Japan and Disasters

It is said repeatedly in the Puranas (the great cosmological epics of India in Sanskrit) that when the earth can bear no more the burden of human sins, She, our mother, turns on her sides and we all come tumbling down all over.

It is also stated repeatedly that when the rulers are immoral and selfish, that corrupts the entire social order. AND, the order of Nature. This is a well known tenet in the teachings of India and of such philosophers as Confucius.

So, in the ancient stories of kings and kingdoms in India, whenever a natural disaster strikes, the king enters introspection :

Kim aham paapam akaravam
Kim aham saadhu naakaravam


What transgressions of the laws of morality have I committed?
Which right acts have I neglected to perform?

Then the king undertakes acts of self-purification :

pashchaat-taapa, confession to oneself, and
praayashcnitta, repentance and expiation

If our greed had not raised the ocean levels, and had not cut down the mangrove forests, would the tsunamis not be a little less disastrous?

Some calamities like earthquakes cannot be prevented  -- except by massive and collective good karma of all people through thousand year spans. But some of their side effects can still be reduced.

What is the purpose of prayer at the times of such crises? Can our prayer mitigate the effects of the disasters? Can they lessen the pain of those suffering? Not so, not immediately. But it is also well known that prayer reduces the mental anguish.

How so? Each thought we think creates waves in the universal mind. Its waves can be directed/channeled towards the target minds. If we know how to pray.

Wordless prayer is the most effective; it is a state of intense feeling in the mind that is first stilled and purified, after freeing it of all sense-inputs and emotion-uprisings. The mind thus stilled through a particular type of heart centre meditation (to be learnt from an expert) is ready to send wave of  an intense feeling of  wellness, comfort and solace to the target mind(s).

Thus may we pray for those who are suffering.

SARS and bird flu!! Very important for the affluent air traveler to be saved from it. So all the high-tech precautions are taken.

Are we taking the same precautions to step the epidemic of cancer? Are we doing so by reducing the artificial chemicals wherewith we wash out fruits? How we contaminate our milk (right in the udder), how we force ourselves to breathe lead-laden air? How we nurture our angers constantly and intensify them to destroy us?

SARS and Bird Flu!! 2880, that is, two thousand eight hundred and eighty, 2880 (I repeat intentionally), children die of malaria in Africa alone EVERY 24 HOURS.

Is that not a natural disaster of calamitous proportions?

Do we say a prayer for these children and their loving parents and siblings, and forego the purchase or rental of one video to buy and send a mosquito net?

Don’t buy the mosquito net in USA or Europe and send it : for the price of one in these countries, maybe ten can be made where they are needed (providing some employment too).

Send prayers,
And, more important,
food parcels
for the 600 children who will be dying in the next one hour?
 
And for the 14400 who will die in the next 24 hours, wrapped perhaps in a newspaper to ward off cold, lying a cardboard box, with their knees pulled deep into the belly, curled up?

Any rations-laden military helicopters to rescue them?
 
Build more atomic reactors in quake-prone zones like California? And, also, more massive dams in the quake-prone zones like Uttarakhand Himalayas?  Shall we?
 
Wisdom, Wisdom, where hast thou gone?

Our hearts go out to those thousands in Japan who have been hit by the triple crisis of earthquake, tsunami and radiation. Triple sorrow for them and for those of us who care.
Let us pray for them, wherever we are, singly and in groups.
Also do not forget to do something for those 2 children who died of malaria while you read this paragraph; and those 4  children who died of starvation also while you read the same paragraph. How many pictures of those on the TV, and in the newspapers?
When you pray for the suffering of Japan, do include these other neglected disasters.
Pray also that our rulers and others who hold and wield power(s), do an introspection:
Kim aham paapam akaravam
Kim aham saadhu naakaravam

What transgressions of the universal laws and consequent ethical principles have I committed?
Which right acts have I neglected to perform?

