Friday, February 8, 2013

World's largest spiritual event underway (video)

Seven, Ashley Wells, Harichandra Kumar, Wisdom Quarterly
India's most recognizable landmark: Islam's magnificent Taj Mahal (sjpaderborn)

ALLAHABAD, India - What event brings together more people than ANY other event in the history of the world? It is a spiritual festival currently underway in India. It repeats every four years at various locations, but every 12 years it becomes a mega-event of staggering proportions, the Maha Kumbh Mela. Millions of India's largely rural population heads toward the Himalayas to the confluence of two visible rivers and an invisible river or spiritual channel. These are the semi-mythical Saraswati, Yamuna, and Ganges as they converge in an Indian Himalayan foothill town known as Haridwar. Nearby Rishikesh will also see a flood of pilgrims who come to bath in the holy (Ganga) confluence to wash away "bad" karma. (This is the foundation of the popular Christian belief that the holy Jordan river could do the same, as evidenced by John the Baptist and later space-angels who "troubled the waters or effectively made ordinary water a healing agent). 

The "Spring Festival," or Chinese New Year (Feb. 10, 2013), is the auspicious day for bathing. It is not simply spiritual seekers and curious onlookers. The height of the celebrations are due to the presence of the country's yogis, sages, prophets, wandering ascetics, and priests. Many of them fierce, independent, smoking bhangra, and in possession of supernormal powers (samadhi  and siddhis), they are a spectacle showcasing India's incredible spiritual diversity and tolerance, the fertile ground that made the spread of Buddhism possible. Unfortunately, the popularity of the Buddha-Dharma was such that it had to be co-opted and subsumed in the dominant Brahminical Vedic philosophy of the day. The resulting amalgamation of brahmana (temple priest) and shramana (shaman, hermit, recluse, wandering ascetic) dharmas (teachings) gave birth to Mahayana Buddhism. As hard as this may be to believe, a study of modern Hinduism will shed great light on strange "Buddhist" devotional practices, deities, magic, rites, rituals, and beliefs. Many were rejected by the historical Buddha, but that did not stop Mahayanists from simply inventing new buddhas, sutras, gods, avatars, bodhisattvas, and figures such as the Taras and an odd, expectant messianic complex obsessed with the future-Buddha Maitreya rather than the current one and his extant message and teachings.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims converge on platforms along the Ganges in Haridwar (wiki)

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