Questions And Answers Indian Civilization By Sanjeev Nayyar -4

Questions And Answers Indian Civilization
By Sanjeev Nayyar  

Q31 Ma, when you went for Vaishali’s wedding my boyfriend was ga ga about how nice - attractive you looked with the flowers in your hair, silk saree and mangal sutra. He said you had this very Indian look and wants me to look that way too?
Thanks for the compliment. For all festive occasions Indians say it with flowers. It is a typical Indian tradition to wear flowers that carry fragrance. The hair become pleasing to the eye, enticing, attractive and bodes blessedness. You can wear a mangal sutra- thread of life only after you get married to Prithvi or anyone else. Your papa tied it round my neck for the first time at the time of the shaadi. A woman is to remove it only after she becomes a widow. Yellow turmeric powder is rubbed on this thread to give it yellow color. The cord is made up of three strands of hand spun cotton thread. The three strands stand for purity of the body, intellect and soul. Some women use black beads as the symbol of marriage.
Q32 Mom, Dadaji had gone for the Kumbh Mela last year. Please explain! 
It is the greatest Indian pilgrim festival that takes place once in three years. It is a riverside religious festival rotated between Allahabad (on the banks of the Ganga, Yamuna and dried up Saraswati), Hardwar (Ganges), Ujjain (Sipra) and Nasik (Godavri). The festival that is held at Allahabad is held once in twelve years is known as Maha Kumbh Mela.
Q33 What are the scriptures of the Hindus?
Sruti – that which is heard – are the Vedas (4) and the Upansiashads (108). Smrithi – that which is remembered  are –  Vedangas ( Dharma Sutras, Jyotisha, Kalpa, Siksha, Chandas, Nirukta and Vyakarana), Darsanas ( Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa ), Itihaasas ( Ramayana and Mahabharat ), Puranas ( Mahapuranas and Upapuranas ), Upavedas ( Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandhara Veda, Artha Shastra ), Agamas ( Vaishnava, Saiva and Sakti ), Upangas ( logical, ritual forms of thought ), Tantras and Charvaka.
Q34 What is Sruti?
Sruthi means a note of sound. The Vedas are a result of the divine hearing of the Rishis of the various divine sounds. As they are received through the art of hearing, Vedas are called Srutis – that which can be heard.
Q35 Who is a Rishi, were the main Rishis, were there any women too?
Rishi is a learned sage, the representation of the Vedic Aryan current of thought, were spiritually inspired poets in tune with the external and create great works which express their inner ecstasy and experience. They recited prayers and performed religious sacrifices (Homa) with fire as the intermediary. The seven main Rishis were Kashyapa, Atri, Bharadwaja, Viswamitra, Vasishta, Jamadgni and Gautama. There were 32 women seers also.
Q36 What are the Puranas?
They are religious stories that expound truths, relate to God in many manifestations, the Divine play and their dealing with mortals. Their purpose is to expand upon and propagate the meaning of the Vedas to the common man. There are 18 Puranas of which six each are addressed to Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. They keep Sanatan Dharam alive and fresh by their story content. They were written about 1000 BC and between 4-6th century a.d.
Q37 What are Tantras?
Tantras are a branch of Sanatan Dharam and in parts believes in the enjoyment of material life. In Tantrism the deity is Siva – Parvati. It is a system of practices used for spiritual upliftment. The best part about it is about the untapped Kundalini energy in human body. Tantrism also researched into chemistry, atomic theory, astrology etc.
Q38 What are the important nerves as per the Tantras?
The important nerves are Sushumna, Ida and Pingala start from the base of the spinal column or Muladhara Chakra. Sushumna is the most important, runs from the spinal cord through to the topmost point of the head. Ida and Pingala run to the left and right sides of the spine. The three nerves meet at Ajna Chakra, the point situated between the eyebrows. Then they separate and flow through the left and right nostrils.
Q39 What is the significance of Tilak?
The Tilak on the forehead is the third invisible eye of knowledge. When you see my face, the first thing you notice is the tilak. It is a center of attraction esp for women. According to Yoga sastras, at the junction of the eyebrows, lies the Ajna-chakra, a plexus which is one of the stations along which the serpent power or kundalini is said to travel from the mooldhara at the base point of the spinal cord to the head. For Samadhi or psychic trance, one is asked to concentrate on the area where Tilak is applied. The breadth is immediately stilled, bringing with it the automatic withdrawal of senses. In simple words, it is a center of occult power. The Red kumkum has a peculiar color effect. Redness being a stimulator of Rajas or energy. When there is a death in the family, it is considered to be bad time thus Tilak is not applied.
