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Kanchi Periva Forum - Ebook # 1 - Why Rituals Are Important Kanchi Periva Forum - Ebook # 1 - Why Rituals Are Important Document Transcript

  • The Essence of Hindu Tradition & Culture E-book from Kanchi Periva Forum Volume – 1 Published: May 2012 Why Rituals Are Important? Authors: Subi & Sumi © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org
  • Table of Contents Introduction .................................................................................................................................................... 3 About the Authors .......................................................................................................................................... 5 1.0 Background - Religion and Rituals .......................................................................................................... 7 2.0 What is “Sanatana Dharma?” ................................................................................................................... 8 3.0 What is the purpose of our religion?......................................................................................................... 9 4.0 Who created the Vedas? ........................................................................................................................... 9 5.0 The Situation .......................................................................................................................................... 11 6.0 Surging Interest ...................................................................................................................................... 13 7.0 Why Rituals? .......................................................................................................................................... 13 8.0 Types of Rituals ...................................................................................................................................... 13 9.0 Efficacy of Rituals .................................................................................................................................. 14 10.0 Respect for Mother Nature ................................................................................................................... 16 11.0 Reincarnation and Karma ..................................................................................................................... 20 12.0 The Power of Rituals ............................................................................................................................ 21 13.0 Rituals and Practices............................................................................................................................. 21 14.0 Conclusion ............................................................................................................................................ 22 15.0 Voice of God ........................................................................................................................................ 23 © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 2 of 23
  • Shri Kanchi Maha Periva Thiruvadigal Charanam Introduction Hari Om! Sanatana Dharma, known as Hinduism, is the only religion on the planet that does not have a human founder. It is timeless and ageless. Hindus have a distinguished ancestry to be proud of - an ancestry that goes back to a period of time earlier than any modern nation can claim. A large number of people around the world are keen to know more about this religion and its rituals. While there are numerous books available on the subject, many do not have the time to buy and read them in their very busy schedules. To help readers overcome such problems, we propose to use the medium of internet to present a series of e-books, each of a small size, easy to access and retain attention. This e-book is the result of efforts from the members of the Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com. Like minded members of the Forum have come together realizing the need to insist upon the present generation to observe and keep alive the rich traditions of the Hindu Religion, as prescribed in the Vedas and Sastras. The proposed e-books are intended to serve as a convenient and concise source of information on topics related to Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma as it is called. The aim of the e-books is to provide relevant information on Hindu traditions in simple language and dispel certain misconceptions that often arise in the minds of people. It is also our objective to bring the profound teachings of great saints to the widest possible audience. In providing this service, the authors have derived immense inspiration from the discourses of Kanchi Maha Periva, well-known as the ‘walking God’ and at many places have provided excerpts from his discourses. In this first volume of the series, the authors have attempted to provide a brief background of Vedic religion and why rituals are considered important. We would like to express our profound thanks to Shri Sundaresan Subramanian from Chicago, USA for authoring this book. Our special thanks goes to Smt Sumathi Agambaranathan of Chennai, India for being a valuable co-author in this initiative. We would also like to thank Shri K. Raman from Santa Clara - USA, an active member of the Kanchi Periva Forum, for his valuable suggestions and advice in the making of this ebook. © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 3 of 23
