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Visual Aid: Highlights of my discussion at the Canada SevaAshram on Ramnavmi 2012

Unlike popular beliefs, Hindus do not worship idols. This type of pooja is called "Roop Pooja"   whereby a form is given to identify a certain name. This process of identification makes it easy for the devotee to control his/her train of thoughts.

It is very scientific in that it identifies the object with the description, hence the modern terminology "visual aid".

Having installed life into the murti, the devotee is connected in the same way he or she is connected to his parents, siblings, friends or pets. A strong bond is developed, which leads to happiness and emancipation.


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Power of His Name: Highlights of my discussion at the Canada Seva Ashram on Ramnavmi 2012

When He walked on earth, prabhu  Ram saved hundreds of Devotees, but over the ages His name saved millions more. The Name of Ram is bigger than Ram Himself.

By the power of His name, rocks floated to form a bridge.

When we cross certain 'line" {which Laxhman Drew} as Sita did, and when we are transported inappropriately to the garden of (Rawana's) Maya, we will need Hanuman-ji to come to our assistance, and we will need to cross the "bridge" to go back to the abode Bhagwaan Rama.

The Jiva Atman and the Param Atman are truly meant to merge and be together.




Why Consecration or Sanskaras?

In the same way as cotton is processed to make a dress, so also a Hindu undergoes many consecrations at each stage in life for removal of impurities and seek blessings from the gods.

The Hindus believe that each individual requires protection, consecration and refinement. For this, they depend upon god, as well as their knowledge of the natural world. Sanskaras, therefore, are a mixture of religious and secular aspects. Each Sanskaras was to be performed at a certain time in the life of a man, in a certain manner, and required specific components. The main items for the performance of Sanskaras are

Spiritual atmosphere: A pre-requisite for any Sanskaras. The person for whom the ceremony is being performed and others involved should think of god and of the duties and responsibilities that will be part of their life after the ceremony. They should be in the correct frame of mind to understand and appreciate the solemnity of the ritual.

Prayers, Appeals and Blessings: Prayers and appeals are made and blessings sought of both the gods and elders.

Agni: The fire is the protector and messenger between men and gods.

Lustration: Due of its constant motion and sound, and its power, water was believed to be a living force. In addition, many lakes, rivers, and other water bodies have healing powers, which made water even more mystic.

Sacrifice: Born of the natural human impulse to thank Nature or a Supreme Creator, domestic yagyas evolved as gestures of thanksgiving.

Orientation: The east is associated with light, warmth, life and happiness because the sun rises in the east. The west is associated with darkness and cold because the sun sets there; the south with Yama because he is believed to come from the south; the north is not malevolent but irrelevant in this respect. For an auspicious Sanskar, the individual faces eastwards.

Stigmas: These sprang from the fear of things going awry during sensitive and difficult times, like pregnancy, marriage and death. 'Safeguard' taboos hence appeared, which rigid beliefs over time became. For example, for 10 days after the birth of a child, the home is considered impure). This belief developed out of the need to confine the mother and child in a room to protect them from infection in the days before chemical antiseptics and disinfectants. However, now the practice has a religious sanction and is rigidly followed, especially in rural areas.

Cultural elements: There are certain rules about ethics, hygiene, and other social customs to be observed when performing Sanskaras, like purifying the site before the ceremony begins. This means a thorough cleansing and sometimes performing Havan.

 

The 16 CONSECRATIONS

GARBHADHANAM PUNSAVANAM SIMANTO JATAKARMA CHA| NAMAKRIYA NISHKRAMANO ANNA PRASHAN VEDAGYAKRIYA, KARNVEDYO VRATADESHO VEDARAMBH KRINYA VIDHIH, KESHANTO SNANMUOVAHO VIVAHAGNIPARIGRAHA, JETAGNI SANGRA SHCHETI SANSKARAH SHODASHSMRITAH.

