Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is Sai Baba A Trickster?

Is the world most influenced guru Sai Baba is a trickster?. Many has claimed so but many other accept him as a God. Why? What has he done to get that attention?

Let us see what has done and doing to the community with an open mind. In this post I'm intending to post the controversial video that caught the world by suprise. The video that gave the notion to the world that he is nothing but a trickster.

In the future posts, we will investigate what he has done to the world that gave him the status equal to God.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sai Baba - Who is he?

Is Sai Baba truly divine?.

There are so many stories surrounding him as trickster. How true are they?

I'll try to justify him with his social works and personal attributes.

On my next post I'll attach more videos and let you decide what is the real truth.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Deepavali - Festival Of Lights

'Festival of Lights' or Deepavali is a festival which has the potential of unifying entire India because of the charisma and splendor surrounding this festival. Deepavali has been given the traditional name of 'festival of lights' because of the hundreds and thousands of small oil lamps or diyas lighted by many households. The burning of these diyas are considered to be the lighted pathway of a person's expression of happiness and also a manner of paying obeisance to God, the Supreme power for attainment of health, prosperity, knowledge, financial security and peace in one's life.

'The festival of lights' is celebrated with much enthusiasm and zeal in all of north India. In fact the festival of Deepavali is regarded to bring the supernatural joy and brightness in a person's life with the hope of discovering light amidst darkness, achieving happiness in place of ignorance and spreading of love amidst hatred and violence. The tradition of lighting the diyas on Deepavali holds much importance as in Hindu mythology the light signifies goodness and vitality. In cities candles and classy neon lights often substitute these diyas.

The idea behind the lighting of diyas and candles on the festival of lights comes from a number of stories as mentioned in the Hindu mythology.

Many people confuses between Deepavali and "Naraka Chaturdasi". Deepavali is the day after Naraka Chaturdasi. In Dwapar Yuga, Lord Krishna, the ascendant of Lord Vishnu, killed the notorious demon Narakasura on the same day as that of Deepavali.

Narakasura was the son of God Bhooma Devi. Despite of a great parentage, he possessed devilish tendencies. He used to loot the people of three worlds and due to the supernatural powers he had nobody could stop him. Not only he plundered their valuable things, but abducted the womenfolk too. There was a terror of Narakasura everywhere.

Once Narakasura attacked the heavens to get hold of the army of elephants of Lord Indra. Indra being helpless before the demon, immediately he went to Lord Krishna to ask for help. Krishna at that time was spending a leisurely time with his wife Satyabhama. In order to fulfill both his duties as a friend and as a husband he took Satyabhama at the battlefield. 

On his divine vehicle Garuda (a giant eagle), Lord Krishna set for the fort of Narakasura. His grand fort was guarded by a five headed demon Mura. With his flying discus, Krishna beheaded Mura and then challenged Narakasura to come to fight on the battlefield. It was an easy victory for great Shri Krishna. Narakasura was killed and his son Bhagdatta was taken by Krishna under his supervision on the request of Bhooma Devi. During his last moments, Narakasura repented his ill-doings and asked for forgiveness. And as his last wish, he requested his death to be celebrated as the end of darkness (evil) and the beginning of light (dawn of righteousness). It is why the next day (dawn) is selected as the celebration day.

There is also another version of the story. Narakasura attained his powers from Lord Brahma and together with it he also received a boon that he can only be killed by his mother Bhooma Devi. To fulfill this boon Lord Krishna brought his wife Satyabama who happened to be an incarnation of Bhooma Devi herself. In this version after killing Mura, Lord Krishna was attacked by Narakasura. Lord Krishna pretended to collapse to his bow. Seeing this Satyabama became furious and attacked and killed Narakasura with Lord Krishna's bow and arrows. 

The killing of Narakasura again takes us to the message that it is inevitable for virtue and truth to win over vice and evil. The same message Lord Rama portrayed by killing Ravana. Bhooma Devi herself was happy of the killing of her son. The acuteness of Narakasura's evil deeds can be guessed from the fact that Lord Krishna had to take an oil bath to get rid of his blood splashes.

It is still a tradition among Hindus to clean the Krishna idols with hot water before burning the effigy of Narakasura. So, along with Lord Rama, Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Krishna too is prayed by the Hindus.

The most famous of these stories is the story revolving around Lord Ram and his family. Deepavali celebrates the home coming of Lord Ram, who according to a legend came home to Ayodhya after defeating the evil Ravana and spending fourteen years in exile. Deepavali is also the day of Lord Ram's coronation.

According to a popular legend King Dasharatha had three wives by the names of Kaushalaya, Kaikayee and Sumitra who had four sons Ram, Bharat, Laxmana and Shatrughan. Lord Ram, the son of Queen Kaushalaya was the eldest of all four brothers while Bharat was the son of Queen Kaikayee.

Queen Kaikayee wanted her son Bharat to be the future king of Ayodhya while King Dashratha decided to coronate Ram to be the future king. Kaikayee on getting to know about the decision of king Dashratha decided to ask the king for two wishes which he had promised her earlier in life. For her two wishes Kaikayee asked for sending Ram to exile for the period of fourteen years and to crown Bharat as the king, though Bharat refused to accept the kingship. Well Ram went to exile accompanied with his younger brother Lakshman and wife Sita. During exile King Ravana of Lanka abducted Sita and Lord ram had to fight a fierce battle in the southern part of the Indian sub-continent with ravana.

During this fight the king of the demons was killed and Lord Ram came back to Ayodhya along with His brother and wife. Deepavali marks his victorious return to his kingdom along with Hanuman, the Vanar who helped him in achieving success. The legend states it took 20 days for Rama to return to his kingdom after defeating Ravana. As with other Indian festivals, Deepavali signifies many different things to people across the country. Like in Gujarat, the festival is celebrated to honor goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth; and in Bengal, it is related with goddess Kali. Though everywhere, it is celebrated with the same sprit and signifies the renewal of life.

Dussehra epitomizes the triumph of good over evil. This is the auspicious day when the great Lord Rama killed Ravana and made Lanka free from the dominance of Asuras. The day when we burn the effigy of Ravana along with his subordinates Meghanad and Kumbhkarana. Lord Rama fought a battle of ten days with Ravana, who had abducted his wife Sita. With his Monkey Army called Vanar Sena, Shri Rama defeated the Ravana Sena and handed over the rule to Bhibhishan. Exact twenty days after the end of the war, Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya. It is the same day on which the festival of Deepavali is celebrated. The significance of Dussehra in context of Deepavali is thus relevant.

Since then the effigies of Ten faced Ravana, Meghnad and Kumbhkarana are burnt. Usually, ten days before Dussehra, the whole Ramayana is enacted in various parts of India as well as in many countries where people of Hindu community are living. This is popularly known as Ram Lila. On the tenth day, that is, Dussehra the whole Rama-Ravana war is enacted and at last the actor playing the role of Lord Rama burns the effigy with the stroke of his arrow.

It is also a day celebrated in India with great fervor. People, exchange sweets, especially, jalebis among their loved ones. The day also marks the advent of festive days till Deepavali as people start decorating their homes and distributing gifts to friends and family.

One more fantastic mythical story is associated with the celebrations of Deepavali. The festival of lights also pays a tribute to the birth of Goddess Lakshmi, who is the Goddess of wealth as well as health. The legend of emergence of Goddess Lakshmi is popularly known as the legend of Samudra Manthan.

The story of Samudra Manthan goes like this. Once, the great sage Durvasa was out for a walk when he met Indra. Indra in his own world rode ignoring the Durvasa and even threw the garland given by him on Airavata. Durvasa got really angry over Indra's ill-behaviour and cursed him saying "The pride of wealth has entered your head. Let Lakshmi forsake you." Indra realized his mistakes and begged mercy from him. On this, Durvasa said " Sri Vishnu will do good to you" and left him.
As the result of the effect of curse, soon after Lakshmi left Indra. With Lakshmi was gone the power, wealth, bravery and enthusiasm possessed by him. The moment Indra lost his kingdom, Demons attacked him. He hid out of their sight and was constantly running in order to safeguard his life. He went for help to Lord Vishnu through his teacher and guide Brihaspati. Lord Vishnu advised him make demons his friends and with their assistance churn the sea of milk (the process of Samudra Manthan). For this, he asked him to Mandara as the churning rod and Vasuki, the king of serpents, as the rope.

On churning the sea, nectar was produced, which was drunk by the all the God so as to gain the state of immortality. Lakshmi appeared again standing amidst the gigantic milky tides and in the middle of a beautiful Lotus. She showered on him all that had been taken away from Indra. The King of Sea appeared and embraced Goddess Lakshmi as his daughter. This was the amazing story of Indra and Lakshmi reunion.

Since time immemorial, Hindus commemorate the birth of Goddess Lakshmi on the third day of Deepavali. Lakshmi Puja is performed and the dark night of Amavasya is enlightened with long arrays of diyas, candles and bulbs of beautiful colors. Homes are decorated after a thorough cleaning as it is believed that on this auspicious day Goddess Lakshmi strolls in green lawns and visit the homes.

Deepavali is a festival celebrated by all Indian irrelevant of their cast, creed and religion with equal enthusiasm and gaiety. While the rest of the Indians are imbued into the festive mood for the advent the Hindu New Year, the agrarian society of India is jubilating for a different reason.

Deepavali is also the end of the cropping season. This is the time of the year when farmers would be getting the results of their sweat and blood. The hard work they do all through the year is supposed to pay results in terms of a healthy crop. Harvesting period generally bear a lot of prosperity for agrarian society. Thus, the farmers pray to Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth) for the best results.

This particular festival is celebrated the very next day of Deepavali. As mentioned earlier, the Goddess of Lakshmi is worshiped and people perform her Arti. Special dishes are made by the womenfolk on the harvest festival. Especially, Poha or Pava made up of freshly taken rice from the field is prepared. Along with the rural farmers, the people living in the urban Western India too commemorate the harvesting season with great dedication.

Deepavali falls around the months of October or November, which is also known as the season of Kharif when the crop of fresh rice is widely available. Thus, it is not only due to mythological reasons that Deepavali holds such a great importance in India, but the day is auspicious in more than one ways.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Story of the Creation

This is the eternal spiritual world. At the top we see Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, a transcendental cowherd boy at play with His topmost devotees. These devotees are so totally in love with Him that they even forget He is God. Being God, He can expand Himself into unlimited forms without diminishing Himself. Therefore we see, in the middle, a milk-white form of Krishna wearing blue instead of yellow. This is Balarama, Krishna’s first expansion who plays as His brother, another cowherd boy. After Balarama come the Vishnu or Narayana forms, manifested for those who do not want to forget that He is God, and who prefer the more formal worship of this majestic four-armed form. But some become envious of God’s position and want one just like His.

