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Dr K K Aggarwal

Is it necessary to take a dip in Ganga to remove your sins?0*

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati, the trio sangam in Allahabad is believed to be the holiest place in the country where taking a dip can wash away all past sins. After death, ashes are also submerged in Ganga water with an assumption that the past sins will be removed.

In Vedic era what was the intention of the rishis and munis while making this ritual?

In mythology, moon represents cool mind and Ganga represents the positive flow of thoughts. And sea turmoil indicates the disturbed state of mind. Hanuman ki samudra yatra indicates the meditative journey through the flow of thoughts. Samudra manthan represents the journey of the mind during meditation.

Taking a dip can be equated to shifting your mind towards your consciousness, which can happen when you introspect in a relaxed state of mind or when you practice meditation. Meditation is defined as a journey from sympathetic and parasympathetic state of mind or a journey from disturbed state of consciousness to undisturbed state of consciousness. Every time you meditate, you dip into your consciousness and clean your guilt and negative thoughts. It is something like reformatting your hard disk and removing the bad sectors and viruses in your software. It is, therefore, possible for you to do Ganga snan (bath) at your house in the morning while meditating or during pooja by drifting away from disturbed state of mind to non disturbed relaxed state of mind clearing your guilt and negative thoughts.

The Churning of the Ocean on Dhanteras: Samudra Manthan

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Many of us know the story of ‘Sagar Manthan’ or the churning of the ocean. The story goes like this.

Once Indra lost his kingdom due to the disrespect he showed to sage Durvasa. He approached Lord Vishnu, who advised him to seek the help of the demons to churn the ocean of milk (Ksheer Sagar), so that he and other Devas could take the Amrita (ambrosia) that would make them immortal and help them regain their lost kingdom.

As per his advice, Devas approached the demons, and they all agreed in the end to churn the ocean of milk. They sought the help of mount ‘Mandhara’ and the great snake ‘Vasuki’ for this purpose. Vasuki, the snake God, was used as the rope and Mandhara, the mountain, as the churning stick to churn the ocean. While they were churning the great ocean, Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a tortoise and held the Mandhara from sinking. While the churning was going on, several wonderful objects came out of the ocean.

The first to come out was ‘Halahal’, the deadly poison, which threatened to engulf the world and destroy it. When no one was willing to accept the poison, Lord Shiva came forward to accept it. He swallowed it and Parvati who was standing beside him, pressed his neck as he swallowed it and thus, prevented it from going into his stomach. Thus the poison remained stuck forever in his neck, neither going up into his mind nor going down into his stomach. Then came Kamadhenu (the wish-fulfilling cow), the Ucchaisrava (the white horse), Airavata (the white elephant), Kaustubhamani (a rare diamond), Kalpavriksha (the wish-fulfilling tree), Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth), Sura or Varuni (the goddess of wine) and finally Dhanvantari (the divine physician) with the vessel of Amrita in his skilful hands. These objects, except the last one, were divided between Devas and the demons.

The nectar of immortality was, of course, finally denied to the demons and was distributed among Devas only, through a fine piece of trickery enacted by Lord Vishnu. He assumed the form of Mohini to delude the demons and make them temporarily forget all about the ‘Amrit’, while he went on distributing it among the gods who took it. Because of the effects of ‘Amrit’, they not only became immortal but also defeated the demons summarily. But two of the Daityas (demons) managed to partake of the Amrit. And they both became immortal. Therefore, the strife between good and evil continues to this day.

Spiritual Symbolism

The story represents the spiritual endeavor of man for achieving immortality and inner happiness through concentration of mind, withdrawal of senses, control of desires and practice of austerities and asceticism.

