Monday, 27 July 2009

Hi Readers

The first part of journey ends here. My second part starts in my next blog. In my first blog we just touched on the common topics and i would like you to assimilate the things we had discussed.whatever i had written was applicable to all ages and all groups alike.I will still continue with my post on this blog as and when required,but from now on in my second blog i would concentrate on the spiritual text as and how it is and give commentaries as and when required so as the readers could gather knowledge and have an insight into these texts.My second blog is mainly for the adults who want guidance and know their path to salvation. So it is a critical insight into spiritual text. Come and join me in this journey and I will help you to peep into this mystic world of knowledge called spiritualism........

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Temples as a place of worship

There is always a question asked by the younger generation ?why should one go to a temple to pray,why not at home.So, today's topic is on temple as a place of worship.We know that God exists everywhere,but still the idea does not get firmly established in our minds.It does not get reflected in our actions.If one remembers God all the time,how can one commit evil acts? Is idol worship necessary? Yes would be the answer.The reason is very simple.God is ominipresent,we build temples only to focus the power of the lord in a consecrated idol for our benefit in an easy way.It is like this.sun's rays is everywhere and it contains heat energy.If we keep a piece of paper in the sun,it does not catch fire by itself,but if we place a lens and focus the sun's heat rays on that piece of paper,after some time,we find that the cloth catches fire.Idol worship is very important in our religion,for the ordinary people.when we bow before the idol or pray before the diety consecrated in the idol we never think that it is only a piece of stone,but we thinkthat the diety in the idol is the protector and the root and cause of the whole world.thus temples,help to increase the devotion of a person to god and this devotion helps him to overcome or reduce his sufferings.Here are a few guidelines while visiting a temple:
1.Going to the temple with a clean body. Legs and hands shall be cleaned at entering the temple.
2.Going to the temple adorned with holy symbols like the Holy Ash, rudrAxam.
3.Taking something to offer to the Lord. It is an offering out of devotion. It would be nice if the offering is the one required in the worship.
4.Do not enter the temple with foot wear.
5.Prostrate in front of the flag column (dwajastaMbham) (towards the North) on entering the temple. do not prostrate anywhere else in the temple.
6.Take the permission of nandi dEvar mentally before entering His abode.
Salute Lord ganesha when you enter the Lord's abode. In temple, engage the mind in the thinking of the God. Avoid any gossip. Temple is not the place for gossiping. you can sing or chant His names loudly and sweetly if it would not disturb others. Otherwise it could be done internally without making noise.
The Holy ash given as the blessings should be worn saying "shivAya namaH". It should not be spilled on the ground or wasted. It is normally a procedure to offer something to the priest whose whole life should be in the service of the Lord.
7.Circumambulating the Lord saluting the Goddess and the deities in the temple. The circumambulation would be done at least three times.
Before coming out of the temple go to the place of chaNdEshwarar and take permission for the materials which after worship are taken out of the temple as blessings. One must not take anything out in excess and things taken from the temple should be only as the mark of blessings. If nothing is taken ,it is the normal practice to wipe (rub) the hands together in his place.
Should do something in the promotion of the temple physically or materially or whichever is convenient and required.
On coming out of the temple, again prostrate in front of the flag column towards the north. Sit facing the north and meditate on the God .
While inside the temple should not make the place dirty in any way or make any noise.
Going to the temple at least once in a week with the family is very important for every hindu family.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Food - Its gunas

Food plays an important role in our lives,and it is deep rooted in our culture.According to the vedas,food is the mother essence of healing.Again I quote the vedas
"I speak the truth,it is indeed his death.He who nourishes neither the god nor a friend,he who Add Imageeats alone,gathers sin"(Rig veda X.117).
"Ahimsa is the highest Dharma. Ahimsa is the best Tapas. Ahimsa is the greatest gift. Ahimsa is the highest self-control. Ahimsa is the highest sacrifice. Ahimsa is the highest power. Ahimsa is the highest friend. Ahimsa is the highest truth. Ahimsa is the highest teaching". Mahabharat 18.116.37-41
Of the Vedas stem the techniques of Ayurveda-the Science of Life, that we gives us a curious and practical classification of food, which shows us how to use them in order to improve our lives. One of the classifications of food, which must be adopted by anyone who seeks to improve his/her life, is the classification of foods into three types: tamas, rajas and satva, which are the three gunas, or qualities of the area. According to the selection of food in these parameters, you can have a body more or less subtle, and the emotions and thoughts have a feature correspondent.
Food satva are those that promote spiritual sensitivity, which are the soul like their growth, which purificates the body and suavizate the mind, soothing it and facilitating meditation. They are light and soft, such as cereals (wheat, rice, barley, rye, wheat sarraceno, corn, etc..), The fresh milk, soft fruit, food naturally sweet, honey, nectars, etc.
Food rajas are stimulants, which encourage the work of the mind, that cause reactions, which tonificates. Food rajas are of tempero strong, such as pepper, garlic, onion, assa - ginger, and so on. As well as coffee, tea stimulants, plant tonificates and alcohol.
Food tamas are those who block the spiritual perception, which blinds the thoughts, which intoxicates the physical body, making it less able to understand the subtle side of things. Food tamas are generally those conditioned, dried, defumateds, stinky, a bad thing, very condimentates, salted meat, the fat dense, ham, salmons, sausages, and the red meat in general and the viscera animals, some fruit the sea, such as shrimp, seafood and others. The choice of food according to the vision aiurvédica, may determine our mood, our temperament, our ability to discern. Therefore, the foods most suitable for those seeking to understand the dharma-Law Superior - are those of satva, using perhaps some food for rajas.
Satvic food is mostly the vegetarian food which livens up our body and spirit.There are five major motivations for being a vegetarian:
1. The Dharmic Law Reason
Ahimsa, the law of noninjury, is the Hindu's first duty in fulfilling religious obligations to God and God's creation as defined by Vedic scripture.
2. The Karmic Consequences Reason
All of our actions, including our choice of food, have Karmic consequences. By involving oneself in the cycle of inflicting injury, pain and death, even indirectly by eating other creatures, one must in the future experience in equal measure the suffering caused.
3. The Spiritual Reason
Food is the source of the body's chemistry, and what we ingest affects our consciousness, emotions and experiential patterns. If one wants to live in higher consciousness, in peace and happiness and love for all creatures, then he cannot eat meat, fish, shellfish, fowl or eggs. By ingesting the grosser chemistries of animal foods, one introduces into the body and mind anger, jealousy, anxiety, suspicion and a terrible fear of death, all of which are locked into the the flesh of the butchered creatures. For these reasons, vegetarians live in higher consciousness and meat-eaters abide in lower consciousness.
4. The Health Reason
Medical studies prove that a vegetarian diet is easier to digest, provides a wider ranger of nutrients and imposes fewer burdens and impurities on the body. Vegetarians are less susceptible to all the major diseases that afflict contemporary humanity, and thus live longer, healthier, more productive lives. They have fewer physical complaints, less frequent visits to the doctor, fewer dental problems and smaller medical bills. Their immune system is stronger, their bodies are purer, more refined and skin more beautiful.
5. The Ecological Reason
Planet Earth is suffering. In large measure, the escalating loss of species, destruction of ancient rainforests to create pasture lands for live stock, loss of topsoils and the consequent increase of water impurities and air pollution have all been traced to the single fact of meat in the human diet. No decision that we can make as individuals or as a race can have such a dramatic effect on the improvement of our planetary ecology as the decision not to eat meat.
It is through food that we channel our energies to our inner cosmic the type of food we eat determines the type of person we want to become.So eat healthy vegetarian food and make a atman out of you and not a demon.
"What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, for killing leads to every other sin". Thirukural 312, 321

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Solar Eclipse - Myths and Science

Solar eclipse is a spectacular natural phenomenon, a celestial splendor, an astronomical wonder, a subject and topic of research for scientists .Some of you must be aware of the science behind it,and some the myths and belief behind it. Iam here to look into both and show how the two could coexist on the same platform,so that we could enjoy its splendour and vibrate to the mysteries surrounding it with the sheer sense of pleasure of knowing the unknown.
A Solar Eclipse can occur only when the Moon is in its new phase (on a new Moon day) when Sun and Moon are in conjunction as seen from the Earth. In a solar eclipse Moon is the eclipsing body, passing between Earth and Sun while casting a travelling shadow across Earth’s lighted surface so that the Sun is wholly or partially obscured (covered). There are four types of solar eclipses.A total eclipse when Sun is completely obscured by the Moon. Total eclipses are rare events though they occur. An Annular Eclipse when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line, but size of the Moon is apparently smaller that that of the Sun. A Hybrid eclipse that is intermediate between total and annular eclipse. A partial eclipse when the Sun and Moon are not exactly in line and the Moon only partially obscures the Sun.
Mythological references to eclipse are found in Maha Bhagavatha, Maha Bharatha, and other Vishnu related puranas. In Hindu mythology it is believed that eclipses are caused by Rahu and Kethu.It is said that in the original version of Valmiki Ramayana a description of total solar eclipse is given and a mention of Rahu was made in the context of war between Lord Sri Rama and Khara.
In the Navagraha Sthothram supposed to have been composed by sage Vedavyasa the description of Rahu is well suited and connect to the reference of an eclipse. Rahu sloka is depicted as follows:

