Category Archives: Spirituality

There’s religion, and then there’s spirituality. One difference is that religion can be limiting, while spirituality is not.

Sanathana Dharma is not a religion. Rather, it’s a way of life (“Sanathana Dharma = the eternal path / way”). In modern times, some refer to it as Hinduism. Followers of Sanathana Dharma aren’t told what to do and what not to do. The Vedic scriptures have been around since time immemorial for the benefit of all – anyone can read them, then decide for themselves the paths they will follow for the rest of their material existence in this world, while they are subject to the human condition. The laws of Karma are fair and apply to everyone regardless of good, bad or neutral energy exchanges.

I consider it an honor to be able to teach and share the ancient wisdom of Sanathana Dharma via Vedic scriptures through my written works. I believe that knowledge is one of the highest forms of blessings one can have in this age of Kali, and I will always consider myself a lifelong student for I will never cease to learn. Hare Krishna and Om Namashivaya. – Acharya Shrishthi Brahmarupa

Mahabharata Indian Art Series by Giampaolo Tomassetti

by Jana Draupadi Thevar

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The Vedic age was one of flamboyant beauty in all ways. It was a lifestyle that combined spirituality,  laws of dharma and art in equal proportions. From architecture to city planning, common speech to styles of everyday wear, everything was steeped in art. This is apparent from the elaborate, poetic descriptions of the Vedic lifestyle in various ancient scriptures.

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For example, the following excerpts were taken from the Bhagavata Purana. These describe the opulence of the legendary thousand-gated city of Dvaraka, where Sri Krishna reigned as king in the Dwapara Yuga age.

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sarvartu-sarva-vibhava-
puṇya-vṛkṣa-latāśramaiḥ
udyānopavanārāmair
vṛta-padmākara-śriyam

TRANSLATION

The city of Dvārakāpurī was filled with the opulences of all seasons. There were hermitages, orchards, flower gardens, parks and reservoirs of water breeding lotus flowers all over.

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sitātapatra-vyajanair upaskṛtaḥ
prasūna-varṣair abhivarṣitaḥ pathi
piśaṅga-vāsā vana-mālayā babhau
ghano yathārkoḍupa-cāpa-vaidyutaiḥ

TRANSLATION

As the Lord (Krishna) passed along the public road of Dvārakā, His head was protected from the sunshine by a white umbrella. White feathered fans moved in semicircles, and showers of flowers fell upon the road. His yellow garments and garlands of flowers made it appear as if a dark cloud were surrounded simultaneously by sun, moon, lightning and rainbows.

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Artist Giampaolo Tomassetti (spiritually initiated as Jnananjana Dasa) has captured the splendor of this era beautifully in his exquisite works of art. What a gift indeed to be blessed with a mind and hands that can create wonders like these. Words fail me as I try to praise this man’s stunning work. All I can say with a sigh is, this is true art.

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Here’s a video showing some of these works in progress:

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About Giampaolo Tomassetti

He was born on March 8, 1955, in Terni, Italy. From 1980 to 1987, he was a founding member of the International Vedic Art Academy, located at Villa Vrindavan in Italy. A number of his paintings appear in books published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. He has held about thirty exhibitions all around Italy. One of his great loves is painting frescoes and walls. He worked on the Mahabharata project for the last twelve years in Citta di Castello, Perugia, Italy.

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Finally, this is Villa Vrindavana, where Giampaolo’s paintings are currently being exhibited.

 

Update: As many of you have written to me asking details about these works of art, I’d like to clarify a couple of things. The artist, Jnananjana Dasa (Giampaolo Tomassetti), informed me that all these paintings (original pieces) were sold to the Museum of Spiritual Art (MOSA) at Villa Vrindavana, Italy and are currently exhibited there. There was a limited edition book with these prints for sale, but most websites selling it have updated me that copies have been sold out. I don’t have HD quality images of any of these paintings.

Jana Draupadi Thevar @ Shrishthi Brahmarupa

 

Related Links:

Bhakti Yoga Through the Art of Puja

Choosing a Mala: Tulasi, Rudraksha or Both?

Everything You Need to Know About Rudraksha

The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad (Full Text)

How to Know if Your Rudraksha Beads are Genuine

Choosing a Mala: Tulasi, Rudraksha or Both?

by Shrishthi Brahmarupa

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Hare Krishna and Om Namashivaya.

The reason why Sanathana Dharma (known to some as Hinduism) is not easily defined is because it’s not quite a religion. People who follow these paths come from all walks of life and have spiritual principles that come in all combinations. This in turn, reflects in the external paraphernalia they choose to adorn themselves with, including spiritual beads (Sanskrit: mala).

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Ask any person who claims to be a Hindu: what makes someone a Hindu? It’s not a question anyone can answer with absolute certainty and finality. Sanathana Dharma has no real boundaries that ‘disqualifies’ a follower of its varied paths.

Some Hindus are staunch worshipers of Shiva and only Shiva. Others will bow before none but Vishnu. Then there are people who connect with various deities, from Karthikeya to Ganesha to Durga. Our ISKCON friends chant Krishna’s names with every breath. And finally, there are people like me who can’t be categorized – I happily do regular archanais for every major Hindu deity, I go to both Catholic and Protestant churches, I like mosques, I’m an atheist and an omnist, and finally I’m everything and nothing. I can’t be bothered to consider what labels and limitations fit me – I’m too busy immersing myself in the unlimited wonders of the universal experience.

Tulasi or Rudraksha?

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I wear both. And more, including neem, sandalwood, spathikam (clear quartz) and navrattan (nine sacred gems). I even have Christian rosaries. Sometimes I use just one. At other times, I wear a few together.

Why choose? Your spiritual experience of the universe is only as limited as your mind – remember that.

