Thursday, April 28, 2011

'echchcil' ...

Now I have to talk about a concept that has no parallel and therefore I don't find a term for it in English. The nearest term is 'defile'.
It is called uchchishtam in samskrit and echchil in Tamil.
Though echchcil means saliva in English the whole concept of echchil is not there. Also some people explain it saying this is just good hygiene, but it is not entirely true!
When you sip a glass of water as your mouth comes in contact with the cup the water in it becomes echchil. It is then unfit for others to drink.... mmmm … actually for you too! (That is because in the previous post we saw that “what remains when food is put in waster should not come back to the plate” - this is something like that.) This cup needs to be washed before it can be reused.
You are eating and wanting a food item from a vessel reach out for it on the table and serve yourself.... well that vessel just now became echchil. Others cant not consume it. In row of people eating you get up and leave and all the food items in that row in every plate... it just became echchil.
Till one goes and washes his hands, legs upto knee and fore limbs up-to elbow; then does acamana he is not pure. He is …. yes, you guessed it right, echchil. Till then anyone who touches him also becomes echchil; they will have to wash themselves and do acamana.

Monday, April 25, 2011


{ I find that this post written days ago has escaped publishing by the blogger demon! :-) hence.....}

After the rice is served some water is taken in the right palm and letting it leak through fingers the plate is circumambulated clockwise and the rice is sprinkles with the remnant. Doing what is called paricheshanam is kula acara -not applicable universally. In this case the water for the three circumambulations (pradakshina in samskrit) must be taken separately. Another person should pour a little water in your hand and you partake it. Taking little rice - mixed with ghee, if you are used to taking ghee with food- without touching the teeth the rice is swallowed five times one each for each prana. This is what is called prana agnihotram. Again a little water poured by another person is partaken. At last, is one free after this to eat the rest of the food? Just a minute, a little food is placed on the ground to the right side as bali for yama, chitragupta, and prethas. (chitra bali). This is done if vaishvadevam is not been practiced.
Ok, now you can eat, (at last!) but there are some do's and dont's. (I knew it!)

Food should not scattered on the ground around the plate. One should not comment on the food. 'Annam na nindhyath' says the upanishad. One should not talk while eating. If one does so his lifetime will be shortened. An exception has been made for the gruhasta who sits with others to eat. He has to see other's plates and give suitable instructions to the wife.

One should take just what his mouth will hold. Once food is put in the mouth it should not come back to the plate. Therefore one should not take something take a bite off it and return it to the plate. Sound should not be made while drinking or eating. While a group of persons are eating together one should not get up and leave. If anyone does so, all should leave says the sastras. If there is a compulsion to leave one can split the row with a little water and then leave.

Most of these are followed as etiquette.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ok, so can we now sit down to eat? One Might wonder how this becomes a karma. Eating food is called prana agnihotram. Agni is not just the fie that we can see. It is also present in several places in various subtle forms. The stomach is one such place. The food put there is digested and assimilated and one might stretch his imagination and call it fire!
One should always clean one's hands and feet and sit for eating. Ordinarily eating twice a day is in accordance with sastras. Eating more than that – one becomes a rogi- a diseased person. Once a day is fit for yogins.
One has to eat food with happiness. Eating when angry rather than when hungry spoils the digestion. And one should also avoid any arguments at this time. I have seen as a child in several homes the time for the house wife to make complaints is the food serving session! Pity those who had to put up with such things!
Having ensured all others have eaten one does acamana and sits for food alone (esp those who eat well!). The feet must be touching the ground. As you might know one should not sit directly on the ground. The seat should not be made of earth, iron or palasa wood. It should not be a broken one.
The place where the plate will be placed must be cleaned. (if possible with cow dung). The plate can be made of gold (Yes! there were a few those days!) , silver (fairly common) or bronze. Plantain leaves are the most suitable. The house holder can use other leaves excepting purasu and lotus. (the often seen “thaiyal ilai” is of purasu). Stainless steel and earthenware like ceramic must be avoided.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

more on aditi...

It is quite possible that this can be misused and sastras cover that eventuality too. A person living in the same village can not be an aditi. If a person comes on a day and then again on the next day he is not an aditi. A person staying in a village but keeps visiting nearby villages and poses as an aditi is condemned by sastras. Similarly one who quotes his lineage and gotra and demand food is like a person who, eats what he vomited (vanthaasee)! He will be born as a cow in the gruhasthas household in the next janma!

What of those who refuse to do aditi puja?
When a gruhastha refuses someone, the visitor takes all the punya of the gruhastha when he leaves. Whatever sins the aditi had is transferred to the gruhastha who refused. For fifteen years the pitrus won't visit his house. Even if he does homas with 100 pots of ghee no benefit will ensue.