"Ardha Kayam Maha Veeram Chandraaditya VimardhanamSimhika Garbhasambhootham Tham Rahum Pranamamyaham"
Customs/beliefs/tradition about eclipse:
Hindus generally observe fast during the period of Vedha, and they do not cook food.-the reason is, it is said that during eclipse most harmful rays can be seen and absorbed and the basic level of vulnerability is high that affects the digestive process and the food gets contaminated.
They take bath as the eclipse begins and also after the eclipse is over.-It is done to cleanse themselves of the harmful radiation given out during the eclipse.
During the period of eclipse perform rituals like prayer, Dharbha ( grass) is used as a remedy and kept on all the items like milk, curd, pickles and stored water during eclipse. -Grass blades (Durva or Garika or Darbha) are kept on stored water and food during the time Grahan. It is not a blind ritual. It’s proven scientifically that Grass blades purify the water more than Tulsi (Ocimum) leaves can during Grahanam. Grass blades have immense purifying power. This is the main reason why grass blades are kept on stored water and food like pickles
Pregnant women are not allowed to move out during the eclipse period and are asked to stay indoors where no sun light enters the room. -This is to avoid possible congenital deformities in the fetus . Santana Gopala Stotra (a mantra to chant during graham by pregnant women) keeps up the health of the pregnant woman as well as the child (Garbhastha Shishu).
Generally people are not allowed to watch the eclipse with naked eyes.-This again is done to avoid ulta violet rays entering the eyes.
Temples are closed during the eclipse time and opened after the eclipse is over after performing special puja and rituals.-This is done because the idols have the power to absorb energy radiation and to hold them within,so as to avoid such energies being absorbed the temple is closed to protect the idols.

This fine bit of nature's drama on the world stage has to be appreciated and integrated into our lives so that nature and man made science and culture can coexist.

Art of living the Hindu way....

At this point in my life,I look back to see the path that I have come and leads to me ask have I lived my life the Hindu way,which made me look at the Hindu ethics and conduct.Where do I get the ethics and conduct?Though our epics and vedanta are thousand years old it stands good even today,which helps me today to explore and pick out the points which are specified in these books directly or indirectly.There are six great sayings (Mahavakyas) from the Upanishads that give the basic insight into its philosophy.
Aham Brahmasmi “I am Brahman”: Vedic knowledge teaches that our own “Self” is the true Divinity. The Truth is within us, in our own heart. This states the identity of the inner most consciousness of the individual with the supreme Divine.Ayam Atma Brahma “The Self is Brahman”: This states that not only individual soul is Divine but all beings are identified with the Absolute Truth.Tat Tvam Asi “That art thou”: Whatever we see or think about, we are That. We are the ultimate Thou and I in all.Prajnanam Brahma “ Knowledge is Brahman”: Supreme intelligence is present inherently within us and is capable of returning us to the Divine. Our understanding of the truth is the Truth itself.Sarvam Kalvidam Brahma “ The whole universe is Brahman”: Not only the consciousness in you and I but also the ‘principle of being’ are all Divine. The entire universe is Divine, which includes our Self.So ‘ham “Here am I”: This identifies the Divinity in our Self in something that happens naturally like breathing. “So” is inhalation and “Ham” is the natural sound of exhalation.All of these statements point to the fact that whatever or however we worship, be it an image, book, an idea or even a God, it is the knowledge that the Truth is within ourselves that will ultimately lead to self-realization. Self is the true Divinity. This is the essence of Upanishads.
Elaboration of the social code is found in the Mahabharata. There are four great aims of human life (purusharthas), namely dharma or righteousness, artha or wealth, kama or enjoyment and moksha or spiritual liberation; the four stages of life, the student or brahmacharya, the householder or grahasthya, the forest-dweller or vanaprastha and the wandering ascetic or sanyasa.
The Manuva-shastra (codes of Manu) gives details of social rules and practices. Kautilya’s Artha-shastra discusses economics and politics
Other texts that that give insight into Hindu ethics also shaped the life of a Hindu. There is the Manasollasa written by 12th Century Deccan king Someshvara III Chalukya that illustrates Hindu morals. Hospitality, charity and honesty are extolled. Piety, performance of religious worship and pilgrimage are also important. Eight virtues of the soul were mentioned in the law book of Gautama, namely compassion, patience, contentedness, purity, earnest endeavor, pure thoughts, freedom from greed, and freedom from envy. Tamil texts of Thirukkural and Naladiyar also stress on the moral codes.
There are nine basic requirements that a Hindu should be aware of and follow. Personal discipline, good conduct, self-inquiry and meditation are important. Here briefly are the nine beliefs of Hinduism.
1.Belief in the divinity of Vedas.
2.The Supreme Being is both immanent and transcendent, thus both a Creator and Un-manifest Reality.
3.The universe is in an endless cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution.
4.One creates his own destiny by his thoughts, deeds and words. This law of cause and effect is called the Karma.
5.Every soul evolves through a series of births and deaths (janma and punar-janma) until all karmas have been resolved.
6.Temple worship, rituals, sacraments as well as personal devotions create a communion with God.
7.A master or a guru is essential to follow the right path to know the Transcendent Absolute.
8.All forms of life are sacred and are to be loved and revered. All must follow the practice of ‘non-injury’ or ahimsa.
9.No one particular religion teaches the ‘only pathway’ to salvation. All genuine religious paths are facets of God’s Light and Love, deserving tolerance and understanding.
Thus the Hindu is advised to contain and restrain all the emotions that may lead to a sinful existence. He is asked to control such emotions as Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Mada (ego, pride) and Matsara (jealousy). The moral codes of various texts repeatedly emphasize the importance of being aware of these ordinary but strong human emotions that lead to the disruptions of a harmonious society.
Have I taken a step towards this, Yes....Have I perfected it in becoming a good human being..No...
So dear friends....Look into these code of conduct everyday and ask yourself the question,Have I perfected it, the art of living the Hindu way.....

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

kundalini sakthi......

In my last post I had given some guidelines regarding the activation of the chakras,and the topic would be incomplete without the reference to kundalini sakthi.According to the philosophy of Tantra, the entire universe is a manifestation of pure consciousness. In manifesting the universe, this pure consciousness seems to become divided into two poles or aspects, neither of which can exist without the other.

One aspect, Shiva, is masculine, retains a static quality and remains identified with unmanifested consciousness. Shiva has the power to be but not the power to become or change. The other aspect, Shakti, is feminine, dynamic, energetic and creative. Shakti is the Great Mother of the universe, for it is from her that all form is born.According to Tantra, the human being is a miniature universe. All that is found in the cosmos can be found within each individual, and the same principles that apply to the universe apply in the case of the individual being.

In human beings, Shakti, the feminine aspect is called Kundalini. This potential energy is said to rest at the base of the spinal cord. The object of the Tantric practice of Kundalini-yoga is to awaken this cosmic energy and make it ascend through the psychic centres, the chakras, that lie along the axis of the spine as consciousness potentials. She will then unite above the crown of the head with Shiva the pure consciousness.The brahma-randhra is the meeting place of the kundalini sakthi. Immortality is achieved within this chakra.Before attaining to this chakra yogis are unable to reach the unconscious state called the asama-prajnata samadhi.In this state there is no activity of the mind and no knower,no knowledge,nothing to be known.knowledge, the knower and known things all become unified and liberated. This union is the aim of Kundalini-yoga: a resolution of duality into unity again, a fusion with the Absolute. By this union the adept attains liberation while living which is considered in Indian life to be the highest experience: an union of the individual with the universe.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


