Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Body Temple (Part 3)


Sri Paramahamsa Sachchidananda Yogeeswarar

As told by the yogi:-

"...That is why elders have always said that Lord Shiva is "Abhisheka Priya" (The One who is fond of ablution).In that manner the learned elders made sure that the water from the 'ragi' vessel was positioned on top of Lord Shiva's head which was a part of Shiva Linga before they left the temple. After a few days the learned elders went back to the temple to check ( with the aid of their yogic insight )whether the water from the 'ragi' vessel which was tied right on top of the Shiva Lingam had successfully cooled the yogic fire of Lord Shiva. They found out that the temperature of the yogic fire of Lord Shiva was brought down only to a certain degree and not fully to their satisfaction.
Following is what they did to cool down the yogic fire of Lord Shiva fully.
In the beginning when the temple was built, a 'ragi' vessel was not tied on top of the Lingam with water pouring down, neither was there a 'Nandi' in front of the Lingam. The tying of 'ragi' vessel filled with water on top of the Lingam and placing the idol of 'Nandi' in front of the Lingam were all done only after these learned religious pundits were able to assess the presence of Lord Shiva's head in the Lingam (through their yogic insight). I shall narrate the reason why these learned scholars installed the idol of 'Nandi' in front of the Lingam, please listen to me.
Bull (Vrishabham) is the vehicle for Lord Shiva. The bull grazes in the landscape outside the temple and later comes inside the temple to lie down randomly, chewing on the grass. At such a time, if Lord Shiva wants to Grace a particular devotee (who has been doing penance for several years), He comes out of the Lingam and attaining the human form He beckons the cud-chewing bull to mount the animal, speeds to the devotee whose penance had fructified, grants the devotee his desired boons, returns to the temple riding the bull, alights from the bull and reenters the Lingam. As soon as the Lord alights from the bull to reenter the Lingam, the bull once again goes out of the temple to graze and return to the temple to lie down somewhere chewing grass. I shall tell you how the learned elders instructed the bull.
They called out,
"Oh, Nandi, please come here!"
The Nandi obediently came to stand close to the elders as soon as it was beckoned. The elders then seated the Nandi right oppsosite the Lingam and placing their thumb and index fingers on its horns tried to assess the alignment between the centre of the Lingam and the middle of the Nandi's nostrils. After adjusting the Nandi's face for perfect alignment between the points between the mid-nostrils of the Nandi and the centre of the Lingam, the elders spoke to the Nandi as follows:-
"Oh, Nandi! From today onwards, please do not go anywhere and remain seated in the same position. Fan the Lord with your breath of inhalation and exhalation."
Having said thus to the Nandi, they beckoned the Pujari of the Temple,
"Oh, Archaka! From today make sure that men and women who come to the temple to pray do not come inbetween the Nanadi and the Lingam to enter the "Moola Sthaanam". Please ask them to enter either from the left or right side of the Nandi." The elders only told that much to the Pujari , without explaining the entire science behind the position of the Nandi. Thus the Pujari remained ignorant of the science behind the placement of Nandi right in front of the Lingam. The fact has been illustrated in the diagram above. I shall further explain why the Nandi is seated right opposite the Lingam.
Devotees who come to the temple place their index finger and thumb on top of the Nandi's horns to view Lord Shiva without knowing the science behind the act. The devotees are ignorant of the fact that the Nandi is seated in front of the Lingam to cool the yogic heat of the Lord by fanning the Lingam with its inhalation/exhalation process.
After some days the learned elders came back to the temple to find out through their yogic powers, if the yogic heat of the Lingam was nullified by the aid of the Nandi's breath-fanning. They were delighted when they discovered that the yogic heat of the Lingam was fully cooled and erased. The elders who were very pleased instructed the Nandi and the temple Pujari one more time to continue in the same manner and went back to their residences.
After these arrangements continued, there came a time when Lord Shiva who was residing in the Lingam felt compassionate towards a devotee whose penance had been continuing in all its intensity for several years. The Lord wanted to Grace His devotee and came out of the Lingam. As He stepped out of the Lingam, He instantly became heated in His own yogic heat as He came out of the dripping water from the 'ragi' vessel above and the fanning of the Nandi's inhalation and exhalation process. The Lord unable to bear His own heat beckoned the Holy river Ganges and tied Her up in His thick braids. Instantly cooling down He went to attend to His devotee, granting him desired boons and returned to the temple. As he stepped close to the Lingam, He released the Holy Ganges from His braids and sent Her back to Her place before entering the Lingam to be in His state of yogic self-absorption.
Now I will explain to you why only in Saivite temples Nandis are placed in front of the Lingam and not in Vaishnavite temples. Why is Garuthmantha (the Eagle-vehicle of Lord Vishnu) not placed right in front of Lord Vishnu? I will tell you the reason! Lord Vishnu is the Sustainer and does not remain in yogic self-absorption. Consequently, Lord Vishnu's body is not heated due to yogic fire. There is no need for Vishnu's vehicle, Lord Garuthmantha to fan Lord Vishnu with his inhalation and exhalation.
That is why in Vaishnavite temples the temple tower (Gopuram) comes first, then the "Dhwajasthambham", the Bali Peetham in front of the Dhwajasthambam, and the Moola Sthaanam (inner sanctorum) from the Bali Peetham and nothing else in between the Bali Peetham and the Moola Sthaanam. All the Vaishnavite temples are constructed in the above fashion. A few learned religious authorities have erected Lord Anjaneya's idol between the Bali Peetham and the Moola Sthaanam.
In Saivite temples, as we enter the temple we find that starting from the Nandi the darkness spreads around the area and the darkness increases as we reach the Moola Sthaanam. The darkness in the Moola Sthaanam where God resides is maximized and a ghee-lit lamp flickers near the Lord. We can also notice that there are no other lamps all the way upto the Moola Sthaanam where God resides.
Oh Andhra-residents of Ganjaam, Visakhapatnam, Godavari, Krishna, Nellore districts and towns, I have visited all the temples in your areas when I toured the state. Alas, I found that the Moola Sthaanams in all the temples in your areas are not dark. I had even visited the magnificent temple of Varanasi, even there the Moola Sthaanam is not dark! The Moola Sthaanams of temples in Chennapuri, South of Chennapuri, starting from Chengalput District all the way upto Rameswaram have been constructed by our ancient learned elders designed to make the area of the Moola Sthaanam pitch-dark. I fail to understand why in Andhra Pradesh the temples have not been designed to make the Moola Sthaanams dark.
Anyway, let me explain why the Moola Sthaanams of Saivite temples in Tamilnadu are pitch-dark..."