Here are some facts to consider:

  • The foremost known Vedic scripture about rudraksha (the Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad) does not mention anywhere in it that wearers of rudraksha cannot wear tulasi beads.
  • Similarly, nowhere is it stated in any accepted Vaishnava-related Vedic scripture that the use of rudraksha is forbidden for Vaishnavas.

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I’ll leave these self-explanatory Vedic verses below for you to think about:

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Rudranam sankaras casmi.” (Translation: “Of all the Rudras, I am Lord Shiva.”)

~ Bhagavan Sri Krishna, Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10, Text 23.

Vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh.” (Translation: “Lord Sambhuh [Shiva] is the greatest of Vaishnavas.”)

~ Bhagavata Purana, SB 12.13.16.

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The highest universal powers don’t have issues with each other, yet we humans are arguing over wooden beads.

Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti“. ~ Rig Veda

(Translation: That which exists is One. The sages call It by various names.)

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Conclusion

Sanathana Dharma is not a limited concept and will never be. There is no such thing as “if you do X, you’re a proper Hindu and if you do Y you’re breaching the boundaries of Hinduism”.

Come on. We have cannibalistic Aghori sadhus in rudraksha, and tulasi-wearing Vaishnavas who won’t even consume garlic in keeping with their strict vows of a vegetarian sattvic diet. Who’s to say they’re right or wrong in their practices? Those paths have their scriptural backing too.

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That which is said to have good energy and positive vibrations (tulasi, rudraksha, Ganges water, Vibhuti or Bhasma, Gopi Chandan, prasada, etc.) will always remain purifying, sacred and beneficial to the wearer, regardless if they are used in combination with each other or alone.

In summary, wear rudraksha beads if you wish. Wear tulasi if you prefer that instead. Wear both if your heart so desires – neither Krishna, Shiva nor any authoritative figure of Sanathana Dharma has ever forbidden it.

~Loka samasta sukhino bhavantu~

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Related Links:

Everything You Need to Know About Rudraksha

The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad (Full Text)

How to Know if Your Rudraksha Beads are Genuine

Mahabharata Indian Art Series by Giampaolo Tomassetti

 

Bhakti Yoga Through The Art Of Puja (Part 3)

by Shrishthi Brahmarupa

Part 3: The Reasons Behind Everything We Do in Puja

How to Benefit from the Sacred Energy Exchange

Meditation 3

Remember that every offering used in puja will become energized in two ways:

1) The energy you send out into the universe and to the deities, in the form of love and devotion; and

2) The energy that returns to you in the form of blessings and positive vibrations.

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Hence, it’s important to use items of good quality, such as fresh flowers, fresh milk and an edible, cooking-grade puja oil. A transfer of energy takes place with each item you offer, so be aware of this when you purchase things for puja use.

Stale food, synthetic and processed items are energetically inferior and considered tamasic (possessing dark and negative qualities). For example, it’s spiritually more beneficial to offer whole dried turmeric than the factory-produced powdered version, and fresh milk instead of UHT recombined milk.

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Here are some explanations for the items, utensils and offerings used in puja:

Pictures and Statues

Some think it’s ridiculous to ‘pray’ to pictures and statues. Contrary to popular belief, followers of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) are not blindly worshipping idols and paintings of fantasy humanoid beings in fancy clothes and tons of jewellery.

It’s rather pointless to get agitated over the ramblings of people like Zakir Naik – the best defence is to get educated over why we do the things we do, and leave the simpletons to their own delusions. If we consider the sheer volume of Vedic spiritual scripture available to us, we really don’t have the time to entertain such mundane things.

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You can help educate others on the ways of Sanatana Dharma and the reasons we do the things we do:

1) The pictures and deities are representations of the various types of higher spiritual energies in the universe;

2) The pictures and deities are more for our benefit as mortals, so it’s simply an easier way to focus the mind on worship and communion – the gods, demigods, deities, elevated beings and spiritual masters who have attained Mahasamadhi are beyond this mundane material existence and are not confined to a material body like we humans are.

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Maha Vishnu, Srimad Bhagavatham Canto 1

Time and time again, we are confronted with ‘scientific evidence’ that we’re not the only living beings in this universe. The Vedic scriptures have confirmed this thousands of years ago, especially the first Canto of the Bhagavata Purana (Srimad Bhagavatham), which essentially is the Sanatana Dharma version of the book of Genesis. Mantras and prayer rituals help us connect with highly-elevated beings and request their help, in the form of spiritual guidance and blessings.

If you really think about it, it’s not such a shocking thing to accept. In such a vast, endless universe, why would we assume that we’re the only existing forms of life?

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Puja Oil

Pure cow’s ghee is the best oil for puja. Remember, the oil you use is what fuels the sacred fire of your puja (agni), and the quality of energy you receive in return will be affected by the oil you use. I strongly recommend against using factory-manufactured puja oils due to the chemical additives and inferior quality.

Puja is a very sacred spiritual act of summoning and merging with powerful universal energies, so it’s wise to use quality ingredients accordingly. If you can’t afford ghee, it’s perfectly fine to use any pure, edible vegetable oil.

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Flowers for Offering

When choosing flowers to offer to your deities and spiritual masters, don’t just grab the nearest thing on a stalk and pay for it. Envision what your ishta deva would like and make it a devotional, loving process. Won’t your Shakti look fabulous in that red rose garland? Wouldn’t Krishna just love this dew-fresh tulsi?

Make it personal and pour your love into everything you do for puja. That’s how you earn the favour of the higher powers and get the best positive vibrations in return.

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The best flowers for puja are all types of jasmine, roses, chrysanthemum and lotus. It’s highly beneficial to offer flowers that have natural fragrance and are white, yellow, orange, red or pink in color.

