What is Samsara?
What is Karma?
What is Dharma?
What is Sri Ganapathi Homa/Havan?
What is Sri Satyanarayan Pooja���Katha?
What is Sri Maha Lakshmi Homa Or Lakshmi Kuber Homa?
What is Sri Maha Mrityunjaya Homa/Havan?
What is Sri Sudarshana Homa?
What is Navagraha Homa/Havan Or Graha Shanti?
is ��� Sri Bhoo Varaah Homa?
What is Ayushya Homam (Special Birthday Pooja )?
What is Chandi Homa/Havan?
What is Sri Sarasvati Homa?
Why do we chant Om?
Why do we have a Prayer Room?
Why do we light a Lamp?
Why do we do Namaste?
Why do we wear marks (Tilak or Tika) on the forehead?
Why do we Fast?
Why do we offer a Coconut?
Why do we do Aarathi (or Aarthi)?
Why do we say ���Shanti��� thrice?
What is Vedic Astrology?
Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world
and is the faith of over four-fifths of the diverse peoples of the
vast sub-continent of India, of the people of Nepal and Bali
(Indonesia) and of millions of Indians who have migrated overseas.
Besides, there are many ancient cultures, such as those in
South-East Asia, which have been greatly influenced by the Hindu
The history of the Hindus, as we know it today, goes back 5,000
but Hindus believe that their religion is without beginning or end
and is a continuous process even preceding the existence of our
earth and the many other worlds beyond. Science today accepts that
there may be other worlds in the vast universe, each with its own
laws. Hindus have held this view from time immemorial.
The word Hindu is of geographic origin and was derived from the name
originally given to the people settled on the banks of the river
Sindhu. The word ���sindhu���
was corrupted by foreign visitors who called the settlers 'Hindus'
and the faith of the Hindus was thus given the name 'Hinduism' in
the English language. Scholars however call this the
Brahmanical faith since attaining the
Brahman or the Universal Soul is the ultimate aim of all Hindu
Philosophic thinkers of recent times do not like to describe
Hinduism as a mere religion as they feel that this narrows it down
and does not bring out adequately its great qualities of catholicity
of outlook and free thinking, as even an atheist is not precluded
from being a Hindu and no hell nor doomsday envisioned for the
agnostic. It is therefore called ���Sanatana
Dharma��� or the Eternal Religion. Others call it a fellowship of
religions from its liberal absorption of the faiths of others.
The greatness of Hinduism is at once its complexity and its
simplicity, and the fact that it totally permeates the life of every
Hindu from the moment of his birth, whether he is a believer or
non-believer, a scholar or an illiterate. It is for this reason that
it is often said that Hinduism is not just a religion but a way of
It is important to realize, before we delve further, that Hinduism
is a rare faith with few do's and don���ts postulated, but one which
has many signposts showing the different spiritual paths available
to different types of people. It accepts the reality that there
are varying intellectual and spiritual
levels among us and all cannot therefore take the same path,
although the goal may be the same. Hinduism therefore offers
different approaches to persons of different aptitudes, depending on
whether he is a philosopher or a poet, a mystic or a man of action,
an intellectual or a poet, or a simple man of faith. This is a
unique feature of the religion as it permits the greatest freedom of
worship and insists that each person must be guided by his or her
own individual spiritual experience. It does not accept dictatorship
in religious guidance.
All Souls are not able to achieve happy state even after death. On
the other hand most of us die only to be born again and again. This
cycle of birth, death and rebirth is called
Samsara, and every soul must go through this cycle of births
and deaths before it attains moksha
or liberation. Only the soul which reaches perfection in this life
becomes one with the Brahman and is not born again.
Hindus believe in samsara as we do not
accept that the great god would be cruel enough to create the great
inequalities that exist in the world. He would not create one child
beloved of happy parents, another who is handicapped or blind and a
third who is unwanted born to impoverished parents and left hungry.
The inequalities of life are understandable only when we realize
that they are of Man's own Karma or actions and not of God's
creation. Each one of us at birth is the result of our past life.
Our birth in this life is determined by the good and bad thoughts,
words and deeds of a previous birth.
This doctrine of
samsara or rebirth is also called the
theory of reincarnation or the transmigration of the soul and is a
basic tenet of Hinduism. The Upanishads compare the passage of the
soul to a caterpillar which climbs a blade of grass, leaves
it garments and wears new ones; similarly the soul casts away
one body and takes on another. However, we do not carry the burden
of our previous lives in our consciousness, though we do in our
sub-conscious minds. The birth of a musical genius in a non-musical
family, or of great scholars and artistes whose education and
environment do not explain their achievements, are a few evidences
of the spill-over from pervious births. There are many such cases.
