Naga Mani



# A natural mstinct #

The term ‘mysticism,’ comes from the Greek μυω, meaning “to conceal.” In the Hellenistic world, ‘mystical’ referred to “secret” religious rituals. In early Christianity the term came to refer to “hidden” allegorical interpretations of Scriptures and to hidden presences, such as that of Jesus at the Eucharist. Only later did the term begin to denote “mystical theology,” that included direct experience of the divine (See Bouyer, 1981). Typically, mystics, theistic or not, see their mystical experience as part of a larger undertaking aimed at human transformation (See, for example, Teresa of Avila, Life, Chapter 19) and not as the terminus of their efforts. Thus, in general, ‘mysticism’ would best be thought of as a constellation of distinctive practices, discourses, texts, institutions, traditions, and experiences aimed at human transformation, variously defined in different traditions.

Mysticism in India is a complete and informative description of the teachings, works, and lives of the great poet-saints of Maharashtra written by a scholar and professor who was also a mystic. Jnaneshwar, Namadev, Tukaram, Eknath, Ramdas, and the other saints discussed belonged to the great devotional religious movement that spread through medieval India. With the exception of Ramdas, they all belonged to the tradition of the Varkaris, the most popular sect in contemporary Maharashtra. Their compositions exemplify the universality of their faith and practice, and are recognized as literary treasures.

Ranade was primarily interested in the poet-saints as mystics--teachers of the perennial philosophy--whose experiences have general metaphysical and religious implications. At the heart of his classic is a comprehensive, objective presentation of the thought of these saints, augmented by a deep appreciation of their value and relevance to present-day scholars and seekers.

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