Certain flowers and leaves shouldn’t be offered to certain deities; for instance, tulsi should only be offered to Vishnu or Krishna, or placed in the hands of a Srimathi Radharani deity. Lord Shiva likes white flowers and bilva leaves, but shouldn’t be offered ketaki flowers (frangipani). Ganesha should be offered the sacred kusha (also known as darbha) grass. Durga, Lakshmi and avatars of goddesses in general may be offered fragrant, colored flowers (preferably yellow, orange, red and pink).

Why do we avoid offering certain flowers to specific deities? To make a very long story short, some items match the energies of the deities better, and some don’t. Even as human beings, we have our specfic likes and dislikes, favorites and things we hate, plus allergies to items that just don’t agree with our bodily energy. It’s a similar concept with deities, just on a deeper level.

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Fruits for Offering

Most sweet and juicy fruits can be offered during puja, as long as they’re fresh. It’s best not to offer pungent-smelling fruits like durian. Durga and her avatars may be offered large green limes in specific numbers, usually 9 or 27 – please check with your local pujari for more information.

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Preparing Food as Puja Offerings

Everything you offer to the deities and the universal energy during puja is a representation of your love and devotion in multiple material forms, such as various types of food.

To be able to cook foodstuff to be offered in puja is a great blessing indeed. Imagine being able to create an offering for the highest energies in the universe with your own two hands and skills, in your very own kitchen – you get to choose the ingredients with love and care, prepare them and blend them into exquisite flavors.

Cooking for the deities is therefore a highly personal and divine act, and one of the highest forms of love and devotion possible while one is in this temporary human form. If you decide to cook for puja, I assure you that it’ll be a very spiritually fulfilling and highly rewarding experience. Just remember to maintain cleanliness during food preparation; the saying that ‘cleanliness is godliness’ was not without reason. All food offered during puja must be sattvic (no meat, seafood, eggs, onions, garlic or mushrooms).

Also, food being prepared for puja shouldn’t be tasted before offering – it’s better to use less salt, sugar and spices when cooking, until experience enables you to decide on the correct measures.

Maintaining the Purity of Puja Utensils

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All utensils used for puja (plates, cups, spoons, wiping cloths, ect.) should be kept solely for that purpose to maintain their purity, energy-wise. It’s best to use serving ware made of brass or stainless steel.

Porcelain and glass are energetically inferior, but still better than plastic. Avoid having any form of plastic on the altar.

Disposing Used Puja Offerings (Organic)

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Don’t dispose items previously used for puja in the garbage, such as dried flowers or incense ash. These items still contain sacred energy from the puja and they’re considered to be prasada. Plants will benefit immensely from them, and they will thrive and grow beautifully when nourished by used puja offerings.

Disposing Used Puja Offerings (Food)

If food offered in puja (prasada) becomes spoiled for any reason, it should be buried or placed in running water. If the food is still edible but not fresh, it may be offered to animals. Please avoid food wastage at all costs.

Disposing Used Puja Offerings (Synthetic)

If flower garlands were tied with synthetic string, remove the string and dispose it in the trash as it’s not biodegradable. On our path of self-realization, we should strive to heighten our awareness in even the simplest daily tasks. Hence, we should take care to avoid damaging the environment.

I strongly advise you to avoid using anything synthetic for puja, as these materials are tamasic in nature and don’t absorb divine vibrations well. I also personally feel that disposing puja remnants as garbage is insulting to the deities – it’s like throwing a sacred gift away.

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Final Note: Puja in the Vedas

A reader asked me where in the four Vedas puja is mentioned. The simple answer is this: puja was never a separate part of Sanatana Dharma as a form of Bhakti Yoga. Per scriptures, divine worship is an essential part of life and shouldn’t be neglected.

Each Veda is divided into 4 parts – the Samhitas (which outlines the use of mantras), the Aranyakas (detailed instructions on how to conduct worship rituals and divine ceremonies), the Brahmanas (commentaries and explanations of Vedic rituals and worship ceremonies) and finally, the Upanishads (also known as Vedanta, or the ‘end parts of the Vedas’, and these generally discuss philosophy and meditation). In summary, the entire Vedas is interwoven with various aspects of puja.

Related Posts:

Bhakti Yoga through the Art of Puja (Part 1)

Bhakti Yoga through the Art of Puja (Part 2)

Everything You Need to Know about Rudraksha

The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad

How to Know if Your Rudraksha Beads are Genuine

Bhakti Yoga Through The Art Of Puja (Part 2)

by Shrishthi Brahmarupa

Part 2: How to Perform Simple Puja

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Most Indians are familiar with puja and would know how to perform a simple, basic puja at home (or anywhere, actually). If you’re new to this and would like to start, congratulations on taking this first step in Bhakti Yoga.

Puja can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. Remember, the most important aspects of puja are devotion and sincerity. Don’t worry about doing something wrong. As long as you perform puja with love and good intentions, your offerings will be accepted and you’ll receive the benefits of the ritual in the form of positive energy.

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Basic things you’ll need for puja:

An incense holder
A clean cloth for the altar
New cotton wick
A brass puja bell
A brass oil lamp
Pictures or statues of your deities of choice
Pictures of your spiritual masters / gurus
A container for water (for offering)
Oil for the lamp (ghee or any pure, edible vegetable oil)
Fresh flowers, leaves or fruits (all three, if possible)

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Additional items (optional):

A camphor holder
A frankincense holder
A container for water with a spoon (to purify your hands)
Plates for offering food (kept specifically for puja purposes)

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Method:

1. Shower. Always be freshly showered before having anything to do with puja, even if you’re just cleaning or setting up the altar. Purity on all levels is best when it comes to puja.
2. Clean the altar. If you don’t have an altar, a table covered with a clean, new cloth will do. If the altar was used previously for puja, remove any dried flowers, dried garlands, leftover incense ash and previously offered water. Dispose all organic material under a tree or plants. Any previously offered water should be consumed or poured on plants. It’s not necessary to throw away leftover oil in the lamp – it can be reused and replenished as needed.

