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29Mar/18

The Eternal message of the Upanishads

Sages of ancient India divined or saw the eternal Vedas by the power of their penance. Vedas have been handed down to us through the generation of teacher-disciple mode of ‘Shruti’ and ‘Smriti’. The very word ‘Veda’ signifies ‘knowledge’ which is pristine, eternal and without contradiction. Vedas contain eternal wisdom, beneficial for all aspects of a society. In the Vedas, the end portion is popular as the ‘Upanishads’. The word “Upanishad” signifies knowledge that one gains by the legacy of sages-mentors (Upa = near, Ni =sitting and Shad = Knowledge). Although, there are scholastic references to thousands of Upanishads, 108 Upanishads are termed meritorious. Even among them, ten Upanishads have been commented upon by Acharyas and hence are major Upanishads.

The ten major Upanishads are Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Taittiriya, Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya.

Even in the contemporary times, the message of the Upanishads are quite relevant and useful. In the Isha Upanishad, it has been said:
kurvannEvEha karmani jijIvisecchatam samah |
Evam tvayi nAnyathEto’sti na karma lipyate nare ||

Every human being has to perform Karma, or one’s duty as a worship to Lord. Only then can the life of an individual be meaningful even for a hundred years. At any point of time, one should not be negligent towards his duties. Normally, every person demands his rights but forgets he has duties as well to the society and nation. The above-stated Upanishad verse reminds to us that we have no way to shun our duties. Thus, the message given here regulates the good working of the society by motivating all to execute their duties.

The Kena Upanishad begins with philosophical questions. It takes up the concept that it is God alone who gives power to our senses to work in a proper way. Hence, he should indeed indulge in meaningful pursuits in life and not just gratify our senses. The Kena Upanishad remarks:
Tasyai tapO damah karmEti pratisThA vEdah sarvAngANi SatyamAyatanam|

The passage here gives a thumb-rule for an ideal life. We should follow three ideals in our life. ”Penance, Control over the senses and Duties”.

Penance refers to not only meditation but always thinking about the right things and thereby developing an aura of positive energy around us. Dama is the control of the senses. Our senses tend naturally to pleasurable things. However, what we need is not mere enjoyment, but that which is lasting good. Hence, restraint of the sense-organs have to be practiced. Karma refers to duties in all our walks of life. It is not proper to shun the duties assigned to us. By following these three ideals, the Upanishad remarks, that we would have achieved all that is taught in the Vedas. All these lead to the ultimate truth.

The Katha Upanishad is in the form of dialogue between Yama and Nachiketa. It gives a message that we should always make a choice of the good and not just of the pleasurable. The pleasurable makes us to move towards it, but the good always protects us and the society too. The Katha Upanishad remarks:
SrEyascha prEyascha manuShyamEtastau sam -pareetya vivinakti dheerAh |
SrEyO hi dhIrO abhi prEyasO vruNIte prEyO mandO yogakshemAd vruNIte ||

According to this verse, we all encounter the good and the pleasant in all walks of life, always and at all places. However, in order to gain success, we need to have the discrimination between the two, which is nothing but ‘Viveka’. Thus, a meaningful choice has to be made. One who chooses the Good attains happiness in all walks of life and one who opts only for the pleasant is doomed, though he may enjoy temporary gratification.
The Upanishads give innumerable messages to us so that we inculcate the values and ideals spoken of by them. They bring about an ideal society and an ideal individual as well.

29Mar/18

Yugadi- The onset of Indian New Year

People across culture and countries celebrate the New Year in keeping with their tradition and culture. In India, Yugadi (Ugadi in Kannada) is the beginning of a new year according to Chandramana(Lunar measure). It is said that the epoch (Yuga) began on the first day of the Chaitramasa. Hence, the name Yugadi or the day of a new Yuga came into vogue. It is called as Samvatsara-Arambha. In the Indian Almanac, there are 60 such Samvatsaras and the cycle gets repeated every 60 years.

Yugadi is also the beginning of Vasanta Ritu or the spring season. Hence, it is a surge of new energy in nature and also promotes a positive energy in all the living beings. In India, people traditionally take bath by applying oil, known as ‘Abhyanjanam’ on this day. It is just like the bath, taken on the ‘Deepavali’ day. Various aromatic herbs are also used to rejuvenate the skin and also to kinder fresh life.

