Saturday, 27 October 2012

Understanding Sanatana Dharma Part 5

(18) Astanga Yoga of Patanjali

   Yoga is not merely a series of stretching exercises. It is a complete darsanam, or philosophy, born out of the mind of Patañjali. As such, it has its own specific ideas regarding the nature of jìva [the individual soul], jagat [the universe], ìsvara [God], samsara [bondage], moksha [liberation from bondage], and sàdhana [the means to attaining liberation from bondage].

    Today, as a complete philosophy, the Yoga Darsanam is not widely followed. However with millions of people throughout the world becoming more and more interested in hatha-yoga àsanas and meditation, Patañjali’s system for personality refinement outlined as part of the philosophy is thriving indeed. This system is known astanga yoga. Not only is the astanga-yoga system practiced to some degree or the other by millions of hatha-yoga practitioners and meditators worldwide, but it has also been accepted as a tried-and-true system for personality refinement by other Indian darsanams that are more widely followed today, such as Advaita Vedànta.

an article on astanga yoga is available here

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Posters on Sanatana Dharma (Malayalam)

സനാതന ധര്‍മത്തിലെ ചില അടിസ്ഥാന തത്വങ്ങളെ വിഷയമാക്കി 'സത്യം സനാതനം' നിര്‍മിച്ച ചില പോസ്റ്ററുകള്‍ ഇവിടെ പങ്കുവയ്ക്കുന്നു.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Understanding Sanatana Dharma- Part 4*

(13)    Question : Isn’t it enough to worship God while sitting in our house, or is it necessary to go to the temples in order to worship Him?

Answer :  It is all right if you are not going to temples. However, if you go to temples, you will benefit because the vibrations there are entirely different from those of a house or other places where worldly dealings are taking place. In a temple, everyone is thinking of God. The power radiating from the statue creates peace and serenity in the mind. The atmosphere is concentrated and impregnated with the one pointed thought of the devotees who gather there. Because all are thinking of God in that atmosphere, it is easy for others also to attain concentration. But we should have the right attitude when we go to a temple.

(14)    Question : It is said that one will get mental peace if one goes to temples and prays sincerely. How does that happen?

Answer : It is true, we can get peace, but as you said, we must have sincerity. We want peace to come after we call “God” once having looked at the image and then closed our eyes. When we meditate on God with form, we are also meditating on our own Self. This means all other thoughts will be restrained and our mind will become concentrated on the image of God. This again means that there are no other thoughts, which cause all our external and internal problems and conflicts, except that one single thought of God. Fewer thoughts mean more peace of mind. More thoughts means less peace of mind. Moreover, when we go to a temple, the atmosphere is calm because everyone stands there with only one thought in mind. All minds will become one-pointed while waiting for the sanctum sanctorum to be opened and to behold God’s image. The atmosphere there becomes peaceful because of that concentrated thought. That is why we get peace when we go to temples.

(15)   Question : Is it necessary to worship trees, snakes and things like that?

Answer :   Everything in God’s creation has a purpose and a benefit, whatever it is. There is a use for everything, whether it is a dog, a cat or a hen. No matter whether it is an animal or a plant, there is a purpose behind its creation. Even if human beings do not have any use for something, other creatures do. The harmony of nature depends on all things which have been created. Take, for example, the changes in weather patterns that have now occurred. Because trees have been needlessly cut down, we do not get the proper rainfall during the monsoon season. Furthermore, the temperature has increased, hasn’t it?

It is the trees which purify the atmosphere, absorbing all the impure air exhaled by human beings. Is it wrong to mentally worship those things which do good to us? For example, some things are considered sacred, so we honor them with due reverence, that’s all. Lord Krishna has told Arjuna, “Among mountains I am the Himalayas, among trees I am the great peepal tree and amongst animals, the lion.” When everything is pervaded by God, which thing is not to be worshipped?

(16)    Question :  Doesn’t Vedanta speak against image worship?