Throughout our body we have main energy centers, which are connected to major organs or glands that govern other body parts. Each of these main energy centers are referred to as chakra–chakra is a Sanskrit word which means wheel. A chakra is a wheel-like spinning vortex that whirls in a circular motion forming a vacuum in the center that draws in anything it encounters on its particular vibratory level.It is said that our body contains hundred of chakras that are the key to the operation of our being. These “spinning wheels” draw-in coded information from our surroundings. Coded information can be anything from a color vibration to ultra-violet ray to a radio or micro wave to another person’s aura. In essence our chakras receive the health of our environment, including the people we are in contact with (that’s why other people’s moods have an affect on us!). As well our chakras also radiate an energy of vibration.The seven main chakra centers are aligned along the spinal column. If there are disturbances on any level, this shows in the chakra’s vitality level. Also each of the seven main chakras is their own intelligence center. This means that each chakra is not only associated with our physical health but also controls aspects connected to our emotional, mental and belief system.
Many of you must be aware of the different chakras the colour its position and the effects of it,so iam not venturing into it.what we are going to focus today is that the means to vitalize thes chakras and how to draw the benefits from it.
Each chakra has a specific method by which it could be activated and it also depends on our requirement.I know how it must be fascinating for the young readers to think that you can acquire these powers by practice and by some practical methods.Let me warn you,though it looks easy,it needs a lot of hard work and dedication to achieve its full potential.what i would like to empasise here is that follow the simple rules and keep yourself fit and happy.I would not advice you to take up the hard practices because it is like walking on razor edge, little out of balance it produces drastic effects.
The few techniques/practices that could be adopted are:
Thoughts:Thought is an energy form. Science has proven a positive thought allows our energy to flow freely and unrestricted. Whereas, negative thoughts decrease energy within our body. Every thought (whether mental or emotional) is connected to a chakra. For example, a passionate thought is a red energy stimulant, but an angry thought decreases one's positive red energy flow. This means that continual angry thoughts will lower your root chakra's energy.
The Sun:This is our most important energy source. Through light all the seven color energies flow from the sun’s rays to the earth. People, animals, plants, minerals, water and our chakras receive energy from the sun’s light. (If you are not able to enjoy the sun for a few hours daily, add a quality full spectrum light bulb to a light source in your work area or in a lamp at home.)
Food:When the sun’s rays bless all plant life, it gives the plant life/energy. Once the plant absorbs energy, the color energy that remains is the energy of that fruit, vegetable or flower. Without this energy our body could not assimilate the nutritional value of the food. Balance your chakras daily by eating foods that contain each of the seven color energies (that’s why the doctor always said to eat a plate of different colored foods... for the color value!).
Visualization:Meditation & Breathing (Yoga). Since thought is an energy form you can stimulate your chakra centers through meditation, visualization or breathing energy into your various chakra centers. By adding the color intention adds additional power from a chakra’s vibration.
Gems/Minerals:Gemstones and minerals are also energy forms. For example, crystals contain a similar crystalline structure as the human body. Crystals amplify energy and can be programmed (e.g. computer chips and watches). Wearing gemstone jewelry or placing gemstones and minerals in your environment is a simple way to absorb the stone or mineral’s healing vibrations.
Color Bathing(One of my favorites!) :Water is a conductor of energy and color is an energy. While lying in the colored water your body absorbs the vibrational frequency from the color. Take the time to give back to your body and soul! While bathing, balance that chakra by thinking about what you would like to achieve from that specific energy and maybe add the correlating aromatherapy oil. Do not use chemical food coloring to dye your water.
Aromatherapy:Essential oils are the pure essence of the plant or flower. Every oil has a vibration that correlates to a color. Oils contain the healing properties of herbs, flowers or plants. Use only therapeutic quality oils (inexpensive oils may contain toxins). Also never apply oils directly on your skin (dilute with a carrier oil or in a bath).
Music & Dance:Music effects us in a positive or negative way. Every musical note corresponds to a color and chakra center. Certain sounds can stimulate an emotional, mental, physical or spiritual response. E.g. Listening or dancing to primal music, such as the beating of drums, can energize your physical body and stimulate your root chakra.
Toning & Sounds:We can vocally make sounds to vibrate at the same frequency as various organs in our body. Regular toning can help keep our body’s organs functioning properly. Noise pollution can be very disturbing to our environment. Surround yourself with sounds, which make you happy and productive!
Color Tonations:By shining of light through various color filters directly onto the body, the vibration of the color will be absorbed through your skin effecting the designated area.
Solarized Water:Charge water by filling a colored glass with water or by placing a colored filter in front of a glass of water and let the sun’s rays kiss the water with color energy. Make sure the glass is not leaded and of a clean color hue.
Syntonics:Is the use of color through the eyes. Via our eyes color stimulates our pituitary gland, which in turn releases hormones connected to the correlating organ of the same frequency. Therapeutic eye glasses that are manufactured with various colored filters can be simply worn whenever you need a boost of a certain color or chakra energy. Make sure the color eyeglasses are 100% UVA & UVB coated if wearing outdoors and again the exact color tint of the lens is very, very important. Note: Unless the color glass manufacturer or distributor is aware of color therapy, chances are their colored lenses are not made for healing purposes.
Decor:Use colors consciously in your home or work environment to give you more positive and productive energy. Paint a room or add different colored pillows, artwork, carpets, etc.
Clothing. What we wear will influence our mood, mind and energy level. Light penetrates through our clothing amplifying the color energy we are wearing. The more vibrant the clothing the better the energy transfer.
Art & Color:Art and color can be used as an outlet to either express or stimulate. Surround yourself with the colors, which are suitable for what you need to accomplish in that area. Use calming colors in your bedroom and mentally stimulating colors in your workspace.
To be continued.......

Monday, 20 July 2009

Significance of Upanayanam

What does the word stand for?I often heard from my parents say that upanayanam is performed to, only one sect of the hindu society.My curious mind could not take that, for an answer and the general opinion was found to be the same.I have seen marriages of different kind, amongst the hindus and the first thing they do is thread ceremony for the bridegroom.So if it is for one sect,, then why do they perform this,to all sects for a day, whether it is a marriage or a death ceremony.So here it is for those of you who are quite intrigued just like me.
