Questions & Answers

What is a Civilization in Sanatan Dharam?

A civilization is characterized by a continuity of culture, the sum total of its values, norms, institutions, modes of thinking, customs and practices to which successive generations in a given society have attached primary importance. It encompasses a world view and a way of life that is distinct and unique to a particular people and their original, creative process. It encompasses shared forms such as language, art, architecture, song, music, aesthetics, food, history, religion, philosophy, mythology and spirituality.

Civilizations may also encompass sub-groupings, that attempt to define themselves distinctly, but on the whole, the sub groups have more in common with each other, than with groups outside the civilizational boundary. While the sub-groups within a civilization may even fight with other sub-groups, they may also more easily engage in alliances with each other. A civilization is thus a totality, a union of sub groupings, which may each have a beginning and an end, but the civilization itself evolves, adapts and endures through long periods of historical continuity. Civilizations survive through time – they live through the rise and fall of empires, governments, kings and social and ideological upheavals. There is within each civilization an essence, a set of primary structuring ideas and principles around which the people of successive generations coalesce, thus breathing new life into those ideas and principles which symbolizes the civilization’s continuity.

What is Dharma?

Dharma’ is one of the most intractable terms used in the Hindu philosophy and is derived from the root ‘dhru’, meaning to uphold, sustain or support. Hindu Dharma comprises a medium, an instrument or an integrated scheme of life by which one is prevented from falling down and is uplifted spiritually. It is thus a way of life or a value system. The word ‘Religion’ is used for the lack of a better synonym for ‘Dharma’ in English language.

Hinduism describes Dharma as the natural universal laws whose observance enables humans to be contented and happy, and to save himself from degradation and suffering. Dharma is the moral law combined with spiritual discipline that guides one’s life. Hindus consider Dharma the very foundation of life. Atharva Veda describes Dharma symbolically: Prithivim Dharmana dhritam, that is, “this world is upheld by Dharma”.

Anything that helps human being to reach god is Dharma and anything that hinders human being from reaching god is Adharma. For instance, in the epic poem Maha Bharata, the Pandavas represent Dharma in life and the Kauravas represent Adharma. According to the Bhagavat Purana, righteous living or life on a dharmic path has four aspects: austerity (tap), purity (shauch), compassion (daya) and truthfulness (satya); and adharmic or unrighteous life has three vices: pride (ahankar), contact (sang), and intoxication (madya).

Manusmriti written by the ancient sage Manu prescribes ten essential rules for the observance of Dharma: Patience (dhriti), forgiveness (kshama), piety or self control (dama), honesty (asteya), sanctity (shauch), control of senses (indraiya-nigrah), reason (dhi), knowledge or learning (vidya), truthfulness (satya) and absence of anger (krodha). Manu further writes, “Nonviolence, truth, non-coveting, purity of body and mind, control of senses are the essence of Dharma”. Therefore dharmic laws govern not only the individual but all in society. The purpose of Dharma is not only to attain a union of the soul with the supreme reality; it also suggests a code of conduct that is intended to secure both worldly joys and supreme happiness. Hinduism is the religion that suggests methods for the attainment of the highest ideal and eternal bliss here and now on earth and not somewhere in heaven.

In essence Hinduism is a way of life and culture in which several religious practices are harmoniously blended and bound by the common bond of ‘Dharma’. In the words of a Hindu scholar and writer, Ram Swarup, “it is the name of one religion or one truth lived at hundred points in hundred ways by people of different capacities and preparedness. Unity of Hinduism is not external and geographical; it is deep, subtle, spiritual; it has multiple expressions; it lives in them all; it also exceeds them.”

What is Mantra?

A mantra is an embodiment in sound of a particular Devata. It is not a mere formula. Nor is it a magic spell. It is the Devata Himself or Herself. And so, when a mantra is repeated with concentration of mind and the worshipper makes an effort to identify him with the worshipped, the power of the Devata comes to his help. Human power is thus. Supplemented by the divine power. A prayer is different from the re petition of a mantra. It is a purely human effort. Prayers may be offered in any language and in any form.

