Values and Prayers


Ganesh


# Chapter 1 Why do we light a lamp?
# Chapter 2 Why do we have a prayer room?
# Chapter 3 Why do we greet each other with namaste?
# Chapter 4 Why do we bow to our parents or elders or touch their feet?
# Chapter 5 Why do we put tikka on our forehead?
# Chapter 6 Why do we not touch books of wisdom or worship and other persons with our feet?
# Chapter 7 Why do we apply bhasma on the forehead?
# Chapter 8 Why do we offer food to God before consuming it ourselves?
# Chapter 9 Why do we perform Pradakshina (walk around the alter) in a Temple?
# Chapter 10 Why do we consider trees and plants as sacred?
# Chapter 11 Why do we fast?
# Chapter 12 Why do we ring the bell in the temple?
# Chapter 13 Why do we perform a kalas ceremony?
# Chapter 14 Why do we consider the tulsi plant as holy?
# Chapter 15 Why do we consider a lotus flower as important?
# Chapter 16 Why do we blow the conch?
# Chapter 17 Why do we chant shanty three times?
# Chapter 18 Why do we make an offering of the coconut at the alter?
# Chapter 19 Why do we chant Aum?
# Chapter 20 Why do we offer the Aarti?
# Chapter 21 What are the features of a hindu marriage ceremony ?
# Chapter 22 What are the things to remember for a Happy Married Life ?
# Chapter 23 What is Rakshabandhan ?



Why Do We Light a Lamp (Diya)?


In every Hindu home, a lamp is lit in the morning or evening or at both times. In some homes the lamp is kept going day and night - it is never allowed to burn out. Apart from daily prayers, religious ceremonies, celebrations and at opening ceremonies or events, the light of the lamp is considered auspicious. It is kept burning up to the end of the ceremony or event. Light represents knowledge and darkness represents ignorance. We believe that God almighty is complete in every way and He is the authority that reveals knowledge and dispels ignorance. Light represents His presence. All of mankind is in search of peace and this ultimately comes from the realization of ultimate truth and knowledge. Hindus use butter (Ghee) or oil to light a lamp as opposed to an electric lamp for the purpose of creating light. We believe that butter or oil represents the ego within us, and this needs to be removed or burnt off. Also the lighting of one oil lamp enables the lighting of countless number of lamps, just as one knowledgeable person can enlighten others with his knowledge. Every aspect of the lighting of a lamp as a logical and symbolic meaning in Hinduism.

Go Top



Why Do We Have a Prayer Room?


Every Hindu home has a designated prayer room - temple. Everyday a lamp is lit at an appointed time. In this room, an individual or a family conducts prayer sessions, meditation, bhajans as well as other special ceremonies or celebrations, whether joyous or sad. Since the Almighty is the undisputed Creator and owner of the universe, He resides in every home, and therefore the prayer room is the most important place in every Hindu Page 2 of 15 home. We are mere mortals who are temporarily using His facilities, that which we often consider our home, our country or our world. We must therefore readily understand that the Almighty is the true and rightful owner of everything we think "we possess". If we find it difficult to understand this, then at least as Hindus, we must invite Him as a guest in our home. The temple is therefore His abode within our abode. Keep it clean and neat as if He is constantly living with us. We must also believe that just as we have a designated room for every domestic activity, the prayer room should be a very special room, which gives us the feeling of comfort and security that we all need in our lives. We should feel His presence and also feel spiritually uplifted as we enter this special room - the Temple.

Go Top



Why Do We Greet Each Other With Namaste?


Hindus greet each other with "Namaste", by bringing both palms together and bowing the head towards the person or persons they are greeting. We do so with anyone who is younger or older than us, to those that we learn from, to friends, acquaintances and even strangers. We acknowledge everyone with Namaste. Scriptures mention five different ways of greeting but Namaste is prominent amongst all, even to the extent that it is equal to when we prostrate to an elder or to the Lord at the alter in a Temple. In Sanskrit, Namaste means "I bow with respect before you" or "I welcome you". In this way it also signifies the removal of the ego within us. When two people meet, it really is a meeting of minds or hearts. The meeting of two palms is symbolic of the meeting of two hearts and when you bow your head over your clasped hands, you crown the greeting with the removal of ego between yourselves and introduce the feeling of love and humility into the meeting. We often add words of greeting such as Ram Ram, Haribol, Jaisiyaram, Om Shanti, etc. when bowing our head. We thus introduce the presence of God in the meeting. We also recognize God's presence and His energy which flows through ourselves and every other living being. Namaste is not only an outward greeting but it is spiritual also and deeply rooted in the Hindu culture.