They wish to be gods themselves instead of serving God. Just to give these souls a place to try to fulfill their desires, and to ultimately learn that such a choice cannot bring happiness, the Supreme Lord again expands Himself as Maha-Vishnu (Great Vishnu). Maha-Vishnu lies down in a darkened part of the spiritual world, in the Causal Ocean, which is made of the undifferentiated material energy. There He begins to create the material world.

In the Causal Ocean, the Supreme Lord first separates the qualities of the material elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth) by His glance.

The Supreme Lord, in His exhalation, breathes out the universes. It is said there are millions of universes, and each one is covered by layers of the material elements. The Lord next expands Himself again, to enter each universe.

Within each universe, all is dark. The Lord lies down in the waters of devastation, on a bed formed by His servant, Shesha-naga, who is actually another type of expansion. From His navel grows an effulgent lotus, whose light dries up the waters around it.

On the lotus is born Brahma, the first-born. Here, Brahma is shown trying to understand who he is, where he has come from, and what is his purpose.

In an attempt to answer his questions, Brahma climbs down the lotus stem into the water, seeking the stem’s origin. But he is stopped by the Wheel of Time, representing Death, and returns to his seat on the lotus flower. For one hundred years he performs austerities, meditating until he finds the Lord within his heart.

Suddenly, the Supreme Lord Vishnu appears below him, vast and more beautiful than the grandest landscape.

After the Lord disappears from Brahma’s sight, Brahma sees that the lotus has spread throughout the universe. Now understanding his purpose, Brahma begins the work of creation as the delegated and empowered representative of the Supreme Lord. Meditating on the Lord in his heart, he forms the planetary systems from the petals of the lotus. Next he begins to reproduce population from the different parts of his body, including his mind, feelings, and shadow, by mystic powers. He does not create the souls, who are eternal spiritual sparks from the spiritual form of the Lord, any more than he created the material elements. He merely gives them bodies formed from those material elements according to their various levels of consciousness at the time.

The Lord further enters His creation to maintain it. He expands Himself millions and billions of times to live in each atom and to personally accompany each soul in its journey in the material world. Besides the Lord Himself in each heart, we also see here: - the individual eternal soul, a tiny spark of spirit who is so powerful that he fills the body with consciousness and life. - the subtle body, defined as mind, intelligence, and false ego, which reflects the level of advancement of understanding of each soul. - and the gross physical body, selected to fit the nature of the subtle body. This story has a resolution. Remember, in the first painting, the rebellious soul who has rejected the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead to seek his own supposed godhood? He has encountered much trouble and misery, some bits of happiness that are more like absence of misery, and repeated births and deaths. He has not realized who lives in his heart as his eternal friend. When he finally becomes frustrated enough to ask “why?” the Lord in his heart arranges for him to encounter a spiritual master who can guide him to surrender to Krishna in loving devotional service and return to the spiritual world.

Courtesy from Krishna.com

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Miracles of Turmeric (Manjal, Haldi)

Turmeric has been and always will be a sacred spice for Indians. Indians have been using the spice for centuries in their daily cooking and had known the benefits so much that the turmeric has been added to all their daily rituals, for prayers, wedding, daily bath and it is a spice that not to missed out in any cookings. Why the turmeric is such a great necessity to Indians? The answer lies in its medicinal properties.

The benefits of turmeric come from its active ingredient, curcumin. Curcumin gives the turmeric root its yellow color, which is used to both color food and to dye fabric. According to the Siddhas medicine (6000 years old ancient South Indian's medicinal practices equivalent to Ayurveda in the North), the benefits of turmeric root extend far beyond a common cold remedy. Over the years turmeric root has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including:
  • Arthritis

  • Bruises

  • Chest pain

  • Colic

  • Digestive disorders

  • Flatulence

  • Jaundice

  • Menstrual conditions

  • Toothache
Western medicine has investigated some of the benefits of turmeric. The use of turmeric as an anti-tumor agent is under investigation, as is the possibility that the turmeric plant's anti-inflammatory properties could relieve arthritis symptoms.It is the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric root that make it a home remedy for the common cold. Turmeric relieves the nasal inflammation associated with the common cold.

Using Turmeric as a Cold Remedy

Turmeric root can be used in more than one home cold remedies. One of these alternative cold remedies recommends boiling half a teaspoon of powdered turmeric root in 30 milliliters of milk, letting the mixture cool and drinking it once or twice a day to relieve throat inflammation. As the milk comes to a boil, you can breathe in the steam for added effect (just be careful not to burn yourself with the hot steam).A second turmeric home remedy for the common cold is to breathe in smoke from burning turmeric powder to increase nasal discharge. Be warned, however, that burning turmeric creates a strong odor.Finally, here's a home remedy best used when cold symptoms are just beginning: Open one or two turmeric capsules and mix the turmeric with some honey. Symptom relief should come quickly.

Other uses of Turmeric

  • Prevention or Slowing down Alzheimer's disease. (Please refer links below to understand the medical background:)
  • Turmeric (Curcumin) blocks Brain tumor activity:

  • Curcumin is helpful against pancreatic ailments:
  • Curcumin is anti-inflammatory, and thus is helpful in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases:
  • Turmeric helps in digestion by inducing bile juice, and is thus good for the liver too. That's why it's subscribed whenever someone in India has jaundice:
  • A summary of the anti cancer properties of Curcumin, the chemical in Turmeric (Haldi) is given below. It is observed that Curcumin aids the cell-cycle arrest, which, if allowed to continue, would help in the mutation of cells and development of cancer:
  • Detailed medical analysis of Curcumin is provided in the below link:
  • Apart from this, Turmeric (Haldi) has been used since time immemorial in India as a Grandma's cure for skin infections, cuts, wounds and lesions. Recent studies prove that Curcumin inserts itself into cell membranes, making them more stable and thus healing them. Refer the below link:
  • Turmeric (Haldi) has also been used in India as a cosmetic. People, especially the women-folk are advised to use it to get a glowing and radiant skin.

  • It is also a common ritual to apply turmeric paste on the to-be bride and groom before marriage in the traditional Hindu ceremony. Studies show that Turmeric helps fight Melanoma, a deadly form of skin-cancer. Refer below link:
  • Drinking a glass full of "Haldi ka doodh", or Turmeric dissolved in milk, whenever you have a cold/cough/fever, feeling weak or when having body-pain can cure the issue. Turmeric seems to be a natural pain-killer and is seen to be helpful against all these symptoms.

  • Please refer below links:Turmeric: India's 'Holy Powder' Finally Reveals Its Centuries-old Secret

    Science Daily (Apr. 21, 2009) - Scientists in Michigan are reporting discovery of the secret behind the fabled healing power of the main ingredient in turmeric — a spice revered in India as "holy powder."

    In the study, Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy and colleagues point out that turmeric has been used for centuries in folk medicine to treat wounds, infections, and other health problems. Although modern scientific research on the spice has burgeoned in recent years, scientists until now did not know exactly how curcumin works inside the body.

    Using a high-tech instrument termed solid-state NMR spectroscopy, the scientists discovered that molecules of curcumin act like a biochemical disciplinarian. They insert themselves into cell membranes and make the membranes more stable and orderly in a way that increases cells' resistance to infection by disease-causing microbes.

    Potent Spice Works To Block Growth Of Melanoma In Lab Test

    Science Daily (July 14, 2005) — HOUSTON - Curcumin, the pungent yellow spice found in both turmeric and curry powders, blocks a key biological pathway needed for development of melanoma and other cancers, say researchers from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

    The study, to be published in the August 15, 2005 issue of the journal Cancer, but available on line at 12:01 a.m. (EDT) on Monday, July 11, demonstrates how curcumin stops laboratory strains of melanoma from proliferating and pushes the cancer cells to commit suicide. It does this, researchers say, by shutting down nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), a powerful protein known to promote an abnormal inflammatory response that leads to a variety of disorders, including arthritis and cancer. The study is the latest to suggest that curcumin has potent anticancer powers, say the researchers. "The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties of curcumin derived from turmeric are undergoing intense research here and at other places worldwide," says one of the study's authors, Bharat B. Aggarwal, Ph.D., professor of cancer medicine in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics.

    At M. D. Anderson, for example, dramatic results from laboratory studies have led to two ongoing Phase I human clinical trials, testing the ability of daily capsules of curcumin powder to retard growth of pancreatic cancer and multiple melanoma. Another Phase I trial is planned for patients with breast cancer, and given this news of curcumin's activity in melanoma, animal studies will soon begin, Aggarwal says. Ground from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, curcumin is a member of the ginger family. It has long been utilized in India and other Asian nations for multiple uses: as a food-preservative, a coloring agent, a folk medicine to cleanse the body, and as a spice to flavor food (two to five percent of turmeric is curcumin, for example).

    While researchers had thought curcumin primarily has anti-inflammatory properties, the growing realization that cancer can result from inflammation has spurred mounting interest in the spice as an anti-cancer agent, Aggarwal says. He adds that another fact has generated further excitement: "The incidence of the top four cancers in the U.S. - colon, breast, prostate, and lung - is ten times lower in India," he says. This work is just the latest by M. D. Anderson researchers to show how curcumin can inhibit cancer growth. "Curcumin affects virtually every tumor biomarker that we have tried," says Aggarwal. "It works through a variety of mechanisms related to cancer development. We, and others, previously found that curcumin down regulates EGFR activity that mediates tumor cell proliferation, and VEG F that is involved in angiogenesis. Besides inhibiting NF-kB, curcumin was also found to suppress STAT3 pathway that is also involved in tumorigenesis. Both these pathways play a central role in cell survival and proliferation."

    He said that an ability to suppress numerous biological routes to cancer development is important if an agent is to be effective. "Cells look at everything in a global way, and inhibiting just one pathway will not be effective," says Aggarwal.

    In this study, the researchers treated three different melanoma cell lines with curcumin and assessed the activity of NF-kB, as well the protein, known as "IKK" that switches NF-kB "on." The spice kept both proteins from being activated, so worked to stop growth of the melanoma, and it also induced "apoptosis," or programmed death, in the cells. Surprisingly, it didn't matter how much curcumin was used, says the researchers. "The NF-kB machinery is suppressed by both short exposures to high concentrations of curcumin as well as by longer exposure to lower concentrations of curcumin," they say in their study. Given that other studies have shown curcumin is non-toxic, these results should be followed by a test of the spice in both animal models of melanoma and in human trials, they say.

