For the Ordinary Man Its Importance in Daily Life

The topic here is whether “Jnana Marga” or the “Path of Knowledge” can help the ordinary man in his daily life.  Hinduism does not differentiate between secular and sacred. Everything is sacred, everything is divine. Therefore there is no such thing called an “ordinary man”. Everyone is divine and hence everyone and everything is “extraordinary”. The three major paths or “margas” in Hinduism are “jnana, karma and bhakti” – the path of knowledge, the path of action and the path of devotion. To try and differentiate between them is like trying to make a braid or plait for a girl without using three strands of hair.  All three strands are imperative to make a good braid as any girl would know. Taking away one strand would cause the whole plait to come undone. Our lives are made up of knowledge, action and devotion so they cannot be easily separated. It is absurd to say that we need only “karma and bhakti” in our daily life and “jnana” is unnecessary. On the contrary the whole problem with the world today is lack of “jnana” or true knowledge. We are ignorant of the true nature of God, the nature of the world and of our own selves. We grope in the darkness of this triple ignorance and are confronted with a thousand problems all stemming from the same cause.

The two major and belligerent religions of the world are great followers of the “bhakti marga”. They are prepared to sacrifice their precious lives for the sake of their God. Luckily none of our Hindu gods command us to do this. Even if they did do so, the Hindu would not follow because our religion is founded on “jnana” or knowledge. This is the major and most dramatic difference between Hinduism and the Abrahamic religions. They follow an exclusive God, exclusive to those who follow him and those who are devoted to him and believe in him. Those who don’t believe are condemned as heathens and heretics and sent to eternal hell! The one God of the Hindus on the other hand is an all-inclusive, timeless, spaceless entity that is available at all times, to all people regardless of whether they believe in Him or not. He is not dependent on our adoration or belief because He is omnipotent, omniscient and ever full – with no dependence on anything whatsoever. Because He is totally full (poornam) he has no demands. He does not care whether you believe in Him or not just like the sun does not care if you believe in his existence!! He is the Lord of all things, both animate and inanimate and therefore the same to all creatures. Since He is “Supreme Fullness” it stands to reason that He is present in all things at all times. Therefore He is ever present in every human being. He is the inner witness of all actions not just of the human being but of all creatures and of the whole cosmos. In fact He is the director, producer, stage manager and actor in the drama of human lives and the drama of universal existence. Without Him nothing would exist. Everything exists and is supported by Him as the fish exists and is supported by the water. At the same time it is important to understand that the water has nothing to do with the fish and will continue to exist with or without the fish. This understanding is called “jnana”. This is found only in Hinduism.

Both “bhakti” and “karma” have to have their basis on this knowledge. “Bhakti” and “karma” devoid of “jnana” leads to fundamentalism which is the problem with the world today. When “bhakti” or devotion is based on ignorance of the nature of the God that one is worshipping, it will certainly lead to fundamentalism.

“Jnana” is the foundation of both “bhakti” and “karma”. Without “jnana” the other two will be like the proverbial blind leading the lame. They will both fall into the ditch together. Thus the implication in the subject matter of this debate is faulty- “Can “jnana” help the ordinary man to lead his ordinary life following his ordinary pursuits?” I have already said that nothing in life is ordinary. Everything is extraordinary. Can a miracle be called ordinary? And Life on this planet is indeed a miracle so it can never be ordinary.

Without a solid foundation of stones a house cannot be built. If the foundation is shaky the whole edifice will fall down one day or other. In fact this is one of the reasons that Hinduism has survived the onslaughts of these two aggressive religions that have sought to suppress and depress and stamp it out for the last six hundred years.

Now let us look at the technical reason why “jnana” is a must for all of us in our normal lives. The two most powerful emotions that guide our lives are fear and anger. These two were fundamental to our survival during the cave-man period. They are the basis of the “fight or flee” response. Even a weak man can fight with great ferocity if he is angry and we all know the saying the “fear gives wings to our feet!” So these emotions were essential to the cave man for survival. However in this age these very emotions that have allowed us to survive for centuries are the ones that are hastening our destruction.

