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Dr K K Aggarwal

Why do we not offer Vanaspati Ghee at the time of cremation or worship?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Vanaspati Ghee is never offered to God at the time of Aarti in the Diya or to the dead body at the time of cremation. Only pure ghee is offered.
It is considered a bad omen to offer Vanaspati ghee at the time of the cremation ritual even though the consciousness has left the body.

What is not offered to God should not be offered to our consciousness and that was the reason for this ritual in a temple. Vanaspati ghee increases bad cholesterol and reduces level of good cholesterol in the blood. On the other hand, pure ghee only increases bad cholesterol but does not reduce the level of good cholesterol. The medical recommendation is that one should not take more than 15 ml of oil, ghee, butter or maximum ½ kg in one month.

It is a spiritual crime to offer vanaspati ghee to God.

Why do we apply holy ash?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Bhasma is the holy ash produced from the Homa, the sacrificial fire, wherein special wood along with ghee and other herbs are offered as a part of pooja. By the time a Bhasma is formed, no trace of original matter remains in the ash. Ash obtained from any burnt object is not bhasma.

The ritual involves worshipping the deity by pouring ash as abhishek and then distributing it as Bhasma, which is then applied on the forehead (usually), upper arms, chest, or rubbed all over the body. Some consume a pinch of Bhasma when they receive it.

The word Bhasma is derived from “bha” or “bhartsanam” (“to destroy”) and “sma” or “smaranam” (“to remember”). It denotes “that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered”. Bhasma is also called vibhuti, which means glory. Bhasma is associated with Lord Shiva who applies it all over His body.

Spiritually, the Homa is the offering of oblations into the fire with sacred chants and signifies offering or surrender of the ego and egocentric desires into the fire of knowledge. The resultant ash signifies the purity of the mind. The fire of knowledge burns the oblation and wood signifying ignorance and inertia respectively.

The application of ash implies that one should burn false identification with the body.

Bhasma has medicinal values in Ayurveda. It is supposed to be the strongest of all Ayurveda preparations. According to Ayurveda, a Bhasma is formed when the matter is converted into non matter by the process of homa. The non matter is the spirit or the energy of the matter being processed with strong healing powers. It has the same significance as any ‘potentised’ medicine in homoeopathy.

It absorbs excess moisture from the body and prevents colds and headaches.

When applied with a red spot at the centre, the mark symbolizes Shiva–Shakti (the unity of energy and matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe).

The Upanishads say that the famous Mrityunjaya Mantra should be chanted whilst applying ash on the forehead.

Why do we offer food to God in every Pooja?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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We follow a ritual of offering ‘bhog’ to the deity we worship. The ritual also involves sprinkling water all around the place where we sit down to eat food. Many people have advocated that the sprinkling of water prevents ants and insects from approaching the food. But in spiritual language, these rituals have a deeper meaning.

Bhagwad Gita and Yoga Shastras categorize food into three types corresponding to their properties termed as gunas. Depending upon satoguna, rajoguna and tamoguna, the food items are categorized as satwik, rajsik or tamsik.

Satwik food provides calmness, purity and promotes longevity, intelligence, strength, health, happiness and delight. The examples of satwik food items are fruits, vegetables, leaves, grains, cereals, milk, honey, etc. These items can be consumed as they are. One can also live on satwik food for life.

Rajsik food items possess attributes of negativity, passion and restlessness. Hot, spicy and salty food items with pungent, sour and salt taste promote rajas qualities.

Tamsik food has attributes of inducing sleep, ignorance, dullness and inertia. The examples of tamsik food are meat, onions, garlic, left-over food, etc.

Only satwik food is offered to God. Rajsik and tamsik food is never offered as Bhog. The only persons who were offered tamsik and rajsik food in Ramayana are Ahi Ravana and Kumbhkaran. Both of them were of an evil nature. Kumbhkaran signified tamas and Ahi Ravana, rajas or aggression. Tamsik and rajsik food can be converted into satwik by slow heating, sprouting or keeping them in water overnight. The examples are sprouted wheat and chana (chickpeas), etc.