  1. The Devas represent the pleasure principle in us. They also represent the senses.
  2. The Demons represent the pain principle and the negative thoughts and impulses.
  3. Indra represents the Intellect, which can become egoistic.
  4. Ksheer Sagar or the ocean of milk is the mind or the human consciousness. The mind is always compared to an ocean (mano sagaram) while the thoughts and emotions to the waves.
  5. Mandhara, the mountain stands for concentration. The word “mandhara” contains two words “man” (mind) and “dhara” (a single line), which means ‘holding the mind in one line’. This is possible only during mental concentration. The mountain Mandhara was upheld by Lord Vishnu as a tortoise.
  6. The tortoise stands for the withdrawal of the senses into oneself as one practices mental concentration and meditation or contemplation. It also suggests that the mind should rest upon itself or freely surrender itself to the divine will.
  7. The participation of both Devas and the demons signify the fact that when one is seeking immortality through the spiritual practice, one has to integrate and harmonize both the positive and negative aspects of one’s personality and put both the energies for the common goal.
  8. The great serpent Vasuki stands for desire. The desire is always compared to a thousand hooded serpents.
  9. Halahal represents the turmoil of mind one suffers in the initial phase of meditation
  10. The celestial gems represent the spiritual powers or the Siddhis one can attain during meditation
  11. ‘Amrit’ or nectar represents the inner happiness
  12. Immortality represents Moksha.

The story represents the need for doing meditation (churning of the mind in the ocean) to gain control over ego, which takes over when the mind and intellect (Indra) lose their track.

The process involves intention to do the meditation (Devas approach Vishnu or the consciousness who in turn advises to do the manthan) and attention (focus, concentration) on the object of concentration (God or consciousness and here the tortoise).

The process involves concentrating on a mantra or the breath continuously and giving preferences to the object of concentration over the thoughts. Meditation is incomplete without withdrawing the senses (tortoise). By yoga sutras of Patanjali, it is called ‘pratihara’ by creating a spiritual atmosphere. The contemplation or the continuing concentration is a must (mandhara).
Meditation is the process of slipping in the silent gaps between the thoughts. Negative thoughts are the Asuras, the devils or the demons. Meditation involves bypassing the thought and needs both the positive and the negative thoughts to cooperate with each other like in a rope.

While meditating, one is bound to be affected by a chain or rope of desires (Vasuki). The same needs to be tightened up caught firmly by the thoughts, and ignored by giving preference to the object of concentration, the self (the tortoise). When in difficulty, everyone has to take the help of God (in the form of Mohini).

To summarize, Vasuki used in the churning of the ocean denotes that Devas and the demons held desire (to seek immortality) as a rope and churned the mind with the help of concentration and withdrawal of the senses. You can hold the desire in your hands and manipulate it only when you have control over your desires.

In the initial phase of meditation or intense churning by opposite forces, one is affected by turmoil of the mind. Most people who start meditation leave it in this phase only, as they cannot bear this turmoil and get agitated or disturbed. That is one reason it is said that one should learn meditation under the guidance of a teacher, doctor or a guru.

The Halahal represents this suffering and pain one undergoes at the beginning of spiritual Sadhna. The problems get intensified because of inner conflicts, when one part yearns to pursue the spiritual path (Devas) while the other opposes it (demons). In short, ‘Halahal’ is the instability of the body and the mind that arises as a counter-reaction against one’s spiritual practice.

One can compare this to the release of the mental toxins comparable to the physical toxins, which are released when we rest and after a daylong rest complain of leg pains.

The mental turmoil representing all kinds of reactions, negative thoughts, desires and impulses associated with some degree of physical turmoil (body movements, flickering and tingling) need to be tackled here to complete the process of meditation.

One cannot take out these negative thoughts in the open nor can one keep it in (you cannot throw the Halahal out or swallow it). It needs to be managed or ignored by keeping it in the throat which is what was done by Shiva. Shiva here represents the ascetic principle (leading a life of self-discipline and self-denial).

It also means that another mode of controlling the turmoil is by controlling the breath. Shiva is the controller of breath and is called a ‘prananath, or praneshwar’ – The Lord of Breath. In meditation, it is essential that one has complete mastery over one’s breathing pattern. Most sages hold their breath in their throat, near the palate, as they meditate to control this turmoil of mind.

The various objects that came out of the ocean during the churning stand for the psychic or spiritual powers (siddhis), which one gains as one progresses spiritually from stage to stage.

