From temple to temple, the same forms of God can be found but they often vary slightly in appearance. The sculptors carve these forms in their own style, which accounts for any dissimilarity. However, it must be noted that the names associated with these forms do not change. The name ‘Shiva’ remains the same, even when there are differences in appearance from murti to murti. Similarly, the name ‘Vishnu’ remains ‘Vishnu’, and so it is with all the names of God through the ages. Indeed, the names of God are mahaa mantras (great sacred chants of deliverance).
The name of God is superior to the form.
Evidence of this statement can be found in scriptures where instances of repetition of the name brought enlightenment, freedom from struggles and salvation to many devotees. In Shri Raamcharitramaanas, author Tulsidas narrated many incidents where devotees were liberated by the form of Shri Raam Himself, and countless others, by the mere chanting of His name. In Shiva Puraana it is recorded that Upamanyu, a five-year-old child was granted the darshan (appearance) of Lord Shiva by continuous repetition of the Panchakshara Mantra (Om Namah Shivaya) that his mother taught him. Child devotees, Dhruva and Prahalad, also came face to face with the Divine through the mere repetition of His name.
The Power behind the Names of the Divine
The question may be asked, what kind of power lies behind the names of the Divine, these mahaa mantras? A breakdown of the word, mantra, may provide an answer. Mantra is comprised of ‘man’, meaning ‘mind’, and ‘tra’- meaning ‘an instrument or tool’. A mantra then is an instrument of thought.
The names of the various deities are in Sanskrit. Each letter relates to a particular chakra or energy centre in the body. By reciting the name, different energy centres are activated and the energy flows through the 72,000 nadis or channels that crisscross the subtle body. This awakens the inner force or shakti that enables greater awareness of one’s true nature. One may not be aware of these subtle, inner transformations but the results are evident. Ratnakar was unaware that he was repeating the name, ‘Raam’, yet he was transformed to Sage Valmiki, or Adikavi, foremost of poets. Countless persons have been saved from untimely death by chanting the Mahaa Mrityunjai mantra. This Shiva mantra, like many other potent formulae, has the power to remove all suffering and disease and bestows good health and long life to the one who chants it with devotion. It is also believed that constant contemplation of this mantra can help spiritual aspirants to overcome the cycle of birth and death.
Continuous repetition of the name of God purifies the mind of the one who repeats it and also cleanses the environment where it is chanted. Mantras, when chanted, are like seeds that are sown, watered and fertilized. The more they are repeated with attention, concentration and sincerity, the more effective they become. Mantra repetition or mantra jaap can be performed in various ways. Mantras may be recited aloud, softly or in the mind. Likhit jaap or writing the mantras repeatedly can also be practised.
The Power of the Name ‘Raam’
The name, Raam, is a mahaa mantra. Tulsidas sheds light on the power of each of the letters that comprise this word and extols the glory of the name. The word, ‘Raam’, is comprised of the letters ‘ra’, ‘aa’ and ‘ma’, with each letter representative of a source of light. A brief insight into each of these constituents will give some understanding into the power that is wielded by the repetition of the name ‘Raam’ and consequently, the quality of spiritual perfection that Shri Raam personifies.
1. ‘Ra’ represents agni (fire), which is a source of light on earth. Agni burns away the fruits of one’s actions, both positive and negative. ‘Ra’ is also representative of rakt dhaatu – one of the seven fundamental principles or elements that support the basic structure and functioning of the body. It is the carrier of the fire that invigorates the body and mind. As such, when rakt dhaatu is at its optimal level, a person feels energized with a healthy outlook on life.
2. ‘Aa’ represents Soorya, the sun, a source of light in the heavenly sphere. The sun removes the darkness of ignorance, from which other forms of negative qualities are derived. These are: egoism, attachment, aversion and the fear of death. ‘Aa’ is also one of the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet that signifies aanand shakti, the embodiment of bliss.
