Birthdays – The Indian Ways of An Uplifting Celebration

Hari Om! 🙂 My heartfelt gratitude for all the wishes and blessings on this beautiful day. Hope you like this special blog! 😀

Birthdays bring with them excitement, love and happiness. 🙂 

How do we generally celebrate our birthday? By cutting a cake, celebrating with friends and family or going out for dinner and partying, right? 

If this is what a birthday celebration means to you, maybe that is fine. 

But today, we are going to look at a subtler and more beautiful perspective of celebrating this special day – or should I say days? 

Because as per the Indian tradition or the lunar calendar, we celebrate our birthday on what is called the “Janma Tithi”, where the constellations of the astronomical bodies are similar to what it was during the time of our birth. 

Earlier I personally had zero belief in the “Tithi or Nakshatram(Star)” birthday as we call it – simply because I never understood this tradition. 

In 2019 however, I could sense a deep spiritual happiness the moment I woke up on the day of my star birthday, hence I spent time reading about it. I’ll simplify that bit of information here. 

The vibrations present in the surroundings on the Tithi are most supportive for true inner growth – because they match the vibrations we were actually born with, which make up our subtle body. 

Thus the ancient seers came up with celebration rituals that can enhance the person’s capacity to absorb these spiritual vibrations around him and evolve in all the aspects – spiritual, mental and emotional.

These celebrations are inherently Sattvic or purifying in nature. They enhance the qualities of purity and awareness in us and strengthen the vibrations of the subtle body. 

Whether you celebrate the date of birth or the Tithi or you actually choose to do both like I do – do it mindfully, integrating the best of Indian cultural practices on both days. Thus, both the special days can be greatly elevating. 

How? Let’s see! 

Abhayangasnan – Ah, how does it sound to begin the day early with a calming ritual of a gentle oil massage followed by a warm water bath? This Ayurvedic ritual helps wash away stress, fatigue and dead skin cells, is known to increase circulation to the nerve endings and levels mental alertness, amongst many other proven benefits. It is a complete nourishment for the physiological and psychological systems of the being.

Holistic Well-being – Remember how the mind automatically calms down due to divine vibrations when Arati is performed at home or at a temple? Similarly, here the individual sits near the altar at home and the elder performs the ritual of Aukshan – where subtler frequencies are activated by a lit lamp is waved in a circular motion in front of the person with a prayer for his/her well-being. It is completed by sprinkling unbroken grains of rice (Akshata) on the child’s head. 

Sattvic Inspirations – In the earlier days, parents used to invite evolved beings like the Rishis and saints to bless the child for spiritual and material growth. Today, such a blessing is rare. If you receive it, cherish it with all your heart! Visiting the temple apart from engaging in listening to and reading greatly inspiring material and holding stimulating discussions with a like-minded person on this day, can be highly elevating.

The Birthday – By S.Aravind Raghavan (AKA Aravind Bhaiya! 🙂 )

Cakes Delight – This is something all of us love! But perhaps we can avoid blowing a candle off because it corresponds to extinguishing light. Instead say a simple heartfelt prayer and then cut the cake. That will enhance the positivity of the ritual! 

Light Lamps – What better than lighting colourful lamps and making it a mini-Diwali celebration? Light lamps of knowledge, love, happiness and well-being. And radiate light to all! 

Celebrations with Family – Again, an aspect all of us love. Birthdays are beautiful occasions for family get-togethers too. 

And a perfect day to seek the blessings of the parents, grandparents and other elders you revere! For it is said that the feet of an elder stands for the values he has lived through an entire lifetime.  

Give Gifts – Eh? Birthdays are all about receiving gifts right? Absolutely! But don’t forget you too were gifted to the world on this day. Gifts when given become more special. Make a gift of all the love you have to the world around. Give a donation, visit an orphanage, teach a child, grow plants, feed animals – or choose anything else! 

Make this day and life special for everyone around. 

Reflections and Growth – As we have already seen, this is a day with greater spiritual significance than we realize. This is when you can take time off, and reflect upon the year that has gone by. Where we fell and grew, the achievements and improvements to be made – this is a good day to see where you are and where you want to be in all aspects.  

