Questions and Answers Indian Culture

Nearly two years ago I gifted a Ganapati ka murthi to a British girl in Hongkong. She thanked me but asked me what it stood for. I was stumped, did not know what to say but regained my composure to say it’s the God of Good Luck. Subsequently, a friend of mine told me what the elephant God stands for. I felt very sheepish and wondered how many of us know the true significance of the Gods we worship and the customs we follow. Since then I have been trying to lay my hands on a book that would teach me about the basic truths of Sanatan Dharam.  Fortunately, I found more than a couple of books.

I have compiled this essay in a question answer format ie a mother answering her daughter’s questions. I have taken content verbatim from many books namely The Bhagwad Geeta by Swami Chinamayannda, Am I a Hindu by ED Vishwanathan, The Composites Works of Swami Vivekananda, Indian History and Culture by Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Symbolism of Hindu Gods and Rituals by A. Parthasarathy and Why Hindu Rituals and Customs by Pandit Kishan Sharma.

You will find answers to the following questions. Click on the question to go to the answer i.e. you do not have to scroll down the entire page to find answer.

1. Introductory question.
2. What is to be a Hindu?
3. But why are Hindus slaves of idol worship and a large number of Gods?
4. What is this I have read about Aryan and Dravidian Gods? Were there different Gods?
5. Please tell when did other world religions enter India?
6. Does Hinduism have a Pope or a founder like Prophet Mohammed?
7.Then how did Hinduism take birth and evolve?
8. Is not Hinduism confusing and contradictory?
9. Mama tells me something about the Vedas?
10.Were not the statements on women deplorable and those on the caste system even worse?
12.Like the Christians have the Bible and the Muslims the Quran is there a Hindu equivalent?
13.Did Christianity ever believe in rebirth?
14.Is the doctrine of Bhakti (the love of divine) in Indian the result of Occidental influence?
15.Mama is there a Hindu calendar. Tell me something about it?
16.Mama, why do we see a large number of people visiting temples in August September.
17.I was at the traffic signal and saw this boy tying limbo and mirchi to the car why?
18.Which trees are sacred and why? 
19.Before we move on tell me something about the World Religions?
20Mama you just talked about Sanatan Dharma being the original Indian religion, then what is Hinduism?
21.Mama, whenever I talk to you about sex you gets distinctly uncomfortable but I have also seen the photographs of Khajuraho temple where sex has been depicted in an open way.  If we had such an open attitude towards sex why this discomfort on your part?
22.Mom, why do you an Aarti every morning?
23.Mom, after Dr Ambedkar became a member of the Buddhists sect, it has become popular today. But tell me why did Buddhism vanish from India?
24.Mama, you have told me that Classical music is a part of Hinduism, please explain?
25.Mom, I was seeing the promos of Suraj Barjatyas latest blockbuster on Channel V and saw all the heroes standing doing Namaste. Iska meaning kya hai?
26.Mama, did you see the Hyundai ka advt today, it said Sampati Ghar Leha ho. Now what on earth does Sampati stand for?
27.Which are the holy cities in India?
28.Mom, when ever we have gone to the temple the pandit says Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi i.e. thrice at the end of the prayer. What is its significance?
29.Why is the river Ganga so important to Indians?
30.How did the dances of India originate?
31.Ma, when you went for Vaishali’s wedding my boyfriend was ga ga about how nice - attractive you looked with the flowers in your hair, silk saree and mangal sutra. He said you had this very Indian look and wants me to look that way too?
32.Mom, Dadaji had gone for the Kumbh Mela last year. Please explain! 
33.What are the scriptures of the Hindus?
34.What is Sruti?
35.Who is a Rishi, were the main Rishis, were there any women too?
36.What are the Puranas?
37.What are Tantras?
38.What are the important nerves as per the Tantras?
39.What is the significance of Tilak?
40Now what on earth is Kundalini Ma?
41. Now Mom, what are the Chakras?
42.Ma, the founder of Arya Samaj was a Gujarati, then how did he reach Punjab?
43.Which are the different systems of Indian Philosophy (called Darshans)?
44.What is our attitude towards Vegetarianism (V)?
45.Ma, please explain the concept of Ahimsa to me?
46.What are the two most important principles of International Law?
47.Why do Hindus anoint the deities with various liquids?
48.What do the red and white stripes on the walls of the temple signify?
Ma, you make me say the Surya mantra 108 times, now not 108 and not 110?
50.Ma, I do not want to go to Vinayak’s house for dinner, his parents insist that I remove my shoes; you know the ones I paid Rs 1500 for. How will people envy?
51.Ma, Nanaji had a tuff of pair that I used to pull as a kid, why?
52.Why did you make me pierce my ears and nostrils? It pained ma?
53.The sweetest guy in my class is a Parsi. How and why did they enter India?
54.Our country had been invaded for thousands of years. So why all this noise about Muslim / Christian invasions?
55.What are the Ten Principles of Yama and Niyama?
56.Ma, what does Himalayas mean?
57.Similarities between Sufism and by Hinduism?
58.What is Gotra?
59.What is Vibuthi?
60.Ma, when Ravi bhaiya’s son was born why did we shave off his nut?
61.Ma, what does Himalayas mean?
62.What is the meaning of our religion Sanatan Dharam?
63.Who is Lord Ayyappa?
64.Why get up in Brahm Muhurtam?
65.Why sit on Grass mat?
66.Why drink Water in small measures?
67.Why chant on stringed beeds?
68.Why 108 beads in a mala?
69.Why invoke Swaha during yajna?
70.Why Shriyantra is the greatest?
71.Why onions and garlic are no good?
72.Why flowers are offered to god?
73.Why Shiva worship at night?
74.Why co-gotras marriages are forbidden?
75.Why married women apply vermillion?
76.Why offer water to the sun?
77.Why different directions for different rites?
78.Why worship Yantra?
79.Why sound Coonch Shell?
80.Why women in periods are not touchable?
81.Why five green pillars in a wedding?
82.What is the famous Yoga Vasishtha?
What is Ayurveda?
84.What is Kama Sutra?
85.Why is Cow important to followers of Dharma?
86.What does ‘Born Again’ mean?

Q1 Mama, I want to ask you a lot of questions about Indian religions, history, philosophy.
Please go ahead.

Q2 What is it to be a Hindu?
Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. Unlike other world religions, it does not
prescribe any do's and don'ts. It allows you to live life the way you like. It allows freedom of thought. You do not have to agree with its philosophy unless you are convinced about it. Buddha questioned the authority of the Vedas, Adi Shankaracharya reformed Hinduism, yet not one of these critics was harmed unlike the Sufi saints who proclaimed they were God. It has a very broad encompassing philosophy and is a tolerant religion. It is a relentless pursuit of truth. You have to discover its philosophy yourself. It absorbs new ideas very easily. Unfortunately, some evils like the rigid caste system, superstitions have crept in over the years. By nature, Hindus are not fanatics, violence is abhorred, they forgive their enemies even those who could be a threat to their lives (Remember how Prithviraj Chauhan set Mahmud Ghazni free inspite of defeating him in battle, only to be killed by the same man later ).You know Hindu religion never persecutes. It is a personal religion. You can pray sitting at home. No need to ask other Hindus to come and pray by using a loudspeaker.

Of the two patriots Mahatma Gandhi and Veer Savarkar, the Mahatma a preacher of non-violence was more popular. Hindus have this great propensity to put the past behind them, move on with their lives (think of your grandfather, a Punjabi refugee who left Lahore without a penny during Partition but is a very wealthy man today), and absorb foreigners in to their culture. Quote Allana Iqbal “There has to be something about the entity of this civilisation that has defied destruction despite repeated onslaught by its enemy’s centuries after centuries.”

Q3 But why are Hindus slaves of idol worship and a large number of Gods?
The Vedas do not talk about idol worship. In fact, till about 2000 years ago Hindus never worshipped idols. Idol worship was started by the followers of Lord Buddha.  There is logic to idol worship. Hinduism speaks of one God that is the supreme self in man i.e. Atman or soul. Different Gods and Goddesses are manifestations of the powers and functions of the one supreme God. The human mind suffers from many diseases that need to be cured by specialists. One God cannot help a Hindu to get rid of all his problems. Every God has his own core competency as Michael Porter says. Man is full of desires. To fulfill these desires he relentlessly pursues acquisition of materialistic objects. Desires create agitations in our minds preventing us from concentrating on any one object. Religion helps us control our desires and concentrate our mind on pursuing the Self within. To make this happen, Hinduism has thought of Gods and rituals, festivals. By this man is reminded of the Supreme even while he is pursuing desires e.g. the Lord of Wealth is Laxmi. Every stockbroker while trying to make money on the stock market has a statute or photo of the Goddess of wealth in his office to remind him that there are is a touch of divinity in his pursuits. By worshipping an idol you are able to converge your thoughts and mind to improve your power of concentration. This helps you clear your mind of desires making it fit for meditation. It helps you peep into your souls, understand ourselves and form conclusions about right and wrong. Idols are a tool to achieve self realization and nothing else.

Q4  What is this I have read about Aryan and Dravidian Gods? Were there different Gods?
Yes, there were different Gods. Aryan gods were Indra, Agni, Varuna, Soma, Surya or Vishnu, Ushas and Dravidian Gods were Shiva, Ma or Parvati, Murugan. There was never any major animosity between their followers. The Tirupati temple in the south is a Vishnuji ka mandir while the temple at Kashi is a Shivji ka mandir. Modern day Hinduism is a synthesis of Aryan and Dravidian cultures. More about that later.

