Spirituality Insight

WORSHIPPING SURYA

Sun God Surya exemplifies blend of spiritual, mental and physical health hallmark of Hinduism.

Words: Madhuri. Y

Worshipping Surya endows physical and mental health, intelligence, long life, prosperity, confidence and fame.

It also guides one towards spiritual pursuits. Each mantra used in worship has significance of its own.

Aditya Hridaya Mantra

Surya son of sage Kashyapa and his wife Aditi is also known as Aditya.

When Lord Rama felt fatigued fighting Ravana, sage Agastya gave powerful Aditya Hridaya mantra for Rama to recite.

Rama recited it three times before taking on Ravana with renewed vigour and defeating him.

Gayatri Mantra

Gayatri mantra is a prayer to the presiding deity of the sun, known as Savita or Gayatri.

It was traditionally shared by father with son during the latter’s upanayanam (thread ceremony).

Men and women recite the mantra today which calms the mind, enhances concentration and leads to good health.

Surya Ashtakam

Surya ashtakam originated from Lord Shiva and is believed to bring wealth and fame in addition to blessing with children who have none.

Surya Sahasranamam

While narrating how King Yudhishthira prayed to Surya, sage Vaisampayana recites the Surya sahasranama to King Janamejaya. It comprises the 1008 names of the Sun god. Reciting these names at sunrise brings patience, memory, energy and prosperity. It also protects one from grief and danger.

surya-namaskar_01

SPIRITUAL LEARNING FROM CHRISTMAS

The birth of Jesus Christ – that is what we all celebrate as Christmas. But there is a reason why Jesus came to earth; it symbolises certain truths of spiritual life.

Words: Sangeeta S

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christmas is a festival which we look forward to. Festive season, vacations, parties, family gatherings, decorations, special food, cakes and much more…we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who symbolised divine consciousness. But among all the festivities it should not be forgotten that Christ was sent as a Messiah to rescue people from their sins. Christmas symbolises and teaches great truths about divine life.

Christ was born at a time when the world was going through a rough patch. Morality was forgotten, greed and hatred prevailed, superstition and hypocrisy became the way of life; in a nutshell there was no idealism. Christ was born in such a scenario and he later brought spirituality back into people’s lives; they were initiated to a new way of life which transformed the way of living completely. It can be summarised that with birth of Christ a new era dawned

Darkness to Light

Christmas signifies moving from darkness to light.

It is a reminder on how Christ came down to show us the path to divine and spiritual living. Basically all humans are divine; but often we get distracted and evil forces attract us. Conscious effort is required to keep within the realms of divinity and good forces. And to keep our consciousness alive we need to go through the life of Christ. One needs to live the life of Christ and for that each one has to give space to Christ within us; only when we are able to give birth to Christ within us, will we be able to live the spiritual life. The life of faith, selflessness and compassion…that is what Christ stood for. Christmas stands for devotion to God and service to mankind. You need to give up your desire for materialistic things and replace it with divine aspirations.

Humble Approach

The birth of Christ also signifies humble living. Jesus was born to poor parents in a stable. His parents were humble and of strong character; they were not wealthy. He was born in darkness and very few knew about his birth. The way he was born conveys the significance of being humble; divine learning comes to people who are humble. To reach the higher level you need to be simple and honest and willing to give up all worldly desires. It is not necessary that to reach a higher spiritual level you need to be born to wealthy parents. Just keeping alive the Christ spirit will take you towards spirituality.

Being Born Again

Christmas is all about a birth into a divine life. This was the secret that Jesus explained to Nicodemus centuries back.

You can’t be born again in body but you need to be born again in spirit if you need to attain the higher goal – the goal to reach the Supreme. Spiritual birth leads to the Supreme. If each and every person of this modern world takes a spiritual rebirth then automatically the world will get rid of greed and hatred and only then true and enjoyable Christmas can be celebrated.

Also one must keep oneself open to accept the divine when it comes. When Jesus was to be born the inns of Bethlehem were so crowded that the lord had to take birth in a stable. So don’t keep yourself so engrossed in worldly things that you don’t keep any space or time to welcome the divine when it comes.

Amidst all festivities while you enjoy Christmas do not forget to welcome the divinity within. Enter into a new life and make sure that Christ-spirit takes its birth within you. It is the time when you move from darkness to light, from ignorance to wisdom and hatred to love.

