Tag Archives: Indian culture

Symbolism : Breaking of Coconut

The coconut when it is brought down from the tree is smooth to the touch and has a very pleasant green look. The fibres just beneath are very rough, hard and brown. If the fibres are all removed, then inside is the very hard shell with three eyes. When the coconut is broken we arrive at the consumable white, milky part and sweet water inside. We normally take the coconut as an offering to the Lord in the temple or offer it at home also to the Lord during our worship. The ritual performed is the breaking of the coconut into two parts and then offering it to the Lord.

Significance: The coconut represents our individual personality. The smooth outer surface of the coconut is the aspect of our personality which we project to the outside world. Inside are the fibres of our raga and dwesha – our strong likes and dislikes which lead to the gamut of emotions (passion, anger, greed, envy, arrogance etc.) in us. They have to be removed layer by layer, but one single desire for the Higher – the Lord is to be retained. Hence the tuft of fibre covering the three eyes is not removed. The hard-nut or the shell represents our ego. 
When this much of spiritual sadhana has been undertaken, we are ready to reach the Lord’s feet. There in His presence, we have to completely surrender our ego which is represented by the breaking of the coconut. Actually the coconut should be broken in the Lord’s divine presence, near His feet. The white portion represents a highly satwic person and the sweet liquid represents the State of Immortality or Bliss reached by such a seeker.

Once the coconut is broken into two, the tuft of fibre is removed exposing the three eyes. After Realisation or Liberation, there is no desire whatsoever in such a person. Of the two portions of the coconut, the portion with three eyes is left behind in the temple at the feet of the Lord. This represents the transcendence of : the three equipments – body, mind and intellect; the three periods of time – past, present and future; the three states – waking, dream and deep sleep. The front portion of the coconut is all that we bring back home. This represents a spiritual seeker after Realisation, a Jeevanmukta who comes back to live in our midst and helps us also to walk and reach the All-perfect State which he has reached. 

In case we bring back both the portions of the coconut, care is taken to make sure that both the parts are not fitted into each other to constitute one whole. The ego has been destroyed, it should not crystallize again!!

“Rituals are an objective dramatisation of the subjective art of self-perfection” – Swami Chinmayananda

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Adi Sankara invokes Goddess of Wealth

Adi Sankaracharya was one of the greatest Hindu philosophers of our country. Sankara at a tender age of eight took up Sanyas.

Everyday Sankara used to go out seeking bhiksha. One fine day he reached the house of a poor brahmin lady and sought bhiksha from her: “bhavati bhiksham dehi”. Seeing the young sanyasi whose face was glowing with divine aura at her doorstep, she went in and searched the entire house, but could not find anything to give him. Finally she found one dried amla (gooseberry) in the house. She was in dilemma. How could she offer a single amla, and that too a dried one for bhiksha? But to send away a brahmin boy, that too a sanyasi empty-handed is not right. Very hesitantly she came out and offered the boy the only food she had in her home – one dried amla (goose-berry)!

Sankara was overwhelmed by the love and affection, the kindness and selflessness of this poor lady. He spontaneously burst forth into poetry and sang twenty one verses in praise of Goddess Lakshmi – the Bestower of Wealth. Captivated by the sheer beauty of these devotional out-pourings, Goddess Lakshmi appeared before Sankara and asked him why he had invoked Her.

Sankara sought the grace and blessings of Sri Lakshmi upon the poor lady and asked the Mother of the Universe to bestow wealth upon her. Devi replied that she was suffering poverty due to her past karmas and it was her destiny to live in poverty in this life. Sankara requested Mother who had all the power to erase the ill-effects of her past karma to annul them and shower Her compassion upon this lady for her devotion and selflessness. In response to the prayers of Sankara, Sri Lakshmi, the Goddess of Compassion showered Her choicest blessings on the poor lady. There was a shower of golden goose-berries from the heavens!

