Tag Archives: sanatana dharma

Mahabharata Indian Art Series by Giampaolo Tomassetti

by Jana 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 Thevar @ Princess Draupadi

 

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 Jana Thevar

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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 1)

by Jana Thevar

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

Five Main Benefits Of Traditional Hatha Yoga

by Jana Thevar

Everyone seems to be into yoga these days. It’s also getting more and more confusing for those looking to get started in yoga due to all the ‘variations’. So what’s the big deal about it? Is it just another exercise fad? Does it really work, and if so, how?

Hatha Yoga – A Complete System of Well-Being

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Traditional (or classical) hatha yoga is a complete health solution – that’s the secret to why it’s so effective. True health and well-being must extend to all aspects of life. For instance, person X may look amazingly slim and fit. However, if person X also has irregular sleeping patterns, high stress levels and inadequate nutrition due to constant dieting, these imbalances will eventually lead to one health disaster after another. All bodily systems must work together in harmony for a person to be considered truly healthy.

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Traditional hatha yoga is far more than just exercise. When practised correctly, it is a way of life. According to Swami Vishnudevananda, the core of traditional hatha yoga is made up of five aspects: Proper Exercise, Proper Breathing, Proper Diet, Proper Relaxation and Positive Thinking and Meditation. When yoga is practised this way, with the corresponding yogic diet and lifestyle changes, various diseases are eliminated and prevented. The body and mind become youthful and energetic, and the yoga practitioner’s whole being is infused with positive spiritual vibrations.

Related Post: Stretching Safely for Complete Beginners

Five Main Benefits of Traditional Hatha Yoga

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1. It can be practised by almost anyone. Most people (including senior citizens, children and pregnant women) can practise hatha yoga safely. Even in most cases of serious disability, injury or illness, hatha yoga asanas (poses) can be modified to suit the practitioner’s ability.

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2. It is convenient and easy to practise. All you need for a session of hatha yoga is a yoga mat (or thick cloth) and a little space. This eliminates the need for a gym membership and complicated exercise equipment.

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3. It is a safe form of exercise. Classical (or traditional) Hatha Yoga is gentle with no strenuous or jerky movements. Student are encouraged to go at their own pace and to never over-stretch or over-exert the body in any way. If the student is struggling with balance or flexibility, props like chairs and foam blocks can be used until the student gains more strength and control.

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4. The health benefits show up quickly. The physical, mental and spiritual changes that come from the practise of yoga can manifest in as little as two weeks of consistent, disciplined practise. The early signs of positive health changes include a feeling of lightness and inner peace. Lethargy and insomnia are progressively cured, along with various bodily aches and pains. Persistent conditions like sciatica, constipation, back pain, shoulder stiffness and urinary tract infections show tremendous improvement within a matter of days.

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5. The benefits are backed up by Vedic scriptures. From the Patanjali sutras to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Bhagavad Gita, numerous Vedic scriptures consistently back up the fact that the practise of yoga has immense health and spiritual benefits.

Related Post: Stretching Safely for Complete Beginners

 

Part 2: The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad (Full Text)

The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad

(Original source: the Sama Veda)

 

English translation by Jana Thevar

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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