1.    Garbhadana. All sources recognize this as the first Sanskar. It consists of rites performed before conception in the belief that it ensures a healthy child. This is performed by husband. The Atman stays 55 days inside the father and 270 days inside mother before birth. 

 

2.    Punsavana is the second Sanskar and it is performed during the third or the fourth month of pregnancy. The significance of this Sanskar is to invoke divine and good qualities in the child. 

 

3.    Simantonayana or parting of wife's hair by husband also purifies the fetus: This ceremony is performed by the husband for the wife to protect her from evil spirits and from ill health during the pregnancy.  This Sanskar is performed during the seventh month of pregnancy and prayers are offered for the healthy physical and mental growth of the child. The other importance of this Sanskar is to free the expectant mother free from worries since the last 3 months are sometimes difficult for pregnant woman. On the day of this Sanskar, the expectant mother gets food of her desire. Only women are invited for this ritual and the gathering is kept small

 

4.    Jatakarma This Sanskar is performed at the birth of a child as a welcome sign to the new born child into the family. Priests chant Mantras for a healthy, long life of the child. During this Sanskar, the father feeds honey to the baby and pierces the baby's ear.

 

5.    Namkaran. This Sanskar is performed on the tenth, eleventh or twelfth day after birth, with recitation of Mantras. The baby child gets name on completion of this Sanskar. The first male child is usually named after his paternal grandfather, the second male child after maternal grandfather. The first female child is usually named after paternal grandmother and the second female child after maternal grandmother. The rest of the children carry names of uncles, aunts, gods and goddesses. While Dhoons and Kirtans are sung, whisper name of the child in its right ear.

 

6.    Karnavedha or piercing the ear. This Sanskar is performed in the firth or the seventh year or at the end of the first year with Chudkaram Sanskar. 

 

7.    Nishkarma Sanskar is performed when the child is taken out of the home for the first time. S/he is taken to the temple first time. The reason for this Sanskar is to show obedience to the sun, moon, fire, water and wind - the Panchmahabhut.  In Nishkramana Sanskar, the child is shown to the Sun which is the source of life on earth. With this, life and prosperity increases. 

 

8.    Annaprasana. This Sanskar is performed on sixth month , when the child gets solid food for the first time. Mantras recited and oblations are offered to the various deities.

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9.    Chudkaram Sanskar is shaving the head of child. This is done in first or third year of the child. The body of the child is protected and harmonized by this ceremony.

10. Upanayana or thread ceremony.The word Upanayana means bringing near. The child is bought near to the Guru. This Sanskar is second birth for child – a spiritual birth, and is performed during 5th, 7th or 9th year of child. With Upanayana  the body comes in the DWIJA (twice born)class, and gains the right to study the Vedas. 

 

11. Vedarambha or the beginning of Vedic study, performed during the Brahmacharya stage of life at the home of the guru. This Sanskar is done along with Upanayana. The wearing of the Sacred thread entitles the child to study the Vedas and participate in Vedic functions.  The child is sent to Gurukul. (guru Monastery).

 

12. Smavartan Sanskar is performed before entering the grahstha ashram or the life of a householder.  This is performed at the end of child’s study in Gurukul. The student takes the permission of his guru before entering the grahstha ashram. Snana or bathing constitutes an important part of this ceremony, symbolizing the crossing of the ocean of learning. Therefore the Sanskar itself is often referred to as Snana.

 

13. Vivaha. This Sanskar is entry into the second Ashram. The life as individual family begins. Entering this stage of life, man has to take on his duties and has to pay spiritual debts by sacrifice , by procreating children and study. The bride and groom walk around Agni hand in hand 7 rounds.

 

14. This is the life of a Vana prastha , householder  withdraw themselves from all worldly activities, retires into the forest or Ashrams and prepares himself for taking sanyas..

 

15. sanyasi renounces the world and leads a life of study and meditation by living on alms.

