Heritage Study Program
Companion to the Study of Hinduism - Part I
and Practice of Hindu Dharma
Level - 2
Paths of Religious Practices
of Rituals, Devotion, Prayers and Surrender
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Pathway and Vedic Rituals
forms of Devotion and Sanskara in Practice
Hindu Religious Faith and
practice are based on its strong philosophy and the ancient tradition. Most of
the followers know about the Vedas and the Vedantha philosophy. Every one understands
that there is one God who is worshipped in many forms. Most of them are familiar
with the Adhvaitha theory and Vedantha philosophy of oneness of the Divine and
the human soul. However, the practice is much more closer to the Dhvaitha and
Visishta-adhvaitha theories for the worship of the Divine. The paths of Karma
yoga, Raja yoga, Bhakthi yoga and Jñana yoga are taught as the spiritual
disciplines for the practice. Some feel that Jñana or the path of wisdom
is the ultimate while others consider that after performing duties without attachment
as in Karma yoga, practicing meditation and controlling thoughts as in Raja yoga
and gaining knowledge of Jñana path one will reach the state of ultimate
surrender of Bhakthi yoga.
Among all the paths of Hinduism, the most common and popular ones have been the
ritualistic [Sanskaara] path and the Devotional [Bhakthi] paths of worship. The
ritualistic path involves the practice of sanskaara which are performing the regular
rituals for the formless Supreme Divine as prescribed in the Karma kanda and Upasana
kanda portions of the Vedas. They are performed every day and for various events
in one's life. These are practiced and performed mostly by persons knowledgeable
in the Vedas and the Hindu philosophy and those initiated to the practice of these
The Bhakthi pathway is much easier to follow for everyone. It teaches a method
of love and attachment towards a supreme God through one of His manifestations
as in the Agamas and Puranas with devotional prayers and worship to various forms
of Deities through poojas and bhajans. This form of Bhakthi develops into various
levels and degrees as an inner attitude of an attachment and feeling of love towards
God, from a blind faith and devotion to God in one form to total surrender to
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Yoga - the Devotional Pathway
or Devotion at various Grades or levels.
is the form of devotion with contemplation on the formless and unmanifested Brahman.
It is the highest form of bhakthi suitable only for few learned people, the Jñana
Yogis, who have the true knowledge of God.
or Gauni-bhakthi is the lower level of love and devotion to a manifested Iswara
and prayers to one of His forms accepted as Ishta-Devatha or a personal God. There
are many levels or many grades in this form of devotion, the most important ones
being - Bhaya-bhakthi, Ananya-bhakthi and Ekantha-bhakthi.
is the purest and Sattvika form of devotion. Here, the devotee loves God for His
own sake and not for His gifts. He learns to crave for his personal God alone,
in prosperity as well as in adversity. He sees the presence of God, as his Ishta-devatha,
in all places, at all times.
[meaning "not another"] is the exclusive and passionate, or the Rajasika
form of worship of one's Ishta Devatha in the heart. It is an intense form of
monotheism and gives a healthy direction to the spirit of devotion. But, it shall
not give rise to bigotry and cruelty towards those who have different concept
of God and different methods of approach. Among Hindus, it is well recognized
that the gods whom others worship are only different forms of his own Ishta-devatha.
is the very external form of worship of a Deity as God. It is the adoration paid
to a form of God outside ourselves. It is the most basic form of a faith, based
on the unenlightened or Tamasika form of feeling that God is external to us and
dwells in a particular locality like the prayer room or Temple. The pilgrimages,
worship of several images of God, symbols and sacred books are examples of this.
Most popular religions do not rise above this level.
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