living with Siva
Devout Hindus have a hard time dividing life into the sacred and the profane. It is life, and it is all divine expression. Thus, Hindu art is sacred art, Hindu music is devotional music. Even business, for the devout Hindu, is not just livelihood but a way of serving God, the community and helping mankind.
But we must admit that not all Hindus live the life as fully as they might. There has evolved a double standard in the modern world. There are those who are consistent as Hindus in the temple as well as at home, whose home life is consistent with their behavior in the temple, whether they live in Europe or in an Indian village. There are also those who are Hindus when it is convenient and something else when it is not. A good, hard look at oneself once in a while is beneficial, especially at the time of year when many Hindus send Christmas cards. Do they send greetings to acknowledge the holy days of Islam or Judaism? No. But, having been educated in Christian schools, they feel it's all right to send Christmas cards. Christian on the inside and Hindu on the outside--it's a double standard. Rice and curry at the temple, a Big Mac beef burger on the way home. Of course, we would always encourage friendly gestures of goodwill and polite exchanges of good wishes with school mates, neighbors, colleagues, business and professional associates or customers who are members of another community, but that can be done without compromising our Hindu identity. There are perfectly neutral and secularized season's greetings cards, devoid of religious expression.
Fortunately, the duplicity is changing. Hindus are getting more confident about living their culture, even in the West. A recent speaking tour in Canada and California brought to my attention an awakening in the older generation (for the sake of their children, they explained), and that is to be one hundred percent Hindu all the time, living the culture at home, in the workplace, the temple and even in dreams. One temple I visited in Toronto had set up a dress code for the devotees: elegant Hindu attire for ladies--no shorts, slacks, skirts, etc., and only traditional attire for men. Those who don't comply are not admitted. Yes, there was at first some reaction, management told me. Even now, there are some who just won't come to the temple if they can't worship the Lord in T-shirts and tight jeans. But so many others who don't appreciate the double standard and previously would stay away--because worshipers were dressing so immodestly--have since replaced the dropouts. The strictness has brought other boons along with it, such as a one-hour, absolutely silent meditation by two or three hundred people prior to the evening puja. The management prides itself on cleanliness, decorum and discipline. My group arrived there shortly after a feeding of several thousand. The kitchen was immaculate. So was the dining room. Similar efforts to bring forward the whole of our tradition are underway in other communities as well.
There is an old saying, "Clothes make the man." And it must be equally true that clothes make the woman. Dress codes are a growing issue in many temples throughout the world, and in ashramas and mathas, too. This is being discussed not only in Hinduism but in other religions as well.
In international airports all over the world we see so many kinds of clothing. Airports are beginning to look like backstage at the opera--a flamboyant array--not of actors pretending to be who they are not, but an array of people whose clothing declares who they are. A materialist wears his shirt and tie. The Muslims are elegantly dressed. The colorful African tribals, stately Japanese Shintoists and modest Buddhists are in their traditional garb. Catholics dress demurely; Protestants informally. You can spot an existentialist just like that. And of course, you can never miss the punk rockers or the hippies. A kurta shirt, shawl and loosely fitted pants are definitely Hindu, and go well with the wife's wearing a sari or punjabi.
Sutra 346 of the Nandinatha Sutras
Receiving No Personal Gifts
My Saiva monastics do not accept personal gifts of any kind, but they may receive offerings on behalf of the monastery and support during pilgrimage, including fruit, flowers, food, lodging and travel expenses. Aum.
Lesson 346 from Merging with Siva
Theories of Reincarnation
According to one theory of reincarnation, life begins with sound and color. Sound and color produce the first forms of life in the atomic structure of our being through binding the seed atoms together. At this point, life as we know it begins. It remains in a seed state or state of conception until the instinctive and intellectual cycles evolve into maturity through the process of absorption of more atoms into the astral body. This process continues until a physical body is formed around the astral body. But that is not the culmination of this theory. The cells and atoms of these bodies themselves evolve, becoming more and more refined as cycles of experience pass until complete maturity is reached in a physical body which is refined enough to attain nirvikalpa samadhi and begin the next process of building a golden body of light. According to this theory, the soul takes on progressively more advanced bodies, evolving through the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms, slowly acquiring knowledge through experience. There may even be a life that seems to regress, such as a man incarnating as a cow to gain needed lessons of existence.
A second concept in this theory explains the lower evolutionary rate of animals, insects, plants and minerals. According to this principle, animals and lower forms of life function under what is called a "group soul." They do not have an individual astral identity, but share a group astral atomic structure. That is one reason for the lack of so-called individuality among these groups and why animals move about in herds and birds live together in flocks--indicating the movement of the one group soul, so the theory goes.
In another theory, when man dies, he goes on to the astral plane after breaking the silver cord which binds him to the physical body. During out-of-the-body experiences, this silver cord is often seen as a cord of light connecting the physical, astral and spiritual bodies. When awareness leaves the physical body, it passes through one of the chakras. If our life has been one of baser emotion and reason, we would exit through one of the chakras near the base of the spine, either the muladhara or svadhishthana, and begin a conscious existence on a lower astral plane. From there we would work out various experiences or reactionary conditions caused by congested mental and emotional forces which impressed our subconscious mind during the course of our lifetime. On the astral plane, we relive many experiences by reactivating them, creating for ourselves heavens or hells. When the lessons of that life had been learned and the reactions resolved, we would be drawn back into a family, into a new physical body, in order to gain more experience in the light of the new knowledge acquired while on the astral plane.
If we have evolved to the point that our life was one of service, understanding and love, then we would exit through the next higher chakras, for that is where awareness has been polarized, and our astral existence would be of a deeper, more refined nature. However, if we had discovered and practiced a dedicated spiritual life, then our exit would be through the top two chakras, which do not lead awareness onto the astral plane but take it into the Third World of divine existence, never to reincarnate again into the physical world. After nirvikalpa samadhi is attained and perfected so that the mahayogi can go into it at will, he leaves the body consciously through the door of Brahman, the center of the sahasrara chakra above the pituitary gland at the top of the head. This depends on whether or not the golden actinic causal body, which has been developed after Self Realization, is mature enough to travel in actinic force fields on its own.