Q40 Now what on earth is Kundalini Ma?
According to the Tantras there is a mysterious power in the every human body called Kundalini power. It lies at the bottom of the spine. It is believed that as a person spiritually evolves by meditation or by Pranayama exercises, this power slowly rises through the Sushumna curve. As it passes through each psychic center, the person will have complete control of that sense organ for eg if it reaches Manipura Chakra opposite the navel, the person will have complete control over sight.
When Kundalini power passes along with the six chakras and eventually united with Sahasrara at the crown of the head. When that happens the person attains realization.
Q41 Now Mom, what are the Chakras?
There are seven Chakras ie Muladhara Chakra (at the base of the spine) has four petals and controls smell. Svadishtana (at the base of the genitals) has six petals and controls taste. Maniputa C (opposite the navel) controls sight. Anahata C (at the level of the heart) controls touch. Visuddha C (at the throat) controls hearing. Ajna C (between the eyebrows) controls the mind. Sahasrara C (topmost point of the head). Here the Yogi attains Cosmic Consciousness.
Q42 Ma, the founder of Arya Samaj was a Gujarati, then how did he reach Punjab?
Around the 1870’s Christian missionaries set foot in Punjab. Unable to bear the penetration of the Missionaries, on hearing of a saviour Swami Dayanand Saraswati in Bombay, Punjabi Hindus sought his help. Thus Swamiji entered Punjab on Easter Day in 1877. Ludhiana was the first step of the Rishi on Punjab soil. He delivered his first lecture on Shuddhi at Jullundar which led to the reconversion of a Christian back to the Hindu fold. Punjabi Hindus welcomed the concept of Shuddhi. The concept was originally ordained in the Vedas, was forgotten by the Hindus and revived by Swamiji. The famous Sindhi principal was saved from conversion to Islam, thanks to Swami’s follower, Pandit Lekhram.
Q43 Which are the different systems of Indian Philosophy (called Darshans)?
Darshan are broadly into two categories, Astika (believers in the Vedas) and Nastika (non-believer in the Vedas). Astika darshan are Nyaya, Vaisheshik, Sakhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta. Nastika darshan are Carvaka, Jaini and Buaddha. The others are a mixture of the ideas in these systems.
Q44 What is our attitude towards Vegetarianism (V)? (Quoted from Prabuddha Bharata Vol 105 of June 2000)
V or non-V was based on family tradition. In the south, among the Vaishnavas and more orthodox groups elsewhere we find a predominance of V. Swami Vivekananda said “V is a beautiful idea. If you choose it freely for your inner growth, then it is all right.” What is important is character, V or non V is a matter of detail. But when you choose V from NV ie when you reach a stage in your spiritual journey when a call comes from within, no non-veg food that is true V in the view of Swami Vivekananda.
Jesus, Buddha, Sri Ram and Krishna ate non-veg. According to Prof Alsdorf of the Indology dept of the Hamburg Universty in Germany “all ancient sages including Mahavir ate non-veg. He read out references of Mahavir’s meat eating in the Bhagvati Sutra or the Vyakhya-prajnapati Sutra, 15th Sataka, where the reference is to fowl’s meat, the Acaranga Sutra, he said, prohibited monks from accepting as alms meat of animals with many bones, the Dasavaikalika Sutra, as also Haribhadra, the Jain scholar of the eighth century a.d., refers to meat eating. The strong V habits among various Hindu sects happened in the ninth or tenth century.”
Q45 Ma, please explain the concept of Ahimsa to me?
Usually two great names in Bharat are associated with non-violence, Gandhi and Buddha. During Buddha’s time a commander in chief came to him to receive deeksha and become his disciple. Buddha asked him what had prompted him to become a bhikshu. The commander replied “Enemies have invaded our territory. I am now required to lead our forces against them. But that will lead to bloodshed and violence on both sides. I felt that it would be a sinful act. I have decided to relinquish military responsibility and have come over here to follow the path your path of non-violence and peace.” To which Buddha said “Merely because you have come away the enemies are not going to give up their aggression. They are bound to indulge in killing and ravaging. If you forsake your duty of protecting the innocents under your charge, the sin of that violence will visit your head. Protection of the good and righteous is verily enjoined by Dharma. No sin will be attached to you while doing this duty. So, go back and carry out your assignment.”