3. ‘Ma’- represents Chandramaa, the moon, which signifies the remover of taap (pain). The three main types of pain are daihik, pertaining to bodily discomforts, bhoutik or environmental difficulties and daivik or dealing with natural disasters. The letter ‘Ma’ is also associated with the heart. By chanting the name, ‘Raam’, all pain can be destroyed.
As a tool of transformation, repetition of mantras is most useful in one’s life. It is one of the nine types of devotion outlined by Shri Raam to Shavari in Raaamaayan Kathaa. To schedule the act of mantra-recitation in one’s daily routine is to become engaged in a practice that will sustain, uplift and purify oneself as well as one’s environment. Without doubt, the form of God has inspired many. The name, on the other hand, is a most potent instrument of thought.
It is said that the surest, safest and easiest means of expiating sins in this age is repetition of the name of the Divine. Chant! Chant the name and be happy!
Hinduism never ceases to amaze us. It is complete in itself, always giving, always guiding and always taking us a step closer to the truth. Everyday something new is revealed, and sometimes, small gifts are even placed on our doorsteps, waiting to be discovered and opened.
One such example is Vastu Shastra. Vastu Shastra is the ancient Indian science of architecture rooted within the Vedas, which governs the design and construction of manmade structures. The word ‘vastu’ in Sanskrit means ‘dwelling’, referring to buildings, and ‘shastra’ means ‘guideline’. Vastu, being three-fold in nature, pertains to the physical, psychological and spiritual order of the built environment, which is in consonance with the cosmic energies. It is the study of planetary influences on buildings such as homes, and their dwellers. It provides guidance on proper design and construction methods to bring forth maximum benefits such as peace, happiness, health and prosperity, as it ensures that the dwelling is in total alignment with the cosmic field.
Have you ever wondered why our elders always insisted that your head must face east while sleeping, or you must never cook facing south? These are not superstitions, as some may wish to believe; they are, in fact, based on the truth, embedded in science and spirituality.
This divine knowledge of the cosmic mind was obtained by the sages during deep states of meditation and passed on to the ancient Indian architects through word of mouth and handwritten monographs. Although this science appears to have been lost, it is being rediscovered by the western world.
According to Vastu Shastra , the five elements of nature, earth, fire, water, air and ether or space, govern the principles of creation. These forces act for or against each other to create harmony and disharmony. As we know, everything on earth, in some form or other, is energy and is influenced by the nine planets; each of these planets guards a particular direction. So our dwellings are therefore under the influence of the five elements.
We will delve more into the basic Vastu principles in next month’s article and reveal case studies of its tremendous benefits, all thanks to our ancestors. Jai Swaha Maataa!
By Lydia Singh
BSc. Eng., PMP, LFA
Kaba logay hamaree khabariyaa ho, Bajaranga Bali…(2)
Kaliyuga ayka pala peechaa na choray, Peechaa na choray Raama peechaa na choray (2)
Paga paga paapa kee gathariyaa ho, Bajaranga Bali…
Kaama krodha mada lobha mitaado,
Lobha mitaado Raam lobha mitaado (2)
Moha maayaa kee bajariyaan ho, Bajaranga Bali…
Raama naama dhana karloo kamaayee, Karloo kamaayee Prabhu karloo kamaayee (2)
Bhardona mana kee tijoriyaana ho, Bajaranga Bali…
Kavi Dinaysha toray charana parata hai, charana parata toray charana parata hai (2)
Mohay, pahuchaanaa Raama kee nagariyaa ho, Bajaranga Bali….
Chant the name of the mighty and powerful Bajarang Bali.
Let us spread the glories of the Lord, Bajarang Bali, to all.
Please help us, O Lord.
In an instant, You can relieve us from this great bundle of sins we have accumulated in Kaliyug.
Please release us, Hanumaanji.
O Lord! Please destroy the four major sins of anger, lust, arrogance and greed.
Free us from this state of ignorance and delusion, Hanumaanji.
The name of the Lord, Shree Raam, is the most precious wealth that one may possess; more precious than anything we can earn.
O Lord, please fill our minds with Your glorious name; let us always remember You.
The poet Dinesh as he sits with legs folded, pleads, O Lord, that You transfer us from this state of ignorance to that state of supreme bliss to reach the abode of Shree Raam.
