HINDU BELIEFS ABOUT DEATH: Mahabharat story about the grieving mother

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The hindu beliefs about death are fatalistic and derive from the principle of Samsara (repetitive cycle of life and death). Hinduism teaches us that the body is made of the 5 elements of nature and is perishable. The soul inhabits the body due to its past karma and then continues its journey in different bodies across many births to fulfill the unresolved desires which keep on arising due to the illusory identification of the soul with the body. This is called Samsara and forms the basis for the Hindu beliefs about death.

The hindu beliefs about death are reinforced in almost all the ancient scriptures whether it is the dialogue of Yama and Nachiketa or the dialogue of Bhisma and Yudhistira in the Mahabharat. There is a beautiful story in the Anushashana Parva of Mahabharata where a dying Bhisma, the valiant warrior, lies  on a bed of arrows and and instructs Yudhistira as well the other sages on coping with the death of their loved and near ones.

Hindu Beliefs about death: From the Mahabharat

Yudhistira is overcome with remorse and holds himself responsible for the death of so many great warriors including his grandfather. To console him, Bhisma narrates the insightful story about Gautami, the mother who lost her son. This story of a stoic mother and an angry hunter encapsulates the Hindu beliefs about death.

hindu beliefs about deathBhisma says to Yudhisthira who is languishing with grief, “Yudhisthira, why do you consider your soul to be the cause of these actions. The cause is dependent on destiny and time and the effects that arise cannot be understood by these 5 senses. To ease your understanding, let me tell you the ancient story of Gautami and her conversation with Mrityu (death) and Kala (time). O sun of Kunti, the story will correct your beliefs about death.”

There was an old lady by the name of Gautami, who was calm & patient by nature and had achieved tranquility of mind. One day she was informed that her son died after being bitten by a snake. While she grieved about her lost son, a hunter named Arjunaka caught the snake that had bitten her son.

An angry Arjunaka brought the snake before Gautami and said, “This is the snake that is the cause of your son’s death. Tell me how should I punish it? Should I throw it in fire or should I cut it in pieces in front of you?”

Gautami saw the trapped snaked and replied, ‘O Arjunaka, release the snake. Do not kill it. Why do you want to take the bad karma of killing the snake for what has already happened? A person’s duty is to perform virtuous deeds for such deeds will help him or her cross this samsara with the ease of a ship crossing the ocean. Those who perform sinful deeds will sink at the bottom  of this ocean. By killing this snake, my son will not be restored to life. And by releasing the snake in the wild, there will be no harm caused to you. Release this living creature.”

The hunter said, “O Lady, you speak wisely but these are mere words and meant for normal times. How can you ask me to release the serpent in this time of sorrow? I must kill the snake. It is but normal for people to release their grief by taking revenge on the perpetrator. Thus let me kill the snake to lessen your grief.”

Gautami replied, “Good people have their intent only on being compassionate to others. The death of my son was a move of destiny. I will not approve the destruction of this snake. Therefore O Kind hunter, forgive the snake and release it out of compassion.”

The hunter was not convinced and replied, “We will get merit by killing this snake. After all, even creatures are sacrificed on the altar to earn merit. Merit is acquired by killing an enemy. By killing this despicable creature, you shalt acquire great merit.”

Gautami replied, “O Arjunaka of little understanding, what merit is there in killing an enemy and what good can be obtained by not releasing an enemy in our power? Be kind and forgive the snake. We will only earn merit by releasing the snake. Not by tormenting it.”

The hunter countered, “If we kill this snake, we will be protecting a lot of other creatures from its bite. We are killing the wicked snake to save the innocent creatures. That is virtuous. Thus let us kill this snake.”

Gautami replied, “By killing this snake, O hunter, my son will not be restored to life. Exercise compassion and release this living creature.”

The hunter took solace in his understandings of the scriptures and said, ‘By killing Vritra, Indra secured the best portion (of sacrificial offerings), and by destroying a sacrifice Mahadeva secured his share of sacrificial offerings: hence we are justified to destroy the snake.”

The noble Gautami was repeatedly incited by the hunter to kill the snake. But Gautami held on to her beliefs about death and argued with Arjunaka to exercise compassion and release the living snake.

The snake who was withering in the net of the hunter and was in great paid, then slowly spoke in a human voice, “O foolish hunter, why do you say it is my fault? I have no will of my own, and am driven by my nature. Mrityu (Death) sent me on this errand. It is by Mrityu’s dictate that I have bitten the child. I did not bite him out of anger nor did I have a choice. Mrityu led me to bite her son. If you want to hold someone responsible, then it is Mrityu. Go and address him.”

The hunter said, “You have done this evil. You were the chief instrument in this act of death. In the making of an earthen pot, the potter’s wheel, the rod and other things are the causes. Similarly you are one of the cause of this act. You deserve death. Confess to your sin.”

The serpent replied, “Like you said, to make an earthen pot there are many causes like the potter’s wheel, the rod and other things. Similarly the sin of death of this lady’s son is the aggregate of causes and not on me. I was directed by my nature to come and bite the boy. The cause of my bite is not independent but working in unison with other causes that brought about this destiny for the boy. If you want to know the true cause, then go to the one (Mrityu) who has driven me to bite the boy.”

The hunter replied angrily, “O foolish snake, you think I will spare your life if you speak clever words. You will die at my hands for you have killed an infant.”

The snake said, “O hunter, just like the priests who perform a yagna for the devotee do not acquire the merit by offering the oblations of ghee in the yagna fire, similarly I tell you again, it is Mrityu that has to be regarded as the cause and not me.”

Mrityu was hearing this conversation between Gautami, Arjunaka and the snake. He himself appeared before them. He addressed the snake.

Hindu beliefs about death: Conversation of Mrityu, Kala and Gautami

Mrityu said, “O Snake, Guided by Kala (Time), I did send you on this errand but neither you nor I am the cause of this child’s death. Like clouds are scattered and directed by the wind, similarly I, like the clouds, am directed by Kala. The natures of Satva, Rajas or Tamas are caused by Kala in all creatures. All mobile and immobile creatures, whether in heaven or earth, are influenced by Kala. All existent and non-existent objects are destroyed by Kala or time.

                Also Read: TIME GIVES A TIMESLESS SERMON ON DEATH

Knowing this, O snake, realize that I am not guilty for the child’s death. If any fault is attached to me for this event, then the fault is also attached to you.”

The serpent said, “O Mrityu, I do not blame you but I do not totally release you from being guilty for the boy’s death. I only state that I am influenced in my actions by you.”

Then the serpent, addressing Arjunaka, said, “O hunter, you have listened to what Mrityu has said. Hence stop tormenting me as I am not guilty.”