Human life can be compared to a four-storied mansion. The four stories are: Brahmacharya (celibacy), Grihastha (householder), Vaanaprastha (recluse) and Sanyasa (renunciate). It is a brahmacharya who takes up upanayanam.Upa means 'approaching towards, by the side of'. Nayanam means 'leading, directing, bringing'. Upanayanam or the thread ceremony is the sanskara performed to mark the beginning of studenthood or Brahmacharya ashram for a Brahmin, Kshatriya or Vaishya boy, to formalise his eligibility to read and study the sacred books Varna Prior to the ceremony. A child of any caste is considered 'once-born' . With the performance of the Upanayanam, he becomes 'twice-born'.The child spends the night before the actual ceremony in isolation and absolute silence, preparing for his second birth. This is symbolic of being in the womb again. The next morning, the mother and child eat together for the last time. If the Chudakarana(shaving of the head and leeaving a bunch of hair) has not already been performed, it is now done. The child is then bathed and, adorned in a loincloth, is taken to the guru. The guru accepts him and offers him a mantle to cover his upper body. Since every Hindu is required to cover his upper body during religious ceremonies, this symbolises the beginning of a religious life for the child. The guru then ties a girdle around the waist of the student. This is supposed to support the loincloth, to protect his purity and chastity. Next is the investiture of the sacred thread, or Yagyopavitam. The Yagyopavita or sacred thread is 96times the breadth of a man's four fingers. An important part of the ceremony. Initially, the guru made the thread during the course of the ceremony. Nowadays, however, it is usually made in advance. Then, while reciting mantras, the guru places the thread over the boy's neck, so that it hangs across his chest from his left shoulder.The concept is believed to have originated from the mantle and the girdle. The thread is spun by a virgin girl and consists of nine strands, which are three long threads, each folded thrice over. This is then knotted, with each knot marking a distinguished ancestor. The length of the thread is 96 times the breadth of four fingers of a man, which is believed to be equal to his height. Each of the four fingers represents one of the four states that the soul of a man experiences: waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep and knowledge of the absolute. The three folds of the thread represent the three qualities from which the universe evolved: passion, representing Brahma; reality, representing Vishnu ; and darkness, representing Shiva. The three folds in the thread also remind the wearer of the three debts he owes: to the gods, to the sages, and to his ancestors.
The sacred thread is worn differently for different occasions. When performing an auspicious ritual, like the naming ceremony Namakarana or marriage Vivaha, the thread hangs across the chest from the left shoulder. For the funeral rites Antyeshti, the thread hangs across the chest from the right shoulder. When a man is engaged in physical activity, the thread hangs down from the neck like a garland. While bathing and defecating, the thread is looped up securely around the ear.
After bestowing the thread, the guru gives the pupil a staff, symbolising the beginning of a long journey to perfection. With this, the student is fully equipped with the necessities of student life. Then the guru fills his cupped hands with water, which he sprinkles on the pupil, to cleanse and purify him Sanskara. He touches the heart of the student, symbolising harmony, sympathy, and wholehearted communion between the two. The student then mounts a stone to imbibe its firmness.This is followed by a formal introduction between the guru and the student, where each tells the other about him. The student is fed yogurt as a sign that he should clear his mind and ingest what he is taught. Then, after circumambulating the sacrificial fire, the student is shown the sun and explained that the quest for knowledge should be like the light of the sun, which permeates through all things. Next the Gayatri Mantra is recited by the guru and repeated by the pupil, who memorises it.The teaching of the sacred Gayatri Mantra is called 'Brahmopadesham' (Brahma's counsel). It is only after learning the mantra that the student is accepted as 'twice-born'. The student then puts a piece of wood into the sacrificial fire. This signifies the beginning of his contribution to religious rites. The ceremony concludes with pradakshina. The pupil now collects alms for food, for as a student he must live on the town's charity and later repay his debt to society by giving alms himself to other students when he graduates to being a householder. Now, on his very first foray, he symbolically augurs his survival by begging first from his mother and aunts. His refrain is bhavati bhiksham dehi. (Literally "Whichever honorable person is present, please give alms").
before we go any further let me tell you the significance of gayathri mantra:Gayatri is Sarvadevata Swarupini and Sarvamantra Swarupini (embodiment of all Gods and goddesses and all Mantras). It is said, Gayatri Chaandasaam Matha, meaning Gayatri is the mother of the Vedas. There is no need to chant any other Mantra if you chant the Gayatri Mantra. Gayatri has three names: Gayatri, Savitri and Saraswathi.Gayatri, Savitri and Saraswathi are latent in everybody. Bhur, Bhuvah and Suvah in the Gayatri Mantra refer to body (materialization), life force (vibration) and soul (radiation). Bhur means Bhuloka (the earth), which is nothing but the combination of materials. This denotes the human body, which is also a combination of materials. Bhuvaha refers to the life force, which makes the body move. Suvaha refer to Prajnana Shakti, which sustains the life force. This Prajnana Shakti is known as the Constant Integrated Awareness. This is also termed as radiation. All the three, viz., materialization, vibration and radiation are present in man. - the one you think you are (physical level), the one others think you are (mental level) and the one you really are (Atmic level). Gayatri is known as Panchamukhi, meaning she has five faces. What are they? Aum is the first face; "Bhur Bhuvah Suvaha" is the second; "Tat Savitur Varenyam" is the third; "Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi" is the fourth; "Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat" is the fifth. The Gayatri has three parts: 1.Praise, 2.Meditation, and 3.Prayer. First, the Divine is praised, then it is meditated upon in reverence and lastly, an appeal is made to the Divine to dispel the darkness of ignorance and to awaken and strengthen the intellect. "Dheemahi" is related to the meditative aspect. "Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat" relates to the aspect of prayer. Chanting of the Gayatri Mantra purifies the mind and confers devotion, detachment and wisdom. Young men must necessarily chant the Gayatri Mantra. Today we find people getting initiated into the Gayatri Mantra in the advanced stages of their youth. Intellect will blossom and shine forth in all its splendor only after initiation into the Gayatri Mantra. That is why it is essential that Upanayanam be done at the age of eight.
Gayatri is the embodiment of the mother-principle. You should chant the Gayatri everyday, morning, afternoon and evening. These are referred to as Praathah Sandhya, Maadhyahna Sandhya and Saayam Sandhya. When you show your back to the sun, your shadow will be ahead of you. It will fall behind you only when you stand facing the sun. Similarly, Maya (illusion), which is like your shadow, will overtake you when you turn your mind away from God. It can be overcome only when you turn your mind towards God. The next question that comes into the mind of the readers is, should the mantra be recited only by the male member?According to the Haritadharmasutra, girls could also have their Upanayanam performed, with two options. They could have the complete ceremony performed, just as boys did. Or, if their Upanayanam was not performed in their youth, it could be done just before the marriage ceremony. However, by the time of the Manusmriti, the Upanayanam became an exclusively male prerogative. By Manu's reckoning, caring for the home and husband were duties equivalent to those performed by a student for his guru (see Ashram). Therefore, women were not required to go through the ceremony. In time, the Upanayanam lost its original significance. Initially supposed to mark the beginning of a child's studenthood, it became a process of initiation into one's caste. The investiture of the sacred thread, once a minor aspect, became the main purpose of the ceremony, as the thread was the identification of a 'twice-born' Hindu. Today, the Upanayanam has become a mere formality for most Hindus. Once the sacred thread is bestowed and token alms collected, the modern 'twice-born' takes a short walk near the house, symbolising his journey to Benaras or any other holy city, dedicated to learning. His return to the house symbolises the end of his Vedic student life. The ceremony is now usually performed only for men, and takes place a few days before their marriage.
Could we bring about a change and make the younger generation understand the importance of the vedas and the mantras???