Remember that we also hold and wield some power(s); pray for your own self-purification to ward off world disasters of an immediate as well as far off future.
May your prayer be an action.
Swami Veda Bharati 

The Inner Teacher (Atman/Jivatman in the Upanishads)

Swami Rama told his students: I am a messenger, delivering the wisdom of the Himalayan sages of my tradition. My job is to introduce you to the teacher within.” (from Love Whispers)

The teacher within is who or what? If you look at your body, you see skin, stretched over a frame, a bag filled with bones, blood and fluids. If we ask a chemist, he will say you are so much iron, zinc, calcium, etc.  And you will laugh, because you know that is not you.

When you look in the mirror of your past, and you see the child playing in the sand, the teenager going to school, having a crush on a school mate, you see how you became a secretary, a student, a mother, a husband, you became Mr. Average with a whole lot of psychological conditionings that you call memory and identify with. You might look at yourself in the mirror of your past and wonder, “is that me”?  You’ll laugh with relief, because you know that, also, is not you.

Who is the One that laughs?
Who is the One that knows that you are neither your physical body, nor your psychological make-up (which is what we call personality)?

There is within you, a knowing, or we could say a knower. The Bhagavad Gita, talks of the knower of the field.  This knower is also called the witness. It is that part of that consciousness that operates in you that some call the Spirit or the Soul and others call the voice of inner wisdom.

Absolute consciousness, what we call the Divine, is limiting itself in you, so as to function through your apparatus, your material body, and mind.

How to understand this?
If we go back to the beginning of existence, not your or my existence, but of the phenomenal universe, we can say that there was nothing, or better, no-thing.  I am referring to what was there before the Big Bang, the explosion that split off the gases that cooled to make out poor planet. We can talk about it in Myth or in Science,  it makes no difference.

In the very Beginning, there was the potential of a manifest world, that’s all we can say.  This un-knowable, we call Brahman, or Tao or the Absolute Godhead.  Let’s not get stuck on the word; it’s not important.

This indescribable Potential out of its own volition became two aspects/powers/forces: A cosmic intelligence, conscience, with knowing, i.e. consciousness and the energy/power to manifest.

If you prefer to talk the language of science we could say, at the beginning were electromagnetic waves that inherently expressed in/as symmetry and gravity.
 
Let’s stick to consciousness and energy!

To these two forces nothing has been added nor taken away; in Yoga-speak we call these two forces : Purusha and Prakriti.

Through interaction eventually they formed the manifest universe, including you and me.
We can understand it in analogy to churning milk:  It gets churned and churned and eventually it becomes butter, a solid. Milk and butter are the same, yet different forms.


Now if that is so, then each part of the manifest world contains the original ingredients: consciousness and energy, knowing and acting.

That knowing, we call Divine consciousness. It is described as ever-free and unlimited, yet it contains all potential for the cosmic laws according to which Creation unfolds.

Consciousness as it appears in manifestation, in us, is hidden, like light is hidden under many lampshades or blankets, and we can’t see it.

We can observe that divine intelligence/consciousness in two modes and understand it in analogy with the Sun and its rays:


A ray of the sun is pure light, none other than sunlight,
yet it’s rays are only rays. Not the sun in its Totality.
By the power of this ray, we are aware, it allows us to “see” our body and our world.
We know the ray, but the sun?


In the Maitri Upanishad, the students ask their teacher:
“Since this body is like a chariot without consciousness, who is the Spirit who has the power to make it conscious? Who is the driver of the chariot?”


