1) Nine Beliefs of Hinduism
Our beliefs determine our thoughts and attitudes about life, which in turn direct our actions. By our actions, we create our destiny. Beliefs about sacred matters--God, soul and cosmos--are essential to one's approach to life. Hindus believe many diverse things, but there are a few bedrock concepts on which most Hindus concur. The following nine beliefs, though not exhaustive, offer a simple summary of Hindu spirituality.
1. Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.
2. Hindus believe in the divinity of the four Vedas, the world's most ancient scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial hymns are God's word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion.
3. Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution.
4. Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds.
5. Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha, liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be deprived of this destiny.
6. Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments and personal devotionals create a communion with these devas and Gods.
7. Hindus believe that an enlightened master, or satguru, is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry, meditation and surrender in God.
8. Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, noninjury, in thought, word and deed.
9. Hindus believe that no religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine paths are facets of God's Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.
Hinduism, the world's oldest religion, has no beginning--it precedes recorded history. It has no human founder. It is a mystical religion, leading the devotee to personally experience the Truth within, finally reaching the pinnacle of consciousness where man and God are one. Hinduism has four main denominations--Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism.
2) How to Cook for God
Kamika Agama offers its best recipes for preparing temple naivedyam
The following is a lucid translation of passages from the Kamika Agama, chapter 6, verses 30 through 59, explaining the preparation of food offerings. The scriptural recipes, arguably the oldest recipes known to man, will be instantly familiar to anyone conversant with South Indian cooking.
THE SADHAKA SHOULD FILL A WATER-VESSEL WITH CLEAN, FILTERED WATER. With a purified vessel, he should wash the rice while reciting the hridaya mantra. Having washed the rice six times, he should squeeze the grains repeatedly and once again wash them while reciting six anga mantras. He should then pour the grains into the clean water of the cooking vessel, knowing the exact quantity of water as guided by experience and through reasoning; or using one and a half times the measure of the grains. He should reverently bind darbha grass around the neck of the vessel.
The interior ground of the kitchen should be smeared with cow dung and sprinkled with consecrated water. With offerings of rice and the recitation of the hridaya mantra, the sadhaka should worship the hearth, which has two projections at its top, representing dharma and adharma. While lifting the firewood and reciting the vamadeva mantra, he should place the wood inside the hearth, reciting the hridaya mantra. After igniting the fire while reciting the aghora mantra, the sadhaka should kindle the fire with the recital of ashtra mantra. He should not use woods that are damaged by insects or spoiled by sparks of fire. Food which is burnt, over-boiled, cold, impaired by hair or insects or which is old and stale should be abandoned.
To prepare sweet rice, milk measured to twice the measure of rice, along with mung beans equal to half the measure of rice, should be boiled well. This dish is known as payasa (from payas, the mung bean).
Now, the details about gulanna (rice cooked with molasses). Having prepared the payasa as done before, the sadhaka should add the pieces of molasses at one part to four, then add ghee, which measure may be half or a quarter the measure of molasses. These should be cooked well and pieces of banana added. Sesame with a measure equal to half the measure of rice should be ground and added. If not available, half or quarter of this measure may be taken. The cooked rice mixed with sesame is called krusaranna (sesame rice).
Cooked rice mixed with powdered mung beans measuring half or a quarter of the rice is called mudganna. Or, all of these varieties of mixtures may be prepared according to the availability of needed ingredients. Pepper, turmeric powder, cumin seeds and mustard should be mixed well and cooked, then added to the cooked rice. This dish is known as haridranna.
The details about the main offerings have been shared. Now I will speak about the appetizing condiments and seasoned dishes. Mung beans, other legumes, mung beans and rajam (a kind of lentil) should be winnowed well and cleared of pods and broken or empty grains. Rajam and other lentils can be used with or without the skins. Pumpkin, gourd, jackfruit, bottle gourd, kalinga gourd, wild eggplant, cucumber and karkari (a type of eggplant) can be taken with or without the covering skins. Banana, karakhi (asafoetida), vyaghri (another type of eggplant), mango, melon, roots, bulbous roots and other edible roots are the recommended substances to be used for the preparation of appetizing dishes. For one measure of cooked rice, there should be one fourth measure of such other dishes.
All varieties of seasoned dishes should be fresh and pure, cooked well, free from all defects and should include ghee. They should be well mixed with ground coconut and other dry fruits and should be seasoned with pepper, cumin seeds and other spices. Such seasoned dishes are highly valued as the offerings of naivedya. They should have sufficient salt and ghee, and be seasoned with tamarind juice, pepper and other spices.
The measure of pepper should be 3 parts out of 4 parts of salt; that of clarified butter, twice the measure of pepper. The pounded beans should be one part of 16, or one part out of 32 parts the measure of rice. Pepper and other spices mixed into the form of paste, such as that of mustard and other juicy items, should be added to the dishes and boiled well.
Some of these dishes may be mixed with pieces of well-dressed sweet cakes. Having kneaded the powder of bean and pepper, the sadhaka should mix them with the dishes, slowly churn the mixture to make it soft, and cook it over mild fire. After adding sufficient molasses and pieces of juicy fruits, he should boil the soup. He may prepare many varieties of soups through different processes with suitable ingredients. Varieties of soups prepared in this way should be offered along with the pure, cooked rice.
Then the sadhaka should take the well-boiled dishes from the hearth with the accompaniment of the sounding conch and with the displays of honor, such as the parasol, light and others. He should arrange them over ground which has been smeared with cow-dung and decorated with five kinds of powder. He should drip warm ghee over the dishes with the recital of Siva mantras and then drip normal ghee with the recital of anga mantras and offer the oblations of ghee three times. He should purify the vessels and smear over them three stripes of vibhuti mixed with water.
DR. S. P. SABHARATHNAM SIVACHARYAR, of the Adi Saiva priest lineage, is an expert in ancient Tamil and Sanskrit, specializing in the Vedas, Agamas and Shilpa Shastras. This excerpt is from his recent translation of the Kamika Agama.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to Sadguru Sri Sivaya Subramuniyaswami ji, Satguru Bodhianatha Velayanswami ji, and Sri S P Sabharathnam Sivacharyar for the collection)