Header image alt text

Dr K K Aggarwal

Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee

Why do We Burn Camphor in Any Pooja?

Filed Under Spirituality - Science Behind Rituals  | Tagged With: , , | | Comments Off on Why do We Burn Camphor in Any Pooja?

No Aarti is performed without camphor. Camphor, when lit, burns itself out completely without leaving a trace.

Camphor represents our inherent tendencies or vasanas. When lit by the fire of knowledge about the self, the vasanas burn themselves out completely, not leaving a trace of ego.

Ego is responsible for a sense of individuality that keeps us separate from the Lord or consciousness.

Camphor, when burns, emits a pleasant perfume. This signifies that as we burn our ego, we can only spread love and nothing else.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are entirely my own.

Cough Hygiene

Filed Under Wellness  | Tagged With: , , | | Comments Off on Cough Hygiene

  • When you cough or sneeze, you tend to expel out respiratory waste, which can be droplets (larger than 5 micron) or airborne droplets less than 5 micron; both have different clinical implications.
  • Droplets remain suspended in the air for a limited period only and exposure of less than 3 feet is usually required for human-to-human transmission of droplet-borne respiratory organisms. In flu, this can be up to 6 feet. The examples of droplet infections are meningitis, influenza, rubella (German measles), etc.
  • No precaution needs to be taken by a person who is 6-10 feet away from the patient but if a person is sitting or working at even 3-6 feet distance, the non-coughing person should wear a simple mask.
  • Airborne droplet nuclei that carry respiratory secretions smaller than 5 microns can remain suspended in the air for extended period and can cause infections to people who are standing even more than 10 feet away. The examples of airborne droplet nuclei infections are TB, measles, chickenpox and SARS.
  • Patients with these diseases should be placed in an isolation room and all healthcare personnel who are looking after these patients must use a safe N95 mask.
  • In normal house with windows opened, there is a constant exchange of air, which prevents spread of infections but in AC setups with no air exchange, the infections can spread from one person to another.
  • When sitting in an air-conditioned atmosphere, the setting of the AC should be such that the same air is not circulated and fresh air is allowed to exchange. Split ACs, therefore, are more dangerous than the window ACs.
  • In an office with split AC, if one employee is suffering from any of the droplet nuclei disease, he/she can transmit infection to others. Therefore, patients with confirmed TB, measles, chickenpox and SARS should not be allowed to work in split AC atmosphere.

Am I a spiritual seeker?

Filed Under Spirituality - Science Behind Rituals  | Tagged With: , , | | Comments Off on Am I a spiritual seeker?

Every one cannot be a spiritual seeker. In fact, majority is not interested in seeking spiritual knowledge and they keep themselves busy in the worldly desires. To become a good seeker, one needs to acquire many qualities.

In Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna, in a state of disturbed mind, sought guidance from Lord Krishna. In Katha Upanishad, Nachiketa, as a healthy seeker, learned the knowledge of life after death from Yama.

Katha Upanishad described in detail the qualities of a seeker in Nachiketa.

The story goes as under: Vajashrava sage performed a sacrifice in which he was required to give away all his worldly possessions. His son Nachiketa saw that the cows given in the donations were all old. Such charity was not going to give his father any merits. Feeling disturbed by the inappropriateness of his fathers observance of the sacrifice, Nachiketa asked to whom was he given. The sage ignored him twice, but on third asking, the irritated sage said in anger, “Unto Yama, I give thee.” Whereupon Nachiketa went to the abode of Yama, and, finding him absent, waited there for three days and nights. Yama on his return offered to grant him three wishes.

Nachiketa wished the following:

  1. To be allowed to return to his father alive, and that his father not be angry with him
  2. To be instructed about fire sacrifice
  3. To be given knowledge about life after death.

Yama granted the first wish immediately. In answer to Nachiketas second question, Yama named performance of a special fire-sacrifice after Nachiketa. Before answering the third question, Yama tested Nachiketa, offering him all sorts of worldly pleasures instead, but Nachiketa insisted. And then Yama taught him about life after death.

The properties of true seeker therefore are:

  1. Righteousness and truthfulness: Nachiketa did not agree with his father as his (father’s) act was not based on Dharma.
  2. Persistence: He waited for three days to meet Yama.
  3. Compassion and forgiveness: The first boon he asked was to have his father forgiven.
  4. Intellectual understanding: The fire of knowledge means intellectual understanding.
  5. Let go of the desires: He let go all his desires and did not get attracted to the worldly offers given by the Yama.

Only after that he qualified to receive the knowledge of soul and become a true seeker.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).

