Tag Archives: Significance of Hinduism

Ganga – the Flow of Spiritual Knowledge!

River Ganges is respected and adored as Mother Ganga. As a river she is the main source of water especially for the northern part of Bharat. Apart from being a source of water, she has unique properties. Since she flows down through the Himalayan ranges, she carries along with her the inherent and unique properties of the soil, minerals and foliage through which she flows which gives her waters distinctive features. A dip in her waters or to drink her waters is extremely beneficial. Her oxidation level is also very high and therefore the Ganges water can be stored for years together – it still remains fresh and uncontaminated. 

King Bhagiratha of the Solar dynasty performed intense tapas to bring the sacred Ganges from the higher realms down to the plains to redeem his forefathers of their sins. Pleased with his tapas, Ganga appeared before him and told him that the force of her descent from the Higher Realms can be very devastating and everything within her reach will be totally wiped out. The only person who could withstand and contain the impact of her mighty descent was Lord Shiva. So Bhagiratha performed penance to propitiate Sankara. The Lord appeared before him. Bhagiratha narrated everything to Lord Shiva. The Lord agreed to take the tremendous impact of Ganga when she descends upon himself. Lord Shiva came to Gangotri and on the auspicious Ganga Dussehra day, Mother Ganges descended down from the higher realms with full force. Lord Shiva received Ganga into his open “Jata” (locks of hair). Subsequently the Lord released Ganga slowly in the form of small streamlets from His Jata. The Ganga from the Lord’s Jata followed Bhagiratha from the higher altitudes to the lower terristrial plains and then finally reached the lower realms to redeem the forefathers of Bhagiratha. After traversing the entire Northern plains known as the Gangetic Plains, Ganga reaches the ocean (Bay of Bengal) at Ganga Sagar and merges to become one with the ocean.

GAM means “knowledge”. GA means “to move”. Therefore GAMGA or GANGA represents “the eternal flow of Spiritual Knowledge”. She is the personification of Mother Sruti (scriptures). She is worshipped as AKASHA GANGA, wherein she represents the Highest, Subtle and Incomprehensible Spiritual Knowledge. The ‘vahana’ (vehicle) of Ganga is crocodile. The crocodile represents ‘spiritual ignorance’. Ganga signifies ‘Spiritual Knowledge’. Ganga seated on the crocodile represents the destruction of ignorance with the help of Spiritual Knowledge. To partake a DROP OF THIS KNOWLEDGE is to transcend and move beyond name, form, attributes, activity and reach the realm of Highest Experience: the State of Enlightenment.  King Bhagiratha represents a spiritual seeker. BHAGA means “glories”. RATHA means “chariot”. BHAGIRATHA therefore means “personification of all divine qualities”. He is born in Solar dynasty meaning “he is endowed with spiritual knowledge”. 

When the seeker invokes the spiritual knowledge within himself in his seat of meditation, it descends down with such an impact that in one sweep the entire world of plurality and multiplicity becomes non-existent for him, leaving behind only the experience of Absolute Oneness. The seeker in the present moment may not have the ability and capacity to take on the impact. Only Lord Shiva who represents the Highest State of Meditation can contain the knowledge and revel in the experience of Absolute Oneness. Therefore Ganga (Divine Knowledge) descends onto his head (intellect). Hence Shiva also represents the Guru who has not only the Knowledge of the Higher State, but has experienced it within himself. When the seeker approaches the Guru, depending upon the constitution of the seeker and his ability and capacity to absorb the Higher Knowledge, the Guru slowly initiates him which is represented by the flow of Ganga from Lord Shiva’s tresses. Just as Ganga on reaching the vast shoreless and depthless ocean, loses her individual identity to merge and disappear into the ocean and becomes one with it, so too the spiritual seeker (jivatma) slowly progresses on the path of meditation to reach and become one with the Highest State (Paramatma). This is the State of Mukti or Enlightenment.

Gange Hara Hara! Gange Hara Hara!! 

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Bhasmasura : The Intellect!

Vrukasura undertook intense tapas to propitiate Lord Shiva. Pleased with his austerity, the Lord appeared before him and asked him what he wanted. Vrukasura asked for the boon of “fire-touch” — anything that he lays his hand on should gets burnt! Lord Shiva granted him the boon, because of which he became known as BHASMASURA. The asura decided to test the efficacy of the boon and proceeded to place his outstretched hand on Lord Shiva’s head. Knowing the unfailing power of his boon, Shiva started running with Bhasmasura following him. Sankara reached Vaikunta. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Lord Vishnu with the help of his Yoga-maya assumed the form of a young brahmachari and appeared before Vrukasura. With the power of his speech and art of communication, Lord Vishnu convinced Bhasmasura to place his hand on his own head. Overwhelmed by the Lord’s Maya, the asura followed the Lord’s advice and placed his hand on his own head and reduced himself to ash (bhasma).