But a mantra, being an embodiment of a Devata in sound, has to be repeated in that form alone in which it first revealed itself to the mind of a Rishi. It is not to be learnt from books, but from the living voice of a Guru who gives the Upadesa or initiation. And it has for its aim the gradual trans- formation of the worshipper into the like ness of the worshipped. Therefore the more worshipper advances in his/her japa the less is he himself/ she herself and more does she/he partake of the nature and wield the powers of the Devata.

Mantra means a sacred utterance, numinous sound, or a syllable, word, phonemes, or group of words believed by some to have psychological and spiritual power in Sanskrit. A mantra may or may not have syntactic structure or literal meaning; the spiritual value of a mantra comes when it is audible, visible, or present in thought.

The earliest mantras were composed in Vedic times by Hindus in India, and those are at least 3000 years old. Mantras are now found in various schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Similar hymns, chants, compositions and concepts are found in Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Christianity and elsewhere.

The use, structure, function, importance and types of mantras vary according to the school and philosophy of Hinduism and of Buddhism. Mantras serve a central role in the tantric school of Hinduism. In this school, mantras are considered equivalent to deities, a sacred formula and deeply personal ritual, and considered to be effective only after initiation. However, in other schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or Sikhism, this is not so.

Mantras come in many forms, including ṛc (verses from Rigveda for example) and saman (musical chants from the Samaveda for example). They are typically melodic, mathematically structured meters, thought to be resonant with numinous qualities. At its simplest, the word ॐ (Aum, Om) serves as a mantra. In more sophisticated forms, they are melodic phrases with spiritual interpretations such as human longing for truth, reality, light, immortality, peace, love, knowledge and action. Yet other mantras are literally meaningless, yet musically uplifting and spiritually meaningful.

Renou has defined mantra as thought. Mantras are structured formulae of thoughts, claims Silburn. Farquhar concludes that mantras are a religious thought, prayer, sacred utterance, but also believed to be a spell or weapon of supernatural power. Zimmer defines mantra as a verbal instrument to produce something in one’s mind. Bharati defines mantra, in the context of tantric school of Hinduism, to be a combination of mixed genuine and quasi morphemes arranged in conventional patterns, based on codified esoteric traditions, passed on from a guru to a disciple through prescribed initiation.

Jan Gonda, a widely cited scholar on Indian mantras, defines mantra as general name for the verses, formulas or sequence of words in prose which contain praise, are believed to have religious, magical or spiritual efficiency, which are meditated upon, recited, muttered or sung in a ritual, and which are collected in the methodically arranged ancient texts of Hinduism. There is no universally applicable uniform definition of mantra because mantras are used in different religions, and within each religion in different schools of philosophy. In some schools of Hinduism for example, suggests Gonda, mantra is sakti (power) to the devotee in the form of formulated and expressed thought. Staal clarifies that mantras are not rituals, they are what is recited or chanted during a ritual.

During the early Vedic period, claims Staal, Vedic poets became fascinated by the inspirational power of poems, metered verses and music. They referred to them with the root dhi-, which evolved into dhyana (meditation) of Hinduism, and the language used to start and assist this process manifested as mantra. By middle Vedic period (1000 BC to 500 BC), mantras were derived from all Vedic compositions. They included ṛc (verses from Rigveda for example), saman (musical chants from the Samaveda for example), yajus (a muttered formula from the yajurveda for example), and nigada (a loudly spoken yajus). During the Hindu Epics period and after, mantras multiplied in many ways and diversified to meet the needs and passions of various schools of Hinduism. Mantras took a centre stage in the Tantric school, which posited that each mantra (bijas) is a deity; it is this distinct school of Hinduism and ‘each mantra is a deity’ reasoning that led to the perception that some Hindus have tens of millions of gods.

What are the Basic Principles of Hinduism?
  • Satyam Vada – Speak Truth.
  • Dharmam Chara – Live by Dharma.
  • Maatru Devo Bhava – Regard Mother as God.
  • Pitru Devo Bhava – Regard Father as God.
  • Acharya Devo Bhava – Regard Guru as God.
  • Athiti Devo Bhava – Regard Guest as God.
  • Saadyayanma Pramadah – Do not Procrastinate.
  • Shraddaya Deyama – Give with Faith.
What are the main differences between Hinduism and other religions?
  • Hinduism is God Centered, whereas other organized religions are Prophet Centered.
  • Hinduism teaches many paths to achieve Salvation (Moksha), whereas other religions teach only one path suggested by the Prophet.
  • Your relationship with God is personal, whereas other religions teach that your relation with God is only through Prophet.
  • Hinduism provides a greater freedom of Worship method, whereas other religions specify the method suggested by the Prophet.
How to pray?