A photo by Boris  Smokrovic. unsplash.com/photos/ZUDOdyNSWPg

3. Arrange your pictures and puja utensils. Every altar should ideally have a picture or statue of Ganesha, as he is the deity in charge of removing obstacles. Place Ganesha on the left, followed by the other deities to the right. If you have a two-tiered altar, you can place the pictures of your spiritual masters below the pictures of the deities; otherwise, place these to the sides. Place the incense holder, water container and bell on your altar, in front of the pictures. Note: You can easily make additional tiers on your altar using bricks, wooden blocks or books, and covering these with a cloth.
4. Decorate the altar and prepare your offerings. If you have fresh flowers or garlands, decorate the altar with these, in any style you like. Light the incense. Fill the water container up with clean drinking water or fresh milk. If you have sattvic vegetarian food or fruits you’d like to offer, arrange these on the altar on plates specifically purchased for puja. If the oil lamp is empty, refill it with fresh ghee (or vegetable oil). Trim a cotton wick to about 1 ½ to 2 inches in length, then lightly dip the edge you’re going to light into the oil. Squeeze the wick’s tip to remove excess oil, then place the whole wick into the lamp, with the edge of the wick sitting on the pointed rim of the lamp.

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5. Light the lamp to begin your puja. Ring the bell firmly for a few seconds; this is done to invite the devas to accept your offerings and dispel any negative energies within the space. If you feel comfortable enough, ring the bell using your left hand and perform aarathi with your right hand (with lit camphor placed in the camphor holder). Aarathi should be performed in large, circular motions three times, in a clockwise direction. Some people prefer to perform aarathi at the end of the puja, but I do mine at the beginning.
6. Recite mantras or pray silently. If you want to recite mantras, always start with a Ganesha mantra before anything else. After Ganesha, the mantras for the other deities should follow in this sequence, according to your chosen deities : Vishnu / Krishna, Shiva, Lakshmi, Durga, Muruga, and the rest. If you don’t know any mantras, it’s perfectly acceptable to pray silently, in your mind and heart, in any language. Offer your greetings and obeisances to the deities respectfully, and thank them for coming to grace your puja (never doubt this – once you ring the bell, they are energetically present at your altar). Mentally share any concerns you have and ask them for help or guidance. Once you have completed your prayers, thanks the deities for everything you’ve been given so far – always remember to have an attitude of gratitude.

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7. Meditate. Make sure the flame is ‘safe’ so as not to accidentally cause a fire when you’re not watching it. You may place it on a large metal tray to prevent stray sparks from touching the altar cloth. Once you’re sure the lamp is burning in a safe manner, meditate with your eyes closed for about 10 to 20 minutes. It’s best to sit on a pillow or mat, with your hands in chin mudra or in your lap. You may also do japa chanting with the aid of a rosary.
8. Conclude the puja. Once you’ve completed your meditation, silently ask for permission to end the puja. Then, put out the lamp using a flower (or use a twig to drown the wick and flame in the oil). If you have offered milk, water, fruits or food, you may now remove the items and transfer them to your regular cups and plates for consumption.

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Note: If you’d like to perform a more elaborate puja for a special reason, you may want to consider hiring a priest as they are trained extensively in complex Vedic rituals. It does not mean that a simple puja you do yourself is inferior – it’s just more practical due to the complexity of the rituals, especially those done for specific purposes.

Related Posts:

Bhakti Yoga through the Art of Puja (Part 3)

Everything You Need to Know about Rudraksha

The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad (Full Text)

How to Know if Your Rudraksha Beads are Genuine

Bhakti Yoga Through The Art Of Puja (Part 1)

by Acharya Shrishthi Brahmarupa

Part 1: Understanding the Art of Puja

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Note: This article may be a little long for today’s readers. However, if you wish to understand and explore the deeper spiritual meaning behind the practice of puja, I request that you read this article to the very end. One of my biggest challenges in writing about Sanatana Dharma (Hindusim) is trying to summarize vast amounts of information from Vedic scriptures and make content easy to understand for readers. Thank you for your time and patience. I hope you’ll be inspired to include puja as a part of your daily life and your personal journey on the path of Self-Realization.

An Introduction to Puja

Puja is a ritual of prayer or worship generally practiced by followers of Sanatana Dharma (better known in modern times as Hinduism). It is a form of Bhakti Yoga (the yogic path of devotional service and love). Puja may be done to honor and worship demigods, deities or any chosen manifestation of the sacred universal energy. It may also be performed to commemorate auspicious days or events.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Sri Krishna says this about Bhakti Yoga:

patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakti upahrtam
asnami prayatatmanah

Translation: If one offers Me, with love and devotion, a leaf, flower, fruit or water, I will accept it (Chapter 9, Verse 26).

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What’s the meaning of this verse? Simple: it’s easy to serve God or the universal energy through puja, as all one requires is a leaf, flower, fruit or water offered with sincerity, love and devotion.

Puja is complex on every level, even when performed in a simple manner. It is especially resplendent with spiritual meaning. Every gesture, utensil, item and offering involved in puja has a purpose. The rituals, depending on the type of puja, may be lengthy and complex, and may include various types of offerings such as flowers, incense, fruits, food, clothing, frankincense, sacred powders and dried herbs. A daily home puja may involve nothing more than a small altar, a picture of a chosen deity (ishta deva) and some modest offerings.

What is Bhakti Yoga?

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There are four paths of yoga, namely Raja Yoga (the yoga of mental and physical control), Jnana Yoga (the yoga of knowledge), Karma Yoga (the yoga of selfless action) and Bhakti Yoga (the yoga of devotional service). Each path represents a different approach to attain union with Brahman, a higher state of awareness or ultimate Self-Realization. Bhakti Yoga is the easiest of the four paths.

