Hindu Mommy

June 6, 2006

Hindu Rituals and Prayers – Part II

Filed under: Hinduism,Kids,Slokas — hindumommy @ 4:13 pm

Some more answers to some common questions raised by kids on Hindu rituals and traditions:

Why do we prostrate before parents and elders?

Why do we wear marks (tilak, pottu and the like) on the forehead?

Why do we not touch papers, books and people with the feet?

To touch another with the feet is considered an act of misdemeanor. Why is this so?

Why do we prostrate before parents and elders?

Indians prostrate before their parents, elders, teachers and noble souls by touching their feet. The elder in turn blesses us by placing his or her hand on or over our heads.

Prostration is done daily, when we meet elders and particularly on important occasions like the beginning of a new task, birthdays, festivals etc. In certain traditional circles, prostration is accompanied by abhivaadana, which serves to introduce one-self, announce one’s family and social stature.

Man stands on his feet. Touching the feet in prostration is a sign of respect for the age, maturity, nobility and divinity that our elders personify. It symbolizes our recognition of their selfless love for us and the sacrifices they have done for our welfare.

It is a way of humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This tradition reflects the strong family ties, which has been one of India’s enduring strengths.

The good wishes (Sankalpa) and blessings (aashirvaada) of elders are highly valued in India. We prostrate to seek them. Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good wishes springing from a heart full of love, divinity and nobility have a tremendous strength. When we prostrate with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and blessings of elders, which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive the energy thus received.

The different forms of showing respect are :

Pratuthana – rising to welcome a person.

Namaskaara – paying homage in the form of namaste

Upasangrahan – touching the feet of elders or teachers.

Shaashtaanga – prostrating fully with the feet, knees, stomach, chest, forehead and arms touching the ground in front of the elder.Pratyabivaadana – returning a greeting.

Rules are prescribed in our scriptures as to who should prostrate to whom.Wealth, family name, age, moral strength and spiritual knowledge in ascending order of importance qualified men to receive respect. This is why a king though the ruler of the land, would prostrate before a spiritual master. Epics like the Ramayana and

Mahabharata have many stories highlighting this aspect.

Why do we wear marks (tilak, pottu and the like) on the forehead?

The tilak or pottu invokes a feeling of sanctity in the wearer and others. It is recognized as a religious mark. Its form and colour vary according to one’s caste, religious sect or the form of the Lord worshipped.

In earlier times, the four castes (based on varna or colour) – Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra – applied marks differently. The brahmin applied a white chandan mark signifying purity, as his profession was of a priestly or academic nature. The kshatriya applied a red kumkum mark signifying valour as he belonged to warrior races.

The vaishya wore a yellow kesar or turmeric mark signifying prosperity as he was a businessman or trader devoted to creation of wealth. The sudra applied a black bhasma, kasturi or charcoal mark signifying service as he supported the work of the other three divisions.

Also Vishnu worshippers apply a chandan tilak of the shape of “U”, Shiva worshippers a tripundra of bhasma, Devi worshippers a red dot of kumkum and so on).

The tilak cover the spot between the eyebrows, which is the seat of memory and thinking. It is known as the Aajna Chakra in the language of Yoga. The tilak is applied with the prayer – “May I remember the Lord. May this pious feeling pervade all my activities. May I be righteous in my deeds.” Even when we temporarily forget this prayerful attitude the mark on another reminds us of our resolve. The tilak is thus a blessing of the Lord and a protection against wrong tendencies and forces. The entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves – the forehead and the subtle spot between the eyebrows especially so. That is why worry generates heat and causes a headache. The tilak and pottu cools the forehead, protects us and prevents energy loss. Sometimes the entire forehead is covered with chandan or bhasma. Using plastic reusable “stick bindis” is not very beneficial, even though it serves the purpose of decoration.

Why do we not touch papers, books and people with the feet?

To Indians, knowledge is sacred and divine. So it must be given respect at all times. Nowadays we separate subjects as sacred and secular. But in ancient India every subject – academic or spiritual – was considered divine and taught by the guru in the gurukula.

The custom of not stepping on educational tools is a frequent reminder of the high position accorded to knowledge in Indian culture. From an early age, this wisdom fosters in us a deep reverence for books and education. This is also the reason why we worship books, vehicles and instruments once a year on Saraswathi Pooja or Ayudha Pooja day,dedicated to the Goddess of Learning. In fact, each day before starting our studies, we pray:

Saraswati namasthubhyam Varade kaama roopini

Vidyaarambham karishyaami Sidhirbhavatu me sadaa

O Goddess Saraswati, the giver of Boons and fulfiller of wishes,

I prostrate to You before starting my studies.

