Did the hippy revolution change anything? We still hear the same old meaningless rhetoric. There are ‘the power of now’ thumpers. They just switched the book.
So ritual, the prescribed offerings, the chants, incense and dance, the symbolism and works of charity, each selectively and deliberately undertaken, serve as memory cues. When you see or smell Shiva’s offering, even before you begin the ritual, you can feel the presence of Shiva as you have built up that awareness in your mind. As you make music for Shiva, you begin to hear Shiva’s music in all music. The associations in the brain spread the awareness of Shiva’s presence wider and wider, and the offering in the form of work, taking Shiva’s presence beyond the shrine, makes us begin to associate Shiva with all of our efforts. Makes us see the god in normal things. Like the practice of Kali worshippers assisting with funerals, they begin to see the presence of Kali in the people who they assisted in their time of grief. The funeral also reminds them that they knew the departed as a child, or they know the departed persons children, and their compassion moves them to embrace these memories and these children “in the arms of Kali.”
The extent of complexity and even the form that rituals take varies rather widely in Hinduism. Some practice almost no ritual, not as we know it, and instead focus almost entirely on meditation, on their deity. Even some Buddhists do this, with their Yidam, a personal manifestation of the Buddha in the student’s experience, and other devotees practice almost no meditation beyond awareness of their feelings of love and devotion for the god. Some schools that highly recommend meditation don’t recommend it for beginners, instead directing them to devotional practice first.
Why? Because it cultivates the mind and makes it more clear when they do begin meditation, otherwise they have to struggle through a lot of distracting baggage. When you have been dwelling on Shiva for some years, when you do begin meditating you are more likely to see Shiva peacefully. Otherwise, you are more likely to see Shiva in the form of Rudra the storm god, and see nothing more than a parade of your personal demons or passions before your awareness, which some deem as an unworthy experience. I guess they deem the demonic vision as unworthy because it does have a certain power of fascination, and I guess they fear the student will become lost, not come out the other side of the experience, or if they do be unreceptive to traditional teachings. Those traditions are seen as a foundation for peace and harmony in their communities.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.