Is Puja Really Necessary?

Those who don’t understand the full spiritual significance of puja may question the practice or dismiss it altogether as unnecessary. It’s not uncommon to hear remarks along the lines of “If God is everywhere, why do we need to waste time with this ritual?” or “If God is the Almighty, why does He need these mortal offerings?”

These questions are valid. It’s always better to question something one does not understand – this is better than blind acceptance. One can only receive the right knowledge through questioning first, then subsequently seeking the answers.

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Why Do We Perform Puja?

Puja is done for many reasons, including these:

• It’s a way of sharing your love, joy and gratitude with the universe. Puja, in other words, is communion with the sacred universal energy. When you radiate these energies and corresponding thoughts, you attract equally positive vibrations back to you.
• It’s a method to communicate with higher powers and elevated beings, such as your chosen deities (ishta devas).
• You’re re-energising yourself and the surrounding spaces each time you perform puja. Think of it as a ‘spiritual reset’, to get rid of the negative energies you have accumulated through daily material life.
• The act of performing the ritual trains the mind to focus on communion with the universal energy.

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• The ritual develops mental discipline if you perform it regularly – it’s a manner of training the mind into a habit, so it becomes ready automatically when you merely think of performing puja.
• Puja helps ease the burden of the mind in times of stress, depression and sadness. Performing the ritual can be comforting to those facing mental distress.
• Puja helps you develop gratitude and appreciation. For instance, you may realize that you’re lucky to have food to offer during puja, and to be able to consume it later as prasada (blessed remnants). When you make offerings of flower garlands and leaves, you may realize how blessed you are to live in a place where plants are healthy and grow abundantly.

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• According to Vedic scriptures, fire (agni) is purifying in all ways. By lighting the lamp for puja, you are purifying the puja space, your home and yourself.
• The bronze bell that is used for puja eliminates negative energies through sound vibrations when it is rung. Good quality incense and frankincense act as air purifiers, can eliminate bacteria and act as natural insect repellent.

Related Posts:

Bhakti Yoga Through the Art of Puja (Part 2: How to Conduct Simple Puja)

Everything You Need to Know about Rudraksha

The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad

How to Know if Your Rudraksha Beads are Genuine

Part 3: How To Know If Your Rudraksha Beads Are Genuine

by Shrishthi Brahmarupa

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It’s not difficult to tell real Rudraksha beads (or seeds) from fake ones if you know what to look for. The best way to be sure, of course, is to pick fresh Rudraksha fruits and get the seeds out of them yourself. However, if you decide to purchase Rudraksha seeds (or have received them from someone), read the steps below to learn how to differentiate the genuine ones from the fakes.

Note: Remember, Rudraksha seeds must not be chemically treated, heated, dyed or painted as these damage the subtle spiritual vibrations of the seeds.

How to Know if Your Rudraksha Beads are Genuine

1. Weight. Real Rudraksha seeds feel heavier than they look. The weight of the seed is focused at the core. Roll it around in your palm and you’ll be able to feel this. Fake beads carved from wood are light and have no noticeable core weight.

2. They sink in water. Genuine Rudraksha beads always sink in water. If they float, they’re likely fake. In rare circumstances, genuine beads treated with strong chemicals may also float (this is due to damage done by the chemicals; it’s best not to use these beads).

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3. Hair-like fibres. Look very closely at your Rudraksha seeds. Genuine Rudraksha beads have a ‘thorny’ surface, and between the thorns you should be able to see some hair-like fibres. These come from the dried pulp of the fresh fruit. It’s rare for anyone to be able to completely scrub away the pulp from the seed, so if the seed looks too ‘clean’, it may be fake.

4. Color. Rudrakshas naturally come in creamy-white, yellow, dark red and black. Remember that drying darkens the seeds, so it’s natural to see shades of dark gold, dark brown, reddish browns and brown-black. Beware of odd or bright colors like chilli red, orange and purple. The seeds may be genuine, but coated with dye or paint.

5. Shallow grooves and ‘chunky’ thorns. The uniqueness of Rudraksha lies mainly in the way the surface thorns are formed. These are usually fine, but irregular in a way that makes it very difficult for human hands to replicate (by carving). Use your judgement when it comes to this; natural thorns are almost impossible to copy perfectly.

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5. Shape. Rudraksha seeds are not always round, especially those with more than five faces, but the seeds generally have a round-oval shape. Familiarize yourself with Bhadraksha seeds, so you can recognize and avoid them (Bhadraksha seeds should not be worn as they don’t have the right spiritual vibrations).

6. Energy and vibration. Some people are sensitive enough to feel the spiritual energy and vibrations emitted by Rudraksha seeds. Try meditating with the seed (or seeds) in the palms of your hands. Rudraksha seeds radiate positive, grounding, serious vibrations. The energy can feel like a human pulse. With deeper spiritual practice, you’ll be able to feel these vibrations.

7. Number of faces (mukhi). Among the most expensive Rudraksha beads sold commercially are the one-faced (ekmukhi) and certain other types claimed to be ‘rare’ by the sellers. Keep the following in mind: one-faced Rudraksha seeds are EXTREMELY rare, so there are high chances of you purchasing an expertly-made fake seed. Rudraksha trees themselves are not very common these days, and the most trees produce the five-faced seeds. The more faces a bead has, the higher your chances of being cheated. Besides, if you read the Upanishad, even the more common seeds (three to nine faces) give great spiritual benedictions and blessings, so why risk it? So-called ‘Rudraksha experts’ have been known to insert metal pieces into fake seeds to make them react with magnets, copper and so forth. This is Kali Yuga, the age of tamasic values and corruption, so be careful when you make decisions and be wary of claims that are too good to be true.