The science behind observing Shradhs

Filed Under Spirituality - Science Behind Rituals  | Tagged With: , , | | Comments Off on The science behind observing Shradhs

Shradhs are observed every year in Dakshinayana during Chaturmas in the Krishna Paksha of Ashwin month. Many rituals are performed to satisfy the unfulfilled desires of three generations of our ancestors.

According to the Vedas, every individual has three debts to be paid off, firstly, of the Devtas (Dev Rin), secondly of Guru and teachers (Rishi Rin) and, thirdly, of Ancestors (Pitra Rin). From a scientific point of view, devtas represent people with Daivik qualities; teachers are the ones who have taught us and Pitra, three generations of our ancestors. Rin, from scientific point of view, would mean unfinished desires or tasks.

The rituals scientifically would mean detaching oneself from the guilt of unfinished tasks of our ancestors by detoxifying our mind.

Debt means desires of our ancestors that had not been fulfilled during their lifetime. The responsibility to fulfil them automatically falls onto the eldest son in the family and they need to be carried out. If not, it is a sign of guilt disorder in the family and may present with loss of wealth, loss of direction and courage and health. The resultant problems faced were called Pitra Dosh in mythology.

The ritual of performing Shradhs originated to remove this guilt and the resultant illnesses. Shradh has many components:

  • Tarpan (offering water to the ancestors while reciting Mantras).
  • Arpan (preparing food what the ancestors used to like on the day of Shradh)
  • Brahmin bhoj (offering Satvik food to Brahmins)
  • Pind Daan (offering black sesame, Kusha Grass, Jwar and boiled or baked rice); observed by some.
  • Observing a spiritual holiday or incubation period (taking a break from the routine worldly desires and going to a distant place like Gaya).
  • Remembrance: Once the unfulfilled desires of the ancestors are over, remembering our ancestors every year on the day of their death anniversary.

Scientifically, Dakshinayana is the period of negative state of mind (nights are longer than days) and starts from 14th July and ends on 13th January. Chaturmas period (first four months) during Dakshinayana has the maximum negativity in the mind. Chaturmas includes the months of Sawan, Bhado, Ashwin and Kartik.

The negative state of mind in Sawan is related to anger and disturbed mind; in Bhado to non-fulfilment of desires and uncontrolled ego and in the month of Ashwin to guilt because of non-fulfilment of desires of others (ancestors), especially during Amavasya.

In the rituals, Tarpan of Jal (water) is offered to ancestors. Jal in mythology means flow of thoughts and offering Jal in mythology equates to confession and getting connected. Tarpan is always done with an aim to purify the mind and wash off the guilt.

Tarpan is always done after the desires of our ancestors have been fulfilled by the person performing the Shradh. This ritual is Arpan. Tarpan and Arpan on the day of Shradh mean getting connected to our consciousness and informing that all the unfinished tasks are over so that we can get rid of the long persisting guilt from our mind. Offering and making food which was liked by our ancestors on that day is just to remember and pay respect to them.

Confession is only possible in a Satwik state of mind, which requires eating of Satwik food for a few days. The ritual of offering Satwik food to Brahmins during the Shradh means making only Satwik food on that day so that everyone in the family is forced to eat Satwik food during Shradhs.

Pind Daan denotes medicinal ways of detaching oneself from the guilt. All the four offerings (black sesame, Kusha grass, Jwar and boiled or roasted rice) in Ayurveda have been described to detoxify the mind and making it Satwik by removing Rajas and Tamas.

If the guilt does not go by repeated Shradhs then one is required to go for a spiritual vacation during Shradh period so that he is away from the worldly desires for a few days before the Shradh and this is what going to Gaya means. This spiritual retreat works like an incubation period to the disturbed mind and gets rid of the disturbed mind and allows the undisturbed state of mind to confess and purify.

The Pitra ceremonies are usually performed either on Amavasya every month (period of most negativity in a month) or on the death anniversary or the Hindu Tithi (day) of the death of the ancestors coinciding with the day during Shradh days. If the date of death is not known then the Shradh is observed on Amavasya.

Some people perform Shradh for full 15 days and others perform it from the first day till the day of their ancestors’ Shradh.

It is said that once a Shradh is successfully performed or Gaya Shradh is performed, there is no need to perform Shradh rituals thereafter. Once the guilt is over, there is no need for further detoxification of the mind. After that the only ritual that needs to be performed is remembrance, which is usually performed on the death anniversary of the deceased ancestor usually by doing some charity on their names.