Prajapati, the teacher - answered:
“There is a Spirit who is amongst the things of this world and yet he is above the things of this world. He is clear and pure, in the peace of a void of vastness. He is beyond the life of the body and the mind, never-born, never-dying, everlasting, ever ONE in his own greatness. He is the Spirit whose power gives consciousness to the body: He is the driver of the chariot.”
And he explains:
“There are five subtle elements, tan-moues, and these are called elements. There are also five gross elements, maha bhutas, and these are also called elements. The union of these is called the human body. The human soul rules the body, but the immortal spiritual Soul is pure like a drop of water on a lotus leaf. The human soul is under the power of the three constituents and conditions of nature, and thus it falls into confusion. Because of this confusion the soul cannot become conscious of the God who dwells within and whose power gives us power to work. The soul is thus whirled along the rushing stream of muddy waters of the three conditions of nature, and becomes unsteady and wavering, filled with confusion and full of desires, lacking concentration and disturbed with pride. Whenever the soul has thoughts of "I" and "mine" it binds itself with its lower self, as a bird with the net of a snare.”
Two important points:
a.    There appear to be two ways to talk of “the Soul”.  That which we call the human soul, that rules the body, and that soul is by its association with the body is governed by the three conditions of nature, called the gunas. Hence it is conditioned.  In Yoga-speak we refer to this human soul as jivatma. It has mastery over the body.
b.    But within this conditioned "human soul” there is a core that is pure; The pure soul.  That which is our swabhava, our pure being, without learnt behavior.
We could say:  the Sun of all-knowing is limited in us to its ray, which we call the Atman.
Atman is the pure ray of the sun, shining brightly.

But think of a ray of sun shining through the polluted atmosphere of our industrial cities. It makes the ray itself seem diffuse and polluted, and its light dim.  This polluted/conditioned ray, who’s light appears to us dimmed, we call jivatman.

The pollution is not of the nature of the ray, because the light only appears impure as it shines through the pollution.
The teacher in the Maitri Upanishad says: “He is hidden behind the veil of the three conditions and constituents of the universe, but in the joy of his law of righteousness he is ever ONE, he is ever ONE!”

Within the “house” of our material body, there lives the ONE.  If we can get through the layer of pollution/conditioning, we find there a ray of pure light, pure knowing, pure consciousness, or what in yoga we call Purusha- from pur, the indweller,  and usha (vash), the city.
In the city of our body lives the indweller, the knower, the witness, “the interior Master”.  We call it the Atman.


In short, when there is conditioning, we talk about jivatman, and when there is no conditioning, just pure, consciousness, we talk of atman; yet they are the same.


The question arises whether it makes sense at all then to talk about a personal soul or  jivatman.  After all, the sunlight remains the same, whether it shines through clear air or polluted air, so can there be a personal soul, a limited version of the Absolute?


If we look at the Isha-Upanishad, it says,
“One is the outcome of the transcendent, and another is the outcome of the immanent”.
It’s as though we can’t see the Absolute divine splendor, because its hidden; it’s a riddle, that inner knowing is personal and is universal. How can it be?


Can there be a soul, a personal divine spark which is at the same time is the Absolute divine spark? The wisdom teachings say:  A spark of fire is none other than Fire.
Soul then is none other than divine consciousness?  The splendor of the sun is none other than the ray?


As the Isha Upanishad says:  The divine radiance, “that Spirit far away within thee is my own inmost Spirit. “


The ONE divine consciousness appears to us as individual Spirit, because its surrounded by the pollution of our conditioning.  Atman becomes jivatman when we, through identification with our body/ego (called ahamkara in yoga) get lost in the jungle of conditioning.  Removing the conditioning, defining the core, we realize there is none other than purusha, consciousness, atman, or the “ray of the Absolute.


The process of diving deep through the conditioning, we call Meditation. “We call that, practicing of Silence” (Swami Veda Bharati)


When we leave the forms and our conditioning behind, we discover our our true being as the Absolute Atman

 

Knowing this, we might consider where the light of your lamp goes if you switch off the bulb?
Electricity remains, or more scientifically, electromagnetic waves, that we call Electricity, remain. However the form of that electricity, its expression, changes. Some times it is latent, sometimes it has the form of the light in the light bulb. Sometimes the light-bulb is dim, sometimes there is no light.  Yet electricity is there, and with every light switched on, appears as fresh light. 


Electricity is one:  There is a continuity of Electricity, but not of the form in which it expresses. The continuity is of Electricity, is the same as that of consciousness, as of the Knower;
it expresses however in many forms and often is hidden under layers of shades.