Q5  Please tell when did other world religions enter India?
Jews are believed to have come into India in 5 a.d. Christianity came into India in two phases. Phase one was believed to be around the first century a.d. Phase two was with the advent of the Portugese into India in 1498 a.d. During the first phase Christianity was mainly limited to modern day Kerala; these converts were mostly Brahmans and are known as Syrian Catholics today. Phase two started with the advent of the Portuguese and the British rule in India i.e. when Hindus were forcibly converted to Christianity. Rice Christians as Gandhiji called them. Islam entered the Indian sub-continent around the eighth century a.d. when Sind was conquered by the Arabs. However, Islam entered the Indian heartland only after the eleventh century a.d. Indian Muslims are a mixture of Afghans, Mongols and converted Hindus e.g. Bohri Muslims.

Q6 Does Hinduism have a Pope or a founder like Prophet Mohammed?
No Hinduism does not have either. There is no central authority in Hinduism whose orders Hindus are bound to follow or nor is there one interpretation of Hindu philosophy. Nobody is excommunicated from Hinduism. Being an open and liberal religion, Hinduism is criticized more than other religions.

Q7 Then how did Hinduism take birth and evolve?
An exact date of its birth cannot be given. It is known that Hinduism is as old as this land. Seals of Lord Shiva have been found in Harappa. Some say it is 5000 years old while others say it is 6000 to 7000 years old. I think it is atleast 6000 years old. Ancient India consisted of the Aryans and Dravidians.

The Hindu scriptures were written by the Rishis of ancient times and have got passed down over generations eg the Sage Vyasa, author of the Mahabharat and the Geeta is credited with writing the Vedas too. The word Hindu came originated from the word Sindhu which is another name for the river Indus. May be people who stayed along the Sindhu (Indus) came to be known as Hindus.

An ancient name of Hinduism would be Sanatan Dharam meaning that which has no beginning or an end, righteousness for ever. Today going to a temple would make you a follower of Sanatan Dharam. Sects like the Arya Samajis do not believe in idol worship but in the supremacy of the Vedas.

Q8 Is not Hinduism confusing and contradictory?
Since Hinduism is subject to so many interpretations, to the ignorant it may appear to be
confusing. But the Rishis worked on different aspects to unravel the riddles of the universe. Hinduism has a never had a cleaning up in its history, unlike Christianity. Since the first council in 325 a.d. it has thrown out anyone who did not literally follow the church. Contradictions are seen in every scripture in the world. The Old Testament is in direct contrast to the New one in certain aspects. The Old details all types of sexual activity while the New upholds high morality. The Old demanded and allowed human sacrifices while the New shows a very compassionate God.

Every religion has its share of contradictions. It is incorrect to criticize other religions on the basis of half-baked knowledge. Like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism are offshoots of Hinduism so also Christianity, Islam are oddshooots of Judaism (religion of the Jews).

Q9 Mama tell me something about the Vedas?
There are four Vedas. The Rig Veda (of Hyms 1028 in number dedicated to gods like Indra and Agni), Yajur Veda (knowledge of rites or can be called a priestly handbook), Sama Veda (Veda of Music) and the Atharva Veda is used as a manual by chief sacrificial priests and Brahmins.

The Rig Veda talks of the cosmic order called RTA. It means cosmic and sacred order. Later it came to be known as Dharma or righteousness forever.

Q10 Who were the first Law Givers of Hinduism?
They were the sages Manu, Yatnavalkya, Parasara and Gauthama. Their books were called Dharma Sutras, the most important one being Manusmriti. The name Manu means, Patriarchal Earth Ruler.

Q11 Were not the statements on women deplorable and those on the caste system even worse?
Darling, do not get excited. Please understand that Manu's code was for a society that was just taking birth in North India and not modern day India. In fact on women Manu said “They are to be honored and adorned by fathers and brothers alike. When women are honored Gods rejoice, where they are not all rites are fruitless." You see every religion has put man on a higher pedestal. Man was physically and emotionally stronger. Things have changed today. I believe that the Indian women are emotionally far stronger than the man. She has to take care of work, house, children, hubby and sometimes in-laws.  If you read the Old Testament esp Exodus you will see the statements regarding the treatment of slaves. History is a part of every scripture. Every evolving society makes mistakes, thus one cannot pass judgement hastily.

In today’s kalyug we admire and envy the prosperity of America and keep on criticising India without realizing that they have become what they have after over 250 yrs of independence while we are in our 52 nd year.

Q12 Like the Christians have the Bible and the Muslims the Quoran is there a Hindu equivalent?
Hindus consider the Bhagwad Geeta as the bible equivalent. It is the essence of the Vedas, a summation of the Upanishads. Having read the Geeta once, I can say that it has a solution to every problem. Sometimes, I feel it has more to do with human psychology and less with religion. The Geeta tries to show you the right path without imposing its thoughts on you.

I try and live my life by the following slokha (verse) of the Geeta. “Life is full of opposites, pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, heat and cold, are impermanent in nature, have a beginning and an end, face them bravely, Oh Partha." What it says that our lives will have good days and bad ones, there would be times when we are happy and  unhappy. We should not be affected by either of the two situations but learn to live life in equanimity. Its like saying what goes up will always go down.

Two other noteworthy things that I have learnt are the importance of removing desires and selfless work. If I desire, I expect, if I do not get what I want I become unhappy. Then why must I desire. Desires get the mind agitated making me loose peace of mind. If I work, only with the intent of earning the fruits of my action I would be unhappy as I am always expecting success. As we all know none of us can succeed all the time. The Geeta says karm karte jahao without worrying about the fruits of your actions. I have tried to put it simply for you.

,Q13 Did Christianity ever believe in rebirth?
The doctrine of reincarnation is taken for granted in most parts of Asia. In the West it was widely accepted before being anathematized by the Church at the council of Constantinople in 543 a.d. On account of its reasonableness it is gaining acceptance in the West again.

Q14 Is the doctrine of Bhakti (the love of divine) in Indian the result of Occidental influence?
The bhakti in India is not like the Western bhakti. The central idea of ours is that there is no thought of fear. There is no worship through fear but through love God from the beginning to the end. Bhakti is spoken of in the oldest of the Upanishads which is much older than the Christian ka Bible. The terms of Bhakti are even in the Samhita (Vedic hymns). The word bhakti was suggested by the word Shraddha.

Q15 Mama is there a Hindu calendar. Tell me something about it?
Yes, Pooja there is a Hindu calendar. The names of the months most prevalent in the North are Chaitra - first month ( 30.3.99), Vaishak, Jyesth, Jyesth, Jyesth, Aashad, Sravan ( 26.8), Bhadrapath, Ashwin, Kartik, Margshirish, Paush, Magh, and Phalgun (20.2. to 21.3.2000). In Gujarat, the New Year starts at Diwali time. The months are Maksar (20.11. to 18.12.98), Posh, Maha, Phagan, Chaitra, Vaishak, Jeth, Bijo Jeth, Ashad, Sravan (12.8. to 9.9), Bhadarwoh, and Aaso (10.10 to 8.11.99). Since the Gujaratis are mostly a trading community, they used to close their books at Diwali and start the New Year from then. In Tamil Nadu the months are Chithirai (14.4 14.5.99), Vaikash, Ani, Adi, Avani (18.8. to 17.9.99 is holy month), Pureattasi, Iyappasi, Karthikgai, Margazhi, Thai, Masi, Panguni (14.3 12.4.2000). In Maharashtra, the New Year is called Gudi Padwa, the first day starting on 18.3.99. A closer perusal of the above indicates that the names of months in various parts of the country are similar, the difference being in the language only. India being an agricultural country, a new year invariably indicates the end of the harvest season like the Baisakhi in Punjab.

Q16 Mama, why do we see a large number of people visiting temples in August September.
Sweety, they do so because it is the holy month of Sravan. The month of August is a beautiful month. Monsoon changes the entire landscape, and so also the mindset of the people. The farmers are free and the scorching heat has disappeared. The advent of the month of sravana invokes joy & playfulness, the koel singing on mango trees, children enjoying the swings, the otherwise inaccessible mahatmas becoming accessible and exuding the elixir of timeless eternal truths during their Chaturmasa, the Shiv bhaktas dedicate the month for some special worship of Lord Shiva, and the Joyous Janmashtami - the birthday of the smiling, dancing blue-boy of Vrindavan is also round the corner. The month also has the festival of Rakhi, sisters tying the thread on the wrists of their brothers to express their love & wishes. It signifies the onset of the festival season. Good monsoons mean good crops. The farmers thanked God for the rains and pray that it rains well next year too. Since India is an agricultural country this reason sounds logical.

Q17 I was at the traffic signal and saw this boy tying limbo and mirchi to the car why?
This has nothing to do with any religious injunction, and is more of a practice started at a later date to ward off any possible evil. More of a Tantric practice.

Q18 Which trees are sacred and why? 
The Tulsi is the most sacred. In Sanskrit that which is incomparable is called Tulasi. Impressed by her devotion and adherence to righteousness, Tulasi the wife of a celestial being was blessed by Lord Krishna that she would be worshipped by all, offerings would be incomplete without the offering of Tulasi. She also symbolizes Goddess Lakshmi. Those who wish a righteous life also worship Tulasi. It symbolizes, Kalyani - Normally poisonous snakes and mosquitos do not come close to it due to some smell that it emitts. That explains why it is a must in every house. The leaves as well roots are a cure for several diseases like malaria, cold, fever. The wood of this plant is used for Mala, ie a rosary for worship of Lord Vishnu and when worn in the neck it prevents diseases of the throat.  Visnu Priye - T has been described as the beloved of Lord Vishnu since he is the creator and T helps the health of human beings and animals, prevents soil erosion. Moksa - prade - By keeping the body healthy, it keeps the mind healthy and free of worries enabling us to concentrate on worship of the Ultimate Reality in comfort.