One is not supposed to do auspicious things during Shradh as during this period, the mind is in a process of detoxification.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are entirely my own.

Tips to relieve heartburn

Filed Under Wellness  | Tagged With: , , | | Comments Off on Tips to relieve heartburn

  • Avoid foods that seem to trigger your symptoms.
  • Eat small portions and dont overeat; chew food slowly and completely.
  • Avoid smoking, eating quickly, chewing gum, and drinking carbonated beverages as they lead to swallowing excess air.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Dont lie down within 2 hours of having a meal.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.

(Source: Harvard Healthbeat)

Hand, foot and mouth disease: Salient facts

Filed Under Wellness  | Tagged With: , , | | Comments Off on Hand, foot and mouth disease: Salient facts

  • Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral illness most commonly caused by the Coxsackie virus A6.
  • Enteroviruses 71 (EV71) can also cause hand, foot and mouth disease.
  • Both adults and children can develop this infection. But young children below 5 years old are more susceptible.
  • It is a moderately contagious illness.
  • The incubation period is 5 days.
  • The illness begins with fever, which lasts for 24-48 hours.
  • Fever is followed by appearance of painful sores in mouth. They begin as small red spots that blister and then often become ulcers. Tongue is involved.
  • There is peripherally distributed, small, tender, non itchy rash with blisters on palms of the hands, and soles of feet and buttocks.
  • The sores hurt on touch and swallowing is difficult.
  • There is proximal separation of nail from the nail bed.
  • The virus is present in mucus from nose, saliva, fluid from sores and traces of bowel movements.
  • The virus spreads in the first week of infection.
  • The infection spreads from person to person by direct contact with nasal discharge, saliva or blister fluid or from stool of infected persons.
  • The virus can persist in the stool for weeks.
  • The illness is not transmitted to or from pets or other animals.
  • The illness stays for 2-3 days. It is usually mild and self-limited.
  • Enterovirus 71 is associated with brain involvement (meningitis and encephalitis), lungs and the heart.
  • The patient remains infectious after the symptoms have gone.
  • Test is not necessary.
  • There is no specific treatment.
  • Paracetamol tablet can be taken to relieve pain and fever.
  • Aspirin is to be avoided in children.
  • Avoid dehydration.
  • Eat ice cream to numb the pain.
  • Use mouthwashes or sprays that numb the mouth.
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Avoid exposure to infected person.
  • Maintain touch hygiene to reduce your risk of acquiring the infection.
  • During first week of illness, the child should be kept in isolation.
  • Schools should be closed.
  • There is no vaccine currently available.

Why is Ganesha worshipped in every puja?

Filed Under Spirituality - Science Behind Rituals  | Tagged With: , | | Comments Off on Why is Ganesha worshipped in every puja?

Every Hindu ritual traditionally begins with a prayer to Lord Ganesh. The wedding ceremony too begins with a puja of Lord Ganesha invoking him to bless the couple and to ensure that the ceremony goes off well.

Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati, is the harmonious Aacharan or characteristic disposition of man. Remembered and ritually worshipped before starting a new venture, the entity of Ganesha has in store the facets of a complete man.

Ganesha’s head – that of an elephant – represents wisdom, intelligence and a healthy mind capable of making sound decisions. Think before you speak, implies Ganesha’s head.

The big ears of this elephant deity signify the lending of a patient ear to the echo produced by others’ deeds and speech. It is said that half the dispute is resolved by patiently lending an ear to the words of the other. It also denotes that one must patiently listen to all sides before reaching a decision.

Ganesha’s extremely small mouth characteristically represents the need for a limited dialogue and the vanity of talking too much. Over-expression through words causes unsought-for problems which could have been avoided.

Ganesha’s small eyes highlight the need for a focused outlook in life. Such an outlook not only re-defines and foresees the right goals, but also relieves one from the stress-manifested episodes in life.

The long trunk identifies with the power of discrimination. Ganesha’s long nose has the strength to uproot a tree and the competency of picking up a pin from the ground. Such should be the approach of an individual who should be capable of perceiving the good and bad for himself, and then have the strength to overcome these against all odds.

The tusks and the small teeth of Ganesha tell us to maintain a balance between loss (broken tooth) and gains (whole tooth) in life. Man ought to maintain his mental state so that ups and downs do not deter him from his honest endeavors.

The ample stomach of Ganapati Deva advocates the need for retaining information. Acquiring knowledge, utilizing it and retaining it for years to come is the crux of ‘big-belly commandment’.

