Monday December 11, 2017

How sacrificial rituals take one closer to supreme reality and consciousness

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Havan_at_Satyanand_Yoga_Rocklyn_Ashram,_Australia

By Isha Srivastva

For millenniums, the ritual of sacrifice or yajna  has been considered to be a foundational religious activity of Hinduism. For the Vedic Aryans, Yajna was the paramount activity through which the universe remained in order. These rituals were necessary to attain the ‘three worlds’- the world we live in (cosmic world), the intermediate world and heaven.

Sacrifice as Spiritual Obedience

The idea of sacrifice, is to show our allegiance to a universal power, and learning to rely on its provisions over the material comforts that we have made for ourselves. Different people part with various possessions that they would otherwise be frugal with; it can be a piece of clothing, food, a resource or sometimes, even earthly relationships. pursue the knowledge of ones true self and achieve liberation from the bondage of worldly commitments (Sansaar) and Karma.

A Leaf out of history

Community sacrifices and offerings are performed today to attain the liberation of the soul, or moksha. Keeping the multitude of Hindu Gods aside, beyond numbers and gender, a true Hindu will believe in the One reality and One consciousness of God.

Historically, Vedic sacrifice has delineated itself in the Rig Veda (the knowledge of the verses) which explains a highly structured and proper way of performing rituals. Actions accompanied by chanting, carry a cosmic power which brings balance and prosperity in the natural order of the world.

Laurie L Patton, in her book Bringing the Gods to Mind writes, “Without the sacrifice, the sun would not rise in the morning, nor would the cattle grow and multiply, nor would the crops flourish throughout the year. The possibility for long and healthy life for humans, and the worship of the fathers after death, or the ancestors, would not be present.”

Ashvamedhayajna was one such Vedic ritual for instance, prescribed in the Yajur Veda (knowledge of the ritual directions) which translates to ‘horse sacrifice’. It was regarded to be the highest form of animal sacrifice, with the horse being an ultimate symbol of martial power and one of the most important military resource.

The ritual was performed by emperors or sages who had achieved unparalleled success, to glorify the state of one-ness with Brahman. The Upanishads have likened the human senses to horses that must be controlled lest they shall become wild. Ashvamedha has also been interpreted as an offering of the seven chakras to God, and remaining in God consciousness.

Pure Bhakti

From its pious tributes and ritualistic practises to acting as a symbol of reprehensible social practise, sometimes religion gets robbed of its true identity.

Our religious books spell out that compared to the greatness derived from self knowledge and one-ness with God, the virtues earned by going on pilgrimage sites, or performing a hundred yagnas, are minuscule. Yudhishthira too, had performed Ashvamedha, but while narrating the incident to Yudhisthira’great-granadson, the sage Vaishampayana told him that he should not think too highly of sacrifice, and follow contentment, self restraint, abstain from injuring all creatures.

Rituals are imbued with values and spiritual principles, but when a person gets entangled in rituals, they run the risk of losing the value itself. Yagnas, pilgrimages and offerings hold no merit if we do not imbue our quotidian actions with divine purpose, acts of charity, kindness, and love. We cannot cleanse ourselves with Havans, we have to cleanse ourselves to what Sikhs call the Panj Vikar (Five sins); Kaam (lust), krodh (rage), lobh (greed), moh (attachment) and hankaar (ego).

Most of us have read the story of Sudama (or Kuchela) who offered nothing but rice flakes to his old friend, Lord Krishna. In return, the God showered him with riches and luxury. The story taught an important lesson; nothing greater than self sacrifice and pure Bhakti, can be offered to God.

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Sins in Hinduism: Facts, Meaning,Philosophy,Types & Atonement

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Sins in hinduism
The sins in Hinduism can be washed away with devotional means. Pixabay.
  • Sin is regarded as an impurity arising in one’s body as a consequence to his own evil deeds. It is an effect that can be neutralised through various practices to lead your life into Moksha or liberation.
  • A liberated being or Jivanmukta is purified of all his sins who does not have to go through any further sins and rebirth. In order to make your soul pure and sinless, practice every deed with God’s grace.
  • The Sins in Hinduism, sinful conduct and their remedies have been referred to in Hindu Scriptures such as in Upanishads, Bhagavadgita, Yoga Sutras, Manu Smriti and Garuda Purana. 