This bouquet of twenty-one verses are known as “Kanakadhara Stotra” (Showers of Gold Stotra!). It is chanted to invoke the grace and blessings of Goddess Lakshmi for not only material wealth, but also for one’s spiritual well-being .

In the 9th sloka of this stotra, Sankara very beautifully invokes the “breeze of compassion in the Mother to send down showers of wealth!”

दद्याद् दयानुपवनो द्रविणाम्बुधाराम्

अस्मिन्नकिञ्चनविहङ्गशिशौ विषण्णे ।

दुष्कर्मघर्ममपनीय चिराय दूरं

नारायणप्रणयिनीनयनाम्बुवाहः ॥9

“O! Beloved consort of Narayana, with the breeze of your infinite compassion, shower your grace in the form of wealth upon me, and quench the thirst of this utterly helpless, parched Chataka bird who is looking up to you. Also be gracious and cast your loving glance upon me and remove once forever the burden of my past evil deeds which has been tormenting me.”

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Shiva and Parvati listen to Bhagavatam!

Poonthanam

Poonthaanam (1547-1640) was a great devotee of Sri Guruvayoorappan (Lord Krishna). His devotion filled works in Sanskrit and Malayalam are very well known. People loved him for his beautiful Bhagavatam discourses. Once he happened to visit the Kottiyoor Shiva temple which is kept open only for a few days in a year. Rest of the time the temple is closed. On reaching the temple, Poonthaanam bathed in the holy waters there and worshipped the Lord. He decided to stay there for a few days.

Every day he recited Bhagavatam in front of the deity and the devotees who gathered there to listen to his devotional discourses. He was rendering the 10th Canto of Bhagavatam which recounts the glorious leelas of Lord Krishna. He came to the 60th chapter wherein there is a beautiful conversation between Lord Krishna and Rukmini:

“Krishna playfully and teasingly asks Rukmini why she wanted to marry Him, a simple rustic who grew up looking after cows and was no match for her when compared to the other suitors. She definitely had better choices like King Sisupala, Salva, Jarasandha, etc. Hearing these harsh words, Rukmini gets totally upset and faints. The Lord then consoles her saying He knows her devotion to Him but only wanted to test her. This is the gist of the chapter.”

After finishing the recitation, Poonthaanam placed a bookmark at the end of the chapter, so that next day he can start with the next chapter. Next day, to his utter surprise, he found the bookmark at the beginning of the same 60th chapter. Nevertheless, Poonthaanam read the same chapter for the second time and again kept the bookmark at the end of the chapter. But again the following day also, the bookmark was back at the beginning of the 60th chapter. This kept repeating for the rest of the days. He did not know what was happening. It was the last day to close the temple for the year. Poonthaanam finished the discourse again on the 60th chapter and was returning from the temple when he realized that he had left the Bhagavatam book in the temple. He hurried back; crossed the river and reached the entrance to the temple, which was closed. He was all alone.

Wonder of wonders! He heard someone reciting the same 60th chapter from inside the temple. He could not enter the temple since it was closed. He then looked through the keyhole and saw Lord Shiva Himself sitting inside the temple and reading from Poonthaanam’s Bhagavatam book! Mother Parvati and Shiva’s attendants were sitting and keenly listening to it with their eyes filled with tears of devotion. Poonthaanam was wonderstruck! He stood there and heard the recitation. After concluding the chapter, Lord Shiva asked Parvati Devi how His narration was. Parvati smiled and replied that His narration was good, but it was not as good as Poonthaanam’s! Nothing to compare his rendering.

Lord Shiva acknowledged and endorsed her saying that it was very true, and further added that He also reveled in Poonthaanam’s rendering of the Bhagavatham. He told Parvati that He also liked to hear the Bhagavatam from Poonthaanam, and especially this ‘Krishna and Rukmini’ episode. That was the reason why He placed the bookmark again and again at the beginning of the same topic every day! Hearing this, Poonthaanam, who was standing outside was totally overwhelmed and in an ecstatic mood of sheer bliss uttered the divine name of Krishna loudly. When he looked back again, Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati had disappeared.