 

16. Antyeshti. At the moment of death, a small piece of gold, tulsi leaf and drops of Ganga water are put in the mouth of the person on the death bed. The body is laid on the ground with the head towards the North. The eldest son generally performs the last rites before which he takes a purificatory bath amidst the chanting of mantras. The dead body is washed, perfumed and wrapped in a new white cloth and decked with flowers. For ten days following death, food is not prepared at home and relatives and friends take the responsibility of getting food for the family.  

These religious ceremonies are believed to sanctify the mind, body and intellect of the individual so that he can become a more complete member of the community. They provide a spiritual aspect to the important events in a person's life, from birth till death.


Karwa Chauth

'Karwa Chauth' is a ritual of fasting observed by married Hindu women seeking the longevity, well-being and prosperity of their husbands. It is popular amongst married women in the northern and western parts of India, especially, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.

The Time:

This festival comes 9 days before Diwali on 'kartik ki chauth', i.e., on the fourth day of the new moon immediately after Dusshera, in the month of 'Karthik' (October-November).

The Meaning:

The term 'Chauth' means the 'fourth day' and 'Karwa' is an earthen pot with a spout - a symbol of peace and prosperity - that is necessary for the rituals. Hence the name 'Karwa Chauth'.

The Ritual:

Married women keep a strict fast and do not take even a drop of water. They get up early in the morning, perform their ablutions, and wear new and festive raiment. Shiva, Parvati and their son Kartikeya are worshiped on this day along with the 10 'karwas' (earthen pots) filled with sweets. The Karwas are given to daughters and sisters along with gifts.

The Fast:

It is the most important and difficult fast observed by married Hindu women. (Unmarried women, widows, and spinsters are barred from observing this fast.) It begins before sunrise and ends only after offering prayers and worshiping the moon at night. No food or water can be taken after sunrise. The fast is broken once the moon is sighted and rituals of the day have been performed. At night when the moon appears, women break their fast after offering water to the moon.

The Custom:

In the evening, women dress up in special clothes, usually a red or pink sari or 'lehenga-choli' with gold woven 'zari' patterns. New brides often wear their bridal costume. All deck up in jewelry and wear 'mehendi' or henna patterns especially on the hands. Decorative 'bindis' on the forehead are a must for all women taking part in this celebration. Fasting women from all over the neighborhood gather in a group and narrate mythological stories that underscore the significance of Karwa Chauth. And, of course, all wives expect lavish gifts from their husbands!
The fast of Karwa Chawth truly sets the merry tone of the fun and frolic, festivity and feasting that come in good measure during Diwali — the biggest festival of the Hindus.

The Swastika

Swastikas dates back to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization period and have been widely used in various other ancient civilizations around the world, specifically in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, primarily as a tantric symbol to evoke shakti or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness. The word "swastika" comes from the Sanskrit swastika - "su" meaning "good," "asti" meaning "to be," and "ka" as a suffix. The swastika literally means "to be good". Or another translation can be made: "swa" is "higher self", "asti" meaning "being", and "ka" as a suffix, so the translation can be interpreted as "being with higher self".

 One interpretation of the Swastika as used in Hinduism is that the cross symbols the sun. Another is that the four arms of the cross represent four aspects of nature - the sun, wind, water, soil; in addition to astrological references to the solstices and equinoxes. The Hindus represent it as the Universe in our own spiral galaxy in the fore finger of Lord Vishnu. This carries most significance in establishing the creation of the Universe and the arms as 'kal' or time, a calendar that is more advanced than the lunar calendar where the seasons drift from calendar year to calendar year. The luni-solar solution for correcting season drift was to intercalate an extra month in certain years to restore the lunar cycle to the solar-season cycle. The Star of David is thought to originate as a symbol of that calendar system, where the two overlapping triangles are seen to form a partition of 12 sections around the perimeter with a 13th section in the middle, representing the 12 and sometimes 13 months to a year.

Interstingly enough we have a town in Ontario Canada named Swastika. Click on this like to visit 


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