Welcome to Tuesday Trivia!
Catch up on your trivia! Here you will find fun and fascinating facts on spiritual life, religion and philosophy. Join us on Tuesdays for Tuesday Trivia!
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In the words of the great Tibetan master/Bodhisattva Gwalwa Karmapa, the Singing Bowls of Tibet emit the "Sound of the Void", the sound of the universe manifesting. They are a symbol of the ’unknowable’ and as an alloy, date back to the Buddha, Shakyamni (560-480 B.C.). Their origins and detailed histories are shrouded in the distant past and are surely a gift from the shamanistic ’Bon’ religion which precedes Buddhism in Tibet by centuries. For centuries they have been utilized for healing and consciousness transformation. We are now discovering the science behind this powerful ancient modality which is so effective for healing today. Modern medicine can now measure and thus confirm the practice of sound as a means to heal.
There is a trinity of Tibetan spiritual sound objects used for healing—the Singing Bowls, the Ganta and the Tingshas.
*The Bowls emit a quieting, centering energy.
*The Ganta (bell) a motivating and unifying influence and the Tingshas stimulate energy fields.
*The ancient bowls actually come from various Himalayan regions including Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan and are made from a consecrated seven metal alloy. Prayers and mantras were chanted to them during their creation so they carry that sacred energy.
Used within meditations and physical healings the bowls’ characteristic blend of harmonic resonances are used as a vibrational tool to induce stress reduction, chakra balancing, energy synchronization and spontaneous healing. They effectively alter consciousness into a peaceful and expansive meditative state. Participants report a fundamental shift in their view of phenomenon space, accentuated clarity of mind and body, enhanced creativity and a sense of peace and well-being.
On a biological level these instruments affect a great deal of physical change but Tibetan bowl healing has far-reaching implications that occur on emotional, spiritual, and physical levels. It is a regenerative process married to a spiritual awakening that can have profound consequences on illness, disease, and all aspects of our lives. In fact, mainstream medical teaching facilities like Duke University and the University of North Carolina have added programs that link body, mind, and spirit to the treatment of cancer. Cancer prevention centers are utilizing sound as a vital part of the healing process for patients with astounding results.
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor has been using sound, including Tibetan bowls, crystal bowls and chanting in work with cancer patients for many years. The medical director of the Deepak Chopra center in California, Dr. David Simon, found that the sound from Tibetan bowls as well as chanting are chemically metabolized into ’endogenous opiates’, that act on the body as internal painkillers and healing agents.
How do the vibrations from the singing bowls help in the healing process disease?
It can be said that illness is a manifestation of dis-harmony within the body—an imbalance in the cells or a given organ and that healing can be achieved by restoring the normal vibratory frequencies of the diseased, out-of-harmony parts of the body. Since all matter is energy vibrating at different rates, by altering the rate of vibration we can change the structure of matter. Sound from the bowls entrain the brain to move into the deeper Alpha and Theta brain wave frequencies that induce deep meditative and peaceful states, clarity of mind, and intuition. When placed directly on the body the sound vibrations are transmitted into our blood, organs, tissues, and cellular memory through the 80% water in our system. The sound vibrations impact our nervous system, engaging our relaxation reflex and inhibiting the stress or pain response. It reduces brain wave activity, slows the respiratory and heart rate creating ’Cardio-Respiratory Synchronicity’—the perfect condition to release blocked energy and bring the body back into alignment.
Dr. Gaynor mentions in an article in Shamans Drum magazine that the reason sound (and chanting) are still used in shamanistic cultures is that the sound induces trance states of consciousness conducive to healing. The ancient Himalayan bowls are made from a consecrated seven-metal alloy which, when skillfully stimulated, produces five individual and simultaneous tones, each at its own consistent frequency, which vibrationally dance with each other. The raw materials were collected, smelted and purified, cast, reheated and hammered into shape and tone. Mantras or sacred chants were sung and infused intent into the bowls. Their sound synchronizes sentient brain waves and creates a therapeutic effect upon the mind/body realization.
Singing bowls, produce the primordial sound of ’AUM’: The fundamental utterance of energy metamorphosing into matter. They alter space, mind and time; awakening cellular memory and healing the energy body. The act of listening to their captivating overtones effectively stops one's internal dialog, the ’Monkey Mind’. The individual is transported into a space of tranquility and balance where the ’Universal Chord’, found within each self, is touched, joined with, and understood. The Universal Chord, if you will, is the primordial substance from which our whole reality is made and from which our universe originated. Although the vibrational energy of the bowls can be directed to a specific area for healing purposes, they work more on a fundamental level.
These instruments are used within meditations and physical vibrational healing techniques. Their harmonic resonance is used to:
*Reduce stress and pain
*Create vitality synchronization and spontaneous healing
*Effectively alter consciousness into a peaceful and expansive meditative state (trance induction)
Himalayan bowls are also teachers. They carry the Buddhist voidness teachings that purport that nothing exists independently of anything else. Each note from these sacred instruments contains all other notes and herein lies their magic. Although possessing a variety of harmonics, the fundamental vibration of each bowl is rooted in the Sanskrit mantra OM. This primordial sound is the perfection of the universe. The ensuing sympathetic resonance between brain and bowls reawakens the intrinsic blissful self in us.
Our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors will either engage with or sabotage the healing potential as well. Positive thinking can strengthen your immune system and change your life. The combination of the sound vibration of the bowls with positive visualization and affirmations will greatly enhance the healing experience.
Thus, sound is a type of energy medicine that creates the sacred space in which people can heal from stress disorders, pain, depression, the emotional roller coaster and more. It also creates the perfect state for deep meditation, creative thinking and intuitive messages. The healing process is initiated by entraining our brainwaves and creating sympathetic resonance with the perfect vibrations of the bowls.
Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
By The President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State
Goddess Lakshmi is the consort or wife of Lord Vishnu and is the goddess of prosperity, purity, chastity and generosity. Her four hands represent four spiritual virtues. She sits on a fully blossomed lotus, a seat of divine truth. Her personal charm is considered par excellence. An aura of divine happiness, mental and spiritual satisfaction, and prosperity always exist around her. Her palm is always extended to bless people. She is adored by Lord Ganesha.
Prayer to Devi (Shlokas to invoke Gods and Goddesses):
O mother, who is present everywhere, who is embodiment of Universal Mother,
O mother, who is present everywhere, who is embodiment of Power and Energy,
O mother, who is present everywhere, who is embodiment of Peace,
I bow to thee, I bow to thee, I bow to thee.
Dussehra is a popular festival celebrated by Hindus all over India, albeit with different names. It is also known as Vijayadashmi ('Vijay' meaning 'victory' and 'Dashmi meaning 'tenth day), as it is believed that it was on this day that Lord Rama killed the demon-king, Ravana and rescued his abducted wife - Sita. In other words, it signifies the triumph of good over evil. The legendary triumph is reenacted to the day. In the northern parts of India, huge effigies of Ravana, his giant brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnath are placed in vast open grounds. Fireworks and crackers are placed inside the effigies.
Actors dressed as Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana enact the final moments of the battle, at the Ramlila ground. After the enactment of the climax of the war with Ravana, the character playing Rama shoots an arrow with a flaming tip at the effigies from a safe distance and the crowd bursts up in cheer, as the crackers catch fire. The enthusiasm and the cheers sometimes even drown the deafening blast. Merriment ensues, as people indulge themselves games, dance and music that are held at the fair.
