Tag Archives: sanatana dharma

Temple: A Place to “fine-tune” the Mind ~ Swami Chinmayananda

[Excerpts from letters and articles by Swami Chinmayananda]

God, the Lord is All-pervading, but to invoke Him we need an Altar. Even though Narayana pervades everywhere, He can directly be contacted in a TEMPLE. The Temple is a place conducive to ‘fine-tune’ your mental equipment in order to receive the Divine Message.

Temples are the monuments of our Culture. Temple is a social centre and must become the place of cultural revival. A temple is a place of reverence (Sangam) where the love of the mind and respect of the intellect (Ganga and Jamuna) join together. Temples should function as the very heart of the community, responding most sensitively to all the changing needs of the society. The “Houses of God” in the past stood as intelligent guards protecting the needs of the community and therefore, they were extremely respected and revered and very devotedly served by the grateful members of the community. The love and care and the enormous sacrifice that they had made in building these edifices of beauty and grandeur eloquently speak volumes of their loyalty and gratitude. These are to be generated in their hearts by the service, both secular and sacred, rendered by the temples.

A Temple becomes famous not because of its elaborate architectural beauty nor its dimensions. When a large number of devotees continue to visit year after year, day by day, the center gathers a growing glory of divine presence. Within a community, such temples declare the beauty and culture possessed by the society. Temples are where large masses of people congregate and thereby develop in their thoughts and actions a RHYTHM, at once loving and divine. For centuries, temples and worship of the Deities held the Hindu society together, providing a common bond of love and devotion, creating among them a great sense of pride and brotherhood. Temples: community inspiration centres from where spiritual ideas and thoughts are spread out into the community.

To revive a true interest in the Temples, we must gain a clearer understanding of what are the significance of their “Divine Representations” (Deities) and in what way each one of them is suggesting some aspect of the Infinite Self within. No piece of stone in any temple can provide for the devotee his life’s goal of achieving happiness and peace. But, without an idol self-improvement ‘is impossible’. The method of superimposing a meaning upon an object is the technique called IDOL-WORSHIP. The idol is the means; self-discovery is the goal. To confuse the means with the goal is the Grand Trunk Road leading to sorrow. The idol serves the spiritual aspirant as a spring-board to heave himself out of samsara and plunge into himself. The IDOLS in temples are to remind the devotee of the IDEAL, the Supreme. To the earnest devotee, the idol appears as a living embodiment of his Lord.  All “poojas” are techniques by which you learn the art of putting the mind where the hand is working. However, it is necessary to remember that the idol is NOT God, but represents God.

TEMPLES are only places to discipline one’s mind. The mind must be perfectly tuned to receive the message of the Divine. The temple visits and worship should elevate the mind of the seeker and help him to keep his mind in a higher plane. A temple fulfils itself successfully in a “bhakta” when he comes to enquire into the nature of Godhood, the nature of himself, the structure of the world and the relationship between these three. At “this” moment the integrated personality of the “bhakta” though physically standing in front of the “sanctum sanctorum”, has grown to such a stature that he no longer can be contained within the confines of any Gopuram….

Just as a gymnasium is for the science of health, the temple is for the science of Reality. Temples are gymnasiums for the mind. You have to go there and apply your mind in it. Remember that it is a mental gymnasium. Surrender the mind in devotion unto Him. He will purify it and return it back to you immediately. You must go to the temple, and tune up yourself in order to get the message of the Divine.

In India, we don’t build a temple because we have money or we can collect money. It is always ordered or commanded by an Acharya. When an Acharya decides what deity or deities should be installed in the temple, thereafter there is no difference of opinion amongst the public. Temples are built by the members of the community, through a temple building committee. But every such temple committee is fulfilling the wishes of a Guru, or of an Acharya. The Guru accepts the plan, sanctions the administrative set up, decides upon the altar to be raised, and generally lays down the tradition to be followed by that DEVASTHANA. He watches over its conduct and appoints one or two of his people into the Executive Committee to be his eyes and ears in the day-to-day affairs and conduct of the temple.