Significance: Bhasmasura represents the human INTELLECT. The extroverted, out-going, objective-knowledge seeking INTELLECT seeks, searches, analysis, probes, investigates the entire outer world of things and beings. And whatever it is trying to understand it can do so only by studying it in “parts”. The WHOLE is investigated and understood by studying it in PARTS — hence the intellect breaks, dissects, divides, differentiates……

This intellect, very efficient in dissecting, analysing and studying the WHOLE problem through PARTS, now wants to “know and realize” Shiva-tattva – the very “power” that lends dynamism to the intellect to function. The more the intellect tries to reach out to the Shiva-tattva, the more IT seems to move away from the intellect. This is represented by Bhasmasura with outstretched hands running behind Lord Shiva. Lord Vishnu as the brahmachari represents the Guru, the embodiment of spiritual knowledge, who comes into the seeker’s life and advises him to turn inward – represented by the hand moving not outward but towards oneself. This represents inner contemplation.

The intellect is transcended at that point and the seeker realises intuitively that what he was searching for outside – the Shiva-tattva – is he himself. In the ‘”white heat of meditation”, in the “fire of knowledge” invoked within himself, the whole world of plurality dissolves away. When anything is burnt, bhasma (ash) is the residue. What is left behind after transcending the intellect is the One Undifferentiated, Undivided, Pure Shiva-tattva — the Absolute Existence which lends existence to the entire world of things and beings! This is Mukti, Enlightenment — the real and true Glory (Vibhuti) of a Man of Realization!

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Deepavali: Festival of Lights

KARTIKA MAASA heralds the onset of winter with shorter days and longer nights. The light and heat from the sun which depends on the inclination of the sun’s rays and the consequent energy that we receive is completely different from that which we receive in summer. Due to the cold climatic conditions, growth is less and stunted in Nature. As in Nature, so in our minds, because Nature is only an extension of our minds. To counter the ‘abundancy of darkness’, we bring in LIGHT, within and without. This is known as DEEPAVALI. When rows of lamps are lit, there is light, warmth and a positive conducive energy field. Similarly, the tamas, inertia and lethargy in our minds is dispelled by bringing in the Light of Knowledge within ourselves by the study of the scriptures. 

When a lamp is lit, the Light not only illuminates the lamp but it lightens up the entire surroundings. By keeping the lighted lamps at the threshold, there is illumination inside and outside the house. Lighting the lamp outside signifies lighting of the Lamp of Knowledge within ourselves. With the Light of Knowledge within oneself, not only are we benefited, but all those around us are also benefited. The Knowledge helps the inner subtle equipments – the mind and intellect to perform brilliantly and also helps the outer gross physical body to accomplish efficiently.

It is only with the Light of Knowledge, that one can discriminate between the right and wrong, the true and false, the permanent and impermanent, between dharma and adharma. Hence the whole month of Kartika wherein we light lamps daily signifies the “invoking of the Light of Spiritual Knowledge” within ourselves, and subsequently exercising the “faculty of discrimination” (Viveka) in us to walk the path of Dhyana or Meditation.

Significance of Deepa: There are several interpretations:

Each one of us is a WALKING LAMP (Deepa). The “body” made up of matter represents the EARTHEN LAMP. The “mind” which is nothing but a flow of thoughts represents the OIL. The “intellect” is the WICK. The BRIGHT FLAME represents the “Light of Spiritual Knowledge” – the SAT-CHIT-ANANDA, the Lord Himself,

OR, the MIND represents the vessel or the “lamp”. DEVOTION is the “oil”. FAITH is the “wick”. KNOWLEDGE is the golden “flame”,

OR, the “earthen lamp” represents the PHYSICAL BODY. The “wick” is the MIND. The “oil” is the VASANAS. The “flame” signifies the Light of SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE which helps to exhaust the vasanas. When the vasanas are exhausted, the flame merges with the elemental Fire which signifies the merger of the jivatma with Paramatma. Hence the importance of LIGHTING THE LAMP!!

The flame of the lamp which is brilliant and golden represents the brilliance of the Knowledge acquired by an individual. The flame always points upward. Similarly, our life should always be progressive – one should move forward as well as higher on the path of spirituality. The entire conical flame that we perceive is made up of innumerable minute flame-lets clustered together. The total vibrational frequency of all the flame-lets gives the appearance of ONE WHOLE SINGLE flame. Though there is so much of plurality, multiplicity and diversity in the world of things and beings, one should learn to recognise the ONENESS behind them all. This is possible only with the brilliant Light of Spiritual Knowledge. The flame of the lamp does not flutter but remains absolutely still and steady when there is no cross-breeze. Similarly, a mind which is not persecuted by the winds of passion, anger, greed etc., remains single-pointed, steady and balanced.

