Monthly Archives: November 2016

Present in the Past

Present in the Past

“My Master used to say that the family is the best environment for spirituality, because it is in the family that  you learn love and sacrifice. Now, if you divorce your wife, what is the sacrifice? Or if you abandon  your children, what is the sacrifice? That is why I was so angry. The environment we have is what is necessary for our spiritual development. Like when a mango tree grows in a certain place and then you take it and plant it in the mountains, it will not grow….”  

One of the many reasons which had driven me to the doorstep of meditation was my anger. Anger about everything and angry with everyone. I was unhappy with the way my life was slipping through my fingers. I was moving from one debilitating day to another. My continuous thought process then was how I was merely living but not alive, purposeful. I had so many plans, so many things to do and yet somehow my circumstances or responsibilities seemed to tie me down. I was vegetating and dwelling in the past and the dreary web I found myself in. I kept blaming my family for burdening me and pinning me down in a helpless situation. I was not being allowed to evolve, I was like the caterpillar going through the longest larva stage, yet to turn into a butterfly.

Meditation helped me do away with all that baggage and “blame the other person” attitude. Today, I have grown wiser and hopefully become a much calmer and better human being.  I have learned my lessons; thus the feeling of being trapped has disappeared. I feel free, purposeful and alive. I have lots to do, I have accomplished many goals and aspirations. Maybe that’s the reason I had to go through the drudgery and boredom so that I could appreciate my new self. Without any changes in my life (on the outside), I had blossomed and changed into a little butterfly! In the same set of circumstances, just with a new mindset, better self -awareness (of the person I am, my inside), I am able to be happy and alive.

These last few months I kept reminiscing about my busy days and I wonder why I am here, in Dublin. I have no work, I know no friends nor have any acquaintances, I am stuck at home twiddling my thumbs or switching the TV channels; becoming a couch potato.

Everything happens for a reason, live it, love it, learn from it…I know everything happens for a reason, but I wish I knew what the reason was, because the hardest thing is waiting for the understanding of the reason. Because, nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.

This move from India to Dublin, Ireland has forced me to remember the above quotes again. I have come to acknowledge in the last one year here that I am once again standing on the same threshold where I was before joining meditation. Not exactly the same threshold, but the mindset or the thought process seemed to wander in the same downward spiral. My observation is that I am more and more inclined to be ‘present in the past’. 

The first few months were busy and flew with getting acquainted with this beautiful city and its wonderful people.  Unfortunately for me, this country is the size of one Indian state, and the whole population is less than the population of a state in India! It was impossible for me to stretch my ‘new place euphoria’ beyond three months, even 3 months is a big stretch. Thus, with the honeymoon period gone, my ‘present in the past’ days became incessant. 

I was always acknowledged the fact that I would have very little active life-work here in Dublin. Yet, the new, post-meditation me was confident that I would find ways and means to be busy and happy; find some avocation to keep myself occupied and actively engaged. But now, almost every second day I find myself in a state of limbo and I feel trapped. I want to go back to my busy life. This thought process invariably brings back my question as to why, why am I here!? What is my role in this place?

I feel like that uprooted mango tree! I was happy and blooming there, in India. But, Master also said,’ that the family is the best environment for spirituality, because it is in the family you learn love and sacrifice……. Because the environment which we have is what is necessary for our spiritual development.’ Today, I have been re-planted here, in a totally new environment. Thanks to my meditation I am not angry nor have I begun the blame game. But my quest has begun. This shift to Dublin was to be able to be together again, as a family. For the last few years I had become comfortable being on my own. This big shift is something I needed to accept and adapt to. I had to learn to be at home without feeling trapped. I keep writing about this wonderful place and give the impression of being very happy and busy, but I keep cribbing and complaining to my better half about being stuck; holed up in this ‘god forsaken place’! There is a duplicity in me and my expression of self. That needs to go. In India, doing what I wanted was a piece of cake. I did not have to struggle or move away from my comfort zone. This place; I need to re-learn everything and from this environment that I am in today.  Meditation must help me be calm and with equanimity, anywhere and with anyone. This simple change of place has made my world so topsy-turvy. I am undoubtedly better than before but there is room for change still. May be that’s why I am here, to do away with the duplicity, get out of my comfort zone and learn again, afresh and anew. I am actually learning so much here, from the place and people, I need to bring some purpose to this learning and put it all to practice. For all this to fructify, I have to put a stop to my ‘present in the past’ state.