Answer : No, Vedanta doesn’t deny anything. Son, every person has an appropriate path for making the mind concentrated on the Self. Didn’t Sankaracharya renovate temples, install images and compose poetry about gods and goddesses? Even so, don’t get entangled in image worship forever. At a certain stage of sadhana, you will reach the Formless State where all images and forms merge and disappear. Even if one or two people might understand that the world is an illusion, to others the world will still seem to be real. Scriptures and paths are to uplift those who are wandering in ignorance. They are not meant for those who already know the Truth and have attained the Goal.

(17)    Question : Is it possible to attain Liberation through temple worship?

Answer : It is possible, but one must worship with the understanding of the inner significance of the temples. God resides in the temples, but don’t think that He is limited to the four walls of the temple. Have the firm belief that God is omnipresent. A bus will take us to the bus stop nearest to our house; from there we can easily walk the remaining distance. Similarly, the correct way of temple worship will take us to the threshold of Satchidananda (Pure Being-Knowledge-Bliss); from there only a short distance remains before attaining Perfection. You can take birth in a temple, but don’t die there. That is to say that, in the beginning, a seeker can do temple worship as a stepping stone, but the final and real goal is beyond all these things.

*courtesy : Awaken children,MAM Publication.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Understanding Sanatana Dharma- Part 3*

(9)  Question: Why were human sacrifices conducted in temples?

Answer : The ignorance of people in the olden times prompted them to do this. They believed such sacrifices would please God. Misunderstanding the words of the scriptures, they performed these sacrifices. Look at our present day world. In the name of politics there is so much bloodshed. Atrocities like killing a man who changes political parties, killing the members of different political parties, shootings and stabbings are commonplace. Do any of these party’s by-laws or ideologies sanction murder or such atrocities? The manifesto and ideologies are very good, but the actions of the followers may be entirely different. Similarly, there were some fools in the olden days. Blind devotion and belief prompted them to act like this.

(10) Question : What is the significance of temple festivals?

Answer : The word festival in Sanskrit is utsavam. The original word is utsravam, which means to rise up and flow, or to overflow. All festivals are symbolic of the overflowing of pure bliss and consciousness; especially the festivals that are celebrated in temples symbolize the overflow of spiritual energy and bliss.
The spiritual energy that is created in the temple through prayer, meditation, worship and chanting, fills the temple compound. It then rises above the four walls of the temple and overflows into the entire village or city where it is situated, purifying the whole environment. This is the idea behind the festivals that are celebrated in the temples every year.

(11)  Question: why has the sanctity of the temples been lost?

Answer : In the name of festivals, people collect money and conduct worldly programs in temples. This makes the temple’s atmosphere impure. Instead of cultivating devotion and good thoughts in people, such programs create vulgar thoughts and passions. What nonsense is done in the name of festivals; people getting drunk and engaging in fighting. In the temple surroundings they conduct drama, dance and such activities that arouse worldliness in the minds of the audience. Young children will also be affected by this. At the tender age when good thoughts should be developed, these programs will make them stray from the right path. These kinds of thought waves will make the temple atmosphere unholy.

Children, we alone destroy ourselves. First we should become good. We should see that the temples are kept pure. Only the arts of a divine nature, which increase devotion and faith, should be held in temples. The daily puja should be performed properly. Now that the temple surroundings have been made impure, it makes no sense to accuse the deities. In olden days meditation, reading of the ancient scriptures, yogic postures and other spiritual activities were practiced in temples. Only stories connected with God would be presented as dramas during festivals.

The money collected from the public for festivals should be utilized for humanitarian purposes. There are so many people who are struggling without a house in our villages. We can build houses for them. Clothes and food can be given in charity to the poor. Help can be given to those who are unable to conduct a marriage ceremony due to lack of money. Religious books can be printed and distributed free of charge and used for teaching children. Orphanages can be built enabling more children to be brought up with good culture and character. In this way, there would not be any orphans in the future. All this would help create unity among people.

We should take special care to renovate temples and conduct divine arts during festival seasons. United, we should take care of temples in the proper way. Their holiness should be preserved, otherwise our culture will degenerate.