That is true Christmas.

Things to keep in mind

• Give beyond materialistic gifts – spread compassion by making people around you smile
• Forgive – Not easy but try doing it; all are humans
• Control your thoughts – make sure only positive thoughts enter your mind
• Don’t forget to enjoy – be happy on this special day and spread happiness
• Be grateful – look around for people who stood by you during your hardships and be thankful
• Value family and friends

SIGNIFICANCE AND LEARNING

Festivals play a very significant role culturally, socially and spiritually and therefore need to be celebrated with the right spirit

Words: Sangeeta S

Festivals in Indian culture have great significance and help us understand the deep and intense aspects of life. But only if the essence of the festival is understood and it is celebrated in the right spirit, that the right benefits can be reaped.

During ancient times festivals were celebrated with the people of whole city. Gradually as things changed it got limited to family. Usually the whole family would collect at one place and celebrate. With the fast pace world now things have started changing. For the new generation festival is something where you get a holiday and you can sleep late or maybe go for a movie. Now here we are losing the very essence of any festival.

Every festival in our culture comes with certain rituals and traditions and all these traditions carry lot of meaning. It keeps the enthusiasm alive in so many ways. Imagine if there were no festivals or traditions to follow life would be reduced to only sleeping and eating. Festivals bring lot of happiness, family bonding and celebrations and that is the reason every festival must be given due importance.

In India relations are valued. The sacred relation of brother and sister gets strong during the festivals of Rakhsha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj. The traditions have been handed down through generations and they help preserve the culture.

Bhai Dooj

The festival helps in sibling bonding as well as family bonding. The customs and rituals have been framed in such a way that they evoke a feeling of love and affection between siblings and cousins. The family get-together, merriment, feast, exchange of gifts, sisters praying for well being of brothers, brothers promising to stand by their sisters during any hardship…all add to a very conducive atmosphere for a great family bonding.

Apart from family bonding the festival of BhaiDooj inculcates in a person the love and respect for the opposite gender. The relation between human beings and especially between opposite genders has degraded. And that is the reason that these ancient traditions carry more significance as they symbolise loving relation between a male and a female.

Celebrating this festival since childhood makes a brother understand his sister and respect her as a woman too.

This further helps him develop respect for the opposite gender in general too. And in the similar fashion even the sister gets to understand and respect the opposite gender.It helps in developing mutual respect and understanding and a healthy society where men and women prove to be pillar of strength to each other.

Spiritual Learning

Spiritually BhaiDooj fills us with feeling of safety and protection. The soul gets pure and elevated as there are good wishes all around. We all wish good to others and even pledge to do good. Both brother and sister promise to stand by each other and all negative thoughts vanish. The good vibrations are in the air and can be felt by each and every soul participating in this festival. The festival of BhaiDooj is all about loving relationships that nurtures and protects.

Brother-sister-Raksha-bandhan

When sisters put tilak on the forehead of brothers it signifies being victorious. One gets free from negativities. Lord Shiva has his 3rd eye on his forehead which is very powerful; similarly it is said that everyone has third eye on their forehead between two eyes. Putting a tilak there helps you focus your energies and avoid negativities; of course you do need mind control also to stay positive. Tilak is a symbol of awakening one’s awareness and realizing our true identity as a soul and not physical body. Every thought, word and action gets elevated.

The exchange of sweets makes us happy and we realize that we have complete blessing of the divine and that the divine is our protector and liberator. One feels spiritually liberated and safe.

The festival has plenty of cultural, spiritual and social significance and must be celebrated with full enthusiasm and traditions must be followed so that the younger generation understands the essence of this festival and grows up to be responsible citizens.

BRIHADARANYAKA UPANISHAD

The devas and asuras are not beings, but represent the life that each of us lives. Their battle for supremacy is a fight to move away from worldly pleasures towards unification with the Supreme Self.

Words: Madhuri. Y

brihadaranyaka

Recognised as the most important Upanishad, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad gives its teachings in three kandas, that is, sections – the Madhu Kanda, Muni Kanda, Khila Kanda. These sections comprise six chapters in total.

Chapter 1.Brahmana 3
Two classes of people descended from the Prajapati, that is, the Supreme Self – the devas (gods) and the asuras (demons). They are not the real beings that we read of in the puranas, but represent the good and evil choices that we make.

