Category Archives: Hinduism

Deepavali & The Light of Knowledge ~ by Swami Chinmayananda

DEEPA – AVALI  means rows and rows of light. A readiness to make sacrifice and win over the lower nature is to light up the Lamp of Knowledge, Wisdom and Beauty in yourself. So DEEPAVALI is a reminder to the community that there is a greater way of cultured living than the mere animal level. That means you have to conquer your own selfish immediate demand for the sake of the others. This is what DEEPAVALI really stands for. Whenever thus, the lower nature in us is conquered and we maintain the higher values of life and come to live them, there is a glow of beauty in you – that is DEEPAVALI. To tune our minds to divinity and start new, we welcome the new year with an evening of soulful bhajans by our very own families welcoming the Festival of LIGHTS! Let us remind ourselves at least on this great day that we can be victorious over our impulses and come to illumine for the world around, the Lamp of Wisdom from the Land of Spiritual Light

On this sacred day of DEEPAVALI, at the dusk when darkness gathers round, all homes are illumined by lights in tiny mud pots with oil and wick. This indicates a society wherein each member is a ‘lamp’ of peity, goodness, love and mutual understanding – and in such a society alone, real goodwill and enduring prosperity can come to stay – victoriously. This day is a day of prayer and expression of love; a day dedicated to inner purity and noble character. Get out of your homes in the evening and embrace every other individual in society…. because they too are small flames of the same Light Divine. May all your thoughts be trimmed to light up in cheer and joy, and burn steadily dipped in the oil of devotion. Once a year we must check up our thoughts – some must be smoky, some gone off. Refill with oil and re-light with the Light of all Lights. May this day be considered a day of peace and cheer, reassuring man that he is essentially divine. When the veiling vulgarities in us are cleansed, the pure Divine Light can impart a joyous sense of PERFECTION.

In our bosom, the WICK of the mind is maintained by the OIL of vasanas. When the oil of vasanas is over, the distinct FLAME of Existence flutters to become one with the elemental Fire. Remember this significance when you light the little clay saucers, which our bodies are. Keep in mind, the significance of the oil and the wick!

The lamps are different but the Light is the same; it comes from beyond. If you keep looking at the lamp you are lost; for from it rises the appearance of number and plurality. Fix your gaze upon the Light — and you are delivered from the dualism inherent in the finite body.

When a lamp is lit, it throws concentric circles of light of lessening intensity around it. The farther circles have the least light. As we slowly move our eyes nearer to the centre we find more and more light, until at last in the flame is all LIGHT: the FLAME is the source of all the LIGHT. From it the light has come. In it the light exists. And into it the light will finally merge when the flame is extinguished! So too, God or Reality. The external Universe, the Jagat, comes from Him alone — but the Jagat is the farthest removed. It has the least manifestation of His Divinity. The seeker through Sadhana is seeking Him — the FLAME. Slowly he has to move his gaze from the dim distant circles of light to the nearer points (as body, mind or intellect) and then lastly the Soul, the Atman, the Essence.

In the Darkness of Ignorance we attach ourselves to the unreal and the fleeting world; in the Light of Knowledge, we identify ourselves with the Real and the Permanent. Knowledge is a lasting inner wealth with which all can be accomplished. Hence we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth. The Light, by whose power all luminaries get illumined, by whose Light the whole universe is lighted up, may this Light enlighten us all !!

“The lamp is lit. Hearken, Ye Devotees! It is for you to keep the light as a never-dying flame! Be yourself a SANDEEPANY: one who lights the Lamp of Truth in the hearts of all!”

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Significance of Navaratri ~ by Swami Chinmayananda

The DUSSEHRA festival is celebrated throughout the country. During this festival, everyone spends his time in worship, devotion, and study of the Sastras, and every house assumes the sanctity of a temple. The ten days are divided into three stages of three days each, for worship, and the culmination of the festival on the tenth day is called VIJAYA DASAMI.