Gandhiji castigated some people who were fleeing after being attacked “Why are you behaving like cowards? You take my name and repeat the name ahimsa and run for your life under that shelter. Instead of running away it would be better to fight, to kill, or get killed.” Sri Krishna implied that establishment of Dharma implies the destruction of evildoers.
Q46 What are the two most important principles of International Law?
The first is “Jis ki lathi, us ki bhains or might is right.” The second is “Repeat a lie a hundred times and it becomes truth.
Q47 Why do Hindus anoint the deities with various liquids?
Ritualistic worship is expected to make us more involved with the thought of Bhagwan. In the performance of rituals, chanting of syllabic words, full of meaning and depth and the vibrations caused by these sacred words produce ever expanding circular currents which when they come into contact with the liquids and the figures over which the liquid is poured charge the figure with great power which passed on to the liquids that become sanctifies. Also different liquids acquire different potencies when they come into contact with stone or metal and are beneficial to those who partake of these liquids after the rituals are over.
Q48 What do the red and white stripes on the walls of the temple signify?
Red is the color of energy and suspiciousness. White is the color of peace, purity and truth. A temple is a symbolic combination of both the colors.
Q49 Ma, you make me say the Surya mantra 108 times, now not 108 and not 110?
Ancient Indian astronomers had calculated and deduced that 108 times the diameter of the earth is the diameter of the sun. The nine planets go round the twelve Zodiacal signs 108 times na. The 27 stars are divided each into four equal parts. Thus there are 108 parts of the twenty seven stars. A lotus flower has 108 petals.
Q50 Ma, I do not want to go to Vinayak’s house for dinner, his parents insist that I remove my shoes; you know the ones I paid Rs 1500 for. How will people envy?
Pooja, now please do not become so materialistic. Removing shoes before entering the house or temple shows culture, courtesy, humility and respect. The house of God is holy and its sanctity must be preserved at all costs. Walking barefoot into a temple indicates reverence, respect, devotion and humility. By keeping yr shoes on Vinayak’s shoe rack you do not carry the dirt and pollution into his home. Another reason could be that most shoes are made from cow / buffalo skin. Since both these animals are highly revered by us Sanathan Dharmis, it is wrong to visit a house, temple with shoes on.
Q51 Ma, Nanaji had a tuff of pair that I used to pull as a kid, Why?
The tuff of hair is called Sikha. Orthodox Hindus / priests have a tuff of hair because as priests they are supposed to be custodians of spiritual mantras and scriptural knowledge. The Vedas and mantras need to be retained in memory for which the brain must be covered. Equanimity and good memory go with the tuff. In the past all men had a tuff irrespective of caste. The water droplets dropping from the tuff after a bath is supposed to be the essence of the mantras which serve to quench the thirst of the ancestors. Perhaps one can compare the tuff to a t.v. antenna. The knot of hair resting on the nape of the neck, protests the nape from the sun.
Q52 Why did you make me pierce my ears and nostrils. It pained ma?
Sweety I did not do it to cause you pain. Can any mother be so heartless? The piercing is done for better eye sight, hearing and inhalation. It is for your good health. As we got more taken in by materialistic desires, women wearing jewels, nose rings came to be associated with long life and prosperity.
Q53 The sweetest guy in my class is a Parsi. How and why did they enter India?
When barbaric hordes of Arabs and Turks entered Persia, Parsis sailed for India and landed at Sanjan in 936 a.d., some say 806 a.d.  King Yadava Rana welcomed them and consulted the Shankaracharya of Dwarka Math as to how to accept them. They were asked to give up beef-eating, respect mother cow as an object of national faith and live in peace. Though their numbers are declining today their contribution to the Freedom Movement and the nation is monumental. For them Bharat is home.
Q54 Our country had been invaded for thousands of years. So why all this noise about Muslim / Christian invasions?