The gods and the demons represent the organs that help us sense the world, including the ability to speak and other acts and thoughts. Through these elements, the gods and demons show their inclination towards the sacred or the worldly objects and towards good or evil. These inclinations turn them into the divine gods or the evil demons.

Those who are influenced in their thoughts and actions by the scriptures become gods. Those who are influenced by their natural thoughts and actions which are directed towards worldly ends become demons. The gods are younger and they are fewer in number. This means that people who follow their natural inclinations are greater in number than those who overcome these.

Hence, the distinction between gods and demons is not one of the person itself, but of the kind of life they live.

In their struggle to gain mastery of the worlds, the gods, instead of relying on their own powers, decided to take the help of chanting to overcome the demons. The chanting takes place through the various organs and actions.

At first, the gods decide to chant through speech, but the demons overcome speech. It points to our ability to speak things which are good as well as evil, causing both help and harm.

When the eyes are asked to chant, the asuras overcome the eyes. This means we are capable of seeing good as well as evil. The same happens with the ears, taste, smell, touch and the mind too.
All that the gods have left now is the Prana Shakti within. Prana is the vital force that gives energy to the body; it does not belong to a sense organ. When prana starts chanting, the asuras attack once again, but they cannot overcome it. They were flung away and broken to pieces like a clod of earth is turned to dust when it smashes against a rock.

Thus, the natural inclinations within are overcome and the gods could become what they were. In this form, the 3rd Brahmana tells the story of the desire of the atma to unify with the Paramatma. The sense organs are incapable of bringing about unification, they are defeated by the demons in their efforts. Contemplation of the Prana Shakti alone can bring about unification.

Read our next issue to know more about Prana.

UPANISHAD

‘Madhuri is a writer of Children’s fiction and a ghost writer of nonfiction books. She is an alumna of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and can be reached at:
ymadhury@urbanvaastu.com”

LORD VENKATESWARA – DESTROYER OF SINS

Lord Venkateswara is believed to grant the wishes of the devotee – be it riches or spiritual emancipation.

Words: Madhuri.Y

ISKCON_Lord_Balaji

Call him Lord Venkateswara, Balaji, Srinivasa or Venkatachalapathi, it is to the Lord in the Tirumala hills that you pray. Venkata means destroyer of sins, coming from the Sanskrit Vem, meaning sins and kata, meaning the power of immunity.

Lord Vishnu is believed to have incarnated as Venkateswara to bring salvation in Kali Yuga. Hence, the Tirumala temple is known as Kali Yuga Vaikuntam.

Walking up the Tirumala

According to the Taittareya Upanishad, the soul passes through five stages of spiritual evolution. Pilgrims walking up the Tirumala Hills symbolically cross these five stages.

Annamaya Kosa: Pilgrims approach the Annamaya Kosa when they arrive at the Tirumala Hills. This represents the physical self and is named so since the physical body is nourished by food.

Pranamaya Kosa: This represents prana, which brings vitality to body and mind. A bath in the Azhwar Theertham which is believed to originate from Lord Venkateswara’s toe, and faith in Nammazhwar’s teachings takes pilgrims to the Pranamaya kosa.

Manomaya Kosa: This stage represents the mind and the five sensory organs. Manomaya is the cause of the distinction of ‘I’. Pilgrims enter this stage on reaching the Mokaala Parvatham. By now there is stress on the knees and it signifies intense search of the heart and the mind. Ramanajucharya’s shrine is at this point and he is believed to help pilgrims understand the relationship between prakruti, jeevatma and paramatma.

Vignanamaya Kosa: This represents the discriminative ability. Once pilgrims reach the hill top, they take a bath in the Swami Pushkarini. The lake is believed to have the virtues of all the sacred rivers. Pilgrims are meant to gain knowledge through Varahaswamy who resides here, thereby reaching the Vignanamaya Kosa.

SRI VENKATESWARA SUPRABHATAM

The Venkateswara Suprabhatam was composed by Sri Anantacharya in about 1430 AD. In the Ramayana, Viswamitra is known to wake up Rama with the following verse:

Kausalya supraja rama purva sandhya pravartate I
Uttistha narasardula karttavyam daivamahnikam II

O Rama, noble son of Kausalya! The twilight of the East begins.
O Lion amongst men! Arise, the divine daily tasks must be performed.
Made of 70 slokas, the Suprabhatam is in four parts – Suprabhatam to awaken the Lord; Sri Venkatesa Stothram to extol his greatness; Prapatti indicating the devotee’s surrender to the Lord; and Mangalasasanam wishing the Lord the very best in his activity.