Now where has our exploration taken us?
Our inner wisdom, our inner teacher, witness, consciousness, knower, is continuous, is present in all, but it appears as individual as it expresses in and through individual forms.  This means that the consciousness in me and you is the same! We share this “inner wisdom holder” yet s/he appears as though your inner wisdom is different from mine due to our different conditionings. Hence it appears that there are two different layers, yet really they only appear as two, because of the different “make up” that hides the true light. 

We share that knower that illumines our world, that brings us from darkness to light, that brings us from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowing.


That knower, that Gu-Ru (bringer of light) is one principal, one consciousness, that works through and within all of us. Just like electricity works through all light-bulbs, heaters and fans.
“So the inner teacher” is the Guru principal within us!


Please note: Guru is not a person outside us.  Guru is that ray of the absolute sun of consciousness.  This interior Master is not a personal authority, limited to me. It’s not “my soul”. I can claim no ownership! The minute I do, I am referring to the light shining through the pollution, and not to the light itself. 

The light of consciousness, that principal of all–knowing, the Supreme Teacher that lives within, is a power beyond, a principal permeating all of creation, like the sun that illumines all. It is that power of knowing, which is “the seeing behind all eyes”, which includes the “seeing behind my eyes”.  It is Absolute Consciousness, self-existing, and it is Consciousness within me.


Two apparently contradicting  truths.
It’s difficult for us to understand, because we are programmed to think in a certain way, just like a computer is programmed in a certain language.  It boils down to the limitations, of the mind that we normally use, to understand.
 Our thinking mind, manas in Yoga-speak, is limited to the programming we call memory or learning. It operates according to those patterns that we have been fed since childhood (and before).

In some cultures the mind is fed, educated, trained to think logical, analytical, linear and reasonable thoughts. In others culture the mind is fed/educated/trained to think cyclic, holistic and intuitive thoughts.


To really understand this, is to know that all our concepts, all our so called factual truth, all factual knowledge, all cherished traditions are learned. Learned through our own experience, and the teachings of society, religion or culture. They are personal imprints, learned, conditioned.
 
Earlier this year in Rishikesh, India, where our ashram is, there was a period of stifling grey warm weather. Weeks of still hot, stuffy air. Then one morning suddenly, the weather broke and a cool wind rose and fresh invigorating air suddenly flowed through valley. I ran out of the ashram, down to the River Ganga and danced on the bank, right down to the waters edge; swirling my arms in joy and exhilaration.  Anyone seeing me, might have thought “there is a mad woman!”


Eventually some Indian people came by, they had their arms clasped tightly, scarves wrapped around them, sheltering their body from the cold wind, bent over, walking carefully and protectively.  Then I realized the depth of what we call conditioning!

I, as a North European, loved the cold fresh wind.  It made me ecstatic. At the same time people grown up in India along the Ganga feared the cold inhospitable winds.

Everything in our mind-field is conditioned.  Every thought and reaction, feeling and perception is learned at some time or other.  Everything about us is habitual reaction, even the way we think, and feel.


Understanding this, the students of the Kena Upanishad then asked:
“Who impels us to utter these words? Who is the Spirit behind the eye and the ear?”


And the Master answered:
“It is the ear of the ear, the eye of the eye, and the word of words, the mind of mind, and the life of life.”
And he continued:
“What cannot be spoken with words, but that whereby words are spoken: Know that alone to be Brahman, the Spirit;
What cannot be thought with the mind, but that whereby the mind can think: Know that alone to be Brahman, the Spirit;
What cannot be seen with the eye, but that whereby the eye can see: Know that alone to be Brahman, the Spirit;
What cannot be heard with the ear, but that whereby the ear can hear: Know that alone to be Brahman, the Spirit;
What cannot be indrawn with breath, but that whereby breath is indrawn: Know that alone to be Brahman, the Spirit.”