The Char-Bhuja Dhari Ganesha further represents strength by virtue of his four hands in which the Lord entraps his attachments, desires and greed. Two of the arms of Ganesha, which hold a rope, symbolize control over the attachments. The laddoo or sweet in one shows command over desires and earthly delusions. The mouse sitting near the feet of Ganesha represents greed and gluttony upon which the Almighty rides, exhibiting control over evils.

Ganesha’s physical traits are an assembly of the characteristics most desired in an individual of substance.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).

An empty mind is the devil’s house

Filed Under Spirituality - Science Behind Rituals  | Tagged With: , , | | Comments Off on An empty mind is the devil’s house

It is an old saying that “Khali dimag shaitan ka ghar”.

Empty mind means when you are doing nothing and Shaitan means negative thoughts. In terms of Vedic science, negative thoughts mean absence of positive thoughts and they are often equated to darkness, which is absence of light.

Positive thoughts always need efforts and exertions, while negative thoughts are spontaneous and without exertion. It is recommended that one should think differently and positive otherwise there will be spontaneous appearance of negative thoughts.

Darkness is spontaneous and naturally present and to bring light one has to make efforts by switching on the light or the nature has to ask the Sun to come and give the light.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).

Tips for preventing back and spine problems

Filed Under Spirituality - Science Behind Rituals  | Tagged With: , | | Comments Off on Tips for preventing back and spine problems

  • Get moving. Physical activity helps in keeping the joints fluid. A person who is not physically active is more susceptible to back problems.
  • Eat healthy. If you maintain good eating habits, you not only will maintain a healthy weight, but you also will not put unnecessary stress on your body.
  • Sleep sideways. The best position for sleeping is on your side. If you are sleeping on your stomach, put a pillow under your lower abdomen to help take stress off your back.
  • Correct your posture and avoid stress. The importance of good posture cannot be overlooked in preventing back problems. Additionally, stress can tense your muscles, and constant tension of this kind can cause back pain. Thus, it is important to find ways to reduce stress.

Who is a Good Teacher?

Filed Under Spirituality - Science Behind Rituals  | Tagged With: , | | Comments Off on Who is a Good Teacher?

A good teacher is the one who follows the principles of listening first, teaching in detail till confusion arises and then teaching with reasoning while going into the minutest details and finally summarizing the ‘take home’ messages.

This is how Lord Krishna discoursed to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita. In the first chapter, he only listens, in the second, he gives detailed counseling and from chapters 2 to 17, he gives reasoning and in 18th chapter, he revises.

Tips to prevent water-borne diseases this monsoon

Filed Under Wellness  | Tagged With: , , | | Comments Off on Tips to prevent water-borne diseases this monsoon

  • Drink only filtered/boiled water.
  • Store water in a clean container.
  • Wash water containers daily.
  • Always wash hands before and after preparing food and eating. Educate children about the importance of washing hands effectively and regularly.
  • Wash hands with soap or use hand sanitizers after using a washroom, changing a childs diaper, or after visiting unclean and infection-prone areas, such as public washrooms, hospitals, etc.
  • Consume warm and home cooked foods and avoid street food.
  • Wash vegetables thoroughly before cooking.
  • Always keep foods/beverages covered.
  • The pipes and tanks that supply water to your house should be properly maintained and clean.
  • Travelers should only drink bottled water and avoid uncooked food.
  • People suffering from water-borne diseases should not go to work until they are fully recovered to avoid spreading the infection.
  • Avoid using ice made from tap water.
  • Freezing does not kill the organisms that cause diarrhea. Ice is not safe unless it is made from adequately boiled or filtered water.
  • Alcohol does not sterilize water or ice. Mixed drinks may still be contaminated.
  • Hot tea and coffee are the best alternates to boiled water.

Importance of silence

Filed Under Spirituality - Science Behind Rituals  | Tagged With: , , | | Comments Off on Importance of silence

True silence is the silence between the thoughts and represents the true self, consciousness or the soul. It is a web of energized information ready to take all, provided there is a right intent. Meditation is the process of achieving silence. Observing silence is another way of deriving benefits of meditation. Many yogis in the past have recommended and observed silence now and then. Mahatma Gandhi spent one day in silence every week. He believed that abstaining from speaking brought him inner peace and happiness. On all such days, he communicated with others only by writing on paper.

Hindu principles also talk about a correlation between mauna (silence) and shanti (harmony). Mauna Ekadashi is a ritual followed traditionally in our country. On this day the person is not supposed to speak at all and observes complete silence all through the day and night. It gives immense peace to the mind and strength to the body. In Jainism, this ritual has a lot of importance. Nimith was a great saint in Jainism who long ago asked all Jains to observe this vrata. Some people recommend that on every ekadashi one should observe silence for few hours, if not the whole day.

