WHAT IS THE CONCEPT OF AVATARA ?
Avatara is the decent of God on earth for the ascent of man. The Lord Krishna says: "Though unborn, the Imperishable Self and also the Lord of all beings, yet brooding over nature which is Mine own, I am bom through My Own Power. Whenever there is decline of righteousness, then I Myself come forth. For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the evil-doers, for the sake of firmly establishing righteousness, I am bom from age to age" (Ch. IV-6, 7, 8).
THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE
The Bhagavatas had their own scriptures called the Pancharatra Agamas which expounded the cult of Vasudeva and which were, therefore, looked upon by them as being equal to the Upanishads. Their religion was based on God's Grace to ening humanity. It, therefore, greatly emphasised the doctrine of Avatara or incamation and popularised the immortal stories which were
afterwards collected together in the Harivamsa, Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavata Purana. If you study these books, you wiU clearly know about the glory of Lord Krishna.
You can attain God-realisation through worship of Avataras like Krishna and Rama. Many have already attained God-realisation. Tukaram, Ramdas, Surdas, Mira Bai, Tulsidas and several others have seen God face to face. Their powerful writings bespeak of their high spiritual attainments.
DEGREE OF GOD'S MANIFESTATION
There ai'e Puma-Avataras (full incarnations), Amsa-Avataras (partial incarnations), Avesa-Avataras (inspirational incarnations), etc. The Lord Krishna has sixteen rays. He is a Purna-Avatara. He still exists. There are His Nitya-Lilas in Go-Loka or Celestial Vrindavana.
It is only ignorant, deluded souls who speak against the doctrine of Avatara, who say that the Lord Krishna was a human being only. They have not studied properly the holy scriptures. They ai-e Tamasic persons with little understanding. They cavil and caip. The Lord Krishna says: "The evil-doing, the deluded, the vilest men, they come not to Me, they whose wisdom is destroyed by illusion, who have embraced the nature of demons. Such is their fate."
Friends ! Worship Rama or Krishna at all times with all your heart and with all your mind. Glorify Him in your heart. He will soon reveal Himself to you and you will feel His Presence. You will attain immortality and eternal bliss. Glory to Avatai'as. Glory to the Lords, Krishna and Rama, the Avataras of Lord Vishnu! May their blessings be upon you all.
IS SANDHYOPASANA— AN EXACT SCIENCE IN HINDUISM ? Sandhyopasana literally means 'worship at the junctions of time. ' It is a prayer and worship offered to the Lord at the junction (Sandhi) of night and morning, forenoon and afternoon and at the junction of evening and night. The Arghyapradana to the sun and the meditation on and recitation of Gayatri, form the heart of the worship. Properly understood, the whole Sandhya is an earnest prayer addressed to the Lord to forgive all one's sins committed during one's routine, daily activities and to bestow illumination and grace.
Sandhyopasana must be performed at the proper Sandhyas. Then only the performer can derive much merit. There is a special manifestation of force at Sandhyas. This force disappears when the Sandhya is past.
AN OBLIGATORY DUTY
Sandhyopasana is the daily religious practice of the Hindus whose investiture with the holy thread has been performed. Sandhya is a Nitya Kanna or an action that is to be done daily. Sandhya is an obligatory duty to be performed daily for self -purification and self-improvement.
Sandhya should be performed by all followers of the Sanatana Dharma. Every Brahmachari and every householder must perform it every day. If he fails to perform it, there is Pratyavaya Dosha or the sin of omission. He loses his Brahma- Tejas.
According to the Hindu Sastras, a Brahmana, a Kshatriya and a Vaisya will get hell, if they do not perform three times Sandhyopasana (Traikalika Sandhya) daily. It is for the purpose of Sandhya only, the law of Yajnopavita-Samskara is laid down in the Yajnavalkya Smriti which says: "The Brahmana in his eighth year, the Kshatriya in his eleventh year and the Vaisya in his twelfth year are fit to be given Yajnopavita." Because, only after this particular Samskara, they are supposed to be worthy to worship Sandhya and take to Vedic rites. They should keep themselves pure internally and externally. They can nicely understand the sacred glory of this divine science.
BENEFITS OF SANDHYOPASANA
Sandhya is a combination of 7apa, Upasana, Svadhyaya, meditation, concentration, A^ana, Pranayama, etc. He who does Sandhya daily has Brahma-Tejas or spiritual lustre, in his face. A man who perfomis his daily Sandhya, according to the prescribed rules, at the appointed time as laid down in the scriptures, attains purity and success in his every effort. He becomes powerful as well as calm. Regular Sandhya cuts the chain of old Samskaras and changes everybody's old situation entirely. It brings purity, Atma-Bhava, devotion and sincerity.