    The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Department of Defense. Co-authors included principle investigator Razelle Kurzrock, M.D.; first author Doris Siwak, Ph.D. and Shishir Shishodia.

    Sunday, July 5, 2009

    Ashta-Lakshmi - The Eightfold Lakshmi

    When we come first of all to consider Maha Lakshmi in Her cosmic aspect as Avidya-Maya who has to preserve the world-process which has evolved out of the Supreme Being, we find that She is conceived of as all the various things that are necessary to have a prosperous and successful life upon this earthplane. We have the conception of Mahalakshmi in Her eightfold forms and the Hindus refer to Her as the Ashta-Lakshmi. For the sustenance of life upon this earth the most important thing is food. All beings live upon this physical plane through the nourishment derived from physical food and the chief source of food upon earth is grain that is cultivated. The grain is Dhaanya..

    Therefore, Mother is worshipped as Dhaanya-Lakshmi. It is a common sight to see upon a particular day in the year set apart for this specific purpose, the cultivator and all the people worshipping the freshly-cut sheaves of golden corn, wheat grains, or rice grains that has been gathered at harvest-time. It is a very joyous festival. The first crop of golden corn which has filled the field is cut, taken up with great ceremony, with music and rejoicing and it is brought to the house wherein all the ceremonial worship due to a deity is offered to it. Thus Mother in Her universal aspect as life-sustaining grain is regarded as the most important factor and in this form Lakshmi is manifest in this world of ours.

    Secondly, for all human dealings, in society, both local and international, money or wealth is of paramount importance. Without wealth man cannot live with happiness, prosperity and success. He cannot undertake any works; and therefore, Mother is also conceived of as Dhana. It means wealth in any form—in the form of coins, goods—all valuable things. Thus wealth also is revered and worshipped in society.

    The Mother in these various forms is worshipped by different classes of people in India. The Hindu society is based upon the beautiful plan of Varnashrama. There is a general division of labour in the whole society as it is and different aspects of national life are entrusted to different sections of the community and in Her eightfold aspects as Dhaanya-Lakshmi, Dhana-Lakshmi, Dhairya-Lakshmi, Vidya-Lakshmi, Jaya-Lakshmi, Veerya-Lakshmi, Gaja-Lakshmi and Saubhagya-Lakshmi,

    Mother is worshipped in the form of life-giving grain, of wealth, of Apara-Vidya (knowledge of arts and sciences which is very essential if one must live a civilised and happy life—all knowledge pertaining to this material universe is Mother in the form of Vidya), of Dhairya (to utilise wealth and knowledge one must have enterprise), of Veerya (vitality or virility), of Gaja (royal power or the power of royalty), of Jaya (the power of victory over adverse circumstances, obstacles that stand in the way of a happy, prosperous and successful life) and of Saubhagya (prosperity in general). In these eight aspects, the power of the nourisher and sustainer Lakshmi is manifest in the world of human beings.

    The Kshatriya worships the Mother in the form of victory-giving weapons; to him the sword and all the other weapons are the victory-giving manifestations of Mahalakshmi. To the Vaishya who belongs to the third social order, who carries on commerce and business in human society, the great power is the power of money; therefore, a day is set apart to specially worship Goddess Lakshmi in this aspect of money, by them. It is a common sight on Deepavali and Lakshmi Puja, especially in wealthy cities like Bombay, when silver coins would be put into a heap and worshipped as any deity would be worshipped by the devout Hindu, as the visible manifestation of Divine Mother Lakshmi Herself. The fourth class, Sudras, worship Lakshmi as grain which they help to produce. By the Brahmin who is the trustee of knowledge and who is to impart knowledge to all people Mother is worshipped in the form of Vidya and as books. Implements of machinery, every sort of Ayudha that help to keep life going upon earth, are also worshipped on Ayudha Puja day. The conception of the Motherhood of God in its aspect as the preserving and life-sustaining form is thus practically demonstrated in the Hindu society in these various ways.

    Mother is worshipped in the form of life-giving corn, of wealth, of Apara-Vidya (knowledge of arts and sciences which is very essential if one must live a civilised and happy life—all knowledge pertaining to this material universe is Mother in the form of Vidya), of Dhairya (to utilise wealth and knowledge one must have enterprise), of Veerya (vitality or virility), of Gaja (royal power or the power of royalty), of Jaya (the power of victory over adverse circumstances, obstacles that stand in the way of a happy, prosperous and successful life) and of Saubhagya (prosperity in general).

    Mahalaxmi Stotram


    Aum Namaste-astu mahaa-maaye sree peethe sur-poojite,
    Shankha chakra gaddaa-haste, Mahaa Lakshmi namo-astute.
    O Great Mother, abode of fortune, Who art worshipped by the Devas, I salute Thee;
    O Mahaa Lakshmi, wielder of conch, disc and mace, obeisance to Thee.

    Aum Namaste garu-daaroode, kolaa-sura bhayankari;
    Sarva paapa hare devi, Mahaa Lakshmi namo-astute.
    My salutations to Thee, Who rides the Garuda and art a terror to the demon Kola;
    O Mahaa Lakshmi remover of all miseries, my obeisance to Thee.

    Aum Sarvagye sarva varde, sarva dustha bhayankari;
    Sarva duhkha hare devi, Mahaa Lakshmi namo-astute.
    Salutations to Thee, Who knows all, The Giver of all boons,
    a terror to all the wicked, remover of all sorrow, my obscene to Thee.

    Aum siddhi buddhi prade devi. bhukti-muktipradaayini;
    Mantra moorte sadaa devi, Mahaa Lakshmi namo astute.
    O Goddess of Wealth, giver of intelligence and success and of worldly enjoyment and Liberation,
    Thou hast always the mystic symbols as Thy forms, O Mahaa Lakshmi, obeisance to Thee.

    Aum Aadhyanta rahite devi, aadhya-shakte maheshvari;
    Yogaje yoga-sambhoote, Mahaa Lakshmi namo-astute.
    O Mother Maheshvari, without a beginning or anend;
    O Primeval Energy, born of Yoga; O Mahaa Lakshmi, obeisance to Thee.

    Aum Stoola suksham mahaa rovdre, mahaa shaktemahodaye;
    Mahaa paapa hare devi, Mahaa Lakshmi namo-astute.
    O Mahaa Lakshmi, who art both gross and subtle, most terrible,
    great power, great prosperity and great remover of all sins, obeisance to Thee.

    Aum Padmaa sanas-thite devi, pare brahma svaroopini;
    Para meshi jagan-maatar, Mahaa Lakshmi namo-astute.
    O Devi, seated on the lotus, who art The Supreme Brahman,
    The Great Lord and Mother of the Universe, O Mahaa Lakshmi, obeisance to Thee.

    Aum Svetaambar dhare devi, naanaa lankaar bhooshite;
    Jagat stithte jagan maatar, Mahaa Lakshmi namo-astute.
    O Devi, robed in white garments, and decked invarious kinds of ornaments,
    Thou art The Mother of the Universe and its support; O Mahaa Lakshmi, obeisance to Thee.

    Aum Mahaa Laksham-yashtak stotram, yahahpathed-bhakti maan narah;
    Sarva siddhim vaapnoti, Mahaa Lakshmi prasaad taha.
    Whoever with devotion recite this hymn to Sri Mahaa Lakshmi,
    composed in eight stanzas, attains all success through the Grace of Mahaa Lakshmi Devi.

    Monday, May 4, 2009

    Nandhalala's Rasa Leela

    Raasa Leela forms the most enchanting and the most devotional play (Leela) of Sree Krishna. It depicts the supersensual love between milkmaids (Gopis) of Vrindavan and Sree Krishna. However, it must be remembered that child Krishna was just about ten years of age at that time.

    All this love for Gopis in general and Radha in particular should be seen as divine love between Atman and Paramatman, without any physical or carnal element. We human beings may not understand the celestial beauty and spiritual content of such love between a man and a woman, but it is not the fault of Sree Krishna or the Gopis; we must blame ourselves if we see the whole episode with impure mind, if we get feeling of attraction between flesh and flesh in this Leela.

    Sree Krishna now started going to forest regularly with his cows. As the cows grazed in the loneliness of forest, Sree Krishna would play most melodious tunes on his flute. The clear skies, soft breeze, and newly blossomed tress with lush green foliage made the atmosphere pleasant, enchanting and cool. Peace, bliss, and love exuded all around. The Gopis (milkmaids of Vrindavan) were captivated by the sweet melody of Krishna's flute, unable to control their feelings towards Him. Forgetting their household duties, their children and husbands, these youthful lovers of Sree Krishna rushed to forest to have the company of their beloved. [This is known as relationship of a devotee with the attitude where the Lord is 'sweetheart'; Madhur Bhava as it is called.] Their heart and mind was occupied with the virtues of the Lord of the Universe, Paramatman Krishna.

    Praising the beauty and love of Sree Krishna, the Gopis were immersed in His Bhakti in its highest manifestation - para bhakti - where union of Atman with Paramatman was the goal sought. Body, mind, and thoughts vanished even while in body; transcendental joy and bliss was all that mattered. What to talk of Gopis and Radha (best amongst the Gopis), even the trees and shrubs, flowers and leaves, birds and animals all surrendered themselves to the sweet music of aptivating flute. Hence, Sree Krishna is also known as 'Muralidhar' (One holding the Flute).

    Evenings changed into nights, the full moon spreading its bright but pleasant light to make the night shine with gaiety and desire to unite. Sree Krishna with a peacock feather in his hair, adoring the loveliest yellow silk cloth on his beautiful celestial dark body, the flute kissing his rosy lips, and the gracious dance that he performed, all this was beyond the grasp of any mortal on the earth. The Gopis oblivious to the time of day rushed to the Tulasi (Sweet basil) Grove to meet Sree Krishna in this prime mood of Love. Then the divine Raasa Leela would to be enacted.

    The leader amongst the Gopis, Radha by name, the most beautiful and greatest exponent of Madhur Bhava, Love Power of Lord Krishna, losing her ordinary consciousness would start dancing in tune with Chitchor (one who has stolen the mind and heart - another name of Sree Krishna). Other Gopis would encircle this divine pair and thus would the Leela continue whole night. [It still continues night after every night in Vrindavan, and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Vallabhacharya, Surdas and a few more saints and Holy people have had visions of these Raasa Leelas at Vrindavan in their lives).

