subtleness of Indian ethos

Discussion in 'Jokes' started by suravees81, Oct 12, 2007.

  1. suravees81

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    This one is for ur week-end... very useful for those moms who want to educate their kids on Indian ethos. Have a grt wk-end!:wave


    useful info:
    The questions answered here are: Why do we -
    1. Light a lamp?
    2. have a prayer room?
    3. do namaste?
    4. prostrate before parents and elders?
    5. wear marks on the forehead?
    6. not touch papers, books and people with the feet?
    7. apply the holy ash?
    8. offer food to the Lord before eating it?
    9. do pradakshina?
    10. regard trees and plants as sacred?
    11. fast?
    12. ring the bell in a temple?
    13. worship the kalasha?
    14. worship tulasi?
    15. consider the lotus as special?
    16. blow the conch?
    17. say shaanti thrice?
    18. offer a coconut?
    19. chant Om?
    20. do aarati?
    Indian culture is admired and respected all over the world for
    its beauty and depth. This book features in simple terms, the
    various aspects of both beauty and depth in this culture.
    Almost every Indian custom and tradition has either a
    scientific, logical, historical, social or spiritual
    significance. Understanding this lends meaning to an otherwise
    mechanical following of the customs, which are often
    misunderstood to be mere superstitions that fade away in time.
    A unique feature of Indian culture is its self-rejuvenating
    capacity. Customs that are obsolete are gradually dropped as
    seen in the instances of human sacrifice as well as animal
    sacrifice to a large extent, sati, untouchability etc. This
    culture tailors itself constantly to take the best of the
    modern, technological age without losing its roots.
    It is this adaptability that has enabled India to be recognized
    as one of the world's oldest living civilizations. The customs
    and traditions selected for these pages are simple, enduring
    ones, that have lasted the test of time and are an integral
    part of many an Indian home even today.
    Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayanandaji laid great emphasis on
    explaining the symbolism in Hindu dharma in a manner that was
    logical, scientific and appealing to modern man, thereby
    creating a magnificent cultural renaissance.
    This book is dedicated to this great master who spent his
    entire life in raising the dignity of Indian culture and
    philosophy in the eyes of the world.
    Chapter 1
    This chapter tells you Why do we light a lamp, have a prayer
    room, do namaste, prostrate before parents and elders.
    1. 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 and
    moments like daily worship, rituals and festivals and even many
    social occasions like inaugurations commence with the lighting
    of the lamp, which is often maintained right through the
    1. Why do we light a lamp?
    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
    worshipped as the Lord Himself.
    Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness.
    Also knowledge is a lasting inner wealth by which all outer
    achievements can be accomplished. Hence we light the lamp to
    bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth.
    Knowledge backs all our actions whether good or bad. We
    therefore keep a lamp lit during all auspicious occasions as a
    witness to our thoughts and actions.
    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 wicked, 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.
    A single lamp can light hundreds more just as a man of
    knowledge can give it to many more. The brilliance of the light
    does not diminish despite its repeated use to light many more
    lamps. So too knowledge does not lessen when shared with or
    imparted to others. On the contrary it increases in clarity and
    conviction on giving. It benefits both the receiver and the
    Whilst lighting the, lamp we thus pray :
    Deepajyotihi parabrahma
    Deepa sarva tamopababa
    Deepena sadhyate sarvam
    Sandhyaa deepo namostute
    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.
    Which else shall beautify a home
    But the flame of a lovely lamp?
    Which else shall adorn the mind But the light of wisdom deep ?
    Thus this custom contains a wealth of intellectual and
    spiritual meaning.
    2. 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, devotional
    singing etc, is 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.
    1. Why do we have a prayer room ?
    The Lord is the owner of the entire creation He is therefore
    the true owner of 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 ourselves 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.
    Also the Lord is all pervading. To remind us that He resides in
    our homes with us, we have prayer rooms. Without the grace of
    the Lord, no task can be successfully or easily accomplished We
    invoke His grace by communing with him in the Prayer room each
    day and on special occasions.
    Each room in a house is dedicated to a specific function like
    the bedroom for resting, the drawing room to receive guests,
    the kitchen for cooking etc. The furniture, décor and the
    atmosphere of each room are made conducive to the purpose it
    serves. So too for the purpose of meditation, worship and
    prayer, we should have a conducive atmosphere - hence the need
    for a prayer room.
    Sacred thoughts and sound vibrations pervade the place and
    influence the minds of those who spend time there. Spiritual
    thoughts and vibrations accumulated through regular meditation,
    worship and chanting done there pervade the prayer room. Even
    when we are tired or agitated, by just sitting in the prayer
    room for a while, we feel calm, rejuvenated and spiritually
    3. 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 us, friends and even
    There are five forms of formal traditional greeting enjoined in
    the shaastras of which namaskaaram 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.
    1. Why do we do namaste ?
    Namaste could be just a casual or formal greeting, a culture
    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 some times, 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
    4. Why do we prostrate before parents and elders ?
    Indians prostrate to 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 circle, prostration is
    accompanied by abbivaadana which serves to introduce one self,
    announce one's family and social stature.
    1. Why do we offer prostrations?
    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 that 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 Indian's enduring strengths.
    The good wishes (sankalpa) and blessing (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
    The different forms of showing respect are :
    1. Pratuthana - rising to welcome a person.
    2. Namaskaara - paying homage in the form of namaste
    (discussed separately in this book).
    3. Upasangrahan - touching the feet of elders or teachers.
    4. Shaastaanga - prostrating fully with the feet, knees,
    stomach, chest, forehead and arms touching the ground in front