So when we talk about the “inner teacher” or Consciousness as the indweller of our existence, we talk about that power “by which the eye can see, the mind can understand”, and not the contents of what the eye sees, nor the interpretation of what the mind understands—including all our concepts and ideas of which we are so proud.  All these are subjective and learned, yet the power behind these is the true Inner Teacher.  And, saying that, is itself a concept coming from a conditioned, learned mind!

Mankind has always struggled to understanding the dual aspect of divinity is in us and yet beyond us. Divinity, purusha, Consciousness is unlimited, yet it is also consciousness in you and me. It means the source of all-knowing is in us.  If only we can clean the dust off and purify the pollution that hides it.


Hence after dis-identification with the body comes also dis-identification with individual-soul. Using the concept of Soul or Spirit is really a way of explaining the otherwise in-explicable. Being human, we have to resort to concepts, to language, to descriptions to communicate.
Remember the Kena Upanishad: “What cannot be spoken with words, but that whereby words are spoken: Know that alone to be Brahman, the Spirit.”

So what lives in us, as the highest, most subtle power, that could be called “interior Master” or “inner wisdom”, is none other than Brahman, Purusha or….?

Now let our understanding go one step deeper, get even more subtle:
If inside us, the power behind the mind, is Brahman, the power to understand is Brahman, - or Purusha, or the Absolute Consciousness, then if we try to understand what these mean is,
Brahman is trying to understand Brahman.


Consciousness is there to become conscious of ITSELF.
The inner teacher is that very same power, that tries to understand the inner teacher.
Or in short, the inner wisdom teacher is contemplating itself.
Hence Self-realization.!
                                                                       Hari OHM

 

We Are All Flowers In One Garden

It is common to think of ourselves as different from others, and, all too often, religion becomes one more way to separate ourselves from others rather than bringing us together. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Our religion, our spirituality, can be a unifying force that helps us include others and celebrate the diversity of all people. It just takes a change of perspective.


Underneath all of our beliefs, cultural differences and identities, we all share the the same humanity, the same love, the same being. When we connect from these more essential aspects of ourselves, we connect with all people.


So how to do we this? It’s easy. All we have to do is what is natural for us. Perhaps not natural for our egos, but rather for what’s more essential within us.


Recently, Swami Veda Bharati, a teacher in the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Tradition, wrote that
Applied spirituality is to feel all hungry children’s hunger and loneliness of the bereft; to fill these empty spaces with selfless action. In this brief statement, Swami Veda captures the unifying force of acting from the heart: We open our heart, we feel the needs and pain of others, and act from love to ease their pain. Doing so is as natural as breathing. We know what to do without a lot of thinking and analysis.


This heart driven loving action can take many forms: Feeding the hungry, educating those whom education would lift, helping and serving our elders, visiting the sick, and so on. This loving action is a form of worship, and it brings us together.


Love underlies all of our religions. Though the words may differ in our prayer books, all true religions exalt love, and when we are motivated by this essential force, we come together, grow spiritually, and make the world better.


Besides connecting with the love within us, we can also unify ourselves with others by connecting with our essential being through contemplative practices.


Modern life is so busy and it’s easy to get caught up in all of the doing. We rush around so much that our actions almost seem to define us, as if we were human-doings. However, we are called human beings for a reason: We exist, we be, and this being aspect of ourselves is perhaps the most essential part of ourselves.
The great contemplative traditions of all times have pointed to this being part of ourselves and guided us to experience it. When we do so, we find an identity for ourselves that is more central to us than the usual body-centered ego-identity, and we also find our oneness with all people and all life.


To experience our being, we quiet the mind and be aware. This sort of contemplative practice is common in all spiritual paths, and has been refined to an art in the meditative traditions. The following is a simple practice from the Himalayan Tradition that can be practiced by anyone to begin connecting with this level of themselves. It’s called a “Two-Minute Meditation”. Here’s how you do it:


Sit with your spine erect and head, neck and hips aligned. You can sit on the front edge of a chair with feet on the floor and hands on your thighs. This makes it easy to have your spine erect. Relax any muscles not needed to maintain this sitting posture, and breathe deeply and smoothly. Let the body relax, letting go of any tension.
Close your eyes, turn you attention to the breath, and strive to breathe smoothly and continuously, minimizing (and with practice eliminating) any pauses that might appear in the breath.