(To be continued........)

The Body Temple (Part 2)

a
Sri Paramahamsa Sachchidananda Yogeeswarar


As told by the yogi:-
"Samadhi is a state where the practitioner succeeds in fully controlling his mind by shutting his mind to all mundane thoughts. Therefore devotees who go to the sanctum-santorum to have the darshan of God should not seek material favours. The devotee's only wish and aspiration should be to attain the Lotus feet of the Lord. With a clean and pure heart and with a steady gaze (by not looking here and there) the devotee has to enter the sanctum-santorum of the temple. The mind becomes fickle if the devotee allows his/her gaze to wander here and there. A fickle mind invites desire.Therefore the devotees should focus there total attention and thought on God as they enter the sanctum-santorum of the temple.

At the entrance of the sanctum-santorum, the devotee will find "nandi" seatedin front of the Sivalingam(please find the arrow mark on the chest region of the author indicating the placement of "nandi" in front of the Sivalingam.

Few devotees walk right in front of "nandi" as they enter the sanctum-santorumof the temple. Such devotees are immediately corrected by the temple priest,"Please do not obstruct the "nandi". Kindly walk to the right side or left side of the "nandi". Then the devotees would want toknow the reason why they should not obstruct the "nandi".The priest replies, "I do not know the reason why "nandi" should not be obstructed.I am only repeating what the elders have preached!"The priest is ignorant, I will tell why one should not walk in front of the "nandi".

Lord Siva is a great yogi. He therefore is always immersed in yogic fire. The Siva temple was built at the time of creation. Few learned and elderly men visited the temple at that time. They stood right in front of the Sivalingam and as they viewed the Lingam through their yogic gaze they realised that the Lord was full of yogic fire. I shall tell you what those elders did to cool the yogic fire of the Sivalingam.

They instructed the temple priest to tie a vessel made out of "ragi" metal (the vessel has a wide opening, narrowing down at the bottom which has a small hole) to chains in such a position and manner so that the vessel is positioned right on top of the Sivalingam. The elders instructed the priest to keep the vessel full of water at all times, so that the water flowed continuosly in a thin line through the hole over the Sivalingam. (You may find the water flowing steadily in a thin line
in the "Body temple" diagram).
Cold water is heating and hot water is cooling .There is a famous saying, "Ushnam Ushnena Sheethalam" (heat combined with heat produces coolness). The cold water (which is heating by nature ) pouring slowly and steadily on to the Sivalingam makes contact with the heat produced by the yogic fire of the Lord. By applying cold water's heat, the temperature of the yogic fire of the Lord is instantly brought down and cooled."

(To be continued....)