While I can’t tell you how to pray to God, I can inform you how most Hindus perform puja and aarthi at home. How you pray and what it means to you should be entirely between you and God.

Most practicing Hindus perform puja anywhere from three times a day to once a week to only on holidays, depending on the devotion of the Hindu, as well as their preference in time of day and need of prayer. The Hindus that pray thrice a day do so once in the morning after waking up and bathing (but before eating breakfast), once at midday (after briskly washing the face and hands and before eating lunch) and lastly at night (after a quick wash and before eating dinner). We refrain from eating at least a few hours before performing puja so as to offer the food we are about to partake in firstly to God, and then to ourselves. It is also very important in Hinduism to be clean; not only for prayer but to make it a habit of washing the self throughout the day before we eat.

For the puja, we firstly need a few items.

One is a picture, statue or image of God. This is called a murti. Make sure the murti is made of some material (or covered in some material) that is appropriate to get wet and receive kumkum without staining. You can have as many murti as you like of whichever facets of God you choose.

Second is a raised table or stand. Something to put the murti on that is at least a little above floor level. Third is a nice cloth of your own tastes to place on top of the platform and under the murti.

Fourth is a medium-sized tray, one that is easy to carry but strong enough to hold items. This is called a puja thali and you can find many cheap and beautiful ones online.

Fifth are the items you will utilize for invoking God. These are candles (or diya lamps made of cotton wicks and ghee), bells, incense, kumkum, water, flowers/garlands or whatever food you wish to offer to God (optional). Place these items on your thali. Some also choose to dress their murtis in clothing or cloths or adorn them with red and saffron string called kalava (but most choose to tie kalava on special pujas or holidays).

To initiate the puja, light the candles or diyas start the incense and chant an invoking prayer while ringing the bell around your murti. The puja ceremony is basically an act of inviting God into your home, caring for them, praising them and setting them off again. So when we ring the bell, light the lamps and start the sweet incense smell, we are symbolically guiding God to our altar and allowing Him/her to sit on our presence. Once God has ‘arrived’, we wash the murti with water either all over or specifically on the feet and forehead to cleanse them after their journey to your home. If you wish to offer food, do so. Then we apply kumkum to the forehead of our beloved God and if you wish, then to ourselves. Adorn God in garlands or offer flowers on your thali. While doing so, you may chant your favourite mantras or praises to God. We then start aarthi, or the singing of bhajans (devotional songs) while waving your thali in a circle around the image of God. This can last as long as you want. Thirdly, we bow our heads and place our hands together in anjali mudra. Use this time after aarthi to pray either silently or out loud for whatever you wish. This is your personal and private time between you and the Lord. After you have finished, ring the bell again to let the Lord know it is fit for Him/Her to ‘leave’ your altar. Many say a praising mantra as they leave. Blow out your candles and wave the smoke over the murti and over your own head. The puja is now over.

I hope I have helped you and many others that may be wondering about how to perform the common puja! Please keep in mind though that these are all loose ‘rules’ for doing so, while many keep the same method, some things are changed around or added depending on the type of Hindu or the region of India that they learned their practice from.

What is 12 Zodiac?

The are 12 Zodiac’s:

  • Aries
  • Taurus
  • Gemini
  • Cancer
  • Leo
  • Virgo
  • Libra
  • Scorpio
  • Sagittarius
  • Capricorn
  • Aquarius
  • Pisces
What’s memorial service?

A funeral is a ceremony for honouring, respecting, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor. Customs vary widely both between cultures and between religious groups and denominations within cultures. Common secular motivations for funerals include mourning the deceased, celebrating their life, and offering support and sympathy to the bereaved. Additionally, funerals often have religious aspects which are intended to help the soul of the deceased reach the afterlife, resurrection or reincarnation.

The funeral generally includes a ritual through which the corpse of the deceased is given up. Depending on culture and religion, these can involve either the destruction of the body (for example, by cremation or sky burial) or its preservation (for example, by mummification or interment). Differing beliefs about cleanliness and the relationship between body and soul mean that a funerary practice that is deeply sacred to one culture may be absolutely taboo in another. When a funerary ceremony is performed but the body of the deceased is not available, it is usually called a memorial service.