Pipal tree is sacred believing that Brahma resides in its trunk.  The Neem tree on the other hand is worshipped because of its infinite medicinal values. The Bel tree is associated with the worship of Lord Shiva.

Q19 Before we move on tell me something about the World Religions?
There were three religions. Judaism, Sanatan Dharm, Taoism started by Moses, Rishis, Lao-Tse. From Judaism came Christianity, protestants and catholics, Islam, Sunni, Shia, Wahhabi, madhi, Shia, bahai, amasdhi. From Hinduism came Saivism, Vaishnavism, Saktism - worship of mother goddess, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism. Taoism + Confucianism + Buddhists influences gave Shintoism. Buddhism as preached by Emperor Ashoks got split into Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana got split into Zen Buddhism of Japan and Vajtayana Buddhism of Tibet.

Q20 Mama you just talked about Sanatan Dharma being the original Indian religion, then what is Hinduism?
There was no such religion as Hinduism till the Muslim invasion. It was called Sanatan Dharam.  Hindu is a modified version of Sindhu, was a term to indicate the region round the Sindhu river (modern day Indus) and then the whole of India. The Iranians substituted H for S making it Hindu.  When the Muslims came in, there became two sets of people, one the Muslims and two the Hindus and so came the word Hinduism.

Some attempts have been made to say that Muslims are sons of the soil. An analogy has been drawn between the Saxon and Norman invasions of England and the Turkish invasion of India to prove that  since the invaders became the sons of the soil they can hardly been classifies as foreigners. This argument is erroneous since after a century or two nobody could distinguish a Saxon from a Norman while it is possible to distinguish a Hindu from a Muslim to this day.

Q21 Mama, whenever I talk to you about sex you gets distinctly uncomfortable but I have also seen the photographs of Khajuraho temple where sex has been depicted in an open way.  If we had such an open attitude towards sex why this discomfort on your part?
That's a good question Pooja. It’s taken me a long time to find an answer to this paradox. Indians had a healthy attitude towards sex till about the beginning of this millennium. Unlike the Christian attitude towards sex, the Hindu attitude had been more open & balanced. Sex was basically associated with the act of procreation ie having children. As far as the seeking of ultimate joy was concerned it was always associated with the realization of the Self. Women always got an equal position with men in the Hindu thought & system. Our value system does value respect towards our elders, and covering the head (which is not exactly purdah) was a part of our culture to express our respect towards our elders.

In the olden days temples were modern day community centers where the parents took their children every evening. As the parents approached the main temple, the bells, chants were started. At that time the children walked around the temple observing the exotic sculptures. While they were ignorant about their significance earlier, as they grew up the devotional ecstasy and the sensual presentation synchronized due to constant association of the two ideas. Later when they got married, the procreative function was automatically treated with spiritual beauty and serenity. It was Sex education at a very early stage in life, not like what we are taught today.

Prior to the 18th century European society was very conservative. In  Europe, in  18th  or  earlier  centuries sex was taboo....even  church  architecture  or  pictures always  showed  distance between  man  and  woman....Women  dressed  covering  whole  body  ....even  to  show  legs  was  not  permitted   ....even  the  heads  were  covered ....woman were  subservient  to  man  who  did  what  they  were asked to. It’s only recently that we hear of free sex.

The Muslim invaders brought their orthodox views. Strict veiling of women was a common practice among the Muslims. Hindus adopted Purdah as a protective measure to save the honor of their womenfolk and to maintain the purity of their social order. The tendency to imitate the ruling class was another factor that made Hindus adopts purdah. Purdah, however, was less rigorously observed in Rajput families where women were trained in all arts of warfare and would take part in hunting expeditions. So also, barring Muslim families South India did not have purdah.

Net net this progressive Hindu view has been progressively sidelined because of influences under Muslim, Christian rule & in the present times, Western influence.
Q22 Mom, why do you an Aarti every morning?
My dear kudi let me explain the symbolism/philosophy associated with the Aarti. Having worshipped the Lord with love, lit by the lamp we see the beauty of the Lord in all his glory. The singing, clapping is associated with the joy that accompanies the vision of the Lord. Aarti being performed with Camphor has a spiritual significance. Camphor burns itself out completely without leaving a trace. Camphor represents our Vasanas, unmanifest desires. So also if wewere to take refuge in the Lord obtain knowledge, these desires will get burnt out. Al though the camphor burns itself out, it emits a nice perfume. On a human plane it means that we should sacrifice ourselves to serve society, in the process spread the perfume of love and happiness to all.

We close our eyes while performing the Aarti as if to look within. The Self or Atman is within us. . Self realization can be achieved by knowing thyself, with the flame of knowledge. At the end of the aarti we place the hands over the flame and touch our eyes and top of the head. It means that may the light that illumined the Lord light up my vision, may my thoughts be pure and beautiful.

With the Aarti comes the flame which signifies light. There can be light in our lives only if we have knowledge. In an era of darkness there would be ignorance, we would be perpetually running to fulfill our vasanas resulting in unhappiness and stress all around.

Q23 Mom, after Dr Ambedkar became a member of the Buddhists sect, it has become popular today. But tell me why did Buddhism vanish from India?
Buddhism was exterminated from India for two reasons. The Muslim invaders destroyed Buddhists monasteries, killing the monks, leaving none to preach Buddha’s teachings. Having been embraced by people who no longer lived by the teachings of the Buddha, Buddhism showed signs of decay around the 8th century a.d. In such an environment Sankaracharya cleansed Hinduism of its ills, assimilated Buddhism’s good points, on the strength of his arguments unified various Hindu sects and convinced Buddhist scholars about the supremacy of Hindu philosophy.

Q24 Mama, you have told me that Classical music is a part of Hinduism, please explain?
Indian music can be broadly divided into Hindustani and Carnatic music. The former originated in North India, was influenced by Persian and Arabic cultures while the latter is a product of South India. Carnatic music has its roots in the Sama Veda and has no foreign influences. It is associated with devotional songs to deities. Very few instruments are used in this music. The music is based on the seven letters of Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni. These letters are mathematically improvised to make thousands of tunes known as Ragas and cyclic patterns known as Talas.

Q25 Mom, I was seeing the promos of Suraj Barjatyas latest blockbuster on Channel V and saw all the heroes standing doing Namaste. Iska meaning kya hai?
This is an Indian way of greeting. In Sanskrit namah + te = namste meaning I bow to you. It has a spiritual significance of reducing ones ego in front of another. It also means may our minds meet indicated by the folded palms placed before the Chest. The gesture of holding hands together is called Anjali Mundra. Both hands represent positive and negative forces and bringing them together affirms the singleness of the World.  The bowing of the head symbolises extending of love and affection with humility.

Another reason for Namaste is - So that we can close the circuitry of our energy bodies and prevent the trade of energies, eventually leading to the build up of karmas. True mom. When I did a Namaste know I actually felt that the energies in my body coming together. Also the position of my elbows made my body feel fitter. Also by doing so we bow to the god center in the other being.
Q26 Mama, did you see the Hyundai ka advt today, it said Sampati Ghar Leha ho. Now what on earth does Sampati stand for?
Sat Sampatti stands for:
                Sama           i.e. calmness.
                Dama          ie self control.
                Uparati        ie detachment.
                Titiksa         ie endurance.
                Samadhi      ie creative concentration.
                Sraddha      ie faith.
Q27 Which are the holy cities in India?
They are Ayodhya, Mathura, Kanchi, Haridvara, Kasi (Benaras), Avanti (Ujjain), Dwarka, Amristsar, Palanpur, Bodh Gaya. Of the first seven, three are sacred to Shiva and three to Vishnu while Kanchi is sacred to both. Amristsar is sacred to the Sardars, Palanpur to the Jains and Bodh Gaya to the Buddhists.

Q28 Mom, when ever we have gone to the temple the pandit says Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi ie thrice at the end of the prayer. What is its significance?
The three repetitions are addressed to three groups into which all obstacles can be classifies –


Cosmic (God sent) or Heavenly wraths from unknown objects.

From Nature, the thermic or dynamic resources such as earthquake, lighting, excessive rain. >

2 Phenomenal or cruelties from objects known to us. From objects like floods, fire, robbers, wild beats, environmental disturbances like human foes etc.

Purely subjective i.e. created from our own selves – obstacles arising from our own mind, body and intellect

Body ailment, inertia, lack of concentration, agitation of mind, disturbances from negative thoughts.

Q29 Why is the river Ganga so important to Indians?
The Ganga is considered to be a goddess and one of the consorts of Lord Siva. In the Mahabharat, Ganga was the mother of great hero Bhishma Pitama. After the Saraswati river dried up, the cradle of the Indian civilization shifted to the Gangetic plain. A river with the length of 1557 miles affects the lives of millions of people. Since people who lived on its banks, esp agriculturist were so dependant on it, they worshipped it and sought its blessings. According to mythology she was brought down from heaven by the King Bhagiratha in order to purify the ashes of his ancestors. The Ganges originates from a glacier called Gangotri which is high up in the Himalayas and is app a 15 kms trek from Gangotri. You know in college, I trekked all the way up to Gaumukh and have no words to describe the experience.

