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GOD

A BRIEF HISTORY

john bowker

THE HUMAN SEARCH FOR ETERNAL TRUTH

GOD
a

brief

I'rom

history

he Daert

liitrodiiclioii,

page 27

Y*v-

Al^

GOD
a

brief

history

JOHN BOWKER

)nriil>a C
r-'rom

;)a'r/r)/(s

page

DK

antiig

Introduction

page 25

I'UBLISIIINC;, INC.

Hiiiuble Servant
Iriiiii

India, page 81

London

New

York Stutlgart

Moscow

Contents
LONDON. NEW YORK, SYDNEY,
DELHI. I'.XRIS. MLINIClL.ind
JOII,\N\ESIiUHG

DK

Sen Moore

Creative Director

I'ln.i

Chuck

Editorial Diivctor

lor

INTRODUCTION
The Death
Rejecting

Wills

Chris. Vuhcrinr,s

Pnidiiclion

DK

Cod

Speaking of

Cod
God

ot

Experiencing the World


Experiencing

Manager

Project

.Art

Sharon Rudd
Donna Wood

liditor

Cod

Phenomenology

Kate Grant

Prnjecl Editor

Cod

of

The Images

FiihlishinR. Inc. hy

stutd io cactus

Project

Three and

One
God

64

Critcisms of

68

The

72

Fierce Deities

\augh.in

Kaufman

Dirk

.\n Director

Produced

AUTHOR'S PREFACE

I'lihl.shiiig. Inc.

I'uhlislK-r

Cod and

Values

The Death and

Life of

Cod

10

Amitabha

12

Early Philosophies

76

14

Rama and

78

16

flanuman

80

IH

The Puranas

82

74

Puiiuariuia

20

The Upanishads

84

22

Philosophers

86

24

Vishnu

90

26

Krishna

94

Krishna and Radha

96
98

Vishnu and Krishna


Krishna and Devotion

100

Sex and Tantra

102

I'lihlishea in ihe L nited States hv

DK
s:s

Ne

I'lililishins.

Inc

lliKisi.n Slreet

NV

V.rk.

Shiva's
C (ipyrifiht <S 21)1)2 Diirlins

104

Shiva

11)1114

Sons

Devotion
Text CopyriKht 1" 201)2 John linwkcr
Ml rights reser\'ed under International and

No

American C^opyright Conventions.

may be reproduced,

ihis publication

by

1\

part

stored

it

oner. Published in Creat Britain hv DoHing


Kinderslev Limited.

The Aztecs, from

Publishing oilers special discounts lor bulk

excerpts of existing guides, and corporate

more information, contact

Speci.il

Markets Department, DK Publishing Inc


<7i Hudson Street. New York. NY 101)14
Librar\' of

Congress Cataloging-in-

Publication Oatti
liouker.

John Westerdale

brief history of

Cod

IsliN l).7KiJ4yOI2-9 Iph)

talk,

18

Kabir

120

Sikhs

122

Sound

128

Mandala and Yantra

130

Temples of India

132

Pilgrimage

134

111.; 2. lit,

THE BEGINNING

28

Introduction and timeline

iO

Knowledge and Love

136

From Tagore

138

to

Gandhi

THE RELIGIONS OF ASIA. 140

Coddess

.?2

The Natural World

.^6

Introduction and timeline

Symbol and Sign

38

Oracle Bones

144

Music

40

Tian

146

Ritual

42

Confucius

Myth

46

Nature and

Sacrifice

48

Daode

Architecture

SO

rhree from

Art

S2

The Investiture of the Cods

142

148

God

150

paper!

neligions-Handboks, manuals,

Ueligion

IN

John Hmvker

cm.

Includes bibliographical relerences .mil index

the

needs can be met with

special editions, including personalized covers.

imprints. For

In

Beginning, page 48

purchases for sales promotions or premiums.


Specific, large-(|uantity

p.

16

Coddess and Cod

the prior written permission of the copyright

10

Shiva

to

photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without

DK

Coddess and Shakti


i

system, or transmitted in any lorni

108

Kinderslev Limilc

etc. 2.

landbooks. manuals, etc.

I.

Title

"S 2002

152

jing

One

154
....

56

(1(1

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas


Hep

.iluced hv C olour scan. Singapore

Pri iKtl .in.l bo,

Wmg

nd

in

lon^

Kong by

Xing long.

INDIA

S4

Korea

160

Introduction and linieline

S6

Korea and Japan

162

Japan

164

Nadu

S8

Indus Valley

60

Temples and Ritual

168

Sacrilice

62

Mountains

170

Tamil
See our coi

rplet

158

cata igat

WWW .dk. :om

THE RELIGIONS OF
ABRAHAM

Thealogy

3 14

172

Secularization

316

174

Introduction and timeline

Introduction and timeline


for

The

Judaism

God

Bible and

176

318

for Islam

God and Lord

178

Muhammad

Defeat of the gods

182

The Anger of God


The Love of God
The Holiness of God

184

The Vision
The Quran

186

Calligraphy

188

Allah in the

Priests

Sacrifice

The

and Psalms

Cave

322
324
326

Quran

328
332

190

Sufis

334

192

Rabia

336

alHallaj

338

194

Exile

the

God's Power

Temple, Holiness,

and

320

in

Zoroaster

196

After the Exile

198

Scripture

200

Laozi, fr(jm The Religions of


Asia, page 152

340

ibnArabi

The Conference
Rumi

Introduction and timeline

of Birds

342
344

202

for Christianity

228

Sufi Orders

346

Wisdom

204

The Background

230

Sharia

348

Creation

206

Paul

234

The Mosque

350

Suffering

208

Jesus

236

alFarabi

352

The Rabbis
The Synagogue

210

240

ibn Sina

354

212

The New Testament


The Person of Christ

242

alGhazali

356

Liturgy

214

Jesus and

244

Jihad and Martyrdom

360

Kabbalah

216

Three

God
One

246

Maimonides

218

The East-West Debate

248

The Hasidim
The Holocaust

222

Darkness and Light

250

224

The Negative Way

252

Bibliography

374

Celtic Christianity

254

Index

382

Augustine

258

Acknowledgments

398

Benedict and Dominic

262

Change and

Stability

in

Francis

264

Thomas Aquinas

266

Dante

270

The Way

of

Unknowing

Drama

-riit'^^

278

280

Art

282
286

Icons

From Greece

Priests,

*t3P^ak?^Sf"-'ipr

362

274

Music

to Russia

288

Luther and Calvin

290

Teresa and John

292

Ignatius

294

John Wesley

296

America

298

New

THE END

276

Architecture
Liturgy and

IN

Clothes for Old Beliefs ...304

from The Religions

God and Myth

308

OF Arraham,

Beyond Reason

310

The Cappadocians, from


The Religions of Abraham,

Liberation I'hcology

312

page 253

PAGE 198

C.CMT

RKIII

IIIMiMx"!

Author's Preface
BOOK A\D
TITLL WERE FIRST
THIS
PROPOSED by Sean Moore of Dorling

and have developed and changed our

ITS

God and

Brief Hiiton of Time.

resemble each other

time do indeed

two ways: neither

in

who and what Cod is. ,ind


how Cod became real to them.
Most of the chapters follow a roughly
understanding of

Kindersley as a parallel, no doubt, to

exists as

been central

to

human awareness and

any exidcnce sur\

for as long as

and creati\e

controlling

experience

That

is

religion) rather

true e\en ot

such

when

religion

and

were deliberately separated from each

than scatter small sections

pertinent to the topics discussed in each

give a quick indication of the events

Turkey

in

an amendment

cannot be a
to its

Constitution

historv' of religions: for that,

in

lUmtnited

Histor}' of Religions

is

Islam")

Russia and China

was put

religion

when

the Marxist critique ot

religion (article 25.1

time followed the

at religions

US

and

).

as far as

the

at
it

same

(OUP, 1997)

could

in

w hich

one

human

to belief in

that belief

brain

and reverence

as the schoolmaster ohstrxed in .Alan

On.

liennett's play. Forty Years

and of course

le

"Gocl.

is

e\eiAlhing else,

book

is

more modest.

is

all

Il

the stories that have been told about

people have

have described ways

made

It

embedded

in

in

the

continues with a

their

own

in

which

iliscoveries ot

in

for the natural world. .Although

Cod

early,

they

all

recur throughout

through the Index.

he chapters then explore the ways

bi'liel in
it

the Beginning,

the book, and their later appearances can be

that has

been thought and believed about CJod. nor does


all

deeply

stoa. music, dance, architecture, ritual, sacrifice,

Ir.iced

this

not a comprehensive histor) ol

record

,inti

ways

/;;

these themes are

whatever

Cod. Instead.

to the

God, showing the way

which looks at
which people explored the nature
meaning of God. in such things as art. sex,

much

\ot surprisingU.

is

and body.

earlv

IS

gives further details on

religion

none of those countries has God disappeared.


A comprehensive historx ot God, therefore, would
have to be pretty well the historx ot e\er\thing -

not a tofjf

and

mentioned in this book.


The book begins with an Introduction
background

In

is.

art

the people, texts, beliefs, and practices

chapter called

He

through

its

separating the State from the endorsement or


of an\

1997) looks

architecture; Jlie Oxford Dictioncm of World


Religions

Independence when

Constitution guaranteed freedom of conscience

support

For

).

into effect

India at the time of

and

An

see

(CUP, 2001

context and background, DK's World Religions


I

lurkish State

else

to

explain beliefs and practices, but this book

the 1924 Constitution that "the religion of the

and people

mentioned: the chronological squence can be

1902)

1928 (the amendment deleted the statement of

and

midst of Asian

in the

found there. An attempt has been made

other (as was imposed also on the Philippines


in

with a

example, Sikhs as a

chapter are provided at the beginning of each to

as:

the embn,onic United States


politics

(for

according to their dates. Brief timelines and

maps

those societies that set out to be deliberateK'


secular,

one place

in

Japan as sequences

societ\ in

a part, usually a

part.

sequence

it

to deal

unit in the midst of Indian religion, Korea

ives.

There has nc\er been any human


which Ciod has not been

chronological sequence, but even then

sometimes proved more coherent

common-sense might imagine, and both have

ol

Cod began and

has developed

major religious traditions of the world,

main groups: the


ot (in origin)

in
in

in

which
the

three

religions of India, of Asia,

and

the .Middle East and Mediterranean

workl; since these

last ijud.iism. Christianitv.

and

\l

Islam) spread

all

o\er the world,

is

it

perhaps

simpler to think of them as the Abrahamic


religions, since they all claim

Abraham

(in

Islam

The names

of source books and other quoted

the work)

is

name

used can then be looked up


I

in

all

sources

the Bibliography.

unfamiliar as they occur.

which the term

is first

defined

is

The page on

religion has

its

= Before the Common


CE = Common Era).
This book could not ha\e been written w ithout

ver\' great

Abo\e

all.

whom

express

my

Acknou ledgments.
m\ thanks go to two people who

gratitude in the

from anywhere

place

and Margaret, my

God

else; this

in

book

his

calm

wife:

company than
hers, and comes

her
is

The poet and

novelist

Thomas Hardy used

an honest estimate of

w hat he called

"a full

life

look at the worst

required
".

That

God, since
so much folly, wickedness, and commercial
exploitation swirl around what people make of
is

certainly necessary in the case of

w orst

dating

Era,

to

in the Hrst

own

the western calendar (BCE

many people

it

a rare gift;

God. Even so, it amazes me how many people


and how much of the media look only at the

system, dates in this book are given according to

the help of

I'Ki

given in bold in

the index.

Although each

suggested
is

to insist that

have tried to explain words and terms that

may be

DK who
integrity

(or title of

given in brackets, with a page

reference of that work. Full details of

with gratitude and love.

works and their authors are kept as brief as


possible in the text: the author's

IIOK

brought this book into being; Sean Moore of

have learnt more about

Ibrahim) as their ancestor.

in

the case of God, and never recognize

the landfall and lightning strike through w hich

God changes people into goodness and grace.


poem by R.S. Thomas is quoted in this book

.A

(p.317) that ends with a plea for "the better


\entilating of the

mind

".

It is

atmosphere of the closed

my hope

that purpose.

that this

book

will ser\'e

\(

^*

Introduction
Hoir

CJoc?

uppems

in

huuuiu

iiiuiojiKiHoii

mid expen

4.

I\

KOIMCnON

The Death

God

of

Doivn the Chute


\ 1923,THE American JOURNALIST H.L.
a

memorial service

He

the chute".

Mencken (1880-1956) held


it, had "gone down

Gods, who, as he put

for the

asked:

"What has become oF Siitekh, once


Valley? What has become of:

the high god of the whole Nile

Reseph

isis

Anath

Ptah

Ashtoreth

An u bis

Baal

Addu

Astarte

Shaiem

Hadad

Dagon

El

Sharrab

Nergal

Yau

Nebo

Amon-Re

Ninib

Osiris

Melek

Sebek

Ahijah

were once gods

All these

mentioned with

are

ranked, five or

six

fear

ol the

Molech?

highest eminence.

and trembling

in

Many

rlie

In

God Uadcid

The

were believed

to protect

king Esarluuldon l7lh


tlC'l.) is

strengthen your

prnmiscd:
lije like

"I

your

mother who brought you into


being: the

si.\ty

great gods

sldud with nie and prutecl

)ou

Xh/scali.

;;.7.i

i.

them the

all

gone

following:

Bile

kino Lticina

Ler

Saturn

Inirrina

Morrigu

Vediovis

Govannon

C'onsLis

Pu/yll

Cronos

Ogvryan

Enki

Dea Dia

Engurra

GwYdion

Belus

Dimmer
Gasan-lil

Mu-ul-lil

Niiada Argetlam

Goibniu

Ubiiulu

Manaw\'ddan
Tagd
Odin

Uhargisi

Llavv Gvffes

U-dimmer-an-kia

Lieu

Enurestu

Ogma

U-sab-sib

Mider

Rigantona

Tammuz

Marzin

Mars

Bau

Ceros

U-Mersi
Venus
Mulu-hursang

Vaticanus

Anu

Edulia

Beitis

Adeona

Nusku"

continues (or another page.

Then Mencken

What

asked:

mourner waters
mounds?
Men lalioiired lor generations to build vast temples to
them ~ temples with stones as large as hay-wagons. The business of
interpreting their whims occupied thousands of priests, wizards,
archdeacons, evangelists, haruspices, bishops, archbishops. To doubt
them was lo tlii', usually at the stake. Armies took to the field to defend
them ag.iinsi inlKJels: villages were burned, women and children were
butchered, cattle were driven off
They were gods of the highest
standing and dignity. - gods of civilized peoples - worshipped and
here

is

their

people against disaster ihe

century

the chute, and with

Arianrod

list

"\\

\ssvr/</, difjcrciil tjods

them
They

thousand years ago, with Jahveh himself; the

worst of them stood far higher than Thor. Yet they have

down

of

the Old Testament.

the gra\cyard ot dead gods?

lingering

...

...

believed

in b\

millions. All

were iheoreticalix omnipotent, omniscient

III

>l

II

and iiiiiiiorlal. /\iul all arc tlcatl" (Prcjiulices). Mencken coiukicted a lonu
war against Cod, whuin in the Minority Report he referred to as "the
immemorial refuge ol the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable.

They

find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority,

soothing to their macerated egos;

Mencken was
fact his question,

far

"where

answered 40 years

He

earlier

is

madman who

them above

their betters".

declaring "the death of God". In

in

the graveyard of dead gods?" had been

by an even greater antagonist against God,

The Gay Science (1887) he described

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). In


a

will set

from being alone

ran into the market square on a bright morning carrying a

lantern and shouting over and over again,

"A number of those who have no


laughter erupted.

he

'Is

lost,

child?' said another, 'Or has

faith

"I

seek God!

seek God!":

were standing around, so great

then?' said one; 'Has he lost his way, like a

he gone into hiding?

Is

he afraid of us? Has

he gone on a journey? Taken up residence elsewhere?' So they shouted


and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst, and cut through them
with the look he ga\e them. 'Where has
you;

we have

killed

him -

noli

and

I.'

It

God gone
is

to?'

he cried,

said also that the

will tell

'I

madman on

the same day went into a number ol churches and sang there his requiem
aetemam deo. His reply, when he was brought out to account for himself,
is

said to have been,

'What are these churches,

if

they are not the tombs

Nietzsche declared that the death of


the 19th century

century, in

God was

"a recent event'

many questioned God's existence. But that


God that may follow from it, has occurred

most parts of the world.

It

and

a scene of worship.
in

questioning,
in

every

occurred dramatically, for example,

emergence of Jains and Buddhists (pp.69-71),


Jews (p. 225), and in China among the naturalists (p. 150).
in India in the

Ass^'ria

9th/8th century BCE depicts

and graves of God?'

with the death of

Worship in

This cylinder seal from the

for

some

Assyrians were

ci

The

dominating

power in Mesopotamia from


c.l900to612BCE. The chief

God was Asshur,

but other

Gods and Goddesses were


also worshipped.

NTR

rI

o\

God

Rejecting

"Diagoras the Atheist ouce

Samothrace and a friend

visited

there said to him, 'Yon think the

gods have no care for hitiuaiis?

you can see from

\Miy,

votive pictures here

how many

people have escaped the fur)' of


storms at sea

praying

h)'

who have

gods,

to the

said Diagoras, 'but

where are the

pictures of all those

who

suffered

shipwreck and perished in the

On

another occasion he

was on a voyage and the crew

became anxious and alarmed


about the bad weather and

began

them

to

mutter that

right for taking

serx'ed

it

an

atheist

on board. Diagoras just pointed

them a number of other

out to
ships

on the same course which

were in equal

difficulties

and

DEATH OF

chopped up

a statue of

\nakes no difference at all to


his

good luck or

his

(Cicero 3.89)

bad"

Heracles in order to boil his turnips, and

God

did not exist." Cicero

the death of

under the Three Rs

In general they can be grouped

the

first

of

which stands

These look

for rebuttals.

is

projection that people

of their highest ideal,


the best they can

imagine. Thtis

llw
tiniki

for rejection,

claims

at

made

on behalf of God and argue that the claims are incoherent,


insubstantial, or false - claims, for example, that God made the
world

in six literal

when

days

evidence, gathered through

centuries, suggests that the universe

much

longer period; or claims that

of

it,

many people and

God

is

many

into being over a

when the
many animals

loving

the fate of so

evidently, undeserved) does not suggest love. This

raises the question of

Greek

came

theos, "god",

what

difee,

powerful and all-loving,


create a world in
suffering?

is

known

why does God

which love ensures

God

is

as "theodicy" (from the

"justice"): if

God

is,

as

claimed,

is

all-

not use that power to

that there

is

no undeserved

either not all-powerful or not all-loving.

Rebuttal arguments against


in the

name

undesirable

of

God also look at things


God that seem, to say the

fighting wars, for example, or

ustifying the subordination of

Fetierbach {1H04-72)

ist

God is so common, why does it happen? The


may be personal and linked to individual circumstances,
but they may also be less specific and shared by many people.
If

least,

argued that "God"

left).

reasons

people do

Liidwig Feuerbach

occurs in every

century BCE) used him as an example (see box,

(much

that a

It

according to Athenagoras (2nd century CE) "he

he proclaimed outright that

suffering of so

The fact is
man's character or way of

not unusual.

is

Diagoras became a typical e.xample of those

civilization,

who deny God -

thought that there was a

every one of them.

GoD

generation everywhere in the world. In the Mediterranean

asked them whether they

Diagoras on the passenger-list of

life

THE

brought them

safe to harbour.'Yes, indeed,'

waves?'

Argmnents for Atheism

all these

The second

women

to

men.

of the Three Rs stands for reductions:

these arguments accept that people believe in God,


ut offer reasons

why

they do so that do not involve

God

exists. An example is H.L.


Mencken (p.l 1) claiming that people believe in
God because they are inadequate and seek

the possibility that

jonsolation or

power over others

cannot get

any other way This

that they

theology

(thought ahoul

God)

is

realh

anthropolog)
(the best

we can

hope for in a
hiintai! life).

in

is

a form

of projection (creating outside ourselves

something that deals with our deepest needs,

iikI

that

we

take to be real although

nol exist independently). Others


Cidtl to a

it

does

who reduced

projection of this kind were

RHirc

caption,

J-'cLic'ibach (sec

Ictt). SigniLinil

is

kept

way

in

which the alienation between

in being;

"God"

keep the working class

used

is

themselves usually be reduced


really

nothing but...

A more

Dawkins, who claims that

to

is

is

nothing

and

to

Reductionist arguments can

"nothing buttery"

recent reductionist

God

(.on

different classes in society

to justify the divisions of society

in its place.

iN(;

(1856-1939), and, perhaps

IrcLui

most famously, Karl Marx (1818-83), who claimed that "God"


but the

is

that

God

is,

biologist

is

Richard

nothing but a virus infecting one

brain after another with damaging and unhealthy information.

The

Three Rs stands

third of the

God

leading to the conclusion that

cogency or

Ways

Five

A classic

validity.

of Aquinas

for refutations: these look at

exists

and then argue against

example of arguments pointing

(p. 267), all

of

which occur

Often an early form of such arguments

is

in

to

arguments
their

God

are the

other religions as well.

refuted, leading to the restatement

of the argument, leading to a further refutation, and so on. In other words,

although some arguments

and have not been


and

will

God
It

be

in

in favour of

refined,

the future. Not

have been

God

many continue
all

finally refuted.

have been conclusively refuted


to

be debated to the present day

arguments pointing

The

issues are

still

to the existence of

Theodicy

open.

remains the case that such arguments cannot be conclusive because

whatever

God may

be

(if

than the conclusion of an

God is certainly a
argument. What arguments

anything),

great deal

can do

is

more
point to

God (or otherwise), and to the far greater sense that


many features in a universe like this (and as yet we do

the probability of

can be made of

not have any others with which to compare

God

exists.

varied so

If,

however, that

is

so,

much and have seemed

That was the question of the

it)

on the assumption that

Claims

that

God

is

all-

powerful and all-loving arc


called into question by

undeserved suffering,

like

that of starving children.

Some suffering is caused by


human evil, but much

why have human words about God

occurs in the inilaral order

so often to be ourselves "writ large"?

overivhieh tmmaus liaiv

little

black

girl.

uo control.

The Images

iciuucs

Mil
Till
L(in\crtL'd
I

shall tind

l!l

Human

ill

\l

me"

is

huaoiuaiiou

the missionarx

\skI::d

cilllL

her '"Where

God

of

god?"He has

said the missionary.

who

said,

had

"Seek and ye

So begins the book by

"

Shaw (1856-1950), The


Her Search for God. The blaek girl

the Irish playwright, George Bernard

Adventures of the Black Girl


takes the advice
to

knock down any

in

picks up her large stick or knobkerry in order

literally,

and

false idols,

sets off

On

on her search.

her way she

meets people who make many different claims about the nature of God

Shaw OH

Why

Christ

a trial? Tlie question

seems a

of 'Not this

cri'

is to get on with what we can manage, cultixating


own garden: "II fant cidtiver noire jardiii".
Shaw argued that "God" is not an answer to anything, because people

that the only "answer"

man

have repeatedly challenged and changed prevailing ideas about God, to

but Barahbas... 'This man'

the point that "God" has no reality outside their ideas: "The Bible,

has not been a failure yet;


for

scientifically obsolete in

nobody has ever been

sane enough

meets Voltaire

our

of resolute adherence to

the old

girl

Candide concludes

cultivating his garden (see caption, right). Voltaire's

hopeless one after 2,000


U'lirs

end of her search, the black

(see box, below). At the

not give Christianity

to /it his \va\"

lAndrocles and the LionJ.

record of

how

mankind

to

all

other respects, remains interesting as a

the idea ol God, which

the

is

first effort

of civilized

account for the existence and origin and purpose of as

The Little Black Girl


During her search

THE LORD OF HOSTS


sacrifice

for

God. the

He demands

creation

is

her wh\ so

much

version of

of

badly done.

meaning in anything except enjinment


good things ol ibis lile.

THE PROPHET MICAH


ol'

le

ol the

tells

her that

Cod

is

i-

THE CARAVAN OF THE CURIOUS

power

have transferred belief


for

them Cod

is

is

le

sa\s ibat

Cod

is

ol linipire.

JESUS: lie lells her that Cod is uitbin her.


PETER: le IS earrying the Church on bis back
I

and has with bim others "carrying smaller and

of

is

to

Ihey

Natural Selection and

a fable.

A MUSLIM: He
hie

all

that their

the right one.

is

believes that

Cod

is

manifold: Allah alone

Allah:
is

one...

the core of the onion, the bodiless centre

number

ot the

innumerable

the imponderable

a eondiliont'd relley.

the

girl

are waiting for the Messiah.

"Man's nature

denounces the

churches - but

black

without which there could be no body.

be psychologist

A ROMAN SOLDIER:

Cod

little

JEWS: They

I-

saerihee.

PAVLOV:

uglier paper

I-

THE PHILOSOPHER FROM THE BOOK


OF ECCLESIASTES: lie can find no

Cod

much

them assure the

THE CREATOR FROM THE BOOK OF


tell

black girl meets:

mostly

and blood.

JOB: He cannot

little

belie\e' said the

air.

the

stars,

He

the

is

the weight of

'You are a poet,

'

image maker. The Arab, thus

interrupted, coloured deeply; sprang to his feet;

and drew

me

ol

IS .111

bis scimitar.

'Do you dare

to

accuse

being a \v\\d balladmongerr' he said. 'This


insult to be

wiped out

in

blood"

(p. 29).

III

inLicli

ihc Lini\crsc us \\c arc conscious

(il

childish

ol,

dc\clo|is Ironi

,i

of a thundering, earthquaking, laminc sinLmu,

itIiiLitry

"I'ish sin,

mill

But

omnipotent Bogey Man, maker of night and day and sun and

moon, of the four seasons and

their miracles of seed

and harvest,

word

affectionate father, evolving finally into the incorporeal

never becomes flesh,

that

Vis Natiinie,

its

Evolutionary Appetite,

Vital, its Life Force, its

its still

and what not"

abstract Categorical Imperative,

its

(p. 69).

Montesquieu (1689-1755),

an obsen'ation

It is

had a God, God would

"If triangles

at least as old as

the

Wio

Faith

by-

we

not Wholly

cry,

Dr}'.

there (they trust) their

s\i'in}i

crc

One
were hegiui.

rii'ers

And under

that

And

in that

Almighty Fin,

may

Tlie littlest fish

enter

Heaven

in....

of idl

their wish.

returned the compliment; according to his contemporary,

"

Ami

is

Immense, of fishy form and inind.


Squamous, omnipotent and hind.

more

God in their own


image. It was indeed Voltaire's own remark that God created
man in his own image (Genesis 1.26-7) and man promptly

have three sides.

darkly know,

su'iiiiuieth

Elan

that people always create

is

I'lillil;

there unylhiii<J Beyond?...

which point modern science and

at

philosophy takes up the problem with

Shaw's point

We

is

'Hie future

benevolent sage, a just judge, an

liiiw iheir Sin-niii

//'(')

pestilence launching, blinding, deafening, killing, dcstrucli\cl\

to a braver idealization of a

\(.l

\1

Greek

philosopher .Xenophanes (6th/5th centuries BCE):

There sludl he no more hnid.


sayfisir
(Brooke, pp.35f)

"Oxen, lions and horses,

if they had hands with


would fashion gods according to
own shapes and give tJieiu bodies like their own"

ivhich to
their

cane

images,

(Fragment 15)

Voltaire
Voltaire

more recent

times, an attractive version of this

Inwritten by the poet Rupert

Brooke (1887-191

poem Heaven (see box, above right). All our


language about God seems to be limited in this way.
his

It

is,

use the technical phrase, culturally relative

to

i.e., it

relates to,

and

is

an expression

whatever ideas and words are available


time

any particular culture. That

in

of words believed to be revealed in

hear and read the


others) treat the

Word

Book

self-revelation of

as

though

Book

God

any

true even

is

which people
(among

of God. Sikhs

earth (p. 126), but they do not


of supposing that the

of,

at

it

actually

has to be

God on

is

make

the mistake
is

made

God. The
(if

it

through words that people can understand, and


these words necessarily belong to particular

people and times and languages.

So

if

except

God cannot be

in

described

the image of ourselves, and

those images change enormously

Irom one generation


how,
that

if

is

at all,

to another,

can we say anything

independently reliable

about Clod?

v\'li

5) in

1694-177H] wrole

Candide

after the Lishim


o\

/7SS

tlie

view

earthquake
question

under

God

"all

to
llnil
i\

for the hcst


in the hesi of all

possible u'urLls

lA

>

>

God

Speaking of
A

Process of Correction

of God have
GEORGE Bernard Shaw argued that imaginations
that
of what

been corrected and changed so

oi^ten

little is leFt

was once believed about God; indeed, he claimed, there is


nothing left of God. The fact, however, that we cannot talk adequately
about something does not mean that there

nothing

is

to talk about.

Scientists cannot talk adequately about the universe, but that does not

mean

that there

revising

is

nothing

de\elops by correcting

itself as

it

goes along

it is

corrigible: its

statements are, to use the technical words, approximate,


corrigible

The

- and

wrong from the point of view of

often

fallible,

later generations.

of science has led to massive corrections of

corrigibilitv'

past, as the

its

own

sequence from Newtonian absolutes of space and time,

Einstein and

relativity, to

Bohr and quantum mechanics,

also illustrates the \ital point that

It

always

to talk about. In fact, scientists are

what they say about particular features of the universe. Science

Newton

did not

become

compfetelv "wrong": the older theor\' remains valid enough


time and space

in

which human beings

live) for

practical purposes (see caption). Nevertheless,

it

to

to

illustrates.

(in

the kind of

be reliable

for

some claims about

many

the

universe have been discarded completely, although for generations they

seemed secure and


Newton s Laws

were

Tlie npemtioiuil success of

salcUites atid space probes


nitiiess to the

validity of

is

enduring

Newton s

laws,

even thotigh in other ways


his

all.

"All space",

which

is

real.

and ether

They were thought necessary

wrote Newton,

"is

permeated by an

elastic

medium

capable of propagating vibrations of sound, only

them have had

velocity." Yet all of

to

\\

in

light:

or aether,

ith far greater

be rejected: the unfamiliarit\ of the

terms shows how completely they have been abandoned.


It is

pinsical universe has been

incomplete insights of

be

order to explain processes such as combustion and the propagation of

conception of the

superseded by the (also

necessary. Spissitude, phlogiston, caloric,

in their time, believed to

when

easy to find examples of the corrigibility of science: there was a time

the earth

the universe;

v\

as thought to

when

insects

be

static

and mice,

and somev\ here near the centre of

fish,

and

frogs

were spontaneously

quantum mechanics.

generated from decaying matter;

venous and the

arterial,

when

the blood flowed in two systems, the

passing from one to the other through invisible

pores in the septum of the heart, and through anastomoses, or minute

openings, between the veins and the arteries.


(p. 10)

would have put

it,

They were,

scientific entities of the highest

as

Mencken

eminence, and

all gone down the chute. And the process of correction continues.
The conclusion we draw from this is not that science has changed its
past pictures so often that we cannot any longer trust it. In fact, exactly

they have

the reverse

with what

is

true.

may be

it

is

open

to correction

and concerned

turns out to be reliable, even though on

it happens to have been wrong. In other words, what


ma\ be approxim.itc. prox Isional, corrigible, fallible, and

particular matters
scientists sa\

Because science
said truly,

often wrong, but

No

nevertheless, wrou^ about souiethiiio.

is,

it

scientist

and completely what the universe is like, but what there


in the case of the universe allows approximate and changing pictures to
be given and to be found reliable. From the evidence, therefore, of
can say

finally

much

experience,

of

it

e.xperimental, scientists create provisional pictures

means

of the universe and of ourselves. By no

No

direct observation.

observe evolution as
of argument

known

it

happened millions of years

(or

is

bound

That

is

ago. But by the kind

like this

is

and evolution.

true also of

God. What people say about God

be approximate, provisional, corrigible, and often wrong.

to

because "no one has ever seen God" (John

so,

from

evidence) in what can be observed the

(provisional) truth of neutrinos

Something

of this can be based on

all

one, for example, can see neutrinos directly, nor

as "abductive inference" (p. 266), they infer

conducive properties

is

Because God

is

to observation.

Why

not?

By abductive inference, we may conclude, from our

God

experience of the universe and of ourselves, that

God can be

1.18).

not an object like other objects in the universe, open

experienced directly (as being present to

This means that

is.

us),

but

God cannot
we

be observed immediately (but only as mediated through the things


sense and our subsequent reflection; see also

On

the basis of experience and argument, people have corrected and

changed the provisional pictures of God:

some

like spissitude

things that used to be claimed about

caption, right).

We

are

now

God

But

this

does not

mean

God

correcting the view that

that

God

is

and phlogiston,

are simply

book, outside quotations, the masculine pronoun

is

is

wrong

(see

male: in this

not used of God.

not there to be talked about. As

with science and the universe, so with God.

Our

pictures are

No one

and completely what God is


the many ways described in

like,

this

can

tell

you

finally

but the long engagement with God, in

book, has sifted and

winnowed human

understanding. That has happened only because people have found


sufficiently

what there

changing pictures

to

is

in

the case of

God

for

trustworthy as a foundation for the approach to


in

Bj

prayer and other ways of worship.


E.xperiencing the world leads to

j^^..

|j^~v;,

-_^^_

approximate an

be given and to be found reliable and

the recognition of

God

arc constantly being changed

and

corrected.

It is

matter of fact that


old

man

not a

God

is

an

with a long white

beard sitting on a cloud a

few thousand feet above

the

earth. Nevertheless,

traditional images retain

approximate, provisional, corrigible, and often wrong. But the possibility

remains that they are wrong about some One.

God Created Adam


Cod

Long-held views about

p. 20).

their

power

in

human

imagination, not only iu


poetty

and

pravi'r

art,

and

hut also in
wiirship.

i\

kom

r ION
1

Experiencing the World


Human

The

W|||N

Response

THE WRITER BlLL Bryson (bom 1951) made


town America" for his book

his "travels in small

The Lost Continent, he decided


CJrand Canyon.

When

with a thick fog. Even

to revisit the

he got there, everything was covered


so,

he decided

to

walk

to a look-out

point on the edge of the Canyon:

"EventitaUy

came

to a platfoiiii of roclis,

marking the edge of the canyon. There was no


fence to keep you hack from the edge, so I shuffled
caiitiotisly

over

and looked down, hut could

nothing hut grey soup.

came along and

see

middle-aged couple

what a

as ive stood chatting aboitt

dispiriting experience this was, a miraculous thing

happened. The fog parted.

It

drew

just silently

back, like a set of theatre curtains heing opened,

and suddenly we saw

that

we were on

a sheer, giddying drop of at least a


T/je

the
liy

'Jesus!'

Grand Canyon

In Native

Canyon

is

the path

made

and jumped hack, and

moments

all

was

And

line.

all

along

'Jesus!',

like a

then for

many

silence, except for the tiny fretjul shiftings

his

of the snow, because out there in front of us was the most

wife in the spirit world.


It

said

message heing passed down a long

Ta-Vwoats when he took a

mourning chief to find

we

the canyon edge you could hear people saying

American mylh,

the edge of

thousand feet

awesome, most silencing

was a place offear until


was added as a

sight that exists

on earth"

the river

What was happening

barrier against

inside

Bill

moment?

Biyson's brain and body at that

External receptors in his eyes and cars were transmitting sensory

hiiruijul invaders.

The Long Route and the Short Cut


How
!

the brain converts sensor)' inputs into feelings

THE LONG ROUTE:


sends the inputs

so that there can be

going on. Although


a sense in

In this route the brain

via the cortex to the

some

it

before our emotions

what

sifting of

happens very

which we stop

to think

come

amygdala

fast,

about

into pkiy.

it

is

reactions.

THE SHORT CUT:


(lor

ever

In

some circumstances

example, lacing a snake about to

those

is

there

-i-

and

who

- they

stop to think
will

may

strike),

stop thinking for

be dead. So the brain has

short-cut route, from the thalamus to the

amygdala which

initiates the

response

at

once.

M'l

nicssatics to specific areas ol the thalamus,

responses throughout the body.

jumped back
That

and had profound

in fear,

a very over-simplified

is

research in these areas

we do know

is still

in

such

way

District

beings.

We

pointed to

account, and, in any case, brain

who respond

'Tliat's

come from

my favourite,' said

'Smashing,

and

isn't it?'

one.

replied the

other" (Nicholson, p. 194).

That

is

a direct seeing of

something which evokes the

who

experience of beauty.

thus experience the world and themselves. These experiences


often

strange piece oj

contorted as a Chinese lizard:

sense the world, not simply as cameras

with interpretation and feeling, and

"a

and went to
of them

One

quartz, golden, glittering

at a very early stage. Nevertheless,

recording mechanically whatever passes through the lens, but as

people

in

a case of minerals.

feelings of beauty

that the

human

came

the village

that he

way our brains and bodies respond with


feelings and emotions to what goes on around and within us is
absolutely fundamental, not just for our survival, but for what we
are as

in

museum in the Lake


when two children frmn

the Ruskin

and hearing of
a

Norman

Tire British poet

to initiate appropriate

direct seeing

was interpreted

\i l\

Nicholson recalled standing

The cortex then sorted out what was going on and alerted

external circumstances

and these processed

the signals and sent the results to specialized areas of the cortex.

another part of the brain, the amygdala,

K'l

a direct seeing of the world (see box, right).

Of course, our immediate emotions may be mistaken. When we think


it, we may conclude that there was no need for fear (there is less in
this than meets the eye), or, when our emotions come into play later on, we
may conclude that something that seemed dull is actually very moving (there
is much more in this than meets the eye). TTiis means that the brain relates
sensory inputs (what we see, hear, touch, etc) to our feelings and reactions in
two connected ways, known as the long route and the short cut (see box,
below left). The feelings and experiences that make us human and keep us
alive may happen in a very direct way or they may happen through a process

about

of thinking and reflection.

It is

the second process that allows us to build

the worlds of our imagination on the basis of our emotions:

books and music,

We

for e.xample, or

we compose poems and

we

write

pictures.

never see "fear" or "beauty" as such, however.

We

sense (see, hear, etc) things that carry within themselves


the signals that evoke our various emotions.

are

known

towards

'):

technically as "conducive properties

'

The

signals

(Latin duco,

"I

lead

conducive properties are those features that lead to one

emotional response rather than another. People watching a horror


film can be genuinely frightened because the film-maker has

deliberately put before their eyes the conducive properties that will

create the emotion of fear.

So

also with

God: we do not see "God": we

see conducive properties in the world around us and in other people that

produce the appropriate emotion and response


thankfulness - and, to a degree, of

fear.

of

awe, wonder, worship,

Rudolf Otto (1869-1937)

described the feeling as mysteriiun treniendiim jascinans

overwhelming mystery that


feeling or

emotion of being

inspiring Otherness

who

is

in the

Experiencing Beauty

et augiistiii,

awe-inspiring but also attracting.

an

Ohien'ing a thing nj

heinily,

such as a perfect flower, we

presence of transcendent and awe-

do not see "beauty", we see

nevertheless

is

It is

present with us in a personal

way and who draws us into ever deeper relationship. It is, therefore, a
feeling of profound meaning and purpose. It is the natural sense of God.

conducive properties ihul

produce the appropriate


response.

NTRO M
I

'

O\

Rodi)i

The pod

and Rilke

God

Experiencing

Rilkc- {p. 277) so

adtnircd the work of Rodin


(

the

work below hicludes

Vie Hand of God) that he


studied with him in 1902 in

Fundamental Awareness

order to create in words the

power of Rodin's scidplure


"But nmv and then the

WAY THAT HUMAN BODIES and brains are built leads us to see
and experience the world (and our own inner nature) in both

THE

curtain of the eyelid


Lifts soundlessly

-An

emotional and rational ways.

image
that

enters then,

tension of the limbs.

for

ceases to exist"

505

concerned,

is

We

use the neocortex to think and reflect on this e-xperience.

Reaches the heart - and

I.

Where God

means

this

see directly the conducive properties that lead to the emotion

and experience of God, although we never see God im-mediately - that


is, not mediated through the world and its objects. We may then also

Runs through the quiet

iSiimtliche Werke.

we

i.

example, think that

experience of God, but

may,

we were after all mistaken; we felt it was an


we now think that it was an experience of,
shall we say, profound beauty.
On the other hand, we may think
and

it;

deepen
and

on

reflect

trust

this experience,

and

we may then extend and


such things as prayer

in

it

praise, theology

of ritual (p. 42)

and the theatre

- and

also in valuing

the world and other people in such a

new way

that

changes

it

how we live.
we see

Fundamentally, therefore,

and experience God

directly (though

not immediately) through the

occasions of the world because our


brains and bodies are built in the
way they are. We can no more not
I

eel

God

we can not feel fear.


we may reconsider almost

than

Rationally

any emotion and reinterpret or even


But the experience of

suppress

it.

Ciod will

still

remain a

possibility

and

an opportunity for brains and bodies

we

of the kind that

makes sense

On

have.

It still

to say, "Let us pray".

this basis,

many people

claim

to

ha\c a sense of God, or experiences

of

God, or

at least

experiences that

point to the reality of God. Particular

experiences

may

not be

all

that

important in religions, not least

because

we can

so often be mistaken

about them and their meaning. Even


so.

we cannot know

aboLit the

\l'l

on the basis

L'xislcncc of iinything except

on the

that the world exists except

we can

experiences that

experience:

ol'

basis of

we cannot know
of it -

share with each other of such a kind that

applies to God:

The same

this).

N( l\(.

some experiences

reasonable to conclude that the world exists (though

have disputed

KM

it is

some philosophers

we cannot have any

if

experience of God, the question of God's existence cannot seriously arise

Arguments from experience


philosophers warn

how

it

is

from

to cross the bridge

what

to the truth or reality of

claimed experience

and

are never a simple matter,

difficult

claimed to

is

"We can now put

have been experienced: the fact that people claim to have been
abducted by aliens does not lead automatically to the conclusion

evidence in favour of [the claim

that aliens actually exist outside their imagination.

liven so,

we have nothing

else except

our reflections on, and sharings

of,

that]

our experiences (and

them) on which

to build

to

make

experience of

why we make particular


can then decide whether we have offered

human

of the credulous nature of


believe

what we are

But where warrants


there

is

beings -

told, especially

supporting evidence for them

check of them

what
in

is

i.e.,

are able to

one could not


does not

where

so,

Clearly

is,

therefore, a

sLimmari/ed

fundamental reason why belief

at least

many

rely

From

on the experiences of others

of them) find that,

consequence of

in

3), is that

the box, right.

God continues,
many people

and experiences which they take

either have awareness

God, or they

in

whom

be of

to

they trust; and they (or

when they trust and live with the truth and


made different in hugely important ways.

this, their lives are

all this,

it

is

clear that the awareness of

experience and reflection,

is

occur extremely commonly

fundamental.

If

God,

in

human

that awareness did not

every society and every generation (as

in

it

has most certainly done), there could not have been the constant change

and correction, to which Bernard Shaw drew attention,


people have imagined God.

in tlu'

ways that

more
more profoundly
the nature of the One who has invited and drawn them on. The story of
science is a fascinating tribute to the integrity of the human spirit. So too

The human

story of

God

deeply into the presence of

is

the story of God. But

what does

that actually

phenomenology

if

is

the story of people being drawn

God

as they have learnt

the e,\periencing of

mean?

to answer, or

it is

God

is

the work of what

attempt

to

so fundamental,
is

known

answer, that question.

as

if
is

then one has experiential

God

exists'

(Yandfll, p. 17)

reason for trusting

despite the Three Rs of rejection (pp. 12-1

discoi'er,

exist, that this

evidence that

approximate and corrigible words. This means, therefore, that there

God - an argument

no

God
God or

make some

from a philosophical point of view, a serious argument based on experience


pointing to the existence of

is

experience

were no

that

those claims are as always expressed

if

to

if there

God

from the witness of

we have good

then

for ourselves,

being claimed, even

(e.g.,

we

even

our willingness to

for particular assertions are offered,

other people), and particularly where

would seem

fantastic or incredible!

if it is

God under

reason to think either that one

reminding ourselves

sufficient warrants for our assertions, always

exists along these

one has an apparent

conditions in which there

clear the reasons

claims, and others

God

lines: If

our

understandings of the world, the universe, and God. Certainly

we need

the vieiv that

religious experience provides

IN

Roni

IO\

Phenomenology
The Nature and Cause
God

IN

BELIEF

rests

of Experience

on much more than

claims to an experience

of God. In fact, claims to specific experiences of


treated with great caution in virtually

God

have been

because they

religions,

ail

can so often be confused with aberrant states of the brain, including the

many people do have

influence of drink and drugs. Even so,


the presence of

God

that

and alone), but rather

What
The

is

is

not private (belonging to

many
An immense

shared with

experiences are they?

task of describing these belongs to

them

a sense of

exclusively

others.

book shows.
phenomenology -

variety, as this

what

is

from the Greek phaiuomeua, "appearances", +

known

as

logos, "word", "reason",

Phenomenology exists on two levels (see box, below): it sets


describe, first what people report as their own experience, and

"reflection".

out to

second, what

we have

to infer or accept as the basis for those experiences

- what has brought them


about chairs (see box) or

into being.
lor ihat

Phenomenologists may seem

iii.iller.

Father Christmas,

to talk

an extremelv

in

The Two Levels of Phenomenology


Describhtg unci nccniiiUing

THE FIRST LEVEL:

This

tries to

describe

the linings thai people report having experienced


(the appearances

in their

own awareness

appeanmces.

fcir

THE SECOND LEVEL:

existence for the reports at the

or

consciousness) without entering into the truth

so consistently made.

what they report. So, when the poet


Henry Vaughan wrote, "1 saw eternity the other
night. Like a great ring of pure and endless
light
the phenomenologist records, "Henry
Vaughan has reported the appearance in his
consciousness of what he describes as a ring of

appearances

pure and endless

"chairs",

or value of

appeared

to

him

and he reports that

light,

to

be

eternity."

At this

This asks what

this

level, a

phenomenologist simply records what people

commenting on its truth or


People may report tlial thev saw

in their

Many

first level

awareness that they

The phenomenologist at the


first level makes no comment on whether chairs
do or do not exist. When many reports come in
confirming each other and exhibiting
consistency

ask,

in

a great

the features that constitute

phenomenologists

what must be the case

at

the second level

in a

worid of

kind for reports of such consistency to

appearance
first level

simply records that these are the appearances


that people report, without

uhether

comes

I'ather

Christmas

tiow n chiiimevs.

commenting on
truly exists

and

of

how

in

in?

and others can use the word

"chair" with a clear sense of the kind of

the

this

come

existence.

at

be

describe as chairs.

In th.il Ha\, they

Christmas: a phenomenologist

to

people report

report without

Father Christmas on the night before

we

are entitled to infer as necessarily being in

consciousness to which

to use the

word

"chair",

and

of

it

relers,

the

in which it is an appropriate
- when people have an appearance

circumstances

word

to use

in their

consciousness or awareness of an object

with lour leus,

,i

se.il. aiul a

baek.

I'll!

complicated way, hut

Many

it

shows how important

people claim that belief

in

God

Christmas - something we believe


understand things

better.

record the belief (without

it

to

is

commenting on

its

They

also record that children

That, however,

belief

is

story.

in reality

slowly".

when we

at the first level

they

truth or value)

them

grow out of that

not the end of the

phenomenologists ask what

level,

belief into being,

year,

is

()(.y

Father

but grow out of

in as children

Phenomenologists are wiser;

of children that Father Christmas exists and brings


gifts.

"make haste

like belief in fairies or

is

NUiWI.NDI

belie!

At the second

has brought that

and point out that what gives

rise to that

the expectation of children at a particular time of

and the experience of someone dressing up

in

recognizably symbolic clothes and distributing presents.


It

is

immediately obvious that the reported experience of

Cod

is

not remotely like the reported experience of Father

Christmas. In the case of God, phenomenologists


record, as does this book,

first level

what people

at the

report.

At

the second level, they (along with anyone concerned with

we are and of what we are able to become)


do not just describe those reports; they ask, what must we
infer to be truly the case for reports of that kind to be so
the truth of what

consistently

made? What

in

human

the word God, allowing us to use

it

experience has evoked


in

ways that others can

understand? Not something as obvious as a hand

my

face.

Maybe
play.

in front of

But something - or some


it

seems obscure, but

One - unmistakably
Tom Stoppard, in his

real.

Jumpers, caught the point exactly. George Moore, a

philosopher, reflects on what he can

know of God - and


we may well have

having just touched on phenomenology,

some sympathy with


why he goes on with

the difficulties he gets into. Then he

remembers

Father Christmas

The claim

the struggle to understand:

is

sometimes nuide

that belief in

"How

dijficuh

know

know what it is one believes when it's so


to know wJiut it is one knows? I don't claim to
God exists, I oidv claim that he does without my

does one

that

do not claim to
it, and while I claim as iiiucli
much; indeed I cannot know and God knows I
cannot. (Pause.) And yet I tell you that, now and again, not
necessarily in the contemplation of rainbows or newborn
knoxi'iug

know

as

babes, nor in extremities of pain or joy, but

ambushed by some

quite trivial

moment -

more probably

say the exchange

of signals between two long-distance lorry-drivers in the


black sleet of a god-awful night ovi the old A I - then in
that dip-flash, dip-flash of headlights in the rain that seems
to affirm

some common ground that is not animal and not


- then I tell you I know" {p.7l)

long-distance lorry-driving

God

is

like

belief in fairies or Father

we may believe
when young
but grow out of them when
we are older and wiser
Christmas:

ill

such things

Phenomenology
second

level

claim

at the

shows why
is

wrong.

that

i\

Ronic

io\

"Euclid has fully explained

God and

all

Values

the qualities of the circle; but he

has not, in any proposition, said


a u'ord of
is

Tlie reason

its beaitty.

The beauty

evident.

quality of the circle.

is

It lies

not in

an\ part oj the line whose parts


are equally distant

common
effect,

centre.

which

Ti

only the

that figure produces

TOW

humans can experience

shows

(p. 23)

events, objects, and people

n ways that transcend their ordinary nature.

The human

brain and body allow us to discern truth, beauty, and goodness as

upon the mind, whose peculiar


fabric or structure renders

"knowing" described by George Moore

ii;

from a

It is

and Love

Beauty, Truth, Goodness,

not a

having an independent and absolute value. This sense of

it

many

absolute value encourages

susceptible oj such seutitnents"

p.

17)

God

When

(Hume, App. 13)


in

as

its

to recognize (direct seeing,

foundation and guarantee. Others dispute

Pope Benedict XI was choosing an

this.

artist for St Peter's

Rome, Giotto simply drew for him a circle. The Pope and
saw not just skill but beauty in the circle and chose

his

ad\'isors

Giotto. Four centuries

hilosopher, David
i|UL'stioned their

later,

Hume

judgement arguing

c\cryone can agree,

if

they

measurements, whether a

ms

a Scottish

(171 1-76)

make

that

the right

them

line before

a circle, but they cannot agree

whether

it

Hume

is

beautiful (see box, top

left).

argued that not only are aesthetic

judgements (judgements about what

is

beautiful or ugly) subjective, so also are

moral judgements (judgements about what


good, and about how we ought to act); "If
we can depend upon any principle which
we learn from philosophy this, think, may
is

be considered as certain and undoubted.


that there

is

nothing, in

itself,

valuable or

tiespicable, desirable or hateful, beautiful


iir

deformed; but that these attributes arise

1)1

human sentiment and

m
Giotto di

Bondone

Giotto {c.l267-lii7)

painted

this fresco

of'Tlie

.\doration oj the Kings" circa


I

iOi-10. Admired

painter

who

as "a

It

imposed on what we

I'ossihly

on the

pp.264-S

life

of Francis

in Assisi,

and of

ihc //oil laniih in l\hliui

Hume

the Pyrenees," obserx'ed Pascal

(p. 31

argued that our disagreements about


objectivity,

works are the frescoes.

see, then,

argued, that

about what counts as good or as beautiful. "What

surpasses all

most jamoiis

way

affection."

judgements about goodness and value are not "seen" but simply

others" {Sacchetti. 14th


centiir)'), his

the particular constitution and fabric

that

and

we

for the

same

reason;

see a circle; and

Hume

"is

is

is

why we

ail

not true on the other."

But

Hume

God

did not distinguish

(like circularitx) that entail

Hume

God point to the same lack of


we do not see God in the same
went on

to argue, in Dialogues

Concerning Natural Religion (1779), that the classic arguments


pointing to the existence of

disagree

true on one side of

are fundamentally flawed.

between measurable properties

(make nccessar\

shared judgements.

AM) VAM

>n

and conducisc properties

lliul

are not necessarily coercive

lead to shareable judi;ciiicnts but

judgements

(i.e.,

"The Yoruba

that everyone has to

aesthetically

humans, with the kind of


brains and bodies that they have, do make shareable judgements
about beauty, goodness, and God, and that these judgements
relate to the facts they see. The judgements are corrigible and

The

share).

basic fact remains that

a dye, to the dress

it

the case of circularity. But that

in

is

nothing

is

is

like so

one of the

us

people

say,

in

China regard

and

or a man.

de'port}iieut

An

enity in

earliest dictionaries oj

1858, was amewa,

literally

one who looks for the


iiianifestation of

let

ami

'knower-of-beauty', 'connoisseur'.

true of virtually every

aesthetic judgements of beauty (see box, right) although

what they and,

ta.ste

their language, piihlished in

strong as

judgement we make in the course of our everyday lives.


This means, to take an example, that the Yoruba in Africa

make

woman

oj a

the conducive properties are seen directly and entail shareable

judgements - though the entailment

the

colour nj a yam, to the qualities of

but they are nevertheless objective, because

fallible (pp.l6f),

assess ei'eiythin^

-from

as beautiful

pure aiiistn"

rhornpsun, p.S)

is

different. For the Yoruba, there are particular properties that lead
to the

response of "beauty'

"Beauty

mean

seen in the

is

something not too

(overhandsome people turn out

many folktales)

in

(iwontiinsuonsi)

in

be skeletons in disguise

to

or too ugly. Moreover, the Yoruba

and improvisation per

appreciate freshness

or too short, not too beautiful

tall

se in the arts.

These preoccupations are especially evident in the rich

and

body of art worJis celebrating Yoruba religions"

vast

(Thompson,

Built

we

as

to the

we cannot

are,

world

p. S)

help but interact w

in these ways.

We know

what

ith

and respond

truth, beauty,

goodness are absolutely, because we recognize them


of the

many

different circumstances in

remain absolutely what they are

which they occur; and they


goodness) even

(truth, beauty, or

though we disagree on what counts as beautiful or good


the case of truth). In the

- greater because

it

same way, but

and

any

in

greater than

compels us into behaviours

in

all

(less so in

three,

which we

is

love

forget

ourselves for the good of others.


It is

here that

many people

recognize God. The lact that

experience absolutes in the course of this


is

a matter of

from the
its

chance and accident.

One who

is

It is

life is

not at

very odd

all

odd

if

it

we
the universe

they

perfection) creating and holding in being a world like this

which absolutes constitute us

When we
we begin

even to know,

transcendence. Even
people talk about

But the

God

human

will

in all

so,

God

we do

will

ability to

be the same for

to

add

- one

to

in

the finest aspects of our being.

recognize these values, and


to realize,

come

Absolute (complete and needing nothing

live

our

lives

not

Yoruba Can'ing

on the basis of them,

God is, the source and meaning


know what God is, and so the way

that

of

be as varied as the way they talk about beauty

experience truth, beauty, goodness, love, and


all

who

are built as

humans

are.

The 24

million Vbni/xi live

mainly in Nigeria and are

known for
and

their craft skills

their strong religious

belief. !sh(n!go

(p.iOi) was

iinporluul iniinng their Gods.

INTRODL CTION

The Death and

God

Life of

Oppoiiiuiity and Imitation

EORGE Moore's "knowing"


people

v\

ho

knowledge

"T7ie Christian's

God

oj

not an endless course of

is

reasonings on God's essence

and

perfections, like those of a

wathewatician on the

Many

the triangle.

and

who

theologians,

and noble

circle

and

philosophers

held grand

none the wore holy

soul

is

and unlearned

men

Many

fitly

persons, taught in

and write

heaivnly things in a
painjul ivay.
I

p. 252

kneiv

St

God

dr\'

oj

and

Antony

after this sort

when he complained that the


sun rose too early, and put an
end

to his prayer;
{p. 264)

Francis

and

so did St

when he

spent

whole nights repeating with


wonderful delight those words:

My

God. and my All. 'The sense

of God.

knowledge,
saints,

this

experimental

ivas the desire oj all

and

the jruit of their

union with him'

past,

God

God. People,

do report

is

and fluent nonsense. The

among

not an object

other

a direct

much as
God mediated through

the present as

in

sense of

in the

the world

and other people; and many also report passing beyond words
the realitv to whom their words inadequately point.

Some conclude from


universe

w ord

is

God

this that

the body or the process of

is

to

the universe, or that the

God

that

(i.e..

"God"

is

transcendent nature of the universe in

to describe the

does indeed

exist,

it

more often it is recognized that if God


must be in a way that is independent of this

or anv other universe.

God

circumstances that give

remains independent of the

rise to the feeling or

(which can he the entire universe


reported, of identity

ith

emotion of God

in a feeling, very

commonlv

the w hole cosmos), just as, for

example, the snake remains independent of the feeling or

emotion of fear Neither God nor the snake


emotion. That
repeatedly.

at

It is

is

simply an

once makes clear why the death of God occurs

hard enough to describe the nature of a snake,

even though we can capture, obsene, and dissect


impossible to capture, obsene, and dissect God:

attempts to describe the essential nature of


necessarily

fail.

The dilemma

is

that

always remain necessary. Otherwise


share w
feelings

^C;rou.

that

is

relation to ourselves). Far

who. not being

oj prayer, speak

major problem here

more

more nobly, and


and fervently, than the

ablest doctors

men

are

oj him.

fluently,

winnowing process through which the human imagination of


God (and language about God) has changed.
That is important, since it is not easy to speak about God: to
speak fluently and fenently (as Grou put it. left) is not in itself

direct sense of

simple

the school oj God. speak

of experience, and that has undoubtedly contributed to the

immediate observation, no matter how much people report a

better instructed

In all their study.

left).

concerning divine things In


prater alone tluni w'lse

are not

objects in the universe, and therefore cannot be produced for

or virtuous in consequence.

The

clear (see box.

God

writing in the Christian

E\en so. philosophers are important in setting boundaries to


what can and cannot be reasonably said or claimed on the basis

a guarantee against speaking fervent

ideas of the divine

nature, were

makes

reminder that most

the presence of

Grou (17301803).

philosophers, as Jean
tradition,

(p. 23) is also a

ii\e their lives in

of

God

ith

God

it.

all

in

we would

consequence

of wh<it

in

words must

not be able to
fact that the

and emotions evoking and bearing witness

embedded

is

some words nevertheless

each other the consequences of the

are so deeply

It

human

human

to the reality

nature: they are a

the genes and proteins build.

words means thai the death ol the eharacterizations


- those many Gods and Goddesses who have, in
Mcneken's words (pp. 10-1 1) "gone down the ehute"; and for some that

So the
ol

inadc'(-|iiacy of

God

inevitable

is

means the death


describe. But far

God

of

because there

fail

as such: in their view, characterizations of

nothing

is

in existence for

God

those characterizations to

more often the death of the characterizations of God


God but the life of God - the

has proved to be not the death of

continuing

life

and

liveliness of

God

in

human

experience and

imagination because through the death of the inadecjuate, people

new Luulcrstanding and vision of God.


This is true even w here people claim that God's

into

move

,1

self-revelation has

of God. Some
God do become stable, but in revelation they are still
human languages that people can understand. That is why

supplied a kind of stability in the

human understanding

Linderstandings of

expressed
religions

in

based most strongly on revelation nevertheless make

it

clear that

God is not identical with, or captured


however much they also claim that the words

the essence (essential nature) of

the words of revelation,

in,

of revelation are the bridge

God

between people and God. So the

cannot be told from God's point of view, since

w ithout beginning or end, and


to

tell.

But the history of

is,

by definition,

desert

seek to be alone with God.

is

one of

God and

Crane

ami with reflection on what those feelings mean. Mediated

tlimugh the world, people have also experienced God. What, then,

has

become

How

has the

real

and

vivid for

which Ciod

them?

human understanding

God been deepened and winnowed


through time? That

book

will try to tel

is

the ston this

of

1}<7

l-l'^OO) wrote:

And
.\h.

a desert.

cried.

Cod, lake me frnni


this place'.'

The opportunity of God is universal because all humans


the same way by genes and proteins so that we experience the world with

in

ividlicd in

"I

always greater".
are built in

have they said about the ways

to

who

The American poet Stephen

point of view

something of the wonder and glory of what happens. Even then,


every statement about God and every act of worship has to end with the

feelings

is

without beginning or end are hard

heroic and fascinating struggle to enter into the opportunity of

is

and

it

the desert that people go

to tell

words. Dens semper maior, "God

a hostile

is

dangerous place, but

human

stories

God from

God

history of

The Desert
The

voice \aid.
I

It

is

no

cried. 'Well, bnt

voice said,

'It

(Williams,

is

p.

no

desert.'

'

desert'"

227).

ii--

r..

/s

r>

:?

A
>^^

ft

/9

^-.-r-'-'^

f^

In the Besinnin
Early in hi pcrsisiiuo foitinhitions in the lunumi senrch lor

ik

*"

;<

(^,()d.

In the Beginning
THE HUMAN SEARCH

l-OR

GoD

began long

before the invention of writing and

(much

and

beliefs

had

remembered and passed on by word

Much

(oral tradition).

w hich there are many

be

it is

makes

what the

it

about

or

it

how

world) were

what they meant

them. From the known

times

beliefs

and practices of the

may have been, but

certaint\ about

to the people

we

can be seen only from the

mean

Many of these
when suniving

used or

w hat the

out over nearly 400 square

They

are so

extensive and complicated that the overall design

God and Goddess

texts suggest
built

laid

miles of desert in Southern Peru.

unco\er the remains of buildings.


later periods

lines

(sometimes called "the eighth wonder of the

is

were. Archaeologists recover artefacts and

resemble those of

in the case of early beliefs

To take onlv one example; the Nasca

but

equally impossible to know

earliest beliefs

or inscription, there

about God.

is still

\\a\",

old

to

mouth

has changed over time.

it

Ihis

in this

know how

impossible for us to

much

information

and transmitted

preser\'ed

of

te.xt

can be wild guesses and extreme statements, of

later) of printing. In the earliest stages,

therefore, ideas, stories,

For the earliest periods, therefore, without the


controlling record of

w ho

to those

who

air.

What

did they

created but could never see

them? Some have claimed that they were


runways made for visitors from outer space w ho
were then believed to be supernatural beings first gods. The archaeologist Anthony Aveni
mapped them onto water supplies and suggested

the

infer

earlier

there cannot be any

that they

demarcated access

auspices of guardian

it.

spirits

to

water under the

(man\ designs are of

XS!^-

\
<vv

Anishina^e
Siottx
^,
Chtcksaw

Grand Caitym

NrxMa

^^^'

-oji-.

,,

" -

'--^Aztta

A
,

WflMW:,..

BENIN (D.\HC5ME\1
GHAN.J
Uhbaml)

BR-V-IL

;ll!.*)

'
,

'.:-

\llulus MiUiy

C-

I\

birds

and animals). There

is

no

linal proof,

But although meanings may be hard


recover, the forms through

God have

Ml

Timeline

to

which our ancestors


Willendnrf can'ing

Nasca Lines

fertility,

Some

nurture, nature, signs, symbols,

in

music, trance, ecstasy,

ritual,

sacrifice, architecture,

and

embedded

Nasca

for the Paracas


art

remain

in

human

brains

and bodies, on the basis of which


built

helieve the

and treasured.

lines

Peru served as a calendar

myth,

as important today as ever. All these

is

In the

endured: the

content changes, but sex,

culture

Beginning

than others.

are deeply

inUC KIN AND

Ki

bul

some suggestions remain much more probable

encountered

and Nasca

idtures, others that they

ritual

ceremonial

Native Americans settle

were

walkways from

sites.

Some even

think they were created

Catal Huyuli

h)'

alien spacecraft.

s?
Hymn

Amenophis IV
Aten
Seti

Norse myths

s?

Xenophanes

Acropolis

Alhcnagoras
Tanj.

Giotto

A/Jcc

Mayans

Newton

Montesquieu

Voltaire

Hume

Schopenhauer
Schelling

Wagner
Rodin

Shaw

Grou

Feuerbaeh

Marx

Peirce

Niet/.sche

Freud

Husserl

Ghost Dance

Otto
Rilke

Jung

Einstein

Brooke

Wittgenstein

Revival of

Wicca

p.

\ \ \
I

Goddess
Mother of All
STORY OF

THE

GoD

an equal part of

as the story of

and w

W'hv

the male

ith
is

that claim

Tilings

BEGINS with the Story of Goddess, as

Some

it.

at least

go further and say that the story began

Goddess, with the imagination of Deity as female,

God

as at best a subordinate partner.

made? Mainly because

of the widespread finds by

archaeologists of small female figures and cave paintings,

many

which, from Palaeolithic times (c.35,000-10,OOOBCt) and

later,

of

emphasize the breasts, the pregnant womb, and the vagina, exactly
those parts of
of

new

life

and

women most
its

obviously associated with the production

nourishment. For a long time, these figures were

called Venuses, after the

Roman Goddess

The common occurrence


male counterparts, led

associated with sex and love.

of Venuses, sometimes to the e.xclusion of

to the

argument

that the earliest

human

imagination of Deitv was of Goddess, and to claims as extreme as

"Death

Goddess of Willendorf
from

rhis itnciU jigure earned

limestone was found al


\\

illendorf in Austria,

used

to

and

striking early

It is

mythological and religious symbology:


religious belief.

IIS

the source of

estimate;

fertdity.

The seven

around the head may

it is

the source of all

import,ant to grasp the time dimension

God was female for at least the first 200,000


human life on earth. This is a consen'ative
wooden images of the Mother God were doubtless

carved long before the stone

Woman

life

It is

years of

example of the
acknou-ledgment of

involved:

{c.I9,000rce}

this:

the powerful dniiuutic itirsteiy equal to Birth

and both are overarched and contained by the Great


Mother Tltis concept of a female earth as the source of
cyclic birth, life, death, and rebirth underlies all

be called "the Venus

of Willendorf'.

is

but

and

wood does

Cro-Magnon

Venuses,

not sun'ive"

lines

(Sjoo and Mor, pp.48f)

reflect

the widespread recognition of


the nunihcr seven as sacred.

Was

there once a religious civili/alioii

in

which the focus, through

the cult of Goddess, was on agricLiltinv, not on killing? That was the

suggestion of James Mellaart who, during the 1960s, excavated a town

at

Catal Huyiik in Turkey that flourished as a settlement between c.(itOO

and 5500BCE. Although hunting scenes are portrayed, neither weapons


nor traces of animal slaughter were found in the excavations. There are

rooms

in

which only Goddess

is

shown

in

paintings and reliefs, suggesting

and understanding of the world and its origins reflecting the


importance of women in fertility and the sustaining of life. In some rooms,

a religion

there are pictures of female vultures standing near headless bodies,

suggesting a bclici that Goddess takes back into herself (as

in burial)

the

(.1

bodies oF the dead

in

given focus by Marija

order to bring about

new

These arguments were

life.

Gimbutas (1921-94) who

in

IDDISS

her work The Living

Goddesses claimed, on the basis of archaeological finds, that there had

been an old European culture

in

which the people were

"relatively

peaceful, agrarian, artistically creative, probably equalitarian in social

and goddess worshipping". These people were overcome by


who were "a patrilineal, pastoral, and

structure,

invaders from the steppes of Russia

semi-nomadic group of peoples... They were


weapons, and rode horses. Their

produced

militaristic,

religion centred

upon male

gods".

If

would reproduce the way in which the Aryans took over the
culture and civilization of North (and eventually virtually all) India (p. 60).
true, that

The

reconstruction of beliefs before the invention ot writing

a matter of guesswork.

