Basically, I posed three examples of these practices of an unusual approaches to Goddess:
(1) worship of living girls (Kumaris);
(2) worship of historical figures; and
(3) worship of living women who claim to be full avatars of Devi.
Let's talk about it!
Hi Again Devi, I always like your input into things. It's poignant. I looked at the pics of Human Goddesses and find the young Kumari sad. Do you have a pic where she's smiling. I would like to think that she could be appreciated as a human and not just as a symbol. Of course the Dalaio Lama was raised as such, but he's had a long lifetime of experience now to become what he was trained to be - a living rep of Buddha. I believe Krishnamurti was born into and raised a Theosophist and he was supposed to become Maitreya or Buddha but chose not to. ( I don't remember where I heard the last thing, so don't quote me).
These things happen because people need to feel their God is nearby. What I want to know is what the rep makes out of the experience. They might represent,but can they actually BE the thing. I think experience is the only teacher. I would like to find a Kumari who then became a saint later in life. That would be really special. Of course India has many wandering saints but how many women saints wander like the sannyasin and live such a life of tapas? I'm curious.
I don't have too very much to say on this right now, but maybe some more will come to mind if others respond and what they say triggers some other way of thinking in my mind. (I sure hope so! )
Basically, I view the Divine as present in everything. So, it would follow that any way of focussing on understanding the Divine is correct for that given person at that given time. Every person is different. We all follow a multitude of different Paths, and we're all at different points on those Paths. My understanding of the Divine Truth is not anyone else's. (Or, as my dear friend "Father Georgie" has said: "My gnosis is not your gnosis.") Not exactly. And that's because we all have this wonderful ability and gift to have our own experiences and our own unique views *because* of those varying experiences. All of these views adding up to create new experiences, which in turn create new views.... And the Cycle continues to turn.
So, with everyone being at their own unique point on their own unique Path, of course there are going to be different understandings of the Divine! And I think that's the grooviest thing! I just find it sad that there are so many who don't seem to "get" this and can't seem to accept that an other's Path is not their own. (But, even that could be considered a lack of "getting it" on my part....)
Personally, I view any way of looking at the Divine as limiting. "The tao that can be told is not the true Tao." That's not to say at all that it's a bad thing to focus on one particular understanding of the Divine. Not at all. If you're working to understand It, then any and every way of doing so is valuable. Eventually it'll add up to the big picture of the Truth. I just find it important to work toward those particular focuses on understanding while keeping in mind that the Sum is more than it's parts. But each of those parts is a valuable clue as to what the Whole is.
Myself, I'm currently focussing on It through Inanna. She's totally foreign to me in the context of every experience I've had so far in this life-time. But She's the best course for me to take at this point on my Path. I know that I've taken other routes before and that I will take others in the future still. That doesn't negate or invalidate any of those priour routes, or this one when the future comes. It just means that my understanding of the Divine Truth is a bit different at every point on my Path. And that it works for me now is really all that matters. I am who I am now. That person arose out of who I was. And she is moving towards who I will be. But always, I am who I am at that moment in time. And whatever moves me closer to The Truth is valid for me.
In the end, I don't see any one particular view as being correct. Each understanding has certain aspects about it which point to the Truth, but they're still limitations in my mind. For instance, I know that this group focusses on the worship of the G-ddess and the Divine Feminine. While I personally don't think that gives one the full picture, it's still more of the picture than one might have otherwise.
And obviously, with my current focus on Inanna, I too look at the Divine in terms of the Feminine right now. I think there's an equally important Masculine aspect that shouldn't be ignored. But I don't think anyone here is doing that as far as I can tell. I think I'm "preaching to the choir", so to speak. At least that's the general feeling I have coming into this ramble of mine.
I know that this is pretty generalised, but in the context of what I'm trying to say, I don't think getting down to specific examples is really going to say anything more than a general concept would.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that, even though I think any one particular view of The Truth misses something, they're all important in hitting on something too. And even though I may currently be better understanding It All through one particular view, I still like to try to understand other views too, even if they don't gel with me at the moment, because it can't hurt to have as many understandings as possible. All these little parts add up to a big chunk of the Big Picture, so the more one can appreciate the more of the Truth one can understand.
As for the specific examples Devi listed, I must admit that my personal knowledge and experience is limited. I only recently saw a film on the Kumari in my "Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion" class. Up until that point I don't recall ever having encountered anything about the Kumari before. And, as the film only covered the lives of a couple of the individual Kumari priour to and during their role as Kumari, I don't have that great of an idea of the full implications of being Kumari, as far as what happens *after*. Devi said in #861 that "often these girls -- as they get older-- are socially avoided, and have trouble making a living, finding a marriage partner, etc Or have I misunderstood this tradition?" While I can't comment on this at all, as I have no knowledge either way, these are questions that I had raised in my own reflection on the Kumari film.
In general, I really view these different approaches to the Divine as just that. There is no judgement in my mind either way about them. They are simply different approaches. I think the example in #468 (as I back-track...) brought it home a bit more for me. Here the idea of venerating a movie star is mentioned: "Nora stated that, 'Ultimately it doesn't matter as to who you worship. ... the most important is that this act of worshipping fulfill the need ... to feel connected to the Divine One.'
