Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sreyas - A Great Spiritual Resource

I stumbled upon a great online resource for Hindu spiritual resources. In fact the majority of the site is in malayalam. But there is a lot of content in English too. You can download a lot of ebooks, audio and videos which are of excellent quality. What I liked the most is the excellent satsanga audio resources which can be downloaded. Nowadays it is very difficult to find satsanga sessions and listen to the vedic wisdom. Information technology is helping to cover up the distances by enabling us to download and listen to the great spiritual gurus. 

The site is maintained by Sreekandakumar Pillai (Sree). He had worked with Infosys Technologies at offshore and various foreign locations. Later he quit his full-time job and founded Zetta Technologies and working as a project manager and blogger. The english version of the site can be accessed at the following link.
Link: http://en.sreyas.in/

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Open Source Community for Vedic Audio Resources

Wisdomspeak Audio Resources
Wisdomspeak is an open source community collection of audio resources on Vedic culture. You can listen to mantras, bhajans, spiritual discources etc 24x7 via online radio. If you are a shoutcast radio user, you can easily find the streams by searching for the word "hindu". Shoutcast player is included in Winamp, Songbird and the playlist can be played by most media players like VLC. It is inspired by open-source technology and the emerging mobile internet media, it was thought to utilize audio streaming, wordpress CMS and various useful plugins for spiritual progress of seekers. The community aspires to engender more communication and collaboration between vedic/hindu organizations and spiritual-minded people.

Link: http://wisdomspeak.org/

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Goddess Saraswati - Legends

The Goddess of learning and speech is Saraswati, also known as Sarada, Bharati, Brahmi etc. I've always been confused about the origins of this white complexioned goddess dressed in white or yellow and accompanied by a swan as her vahana. Even though most people consider her as Brahma's consort, there are many who worship her as Vishnu's consort and some consider her as Brahma's daughter! Her origin is also connected to the lost vedic river, Saraswati. She is the manifestation of wisdom, intelligence, speech, thought etc. It is only after I read the article at Vishwarupa.com, I got a more clear picture of the myths and legends about the origin of the Goddess of Learning, who revealed language and writing to mankind.

Link: http://www.vishvarupa.com/print-information-about-saraswati.html

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kerala's Carnatic Music Learning Programme in Malayalam

In today's hectic world, it is very difficult for a common man to find enough time to master the fine arts like carnatic music. Also it is not possible everywhere to find a suitable guru to learn it from. It is in this scenario the electronic media is of a great boon to satisfy the yearning to learn the art of classical music.

Pen Books in association with Music Zone has bought out a set of 7 instructional audio CDs along with a 200 page book for those craving to learn the basics of Carnatic music. The gurus offering music lessons in the CDs include Prof. Mavelikkara Prabhakara Varma, Prof. Thripunithura K. Lalitha, Prof. Mavelikkara Subrahmaniam, Dr. Malini Hariharan and M. K. Shankaran Namboothiri.

Sapthaswarangal
I'm not sure about the extent to which the CDs will help a person to become a singer. But it is sure to help one to understand and appreciate the beauty of carnatic music. I wish they bring out video CDs instead of audio CDs and make classes more realistic.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sacred Saligramam ( Saligrama )

If you ever happened to have a look inside a Vaishnavite's Pooja room, you might have had a glimpse of a black stone called Saligramam being worshipped. It is usually black in color with the symbol of sudarshana chakra. The chakras can be seen both outside and inside. The Saligrama stone is not believed to be just another stone found in the nature. It is found only at Gandaki River situated high in the Himalayas in Nepal. It is believed that the chakra symbols are formed by river worms called Vajra Keeta. It is believed that these worms drill the stones, get inside and use the stones a dwelling place.
Saligramam
There is a legend behind the origin of Saligramam. Once upon a time, Lord Siva was waging a war with an asura called Jallundhara. The war seemed to be between two equals and not just another war of a God with a demon. It was in fact a test of chastity of their consorts. (It is a Hindu belief that chastity of the wife protects her husband even from death) Lord Siva knew that unless the chastity of Vrinda, Jallundhara's wife is spoiled, he cannot be killed as he will be protected by the power of her chastity. But it was against the nature of Gods to indulge in a heinous act like spoiling a woman's chastity.

