Mucho Mela

Every twelve years, in India, a Kumbha Mela is held. There are smaller melas held in between, but the one every twelve years is the maha kumbha mela. I’ve never been and plan never to go, but still this event pulls at me. It’s the only gathering of humans, for a religious purpose or otherwise, of its magnitude: around 80 million people. Each time the event is held it breaks its own attendance record, and obviously blows all other attendance records out of the water. Nasa photos have shown that in the areas this has been held, the Indian subcontinent actually is darkened on account of the congregants.

I think it’s the only pilgrimage common throughout Hinduism that all Hindus typically aspire to make, although it’s not without its own sectarian issues. Sometime after the commencement of the event, all are guided to bathe ceremoniously in sacred river water for the washing away of karmas and purification. Different sects, with their own leaders and sadhus and nagas have been scheduled in the past to go at different times to prevent clashes. I’ve included some videos below from YouTube to help illustrate the magnitude of this event as well as the diversity represented by my Faith.

Om Shanti


Shivohum and Same to You, too.

namaste-sanskirtOne of my favorite publications is a Shaivite magazine, “Hinduism Today.” I’ve had a subscription for years and have purchased a few subscriptions for others as well. Whether one happens to be a vaishnav, shaivite, shakta, or smarta, this magazine is invaluable. It’s been instrumental in my own growth, for sure. One thing I repeatedly adore about it is that, although it is technically sectarian, it differs from most other sects in its openness and inclusiveness. As such, while it’s definitely a Shiva-oriented source, it does great work in covering the broader picture of Hinduism and the Hindu diaspora.

The most recent issue has a focus on Swami Vivekananda, which has been really great for me. His lineage appears to be from the Shakta denomination of Sanatana Dharma, his own guru being a priest for Kali at one of Her temples … in Dakshineshwar, I think. Along with this focus on Vivekananda and all he did for our faith, there are various other articles. One of these deals with the Namaste greeting, and is what this post’s primary focus is meant to be.


The article begins in pointing out the differences and immensely varied implications to be found in the Western handshake and the Anjali Mudra (Namaste greeting). For the sake of brevity and keeping focus, from here out I’ll use bullet points to list what I think are the main talking points of the article.

  • The handshake originates in medieval Europe. Weaponry on the person used to be a more common sight, and so was fear. The resultant “accidentally retributive” attacks were sometimes thwarted by showing the other guy your open hand (“I’m unarmed, don’t stab me!!!”). Later, with a little cultural evolution, the open hands were joined upon meeting or passing, and we now have the handshake.
  • The anjali mudra is highly symbolic: “Anj” means to adore, celebrate, honor; the pressing of the hands together symbolizes the bringing together of spirit and matter; the hands coming together symbolizes the self meeting the Self.
  • Three main forms of the Namaste greeting exist: 1) Simple meeting of the hands, vertically at the solar plexus; 2) Same as before, plus the addition of raising the hands until the upper fingertips touch one’s third eye; 3) Same as before, plus the addition of taking the joined hands to a position above the head at the aperture in the crown chakra known as brahma-randhra. These three variations are progressively formal.
  •  The handshake is an outwardly conquering gesture. It hints at Western man’s desire for conquering and acquiring. An overly strong handshake can be meant for purposes of intimidation, and a too-weak handshake is also very telling.
  • Western culture is summed up in the handshake: reaching out horizontally to greet another; we reveal our humanity; we convey how strong we are, how nervous, how aggressive or how passive. Namaste reaches in vertically to acknowledge that, in truth, there is no “other.”
  • It’s more civilized to Namaste instead of shaking hands. Popes never shake hands. Kings never shake hands. Even mothers don’t shake hands with their own children. Namaste is cosmically different: Kings do namaste, Satgurus namaste, mothers namaste their own families, we all namaste before God, a holy man, or a holy place. The namaste gesture indicates our inner valuing of the sacredness of all. Namaste is also more practical: A politician or performer can greet fifty-thousand people with one Namaste and the honor can be returned.
  • The gesture has a subtle effect on the aura and nerve system. The nerve currents of the body converge in the feet, the solar plexus and the hands. To balance this energy, and prevent its loss from the body, yogis and meditators sit cross-legged and bring their hands together. The anjali mudra is a simple yogic asana.
  • An increasing number of celebrities and others around crowds are adopting the Namaste greeting as a polite means of avoiding the transmission of contact diseases. The Namaste greeting has become a veritable icon of Indianness, although an ever-increasing number of non-Indians are also using the greeting.

