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Thread: Adi shankarAchArya's views on anya-devata worship

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    Adi shankarAchArya's views on anya-devata worship

    Pranams,

    This is a continuation of a discussion begun elsewhere regarding Adi shankara's views on anya-devata worship. Traditionally, many are used to thinking of Adi shankara as being a smArtha in his outlook, i.e. equating various different deities as different forms of the same brahman (specifically - viShNu, rudra, durgA, sUryA, gaNesha as per pancOpAsana doctrine). A question came up as to Adi shankara's views on gaNesha worship specifically. I had a chance to look it up, and I am reproducing it here.

    As always, I request those who are easily offended by discussions of views that don't match their own to steer clear. The purpose of this thread will be to explore what Adi shankara has said on this subject, with emphasis on his works whose authorship is not disputed.

    Regarding his views on viNAyaka worship, here is his commentary on gItA 9.25 along with A.G. Warrier's translation. First the shloka:

    yAnti devavratA devAn pitR^In yAnti pitR^ivratAH |
    bhUtAni yAnti bhUtejyA yAnti madyAjino'pi mAm || gItA 9.25 ||

    "To gods repair their devotees; to the manes go those devoted to the manes. The worshippers of the elemental go to these elementals. My worshippers come to Me."

    And now Adi shankara's bhAShya:

    yAnti iti || yAnti gachchanti devavratAH deveShu vrataM niyamaH bhaktishcha yeShAM te devavratAH devAn | yAnti pitR^In agniShvAttAdIn yAnti pitR^ivratAH shrAddhAdikriyAparAH pitR^ibhaktAH |bhUtAni vinAyakamAtR^igaNachaturbhaginyAdIni yAnti bhUtejyAH bhUtAnAM pUjakAH | yAnti madyAjinaH madyajanshILAH vaiShNavAH mAM eva | samAne api AyAse mAM eva na bhajante aj~nAnAt; tena te aLpaphaLabhAjaH bhavanti ityarthaH ||

    A.G. Warrier's translation:

    "To 'the gods' go the devotees of gods whose discipline and devotion are oriented to the gods. To the 'manes,' agniShvAtta etc., go those devoted to the manes and engaged faithfully in obsequies. To the 'elementals,' vinAyakas, the mother spirits, the four sisters, etc., go 'the worshippers of the elementals.' My worshippers - habitual devotees of Vishnu - come to Me alone. Though the labour involved is the same, due to their ignorance they fail to worship Me exclusively; therefore they gain but petty results. This is the idea."

    The question that came up is whether viNAyaka is taken in the singular sense, i.e. as referring to a specific deity by the name viNAyaka, or in the plural sense, i.e. as a category of entities known as the viNAyaka-s. Looking at the Sanskrit, it appears that "viNAyaka" is part of a tat-puruSha compound, and thus (if memory serves), can be taken in either (singlular, plural) sense, with the complete compound being declined in the plural. Thus, it is not clear to me from this commentary at least, that a single viNAyaka (aka gaNesha) is being referred to. It is clear, however, that shankarAchArya is criticizing those who do pUja to other deities, stating that the labor involved is same, and that the results are miniscule.
    Philosoraptor

    "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato

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    Re: Adi shankarAchArya's views on anya-devata worship

    Quote Originally Posted by philosoraptor View Post
    And now Adi shankara's bhAShya:

    yAnti iti || yAnti gachchanti devavratAH deveShu vrataM niyamaH bhaktishcha yeShAM te devavratAH devAn | yAnti pitR^In agniShvAttAdIn yAnti pitR^ivratAH shrAddhAdikriyAparAH pitR^ibhaktAH |bhUtAni vinAyakamAtR^igaNachaturbhaginyAdIni yAnti bhUtejyAH bhUtAnAM pUjakAH | yAnti madyAjinaH madyajanshILAH vaiShNavAH mAM eva | samAne api AyAse mAM eva na bhajante aj~nAnAt; tena te aLpaphaLabhAjaH bhavanti ityarthaH ||

    A.G. Warrier's translation:

    "To 'the gods' go the devotees of gods whose discipline and devotion are oriented to the gods. To the 'manes,' agniShvAtta etc., go those devoted to the manes and engaged faithfully in obsequies. To the 'elementals,' vinAyakas, the mother spirits, the four sisters, etc., go 'the worshippers of the elementals.' My worshippers - habitual devotees of Vishnu - come to Me alone. Though the labour involved is the same, due to their ignorance they fail to worship Me exclusively; therefore they gain but petty results. This is the idea."
    Note the parts of the commentary which I have highlighted. Shankaracharya is criticizing worship of Durga in the forms of the matrikas and bhaginis. Unlike the reference to Vinayaka, this is unambiguous and cannot be interpreted in any other way. Modern day Advaitins try to justify this by saying that Shankaracharya is only criticizing tamasic worship of Devi as set out in the Vamachara tantras.
    namastE astu bhagavan vishveshvarAya mahAdevAya tryaMbakAya|
    tripurAntakAya trikAgnikAlAya kAlAgnirudrAya nIlakaNThAya mRtyuJNjayAya sarveshvarAya sadAshivAya shrIman mAhAdevAya ||

    Om shrImAtrE namah

    sarvam shrI umA-mahEshwara parabrahmArpaNamastu


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  3. #3

    Re: Adi shankarAchArya's views on anya-devata worship

    Quote Originally Posted by philosoraptor View Post
    The question that came up is whether viNAyaka is taken in the singular sense, i.e. as referring to a specific deity by the name viNAyaka, or in the plural sense, i.e. as a category of entities known as the viNAyaka-s. Looking at the Sanskrit, it appears that "viNAyaka" is part of a tat-puruSha compound, and thus (if memory serves), can be taken in either (singlular, plural) sense, with the complete compound being declined in the plural. Thus, it is not clear to me from this commentary at least, that a single viNAyaka (aka gaNesha) is being referred to.
    According to Shrila PrabhupAd, there is a group called vinAyaka, refers to a kind of ghost-spirits and has nothing to do with VinAyaKa as in GaNesh or VishNu-gaNa.

    SB 10.6.27-29

    ḍākinyo yātudhānyaś ca
     kuṣmāṇḍā ye ’rbhaka-grahāḥ
    bhūta-preta-piśācāś ca
     yakṣa-rakṣo-vināyakāḥ

    koṭarā revatī jyeṣṭhā
     pūtanā mātṛkādayaḥ
    unmādā ye hy apasmārā
     deha-prāṇendriya-druhaḥ

    svapna-dṛṣṭā mahotpātā
     vṛddhā bāla-grahāś ca ye
    sarve naśyantu te viṣṇor
     nāma-grahaṇa-bhīravaḥ



    The evil witches known as Ḍākinīs, Yātudhānīs and Kuṣmāṇḍas are the greatest enemies of children, and the evil spirits like Bhūtas, Pretas, Piśācas, Yakṣas, Rākṣasas and Vināyakas, as well as witches like Koṭarā, Revatī, Jyeṣṭhā, Pūtanā and Mātṛkā, are always ready to give trouble to the body, the life air and the senses, causing loss of memory, madness and bad dreams. Like the most experienced evil stars, they all create great disturbances, especially for children, but one can vanquish them simply by uttering Lord Viṣṇu’s name, for when Lord Viṣṇu’s name resounds, all of them become afraid and go away.

    Context: PutanA vadh

    Since vinAyaka (plural) is clubbed with bhut rAkshas as well as the mAtrikA, in SB 10.6.27-29 as well as in Adi Shankara's commentary to BG 9.25, the answer seems to be 'plural'
    _/\_
    Last edited by smaranam; 23 September 2013 at 12:18 PM.
    || Shri KRshNArpaNamastu ||

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    Re: Adi shankarAchArya's views on anya-devata worship

    Good catch, smaranam-ji. I am not so sure about the matrikas though. I have never heard of matrikas as demons before. Their mention along with the bhaginis suggests that it is forms of Uma being talked about gere.
    namastE astu bhagavan vishveshvarAya mahAdevAya tryaMbakAya|
    tripurAntakAya trikAgnikAlAya kAlAgnirudrAya nIlakaNThAya mRtyuJNjayAya sarveshvarAya sadAshivAya shrIman mAhAdevAya ||

    Om shrImAtrE namah

    sarvam shrI umA-mahEshwara parabrahmArpaNamastu


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    Re: Adi shankarAchArya's views on anya-devata worship

    Well, I had been asked to create this thread and declined due to the recent Ganesha controversy, but since its a done deed, here are my 2 cents.