Only

is

always

rarely in the case of early archaeology

is

any inscription found with the artefacts indicating what the beliefs
associated with them were. And only very much later do any texts survive
in

which people

tried to express

what

their beliefs

were, and what they meant: sometimes when

about Goddess and

God

occurrence of figures

women were

this

portrayed in early Egypt holding their breasts, and this was interpreted as

achieved,

it

clear

This means that

which are

far too

that rebirth
belief. In

that

is

but

fertility cult,

was

from

many

when

te.xts

the decipherment of hieroglyphs was

that this

was

a gesture of

mourning.

claims about early religion are made,

the source of

all

religious

symbology and of

all

religious

claims about Goddess are statements about people in the

present, not the past. Nevertheless,


texts that

India, the

it

is

obvious from both artefacts and

Goddess was widely displaced by God:

in the

case of North

disappearance of the Indus Valley images of Goddess

paralleled by the virtual disappearance of

Goddess

in the

Vedas

That process of displacement continued from early times and

produced the dominant masculine imagination and


characterization of God.

Although humans could once portray Goddess or God

and with confidence,

it

has

obvious that words and imagination


(p. 17).

become
will

increasingly

always

fall

short

Nevertheless, something, however provisional or

inadequate, has to be said to give


expression to what

human

is

some

sort ol

so true and marvellous

in

The question has become


increasingly urgent - and for some religious
people increasingly tense - how the
experience.

characterization of Deity from the experience


of

of

(left),

women

can be reaffirmed within the largely

masculine characterization of God. For some,

it

can

happen. Religion has been so patriarchal for so many


centuries that "God"

is

dead image, for them, the recovery

ol

is

(p. 62).

lilie

(found in ancient Turke}'

c.6000liCi:) that he regarded


the Great

Mother

first, strongest,

"The Discovery of the Modern Goddess", Ronald Hutton shows

many

directly

some

confident - for example, the claim in the quote

so impressed

by the widespread

texts are discovered they

contradict the interpretations offered prex-iously; thus

evidence of a

Mother Goddess
Jung fp.39) was

as "the

and most

Listing of all the archetypes"

(Husain.

p. 19).

Ill

I',

\\ \
I

The
Aiillunpologisls luivc iirgiicd

HEALING:
and

in

riu'\ h.i\c

been active

in

example, the belief that the old,

healing

after,

They have the

ALTRUISTIC ACTIONS They

become

to

il

not looked

angr\ witches leads

EVIL E^T;

rhey allow the possibility of some

action in otherwise impossible circumstances,

force a

such as casting the

society into altruistic actions: for

means

Deit\'

may decide

ways:

to better care for the aged.


^

authoriu to resoKe disputes.


4-

number of important

ivilches benefit small-scale societies in a

ihc use ol herbal medicine.

RESOLVING DISPUTES

Witches

Positive Role of

tlutt

evil

eye on an enemy.

whose

the recoveii' of Goddess,

cult anyway,

example among many of that claim

is

human

affairs

One

Wicca, from the Old

English root meaning "to bend" or "to shape".


belief that

is

it

claimed, never disappeared but simply went underground.

Wicca

rests

on

and features of the environment can

be ordered, controlled, and changed by skilled practitioners

w hose powers are usually believed


IS

to

be innate. The emphasis

on the application of power, derived especially from

C.oddess, to change existing circumstances, above

changing one's inner

Margot Adler described

Moon,
its

it

is

all

by

power within oneself, as


her book Drawing Doivn the

"the
in

"to create artistically

Witchcraft
but

life

and change one's

life

".

closely associated with the use of magic,

techniques arc derived from within, or else bestowed by a

The

supernatural agent, rather than (as often with magic) learnt.


belief that the agent

was the

devil led to a ferocious persecution

of witches in medieval Europe, an antagonism reinforced by the


fact that

witches were often

exercising powers that

Because of

this

men

women and

therefore

seemed

to

be

could not control.

antagonism, witches were usually described

More recently, anthropologists have described


their activities in more positive terms (see box, above). Witches
are certainly threatening, but that means that they can provide
way.

in a hostile

sanctions to help control aberrant behaviour.

The

increasing emancipation of

men, both

women

from the control

ol

and in religions, has also led to a rcevaluation of the role and meaning of witches. All this tindcrlics
the claim that vsitchcrall is the cndiiring way in which Goddess
in society

has been presened as


is

White Wilclies
Kevin

Ciir/voii. Ilifih Priest

uj British

white witches.

binding two
into the

new

initiates

Covenant of Earth

Magic

in 1999.

.1

li\

simply the latest stage so

According

to

Starhawk, a leader

the 2()th century, "Followers of

ol

ing

iriiili.

hir in

so that present-day

Wicca

an unbroken religious tradition.

the rccoxery of

Wicca seek

Wicca

at

the end of

their inspiration in pre-

Christian sources, European folklore, and mythology.

They consider

themselves priests and priestesses of an ancient European shamanistic


[for

who

Shamanism, see
is

pp.

601] nature religion that worships a goddess

related to the .mcicnl .Mother Goikless in her three aspects ot

Maiden, Molhcr,

diul

Crone." In

I'lu'

Spinil Dinicc (1979) she

"memhers

protested against the caricature of witches as

kooky

and claimed that Wicca has "the depth,

cult",

"A circle should be niarlied on

ot a

and

dignity,

Goddess

In this religion,

is

the focus

worship, and worship

of

(Greek

leitoitrgia: for

themselves

among

the most important ways in w hich the

opening of

tlie

their

is

expressed. Margot Adier

human

(.|iioted a ritual lor

which people can then "shape"


such

a sacred circle in

own worship

An

allar

centre

the meaning, sec p.2l4) are

,ind liturgy

experience of Deity

participate in the cereiiKiin.

ivill

seriousness of purpose of a true religion".

(see box, right). Often, hut not always,

;\

to

he

set

of the circle.

of the

ahar

necessary

win

its

way

may seem impossible


imagination of

God

people do find

it

if

shall he placed

the experience and insight of

women

is

Wlien

it...

all the

man who
She

where masculine language and

difficult to think of

people are

The woman

acts as priest to

and

incense.

shall then say:

'The presence of the noble

Goddess extends everywhere.

Throughout the many strange,

they and their tradition have imagined Him.

The masculine pronoun makes

the

light the candles

and always have been, dominant. Some


God except in the way that

are,

an

acting as priestess shall direct

into the characterization of Deity. This


in religions

at the

image of the Goddess, and (ui


incense burner placed in jront oj

ivithin the circle.

everyone has found the separation of Goddess from

to

up

Al the centre

prepared they shall assemble

worship separates Goddess from God.

NotGod

who

the floor, surrounding those

the point. In 1851,

magical,

Herman

Hawthorne
about the common dislike of God: "The reason the mass of men
fear God and at bottom dislike Him, is because they rather dislike
lis heart, and fancy Him all brain, like a watch." He then added

To

Melville (1819-91) wrote in a letter to Nathaniel

all

and beautiful

worlds.

places of wilderness,

enchinitinent.

The goddess

is

and freedom.

then worshipped

four quarters, and the people

at

in a

bracket: "You perceive

pronoun referring

and prayer: the closer

present are sealed in the circle

a capital initial in the

you think there

in the usage?" (p. 559).

What

this

is

with these words:

a slight

is

'The circle

book shows,

same as adoration, worship,


people have been drawn to Goddess or

that flunkeyism

is

employ

to the Deity: don't

dash of flunkeyism
however,

not the

God, the more they have known that their images and words
far short of the One to whom their words are pointing.
are,

I'hai

become

inevitable

when humans

try

Blessed Be!

All repeat: Blessed Be!...

say something about

As above,
As the

male and female as


Goddess or God, it

As without,

();;

metaphor and practice

not surprising that people have found

in

in

approaching Deity

fall

of the

One

in\ol\'ed

as

whom

ol

is,

but

all

ol

union with

gender does not

Our bodies. Our mimls.


And (Hir spirits. I]lessed Be'...
"Our

it

masculine words and

short of the essence (the essential nature


that

union

images

words

ol tiie

is

much

so within.

and gracious one,


//;;s day do we

consecrate to you

profound importance

liberating to use feminine as

so below:

universe, so the soul.

Blessed

introduction to union with Deity.


Gi\'en, therefore, the

world,

we may glorify the Lady


whom we adore.

to

Goddess or God. Among these, the most


powerful and widespread metaphor to describe what the union
w ith Goddess or God feels like has been that of sexual union,
since that is so much more than a phvsical event. Even so, the
physical is important, and loi" that reason the practice ol sexual
union was incorporated into ritual in nian\ religions as iin

sealed,

I'roin the outside

lall

This means that metaphors and analogies, inadequate and

approximate as they

is

and all herein


Are totally and completely apart

exist: all

and being)

lovely

rite driiu's to its

and gracious

Be with each of us as we depart.


The circle is broken!
'

can catch something of the experience

- and can extend that experience into

ision.

end.

(joddess.

(AdIer,

|ip.

470-2)

I\

III

111

,l\\l\(

The Natural World


Walking with Care
HEN THE Anishinabe

W;

(a

Native American people

from the area of the Great Lakes) go hunting,


they go gently. Certainly the hunted animal

hunting

dies, but

is

regarded as an act of communication

between human and animal


their

Sun Dance

liicie

own

bodies by the assurance that

paintiiia with a

representation of the

humans

"Walking with care"

Indians of Neu' Mexico, the

is

power of the source of life


was

American way of

a Native

sacred nature of the world.

The Sioux

living originally in the area of the

a sacred

Chief who

lieep the

Arctic to the deserts in the south, in

R.Gutierrez

way,

reciprocity

some fundamental themes

own

many

bo.\,

recur,

many

of which

below), certainK that

humans living in a network of relationships with all that exists.


What European settlers regarded as a wilderness (perhaps from Old
English "wild deer-ness" or simply "wild + ness "), Native Americans

of

between humans,

and

regarded as a spirited and living being (see box, top

were

spirits

is

agree with the beliefs of primal religions (see

that the ties of

supernatural

in

about Native American

religion. Nevertheless,

animals, natural forces,

iirjt

different tribes speaking

cosmos properly

did not go their

and

many

to generalize

it

balanced by ensuring that

humans

unwise

different languages, so

was

address the

a prayer."

to

{see Bibl.) his role

ri\er)

upon you should be done

take

manner; each step should be as

talking about the

group of Native Americans

Native Americans inhabited every part of North America, from the

"controlled the sacred".


to

we

Earth as Mother: "Every step that

mediated into the world by

(a

upper Mississippi

identified with the sun)

According

restoration so that the

the hunted are connected to each other.

Dance. Amoiig the Pueblo

the Inside

make

will

of the dead animal will be reborn: through rituals the hunter and

spirit

Sun

who have

persons: animals,

languages, need to be persuaded to give up their

The "Great Mvster\'

right).

referred to by Luther Standing Bear

was the

disturbed.

equally widespread belief that

One

source of

life

as gift, the

all

things

come from

the High God, the

unproduced Producer of

all

that

is.

The High God, with different names in different tribes, is known


through the many manifestations of life and creation, all of which are

Primal Religions
H. iiinicr (scr Bibt.

KINSHIP: A

'

chiinicil that

sense of kinship uilh naUire.

CO-EXISTENCE: A

realistic

creature not sell-sulficicnt on

SPIRITS:

.\

prinud religions underlie

belief that

or Isolated Inil are

sense of lieing a
its

humans

surrounded by

all later religions,

with six

relationship with these spirits, to receive

blessing and protection.

own.

AFTERLIFE: A

are not alone

continue beyond death.

a personalized

common features:

sense that these relationships

SACRAMENT: A

belief that

humans

li\e in a

which ibe material and

worltl ol helpliil .ukI h.iiniliil spirits.

sacramental world

RELATIONSHIP.

physical both contain and carr\ the spiritual.

\n

.ibilits

to

enlennlo

in

hcaicis

same

the

ol

"We did not think


open

example, of explaining natural phenomena. They are, rather, the

lived originally

afternoon

late

we

fiery core,

the white

They remind us
all life.

is

the

Wind. Young,

there.

distances.

Water from dark

man was
and only

animals and

of earth's red

lis it

After the flap,

nature a
to

him was

'savage' people.

To

was tame. Earth was

bountiful and

we were

surrounded with the blessings of


the Great Myster)'"

brought inside the enclosure. The animals

is

warm and sunny

oj the great

the land 'infested' with 'wild'

The

are ready to enter the enclosure.

and of the spark inside

the entire world

\Vi il'l 11

\l

and winding streams with


'wild'. Only to

'wilderness'

which serves as a door, is closed, water is poured over the stones


and the hot steam rises around us. In a sweat lodge ceremony,

come from

K'

tangled growth, as

on the banks of the Mississippi);

hot lava stones are placed inside.

and

plains, the beautiful rolling

hills,

means through which Native Americans enter into a relationship


with Cod through sight, sound, and hearing, as in the Sweat
Lodge ceremonies, described by Linda Hogan (p. 224) of the
"By

Ilicsc agents ot Cioti are not

spirit.

introduced as a kind of primitive science, as a means, for

Chickasaw (who

III

lakes

(Luther Standing Bear,

p.

38)

willow branches bent overhead

lithe

remember their lives rooted in ground, the sun their leaves took
in. They remember that minerals and water rose up their trunks, and
birds nested in their leaves,

slender

lives.

Wind

arrives

and that planets turned above

from the four directions.

caves and breathed through our bodies.

It is

the

It

same

has

their brief,

moved through

air elk

inhaled, air that passed through the lungs of a grizzly bear.

have

We

The Ghost Dance

sit

together in our aloneness and speak, one at a time, our deepest language
of need, hope, loss,

and

survival.

connected. [We] say the words,


pray; those

words create

We remember

'All

my

that

all

(from 1870 and

things are

relations', before

and

after

we

a relationship with other people, with animals,

God

in

If

Cod - the

result

God

is

and through the natural order

the world

the world.

if

is

is

called

regarded as

pantheism

God (cf.

for

is

common

example, as the body of

panentheism, p.317). But even

believed to be distinct from the natural order,

for the natural order to

be received as the

a revelation alongside scripture (as in the

reveals the purpose

and meaning of God.

throughout

it is still

common

gift of God and to be read like


poem on p. 255), a book that

890)

Iduked to a restoration of the


old order, including the dead

being brought hack

with the land.

Seeing

Ghost Dunce movements

to life:

"The lime will come when


the whole Indian race, living

and dead,

will he reunited

upon a regenerated
live

life

earth, to

of aboriginal

happiness, forever free from


death, disease,

and miser)"

iMixmey. p.lS).

nil-:

1-

<

MN

Symbol and Sign


Common

Finding a

Ar

Language

THE CBNTRIl <)I II world stood Yggdrasil, "the ash tree house of
whose growth and Fertility the nine worlds depended - so,
li:

Ygo", on

L at Icdsl, the old

StLirluson) relate.

Norse sagas

(for

example, the Prose Edda of Snorri

Even the Aesir gods depended on the

The Tree was supported by three

otunnheim, the land of the

roots: the first

giants: the

second

Tree's survival.

reached

down

to

to Niflheim, the lowest

Godheim and the city of Asgard,


Thor and Odin. But the Tree was not
secure: each day the dragon Nidhoggr and smaller serpents gnawed at
its root, and goats nibbled its leaves and branches. So each day the
three Norns, Urdr, Verdandi, and Skuldr (Fate, Being, and Necessity)
watered Yggdrasil with water from a sacred pool, and plastered its
cracks with mud to keep it alive (the Norns too are essential to the
of the nine worlds;

the

home

and the

when

sunival of the Aesir gods:

purpose

third to

of the gods such as

they decree

were made

also, sacrifices

it,

the gods die). For that

to Yggdrasil, often

by hanging

The supreme offering was made by the god Odin,


w ho stabbed himself with his own spear and hung on Yggdrasil as a

victims on trees.

corpse for nine days in order to learn the secrets of the runes.

The runes were wisdom and


writing system: as twigs

Sxnihol

shwwd ,/dSS

ivindoif depicliiiii

Mary uilh hlih


and halo is {in

\'irgin

robe

Peirce's sense, see


le\l

1/

secrets secured in the earliest

off the tree, they

were arranged

and words so that they could record


their understanding of how to live and how to overcome evil
and danger. Odin used the runes to bring himself back to lile.
by the Norns into

This

fell

symbol

letters

but his self-sacrifice had been necessary for the secret of the

become known and shared with

runes to

Many more

stories

were

told

others.

about the tree Yggdrasil,

all ol

ihem extending the meaning of the Tree as the great symbol


:)f the cosmos as a dynamic process, and the symbol also ot
the constant struggle between life and death; the

ofhcy.

destructive dragon at Yggdrasil's root was balanced by the

guardian eagle

Svmbols,

iil

its siiniinil,

like that of the

Tree,

appear

in all the religions ol

the world, lives appear frequently as the axis mundi, the


riw nr^
the

figure aj

\'iri;/

central pole or

Miin

shinv. ihc .\suiii

sequence of new seasons. A tree contains


ol Cod to create and to tlestrcn.

(calurcs
Lininicterislic oj

The

religious cairiiius

created in the Orient


ll

is

iin Peirce's sense

see text

(/

icon

i>l

hub around which the world

revolves. Trees are

natural symbols of growth, ilealh. and rebirth in the

In

Free

onK

is

which himi.ins
ol life

and

unending

v\ithin itself the

oiu' of a \asl treasur\ ot

power

symbols through

God, of the universe,


way in which people

liaxe told their stories of

tlcatii

and

in fact

of even,'

ia\e experienced their li\es. S\'mbols are \isible expressions ol

SVMIUM.

the leelings iind thoughts

and about

common

language that

The power
found

humans ha\'c had ahout their world


The power of symbols is that they iorm

tiiat

their situation in
all

it.

and the

of this language

and

tact that the

though he was careful to say that "what


outside the competence of

same symbols are


Jung (1875-1961)

Cod

is

in liimself

Jung was certainly correct

remains

saying that symbols have been

in

human

Cod and

search for Cod, because

the attributes of Cod: they are

believed also to carry something of the reality of

made by US

themselves. This was a point

Cod

in

logician C.S. Peirce

1839-1914) when he related the understanding of symbols

known

as semiotics

(Creek sema,

drew a distinction between three types of


symbol.

An

icon

is

index

a sign

is

of

and

mercury

which

is

in a

what

relation with the thing


is

signified (e.g., the

indicating health or illness); a symbol

an index; and a halo

is

more
Thebeyond
human

clearly

it

symbol. But

all

came

is

a conventional sign with

to

is

relic of

Cod

is

far

visual

icon (in Peirce's sense)

signs, in their different forms, carry the

that signs associated with

Cod change

do the meanings of particular


life

Odin on the

it

Cod
all

are stable, but

time. Just as the

dramatically through time, so also

signs.

of their own.

people of Northern Europe,

in

to enter into relationship with

they are not necessarily fixed in meaning for


characterizations of

with "Cod"

in their tradition

ways that allow or encourage them

therefore, have a

an icon; a

be realized that

Cod moved from

meanings that people associate

Cod. This means

is

a symbol, pointing to holiness.

and description, the more the

sight

representations of
to

column

thermometer measuring temperature and

an agreed meaning. Thus a statue of a saint


that saint

and

sign: icon, inde.x,

some of the qualities


(e.g., maps and diagrams); an

dynamic

calls attention to

in a

to

"sign"). Peirce

a sign containing

associated with the thing signified

signified

"it

psychology".

all

particularly important in the

different ages led Carl

to argue that the God-image belongs deeply within ail human beings:
corresponds to a definite complex of psychological facts" (8.528) -

the study of signs

Important signs and symbols,

When

Christianity converted the

converted also their symbols.

The

self-

became the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross;


and the Calilean teacher became the young hero who conquers death and
reveals the meaning and purpose of life. In Tlie Dream of the Rood ("rood"
sacrifice of

is

tree

hnlc.x

Reliquan' of the Virgin

from Limoges.

contains some

relic

(e.g.,

Jesus).

hen the young warrior, he was God Almighty,

Stripped himself firm and unflinching; he climbed


,

Upon

the cross, brave before many, to redeem mankind.

rood was raised up;

bore aloft the mighty king, the lord


of

heaven"

Mmy

reliqnan

{some

item) of the -person or ohjecl

an Old English word lor "cross"), the Anglo-Saxon poet wrote:


"I

SI(,N

people understand.

in different cultures

they not only represent

AND

is

part of the cross oj

reliquar)' of Mar)'

(in Peirce's sense, see text)


ail inde.x

of her

IN

li

\1

\ N
I

Music
Ecstasy and Trance
CONTEMPORARY MUSICIAN Lee
AceCCORDING TO music
by some people

"Scratch"

Perry, reggae

is

explosion": "But

called

call

it

two nations [the number of the nations

bow

"an

Deep Roots Music... As


in the

seventy-

Jewish Bible] must

music, rock steady music, ska music, meringue

to reggae

music, calypso music, jazz music - don't care what the music

might be, but music


truth,

man

Reggae
religious

"

is

is

the only comForter, I'm telling vou the

(Johnson and Pines).

music associated

movement

originally with the RastaFarians, a

that developed in the

Caribbean aFFirming

the worth and value oFAFrica, and acknowledging Hailie Selassie,

Solomon and Sheba, as the messianic (pp.198,


earth. Reggae was born out oF the great
oF slavery, and became even more than a

the descendant oF

"The

when

art

the

[p.

injustice

comForter Johnson and Pines also quote Big Youth:

90]

demons, and

killed the

Lakshmi

[p.

and

suFFering

of dancing arose

god Vishnu

God on

203) representative oF

Indian Trance and Dance

"Them have

16] noticed the

But

movements of her
Lord and asked to know what
graceful

there's a

God

in the

reggae music as a little sacred dance music.


form of reggae music called Jah [the name of

Jewish Bible] music... That

is

the music that

was meant by them" (Anand,

inspire black people.

p.239). In India, there are

more than 200

so tJtat

classical forms

it

The music

is

philosophical, so

brings people out of darkness, jah iintsic

of dance in union with God,

much
tells

people about themselves"

many shown on cannngs on


the temple of

Music does

Chidambaram.

something

this or

like

it

to all people.

Music

in its

diFFerent Forms allows people to express their Feelings

emotions, and
"Music stands quite alone.
cut off from

It is

the other arts

all

...It

does not express a particular and


definite joy, sorrow, atiguish,
horror, delii'ht, or
hill joy.

somm:

delight,

mood of peace,

anguish, horror,

peace of

uiiiul

it

also evokes emotional responses From them, as

Schopenhauer (1788-1860) commented (see box, leFt). Because


music is connected so directly to Feelings and emotions, it is a
paramount way in which people have expressed their Feelings oF
and about God. In particular, it is connected with trance (a state
in which union with God is oFten claimed) and perhaps, though
less certainly, with ecstasy - less certainly, because it depends on
how trance

:\nd ecstasy are deFined.

themselves, in the uh^lmcl. in


In general, ihose
their essential nuliire, willmiil

many
and

mean

the

same

words are oFten used

thing: a state in

as

though thev both

which brain and body arc

accessories, iiitd ihcrejorc M'ilhinit

dramatically and visibly altered, giving the impression that the


their

customary motives.

enables us to grasp

them

Yet

it

and share

fidly in this ipiiiitesseiice

(Schopenhauer)

people involved have either

world (Greek

elistasis.

leFt

their ordinary

way

oF living in the

"standing outside"), or have been taken

o\er or possessed by outside agents, ranging From devils to God.


lo reduce conFusion about these ver\' diFFerent stales, Gilbert

Rouget,

in

Music

timl innice,

suggested that the word "ecstasy"

should be used lor those slates

in

hieli

eonditions of bliss and attainment oF

and

consequences)

visible

people mose into

God

(often with dramatie

in isolation, immobility,

"Music can clnnv the hearer


chains of gohl

and quiet; and

word "trance" should be used when equally dramatic and


\ isible consequences are produced, but this time in public, often
accompanied by chanting, drums or other music, and by dance.
that the

consideration of
(

in

to the

lioly

things"

rhom;is Morlcy)

To exemplify the differences, Rouget offered the


example of Saint Teresa of Avila

What

experienced both.

(cf. p. 292)

she reports

is

because she

not as precise as

Rouget's definitions, and she called everything "ecstasy"

(Spanish

Nevertheless, she recognized

extasis).

between union {union, Rouget's trance) and

distinctions

rapture or ravishment {arrohamiento, Rouget's ecstasy):


the latter (ecstasy) produces
degree",

and

"phenomena of

in this state, in utter

("That desert and solitude

seem

a higher

aloneness before

to the soul better

the companionship of the world") she

pain and

felt

God

than

all

glory.

Looking worldwide, other distinctions, as well as the


contrast

between

private

and public, become

clear:

Ecstasy produces visions and sounds, trance does not


Ecstasy

is

produced by sensory control

or deprixation,

trance by over-stimulation of the senses

People coming out of ecstasy

remember what has

happened, coming out of trance they often do not

An

important difference between trance and ecstasy

observed by Rouget

is

that trance, but not ecstasy,

is

accompanied by music. The relevance of music is not


that it causes trance by a direct effect on the brain, but
that

it

helps to create the social approval and endorsement of the

behaviours that lead to trance - behaviours that without a context of


social approval

might be regarded with fear and

Rouget asks why music

is

terror. In his

conclusion

indispensable to trance, and answers:

St Teresa's Ecstasy
Bernini's sculpture shows

Teresa in ecstasy: "The wtiole


l:7ody is

unable

"Becaitsc
to the

it

is

the oulr Icnioiuioe

head and

legs;

because

it

iluit
is

spealis siuiultaneously

through music that the

group provides the entranced person with a mirror in which


he can read the image of his borrowed identity; and because
it is the music that enables him to reflect this identity back
again to the group in the form of dunce. There
to
itself,

it

at all. Or. if there

is,

then

it

lies in

as a special state of consciousness;

for an explanation of

this, it

may

is

no mysteiy

the trance state

and

if

we

and imagination.
from which trance springs. Music does
nothing more than socialize it, and enable it to attain its

This

is

the source

full development" (pp._^2Sff)

One

is

with either the

or the arnn. Hatlier,

one

is

down,

standing, one

if

sits

like a person hciiii>

carried from one place lo


another, unable even to

breathe" {Teresa. p.2Sl). She

knew

alsi) oj

occasions oj

when
)nust seek

be found in the overriding

poiver of a certain conjunction of emotion

feel

paralysed.

to stir

pulAic

iinioii/lriiiicc

she felt herselj leavinfj

her body

and

the other sisters

were aware of it; or when


singing with the
effect

sisters, "the

upon me was

tluit iiiv

bands began

numb"

(ibid.,

so great
to

grinc

p.iS9).

Ritual
Behaviours Emhedded in the Brain
Baptism
Biiplimi

iii

an

as

is ritucil

enacted sign

which the

person baptised, whether


infant or ndidt,
oj the

becomes part

body of Christ

pp.2i5. 241) and


taken In

Cod

thus

is

to a life

beyond death, even

lliun;jh

this life still co)itinues. In

Christ, death has already

happened, and Paul could


say.

"You are already dead.

and your

life lies

hiddoi

with Christ in Cod"


Colossians

3.--)

ALL PLOPLL

IIILIR LIVES facing "a

Ll\ L

choice of catastrophes"

of a book by the science-fiction writer Isaac

Asimov
L reviewing "the disasters that threaten our world". They range
IVom the remote (the heat death of the universe) to the near at hand
the

title

On

change of climate and the depletion of resources).

(the

scale, individuals also face threats to their lives,


to catching a

defended

irus.

Living organisms are vulnerable, and need to be

they are to

if

a smaller

from crossing the road

long enough to create the next generation.

live

Humans have many defences protecting their proteins and genes.


Some are biological, like cells and the skin inside which they live; others,
like culture,
live

humans have

created

- the arrangements they ha\e made

to

successfullv in families, groups, nations, and empires. Culture, as a

defensive "skin", comprises such things as u riting and books,

and schools, and

Religions are the earliest cultural systems


to protect

trattic lights

religions.

we know about

that helped

both the bringing into being of children and their protection

and instruction. That

is

why many

religions

have such

strict rituals

and

and food (see Bowker, pp. 3-108).


which religions have protected what is,

rules in matters of sex, marriage,

Among

the

many wavs

in

in

more up-to-date language, gene-replication and the nurture of children,


one of the most important is ritual. Rituals are learned and repeated
behaviours that people in a particular group or religion practise, either
indi\ iduallv or
life

more often

that they occur as

together. Rituals are so important for

much

in non-religious

parades and ceremonies of


in religious acts

example,

(for

Communist

human
in

the

societies) as they

do

of worship or in rites (rituals) of passage (at

birth, puberty, marriage,

Through

ways

and death).

ritual, religions tie

culture strongly to God, to the

purpose and protection of Cod. Religions agree that survival


is

important, but tbc\ also ask, 'Sur\i\al for what?" For what

purpose
'

is

life

lixcd in llic context ol sLich

the overriding purposes and meanings of

life

Rituals are thus repeated patterns of action


Lintlertaken for an

celebrate the birth


i^ixe

ulnerabilityr

Rituals arc a coniiiion and usiialK non-verbal

a child or to

of

of enacting
death.

and beha\ioLir

immense number of purposes ol

way

and

for e.xample, to

lament the passing of an elder: to

thanks for the life-giving presence of food and water or to bring a

tiealh-dealing disaster on enemies; to offer praise or to express


L.

^^B

penitence; anil eert.iinK to recognize and


of Cod.

or ihis

III

come

into the presence

work, rituals ha\e to be recognized and

unileislocul al the deepest levels ot

hLiman understanding, so

not siirpiislni!,K

behaviours arc

llic\

arc cinbc'iklccl in

hnman

llic

naltiral in tiic kiiul ol brains

- as indeed the\ are

to

some

extent

other animals: people

in

animal bcha\i()ur (ethologists) often speak ot

approach

mating, or the defence ot

to

brain and hotly: ritual

and bodies that humans have

who

study

"ritual displays" in the

territory.

Ibis "naturalness" does not imply that ritual behaviours are

determined by genetic programs, as some have claimed. Rather,


rituals are widely employed in human cultures because tlicy hold
together the interactions between two major ways in w hich

human

brains process information as they respond to the world:

iissoc'uitire Icciniing

and symbolic cognition.

Associative learning

means forming

associations between

representations of events in the world, and

animals

in differing

degrees of complexity.

been formed by evolution

to process

is

present in

The human

some stimulus events

very bitter or sour tastes).

as

be avoided

intrinsicalK rewarding (e.g., sweet tastes) or to


(a\'ersivc. e.g.,

all

brain has

Such unlearned

stimuli

are called primar}' reinforcers. The brain rapidly identifies neutral

which are linked

stimuli

in

time or space to primary reinforcers.

so that they evoke similar responses in terms of emotions and

motivation to act. These neutral stimuli

The amygdala

reinforcers.

(p. 44)

ol

become secondaij

and orbofrontal cortex are the

key brain structures representing the feelings associated with

primary reinforcers, as well as memorizing associations with

secondary reinforcers.

one

le\el, rituals

employ many

stimuli

which human

brains find intrinsically rewarding or aversive (thus


L heightening emotion

when

rituals are

performed)

in

addition to setting up learned associations between stimuli which

may be remembered

for a lifetime. E.xamples of intrinsicallv

arousing or attention-grabbing stimuli used

in rituals include:

motion, colour, luminosity, emotive facial expressions

accentuated sexual characteristics (cosmetics,

oils),

ol

masks,

sudden loud noises

Bar and Bat Mitzi'a


Jewish ceremonies are

(fireworks, bells), styles of language (singing, chanting), pain (flagellation,

rlic^e

circumcision), temperature (baptism by immersion), smells (incense,

rites [rituals)

perfumes), and taste


1

among many

(ritual foods),

lumans, however, do not simply respond to stimuli; they interpret

them and

them to themselves and to each other using .s}')wfco/lumans ,a\' able to think w ith signs (pp. 38-9), creating

girls (thouiih

not girls for all Jews

jrom childhood

to

move

accepting

identifv

hiiscil ciiiinilion.

the possihiJitN

ol, lor

example, using metaphor

Judge or King, and then depicting

this

to

represent

Cod

as a

brain represents a concept such as

component

'l<ing"

lolie

in

by splitting

it

up

into

multimodal processing areas (such as

memon' system and

prefrontal cortex)

{p.

"a

176): they

son (or a

daughter) of the

parts (e.g., visual appearance, vocal quality, emotional

the temporal

become

coinvnuidmenl". Hie

connotations), which are each stored in specialized regions, and by then

binding this information together

the responsibility of the

Covenant

conception ihrotigh signs,

symbols, and icons such as paintings or sculpture.

The

of passage, in

which hoys and

others.

when

the concept

6/.-!

comiinnids and prohibitions


iif'Uinih (p. 200}

way

in uliich

become

Jeus

llie

cini m/i

Yes" lo Cod.

IN

NN \
I

word long

ULti\utfd b\ reading the

is

By imagining

God

as King,

we

by a thought ot a king, and so on.

are using existing brain-based

representations to create a specific sense of what

God

explored

in

many ways

God

(for

example,

in ritual

like,

linking

symbolism, religious

and the many other ways described

prayer, poetry,

is

network of associated meanings which can be

to a potentially vast

art,

in this book). In this

way, religious symbolism at a cognitive level corresponds to the ways in

which

rituals

use stimuli

at

an associative

level to

evoke sensations and

emotions, and they too contribute to the emotional experience of the


XcnlroriK'di.iI

'
,

ritual

(am\.i>(.laLi

this area

performance.

Our

Orhnlninlal

situated hL-ncath

capacity for symbolic cognition has arisen out

the long-running

of

co-evolution of culture and the brain (particularly the prefrontal cortex,

I,

which co-ordinates the complex cognitive processes which support


symbolic representation and learning: see Deacon, 1998). Symbolic
cognition allows culturally prominent symbols (such as the Christian cross
or Shiva as Nataraja, the Lord of the

become

Dance,

p.

104) to be created and to

the focus of layers ot associated thoughts, memories, and emotions

human

during the course of a religious lifetime. Thus


associations

between stimulus events,

brains not onl\ form

as other animals do, but also

interpret stimuli as meaningjid by using symbols to create representations

of
Jlie Brain

and Ritual

hi ritual, the brain

draws

together stored information to


create meaningful responses
[e.g.,

thoughts,

what

is

in private

going on, both

in

experience and can resonate emotionally (for


the Resurrection

when

speech and mime) and


become associated with
example, when the image of

public expressions

(e.g.,

experience. In this way, meanings can

loss of life

used

is
is

to express faith that adversity

can be overcome, or

accepted as part of the creative and destructive Dance

nii'iiiorics,

between associative

of Shiva). Rituals, therefore, orchestrate the interaction

images}. Temponil lohc


structures are very important
in binding this information
together.

The ventromedial

and symbolic learning processes by manipulating the sensory


characteristics of symbolic displays. In this way, primary

reinforcers heighten arousal, feelings, sensations,

and secondary

and attention, interacting

prefrontal cortices help to

with the concepts encoded and evoked by the sign stimuli of the

link these meanings ivith

(symbolic and iconic objects, gestures, mime, language, etc.) so that they

emotions, often profound.

are experienced

and

felt

as especially powerful, relevant,

ritual

and memorable.

The Somatic Marker Hypothesis


Quiiiloii Declex explains this theiiiy linking cognition

This h\pi)lhcsis links cognition

proposing that cognilive

and cniotidn

abilities

such as

h\

tlecision-

and emotion:

ordinating the activity of emotional networks.


this perspective, ritual

From

performances join symbolic

makiiig, sell-a\\arciiess. .ind c'iiipalh\ are

representations with distinctive somatic states.

inlluenced by bodiiv or somatic states which murk

When

cognitive representations

(e.g.,

of an imagined

ritual

symbols or associated concepts are

encountered, the

ritually

re-

inculcated somatic states

may then

course of action) with feelings or responses based

are partially or lully reactivated. This

on prior emotional conditioning. The venlromedial

nianilest itself in unconsciously motivated or fully

prelrontal cortices are thought to reactivate the

conscious attitudes or behaviours

somatic states originally .issoeiated with a gi\en

ritiialK

sliniiiliis

pattern or nient.i! represent. ition, co-

(e.g.

unclean foods, or an attitude

to reliiiioiis icons or SMiiliolsl:

avoiding

ol rc\"crcnce

see Damasio. 2000.

common

Rituals arc thus extremely

(many

religion)

in diilerent religions

and have nothing

rituals are secular

because they are

specifically to

a dramatically effective

can find powerful (often transcendent) meaning


circumstances of their
feelings,

almost

how
is

fear, grief, or

sadness.

symbolic cognition

ritual joins

in the local

and

it

is

joy,

current theory that helps

emotion

anti

the somatic

is

left).

thus constructed, remembered, and reinforced

extremely complex ways, so

humans

not surprising that

environments with signs and symbols as well as


this

do with

which people

tone or colour, whether the emotions arc ot

like a

marker hypothesis (see box, below

Meaning

in

Rituals create distinctive emotions

lives.

awe, reverence, ecstasy,


to explain

way

and societies

process even the most abstract ideas,

in

fill

their

ritual practices.

like time,

Through

space, and God, can

be personalized and interacted with. They can be related to the


experienced world, even though they are
that".

who

This

is

is

precisely

known

to

what happens

known

(see, e.g.,

On

make

Funeral

be "not exactly

in all religions in relation to

be beyond words and description and yet

knowable and approachable through signs and


role of analogy to

to

rituals. It is

is

like

God,

clearly

indeed the

the abstract conceivable in terms of the familiar

Rituals surrounding death

may help

purpose

who

is

p. 268).
himself,

evolution.

They

it is

obvious

why

rituals are so

important

in

human

are a fundamental part of building a protective culture,

because they connect people through the opportunity of what


brains and bodies have in

and importance of

ritual;

indispensable, even

if

common. None
indeed,

one thinks

it

in

Ritual

is

in a

human

of this diminishes the beauty

explains

terms of

Rituals are the world that people live in

bound together by them

why ritual is so
human evolution

help the one

common

with their neighbours,

shared enterprise of

tliroughoiil histoiy

me

in

mind, rejoins

being, there

my

no doubt of
(8.6). Death
is

rituals aid these transitions,

so that the person "escapes

'

through

Yama's [Death's] ranging


liounds" {Rowlier.

to their feelings

p.U>7l.

and understandings of God,


least as the

lot

at the

even the furthest outreach of

life.

have given expression

"Whoever

hour of death, when


abandoning his body, bears

this at all"

alone.

thus another of the profound and natural "languages

which people

to

has died. In the Ciita

(p.92), Krishna says of

Aquinas,

this basis,

who mouni

those

in their grief hut their

One who

confers ultjimatc meaning

on every aspect

ol lile

Meanings

do not

"/

man

or a

kiioiv ij Mmvii
woman. Histon

Myth

is

tells

that A /((It'll created the world.

Then when

the world was

the earth

and went

to live in the

After living in the

sk\.

Transcending Scientific Amilysis

withdrew from

created. AIiiu'ii

sky,

But on earth nothing went

Human

J-

well.

to

themselves. Tlie) quarrelled.

The\ fought.

how

or

know

Ttie) did not

to cultix'ate the fields.

/(Oil'

to

weave cloth

to

Mawu

down

to

together.

is

this are far older

and much more.

to instruction,

are the

common

property of groups like

- the glue that helps to hold them


Oyekan Owomoyela records how families gather

"Apart frovi

tell

riddles

sitclt coticessioiis to

and

stories:

progress as the use of

and the Rediffiision box


programme by wire from a

electricity, pipe-hortie water,

that brings a fixed radio

to

local transmitting statio)i, the household remains a

iihikc useful tilings"

(Cour

myth

and

cut the hush with this metal.


it

of

the world and repeated to each generation.

together in Ibadan (in Nigeria) to


,

to use

THE FON PEOPI

families, tribes, or nations

Mawu

Lisa to go doivn to the earth

BY

ot legend, folklore, epic, riddle, and m\th


- and although the definition of those words is not agreed, they
reflect the way in which these stories may deal \\ ith ever\thing,
from known events to the unknown origins of creation and time,

gave metal, Gu. and she told

and teach men how

in all parts of

Stories as

name

her son Lisa.

TOLD

- to the earth. Stories such as


swords
s

from entertainment

sent her only son

to earth, ivhose

and

Lisa-

IS

about the coming of metal - and of

They take the form

cover their bodies.

So

LIIT

in Africa

than the written or printed word; they have been treasured by


people

do things for

THE

()i\

Dahomey

beings did not

how

understand

HE STORY

Mawii did not care to come


down and live on earth again.

redoidit of tradition. After the evening meal, the

166)

)nenibers of

gather on a porch [where]

tJie faiiiih

...the etitertainment begins with riddles.

What

dines

with an oba (paramount chief of a commiinitx and leaves


'

him
Myth in .\frica
Okpewho ip.68)

Oyo

Isidore

identijied the
.\fricav

fact

growth cycle of

myth

still

its

face

in

is

A fly. What

towards Oyo, on

towards Oyo.

What

few

is

itc

On

way from Oyo

its
its

way

face

to
is

double-faced drum. After a

riddles, the tales begin...

di(i<ircnii

(Lindlors.
is

the wa\

lite is set in

and

I)

= mythic legend

= explanalor\

talc

iiction
(

licence

story of any individtial

tribe or nation id wliicii the

ot the

whole wurld,

past.

M\th is supremeK the wax in


which the human mind is ,ible to explore and imagine
God; and religions are communities with a common
narrative and stor\ in their shared mythology. This may
seem hard tii undcrsland now. when so man\ people
present, and future.

d = lable

264)

famiK or

individual belongs,
a = historic legend

p.

which the

in

the Lonlcxt of far larger stories -

narratives ol the

(com roll

its

(/ii's

M\th

t.icl

passes before the oba's

"

in relation to

and fiction

simple

to clear the disJies?

palace without niaking obeisance? Rain flood.

use

word mylh

llic

mean

to

way

"false".

Wliat

in lact

is

there

is

only one

M\th

is

an early reminder that truth ean he told as

of telling

much

scientific fact, as

in

triith

laisc

is

I'anijul

ihc hclici that

In Wagner!, Parsifal, the

example, through scienee.

lor

much

in fiction as in

poetry as in a mathematical proof - indeed,

llwme o/mitlcid
with")

Ramsey put

"mammals

it.

as highly

tuned physiological machines


what the lower animals are

content to muddle through with" (Mackay,

(1775-1854) commented

F.W.J. Schelling

ever)' beautiful

is

surrounding nature

in a transfiguration of

made

in his

when

would give

operas

in

Wagner (1813-83)

new myth

that

Wagner

would bear the


in his

ow n time.

did not doubt that

physics (and the other sciences

answer many questions. But not

why do people

questions:

How

related to

are their sufferings

what they or others

have done

in

the past?

How

can they be rescued or

redeemed from evil they


have done in the past?
In Parsifal,

Wagner

explored the theme of

redemption and the

way

in

which

it

is

linked to suffering
(see caption).

Wagner's Parsijal
one example. Far

more widely, myth


supreme human

is

is

achievement, enabling
people to share their
deepest insights with

each other, their hopes

and

a view

b)'

.'

their fears,

and

their experience ol Clod

and shares

doing

so,

it,

ami

he begins

to

acquire an understanding of

himself that opens up the


("

/(is

ount redemption.

millcid, suffering ivith

is

It

others, ihat alone

marks out

the loiiii-amailcd redeemer:

"Bejore the wrecked

saiictuan

Amjortas hn

order to create a

weight of meaning

suffer?

suffering

H'l/i

the,

mine" {Act 3.249).

Parsijal enters into that

w hich he deliberately drew


in

in bitter

small atonement for a

to write his "total art-works",

on past myths

all

as "scientism ". Against this misplaced

over-confidence. Richard

began

Dialogue on Poetry,

increasingly confident

that science

"a

sin like

The philosopher

imagination and love?

true explanation and account of everything

known

p. 127).

he

mythology but a hieroglyphic expression of

Schelling lived at a time

claims were being

Amfortas who,

penitence, longs for death la

carrying out with superlative efficiency

"What

{"sujferinu

explored. Parsijal

does not merely pity

more so, because, myth enables people to record and share the ways in
which they transcend the strict scientific analysis of what they are, as
J. A.

is

in

fervent prayer.
r,c,ooing a sign of par,
\liide
I

he

wise through mitlcid


hiaiiu'less
Wiiit for

the one
I

simpleton:

him.
choose"

l,1.234FF)

IN

I-,

\\ \
I

Sacrifice
Securing Life and Order
AGO, THE HUMAN RACE
LONG
many
but
had
things,

they

died out.

Two

the knowledge, to reproduce.


.Xolotl,

The Aztecs
The shedding of hluod was
important

to the Aztecs,

race descended from

Mexican warriors who,

to rescue

of the gods, Quetzalcoall and

them. Quetzalcoatl went down into the

underworld and gathered up the scattered bones of dead humans and took
them back to the upper world. There, he ground them to dust, but there
was still no life in them. He therefore cut open his own vein and mixed his
own blood with the dust. Xolotl moulded the dust into human shapes, and
Quetzalcoatl breathed

life

Having given

into them.

creation, Quetzalcoatl then protected

his life-blood for this

teaching people

it,

how

to reproduce,

in

about 132SCE. established a


joothohi on an ishmd,
Tenochtitldn, in Lake

Texcoco. Calling themselves


.\;/c'c'

decided

The gods had given humans


them the power, or at least

tailed to give

Irniu the Icgcudcin

laud in which their

how

to

measure time, and how

That

story

to farm, write,

how

from the Aztecs shows

and understand the

deeply blood,

life,

and

stars.

sacrifice

Those who have received life through the shedding of


Cod can show their gratitude most effectively by
blood in return. Sacrifice was therefore prominent in Aztec

are connected.

blood on the part of


offering

religion. Priests repeatedly

ancestors lived, they

shed their

own

blood by passing barbed cords through their

established a fh,urishn,:,i

tongues and

empire unlit the Idlh

were

centun' ci when the

great drama,

went

to

Beyond

ears.

sacrificed, in rituals

war with

that,

humans

and ceremonies

and the Aztecs increasingly

their neighbours in order,

among

other reasons, to obtain victims for sacrifice.


Sacrifice

ways

in

is

one of the most important

which humans have expressed

their feelings about


religions

all

God.

it

occurs

in

often criticized and

changed, and sometimes given new


form and meaning - but always
learing as one of the fundamental ways

ch huinans understand their situation


n

something

d",

and

aboLit

sacrifice

is

it.

"No man

one

ol the

is

an

most

'criul ways in which humans express


the worth and cost of their relationships -

ibove

all

their relationship with

Sacrifice

w hich
IS

is

God.

thus the means through

life

and order are secured;

it

ihc enacted language through

which liLimans recognize

their

precinoiis siliialion (threatened


al\\a\s b\ death) anti express iheir

N \(

|1

among the Maya, predeeessurs ul the /Xztees


The early discovery of the Maya

needs and their hupc. E\cn


in

K'll

Central America, this was true.

suggested a peaceful people whose religion involved the stars and led to

Mayan
became evident that the Mayans
many of whom were then mutilated

impressive discoveries in mathematics and astronomy. But as the


hieroglyphic writing was deciphered,

engaged
and

in warfare,

sacrificed.

it

taking prisoners,

Human

blood was thought

be essential as an offering

to

if

the relationship with the gods was to be maintained.

luiinan sacrifice

But

small, part of the

only one, relatively

is

way

which

in

sacrifice has

contributed to the story of God. Generally


speaking, sacrifice
of something that

inanimate object.

the offering in a ritual

is

way

may be living or may be an


The life or the object that is

offered does not have to have great value in


it

gains

its

There are many reasons why


than one reason
sacrifice.

It

offence or

may

may be

done, and more

is

offered to deal with the fact of

by way of expiation (accepting

be paid) or of propitiation (calming

the legitimate anger of God);

as a substitution for
(for

it

obtain in any particular

sin, either

that a price has to

down

itself;

value by being offered.

example, the first-born);

communion among

may be

it

something that belongs


those

it

who

may be

offered

to

God

offered in order to establish

participate

and union with God;

it

offered in expectation of receiving something in return (the principle

known

in Latin as

do ut

des,

give in order that

you may

give);

it

may be

some thought or defect; or as a way of saying thank you;


away some threat or disaster, such as famine, drought, floods, or
Sacrifice may be offered as a means of celebration and of
whole community together in common and familiar actions.

offered to cleanse
or to turn
infertility.

holding a

The importance
In India,

of sacrifice has not led to

characterization of
well

remaining unchallenged.

both Jains and Buddhists (pp.68-71) questioned whether

sacrifice actually achieves

him

its

enough

to

important sacrifice

God

as

what

is

it

claimed to achieve. In their view, the

one who responds

to

people only

monks

they pay

do so was ludicrous. H\en then, they recognized how


as a language through which to express feelings of

is

worth and value. They therefore introduced daiui


to sacrifice: in

if

Buddhism dana

of food, drink, clothing,

is

the

gift

by

lay

(gift)

as an equivalent

people to Buddhist

and other necessities and

it

is

one of the

most important works of merit.

Even in religions which give a high value to sacrifice, its worth, or the
way in which it is done, has been repeatedly questioned. But at the heart
of sacrifice remains the insight that some things, or some people, are of
such inestimable, or even

something or everything

up one's

life for

infinite,

for

value that

them. There

is

it is

worth sacrificing

no greater love than

a friend, except possibly to gi\'e one's life for

Scicrijicial

to give

an enemy.

Sheep

Muslims are under

may be

obligation lo sacrifice

animals {a sheep, camel,


cow, or goat).
at the

The

sacrifice

Great Festival ialhl

alKabir, also

known

as hi

alAdha} commemorates
Ibrahim's (Abraham's)
sacrifice of a
his son.

in place of

place on the

Dhn

'IHijjah,

illustrates for

Muslims

tenth day of

and

ram

It taltes

the mercy of Allah in

accepting a substitute for

what

rightfidly belongs
lo

Mich.

p, i:

\\ \

Architecture
Buildings of

ON THE

K'KRNAK,

^uxor, the

Seti

would

God

I5ANKS of the River Nile, not far from

Pharaohs of Egypt

built

many

temples. Into

the largest of the buildings, the huge Hypostyle Hall of

(c.1318-1304I5CB), the largest churches of Christendom


easily

fit,

The

with space to spare.

palaces of the

Pharaohs were splendid, the temples even more

That

is

so.

true of religious architecture throughout the world.

Buildings devoted to

God

their time. Vast fortunes

use the best

skills

and technology of

have been spent on them, employing

the greatest craftsmen, sculptors, and artists of their day.


Through architecture, people tell, not only the story of God,
but also the worth and cost of their devotion. In addition,

through the decoration of these buildings, the story of


is

often told directly

Humans

in

God

canings, paintings, and glass.

have deliberately constructed buildings to make

God in worship, ritual, and prayer.


There has often been argument about whether God needs a building:
how can God, supposedly surveying the whole world, be confined within
possible their approach to

Cave Temples
The

itor\'

when

of

God

is

lohi even

the place

is

not a

walls? But frequently the building protects the image (the visible

building, but

is

the

imagination) of God. In most temples, the worshipper moves throLigh

adi^ptation of a natural

successive stages, often courtyards and halls, leading to a darker and

The

feature, like a cave.


earliest paintings lie

presence of

hidden in caves, and

not fulh understood,

it

with shamans

{p.

of the

160) and

Caves continued

to

be adapted by different

example

religions, for

in

Buddhist chaityas, and in

here, the

IVner has

They can

,^S2 caves,

stories of
it is

the holiest place, where the

the caves

humans

to tell the stop,' of

where people can come together

ritual,

and worship do not require

God. Thus the word "synagogue" means

in the

a building.

"a place of

assembly

God

read

and interpreted, and where they turn towards Jerusalem, the place where
the Temple was originally built (pp.I90f).
That simple

fact

is

reminder that buildings

tell

through their design. Christian churches are often


cross;

Muslim mosques

God

is

the story of

in

{ttiihrab)

God

the shape of a

are focused on the pulpit, from

proclaimed, and on the niche

worshippers

continued well into the

a place

the place where Jews gather together to hear the word of

various sizes, containing

more than 100,000 Buddhist

lang period.

lies

provides a degree of permanence for ritual and for the telling of the

of

Work on

At the centre

be found.

take place anywhere. But a building draws people together and

and about 40 pagodas of

images.

to

presence of God. Prayer,

Longmen

cave-temple complex on the


)i

is

God: they provide

Byzantine cave churches.

Shown

interior

is
is

decoration have connections

rituals.

God

In another way, also, buildings ha\'e helped

although their meaning

likely that features

more mysterious

deeply

which the word

which points the

in the direction of Mecca; Hindu temples express the


cosmos in miniature form so that the created and the Creator can meet
on holy ground; Chinese temples are laid out so that their entrances lie
on the four cardinal points, and so that the good forces and influences

can flow into them; and

(iri'ek

temples were built on

sites

associated

\K(

III

I. (

IIKI.

"lids, often on a liigh pkiee close to the home ol the gods, as


most obviously on the Acropolis (Greek "upper city") in Athens.
in one other important way, buildings reveal much about the story of

with the

Cod. Buildings are not


changes

tell

us

they are constantly being changed, and the

static:

much about

the ways in which the

(lod has also changed. Buildings


built in their place.

Thus

the

may even be

Temple

period of about 2,000 years. Egypt


fertile

imagination of

Karnak was developed over

an oasis, 600 miles long,

is

made

by the Nile. To rule over this vast eounti7, the Pharaohs had to

secure the co-operation of the


part,

site at

human

pulled down, and others

many

They

different inhabitants.

by linking local gods to themselves and to their

own

did so, in

worship, until

became for all people the manifestation of Clod.


So the Sun God Re (or Ra) of Heliopolis ("City of the Sun") was
linked with the Pharaohs, who were called the Sons of Re and were thus
associated with the splendour and power of the Sun. The Gods of other
major places, such as Thebes and Memphis, were then made the allies of
Re. So when a dynasty from Thebes became the Pharaohs, they brought
their God, Amun, with them, and this produced Amon-Re. Attempts
the Pharaohs

were then made

to organize the

gods into families and hierarchies, and

one of the Pharaohs, Amenophis IV 1379-62bce), declared that Aten,


the Sun giving heat and life to the world, was the supreme God. He
(

changed

his

name

to

Akhenaten, the one

who

serves Aten,

and he closed

Even the names of those gods were hacked


out of the walls where they had been inscribed. Despite all this,
immediately after his death the temples were demolished, and many oi
the temples of other gods.

the building blocks were used for the reconstruction of temples to the

other gods. Something like this


reflect the

ways

in

human

is

true of

many

religious buildings: they

experience of God, but their history

which the human imagination of God changes.

tells also of

the

Karnak Temple Comple.\


During the first
hi<i

reign,

five yenrs of

Amenr>phis

c\tc-mled the

complex
dedicating
called

it

lit

it

Ihuplc

Kiiriiiik,

loAleu, and

pr-itn. "the

domain

of Aten". lie also composed a


famtnis lirmn that celebrates
the life-giving

power

of the Sun: "You rise in


perfection on the horizon of
the sky, lii'ing Aten,
started life...Yoti are

who
my

desire" {Simpsnii. p. 2^)01

I\

THE BEC;i\\IN(.

"The

Art

liDiatic, the lover,

tnid the poet

Are

of iwiioiiuitlmi

Such

till

compact..

tricks luith strong

Poiutino

Truth

to the

iiiuioi fiat ion.

That

if it

noiild but apprehend

some joy.
It

in the night,

is

wall.

TJie Origin of

Drawing.

the origin of art

w alls
caves jrom as early as the

painted pictures of animals

may have connections


shamanism ip. /60'.-

ivith

againsl the wall

hands

and

round them.

dreiv

be

to

which case the outline of hands on cave

the true beginning of

art.

When

Pliny the Elder wrote

he reported

was the Eg\ptians or the Greeks who


invented art, but at least, he wrote, "all agree that art began with tracing
an outline round a person's shadow". So, in the Mediterranean world from
that

lbe\ also placed

is

in

his Natural History in the first centur\' of the Christian era,

Palaeolithic era, people

that

Mediterranean world, that was belic\ed

In the ancient

(A MidmiDimcr \iaht's Dream. 5,1./)

lit

called Buladcs

left her, she made him stand so that his shadow


She then traced the outline of his shadow so
that she would have a copy of him in his absence. The French
artist J-B. Suvee painted this incident and called the painting

a bush

Outlines

young woman

before he

on the

fell

supposed a bear!"

Hand

Li

imagining

some fear.

How easy

Corinth,

IN

faced the prospect of being separated from her lover, so

oj that joy:

Or

AGO

(i\G

comprehends some bringer

no one could

tell \\

hether

it

which the

great traditions of Western art are deri\ed, the initial purpose of


was mimesis, a Greek word meaning "imitation
But cop\ing and imitation were not sufficient on their own. Plato
insisted that while perfect imitation is indeed the aim, the skill of an

art

artist lies in

exactK

suggesting the truth of what has been copied by not copying


it

is

the

skill

of an artist to suggest an image instead of

Jucing an exact copy.

The word "image"

suggests immediately the word

iiagination"(see box, abo\e

left). ^Artists

are those who, by

usino imagination, take something from a wall before they


pill

anvthing on a wall. That

la \
II

inci

list: "I

will not refrain

what Leonardo

at least is

thought important

in the training

recepts a ne\\ de\ice for consideration

illhough
is

may appear

it

ne\ertheless of great

mind

of any

from setting among these

utility in

to various inventions.

w hich,

and almost ludicrous,

trivial

arousing the

And

this

is

that

if

you

look at any walls spotted with various stains or

iih a

mixture of different kinds of stones,

are about to invent


to see in

it

some scene you w ill be

resemblance

groups of

hills.

combats and

You

wide

valleys,

will also

ri\ers,

and \arious

be able to see divers

figures in quick

movement, and

strange expressions of faces, and outlandish

costumes, and an

inlinito

you

able

to \arious different

landscapes adorned with mountains,


rocks, trees, plains,

if

numlier

ol

things

wliich yoLi can ihcn reduce into separate and well conceived

With such walls and blends oF different stones it comes


it does with the sound of bells, in whose clanging you
may discover every name and word that you can imagine."
Imagination was equally paramount in the very diFFerent world
of China. In China, poetry and painting belong to each other as
Forms.

about as

"the host and the guest". Both are

marked

by

for excellence, not

what thev put in, but by what they leave out. It is rare to see a
shadow in a Chinese painting, even when the sun or tlie moon
are clearly evident, for

Chinese paintings are not attempting

to

represent, or re-present, a scene realistically, as a photograph

might attempt to do; they are trying to convey the inner identity
all nature and appearance (cf. the Dao, p. 152), and

and unity of
this

can more eFFectively be done by allusive suggestion than by

When

reproduction oF the superFicial appearance.


1

lui

Sung

set

an exam

them

line oF poetry For

For his

would-be

winning painting portrayed no meadows


is

Emperor

"When returned From


my horse were Fragrant." The

to illustrate:

trampling on Flowers, the hooFs oF

the

servants, he chose a

civil

oF flowers: the horse

Full

walking on a path, but with two butterflies fluttering round

hoofs: the

meadows and

but they are not directly

Throughuut

the flowers must be


\

somewhere

its

near,

isible.

the world,

human emotions and

been both expressed and evoked by

art in

Feelings have

which

imagination are combined. Inevitably, therefore,

skill

art

and

has

a major "language" through which people have tried to say


something - many very diFFerent things about God. God has
been directly portrayed, even though people are well aware that

been

God cannot be
More

canvas and copied.

set in front of a wall or a

often, therefore,

images of Goddess and

God

are suggested

through the symbols associated with them.


Art

may

Chinese Art

also express the Feelings that people have about

Goddess and

God, From penitence to praise. It may be teaching and instruction, it may


be propaganda: sometimes it tries to coerce people into belieF, oFfering
terriFying pictures oF the punishments awaiting the wicked aFter death,
and oF the agents oF those

tortures.

oF pointing to the truth oF

God

sensing oF

God through

But

Far

by the way

the occasions

ot

beyond
it

all

that, art

connects with the

the world.

It

capable

is

common

does not coerce the

it, even evokes it. Art may, and oFten does, become
w indow through which people look - and as they look, so, at least on

emotion, but allows

occasion, they see. Even so, for


contradiction to suppose that

some

reality. In

God can be

it

is

a radical

comes
the unseen and

portrayed in any way:

India however, the image

is

one oF the

in

What. then,

tlo

from

IS

Indians "see" in the case

ol

God?

"seeing".

nf

iiiM'piinihlc

ilsjonit. uiul hnlli arc

the expression of

embracing

urn-Li.

mi

(ill-

phildsiipliiciil

iittiliulc tdiriinh

the

vi'.ihlc

rlicccluccitcd

Chiuc^^c puiiitcr WHS, unlike


his Europeiiii eintiiti'rpurl.

We was

sonicthino oj a philosopher

it

liFe-giving

which the unseen is able to be seen - so much so, that


common Indian word For "worship" is darshtin, meaning literally

ways

a pmiitiu'^

never just n pniiiter


religious traditions,

close to idolatry, the worship oF an image instead oF

unseeable

"la ihc ChiiifsL' the llienic

loo;

and being

a philosopher.

his vision did not

fade with

the passing of his youth,

l)ul

strengthened and deepened


as he

grew older"

(Sullivan, pp.

I.

in.

'

-.H%

mm ^^

India
A

tapestn of different xvnys

to

God.

\>m

1Sl

S^i

India
The name Hinduism was

given in the l^th

beliefs

exists in India.

The word comes from

Persian hindii. Sanskrit sindhii.

meaning

the

It

therefore

more than one

means

Indian.

billion people,

Of

characteristics, but they are expressed

in different

ways: village religion, for example,

Historically, Indian religion

misleading, because

about 80 per cent

more dispersed
no single
"Hinduism The

some

seen as

day and may be

have lasted

affected by later innovations.

is

to the present

The

AFGHANISTAN
'^^

Amritsar

oKailasa

o
/^o
Kedarnath ^
,

oLhasa

Tibet

Punjab
.

Delhic

Brinaban

A^^

.^^^

(Vrindaban)^.., .,%

Mathura

<a^

Ayodhya

Prayaga*

Alohenjo-daro

gVaranasi

(AJIaliabad)

'

(Kashi)

*%:

oBodh^ava
(Ujjain

_-.

Bihar

INDIA

Dwarkao

.Xf*U>
Onion
Nasik

Orissa

Ellora

Puri^

Mumbai (Bombav)c

oChennai (Madras)
Kancipuram

Kappadisangama c
Ta7iiil

little

roots are in

the traditions of the early inhabitants of India;

".

e,Harappa "
t}'^
Kuruksnetrao

is

of the earliest forms

throughout the world, but there

can be called

is

unlolding through stages, but that again

India's

are Hindu, with about 30 million

religion that

is

very different from philosophical religion.

"river",

referring to the inhabitants of the river Indus


valley.

and practices of Hindus have many

common

century to the coaHtion of religions that

Nadu
Cbiiiambara

Maduraic
Tirukfcuruhuro

iSRjI,IiANKA

the Indus xallcy

South India; and the

in

among the
who

India

Ar^'ans,

became

Ml

Indus Vjllc'v-riimilC;<ids&

-'y,

(;dck..v.s.Anns

gS

Timeline

entered North-west India from c.l500l?Cli. Aryan


religion

ci\ ili/atioii (c.2S(l()-l H()()l!c;i;);

the Dravidian culture that persists

Tamils

I)

Vedic period

the mainstream Vedic religion,

based on sacrifice and the sacred texts known as

Vedas and Vedanta.


Within the Indian

IJmhmunism
coalition,

and Sikhs) became separate

some movements

religions; others

(Jains,

Buddhists,

developed their

ov\

and Shaktas (devoted

in

common now

to

appearance becoming manifest

all

ways, including different

S.imkhwi

Bhagawiduila

The Buddha The Epics

&

iRaviaytimi

Mahabkarata)

Kanada & Vaisheshika

Nv

iya

Goddess). Beliefs held

(though differently understood) include: Clod or

the Absolute source of

becoming so independent. Noteworthy are


Vaishnavites (devoted to Vishnu and the incarnate forms of Vishnu,
especially Krishna and Rama), Shaivites (devoted to Shiva and
traditions without

Shiva's consorts),

Upanishuds

Gods and Goddesses,

in

man\

Nagarjun
Patanjali

so that people can

approach, understand, and worship different manifestations;


rebirth continuing, perhaps through millions of lives, until the

chain of ignorance {m'idya)

is

broken and release {ntoksha)

is

attained; the form rebirth takes being

Founding of Nyingma

controlled by karma, a moral law as

Nalvars/Nayanars

impersonal and inevitable as gravity;


necessity for the order of society and the

universe being maintained


p. 68,

and

rita, p.

62).

There are

many equally valid ways to


move toward niolislui;
important among these are
w orship of the

form of the Deity

and

Nammalvar

(Maran).ShanlidevaFounding

Kagyu

ol'

Founding of Sakya

Xaeana poels

ShnMd\

Hamanuja Jayadeva

Madhva

visible

Devi Gila

agganalh temple

Shir

in

darshami (direct
"seeing"),

(Dharma

Shankara

piijii

loundinnnfCeluk

s?

Sants

(worship).
Guru Nanak
Vallahha

Mirahai

fulsi
.

Kahir

Surdas

Cailanya

C;uru Arjan

Das -Tukaram

Rupa

Krishiiatlasa Kaviraja

Coldrn lemple.Guru
Giaiilh

Cum

S.,hil, inslalled

Ham M.ih.m

Worship
iiniiiifcsl

nniiir jiiniis

ill

lihlid

III

tciuplc's. llic\ lire

ill

nelcdniL'd us hoiKiiircd

guests in forms of

worship known a\

Hamakrislin.i

p.

i;r..hmo

94

Rabindranalh iagore

Vivckananda

Aurobindo
I'.irli.imcnl
I

.irj;esl

Gandhi

World

oflieligions

ever

al l^ravaga

pLija

li.n

Sahh.i/Brahm.. Sam.ij

Deity /xroiKcs

(,nlndS,nuh

Kumbhamela

l\

Nadu

Tamil
Where

TAMILS IN South
called

river,

in

tell

the story of a

Jamadagni who married

concentration

wanted

India

Gods Meet

the

mind

ol

nothing hut

she saw reflected

woman

in

it

One

(see helow)

much water

that she could carry as

piece of cloth.

the Gods) flying above her.

Brahman

of such purity and

day, carrying

some Gandharvas (musicians and

Moved by

as she

water from the


singers to

their beauty, she lost her

concentration, and at once the water poured away.

Jamadagni questioned

his wife

about

this and,

when she confessed

had been moved by the beauty of the Gandhanas, he ordered


son, Parashurama, to take her into the wilderness and cut off her

that she
their

head. At the place of execution, she embraced for protection a

who was

a -pamiya (Tamil for "outcaste",

son promptly cut

hence the English

both their heads but then returned to

oft

woman

"pariah").

The

his father

(nerwhelmed with grid,


jamadagni admired his son's obedience and promised him w hate\er
he most desired as a reward. The son asked that his mother
should be restored to life. He was told to put the heads back on
tlieir slidulders, and both would live again.
he son did so, but put the Paraiya head on the Brahman hodv
and Nice versa. The woman with the Brahman head and Parai\a
liody became the Goddess Mariamma, to whom goats and cocks

are sacrificed, but not buffaloes; the

woman

head and Brahman body became Ellamma,

im\^f

4-

^U-

are sacrificed, but not goats

The story of misplaced heads

whom

buffaloes

and cocks.

dilterent purposes (see

with the Paraiya

to

is

Hrst heard this particular story in

told in

many

parts of India for

Henry Whitehead, who


South India, pointetl out how it

Ganesha,

p.

108).

way in which two originally separate religions, those of the


Brahmans and of the Tamils, c.imc together as one and yet retained manv

reflects the

Sacn'd Luii^^uaue
Saii^knl
I'L'tiiiiic

of their independent traditions antl practices.

the sdcrcil

lini}iiiaf>c

njliului. hnt nuiui ludhiii


rcii,^,nus

Innv ihcn

owu

M/ti'Ci/ Liiiiiiuiucs nichhliiifi


llic

o/

Dnivid'uiii
;;)('i((

"Brahmanism" (from Brahmans, controllers of

sec sciipl. iihovc^

/(ii(ui(ii<;('.s

illiporUlllcC

South

liidiu.

ill

name

rituals

and

sacrifices)

is

given to the early lonii of religion developed from the beliefs and

practices of the Aryans

who

t'ntered

\ortb India from

e.

SOOiic

r.

