Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Saptha Sindoh , or the Seven Sacred Rivers

All rivers are considered sacred in Hinduism , since they bring us life through their waters .
The Ancient Vedic Aryans when they first settled in the Punjab referred to the saptha sindoh or the seven sacred rivers . At that time the seven rivers were the Indus , its tributaries - Sutlej, Beas , Chenab , Ravi , Jhelum ( that formed the fertile plain of the Punjab ( land of five rivers ) and the Saraswati which once flowed in a basin between the Yamuna and the Sutlej . The indus formed the north eastern boundary of aryan civilisation at that early time and the Saraswati formed the diagonally opposite south western boundary , with the other five rivers flowing in between . Many hymns in the Vedas are in praise of the sacred Saraswati .

Now the Saraswati unfortunately no longer flows visibly , and is considered to flow underground and merge with the Ganga and the Yamuna at Triveni Sangam (meeting of the three rivers ) at Prayag .

Pride of place later was given to the Ganga among the sacred rivers .

As the Vedic culture spread all over India , the list of the seven sacred rivers changed , as reflected in the sloka , used to sanctify water ,
" Gange cha Yamune chaiva , Godavari Saraswati , Narmada Sindhu Kaveri, jalessmin sannidhim kuru"
May the ( rivers) Ganga , Yamuna , Godavari , Saraswati , Narmada , Sindhu ( indus ) ,Kaveri ,come and make their presence felt in this water ( before me ).

When two rivers meet , the place is considered specially sacred , called Sangam . These places are used for ritual bathing , and can wash away sins , and are pilgrimage spots .They are also considered ideal locations to build temples , as also are islands in the middle of rivers . The larget temple complex in India , the ancient Ranganathaswami ( reclining Vishnu)Temple at Srirangam , is located on an island in the Kaveri river .
Thousands of temples in India are located on the banks of rivers .
Hinduism recognised the importance of nature and the environment for civilisation very early on.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sloka in praise of Sri Adi Sankara ,celebrated Guru and exponent of Advaita

Shruti Smriti Puranaanaam Alayam Karunalayam ,
Namami Bhagavad padam Sankaram lokasankaram .

I salute the divine feet of Sri Sankara , who is the temple of learning of the Shruti , Smriti , and the Puranas , the temple of compassion .

Sloka in praise of Sri Ramanuja ,the celebrated Vaishnava Guru and exponent of Vishistadvaita

Yo nityam achyuta padambhuja yugma rukma , vyamohatas taditarani trinaya mene.
Asmad gurorh bhagavatosya dayaika sindhoh, Ramanujasya charanou sharanam prapadye.

I take refuge at the feet of my divine Guru , Sri Ramanuja , who is the river of mercy , who is daily immersed in devotion at the two lotus feet of Achyuta ( Lord Narayana ) , and for whom all worldly things are merely equivalent to wisps of straw .

Monday, August 4, 2008

The ashramas or stages of life

The Sanathana Dharma talks of four Ashramas or "Stages of Life".

The first , from birth to about the age of 25 years is called Brahmacharya , where one is a student , and celibate .

The Second is called Gruhastha , from the age of 25 to about 50 , when the individual marries , begets children , and leads the life of the house holder , aspiring to the four Purusharthas ( already mentioned ) .

The third stage is called Vanaprastha ( literally means proceeding to the forest ) from the age of 50 to 75 , but is symbolically taken as an instruction to the householder to complete his duties towards his family , see his children married and well settled in life , and then gradually give up attachment to worldly things , and along with one's spouse lead a philosophical detached life , of simple living and high thinking .

The last stage is called Sanyasa ( to become a renunciate , or sage ) ,between the ages of 75 to 100 .
This is where , one renounces the world completely , and becomes absorbed in meditation , prayer and spiritual pursuits , in preparation for the final departure.
Even within a possible extended or joint family, one is prepared to live alone , physically and mentally , if one outlives one's spouse , which is inevitable for one of them .

Hinduism being a practical religion , does not contemplate renunciation and spritual pursuits from day one for all .
Instead , it contemplates the above four stages of practical life for the vast majority , and renunciation at a young age only for the miniscule few who are clearly beyond doubt born thus inclined .