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This week one more poem came up, and I finally decided to share this one as well…

 
I remember

When everything settles down, when all becomes silent, I remember…

I remember the journey, I remember the quest…

I remember the longing, I remember the love…

I remember Your presence, I remember our bond…

I remember the purpose, I remember my Home…

For so many times I have come, I have gone, like a wave in the ocean of existence…

For so many times I have come, I have gone, just to find You again, always there, as my own…

Swami Purnachaitanya Remember

While visiting some more villages last week, one more poem came to me. I decided I’ll share this as well…

 

Grateful

When I look at my life, I can only be grateful…

Grateful for enjoying the small things so totally, that they became big…

Grateful for loving others for no reason, but their being who they are…

Grateful for what was, is and will be, not what should be or could be…

Grateful for still being able to play, and see life as a game…

And grateful for knowing that there was not a moment where I moved away from my path, nor will there ever be…

Swami Purnachaitanya Grateful

Last week we drove from Hyderabad to a village in Warangal district. We reached in the evening, and found that what we would be calling ‘Home’ for the next few days was a small room with old wooden shutters and doors. The roof, covered with a thin layer of cobwebs on the inside, had a few small holes in it, and the concrete floor was dusty. A wide variety of small creatures greeted us as we managed to fix a lightbulb on a fitting near the door: cockroaches, spiders, and of course lots of mosquitos! However, the welcome of the people that had invited us to the village was touching, and with a few mattresses, a little cleaning, incense and the chanting of some mantras the whole atmosphere of our ‘room’ changed. It was now ‘Home’ – at least for the next few days…

In the village nobody knew about us, or The Art of Living, but when some of the local people took us through the village that night, hundreds came to take blessings, and to join in our satsang and listen to what we had to share with them…

Before coming to this village, people had told me that villages in this area know very little spirituality or tradition. However, it was touching to see that the next day morning, when we were about to have breakfast, an older man came to the house and came up to me. He had seen us, and had come to ask for blessings. He asked me: “I want you to put a tilak (some sandalwood paste) on my forehead, with your hand!” When I asked him about it, he told me that he does not have any himself, but after seeing us he really wanted to…

We stayed in that village for four days, and conducted various programs in the area. People wanted us to stay, but again, the journey continues…

Swami Purnachaitanya Journey Continues

While in one of the villages one evening, a poem came to me, which I thought I’ll share…

 

Fortunate

Fortunate are those that are able to smile today, not hope to be happy tomorrow…

Fortunate are those that are able to serve others, not hope to satisfy themselves…

Fortunate are those that are able to follow their heart, not hope to be free one day…

Fortunate are those that are able to be themselves, not hope to become something else…

And fortunate are those that are able to love unconditionally, for that is what makes one complete…
Swami Purnachaitanya Fortunate

These days I keep traveling most of the time, so I don’t always have time to write articles for the blog. However, as many have been asking me about this, I will start putting updates of my travels, interesting experiences and other thoughts on this blog as well…

The first experience I would like to share is one of about ten days ago:

Friday evening, it was around 8.30 PM, I once again found myself in a small village in a rural area in India. This time it was near Madanapalli, Andhra Pradesh, but it could have been anywhere else in India…

It had suddenly become colder than the last few days, and it had taken the villagers a little more time to come out of their huts and houses to attend the satsang. We walked around the village once, singing bhajans and inviting everyone to leave the comforts of their house & TV for an hour, to join us for the program…

Once our satsang started outside a small Shiva temple that the villagers were still constructing, more and more people were drawn out of their houses to come and see what was going on. Feeling a cool evening breeze against my face, smelling the fresh air of the village surroundings, and spending a few very personal moments with the local villagers that I had never met before up to an hour ago, made me feel so grateful!

We sang some bhajans (traditional songs), also in the local language, and I shared some knowledge with them, and told them about the value of their culture. At the end of the satsang half of them were dancing in a circle, in a traditional way that the younger generations might never learn…

I felt grateful… Grateful for the chance to share these moments with the people there, grateful for a chance to see and experience a life and culture that has already disappeared many years ago in many other parts of the world, and grateful for the life that I am living…

And the journey continues…

Swami Purnachaitanya on padayatra in Andhra Pradesh

Swami Purnachaitanya in Andhra Pradesh

These days there are many aspects and ancient practices of the Vedic tradition that are misunderstood, misinterpreted or dismissed as unscientific. Unfortunately the nobility and height of thinking of the sages of ancient times, that shows such a profound and respectful understanding of life and creation, has often been lost in translation through the ages. One such example is the practice of pashu bali, which refers to the sacrificing of one’s own animalistic tendencies – a word and practice nowadays often (wrongly) translated and interpreted as ‘animal sacrifice’.

The word ‘pashu’, as many other words in the Vedic language, is often misunderstood and misinterpreted by people, one of the main reasons being that the Vedic language (the language used in the Vedas) is not entirely the same as Sanskrit. What we normally refer to as Sanskrit, is a language that emerged out of the Vedic language, just like there are Indian languages that have come from Sanskrit and still share a lot of the vocabulary with it. However, just like certain words of these modern languages are also found in Sanskrit, but their meaning has (slightly) changed, there are many Sanskrit words that are also found in the Vedic language, but their meanings have become much more limited, or different altogether. It was when people, including those writing commentaries on Vedic scriptures, were trying to understand the Vedas with knowledge of the Sanskrit language, and not the Vedic language, that most of the misinterpretations arose. And with other people depending on the explanations of the commentators, the ‘new’ meanings soon became common knowledge. The root cause of the problem here was thus the insufficient understanding of Vedic terminology of the commentators and the wrong notion that the Vedic language and Sanskrit are identical.