 Learn to be present in the present, accept the change and be alive now, in the now.

Circle of life

Circle of life

 

With my spirit of inquiry mood in full swing and to continue the momentum, I started watching a Television show titled Upanishad Ganga. I urge every reader to watch this show. It is exceedingly aesthetic, very informative and engrossing. This episode titled ‘stages of life’ set me on a different train of thought. We, human beings were always insecure. We had this fear that the minute we are born, we get separated from God, the source. (My Spiritual guru says, Fear is our first samskara!) Our purity starts to get compromised from that very instant; probably that’s the reason why we made these 16 stages; purification steps from birth to death. The moment we are separated from the source till the time we re-merge with the source (hopefully, we are never sure) in the same pristine pure state.  

 

Trying to lift the veil over the 16 sanskaar (Sacraments of life); Garbhadhana (Conception) is the first one. Invocation by parents; a fervent prayer for a child to fulfil the obligation; procreation regarded as imperative for paying off debts to forefathers.  It’s funny, is it not; we do not want to leave the world without leaving a little bit of ourselves! So, we yearn for an offspring, we prefer a male child; only a boy has permission to light the pyre! The beginning itself is with a desire.

 

 Second samskara is Punsavana (Fetus protection); performed during the third or fourth month of pregnancy when the moon is in a male constellation, particularly the Tishya-nakshatra. This symbolises a male child (like I said; a male child is always the first choice). A priest recites Vedic hymns to invoke divine qualities in the child.

 

This is followed by the third samskara; Simantonayan (literally meaning hair-parting. Shrimantham is the more popular known term now; baby shower is the term used in the western world).

 

The significance of this samskara is to bring prosperity to the mother (satiate all her cravings and keep her smiling and happy) and long life to the unborn child. It also wards off evil influence.

 

Then comes the child birth; our fourth samskara, namely Jatakarma. These rituals are performed at the birth of the child. It is believed that the moon has a special effect on the newly born. In addition, the constellation of the planets – nakshatras – also determine the degree of auspiciousness. If birth occurs during an inauspicious arrangement, the jatakarmas are performed to ward off their detrimental effects on the child.

 

Namkaran (Naming ceremony) is the fifth samskara.  Based on the time of birth of the baby, an astrological chart is drawn and the child is named on a day fixed by caste tradition. As per Hindu religious tradition the child is usually named after a deity, holy place or a saint as a constant reminder of the sacred values that name stands for.

 

Nishkrama (First outing); after the first 90 days the baby is allowed to step out. Which marks the sixth samskara. The first outing of the baby is usually to a temple, holy place accompanied by the father or elders in the family.

 

Annaprashan (First feeding with solid food) is the next sanskara and marks a very important occasion. This is usually the 5th month or after the child crosses the 6th month. This ceremony also indicates that the baby is ready to be weaned away from the mother.

 

 Mundan is the eighth samskara and the last samskara before the baby turns one. This is performed during the first or third year of age when the child’s hair is removed by shaving, again in some holy place, after seeking an auspicious date and time. 

 

Karnavedha (Ear piercing) is the ninth samskara and is performed in the third or fifth year. This ceremony was practiced for both, boys and girls. The essence of this ceremony was to enable the child to listen to what is good, have the courage to leave or let go of baseless information.

 

The tenth samskara is Upanayanam; the Sacred thread ceremony. Interestingly, this ceremony used to be performed for all varnas (castes). Another interesting change that has come to light that girls also were introduced in this ceremony. Now, it is only the male child and the Brahmin caste which performs this ritual with great fanfare! This ceremony introduces the male child to a teacher to receive education and marking the entry of the child to Brahmacharya.