As stated about sins in Hinduism, sin may form up with disobedience to God’s divine laws of Dharma. It may however be difficult to follow, but is considered obligatory for humans. The sins in Hinduism can be forgiven if Dharma is upholded as a service to God through self-effort and pure devotion to God.

Sins in Hinduism
Meditation is considered as the easiest from of removing sins in Hinduism. Pixabay.

What is the meaning of Sins in Hinduism?

The word Pāpam (paap) is often used to describe sins in Hinduism as mentioned in the Vedas and Hindu scriptures. Punyam (punya) is the opposite (antonym) of sin. It does not acquire an equivalent word in English since the concept of sins in Hinduism is different in western culture and Christianity.

Separating the word, ‘Pa‘ means to drink, inhale or absorb. ‘Apa‘ means water, combinedly meaning consuming or drinking impure water or poison. Pāpam also denotes evil, wicked, mischievous, destructive, inferior, corrupt and guilt.

It is believed that the sins of Hinduism manifests in the body with the impurities of worldliness (vishaya-asakti). The human body becomes subject to various poisons (visham) such as egoism, greed, ignorance, selfishness, desires and so on, which emerge with our attachments with worldly things (vishayas). These poisons of sins make the humans to take rebirths and deaths until they are removed completely. In the Hindu culture, Lord Shiva is regarded as the destroyer and the healer who gets invoked by devotees prayers and can remove or destroy such poison or sins to grant them liberation.

Sins in Hinduism
The sins in hinduism have been depicted in the scriptures. Pixabay.

What is the Philosophy of Sins in Hinduism?

The sins appear from physical, mental or oral actions, due to the impurities or poisons pertaining to Dharma and Hinduism. The poison of sin is stimulated if one harms intentionally to others or oneself by way of pain and suffering continuing the cycle of rebirth and death.

The repurcussions of sinful acts or karma are fault or mistake (aparadha), worry or anxiety (cintha), impurities or imperfections (doshas), evil intentions (dudhi), evil qualities (dhurta lakshana), immorality (adharma), demonic nature (asura sampatti), chaos or disorderliness (anrta), mental afflictions (klesha), destruction (nirtti), karmic debt (rna), sorrow (shoka), darkness or grossness (tamas) and suffering (pida). Others include: inferior birth, birth through demonic wombs, downfall into hells, increased suffering to ancestors, adversity, loss of reputation.

Sins in Hinduism
Visit Pilgrimage shrines to erase your sins in Hindusim. Pixabay.

What are the types of Sins in Hinduism?

The Dharmashastras of the Hindu scriptures denote sin as Pātaka which represents the causes of one’s downfall or destruction (patanam).The following are the three types of sins in Hinduism: Mortal Sins (Mahapatakas), Secondary Sins (Upa Patakas) and Minor Sins (Prakirna or prasangika Patakas)

The Mahapatakas

These are the gravest and darkest sins in Hinduism leading to the worst downfall of the mortals into the darkest of hells. They can neither be neutralized or washed away without suffering. Some Puranas and Vedas indicate to devote oneself purely to God to remove such sins. The Dharmashastras have stated such five gravest sins termed as the Pancha Mahapatakas. In Hinduism,the company of sinners is also not advisable as associating with sinners will lead you to the same consequences.

The Upa Patakas

These secondary sins may emerge out of minor offenses that include incompetency to perform sacrifices regularly, displeasing the Guru, selling harmful and intoxicating drinks, disbelief in God, giving false witness, making false acclaims, and performing a sacrifice for an unworthy person or unworthy cause and engaging in illicit sex.