Bengalis celebrate Dusshera as a part of their main festival - Durga Puja. This day marks the end of Durga Pooja celebrations, the preceding nine days being collectively referred to as 'Navratri'. Vijayadashmi is dedicated to Mother Goddess Shakti, who incarnated in the form of Goddess Durga, a combined manifestation of the divine energies of the Holy Trinity - Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and all the other devatas, when they summoned her to kill the mighty demon known as Mahishasura and freed the world from his terror.
On Vijayadashmi, the idols of Goddess Durga are immersed into water, after the nine days of festivities. It is said that the people of the earth in the eastern state of West Bengal adopted Durga as their daughter and thus, she visits the home of her parents every year, during the last four days of Navratri, along with her sons Ganesha and Kartikeya, and daughters Lakshmi and Saraswati. She finally leaves for her husband's place on Vijayadashmi. Similar customs are seen in Orissa and Assam. In the North-eastern state of Tripura, huge fairs are conducted and effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhkarna are burnts at Ramlila maidans.
In the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Vijayadashmi holds special significance. The day is considered auspicious for starting education or any form of art, such as dance and music. Saraswati Puja is conducted on the day, when the formal commencement of education of small kids takes place. It is called 'Vidya aarambham' (the beginning of Vidya, meaning education). In Karnataka (especially Mysore) and Andhra Pradesh, Dusshera is celebrated with fanfare. Huge processions can be witnessed in both the States. Although Dussehra is celebrated in different ways across India, the motive remains the same - to spread good cheer and celebrate the victory of good over the evil.
Diwali is one of the biggest festival of Hindus, celebrated with great enthusiasm and happiness in India. The festival is celebrated for five continuous days, where the third days is celebrated as the main Diwali festival or 'Festival of lights'. Different colorful varieties of fireworks are always associated with this festival. On this auspicious day, people light up diyas and candles all around their house. They perform Laxmi Puja in the evening and seek divine blessings of Goddess of Wealth. The festival od Diwali is never complete without exchange of gifts. People present diwali gifts to all near and dear ones.
Diwali As Harvest Festival
Diwali signifies Harvest Festival. As it occurs at the end of a cropping season and has along with the above customs, a few others that reinforce the hypothesis of its having originated as a harvest festival. Every harvest normally spelt prosperity. The celebration was first started in India by farmers after they reaped their harvests. They celebrated with joy and offered praises to God for granting them a good crop.
On the second day of Deepavali, a ritual that is strongly suggestive of the origin of Deepavali as an harvest festival is performed. Worship of the Goddess of Wealth, Laxmi and performance of Aarti are a part of the harvest festival. On this day delicacies are prepared from pounded semi-cooked rice called Poha or Pauva. This rice is taken from the fresh harvest available at that time. This custom is prevalent both in rural and urban areas especially in Western India.
In rural areas, Diwali signifies only this aspect. The reason being the fact that Diwali which is celebrated sometime in October/November co-incides with the end of a harvesting season, known as the Kharif season when the fresh crop of rice is available. Therefore, Diwali is also considered by many rural hindus to be the harvest festival when farmers offer prayers, and express their gratitude to the Almighty for the bounty they received from him.
Legends Of Diwali
Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrates the abundance of autumn harvest and is dedicated to various gods and goddesses. The festival also marks an important date in the Indian calendar, as the North Indian kingdom of Avadha has celebrated this as the last day of Lord Rama's long exile of fourteen years. As the citizens of Ayodhya eagerly awaited their beloved prince's return, they lit thousands of lamps to guide his flying vimana to their city. The darkest night of the year gave way to a glorious morning as Rama returned with his wife and brothers to his ancestral kingdom of Avadha.
Diwali also celebrates the gracious nature of the three goddesses, Lakshmi, Kali and Saraswati. Dhanteras (two days before Diwali) is dedicated to Lakshmi, whose blessings are essential for a prosperous, fruitful and peaceful life. Kali-Chudash (the day before Diwali) is dedicated to Maha Kali whose strength we seek to maintain the wealth we have. Strength, physical, mental and spiritual, is essential for all of us to lead a happy life. Diwali itself is dedicated to goddess Saraswati. Knowledge is the ultimate wealth, for it cannot be stolen from you; it is also the ultimate strength, for it often defeats brute force.
Goddess Lakshmi : The Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi was incarnated on the new moon day (amaavasyaa) of the Kartik month during the churning of the ocean (samudra-manthan), hence the association of Diwali with Lakshmi.
Vishnu Rescued Lakshmi: On this very day, Lord Vishnu in his fifth incarnation as Vaman-avtaara rescued Lakshmi from the prison of King Bali and this is another reason of worshipping Ma Larkshmi on Diwali.
Krishna Killed Narakaasur: On the day preceding Diwali, Lord Krishna killed the demon king Narakaasur and rescued 16,000 women from his captivity. The celebration of this freedom went on for two days including the Diwali day as a victory festival.
The Return of the Pandavas: According to the great epic 'Mahabharata', it was 'Kartik Amavashya' when the Pandavas appeared from their 12 years of banishment as a result of their defeat in the hands of the Kauravas at the game of dice (gambling). The subjects who loved the Pandavas celebrated the day by lighting the earthen lamps.
The Victory of Rama: According to the epic 'Ramayana', it was the new moon day of Kartik when Lord Ram, Ma Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana and conquering Lanka. The citizens of Ayodhya decorated the entire city with the earthen lamps and illuminated it like never before.
Coronation of Vikramaditya: One of the greatest Hindu King Vikramaditya was coronated on the Diwali day, hence Diwali became a historical event as well.
Shyama Charan Lahiri
(Bengali: Shêma Chôron Lahiṛi), best known as Lahiri Mahasaya (September 30, 1828 – September 26, 1895), was an Indian yogi and a disciple of Mahavatar Babaji. He revived the yogic science of Kriya Yoga after He had learned it from Mahavatar Babaji in 1861.
He was unusual among Indian holy men in that He was a householder — marrying, raising a family, and working as an accountant for the Military Engineering Department of the English government. Lahiri Mahasaya lived with His family in Varanasi . He achieved a substantial reputation among 19th century Hindu religionists.
He became well known in the west through Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. Lahiri Mahasaya’s disciples included both of Paramhansa Yogananda’s parents as well as HIS own guru. Lahiri Mahasaya prophesied that the infant Yogananda would become a yogi, and “carry many souls to God’s kingdom“.
Lahiri Mahasaya was born into a Brahmin family in the Nadia district of Bengal. He was the youngest son of Muktokeshi, wife of Gaur Mohan Lahiri. His mother died when He was a child . At the age of three or four, He was often seen sitting in meditation, with His body buried in the sand up to His neck. When He was five, the family’s ancestral home was lost in a flood, so the family moved to Varanasi, where He would spend most of His life.
As a child, He studied Urdu and Hindi, gradually moving on to Bengali, Sanskrit, Persian, and English along with study of the Vedas. Reciting the Vedas, bathing in the Ganges, and worshiping were part of His daily routine.
In 1846, He was married to Srimati Kashi Moni Devi. They had two sons, Tincouri and Ducouri, and three daughters,Harimati,Harikamini and Harimohini. His work as an accountant in the Military Engineering Department of the English government took Him all over India. After the death of His father, He took on the role of supporting the entire family in Varanasi.
Teacher of Kriya Yoga
In 1861, Lahiri Mahasaya was transferred to Ranikhet, in the foothills of the Himalayas. One day, while walking in the hills, He heard a voice calling to Him. After climbing further, He met His Guru Mahavatar Babaji, who initiated Him into the techniques of Kriya Yoga. Babaji told Him that the rest of His life was to be given in spreading the Kriya message.