The important features of this ceremony are: (i) Achamana or sipping of water with recitation of Mantras (viz., Achyutaya Namah, Anantaya Namah, Govindaya Namah, etc.), Marjana or sprinkling of water on the body which purifies the mind and the body, Aghamarshana or expiation for the sins of many births, and Surya Arghya or oblations of water to the Sun-god, (ii) Pranayama or control of breath which steadies the wandering mind, and silent recitation of Gayatri, (iii) Upasthana or religious obeisance.
The first part up to Arghya consists of hymns addressed to water and its benefits. The sprinkling of water on the face and the head and the touching of the different organs (the mouth, nose, eyes, ears, chest, shoulders, head, etc.) with wetted fingers, are meant to purify those parts of the body and invoke the respective presiding deities on them. They also stimulate the nerve-centres and wake up the dormant powers of the body.
The Arghya drives the demons who obstruct the path of the rising sun. Esoterically, lust, anger and greed are the demons who obstruct the intellect from rising up. The intellect is the sun.
Pranayama and Japa
The second part of Sandhya consists of Pranayama and Japa of Gayatri.
The third part of Sandhya is the Suryopasthana. It is a prayer for forgiveness, mercy and grace. The prayer is: "Let me not go down to the earthly house. Have mercy, O Lord! My strength was very weak, O Lord! I did wrong actions. Have mercy, O Lord!" These ai'e Vedic hymns addressed to the sun in the morning, noon and evening. The sun is the intellect in man. Ignorance is the night. Knowledge is the light. When you rise up from the darkness of ignorance, when the eye of intuition is opened through the grace of Gayatri, the Blessed Mother of the Vedas, you attain eternal bliss, supreme peace and immortality. It is that divine light which dispels delusion and the darkness of ignorance. It is that adorable splendour with which the world is glowing. It is that holy lustre which graciously fills the heart of a devotee with eternal bliss. It is this supreme Light which the aspirant craves from God through the Gayatri Mantra. He begs of God this Knowledge for his Realisation.
SANDHYOPASANA— AN EXACT SCIENCE
Man naturally wants to realise the Truth. He wants to know the secret of Creation. In this connection, scriptures emphatically declare: "Only at the moment when all doubts ai"e cleared, ignorance is destroyed, hypocrisy and cruelty ai^e rent asunder, and when a man sees Him in the abode of his heart, the real and ultimate Truth is revealed."
Sandhya- Vijnana or the Science of Sandhya is an exact science to attain success in the realm of Truth. One need not have any kind of superstition to learn this divine science. One need not prove its greatness. Its greatness, its glory, is open truth. Even the materialistic society of today agrees with the truth of Sandhya- Vijnana. In the scriptures, it is laid: "Brahmanhood is the tree, Sandhya is its root, Vedas are its branches, religious acts are its leaves; therefore take care of its root, i.e., Sandhya." Now the glory of Sandhya is very clear. Sandhya is absolutely necessary for a man who is treading the path of Truth. Aharahah Sandhyamupasita, i.e., a Brahmin should perform regularly his daily Sandhya at any cost — is the injunction of the scriptures.
PREREQUISITES FOR THE PRACTICE OF SANDHYA
If you want to learn this science, you must be careful about your diet. Take regular and light Sattvic food. Man is much influenced by his diet. See the difference between a small lion and a big elephant. You will be able to improve yourself by adjusting your diet. Idleness is due to a vaiiety of rich diet only. Therefore, be strict in your daily diet. You will be ever active and strong.
A man who performs Sandhya does not care about his sitting pose. He sits in any posture. This is not much beneficial. He should daily sit in a perfect posture, Padmasana or Sukhasana, facing the particular direction. As far as possible, he must finish his Sandhya in one sitting. He must have perfect mastery over Asana. Then he will have concentration in his Sandhya.
Faith and Devotion
You must do your Sandhya with faith and devotion. Mere repetition will not bring much good. Pray from the core of your heart to the Lord to forgive your sins.
A WORD TO THE YOUNGER GENERATION
Our young college students, who are under the influence of wrong Samskaras and wrong education and evil company, have forgotten all about the glory and high efficacy of Sandhya. They are not doing Sandhya. Sandhya has no meaning for them. They have become Godless men. They want laboratory tests and scientific proofs for the usefulness of Sandhya, before they begin to do Sandhya. It must be supported by the statements of western scientists. The words of ancient Rishis do not appeal to them. What a greatly degraded state!
O young students! Do not ruin yourself by neglecting Sandhya. Regular performance of Sandhya will give you success in life and material and spiritual prosperity, good health and long life, purity of heart, and help you to attain God-realisation. Do it from now at least. Yet there is hope for you. Wake up. Be sincere.