The word funeral comes from the Latin funus, which had a variety of meanings, including the corpse and the funerary rites themselves. Funerary art is art produced in connection with burials, including many kinds of tombs, and objects specially made for burial with a corpse.

Why 108 seed beads?

A Buddhist mala usually contains the 108 prayer beads, spacers, beaded counters and bum counter. New starters usually ask me for the using of the mala. Please look at the following picture. Let’s study it.

  • The 108 prayer beads represent 108 times of the recitation of the Buddhist mantra words. Usually we use spacers to mark the mala as Four parts, each part 27 beads. Also sometimes we use space beads to make a mala long enough for wrist wearing or neck wearing.
  • When pass a bead by left hand, recite one time of the mantra words, then continue the next bead. No need to recite the mantra when pass the space beads. The space beads only help you understand how many beads you passed.
  • After passed ome time of the 108 prayer beads, then you recite 108 times of the mantra words. Usually, we ignore the 8 times. So it represents you finish reciting 100 times of the mantra words. Then, we move a bead on the right beaded counter to the upper side. Then, we continue the second 100 time of resitation of the mantra words. After finsih the second time recitation, move the second bead on the right bead counter to the upper side. Then contine the 3rd time, the 4th…10th. After finish the 10th time recitation, you moved all the beads on the right counter to the upper side. Then you need move one bead of the left counter to the upper side. Meanwhile, put all the beads of the right counter back to the bottom. Then repeat all the action, till you moved all the beads of the left counter to the upper side. Then, it represent you finish 1,000 times of reciting the mantra words. Then Move the bum counter to the next bead. Then repeat all the action. After you move the bum counter bead to bead, and finish moving it 108 times, it represent you finish recitation of the mantra words 108,000 times. We ignore the 8000 times. And say we finish 100,000 recitations.
  • A mala is a tool for helping us reciting Buddhist mantra words. Also a blessed mala has strong power to protect us, keep us a clean, calm heart; to drive evils. We need keep the malas carefully with mala bags. Do not make the malas in any chemical linquid, or put them in dirty places.
What is Yuga concept of Hindu Dharma?

According to the Yuga concept, Kali yuga has 4,32,000 yrs, dwaaparayuga 4,32,000 x 2 threthaayuga is 4,32,000 x 3 yrs , Krutha yuga is 4,32,000 x 4 yrs. The present mahayuga is the 28th Mahayuga of the Vaivaswatha manvanthara which is the 6th manwanthara out of 14. If we calculated the first day from the the first Manswanthara onwards, it will come to 2990 million yrs. (which in modern science is known as archaistic era) If Ramayana was written in Thretha yuga and Mahabharatha in dwapara yuga, just calculate the period……… the credibility of the period based on astronomical parameters given as above is left to the readers. That means Hindu dharma has a heritage of lakhs of yrs.
However based on the present archaeological evidences Hindu dharma is minimum 10,000 old. Anyone would like to fix it further back, with proof he can correct and teach the students. We can definitely say Islam is 1300 yrs; Christianity 200 yrs, Jews of 3000 yrs or so and Hindu dharma is minimum 10,000 yrs. The Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc are part of Hindu dharma and hence their age need not be discussed here.

As mentioned earlier, each subsequent age is witness to a gradual decline of wisdom, knowledge, intellect, life span, physical and spiritual strength in humankind as a whole. This automatically also implies decline and destruction of dharma or righteousness.

  • Satya Yuga – Dharma reigned supreme at this time, with human stature being estimated at 21 cubits. The average human lifespan at this point in time was 100,000 years.
  • Treta Yuga – This Yuga witnessed the decline of virtue to a quarter of the previous one. Human stature was valued at 14 cubits and average human lifespan was 10,000 years.
  • Dvapara Yuga – Virtue and sin were divided into equal halves. Normal human stature was 7 cubits and human lifespan went down to 1000 years.
  • Kali Yuga – This Yuga has only one quarter virtue and the rest is taken over by sin. Human stature is reduced to 3.5 cubits and average human lifespan is about 100 years. It is believed that, towards the end of this terrible Dark Age, average human lifespan would go down to 20 years.