These siddhis are spiritual powers, which come to a seeker as he progresses on the spiritual path. We are told that a seeker should be careful about these powers as they can hamper his progress unless he uses them judiciously – not for his selfish gains but for others’ welfare. This is the reason why the gods and demons distributed these powers among others without keeping anything for themselves as they did not want to lose sight of their original aim, which was to gain immortality (inner happiness).

Dhanvantari stands for health. The vessel containing the Amrit was brought before the Gods and the demons by Dhanvantari, the divine physician. This signifies that immortality can be achieved only when the body and the mind are in a perfect state of health.

Lord Dhanvantari is worshipped on Dhanteras, 2 days before Diwali as the lord of Ayurveda. He has four hands with herbal medicines, Ayurveda book, Amrit kalash and a Shankh in each arm. They define the principles of treatments: herbal drugs for the physical body, pranayama and mantras represented by Shankha for the mind, rasayanas for spiritual health represented by the kalash and prevention by understating the knowledge of true self by reading the Ayurveda.

These spiritual powers are the ones, which one can attain while doing basic and advanced meditation and includes the capacity to fulfill desires, to give boons to others, to acquire health, wealth etc. Meditation is not possible in case of a person who is mentally or physically sick or whose gross body is not fit for receiving meditation benefits.

Lord Vishnu in the form of Mohini stands for ‘delusion of the mind’ in the form of pride. It is the pride of achievement to which the Asuras or the demons succumbed and thus, lost their right to enter into the world of immortality. Pride and egoism are the final hurdles one has to overcome in spiritual life before being able to experience self-realization.

Samudra Manthan: The Churning of the Ocean on Dhanteras

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Many of us know the story of ‘Sagar Manthan’ or the churning of the ocean. The story goes like this.

Once Indra lost his kingdom due to the disrespect he showed to sage Durvasa. He approached Lord Vishnu who advised him to seek the help of the demons to churn the ocean of milk (Ksheer Sagar), so that he and Devas could partake the Amrita (ambrosia) which would make them immortal and help them regain their lost kingdom.

As per his advice, Devas approached the demons, and they all agreed in the end to churn the ocean of milk. They sought the help of mount ‘Mandhara’ and the great snake ‘Vasuki’ for this purpose. Vasuki, the snake god, was used as the rope and Mandhara, the mountain, as the churning stick to churn the ocean. While they were churning the great ocean, Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a tortoise and held the Mandhara from sinking. While the churning was going on, several wonderful objects came out of the ocean.

The first to come out was ‘Halahal’, the deadly poison, which threatened to engulf the world and destroy it. When no one was willing to accept the poison, Lord Shiva came forward to accept it. He swallowed it and Parvati who was standing beside him, pressed his neck as he swallowed it and thus, prevented it from going into his stomach. Thus the poison remained struck there forever in his neck, neither going up into his mind nor going down into his stomach.
Then came Kamadhenu (the wish-fulfilling cow), the Ucchaisrava (the white horse), Airavata (the white elephant), Kaustubhamani (a rare diamond), Kalpavriksha (the wish-fulfilling tree), Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth), Sura or Varuni (the goddess of wine), and finally Dhanvantari (the divine physician) with the vessel of Amrita in his skilful hands. These objects, except the last one, were divided between Devas and the demons.

The nectar of immortality was, of course, finally denied to the demons and was distributed among Devas only, through a fine piece of trickery enacted by Lord Vishnu. He assumed the form of Mohini to delude the demons and make them temporarily forget all about the ‘Amrit’, while he went on distributing it among the gods who took it. Because of the effects of ‘Amrit’, they not only became immortal but also defeated the demons summarily. But two of the Daityas (demons) managed to partake of the Amrit. And they both became immortal. Therefore, the strife between good and evil continues to this day.