As you exhale and inhale, be aware of the breath flowing out of and into your body. Sense the feeling of the breath as it leaves and as it enters your nostrils, and observe how your belly contracts as you exhale and expands as you inhale.


Let your attention remain on these sensations of breathing, allowing your body and mind to relax. When thoughts come into your mind, briefly notice their presence and quickly return your attention to the sensations of breathing.


After two minutes, you may choose extend the meditation longer, or you may open your eyes and take a few moments to remain still and notice how you feel.


Try this brief meditation and notice your experience. This is a first step toward communing with your being. You may find it very relaxing.


There are many ways to feel our oneness with all people, all beings. These are two examples, both emphasizing experiences common to all religions. We humans truly are all flowers in one garden.

 

This article was originally published as a guest blog post on Project Interfaith.

Were The Druids Yogis?

The Druids, we all know, were the priests of northern Europe before the rise of Christianity. But were they yogis? It seems like a silly question; we usually assume there’s no connection between these Celtic spiritual teachers and the Himalayan tradition. Surprisingly, according to historians, this seemingly ironclad assumption is completely wrong.


Two thousand years ago Julius Caesar wrote a report about the amazing culture he discovered in France and Britain. He called the people he met there Gauls, meaning “the white people,” because their skin was astonishingly pale. The people of Southern Europe, including Romans like Caesar himself, were darker colored then than they are today, so creamy white skin was a novelty to them. Interestingly, the Latin word gaul is directly related to the Sanskrit gaur, which also means “white.” Caesar’s “Gauls” actually called themselves “Celts.” This is related to the Sanskrit root kil, which also means “to be white.”


Amazingly, the word druvid corresponds to Sanskrit druh vid or druva vid meaning “knower of the tree” or “knower of the North Star” respectively. As priests and astronomers, the Druids were initiated in the mysteries of the “world tree,” the Earth’s axis projected up into the sky, culminating at the North Star. This tree is often mentioned in Vedic sacred literature, where it represented both the “spine” of the planet Earth, and the spinal axis or sushumna nadi of the yogi, culminating in the bindu or star-like point in the seventh chakra at the top of the brain.


In the first century C.E. Dion Chrysostom—an explorer from Asia Minor who lived with the Celts—explicitly wrote that the Druids were remarkably similar to India’s brahmans. Scholars today note that Celtic society was caste based, just like India. Celts even constructed their villages much like their counterparts in South Asia. They governed themselves according to the Brehon Laws which contain numerous parallels with India’s Lawbook of Manu. The heads of North Indian society were called aryas (“noblemen”); in Ireland they were called aire (also meaning “nobles”)—in fact, Ireland is named after them (aire land).


In India, the king (raja) ruled with the help of local brahmin judges who applied the law. In Ireland the king (ri) ruled with the assistance of brehon judges, the lawyers of that era. Scholars tell us the words brahmin and brehon are derived from the same root, brih, meaning “master of mantras.”


Historians have also noted the astonishing similarities between Druid art and some of the images archeologists have unearthed in the Indus Valley. For example, Celtic images of the deity Cernunnos are breathtakingly similar to ancient Indian images of Shiva, a deity famous for his mastery of deep meditative states. Perhaps most astonishingly of all, numerous images of Celtic sages seated in meditation—legs locked in padmasana (the lotus posture), hands resting on their laps, eyes closed—have been discovered. (See photograph).

Metal image of man sitting in meditation posture


The Druids were famous in antiquity as believers in reincarnation, in fact many ancient authorities mention this fact. Unlike the ancient Latins, who believed that bending the truth was completely permissible if it helped them attain their ends, the Druids refused to lie, even if it cost them their lives. Like the Vedic people of India, they believed that we align ourselves with the natural order of the universe when we tell the truth, but break our connection with the gods when we deceive others.