 

 Vedarambha or the Study of Vedas is the eleventh stage and this is performed at the time of Upanayana or within one year. The Guru teaches the Gayatri Mantra. In the olden (Golden) days the child used to be sent to Gurukul and spend the coming decade or so under his tutelage.

 

 Samavartana is the twelveth stage which marks the returning home of the child after completion of education. By this time the child is an adult, about 25years of age and which gives the natural progression to our next samskara; vivaha.

 

 After upanaynam marriage is the next big event and the child (now an adult) is ready for the grihastha ashram. Marriage enables the person to achieve the four endeavours of life (purusharths) Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (desire) and moksha (salvation). The whole cycle of this child, now an adult will have the chance to pay off ancestral debt; procreate. The real test of life is said to begin in this stage.

 

Completion of duties the couple is ready or needs to prepare for renunciation; vanaprastha the fourteenth samskara. This samskara is performed at the age of 50 to celebrate the departure from the householder stage to the Vanaprastha stage when the person begins to engage in spiritual activities. This graduates to sannyasa, our fifteenth samskara, and is performed after the vanaprsatha stage.

 

 After completing all the worldly responsibilities, the couple hand over the reins and live a life engaging in spiritual practices. This brings us to the closure, the sixteenth samskara, antyesthi or cremation. This samskara is performed after death by his or her descendants.

 

These 16 stages are a purification process; we knew all along that the minute He separates us from Himself we are at a severe risk of never ever making it back with the same purity. Thus, from birth to death; beginning to the finish line it is a preparation, to go back whence we came from, the full circle of life.

 

 Sources:

Ganga Upnishad, Chinmaya Mission

Hindu rites and rituals

 

Cheap and Dear

Cheap and Dear

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated–Thomas Paine.(1737 – 1809).

Whenever I write I play some background noise, any noise; a random movie or songs or a television show, some noise. This habit helps me focus on my work and sometimes I hear a dialogue, some lyrics or an advertisement which grabs my attention and it triggers a separate introspective train of thought. The above quote is one example of my ‘grabbed attention’ and what ensues is the ‘train of thought’.

I was writing about ‘Irish Independence’; the heavy price they paid to fight the British, the bloodshed and the loss of life they endured and yet held their ground; how dear freedom is to them. I had just started to ‘Google’ and learn a little bit more about how the Irish had fared post regaining their precious freedom and what post war struggles followed, how did they make it to the prestigious and proud ‘developed’ nations genre.  That’s when I heard the actor say, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:……” The accent was different and I could not fathom the rest. But the little I had heard was ample to catch my attention and my hands involuntarily moved on the keyboard to ‘Google’ the quote.

These profound lines are by Thomas Paine, agonizing over the pain and rage he felt during their war; The American Independence from The British.  The pain in the above lines is one voice expressing the feelings of the whole nation; patriots’ cry and despair; the willingness to lose their lives to win freedom.  Involuntarily my mind went to our long drawn 200 years of struggle; war for our independence and how much this subjugation had cost us. From The Golden Bird (Sone ki Chidiya) renown to our present label of a third world country, we paid dearly for our freedom.

Even at a personal level Thomas Paine’s words are poignantly true.  We seem to value something only when we do not have it or we earn it the hard way. As long as we have something at our disposal we have no value for it, and we esteem too lightly.

Being the second child in my family I have always been ‘told’ what to do. My dad would give me a set of instructions and as if that didn’t suffice, he would then summon my elder sister and make her my policeman. To add to my misery I was not allowed to boss over my younger sisters because they were too young! Here, I was the older one and so I should adjust and understand, see reason and make them comprehend too. Throughout my childhood I remember rebelling against this domination and wanting to break free of this ‘imposed discipline’. Discipline meant shackles or bondage for me and I instinctively shied away from rule books.  The more I rebelled the more I landed myself in trouble and this resulted in more restrictions, more monitoring and lesser freedom! This yo-yo game of ‘wanting to break free’ and ‘getting ensnared into captivity’ continued for very long.

