Tag Archives: Hinduism

Tulasi and Saligrama

Lord Indra and Deva-Guru Brihaspati, were on their way to Kailasa to offer their salutations to Lord Shiva. Lord Sankara decided to test Indra’s devotion. He disguised himself and met them enroute. Angered at being blocked on their path, Indra asked him to move away. When Shiva refused to move, Indra took up his weapon, Vajrayudha and tried to hurl it at Shiva. The Lord was extremely angry at Indra’s behaviour and was about to punish him when Brihaspati pleaded on Indra’s behalf and sought forgiveness. The fire-of-anger that emanated from Lord Shiva crystallized and fell into the ocean and out of it emerged a small boy. Brahma, the creator appeared and asked Lord Varuna to look after the child who would ultimately become a rakshasa because of the anger element from which he had manifested. He was named Jalandhara (born or arose from water). Since he was an aspect of Lord Shiva, his death was also destined at the hands of Lord Shiva. Trained by the Rakshasa-Guru, Shukracharya, Jalandhara grew up to become very powerful and mighty.

Gandaki was an ardent devotee of Lord Sri Hari. Pleased with her faith and devotion, loyalty and commitment, Lord Vishnu granted her darshan and asked her what she wanted as a boon. Gandaki told the Lord she had only one wish and that was that she should always have the privilege of his association and he should never leave her. The Lord agreed and told her to take the form of a river – River Gandaki. He added that sometime in the future, he would be cursed to become a “stone”. And as a “saligrama stone” he would reside in her waters. 

On the other side, Jalandhara married Vrinda, the daughter of Kalanemi. She was also a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. She ardently longed for the eternal companionship of the Lord. However she had been cursed to take birth in the mortal world and become the consort of a rakshasa. When she approached the Lord, he assured her that after she was relieved from the curse, she would constantly be in his company. Thereafter, she was born as the daughter of Kalanemi and married Jalandhara. She was extremely faithful and loyal to her husband. The power of her purity and chastity was an armour and protection for Jalandhara. Knowing well that he was invincible because of his wife’s chaste conduct, Jalandhara waged war on the devatas and declared his superiority and lordship over them as well. Unable to withstand Jalandhara’s atrocities, all the gods approached Lord Vishnu. However Lord Vishnu could not annihilate Jalandhara because he was protected by his own devotee, Vrinda. Next the devatas sought help from Lord Shiva. A fierce battle ensued between the Sankara and Jalandhara. Even Lord Shiva could not kill him because of Vrinda’s intense tapas. Again the devatas appealed to Lord Vishnu to help them otherwise Jalandhara would create havoc amongst the noble and pious. 

For the sake of everyone’s welfare, Lord Vishnu approached Vrinda in the guise of Jalandhara. Thinking that it was her own husband who had come back from the battle, Vrinda abandoned her tapas to serve him. Vrinda’s mind had been diverted and that was the moment Lord Shiva was waiting for. That very moment, the Lord annihilated the rakshasa. Vrinda who was aware that Jalandhara was invincible by the power of her tapas, realised that it was Lord Vishnu who had come in the guise of Jalandhara. Overwhelmed by anger she cursed Lord Vishnu to become a “stone”. After the curse was pronounced, Vrinda repented. She prostrated to the Lord and sought his forgiveness. Lord Vishnu smiled and consoled his devotee. All that had happened had to happen! The Lord told Vrinda that in the future she would manifest as a plant – the most auspicious TULASI PLANT. She would be revered and worshipped by one and all. She would possess the unique properties of bestowing good and positive energy and annulling the negative influences around. Every part of the plant would possess immense medicinal value. And she would be extremely dear to Lord Vishnu. His puja would be considered complete only with the offering of Tulasi to him. Further the Lord added that he would appear in the waters of River Gandaki or Narayani in the form of a black stone – Saligrama. 

After Vrinda dissolved her mortal body, she manifested as the Tulasi plant. And as Tulasi she became the eternal consort of Lord Sri Hari in the form of Saligrama and is therefore known as Vishnupriye. Lord Shiva exhaustively extols the glories of Tulasi to Sage Narada in the Padma Purana. Every year, Tulasi Vivaha with the Lord (Saligrama) is celebrated on shukla dwadashi day in the month of Kartika. Where the Saligrama is not available, a branch of the Amla which represents Lord Vishnu is used. Tulasi represents Goddess Lakshmi and Amla represents Lord Vishnu. Hence puja offered to Tulasi and Amla signifies the invoking of Lakshmi and Narayana during the month of Kartika. 
Kartika Maasa heralds the onset of winter. And winter is characterized by darkness, chillness, drop in energy and immunity levels. Growth and expansion is curtailed to a large extent at macro as well as micro levels. These shortcomings are compensated by ushering in light, warmth and positive energy by lighting lamps everyday. To strengthen our immunity system and fight the cold we use the Tulasi and Amla which have immense medicinal and therapeutic value. The warmth and light (energy) from earthern, brass, copper or silver deepas and amla deepas  boosts and reinforces the metabolism of the human body. Hence lighting the lamps, extensive use of tulasi and amla becomes very significant during this month. And by invoking the respective deities, the spiritual dimensions get included and incorporated!