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Hindu wedding rituals and its significance

The Hindu Wedding Ceremony has a number of rituals and customs most of which are often labelled as superstitious or time wasting. It is believed to be nothing but rituals more rituals. But have we asked ourselves what a " Ritual " is? A ritual begins as a creative rational action to express a sentiment or idea – like the lighting of lamp to dispel darkness at twilight or folding of hands into a "Namaste" to greet an elder. As more and more people succeeding generation repeat the action it becomes a convention – then a RITUAL. A ritual is thus an action on which time has set its seal of approval.
The Ritual of the Hindu Wedding too is each symbolic of beautiful and noble sentiments. Unfortunately today many parents and couples perform them without an awareness of the rich meaning behind them.
A modest attempt has therefore been made to briefly describe the meaning and significance of the rituals of a Tamil Brahmin Wedding. Mostly this are applicable to any other Hindu section. For the elders, this information may be superfluous but it is hoped the younger generation, especially those yet to be married,or for those who are recently married may find this useful.
As you enter you see . . .
Full-grown plantain trees tied to both the gateposts – Eternal tree of evergreen plenty for endless generations!
Festoons overhead of mango leaves, and screw-pine petals that never fade!
Notes of the Nadaswaram, the South Indian Shehnai!
Kolam or Rangoli designs at the doorsteps – an artistic welcome!
At threshold of the hall, sprinklings of rosewater, offerings of flower, sandal batter, sugar candy!
On the evening prior to the wedding day, the bridegroom is to be brought in a procession from a temple in a flower decorated car. He is escorted by the bride’s parents, and welcome at the marriage mandap, which is the bride’s abode. Nadaswaram band leads the way along the streets, the flower decorated car jam-packed with children.
This is a social function, called JANA VASAM
Through such a parade, public approval is sought of the groom, chosen by the family.
After reaching the marriage hall, there is a formal ceremony of betrothal.
‘GANAPATI PUJA’As in an inauguration of any function so also in a marriage – Ganapati, the God of Initiation is invoked, to keep away all impediments.
‘NANDI DEVATA PUJA’There are several presiding deities – the Nandi Devatas. To propitiate them, a leaf-laden branch of the pipal tree is installed, and an ablution with milk is performed by five Sumangalis . This puja is followed by a presentation of a dhothi, and a saree to the marrying couple.
‘NAVAGRAHA PUJA’This is performed to propitiate the nine astral planets that rule over man’s destiny.
VRATHAM The marriage ceremonies begin with the Vratham performed separately by the bride and the groom. For the bride, it means the tying of the KAPPU – the holy thread on her wrist which is meant to ward off all evil spirits. It symbolises a kind of the protective armour for the bride. For the groom, the various Gods – Indra, Soma, Chandra, Agni. From there on, the groom prepares himself for a new chapter in his life as a householder or Grihasta. The days of his bachelorhood or brahmacharya are now over and the acceptance of this is all what the Vratham is about.
‘KASI YATRA’This a very important part of the ceremony. Immediately after his student-life, the young bachelor has two alternatives before him – Married life ( Grihasta ) or asceticism ( Sanyas ). Being by nature escapist, he prefers the ascetic life to the tribulations of married life. He therefore ‘makes his way’ to kasi (VARANASI), complete with slippers, umbrella, bamboo fan etc. On his way, the bride’s father intervenes and advises him of the superiority of married life to ascetic life. He also promises to give him his daughter as companion to face the challenge of life. The umbrella is to remain with groom, to remind him in the future, of this advice.the real tradition.
(However there are different view points on this aspect.
During the wedding ceremony the groom is welcomed as Mahavishnu Svarupaya varahaya ie maha vishnu himself ( or the Siva the equivalent in the Adi Saiva tradition ) and the bride as Lakshmi. Thence , it is imperative he knows no sin, thence he needs to perform a yatra to kashi , submerge in Ganges and comes and does the wedding purified.In the days of yore , when a man after education takes a yatra like this ( it takes up some months, sometimes a year on foot) , he gets to see the world , otherwise which he would not have been exposed to , thence from Brahmacharya , before moving to grahasta ashrama he come experienced and purified, disiplined ( goal oriented) and fit to take up the challenges of married life. And those days the groom would have been engaged ( nischya dartha) , and proceeds on this yatra and is welcomed back after the father in-law etc after coming back, with this words Maha Vishnu Svarupaya, and given the kanya dhana.Samnyasa and Grathasta ashrama are both pillars of the society , which is still relevant and have positive contributions to society.
‘VAAKU NICHAYA MUHOORTHAM’At the marriage hall, the bride’s father and the bridegroom’s father facing each other, solemnise the final betrothal ceremony, the vedic priest chanting the relevant hymns-in which the names of the bride, the bridegroom, as well as the names of their three generations of ancestors, are cited in presence of friends, relatives, and invitees.
The manthras say :
"O God Varuna, Be she harmless to my brothers and sisters! Oh Brihaspathi! May she no evil to her husband! O Lord Indra! Bless her to be a good guardian of her children! O Surya! Bless her with all wealths! "
EXCHANGE OF GARLANDS The bride and the groom are lifted to the shoulders of their respective uncles; and in that position the two garland each other thrice for a complete union. A garland worn by a person, should not be used by another, ordain our shastras. Here the exchange of garlands symbolises their unification – as one soul in two bodies. It is inward acceptance by each of the very fragrance of the other.
Then, the marrying couple is seated on a swing ( OONCHAL); they rock forth and back, as the ladies around sing – LAALI, songs to praise to the couple. The chains of the swing signify the eternal Karmic link with Almighty above; the to-and-fro motion represent the undulating sea-waves of life; yet, in mind and body they shall move in harmony unperturbed, steady and stable.
‘PAALIKAI’ SEEDS SOWINGThis is fertility rite. Paalikais are earthen pots prepared a day earlier – pots spread at the base with hariali grass and Bael leaves (Vilvam); nine kinds of pre-soaked cereals are ceremonially sown in these pots by Sumangalis. After the marriage, the sprouted seedlings are released in a river or pool. This ritual invokes the blessings of the eight-direction-quartered guardian angles, for a healthy life and progeny to the couple.
‘VARA PUJA’The feet of the bridegroom is washed in milk, and wiped off with silk.
Water, and lighted lamps are circulated around the swing in order to guard the couple against demons and ghosts.
Coloured globules of cooked rice are waved in circular motion, and thrown away – to propitiate the evil spirits.
‘KANYA DHAANAM’The bride is made to sit on her father’s lap and is given away as gift by him, to the bridegroom.
On the girl’s head, a ring made with Kusa, the sacred grass called DARBHA, is placed, and over it, is placed a yoke; the Gold Mangal Sutra ( or THAALI ) is placed right on the aperture of the yoke, and water is poured through the aperture. The Mantras chanted at this time, say:
"Let this gold multiply your wealth! Let this water purify your married life, and may your prosperity increase. Offer yourself to your husband! "
The bride then is given an auspicious ablution, and an exclusive new KOORAI Saree is draped around her – this is done by the sister of the bridegroom.
To bride in her new saree, a belt made of reed-grass is tied around the waist. The manthras chant:
"She standeth here, pure before the holy fire, as one blessed with boons of a good mind, a healthy body, life-long companionship of her husband ( Sumangali Bhagyam ) and children with long life. She standeth as one who is avowed to stand by her husband virtuously. Be she tied with this red-grass rope, to the sacrament of marriage! "
Thanks giving vedic hymns follow to the celestial caretakers of her childhood: the Deities of SOMA, GANDHARVA and AGNI. Having attained nobility, the girl is now free to be given over to the care of the human – her man.
The Vedic concepts underlying this ritual is figuratively this: that in her infant stage, SOMA had given her coolness of the moon, and strength; in the next stage, GANDHARVA had given her bodily beauty; and lastly AGNI gave her passions.
The father of the bride, while offering his daughter chants:
"I offer ye my daughter, a maiden virtuous, good-natured, very wise, decked with ornaments to the best of my ability-; that she shall guard the Dharma, Wealth, and Love! "
Thus offering her daughter, her father gets a word of assurance three times that the bridegroom shall remain for ever her companion in joy and sorrow – in this life, and after death too!
The bride ties a string fastened to a piece of turmeric, around the wrist of the bridegroom – to bind themselves by a religious vow. It is only after tying the Kankanam that the bridegroom gets the right to touch the bride. A little later, the bridegroom ties a Kankanam on the bride’s wrist.
Next, timed to exact auspicious hour, is the tying of the Mangala Sutra ( Thaali ). The bride seated over a sheaf of grain-laden hay, looking eastward, and the bridegroom facing westward, ties the gold Mangala Sutra around the neck of the bride. As he does so, the Nadaswaram drums are beaten loud and fast, so as to muffle any inauspicious sounds at the critical hour. This is called Getti Melam; as it sounds, the Sumangali ladies sing "GOURI KALYANAME, VAIBHOGAMAY! "
Three knots are tied – the first one by the bridegroom, the other two knots by his sister to make the bride a parts of the boy’s family.
The Vedic hymn recited by the bridegroom when he ties the knot, is:
" Praying the Almighty that I be blessed with a long life, I tie this knot around your neck, oh soubhaygavati, may providence bestow on you a fulfilling life of a ‘Sumangalis’ for a hundred years to come! "
This means "holding hands". The groom holds the hand of the bride. The Manthras say:
The Devas have offered you to me in order that I may live the life of a householder ( GRIHASTA ); we shall not part from each other even after we grow old! "
Holding the bride’s hand, the bridegroom walks seven steps with her. This is the most important part of the marriage ceremony, and only when they walk seven steps together ( i.e. perform SAPTHA PADHI ) is the marriage complete legally. The belief is that when one walks 7 steps with another, one becomes the another’s friend.
The manthras recited then, mean:
"Ye who have walked seven steps with me, become my companion, where by I acquire your friendship. We shall remain together inseparable. Let us make a vow together; we shall share love, share the same food, and share the strength, the same tastes. We shall be of one mind, we shall observe the vow together. I shall be the SAMA, you the RIG: I shall be the Upper World, you the earth; I shall be the SUKHILAM, you the HOLDER – together we shall live, beget children, and other riches, come thou, O sweet-worded girl! "
A crucial part of the wedding is the homage paid by the couple to AGNI, the fire- God. They circle around the fire, and feed it with ghee, and twigs of nine types of trees, as sacrificial fuel. The fumes that arise, are supposed to possess medicinal, curative and cleansing effects on the bodies of the couple.
AGNI, the mightiest power in the cosmos, the sacred purifier, the all-round benefactor, is deemed as a witness to the marriage (AGNI SAAKSHI )
TREADING ON THE GRINDSTONE Holding the bride’s left foot toe, the bridegroom helps her tread on a grindstone kept on the right side of the fire. The Manthras says:
"Mount up this stone. Let thy mind be roc-firm, unperturbed, by the trials and tribulations of life! "
Next he shows her the Star ARUNDHATI ( of the SAPTHA RISHI Constellation ), as also DHRUVA the polestar. Arundhati, the wife of VASISHTA Mahrishi, is exemplified as an ideal wife, the embodiment of chastity. DHRUVA is the one who attained immortality through single-minded devotion and perseverance – virtues to be emulated through out married life.
This shall comprise the bride’s own offering to the sacrificial fire. As she is forbidden to do it herself, her brother helps her. He gives her a handful of parched rice grains which she hands to bridegroom who on her behalf, feeds it into the fire. Through this food offering, the bride seeks a long life for her husband, and propagation of the family. Participation of the bride’s family members indicates the continuance of links between the two families, even after marriage. The couple circle around the fire, three times, and the feeding of the fire with parched rice, is repeated thrice.
Akshadai, i.e. rice-grains coated with turmeric and saffron, are showered on the couple, by elders and invitees – as benediction.
Taking with her, fire from the Laaja Homam, the bride takes leave of her home, and enters the new home of her in-laws. The vedic hymns now sound likes the mother’s words of advice to her daughter:
"Be the queen of your husband’s home. May your husband glorify your virtues; conduct yourself in such a way that you win your mother-in-law’s love, and be in the good books of your sister’s-in-law."
The evening of the marriage day is the time to relax and play. The newly wed wife calls her husband for play, inviting him through a song. Much to the merriment of one and all gathered, there follows list of playful items: the bride anointing the groom’s feet with colour paste ; fanning him, showing him a mirror; breaking papads over each other’s head; wrenching the betel pack from each other’s hand; rolling the coconut from one to another as in ball-play; and so on. During these items, the ladies sing songs poking fun at the bride, groom and the in-laws.
These events brings out many qualities of the bride and the groom – sporting spirit, kindness, strength, co-operative nature etc.
THE JAYAATHI HOMAM – is performed to propitiate the Gandharvas and deities.
PRAVESA HOMAM – is done to solemnise the bride’s entry in to the husband’s home. The sacrificial fire is brought along by the bride.
SESHA HOMAM – is Fire oblation with the residual ghee, a little of which is sprinkled on the bride’s head four times.
The girl’s brother gives the ceremonial first betel to the couple to chew. Certain other gifts are made to bless the couple with children and long life.
solution of lime and turmeric powder, and in colour, is prepared on a plate, and circled around, and thrown away to ward off evil eye. This is done a number of times during the entire wedding ceremony, and at the end.
The consummation of the marriage at night – the nuptials!
There are several traditions in the hindu culture but the gem of all those is our marriage ceremony which gives an insight into the culture,tadition and the benefits of homas and mantras.
hope you enjoyed this post.