The many leelas of Shri Hanumaan in Shri Raamcharitramaanas portray him as possessing an abundance of virtuous qualities, as being the resilient, persevering and dutiful devotee. He provides a blueprint for the aspirant who wishes to walk the road of bhakti or devotion. This Raamdoot (servant of the Lord) epitomises excellence in duty, limitless strength and the magnanimous power of the mind. The perfect example of gyaan guna saagar, he is an ocean of wisdom and virtue.
Writing in Uttar Kaand, Shri Tulsidas describes an episode that demonstrates the distinctive qualities of Shri Hanumaan and His profound dedication to His Lord. Such unparalleled courage and conviction is yet to be demonstrated by another devotee.
Shri Raam had just been anointed with the sacred tilak, having been proclaimed the new King of Ayodhya. Vibheeshan, one of the guests present in the Royal Assembly, presented Sita Maataa with a gleaming, gem-studded ratna-maala. She, in turn, wished to gift this exquisite jewel to someone present and found a most fitting recipient in Hanumaanji who was sitting quietly with his eyes focused on Shri Raam. Prostrating before Sita Maataa, Shri Hanumaan expressed his gratitude and began examining the maala curiously. He thought, “This ratna-maala has a rare external reflection. Apart from this, what else is there of value? Perhaps, the essence or the value of it is to be found on the inside of the beads, since I cannot see anything on the outside.”
Thinking thus, he began to break open each bead to look within, and finding nothing to attract him in any of them, he simply discarded them. The other guests present were overawed by the reflection and brilliance that the maala exuded and were perplexed to see such apparent disregard by Shri Hanumaan. Unable to contain their anger the Kings shouted at him.
King: “Why are you destroying such a valuable item?”
Hanumaanji: “I am looking for the name of Raam in it.”
King: “Is the name of Raam in everything?”
Hanumaanji: “That which does not have the name of Raam has no value.”
King: “Is the name of Raam in you?”
Hanumaanji: “Certainly! Without a doubt! Raam-naam is inside of me!”
King: “Then show me. Show me the name of Raam inside of you.”
Immediately Shri Hanumaan with inner prostration to His Master, burst open his chest and there before all present in that august assembly, the name of Raam was imprinted in every pore of his entire body. Not a spot could be found where the name Raam was not seen.
Everyone was astounded by this revelation by a devotee who proved to the world that his Lord actually dwelt within him.
This simple episode demonstrates the vishwaas or unstinting belief, the raw courage, confidence and conviction of a true devotee of God. Hanumaan’s attitude is representative of the restrained mind, the highest state of mind that focuses on spirituality and nothing else. This is in contrast with the kings who saw only the external beauty of the maala. Caught up in a world of materialism, as the kings were, one becomes lost to the spiritual realm and remains entangled in a web of greed, anger, hate, jealousy and other lower tendencies. However, through saadhan or sincere austerities and worship of Shri Hanumaan, the veil of materialism is removed and one is lifted out of the lower states of mind. It is only then that the vision of the world is no longer material, but spiritual. Only then can we stand on the rooftop of the world and proclaim confidently, “Most certainly, Raam-naam is inside of me.”