Now take strict resolve from this very moment to be regular in your daily Sandhya, even under many distractions and obstacles. Begin it from this very moment. Do not delay. Reduce your useless activities. Talk little. Do not mix much. You will get plenty of time for your Sandhya.
Be strict in your Sandhya. Let there be rain or wind. Even if the Pralaya comes, do not leave it half-done. Many people say that they have not got time to perform Sandhya. They have to attend several functions. This is due to their weakness and lack of good Samskaras. They do not know the glory of this divine science. If they see one of their friends sitting on the banks of the river and performing Sandhya, they will begin to shout or they will play some sort of mischief. But these poor creatures do not know what secret is hidden behind the Sandhya. The Secret of secrets is hidden in this sacred performance. This is why ancient Rishis say: "One who does not perform daily Sandhya is a real animal."
May God give you the mind to perform daily Sandhya at any cost. May you follow the rules of Sandhya. May you realise the glory of Sandhya- Vijnana and be free from all tribulations and torments. May the divine science named Sandhya- Vijnana bestow purity, immense joy and immortality on you !
THE TEN SCRIPTURAL SAMSKARAS
The rites that pertain to the stages of life of man are called Samskaras. The Samskaras are purificatory rites which sanctify the life of the Hindu. They give a spiritual touch to the important events in the life of the individual from conception to cremation. They mark the important stages of a man' s life. Just as the outline of a picture is lighted up slowly with the filling in of many colours, so also is Brahmanya with scriptural Samskaras. There are the Samskaras of childhood, of boyhood, of manhood and of old age and death.
There are fiftytwo Samskaras. Among these, ten ai"e important. The ten principal and generally recognised Samskaras are: Garbhadana, Pumsavana, Simantonnayana, Jatakarma, Namakarana, Annaprasana, Chudakarma, Upanayana, Samavartana and Vivaha. Of these ten, only some are now performed. Some of the Samskaras pertain to infantile life and early childhood. Some are ceremonies which may be performed daily or on special occasions. The whole life of the Hindu is thus consecrated and protected from the cradle to the grave.
The Garbhadana sanctifies the creative act. The husband prays fervently from the core of his heart that a child may be conceived. He repeats sacred Mantras during Ritu-Santi ceremony or nuptials. The new child is conceived amidst the vibration of Mantras. Good impressions are impressed in the brain-cells of the embryo. For a real Hindu who is endowed with pure intellect and right understanding, the sexual union is not for the sake of mere enjoyment. He utilises the divine, creative, vital energy for the formation of a human body. Husband and wife should be cheerful and pious when they have intercourse. When their minds are perturbed or agitated, or when there is anger or hatred, they should avoid copulation. They should study holy scriptures. If they have the image of Arjuna, they will have a chivalrous and wise son. If they have the image of Lord Buddha, they will bring forth a son with mercy and other good virtues. If they have the image Of Dhanvantari, they will get a son who will turn out to be a reputed Ayurvedic doctor. If they think of Surya or Sun-God, they will bring forth a lustrous son with splendour and effulgence.
In the third month, the Pumsavana is performed with Mantras. The food-sheath and the vital-sheath of the child ai^e formed.
The Simantonnayana is performed at the seventh month with recitation of Veda Mantras. This protects the mother from evil influences and bestows health on the child. The above three Samskaras protect the mother and the child. The body of the child develops nicely. The harmonious vibrations set up by the recitation of Mantras and the performance of the ceremonies help in shaping the body of the child beautifully.
The next Samskara, the ceremony performed immediately after the birth of the child, is the Jatakarma. The father welcomes his new-born child. He prays for its long life, intelligence and well-being, and feeds it with honey and butter.
Then comes Namakarana or the naming ceremony. The new-born child is given a name on the tenth, eleventh or twelfth day with recitation of Mantras.
The Annaprasana comes in the sixth month when the child is given solid food for the first time. Mantras ai^e recited and oblations are offered to the various deities.
The Chudakarma, the tonsure or shaving of the head, is performed in the first or third year. The Karnavedha or ear-boring ceremony is performed in the fifth or the seventh year or at the end of the first year with the Chudakarma. The body of the child is protected and harmonised by these ceremonies. Any hereditary defect that arises from defect of semen and embiyo is removed. Vidyarambha also is another Samskara. Alphabet is taught to the child. This is also known by the name Aksharabhyasa. These Samskaras pertain to the child stage of life.
The most important ceremony which marks the beginning of the next stage of life — the stage of youth — is Upanayana. Upanayana is a very important Samskara. It is a landmark in the life of the child. It is his second or spiritual birth. The word Upanayana means bringing near.
