Leadership, Authority, and Religious Roles

Have there been important Hindu mystics?

Many of the sants certainly rank among India’s greatest mystics. Their poems and songs represent one of the two major strands of supranormal unitive experience often described as “mystical.” For the sants and other exponents of the bhakti tradition, the divine-human relationship is above all intensely personal. It is precisely the infinite chasm separating God from the human devotee that gives their conviction of the transforming love of God its immense power. This type of mysticism is often called theistic or dualistic. A number of important devotional schools trace their origins to some of the most influential theistic mystics, such as Vallabha and Chaitanya. Another stream tributary to the great river of Hindu mysticism is often referred to as cosmic or monistic. Teachers like Shankara emphasize the need to arrive through disciplined meditation at the full realization that there is no divide between what most of us perceive as the “individual” and the Ultimate Reality. That realization of the simple unity of Brahman and atman (which conventional language might call “God” and the “soul”) is the essence of the monistic mystical experience.


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