Poonthaanam left the temple feeling extremely blessed and fortunate to have had the darshan of Lord Shiva and Parvati, and also that the Lord had listened daily to his rendering of the Bhagavatham.

Krishna! Krishna! Mukunda! Janaardana! Krishna! Govinda! Naarayana! Hare!
Achyuthaananda! Govinda! Maadhava! Sachidaananda! Naarayana! Hare!
                       [From Jnanappana by Poonthaanam  Nambudiri]

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Ganesha and Kubera!

Ganesha and Kubera

Kubera is the treasurer of the heavens and he was very proud of his immense wealth. And he was a miser too! Yet to showcase his wealth and richness, he decided to organize a grand event just once, and invited all the devatas to his golden palace. All the gods who visited Kubera’s palace had a sumptuous meal and glorified Kubera and his hospitality. However, he was not satisfied. He somehow wanted Lord Shiva to visit him and appreciate his wealth and riches.

With this in mind Kubera visited Kailash and requested Lord Shiva to accept his invitation for a meal. Lord Shiva was aware of Kubera’s pride and his extreme attachment to his wealth and decided to teach him a lesson. He accepted the invitation, but said that he will also be accompanied by all his attendants. That was a huge number to feed! Kubera pleaded with the Lord saying that he wanted the Lord alone so that he can attend to him exclusively. The Lord refused saying that if he came, his attendants would also accompany him. Kubera was disappointed. Seeing Kubera’s crest fallen face, Lord Shiva said that instead of all of them he was willing to send his son, Ganesha as a substitute. Kubera immediately became happy! Only one person to feed and that too a child! He couldn’t bargain for more than this! As Kubera was leaving along with Ganesha, the Lord warned Kubera that Ganesha was a voracious eater. Kubera confidently told Shiva that he can handle Ganesha’s appetite.

Having reached the palace, Kubera took Ganesha around so that he could see the beauty and grandeur of his palace. However, Ganesha told Kubera that he was very hungry and went straight to the dining place and sat down to have his food. Kubera immediately ordered his attendants to bring food. The food was brought in a beautiful golden plate, with varieties of dishes and sweets. No sooner the food was placed before him, within a fraction of a second, Ganesha had consumed it. More food was brought and served, but again it immediately disappeared into Ganesha’s mouth.

It is customary to feed a person till he says enough. Hence, Kubera kept on ordering, the food kept on coming from inside, Ganesha kept consuming, and finally the kitchen was totally empty. Kubera told Ganesha that not even a morsel of food was available. Ganesha got angry that Kubera could not feed him and satisfy his hunger as promised. He started consuming whatever he could lay his hands on. The golden utensils, the beautiful furniture, and even the pillars of the palace that Kubera was boasting of, disappeared into Ganesha’s mouth. Kubera pleaded, but all that Ganesha demanded was more food and this time he threatened to eat Kubera himself.

Kubera was terrified. He now realized his mistake and ran to Kailash with Ganesha running behind him. On reaching Kailash, Kubera humbly fell at Lord Shiva’s feet. He begged the Lord to forgive him for his arrogance and save him from Ganesha’s anger. The Lord turned to Ganesha and lovingly gave him a handful of roasted rice flakes to eat. Immediately Ganesha’s hunger was satisfied.

The Lord advised Kubera that wealth has its place in the scheme of things, but wealth alone cannot fulfill all our needs. Wealth is not to be hoarded and kept, but should be intelligently used and shared. Only then Wealth is a blessing!

Some have money, others are loaded with money, some use money, others employ money--- but the most miserable are those who carry money, bury them and sit to guard it all time. They have----but they know not how to make it work for them and for others. - Swami Chinmayananda

[PS: I request all to please forward and share these value based stories rich in our culture and tradition to elders, youth and children]

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