The hunter said, “I have listened to both of you. I hold both you as the causes and hence responsible for the child’s death. Both of you have committed this sin.”

Mrityu said, “We do not operate out of our free will but as per the dictates of Kala. We are destined to do our appointed work by Kala. If you introspect on this truth deeply, you will realize that the fault is not ours.”

The hunter said, “If both of you, O snake and Mrityu, are dependent on Kala, then how is pleasure (arising from doing good) and anger (arising from doing evil) caused?”

Mrityu replied, “Know that all actions are done under the influence of Kala. Kala is the cause of all and both of us were acting under the dictate of Kala to do our appointed work.”

Kala who was watching this argument, them came on the scene and spoke to everyone assembled together.

Kala said, “O hunter, neither Mrityu, nor this snake are guilty for the death of the boy. Neither am I guilty of the death of any creature. We are responsible for merely bringing about the immediate causes for the event of this death. O hunter, the death of the boy was due to his own karma. There was no other reason for his death except his own Sanchita and Prarabhdha Karma. The boy has met with death as the result of his Karma in the past. All of us have to face the effects of the lives we live in the present and the past. We are all subject to the influence of our respective Karma. It is the karma which can lead one to salvation or keep one enmeshed in the repetitive cycle of life and death. It is the karma which indicates whether a man is considered good or evil. The effects that you see in the present life are cumulative results of your past actions. Just like men can make any shape from a lump of clay that they are provided with, similarly the results that they achieve in their present life are shaped from their own actions in the past. As light and shadow follow each other, similarly men and karma follow each other. Thus, it is neither you, nor Mrityu nor this chaste lady nor me who is the cause of the child’s death. He himself is the cause here.”

Bhishma continued, “The snake was released into freedom. Kala and Mrityu went back to their respective destinations. Gautami took solace from the words of Kala and the hunter too became consoled.  Having heard this story O Yudhisthira, forget your grief and attain peace of mind. These men have achieved death as part of their own karma. This evil brought about by war is not your creation nor Duryodhana’s. Know that these people have been slain as a result of the acts of Kala.”


 

 

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Varaha avatar story: Why did Lord Vishnu take the form of Varaha?

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Varaha avatar is the third avatar of Lord Vishnu which was manifested as a boar. The Varaha avatar followed the Matsya avatar (first avatar) and the Kurma avatar (second avatar). In the Varaha avatar, Lord Vishnu incarnated as a boar to save the earth (Prithvi) from a deluge by killing the asura Hiranayaksha. There is a greater significance in the Varaha avatar story that is not readily known. The Varaha avatar of Lord Vishnu has two purposes: one to rescue the earth from the deluge so that Lord Brahma could start creation and second to rescue his two greatest devotees: Hiranayaksha and Hiranyakashipu!

Varaha avatar story: The lesser known truth

varaha avatar storyThe lesser known truth in the Varaha avatar story is not known to many people although the story is mentioned in the scriptures. The reason that Lord Vishnu incarnated as the boar was to fulfil his promise and remove the curse on two of his biggest devotees: Jaya and Vijaya. The seeds of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations in various yugas were laid long back to propagate creation.

The cause and effect that determines the world in the four yugas has its beginnings in the story about Jaya and Vijaya.

The Varaha Avatar Story 

Jaya and Vijaya were the gatekeepers of Vaikuntha. Jaya and Vijaya once stopped the four kumaras (mistaking them as children) from seeing Lord Vishnu. The four kumaras kept on requesting to meet Lord Vishnu but neither Jaya and Vijaya conceded to their demands.

The kumaras were enraged and cursed the two gatekeepers, “Lord Vishnu belongs to this devotees. Just as you have caused us separation from Lord Vishnu, both of you will also lose your divinity and take birth as mortals on earth, getting separated from Lord Vishnu.”

For Jaya and Vijaya, the thought of separating from Lord Vishnu is unimaginable and they fall at the grace of Vishnu and request him to remove the curse of the kumaras. Vishnu refuses saying that the curse of the kumaras cannot be dishonored but reassures Jaya and Vijaya that he will take birth with them for all their mortal births on earth. Lord Vishnu then offers them two choices: The first option is to take seven births on Earth as a devotee of Vishnu, while the second is to take three births as his enemy. Jaya and Vijaya cannot bear the thought of staying away from Vishnu for seven lives.

Jaya says, “Everyone who is born has to die and what better way to go than to be relieved of this earthly existence by you, our Lord.”
It was Jaya and Vijaya who were born as Hiranayaksha and Hiranyakashipu in the Satya Yuga. The maya created by Lord Vishnu is such that he rescued his devotees and also ensured that the Prithvi was rescued from the deluge to start the process of creation. It was in the Varaha avatar that Lord Vishnu fought Hiranayaksha for a thousand years and defeated him to rescue him from the earth. Then on his two tusks, the Varaha avatar brought the earth back from the depths of the ocean for creation to begin.

Varaha Avatar Depiction

The varaha avatar is depicted with four arms: one arm holds the Sudarshana chakra, the other arm holds the shankha (conch), yet another arm holds a gada (mace) and the other arm makes the varamudra gesture (for blessing). The Varaha avatar resurrects the earth from pralaya (dissolution of the universe) and paved the way for the creation to begin.

Varaha Avatar- Temples

One of the most  prominent temple of the Varaha avatar is the Sri Varahaswami Temple in Tirumala Andhra Pradesh, near Tirupati. At the end of Satya Yuga, when the earth had been rescued by the Varaha Avatar and creation started, the devotees of Lord Vishnu requested him to stay on earth. Lord Vishnu in his Varaha avatar ordered his vehicle Garuda to bring his divine garden Kridachala from his abode Vaikuntha to Venkata hills,

The oldest Varaha temple is Nav Toran (nine pillars) temple in Jawad, Madhya Pradesh.

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Matsya Avatar- The Story of Matsya Avatar

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Matsya avatar is the first avatar of Lord Vishnu. In puranic literature, all the avatars of Lord Vishnu are taken to rescue his devotees. In Satya Yuga, Lord Vishnu incarnated as the Matsya avatar (incarnation of a fish) to rescue his devotee King Manu from the great deluge.

The puranic story of Matsya Avatar

The reasons for Lord Vishnu to take the Matsya Avatar were two-fold.

matsya avatar storyThe first reason for the Matsya Avatar was to grant the wish of his devotee and save him from the deluge at the end of Satya Yuga. There was a king named Manu in Satya yuga who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. He performed a number of penances to fulfil his desire to physically meet Lord Vishnu.

The second reason for the Matsya avatar was to rescue the Vedas which were stolen by the demon Hayagriva and hidden at the bottom of the ocean. As the preserver of the universe, Lord Vishnu ensures that the knowledge of the Vedas passes from one Yuga to another.