However, she found it 'rather irrational' to deify popular movie stars as Baburoy notes is sometimes seen in popular Hinduism. Baburoy observes, 'I think it really matters who is put on the pedestal.' "
Firstly, I was glad to learn of another cultural practise. Not because I am placing a judgement either way on that practise, but because I like to learn about different cultures in general. (I'm an Anthropology student because of this. And because I'm an Anthropology student, I like to learn about different cultures.) I didn't know that popular Hinduism sometimes placed movie stars on that level. But, then again, it's not really all that different from the fanaticism that often surrounds film and music stars in American secular culture.
So, using that connection, I tried to better understand it from my own frame of reference. However, I fell short of doing so. I can understand it to an extent, but not all the way. I know that I've personally felt rather passionate about a couple of movie and rock stars here and there, but in thinking about it I immediately realised that I never felt that they were Divine in the same way I feel that My Lady Inanna is Divine. I know that ultimately they *are* Divine as people, just as I am, but there's definitely a different feel there.... When I think about it more, their *art* often feels very much to me as Inanna does. But that's more a message than they themselves. And that clicked for me. It's not Inanna that means so much to me in my Path as what she represents, and how *that* relates to where I am now. It's about the message and the lesson to be learned, not the cover of the book.
Hi evil_djinia ... You and groovflowr bring up some excellent thoughts about the girls who become Kumaris; if you find a smiling pic, please do add it to the album! But I just recently read a great article in the "New Yorker" about the murder of Nepal's royal family, in which it was mentioned in passing that until recently it wasn't considered at all kosher for Nepali VIPS (royalty, and I suppose the exalted Kumaris as well) to smile in public.
"Smiling for the camera," until very recently, seems to be more a Western conceit -- in many if not most Asian countries, you see much less of it. Look at old sepia-tone photos of your ancestors and I think you'll see the same was true in the West for quite a long time.
So don't read too much into the Kumari's glum expression. She's a very little girl with a very big responsibility, right or wrong.
"So don't read too much into the Kumari's glum expression. She's a very little girl with a very big responsibility, right or wrong."
That's a very good point about a smiling in public (or not) being a general socio-cultural custom.
Also, the film I saw in class ("The Living Goddess") mentions specific ways in which a Kumari must behave. For one, she can no longer speak in public. Private ceremonies occur every morning and every evening in a special room used for no other purpose. There, the Kumari sits trance-like while people come and make offerings to her in order to receive blessings. Ideally she is to remain still in a trance because any movement determines what will happen in the case that has been brought before her. Even a twitch of the thumb or a finger could spell mis-fortune for the person who has come before her. I'm sure that smiling is generally tied in with the ritual of her bodily actions in these private ceremonies of offerings and blessings, as well as with what is expected of her in public. Every aspect of her life is a solemn one. And while smiling is not necessarily mutually exclusive of a solemn state, it seems to be in this context. There can be great joy in being so very solemn that one does not smile. I know that I feel this way every morning and every evening when doing my prayers to My Lady Inanna.
Thanks for a great post. I really enjoyed it. I think you're absolutely right in your basic contention that Divine Reality is too vast to capture in any one religious construct. But I do feel that individual humans should settle upon a given path in their journey of discovery, for a while at least.
Only because, in too much flitting between traditions, one becomes like a bee hopping from flower to beautiful flower, picking up a little something sweet and then moving on. The thing is to stay a while and immerse oneself in the flower of choice, taking in all it can give you -- because the sweetest treasures of any religion are never on the visible surface. If it takes a lifetime, or two, or three to absorb the whole thing -- fine! If a takes only a month or a year, that's fine too! As you say, everything depends on the individual.
You mention, "Personally, I view any [single] way of looking at the Divine as limiting. The tao that can be told is not the true Tao." That's true too -- but it's the limitations of a given tradition that can provide the very discipline that's needed to escape those limitations. Just as a pianist must practice thousands of rote scales before s/he can fly off into transcendently gorgeous improvisation; or the ballet dancer must spend hours doing dull, painful barre work before becoming the image of beauty incarnate onstage.
Sri Ramakrishna -- a spiritual adept of the highest order -- immersed himself in most schools of Hinduism, as well as Christianity and Islam, at different points during his life. Each brought him to the same ulimate, inexpressible truth, he said. Which is a good answer to those who would insist that only one path can lead to salvation. But he always returned to his beloved Goddess Kali as his own ultimate, heartfelt vision of the Supreme Divine.
I do think you've got the right idea -- the Divine is too vast and too beautiful to confine oneself to some narrow, doctrinaire view of it. I think you're right to explore as many as you can, so long as you don't allow yourself to become a mere "spiritual tourist."
On another subject, could you tell me more about the Lady Inanna, on whom you focus your spiritual life at present? I'm not familiar with Her tradition, and would love to learn more.
Also, you note -- in the context of movie-star/pop-star worship -- "I tried to better understand it from my own frame of reference. However, I fell short of doing so. I can understand it to an extent, but not all the way." I understand just where you're coming from, but would recommend that you read message from jaiphilcollins ( on Instant Goddess ) before you give up your efforts to get your mind around this particular approach to the Divine; it surprised me, and maybe it will surprise you too.
Thanks again for your heartfelt and most enjoyable post.
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