One worth mentioning is of a young man who was a waster who could
not even complete school. Suddenly one morning he was transformed
into an erudite and knowledgeable mystic, and became a
sanyasi. His refined manners, wisdom and
knowledge of the scriptures acquired overnight as it were, had no
connection to the life led by him until that point. It was as if,
all of a sudden, some door in his inner being had been unlocked from
a previous birth and illuminated in his mind.
One of the basic beliefs of Hinduism is the law of Karma or Action,
the law of cause and effect. It is explained by the saying, ���As we
sow, so shall we reap���. A farmer cannot leave his fields fallow and
expect a crop of wheat. Nor can he sow wheat and expect a field of
rice. Similarly every good thought, word or deed begets a similar
reaction which affects our next lives and every unkind thought,
harsh word and evil deed comes back to harm us in this life or the
Often Indians are called fatalists in the grounds that it is the law
of Karma that makes us accept and not fight misfortune. This is not
so as Karma is far from being a fatalistic doctrine. There are three
stages of Karma. The only karma that is beyond our control is
Prarabdha Karma. According to this, the
body or tenement the soul chooses to be born in is not under human
control. The choice of parents, the environment of the home, and the
physical condition of the new-born are the result of the sum total
of favorable and unfavorable acts performed in a previous life.
These cannot be changed. They are predetermined by the quality of
the previous life, so also the time of death. Our scriptures aver
that even a thousand spears will not kill you if your time on earth
is not yet over, but when your end is near, even a blade of 'Kusha'
grass could bring about your end. When each one of us has finished
enjoying the good and paid for the bad deeds of the previous life,
the time on earth is over. The soul leaves the body, and goes into
another to work out its destiny afresh, arising out of the good and
bad deeds of this current life.
The second stage is that of
Samchita Karma which is the accumulated Karma of all previous
births that gives us our characteristics, tendencies, aptitudes and
interests. This is why two children born of the same parents
and given the same environment, for example, turn out to be very
different in their capabilities and characteristics.
Samchita Karma, however, is changeable.
With wisdom, a man can change himself, his habits and get rid of
evil thoughts and desires. Similarly one born with good
characteristics could descend to a life of evil, setting aside his
naturally good inclinations. It is therefore alterable by man
The third, Agami karma, consists of the
actions in our present lives which determine our future in the later
years of this life and in the next. It is entirely within our hands
and our own free will. Man cannot change his past birth, but he can
mould his future. By evil thoughts, words or deeds, we mar our days
to come. By purity of thought, compassionate words and deeds,
righteous action without thought of the fruits thereof, we pave the
way for a better life for our tomorrows in this birth and the next.
Therefore Karma is not a fatalistic doctrine. It is a logical theory
which explains differences in our births and temperaments and guides
us in moulding our future lives.
The aim of a Hindu is to break the chain of birth and rebirth that
binds him to the earth. The first step to be taken on this path is
for each one to perform well one���s own dharma or righteous duties.
Hinduism is unique because it differentiates between the duties of
man and woman, as also between the duties to be followed at various
stages of one's life. Lord Rama's dharma
as exile for 14 years was different to his later dharma as a ruler.
The teacher, the nurse, the priest, a mother or father each has to
follow his or her own dharma. Duties, whatever they are have to be
performed with excellence and moral purity as the goal.
The concept of Dharma is fundamental to Hinduism, as it is believed
that it is only through the pursuit of Dharma that there is social
harmony and peace in the world. The pursuit of
Adharma (a path that rejects righteousness) leads to
conflicts, discord and imbalance. The saying, 'Dharanat
Dharanat' means Dharma sustains the
world and it is that which holds the world together. It is duty
performed with righteousness, with discipline and moral and
spiritual excellence. Varnashrama Dharma
is fundamental to Hindu belief and includes the duties of the
various occupations, orders and classes and the duties in the four
stages of one's life. It enjoins that each person's dharma or duty
depends on his occupation, position, moral and spiritual
development, age and marital status.
Lord Ganapathi or
Ganesha is the deity who is worshipped by every Hindu before
starting any new venture. Lord Ganesha
is also known as ���Vighneshwara���
( vighna +
Eswara ) meaning ���the Lord (Eswara)
who removes all obstacles (Vighna)���. By
doing this homa or
homam, the devotee gets blessings from Lord
Ganesha that will enable devote to
improve family relationships, overcome diseases, attain goals
without any hindrances, overcome the enemies and overcome all
problems in life.
pooja is very important to get all types of prosperity. It is
dedicated to Lord Maha Vishnu to get
good children, good education, and peace of mind and to get success
in every stage of life. Most importantly, this
pooja can be performed on any date, at any time and anywhere.
is Sri Maha
Lakshmi Homa Or
Sri Maha Lakshmi
Homam is performed for the purpose of
gaining legitimate wealth. Those who are involved in business or are
facing financial problems may perform this
Homam to receive the blessings and grace of Goddess
One must perform this Homam when one is
facing financial difficulties and wish to earn wealth in abundance.