  • This book is not exhaustive and may not answer all your questions nor meet your expectations in full measure. However, this e-book may fuel your curiosity and encourage you to explore more on the topics presented. We welcome your views and feedback for enlarging the scope of future editions of the ebook and improve the quality of presentations. Feedback about the e-book may be shared with us at kanchiperiva@gmail.com or with the authors directly at their email addresses given in their profiles that follow. For those who are not familiar about our website and forum, we welcome you to visit www.periva.org for a collection of rare videos and complete online library of upanyasams of Sri Maha Periva. Please also register on the forum www.periva.proboards.com to stay updated on devotees’ experiences and to receive our regular newsletters. We also invite you to view the exclusive video footage of Sri Maha Periva divya darshan by clicking on the below link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynAQBHJxNjg We humbly submit this first e-book at the lotus feet of Shri Maha Periva. Administrator - Kanchi Periva Forum kanchiperiva@gmail.com Jaya Jaya Shankara, Hara Hara Shankara! © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 4 of 23
  • About the Authors Shri Sundaresan Subramanian Shri. Sundaresan Subramanian, affectionately called as Subi Anna, is an international consultant with an array of global experiences in the field of energy and environment. In his long professional career, he has worked for many years in senior management positions with multinational corporations in India and later with U.S. government agencies. His demonstrated success includes building US-Asia energy and environmental partnerships in cooperation with American and Asian government agencies, non-government organizations and the corporate sector. His professional accomplishments are recognized through several awards from both India and the U.S. Deriving great inspiration from Maha Periva, the Sage of Kanchi, Subi Anna developed a deep personal interest in religion and the ancient scriptures. Based on his continuing study and research, Subi Anna is engaged in propagating Maha Periva’s teachings and unfolding the secrets and wisdom of Sanatana Dharma. His published e-books include: “Mantras and Management” and “Managing Anger – Lessons from the Ancient.” On the academic side, Subi Anna is Graduate in Electrical Engineering from the University of Poona; qualified in Production Engineering, London; in Business Management at St. Xavier’s Institute, Bombay; and as a LEED Green Associate of the U.S. Green Business Council. He was trained in Japan in corporate management and was conferred with a honorary doctorate degree by the University of Berkley, USA. His honorary activities benefited several communities. He served as a member of the selection panel for Fulbright environmental fellowships, a senior member of the Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), and the Association of Energy Engineers, USA. He has authored many articles and studies related to energy and environment and served for 3 years as an editor of “The Urja Watch” – a publication of the Indian Association of Energy Management Professionals (IAEMP). He also serves as a member of the committee of “Sri Veda Vyas Gurukul” – a Veda PAtashala functioning on the lines of Gurukula system at the Kanchi Mutt in Pune, Maharashtra. Subi Anna is based out of Chicago, USA and can be reached on s.subi@yahoo.com © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 5 of 23
  • Smt Sumathi Agambaranathan Smt. Sumathi Agambaranathan, shortly called as Sumi, as she is very well known in the Kanchi Periva Forum, is an ardent devotee of Kanchi Maha Periva. She is presently living with her family at Chennai, India, and is working as a Manager at an MNC in Chennai. Sumi is known in her friends and colleagues circle as a no-nonsense person, who is always focused on the results and intensely active in the chosen area of work. She is an avid orator and linguist. Her excellent written and oral communication skills and high level of trustworthiness and confidentiality has always kept her close to the senior management in all her career, thereby almost making her a fine entrepreneur. Sumi hails from the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu and is very passionate about her hometown and the clan she belongs to. For someone who comes from such a background, she has displayed great mettle to achieve this level of qualification, perfection, and she is very focused in bringing up her son also in the very same fashion – disciplined, diplomatic, distinguished and devotional – all at the same time. With the blessings of Sri Maha Periva, Sumi has been going through some wonderful moments and miracles in her life, and her son also has played an active role in making out the cover design for this e-book. Sumi is based out of Chennai, India and can be reached on sumathi.ag@gmail.com © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 6 of 23
  • Why rituals are important? Om Gurubyo Namah Salutations to the Guru "Hinduism is not just a faith. It is the union of reason and intuition that cannot be defined but is only to be experienced” - Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975) Shri Maha Periva 1.0 Background - Religion and Rituals There is no religion in this world without rituals. Though many modern societies claim to be secular, religion is still found everywhere we turn: it persists in individual beliefs, in communities, and in countries. Religion remains a fundamental aspect of human experience. Even in the most secular societies like the United States, religion still plays a profound role. In America, for example, a substantial majority of people proclaims a belief in God, and a significant majority participates in religious services on a regular basis. The U.S. dollar note publicly proclaims in bold letters “IN GOD WE TRUST.” Religion has thus played a significant role in our past and for the foreseeable future, religion is here to stay, whether one likes it or not. Before we talk about the importance of rituals, we should understand the basics of religion as rituals are closely connected with one’s religion. This volume of the e-book will therefore focus on the basics of Hinduism. The word ‘Religion’ itself is most likely derived from the Latin root religare, a verb meaning "to fasten or bind." When people gather together to attend any ritual, be it a mass at a church or a congregation in a temple, they are often energized and motivated by the feeling of togetherness which they then carry beyond the ritual and into their daily lives. Their shared feeling of community fuels their actions in the world at large. It follows that religion offers a sense of knowing one's place with regard to others (one's duties, obligations, and goals) on a broad scale. © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 7 of 23