Soon after, Lahiri Mahasaya returned to Varanasi, where He began initiating sincere seekers into the path of Kriya Yoga. Over time, more and more people flocked to receive the teachings of Kriya from HIM. He organized many study groups and regular discourses on the Bhagavad Gita at His “Gita Assemblies.” He gave Kriya initiation to those of every faith, including Hindus, Moslems, and Christians, at a time when caste bigotry was very strong. He encouraged His students to adhere to the tenets of their own faith, adding the Kriya techniques to what they already were practicing.
He continued His dual role of accountant and supporter to His family, and a teacher of Kriya Yoga, until 1886, when He was able to retire on a pension. More and more visitors came to see Him at this time. He seldom left His sitting room, available to all who sought His darshan. Over the years He gave initiation to gardeners, postmen, kings, maharajas, sannyasis, householders, people considered to be lower caste, Christians, and Muslims.
Some of His notable disciples included Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, Mother and Father of Paramahansa Yogananda, Sri Panchanan Bhattacharya, Sri Harinarayan Paladhi, Sri Ramdayal Majumdar,Swami Kevlananda, Dr. Srish Mukhopadhyay, Sri Ananda Charan Shastri, Sri Harimohan Bandopadhyay, Sadhu Nagendranath Chowdhary, Sri Motilal Thakur, Swami Satyanand Giri, Swami Suddhananda Giri, Swami Jnananananda, Swami Pranabananda, Swami Keshabananda, Sri Bhupendranath Sanyal, Swami Bhaskarananda Saraswati of Benares, Balananda Brahmachari of Deogarh, Maharaja Iswari Narayan Sinha Bahadur of Benares and his son, Sri Maheswara Dutta, Sri Barada Charan Majumdar, Sri Tripura Charan Deb Sharmana, Sri Jnanendra Nath Mukhopadhyay, Sri Adyanath Ray, Brahamachari Anilananda, Swami Parmananda Giri, Swami Bhavananda Giri, Swami Gokulananda Giri, Sri Netai Charan Bandhadhyay.
Origin of Masala Chai Tea (from Chai Pilgrimage)
As we traveled throughout India researching chai, one question we asked people as we sat around the chai stalls was, “What is the origin of masala chai?” The response we heard, more than any other, was that it is “grandmothers’ tea.” Grandmother, the traditional caretaker of the household, would brew a blend of plant roots, bark and seeds if a family member became ill, or as a tonic to keep them healthy through the changing seasons. Some of the ingredients now found in a classic cup of masala chai are useful for cold, flu, stomach ailments, digestion, lungs and other common maladies. These family recipes were handed down from mother to daughter to granddaughters over generations spanning hundreds or even thousands of years.
Then came the Brits. Back in Britain, folks had developed quite an expensive habit for Chinese tea, their most popular beverage. To make a long story of greed, slavery, drug smuggling, war, deforestation and imperialism short, Britain’s East Indian Company, who wanted independence from the high cost of China tea, took over areas in northeast India to establish their own tea plantations. This turned India into a big, profitable tea party and opened the floodgates, unleashing an ocean of tea on the subcontinent.
One popular belief, or chai conspiracy story, we heard many times during our travels, is that the British first dispensed tea at no cost to the Indian population, knowing its addictive nature and seeing an enormous new local market. The marketing plan worked, as even now, India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tea. Eventually tea, with its energy giving medicine, made its way into grandma’s spice decoctions. Add some milk and sugar, coming from both traditional Indian Ayurvedic and British tea-time traditions, and masala chai was born. There is, of course, no way to verify this chai creation theory, but it seems plausible.
Later, the British tradition of tea sipping seeped into Indian culture. People (generally men) would gather outside there home on the streets to drink chai and socialize. Chai stalls became the new meeting place. At the dhabas, or Indian 24 hour truckstops, Punjabi truck drivers demanded a strong cup of masala chai as a restorative drink to get them through the long hours of driving. And in homes, chai became the symbol of hospitality.
The inception of masala chai seems to have its roots in a crossroads of cultures, beginning with the Indian grandmothers, coming together in the subcontinent. It has only recently become hugely popular in the West, particularly in the U.S. This is an historic ironical twist, considering America was founded on dumping tea into the ocean as an act of civil disobedience, with the Boston Tea Party becoming a symbol of tax resistance and revolution.
Chai is such an integral part of Indian culture, I think they must look at us and wonder “What is such the big deal with chai?” As a foolish American chai lover, I offer my humble thank you to the long line of grandmothers on the other side of the world, who gave us the gift of masala chai.
Celebrating the 2010 Ganesh Chaturthi Festival in India
This spectacular festival honors the birth of the beloved Hindu elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha, popularly worshiped for his ability to remove obstacles and bring good fortune.
When is Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrated:
August or September, depending on the cycle of the moon. In 2010, Ganesh Chaturthi falls on September 11. It is celebrated for the following 11 days (ending on September 22), with the biggest spectacle taking place on the last day called Ananta Chaturdasi day.
Where is Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrated:
Mostly in the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. One of the best places to experience the festival is in the city of Mumbai. Celebrations take place in a special way at the towering Siddhivinayak temple, located in the central suburb of Prabhadevi, which is dedicated to Lord Ganesha. An incalculable number of devotees visit the temple to join in prayers and pay their respects to the God during the festival. In addition, around 10,000 statues of Lord Ganesh are displayed at various locations in the city.
How is Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrated:
The festival begins with the installation of huge elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesha in homes and podiums, which have been especially constructed and beautifully decorated. Artisans put months of effort into making the statues. It's forbidden to look at the moon on this first night as legend had it the moon laughed at Lord Ganesha when he fell from his vehicle, the rat. On Ananta Chaturdasi (the last day), the statues are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then immersed in the ocean or other bodies of water. In Mumbai alone, more than 150,000 statues are immersed each year!
What Rituals are Performed During Ganesh Chaturthi:
Once a statue of Lord Ganesh is installed, a ceremony is undertaken to invoke his holy presence into the statue. This ritual is called the Pranapratishhtha Puja, during which a number of mantras are recited. Following this a special worship is performed. Offerings of sweets, flowers, rice, coconut, jaggery and coins are made to the God. The statue is also anointed with red chandan powder. Prayers are offered to Lord Ganesha every day during the festival. Temples devoted to Lord Ganesha also organize special events and prayers. Those who have a Ganesha statue in their house treat and care for him as a much loved guest.
Why are the Ganesh Statues Immersed in Water at the End of the Festival:
Hindus worship idols, or statues, of their gods because it gives them a visible form to pray to. They also recognize that the universe is in a constant state of change. Form eventually gives away to formlessness. However, the energy still remains. The immersion of the statues in the ocean, or other bodies of water, and subsequent destruction of them serves as a reminder of this belief.
What to Expect During Ganesh Chaturthi:
The festival is celebrated in a very public manner. Local communities compete with each other to put up the biggest and best Ganesha statue and display. Expect very crowded streets, filled with boisterous devotees, and lots of music. A huge procession called Dance Ganesh also takes place though the streets of Mumbai on the last day, complete with DJs, fire dancers, stilt walkers, lasers, lights, and thousands of revelers. It starts out from the Mahalaxmi Temple Compound in Breach Candy, central Mumbai, and ends at the seafront.
What to Expect During Ganesh Chaturthi:
The festival is celebrated in a very public manner. Local communities compete with each other to put up the biggest and best Ganesha statue and display. Expect very crowded streets, filled with boisterous devotees, and lots of music. In Maharastra, chants of Ganapati Bappa! Moriya! are commonly heard. It means "Oh Ganpati My Lord, return soon next year". A huge procession called Dance Ganesh also takes place though the streets of Mumbai on the last day, complete with DJs, fire dancers, stilt walkers, lasers, lights, and thousands of revelers. It starts out from the Mahalaxmi Temple Compound in Breach Candy, central Mumbai, and ends at the seafront.
