Friday, July 11, 2008

Why do we say shaanti thrice?

Shaanti, meaning "peace", is a natural state of being. Disturbances are created either by others or us. 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 without 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 shaanti thrice.

It is believed that trivaram satyam - that which is said thrice comes true. For emphasizing a point we repeat a thing thrice. 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 shaanti thrice to emphasise 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 : 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 minimised from the three sources written about above.

May peace alone prevail. Hence shaanti 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.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Why do we blow the conch?

When the conch is blown, the primordial sound of Om emanates. Om is an auspicious sound that was chanted by the Lord before creating the world. It represents the world and the Truth behind it.

As the story goes, the demon Shankhaasura defeated devas, the Vedas and went to the bottom of the ocean. The devas appealed to Lord Vishnu for help. He incarnated as Matsya Avataara - the "fish incarnation" and killed Shankhaasura. The Lord blew the conch-shaped bone of his ear and head. The Om sound emanated, from which emerged the Vedas.

All knowledge enshrined in the Vedas is an elaboration of Om. The conch therefore is known as shankha after Shankaasua. The conch blown by the Lord is called Paanchajanya. He carries it at all times in one of His four hands.

It represents dharma or righteousness that is one of the four goals (purushaarthas) of life. The sound of the conch is thus also the victory call of good over evil.

Another well-known purpose of blowing the conch and the instruments, known traditionally to produce auspicious sounds is to drown or mask negative comments or noises that may disturb or upset the atmosphere or the minds of worshippers.

Ancient India lived in her villages. Each village was presided over by a primary temple and several small ones. During the aarati performed after all-important poojas and on sacred occasions, the conch used to be blown. Since villages were generally small, the sound of the conch would be heard all over the village. People who could not make it to the temple were reminded to stop whatever they were doing, at least for a few seconds, and mentally bow to the Lord. The conch sound served to briefly elevate people's minds to a prayerful attitude even in the middle of their busy daily routine.

The conch is placed at the altar in temples and homes next to the Lord as a symbol of Naada Brahma (Truth), the Vedas, Om, dharma, victory and auspiciousness. It is often used to offer devotees thirtha (sanctified water) to raise their minds to the highest Truth. It is worshipped with the following verse.

Twam puraa saagarot pannaha Vishnunaa vidhrutahakare Devaischa poojitha sarvahi Panchjanya namostu te
Translation: Salutations to Panchajanya the conch born of the ocean Held in the hand of Lord Vishnu and worshipped by all devaas.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why do we worship tulasi?

In Sanskrit, tulanaa naasti athaiva tulasi - that which is incomparable (in its qualities) is the tulasi
For Indians it is one of the most sacred plants. In fact it is known to be the only thing used in worship, which, once used, can be washed and reused in pooja - as it is regarded so self-purifying.

As one story goes, Tulasi was the devoted wife of Shankhachuda, a celestial being. She believed that Lord Krishna tricked her into sinning. So she cursed Him to become a stone (shaaligraama). Seeing her devotion and adhered to righteousness, the Lord blessed her saying that she would become the worshipped plant, tulasi that would adorn His head.

Also that all offerings would be incomplete without the tulasi leaf - hence the worship of tulasi.

She also symbolises Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. Those who wish to be righteous and have a happy family life worship the tulasi.

Tulasi is 'married' to the Lord with all pomp and show as in any wedding.

This is because according to another legend, the Lord blessed her to be His consort. Satyabhama once weighed Lord Krishna against all her legendary wealth. The scales did not balance till a single tulasi leaf was placed along with the wealth on the scale by Rukmini with devotion.
Thus the tulasi played the vital role of demonstrating to the world that even a small object offered with devotion means more to the Lord than all the wealth in the world.

The tulasi leaf has great medicinal value and is used to cure various ailments, including the common cold.

Yanmule sarvatirhaani Yannagre sarvadevataa Yanmadhye sarvavedaascha Tulasi taam namaamyaham
Translation: I bow down to the tulasi, at whose base are all the holy places, at whose top reside all the deities and in whose center are all the Vedas.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why do we consider the lotus as special?

The lotus is the symbol of truth, auspiciousness and beauty (satyam, shivam, sundaram). The Lord is also that nature and therefore, His various aspects are compared to a lotus (i.e. lotus-eyes, lotus feet, lotus hands, the lotus of the heart etc.).
The lotus blooms with the rising sun and close at night. Similarly, our minds open up and expand with the light of knowledge. The lotus grows even in slushy areas. It remains beautiful and untainted despite its surroundings, reminding us that we too can and should strive to remain pure and beautiful within, under all circumstances.
The lotus leaf never gets wet even though it is always in water. It symbolizes the man of wisdom (gyaani) who remains ever joyous, unaffected by the world of sorrow and change. This is revealed in a shloka from the Bhagwad-Geeta:
Brahmanyaadhaaya karmaani Sangam tyaktvaa karoti yaha Lipyate na sa paapena Padma patram ivaambhasaa
Translation: He who does actions, offering them to Brahman (the Supreme), abandoning attachment, is not tainted by sin, just as a lotus leaf remains unaffected by the water on it.
From this, we learn that what is natural to the man of wisdom becomes a discipline to be practiced by all saadhakas or spiritual seekers and devotees. Our bodies have certain energy centers described in the Yoga Shaastras as chakras.
Each one is associated with lotus that has a certain number of petals. For example, a lotus with a thousand petals represents the Sahasra chakra at the top of the head, which opens when the yogi attains Godhood or Realisation. Also, the lotus posture (padmaasana) is recommended when one sits for meditation. A lotus emerged from the navel of Lord Vishnu. Lord Brahma originated from it to create the world. Hence, the lotus symbolizes the link between the creator and the supreme Cause.
It also symbolizes Brahmaloka, the abode of Lord Brahma. The auspicious sign of the swastika is said to have evolved from the lotus.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why do we worship the kalasha?