12)  Question : There are many people who scoff at image worship. Why is this?

Answer : They criticize image worship because of their ignorance about temples and the science behind image worship. To put it in one sentence, the temple represents the body and the image symbolizes Atman, the soul, which is situated in the sanctum sanctorum (inner chamber) of the heart. The complete temple is the seeker’s body in full prostration with all the adharas, including sahasrara.

Ordinary people with gross intellects cannot conceive of a formless or nameless God even though that is His real nature. They need something to hold onto and someone to share their heart with. Being limited individuals, human beings are not satisfied with another limited being. Knowingly or unknowingly one is always in search of an infinite, universal Person to whom one can unburden one’s sorrow and find peace. The ancient sages knew that the people belonging to the forthcoming ages would be unable to grasp these subtle truths unless it was put in a different way. Thus the idea of temples dawned in their hearts to make Truth available even to the grossest. But we misinterpret it and make a mess. Whose fault is this? Who is there to blame? Neither God nor the great forefathers, we can blame only ourselves.

In any case son, why do you care if somebody out of utter ignorance says something about God or image worship? Let him babble. That shows his lack of understanding. Let us pray and work for his upliftment also. But let our faith be unshakable.

courtesy : Awaken children,MAM Publication.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Understanding Sanatana Dharma- Part 2*

(5) Question : A lot of money is offered to God in temples for ritualistic worship and other purposes. Why does God require money?

  Answer : God does not require anything from us. An electric lamp does not require the help of a kerosene lamp. God is like the sun. He sheds light  equally on all things in the world. It is to this all-illuminating God that we offer a lamp and oil. This is due to our ignorance. It is like holding a burning candle in the daytime and saying, “O Sun God, here is light for You so that You can see the path clearly and walk.” The offerings in temples are made for our benefit. God is the giver of everything. He does not need or want anything from us. Wealth is what our mind is attached to, and it is not easy to detach the mind from this. A simple way to do this is to dedicate the mind to God. When we offer our mind to God it is purified. We offer God the things that are dear to us as a way of surrendering the mind.
The cash offering we make at the temple is not bribe. When done in humility and without expecting specific returns it symbolizes our love for God. To give something to someone we love is the way of love. When love is expressed outwardly, it becomes loving-kindness.

(6) Question : Idols in temples are adorned with precious jewellery. Why?

  Answer: The gold and silver used to decorate the images of God don’t belong to a particular individual; they belong to society as a whole. That wealth remains in the temple. Don’t most of us buy gold jewelry and keep it at home? Appreciating beauty is part of our nature. We like anything that is beautiful. That is why people wear jewelry and colorful clothes. But this attraction to external things causes bondage; it reinforces the notion that we are the body. If, instead, our attraction to beauty is directed towards God, it will uplift us.

When we decorate God’s image, we get to enjoy a beauty that is divine. In this way, our minds become focused on God. Even without adornments, God is the quintessence of Beauty. But, normally, we are able to enjoy that beauty only through certain symbols or limiting adjuncts. So, we adorn those images of God according to the way we imagine God to be or as we want him to be.

(7) Question : It is said that if the daily worship is stopped in a temple, adverse reactions will occur. Is this true?

  Answer: As a result of man’s resolve, the power of the temple gods will increase. If the worship is stopped, that power will diminish. The power of the god depends on the attitude of the person who installs it. Don’t stop the daily worship performed in temples or to the family deity. If these rites are stopped, great misfortunes may result.
Suppose we feed a crow for ten days. On the eleventh day, if we don’t feed it, it will follow us cawing. We will be unable to work attentively. Like this, if we stop the daily worship of the gods, they will always trouble us in their subtle forms. This will greatly affect weak-minded people, although spiritual aspirants will not be affected much.

It is not enough to build a boat; we should also learn how to row it. If we get into a boat without knowing how to row, it will move hither and thither. Is it proper to blame the boat if we don’t know how to row? Similarly, it is not enough to construct temples. They must be properly looked after as well. Daily worship should be performed. If not, misfortune may result. It is meaningless to blame the temples.