The Body temple (Part 1)


Click on the photograph (of Sri Paramahamsa Sachchidanada Yogeeswarar) to enlarge.
Cuddapah Sri Paramahamsa Sachchidananda Yogeeswarar, born in Kanchipuram on February 16th, 1865 and attained 'nirvikalpa samadhi' on January 7th, 1957, was a great devotee of Ekaambreswara Nadha of Kanchipuram from the age of 12. It is believed that He had the darshan of Lord Ekaambreswara in the guise of a sage. The website www.cuddapahswami.org has lot more information about His Holiness.
In His book, "Shareeradevaalaya Rahasyaardhapaarijaathamu", His Holiness Sri Paramahamsa Sachchidananda Yogeeswarar has shown His body as the temple of God. He has explained as follows:-
As per the photograph above, in the lying posture, He has stated that the elders have determined the feet to be the "Gopuram" (tower) of temple.The ten fingers outlining both the feet are the ten "Kalashams" on top of the Gopuram. As we enter the temple through the "Gopuram-Feet", we first encounter "Prajaapathi" in the form of the "Dhwajasthambam"(Prajapathi is the Supreme God Who presides over procreation and is the Protector of the Universe).
In order to dispel any doubts that may arise in the minds of the readers, His Holiness has explained why the male reproductive organ is depicted as Prajaapathi. As the Creator of women, men, elephants, horses, cows, buffaloes, donkeys, dogs, deers, other wild and tame animals, crawling creatures like snakes, tortoises, ants, bugs,worms etc. and flying creatures like innumerable varieties of birds, mosquitoes, creatures that live in water like fish, and other sea -creatures, it is but natural that the reproductive organ of the male stands for the Dhwajasthambam. The primary deity for Prajaapathi is Lord Brahma according to epics. Moreover, the navel is placed in front of Prajaapathi. This navel represents the "Bali Peetham". The Bali Peetham is where the sacrifice is performed. His Holiness has named the 10 sacrifices one must perform in this place:-
1)Desire:- Desire for somebody's wife, one's own wife, sons, daughters, wealth, accumulation of property. Narakasura had perished due to this quality.
2)Anger:-Unable to bear other's prosperity and even attempting to hinder their growth. Bakasura had perished due this quality.
3)Selfishness:-Enjoying one's own wealth greedily, not sharing even a little with anybody. Duryodhana had perished due to this quality.
4)Fascination:-For mother, children, spouse, not being satisfied with one's own wealth-trying to accumulate more and more property. King Dasharadha had perished due to fascination for son, Lord Rama.
5)Arrogance:- Excessive success and accumulation of wealth could lead one to this state, where the native does not care for the feelings of others. Karthaveeryaarjuna perished due to this quality.
6)Spitefulness:-Not being able to bear others' prosperity even though the native himself is prosperous and happy. Trying to subjugate others and their growth. Sishupala became the victim of Lord Krishna's discus due to this quality.
7)Pomposity:-Giving charity, performing "yagnas"(holy rituals) on a grand scale only to impress others. Puroorava Chakravarthi is a fine example of this quality.
8)Condescension:-Assuming oneself to be the greatest in personal and monetary affairs. Parashurama had this quality.
9) Intolerance and ill-will:-Wishing that others are as unhappy as oneself. Hari Sakshi had this quality.
10)Jealousy/Envy:-Trying to harm those who have harmed you. Poundareeka Vasudeva had this quality.
Even if men and women do not possess every quality mentioned above, they may have atleast one or two qualities out of the 10 bad qualities. Therefore, these qualities have to be sacrificed at the "Bali Peetham" (navel) to enter the sanctum santorum of the temple with a cleansed and purified heart and mind.
The process of sacrificing the bad qualities at the "Bali Peetham" is as follows:-

As we enter the temple tower (Gopuram), and past the "Dhwajasthambam", we must stand next to the "Bali Peetham" with folded hands praying fervently, "I am sacrificing all my bad qualities and tendencies here at the 'Bali Peetha'. Now I do not possess bad qualities. Now I am going to enter the sanctum santorum of the temple to have the 'darshan' of God."
After offering salutations to the "Bali Peetham" and purifying ourselves we must enter the "Moola Sthaanam" (sanctum santorum) of the temple without any thought or feeling. When we are able to enter the 'moola sthanam' totally devoid of thought or feeling, such a state is called as "Samadhi."
(To be continued.....)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hamsa




