Tag Archives: shrishthi brahmarupa

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

 

Blue Butterfly Spiced Milk

by Princess Draupadi

According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, fresh milk is a highly recommended food for hatha yogis. This 15th-century yoga manual by Swami Svatmarama praises milk as a wholesome, nourishing food and states that it is an essential part of a sattvic yogic diet.

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Understandably, unethical dairy farming methods are a huge concern these days. I usually get my supply from small local dairy farms or ISKCON centers (ISKCON cows are protected for life and never slaughtered) to ensure that the least cruelty is involved. If you can get ahimsa milk where you live, fantastic! For a vegan version of this drink,  see the notes within the recipe below.

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Spiced milk (Hindi: masala doodh) is a common beverage in India. The spices in this recipe impart fragrance, flavor and medicinal properties to the milk, as well as help in aiding digestion.

It just so happens that my favorite color is blue and my good friend, Alex Lee, has a Clitoria Ternatea flower farm in Australia. Alex provided me with a sachet of her organic, all-natural Blue Butterfly powder, and this is my first attempt at using it in my cooking. This flower is commonly known as bunga telang in Malay, and it’s popular in Peranakan cuisine. The plant is a creeper, and pretty easy to grow in a tropical climate.

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As a kid, I saw Luke Skywalker drinking blue milk in Star Wars, and I’ve wanted to drink it ever since. There you go, an idea to get your kids to drink more milk – actual dairy or a quality vegan substitute, whichever your choice may be.

Here’s a simple recipe for spiced milk. I consume this almost daily before bedtime. You can vary the spices if you wish, or add a pinch of saffron. This beverage makes an excellent and nourishing meal substitute, especially at night.

Blue Butterfly Spiced Milk

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • ½ tsp Blue Butterfly powder (mix with 2 tablespoons warm water)
  • 500ml fresh cow’s milk (or a vegan milk substitute)
  • 3-4 cardamom pods
  • 1-2 whole dried cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 small springs of Indian holy basil (tulsi)
  • ½ tsp organic chia seeds
  • Honey or jaggery to taste (optional)

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Method:

1) Pour the milk into a sturdy pot. Add in all dried spices and stir well. Bring the milk to boil on medium heat, stirring regularly. Milk burns easily, so stir briskly and well, scraping the bottom of your pot.

2) When the milk comes to a rolling boil, stir well for 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat. Allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes. (If you wish to sweeten the milk, allow the milk to cool for 10 minutes before adding the honey or jaggery, then stir well).

3) Add the Blue Butterfly powder solution to the milk. Stir briskly until the color is uniform.

4) Pour the milk into serving glasses or mugs. Add the springs of holy basil (one per glass), ensuring that the herb is at least partially submerged in the milk – this helps the Ayurvedic medicinal properties of the leaves to steep into the milk. Garnish with the chia seeds and serve hot.

Vegan variation: To make a vegan version of this recipe, simply substitute the cow’s milk with any vegan milk of your choice. Also, when using vegan milk, do not allow the liquid to boil – simply heat the vegan milk up, then turn off the heat when it’s close to boiling point. The best vegan milks to use for this recipe are soy, cashew, oat, almond and coconut. 

Related Links:

My Blue Tea – Blue Butterfly Flower Powder

Kitchiri, the Best Sattvic Detox Food

Index of Articles

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

Healing And Rejuvenation With Abhyanga

by Princess Draupadi

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Traditional Ayurvedic oil massage, known as abhyanga, has been practiced in India for centuries. A good-quality vegetable oil is massaged into the whole body and left on for a few minutes, than cleaned off in the shower. This simple practice has numerous amazing health benefits. The ancient Vedic health treatise, the Charaka Samhita, says this about abhyanga:

“The body of one who performs oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries or strenuous work. By having oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.” – (Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, verses 88 – 89)

If you find yourself suffering from the effects of stress, aging, pollution and an unbalanced lifestyle, abhyanga will do wonders for you. The scriptures recommend that abhyanga be done daily, preferably in the morning. However, I find that a weekly or even monthly session gives wonderful results. It can be a little messy, but it’s well worth the effort.