The Prakirna Patakas

These type of sins in Hinduism form the minor offenses committed intentionally or unintentionally out of ignorance or carelessness which can be removed or washed away by performing sacrifices (prayaschitta) or by punishments and requesting forgiveness. The law books regard more than fifty minor sins in Hinduism such as selling the wife, making salt, studying forbidden Shastras, killing a woman, marrying the younger son before marrying the elder one, killing insects and other creatures, ignorance to parents, accepting gifts without performing sacrifices,adultery etc.

What are the solutions to overcome Sins?

Fines and punishments

The Dharmashastras render both corporeal and monetary punishments for various offenses or sins in Hinduism, apart from the sufferings in hell or rebirth. According to Hindu scriptures, the ancient era saw immense difference in the application of punishments from caste to caste.

Confession

The best path to deal with sins of Hinduism is to surrender yourself infront of God and seek forgiveness with your own confession of the sin committed. The king was regarded as a similar figure to God who demanded a public confession (abhishasta) from the sinner.

Austerities and Atonement

By performing Vedic traditional rituals, the sins in Hinduism are removed by fasting, virtuous conduct, self-control, practice of nonviolence, truthfulness, austere living, practice of silence, concentration and meditation.

Sins in Hinduism
Your sins in Hinduism can be removed by Devoting yourself to the grace of God. Pixabay.

Rituals and sacrifices

The Vedas have recommended various rituals or sacrifices to wash away the the impurities (dhosas) arising from one’s birth, karma, relationships, place or direction related issues, vastu defects, dangerous diseases and evil conduct.

Prayers and Mantras

Vishnu Purana of the Hindu scriptures pronounce the effective importance of the continuous chanting of names of God (japam) in the Kaliyug. Some mantras and hymns are considered more significant than meditation and sacrifices to clean the impurities of the body.

Recitation of the Vedas and other Sacred Books

Knowledge (jnana) has the eternal power to remove the sins in Hinduism. It can be derived with regular reading up and learning from the scriptures of sacred importance.

Visiting pilgrimages

To grant your devotion and gratitude, Hinduism seeks to commit to Dharma by visiting holy pilgrimage place. It is a divine form of self-cleansing and experiencing peace and happiness.

Bathing in the sacred rivers

The sacred pilgrimages are mostly located near the banks of the rivers that are also treated as purifiers. Hence, bathing in those rivers lead your life into devotional worship as a purification rituals to overcome sins in Hinduism.

Yoga and Meditation

Pranayama and meditation are the suggested methods to practise peace and overcome past sins. They also form a major part of the austerities to cleanse the internal mind and body.

The blessings of saints and gurus

Saints, sadhus and mahatmas have been given a special status in Hinduism because of their respectful purity and virtue. They acquire divine knowledge and supreme powers, with which they cleanse those who approach them for blessings.

Sins in Hinduism
Worshipping the saints remove the sins in hinduism. Pixabay.

Virtuous conduct

Sinful karma can be countered with huge efforts into virtuous karma. The sins in Hinduism are washed away with kind and healthy conduct to everyone equally.

Charity

Dana (gift giving) or charity is very significant in Hindu Dharma. By conducting sacrifices and spiritual practices one must conduct charity as well. As a part of Vedas, the higher castes are under obligation to perform five daily sacrifices including offer food to gods, ancestors, sages, humans and creatures.

-Prepared by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram. Twitter @tweet_bhavana

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Karma Yoga: The concept of work and duty, as defined by Swami Vivekananda

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Karma Yoga

Swami Vivekananda, the patriot saint, the torch bearer of Hinduism, had passed away but his teachings to humanity still lives on. One such teaching which he repeatedly spoke through out his life is about “Karma Yoga” – the concept of work and duty- the Karma Yoga. Before understanding what constitutes duty, we must first understand what constitutes Karma.

What Is Karma Yoga?

Swami Vivekananda Says:The word Karma is derived from the Sanskrit Kri, to do; all action is Karma.

Technically, this word also means the effects of actions. In connection with metaphysics, it sometimes means the effects, of which our past actions were the causes. But in Karma-Yoga we simply have to do with the word Karma as meaning work.” Therefore, all actions are Karma, from the most trivial actions like brushing the teeth to the highest elevating actions like meditation.