The concept of having a dip in the sacred rivers of the land ie Tirth Cult can be traced to Veda Vyasa. To have a dip in the holy Ganga was as important to a man from Gandhara as it was to a man from Kanyakumari. This was one of the many traditions introduced by the great Rishis to make Bharat into a single cultural unit. Since the river contains many minerals it having a dip has medicinal values too.

Q30 How did the dances of India originate?
They originated from Lord Shiva’s famous dance, Tandava Nirthyam. The first rules of dances were coded by Sage Bharata between 100 and 300 a.d. His treatise on dance, drama and music is called Natya Shashtra. It is said that he composed the first syllables of Bhava (emotion), Raga (melody), Tala (rhythm) and Rasa (mood). Dance is basically composed of Abhinayana (facial and body expression), Mudras (hand gestures) and Gati (all form of footwork). The four prominent dances are Bharata Natyam of Tanjore, Kathak of Uttar Pradesh, Kathakali of Kerala and Manipuri of Assam.

Q31 Ma, when you went for Vaishali’s wedding my boyfriend was ga ga about how nice - attractive you looked with the flowers in your hair, silk saree and mangal sutra. He said you had this very Indian look and wants me to look that way too?
Thanks for the compliment. For all festive occasions Indians say it with flowers. It is a typical Indian tradition to wear flowers that carry fragrance. The hair become pleasing to the eye, enticing, attractive and bodes blessedness. You can wear a mangal sutra- thread of life only after you get married to Prithvi or anyone else. Your papa tied it round my neck for the first time at the time of the shaadi. A woman is to remove it only after she becomes a widow. Yellow turmeric powder is rubbed on this thread to give it yellow color. The cord is made up of three strands of hand spun cotton thread. The three strands stand for purity of the body, intellect and soul. Some women use black beads as the symbol of marriage.

Q32 Mom, Dadaji had gone for the Kumbh Mela last year. Please explain! 
It is the greatest Indian pilgrim festival that takes place once in three years. It is a riverside religious festival rotated between Allahabad (on the banks of the Ganga, Yamuna and dried up Saraswati), Hardwar (Ganges), Ujjain (Sipra) and Nasik (Godavri). The festival that is held at Allahabad is held once in twelve years is known as Maha Kumbh Mela.

Q33 What are the scriptures of the Hindus?
Sruti – that which is heard – are the Vedas (4) and the Upansiashads (108). Smrithi – that which is remembered  are –  Vedangas ( Dharma Sutras, Jyotisha, Kalpa, Siksha, Chandas, Nirukta and Vyakarana), Darsanas ( Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa ), Itihaasas ( Ramayana and Mahabharat ), Puranas ( Mahapuranas and Upapuranas ), Upavedas ( Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandhara Veda, Artha Shastra ), Agamas ( Vaishnava, Saiva and Sakti ), Upangas ( logical, ritual forms of thought ), Tantras and Charvaka.

Q34 What is Sruti?
Sruthi means a note of sound. The Vedas are a result of the divine hearing of the Rishis of the various divine sounds. As they are received through the art of hearing, Vedas are called Srutis – that which can be heard.

Q35 Who is a Rishi, were the main Rishis, were there any women too?
Rishi is a learned sage, the representation of the Vedic Aryan current of thought, were spiritually inspired poets in tune with the external and create great works which express their inner ecstasy and experience. They recited prayers and performed religious sacrifices (Homa) with fire as the intermediary. The seven main Rishis were Kashyapa, Atri, Bharadwaja, Viswamitra, Vasishta, Jamadgni and Gautama. There were 32 women seers also.

Q36 What are the Puranas?
They are religious stories that expound truths, relate to God in many manifestations, the Divine play and their dealing with mortals. Their purpose is to expand upon and propagate the meaning of the Vedas to the common man. There are 18 Puranas of which six each are addressed to Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. They keep Sanatan Dharam alive and fresh by their story content. They were written about 1000 BC and between 4-6th century a.d.

Q37 What are Tantras?
Tantras are a branch of Sanatan Dharam and in parts believes in the enjoyment of material life. In Tantrism the deity is Siva – Parvati. It is a system of practices used for spiritual upliftment. The best part about it is about the untapped Kundalini energy in human body. Tantrism also researched into chemistry, atomic theory, astrology etc.

Q38 What are the important nerves as per the Tantras?
The important nerves are Sushumna, Ida and Pingala start from the base of the spinal column or Muladhara Chakra. Sushumna is the most important, runs from the spinal cord through to the topmost point of the head. Ida and Pingala run to the left and right sides of the spine. The three nerves meet at Ajna Chakra, the point situated between the eyebrows. Then they separate and flow through the left and right nostrils.

Q39 What is the significance of Tilak?
The Tilak on the forehead is the third invisible eye of knowledge. When you see my face, the first thing you notice is the tilak. It is a center of attraction esp for women. According to Yoga sastras, at the junction of the eyebrows, lies the Ajna-chakra, a plexus which is one of the stations along which the serpent power or kundalini is said to travel from the mooldhara at the base point of the spinal cord to the head. For Samadhi or psychic trance, one is asked to concentrate on the area where Tilak is applied. The breadth is immediately stilled, bringing with it the automatic withdrawal of senses. In simple words, it is a center of occult power. The Red kumkum has a peculiar color effect. Redness being a stimulator of Rajas or energy. When there is a death in the family, it is considered to be bad time thus Tilak is not applied.

Q40 Now what on earth is Kundalini Ma?
According to the Tantras there is a mysterious power in the every human body called Kundalini power. It lies at the bottom of the spine. It is believed that as a person spiritually evolves by meditation or by Pranayama exercises, this power slowly rises through the Sushumna curve. As it passes through each psychic center, the person will have complete control of that sense organ for eg if it reaches Manipura Chakra opposite the navel, the person will have complete control over sight.

When Kundalini power passes along with the six chakras and eventually united with Sahasrara at the crown of the head. When that happens the person attains realization.

Q41 Now Mom, what are the Chakras?
There are seven Chakras ie Muladhara Chakra (at the base of the spine) has four petals and controls smell. Svadishtana (at the base of the genitals) has six petals and controls taste. Maniputa C (opposite the navel) controls sight. Anahata C (at the level of the heart) controls touch. Visuddha C (at the throat) controls hearing. Ajna C (between the eyebrows) controls the mind. Sahasrara C (topmost point of the head). Here the Yogi attains Cosmic Consciousness.

Q42 Ma, the founder of Arya Samaj was a Gujarati, then how did he reach Punjab?
Around the 1870’s Christian missionaries set foot in Punjab. Unable to bear the penetration of the Missionaries, on hearing of a saviour Swami Dayanand Saraswati in Bombay, Punjabi Hindus sought his help. Thus Swamiji entered Punjab on Easter Day in 1877. Ludhiana was the first step of the Rishi on Punjab soil. He delivered his first lecture on Shuddhi at Jullundar which led to the reconversion of a Christian back to the Hindu fold. Punjabi Hindus welcomed the concept of Shuddhi. The concept was originally ordained in the Vedas, was forgotten by the Hindus and revived by Swamiji. The famous Sindhi principal was saved from conversion to Islam, thanks to Swami’s follower, Pandit Lekhram.

Q43 Which are the different systems of Indian Philosophy (called Darshans)?
Darshan are broadly into two categories, Astika (believers in the Vedas) and Nastika (non-believer in the Vedas). Astika darshan are Nyaya, Vaisheshik, Sakhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta. Nastika darshan are Carvaka, Jaini and Buaddha. The others are a mixture of the ideas in these systems.

Q44 What is our attitude towards Vegetarianism (V)? (Quoted from Prabuddha Bharata Vol 105 of June 2000)
V or non-V was based on family tradition. In the south, among the Vaishnavas and more orthodox groups elsewhere we find a predominance of V. Swami Vivekananda said “V is a beautiful idea. If you choose it freely for your inner growth, then it is all right.” What is important is character, V or non V is a matter of detail. But when you choose V from NV ie when you reach a stage in your spiritual journey when a call comes from within, no non-veg food that is true V in the view of Swami Vivekananda.

Jesus, Buddha, Sri Ram and Krishna ate non-veg. According to Prof Alsdorf of the Indology dept of the Hamburg Universty in Germany “all ancient sages including Mahavir ate non-veg. He read out references of Mahavir’s meat eating in the Bhagvati Sutra or the Vyakhya-prajnapati Sutra, 15th Sataka, where the reference is to fowl’s meat, the Acaranga Sutra, he said, prohibited monks from accepting as alms meat of animals with many bones, the Dasavaikalika Sutra, as also Haribhadra, the Jain scholar of the eighth century a.d., refers to meat eating. The strong V habits among various Hindu sects happened in the ninth or tenth century.”

Q45 Ma, please explain the concept of Ahimsa to me?
Usually two great names in Bharat are associated with non-violence, Gandhi and Buddha. During Buddha’s time a commander in chief came to him to receive deeksha and become his disciple. Buddha asked him what had prompted him to become a bhikshu. The commander replied “Enemies have invaded our territory. I am now required to lead our forces against them. But that will lead to bloodshed and violence on both sides. I felt that it would be a sinful act. I have decided to relinquish military responsibility and have come over here to follow the path your path of non-violence and peace.” To which Buddha said “Merely because you have come away the enemies are not going to give up their aggression. They are bound to indulge in killing and ravaging. If you forsake your duty of protecting the innocents under your charge, the sin of that violence will visit your head. Protection of the good and righteous is verily enjoined by Dharma. No sin will be attached to you while doing this duty. So, go back and carry out your assignment.”

Gandhiji castigated some people who were fleeing after being attacked “Why are you behaving like cowards? You take my name and repeat the name ahimsa and run for your life under that shelter. Instead of running away it would be better to fight, to kill, or get killed.” Sri Krishna implied that establishment of Dharma implies the destruction of evildoers.