The story of Matsya Avatar and King Manu

Lord Vishnu decided to fulfil the King’s wish. One day, when Manu went to the river and began his prayers, he took water in his hands and raised his hands above his head, offering the water to Lord Vishnu as was the custom of beginning his prayers.

When Manu was about to pour the water back into the river, he noticed a tiny fish in his hands. The king considered his duty to save the fish since it had taken refuge in his hands. A lot of bigger fishes were swimming in the river who would be predators to the tiny fish. The King placed the fish in his “kamandalam”.

Manu finished his prayers and returned to the palace. Next morning he noticed that the fish had grown in size and seemed to struggle in the kamandalan. Immediately the King got a bigger vessel and poured the fish in it. When Manu was going to begin his morning prayers, he noticed in surprise that the fish had outgrown the bigger vessel as well. Manu summoned the biggest container in his palace and placed the fish in in. After some time, the fish outgrew the vessel too and Manu was anxious. As a king, it was his duty to save the animal who had taken his refuge. Seeing the fish wither in pain, the king took the vessel and poured the fish back in the river. But the fish continued growing and filled the river too. Manu realized that this was a play of the Maya, but his Dharma did not permit him to forsake the fish. Finally Manu made transit arrangements and shifted the fish to the ocean. As soon as the fish was dropped into the ocean, it became gigantic in size and seemed to fill one side of the ocean.

Manu bowed before the fish and said, “You are Lord Vishnu, you are Narayana. Please accept my prayers.”

Lord Vishnu replied, “You wanted to see me and here I am.”

Tears rolled down Manu’s eyes and he noticed that a horn grew on the head of the fish.

The Matysa avatar informed Manu that Satya Yuga was coming to an end and the King should arrange a vessel for himself, the 7 rishis, seeds of plants and animals to safely cross the deluge and live in the next Yuga.

It was Lord Vishnu who took the Matsya Avatar to steer the ship with it horn. The Matsya avatar led the ship carrying the King and the 7 rishis to safety during the deluge. After saving his devotees, the Matsya Avatar  then went and fought the demon Hayagriva to restore the Vedas.

Matsya Avatar- Temples in India

There are very few temples where Vishnu in this avatar is worshipped. Prominent ones include the Shankhodara temple in Bet Dwarka and Vedanarayana Temple in Nagalapuram. Matsya is the patron deity of the Meenas, who claim descent from the deity. The Meenas call Matsya Meenesh, the Lord of the Meenas or the fish (Meena) Lord. In Rajasthan there are many temples of Meenesh, but the first Meenesh temple was in Pushkar, Rajasthan. A Meenesh temple is also situated in Malarana chour village of Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan. Other temples include Meenangadi Matsyavathra Mahavishnu Temple and Matsya Narayana Temple, Bangalore.

Matsya Avatar- Mithila painting

Mithila paintings revolve around Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The motif behind Mithila paintings is to portray God & men in nature while borrowing heavily from the ancient epics of India. Mithila paintings use natural dyes to remind us of our lineage with ancient epics of India.

Click to view Mithila painting- Matsya Avatar

 

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KURMA AVATAR- Significance of the Kurma Avatar Story

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Kurma avatar is is the second avatar of Lord Vishnu following the Matsya Avatar. The word Kurma means Tortoise, and the story of the Kurma Avatar of Vishnu has its beginning in the Puranas. The Kurma Avatar was taken by Lord Vishnu to help the Gods win the amrita or elixir of life over the demons during the churning of the ocean.  All the stories mentioned in the Puranas have a deeper significance. Similarly the Kurma Avatar story has a profound meaning that has to be interpreted.

Kurma avatar- The secret and the significance

kurma avatar storyAs per the puranic story, the Gods and Demons had churned the ocean to obtain the elixir of life. The churning is symbolized by a literal tug of war between the Gods and Demons in the story. The ocean is representative of the deep consciousness or the human mind.  The Gods and demons themselves symbolize our own good and satanic tendencies. The tug of war represents the struggle in our own selves to choose between the good and bad karma in our every day life. And by the choices that we make by our own free will, it be determined whether we get a chance to taste the elixir of life (represented by liberation from samsara) or remain mortal (bonded in samsara- repetitive cycle of life and death).

In the puranic story, the churning stick is Mount Mandara that is used to churn the ocean. Mount Mandara represents the sum total of all our efforts in this life that are used to churn our own thought process and develop our mind. When the Mount Mandara starts drowning in the mid ocean (symbolizing our own despair in life), Lord Vishnu takes the form of a tortoise and attaches himself as the base to stop the moutain from sinking.  Also in the story, at one point, the mountain rises higher (symbolizing our own pride) and the Mount Mandara goes out of range for it to churn the ocean. It is again Lord Vishnu who takes the form of an eagle and sits on top to balance the weight and complete the churning.

This symbolizes that while we excercise our own free will and make our own efforts, a faith in the divine will help us to neither drown in despair in times of adversity or lose our humility in times of success.

KURMA AVATAR- A SCIENTIFIC ANECDOTE

Another  similarity that is often linked to Darwin’s theory is in evolution. The evolution theory tells us that after the aquatic organisms, amphibians were formed. Similarly in the puranas, the first incarnation of Lord Vishnu Matsya avatar (fish- aquatic) is followed by the Kurma avatar (tortoise- amphibian). This is in line with many such stories or incidents in the Vedas, that have a direct link with the formation of the universe.

KURMA AVATAR- THE PURANIC STORY

The story starts with a meeting between Sage Durvasa and Lord Indra. Sage Durvasa as a mark of respect offers a garland of flowers to Lord Indra. The king of Gods, Lord Indra who is seated on his elephant, Airavata, takes the garland of flowers and places it on the forehead of the elephant. The elephant takes the garland and throws it down on the earth.

The chief of sages Durvasa, angry at this disrespectful treatment of his gift, proclaims to the King of Gods that his kingdom will be ruined.

Destiny acts to fulfill the words of Sage Durvasa and the Asuras (demons) declare war on the Gods.  The Gods want to taste the nectar of immortality and approach Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu advises the Gods to churn the ocean along with the Demons and offer them a share of nectar as well.

The Mandara mountain is to be used to the churning stick and the snake Vasuki is the churning rope. But once the churning starts, the mountain starts drowning in the ocean as there is no support base to keep it afloat. It is then Lord Vishnu took the form of the tortoise (Kurma Avatar) to keep the mountain afloat. It is Kurma avatar, the tortoise, that goes below the mountain and stops it from sinking.