 

See Also:

Part 1: Everything You Need To Know About Rudraksha

Part 2: The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad (Full Text)

Mahabharata Indian Art Series by Giampaolo Tomassetti

Part 2: The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad (Full Text)

The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad

(Original source: the Sama Veda)

 

English translation by Shrishthi Brahmarupa

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1. Sage Bhusunda (Sanatkumara) asked Lord Kalagni Rudra: “What is the origin of the Rudraksha seeds, and what are the effects of wearing them?”

2. Lord Kalagni Rudra answered:

3. “When, in order to destroy the Tripura demons, I closed My eyes, tears fell from them to the ground and became Rudrakshas for the benefit of all.”

4. “Merely uttering their name (Rudraksha) produces the benefit of giving 10 cows in charity. The seeing and handling of them produces twice the said effect. I am unable to give it any higher praise.”

5. Sage Bhusunda asked: “Where do Rudrakshas come from? What are their names? How are they to be worn by men? How many faces do they have? What are the mantras to be chanted when wearing Rudraksha?”

6. Lord Kalagni Rudra answered: “I closed My eyes for a period of a thousand divine years. From My closed eyes, tears fell down on the earth. These drops became the great Rudraksha trees of the plant kingdom for the purpose of blessing My devotees.”

7. “The wearing of Rudraksha removes the sins of the devotees committed during the day and night. Seeing it (Rudraksha) produces one lakh of virtues, and handling it, one crore. The wearing of it by man results in one hundred crores of virtues, the wearing and making japa (chanting) beads of it results in one hundred million crores of virtues.”

8. “Rudraksha seeds which are as big in size as Amla fruits are the best. Rudraksha seeds which are the size of Badari fruits are declared by the wise to be second-best. The third-best seeds are the size of Bengal grams. Thus are My instructions.”

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9. “By the command of Shiva the trees have sprung up from the earth in four classes, namely, Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra, and each type (Rudraksha) brings benefit to its own order.”

10. “The white Rudraksha seeds are called Brahmana beads, the red ones the Kshatriya beads, the yellowish ones the Vaisya beads and black ones, Sudra beads. The Brahmanas should wear the white ones, the Kshatriya the red ones, the Vaisya the yellowish ones and the Sudras the black ones.”

11. “The ideal bead is that which is well-shaped, well-sized and has thorns. One should reject six kinds, namely those that are damaged by worms, broken, without thorns, diseased, produces a hollow sound or is not well-shaped.”

12. “The best type of Rudraksha is that which has a natural hole. One which has a hole made by man is secondary in quality.”

13. “The wise should wear on his body and limbs a garland of beads that are well-formed and of a good size, strung on a white silk or cotton thread.”

14. “The bead that produces a golden colour when tested against a rubbing stone is the best, and this should be worn by worshippers of Shiva.”

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15. “One should wear a single Rudraksha in the tuft of his hair, 300 on the head. He should make a garland of 36 for his neck, of 16 for each arm, and of 12 for each wrist. He should wear 500 on his shoulders. One should make a garland of 108 in the form of the sacred thread (Yajnopavita).”

16. “One should suspend from his shoulders a garland of beads consisting of two or three, five or seven rounds. He may wear the same on the head, on and around the ears, neck, arms, wrists, and across the shoulders like the sacred thread. He should wear it especially around the waist.”

17. “One should always wear Rudraksha, regardless if one sleeps or eats.”

18. “The wearing of 300 is said to be the lowest; of 500 ordinary, and of 1000 the best.”

19. “He should wear it on the crown, chanting the mantra ‘Isana’; on the shoulders Tatpurusha’; on the neck and against the heart ‘Aghora’. Recite the Aghora Bija Mantra while putting it on the wrists. One should wear a garland of 50 around the waist while chanting the Vyomavyapi mantra. He should wear, in all the places related to sense organs, a garland of five or seven beads, chanting the Panchabrahman and its supplementary mantra.”

20. Sage Bhusunda then addressed Lord Kalagni Rudra: “Tell me about the different kinds of Rudrakshas, their nature, the result of wearing them, and also about their different faces (mukhis). Tell me about those that drive out evils and those that give desired objects.”

21. Lord Kalagni Rudra answered: “The following are the slokas pertaining to these.”

22. “The one-faced Rudraksha represents the Supreme Reality. One who wears it with completely controlled senses merges with the Supreme Reality.”

23. “The two-faced one, O best of sages, represents Ardhanarisvara (the form of Shiva united with Shakti). One attains the grace of Ardhanarisvara by wearing this bead.”

24. “The three-faced bead represents the three sacred fires. Agni, the fire god, becomes pleased with him who wears this.”

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25. “The four-faced Rudraksha represents the four-faced god, which is Brahma. Brahma becomes ever pleased with him who wears this.”

26. “The five-faced Rudraksha represents Panchabrahman, the five-faced form of Shiva (Sadyojata to Isana). The wearer of this bead attains the grace of Panchabrahman and relieves himself of the sin of homicide.”

27. “The six-faced Rudraksha has Kartikeya (Muruga) and Ganesha as its presiding deities. The wearer of this Rudraksha will enjoy great wealth and very good health. One should wear it to heighten intellect.”

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28. “The seven-faced Rudraksha has the Saptamatrikas (seven mother goddesses or deva shaktis) as presiding deities. The wearer of this Rudraksha will enjoy great wealth and very good health. It blesses the wearer with purity and mental clarity.”

29. “The eight-faced Rudraksha has the Ashtamatrikas as its presiding deities, as well as the goddess Ganga. It also represents the eight-fold form of nature (the five elements plus mind, ego, and matter) known as the eight Vasus. The wearer of this bead will attain the grace of all the above gods and goddesses, and become truthful in nature.”