Q46 What are the two most important principles of International Law?
The first is “Jis ki lathi, us ki bhains or might is right.” The second is “Repeat a lie a hundred times and it becomes truth.

Q47 Why do Hindus anoint the deities with various liquids?
Ritualistic worship is expected to make us more involved with the thought of Bhagwan. In the performance of rituals, chanting of syllabic words, full of meaning and depth and the vibrations caused by these sacred words produce ever expanding circular currents which when they come into contact with the liquids and the figures over which the liquid is poured charge the figure with great power which passed on to the liquids that become sanctifies. Also different liquids acquire different potencies when they come into contact with stone or metal and are beneficial to those who partake of these liquids after the rituals are over.

Q48 What do the red and white stripes on the walls of the temple signify?
Red is the color of energy and suspiciousness. White is the color of peace, purity and truth. A temple is a symbolic combination of both the colors.

Q49 Ma, you make me say the Surya mantra 108 times, now not 108 and not 110?
Ancient Indian astronomers had calculated and deduced that 108 times the diameter of the earth is the diameter of the sun. The nine planets go round the twelve Zodiacal signs 108 times na. The 27 stars are divided each into four equal parts. Thus there are 108 parts of the twenty seven stars. A lotus flower has 108 petals.

Q50 Ma, I do not want to go to Vinayak’s house for dinner, his parents insist that I remove my shoes; you know the ones I paid Rs 1500 for. How will people envy?
Pooja, now please do not become so materialistic. Removing shoes before entering the house or temple shows culture, courtesy, humility and respect. The house of God is holy and its sanctity must be preserved at all costs. Walking barefoot into a temple indicates reverence, respect, devotion and humility. By keeping yr shoes on Vinayak’s shoe rack you do not carry the dirt and pollution into his home. Another reason could be that most shoes are made from cow / buffalo skin. Since both these animals are highly revered by us Sanathan Dharmis, it is wrong to visit a house, temple with shoes on.

Q51 Ma, Nanaji had a tuff of pair that I used to pull as a kid, Why?
The tuff of hair is called Sikha. Orthodox Hindus / priests have a tuff of hair because as priests they are supposed to be custodians of spiritual mantras and scriptural knowledge. The Vedas and mantras need to be retained in memory for which the brain must be covered. Equanimity and good memory go with the tuff. In the past all men had a tuff irrespective of caste. The water droplets dropping from the tuff after a bath is supposed to be the essence of the mantras which serve to quench the thirst of the ancestors. Perhaps one can compare the tuff to a t.v. antenna. The knot of hair resting on the nape of the neck, protests the nape from the sun.

Q52 Why did you make me pierce my ears and nostrils. It pained ma?
Sweety I did not do it to cause you pain. Can any mother be so heartless? The piercing is done for better eye sight, hearing and inhalation. It is for your good health. As we got more taken in by materialistic desires, women wearing jewels, nose rings came to be associated with long life and prosperity.

Q53 The sweetest guy in my class is a Parsi. How and why did they enter India?
When barbaric hordes of Arabs and Turks entered Persia, Parsis sailed for India and landed at Sanjan in 936 a.d., some say 806 a.d.  King Yadava Rana welcomed them and consulted the Shankaracharya of Dwarka Math as to how to accept them. They were asked to give up beef-eating, respect mother cow as an object of national faith and live in peace. Though their numbers are declining today their contribution to the Freedom Movement and the nation is monumental. For them Bharat is home.

Q54 Our country had been invaded for thousands of years. So why all this noise about Muslim / Christian invasions?
There is a difference. Prior to the Muslim invasion, all invaders got absorbed / accepted Indian culture and became a part of Sanathan Dharam. Here is the chronology for you. The Kushans entered Bharat and accepted Saivism. In the 5th century, the Huns entered Bharat. By practise of Aryan culture they were absorbed into Kshatriya Varna when Raja Kandev of Chatisgarh Chedi married Ahilyadevi, Hun women. Sardar Patel, the Iron Man of India, was supposedly a descendant of the Huns. Shakas from Persia settled in Rajputana, Bengal amongst others, were absorbed in Hindu society to finally become Brahmans, hold the monopoly of priesthood of Surya temples. The Gurjars settled down in Gujrawala and Gujarat in Punjab. The state of Gujarat derives its name from them. Solankis, Chauhans, Parmars are their descendants. When Alexander left India his soldiers preferred to stay behind. They got absorbed into Hinduism. The descendants are known as Nagar Brahmans.

Q55 What are the Ten Principles of Yama and Niyama?
Ahimsa (non-injury), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-coveting), Brahmacharya (continence) and Aparigraha (non-acquisition) form the five Yamas. Shoucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapah (peace), Swadhyaya (spiritual study), and Iswara Pranidhana (offering of one’s actions to God) form the five Niyamas.

The Ten Commandments in the Bible are nothing but the 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas. While the latter aims at control, understanding and transcending of the mind the former i.e. Jesus uses faith and devotion to change the life of his followers.

The Yama’s incorporates ‘values’ which facilitate integration and purity of the mind and Niyama’s reveal things necessary to be part of our daily routine. These are part of a revered text called Ashtanga Yoga-Sutra of Maharshi Patanjali. The book forms the basis of Yoga philosophy.

Q56 Ma, what does Himalayas mean?
Hima means snow and Alaya means temple, so it stands for Temple of Snow.

Q57 Similarities between Sufism and by Hinduism?
Sufis believed in soul, a spiritual substance different from the body but akin to the universal soul. They were devout Muslims no doubt but attached an esoteric significance to the teachings of the Quoran and regarded inward light or intuitive experience of far more importance rather than the dogmatic formalism of the orthodox type. The orthodox believe in blind obedience while the Sufis think love to be the only means of reaching God.

Among the similarities are 1) physical exercises like restraining of breadth. 2) Recitation of sacred words. 3) Service and submission to the pir or guru. 4) Tolerance of other religions. 5) Belief in union with the Supreme Being thru love and bhakti. Who influenced whom is of no consequence?

Q58 What is Gotra?
The Vedic Aryans had the concept of Kula or family. It led to the concept of Gotra, a group of families, claiming descent from a common ancestor. A federation of gotras made the Jana or tribe claiming descent from an anonymous ancestor like Yadu still removed. Five Janas or tribes formed the Vedic community of Sapta Sindhu.

Q59 What is Vibuthi?
Vibuthi is sacred ash. The white color of ash symbolizes purity. Anything that burns turns black and when burnt further turns white. Similarly an individual goes through the process of removing evil thoughts from his mind becoming pure eventually. The ash also reminds everyone that from ash we come and as ash we go. We came penniless and are going to go the same way. So during this life we should donate a part of our earnings to the more needy thanking Bhagwan for blessing us to be in a position to do so.

Q60 Ma, when Ravi bhaiya’s son was born why did we shave off his nut?
Baby, the ceremony is called Mundan. It has more to do with science than religion. Like a child’s teeth break and give away to new - why? so that the child gets strong teeth and can eat well so also a child is born with weak hair which need to be cut off so that he gets strong, good hair protect the head. So also when a man’s father dies he shaves off his head. Hair is a priceless possession given to us by Bhagwan and symbolizes desires. By shaving of the head we are detaching ourselves from the departed soul. Detachment helps us remember the soul fondly with love but does not cause pain & unhappiness.

Q61 Ma, what does Himalayas mean?
Hima means snow and Alaya means temple, so it stands for Temple of Snow.

Q62 What is the meaning of our religion Sanatan Dharam?
It means that which is beginningless and endless. It is the law eternal. The concept of Brahman was difficult for the common man to comprehend. In order to help the common man understand the Infinite reality and the philosophical concepts of Vedanta, Vyasa felt the need for supplying some conceivable representations that are provided in the word-pictures of the Puranas. The word paintings became symbols of truth were conceived deities and the Puranic literature is full of blazing pictures of dynamic gods and goddesses.

These deities became the altars at which a common man upset and shattered with his desires, problems, and responsibilities could find solace in. By concentrating on deity worship, man was able to quieten his mind and meditate. In the earlier times worship the elements of nature helped man in his spiritual exercises. As time progressed, population increased, followed by intense competition. This led to increase in stress and tension, inhibiting man from concentrating on the Ultimate.

Therefore the Puranic Gods became the most popular forms of worship.

Q63 Who is Lord Ayyappa?
He is the divine son of Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva. He is also called Harihara Putra. He is an ancient village deity or the guardian of the village who has become very popular in Kerala.

Q64 Why get up in Brahm Muhurtam?
4 to 5.30 am is called Brahm Muhurtam in the Hindu Shastras. This quiet and peaceful period is exceptionally suitable for the study of the Vedas or other religious books, yoga exercises and meditation. Vedas claim that such an early riser and user of the time for above acts stays free of physical and mental disorders. Such a person has a shine on his physique.

Ayurveda considers that the air recharged by positive energy of moon light and enriched by oxygen given out by plants is tonic for health. A real nectar. So, this period is called Amrit Bela meaning nectar time. The air at this hour contains a healthy mix of 41% Oxygen, 55% Nitrogen and a mere 4% carbon dioxide. With the sunrise human activities start shattering the peace of the atmosphere and the spiritual pursuits which makes concentration of mind impossible.

Q65 Why sit on Grass mat?
Shastras advise the use of grass matt (Kushasana) for sitting upon praying, worshipping, reading or reciting holy books and meditating.