  • Our religion is known as "sanatana dharma". "Dharma" is the term used by the ancient scriptures to denote all the moral and religious principles that constitute the means to obtain fullness of life. The pursuit of dharma is first meant for happiness and well-being in this world. We have fourteen basic Sastras that pertain to dharma. The fourteen basic Shastras that are "abodes" of dharma and knowledge are: the four Vedas (Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvanaveda); the six Angas or limbs of the Vedas (Siksa, Vyakarana, Chandas, Nirukta, Jyotisa and Kalpa); and four Upangas (supporting limbs) Mimamsa, Nyaya, the Puranas and Dharmasastra. While all the fourteen Sastras are basic and authoritative texts, the Vedas form their crown. The Vedas are fundamental importance; the Angas (limbs) and Upangas (supplementary limbs) derive their importance from them. Just as Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam have the Tripitaka, the ZendAvesta, the Bible and the Qur'an respectively as their scriptures, Hindus have the Vedas as their prime scripture. Our religious traditions are based on Vedas. The word Veda is derived from the Sanskrit root vid which means "to know". The Vedas form the core of our religion and are the direct authority for our dharma and for all our religious rituals. Since our religion follows the vedic injunctions, it is known as "Vedic Religion". 2.0 What is “Sanatana Dharma?” The Sage of Kanchi defines it in very simple terms: “Religion is like a therapeutic system meant to cure the ills contracted by the self. The physician alone knows about the disease afflicting the patient and how it is to be treated. Our Sanatana Dharma is the medicine prescribed by our sages and creators of the Dharma Sastras who never sought anything for themselves and who, in their utter selflessness, were concerned only about the good of mankind. In other countries other physicians have prescribed medicines in the form of their own religious systems. Would your doctor like to be told that he should treat you in the same way as another doctor treats his patient? There are several systems of medicine. In one there is a strict diet regimen, in another there is not much strictness about the patient's food. In one system the medicines administered taste sweet; in another they taste bitter. To be restored to health we have to follow strictly any one method of treatment, not insist on a combination of the various therapies.” © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 8 of 23
  • Further, the Sage of Kanchi answers several questions as follows: 3.0 What is the purpose of our religion? If an individual owing allegiance to a religion does not become a jnani (wise) with inward experience of the truth of the Supreme Being, what does it matter whether that religion exists or not? The principle on which the Vedic religion is founded is that a man must not live for himself alone but serve all mankind. 4.0 Who created the Vedas? We learn from the Sastras that the Vedas has existed even before creation. It is not possible to tell the age of the Vedas. Vedas are anadi (of unknown origin). What is the basis of the belief that the Vedas are anadi and were not created by Isvara (God)? An answer is contained in the Vedas themselves. In the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (2. 4. 10) ---the Upanishads are all part of the Vedas---it is said that the Rig, Yajus and Sama Vedas are the very breath of Isarva. The word "nihsvasitam" is used here. It goes without saying that we cannot live even a moment without breathing. The Vedas are the life-breath of the Paramatman who is an eternal living Reality. It follows that the Vedas exist together with him as his breath. We must note here that it is not customary to say that the Vedas are the creation of Iswara. Do we create our own breath? Our breath exists from the very moment we are born. It is the same case with Iswara and the Vedas. We cannot say that He created them. When we say that Columbus discovered America, we do not mean that he created the continent: we mean that he merely made the continent known to the world. In the same way the laws attributed to Newton, Einstein and so on were not created by them. If an object thrown up falls to earth it is not because Newton said so. Scientists like Newton perceived the laws of Nature and revealed them to the world. Similarly, the ancient seers discovered the Mantras and made a gift of them to the world. The goal of every religion is to protect man from evils and lead him towards eternal bliss. Rituals help to achieve this goal. © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 9 of 23
  • Rituals have existed since times immemorial not just in India but all over the world. In the ancient world, in Persia, Egypt and Greece, a ritual was considered holy and the primary way that provided communication between humans and ‘unseen’ powers beyond immediate human existence. To make the unseen more visible and approachable they created images for veneration and/or worship. The images of the unseen are often placed in a particular site which in time becomes a sacred site where the people may go to perform certain rituals thereby rendering the unseen closer and less remote. In ancient times, like in India, Chinese people attached great importance to the worship of the heavenly bodies - the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars, and also the earth. Revolving around the theme of long life, Chinese performed all of the rites related to a birth, from the praying for the inception of a child when a woman is not yet pregnant to the time when the baby has reached the age of one full year. Like observers of other