Swan is a bird of elegance, beauty and purity. Hamsa in Hinduism is the bird vehicle of the Goddess of Learning, Saraswathi. The swan-shaped constellation, Cygnus in the zodiac sign, Libra is believed to be the seat of Goddess Saraswathi from where scientists, many decades ago detected a hissing noise defined as the "Omkara" which pervades the Universe and oneself.
Vedic astrology states that 'Hamsa Yoga' occurs when Jupiter is in a kendra from the ascendant or the moon, in his own place or in the sign of exaltation (Cancer), should neither be combust nor conjoined with malefics or aspected by the same.
Results of Hamsa Yoga:-power of discrimination, equanimity of mind, mental state of a yogi while leading the life of a King (yogi/bhogi).
'Parama-hamsa' means 'Supreme Swan', applicable to evolved souls and Spiritual Gurus (like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa).
Hamsa also figures in Soundarya Lahari, for example, the 38th sloka is as follows:-

"Samunmeelathsamvithkamalamakarandaikarasikam
Bhaje Hamsadvandvam Kimapi Mahathaam Maanasacharam
Yadaalaapaadashtaadashagunithavidyaaparinathihi
Yadaadaththey Doshaagunamakhilamadbhayaha Paya Iva."

Meaning of the sloka: "O Mother, I adore the pair of swans (Shiva-Shakthi) who take delight in imbibing the honey of the full-blown lotus of knowledge of the anaahatha chakra (heart chakra), and who swim in the minds of the great. Their mutual conversation is what have become the eighteen arts, and they separate good from evil, the way the swans separate milk from water."

The twin swans are depicted as Shiva-Shakthi and known for their power of discrimination.

In my recent trip to a famous park, I visited cottages representing various countries and their respective spiritual/cultural beliefs. Walking into the House Of Persia, I was fascinated to find information about the significance of the word "Hamsa" in Hebrew and Arabic. Hamsa finds place in Jewish Kabbalah, Islam and Judaism for centuries, but archeological research reveals that Hamsa originated with the Phoenicians (Phoenicia was an ancient civilization in Canaan, and most of the Phoenician cities were built along the coastline of the Mediterranean.) and associated with an ancient Middle Eastern Goddess.
The famous "Hamsa Hand" is an ancient Middle Eastern Amulet bringing its wearer great prosperity, joy, health and spiritual upliftment. It is also known as the "Hand Of Miriam" named for the sister of Moses and Aaron.
The word "Hamsa" (Arabic) or "Hamesh" (Hebrew) means five representing the five books of Torah for Jews, fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, "Heh" which represents God's holy names, Five Pillars of Islam for Sunnis, Five People of the Cloak for Shi'ites. For the Jews it reminded them of the five senses to be used for the praise of God.

Top photo is of the Phoenician Goddess of fertility Astarte (Goddess Lilith according to Jewish mythology) displaying Her open palms, second photo,Hindu Goddess of Learning, Saraswathi, third photo, Hamsa Hand Amulet of the Middle East.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