My craving for freedom was as ardent as that of Thomas Paine’s. My fight to break free was continuously making me more rebellious, prone to indiscipline and further mischief!  The more I struggled the more strict my Dad was forced to be and it became cyclic. Much later did I realize that I had failed to see the yawning difference between ‘Freedom’ and ‘Freedom with Discipline’.

If I wanted to be free, given the choice to make my own decisions, then I had to learn discipline. Discipline comes naturally to them who have some interest in the self. I had to become judicious first; have the wisdom to exercise my freedom prudently and not squander it away. My indiscipline and mischief forced my dad to put me on a tight leash, I understand that today. The day I showed some maturity and responsibility he was more than happy to see me fly.

The trip down my personal memory lane ended there and my mind revisited Thomas Paine’s lines.  My mind came back to our country and brought me back to my question about us; where did we miss the bus? It took us two hundred years to gain freedom.  We paid the steepest price. Yet have we really honored our martyrs? The blood, sweat and toil lost in gaining freedom for us; is it being squandered in vain? Have we as a nation assimilated the truth that freedom is dear and needs to be valued and cherished?

When I see the monuments and heritage sites abroad, I am filled with awe and admiration at the way they have been maintained and showcased. Unwittingly a twinge of sadness grips me. We have so much more to offer to the world, with all the sites of the world put together, our country alone may have more places worth a visit. To me, India is undoubtedly the most beautiful place on earth. Be it natural wonders or architectural magnificence, we had it all, in fact the glory we had lured the world to our country. Today, our past glory has cast a heavy cloud upon us. We barely have any trace of our past glory yet we keep singing about some long lost past. There is so much unrest and disorder. As a child, I did not learn to discipline myself, yet kept craving for independence; similarly most of my countrymen I encounter are rebelliously independent and sadly untouched by discipline. We deface our monuments with impunity. The callousness we show towards our public property is pathetic. We are very indignant if someone corrects us, we are a free nation today and it is nobody’s business to say anything to us!

Makes me wonder if we got our freedom cheaply?  We seem to esteem it too lightly.

Note: I started writing about Ireland, but went off course again. What is written is just the way the thoughts ran in my head, ruminating in writing.  In the wake of the changes that have happened in my country, I thought it the apt time to upload this article.

Kalash Pooja

Kalash Pooja

My spiritual guide, my Master, recently published a post on Speaking Tree titled “Fasting and Autophagy: Ancient Wisdom and Scientific Research Intersect”. This brought back many memories and I pulled out my long forgotten notes; all the diligent studies I had done to understand the true significance of so many rituals I blindly followed in the past.

I have already written about Lighting the lamp, Prasadam, Idol worship and Bhajans. All these rituals have a profound meaning and done in true spirit and with perfect understanding, they should result in achieving our ‘goal of life’.  Another such ritual which I mindlessly followed was Kalash Pooja. This article is an attempt to understand the true significance of this important ritual.

It is believed that 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.
And Lord Vishnu held Kalash filled with nectar during Samudramanthan (churning of the ocean). All deities are believed to reside in the kalash.

Since then the kalasha is viewed as a symbol of abundance, wisdom and immortality. The Purna-Kalasha is considered a symbol of abundance and “source of life”. It is also called Soma-Kalasha, Chandra-Kalasha, Indra-Kumbha, Purnaghata, Purna-Virakamsya, Bhadra ghata, or Mangala ghata.

We find a kalash in the hands of Hindu deities Brahma, our creator, Shiva our destroyer and teacher, Laskhmi our goddess of prosperity. Every auspicious occasion, be it Gruh Pravesh, Gauri pooja, Deepawali , marriage and  even to celebrate the arrival of a new born, we perform kalash pooja.