    of the elder.
    5. 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.
    This tradition thus creates an environment of mutual love and
    respect among people ensuring harmony in the family and
    Chapter 2
    This chapter tells you Why do we wear marks on the forehead,
    not touch papers, books and people with the feet, apply the
    holy ash, offer food to the Lord before eating it.
    5. Why do we wear marks on the forehead ?
    Most religious Indians, especially married women wear a tilak
    or pottu on the forehead. It is applied daily after a bath and
    on special occasions before or after ritualistic worship or a
    visit to the temple. In many communities, it is enjoined upon
    married women to sport a kumkum mark on their foreheads at all
    times. The orthodox put it on with due rituals. The tilak is
    applied on saints and image of the Lord as a form of worship
    and in many parts of north India as a respectful form of
    welcome, to honor guests or when bidding farewell to a son or
    husband about to embark on a journey. The tilak varies in color
    and form.
    This custom was not prevalent in the Vedic period it gained
    popularity in the Pauranic period. Some believe that it
    originated in South India.
    1. Why do we wear marks (tilak, pottu and the like) on
    the forehead ?
    The tilak or pottu invokes a feeling of sanctity the wearer and
    others. It is recognized as a religion mark. Its form and color
    vary according to one caste, religious sect or the form the
    Lord worshipped.
    In earlier times, the four castes (based on varna or colour) -
    Braahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra - applied marks
    The Brahmin applied white chandan mark signifying purity, as
    his profession was a priestly or academic nature. The kshatriya
    applied a red kumkum mark signifying valour as be belonged to
    the warrior. 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 the shape of "=") of bhasma, Devi worshippers a
    red dot of kumkum and so on.
    The chandan, kumkum or bhasma which is offered to the Lord is
    taken back as prasad and applied on our foreheads. The tilak
    covers 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 or 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. This custom is unique to Indians and
    helps to easily identify us anywhere.
    6. Why do we not touch papers, books and people with the feet ?
    In Indian homes, we are taught from a very young age, never to
    touch papers, books and people with our feet. If the feet
    accidentally touch papers, books musical instruments or any
    other educational equipment, children are told to reverentially
    touch what was stamped with their hands and then touch their
    eyes as a mark of apology.
    1. Why do we not touch papers and people with the feet ?
    To Indians, knowledge is sacred and divine. So it must be given
    respect at all times. Nowadays we separate 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 namasthuhhyam
    Varade kaama roopini
    Vidyaarambham karishyaami
    Sidhirhhavatu me sadaa
    O Goddess Saraswati, the giver of
    Boons and fulfiller of wishes,
    I prostrate to you before
    Starting my studies.
    May You always fulfill me.
    Children are also strongly discouraged from touching people
    with their feet. Even if this happens accidentally, we touch
    the person and bring the fingers to our eyes as a mark of
    apology. Even when elders touch a younger person inadvertently
    with their feet, they immediately apologize.
    1. To touch another with the feet is considered an act of
    misdemeanor. Why is this so ?
    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 or her. This calls for an
    immediate apology, which is offered with reverence and
    Thus, many of our customs are designed to be simple but
    powerful reminders or pointers of profound philosophical
    truths. This is one of the factors that has kept Indian culture
    alive across centuries.
    7. 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.
    1. Why do we do use bhasma ?
    The word bhasma means, "that by which our sins are destroyed
    and the Lord is remembered" Bha implies 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 vibbuti
    (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
    desire 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. The application of ash reminds
    us that the body is perishable and shall one day be reduced to
    ashes. We should therefore not get too attached to it. Death
    can come at any moment and this awareness must increase our
    drive to make the best use of times. 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.
    Bhasma is specially associated with Lord Shiva who applies it
    all over His body. Shiva devotees apply bhasma as a tripundra
    (the form of "="). When applied with a red spot in the centre,
    the mark symbolizes Shiv - Shakti (the unity of energy and
    matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe).
    Ash is what remains when all the wood is burnt away and it does
    not decay. Similarly, the Lord is the imperishable Truth that
    remains when the entire creation of innumerable names and forms
    is dissolved.
    Bhasma has medicinal value and is used in many ayurvedic
    medicines. It absorbs excess moisture from the body and
    prevents colds and headaches. The Upanishads say that the
    famous Mrityunjaya mantra should be chanted whilst applying ash
    on the forehead.
    Tryambakam yajaamabe
    Sugandhim pushtivardhanam
    Urvaa rukamiva bhandhanaan
    Mrytyor muksheeyamaa amrutaat
    "We worship the three-eyed lord Shiva who nourishes and spreads
    fragrance in our lives. May He free us from the shackles of
    sorrow, change and death-effortlessly, like the fall of a ripe
    brinjal from its stem."
    8. Why do we offer food to the Lord before eating it?
    In western tradition food is partaken after a thanksgiving
    prayer - grace. Indians make an offering of it to the lord and
    later partake of it as prasaada a holy gift from the lord In
    temples and in many homes, the cooked food is first offered to
    the lord each day. The offered food is mixed with the rest of
    the food and then served as prasaada. In our daily ritualistic
    worship (pooja) too we offer naivedyam (food) to the Lord. Why
    do we do so ?
    1. Why do we offer neivedya ?
    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 from the arati "J"I Jagadisha
    Hare" - 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 criticize the quality of the food we get.
    We do not waste or reject it. We eat it with cheerful
    acceptance (prasaada buddhi). When we become established in
    this attitude, it goes beyond the purview of food and pervades
    our entire. Lives. We are then able to cheerfully accept all we
    get in life as His prasaada.
    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 buy us to the
    1. divine forces (devta runa) for their benign grace and
    2. our ancestors (pitru runa) for giving us their lineage
    and a family culture;
    3. the sages (rishi runa) as our religion and culture
    have been "realized", maintained and handed down to us by them;