Offering Gratitude – Finally offer heartfelt gratitude to Bhagavan for all the hits and misses,the sorrows and joy and for the beautiful life and birthday celebrations, for just about everything!

Thus, a birthday celebration in Bharat’s advanced culture, is more like a spiritual fest of inner growth, seva and gratitude! It is truly a day for the seeker to be born again with fresh vigour. 

Incidentally both 2020 and 2019 were super special for me, because I could include most of these aspects in the celebrations on both days! The Star birthday especially in 2019 was truly special because I discovered an Ayyappa temple somewhere in a corner of Jaipur. It was indescribable for I also share my Nakshathram with Him. Let’s see what this year’s star birthday brings! 😀

Hope you like this blog and include some of the aspects mentioned in your celebrations too! And don’t forget to ask your elders when your Tithi or Star birthday is. 🙂 

Until Then,

Love and Om,

Lakshmi. 🙂

The Significance of Lord Shiva’s Three Eyes

Hari Om! Welcome back to the voyage inward. 🙂 Thank so much for all the love and encouragement you shower upon this blog! It helps me become a better instrument. 🙂

In Sanatana Dharma, there is an ocean of knowledge consisting of cultural traditions analogies, statements, tales and symbolisms to hold the seeker’s attention and curiosity for a hundred lifetimes. 

One such form that enchants me is Lord Shiva’s. Imagine my joy which my Guru, Swami Tejomayananda started discoursing on the Vedasara Shiva Stotram composed by Shri Adi Shankaracharya earlier this week! 🙂 

Today, I am going to be writing about one aspect of Bhagavan’s form. The Lord ‘s fascinating three eyes. 

Hope you enjoy the read! 🙂 

This is a verse from the Vedasara Shiva Stotram –

विरूपाक्षमिन्द्वर्कवह्नित्रिनेत्रं – सदानन्दमीडे प्रभुं पञ्चवक्त्रम् ।

विरूपाक्षThe One with Unique Eyes

इन्दु – The Moon

अर्क – The Sun

वह्नि – Fire 

त्रिनेत्रं – Three Eyes

“Trinetra” or the One with three eyes – is an epithet that we immediately associate with Lord Shiva. But what do these three eyes signify? This is what I very joyously discovered this week during Guruji’s talk. 🙂 

Lord Shiva has the sun, the moon and fire for his three eyes – with fire being the third one at the centre. Weirdly fascinating is it not?  

Now for someone who may not know, the third eye might be taken as some appendage or a crack on the forehead – what a scary sight to look at! 

But it is nothing like that. In fact, it is a very subtle symbolism to indicate an awakening to Higher Consciousness. With the light of these three eyes, He illumines the entire world!

Let us go back to the famous story associated with Shiva’s Third Eye. After his consort Devi Sati immolates herself due to her father’s insults healed upon her husband, Shiva destroys Daksha and shuts himself up in a cave, withdrawing within – away from the anger and sorrow caused due to Sati’s immolation. 

In the meantime, Sati re-incarnates as Mother Parvati – an apt epitome of the seeker. For she upon the advice of Sage Narada undertakes severe austerities to obtain Lord Shiva as her husband. Much like a seeker undertakes in his quest for knowledge – the source of which is Shiva Himself. 

The Devas exasperated on seeing the Lord remaining oblivious to the Mother’s penance approach Kamadeva (The Lord of Desire) who from behind a tree shoots one of his arrows at Shiva seated deep in meditation. 

A furious Shiva, his contemplation disturbed, opens his Third Eye and burns down Kamadeva into ashes much to the shock of the Devas and Rati, the wife of Kamadeva. They turn to the Mother Parvati who is Shakti – the other half of Shiva. 

The Lord having calmed down and heard Parvati’s arguments and the pleas of Rati, told her that although he cannot restore her husband ‘s entire form – he will exist in the mind of every human being. Now, is not desire a part of all of us? 

It is quite a beautiful sight to watch this episode being performed in dance dramas! 

Kamadeva represents the constant pulls of desire in our own minds. Desire by itself is never a problem, it is our attachment to it, our insistence upon its fulfillment – that causes great sorrow and anger. 