religions, Christians also practice domestic food rituals. Many Christians, for instance, pray before meals, giving thanks to God for their daily bread. Particularly in the United States, many churches organize informal fellowship meals for their members, designed to strengthen the community within the church. In many cultures, proposing a toast is a common. It is a well-known ritual in which a drink is taken by a person as an expression of honor or goodwill to others. When a toast is made, the practice of simultaneously drinking by a gathering of people seems to enhance the communal connection. Other rituals you may have witnessed amongst Christians are the tolling of church bells and throwing of rice at the couple in weddings. Even for the most secular among us, life is often guided by rituals. Everyday activities guided by rules and conventions seem to offer us both practical results and a sense of meaning. For the religious person, there seems to be a deep connection between religious practice and the way life is lived. Religious rituals are not just window-dressing for the core beliefs of a religious tradition; ritual practices form identity and sustain tradition. The value of a ritual comes from "its ability to connect you to a larger context that clarifies your relationship to yourself, others and your place in the universe.” © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 10 of 23
  • Ritual takes many forms, it may consist of simple routines like bowing to others out of reverence, lighting a lamp, offering prayers or doing Sandhyavandana which an individual submits to on a daily basis or it may be of more complex ceremony as in a birthday, marriage or a funeral. 5.0 The Situation There are nearly a billion Hindus in the world today. That’s roughly four times the population of the entire United States. Every sixth person on the planet is a Hindu. Yet, why there are millions of Hindus still ignorant about their religion? There are several reasons for this sad situation but it is sufficient to know a few important ones. In recent centuries, education in India has generally followed the Western pattern and in most school curriculums, the study of our Vedic religion was not included. Consequently, many are ignorant about the scriptures that provide us the very source of our religion. Technological advancements and the growing hunger for material comforts, cultivated and perpetuated by advertising and effective marketing, have considerably influenced our perspectives on religious rituals. Many people simply do not believe in our rituals and often dismiss rituals as primitive and unnecessary for modern living. Understandably, many people are dissatisfied with this religion which has to be purely a matter of belief; they need proof for what we believe in. We also find a section of people indifferent to any spiritual, religious or ritualistic activity. There are people amongst us who tend to view rituals as a topic fit only for the “old and retired‟. Such disinterest is a cause for serious concern. Realizing the declining interest among our people to performing religious rituals, Kanchi Maha Periva observed as follows: “By the grace of Isvara, we have not reached the unfortunate state of totally discarding our age-old rituals. However, there is a declining trend, a weakening of Vedic practices. One important reason for this is that we do not know what rituals mean and why we should be performing them. For the vast majority of Hindus, the most important religious path is bhakti (devotion) to the Almighty who is in different forms. We perform a number of rites in our home - ayushomam, grahapravesham, marriage, sraddha, upakarma, and so on, and during these functions we chant Vedic mantras as instructed by the priest. Even educated people nowadays have no true involvement in such rites in which they have to just repeat the mantras after the priest without knowing the meaning. © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 11 of 23
  • We cannot expect to convince people that the chanting of the mantras (even without knowing their meaning) is beneficial. The hymns for each function are different and also different in significance. If we appreciate this fact, we will realise that there is a scientific basis for them. Besides, they have an emotional appeal which will be evident only when we know their meaning. So to know the meaning of the mantras is to have greater involvement in the functions in which they are chanted. That is the reason why the mouthing of syllables purposelessly has come to be [irreverently] likened to the chanting of "sraddha mantras" (rites for dead ancestors) without knowing the meaning. The meaning of the mantras (including those chanted at sraddhas) must be understood by the priest as well as by the performer of the rites; we must evolve a scheme for this purpose. First, the priest himself must know the meaning of the mantras and the significance of the rituals at which he officiates. Today the majority of priests are ignorant of the meaning of what they chant. If a karta or a yajamana (the man on whose behalf a rite is conducted) asks his priest, "What does this mean?" the latter is unable to give an answer. How would you then expect the karta (performer) to have faith in the rites? I believe that many middle-aged people today are keen to know the meaning of the mantras. I also think that if they tend to lose faith in rituals it is because they have to repeat parrot-like the hymns chanted by the priest. So we need to make efforts to ensure that those who officiate at rituals (the upadhyayas) acquire proficiency in Veda- bhasya to enable them to explain the meaning of the mantras. If we know the meaning of the mantras chanted at a function, we stand to gain more benefits from it. We go through rites because we do not have the courage to give them up. Similarly, we must come to realise that it is wrong to perform a rite without knowing the meaning of the mantras chanted; we must therefore take the help of a pundit (expert) in this matter. In truth, no partiality can be ascribed to the Vedas. A Vedic rite is admittedly beneficial to the man who performs it. But, at the same time, it does good to the entire world. If I light a lamp in the darkness here, does it not bring light to all the people present and not to me alone?” © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 12 of 23