    Firstly, let me clarify something. "vinAyaka" is a name of Ganesha as per mordern day hindus. In Adi Shankara's time, it is not as certain as that. I see no reason to equate even "vinAyaka" in the singular to the popular Ganesha, especially when such beings are mentioned as part of the bhUta-piSaca category.

    Secondly, "vinAyaka" is not a vishNu gaNa or anything. There is a nitya sUri, a servant of Vishnu known as Gajanana, whose appearance is elephant like and has a tusk. This Gajanana and Vishvaksena are invoked to destroy the obstacles to Brahma jnAnam in the pAncharAtra and vaikhAnasa agamas. In Tirumala, a vaikhAnasa kshetra, you can see Vishwaksena blessing everyone in PadmAvathi sanndhi as well as near the sanctum of srI venkatEswara. The same Gajanana and VishvaksEna are even mentioned as the ones who destroy obstacles to Vishnu bhakti in the tantra agamAs that constitute the mode of worship for Kerala vaishnava temples. As a result, you can see Vishvaksena even in kerala temples of Vishnu, which do not run by pAncarAtra or vaikhAnasa, the two recommended agamas.

    vinAyaka is not a name of Gajanana.

    So, slokas like,

    "durgam vinayakam vyasam..." seen in bhagavatam etc will mean "In order to remove (vinAyakam) obstacles that stand like a fortress between jivA and Vishnu (durgam), we worship vyasa, etc. It is within context to take vinayakam and durgam as adjectives qualifying vyasa, vishwaksena and the rest because that sloka occurs in the context of praising Vishnu, his weapons and ornaments, his nitya sUrIs and others. To interpret it as the deities durga and vinAyaka takes it out of context, especially when vinAyaka worship has not been encouraged in the bhagavatam itself.

    Now, on to srI adi shankara's opinion.

    Much has been mentioned already. Books have been written by many smArtas as well as vaishnavas to prove that he was a vaishnava by persuasion. For one thing, take his vishnu sahasranama bhAshya where he interprets "Soma" as "He (Vishnu) who has the consort of Uma (Shiva) as his vibhUtI" and "Keshava" as "Lord of Brahma and Rudra".

    Then, take his brahma sUtra bhAshya, where (according to my friend who gave me this info.) that the Lord Pasupati was created by Brahman, and mentions the same about Surya. Also, in the same bhAshya, he rejects the pAsupata agama wholesale, but while rejecting the pAncharAtra agama, he says, "Although the agamA is not wholly vedic, we accept that nArAyaNa is the supreme self and must be worshipped in temples, and his bhagavatas who adorn his marks are sanctioned by the sAstra". Note, he says the philosophy of the agama is wrong, but not the deity. If he had a saivite inclination, he could have said the same about the pasupata sAstra, ie, that worship of Shiva could have been accepted.

    Sri Rama Subbu Sastri of Thiruvisanallur, a smArta, has proven (in the late 1800s) that ShankarAcHArya was a vaishnava. This is again, a piece of news dug up by my knowledgeable friend and I claim to know little on this matter.

    The rest of the proofs have already been given in the thread. And its not just Shankara. All the advaita acharyas barring appayya dikshitar were vaishnava in outlook and openly even condemned anya devata bhajana.

    No wonder srI velukkudi varadAchAriar swami, the father of the now famous srI velukkudi krishnan swami, once remarked in a lecture, "The debate between Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita is not on the basis of which deity is the Supreme. It is only on the basis of which philosophy constitutes the vedas. All 3 maThams are agreed on nArAyaNa as parabrahman."