First of all what is a kalasha? A brass, mud or copper pot is filled with water. Mango leaves are placed in the mouth of the pot and a coconut is placed over it. A red or white thread is tied around its neck or sometimes all around it in a intricate diamond-shaped pattern. The pot may be decorated wit designs. Such a pot is known as a kalasha.

When the pot is filled with water or rice, it is known as purnakumbha representing the inert body which when filled with the divine life force gains the power to do all the wonderful things that makes life what it is.

A kalasha is placed with due rituals on all-important occasions like the traditional house warming (grihapravesa), wedding, daily worship etc. It is placed near the entrance as a sign of welcome. It is also used in a traditional manner while receiving holy personages. Why do we worship the kalasha? Before the creation came into being, Lord Vishnu was reclining on His snake-bed in the milky ocean. From His navel emerged a lotus from which appeared Lord Brahma, the creator, who thereafter created this world.

The water in the kalasha symbolizes the primordial water from which the entire creation emerged. It is the giver of life to all and has the potential of creating innumerable names and forms, the inert objects and the sentient beings and all that is auspicious in the world from the energy behind the universe. The leaves and coconut represent creation.

The thread represents the love that "binds" all in creation. The kalasha is therefore considered auspicious and worshipped. The waters from all the holy rivers, the knowledge of all the Vedas and the blessings of all the deities are invoked in the kalasha and its water is thereafter used for all the rituals, including the abhisheka.

The consecration (kumbhaabhisheka) of a temple is done in a grand manner with elaborate rituals including the pouring of one or more kalashas of holy water on the top of the temple. When the asuras and devas churned the milky ocean, the Lord appeared bearing the pot of nectar, which blessed one with everlasting life.

Thus the kalasha also symbolizes immortality. Men of wisdom are full and complete as they identify with the infinite Truth (poornatvam). They brim with joy and love and respect all that is auspicious. We greet them with a purnakumbha ("full pot") acknowledging their greatness and as a sign of respectful and reverential welcome, with a "full heart".

Monday, April 14, 2008

Why do we ring the bell in a temple?

Is it to wake up the Lord? But the Lord never sleeps. Is it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to be told, as He is all knowing. Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct? It is a homecoming and therefore entry needs no permission. The Lord welcomes us at all times. Then why do we ring the bell?

The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om, the universal name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness.

Even while doing the ritualistic aarati, we ring the bell. It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of the conch and other musical instruments. An added significance of ringing the bell, conch and other instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardour, concentration and inner peace.

As we start the daily ritualistic worship (puja) we ring the bell, chanting:
Aagamaarthamtu devaanaam gamanaarthamtu rakshasaam Kurve ghantaaravam tatra devataahvaahna lakshanam
Translation: I ring this bell indicating the invocation of divinity, So that virtuous and noble forces enter (my home and heart); and the demonic and evil forces from within and without, depart.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Why do we regard trees and plants as sacred?

The Lord, the life in us, pervades all living beings, be they plants or animals. Hence, they are all regarded as sacred. Human life on earth depends on plants and trees. They give us the vital factors that make life possible on earth: food, oxygen, clothing, shelter, medicines etc.

Hence, in India, we are taught to regard trees and plants as sacred. Indians scriptures tell us to plant ten trees if, for any reason, we have to cut one. We are advised to use parts of trees and plants only as much as is needed for food, fuel, shelter etc. we are also urged to apologies to a plant or tree before cutting it to avoid incurring a specific sin named soona.

Certain trees and plants like tulasi, peepal etc., which have tremendous beneficial qualities, are worshipped till today. It is believed that divine beings manifest as trees and plants, and many people worship them to fulfill their desires or to please the Lord.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Why is pradakshina done only in a clockwise manner?

The reason is not, as a person said, to avoid a traffic jam! As we do pradakshina, the Lord is always on our right. In India the right side symbolizes auspiciousness. So as we circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum we remind ourselves to lead an auspicious life of righteousness, with the Lord who is the indispensable source of help and strength, as our guide - the "right hand".
Indian scriptures enjoin - matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, acharyadevo bhava. May you consider your parents and teachers as you would the Lord. With this in mind we also do pradakshina around our parents and divine personages.
After the completion of traditional worship (puja), we customarily do pradakshina around ourselves. In this way we recognize and remember the supreme divinity within us, which alone is idolized in the form of the Lord that we worship outside.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Why do we do pradakshina (circumambulate)?