It is said that different benefits are bestowed to the performer of
this Homam such as improvement in
finances and recovery of dues. Even the mere recitation of the
mantras of this Homan bestows different categories of prosperity:
Financial prosperity, Domestic animals, Food grains, Ownership of
land, Royal influence, Mental strength
and Mystical powers.
Homam is dedicated to Lord Shiva to
avoid untimely death. The Mrityunjaya
Homam is performed to achieve
Jaya (victory) over
Mrityu (death). The object of worship of this
Homa is Lord Shiva. One of the synonyms
of Lord Shiva is ���Mrityu
Mrityu��� which means death of the death
or the destroyer of death. During this homam
one chants 21 mantras. The prominent offerings in this
homam are durva
grass and a herb called amrita. The
former is famous for purifying blood and the latter is a medicine
for incurable diseases like arbuda or
cancer. Since these are used as offerings in this
homam, there is no doubt that it bestows
longevity to the performer .The Mrityunyaja
homam is said to remove the fear of
death. The hymns are devoted to Mrityu,
the God of death, praying for long life. These hymns are used in the
purnahuti or the final offering in the
famous Soma sacrifice. This homam also
dosha or untimely death. This homam
is done to get the blessings of almighty God "Shri
Shankara ". By doing this
homam one gets the blessing of long life
with good health and overcomes any untimely dangers.
What is Sri
The desires of human
beings are innumerable and they vary in nature. As a result, the
sufferings they might undergo also are many. Sometimes it may result
in incurable diseases. It cannot be said that all sufferings and
ailments afflicting mankind have human solutions. There are many
things, which are beyond the work of human domain. These were the
areas where divine intervention was sought by the ancient seers.
This is where the mantras play a vital role. The mantras were the
tools, which were used by the sages to free the world from
sufferings. It is said, ���manah trayate iti
mantra��� ��� meaning ���mantras are mystic syllables that free the
chanter from inflictions���. In the Vaishnava
agamas the Sudarshana mantra is a very
Sudarshana Chakra or the divine disc of Maha Vishnu is one of the Lord���s
prominent weapons in annihilating evil forces. The Sudarshana yantra
is also as important as the Sudarshana
mantra. Usually Lord Sudarshana is seen
installed with eight or sixteen hands in Vishnu temples. It is
stated in the Ahirbudhnya Samhita that when the devotees are
suffering from the afflictions caused by incurable diseases,
sorcery, or enemies, Lord Sudarshana
dispels his fierce form and comes to their protection. When the last
rites of the dead are not performed properly it might sometimes
result in the sufferings of the progeny belonging to later
Navagraha Homa/Havan Or
This homam is done
to worship the nine Grahas (planets)
i.e. The Sun (Surya), Moon (Chandra),
Mars (Mangal or
Angaraka), Mercury (Budha),
Jupiter (Brihaspati), Venus (Shukra),
Maharaj), Rahu and Ketu. Every planet has its own
importance. Many times we hear people say ���we are going through
difficult times���. These difficult times are attributed to the
different Grahas (Planets), and their
position in the current time. These Grahas
can be appeased by performing the Graha shanti pooja.There
are two ways to perform this Pooja. If
the afflicted knows which Graha is
affecting, then the priest can perform the
pooja for the afflicted. The other way is for the priest to
find out from the person���s Janma Patri or Jathakam
the causatory planet and then perform
the Pooja for the particular Graha. Most prominent is the pooja for the Shani
graham for the 7 1/2 years Saturn period. Generally, by doing this homam, all nava graha doshas
are removed and good results will accrue.
What is ��� Sri Bhoo Varaah Homa?
Sri Varaaha is the
sixth incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu
and Sri Bhoo Devi
or Prithivi (Earth) is his wife. Sri Bhoo Devi is
also the sister of Sri Maha Lakshmi. This homam
is done to remove all ill effects of not constructing a house or
business center according to the established tenets of the Vastu Shastra,
which prescribes various principles and techniques for constructing
a house, business office and a temple. Houses, which are not built
according to this science, are said to invite various problems like
diseases, marital disharmony, problems in the family, loss in
business etc. These problems could be overcome by performing the Bhoo Varaha Homam.
What is Ayushya Homam (Special Birthday Pooja
This homam is done
to worship the god of life (Ayur Devatha). By doing this homam, one gets blessings for long life
from Ayur Devatha.
