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Bhakti movement

The Bhakti (devotional love) movement gains momentum during Medieval India, highlighting an alternative path for Moksha/Liberation in Hinduism.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] In other videos we have talked about the various empires of India as we exit the Vedic period. We talk about the Maurya Empire famous for the ruler Ashoka who converts and then spreads Buddhism. As we get into the Common Era we've talked about the Gupta Empire that once again unifies much of India, and is considered a golden age in India's history. But after the fall of the Gupta Empire India fragments and you could roughly consider this to be the Indian medieval period. This is what India looks like in the year 1000 where you have multiple Hindu kingdoms. Now as we get into the second millennium of the Common Era, you start to have significant Muslim influence. At first in the northwest but as we get into the late 12th and early 13th century you have the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate and once again North India is now unified under Muslim rule which will continue for some time under both the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire until the British show up. And then eventually in 1947, India becomes an independent country. But as much transformation as there is depicted in this map in terms of various empires and rulers, you also see a transformation in the nature of Hinduism. In other videos we have talked about the Vedas composed over 3,000 years ago in the subset that is focused on the metaphysical, on the spiritual known as the Upanishads. And this is an excerpt from the Isha Upanishad which is considered one of the most important that emphasizes this notion of our inner Self, capitalized with an S, atma or atman and how it is of the same substance as this formless, nameless ultimate reality sometimes referred to as Brahman. The Wise man, who realizes all beings as not distinct from his own Self, atman, and his own Self as the Self of all beings, does not, by virtue of that perception, hate anyone. What delusion, what sorrow can there be for that wise man who realizes the unity of all existence by perceiving all beings as his own Self? And so you have this very abstract idea, some folks would call it monistic. All is one. Your true self is of the same substance as my true self which is of the same substance and is the same thing as the ultimate reality. But the Vedas also focus on rituals and there are also gods in the Vedas. In particular some of the gods that are mentioned most frequently. You have Indra who is the god of lightning and the god of storms also referred to in the Vedas as the king of gods. You have Agni, the god of fire. It come from the same root word as ignite. You have Varuna, the god of water. But a question, how do we bridge that to the gods and the practices of modern Hinduism? As we've talked about in other videos on Hindu deities, most Hindus today view themselves as devotees of Shiva or devotees of Vishnu. And even though Vishnu is mentioned in the Vedas, he is by no means the focus. Modern Hindu practice is really focused on devotion to Shiva and/or Vishnu or aspects of them or incarnations of them. For example, Rama or Krishna. How did Hinduism evolve in this way? And the answer is the Bhakti movement. And the word Bhakti can be translated as devotion or devotional love. And it's believed to have come out of South India in the seventh century. Some people would call it a reform of Hinduism that up until that point focused on the somewhat arcane rituals of the Vedas. And the Bhakti movement provided an alternate path, a path of devotion Through devotion through a deity one can achieve that moksha. Some people would consider it a reform movement, some people would say it was always there. Some historians think that it might have even been in reaction to Muslim influence where there was this devotion or this surrender to a notion of god. Some historians think that it co-developed with Sufi Islam which is all about devotional love for God. But needless to say, as we go through the Indian middle ages, the Bhakti movement gains more and more momentum and it's really the defining movement for Hinduism today. And just to get an appreciation for some Bhakti text here is an excerpt from the Bhagavad Gita which is considered by many modern Hindus to be one of their most central scriptures. It was likely written over 2,000 years ago and really came into its final form during the Gupta Empire. But the Gita is considered one of the central Bhakti text. And even though the Gita does focus a lot on notions of realizing the self and the ultimate reality and the importance of meditation, it also makes clear that there's a path to self-realization through love, through devotion. This is Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu talking to the archer Arjun as he goes into battle. It's a bit of a repudiation of what at the time in medieval India was becoming a more and more rigid caste structure. I look upon all creatures equally none are less dear to me and none more dear. And it is also very inclusive. It is not saying that one needs to only worship Vishnu or only worship Shiva. Those who worship other gods with faith and devotion also worship me. Not a fixation on being absolutely true to all of the rituals in the Vedas. Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart, even if it's a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I accept with joy. With that, I'll leave you with a bhajan, a big part of the Bhakti movement of this notion of devotional love to God is singing. (singing in foreign language)