Hindu customs - A reminder

This post is targeted for the younger audience who are lost in the world of modernism,fashion and diverse cultures.I am writing this post to remind ourselves of the culture from which we have come and be proud of them.Many of my students always ask me one question.what is religion and what does it stand up for?My answer is always it is a way of life, it defines boundaries and gives us a code of conduct.Many of us have taken things for granted and we go around, hunting for the lost customs and snarl at our traditions.Our Hindu civilization is strongly rooted in its customs and traditions which is also one of the pillars of this ancient religion.I strongly feel ,the generation around have to reminded of their customs and identify ourselves with it and understand that the customs we were following all these years is based on mutual respect of each other.We should also understand that there are always people out there who think differently and perversely just because it is convenient for them to be that way.Remember everything is beautiful only when it has set boundaries and guidelines to follow.
To be cultured, in the highest sense, means to be in control of oneself and exemplify the highest qualities of one's society, religion or philosophy. For Hindus and those of other Eastern faiths this means to consistently conduct oneself in accordance with the higher nature. The Hindu culture is a culture of love, respect, honoring others and humbling one's own ego so that the inner nature, which is naturally pure and modest, will shine forth. There are countless ways the Hindu attitudes of compassion, respect and self-effacement are expressed. Here are some of the guidelines to be followed to be a true hindu.
1. RESPECT FOR ELDERS: Respect for elders is a keystone of Hindu culture. This genuine acknowledgment of seniority is demonstrated through endearing customs, such as sitting to the left of elders, bringing gifts on special occasions, not sitting while they are standing, not speaking excessively, not yawning or stretching, not putting one's opinions forward strongly, not contradicting or arguing, seeking their advice and blessings, giving them first choice in all matters, even serving their food first.
2. NAME PROTOCOL: Youngsters never use the proper name of their elders. In the Tamil tradition, a younger brother, for example, refers to his brother as annan, or periannan (older brother), not by name. The elder, however, may use the name of the younger. Children are trained to refer to all adults as auntie or uncle. Adults, too, refer to each other as elder or younger brother or simply as brother (likewise for women). Only men the same age will occasionally address each other by first name. A Hindu wife never speaks the name of her husband. When referring to him she uses terms such as "my husband," "him" or, for example, "Jothi's father." When addressing yogis, swamis or sadhakas, one uses the title, not personal pronouns, such as you or your (nor by the name alone). For example, one would never ask, "What do you want?" Instead, one would inquire, "What does Swami want?"
3. TOUCHING FEET IN RESPECT: One touches the feet of holy men and women in recognition of their great humility and inner attainment. A dancer or a musician touches the feet of his or her teacher before and after each lesson. Children prostrate and touch the feet of their mother and father at special times, such as New Year's day, birthdays and before departing on a journey.
4. BEHOLDING THE DIVINE: The concept of darshana, meaning, "seeing," and referring to beholding with inner or outer vision, a temple image, Deity, holy person or place, with the desire to inwardly contact and receive the grace and blessings of the venerated being or beings is the trademark of hindu culture. Even beholding a photograph in the proper spirit is a form of darshana. Not only does the devotee seek to see the Divine, but to be seen as well, to stand humbly in the awakened gaze of the holy one, even if for an instant, such as in a crowded temple when thousands of worshipers file quickly past the enshrined Lord. Gods and gurus are thus said to "give" darshana, and devotees "take" darshana, with the eyes being the mystic locus through which energy is exchanged. It is a direct and personal two-sided apprehension -- highly sought-after experience of Hindu faith.
5. DAKSHInA: It is tradition to provide dakshina, a monetary fee or gift to a priest given at the completion of any rite. Dakshina is also given to gurus as a token of appreciation for their spiritual blessings.
Purity and its opposite, pollution, are vitally important in Hindu culture. While they imply a strong sense of physical cleanliness, their significance extends to social, ceremonial, mental, emotional, psychic and spiritual contamination. Freedom from all forms of contamination is a key to Hindu spirituality, and is one of the yamas. Physical purity requires a clean and well-ordered environment, yogic purging of the internal organs and frequent cleansing with water. Mental purity derives from meditation, right living and right thinking. Emotional purity depends on control of the mind, clearing the subconscious and keeping good company. Spiritual purity is maintained through following the yamas and niyamas, study of the Vedas and other scriptures, pilgrimage, meditation, japa, tapas and ahimsa. Ritual purity requires the observance of certain prayashchittas, or penances, for defilement derived from foreign travel, contact with base people or places, conversion to other faiths, contact with bodily wastes, attending a funeral, etc.
Purity is of three forms -- purity in mind, speech and body, or thought, word and deed. Purity is the pristine and natural state of the soul. Impurity, or pollution, is the obscuring of this state by adulterating experience and beclouding conceptions. In daily life, the Hindu strives to protect this innate purity by wise living, following the codes of dharma. This includes harnessing the sexual energies, associating with other virtuous Hindu devotees, never using harsh, angered or indecent language, and keeping a clean and healthy physical body.
Clearly, Eastern culture regards purity as more than just physical. Something may be perfectly clean yet be impure or polluted by thoughts of another or by undesirable vibrations. Customs of purity are often based on hygiene and health. Here are several ways purity is preserved in Hindu culture.
1.PURITY AND FOOD: Purity is central to food and nutrition, as the nature of one's nourishment deeply affects the entire physical, mental and emotional nature. In a marketplace, one does not touch food one doesn't intend to buy. One cooking food for others would never taste of the dish from a spoon and then put the spoon back in the pot. If food is to be tasted while cooking, a small portion is placed in the right hand. Similarly, one would not touch the lips to a water vessel that is also used by others. Nor would one offer something to another from which one has taken a bite or a sip.
2. FLOWER OFFERINGS: One does not sniff flowers picked for offering to the Deities; even the smell is for the Gods, not for us. flowers that fall to the ground should not be offered.
3. OFFERINGS: Offerings, such as an archana basket, flowers or garlands, are carried with both hands on the right side of the body, so as to not be breathed on. All items are washed in preparation and, if carried more than a short distance, wrapped or covered.
4. THE LEFT HAND: In Asian culture the left hand is considered impure because it is used (with water) in the place of toilet paper for personal hygiene after answering the call of nature. Handing another person anything with the left hand may be considered a subtle insult.
5. SHOES: Shoes are considered impure. The cultured Hindu never wears shoes or sandals inside a temple or shrine, nor in his home or the homes of other Hindus. Carrying shoes in the hands from one part of the premises to another is also avoided. An ultimate insult is to be struck with a shoe.
6. FOOTWEAR: It is very important to apologize immediately if one touches someone with their shoe or sandal. This is done by touching the right hand to where the foot touched the other person and then touching one's right hand lightly to his own left eye and then the right. This same remedy applies to inadvertently hitting someone with the hand or foot or bumping into them.
1. GIVING AND RECEIVING WITH BOTH HANDS: Giving and accepting things from one to another, presenting offerings to the Deity, etc., is most properly done with both hands. The reason for this is that with the gift, prana is also given through both hands, thus endowing more energy to the object. The recipient of the gift receives it with both hands along with the prana from the gracious giver. It is known that this exchange of energies is vital for friendship, harmony and the total release of the gift to the recipient.
2. NOT POINTING THE FINGER: Pointing with the forefinger of the right hand or shaking the forefinger in emphasis while talking is never done. This is because the right hand possesses a powerful, aggressive pranic force, an energy that moves the forces of the world. Pointing the index finger channels that force into a single stream. The harshness of this energy would be severely felt in the nerve system of the recipient. More properly, rather than pointing or shaking the index finger to give direction or emphasize a verbal statement, the entire hand is used as a pointer, with the palm up and the thumb held alongside the forefinger.
3. SHAKING HANDS: The traditional way that Hindu men greet one another is with the aNjali mudra, then, with palms still held together, extending their hands to one another, in a two-handed handshake, in a deliberate transfer of prana. The hands of one man, usually the less senior, are gently clasped between the other's. Each looks smilingly into the other's face while bowing slightly in humility. This handshake is not firm, but relaxed and gentle.
4.GREETING WOMEN: However, Hindu men never shake hands with women in the above manner or in any other way. Women are greeted by placing hands in aNjali mudra, the prayerful gesture.
5.NOT THROWING THINGS: Throwing any object to another person is considered extremely improper, even if the persons know each other very well. Cultured Hindus consider this crude and even mildly violent, even if done in efficiency or jest.
6. CARE IN SITTING: It is improper to sit with one's legs outstretched toward a temple, shrine or altar, or even toward another person. This is a grave insult. Crossing one leg over the knee when sitting in a chair should be avoided, though crossing at the ankles is permitted. One must always try to follow the example of traditional elders. Worshiping, meditating or sitting in the kneeling pose is not acceptable among Hindus.
7.DOORWAYS: Conversations are not held inside or through doorways. This is considered inauspicious. Similarly, to exchange or give or lend an object, one steps inside the room first, or the recipient steps out of the room so that both parties are in the same room.
1.MODESTY: Interaction in public between men and women is much more restrained in Asian culture than in Western culture. In Asian culture, for the most part, men socialize with men, and women with women. Men never touch women in public, such as helping a woman out of a car, unless the lady is very elderly or infirm.
2.DISPLAYING AFFECTION: Married couples do not hug, hold hands or kiss in public. Even embracing at airports and train stations is considered out of the question. Men, however, frequently walk hand in hand.
1. HOME VISITS: Close friends can visit one another anytime without being announced or making arrangements first. When they drop in, at least a refreshing drink is always served.
2. HOSTING GUESTS: Children generally leave the room, with a smile, when guests enter. The mother remains close by to serve as needs arise. The father, if present, will speak with the guest. If he is not present, the mother and a mature son will fulfill this role; and if no son is present, the mother may act as hostess, but only with the accompaniment of someone close to the family.
3. WIFE HOME ALONE: If the lady of the house is home alone and a male visitor comes to see her husband, it is not proper for her to invite him in, nor for him to expect to enter. Rather, he will leave a message and depart.
4. GIVING GIFTS: Gifts are always given when one visits a home or stays overnight as a guest. The value of the gift varies greatly, depending upon circumstances. It is proper to give a separate gift for the wife and the husband. The wife is given the nicest item.
All Hindus know that "Life is meant to be lived joyously!" All is God, and God is everywhere and in all things. This understanding and appreciation is exemplified in every aspect of Hindu deportment.
1. KINDLY WORDS AND COUNTENANCE: Hindus strive to keep a pleasant expression on their face, a gentle smile and a kind word for everyone they meet through the day. They know in their heart of hearts that God is everywhere and that all in the universe is perfect at every point in time. This knowledge gives them strength and courage to face their daily karmas positively and graciously.