There were a lot of divine objects and fortunate things that arise in the Kurma Avatar Story- Wish-fulfilling tree Kalpavriksha, Wish-fulfilling cow Kamadhenu,  Wish-fulfilling gem Chintamani, Seven-headed flying horse Ucchaishrava, Six-tusked elephant Airavata, Conch – Panchajanya,  Bow of king Saranga,  Beautiful nymph Rambha, Moon-god, Chandra, Goddess of ocean Varuni, Physician Dhanvantari. An incarnation of Vishnu, the enemy of disease, he brought with him Ayurveda, Goddess of fortune Lakshmi,  Elixir of immortality Amrita, and the poison Halahal.

The Goddess Lakshmi chooses Vishnu and thus chooses the Gods over the demons. The Gods restored with their vigor and energy fight the Asuras again and prevail over them.

Kurma Jayanati, or the day when the incarnation of Lord Vishnu happened, is observed on Purnima or full moon day in the month of Vaisakha.

The temples dedicated to the Kurma Avatar are located in Kurmai, Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh, and Srikurmam, Srikakulam District, Andhra Pradesh. The name of the village Kurmai originated as there is historical temple of Kurma Varadarajaswamy (Kurmavatar of Lord Vishnu), god in this village. The temple located in Srikurmam in Srikakulam District, Andhra Pradesh, is also the Avatar of Kurma.

Click to see Kurma Avatar idol (in coppper and brass) to be kept at office and home:

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Holi Festival- Significance of the Holi Festival

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The Holi festival is the traditional Indian festival of colors that marks the arrival of spring and the end of winter. Ritually, the Holi festival is a celebration of love, friendship and the zest of life through colors. In ancient scriptures, the festival of Holi represents a celebration of the triumph of good over evil.

Significance of Holi festivalIt is important to understand that in Hinduism, the various festivals are events that give us an opportunity to celebrate every act and event of creation that links us to our past. The common thread in the celebration of all major Hindu festivals is a puranic tale that talks about the Gods defeating the demons. In a philosophical sense, the Gods and demons are representations of our own good and evil tendencies. The celebration of these festivals is to empower and encourage us to choose wisely and perform good deeds. The holi festival also has its genesis in ancient stories that are mentioned in our ancient scriptures.

Significance of Holi festival: Why do we celebrate Holi

The english word “festival” translates as “Utsava” in Sanskirt. Utsava is formed from ut’ meaning ‘removal’ and sava’ meaning ‘misery’.

When we celebrate the festival of Holi we are basically expressing the joy of participating in the diversity of life and reminding ourselves that each “winter” in our life is temporary and will be followed by a joyful “spring”

The word Holi originates from the word Holika who was the sister of king Hiranyakashipu, a demon king. According to the legend, King Hiranyakashipu, king of Multan had become virtually indestructible because of a boon that he had earned and that had made him arrogant. He demanded that people consider him as God and worship him. His son Prahlad, however, did not worship him and remained an ardent worshipper of Lord Vishnu. This angered Hiranyakashipu, and he subjected his son to several punishments. However, none of those punishments affected him. The King then asked his sister, Holika who was immune to fire to sit on a pyre with Prahlad on her lap. Prahalad continued to recite Lord Vishnu’s name. With the blessings of God, the fire didn’t do any harm to him, but Holika got burnt to ashes. It is the death of Holika that signifies the importance of Holika Dahan. By remembering this story, people celebrate Holi every year to reinforce their faith in the almighty and take solace from the fact that “bhakti” or faith will take them through the trials of Kali Yuga.

Colors becoming a part of the Holi festival is also dated back to the time of Lord Krishna and Radha. Lord Krishna used to celebrate the festival with colors and play Holi with his friends at Vrindavan and Gokul. This has led to people also interpret Holi as a celebration between the divine love of Lord Krishna and Radha. Remembering this incident, people apply colors to forget personal enmity and forgive & forget.

Popularly, the festival of Holi is celebrated with friends and family coming together and enjoy themselves by playing with “gulal” or colors. The common belief is that Holi is being celebrated to welcome spring and bid goodbye to the winters. It is also known as Vasant Mahotsava because spring harvest is associated with it. The festival brings happiness and prosperity for all. People also drench each other with colored water to celebrate this festival.

The Holi festival starts on Purnima and lasts for two days. The first day of the holi festivals is known as Choti Holi or Holika Dahan and the second day of the Holi festival is known as Holi or Dhulandi. The festival of Holi falls in the month of Falgun, somewhere between the end of February to the middle of March.

How is the Holi Festival celebrated in different Parts of India?

  • significance of holi festivalThe festival of Holi is celebrated in Vrindavan and Mathura with much pomp and joy as it is here where Lord Krishna spent his childhood. The celebrations in these places span over a week with people visiting temples of Lord Krishna and Radha to get themselves drenched in color and colored water.
  • In Barsana (Radha’s village) people play Lathmaar Holi. This is said to be a recreation of the time when Lord Krishna who was from the Nandgaon village visited Radha’s village to play Holi along with his friends. However, sticks were hurled at them to drive them out of the village. Keeping in sync with the tradition, it is still done every year with women hurling sticks at the men and the men trying to save themselves.
  • In western India, the tradition is to hang a pot of buttermilk high up in the middle of the street. People form a human staircase and try to break the pot. Whoever succeeds in breaking the pot is crowned as the winner of that area for a year. The tradition of breaking pots is linked to the habit of Lord Krishna who used to steal and break the pots of buttermilk at people’s houses.
  • In Eastern India, the way of celebrating the festival of Holi is slighly different. People in Bengal play with a colored powder called Abeer or with colored powder and colored water. Holi here is known as Dol Yatra. Idols of Krishna and Radha are placed on a swing, and people take turns to swing them. Orissa also has similar traditions as those of Bengal and celebrate the festival in a similar way.
  • In North East India, Holi is a six-day festival. In earlier times, folk dances and folk songs were performed under the moonlight. This has changed now, and the folk songs have been replaced by modern bands. People set ablaze a thatched hut of twigs and hay, and devotees dance and play with gulal in front of Lord Krishna’s temple. Several cultural activities are performed on the last day of the festival.

The Holi festival has gained popularity and is now celebrated in different parts of the world too.

Holika Dahan is celebrated one day before Holi where a pyre is lit. The ritual symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. People sing and dance around the pyre.

The festival of Holi is said to strengthen the feeling of brotherhood among the people. It remains as the festival that is celebrated with much joy and ecstasy all over India by people of all ages.

               ALSO READ: THE STORY OF GODDESS LAKSHMI

Usage of colors in the Holi Festival

In earlier times, the colors known as gulal were made from the flowers of the “palash” or “tesu” tree. No chemicals were added, causing no harm to the skin. But, these days’ artificial colors are made using harsh chemicals that cause skin irritation at times.