Janmashtami facts are quite interesting to know. People all over the world would find these facts informative and exciting. Know about the different Janmashtami facts on this page of fact file. It will provide you most fascinating information on Janmashtami and its celebrations. This page will serve as a snapshot of information for you. Check out some of informative Janmashtami facts here:
Janmashtami is celebrated on ashtami of Krishna Paksh or the 8th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadon.
According to some scholars, Krishna was born on 19th July 3228 B.C.E.
The term Krishna in Sanskrit means ‘black’.
Lord Krishna belonged to the clan of Yadavas.
Janmashtami is celebrated around eight days after Raksha Bandhan.
South India celebrates Gokulashtami with fruits, ‘prasadam’ and devotional songs.
Maharashtra celebrates the festival by breaking of ‘dahi handi’.
Janmashtami is also known as Gokulashtami and Krishnastami.
Lord Krishna with Radhaji is worshipped on this day.
Besides, some people also worship Shri Krishna’s brother Balaram as well as sister Subhadra on the day of Janmashtami.
Lord Krishna was born in Mathura but was brought up in Gokul.
Mathura has around 400 temples dedicated to Nandgopal.
Lord Krishna is known by around 108 names in the world.
Raas Leela is the most famous dance performance of Lord Krishna that is still observed in India.
Krishna’s teachings are world famous and can be found in the book called Bhagavad Gita.
Lord Krishna assisted Arjuna one of the Pandavas for the battle of Krukshetra.
Since 1966, the devotion of Lord Krishna spread to other countries like America, Europe, Africa, Russia and South America.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was instrumental in creating awareness among people.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was founder of the ISKCON movement.
In fact, his guru— Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura instructed him to write about Shri Krishna in English and to share the philosophy of ‘Gaudiya Vaishnava’ with people in the Western world.
Independence Day of India is celebrated on Fifteenth of August to commemorate its independence from British rule and its birth as a sovereign nation in 1947. The day is a national holiday in India. All over the country, flag-hoisting ceremonies are conducted by the local administration in attendance. The main event takes place in New Delhi, the capital city of India, where the Prime Minister hoists the national flag at the Red Fort and delivers a nationally televised speech from its ramparts. In his speech, he highlights the achievements of his government during the past year, raises important issues and gives a call for further development. The Prime Minister also pays his tribute to leaders of the freedom struggle.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and spiritual leader of India during the Indian independence movement. He pioneered satyagraha—resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, a philosophy firmly founded upon ahimsa, or total nonviolence, which helped India to gain independence, and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is often referred to as Mahatma Gandhi (or "Great Soul", an honorific first applied to him by Rabindranath Tagore), and in India also as Bapu (Gujarati: bāpu or "Father"). He is officially honoured in India as the Father of the Nation; his birthday, 2 October, is commemorated there as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence.
Yoga Diet - The Three Gunas
The Yoga Diet is one the Five Principles of Yoga. You will soon notice that eating properly will aid your health and make you feel fit and cleaner. The Yoga Diet is a perfect complement to Yoga Exercise. Despite the fact that the Yoga Diet is not a diet in the common sense of the word, you will probably lose considerable weight by just eating only healthy foods. Even if you do not want to become a vegetarian, following these basic Yoga Diet rules as it will make you feel so much better.
In the unmanifested universe, energy has three qualities, known as
1.Gunas, that exist together in equilibrium
2.Sattva (purity); Rajas (activity, passion, the process of change)
3.Tamas (darkness, inertia)
Once energy takes form, one quality of the three predominates. Thus on an apple tree, some fruits are ripe (sattvic), some are ripening (rajastic) and some are overripe (tamastic). But no matter what quality prevails, an element of each of the other two will always be present as well - parts of the apple will be in all the different stages. The Three Gunas encompass all existence, all actions.
*the purest diet
*the most suitable one for any serious student of Yoga.
*nourishes the body and maintains it in a peaceful state.
*calms and purifies the mind, enabling it to function at its maximum potential.
*leads to true health; a peaceful mind in control of a fit body, with a balanced flow of energy between them.
Sattvic foods include:
*fresh fruit and vegetables
*pure fruit juices
*butter and cheese
*honey and herb teas
*very hot, bitter, sour, dry or salty food
*destroys the mind-body equilibrium, feeding the body at the expense of the mind
*too much Rajastic food will over-stimulate the body and excite the passions, making the mind restless and uncontrollable
*eating in a hurry is also considered rajastic
Rajastic foods include:
*hot substances, such as sharp spices or strong herbs
*stimulants such as coffee and teas
*salt and chocolate
*A Tamastic Diet benefits neither the mind nor the body.
*Prana, or energy is withdrawn, powers of reasoning become clouded and a sense of inertia sets in.
*The body's resistance to disease is destroyed and the mind filled with dark emotions, such as anger and greed.
*Overeating is also considered tamastic.
Tamastic food includes:
*fermented foods such as vinegar
*stale overripe substances
For more information on the benefits of a Sattvic lifestyle, please review our lecture notes from Brother Satyananda's 2010 Convocation Lecture:
about astro-bangles and gems... The rishis (the ancient sages and seers of India) discovered that high-quality gems of not less than two carats, worn touching the skin, can be most effective in counteracting negative planetary influences and lessening karmic burdens. The equilibrating power comes from their strong magnetic radiation which is in harmony with the tones of emanating cosmic energy via the planets, creating a counter-balancing or harmonizing capacity. By way of analogy, specific gems and metals can be thought of as a shield, absorbing and counteracting the disturbing and potentially destructive planetary rays falling on the body and mind.
Excerpt from Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 16, Outwitting the Stars:
'Then, dear Master, why do you want me to wear an astrological bangle?'
I ventured this question after a long silence, during which I had tried to assimilate Sri Yukteswar's noble exposition.
'It is only when a traveler has reached his goal that he is justified in discarding his maps. During the journey, he takes advantage of any convenient short cut. The ancient rishis discovered many ways to curtail the period of man's exile in delusion. There are certain mechanical features in the law of karma which can be skillfully adjusted by the fingers of wisdom.
All human ills arise from some transgression of universal law. The scriptures point out that man must satisfy the laws of nature, while not discrediting the divine omnipotence. He should say: 'Lord, I trust in Thee, and know Thou canst help me, but I too will do my best to undo any wrong I have done.' By a number of means - by prayer, by will power, by yoga meditation, by consultation with saints, by use of astrological bangles - the adverse effects of past wrongs can be minimized or nullified.
Just as a house can be fitted with a copper rod to absorb the shock of lightning, so the bodily temple can be benefited by various protective measures. Ages ago our yogis discovered that pure metals emit an astral light which is powerfully counteractive to negative pulls of the planets. Subtle electrical and magnetic radiations are constantly circulating in the universe; when a man's body is being aided, he does not know it; when it is being disintegrated, he is still in ignorance. Can he do anything about it?
This problem received attention from our rishis; they found helpful not only a combination of metals, but also of plants and - most effective of all - faultless jewels of not less than two carats. The preventive uses of astrology have seldom been seriously studied outside of India. One little-known fact is that the proper jewels, metals, or plant preparations are valueless unless the required weight is secured, and unless these remedial agents are worn next to the skin.'