From them come the sacred texts known as the \'edas,


so that this early religion is also known as V'edie religion.
Brahmanism, with its sacred language of Sanskrit, gradualls spread
throughout India, and its beliels, Gods, and practices became dominant
w ithout eradicating alternative faiths. The Brahman head could be put on
onwards

(p. 60).

the nati\e bod\, but ecitialK the natixc heatl could be put on the

Brahman
way

bod\,

roLintl,

.is

with the wa\

the liision

ol

ol

worship known as

|'ii/''

(p. '"'4). liither

iiulepeiuleiit beliefs rt'peatedK ci'eatt'd lor the

I,

liulian

people draniatie new wavs both

and

worshipping

ol

(Hedl'ield) but tlial plirase has

it

"the

in lelation to

"

ol iiiKlerstaiulinn

made them sound

it

to the regional religions:

like junior partners.

and

as

tradition"

little

been abandoned beeause

was resented by those belonging


a deeply serious

\AI)II

Ciotl.

way Brahmanism spread has been deseribed

I'he

"the great tradition

will

This has become

political issue in India as areas like

Tamil Nadu, speaking one of the Dravidian languages,

The Tamil

seek increasing autonomy or independence.

names

God

for

have become markers of Tamil

identity,

even though Tamil Gods and Goddesses have long been


associated with Brahmanic and other Deities.

This

whom

God Murukan, to
in Tamil Nadu

particularly true of the

is

three of the

major temples

six

are

word teyvam to speak of all


ihat constitutes the nature of God: it is teyvam that
becomes manifest in all the many forms in which God

tledicated. Tamils use the

appears. Within that nature

lie

beauty

antl loveliness, all

manner of sweetness, unending youth - all. in other


words, that is summed up in the word iiiiinikii: nninikii
is

teyvam, and niurukn (an abstract, neuter noun)

becomes

and personal as Murukan.

real

(iodJess Patliiii

llwcult nfihcC.oihlc-,

Muiiikan

is

ani\al of

a Tamil

understanding

God

ol

is

connected with Rudra

early

(p. 105).

Murukan

is

Iml'ni

linked to

that religion by being regarded as the son of Shiva (p. 108),

was

l\iHiui iiioi'cd

that predates the

Brahmanism from the North. Murukan

I,,

(p.

109) the great warrior and

one who leads

is

{(illienvise so dix'idedf

accepted by the devotees of Shiva

is

fundamental

to Shiva

to the Indian story of

God/Goddess can be extremely


imagination of

God

on the move (see

is

God. Particular manilestalions

many

stable across

centuries,

and

/i(/s

ol

thill oj

stories

is

matters

ol

God through

many

Tamil

different strands are

thirty three million

lorm of

life

one of the most important

for all Indian religions;

not the conquest of one

conquest of ignorance by

and

is

well-known of those strands; that the

fundamental

is

can be

.i

all.

God

There are

Gods among

manilestation

many forms ol
metaphor, only the One who

there are that

Kali Ip.llTl

yet the

It

least

in her

Ih'cnnic ci^siniihilcil U'ilh

"Lmikiiii^

together; that village religion

though

loiif^er

always, both literally and metaphorically,

therefore a reminder that

is

iiti

null n;Jil hccaiVsC her cith

Nadu

is

iroi's/i;/)j>t'i/ c'v/i'i(s/ri'/i

Pattini, right).

Approaching the Indian understanding

woven

revere her. Bill in

South India die

and brings release from the world.


This process through which different approaches to C!od adjust to
each other, so that they change and reinforce each other in a new vision,

as the

jriDii Stiiilh

luiuLi wlicic

hnlh niuUhi'.lsaudllnnlu,

who

identilied with

c'cjiuiUy

Skanda

Sn

and that what

by another but the


at least three Innulreil

ihe hulians (since every


Ciod,

and

bul there

II

like the sudileii diiuii


iiiilliiiii

iiiillimi siiiis,

telling ol

traditionally

beyond image and


these different ways becomes

lile)

in

ol

ii'((s

Of

jiir \(iitr li;j)il.

went out:

'^iiiiiiliiiii

l-(ir

O
ij

my

uj livliiiiiims

ninidcr.

birdojCiiivy
yon

iirc iiL^hl.

there euii he

iio iiietiiphor'

is,

known. So wrote the iamil poet Allama (see box,

right):

(i'anianujan, p. 52)

Indus Valley
Tlie Coiuiiig oj the

THK MANY STRANDS


AMONG
of God, one of the
L

make up

that

earliest

is

Aiyans
the Indian understanding

that of the Indus Valley civilization

which flourished c.2500-1800BCt:. Archaeologists have found


and seals from this era, but the script has not

buildings, small Hgures,

been deciphered and

not clear exactly what the beliefs were.

is

it

even certain whether the language used was Dravidian

form of Indo-European. However, the findings appear

(p.

to

It

is

yet

not

58) or an early

show

number

of anticipations of later religious developments (see box, right).

Study of the buildings and artefacts left by the Indus Valley civilization
shows that they embraced a number of religious themes that seemed to

when the beliefs and practices of a new


dominate the Indus Valley - and eventually

disappear (only later to reappear)


people, the Aryans,

came

to

the whole ot India.

The Arvans (ana =


India

The Pwtu-Sliiva Seal


ll

).s

thouglil

this

/ri

soii/t'

may be an

that

The

animals siirroitnding the


figure mggeit

as Pashiipati, the
of Aiiiiiiak.

liis

role

Lard

came from

central Asia and, because of

chariots, they spread into

Europe and North

there are connections between Indian and

European languages: the word "God", German Gott,


from the Aryan dyaus come Zeus, Dens,

early

pnrlrayal of Shiva.

eiilral

- areason why

"noble")

and

their skill with horses

onwards -

is

Teutonic, but

Dieii, Deity, etc.

They entered

was once thought by invasion, but


some now argue by more peaceful infiltration, in which Dravidian beliefs
were not displaced or destroyed, but absorbed and changed.
India from c.l 500l!Cli

The
power!

it

which

Ar\'ans lived in a world in


Lil

life

was sustained through a

between Gods and humans. That


relationship was maintained primarily through

relationship ot exchange

and it was expressed


know n as the Vedas.

sacrilice.
texts,

The Vedas (Irom

vid,

believed to be not
clcrnal
rishis

Iriitli

"ihosc

(in or.illv,

which

is

.()2N

Xt'tl.i.

in

ilu'

use

II

who

see

,iiul

()\cr nian\ cenlLirics,


hiil

hence they are called


heard").

which verses
(ll

were passed

shntii i'UkiI

There are four basic


Rig Veda, containing

Sama

Ironi the Tug \''eda are

arranged

priests in sacrifice; ^ajur Veda, containing

s.ienlicial chants;

the \ed.is,

).

lunins dixided inio len niandalas;

charnis. curses, and


I

compositions but

rexealcd to the work! through

.iilleelions (samhihis);
I

sacred

"knowledge") arc

human

were not written down,

tlK'\

in their

and Athar\a Veda, composed

hymns intended

also regarded as a

ol

lor he.iling.

p.irt ol

Shruti iSeripture),

.illached Inst the Pjr.ilinian.is, CdiilainiiH' ritual texts ,ind

INIMIS VALIJ.V

Indus Valley Findings


Mother Goddess
Mother Coddc

Soiiw of ihese features are foiDid in later beliefs and practices:

h'iaures of

3S

WATER:

2&

Many

female

I'igures

C^oddess and Mother as the souree of

ol'

YONI AND LINGA:

Mother Cnddcs-,

suggest the

and

lertilily

proiiiiiicnl

life.

of generation) as the sources of

SHIVA: One

seal

may be

God

the forerunner of the

life

and strength.
been seen by some

a seated bull but has

Shiva (pp.l04ff), and

sometimes called the proto-Shiva

seal.

It

is

led to

it

depicts a figure sitting in a

also being called the Pashupati seal, since Shiva

LortI of the
35

Animals

which has

as they

still

explaining the sacred power contained


tlien the

regarded as

Trees are depicted as the focus of worship

and were protected, much

and

is

(piis/iiipi/Jd.

PROTECTED TREES:

iiiiaiilnts).

as

therefore

position that resembles yoga (p. 77), surrounded by animals,

in

are in village religion.

the cliants and

hymns

Aranyakas, containing c\|ilanations ol the inner

meaning of the rituals and sacrifices. Beyond the Aranyakas but serving
same purpose of explanation are the Upanishads (p. 84), the end or
culmination of the Vedas and known therefore as Vedanta (Vedanta as
the foundation of later commentary also includes Badarayana's Brahma or
Vedanta Sutra, an elliptical summary of the teachings of the Vedas and
tile

the Upanishads, and Bhagavadgita,

over a period of

From these

many

texts

centuries,

it is

p. 92).

These works came

c.1200 300I5C

obvious that relating

into being

humans

Cods

to the

through sacrifice was fundamental to Aryan or Vedic religion. Rig Veda


10. 90 describes all creation and every aspect of society coming from the
sacrifice

and dismemberment of a primordial

of society

is

a natural part of

(piirusha).

The order

the order of the cosmos, and sacrifices

maintain and express that order.


appetites and desires like

Man

The Gods

are described as ha\'ing

humans, so they can be

sacrifices, share in the ritual meals,

invited as guests to

and be addressed

in

hymns with

the

hope that their anger might be abated or their lavom- secured, so that
material benefits like sons or cattle might be gained.
I

il

he aim was not immortality but success

the CJods approved, to a span of 100 years.

in this liie

Some

and

its

extension,

known
Others, known as
sacrifices,

as

were public and often on a grand scale.


orihya (belonging to the household) concerned individuals and

shrauta,

became more numerous and


known as Brahmans came into being
and from them this developed stage of Vedic
name of Brahmanisni.

families. Eventually, as the sacrifices

complicated, a class of priests

supenise the

rituals;

religion receised the

III

Indw

;s

to

not

llic

\rv,ni \r,/,,s

Stone rings and phallie-shaped stones suggest

the later Focus on the yoni and the linga (the female anti male organs

25

llie

Valley cirili-alion. hut

Hindu temples.

S GODDESS AND MOTHER;


impdrtanee

are conniioii in

water and

Baliis near buildings suggest the eonceiii with

ritual purilieation ol later

Sacrifice
TJw Vedic Gods
i;i)i\(.

A'

lo iiic Rig Veim, there are

mentioned

the HLimher 33

is

in

Brahmanas
(to

Even

so, this

which the various

(pp.60f), in

put

it

in

number became
Gods in the
cosmos are

parts of the

terms of modern theatre) a series of stage sets

on which the vast epic of

The

Cods,

are

the Vedas, and no explanation of

given.

the basis of a later classification of the

seen as

.^3

names of many more Gods

act, the

life is

played out.

makes clear the way in which the Gods in


\edic and Brahmanic religion e.xpress the power and energy of

bo.\ (top right)

the natural order, and in v\hich energy

new outcomes

in regular,

and

is

at least to

transformed into

some

extent,

The Gods maintain the fundamental order


of the uni\erse, an order that is known as rita.
v\ay, Vedic religion made personal as Gods what we would call
predictable ways.

J^^
Agni
Agni

In this

between

tueditiles

hitnmns ami Gods.

Hh

threefold nature reflects the

He

three sacrifices.

accompanied
sometimes
often he

is

h\'

rides

of

is

More

life

The

(the Rudras). along with

result

was

all

the m\Tiad transformations of energy.

them and came to realize


w ith the Gods, they too could play their part in
(harmony and order) of the universe. This state of

that people could interact with

that by co-operation

ram and

it.

maintaining the

rita

communication and co-operation they achie\ed through

sacrifice.

sei'en-tongued,

oolden-toothed, u-ith

nes and flaming


and

dressed in black

1.

its

sex'en

is

Sacrifice in Vedic religion expressed the fundamental obsenation that

000

hair,

death

drau'n b)

is

the necessary' condition of

life:

there cannot be any

universe of this kind without death. Today,

carrying

a flaming spear. His smoke-

bannered chariot
red steeds;

the in\ariable laws of nature (the Adityas) and the constituent conditions

as the death of stars releasing heavier

organic

life,

observe this

elements

for

new

life in

in

such things

planets and

or the death of succeeding generations creating the

wheels are the

opportunity of evolution.

winds.

the

way

we

that plants

The Vedic Aryans observed

and animals are

killed in

it

more simply

in

order to provide food. They

one who eats may then become food for


As one of the Upanishads (pp.84f) put it, "This whole
[world] is just food and the eater of food" {Brihad-aranyakit Up.
.4.6). That passage immediatelv goes on to state that "Soma is
food and Agni is the cater of lood". which at once points to two
of the major Gods of the Vedas.
Soma, associated with the Moon as the cup of Soma, is the
also observed that the

"Yon,

Soma, the

}j,tundian of

our

bodies.

another.

\hike your dwelling in each part


nj

ii.s,

Lord of lords.

hough we go against your firm

lure mercy

rule so often,

food of the

ritual fire

and thus the food of the Gods.

speaking, anything that

on

us.

be kind and

gracious"

(RV

8.48.9)

is

offered to the

Soma, but the name

Strictly

Gods through

the ritual

more often used of one particular


offering, a plant or substance that was able to produce powerful
hallucinogenic or intoxicating results. That this was the "magic
nuishrooni .\iuinnlci musctiriu. was a popular guess, but it was
fire is

is

The
The names printed

in bold are the

the Lord of Creatures.

Thir'it

Three Gods

Gods reckoned among the

He was

whom was

33, to

Stage Set

Leading Actor

Supporting Cast

Director

Earth

Agni

Fi\c elements

Ash\ins (Clods of agrieiillure)

Space

Vayu (Wind)

Sky/Heaven

Surya (Sun)

12 Adityas (ruling laws)

Milr;iA4iruna

Constellations

Soma (Moon)

The Ancestors

Svayanibliu

(Fire)

Rudras

9 of the Rig Veda are addressed to Soma, and to him


the whole of
sacrifice,

Sama Veda

(p. 60).

how does

it

is

"Agni

Soma

easily enters

personally, through

it

enter the Gods? Through

caption,

form
the

left).

in Agni.

fire

Agni

The whole process

He

is

(cf.

of the universe

"fire":
is

fire, or,

given visible

home, and the fire of the ritual of


He both brings life and consumes it. Through Agni
life is

remains of a dead body

(a

memory

The Vedic Gods maintain


clearly defined domains.

all

conduct the gods

here.

by day wealth and welfare which


is

that

and

glorious

replete with

heroic sons.

O Agni,

the sacrifice

mid

riiiial

which you encompass on evety

as thin as smoke).

the natural order and operate

side, that

indeed goes

in

Gods.

to the

But how are they related to each other?


Presiding at ritual juuclions. the

That became an increasingly


pressing question.

be

Through Agni may one gain day

as

possible and, by

of the funeral pyre, Agni carries from the earth

to

is

and modern

see

the heat of the sun, the flash of lightning,

the heat of passion, the generation of

who

that Agui,

extolled by ancient

of the hearth at

sacrifice.

means

Latin ignis,

the luni^eUahl

divine minister oj the

bestower of blessings.

May
seers,

put

Parameshtihin

sacrifice, the chief priest, the

dedicated

humans and

&

I e.xlol.

priest, the

Soma, by entering those who

connects them to God.

affects them, but

Indra

(lite-giving energies)

more likely the plant Ephedra, which contains amphetamine.


Soma, identified also with seinen, is portrayed as the giver of life,
the healer of diseases, and the Lord of all the other Gods:
without Soma they would cease to be. All the hymns of Mandala

to

added Pmjapciti.

regarded as the source and creator of all things.

at-j .m w

brightly shining custodian of the


.^w.

cosmic order

^
()

Agui,
I

]>e

(rita),

own

your

thriving in

realm,

easy oj access to us as

jaiher
jor

to his son.

join u^

our wellheiug"
(

IW

1.1)

Sun God
Sun God

riding

through the heavens

in his

Siin'^i

the

liiirse-drmvi! clnuinl.

Three and One


God

Miuiijestatioiis oj

N EARLY \EDic HYMN (RV 5.3.1) draws together different Gods and

same

declares that thev are each the

A'

modes

'At hirtli,

all

reality in different stages or

ot manilcslcilion (see box, p. 66);

Agni, you are Varuna;

when

set alight

you

become Mitra: in you, son of strength,


Gods fiihi their centre; to those wlio worship,
\ou hecoine Indra

The Gods

of the V'edas appear in and through the natural order that they

sustain, but not as the natural order: they are not personifications of

natural

phenomena. They can be approached, particularly through


domains, but it was already coming to be

sacrifice, in their respective

Indn,
realized, e\'en during the Vedic period, that they

can better be regarded

lihtni eiiibddies llic qualities

of tlie

other Gnds: "Indra was

made up of all the other


Godi. and so he became
the greatest

iA\yakta Up.

S./

'.

as manifestations of the

One w ho

is

behind

all

appearance as

its

source

and guarantee:
"Here, the Lord oj tribes

behohl,

benign, grey-haired priest, witli seven


heroes as sons,

Fhiiiked br his true brothers;

Lightning and the

V\^o was there

oil

sprinkled Lire.

to see the

structured one

W'lien the unstructured one first bore hiui^

Where was the Earth's life, her blood, Iter breath?


Who mar seek some light on this from a sage?
L simpleton, asking

this in ignorance.

Meditate on the footprints

down

set

by

the Gods.

Wise singers have spun a


seven-stranded tale

.Around the Sun.


I.

iguoriint,

Irom those
\\

this calf

max know.
One? Who was the

seers wIkj

hut was the

Uidiorn

from heaven.

uidinowing. seek knowledge

One

ho projjped apart the

si.\

regions?...

INK

Speech

divided into four

is

The wise
Three

They

They

call

levels,

know them all.


and men never attain them.

it

Indra, Mitra, Varuna,


[the Sun], the heavenly bird.

many

the singers chant in

call

it

ways;

Agni, Yama, Matarishvan.

The yellow birds soar high to heaven.


Along the dark path, clothed in waters.
They have returned here from, rita's home.
The

earth

is

"He

1.164.

1,

4-6,45-7)

The Care of God


who makes the sivans

peacocks of every colour,


le will

Do

support you in

created

all

things

is

known

as Prajapati:

Do

the egg-like source of all creation],

He

Only-Lord of all that was bom.


upheld the heaven and earth together.
[To]

He
He

is

what God

the

shall

we

sacrifice?

power and vigour;


His command all Gods obey.
law of death, whose shadow is life immortal.
[To] what God shall we sacrifice?

the giver of

is

Of whatever

life's

breath,

breathes,

moves or

He, through his power,

He

is

the

[To] ivhat

May

is

is still,

the ruler.

God of men and cattle.


God shall we sacrifice?

the earth's father never

harm

us.

For he made the heavens and followed Dharma.

He

released the powerful


[To] ivhat
Prajapati,

God

shall

and

we

crystal waters.

sacrifice?

you alone embrace

all these

Created things and none other beside you.

Grant us the

May we

ivishes of our prayer;


have a store of wealth in our hands"

[RV 10.121.1-3, 80

are poor.

not exult

when you

beginning was the Golden Wom.b [Hiranyagarhhc,

"In the

life.

not long for riches

when you

One who

and

white, parrots green,

soaked in prosperity"
I

(RV
In the Vedas, the

AND ON

speak only the fourth.

Agni and Garutman

Of the One

singers

levels are hidden,

Men

i;

are rich:

All must receive the reward

of past deeds [luirma,

p. 92],

whether they are

good or had"
{Pancatantra 2.69).

F.

Opposite:

But. in truth, the

Producer
Varuna

behind

lies

all

things as their

unprodueed

human

to describe or

intelligence to understand:

Nagii King \iiruim

sits

on a

"Neither existence nor tioti-existeiice was as

loins lilted In serpents, hi

the hiickgrouiui

Neither the world nor the sky that

his

is

niaiiifestatioii as

God

One who

beyond humdn language

tar

is

the

And

W^hat was covered?

of rain.

And who
Was

gave

it

there water, deep

ret.

hexoncl

lies

it;

where?

protection?

and unfathomable?

Neitlier was there deatJi, nor iiniuortalitx.

Nor any sign of night or day.


The ONE breathed without air lr\' self-impulse;
Other than that was notlnug whatsoever

W
W

ho

was

lien

really laiows^

Who

can here sa\

born and from where creation came?

it

The gods are later than this


who knows from where

world's creation:

Therefore,

That

Whether

it

He who
He

watches

He

129.

If,

does not know"

60

of questioning and quest continued into the Upanishads

spirit

(pp.84f).

into existence?

heaven

in the highest

alone kncnvs. unless


(fi\' 10.

This

came

it

which creation came into being.


had held it together or it had not

froDi

Among some

it

led also to de\astating criticisms of the

which the Gods had been characterized:

led indeed to

it

new

wavs

Vedic Gods
Tlic

3i

Gods

VARUNA maintains

related to

Agni

R\ 5.31 ithe

in

the cosmic order of the

Lord of

all

rita (p. 62),

Dharma

(p. 68).

meaning

of things,

the rainy season.

He

is

Only one hymn

and therefore also of

beholding

(RV
3S

all

and

things that ha\e been or shall be."

MITRA

(in

3S

INDRA
hymns

Kurope. Mithras, p.233)

is

so

closeh associated uilh \aruna that the\ often

in

to
is

the \edas to

ensure that the


respected by

is

the ruler ol the Gods, to

whom more

are addressed in the Vedas than to any

other except Agni. His strength (represented by


the

1.25.9).

is

humans, he ensures that people keep their


promises and sustain the bonds of friendship.

he \\atches o\er humans

all

addressed

order guaranteed bv Varuna

Understanding the inner

enthroned as king, ruling

is

is

Mitra alone. Mitra's role

the

with a thousand eyes: "The wise, law-keeping

Varuna

on page 64) are asfoHows:

appear with the single name, Mitra-V'aruna.

hea\ ens. guaranteeing the regularity of the

seasons - above

h\>}in

x'ajra.

(p. 62),

"thunderbolt")

of which he

becomes the source

is

is

in

religions.

maintained by

the main recipient.

Soma
He

ol strength for other beings.

1;

I)

c )

^:

God

Criticisms of

B uddhists and Jains


of neighbouring kingdoms,
LONG AGO, there were four
ONCE,
what
experiences
each
whom had
kings

box, below).
to conflict

of

life is like

how

greed and lust lead

different

of

When

the kings witnessed

and destruction, they renounced the world and went

(see

off

without any possessions.

common

World-renouncers (shramanas) are


but they are not

activate the energies (chakras) that

others develop powers that enable

otherwise only the


to

seek their goals

in

two Indian

religions,

the same. Some, for example, seek, as in Yoga, to

all

Gods can perform.


in a state of

human

latent within the

lie

them

body;

perform miracles that

to

them

All of

are able,

independence from the

if

they wish,

rituals

and

Brahmanism. Some go further and reject the Gods who go


with those things. Often they reject what is known as Dharma.
In Brahmanic belief, sacrifice and ritual help to keep the universe
sacrifices of

way that it should. So too


means many things, but at the
heart is the sense of living and behaving in the way that is appropriate for
who (or what) you are. Dharma is so fundamental that Indian religion
and life are often known as sanatana dharma, "everlasting Dharma". A
vast Dharma-literature grew up describing what exactly Dharma means in
the many different circumstances of life. Inevitably, therefore, Dharma
controls the ways in which its followers approach God: for example, only
the Brahmans and other priests can undertake the major sacrifices.
"running on time", that

does Dharma.

Dharma

functioning in the

is,

is

word

that

The Four Kings


Seeing greed,

lust,

and

conflict all

around them, the four kings turned

hack-

tlu

on wealth and power and renounced the world:

3i

THE FIRST
:i

KING:
much

urove bearing

in their

greed, they

get at the fruit;

and

flc
fruit.

saw

mango

tree in

A crowd came

3S

and,

olT carrion,

chopped down the tree to


at once the king renounced

birds

baule

beautiiul

woman

Icll

on

liiil
it

KING: He saw a bird feeding


in a moment dozens ol olher
and on each other

lor the food;

and

at

in a

KING: Each

day he saw a

pass hy with an exquisite

3S

THE FOURTH

KING:

I'his

fine bull in a herd. Suddenly,

bangle on each arm; but one day she wore them

attacked by

both on the same arm, and, by their jangling

the cows (or themselves, and

drew the eyes of all men aher her;


once the Liny renounced the world.

all

king noticed a

it

was viciously

the younger bulls


at

who

desired

once the king

noise, she

renounced the world.

and

(from a s/on U)ld hy BikW/iis/.s tnnl

at

lerocious

once the king

renounced the world.

the world.

K THE SECOND

THE THIRD

Jciins)

Dhiiiiiia creates a liighly

ordered soeiely and

K'l

|(

INMN <M f.on

a well uri;aiil/,ed relationship

between humans and the Gods. But the story oF the four kings, set as it
is in legendary times, is a reminder that alongside Brahmanism, and
predating it, are approaches to God that are independent - as in the case
of Yoga,

the interpretation of the proto-Shiva seal

iF

criticized

(p. 60) is correct.

some of those independent forms of


and rejected Brahmanism and its understanding

Not only

that,

but

story of the four kings

told

is

by Buddhists, and they

tell

belief radically

of God.

The

a similar story of

Gautama. He had been sheltered by his father in


him from disturbing experiences, but one day he was
taken out for a drive and he saw, on separate occasions, a sick man, an old
man, and a dead man. Disturbed by the thought that these conditions
were waiting for him, Gautama wondered how to escape them. On a

young prince

called

the palace to protect

fourth

trip,

he saw a Shramana (world-renouncing ascetic), emaciated but

glowing and smiling serenely. Seeing the possibility that he and those

him had conquered the


son and went off to the

threats to

life,

Gautama abandoned

his wife

like

and

where he embraced extreme asceticism. He


discovered that such practices lead to extraordinary powers and
attainments, but that is all: they attain their goal, but no more than their
goal;

forest

and those goals do not lead

to

escape from suffering and death.

disillusionment at the true but limited attainments of asceticism

InGautama looked for "the middle way"

(a

common name

for

Buddhism) between asceticism and ritual, and sat beneath a


tree concentrating on what he called later "seeing things as they
really are".

There he passed through the four stages or

layers of

progressive insight (jhanas), and finally reached enlightenment.

moment he became the Buddha (i.e., the Enlightens


He now saw exactly how suffering (dukkha) arises and how
(and to what) we can pass beyond it. This core of enlightenment
is summed up in the Four Noble Truths (see box, p. 70). Where,
From

that

One).

in this system of belief, is God? Not quite nowhere, but


nowhere outside the whole process of appearances coming into

however,

being and ceasing to be.


of
sat

God. Indeed,

it

The Buddha never denied

the reality

was God (Brahma) who, when the Buddha

motionless beneath the enlightenment tree (Bo Tree),

persuaded him

to get

up and share

his insight with others.

What the Buddha did deny was the belief that there
reality God who is somehow outside this universe, who
survives even when this universe ceases to be, and who
is the Source and Creator of all things. Brahma, who
was believed

in

made a
when this new
simply

Brahmanism

to

be the Creator, had

mistake: he was the

universe

thought that by being

came

first,

creator of everything else.

first

appearance

into being,

and he

he must be the origin or

The Buddha

also denied the

efficacy of sacrifices. Jataka stories (stories of


in his

Gautama

previous appearances on earth) record incidents

is

in

Emaciated Buddha
Gautama h shown after
asceticism in the forest,

his

and

before his enlightenment.

His naturally olowini; skin

was made dull hy

his efjorls.

in

which the

LinrcliahiHty ot sacriHccs to

produce prcdictdhle

consequences demonstrates that the Gods cannot he


story tells

him

how

to tend the sacrificial fire in order to attain the

One

day he was given an

salt,

he went

to a

how impotent Agni

When

(p. 63)

ate

leaving only the

it,

cried out,

"My Lord

of Fire,

God and

Gods

the

this!"

Throwing the hide and the

as real as anything

are

if

you

you protect me? The meat being

he took himself off to become a renouncer

So the Gods are limited but


belief:

will

make do with

and

o.x

Brahmadatta returned, he realized

He

was.

cannot protect yourself, how


gone, you must

realm of Brahma.

for sacrifice, but, lacking the necessary

o.x

by; they killed the

hide and entrails behind.

fire,

One

nearby village to get some. While he was away,

some hunters came

onto the

relied on.

the parents of Brahmadatta, a Brahman, encouraged

real in

is

one of the many ways

in

offal

(slmtniaiia).

Buddhist

which the flow

of transient appearance takes shape, along with everything else.

Of

course they are appearances on a very high level of attainment, enduring

through

many aeons

of time, but they too are seeking Nirvana.

But while they are


religion in

Jains, Diganibaras

iiuketl

and

gn

There

their iiiniges of

means

the Tirthaiikiras arc naked


ivilli

downcast

eyes,

dead

Iniii-cloth

is

that

to

which

it

spread.

nothing contradictory or paradoxical about

on the way

to

this.

It

simply

enlightenment and Nirvana (and that may take

many thousands or millions of reappearances), the Buddha accepted that


it may be wise to seek the help of Gods and Goddesses, or to seek to
attain their domain (devalolm, "heaven") after death, or even to become
a God or Goddess - a possibility since they are only one form ot
appearance among many on the way to enlightenment.
This means that it is profoundly wrong to call Buddhism, as is often

to

the world; Shvetaiiihara

images wear a

which the Gods are extremely important. Buddhism absorbed


(e.g., Pattini, p. 59, Yama, p. 72), and then took

on many more from the countries

the two major groups

Of

iiiiioiig

is

most of the Indian Gods

Shrine

Jaiti

may be very helpful, in, for example,


why Buddhism as lived around the world is a

in being, they

answering prayers. That

and

are alert to the worLl uith

a sinsle e\e.

done, "a non-theistic religion", or even "a philosophy and not a

The

later

forms

ot

Buddhism (known

c()llecti\elv as

religion".

Mahavana)

The Four Noble Truths


Front snfjering to eiilightetiineiit:

3S

ONE;

The

fact of diikkha (suffering);

are iransient (anicca): as soon as they

being, they are on the

there

TWO;

things

lo dtikkha. the

when we

anguish and dissatisfaction that


ne\cT llnd

it.

understand

we

this,

we

are no

remain unaffected by "the slings and arrows

of outrageous fortune" (or by anything else)

a soul to survive death.

the midst of this leads inevitably

in

truly

longer disturbed or affected by them. To be, but


to

he cause of dukkha (seeking or desiring

permanent

THREE; When we

see things as they really are, and

is

something permanent): seeking something

arises

3S

into

to ceasing to be:

nothing to be found anywhere that

is

permanent, not even


2i

way

all

come

is

to

enter into the condition of Nirvana.


3S

FOUR;

Seeing and understanding these truths

enables us to trace the cighl-step path


{ashtangilui-tnarga) that leads to that final

condition

ol

enli"hlennient.

CRI ICISMS IH (;c)D


I

who

developed many forms of appearance


vital

ways, above

all

help

humans (and

others) in

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (those who have attained

enliuhtcnment but turn back from Nirvana to help those

who

are

still

(among literally, from a


the mother of all the Buddhas,

suffering in the world). Important examples

Buddhist point of view, millions) are Tara,

who

has vowed never to relinquish her female form (pp.73, 74);

Bhaishya-guru, the Healing Buddha; Hachiman


and Kshitigarbha/Di Zang who helps children and
who rescues the tormented from hell.

Amitabha/Amida
Daibosatsu

(p.

(p. 74);

165);

of devotion and trust exist in relation to these, often


Cults
indistinguishable from the way that other people worship God as

one who

is

eternal

and

distinct

from

this or

Buddha knew very


well how a false trust in God or Goddess can lead
away from the path to enlightenment. He was
any other universe. Even

and

fiercely critical of ritual

a false belief that the

that they

or

if

consume the

so, the

sacrifice

Gods

if

they lead to

are iiUimaiely real, or

hungry ghosts,

sacrifices like

they lead to exploitation of credulous and

needy people. The Buddha saw himself not


or as

who

but rather as a physician


offers the cure.
illness

are

as

God

an intermediary between Gods and humans


diagnoses illness and

Those who use God

to

continue the

and make money by exploiting people's need

denounced

in

no uncertain terms.

So already by the 5th century BCE, the Buddha


was offering a radical critique of Brahmanic
religion.

He was

not alone.

The

Jains also told the story ol

(UttanuUtyayanasutram 18.45-7) and,

like the

liic

lour

Lngs

Buddha's Feet

Once

Buddhists, followed the

world-renouncers in rejecting the Brahmanic characterization of the Gods,

They

along with their sacrifices and

rituals.

God

who remains independent

is

the creator of

all

things

is

the

One

in

Nirvana

of creation.

all

the perfected ones (siddhas) and

all

is

both

unknowable, uncountable, primordial, Brahma, Ishvara,

is

infinite: the

you by these names {Bhaktauiara Stotra 24).

not, since

beyond the

human

The Buddha.

cannot he

therefore,

God

ways of describing and praising God: "You are imperishable, mighty,

worshipped, since he

God and

is

ivorship.

is

not

not available jor

He

can, however,

he kept in mind, and images


of the

Buddha

exist so that

people can express gratitude


for his teaching.
destruction in

The Taliban
2001 of the

"

Both Jains and Buddhists (with other renouncers) raised deep

which the Indian understandings of God were


unfolding. Even so, they looked for ways in which the fundamental
human recognition of God could find a natural and legitimate expression.

criticisms of the

or

is

the

many and yet only what there


truly is, and hence One. So Jains developed their own rituals and
worship, not least of the 24 Tirthankaras, the ford-makers who show the
way to attaining the goal, but also of the siddhas, for they are what God
is, the final truth. To them as One they sing hymns that take over Indian

saints call

is

dimensions of

in

attained

cannot he said

understanding.

whom

guides (jinas) subsist, so that

it

whether he

also rejected the belief that

But Jains equally reject the accusation that they do not believe

God. God

Buddha

the

Niwana,

ways

Those ways developed

Buddha
Bamian completely

vast statues of the

at

in

as

Buddhism spread beyond

India.

misunderstood Buddhist
gratitude

and

identified

ahsurdh', with idohitn.

it,

The

Fierce Deities
Compassion

Vara the Tear of

\ Buddhism, God, Gods, and Goddesses are as real as

any other ot the myriad forms of appearance, hut they


arc no

more

real

that there

is

than that.

no

What

is

true of

humans -

humans, hut only the

self or soul in

coming together of transient forms


- is true of the whole universe.

of appearance

As the Mahayana philosopher Nagarjuna


(c.

50-250cii) put

it, all

self-essence of any kind.

is

the Lord of Death

and

for Hindus and Buddhists.

For Hindus he

is

judge and

(see box,

92}

is

empty

below

of a self or
all

things

characteristics,

is known as shunyata. This emptiness is, in fact, the


Buddha is - in other words, it is the Buddha-nature

left).

Conscious forms of appearance are

death, but for Buddhists,


{p.

emptiness

this

nature of what the

gaoler (of the wicked) after

hirnia

are

properly understood,

- including humans and God - are empty or devoid of

Fierce Deity

Yama

phenomena

When

privileged,

because they have the

opportunity to realize the truth that they are nothing other than the

the only

Buddha-nature already (there

and Yama simply


what a life has been.

nothing else to be, despite appearances

is

judge,
rei'eals

to the contrary).
lives,

By overcoming ignorance and bad impediments

in their

become enlightened themselves.


Gods and Goddesses in Mahayana Buddhism is, like

they achieve this realization and

The major

role of

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, to protect from all that threatens the


realization of truth, and to bring practical help in attaining it. In Tibet,
Deities are often imagined and portrayed as fierce: they have ferocious
faces, and their many arms carry different weapons, as well as the heads
that of

or limbs of their victims. If they

those

or spirit

"Since he

is

by nature empty,

Tlie thought that the

Buddha

Exists or does not exist

After nirvana

were not

fierce,

they could not protect

them for help from the many dangers - of mind, body,


- that would otherwise overwhelm everyone.
Supreme over all is the Lord of Knowing, the One who
embodies the defeat of ignorance and thereby opens the way to
insight and enlightenment. In most Tibetan monasteries, there is
a room devoted to him where vigil is kept to engage him as

who

look to

protector of the monastery and the surrounding area (see box, far
is

not

It is he who passes on to the Fierce Deities the offerings


and the weapons that they need - skulls filled with blood for

right).

appropriate.

Whatever

is

the essence of the

'llial is

the essence of the world.

The Tathagata has no


rhe world

is

essence.

without essence"

(Naujrjun.i, MuLimadh\Linuilitilnirilu

22.14. 16)

to drink and the skin of flayed corpses for them to wear


need protection from things worse than death.
The Fierce Deities become protectors through two dillercnt

them

We

Tathagata

types of ritual: offerings and visualization. Visualization

arduous

ritual practice

through which those

is

who engage

the yogins, attain identity with the Deity: they

an
in

it,

become what

the

Deities are. not by facile thought (as with Nero, who, as he lay

dving after

a lifetime of

being regarded as the representative ol

cartli, said, "1

Ciod on

think

am bcxoming

rigorous discipline of contemplation that

This

take a lifetime to

is

drawn

into

life.

putting into practice the truth of shunyata:

all

appearances,

nature, devoid of differentiating characteristics, even

though they appear

same Buddha-nature. Union with Truth already

exists;

it

For Tibetans (and

focused

is

just

(p.

many

other Buddhists), this protection and

"She who saves". Tara was believed

to

when he beheld

158)

in the world.

(jffered as a

"There

is

When

the sufferings of the

'female'

And

destructive.

is

enlightenment, but fewer

have the opportunity,

beings in the body of a

women who

will

help

woman

the emptiness of the world

all

until

is

the helper

is

accessible
rituals of

so

who

much

is

always

so that the

access to her are

and she herself

who perform

stories of the help

if it

were ftdl

and

for

fragments of bedraggled fur thai


had been worn b)' a dead
aunt.

Pictures of the gods are

painted on the walls. At


sight

first

you would say they are

demons, monsters, infernal


beings.

They

are, however,

spirits, protectors,

good

who assume
combat
is

a] dark, dusty pocket of stale


air,...

containing greasy, skinless

carcasses, with terrifying gods

painted on the walls riding


monsters, wearing diadems

is

taken to the villages by


actors

space under a flight of stairs

with us would he

the invisible forces of evil.... [It

practised daily, not just


annually,

many men aiming

the

as disgusting as a

these terrifying shapes to

completely realized."
Tara

more than there is 'self


to 'male' and

bondage

since there are

is

to great-grand-father,

reward the chance to become a man. She replied,

or 'person' [the teaching of shunyata]:

The

and

ancient umbrellas that belonged

she reached enlightenment, she was

neither 'male' nor female', any

who might

of rubbish covered with cobwebs,

world. Tara identified herself with the most defenceless and

abused

the evil spirits

whole place

in Tara,

hears,

stuffed with straw, to frighten

carcasses fall to pieces,

have been born from a compassionate tear shed by Chenrezi


Avalokiteshvara

decomposing bodies of

desire to pass the threshold.

remains to be realized.

help

shrine to the Lord of Knowing;

away

be so different. They already share the

to

Most Tibetan monasteries have

wild dogs, yaks, and snakes,

including those of the Fierce Deities and of humans, are of the

same

DHII

IKKCI-

"At the entrance are hiiii^ the

only possible because in this exercise the yogins are

is

a god!") but by

may

complete. However, even during the attempt, the power of the


Fierce Deities

III.

of skulls and necklaces of

the

human

she brings.

These performances (known

as

heads,

their

and holding

in

hands blood-filled
skulls as cups"

ach'e Ihamo) can last for days,

with a reciter supporting

(Maraini, pp. 500

dance and songs, and with


the whole village taking
part.

These songs and

dances "arouse her


heart of compassion

Arousing the heart


ot

compassion

is

White Tara
Each Tibetan

Sch/xil

ii

linked to a different form

and colour of Tara (p. 74


mantra (p. 129} of Tara,
).

also true of other

manifestations

Buddhism.

in

Tlic

om
;s

tare tutlare ture svaha,

much

used

b)'

Tibetans

seeking protection.

li:S

Amitabha
The Pure Lcmd
Reached Enlightenment, but turned back to save
who still suffer in this world. Such saviours are
know as bodhisattvas, (those who reach enlightenment
but then turn back to help others). The poet and philosopher,
Shantideva (8th century CE) summarized their vow (see bo.x, left).
\i!A

"'.As

Idiig us

beings

rciippearing suffer,

u'Jio

may

ure
I

those

still

T;

become

their medicine, their doctor


their nurse, until everyone

and
is

healed. In order that all beings

may

attain their goal,

up ivithout
idl

my

resen'e

my

Since the Buddha-nature manifests

and

Homages

accu}}iulated virtue of the

past, present

and

whatever

itself in

different forms there are, Tara can appear as Goddess. In

shall give

body,

11

to the

India in the

Goddess has

future, to be

used for this purpose"

Twenty One Taras,

is

te.xt

brought to Tibet from

such as averting

a different role,

desires, increasing

them

1th century CE, each of the 21 forms of Tara as

wisdom, and healing the

associated with a different colour.

dgedugs.pa. Virtuous

Way) school

of Tibetan

disasters, fulfilling

and each of

sick,

The Geluk

Buddhism,

to

(in

Tibetan

which the

Lama belongs, reveres and worships Green Tara.


Buddhas and bodhisattvas, therefore, attract to themselves the
worship that people in other religions offer to God, because Gods and
Goddesses are among the many ways in which the Buddha-nature comes
Dalai

into appearance. In the

God or Goddess, they bring help and


Among the most notable and widely revered

form of

deliverance to the world.

known

is

China as A-mi-t'o, from the


Sanskrit Amita, and in Japan as Amida. He is also known as Amitayus,
"Infinite Life". Amitabha offers to those who come to him in trust and
faith the reward of reappearance in the Pure Land of Sukhavati, the
Amitabha

("Infinite Light"),

Buddha-land or Paradise that

The

in

lies in

the West.

story goes that long ago a king heard the preaching of a

Buddha:

monk, taking the name


Dharmakara (in Japan Hozo). Instructed by the Buddha Lokeshvararaja,
he resolved with 48 vows to found a Buddha-land. He sur\'eyed many
existing lands, noting the perfections of each, in order to create one land
he renounced

his throne

and became

containing them all. The Land he eventually produced is Sukhavati, of


which he became ruler For immeasurable lengths of time, he devoted
himself to good deeds and the service of others, and eventually by this
practice he became the Buddha Amida.

He

sits

now on

a lotus, emitting rays of

aura larger than a billion worlds.

He

is

golden

light,

surrounded by an

attended by the bodhisattvas

Avalokiteshvara and Mahasthamaprapta, and he bears the 84,000

auspicious marks, the materialization of the virtues that correspond to

them. In

who

particular,

truly long for

Amitabha has vowed

enlightenment and

to

who

appear to

call

order to lead them into the Western Paradise.

and

faith

is

known

as iieudnitsu

(Chinese

all

on him

The way

nien-p>).

dying beings

moment,
commitment

at that

of

"mindlulness

ol

the

in

"

Ikiddhu

and thai

Aijiida Butsii

iii

became

turn

ettort to achieve the

hom

getting there:

help

- and not even

Pure Land

what

is

required

is

Amida

is

(cf

He

Buddha

173-1262CE),

(1

merit:

all

monk

at

that

is

Amida

required

offers his
trust in

is

faith alone, p. 291

Green Tarn
).

the age of nine, but

when

exiled in 1207CE, Shinran rejected monastic

He

became Jodo Shinshu, the True Pure Land

believed that the buddhas and bodhisattvas

commitments and vows

to

are strictly unnecessary.

The most

help those in need, so that


that effort

us nowhere, because everyone always

Not even repeated

meant

will bring

aroused even once

ot joy

and love through Amida's


are,

in

"11

us one thouglit

is

we

one plea

Amida's help:

there

just as

fails.

on Amida's name

calling

{neiubittsii) is strictly necessary:

sincerely

vov\.

we

turn

with our sins and lusts upon

toward nirvana.

us,

follows that faith for Shinran

It

is

act of will, a conscious decision that

put our trust in Amida. Faith

not an

we

will

the single-

is

minded acceptance that we are already held


saving embrace of Amida, and that

in the

there

and

is

nothing to do except rest

He drew

love.

in that

the contrast between effort

faith in a letter:

"The [expectation

of]

being ushered into Pure Land [by Amida]


belongs to those

who seek

Land through religious


practices are grounded

birth in

Pure

practices. Their
in self-effort.

also [seen as the crucial

moment]

Death
to those

who seek

birth through religious practices.

They

have not attained true

still

faith...

Believers of true faith, because they are

embraced

[by

Amida] never

reside already at the stage

to

be forsaken,

whereby they

are

truly assured [of enlightenment]. For that

reason, they have no need to look toward

death or

to

Pure Land.

depend on being ushered

When

faith

is

into

established in

Pure Land is likewise


They do not have to look toward
the [deathbed] ceremony of being ushered

them, birth

in

established.

into Pure

painting on

life.

married and fathered children, and established the community of

School.

ctnlli

depicting Green Turn. "Tlic

Honen was

followers that eventually

is

take refuge in the

faith (shinjin) that

Luther on

Shinran became a Buddhist Tendai


his teacher

major obstacle preventing people

work of

faith as a

grace and goodness of

tile

"I

Japanese teacher, Shinran

to the

coneeiitrated in the words Niiiuii

(Chinese Nan-mo A-mi-tiio fo),

Amida". According

Land" (Dobbins, pp.282f).

shows us

fulfil all

all
is

their

colour green

is

made

h)'

mixing white, yellow, and


blue; so

Green Tara unites

pacifying, increasing,

"ways of effort"

destroying"

that effort gets

{Buddhaguhya}.

and

P,

.N

Early Philosophies
Samkhya-Yooa
BUDDHISTS AND Jains
for

God

envisage a universe in which there

mean

as creator, though that does not

Goddesses are unimportant,

still

less that they are

is

no place

Gods and

that

impotent. By

Hindus, therefore, Buddhism and jainism are regarded as interpretations


(darshana) of truth, but interpretations that happen to be wrong on this

Thus they can he thought

as well as other points.

of as ruistika darshana

instead of astika.

Even
in

so,

among

the six

astikij

darshamis there are three interpretations

which, although they accept the authority of the Vedas,

God

is

marginal or unimportant to the system. V'aisheshika, founded by Kanada


(c.2nd centurv' BCE),

come

an analysis of the

is

into conscious awareness

- adding

six

ways

in

which appearances
which

later the status of that

has ceased to be. Nyaya, close to Vaisheshika. developed the logic

necessary to draw valid conclusions about the categories; Udayana

arguments

logic to put forward nine

(1025-1 lOOct) used that

for the

existence of God, of which two (karyat and ayojanat) resemble the


Meditation
In Imlia. meditation
i(si(o//v

accompanied

careful ritual,
it'ors/iip.

This

in systems that

is

b)

and often by
is

true even

do not focus

on God.

first

and second of Aquinas (p. 267) and another {adrishtat) is a moral


argument, which states that value cannot be derived from inert matter.
Samkhya (traditionally founded by Kapila, c.6th century BCE)
to account for the appearing of the universe itself. Samkhya
from an observation of the radical difference between conscious
awareness {pimtsha) and inert matter (prakriti). Purusha is the conscious,

attempted
starts

intelligent self or essence; Prakriti

of

all

being or appearance. In

the eternal, unconscious potentialitx

is

itself, Prakriti rests in

balance or equilibrium, composed of three strands

a state of perfect
igiinas): I'attya (the

subtle principle of potential consciousness), rajas (the principle of


activity),

and

The unfolding or
when Purusha
of subject and object. The

tcimas (the principle of passivity).

evolution of Prakriti from

becomes present

to

union of the two

it,

is

its

state of equilibrium occurs

creating the duality

compared

to a

lame man with good


man with sound

on the shoulders of

a blind

"blindness" of Prakriti

means

carried

that

it is

all

legs.

The

not conscious ol

the process of cNolulion. although

produces

sight being

the time

all

appearances: their variety

is

it

consequence of the different proportions


the gunas; for example,

if

predominates, mind iniamis)


-but this

is

not the

Purusha,

still in

products of

unchanging,

self.

is

The

produced;

true self

is

association with the

Prakriti. but
i

ol

vattya

unmoved,

m perl urlia hie.

I.AKI V

By

the consciousness

llic light ol

aware of

Piirusha in

I'rakriti. If

regards the body or

mind

forgets

as the true self, then

material things, Prakriti. Salvation or release


is

>N( H'llll S

hiimans are able to become

ol Piinisha,

humans

I'llll

its
it

true nature

and

remains attached to

simply to recognize what

is

already the case, namely, that the true self (Purusha) within us

was

always independent and free and remains so now.

Freedom
w hich

is

is

thus obtained by discriminatory knowledge {samkhya),

practical as well as theoretical;

and that

is

why

yoga became

attached to Samkhya, producing the so-called Samkhya-yoga of


Patanjali. In this

dynamic philosophy, there

is

no need

for

God:

which there are


observable and natural explanations, since everything arises from
the imbalance between Purusha and Prakriti. From this it follows that
everything

is

linked in chains of cause-and-effect for

every effect or manifestation

is

actually already present in the

preceding cause, since otherwise those causes might produce not


stable or predictable effects, but completely
In this

scheme, God

become necessary

is

and Goddess, given

to

is

account for the

human

experiences of

God

Samkhya therefore
show how God and Goddess come

their distinct quality.

developed different ways to


being: one explanation

many products

random ones.

not necessary. But then what does

was

that they are simply

into

one among the

of Prakriti (a solution close to that of Buddhism);

another explanation was to identify

God

source, the unproduced Producer of

secondary producer of causes,

with Purusha, the eternal


that

all

is

through the

What Samkhya did not


God was somehow outside the

Prakriti.

allow for was any possibility that

system, outside Purusha and Prakriti, as an independent Lord and

producer even

them.

ol

Samkhya was

cautious about

God and Goddess, even

stages of Indian religion. Like

main focus

is

all

salvation or release from the prison in

its

which people

is not achieved by an intervention from God; it is


achieved by right understanding and insight - because the prison from

are held, I'hat release

which we need release

is

place for

like

God and Goddess shows how

Buddhism and Jainism, allowed


insistent the

human

experience

God and Goddess is. It is of such a kind that it does not have to
compete with naturalistic explanations of appearance, whether those of
modern science or of these earlier philosophies, but can simply be stated
ol

them in ways that are coherent, and can actually reinforce each
The reinforcement of God came to be powerfully expressed in
works known collectively as Itihasa ("so indeed it was "), works that gather
the stories, beliefs, and practices that have sustained among countless
alongside
other.

Indians their devotion to God.

Among

these works are the Puranas (pp.82f) and the great epics,

Mahahharaia (pp.92f) and Ramayana, the much-loved story of the


adventures

of

Rama, Indias

Yoga [jrom

yiij,

join) involves

lo

yakc

in-

extreme

commitment, along with

acl^

of ascelici^iii ami
concentration, in onlcr lo

ignorance.

However, the fact that Samkhya,

Yoaa

at the earliest

Indian schools or systems,

favourite hero-prince.

leave the world

oneself with

and

God

or

join
llie

object of devoliiiiL

Rama and Ramayana


The Defeat of Evil
SO THE STORY GOES, man who had been
LONG ACO,
was changed when he was
meditate a

very effectively, because he sat


lor so

still,

long that ants built their anthills

time, he

was

Valmiki

taught to

thief

is

all

lost to

the world,

over him.

From

that

called Valmiki, "born of an anthill".


traditionally the author of Ramuyuini.

He was

inspired to write the epic in seven books (liandm) of 24,000


\

crses

when he witnessed

and saw the

hunter

kill

one of

sur\'i\'or circling in griei. X'almiki

a pair of birds,

cried out:

"Himter, your soul in circling years no


peace, no rest will ever find

Because no thougtit of love or uiercy made


you stay or hold your liand"
He had

Forest Exile

Ramavana
i'xile

3 deals with the

The forest was

of Rama.

portrayed as a place for

meditation and struggle:

Those

and

who

practise tapas

never spoken

like this before,

and

this miraculouslv gi\en eight-

became the way in which he spoke Raniayciiia.


Although Ramayana is attributed to Valmiki, it grew through a process
of many centuries, reaching its present form c.4th-2nd centuries BGE.
The book tells of the adventures and misfortunes of Rama who, as a
beat metre

result of the

God

Vishnu's help, was born in Ayodhya with his three

faith in the forest, the

knowers who

IraiHjiiil

the

life

of a

brothers to Dashartha, King of Kosala.


live

mendicant,

depart jreed from

s/;;,

through the door of the

sun

to

where dwells the

nn mortal, imperishable
pcrsini"

{Mundaki Up
1.2.11).

Rawaytvia is basically an epic stor\' in which the characters (especially


Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita) exemplify Dharma (the appropriate way to
live and behave), whether in good times or in bad. It is a classic story of
the triumph of good over e\'il.
Ramayana also illustrates how Rama generated the power to follow the
path of Dharma in all circumstances by the discipline and asceticism
that produce tapas ("heat"). Tapas in the Vedas is the power used by the
Gods (not created by them) to bring the created order into being (e.g.,

RV

10.129.3).

It

could be brought into being through the

fire sacrifice,

then became
power generated especially through asceticism, chastity, and yoga,
through which an immense store ol energy is concentrated in the body

evidenced

in

the sacrificing priests pouring with sweat.

It

the

leading to release {molisha).

For

all

those

many

reasons,

have passed deeply into Indian

Ramayana
life:

year the\' are sung antl acted out

is

a treasured book. Its stories

they are widely known, and every

in lestixals

throughout India known as

\M A \\|)

I'

H,im;i Lilas.

holy

and

said. "\\

It is

life-giving

reaches heaven."

name

Rama

of

The same

in a

WAN A

hoeser reads and recites the

Ratuayana
is

is

freed from fault and

achieved by saying the

dying person's

person speaking that

K \\1

name -

by a dying

ear, or

Gandhi did when he


Ramayana revered that

as

was assassinated. So deeply is


many new versions were made developing its themes.
Of these, Adhyatma Ramayana (date and author

unknown) developed the concept that Rama is


than a great hero, and that both he and

much more
his

beloved Sita are Avatars, "incarnations" (avatani.

They are in their essence


Brahman (pp. 860: Rama is the
impersonal source of all appearance; Sita is the way
in which Brahman becomes manifest and creative.
The evil Ravana worships God in them even though
he is the enemy of God: to have God in mind mav

"descent", p. 91) of Vishnu.

the two aspects of

lead to the hatred (or death) of God, but

God

that

In

is

in

is still

Adhyatma Ramayana, the events become

allegories of all that


for

it

mind.

God

happens

in

the

(including the yearning for

human search
God when God

seems absent or

far away, later to become so important in dcNotion in


The major characters exemplify the way in which
GodMshnu becomes manifest, not just in the major Avatars, but also
other Gods and Goddesses too. This is particularly true of Hanuman,

God,

S,tcl\

p. 96).

I'yiniui

WfcUillg

iiml Sita are iiiodels of

devotion between husbands

in

and uives and between

humans and God.

important in even later developments of Ramayamj.

The Seven Books of Ramayana


Rama's adventures are told in the seven hooks of Ramayana:
3S

BALAKANDA:

Buok

deals with the

childhood of the four princes and

Rama and

tells

3S

how

Lakshmana defeat
demons, and how Rama, by bending a bow
his brother

other suitors could not even

lift,

is

the native forest dwellers),


thai

given his

3S

beloved Sita as his bride.


3S

AYODHYAKANDA:
is

Hiis describes

how Rama

supplanted as Dashartha's successor and

ARANYAKANDA:
exile

and

tells

how

Lakshmana.
Book ^ deals with the

3S

to

to the

poignantly described grief of Rama.

searches for his beloved

in vain.

v\

ho

how Rama

monkeys

who

(i.e., all

in return

sends

to lind Sita.

SUNDARAKANDA:
finds Sila

YUDDHAKANDA:

This describes

and

Iriislrates

Book 6

tells

how

Ravana.

of the battle

Sita proves her

innocence of any contact with Ravana by


throwing herself onto the

forest

the sister of Ravana, the

abduct Sita -

Ihis lells

between Rama and Ravana.

is

demon king of Lanka, desires Rama. When


Rama spurns her, she sees Sita as the obstacle
and gets Ravana

lanLiman

tianuman

exiled to the forest with


3S

KISKHINDHAKANDA;

assists Sugriva, the king of the

after
3S

trial fire,

which does

She

is

vindicated by Agni

which Rama

is

crowned

not burn her.

(p. 63),

king.

UTTARAKANDA:

The final book collects


many supplementary stories, culminating in
death of Sita, the abandonment by Rama of
body,

and

their reunion in heaven.

the
his

Hanuman
The Monkey God

Ol'

GOD IN ANIMAL FORM, Hanuman,


among the most widely revered, especially
Hanuman is Mahavira, the great hero of Hindu

ALL THE MANIFESTATIONS OF

monkey

the
in

North

or ape,

India.

is

devotion, the son of Vayu, the wind, and the friend and servant of Rama.

.\i!

Monkey God

He is
Rama in

8th-centur)' bronze

gets into the

pliUjue of

of

(I

is

servant in relation to a

nuisicr.

Ramayana

in

oidnidying strength
ciiul lnyalty.

illustration of the phrase,

Even more

furious,

insolent
I

Hanuman?

its
It

CI

siiKitl

much-loved

sees him:

monke}' figure

kneeling with joined hands,


beside

Rama and

Lakshmana and

his half brother


his consort Sita,

sometimes tearing
to

his chest

show Rama's image

heart, other times flying

the sky with a

open

tail

should be set on

Rama's brother,

(ahhaya)

devoted and

compassionate yet fierce,

and remover of
giver of prosperity and

protector

evil... all

Iiiuuiiitni"

iLuclvik, p.

I)

Hanuman

But

runs faster than

the only possible cure, a

mountains. Off

Ravana that follows, Lakshmana,


wounded, so Hanuman is sent to get
herb that grows on one of the Himalaya

battle with

mortally

flies

Hanuman, but when he reaches

these are

the

mountain, he has completely forgotten which herb

it is,

once he uproots the whole mountain and

to

Ayodhya, where he

pr(n'iding dei'otion,

is

After the conquest of Ravana,

and wish-granting (mudra)


gestures, carrying club, bow, and

destroyer of

fire.

always greater".

is

punishment, that Hanuman's

palaces, possessions, and crops.

or, if

in his hand, long-haired,

obstacles,

to the aid of

Hanuman

whose son indeed he is: the fire cannot possibly catch


up with him. As Hanuman runs, the fire destroys all of Ravana's

in his

occasionally five-headed, hands

ihiiiiderbolt...,

for a

through

Himalayan peak

in the fear-removing

king of Lanka.

Deus semper maior, "God

Ravana orders,

During the great


"as

where he comes

evil

the wind,

low does the Indian

imagination see

(pp.78f)

captured and dragged before Ravana. Ravana

model

the

known

rescuing Sita from Ravana, the

kingdom by leaping across the ocean, but once there he is


sits on a high, proud
throne, but that does not bother Hanuman. He coils his long tail and
rises up through the air until he is higher than Ravana. In fury, Ravana
orders his throne to be raised on blocks, but Hanuman simply puts a few
more coils in his tail and rises always higher than human pride - a vivid

Hanitman. For

worshippers, he

best

is

Hanuman

rewarded with the

At one

level, this

is

the

common

human

he encounters and conquers


for

so at

Lanka.

Rama

to

of eternal youth

at

known and
and

if

familiar world,

beyond themselves
life

to the

of

worthy of worship and

all

if

he returns

and countervailing forces of good.

the start of his ministry

journeys through

it

who can

he sets out on

example, the story told of Jesus and of his testing

w ilderness,

So

if

evil forces,

assisted by the corresponding

far

returns with
gift

story of the hero

beings only

journey that separates him from the

is,

it

not eternal, at least of a million years.

bring good things to

It

carries

(p. 238).

One who

is

The

in

the

stories point

the pioneer of the

humans, and who,

as their helper,

is

praise.

was with Tulsi Das (c.l532-l632CL; the name means

"servant of the

tidsi". a

plant sacred to Vishnu). In Hindi, not in

the sacred language of Sanskrit, he wrote Ramcaritmanas, "The

Holv Lake of the Acts of Rama". This

is

a retelling ot

Ramayana

\M MAN

II

in Linguaiji-'

aLCCssiblc lo oidinan people, and

it

lias

mans- their most deeply loved and treasured aecess

hcconic lor
Crod.

t(j

has been ealied "the Bible of Northern India" (Macfie,

Introduces different narrators, including Shiva

Rama - an attempt

who

is

It

p.\ii). it

devoted to

to unify the divergent traditions of

God.

it

Dharma (pp.68, 78), but it stresses


made possible by the presence of Rama dwelling
those who are devoted lo him.

continues the emphasis on


that
in

Dharma

is

the li\cs of
I'lilsi

Das was

"Hail,

mine of fortune,

dispcllcr

of earth's load, Purari's form

monkey

manijest in

guise.

Destroyer oj the demons as

though they were hut moths,


through Ram's wrath in the form
of fire-fhnne-garhuuk'.

him always in times of need. Once the ruler in Delhi demanded


Tulsi Das should prove the truth of his faith by performing a
miracle, and when lulsi Das refused, the ruier threw him into
prison. When Tulsi Das called on Hanuman, a great army of
monls.eys began to destroy Delhi, and the ruler at once begged

Hail,

Son

Wind,

of

victories, vast

oj famtnis

arms, greai

that

forgiveness and released him. His praise of


right)

is

found

in his coiiection of

poems,

Hanuman

(see bo.x.

Viiiaya-patrilui

("The

Humble Petition" to Rama).


Hanuman is greatly ioved, but there are myriad other forms in
which God or Goddess becomes manifest. The stories of many
Letter of

of

them

particularly devoted to llaniiman, turning to

strength

and lengthy tad

Hail, face like the rising sun,

ruddy

with a knot of

eyes,

hristling grey hair

With arching brows,

diamond

teeth

lion for the

and

ivith

claws, like a

enemies maddened

like elephants,.

are told in the Puranas.

Queller of agricultural
calamities, great fear,

ill-

planets, spirits, thieves,


fire, disease, great

epidemics and
afflictions!.

Of none other can

this

praise he told, that he

makes the impossible


possible

and the

possible

impossible.

By remembering
linage,

abode of

person

is

his

delight, a

freed from

'Orrow mid affliction


lAllchin, pp.

Humble
HiinioiiiDi

00, 102)

Sen'ant

worshipping

Rama, while

Sita

and

Lalishmana look on. The


birthdav of

Hanuman

[Hanionan jayanti]

is

celebrated especially in
Sotidi India

and Delhi.

-^^

The Puranas
Accounts of Ancient Times
UK PUHANAS ARE WORKS
understandings of

t:

expression.

God

They were

in

which Indian
paramount

are given

called purana ("ancient"),

partly because they were believed to be very old, but


because they collect accounts of ancient times - myths, ritual
.

f^

partly also

practices, cosmologies,

Purana Scene
Bhagavata Purana
of

stor\'

how

the

tells

God

be compiled

the

Vishnti,

editing,

iuainuite as Varaha the Bonr,


defeated the

in the

and genealogies of Gods and

and some composition continued


Purana must deal with

Traditionally, a

kings.

They began

to

time of the Guptas (c.320-500CE), but additions,


until

about the 16th century.

fi\e topics:

demon

The
The

Hiramalisluu

bringing into appearance of a universe

(its

creation)

destruction and subsequent re-creation of the universe

Genealogies

The

reigns of the 14

whom

each of

The

Manus, the

rules over an

dynasties and history of the solar and lunar rulers from

whom

all

human

kings are descended

most of the Puranas deal with

Just as

Goddesses than those with


they

ancestors of humans,

first

aeon (maiirantara)

may

include

fail

to deal

much

whom

much

wider array of Gods and

they are formally associated, so also

with the prescribed main topics. They certainly

additional material, and by gathering so

concerned with the Gods and Goddesses and the

much

rituals

information

through which

they should be approached, the Puranas gave authority to the ways in

which Brahmanic
sacrifices, the

religion developed: in contrast to the large public

Puranas endorsed home-based

rituals

and therefore made

God and Goddess possible for ordinarx' people.


The Brahmans who endorsed this God-centred way of
access to

'^-'

The Great and Lesser Puranas


Sacred
I'hc I'uraiKis arc ol iniiiicnse size.
UaLlilidii.illv tli\idi'cl inlo
(

\i^

texts oti the

They

form of Ciod dealt with

are

Great Puranas

lists

of the 18

may

vary.

3S

The

lundamcnlal constituents of existence as seen,

(p. 76).

in

Samkhya:

saliva, rajas,

six

Rajas/Brahma: Bhavishya; Brahma

Markandeya; Vamana.
3S SattvaA'Jshnu: Bhagavata;

to the

Garuda:

ViSIINU

Naradiya; Padma; Varaha; Vishnu.

for

and tamas

Each of the three was dncn linked

those

Brahmanda; Brahmavaivarta:

Mahapuranas arc then divided into groups of six,


each of which is associated with one of the three
example,

in

Puranas:

Mahapuranas) and 18 Lesser (Upapuranas),

though the

Indian way of worship.

Tamas/Shiva: Agni; Kurma; Linga; Matsva;


Shi\a; Skanda.

I'UKANAS

nil

were known as Smartas (because they (ollowed Smriti,

living

"just as rivers

or supportive scriptures, cf Shruti, p. 60) or as Pauranikas

The forms

(exponents of the Puranas).

were

but they were

in fact diverse,

sources, yet all

of worship and belief

at least theoretically

come from many


become one with

the ocean, so all the Vedas, all

drawn

together in their acknowledgment and worship of five

sacred writings,

manifestations of God: Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha (Shiva's son),

they are different in the

Surya (the Sun), and Mahadevi (the Great Goddess).

come

The
form of

-puja)

is

important in the arguments (often

stories) against the critiques of

God

Piinma, for example, rejects strongly those

(pp. 68-77).

whom

it

calls

in

God

through

{Bhagavalci Pur. 8.1)

Vishnu

Nagnas

and Pasandas, who include Buddhists and Jains and any others who
the efficacy of approaching

they

God"

to

the

though

way

come home

into being, all

framework of the worship of the Five Deities

theoretical

[pancayatana

all truth,

ritual. In contrast,

reject

the Puranas

unfold the worth and the ways of worshipping God. They played a major
part in

drawing diverse cults into coalitions focused on one particular

manifestation of God, whether of Shiva and his consorts, or of Vishnu and

whom

his Avatars (incarnations), of

Krishna

is

the most important (pp.92ff).

any one Purana, there may be attempts to rank

InGods and Goddesses according to


-

devotion

how Krishna
consideration
is

thus, Vishnu

its

own

focus of

Purana 5.34.29 records

defeated Shiva. But the overriding


is

God, God
may be many forms through which

that despite the critiques of

not dead. There

God is worshipped, but they are all ways in which the


One who is God (increasingly identified as Narayana,
pp.90, 104) wills to become known (see box, right).
The Puranas, therefore, reflect the way in which
the worship of many Gods and Goddesses began to
coalesce and flow together into the two major

movements

in India: the Vaishnavites

Vishnu and

his Avatars;

devoted to

and the Shaivites, devoted

Shiva. Both these were divided into

to

many movements

of very different kinds, and yet in themselves and between each other

was no embittered

there

The Attack on
"The Nagnas

rivalry.

commands

This was helped by the belief of both Vaishnavites and Shaivites that

Narayana

(originally

whom

trom

all

is the One who is God


God and Goddess come.

more associated with Vishnu)

creation and

all

manifestations of

Through the Gods and Goddesses

as agents of Narayana, the

injur)'
to

is

of animals are wrong;

into the sacred fire brings

whole

kept in being. They are not, as a quick reading

Vedas might suggest, personifications of nature, because that would

and separate identities - a genuine polytheism, i.e.,


collection of many Gods and Goddesses. No doubt there were (and

give

them

maybe

distinct

still

are) Indians

Vedas themselves

made

(i.e.,

regard

them

in that way.

But even within the

the time of the earliest records), attempts were

Gods and Goddesses are


One source and origin of all reality. The quest for

to express a very different view, that

wanifestations of the

the

who
at

One became paramount

in the

Upanishads.

nay: All

leading to the

claim that throwing butter

reward

process of the universe


ol the

Sacrifices

is

to

speak

infant; if Indra,

supposed
sustained

to

h)'

like uii

who

be a God,

the

wood

is

is

that

is

used as fuel on the sacred


fire,

then he

the animals

is

who

on the

Imver than
at least

feed

leaves.

{Vishnu Pur 3.18.25)

The Upanishads
Sacred Texts Seekiiio the
Ui'AMsiiADs

SACl'.l

\i;i

Till,
number depends

I)

II

MS

(ahout 200 altogether: the

on classification) that come from

(c.600bCE to the Middle Ages), but the

and commentaries on the


of these

come from

One

earlier.

a long period

later texts are extensions

Muktikct Upanishad

lists

108, but

many

end of the Vedic period. The


connected to the Vedas and form the

a time well after the

Upanishads that are closely

authoritative Vedanta (end or culmination ot the Vedas) are usually

reckoned

One

in

the Upanishads

Yajna\alk\a.