Religion is to bring out the best in man by helping him to shed his animal passions still lingering in his mind which has evolved through the animal stage. This self purification is gained through devotion to the Lord, by everyone, through meeting and interacting in a common place like a TEMPLE, which serves more than the modern concept of a community Hall. Temple has to serve as a total schooling for the growing children. MAY WE USE THE TEMPLE IN THE CREATIVE FIELDS OF MOULDING THE CHILDREN AND THE YOUTH OF OUR COUNTRY.

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Origin of Sri Venkateshwara Suprabhatam!

Hasthigirinatha Annan (14th century) was born in a Sri Vaishnava family residing in Kanchipuram whose descendants were the disciples of Sri Ramanujacharya. Annan was the disciple of Nayana Varadacharya, the son of Sri Vedanta Desika. In time he mastered all the branches of knowledge and became an accomplished scholar. During this time, Narasimha Mishra, a great scholar and exponent of Vedanta came to Kanchipuram and challenged Nayana Varadacharya to a debate. The acharya was not inclined towards participating in the debate; but refraining from going would mean accepting defeat. Not knowing what to do, the acharya was in a dilemma. Annan noticed that something was bothering his Guru. He approached his Guru and asked him the reason. Varadacharya told him everything. Annan humbly prostrated to his Guru and asked permission to participate in the debate on his behalf. The Acharya consented. With his profound knowledge and communicative skills, Annan easily won the debate. Guru Nayana Varadacharya heard about his disciple’s stellar performance. Overjoyed, the acharya conferred on him the title: PRATHIVADHI BHAYANKARA (Terror to the Opponent) !! 

Annan continued to offer his services to Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram. Having heard of the glories of Lord Venkateshwara of Tirumala, Annan decided to go to Tirumala for the Lord’s darshan. Accompanied by his wife he reached Tirumala. He associated himself with the descendants of Anantazhwar, and engaged himself in the “abhisheka kainkaryam” of Lord Venkateshwara. Daily he brought waters from Akasha Ganga, added fragrant ingredients to the water as per the custom and tradition, and then handed over the water to the purohit for the abhisheka. One day, as he was carrying the waters to the temple, he met a devotee from Sri Rangam. The devotee narrated in length, the glories of the great saint, Manavala Mamunigal, residing in Sri Rangam. Annan was overwhelmed and wanted to hear more of the saint. He lost sense of time and even forgot about the water that he was carrying for the Lord’s abhisheka. On the other hand, the purohit having waited in vain for Annan came searching for him. On seeing Annan engrossed in satsangh, the purohit took the vessel of water from Annan and hastily proceeded to the temple to finish the rituals in the prescribed time. Suddenly, Annan realised that the fragrant ingredients had not been added to the water as was customary. He ran behind the purohit, but by the time he reached the sanctum, the purohit had started the abhisheka. Annan was very unhappy at his own negligence. He silently prayed to the Lord and sought forgiveness for the lapse. Annan heard a divine voice which consoled him saying that the abhisheka waters were exceptionally fragrant, in fact more fragrant than on other days because they carried the divine “fragrance of satsangh!” Indeed, the Lord was more than pleased with the services of Annan. 

Annan realised that this was all because of the glory of the great Manavala Mamuni. Longing to have the darshan and blessings of the saint, he proceeded to Sri Rangam. He became the disciple of Mamunigal and was given the deeksha name, Sri Vaishnava Dasan. Sri Vaishnava Dasan learnt the doctrines of Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya from his Guru and devoted himself to the propagation of the Sri Vaishnava Philosophy. Many scholarly works are attributed to Sri Vaishnava Dasan. Since he was a great exponent of Sribhashya, he became known as Sribhashyacharya as well. 