Faith in prayer and attunement to God or one of his messengers is of a much more superior path. Of course, some great saints have also recommended taking advantage of gem instruments to lessen one's distance from the goal. Hence, from a practical point of view both gems and truth can validly be shared hand in hand. As Swami Sri Yukteswar has suggested, plants, metals and gems can all play a role as instruments to minimize or nullify the adverse effects of our reactions to planetary radiations. Of the three, he extolled quality gems of over two carats as being the most effective. This, however, does not negate the excellent strengthening benefits of pure gold, silver and copper bangles. Of interest, Swami Sri Yukteswar and Paramahansa Yogananda both wore nine-gem bangles.
The harmonium is also known as peti or baja. This instrument is not a native Indian instrument. It is a European instrument which was imported in the 19th century. It is a reed organ with hand pumped bellows. Although it is a relatively recent introduction, it has spread throughout the subcontinent. Today, it is used in virtually every musical genre except the south Indian classical.
Although this is a European invention, it has evolved into a truly bi-cultural instrument. The keyboard is European, but it has a number of drone reeds which are particularly Indian. European models came in both hand pumped and foot pumped models. The foot pumped models disappeared in India many years ago. This is because the foot pedals required one to sit in a chair; something which is unusual for an Indian musician. Also the only advantage of the foot model was that it freed both hands so that both melody and chords could be played. Indian music has no chords, so this was no advantage. Although the hand pumped models required one hand to pump they were more portable and comfortable when played on the floor.
There is an instrument which is very similar to the harmonium, but it has no keys. It therefore, is incapable of playing a melody and must merely play a drone. This is called a surpeti.
There are a number of parts of the harmonium, here are some of the main ones:
Body - The body is the box that houses the various parts of the harmonium. There are two basic styles. One style is simply a box with everything in a fixed position (see above illustration). Another style collapses down into a suitcase style of enclosure. There are several collapsible styles; one is shown in the right hand illustration.
Bellows - The bellows are the pumps which force the air through the instrument. There are really two sets of bellows, one internal and one external. The external bellows are pumped by hand; these are familiar to the average player. The external bellows then forces the air into the internal bellows. The internal bellows act as a reservoir for the air. These bellows lay deep inside the instrument and are visible only by disassembling the instrument. The internal bellows push against a spring; it is this spring which forces the air over the reeds.
Keys - The keys, known in India as "chabi", are the small wooden controls that the performer fingers to play the music. There are black keys and white keys. Although the keyboard is reminiscent of the keyboards found on pianos and other Western instruments, the international standard for pitch (i.e., A=440) has not been adopted.
Cover - The cover is a small piece of wood, sometimes with cloth or glass, which covers the workings of the harmonium. It serves two functions. The most important is to protect the workings against damage. It also changes the sound by muting the higher frequencies while allowing the lower frequencies to pass. Sometimes the cover has a sliding panel which makes this muting action adjustable.
Stops (main) - The main stops are a series of valves which control the way that air flows in the instrument. The main stops control the air flowing into the various reed chambers. There are usually a minimum of one stop per reed chamber; however it is not unusual to find more than one per chamber. Although these extra stops may control special functions, such as tremolo, it is not unusual to find a redundant stops with no special function. This reflects the tendency of Indian musicians to simply open up all the stops, regardless of the function.
Stops (drone) - The drone strops are the most distinguishing feature of Indian harmoniums. These stops control the flow of air over un-keyed reeds. They simply drone their particular pitch. There may be any number of drones set to any pitch; however they tend toward, A sharp, C sharp, D sharp, F sharp, and G sharp.
Handles - The handles allow for easy transport of the harmonium. In a box type, there are two handles on the sides. In a suitcase style, there is only a single handle.
Reeds - The reeds a series of brass reeds set into a heavier brass base. Each base is roughly 1/4 inch by 2 inches. There must be a minimum of one reed per key while two or three are the most common. These small brass reeds vibrate whenever air passes over them.
Coupler - A coupler is a mechanical arrangement whereby another key is played along with the one being fingered. Normally it is the key located an octave below the selected key. This arrangement produces a much richer sound than an uncoupled keyboard. This coupling may be enabled or defeated by the user.
Scale Changer - Scale changer is an elaborate mechanical arrangement whereby the entire keyboard may be shifted up or down. This allows a musician to transpose the performance into any key without having to learn new fingerings. WARNING - Do not buy a scale changing harmonium. The failure rate is unacceptable!
Reed Board - The reed board is a flat piece of wood with a series of long holes cut in them. There are a series of brass reeds covering these holes. These reeds are arranged in banks. If there are two banks of reeds, it is said to be a double-reed harmonium. If there are three banks of reeds, it is said to be a triple-reed harmonium. The triple-reed harmonium is generally considered to be superior to the double-reed variety. Sometimes this board is not flat, but instead has the reeds set into perpendicular baffles. This style is said to produce a better sound.
There are two common sitting positions, a standard position and one used by qawwali singers. The standard position is simple. On simply places the harmonium on the ground. The right hand plays the keys while the left hand pumps the bellows. This is the most common position used in India today. There is also a position used by qawwali singers and folk musicians. For this position one end of the harmonium rests on the ground while the other end rest partially in the lap.
The position is reversed for left handed musicians. In such cases the right hand pumps the bellows while the left hand plays the melody.
The harmonium may also be played standing and walking. In this case the harmonium is slung by a strap around the neck. This however, seems to be limited to beggars that one may occasionally encounter.
Indian Genre That Use Harmonium
•Bhajan - Hindu devotional music.
•Film Music - Songs from the Indian film industry.
•Folk Music - Rural and regional folk music.
•Ghazal - Urdu poetic songs.
•Geet Hindi light songs.
•Kathak Dance - North Indian classical dance.
•Qawwali - Islamic devotional songs.
•Kirtan / Dhun - Hindu devotional chants.
•Shabad - Sikh Devotional Music.
•Thumri - North Indian semi-classical form.
•Kheyal - North Indian classical vocal.
Incense (Latin: incendere, "to burn") is composed of aromatic biotic materials, which release fragrant smoke when burned. The term "incense" refers to the substance itself, rather than to the odor that it produces. It is used in religious ceremonies, ritual purification, aromatherapy, meditation, for creating a mood, masking bad odours, and in medicine. The use of incense may have originated in Ancient Egypt, where the gums and resins of aromatic trees were imported from the Arabian and Somali coasts to be used in religious ceremonies.
Incense is composed of aromatic plant materials, often combined with essential oils. The forms taken by incense have changed with advances in technology, differences in the underlying culture, and diversity in the reasons for burning it. The two main types can generally be separated into "indirect burning" and "direct burning". Indirect burning incense, also called "non-combustible incense", requires a separate heat source since it is not capable of burning itself. Direct burning incense, also called "combustible incense", is lit directly by a flame and then fanned out, the glowing ember on the incense will smoulder and release fragrance. Examples of direct burning incense are incense sticks (joss sticks) and cones or pyramids.
The use of incense dates back to biblical times and may have originated in Egypt, where the gums and resins of aromatic trees were imported from the Arabian and Somali coasts to be used in religious ceremonies. It was also used by the Pharaohs, not only to counteract unpleasant odours, but also to drive away demons and gratify the presence of the gods, as they believed.
The Babylonians used incense while offering prayers to divining oracles. The Indus Civilization used incense burners. Evidence suggests oils were used mainly for their aroma. Incense spread from there to Greece and Rome. Brought to Japan in the 6th century by Chinese Buddhist monks, who used the mystical aromas in their purification rites, the delicate scents of Koh (high-quality Japanese incense) became a source of amusement and entertainment with nobles in the Imperial Court during the Heian Era 200 years later.