Spiritual Symbolism
The story represents the spiritual endeavor of man for achieving immortality and inner happiness through concentration of mind, withdrawal of senses, control of desires and practice of austerities and asceticism.
1 The Devas represent the pleasure principle in us. They also represent the senses.
2. The Demons represent the pain principle and the negative thoughts and impulses.
3. Indra represents the Intellect, which can become egoistic.
4. Ksheer Sagar or the ocean of milk is the mind or the human consciousness. The mind is always compared to an ocean (mano sagaram) while the thoughts and emotions to the waves.
5. Mandhara, the mountain stands for concentration. The word “mandhara” contains two words “man” (mind) and “dhara” (a single line) which means ‘holding the mind in one line’. This is possible only during mental concentration. The mountain Mandhara was upheld by Lord Vishnu as a tortoise.
6. The tortoise stands for the withdrawal of the senses into oneself as one practices mental concentration and meditation or contemplation. It also suggests that the mind should rest upon itself or freely surrender itself to the divine will.
7. The participation of both Devas and the demons signify the fact that when one is seeking immortality through the spiritual practice, one has to integrate and harmonize both the positive and negative aspects of one’s personality and put both the energies for the common goal.
8. The great serpent Vasuki stands for desire. The desire is always compared to a thousand hooded serpents.
9. Halahal represents the turmoil of mind one suffers in the initial phase of meditation
10. The celestial gems represent the spiritual powers or the Siddhis one can attain during meditation
11. ‘Amrit’ or nectar represents the inner happiness
12. Immortality represents Moksha.

The story represents the need for doing meditation (churning of the mind in the ocean) to gain control over ego, which takes over when the mind and intellect (Indra) lose their track.

The process involves intention to do the meditation (Devas approach the Vishnu or the consciousness who in turn advises to do the manthan) and attention (focus, concentration) on the object of concentration (God or consciousness and here the tortoise). The process involves concentrating on a mantra or the breath continuously and giving preferences to the object of concentration over the thoughts. Meditation is incomplete without withdrawing the senses (tortoise). By yoga sutras of patanjali it is called ‘pratihara’ by creating a spiritual atmosphere. The contemplation or the continuing concentration is a must (mandhara).

Meditation is the process of slipping in the silent gaps between the thoughts. Negative thoughts are the Asuras, the devils or the demons. Meditation involves bypassing the thought and needs both the positive and the negative thoughts to cooperate with each other like in a rope.

While meditating, one is bound to be affected by a chain or rope of desires (Vasuki). The same needs to be tightened up caught firmly by the thoughts, and ignored by giving preference to the object of concentration, the self (the tortoise). When in difficulty, every one has to take the help of God (in the form of Mohini).

To summarize, the Vasuki used in the churning of the ocean denotes that Devas and the demons held desire (to seek immortality) as a rope and churned the mind with the help of concentration and withdrawal of the senses. You can hold the desire in your hands and manipulate it only when you have control over your desires.

In the initial phase of meditation or intense churning by opposite forces, one is affected by turmoil of the mind. Most people who start meditation leave it in this phase only, as they cannot bear this turmoil and get agitated or disturbed. That is one reason it is said that one should learn meditation under the guidance of a teacher, doctor or a guru.

The Halahal represents this suffering and pain one undergoes at the beginning of spiritual Sadhna. The problems get intensified because of inner conflicts, when one part yearns to pursue the spiritual path (Devas) while the other opposes it (demons). In short, ‘Halahal’ is the instability of the body and the mind that arises as a counter-reaction against one’s spiritual practice.

One can compare this to the release of the mental toxins comparable to the physical toxins which gets released when we rest and after a daylong rest complain of leg pains.

The mental turmoil representing all kinds of reactions, negative thoughts, desires and impulses associated with some degree of physical turmoil (body movements, flickering and tingling) need to be tackled here to complete the process of meditation.

One cannot take out these negative thoughts in the open nor can one keep it in (you can not throw the Halahal out or swallow it). It needs to be managed or ignored by keeping it in the throat which is what was done by Shiva. Shiva here represents the ascetic principle (leading a life of self-discipline and self-denial).

It also means that another mode of controlling the turmoil is by controlling the breath. Shiva is the controller of breath and is called a ‘prananath, or praneshwar’ – The Lord of Breath. In meditation, it is essential that one gains complete mastery over one’s breathing pattern. Most sages hold their breath in their throat, near the palate, as they meditate to control this turmoil of mind.