Go Top



Why Do We Bow To Our Parents and Elders or Touch Their Feet?


Hindus bow down and touch the feet of their parents, their elders and spiritual leaders and learned people. When doing so, in return, the elders would touch the head of the bowing person and add some words of blessings. This is done also at special occasions, at New Year time, and at occasions which call for blessings or good wishes from elders. When an upstanding person bows, it signifies humility and deep respect towards the elderly person It acknowledges the appreciation of the gift of knowledge, concern or care for the welfare of the recipient. In a family or joint family environment, it signifies unity, and is the cornerstone of Hindu culture. It is a sure way of receiving pure blessings from elders which are considered important to the success of the recipient. One also feels protected by elders in doing so. The elder who is giving these blessings is usually upstanding at the time. Your ankles, knees, chest, head, clasped hands and the entire body is offered in prostration to symbolize an offering of humility. The love from elders, their wisdom, experience and enlightenment are acknowledged by the younger generations in Hinduism. Cultural heritage and pedigree or ancestry, descent, background, age, wisdom, morality,religious knowledge are all respected in the Hindu culture as signs of maturity. Kings, Prime Ministers, Presidents and leaders of society have all respected and accepted these values as the norm in Hindu culture.

Go Top



Why Do We Put a Tikka On Our Forehead?


Most religious sects within Hinduism adopt the wearing of a tikka on the forehead. In particular, every married woman does this to signify that she is not single. It is also considered auspicious to do so and usually worn after bathing, prior to religious ceremonies or at the temple where the entire congregation wears a tikka. Religious heads usually do a more elaborate one. Whilst welcoming visitors or commencing a journey, it is also done. The tikka on the forehead also conveys one's religiosity. The Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras have their own form of tikka. Traditionally, the Brahmans used a white chandan, the Kshatriyas being warriors used a red kumkum, the Vaishyas as a business class used a yellow kesar tikka and the Shudras who were the helpers to the other three Varnas used the black of charcoal to make their tikka. The tikka is implanted in the centre of the forehead, symbolising the thought processes and concentration centre of the individual. One also uses this central point to concentrate upon during meditation. Some people cover the entire forehead with chandan.

Go Top



Why Do We Not Touch Books of Wisdom or Other Persons With Our Feet?


From childhood, Hindus are taught not to touch paper, books or other people with their feet. Hindus consider knowledge as sacred and books usually contain recorded knowledge. Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge. A designated day of the Hindu calendar is observed as the day reserved for special Puja for Saraswati - the Goddess of knowledge. Man is considered as the living representation of God, it is therefore inappropriate to touch another person with your feet. If by accident this happens, one humbly apologizes to the individual concerned. These customs which have been preserved and practiced for many centuries and generations have helped to refine man right up to the present time.

Go Top



Why Do We Apply Bhasma on the Forehead?


Bhasma are not produced from just anything that has been burnt to ashes. Bhasma are ashes derived from a haven ceremony performed with mantras chanted over a fire ceremony into which pure ghee, selected woods and food grain ingredients have been offered. Bhasma (ashes) are spread over the forehead, upper body limits or shoulders as well as the chest. They are even spread over the entire body or sometimes with a finger touch on the tongue. Haven is performed with the significant purpose of offering your latent ego tendencies into the holy fire. Bhasma reminds us of our ultimate destiny, that of going beyond death and into your next life. Bhasma reminds us that this body is not permanent, it is temporary.

Go Top



Why Do We Offer Food to God Before Consuming it Ourselves?