“Jagaddhatri namastubhyam vishnoscha priyavallabhe; Yato brahmadayo devah srishtisthithanyantha karinah!” ~ Tulasi Stotra
“Aajanmakrutha papanam prayaschittam ya ichati; Saligrama shilavari papahari namostute!” ~ Saligrama Stotra

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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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Sri Vadiraja Tirtha of Madhva Parampara

Ramabhatta and Gowri were a pious couple living in Huvinakere near Udupi. Desirous of a child, they sought the blessings of Sri Vagisha Tirtha, the pontiff of Sode Math of Udupi. The saint blessed them and told them that their first-born will be a son who would belong to the Math! The couple were taken aback! However, the saint consoled them saying that if the child was born inside the house he would be with them; but if the child was born outside the house, he would belong to the Math. The couple agreed. Soon Gowri became pregnant. Great care was taken to make sure that she never stepped out of the house. Mysterious are the ways of the Lord! One day, when Ramabhatta was having his meal, a cow strayed into their agricultural land and started destroying the crop. Gowri went outside and while trying to drive it away, she moved far away from the house. Totally exhausted, she rested under a tree. And in the field, outside her house she delivered a male child! 

When Vagisha Tirtha was informed, he asked them to bring the child. The Acharya blessed the child and named him Bhuvaraha. He pointed the auspicious signs with which the child was born indicating its glorious future ahead. The parents were worried that they might have to leave their child in the Ashram. Vagisha Tirtha consoled the parents saying that Bhuvaraha would join the Math and get initiated into sanyasa only after their second son was born. When the couple was blessed with another son, Bhuvaraha, eight years at the time was initiated by Vagisha Tirtha and given the sanyasa name VADIRAJA TIRTHA. He started his studies under his Guru.
Vadiraja Tirtha was exceptionally brilliant in his studies. Once Vagisha Tirtha wanted to test his students. Silken clothes and variety of delicious dishes were laid out and the students were asked to choose whatever they wanted. All the students rushed forward and each took whatever he wanted. Vadiraja stood in a corner silently, far away from them all. The Guru asked him lovingly, “my child, you don’t want anything? What do you want?” Vadiraja burst forth with a beautiful verse: “Devotion to Guru I seek! Blessings of elders I seek! Constantly listening to the glories of Sri Hari I seek! True dispassion I seek! Worship of Sri Vishnu I seek! Constant Japa of the Lord’s Mantra I seek! Intense Tapas to reach the Highest State I seek! Control of Sense-organs I seek! Lord Sri Hayagriva’s Blessings I seek!” Vagisha Tirtha was overwhelmed at the young student’s extreme dispassion and total devotion along with his poetic abilities. After his studies, Vadiraja travelled extensively across the country and documented his experiences under the title “Tirtha Prabandha”. Wherever he went, he met scholars and participated in conferences, discussions and debates and upheld and established the supremacy of Madhva’s Dvaita Philosophy.
Sri Vadiraja worshipped Lord Hayagriva (Lord Vishnu with the face of a horse). A goldsmith living nearby was trying to cast a panchaloha idol of Lord Ganesha. However to his surprise, the idol took the shape of Lord Hayagriva. He tried again and again, but each time the idol cast itself in the form of Lord Hayagriva. That night, the Lord appeared in his dream and asked him to hand over the idol to Vadiraja. Next day the goldsmith along with others of his tribe met the Acharya and handed over the Hayagriva idol to him. Vadiraja was overwhelmed to see his Ishta-devata. On hearing the difficulties and hardships they were undergoing, Vadiraja brought their entire community into the folds of Bhagavatha-dharma. Every day, Sri Vadiraja Tirtha would offer a sweet dish made with channa dhal, jaggery, ghee and dry fruits as Naivedya to the Lord. Vadiraja would place a tray filled with the sweet on his head and sit down. On invoking the Lord Hayagriva, the Lord would appear in the form of a beautiful white horse, place both its fore-legs on Vadiraja’s shoulders and partake the sweet. This sweet dish is also known by the Lord’s name as “Hayagriva!” Vadiraja would sing his composition known as Dashavatara Stuti set to “Ashva-dhati” – tuned to the trotting of a horse! The Lord would dance while Vadiraja sang and then the horse would disappear into the idol!
While on tour, Vadiraja reached Pune where scholars from all over the country had met for a Vidvat Sabha. “Sishupala Vadha” by the great poet Magha was adjudged as the best literary work: a MAHAKAVYA. Vadiraja told them that there was a far more superior literary work and asked them to wait for a few days before coming to any conclusion! They agreed. In 19 days, Vadiraja composed “Sri Rukminisha Vijaya” in 19 cantos and presented it to the sabha. The entire sabha unanimously agreed that this was a literary work par excellence! Even the title “Sri Rukminisha Vijaya” was more auspicious than “Sishupala Vadha”. The manuscript was taken on an elephant in a procession round the city. Sri Vadiraja was duly honoured as the best amongst the poets. 
Sri Vadiraja Tirtha reached Pandharpur. He visited the famous Vittala temple and stayed there for a few days. Nearby was a field where lentils were sown. The owner of the field noticed a white horse entering the field and grazing. He tried to chase it away. After grazing it went into the Math premises where Vadiraja was staying. The landlord came to the Math and complained to Vadiraja that his horse had eaten and destroyed his crop. Sri Vadiraja told him that he did not own any horse but the landlord was not convinced. Vadiraja realised that it was none other than Lord Hayagriva himself who had visited the field and asked the landlord to go to the field the next day and especially check the places where the horse had grazed. When the landlord did so, he was surprised. Wherever the horse had grazed, he found golden lentils in place of the consumable lentils. He surrendered to Vadiraja and gifted the land to the Math.
Sri Vadiraja Tirtha composed many stotras and contributed to the Haridasa (Bhakti) movement. He authored many philosophical texts, both in Sanskrit and Kannada. Vadiraja Tirtha introduced the Paryaya system at Udupi Sri Krishna temple and also consecrated Sri Manjunatha (Shiva-linga) at Dharmasthala. Sri Vadiraja Tirtha entered the Brindavan alive after living a full 120 years.
“Jnananandamayam Devam Nirmala Spatikakrithim, Adharam Sarva Vidyanam Hayagrivam Upasmahe!”

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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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