MULTI-FACETED VEDIC HINDUISM
Dr. M.G. Prasad Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ 07030
(mprasad@stevens-tech.edu)
Introduction
Life in the universe is a wonderful mystery. Human beings have the privilege of seeking the meaning, experiencing the mystery and realizing the purpose of life. In a triadic approach based on the Vedas, existence of life can be described through God (Ishwara), Universe (Jagat) and an individual soul (Jeeva). Any individual could see the universe as an entity that consists of all beings including other individuals and nature. The GOD as Supreme Being and One Source (Bramhan) is seen as a free and independent entity responsible for Generation, Operation and Dissolution of everything in the universe and all beings. The multi-faceted knowledge emanating from this One Source is referred as Vedas also called Shruti, that are mantras "heard" by rishis in their deepest meditative states and then orally transmitted as mantras to their disciples. The Vedas originating from Supreme Being is infinite and eternal. Vedas deal with topics such as God, soul, life, nature and cosmos etc. Vedas are compared to Breath of the Supreme Being. The infinitely large Vedic literature that includes scriptures (shastras) such as smritis, itihasas, puranas, upavedas, vedangas and upaangas etc. is a collection of compositions by large number of rishis who were seers of Vedic truths. This infinitely large body of knowledge is represented as an inverted tree (also referred in Bhagavadgita 15-1) in figure 1. However, there are different ways of classification including several additional scriptures referred as vidyas, kavyas etc. Thus as in a tree, the multi-faceted manifestations of knowledge in Vedic Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma is emanating from One Source or Supreme Being. Also, in Vishnusahasranama, we have the verse:
Yogo jnanam tatha sankhyam vidya shilpadi karma cha
Vedaa shastraani vijnanam etatt sarvam janardanat
Which means that yoga, all types of knowledge, art, sculptures, rituals, Vedas, Vedic scriptures and science have emanated from Janardana (denoting One Source).
Presented at the symposium on Hinduism in June 2002, organized by Sri Venkateswara Temple, Pittsburgh, PA and also, at the Vedic conference organized by WAVES and University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, in July 2002.
The primary aim of this infinitely large multi-faceted Vedic Hinduism is to provide the vision and guidance to all human beings through four-fold objectives (Purursharthas) for life. The fulfillment of these objectives namely Dharma (knowledge and application of life-principles), Artha (money and means), Kama (rightful desires) and Moksha (spiritual bliss and freedom from all desires) gives the meaning and purpose of life.
The authority and authenticity of multi-faceted Vedic-Hinduism is due to innumerable rishis (seers) who have showed the paths of reaching that One Source of Light and Bliss. In the words of a seer-yogi Sriranga Sadguru, "It is view of the rishis of Bharata that spiritual enlightenment is the ultimate goal of life. That is attainment of ultimate joy (Ananda). That is liberation (Mukti). Spiritual knowledge (Jnana) is that by which one merges into the light of Atman as river merges into the ocean. The rishis or jnanis having attained this ultimate goal have brought forth the knowledge in science and arts (Vijnana) keeping in line with their roots in spiritual knowledge (Jnana) because vijnana is the manifestation of Jnana. It is for this reason an in-depth sincere study of knowledge in science and arts at any stage of manifestation will lead to attainment of the ultimate goal of spiritual knowledge (Jnana)"
This paper is an attempt to show in brief this all-encompassing nature of Vedic Hinduism. The various topics such as deities, rituals and temples indicate that these are important means to internalize the deeper concepts and principles of yoga and spirituality. An understanding of deities such as Goddess Saraswati and Lord Nataraja helps the seeker to focus and internalize through rituals and worship. The various deities in Vedic Hinduism are yogic visions. A vigraha or a picture becomes a connecting medium between a devotee and God. A temple is a representation of a human body and the God consecrated in the temple as vigraha represents the Indweller in human beings and all other beings and universe.
The Vedic seers have shown that one can advance spiritually and achieve bliss through dance and music and also provide joy to the mind and senses. The yoga through body and mind connects dance and music to the spiritual experiences. Vedic seers have recognized the relationship of spiritual and scientific principles. Examples such as Conch shells, musical instruments, bells, natural elements, etc are used as mediums to connect the seeker to the spiritual goals.
Then there are scriptures that deal with the philosophical systems that help seekers through advanced intellectual means of reasoning and analysis. Synthesis of knowledge, devotion and actions is emphasized in spiritual practices. Vedic seers emphasized that ultimately it is the inner experience and realization that brings the spiritual bliss and peace to the individual. This process of inner realization in multi-faceted Vedic Hinduism can be expressed through the concurrence of the experiences of the triad of Sadguru, Shastras and Sadhaka.
Multi-faceted Vedic Hinduism and Inverted Tree
The Vedas and Vedic literature deal with all aspects of knowledge on Supreme Being, various Gods, life, arts, nature, society and Cosmos etc through principles and applications. A brief description of the inverted tree as referred in figure 1 is given below: Maharishi VedaVyasa classified the Vedas or Shruti emanating from Supreme Being into the main four Vedas namely Rigveda (metrical mantras on various Gods), YajurVeda (prose-type mantras for rituals and yajnas), Samaveda (musical and metrical chants) and AtharvaVeda (mantras on society and welfare) through rishis Paila, Vaishampayana, Jaimini and Sumantu respectively.
The Smritis include compositions of the codes and guidelines recommended by rishis such as Parashara, Yajnavalkya, Goutama, Manu etc. for the success and spiritual development in life.
The Itithasas are the historical literature that includes Ramayana of Valmiki and Mahabharata of Vyasa. The Ramayana and Mahabharata are referred as fifth Vedas as they explain the Vedic principles that are difficult to understand directly in simple and illustrative ways. Especially, Ramayana is ideally suited as a reference guide for human beings. The Puranas is literature of instructive and imaginative stories based on the historical literature to explain the Vedic principles.
The UpaVedas consist of Ayurveda for heath and medicine, Dhanurveda for the science of archery and military, GandharvaVeda for the arts and Arthaveda for science of economics and business. The Vedangas are auxiliary to Vedas and they play an important role in understanding and practice of Vedic knowledge and rituals. Shiksha deals with science of proper articulation, euphony and pronunciation of mantras. The Kalpa deals with Vedic rituals and procedures. Vyakarana deals the grammatical aspects of Vedic language. Nirukta is the etymological explanation of Vedic words. Chandas is the science of prosody and aids in melodious pronunciation of the Vedic mantras. Jyotisha is the astronomical and astrological part for applications in Vedic rituals.