We cannot draw a circle without a center point. The Lord is the center, source and essence of our lives. Recognizing Him as the focal point in our lives, we go about doing our daily chores. This is the significance of pradakshina.

Also every point on the circumference of a circle is equidistant from the center. This means that wherever or whoever we may be, we are equally close to the Lord. His grace flows towards us without partiality.

Friday, March 21, 2008

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 make do with 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 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 is 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 at peace.
Fasting should not make us weak, irritable or create an urge to indulge later. This happens when there is no noble goal behind fasting.
The Bhagavad-Gita urges us to eat appropriately - neither too less nor too much - yukta-aahaara and to eat simple, pure and healthy food (a saatvik diet) even when not fasting.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Why do 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 tujko arpan"– I offer what is Yours to You. Thereafter it is akin to His gift to us, graced by His divine touch.
Knowing this, our entire attitude to food and the act of eating changes. 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 criticise the quality of the 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 "realised", aintained 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 (bhuta runa) for serving us selflessly.

Why do we apply the holy ash?

The ash of any burnt object is not regarded as holy ash. Bhasma (the holy ash) is the ash from the homa (sacrificial fire) where special wood along with ghee and other herbs is offered as worship of the Lord. Or the deity is worshipped by pouring ash as abhisheka and is then distributed as bhasma.
Bhasma is generally applied on the forehead. Some apply it on certain parts of the body like the upper arms, chest etc. Some ascetics rub it all over the body. Many consume a pinch of it each time they receive it.
The word bhasma means, "that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered.” Bha implied bhartsanam ("to destroy") and sma implies smaranam ("to remember"). The application of bhasma therefore signifies destruction of the evil and remembrance of the divine. Bhasma is called vibhuti (which means "glory") as it gives glory to one who applies it and raksha (which means a source of protection) as it protects the wearer from ill health and evil, by purifying him or her.
Homa (offering of oblations into the fire with sacred chants) signifies the offering or surrender of the ego and egocentric desires into the flame of knowledge or a noble and selfless cause. The consequent ash signifies the purity of the mind, which results from such actions.
Also the fire of knowledge burns the oblation and wood signifying ignorance and inertia respectively. The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with the body and become free of the limitations of birth and death. This is not to be misconstrued as a morose reminder of death but as a powerful pointer towards the fact that time and tide wait for none.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

To touch another with one’s feet is considered an act of misconduct

Man is regarded as the most beautiful, living breathing temple of the Lord! Therefore touching another with the feet is akin to disrespecting the divinity within him or her. This calls for an immediate apology, which is offered with reverence and humility.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Why do we not touch papers, books and people with the feet?

To Indians, knowledge is sacred and divine. So it must be given respect at all times. Nowadays we separate subjects as sacred and secular. But in ancient India every subject - academic or spiritual - was considered divine and taught by the guru in the gurukula.

The custom of not stepping on educational tools is a frequent reminder of the high position accorded to knowledge in Indian culture. From an early age, this wisdom fosters in us a deep reverence for books and education. This is also the reason why we worship books, vehicles and instruments once a year on Saraswathi Pooja or Ayudha Pooja day, dedicated to the Goddess of Learning.

In fact, each day before starting our studies, we pray: Saraswati namasthubhyam Varade kaama roopini Vidyaarambham karishyaami Sidhirbhavatu me sadaa
Translation: O Goddess Saraswati, the giver of Boons and fulfiller of wishes, I prostrate to You before starting my studies. May you always fulfill me.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Why do we wear marks (tilak, pottu and the like) on the forehead?

The tilak or pottu invokes a feeling of sanctity in the wearer and others. It is recognized as a religious mark. Its form and colour 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 colour) - Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra - applied marks differently. The brahmin 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 valour as he belonged to warrior races. 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 of bhasma, Devi worshippers a red dot of kumkum and so on).

The tilak cover 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 and pottu cools the forehead, protects us and prevents energy loss. Sometimes the entire forehead is covered with chandan or bhasma. Using plastic reusable "stick bindis" is not very beneficial, even though it serves the purpose of decoration.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why do we prostrate before parents and elders?

Indians prostrate before their parents, elders, teachers and noble souls by touching their feet. The elder in turn blesses us by placing his or her hand on or over our heads. Prostration is done daily, when we meet elders and particularly on important occasions like the beginning of a new task, birthdays, festivals etc. In certain traditional circles, prostration is accompanied by abhivaadana, which serves to introduce one-self, announce one’s family and social stature.

Man stands on his feet. Touching the feet in prostration is a sign of respect for the age, maturity, nobility and divinity that our elders personify. It symbolizes our recognition of their selfless love for us and the sacrifices they have done for our welfare. It is a way of humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This tradition reflects the strong family ties, which has been one of India’s enduring strengths.

The good wishes (Sankalpa) and blessings (aashirvaada) of elders are highly valued in India. We prostrate to seek them. Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good wishes springing from a heart full of love, divinity and nobility have a tremendous strength. When we prostrate with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and blessings of elders, which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive the energy thus received.