"I i(i\\
1

Ic

renowned

of the most

teachers

many

)ne dav he

CJods are there

?"

answered that there are


niimher invoked

i,3()6 (the

hvmii to

many

in

the Cods). "Yes",

all

said his ciLicslioner. "But

"He

is

was

how

arc there really?"

at

about 13-18

reality that brings into

who

iire

there?'

hut hdiv iinnn are there?'

uniin

(ire

there?

hdiv

One
'\es.

hut

iihiiiy lire

ritual

it,

'Whieh

there?'

iininr lire there?'

/s

r,reiith.

Iher

eiill

///(

He

him

is

the

is

words, the Brahmans/Brahmins. But by the

in other

The

and knowledge of

is

no longer

mouth

for

a kind that will set

characteristic prayer of the

power but

people

Upanishads

is

for

free.

actualK pul

of the sacrificing priest, illustrating what

sacrifices are really about;

"Fr())u the iiiireni lead

'One...'

"The

including

is,

hull

iiiitl II

how

that

One? \ajnavalkya (left) answered


Brahman? In early usage (see box, right)
power, and the word refers also to those in

what

emphasis changes. The quest

into the

"rm>:
hill

is

charge of

insight

'Iliree.'

how

all

time of the Brahmanas (pp.60f) and the Upanishads, the whole

'Six:

hut

or

"Brahman", but what

hrahman
hinv iiunn

hill

being and sustains

each of the Gods.


But

uiisivcii'd. "I'hirty three' [cf.

number.

in

The Upanishads continue the quest for the inner meaning ot


the hymns and rituals addressed to the Gods (in the \'edas
themselves Goddesses are not common), and above all they lake
further the belief that behind the many manifestations of Gotl
there is ultimately the One who is the source of all appearance
including the Gods themselves (see box, left).
The Vedic religion had emphasized rituals and sacrifices as
the way in which humans can bring the power and goodwill ol
the Gods into the world. The Upanishads seek the One uni\ersa

is

dcnkiiess, lead

One?'

me
to

Bnihiiiaii.

to ligiit:

me

to the real; fw)ii

from death, lead me

immortality

I'hul /tat/"'

(l]rihaduniinuLi Up. 1.3.28)


{i'.rihadaramvka Up. -t.y.j.y)
1

lere in

essence

is

the

way

in

which the Upanishads changed


the Indian stor\' ol God.

RitLial

may

in fact

be

a si'rious

impediment, because

people into the world and into the attempted control

it

mo\'es

ot this

world, instead of into themselves in order to find out w ho the>' are

jnd what ihev can become on the basis

ot that

knowledge.

III

wiMi

in the Upanishads, llie word Hrahman


came to mean the source of power, and
Supreme One that alone truly is, who (or

and then

In SlhitujHitu llnthiinnia,

look on a dilTerent meaning.


ihcielore the impersonal.

It

'which") creates, supports, and rules the whole universe. According to

pammam", "Brahman is
Supreme One that does not change [or 'perish']."
Brahman is thus the Supreme Lord (Parameshvara, para, "supreme +
ishviini "Lord") oF all things including the Gods. Brahman brings all
things into being through the power known as maya, which means that
all things reveal what Brahman is. People do not usually see Brahman
ihc elliptical Brahnuisiitni 8.3, "alishamm bruhina
the

'

(.lirectly

because thev impose their own interpretations on what they

see. In that wa\,

Brahman

also a cloak that prevents the realization ol

is

i;/(/V(/

as the only truth, the reality of

that

all

people

is:

look at a piece of rope on a path and superimpose on


that
to

is

it

a snake.

see what

and also how

of salvation and release

such

to live in

own person

one's

The way

way

actually the case (the

is

(the

way

way

This realization

Brahman

is

(CIreat Sayings of the


Iraiii-asi),

Sell

is

in the

Upanishads) All this

is

""You are

is

not (nor

is

{tat;

see box,

N4ahavakyas
That

Brahman,

Brahman, Pure Consciousness

Pirahman

one has

to realize that

because there

is,

summed up

am Brahman,

how

realizes the truth in

e\er has been) anything else but that - or That


left).

to learn

is

of yoga).

ways one eventually comes

In these

always been whatever

may

the belie

of knowledge, jwin^d

one

that

it

Itat-

This

Brahman

'".

without attributes {nirguna) and

is

cannot be described but only attained. Ol Brahman

one can only say what Brahman


"not this, not this".

If,

then.

unprodueed Producer of

all

not,

is

Brahman
that

is,

iieii.

iieti.

is

the

including the

Cloddesses and Gods, the question immediately


arises:

what

is

the relationship between

Brahman

and God and Goddess? lb that question the great


Indian philosophers turned their attention.

What
In origin,

Brahman?

is

Brahman

is

connected with power:

Brahmans

The word brahman comes perhaps from


"to increase", "to strengthen".
in

which

of those

sacrifices

who

offer

and

It

rituals act

them. In the

especially in Atharva Veda, the

beings

p.

become

great.

grow great

",

have referred to the way

use of the word

meaning of Brahman
It is

Only

"'to

almost magically to increase the power

is

in

the Vedas, and

the mysterious

also the sacred utterance or chant

129) through which rituals

(dei'as)

meaning

initially to

earliest

force behind a magical formula.

{mantra,

seems

a root

become

later is

it

effective,

and the heavenly

the Source of

all

that

is.

Bnihmans

(often in English

Brahmins) were custodians


of ritual and intermediaries

between

God and

the world.

\ns

Philosophers
Shaiiluim
Ch.\NDOGYA Upanishad, Uddalaka teaches his son, Shvetakctu,
all manifestation is an expression of

INabout the way in which


Brahman:
only,

"In the beginning, dear one, this

without a second. True, some people

was non-being

one

(asat) alone,

without contingent existence;

was produced.' But

only,

being be produced from non-being?

without a second

[i.e.,

how

On

that

hhvara

How

could this be?

Would

that

extend myself.

It

me

were many! Let

God, hhvara, in one of


Shankara's temples reflects
the TrUuurti {p.90} action of

God in the universe. But


God is God only to those still
in ignorance: to know
Brahman is to know that Cod

follows that

It

forth
fire.

many

all

appearance

sparks that

seem

sent forth

individual, but they are

known

as

Atman)

Brahman. To think otherwise

Gaudapada

According

it

in his

and

fire,

all

fire

sends

expressions of
(the inner

is

Atman

wrong idea,
commentary on Miindaka

impose on our

to

is

in

thought,

things).

not different from Brahman.

is

(8th century CE) put

Upanishad (see box, top

only a form of appearance.

all

This means that the essential nature of what a person

self or soul,

It

not different from Brahman:

is

could

extend myself

(6.2.1-3; the sequence extends itself into the creation of

The three-headed fonn of

is

me

were many! Let

the fire thought.

essence

the contrary', dear one, this

the beginning was Being alone, one only, without a second.

Would

one

alone,

(sut)

the beginning this

pp.268f]: from that non-being, being

cf.

dear one,

in truth,

was Being

say, 'In

self a

is

as

right).

to tradition,

Gaudapada was the teacher

of the great

philosopher, Shankara (788-822CE). Shankara developed this nondualistic


is

way

Brahman and appearance,

of understanding

no duality between the two except

perception. This philosophy

is

therefore

Brahman

dualism). For Shankara,

When Brahman

extends

is

which

known

is

in

which there

superimposed by

false

as Advaita (a-dvaita, non-

Absolute Being without any

in which no distinctions
and of which nothing can be said.

Brahman),

attributes or qualities (nirguna

between subject and object

that

exist,

itself into

manifest appearance, clearly some

Sat-Cit-Ananda
Absolute Being. Pure Consciousness, Complete Blis
Sat-cil-aiunida characterizes the essence of

Brahman

as

known

(incompletely) in

human

preceding cause.

C'it,

experience. Sat, "being" or "truth", emphasizes the

Brahman

unchanging nature of Brahman

luminous essence of

existence preceding

all

as pure unqualified

other existence and

experience, so that (following Samkhya,


effect

p.

77) the

must necessarily be carried within the

"consciousness", emphasizes

Brahman experience:
way of knowing, the
knowing which makes

the conscious nature of

possible
"bliss

".

is

all

the ultimate

self-

other derivative experience. Ananda,

emphasizes the sublime \alue of the

experience of Brahman.

Brahman as
way is known

things can be said From a limited perspective.

characterized in a provisional and incomplete

saguna Brahman (Brahman with characteristics):


example, that Brahman

For

Consciousness

(cit)

is

absolute Being

and complete

or sacchidanaiida (see

(iiiaiida,

To come

to the

below

"A rope not clearly seen in the

as

dark

said,

like a

pure

(sat),

Bliss (ananda),

bo.\,

can be

it

i.e.,

leFt).

to

is

transcend ignorance and misperception and to see things For what


they truly are -

p. 92) as

supreme way

to

knowledge

not an abstract intellectual assent.

is

moksha

(release

From endless

oneselF the union that has always (because

been the case but


oF that union

is

As

salt

is

Atman

is

grasped as a personal truth.

ecstatic joy, since

awareness that one


bliss.

now

is

it

is

is

absorbed

is

only a

Self

Brahman)
result

absorbed and

whose nature

itselF,

it,

its

Many

maya. Ishvara or

different

is

the ocean sustains

appearance, but

is

to

immanent

the Lord oF Maya,

ish, "to

Brahman

be

in the

name Antaryamin. But Ishvara is also transcendent, because as


Brahman, however much conditioned and reflected obliquely in our
is

the

then destroys the universe (see caption, top


accessible and

is

Not

the end oF his short

God:

and

praise,

surprisingly, thereFore,

According

liFe

and the guide

to restore

age oF 32 he

set out For Kailasa, the

seen no more. Even

leFt

was

to

Kedarnath

abode oF Shiva

so, there

Far,

to

is

is

the object

good and moral

much

toward;

temples and monasteries

move

in the

closer to

Himalayas,

(pp. lObF^

and was

were others who thought

that the non-duality oF Shankara's system

too

creates, sustains,

Because Ishvara

leFt).

Shankara did

to tradition, his last act

at the

things.

our only access to Brahman, Ishvara

oF worship, devotion,
liFe.

all

One who

had reduced God

and they oFFered diFFerent interpretations

ol

Vedanta:

many

size

the)'

and

are all

brought them into being and

the

In relation to the world, Ishvara

not

identical with the ocean that

universe which he governs From within - and as the inner ruler receives

perception, Ishvara necessarily transcends

is

from Brahman:

waves of different

Being creatively into appearance through

and Ishvara thus allows Brahman

God

Wax'es

All appearance

rellected (experienced directly but not immediately, p. 20) through the


veil oF

is"

sustains them.

then identiFied aparaTiirahman with Ishvara (From

(p. 85),

with

so

in

Brahman extends

as

it is

is

indistinguishable From

is

have power"), the Indian word For Lord or God. Ishvara


the power oF maya

So

(Mandukyalumlui 2.170

perceived in provisional and approximate ways).

Shankara

rope'.

the discernment ofivhat the

Brahman (Chandogya Upariiihad 4.13.1-3).


Does this account eliminate God? Shankara thought not. He argued
that, strictly speaking, it is not Brahman oF whom one says Sat-citaiiamla, because iF Brahman really is beyond language and description, to
say anything about Brahman is to speak about less than Brahman.
Shankara thereFore distinguished between para-Brahman (Supreme
Brahman) and apara-Brahman (saguna Brahman as above. Brahman

Atman

oj water.

brings into conscious

not other than Being

put in water

"This

to realize For

The

be things

non-duality with the recognition,

the

rebirth), but that


It is

to

consciousness becomes aware oj

not other than Brahman. Advaita thcreFore

i.e.,

emphasizes jwflMa-yoga (the way oF knowledge,

imagined

The Self is misperceived in the


same way. But when the rope is
seen for what it is, false
perceptions are dissolved, and

sat-cit-

knowledge and experience oF Brahman

is

snake or a trickle

j?^----^5^ Z-,^"^l?"

Philosophers
Raman uja and Madhva
HANKARA DID NOT DENY the importance of dexotion to Cod;
he came from South India where Bhakti flourished (p.9S).

S:Even

so,

Ramanuja

(1

1th- 12th centuries CE), also from

South India, believed that Shankara had

gi\'en too little status to

God. As a philosopher, he pressed home the logic of Shankara s


arguments about Brahman.
He agreed that Brahman is real and indeed is the only realit\
Poitiible

Worship

\'ish)ui the Perxculer is

worshipped

iti

all places.

Sviall shrines

which can be

carried about

mean

is

that he

present to be worshipped

there

But, in that case, the conclusion that

is.

cannot be a conclusion about


"less" to be.

To

posit

less

apara-Brahman

anv statement about Brahman

Ramanuja argued

pp.l6f).

is

that

Brahman

is

Sat-cit-anaiuki

than Brahman, because there


(p. 87) is a

approximate, corrigible, and


is

it

is

no

clumsy way of saying

that

fallible (ct.

nevertheless an appro.ximate and

Brahman - not something less than Brahman.


agreed that Brahman is the unproduced Producer of all

corrigible statement about

ei'er^ii'here.

Ramanuja
that

is,

also

whom

in

effects are always contained in their causes,

and

that

consequenth- there cannot be anything that does not come from Brahman.
This means that matter and conscious selves are inseparable from Brahman
e.xist apart from Brahman. The inseparability of this relationship
he called aprithak-sicUhi - but the relationship is not one ol complete

and cannot

Just as consciousness relates to a

identitv'.

and yet

is

not identical with

it,

so

body and

Brahman

is

relates to

inseparable from

it,

sehes and their bodies

by being inseparable from them and yet not identical with them.
Just as a person

world as

its

is

a self

unqualified identity but

is,

in-difference, an identity in

sustaining the other. So


multiplicity here",

rather,

its

body, so

which one part predominates, controlling and


the Upanishads declare, "There is no

when

Ramanuja took

of apparent objects
dualit}'),

Brahman has the


Brahman is not an
an organic unity made up ot identity-

(Atman) with

body, inseparable but not identical.

is

that to

mean

but that the multiplicity of objects

would be unable

not that the multiplicits

in fact illusory (as in Advaita

to exist apart

(i.e.,

where there

of creation)

is

is

no

real

but

from Brahman.

By arguing that Brahman is present in the uni\erse as its body,


Ramanuja qualified the non-dualism of Shankara, so that his own system
is known as V'ishishtadvaita, qualified non-dualism. As with Shankara,
Ishvara (Brahman as God) is the creator, sustainer, and destroyer of all
universes, but for Ramanuja, Brahman is realistically present in the lorm
of God (not present in a partial and reflected way). This means that lor

Ramanuja the knowledge and worship

of

God

gain e\en greater

importance, because they are the knowledge and worship of Brahman,


not of apara-Brahman. Not only Kjnaiia (knowledge) a

(moksha), so too

is

dc\otion or Bhakti, along w

ith total

way

to release

surrender to

God

I'iiii

(callcil

his follow CIS pnipiiili).

l)\

leads lo w

It

diirsliuini-suiiuniiiliimi-jiinihi, a direct

H\cn lurthcr than

that,

sensing

people to worship God, but

means

in

God that
God is not

approach

that the

to

to the three higher castes:

is

it

ol

Cod.

basis ol the widely

rooted not in the ellort ot

is

the purpose

by the grace of

is

It

the reality

Ramanuja claimed, on the

reported experience of Bhakti, that Bhakti

possible.

liaiiiaiiLija callcil

lial

ol

(iNoniLKs

God

ol

make Bhakti

to

people see and worship God. This

Brahmanic

limited, as in

possible lor

who

all

receive and

religion,

welcome

the grace of God.

Madhva

(1

197-1276CI;), a Brahman also from South India,

started at the opposite

end and took the

difference to be the most fundamental

can be observed

ol all that

the universe.

in

rise

w a\ and wane with the coming and going of


an\ subsequent universe.

Brahman

is

God, and God

God

(pp.91ff).

The

is

distinct

is

and different Irom

God

iil

iiiolisliii

will aiui

one
fall,

and

this

is

that

that

.ill

(release)

nuisl begin with

detachment Irom the world and attachment


The

and of

identified with Vishnti

has been created, so that the wav to

and the altammenl

at

and

Madhxa

truth for

fact ol diversity

act

Brahman

cannot be identical with the universe, not even


remove, since otherwise Brahman would

to

God.

determination to take this basic step

come most
revealed,

easily from study of what God has


namely the Vedas. From the realization

nature and immensity of God, the next step

devotion to God, and that implies doing

all

ol

the

is

things

(including one's worship) without any concern lor the

consequences - except that

this

is

done

for

God.

Instead of desiring molisha, one desires God. By


realizing that

relationship

God

is

wholly other and different, a

becomes

possible,

one that pervades ever\

moment and eveiy aspect of life. At the final stage,


God removes the veil of misperception altogether, and
the one who worships is left alone with the One.
All these philosophers

since each of

them

were interpreting the Upanishads

arrived at different (and in

incompatible) results,

it

is

is

to

(pp.tS4l

but

),

respects logically

obvious that the Upanishads do not contain a

coiierent system of philosophy.

purpose

some

As with

virtually all Indian religion, their

important thing

is

to

then supremely important to

live

is

the truth in the practice

and that includes recognizing and worshipping God in one of the


many forms in which God becomes manifest in India. Two major forms
of God are Shiva (worshipped especially by Shaivites) and Vishnu
ol life,

(worshipped especially by Vaishnaivites).

H'l/s ull-iiiii'iirltiiil

Here, worshippers

ip.n?)

captivity of this world.

trLily real. It is

worship

u\iil in

enter the Temple oj

prompt and support those who seek release from the

The major enemy is ignorance, so the most


l<jiow the truth - to know, in other words, what

For Himiuiuija ami \hullnu

at

ktili

Dahshiiwshmir

Vish nu
Sustainer of All Tilings
RAMANUJA AND MADHVA
BOTH
One who
whose name means

identified

"the

Vishnu

lem

is

in being:

therefore the

some of the many


not

incapable of taking

he

is

beyond

all

form

in

in his

oj

kinds

ornaments"

{Aurobindo, p.76S).

three necessary conditions of e.xistence; creating, sustaining, and


destroying. Vishnu

The

Five

is

Ishxara, the Lord

PARA: (Supreme), and


para-Brahman

3S

VYUHA:
arms
Is

ol'

needed

therefore identical with

which come

for existence.

in their

They appear

all

and

K VIBHAVA;

3S

in

own

right,

such as

abilits to

come

as an avalara (incarnation).

into the

ARCAVATARA
tk'coming present
visible

in

the

Forms of temple,

temple carvings, and images


(see further, p. 87), frequenlK of

gior\.

The

he

Shankara, pp.86f).

that

Samkarshana who brings knowledge and


strength, or ,'\niruddha who brings power
isluikti)

forms

guide and friend (cf

by the four

forth

manifestations that can be approached and

worshipped

is

inner controller, Vishnu as

['our powers, represented


Iroiii

in five \nain

S ANTARYAMIN

(p. 87).

Vishnu,

and God who

Forms of Vishnu

Although Mshuu's attributes are many, he manifests himself

3S

become

worshipped now in relatively few temples, mainly in North India, but


Vishnu and Shiva are the root and foundation of the most popular ways
of devotion to God - so much so that each of them alone takes on those

cease to be gold because


itself into all

have been a Dravidian

originally to

therefore relatively unimportant in the

becoming one of the "three forms", or Trimurti, of God manifest in all


life: creation, sustenance, and dissolution. The Three are Brahma who
creates, Vishnu who sustains, and Shiva who destroys. Brahma is

the delight of his

godhead; thus gold does not

shapes

God and who was

one of the major religious movements in India, that of the Vaishnavites.


Vishnu was also integrated into other Indian religious movements by

lose his

being and the glories of his

It

sleeps, the universe dissolves into

Vedas, was integrated into the cult of Vishnu - a cult that has

but pours out rather

them

when Vishnu

way Narayana, who seems

(pp.58, 59)

assuming

them does he
divinity,

this

jonns because

essence, nor hy

things".

things and

Shesha the sleeping Vishnu rests.


In that state Vishnu is known as Narayana (moving on the waters) and
is (another meaning of "Narayana") the final abode of human beings. In

incarnations of Vishnu.

iiiiiuinerable

all

all

a formless state as of

gold ornament showing

is

sustains

an ocean without features; such remnants of being


that there are form themselves into the coiled serpent. Shesha. and on

Inuuiucnihlc /onus

"The Divine Being

as Vishnu,

according to the myth, he covered the entire

universe in three strides;

.4

One who

God

pei-vades

world

supreme beauty and power,


which Vishnu is welcomed,
often ihrouuh his attributes.

in

accessible to

all.

He

the cause ol

is

who has
own being and

eftects

all

everything, except his

consciousness, as his body.

but his

elaborate.

many

He

is

normally

main forms (see box, left)


manifestations can be both vast and

seen to exist

in five

The most important

of Vishnu's

manifestations are summarized in the

24 icons of Vishnu, each of which carries


Vishnu's four symbols in a different

These are the

relationship to each other.

conch, representing the origin of existence;


the wheel, representing the eternal Mind; the
lotus, representing the

unfolding universe;

and the mace, representing the power of

knowledge and the power of time.


Vishnu becomes present not only

and image but

what
But

is

is

in

the nearest equivalent to

English might be called "incarnation

in

it

it

temple

The word means

his Avatars (avatara).

"descent", and

in

even more dramatically,

also,

".

a special kind of incarnation, through

which the source of

appearance becomes

all

manifest within appearance.

This

may be
-

created order

supremely

it

in

any aspect

ot the

in rivers or trees, in

came

to

the

dawn

or in the dusk. But

Vishnu's Avatars

be believed that Vishnu, the great controller and

pervader of the universe, becomes manifest on earth in particular forms


as a matter of free choice. In other words,

him

to

become

present:

"The cause

39. The}' begin in the

Vishnu does not become

manifest because karma, the law of moral conduct

(p. 92),

for the descent of

has compelled

an Avatar

natural order with Matsya,


the fish,

only

is

The number of Avatars wirics


in different lists from It) Id

Its

purpose

the great text of the incarnate Vishnu, Bhagavadgita ("The Song of the

Lord

pp.92f),

God

the

is

the protection of the good and the destruction of the evil." According to

",

and Kurma,

because any aspect

tortoise,

the free choice of Ishvara, not the necessary law of karma.

says:

of creation can manifest the


presence of

Rama and
also the

"Whenever Dhanna [ordered and orderly existence]

its

creator; they

include the great figures of

way

- and

Krishna

Buddha, another

of assimilating a

radically divcrgciil InulitiDii:

hreaJis
I

down, and Adharma

create myself;

[the op-posite] flourishes,

take on existence

for the rescue of the good

and

and they culmiihilc

who

from age

to age,

the destruction of the

will

appear

iil

in Kiilhi.

the

cud

of this universe to destroy


evil-doers

and

to establish

final age of order: "hi the

evil, in

order to re-establish

Dlumua"

(4.8)

twilight of this age,

when

rulers are thieves, the

all

Lord

the Universe will be horn

God

is

nut in any

way diminished

manifest form, because


(see caption, top

left).

all

The

ur

made

less

by the desceiit into

things are equally the manifestation of


Avatars, therefore,

devotion to Vishnu, and that

is

become

God

the focus of

supremely true of Krishna.

as

Kalkr

{Bhagavata Pur. \3.2h).

of

Vish nu

V Y
-^:?>^^^^

Mahahharata and Gita


rwocr.i

\ l\i)i\, nil

~\

Ihcin V hen,
I'uinh nufuu
Lllhl

I'l

'illlCll

Sim.;

n,jr,ct

dian 100, 000 rhyming couplets

ilhcrsnfthe

conflict

[,,

,c.

he

llijiiilhiy.

'11

in

18 Books telling the

between the Panda\as and the


constant thcnic

stoiA, a

tiic

is

Dharma

unfolding ol

conduct) guiding the Katira\as:

"I

ishnu.

ol \

driver Ai'juna

comes one

"The Song

the Lord".

The Gita lorms


700

verses,

battle bv

members

Adharma (immoral
and

profit

pleastire;

Dharma

that

is

the

by their cousin, Krishna,

who

is

the

is

it

ol

the

From Krishna's instruction of the chariotsupreme texts of India, Bluiourudoiid,

part ol Pxxik

explores

it

the

the world" (3.9.30).

ol

I'he Panda\'as are stipported

Avatar (incarnation)

ol

(moral and

lom Dharma come

people gain e\'ervthing h\ Dharma. because

essence and strength

lamily

stor\' ol a

l\aura\as, culminating in ihc IS-

appropriate coiukictl gtiiilmg the Pandavas, and of

ol

and

I'lcs, ,\/(//)(//>/i(/ri;;((

arc wiik'K

).

dav battle of Kurukshelra. Within the nian\ plots and sub-plots

curved

\i

known and l(}\L'tl,


pr()\idiny an inlroduction tor many to God.
Miiliiihliiinilti continued to grow over many centuries
(c.4()0|!(.:i,-4()()c:l) until it became a vast work of more
rnmnt}iiihi (p|i.7<Sl

(i

ol

Muhnhhuniln.

ol his

own

aiul in

KS sections ol

conscience; opposed

first .Arjuna's crisis ol

in

lamiK, shotild he attack and perhaps

kill

he receixes instruction on

tlieiiv Olleretl the assistance ol Krishna,

The Three Paths


Miihiihluiyutii.

//;

35

ACTION

(kiruia-iuarga):

inipersoiial

l.iw

ci)iise(.|uenccs
ritual acticin

raalini.m

i)l

Krishna

Karma

(like gravity)
(il'all

is

jnana:

causing the
it

power

he undertaken

liontlajie to

the

l(ir ils

lor saerilice; therelore

engage

pLirpose, disinterestedly"
3S

KNOWLEDGE
"knowledge

ol

own
is

in

aclion lor

in lieneral",

lli.il

not

but the insight thai

selliessK. this insight

is

is

non-allaehed

who

are

3S

biuWii, so thai

and

lo the acting

own

case:

armed with

upon

acts, and, set free

DEVOTION TO GOD

"I

he

this sini;kMiess

from the bondage

ibe

One behind

all llie

42), bul

(3.52).

ol all

theniseUes

it

is

being (10.20-

humans cannot worship an

dillerenl forms, but

Cud

manifestations of Cod,

lhe\ therefore recognize

|oin

"

(bbakti-margi,):

the source and sustenance


is

enables peopk' lo Lindersland how lhe\ sboiiKI


,iel

pLM'piise rid lliemselves of the hints that

lollow

(.).9).

[juana-marga): jnana

Yoga:

of rebirth, go onto a slate of bliss

at

of action, except .iclion

liiiriiiai!

and

the ellnrl to act with a mental

enlighlened

ritii.ils:

sake, mil lor peixinal gain; "All the worki

is

Us consequences in one's

iil

iiUu Iciclis thniiiuh llic

it

altitude that

the

\\.is

K.inn.i in the (lila siislcuns both Cuitls anil


hiiniaiis. lull niiisl

Marii

huddhi-yoga aetualK combines both Karma and

the

.ictions. InitialK,

sacrllice, llien the

hri>iii;lil

points, Arjiina to three piiths kiimvii as

abstraction;

and worship Cod under

is still

God

to

whom

devotion and lo\e.

they

(.dikIikI

a|i|ir(i|ir-i,ik'

ihc

war justly {ought t)pens the door

a
:

In

.iikI jttiliiclcs.

Dharma

Arjuna's

p;ii'l,

ihc atKitc

the hiiiK's Jcalh I2.l6-i()l,

sdiil siir\i\cs

it

is

if

he Joes not do

so.

to

will lose status

Arjuna

known

lejt).

/Vrjiina

asLs Krishna which

is

tliis.

needed

most adept

faith are the

at yoga",

fi,\

is

not in

on

their miiuls

(iihin^ii.

see box,

manifest?"

itsell

me

complete

in

but those who, with great effort, seek

"the unmanilest, eternal, everywhere present but

nowhere visible, will


way of de\otion,

follow the death-destroying

reach

laith as the

ways

the best wav to lind him, by devotion

"Those who

me too... Those who


resering me with constant

achieve

In order to

to reach a goal).

(Bhakti) or b\ "seeking out the imperishable that


(12.111). Krishna answers:

Since

(2.--i.-!)

to three paths or

also as ^oga (the effort

prauinatiL-.

(2J4)

Krishnii then oilers teaehing lar lie\<ind

lint

Linion with (iod, he points

is

follows that:

heaven (2.32)

as a warrior to light

he

il

supreme end,

those devotees [hhaktas] are by

me"

the dearest to

lar

2.20V

The way of Bhakti


(devotion to Ciod)

important

seems

Ciita

the

in

to

supreme

is

The

(iita.

address the

situation resulting from

criticisms of the costly


ol

Brahmanic

situation in

religion

ritLials

- the

which C!od had

been marginalized

the

in

development of Buddhism and


Jainism as separate religions,

and

in

the emergence of

Samkhya

(pp. 68-77).

In contrast, the Gita argues

the value of the three main

God and

ways of approaching

of seeking mnksha (release).

The Gita can thus be read


Intiian

ways

ol

as articulating (and endorsing) virtually all

progress towards the goal, whether of later Advaita,

Vishishtadvaita, or Dvaita (pp. 86-9).

It

attempts to reconcile diverging

all

the options equally valid?

debated but,

in

iprasada) of

summed up

it is

considerations of

Dharma

instead seek shelter with

from

all

that

is

to tradition, the teaching of the Gita

culminating verse (caramashloka): "Abandon

e\H"

all

is

the

[acting with an eye to the consequences]

me

18.66).

alone.

Be unconcerned,

will set

and

itw

llic niil-.cl

and

you free

uf

ojjcrs llic

leaching to Arjuna thai inni

forms Bhagavadglta.

both inspired and helped by the grace

God. According
in a

the highest

is

,il

uhich knshiia

The question has been much

the end, the Gita seems to hold that Bhakti

possible way, because

the Pumlcinis
Kiinrarus.

opinions and to hold the line against further schism.

Are

Epic Battle
llic cluiriol jiiiht liclivccii

Krish na
The Avatar
RlSHNA

IS

KNOWN NOT

of

Vishmi

SIMPLY from Bhagavadgita but from a wide

range of other texts and from an even wider range of practices

K.

.through which people have expressed their devotion and

This means that Krishna has unified different traditions


repeatedly in India, pp.58f,

Some

p. 83)

and has connected them

traces of these different traditions can

Krishna

God. His

may

Vrishnis
cif

is
1

am

to Vishnu.

Gita when Krishna says: "Among the


among the Pandavas Arjuna,. the wisdom
The fusion of tribes is reflected in the fusion of
in the

Vasudeva,

Yahweh and

(cf.

all

be discerned.

still

Yadavas united with the Vrishnis whose God,

mentioned

the wise" (10.37).

Guds

love.

happens

well have been a historical character later recognized as

tribe of the

Vasudeva,

(as

El,

pp.178. 183). By

at least

the 2nd century BCE,

Vasudeva-Krishna was known as Bhagavan ("worshipful Being") and his


devotees as bhagax'atas.

\eiiiioopiila

When
flute,

When

Krishna played his

animals and

birds, as

well as humans, were

entranced b\
the

some

was subordinate -

his music. .As

cowherd with flute he

known

Vasudeva-ICrishna was linked to the cult of Vishnu as Avatar

(incarnation),

for others (e.g.,

i>

(e.g.,

the Shrivaishnavas) took that to imply that he

form through which Vishnu becomes manifest. But

Gaudiya Vaishnavas)

it

implied the opposite: because

Krishna was already active in the world, he supplied the opportunity for

as Venugopala.

Vishnu

do through Krishna what he otherwise could not have done, so

to

PUJA
an atiahsis of puja, Lawretice Babb identified three co}istituent

//;

3S

CLEANSING: The
before approaching

need

to

A comparable but more


shown to the Deity in
bowing or prostration, offering

while bou ing slightK.

be clean or pure

Goddess/God - hence the

dramatic respect

is

importance of water near places of worship.

gestures like

This was already evident in the Indus Valley

garlands or signs in red or yellow powder,

(pp.60f),
ri\ers,
.incl

and equally apparent

above

to

in the

Ganga/the Ganges,

all

power of

singing

be the presence of the Deity, and thus

PROSTRATION: The

ith

\\

accompanying

\\hate\er

requested b\ Krishna.
3S

SHARING FOOD
offered

is

consumed

of an honoured person has usualK been

transformed so that

translated into the practice ot )uiinaste. of

is

sho ing respect

in turn

to

In

are then reinforced by gifts of the kind

God

relations now, touching the feet

hands together and

and mantras (chants,


before them, and

walking around the God/Goddess

to

act of prostrating

(pranam) to honour them

human

(bhajans)

form they are present. These marks of honour

oneself before the teet of Goddess or

acts: in

hymns

p. 129), raising fire (arti)

to cleanse

bring worshippers close.


35

parts:

another by bringing one's


raising

them

to one's face

(PRAS.AD)

Ihe lood

splritualK b\ the Deity


it

and

bears power and grace;

it

then offered back as prasada, to be consumed

them

by the worshippers

to the Deity.

In

an act that unites

tliLit

Krishna

Among

is

Suprcnie, In what olhcr ways was Krishna active:

known

the Abhiras, he was

as the

importance of

God

"If

may

offers to

for securing fertility, the

well reflect the

still

an immensely important centre of devotion

women

guarding the

cattle, the

made

to Krishna):

that offering of love.

yon do, or

he

love with the

Gopis. There were more than

The way in which Krishna loves all as though each


unique, and becomes the universal love of all, formed the

me, and

other,

is

accept

Whatever

eat, or offer, or give,


.

make it an offering
undo the bonds
the good and evil

I ivill

Even a hardened

who

to be

me and

loves

matter of ecstatic emotion or passion.

be

and

loyal",

Krishna alone. But

how

is

It

meant

in the Gita

exclusively loyal concentration of

that loyalty to be

dramatic summary of the way in which devotion to


the sacrifices of

in

Dharma

{p.

68) and

finds peace forever"


(Bhagnmdgild. l0.26fF)

on

shown? The Gita

of love (see box, right). This seemingly simple statement

moved away from

immersed

implies an

it

one's mental faculties

all

<

first "to like

answers, by demonstrating this rightly directed concentration

Brahmanism

God

is

in offerings

in fact a

as Krishna

into piija.

Offerings of Love

Flowers are a better offefmg


than sacrifices because
the death of an

animal

he word

word

piiju

may be

for "flower"

religion, of

"offer".

Certainly in practice, piija

approaching Gods and Goddesses with

and

honoured

gifts,

visitors

exactly as

image, and

designed

if

they were revered and

and guests (see box,

obvious that the Deity


in the

derived from the early Dravidian

the widespread Indian way, not least in village

offerings

is

much

to bring the

left).

In puja,

of the initiating ritual

is

Deity into the image; indeed,


is

arcavatara. the descent

of Vishnu into the carved temple image, whether

stone (mula) or metal (iitsava-vigraha).

This means that worship

is literally

seeing, or

viewing with respect (darshana), the Deity

through the image.

It is

not that the image

Deity, but that the Deity

the image (in other words.

simple image

is

the

can be seen through

Goddess

or

seen directly but not immediately). So


for the

it

is

present before the worshipper

one of the forms of Avatar

villages, a

no

reckoned a saint

[sadhu], because he becomes

as Bhakti.

"to

to

criminal,

Bhakti (from bhaj. "to share", "to be loyal") was not originally

something" or

mortif)',.

fruits.

is

foundation of the outpouring of ecstatic devotion to Krishna

known

or

of Jtarma,

16,000 of them, but each thought that she alone was the love of
Krishna.

with love - a leaf

me -

a flower, fruit or water,

Abhiras told stories

of Krishna/Gopala patrolling the forest of Vrindavana (Brindavan

destroyed demons, and he danced and

any devoted person [bhaktya]

herdsman, the

protector of cattle, Gopala. In stories that

God

is

in

may be made from

cla\

purpose of puja. and may then

aftenvards be simply thrown away.

When puja was linked to Bhakti, and Bhakti


was transformed into the love of Krishna, a tide
of ecstatic and emotional devotion was brought
into the centre ol the Indian storv of

God.

is

not

involved
2f).

Krishna and Radha


The Meanino
THE
AMONG
Radha

Love

oj

was

Goi'is, Krishna's favourite consort by far

(earlier texts

L favourite,

but

speak of Pinnai or Satya as the

at least b\ the 14ih centurv' Cli

become supreme). Their

ecstatic

l(i\c is

Radha has

the epitome of the love

is possible between humans and Clod. That love is made up of


two major themes - separation and union - which are found

that

repeatedly in the paetr\ of Bhakti (pp.93, 95). In the poetry of

absence or of separation [rirahadiikkha; see box,


to

be

in hiding, or to

anguish and their longing for the return of


Krishna,

Radha

"suffers

God -

Dunce

of

//if love shiired

even

detail in

up of 24 songs. The

and

Krishna

it.

(Hari

way

is

first

"the tawny one" or "the destroyer of pain";

tell

sees Krishna "making love to any


(2.1),

and "delighting

in

rapturous love" (1.3.39).

Destined

Thmuoh

at evetiiti

to die

the unbearable

pan

made

it is

common

The

of Radha's humiliation and anguish because she

In her palm.
pallid

It is

praises Krishna for his ten incarnations (p.91

of addressing the Avatars of Vishnu, and especially Krishna).

"She buries her cheek

Her cheek

these two

here taken to be Vishnu); the second relates to Krishna as Hari

means

songs then

As the crescent moon

in poetr\ ol

celebrate the supreme bliss of the union of the soul with God.

of the love that

sustains the universe

expressed

themes' of Bhakti. was written in the 12th century CE by Jayadeva to

by Krishna

and Radha represents the


reality

is

and physical terms.

Gitagoiinda, one of the greatest expressions

Love

absence of

in the

from the pain of being parted from you". In

the poetr\' of passion and union (see box, right), love


in vivid

God seems

left),

ha\e w ithdrav\n, and the poets express their

maiden without

the embrace of

The songs

distinction"

many maidens,

are then divided

eager for

between the

themes of absence and separation (3-16), reconciliation and


forgiveness (17-21), and union (22-24). The purpose of the
songs is to awaken exactly the same lo\e of God in those who
read or hear the words:

of separation

She moans, chanting

"Let

tJiis

song uf Jayadeva

coiiipassioiiate

passionately Hari, Hari'

Hoping

to attain

next

She

thinlcs of

life.

you
.

you and \oiir

coming

only.

She contemplates
'^(lur

adorn

in the

soothing limbs

Atid so sun'ives"

this

and

\oitr Jieart,

song

distil the

let

essence

of devotion to the feet oj Hari


destroying the several agonies

of this sinfid dark aeon of Kali"


(the

l.isl

nf ihf Icur .ines

In-Liri-

.ill

i>

dissuKcil ,ind

iC.itagovinda 4.9\6(, 21)

(Citagovinda 12.24.24)

iK-slr<iyecl|

'

"

\\n

KK'IMI\ A

K \|)|l,\

Itiduiu lj>ivrs

developments,

laler

III

junliculady in the teaching

and
;i/). \
(

tradition of

Caitanya

love as the union

?>6j),

between Kridiiia and l^adha


heciiiiies the iiilcriur

meaning oj Urahiiniiis
nature - i.e, one wilhoiil
differentiation.

"So the encounter in


love began,

when

the shudderino of

bodies
I

he perfect union between Krishna and Radha

Brahman

(p. 85) is.

is

exactly

what

hindered jinn embrace:

The formula sat-cit-ananda (p. 86) is made


Radha as the embodiment of bliss,

where die joy

m>inifest in their union, with


llu'

Madini-shakti of Krishna: the relationship

cf. p. 86),

and

way

lose (cf. the

about

God

vet

it

in

is

non-dual {advaita:

a unity constituted in the relationship of

is

which Christians

felt

compelled

to

speak

where the mutual sipping


of the honey of each other's

To enter into this divine nature of union-in-relatcdncss

became

Rupa (16th century CE) showed how, within

the confines of the physical body, a spiritual body can be

dc\eloped
(/;/(/),

in

which

appearance

w hich

is

God

and the source of

even these seeming


hindrances

enhanced the delight

the universe. His contemporary, Krishnadasa

Kaviraja, wrote Govindalilamrita to

show how

Imv-play.

the old discipline

of visualization (pp.72f) can be adapted so that worshippers,


careful training, can lose themselves in the

lo\

Though entwined
though crushed

and
Radha and Krishna (in other words, can lose their own selves
God). It takes them far beyond the Vedic imagination of the
Gods, even beyond the Creator, Brahma: "I surrender in

after long

of small love-cries.
Yet

all

e ot
in

astonishment to Shri Krishna Caitanya, the compassionate one

who has cured the world of the madness of ignorance and then
maddened it again with the nectar of the treasure of sacred love
for himself. The ultimate goal of spiritual development, the

snake on which Vishnu

rests]

and others,

is

through intense longing by those absorbed


Vraja [the pastures

(Delmonico,
It

was

p.

this

achieved only

in his activities in

where Radha and Krishna met]

in

in her

fcr

arms

ihe Height

of her breasts

though smitten by her fifigenuiih


though bitten on the

lips t>\

her small teeth

though overwhelmed by the


thirst

of her thighs

his locks seized by her

hands

inebriated with the neclur oj

loving service of the lotus-like feet of the friend of the heart of

Radha, though unattainable by Brahma, Ananta [the cosmic

her

lips

he drew immense pleasure jrom

such

siveei torments.

Strange indeed are the

ways of

love!

248).

yearning for God, seen on earth

brought into being the poets

known

in

Krishna, thai

collecti\eiy as the Alvars.

lips

was impeded by the utterances

possible to enter into the divine "play"

the nature of

is

in

it

with searching looks

was interrupted by blinkings;

as Trinity, p. 247).

the goal of devotion.

oj cmitcniplalino

one another

(GitagovimLi

2.2.^.1 Of)

Vishnu and Krishna


The Ahars
ABOUT the 8th century

TiMi; IN

SOME born
\\

js

Tirukkuruhur

in

South

saw something unusual

his parents
to the local

in

temple dedicated

to Vishnu.

CE, a boy called


India.
in

The

Maran

story goes that

him, so they took him

He was

placed in the

courtyard under a tamarind tree (the tamarind being the


lartfara/incarnation form of the snake

on which Vishnu

rests,

and there he remained for the ne,\t 16 years in a state of


deep meditation and trance. He was woken when Madurakavi
(later his disciple) asked him a question: "When that which is little
p. 90),

is born among the dead, what will it eat and where will it lie?"
Maran answered, "It will eat the dead and lie on it."
At that moment, Maran awoke and began to sing the hymns that ha\e
become known as "the Tamil Veda" (by some, all four of his works are

Butter Thief

lumps

Kriihiia daiichiu uith

of butter he

said to have

is

When

stolen.

Nainiiudvnr

regarded as the Tamil Veda, by others

sang of the episode, he Jell

Maran became known

unconscious at the pain of

human Jault.

cord

to

"He

He

poetry^ the

bemud our

is

is

this

philosophy;

knowledoe.

trul^

not be

is

Naravana (the unproduced Producer and origin of


in creation and especially in

-A\atar/incarnation),

and Antarvamin (God guiding within) - the

One

those on their way towards enlightenment and nir\ana would


learn to leave behind.

For the Alvars, that was to

"God, the "infinite mystery


that distant

day

measured the ivorld with


his stride.

Hou'?

But

lias
I

come

to

me.

do not know;

life is

that they are.

allowing space for the worship of God, but only in a form that

sivooning in

siveetness

experience. Ihev and the Nayanars (devoted to Shiva, see


pp.1 lOf) led the \\a\ in a revival of God-centred devotion.
In Nammakars poems, Narayana (Tirumal for the Tamils)
God beyond anything that can be said, the One who is the

source of Goddesses and Gods as


than words can

But

God

tell

humans know them,

(see box. above

is

greater

left).

as Vishnu perxades the universe, as in the

famous

description of X'ishnu ccnering the universe in three strides; and

since "he
(Periya Tiruvandadi 56)

God and negate the


God that humans can

tri\ialize

profound and life-changing love of

This day

is

liis

(Tiruvaymoli 2.5.9)

on

and

put into superb

The 12 Tamil AKars lived between the 5th and 8th centuries,
when Jains and Buddhists, still numerous in South India, were

form

Wlw

who

Vishnu (God manifest

three being necessarily only the

turn

llnit nici\

God

things).

this.

to liini.

.And yet

Tiruvaymoli alone).

("our immersed-in-God"),

God that Ramanuja (pp.88f) expressed in


Nammalvar is the body, the others are his limbs.
"AKar means "one who is immersed" in the love of God. For

the 12,
all

and not

conies in the form those seek

who

is

understanding of

U'ith a

a stone mortar.

He

it

Nammalvar

the most revered of the 12 Tamil Alvars, the group

Krishna being punished tied, for

as

is

as

much

within as without" (Tiruvaymoli 1.3.2), he

always close (see box,

when \ishnu becomes

left).

That "closeness" takes visible form

incarnate lor

human

rescue:

is

AND

N'lSllNU

The Lord taking


Accepts

Coming
To

birth as a hniiuni

with

this life

kRISflNA

all its sorroiv,

here within our grasp

raise us

through suffering

To his Being as God"


{Tintvayinoli 3. 10.6)

"I'he stories

of Krishna's love of

all

the Gopis express both his love for

all

people and the joy of union with him (samshlesha, the Bhakti of union).

The pain of his parting from them becomes the poetry of absence {viraha

and

ihc Bhakti of yearning

desire).

Nammalvar's hymns express both

conditions, as part of the victon,' of God:

"Glory he! Glor]' he! Glon' he!

The dark weight in life is lifted,


Decay is decayed, hell is harrowed:
There

Even

"O Lord, measureless in

your

no space here for death.

is

1 hcii'e

the age of Kali will end.

in

Do

crowds over the earth.


I

Dancing and singing

not change,

do not desire

his praise"

liniviiytuoli 5.2.

to

rct|uired of

humans

God

is

to desire

is

the free

do not desire

to

be your

onK

treasure

gift

God, not

desire

is

serx'init

in heaven.

of God. All that

is

Not

to forget

desire

is

you"

for the sake of reward,

but simply for the sake of God: "Lord measureless in


box, right], the

set free

Tlie only treasure

This reunion party with

beg you!
he

jroin rebirth,
I

lost iinself in

your grace:

Look! You can see the senKints of the Lord...

Running, racing ever)nvhere

ijloiy,

nnd

uron'u

(Periya [irunuuladi 58)

gloPi' [see

not to forget you".

Nammalvar's Poems
Niiiuuudnir

the avatara nf Seiuii

/s

S TIRUVIRUTTAM:

Mudulim: the lender

(God-Filled'or "good"

S TIRUVACIRIYAM:

God, beginning:

To save us
I'o

in

troin

tlo all this

e\il

down

being born again and again,

of

to give us life

here, taking birth in

3S

many wombs

and taking many forms:


Accept,

my

()

heart."

Lord,

my

submission,

{aciriyappu

PERIYA TIRUVANDADI:
"great",

Vou. Lortl ol those beyond death,


Claine

3S

the body.

and

u'njte four iror/i>

is

the metre),
ol dillercnt

stones told about Cod.

"To deliver us from ignorance, unci Ironi

and pollution

He

seven poems arising Irom a number

verse), 100 Four-line verses express the longing

of the soul for

of the '^en'cnits of Ciod.

made Irom

andadi

is

a style in

one verse becomes the

TIRUVAYMOLI:

(IWiya means

which the
first

last

word

of the next).

("The Divine Word"), 1,102

poems exploring the five major themes ol


Visbishtadvaita (pp. 880 philosophy: the nature
of Brahman as God; the soul seeking Ciod: the
means {sadhana) of attaining God; the goal to
be attained; and the impediments on the way

Krishna and Devotion


Mindmi

THE God

BilAKTI P01TS

for

is

Ol-

DliVOTION TO

GOD make

without reserve of any kind. Those

it

clear that their love

in lo\'e forget all else

and race to God, much as a woman ma\ drop the c<)n\entions


and rush to the one she loves:

ot

society

"/
"1

dropped the veih

hear

his lihispcred step

climb

iiiid

hill flirts to

at Ids feet"

seek

his siolit.
It's

froi^s

oj thoiiolit

and ran and fled


and took shelter

(Futehally, p. 83)

the time

and

croiik

peiicoclts

the koel cries, the ciickoii

shows the love that one of the greatest Bhakti


is the Lord Krishna, and Mira, who
poem, is Mirabai, the Rajput princess who, in the

(left)

that

wandering singer of devotional songs

huh'it e.Milts.

cidls ilinvii the

Wrote

Ihth century, renounced family and convention and

shrills.

oil all

The poem

poets had for God. Hari

call.

clouds

her poured forth the most powerful poetry of delight

the

"Says Meera,

shy.
I

Tlie earth

in

presence of God. But she also knew the absence of God;

lour

sides, liolitiiiiiu stops

heino

became a
From

to Krishna her Lord.

count the

stars, I

wait

For one pin of light"

is

newly dressed,
(Futehally, p. 9.^)

awaits
her meetiiio with the

wants

s/^y

look

to

Unready.
like iiin other

bride

and Meera

Does absence make the heart grow fonder? Certainly it leads to a


felt in the same way without

yearning for God that would not be


the gap - or sonictinies the abyss -

"Piercing

is

oi

absence;

tny pain

says to Hart

'W h\ can't von arrive?'"

riiroitgh the

When
(Futehally,

pp.S^D

absence of

this night:

u'dl gently rise again

Shafts of dawning light?


The moonlight - O deceiving foil -

Brings no comfort
If I sleep,

to

my

heart;

walie in litrmoil

Anguished while from you

apart:

Lord of mercy. Lord of grace,


(diinpsc mc hiessings from your face"

lUit oncL'

experienced, even

power and

forgetting the

long the wait

it

literally

for

when

it

so

much

man

returned to her

Mira and, as she touched


I

lie

image never

left her.

it,

home and

l()\er,

When
come

bo.x,

below

to the

right) did

world and was

ill

my

he peeps

yiinl.

indeed
lost in

iisleejj

iii

of

lhiii;4s

Says Meera:

there a soul else

Is

gives a glimpse

of himself, leaves inner


flames leaping?"
(Futehii

The deputation begged her to

that they

death

would

starve themselves

What

my

is

p.

native shore

him?

hill

necessary - until she

if

What

changed her mind. Mira knew she

would be responsible

hut his name:

her Lord. She turned to him in


the lemjile, in desperate appeal.

was then

that she

out the song, Hah,

My
when

poured

hahya

te

"Lord, you

sxi'iiiis

inr heart

ill

for their

deaths, and yet she could not leave

ro bhir,

ly.

his last years,

immersed in worship and love.


return home, but she relused. In

living,

despair at her reply, the people said

jiiii

to the tnilh

She was driven out of her home state, which then


A deputation was sent to her at the temple at

Owaraka, where Krishna had ruled on earth during

It

is sjiciil

on bad times.

and where Mira was now

to

>><>c's

li'tlilil!"

When

the world in worship before the image.

Mira preferred Krishna

iiii^ht

the ihn

iviiit.

state.

she was married, she was so

the tide of the world (see

close,

liim forever.
lell

lost to

ill

he

gave the image to

husband that he suspected her of adultery:


her room one night, expecting to find her with

he found her

this thing

is

ill

distant from her


hiirsling into

in a

she passed into an ecstatic

When

!tlCClill<J?

(I

she
a

that after he

had gone, she could not eat or drink anything. Warned

dream, the holy

\'(>l

the}' call

wandering holy man came by and showed her

image of Krishna. She longed

little

"What

Cod, however

(see box, top right).

Miru's devotion to Krishna began, so the story goes,

was young.

Dl

only onee, there can he no

quality of the love with

may subsequently be

AND

K'IMIXA

hunt

breaks

it

where
/';/(

in

call

him. lime

lime, then again;'

ifter

remove the burdens of


those

who worship

Let

you", the

inspiration for

Ciandhi

(p.

Mahatma
in his own

138)

me

Meera

song which became the

in these folds.

The

tide of the

eomes

times of trouble.

Mira threw herself on the


image of Krishna - and the

hide.
says,

world

close"

(fulrhiillv, p.l

-i)

image opened and absorbed


her into

itself.

When

the

brahmans entered the


Miralnii

temple,

all

Mira's sari

they found was


wrapped around

the image.

That

is

The

ehattting of

bhajans)

to

God

hymns
is

uii

iiportant part of worship,

poetry of a

very real Bhakti indeed.

leeially jor
rely

on

wanderers wha

olnis, as

this statue of

depicted in
Mirahai.

Sex and Tantra


The Warp on a Loom
STORY OF Krishna and Radha, especially as

THt

Jayadeva

way of acting
Arjuna

appropriately,

How

(p. 93)?

questions: what had

(p. 96), raised

of

Dharma. the
to

did that accord with Krishna making love

example, that the story

which people are

was treated by

on which Krishna had insisted

promiscuously, or choosing a married


for

it

become

is

woman? Many answers v\ere given God as love, in

an allegory of the nature of

invited to participate,

and was not intended as

model

of ever\'day behaviour: Krishna's love of all the Gopis depicts the love of

God
God

for

all

beings; his love of a married

transcends

\\

oman shows how

the lo\e of

other considerations.

all

These explanations resemble the way

in

which Jews and Christians

turned the biblical book The Song of Songs (another poem celebrating the
longing of lovers and the joy of their union) into an allegory' of God's love
for the

As a Ulan when
of the

woman

in tJie

sexual passions and acts, since

he loves knows

emotions and

nothing of the outside or inside.


so does the person

God. God

know nothing
when ii;

is

"glimpse of
"

of the outside or inside

embrace of the intelligent


fatman which is Brahman]

covenant people, or of Christ's love

for the

Church. But

the Indian explanations do not marginalize the importance of

embrace

activities that

it is

in the reality of these

humans can

discern something of

known

directly,

God

mediated through the union of sexual

is

though not immediately, since the


love.

For this reason sculptures on Indian temples often portray

tJie
sc'/f

Gods and Goddesses

"

in sexual

union (nmithumi). In

Brihadaranyalui Upanishad. the act of sexual union


{Brihiularanralici

Up.

4..-?.

metaphor of union with God (see box,

21)

Upanishad makes

much more

it

left)

is

used as a

but the same

clear that sexual union in relation to

than a metaphor: 6.4.20 states that

God

is

in the sexual act to

produce a son, the couple become identified with the cosmic process of
life, the man with breath and heaven, the woman with sound/speech and

woman

earth. In 6.4.3, the

in sex

becomes the

altar

and the place of

where humans and God are brought together.


The power of sexuality to unite human beings with God

sacrifice,

fullest expression in Tantra.

loom

is

")

practices,

found

and

onwards) that
Most,

if

it is

not

all,

(known

ed

its

"

in all Indian religions, in so

texts

recci\

Tantra (Sanskrit, "extension or "the warp on

as Tantras or

many

different forms,

Agamas, dating from c.600CE

virtually a religion in itsell.

forms of Tantra have

in

common

a fundamental

recognition of the reminine/masculinc bipolarity, and teaching practices

(known

as adhaihi^ that will release the di\ine

feminine energy (Shakti,

Goddess Kundalini) and that will unite the


bipolar opposites in a way that leads to release (moksha). Tantric Sadhana
consists of initiation (diksha). worship (puja). and yoga, in which the
b()d\ is immensek important. The bod\ holds the soul capti\e, and vet it
often

in

the form of the

Si:X

can also be ihc gale

human body

treedom and perleetion. That

tu

contains within

and

entire cosmos,

it

is

itself a

made up

so because the

is

Shiva and Shakti

of centres of energy {chakras) connected

to

is

visualized by the yogin

From the union between

life.

into being: through

In Tantra the

embodies the creative powers


that bring the universe into

union of the male worshipper with the divine

being

female energy, the whole process of creation

is

recapitulated in the body.

the divine understood as the primordial energy from which (or "from

whom")

and

all life

the body by symbolically destroying

it

and then recreating

it

as the

Goddess

or

power

sects, however, differ in the

The major

of Sadhana.

which

(diilishinacara),

practice,

and left-hand

Goddess

in

abhor.

The

division

ways they implement the practices

is

between right-hand

stays closer to the

(vantacara),

norms of Indian

which seeks the power of God

places and practices that Dharma-observant Indians

Kapalikas ("skull-wearers")

live in

cremation areas,

cover themselves in the ashes of the dead, and use skulls as their
cups; they meditate seated on the bodies of the dead and eat the
flesh of corpses. This

lowest forms of
It is

this

life

form of Tantra enters into the worst and

and

finds the

power of God or Goddess

form of Tantra that includes engagement

(pauca-nuiluiiv) five rituals (normally avoided)

Madya:

there.

in the "five

whose

Ms"

first letter is

M:

Into.xicating liquor

Mamsa: Meat
Matsya: Fish

Mudra; Parched grain


Maithuna: Sexual intercourse with

women who
In

all ol

and

retain control. Great

the inirposc

last,

power

is

thought

As one Tantra (jnanasiddhi) put

retaining semen.
that cause

prostitutes,

are menstruating, or dead

these rituals, especially the

revulsion

some

to

be reborn

in hell for a

it,

is

to

overcome

to derive

from

"By the same acts

thousand years, the yogin gains

eternal salvation."

Tantra

is

an approach

the body from

all

control. Sexuality

the

God
is

God/Goddess

that

draws divine power into

becomes

all

circumstances

in

form of asceticism. For that reason, Shiva,

often associated with the feminine Shakti, has been called "the

erotic ascetic"

Shiva

to

circumstances, but only by keeping

(O

Flaherty).

the focus of

much

Even more widely than


Indian devotion.

in

Tantra alone,

Goddess",

particularly of Shiva
it

and

requires total

retention of semen, for the

this state, the

Tantric

the "imitation oj

control, especially in the

body

God through mantra (chant, p. 29) and visualization. In


power of God or Goddess is received and absorbed, and
the highest form oi puja becomes possible, because there is no
distinction between the worshipper and God; and lantric sects
preserve the forms that that worship must take.
ot

it is

Shakti, but

manifestation are derived. Tantric ritual purifies

all

God and

worshippers into contact with the power of

In this way, Tantra brings

immense

power of sexual union

the

feminine Shakti (divine energy and power) and the male Lord, the cosmos

comes

IAN IRA

miniature or compressed version of the

with each other by channels (midi). This anatomy

and the energies within are brought

AND

to

be generated.

Shiva
The Many and

God

\MMAL\:ar (p.98) identified

N:

simply as

dii"ectl\ ?

God

is,

God

According

many

to

Made
Dancing Shh'a

all

appearance:

As

all the

Gods,

own forui come forth

his

tnany difjerent Gods"

all the

Nataraja, Lord of

Dance, sustains and

tl>c'

the Trinity ot

in

(p. 90),

"Narayana, the origin oj

CIS

then

God

and extended through


other Gods and Goddesses who come from Narayana as

the source and origin of

Shini

to experience

forms, summarized

Narayana, Vishnu, and Antar\'amin

Vishnu

How

Nammalvar, only because Narayana

to
in

come

or

God

as Narayana,

beyond word or imagination.

an anyone worship

becomes accessible

One

the

(Tiruvaymoli 5.2.8)

destroys the universe: the

one hand summons

ilniiii in

universe into being, the

llic

follows that

It

lliiuic in

the otiier destroys

it.

Narayana can
p. 90)

hiivc ntiulc nil the niiitiy

through

the

the fruitjuliiess oj

forms of religion -

n; eoiiflict thoiigli ihcy arc

the

niiiii]

(w/i/s in nil

of

them. Atid so
In countless

forms you have

you

Producer of

nho have none

other near

uho have none

is

jor

all

unproduccd

things, the

What looks superficially like


many Gods/Goddesses) is a way

polytheism

is.

in

which

God,

in

you that

means

kind of coalescence

ot
ol

in a

inimenscK

that

some forms

of God's appearance

(some Gods prominent

and Varuna,

my

God

forms of

the process described on pp. 58-9.

significance

yenrn in

It

practical

has allowed also the "migration'of the forms

attract to itself other

to cottiparc

with you:
It

that

and practised in Indian life (see


box, far right). This has not always been put into practice, and
conflicts have occurred. Even so, it is this fundamental
understanding of God that allows any particular form ot God to

rhis

or nearer you.

)ou

all

monotheism becomes

imagination.

extended yourself.
()

the worlds"

iitiagitiatioii,

iiKiiiy

\iiil <(//

who are "the Lord's form dispersed


- as are all the Gods (see box, left). In India this
has become a way of understanding how the many Gods and
Goddesses are related to the One that God must be. the
all

(the recognition of

human
.\ll

be said to be the more traditional Trinity (Trimurti.

absolute and unconditioned source of

tonus oj ivurship
:\iid.

the Clods and Cioddesses are essentially one, so that

of Vishnu. Shiva, and Brahma,

through

")()i!

all

etjuaily

later

in

become

less so),

in

may

fade

in

the Vedas. such as Indra

while other

Gods

gain

importance, gathering to themselves beliefs,

legends, and practices that belonged initially to other Gods.

desire

Theoretically, therefore,
{iiruvirultinu 96)

it

should be possible

to

v\

rite a brief

anv one of the major Indian Gods or Goddesses,


practice this is cxtremeK tlilliciill tn tlo, because ollen the

histors' of

biit in

earliest sialics

into the

and the componcnl parts

lia\c hceii so

ahsorhcd

major figure that they cannot any longer he coniplelely

disentangled. Supremely this

is

Shiva scarcely appears in the Vedas, except as


descrihing Rudra, meaning "the auspicious one"

.1

to those

who

deserve

he describes the relationship

wortl

(later,

between the Many and the

Hudra

hecomes an epithet of Shiva, when Shiva has become the more


important). Rudra is the power of destruction, the fire that
burns, the water that drowns, the wind that destroys, the one
who kills. Yet all these have an auspicious use, and Rudra is also
the one w iio receives sacrifices and brings prosperity to humans
and their herds. He has a hundred heads and a thousand eyes, so
that nothing escapes his notice, and as a result he is the one who
brings punishment and "gives to those who do wrong the pains of
hell". Yet equally "the God who kills" (Athami Veda 1.19.3) is the
one who brings strength

Alain Danielou spent a lifetime

studying Indian religions. Here

true of Shiva.

One
"/;; tlie

Iiidiaj

iiitiniiiital

h.as

a ehuseii

ilclty

(ishtadevata)

and does

not

same way

as his

he feels nearer

own,

as the

one
he

to himself. Yet

acknowledges other gods. The

Hindu, whether he be a
worshipper of the Pen'udcr
(Vishnu), the Destroyer {Shival

Energy (Shakti), or the Sun

any case, Shiva absorbs many other forms of God,

and the dual aspects of Rudra made that process

way:

usually worship other gods in the

it.

was carried over into Shiva, but Shiva is not a


simple development of the Vedic Rudra. Shiva may be found as
early as the Indus Valley seals, if that interpretation (pp. 60-61
correct. In

each

worshipper

All this duality

is

in this

polytlwistic rclv^iou [oj

easy.

(Smja),

always ready

is

to

acknowledge the equivalence

of

these deities as the

powers

oj di\linct

manifestations

springing from an unknowable

He knows

'Immensity'.

that

tdtimate Being or non-Being

is

ever beyond his grasp, beyond


existence,

and

in

no way can be

worshipped or prayed

Since

to.

he realizes that other deities are


but other aspects of the one he
worships, he

is

basically tolerant

and must be ready


ever)'
(IS

to acccjil

form nf knowledge or

potentially

vtilul.

I'dicf

I'erseculion

or proselytisatioii oj other

however

religious groups,

their beliefs

may seem

strtingc

to

him.

can never he a dejensihle


attitude from the point oj ru'ir

of the

Hindu"

(IXinieloii, p.9,)

Threefold Nature

The

lines

on Shiva's forehead represent

his threefold

nature

male, female,

androgynous; creator, preserver, destroyer


For the symbol

oil his

hand, see

p.

2H.

Shiiva
Lord and Origin of All Tilings
H\\.\ IS,

s:

life.

FOR MANY MILLIONS, the form and focus of God in worship


That has happened, in part, because Shi\a absorbed into

himself other Gods and attracted to himself, as his consorts, many-

Goddesses. That process was made easier because he carried with him
the dualities that were found in Rudra. This meant that conflicting

images and imaginations of Shiva could be affirmed together.

The apparent
below

contradictions in Shiva's

many

manifestations (see

bo.\,

are not in fact so, because they simply express the Indian

realization that

all

appearance

is

fraught with maya (pp.85, 87), and

that reality can be seen only in partial glimpses, never as a whole.

For that reason, Shiva

is

often portrayed, not least in sculpture, with

three faces, in which two opposites are held together by a reconciling

- as, for example, creator, destroyer, and preserver: male, female,


and androgynous (Ardhanavishvara: the three horizontal lines that
third

Shiva

T]k

three faces of Shiva

representing the different

ways in which he

is

Shaivite's

present

mark on

Shiva). Shiva

are depicted here on a

is

their foreheads represent the threefold nature of

also depicted with five faces, controlling the five senses,

or sur^ eying the four quarters and the whole of heaven.

painted wooden panel from

becomes the One who contains ail the pluralities


life, the One w ho brings them into being,
sustains them, and destroys them - thereby combining in himself the
three functions distributed elsewhere between the three Gods (p. 90).
This way of seeing Shiva as the One w ho is the source and origin of all
things, including the other forms of God, resulted in the hymn of
In this way, Shiva

Damian-Oilig. Khotan.

make up

that

the experience of

The Mai\t Faces of Shi\a


God

Tlie

m THE ASCETIC:
hciit

and power

lost: \ct

3J

he

is

Shiva can take

Amba;

and ihey transmit

yet his lovers Kali.

him the power

to

THE ALL-POWERFUL LORD

to destroy.
1

he source

16),

he

is

powerless: he

is

often show n lying dead beneath her feet.

S THE HUNTER: He
and dances

in

slays

and skins

3S

to ashes

erotic love, with a

THE WORLD-RENOUNCER; The worldrenouncing samnyasin (the fourth stage of

Dharma-obscnant lives), he appears smeared


w ith the white ashes of the cremation fire and
holding a skull

in

acceptance of death (and

is

the

skulls),

welcomes natural enemies, so


itself

his prey

the still-bloodv skin; vet he

and

wearing also a necklace of

of creation: vet \\ithoul the female energy


as Shakti (p.

who burns

desire

single glance from his iruth-discerning third eye.

model of conjugal love w ith

his consorts Par\ati or

known

Kama, the God of

would otherwise be

also the erotic, fenent lover.

THE LOVER: The

forms. Tliese include:

world-escaping ascetic,

His restraint generates the

(tapas) that

Candika. and Durga are fierce and destructive,

3j

mam

around

his body;

he

of the animals; yet at the

dance the universe

is

and he

that a snake coils

also Pashupati, Lord

end of the

to destruction.

age.

he

will

Slu'tiishvetiini Upaiiisluid (sec box, rigiit).

iinproduced Producer of

all

that

the universe, not least as the

is,

and

Shiva

yet

One who,

is

is

the

equally present in

through his dance of

He

Nataraja, the Lord of the dance.

dance

in

Mount

also

many

the figure of

dances the Tandava

in

He dances

at

the centre of the universe, at

Chidambaram (originally Tillai) in South India, in a temple well


known to the Nayanars (pp.1 Of) and still "the home of dancing
1

Sivan" (the

of Paul Younger's study).

title

mn

distributes

whom

gathered,

is

endow

in the

may he

us with a clear

understanding.

order to draw

others into his dance and thereby to deliver them, in union with
himsell, from rebirth.

power

purpose, and into

or tun/sport/play: he

himself in the maya (pp.85, 87) of creation

ivillmiii

colours in his hidden

universe

Kailasa in the Himalayas.


lila,

One,

is

beginning and at the end the

cremation grounds, and the dance of the Gods on

His dance summarizes the divine


veils

become

who

colour hut hy the waiiiiold


exercise of his

gestures (pancakritya), turns the wheel of creation and


destruction. Shiva has absorbed and

"He

five

That indeed
Aditya, that

is

Agni, that

Vayu,

is

and

the moon. That indeed


pure. That

is

is

that
is

Brahma. That

the ivaters. Tliat

is

the
is

Prajapati.

is

Shiva comes even closer to earth in Varanasi (Banaras) or in


its

older name, Kashi, the City of Light. Here, Shiva

with his beloved

Canga

(the Ganges, the flowing

female energy): he originally caught her as she

is

united

You are woman. You are num.

You are the youth and the

form of Shakti,

fell

to earth

and

maiden

his hair

and then allowing her

to flow over the earth in life-giving

an old man.

along with a

stajf.