  • 6.0 Surging Interest In today’s world, millions of people both young and old living in different countries are getting increasingly curious about rituals. They really want to know more about why we should perform them and the meaning of various mantras. Fortunately, modern technology is helping faster communication across distant places countries and the internet is spreading information speedily. Many people are not only interested now but also have means to learn about rituals. It is an extremely encouraging sign. 7.0 Why Rituals? Most of the problems in this world can be traced to human ego and lack of control of the senses. As we see today, even in the most advanced countries like the USA, greed and human weaknesses have led to serious consequences. Sanatana Dharma is a way of life that teaches a Hindu on how to win over ego sense and discover the true 'self.' There are different means to achieve this ultimate objective, starting with daily rituals, idol worship, observing the sacraments (samskaras), following a path of devotion (bhakti) and eventually, renunciation (sanyas). As per the ancient seers, there are three simple methods that can be followed to realize the self; Sravanam (Listening), Mananam (Remembering and reciting), and Nidhidhyasana (meditating on the self). It requires self-control, discipline of the mind and the body and overcoming desires. 8.0 Types of Rituals Kanchi Maha Periva’s discourses and his simple explanations provide great inspiration to millions of devotees. He explains rituals in a very simple way: “There are three types of rituals or karma as they are called in Sanskrit: "nitya", "naimittika", and "kamya". "Nitya-karma" (daily ritual): As the name suggests, this ritual includes sacraments that must be performed every day. © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 13 of 23
  • "Naimittika" rites are those conducted for a specific purpose or reason or on a specific occasion. For instance, when there is an eclipse we must bathe and offer libations to our fathers. When a great man visits our home he has to be honoured ceremonially - this is also naimittaka. Nitya and naimittaka rites are to be performed by all. “Kamya” - A kamya-karma is a ritual that has a special purpose. When there is a drought, we conduct Varuna-japa to invoke the God and seek His blessings in the form of rain. When we are desirous of a son, we perform the "putrakamesti"(sacrifice to beget a son). These belong to the kamya category. The Vedas speak about things not easily comprehended by the human mind. If we perform rites imposed on us by them, the fruits thereof will naturally follow. Sound has always existed: it has indeed no beginning and the Vedas are this sound. Like time and space they are ever-present. Sandhyavandana, a simple Puja at home and the like are everyday rituals. The nonperformance of nitya-karma is a sin; performance means we will not incur any demerit. That apart, there will be the benefit of general well-being of the performer and the community around. If we repay a loan in installments it means that we shall no longer remain indebted to the lender (here we see a gain); additionally we earn a name for being honest and trustworthy. By performing nitya-karma no sin will attach to us and, besides, it should mean some good to us. Thus there are two types of gains.” 9.0 Efficacy of Rituals Critics of age-old rituals demand proof for the efficacy of rituals. The authority of Hinduism lies only with those saints who have first-hand experience of the divine elements. Rituals are intended to serve a higher purpose, that of disciplining the mind, cleansing your consciousness, and preparing you for the inward journey. Rituals are a way of defining what is meaningful and important. The effects of rituals have to be experienced and related to others. Take a simple ritual like greeting others with a Namaste; In Sanskrit namas means “bow,” “obeisance,” “reverential salutation.” It comes from the root nam, which carries meanings of bending, bowing, humbly submitting and becoming silent; te means “to you.” Thus, namaste means “I bow to you.” Why is this ritual any better than a handshake? What if your palms are sweating or unclean? It avoids transmission of contact diseases. © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 14 of 23
  • Popes and saints seldom shake hands. The namaste communicates, “I honor or worship the Divinity within you.” The namaste gesture bespeaks our inner valuing of the sacredness of all. It recognizes that all souls are divine. This simple way of greeting others including prostration to elders is neat and hygienic without any physical contact. Many of the rituals are not written down. They have been handed down as practices by ancient sages. One has to trust them. The great Sage of Kanchi offers the following explanation and advice: “How can anyone claim, as a matter of right, that all subjects ought to be brought within the ken of human reasoning? Man is but one among countless creatures. Take for instance the experiments conducted by a physicist in his laboratory. Does a cow understand them? If the scientist formulates certain laws on the basis on his experiments, does the cow say that "These laws of physics do not exist"? But how do humans ignorant of physics get to know about such laws? They trust the statements made by people proficient in the subject. To illustrate, take the example of any common appliance. Let us assume that you are told that it works on the basis of certain principles of science. Don't you accept these principles by observing how the appliance works? In the same way we must have faith in what great men say about the Vedas, great men who live strictly adhering to the Sastras. We must also