Kusha is a special grass just about having right size and toughness to make a sturdy mat. According to Puranic tradition it is said that once Lord Vishnu went into sea in the incarnation of a Wild Boar to slay the demon Hiranyaksha. When he came out of the water he shook his body to shake off water and some bristles fell on the ground. Those bristles evolved into Kusha grass.

Some people even wear Kusha ring in the finger for luck and protection from evil. The mat made of dry Kusha is bad conductor which provides insulation to the sitter against the ground. It protects the sitting person from losing body energy of hear or current b earthing process. In India the people mostly have to sit on the earth. Even the home indoors have clay floor for sitting or sleeping purposes.

Q66 Why drink Water in small measures?
Shastra advise the intake of water by ‘achmana’ which is taking water in small measures by merely hand cupfuls. It has been proved medically that water taken by spoonfuls is healthier and beneficial in comparison to the water drunk by cupfuls or glassfuls.

Shastra rules ‘Tripbed Apo Gokarnavard Hastaun Trirachamenta’ which means ‘Take water in hand-cup made in ‘Gokarna style’. Gokarna style is pinning down the folded pointed finer with the thumb and keeping the rest of the three fingers opened out to make them like a cow-ear. In that fashion the palm can hold only teaspoonful amount of water.

The raised part of the palm at the joint with the wrist is called Brahmtirtha. If one puts his lips to this part and drinks palm fulls of water three times it is called ‘Brahmtirtha achamana’. Spills the fourth palmful into a Thali by making it flow over the ‘Brahmtirtha’. This process is called ‘Achamana’. It is mainly meant for taking the water in small doses instead of gulpfuls.

And it should be kept in mind that in ancient times people drank water by cup of their hand rather than glasses or bowls.

Shastras order several religious rites to end or to begin with achmana which is supposed to full of divine blessing and health.

The scientific logic is that drinking small amounts of water acts as a catalyst to change the saliva production rate. Excess salvia produced helps in the digestion of the food and melts down the hard part of the morsels.

Shastra advise achmana after waking up, on feeling hunger, after eating, sneezing, hiccupping, telling a lie and studying. In all the above cases the healthy saliva products acts as a lubricant to the body machine. Telling a lie produces a guilt feeling which upsets the rhythm of the body. Saliva in some way is supposed to inspire the body to fall back into rhythm by injecting the smoothness.

It achmana is not possible due to some reason catching the left year lob by the right hand  is prescribed as a substitute action. The logic is not explained. May be it is a way of seeking pardon like kids are made to do by teacher when they err.

Q67 Why chant on stringed beeds?
It is tradition to chant mantras or sacred words in a certain number of times or certain duration of time. In a meditative mood the entire attention is required to be concentrated in the act of chanting. Keeping count of numbers is a problem. So how to do it?

Measuring it on time frame is tricky. One will have keep an eye on watch or hour glass which will be a distraction to spoil the solemnity of the exercise. And the most meditators prefer to chant with their eyes closed to avoid distraction and better concentration of mind.  The easiest solution was stringed beads (Mala) in a specific number to have a handy version of abacus which did not involve application of mind or visual attention. The end bead of large size (Master bead) conveyed that count was complete.

Customs: Mala (stringed beads) should be held over central finger and the beads turned downwards one by one with the thumb at every chant. The beads should not fall over one another. Shastra rule that the sound of one bead striking the other would cancel the chant. When the master bead arrives the mala should be turned over. In no case turning process should continue beyond it. Do six pranayamas as penance if the master bead is jumped by mistake.

The mala should not fall on the ground. It should be kept at some sacred place along side the holy books when not in use preferably in a box of pure metal or wood. No two persons must use the same mala. No one should lend or gift his mala to others.

Only a guru can gift mala to his disciple considering it the integral part of education. While using mala it is advisable to cover the hand with clean cloth. This provision is perhaps to keep the beads out of sight to prevent the mind from engaging itself habitually guessing the number of remaining beads to be turned over.

Q68 Why 108 beads in a mala?      
The concept of string of beads was naturally standardized by determining a specific number of beads in a mala to make it a religious abacus. But why 108? There are various explanations.

Theory 1: One stands for one God. Zero symbolizes God Unmanifest. 8 represent entire creation through eight natures namely – Earth, Water, Speed, Space, Air, Mind, Wisdom and Ego. In this way 108 makes one conscious of this world, deified God and Power Supreme unmanifest.

Theory 2: A person breathes 21600 times in a day. Out of the 24 hours 12 hours are spent in daily chores. The rest twelve are devoted to the thoughts of God as ruled by the Shastras. Thus, only 10800 breadths are spent in real spiritual exercise.

But human life is too busy. One cannot spare so much time for meditation. So the sages deleted the last two zeros from 10800 leaving only 108 for spiritual exercise.

Theory 3: One thought believes that the sun goes through 21, 6000 Kalas (some kind of phases) only half of which, 108000 are +ve phases. By omitting the last 3 digits we are left with 108. According to this thought 108 beads of a mala represent one phase each of the sun.

Theory 4: The astrologers connect 108 figure to their own concepts. There are 12 birth signs and 9 solar planets (as ruled by the Shashtras). Thus, 108 is arrived at by multiplying two figures. They think that it is the sum total of the fate of the world.

Theory 5: Astronomy sages have a different belief. The Indian sages charted out 27 constellations. Each of them goes through 4 phases in a year. Here 108 is a result of 27by4 which they consider a heavenly figure.

Thus over a period of time all these beliefs became part of a spiritual tradition and the figure of 108 became a holy number and saints began to write ‘108’ before their names as symbols of figurative holiness.

Q69 Why invoke Swaha during yajna?
According to Puranic tradition when demon defeated gods they destroyed the custom of yagnas as well. The gods used to get reinforced through yajnas. Thus, yajnas were the acts that fuelled the god forces. Hence, the yajnas were perceived to be the feeders and charges of +energies or forces represented by the various gods invoked during yajnas.

In yajnas when offerings were made to the fire, the mantras ended with the invocation ‘Swaha’ which literally represented ‘ashes’. The offerings were wished to be turned into ashes. There is one more important aspect of the tradition. ‘Swaha’ is the name of the wife of the Fire god. She is invoked because no Hindu rite is sanctified without the presence of the better half. In fact Hindu philosophy considers ‘power’ itself to be feminine gender.

Q70 Why Shriyantra is the greatest?    
‘Shriyantra’, the swastika figure represents the goddess of prosperity, Laxmi. Among yantras it enjoys the highest reverence.

According to Puranic tradition once Lakmi retreated to Vaikuntha domain in heavens from the earth angered over some matter. In her absence the earth suffered all kinds of shortages, famines, droughts and impoverishments. Vishnu and Sage Vashishta tried to persuade her to return to earth but failed. She would not listen.

Then Guru Brihaspati devised the ‘Shriyantra’ figuration and advised its worship to attract Laxmi. Goddess Laxmi returned to earth and revealed, Shriyantra is my foundation. In it lives my soul. So I had to return.

Shriyantra is a very popular and sacred symbol with the trading classes because they are always praying for riches. The other common folk also rever it as a sign of prosperity. The prosperity is a cause of happiness, contentment, pleasures, luxuries, respect, glory and fame. Hence, Shriyantra symbolizes the powers of other gods and goddesses as well. Hence, it considered to be the master yantra of them all, the ‘logo’ of well being.

Q71 Why onions and garlic are no good?
Shastra forbids the use of onion and garlic. It suggests a fast as penance after eating them. It disapproves of all bulbous products that grow under the ground as root vegetables. Among them onion and garlic are singled out for refrain. The Shastra has even set refrain degrees for various edibles in categories. 20-25% fruits are refrainable, 30-35% a amongst grains, 40-45% for vegetables. Onion and garlic are 90% avoidable and flesh is 100% no no.

In Indian different sects employ different yardsticks. In Jain dharma onion and garlic are completely forbidden. Other sects allow up to 80% of forbidden items.

Onion and garlic are acidic and gaseous. Eating them produces an uneasy feeling. Eating them raw loads the breadth with unpleasant smell that can offend other people. One should eat these two items if one is scheduled to hold a discussion with other people.

No wonder that during religious ceremonies and solemn rites eating or serving onions or garlic is strictly forbidden by Shastras.

Medical science says that eating onions during rainy season creates stomach disorders. The onion chewing thins the semen. But it admits that they have medicinal values. Garlic is good for the heart. In fever onion paste is applied to the belly and the forehead of the patient. It brings down fever. Onion juice is given as medicine.

Q72 Why flowers are offered to god?    
God is the epitome of beauty and the purest purity. When a man sees around looking for the best symbols of beauty, purity and freshness his eyes naturally fixed on the flowers.

Nothing could match a flower in those sublime qualities. He thought that God could be nothing but the qualities of a flower raised to the power of infinity. The flowers were also related to the process of ongoing creativity by being the symbols of the formation of the seeds. God was also the cause of the creation. What could be more better way of paying obeisance to God than offering him the flowers, the humble earthly symbol of His qualities?

The love as the most intimate and greatest natural experience humans could go through. The people thought that love itself was God. Flowers aroused the feeling of love and romance. Offering a flower to the beloved as expression of love was a natural act. From whichever angle we look at a flower it leads to God.

Thus, flower became an ingredient in the very conception of the divine powers. Hindus conceptualized Lord Vishnu reclining on the Sheshnaga bed, a flower stalk sprouting out of his navel at the tip of which was a lotus flower abloom on which sat Lord Brahma, the creative power of Lord God. Then various Gods and the goddesses came to be associated with different flowers in different ways and the contexts.