The Upangas are the philosophical systems referred as Darshana and are based on the Vedas. They were formulated by rishis in the form of sutras (cryptic statements). Nyaya of Gautama deals with science of logic and metaphysics. Vaisheshika of Kanaada provides a scientific view of the universe. Sankhya of Kapila describes the universe and life through priniciples. Yoga of Patanjali describes eight steps for psycho-physical and spiritual fulfillment. PurvaMimamsa of Jaimini describes the role and relevance of Vedic rituals. UttaraMimamsa also known as Vedanta of Vyasa with the basis on Upanishats deal with the understanding and realization of Bramhan as One Source.
The Prasthanatrayi refers to three sources that form the foundations of Vedic Hindu philosophy. They are Vedanta sutras of Vyasa, Upanishats of the Vedas that emphasize knowledge, and the well-known Bhagavadgita of Vyasa. These three sources are very well known in the world literature on philosophy. The universal and eternal nature of these three sources is evident from the innumerable commentaries on them by many acharyas at different times. The three major systems are Advaita, Vishishtaadvaita of Dvaita are used to seek, understand and realize the relationship between individual, universe and God. The acharyas such as Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhva who have written commentaries on these foundation scriptures have also shown through their lives the need of integrating (yoga) the practical aspects of devotion (bhakti), knowledge (jnana) and actions (karma) .
Figure 1: An Inverted tree representation
Gods, Rituals and Temples
Vedic Hinduism can be seen through its manifestations such as rituals, sculptures, temples, dance, music, mantras, yoga including meditation, science and philosophical systems. The Vedic rituals and religious practices are based on the spiritual core. This transfer of tradition from generation to generation forms an important aspect of Vedic Hinduism. The various rituals (samskaras) are carried out at various stages of life of a Hindu to awaken, strengthen, nourish and refine the mind so that it can advance towards the spiritual knowledge. These rituals include first feeding of food, beginning of learning, wedding, pregnancy etc. In addition to these rituals, the temples and festivals play an important role in sustaining and transferring the Vedic tradition and culture.
A Hindu temple is a divine and yogic representation (figure 2) of a human being with the Deity in the temple representing the God as indweller in humans and all beings. In a temple the feet represents rajagopura, the hands represent praakaara, the abdomen represent mandapa, the heart represents antaraala and the crown of the head represents the sanctum sanctorum (garbha griha). The temple is used as a reminder that our inner spiritual journey is through internal yoga to realize the indweller God. This analogy is shown in figure 2 through the representation of various chakras namely Moolaadhara to Sahasraara in the body to various locations in the temple.
Figure 2: Representation of a Hindu temple (ref 3)
The rituals in a pooja such as invoking god into a vigraha, giving sacred bath to with chanting, decoration, offering food and waving lamp to the vigraha helps the seekers to internalize the spiritual energy. Also, the seekers can make connections though five senses to focus their mind on God. A Vedic Hindu festival is significant in several ways namely, spiritual, philosophical, religious and socio-cultural. Celebrations of various festivals have sustained the dynamic nature of Vedic Hindu values and culture.
The icons or vigrahas of Gods and Goddesses also help the seekers to focus on the concepts. These icons are not imaginations but they are manifestations of the Supreme Being in the inner yogic visions of the seers. Thus the icons depict the divine forces in a visible form. The Goddess Saraswati shown in figure 3 is the Goddess of speech, music and knowledge. She is seated on a lotus denoting the heart. In Her right hand, the rosary (akshamala) represents the alphabets of a language (Sanskrit). The musical instrument (Veena) represents the spinal cord important in physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of life. The book in Her left hand denotes the knowledge. The swan as Her vehicle represents the devotee. The peacock signifies the joy of knowledge. She is clad in white cloths to indicate the purity in pursuit of knowledge. Thus we can see that deity worship is an important means to internalize and develop the spiritual insight.
Figure 3: Goddess Saraswati
Dance, Music and Science
The Vedic Hinduism asserts that all changing manifestations are referred to the Supreme Unchanging God as Source and Substratum. These continuous changes are describes as a dance. The Lord Shiva as King of Dancers (Lord Nataraja) shown in figure 4 illustrates this principle.
Figure 4: Lord Nataraja as a Divine dancer (refs 1,2)
The divine dance posture of Lord Nataraja depicts spiritual bliss obtained by the state of balance achieved through the process of yoga. The drum and the fire in His right and left hands signify the vital forces namely, prana and apana respectively. The union of prana and apana is the goal of yoga. The snake signifies the yogic energy as Kundalini. The blessing of fearlessness to a devotee is indicated by His two hands in the middle. The dwarf-demon being crushed is called as Apasmara representing forgetfulness of one’s innate divinity. The Vedic literature says that, it is this ignorance makes humans unconscious of the indwelling divinity. The actions based on this ignorance are the cause of misery and suffering. The darkness created by Apasmara has to be dispelled by the divine dance of Lord Nataraja, which brings spiritual enlightenment. A composition by a seer-yogi Swami Sriranga Priya says :
Om namo Natarajaya shudddha jnana svaroopineBhaktanam hridaye nityam divyam nrityam prakurvateWhich means, "Salutations to the Lord Nataraja, Whose form is pure spiritual knowledge. His divine-dance is performed all the time in the heart-altar of all devotees". The divine dance of Lord Nataraja also signifies the yogic process. The importance of various chakras in spiritual path is well known. In figure 5, the production of various seed-sounds in relation to various chakras starting from Mooladhara at the base are shown. The Vedic representation of the human spinal cord as the musical instrument (Veena) is shown in figure 6. The 24 frets of the instrument are analogous to the 24 cartilages in the spinal cord. The number 24 also relates to the 24 syllables in the Vedic Gayatri mantra. Thus the inter-relation (figures 2, 3, 5 and 6) between a temple, Goddess Saraswati holding Veena, The production of seed-sounds at the various chakras in the spinal cord and representation of Veena as spinal cord shows the multi-faceted manifestations of Vedic principles and experiences. Figure 5: Lord Nataraja and speech-sounds (refs 1, 2)