Holi Festival Dates in 2017

Holika Dahan or Choti Holi is on the 12th of March

Holi or Rangwali Holi is on the 13th of March

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Significance of Navratri- Navratri 2017 dates

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Navratri 2017 dates are from September 21 to September 27, 2017. The various interpretations of Navratri lead to a single fact- the triumph of good over evil. The festival of Navratri represents the triumph of our own sattvic tendencies over our bad habits and this triumph is celebrated by the entire country in these nine colorful nights.

Navratri 2017 Dates : Significance of Navratri

Navratri 2017 DatesThe Sanskrit meaning of the word Navratri is “nine nights”. The festival of Navratri extends over nine nights and the nine forms of Devi are worshipped in Navratri.

The most popular story about Navratri is from the Markendya Purana. The sacred text narrates how Goddess Durga helped the gods by killing Mahishasura, a demon who took many different forms, including that of a buffalo. For killing Mahishasura, Goddess Durga is also known as Mahishasura Mardini.

It is important to realize the significance of the battle between the Devi and the Asuras. Although this is told in the form of a story and has religious significance, at another level it also denotes the everyday battles that we face in life. This battle is between the sattvic (divine) and tamasic (demoniac) tendencies prevalent in each one of us. Each day we make choices out of our free will that determine our mental and spiritual evolution in this cycle of life and death.

        READ THE STORY ABOUT DEVI DEFEATING MAHISASURA

 Navratri 2017 dates: 9 forms of Goddess Durga that will be worshipped

The first day of Navratri is the ‘Kalash Sthapna’ day when an earthen pot or a metal pot is kept in front of the Devi. This pot is not to be touched or moved for the next nine days. Also around the pot, grain seeds are spread, and the plants are noticed growing from the seeds for the next nine days.

The following 9 forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped:

  • Devi Shailaputri (Navratri 2017 dates: September 21)

 The first day is dedicated for the worship of Shailaputri. She is the daughter of the mountains or the Himalayas, and she is also sometimes known as Hemavana or Hemavati. She has a trident and lotus in both her hands and she is seen riding a bull.

 

  • Devi Brahmacharini (Navratri 2017 dates: September 22)

 The second day is the day of Devi Brahmacharini. She carries a rosary and a water utensil in both her hands. She is the goddess of happiness and peace, and  she is known as the route to Moksha.

 

  • Devi Chandraghanta (Navratri 2017 dates: September 23)

Devi Chandraghanta is worshiped on the third day. She got this name as she carries a half moon in the shape of a bell at the head. The goddess rides a lion and carries different weapons in her hands. She has a bright complexion with the third eye open on her forehead. She is known for her bravery for fighting against the demons.

 

  • Devi Kushmanda (Navratri 2017 dates: September 24)

 Devi Kushmanda is the goddess worshiped on the fourth day of Navratri. She has eight hands with weapons, and she rides a lion. She is known to be the creator of the whole universe.

 

  • Devi Skandmata (Navratri date 2017: September 25)

 The fifth day is the worship day of Devi Skandamata. She is the mother of Lord Kartikeya who is the commander in chief of the gods for wars.

 

  • Devi Katyayani (Navratri date 2017: September 26)

 On the sixth day, Devi Katyayani is worshiped. It is said that there lived a sage named Kata. Though he had a son named Katya, he craved for a daughter as the Devi. Due to his strong devotion, Devi Adi Shakti blessed him with a daughter who was named Katyayani.

 

  • Devi Kaalratri (Navratri date 2017: September 27)

 The fierce Devi Kaalratri is worshiped on the seventh day. She is dark and fearless. She has weapons in her hands with all her three eyes open. It is said that during the war, whenever the blood of the demons would drop on the earth, a new demon was born. To stop this Devi took this form and started killing the demons and drinking the blood so that it does not touch the Earth.

 

  • Devi Maha Gauri (Navratri date 2017: September 28)

 It is said that once Devi Parvati was in intense meditation for a long time. Her entire form turned into black from the energy of her Tapas. It was then Lord Shiva cleaned her, and she gained back her  beauty and glory. This form of Devi Parvati is called Maha Gauri and she is worshiped now on the eighth day of Navratri.

 

  • Devi Siddhidatri (Navratri date 2017: September 29)

 On the final day or the ninth day, Devi Siddhidatri is worshiped. She rides a lion and has supernatural powers of healing. It is believed that after the war ended with the demons, Devi Siddhidatri healed the whole world with her powers that was destroyed by the demons.

It is also believed, the Lord Rama, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu killed the demon king Ravana on this very day to free Devi Sita from Ravana who had kidnapped Sita. As with most Hindu religious texts, thre is a secret behind why Devi allowed herself to get kidnapped by Ravana and why did Lord Vishnu take birth as maryada purshottam Ram.

The banishment of Sita or Sita’s agnipariksha in Ramayana is often misunderstood and actually has a hidden significance.

READ ABOUT THE SECRET BEHIND SITA’S BANISHMENT

       There is an additional philosophical significance behind celebrating Navratri. Our saints were quite intelligent and far-sighted to understand the environment and hence set a norm to celebrate Navratri. It is believed in Hindu Vedas that due to climatic changes, the energies within us also keep on changing. The positive energies are known as Sattvic while the negative energies are said to be Tamasic.

It is said that during the month of Vadraba, the energy level is naturally low and hence we are prone to fall victim to negative traits such as ego, temper and hatred. This is the reason why Ganapati Puja is performed for the first ten days. After a few days of the Puja, Shradha month is followed that helps in increasing our energy. To celebrate this victory of Sattva over Tamas, the festival Navratri is celebrated on the initial days of Ashvin.

Navratri 2017 will be celebrated in the month of September. Kalashsthapna or Ghatsthapna will be held on 21st of September that is also considered to be the first day of Navratri. After nine days of celebration, on 30th of September Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra will be celebrated.

There are four Navratri’s in a year. The one mentioned above is the Maha Navratri. The other important Navratri’s are Chaitra Navratri and Gupt Navratri.

  SUGGESTED READING:

     THE STORY OF GODDESS LAKSMI

   LESSER KNOWN PURANIC STORY:  WHY GANESHA HAS AN ELEPHANT HEAD

SHIVA LING: MEANING AND SIGNIFICANCE

LORD VISHNU’S TEACHING: DATTA DAYADHVAM DAMYATA

LORD BRAHMA’S TEACHING ON WHAT IS ATMAN

 

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The truth behind Sita’s exile: Sita Agnipariksha meaning

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The Exile of Sita remains the most misunderstood episode of Ramayana. Why did Rama Banish Sita? And what is the truth behind Sita Agnipariksha?

The meaning behind Sita’s Agnipariksha: Why did Rama banish Sita?