Sri Vaishnava Dasan and Mamunigal undertook a yatra and they finally reached Tirumala. Mamunigal asked his disciple to compose a SUPRABHATAM for Lord Venkateswara. Sri Vaishnava Dasan composed the famous SRI VENKATESWARA SUPRABHATAM which has four sections: Suprabhata (29 verses), Stotra (11 verses), Prapatti (16 verses) and Mangalam (14 verses). The Acharya was immensely pleased with the composition of his disciple and ordained that, all through the year (except in the Margazhi month during which Sri Andal’s Tiruppavai is chanted), every day, early in the morning, the SUPRABHATAM will be recited at the sanctum. The beautiful SUPRABHATAM which consists of the glories of Lord Venkateswara, composed by Sri Vaishnava Dasan are chanted during the opening of the sanctum till date.

श्री पद्मनाभ पुरुषोत्तम वासुदेव 

वैकुण्ठ माधव जनार्धन चक्रपाणे ।

श्री वत्स चिह्न शरणागत पारिजात

श्री वेङ्कटाचलपते तव सुप्रभातम् ॥ (Suprabhata: Verse #22)

विना वेङ्कटेशं न नाथो न नाथः
सदा वेङ्कटेशं स्मरामि स्मरामि ।
हरे वेङ्कटेश प्रसीद प्रसीद
प्रियं वेङ्कटॆश प्रयच्छ प्रयच्छ ॥ (Stotra: Verse #9)

श्रीमन् कृपाजलनिधे कृतसर्वलोक
सर्वज्ञ शक्त नतवत्सल सर्वशेषिन् ।
स्वामिन् सुशील सुल भाश्रित पारिजात
श्रीवेङ्कटेशचरणौ शरणं प्रपद्ये ॥ (Prapatti: Verse #2)

श्रियः कान्ताय कल्याणनिधये निधयेऽर्थिनाम् ।
श्रीवेङ्कट निवासाय श्रीनिवासाय मङ्गलम् ॥ (Mangala: Verse #1)

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Sri Maha Ganapati ~ Significance

SRI MAHA GANAPATI is the Lord of Knowledge and Wisdom. He is “Prathama Pujitha” (First Worshipped) before any undertaking or activity – worldly, religious or spiritual. Ganapati means Lord of Ganas. Gana denotes groups or categories. The mineral, plant, animal and human kingdom, the celestial beings, the devatas, the lower and the higher worlds can all be classified into various groups. He who is the Lord of all of them is known as GANAPATI or GANESHA. His Sakti-s are known as SIDDHI (Success and Fulfillment) and BUDDHI (Knowledge and Wisdom). He is also known as VINAYAKA (Vi-Nayaka) – One who is the Suprememost Lord and therefore has no one to claim lordship over him. Lord Ganapati is also known as VIGHNESHWARA, both as, VIGHNAHARTA (Remover of Obstacles) and VIGHNAKARTA (Creator of Obstacles for our constructive progress in life).

Ganesha is sindoora-varna, which is the colour of the rising sun which denotes knowledge and dispassion. The Lord is elephant-faced. The Elephant signifies Abundant Knowledge and Intelligence. The two small eyes represent sharp and in-depth vision. The Lord’s large ears indicate that He has an “Ear for All prayers”. The long trunk of the elephant can handle a huge log of wood with the same ease as that with a blade of grass. Therefore, the trunk represents our VIVEKA (discriminative capacity) – the ability to handle and balance our materialistic as well as spiritual life. The single tusk indicates the Advaita (One-without-a-second) State. The Kalasha held by the Lord’s trunk represents the State of Immortality (All-full or Poorna State) which he bestows upon the seeker who has intelligently and efficiently used his discriminative powers. He is clothed in vastras of different colours. Red represents Selfless Activity. White denotes Purity. Yellow stands for Spiritual Knowledge. Green for Plenty and Prosperity. Blue signifies His All-pervading Infinite Nature.

