Other Female Gods
In Hinduism, the Supreme Brahman manifests itself in both male and female form. Every major god has a goddess counterpart, and many Hindus worship the Great Goddess exclusively. Although in the Chinese yin-yang duality, the feminine side is dark and passive, in Hinduism the feminine is highly active. In fact, the word for "goddess" in Hinduism is shakti, which also means "power" or "energy."
Followers of Shakti or Devi, the Great Goddess, are called Shaktas. Just as the masculine aspect of Brahman is manifested in several different gods, so does the feminine aspect of the divine take more than one forms. This article outlines the five major Hindu goddesses, all of which are manifestations of Shakti.
Sarasvati: The Hindu Goddess of knowledge
Sarasvati (also spelled Saraswati) is perhaps the most ancient goddess that is still widely worshipped today. She is the Hindu muse: the inspiration for all music, poetry, drama and science. Musicians pray to her before performing and students ask for her help before taking a test. She is the consort of Brahma, the creator god.
In statues and paintings, Sarasvati is fair-skinned and dressed in white to symbolize pure illumination. She rides a swan or a goose, and has four hands: in one she holds a book; in another she holds prayer beads and with her other two hands hold a vina, a sitar-like musical instrument.
Not suprisingly, Sarasvati is especially revered by students and teachers. At the beginning of spring (January-February), her image is taken out in a jubilant procession. She is also a popular goddess in Jain and Buddhist religion.
Lakshmi: Gentle Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity
Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, and she provides not only material wealth, but also good health and a joyful family life.
She was born from the milky ocean seated on a lotus and holding a blossom in her hand. In Hindu art, she is full-breasted, broad-hipped and smiling kindly. She wears red sari and coins rain down from two of hands. In her other two hands she holds lotuses, representing the spiritual gifts she bestows. She is often shown seated on a lotus and being anointed by two elephants. Her vehicle is the white owl.
Lakshmi's husband is Vishnu, who metes out punishment, but Lakshmi is kind and always intercedes with Vishnu on behalf of her followers.
According to Hindu texts, Vishnu has manifested himself in human form at least ten times. In each of his incarnations, Lakshmi has accompanied him. For example, she was Padma to his Vamana incarnation, Sita to his Rama incarnation, Rukmini to his Krishna incarnation. The love stories of these divine couples are among the most beloved tales in Hinduism.
Lakshmi is worshipped by many modern Hindus, usually in the home every Friday and on festival days throughout the year. She is also highly revered in Jainism.
Parvati: consort of Shiva, Mother of Ganesha
Parvati is the dark-skinned wife of Shiva and the mother of Ganesha and Skanda. Parvati is depicted in art as a mature and beautiful woman, usually with Shiva. She is also known as Sati, Uma and Bhavani. Young Hindu girls often pray to Parvati to be married to a good husband, especially in time of courtship. Many discussions are written as a discussion between Parvati and Siva.
Durga: The Goddess who removes miseries.
Durga is a fierce goddess. She is depicted in Hindu art as riding on a lion or a tiger (indicating that with proper discipline even a beast could be tamed), She also brandish a variety of weapons and attacking the buffalo demon Mahisha, (indicating that one must be vigilant against unrighteous and demonic activities). Her battles against evil are told in the popular Hindu text called “Devi Mahatmyam”, and it is said that hearing the stories therein cleanses one from sin.
In Hindu texts, Kali sprang from the furrowed brow of Durga when the latter could not defeat the demon Raktabija. Every time Durga struck the demon, drops of blood would fall the ground and form another demon. Durga was getting frustrated, but Kali took care of it. She stuck out her tongue and caught all the drops of blood, then ate the demon right up.
Kali's name means "She who is black." She is generally depicted half-naked, with a garland of skulls, a belt of severed limbs and waving scary-looking weapons with two of her 10 hands. She is often dancing on a prostrate Shiva, who looks up at her admiringly. Two of Kali's hands are empty and in the mudras (gestures) of protection and fearlessness. Her tongue is stuck out to swallow up evil and negative thoughts.
In mythology, iconography and devotion, Kali is associated with death, sexuality, violence and, sometimes, motherly love. She was probably adopted from the tribal mountain cultures of South Asia, though never quite tamed. She continues to be an intriguing, paradoxical figure. She has sometimes been the object of devotion of violent cults; the most common modern Hindu perspective of her is largely symbolic. She is revered for her no-nonsense way of eradicating negative thoughts and bad habits in the minds of her followers. In other words, she will give you a good wallop to remove your ego and impurities no time if you ask her to, and she offers no guarantees that the process will not be painful.