I enter this home with a kumbha; fill it with ambrosia and anoint

All those who drink of this heavenly water and protect this home.

I enter this house to dwell in it. ( Atharva veda: 3.13.7-9-5000BC)

The Kalash and its adornment have a very symbolic meaning for every occasion. To welcome the new born Kalash represents material things: a container of fertility – the earth and the womb, which nurtures and nourishes life. The mango leaves associated with Kama, the god of love, symbolize the pleasure aspect of fertility. The coconut, a cash crop, represents prosperity and power. The water in the pot represents the life-giving ability of Nature.

For Gruh Pravesh and other household functions, a silver or brass face of the Goddess is attached over the coconut of the Purna-Kalasha. In this form, the Purna-Kalasha symbolizes the Goddess as the manifestation of mother earth with her water, minerals, and vegetation.

Other interpretations’ of the Purna-Kalasha associate with the five elements or the chakras. The wide base of metal pot represents the element Earth, the expanded centre is water, neck of pot is fire, the opening of the mouth is said to represent air, and the coconut and mango leaves: ether. In context of chakras, the Shira (literally “head”) – top of the coconut symbolizes Sahasrara chakra and the Moola (literally “base”) – base of Kalasha – the Muladhara chakra.

The water in the kalasha symbolizes 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 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 leaves and coconut represent creation. The thread represents the love that “binds” all in creation.
On some occasions the Kalasha is filled with coins, grain, gems, gold, or a combination of these items instead of water. The coronet of 5, 7, or 11 mango leaves is placed such that the tips of the leaves touch water in the Kalasha. These leaves are known as leaves of deity’s seat. The coconut is sometimes wrapped with a red cloth and red thread; the top of the coconut is kept uncovered. A sacred thread is tied around the metal pot. The Shira is kept facing the sky. The kalash is used for creating seat for invoked deities during the puja ritual. The water inside the kalash keeps this seat pure till the ritual of Pranapratishta (invoking deity into an image, idol, coconut or betelnut). Thus, the invoked deity principle stays for a long period.

Putting a coin is symbolic of sacrifice. Through this medium there is sacrifice of wealth and jiva (embodied soul)’s attachment is reduced. This qualifies the worshipper to benefit more from the sattvikta of puja ritual. A copper coin is put in the kalash. The copper has more capacity to project sattvik frequencies. It helps in emanation of sattvik frequencies present in the water into the atmosphere.

The betel nut kept in the kalash is to enhance sattvik and rajsik components in the water of the kalash. This increases the capacity of the water to emit manifest principle of deity. The betel nut contains particles related to absolute earth element which are useful in binding of sattva particles related to sattva component. This then easily helps in retaining the sattvikta of water for a long time. Five precious stones like pearl, diamond, emerald, blue sapphire, ruby and gold are also added to the water of kalash. The five precious stones and gold have capacity to attract and emit the principles of five superior deities. This benefits the worshipper. But with changing times the use of five precious stones and copper is reduced and replaced by alloys which are spiritually less beneficial.
The consecration (kumbhaabhisheka) 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.

There is a world of depth, meaning and essence to every ritual. Everything that was said and done during our Vedic period had the backing of science, logic and reasoning. It has sadly deteriorated with time and gone into oblivion today. Every ritual I have performed in the past would have fructified if I had done them myself, with full awareness and knowledge, the essence of what I am doing and why. I was always sincere but lacked the jijnasu quality, the spirit of inquiry was missing. Meditation (I have come back to Meditation, I know:) ) has made me aware of this yawning gap between my actions and ignorant actions!

Action is purification of the mind; not for gaining (knowing) the truth. Knowledge of the truth is by inquiry alone; not even a little knowledge is gained by crores of action. Vivekachudamani (5.11)

Sources:

http://ajitvadakayil.blogspot.ie/2013/05/kalasha-symbol-of-cosmic-womb

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalasha

http://bharathkidilse.blogspot.ie/2009/10/kalasha