It is this self-annihilating attachment that Shiva destroys upon awakening to the state of Higher Consciousness.  It is this constant pull, these sorrows that are destroyed when we come to realise and abide in our true nature. 

The next time you think your emotions and desires are overwhelming – try surrendering them at the feet of Shiva – a path to progress will automatically open itself up. 

Thus Lord Shiva’s Third Eye – is the eye of Wisdom and Courage. It represents the ultimate inner awakening – where one transcends the realm of the known and enters the Unknown. Where there exists nothing but life as It is. 

Activating this energy center also known as the Ajna Chakra helps us experience spiritually exalted stages of existence. 

One technique that has been taught to me in Yoga class is to focus on this pivotal center and chant Om – the vibrations felt are deeply calming and blissful. 

The Lord ‘s right eye is the sun – which is symbolic of brightness and hope. Doesn’t sunlight bring with it a new beginning? Doesn’t it lighten up the entire world around? This is also the eye of justice, of objectivity.

Thus in our lives, it represents the ability to know and do what is right – to fulfill our potential and serve the world. 

The Lord ‘s left eye is the moon – which has a soothing and re-assuring effect on all of us. It is also symbolic of how beautifully the nurturing aspects of creation work. 

In our lives, it represents the ability to sympathize, to care and to uplift. 

Beyond them – lies the Third Eye, the opening of which bestows complete inner integration of the mind and intellect and consequently an awakening to your true Self. 

This is the Eye of Viveka or discernment – which helps us balance the objectivity of the right eye with the compassion of the left and thus function in this world in perfect equilibrium – just as the Lord does. 

To truly know, to have true clarity and vision, to become truly alert to each moment, you must always look inward. There lies all wisdom. There resides the infinite power of Lord Shiva.

Here is the Playlist link to the Talks on Vedasara Shiva Stotram – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLm6DKuwwu5zrUjfKu0UDvtm3ZbKXuuuq0

And a melodious bhajan on Lord Shiva for you to listen to – https://youtu.be/WBzeTz_UpQ4

Do Read, Like and Comment – Cherish a dream with me!

See You Next Sunday,

Love and Om,

Lakshmi. 🙂

To Shiva I Bow – The Significance of Om Namah Shivaya – Final Part

Hari Om! Welcome to the voyage inward once again. 🙂 I couldn’t post a blog last week because I was unwell. Just could not get myself to do anything. 😦

In the first chapter, the characters in the story discuss the origins of the Om Namah Shivaya mantra and how it represents the five elements of nature. You can read the chapter here for a sense of continuity – https://onavoyageinward.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/to-shiva-i-bow-the-significance-of-om-namah-shivaya-part-1/

Let’s continue with the second and final chapter! Hope you enjoy the read. 😀 

“Wonderful!” Shivaansh replied, visibly thrilled. “Now, before getting in further, I forgot to ask you a basic question. Do you know the meaning of the word “Mantra”? 

“Yes!” Devika replied excited. “Manah – is the mind and Trayate – means to protect. A Mantra is that which protects the mind.” 

“Absolutely correct.” he beamed at her answer. “What I am now going to explain is something I too have recently discovered and still trying to experience and understand. It is about the impact of this Mahamantra on the Chakras – the energy centers of our body. Now although that is a science by itself – I am speaking about it to you because you mentioned cleansing of emotional issues. Alright?” he sounded apprehensive. 

“Alright Anna. Go on, I understand that I like every other seeker will have to personally experience whatever you explain. For that we have to also know na. Go on.” she encouraged him. 

“Alright so each of the 7 Chakras is connected to an element – that is earth, water, fire, air and space. We have already seen how the 5 syllables of Om Namah Shivaya represent an element each. Let’s begin with OM. Om as we know is the very sound of creation, the beginning of all knowledge. The heart of Shiva. Thus it resonates in the 6th Chakra – the Ajna Chakra located in the center of our forehead. Where Shiva’s third eye – the eye of awareness is situated.” he explained slowly while pointing to the center between the two brows. 

