Knowledge and Devotion- Gyaana and Bhakti are perhaps the two primary pathways travelled by the saadhaka or spiritual seeker. While in the past Bhakti alone sufficed, we are increasingly being confronted with an inquiring mind and a thirst for knowledge. Blind faith is no longer adequate and devotees, unable to comprehend the highly symbolic style of the Puraanas, are now probing beneath the surface to discover the more fundamental meanings. They are now seeking answers to their questions about the meaning and symbolism of the various aspects of Hinduism, about the apparent multiplicity of Gods and Goddesses, the elaborate rituals of worship and the many do's and don'ts.
In this book, we have attempted to satisfy this need by providing at least basic knowledge of the fundamental principles and tenets of Hinduism as well as a guide to daily worship. The approach has been to take each major deity separately, to explain the relative role of the particular deity and to deal with the symbolism involved. We have attempted to explain the "birth" or origin of the deity, any associated major festival, the emphasis being on the esoteric significance as well as the philosophy connected with the rituals.
The devotional hymns and prayers in each chapter have been particularly selected to assist the devotee with his or her individual worship. English transliteration and meanings of the selected bhajans, aaratee songs, Sanskrit Mantras and other Praarthanaas (prayers) have been especially provided so that the devotee will gain an appreciation and understanding, which in turn will foster greater devotion during worship.
While gratefully acknowledging the invaluable contributions of leaders and elders, who have aspired to keep our culture alive, we also recognize that there is still so much more to be done is we are to ensure that the next generation remains within the bounds of this Dharmic paradigm. Significant numbers of young Hindus are already drifting aimlessly, ignorant of the depth and vastness of their heritage and this trend must be reversed here and now. Our humble appeal to our young friends is that they cultivate a yearning for increased knowledge about this priceless legacy of our forefathers and explore the vast treasures of the timeless inspirational literature provided by such immortals as Shree Vaalmiki, Tulseedaas, Shree Aadi Shankarachaarya, Swami Vivekanand and many others. When knowledge of the Self dawns within, then life becomes a magical journey through paradise and every experience manifests as heaven on Earth.
We hope that this book will, to some extent, cater to and satisfy the ever-present need to educate and promote our ancient wisdom throughout each new window in time. Most of all, it is our wish that it reaches out to not only Hindus but to all individuals, seekers of knowledge, who are interested in learning about other doctrine doctrines and traditions. Through this book, we hope to project just a tiny segment of that vast, timeless, limitless religion and the way of life, generally known as Hinduism or Sanaatan Dharma - the Eternal Code of Righteous Conduct, so that the reader may be inspired by the depths of this rich culture and ancient wisdom.
Let us give ourselves a chance to open our minds to the knowledge of God, so that we may bask in the ceaselessness flow of His Divine Infinite Love. Let us allow the dimensions of the mind to merge in the ecstasy of the ocean of bliss.
Om Shree Ganeshaaya Namah. Om Shree Saraswatyai Namah. Om Shree Guru Bhyo Namaha Harihi Om.