The different forms of showing respect are :
Pratuthana: Rising to welcome a person.
Namaskaara: Paying homage in the form of namaste
Upasangrahan: Touching the feet of elders or teachers.
Shaashtaanga: Prostrating fully with the feet, knees, stomach, chest, forehead and arms touching the ground in front of the elder.
Pratyabivaadana: Returning a greeting.

Rules are prescribed in our scriptures as to who should prostrate to whom. Wealth, family name, age, moral strength and spiritual knowledge in ascending order of importance qualified men to receive respect. This is why a king though the ruler of the land, would prostrate before a spiritual master. Epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata have many stories highlighting this aspect.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

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 friends, even strangers and us.

There are five forms of formal traditional greeting enjoined in the shaastras of which namaskaram 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 meets the eye. In Sanskrit 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 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.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Why do we have a prayer room?

Most Indian homes have a prayer room or altar. A lamp is lit and the Lord worshipped each day. Other spiritual practices like japa - repetition of the Lord’s name, meditation, paaraayana - reading of the scriptures, prayers, and devotional singing etc are 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 us as caretakers of His home. But if that is rather difficult, we could at least think of Him as a very welcome 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.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Shiv Mahima Stotra - English Translation

महिम्नः पारं ते, परमविदुषो यज्ञसदृशीस्तुतिर्ब्रह्मादीना मपि तदवसन्नास्त्वयि गिरः ।अथावाच्यः सर्वः स्वमतिपरिणामधि गृणन्ममाप्येषः स्तोत्रे हर निरपवादः परिकरः ॥१॥
If the praise of Thee by one who is ignorant of the extent of Thy greatness be unbecoming, then the praises of even Brahmā and others are inadequate for Thee. And if all remain unblamable by praising Thee according to their intellectual powers, then even this attempt on my part to compose a hymn is free from any blemish. 1

अतीतः पंथानं तव च महिमा वाड् मनसयोरतद्व्यावृत्यायं चकितमभिधत्ते श्रुतिरपि ।स कस्य स्तोतव्यः कतिविधगुणः कस्य विषयःपदे त्वर्वाचीने पतति न मनः कस्य न वचः ॥२॥
Thy greatness is beyond the reach of mind and speech. Who will praise That which even the Vedas describe with trepidation by the method of 'not this, not this'? – How many qualities does That possess? And can be perceived by whom? Yet to the form taken later, whose mind and speech do not turn? 2

मधुस्फीता वाचः परमममृतं निर्मितवतस्तव ब्रह्मन्किं वा गपि सुरगुरोर्विस्मयपदम् ।मम त्वेतां वाणीं गुणकथनपुण्येन भवतःपुनामीत्यर्थेस्मिन् पुरमथनबुद्धिर्व्यवसिता ॥३॥
O Brahman! Does the praise of even Brihaspati cause any wonderment to Thee who art the Author of the nectar like sweet Vedas? O Destroyer of Tripura, the thought that by praising Thy glories I shall purify my speech has prompted me to undertake this work. 3

तवैश्चर्यें यत्तद् जगदुदयरक्षाप्रलयकृतत्रयी वस्तु व्यस्तं तिसृषु गुणभिन्नासु तनुषु ।अभव्यानामस्मिन् वरद रमणीयामरमणींविहंतुं व्योक्रोशीं विदधत इहै के जडधियः ॥४॥
O Giver of boons, in refutation of Thy Divinity which is described by the three Vedas, which creates, preserves and destroys the world, and which is divided into three bodies according to the different qualities, some thick headed persons offer arguments, which are pleasing to the ignorant but in reality hateful. 4

किमिहः किंकायः स खलु किमुपायस्त्रिभुवनंकिमाधारो धाता सृजति किमुपादान इति च ।अतकर्यैश्वर्येत्वय्यनवसरदुःस्थो हतधियःकुतर्कोडयंकांश्चि न्मुखरयति मोहाय जगतः ॥५॥
To fulfill what desire, having what body with what instruments, support, and materials does that Creator indeed create the three worlds? This kind of vain argument with regard to Thee, whose Divine nature is beyond vociferous, is to the delusion of mankind. 5

अजन्मानो लोकाः किमवयवंवतोडपि जगतामधिष्ठातारं किं भवविधिरनादत्य भवति ।अनीशो वा कुर्याद भुवनजनने कः परिकरोयतो मंदास्त्वां प्रत्यमरवर संशेरत इमे ॥६॥
O Lord of Gods, can the worlds be without origin though they have parts? Is creation of the worlds possible without a Creator? Who else but God can begin the creation of the worlds? Because they are fools, they raise doubts as regards Thy existence. 6

त्रयी सांख्यं योगः पशुपतिमतं वैष्णवमितिप्रभिन्ने प्रस्थाने परमिदमदः पथ्यमिति च ।रुचीनां वैचित्र्या दजुकुटिलनानापथजुषांनृणामेको गम्य स्त्वमसि पयमामर्णव इव ॥७॥
There are different paths of realization as enjoined by the three Vedas, Sānkhyā, Yoga and Pāśupata doctrine and Vaishnava śāstras . Persons following different paths – straight or crooked according as they consider that this path is best or that one is proper due to the difference in temperaments, reach Thee alone just as rivers enter the ocean. 7