Sage Bodhayana explained about Ayushya homam
in the Bodhayana sutras. In general
practice, this is performed once a year on the day of the star in
which the child is born. It is started on the day the child
completes one year of age. In case one is unable to perform it on
this day, it should be done on the consecutive month.
What is Chandi Homa/Havan?
Chandi or DURGA has
been bestowed with different shakthis
(powers) from all devatas. Chandi was born with the energy coming
out of bodies of all the devatas and by
combining those energies into ONE she became very powerful so that
she could defeat the Rakshasa, the demon Mahishasura who had become a threat to
Durgadevi is worshipped in many forms with each having its
own significance. Thus there are different
poojas associated with her. Durga pooja is normally done to make one���s
wishes come true and can also be performed for any other
reason/occasion on any day according to the
muhurtam. The Chandi homa is a very unique sacrificial rite
involving powerful Saptasati mantras.
These mantras are 700 in number, spreading across in 13 chapters of
Purana. These 13 chapters are organized into three parts. The
1st chapter is devoted to Goddess Durga,
2nd, 3rd and 4th chapters extol the greatness of Goddess Mahalakshmi and the remaining chapters
are devoted to Saraswati. By performing
the Chandi homa,
the sufferings that are caused by hostile elements, are eradicated.
The sufferings resulting from poison, sorcery, thieves etc. are
removed by performing this homam. There
is a popular Pauranic (from Puranas) saying ���kalau chandi vinayakau���
which means ���in this age of kali, only two Gods respond immediately
to the prayers of devotees, they are Goddess
Chandi and Lord Ganesha���. The tantric texts
Marichi Kalpa Vaarahi tantra
rahasyam state the following as benefits of Chandi homa:
attainment of health, wealth, prosperity, longevity, food, wealth,
progeny, fame, success, strength etc, and removal of fear, ailments,
danger, defeat in the hand of adversaries etc. By performing the homam, evil planetary influences are
removed. Also, this homam is
specially performed during the Navaratri.
What is Sri Sarasvati Homa?
Goddess Saraswati (Sarasvati)
is the wife (consort) of Lord Brahma and possesses the powers of
speech, wisdom, knowledge and learning. She has four hands
representing four aspects of human personality in learning: mind,
intellect, alertness and ego. Sanskrit word ���sara���
means ���essence��� and ���swa��� means ���self���.
Thus Saraswati means ���The essence of the
self���. Saraswati is represented in Hindu
mythology as the divine consort of Lord Brahma, the Creator of the
universe. Since knowledge is necessary for creation, Saraswati symbolizes the creative power
of Brahma. Goddess
Saraswati is worshipped by
all persons who are interested in knowledge, especially students,
teachers, scholars, and scientists.
Why do we chant Om?
is one of the most chanted sounds/symbols in the world. It has a
profound effect on the body and mind of the one who chants and also
on the surroundings. Most Mantras and Vedic prayers start with Om. All auspicious actions begin with Om. It is even used as a greeting ��� ���Om!���,
etc. It is repeated as a mantra or meditated upon. Om���s form is worshipped, contemplated
upon or used as an auspicious sign. Om
is the universal name of the Lord. The vocalization of Om is made up of three letters/sounds A,
U and M - A (phonetically as in "Around"), U (phonetically as in
"Put") and M (phonetically as in "Mum"). The sound emerging from the
vocal chords starts from the base of the throat as "A". With the
coming together of the lips, "U" is formed and when the lips are
closed, all sounds end in "M". The three letters symbolize the three
physiological states (Waking, Dreaming and Deep Sleep), the three
deities (the trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva), the three Vedas
(Rig, Yajur and
Sama), the three worlds (Bhuh, Bhuvah, Suvah)
etc. The Lord is all these and beyond.
The formless, attributeless Lord
(Brahman) is represented by the silence between two Om chantings. Om is also called
Pranava that means "that (symbol or sound) by which the Lord
is praised". The entire essence of the Vedas is enshrined in the
word Om. It is said that the Lord
started creating the world after chanting Om
and Atha. Hence it���s
sound is considered to create an auspicious beginning for any task
that we undertake. The Om chant should
have the resounding sound of a bell (aaooommm).
Om is written in different ways in
different places. The most common form symbolizes Lord Ganesha. The upper curve is the head;
the lower large one, the stomach; the side one, the trunk; and the
semi-circular mark with the dot, the sweet-meat ball (Modaka)
in Lord Ganesha's hand. Thus Om symbolizes everything - the means and
the goal of life, the world and the Truth behind it, the material
and the Sacred, all form and the Formless.
