Tag Archives: Spiritual

Prayer bells in India

Photo Credits: A. Mittal
Photo Credits: A. Mittal

While browsing through my old pics, I stopped at these bell pics and wondered what was I thinking when I took pictures of these bells.  Sure, the dense clustered bells must have been an intriguing  factor, but the presence of so many bells in a temple not so heavily crowded was a little surprising.  These pictures are from some temple in a small hilly town of Chamba in Himachal Pradesh, India.

Bell sounds can be commonly heard in India.  And when you hear it, it is apparent that there must be a temple nearby.  In India, you will never come across any temple without a bell, it is a ritual here to ring the bell before praying.  After much thought on why it’s a norm for every temple to have at least one bell, I read somewhere that these bells are made of different metals in different ratios that gives them a distinct sound. It is said that when the tongue of the bell is struck against the outer cap it produces the divine sound of ‘Om’.   In Hinduism, ‘Om’ is considered as the holy syllable which encompasses all the sounds of our universe.  So, the theory is  by striking the bell before praying, you are inviting the virtual energy or vibes to engulf your surroundings while diminishing the negative ones at the same time.

Remember to ring a bell in temples in India. 🙂

Photo Credits: A. Mittal

 

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Benares – The City of Gods

For Benares – If there is Heaven on this earth, it is here. Not because it is beautiful but it is the city of Gods.

Benares, also known as Varanasi, is a small town in Uttar Pradesh state of India. I had been thinking of visiting there from quite some time, and finally I made it last weekend. I decided to go to there on the festival of Holi. It can be reached easily by flight, train or car. Benares as I like to call it is the holy city of Hindus. It is said if a Hindu dies or cremated here goes straight to heaven. Well, my intentions were not fully spiritual. It is a unique city in a lot many ways.  Let me answer some questions about this city.

Why is the city so famous?

The city homes a very famous and important temple of Hindus – Kashi Vishwanath. It is the temple of Shiva who is deemed as the hippie God by foreigners. If you want to read about why is he considered as a hippie, you can refer to http://www.vepachedu.org/linga.htm.

What are the essential things to do in Benares?

Benares is small but has a lot to do. But 3 main things you mustn’t miss are – to roam around the Ghats; to eat Benaras Ka Paan (Betel leaves prepared and used as a stimulant) and to take home Benaresi Sarees (Indian ethnic wear).

What are the things you need to beware of?

The traffic in the city is crazy. Leave your vehicle and travel by cycle or auto rickshaws. Watch out for those pot holes in the road. Second, since the city is full of temples, the so-called priests sometimes squeeze out money in the name of donating to God. So try to be firm.

Where to visit in Benares?

The city can be covered in 2-3 days comfortably. 1. Kashi Vishwanath is one temple you would really want to visit. 2. I highly recommend visiting Ghats which are at walking distance from the temple. You should visit the Ghats both during sunrise and sunset. It is a beautiful site. Also see the evening aarti that happens every evening at 6 pm, it’s a spectacular site.

You can visit other temples out of curiosity.

On second day, you can hire a taxi to visit Sarnath which is about 15-20kms from Benares. Sarnath is the place where Gautam Buddha taught his first sermon. The place now has the ruins of monasteries, Buddhist temples, and a Museum. It’s small town full of monks.

One thing I am really sure you’ll love about this city is its Spirit.

Night view at Ghats

ImageSunrise at Ghats

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View of Ghats from Ganga

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Benares is famous for its small lanes. If you are not aware of the ways, you can easily get lost.

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Ruins of Monastaries in Sarnath

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Prayer flags in Sarnath

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A conversation

After watching the horrendous natural mishap happened in the Uttarakhand state of India, I am devastated and shocked with the intensity of nature’s fury.