I’m not sure that all of these points do justice to the practicality, intuition, and value that the Namaste greeting holds versus the handshake. Hopefully these points, as highlighted from the article, hint at some of this.

Om Shanti

Bhakti Shmakti

The last time I was at temple it was for the largest, monthly, gathering of devotees and is called Gita Mandal. Every month a different speaker delivers the discourse, which may or may not have anything to do with the portion of the Bhagavad Gita specific to that month’s satsangh.

For July, we were in Chapter 9, and recited/studied verse 1, 8, 11, 14, 15, 22, and 26. I’ll let you check those out on your own and, if you feel so inclined, share your thoughts.

The pandit who spoke to us is from Pennsylvania. He spoke largely on the concept of Bhakti, and its status of being the “highest form of yoga.” This is something, I should admit, I struggle with. (Note: I’m fully willing to change my stance on something, and even then confess I may have been wrong. However, I think because I’m as guarded as I am with these things, the process is usually slower than with other folks, and I tend to make very sure of each step along the way before taking the next.) I’ll now attempt to quasi parrott some of what the pandit shared that Sunday.

He started with something I found interesting. Forgive me for misplacing the Sanksrit…Apparently, in the Gita, Sri Krsna advises that one must “become” a sadhu for Him to appear in that person’s life. The understanding here is non-literal. It has more to do with non-attachment, and possessing other sadhu-like traits. The pandit illustrated this with a short story.

One day a washerman and a sadhu were both on the side of a river. The sadhu was absorbed in his sadhana, engaged in dhyan. The washerman, however, was making quite a noise while doing his labor. The sadhu warned him, “You have to stay quiet! I’m a sadhu!” The washerman apologized, but continued his work. The noise continued and infuriated the sadhu who came to the washerman and began beatinig him. For the first few blows, the washerman did nothing except receive the hits. However, when the beating persisted he began defending by hitting the sadhu back. It was at this point that Krsna came to the ghat and asked what was going on. One of the men, recognizing the Lord, shouted, “Lord! Please help! I’m being attacked!” Krsna, in response, remained unmoved, stating he wasn’t sure which was the real sadhu.

As an aside, pandit offered some trivia: In the Gita Arjun asks Sri Krsna a total of 22 questions, and receives from Krsna a total of 28 answers.

Pandit further explained that the Gita’s first two chapters deal with Jnana Yoga, chapters 3-7 explain Karma Yoga, and during chapters 8-11 Vishwarupa is revealed. According to pandit, everything after chapter 12 could just as easily be omitted because chapter 12, shloka 12 specifically, is essentially the apex of the entire Gita. He claims chapters 13-18 are basically “icing on the cake.”

Shloka 12 of Chapter 12 goes something like,

sreyo hi jnanam abhyasaj
jnanad dhyanam visisyate
dhyanat karma-phala-tyagas
tyagac chantir anantaram

“If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.”

Pandit further explained that the force of Bhakti is feminine in nature, which, he claims, is partly responsible for why women are the way they are and for why men are different in this way. He says there are two types of Bhakti

  1. Saguna Bhakti = murti worshippers
  2. Nirguna Bhakti = Brahman without murti, this include Raja and Jnana Yogas

Apparently, regardless of whether your approach is Sagun/Nirgun, if one lacks abhyas, one is wasting his effort. (Speaking of the concept of abhyas, remind me to tell you of my experience with the sect known as Sahaj Marg.) Pandit finished by explaining, only a bit, some of the traits of someone who aspires to be a true Bhakta. They are below.

  1. Karuna = Compassion. The Dalai Lama is perhaps the greatest living example of this.
  2. Nirhankari = egoless, ahankar(ego), however is a part of existence. Thus, the state of true nirhankar would ultimately lead to merging with Brahman, and thereby extinguish the need for physical existence.
  3. Santoshta = a true Bhakta must be content. This includes not only not agitating others, but not being agitated by others.
  4. Anapeksha = unexpectant; apeksha = resistence
  5. Aniket = homless, the idea here is of non-attachment.
  6. Sadhuta = state of being like a sadhu

Here’s to hoping we each realize the meaning and manifestation of truth bhakti in our lives.

Om shanti