“It is symbolic of intuitive spiritual wisdom. Now, each of these energy centers can also have blockages – which lead to various issues in the mind and body. Om is one chant which calms us down and leads us to deeper meditative experiences. It helps heal issues related to the very direction and purpose of life by bestowing clarity.” he paused, trying to gauge his listener’s understanding. 

She was listening to every word attentively. He went on. “Next with the syllable “NA”, the Mantra dips down to the very first Chakra situated at the base of our spine – the Muladhara Chakra. This one is connected to the earth. Thus it helps purify that element and energy – the issues here are mainly about the primal need to belong and survive. Any idea which is the next chakra?” posing questions to Devika was after all his favourite past-time! 

“Umm..the next element is MAH which is connected to Water. As far as the little knowledge I have of Chakras,” she chuckled, “The next one is Swadhisthana, right?” she asked him.

“Correct. A little below the navel. Because it is all about how we open up to new experiences, here we deal with issues surrounding a sense of well-being and the right to feel and our own desires. Are you observing how the Mantra is rising up and purifying the energy centers?” Shivaansh asked to which she nodded in agreement. 

“The third one is..” he began.

“SHI connected to Fire!” she interrupted now excited. 

He smiled, shaking his head. “Right, right. And the Chakra is the Manipura. Located in the upper abdominal area. Now this is about how confident you are of your own life and your decisions. So issues here will be about self-worth, self-esteem and so on. Want to try explaining the next one?” he winked. 

“Yup! So, the fourth syllable, “VA” represents air. And the next chakra is the Anahata which is located at our heart center. From what I have understood so far, we are also evolving as aware beings as we move up from the most primary needs to higher experiences. The Anahata is associated with love, peace and happiness. Our very ability to love not just those around but ourselves too.” she explained animatedly. 

“Right. Which is why this Chakra impacts our relationships greatly. Imagine, how much this chant is actually helping us at all levels. Continued practice in a very general sense can help us become more aware and calmer thereby improving our relationships to a great extent.” he could sense a deeper understanding growing in both their minds. 

“Now the fifth and the last syllable, “YA” represents space and is associated with the Vishuddha Chakra at the throat region. The energy here is associated with how freely we express ourselves and connect with people and other beings around at the same time – the skills of communication and empathy is impacted here. When it is balanced, it also helps us hear our inner voice of wisdom. So how you connect with yourself, that also matters.” he finished. 

“So it is like a complete potent package to help us not just deepen our meditative practice but heal at various levels of our being. Like it starts right at the center of knowledge, then dips down to cleanse other basic energies and rising up to bestow upon us intellectual and emotional clarity, finally equipping us to become aware seekers ready to absorb the highest truth.” Devika was in absolute awe. 

“Absolutely! An extremely potent chant which cleanses our energy and helps attune our thoughts, actions and awareness to that of the Infinite Shiva, your true auspicious nature. This is what I am discovering in my personal practice too.” he smiled, quite satisfied with this fruitful discussion. 

“And the practice also is so simple. Like any of us can do it! One of my friends practises writing the Mantra. She says that has helped her attention span and quietened the agitations of her mind too.” Devika said, still amazed.

“Definitely. Writing the chant, employs all your faculties in that particular act alone. It makes your mind single-pointed, preparing it for higher flights into meditation. Just as much chanting with the help of a 108-beaded rudraksha mala does. All you need is an erect spine, a comfortable seating position and the loving zeal of a seeker! You’re all set to fly.” Shivaansh shrugged. 

Both of them smiled and turned to the idol of Lord Jagadeeshwara, in awe of the simplicity and interconnectedness of everything there is – and the One who pervades all. 

As they closed their eyes for a 10-minute meditation before they left all that they felt was a deepening sense of inner peace and joy, the timeless connection with the Shiva in their hearts. 

The Chakras are a new area of knowledge for me that I had wanted to explore since a long time, as I kept writing I could sense the understanding deepen within me. It is amazing, how connected everything is.

I leave you with this very potent and calming chant – https://youtu.be/Z454rcr1HPw

Do Like and Comment – Cherish A Dream With Me! 😀

See You Next Week,

Love and Om,

Lakshmi.