In his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra talks in great detail about the importance of observing silence in day to day life. He recommends that everyone should observe silence for 20 minutes every day. Silence helps to redirect our imagination towards self. Even Swami Sivananda, in his teachings, recommends observation of mauna daily for 2 hours. For ekadashi, take milk and fruits every day, study one chapter of Bhagwad Gita daily, do regular charity and donate one-tenth of your income in the welfare of the society. Ekadashi is the 11th day of Hindu lunar fortnight. It is the day of celebration, occurring twice a month, meant for meditation and increasing soul consciousness.

Vinoba Bhave was a great sage of our country known for his Bhoodaan movement. He was a great advocator and practical preacher of mauna vrata.

Mauna means silence and vrata means vow; hence, mauna vrata means a vow of silence. Mauna was practiced by saints to end enmity and recoup their enmity. Prolonged silence as the form of silence is observed by the rishi-munis involved for prolonged periods of silence. Silence is a source of all that exists. Silence is where consciousness dwells. There is no religious tradition that does not talk about silence. It breaks the outward communication and forces a dialogue towards inner communication. This is one reason why all prayers, meditation and worship or any other practice whether we attune our mind to the spiritual consciousness within are done in silence. After the death of a person, it is a practice to observe silence for two minutes. The immediate benefit is that it saves a tremendous amount of energy.

Silence is cessation of both sensory and mental activity. It is like having a still mind and listening to the inner mind. Behind this screen of our internal dialogue is the silence of spirit. Meditation is the combination of observing silence and the art of observation.

Relieve stress by changing the interpretation

Filed Under Spirituality - Science Behind Rituals  | Tagged With: , , | | Comments Off on Relieve stress by changing the interpretation

Stress is the reaction of the body or the mind to the interpretation of a known situation. Stress management, therefore, involves either changing the situation, changing the interpretation or taming the body the yogic way in such a way that stress does not affect the body.

Every situation has two sides. Change of interpretation means looking at the other side of the situation. It is something like half glass of water, which can be interpreted either as half empty or half full.

Studies have shown that anger, hostility and aggression are the new risk factors for heart disease. It has been shown that even recall of anger can precipitate a heart attack.

Many studies have shown that when doctors talk positive in front of unconscious patients in ICU, their outcome is better than those if doctors talk negative.

The best way to practice spiritual medicine is to experience silence in the thoughts, speech and action.

Simply walking in the nature with silence in the mind and experiencing the sounds of nature can be as effective as 20 minutes of meditation. Twenty minutes of meditation provides the same physiological parameters as that of 7 hours of deep sleep.

Some facts on noise levels

Filed Under Wellness  | Tagged With: , , | | Comments Off on Some facts on noise levels

  • Extended exposure to sounds above 85 db can lead to progressive hearing loss. Anyone exposed to sounds above 85 db of noise requires hearing protection.
  • The special limit for people who are exposed to noise above 90 db is 8 hours, for 95 db is 4 hours and 2 hours for 100 db.
  • A brief blast of loud sound also can result in severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss and pain. This usually involves exposure to noise above 120-155 db. Hearing protection in the form of muffins or ear plugs is recommended whenever a person is exposed to loud noise.

Preventing malaria

Filed Under Wellness  | Tagged With: , , | | Comments Off on Preventing malaria

  • Malaria is transmitted by the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito.
  • Malaria fever presents with chills, especially during afternoon.
  • The malaria mosquito bites mainly between dusk and dawn while the dengue mosquito bites during the day.
  • Malaria can also be transmitted by blood transfusion by sharing of contaminated needles.
  • Bed nets are effective against malaria as major malarial vectors bite during the night.
  • The behavior of mosquitoes may differ. While some may rest indoors and feed indoors in the night, others may prefer to rest and feed outdoors earlier in the day.
  • Preventive therapy of malaria can be given in pregnancy in high risk areas.
  • The malarial mosquito feeds every third day compared to dengue mosquito that feeds three times a day.
  • Spraying of the indoor residential walls and ceiling is effective against mosquitoes.
  • DDT is a widely used indoor residential spraying agent.
  • DDT should not be applied more than once or twice yearly on the walls.
  • Mosquito contact with DDT surface would save from lethal exposure outside the house.
  • Spray may require furniture rearrangement. Walls may become streaked with chemical treatment and residual odor from DDT.
  • Malathion spray is another alternative.