Such are the values that our forefathers had. Even if things have changed a lot and this has become difficult to follow one needs to contemplate on this wonderful concept.
Ok, so can we now sit down to eat?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Aditi Pooja

Sanyasins, brahmacaries, travelers, those who are in abject poverty are all qualified to take bhiksha. Sanyasins and brahmacaries are not not in a position to cook. Sanyasins have no right to use fire whereas the brahmacaries have no time as they are studying. So they must be given cooked rice. A gruhasta who is asking for bhiksha should be offered only uncooked rice.

The householder can eat only after checking that adities, elders in the house, married girls, pregnant ladies, sick persons, and the workers in the household have partaken their food.

Aditi Pooja

The person who comes at the end of vaishvadevam is a good Aditi, it is said that one need not inquire about his caste, his gotra, his acara, branch of veda he belongs to, or what Shastra he follows. We must do Aditi Pooja to this person. Many risis see him as Vyasa himself. To do such a Puja is equivalent to an yagna without the yupa (a staff planted in the yagna-shaalaa).

This Puja involves inviting the person, giving water to drink, washing the feet, offering water in the hand and giving pain relieving oil. He is offered a seat, fed and to rest a bed is offered.

A special offering can be what is called Madhu barga.
This is offered if the Aditi is one learnt bhrahmana, one's teacher, rthvik (one who does yagna for the person), the King, the father in law and the maternal uncle.(only if these people have not visited in the last one year they must be offered madhu barga.) This is prepared by mixing honey with milk or curd. With each action in this Puja, we please, a particular Devatha. Inviting pleases Soorya; Good words spoken pleases Sarasvati; well coming agni; offering a seat indra; washing feet pitrus; food prajapati; offering bed – bhrahma, vishnu and maheswara!!

This thing is to be done according to one's ability. Even if your resources does not allow, let your wife and children reduce their consumption but never neglect your aditis and workers – this is the rule. If you cant offer food offer water, if you cant offer bed offer a place to lie down and rest.

Sathathapar says that the worlds reached by people who do aditi puja is not reached even by people who do yagnas and thapas.

What of the evening? Even if a person does not arrive by the time of vaishvadeva he is to be taken care of. He is called 'Suryotan' and where would he go in the night? This person should never be refused- sastras say eight times sin accumulates if such a person is refused compared to refusing during the day.

It is quite possible that this can be misused and sastras cover that eventuality too.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Now we're going to see a fantastic concept which has no equal in any other place This is manusha yagna. For this very important person is the adity.

The sastras prescribe that before setting for lunch , one should go to the entrance of the house and watch for any guest who might take the food one has to watch for the duration of milking a cow. Someone comes along If you're lucky. If you are unlucky, nobody turns out. Then with a heavy heart that no one has blessed you with his presence that day, you go and eat your food.
It's amazing to see what sort of attitude people have had those days.

An aditi is not one who gives you a call and says that, “I am coming for dinner today. Can I have the potato fries?”. On the other hand, there a long list of criteria to determine an aditi starting from one who has walked a long way and is tired. In short aditi is a person who is not known to the gruhasta and qualifies certain criteria.

To feed such a person his caste is NOT a criterion. If the aditi is a brahmin there will be aditi pujaa too. One may in accordance to one's household acaram choose the place of feeding like the pial but one should never refuse to feed the aditi. It follows that once there is no dearth of food and people need not worry about the next meal what sort of society will exist!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

bhootha yagna

Next comes bhootha yagnam. Bhoothas are all around our house. Don't get scared! They are all good spirits. They are in bodies that are not visible to us. We call them bhoothas.
There are a lot of variations in this, so we should do as prescribed by tradition. There are many Devathas which reside in water; the medicinal plants; the house; parts of the house; vasthu devatha; Indira; indra purusha; Yama purusha; varuna; varuna purusha; soma, soma purusha; brahma; brahma purusha; vishvedevaa; all other bhootha ganas; those who move about in the day, those who move about in the night; rakshashas in the north, manes in the south.... this is the list given by suanaka. Just an example.....