    EDIT: However, let us not forget that srI adi shankara indeed may have worshipped anya devatas as gurus. Among the vaishnava tradition, smArtas and mAdhvas worship the various devas as gurus for attaining hari bhakti, as do the other traditions like nimbArka, vallabhA, etc. It is only the sri vaishnavas who say that Shiva is a guru for upAsakas (bhakti yOgIs) and not for prapannAs. Hence, due to our postulation of a two-fold path to moksha, we do not worship Shiva as a guru either, though we of course, consider him a vaishnava of high stature.

    DOUBLE EDIT: Here are a couple of quotes given by my friend (bhagavatafan) which establish this truth:

    yoginām api sarveṣāṃ rudrādityādi-dhyāna-parāṇāṃ madhye mad-gatena mayi vāsudeve samāhitenāntarātmanāntaḥ-karaṇena śraddhāvān śraddadhānaḥ san bhajate sevate yo mām, sa me mama yuktatamo 'tiśayena yukto mato 'bhipreta iti (~Shankara gita bhAshya, 6.47).

    Here, he says vAsudeva bhaktas are superior to the worshippers of Rudra and Aditya.

    Another quote mentioned by my friend is from the tAtparya chandrikA of vedAnta desikan (must be in puttur swami's edition, I confess I haven't read tAtparya chandrika for the last 6 chapters of Gita; my edition has just 12 chapters!)

    Sri VedAnta Desikan, a srI vaishnava achArya, remarks the following under the sloka 18.66:

    "The conclusion 'Bhagavan (Narayana) is the Supreme Brahman. Taking refuge in Him alone, and resorting to none else is the highest of all dharmas.'-this has been unanimously accepted as the essence of the Bhagavad Gita by Shankara, Bhaskara, Yadavaprakasha, Narayanarya, Yajnasvami and others, though they were different in philosophy".

    Note that achAryan would never have said this if it hadn't been true during his time. This makes it certain.
    Last edited by Sri Vaishnava; 23 September 2013 at 01:55 PM.
    [CENTER][COLOR="Black"][COLOR="Red"][COLOR="DarkRed"]No holiness rules over my freedom
    No commands from above I obey
    I seek the ruin, I shake the worlds
    Behold! I am blackest ov the black

    Ov khaos I am, the disobediant one
    Depraved son who hath dwelt in nothingness
    Upon the ninth I fell, from grace up above
    To taste this life ov sin, to give birth to the "I"[/COLOR][/COLOR][/COLOR]

    [B]~ "Blackest Ov the Black" - Behemoth.[/B]

    [url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P-JdwtK1DY[/url] [/CENTER]

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    Re: Adi shankarAchArya's views on anya-devata worship

    Namaste

    Sri Maha Ganesha Pancharatnam was composed by Sri Adi Sankara Baghvad Pada in the 8th Century, and is giving worship to Ganesha Vinayaka in Five Gems or 5 eulogies.

    So now I am being told that Sankara did not follow what is claimed is his "recommendation" to not worship Ganesha as it is a waste of time?

    So is this Sri Adi Sankara Baghvad Pada not the same Adi Sankara noted in this thread? Is there a claim that Ganesha Pancharatnam is a fake, forgery or later eulogy and not actually by Adi Sankara?

    Om Namah Sivaya

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    Re: Adi shankarAchArya's views on anya-devata worship

    वक्रतुण्ड महाकाय सुर्यकोटि समप्रभ

    निर्विघ्नं कुरु मे देव सर्वकार्येषु सर्वदा

    Pranam

    This will be my only post on this thread, who will be the arbiter here to decide whose authorship is authentic or not, On an Adwaita forum one would expect a follower, surely not PS or Omkara who is on record of saying and I quote

    Other than the prasthanatrayi bhashyas of Shankaracharya, most other works of his are considered of doubtful authenticity.
    In his prasthanatrayi Bhashyas, he does not once call Brahman by any name other than Narayaba. He calls Surya and Rudra as Jivas.
    Isn't it bit disingenuous to ascribe it to Shankara when you later qualified saying this
    Also, Sri Vaishnava says Shankaracharya has referred to Surya and Rudra as jivas in his upanishad bhashyas.