Sources of information – Vedic Feed, Scienceandnonduality.com

Sanatana Dharma – A Poem

Hari Om! Welcome back to the voyage inward. 🙂

I hope all of you a wonderful Independence Day. 😀 Let us strive to become spiritually independent individuals, for in our transformation lies the nation’s transformation!

On that patriotic note, today I am publishing this poem I had penned some time ago on the rock-solid foundation of India – her eternal spiritual and cultural tradition – Sanatana Dharma.

Sanatana Dharma is a tradition conceived of as inherent in the cosmic mind, arising with the dawn of creation itself.

Dr David Frawley

Today, this great tradition is popularly known as Hinduism or Hindu Dharma. It is vast, it is ancient, it is extremely rich and home to various schools of thought including Yoga and Vedanta. However, at the core it is all about knowing and experiencing that Cosmic Truth, that self-existent reality that pervades all.

I will keep talking about this great tradition in future blogs. For now, let’s get to the poem! 🙂

I have been ravaged by time,
Yet I know no harm,
For I am eternal, I am timeless.

I have been looked upon with angry ignorance,
My temples have been destroyed,
My scriptures have been burnt away,
I have been looked down upon by generations
Of the country I have nourished.

Yet I know no hate,
For I am Supreme Love Itself.

Monarchs have tried to vanquish me,
Invaders have tried to bury me,
Politicians try to push me into the past,
Yet I remain smilingly infinite,
Ever safe in the hearts of those who uphold me,
Ever ready to help even those who try to destroy me.

Yes, I have been torn apart many a times,
It pains me when my own children do not understand me.

Yet I look up with hope at Him, the Lord of All,
Who has graced this sacred land with his Feet,
Each time to save me from the hands of evil.
In the Yugas gone by as Rama and Krishna,
In this Yuga as great saints and Realized Masters,
As men and women who strive to discover me in their hearts.

Do you wonder who am I?
I, My Dear Children, Am Your Mother.
The Root of Love and Truth in the tree of your lives.
I am Dharma, Sanatana Dharma,
The timeless tradition that nourishes this Universe.
That which is the backbone of your sacred motherland, Bharat.

This poem is extremely special for a reason I am unable to articulate well. But that reason has given me a vision – an aim.

To not only learn more myself, but also create awareness and build up knowledge about our incredible tradition through whatever I write. I hope to have all of you and many more with me on this journey! 😀

Here’s a book you can start your journey of knowing more about Sanatana Dharma with – trust me it is an extremely enriching read! (https://www.amazon.in/What-Hinduism-Guide-Global-Mind/dp/9388038630)

I leave you with this beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by the People of India from the pristine land of Arunachal Pradesh to the golden shores of Tamil Nadu – a Sounds of India initiative by Prasar Bharati. – https://youtu.be/DttAX2OFoN0

See You Next Sunday,

Love and Om,

Lakshmi. 🙂

Sadhana – Uplifting the Mind – Part 2

Hari Om and Welcome back! 🙂 Thank you so much for all the love on the previous blog – Sadhana – Uplifting the Mind. It really means a lot when your audience reads and relates to what you write. 

I missed putting up a blog last Sunday due to other engagements. I hope not to do that again. 🙂 

The last blog had spoken about 4 Sadhanas that can help our mental and spiritual well-being – Japa, Yogasana, Meditation and Arpana Buddhi. Today I’ll be writing about 5 more of them to conclude this series. 