    Heavens and earth would come to standstill; gods and demigods of heaven - kinnaras, gandharvas, and yakshas - would enjoy Raasa Leela peeping down from their abode in the high sky. They would fill the grove with fragrance of celestial freshness and sweetness of heavenly music, while stars and the moon would stop in their orbit in awe and joy, becoming brighter and cooler to allow Raasa Leela to reach its peak of eternal bliss.

    However, this supernatural delight brought feeling of superiority and pride in the hearts and minds of the Gopis. "Why, the Lord Himself is dancing with me. Has anyone else such a fortune? Others are inferior to me", so would think a Gopi. And to rectify this defect of vanity and pride, Sree Krishna would vanish for a moment! The restless Gopis would search Him here and there, running from one tree to another, from one shrub to the next, inquiring 'have you seen my Krishna? Please tell me where he has disappeared.' And when the pangs of separation would become too unbearable, the Gopis would cry and lament:

    "O my friend, please arrange my meeting with Him, I cannot stay alive without Him. Where has He gone? What wrong have I done that He now no more loves me? I have given everything to Him, and now how shall I survive! My body, mind, emotions, thoughts, home and children, husband and family I have sacrificed in his favor. O my friend, bring Him to me; otherwise this life force is sure to leave from my heart.

    Bring Him to me or take me to Him; I shall wash His feet with tears from my eyes, I shall clean his feet with my long hair. I shall do everything and anything that might appear impossible for a human being. These pangs of separation are no more possible to tolerate, don't you feel my skin is dry and parched, burning in the separation from the Beloved! Don't you see my eyes have lost their entire luster, my breath is irregular, my mind is not steady, and my heart is pounding in fear! O friend, have you seen my Krishna!"

    Such and many more songs are composed in the Vaishnava tradition of literature in India, which bring tear to every eye, which express the pang of separation as writhing of heart like a wet towel. From medieval time to this date, scores are songs are composed, ballet and dramas enacted, with wonderful description of Raasa Leela. From Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari in the south, from Dwaraka in the West to Manipur in the east music is played in all Vaishnava temples with madhur bhava as the main ingredient eulogizing this 'out of the world' feat of Sree Krishna and Radha.

    No one has captured the heart and mind of the masses with such fervour as Sree Krishna has. Not for nothing, He is the most adored deity in His many varied and beautiful divine forms. In his gesture of supreme love towards Radha and Radha's love for Him, Sree Krishna blessed her thus: 'O Radha, for centuries to come people would take your name first and then mine.' And thus devotees chant 'Radhe Krishna; Radhe Krishna', in ecstasy of madness; Radhe Krishna having become the Mantra for Final Liberation!

    Saturday, April 18, 2009


    Devotees from Malaysia go to Palani and Thiruchedur India to fulfill theirvenduthal, all these years. Now devotess can be experience the same in Sri Balathandayuthanpani Murugan Temple, Jalan Yam Tuan , Seremban, Negeri Sembilan. This Golden Chariot is covered with pure 24 carat Gold Leaf by special craftsmen of India.

    It would be a beautiful sight to view the Golden Chariot in procession. The Chariot is made in gold and dragged by the devotees is common practice in Murugan temples. But unlike what many believes and claimed as a show of devotion and love, it is done because of a few reasons. The chariot is made in Gold just like the temple's Kumbam or the dome because of the conductive properties of Gold.

    The Gold Chariot 1st would be prayed in the temple to energise the cosmic energy then will be carried out to the streets to transfer the energy to the devotess and the rest of the public. This is because Hindus believe that not only humans should benefit from the cosmic energy but every life form.

    During the proccession, the devotees will come and prayer and at the same time provide milk and drinks to the devotees who help bringing the chariot for the benefits of others. Cracking of coconuts is a normal practice to symbolise the breaking of one's ego. The coconut should then to be taken back and used for cooking vegetarian food and at times can be given away to others.

    This is the proper practice that should be followed. But what happening here in Malaysia is totaly opposite. People will crack the coconuts in the street. The coconuts will shatter and the left in the streets. Trampled around, these coconuts will then become trash eventually rot in the streets. Hinduism does not promote wastage especially when it comes to food. Whats more is the sharp edges of the coconut shells might poke the bare feet of the devotees. It is also will dirty the area and turn out to be extra work for the municipal workers. The practice of breaking the coconut in temples nowadays also sees the same fate. Some, who do coconut archanai in temples are using the coconut for meat curry thinking they are saving the coconut but forgeting that the coconut was blessed in the temple which promotes vegetarian lifestyles.

    Ok, let me explain about the ubayam. Its done as to support food for the devotees and meant as a charity for the poor people. The food price should not be fixed by any temples. All practices in temples are meant as service for the benefit of mankind. But once the temple fixes the price for the service provided, the temple is no longer a place for service but it becomes a business.

    Those who follow my posts in MI Club will realise that I always go for the temple but when the practice or the system is against the actual purpose we need to stand corrected.

    Please don't turn God into a commodity.

    Thursday, April 2, 2009

    Caste. What is it?

    Recently during a conversation in a group I saw a remark was given refering to "CASTE" system and there were a few arguments regarding the usage of the term. I understand that these remarks were given due to lack of understanding regarding the caste system. So I am obliged to write this topic.

    Caste. What is it?

    It is not like what a lot of people think, caste is not made by humans. It is even written in the Vishnu Purana. But the big question is; what is it?

    In Vishnu Purana, it is said that there are 4 types of Castes. Brahmin, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. According to the Purana, caste (jathi) is not hereditary and not fixed to a person. It is the state of consiousness. It would change according to one's acts and thoughts.

    What is caste (jathi)? It is refered to be the way to reach GOD. To reach Him, one should have certain qualities. Brahma in charge of creation, created humans in his own form.

    Caste shows the prefered types that God will prefer.

    A Brahmin will be the 1st choice of person prefered by God. A Brahmin's duty is serve Him throughout his life. Brahmin has to be sincere in his prayers and spent his time thinking of God and the good things. A Brahmin said to be placed on Brahman's forehead because it means he spent his time thinking about God throughout his life. Therefore Brahmin means A Person Devoted to Serve God.

    A person who willing to sacrifice himself for the good of others is called Kshatriyas (warriors). They usually selfless. Brahma said to have placed them on His right arm to symbolise thier willingness to sacrife themselves to protect others.

    Vaishyas are known as merchants. They not only do business but provide food, shelter and clothing to the poor. To symbolise their contribution to others, they are placed on Brahma's stomach.

    If you have noticed, this is the ranking used to guide people on how to reach God, so how about those who can't do all this? He too can reach God by doing his service to those above to reach God. Hindus believe to serve a loyal servant of God is like serving the God Himself.

    How about those who dont care about this and lead thier lives to the path of evil? It is these people who are known as the untouchables.

    If you mix with evil person, you too will be influenced by thier activities, therefore don't mix with them.

    But since in the olden days no proper school was built to take course on living, everyone followed thier father's footsteps doing the same things thier father did. If the father is a Brahmin the son will be too. Soon the caste system were stuck with the profession rather than the consiousness. People start to create other caste system to fill the gap among the professions. Now we have more than 100 caste rather than the original 4.

    The misconceptions of the Caste system.

    The caste system is not brought down from father to son but its the state of his consiousness.
    A person can practice his devotion to God by thinking of Him in every actions he is undertaking to raise his level of consiousness. Remember Hinduism believes "One Should Only Perfom His Action and Leave the Results to God". It does not matter if he succeed or fail. The outcome is the desire of God. So one should not rejoice or grief over it but to give all his effort in performing his duties and leave the glory to Him. It doesn't matter what profession he is performing.

    If a priest failed to focus during his prayers and think about other things, HE WILL NO LONGER BE A BRAHMIN. But if he saw a kid almost runned over by a truck and without thinking twice jumped in to save him without thinking of his own safety, he then becomes the Kshatriyas.

    This is further explained in Bagawad Gita by Lord Krishna to Arjuna. So it is said that if you cannot think of Him in every thing you perform, you should be selfless and be very helpful to others without asking any reward in return. If even this you could not perform then do charity without asking for the reward from Him or to publicise yourself. If you do, your effort will not yield the reward meant for your doing.

    I hope this explains the concept of Caste System to everyone. Please do not use caste system as a system to degrade another person because if you do, you yourselves will be judged as the untouchable for its the qualities of those damned by God.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    கீதாசாரம் / GEETHASHARAM

    எது நடந்ததோ, அது நன்றாகவே நடந்தது,
    எது நடக்கிறதோ, அது நன்றாகவே நடக்கிறது,
    எது நடக்க இருக்கிறதோ,
    அதுவும் நன்றாகவே நடக்கும்,
    உன்னுடையதை எதை இழந்தாய்,
    எதற்காக நீ அழுகிறாய்?
    எதை நீ கொண்டு வந்தாய், அதை நீ இழப்பதிற்கு?
    எதை நீ படைத்திருந்தாய், அது வீணாவதற்கு?
    எதை நீ எடுத்துக் கொண்டாயோ,
    அது இங்கிருந்தே எடுக்கப்பட்டது,
    எதை கொடுத்தாயோ,
    அது இங்கேயே கொடுக்கப்பட்டது,
    எது இன்று உன்னுடையதோ,
    அது நாளை மற்றொருவருடையதாகிறது,
    மற்றொரு நாள், அது வேறொருவருடையதாகும்.
    இதுவே உலக நியதியும், எனது படைப்பின் சாராம்சமாகும்.
    - பகவான் ஸ்ரீ கிருஷ்ணர்


    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Mudras and Benefits

    A mudrā is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some mudrās involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. Mudrā (Sanskrit) is "spiritual gesture" and energetic "seal of authenticity" employed in the iconography and spiritual practice of Indian religions and Taoism. (Wikipedia) Mudrās are arm, hand and body positions used in the traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. The great Buddha knew the use of mudrās and is often depicted using these ritual gestures. Various Kung Fu forms contain positions identical to these mudrās.
    108 mudras are used in regular Tantric rituals. Mudras are also used in Indian Classical Dance. There are over 200 mudras in Bharatanatyam and over 250 in Mohini Aattam.

    Let us see 10 most important Mudras.

    • GYAN MUDRA - Mudra of Knowledge
    • PRITHIVI MUDRA - Mudra of Earth
    • VARUNA MUDRA - Mudra of Water
    • VAYU MUDRA - Mudra of Air
    • SHUNYA MUDRA - Mudra of Emptiness
    • SURYA MUDRA - Mudra of The Sun
    • PRANA MUDRA - Mudra of Life
    • APANA MUDRA - Mudra of Digestion
    • APANA VAYU MUDRA - Mudra of The Heart
    • LINGA MUDRA - Mudra of Heat and Energy
    1. GYAN MUDRA - Mudra of Knowledge

    Method: Touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the index finger, with the other three fingers stretched out.

