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

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Introduction to Transcendental Meditation

In today’s hectic world with extreme day to day stress, the ways to alleviate stress is vital for a peaceful life. Meditation has always been practiced in India in many different ways and is a proven means to ease the stress. His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced the simple, natural and effortless technique of Transcendental Meditation in 1957. It is a simple, natural, effort-less and effective technique which one can practice by sitting comfortably anywhere.

Transcendental Meditation or TM is a technique as old as Rig Veda. But unfortunately meditation is misinterpreted in different ways by people and mysticism and religious experiences have been added to it. Maharshi Mahesh Yogi has revived and purified this technique to its basic form and re introduced to the world in a scientific manner.

His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

TM is an experience of the mind similar to other experiences like happiness, joy and love. Transcendental Consciousness is an infinite source of energy, intelligence and creativity. The nature of human mind is to create many different thoughts by firing millions of neurons each and every second. This is called Background Noise. The essence of TM is to systematically bring down the noise level and go to a state of silence. When the mind experiences silence state, because of the intimate connection of the mind with body, both experience a profound rest due to the de excitation of the neurons. This state is called the state of Restful Alertness.

Maharshi Mahesh Yogi has explained that the Transcendental Meditation programme is systematic, repeatable with verifiable results and hence is scientific in character. In Maharshi’s words
“Transcendent Divine is omnipresent. Its nature is bliss. We miss the experience of the omnipresence because we engage ourselves in experiencing only its expressions rather than itself. The technique of TM is a gift of nature and when nature has provided such infinite energy, creativity and intelligence to human being, why should they suffer? They suffer because they fail to explore the latent energy within themselves and utilize it in their life. Life is bliss. There is no reason for anybody to suffer in this world.”

You can read about “The Technique of TM” in the next blog post.

Aarti - Om Jai Jagadeesh Hare

The word Aarti brings to our mind the very familiar song – Om Jai Jagadeesh Hare. It can be even said that it is the most popular prayer sung in most Hindu households. Ever wondered who created this popular prayer.

It is the work of Pt. Shardha Ram Phillauri who was a powerful literary figure of the 19th century. You can read more about him at http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050317/aplus.htm#1Even during his lifetime, the popularity of this prayer tempted many persons to appropriate it. Click on the link below to hear a unique rendering of a modified version of this bhajan.






Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chadayamangalam - Here fell the great Jatayu

After all the mega serials on the television, almost everyone knows the story of Jatayu from Ramayana. For those who don't, I'll brief the story to give an idea.

Jatayu is the son of Aruna and nephew of Garuda who has the form of a vulture. When Ravana was on his way to Lanka on his flying chariot after abducting Sita, he encountered Jatayu. This noble souled bird could not bear to hear poor Sita's cry for help and got into a fight with the mighty Ravana. Ravana cut off Jatayu's wings and he collapsed.

Raja Ravi Varma's Painting

According to legend, Chadayamangalam, as it is called in the present day, was known as Jatayu mangalam in olden days was the place where Jatayu fell after losing to Ravana. It is believed that when Lord Shri Rama was on exile he passed through this place and met Jatayu who informed him about Sita's adduction and died.It is a beautiful place lying between Kilimanoor and Kottarakara in Kollam district of Kerala, India.

There is a small pond at the top of the hill in the shape of a bird's beak and it is believed to be where Jatayu fall down in the up hills. When he was thirsty, hit the rocks with its beak and hence this pond was formed. Though it is in peak of the hill, it never dries up even in summer.

A huge rock in this place is named after Jatayu as Jatayu Para (Jatayu Rock). Devotees of the village as well as from the neighboring villages come here and offer worship every day. Jadayu Para is well known as a tourist destination and a place of pilgrimage. Right on top the rock the building of a huge functional sculpture of the Great Bird Jatayu is under way. An 18ft high Statue of Lord Shri Rama Chandra is been constructed at the top of Jadayu Mountain.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Indo - American Faith Support

A unique marriage of Indian culture with that of the west – That is what Jennifer Kumar’s "Alaivani" is. She is the first American to earn a Master’s degree in Social Work from Madras Christian College. She has been an indophile since 1994. Her social work and interaction with different segments of the Indian society made her adopt the magnificent culture of India and Hinduism. If you are the kind of person who has got to do with both India and US, you will find her blog helpful to find a unique identity for yourself and get in touch with similar people stuck in both the worlds. If you are a westerner, you will find the site helpful to know more about Indian culture from a westerner's perspective. You can stay updated by joining their Facebook group. The interfaith calendar on the website is very useful to get notified about all the important dates of most world religions.

Link:http://www.alaivani.com