There is a difference. Prior to the Muslim invasion, all invaders got absorbed / accepted Indian culture and became a part of Sanathan Dharam. Here is the chronology for you. The Kushans entered Bharat and accepted Saivism. In the 5th century, the Huns entered Bharat. By practise of Aryan culture they were absorbed into Kshatriya Varna when Raja Kandev of Chatisgarh Chedi married Ahilyadevi, Hun women. Sardar Patel, the Iron Man of India, was supposedly a descendant of the Huns. Shakas from Persia settled in Rajputana, Bengal amongst others, were absorbed in Hindu society to finally become Brahmans, hold the monopoly of priesthood of Surya temples. The Gurjars settled down in Gujrawala and Gujarat in Punjab. The state of Gujarat derives its name from them. Solankis, Chauhans, Parmars are their descendants. When Alexander left India his soldiers preferred to stay behind. They got absorbed into Hinduism. The descendants are known as Nagar Brahmans.
Q55 What are the Ten Principles of Yama and Niyama?
Ahimsa (non-injury), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-coveting), Brahmacharya (continence) and Aparigraha (non-acquisition) form the five Yamas. Shoucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapah (peace), Swadhyaya (spiritual study), and Iswara Pranidhana (offering of one’s actions to God) form the five Niyamas.
The Ten Commandments in the Bible are nothing but the 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas. While the latter aims at control, understanding and transcending of the mind the former i.e. Jesus uses faith and devotion to change the life of his followers.
The Yama’s incorporates ‘values’ which facilitate integration and purity of the mind and Niyama’s reveal things necessary to be part of our daily routine. These are part of a revered text called Ashtanga Yoga-Sutra of Maharshi Patanjali. The book forms the basis of Yoga philosophy.
Q56 Ma, what does Himalayas mean?
Hima means snow and Alaya means temple, so it stands for Temple of Snow.
Q57 Similarities between Sufism and by Hinduism?
Sufis believed in soul, a spiritual substance different from the body but akin to the universal soul. They were devout Muslims no doubt but attached an esoteric significance to the teachings of the Quoran and regarded inward light or intuitive experience of far more importance rather than the dogmatic formalism of the orthodox type. The orthodox believe in blind obedience while the Sufis think love to be the only means of reaching God.
Among the similarities are 1) physical exercises like restraining of breadth. 2) Recitation of sacred words. 3) Service and submission to the pir or guru. 4) Tolerance of other religions. 5) Belief in union with the Supreme Being thru love and bhakti. Who influenced whom is of no consequence?
Q58 What is Gotra?
The Vedic Aryans had the concept of Kula or family. It led to the concept of Gotra, a group of families, claiming descent from a common ancestor. A federation of gotras made the Jana or tribe claiming descent from an anonymous ancestor like Yadu still removed. Five Janas or tribes formed the Vedic community of Sapta Sindhu.
Q59 What is Vibuthi?
Vibuthi is sacred ash. The white color of ash symbolizes purity. Anything that burns turns black and when burnt further turns white. Similarly an individual goes through the process of removing evil thoughts from his mind becoming pure eventually. The ash also reminds everyone that from ash we come and as ash we go. We came penniless and are going to go the same way. So during this life we should donate a part of our earnings to the more needy thanking Bhagwan for blessing us to be in a position to do so.
Q60 Ma, when Ravi bhaiya’s son was born why did we shave off his nut?
Baby, the ceremony is called Mundan. It has more to do with science than religion. Like a child’s teeth break and give away to new - why? so that the child gets strong teeth and can eat well so also a child is born with weak hair which need to be cut off so that he gets strong, good hair protect the head. So also when a man’s father dies he shaves off his head. Hair is a priceless possession given to us by Bhagwan and symbolizes desires. By shaving of the head we are detaching ourselves from the departed soul. Detachment helps us remember the soul fondly with love but does not cause pain & unhappiness.
Q61 Ma, what does Himalayas mean?
Hima means snow and Alaya means temple, so it stands for Temple of Snow.
Q62 What is the meaning of our religion Sanatan Dharam?
It means that which is beginningless and endless. It is the law eternal. The concept of Brahman was difficult for the common man to comprehend. In order to help the common man understand the Infinite reality and the philosophical concepts of Vedanta, Vyasa felt the need for supplying some conceivable representations that are provided in the word-pictures of the Puranas. The word paintings became symbols of truth were conceived deities and the Puranic literature is full of blazing pictures of dynamic gods and goddesses.