Let us quickly refer to the other incidents mentioned in the same scripture (Ramayana) where Rama interacts with four women. They are:

  1. Ahalya, the wife of the sage Gautama Maharishi was cursed to remain as a stone for being tricked into infidelity. Many great sages and Demi gods appeared in Gautam Maharishi’s ashram but no one could liberate Ahalya from the curse. Because the underlying condition ordained was that Ahalya could be liberated from a being who would not judge her. No one among the great sages or among the demigods could liberate her because they all had preconceived notions about her behavior. She remained ostracized from the society until Rama came and liberated her. Rama was the only one who was spiritually evolved not to judge Ahalya on her “perceived sin.”
  2. The second incident is Rama’s meeting with Shabari was an old woman, an outcaste who lived alone in a hut in a forest. She served Ram berries which she had tasted before and were partially eaten. Protocol demanded that guests be treated like Gods and offering food that was already eaten constituted as a sin. Laxman was offended and rejected it instantly. It was Ram who not only calmed Laxman down but also ate the berries with a sense of gratitude; in return for the berries, he initiated Shabari into the highest knowledge of devotion.
  3. Tara was widowed after the demise of her husband Vali, and it was Rama who restored her to rule the kingdom.
  4. Finally, when Ravana was killed, his wife Mandodari feared the wrath of Rama. What did Rama do when he meet her? The victorious king bowed before Mandodari and eulogized her. He praised her virtues, asked her forgiveness for the pain he had caused her and gave her the highest of honors.

So, if Rama treated these women with so much respect and admiration, and helped each one of them, then how could he banish his pregnant wife Sita. Is there a deeper significance to this?

Yes there is a deeper significance behind Sita’s exile or Sita’s agnipariksha as mentioned in Ramayana. If we delve deeper with an open heart and open mind, then we allow the wisdom of the sages who composed these scriptures to resonate within us.

Ramayana and Mahabharata were written and passed from generation to generation for a purpose. Both these scriptures have a reference to a battle between the good and the evil. In a philosophical sense that battle refers to the contradictory sattvic (divine) and tamasic (demoniac) tendencies prevalent in each one of us. Each day we make choices out of our free will that determine our mental and spiritual evolution in this cycle of life and death.

By interpreting these scriptures, a human being is expected to derive strength to engage in the correct actions. Though this is the sole purpose of both Mahabharata and Ramayana, the motif or recurring theme in both these scriptures is different. While Mahabharat is a drama, the recurring theme in Ramayana is “pain” or “separation.”

When Rama is separated from his father Dasharatha, the king dies of grief. The separation of Rama and Laxman from their mother leaves her heart-broken and she lives an agonizing life pining for her sons. Bharat’s pain caused by the separation of Rama and Sita is intense and he lives the life of a hermit while discharging his duties. Bharat voluntary separates from material comforts and dressed in barks, sleeps on floors while waiting for his brother to return. Rama is separated from the right to rule as a king and gets separated from the comforts and riches that were destined to be enjoyed by him. Rama endures all this with Sita in the peaceful forest but finally Rama is separated from Sita after Ravan abducts her. Rama is separated from his peaceful exile in the forest and begins the tumultuous journey to reach Lanka. After winning the war against Ravana, Rama gets Sita back only to be separatedagain when he banishes her. Rama remains separated from his wife and sons.

That brings us to the point who were Rama and Sita? Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi manifested as avatars in the form of Rama and Sita on this earth. They deliberately chose not be born as purna avatars, meaning that they were incognizant of their divinity and lived their entire lives believing they were human beings. Krishna was a purna avatar, meaning that he knew that he was the supreme God.

Rama and Sita lived their lives as mere mortals on this earth. Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi deliberately chose their destiny and the unfolding of their lives as Rama and Sita- a life full of pain and separation. As human beings, Rama and Sita’s lives are full of agony and moments of happiness are few and fleeting.

What was the reason for Rama and Sita to choose this life? Why did Lord Vishnu choose this particular birth where he suffered heavily and had to face the blemish of having banished a pregnant wife?

Banishment of SitaThe answer is mentioned explicitly in almost all significant scriptures but the significance is lost as people who pretend to be scholars have monopolized the visible content thus pushing the truth to oblivion.

The pain and agony of separation throughout Rama’s life, and the subsequent banishment of a pregnant Sita, were done to fulfill two objectives by Lord Vishnu:

The First Objective behind Sita’s exile or Sita Agnipariksha- Rescue his devotees

Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi lived the lives of Rama and Sita to rescue two of their greatest devotees- Ravana and Khumbkarna.

Yes, the seeds of the birth of Rama and Sita were laid long back to rescue these two devotees.

The genesis of Lord Vishnu’s avatar as is to mitigate the curse on his two most ardent devotees- Jaya and Vijaya, who were the gatekeepers of Vaikuntha. Jaya and Vijaya once stopped the four kumaras (mistaking them as children) from seeing Lord Vishnu. The four kumaras kept on requesting to meet Lord Vishnu but neither Jaya and Vijaya relented.

The kumaras were enraged and cursed the two gatekeepers, “Lord Vishnu belongs to this devotees. Just as you have caused us separation from Lord Vishnu, both of you will also lose your divinity and take birth as mortals on earth, getting separated from Lord Vishnu.”

For Jaya and Vijaya, the thought of separating from Lord Vishnu is unimaginable and they fall at the grace of Vishnu and request him to remove the curse of the kumaras. Vishnu refuses saying that the curse of the kumaras cannot be dishonored but reassures Jaya and Vijaya that he will take birth with them for all their mortal births on earth.

Lord Vishnu then offers them two choices: The first option is to take seven births on Earth as a devotee of Vishnu, while the second is to take three births as his enemy. Jaya and Vijaya cannot bear the thought of staying away from Vishnu for seven lives.

Jaya says, “Everyone who is born has to die and what better way to go than to be relieved of this earthly existence by you, our Lord.”

So the purpose of Rama’s birth was not to rescue Sita but to fulfill his promise to his devotees. It was Jaya and Vijaya who in their second birth were born as Ravana and Kumbhkarna.

The maya created by Lord Vishnu is such that he rescued his devotees and also through the life story of Rama and Sita gave us the scripture of Ramayana to lead us to the path of knowledge.

The Second Objective behind Sita’s exile or Sita Agnipariksha- Honoring the Curse of Sage Bhrigu

The second and lesser known truth about the banishment of Sita is not known to many people although the story is mentioned in the scriptures. The reason that Rama had to be separated from Sita was to fulfill a curse that was given to him! In the fights between Gods and Demons, Lord Vishnu often supported the Gods for the welfare of the three worlds.

Once Lord Vishnu had to use the Sudarshana Chakra against Sage Bhrigu’s wife Khyati to let the gods defeat the demons. Upon finding his wife slain by Vishnu, Bhrigu cursed Lord Vishnu that he would have to suffer the pangs of separation from his wife repeatedly. Lord Vishnu, the original giver of boons, acknowledged the Rishi’s anger and willingly accepted the curse of Sage Bhrigu.