May you always fulfill me?

To touch another with the feet is considered an act of misdemeanor. Why is this so?

Man is regarded as the most beautiful, living breathing temple of the Lord!

Therefore touching another with the feet is akin to disrespecting the divinity within him or her. This calls for an immediate apology, which is offered with reverence and humility.

For the first part , please click here – Hindu Rituals and Prayers – Part 1

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1 Comment »

  1. Your website is beautiful, informative and Excellent.

    Article by M.P. Bhattathiri, Retired Chief Technical Examiner , to The Govt. of Kerala. Humble request that it may be published in your website and magazine after editing if necessary

    Let me bow to Indian Maharishi Patanjali with folded hands who helped in removing the impurities of the mind through his writings on Yoga, impurities of speech through his writings on grammer, and impurities of body through his writings on Ayurveda. The American justice Dept. have recently approved the power of yoga and meditation vide a recent judgement in the American court.”Man Who Slapped Wife Sentenced to Yoga, It’s Anger Management, Says Judge.” First there was house arrest. Now there’s yoga. A judge ordered a man convicted of slapping his wife to take a yoga class as part of his one-year probation. “It’s part of anger management,” County Criminal Court at Law Judge Larry Standley said of the ancient Hindu philosophy of exercise and well-being. “For people who are into it, it really calms them down. ” Standley, a former prosecutor, said the case of James Lee Cross was unique. Cross, a 53-year-old car salesman from Tomball, explained that his wife was struggling with a substance abuse problem and that he struck her on New Year’s Eve during an argument about her drinking. “He was trying to get a hold of her because she has a problem,” Standley said after the court hearing. “I thought this would help him realize that he only has control over himself.” The sentence came as a surprise to Cross, who was told to enroll in a class and report back to Standley on his progress. “I’m not very familiar with it,” Cross said of yoga. “From what I understand, it may help in a couple ways, not only as far as mentally settling, but maybe a little weight loss.” Darla Magee, an instructor at Yoga Body Houston in River Oaks, said she would recommend that Cross take a basic yoga class emphasizing breathing and including a variety of postures — forward bends, back bends and twists. “Yoga can help us to get rid of many emotional issues we might have,” she said. “It’s a spiritual cleanse.” Prosecutor Lincoln Goodwin agreed to a sentence of probation without jail time because Cross had no significant criminal history http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/metropolitan/2365341.
    Yoga which is one of the greatest Indian co tribution to the world has got vast potential in all fields. In Tihar jail India Yoga is experimented among the inamtes and found successful. Their criminal mentality is changed. This study aimed at investigating the effect of Vipassana Meditation (VM) on Quality of Life (QOL), Subjective Well-Being (SWB), and Criminal Propensity (CP) among inmates of Tihar Jail, Delhi. To this effect the following hypotheses were formulated. 1. There will be a significant positive effect of VM on the QOL of inmates of Tihar jail. 2. VM will have a positive and significant effect on SWB of inmates. 3. Criminal propensity (CP) of inmates will decrease significantly after attending the VM course. 4. There will be significant difference in SWB and CP of experimental (Vipassana) group and control (non-Vipassana) group. 5. Male and female inmates will differ significantly in SWB and CP, as a result of VM. In the famous “Time” magazine the importance meditation and yoga, an ancient Indian system, is high-lighted that the ancient mind- and spirit-enhancing art is becoming increasingly popular and gaining medical legitimacy. It is a multi billion dollar business in US. In many Universities it is accepted as subject and included in the Syllabus. In the latest famous book “Inspire! What Great Leaders Do” written by Mr.Lance Secretan recently published by John Wiley and sons, the benefit of meditation is elaborately described for good corporate governance. By practising transcendental meditation, or TM, many people have got relief from back pain, neck pain, depression. The mind calms and quiets, . What thoughts you have during meditation become clearer, more focused. Anger, anxiety and worries give way to a peace. In the world exhorbitant medical expeneses one can definitely make use of meditation. Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and Sri Ravi Sankar are poplarising this. The Iyengar Yoga institute in US is famous.
    In Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna has inspired Arjuna to rise from his depression by preaching Gita in the battlefield and to rise from the depression to do his duties. In Holy Gita we can see, being hidden by the cosmic overview of any institution beset with myriad problems, not the least of which is its lack of moral probity, there is a groundswell of educated people seeking answers to deeply personal but universally asked questions. Chie Executives taking lessons from yoga, meditation and learning how to deal with human resources equations in an enlightened manner. Individuals from every walk of life can get ideas of how to be better human beings, more balanced and less stressed out.