In the West, prayers are offered before food is consumed. Hindus actually offer a little portion of the food to the altar before consuming it. This is then mixed with the rest of the quantity so that all the food is considered sanctified before consumption. Once food has been offered at the altar, it is considered to be pure and also perfect. It therefore should not be wasted way, nor is it criticized in any way for taste. This is symbolic of the level of tolerance that should be inculcated in every endeavor of life. Before consuming the food, water is sprinkled around the plate and five little heaps of food are made in the plate symbolically in appreciation of the elements which give us life, sustenance and protection. We then give thanks to our parents and forefathers, and also to our spiritual and cultural heritage which has sustained us thus far. We are obliged to pass on this culture to coming generations and to society and mankind at large, without whose co-operation and understanding, we could not live in comfort and harmony. Finally, we also show appreciation to other living beings, animals and plant life which play an integral part in our daily lives and existence.

Go Top



Why Do We Perform Pradakshina (Walk Around the Altar) in a Temple?


When we go into a Temple, we bow down and then walk around the altar. Why do we do so? Every human activity has a focal point. Everything happens around this focal point We accept the presence of God, who is represented in the Temple, as the focal point around which our life revolves. He is placed perfectly in the centre and His grace flows towards us equally. We circulate from left to right. This is not merely so that it makes for orderly traffic flow but Hindus consider that the right side of all human activity in life should flow towards that is right or proper. Similarly, we see Godly qualities in our parents and Gurus and we perform Pradakshina around them in the respective ceremonies. After performing the Puja in the Temple, we sanctify our homes also with a Pradakshina around it. Every step is taken in the belief that we are removing impurities that exist in our lives.

Go Top



Why Do We Consider Trees and Plants as Sacred?


From ancient times, Hindus have considered plants and trees as sacred. Similarly, the existences of animals, insects and reptiles have also been respected. This is not merely an orthodox or primitive belief. The tradition has a deep culture to it recognizing the long term benefits of co-existence between all aspects of divine creation. We believe that the living God in us humans also lives in plants and trees and this is also why they are considered to be sacred. Humans are dependent upon them for their existence. They provide us with food, oxygen, clothing as well as the material things that we need in our day to day life. They also beautify planet earth. They expect nothing from us in return for the service they provide. They often give their life for our existence. Even if we throw a stone at a tree it gives us a fruit in return. Such is the nature of plants and trees. It is also true that they occupied the planet before man did. In recent times, man's behavior has caused harm or even extinction to some plants and trees. Man has destroyed and occupied entire forests together with the creatures that lived in them. As Hindus, we are taught to revere and respect threes and plants as part of our heritage, culture and evenreligion. If we cut one tree for whatever reason, we are required to plant 10 more. For our food, fire or habituation purposes, if we need to use a tree, we may use only as much as is absolutely necessary and that also, after offering a prayer. Tulsi, Peeple and many other trees are extremely useful to human beings, and also so many trees are used for medicinal purposes.

Go Top



Why Do We Fast?


Many devotees of the various paths within Hinduism, fast on designated auspicious days. They either observe a total fast with nothing to eat or drink, or they will drink only water and have nothing else, or they will have just one light meal during the day. A fast can be dedicated to a form of discipline to please God or also as a protest against that which is considered unacceptable or offensive to the person fasting. Mahatma Gandhi fasted many times during British rule and their laws in India. Fasting is not done merely to save food or to increase appetite in order to eat more afterwards or to enjoy the food even more. The literary meaning of a fast or 'upwaas' is to raise the level of spiritual thinking, or to be closer to God. What has this upper thinking have to do with food intake? Effort made in obtaining, cleaning, looking for, consuming and digesting food is time consuming and lots of energy is spent in doing so. Also, some types of food are heavy and difficult to digest. Man therefore selects certain days of the week, month or calendar to make this voluntary withdrawal from food consumption so that he can observe a mental discipline and be closer to his Maker. He does this voluntarily, purposefully and also joyfully. A fasting disciple also helps to conserve energy and to rest our faculties. However, fasting should not cause suffering or pain to the body and mind. This could happen if the fast is not conducted with a proper understanding of higher and spiritual thinking. Some people may fast to increase their will power. The Bhagavad-Gita Gita advocates a moderate form of living, including a moderate and simple diet.