Being horn, you become facing

power. In Kashi, which Shiva chose from the beginning of

home, Ganga and Shiva meet, and worshippers


meet them - and hope to die in their embrace. For those who

creation as his

die in Kashi, Shiva

too. You, as

totter

tamed her wild turbulence by pouring her through the locks of

in ever)' direction"

(Shetashveliini Up. 4.1-3)

removes the burden of karma (past deeds) that mi ght

otherwise lead to rebirth: he himself whispers the Taraka (ferryboat

mantra

in their ears,

immediately

to

and

carries

them over the

flood. Faith leads


Indra's

freedom:

Heaven

Tlie River

"Here in Kashi the

Give up the body

Even

the yogin with a

Who

is

gift

sinifle:

to the fire.

mind

wanders on from

controlled

life to life

Will here in Kashi

reach the goal

Simply

h)/

dying"

(Kashi Kluindci 6().55ff)

Varanasi: those

the

Ganga

Ganges

who

at

bathe in

or leave pari of

themselves

{hair,

bone, etc.)

on the

hank

will attain

left

Indra's heaven.

Shivas Sons
Ganesha and Kumara
IMPORTAN r WAY IN WHICH THB CULT of Other Gods/Goddesses
was united with that of Shiva was by associating them w ith him

AN

L as his offspring (or, in the case of

these,

Goddesses, as

two are widely recognized and worshipped

his consorts).

in India

Ot

- Ganapati

known as Ganesha) and Kumara (also known as Skandal.


Ganesha is the elephant-headed God who brings v\isdom and good

(better

fortune.

Elephant Head
Gai!es.ba

is

one

different stories are told of

oj tlie most

popular cuid widely revered


Indian Gods because he

is

lh(night to bring success,

peace,

Many

and wisdom

who worship

to those

him.

how he

head

lost his original

and received an elephant head instead: his head was lost because of the
etrwy of Gods or of demons, or due to a glance from Shani (the planet
Saturn), or by the blow of Shiva himself, and the first head that came to
hand as a replacement was that of an elephant. Shiva Purana records a

when Ganapati/Ganesha was born

popular version:
(p.l 16f),

he was so protective of

his

mother

to

Panati and Shi\a

that he even tried to pre\cnl

Shiva from approaching her; Shiva sent his ser\ants to teach him better

manners, but

the ensuing battle Ganesha's head was cut

in

off:

Shiva saw the grief of Par\ati, he replaced the severed head w

\\

hen
the

ith

first

hand, that of an elephant,

thai c<unc to

now understood as the embodiment ol a lundamenial


human form contains within itsell a
.ompressed version of the energies of the entire cosmos (ct.

ion

is

ndian religion, that the

Tantra, pp.l02f): the insignificantly small

body)

is

human

(the

joined to the immensely large cosmos (the

elephant) through

God

as

Ganesha.

The word "elephant", gaja, was taken

to

be

made up

ol ga,

"end" or "goal", and jo, "source" or "origin", so that

Ganesha

is

Brahman

one of the many

(pp.84f). In

texts

written in imitation of the Upanishads (as also


Caiieshagita in

Bbagavadgita)

which Ganesha replaces Krishna

CHiiicipati

are the visible form of That"

(cf.

The cult of the elephant-headed

revered,

and increasingly

period of the Epics. Although

dedicated solelv to
painted,
trees,

the

is

his

well be \er\

embodiment

He

is

is

known

so,

form he has
since the

Ganesha has few temples

image, sculpted or hand-

found e\er\wliere.

because he

wisdom.

iiini,

the

the Mahaxakyas, p.8Sl.

God may

old, especialK' in villages, but in his present

become widely

ol

Upniiishad 2 states simply, "^ou

in

homes,

in

shops, Linder

as the retnover ot obstacles,

of success, good-living, peace, and

inxoked before

all

undertakings. Irom

ceremonies (though not funerals) to written


compositions, and before the worship ol other deities.
religious

SIIIV,-\-S

AllhoLigli ihc (;,in.ip.il\iis iiicikc

not hflonu lo one seel, hut to

him ihc

.ill

Kumara,

Shi\a's other olisprinu,

miraculously without the help of a

his help.

who was born

the ever-chaste youth

is

he docs

Ioclls dI ihcir WDisliip,

who need

SONS

woman. When

the

Gods were being

harassed bv Taraka, their enemy, Indra led a deputation to Brahma, the

He

Creator, to ask for help.

told

them

proved

nietlitation

would be
waken Shiva from

that only a son of Shiva

strong enough to defeat this powerful foe. To

once he was aroused, nothing,

difficult (p.l 17), but

nut even Agni (Fire), could bear the heat ot his seed, until the

look

"the one
gi\

known

to a thicket

it

en the

who jumps" spontaneously from semen, was born. He was also


name Kumara, because he remains chaste and young forever.

He was

suckled by the

faces for the purpose,


also as Karttikeva.
six

Ganges

and there Skanda,

as "the forest of arrows",

si.\

Pleiades (Krittikas), developing six

and among many other names he

The

six

is

known

faces of Karttikeya are identified with the

which the energy of the

subtle channels (chakras) through

cosmos and the power of Goddess and God are brought to life in the
human body (p. 103). As Kumara, the chaste youth, he is important
in

Kumara

voga, because by concentration on

yogis gain control o\er

sexual activity, whether deliberate or involuntary. Yogis

who

gain this

control, even in sleep, can use the energies of sexuality for attaining

God, and they become the


Shi\a also has

more
in

local culls

man\' forms.

who

proteel

many

living

image of Shiva.

attendants,

who

again represent a

can be integrated into the sense that

Of particular importance

illages, grojittj-ciei'flta

and

way

God

is

in

which

manifest

Gods and Goddesses

are the

gniiinikiili. Xillage deities are

not related to the vast issues of the cosmos, but to

more

local events

the rites of passage from birth to death, and to emergencies that

threaten to disrupt or destroy that process

disease, famine,

and

flood.

more commonly approached through


animal sacrifice, and, since they are the source and sustenance of life,
they are more likely to be Goddesses than Ciods.

They

have, in the past, been far

VT

ilkige

shrines are usually exlremek simple and almost entirely

independent

some

ot

temples and the Brahmanic

village cults

cult.

Even

so,

have made a deliberate attempt to integrate

Greetiiif^s

from Ccinesha

themselves into the wider Indian acknowledgment of God. For example,

according to Sachinanand (Culture Change in Tribal Bihar), the Oraons

featuring the

elepliciiil-

beaded God,

Guuet-lni.

in

central India had

rituals,

and

to

begun by the 1960s

to address

adopt Kabir (pp.l20f) as guardian. Jatru Bhagat

attempt to unify, or pull together, villagers


since the

word

Devi through their

common

in a

made an

dc\otion, and

"pull" {tano) appears often in their IJhakli

hymns, they

In general, village religion

immediate events of
reason,

it

was easy

life,

does not need


is it

it

is

be made a coherent part of

spirits of

to attach all the village

For a Shai\'ite. however,

to

organized or unified.

and with the

f>reeliii!J ciu-lI

Images of Ganesha, often


hand-painted, are found
tliroughoul India, in shops,

homes, and

ha\e become known as Tana Bhagats.


a larger Indian devotion, nor

Diu'cdi

Gods

It

deals with the

the ancestors. For that


to Shiva as his attendants

the devotion to Shiva that matters.

offices.

Devotion

and Nayana rs

Ncilvar

to Shiva

TWBEN THE 6th AND 8th CENTURIES

wandered

CE, poets

through South India visiting temples and shrines devoted


to Shiva,

where they encouraged others

singing their Tamil

The

hymns

to join tliem in

of praise and love.

three major poets involved were Campantar, Appar, and

Cuntarar, and they are honoured as niiivar

"the

ttiutalilud,

first

three saints". Later, a fourth, Manikkavacakar (c.9th century),

was added
others, of

"^

to

make up

whom

They in turn inspired


known as Nayanars

Nalvar, "the Four".

(with them) 63 arc

("leaders", "guides").

Seven hundred and ninety

'

si,\

hymns

of the

saints" are collected in the first seven

also called Tiruniiirni, "sacred tradition",

three

first

work

and regarded by Tamils

as revealed scripture, the equivalent of the

hymns

of "the

books of Tevaram,
Vedas

(p. 60).

Their

and expression of Bhakti devotion

are the foundation

Shiva, greatly valued by each of the

many

to

movements
the hymns of the

different

making up the Shaivites - and comparable

to

Alvars (pp.98f) in relation to Krishna and Vishnu, equally

Shiva and Ganga

valued by the Vaishnavites.

Cuuiga/ihe River Ccingcs


cdiiif
iiiid

then flowed through

S/ih'dS hair to give


India.

In

from the feet of Vishnu

Hwre

lu the sky
luiiI in

is

the

life to

all,

"the

first

and personal devotion

Ganga
Milkr War

also a

274 temples, which

three saints" visited

is

^i

reminder

commitment to ritual as a way of showing devotion to Shiva - it


was only later that some Bhakti poets rejected ritual in favour of a direct
of their

rituals of

Temple and

to

God

"The

(p.l 13).

three saints"

first

saw the

of Tantra as practical ways in which people can

the underworld

honour God.

In sculpture,

Appar

is

often

shown

carrying a farmer's hoe

with which he cleared out weeds and undergrowth from the Temple
I'ciltdii'JiUHJU

>.

areas, a

symbol of

his desire to

open up

a piilh to Ciod:

"Hands, join in worship,


strew jragni lit flowers

OH the Lord who hinds


the hooded snake round his waist!

Hamls.

join in worsJiip!

Of what
thai never

use

is

the hody

walked around

ihe temple of Siiii.


offerin;^ hint jlowers in ihe

Oj what use

is

litis

worship
hodr^'

(Peterson, p.2S6)

rite?

"

1)1-

Just as the Vcdic

hymns and many

were sung

praise (stotras)

hvmns became part


h\mns were f)ftered

ol

ihc

latci'

Sanskrit

poems

of the offerings of

(worship, p.94f).

piijii

The

Shiva

and

lo us singijig soiius in

varied rhythms,

and took

make ornaments,

"Flowers

SHIVA

not a remote king:

is

"He came

garlands of flowers:

like the

IC)

ot

the eontext of sacrifice, so the Tamil

in

V (.11 KIN

He

sJiot

so does gold;

us

force.

lr\

the arrows of his eyes at


us;

yet if

who

our Lord

were

to desire

an ornament

simple heart,
with

tlie

sweetly abides in Anir

us

let

ornament

for himselj,

stir

up

passion

honour him

of

(Peterson,

with speeches that

he

seduced

skillfully

made

us,

us

sick with love.

lumil song!"

The skullhearer god [p. 106 box]


has mounted his s^vift bulk

p. 265)

wearing a skin, his body covered


I

he hymns celebrate Shiva's appearance and deeds, and often

names and

recite his

much

attributes,

as the poet

Kalidasa had done two centuries earlier. But

now

images were linked both to the local shrines and

the mvths and


to the

individual worshippers, to bring Shiva closer to them.

Campantar makes

this transition

with white ash,

and dramatist

a sacred thread adomitig his form.

come, see the Master as he goes


riding

A hymn

by

from the general attributes of

where

all

can see him.

The Lord of Amattur is a


handsome man, indeed!"

Shiva (androgynous, matted-haired, riding a bull) to the local


(Peterson, p. 2 10)

person and place:

"They praise him, calling him the Lord

who

is

The

love

half woman.

god who rides the hull.


who stole my heart.
Lord who lives in Piramapuram,

Lord with the matted

He

He

is

the

Famed

On

hair,

"Mr

the thief

is

as the shrine

is

passionately

returned:
heart melts with love

for the handsome god

who

bears the river [Ganges] in


his hair.

which once floated

the dark ocean's cosmic flood"

sweeter than sweet

Iruit.

raw

cane sugar.
(Peterson,

loveh

p. 247)

women
ill

As images

in

temples help worshippers

to see

Ciod directly. e\en though mediated through

suct'/t'i" //)((;; s(jIc

thi

worshippers to see Shiva

directiv,

even

dominion oier

vast lands

form of the image, so the hymns are designed


to help

with fresh flowers

their hair,

is

to

Itciiinnrutu

those

who

Lord

reach him"

though mediated through the words and


nuisic.

They

emotions
rel

lection

(ct. p. 40).

(Peterson,

are intended to reach the

directly,
left, for

pJiOl

with the intellectual


the

According

moment, on one

Darshana

side

To cume before the

to a popular saying,

"No words can move those who do


melt when they hear these hymns.

-^*

not

representation of the Deity


is

called darshana,

("seeing"). Tlxe

So often did

this

happen

that a

new

kind of Bhakti poetry developed, one

which the connection with Temple


and rilLial was deliberatelv abandoned.
in

comes into the


I

if

Cod

worshipper

real presence

through the image,

not that the iviuvc

uleutifwd with

is

(;<;,/,

Devotion

Shiva

to

Kan iiappai

THEthem

"FIRST

"\iiie liouiuh unleashed


oil

a hare,

THREE SAINTS" had Manikkavacakar added

Manikka\acakar knew of an even greater lo\e

to Shiva. Vet

than his own.

the body's lusts

lamil pro\erh says. 'True lo\e

Kannappar", and with that

cry out:

to

as another of the greatest poets ot Bhakti dexotion

is

the lo\e ot

mind. Manikkaxacakar wrote;

in

Let go!

"TJiere

Let go!

en

He

Will

heart reach \ou.

iiix

Lord of the meeting

then me. poor

this,

made h\ grace his ou*m.


me come to him.

spoke the word and hid

Adorned, he shines with heavenly grace;

rivers.

He

wears white ashes and the

before the sensual bitches

Go, go: and breathe

ditst

of gold.

made without a hound.

To him. of mercy

touch and overtake?"

(Ramanujan.

Kanuappar.

in uie like that of

n Lord, smv

he,

Ee^o)ld compare, he

the lusts

of the mind.

ims no love

Wlien

Let go! Let go!

his praise,

O humming

Purinam

[Perira

So who was Kannappar.

this

man whose

love

hunter

who

wished

to

became

e.xceeded that of even the most enraptured saints?

proverbial

He was

therefore could not keep the rules of ritual purity

make an

that

poets reject the

even

effort

can bring people to

sacrificial

find.

One

da\ the

it

filth\

was Irom

clearly

Brahman

lamb brought for

up the green

leaf brought jor

\ot knowing a thing about the

appearance of Shiva's image,

Born

Did the

to fill

its

tell

the forest.

killers sun-ive.

Ramanujan.

p. 76)

He

He

me

is

precious beyond

these things

is

a wild

does not kiiow the Vedas or

does not

know

tlie

tJie

man of
Shaiva

rituals of worsJiip.

vivid uHth loi'e for me, his only

'

by the unclean

and the

But do

inteyttion

of what he does. His rough and stumbling body

me:

lord oj the meeting rii'ers?

The man who did

not think of him; think of the spirit

belly:

that day. to die that day.

But

"That which worried xou, to

texts.

kill.

uants onh

- anything

charge ol the

Kannappar He started to clean the image,


and conduct the more orthodox ritual. But that night Shiva
appeared to the Brahman in a dream and said:

price.

the decorations.

It

in

his point of view,

the festival
ate

he

objects brought by

Shiva:

The

he could

defiled, as

if

offering to Shiva. Instead, he used to bring gifts of

temple was shocked by the

idea that sacrifice, rituak or

and

a low-caste

wild flowers and scraps of (ritualK forbidden) meat

The vacana

bee

p. 69)

knowledge

is

is

knowledge of me. Tlie food he offers to me. so


is pure loi^e. He loves me utterly. And

polluting to you,

tomorrow

will gii^e you proof of his love:

come, and see"

ni

S(i

the next

Kannappar

clay,

ihc

arrive.

Brahman went

to the

Without

right eye of his image.

the

left

movenieut

oil tree,

eye of the

were the

means

"something

said", so these

poems

controlled, composition (see box,

the days xcorsliip.

that

and

star

niglil'>.

and fire.

all things

go hy the name

are the

of light

unrsliip.

brilliant

Night and day


I

"a saying",

Among more

moon,

lightnings

are a kind of free, though tightly


left).

hush and creeper:

Tlie light oj

rucuiia poets of the 10th to 12th centuries CE, writing in the

Dravidian language of Kannada. Vacana

oj wiiul.

all this
is

devotees of Shiva far less important than the union of utter


for these

visible

Spokesmen

MiivA

leaf flower, all six colours

Brahman understood what true devotion is.


Kannappar became one of the Nayanars (pp. lOl), but he was
already indicating the way in which temple ritual became lor some
love.

ii>\

the u'ltule length of a sky,

image weep blood; and Kannappar prepared to do the same


again. This time, Shiva held him back, because now the

commitment and

made

"Sunlight

to trickle

hesitation,

made

prove his devotion? Shiva immediately

temple and saw

At that moment, Shiva caused blood

Kannappar
seized an arrow and gouged out his own right eye and laid it on
the image, and at once the bleeding stopped. Was that enough to
trom the

than 300

in

your worship

forget myself

lord white as jasmine"

(Ramanujan.

p.

L^O)

vacana poets, four stand out: Allama, Basavanna, Dasimayya, and

Mahadeviyakka. Basavanna worshipped Shiva

w here three

way

the

in

rivers

at

Kappadisangama,

meet; their meeting became for Basavanna a symbol of

which Shiva flows

into,

and becomes one with, those who are

devoted to "the Lord of the meeting rivers" (see box, top

left).

The vacana poets do not pretend that the way of union with
easy.

The

poetry of absence,

common

in all

Bhakti poetry,

God

is

sharpened

is

even further to become the poetry of the apparent harshness of Cod:

"HeV

grind

\oii till

He'll file \oii


Ij

till

you're fine

and

your colour

sundl.

shoivs.

your grain grows fine


in the grinding,
if

you show colour


in the filing,

then our Lord of the meeting rivers


will love you

and look

after you"

(Ramanujan,

|]Lit

p. 86)

the experience of absence and ot harshness

does not

last.

Shiva reaches in

all

ways those who

seek him. Mahadeviyakka worshipped Shiva

where he was known

as

in the

temple

at

Lord white as jasmine (see box, top

The mcana poets were not

Udutadi,
right).

isolated in regarding the union with Shiva

more important than the proper performance of long-established


temple. They were at the heart of a movement known as
Virashaivites, "heroes of Shiva". They were also known as Lingayats, since
for them the Linga was the most important vehicle ot Shiva's presence.

as far

rituals in the

Simple Gifts
Hii/Jii offerings to

God

or

Goddess may he extremely


simple, as here beside

Ganga/the Ganges, and do


not have to he
in

II

made

U'liij'lf.

Mahade\iyakka was

Icmalc

Devotion

to Shiva

and

the Lingciyats

follower of Shi\a:
"Like other bhaktas. her s/riiuo/f

was with her condition,

The

us body, us

L'uigci

woiium, as social being tjrunuized


b)'

huinun

social roles, as a

confined

to

a place and

livie

(L'litiiil

in her

lor ecstasy

ijiiesl

Like a silkwiniii weavinii


her /iodsc

iviih love

column

of light appeared.

The two Gods agreed

one

that the

base or the top of the

in finding either the

supreme God.

as the

forms

his classic

ol

The more they searched, the further the column of

air

light

extended beyond them, and they accepted that neither

was

as great as they

had thought. At that moment, the

them
was

ot

light

stepped out of the

light

and show me

form of the cosmic linga: he then


and revealed himself as Maheshvara
("supreme God"), with five faces (p. 106) and ten arms, and
Brahma and Vishnu immediately bowed down before Shiva,

vour u'ur out

acknowledging

supremacy

my

re\'ealed as Shiva in the

lord,

heart's greed,

This story

lord white us jasiuuic"

which Shai\
(Ranianiiian,

p,

his

told in Shiva

is

ites

h)

sht)ws also the

Puranu 2.1.6-9, showing the way

made Shi\a supreme

over

other Gods. But

all

general

temples

Linga Worship
devotee hithing a

liiigu

milk iu a Icinple devoted


to Shiva.

is

the penis, the male organ of generation, and

in association

linga

The

light.
it

is

linga in

often found

in

with the yoni, the female counterpart. Together

they are the fundamental power that brings

The word

in
it

supreme form through which Shiva makes himself

manifest, the jyo(/r-//HU((, the pillar of endless

vivid

and Brahma took the form of a wild goose and Hew up into the

round

hum

Cut through,

II

creator

its

and

incarnation, ux'utara, p.91) in order to dig deep into the earth,

Desiring whul the heurt desires.

succeeded

them was

a brilliant

Vishnu took the form of a boar (one of

ami round.
;

first

of an era, Brafima and

wfiicfi of

column would be accepted by the other

her body's threads


tight,

drew to the end

and the greatest God. Suddenly,

who

and dyino
in

L'NIV'KUSE

II

A-

Iroui her Ddiiroir,

winding

Vishnu were arguing about

rhroiioh these shackles she burst

all

means "symbol", and the

things into being.

linga

is

therefore the

quintessential symbol of Shiva that does not represent his appearance

an icon or image is

in

in

other words,

it

aniconic. Iconic symbols are those

which portray Gods or Goddesses in


some aspect of their being or pow er.
The linga

many

is

the focus

basic symbol of a

ol

worship

in

became the
group known as

temples, and

it

the Lingayats or Virashaivites (heroes


of Shiva).

The

Lingayats

came

into

being under the inspiration and

guidance of Basavanna

(p.

.>).

Al

the "place of the meeting ri\ers", he

began

to

worship Shi\a

temple, until

in a

in

dream

comiiiaiuled him to lea\o

the

Shi\,i
,iikI

serve a

ic siii\A

ni.\i>i i(i\

Basavanna cried

tlistanl king.

Liiich\

Shi\'a in

1)1

t)Ul again;>l

ihc

banishing him from his bel()\cd

icmplf - "pulhng away the earth From under

I'he

lailhtiil."

man

and cutting the throat ot the


next night, in another dream, Shi\a

from the

killing

sky,

lold l!asa\anna to

come

to the sacred bull in the

when he

k'lnple the ne\l da\, and

appeared from the mouth

did so, Shi\a

bearing a linga

of the hull

which he bestowed on Basavanna. Carrying the


Basavanna knew that Shiva would be with

liiiga.

and from that moment he was

him

in all places,

Iree

from dependence on

As word

rituals

set

and temples.

ot Basavanna's passionate devotion to

Shiva spread, a community of followers gathered

round him, and these became the new Virashaivites


- called also Lingayats because their only ritual

symbol

is

a linga

worn constantly round the neck:

God

no other focus or reminder of


loss

necessarv.

is

Its

the equivalent of spiritual death, a reminder

is

that the

body

is

the true temple.

The new community regarded all as equal before Shiva, and its
members abandoned caste and ritual other than its own. They banned
child marriage,

came

to

unclean
Shiva

and approved of widows remarrying.

Women

and

SvDibols uj

men

the time of menstruation. Because the one

in this

way

is

believed to be united with him

at

power of Shiva and

creative

Shakti as the source of

be regarded as equal, and the former were no longer regarded as


at

Shim

Liiiga unci Yoni represent the

as seen here in a

who worships
tiic moment of

cenlun

iiuaiic in Jiiiii

death, Virashaivites do not even follow the rituals of cremation and of

commitment

of the dead to the ancestors. Instead, they bury the corpse.

follower of Shiva in this

convention (see box,

left)

way was Mahadeviyakka. She threw

and delighted

Shakti, female energy in the form of

in Shiva's association

Goddess

and

its

conxcntions

in

off

with

(see box, right). In

a brief life of great struggles, she cut herself off

from the world

"Loclis of shilling red hair

order to be one with God:

crown

of

diamonds

small beautiful teeth

"Why do

need

this

dummy

and

eyes in a hiughing ftice

that light lip fourteen worlds

of a dying world?

Illusion's

chamberpot,

Hasty passion's

And
1

ivJiorehoitse,

saw the

This crackpot

who

(Ramanujan,

p.

For millions

ol

Indians

who

is

it

is

Shakti

in

the forms of Mahade\i, the

the focus of their devotion.

LjiwU todax

my

eyes...

One

(ireat

plays at love

original to the irorW.


/

3.-!)

saw

and

Great Goddess,

with Shakti,

'

leaky basement?

his iihny

he jaminc in
I

And

saw

scciii:^.

his statice

begini to live"

l^anlanuian,

life,

Sth-

p.

20)

Goddess and Shakti


Divine Female Eueroy

THE

LINGA AND THE VONI are the male and the female counterparts

and

in the creation
s\

origin of

They

life.

mbols of God/Goddess understood

from w horn

are, consequently,

The One, the


names (Brahman, Brahma, Narayana, Vishnu,

creation comes.

all

identified by different

Shiva, etc.), but

it

is

supreme

"One w ithout second"


source of all being, may be

as the

recognized that the essential nature of the

One

lies

beyond names and words. Even so, humans can only approach the
One be\ond words in the wavs in which the One becomes accessible to
far

human

and thought.
Given the mutual dependence

feelings

One

initiation of life, the

or

male

p.

105).

ol

male and female

(or a fusion of both, as in the

From the absolute Source of

identified,

come

the

many

The female source

for the

form may be either female

in accessible

androgynous form of Shiva,

all

being,

however

manifestations of Goddess and God.

of energy'

is

known

in general as Shakti,

and those who worship Goddess as Shakti are known as Shaktas.


Shakti

becomes manifest in nature itself (praferifi, p. 76), in the


power w ithin natural phenomena to create, sustain, and

restless

destrov (those three functions associated with the Trimurti and

Gods, e.g., Shiva, pp.90, 106). Shakti is


power used by Gods such as Brahma, Vishnu, and

indi\iduall\ with se\eral

therefore the

Shiva to bring anything into being or effect. But Shakti herself

can be approached

in

worship through the forms

(supreme Goddess) or Mahadexi

(great

ot

Bhagaxati

Goddesst.

Shakti/Mahadevi then becomes manifest in the form ol many


Goddesses w ho exercise particular aspects of power in the
iinixerse - powers that express the two wa\s in which the forces
(if nature work, either to create or to destroy. The two apparent
opposites are in fact aspects of the one

iMkshmi
Lak^hnii accompanies
\ ishiiii

hi all of his

incarnations Avatars)
i

and

brings good jortune to those

who worship

her

this

other.

Of

Both come from, and are united

and

acknowledged her power


^he

is

widely w(jrshipped in

India, not so

much

in

temples as in homes.

are:

* Lakshmi: she is the power of Vishnu and bringer of good torlune: she
is therefore known as Sri (Shri, auspicious; see caption, left).
Par\ati;

hinved before her

and both require each

iMahade\i and Shakti.

the creative and benign manifestations in the form ot Goddess,

two important examples

includes Shiva according to


the Vaishnavites. because he

reality,
in,

she

is

the daughter of the mountain, klimalaya, from

whom

She became the wife of Shiva


when be was mourning the death of his immolated wife Sati, of whom
Pandli is a reincarnation. .According to Mutsya Piiraiia 154, 289-92,
sustenance and strength flow

forth.

Shi\a withdrew to meditate on

Mount

Kailasa,

and the demon Taraka

took advantage of his absence to terrorize the world. Brahma then sent
the god

(if l()\e,

Kama,

to stir Lip in Sbi\a loxe lor

Panali

in oriler that

AM) MiAK

(.onni.ss

,1

son might be

hcirii

who

woiikl Jcstrov the

demon. But Shiva, having renounced the


world

in

Kama

asceticism (tapas), destroyed

with a ray from his third eye and scorned


the dark complexion of Parvati. She then

took on the asceticism in order to win his


love,

and she succeeded. Their son Kumara

(also

known

as

Skanda or Karttike\a,

then destroyed Taraka; and

p.

()"-))

later the

elephant-headed god Ganesha

(p.

08) was

born to them.

On

the opposite side are the tierce and

destructive forms of Goddess,

who

are

embodied statements of the fact that


death, fear, and pain are as much the product
of nature as everything that
pleasing,

is

benign and

and that Goddess can be found

the midst of them: the terrifying

in

is

made

is

Kali. Kali

into

a holy terror.

Of
is

these, particularly revered

linked with Kala, time, and represents

devouring nature. She

all-|iowerful,

its

is

depicted as having a terrifying appearance,

naked or wearing

a tiger skin, emaciated,

rolling with intoxication.

human

She

is

ilh

and eyes

lang-like teeth, dishevelled hair,

garlanded w

ith

heads, sometimes girdled with severed

arms; laughing and howling, she dances, wild

and frenzied,

in

the cremation grounds with a

sword and noose or

Human

skull

upon

a staff.

were made

to Kali in the past (e.g., KaUluipumna


more recent times goats are usually substituted, and such
sacrifices are made at the main temple of her cult, Kalighata (Calcutta).
Devotees of Kali, were known as Thugs. Thev offered worship to Kali
before committing murderous theft.
A widely told story relates how the Gods were unable to defeat a host
ol demons and asked her to do so. In the version recorded in
Devimahatmya, she became angry, and Camunda leapt from her brow,
crushing the demons in her jaws and decapitating the demon heroes
Canda and Munda, taking their heads back to Mahadevi as a gift. Kali
also defeated Raktabija - thought to be invincible because if he was
wounded, exact replicas of himself sprang from each drop of blood; Kali
simply devoured each one as it appeared.
Kali is worshipped as the One who has already embodied and
defeated the worst that time and nature can produce. Those who worship
Kali share in her victory over the dark and the terrifying that she so
graphically, in story and sculpture, embodies. The same is true of Durga.

71

),

sacrifices

though

in

Fearsome Kali
As the

lerrifyiiiv

Shakli. Kali
dcpiclcil as

is

nspccl of
s;i//v

hiack with

anus - two

jnitr

ofii'hicli Imlil

severed, hleedinv

licails.

while the other two hniinlish

adaooeraiulasword.A
necklace of skalls festoons
her neck, and her

lotii;tie.

dripping with the hlood

o/

those she has


cannihalistically

consumed,

hangs from her mouth. She


is

even shown holding

Iter

own head and drinking her


own hhiod as spurts from a
it

neck-wound.

Goddess and God


Uniting the Cults

o;

^LL THE DEMONS, the most dangerous was Mahisha


the buffalo demon), or Mahishasura [asuras are

opponents of the Gods/Goddesses*.

He was

considered invincible because Brahma had promised that he

would ne\er be killed by a human, nor e\en by a God.


The ston goes that when .Mahisha had subdued the world, he
decided to conquer Heaven as well and sent out a challenge
to Indra. Indra gave battle, but

Brahma
'^

In terror

Poiverfiil Diirga
file iiiime

Diirgn weatts "the

me uho

difficult to find'

is

nr "who deals uith adiersity


S/ie rode
to defeat

on

<i

Mahisha. Her seed


is

DUM

was routed and

then to Shi\a.

fled to

finally to \

ishnu

\ain because of Brahma's promise.

and rage the Gods generated the strongest energ\ and power

from themsehes. and that brought into being Shakti


Mahade\i. who

lion in order

mantra ip.l29i

ail in

for protection,

in

the form of

took the form of Durga. the fiercest form of

for this crisis

God gave her his special weapon, and. recognizing their


own impotence compared w ith her. they surrounded her w ith shouts of
Goddess. Each

encouragement and triumph.

When Mahisha

to find out what was


news of the most accomplished and
beautiful woman the\ had ever seen. Mahisha sent them again to
propose marriage, but Durga. having confused them w ith her enticing
beautv. killed them all. .Mahisha then took human form and proposed
marriage himself, but Durga told him that since she must always protect
the righteous, he must either go back to hell or fight. Confident of
Brahma's promise. Mahisha attacked her in the form of different animals,
but in vain. He was slaughtered by a Goddess, not by a God. and in this

heard

this,

going on. and they returned w

he sent messengers

ith

wav Brahmas promise remained true.


This stor\' makes clear the superiority of Goddess over God. But that
is not the only way in which the relationship between the two has been
expressed. .At one extreme, the power of Goddess is brought under
control bv God: the Goddess is believed to be fierce and w ild until she
becomes a consort of a God. when she becomes a model of the
submissive but beneficent Indian wife. Even Panati (pp.1 16f) has a
fierce

form

until

she becomes the wife of Shiva. From this "marriage of

Goddess and God

came

to

".

cults that

were once separate became united. X'ishnu

have as his consort Shri (the auspicious one), though originally

she was not connected with X'ishnu.

Once

the cults were united. Shri

became inseparable from \ishnu. w ho now wears on his body the mark
of Shri islirivatsii). and Shri became identified with Radha ipp.96f). The
Shrivaishnavites became numerous in South India, where they valued the
hvmns and traditions of the .-Xlvars so much that thev were known as "the
people of the two scriptures'

i.e..

\edanta and the

.Alvar

hymns.

and

connt-ss

Cod depends

the other extreme.

,\l

on Cioddess

totally

known

Ciods are powerless. Mahadevi,

World (jagad-ambilui),

as the

Mother

lor

whom

power: Goddess remains the source of Shakti without

portrayed seated on a throne as

is

Bhuvaneshvari, Ruler of the Universe: the four legs of the throne


are

made up

the throne

throne

is

whole world

in all directions.

the Lord

and Atman,

two being forms of Shiva), and the seat of

last

and

the Gosiiiic
oj

union of female and male

is

Tantra

is

I()2(), in

(p]-).

cremation grounds

fundamental. In Tantra, Kali

is

dance that threatens

in a

Brahmi, and Vaishnavi...

the
in

Tliere

iiathiui^ at all. luoviiio ur

is

immoviuo,

to destroy the

is

For

if it

thai

is

were,

deiDid

it

through India

One

that has spread widely

Shrividya (Auspicious Wisdom).

is

Goddess

the

forms.

in this cult

Lalita, also

is

known

The name
as Shri.

contrast to Shri of the Shrivaishnavites, she does not

in

"auspicious"

{shri) as

other God. She

is

united with Shiva, she

is

own

barren

woman.

So

also

But

above

(Brown,

in

any way she wants, and those

absolute and supreme, the unproduced

Producer of

all

that

is.

in

is

ritten as a deliberate

The major
Devi Gita, a

text

counterpart to

Bhiioavadoiia (pp.92f).
Dc'ii

(.'//(/

is

work

appearing as chapters

l)ei'i-ijliii;jinxitii I'liniini.

alter the

S07 verses

of
.-i

K) of Book 7
w

Ith eentuiy CL.

ol BIniiJin'ddoitii

ritten

ol

some time

Many

imitations

were written, but Devi

remarkable for the way

Gild

is

sees

Mahadevi Bhuvaneshavari

in

which

in

as

But Brahman as Mahadevi

is

it

Brahman

terms of Advaita (see box, above

right).

in essence

Goddess, and therefore Devi Gita strongK

emphasizes Bhakti

(7.1 1-27).

It is

only

through devotion that the nature of


Cjoddess

is

found

to

p.l 18)

who worship

all

expression of this

the form
like"

and although she

Gods (and other manifestations of Goddess), an


understanding that came to see her as identical with Brahman (p. 85),

as far

may appear in
Lord mid the

become

thus an important step toward the understanding of Goddess

is

of the

her do so to bring that power into being for specific needs and occasions.
Lalita

may appear

variously as a serpent or wreath.

not dependent on him. She has the power to

is

change the created order

right,

uic:

nonentity, like the son nj a

a result of her union with Vishnu or any

auspicious in her

iif

would he a

Just as a single rope

many

tantrism has

and

Rudra, as well as Gauri,

vvhieh the

subdued by Shiva. But Kali also dances on


the ithyphallic corpse of Shiva, in a way that expresses the union
ot passive consciousness [ptirusha) and dynamic energy
ipnikriti). which together make up the universe.
until Kali

ol

ii/rv//

Bndy.

Bndi)iia, Vishnu,

cDii

as punca-pretasana, seat of the five eorpses.

consort of Shiva as his Shakti, and they dance madly together

Shakta

Brahuiaii

lam

p. 86];

Cosmic

the

is

the corpse of another form of Shiva, Sadashiva; the

is

known

Linking the two extremes

cosmos

am

this

Soul [the identity

of the lifeless bodies of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra,

and Ishana (the

me

"In

woven

oF the

be ones own.

Durga

in

Combat

Durga fighting with

the

alviost-iiivinciblc hufjalo

the

deniDti Miihisluisuni.

(K)d

Kabiir

Cousttiitt Atteiitioti

kinujisher gazc's at

.\s tlic

the fish.

As the goldsmith

camng it,
debauched man stares

As the

intently at iniother man's

gambler intently fixes

the dice as he thrmvs them.


In such a way, wherei'er
look.

For ever

in

Bhakti (pp.93, 95), whether

Sants. Sants, basically, are holy

meditates at

people know n as

in India

and dedicated

religious people, but

by the 15th and 16th centuries CE, they had become organized

They emphasized

human words and

descriptions

(cf.

that

God

lies far

nirguna Brahman,

p. 86,

in

schools

beyond

Brahman

God can be

without attributes). They believed that devotion to

Ram'.

Nam

GoD

t;

of training and learning.

see nothing but you,

HE PASSIONATE DEVOTION TO

addressed to Goddess or God, produced

nife,

\s the

God Evennvhere

Finding

intently

gold while

fixes the

direct,

requiring no intermediary, not even the Avatar (incarnation) of God, nor

the feet of God."

such things as

ritual,

"Pilgrimages

pilgrimage,

and

and

sacrifice;

sacrifices are a

which has spread

all

Kahir has pidled

it

over

poisonous Creeper

world

tlie

up by the

roots

Lest people drink the poison"


(Vaudeville. p.206)

liven asceticism

God

(cf.

way

and celibacy can get

in the

way

of union in love with

the issue between Hasidim and Mitnaggedim, p. 223).

to this

union

is

open

to

all,

The

and therefore low-caste people and

women can be Sants. All that is needed, according to the Sant


Namdev is constant attention to God (see caption, above left).
Among many great Sants, such as Namdev and Ravi Das, the bestknow n

is

Kabir

A Muslim
".A

saint retains his holiness

in the midst of

ungodly crowds,

As the malaya
its

in the

tree retains

coolness

embrace of ci

poisonous

5th century CE), a low-caste weaver of North India.

by birth (though later sources claim that he was born

Brahman widow and adopted by Muslim parents), Kabir


God everywhere, as much among Hindus as among
Muslims: "Banaras is to the East, Mecca to the West; but go into
\'our own heart and you will find both Rama and Allah are there."
of a

found

Kabir usuailv spoke of

Horses, elephants in plenty,


rouil canopies

and fluttcrino

.\ll

When

banners:

God

as Hari, the Lord (\'aude\ille, p. 178):

"When I was, Hari was


now Hari is and I am no

snalie.

not,

more:

darkness vanished

found the

Lamp

within

iiix

heurl

Rcitlwr heooarliness than such

abundance.
if

But the Lord bears many names

the beggar never ceases

invokins Hart!"

[Vmk

p.

Allah, Karim,
realize the

Rahim

tor those

(the Merciful One).

presence of

God

in

who love Ciod - Ram,


What matters is to

the pulse of

life at

"Hari dwells in the Last, they

7.^)

and

.Allah resides in the west

[i.e..

ever\

moment:

say,

Mecca],

"

Seurch for

your

liiu in

in the hcarl

lietirt,

your heart:

r;/

"Even

He dwells. Rahiu!-F\(nii.
men and women ever born

There
All

and

Are nothing hut forms of Yourself:


Kahir is the child oj Allah-Ram:

He

is

my Guru and

And

pir in Isl.im

is

the spiritual guide, the equivalent ot

tlie

guru.

God - God
who yearn in love,

Kahir knew well that his only guide and guru was

and who eertainly does not stand


religious credentials of those

who

allowed to enter in (see box,

right).

In India, the sati

is

God

far

beyond

well

enough

to

(cf.

\ati,

or

One

vith

you must.

devotion to truth

Eckhart, p. 274) -

be truly united with God.

know

One

in the end. die


in

Says Kabir,

that the opposite

is

for
P)Ul

what

world:

none has ever escaped


So
Free

it

Kahir

thought and

I've

pondered, watching the whole

who sacrifice everything in life in order to


throw themselves onto God and become as a drop of water
which is lost in the vast ocean of God. That is a common image
for the soul to

you be a V)o/, a

uititted locks.

the true satis are those

means

herb-l^alnis

With shaven head or plucked

herself onto the funeral pyre of her husband. According to Kabir,

in

if

hair, a silent

arrive in laith hetore they are

widow who

orainiiiurs.

all treatises nii,

going on endless pilgrimages -

expressed as duty, or Dharma, sacrifices herself by throwing

India - and

and

and

Tapi or a Suninyasi.

the door ehecking the

at

you know

spells

l\uidil.

all scriptures

in the end, die you must.

luy Pir"

w ho raees into the depth of the souls nf those

you he a

sciences

all
ij

And
I'Ik'

ij

knowing

knew

also true:

have talien refuge in Y<m:

me from

that round of birth


and death!"

(Vaudeville, p. 241)

"Everyone knows that the drop merges into the ocean, very few
realize that
In this
in

when

the texture and

lived,

that happens, the ocean

way Kabir was

adhering to

toil

merges into the drop."

the poet of complete devotion to God, finding


of the world (see box,

God and

left).

God

Kabir died as he had

not to one religion rather than another:

"Repeating You, You,

In myself no

became who You


T remains.

are:

Offering myself into your Nante,

\A^erever

look, there

Kabirs Hindu and Muslim tollowers, true to


quarrelling over his corpse: should

it

is:

You

human

The Ocean and


"Whisper the

type, started

be buried as Muslim or burned as

Hindu? In their struggle, they pulled off the cloth that covered the body,
and they found nothing but flowers. Half were cremated and half were
buried. And that might seem to be the end of the story but there was
more to come.

and

all

the

Wave

iianic oJ llnri

your sins will go.

You are

I.

and

am

You,

widuiitl difference, as are

void

iiiul

the bracelet, the

ocean and the

ii'di't'"

{Adi Craiitli).

Sikh:
Guru Nanak
r\usi

K\i;iii

Jcptii ol

liis

I-OUND

own

life,

GoD

surely

and most securely

he therefore became

in

the

the

critic;il ot

cNlernal rituals and rivalries ot reiit>ion:

The Lord

An

God

sugar spilled in the sand:

like

is

elephant rages around and cannot pick

me

Says Kahir: Tlie guru gave

Become an ant and


This

way

of understanding

God

Icit liiin

eat

up.

it

the hint:
it!"

with an Lincerlain religious

future of his own. His followers organized themselves into a group


(iiiiu
(

Ncmak

III

II

chillies

III

He

u luilx

rural selling to

many

llie

/'s

were never a

slxnvii

iiitiii.

in

the heart rather than in the institutions, and his social protests, hut they

reierent accmints called


Jdiunii-Siikhi',.

God

(the Kahir Panth) that continued to express, hoth his passion for

iini Niiiuik's life is told in

large

movement. Yet

in fact

Kahir contributed to a \ery

extensive religious consequence, because his views were

ill

among

those

young Punjabi, Nanak 1469-1 539ce), later Guru


Nanak, the first human Guru of what became the Sikh religion. How
directly Kabir influenced Nanak is Linknown. Stories exist about the two
which influenced

emphasize

years spent as a

Hiinderino ascetic.

men

meeting, but these seem to have been told later in order to exalt
Nanak by having Kabir acknowledge Nanak as greater than himself.

Leaving aside the issue of influence,

it is

clear that they

had much

in

and foremost, they shared an overwhelming sense of God


as the source and foundation of all appearance, of this or ol any other
universe. That is clear in the Mul Mantra (see box, below ).

common.

First

As with Kabir and others in the Sant tradition (p. 120), Nanak believed
God can be directly known. It is true that God is lar abo\e all

that

beyond words, the One who brings creation into


One who decides what to make or unmake
God may be regarded as the gardener, tentling the plants and

human thought and

far

being with a single word, the

(AG

p.4L-i).

THt MuL Mantra


The

ciiiiipii^ilioii tinit

The Mul Mantra was our


compositions.

It

Cruiilh i'Hic

;rs/

known

,is r.iirii

stands

,il

ol Cuiii

ihe hcatl

or llic I'niiinrdial

NanaL's

lirsi

l],>nl;.

also

toorlhrr hv thr

lillh

Cod which

(anu. Aijan. and

ihe .\di Chtiiilh:

\luih(ids (songs) by Kabir

The Mul Manlra

iraiislalc.

InU

whose Name
a'

(if

which includes 22u


himsell.

ol llic .\i/i

Cniiilli Suhih. ]^.\lh). the

coll.'clion olllu' \\,,als Mispircd In


u.ilJuTc-tl

hecanie the fouudatiiiu maiitni

is

impossible to

mcins roughK: "There


is

is

One

licing,

Inilh, Source. cUul C'rcalor.

wilhoul

Icar, williout hoslilil\,

unborn,

scll'-cxisti-nl,

timeless

ihc i;iacc

ol

in

lorm,

ihc Cluru,"

caiint; lor wluil

tiiowing (.Ad' p. 765), but CioJ

is

conriiscd with tbe garden:

"He

outside time:

which shines

light

in

is

is

it

his light

is

mil lo be

completely other, and he

is

e\er\one and exenthing" (AG

in creation,
p.

"As the Primal Being willed,

is

llie

devotee was, ushered into the

and that

Divine Presence. Tlien a cup

579):

of

amrit fthe drink of immortalitx.

"Yon alone are the Creator,

fundamental

All that exists comes from yon.

Without you, nothing

else

could

Ever creating, you see and know

Nanak

Says

command, 'Nanak,

exist:

the slave, Ihrough the iUiru

remembers you

and teach

is

God

absolute transcendence,

known. The Word of God creates

be makes

is

the expression of

part of creation that

means

is

be

nothing

{AG

p. 4).

the

hmv m\

in

my

nanie

others to do so...

of my Name. Let
calling.

of God: "Ail that


is

is

have bestowed upon you the

known and

and therefore

things,

all

not that self-expression"

that C!od can be

'

Nanak

salutations

any

This

this

gift

be \our

offered his

and stood up

(Bhai V\r Singh, p.! 61

encountered and discerned e\er\\\here:

"You are the ocean, embracing

How can

wills to

Name, p. 24)
his Name. There

creation mediates the nature (or

will

favour. Go, rejoice, in

(Evening Praver, Rahinis)


this

this

cup of Name-adoration. Drink


it: I mil u///; \f>u, and I bless
mid exidt ]i/u. Whoever

idl things.

\bu are revealed"

Despite

Sikh rituals]

in

was given him with the

all,

knowing and seeing

all.

a fish in the ocean, ever perceive the limit of

I,

what you are?

Wherever

look, there you are.

you.

Ij I leax'e

gasp und die"

Sikh Practice
In contrast to Kcihir. Ciuii

Nanak

(AG

p.25)

did organize his

followers.

When

he settled

eventually in Knrtapur he

Guru Nanak bad cume


At Sultanpur,

in

to

know the

truth ol this In direct experience.

about 1499ci^, he was bathing

disappeared beneath the water for three da\s.


spent a further day

in silent

meditation,

and then proclaimed, "There


there

is

not that there


biit

is

no Hindu,

no Muslim", meaning, probably,


is

one universal

that there are

taith completely.

none who

religion,

live their

biography of Nanak

written at a later date records

how he

recei\ed a direct commission from Ciod


(see bo.\, top right).

Guru Nanak gave away

his possessions

and spent the next 24 years travelling


tlnrougb India

and beyond, pointing

to

tbe truth of God. In this simple way.

discarding such things as caste and


sacrifice, the

the story ol

Sikh religion began, and

God

took a new turn.

in

tbe Ri\er Bein, and

When

be emerged, he

and

they

obsenvd a daih

routine oj bathing, luiiinsingnig.

and eating together

Sikhs
The Name Of God
Sikhs, the supreme symbol of God.

FOR

Onkar, or Ikk
(p. 122).

This

the numeral
the sion tor

Oan Kar It is the


is made up of:

shown on the

first line

of the i\lul

left, is Ik

Mantra

Oan

which

("that

the word kar, "s\llable".

It

means

literally

truly

Oan

"the s\llable

is",

the Sanskrit

One

[is]

and uncompromised Oneness of Cod.

It

',

Aum.

p.

128)

emphasizing the absolute

summarizes (and, when spoken,

the reality of God.

is)

The

ne.\t line

of the

Mul Mantra

Naam, "True Name". For


God comes
the Name; the dynamic nature

Sat

is

Sikhs, as for Indian religion in general, the realization of

through the sound and the sounding of

God

is

Ik Oiikar

therefore, concentration
Ihis

.uiiiuuir)' oj
(

ii

',(kl

luiidamcntal

;s //if

Sikh belief that

One, the source of all


is.

It

contrasts with

though

is

not in ultimate

that

Cduflict ivith

of

(p. 129).

ol

For Sikhs,

and meditation on Nam, the Name {Nam


The Sikh religion is sometimes called Nam

simaran). arc fundamental.


Yoga, because

it

is

Sikhs meet the scll-re\ elation

in this \\a\ that

"Meditate ou the

name

oj

God and

tJiroiigh the Natiie

ol CJod:

enter

the state oj sitpretiie bliss"

the wider

lihluii! uihtcr-.lauding

sound of mantras

carried through the sacred

God

(AG

bccoiiiiug manifest in

p. 26)

different forms, such as the

many names (God, Rama, ,\llah,


some way what God is, but
Nam, the essence (essential nature and being) of God lies far beyond
these appro.ximate names and words (see box, below left).
Nam simaran is not simply a matter of reciting the name ol God. Guru

That which

Trimurti {p.90}.

is

iruK real has been gi\en

Vishnu, Shiva), and these

Nanak
"I

linv

is

can

within

Nam
lis,

be kuuivti? Nutn

how can Num

yet

be reached?

Nam

is

at ivork

everywhere, permeating the

nlwle of space. The perfect guru


fCranth Sahib/ mrafeews yon la
the vision of
grave'

III

God

this

Nam.

It is iv

enlightenment
(.\C, p.

the

one comes

that

242)

to

is

said:

all

manifest in

"Anyone can speak the name of God, but speaking

not realization.

It is

only

when God

Guru's grace, that one gathers the

name aloud in a
God have God hidden
Clod's

when

frenzy,
in

Guru Gobind Singh gave

settles within,

fruit...

those

by the

Why

are you shouting

who

ha\'e attained

the heartr
the

same warning;

it

is

not reciting the

words that counts, but realization of the power within them: "^ou
cr\ aloud to God five times; so does the wolf in winter II noli
could attain

God

by repeating Thou, Thou', o\er and o\er again,

well! the birds are singing that cry all the lime.

Nam, the Name, is


who is otherwise

)iie

alread\

deep withm

the point of contact lor


far

iheir

humans

beyond knowledge, but who

own

nature. To

make

with the
is

lound

the eonneelion

with Clod,

an

iK-ithc-r iiiecliulor (like

iiviilnni

or intarnalion) nor cxlernal

needed - though Sikhs often make use of a mala, similar to what


called in Christianity a rosary. Music and dance are regarded with

riiu.il is
is

suspicion: they do indeed create states

"//

is

(ct. pp.4()f

),

but

lLiiicl' itself into the state of


through the Gurus word, meets

llw iiiiud that slioiiht

devotion so that
with the

trance and joy

ol

Cod:

the\ ma\' well distract from

Name.

tlie itii)id,

who

Tliose

and scream and gynite the

sJiout

body are gatliering illusion and pain

ii'ithin"

U\lajhM3)

The

offering ot oneself to

God

the only ritual or sacrifice

is

mind

required. "The comings and goings ot the

one

Amar Das
senses],

come

dawn

perpetual state of the

lives in a

put

"When you

it,

cease, and

of Bliss."

As Guru

close your nine doors [of the

and your interactions with the world cease, you

to rest within the tenth door,

your

home. Here,

real

w ilhout end, you hear the Guru's word although

way mean the

Linuttered." This does not in any

the world:

it

means recognizing God

is

it

rejection ol

places and

in all

therefore living in the world with responsibility and delight.

The union of the self with


The soul, therefore, must

God

Sikh writer comments, "The Bride

God must

like the Linion ol loxers.

is

rid itself

of

and

lies

who

deceit.

As

seeks to be abed w

ilh

dress herself in the utter nakedness of the soul

(Gopal Singh,

p. 34).

point of \iew of the

The Gurus
woman, the

m\

lover

come

ficjine.

am

liaiili

Tlic Reserve liauli of huliu

far axvu] in foreign lands.

is

llie Beloved does not

and

Dellii

mind and bod\ yearn

"Ail

but

frequently speak from the


bride, awaiting her loxer;

(.'iini

sigfiing to deatfi,

Rant

in/s iislwil

In

slumU A

the lightning strikes fear in me.

Diis, irlhii
ii

In

iikiii

he

he

nihil Iw

s,/iv,/,

ciiisnciVil. "( hi mill npcii

alone on

I lie

motfier,
\\'itlu)ut the

Divine

What

pain

One

wfien

sfie is

is

like deatfi to

lioiv

clotliing

Niuiali sa\s,

bed, tontiented;

tfie

can

can

tfie

tliere

bunk

emf^-aced

is

me.

wed

Hefoi'ed"

[Barah Mulni i)

The

pain ot absence increases the yearning for

p. 95),

as

and, in the end,

Guru Amar

God

I^as said:

will

"The world

whatever door people come

God

(cf.

always receive those

to sou.

is

on

fire:

sa\e

it.

viraha Bhakti,

who come

in trust,

God, through

ii

ami pnn jnr

\iiiir eiislijiiiers.

he sleep or Jiunger?

trufy

fy\ tier

Delhi,

'

sootfie the sfiin?

bride

III

Sikhi
Guru Gninth Sahib
\ I603cb;. Gl'RL Arjan, the
ihe

Sikh Guru, realized that the

I;decided

coming from God through Ciuru


He knew

that the re\elations

.\anak and his successors must be collected together.


that the

growing community, the Khalsa. needed guidance, but


that people could

understaiidino to the Word.

place to

and you

that spurious

will sail safely over

words might be claimed as re\elation.

The hvmns and poems were

God

it

no longer come phssically to one


consult a single human Guru. He was concerned also

was clear

depth. Think, apply your

into

fifth

Sikh community (the Panth) was spreading rapidly, so he

Word one h
coiuieiniwd to wander on a sen
iincluirted. The thinos oj this
world drag us down into the
"\\ itliotit

organized into 31 sections,

sorted bv their musical measures, and then, within each of the


(Kaur Singh. {!J9)

31 sections, ordered also according to the date, in succession, of

the Gurus.

because

it

The

was called simply Granth ("book"), but


God through his new Guru, it

collection

contains the self-re\ealing of

became known as the Guru itself, worthy


full narhe Guru Granth Sahib. It is called
book. Adi Granth.

When

October 1708ct) he

human
living

Guru. Each dav

When

Mam

compared

Guru

Sikhs keep the hring


in their

own homes,

often in a separate room,

and

treat

it

with extreme

reierence. going to

guidance.

It is

speaking directh
the helieier

it

for

Cod
to

also the

first

or the primordial

the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, died (in

would be no further

instructions that there

successors as Gurus, but that this Book would be in future the

Granth as the

Gods Word

left

hence the

of respect (sahib),

isible

Sikbs say; ".-\cknow ledge the CJuru

in their prayers

body

of the

Gurus."

the collecting was complete, there were great celebrations,


at

On

the time to those of a splendid wedding.

16 August

Guru Granth was installed with great ceremony in the inner


sanctuarv of the Temple in Amritsar - known later as the Golden Temple.
That re\erence for the Guru Granth continues to the present day.
Each Sikh communit\ has a place where it can assemble, and this
place is known as "the gateway to the Guru". Guru-dwara ("door"),
or, as it is more often spelt, the Gurdwara. Here the Guru Granth
1604cii, the

Sahib

is

enshrined. There are no sculptures or Images

cpresenting God, nor, usually, are there any chairs.


sit

humbk

before the lixing Guru, which

higher platform abo\e them, and

it

is

reverence that Hindus express

is

he people

alwavs placed on a

treated with the


in their

ow n temples

before the images of God. Sikhs bow in the presence


of the book,

Each dav

ith

heads covered and shoes removed.

dawn, there

at

pralitisli

book

ktnna.

is

richlv

is

ceremony known

making the

as a

The

clothed and protected bv a

nopv. vsith a whisk ichauri)


t

as

light manifest.

mark of respect and

insects from alighting on

waved over

to
it.

keep
I

he ,\rdas

I"l\-litiiin")
t'luliniJ

Is

then recited, interspersed

the cry "VahigLirn",

v\itli

"Upiiu the

Guru belonus
Guru belongs victory." The
Guru", but it has come to be

with the words: "To the praiseworthy Lord

offer

the Khalsa, to the praiseworthy Lord


cr\ "X'ahiijLirLi "
,1

n.inie tor

means

"praise to the

God. Then the Guru Granth

is

opened

the passage at the top of the left-hand page

passage

is

called vcik or

hidmm, the word or order

for the day,

as vak lao, "taking the Word". At the

comes

a ritual

called Sukhasan, "to

the

and

was that

in the

it

up, especially in the case of marriage.

Gurdwara the sharing of food

lundamental duty: but could


Amritsar, with those
the living

it

be shared,

who had been

Guru through vak

lao.

grace and union.

us, as sinners,

The problem

(cf. p. 94) is a

at least in centre of

outcastes?

It

was decided

The book was opened

at the

are unioiv^

has ih-awn us into that


utiion of bliss"

(AC 6..S)

Golden Temple
I'lic

Golden Temple

built in

called

as prasad

the service of

the least worth]: but the Tnte

Guru
Through the Guru Granth Sahib, God as Word is present in
community and of the world (see box, left).
There may be no need for intermediaries or incarnations, but the
(iuru Granth Sahib is a direct equivalent (see caption, left).
There was a time, between the two World Wars, when large
numbers of Hindu outcastes in the Punjab were becoming Sikhs (or, in
some cases, Ghristians) to break out ol their wretched condition. There
was a problem: GurLi Nanak had condemned caste, but Sikhs have found
dilticult to give

is

Guru in remembering
divine Name. It is God who
offers

the midst of the

it

ihn

hestmvs grace. Raised

things

all

All of

carefully closed.

is

'/

the True

end of
comfortably" -

sit

and prayers, the book

above

read aloud. The

is

known

alter a hirther reading

I'nic Ciiini

random, and

is

this practice

the day

at

U'li^i ii'f^i-//n'.

(/k';sc'/i'(". /;; sen'ici', llic

Sikh

life at

to consult

passage

shown above right. Whatever the feelings of Sikhs about outcastes might
be, it was clear that the Guru Granth Sahib had accepted them.

iii/s

1601CE, ami

ii>

Harimandir Sahib

("honoured temple of God")


or Darlnir Sahib {"honoured
royal court").
"(tlden"

sheets

when

It

became

gilded copper

were added

in the

early 19th centiin:

Sound
The Expression of God
Sikhs,

Sound and Word

(Shabad) are

protoundly related. Without Sound formed into

FiWord humans

could not communicate with each

God. Through the Word, Ciod becomes

other, or with

known: "God has no form, no


and

yet

But

God,

it

it

is

colour,

re\ealed through the true

Shabad

Word)

(the

no material

Word" (AG

identity,

597).

e.xpresses that inner nature of

follows that behind or preceding

Shabad

is

the

unspoken or "unsounded" sound, the soundless sound (anahad


and

^hiibad),
Oil! or Aiini

The
yciid

and

or sung before

prayers

is

one's heart"

parts pointing to

in general,

end being a

folk

on the Itand

is

the essence of God. To repeat the

(AG

Name

ow n being, and

in one's

ol

in this

wa\

Nam

Shabad,

is

(Nam,

feel

it

and

to attain

enthroned

in

1242).

where Shabad appears

Name
As

as Shabda.

is

important

in India

early as the \'edas,

sound was revered as the self-being and self-expression of God. Vac


(
"speech") is Goddess embodying sound and creating speech. Probably

fourth expressing the

attainment of GodlBrahman.
this ixinbul

is

tune oneself to that unsounded sound, to

This understanding of Sound, Word, and

the Trimurti (p. 90). with the


silence at the

that
to

complete union with God: "Bv means

after

made up of three

component

is

nothing else vibrating

symbol

cleriuil Hiiulii

God

124) of

p.

Goddess, she was integrated into Ar\'an

emphasis on the correct reciting of the

of Shiva ip.lOSl

which alone the

The

creative

pov\'er of ritual

power of Vac

is

and

(p. 60) belief

chants and hymns through

\'edic

sacrifice

is

released.

shared by humans:

words the\ become creators of truth and

when humans make

realitx that pre\ iously

had not

Sound and Meaning


//

\ac

(S

nho

is

3J

SPHOTA:

I'ho

meaning

break forth (as

lo

lanced) from noise;


relates

Shabda

the hearer of meaning:

is

it

hen

a boil

all

Cod

truth

is in

samgraha
3S

NADA:

is

or

order and

meaning: "The eternal Word called sphota


uithout division and

'

{Sllrv^ldarshana-

lor

me. mint;,

Inil

as vet

die rishis

ANAHATA;

3S

AHATA;

who

Sound

sense the Xtdas


as potential

(p. 60).

meaning but

not yet expressed, e.g., a thought

or not
e.g.,

-^.M.

theconsKuil, undi\ idetl'sounding of

sound with polenlial

e.g.,

3S
is

the cause ot the world

Brahman

ol

God/Brahman, perceptible only lo those Uained


(above all through yoga) and attuned to it - as.

is

this capacity that

to the inner nature of

IValiman as the source of

and

simpiv the expression ot the inner nature

fundamental capacity of
v\

nars in which sound

icaniiigless noise into tlie various

conrerts

Expressed sound of

humans can hear

it

all

kinds,

whether
il

or understand

the sound of a forest or jungle at night in

which animals,

because of the

birds,

the crealivilv of Clod.

and insects participate

in

existed. \'ac

humans

therefore to be worshipped as the one w ho will enable

is

to use that

borrowed power

"When humans,

good and not

to

h)'

e\

etteet:

il

name-giving,
"A

Brought forth the first sounds of Vac,

Both name

Secrets hidden deep, through love were brought to light.

When
As

shadows

they created language with wisdom.

winnowing flour through

if

But

to

They are

who,
is
.

form is of less importance


than the name, for without the

name you cannot come

to a

knowledge of the form, hut


meditate on the name without
seeing the form,

her husband...

and your soul

acts as

an interpreter between

and immaterial

the material

offer libations.

is

The name

filled with devotion.

Those who move neither fonvard nor backward,

Are not brahinans, do not

oj the Lord,

...

the

iniil jonii tire

Til e

another she reveals her beauty


to

(is

inmied

;s

unspeakable and uncreated

Friends acknowledged the signs of friendship,

Like a radiant bride yielding

he re^cinted

rightly understood,

a sieve.

And their speech retained its touch.


Many who see do not see Vac,
Many who hear do not hear her.

uiDiic' iihiv

equivalent lu whal

Tilings that were excellent in them, that were pure,

forms of the deity, and is a guide


(Hid an interpreter to both"

ineffective craftsmen, misusing Vac,

Ignorant, they spin out a useless thread for themselves'


(Tuisi

(RV
The repeating oF God's
in

Name

is

important because Shabda

essence and manifestation: to sound (repeat) the

come

into union with

sound

is

in CIrovvse, p.

7)

(see box, right).

The

Name

Cod, both

is

God is to
God through

link with

of

expressed through mantra ("instrument of thought"). Mantras

(at least as early as

used

God

Das

10.71)

the Vedas) are a verse, syllable, or series of syllables

express the nature of God. There are three kinds:

in ritual to

those that have meaning, such as

namah

Shivaya, "praise to Shiva", or

the Gayatri mantra, repeated by the twice-born daily:


sva, tat savitur

pracodayat;
Savitri,

Om,

hhur, bhuva,

varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah

"Om,

earth, space, sky;

worshipful God;

may he

we meditate on

the brilliant light of

illuminate our minds"

those that have no meaning, including the supremely important

Aum, known

Rija or "seed" mantras

thus krim

is

Om

or

as pranava, "reverberation" (see caption, left)

compress the essence into the simplest form;

the essence of Krishna;

Om

is

the bi]a of

all

mantras

Drum

oJ

Shiva

The douhle-sided drum

Because repetition of
Ciod, so
ot

it

a mantra, silently or aloud, leads to

union with

can only be imparted and learned from a guru. The right way

concentration leads to the consciousness of the worshipper taking on

the form of the Deity.


attain the

text of the

supreme Brahman

Kashmir Shaivites

are steeped in the

says:

"Those who

sound of God

(sh(ihdabrahman) the unstruck sound [nada], vibrating without contact,


,

that

can be heard by the ear made competent by the guidance of a guru,

the unbroken sound rushing like a river" (Vijuanabhairava 38).

of

Sliiva ip.l04} sustains the

rhythms of life, luid

summons new
being.

It

it

creation', into

contrasts with the

flame of destruction held


Sliivd's

otlwr hand.

in

Mandala and Yantra


The Essence

GOD

BECOMES MANIFEST

IN

and through sound, and equally

space, where the encounter with

mandalas (Sanskrit,

God

oj

"circle")

God

is

in

created through

and yantras ("instrument

for

supporting something"). These are symholic representations or pictures of


the entire cosmos: just as mantras compress God's essence into sound, so

mandalas compress the essence of God encountered

Mandalas are diagrams painted on


ground. Their shape

walls,

on

in the universe.

scrolls, or

on consecrated

way

basically that of a circle, indicating the

is

which God surrounds and includes everything. The outer

circle

ring of flames, indicating God's protective power;

is

and

in

often a
as

yogins visualize their entry into the mandala, their impurities


are symbolically burned.

weapons

(e.g., x^ajras,

second

circle consists of a ring of

or thunderbolts), symbolizing the

indestructible quality of union with God.

For Buddhists, this

is

the indestructible quality of

enlightenment, and for them, especially in mandalas of


wrathful deities (pp.72f), there

cemeteries

modes

in

a third circle of eight

is

which die the eight

superficial

and distracting

of consciousness: a final ring of lotus petals signifies

the purity of the land they

Having

now

in their visualization

enter.

crossed these borders, the

yogins stand outside a "pure palace" (vima)w) which, by

representing the four directions in

with auspicious symbols) and


includes within

centre

By

is

itself

its

four walls (adorned

its

four open gateways (dvara),

the whole external world.

Its

own

the centre of the world, the axis mundi.

visualizing themselves in the mandala,

and by

identifying with the central deity, the yogins enter into union

Chandra
Chandra, the moon,
offering of

Soma

with
the

is

{pp.62}},

the sustenance of the sun

and

the

end

to

which

creation moves.

and

the

up

moon

all

The sun

together

make

or Goddess,

or,

in the case of Buddhists, into enlightenment.

particularly important in Tantra (pp.l02f),

carefully described in Tantric texts. For example,

and are

Lakshmi Tantra

(37.3-19) describes the mandala of nine lotuses. This

is

made up

way of
exchange between life and

various deities are situated, particularly Narayana (p. 98) with

Lakshmi

(p.l 16) in the central lotus,

surrounded by the manifestations of

(the xjiihas of Vishnu, p. 90)

and other

(p.

62), to

which the

\}unida\a offers access.

deities

on the

petals.

of a

upon which

series of squares with nine lotuses within the central square,

the entire cosmic

sacrifice, the

death

God

Mandalas are

God

Other

manifestations of Shakti (pp.1 I6f) are placed on the other lotuses. This
creates an entire picture of the
into being

and sustain

it.

enters into those energies and


the form of

God

cosmos and of the energies

The worshipper, by

becomes one with

or GoiIlIcss. In worship

that bring

it

entering into the mandala,

ipiijii, p.

their manifestation in

94), a

mandala

is

the

MANDALA AND

sacred place where a form of

God

or

Goddess

invoked by mantra. The

is

placing of mantras on the mandala (nyasa) gives


is

and the mandala


and not as a mere
placing of mantras or sacred signs

then regarded, like mantra, as the Deity

representation. Nyasa

is

also the ritual

on the body as a mark of one's intention

and replace

it

hhutasuddhi, a preliminary

itself,

to destroy the

It is

part of the ritual

rite in virtually all

Bhutasuddhi ("purification of the elements")

prepare

it

visualization

for the realization of

God

is

is

in

known

Tantra -

as

the ritual dissolution of

is

fire, air,

space) in order

Through

or Goddess.

and mantra, each element

Each element

mundane body

forms of Tantric puja.

the five gross elements of the body (earth, water,


to

it life,

with the body of the Deity, often - especially

identified with Shakti (p.l 16f).