महोक्षः खड्वांगं परशुरजिनं भस्म फणिनःकपालं चेतीय त्तव वरद तंत्रोपकरणम् ।सुरास्तां तामृद्धिं दधति तु भव द्भ्रूप्रणिहितांनहि स्वात्मारामं विषयमृगतृष्णा भ्रमयति ॥८॥
O Giver of boons, a great bull, a wooden club, an axe, a tiger skin, ashes, a human skull and the like these are Thy sole possessions, though by the mere casting of eyes Thou gave the gods great treasures which they enjoy. Indeed, the mirage of sense-objects cannot delude one whose delight is in the Self 8

ध्रुवं कश्चित्सर्वं सकलमपरस्त्वद्ध्रुवमिदंपरो ध्रोव्याध्रोव्ये जगति गदति व्यस्तविषये ।समस्तेडप्येतस्मि न्पुरमथन तैर्विस्मित इवस्तुवंजिह्रेमि त्वां न खलु ननु धृष्टा मुखरता ॥९॥
O Destroyer of Pura some say that the whole universe is eternal, while others say that all is transitory. Yet others maintain that all these are eternal and non-eternal – having different characteristics. Bewildered, as it were by them I do not feel ashamed to praise Thee. Indeed this garrulity indicates my audacity. 9

तवैश्वर्यं यत्ना द्यदुपरि विरिंचिर्हरिरधःपरिच्छेतुं याता वनलमनलस्कंधवपुषः ।ततो भक्तिश्रद्धा भरगुरुगृणद्भ्यां गिरिश यत्स्वयं तस्थे ताभ्यां तव किमनुवृत्तिने फलति ॥१०॥
O Girīśa, Brahmā trying above and, Vishnu trying below failed to measure Thee who took the form of a Pillar of Fire. Afterwards when they praised Thee with great devotion and faith, Thou revealed Thyself to them of thy own accord, indicating whether Thy worship can go without bearing result. 10

अयत्नादापाद्य त्रिभुवनमवैरव्यतिकरंदशास्यो यद्बाहू नभृन रणकंडुपरवशान् ।शिरःपद्मश्रेणी रचितचरणांभोरुहबलेःस्थिरायास्त्वद्भक्ते स्त्रिपुरहर विस्फूर्जितमिदम् ॥११॥
O Destroyer of Tripura, that the ten-headed Rāvana, after riding the three worlds of any trace of enemies, remained with arms eager for fresh war is due to the fact of his having great devotion to Thee devotion which prompted him to offer his heads as lotuses to Thy feet. 11

अमुष्य त्वत्सेवा समधिगतसारं भुजवनंबलात्कैलासेडपि त्वदधिवसतौ विक्रमयतः ।अलभ्यापाताले डप्यलसचलितांगुष्ठशिरसिप्रतिष्ठा प्रत्वय्या सीद्ध्रुवमुपचितो मुह्यति खलः ॥१२॥
When Rāvana extended the valour of his arms whose strength was obtained by worshipping Thee - to Kailāsa, Thy abode, Thou moved the tip of Thy toe, and he did not get a resting place even in the nether world. Verily, when affluent the wicked becomes deluded. 12

यदद्धिं सुत्राम्णो वरद परमोच्चैरपि सतीमधश्चक्रे बाणः परिजनविधेयस्त्रिभुवनः ।न तच्चित्रं तस्मिंन्वरिवसितरि त्वच्चरणयोर्न कस्याप्युन्नत्यै भवति शिरसस्त्वय्यवनतिः ॥१३॥
O Giver of boons, that Bāna, who had the three worlds at his command, put to shade the wealth of Indra is not to be wondered at - he being the worshipper of Thy feet. What prosperity does not result from bowing down the head to Thee? 13

अकाण्डब्रह्माण्डक्षयचकितदेवासुरकृपाविधेयस्यासीद्यस्त्रिनयविषं संह्रतवतः ।
स कल्माषः कण्ठे तव न कुरुते न श्रियमहोविकारोडपि श्लाध्यो भुवनभयभंगव्यसनिनः ॥१४॥
O Three eyed one, it is not that the dark stain on the throat of Thee who drank poison as an act of favor to gods and demons at their being panicky at the threatened destruction of the universe all on a sudden, has not beautified Thee. Even deformity is admirable in one who is given to freeing the worlds of fear 14

असिद्धार्था नैव कवचिदपि सदेवासुरनरेनिवर्तन्ते नित्यं जगति जयिनो यस्य विशिखाः ।स पश्यन्नीश त्वामितरसरुरसाधारणमभूत्स्मरः स्मर्तव्यात्मा नहि वशिषु पथ्यः परिभवः ॥१५॥
O Lord, the God of love whose arrows do not fail anywhere in the world of gods, demons and men but are always successful became simply an object of memory by looking upon Thee as an ordinary god. For an insult to the self controlled does not conduce to good. 15