How on earth could two cultures so much alike have appeared practically at opposite ends of the planet? In reality, the people of North India are linguistically related not just to the Druids but also to the Persians, Russians, Lithuanians, Italians and even Swedes—and the rest of the world’s people who speak Indo-European languages (English as well as Sanskrit and Hindi also fall in this group). But the Celts seem to have retained their cultural links with India more closely than some of these other populations, such as the Greeks and Romans. How could this possibly have happened?


It’s one of the most puzzling mysteries of history. All we can say is that the Druids claimed their ancestors were the Tuatha de Danaan, “the children of Danu.” Danu was their name for the Milky Way. Cassiopeia, the W-shaped constellation at the very summit of the northern sky, represented the breasts of this great goddess. The Milky Way was the milk oozing from her celestial breasts.


Very old Indian texts refer to a people called Danavas, “the children of Danu.” You may have heard of recent extremely startling finds in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang, north of Tibet. Archeologists there uncovered well-preserved human remains which look for all the world like Celts, complete with white skin, red hair, and clothing woven in characteristically Celtic designs. Some of these mummies have been carbon dated as far back as 2000 B.C.E. Could these be “the children of Danu”? Their DNA is not unambiguously linked with the Celts—these “white people” in China had definitely been intermarrying with other peoples. Yet this discovery remains provocative.


Much more research is needed to clarify the links between India and Europe. Still, what researchers have discovered so far suggests that the history of the Himalayan tradition may be far older and more complex than we could have imagined.

 

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The author, Linda Johnsen, can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
 

Happy Holi -- A Festival of Colors

The sounds of drums and chanting used to wake us up in the early morning hours and we knew from the rhythms that it was a special holiday – a Phagwah or Holi holiday of colors – we got to celebrate with family, neighbors and friends.

All barriers of past quarrels are forgiven, all hurts forgotten, only sharing of happy wishes, exchanges of sweets, good food, melodious music and the generous splashing of colors, fragrances among family, friends and neighbors. Wherever Hindus live they look forward to celebrate this coming of spring and if there is snow outside, we do it inside in a more subdued way by simply placing a colorful ‘tikka’ dot on the forehead, but the celebratory nature is still observed with pujas (worship), singing and good food. Every celebration is intertwined with cultural norms and adaptations, spiritual exercises, ritual performances, social and family gatherings. Children learn from these what the holidays are about, why they are celebrated in the way that they are, why some norms have to be adapted to suit the external conditions, and most of all what is the meaning of these passages of life.  In fact at this time in India, some people are encouraging a less use of colored water which is usually used in abundance for spraying on friends, to ensure that water is not wasted. Citizens are being advised to just use perfumed oils or other fragrances, or placing the colorful dot on the forehead to greet friends. It is this flexible ability to adapt and still keep the spirit of the celebration that has helped such observances through the passages of time, space and place.


There are many legends associated with ˜Holi”. Long ago there was an evil king named  Hiranyakasipu. His son, Prahlad was very spiritual in nature and often prayed to God, which infuriated his father. One day, the wicked king ordered his sister, the demon Holika, to kill his son.  Holika, immune to fire, captured Prahlad and entered a furnace to kill the prince. However it was she who was burnt to ashes. Prahlad was safe. The legend is that before the demon aunt died, she begged for Prahlad's forgiveness. The prince forgave her and announced that her name would be remembered once a year. Thus the festival "˜Holi' was created.  Some of these festivals are so buried in lore, that the tales are many and vary according to time, customs and provinces, so there are many stories associated with Holi.


Legends of the ‘leela’ of Radha and Krishna are some of the most popular and form a ready theme for songs, artwork and drama. Vrindavan is replete with these celebrations and is one of the favorite places to be to truly celebrate Holi.

We wish all our readers joy and goodwill. If someone has hurt you now is the time to forgive and forget to truly celebrate this colorful festival.  HAPPY HOLI!!
Lalita Arya.