Figure 6: Veena and human spinal cord representation (ref 1)
The rishis and yogis experienced the various manifestations of the Supreme Being not only within themselves but also in the nature and cosmos. Another illustration is the discovery of a natural instrument namely, conch-shell used for rituals and spiritual practices. Figure 7 shows the interior of a conch-shell and its spectral characteristics of the sound.
Figure 7: Spectral characteristics of Sankha (conch-shell) (ref 9)
The interesting feature is the sharpness of the tone, which is even difficult to obtain in a human-made instrument. The superior sound quality of the tone from a proper conch-shell represents the spiritual vibrations of the universal sound of OM. The Garbhopanishat says that an infant in the womb, in its eighth month hears the sound of OM and has the spiritual vision of Light of God. It is for this reason, the Vedic literature says that God is in every being and it is the rediscovery of that vision and knowledge that is needed for spiritual enlightenment.
It is well known that Indian classical music has Vedic origin. The acoustical characteristics such as melodious sound, phonetic quality of letters, proper breaking of words, correct intonation, majesty and proper speed of Vedic chants are precisely transmitted through oral tradition from teacher to disciple. Svaras are common to Vedic chants, music and language. The seven svaras of music are acoustically related to svaras in Vedic chants. It is interesting to note that Vedic chants are effectively played on musical instrument Veena. The Shabda Bramhan encompasses the full range of vibrations such as infra, audio, ultra and electro-magnetic waves. The Amrita Bindu Upanishat refers to two Bramhans namely ParamBramhan and ShabdaBramhan.
Great saints such as Purandaradasa, Tyagaraja etc. have demonstrated that the divine music is a means of spiritual realization. The classical Music in the Vedic Hinduism belongs to the path of yoga namely, Nada Yoga. The treatise of classical music Sangita Ratnakara describes Nada as the union of prana and anala which represents the drum and fire respectively in the hands of Lord Nataraja (figure 4). The acoustical knowledge of ancient Hindus manifested in several musical instruments. One distinguishing feature of Mridangam and Tabla is interesting. The sounds of a percussion instrument provides the rhythm and not melody. However, the Mridangam and Tabla due to their design produce several harmonic tones, which brings melody to their sounds (figure 8). This brings a pleasing quality to rhythmic sounds. It is for this reason the classical music and dance emanating from Vedic origin not only is a spiritual path but also provides joy to mind and senses.
Figure 9 shows an interesting scientific experiment referred as Tyndall effect wherein an acoustical tone, when directed on a flame breaks the flame into seven-tongue. In Vishnusahasranama, the seven-tongued fire is referred as a name. This phenomenon of effect of sound or vibrations on flame plays an important role in Vedic yajnas. The sacred fire represents the god or goddess worshipped in a yajna. Thus one can see that the Vedic literature encompasses universal phenomena in nature and cosmos. The Vedic rishis have the abilities of spiritual and scientific insight along with saintly qualities. It is the pursuit of truth objectively by rishis that brought multi-faceted nature to Vedic Hinduism and has made it relevant and useful for all seekers in the past, present and future.
Figure 8: Harmonic tones of Tabla (ref 8)
Figure 9: Effect of sound on flame (Tyndall effect)
Vedanta, Yoga and Meditation
It is well known that Vedanta, yoga and meditation have become very popular around the world. However, it is to be noted that they have their source in the eternal Vedas and Vedic Hindu literature. Vedanta refers to not only ending portions of the Vedas but also the essence of the Vedas that emphasize the spiritual knowledge (Jnana). Vedanta deals with the relationship between the God, universe and individual soul. Although there are several Vedantic approaches such as Advaita, Vishishtaadviata, Dvaita etc., they all refer to the Vedas as the transcendental authority and Bramhan as the Independent and Ultimate Truth (Bramha Satyam). Important qualities such as devotion, compassion, forgiveness etc are emphasized for spiritual development. The need for an acharya or guru is essential in understanding and practice of scriptural guidelines. The important role of karma has to be understood. Thus Vedanta through the Prasthanatrayi, namely Upanishats, Bramhasutras and Bhagavadgita has become the universal and eternal philosophical foundations of Vedic Hinduism. The Bhagavadgita is a shastra (scripture) for both Bramhavidya and Yoga.