These deities became the altars at which a common man upset and shattered with his desires, problems, and responsibilities could find solace in. By concentrating on deity worship, man was able to quieten his mind and meditate. In the earlier times worship the elements of nature helped man in his spiritual exercises. As time progressed, population increased, followed by intense competition. This led to increase in stress and tension, inhibiting man from concentrating on the Ultimate.
Therefore the Puranic Gods became the most popular forms of worship.
Q63 Who is Lord Ayyappa?
He is the divine son of Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva. He is also called Harihara Putra. He is an ancient village deity or the guardian of the village who has become very popular in Kerala.
Q64 Why get up in Brahm Muhurtam?
4 to 5.30 am is called Brahm Muhurtam in the Hindu Shastras. This quiet and peaceful period is exceptionally suitable for the study of the Vedas or other religious books, yoga exercises and meditation. Vedas claim that such an early riser and user of the time for above acts stays free of physical and mental disorders. Such a person has a shine on his physique.
Ayurveda considers that the air recharged by positive energy of moon light and enriched by oxygen given out by plants is tonic for health. A real nectar. So, this period is called Amrit Bela meaning nectar time. The air at this hour contains a healthy mix of 41% Oxygen, 55% Nitrogen and a mere 4% carbon dioxide. With the sunrise human activities start shattering the peace of the atmosphere and the spiritual pursuits which makes concentration of mind impossible.
Q65 Why sit on Grass mat?
Shastras advise the use of grass matt (Kushasana) for sitting upon praying, worshipping, reading or reciting holy books and meditating.
Kusha is a special grass just about having right size and toughness to make a sturdy mat. According to Puranic tradition it is said that once Lord Vishnu went into sea in the incarnation of a Wild Boar to slay the demon Hiranyaksha. When he came out of the water he shook his body to shake off water and some bristles fell on the ground. Those bristles evolved into Kusha grass.
Some people even wear Kusha ring in the finger for luck and protection from evil. The mat made of dry Kusha is bad conductor which provides insulation to the sitter against the ground. It protects the sitting person from losing body energy of hear or current b earthing process. In India the people mostly have to sit on the earth. Even the home indoors have clay floor for sitting or sleeping purposes.
Q66 Why drink Water in small measures?
Shastra advise the intake of water by ‘achmana’ which is taking water in small measures by merely hand cupfuls. It has been proved medically that water taken by spoonfuls is healthier and beneficial in comparison to the water drunk by cupfuls or glassfuls.
Shastra rules ‘Tripbed Apo Gokarnavard Hastaun Trirachamenta’ which means ‘Take water in hand-cup made in ‘Gokarna style’. Gokarna style is pinning down the folded pointed finer with the thumb and keeping the rest of the three fingers opened out to make them like a cow-ear. In that fashion the palm can hold only teaspoonful amount of water.
The raised part of the palm at the joint with the wrist is called Brahmtirtha. If one puts his lips to this part and drinks palm fulls of water three times it is called ‘Brahmtirtha achamana’. Spills the fourth palmful into a Thali by making it flow over the ‘Brahmtirtha’. This process is called ‘Achamana’. It is mainly meant for taking the water in small doses instead of gulpfuls.
And it should be kept in mind that in ancient times people drank water by cup of their hand rather than glasses or bowls.
Shastras order several religious rites to end or to begin with achmana which is supposed to full of divine blessing and health.
The scientific logic is that drinking small amounts of water acts as a catalyst to change the saliva production rate. Excess salvia produced helps in the digestion of the food and melts down the hard part of the morsels.
Shastra advise achmana after waking up, on feeling hunger, after eating, sneezing, hiccupping, telling a lie and studying. In all the above cases the healthy saliva products acts as a lubricant to the body machine. Telling a lie produces a guilt feeling which upsets the rhythm of the body. Saliva in some way is supposed to inspire the body to fall back into rhythm by injecting the smoothness.
It achmana is not possible due to some reason catching the left year lob by the right hand  is prescribed as a substitute action. The logic is not explained. May be it is a way of seeking pardon like kids are made to do by teacher when they err.

Om Tat Sat

(My humble salutations to  Sri Sanjeev Nayyar ji and hindu samskrit dot com  for the collection)


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