The boy is brought near his Guru, spiritual teacher. The preceptor invests him with the sacred thread, Yajnopavita, and initiates him by giving him the Gayatri Mantra, and gives him a staff. This is the beginning of Brahmacharya Asrama, during which Brahmacharya — perfect or entire celibacy — is enjoined. He is to begin the life of study. The initiation makes him a Dvija, twice-born. The father and the mother gave birth to him from mutual desire. This is his physical birth. Initiation into Gayatri Mantra is his another, true birth. According to Yajnavalkya, the Upanayana ceremony is performed at the eighth year for a Brahmana, eleventh for a Kshatriya and twelfth for a Vaisya. Manu gives the age at the fifth year for a Brahmana, the sixth for a Kshatriya and the eighth for a Vaisya.
Significance of the Sacred Thread and Other Symbols
The sacred thread or Yajnopavita consists of three threads knotted together. He who wears the thread should have a triple control, over his mind, speech and body — thought, word and deed. The holy thread signifies the various triads which exist in the world, viz.. Sat, Chit and Ananda;
creation, preservation and destruction; the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep; the three qualities of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas; the Trimurtis Brahma, Vishnu and Siva; etc.
The staff signifies that the student should have control over his thoughts, words and actions. He who practises control over his thoughts, words and actions, and he who practises Brahmachaiya in thought, word and deed, attains perfection.
The boy wears a Kaupina, a small yellow cloth and a girdle of Munja grass. The Acharya puts on him a deerskin. The new yellow cloth represents the new body. Yellow colour is a symbol of spirituahty. Wearing of Kaupina indicates that the boy should lead a pure life of perfect celibacy. The girdle is wound round thrice. This indicates that the boy has to study the Samhitas, the Brahmanas and the Upanishads. The deer-skin represents the ascetic life he should lead.
Then comes the end of the student stage, the Samavartana. The student, having completed the Vedic studies and the Vratas, presents his preceptor with a gift and obtains pemiission to take the formal bath which marks the close of his student-career. He returns home and performs the Samavartana, the returning ceremony. He is now ready to marry and enter the second stage or Grihastha Asrama, the life of a householder.
Vivaha is marriage or entry into the second Asrama. The life of the householder begins. Now he takes up his duties as man and pays his spiritual debts by sacrifice, by study and by procreating children. The bridegroom tells the bride: "I take your hand for good fortune." They walk round the sacred fire hand-in-hand. The bride sacrifices grains in the fire and prays: "May my husband live long. May my relations increase."
THE LAST TWO STAGES OF LIFE
There are two more stages, viz., Vanaprastha and Sannyasa, with their rites.
Man withdraws himself from all worldly activities, retires into the forest and prepares himself for taking Sannyasa. This is the life of a Vanaprastha.
A Sannyasin renounces the world and leads a life of study and meditation by living on alms.
Pretakarma is funeral rite. When a man dies, the funeral ceremonies are performed by his son and heir.
THE PANCHA MAHAYAJNAS
There are five great daily sacrifices that are to be performed by every householder. They are: (i) Brahma Yajna, called also Veda Yajna, sacrifice to Brahman or the Vedas or the sages; (ii)
Deva Yajna, sacrifice to the celestials; (iii) Pitri Yajna, sacrifice to the manes; (iv) Bhuta Yajna, sacrifice to all the creatures; and (v) Manushya Yajna, sacrifice to men.
The performance of these five Yajnas is conducive to the spiritual evolution or growth of a man. He gradually learns that he is not a sepai^ate entity or isolated creature or isolated unit, but is a part of a great whole. He obtains knowledge by studying the sacred scriptures written by great Rishis. He gets help from his friends, relatives and fellow-beings. He parents gave his physical body. His body is nourished by the milk of cows, grains, vegetables and fruits. The five elements help him. He cannot live without oxygen and water. The Devas and the Pitris bless him. Therefore, he owes a fivefold debt to Nature. He must pay back his debt by performing these five sacrifices daily. Further, numerous insects are killed by him unconsciously during walking, sweeping, grinding, cooking, etc. This sin is removed by performance of these sacrifices.
THE FIVE YAJNAS
The Rishis, the Devas, the Pitris, the Bhutas and the guests expect help from the householders. Hence, they should perform these five sacrifices daily. Teaching and study of scriptures is Brahma Yajna; Tarpana or offering of water to the ancestors, and Sraaddha, form Pitri Yajna: Homa or oblations into the fire is Deva Yajna; Bali or offering of food to all creatures is Bhuta Yajna; and hospitality to guests is Manushya Yajna or Atithi Yajna.
Brahma Yajna or Rishi Yajna
Every man should study daily the sacred scriptures. He should share the knowledge with others. This is Brahma Yajna or Rishi Yajna. By so doing, he pays the debt to Rishis.
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