Why do we have a
Most Indian homes have a
prayer room or altar. A lamp is lit and the Lord is worshipped each
day. Other spiritual practices like Japa
(repetition of the Lord's name), Meditation,
Paaraayana (reading of the scriptures), Prayers, devotional
singing etc. is also done here. Special worship is done on
auspicious occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, festivals and
the like. Each member of the family, young or old, communes with and
worships the Divine here.
The Lord is the entire creation. He is
therefore the true owner of the house we live in too. The prayer
room is the Master room of the house. We are the earthly occupants
of His property. This notion rids us of false pride and
possessiveness. The ideal attitude to take is to regard the Lord as
the true owner of our homes and ourselves as caretakers of His home.
But if that is rather difficult, we could at least think of Him as a
very welcome and most important guest. Just as we would house an
important guest in the best comfort, so too we felicitate the Lord's
presence in our homes by having a prayer room or altar, which is, at
all times, kept clean and well-decorated.
Also the Lord is all-pervading. To remind us that He resides in our
homes with us, we have prayer rooms. Without the grace of the Lord,
no task can be successfully or easily accomplished. We invoke His
grace by communing with Him in the prayer room each day and on
Each room in a house is dedicated to a
specific function like the Bedroom for resting, the Drawing room to
receive guests, the Kitchen for cooking etc. The furniture, decor
and the atmosphere of each room are made conducive to the purpose it
serves. So too for the purpose of Meditation, Worship and Prayer, we
should have a conducive atmosphere - hence the need for a prayer
room. Sacred thoughts and sound vibrations pervade the place and
influence the minds of those who spend time there. Spiritual
thoughts and vibrations accumulated through regular meditation,
worship and chanting done there pervade the prayer room. Even when
we are tired or agitated, by just sitting in the prayer room for a
while, we feel calm, rejuvenated and spiritually uplifted.
Why do we light a Lamp?
In almost every Indian
home a lamp is lit daily before the altar of the Lord. In some
houses it is lit at dawn, in some, twice a day - at dawn and dusk -
and in a few it is maintained continuously (Akhanda Deepa). All auspicious functions
commence with the lighting of the lamp, which is often maintained
right through the occasion.
Light symbolizes knowledge and darkness symbolizes ignorance. The
Lord is the "Knowledge Principle" (Chaitanya)
who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all
knowledge. Hence light is worshiped as the Lord himself. Knowledge
removes ignorance just as light removes darkness. Also knowledge is
a lasting inner wealth by which all outer achievements can be
accomplished. Hence we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as
the greatest of all forms of wealth. Why not light a bulb or tube
light instead of a lamp? That too would remove darkness. But the
traditional oil lamp has a further spiritual significance. The Oil
or Ghee in the lamp symbolizes our Vaasanas
or negative tendencies and the wick symbolizes the ego. When lit by
spiritual knowledge, the Vaasanas get
slowly exhausted and the ego too finally perishes. The flame of a
lamp always burns upwards. Similarly we should acquire such
knowledge that would take us towards higher ideals. Whilst lighting
the lamp we thus pray:
Deepa sarva Tamopahaha
Deepena saadhyate Saram
Sandhyaa deepo Namostute
Why do we do Namaste?
Indians greet each other
with namaste. The two palms are placed
together in front of the chest and the head bows whilst saying the
word namaste. This greeting is for all -
people younger than us, of our own age, those older than us, friends
and even strangers.
There are five forms of formal traditional greeting described in the shastras of which
namaskaram or namaste is one.
This is understood as prostration but it actually refers to paying
homage as we do today when we greet each other with a namaste. Namaste
could be just a casual or formal greeting, a cultural convention or
an act of worship. However there is much more to it than simple
salutation. In Sanskrit, namaste is
formed by two roots, namah + te = namaste. It means ��� ���I bow to you��� - my
greetings, salutations or prostration to you.
Namaha can also be literally interpreted as "na
ma" (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or
reducing one's ego in the presence of another. The real meeting
between people is the meeting of their minds. When we greet another,
we do so with namaste, which means, "may
our minds meet," indicated by the folded palms placed before the
chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending
friendship in love and humility. The spiritual meaning is even
deeper. The life force, the divinity, the Self or the Lord in me is
the same in all. Recognizing this oneness with the meeting of the
palms, we salute with head bowed to the Divinity in the person we
meet. That is why sometimes, we close our eyes as we do namaste to a revered person or the Lord
- as if to look within. The gesture is often accompanied by words
like "Ram Ram", "Jai Shri Krishna", "Namo Narayana", "Jai
Siya Ram", "Om Shanti" etc., - indicating the
recognition of this divinity. When we know this significance, our
greeting does not remain just a superficial gesture or word but
paves the way for a deeper communion with another in an atmosphere
of love and respect.
Why do we wear marks (Tilak
or Tika) on the forehead?
tilak invokes a feeling of sanctity in the wearer and others.