मही पादाधाताद् व्रजति सहसा संशयपदंपदं विष्णोर्भ्राम्यद्भुजपरिघरुग्णग्रहगणम् ।मुहुद्यौंर्दोस्थ्यं यात्यनिभृतजटाताडिततटाजगद्रक्षायै त्वं नटसि ननु वामैव विभुता ॥१६॥
In order to save the world when Thou danced, the earth wondered at the striking of Thy feet, whether it would not come to sudden end; so felt the spatial region along with the planets, oppressed by the movement of Thy iron-cube like arms; and the heaven became then miserable - its side being struck by Thy waving matted hair. Ah, Thy very mightiness is the cause of trouble. 16
वियद्व्यापी तारागणगुणितफेनोद्गमरुचिःप्रवाहो वारां यः पृषतलघुदष्टः शिरसि ते ।जगद् द्वीपाकारं जलधिवलयं तेन कृतमित्यनेनैवोन्नेयं धृतमहिम दिव्यं तव वपुः ॥१७॥
The river which pervades the sky and whose foams look all the more beautiful because of stars and planets, seems no more than a drop of water when on Thy head. That again has turned the world into islands surrounded by waters. And by this should be inferred how vast is Thy divine body. 17

रथः क्षोणी यन्ता शतधृतिरगेन्द्रो धनुरथोरथाडगे चन्द्रार्कौ रथचरणपाणिः शर इति ।दिधक्षोस्ते कोडयं त्रिपुरतृणमाडम्बरविधिर्विधेयैः क्रीडन्त्यो न खलु परतन्त्राः प्रभुधियः ॥१८॥
When Thou wanted to burn the three cities which were but a piece of straw, the earth was Thy chariot, Brahmā Thy charioteer, the great mountain Meru Thy bow, the sun and the moon the wheels of Thy chariot, Vishnu Thy arrow why this paraphernalia? The Lord is not dependent on others - He was playing with things at his command. 18

हरिस्ते साहस्त्रं कमलबलिमाधाय पदयोयदिकोने तस्मिन् निजमुदहरन्नेत्रकमलम् ।गतो भकत्युद्रेकः परिणतिमसौ चक्रवपुषात्रयाणां रक्षायै त्रिपुरहर जागर्ति जगताम् ॥१९॥
O Destroyer of Tripura, Hari rooted out his lotus eye to make deficiency when one flower was missing in his offering of a thousand lotuses to Thy feet; this great devotion transformed into a discus is alert in protecting the three worlds. 19

क्रतौ सुप्ते जाग्रत्त्वमसि फलयोगे क्रतुमतांक्व कर्म प्रध्वस्तं फलति पुरुषाराधनमृते ।अतस्त्वां सम्प्रेक्ष्य क्रतुषु फलदानप्रतिभुवं श्रुतौ श्रद्धां बद्ध्वा दटपरिकरः कर्मसु जनः ॥२०॥
The sacrifice being destroyed Thou ever remainest the connecting link between the sacrificers and the fruit of the sacrifice. When does the destroyed sacrifice bear fruit, if not accompanied by the worship of the Lord? Therefore knowing Thee to be the giver of fruits and putting faith in the Vedas, people become resolute about the performance of sacrifical rites. 20

क्रियादक्षो दक्षः क्रतुपतिरधीशस्तनुभृतामृषीणामार्त्विज्यं शरणद सदस्याः सुरगणाः ।क्रतुभ्रंषस्त्वत्तः क्रतुफलविधानव्यसनिनोध्रुवं कर्तुः श्रद्धाविधुरमभिचाराय हि मखाः ॥२१॥
Thou Giver of refuge, even the sacrifice where Daksha, the Lord of creation expert in sacrifices was the sacrificer, Rishis were priests, gods were supervisors, was destroyed by Thee though Thou art bent upon giving fruits of the sacrifices. Surely the sacrifices cause injury to the sacrificers in the absence of devotion. 21

प्रजानाथं नाथ प्रसभमभिकं स्वां दुहितरंगतं रोहिद्भूतां रिरमयिषुमृष्यस्य वपुषा ।धनुष्पाणेर्यातं दिवमपि सपत्राकृतंममुंत्रसन्तं तेडद्यापि त्यजति न मृगव्याधरभसः ॥२२॥
O Lord, the fury of Thee who became a hunter with a bow in hand has not as yet left Brahmā though, keenly pierced by Thy arrow and terror stricken, he has fled to the sky. 22

स्वलावण्याशंसाधृतधनुषमह्नाय तृणवत्पुरः प्लुष्टं दष्टवा पुरमथन पुष्पायुधमपि ।यदि स्त्रैणं देवी यमनिरत देहार्धघटनादवैति त्वामद्धा बत वरद मुग्धा युवतयः ॥२३॥
O Destroyer of Tripura, O Giver of boons even on seeing in front the god of love, bow in hand burnt like a straw in a trice by Thee, if Pārvatī proud of Her beauty thinks that Thou art under Her fascination, because She was allowed to occupy half of Thy body on account of austerities, ah, surely the young women are under delusion. 23

स्मशानेष्वाक्रीडा स्महर पिशाचाः सहचराश्चिताभस्मालेपः स्तगपि नृकरोटीपरिकरः ।अमंगल्यं शीलं तव भवतु नामैवमखिलंतथाडपि स्मर्तृणां वरद परमं मंगलमसि ॥२४॥
O Destroyer of the God of love, O Giver of boons, Thy play is in cremation grounds, Thy companions are the ghosts, Thou besmearest Thy body with the ashes of burnt bodies and human skulls are Thy garlands all Thy conduct indeed is thus full of evil. But Thou conduces to the great good of those who remember Thee. 24