The linking of the flowers to the divinity was a part of the spiritual evolution of man very naturally. Shastras also set rules for offering flowers to deities to make flower link a religious tradition.

Shastras rule that flowers should be offered to deities with stalks on and the stalk part must point towards the flower offering devotee. The flowers should not be crushed or in a withering condition. There are rules forbidding certain flowers for specific gods and goddesses to lend sanctity to the custom by providing the ground for creation of tradition through religious authority.

Shiva: The flowers of Kewra, Bakul and Kund are disapproved. In some regions Tulsi is also prohibited. But Shiva symbol Shaligram stone is an exception. Tulsi leaves can be offered on Shaligram.

Ganesha: Do not offer Tulsi flowers to Ganesha. But on Ganesh Chaturthi day the white Tulsi flowers can be offered.
Pitra (Ancestors) – Use of red flower in Shraddha (customs of religious offerings for dead ancestors) is not allowed.

Goddess Durga: Dhurva should not be dedicated to Durga. But for Chandi Havana it is essential.

Vishnu: For Vishnu worship leaves and climber parts are not permitted. Flowers should be offered to deities only till they are in fresh state. Shastra has determined periods for specifies of flowers they remain fresh after the plucking. There also order about not plucking leaves or flowers of different trees or plants on the days listed by it.

Q73 Why Shiva worship at night?
The 14 day of the descending moon phase of vernacular Falguna month (December-January), is celebrated as Maha-Shivratri. That is the night when Shiva is worshipped. The rest of the gods and goddesses are worshipped during the day but Shiva worship is reserved for the night.

On that night devotees religiously celebrate Shiva all night along. ‘Nath’ sect of his devotees go around after midnight blowing conch shells creating an ererie atmosphere. In the hill areas of deep snow the effect is bizarre. But why is he worshipped at night?

Lord Shiva is the deity of destruction and the dark forces. So, the dark night is naturally dear to him. The night is the time of the predators when they set out to enact nightly destructions of life. The night is also the ender of the daily business life of human beings. He goes to sleep temporarily destroying his consciousness. The dark forces set out to torment the world in the form of ghosts, spirits and apparitions.

The dark nights of the descending moon phase encourage criminal and immoral activities.

Shiva is worshipped during this period of darkness to keep him in benevolent mood to keep the dark tendencies under check.

The question is that the 14th of the descending moon phase comes every month, so what is so special about that one night of Falguna month. Right, all the 14th are referred to as Shivratris in scriptures. But this one is ‘Mahashivratri’ because it occurs in the vernacular last month of the year. It is the last ‘Shivratri’ of the year.

There is one more reason. Mahashivratri comes right after the autumn when trees stand denuded of their leaves. All the leaves have fallen down to become a carpet of seasonal destruction over the earth. The trees stand bare providing a picture of desolateness, the happy hunting ground for dark forces.

Q74 Why co-gotras marriages are forbidden?
See question 38 also. First what is a Gotra? The Vedic Aryans had the concept of Kula or family. It led to the concept of Gotra, a group of families, claiming descent from a common ancestor.

Hindu Shastras strictly forbid marriages between co-gotra members. Gotra is indicating of a blood relationship.

Now it is an established fact of science that marriage between of the same blood line is unhealthy. The offspring of such unions develop serious genetic defects leading to deformity, physical handicaps or mental retardness. The more diverse the blood line the more healthy is the offspring. Nature also follows this rule.

There is definite indication that a genetic diktat is imprinted on our cells which inspires us to fall in love with members of the different group or race.

It is this effect which results in the youths of enemy clans falling in love with each other and giving birth to love legends the world cultures are full of. It is a natural phenomenon, a part of the evolutionary agenda of improving the breeds of various species.

Q75 Why married women apply vermillion?
In Indian culture married women apply red vermillion (Sindoor) in the parting of their hair. The widows do not apply it.

It is a very sentimental act. After all the marriage is the union of two hearts which is a very intimate affair. It is symbolic of expression of love. At the time of the wedding the groom applies red vermillion to the parting of the bride’s hair.

Then on, a young woman applies to her forehead to symbolically announce ‘I love you’. Indian society is not very vocal. Symbols are used to convey many sentiments. In the west newly marrieds say ‘I love you’ umpteen times every day. They like to be assured of being loved even when they know they love each other. Or they keep saying it through kisses.

In the joint family system it is not possible to do so. So symbols are used to express. After initial passion the women used to apply it only on special occasions.

Then at a point of time in history events gave vermillion a new role to play.

The women began to apply vermillion every day as a symbol of protection. When Muslim forces invaded India they indulged in plunder, rape and abduction of young women. No women’s honor was safe.

Later the locals discovered that Muslim women used to spare married women because Islam forbid touching of another man’s wife. Most invading soldiers abided by the tenets of their religion.

Thus Hindu women who displayed vermillion prominently to announce their married status. Vermillion (Sindoor) became the women’s savior. The practice continued when the Englishmen arrived.

In Independent India the application of vermilion began to loose popularity as the women felt normally liberated and secure and forgot its cultural and religious value.

But movies picked up the cause of vermillion and made it part of their stories. Sindoor became a symbol of Indian culture and women’s piety. Then the countrymen suddenly discovered the value of their own culture when western culture seemed to overtake them.

The scientific facts came to the rescue of sindoor when they proved that a person or society needed to cling to its culture in self-defense against the future shocks generated by breakneck technological advancements made by mankind in the later part of the 20th century. Or the snowballing future threatened to toss away the societies like rudderless boats.

As an emotional anchor people rediscovered the value of sindoor and its traditional and religious importance was once again accepted. In Indian culture, red color is a symbol of romance and auspicious feeling. The tilak is basically red, bindi is traditionally red and the bride wears red dress on the wedding day. The holy flower lotus is also red. Incidentally roses also used to be red.

Q76 Why offer water to the sun?
During the shraddha ritual if one is at a pilgrim center he is made to stand in the holy river in knee deep water and offer water to the Sun-god by pouring it from a bowl held at the level of his bent forehead. In domestic shraddha the priests asks his client to pour water facing the sun.

By some Brahmins and priests of shall knowledge it is explained that by doing so the offered water to reach his dead ancestors? How can educated and thinking persons accept this explanation? The reasoning is very scientific.

A man offering water to the sun invokes the spirits of his seven generations gone up. The water being poured falls down in a twisting dream which at places gains the properties of a prism and splits the suns rays into seven colors.

Through this act the shraddha doer invokes the spirit of his ancestors of seven generations symbolically saying that he is the product of the cumulative effects of the deeds done by them during their life times.

And the sun that contributes the rays in this effort is the father of them being the life energy of all the living creatures of the earth.

But why seven generations only? Why no more?

Indian philosophy perhaps uses here mathematical logic. In the decimal system after decimal point we take cognizance of only seven digits. After that the digits calculative value if so reduced that it does not matter. Even in practical life expression of seven generations are quoted. In heated exchanges the quarrelling parties curse seven generations of each other.

Thus, figure of speech too accept the seven generation theory that has mathematical logic.

In the shraddha performance the fees and goodies prescribed for the Brahmin priests is debatable because here comes the greed and exploitative elements of our customs and rites.

If due to shortage of money one is not able to perform shraddha there is an alternate route provided by the Shastras. In such a situation come out of the house and say the following prayer facing south – Na May Asti Vitam Na Dhanam Na Chanyat Shradhopyog Swapivrita Na Toasmi, Triptyanatuphaktya Pitran Mayaite Bhujo Krito Vartasmi Marutasya’.

Meaning: ‘I have no money. Nor can I afford the rite material. But with true dedication I pay obeisance to my forefathers. Let my ancestors be pleased with my respect to them. So, I spread my arms sky wards’.

Raise your hands upwards flailing them to express helplessness. Shake your head in regret. It is the sentiment and the honest thought that really matters, and the formal rituals. After all you are the dear one of those who you are trying to connect with.

Shastra also have orders of various types of shraddhas namely Bharani Shraddha, Mahalaya Shraddha, Avidhwa Navami Shraddha and Apghati Shraddha.

Also – In Indian culture offering water is symbolic gesture of showing extreme reverence. It balances the life energies of biological systems. Shastras rule that while offering water all the names of the sun must be pronounced as prescribed through the respective mantra.

The water must be offered to sun by pouring it down from the forehead height from a copper bowl facing the sun which means eastwards in the morning and westwards in the evening. The prism effect is the symbolic acceptance of the fact the sunlight is what fills all colors in our lives. Some even believe that sun rays destroy harmful germs and bacteria on a person.

Q77 Why different directions for different rites?
Shastras have determined there are ten direction i.e. east, west, north, south, north-west, and north-east, and south-east, south-west above and below. The sunrise determines the east and the sun set determines the west. The worship, meditation, study of holy books, yoga etc religious duties are prescribed to be performed before noon facing the East. The similar duties in the evening are ordered to be done facing the west.

The sun is the very source of life in the solar system. In that sense the order is very sensible. The light is where the sun is. Where it is not there is darkness, the symbols of evil and sins.

Besides this, Shastras order west for charity and deity installation. During Shraddha North for the priest and South for the doer. North for self study, yoga and penance. East for father in doing caste rites and the readers while reciting the Veda. While initiation East for the pupil and North for the Guru. In marriages West for the groom while performing Akasatoropana and East for the bride. Many such orders have been determined. Now let is view it scientifically.

The east and the west are related to the sun and its energies. The north and the south are the poles of the magnetic forces.

From the dawn to the noon easterly space has charged the particles of the sunlight and the waves of positive energies through our bodies awaking the knowledge centres and the dormant spiritual conscience. Hence it is the perfect setting for devotional exercises.