VAN"! RA

systematically dissolved.

associated with a particular area of the body

(though correspondences vary

in different texts): earth

from

the feet to the knees, water from the knees to the navel,
fire

from the navel

between the

eyes,

to the heart, air

from the heart

to

and space from between the eyes upwards

So beginning with the

feet

and working upwards, those seeking

union (sadhakas) dissolve the gross body, replacing


realized in the

stage of this
into their

form of the seed

ipu']a,

(hija)

(p.

it

with Shakti

129). In the ne.xt

they draw the divine mantra body of the Deity

own through

nyasa. Their bodies

body and the Deity possesses them,

becomes

mantra

possible, since only

at

become

the Deity's

which point true worship

God can worship God in an equal sharing of


being of God which brings pure joy.

delight. Sadluduis enter into the inner

Painted Yogi
Yoga (Sanskrit yuj, "yoke
together")

Yantras

are, like

cosmos and enabling worshippers

God

the world to the being of

mandalas, they

the

mandalas, geometrical designs compressing the

may be constructed

to enter

Goddess

or

in three

from the outer edges of


in the centre.

the

since they

embody

power of the

and they are the focus of meditation

Deity,

the real presence of God.

There are different yantras

all is

many

such as protection,

an enemy. Embracing them

the Shriyantra, important especially to Shrividya (p.l 19), but to


others as well.

It is

made up

of nine intersecting triangles, five

"male" triangles (representing Shiva) pointing upwards - though


is

reversed.

The

triangles represent the

interpenetration of Shiva and Shakti, the male-female polarity of the


entire cosmos,

from which

all

triangles are five circles, the

existence

innermost

eight lotus petals, the next with 16.

is

derived. Surrounding the

circle

being embellished with

Beyond the

concentric rectangles with four gates.

circles are three

dot (hindu) in the centre

represents the source of manifestation. Goddess as Brahman. Mandalas


are visual equivalents of mantras.
or

Goddess

in

They

mind, and body.


follou'S

yogi

one of the many

paths that lead to this "giving

up of all conditions of

also underlie the presence of

another form - that of the temple.

"royal yoga"

1.24),

God

(Yogadarshanam
is

that condition

of freedom.

"female" triangles (representing Shakti) pointing downwards and four

sometimes the order

into a state

far beyond the ordinary

existence". In Patanjali's

for various purposes,

fulfilling desires, controlling others, or killing

the uniting of

possibilities of consciousness,

Unlike

dimensions out of stone or

metal plates. They often have a seed mantra inscribed on them, investing

them with

is

whole person

God

Temples of India
God's Presence on Earth

IKE

MANDALAS, TEMPLES are the vehicle of the presence

Goddess on earth - so much so that temples


the foundation and plan of particular
niandalas. Iarl\' and common is the vastn-ptiriisba mandala, a
square on to which the figure of Purusha, the unmoved
of

God

arc

Mo\er,

is

or

hLiilt (in

mapped

(p. 76).

The

entire square

smaller squares, of which the central one

Brahma

the Creator.

The

is

is

divided into

the abode of

next inner squares are occupied by

the major Deities, with an outer set of 32 squares for the 32


Deities

(p. 63).

The

Deities at the four cardinal points and at

the corners guard the sacred space from irreverence or

contamination, send the power of the Deities out to the "four


Linking Heaven and Earth
I

his temple,
ill

corners of the earth", and invite worshippers to approach from wherever

they are. For that reason, this mandala also underlies the layout of

from Matannii

Indonesia, shows the

towns,

shikhara (see text) linking

particular Deity, hut

can. without

to

disloyalt)', visit

as

own

to

Hindu

"womb"

Ganesh

lp.108], the terrible blood-

stained Kali

Ip.

1 1

Deity

Garuda

bird [p.ilOJ.
daily.

iuvolwd

al all

and

involve

is

the

w hich the image of the major


is

placed.

whom

the world turns and depends.


the sbikbara, the tower or pillar

of llic

Dcil\

is

drawn

into the

the innermost shrine.

in

ways -

halls or

porches

in

dance,

in recitation of texts, in

hymns and

songs,

and

in

processions. Beyond these will be an outer fence or wall, or in large

humble

of Lord Shiva.

is

(matidapa): these are stages on which people honour the Deity in various

"

...

North and dravida of

the centre

Immediately outside the garbha-griba are one or more

in all

true

temples

prostration before the linga


[pp. 114(1

in

resembling K'lount Meru, the bridge between earth and hea\en. Through

image

pilgrimage to the Sri

all else

,'\t

down

laid

styles developed,

the case of Shiva, the aniconic Linga, pp.1 14f)

(or, in

the shikhara, the presence and power

Meenakshi Temple would


aboie

styles of the

common.

(garbha-griba) in

Directly above the garhba-griba

be adored

times

womb-chamber

one Deity on

petiti(med regularly,

I'laces. I'lUl ever)

between the so-called nagara

or

temples are carefully

7],

the celestial

to

by

Dark and mysterious, it is the centre of the world, the a.xis muiidi, since
even if God or Goddess becomes present in other temples, there is only

Hiinumini the monkey


Ipp.i^Of],

oi

and while different

the South, there are basic features in

Shiva's omnipotence. Each


might have a personal deity -

the benign elephant

first

heaven.

in

is

The architecture and groundplan

especially

Madurai was

on acknowledging

intent

it

texts of authority (vastu-shastras),

described the temples of

coming

the centre, surrounded

humans, then by asuras (p.l 18), and sthaiidila mandala,


with an even larger field of 60 squares, giving place to more Deities and
therefore allowing e\en greater resemblance to God's kingdom on earth

devotion. Geoffrc)- Moorhoiise

S(nith India: "Every

South India, are padnuigarhha

in

at

Deities, then by

Hindus

DeitT oj their

some

at Jaipur.

mandala, which again has Brahma

leniples that are not dedicated


to the

example,

Other mandalas, more common

heaven and earth. Temples

may he dedicated

as, for

in

,\

around which people can circumambulate


Beyond the outer wall may be a further area

series of passages,

honour of the

Deity.

where the ordinan commerce

ol lilc conliniies

liLit

close to the

"

prcsfnce

From

ol C^od.

the garbha-grilui the

power of the Deity surges

consequence of God and Goddess in


prolific carvings and sculptures on ahnost any available surface. They
carr)' the power of Gods and Goddesses into the world and into the lives
lurth into the creation of the

As

of worshippers.

and the symbols of

well as the Deities

their particular

power, other auspicious symbols are carved to bring to the worshippers

w hatever they need - such things as sons, crops, or

rain.

Fundamentally,

therefore, people go to temples, not because there are set times or

when they are expected


God or Goddess.

services

need

|~~lhe word

Deity

for "seeing" the

because Indian temples bring

_L

tangible, presence.

Much

which the Deity

many

there are

may be

is

Even

or

Goddess

which the Deity

woken each day and put

even

into a visible,

welcomed, or through

is

Bevond

to rest at night.

that,

individual acts of worship (piija. p. 94)

controlled by

w hich are not prescribed


liturgy.

darshana, a basic word for worship

is

God

of the ritual in any temple consists,

therefore, in ceremonies through

that

because they want or

to go there, but

to see

so, there are

custom and
in

tradition, but

tr<^

""^^'^^

fitfe^^

r.<,R^

an agreed or compulson'

common and communal

occasions in the festivals associated with any temple.


It

has been said that India has a major religious

lestival for

every day of the year, but that

is

a serious

underestimate. Festivals do not have to be attached to

temples but they

may

be.

It is

in

such

festivals that

differences between village religion and Brahmanic


religion

may

open

anyone who wishes

to

Of this,

in practice dissolve, since festivals are

in Orissa) are

India

to celebrate.

the cult and festivals of Jagannatha

(at Piiri

an e.xample, well-known throughout

and beyond, because 19th-century observers saw

the vast image dragged in procession with, as they

thought, people throwing themselves under the wheels

and dying

in religious fervour:

UluimKi

they transliterated

fri<i

Jagannatha as Juggernaut. Jagannatha ("Lord of the


Universe")

is

now

Vishnu arrived

the local

name

for Vishnu/Krishna, but the

relatively late in that part of Orissa

worship of

c.7th century

CE

made of wood in an
Once again, therefore,

area of Puri. Inside the temple are three images


abstract, geometrical style, typical of tribal art.

from

all

over India. In

its

in the 12th

festivals, the

procession on huge carts (up to 20

more men

to pull

the wheels, but

it

them

is

is

God on

worth

century CE) attracts pilgrims

wooden images

unlikely that this

ft]

is

religious suicide.

so,

importance of the

earth in the temple images.


is

Even

To see

(i.e.,

often a pilgrimage.

the

visible

worship)

awiwcitv

the pcrsDii

measure of all

is

"hi

the

things': the

figure of a person enclosed


It}'

are carried in

high), requiring 4,000 or

illustrate the

journey That journey

Imiici.

a square

pattern

[66

them. Accidents happen and people are caught under

enthusiasm and the huge crowds


presence of

Oil this nuindalii

Klslcnuaicr
a local

cult has been, not destroyed by, but assimilated into, the invading religion.

The present temple (begun

Vastii-purushii

in the

is

the basic

from which

all

temple architecture
develops... The centre square

[equal to i
squares)

is

i small

occupied by

Brahma, who gave shape


to the

world.

Pilgrimage
SeekiriQ the Ford

Tin;

Indian journey in search of

literal

when

it

pilgrimage are

known

or

Goddess becomes

the goal. Pilgrimage

is

way

".

The

places of

as tirtha, "ford" (cf. the Jain

way

ford-makers', p.71), the place where a

to the river ford

God

takes the form of pilgrimage.

therefore

known

is

opened up

name

"making one's

as tirtha-yatra,

Because Deities are manifest, and can be encountered


limitless

ways

in India, there are

many

for "the

that leads to

in

almost

places and people serving as

many places of
Some of these are literally rivers, or places sited on rivers.
many holy sites on the River Ganges, three {tristhali) are of all

"ways across to the Godhead". As a result, there are


pilgrimage.

Of

the

way

places on earth the closest by

of access to God: Prayaga (renamed

Allahabad by the Muslims) where the River Yamuna joins Ganga; Gaya

name Bodhgaya as the place where


Buddha entered into enlightenment); and KashiA/aranasi (p. 107).
The tristhali, however, are far from being alone as centres of
pilgrimage. At four places - Hardwar, Nasik, Prayaga/Allahabad, and
Ujjain - the story goes that the food of immortality dropped inadvertently
(sacred also to Buddhists under the

the

Bathing in the Ganges


Supreme among places of
pilgrimage

is

Ganga

[p.

10),

ivhose water cleanses the

family of a living person


for the previous seven
generations,

and

during a conflict in heaven. Every three years, a kumhhaiuela

to earth

held

at

each

in turn, attracting

Prayaga/Allahabad in 1989,

it

many

is

millions of pilgrims: at

was estimated that there were about 12

purifies

the ashes of the dead so that


their souls are preserved
in heaven.

million, in

2001 a staggering 70 million.

Not all places of pilgrimage are on such a large scale; some indeed
come down to visiting a holy person in a particular place. The point is
that God or Goddess can become manifest anywhere, and for that reason
Mahahharata

regards the whole of India as a place of pilgrimage.

(p. 92)

S.M. Bhardwaj's analysis of the placenames mentioned


Yatra section of

Mahahharata suggests

in the Tirtha-

that the epic envisaged a clockwise

circular pilgrimage of India.

The
7.15,

virtue of pilgrimage

where pilgrims

above the dust and

is

expressed powerfully in Aitarcya Brahmana

are likened to a flower which, as

dirt of

the earth: "All their sins

fall

it

grows, rises

away, slain by the

labour of their journeying." That journeying can take place without the
pilgrim

moving

a single step.

Because God or Goddess can be

encountered anywhere, that encounter can take place


or soul of those

of

who

Rama, Mathura, Gaya, Kashi, Kanci,


seek the best way

so

many

in

Ujjain,

The

point

which one can

attain

Deity that they encounter there.


to

in the interior life

visualize the seven sacred cities (Ayodhya, birthplace

different religious practices.

rasa ("relish", "passion"), the

The

is

and Dvaraka) and the

obvious: "seeking the ford"

union with

God -

feeling of that union

experience of spiritual ecstasy

in

is

the point of
is

known

as

union with the

divine. Rasa

is in

emotions (including,

fact analyzed into eight dillerenl

example, anger), so that the emotion of union with Deity

But equally

distinct.

arises in

it

As M.L. Varapande puts

One

into bliss".

Abhinavagupta

it,

"Rasa

tor

recognized as

emotional experience can be converted to

all

Goddess, especially when


art.

is

God

or

drama, music, dance, sculpture, and


the aesthetic experience culminating

is

important way in which this can happen was advocated by


(c.l 1th

century CE): observers of any of those aesthetic ways

(above) of expressing the nature of


into the characters

God

or

Goddess

train

themselves to pass

and thus into the emotions being expressed:

way

in that

they re-enact in themselves the union being displayed. For example, a dance
or

drama enacting the

opportunity to

For that reason

love.
It is

love of the

become one
it

Gopis

of their

for

Krishna

number and

can be said of Krishna,

raso

through the emotions that people catch their

The

state to

Samadhi

is

which

God

If

the

mi

sah, "he truly

is

Rasa".

glimpse of God.

first

saniadhi ("putting together", "union").

is

which ordinary consciousness is absorbed and


which any distinction between subject and object

a state in

disappears, and in

gone.

rasa leads

(p. 95) offers

to experience Krishna's

the "object"

is

the goal of the exercises leading to samadhi)

(i.e.,

or Goddess, then the state

is

is

one of union or absorption. Samadhi

the act of meditation

Samadhi
there

it is

is

in

Indian religions (including Buddhism, though

not experienced in relation to God), but

it

is

particularly

important in Yoga, where various levels of samadhi are described, along


with the ways of attaining them.
rebirth. Yoga Sutra

They

.41 describes

to three objects of meditation:

atman

is

Brahman,

prakriti (p. 76),

p.

is

samadhi as the

God

86, this

state of a flawless jewel,

or Goddess, the self (atman; but


is

Rama

(p. 78),

one of the

seven sacred cities that are


equally sacred to Jains and
Buddhists. After the

lead to liberation (kaiimlya) from

translucent and transparent. In Yoga, samadhi can be attained in relation

since

Ayodhya ("Invincible")

regarded as the birthplace of

itself.

common

Ayodhya

is

therefore the consequence of meditation or other exercise, rather than

another route to the same end), and

through which Purusha

is

discerned.

Muslim

conquest of Uttar Pradesh, a

mosque was

built

on the

site

of the temple dedicated to

Rama. The destruction of


the mosque in 1992 led
to

communid

conflict.

Knowledge and Love


Teachhio by Example

"Nohoch ever hecaiuc happy

AS DEVOTION TO Shiva

JUST

happened

The

iiiotli

loved

burnt

it

ever

.\'o/)0(/i

dexoted

tJie fire.

The bee loved

Nobody

the

became

ever

uho

in relation to

He

argued for a dualism within a non-dual

all its

God (dvaitadvaita or bheduhhedii).


God who would in that case
participates in God as the wave

not identical with

is

imperfections;

it

participates in the

ocean but

(knowledge,

enables the wave to realize

p. 92)

ocean (not identical w ith

loved the Hoiiered

Vishnu/Krishna. .Among philosophers

understanding of Brahman as

suffer

became happy

loving.
W'c.

lottis,

his prison.

and deepened

Vishnu/Krishna was Nimbarka (dates unknown).

The universe

loviiio.

the petals

to

Founder of the Sanakas.

itself-

became happy

Di:\ iLui'Ki)

throughout the centuries (pp.1 10-15), so also the same

and Bhakti

is

not identical with


its

it;

jna]ia

relation to the

but partaking of the same essence),

it

feels that relationship

and delights

in

it.

Another

philosopher, Vallabha (1479-1531). founder of the Rudras,

One.

produced Shuddhadvaita Vedanta (pure non-duality vedanta),

dumb when

were struck

he was

leaving.

Nobody

ever

became happy

loving.

we

suffer.

tears are

the creation produced by

is,

(lila).

This in

itself is

inaya (p. 87), although

maya

through ignorance. Even

always streaming.

Nobody ever became happy


loving"
(Surdas,

of what truly

and joy

Surdas, without our Lord

our

mediating between Shankara and Ramanuja (pp. 86-9). Vallabha


maintained the goodness and purity of both world and self as parts

p.

atman

to

Among

out of sheer delight

human

rapidly distorts

perceptions

so, the bliss-relation of self to

God, or of

Brahman, cannot be subverted by maya, and Bhakti

the realization of

this:

Bhakti

is

is

the true path to moksha (release).

poets devoted to Vishnu/Krishna, Surdas (born c.1478)

became

35)

God

unaffected by the misperceptions of

a follower of Vallabha;

singer of

hymns

{kirtan)

he was

who used

the

a brilliant musician and


drama of abrupt and

arresting musical chords in introducing his poems: the bo.x


"/

saw m\ death nith


eyes Superbly glorious

ii;i

it

was:

Death and
;\\id I

set

and

me

no more.

the pettiness

'mine'.

in his place to

poems poured
foundation
p.

Bhakti.

his

forth in continuous lines {abhauga) filled not only

world

lun setting

him forth
God)

simple: "Sit quietly and repeat the

he foresaw his

Two

own

will,

Name

promise you. come to God.

own death

(see box.

bottom

In

[of

God.

one poem,

left).

teachers were of such outstanding inspiration that they

behind them strong movements (sampradtiyas)

and continue

their teaching: Caitanya

to preserve

(1485-1533). founder of

the Caitanya or Gaudiya Sampradaya. was originally a brilliant


scholar, but

{Minstrels of

is

128] and you

left
live.

.\nil in his

(p. 96)

with praise but with practical advice - though his

birth are

of 'me

(c.

am jree from

(iod has

kirtans

an example of viraha

is

60749) was another singer and dancer of


who became so caught up in the love of Krishna that

Tukaram

he whole universe shook with


joy.

(top left)

own

on pilgrimage

to

Gaya when he was 22. he had a


and he was initiated into

pov\erful experience of religious lo\e.

the worship of Krishna.

When

he returned, he stood before his

KNOV\'l,i:i)(,|-.

pupils and told thciii he could no lonucr

now

day His

life

because

all

he could

move: samadhi

name

(p.

God

thai

is

sung by

his followers to

135); dancing in trance (in the world but unable to

He went on

God.

of

passed into three moods, between which he would

speak); and able to speak, but


of

llicni

see was the young Krishna playing on his flute; and he burst into a

chant (kiitan) praising the


this

Uvah

still

almost

pilgrimage to Puri

(p.

all

the time singing the praise

133) where he stayed and

He

eventually died, walking into the temple and never being seen again.

was believed by
joint figure of

images as

his followers to

be an Avatar (incarnation,

p. 9

1 )

Krishna and Radha, so that he was later depicted

Radha) and not dark

fair (like

of the

Hare Krishna

in cult

Caitanya's ecstatic, even

(like Krishna).

wild,
later

walking through a
old.

field,

Suddenly he saw

carrying rice.

He was

From that moment he sought


became a devotee of Kali (p.l

17) in a temple near Calcutta,

met

first

(pp.1 18f), to

whom

God, he began
Jesus,

and

he concluded that

tried to

From

all

same. This was taken even


further by his best-known

Vivekananda

(1863-1902) who helped


found the

Ramakrishna Mission,
and who made
Ramakrishna's gospel

known through

the

first

World's Parliament
of Religions in
in

Chicago

1893. Teaching by

example, these and others

showed how union with

God can be attained


much in the present

as
as in

the past. However, the

present began to challenge


traditional

of

God

understandings

in India as well

as elsewhere.

and moved

he simply discerned

he was completely devoted. In

religions are at heart the

to

to earth),

states of

to see visions of teachers in other religions

Muhammad -

He

his family to a five-year old

her) the form of Mahadevi, the great

practise their teachings.

disciple,

Married by

hope of bringing him back

her (when he

lell

in

Mother
union with

- Buddha,

lila,

or play, the source,

of creativity

down unconscious.

the final and unending beauty in God.

into prolonged states oi samadhi.

bride (in the

divine

about seven years

a flock of white cranes flying against dark

clouds and was so overwhelmed by beauty that he

forms of dance were


to have been

thought

his participation in the

(1836-86), born Gadadhar Chattopadhyaya, was

Ramakrishna

this

AND LOVE

itself.

His

emphasis on chanting the

name of Krishna and on


dancing

in delight

became

familiar outside India

through the Hare Krishna

movement

(International

Society for Krishna

Consciousness).

From Tagore
New

Giving

THE

to

Gandhi

Old Traditions

Life to

IMPACT OF EUROPEAN colonizing powers faced India with


- Karl Marx once

challenge, at least in terms of technology

observed that the only enduring consequence of the British Raj

was

Satyagraha
Gandhi's jundaiuentctl belie}
in Satyagraha

came into
name was

being before the


invented.

He

then recalled

finding the name:


not for the
a

life

new name, and


offered a

"I

coidd

me find

of

out

therefore

nominal prize

(I

residt

Maganlal Gandhi

Truth, Agraha

won the prize.


order to make it

Firmness) and

Rut
clearer

in
I

changed the word

to

"Satyagraha" which has since

become current

in Gujarati

as a designation for

the struggle."

iCandhi pp.lSi-4)

its

Europeans raised questions also about

railways. But

and that necessarily meant the reform


Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833)
was a nationalist who believed that the recovery of India depended on
the death of superstition, and for that reason he founded Brahmo Sabha
calling for reform of Indian society,

of Indian religion, since the two are one.

in

1828, to encourage the worship of one God, true and formless (akin,

Brahman) without the use of images. This

reorganized reforming movement,

coined the word "Sadagraha"


{Sat

be

such things as the caste system and the self-immolation of a widow {sciti)
on her deceased husband's funeral pyre. Some Indians responded by

therefore, to

through Indian Opinion...

As

likely to

led to a

Brahmo Samaj, brought

together in

1843 by Debendrenath Tagore. His son Rabindranath (1861-1941) made

more widely known, through


leading to the unity of

all

his writings, this Indian version of love

things

(1913) for Gitanjali, verses that,


loosely

on Indian tradition (see

- which
like

is

much

bo.x, right).

God. He won the Nobel prize


of his prolific writing, draw
Others made attempts

to

reformulate the tradition in terms that recognize the achievements of


science from the 19th century onwards.

One such was

Sri

Aurobindo

(1872-1950), who strongly opposed the claim of Advaita (pp.86f)

we

that appearances are deceptive because, through ntaya (p. 87),

impose misperceptions on them; "Individual salvation can have


no

real

sense

if

existence in the cosmos

is

itself

an

He

illusion".

believed, therefore, that the Absolute manifests itself in a series

of grades of

reality, in

way

that

is

coherent with evolution, and

aim of Yoga is not to seek to escape from reality/illusion


order to attain Brahman, but to find one's place in this

that the
in

completely integrated nature of


already

is.

He

reality:

it is

there that

Brahman

called his system puma-yoga. Integral Yoga.

These attempts

to restate the tradition

important during the time


Indian foundation

in

when many

were e.xtremely
Indians were seeking an

which they could take

pride,

and on

which they could build their claim to independence.


But one man who was well aware of these
endeavours believed that the actual
tradition,

however much reformed, must

be retained and given new life. That


was Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948).

Gandhi knew the world outside

man

India

well, ha\ino trained as a lawyer in

London

FROM lAt.OKH TO

and practised

South Alrica. He was innueneed

as a barrister in

"When I go from hence let this


my parting word, that what I

by Bhagavadgita (pp.92f), but also by writings such as the

Sermon on the Mount in the Christian New Testament, Tolstoy's


The Kingdom of God is Within Yon, Thoreau's Civil Disobedience,
and Ruskin's Unto This

Last.

He

he

have seen

Rajachandra (1867-1901) to value ahinisa, non-violence, and


a Christian, C.F. Andrewes, that "to turn the other cheek"
not to

show weakness but

ocean of light, and thus

and practices -

as, for

example,

Shiva, pp.78,

and linked

17),

it

to the strength of

He emphasized

forms
here

am

my

have had

My

left).

my

play

and

have caught sight oj hitu


that

non-

the symbols of India's interior strength, since

be

In this playhouse of infinite

order to generate tapas (the power of ascetics including

resistance and satya-graha ("truth-insistence"; see caption,

let this

parting word.

to

when Gandhi

revived hrahmacharj'a (the recognized period of chastity in Indian


life) in

blessed

strength.

But however strong the influences were, they were related


traditional beliefs

unsurpassable.

is

have tasted of the hidden honey


of this lotus that expands on the

learned from a Jain, Shrimad

From
is

ClANDIII

is

formless.

whole body and

my

limbs

who

have thrilled with his touch

is beyond touch; and if the end


weapons of the British were futile: revering the
comes here, let it come - let this
cow, the ancient symbol of the abundant fruitfulness of the
be my parting word"
earth, was more powerful than relying on a tank. Although
people talk about "sacred cows", cows were not personified in
((^litanjali)
India as Goddess or God. In the Vedas (p. 60), Aditi and Vac
(pp.l28f) are likened to cows because they are themselves so
generous (RV 8.89.
8.90. 15). The cow was for Gandhi a uniquely
Sacred Cows

against these, the

Indian reminder that

we cannot

rescue ourselves.

graciousness of the mother. Earth, to


caption, right).

The cow

is

live

We

The

require the

from one day

to

another (see

the constant, ever-present reminder that

all

word spoken by Brahman/God: 'Trom God", says the


Mundaka Upanishad, "All things are born, the heavens, humans, cattle,
birds, our breathing in and our breathing out, rice and barley, restraint,

things are the

and

faith, truth

Gandhi had

chastity,

and

all

much
life,

has convinced nie that

urine,

But truth
it

is

is

secured

variation.

immovable

in the

is

in

whom

no change or

God may

be known

under many names, but

God who

is

no other God than Truth"

not an abstraction:

guarantee of God,
alone there

is

it is

being named.

When Gandhi was


by fellow-Hindus

assassinated

who

believed

had made too many


concessions to the embryonic
that he

Pakistan, he died

the

Name

murmuring

of God, "Ram,

Ram

".

essential for

and dung. Cows

because

most valuable

and

the)'

are the

gifts to

Brahmans, the

sacrifice experts,

that

there

is

became associated with

to the

"My uniform experience

that

in India

the source of so

products: milk, curds, ghi,

ritual

to truth:

it is

the pancagavya, the five

the laws of our being" (2.1.7).

commitment

a total

was valued

cou'

because

give
ritual

and

way cows became

sacrificial iiniiinih.

in

m
-?/'

^9

%.*^

"IH,
hlt^

lc22>

The

Religions

o fAs la
'/oil' (':(>il is itriilerstood

koreci.

3^

^^^
\^^

in ihc

count lies of

and jiiViUi.

C'hiini,

III

KT

ir.lOXS

iM-

\M

The Religions of Asia


MEANT

GEOGRAPHY HAS

that the reHgions

of China, Korea, and Japan are closely


related: often, the religions of

ha\e been

(in

China

adapted forms) the religions

ol

"unproduced Producer of

and guarantee of

all

that

that there

all

Dao means going with

is"

the source

The "way"

is.

struggling against the tide. In religious Daoism,

those other countries. Even so, Korea and Japan

called Dao-jiao, the quest for immortality

ha\e indigenous religions that precede the

important; popular

arrival

many different
religions and philosophies. Three are known as
San-jiao, the three "ways", themselves made up
of many different strands. Of the San-jiao, one is
Chinese

religion

is

made up

the "way" of Confucius

does not emphasize

(p. 148).

God and

of

Confucianism

revelation, but

humanism open
moral order known as

an agent or

teaches a kind of

to

principle of

Tian,

(p. 146).

guarantor of order gives stability to

Mandate

Heaven

Recognition of Tian as the source and

society. Rulers

human

The second "way"

is

China
era,

third "way"
at

is

Buddhism.

reaching

its

height during the

(618-907ce). Offering

to the

analysis of the transitory


life, it

the

It

life.

entered

about the beginning of the Christian

also offered a

Tang dynasty

Chinese an

and suffering nature of

way of

release

- but

introducing the possibility that the ancestors

were being tormented

in hell.

Schools of

devotion and meditation appeared, notably Pure

beings, no matter

how depraved

attain the salvation of the

is

Daoism. Dao means "the way". The Dao

The

is

offers help,

Land and Chan/Zen. Pure Land

could claim to be exercising the

of Heaven.

Daoism

especially through Deities, in daily

of imports from China.

of

the flow and not

simple and complete faith

says that

all

or wicked, can

Western Paradise by
in the

help of

i:?^

JAPAN

^r^A^^^^
Kamakura
tioryuji

I\

Amitiibha/Amida. the Buddha

who

rules overr

A
life,

fourth "way"

is

the popular religion ot

Timeline

d,ally

K(i|)l

Chhw,c

Asia

this Paradise (p. 158).

Xia

'(

AM)

IO\

ilynmtk-i

Onicic IjDncs

techniques of magic, and care of the dead

Mountains

and the ancestors. Chinese people do not

In C'hiiui.

they must choose only one


They choose whatever seems
most suitable or helpful - whether at
feel that

rites ot

public

life,

or for

one of

mountains

"embody the basic

religion.

in

Ml LINK

g o
o y

with dramatic festivals, spirit-worlds,

home,

bold

in

iire

principle of fertility
that renews

their

and

sustains the world'

{Bembaum,

passage.

p. 24).

Shang

Zhou Xin

defeated

Zhou
King

KingWu

Zhuang/i

Warring States

Han

&

^^'^^^^^^l
^^^^1

^H

Japan

Wei-jin

&

Southern

Norlhern

Japan

in

kingdom

1^

Paekche

Buddhism enters

-^

Imperial line

rri

4-

in Kiirca

Wang Wei
begins

lO
to o^
-

Buddhism

Chma

Buddhism enters

strong

Mo/i

.Xun/i

Confucianism

enters Korea

^^^^^^^^H
^^^^^^^M
^^^^^^^^1

to

Li inscription

Confucius
.

Lao^i?

?
i:
f
_

Japan

Sui-Tang

||
^^^Hf

Nara period

ttj^.

'

pKlk,.

I^^^Mfe'

(710-94)

Yomei

Taika reform

Taiho Code

Shotoku

Japan (794-1 lyf)

Koryo

Song

Confucian

Yuan

Civil service

'

yl^K'
m^

jf'J

Vt

'

^%tm'
^('jM^

null
jflEfl

rfWi

^^m.
'

WWf

_^

Sf

Christian

missions

in

China

Xavier

Vi

o^S

Confucius
.

O
^
2! ?
to

revival

exams based on

Ming

I
o

in

Korea (9.-l 329)

AR.1^BH|

^H^^^^^l

00

&

Heian period

Nihongi

Temmu

Kojiki

in

VV

ifi

Horyu-ji

Japan

in

dynasty

t^

'^'dtilfl

^''''ijj^

MjM
A^^*<-

'^

Discovery of

block printin

dynasty

Japan

in

(1392-1910)

&

&

^z

Ricci

00

Korea
.

4_

Urabe

Kanetome

'^^iSffir

^wK'*

^^g3j|^/.

Qing

Kokugaku

(National Learning)

mmf^mm
XjS^^JH
<*.ij-.^

^mjk
^WV^^^^^I

'^HH

Motoori Norinaga
Hirata Atsutane
rebellion
in

O^
.

f
-

Taiping

Meiji period

Japan (1868-1912)

Yasukuni Shrine
Republic of China (1911)
.

People's Republic of

China (1949)

-0

^o

g r

IlIK

KHIi.lO\^

Oracle Bones
Shaiw Di and Tian
HE BEGINNINGS

t;

unhed)
in

so far as exidence has

God

in

China

are scratched

the shoulder-bones of oxen and on the shells of

These are the Oracle Bones, found


at Anyang, the
of the Shang dynasty (c. 1766-11 22bce). The bones

and

turtles

(at least,

of the story of

tortoises.

From the end of the 19th centur\- onwards


capital

were used

in divination,

being cracked

in fire to yield

answers, with the outcome being inscribed on the bones.

The form

of writing

is

w hich

that of pictographs, of

about 4,000 sur\i\ e. About half of these are connected

the later development of Chinese characters.

ith

Among

these are pictographs representing Di, Lord, or Shang Di,

High Lord

Wade-Giles

(Ti or Shaiig Ti in the older,

transliteration of the Chinese). Di, in the pictograms,

represent a tablet relating to the

wood

spirits,

for fire in sacrifice, linking the living with the dead,

and ma\ thus have been regarded

may

it

source of grow th and

fertility.

is

supreme ancestor

Both make sense, since Di

closelv related to the worship

the ruler, and since Di

as the

represent a flower, seen as the

of the ro\al house; or

was

and

sacrifices offered

is

known

also

The Book of Histor) (Shijirig) and


Together these portray Shang Di as one who

written works,

Close-iip oj a hone hunied

]n Shaiig

mien

with hot

iron rods to get answers to

questions asked of ancestral


Deities in

Anyang, Henan,

China. Occasionally, the

outcome of the divination


uas recorded.

of Odes (Shiijiitgl
of goodness

agents

(cf.

and

by

described as controlling storms

and other natural phenomena.


In those early times, Shang Di
Diiinatiou

may

or a bundle of

from two
Tlte
is

Book

a source

He works through lesser


who do his work in controlling

blessing, but not as the creator.

the council of El, pp.178, 183)

both natural phenomena and the

affairs of the ruler

on

earth.

.Among those agents were the spirits of former rulers w ho, when they
died, had gone to be with Shang Di and thus to influence him in his
control of affairs on earth. For that reason, on earth onK the living ruler
could approach Shang Di
therefore

in sacrifice,

became extremely important

worship, and divination.


that the rulers should,

It

on behalf

of the peace and wellbeing of the nation, maintain the connection with

Shang Di through the correct rituals, and through a proper respect for
the ancestors who were acting as Shang Di's advisors. Only those rulers
who were in Shang Di's good favour could bring prosperity to the people.
What if that favour were w ithdrawn? Then natural disasters like flood
or famine might strike, or the state might be overrun by enemies. That is
how the Shang dynasty had replaced the .Xia ("The Way of Heaven is to
hiess the good and

make

the wicked wretchctl. therefore

it

sent disasters

K \(

I.I

r.dNF.S

made its guilt manifest to all. lor that reason. 1, a little ehild,
show mercy" (Histor)', 'The Announcement of Tang'), and
that is how the Zhou interpreted their own success in overthrowing the
Shang in 122; Wu. the ruler of the Zhou, accused the Shang ruler of
failing to serve Shang Di, so that he, Wu, had to conquer the Shang in

on \ia

cind

dul not dare to

order to "help Shang Di and to restore peace to the four quarters"

'The Great Declaration').

(llistor)'.

On

we might expect

that basis,

the

God

of the conquering people to

Shang Di, the High Lord of the conquered Shang; and at first
glance that seems to have happened, since the Zhou gave worship and
reverence to Tian/T'ien, and Tian certainly became more important than
Shang Di during the long reign of the Zhou dynasties (1 122-255BCE).
Tian, often translated as Heaven, or even simply as God, became of
displace

paramount importance

Chinese thought and

in

Early Script

The pictographs med


earliest inscriptions

seem

iii

the

do not

at first sight to resemble

the characters of later

belief.

Chinese writing, the


standard script of which was

is,

however, too simple to say that Tian invaded the territory of

ItShang Di and took


afterwards,

it

over, since the

much more

established in the 3rd

two were already, and remained

closely related than that:

Zhou had been

Shang domain, and Tian appears on the Oracle Bones meaning there is uncertain. The pictograph may represent a
great man (i.e., high god) who, for the Zhou, came to represent the
greatest man, or in other words their ancestral rulers;
in that case, Tian was originally connected
state within the

though

its

ancestral worship.

ith royal

be represented

human

on which

so that Tian

sky to

in a

whom

(hence the

Or Tian may

pictogram of an

sacrifices

altar

were offered,

would then be the god of the


the offerings were made

later

connection with

Heaven). Or, making the same

connection with Heaven, Tian may be


the sky as the destination to which
the

smoke and ashes

of cremated

\ictims go.

On

any

ot

those

Liiiderstandings, Tian

already

was

known under

the Shang. Although


lian

became more

prominent under
the Zhou,

Shang

Di and lian

continued

to

be

worshipped together throughout

Chinese

histor\'

(even though lian took

on manv additional meanings), and there


are important continuities of practice

and

beliel

between the two.

centiir]'

carefiil

BCE. However,

study shows that

there are connections

between them.

III

RIII(.U>\^

Tian
The Mandate of Heaven

DURING THE TIME OF THE Zhou

122-255bce), Tian became the


paramount reality under whom, or under which, the world and
its rulers were ordered and judged. The uncertainty of "whom" or
"which" arises because it is uncertain whether Tian was understood as a
(

personal agent, or as the impersonal process of the natural order. In fact,

seems as though both meanings were held to be true, with each being
brought into play according to different circumstances - and this made
it

both meanings available


belief,

Under

"When

the Shaiig

Tian as

the

lost

v\'ere

Miindate of Heaven, we, the


it. But I cannot

Mandate of Heaven

is \u)t

preserved, because
difficult to discern.
lost

the

Mandate

of

it is

if

The
casih
so

Those who

Heaven did

to correct the king.

it

way

My

one also who could


would support the

themselves maintained order and justice, but


all

support. This

was regarded

as virtually identical

is

it

known

as Tian-zi, the

Son of Heaven, and

child,

way

to

meaning of
meanings

justice, the

of disaster. Tian

they did otherwise, Tian would withdraw

with Tian: he was

him would he

its

Tian was certainly regarded as all-powerful, the one

sacrifice. Eventually, the ruler


little

that the personal

of the royal house did not even pray to Tian, let alone offer

present,

not possible for me, a

ouidi)ig

seems clear

away support, was known as Tian


Ming, the Mandate of Heaven (see box, left).
This means that the ruler was the vital link between the
people and Tian. Under the Zhou, only the ruler approached
Tian through ritual and sacrifice. Those who were not members

the splendid ways of the

As for the

it

the dominant one but, even so,

supervision, giving or taking

so because they did not practise

ancestors.

diverse.

rulers while they

our inheritance will stay alwuys


.

the Zhou,

God was

bring punishment by

venture to say bejvnd douht that

the long history of Chinese thought and

w ho could guarantee peace and

Zhou, received

on the side of prosperity.

later, in

with major consequences for both.

was seen as Tian's presence on the earth. This relationship of


harmony and inter-reliance is expressed in an inscription from

of

make

the time of King

possible to bring the splendour


of the ancestors to help the

"Fhe King

young king

said,

ceasing, hy day

the kings

{The Book of History)

c.HSOlKK;

Li,

am

and

only a

h)>

siiicill

night,

[who ruled] before me

of majestic Tian.

make

of old

ii'ho

are

May

now

it

in order to he

this food

sacrifice..., in order to sustain those

splendid ancestors.

child, hut without

act in hutiiioii] witli

worthy

container for

mighty exemplars,

draw down

my

men
Di and who

those exemplar)'

sen'niits in the court of

execute the mari'elhnis Mandate of Heaven

This meant that the ruler had to take great care


to

Tian and

biit for

lo the ancestors.

He

the licnefit of the people.

to

maintain

did this, not just for his


It

meant

rituals

own

also that the palace

both

benefit,

and the

became an inereasingK maunelle centre

Lcn-'inonlal sites

people

at large, especially

when

lor

the funeral rites of the rulers

strengthening the links with Tian. Throughout the world,


this recognition of the

corporate ritual

people

manv

to a

in relation to

common

of w hich

indispensable importance of

for

when

d\ nasty,

cities, so

lines that

Han

earth,

and humans are

a unity in

246) form: they are interdependent and

each other, so that Tian

is

not an independent

separate from creation. Maintaining the

harmony of this triad is the foundation of life: "In all thing


one must not violate the way of Tian, nor disrupt the
principles of earth, nor confuse the laws governing human:
{The Spring and

Autumn

of Lu). Tian, although not an

independent Creator, nevertheless


people, so that they are

all

is

the producer of a

equally related to Tian,

and on that basis the reverence of childr


parents (xiao,

"filial

piety")

is

entirely nal

The link between Tian and the ruler

made sense while the kingdom prosperei


it made sense also if the ruler was

and
evil
if

and disaster struck. But what

disaster struck a ruler

who w aj

evidently attempting to rule justl

and

in

accordance with the

Mandate

of

question

became obvious and

Heaven? That

urgent (see box, right). While


the
anti

human

king was strong

prosperous. Tian could

be regardeil as wise and just.


13ut

to

once

evil

people began

prosper and justice ceased

to prevail,

Tian became

nothing better than the old


sky god, unjust and blind.
11

lian could not be relied

on to produce consistent

consequence
of history,
if

any, did

in the events

what purpose,
Tian serve?

That question was


increasingly asked.

the Book oj
raises the

question of what happens

when

a just ruler

disaster

beyond

is

struck by

his control:

"Bright Tian so vast prolongs

ritiiiil

speculation about the origins and nature of the

who remains

poem from

not

Hurls

Tian was greatly enhanced during the

triadic (cf Trinity, pp.97,

interact with

case Tian) that drew

on the

originally,

was

(cf p.l69).

cosmos was paramount. Tian,

Creator

(in this

it

common and

centre and led to the formation of

were planned,

and ceremony required


Reverence

God

This

Odes (194/1)

took place there, since through their death they were

its

luiseij

grace,

and jainine,

beheading the
Bright Tian

rises

states.

awesome,

unthinking, unplanning.
Lets the guilty go free;

the}'

hart

paid for their crimes -

And

the guiltless must joiii

them,

all

drouning

as

one

Temple of Heaven, Beijing


Emperors received here the

Mandate of Heaven and


offered

annual

sacrifices.

HE RKLIC.IONS

how

to sen'e the

gods.

The Master

"Zilii

asked

spirits

and

said:

sen'e

ASIA

cil

Confucius

Yon are not yet able to

men, hoxv could you

the spirits?' Zihi said:

'May

The Servant of Heaven

serx'e

ask

you about death?' The Master


said:

You do not yet k)iow

life.
"

how could YOU know


(Aiitdcct'-

death?

11.12)

(b.552BCt;?)

of the Chinese

Confucius

celebrated (though not in mainland

is

China! with a hoHday


ot

month

27111 DAY of the c'iohth

in;

lendar, the anniversur)' of the birthday of

Confucius played

and

for teachers

what teachers contribute


in establishing

to society,

education

in

pupils.

It is

a recognition

remembering the

part

China. Confucius

the

is

Western form of Kongfuzi (Wade-Giles K'ung Fu-tzu), Master Kong. His


teachings, or sayings, were gathered in Tlie Analects (Lunyu, the
Conversations of Confucius) years after his death. They, along with the
on Himselj

Conjiiciiis
"At

iO

40
al

took to lennting, at

standing finn, at

lo
I

ceased to doubt.

SO

knew

the will

of i^ieax'en. at

ear

did as
III!

desired

70

He

life

(e.g.,

for

see

bo,\, left).

valued sacrifice

but was sceptical about those

greatly,

who

and hndu

rule" {Analects 2.4

Chinese public

autious

60 my

iinderstiiiid. at

became the foundation of


more than 2,000 years.
At first sight, Confucius seems to have little to contribute to
the Chinese story of God. His sayings on matters of religion are

classic te.xts associated with Confucius,

claimed to know
explain the

Dynasty.
that

its

meaning: "Someone asked Confucius to

meaning of the

The Master

sacrifice to the

would master the world as

if

Ancestor of the

know? Whoever knew


he had it in the palm of his

'How could

said:

And he put his finger in his hand" {Analects 3.1 1).


A reason why Confucius remained aloof from these
juestions was because, in his own estimation, he
was a practical man of action who spent his

hand.'

working

life

kingdom
I

le

seeking (unsuccessfully)

had no ambition

ilaire

a state or

willing to put his ideas into practice.


to

be what British poet

Belloc (1870-1953)

was

to call in

another tradition "a remote and ineffectual


don". Confucius lived at a time of political
L'onfusion

began

to

about lian
discLiss

and

conflict as the

Zhou empire

break up, raising those questions


(p. 147).

them

in

Conlucius refused

the abslr.icl.

answered) the qLieslion how

le disked

in

to

(and

practice the

condition ot peace, harni(>n\, and iuslicc (the


will ol

Tian) could be

ir ili.ii

re.ison.

/;.

Li

is

Ideogram
\esscl

liroiiujit

into being,

C'onlucius placed great emphasis

usuallv translated as "ritual", and


is

niatlc

Lisetl in

up of

a religious classifier

ollerings to the ancestors.

riHitcd in religious riliuil, but

il

came

lo

So

its

and
/;'

nicin

is

much

mcirc tlian thai.

and "manners":

/-/
it

is

more

oF those acts

and

that ereate an ordered pattern of lite

draw

into

i(

like "cLisloms'

made up

is

(INM

harmony the many constituents of

hfe in family, society, and the worlds ol


spirits

and of nature. Li brings into being and

puts into action the will or the mandate

ol

Tian (Heaven). For that reason, Confucius


regarded sacrifice as necessary and good.

When

he was asked the meaning o( xiao, the


bond between children and parents, he said;
"When your parents are alive, serve them
according to the

ritual.

When

they die, bury

them according to the ritual, make sacrifices


to them according to the ritual" {Analects
This cannot be a matter of outward

2.5).

form only. "Sacrifice implies presence.


should sacrifice
present.

to the

The Master

gods as

said:

my whole

sacrifice with

'If

heart,

if

do not
I

might as

well not sacrifice" (Analects 3.12).


surprisingly, the early

masters of

Not

Confucians were

described

ritual,

One

they were

liirtlidiiy

as:

Celebrations

Confucians have

"dressed in colourful robes, pluyiitg zithers or heating druuis,

traditionally

chanting, dancing, and living their lives through an


eccentric

form of

nothing as
intricate

that
hilt

Cdiifiiciu's

as Peking Opera.

They performed

taught that "humans have

this
their mission in the

choreography surrounded by the scorn of a society

viewed them as hopelessly out of step with the times

unless

men and women have

d(nie their he\t to fulfill their


ethical

was the times that were out of step"

it

world

[which] cannot be fulfilled

for these first Confucians, their dance was part oj an

eternal pattern;

honoured

his birthday in

cdhnirjnl ways. The)' are

ritual playacting suggestive, perhaps, of

much

OH

ami moral duties"


{)ao p.46).

(Eno, p.l

Learning and practising the way of Tian was thus important for

Confucius (Analects 2.4) because Tian acts as

domain assumption;
life,

a life of ren

confidence.

it is

(humaneness), can be

When

me

Confucius was not

much

have

to

is

no mistaking the

it

is

men and

5.13).

the

words of the wise. The opposite


[to the junzi] do not fear the will
of Tian, because they do not
it.

They despise those who

are great

and mock

the words

of the wise"

not possible to hear his views

Way of Tian'" (Analects


who lollowed.

major question lor those

will of Turn, great

know

help: "Zigong said; 'Our Master's views

on the nature of things and on the

was

What do

Confucius of Tian. But what did Tian mean?

on culture can be gathered, but

It

"The jiiiizi fears three things: the

with unshakeable

ideal person (jiinzi) always

respects Tian (see box, right), so there


to

built

with moral power.

from Huan Tui?" (7.25). The

importance

background, or

Confucius was threatened by Huan Tui, he

observed: "Tian vested


fear

the true foundation on which a good

(Analects 16.8)

ins

TIIK

RKLK.IONS 0[ \M

Nature and God


The Teachings

UNWILLINGNESS OF CONFUCIUS

THE

be understood as

among
a

work

He

and Mozi

oj Xiui Kuaiig

God

to discuss

whether Tian should

open either

or as Nature left

possibility

At one extreme, on the side of Nature, was

his successors.

Xun Kuang {Xunzi means Master Xun).


Zhou dynasty was disintegrating among

called Xunzi, attributed to

lived at a

time

when

the

warring states (3rd century BCE).

He admired Confucius

greatly but

known as Ru, for their obsessive emphasis on


ritual. He took the view that human nature is evil, or at least that its
natural inclination is to put its own self-centred interests first, and that
goodness has to be acquired - or instilled. Confucius, he believed, was
right in saxnng that humans can be brought to good behaviour through
education, example, and control, so for him, li (pp.l48f) is made up of
rules of conduct whereby metal can be made into a sharp knife and a
block of wood can be shaped in different ways (see box, left).
Xun Kuang strongly rejected popular beliefs in ghosts and spirits and
criticized his followers,

He

refused to allow that there are supernatural causes of events.


"Straight

wood

therefore included a chapter (17) in Xunzi in which he rejected

to he straight

the \iew that Tian

does not require the carpenters


tools.

to

nature, far

undergo steaming and bending


h\ the carpenter's tools

only will

it

be

made

is

who rewards

or

the impersonal process ot

beyond human comprehension, but not


and

He

for that

regarded

effect: "If

people

and

pra\- for rain

it

rains,

ritual

no
would

sacrifice have

how

is

that-

is e\'il, it

nothing

sav:

to the

rain,

it

.\t

when people do

in particular. Just as

not pra\ lor

also rains" (de Bar\', p. 103).

He

the opposite extreme was Mozi.

li\ed in the Sth

century BCE, not long after Confucius, so for him also the time was

one of conflict and violence. However,

righteousness; then only will

he believed that

everyone issue forth in

human

indeed, of mutual love

in accordance

nature

(ai).

li\ed in selfish conflict with

with goodness

would
p.

personal agent

as important for society, although prayer

government of the sage-kings

(de Bars.

like a

and the reforming influence of


the rules of decorum atid

and be

is

behaviour. Tian

reason to be turned into an enigmatic Person.

and then

straight.

As the nature of man


must be submitted

orderliness

human

punishes

Crooked imod needs

still

is

He

in contrast to

Xun Kuang,

capable of great goodness -

recognized that

humans once

each other, but he argued that that

be the case unless

humans had decided

to live

together in a better way. There was nothing inevitable about

107)

it

live.

But

against

of

required acts of will to work out a more harmonious

in

searching for a better way to

what can

human

"better" or "worse" be

is

who

this:

to

the question at once arises:

measured?

opinion, for in that case those

that behaviour

live,

way

(like

It

cannot be a matter

Xun Kuang) argued

simply an expression of natural dispositions might well

and there would be no reason (at least for many people) to


change those dispositions. Mozi believed that Tian provides, and in fact
is, that absolute definition and source of goodness. As a carpenter's tools,
be

right,

\A

compass

will of

or a square,

measure what

Tian measures what

is

right

goodness good, and better than


produces

for all people, that

is

round or

Because

it

26).

searches

which they recognize

Why
for,

is

and

as beneficial

and pleasing. Tian brings that goodness into being in the world,
especially through those who seek the goodness of Tian throLigh
the communication of prayer and sacrifice. Life
imitation of
right).

God

(cf. p. 21 1) in

that people can be

understandings of

his followers the conviction

educated or coerced into

even though he had

left

open the

human

differences were not

becomes the

acts of selfless love (see box,

Confucius had impressed on

a wise

way

of

life,

and the question began

to

be raised

whether the exploration of God and nature might be better


approached

in

"Mozi

said: Partialit)'

replaced

how can

cod

another way. That "way" vvas the Dao.

should be

universality. Bill

fc)'

partiality be replaced by

men were

to

regard the families of others

((.s

universality? ...If

they regard their own, then

would

up

raise

who

family

his

to

overthrow that of another?


It

would be

like

his

possibility of radically different

nature and of Tian. But those

trivial,

\\|)

In'I

straight, so tlie

and wrong (Mozi

evil?

When we

overthrowing

own.

..

inquire into the cause

of such benefits, what do


has produced them?

come about from hating


and

we find

Do

they
others

trying to injure

Surely not! They

them?

come

rather from loving others

and
thciii.

trying to benefit

And when we

set

and describe
hose who love and benefit

out to classify
I

we

others, shall

say that

ihcir actions are motivated

by partiality or by
universality? Surely

must answer,
universality

and

we

b)'

it is

this

universality in their

dealings with one another


that gives rise to all the

great benefits in the

world. Therefore

Mozi has

said that universality


is

right"

(Watson, p.40)

Mountain and Stream


Shan-shiii, "mountain
stream", are

and

two of the eight

elements of the universe:

"The wise find joy on the


water, the

good find joy

the mountains"

(Analects 6.23).

in

II

RriU.iON^

"You look at
seen:

You

listen to

heard:

Its

You grasp
held:

it.

but

nume

Its

but

it,

is

it

Soundless.

but

it

is

name

is

The Foiuidation of Daoism

not to be

Bodiless.

all scrutiny.

.\nd hence they blend and

become the Supreme 0)ie


(Daodc

jing

not to be

is

These three elude

Daode

not to be

Formless.

name
it.

Its

it is

is

jiiig

14)

A
/

a wise man
much so that he
The man was Laozi,

CCORDINC. TO TRADITION, Confucius once met

before

JL

c\

and other

whom

he was

stories told of

official

him of

value.

him

/;'.

so

become the

travelling to India to

(p. 69).

He was

who asked him

When

of respect

en asked him questions about

teacher of the Buddha

customs

full

held up

to declare

he declared

what he had w

wisdom, the

his

ith

official

wisdom down belore


the Daode jing, in

insisted that Laozi should write his

he could pass. So Laozi wrote

the border by a

at

down

81 short sections of about 5,000 Chinese

mounting a

characters. Then,

common

Laozi
Laozi appeared

Zhang

Dao-liiig in

llic

Cf in the
form of god and gave

2nd

centurs'

hitu the reflations thai

led to the rex'ival oj

Daoisni in

tlie

ic

to
It

is

picture

bull (a ver\

over East Asia, see

all

lelt),

disappeared to the West.

unlikely that such stories describe events

that actuallv

happened, but Daode ji)ig certainK

contains profound wisdom.

It

became, along with

Zhuangzi (c.4th century BCE), the foundation

Daoism (Taoism). Dao

(Tao)

is

ol

the Way, the

tradition

ofWutouniidao.

source and goal of

all life. It is

obvious to

and yet cannot be contained in sight or


words (see box, left). It is self-defeating
to ask u hat the "It" is, because an
mswer to that question would

all

ha\e

to

be w rong:

"Tite

Dao

tJiiit ciiii

described as

Dao

is

be
not

the eternal Dao. TJie

name
is

that

can be named

not the eternal name.

Nameless,

it

is tlie

origin

and Iteaven;
be named, it is

of eartli
.Able to
tJie

mother

of all thitigs"

Those are the opening words ol


Daode jing, a deep well of living
water for Chinese thought and
life - obscurely so, at first sight;
1(11"

liow

can people draw

inspiration

that ul Which the)

Iroiii

Producer, of

in all

is

that

all

- the reason why anything

is

become something

exists at all

rather than nothing,

in

almost, as

we might

the effects. All that exists

as

"Dao

and suns. The Dao, the Source, cannot be found

one object among other objects

supplies the possibility of

in

the universe; rather,

nature and of

all

Dao

appearances; but those are the

as

all

individual

Always
that

we may

discern

its

to all the

iwu;

One; One

Two gave

myriad things. The


yiii

im

and hold the yang in


embrace, and derive tlicir

their backs

inner secret.

liarmony from the permeation

existent,

its

to

myriad things carry the

their

we may apprehend

is:

birth to Tiiree; Three gave hirlh

it

"Always non-existent,
that

that

giivc hirlh la

gave birth

becomes nameable:

it

in

and sustaining

all

atoms hurtling into new architectures of appearance - plants and


planets, stars

Dao can be captured

into being

Dao,

of

to

is

human words. /Ml


that can be known of Dao are
the effects of Dao in bringing

all

consequence

is

that

the net of

of primordial energy, of particles and

say,

ii

into the trap of supposing

that

appearances are brought into being, so that the Maker can be


discerned

Dao God? To ask

Is

fall

not wholly indiscernible. Through de, the potency

things to

'I

cannot s|X'ak? "Whereof

one cannot speak", observed Wittgenstein, "thereof one must


be silent". But since the Dec is the source, the unproduced
the I)ao

\'

of

these jorces"

outer uianijestations:
(Daode jing 42)

two are the same;

TJiese

Only

as they manifest themselves

different

(Daode jing

The

do they receive

names"
1

outer appearance of things, thotigh often

only the surface of truth; to looknf

admire the timber and


through the doorway into
to enter into the

Way,

its

it

beaiililiil

to stand in a

and

fair, is

doorway and

construction, while never passing

The purpose

life.

is

to realize that they

of

Daoism

people

to help

is

themselves are a part of the

unfolding nature of Dao.


Before

all

things, the

becomes concentrated

Dao

initiating singularity (later

Ultimate).

It

is.

energy,
it

In order to

qi,

and

is

was called

produce from

itself,

it

Supreme One, the


stage taiji, the Supreme

called the

at this

brings forth the two contrasting energies, the yin and the

yang, the boundary condition within

which manifold and varied

appearance becomes possible. The yin and the yang (see caption,
are visible in the contrasts of the universe

female and

right)

male, heavy and

harmony between them, it is sought


is attacked and overcome by
v\ inter, but then winter is overcome by summer. All life is caught up in
the dualism of yin and yang, and human wisdom lies not in struggling to
discipline those dualities, but in going with them as they unfold the Dao,
light,

cold and hot.

If

there

is

through contest and conflict:

so that every action can also be called "inaction";

and that

is

ini-wei

acting without effort in accordance with the unfolding of Dao.

That sounds

like Ximzi's

"impersonal nature"

gave birth to the Three (see box,

opened the way

to the

Yin

summer

right);

discernment of

(p.

50).

But the

Two

and with the Three, Daoism

God

in the world.

The

\in

and Yang

and yang arc

opposite

and

conflicting energies in
iinii'erse.

die

ojtcii
llu

This syinhnl

represents their interaclioi

|i\(,

UK KKLIC'.IONS OF ASIA

Three from One


The Gods of Daoism

THE

nvo, ACX'.ordim; IO Laozi, gme

Three gave

birth to

all

birth to Three,

the myriad things.

The

and the

Three, therefore,

are decisive agents in bringing the manifest world into being:

One

the Three are the

(the

Dao)

at

who

work. But

are the Three?

There have been several different identifications by Daoists.


Shangqing Daoism,

for

In

example, the Three are the three levels that

humanity But more often, the


way in which humans can interact
and communicate with the Dao. The Dao remains the unproduced
sustain appearances; heaven, earth, and

Three are personal, and they


Producer of

Dao

all

that

(including the Three,

is

since they share

offer a

its

nature), the

who

nevertheless are the

unmoved Mover. But

as the

philosopher A.N. Whitehead (p.317) observed of Aristotle's comparable


proposition of

God

as the

unmoved Mover,

produce a God
and devotion. So the Three

this did not

available for the purposes of prayer, worship,

were more often identified as Sanqing, the Three Pure Ones (see box,
below) who were the lords of life, life being concentrated in qi (breath).

Of

these,

Daode Tianzun was connected with Laozi.


Dao at least

Laozi was regarded as the incarnation of

as early as Laoii

ming, the Laozi Inscription of September, 165CE. This records his earthly
career as adviser to the

Zhou

rulers,

and then describes him

at the

centre

of the universe and the beginning of time, worshipped by the emperor

Huan

after a

dream. The author, Bian Shou, expresses his

own

view that

whose perfection evoked reverence and then worship,


he records the power of Laozi who holds the sun and stars

Laozi was a hermit

and

finally

and other constellations

in their places.

This "promotion" of mortals into the ranks

known

of the

Gods

or the

Euhemerism, from the Greek philosopher


Euhemerus (c.320bce), who argued that the Greek Gods were originally

immortals

is

as

The Three Pure Ones


The Lords
i YTJANSHI

TIANZUN: The

Primeval Origins, the


iind sang, the

one

first

v\'ho

One

Heavenly

in fa\'oiir ol

the Jade

LINGBAO TIANZUN:

human

evil

Emperor

The Heavenly

Yiiii

and

(p. 156).

One

of

ho mediates between

Heaven and Earth and ensures

orders and governs the

(p.lSd) until he despaired at

resigned

the Spiritual IVeasurc.

of

consequence of yin

universe - or did so, according to Feng-shen


\i

oj the Saiujing are:

yang
<i

(p. 15.-?)

keep the

thai yin

and

rules.

DAODE TIANZUN:
(p.

53) Heavenly

manifest ellecl

in

The Dao-wlth-De
One, who brings the Dao
the world, antl

identified willi Lao/i.

is

olten

into

human

who had Hvcd

beings

became

who

which

is

li\cs,

and who,

IROM

ijcing rcNcrcd,

course of time Gods. In Daoism, this process created

in the

beings

heroic

llRKi:

could help people to achieve the goals of Daoism, one of

immortality.

the pictographs for "a

The character for XiM, immortal, is made up of


man" and "a mountain". To attain this state, the

understanding and control oi

breath and breathing,

qi,

is vital,

because

it

brings one into alignment with the unfolding of Dao, and thus eventually

union with Dao; and mastery of qi remains central to Daoism.


Another form of the character suggests someone dancing with flying
sleeves, pointing to those who take off and transcend the limits of human
into

life.

Journeys to the realms of the immortals, based perhaps on belief

shamans

(p. 160),

possible for

all,

became important,

and not just

an

for

since these, like breathing, are

in

The Heavens of Sanqing


The Sanqing

are associated

with the three heavens of

Pure jade, of

Purity,

and of

Highest Purity. The offerings

made

to

them are

elite.

called iiao.

On

this basis,

Immortals, are not regarded as

humans, but

Ba Xian, the Eight


Gods who condescend to

heavenly figures,

like the

humans who have followed


way of Dao and who can
the same direction.

as

successfully the

help others in

Philosophical Daoists might argue that the

Gods

of the Daoist pantheon are mental

constructions with no real existence

beyond

but popular Daoism holds

that,

Gods

the

be both

to

real

and important,

because they demonstrate what


for those

still

living

five different levels ol that

Kui-shen: Spirits
a

is

possible

on earth. There are

who

attainment:

are

still

seeking

place of rest

who have overcome


human life
Those who have attained

Ren-shen: Those

the weaknesses of

Di-shen:

immortality on this earth


Shen-xian: Those

who have reached

the land of the immortals


Tian-xian:

Those who have attained

immortality in Heaven

Any
as

of the Tian-xian

might be approached

God. Equally, any of the Gods or

important figures of Chinese tradition


outside

Daoism could be brought into this


Daoism was not at

system. In this way,

odds with other Chinese

beliefs.

Even when Buddhism arrived

in

China,

Daoists worked out effective ways ol


relating the

two

traditions.

It

meant

also
I

that the

most popular images of God

could be affirmed and not contested.

,-

T-^T

INK

in:

Ki

IK. IONS iM

\M

The

Gods

Investiture of the
Feng-shen Yan -yi

TOWARDS THE END OF

THE

MiNG

DYNASTl

in the late

long epic was written called Feng-shen Yan-yi,


the Gods.

Its

purpose was

to

or for personal advance,

fits

unending contest of

and yang,

yin

show how
whole

into the
p.

therefore gathers together (as Daoist

major Gods, of their origins

came

thev

in

do

them

lands that eventually

p.

It

gathers together) stories of the

in the hierarchy of
all in

Gods and

is

one

a systematic mythology.

who

established the

became China, and then

descriptions of the campaigns of


(

of struggle (the

53) in the cosmic process.


life

il

the quest For immortality,

stor\'

begins with the legendary kings

It

16th centun,

Investiture ol

Chinese history or legend, and of how

to hold the place they

of the few attempts to classify

The

Wu,

turns to long

Zhou

the ruler of the

4S), that resulted in the overthrow of

Zhou

Xin, ruler ol

the Shang. At the end of these wars, the chief minister of


W'u, Jiang Zi-ya, received from Yuanshi tianzun (the

the Three Pure Ones, p. 154) the


spirits of

to

first

of

appoint the

the dead heroes (from the vanquished as well as

Irom the victors) to various posts

Many

mandate
in

the hierarchy of Heaven.

of the Deities that were appointed had in fact been

known and worshipped long before even the time of the


Shang, but they became integrated into this more organized
mythology. Thus Jiang Zi-ya, worshipped widely today as the
commander of all the forces of Heaven and as the one who
protects shops

and homes, was believed

have

originally to

been a Daoist hermit seeking immortality in the mountains.


To help restore order in the world, he was commanded to
Yuanshi tianzun
)uiiiishi t'uinziiii

the

assist

dwells in

Heaven of Pure Jude. He


and earth.

created heaven

hnuoiuu

all

wild and chaotic

disorder tutu nrdcr lie

is

without beginning, and

Wen Wang,

adviser (with the


victorious son

ill

the

wax

of

Dao.

Wu. At

first

of the

Tai-gong)

Zhou

first to

rulers,

and he became chief


and then to his

Wen Wang

was offered the


"Deng

lai"

post,

he paused, with conventional modesty, saying,

("Wait a moment"). At once

am

become
when he

the investiture of the Gods, he intended to

the Jade Emperor, the most important of the Gods, himself. But

Zhang Deng-lai sprang forward

and thanking Jiang Zi-ya for making him the Jade


Emperor. Jiang could not withdraw what he had said, but he cursed the
posterity of Zhang Deng-lai in ways that reverberate down to the present.
The story is coherent, but in fact the Jade Emperor long preceded the
saying,

sends to hiitnans instruction

the
title

"Here

I",

Huang Shang-Di, the Jade Emperor


Gong or Tian Wang, the Lord of
leaven. He is a major form of God in China, the ruler ol the heavenK
realms in parallel to the human emperor who rules on earth. The worship

fall

of the

Shang

dynasty.

He

is

Yu

Lord on High, also known as Tian


1

ol'Yu

hiang became widespread

in

China

in

the

lib centLin' alter a

'

Gods of Feng-shen
Feng-shen Yan-vi

(i

TAI SUI: The

ruler of time

He was

Tai Sui.

iiih'iirnles iihiiiy

and of the year

have

failed,

in

as

split

movement

,\'/voii

LI

takes place are likely to be


in

some other undesirable direction.


ER LANG SHEN: The "Second Born" is Er
Lang Shen, nephew of the Jade Emperor, and

Sung emperor
thai he

justilied

had received

Yu Huang
above

It is

human

head

if

story of

;/',

Tlie

Journey

NA-ZHA: The

/ha

Tai-zi), deals

lie

may

them
him

if

that: in

Fukien, he

not even a tablet

conduct, and

is

is

approached

is

He
in

is

are often

from Yu Huang
ail

in a

(p.

all

name and

other Deities.

titles is

58) did succeed

he

starts getting into

Monkey, Sun Hou-zi,

Not

all

demons and

evil spirits,

more ambiguous, adopting

great importance, not just in the


past, but in the
lives of

Chinese

people today.

ol

their

Place oj Siicrifice

The

of

He

is

him

believed to be the final judge of

the gods, howexer, could b

is

to the West.

with

so

great stele

lest

on the summit

of Taishan, where emperors

perfonned feng and shan


is

placed on the altar

worship with great care

included. There are inan\ uthers

others

Third Prince, Li Na-zha (Na-

dream.

fire,

and

human

he be offended.

As well as the Three Rulers (see box, above) many other gods are
drawn together into a coherent account by Feiig-shei:
)iin-yi.

(,()|)S

exorcise them, but his dealings with

beliexed to reside in the ash of the incense

allowed.

III

that involves self-mutilation).

thought and imagination that often no image


tablet bearing his

to outwit

siicrijices to

made. Instead, a

>|

powers of destruction (hence the worship of

he who

widely revered, supreme above

is

Yin

un unpopular treaty he had signed by claiming

his orders direct

told in the man'ellous satire of the 16th century,

ot

time away from disaster, but the occasions

infrequent for fear of setting time in motion

his

The

mischief.

when worship

the most resourceful of the Gods.

K'l

placing a circlet round Monkey's head which

compresses

one of

worshipped as

order to divert the

Gods when

Monkey - though Guan

is

and he alone was able

in

Lord of Time

far

leads the armies of the

is

without form and was discarded by his father

He

Yan-yi

outside the city wall. But the flesh was

the Immortals (p. 155).

other Gods with iiuporttml ciihs. iucludiiia the Three Rulers:

born Yin Jiao as a lump of flesh

open and he was recognized within

l\\

III

the

Heavens and

Earth. Tlie inscription was

composed hy Tang Emperor


XiuD! Zong at the time af

teng
111

sacrifice

726.

llic

IMF KK

Lie,

IONS Ol

\M

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas


Helpers on High
are, in their imagination of God, generous

THE Chinese

generous in two senses: they are

worlds
TJie

Chinese Pantheon

rhe Chinese pantheon

is

ns

that the

which means

system reflects the pantheon.

At the sitmmit
the Jade
(p.

is

is

enthroned

religions like Christianity


at

various times, but

generally for political rather than than theological reasons.

also

Chinese imperial

New

and Buddhism have come under severe persecution


this

society,

They believe that their many Gods and Goddesses are part of the
in which people live, so if additional Deities appear with newly

arrived religions they are easily assimilated.

hierarchical as Chinese

That generosity

to the

Gods

of strangers might

seem

unlikely in the

case of Buddhists arriving in China from about the beginning of the

God

Christian era, because

is

not a prominent part of the Buddhist

Emperor

missionary message. However, Buddhists brought with them

56

who would seem

1.