During the 14th century Shogunate, samurai warriors would perfume their helmets and armor with incense to achieve an aura of invincibility. It wasn't until the Muromachi Era during the 15th and 16th century that incense appreciation spread to the upper and middle classes of Japanese society.
Throughout history, a wide variety of materials have been used in making incense. Historically there has been a preference for using locally available ingredients. For example, sage and cedar were used by the indigenous peoples of North America. This was a preference and ancient trading in incense materials from one area to another comprised a major part of commerce along the Silk Road and other trade routes, one notably called the Incense Route.
Religious use of incense
Use of incense in religion is prevalent in many cultures and may have their roots in the practical and aesthetic uses considering that many religions with not much else in common all use incense. One common motif is incense as a form of sacrificial offering to a deity, for example, Chinese jingxiang ("offer incense [to ancestors/gods]). The use of incense was employed for profane purposes as an antidote to the lassitude caused by very great heat, as perfumes are now used. Mention of its introduction into religious worship is made by classical writers (cf. Ovid, "Metamorph.", VI, 14, Virgil, "AEneid", I, 146). Herodotus testifies to its use among the Assyrians and Babylonians, while on Egyptian monumental tablets kings are represented swinging censers. Into the Jewish ritual it entered very extensively, being used especially in connexion with the eucharistic offerings of oil, fruits, and wine, or the unbloody sacrifices (Leviticus 6:15). By the command of God Moses built an altar of incense (cf. Exodus 30), on which the sweetest spices and gums were burned, and to a special branch of the Levitical tribe was entrusted the office of daily renewal (1 Chronicles 9:29).
Hinduism was probably the first religion in which incense was used and sacrificed to show loyalty to God. The use of incense is a traditional and ubiquitous practice in almost all pujas, prayers, and other forms of worship. As part of the daily ritual worship within the Hindu tradition of India, incense is offered to God in His deity forms, such as Krishna and Rama. This practice is still commonplace throughout modern-day India. It is said in the Bhagavad-Gita that, "Krishna accepts the offering made to Him with love", and it is on this principle that articles are offered each day by temple priests or by those with an altar in their homes.
Judaism - The ketoret is the incense described in the Bible for use in the Temple. Its composition is described in greater detail in the Talmud. Although it was not produced following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Orthodox Judaism studies the composition of the ancient Temple incense for future use in a restored Temple as part of daily Jewish services. Contemporary Judaism uses aromatic spices in religious ritual only as part of the havdala ceremony ending the Sabbath. There is, however, a blessing for smelling pleasant smells.
Christianity - When, exactly, incense was introduced into the religious services of the Catholic Church it is not easy to say. During the first four centuries there is no evidence for its use. Still, its common employment in the Temple and the references to it in the New Testament (cf. Luke 1:10; Revelation 8:3-5) would suggest an early familiarity with it in Christian worship. The earliest authentic reference to its use in the service of the Church is found in Pseudo-Dionysius ("De Hier. Ecc.", III, 2). The Liturgies of Sts. James and Mark — which in their present form are not older than the fifth century — refer to its use at the Sacred Mysteries. A Roman Ordo of the seventh century mentions that it was used in the procession of the bishop to the altar and on Good Friday (cf. "Ordo Romanus VIII" of St. Amand). The pilgrim Etheria saw it employed at the vigil Offices of the Sunday in Jerusalem (cf. Peregrinatio, II). Almost all Eastern liturgies bear witness to its use in the celebration of the Mass, particularly at the Offertory. In the Roman Church incensation at the Gospel of the Mass appears very early — at the Offertory in the eleventh, and at the Introit in the twelfth century, at the Benedictus and Magnificat of the canonical Hours about the thirteenth century, and, in connexion with the Elevation and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, about the fourteenth century. "Ordo Romanus VI" describes the incensation of the celebrant, and in the time of Durandus (Rat. off. Div.) the assisting clergy were incensed. In the present discipline of the Western Church incense is used at solemn Mass, solemn blessings, functions, and processions, choral offices, and absolutions for the dead.
Neopaganism - Incense is also often used in Neopagan rituals to represent the element of air, although more modern approaches to incense magic demonstrate that incense actually represents all of the elements. This is attributed to the fact that incense smoke wafts through the air, is created through the use of fire, the incense materials are grown from the earth, and combustible incense is formed using water. It is also believed to release natural energy. The associations below do not hold true for all traditions, but provide a general look at the magical associations of incense.
Frankincense — burned for purification, spirituality and is associated with the Sun. Frankincense is associated with masculine powers.
Myrrh — has similar properties to frankincense, though it is also used for healing and attraction as well. Myrrh is associated with feminine powers.
Copal — most often burned for purification, both spiritual cleansing as well as for cleansing physical items. Copal is actually a generic term referring to many different types of resins. Varieties include white, black, and golden.
Dragon's blood — burned for love, strength, and courage and can be used to add potency to any spellwork.
Pine and Cedar — help cleanse space of negative energy.
Bhajans : One Way of Worship
The Sanskrit word for worship is bhakti ; one who worships is a bhakta ; and one way of worship is to sing bhajans, i.e. devotional songs.
Bhajans are the most popular form of worship in India. They are sung by a single person or in a group; with or without music. Some bhajans are in classical ragas, the other in simple folk tunes. Bhajans can be sung in morning or evening; or may just be murmered at leisure or at work. For centuries, bhajan sessions have been not just a religious practice but also social and cultural events for the common man of India.
Traditional religious ceremonies in India are highly structured; elaborate and expensive rituals are conducted by a priest in Sanskrit. In contrast, bhajan sessions eliminate the priest; the singer addresses the Almighty himself in simple vernacular to rudimentary music of cymbals, tabla, and harominium.
Kabir was a 15th century poet. In his time, India was ruled by Muslim rulers. There was a perpetual tension between those who converted to Islam and the vast Hindu majority. The Hindus themselves were also divided by castes, innumerable denominations and creeds. Kabir and other literary figures of his time preached the essential human brotherhood, decried the ritualistic forms of worship and championed the ideal of a classless, casteless society.
This ideal was taken up by laterday thinkers in Gujarat and was used to fashion a Ramkabir sect. The followers of this sect denounced their castes and caste names - they simply called themselved Bhaktas.
The Bhaktas celeberated births and marriages and mourned deaths austerely by simpler prayers or bhajans. These bhajan sessions eliminated the institution of the priest and the elaborate, and even wasteful rituals that come with the priest.
The Bhakta philosopy largely draws on Kabir's preachings. However, it is remarkably open to any number of other thinkers and their theories. They thus worship the formless Universal Power, Brahma, as solemnly as they sing of the various forms of Brahma, the avatars .......
Lord Ganesha, popularly known and easily recognized as the Elephant-God, is one of the most important deities of the Hindu patheon. Before every undertaking, be it laying of the foundation of a house, or opening of a store or beginning any other work, Lord Ganesha is first worshipped so at to invoke his blessings.
Ganesha has many names. The main ones are Ganapati (lord of the ganas, or attendants), Vighneshwara (controller of all obstacles), Vinayaka (the prominent leader), Gajaanana (elephant-faced), Lambodara (pendant-bellied), and Ekdanta (having one tusk).
Lord Ganesha, also called Ganapati or Vinayaka, is presented in the form of a human body with the head of an elephant. This blend of human and animal parts is a symbolic representation of a perfect human being, as conceived by Hindu sages. His head symbolizes wisdom, understanding, and a discriminating intellect that one must possess to attain perfection in life. By worshipping Ganesha, a Hindu seeks God's blessings for achieving success in one's endeavors in the physical world and for attaining perfection thereafter. Hence, Hindus worship Ganesha to seek God's blessings before beginning such activities.