The sacrifice of animals is often thought to have been part of some of the ancient yajñas of the Vedic civilization. In the Vedic literature, however, a synonym that is given for the word ‘yajña’ is ‘adhvara’, which literally means ‘that which is free from violence’. In order to be able to perform such an act, one needs to first sacrifice one’s own cravings, selfishness and anger. One needs to ‘slaughter’ or ‘sacrifice’ (bali) the ‘brute’ or ‘animal’ (pashu) in himself, i.e. perform ‘pashu bali’. It was therefore said that in Yajña the animal in man (i.e. the brutal instinct in man to enjoy even at the cost of others and risking his own spiritual wellbeing) was restrained and ultimately slaughtered.

Ancient yajñas now famous for their ‘animal slaughter’ were actually highly spiritual and refined ceremonies. The word ‘ashva’ in classical Sanskrit means ‘horse’, but in the Vedic language two of its meanings are ‘souls’ and ‘nation’. The Sanskrit word ‘aja’ is often translated as ‘goat’, while a Vedic meaning of the word is ‘eternal soul’. The Ashvamedha Yajña therefore referred to a yajña facilitating ‘the purification of the soul and the strengthening of the nation’, and Ajamedha Yajña was performed for the ‘ennobling of the soul’.

In time, however, such a beautiful and noble act as yajña or sacrifice, a totally unselfish deed for the greater good of the world, became synonymous with the slaughter of innocent and harmless animals. It is of course true that in the medieval ages animals were sacrificed, both in India and other parts of the world. However, these sacrifices were not prescribed by the Vedas. The sacrifice that the Vedas prescribe is that of one’s own comforts, of one’s own negative tendencies and small-mindedness, for the benefit of the society and the world.

Great saints, such as the Buddha and Mahavir, who saw the inhumane slaughter of innocent animals in the name of yajña, rebelled against these practices and worked to bring people’s attention back towards meditation, respect towards and service of all life, and cultivating a mind free from anger, lust and delusion – ideals that are actually part of the core teachings of these amazing ancient scriptures called the Vedas.

The Vedas have even been very outspoken regarding non-violence, both towards other human beings and towards all other forms of life. In the Atharva Veda for example there is a prayer to violence itself: “O Violence! The slaughter of the innocent creatures is really dreadful; do not kill our cows, horses, men and other embodied scient beings. Wherever you are lying concealed, be lighter and more trivial in our eyes than a dried leaf.” In the Yajur Veda there is the prayer: “May I look at all the creatures with the eyes of a friend.” And in the Rig Veda, it says: “If ever, with certainty, I make a move, I tread only the path of the friend. For, under the solace-giving shelter of this dear and non-violent friend all living beings unite.”

A Homa is a fire ritual and it is the most ancient and sacred ceremony in the Vedic tradition. The Sanskrit word ‘homa’ comes from the root ‘hu’ that means ‘to offer’.  The word Homa therefore literally means ‘offering’, and in specific ‘an offering through the sacred fire’.

There are many types of Homas, ranging from very simple procedures to elaborate yajnas that can take days to complete. However, the essence of all Homas is the same. Using specific types of wood and other materials such as pure clarified butter made from Indian indigenous cow milk (ghee), a fire is created that has a purifying effect on the environment.

Often we find that when things are burnt, it affects the environment in a negative way – fossil fuels for example, when burnt, pollute the atmosphere, earth and water bodies, and materials like plastic, when burnt, produce even more toxic pollutants. But just like the fire can spread pollutants and toxic gases throughout the atmosphere and the environment, it can also spread substances that purify and cleanse the atmosphere. It was this purifying power of the fire that the ancient Rishis called upon when they used to perform Homas, and they developed it into a veritable science.

Different Homas were prescribed to achieve different goals or results. For example, a Homa could cause increased rainfall, make the soil more fertile, or destroy bacteria and diseases that are spread through the atmosphere. To achieve these specific results, or enhance certain energies or aspects of creation, specific materials and herbs would be offered into the fire, accompanied by specific mantras. The synchronizing of the pouring of oblations into the fire and the chanting of specific mantras actually makes their vibrations more powerful. Homas were thus able to not only purify the atmosphere on the physical level, cleansing the air from any bacteria, impurities and pollutants that might be there, but also on the mental level, harmonizing any vibrations that might be there due to stress, anxiety, anger and other emotions of people.  There are people that argue that resorting to Homa might be a valid approach to attend to the growing problems of environmental pollution and global warming.


It is because of the power of Homas, and the crucial role that the fire element plays in this process, that Agni (the fire) was worshipped as one of the most important Devatas or ‘cosmic energies’ in the Vedic tradition. It was considered as one of the most potent purifiers, and as the messenger that would carry any offerings to the other Devatas. If one wanted to offer anything, he had to go through Agni – the power that can transform any substance into a form so subtle that it can be spread throughout the atmosphere.

The general procedure for all Homas is quite uniform. First the place where the Homa is going to be conducted and the materials that will be used for the Homa are purified with the use of mantras and water.  Then the fire is established in the designated space, after which various substances are offered into the fire accompanied by the proper mantras. After completing these offerings, a final offering called purnahuti – the offering (ahuti) that makes the Homa complete (purna) – is made, after which the fire is left to consume whatever has been offered into it. Finally, some of the leftover ashes (bhasma) are usually distributed among the people present. Depending on the substances and mantras used, these ashes themselves can have strong healing or purifying properties.

Every Homa, besides the specific purpose for which it is performed, is done for the welfare of the whole of humanity and the world – it is a selfless act for the good and benefit of all that live on this planet.

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