The first 3 days we invoke Mother Durga, the “Power Terrible” to help us, by eliminating from within us all negative forces, all weaknesses; followed by the constructive efforts at the organisation of order and security by the patronage and growth of the Divine Forces in us. Lakshmi, she is the Goddess of Aishwarya: Devi Sampath. She is the embodiment of Love, Charity, Kindness, Devotion, Tolerance, Patience, Endurance, Vairagya, Viveka, Peace, Tranquility, Honesty, Courage, Faith, and Mumukshutva! These are to be engendered, and the vacancies created by the elimination of the negative qualities must be filled by these positive traits. Hence the Lakshmi Puja for 3 days following the Kali Puja of the first 3 days. When a Jiva on his march has thus purified himself, and gets recharged with the Devi Sampath, he is a fit Adhikari – a fit student – to be initiated into the philosophical side of Religion, the Supreme Reality, the State of Sat-Chit-Ananda, the Padavi of “Sivoham”. The Goddess of Jnana, Devi Saraswati is invoked. Her Veena is tuned within when the heart-strings are polished “off” its clogs – the Asuric Sampath. The strings are “tuned” when the inner heart-strings are adjusted with the cultivated Devi Sampath. In the resulting shanti, the soft floating tunes waft from within as the Lady of Veena passes Her tender fingers blessingly over the heart-strings. The music is the magic touch that turns the Premi into Prem! the Lover into Love!! The Siva bhakta melts in that MUSIC of the within and becomes one with Siva – the final waking from the dream of samsar into the fact that I am the Knowledge in Itself, Pure Existence beyond Time, Space and Causality. As Sri Saraswati sings Her divine song of Joy, the Kalyana Muhurtha is on! Now, “I am Siva! I am He! He am I !!” This is the great Victory – the Total Victory, the VIJAYAM.

Mother Durga is invoked by worshiping her for 3 days. Man merely invokes his own power which lies dormant within, to discover and destroy the negative forces lurking in his bosom. Destroying one’s evil tendencies is only a negative approach to spirituality. So, the next stage is to practice the positive aspect of the Sadhana. This is done by Sri Lakshmi Puja for the next 3 days. Lakshmi is the Goddess of Aishwarya. Aishwarya is not to be understood in the narrow sense of material wealth and possessions alone but as including the divine wealth of love, kindness, devotion, patience, endurance, charity, ahimsa and the like. Again, these are not to be gained from without, but are to be engendered from within by the invocation of the Goddess within ourselves. By the end of these 3 days, these divine qualities should replace the devilish tendencies which had usurped and enveloped our bosom. With the development of the divine traits, the seeker is fully qualified and becomes an Adhikari for philosophical study, contemplation and meditation. The invocation of Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, is therefore, the last and the final stage in the spiritual evolution of man. Just as she brings out the music and melody from her well-tuned veena, one can manifest the divinity and harmony with a well integrated mind, by the study of the sastras, constant reflection and meditation. After the 3 stages are gone through, on the last Vijaya Dasami Day, the devil is burnt down indicating the “transcendence of ego”, when man attains the great victory – VIJAYA – over his sense-life and revels in the ecstatic experience of the Transcendental Reality!  

Dussehra indicates as the word suggests, DASA-PAPA-HARA, the end or liquidation of ten sins. The ten sins are attributed to the 10 sense-organs through which the mind contacts and gains knowledge of the phenomenal world, and also reacts to the stimuli received from the world of objects. Therefore the idea is that on this sacred day, the ten sins are ended which signifies the end of the mind and therefore the end of the world of plurality when one becomes rooted in the Transcendental Experience – the Vijaya Dasami Day, the day of Sree Parameswara Prapthi!!          The 9 days Pooja ends in the Great Grand festivity and Joy inexpressible, on the 10th day – the Vijaya Dasami Day. The 9 days Devi Pooja has removed the 9 great sins of man. The 10th day ends the last of his sins and the mortal limited man in himself discovers that he is God! Live thy Life of Dasara! Burn down the ugly monstrous Rakshasa Roopa that we had ourselves built up in the previous nights; and in joy and revelry, dance round the wrecked blazing Monster — the “I”.  The great Victory — the Vijaya! The Home-Coming — the great Vijaya Dasami Day!