Lord Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati (a form of Goddess Durga). The other son of Lord Shiva is Karttikeya also known as Muruga, Skanda, Subramanya, Shanmukha. Ganesha has got two wives, one named Siddhi (Success) and the other named Riddhi (Prosperity). One who pleases the Lord, automatically comes in the good books of his two wives. Ganesha, the embodiment of wisdom, is also depicted as the scribe to whom sage Vyasa dictated the Mahabharata. He is accepted as the god of learning and the patron of letters.
Ganesha was born on the fourth day of the month of Bhadrapad, the sixth month of the Hindu lunar calendar. In the south, especially in Maharashtra people celebrate 'Ganesh Chaturthi' by buying or making of clay image of Ganesha, worshipping the idol at home or a community center and then taking it in a procession to be immersed in a river, lake or sea.
Vighneshwara (Remover or controller of all obstacles), Who is Ganapati/Ganesa? Ganapati is the Self. In a sentence, Ganesa simply means "Self-realization is but the removal of obstacles to the recognition of the eternal, immanent, inner self, here and now."
The lotus (Sanskrit and Tibetan padma) is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols and one of the most poignant representations of Buddhist teaching.
The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies pristinely above the water, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment.
Though there are other water plants that bloom above the water, it is only the lotus which, owing to the strength of its stem, regularly rises eight to twelve inches above the surface.
According to the Lalitavistara, "the spirit of the best of men is spotless, like the lotus in the muddy water which does not adhere to it."
According to another scholar, "in esoteric Buddhism, the heart of the beings is like an unopened lotus: when the virtues of the Buddha develop therein, the lotus blossoms; that is why the Buddha sits on a lotus bloom."
The lotus is one of Buddhism's best recognized motifs and appears in all kinds of Buddhist art across all Buddhist cultures. Scrolling lotuses often embellish Buddhist textiles, ceramics and architecture.
Every important Buddhist deity is associated in some manner with the lotus, either being seated upon a lotus in full bloom or holding one in their hands. In some images of standing Buddhas, each foot rests on a separate lotus.
The lotus does not grow in Tibet and so Tibetan art has only stylized versions of it, yet it appears frequently with Tibetan deities and among the Eight Auspicious Symbols.
The color of the lotus has an important bearing on the symbology associated with it:
*White Lotus (Skt. pundarika; Tib. pad ma dkar po): This represents the state of spiritual perfection and total mental purity (bodhi). It is associated with the White Tara and proclaims her perfect nature, a quality which is reinforced by the color of her body.
*Pink Lotus (Skt. padma; Tib. pad ma dmar po): This the supreme lotus, generally reserved for the highest deity. Thus naturally it is associated with the Great Buddha himself.
*Red Lotus (Skt. kamala; Tib: pad ma chu skyes): This signifies the original nature and purity of the heart (hrdya). It is the lotus of love, compassion, passion and all other qualities of the heart. It is the flower of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
*Blue Lotus (Skt. utpala; Tib. ut pa la): This is a symbol of the victory of the spirit over the senses, and signifies the wisdom of knowledge. Not surprisingly, it is the preferred flower of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom.
The Life of the Buddha - Siddhartha Gautama:
Siddhartha Gautama was born about 583 BCE, in or near what is now Nepal. His father, King Suddhodana, was leader of a large clan called the Shakya. His mother, Queen Maya, died shortly after his birth. When Prince Siddhartha was a few days old, a holy man prophesied the Prince would be either a great military conqueror or a great spiritual teacher. King Suddhodana preferred the first outcome and prepared his son accordingly. He raised the boy in great luxury and shielded him from knowledge of religion and human suffering. The Prince reached the age of 29 with little experience of the world outside the walls of his opulent palaces.
The Four Passing Sights:
One day, overcome with curiosity, Prince Siddhartha asked a charioteer to take him on a series of rides through the countryside. On these journeys he was shocked by the sight of an aged man, then a sick man, and then a corpse. The stark realities of old age, disease, and death seized and sickened the Prince. Finally, he saw a wandering ascetic. The charioteer explained that the ascetic was one who had renounced the world and sought release from fear of death and suffering.
The Renunciation: For a time the Prince returned to palace life, but he took no pleasure in it. Even the news that his wife Yasodhara had given birth to a son did not please him. The child was called Rahula, which means "fetter." One night he wandered the palace alone. The luxuries that had once pleased him now seemed grotesque. Musicians and dancing girls had fallen asleep and were sprawled about, snoring and sputtering. Prince Siddhartha reflected on the old age, disease, and death that would overtake them all and turn their bodies to dust. He realized then that he could no longer be content living the life of a prince. That very night he left the palace, shaved his head, and changed his prince's clothes for a beggar's robe. Then he began his quest for enlightenment.
Siddhartha began by seeking out renowned teachers, who taught him about the many religious philosophies of his day as well as how to meditate. But after he had learned all they had to teach, his doubts and questions remained. so he and five disciples left to find enlightenment by themselves. The six companions attempted to find release from suffering through physical discipline--enduring pain, holding their breath, fasting nearly to starvation. Yet Siddhartha was still unsatisfied. It occurred to him that in renouncing pleasure he had grasped pleasure's opposite--pain and self-mortification. Now Siddhartha considered a Middle Way between those two extremes. He remembered an experience from his childhood, when his mind had settled into a state of deep peace. The path of liberation was through discipline of mind. He realized that instead of starvation, he needed nourishment to build up his strength for the effort. But when he accepted a bowl of rice milk from a young girl, his companions assumed he had given up the quest and abandoned him.
The Enlightenment of the Buddha: Siddhartha sat beneath a sacred fig (Ficus religiosa), known ever after as the Bodhi Tree, and settled into meditation. The work of Siddhartha's mind came to be mythologized as a great battle with Mara, a demon whose name means "destruction' and who represents the passions that snare and delude us. Mara brought vast armies of monsters to attack Siddhartha, who sat still and untouched. Mara's most beautiful daughter tried to seduce Siddhartha, but this effort also failed. Finally, Mara claimed the seat of enlightenment rightfully belonged to him. Mara's spiritual accomplishments were greater than Siddhartha's, the demon said. Mara's monstrous soldiers cried out together, "I am his witness!" Mara challenged Siddhartha--who will speak for you? Then Siddhartha reached out his right hand to touch the earth, and the earth itself roared, "I bear you witness!" Mara disappeared. And as the morning star rose in the sky, Siddhartha Gautama realized enlightenment and became a Buddha.
The Teacher: At first, the Buddha was reluctant to teach, because what he had realized could not be communicated in words. Only through discipline and clarity of mind would delusions fall away and the Great Reality could be directly experienced. Listeners without that direct experience would be stuck in conceptualizations and would surely misunderstand everything he said. But compassion persuaded him to make the attempt. After his enlightenment, he went to the Deer Park in Isipatana, located in what is now the province of Uttar Pradesh, India. There he found the five companions who had abandoned him, and to them he preached his first sermon. This sermon has been preserved as the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta and centers on the Four Noble Truths. Instead of teaching doctrines about enlightenment, the Buddha chose to prescribe a path of practice through which people can realize enlightenment for themselves. The Buddha devoted himself to teaching, attracting hundreds of followers. Eventually he became reconciled with his father, King Suddhodana. His wife, the devoted Yasodhara, became a nun and disciple. Rahula, his son, became a novice monk at the age of 7 and spent the rest of his life with his father.
Last Words: The Buddha tirelessly traveled and taught until his death at age 80. His last words to his followers: "Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation."