KARMA YOGA refers to all human activities performed with concentration, skill and finesse. The way to liberation is to perform your duties without attachment. In Bhagavad Gita Sri Krishna instructs Arjuna (all of mankind) to do their work most sincerely & with expertise and skill they have masterd, and without any attachment or expectation of rewards.

Types Of Karma Yoga:

  • Niskama Karma– work without attachment, which produces no bondage.
  • Sakama Karma-all work done for some end result, which leads to bondage for the doer.

More on “Karma Yoga” By Swami Vivekananda:

“Thus we are all doing Karma all the time. I am talking to you: that is Karma. You are listening: that is Karma. We breathe: that is Karma. We walk: Karma. Everything we do, physical or mental, is Karma, and it leaves its marks on us.”

What Is YOGA?

This is a much more confusing word. Yoga is generally understood as the activity of breath control or taking different body postures, or the activities mentioned by Pathanjali. But in Gita this word has a much wider and somewhat different meaning.

The word Yoga originated from the root ”YUJ” meaning Joining,tieing together etc. This word is used at innumerable places in the Gita with meanings like appropriateness, joining, expertise, attainment etc. The essential meaning of Yoga is explained by Sri Krishna himself as “Yogah Karmasu Kausalam” (Gita 2.50). Kausalam means a special talent, expertise or skill in doing something. So doing things with expertise is Yoga. A Yogi is one who does something with expert knowledge or skill. (according to speakingtree)

The goal of mankind is knowledge

Therefore, Karma is simple exertion of effort. Naturally the question arises, what is the ultimate goal of such efforts? Why should we perform actions?

Swami Vivekananda answers-

“The goal of mankind is knowledge. That is the one ideal placed before us by Eastern philosophy.Pleasure is not the goal of man, but knowledge. Pleasure and happiness come to an end. It is a mistake to suppose that pleasure is the goal. The cause of all the miseries we have in the world is that men foolishly think pleasure to be the ideal to strive for.”

Therefore, the ultimate goal is not pleasure, not temporary happiness but Knowledge (Atma-Jnana) that liberates one from the limited bondage of the universe.

In another place, he states- “I have already tried to point out that goal. It is freedom as I understand it. Everything that we perceive around us is struggling towards that freedom, from the atom to the man, from the insentient, lifeless particle of matter to the highest existence on earth, the human soul. The whole universe is in fact the result of this struggle for freedom.”

Means are as important as the goal

A question may arise- If the goal of all actions is Liberation, then does it mean there is no importance to the actions that are employed as means to attain the goal? Can any one indulge indiscriminately in any kind of actions?

As if to answer, Swami Vivekananda declared-“One of the greatest lessons I have learnt in my life is to pay as much attention to the means of work as to its end” in one of his lectures delivered at Los Angeles, California in 1900.

Hence, while doing one’s actions, and while performing one’s duties, one should first and foremost concentrate on the immediate job that is in front of a person. It often happens that one tends to ignore the immediate task at hand, by indulging too much in the goal to be attained.

This will result in a person being shabby at his work. Further, over-indulgence with the idea of attaining the goal will make a person blind towards righteousness or unrighteousness of the means. Such, a person will often end up having results that are quite unfavorable and sometimes opposite of what was intended.

That is why Swami Vivekananda cautions-

“Our great defect in life is that we are so much drawn to the ideal, the goal is so much more enchanting, so much more alluring, so much bigger in our mental horizon, that we lose sight of the details altogether.”

Any action that makes us go Godward is duty

As means are very vital to reach the goal, it is necessary to understand, what actions can serve as a means to attain liberation. Swami Vivekananda calls these actions “Duty”.

He says-

“Any action that makes us go Godward is a good action, and is our duty; any action that makes us go downward is evil, and is not our duty. From the subjective standpoint we may see that certain acts have a tendency to exalt and ennoble us, while certain other acts have a tendency to degrade and to brutalize us.”

Therefore, only those actions that constitute duty and lead us to exaltation can be considered as the means to Liberation. These are the duties that Hindu scriptures call “svadharma”. What is right and good for one may not be so for another person. Every person should understand his own inherent nature, his position and stage in life and perform those duties that take him towards Liberation.