But there was no such taboo for the demon Jallundhara. He thought that by spoiling the chastity of Goddess Parvati he could defeat Lord Siva. But Goddess Parvati could see through Jallundhara's trick and ended his guise. She signaled Lord Krishna (Avatara of Lord Vishnu) that it was now just to spoil the chastity of Jallundhara's wife and it will not be a sin. Lord Krishna approached Vrinda in the guise of Jallundhana. She could not understand that it is not her husband and lost her chastity.

Later when she came to know about this, she cursed Lord Vishnu to turn into grass, stone, tree and plant. It is believed that Kusha-grass, Saligram-stone, Pipal-tree and Tulsi-plant are incarnations of Lord Vishnu and worshipped henceforth. (There is another version of the story for the origin of Tulsi and Saligrama shila which will be posted later.)

Padma purana states that resident of a salagrama is Lord Kesava himself and along with him reside all the devatas, asuaras, yaksas and the fourteen worlds. Hence, giving a salagrama, is the best form of charity. It also states that Lord Siva himself stays in the salagrama sila and hence worshipping it is of importance to both Vaishnavites and Saivites. Even if a salagrama is cracked, split, or broken it will have no harmful effect if it is worshiped with attention and love by a devotee. Gautamiya Tantra states that merely by touching a shalagrama one becomes freed from the sins of millions of births. In Skanda purana, it is said that that any person who has seen salagrama stone, paid obeisances to it, bathed and worshipped it, has achieved the results of performing ten million sacrifices and giving ten million cows in charity. According to Garuda Purana, The Lord resides in many places in which he may be worshipped, but of all the places Salagrama is the best.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Namakarana - Naming ceremony

Naming a baby is a religious ceremony for the Hindus. In Kerala, usually a baby boy is named on the 27th day after birth and a girl is named on the 28th day after birth. The right day for the ceremony is defined by Gruhyasutras and there are different opinions for the same. Even these dates were to be postponed if there is any lack of religious propriety as in events like a Sankranti, Sraddha ceremony etc. On that day, the baby is given a bath and a black thread is tied around the waist. There will be a feast and distribution of sweets like "payasam". Later, either the father, uncle, grandma or the most senior person of a household whispers thrice into the right ear of the baby, his or her name for the first time.

But according to Sastras, the naming ceremony is supposed to be conducted on the 11th day or 101the day. Different kinds of pujas and homams are conducted on that day. After whispering the name three times into the ear of the baby, the person who conducts the naming ceremony explains the meaning of the name to the assembled people. He also tells the baby that from that day he/she will be called by that name and may the Gods bless to bring glory to that name. After the name is announced, each of the assembled people calls the baby by that name and offers blessings.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

East - the most sacred direction

Of the four directions, east is the most sacred for orthodox Hindus. The ancient Indians believed that one magnetic field passes from the south to north and another one in east to west directions. The latter force field is considered essential for the sustainance of life on earth. They are analogous to the modern day longitude and lattitude. Based on this, Hindus give a lot of importance to the directions while doing day to day activities.
Earth's magnetic field
While sleeping, it is okay to keep the head towards east. After waking up, turn towards the east and bow to our parents, teachers, look at both palms of the hand (and chant the Karagre vasate lakshmi.. mantra). Touch the ground and touch the forehead as a symbol of paying respect to mother earth.
It is while facing the east that one should light the sacred diya (deepam / oil lamp). The sacred plants like tulsi, neem, jasmine etc should be planted facing the east. The entrance and the front side of a house should be ideally facing the east. If you have idols in your courtyard, they should be ideally facing the east. Most of the sacred deeds are done facing the east. The bride garlands the groom facing the direction of east. If the well or pond faces the east, it will get lots of sunshine and the water will get purified by the sun's rays. The ideal place for cowshed is considered to be south-east.
It is not good to have toilets in the east direction of one's house. Also because of the sanctity of the east, it is not good to dump garbage and left overs in the direction of east. We need not think a lot to infer that it is not good to do excretory functions like defecation and urination facing the sacred east. It is said that even if one faces the east while brushing one's teeth, it is better to spit in the direction of north avoiding the east.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Harivarasanam - A nostalgic and divine lullaby

Harivarasanam was written by Kumbakudi Kulathur Iyer in 1950. Swami Vimochanananda recited this song for the first time at Sabarimala in 1955. This beautiful song originally has 16 padas of which only the first 7 are sung at Sabarimala. This song is in the language of Sanskrit and is sung in Madhyamaavati raagam.