  1. Satsang – This is a practice at one level but from a higher standpoint – it is a blessing that gradually unfolds. Which allows us to unfold the layers covering our true nature. Satsang translates to company of the good and noble. In the beginning we associate ourselves with brilliant books that elevate our minds and with seekers who are determinedly walking this path of inner upliftment – this itself causes tremendous spiritual growth. At one point with grace alone, we are blessed with the company of spiritually elevated Masters – a sage or a Guru as we know them. In Sri Ramcharitamanas it is said, “Binu Satsang Vivek Na Hoyi” – Without Satsang, you will not be able to discriminate between the Real and the Unreal! 
  1. Svadhyaya – Translating to Study, this practice takes time and patience. Here, we reflect upon the scriptures of Sanatana Dharma – like the Bhagavad Gita for instance. By slowly absorbing what these manuals for right living are trying to convey – we bring their instructions into our lives, thereby enriching it. It requires guidance after a point – which in my own experience comes by itself if we are sincere in our efforts. One doesn’t need to start right from the top – for today we have tons of material online in different formats. Below is a list of 3 books you can begin with. In my humble opinion and experience – the Bhagavad Gita is a scripture all of us can begin our study with to know our own selves better. 
  1. Bhajana – In popular parlance, Bhajana or Bhajan is devotion expressing in the form of divine music and dance, which is a beautiful sadhana and experience by itself. Another interpretation is given by Shri Adi Sankaracharya in his famous composition, the Bhaja Govindam as whatever we do with an attitude of service to Bhagawan with our body, mind and intellect. That could be singing or any other action – what matters is the attitude of loving service. True Bhajana is therefore becoming an instrument of that Universal Consciousness – knowing, experiencing and living it! 
  1. Prasada Buddhi – After Arpana Buddhi which is offering of actions – we come to Prasada Buddhi – that is acceptance of actions. It is a Sadhana that applies to both the practical and emotional mindsets. It means accepting the fruits of our actions as Bhagawan’s Prasada or as the natural fruit of whatever we ourselves had sown. This mindset bestows peace and humility, for we do not dwell too much upon the should-haves and could-haves, the pain or failures then. Imagine the amount of stress we could reduce! 

I had thought of including Shravanam (Listening) but that will take another extensive blog. It also led me to Mananam (Reflection). It will only make sense if I give justice to both of them in the upcoming blogs.

I hope this piece adds value to your life and inspires you to keep working on connecting with your inner Self! For me, all these practices have been helping in fine-tuning my mind to be more receptive to the cosmic energy and make it relatively much more peaceful than it was say a few months ago. 

But my favourite is Satsang! People who know me would know why. 🙂 For associating with the good, is extremely powerful. 

Since we spoke about Bhajana, whenever you find time, do listen to this beautiful song on Shri Krishna as we approach Janmashtami. 

See You Next Sunday! 🙂

Love and Om,

Lakshmi. 

When 9 to 5 becomes Transforming!

Hari Om Everyone! 🙂 Feels amazing to be back here after such a long time. And this time for good. I won’t ever give up writing or blogging again, for I plan to evolve and grow better at it! Looking forward to your encouragement and love. 🙂

I begin this new journey with an Ode to the place and the Master because of whom I am here today. 🙂

Time has simply flown by and it is already a year! A year of working at this heaven called Chinmaya Mission.

I remember being stumped by the silent beauty of this Ashram right in the midst of chaotic Mumbai, when I first walked into the premises for my interview.
Since then this place has become home. My association with Chinmaya Mission goes way back to my childhood, yet this one year as a Sevak and an employee has enriched my life beyond words.

As I got out of college, I knew I wasn’t going to fit into the traditional Ad firm or media company. I wanted something different, something that fed my soul and gave flight to my dreams. As a global spiritual organization, Chinmaya Mission did just that.

From going out of my comfort zone by managing social media platforms, creating and visualizing content to still writing on what I loved,
Colleagues who are no less than family and a boss no less than a mother-like figure,
The youth camps that not just gave me some beautiful friends but also Masters who have transformed me from within,
Various activities that have taken my skills a notch up and helped me discover talents I never thought I had,
The knowledge that has helped me discover a richer inner self,
To be able to do work that makes a little difference, to be able to widen my horizons, to read more and learn more,
All the travel that has and continues to enhance my spiritual journey,
For all the challenges and growth-both personal and professional,

To the most important blessing bestowed : Finding my Guru, my Master- Swami Chinmayananda.
Each time I look around at the serene place I call my office, I can sense His compassion,
Each time I delve a little deeper into myself I can feel His Grace,
Each time I read, listen to and reflect upon His words, I can sense His guiding voice,
Each time, every moment I sense His presence!

And here’s to another year of transformation and service! 🙂