(8) Question : If so, then won’t temples become harmful to human beings?

  Answer: Never. This applies only to the temples where gods are worshipped. As regards such temples, we should be a bit careful. The installation of gods is done by priests who are incapable of controlling their own life force (prana shakti). We should never stop the daily worship in such temples. Have you seen fish living in aquariums? The water must be changed frequently or else it will be harmful to the fish. If daily worship is performed properly, material prosperity will result.

The greatness of temples where Mahatmas have installed the images is unique. By their mere will, they give divine power to the images which they install. They make the resolve that the images should be identified with the Undivided Existence, Awareness, Bliss. Such temples and their images will be full of divinity, power and effulgence. They are not like fish living in aquariums, but like fish that live in the river. In such temples the daily puja will never stop. Even if the puja is stopped, there will be no loss of power. These temples will be centers of great attraction and will have eternally auspicious attributes. Tirupathi, Guruvayur and Chottanikara temples are examples of this. 

courtesy : Awaken children,MAM Publication.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Understanding Sanatana Dharma- Part 1*

(1) Question : It is said that God is everywhere. If so, why is it necessary to go to particular places of worship?

Answer: There is wind everywhere but the person who comes to rest under a tree out of the scorching heat gets a special kind of rejuvenating coolness which filters through the leaves of the tree. Likewise, we can experience a unique peace when we go to Mahatmas. The significance of going to other places of worship is also the same. The atmosphere in a temple and a liquor shop are different, aren’t they?

     (2) Question : Are temples necessary for remembering God?

     Answer: One special characteristic of Sanatana Dharma is that it comes down to the level of each individual and elevates him or her. People have different ‘samskaras’. Each individual has to be guided according to his or her inner tendencies. Some patients are allergic to certain injections and have to be given alternative medicines. Similarly, the unique mental and physical characteristics of each person have to be taken into account, and the appropriate method that suit the samskara of the individual has to be prescribed. This is how different traditions have come into being.

      Temples are necessary to uplift ordinary people by bringing the Divine down to a physical level. We cannot ignore or reject anyone. Even though the air is everywhere, we experience it more tangibly sitting closer to a fan, don’t we? Under a tree there is a special coolness that isn’t felt elsewhere; you feel the presence of the wind and experience that coolness. Similarly, when we worship God through an instrument that symbolizes Him, His divine Presence can be felt more clearly. But for this to happen, faith is essential. Faith tunes the mind. Even though God is present in the temple, those who lack faith won’t experience that presence. It is faith that gives us the experience.

      (3) Question : What are the temples for? Isn’t the sculptor who chiseled the beautiful image the one who deserves to be adored?

     Answer: Just as we remember our father when we see his portrait, we are reminded of God when we see the image. When a devotee of Krishna sees the image of Sri Krishna, he remembers the real Lord Krishna and not the stone image. Temples and idols are needed by those of us who are drowning in ignorance.

      (4) Question : Does Sanatana Dharma teach idolatry?
      Answer: When you see the flag of your country, is it the flag or the tailor you respect? Or perhaps the weaver who wove the fabric? Or the person who spun the yarn? Or the farmer who provided the cotton? No one gives a thought to those people. Instead, we are reminded of the country that the flag symbolizes. In the same way, a divine image reminds the believer not of the sculptor but of his favorite God who is also the divine sculptor of the universe.

      In image worship, we develop the expansiveness of heart needed to love and respect every living being. By praying and visualizing God in the image, we are purified within and raised to the level where we see and worship God in everything. This is the aim of image worship. While all the symbols that remind us of the material world ultimately limit and confine us, the symbols that awaken our awareness of the divine lead us to a state of expansiveness way beyond all limits. Image worship helps us to see God everywhere, in everything.

      courtesy : Awaken children,MAM Publication.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Posters on Sanatana Dharma

Team Satyam Sanatanam has prepared a set of posters explaining the fundamentals of Sanatana Dharma. These posters are shared here for fair use!