30. “The nine-faced Rudraksha has the nine Shaktis as its presiding deities. The mere wearing of it pleases the nine Shaktis.”

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31. “The ten-faced Rudraksha represents the ten forms of Yama. Merely looking at it will decrease sins – there is no doubt in this.”

32. “The eleven-faced Rudraksha has the eleven forms of Rudra as its presiding Deities. The deities increase the prosperity of the wearer.”

33. “The twelve-faced Rudraksha represents Maha Vishnu and also the twelve Adityas. The wearer of it is accordingly blessed.”

34. “The thirteen-faced Rudraksha has Kamadeva as its presiding deity. The wearer of it attains the grace of Kamadeva in achieving all that he desires.”

35. “The fourteen-faced Rudraksha originates from the eye of Rudra (a form of Shiva). It blesses the wearer with good health and aids in the elimination of all diseases.”

36. “The wearer of Rudraksha should avoid prohibited food such as liquor, flesh of the boar, onion and garlic.”

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37. “By wearing Rudrakshas during eclipses, Vishusankranti (the end of Mina and beginning of Mesha Masa), new moon, full moon and other such auspicious days, one is freed of all sins.”

38. “The root of the Rudraksha tree is Brahma, the fibre of it is Vishnu, the top is Rudra and the fruits are all the Devas.”

39. Sage Sanatkumara (Bhusunda) asked Lord Kalagnirudra: “O Lord! Tell me the rules for wearing Rudraksha beads.” At that time, Nidagha, Jadabharata, Dattatreya, Katyayana, Bharadvaja, Kapila, Vasishtha and Pippalada all came before Lord Kalagnirudra.”

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40. Lord Kalagnirudra asked them, “Why have you all come here?”

41. They replied: “We wish to hear the rules of wearing Rudraksha beads.”

42. Lord Kalagnirudra said: “From the eye of Rudra, the Rudrakshas have come forth. Sadashiva (Rudra) closed His eye of destruction, and from that eye came forth the Rudrakshas.”

43. “The mere utterance of the name ‘Rudraksha’ brings forth the spiritual benefit of 10 cows given in charity. The Rudrakshas have as much virtue as that of the bright Bhasma.”

44. “By handling Rudraksha, and by the mere wearing of it, one acquires the spiritual benefit of 2000 cows given in charity. Wearing Rudraksha on the earlobes will result in the benefit of 11,000 cows given in charity, and the wearer will attain the spiritual state of the eleven forms of Rudra. Wearing Rudraksha on the head brings forth the benefit of one crore of cows given in charity. Of all the places on the human body, the benefits of wearing the beads on the earlobes is beyond speech to describe,” replied the Lord.

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45. “He who studies this Upanishad daily, regardless if he is a boy or youth, becomes great. He acquires the blessings to become a universal guru and teacher of mantras.”

46. “One should perform fire sacrifice (homa) and worship (puja or archana) while reciting this Upanishad.”

47. “One should tie a single Rudraksha, received from a spiritual master or Guru, on the neck, right arm or in the tuft of his hair. This Rudraksha is called Mrityutaraka or ‘crosser of death’ (liberation from death).”

48. “Even the gift of the Earth surrounded by the seven continents is not sufficient to pay dakshina (spiritual fee) to that Guru. The gift of a cow, given to that Guru with sincerity, is appropriate as a spiritual fee.”

49. “A Brahmana who recites this Upanishad in the evening purges himself of the sins committed during the day. Recitation in the noon removes the sin committed over six births. The study of this Upanishad in the morning and evening removes the sins accumulated during many births; this action also brings forth the spiritual benefit of six thousand lakhs of Gayatri Mantra japa (chanting). He also purifies himself of the sin of killing a Brahmana, of tasting liquor, of the theft of gold and of intercourse with his guru’s wife.”

50. “He gets the benefit of bathing in all the holy waters. He becomes freed from the sin of associating with fallen and corrupted men. He becomes the sanctifier of 100,000 generations of his lineage, and he attains the spiritual state (Sayujya) of Shiva. He never returns to this world, he never returns. Om, Truth.

~Thus ends the Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad, as included in the Sama Veda.~

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See Also:

Part 1: Everything You Need to Know About Rudraksha

Part 3: How To Know If Your Rudraksha Beads Are Genuine

Mahabharata Indian Art Series by Giampaolo Tomassetti

Part 1: Everything You Need To Know About Rudraksha

by Shrishthi Brahmarupa

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Most people of Indian ethnicity are familiar with Rudraksha beads (or seeds), especially those with a strong inclination towards spirituality. However, there is much confusion about how or when to use Rudraksha, what type to buy and so forth. What color Rudraksha beads are best? Where does one obtain genuine Rudraksha beads? What are the benefits of wearing Rudraksha? Are there negative consequences if Rudraksha beads are used wrongly? Is information about Rudraksha mentioned in any particular Upanishad?

My Personal Experience

Edited
Gardening at Madurai Meenakshi Ashram, India (January 2017). These are Rudraksha beads I purchased at the Chinmaya Mission, Rishikesh.

I’d always wanted to use Rudraksha, but like most others I didn’t have enough information on the benefits or how to use them. I didn’t know if I could wear them ‘wrongly’ and incur the wrath of Shiva or some other deity. I didn’t know if women could wear them through menstrual cycles. I didn’t know if they could be worn to funerals, auspicious ceremonies or during sex. In short, I didn’t know anything about Rudraksha.

So me being me, what did I do? I embarked on a very serious, self-inflicted spiritual search to learn everything I could about Rudraksha. To make a long story short, I dug into Vedic scriptures, spoke to my gurus and went in search of a real-life Rudraksha tree.