place our faith on our scripture on the basis of the fruits or benefits yielded by them, the benefits we directly perceive. One such "fruit" is still there for all of us to see. It is Hinduism itself, the religion that has withstood the challenges of all these millennia. Our religion has produced more great men than any other faith. People have been rewarded with the highest inner well-being [the highest bliss] as a result of their faith in the Vedic tradition. There is no insistence on their part that everything on earth must be brought within the realm of reason or direct perception. The Vedic mantras do good to all creatures in this world. We must have implicit faith in this belief. It is not proper to ask whether what we ourselves cannot hear now with our ears was heard by the seers. There is such a thing as the divine power of seeing and hearing. Our sight is dependent on the lens in our eyes. If this lens was different, what we observe would also be different. We must not inquire into the Vedas with our limited powers of perception and with our limited capacity to reason and comprehend. The Vedas speak to us about what is beyond the reach of our eyes and ears and reasoning- that is their purpose. There are things that we comprehend through direct perception. We do not need the help of the Vedas to know about them. © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 15 of 23
  • What cannot be explained by reasoning and what is beyond the reach of our intellect these seers have gifted us in the form of the Vedas with their divine perception. We have to accept the Vedas in good faith. Develop faith in them and you’ll experience for yourself the fruits yielded by them. In due course of time, you will be convinced about the truths told about them. Sometimes, the "Varunajapa" (ritual for rains) may not succeed in bringing rains. But this is no reason why all mantras should be rejected outright as if they have no value. Sometimes, sick people die even after the regular administration of medicine. For this reason, do we condemn medical science as worthless? We have an explanation for the patient's failure to recover: May be his illness has reached such an advanced stage that no medicine could be of any avail. Similarly, no mantra or ritual is of any help when it has to contend against the working of powerful karma. There is also another reason. If you are not strict about your diet, the medicine taken may not work. Similarly, if we are lax in the observance of certain rules, the mantras will not produce the desired result.” (Source: Deivathin Kural) More than 5000 years ago, ancient sages of Sanatana Dharma had stressed the importance of nature and worshipped Mother Nature through various rituals. In a nutshell, rituals have been handed over by our ancestors and authors of Dharma Sastras who had a profound understanding of the world we live in and human nature. 10.0 Respect for Mother Nature Our rituals have always respected Mother Nature. From times immemorial, Hindus worshipped through rituals all the five elements Earth, Water, Fire, Ether, and Wind as these elements sustain life on our planet. They never tampered with nature and its elements as in modern times. Human beings were seen as part of nature, rather than the rulers of nature. In contrast, look at the environment we live in modern times with all scientific advancements. Decades of mindless abusing of God-given natural resources has resulted in all round pollution and deterioration of even the vital air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. Scientists invented the power of atom but used it for destructive purposes too. Scientists invented chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) for refrigeration and air-conditioning to enhance human comfort. After realizing the adverse impact of CFCs on environment, © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 16 of 23
  • the world is now destroying the very same CFCs. Today the whole world talks about the need to preserve the environment and that green house gases are detrimental to the well-being of our planet. Our ancestors who followed the Vedas always respected natural resources and encouraged their worship through Vedic rituals. Although Hinduism encompasses so many different beliefs, most Hindus share the importance of striving to attain purity and avoiding pollution. This relates to both physical cleanliness and spiritual well being. Consider the element of water – Water, called Aapo in Sanskrit, represents the nonmanifested substratum from which all manifestations arise. In India, water has been an object of worship from time immemorial. Water is Akshitham (imperishable). In the matter of purity it is like one’s eyes. Hence it is also known as Akshitharam. Water is a purifier, life-giver and destroyer of evil. It is life- preserving power par excellence. Water cleanses, washes away impurities and pollutants, and enables an object look fresh. The belief that water have spiritually cleansing powers has given it a central place in the practices and beliefs of many a religious ritual. Physically and mentally clean person is enabled to focus on worship. Water is, therefore, an important constituent in Hindu’s rituals. Before performing rituals, water is used to purify hands with sacred water. Agni (Fire) is considered as one of the most important of the medium in Vedic rituals. Agni is worshipped as the messenger of the gods, the acceptor of sacrifice. Agni is in everyone's hearth, he is the vital spark of life, and so a part of him is in all living things, he is the fire which consumes food in peoples' stomachs, as well as the fire which consumes the offerings to the gods. Agni is the fire in the sun, in the lightning bolt, and in the smoke column which holds up the heavens. Agni, as sunlight, plays a vital role to sustain and nourish various forms of life. It has the power to cook food, provide light and energy to carry on with life sustaining functions. The stars are sparks from his flame. About 200 hymns in the Rig Veda are addressed to Agni, with praises dedicated to him. Parsis worship the Fire as their God. In fact, they worship all the five elements! Fire is just the symbol. In every Fire Temple, there is the Fire, but there is also a well and a tree, which are also worshipped! The Gayatri mantra, the most mighty of the Vedic mantras, is a prayer to the Sun god to alleviate one from all human sins, physical dissipation and to bestow knowledge, © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 17 of 23