According to Shastra the god of death ‘Yama’ resides in the southerly direction. So, the dead ancestors can naturally be in the south in spirit. When invokes they should naturally look Northwards where their living descendants exist. That’s why a Shraddha performer descendant is ordered to face South where his departed elders should be, although it is merely a hypothetic logic.

But why should ‘Yama’ be in the South. May be it is earthly truth? South has been called down-under side due to its global positioning on the format of the solar system and our concept of directions. The ‘down’ is a pointer to the death. The old age is ‘Down-hill’ journey. We are ‘down’ when ill or defeated. Hence, it is our own thinking which reasons that down is South which should be the end of life. After the end, where shall we find ourselves to be? Down south naturally.

It many not be the ultimate truth, but for us, the earthlings it is a fact.

In the marriages the groom faces East because he would need all the energies the sun would provide him. In ordering the bride to face West the basic fact is being acknowledged that a woman is the daughter of darkness. She would be bold in darkness but during sunlight she would be withdrawn coy and prudent.

Thus, Shastras order the directions considering the several scientific logics regarding physiology and psychology.

Q78 Why worship Yantra?
Yantra is a geometric figuration of a god or a goddess which represents his or her powers.

In worship Shastras rule that with gods/goddesses idol, the related Yantra should also be worshipped accompanied by the recitation of prescribed mantra according to tantra (specific purposes). The belief is that Yantras carry the powers of gods and goddesses they represent. The reverences shown to and worship or display of the yantra is itself rewarding.

Is there scientific logic behind this? There is.

In the modern scientific age the Yantra practice is an integral part of corporate sector activity. The corporate houses have their own yantras which they call ‘Logo’. Every big business house has its carefully designed logo which plays a big part in its activities.

In fact over a period of time logo becomes the symbol of quality of its products and services. Logo becomes a firm’s stamp which is cherished and trusted by employees, shareholders and consumers.

So also Yantra is a logo of god or goddesses. It symbolizes power of the deity. The worship of the yantra is as important as worship of the related deity.

Q79 Why sound Conch Shell?
In Indian tradition conch shell is blown on the occasions of worship, yajna, birth, funerals and other rites or ceremonies. It was also the buggle of war during ancient times and middle ages. There are different types of shells available in the market.

During the Mahabharata all the warriors had their own favorite shells with their fancy names. Arjuna had ‘Panchjanya’ conch shell to announce his intention to battle. Other famous shells were ‘Anant Vijaya’, ‘Pondra’, ‘Sughosh’, ‘Mani Pushpak’ etc.

It sounds like a fog horn. A special effort is required to blow the conch shell. The blower is required to concentrate his mind and blow a lungful of air with measured force into the shell through his lips pressed to it at a specific angle to make the booming sound. It takes some practice. The distinct sound signifies birth or death or start of a battle, or pooja or some other religious rite i.e. about to begin.

The booming sound sounds like long drawn ‘Om’, the most revered chant of Sanatan Dharam symbolic of the humming echo of big bang (Brahm) which the scientists also agree that still hangs in the space as a cosmic vibration.

The efforts of blowing the conch shell put entire body system in action mode to tackle the task i.e. about to begin. Some people also believe that the frequency of its sound waves is right at a level which charges up the brain centres related to spiritual and emotional awakening.

After blowing the conch shell it should be wiped clean.  It should be kept on a stool by the side of the home temple. Put some flowers and Tulsi leaves on it as a mark of reverence.

Remember, that it is the shell of a dead sea creature. In this fact lies the basic philosophy of Hindu thought that there is death in life and the death is the beginning of another life which also ends in death. And this cycle is our fate.

Q80. Why women in periods are not touchable?
Menstruation is a very feminine biological reaction or body functioning. It awakens her gender sense and charges her with femininity. She is no more a person but a woman. Her feminine feelings keep swathing her.

Naturally she is in a delicate frame of mind and touchy. She can be easily provoked or gets irritated. Shastra has ordered that a woman in her periods should not cook food. This rule provides her with a much needed relief from work. Otherwise working in the kitchen is a daily grind for Indian woman. It is like the Shastras granted her Menstruation leave on the lines of modern maternity leave.

Her quarantine is obviously to keep away from the crowds and celebrations where she is likely to come in contact with those of the opposite sex which not be healthy with her gender sense on the full alert.

Q81. Why five green pillars in a wedding?
Five green pillars are installed on a wedding altar of a Hindu marriage ceremony. Five is the most holy figure in Sanatan Dharam. We are the products of five elements. Five gods are prescribed for daily worship. Five things make Panchamrita, the holy nectar. Five members make Panchayata etc. Wedding pillars also in conformity to that five rule.

The green pillars symbolize nature’s color of life and bloom. The marriage is supposed to bloom and prosper. An evergreen bliss is wished for symbolically. It is made more expressive by decorating the pillars profusely with green leaves and fruits. The union is blessed to fructify.

As pillars banana plant and bamboo, both are accepted. Banana fructifies when it is transplanted just as the bride is transplanted in another family to martially fructify. Bamboo prospers when it stays rooted at one place just like the groom.

The green ambience is the symbolic presence of the nature because a marriage is itself an act to meet the demand of the very basic nature of life.

Q82. What is the famous Yoga Vasishtha?

Q83. What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is one of the Upavedas of the Atharva Veda. The four popular Upavedas are Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandharveda and Artha Shastra. It is said that the original text of Ayurveda, composed by Lord Brahma, contained 1,00,000 verses spread over one thousand chapters and was composed long before the creation of beings (Susruta Samhita 1:1-5). Now, the Atharva Veda contains only 6,000 verses so some call Ayurveda the Fifth Veda.

Ayurveda relies on clinical observation including the ancient art of diagnosing a patient’s ailment by feeling the pulse to identify imbalance of nature’s three basic forces known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

By definition Vata is responsible for both physical and psychological movements-both muscle tone and moodiness. People dominated by Vata are high strung, restless and prone to high blood pressure.

Pitta governs heat and metabolism. People dominated by Pitta are intense, have sharp intellects and are quick to anger. Skin rashes and ulcers may result from too much of this force.

Kapha maintains structure and stability. Kapha types are strong, even tempered personalities who tend to gain weight easily.

The gods of healing in Ayurveda are Dhanvantri, Brihaspati and Indra. The prominent physicians of Ayurveda were Charaka (who lived from 80 to 180 A.D), Susruta (who lived around 350 A.D.), Vagbhata (610 to 850 A.D.) and Madhava (who lived around 1370 A.D.)

Q84. What is Kama Sutra?
Kama means the ‘desire for sexual gratification’. As per tradition, Kama Deva (the God of Love) is a god with a bow and arrow, and when he strikes someone with his arrow, that person will desire sexual desires in him. The legends say that Lord Shiva burned Kama Deva to ashes with the fire of his third eye for trying to arouse passion in him for Princess Parvati. Lord Siva later gave life to Kama Deva, who thus became Anaga (bodiless).

The most important Kama literature is the Kama Sutra written by Sage Vatsyayana around the 5th century a.d. The book describes the daily routine of an ordinary man. It also describes picnics, drinking parties and games etc.

The book elaborately discusses the art of making love. All things one can imagine about sex are described in this book. The author has gone to the extent of categorizing different forms of embraces, kisses and types of women.

Editor – See Travelogue on Khajuraho Temples to know about the Indian attitude towards sex.

Q85. Why is Cow important to followers of Dharma?
In the Vedic age, cows were a real blessing to the community. Cows provided them with milk, meat, butter and yoghurt. The dead cow’s skin was used to make shelters and clothing. Cow dung was used to make homes.

So the community in the Vedic age was indebted to the cow in many ways. This later made them regard the cow with devotion. According to tradition there was a celestial cow named Kamadhenu which could grant and fulfill any wish. Lord Krishna was a cowherd and spent most of his childhood taking care of cows. Even in the writings of Sage Manu he forbids slaughtering of cows.

Editor – In earlier times and even in certain parts of India the cow plays an important role in the economic well being and life of a farmer. It also was a fertilizer and pesticide for crops. DASAGAVYA IS an organic growth promoter for crops, which is prepared by mixing certain plant extracts along with panchagavya. The term Gavya is given to cow's products. Male progeny Bullock is the backbone of Indian agriculture although its importance has reduced with the introduction of mechanization.

It is human nature to begin worshipping a being that bestows and blesses you with so many goodies.

Q86. What does ‘Born Again’ mean?
Long ago the Christian term ‘born again’ was exclusively used within the church as an important part of the church’s phraseology. Now it is widely used liked the word ‘Guru’. He actual word in the Greek version of the News Testament is Anothen, meaning ‘born from above’ or ‘born of God’. Jesus said, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3) and added, ‘Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again (John 3:7). The closes word in Sanatan Dharam to what Jesus said is Dwija. The actual meaning of ‘Dwija’ is twice born.

‘Who is a Dwaija? A Brahmin. Who is a Brahmin? He or she who knows Brahman. What is Brahman? That which is infinite---God’. So simply put, he who knows God is twice born, or he who is twice born will automatically realize God.

According to Sanatan Dharam, unless there is an absolute change in consciousness and absolute self-purification, nobody can achieve God-realization. So it is to be assumed that omnipresent Jesus Christ was referring to was a complete change in consciousness rather than any ritualistic or symbolic gesture. He who is born again is a Christian as well as a Brahmin.

Also read –
1. Section Spirituality –May I answer that by Swami Sivananda.
2. Section Indian Culture – In Indian Culture why do we.

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