    Speciality: As it is a mudra of knowledge, it enhances the knowledge. The tip of thumb has centers of pituitary and endocrine glands. When we press these centers by index finger the two glands work actively.

    Time duration: There is no particular time duration for this mudra. You can practice by sitting, standing or lying on bed whenever and wherever you have time.

    Benefits: Increases memory power and sharpens the brain. Enhances concentration and prevents Insomnia. If we practice it regularly, it will cure all psychological disorders like Mental, Hysteria, Anger and Depression.

    2. PRITHIVI MUDRA - Mudra of Earth

    Method: Tip of the ring finger touches the tip of the thumb, with the other three fingers stretched out.

    Speciality: It reduces all physical weaknesses.

    Time duration: It has no particular time duration. You can practice it any time you want.

    Benefits: It helps to increase the weight for weak people. It improves the complexion of skin and makes the skin to glow. It makes the body active by keeping it healthy.

    3. VARUNA MUDRA - Mudra

    Method: Tip of little finger touches the tip of thumb, with the other three fingers stretched out.

    Speciality: It balances the water content and prevents all diseases which come due to lack of water.

    Time duration: It has no specific time duration and one can practice it according to their time.

    Benefits: It retains clarity in blood by balancing water content in the body. Prevents the pains of Gastroenteritis and Muscle Shrinkage.

    4. VAYU MUDRA - Mudra of Air

    Method: Keep the index finger on the base of the thumb and press with thumb keeping the other three fingers straight.

    It prevents all the diseases that occur due to the imbalance of the air.

    Time duration: The practice of this mudra for 45 minutes reduces the severity of the disease in 12 to 24 hours. For better results practice it for two months.

    Benefits: It cures Rheumatism, Arthritis, Gout, Parkinson's disease and paralysis without any medicine. It is useful for Cervical Spondilytis, paralysis to face and catching of nerve in neck. It corrects the disorder of gas in the stomach.

    5. SHUNYA MUDRA - Mudra of Emptiness

    Method: Keep the middle finger at the mount of Venus and press it with thumb.

    Speciality: It reduces the dullness in our body.

    Time duration: One can practice it for 40 to 60 minutes daily until to be cured from the disease.

    Benefits: It relieves an earache within 4 or 5 minutes. It is useful for the deaf and mentally challenged, but not for inborn ones.

    6. SURYA MUDRA - Mudra of The Sun

    Method: Bend the ring finger and press it with thumb.

    Speciality: It sharpens the center in thyroid gland.

    Time duration: Practice it daily twice for 5 to 15 minutes.

    Benefits: It reduces cholesterol in body and helps in reducing weight. It reduces anxiety. It corrects indigestion problems.

    7. PRANA MUDRA - Mudra of Life

    Method: Bend ring finger and little finger and touch the tip of thumb with their tips keeping the remaining two fingers stretched.

    Speciality: As it is the mudra of life, it improves the power of life. Weak people become strong. It reduces the clamps in blood vessels. If we practice it regularly, we will become active.

    Time duration: No specific time duration. One can practice it any time.

    Benefits: It improves immunity. Improves the power of eyes and reduces eye related diseases. It removes the vitamin deficiency and fatigue.

    8. APANA MUDRA - Mudra of Digestion

    Method: The tips of middle finger and ring finger touch the tip of thumb while the other two fingers are stretched out.

    Speciality: It plays an important role in our health as it regulates the excretory system.

    Time duration: Practice it daily for 45 minutes, but practice for longer time yields more benefits.

    Benefits: It regulates diabetes, cures constipation and piles. It also helps excreting the normal waste regularly.

    9. APANA VAYU MUDRA - Mudra of The Heart


    Method: The tips of the middle finger and ring finger touch the tip of thumb, while the index finger touches the base of thumb and little finger stretched out.

    Speciality: It benefits the heart. It works like injection in the reduction of heart attack. It is as powerful as sorbitate tablet. It reduces the gas content in body.

    Time duration: Practice it as many times as you can. Heart patients and High BP patients can practice it for 15 minutes daily twice for better results.

    Benefits: It strengthens the heart and regularizes palpitation, regulates excretory system and redeems gastric trouble.

    10. LINGA MUDRA - Mudra of Heat and Energy

    Method: Interlock the fingers of both the hands and keep the thumb of the left hand vertically straight and encircle it with the thumb and the index finger of the right hand.

    Speciality: It generates heat in our body. Take milk, ghee, more water and fruit juices in addition to practice of this mudra for much benefits.

    Time duration: Practice it any time you want. But don't practice it a lot as it produces heat in the body. It can cause sweating even in winter if you practice it longer.

    Benefits: It stops production of phlegm and gives power to lungs, cures severe cold and bronchial infection. It also invigorates the body.

    You can do this anytime, anyplace – in the bus, train, car, office or at home. To believe it, you must try it. There is nothing to lose and much to gain.

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Thopukkaranams @ Super Brain Yoga

    Thopukkaranams (in Tamil) also known as "Ketuk Ketampi" in Malay were traditionally performed by Hindus in front of the deity of Lord Ganesha, as part of the worship ritual. This practice involved crossing the arms in the front of the chest, and holding the right ear lobe with the left hand and the left ear lobe with the right hand, and performing a series of squats in front of Lord Ganesha in the temple or the pooja room at home.

    It was also widely used in Hindu schools, especially in the old times, as form of punishment for an erring child. The misbehaving child or one who has neglected to do his or her homework, would be asked by the teacher to stand in the corner and do series of Thopukkaranams. This is also practiced in South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Recently Philippines had banned such practice in schools as they find it as a very cruel mode of punishment.

    Now, the western scientists have found that this practice stimulates the brain, and increases and improves intelligence, reduces behavioral problems in children, and minimizes the risks of age-related Alzheimer's disease, Autism and Dementia. The scientific findings were reported in the CBS news in the US, and can be watched below or at youtube.

    Some schools in the US, it seems, have adopted the practice of Thopukkaranams in their classrooms to improve the intelligence and academic performance of the school children. It is also being advocated for older people to keep the mind sharp and active.

    It is ironic that Hindu society, which came up with so many ancient yogic practices that were often incorporated as part of the daily worship ritual and were known to benefit the mind and body greatly, has discarded these practices because they are viewed as ‘old-fashioned,’ whereas the western societies are discovering these practice and attempting to adopt the same to improve the physical and mental well-being of their people.

    Even though we can see a lot of people do this practice in Vinayagar Temples, not many people know how to do it properly. They seems to simply move up and down a few inches. This will not bring any benefits to the practitioners. Most of them are doing it just as a symbol without knowing that there is an actual benefits behind the practice.

    The right way of doing this is to breath in through your nose and out from your mouth with the tongue at the roof of the mouth as when you say "zha" as in "Tamizha".

    Place your left thumb on the right ear lobe with the thumb facing out. Squat all the way down. Remember to breath out all the down and in on the way up. When you reach either top or the bottom positions, pause your breathing and your movement for a second. Do this 14 times a rep. Its best done twice a day.

    As the above report states, it is never too late to start doing Thopukarranams in front of Lord Ganesha, introduce such practices to your children from very early age, and revive such practices in schools.

    As per the medical research and subsequent report, doing these special kind of situps while holding the opposite earlobes help stimulate brain power and remember things better.

    Hindus have been doing "Super Brain Yoga" for ages in front of temples devoted to Lord Ganesha. In fact, I have observed that while crossing a Ganesha temple on road, most people stop, take off their footwear, perform "Thoppukaranam", and then resume their journey. Lord Ganesha is associated with Knowledge/Memory, a point which is now proved by this research.

    But what is saddening is that many of our traditions are being copyrighted by the western world, and the latest point in this case is "Thoppukaranam" being copyrighted as "Super Brain Yoga". What is a very common sight in every Ganesha temple in South India (not sure about North India) has become Super Brain Yoga in the West. Now that, the Westerners have certified the practice to be yielding both physical and intellectual benefits, our folks can begin to look at the practice as a scientific one. Cheers to the slavish mentality, which we Indians have not left even though when "the White Masters" have.

    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Hindu Rituals & Routines - Why do we follow those?

    Why do we light a lamp?

    In almost every Indian home a lamp is lit daily before the altar of the Lord. In some houses it is lit at dawn, in some, twice a day – at dawn and dusk – and in a few it is maintained continuously (akhanda deepa). All auspicious functions commence with the lighting of the lamp, which is often maintained right through the occasion.

    Light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness, ignorance. The Lord is the "Knowledge Principle" (chaitanya) who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge. Hence light is worshiped as the Lord himself.

    Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness. Also knowledge is a lasting inner wealth by which all outer achievement can be accomplished. Hence we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth.

    Why not light a bulb or tube light? That too would remove darkness. But the traditional oil lamp has a further spiritual significance. The oil or ghee in the lamp symbolizes our vaasanas or negative tendencies and the wick, the ego. When lit by spiritual knowledge, the vaasanas get slowly exhausted and the ego too finally perishes. The flame of a lamp always burns upwards. Similarly we should acquire such knowledge as to take us towards higher ideals.

    Whilst lighting the lamp we thus pray:
    Deepajyothi parabrahma
    Deepa sarva tamopahaha
    Deepena saadhyate saram
    Sandhyaa deepo namostuthe

    I prostrate to the dawn/dusk lamp;
    whose light is the Knowledge Principle (the Supreme Lord),
    which removes the darkness of ignorance and
    by which all can be achieved in life.
    Why do we have a prayer room?

    Most Indian homes have a prayer room or altar. A lamp is lit and the Lord worshipped each day. Other spiritual practices like japa (repetition of the Lord’s name), meditation, paaraayana (reading of the scriptures), prayers, devotional singing (Bhajans), etc. is also done here. Special worship is done on auspicious occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, festivals and the like. Each member of the family – young or old – communes with and worships the Divine here.

    The Lord is the entire creation. He is therefore the true owner of the house we live in too. The prayer room is the Master room of the house. We are the earthly occupants of His property. This notion rids us of false pride and possessiveness.

    The ideal attitude to take is to regard the Lord as the true owner of our homes and ourselves as caretakers of His home. But if that is rather difficult, we could at least think of Him as a very welcome guest. Just as we would house an important guest in the best comfort, so too we felicitate the Lord’s presence in our homes by having a prayer room or altar, which is, at all times, kept clean and well-decorated.

    Also the Lord is all-pervading. To remind us that He resides in our homes with us, we have prayer rooms. Without the grace of the Lord, no task can be successfully or easily accomplished. We invoke His grace by communing with Him in the prayer room each day and on special occasions.