A LIGHTED LAMP bestows immense benefits upon us. The material with which the lamp is made up of, whether mud or metal, the oil which is used, and the material with which the wick is made up of contribute greatly and immensely to our personality. One can feel the presence of something Higher and Diviner by just holding a lighted lamp in our hands in a dark environment – TOUCH THERAPY. The golden flame helps in focusing and concentration and also helps in lifting the mind to higher levels – VISUAL THERAPY. The fragrance of the oil or ghee which is used in the lamp makes the mind calm and serene. It also pervades the entire environment and purifies it with its positive energy – AROMA THERAPY. There is a sense of deep tranquility in the stillness and silence that emanates from the lighted lamp and pervades the entire surroundings – AUDIO THERAPY. Just by being there, the lighted lamp serves one and all – perfect KARMA YOGA – an experience so enriching and fulfilling – RASA THERAPY (RASAVATH).

“Deepa Jyotir Parabrahma, Deepa Jyotir Janaardanah; Deepo Harathu Me Paapam, Deepa Jyotir Namostute”

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Adhika Maasa (Purushottama Maasa) -Significance

There is a difference in calculation between the solar and lunar calendars. After 32.5 months of the lunar calendar, there arises a discrepancy of 30 days (1 month) which has to be included in the lunar calendar to perfectly align it with the solar calendar. This month is called as ADHIKA MAASA (Extra Month). Each month has its own presiding deity. However Adhika Maasa did not have any presiding deity. Adhika Maasa approached Lord Vishnu and said, “Lord, there is no presiding deity allotted to me. I am known as “extra” and “unwanted” month. Everybody totally ignores me and no one associates anything auspicious with me.” The Lord heard Adhika’s plea and said, “Do not worry. I myself as PURUSHOTTAMA – “the Best of Beings”, will be the presiding deity of Adhika Maasa.” Hence the Adhika Maasa is also called as Purushottama Maasa. All the divine glories associated with the Lord are therefore associated with Adhika Maasa.

The Adhika Maasa is an extra month that Prakriti or Mother Nature has given to mankind which comes after every 32.5 (nearly 33) months. Normally an individual is constantly engaged in sheer worldly pleasures and materialistic activities all through the months, year after year. The call of our great Rishis is that atleast in the Adhika month we should refrain from all materialistic activities and devote the entire month to religious and spiritual activities. Hence in this month vivaaha, gruhapravesam, naamakarana etc are not celebrated. Importance is given to Japa, Tapas, Upavasa, Puja, Homa, and Dana. All the merits acquired by performing pooja, japa, tapa and dana in the other thirty three months put together collectively can be acquired by performing the same in just this one Adhika Maasa. Lord Brahma once weighed all the sadhana he had pursued prior to his work of creation with the sadhana performed in the Adhika Maasa. The scales tilted in favour of the sadhana undertaken in the Adhika Maasa!

Reading of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Geeta, Bhagavatham, Ramayana, Chanting of Stotras like Vishnu Sahasranama, Lalitha Sahasranama, Aditya Hridaya, Hanuman Chalisa, chanting the 15th chapter (Purushottama Yoga) of the Bhagavad Geeta, etc., attending Satsanghs, undertaking pilgrimage to various holy places are also taken up during this period. Lighting Akhanda Deepa (day and night) all through the Adhika Maasa which represents the “initiation of spiritual knowledge in an individual” is also undertaken during this period. There are Adhika Maasa Vratas and Vows prescribed for this month. Any noble and virtuous activity taken up during this Adhika Maasa is supposed to give Adhika-phala (extra merit). 

33 (thirty three) is a number associated very closely with the Adhika Maasa, since this extra month comes after 33 (32.5 to be precise) lunar months. If we have not performed our religious activities and charity during the last 33 months, it is atoned for now by doing the same 33 times in the Adhika Maasa. Therefore chanting of a specific mantra 33 times or in multiples of 33 is normally undertaken. When fruits, tamboola (betel leaves), or sweets are offered to the Lord the number prescribed is again 33 or multiples of 33. Similarly when dana or charity is given, it is 33 or in multiples of 33. This is supposed to take care of the lapses on our part in our religious activities and charity during the previous 33 months. 

Amongst the danas, “Anna-dana” (food distribution to the needy) is supposed to be very important. A unique feature of Adhika Maasa is “Apoopa dana” – the dana of “Athirasa” (Apoopa in Sanskrit). It is a deep-fried sweet-dish prepared by using rice flour, jaggery and ghee – a wholesome nutritious delicacy. Traditionally, 33 apoopas are given in charity every day along with 33 fruits, 33 betel leaves and 33 coins. If it is not possible daily, this unique dana is done atleast once during the Adhika Maasa. Apoopa dana is considered equivalent to prithvi-dana!

The glory and uniqueness of the sacred Adhika or Purushottama Maasa was narrated by Lord Narayana to Sage Narada, and by Sri Krishna to Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandavas.

[This year Adhika Maasa begins on 18th Sept 2020 and ends on 16th October 2020]

Charity must come from one's sense of abundance. True charity springs from a sense of oneness between the giver and the recipient. - Swami Chinmayananda

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