    So there goes the myth that Shankaracharya was a Smarta.
    Samaranam ji's post here is concise and to the point, makes it adequately clear what Sri pad Sankaracharya is alluding to, taking Bhutas in consideration it is very obvious but not for some, why?
    Because when we have predilection, we then proceed to doctrine that was defined first and the scripture was then read/interpreted to be an exact match.

    I see no objective consideration, so I will concede to Phil's desire and let him be.

    Jai Shree Krishna
    Rig Veda list only 33 devas, they are all propitiated, worthy off our worship, all other names of gods are derivative from this 33 originals,
    Bhagvat Gita; Shree Krishna says Chapter 3.11 devan bhavayatanena te deva bhavayantu vah parasparam bhavayantah sreyah param avapsyatha Chapter 17.4 yajante sattvika devan yaksa-raksamsi rajasah pretan bhuta-ganams canye yajante tamasa janah
    The world disappears in him. He is the peaceful, the good, the one without a second.

  8. #8

    Re: Adi shankarAchArya's views on anya-devata worship

    Quote Originally Posted by Omkara View Post
    Good catch, smaranam-ji. I am not so sure about the matrikas though. I have never heard of matrikas as demons before. Their mention along with the bhaginis suggests that it is forms of Uma being talked about gere.
    I agree, smaranam - that was a good catch. Thank you! Based on this information, I would tend to think that the bhAgavata and Adi shankara were referring to the same concept of viNAyaka-s and mAtrika-s.

    I had never heard of mAtrika-s and was not aware they (along with bhAginI-s) were forms of uma. Having said that, Adi shankara appears to be mentioning these forms in the context of commenting on the worship of bhUta-s as mentioned in the gItA shLoka. Would that not make it less likely that he was referring to forms of uma?
    Philosoraptor

    "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato

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    Re: Adi shankarAchArya's views on anya-devata worship

    Quote Originally Posted by philosoraptor View Post
    I agree, smaranam - that was a good catch. Thank you! Based on this information, I would tend to think that the bhAgavata and Adi shankara were referring to the same concept of viNAyaka-s and mAtrika-s.

    I had never heard of mAtrika-s and was not aware they (along with bhAginI-s) were forms of uma. Having said that, Adi shankara appears to be mentioning these forms in the context of commenting on the worship of bhUta-s as mentioned in the gItA shLoka. Would that not make it less likely that he was referring to forms of uma?
    Namaste, please read Satish Argela's posts on the thread I had linked. He makes it clear what Shankaracharya is referring to. A quote-
    Speculation is okay but it should have some basis. There is a good reason why gaNesha, mAtR^ika-s and chaturbhagini system is mentioned here. It is not coincidence that they are grouped together. The central devata of the chaturbhagini system is called tumburu rudra or tumburu shiva, a great form of parameshvara which belongs to the vAma srotas(not that in the great shaiva system originated from the vAmadeva mukha of the fived faced sadAshiva. The other four being gAruDa, bhUta, dakShiNa, and Urdhva srotas The names of the chaturbhagini-s are jayA, vijayA, ajitA & aparAjitA. In the middle of the four bhagini-s is seated the great form of parameshvara tumburu middle of the four bhagini-s is seated the great form of parameshvara tumburu shiva, holding a vINa among other things. The worship of tumburu along with the worship of these four bhagini-s is mentioned in the prapa~nchasAra tantra.(Does this ring a bell? I guess not - otherwise i would not be writing all these) Now in the matsya purAna a story is described on how shiva took a form holding a vINa and he danced along with the mAtR^ika-s. If you see various old sapta mAtR^ika panels, you will notice that on these panels the mAtR^ika-s along with gaNesha, and a vINa holding shiva(the central devata of the chaturbhagini system) are depicted on the same panel. In some panels instead of the vINAdhara shiva one sees vIrabhadra. Do you see the proper context now as to why the gaNesha, mAtR^ika and the chaturbhagini system are clubbed together? Now anybody who says the mAtR^ika-s on these panels and the gaNesha represented on these panels is different from popular gaNesha worshipped these days is going to make out of himself for obvious reasons Do you see now why it is not coincidence that these devata-s are mentioned together? We have rock solid(in both senses of the term) evidence in the form of sculptures. If you think about this, it is very clear which devata worship is shankara condemning in the b gIta bhAShya.
    Last edited by Omkara; 23 September 2013 at 05:38 PM.
    namastE astu bhagavan vishveshvarAya mahAdevAya tryaMbakAya|
    tripurAntakAya trikAgnikAlAya kAlAgnirudrAya nIlakaNThAya mRtyuJNjayAya sarveshvarAya sadAshivAya shrIman mAhAdevAya ||