Go Top



Why Do We Ring the Bell in a Temple?


Most Temples have one or more bells at the entrance. A devotee rings the bell before entering the Temple before he prostrates at the feet of the Deity. Children are lifted up to ring the bell also. The significance is not to awake the Deity since He does not sleep, nor is it to draw His attention. He is always attentive. It is also not done in order to take His permission to enter His place of Abode, His doors are always open and He always welcomes everyone. The bell makes an enlightening and rich sound which incorporates 'Aum' in it. 'Aum' is the basis of all sounds or notes. The sound from a ringing bell is supposed to drown any other offending or disturbing noises surrounding the area of the Temple. When one rings the bell, it is done with the following thoughts "I greet you with the ringing of the bell and with the wish that you remain in my thoughts and that I may be cleansed and protected from evil thoughts or deeds".

Go Top



Why Do We Perform a Kalas Ceremony?


A 'Kalas' is made from clay, copper or zinc. Mango leaves are placed at the mouth of this Kalas (vessel) and a coconut is placed at the centre top with Aum drawn in Kumkum on the vessel and a Swastika on the coconut. The vessel must contain water or rice. A cotton thread is also tied around the mouth of the vessel. This arrangement represents a fully enlightened and complete being. The Kalas arrangement is used at a wedding, a housewarming or any auspicious ceremony. It is placed at the front entrance to signify a warm welcome to guests as well as to any spiritual teacher or master present. The water in the vessel represents life, creation and all the energy in the universe, whilst the mango tree leaf and the coconut represent the Universe. The cotton thread represents brotherhood amongst man. Water of all the sacred rivers, the knowledge of all the Vedas as well as the blessings of all the Deities are also represented by the Kalas.

Go Top



Why Do We Consider the Tulsi Plant as Holy?


In India, every Hindu home has a Tulsi plant either in the forecourt or the back courtyard. It is called a Tulsi Kyaro. If one lives in a flat or an apartment, a Tulsi plant is grown in a pot. Ladies will water the plant and light a Diwa (lamp) daily in front of the Tulsi tree. The leaves, stema, flowers, seeds and the soil in which the plant grows are all considered to be sacred. When food is offered to a Deity, it is decorated with a sprinkling of Tulsi leaves. Tulsi is also used as a medicinal herb, for treating common colds as well as many other ailments.

Go Top



Why Do We Consider a Lotus Flower as Important?


The lotus flower is the national flower of India. It represents generosity, purity and truth. The Vedas use the term Kamal (lotus) often to describe many beautiful events and teachings. The lotus flower opens its petals at dawn and closes them at sunset. Even if the lotus flower grows in a swamp, it remains above the dirty or polluted water. This symbolizes to us that we should live a life of purity, detached from the rough and tumble of day to day life, just as the lotus flower which grows in a swamp, and is not polluted with muddy water. In a world of turmoil and instability, the lotus flower symbolizes to man that it is possible to remain aloof and unaffected. All aspects of human endeavor as well as the faculties of the human being are represented by the petals of the lotus flower. The lotus flower has many symbolic representations in the Scriptures, the Vedas and the Gita. It is therefore adopted as the national flower of India.

Go Top



Why Do We Blow the Conch?


In Temples and in Hindu homes, at prayer time, it is considered auspicious to blow the conch. The blowing of the conch also signifies an auspicious beginning or ending to any form of human activity. It is used significantly in religious ceremonies. It represents creation and the sound of the conch symbolizes the first sound - Aum. The conch, when placed close to the ear, gives off a sound like the waves in an ocean. When one blows the conch it causes the drowning of all other offending noises. In the villages of India, where most people lived in ancient times, the blowing of the conch from the Temple calls to attention all the village folk, either to attend at the Temple or wherever they are. They would pause for a few moments from their daily chores uniting thus with the formal activity at the Village Temple.

Go Top



Why Do We Chant 'Shanti' Three Times?