A mixture of honey, milk, ghee, curd and sugar is called panchamrut and is a routine offering to the God. All the five components have satwik properties and their consumption promotes health.

In Ayurveda, there is a saying that any food item, which grows under the ground, is tamsik in nature and those that come from the top of the tree or plant like leaves, flower and fruits are satwik in nature. Satwik food is usually fresh, seasonal and locally grown.

Human beings are made up of body, mind and soul and soul is equated to consciousness or God. Whatever offered to the external God, if offered to the internal God or consciousness, leads to inner happiness. The ritual, therefore, of offering food to God before eating forces us to either eat only satwik food or to include a substantial portion of satwik food in our meals. It helps a person convert his meal into a pure satwik one or at least adding satwik items.

Sprinkling water around the plate is considered an act of purification.

Many people confuse bhog with chadhava or offerings to the deity. While bhog is shared with God, chadhava is the offering of your illness or negative thoughts to the God and you go back with prasada of inner happiness. Many people counter the above argument by saying that alcohol is offered to Bhairon, viewed as a demon God, which means alcohol, is good for health. I personally feel that alcohol is offered to Bhairon not as a bhog but as an offering, which means that people who are addicted to alcohol go to Bhairon and give their share of alcohol to him so they can de-addict themselves.

Why do we regard trees and plants as being sacred?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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The upper part of the plants, the leaves, flowers and fruits are worshipped as sacred and offered to God. As per the Bhagwad Gita, these have satvik properties. Roots of any plant are tamsik and not offered in pooja or eaten during pooja days. The same is true for the stems of plants, which have rajsik properties.

  1. Fresh and live fruits have the same spirit and life force as in the human beings and are considered sacred the same way as any human being.
  2. Human life also depends on plants and trees. They give us the vital factors that make life possible on earth: food, oxygen, clothing, shelter, medicines etc.
  3. Ancient scriptures suggest the planting of a minimum of ten trees. We are also urged to apologize to a plant or tree before cutting it to avoid incurring a specific sin named soona.
  4. Many trees and plants like tulsi, peepal etc., which also have medicinal value, are worshipped.

Why do we light Camphor in any Pooja?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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No Arati is performed without camphor. Camphor when lit burns itself out completely without leaving any trace.

Camphor represents our inherent tendencies or vasanas. When lit by the fire of knowledge about 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.

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

Why Do We Say Aum Shanti Thrice?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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It is believed that trivaram satyam that which is said thrice comes true. For emphasizing a point we repeat a thing thrice. In the court of law also, one who takes the witness stands says, “I shall speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. Triple Talaq is a Sunni Islamic procedure whereby a husband can divorce his wife by saying to her “talaq, talaq, talaq” (“I divorce you”, three times).

Prayer is to get something for which we have an intense desire like Shanti which means “peace” or inner happiness.

There is only love in the universe. Hatred is withdrawal of love. It follows the same principle of light and darkness. There is no darkness in the universe it is only absence of light.

Similarly there is only peace in the natural environment (both external and internal). Peace naturally exists in a place until someone makes noise (external or internal).

Internally peace underlies all agitations and negativity of the mind. When negative thoughts end, peace is the only happening as it was already there.

Peace is covered and controlled by kama, krodha, lobha, moha and ahankar. It can be earned by removing these five gateways to the hell.

To invoke peace, one meditates or chant prayers. By chanting prayers, one shifts one’s awareness from sympathetic to parasympathetic mode, a state of relaxation.

All prayers end by chanting shanti thrice. Some interpret it as if chanting first time loudest, addresses the unseen forces (Aadhidaivik, the natural disasters), second time, addresses the immediate surroundings (Aadhibhautika: external modifiable factors) and softest the last and third time addresses oneself (Aadhyaatmika)

Why do we burn camphor in any pooja?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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No Aarti is performed without camphor. Camphor when lit burns itself out completely without leaving a trace of it.

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.

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