Swami Vivekananda himself clarifies this-

“The Bhagavad-Gita frequently alludes to duties dependent upon birth and position in life. Birth and position in life and in society largely determine the mental and moral attitude of individuals towards the various activities of life. It is therefore our duty to do that work which will exalt and ennoble us in accordance with the ideals and activities of the society in which we are born. But it must be particularly remembered that the same ideals and activities do not prevail in all societies and countries”

But this does not mean that people perform any actions according to their fancies and call it dharma. Though svadharma is different for every person, there are universal principles that are common to everyone.

Swami Vivekananda says-

“There is, however, only one idea of duty which has been universally accepted by all mankind, of all ages and sects and countries, and that has been summed up in a Sanskrit aphorism thus: “Do not injure any being; not injuring any being is virtue, injuring any being is sin.” Therefore, people must decide their own svadharma, not on the basis of their fancies but on the basis of these universal principles and how their application will take them towards liberation.”

Work performed without attachment leads to highest realization. The next question is, how should one perform one’s duty?

Swami Vivekananda says-

“When you are doing any work, do not think of anything beyond. Do it as worship, as the highest worship, and devote your whole life to it for the time being. Thus, in the story, the Vyadha (hunter) and the woman did their duty with cheerfulness and wholeheartedness; and the result was that they became illuminated, clearly showing that the right performance of the duties of any station in life, without attachment to results, leads us to the highest realization of the perfection of the soul.”

Therefore, if the performance of duties in an unselfish manner, as an act of worship wherein the actions and its fruits are surrendered to God that leads to liberation. Hence, detached action is the key to liberation.

Swami Vivekananda summarizes this path of Karma-Yoga as-

“Karma-Yoga is the attaining through unselfish work of that freedom which is the goal of all human nature. Every selfish action, therefore, retards our reaching the goal, and every unselfish action takes us towards the goal; that is why the only definition that can be given of morality is this: That which is selfish is immoral, and that which is unselfish is moral.”

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Evolution of Menswear: Men Are Showing Greater Interest in Their Appearance

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Menswear
Menswear. Pixabay

Sep 02, 2017: Men are showing greater interest in their appearance and retailers have also shifted their attention towards menswear, says Sanjay Ghura who has come up with a new menswear label in the capital.

“One can find a huge gap between the trends and growth of menswear due to increasing competition in the retail apparel market. The gaps are due to a different lifestyle and the shifts that are taking place on a regular basis. But thanks to the accessibility of fast fashion rates who are driving men’s interest in the adoption of such trends,” Ghura of brand TZAR told IANS.

“Men are showing greater interest in their appearance and retailers have also shifted their attention towards menswear. Wider cultural and lifestyle trends surrounding heightened male interest in fashion and personal style have led to an increased willingness amongst men to spend on their appearance. Within the fashion market, there has been a gradual growth in interest in male fashion,

“I personally think it is a super exciting time. Guys are really well bred, well-versed, have an interest in fashion. I think there are a lot of great influences right now,” he added.

Ghura launched his brand TZAR on Friday night. The USP of the brand is to express yourselves the best to the world at the work place and let everyone know what mood you’re in, whether happy, trendy or confident.

Talking about the evolution of menswear, he said that “the last five years or so have been some of the most revolutionary for men’s fashion.”

Also Read: Seven Myths Women Attach to Men’s Beauty 

“Since the late 2000s, global conversations revolving around men’s’interest in clothing have mounted in popularity, leading industry professionals to address a fledgling but highly influential market that had been long overshadowed or straight up ignored in previous years,” he said.

“The ‘don’t care’ attitude men have to fashion is becoming a thing of the past. Menswear has come a long way and we still continue to explore the foundations of personal style for menswear. And there has been a huge shift in menswear.

“Formals have been adopted by mainstream designers and subverted by subcultures. Clothing has become more form-fitting and casual nowadays. Looking at this scenario, our’s is a formal approach,” he added. (IANS)