It is recognized as a religious mark. It���s
form and color vary according to one's caste, religious sect or the
form of the Lord worshipped. In earlier times, the four castes
(based on varna
or color) - Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya
and Sudra - applied marks differently.
applied a white chandan mark signifying
purity, as his profession was of a priestly or academic nature. The kshatriya
applied a red kumkum mark signifying
valor as he belonged to warrior race. The
vaishya wore a yellow kesar or
turmeric mark signifying prosperity as he was a businessman or
trader devoted to creation of wealth. The
sudra applied a black bhasma, kasturi
or charcoal mark signifying service as he supported the work of the
other three divisions. Also Vishnu worshippers apply a chandan tilak
of the shape of "U", Shiva worshippers a
tripundra (a mark of three horizontal lines on the forehead)
of bhasma, Devi
worshippers a red dot of kumkum and so
on. The three lines of 'tripundra' have
symbolism too! These three lines are supposed to represent: the
three vedas (Rig,
Yajur and Sama); the three
syllables (A, U, and M) of om; the three gunas (Sattva,
Rajas and Tamas); the three shaktis or powers (Kriyashakti, Icchashakti and
Jnanashakti) of Devi or divine
mother; the three pressings of soma juice in
somayaga (Pratassavana, Madhyandinasavana and Tritiyasavana) and so on.
tilak covers the spot between the eyebrows, which is the seat
of memory and thinking. It is known as the
Aajna Chakra in the language of Yoga. The tilak is applied with the prayer - "May
I remember the Lord. May this pious feeling pervade all my
activities. May I be righteous in my deeds".
Even when we temporarily forget this prayerful attitude the mark on
another reminds us of our resolve. The tilak
is thus a blessing of the Lord and a protection against wrong
tendencies and forces.
The entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves
- the forehead and the subtle spot between the eyebrows especially
so. That is why worry generates heat and causes a headache. The tilak or pottu
(or Bottu) cools the forehead, protects
us and prevents energy loss. Sometimes the entire forehead is
covered with chandan or bhasma. Use of plastic reusable adhesive
"bindis" is not very beneficial, even
though it serves the purpose of beautification or decoration.
Why do we Fast?
Most devout Indians fast
regularly or on special occasions like festivals. On such days they
do not eat at all, eat once or just consume fruits or a special diet
of simple food.
Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. Upa means "near" +
vaasa means "to stay". Upavaasa therefore means staying near
(the Lord), meaning the attainment of close mental proximity with
the Lord. Then what has upavaasa to do
with food? A lot of our time and energy in life is spent in
procuring food items, preparing, cooking, eating and digesting food.
Certain food types make our minds dull and agitated. Hence on
certain days man decides to save time and conserve his energy by
eating either simple, light food or totally abstaining from eating
so that his mind becomes alert and pure. The mind, otherwise
pre-occupied by the thought of food, now entertains noble thoughts
and stays with the Lord. Since it is a self-imposed form of
discipline it is usually adhered to with joy. Also every system
needs a break and an overhaul to work at its best. Rest and a change
of diet during fasting are very good for the digestive system and
the entire body. The more you indulge the senses, the more they make
their demands. Fasting helps us to cultivate control over our
senses, sublimate our desires and guide our minds to be poised and
Fasting should not make us weak, irritable or create an urge to
overindulge later. This happens when there is no noble goal behind
fasting. The Bhagavad Gita urges us to eat appropriately - ���yukta-aahaara���
- meaning neither too less nor too much ��� and to eat simple, pure
and healthy food (a saatvik diet) even
when not fasting.
Why do we offer food to the Lord
before eating it?
Indians make an offering
of food to the Lord and later partake of it as
prasaada - a holy gift from the Lord. In our daily
ritualistic worship (pooja) too we offer naivedyam (food) to the Lord. The
Lord is omnipotent and omniscient. Man is a part, while the Lord is
the totality. All that we do is by His strength and knowledge alone.
Hence what we receive in life as a result of our actions is really
His alone. We acknowledge this through the act of offering food to
Him. This is exemplified by the Hindi words "tera tujhko arpan"-
I offer what is Your���s to
You. Thereafter it is akin to His gift to
us, graced by His divine touch. A realization of this changes our
entire attitude to food and the act of eating. The food offered will
naturally be pure and the best. We share what we get with others
before consuming it. We do not demand, complain or criticize the
quality of the prasaada (food) we get.
We eat it with cheerful acceptance (prasaada buddhi).