Benefits of Abhyanga:

  • Keeps the body healthy, toned and youthful
  • Helps eliminate accumulated toxins
  • Improves blood flow
  • Cures stress-related problems
  • Promotes abundant and luxurious hair growth
  • Improves digestion
  • Reduces body odour
  • Helps heal skin damage (i.e. from eczema, psoriasis and acne)
  • Restores balance to bodily functions

How to Perform Abhyanga at Home

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Things You’ll Need:

  • ½ cup of good-quality vegetable oil, preferably cold-pressed and organic (recommended oils: sesame, coconut or olive oil)
  • 2 – 3 old towels (kept specifically for this purpose)
  • A pair of old socks or flip-flops with good sole traction
  • 5-8 heaped teaspoons of chickpea flour (also known as gram flour)

Method:

1. Pick an appropriate spot to perform abhyanga. It should be comfortably warm and free of distractions, such as pets and children. Bear in mind that once you start abhyanga, you’ll be unable to do anything else until the oil is rinsed off in the shower, so plan in advance. You may play some relaxing music if you wish.
2. Put the chickpea flour into a bowl and add enough water to make a thick paste. Stir well to remove lumps. Leave this paste near your shower area.
3. Warm the oil slightly, taking care not to burn it. The safest way is to put the oil in a metal container, then place the container in a larger bowl filled with hot water for a few minutes. Place the warmed oil near your designated abhyanga area. Note: NEVER microwave the oil; microwaving damages the delicate healing botanical properties, and can be very dangerous if the oil heats unevenly.
4. You may have a quick, warm shower with plain water before abhyanga if you wish. I personally do this to remove dust and sweat. If you do have a shower, dab your skin dry before beginning the massage.
5. Lay one of the old towels down on the floor. Undress and sit comfortably on the towel. Dip your fingers into the warmed oil and start the massage, beginning at the crown of your head and moving down your body, eventually ending at the soles of your feet. Take your time – abhyanga should be performed leisurely and lovingly for best results. Use generous amounts of oil.
7. Use gentle but firm pressure, moving in circular motions across the scalp. Switch to long, firm strokes once you get to the neck, shoulders, arms and legs. The stomach should be massaged with firm, clockwise strokes – this greatly aids digestion. Massage every inch of your skin, paying particular attention to joints, chakra centres, the fingers and toes as well as the spaces between them. When massaging the face, avoid the eye area (oil may irritate sensitive eyes).
8. Once you’ve covered all parts of your body, sit in a comfortable position and meditate for about 5 to 10 minutes. Relax and internally observe the new flow of positive energy. Envision your body regenerating youthful, new tissues and eliminating accumulated toxins. Maintain a gentle smile on your face.

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9. Complete your meditation with your palms pressed together and a personal prayer of gratitude to the Universe. I always end my meditation by reciting the Shanthi mantra. Then, using the spare towel, gently but thoroughly wipe all traces of oil off your body. Wipe your feet and toes well to minimise slipping.
10. Put on the socks (or flip flops) and head to the shower. Wet yourself thoroughly, then use the chickpea flour paste to clean yourself, the same way you would with soap. Give your body a good scrub with the paste, then rinse off and towel dry. If you have long hair, you may need an additional amount of chickpea paste to get the oil out.
11. Gently towel dry after your shower and wear loose-fitting cotton clothing. Sit (or lie down) and relax for at least 10 minutes. You may use some music or sip some herbal tea if you wish.

Notes:

  • Make sure the vegetable oil used is of good quality and cooking-grade. Baby oil is unsuitable for abhyanga (it is made of mineral oil, which is a petroleum derivate and has no Ayurvedic medicinal value)
  • Take extra precautions to prevent slipping and accidents, especially in the bathroom.
  • Don’t use soap to wash off the oil – you have just infused your skin with the precious rejuvenating properties of a natural oil, and we don’t want to ruin that with chemicals immediately after. Chickpea flour paste is sufficient to soak up and remove any excess oil; a very thin film of oil left over after showering is highly beneficial. If you prefer to remove all traces of oiliness completely, prepare more chickpea paste for your shower after abhyanga.
  • Abhyanga should be done in a warm room. The shower water should be warm as well. This ensures muscles stay warm and aids circulation, as well as enhances the effects of the massage. If you’re unable to reach all parts of your back, it’s perfectly fine to get someone’s help or use an oiled massaging aid.
  • You may play some relaxing music if you wish.