There are so many advantages to meditation. When I first originally thought of this post, I indeed wanted to make it 100 benefits long (think big right!), however, I wasn’t sure I could find more than perhaps 20-25 benefits. Well, I made it happen! Meditation is as powerful as I thought it would be. Here is the definitive list of benefits that meditation can provide you with:
1- It lowers oxygen consumption.
2- It decreases respiratory rate.
3- It increases blood flow and slows the heart rate.
4- Increases exercise tolerance.
5- Leads to a deeper level of physical relaxation.
6- Good for people with high blood pressure.
7- Reduces anxiety attacks by lowering the levels of blood lactate.
8- Decreases muscle tension
9- Helps in chronic diseases like allergies, arthritis etc.
10- Reduces Pre-menstrual Syndrome symptoms.
11- Helps in post-operative healing.
12- Enhances the immune system.
13- Reduces activity of viruses and emotional distress
14- Enhances energy, strength and vigor.
15- Helps with weight loss
16- Reduction of free radicals, less tissue damage
17- Higher skin resistance
18- Drop in cholesterol levels, lowers risk of cardiovascular disease.
19- Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing.
20- Decreases the aging process.
21- Higher levels of DHEAS (Dehydroepiandrosterone)
22- prevented, slowed or controlled pain of chronic diseases
23- Makes you sweat less
24- Cure headaches & migraines
25- Greater Orderliness of Brain Functioning
26- Reduced Need for Medical Care
27- Less energy wasted
28- More inclined to sports, activities
29- Significant relief from asthma
30- improved performance in athletic events
31- Normalizes to your ideal weight
32- harmonizes our endocrine system
33- relaxes our nervous system
34- produce lasting beneficial changes in brain electrical activity
35- Cure infertility (the stresses of infertility can interfere with the release of hormones that regulate ovulation).
36- Builds self-confidence.
37- Increases serotonin level, influences mood and behaviour.
38- Resolve phobias & fears
39- Helps control own thoughts
40- Helps with focus & concentration
41- Increase creativity
42- Increased brain wave coherence.
43- Improved learning ability and memory.
44- Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation.
45- Increased emotional stability.
46- improved relationships
47- Mind ages at slower rate
48- Easier to remove bad habits
49- Develops intuition
50- Increased Productivity
51- Improved relations at home & at work
52- Able to see the larger picture in a given situation
53- Helps ignore petty issues
54- Increased ability to solve complex problems
55- Purifies your character
56- Develop will power
57- greater communication between the two brain hemispheres
58- react more quickly and more effectively to a stressful event.
59- increases one’s perceptual ability and motor performance
60- higher intelligence growth rate
61- Increased job satisfaction
62- increase in the capacity for intimate contact with loved ones
63- decrease in potential mental illness
64- Better, more sociable behavior
65- Less aggressiveness
66- Helps in quitting smoking, alcohol addiction
67- Reduces need and dependency on drugs, pills & pharmaceuticals
68- Need less sleep to recover from sleep deprivation
69- Require less time to fall asleep, helps cure insomnia
70- Increases sense of responsibility
71- Reduces road rage
72- Decrease in restless thinking
73- Decreased tendency to worry
74- Increases listening skills and empathy
75- Helps make more accurate judgments
76- Greater tolerance
77- Gives composure to act in considered & constructive ways
78- Grows a stable, more balanced personality
79- Develops emotional maturity
80- Helps keep things in perspective
81- Provides peace of mind, happiness
82- Helps you discover your purpose
83- Increased self-actualization.
84- Increased compassion
85- Growing wisdom
86- Deeper understanding of yourself and others
87- Brings body, mind, spirit in harmony
88- Deeper Level of spiritual relaxation
89- Increased acceptance of oneself
90- helps learn forgiveness
91- Changes attitude toward life
92- Creates a deeper relationship with your God
93- Attain enlightenment
94- greater inner-directedness
95- Helps living in the present moment
96- Creates a widening, deepening capacity for love
97- Discovery of the power and consciousness beyond the ego
98- Experience an inner sense of “Assurance or Knowingness”
99- Experience a sense of “Oneness”
100- Increases the synchronicity in your life
Meditation is also completely FREE! It requires no special equipment, and is not complicated to learn. It can be practiced anywhere, at any given moment, and it is not time consuming (15-20 min. per day is good). Best of all, meditation has NO negative side effects. Bottom line, there is only positive things to be gained from it! With such a huge list of benefits, the question you should ask yourself is, “why am I not meditating yet?”