Before we partake of our daily meals we first sprinkle water around
the plate as an act of purification. Five morsels of food are placed
on the side of the plate acknowledging the debt owed by us to the
Divine forces (devta runa) for their benign grace and
protection; our ancestors (pitru runa) for giving us their lineage and a
family culture; the sages (rishi runa) as our religion and culture have
been "realized", maintained and handed down to us by them; our
fellow beings (manushya runa) who constitute society without the
support of which we could not live as we do and other living beings
for serving us selflessly. Thereafter the Lord, the life force, who
is also within us as the five life-giving physiological functions,
is offered the food. This is done with the following chant:
After offering the food like this, it is then eaten as prasaada ��� the blessed food.
Why do we offer a Coconut?
In India one of the most
common offerings in a temple is a coconut. It is also offered on
occasions like weddings, festivals, the use of a new vehicle,
bridge, house etc. It is offered in the sacrificial fire whilst
performing homam. The coconut is broken
and placed before the Lord. It is later distributed as prasaada.
The fiber covering of the dried coconut is removed except for a tuft
on the top. The marks on the coconut make it look like the head of a
human being. The coconut is broken, symbolizing the breaking of the
ego. The juice within, representing the inner tendencies (vaasanas)
is offered along with the white kernel - the mind, to the Lord.
A mind thus purified by the touch of the Lord is used as prasaada (a holy gift). In the
traditional abhishekha ritual done in
all temples and many homes, several materials are poured over the
deity like milk, curd, honey, tender coconut water, sandal paste,
holy ash etc. Each material has a specific significance of bestowing
certain benefits on worshippers. Tender coconut water is used in abhisheka rituals since it is believed
to bestow spiritual growth on the seeker. The coconut also
symbolizes selfless service. Every part of the coconut tree -the
trunk, leaves, fruit, coir etc. is used in innumerable ways like
thatches, mats, tasty dishes, oil, soap etc. The coconut tree even
takes in salty water from the earth and converts it into sweet
nutritive water that is especially beneficial to sick people. It is
used in the preparation of many ayurvedic
medicines and in other alternative medicinal systems.
The marks on the coconut are even thought to represent the
three-eyed Lord Shiva and therefore it is considered to be a means
to fulfill our desires.
Why do we do Aarathi (or Aarthi)?
Towards the end
of every ritualistic worship (pooja
or bhajan) of the Lord or to welcome an
honored guest or saint, we perform the aarathi.
This is always accompanied by the ringing of the bell and sometimes
by singing, playing of musical instruments and clapping. It is one
of the sixteen steps (shodasha upachaara) of the
pooja ritual. It is referred to as the lighted lamp in the
right hand, which we wave in a clockwise circling movement to light
the entire form of the Lord. Each part is revealed individually and
also the entire form of the Lord. As the light is waved we either do
mental or loud chanting of prayers or simply behold the beautiful
form of the Lord, illumined by the lamp. At the end of the aarathi we place our hands over the
flame and then gently touch our eyes and the top of the head.
Having worshipped the Lord of love -
performing abhisheka, decorating the
image and offering fruits and delicacies, we see the beauty of the
Lord in all His glory. Our minds are focused on each limb of the
Lord as it is lit up by the lamp. It is akin to silent open-eyed
meditation on His beauty. The singing, clapping, ringing of the bell
etc. denote the joy and auspiciousness which accompany the vision of
Aarathi is often performed with camphor.
This holds a telling spiritual significance. Camphor, when lit,
burns itself out completely without leaving a trace of it. It
represents our inherent tendencies (vaasanas).
When lit by the fire of knowledge which
illuminates the Lord (Truth), our vaasanas
thereafter burn themselves out completely, not leaving a trace of
ego which creates in us a sense of individuality that keeps us
separate from the Lord. Also, while camphor burns to reveal
the glory of Lord, it emits a pleasant perfume even while it
sacrifices itself. In our spiritual progress, even as we serve the
guru and society, we should willingly sacrifice ourselves and spread
the "perfume" of love to all. We often wait a long while to see the
illuminated Lord but when the aarathi is
actually performed, our eyes close
automatically as if to look within. This is to signify that each of
us is a temple of the Lord.
Just as the priest reveals the form of the Lord
clearly with the aarathi flame, so too
the guru reveals to us the divinity within each of us with the help
of the "flame" of knowledge (or the light of spiritual knowledge).
At the end of the aarathi, we place our
hands over the flame and then touch our eyes and the top of the
head. It means ��� ���May the light that illuminated the Lord light up
my vision; may my vision be divine and my
thoughts noble and beautiful���. The philosophical meaning of aarathi extends even further. The sun,
moon, stars, lightning and fire are the natural sources of light.
The Lord is the source of these wondrous phenomena of the universe.