Tao Te Ching can be translated as The Book of Immanence of the Way or The Book of the Way and of How It Manifests Itself in the World, or, simply, The Book of the Way. About its author, Lao-tzu, there is practically nothing to be said. He may have been an older contemporary of Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.) and may have held the position of archive-keeper in one of the petty kingdoms of the time. But all the information that has come down to us is highly suspect. Even the meaning of his name is uncertain (the most likely interpretations: "the Old Master" or, more picturesquely, "the Old Boy"). Like an Iroquois woodsman, he left no traces. All he left us is his book: the classic manual on the art of living, written in a style of gemlike lucidity, radiant with humor and grace and largeheartedness and deep wisdom: one of the wonders of the world.
People usually think of Lao-tzu as a hermit, a dropout from society, dwelling serenely in some mountain hut, unvisited except perhaps by the occasional traveler arriving from a '60s joke to ask, "What is the meaning of life?" But it's clear from his teachings that he deeply cared about society, if society means the welfare of one's fellow human beings; his book is, among other things, a treatise on the art of government, whether of a country or of a child. The misperception may arise from his insistence on wei wu wei, literally "doing not-doing," which has been seen as passivity. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A good athlete can enter a state of body-awareness in which the right stroke or the right movement happens by itself, effortlessly, without any interference of the conscious will. This is a paradigm for non-action: the purest and most effective form of action. The game plays the game; the poem writes the poem; we can't tell the dancer from the dance.
Nothing is done because the doer has wholeheartedly vanished into the deed; the fuel has been completely transformed into flame. This "nothing" is, in fact, everything. It happens when we trust the intelligence of the universe in the same way that an athlete or a dancer trusts the superior intelligence of the body. Hence Lao-tzu's emphasis on softness. Softness means the opposite of rigidy, and it's synonymous with suppleness, adaptability, endurance. Anyone who has seen a t'ai chi or aikido master doing non-doing will know how powerful this softness is.
Lao-tzu's central figure is a man or woman whose life is in perfect harmony with the way things are. This is not an idea; it is a reality. The Master has mastered Nature, not in the sense of conquering it, but of becoming it. In surrendering to the Tao, in giving up all concepts, judgments, and desires, her mind has grown naturally compassionate. She finds deep in her own experience the central truths of the art of living, which are paradoxical only on the surface: that the more truly solitary we are, the more compassionate we can be; the more we let go of what we love, the more present our love becomes; the clearer our insight into what is beyond good and evil, the more we can embody the good. Until finally she is able to say, in all humility, "I am the Tao, the Truth, the Life."
The teaching of the Tao Te Ching is moral in the deepest sense. Unencumbered by any concept of sin, the Master doesn't see evil as a force to resist, but simply as an opaqueness, a state of self-absorption which is in disharmony with the universal process, so that, as with a dirty window, the light can't shine through. This freedom from moral categories allows him his great compassion for the wicked and the selfish.
Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn't reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn't waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.
What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man's job?
If you don't understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.
Source: Tao Te Ching, A New English Translation by Stephen Mitchell
Mithraism was one of the major religions of the Roman Empire (predecessor to the Roman catholic religion) and included the Cult of Mithra, the ancient Persian god of light and wisdom. In the Avesta (the sacred Zoroastrian writings of the ancient Persians) Mithra appears as the chief yazata (Avestan, "beneficent one"), or good spirit, and ruler of the world. He was supposed to have slain the divine bull, from whose dying body sprang all plants and animals beneficial to humanity. After the conquest of Assyria in the 7th century BC and of Babylonia in the 6th century BC, Mithra became the god of the sun, which was worshipped in his name (Sun Worship). The Greeks of Asia Minor, by identifying Mithra with Helios, the Greek god of the sun, helped to spread the cult. It was brought to Rome about 68BC by Cilician pirates whom the Roman general Pompey the Great had captured, and during the early empire it spread rapidly throughout Italy and the Roman provinces.
Mithraism is similar to catholicism and Protestantism in many respects, for example, in the ideals of humility and brotherly love, baptism, the rite of communion, the use of holy water, the priest were called father, the adoration of the shepherds at Mithra's birth, the adoption of Sundays and of December 25 (Mithra's birthday) as holy days, and the belief in the immortality of the soul, the last judgment, and the resurrection. Mithraism differed only in the exclusion of women from its ceremonies and in its willingness to compromise with polytheism. These similarities, however, made the conversion of its followers to catholicism (The Universal Pagan Religion) easy.
The word "mandala" is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean "circle," a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself--a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.
Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community.
The mandala pattern is used in many religious traditions. Hildegard von Bingen, a Christian nun in the 12th century, created many beautiful mandalas to express her visions and beliefs.
In the Americas, Indians have created medicine wheels and sand mandalas. The circular Aztec calendar was both a timekeeping device and a religious expression of ancient Aztecs.
In Asia, the Taoist "yin-yang" symbol represents opposition as well as interdependence. Tibetan mandalas are often highly intricate illustrations of religious significance that are used for meditation.
Representing the universe itself, a mandala is both the microcosm and the macrocosm, and we are all part of its intricate design. The mandala is more than an image seen with our eyes; it is an actual moment in time. It can be can be used as a vehicle to explore art, science, religion and life itself. The mandala contains an encyclopedia of the finite and a road map to infinity.
Carl Jung said that a mandala symbolizes "a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness." It is "a synthesis of distinctive elements in a unified scheme representing the basic nature of existence." Jung used the mandala for his own personal growth and wrote about his experiences.
It is said by Tibetan Buddhists that a mandala consists of five "excellencies":
The teacher • The message • The audience • The site • The time
An audience or "viewer" is necessary to create a mandala. Where there is no you, there is no mandala. (from: You Are the Eyes of the World, by Longchenpa, translated by Lipman and Peterson).
With its threefold nature, special shape and unique sound, Om lends itself to a variety of detailed symbolic interpretations.
The symbol of AUM consists of three curves (curves 1, 2, and 3), one semicircle (curve 4), and a dot. The large lower curve 1 symbolizes the waking state (jagrat), in this state the consciousness is turned outwards through the gates of the senses. The larger size signifies that this is the most common ('majority') state of the human consciousness.
The upper curve 2 denotes the state of deep sleep (sushupti) or the unconscious state. This is a state where the sleeper desires nothing nor beholds any dream.
The middle curve 3 (which lies between deep sleep and the waking state) signifies the dream state (swapna). In this state the consciousness of the individual is turned inwards, and the dreaming self beholds an enthralling view of the world behind the lids of the eyes.
These are the three states of an individual's consciousness, and since Indian mystic thought believes the entire manifested reality to spring from this consciousness, these three curves therefore represent the entire physical phenomenon.
The dot signifies the fourth state of consciousness, known in Sanskrit as turiya. In this state the consciousness looks neither outwards nor inwards, nor the two together. It signifies the coming to rest of all differentiated, relative existence This utterly quiet, peaceful and blissful state is the ultimate aim of all spiritual activity. This Absolute (non-relative) state illuminates the other three states.
Finally, the semi circle symbolizes maya and separates the dot from the other three curves. Thus it is the illusion of maya that prevents us from the realization of this highest state of bliss.
The semi circle is open at the top, and when ideally drawn does not touch the dot. This means that this highest state is not affected by maya. Maya only affects the manifested phenomenon. This effect is that of preventing the seeker from reaching his ultimate goal, the realization of the One, all-pervading, unmanifest, Absolute principle. In this manner, the form of OM represents both the unmanifest and the manifest, the noumenon and the phenomenon.