• Bhakti Backdrop: How the Ecstatic Tradition Came to Us, YOGA INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016

    Posted in Articles by Eric Shaw



    Within the living context of modern yoga we have kirtan, with such luminaries as Deva Premal, Krishna Das, and scads of others.

    These folks are reviving a pre-modern revival—the Bhakti saint movement of 11th-century India.

    At that time, the idea of devotional worship, or bhakti, that had been percolating since the early Common Era (around the birth of Christ), burst hugely into mainstream Hinduism.

    It then spread from its birthground of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in southern India throughout much of the country and into India’s larger transcendental traditions.

    Fourteen hundred years before that, small sects of Bhagavats (those seeking God through devotional worship), had first introduced ideas of non-exclusive, intimate love between a god and a human.




    And two hundred years before the Bhagavats, we saw the appearance of the Svetasvatara Upanishad, which told us Rudra-Shiva is the All-God. Svetasvatara recast our commonplace Shiva as Reality’s First Cause—as a god who precedes and outpowers the much renowned celestial pantheon of India.

    In the Svetasvatara, we do not get the unique intimacy of the war general, Arjuna, and his god-cousin, Krishna, that comes in the later Bhagavad Gita (c. 325 CE), but we do get a monotheism that echoes the lawful Lord Yahweh of the Jews.




    This new idea of God-as-One-and-Only—called Rudra-Shiva—surpasses anything seen in the earlier Vedas (c. 1800–800 BCE).

    There the gods were distant deities at play in their own heaven, far removed from mortals, but approachable through complex rituals which inveigled favors of every kind from their vast war chest of powers.


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