  • health and longevity. Gayatri mantra is a vandana prayer to everlasting light of lights and extols the Almighty Suryanaryana as the soul and spirit of the moving and static objects, with a supplication for proper application and direction one’s buddhi or intellect in all matters. The Gayatri Mantra forms a part of the Rig Veda Samhita, Mandala III, 62 – 10. Gayatri is the mantra to be repeatedly recited during the Sandhyavandanam ritual which is essentially a Vedic prayer. "Sandhya" means the time when day and night meet and "Vandanam" means 'Thanksgiving." So the expression Sandhyavandanam means the prayer of thanksgiving to God during the morning and the evening twilight. Is it not important that we should thank the Sun God for unfailingly providing us with light and energy? For the Hindus, the Earth is sacred as the very manifestation of the Divine Mother. She is worshipped as Bhumi Devi, the Earth Goddess. One of the reasons that Hindus honor cows is that the cow represents the energies and qualities of the Earth, selfless caring, sharing and the providing of nourishment to all. Hindu rituals work with the forces of nature to bring a higher consciousness and energy into the world. They are part of a comprehensive spiritual science designed to connect us to higher planes of consciousness and creativity. Hindu rituals form probably the most sophisticated ritualistic approach in the world, allowing us to link up with the inner forces of nature in a systematic manner. Here are some more examples of how our ancient scriptures respected nature: One should not destroy the trees. (Rig Veda Samhita vi-48-17) Plants are mothers and Goddesses. (Rig Veda Samhita x-97-4) Trees are homes and mansions. (Rig Veda Samhita x-97-5) Sacred grass has to be protected from man's exploitation (Rig Veda Samhita vii75-8) Plants and waters are treasures for generations. (Rig Veda Samhita vii-70-4) May those born of thee, O Earth, be for our welfare, free from sickness and waste, wakeful through a long life, we shall become bearers of tribute to thee. Earth my mother, set me securely with bliss in full accord with heaven, O wise one, uphold me in grace and splendor. (Atharva Veda - Hymn to the Earth - Bhumi-Sukta) Earth, atmosphere, sky, sun, moon, stars, waters, plants, trees, moving creatures, swimming creatures, creeping creatures all are hailed and offered oblations. (Taittiriya Samhita i-8-13) (Courtesy: Vedic Quotes as found in the articles of Dr. S Kannan and Dr. Karan Singh relating to Nature and Hinduism) © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 18 of 23
  • With constant repetition of such Vedic sayings, they become rituals that recognize the importance of natural resources and also offer advice to the chanter and listener on how they treat such resources with respect for these resources provide us with a healthy living environment. Most of the mantra’s employed in rituals are from the Vedas. Actually rituals (called samskAras) are aimed at developing the eight inner values (Atma guNa’s), which are: Compassion (dayA), patience (kshamA), free from jealousy (anasooyA), purity (soucham), keeping cool (anAyAsam), not being miserly (akArpaNyam), absence of attachment (aspruhA), and peace (mangaLam). All these are positive qualities to be developed in a human being not only for an individual’s well-being but also for the welfare of the community. Aren’t these highly relevant today? When we start looking at what some people do in pursuit of their faith and dedication to rituals, we can only be struck by wonder and curiosity. Think it over – Why in the world millions of people inflict discomfort on themselves to perform certain rituals in the name of devotion? Why would some men sit for hours without any food performing smoke-emitting ‘homam’? Why would people of all ages walk hundreds of miles braving inclement weather to take a dip in a holy river or climb up a mountain on foot to offer worship in a temple? Or walk barefoot over a coal bed? Why do people go to so much trouble to fast on some days? These questions (and many more) are addressed through close attention to, and then interpretation of ritual. The underlying cause is ‘implicit faith.’ The spirit of sacrifice and control of senses pervades in all such rituals. It is clear that people have experienced some satisfaction or mental comfort after such hard rituals because they do it again and again. It is also clear and undisputed that the number of such people is swelling every year. © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 19 of 23
  • 11.0 Reincarnation and Karma Hindus believes in reincarnation. They believe that body and soul are two different things. No body has seen the soul. But Hindus believe in it. They perform monthly and annual ceremonies (Tharpanam and Shraddam in Sanskrit) for the welfare of dead ancestors. Hindus believe in Karma theory. Like there is a reaction for every action, it is the effect of actions (karmas) that one does that eventually result in a miserable or enjoyable life. If we try to analyse it in any detailed manner, other than karmic theory there is nothing else to explain why people born at the same time in the same hospital to parents of similar living standards lead totally different lives. Why someone is very impressive in talking while another person is often irritated even though both have same quality of education from the same institution and teachers? Born of same parents, why do some children shine well in studies and others do not? A person may live for many years even if he suffers from diseases. But a