    Each room in a house is dedicated to a specific function like the bedroom for resting, the drawing room to receive guests, the kitchen for cooking etc. The furniture, decor and the atmosphere of each room are made conducive to the purpose it serves. So too for the purpose of meditation, worship and prayer, we should have a conducive atmosphere – hence the need for a prayer room. Sacred thoughts and sound vibrations pervade the place and influence the minds of those who spend time there. Spiritual thoughts and vibrations accumulated through regular meditation, worship and chanting done there pervade the prayer room. Even when we are tired or agitated, by just sitting in the prayer room for a while, we feel calm, rejuvenated and spiritually uplifted.

    Why do we do greet namaste/vanakkam?
    Indians greet each other with namaste/vanakkam. The two palms are placed together in front of the chest and the head bows whilst saying the word namaste/vanakkam. This greeting is for all – people younger than us, of our own age, those older than us, friends and even strangers.

    There are five forms of formal traditional greeting enjoined in the shaastras of which namaskaram is one. This is understood as prostration but it actually refers to paying homage as we do today when we greet each other with a namaste/vanakkam.

    Namaste/vanakkam could be just a casual or formal greeting, a cultural convention or an act of worship. However there is much more to it than meets the eye. In Sanskrit namah + te = namaste. It means – I bow to you – my greetings, salutations or prostration to you. Namaha can also be literally interpreted as "nama" (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.

    The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. When we greet another, we do so with namaste, which means, "may our minds meet," indicated by the folded palms placed before the chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending friendship in love and humility.

    The spiritual meaning is even deeper. The life force, the divinity, the Self or the Lord in me is the same in all. Recognising this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we salute with head bowed the Divinity in the person we meet. That is why sometimes, we close our eyes as we do namaste to a revered person or the Lord – as if to look within. The gesture is often accompanied by words like "Ram Ram", "Jai Shri Krishna", "Namo Narayana", "Jai Siya Ram", "Om Shanti" etc – indicating the recognition of this divinity.

    When we know this significance, our greeting does not remain just a superficial gesture or word but paves the way for a deeper communion with another in an atmosphere of love and respect.

    Why do we prostrate before parents and elders?
    Indians prostrate before their parents, elders, teachers and noble souls by touching their feet. The elder in turn blesses us by placing his or her hand on or over our heads. Prostration is done daily, when we meet elders and particularly on important occasions like the beginning of a new task, birthdays, festivals etc. In certain traditional circles, prostration is accompanied by abhivaadana which serves to introduce one-self, announce one’s family and social stature.

    Man stands on his feet. Touching the feet in prostration is a sign of respect for the age, maturity, nobility and divinity that our elders personify. It symbolizes our recognition of their selfless love for us and the sacrifices that they have done for our welfare. It is a way of humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This tradition reflects the strong family ties which have been one of India’s enduring strengths.

    The good wishes (Sankalpa) and blessings (aashirvaada) of elders are highly valued in India. We prostrate to seek them. Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good wishes springing from a heart full of love, divinity and nobility have a tremendous strength.

    When we prostrate with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and blessings of elders which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive the energy thus received.

    The different forms of showing respect are:
    Pratuthana - rising to welcome a person.
    Namaskaara - paying homage in the form of namaste.
    Upasangrahan - touching the feet of elders or teachers.
    Shaashtaanga - prostrating fully with the feet, knees, stomach, chest, forehead and arms touching the ground in front of the elder.
    Pratyabivaadana - returning a greeting.

    Rules are prescribed in our scriptures as to who should prostrate to whom. Wealth, family name, age, moral strength and spiritual knowledge in ascending order of importance qualified men to receive respect. This is why a king though the ruler of the land, would prostrate before a spiritual master. Epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata have many stories highlighting this aspect.

    Why do we wear marks (tilak / pottu) on the forehead?
    The tilak or pottu invokes a feeling of sanctity in the wearer and others. It is recognised as a religious mark. Its form and colour vary according to one’s caste, religious sect or the form of the Lord worshipped.

    In earlier times, the four castes (based on varna or colour) applied marks differently, Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra

    The Brahmin - white chandan mark signifying purity, as his profession was of a priestly or academic nature.
    The Kshatriya - red kumkum mark signifying valour as he belonged to warrior races.
    The Vaishya - yellow kesar or turmeric mark signifying prosperity as he was a businessman or trader devoted to creation of wealth.
    The Sudra - black bhasma, kasturi or charcoal mark signifying service as he supported the work of the other three divisions.

    Also Vishnu worshippers apply a chandan tilak in the shape of "U",
    Shiva worshippers a tripundra in the shape of "" of bhasma,
    Devi worshippers a red dot of kumkum in the shape of "" and so on).

    The tilak cover the spot between the eyebrows, which is the seat of memory and thinking. It is known as the Aajna Chakra in the language of Yoga.

    The tilak is applied with the prayer:

    "May I remember the Lord.
    May this pious feeling pervade all my activities.
    May I be righteous in my deeds."

    Even when we temporarily forget this prayerful attitude the mark on another reminds us of our resolve. The tilak is thus a blessing of the Lord and a protection against wrong tendencies and forces.

    The scientific reason behind this action is the entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves – the forehead and the subtle spot between the eyebrows especially so. That is why worry generates heat and causes a headache. The tilak and pottu cools the forehead, protects us and prevents energy loss. sometimes the entire forehead is covered with chandan or bhasma. Using plastic reusable "stick bindis" is not very beneficial, even though it serves the purpose of decoration.

    Why do we not touch papers, books and people with the feet?
    To Indians, knowledge is sacred and divine. So it must be given respect at all times. Nowadays we separate subjects as sacred and secular. But in ancient India every subject – academic or spiritual – was considered divine and taught by the guru in the gurukula.

    The custom of not stepping on educational tools is a frequent reminder of the high position accorded to knowledge in Indian culture. From an early age, this wisdom fosters in us a deep reverence for books and education.

    This is also the reason why we worship books, vehicles and instruments once a year on Saraswathi Pooja or Ayudha Pooja day, dedicated to the Goddess of Learning.

    In fact, each day before starting our studies, we pray:
    Saraswati namasthubhyam
    Varade kaama roopini
    Vidyaarambham karishyaami
    Sidhirbhavatu me sadaa

    O Goddess Saraswati,
    the giver of Boons and fulfiller of wishes,
    I prostrate to You before starting my studies.
    May You always fulfill me.

    Why is to touch another with the feet is considered an act of misdemeanor?
    Man is regarded as the most beautiful, living breathing temple of the Lord! Therefore touching another with the feet is akin to disrespecting the divinity within him or her. This calls for an immediate apology, which is offered with reverence and humility.

    Why do we apply the holy ash?
    The ash of any burnt object is not regarded as holy ash. Bhasma (the holy ash) is the ash from the homa (sacrificial fire) where special wood along with ghee and other herbs is offered as worship of the Lord. Or the deity is worshipped by pouring ash as abhisheka and is then distributed as bhasma.

    Bhasma is generally applied on the forehead. Some apply it on certain parts of the body like the upper arms, chest etc. Some ascetics rub it all over the body. Many consume a pinch of it each time they receive it.

    The word bhasma means "that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered". Bha implied bhartsanam ("to destroy") and sma implies smaranam ("to remember"). The application of bhasma therefore signifies destruction of the evil and remembrance of the divine. Bhasma is called vibhuti (which means "glory") as it gives glory to one who applies it and raksha (which means a source of protection) as it protects the wearer from ill health and evil, by purifying him or her.

    Homa (offering of oblations into the fire with sacred chants) signifies the offering or surrender of the ego and egocentric desires into the flame of knowledge or a noble and selfless cause. The consequent ash signifies the purity of the mind which results from such actions.

    Also the fire of knowledge burns the oblation and wood signifying ignorance and inertia respectively. The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with the body and become free of the limitations of birth and death. This is not to be misconstrued as a morose reminder of death but as a powerful pointer towards the fact that time and tide wait for none.

    Bhasma is specially associated with Lord Shiva who applies it all over His body. Shiva devotes apply bhasma as a tripundra. When applied with a red spot at the centre, the mark symbolises Shiva-Shakti (the unity of energy and matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe).

    Bhasma has medicinal value and is used in many ayurvedic medicines. It absorbs excess moisture from the body and prevents colds and headaches. The Upanishads say that the famous Mrityunjaya mantra should be chanted whilst applying ash on the forehead.
    Tryambakam yajaamahe
    Sugandhim pushtivardhanam
    Urvaa rukamiva bhandhanaan
    Mrytyor muksheeyamaa amrutaat

    "We worship the three-eyed Lord Shiva
    Who nourishes and spread fragrance in our lives
    May He free us from the shackles of sorrow, change and death – effortlessly
    Like the fall of a ripe brinjal from its stem."

    Why do offer food to the Lord before eating it?
    Indians make an offering of food to the Lord and later partake of it as prasaada – a holy gift from the Lord. In our daily ritualistic worship (pooja) too we offer food (neividyam) to the Lord.

    The Lord is omnipotent and omniscient. Man is a part, while the Lord is the totality. All that we do is by His strength and knowledge alone. Hence what we receive in life as a result of our actions is really His alone. We acknowledge this through the act of offering food to Him.

    This is exemplified by the Hindi words: “tera tujko arpan" - I offer what is Yours to You.

    Thereafter it is akin to His gift to us, graced by His divine touch.

    Knowing this, our entire attitude to food and the act of eating changes. The food offered will naturally be pure and the best. We share what we get with others before consuming it. We do not demand, complain or criticise the quality of the food we get. We eat it with cheerful acceptance (prasaada buddhi).

    Before we partake of our daily meals we first sprinkle water around the plate as an act of purification. Five morsels of food are placed on the side of the plate acknowledging the debt owed by us to:

    the Divine forces (devta runa) - for their benign grace and protection;
    our ancestors (pitru runa) - for giving us their lineage and a family culture;
    the sages (rishi runa) - as our religion and culture have been "realised", attained and handed down to us by them;
    our fellow human beings (Manushya runa) - who constitute society without the support of which we could not live as we do and
    other living beings (bhuta runa) - for serving us selflessly.

    Thereafter the Lord, the life force, who is also within us as the five life-giving physiological functions, is offered the food.

    This is done with the chant;
    praanaaya swaahaa,
    apaanaaya swaahaa,
    vyaanaaya swaahaa,
    udaanaaya swaahaa,
    samaanaaya swaahaa,
    brahmane swaahaa

    After offering the food thus, it is eaten as prasaada – blessed food.