Now hear the esoteric truth about the repeated separation of Rama from Sita in their lives and the subsequent banishment of Sita.

After accepting Sage Bhrigu’s curse, Lord Vishnu had to manifest the words of the Rishi. But there was a problem. Lord Vishnu or Brahman or Paramatman or Krishna is the supreme consciousness. For the purpose of creation, the one consciousness deludes itself and becomes many due to the illusion of differentiating between the seer and the seen, the body and the mind, I and them.

Now Vishnu who personifies Paramataman and the supreme knowledge, knows that he and Laxmi are the same. He knows the truth about the universe and he is beyond any diversity.

As long as he was Lord Vishnu, he was Achyuta, immovable and unchangeable.

Sage Bhrigu’s curse could not get manifested. Because there was no Vishnu and Laxmi! Both were part of the one supreme paramatma. As long as Lord Vishnu remained in his enlightened state, he would never experience the pain caused from bodily separation.

So how could the words of Sage Bhrigu be honored? Only by being born as normal human beings and creating a destiny that would cause their separation. Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi took the destiny of Rama and Sita in ignorance of their divinity and experienced the pangs of separation to honor Sage Bhrigu’s curse.

Thus, the life of Rama and Sita is to be contemplated upon as the lives of mere human beings; two mortals caught in the web of destiny, just like you and me.

Rama’s greatness is not because he was an avatar but because he took birth as a normal man who was destined to be a king. Rama is praiseworthy as a man because his step-mother robbed him of his kingdom but he never held any malice towards her. Rama the prince, lost his father, and got separated from his brothers and mother. Rama, the karma yogi, to honor his father’s words, relinquished his kingdom and went into exile. While in exile, Rama, the valiant warrior, overcame insurmountable difficulties and fought against the abductor of his wife without his traditional army. Rama, the righteous king, as per the dictates of destiny, had to banish his pregnant wife, forever earning a blemish on his reputation and knowing fully well that he would be misunderstood for ages to come. Rama, the sorrowful husband, practiced Brahmacharya after he was separated from his wife. Rama, the lonely king, missed the childhood of his sons and got deprived from the joys of fatherhood.

Yet Rama, the jnana yogi, discharged his duties stoically as a king. With full control over his senses, detached from material objects and always compassionate to others, Rama was a paragon of a perfect human being. Throughout his life, Rama put the needs and welfare of others above his own. He suffered like a normal man who was thrown in a tempest created by a destiny that was also chosen by him!

The glory of Rama is that he was a God who manifested as a man to rescue his devotees and honor the words of a Sage whom he respected.

The glory of Rama is that he was a God who willingly suffered the pangs of separation throughout his life from his one true love but never deviated from the path of Dharma.

That is why he is Maryada Pushottam.

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Kalava: The Sacred Red Thread

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The Kalava Thread

kalava mouliA Kalava or Mouli is a red cotton thread that Hindus typically wear on their wrists. The Kalava is normally tied after the completion of a yajna, a havan or the worship of a deity by the priest who presided over the ceremony.

Traditionally males and married females are supposed to wear the Kalava thread on their right hand, while unmarried females wear it on their left hands.

The act of wearing the Kalava thread after a cleansing yajna or post the worship of a deity symbolizes a bond between the mortal and the almighty that will promote the sattvic element in an individual.

Religious significance of Kalava Thread

In ancient times, Queen Kunti tied the Kalava thread on the wrist of Prince Abhimanyu before he went for the battle in the Mahabharata.

The adornment of the Kalava thread around the wrist also bestows upon the wearer the blessings of the Holy trinity in Hinduism – Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva.

Rakshabandhan and Kalava Thread

The Hindu festival of Rakshabandhan is said to originate from the practice of tying a Kalava thread on the wrist. The word “raksha” means protection and the word “bandhan” means a bond.  The ritual of a sister tying a colourful thread (kalava) around her brother’s wrist signifies that the sister is invoking the almighty to protect the brother and bless their relationship.

 

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PANCHAGNI VIDYA: The secret meditation about the law of attraction

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Panchagni Vidya is a powerful, secret meditation mentioned in the Upanishads.

The Panchagni Vidya or Knowledge of the 5 fires declares that mastering this meditation will allow a person to attract his or her destiny.  The Upanishad issues a cautionary tone to this knowledge and mentions that this secret meditation should be handled responsibly as it will bestow the power of manifestation on an individual.

Philosophical background on Panchagni Vidya

Understanding the Panchagni Vidya

The Creation of this world is based on one simple fact: it is desires that manifest experiences and these flow of experiences collectively form the destiny of an individual. The destinies of individuals perceived by others and self is known as this world.

For the world to continue, the nature of consciousness is to grant whatever is willed or desired by an individual.  The power of manifesting desires gets influenced by good or bad karma accumulated over various births (SAMSARA). The people who achieve Moksha or transcend this world are the ones who have overcome all desires.

The Panchagni Vidya teaches the supreme truth about the inter-connectedness of life. Once the truth hidden in the Panchagni Vidya meditation is experienced, a person is no longer a victim to the laws of the creation. That person will be able to make his own laws and manifest his own desired creation.

The Panchagni Vidya meditation makes an individual all-powerful by making him realize that this existence is not a mere push from your mother’s womb nor the seminal essence of your father. It makes a person realize that he is the entire cosmos. The 5 realms or 5 fires mentioned in the meditation teach us that the entire universe come in harmony to give birth to a child. The whole universe is our father; the entire universe is our mother. Before a child is born, there were vibrations from higher realms to lower realms in the entire cosmos.

The Panchagni Vidya or the Knowledge of the 5 fires explains how the body is linked to the universe and why the mind’s true nature is to manifest its will in the universe.

The Five Fires, called the Panchagnis, are not physical fires but meditation techniques. The Fire, here, is symbolic of a sacrifice which one performs through contemplation.

Each fire or meditation technique has three facets for contemplation the actual nature of the fire. what goes as offering in the fire and what is their output.

The Panchagni Vidya or the Knowledge of the 5 Fires

First Realm of Panchagni Vidya

The Fire: The heaven is indeed the fire. Of that, the sun is the fuel, the rays are the smoke, the day is the flame, the moon is the embers, and the stars are the sparks.

Oblation/Offering: Into this fire the infinite consciousness offers faith of humans. Faith is defined as the cumulative beneficial acts of all men and women on this world: any act of mental faith to a higher power, any physical act of compassion to any species, any virtuous act, any good deed, charities, any unselfish act for the benefit of someone else. All these proper actions conducted in harmony with the intent of beneficence of humanity are offered as an oblation in this sacrificial fire. Hence any individual action that you perform adds up to the total of the oblation that is offered by the universal consciousness in this fire.