perfectly healthy person passes away suddenly. Some people become wealthy without any special effort. So also, some millionaires become paupers. Why do such things happen? All such strange happenings can be explained by karmic theory only. Though the belief in karma and reincarnation is exclusively in Hinduism, many people in the world today are coming to the same conclusions, not from being told to believe but in a natural way on their own because they have no other logical reasoning for the differences in human lives. Hindu’s believe in some of the legends like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Today in front of our eyes, we see a magician performing a vanishing trick or producing a rabbit out of his hat. If a magician can do it, why can't we believe that Ravana and Marichan, characters in the Ramayana changed their forms. In order to reinforce faith in both religion and the concept of God, rituals are necessary. It is important to realise that if we are to remain true to the sastras it is not because they represent the views of the seers but because they contain the rules founded on the Vedas which are nothing but what the Almighty Isvara has ordained. That is the reason why rituals are important and why we must follow them. © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 20 of 23
  • 12.0 The Power of Rituals As many of the readers may be aware, mantras are associated with our rituals. Mantra is a Sanskrit word that originated in India. It is a sacred phrase of Hinduism, repeated in rituals, prayers or meditation as an invocation to the gods. In recent years, the word “mantra” is getting increasing global recognition through its usage to signify secrets for success in business and management. Obviously, even foreigners seem impressed with the power of mantras. The origin of mantras is from the ancient Vedas. Wikipedia defines mantra as a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that are considered capable of "creating transformation." The word mantra is derived from two Sanskrit words. The first is "manas" or "mind." The second syllable is drawn from the Sanskrit word "trai" meaning to "protect." A mantra is one that offers protection by repetition through remembrance in the mind. It can also be interpreted as mantra protects the mind of the man (from confusion and going astray). Mantras are ancient. In mainstream Vedic practices of Hinduism, mantras are viewed as instruments for spiritual advancement and high attainment. It is believed that a person who chants the mantras in a prescribed method reaps desired benefits. Mantras help steady the mind and focus one’s thoughts; free mind from baser instincts, anger or resentment; and develop inner strength, patience and love towards other living beings. Swami Chinmayananda (1916-1993) said “The tragedy of human history is decreasing happiness in the midst of increasing comforts.” It seems so true in today’s world filled with more money and materials but less happiness. The reasons are not far to seek. 13.0 Rituals and Practices An observation on rituals and customary practices is relevant. Many people do not understand the difference between a ritual and a custom. The whole of Hindu religious practices can be divided into 1.Sanskars 2.Vratas 3. Pujas and 4. Customs. Rituals, known as Samskars are those like Jatakarma, Naamakarana, Annapraashan, Mundan, Brahmopadesa, Vivaham etc. © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 21 of 23
  • Vrataas are observance of sacred Tithis such as Amavasya, Pournami, Chaturthi, Sashti, Ekadasi, etc. Pujas are worships for deities like Ganesha, Krishna, Saraswati, Durga, Shiva, Rama, Hanuman, Skanda, and so on. etc. Customs are those practices followed locally depending upon regional climate and available materials. For example, in Rajasthan dry coconut is used in Pujas as wet coconut is not readily available. This becomes a traditional practice and even when the wet coconut is procurable they will use dry coconut only. Similarly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, plantain leaf is available in plenty and hence it is used for various purposes. Even in areas where it is scarce or not available, a Keralite or Tamilian will pay a high price to get the same as it is deemed to be their customary practice. While Samskaras, Vratas and Pujas are equally important, people often get them mixed up with local customary practices. Details about performing poojas and some rituals will be covered in the next volume of this series. 14.0 Conclusion The lures of the present day world are too many. It is not surprising that many people get distracted by the temptation of reaping huge but illegal and dishonest rewards. The white-collar crime in recent years by many educated, high profile and wealthy people is enough proof to indicate a virus that has crept into our society. How to eradicate this virus? Not by prison sentences and by more laws alone - it requires reformation of the human mind. It requires constant disciplining of the mind and the body. Mantras and rituals precisely deal with the mind and hold the potential to reform it. For centuries, mantras and rituals have been practiced in India, and have withstood the test of time despite the rule of several foreigners in India. In present days, people report that observing rituals gives them peace of mind and happiness. If anyone still demands proof of their power, it is simply up to the individual to test these practices and draw conclusions based upon one’s own experience. © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 22 of 23
  • 15.0 Voice of God We hope this ebook would have given you a good understanding about the importance of our rituals and tradition. We encourage you to also listen to the Voice of God – of our own Maha Periva, on the importance of our Sastras by visiting the below link (discourse in Tamil): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5M1hdk-nkU Jaya Jaya Shankara, Hara Hara Shankara! © 2012 Kanchi Periva Forum www.periva.proboards.com www.periva.org Page 23 of 23