“Dasa hara” is the victory over the senses – means, end of Mind; which ends in the disappearance of the dreadful shadow “I”. When the mind is “off”, what remains is the Blissful, the Omnipotent and Omniscient mass of Beauty and Grandeur, the Supreme Mother! Make thy life a Mahanavami Celebration! With songs and dance, with puja and worship, with feasting and illumination, with Japa and Tapa, invoke the Powers of the Self, the Eternal Nature of Thee! Sivoham! Bring about a Dasara in Thy life – celebrate the life’s Vijaya Dasami – through Purushartha, which in the bhakta is not a stupendous task of adventure and strife, but a pleasure Puja Festival — a Mahanavami Celebration

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Raksha Bandhan – Significance

Raksha Bandhan is a day on which sisters tie the sacred thread (rakhi) on the wrist of their brothers. A sense of responsibility, well-being, bonding between family members, sharing, etc., is inculcated into the family members through the ritual of raksha-bandhan. The ritual not only stands for the health, wealth, prosperity, happiness and long life for the brother, but it also represents the brother’s commitment to protect the honour and dignity of the sister.

However, in its larger perspective, “Rakhi” is known as “Raksha Sutra” (thread for protection). The day chosen, who ties the raksha-sutra, and to whom, etc., depends on the occasion and the purpose. The raksha-sutra is first placed at the altar of the Lord. It is sanctified by prayerfully invoking the Lord’s Grace and Blessings. It is then tied round the wrist of the individual.

The raksha-sutra is used to invoke the Lord’s blessings for protection from all dangers, harms, calamities etc. Usually, after invoking the Lord’s blessings, the sacred thread, is tied round the concerned individual by the priest or the eldest in the family. By tying the raksha-sutra round the wrist of relatives, friends and well-wishers it also encourages a sense of oneness and harmony in the society.

In almost all puja-sankalpas and vratas undertaken, during celebrations like marriage, namakarana, grihapravesha etc., tying of raksha-sutra is mandatory. The raksha-sutra symbolizes the sacred bonding between the individual (jivatma) and the Lord (Paramatma). The sanctified raksha-sutra is tied round his wrist with appropriate chants and rituals. In this case it is called “kankana”. The individual is “kankana-baddha”, meaning committed to his sankalpa or vow. When the sankalpa or vow is fulfilled, the “kankana-visarjana” (removing the thread round the wrist) is carried out with specific chants. The colour (red, yellow, black, etc) of the thread depends upon the sankalpa. Undertaking a sankalpa or vow demands discipline and earnest self-effort on the part of the individual. The thread or sutra or kankana itself represents the SANKALPA or VOW. It is a TAPAS, whether undertaken for one’s own self or for someone else. It is a reminder that the wearer should constantly engage himself or herself in noble and purposeful activities ensuring the well-being and welfare of everyone around including himself or herself.

The use of Raksha-Sutra or Rakhi goes back to the Puranic age. On the Poornima (full moon) day of Sravana, Goddess Lakshmi pleased with the hospitality of Bali Chakravarti’s tied the “raksha-sutra” round his wrist; and the divine couple, Sri Lakshmi Narayana bestowed upon him their grace and blessings. Hence the tradition of women tying the “raksha-sutra” not only to brothers, but to all their well-wishers, wishing them happiness, health, plenty and prosperity, and they in turn promise to protect the dignity of their mothers, sisters and daughters. Also, during Yudhisthira’s Rajasuya Yagna, Draupadi tore a part of her vastra and tied it round Lord Krishna’s finger which was injured and bleeding because of the sharp edges of the revolving Sudarshana Chakra which had just killed the evil Sishupala. The Lord reciprocated by protecting her with “akshaya vastra” in the Kaurava court. Therefore, Raksha Bandhan also represents Sri Krishna protecting Draupadi who considered the Lord as her brother.