Anandamaya Kosa: Pilgrims attain this stage when they worship Lord Venkateswara in Ananda Nilayam. This is the stage of bliss and they no longer require knowledge when they attain this stage.

Tirumala_Venkateswara_temple_entrance_09062015

MAHISHASURA MARDHINI – SLAYER OF THE EGO

The story of Mahishasura is the story of overcoming the ego and of ascending to the Universal Self.

When the demon King Mahishasura drives the devas out of heaven, they are reduced to the state of mere mortals, roaming the earth. Led by Brahma, they approach Shiva and then Vishnu. All the Gods, led by the Trinity, give their powers to create Devi, the Goddess. The powerful Goddess slays Mahishasura’s demon army and then the King himself. The story has a profound meaning beneath its gory detail.

Mahishasura – The Ego

Blinded by ego, Mahishasura wants to conquer the Universe in the material form. This desire emerges from the intellect, which is blinded by the ego. It is devoid of the wisdom that can help him see that true victory lies in conquering the self. Mahishasura seeks Brahma’s boon that he shall not be killed by man or God or by the Trinity. His pride prevents him from seeing a woman as a worthy opponent and he doesn’t ask for protection from a woman.

When Devi challenges him to battle, his ego blinds him to her true self and he asks her to be his. When the Goddess refuses to do so, his army attacks her. This is indicative of the ego attacking the challenger when threatened.

The battle symbolises the spiritual battle we wage and the killing of Mahishasura is the slaying of our ego. As the Goddess slays each demon, one comes closer to reaching the source of all trouble – that of the ego, symbolised by Mahishasura.

Durga_Mahisasuramardini

As a half-man, half-buffalo, Mahishasura symbolises dualism, that of the smaller self and of the Supreme Self. In the battle, Mahishasura takes many forms, indicating the ways in which the ego tries to survive. In the form of a buffalo, he represents aggression and selfishness. Just as the ego resorts to evasion when threatened, Mahishasura takes the form of a lion to escape Devi’s noose. He also uses self-pity when he tells Devi that while he is alone in the battle, she is fighting him in many forms. To which, Devi shows him that she is One.

Mahisasur_Statue_at_Chamundi_Hills

When she cuts the lion’s head off, he changes shape to that of a man, holding a sword and shield. This symbolises the ego’s tendency to defend itself. When Devi cuts him to shreds, he takes the form of an elephant and tries to drag Devi’s mount, the lion which stands for dharma. This act symbolises the fact that the ego is ready to discard dharma too. When the Goddess cuts its trunk off, Mahishasura takes the shape of a buffalo once again.

She pins him down with her spear, symbolising spiritual insight that reveals the light. Mahishasura tries to escape through the buffalo’s mouth. Thus, in the end, one is confronted by the ego which now comes out in the open.

In the final act, when Devi cuts his head off there is a moment of recognition and bliss on Mahishasura’s face before he perishes. With the beheading, the ego is struck down and the small self merges with the Supreme Self. It has understood the Universal truth, Aham Brahmasmi – ‘I am Brahmm’, which translates to ‘I am the Infinite Reality’.

DEMONS OF EGO

Devi is the energy that preserves the order of the Universe. Each of Devi’s weapons represents a weapon by which the ego can be slain – self-discipline, chanting of mantras, selfless service, introspection, devotion, cheerfulness and meditation.

Ego causes duality, separating the self from the Universal Self. It creates Maya which prevents one from seeing the truth. Mahishasura represents the ego. While the devas represent the good aspects, the demons led by Mahishasura represent the negative qualities that the ego gives rise to. His six commanders are desire, anger, arrogance, attachment, greed and self-centredness.

When Mahishasura’s demons ask the Goddess to become his, they are in fact telling her to submit to the ego. As the Divine Mother, she is the manifestation of the Supreme Consciousness and refuses to do so. Her response that she can belong only to the one who conquers her refers to the conquering of the self. This can come only with overcoming the ego. Once ego is cast aside, the individual self becomes one with the Universal Self.