2. EYES: Eyes are also a primary means of communicating, and the meanings are fairly straightforward. They usually indicate degrees of interest in what the speaker is saying. Smiling with your eyes as well as your mouth conveys sincerity. There are three levels of smiling (and infinite shades and degrees in between). Having the eyes open only slightly indicates mild interest. Eyes more open and a bigger smile indicates more interest and enthusiasm. Having the eyes open wide with a big smile or nod, possibly accompanied by some verbal expression, indicates greater interest or great happiness.
I can see the readers gleaming,little out of knowing these facts and partly grinning because many of us question ourselves on these customs and wonder whether it was just a imposition by the elders because it is mostly dealing with elders of the family.That is what our Hindu culture is all about. respect for elders and mutual love and affection and brotherhood with other human beings.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Religion, customs and traditions???- Mantras Part 2

In my last post I had given a few hymns and slokas that could be recited every day.whenever we attend a pooja in the temple or at home it is customary to recite manthra pusham, or a short version of it.Often we offer flowers to the deities at this time making some people to think that this something to do with the flowers(pushpam)
The verses of manthra pushpam is given in yajurveda.It is actually a recitation about the origin and evolution of the natural forces like water,air,fire,earth,sun and the stars and not praising God.
Here it is:
1. Yopam pushpam vedha-pushavan prajaavan
pasuman bhavathi
chandramapa va apam pusham-pushavan prajaavan
pasuman bhavathi
ya yevam vedha- yopaam-aayathanam vedha -
aayathanavaan bhavathi
2. Vaayorvaa apaam-aayathanam-aayatha-navaan bhavathi
yo vaayor-aayathanam vedha -
aayatha-navaan bhavathi
aapovai vaayor-aayathanam-
aayatha-navaan bhavathi
ya evam vedha - yopaam- aayathanam vedha -
aayathanavaan bhavathi
3. A sovvaitha pannapaam-aayathanam-
aayathanavaan bhavathi
yo mushyathapa -thaayathanam vedha -
aayathanavaan bhavathi
aapovai amushyathapa thaayathanam-
aayatha-navaan bhavathi
ya evam vedha-yopaam aayathanam vedha -
aayathanavaan bhavathi
4. Chndramaava apaam-aayathanam-
aayathanavaan bhavathi
yachchandramasa -aayathanavaan bhavathi
aapovai chandramasa-aayathanam-
aayatha-navaan bhavathi
ya evam vedha-yopaam aayathanam vedha -
aayathanavaan bhavathi
5. Nakshathraanaa appam-aayathanam-
aayathanavaan bhavathi
yo nakshathraanaa apaam-aayathanam vedha -
aayathanavaan bhavathi
aapovai nakshathraanaa aayathanam-
aayatha-navaan bhavathi
ya evam vedha-yopaam aayathanam vedha -
aayathanavaan bhavathi
6. Parjanyovaa apaam-aayathanam-
aayathanavaan bhavathi
yaf: parjanyasy -aayathanam vedha -
aayathanavaan bhavathi
aapovai parjanyasy-aayathanam-
aayatha-navaan bhavathi
ya evam vedha-yopaam aayathanam vedha -
aayathanavaan bhavathi
7.Samvathsarovaa apaam-aayathanam-
aayathanavaan bhavathi
yassamvathsars yaayathanam vedha -
aayathanavaan bhavathi
aapovai samvathsars yaayathanam-
aayatha-navaan bhavathi
ya evam vedha-yopsu naavam prati thishti tham vedha -prathyathi thishtathi
The meaning of the verse is as follows:
The world is all madeup of water and is the basic of everything and is worthy of our prayers.As water cools so also the moon is cool like a flower in the water.He who understands this gets all prosperity.Fire is also a producer of this water and the air is a producer of the sea water rises as vapor to the clouds and falls as rain to give us the warmth and prosperity,the sun is related to we see the star through astrological position which determines the rain and prosperity,we see the relation of stars for all this prosperitythrough water.each year,as we get the rainy season to get our rains,the year around seasons gets importance.on this water the world revolves around like a boat sailing in the ocean and he who understands this gets all the prosperity.
It is so amazing that the people in the vedic period knew about the water cycle, the birth of the star and the importance of sun in the water cycle.The vedas provide an insight into the life of these people and also tells us that the vedic scripture embraces science and I think it is the first and the only religion which has done so.our ancestors considered religion and science as their two eyes and that is why they didn't differentiate it but intertwined both of them, teaching the world the art of living.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Religion, customs and traditions???- Mantras and hymns

I had given a broad outline of the vedas in my previous posts and I had also outlined its relevance in the modern society.The vedas were specifically designed for the audience in that period but the hymns and the mantras which was independent of the prose stands relevant even now. Did you know that mantras originated from hinduism and later adopted by other religions?It was the early development of a science of phonetics in India and around the world. The vibrations creates the necessary impact and transcends into the mind and soul which creates the necessary effect. our vocal chords have magical powers and that is the reason the word Om itself constitutes a mantra,it represents Brahman,the godhead, as well as the whole of creation.Merely pronouncing the syllable is to experience the divine in a direct way. In the world of tantras the universe is sound. The supreme (para) brings forth existence through the Word (Shabda). Creation consists of vibrations at various frequencies and amplitudes giving rise to the phenomena of the world. The purest vibrations are the, the imperishable letters which are revealed to us, imperfectly as the audible sounds and visible forms. It is said the vowels and the consonants represents various forms of nature.Here I would like to quote a verse from Aitrareya-aranya-Upanishad which directly talks about the sound which also indicates that our ancestors did know its importance.

"The mute consonants represent the earth, the sibilants the sky, the vowels heaven.
The mute consonants represent fire, the sibilants air, the vowels the sun?
The mute consonants represent the eye, the sibilants the ear, the vowels the mind"
In effect each letter became a mantra and the language of the Vedas, Sanskrit, corresponds profoundly to the nature of things. Thus the Vedas come to represent reality itself. The seed syllable Om represents the underlying unity of reality, which is Brahman

Mantra Japa was a concept of the Vedic sages that incorporates mantras as one of the main forms of puja, or worship, whose ultimate end is seen as moksha/liberation. Essentially, Mantra Japa means repetition of mantra, and has become an established practice of all Hindu streams, from the various Yoga to Tantra. It involves repetition of a mantra over and over again, usually in cycles of auspicious numbers (in multiples of three), the most popular being 108. For this reason, Hindu malas (bead necklaces) developed, containing 108 beads and a head "meru" bead. The devotee performing japa using his/her fingers counts each bead as he/she repeats the chosen mantra. Having reached 108 repetitions, if he/she wishes to continue another cycle of mantras, the devotee must turn the mala around without crossing the "meru" bead and repeat.
It is said that through japa the devotee attains one-pointedness, or extreme focus, on the chosen deity or principle idea of the mantra. The vibrations and sounds of the mantra are considered extremely important, and thus reverberations of the sound are supposed to awaken the prana or spiritual life force and even stimulate chakras.
Any sloka from holy Hindu texts like the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutra, even the Mahabharata , Ramayana, Durga saptashati or Chandi are considered powerful enough to be repeated to great effect, and have therefore the status of a mantra.
A very common mantra is formed by taking a deity's name. Called Nama japa and saluting it in such a manner: "Om namah ------" or "Om Jai ------" or several such permutations. Common examples are "Om namah Shivaya" , "Om Namo Narayanaya"; or "Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevãya," , "Om Shri Ganeshaya Namah" and "Om Kalikayai Namah" and "Om Hrim Chandikãyai Namah."