The oil is offered to Lord with the following Mantra:
Praptesmin vatsare nityam madgruhe mangalam kuru|
Then, oil is smeared upon with the following Mantra:
Taile LakshmiH Jale GangA VatsarAditithau Shubhe|
AlakshmiparihArArtham MangalasnAnamAcharet||

There is a special reason for this Abhyanjanam (oil ritual). It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi resides in the oil and takes away all the blemishes and give fresh life. Goddess Ganga resides in the water and purifies. By performing the oil bath, it is stated in the scriptures that all poverty would be removed.

After the bath, new clothes are adorned and the Lord is worshipped at home. Elders are paid salutations and their good wishes are sought after. In some places, people worship a flag which is named, ‘Indra Dhwaja’. After worshipping, it is hoisted to signify victory over all the obstacles.

The most important part of the Yugadi celebration is the partaking of Neem(Azadiracta) and Jaggery (unrefined cane sugar) known in local parlance as ‘Bevu-Bella’. Both are pounded in equal measure along with small quantity of pepper, cardamom, salt, tamarind combined with pieces of mango. It is also called Yugadi Pachadi. It is offered to Lord and is given to all elders and consumed by all.

Symbolically, the neem signifies sorrow and Jaggery signifies happiness. It shows that our life is a combination both sorrow and happiness. Hence, we should take and treat both sorrow and happiness equally in our life. Pepper represents anger, salt represents fear, tamarind show disgust and mango shows enthusiasm. All these are part and parcel of life.

The following Mantra has to be chanted while consuming the ‘Bevu-Bella’:
SatAyurvajradehaya sarvasampatkarAyacha|
SarvArishtavinAshAya nimbakadalabhakshaNam||

(Consuming neem and Jaggery brings a robust health to the body, bestows wealth and removes all evil effects)
In the evening, a Pundit or scholar is invited to give a summary of New Samvatsara’s Panchangam events. This is called “Panchanga Shravana”. The details of the forthcoming festivals, eclipse, auspicious dates, muhurtas and predictions in general are read out from the Panchangam by the Pundit. Finally, the Panchangam is decorated with flowers and Mangalarathi is offered. Thus, the Yugadi is the very first festival that is celebrated and the good of the entire world is prayed. Best wishes to everyone in the Vilambi nama Samvatsara.

||Sarve janAH sukhinO Bavantu||

29Mar/18

Beautiful Stotra on Lord Shiva

A very simple and yet beautiful and powerful Mantra of lord Shiva is the Rudra Dwadashanama Stotra.

Rudra dwAdasha NAma StOtra

Prathamam tu MahAdEvam DvitIyam tu MahESvaram|

tritIyam Sankaram prOktam chaturtham Vrishabhadhwajam||

Shiva is known by twelve names. Mahadeva is the name which speaks of him as the great lord. Maheshwara signifies that he has all auspicious divine powers in him. Shankara signifies that he always does good to his devotees. He is Vrishbhadhwaja since he has Nandi, the bull flag as his insignia.

Panchamam KruttivAsam cha ShaShTham KAmAnganASanam

saptamam dEvadEvEsham SrikanTham chAShTamam tathA

Shiva adorns with tiger’s skin and hence is Kruttivasa. He burnt Manmatha to ashes and hence is KAmanganAshanam. He is the overlord of other gods and hence is DEvadEvEsha. He consumed the poison which originated from the ocean, and hence is known as Srikantha.

Navamam tu haram dEvam daSamam pArvatIpatim |

RudramEkAdaSam prOktam dwAdaSam Sivamuchyate||

He cleanses all sins and hence is Hara. He is the Parvati’s husband and hence is Parvatipati. He made a cry during creation and hence is Rudra. He is most auspicious and hence is Shiva.

EtaddwAdaSanAmani trisandhyam yah paThetnarah|

gOghnaSchaiva krutaghnaScha bhrUnah gurutalpagaH||

strIbAlaghAtakaSchaiva surapo vruShalipatiH|

Sarvam nASayate pApam Sivalokam sa gacchati||

One who chants this 12 names of Shiva during three twilight hours shall be bereft of sin of killing a cow, being a cheater, killing an unborn child, cheating a teacher, killing a women, killing a child, consuming liquor, marrying an unsolicited woman.

SuddhasphatikasankASam trinetram chandraSEkharaM|

IndumanDalamadhyastham vande devam sadASivam||

Lord Shiva shines with the lustre of a clear crystal and has the crescent of the moon on the head. He is also present in the moon’s orb and I salute the great god Shiva who is ever auspicious.