Uttarakhand lies in the northern region of India beautifully adorning mountain ranges. This state is popular for its hill stations and pilgrimage destinations. Like all years, this year also, thousands of people visited to the holy shrines at Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamnotri and Gangotri only to witness death due to the floodings caused by the heavy rains and cloudburst.  The whole state as lies in the hilly region is prone to landslides. I watched the clips of the destroyed region on the news and they are very disturbing. People are still stranded in different parts of the state without food and any contacts as the road network got damaged and any sort of connection is not reachable to them. The rescue teams are in action to save as many people as they can however nobody can estimate the exact number of people who may have lost their lives in this accident. It is probably in thousands.

This video is just a fraction of the damage that has happened.

It is an intrinsic nature of us – to complain even without even realizing our faults. In this post I am trying to make a conversation between an affected pilgrim and the God.

What a pilgrim says to his God after witnessing this whole nature’s devastation.

“It was an epiphanic day,

I thought,

My materialistic pains will be alleviated,

If I see you,

I took a plunge,

Crossing rivers and mountains,

I arrived,

With folded hands, pure heart and teary eyes,

I prayed,

Not for me but for my family,

As I opened my eyes I was swept away,

I was drowning,

 Amidst the yelling people I was lost,

    Soon everything was in rubble

    I lost everything for which I prayed for

  And with that the faith in you

Are you really God – the most divine or a monster?”

How the God replied to this harsh accusation on Him:

“It is you who made me God,

And now you are making me a monster

I never asked you to come to me,

I never asked you to pray me

All I have asked you is to help each other,

There are others dying every day of hunger,

While you were feeding your family

There are atrocities happening everywhere,

And you watched them

It perturbs me more when I see,

What you did with the nature I gifted you,

You did not value it too

And you are asking me if I’m a monster

Don’t go find me at far off places,

You will not seek happiness

I am there where you don’t want to see

 Within you

I have given you the power to find solutions for all your pains

Once you’ll start valuing things I have bestowed on you,

And help people around you,

You will not need any GOD to help you.”

Sufism: Reaching the Divine

If somebody would ask me do you believe in God, I would say Yes. If somebody would ask me do you celebrate God, my answer would be No. I only celebrate Love as I believe God lies where there is Love. The parallel I’m trying to draw here between God and Love is to concrete my belief that it is only ‘Sufism’ that truly celebrates God in its most divine form.

What is Sufism? It is certainly originated from Islam but the way it directs a soul towards divinity by cleansing the heart, repairing it from all sins and dedicate it to love that brings one closer to God. Sufism has given birth to many famous poets viz. Rumi who was called the Qutb, the pillar of love; Gilani was called the pole of power and Ibn Arabi was of knowledge.

There are many sayings/teachings of Sufis which if read would reflect a deep sense of our existence. One of them and my favorite is Sohbet. Sohbet can be understood as a spiritual conversation to cleanse the soul and a meeting of the hearts.  Sufis says that there are three ways of being with the God: i. prayer, then a step ahead is ii. meditation and then the ultimate stage is iii. conversation, this mystical exchange is called Sohbet.

Similarly, Zikr, a spiritual ceremony of remembering God involves silence, meditation, whirling dances and chants. This ceremony opens the hearts of the seekers to transmit the love and compassion in the most purest form.

I conclude this post with a poem that celebrates Sufism for enlightening the wandered souls over the centuries (I’m afraid I am unaware of the writer).

sufi

THE SUFI

Upon his soul marked the wing of heart.

The reed plays a note and the ancient drum beats.

His arms rise spread wide.

His smiling forehear bathed in light.

He dances through the primitive,

through the ancient,

through the contemporary

into the Real.

Beyond he whirls ecstatic…

His lips shape the heart’s petal sounding…

Hu…Hu…Hu…!

Hu, the Sufi call to Allah!

He whirls with opened heart, sober, balanced

and free.

 

Daily Inspiration

Daily Inspiration

To quench my intrigue I searched the deep meaning of this philosophical quote by Anthony De Mello, a spiritual healer. It states that we are like bears pacing in a cage. Even if the cage is removed, we keep pacing in the same timid limits. We are afraid to get out. And we think that the only way out is by endless striving and thinking. Through his book The Heart of the Enlightened, Anthony guide his readers with his short stories which touch on relationships, human nature, service, spirituality, and enlightenment.