Courtesy of my sister, we found a fully-grown Rudraksha tree, right here in Malaysia (I’ve been since told that there are more, though hidden in rural areas). I’ll never forget the sight; it was majestic and exuded a wonderful, calming energy, not dissimilar to that of a stone Shivalinga. I was ecstatic and moved at the same time, as I considered it a special blessing from Shiva for me to have had such a profound experience smack in the midst of Kali Yuga. I harvested my own Rudraksha beads from the bright blue fruits, peeled and scrubbed away the pulp, then dried them. Among the last few steps were soaking the seeds in milk and oiling them for preservation. I gave five to Agastya, my best yoga student, and kept the remaining ones for myself.

Here, I’ll share what I’ve learned about the spiritual vibrations and uses of Rudraksha, based on the Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad. May you gain the full spiritual benefits of wearing these sacred beads, and the blessing of Lord Kalagni Rudra himself. Har har Mahadev!

Note: For the second part of this article, please see Part 2: The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad.

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The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad

There are varying pieces of information about the so-called ‘right’ way to choose and wear Rudraksha, and a string of supposed disasters than can happen by wearing the beads ‘wrongly’. The way I look at it, why get misled by the claims of mere mortals when the words of Shiva Himself are available for all to study? The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad is there for all to read and make their own decisions, based on Shiva’s clear and direct instructions.

This Upanishad was originally written in Sanskrit and is part of the Sama Veda. It makes up one of the 108 Upanishadic scriptures and is in the form of a profound conversation between Lord Shiva (referred to as Lord Kalagni Rudra in this scripture) and the revered sage Sanatkumara (sage Bhusunda).

The Upanishad begins with an invocation to Brahman, the Supreme Reality for the well-being of the physical body, the prana (life force), and speech. It concludes beautifully with a prayer of peace. The sage Sanatkumara (Bhusunda) asks Lord Kalagni Rudra various questions about Rudraksha beads, including their origins, spiritual properties, how to wear them and the benefits of wearing them.

If you have genuine interest in the spiritual benefits of wearing Rudraksha, I highly recommend that you study this Upanishad. I’m a firm believer that spiritual guidance or knowledge should always come from legitimate sources, which equates to:

  • (a) the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, and;
  • (b) teachings contained within the vast array of Vedic scriptures, plus
  • (c) some basic common sense to assimilate the knowledge received (in other words, you are your own teacher).

I have included the full English translation of the Upanishad here. This is a version I have edited only for language clarity. For the original version in the Sanskrit Devanagari script, please refer to this Upanishad within the Sama Veda.

Summary: Benefits of Rudraksha Beads and How to Wear Them

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Once again, I strongly recommend that you read the Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad for your own spiritual benefit. It’s surprisingly concise as far as Vedic scriptures go and you should be able to complete it within 10 to 15 minutes.

However, if you’re pressed for time, here’s a summary on the important parts:

  • The five-faced Rudraksha (panchmukhi) may be worn by everyone for overall spiritual well-being. In the Upanishad, Lord Kalagni Rudra describes the benefits of the one-faced to the fourteen-faced type of beads in great detail. However, the five-faced beads have general positive vibrations which will suit all users. Lord Kalagni Rudra says, “The five-faced Rudraksha represents Panchabrahman, the five-faced form of Shiva (Sadyojata to Isana). The wearer of this bead attains the grace of Panchabrahman and relieves himself of the sin of homicide.”shiva
  • You can choose the type of benefits you want according to the number of faces on the beads. For instance, the wearer of a three-faced Rudraksha obtains the blessings of Agni for the three types of sacred fires.
  • Seeing, handling and uttering the word ‘Rudraksha’ results in amazing spiritual benefits and blessings. Read the Upanishad for full details.
  • The recommended colors for Rudraksha beads are white, yellow, red and black. I find that the red and black are the most common. Do note that fresh Rudraksha seeds will darken considerably after drying, and this is normal. For instance, red seeds will darken to a deep brown. Also, be wary of ‘painted’ or dyed seeds. The best beads are those that are not treated with chemicals, heat or paints.
  • Always choose beads that are well-shaped and undamaged. Broken, cracked, misshapen seeds or those damaged by worms cannot be used.
  • The best type (quality) of Rudraksha beads have a natural hole. According to the Upanishad, a bead which has a man-made hole is secondary in quality, so wear the best type you can realistically obtain.
  • Rudraksha beads are best strung on white silk or cotton thread. Some gurus have also said that gold and silver wire are okay to use, and generally these metals are good conductors of spiritual vibrations. However, I believe that with this particular piece of advice, Lord Kalagni Rudra is teaching us that simplicity and humility is all you need to gain even the highest spiritual benefits.thread-848501_640
  • There is no ‘incorrect’ way to use Rudraksha. There are no ill-effects of wearing any type of Rudraksha. Nowhere in the Upanishad does Lord Kalagni Rudra mention any negative consequences of wearing Rudraksha. Rather, the Upanishad focuses on the various types of positive effects exuded by the beads; it provides enough information for one to personally decide on the type he or she needs most.
  • No restrictions are mentioned for the use of Rudraksha during menstruation. A woman’s bodily energy field changes during the menstruation cycle. The effects vary from person to person, so women are recommended to make their own decisions based on their individual bodily energy during menstruation. I personally find that Rudraksha has a calming, grounding effect on me during my periods.
  • Wearers of Rudraksha are recommended to be vegetarian. There is no mention of any ill-effects of wearing Rudraksha as a non-vegetarian. However, bearing in mind the cyclical flow of Rudraksha’s energy in the form of a mala (rosary), it is best to refrain from non-vegetarian food as much as possible. Rudraksha amplifies one’s own bodily energy and vibrations, and as the consumption of meat is highly tamasic, it would be wise to reduce the consumption of non-vegetarian food and eventually cease it altogether.

Part 2: The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad (Full Text)

Part 3: How To Know If Your Rudraksha Beads Are Genuine