Output: Of out this fire, depending on the quality of the offering, the infinite consciousness produces prana or the life producing energy for the people on the earth.

Second Realm of Panchagni Vidya

The Fire: We now descend from the heavens into the atmospheric layer of the sky as you see it. The sky is the second sacrificial fire. The wind is the fuel, the cloud is the smoke, the lightning is the flame, the thunderbolt is the embers and the rumblings of thunder are the sparks.

Offering/Oblation: Into this sacrificial fire, the infinite consciousness offers the oblation of the prana or life- energy obtained from the first sacrificial fire.

Output: The second sacrificial fire is in a lower realm than heavens, and is responsible for rain. When rain falls, it is not an isolated activity. It is the effect of the offering of the energy obtained from the first sacrificial fire. Hence we are linked to the production of rainfall. Nature gives us back what we give it in the form of our own deeds.

Third Realm of Panchagni Vidya

The Fire: In your meditation, we know descend on the earth. The earth is the third sacrificial fire. Time is the fuel, the sky is the smoke, the night is the flame, the directions are the embers and the intermediary directions are the sparks.

Offering/Oblation: Into this fire, the infinite consciousness offers rain as an oblation. The productive capacity of this earth depends on the right amount of rainfall.

Output: The effect of this oblation of rain on the earth contemplated as a fire, is food grains.

Fourth Realm of Panchagni Vidya

The Fire: The fourth sacrificial fire is the man. Imagine your own body as a sacrificial fire.

Offering/Oblation: Into this sacrificial fire, the infinite conscious offers food as an oblation.

Output: Out of this offering, arises the seed or semen.

Fifth Realm of Panchagni Vidya

The Fire: The fifth sacrificial fire is the woman.

Offering/Oblation: The infinite consciousness offers the oblation of semen into her.

Output: Out of this offering, arises life in the form of a human fetus.

These are the five stages of fire which one has meditate as a comprehensive reality .Every act that we do has an effect and if as a race, our actions are harmonious to others, everything will in harmony

 

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Satyakama Jabala- Story of Satyakama from the Chandogya Upanishad

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The story of Satyakama Jabala has been described in the fourth chapter of Chandogya Upanishad.

As with every story of the Upanishad, the tale of Satyakama Jabala also teaches a profound truth. The story basically tries to awaken the understanding that “Everything in the world is Brahman”. Meditating on the story of Satyakama Jabala brings us closer to the realization to that everything that exists is a part of the Brahman or the supreme reality.

Story of Satyakama Jabala

One day a boy named Satyakama approached his mother called Jabala and said, “Respected mother, I want to understand the realty of the Brahman. For this purpose, I want to go and study under a Guru. Please tell me which lineage I belong to. Who were my ancestors?”

Jabala replied to Satyakama, “Dear son, I am not sure of your lineage. I worked as a maid servant when I was young and  thus worked in many households. I do not know who were your ancestors. But if you want, you can take my name Jabala. You should tell the Guru that your name is Satykama Jabala.”

Satyakama Jabala took leave of his mother and went to Sage Gautama, who was a knowledgeable teacher.

Satyakama told Sage Gautama, “Respected Sir, I want to study the truth about Brahman from you. Please accept me as a student.”

Gautam asked Satyakama Jabala,” O Boy, tell me about your lineage.  Who is your father?”

Satyakama Jabala replied, “Respected Sir, I do not know my lineage. My mother worked as a maid-servant in many houses when she was young. When I enquired about my lineage from her, she declared that she is not aware who is my father. However, since she goes by the name Jabala, she told me to call myself Satyakama Jabala. Will you accept me, Satyakama Jabala, as your student respected sir?”

Gautama told him, “O Satyakama Jabala, you have spoken the truth. Hence you are honorable. Since you did not deviate from the truth, I will  initiate you into the highest wisdom.”

Gautama then initiated and accepted Satyakama Jabala as a student.

Gautama then entrusted the first assignment to Satyakama. Gautama told him, “O Satyakama Jabala, go and take care of my four hundred cows.”

Satyakama replied, “O Sage, I will look after your cows and not return until I increase their number to one thousand.”

For years, Satyakama took care of the cows until their number reached one thousand. Upon reaching his goal, he decided to return to this master’s abode with the cows.

Then a bull in the herd spoke to Satyakama Jabala, “O Satyakama, shall I teach you one-fourth of Brahman?”

He replied to the bull, “Please teach me sir.”

The bull stated, “The east is one fragment, the west is one fragment, the south is another fragment, and the north is another fragment, These four fragments together form the one-fourth of Brahman. This portion of Brahman is called prakasavan (the radiant).

One who meditates on this one-fourth of Brahman, will become radiant in this world.”

Next morning, Satyakama Jabala proceeded forward on his journey to Gautama’s abode with the cows. In the evening, he stopped to take rest and lit a fire.

The Fire asked Satyakama, “O Boy, should I teach you one-fourth of Brahman?”

“Please teach me respected sir,” replied Satyakama.

Then the fire stated, “The earth is one fragment, the sky (middle-region) is one fragment, the heaven is one fragment, and the ocean is yet another fragment. These four fragments form one-fourth of Brahman, This portion of Brahman is called anantavan, the Endless.

One who meditates on this one-fourth of Brahman becomes endless in this world and wins the endless world as well.”

Next morning, Satyakama again proceeded to this master’s abode. A swan spoke to him, “O Boy, should I teach you about one-fourth of Brahman?”

“Please teach me respected sir,” replied Satyakama.

The swan stated, “Fire is one fragment, the sun is one fragment, the moon is one fragment and the lightning is yet another fragment, These four fragments form one-fourth of Brahman,. This portion of Brahman is called jyotisman, the luminous.

One who meditates on this one-fourth of Brahman, becomes luminous in this world.”

Next morning Satyakama Jabala again proceeded on this journey and was approached by a bird. The bird said, “O Satyakama, should I teach you one-fourth of Brahman?”

“Please teach me sir,” replied Satyakama.

The bird stated, “Prana is one fragment, the eye is one fragment, the ear is one fragment and the mind is yet another fragment. These four fragments form one-fourth of Brahman. This portion of the Brahman is called ayatanavan, the abode-possessor.

One who meditates on his one-fourth of Brahman becomes abode possessor in this world.”

Satyakama reached the master’s house.

Gautama told Satyakama Jabala, “O boy, you shine with the knowledge of Brahman. Who taught you?”

Satyakama replied, “Beings other than humans taught me sir. But it is my humble request that you teach me.”

Gautama then taught Satyakama the knowledge of Brahman which was the same knowledge that Satyakama had learnt on his journey back.

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