    4. our fellow beings (manushya runa) who constitute
    society without the support of which we could not live as we do
    5. other living beings (bhuta runa) for serving us
    Thereafter the Lord, the life force, who is also within us as
    the five life-giving physiological functions, is offered the
    food. This is done with the chant - praanaaya swaahaa,
    apaanaaya swaahaa, vyaanaaya swaahaa, udaanaaya swaahaa,
    samaanaaya swahaa, brahmane swaahaa (referring to the five
    physiological functions - respiratory (praana), excretory
    (apaana), circulatory (vyaana), digestive (samaana) and
    reversal (udaana) systems. After offering the food thus, it is
    eaten as prasaada - blessed food.
    To remember this concept, many chant the following verse of the
    Brahmaarpanam Brahmahavihi
    Brahmaagnau Brahmanaahutam
    Brahmakarma samaadhina
    Brahman is the oblation; the clarified butter; the obtain; the
    fire...... Brahman ( the Supreme) shall be reached by him who
    sees the Supreme in all actions.
    Aham vaishvaanarobhutvaa
    Praaninaam dehamaashritaha
    Pachaamyannam chaturvidham
    "Residing in all living beings as the digestive fire, I digest
    the four types of food eaten by them (as an offering to Me)".

    Chapter 3
    This chapter tells you Why do we do pradakshina, regard trees
    and plants as sacred, fast, ring the bell in a temple, worship
    the kalasha, worship tulasi.
    9. Why do we do pradakshins ?
    When we visit a temple, after offering prayers, we
    circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum. This is called
    1. Why do we do pradakshina ?
    We cannot draw a circle without a centre point The Lord is the
    centre, 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 centre. This means that wherever or
    whoever we may be, we are equally close to the lord. His grace
    flows towards us without partiality.
    1. 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. It is a telling fact
    that eve in the English language it is called the "right" side
    and not the wrong one ! 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" - the dharma
    aspect - of our lives We thereby overcome our wrong tendencies
    and avoid repeating the sins of the past.
    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. The story of lord
    Ganesha circumambulating his parents is a well-known one.
    After the completion of traditional worship (pooja), we
    customarily do pradakshina around our-selves. 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
    As we circumambulate, we chant:
    Yaani kaani cha paapaani
    Janmaantara krtaani cha
    Taani taani vinashyanti
    Pradakshina pade pade.
    "All the sins committed by an individual from innumerable past
    births are destroyed by each step taken whilst doing

    to b cont.........................

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