The various objects that came out of the ocean during the churning stand for the psychic or spiritual powers (siddhis) which one gains as one progresses spiritually from stage to stage.

These siddhis are spiritual powers, which come to a seeker as he progresses on the spiritual path. We are told that a seeker should be careful about these powers as they can hamper his progress unless he uses them judiciously – not for his selfish gains but for others’ welfare. This is the reason why the gods and demons distributed these powers among others without keeping anything for themselves as they did not want to lose sight of their original aim, which was to gain immortality (inner happiness).

Dhanvantari stands for health. The vessel containing the Amrit was brought before the gods and the demons by Dhanvantari, the divine physician. This signifies that immortality can be achieved only when the body and the mind are in a perfect state of health.

Lord Dhanvantari is worshipped on Dhanteras, 2 days before Diwali as the lord of Ayurveda. He has four hands with herbal medicines, Ayurveda book, Amrit kalash and a Shankh in each arm. It defines the principles of treatments (herbal drugs for the physical body, pranayama and mantras represented by Shankha for the mind, rasayanas for spiritual health represented by the kalash and prevention by understating the knowledge of true self by reading the Ayurveda.

These spiritual powers are the ones which one can attain while doing basic and advanced meditation and includes the capacity to fulfill desires, to give boons to others, to acquire health, wealth etc. Meditation is not possible in case of a person who is mentally or physically sick or whose gross body is not fit for receiving meditation benefits.

Lord Vishnu in the form of Mohini stands for ‘delusion of the mind’ in the form of pride. It is the pride of achievement to which the Asuras or the demons succumbed and thus, lost their right to enter into the world of immortality. Pride and egoism are the final hurdles one has to overcome in spiritual life before being able to experience self-realization.

Diwali is celebrated on the day of Amavasya but the festival is symbolized by inner happiness, lighting or Purnima.

Moon in mythology is symbolized by cool positive thoughts. Normally on the day of Amavasya one encounters negatives thoughts and on the day of Purnima positive thoughts.

Diwali is the only day in a year where one experiences positive thoughts on the day of Amavasya, hence some people believes Diwali symbolizes Diwali with inner Purnima and out Amavasya.

Diwali celebrations also coincide with the terminal phase of Chaturmas, the four months of negative state of mind.

The purification process in Chaturmas starts with 1st Navratre falling on Amavasya. During these nine days one undergoes mind, body and soul detoxification by not thinking negative, doing positive things and acquiring soul based knowledge.

The mind, body detoxification during Navratre ends with killing of Tamas (Kumbhakarna), Rajas (Meghnath) and ego (Ravan) and of consciousness (Rama) over the evil.

These benefits do not lead to inner Moksha or happiness until 20 days, the day of Diwali. In order to continue getting benefits of Navratre one needs to fast with positive state of mind every fourth day till Diwali.

On Sharad Purnima, the fast involves thinking positive with a cool mind to get health benefits. Four days later, on Karvachauth again, one fasts and worships the Moon with positive thoughts and acquires longevity benefits. Four days later on Ahoi Ashtami again, one worships the moon and the stars with positive thoughts and acquires fertility benefits. On the day of Dhanteras one acquires a win over the fear of death (Yama). On this day, the fast involves deeper meditation (Samudra manthan) to get all the benefits of Samadhi.

At the end of the meditation in the state of Samadhi, one gets in touch with the consciousness or the God, the insight gets illuminated and a person experiences bliss, a state of ecstasy of inner happiness and that is what is called experiencing inner Purnima on the day of outer Amavasya and the festival is celebrated as Diwali.

Let us all worship this Diwali as a state of positive mental state. This one month of purification of thoughts helps one in combating the depression phase seen in winter.

Diwali is the only Amavasya where one does not do Shraadh pooja.  On Diwali Amavasya (falling in Chaturmas) one is allowed to start any new project. Even deaths on this Amavasya are considered auspicious (unlike on other Amavasya days).