It is said that the then Mel Santhi of Sannidhanam, Thirumeni Easwaran Nampoothiri had a companion called VR Gopala Menon of Alappuzha. Mr. Menon used to stay on in a shack at the Sannidhanam even when the temple is closed. Wild animals never used to trouble him and he used to feed them. Revered Menon used to recite Harivarasanam with great devotion. Later when Devaswom Board was formed, he was asked to move out. He died as an orphan in a tea estate at Vandiperiyar. It was with immense grief that the Mel Santhi heard about the demise of Revered Menon. At that end of the pooja that day, when he was about to close the doors of the Sanctum Sanctorum, he remembered Revered Menon and recited 'Harivarasanam' starting a nostalgic tradition that remains unbroken to this day.

But according to some other sources, the tradition was started for the first time after the Punah Prathishta ceremony in the Sabarimala temple. The ceremony had to be conducted after a major fire that consumed the temple in the year of 1955. It was Swami Vimochananda's (Krishnan Nair) efforts to popularize Ayyappa bhakti by travelling the whole of South India that made the chief priest accept the song as a lullaby to Lord Ayyappa.

Harivarasanam is recited just prior to closing of the temple doors at night. As the final verses are being sung, all the assistant Santhis leave the Sanctum Sanctorum one by one. As the song ends, only the Mel Santhi is inside the Sreekoil. He extinguishes the lamps one by one and closes the doors for the night after the last lamp is extinguished.

You can read the lyrics by clicking the link below, watch the youtube video and listen to Sri K.J. Yesudas' rendition of the divine lullaby.

Click here for the lyrics.
Click here to Watch the video.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

28 Hindu temples to be relocated

In Malaysia, Hindu activists have protested severe repression, including forcible conversions and the destruction of scores of temples. Frustrations among the country’s Indian minority has been bubbling under the surface for decades. Adding to the woes of Malaysian Indians, the Malaysian government has said that 28 Hindu temples, which are currently situated on disputed land around the national capital, will be relocated by next month.

Read the news article at http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/003200904211451.htm

The Technique of Transcendental Meditation

Since I have already given an Introduction to Transcendental Meditation in my previous blog post, I would like to discuss the steps involved in the technique in this post.

The technique of TM is taught in seven systematic steps.
Step 1 – Introductory lecture – a vision of possiblilities through the technique of TM (about 90 min)
Step 2 – Preparatory lecture – the origin and mechanics of TM (about 90 min)
Step 3 – Personal interview with the teacher (about 15 min)
Step 4 – Personal instruction – learning the technique (about 20 min)
Step 5, 6 and 7 – Verification and validation of experiences of the previous days.

I attended the TM course by Acharya Mr. Sasidharan at Maharishi Ved Vigyan Bhavan, Mithranandapuram, in Thiruvananthapuram. The following 7 steps is the way I would interpret the technique.
1) Sit comfortably
2) Close your eyes
3) Wait for about 30 seconds
4) Meditation proper
5) Stop meditation
6) Wait for about 2 min with eyes closed
7) Open your eyes slowly to end meditation

The meditation proper consists of repeating the sacred mantra in a progressively decreasing tone and amplitude in a non rhythmic manner. The mantra must be learned from a qualified TM instructor to maintain the purity of the TM technique. The mantra should be chanted in the mind for sometime after which it becomes feeble and gradually disappears. The chanting should be restarted only when thoughts appear in your mind.

• TM must be practiced for at least 15 minutes twice daily for obtaining full benefits of the technique.
• Ideal time is at the times of sunrise and sunset while sitting facing the sun.
• Sit comfortably in whichever position you want, but avoid supporting the head (else you might begin to sleep!)
• TM should be avoided 1 hour after breakfast and 3 hours after a major meal (for obvious medical reasons!)
• Allow all natural events to occur without attempting to suppress them in between a session of TM. E.g. yawning, coughing, scratching, adjusting position, sneezing and even sleeping! After all, the aim is to release our stress; not to increase it.
• Thoughts might disturb a session of TM. But it should not be considered as a disturbance as it is just a part of relieving stress accumulated in the mind.
• Wait for about 2 min after meditation to open your eyes to avoid a jolt by the sudden transition from deep rest to activity.

Where to learn the technique of TM?
Visit TM.org for your nearest TM training center. If you are in India, you can visit your nearest Maharishi Ved Vigyan Bhavan or Maharishi Vidya Mandir School.

RELATED : An Introduction to Transcendental Meditation
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