मनः प्रत्यक्चित्ते सविधमवधायात्तमरुतःप्रह्रष्यद्रोमाणः प्रमदसलिलोत्संगितदशः ।यदालोक्याह्लादं ह्रद इव निमज्ज्यामृतमयेदद्यत्यंतस्तत्त्वं क्रिमपि यमिनस्तत्किल भवान् ॥२५॥
Thou art indeed that unspeakable truth which the Yogis realize through meditation on the Self, on controlling the breath according to the scriptural directions, and realize which they shed tears of thrilling joy and swimming as it were in a pool of nectar, enjoy inner bliss. 25

त्वमर्कस्त्वं सोमस्त्वमसि पवनस्त्वं हुतवहस्त्वमापस्त्वं व्योम त्वमु धरणिरात्मा त्वमिति च ।परिच्छिन्नामेवं त्वयिपरिणता बिभ्रतु गिरंन विद्मस्तत्तत्वं वयमिह तु यत्त्वं न भवसि ॥२६॥
The wise hold this limiting opinion about Thee - Thou art the Sun, Thou art the Moon, Thou art the Fire, Thou art the Air, Thou art the Water, Thou art the space, thou art the Earth and Thou art the Self. But we do not know that thing which Thou art not. 26

त्रयीं तिस्त्रो वृत्तीस्त्रिभुवनमथो त्रीनपि सुरानकाराद्यैर्वर्णै स्त्रिभिरभिदधत्तीर्ण विकृतिः ।तुरीयं ते धाम ध्वनिभिरवरुन्धानमणुभिःसमस्तं व्यस्तं त्वां शरणद गृणात्योमिति पदम् ॥२७॥
O Giver of refuge, with the three letters A, U, M indicating the three Vedas, the three states, the three worlds and the three Gods, the word OM mentions Thee separately. United by the subtle sound the word OM collectively mentions Thee - Thy Absolute Transcendent State. 27

भवः शर्वो रुद्रः पशुपतिरथोग्रः सहमहांस्तथां भीमशानाविति यदभिधानाष्टकमिदम् ।अमुष्मिन्प्रत्येकं प्रवितरति देव श्रुतिरपिप्रियायास्मै धाम्ने प्रणिहितनमस्योडस्मि भवते ॥२८॥
O Lord, Bhava, Śarva , Rudra, Paśupati, Ugra, Mahādeva, Bhīma, and Īśāna – these eight names are mentioned even in the Vedas. To Thee who art beloved and effulgent I bow down. 28

नमो नेदिष्ठाय प्रियदवदविष्ठाय च नमोनमः क्षोदिष्ठाय स्मरहर महिष्ठाय च नमः ।नमोवर्षिष्ठाय त्रिनयन यविष्ठा च नमःनमः सर्वस्मै ते तदिदमितिशर्वाय च नमः ॥२९॥
O Lover of solitude, my salutations to Thee who are very near as also very far, far away. O Destroyer of the god of love my salutations to Thee who art the minutest as also the largest. O Three eyed One, my salutations to Thee who art the oldest as also the youngest. This is my salutations to thee who art all as also transcending all. 29
बहलरजसे विश्वोत्पत्तौ भवाय नमो नमःप्रबलतमसे तत्संहारे हराय नमो नमः ।जनसुखकृते सत्त्वोद्रिक्तौ मृडाय नमो नमःप्रमहसि पदे निस्त्रैगुण्ये शिवाय नमो नमः ॥३०॥
Salutations to Brahmā in whom Rajas preponderates for the creation of the universe, salutation to Rudra in whom Tamas preponderates for the destruction of the same. Salutation to Vishnu in whom Sattva preponderates for giving happiness to the people, Salutation to Śiva who is effulgent and beyond the three attributes. 30

कृशपरिणति चेतः क्लेशवश्यं क्व चेदंक्व च तव गुणसीमोल्लंधिनी शश्वद्रद्धिःइति चकितममन्दीकृत्य मां भक्तिराधाद्वरद चरणयोस्ते वाक्य-पुष्पोपहारम् ॥३१॥
O Giver of boons, why is my ill-developed mind subject to misery and where is Thy Divinity - eternal and possessing infinite virtues? Though terror stricken because of this, I am forced by my devotion to offer this hymn at Thy feet. 31

असितगिरिसमंस्यात् कज्जलं सिंधुपात्रेसुरतरुवरशाखा लेखिनी पत्रमुर्वि ।लिखति यदि गृहीत्वा शारदा सर्वकालंतदपि तव गुणाना मीश पारं न याति ॥३२॥
O Lord if the blue mountain be the ink, the ocean the ink-pot, the branch of the heavenly tree be pen, the earth the writing leaf, and by taking these if the Goddess of Learning writes for eternity, even then the limit of Thy virtues will not be reached. 32