Whether we realise it or not, we are all looking for peace of mind. Though most of us feel we want to be happy, it is a mistake to pursue happiness, as with happiness comes the other extreme of sadness. What we really seek is a constant, peaceful state of mind that is not disturbed by the ups and downs of life. We should aim to be like the deep and calm ocean without the large waves that thrash due to the mental storms of the six mental enemies. These enemies are lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride and jealousy and they give rise to a range of bad habits. We are advised therefore to avoid the following seven bad habits that lead us down a path of pain and sorrow:
सप्त दोषा सदा राजन् हातव्या व्यसनोदयाःप्रायशो यैर्विनश्यन्ति कृतमूला अपीश्वराः।
स्त्रियोऽक्षाः मृगया पानं वाक्पारुष्यं च पंचमंमहच्च दण्डपारुष्यं अर्थदूषणमेव च ॥
sapta doṣā sadā rājan hātavyā vyasanodayāḥ prāyaśo yairvinaśyanti kṛtamūlā apīśvarāḥ|
striyo’kṣāḥ mṛgayā pānaṁ vākpāruṣyaṁ ca paṁcamaṁmahacca daṇḍapāruṣyaṁ arthadūṣaṇameva ca ||
1. Infidelity: If you are lustful, then you are not in control of the raging desires in your mind and they will drive you to actions that you will regret. In the context of marriage and relationships, being unfaithful to your partner is going against your word to be faithful and true to each other. Do not do anything to spoil your relationship because, once broken, it can never return to the way it was. “A creeper that has been cut can be made to grow again, but it will never look as beautiful as it used to. Similarly, an affectionate relationship that has been spoilt, can be revived again but it will not have the same charm as it used to.” (Nitidvishashtika)
2. Gambling: Gambling is an addiction. It changes your brain in the same way that drugs and alcohol affect your brain, that is, it causes a flood of feel-good chemicals in your brain that reinforce the negative habit. Gambling sets up a vicious cycle that leads you to believe that the next game you play would be a sure winner. It draws you into a hole of debt, depression and despair. Instead of looking for a quick fix for material gain, try to understand the value of hard work and the deep satisfaction that comes from “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay”.
3. Hunting: A central tenet of Hinduism is ahimsā or not causing pain to others. Hunting for sport involves taking the lives of animals for sheer pleasure and the karmic ripples of such actions are bound to adversely affect you. Instead of looking to take the life of an animal for your own pleasure, try to protect animal life out of compassion and this will bring mental peace rather than misery.
4. Intoxicating drinks: Addictive alcohol and drugs continue to plague all societies and they wreak havoc with the lives of individuals and families. In modern society, the stress to perform and succeed is countered by the need for the feeling of euphoria on demand provided by addictive substances. A wife or girlfriend may end up an alcoholic because she wants to spend time with her husband or boyfriend who is always at the bar. Children may see adults using cigarettes, alcohol and drugs to manage their lives and they then emulate this behaviour without thinking. This leads to a host of other problems as people may lose control of themselves. You must protect yourself and your families from alcohol and drugs at all costs; it is best to identify such problems and seek help as soon as possible.
5. Use of harsh words: Think carefully before you speak. If you speak in anger, then you are only hurting yourself. As the Buddha said, speaking in anger is like grabbing and throwing hot coals at someone else – you are only burning yourself. Before you speak, ask yourself the following three questions: (1) Is it the truth? (2) Is it necessary? (3) Is it kind? If your words fulfil these three criteria, then you can speak. Otherwise, it would be wise to keep quiet.
6. Inflicting very harsh punishment for minor offences: For those of you in leadership positions, you must aim to be fair in all your dealings. Inflicting overly harsh punishments for minor mistakes are acts of victimisation and break the principle of ahimsā or not causing pain to others. Is your intention to teach a lesson and improve a person’s character or is your intention to be hostile and take out your own frustration on another person?
7. Misuse of the treasury: If you are in a position of responsibility and you use financial and other resources for your own selfish ends, that is, for anything other than what was intended, then you have committed a grave act for which you will pay the karmic consequences. Not only is this stealing, but it is also not performing your duty and breaking your word. It is never a good idea to take what does not belong to you, for this greed will result in even greater loss and suffering. When you see what others possess, be inspired to work for what you want just like they did instead of being greedy for what they have.
Be mindful of these seven bad habits that result from the six mental enemies and experience the peace of mind that results from their avoidance.
By Pt. Dr. Umesh Persad
It was Ekaadasi, a time when Sanjay’s Guru would keep a strict fast. However, his shishya (disciple), Sanjay, was still of a tender age and could not undergo such an intense sacrifice. The Guru allowed him to prepare something to eat.
“Sanjay, beta (son), take this rice and beans. Go to the shed over there and make yourself some khichri (mixed rice),” the Guru instructed.