It is due to Him alone that all else exists and shines. As we light
up the Lord with the flame of the aarathi,
we turn our attention to the very source of all light which
symbolizes knowledge and life. Also the sun is the presiding deity
of the intellect, the moon, that of the mind, and fire, that of
speech. The Lord is the supreme consciousness that illuminates all
of them. Without Him, the intellect cannot think, the mind can not
feel and the tongue can not speak. The Lord is beyond the mind,
intellect and speech. How can this finite equipment illuminate the
Lord? Therefore, as we perform the aarathi
Na tatra suryo bhaati na chandra taarakam
Nemaa vidyuto bhaanti
Tameva bhaantam anubhaati sarvam
Tasya bhasa sarvam idam vibhaati
He is there where the sun does not shine, nor the moon, stars and
lightning. Then what to talk of this small flame (in my hand),
everything (in the universe) shines only after the Lord, and by His
light alone we are all illuminated.
Why do we say ���Shanti���
Shanti, meaning "peace", is a natural (default) state of
being. Disturbances are created either by us or others. For example,
peace already exists in a place until someone makes noise.
Therefore, peace underlies all our agitations. When agitations end,
peace is naturally experienced since it was already there. Where
there is peace, there is happiness. Therefore, every one without
exception desires peace in his/her life. However, peace within or
outside seems very hard to attain because it is covered by our own
agitations. A rare few manage to remain peaceful within even in the
midst of external agitation and troubles. To invoke peace, we chant
prayers. By chanting prayers, troubles end and peace is experienced
internally, irrespective of the external disturbances. All such
prayers end by chanting shanti thrice.
It is believed that trivaram satyam - that which is said thrice comes
true. For emphasizing a point we repeat a thing thrice. For example,
in the court of law also, one who takes the witness stands says, "I
shall speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".
We chant shanti thrice to emphasize our
intense desire for peace. All obstacles, problems and sorrows
originate from three sources - Aadhidaivika:
The unseen divine forces over which we have little or no control
like earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions etc.; Aadhibhautika: The known factors around
us like accidents, human contacts, pollution, crime etc.,; Aadhyaatmika:
Problems of our bodies and minds
like diseases, anger, frustrations etc.
We sincerely pray to the Lord that at least while we undertake
special tasks or even in our daily lives, there are no problems or
that, problems are minimized from these three sources. May peace
alone prevail! Hence shanti is chanted
thrice. It is chanted aloud the first time, addressing the unseen
forces. It is chanted softer the second time, directed to our
immediate surroundings and those around, and softest the last time
as it is addressed to oneself.
What is Vedic Astrology?
Vedic Astrology, called Jyotish Shastra,
the "Science of Light" has flourished in India for several thousand
years. As one of the true ancient systems of astrology, Vedic or
Hindu astrology is renowned for its spiritual depth and accuracy in
predicting future events. Based on the sidereal zodiac, it reflects
an astrologer's perception of the placement of the planets in the
constellations. Through its practical application in daily life,
Vedic Astrology has made tremendous inroads into the Western
astrological community in recent years. These predictions span
different areas: Life Prediction, Health, Finance, Marriage /
Relationships, Career and Business.
Astrology is the study of the
relationship between the stars and planets and our lives on earth.
Vedic Astrology involves the interpretation of the horoscope or
birth chart and it is essentially based on the idea of cycles and
patterns in life which correspond on the cycles of the planets.
Through the analysis of these cycles in the past and present it is
possible to interpret the possible future.
Astrology is a noble
science which is as old as the ages of the Vedas. It depends on the
position of the planets ascertained astronomically. It explains the
celestial phenomenon and the corresponding terrestrial events. The
true meaning of astrology is the "Message of Stars". By using
salient principles of Astrology depending on the position of the
planets ascertained astronomically one can forecast events for the
benefit of all and as such it is a useful science for interpreting
nature as it explains the cause and effects of events.
The astrologer's main tool is the birth
chart. This is the map of heavens drawn up for the time, place and
date of birth of the individual to whom it will refer. It shows the
positions of all the planets in the signs of zodiac at the time of
The skill of the astrologer is to interpret the birth chart, which
is said to set the pattern for the growth of the person throughout
their life. In other words, what will happen is described by the
positions of the planets and the signs of the zodiac at birth.
Astrology is based on a system of ���correspondences��� which means that
each planet will correspond with different ways of behaving
resulting in different personality patterns. Karma is the sum
total of one's physical, mental and spiritual efforts and in fact
they manufacture destiny. Astrology is based on the relationship of
cause and effects. If there is an effect, there must be a cause
preceding it. If an event good or bad happens today then there must
be a cause for it. Certain karmas produce immediate results wherein
others fructify after a long time period and this concept of law of
cause and effect takes one to the belief in birth and re-birth.
Karmas done in one birth must manifest some time in a later birth.