    Om shrImAtrE namah

    sarvam shrI umA-mahEshwara parabrahmArpaNamastu


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  10. #10

    Re: Adi shankarAchArya's views on anya-devata worship

    Quote Originally Posted by Sri Vaishnava View Post
    Firstly, let me clarify something. "vinAyaka" is a name of Ganesha as per mordern day hindus. In Adi Shankara's time, it is not as certain as that. I see no reason to equate even "vinAyaka" in the singular to the popular Ganesha, especially when such beings are mentioned as part of the bhUta-piSaca category.
    Pranams,

    This is where I am leaning as well. It seems that Adi shankara was mentioning viNAyaka(-s) along with mAtrika-s and bhAginI-s as different types of bhUta-s. I have never heard of gaNesha described as a type of bhUta. Especially in light of the bhAgavata shLoka mentioned by smaranam in which viNAyaka-s and mAtrika-s are spoken of in the context of bhUta-s and pishAcha-s, this seems more consistent.

    Secondly, "vinAyaka" is not a vishNu gaNa or anything. There is a nitya sUri, a servant of Vishnu known as Gajanana, whose appearance is elephant like and has a tusk. This Gajanana and Vishvaksena are invoked to destroy the obstacles to Brahma jnAnam in the pAncharAtra and vaikhAnasa agamas. In Tirumala, a vaikhAnasa kshetra, you can see Vishwaksena blessing everyone in PadmAvathi sanndhi as well as near the sanctum of srI venkatEswara. The same Gajanana and VishvaksEna are even mentioned as the ones who destroy obstacles to Vishnu bhakti in the tantra agamAs that constitute the mode of worship for Kerala vaishnava temples. As a result, you can see Vishvaksena even in kerala temples of Vishnu, which do not run by pAncarAtra or vaikhAnasa, the two recommended agamas.
    Aside from tantra Agama, do we have any other sources that would help establish the antiquity of gajAnana-worship with specific reference to his distinguishing features as an associate of viShNu and a nitya-sUri? This might be helpful to driving home the point.

    vinAyaka is not a name of Gajanana.

    So, slokas like,

    "durgam vinayakam vyasam..." seen in bhagavatam etc will mean "In order to remove (vinAyakam) obstacles that stand like a fortress between jivA and Vishnu (durgam), we worship vyasa, etc. It is within context to take vinayakam and durgam as adjectives qualifying vyasa, vishwaksena and the rest because that sloka occurs in the context of praising Vishnu, his weapons and ornaments, his nitya sUrIs and others. To interpret it as the deities durga and vinAyaka takes it out of context, especially when vinAyaka worship has not been encouraged in the bhagavatam itself.
    Agreed on the context part. However, (and forgive me for asking the dumb question since my Sanskrit is rusty), grammatically speaking, with the above interpretation, wouldn't viNAyaka be in chaturthi-vibhakti (dative case)? Also, durgAM cannot be an adjective describing vyAsa if durgA refers to the fortress which the worship of vyAsa is meant to remove.

    regards,
    Philosoraptor

    "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato

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  5. What is metaphoric and literal?
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    Replies: 27
    Last Post: 13 June 2009, 10:31 PM

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