It is important to note that yoga and meditation have their roots in Vedas and Vedic literature. Vedanta and yoga are the theoretical and practical aspects in the pursuit of realization of Bramhan. The sole purpose of yoga is the realization of original and normal state. Yoga is not merely restricted to poses and acrobatic postures with impressive demonstrations. The Katha upanishat, Bhagavadgita and Patanjali’s yogasutras are some of the important major references on yoga. It is to be noted that the Ashtanga Yoga of Vedic Hinduism is a systematic approach to reach the spiritual goal of original and normal state of bliss. Ashtanga yoga means eight-limbs of the yoga. Meditation is the seventh step in this approach. The eight-fold Ashtanga yoga briefly consists of Yama (self-control) and Niyama (disciplines) dealing with practices related to physical and mental disciplines. Asana deals with the practice of physical postures integrating the flexibility of the body and breathing patterns. Pranayama deals with the control and regulation of Prana or vital forces. Pratyahara deals with the practice of withdrawing the consciousness from the multiplicity of thoughts and directing it toward the inner-self. Dharana deals with the development of the ability of the mind to focus and contain a sacred object. Dhyana is the meditation or continuous concentration on the sacred object. The nature and quality of the object of meditation is extremely important. The continuous concentration is compared to that of an unbroken flow of oil and non-flickering flame of a lamp. These seven steps lead the seeker to Samadhi referring to the level of original and normal state and super-consciousness. The order mentioned in this Ashtanga yoga is important. A yogi who has realized and is established in this original and normal state is able to provide genuine guidance as a sadguru or acharya to the sincere and devoted seeker. Ashtanga yoga through its scientific and practical approach deals with all aspects of human development such as physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual development. In the words of a seer-yogi Sriranga Sadguru, " The customs and habits, the dress and ornaments, the manners and etiquette, the conceptions of right and wrong and of good and evil, the learning, literature and the various arts like music, the political thoughts, views regarding all action and the consecratory ceremonies, etc., of the Indians (Bharatiyas) are all permeated like the warp and woof by Ashtanga Yoga."
Vedic triadic approach
In figure 10 a simple Vedic triadic approach is shown to describe any effort to seek knowledge and particularly spiritual knowledge. The three lines represent the three essential components required for spiritual seeking are Sadguru, Shastra and Anubhava. The Sadguru refers to the guiding energy in the form of mother, father, acharya, spiritual mentor, etc., who helps and directs the individual to gain knowledge and discriminate between right and wrong. It is a life-force of subjective importance. The Shastras refers to the body of knowledge (Vedic literature), which has sustained the test of time and space. The shastras include infinite large collection of sources as shown in figure 1. Shastras represents the perennial objective source that includes rituals to vedanta. The shastras include resources for all levels of enquiry. The following of rituals provides required refinement for the mind. The historical masterpieces such as Ramayana and Mahabharata illustrate the Vedic principles applicable to human beings. The vedantic literature such as Advaita, Vishishtaadvaita and Dvaita etc provide the Vedic truths at the fundamental levels. Then there are shastras for arts, music, science, medicine etc. The third important component Anubhava means the experience of the seeker. In the course of time, the three lines should advance towards concurrence, which is indicated by the reduction of the triangle size. The concurrence assures that the seeker’s experience is concurring with those of Sadguru and Shastra. The non-concurrence indicates disparity between the three components and need to be worked at. It is a dynamic process to be carried out by the seeker.
Figure 10: A Vedic triadic approach

Concluding remarks
Vedic Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) with its source in the eternal Vedas has sustained and guided its followers in the long history of time. Innumerable number of rishis and yogis have provided guidance and direction through their scientific, saintly and introspective abilities.
It is our common experience that our present times have provided many comforts due to growth of technology, global communications, consumerism etc. In spite of all these global developments, the critical issues of life and particularly human life such as hunger, poverty, hatred, threat of nuclear war etc. still pose major challenges. These basic human problems need to be addressed at all levels including the development of an individual with the global consciousness. The multi-faceted Vedic Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma has the ability to sustain the timeline through past, present, future and beyond.

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