Shanti means peace and this is the requirement of every being, yet human beings are the cause of disturbance of peace within themselves and others. Unless we interfere, peace prevails everywhere. When the cause of the disturbance of peace is removed, automatically peace is restored. That is the nature of peace. Where there is peace, there is happiness. Man seeks this peace, this inner peace. Only some people are able to attain this state of inner peace amidst all the turmoil and turbulence in the world. We pray to attain this peace in various ways, sitting quietly or chanting a mantra or by singing hymns. At the end we utter the words, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, three times in order to emphasize peace, just as we repeat other words to add weight to what we are saying. Mankind suffers from several types of calamities like earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, accidents, crime, etc. and also from bodily and mental sicknesses. In all these situation, man beckons for relief and peace. That is why we chant Shanti Shanti Shanti. The first Shanti is chanted a little loudly for the benefit of those that are at a distance, the second, a little softly for those around us, and the third almost silently, for the peace of the soul within us. This way, we beckon for peace externally, internally and also eternally.

Go Top



Why Do We Make an Offering of the Coconut at the Alter?


The most offered fruit at the Alter in Temples in India is the coconut. At weddings, functions, opening ceremonies of a building or the occupation of a new house or vehicle, the coconut is used symbolically. Even when welcoming guests or dignitaries at home, ceremonies or functions, the coconut is used. After the ceremony, the fruit is cut and offered to everyone. The coconut represents the head, the breaking of the coconut at a ceremony signifies the removal of the ego in every man. The water represents desire and the white inner coconut is offered to the Deity, after which, it is consumed by the congregation. The coconut also represents selfless service. The trunk of the coconut tree, the leaves, the fruit as well as the straw covering, are all useful to man. Coconut oil is used commonly for food preparation or for soap manufacture as well as for medicinal purposes. It is also used extensively in ancient Ayurvedic medicine. Nothing of the coconut is wasted and therefore is has many significant symbolic meanings in Hindu religious ceremonies as well as in their day to day lives.

Go Top



Why Do We Chant 'Aum'?


The most chanted mantra in India is Aum. It has a deep effect on the mind, body and environment. Most mantras and chants are prefixed with Aum. The written symbol Aum is considered auspicious and is treated respectfully. It is also used as a point of meditation. Aum is the universal meaning of God. The first sound from the throat come as 'Aa', when the two lips are rounded the sound 'oo' is released and as you close your mouth, the sound changes to 'mm'. The total sound is therefore A...U...M. Aum also represents awake, dream and deep sleep states, manifestations of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the Vedas Ruk, Saam and Yajur as well as the mantras Bhur Bhuvaha Swaha. God is all of these attributes, qualities and beyond. The sum total of all Vedas is considered as Aum. It is also said that the entire creation was commenced after the chanting of the Mantra, Aum. Therefore, before beginning any auspicious activity, the Aum Mantra is chanted.

Go Top



Why Do We Offer the Aarti?


At the end of every devotional prayer, we offer Aarti to the symbol of an enlightened soul, who we admire with reverence, often in the presence of a dignitary or spiritual teacher. We ring a bell, play musical instruments or clap hands when singing the Aarti in praise of the Deity to whom it is being offered. We would hold a kamp (Diya) in the right hand, rotate it from left to right around the Deity encompassing his entire existence. The chanting of the Aarti is in praise of His qualities and manifestation and the words would invoke deep devotional amongst the congregation. One feels even more admiration of the divine quality of the Deity whilst chanting the Aarti in its final stanzas. We also light some camphor, which signifies the destruction of the ego in us. Ego come between divine knowledge and ourselves, it inhibits our growth towards total spiritual awareness. At the end of the Aarti, we bow our heads and accept the flame from the lap as representing His divine blessings by spreading our opened palms over the flame and touching our eyes and head thereafter. The Altar is decorated since we acknowledge God's presence at the Altar and at all the ceremonies at the Temple. We thus acknowledge His beauty and His completeness.


This is an email from CS Holdings. It is confidential to the ordinary user of the email address to which it is addressed and may contain copyright and/or legally privileged information. No one else may read, print, store, copy, forward or act in reliance upon all or any part of it or its attachments. If you received this email in error please notify its sender.  

Go Top