असुरसुरमुनीन्द्रैरर्चितस्येन्दुमौलेर्ग्रथितगुणमहिम्नो निर्गुणस्येश्वरस्य ।सकलगणवरिष्ठः पुष्पदन्ताभिधानोरुचिरमलधुवृत्तैः स्तोत्रमेतच्चकार ॥३३॥
The best of the Gandharvas, Pushpadanta by name, composed in great devotion this beautiful hymn of the Lord, who is worshipped by demons, gods and the best of sages, whose praises have been sung who has got the moon on His forehead and who is attributeless. 33
अहरहरनवद्यं धूर्जटेः स्तोत्रमेतत्पठति परमभक्त्या शुद्धचित्तः पुमान्यः ।स भवति शिवलोके रुद्रतुल्यस्तथाडत्रप्रचुरतरधनायुः पुत्रवान्कीर्तिमांश्च ॥३४॥
The person who with purified heart and in great devotion always reads this beautiful hymn to Śiva becomes like Śiva after death in the abode of Śiva, and while in this world gets much wealth, long life, many children as also fame. 34

महेशान्नापरो देवो महिम्नो नापरा स्तुतिः ।अघोरान्नापरो मंत्रो नास्ति तत्त्वं गुरोः परम् ॥३५॥
There is no God better than Śiva, there is no hymn better than the Hymn on The Greatness of Śiva, there is no sacred word better than the name of Śiva, there is nothing better to be known than the real nature of spiritual teacher. 35

दीक्षा दानं तपस्तीर्थं ज्ञानं यागादिकाः क्रियाः ।महिम्नस्तवपाठस्य कलां नार्हन्ति षोडशीम् ॥३६॥
Getting initiation into the spiritual life, charity, austerity, pilgrimage, knowledge of the scriptures the performance of sacrificial rites - these do not give one-sixteenth part of the merit that is got by reciting the Hymn on the Greatness Of Śiva. 36

कुसुमदशननामा सर्वगन्धर्वराजःशिशुशशिधरमौलेर्देव देवस्य दासः ।स खलु निजमहिम्नो भ्रष्ट एवास्य रोषात्स्तवनमिदमकार्षीद् दिव्यदिव्यं महिम्नः ॥३७॥
The Lord of Gandharvas, Pushpadanta by name is the servant of the great God who has the crescent moon on His forehead. Fallen from his glory due to the anger of the Lord, he composed this very beautiful Hymn on the Greatness Of Śiva to regain His favor. 37

सुरवरमुनिपूज्यं स्वर्गमोक्षैकहेतुंपठति यदि मनुष्यः प्रांजलिर्नान्यचेताः ।व्रजति शिवसमीपं किन्नरैः स्तूयमानःस्तवनमिदममोघं पुष्पदन्तप्रणीतम् ॥३८॥
After worshipping Śiva, who is adored by Gods and who grants heaven and liberation, if one with single minded devotion and folded palms reads the unfailing hymn composed by Pushpadanta, one goes to Śiva, being worshipped by Kinnaras. 38

आसमाप्तमिदं स्तोत्रं पुण्यं गंधर्वभाषितम् ।अनौपम्यं मनोहारिशिवमीश्वरवर्णनम् ॥३९॥
This unparalleled, sacred hymn composed by Pushpadanta and describing the glory of God is all very fascinating from start to finish. 39
इत्येषा वाडमयी पूजा श्रीमच्छंकरपादयोः ।अर्पिता तेन देवेशः प्रीयतां मे सदाशिवः ॥४०॥
This hymnal worship is offered to the feet of Śiva. May the ever - propitious Lord of Gods be pleased with me at this. 40

तव तत्त्वं न जानामि कीद्शोडसि महेश्वर ।याद्सोडसि महादेव ताद्शाय नमो नमः ॥४१॥
O Lord, I do not know the true nature of Thy being - of what kind Thou art. Of whatever nature Thou mayest be, O Great God to That my salutation again and again. 41

एककालं द्विकालं वा त्रिकालं यः पठेन्नरः ।सर्वपापविनिर्मुक्तः शिवलोके महीयते ॥४२॥
The person who reads this hymn once, twice or thrice is glorified in the abode of Śiva, being freed from all sins. 42

श्री पुष्पदंतमुखपंकजनिर्गतेनस्तोत्रेंण किल्बिहरेण हरप्रियेण ।कंठस्थितेन पठितेन समाहितेनसुप्रीणितो भवति भूतपतिर्महेशः ॥४३॥
If a person learns by heart, reads or keeps in the home this hymn, which came out of the lips of Pushpadanta and which destroys sins and is dear to Śiva, Śiva the Lord of creation becomes very pleased. 43

Here ends the Hymn on the Greatness of Śiva composed by Pushpadanta.
Translation extracted from:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

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 - 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 achievement 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?
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, 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 as to take us towards higher ideals.

Whilst lighting the lamp we thus pray:
Deepajyothi parabrahma
Deepa sarva tamopahaha
Deepena saadhyate saram
Sandhyaa deepo namostute
Translation: - I prostrate to the dawn/dusk lamp; whose light is the Knowledge Principle (the Supreme Lord), which removes the darkness of ignorance and by which all can be achieved in life.