Sri Ganesha has a large belly to indicate his capacity and ability to contain all the myriad experiences. The serpent which denotes the ego is an ornament (waist-band) to him indicative of the ego-less state. His Yagnopavita signifies discipline. The three strands of the sacred thread also indicate his transcendence of the tri-groups (past, present, future periods of time; OR waking, dream and deep sleep states; OR, the gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas; OR, body, mind and intellect equipments). Sri Vighnesha is seated with his right leg firmly rooted on the ground. The left leg is folded and the left foot is pointing towards the right leg. The RIGHT leg represents the “intellect” well-established in the Higher Knowledge. The folded LEFT leg represents the “mind” aligned with the “intellect”. 

Lord Ganesha is depicted with four arms. In the upper hands he carries the “pasha” and “ankusha”. The Ankusha is a pointed instrument to goad the individual onto the righteous (spiritual) path. The Pasha or Rope is to pull the seeker towards Himself. In one of the lower hands he holds the Modaka (sweet) which denotes happiness, success and fulfilment. Modaka also represents the State of Bliss (Ananda). The outer white cover of the Modaka is made of rice flour while the filling inside is made of jaggery. It is then steamed. To prepare the rice-flour covering requires extra effort (rice flour does not bind like wheat flour). Rice is the ‘dhaanya’ associated with the Moon. And the Moon is the presiding deity of our mind. This suggests that through right effort, the mind has to be made pure and satvik and such a well prepared mind alone can contemplate on the blissful (sweet) Nature of Parabrahma. This is indicated by the ‘sweet-filling inside the outer covering’. It is then steamed. In the heat of meditation, the seeker realises his perfect identity with the Lord. The other hand is in Abhaya Mudra – an assurance to the devotee: “I am there – why fear!?”

Lord Vinayaka’s Vahana (vehicle) is Mooshaka or the Mouse. Mooshaka represents our INTELLECT. A tiny mouse can eat into an entire granary! Similarly, the human intellect has almost an inexhaustible capacity to gather, classify and store information and knowledge. Just as Lord Ganesha uses Mooshaka as his vehicle, the seeker should invest all his intellectual and mental capacities, abilities and capabilities in search for the Higher Truth. Sri Ganesha was bestowed with the Jnana-Phala (Fruit of Knowledge) by Lord Sankara because he went round the divine couple instead of the universe. This represents “God-centered” Activity. Only then GANAPATI – SAKSHATKARA (Darshana or Liberation) is possible.

Lord Vighneswara is invoked and worshipped using one of the smallest and tiniest of Lord’s creations – the DURVA GRASS. It indicates that nothing in the Lord’s creation is insignificant – everything is significant, important and has a purpose. The durva grass also has immense medical benefits and extraordinary healing effects. It has the capacity to annul even the most powerful negative energy fields. 

Lord Ganapati is invoked on the tithi of Chaturthi (4th day). The 4th day on both sides of Amavasya and Poornima (Chaturthi and Ekadashi) are days on which the moon’s influence on the ocean waters is maximum. Moon being the presiding deity of our mind, the mind has a tendency to get more agitated and become extremely extrovert on these days. Hence our Acharya-s have prescribed UPAVASA (fasting) on Chaturthi and Ekadashi. No food for the physical body means no food for the mind also. Upa-Vasa not only means fasting, but it also implies staying near, or identifying with the Lord by prayerfully invoking Him. Chandra-darshana (Seeing the Moon) on Chaturthi is prohibited. Symbolically it means refraining from extroverted activities. 

On Chaturthi, a clay-idol of Lord Ganesha is brought home and worshipped. The puja concludes with visarjana of the idol in water. Parabrahma, the Unmanifest with the help of Prakriti (clay) takes a Manifest form – SRI GANAPATI. This is to enable the devotee to easily anchor his mind at the Altar of the Lord. All the puja-vidhi (rituals) are a dramatisation of the inner spiritual journey. Once the vedantic significance has been understood, the manifest form dissolves in the “waters of spiritual knowledge”, and the Unmanifest alone remains – the “visarjana” leading to ISWARA DARSHANA – the STATE of JIVANMUKTI !!

“Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha!”

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Guru Poornima ~ Swami Chinmayananda

[Excerpts from articles, letters and commentaries by Swami Chinmayananda]

GURU POORNIMA is the DAY of AWAKENING!

Guru Poornima — this full moon day is considered as the sacred day dedicated to Guru, and all seekers and disciples invoke their Masters and try to reach him. The Gurus are an institution and not an individual. On Guru Poornima Day, all the Gurus are on the Altar! Ordinary days they should be always your Guru and your Grand-Guru. 

Guru Poornima, though we celebrate on this specific day — and have glorified it as the day of Vyasa; as a sacred day to start studies of Brahma-sutra and our Upanishads; a day elected for the prayerful worship of the Teacher etc — it has a deeper significance. Guru Poornima is not a day, an occasion, a ritual, but a STATE of CONSCIOUSNESS, when the students try to tune in their minds to the Inner State of the Teacher. The darkness within gets​ lit up with the full understanding and Knowledge Supreme (Full Moon). Let us tune our mind to Sri Gurudev. Invoke Sri Swami Tapovana Grace and let us prostrate to Sri Vyasa Bhagavan.

Guru is not an individual. He is an institution. He is not a person. Guru is a personality. He lives the Essence, and we have to discover this in our direct insight. When in contemplation we merge our thoughts, there we dive into the depths of the Guru and meet there the Essence; to be one with It is the Goal. This “Awakening” is to be attained by the disciple through devotion, surrender and recognition of the Glory that is the “Guru in-depth”. That day is Guru Poornima.

The declarations​ of the scriptures, your own logical thinking, and Guru’s explanation are the main three sources of knowledge available for a spiritual seeker. All these but give an intellectual appreciation of what Truth is. It has to be confirmed in one’s own direct and personal experience that “I am this Self”. Then alone a healthy intelligent seeker’s scepticism will end. For this direct experience, the seeker will need repeated encouragement from his Guru. Hence the Guru’s impatience to spiritual seekers. The day dedicated to Guru-worship is the Guru Poornima day. Let us all prostrate to Sri Swami Tapovanam. His grace is sure and unfailing.

On this auspicious day of Guru Poornima, let us ask of the Rishis only one thing: “You have made for me a soft path and spread roses over it, solicitously removing all thorns. I walked on, in ease and comfort. Master Pioneer! Now, teach me how to pave the path and make it easy for others! You have given me a voice and lend melody to it. I sang of the Joys of the world to my heart’s content. Master Musician! Now teach me your divine music…..to pass on the harmony to all others!”

Guru Poornima offerings​ should not be ended with a mere physical expression of presenting a material thing. That which is offered​ would contribute as a symbol of the offering of the head and heart to the things expressed and sought after by your Teacher. Then alone the Guru Poornima offering has got a meaning and a message. Offer your spiritual devotion in humble surrender to Sri Gurudev and the Lord-of-the-Universe, Sri Jagadeeswara. May their blessings be upon all your spiritual efforts and reach you to the State of Pure Effortlessness. Let the words of the Guru, the ideas of the Teacher, the Truth of the scriptures, all remain with you for all times. Make the whole year an “Year of Tapas”. Every member must spend one hour each day reading scriptures, japa and attempts at meditation. Offer it all, at each day’s end as GURUDAKSHINA to Sree Gurudev.

The human GURU whispers the sacred formula into the ear! The DIVINE GURU breathes the Spirit into the soul!!

सदा शिव समारमभां शङ्कराचार्य मध्यमाम्॥
अस्मदाचार्य पर्यन्तां वन्दे गुरु परम्पराम्॥

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