- and

and they are hospitable.

prolific

to the

Chinese

to

be exactly

of the heavenly worlds.

like their

own

The Buddhist heavens

with countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

became

many

(p.

figures

inhabitants
are filled

71)

who

the centre of devotional worship and prayer,

especially in their capacity to act as saviours.

Of

the

many Buddhas, one

of the most important

/\mitabha ("Light without Limit")

China
he
is

is

as

also

O-mi-tuo Fu from

known

as

Amitayus

the saviour of the Pure

that devotion to

Amita (Amida

tradition,

in

in Japan);

("Life without Limit").

Land

Amitabha, and

will lead to rebirth in the

Of

Skt.

is

who became known

He

which claims

trust of a simple kind,

Pure Land (pp.74f).

the Bodhisattvas, widely revered

is

Avalokilcsh\ara,

one of the two helpers of Amitabha. Avalokiteshvara


mediates the compassion of Amitabha into the world, and
he is seen as the incarnation of that compassion, inspiring
other Bodhisattvas to the same works of mercy
iiiinic a

\ow

that

he

will

remain a Bodhisattva

He

until

has
all

sentient beings have been rescued from suffering.

When
"she",

Avalokiteshvara

moved

to

China, "he" became

because the qualities of compassion and mercy

in China with women more than with


men. She became Guan Yin Pu-sa or Guan Shi-yin,
"Hearer of the Cries of the World" (from the different

were associated

Sanskrit word Avalokitashx'ara)

Many
wa\s of
1

LI,

)ne

tlu'

of these Buddhist figures offered to the Chinese

salvation,

and

who

is

Puidilh.i, In

that

was

particularly true of Mi-lo

known in Sanskrit as Maitreya, the


waiting to come in the future as the ne.\t
C'hina, he is sent bv Wu-sheng lao-mu, the

Bodhisattva

Ill

|1|>II \N

AM)

iDIIIN

\U

\l

VAS

luernal and Kcxcied Mother, to rescue those who are lost. That "rescue"
was sometimes enacted in the secret societies that undertook
revolutionary warfare against evil or corrupt authorities. Mi-lo Fu is the

and oppressed.
Buddhism, therefore, brought to China many figures who were
easily adopted into the ranks of the existing Cjods, of whom there
were already a vast number. Through their belief in Gods and
Giiddesses, Chinese people are connected to a vast "Internet"
Sa\ iour of the poor

which they can express their hopes and fears, purchase


(with symbolic goods or money) what they need for a successful
life, and receive information and advice. The crucial point is not the

tlirough

ontological status of these beings,

i.e.

"do they exist or not?" (the

drawn on such matters has left a very


relaxed legacy about such things): the crux of the matter is what this
"Internet" has helped Chinese people to be in their daily lives, not least
when the\ ha\c been threatened or inxaded bv outsiders.

unw illingness

of Confucius to be

Chinese Gods
Gods and Goddesses are

In China,

their lives

''i

BIRTH:

and

accessible to help people throughout

in ever)' aspect of daily

(among many

|in-hua Fu-ren

life:

others) brings lertility and looks

after sick or ailing children.

a PASSING EXAMS: Wen


success

in their

Zhang Di-jun helps sUidents

examinations and

is

to achieve

incarnate on earth about once

every hundred years in the form of a major scholar


''i

MARRIAGE:

Yue Lao Xing-jun arranges marriages.

CONDUCTING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS:


name

collective
starvation;

for those

who

two merry twins, f^e

He

(Confucius,
intellect,

p.

is

Er Xian, overcome the

obstructions of bureaucracy; and there arc patron


business. Supremely important

Cai Shcn

bring prosperity - or simply v\ard off

is

Cods

figures

who assists in matters


one who assists in practical

148) was revered as the one

of

matters, especially warfare.

AGRICULTURE AND WEATHER:

u-di C;ong and Di-mu Niangknown together as Tu-di and contr(jl the lorccs of nature;
Feng Shen is the God of wind, Lei Ciong is the God of thunder, Yu

Shen

is

the

HEALTH:

God

of rain.
a virtual

National Flealth
is

run by

the founders of Chinese medicine, Fu Xi (who also invented the eight


trigrams through which works such as the

Yi

jing are able to diagnose

and divine the unknown), Shen Nung (who invented agriculture and
brought to humans the healing power of herbs), and Fluang Di, a
pioneer

in

the quest for immortality.

Because care

concerned with their

for ancestors

fate.

of the

and appears ou

Chinese

iiuiiiy

altars, in lumies as

well as in temples. She

travellers,

and

is

those working

on the land. She

idso loolvs

after the spirits of the dead.

and

There are Gods who make up

Service. In the bureaucracy that this requires, the top level

3 DEATH:

one

the protector oj children,

niang arc

<3

is

most popular heavoily

Guan-di: where Kongtu/i

Guan-di was revered as the

Avalokiteshvarci
Aviilokiteshnira

of everv'

IJaiiisIs call

ou her

during death ritmds


rescue the spirit
ten courts

from

ihc

ofjudgeuwnl

the underworld.

succour extends
so that

Id

meat

to
is

ni

ler

aninuds,

seldom

offered to her: instecul, tea,


is vital,

Dong-yue Da-Di

many Gods

arc

rules over the underworld.

fruit, or

money

is

offered, or

tiny shoes as a thanksgivitig


for the hirlh of a

-.on.

ii:

1.

o\s o

Korea
Miida ngs and SI uiuians

WRITING
c.l 10)

IN

THE IST CENTURY CE, the

historian

Sima Tan (died

observed that the Chinese had developed

u ays of seeking good government and

six different

and he
Ching (Tlie Book of Changes.
p. 168) to explain why: "There is one moving force, but from it a hundred
thoughts and schemes arise; all have the same objective though their
ways are different" [Shiji in de Bar\', pp.l89f).
The six ways he referred to were Daoism and different forms
quoted

ot

"The Chinese who nsk deeper

how

queslious thini
II

jiliiil

minister,

to

necessary" (op.
require a

will

seem surprising

imagines that

it

Christian and a

same
like

time; but

it

is

if

is

felt

philosophy (see box,

one

inxolve whatever

at the le\'el not of political

left).

This

that in general the

is

to

Chinese

belong to only one religion or

ability not just to tolerate,

seems of value

in

new

but to

religions or philosophies

was immensely important when the Chinese spread into Korea


and japan. They took with them not just political theor\' and

at the

much more

social practice, but also their

being both a Christian and

many

inventions, including writing.

Far from displacing already existing religious beliefs and

a goitlennni

practices, they

(Grahiim.

this

under pressure

like being a

Muslim

Buddhism; and they

arrival of

but of folk religion.

major consequence of

ha\e never

This condition

is

190). In terms of "spiritual focus", the six

any case even more diverse

in

theoPi',

that they cease to be


.

cit.. p.

to act in

'and']

Buddhism. This does not mean

and

their teaching covers all that

ways were extended greatly by the


were

Daoism or [often

Confucians

Confucianism, and Sima Tan himself favoured Daoism:

harmony with the unseen:

mystical philosophy or a religion,

turn to

Yi Jing/l

"Daoists teach people to live with spiritual focus

behave as

sou a)2d as a loyal

and who

commentary on the

a stable society,

found ways of

li\ing with

them

there

was serious

conflict

reproduced

that

many differences
when the indigenous

the creative coexistence of so

p. --565)

in

China. Often

beliefs reasserted

themselves, but even then the underlying theme was to find


coexisting. Religions like Christianity

and Islam, not given

new ways

of

to coexisting

with other religions, gained adherents but could not attract a more
substantial following; in the case of Christianity,

its

e\clusi\eness led at

times to persecution.
In Korea, a

common

(though not the onis

lorm

ot nati\e beliet

and

now used of many


different kinds of trained, gifted, or possessed people. The word was
associated first with the Tungu in Siberia, where shamans are common,
but it came to be used more w idely of those in many parts of the world
practice

who,

is

"shamanism

in general,

The word "shaman

"

is

go into trance or ecstatic states (p.40f), often using

techniques that o\erride or suppress ordinan,' senses

(for

example, using

hallucinogens, or going Into the lotal darkness of a ca\c. or dancing to


the rhythm from

an

drums K \\iv\ iiia\ report \isions. or iIka


he\ make iourncvs to the spirit world,

.inlnial or bird.

niii\

become

.ind the\

iiuorporaU- (take into ihcir


tlistrcss

e\

i)r

so

il,

uwn

hotlics) ihc spirits, or the caLises, ol

can eontrol

tliat tlu'N

overcome the

anil lluis

dis-etise.

The skill of sh.iiiians is to incorporate the spirits at will, thereby bringing


them under their own control. In their trance states, shamans are
protected by
of leals that

awe

who watch them

those

knixes,

dance on hot

with

can walk on sharp

anti wontler: thc\

wounds on

therefore are capable

spirits, antl
fill

coals, or inflict flesh

thciiiscKcs withont bleeding.

shamans, known as juiksii (men)


(women) are basic to the wellbeing of society. Even now, when traditional
In Korea,

and

iinuhiu!^

beliefs are

no longer insulated from

world, there are

Some

SoLith Korea.

who

at least

(),()()()

{luiiigsiiimu, iiiansiii)

them

changing
in

(scs;/;?/;/;/

),

from their ancestors.

become shamans

through being possessed by a


into

shamans

are hcrcclitars

learn their skills

Others

isiiiiiaerim).

They

spirit

descentling

suffer a painful

mav ha\e
They then go through an arduous
ceremony known as miehm-gut, in which the spirit possessing them is
named, the reasons why it is possessing them are established, and then
ph\sical and spiritual illness, or they

endured

is

Rre

a traumatic e.xperience.

banished.

instructor

the\'

II

how

choose

to

continue

to bring the spirits

<is

piyiver of tlic spiril^ llic]

it

ciiihndi

shamans, the\ learn Irom an

under control

at will,

known

as kut

ill

barefoot

on sharp knives

Ichaktu)

stemmed" (Huhm,

tliose rituals",

p."-').

Irom wliich "many theatricals

ii'icd

oraiit

for cutting

or ora^s.

Kut serve three main purposes: bringing

good fortune, calming and guiding the souls of the dead, and curing

Gods and

illnesses. In these, the imtdcDigs relate to the relevant

spirits,

often by singing songs (mugci) and dancing before them.

During the long periods when Buddhism or Confucianism was


tlominant
destroyed.

Korea, the way


The same proved

in

of the iinidangs

was influenced but never

equally true of the

way of the Kami

in

Japan.

Korean Gods
Miidinigs approach the iUids via

'i

PUJONGNIM:
remove

<i

all

Ill

Korea, they aha dance

not only religious rituals, but "the music, dance,

and drama integrated into


ha\'e

iikiiiy uv/vs,

iiicliidiiiiifirc-ivulkiiin.

and lhe\ then

exercise that control tor the benefit of those around them, often through
rituals

Walkhii;

Shiiincins dciuoiistnitc ihc

I'his

rilital for tlic

gooL of

Clod has the power to

uncleanness.

'

whole

lie

society. Aiiioiiii the iinijor (lods are:

Other Gods were added

to the original

Korciii (lods from those ot the

SANSIN OR SAN-MANURA: A Cod

H hen

inhabiting mountains and mediating between

are the

llicv arrived (e.g.,

Chonwang chung

Dharma), and one, Chcsok

PYOLSANG KORI AND KUNUNG KORI

guards birth,

who have been

deified.

ol

ot

t'aryong

Heavenly Kings of Buddhism who guard

heaven and earth.


Warriors and kings

nLimher

Chinese Buddhists

is

kori,

the

God who

the Buddhist adaptation of a form

the Indian Ciod Indra.

nil-.

ONN

(.

Korea and Japan


The Meeting

oj

Ways

KoRYO DYNASlY in Korea (935-1 392ct;),


Buddhism imported from China attained its

N!)i:n Tllli

the

U:

greatest influence. After Yi Songye established the Yi

dynasty

392-19 IOcb), Buddhism was blamed

(1

for the

was reduced from many


sects to two - Sun (i.e., Ch an/Zen) and Kyo (active in the
world). Even then, Confucian thought was endorsed.
But the long duration of Chinese dominance did not
failures of the

Koryo dynasty, and

it

dislodge the indigenous beliefs focused on the mitdang.

Some have argued


the

modern forms

that Buddhist ideas

and

stories created

of miiga (ritual songs), but recent

research points the other way; "The only conclusion that

can be drawn from our survey

is

that the evidence of

nlluences from the Chinese... on the muga


;

Si'clidii jroiii a Icniplc

origin of narrative

muga go back

luiiiojnv sluniiiiii llic

BmUha

hcjinv

c'liliahteument. lie

M/,s

iiii

The

shape of a lotus, the palms iij


his hands and soles oj his
painted red with henna.

mark of

is

meagre.

is

it

difficult to

prove that the

Buddhist literature and that the modern

in

in a straight line to the older

forms of Buddhist

tenacity of old and indigenous bclicts

talcs"

heauty.

when new

arrivals

become

dominant is as clear in Korea as it is India


the relation between Tamil and Aryan/Brahmanic beliefs, pp.58f),
although the ways of resistance, coexistence, and assimilation were
politically

feci

muga

is

muga do not contain many Buddhist

(Mulraven, pp.1 041").

meditcition throne in the

a Iradiliiinid

nut to say that the

elements - they most certainly do - but

BmUha

The

is

and

culturally

same

different in each case. Exactly the

form of Japanese religion

is

known

Shen-tao (hence Shinto), "the

as

Way

true of japan.

is

Kami-no-michi or

of the

Kami"

(e.g.,

The indigenous
in

Chinese

("spiritual powers":

on

meaning of kami, see pp. 164-67). This clearly pre-existed


the arrival of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism from Korea
and from China, and it was affected by them, but it was not
displaced; and it therefore became the means for Japanese
the

"I

hiniiotir

is

to

he idliicd. iiml

nil iivdidiiiice

opposition
\V7;cr('

luintioiiioits

jrieiulh.

is

to

U'tiiiloii

t>l

he

lloiioilivd^

at different

those above are

ami

those hehne are

and there

is

coiieord in

the disciissimi oj business, riabt

views of things spontaneously


;juin

acceptance. Then what


there that cannot be

accomplished?"

times to reassert the greater value

Japanese tradition - Shinto, "the


In the 6lli ccniin\

established

,i

ot

the native

of the Kami".

the powerful clan or family ol Yamoto

c h,

line of rulers

and emperors that has continued


as the Shoguns were

unbroken (e\en when others such

down to the present day. One ol their


make an alliance with the king of I'aekche

exercising aclLial power)

is

earliest acts

was

to

(South-west Korea) who,


of "an image of the

(I'suiKxki. p.4H)

Way

Shakya clan"]
anil a

number

in

in

S52, sealed the alliance with the

Buddha Shakyamuni

gift

["the wise oni' ol ihc

gilded bron/e with several banners ami canopies

ol scrolls ol

sacred texts.

k(

The inllucncc

ol

Buddhism and ol Chinese lhouj;hl and hclicts


Buddhism was formally recognized by
regent 593-622) in his 17 Article Constitution

practising the ritiud,

matters most

(604), and in the building of Horyuji, a complex of shrines and

temples containing some of the oldest wooden buildings


world (see caption, below
the tone for

much

right).

The

first

religions

Yet they

left).

knew where

subordinated
otheni'ise

correct ordering of ritual, from the highest to the simplest level,

of society

inspired

smidi

to stop:

harmony cannot be sought for


own sake, it must always he

in a

became the means through which the coherence

it

it

is

way

nj the

their every move, great or

way that was also deeply influential on


right). As in China, so even more in Japan, the

Japan (see box,

what

harmony. This

of the ancient kings;

of the 17 Articles sets

The opening clause reflects The Analects of Confucius 1.12,

which continLies

is

what made the beauty

in the

of Japan's subsequent policy towards different

and philosophies (see box, below

AND IM'AN

"Master Yuu said: 'When

increased steadily until

Shotoku (prince

tKI.A

its

to the ritiiid;

would

not

do

was

achieved. Individual and personal beliefs might vary greatly, but the
rituals of

Shinto were expected to be

One

result of the

common

to

all.

quest for harmony, exemplified and enacted

in

was the more formal ordering of "the Way of the Kami".


Nihongi 21 records that Yomei (emperor 586-87) "believed in the
ritual,

teaching of Buddhism and revered shin-do", the earliest surviving use of the

name. Buddhism was

originally called Butsu-do, "the

but later was called Bukkyo

kyo

meaning

way of the Buddha",


which implies that

"teaching",

came from a founding teacher, like Kirsitukyo (Christ- whereas Shinto has no human origin but is eternal truth.
I'his formal ordering of Shinto was advanced through the Taika reform
(645-46) when land was attached to the Great Shrine of Ise. Festivals
were organized and attempts were made (in works now lost) to draw
together the many myths and legends into a more coherent narrative of
the belief-system

Hor)'jiji

teaching)

the origins of creation and of Japan. This was reinforced in the Taiho

Code (701-02),

in

which the many Shinto shrines

recognized as places of importance


are

now about 80,000 Shinto

in

Japanese

(jinjci)

life.

Buddhist temples

The shrines are built


particular

(tern).

There

kami associated

with them.

he kamis are so

nLimerous that each shrine


will

be largely independent

and different
any other.
they

fron

l]ut

will, in

general, share the

same mythology,
an achievement
that goes

back

to

these early days.

'^B^^T"

the ancient temple co)iiple.\,

which stands near

"1*1

its

centre.

Coinpleted in 607, the


original buildings hiirul
ill

(tit)

and

rehudi shortly

influenced by Chinese and Buddhist

troni

Komloin- Main Hall nf

don'n

were

shrines in Japan,

architecture but in function quite distinct

I'he

ivcrc

after.

III

OF AM A

Ri:i.l(,l(lNJS

Japan
The Powers of the Kami
WiiiiNTliMMU
Id. fiisl
(ij

nil, llic viiriiiiis

(if

mill

lu'inx'ii

ciirtli

and

the cUissics,

the spirits

/mitama/ enshrined

and

shrines,

sayitig that

to

in their

also refers to

and

innnntiiins - niul mniliing

and

el\e ivliieh has superior iiiul

and he marked

his

Buddhism - demanding, tor example,


Buddha in every house.
Btit he remembered the lundamcntal
and he therefore

lew, the genealogies,

things ol great evil

and

weirdness, aiirthiiig wliieli


jv'oxiikes a

high degree

passetl

on

h\

errors. In his

Kami

word of mouth
decree issued

e\alteil lineage ol emperors, \i'ho


lire
;/;c'i

ealled 'distant

reverence.

human

kami.

ago and also

niimher

III

and

who

Iroiii

the

each province,

lamily. In his

is

contained

in individual families

he stated that a correct

in 681cii.

"the foundation

ol

the state, the great

completed
It

same

way. Both works begin with the

tell

in\iics, l/anagi-no-mikoto,

A complex

and the Female-who-invites,

sci|ucnce of myths

the ishinds of Japan, and

how Amaterasu

tells

how

born from them.

is

Amaterasu

family,

Iz.anami-

they create

v\'as

enshrined

iil

existed lung

kiinii e\ist in

village,

They

of the generations of the kami, including the Male-w ho-

As ancestor of the imperial

Miirthv

at present, a certain

liuman

then

no-mikolo.

lien there are the

result,

kaiiii' \//;c'c

are so jar removed

iirdinan person,

harmony

in 712cii, was Kojiki, "The Records ol


was supplemented by Nihongi, "Chronicles
of lapan", completed in 72()c'i;. Where the early mythology is
concerned, the two works cover much of the same ground, but

The

Ancient Matters".

not in e.xactly the

eoiirse inelude the must

III

principle of

separation of heaven and earth (not with their creation).

ol u'onder...

be a

myths, legends, and song sec|uences

foundation of the imperial influence.

hut also uuv-inspiring

that there should

Japan and of the imperial

recortl of the origins of


\

account of these matters

superior in nohilitx niid

mxo

also initiated the compilation of a

awe. Here, "superh" means not


(iiilx

in 672ci,.

the Sutra oj the

success hy showing his devotion

extraordinary power, provoking

gixidiiess,

emperor

I'uiddhist text

shrine to the

(p. i(-)2),

and even hinls and


grass and trees, Decnii

people,
heiists

saisho o gvo),

goes without

it
it

in

iij

iiii'.om: as

I/I!) nil

Sovereign Kings of the ('olden Light Ray (Konlzo

kaini

spoken

SI

he was guided U\ the

lUc woiil kanii ixicrs

"III iiL'iwnil,

and

in

Inner Shrine was confined to the imperial family alone, but with
the building of further shrines, Ise has

become

a place

where

e\er\oni' can worship AmaterasLi, seek her help in limes ol

and appeal

troLible,

None

house, each in accord ]vith his or

her station.. In this wax. kami

the central shrine of Shinto at Ise. Originally, worship at the

power of renewal.
Buddhism from

to her lor iier lile-gi\ing

of this prexontetl the influence of

increasing during the Nara perioii (7

()-'-)4c'i;),

when Shomu

are of manifold larieties.

some

nohle and smne hasc. some

and some weak, some


good and some cr//, each heing
strong

immediiilelx in accord a'ith


oti

II

mind and

heliaviour"

(7()I-S6c
so.

kucns, |ip.2-!4Hi

became an

enthusiastic supporter. E\en

made to keep both Buddhism and Shinto in


when Shomu commissioned \,ist briin/e ligure ol

an attempt was

h,ilance, so

,i

the lUiddha to act as guardian

ol

the nation, .nul

that the tiilTicLilties ol casting the figure

were loo

it

was lound

great, prayer

its

was made
in

(I

in particular

i;)

to the

kami

lachim.m who came

the form of a priestess, lie promised,

heaven

,ind earth,

compk'lion

'

and

will

without

fail

(Shokii Nihongi 1.12.27).

in

"I will

response to Nara
lead the kami ol

bring the great

Buddha

to

l.iLlimKin l"cit;ln hanncrs")

became

way

in

Aiiuitentsii

He seems originally
Japan who were

to

Aimitemsu-o-Milztiiiii

a liJuhK visible syniliol ol ibe

whieli liiiddhisl and Shinto worlds are connected.

ba\e been the kami protector of rulers

in

ancient

especially associated with conquering Korea

Although he remained linked with the

\ict()r\'.

mililarx'

(hushi) classes, he

classes across the whole ol Japan, especially in

became

popLilar with

times

mililarv conllict.

all

iHi'iiri'nl\ Shiii'inu Kiiiiii'

the iihiJDr innl

and thus with military

kiimi,

sun

cis\()ciiilc(l iiilli llic

iiitcl

uilh the imperial

liiniih- .\cciirding to

was

ol

also idenlilied as

But to make the connection with Buddhism, he

lachiman Daibosatsii, the

Cireat Bodhisattxa,

and

the inc.iinalc lorm /\mida (p. 158).


This w.i\ ol linking Buddhas/Bodhisatt\as

lonnalK as

lioiiji-siiijalut, literally

unci Nihongi, she

Kojiki

was the

iliinghler nf Izanagi

and

and became ruler


high heavenh ]>hiiu"

Izcinaitii,

and kami became know

"original essence,

descended

attainable manifestation in the kami, and correspondences

of "the

where the heavenly

manileslalion"; the original essence of the Buddhas/Bodhisattvas found


its

between

liaiin

dwell. Subsequently, she sent

her grandson, Ninigi, to rule

Out of

the two were drawn up.

the islands of japan.

was challenged by those who thought that it demeaned or


diminished Shinto too much, first by Urabe Kanetome (1435-151

this process the earthly

This

later

by the Kokugaku or National Learning Movement,

among whom

Norinaga (1730-1801) and Hirata Atsutane

(1776-1843). For them

became

it

imperative to define the kami

way
to

that did not subordinate

Chinese

in a

them

or Indian figures, but

gave them independent

Japanese status.

Tiiis

detinilion

was achieved by Motoori


Norinaga. Motoori's definition
of the

kami (see box,

identified

them

left)

as the

cause

of the emotions and feelings

people have of great power feelings that arise from

experiencing the world


particularly

Motoori

in

profound ways.
s

definition of the

kami recogni/ed that thev


arc sacred powers \enerated
b\ the Japanese, but in

that Ciinnot easil\ be

.i

way

equated

with (or translated as) "Cod".


I

AtsLitane (abo\'e)

lirala

matlc

some mines

in thai

direction, argLiing that

particular kami

one

(Ame-no-

minaka-nushi-o-kami) preexisted heaven

and earth and

could therefore be the


creator

ol

1)

and

uvre subjugated

both. But in

<

kami

to the

heavenly kami, and the


iperiul line

leading figures were Motoori

is

iiij//i/ii<;

into

came

hciii'J.

III

RHLICIl^NS OF

AM A

general the kami ha\e eontiniied to be regarded as the cause oF

God who

emotions, not as maniFestations oF

They

number,

are thcreFore countless in

any systematic record. According

Far

brings

them

beyond the

to the traditional

human

into being.

possibility ot

phrase yaoyorozu no

is Full oF kami. They


- heavenly kami (amatsiihimi) and

kumi, "vast myriads oF kami", the entire universe

commonly

are

divided into two kinds

earthly kami (kitnitsiiJmmi), the most important oF

and Nihongi

Kojikii

The kami

whom

are recorded in

(p. 164).

are not previously existent gods

w ho create and thus

transcend the world, nor does one oF them stand over

all

creation and

the other kami. Indeed, kami are born and die. Rather, the kami are
the powers through which

harmony
There

in

generated and grows: they maintain

liFe is

the cosmos and in

human

existence.

rank

are, nevertheless, distinctions oF

their contribution to

among them,

terms oF

in

human

wellbeing and happiness. Amaterasu-o-

Mikami

(pp.

164-1 65)

is

supreme, but her position


For

usually recognized as
is

not absolute or exclusive.

she pays her respects to other kami, and ordinary

people worship other kami as well as

her.

paramount importance For the


emperor, whose ancestor she is and with w bom he
Amaterasu

is

oF

united in the Daijosai accession


contradicted

when

the

Was

ritual.

is

this

Emperor Formally denied

his

end oF World War II? Most Japanese


think not, because the kami are not God: "God" in
Christian Bibles was translated Tenshu, Lord ol
di\init\ at the

Rope

is

gale

hung

(if

(icross the

main

within both people and things, that moves and inspires them.

the Shinto shrine,

Hc'icin Jingti.

The

rope,
"

kiiinrn as a "shime nmi'u


ti)hl

the paper

The word liumi became Familiar outside Japan in the Form Immihize.
name given to the "suicide-bombers" oF World War II (see caption,

the

strips, "gohei",

right).

designate sacred places

where Shinto
luititi

Heaven, though some 19th-century translations did


The Emperor simply denied what he had never been.
The kami, thereFore, bring into human liFe and society the power, lying
use the word kami.

Shime Nawa

spirits called

AFter death, the spirits oF the laimtkaze pilots were thought to

return to the Yasukuni shrine. This shrine v\as founded in 1879 as the

Tokyo Shokon

Jinja (shrine). Originally the spirits ot all

who

died in

reside.

battle returned to Yasukuni, since

reckoned

to

who

died For the emperor were

who had

be Followers oF Shinto. Since 1945, only those

themselves adhered
resistance

all

to

Shinto have been included, hence the strong

among some Japanese

to formal state

ceremonies honouring

the war dead being held at the shrine, since those


(especially Buddhists

and Christians)

oF their ancestors: other countries

of

resist the past

(e.g.,

other religions

mortem eon\ersion

Korea) ha\e objected to the

enshrinement oF war criminals.

The

conflict underlines

understandings oF
in llie

mam

God

shrines

in

how

far

remo\ed the kami are From

outside Japan. Ne\ertheless, they are worshipped

wj\s

\i.t\

like the

the shrines are often those nienlioned


the\ are also aneeslors

ol

eni|H'rors

worship

in llii'

ol

Ciod.

he k.imi

ol

Shinlii nnthologies. but

ami famous elans, kami

ol

food and

pioducti\

ity,

kdiiii ol

kami

who

land and prolcssioiis, and historical ligurcs

have made striking contributions to


at a particular shrine

human

The power

society.

can be divided and sent

shrine without the kami being in any

to

Kaniiliiizc Pilots

another dependent

way diminished - and

in that

"Divine Wind", so-called


the strong winds

way

invasions in
Tlic

the kami includes rituals

Japanese

at shrines.

house

is

Their presence

all

about to begin, a ceremony caWed jichin-sai

War U who
enemy

when

and

site to conciliate

through offerings of

lengths of cloth, or money. In ordinary

need

to

gifts are

offered to the kami, not least those

magatsiihi-no-katiii) are the source of

power of

life

the)'

"flying

could not

Gulf in October 1944, and


Okimm'a. The)'

extensively at

ware white scan'es and a


white cloth, taken from the

that requires

hachimaki, the cloths worn


hy samurai warriors. In

The kami are therefore sacred power that may be threatening, but

Japanese

more often provides happiness. There is a strong connection between the


Kami and human life, with humans as well as nature seen as children of
the Kami, blood relatives

in

an

f>yii-k(i

for the

enhancing of

life in

this

protection of ancestors. In the shrines, the Japanese

w hich transcends and yet affects human

life;

and

is

world and for the

make space

warriors
to the

belief, the spirits

who

for that

of

die in obedience

emperor return

to

japan, and in particular

("parent-child") relationship. In

worshipping the Kami, humans come into contact with life-power that

and good, both

were

(e.g.,

reverence and worship.

infinite

which

The)' were first used at Leyte

uncleanness and calamities, but

ultimately they too are manifestations of a

targets in

their aircraft

expect to return alive.

who

be appeased and pacified. Kami with destructive powers

volunteered to

therefore, they

houses, a hmiidana or kami shelf becomes, in effect, a personal shrine

where worship and

/ry

during World

bombs", and from which,

is

the kami of the area

performed on the construction


rice, sake,

pilots

undertake missions against

kami are

everywhere. Thus

is felt

and

shrine festivals

"attending to" or "entertaining" the kami). Not

(iinitsini.

worshipped

work on

many

latter especially in the

1274 and 1281.

name was adopted

ol puritication, oiterings

of Food (shinsen), the chanting of prayers (norito), dance,

music - the

cifler

thiil

dispersed two Moiiudl

"daughter-shrines" are established.

Worshipping

meam

The word kamika/e

of the

the Yasukuni

{Countn

to

ol

Peace] shrine in Tokyo {hence


the ironic words of soldiers
before battle, "See you in

in

Yasukuni"), where

that

way they resemble the

Chinese,

who

also build

temples and shrines with


a

kind of reverent

enthusiasm.

vmeml/rance
iticm

is

oj

made.

RKLUilONS Of ASIA

111

AlUir of
I

he

Eiiitli

Temples and Ritual

\luir of Earlh, oriajiuilh

ciilk'd riing/ctan, cilttn oj the


"^ciiitiw. ivcilc'iy
iKil hiiilt

iiiilil

place",

was

ISiO. due to

tn'ouiiiciils tihdiil rilinil.

uas

ciiiislruclcil to the

of Beijing, in

Honouriiw the God

Il

north

an exaclly

syiinnetricid relatiomJiip to

SIIAO Y()\'(;

the

Emperor worshipped

("ods tind spirits


ill

the time of the

solstice,

and here

uumhers of six,
ihcir multiples

summer
the yin

eight,

ploughing a

the

oj the earth

and

WAS

up

that he

was

his.

had found

400 years

field

a large stone with


it,

who

A ,\IATIIi;\IA!lcl\\ unci phil()si)|iluT

1077cii. Nearly

llic'Ahar in the south. Here,

near his

home

tow

an inscription on

dicil in

Mtti, two farmers were

later (in

n,

when

Lo-vang,

One

it.

the\ iLirnetl

farmer claimed

but the other also claimed

it,

Since neither would give way, they took their dispute

magistrate (You ling Shi),

who

it,

sasing

saying that the field

read the inscription.

It

to the local

said:

were used.
"/;/

i]w year of jiug Dai

145 5], and

[the blue pig,

under the Ming dynasty,


magistrate You Ting Shi
will rebuild
uilcl

home and

iiir

a temple in

my

honour"

I
liecogni/ing the ama/ing acciiracx

ol

the prediction, the magistrate erected a

temple
I

in

honour

respect

in visible

characteristic
is

ol

lonouring those

why

altars

Shao Y)ng.

who

and

arc worthy

spatial

terms

ol

is

Chinese response. That

and temples are found,

not just in places of spectacular

imporiaiKe, but beside roads and

in

e\cn the luimblest houses. To

honour Shao Yong in that \\a\


was particularK appropriate,
because

it

was

lie

who had

brought new order and


precision into Yi Jiiig
Chiiig, the
iij

(I

famous Book

Chaiioes used for

analysis of the present

and prediction of the


future).

le

had also

proilucetl a spatial

map

showinu the

is

it

matter

iolatini;

nnt just

("wintl

as mucli lor the

is

The principles of

ital

/c//i^ sliui

was

Altar of

may e\en

in

Heaven was

built

with

roof,

ol

offered,

once

the winter solstice, the sacrifice to

empire.

The

lea\en and the

south of the inner-city of

Eventually a complex of

a.xis.

were controlled by the important numbers

Here the emperors

53-1 55).

but the Altar of Heaven remained the

it,

ol

ol

pp.

ha\'e alfected the layout ol cities,

concentric circles

nine.

{qi,

the placing and the

p. 44).

without a

a structure

platform constructcLl

ol

not

cil

which human habitations,

and empowering breath

impressive buildings surrounded


It

in

were important

Beijing, slightlv east of the north-south

locus.

KM

in the practice ot

spectacular examples ot these are the Altar ot

The

\\|)

planning:

c()iinlr\

nature ot a place antl

perhaps most lamiHar

metaphorically (Meyer,

Altar of Earth.

as lor the living, are sited in places that will gather

architecture oF temples and

Among

town and

"I

and water"), or geomancy,


dead

the circulating currents of

at least

mailer

sensitixily. of respectinij the

n\

That si'nsiti\ity

it.

jciiii -.liiii

is

up the hdok. lor the

iriurainic hcxa^irams ihal inaki'

care of space

C'liliH'sc,

\ll'l

Altar of Earth was built

a three-tier circular

stone, the sizes of

which

the yang - three. Ii\e, and

a year, in the

pre-dawn darkness

Shang Di on behalf ot the whole


north ol Beijing to honour the earth

spirits (see caption, left).


/As
in

the

Cods and

China, there

is

the beliefs about

them

no single plan or style

numerous and

are so

varied

for temples. Nevertheless,

features recur (sec box, below), even though temples

may be

some

basically

Daoist or Buddhist or simplv of popular devotion; people do not have to

be e\clusi\e

in their beliets

and practices.

Chinese Temples
Willi iinnn vuiied beliefs in

BUILDING STYLE:
and

there

tcndcnc\

is

to

Temples

sinule room, but thc\

are biiih in lcal

to repeat traditional motils.

* liVIAGES

in local style,

monks attached

ENTRANCE:

ma\

also ha\e

God

least

At the entrance stand protector


is

painted on the door


is

lbe\ are likelv

expressed

in

ol

man\

which symbolic ollerings

to the (iotis

in

paper

or other objects) are burnt. espccialK on

particular Deities,

and simple as

ihe others

,is

well, .a

the perimeter are shrines to

and

in

the centre the main

lall.

personal dedication, vows, ollerings, allboLjgb


the lime

as small

particul.ir loeus ol cleM)tion,


all

with a simple bow.

LAYOUT: Around
I

behalf of the dead.

i SIZE: Temples may be

own

Here again the images prolilerate, e\en


though one, or a single group, may ha\e the
most important place. Ceremonies locus on

an open coluI,

containing the sacrificial altar or incinerator

their

are likely to respect

to them).

Through the entrance

money

also be large

OF MAN^ GODS

CJods, or of

may have

Larger temples ha\e

guardians, or their image


posts.

may

buildings.

images and symbols: worshippers, while they

evil.

CUSTODIANS:

cLislodians llSuddhist temples

ol

sizes exist:

ha\e within them the images and sxmbols

many

legendary birds and animals, protectors

against

to

and

different styles

complexes

extent

Roots are likcK to ha\c cur\ed ridges topped by


five

iiniity

but

some

materiiils

Chimi, temples of

ol |iarticular festivals

more ordered and

public.

the

ceremony

is

at

lAl.

III

Rl

\M

l(.IO\S Ol

Mountains
Link Bctivecni Heaven and Earth

Tlic

UlilAVliliN niiAViiN, humans, and earth (p. 154)


while temples are important, the truth of reality -

union

rniADic:

Tin;
means

that,

God

including

for those

who

- can be found

think in those terms

everywhere. For that reason, mountains and water are an opportunity

ol

and attainment. Li ji (Record of Rituals) states that "mountains,


forests, rivers, and valleys wreathe with clouds and produce storms and
and it concludes that
rain, and people see in them mysterious things
revelation

',

home of Deities.
Those Deities may have a personal association with a particular
mountain. Thus Dongyue Da Di (the Great God of the Eastern Peak)

they must be the

and peak

"Wave-break oj ridge

w as one of the judges of people after death, and was revered as


the One who protects communities from disorder and who
secures them

From near or jar.

froui fnot or sutnuiit.


1

I'he

honour

he lonii flows.

Lii iiiouiitii'uis

have no

Once

peace. After the defeat of the Taiping rebellion

be given to the Gods of mountains and

to

throughout China since


jacc

.\vailcihlc lor recooniiion.

rivers

was "through the blessing aiul help


of the Gods of mountains and rivers that the campaign against
it

the rebels achieved success."


ii'c (;;M"sc/r('^

drowned

.Alt'

in

1850-64), an imperial edict ordered sacrifices and names of

Often, though, these more-than-human realities


ill

be the
(Sii 'Ibntipo,

III

may simply

ileplh"

llieir

\i-liii 7cii;/i/(>l

spirit

of the mountain in question,

Shan Shen, and may

not be thought of in such personal terms. That impersonal sense

of the spirit pen'ading places such as mountains lent

Daoist pursuit of union


"Since the days oj luy middle

was deeply devoted

Recentlx

came

to

(see box,

left).

Wang

Wei,

witli the

Dao

that

life

Dao.

arts of poetry

who

in

the 5th century did

and painting

penadcs

much

to

itself to

all

the

things

unih the

China, drew his inspiration

in

to live

Of

many

from mountains and streams (see box,

left).

mountains

in

C'hina. ihc Kiin-lun. the

Mountains of the

lmm<irlals

in

ihc West, play a particularly important part in the

all

the

In the inoiinlains oj Zhoiifi-niin.

Often.
I

joy in

my

wander alone from here


is

Il

lo
\\

117//)

heart.
to here.

Chinese

know

inysell as

he

and of Goddess;

Jin-nni. the Ciolden Mother, better

am.

hen the streams end my journey

slor\ of Cioil

for this

is

the abode

ol

ii'oiiderliil ihini^

settle

down and

of ihe West,

the wile of the Jade

calch

iiiimieiii ol risiiv^

Oueen Molher

misis

ha\e

Oueen Mother

att.iiiu'd

iltain

the

same

goal;

lp.l5~l stule. As

portraxetl with a
re\ereil

sometimes beliexed

(p.lS6), and

to

be

sometimes an

peach

in

iIk'

her

and wdishipped. holh

many thousands who


them out to help others to

presides o\'er the

immortality, sending

and there she grows the peaches

immortalitx which ripen once e\ei\

Monkey

is

as \i NMing-nui, the

indepeiulenl and original Cioddess.

Ihe
(\\,in\\ril

who

Emperor

known

Oih'

-!.()()()

years

- the peaches

ol

that

who bestows immortalits, she is ollen


she is among the mosi w idcK

liaiiil. .iiul

In Daoists aiul in

popular religion.

iAINS

Mill \

I'he quest tor immoiuility pcr\adc's

Chinese

religion

and takes many

The Ba Xian, the Eight Immortals, are a particular

different forms.

encouragement hecause, although they are now surrounded by legend


and story, at least some of them are connected with historical people.
Promoted in a euhemeristic (p. 54) way, they demonstrate how the eight
1

conditions of

(youth, age, poverty, wealth, high rank, low or no rank,

life

feminine, masculine) can

all

equally be transcended, and how, therefore,

from any condition, immortality can be attained.


Ihe way of attaining immortality can be assisted by Gods and

Goddesses

many

in their

triadic unity of

forms, but in the end they too are a part of the

heaven, humans, and earth. Mountains are a visible form

of that unity, stretching from earth to heaven; the natural place to find

meaning

the

ot

"Lately

life:

became aware of

Day
I

cleaned

after

my

day

cottage

Who came

to

stayed

meaning oj still peace.


away from the crowd.

the

and prepared

me from

it

for the

visit oj

Between Heaveti
and Earth

monk

"This chapter

iiiilil

He descended from the cloud-hidden peaks


To see me in m\ thatched house.

and

uv

window

on the grass we shared the

resin of the pine;

Tlae temple hells

In a

moment

And

announced

realized the
I

felt

that

still

my

iiicel

some

as

surprised
lijted,

cloud-hiddeu

Jrom one unknown

peace ivhich

is

most certain

has injiuite space"

dti\

yon came into

you go out again,

the beginning of the evening.

life

iiou'.

wing and fly...

lake

lije

Burning incense, we read the words of Dao.


When the day was over, we lit our lamp.

closed

the voices rising In the

And jiisl
Sitting

is

word more

uiii (iiie

the distant mountains.

joy,

to

another

and

fall

luitl tijtpcin'

and turn
again in the

mountains"

(Wang Wei)

iWhvle. Cloud-Hidden

^:t

%-

The Religions
of Abraham
linLiisiii. C'hri'^t'uiiiitr.

Sb^HI^^:::^^#-:

l^^^BUi^

IB K
nil/

t^

cuul Ishini.

THE RELIf.lONS OK ABRAHAM: IIDAISM

Judaism
GtMsis

12.1 l!H(.()l!l)s

Hebrew
the

Cidd

that

human

mark

two words

a decisive

search tor

God - and

in

Abram

to

Abraham and in
"Arise and go". Abram

(later called

.Arabic Ibrahim),

Lek

leka.

go to a

new

land where he w

told to

ill

made founder

of a great nation and a blessing to

obedience and

father of

Christianity v\as one.

When

the

Romans defeated two

rebellions

(66-70, 132-5) and destroyed the Temple, Jews

be

others. B\ his

became the

with no agreed interpretation of how the

Covenant should be implemented, different


forms of Judaism emerged, of which in origin

of

search for humans. They are the

command
is

gathered over a period of about 1,000 \ears. But

(in

moment

Abraham
those who commit

were scattered

into a

wide dispersion (Diaspora).

This led to two major communities, the

faith,

Ashkenazim, who

lived mainly in

Europe (many

themselves to God, not just the Jews, but also

now

Christians w ho believe that they, along with the

Spain and around the Mediterranean.

Jews, inherit the promises ("Those


are the descendants of

who

believe

Abraham", Galatians

and Muslims who believe that they truK

The Jew s w ere


unlolds

in

the

Ibrahim (Quran 2.130/136).

religion of

God, and

li\e

3.7)

called into a

their response

also in the US),

After the

and understanding

the Bible, texts that were written and

of Jerusalem, the rabbis

synagogue, by showing

how

ISRAEL ,Qu,nraa
JUDAHd-/.s>

Jerusalem

t^

Kenites
Cairo*

EG\TT

lite

should

now be

Their interpretations were collected

in

Mishnah and Talmuds, which were later


organized in codes, ot which the code ot
.Maimonides (pp.2 18-22 and of |oseph Caro
1

Persinns

^-

in

(teachers) rebuilt Judaism, based on family and

lived.

Covenant with

tall

and the Sephardim

AND

KCinUC IdN

INI

1.

LI

(1488-1575), known as Shulchan Arukh, are


paramount. Jews also went deeper into the love
and worship of God in Kabbalah (pp. 216-17)

and

in

Hasidism (pp.222-23).

century, the Zionist

Not

the return

Jews agree,
because they believe that only the Messiah

Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Liberal.

But the fundamental vocation remains:

to

be

God's people, bearing the weight of holiness

an unholy and often cruel world.

tlviitliis

Western Wall

The base

of the

SclllcTiu-nl in

David

Western Wall retains

other issues: important forms of Judaism are

Abraham
Moses
Canaan

s?

Cainurcof

Jerusalem

all

can restore Jerusalem. Jews are divided on

in

Timeline

In the 19th

movement sought

of the Jews to Jerusalem.

Judaism

Solomon

Building of ihe Temple

Divided kingdoms,

and Judah
.

stones from a wall


.

Amos

Micah

Israel

Ahab &

Elijah

Hosea

Isaiah

adjacent to the
j, ;rusalem
is

Temple and

a sacred place
of pniyer.

Hall

Kingdom

oi N.

iNahum

Exile

Babylonian

E/ekiel

Cyrus

Zoroaster

&

E/ra

of

Fall

Jerusalem

Habakkuk

Jeremiah

Nehemiah

Wisdom

literature

Anlioehus Epiphanes

Maceabean

revolt

tlasmonacan independent

Hakamim Pompey &


Rome Herod
Development of Qumran

llalefillah

1st

Jewish

Hounding of

revolt

rabbinic Judaism

Jewish revolt

Synagogues,
Piyyutim

2nd

Akiba

liturgy,

&

Mishnah

Masoretes

of
o^

Maimonides

Moses

8?

Leon & Zohar

of

Is.ibbalah

Isaaeof Luria
Israel

ben

Bcsht)

Spino/a

Elie/.er (the

Hasidism

Mendelsohn

Moses

Solomon

\laimon

Buber
Nazis
I

Hcsehel

Shoah

lolocaust)

(the

Rise of

F.

\P.

I'

\ll \\1

|l

l>

\|N\I

The

God

Bible and

The Foiuidatious oj Belief and Uiiderstciud'uio


THL JlWlsii stoa of Cod is bound up wilh ihc
"A wandering Aramean was m\
ancestor" (Deuteronomy 26. S), say the Jewish people, each lime
bring the offering of the first fruits to Cod. How a group ol nomadic

THE

liHCIX'NINc; oi

beginning

the\

ot the Jevvi.sh people.

herdsmen came to behe\e


ihem to specific work and
orld

the ston' told in the Bible.

is

The Bible storv


he

One who

111. Cienesis goes on to

creation

is

form

in briefest

has created

the beginning

i)rt;ins "in

all

that Ciotl hati cilletl

responsibilities in the

all

is

things.

God

this:

The

(iod

is

Bible

created..." (Genesis

show how the goodness of

disturbed b\

humans deciding to
own decisions.

pursue knowledge and make their

he opening chapters of Genesis portray the

break-up of relationships - between

|ir(igressi\e
luisbani.1

and wife, humans and God, humans and

ihe naliiral order, town and countrx. the C^odU'.iring

and those who are

'ilterent nations,

and between

not.

culminating

in

the contusion of

inguages after the building of the Tower of Babel

iGenesis

The

1.1-4).

how God

Bible as a whole then shows

begins the work of repair, bringing healing and


renewal. Ibis process

is

focused

in a series ol

agreements known as covenants, made


individuals, such as

at lirst

Noah and Abraham.

,in(.l

with

then,

through Moses, wilh the whole nation descended

from Abraham, Isaac,

.ind |acob.

biis

the people

of Israel exist lo be the instrument ol Caul's


repair in
leii

iA)iiimaiidinents

rlic'giviiiv

(ij

the

'AstTct halDibrot
hi

It'll

is

Exodus i4.27j.

tim are

to

Words

loU of

ivhc-re

become the

oj the C.ox'eitant.
lull vers'ums. in

heart

There are

Exodus

20.2-14 and Deuteronomy


5.6-/8.

their

own

what Cod

God

sake, but so that


is

(see, e.g.,

all

tlu'

world, and lhe\ do this not

people may learn to recogni/e

Habakkuk

it.

When

ol

lor

who and

2.14, Zechariah 8.20-.^).

takes the initiative in calling Israelites to do this

helping them to do

work

JList

they are

in slavery in

work

anil in

Egypt, Ciod rescues

them dramatically in the Exodus, leading them into the w ilderness and on
to the Promised Land of Canaan, whose people they are told to c(HU|uer
In the wilderness

God

gives them, through Moses, the laws in the I'orah

become the basic conditions of the new and enduring covenant (Torah
applies to the whole ol the lirsl li\e books ol the
means "guitlaiue":

that

it

Bible,

,incl iinleetl

lo llu'

whole of scripture, bul

specific laws), luiulamenlal lo ihe covenanl

il

ni,i\

agreemenl

,ilso
is

appK

lo the

ihe reeognilion

ihat Clod

statement of )e\\ish faith


sliciiiii'.

is

ilh this verse],

is

contrast to the

CiocI, in

I'.

1-;

II

many

the world around. The most profound

in

found

Deuteronomy

in

hence the name Shema given

that begins

The

who

the only one

is triiK' Cicicl.

claimed gods and goddesses

Israel,

to the basic

6.4:

God

the Lord your

means always keep

people, however, by no

"Hear [Hebrew

Jewish statement of
the Lord

terms

to the

faith

One."

is

the

ol

covenant agreement. They continue, often, to in\csl their


worship, and allegiance in the local gods.
seems necessary, because of threats from
neighbouring countries and invading Philistines, to draw the
people together under a single leader as king, this is seen as
failure of trust in the sovereignty of God. But God endorses

gifts, sacrifices,

Even when

it

David as their king and, after David captures Jerusalem,

makes

new covenant

with him and his descendants as


"anointed one"). Solomon, David's

luiishiach ("messiah" or

son, builds the Temple, but after his death, the

and the period of kings pro\es

split,

many

protest against the

to

kingdom

be another

betrayals ot

is

failure.

God. prophets

Inemerge speaking directly in the name of God and


challenging the people with the words, "Thus says the
lj)rd.

".

The prophets are not opposed to the covenant and

laws: although they

seldom mention them

people to

Lirging the

live justly in

Iheir appeals are in vain,


in

the

way

that

and God summons

it^

they are

directly,

God demands.
first

the Assyrian

the 8th century I5CE to destroy the northern kingdom, and

then the Babylonians

in

the 6th century BCt to destroy

Jerusalem and the Temple and take the people into

h\ile. ,\lte

Temple is rebuilt, and the priests beconK'


dominant in deciding matters of faith and practice: since God has given
Torah to Israel, its teachings must be followed if the people are to prosper.
It becomes vital, therefore, to show what Torah means in daily life.
.After the Biblical period, it seems for a while that they are prospering
under God. During the rule of a family known as the Hasmonacans
the

E.xile,

the people return, the

I42-63BCB), the people

that

independence

live in

an independent state, and even though

removed by the Romans, the Herods reinforce the


Two further attempts at independence from

is

prosperity of Jerusalem.

Rome end

defeated, Jerusalem

is

all

this

understand

whom

is

God

is

than 1,000 years.

It

from

The

a faith

God and

dealings with

they are involved.

is

once more destroyed.

portrayed in vivid and dramatic terms.

a simplified picture

itself, its

135cii, the rebellions are

captured, and the Temple

rhroLighout this story.

But

70 and

in disaster: in the vears

Bible

is

community

trying to

the nature of the

One

with

an anthology of writings from more

reveals not only that simple picture, but also a

process of change and correction, of truth leading to transformation, in


the understanding of the

Linderstanding of

means easy

God

is

name and nature


embedded

deeply

to recover, but

it,

too,

of God.

The Jewish

in history: that history

belongs to the jew ish ston'

ol

is

by no

God.

nintispiccc

III

(.ciifsis

llwcctralunnlulnnvis
bcrcslTilii. luciiiiiiio

beginnhig

It

is

"ill

llic

the first

word of the Book of Genesis


iiiml of the Bible
and
I.

therefore the fewish nuiiic of


this hook.

of

tills

For ihc iissDcinlinn

word with
see

(;;).

\\ i'.dniii,

2(W-S.

III

Kl

K.IONS (M

\I1K

Ml

\\1

II

|l

\|N\1

Opposhe:

God and Lord

Hazor
Cities lilw Hcizor
skill

shmv

the

of the Camianites. From

them the

The Only God There

Israelites ji^aiiied

much, iiicludina

uri

Is

cdphubet

to write their records.

COMMAND

THI-:
aloud
Mardnk
Among thottsdinh

(Deuteronomy
of

to

6.4).

Israel into

being

Israel Adotiai

is

the

Shema.

It is

read

Eloheymi Adonai Ehad

Translated word for word, that means, "Hear,

God my Lord One". The words sound

strange, but they

hold the all-important key that unlocks the Jewish understanding of God.

"Adotmi" means "my Lord

Mardiik

cis

sharilani, king oj the gods,

irho threatened

Lord our

Shenm

{ruled

;;25-J/0-//i(:i;)gm'e

prominence

my

Israel,

Bdbylouiciii gods,

Nebuchiidnezziir

THAT HRlNCis

the form,

in

Yahweh

the lime uf the Exile,

p.

at

194.

but that word does not actually appear

in

the

YHWH (known, from


the Greek for "four-lettered", as the Tetragrammaton). YHWH was the
Hebrew

name

text.

revealed by

holiness of

Day

Written

God,

God

to Moses (p. 180), but because it shared in the


was pronounced by no one except the high priest on the

it

of Atonement.

translating

occur

it

the

in

in the text are the four letters

Many Jews

te.xt

Name,

prefer to say instead ImShein. the

perhaps as "the Eternal"; and where\er the

letters

YHWH

of scripture, the vowels of Adonai are inserted, to remind

the reader not to try to pronounce the name, but to say instead Adonai.

That

is

why,

English translations of what Christians

in

Testament, the

made

name

of

is

translated as "the

YHWH

translations

\u\\els of

and producing the impossible form, Jehovah.

academic scholarship,
as

the Old

call

LORD". Older

name, putting the

a mistaken attempt to transliterate the

Adonai into

God

God

it

has

become conventional

Yahweh. Alreadv, therefore,

this reveals

In

to represent this

name

of

something important about

the self-revelation of God: God's holiness extends c\ en to

God s name,

w hich must be treated with due reverence.

The word

elohe)iiii

is

the word elohini, God, with a pronoun added to

its

means "our God". So the sentence means "Yahweh is our


God, Yahweh is One"; or "Yahweh our God, Yahweh is One"; or "Yahweh
is our God, Yahweh alone". Even though the meaning is uncertain, this

end, so that

tells

El

us

it

much about

the beginnings of the Jewish understanding of God.

was the name of the supreme God

which the nomad

tribes

mvths, El

is

the

world of the Middle East

in the

became the people

God above

in

of Israel. In early Canaanile

gods, the father of the gods, the

head of the council of gods. El

is

so far above the world thai

he cmplovs lesser gods to do his work, or to represent him


a particular place.

That

is

why,

in

(God of Bethel), or
(God v\ho sees). El
sLiprcinei, and El Berith (God of the covenant).
he lesser gods who do the work of the supreme
icrms

who

like El Ik-thel

endures), El Roi

II ,ire the

Elohim: elolum
)

God, although
mean,

it

is

otten translated

is

in

the Dilile

word,

in fact a plural

c|uite straightforwardly, "gods", as

Genesis

-!1._t(),

in

we find
El Olam (God
EKon (God

the Bible,

kidges 1~.t. Daniel

1.8,

it

.is

aiitl

can

dues

in

and even

<,(1D

AND

I,

OKI)

111

II

O\

\i;

Ml

\\1

|l

\|N\1

more (illcn when the so-called gods (clohim ol other iialions


denounced as nut being Cod at all. In Psalm 96.5 they are

are

"Ihis

;s iii\

clohim

siniloicc:

yi)U iihi\ Iw,

Sons

(if

EI\oii all oj

But

I'tlw

derided, by a plav on words, as elilim, nonentities, not-gods at

you may

he.

all.

mortal hciugs

\ou will die:

court as the prosecuting

weak and

if

you

the orphan have

justice, be fair to the wretched and destitute, rescue the needy


and save them from the grasp of the wicked. But they cannot
do it: they are completely without power, and therefore God

without exception,

and

in

are the gods you say you are, let the

princes fall,

riic strongest

Psalm 82, CJod appears

In

counsel against the gods, the elohim, and mocks them:

so will you"

pronounces sentence against them (see

(Psalm Hl.hf)

Throughout the

bo.x,

top

left).

same picture unfolds. It is a


contest between Israel's God and the

Bible, the

picture of conflict, of

so-

called gods of the other nations. For example, in the Canaanite myths,
it

is

in\

clear that the authority of El

aded bv

is

being challenged and his

territory

more boisterous god, Baal-hadad, the god of the storm.


The in\asion of one god's

by

territory

another probably reflects events that

were happening on the ground, the


attack and defeat of one tribe or nation
b\ another.

This was extremely

important for the

when
iheir

Israelites,

because

they in\aded Canaanite territory,

own Cod, Yahweh, had

to attack

defeat the Canaanite god, El, as

iiid

well as

all

the lesser gods, the Baals, the

iiwners of land and

God

onlv one

fertility.

If

there

[ehad. One), then

is

all

other so-called gods must be thrown


as false pretenders to the throne.

DLit

That

Paisoier
I

he

of Passover

festival

iiutjor

mat/ah indicates
I

preii(nis

v\as a

time

when

total trust

froin the

his sons

.Abraham and Nahor -

lived

beyond the

said to him: 7

[Yhwhj.

appeared

and jacoh

i/s

Yahweh

did not

known

to

to

Moses

nm

the Lord

to

Ahraham.

(iod :\lmiliht^

[El Shaddai;. hut h]

the

more remarkable

affirming that

Vihweh

is tlie

According to E-xodus 6.3.

^ahweh

to

Moses

b\ the pivcetling

(see

to

How

did they

move

worshipping Yahweh. and

only

God

bo.x, left).

Euphrates and

river

serxed other gods {elohim aheyrimy (Joshua 24.2).

"God Itlohimj spoke

Isaac

is all

u'l/r.

from worshipping nian\ gods

and

It

the ancestors of the people of Israel

worshipped man\' gods (elohim). Joshua assembled the people, after lhe\
had begun to conquer the Promised Land, in order to renew their
co\enant agreement w ith God. He began by reminding them, "Thus says
Yahweh the Elohim [Cod] of Israel: long ago your ancestors - ferah and

hread

God, since nothing, not

even leaven, comes

the conllict described in the Bible.

because there

uhservuitce in Jewish

hciDies. Unleaxx-iied

ill

is

is

Cod
first

that there

made

That seems

book of Genesis,

in

his

to

to

is"

name known

as

be contradicted

which the name Yahweh


it was at that

is

used from the beginning. Genesis 4.26 says that


iin

make
them

inniie

nnselj

lime

tlie

(l-xodus 6..^0)

just .ifier

the murder of .Abel by Cain) that people began

on the name of \'ahweh. Later Jewish exegesis recogni/etl


contradiction, and suggested that the word "began was in

to call

fact a tlilTerent

lebrew word meaning "rebel

lhe\ look the \erse to

mean,

in

".

In otiier

words.

the context of Cains crime, that


AND

people Ix'gan to

and that

is

why

lisc

the

ihc name
name was

This contradietion was the


scholar /\struc
(the

re,ili/e, in

hooks

first li\e

known

clue that

first

generally

made

is

made up

The celebration of Passover

later

festivals.

character of

these words from an old


Piissovcr

existence) of these sources has been


itself states that

it

is

uncovered, those assembled say

from the outset, E uses Elohim until the revelation to Moses.

The nature (and even

moment when

the unleavened bread

their

questioned, but the Pentateuch

At the beginning of the

celebration, at the

of different earlier

own understanding of the nature and


God. A source known as J uses the name JA'HWll

them

"We were slaves to Pharaoh in


and the Eternal [Yahweh]

draws on pre-

Eg)'pt,

and sources, from which attempts are made by


answer the question, how did Yahweh become

our Elohim hrmight us mil

historians to

there with a might)' lunut

God? Too little evidence now survives to be sure. YauA'ah


known in the Middle East as the name of a god, so perhaps

Israel's

Yah was the god of one of the

tribes.

that the children of Israel (the

Bene

groups loosely related by kinship.

Another
Israel)

The

outstretched arm. Avid

them went
to get

it.

to

One

with a tribe

in crises.

known

Yahw eh

in a

He

later

first

wise, all of us are people of

married the daughter

Torah, yet

encountered God as

mighty hand) to bring the people of

still

io the

experience, all of us knonv the


it is

an obligation upon

us to recite the going forth from

dramatic episode that established the character of

our children and

Pharaohs in Egypt. All oj us are

Egypt,

Ciod beyond doubt as holy; as a historical force (compelling the

Pharaoh of Egypt by

a)id

have continued as slaves

was driven out and took refuge


and

Holy

our children's children would

At a time of famine, some of

as the Kenites.

of Jethro, a priest of that tribe,

we

Egypt,

different parts of this

Egypt seeking food, but they had to work as slaves


of them, Moses,

the

brought forth our ancestors from

originally family

kinship group followed different histories, although they

supported each other

ij

jmiii

and an

One, blessed he He, had not

possibility notes

were

the

text,

Haggadah:

existing traditions

is

one

is

of the most important of Jewish

the French

works, combined later into a single work. These earlier works


carry with

OKI)

trivially,

tintil

the 18th century, that the Pentateuch

the Hihie)

in

and

^'ah\\ch oilciisi\'cly

not

much

Israel

forth

and

who

all those

maize

of the account of the going

fivm Egypt are

to

be praised"

where they are meant to be; and also, as one with whom
Moses (and later many others in the Bible) can argue (Exodus
3 i). God has always been God, but only now is known as Yahweh,

to

and

in

the

name and

strength of

God whose name and

been revealed, Moses delivers the people from Egypt

nature have

in the

Exodus

Exodus becomes the supreme example of God's power

TheEach
in

to act.

Jews celebrate Passover, commemorating the way


which God smote the dwellings of the Egyptians, but passed
year, the

over those of the Israelites (see box, right).

When

the people returned to

Canaan, they linked up with other parts of the kinship group, and
Joshua 24 reflects the way

in

which the whole group, the Bene

Jacob/Israel (descendants of Jacob/Israel), accepted


their

God.

It is

Yahweh, not those "other gods

history together by taking

",

who

Abraham from beyond

Yahweh

Passover foods

^'-'^v

as

initiated their

the River

Bitter Ixerhs

\-\''
<|^\^^

(syiiibnliziug

the bitterness

,\".':>

of slavery), an egg

Euphrates, and by giving to him and to his descendants Canaan as a

They took over much of the Canaanite understanding of El as


the supreme God. In the end, however, the issue was clear; it Yahweh is
to be their God, other gods must be driven out, just as the inhabitants ot
the land must be defeated if Israel is to make it its own. 1 hat contest
became a dramatic part ol the Jewish storv ol God.

new

.
.

commemorating
jeslival sacrifice, and

land.

shank brine

sticrificiiil liiiid?

JDiids

eaten

ivilli

to represent the

iii

arc

among

Passover, along

unleavened

hrenil.

III

Kl

l(.IO\^

\BK Ml

i|

\\1

jl

\!^\l

Defeat of the gods


Yalnveh Alone
XHWtH's CONFLICT WITH OTHtR CODS
The prciphcts

ol

Baal "called on

Y:

ansiier
voice.

usl'

Baal,

lemple as

But there was no

Yahweh

They limped about the

altar that they

ood; either he

is

had wade. At

on

(I

is

the tribes to give their allegiance to

all

).

Ahab was ruling o\er Israel


Where God was concerned, Ahab was

king called

the people were supposed to be

all

if

the local gods, the Baals

had not been dri\en out? Maybe they were

[ba'alim).

business, and

maybe they were

still

in

still

and

essential for the crops

To be on the safe side, "he went and ser\ed Baal and


worshipped him; he erected an altar for Baal in the house of

is

for fertility.

is

and must be awaliened.

Thoi they

190-91

hedging his bets. Yes, he and

meditating, or

journey, or perhaps he

centre for

sen ing Yahweh alone, but what

he has wandered away or he

asleep

(pp.

(the northern kingdom).

noon Elijah mocked them.


saying, Cr}- aloud! Surely he

an

in

captured Jerusalem (c.IOOOuce) and Solomon had built the

the luinie of Baal frniii vinniiiig


until noon, cning,

summed up

is

pisode that took place about 100 years after David had

Baal,

which he

He was

cried aloud and. as

Samaria"

built in

(I

Kings 16.3

If).

immediately challenged by a spokesman

prophet)

la

showdown between

was their custom, they cut

of

themselves with sivords and

the Baals and Yahweh. Elijah and the prophets of the Baals met

lances until the blood gushed

out over

lhe}ti. .As

Mount Carmel. Each side built an altar on which each in


to call down fire to demonstrate which God v\as able to
bring fire on earth (see bo.\, left). Then Elijah made his own

untd the

was no

turn

preparations, and prayed to God:

voice.

'"O Yahweh,

no ajiswer. and no response"

he kiioivu
(I

to a

was

time oj the offering of the


oblation, hut there

and they agreed

called Elijah,

at

tnidday

passed, they raved on

Yahweh

Kings IS. 26-9)

Elohim

tills

of

your seirani, and that


bidding.

people tnay

Answer me,

know

Abraham.

clay that roii are

that yon,

Isaac,

God

have done

and

Israel, let

hi Israel, tJuit

all these

things at your

O Lord, answer me so that this


O Yahweh, are El. and that yoit

have turned their hearts back.'Tlien the fire of Yahwelt

consumed the burnt-offering, the wood, the stones,


dust, and even licked itp the water that was in the
Wild!

all

the people sau'

Yahweh indeed

is

it.

they

jell

on

fell

and

atid the

trench.

their faces a}id said,

Elohim. Yahweh indeed

"When Ehon apportunied

it

am

is

Elohim"

Kings 18. 36-9)

the nations.

when he
he

divided up

ji.xed

human

beings.

the boundaries of the

peoples according to the

number

of the gods:

Yahweh s share was

his

own

people.

facob was his allotted portion"

Elere, in nilnialLire.

is

the conllict that can be traced throughout

Yahweh and all other claimed gods.


IV'|iealedlv prophets of Yahweh call the people back Irom the
worship of other gods, which they liken to adulter)' or even to
the Bible, between

prostitution (see, for example,

earth to conquer the Proniised

losea 2.4-15).

Land

is

The

literal

rellected in a

war

war on
in

|)|

Ol

III

(,

(IDS

domain ol
supreme high God, and takes over

hciivcn, as ^aliwcli in\ac]cs the


HI,

the

end, they are so

his Functions until, in the

indistinguishable that El simply

becomes

name For what Yahweh is - the One


who is God. This was a major change, 'i'o
begin with, Yahweh had simply been one
oF the many gods under El, looking aFter
a

one particular area, exactly

as

Deuteronomy 32.8 (in its original text)


says. The supreme God divides up the
nations oF the world according to the

number

oF lesser gods (elohim),

one nation

The

to

and gives

each (see box, below

writers oF the later

(iVlasoretic) text

and

leFt).

oFFicial

were so shocked

the

at

apparent recognition oF other gods that


thev changed the words to read,
".
.

.according to the

number

oF the

children oF Israel", but the original text

captures the early understanding oF

and gods

\cr\ accurately

God

Psalm 82,

on p. ISO, in which Yahweh


denounces the other gods, reveals this
early relationship between Yahweh and

c|Lioted

with equal

clarity.

The

very oddly. Literally,

it

El

verse reads

First

says,

"Elohim takes

his stand in the council oF El, to deliver a

judgement among the Elohim" (Psalm


Psalm comes From a part

82.1). But this

which the name


Yahweh has been removed (out oF
oF the whole Psalter in

reverence, p. 178) and replaced with

Elohim. So the verse originaUy read,

"Yahweh takes his stand in the council


El, to deliver judgement among the
elohim [the other gods]

The
oF El
ail

ot

'.

Bible as a whole

shows how Yahweh not only invaded the domain


it over completely Yahweh becomes

and oF the other gods but took

that the gods can be.

condemned

To represent gods

in

carved or pictorial Form was

repeatedly and Fiercely as idolatry - the worship, not ot God,

but oF dead and useless idols,

Psalm 115.3-8, Isaiah 46.

who cannot do anything

(see, tor

example.

ol

human

adoration anti praise.

ith cenlurf

scenes from the

IL

life

slum's

of the

prophet Elijah, incltidinv

Aliaiiah to silence him: the


is

huge and embattled revolution in human vision and imagination. It was


not easily achieved. But once begun, it made certain that God would be
worthy

oj the

the futile attempt oj Kiiiu

IFF).

