It is quite common with the wide-spread of the practice of yoga for Westerners to delve further into the spiritual aspects of Hinduism from which yoga originally evolved. A complicated system, Hinduism and its many deities can be difficult to understand and grasp if the student or practitioner has not previously immersed within the culture and religion. To do so can take years, decades, or even a lifetime to truly understand the structure and branches of this beautiful religion.
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Study Joseph Campbell
A simpler way for Westerners to understand and work with the many Hindu deities is to draw upon the theories and conclusions of world-renowned mythologist, Joseph Campbell, who in his decades of research, believed that Hindu deities are truly psychological aspects of ourselves.
This is not to debate or to disrespect cultural beliefs or the actual existence of said deities, but this gives outsiders a basic understanding of the application of the various characteristics and aspects attributed to the each deity and how these can be helpful to the non-Hindu. For example, Ganesh is said to be the remover of obstacles (or in some cases the bringer as we receive lessons through these obstacles), which in psychological terms can be compared to any mental blocks the practitioner may have in their life. Once this question has been raised to the sub-conscious, the practitioner may then begin to find answers that appear with solutions as to removing the blocks.
This is but one example of one deity. There are many deities with multiple aspects that can apply to our spiritual and psychological growth, health and overall well-being. Once this theory is understood, Westerners may easily apply these psychological representations in their quest for personal improvement with ease and understanding in very simple terms.
Given that there are literally thousands of Hindu deities from which to choose from, a suggestion for beginners would be to select one or two deities to whom the student is drawn to, then review those attributes associated with that deity and begin from there to apply those attributes to their personal growth. Healing and personal growth can then be more easily achieved.
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