Hara Hara Shankara, Jaya Jaya Shankara

Hara Hara Shankara, Jaya Jaya Shankara

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What to Chant and What not to???

What are we worth chanting??

Prayers is an integral part of many Hindu households. Each family have their ishta devata, the rites, rituals and regular poojas to these deities are even today done with a lot of devotion and diligence  Apart from our ishta devatas, our religion has given us umpteen slokas and mantras that we can chant. One cannot comprehend all this in one birth. Chants of Ganesha ,Vishnu , Shiva,  Lakshmi,  Durga ma, etc. You name the god, they will have endless sahasranamams and songs, bhajans in their list. Out of the endless collection  the Vedas are undoubtedly a strong guiding force to all human life and is one of the most extolled chants. The vibration, the peace, the ecstasy felt during the chant is something which all of us must experience often. The ups and downs in the chant, the tone of chanting, the length of each syllable, etc are all laid down rules to applaud the greatness of the lord. They have profound meaning and answers to all scientific questions. What our "intelligent" scientists discover today due to their years and years of "re-search", our Vedas have all explained from time immemorial. 

But while it is good to know about all these chants, we should be careful about what we should chant and what we should not. Every chant today has become commercial. All the new swamijis, the new era spiritual leaders accept that anything can be learnt by anyone. For example, a grave and common mistake  which many of them are doing today is reciting the Gayathri mantra which is a very very sacred mantra. This is to be chanted only by men who have had the thread ceremony and have got an initiation from the guru i.e. their father or an acharya. Even those who have got initiation,  the Gayathri or any other mantra must be muttered very sofly and not chanted loudly for other to hear. One must keep the count of the chant in his fingers and with his hand covered. This is the kind of secrecy that one must maintain while chanting

To make things worse, we find this being played loudly in temples themselves, published as ring tones. This is a serious offence we are all committing, the repercussions of which, we will surely face.  While a sloka like Ganesha pancharatnam or Vishnu sahasranamama can be chanted without any initiation, a mantra should 100%  initiated through a guru. A guru can be an acharya, father or husband. It will not have any effect if you don't get it from a guru. Worse, if things are absurdly followed like the Gayathri manta, it will have negative effects on us, our family and our well being. They have in-depth meaning without knowing which we should not venture to chant it. Knowing is good but chanting is not advisable. 

Similarly, the vedas, the upanishads are not to be recited by women. These days, we find that there is a change in this too. While several spiritual leaders may argue that women were once upon a time the knower of all vedas and that they too had upanayanam, shastras do not recommend vedas to be chanted by ladies. These chants are to be told with a certain metre. They have certain ups and downs in chanting, the tone while chanting is important, the length of each syllable etc are not suited for chanting by ladies. Some say that it affects the uterus of a woman. Again, just because the world is changing and we talk about women's liberation, it may not particularly apply to the chanting of vedic mantras. Doing what we think is right will NOT make things right. If we do against what is prescribed in the shastras, then it IS wrong. If  a 100 people do it and claim that is it right under the leadership of a spiritual leader,  sorry friends, it will be NOT become right. Right is right and wrong is wrong.

I am not saying this from my intellect as I am not an intellectual. This is all derived from people who know the shastras, vedas, those who have learned the vedas and shastras in the prescribed manner. And Only those people who wish to protect mankind, will speak out the truth, others will just speak to please our convenience.

So please do not chant or encourage chanting of vedic mantras just because all are doing. Specially, the Gayathri because this is the most popular mantra that is getting changed to the whims and fancies of promoters. So, if you see people promoting them in temples, festivals, and other occasions or places, be bold enough to voice your thoughts to them,  try educating them about the ill-effects. By doing this, you are doing drop service to our dharma. Long live sanatana dharma!!!!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Know Your Ganesha

Interesting facts about Lord Ganesha

Ganesha: The first deity to many, the beautiful child GOD, the naughty looking kid next door and the giver of knowledge, the remover of obstacles. Lord Ganesha is every kid's favorite. His very face is cute and attractive. The elephant face gives him a special aura and this has given the elephant, as an animal, a special status.

We pray to Ganesha as he is believed to be the one who removes obstacles. So, he is the First God getting our first obeisance. Any start to make it good and auspicious, we invoke Ganesha' blessings. There are various kinds of enacting done while praying to this lord. Tapping our temples with our knuckles, doing thopukaranam are some of them. There are enough reasons for this.

Why do we tap our temples with our knuckles?

When Lord Ganesha was entrusted to bring Kaveri from the kamadalam(water pot) of sage Agastya, he took the form of a crow. As the sage was meditating, the crow flew by and hit the kamandalam. The pot fell and water flowed out as the river Kaveri. This upset the sage and he set out to catch the crow. When he was about to catch the bird, the lord revealed his true form as Ganesha. Some stories say that the sage folly and as an act of seeking pardon, tapped his temples asking for forgiveness. This is why, we do the same act of tapping our temples asking the lord to pardon our sins. As we do, we have to say the following sloka:

"Shukla ambara dharam, Vishnum, shashi varnam , Chaturbhujam
Prassan vadanam dyayeth, sarva vigna upa shantaye"

Why do we do thoppu karanam?. 

A rather funny act of holding the right ear with the left hand and vice versa, cross our legs and do some sit-ups. This also has an interesting story.

Once, when Lord Vishnu came to see Shiva, the Lord in his playfull mood, snatched the Sudarshana chakra from Vishnu and put it in his mouth, Lord Vishnu did many things to get it back. Even Lord Shiva could not help him. Finally, Vishnu held his ears with his hands crossed, and started to do some sit ups. This amused lord Ganesha and he laughed out loudly, when the disc fell out. In this way, lord Vishnu got back his chakra. But there are certain things which people do in a wrong way.

How many times should we tap our temples? 

Not too many times. Exactly five times corresponding to the 5 attributes of the lord in the slokam

"Shukla ambara dharam - One who is wearing a white dress"
Vishnum - all pervading
shashi vranam - who is as fair as the moon
chatur bhujam - The four armed
Prasanna vadanam - who has a pleasing face"

This action is said to stimulate certain nerves within the head to catalyze the flow of amrita (nectar) from the sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head.

According to shastras, the thoppu karanam must be done only by men and not by women.
And when we do pradakshinam, one need not do 3 or 5 or 7 etc.

Every GOD has a count of pradakshinams. For Ganesha , it is just one. So, you see, He is an-easy-to-please child GOD. Just like how kids are overjoyed by small gifts, Ganesha also gets extolled by our small acts of prayers.

How do we do pradakshinam?

Well, for many of us, it is a marathon race, fast and quick steps. We all do it as a mundane act. Actually, pradakshinam to any god must be done very slowly just like the walk of a fully pregnant woman. And while doing it, we must recite the slokas and concentrate of the meaning of it.

So, the next time we visit a Ganesha temple, let us remember these points and try practicing them.