One might also add feeding the Crow and the dog in this list.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pancha maha yagna

One comes home after work for the noon rituals. It begins with the noon bath followed by surya upasana (maadhyaniham). If brahma yagnam has not been done in the morning now it is to be done followed by deva, risi, pitru tharpanam. This involves reciting mantras remembering
1. the devas from bhramhaa onwards – all devas, their consorts and there subordinates!
2. The risis who gave us the vedas mentioning each division of veda and their risis starting from veda vyasa, all risis, their consorts and there subordinates!
3. All the pitrus starting from soman and yama angiraswan all pitrus, their consorts and there subordinates!
Tharpanam means literally pleasing someone. This is done by remembering the person and pouring water on the hand in a prescribed way. It is best that the water is poured on the hand and it reaches the earth. If such a situation is not possible it can be collected in a vessel and later on poured on the earth.
If for some reason the daily puja has not taken place till now it is to be done.
Next comes the pancha maha yagna.
It is basically offering food to 1. devas, 2. pitrus, 3.mankind, 4. the rest of the living being from worms onwards! The brahmins have to do a ritual called vaishvadevam. There is a difference of opinion as to what pancha maha yagna; one school says what has been said above is what it is; another school says it is something more. Anyway....
To offer at least one twig (samith) in fire (agni) is deva yagna.
Feeding pitrus -usually offering to crows- is pitru yagna.
Offering to the non visible beings called boothas is bootha yagnam.
Offering food to people is manushya yagnam.
The concept of vaishvadevam comes from recognising that while we do our routine house hold work we unknowingly kill several things.
The fireplace, the pestle and mortar, grinding stone, winnowing fan, and the water vessel are places that it can happen. Though we normally don't use things much nowadays and they are out of fashion think of the gas/electrical stove, grinder, mixie and water purifier. When we use these things some insects microbes etc. Will die. As an atonement wee do this karma.
Why this is only for brahmins? That is because unlike other classes he is expected to have jeeva karunya (love for all life forms) as a primary attitude.
(more to come....)

Monday, April 4, 2011

earning a living...

Those who have learnt vedas must recite them after pooja. Though classically this should last an hour or so, hardly anyone do so. One should try to recite at least a chapter if not then at least a part of a chapter. Those who have not learnt the vedas properly should learn and recite at lest the beginning verses of the four vedas.
What of those who don't have a 'right' to vedas? They should recite verses from the divine books like Thiruvasakam, Bhagavat gita etc.
After this now one goes out to earn money for the sustenance of the family. If you have been wondering whether I will get around to this here is the answer. our shastras and kalpas or realistic. They know the plight of a family holder, so they have given the ways and means to earn a living. Of course, they lay down restrictions about who can do what work. All these things are discussed in detail in Dharma sastras.
One should earn money in a way that is not proscribed.
Classically teaching and other intellectual workis the job of Brahmins, The kshatriyas take up jobs that depend on the body strength like police, defense etc. The vaishyas are the traders. The shudras do much of the legwork, which has multiplied a lot nowadays. Such a division of labor was called varnasrama dharma.
This age-old system is in shambles now, and many people have taken up jobs that do not belong traditionally to that class. However, many new jobs have sprung up in one wonders where to put them up. Therefore, let us not go into the controversies.

One should work as much as the money received is worth. Just attending an office and pocketing money without doing any work is to be frowned upon.
Let us now see how to manage this money that has been earned. One sixth goes to the King - that is tax. Nowadays, since we don't trust the governments, we go about looking how to reduce the tax burden.
You'd have other one sixth goes to charity. The rest of the money is ours to spend as they see fit. Money earned and distributed thus is good money that does not carry any karma along with that.. one can boldly receive money from such people as donation. Otherwise money carries – sort of tainted – with ones karma and is transmitted.
what to say about the mass that hankers after the freebies announced by political parties and vote for them? One can only pity them. :-(

Sunday, April 3, 2011

why the puja is structured in a certain way.

let us see why the puja is structured in a certain way.
Let us think of a guest visiting us. He is a very respectable person. What we do first?
We welcome him. In the villages such a person will be taken in made to sit and water is to offered wash the feet and drink. Once he is refreshed . He bathes , depending on the weather and his physical condition in hot water or cool water from the well. Then he is given clothes to wear. While the food is getting ready we chat something that is warm to the heart. Then we eat. After that comes beetle leaves and areca nut. It is customary to offer dhakshina to one who has taken the food. Since this person is an elder of repute we prostrate before him and receive his blessings. When he wants to take leave we arrange a vehicle for him.
Now look at the puja. We think of God being in a particular picture or stone. That is Dyanam. We request Him to be in it till the puja is over. This is avahanam. Then we offer a seat – asanam. We pour water in his feet and hands- patha prakshalanam and argyam. Asamanam is offering water to drink. Then the bath. Samanam again. Wearing the sacreed thread and dress. Wearing the jewels. Arcana with flowers; showing the doopa and ghee lamp. Offering the food that has been prepared with love and care- nivedanam. Showing the burning camphor in front of him. Saying his praise by verses. Offering a golden flower. Circumnavigating and prostrating at his feet. Showing the mirror to him. Letting him ride an elephant or chariot. Finally submitting all the effects from puja acts to Him. Such a puja is called shodopasara puja.