O, Adimoola (Primordial One)! thou art my ANGA-RAKSHA (My Sole Protector & Saviour)! Lord of Sree, thou alone art my JIVA-RAKSHA (Protector of Life)! Purushottama, the consort of Bhudevi, thou art my BHUMI-RAKSHA (Protector from Terrestrial Calamities)! Lord who reclines on the vast ocean is my JALA-RAKSHA (Protector from Water Calamities)! Yagna-murthi, in the form of the sacrificial fire, thou art my AGNI-RAKSHA (Protector from Fire Calamities), Lord of Hanuman, the son of Vayu, thou art my VAYU-RAKSHA (Protector from Air Calamities)! Vishnu, the All-pervading One, who measured space with His lotus foot, thou art my AKASHA-RAKSHA (Protector from Spacial Calamities)! Lord of Venkatadri thou art my SARVA-RAKSHA (my All-in-all Protector)! The kirtan can also be interpreted as: “the Lord who supports, nurtures and nourishes the BEINGS in the form of the Elements of Nature – Earth, Water, Fire, Air & Space” ~ Sri Annamacharya (Poet-Saint).

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Arunagirinathar : the divine transformation!

Arunagirinathar was born to a pious couple in Tiruvannamalai (15th century). Soon after his birth he lost his father. Arunagiri was brought up by his mother and sister and they instilled in him the religious and cultural traditions. He was intelligent, religious and devoted to the Lord. However as he grew up, he associated himself with court dancers and started spending all his time in their company. He spent all the money he had on the women. He sang praises of the rich and wealthy people and whatever he earned from that was all invested in his sensuous life. He totally neglected his duties, and constantly demanded money from his sister. His mother and sister were worried about him but there was nothing they could do to stop his wayward life. His health started to fail him because of his wrong habits but still he continued his extroverted life.

One day, as usual he asked his sister for money. She replied that she did not have any money to give him. Extremely angry with her for denying, he picked up a quarrel with her. Overcome with anger and tired of his unethical and immoral habits, she told him that she had no money to give him and if he still wanted money, the only way was by “selling her”. Her words stung him to the core. It was like molten liquid being poured into his ears. Suddenly it dawned on him as to how selfish and sinful he had been all these years. He was a shame to his family and the entire town. Overcome with remorse and feeling extremely guilty, Arunagiri hit his head hard on the stone pillars of the temple and decided to end his life. He climbed up to the tower of Arunachaleswara temple and jumped down. But instead of landing on the hard granite, he landed in the hands of his saviour. He looked to see who had saved him. The smiling saviour told him, “You are not to fall and die. Yours is a life to save and help others to rise. You have a divine mission to accomplish. Write and sing the glories of Lord Muruga“. 

Arunagiri’s saviour was none other than Lord Karthikeya himself! Lord Muruga in all his glory and splendour stood in front of him with the Vel in his hand. His vehicle, the peacock stood next to him. Arunagiri was overwhelmed and overjoyed at the compassion of the Lord who had come all the way to redeem a sinner like him. He prostrated to the Lord. Lord Shanmukha wrote his sacred six-lettered mantra, SARAVANABHAVA on Arunagiri’s tongue with the pointed tip of his Vel. Arunagiri was initiated by Lord Muruga himself! What a blessing! What a transformation! Arunagiri was instantaneously blessed with all the knowledge of Kavya (poetry) and Sangeeta (music). Lord Muruga started the devotional-poem for Arunagiri with his own words: “muthai tharu patthittirunagai!” Being blessed, Arunagirinathar continued singing praises on Lord Kartikeya which came to be known as “Tiruppugazh”.

Arunagirinathar’s, “Tiruppugazh” is a masterpiece which was initiated by Lord Muruga himself. The glory and grandeur of Lord Muruga in his six sacred abodes is beautifully described in these verses. The beautiful lyrics are woven intricately with complex rhyme and rhythm. The philosophical content soaked in devotion is beautifully couched in divine music! His “Kandar Alangaram” is another beautiful garland of verses describing the beauty and splendour of Lord Muruga from his sacred head to his lotus feet! Arunagirinathar’s works are incomparable and they ushered in an era of Naada Upasana.

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