So you could see it profound effect,though on the surface it appears to be irrelevant and non suggestive ,it has powers equal to that of two burning stars.So, readers when you recite a sloka or a mantra, do it with concentration and I can assure you, it will bring in profound effect into your lives and empower you, with sufficient knowledge, to tell the future generation the path it must follow.S o it is not meaningless, but science, that is involved and it is also touching the roots of psychology. So let us learn to appreciate and be proud of our religion and its richness and be ready to share it with one and all.
Here are some Hymns from the vedas and I have tried to give the closest meaning:
Rig veda-verse 1.164.46
" Idham Mitram Agnim Aahu atho;
Dhivya Sah Suparnah Garuthman
E'kam Sath Viprah Bahudhah Vadhanthi,Agnim;
Yama Matharisvaanam Aahuh"
They call Him (It) Indra,Mitra,Varuna,Agni;and
He is the heavenly nobly-winged Garuthman
To what is one,sages give many a title,agni,
yama,matharisvan they call it.
Aakaasat pathitham thoyam yathaa gacchathi saagaram
Sarva deva namaskarah keshavam prathigacchathi
keshavam prathigacchathi om nama iti
Just as all the water that fall from the sky inescapably reach the sea,
let all salutations to all dieties reach only kesava;
Indeed they only reach kesava.
"Here are some common vedic prayers which you might also be reciting:
Kaaye'na vaachaa manasendriyair vaa
Bhuddhyaathmanaa vaa prakrthe' svabhaavaath
Karomi yadyat sakalam parasmai
Naarayanaayethi samarpayaami"
I dedicate to the supreme person naarayanaa all that I do
by means of the body,words,mind,by the organs of action,
the organs of knowledge and by the impulsion of nature.
"Om!Asatho maa sath gamaya
Thamaso maa jyothirgamaya
Mirthyo maa amrrutham gamaya
om shanthih ;shanthih;santhih"
Lead me from the unreal to the real
from darkness(ignorance) to light(knowledge)
from death to immortality
om peace! peace!peace!be unto thy soul.
"Om!sahanaavavatu sahanau bhunaktu
Sahveeryam Karavaavah
Thejasvinaa vadheethamastu maa vidvishaa vahaih:
Om shanthih shanthih om!
May He,the supreme lord,protect us both,
the teacher and the student.May he nourish us both.
May our study be thorough and fruitful.
May we not hate each other.
Om peace, peace ,peace be unto thee.
"Om! bhadram karnebhih shrunuyaama devaah
Bhadram pashyemaakshabhir yajathraah
Sthirairangai sthushuvaagum sastanoobhih
Yashema devahitham yadhaayuh
Svasthi na indhro vriddhashravaah
Svasthi nah pooshaa vishva vedaah
Svasthi nasthaakshyo arishtanmeih
Svasthi no brihaspathir dhadhaathu
Om! shanthih shanthih;shanthih om!
O Ye! gods! may we hear with our ears only what is auspicious
May we see with our eyes only what is auspicious
may we who sing your praise
live our allotted span of life in perfect health and vigor
may indra who is praised by the devotees
vouchsafe to us safety and well being
may the all known pooshan grant us safety
may garuda and brihaspathi grant us well being
om! peace, peace, peace be unto you!
These are the common ones, which everyone can recite, as their daily prayer and i have written in english, for the benefit of readers, who cannot read or write or understand any other language.
There is a common negative talk, about hindu religion that we have to say prayers in an unknown those of you who think sanskrit, is not a language for you, then you can say your prayers in english itself that is why i have written in english as are speaking to god so the language doesn't matter it is what we convey and the love and devotion that you express.

Religion, customs and traditions???

Our journey into this world of spiritualism begins by understanding our religion, its traditions,its culture, only then we could put to rest the millions of questions that arises in us, for which we search for answers and are often led into the mysterious world of fantasy. I personally feel today's generation is often misled in various concepts and that has led to the cultural disintegration in our society.If we try to understand our roots and the rich religion from which we have originated there will little doubt in our minds about the path that we have to follow.We often tell our children to follow the path of truth and recite slokas and mantras,but when questioned on it we cut a sorry figure in front of them because we ourselves are not sure of what we are doing and we are often told not to question our elders, which is why, we are not equipped in dealing with the problems facing our society.This is the reason why we should make this journey and try to understand our religious texts before we even make a statement to the younger generation about how to lead their life and what is expected out of them.
So here we go.....
This post is on the oldest scripture THE VEDAS.
The word vedas means knowledge.It is derived from the root word vid which means to know.They are described as apaurusheya(not man made)and nitya(eternal).The vedic tradition has been preserved for several centuries through a strict system of memorization by heart.Students would memorize the hymns day after day and year after year for several years under the close supervision of a teacher till they remembered each and every word and its pronunciation by heart.They had no authority to change or amend them by mistake .Sometimes the students were made to remember the hymns without knowing their meaning,because the accuracy of the pronunciation and memory of the original hymns were more important in the order of things than their comprehension.The vedic hymns are used in performing rituals even today.
The vedas are divided into three parts:
1.The samhitas - hymns,chants and mantras
2.The Brahmanas -prose or commentaries of the vedas
3.Upanishads,the Aranyakas and Sutras.The upanishads talks about the mystic aspects of vedas and it often deals with subjects like Brahman,atma,nature of reality,the meaning of oneness ,knowledge etc.
The sutra literature is a manual of instructions for people to follow their social,religious,economic and political affairs.
Most of the hymns in the vedas do not make sense today because the old vedic traditions had to give way for the changes that came into being at the later stages in history.So we should keep this in mind when we discuss about Hinduism and its implications or its relevance in the modern world.We have to accept this fact!!!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Reincarnation -Part 4

As we looked into the detailed history of reincarnation,let us now see specific cases which has been world accepted as true cases of reincarnation.For readers benefit I have reduced the volume of the story but nevertheless I have retained the best part of the story and this excerpt is taken from Ian Stevenson book on past lives .
The case history of Sukla Gupta, a little girl from West Bengal is one of 3000 in the files of Dr.Stevenson. When Sukla was a year and half old and barely able to talk, she used to cradle a pillow and address it “Minu, Minu,” she said, was her daughter. Sukla over the next three years also recalled her previous life events, which indicated Minu to be her daughter in her previous life. Sukla was the daughter of a railway worker in Kampa, a village in West Bengal. Sukla often talked not only about her daughter, Minu but also about her husband, the father of Minu. She also talked about his younger brothers Khetu and Karuna . They all lived, she said, at Rathtala in Bhatpara. Sukla’s family, the Guptas, knew little about Bhatpar, that it was a city about 11 miles south. But, they had never heard of a place called Rathtala, nor of people Sukla had named.
Yet Sukla developed a desire to go there, and she insisted that if her parents didn’t take her she would go alone. K.N.Sen Gupta, Sukla’s father, talked about the matter with some friends. He also mentioned it to one of his railway co-workers, S.C.Pal, an assistant station master. Pal lived near Bhatpara and had two cousins there. Through his cousins he learned that Bhatpara indeed had a district called Rathtala. He also learned of a man there named Khetu. Khetu had a sister in law named Mana who died several years before, in 1948, leaving behind an infant daughter named Minu. SenGupta decided to investigate further. With the consent of that family, he arranged for a visit to Rathtala. Sukla said that she could show the way to the house. So in 1959, when Sukla was about five, Sen Gupta and five other members of his family journeyed with her to Bhatapra.
When they arrived, Sukla took the lead. Avoiding possible wrong turns, she brought them straight to the house of Amritlal Chakravarty, her supposed father in law in her past life. As the party approached, Chakravarty happened to be out on the street. When Sukla saw him, she looked down shyly, following the usual custom for a young woman in the presence of older male relative. But when Sukla went to enter the house she was confused. She didn’t seem to be at the right entrance. Her confusion however made sense. After the death of Mana (Sukla’s name in her previous life), the entrance had been moved from the main street to an ally on the side. And the party soon found that Sukla recognized not only the house, but also the people in it, including those she said were her mother in law, her brother in law, her husband and her daughter. In side house, Sukla found herself in room with some 20 to 30 people. When she was asked, can you point out your husband, she correctly indicated Chakravarty.
Another fascinating case involved a five year old by named Imad who claimed that he lived a former life as a man named Ibrahim, in a village 25 kilometers from his own home in Lebanon. When Stevenson questioned Imad on little details of Ibrahim’s life and the village he lived in, the boy was correct on 51 of the 57 questions asked. Imad also correctly gave Ibrahim’s dying words, spoken some ten years before his own birth, named members of his family and constantly spoke affectionately of Ibrahim’s mistress, Jarmille.
with all the proof in their hand the sad part is the regular scientist still do not accept the fact that reincarnation does happen.when i look at the child narrating its past life all that goes on in my mind is the suffering that the soul has undergone and even the bodily torture that the the baby has undergone to survive and be born again only to narrate the story still people don't accept.
srimad bhagavatam narrates the life of the child inside the mother's womb like this:
“For months the human fetus lies cramped within the darkness of the womb, suffering severely, scorched by the mother’s gastric fire, continually jolted by sudden movements, and feeling constant pressure from being contained in the small amnion, which surrounds the body in the womb. This tight, constricting pocket forces the child’s back to arch constantly like a bow. Further, the unborn child is tormented by hunger and thirst and is bitten again and again all over the body by the hungry worms in the abdomen itself, the child suffers terrible agony because of his tenderness. He thus becomes unconscious moment after moment because of the terrible condition. Owing to the mother’s eating bitter, pungent foodstuffs, or food which is too salty or too sour, the body of the child incessantly suffers pains which are almost intolerable.”
ok. coming back to the story of reincarnation, how can it be identified?
again I take my knowledge from Ian stevenson who clearly says that birth marks and wound of deceased person will recur in rebirth.
Most of the cases where birthmarks and congenital deformities are present for which no medical explanations exist have one to five characteristics in common.
1.In the most unusual scenario, it is possible that someone who believed in reincarnation expressed a wish to be reborn to a couple or one partner of a couple.
2.More frequent than this are the occurrences of prophetic dreams. Someone who has died appears to a pregnant or not as yet pregnant woman and tells her that he or she will be reborn to her.
3.The body of a newborn child is checked for recognizable marks to establish whether the deceased person they had once known has been reborn to them.
4.The most frequently occurring event or common denominator relating to rebirth is probably that of a child remembering a past life. Children usually begin to talk about their memories between the ages of two and four.
5.Many with past-life memories show abilities or talents that they had in their previous lives.
Let me end this post with the verses from the gita:
"From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again" –Lord Krsna [Bhagavad-gita 8.16]
while making this post Gita has come to my rescue and it also has given me a new beginning. I could feel its impact on me.Do you feel its impact on you? If so,those who are already reading the Gita continue reading,and those of you who haven't started ,it could be a good start for you today.
May the Lord shower his blessings on all those who follow His path.