The Shema (p. 178) then makes absolute sense: Yahweh our Elohim
Yahweh alone. The God oF liFe rises From the death oF gods. This was a

Elijah
1 his illniuimilc'd iiniiinscrijtl

first
kill

party of soldiers sent to

him

are destroyed by fire,

the second are spared after

begging for mercy


(2 Kings II

III

Rl

l(,IO\S

m; R Ml

ill

\\1

11

|l

\IN\1

The Anger

"As for tlie hnviis oj these peoples


tinit

the Lord (Yiilm-ehj your

[Ehjhiwj

is

of

God

God

an

airing you us

inheritance you must not


,

A Devounno

let

Fire

anything that hreathes remain


alive.

You shall aunihilute

and

the Hittites

the Ainorites, the

Canaauites and the

Perizzites,

the Hivites

and

just as the

Lord your

God

\(ni to

do

all

may

not

Lord

xour God"

(Deuteronomv

used

far

more frequently

God's anger takes

20. 16)

to

To sene other gods epitomizes

"See, the

the failure that evokes the anger

Deuteronomy, as

in

note

losea (5.10-15),

in

and

sees the

prostitution.
in Ezekiel,

the

It is

who

than they are of

human

beings.

it:

Lord comes from jar away,

of lite

iiLiiiie

his

and

tongue

his breath

andalsoin

who

God

different forms: the prophet Isaiah

in thick

and

rising

smohe;

his lips are full of indignation,

chapter 29

that reaches

and

betrayal as adultery

living things (see box, top left).

all

e\er-more powerful metaphors

for

to describe

bitniiiio witli uiioer,

(note verse 27, and see also


6.15; 11.16ff.),

of

many

be searching

through which

CtOcI, a characteristic

the war on

book of Joshua (5.13-12.24) describing


the conquest, God appears as an angry predator who destroys all
w ho stand in the way The wrath of God appears widely in the
Bible. The Hebrew words for anger are mainly physical (blowing
\iolently, heating up, bursting out, overflowing), and they are

seems

of

in

In the chapters in the

the abhorrent

sin against the

was very much reflected

IN HKAVliN

the people to annihilate

has

things that they do for their gods,

and you thus

WAR

Tin;
earth. Approaching the Promised Land, God commands

the ]ebusites

cinuiuaiided. so that they

teach

them -

is

up

like a

is

like

devouring fire;

an overflowing stream
neck -

to the

to sift the nations

with the sieve of destruction, and to place

same image

on the jaws

of the

begins a passage

peoples a bridle that leads

them

astray"

describing the anger of God:

"And

O whore,

therefore,

the word of the Lord"

The anger

of

God

( 1

hear

6.35ff.

culminates

in

day. says the

Lord God.

make the sun go douii ul


noon, and darken the ciutli in
u

ill

broad daylight.

will turn ycnir

leasts intn m<}uniing.

and

all

your songs into himcntalion.


will bring sackchjih

on

like a bitter

day

(.\n)i)s S.yf)

no mild

Isaiah 30. 27f)

irritation.

all loins.

enil oj

struck by plague

(Numbers

It

when Korah.

brings death:

it

16).

this,

they were

God's anger brings destruction

to the people, as in the successive disasters of Isaiah

E/ekiel 5.13-7), with the recurrent refrain, "for


tLirncil aw.is; his

iniserx Id indiN idiials, as

an oidy son, and the

is

w hen others complained about the severity of

has not
I

and baldness on even head:


nill malic it like the mourning
for

Ibis anger

Nathan, and Abiram rejected Moses, Moses was angr) but so


also was God: the three were swallowed up by the earth, and

the Da\ of the Lord:

"On that

).

hand

is

stretched out

can be seen

in the

9.8-2!

all this, his

still." It

Psalms

(ct.

anger

brings

(sec, lor

example. 88.16; 90.7-10; 102.9-12).

What makes God

angr\? Occasionally, there seems to be no

reason. After David buried Saul,

supplications for the land" (2

it

is

said that

"God heeded

Samuel 21.14); but

in 24.1, "again

the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel", although


the meantime.

More

nothing has happened

in

bcbaxiour, as with

Philistines in l:/ekicl 25.

llu'

olten
1

5-1

it

is

lor e\il

"Thus says the Lord God:

III

\\(,l

K'

Bc'ciiiisc' ii'ilh uiieiiditi;^ hostilities

the Philistines acted in vengeance,

and with malice

oj heart

took revenge in destruction; therefore thus says the Lord


C.od,

hand

will stretch out uiY

and

off the Chereihites,

against the Philistines, cut

destroy the

vengeance ou

will execute great

rest oj

the sea coast.

Then they shall know that I am the


when I lay my vengeance upon them"

iniuishiiients.

But

all

if

justice

the

Israel itself,

been called

invoked, anger

is

more

likely to fall

in

Lord,

is

on

because they have

to live in holiness

do God's work

with wrathjul

tlieiu

and

to

the world, and they

have been given the covenant with


conditions to help

The prophets (the

them to do
spokesmen

its

this.

of

God)

repeatedly threaten exactly this

JLidgement of

God

(see box,

Despite

this,

there

left).

bottom

even more

is

emphasis on the patience of God, and

God

on the willingness of

to find a

way through the obstinacy of human


beings.

It is

true that the anger of

may be immediate: on one

God

occasion,

between

"while the meat was

still

their teeth, before

was consumed,

it

the anger of the Lord

was kindled

against the people, and the Lord

struck the people witii a very great

(Numbers 1.33). But far


more often it is said that God is slow
to anger, as in Psalm 103, which
plague"

recognizes that "the Lord

and gracious, slow

abounding

to

is

mercilul

anger and

in steadfast love.

He

will

not always accuse, nor will he keep


his

anger for ever" (Psalm 103. 8i; see

also

Exodus 34.6; Isaiah

This means that

God

48.).
is

always open to prayer and intercessions on

who have done wrong, as when Abraham intercedes on


behalf of Sodom (Genesis 18.16-33), or Moses when he speaks for the
f 14.1 If); or Amos
unfaithful people (Exodus 32.1 1,3 if; Numbers

Fighting the Ainalekitefi


t'.WM,v

7.8-^6 Iclh

/x'lr

behalf of those

lor Israel

(Amos

7.2,S); or

Jeremiah

lor

Job for his friends (Job 42. 7f). There


.ihoLit

what

sin

is,

God, one of

I4.7ff; 18.2); or

throughout the Bible, realism

and rebellion deserve. But against

dillerent character ol

Judah (Jeremiah

laithliil

this

is

perseverance.

set

an entirely

Josliiui

fought the Aiihilckilcs

and "whenever

lie

held up

//n liuud. Isnicl prevailed.

and ivhenever he louvred


Iniiid,

Ainalelz prevaded".

his
hiil

Acmni and
llurheU uphisltands

as he greu' ii'ean;

111-

KT

It

l(.IO\s Ol

Ml

\lilx

\\1

|l

I"!

M^\l

The Love

the enduring, unsliakcuble

is

commitment

oF hcscd

God

of

thiit

underlies the great metaphors

of relationship

in Israels

experience of God:

ol

husband

and wife, ot shepherd and


flock, of mother and child:
"()

Loni

iin

my

nor are

heart

is

eyes haughty.

T:protects

do not

he has

myself in great matters, or

bus)'

m\

upon

its

child on

engages,

weaned child

God makes

soul within me.

Israel, trust in

But that

is

also from

and for ever

dow

offers to the Israelites that they can't refuse.


is

not the only or the whole picture.

God. As the

God's Love as Mother

child, so

will comfort you:

xou shall he comforted iu

Jerusalem" ihaiah 66.9;


cf.

44.

it

The covenant

in\ol\es obligation

found that obligation unfailing,

Israelites

God

as utterly trustworthy. This

trustworthiness they summarized in the word hesed.

and it sums up the quality of


makes a legal agreement possible. When
Solomon dedicated the Temple (see caption, right), his prayer began: "O
Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth
beneath, keeping covenant and hesed for your ser\ants w ho v\alk before
vou with all their heart, the covenant that you kept for \our senant my
father David as you declared to him" (I Kings 8.22ff; covenant and hesed
are combined also, e.g., in Deuteronomy 7.2, 9, 12; 2 Chronicles 6.14;
Xehemiah 1.5; 9.32; Daniel 9.4; and Psalm 50.5. 36; 89.29, 34).
Ihe word hesed carries with it a sense of the power and strength to
do things, since an impotent partner in a covenant is useless. So
hesed is frequently used to mean the same as strength, as in Psalm
.

'As a mother comforts her

concerned;

but for a long time an unwritten code); he

n,

so the\ began to characterize

(Psalm

is

as a

that also; he expects

implies obligation on the part of Israel but

the Lord from this ti}ne foruard

1.^1

where marriage

and protects

God

family and

and conclusive way. Like Mario Puzo's Godlather,

my

mother's breast

own

necessary, in war with ri\als; and deals with offenders

if

in a brutal

mother's breast, like a


its

the Bible a picture of

God-Father: he has his

fiercely, especially

his o\\ n territory

case, written

have calmed and quieted

soul like a

it

a literal

certain, \er\ specific, standards of behaviour (eventually, in this

in things too ivouderfiil for me.

But

TO CONSTRUCT from

EASY

IS

Mafia boss -

not proud,

Mother and Child

That word

complete

is

basically a legal term,

reliabilitv that

44 (see box, top

moves

far

right).

beyond the

For the people of


legal

Israel,

commitments

oming a quality that they experience


who longs to bring into being all thai
promises, not least the wcllbeing ol

ch and poor

When Moses

alike.

however, hesed

of a stronger partner,
in

God

ot

one

the cii\enanl
all

the people,

cut the tablets of

stone, the words establishing the covenant begin;

"TJie Lord, the Lord, a

God

merciful and

slow

and

aboiiiidiiio

'j^nic'ioits.

'iidfast

to auger,

jti

love [hesed] atid faithjitliiess.

ping steadfast love for the thousandth


generation, forgiving
transoression

and

inicjiiities

and

sin" ifAodtis 34. 6f)

uocs on to sav that the

liLic, tlic lc\l

w hen they have sinned, they

when

lorgiveness

"Do not

ol

arc

that

and

you will not he ashavied; do not be

shame of your youth, and

is

One

of Israel

the whole earth he

you

is

when

For a brief moment

compassion

moment

[hesed]

under uw

name;

God

of

(Ps. 144, vss.

she

is

in spirit,

lilie

cast off, says

If.:

and

liesed

belongs to you,

Lord

the

your God.

abandoned you, but with great

my face from

will have

~2:d'. Ps. 62.1

"Once God has spoken; twice ha\i


heard this: that power belongs to Cii

will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a

hid
/

his

siiinhies the peoyites

For the Lord has called

and grieved

like a wife forsaken

wife of a man's youth

is

your Redeemer, the

called.

is

who

the disgrace oj

your husband, the Lord oj hosts

the Holy

tny jin^ers ji>r battle:

refuge,

your widoivhood yon will remember no more. For your

Maker

ruck.

my hesed and my fortress,


my stronojiold and un' deliverer,
my shield, in whom take

discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace; for you


will forget the

will) lniiii-< i;/v liiiinh fur war.

they turn hack to God:

fear, for

un

"Blesscil he ihc lj,nl.

even

always he received with

will

Lindor

still

Yahweh, sLimmari/ed

which the IsraeHtes can know

the hasis on

in licsed, is

i;Liill\

commitment

iLKli;rincnt. Ikit the laithlLil

1\

II

you, but with everlasting love

compassion on you,

says the Lord,

Solomon's Prayer
Solimion prays that
peDple

away

sill

ij

the

arc carried

iiUo cajHirity. they uill

continue

your Redeemer"

and
to

pray tfiivard\

Jerusalem and will he


(Isaiah 54.4-8)

forgiven, "for you Inwc


sepin\ilcd ihein

Israel may once

ha\'e

hoped, occasionally leared, that Clod was a

gangland boss, dealing with their

came

much

know God

to

(see bo.x,

left).

as

Love

increasingly takes over as the basic

God, and Jeremiah

characteristic oF

even uses words of physical passion


to express that desire:

"Thus says the Lord: the

who

people

survived the sword

found grace

when

the Lord

from

in the wdderness;

Israel

sought for

would appear

far away.

you with an
therefore

rest,

to

him

have loved

ei'erlasting love;

have continued

my

faithfulness [hcsed] to you.

Again

I ivill

build you, and

you shall be built

rivals in a ruthless

way. But they

one who, while expecting much, also loves

virgin Israeli"

(Jeremiah .^1.2-4)

all

from

aiiioii^

the peoples of the earth.


to

he your heritage"
il

Kings

S.S.^l,

Ill

Kl

K.lOW

Ol

M'.i;

Ml \M

IIP \I\M

The Holiness
Sepcinitiaii

Wr

MliN

David

from All that

I-INALLY

.^0,000 chosen

ith

that the Philistines


to

keeping the jlock

of his father-in-lau', jclhro,

his flock

led

lie

beyond the

wildeniess.

mid

lloreh. the

iiioiititaiii

CUhL There the


Lord appecired

of

aiivel of the

him

in a

jluiue of fire out of a hush,

hehioked.audlhehushwas
hhizni. ret

it

was

cdiisumed" {Exodus

iiiii

i. //).

lie then took off his suudtds

heciiuse he

knew he

went

Ark of the Covenant

had captured. The Ark had been constructed


it

represented the presence of

was, therefore, the holiest of

all

possible things.

As

Ark slipped, and Uzzah put out his hand to


steady it. Immediately, "the anger of the Lord was kindled against him,
and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the Ark,
and he died there beside the Ark of God" (2 Samuel 6.61). lb touch
something holy

ciiiiie to

to

It

Philistines (p. 177), he

ihe oxen pulled the carl, the

Oji Holy Cirouinl

ihc priest uf Midiaii;

in Israel.

Unclean

is

to rescue the

contain the covenant (Exodus 25), and

^aliwch

"A/ost's irns

defeated the

men

God

of

irns

standina on holy "mii//i/

Holiness

is

in a casual

way

is

a quality that belongs to

extremely dangerous.

The word

languages

word means,

like

it,

that

God

for "holy"

is

alone,

and

qadosh. In

basically, to

be cut

it

can be

Hebrew and other


oft or separate.

God is utterly different from anything that might corrupt or contaminate:


God is. the source of all life and power, and anything that is brought close
to God that is Linclean or casual is burnt up by that holiness. The sons of
Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, "offered unholy fire before the Lord, such as
he had not commanded them; and fire came out from the presence of
consumed them, and they died before the Lord" (LeviticLis
Moses immediatcK commented: "This is what the Lord meant

the Lord and


10. in.

to invite death.

when he

saiil,

and hclorc
Ciod

all

God's

etc), but only holiness describes

essentially

That

is.

Not

oF Israel.

mc

arc near

he glorified"

will

l\l \N

>l

in\'sell holy,

(vs. 3).

nature - what Clod

own

why, characteristically,

is

show

will

IK

things in the Bible (wise, niiulitv mercilul, lo\ing,

eallt'd nian\

is

who

ihosc

I'liroLiuli

people

II

surprisingly, therefore,

it is

God

Even Moses was allowed

sur\i\e the experience.

back (E.xodus 33.17-23;

cf.

called the

is

impossible to see

loK (Jne

God and

glimpse only God's

to

Judges 13.19-23).

Because holiness belongs to the essential nature of God alone, things


and people become holy only when they are brought into relationship with
God. Thus the altar for sacrifice and all its utensils were holy (E.xodus
29.37, 30.28f.), as were the priests and their vestments (29.1; 28.4); the

bread of the Presence was holy bread (I Samuel 21.6); and places
became holy because of their association with God; when Moses
w as summoned to recognize God in the burning bush (caption,
left), God saitl to him, 'C'omc no closer! Remove the sandals from

"Tlius

.S(/r.s

tJie

a hride.

(Exodus
in

Sinai

on which you are standing

more

3.S). E\'en

extensively, the

around the mountain and keep

From

the holiness of

God

it

lis

me

ill

orld,

God

covenant

ol laith

God

ami

not

SOU'//. /sr(/t7

"Now

therefore,

if

the moLiniain
limits

all

in

Lord, the

live

oil-limits

von o/jcv

/;;r

because

x'oice

ii'i/s

who

ate of

and

me

"The Lord spoke


speak

to

Moses

mine,

them: ymi shall he

a priestly liingdom

Lord your

is

like the ollering of first fruits to Guti,

that attacks

above

19.5f; cf.26.19)

right).

them
It is

is

in

and any other nation

danger from the holiness of

the reason for being Jewish, to offer themselves to


ot holiness (see box,

condition to

live in.

wrongly approached
nuclear reactor:
society, but

disastrous.

il

it

il

is

God

(see box,

the fundamental vocation ol the people of Israel,

bottom

right).

Holiness
it

is

is

That

is

God

condition

a magnificently creative power, but

death-dealingly destructive.

wisely used,

in that

an extremely dangerous

its

pov\'er provides

It is

not unlike a

energy lor

whole

treated carelessly or casually, the consequences can be

So how can anyone

live

with the holiness of God? As with a

nuclear reactor, only by maintaining proper procedures and by has ing

teams of trained technicians who understand what they are doing.


priesthood, that

is

exaclK

\\

h.it

Israel

produced.

In the

snyiiu):

to all the eou;jrei\iition oj

and

holy,

Hod am

(Leviticus 19.2)

Israel

were

(Jeremiah 2.3)

same

a holy nation

(Deuterononn

it

eame upon

ol its

the peojile oj Israel

but you shall he for

to the

them, says the Lord

and keep my
is

/(f;/v

fruits oj his

first

with

Iv iu\ trensitrcil possession out of

the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth

all

rcniciiiher

you joUowed

held guilty: disaster

the peoples of the

order to

the u'dderiiess. in a hind

hanvst. All

trust ilwscd. p.hSC-i). At that

when the nioLintain was matle


holiness, \ahweh said to Moses:

lime

coveiiciiit, yott shull

ol

God, "Set

holy" (Exodus 19.231.

have been brought closest to

in a

<il

holy ground

follows ine\'itabl\ the holiness ol

the people of Israel, because they, out of

whole

command

set apart, following the

is

is

how

lore

"

\()ur feet, for the place

Lord:

the devot'idii ol your youth, your

say to

fir
holy

the

Ai; K

>i

Ml

\\i

n \INM

Temple, Holiness, and Priests


God

he Majesty and Otherness of

Slh century BCE), the prophet Isaiah saw

overwhelming and majestic

Ibrnple an

CSocI, "sitting
(iF

THAT King Uzziah DIBD (some time

vi'.AR

III:

llic

rohe

his

on

high and

a throne,

Filled

Amos

so also had

6.

God

ision ol

and the hem

lofty,

the temple" (Isaiah

ihe only prophet to see a vision of

).

le

was not

licsiLle

an

and Micaiah hen Imlah

(9.1)

in

ihe

in

altiir:

(I

Kings

11. 19), hut Isaiah alone left a record of his reaction.

He

Herod's Temple

When Herod

i37-4tici:) rebuilt the

Second Temple
strle,

in splendid

God

Cod

burns up

on

live coal

from approaching the


holiness of

me!

is

am

am

man

among

people of unclean

lost, for

live

The

that

all

God is
who come

holiness of

casually: those

way

of saying that

near must do so

community, and sometimes each

dtul

restiii'.J-phiCL'. rati oiiil

your

iiiiolit...

family,

hits dcsireil

his hahitatiini. this

is

phice forever: here


for

had

new

own

altar

when each

and

After

ritual.

capital in order to draw the

other antl with

Solomon

Yahweh as their God, the next logical step was


Temple as a focus for the common sei\ ice

and worship

for

it

ol

God. Other shrines and temples continued, hut


in

Jewish imagination, the

restiiti^-

centre, not just of their

nil! reside,

Priests

htire dcsireil it"

first

loyalty,

Temple housed the

presence. Psalm

(Ps;ilm 1.^2.8,1.^)

own

but of the entire world.

mediated between heaven and earth (see box, below

The

,-^2

).

God s

Ark, the s\'mbol ol

celebrates the occasion w hen the A\rk was

brought lo Jerusalem (see box,

left).

WJien the

first

Temple

(that

Pri ESTS
The on^aiiiLulioii of

Priests gradually

becmie

overseeing the sacrilicxs

Temple.

I'heir

purpose

priests us the technicians of holiness took centuries to ileeelop:

let hniciiins
ih,

\\iis

holiness. ,ind dial die sacril

Looking h,K

on

.F

were m. de
O IMISIIIT

people would approach Coc iinK

regulaleil.

lor

to build a

tins

Jerusalem and Mount Zion became,

niv

its

families of the kinship group into a closer alliance with each

to ytntr

i^a

the .\rk of

lor the Lord

chosen /Jon. he

he approaclied

which Ciod can be approached, hut these

David had made Jerusalem


Ijirit.

God cannot

in a state of ritual ptirity.

too must be carefully regulated. That was difficult to achieve

purified cotdd pass.

my

yet

holiness of

uncleanness to be purged.
a

Sacrifices are a formal wa\ in

who were prepared and

up. ()

lips;

The

unclean, and Isaiah had to be cleansed with a

is

his lips for his

unatfiircs.

mith mid courts

through nhich only those

"I'lise

of unclean lips [not in a

eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts' (Isaiah 6.5).

people were protected

I'hciv uvrc

"Woe

said,

condition of holiness], and

the Great

in

ih.il

weie

ihe

he cnelnliv

lieWildc rness

pn

l.r\itKUS w.is written to

ene.inipnient

ihe

condilionni

.1

crsunuk

holiness.

lot!.

ol

nie.inl lo

ccml.iel

\\'\[h

show how

ihe Israelites and

preuMil whal

wlial

.mliiipale ihe w,i\


,i(.liirM.'d lliroLii;h

is

in

is

lioK, antl

die whole
ils

sancluary

impure
ils

eoiniii" into

regulalions

whicii this was lo he

die lemplc.

1)1

Solomon) was

l!C

(p. 194),

tlcsl

roved h\ ihc Ixibylonians

probably not lost but destroyed.

When

"Creal

more

left

the Lord

is

ill

the

His holy

almost entirely empty Here, no one entered

bad know n Cod's presence

Wiklerness, aiul lbc\ had worshipped


Ix'lorc the

wci'e liiose

Temple

who

of

is

The

God

Solomon had been

in

Even when the Temple had been


id,

and they had

south, the
line

Temple

in

their

built,

not

all

citadels

K//;,t;.

Cod

(l^alm4H.I-.^)

the people

tribes did not recognize the

own Temple

in

house of

Samaria. But increasingly in the

E.xile,

made

make Jerusalem

The Temple, therefore, stated strongly


is

in

CK)d requires the best that can be offered. In reUini,

earth in this place (see

know

bo.x, right).

captured the Ark


I'he

).

iii/s

the people (not

that the glory ol CJod touches the

Ark

diniiii; the

long conflict with

the worship of

all

the

he

Philistines, the Philislnics

S
lliat

Up

one occasion,

stone and rich ornament that

not to be taken lighlK, antl

Isaiah in his \ision) can

On

the

centre of the pilgrimage festivals and of worship in general.

the holiness of Ciod

Brinoino

Jerusalem became the point of connection between

people and God, until King Josiah, just before the

deliberate attempt to abolish other shrines and

jiisl

its

to li\c in before.

worshipped there. The northern


Da\

Zion, in the jar north.

has slioivn himselj a sure dejeiice

protested strongly against the building of the

lerusalcm Temple, on the grounds that Ciod had never needed a

house

heautijul

elevation.

Within

Indeed, there

built.

our Cod.

the city of the great

many temples

yrci/l/i

the joy nil the earth.

Mount

the E.xodus and in the

in

cil^ oj

III

Cod's presence was by no means confined to the Temple.

mid

uiinuitiiiii.

except the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement.

pi'ople

I'K'IIM

he pniiscd

to

rebuilt (see eaption, lelt)

the Holy of Holies, the central shrine in the very heart ot the

lemple, was

WD

l\l NN

III i|

6lh ccnUiiy

in llic

the "lost Ark of the Covenant" was tar

\ll'l

in 2

'/ Suiiiiicl

cclchraliuns

when

it

recaptured are described

Samuel

the

6.

At

this time,

lemple had nut


keen hnill

]el

mi:

Ki i.ii,i>'\\ .>i

\KK' \ii \\i

\iN\i

and Psalms

Sacrifice
Praise

IIH

and

STORY OK

Protest

God

was

told repeatedly in the

femple, where the agricultural Festixals of

T:

field

and flock were linked to the great events of


rescue in the Exodus and of sustenance in the

Wilderness, to produce Pesach (Passover: for the


Passover

Huggadah see p.l81) and Sukkot (Booths or

all the Day of


damage done when the
terms of the covenant had been broken, or w hen
individuals had failed God. Day by day and year by year

Tahernacles). Other sacrifices, and above

Atonement, sought

to repair the

these occasions articulated in the midst of


the great works that

The

God

Israel's life

has done and continues to do.

regulations for sacrifice are found mainly in

Leviticus 1-7 (see also Leviticus 14.10-32: 22.17-30;


1":

Numbers

account of

18-19), but these passages give no

hat the sacrifices actually

vv

meant

to the

people involved. In contrast, the book of Psalms


contains m.mv livmns that in origin probabK belonged
to festivals or other cultic occasions, especially in the

Temple. In

no

te.xt

this

case the meaning

or rubric saying to

vv

is

clear,

but there

is

hat liturgical occasion thev

belong. Psalm 45, for example, seems to have belonged


to a king's

wedding. Psalm

10 to a coronation.

Fhe Psalms, however, contain


for

tc\ts,

they illustrate the meaning of

of the Biblical period. Indeed,


as sharplv as did the

Da) ofAtoneiiieiU
The
ill

rend

Lirae letters

on the

scroll

uindow
Vom Kippur. the Day of

this syinigofiiie

Atuiwnieiit. the most solemn

ami hoU day of the jeuish


year Ohsened once in the
Temple, it is now obsened in
synammiies and homes.

much more

than hymns

temple services. More than anv other collection

some

God
of

for the

ol

people

them challenge

prophets the worth of sacrifice

II

becomes a substitute for life lived as God desires it. Isaiah drew
bringing
a contrast between people who, God says, "trample my courts
futile offerings; "Your new moons and vour appointed festivals my soul
am weary of bearing them
hates; thev have become a burden to me,
sacrifice

",

(Isaiah

l.i2-n.

In contrast,

God demands,

"Wash
remove the
do

evil,

evil

yourselves;

make

yourselves clean;

of your doings from before

my

eyes; cease to

U'uni to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed,


dcfctid the orphiiti, plead for the

Isaiah i.lbf)

uidow"

Kll

N \(

ic

same

(.11

was drawn

nlr.ist

"How

with tens of thousands of

my

oiU Shall

rivers oj

my

give

He

has told you, () inortid,

How

is

good; and what does the Lord require of you

do

to

justice,

and

I'N \l

to love kindness,

ami

to

face from me^

How

long DNis;

Innv

(Hid

walk

huiuhlr with your (u)d?"

Lord?

me forever?

long will vou hide your

mr

ill

hut

long,

Will yon forget

transgression, the fruit of viy hody

for the sin of ni\ soul?

what

WD

b\ Micali:

"Will the Lord he pleased with thousLiiids of nniis,

first-horn for

l(

hearl

sr;nY;ii' /); iiiv

day long?

all

How

pain

hecir

'^oiil.

mr enemy

long shidl

he

exahed over me?"

iMicah

6.7f)

(Psalm L^.lf; sec also Psalms

Psalm

5-7 makes exactly

thai

commitment:

12, 22. .^5,

38-44. 55, 60,

4. 6,

74. 7"

6S),

79, 83. 88, 102, 109, 137. 140-431

"()

Lord, open

iiir lips,

and

mouth

ni\

uill

declare your praise.

For you have no delight in sacrifice;


if I

were

to

would

give a burnt-offering, you

not he pleased.

Ihe

sacrifice acceptable to

God

a brolien spirit;

is

broken and contrite heart,

God, you

will

not despise"

"Where can

go from your

Or where can

Many

of the Psalms express directly

profound struggle that went on

certainly,

and

as a nation.

but there

is

There

argument

praise

is

Ij I

in their lives

and adoration,

people

try to

why God seems, on so many occasions, to be absent


are a God who hides himself, Isaiah 45T5; see box,
There

is,

destruction of enemies, not least


riders

and

their horses in the

78, 135, 136). But there

is

in

you

also

5. 1;

see Psalms

on experience, that the hand of God is stretched out in


mercy and renewal over all the nations and o\er the wh(jlc ol
13, 148).
creation (see, for example. Psalms 8, 29, 67, 104,

and

settle at the farthest //ii;;/s

oj the

God may seem, on

and God may seem often

to

be absent. However,

metaphors of relationship are there


clearly,

occasion, hard to decipher,

in

all

the great

lead

and your

If

sa\,

to

be true: shepherd

).

Many

of the Psalms are a

welcoming feather bed of

huge reassurance and comfort. But, wrote Thomas More, we do


not get to heaven on a feather bed. Other Psalms are more like
sleeping rough on the streets. Even there, "your hand shall lead

me, and your

right

hand

shall hcjld

me

fast

(see box, right).

me

s/ii///

jasl.

'Surely the darluiC'^s

shall cover me,

and the

light

become

around me
night'.

even the darkness

(Psalm 23), mother (Psalm 131), shelter (Psalm 91), and guide
(Psalm 31

'.linU

}}ie.

right haiul

hold

the Psalms, and come,

from an experience lived and known

sei/,

even there your lunid

The ways of

wings of

morning

the

profound recognition, based

clearly

in Sheol [the

If I take the

the drowning of the Egyptian

Exodus (Exodus

there;

gravef, yon are there.

top right).

the Psalms, exultation over the defeat and

in

heaven.

to

make my bed

understand
("Truly,

ascend

you are
if I

also, as

spirits

from your

presence?

the people of

understand the meaning of Clod

Israel to

as individuals

and eloquently the

among

flee

to

the night

is t/s

for darkness

is

not dark

you:
bright as the day.

is (is

light to

(Psalm l.^y.7-12)

you"

MS

111-

K1;LI(.H1\S iM

\P,K All

\M

jTH

\|N\1

The

and Reneival

Suffering

THE

FAITH

EM'i'.l.ssi

indeed. But

Exile

139 (see box,

in I'salin

I)

in tlie 6tii

p.

193)

is

profound

century BCE, this faith was shaken. Babylon

had been gaining power, and that inevitably brought

it

into conflict

with Egypt, because both were seeking control of the Mediterranean

was caught between the two, and backed Egypt the loser
Two attempts In resist the Babylonians ended in failure, and
in S87/6 the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and its

coast, ludah

Temple, and look

was

This

lime, had

human

many

major

allies like

mean

tlial

the Egyptians, and not in God, would

and he had been proved

Yahweh had abandoned

be fII VI) ruble?


1 1

forever?

the

at

that to put their trust in

the Lord spitru forever,

"\V';7/

E.xile.

Jeremiah, a prophet

warned the people

lead to catastrophe,
this

of the inhabitants into

disaster.

Has

Are

right.

Did

Israel?

and never again

his steadfast love ceased

his

promises at an end

for all time?

Has
J

las

C^iod forgotten to

be gracious?

he in anger shut up his compassion?"


(Psalm 77.7-9)

)n

the

oltl

understanding

(p.

180;

and caption,

lelt),

ihe people had been defeated so too had their gods.

some

to

wonder, might

it

it

It

led

therefore be prudent to switch

allegiance and lo worship the gods of Babylon?


It

was

at this

lime of deep depression and despair that

the most cxtraortlinary affirmations of Israel's taith were

made. Chapters 40 SS of Isaiah deal with the Exile and,


powerful poetry, ihev rcminil the people that Yahweh
there

is.

is

the only

in

God

The so-called gods of the Babylonians are mocked as they are

carried past in a procession:

CDIKjIU'fVil llic Siiiiifrniiis,

mil

llifii

h\ ihc

r,<ihyliiiiiiiiis

uhcii ihcr ciiihjucn'd


\^SV|-M//S,

not

lliv

Hull j.rnccssdul

Ihipi'i'ii tnlli )iiliiich.

"Bel

bows

do\v}i,

Neho

stoops,

on beasts and cattle;


these things you carr\' are loaded as burdens on wear)'
animals. Ther stoop, they how down together; they cannot
stn'c the burden, bul themselves go into cujUixity
their idols are

(Isaiah 46.

If)

In conlicist, die

prophet reminds die exiles

and laidiFulness of God

in their history

die eonsistene)

ol

in

the promises to

the ancestors, during the Exodus, throughout the settlement


ol

the land, and in the covenant with the house of Da\id.

know

riiev

40.

2-3

).

God beyond

the power of

of the world

and the control of

all

question in the creatior

the nations (Isaiah

therefore assures the people that

The prophet

Giod will use their wretched condition in capti\ity to

demonstrate his

home

power as Redeemer, building


motorway in order bring the people

far greater

the equivalent of a

Jerusalem, with

to

all

the nations in grandstands on

each side of the road watching

this

demonstration of

God's control over the affairs of the world (Isaiah 40.


^'es,

Iff.),

the people are at present suffering, but they bear the

suffering so that others will receive healing and peace


(Isaiah 42,1-4; 49.1-6; 50.4-9; 52.13-53.1).

On

the basis of that confident knowledge ol what

God had done

in the past, the

prophet managed to interpret the

Hiunmiirapi

Babvlon) as being that of God's Shepherd and even as the Messiah

Another prophet

(Isaiah 44.28-45.7).

in

Diibrlduiiiii

God

E.xile

on

to their parents:

thai has parallels with the

"The parents have eaten sour grapes, and

relief sculpture depicts

hlajntiiurapi receivino the

Ezekiel insists that they, not their parents, are to blame, and in graphic

law from Shaitia^h.

language details the sins that have brought about the punishment;

increased

[Jeniscileiii]

when

days of her youth,

lier ivJioriiigs,

Umpire. am\

Liter Biblical laws. T/iis bas-

the children's teeth are set on edge" (Jeremiah 31.29; Ezekiel 18.1).

"She

hinl ihc

prvdticed a jamons law-code

would restore the Temple even more splendidly than before. Many of
those in the Exile were quoting a proverb in order to put the blame for
the

;792-;750;ifTl

fdiiiuliilioiis for llu- iiiiolily

the Exile, Ezekiel, also had

absolute faith that the Exile was a necessary punishment, but that

Empire

Baljyloiiian

career of Cyrus (who was leading a successful campaign against

the sun uud.

roueniberiiig the

she played the whore in the land of

Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose


meiuhers were like those of donkeys, and whose
emission was like that of stidlions.
the lewdness of your youth,

fondled your bosom and

has you longed for

when

ciux'ssed

the Egyptians

your young breasts"

"A
a

new heiiii I will iiive


new spirit I will put

you.

and

will

reuiaw

willtiii

jroiti yiiur

body the heart oj stone mid

you a heart of flesh.


(Ezekiel 23.19-21)

roii. tiitd

my

spirit

iiirc

will put

within you. mid luukc

you follow my stntntes mid he


Ezekiel

is

sure that

God

(see box, right). But

if

will

rescue the people and restore them

the Israelites are to keep the statutes so

in this way again, then


make sure that they understand
w hat is required of them. That is why the last chapters of
Ezekiel (40-48) are a vision of a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem in
which the priests will be prominent. So began a new stage in the

carefully that they will not be

God must

Jewish

surely find a

stor\' ol

God.

way

to

punished

careful to observe

my

ordinances.

Tlien you shall live in the land


that

gave

to voiir ancestors:

rou shall be

my

people,

will be your (lod"


(Ezekiel 36.26-8)

and

and

mi; KKLI<;iONS OF ABRMl

\\1

UPMSM

Zoroaster
Iranian Prophet

T T

% /\

'

/lit

V V

'^'^^

'"""^

WMRE

IN ExiLt. the

them encountered the

relifjion of

Zoniiisier. otten spelt Zarathustra.

in the way
some of

Jews met more

other gods than just Bel and Nebo. At least

the Iranian prophet

The time

at

which he

lived

is

may have been as early as the 12th or as late as the


6th centuPi net. .\ot many words of his o\\ n teaching have been
preserved: they sum\e in 17 hymns known as Gathas, and shows
connections with early Indian religion. His own distinctive
uncertain:

it

understanding of

known

Zoroastrian Deity
rbii

SI

lid//

mhnl

is

caned on

the

of a ruined temple at

Persepolis

in Iran

i,

the

fonner capital of Persia.


represents Ahiira

left).

Who,

and thus

knoifn as fraxashi. The solar


is

it is

the Father of Order, God.

there were

manv wars and

conflict an

example

in

raids,

and he saw

in

when

the merciless cruelty of

miniature of warfare on a cosmic scale. Zoroaster

belie\ed that there co-existed with .Ahura .Mazda a creator of evil and

also the vuardian spirit

disk in the centre

Zoroaster answers that

then, created evil and disorder? Zoroaster lived at a time

the oiiardian oj all


their trust in him,

with his conviction that he had seen

and had been given

in a vision,

in the world.

(see box,

It

Mazda as
who put

God began

a personal mission to make God


God he called Ahura Mazda, meaning either the Wise
Lord or the Lord Wisdom. God is the source of all order and goodness. In
one of his hymns, Zoroaster asks who created all that is good in the universe

God

Ahura

destruction

evil

Mazila as creator of Light.

whom

in Pabiasi as

he called Angra .Mainyu, the destructive

.Ahriman. Angra Mainyu

is

of pollution, miser\, suffering, and death

mould or

spirit,

known

the source of e\er)'thing that

- and

is

of anything like

rust that eats into things that are otherwise good.

There

is

constant conflict between Ahura .Mazda and Angra Mainyu, and both
created armies to assist them in this conflict.

Mazda
"Who

established the course of

the sun

and

stars?

Through

xihom does the moon intx and

wane?

Who

has upheld the earth

from belmv. ami the heavens

from jailing? Who sustains the


waters and plantsC Who
harnessed swift steeds to wind

and clouds^ What craftsman


created light and tLirkness? What
craftsman created both sleep and
actixity? Tliroiigh

whom

dawn, noon and

ei'e?

exist

are

as

Amesa

The

assistants of

Ahura

Spentas. Those ot Angra Mainyu are

the daevas (the devas of Indian religion, where they are on the
side of good)
rats, flies,

de\()ur'

and

and

who "prowl about seeking whom they may


5.8). The world is therefore a battleground

Peter

evil

- an example of w hat

"dualism". But since evil

is

only real

possession of material things, the


focus of this conflict.
against e\

il.

such as snakes,

also the khrafstras, creatures

lions

between good and

Humans

which means

in

is

know n

the world

when

as
it

human body becomes

gains

the

are at the forefront of the battle

that Zoroastrianism

is

a deeply moral

outcome ot human destiny


depends on the balance between good and e\il deeds. Humans
religion, not least

because the

final

are assisted in their conflict by the

Amesa

Spentas, v\ho mediate

between humans and God. earn ing prayers and worship

in

and blessings and strength in the other.


Ihe religion of the Zoroastrians became, through much
change, struggle, and persecution, the religion ot the Parsis

direction
[Yasna 44..^-6)

known

one

/( HvM

(those liom IVrsia).

heyond

its o\\

king Cyrus
they

may

It

may

n tradition.

also have

new form

between heaven and

Amesa

(p.

195),

ideas, as of Satan

Spentas, the good

to the angels

earth,

welcomed the Persian

the Jews in Exile

welcomed some of these Persian

(see caption, right) or of the

perhaps gave a

AN

also have inilueneed the story ol CJod far

When

successful campaigns against the Babylonians

in his

>

spirits,

who

and archangels who mediate

and who bring the help of Cod

to

humans

in

their struggles.

Above

all,

the moral character of Cod, so strongly emphasized in both

Satan

the Torah and the Prophets, was powerfully reinforced. God's moral
consistency, according to Zoroaster,
this

is

absolute and unvarying. In

Siiliiii is siiiillcii

moral consistency led to the combining of goodness with wisdom

more established values


and expectations of human beings and turns the world upside down.
(p.

204), and

Cod

therefore often reverses the

Zoroastrians understand

Songs
the

in

Cod

the Bible, like the

Song of

as

One who

enters the contest against

Song of Hannah

Luke 1.46-55) express

IVlary in

at the birth of

Samuel

evil.

(or

a similar understanding:

Archangel Michael

Lost, derived

and

are fat with spoil.

The Lord m^akes poor and makes


he brings low, he also

He
he

raises
lifts

to

and

up

exalts.

the poor from the dust;

the needy from the ash heap,

make them

sit

with princes

inherit a seat of honour.

The Lord! His

rich;

adversaries shall be shattered;

from Jude

Satan was originally one


tests

l]evelatinns 12.7-9.

who

humans, only becoming

an opponent of God and


after the Exile,

ending up as the Devil. This

development may {though

Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,

who were hungry

ihi'

in a

scene from Milton's Paradise

humans

bows of the mighty are broken,


but the feeble gird on the strength.

"IJie

but those

hy

Israel,

some dispute

this)

be a

consequence of jews meeting


.

in the Exile the

dualism of

the Zoroastrians.

1^

Ill

Kl

l(.IO\s iM

\liK

Ml

\\1

IIP \]^M

After the Exile


Priests

The Renewal

Covenant

oj the

After the Exile, the role of


priests as ititerpreters

religious

of

law became

iucreasiugh important.
Scribes were used to record
their decisions. .An early

instance oj this can

he found in

Zecbariah 7.2

PSALM
Zion,

125.1 s.ws

who

"Those

trust

in

the Lord

which cannot be shaken but endures

centurv' BCE. hovve\er, Zion

Bab\ Ionian armies.

continued

in a

How

Mount

are like

forever". In the 6th

was shaken and Jerusalem

could the worship and ser\ice

to the

fell

God

ol

be

strange land, as the Psalmist asked, "h\ the rivers of

Bab\lon" (Psalm 137)? In the prayer offered long before,

at

the

dedication of the Temple, provision had been included for exactly


this

circumstance

(1

Kings

an issue what that "faith


It

8.

46-51, pp.186, 187):

it

now became

could be.

in capti\ity"

helped greatlv that people had usualK worshipped

w herexer they happened


centralize

all

worship

in

Vahweh

did not

femple. During the


tal,

God

great dri\e by Josiah to

Jerusalem had taken place

than 40 years before the


faith in

The

to li\e.

E.xile,

depend on attendance

E.xile,

less

so that for most people


at the

family obserxances

became

and emphasis was put on unmistakeable marks

allegiance such as circumcision, celebration of the


'assoxer,

and the keeping of the Sabbath (Ezekiel


cf. Exodus 31. 13, 17). Adhering to

20.12, 20;
laxx s

of diet and purity offered another xxay of

faithful obserx'ance.

n 539UCE, Cyrus, king of Persia, finally

entered Babylon and deposed the


tlie

Temple of the

Jexxs should be rebuilt

stolen items returned.


policy of

bom he

tr\

ing to xvin the goodxx

ruled,

ruler. In

following year, he decreed that the

and as

ill

It

and

its

xvas part of his

of the people oxer

a result at least

some

Jexvs returned

rusalem. This xxas not quite the triumphant procession


that the prophet

had envisaged

altcmpts to restore
disaster

(p. 195).

Israel's faith as

- immediatelx'

it

There were some

had been before the

after the Return, the prophets

Haggai

and Zecbariah beliexed that the descendant of Dax id should


once again be made king and welcomed as God's messiah
(

"anointed one"). But exen they recognized that the high

would now have to be sitting on the same throne


him (Zecbariah 5.1 1-14), and before long the hopes
were abandoned that had, in the past, been centred on their
kings. The coming of the true Messiah xxas projected into the
priest

leside

future, at a time

when God

xvould send him. Instead of the king

as Ciod's messiah. the high priest (also a messiah.

because he too

Mil

vvLis

an

when

was

the

way

tlie

to avoid

lixiie

was

ital t|Liestii)n

same magnitude

and the

right,

One

rehiiih.

eataslrophe of

were

became albiniporUml,

anoiiilccl limine)

it

eoiikl he

had been

punishment

t(i

aliing

know

h(iw

a\()ii.lecl.

another
the prophets

desen'ed punishment

the future would be to

in

'

the Icniplc

illi

II

then

(p. \'->^).

li\e their li\es in

an exemplary Fashion.

At once

became

it

\ital that

priests

became

know

ever}'one should

conditions of the Covenant contained in Ibrah

apply the

iiiul

(p. 200).

The Temple

decisive in interpreting and applying God's

changing circumstances of

life

so

much

so that prophets,

word

to

who

liad

spokesmen of God, became suspect and soon


i-lisappeared from mainstream religion: prophets cannot be controlled,
because they claim direct inspiration from God; they might again, as
they had in the past, challenge the Temple and its cult (p. 190) with the
been

lor so long the

dramatic words, "Thus says the Lord."

Holy

who had

Spirit

punishment of the

as part of the

came

It

be believed that the

to

inspired the prophets had been withdrawn by (lod

Important though

Exile.

the lemple priests

became

as interpreters of

I'orah,

Jews lived in or near Jerusalem. The Exile had proved that


God could be worshipped without the Temple, even in Babylon, and
not

all

many people chose to remain in Babylon when the return to Jerusalem


became possible. Eventually, large communities of Jews were to be found
in virtually every Mediterranean land, in what is known as the Diaspora,
the Greek word for dispersion. Diaspora Jews were tied to Jerusalem by
the pilgrimage feasts, by annual tribute to the Temple, and by the

passionate loyalty expressed so often in the Psalms.

Even

so,

was uncertain how such a wide scattering of people could

it

be kept within the agreed boundary of the covenant. Ezra and Nehemiah,

two leaders

after the Exile,

had drawn the people

renewed and solemn commitment


had asked

to Torah

the people, not Just a few

all

oiler themselves in holiness (p. 189).


to live in this

condition?

It

who

How

in

Jerusalem into a

(Nehemiah

8.1-6). But

God

lived in or near Jerusalem, to

could

was the pressure of

all

the people be helped

this issue that accelerated

the creation of Scripture, and led to development of the synagogue.

The Beginnings of Scripture


Gathariug idocthcr a

n-riiieii

hislon oj the people of Israel and their relationship with (iml

hecciiiie oj

prime importance during the uncertain period oj Exile.


During the

meant

to

Exile, a

new sense developed

belong to the people of

Israel

ol

what

move

from an identity fixed purely by geographical


location

and national

one based on

God made known ihrouuh


and cultural tradition. One major

commitment
religious

institutions to

to

a lonj;

it

consequence of the

Exile

was the determination of

the people to gather the records of that tradition


into

what eventually became Scripture,

history as God's story played a

the hrsl time


(if

"Jiidaisni"

it

begins to

become

and of a "people

in

prominent

ol'

which
part.

(ir

possible to think

the book".

II

III

Kl

K.IHW

I'i

\|-',K

Ml \M

|l

n \I^M

Scripture
The Word of God

in the

Words

of

God

100 YEARS AKTKR the Exile ended, the leaders, Ezra and
ABOUT
Nehemiah, made an attempt to renew the commitment of the
L

Ihe word "torah " means


basically

guidance or

instruction, but

it

came

to

refer particularly to the first

five books of the Bible, the


hoolis associated

(the Torah),

with Moses

and

to the

guidance and law that those


boolis

contain (Torah). Thus


is

Torah,

and eventually

whole

of

what eventually

to

to

Yahweh.

On

one all-important occasion,

He

and unchanging word of God, but to it were added, over the course of
many centuries, the words of the prophets (Nehi'int) and other writings
{Kethiihim), known collectively as qabbalah ("tradition"), and these three
divisions

about the ird centur)'

Ct) came

Jerusalem

be accepted

as Scripture.

make up

Scripture.

From

the

and Kethubim, the Jewish Bible

The gathering

is

of Torah, Nebi'im,

initial letters

the

term was extended to cover

{in

in

opened the book in their sight and blessed the Lord. All the people
answered, "Amen, Amen" (Nehemiah 8.6). Then the book was read
and interpreted to all those present.
This formal commitment to Torah (see caption, left) marked a new
departure in accepting God as guide to life. The Torah became the living
word ofGod spoken to the people. The Torah was regarded as the eternal

contained in the

Torah

the

people

Ezra brought the book of the law before the assembled people.

Torah

often

known

as

Tanakh.

together of the writings that eventually were accepted

was dramatically important for the Jewish story of God. It


meant that God had not only spoken to Moses and inspired the prophets
and other writers long ago, but also continues to speak through the words
as Scripture

of Tanakh in the present.

As the synagogue developed


In

the Diaspora together

(p.

to gather the

Jews

199), so Scripture

was read aloud every week. Scripture was


always read in Hebrew, the sacred language

through which
since, as time

God had

went

by,

revealed the word, but

fewer people knew or

understood Hebrew, an interpreter would then


give a paraphrase of the text in the language of

the people present.


"interpretations")

These Targums

because the actual word of

God had

been read. Thus the Targums

in the

conveyed not only the word of


the

{targtimim,

were often extremely

God

synagogue
but also

meaning of that word to make sure


its way into understanding and

worked

\=:

free,

already

that

it

life.

The study and interpretation of Torah


became the most precious and valued of all
occupations. The rabbis (teachers) argued, in
the 2nd century CL, whether it was more
important

in

or to practise

the eyes of
il.

God

Rabbi Akiba

to study

won

the

Torah

N(

aruumcnt when he
study

I'orah,

said that

it

more important

is

ini'

to

to praeliee. f^rom

beeause study leads

study developed Halakah and Haggadah (see

this

whieh showed how the laws are to be


and what they mean.
The results of this search for the meaning and

box, below),

applied

in life,

application of the original written laws {Torah she hi


ketabh, "Torah

which

gathered,

into the

first

is

were eventually

written")

Mishnah, and then into the

Talmuds, of which the Babylonian Talmud has

continuing authority.
orally transmitted

It

came

to

be believed that

law (Torah she be

'al

thi

peh, "Torah

according to the mouth") was also revealed by

God

Moses on Mount Sinai, to be transmitted not in


writing but by word of mouth, to be given public
expression later as circumstances demanded it.
The process of interpretation continues to the
present day, with some rabbis becoming
consummate authorities on such questions as
to

whether

it is

possible to travel in a

Sabbath (see box, below)


used

if

lift

someone

on the

else presses

be said of one of these

the button.

It

authorities.

Rabbi Mosheh Feinstein (1895-1986),

that a

to

newly ordained rabbi needed only two things:

his ordination certificate

and Rabbi Mosheh's

telephone number.

The

whole

laws, however, are not the

more than

law:

it

story.

Ihe Torah contains

rhc lahinul

much

I'bc iabiiiul conUiitn in ihe

contains stories and wisdom, encouragement and

centre of each page the

guidance known as Haggadah ("narration", see box, below). This too was
developed

oral,

order to bring

found

also to be

and

in

God

is

in the

words,

is

Talmud. Through the two Torahs

a constant

In the best of times

God

closer to the lives of the people,

and

and
in

living reality in

Jewish

and

Mishnah and

is

the

Icommentar)'} on

(Toroth), written

Gemara
it,

and

life.

after

the worst of times, God, through these

Tanakh

jeu'ish

an enduring and inviting presence.

life.

{Scripture}, in

Around

it

are

printed later vonnnenlaries.

Halakah and Haggadah


Traditions helping people to

walk and

Halakah comes from the verb halak, meaning "he


walked". Halakah shows

Moses

is

to

how

the law revealed to

be applied, and how, therefore, people

are to walk through

life

with

God

as their guide,

talk as the

Torah decrees.

are often extremely brief or general,

have continually been raised about


should be applied to

new

or

circumstances. For example,

it is

on the Sabbath, but what counts

comes from

many answers and

and

it

word meaning

refers to the stories

narrative, or telling,

and other material

exemplify the meaning of Torah.

The

that

original laws

(o

and questions

how

they

changed

keeping the terms of the covenant. Haggadah


a

is

the fundamental authority,

forbidden to work
as

work? As the

applications developed,

be said that the laws on the Sabbath are

mountain hanging from

a hair.

it

came

like a

N'l

III

Kl

n .lii\s HI

\|-',

K \ll \\1

|l

\IN\1

Change and
How New

Understandings of

WRITINGS THAT CAMK

THEcomposed

Elijiih

Llijdh
friini

iiiarlis

ihf Iwiisition

pnipltcts

trance states

who go into
and who

provide guidance for kings


iind others,

become

and

those

who

spoliesinen jor

\ah\veh even

when

it

leads

thcni into conflict with kings


tuul others. In this scene

Kings 17.1-7' Llijah trusts


(^)i/

and

is

fed h\ nircns.

Stability

to

God Developed

make up Tanakh

(Scripture) \\ere

Once the\ were put


Canon (agreed list) of the books making up Scripture, there
tendency to make all parts of Scripture equally \'alid as the word of
over a period of a least 1,000 years.

into a

was

God, without much reference to the process of history in those thousand


years. It was belie\'ed that Torah came directly from God through Moses,
and that the prophets and the w ritings came from the

human

but with the co-operation of

agents; but

This means that in the Jewish quest for Ciod


part

can interpret any other

in

all

initiative of

God

parts ha\e authority.

the words

dI

(iod. an\

part.

This can obscure the tact that the writings reveal an extraordinar\
process of change, correction, and growth in the understanding of God.
riiis was dramatically clear in the way in which
Yahweh invaded and took over the role and
Junctions of El, becoming in the end the One
who is El (pp.178, 183). It was shown also in

the realization, reluctant on the part of some,

God

that

on

not a gangster

is

Israel's side

Vihweli

\ahweh

is

is

will

always fight
(p. 186).

two changes belong together

In a way, those
II

who

and defeat enemies

indeed the

obviously the

One who is God, then


God of all nations (since

the so-called gods of those nations arc not gods


at all)

and not

just of Israel.

can deploy nations

That

like Assyria

punish the Covenant people. In


century

liCK),

God does

is

whv'

God

and Babylonia

Amos

to

(Sth

indeed punish other

nations for their transgressions, but does exactly


the

same

to Israel

and |udah.

liven lievond that

God
but

is
is

was the

realization that

not simply the judge of

all

the nations

The prophet Nahum

their saviour as well.

(7th centurv' HCE) had bre.itlied out vengeance


against Assyria, the eneinv

tliat

destroyed the

northern kingdom and tiireatened Judah


sdLilli

in

the

Alter the Exile, the book of Jonah was

written to

show how God condemns thoughts of

destructive vengeance and rescues Nineveh, the


\ssvrl.in capital
final

words

ol

imajjinalion ol

"anil also

many animals" (the


new

the book that extended the

God even

kirther).

II

Ilis

LonsUinl li-anslormation

the \\a\

ol

"If

h)und thronuhoLit

is

the wliole of Scripture. Prophets, for example, were lound

elsewhere

in

Near

the Ancient

t|uesli()ns

and give

That

oracles.

is

how the prophets

ol

ahout

his prediction

came

e\ent

a lulLire

prophets or those u-hn divine


aitidiiti

inul priimise ran

mucus

and

Israel

Let

titer v'V.

word

that the

'How can

words of diose prophets.

true.

spealis in the

not

ta}<

ive recognize the

Lord has not spoJien?'

name of the Lord

place or prove true,

to

a prophet

know whether

word

that the

Jar

tesiiut^ roii.

is

rou iinleed low

the Lord r(nir (iod with all roiir

heart

hut the tiling does


u

is

it

Ij

ay

jollinc iitlicr

lis

the Lord your Ciod

"You imir say to yourself,

yon

must not heal the

ii"ds'. roil

heuan, and the test of a true prophet was simpK whether his

answer or

Mill

portents, atul tliev talzc place.

order to answer

in

by dreams appear

East, usually attached to cultic

centres where they went into trances

WD

,1

which succcssi\c

in

Cod

gcnc-ralions understood the nature of

\\(

Lord

and

soul"

UJcutcronoiiiv

^.l-.-!l

"

has not spoken


(Deuteronom\

18.

21)

in that case, no one knows who the


Bill
too late to matter! So what became decisix e was
e\ cnt - when

true prophet

until after the

is

it is

w hether
right).

Israel

emerged

words were true

a prophet's

By

ahoxe

this

seemingly small

to

independent agents of God,

as

Yahweh

(see box,

the prophets ot

shift,

utterly

different from the prophets they originally resembled.

what Israel found in


happened over and over again, lor
time were either regarded as gods, as

This brilliant transformation of

the surrounding nations

example, kings
in

at that

God on

Egypt, or as representatives of

Mesopotamia. But the king


represent

God was

God on
already

ritual

became the

occasions,

known

In Israel, therefore, the

in Israel

let

alone be God, because

be holy and

to

earth, as in

could not possibly

far

removed from the

link through

whom

prayers and blessings flow.

earth.

God and

king represented the people before

From

this

the idea of the future Messiah developed (see caption, right).

shown how much Israel shared in


how like them in many ways it was.
The question then becomes obvious; why was Israel not more like them?
What w<is that made Israel take up the opportunities of belief and
Historians and archaeologists have

common

with

its

neighbours, and

it

practice

in

something
I

the world around

them and constanlly make

he answer

is

simple.

It

was God -

or

,il

Ihey treasured their tradition because

it

God more

profoundly, even

ol

it

to

it

understand

God

in the

midst

when
ot

as the source oi

was what

God

(iivr

and

ndiiiHcd

their idctis

and

nliuils

he tnok

iiivulving liings.

lb be

(.',ud.

ur even to represent God,

as well.

came

later to

those earlier parts showed


It

jcnisulciii p'oiii llie Jchiisiles.

they,

as they lived with

and disaster

as they

or their heroes (e.g., David) in a bad light.

remained consistent even

them

them

taught them truth. Therefore

they did not destroy or erase earlier parts of

them

least,

know

to

just in easy times, but in times of suffering

understand

ol

utterly different?

through many generations, had come

God, not

out

l),iuJ

When Davulaiinnrcd

was God who

impnssilyle

ol truth.

but the king

\ihc anointed one. or

Messiah) could be the link


Ijctiveen the

and from

people and God,

this

idea of

change. This consistency led

wisdom and guarantee

was

adaptation, the

tlie

Messiah

eventually developed.

III

Ki

i(,io\\ oi

\r, K \ii \\i

|i

n \isM

Wisdom
God's Partner in Creation

Tm:

Bible BMPIIASIZBS

creation stories.

God

as Creator, in at least four different

begins (Genesis 1.1) with the words bereshith

It

bara Elohim, "in the beginning

which case
what? The

it

ought to mean
does not

te.xt

God

created", hut those

sense that rcshith looks

slightly odd, in the

say.

"in the

like a

Hebrew

words are

genitive, in

beginning of. In the beginning of

and therefore

early Jewish interpreters of the

mean something

else and translated them, "by


means of wisdom God created". That interpretation seems far from the
original text, but the way they reached it points to a spectacular advance
in the Biblical understanding of God: the association of wisdom with God.

Bible took those words to

ability to

The Jews were deeply


way in

king

(I

The Hakamim

Kings 3.12, 28).

are the wise, those

competence needed

who

trained and possess the

which the natural order

they are often the teachers of others. Qoheleth, the speaker

numy

purposes and
reliable,

is

different

stable

it

of Ecclesiastes,
is

may

occur They recognized

that

this reliability

is

hen, "between", so

God -

and understanding.

One

who. in their language,

Wisdom, however, is more than trained


for wisdom is binah, from the preposition
that it means something like discrimination, insight,

(Ecclesiastes 12. 9f.).

competence. Another word

not a matter

the

the book

sought to find accurate words, and he wrote words of truth plainly"

chance but of purpose on

the part of

in

defined as wise, and therefore "he taught the people

knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs; he

even though great

upheavals and disasters

is

for the task in

are well

hand, and

impressed by the

sen'es so

oj

main word for wisdom, hokmah, has to do with human skill and the
do things, from making curtains (Exodus 36.8) to ruling as a

The Natural Order

It is

often used in association with hoknuih. as in

my

Proverbs 7.4: "Say to wisdom, 'You are

is

Rock. Fortress, and Strength.

intimate friend."

Wisdom was

sister',

and

call insight

also personified as the ideal wife,

your

and the

mother who nurtures her children and brings them to maturity (see box,
Wisdom allowed her to be beside God as the

below). Personifying

Wisdom
The
It

may seem

member
words

persoiiijiciiliiiii

strange to speak

of the lamily,

lor

wisdom

liul

ol

of

Wisdom

wisdom

as a close

as both of the Hebi-evv

(binah and liokmah) are

leminine, this allowed the Jews to personify

Wisdom and

portray her as a

woman,

often a

mother, earing tor the young and setting them on


the right path. The book of Proverbs begins with
the praise of

purpose, and

Wisdom, displaying her indispensable


it

sees

lier

calling

hack the

as

Mother

in the Kihlc tillinved her In assist

loolisli

God

in creation.

from their sell-destructive ways:

"Wisdom
raises

cries out in the street; in the

her voice.

My

square she

child, if you accept

my words

up my commandments u'ithin you, if


you indeed cr)' out for insight, and raise your voice
for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and
search for it as for hidden treasures - then you will
and

treasure

understand the fear of the Lord and find the


kuowledgc of God" (Proverbs 1.20, 2.1-5)

lU'Lfssun inslrumciU
lh.it

ul Licatioii. Il is hci'L-

the connection with Genesis

was

1.1

made, because Proverbs 8.22-31 describes


the part played by Wisdom in creation, and

me

bcuins: "I'he Lord possessed

the

it

rcshilli

(bciiinningl of his ways, the first of his acts of

long auo.

When Cod made

was beside him,


was

things, "then

all

worker; and

like a skilled

him

daily a delight, rejoicing before

always, rejoicing in his inhabited wiirki and

delighting in the

human

race"

(\'ss..t()1.). /u's/fidi

was taken as a name for Wisdom, and so the


\erse of Genesis was translated as "by means

Wisdom God created".


Wisdom (Greek, Sofia)

thus

Wisdom even

of

became an

independent figure assisting God.


24.2,

first

In Ecciesiasticus

enters the council of God,

W^

much

^ahweh entered the council of El long before


(p. 78, 18.3), and then becomes embedded in creation,

as

and particularly among the descendants of Jacob.


Wisdom is therefore equated with Torah (24.23).
of

Wisdom, Solomon

"Within her

is

prays for

Book

In the

Wisdom, and Wisdom

is

described:

a spirit intelligent, holy, unique, manifold,

subtle, mobile, incisive, unsullied, lucid, invulnerable,

From Genes

benevolent, shrenvd, irresistible, beneficient, friendly to

human

For wisdom

beings....

is

quicker

to

move than any

and permeates all


power of God, pure emanation
of the glory of the Almighty; so nothing impure can find its
motion; she

things.

She

is

is

so pure, she peri'ades

a breath of the

image of

his

Genesis

mapped -

it

is

not one thing

today and another tomorrow.


'riiii

way into her For she is a reflection of the eternal light,


an untarnished mirror of God's actiw power, and the

to

The mapping of the human


genome depends on
consistency in what is being

consistency goes hack to

the idea of Creation,

means

goodness"

that there

something rather
nothing. "Nothing"

.22-6)

(Wisdc.

he association of

Wisdom

with CJrcek rationality

developed as the\ did


created

in

wisdom,

is

it

in

with

CiocI hati

the reason

enormoLis consequences. Along

why science

the West. The conviction

th.it all

things arc in

is

ihnii
is

nut

what God makes things out


of; it is

which

thus the fews began

.ind civilization
ih.il

.ill

the absence of

anything and everything.

consequence naturally good and

"Why

is

there something

rather than nothing?"

not malicioLis. carrietl into the heart of the Western world the belief that
the universe

is

consistent. Logic

start: kettles boil, pigs

do not

signifying nothing. Creation

chance of understanding.

fly.

reliability

Life

is

were

built into

to toil with

me

.ind

teach

from the

not a tale told by an idiot

from the holy heavens, send her forth from your throne of glory

and

it

work of wonder which humans have a


wonder Solomon prays: "Despatch Wisdom

is

No

and

me what

is

pleasing to you"

to help

(Wisdom

to

realize that the question,

things were

me

9.10).

is

fundamental (p.366j.

l^

<

>

>

m;

Ml

\\1

nil

\iN\l

Creation
The Contrast With Greek Myths
GoD

THE BEGINNINC;

CREATED:

five

words (three

express with brief convietion the belief that

I\whole

God

created order antl \el remains distinct from

cosmos

the

or Lini\crsc

One who

who

Hves within

brings into being this and

remains whether they continue to

it,

all

Hebrew)

in

that

brings into being the


it:

God

but

not a

is

|iiirt

rather, the

is,

other universes, and

exist or not.

seems perhaps obvious, but that belief is in fact ver\'


from the far more common understandings of

It

different

creation

which envisage the gods and goddesses

emerging from

^ir^.^>-'-

- from

chaos, for example,


tree.

According

to

he Theoguur (Birth of the Gods) of Hesiod (8th century

HCE

'

'^If

a prior state

from an egg, or from a primordial

(ir

in

Greece) and other Greek myths,

in the

beginning

which emerged Ge or Gaia, "widebosdmed earth", a foundation for Olympus, the abode of the goddesses
and gods. Gaia ga\e birth to Ouranos (the Heavens), who produced
was

a chaotic void out of

From
among whom were Oceanos,

Night, and w ho, being greater than Gaia, completely covered her.
that union

H'ds the

Romans

fertilitr.

si\iular

Venas.

goddess of desire and

Her

came Imm

cull proljahly

the cull of other

goddesses oj the Near

East, especially Astarte

or Ishtar Other important

gods and goddesses uvre


lleslia Kjf the hearth

i)i()n]sus

the vine

i.

god

representing the nild side oj


hiniuni nalnre

',

lades {of

the u\idenvinid)
I'liscidiiu

the

first

gods, the Titans,

the one-eyed Cvclopes, and the fearsome Hyperion, Rhea, and Kronos.

Aphrodite
\plimdilc' lapliros. "jciani"'.

called hy the

came

and

i(f the sea).

Gaia enlisted Kronos and the other Titans

to destroy

Ouranos, and,

with a sickle pro\ ided bv her, Kronos castrated Ouranos.

blood that

fell

The drops

on Gaia became the \engeful Furies, but the

of

genitals,

foam from which emerged the most


(or follower) was Eros,
Desire. Night meanwhile brought forth Death, Sleep, Dreams, and other
works of darkness, such as Deceit, Old Age, and Strife.
falling into the sea,

beautiful of

all

produced

a thick

women. Aphrodite, v\hose son

Kronos then raped

his sister

family of goddesses and gods

Rhea, and from that union began the

who would

later live

on Mount Olympus

who, by overcoming Kronos,


became the ruler of Olvmpus. Zeus married his sister, Hera, and from
them came Hephaistos (controller of iron) and Ares (of war). ,\mong
(the Olympians), including the great Zeus,

Zeus' offspring

b\'

other unions were /\thena (w ho according to

some

armed from the head of Zeus), Hermes (the messenger ot


the gods), and Apollo, god of light, music, and youth.
The stories continue to the creation of humans, with gods and
goddesses distinct from humans but invoked in their affairs. Myths of
this kind are an extremely powerful w,i\ in which people can think about
sprang

fully

the universe and about their

power of myth

is

that

it

imagination that people have


in stories.

Msths

own

stains .uid significance within

offers a public
in

and simple language

common,

not least because

it.

he

ol
it

can be

are not true (nothing h.ippened exaclK like thai),

lokl

and

the Iriilh. Ilic powt-r ol Circek myth is


means through which artists, dramatists,
ami musicians ha\c explored ihe meaning of Clod and nature until very
reei'ntK, ()nl\ in the 2()lh eenUir\ diil llu' word "m\lh" heeome ill-used
and eorriipled ImainK h\ polilieians and joiirnalistsi lo mean the same as
"false", and in that eorriiption, humans ha\t' tlone lo their imagination
iIktcIoic

so

i;r(.'al

,irc .ihic Id L(in\(.A

lliLN

lliat

it

has remained ihc

what kronos did

e\aetl\

Hut lor

all

lo Oiiranos.

the power

m\lh

ol

in

human

imaginalion, enahling

it

to

explore \M)rlds ihal remain otherwise inaeeessihle, the Jewish

untlerslanding oF Clod and creation

iheogoHN, no birth

ot

does not emerge Irom

Clo(.l

is

entirely dillerent.

There

is

no

Clod or the gods.


a pre-

existing uni\erse or chaos, but

the

is

source and origin of everything that

There are several different

exists.

creation stories in the Bible, and from

these

it

Jews knew

clear that the

is

ol

made use of
made use of them to

other creation myths and

them.

Ikit thc\

one of

tell

an entirely different

tlu'

absolute difference between

story,

God

been created. Thus in


the Psalms (74.12-17, 89.9-13) and
Job (ch.41 use is made of the myth of
ami

all

that has

creation emerging out ol chaos, but