    Why do we fast?
    Most devout Indians fast regularly or on special occasions like festivals. On such days they do not eat at all, eat once or make do with fruits or a special diet of simple food.

    Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. Upa means "near" + vaasa means "to stay". Upavaasa therefore means staying near (the Lord), meaning the attainment of close mental proximity with the Lord.

    Then what has upavaasa to do with food?

    A lot of our time and energy is spent in procuring food items, preparing, cooking, eating and digesting food. Certain food types make our minds dull and agitated. Hence on certain days man decides to save time and conserve his energy by eating either simple, light food or totally abstaining from eating so that his mind becomes alert and pure.

    The mind, otherwise pre-occupied by the thought of food, now entertains noble thoughts and stays with the Lord. Since it is a self-imposed form of discipline it is usually adhered to with joy.

    Also every system needs a break and an overhaul to work at its best. Rest and a change of diet during fasting is very good for the digestive system and the entire body.

    The more you indulge the senses, the more they make their demands. Fasting helps us to cultivate control over our senses, sublimate our desires and guide our minds to be poised and at peace.

    Fasting should not make us weak, irritable or create an urge to indulge later. This happens when there is no noble goal behind fasting.

    The Bhagavad Geeta urges us to eat appropriately – neither too less nor too much – yukta-aahaara and to eat simple, pure and healthy food (a saatvik diet) even when not fasting.

    Why do we do pradakshina (circumambulate)?
    We cannot draw a circle without a centre point. The Lord is the centre, source and essence of our lives. Recognising Him as the focal point in our lives, we go about doing our daily chores. This is the significance of pradakshina.

    Also every point on the circumference of a circle is equidistant from the centre. This means that wherever or whoever we may be, we are equally close to the Lord. His grace flows towards us without partiality.

    Why is pradakshina done only in a clockwise manner?
    The reason is not, as a person said, to avoid a traffic jam! As we do pradakshina, the Lord is always on our right. In India the right side symbolises auspiciousness. So as we circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum we remind ourselves to lead an auspicious life of righteousness, with the Lord who is the indispensable source of help and strength, as our guide – the "right hand".

    Indian scriptures enjoin:
    matrudevo bhava,
    pitrudevo bhava,
    acharyadevo bhava.

    May you consider your parents and teachers as you would the Lord.

    With this in mind we also do pradakshina around our parents and divine personages.

    After the completion of traditional worship (pooja), we customarily do pradakshina around ourselves. In this way we recognise and remember the supreme divinity within us, which alone is idolised in the form of the Lord that we worship outside.

    Why do we regard trees and plants as sacred?
    The Lord, the life in us, pervades all living beings, be they plants or animals. Hence, they are all regarded as sacred. Human life on earth depends on plants and trees. They give us the vital factors that makes life possible on earth: food, oxygen, clothing, shelter, medicines etc.

    Hence, in India, we are taught to regard trees and plants as sacred. Indians scriptures tell us to plant ten trees if, for any reason, we have to cut one. We are advised to use parts of trees and plants only as much as is needed for food, fuel, shelter etc. We are also urged to apologise to a plant or tree before cutting it to avoid incurring a specific sin named soona.

    Certain trees and plants like tulasi, peepal etc., which have tremendous beneficial qualities, are worshipped till today. It is believed that divine beings manifest as trees and plants, and many people worship them to fulfill their desires or to please the Lord.

    Why do we ring the bell in a temple?
    Is it to wake up the Lord? But the Lord never sleeps. Is it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to be told, as He is all-knowing. Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct? It is a homecoming and therefore entry needs no permission. The Lord welcomes us at all times. Then why do we ring the bell?

    The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om, the universal name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness.

    [Ringing the bell steadily produces a renosance that evokes a certain part of our brain. It actually allows us to activate the subconscious mind during which the Mantras were read. At the end of the Mantras, the bell will be ringed randomly. This breaks the subconscious state of the mind.]

    Even while doing the ritualistic aarati, we ring the bell. It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of the conch and other musical instruments. An added significance of ringing the bell, conch and other instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardour, concentration and inner peace. As we start the daily ritualistic worship (pooja) we ring the bell, chanting:

    Aagamaarthamtu devaanaam
    gamanaarthamtum rakshasaam
    Kurve ghantaaravam tatra
    devataahvaahna lakshanam

    I ring this bell indicating
    the invocation of divinity,
    So that virtuous and noble forces
    enter (my home and heart);
    And the demonic and evil forces
    From within and without, depart.

    Why do we worship the Kalasha
    First of all what is a kalasha? A brass, mud or copper pot is filled with water. Mango leaves are placed in the mouth of the pot and a coconut is placed over it. A red or white thread is tied around its neck or sometimes all around it in a intricate diamond-shaped pattern. The pot may be decorated wit designs. Such a pot is known as a kalasha.

    When the pot is filled with water or rice, it is known as purnakumbha representing the inert body which when filled with the divine life force gains the power to do all the wonderful things that makes life what it is.

    A kalasha is placed with due rituals on all important occasions like the traditional house warming (grahapravesa), wedding, daily worship etc. It is placed near the entrance as a sign of welcome. It is also used in a traditional manner while receiving holy personages. Why do we worship the kalasha? Before the creation came into being, Lord Vishnu was reclining on His snake-bed in the milky ocean. From His navel emerged a lotus from which appeared Lord Brahma, the creator, who thereafter created this world.

    The water in the kalasha symbolises the primordial water from which the entire creation emerged. It is the giver of life to all and has the potential of creating innumerable names and forms, the inert objects and the sentient beings and all that is auspicious in the world from the energy behind the universe. The leaves and coconut represent creation.

    The thread represents the love that "binds" all in creation. The kalasha is therefore considered auspicious and worshipped. The waters from all the holy rivers, the knowledge of all the Vedas and the blessings of all the deities are invoked in the kalasha and its water is thereafter used for all the rituals, including the abhisheka.

    The consecration (kumbha-abhisheka) of a temple is done in a grand manner with elaborate rituals including the pouring of one or more kalashas of holy water on the top of the temple. When the asuras and the devas churned the milky ocean, the Lord appeared bearing the pot of nectar, which blessed one with everlasting life.

    Thus the kalasha also symbolises immortality. Men of wisdom are full and complete as they identify with the infinite Truth (poornatvam). They brim with joy and love and respect all that is auspicious. We greet them with a full pot ("purnakumbha") acknowledging their greatness and as a sign of respectful and reverential welcome, with a "full heart".

    Why do we consider the lotus as special?
    The lotus is the symbol of truth, auspiciousness and beauty (Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram). The Lord is also that nature and therefore, His various aspects are compared to a lotus (i.e. lotus-eyes, lotus feet, lotus hands, the lotus of the heart etc.).

    The lotus blooms with the rising sun and close at night. Similarly, our minds open up and expand with the light of knowledge. The lotus grows even in slushy areas. It remains beautiful and untainted despite its surroundings, reminding us that we too can and should strive to remain pure and beautiful within, under all circumstances.

    The lotus leaf never gets wet even though it is always in water. It symbolises the man of wisdom (gyaani) who remains ever joyous, unaffected by the world of sorrow and change.

    This is revealed in a shloka from the Bhagwad Geeta:
    Brahmanyaadhaaya karmaani
    Sangam tyaktvaa karoti yaha
    Lipyate na sa paapena
    Padma patram ivaambhasaa

    He who does actions, offering them to Brahman (the Supreme),
    abandoning attachment,
    is not tainted by sin,
    just as a lotus leaf remains unaffected by the water on it.

    From this, we learn that what is natural to the man of wisdom becomes a discipline to be practised by all saadhakas or spiritual seekers and devotees. Our bodies have certain energy centres described in the Yoga Shaastras as chakras.

    Each one is associated with lotus that have a certain number of petals. For example, the Sahasra chakra at the top of the head, which opens when the yogi attains Godhood or Realisation, is represented by a lotus with a thousand petals. Also, the lotus posture (padmaasana) is recommended when one sits for meditation. A lotus emerged from the navel of Lord Vishnu. Lord Brahma originated from it to create the world. Hence, the lotus symbolises the link between the creator and the supreme Cause.

    It also symbolises Brahmaloka, the abode of Lord Brahma. The auspicious sign of the swastika is said to have evolved from the lotus.

    Why do we worship tulasi?
    In Sanskrit, tulanaa naasti athaiva tulasi - that which is incomparable (in its qualities) is the tulasi. For Indians it is one of the most sacred plants. In fact it is known to be the only thing used in worship which, once used, can be washed and reused in pooja - as it is regarded so self-purifying.

    As one story goes, Tulasi was the devoted wife of Shankhachuda, a celestial being. She believed that Lord Krishna tricked her into sinning. So she cursed Him to become a stone (shaaligraama). Seeing her devotion and adhered to righteousness, the Lord blessed her saying that she would become the worshipped plant, tulasi that would adorn His head.

    Also that all offerings would be incomplete without the tulasi leaf - hence the worship of tulasi. She also symbolises Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. Those who wish to be righteous and have a happy family life worship the tulasi.

    Tulasi is married to the Lord with all pomp and show as in any wedding. This is because according to another legend, the Lord blessed her to be His consort. Satyabhama once weighed Lord Krishna against all her legendary wealth. The scales did not balance till a single tulasi leaf was placed along with the wealth on the scale by Rukmini with devotion.

    Thus the tulasi played the vital role of demonstrating to the world that even a small object offered with devotion means more to the Lord than all the wealth in the world.

    The tulasi leaf has great medicinal value and is used to cure various ailments, including the common cold.
    Yanmule sarvatirhaani
    Yannagre sarvadevataa
    Yanmadhye sarvavedaascha
    Tulasi taam namaamyaham

    I bow down to the tulasi,
    At whose base are all the holy places,
    At whose top reside all the deities and
    In whose middle are all the Vedas.

    Why do we blow the conch?
    When the conch is blown, the primordial sound of Om emanates. Om is an auspicious sound that was chanted by the Lord before creating the world. It represents the world and the Truth behind it.

    As the story goes, the demon Shankhaasura defeated the devas, the Vedas and went to the bottom of the ocean. The devas appealed to Lord Vishnu for help. He incarnated as Matsya Avataara - the "fish incarnation" and killed Shankhaasura. The Lord blew the conch-shaped bone of his ear and head. The Om sound emanated, from which emerged the Vedas.

    All knowledge enshrined in the Vedas is an elaboration of Om. The conch therefore is known as shankha after Shankhaasura. The conch blown by the Lord is called Paanchajanya. He carries it at all times in one of His four hands.