    Medical studies continue to show regular meditation working magic in reducing blood pressure and stress-related illnesses, including heart disease. Brain images show that regular meditation helps calm the most active sensory-assaulted parts of the brain. The ancient Hindu sage Patanjali who had mastered the secrets of the human mind has written a book “Yogasutra”.In this book we can see how super powers can be achieved by meditation. It has both cosmic relevance and cosmic resonance. In spite of its universal appeal, for most people total control of mind remains an elusive goal and daunting task. From time immemorial, there have been many attempts throughout the world to unlock the mysteries of the mind and to achieve total control over it through a variety of techniques. One of the most powerful of these techniques is meditation.
    Many spiritual leaders, sages, saints, and holy people such asSri. Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna, Madam Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda have practised this. One of the ways to control physiological reactions to psychological stimuli is meditation, Yoga, Zen Buddhism etc. The scientists take Transcendental Meditation (TM) as the uniform technique, and base their observations on the study of the subjects engaged in this form of meditation. In summing up the results the scientists have come to conclusion that the effect of meditation is a “wakeful, hypo-metabolic state”. They have found that: 1) Yogis could slow both heart rate and rate of respiration, 2) Yogis could slow the rate of metabolism as confirmed by decreased oxygen consumption and carbon-di-oxide output. 3) Electro-Encephalo-Gram (EEG – recording of brain activity) in Yogis showed changes of calmness in the form of “alpha rhythm” during both eyes closed and eyes open recordings. 4) Th ir skin resistance to electric stimulation was increased (indicating increased tolerance to external stimuli). Our usual ‘defence-alarm’ reaction to emotional and physical stress is in the form of “fright, flight, and fight” mediated through over-secretion of certain neuro-transmitters and neuro-modulators, namely adrenaline and dopamine by way of stimulation of sympathetic nervous system. Under the influence of these chemicals and hormones, we reflexively become panicky or aggressive, our blood pressure rises. Thus stress and anxiety is the end result if we allow our natural age-old sympathetic reactions to act and to come to surface. We try to run away, become fearful, or fight the situation. But today these ‘defence-alarm’ reactions have no place in our lives. Rather, they should be replaced by more calm and serene reactions of equanimity and fearlessness. The need is to just ‘face the brute, and it will go away’. Such desirable reactions of non-aggression and peaceful attitude are generated by Y ga and meditation. EEG Studies on Yogis and The Zen Meditations: Yogis practising Raja-Yoga claim that during the state of samadhi they are oblivious to the internal and external stimuli, and they enjoy a calm ecstasy during that state. A study was undertaken to record the electrical activity of their brain during this state by means of a regular and useful test known as electroencephalography EEG. Physiological and experimental studies have demonstrated that the basis of conscious state of brain, among other things, is due to activation of “reticular system” in the brain-stem in response to internal and external stimuli. These stimuli bring about various changes during sleeping and wakeful states of the organism and these can be studied by EEG. The study was carried out on four subjects during the state of concentration and meditation. Effects of external stimuli, like a loud gong, strong light, thermal simulation, and vibrations were studied. The results were compiled and analyzed. It was observed that two Yogis could keep their hands immersed in extremely cold water for about 50 minutes (raised pain threshold). During state of meditation, all of them showed persistent “alpha activity” in their EEG with increased amplitude wave pattern, both during ‘eyes closed’ and ‘eyes open’ recording. It was observed that these alpha activities could not be blocked by various sensory stimuli during meditation. It was also observed that those, who had well-marked “alpha activity” in their resting EEG showed greater aptitude and zeal for maintaining the practice of Yoga. Similar observations and results were obtained when EEGs were recorded in persons adept in Zen Meditative technique. Can we say that only those persons who exhibit such recording of “alpha wave rhythm” in their EEG are fit for Yoga? and be designated as right candidates for meditation and Yoga practices? (Such experiments are indeed very few and the number of yogis examined is also very small. Therefore, scientifically and statistic lly these observations have only a tentative importance. Further research is definitely called for, albeit it will have its own limitations.) It is said that in the unknown period of Lord Jesus Christ , He was under meditation.
    Ref. Yoga magazines
    Newsweek.com
    Newyork times
    Time magazine

    Comment by bhattathiri — October 26, 2006 @ 9:34 pm | Reply


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