Excitedly, Sanjay set out to prepare his bhojan (meal). After cooking it, he sat down, ready to enjoy his sumptuous meal. Just then he remembered his Guru’s words, “Beta, sadaa praarthnaa karo. Always pray. Ask God to bless the food that you eat.”
Very humbly, the child sat before his food and said innocently, “Jai Shri Raam! O Shri Raam, come bless my food before I eat. Jai Shri Raam!” He opened his eyes eagerly searching for his Prabhu (Lord).
Sanjay waited and watched for his Shri Raam to come. Yet Shri Raam did not appear to bless his meal. He thought to himself, “Where is Shri Raam? Why does he not come to bless my food? The food is getting cold. But I cannot eat this food unless it is blessed.”
One hour passed. Then two hours went by and still no sign of Bhagwan. Sanjay, now bewildered, begged His Lord to come quickly, “Shri Raam, Shri Raam, Kahaan hai, Shri Raam? Kahaan hai? Aao na, Prabhuji, aao. Where are you? Please come!”
More hours went by and still Shri Raam was nowhere to be seen. By now Sanjay was overcome with hunger. He could bear the pangs no more and was about to faint when suddenly a bright light appeared before him. It was the resplendent form of Shri Raam with lotus-like eyes, a face of pure innocence with His bow strung on His back and arrow in hand. Without wasting any time, Sanjay and the Lord sat down to eat the bhojan. “Here, Prabhu, have this portion and I would have this,” said Sanjay as he divided the meal in half. Then after the meal, the Lord disappeared just as He had arrived. Sanjay too returned to the ashram (hermitage) after some time and continued his daily routine as normal.
The next Ekaadasi seemed to take years to arrive. Sanjay, now ecstatic to meet the Lord again, collected his grains hurriedly and quickly, went off and prepared the meal. Then, just as the last time, he called the Lord to partake of the meal.” This time Shri Raam, accompanied by Mother Sita, came to dine with Sanjay. The child divided the meal into three portions and distributed among them. After meals, they both left. As Sanjay also left, his heart longed to observe Ekaadasi every day just to be with the Lord.
The next time Sanjay asked his Guru :” Guruji, can I have some more grains?”
The Guru asked him the reason: “Beta, you seem to have a bigger appetite daily! What do you need the extra grains for?”
“You see, Guruji, when I asked Shri Raam to come and bless my food, he came with a lady. So we have three mouths to feed now.”
The next Ekaadasi, the boy was excited to cook his meal again. The Guru supplied him as requested. As per his usual routine, he cooked and called out to his Lord. This time however, when Sanjay called Him he came with the same lady and another person. The child shared his food amongst four of them. “Here Shri Raam, have this. Aunty you can have this and Uncle have this and I would have this,” Sanjay said, separating the food in quarters. Now, Sanjay glowed with a brilliance that was inexpressible. Every encounter with the Lord seemed to make Sanjay glow brighter and brighter.
The next time, Sanjay requested an even larger amount of grains which the Guru willingly provided again. As usual the child prepared the meal and all three came. This time, though, a monkey accompanied them and as usual, the meal was divided, all partook and left.
The next Ekaadasi came and just like the last time, Sanjay asked for more grains, telling the Guru in excitement, “Guruji, now Shri Raam came, a lady, another man and a monkey as well. So I need more grains. ” The Guru now pondering on what the child said provided him with the extra grains. The Guru thought to himself, “Could this child really be seeing the one and only Shri Raam? Could the others be Sita Maataa, and Hanumaanji? Could this pure and innocent child really be getting the darshan of Sita Maataa and Hanumaanji? I must find out today.”
As Sita Maataa, Lakshman and Shri Raam sat having their meals, the Guru came in and hid behind a tree. Immediately they all vanished allowing the Guru to see only Hanumaanji. The Guru was overjoyed at being able to see the magnificent form of Lord Hanumaan. He thought to himself that Sanjay was certainly a blessed child to have the company of all of them. He himself did not have the unwavering faith that Sanjay had.
The power of faith is incomparable; it is pure and childlike and can create miracles.