    It represents dharma or righteousness that is one of the four goals (purushaarthas) of life. The sound of the conch is thus also the victory call of good over evil. [The four hands is represented in many of Indian Deities to symbolise these four goals (purushaarthas) and also four Vedas and not to be taken literally as God has four hands.]

    Another well-known purpose of blowing the conch and the instruments, known traditionally to produce auspicious sounds is to drown or mask negative comments or noises that may disturb or upset the atmosphere or the minds of worshippers.

    Ancient India lived in the villages. Each village was presided over by a primary temple and several small ones. During the aarati performed after all important poojas and on sacred occasions, the conch used to be blown. Since villages were generally small, the sound of the conch would be heard all over the village.

    People who could not make it to the temple were reminded to stop whatever they were doing, at least for a few seconds, and mentally bow to the Lord. The conch sound served to briefly elevate people's minds to a prayerful attitude even in the middle of their busy daily routine.

    The conch is placed at the altar in temples and homes next to the Lord as a symbol of Naada Brahma (Truth), the Vedas, Om, Dharma, victory and auspiciousness. It is often used to offer devotees thirtha (sanctified water) to raise their minds to the highest Truth.

    It is worshipped with the following verse.
    Twam puraa saagarot pannaha
    Vishnunaa vidhrutahakare
    Devaischa poojitha sarvahi
    Panchjanya namostu te

    Salutations to Panchajanya
    the conch born of the ocean
    Held in the hand of Lord Vishnu
    and worshipped by all devas

    Why do we say “Shanti” thrice?
    Shanti, meaning "peace", is a natural state of being. Disturbances are created either by us or others. For example, peace already exists in a place until someone makes noise.

    Therefore, peace underlies all our agitations. When agitations end, peace is naturally experienced since it was already there. Where there is peace, there is happiness. Therefore, every one without exception desires peace in his/her life.

    However, peace within or without seems very hard to attain because it is covered by our own agitations. A rare few manage to remain peaceful within even in the midst of external agitation and troubles. To invoke peace, we chant prayers. By chanting prayers, troubles end and peace is experienced internally, irrespective of the external disturbances. All such prayers end by chanting Shanti thrice.

    It is believed that Trivaram Satyam - that which is said thrice comes true. For emphasising a point we repeat a thing thrice. In the court of law also, one who takes the witness stands says, "I shall speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

    We chant Shanti thrice to emphasise our intense desire for peace. All obstacles, problems and sorrows originate from three sources.

    Aadhidaivika - The unseen divine forces over which we have little or no control like earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions etc.
    Aadhibhautika - The known factors around us like accidents, human contacts, pollution, crime etc.
    Aadhyaatmika - We sincerely pray to the Lord that at least while we undertake special tasks or even in our daily lives, there are no problems or that, problems are minimised from the three sources written about above.

    May Peace Alone Prevails.

    Hence Shanti is chanted thrice. It is chanted aloud the first time, addressing the unseen forces. It is chanted softer the second time, directed to our immediate surroundings and those around, and softest the last time as it is addressed to oneself.

    Why do we offer a coconut?
    In India one of the most common offerings in a temple is a coconut. It is also offered on occasions like weddings, festivals, the use of a new vehicle, bridge, house etc. It is offered in the sacrificial fire whilst performing homa. The coconut is broken and placed before the Lord. It is later distributed as prasaada.

    The fibre covering of the dried coconut is removed except for a tuft on the top. The marks on the coconut make it look like the head of a human being. The coconut is broken, symbolising the breaking of the ego.

    The juice within, representing the inner tendencies (vaasanas) is offered along with the white kernel - the mind, to the Lord.

    A mind thus purified by the touch of the Lord is used as prasaada (a holy gift). In the traditional abhishekha ritual done in all temples and many homes, several materials are poured over the deity like milk, curd, honey, tender coconut water, sandal paste, holy ash etc. Each material has a specific significance of bestowing certain benefits on worshippers. Tender coconut water is used in abhisheka rituals since it is believed to bestow spiritual growth on the seeker.

    The coconut also symbolises selfless service. Every part of the tree: the trunk, leaves, fruit, coir etc. is used in innumerable ways like thatches, mats, tasty dishes, oil, soap etc. It takes in even salty water from the earth and converts it into sweet nutritive water that is especially beneficial to sick people. It is used in the preparation of many ayurvedic medicines and in other alternative medicinal systems.

    The marks on the coconut are even thought to represent the three-eyed Lord Shiva and therefore it is considered to be a means to fulfill our desires.

    Why do we chant Om?
    Om is one of the most chanted sound symbols in India. It has a profound effect on the body and mind of the one who chants and also on the surroundings. Most mantras and vedic prayers start with om. All auspicious actions begin with Om. It is even used as a greeting - Om, Hari Om etc. It is repeated as a mantra or meditated upon. Its form is worshipped, contemplated upon or used as an auspicious sign.

    Om is the universal name of the Lord. It is made up of the letters A (phonetically as in "around"), U (phonetically as in "put") and M (phonetically as in "mum"). The sound emerging from the vocal chords starts from the base of the throat as "A". With the coming together of the lips, "U" is formed and when the lips are closed, all sounds end in "M".

    The three letters symbolise the three states (awake, dream and deep sleep), the three deities (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva),the three Vedas (Rig, Yajur and Sama) the three worlds (Bhuh, Bhuvah, Suvah) etc. The Lord is all these and beyond.

    The formless, attributeless Lord (Brahman) is represented by the silence between two Om Chants. Om is also called Pranava that means "that (symbol or sound) by which the Lord is praised". The entire essence of the Vedas is enshrined in the word Om. It is said that the Lord started creating the world after chanting Om and atha. Hence its sound is considered to create an auspicious beginning for any task that we undertake. The Om chant should have the resounding sound of a bell (aaooommm).

    Om is written in different ways in different places. The most common form symbolises Lord Ganesha. The upper curve is the head; the lower large one, the stomach; the side one, the trunk; and the semi-circular mark with the dot, the sweet-meat ball (modaka) in Lord Ganesha's hand. Thus om symbolises everything - the means and the goal of life, the world and the Truth behind it, the material and the Sacred, all form and the Formless.

    Why do we do aarati?
    Towards the end of every ritualistic worship (pooja or bhajan) of the Lord or to welcome an honoured guest or saint, we perform the aarati. This is always accompanied by the ringing of the bell and sometimes by singing, playing of musical instruments and clapping.

    It is one of the sixteen steps (shodasha upachaara) of the pooja ritual. It is referred to as the lighted lamp in the right hand, which we wave in a clockwise circling movement to light the entire form of the Lord. Each part is revealed individually and also the entire form of the Lord. As the light is waved we either do mental or loud chanting of prayers or simply behold the beautiful form of the Lord, illumined by the lamp. At the end of the aarati we place our hands over the flame and then gently touch our eyes and the top of the head.

    [The scientific explaination for this process as follows. Those days the temple domes are made of gold or atleast painted in gold paint, this is to absorb the cosmic energy and channelled to the main chamber of the temple. During the prayers, the priest will read the mantras and burn camphor inside the main chamber later this camphor will be brought to the devotees to be prayed upon. The Cosmic Energy is activated in the chamber by the heat of the aarati and the sound vibration of the mantras. Later transfered thru the fire to the devotees. The act of taking the heat of the fire to the forehead will directly stimulates the Pituitary Gland which is considered as the master gland of our body.]

    We have seen and participated in this ritual from our childhood. Let us find out why we do the aarati? Having worshipped the Lord of love - performing abhisheka, decorating the image and offering fruits and delicacies, we see the beauty of the Lord in all His glory. Our minds are focussed on each limb of the Lord as it is lit up by the lamp. It is akin to silent open-eyed meditation on His beauty. The singing, clapping, ringing of the bell etc. denote the joy and auspiciousness which accompanies the vision of the Lord.

    Aarati is often performed with camphor. This holds a telling spiritual significance. Camphor when lit, burns itself out completely without leaving a trace of it. It represents our inherent tendencies (vaasanas). When lit by the fire of knowledge which illuminates the Lord (Truth), our vaasanas thereafter burn themselves out completely, without leaving any trace of ego which creates in us a sense of individuality that keeps us separate from the Lord.

    Also while camphor burns to reveal the glory of Lord, it emits a pleasant perfume even while it sacrifices itself. In our spiritual progress, even as we serve the guru and society, we should willingly sacrifice ourselves and all we have, to spread the "perfume" of love to all. We often wait a long while to see the illumined Lord but when the aarati is actually performed; our eyes close automatically as if to look within. This is to signify that each of us is a temple of the Lord.

    Just as the priest reveals the form of the Lord clearly with the aarati flame, so the guru reveals to us the divinity within each of us with the help of the "flame" of knowledge (or the light of spiritual knowledge). At the end of the aarati, we place our hands over the flame and then touch our eyes and the top of the head.

    It means;
    May the light that illuminated the Lord light up my vision;
    May my vision be divine and my thoughts noble and beautiful.

    The philosophical meaning of aarati extends further. The sun moon, stars, lightning and fire are the natural sources of light. The Lord is the source of these wonderous phenomenons of the universe. It is due to Him alone that all else exists and shine. As we light up the Lord with the flame of the aarati, we turn our attention to the very source of all light which symbolises knowledge and life.

    Also the sun is the presiding deity of the intellect, the moon, that of the mind, and fire, that of speech. The Lord is the supreme consciousness that illuminates all of them. Without Him, the intellect cannot think, nor can neither the mind feel nor the tongue speak. The Lord is beyond the mind, intellect and speech. How can this finite equipment illuminate the Lord?

    Therefore, as we perform the aarati we chant;
    Na tatra suryo bhaati na chandra taarakam
    Nemaa vidyuto bhaanti kutoyamagnib
    Tameva bhaantam anubhaati sarvam
    Tasya bhasa sarvam idam vibhaati

    He is there where the sun does not shine,
    Nor the moon, stars and lightning
    Then what to talk of this small flame (in my hand),
    Everything (in the universe) shines only after the Lord,
    And by His light alone are we all illumined.

    [The scientific reason for burning the camphor is camphor helps in clearing the nasal system. When the camphor is burnt, the scent goes into the air and absorbed into the body through breathing process. This clears the passage to our lungs and make the breathing easier. Burning the joss sticks also have medical reasons as these sticks are coated with certain scents according to Aromatheraphy. If the scents were chosen accordingly and burnt regularly, the desired benefits will soon achievable.]

    By: Swami Chinmayananda

    Note: Notes in the [ ] were added by me and not the original author.