Let us examine the root cause of our fears. We will find that “ignorance” is the root cause of all our fears.  We fear the darkness because we cannot see what is going on. We fear disease and death because we do not know the causes for them and we do not know what happens to us after death. When we delve deeper into the cause of our fears we will find that it is caused by our great and passionate love for our body. Everything that gives us pain or even pleasure for that matter has something to do with this body. Our attachment to our body is so strong that our greatest fear lies in losing it. Hence “death of the body” is the most fearful thing for both strong and weak. This fundamental fear of all humanity is the one that weakens us and this is the fear that is attacked first by Lord Krishna in the Sreemad Bhagavad Gita. The fear of death is real only as long as we identify ourselves with the body. Once we see that this identification is senseless and we are far greater than this temporal body, death can no long hold us in its thrall. We realise that it is only the body that dies and never the “atman” or the real “Self” which was never born and therefore can never die. If this knowledge is impressed on us from childhood we will become fearless and blissful individuals who are capable of facing any situation, dilemma or crises in our lives.

As long as we imagine God to be some object sitting somewhere in Heaven, totally disconnected from us, we will be prey to a thousand fears for we do not know His intentions, we do not know the nature of the world and we certainly don’t know our own natures. Thus most of us live out our lives faced with a thousand fears ending in the death of our beloved bodies with which we had associated ourselves for the whole of our lives on this planet.

“Jnana marga” of Hinduism tells us that God is not a separate entity from us who has incarcerated himself in some inaccessible heaven but that He is a living, throbbing and most intimate reality that exists inside each of us, and who is the basis of our daily lives. Like the fish in the water, we also would not be able to exist for more than a few minutes without this support. Once this knowledge is established in us we will have no fear of anything or anyone. Our fears are always about an “other” or an object that lives separate from us. We are not usually frightened of our own selves. “Jnana” impresses upon us the fact that there is no “other”; there is only one single divine entity that exists in all creatures just as there is only one string that holds the whole necklace of pearls together and gives it shape, beauty and utility. Therefore the very basis of fear is senseless. Can we fear ourselves? Hence “jnana” is most important for the ordinary man in his daily life. Without a proper foundation of “jnana” our life will become a fearful thing, always fluctuating between the dualities of good and bad, happiness and unhappiness. We will always be a wretched victim of the circumstances. “Jnana” teaches us to become the victors and never the victims!

Hari Aum Tat Sat

The Science Behind

Ancient Hindu Practices

                    Vanamali Mataji


The universe is run according to certain scientific laws and unless we follow these laws we are bound to end up by being unhappy. This is the problem with human beings today. Our unhappiness is caused by our inability to follow natural laws based on science. Hinduism is the only religion in the world which is based on the scientific laws of Nature that is why there was never a controversy between science and religion as was found in the west. However there is a mis-understanding that Hinduism is hopelessly unscientific and based on a bundle of superstitions. This grossly unfair idea was subtly inserted into the Hindu psyche by the westerners who first came to India because they were completely at sea to understand a religion which seemed to be totally different from their own standard conceptions about God, Nature and man. The rishis of ancient India knew that there was no dichotomy between these three — Nature, God and man as was supposed by Semitic religions. The religion known as the Sanatana Dharma which they gave to the country of their origin was totally based on scientific validities. They did not preach or propagate a religion, but a way of life into which was imbedded the truths of Nature which were the truths of science. But they also knew that if they tried to give scientific validity for all their extortions, they would not be understood at all by most people. In ancient times if anything had to have validity it had to have a background of spirituality and moral ethics. Therefore they exhorted their followers to do certain actions which would give them spiritual benefits and did not disclose the true facts to them that these commands were actually based on science. Today however we live in a science oriented world and anything, if it has to be accepted by the masses has to have scientific validity. Thus all the ancient so-called Hindu superstitions, when looked at from a scientific angle have disclosed the fact that all of them without exception are based on certain scientific truths by following which we will get better health and be able to function as better human beings. So today Hinduism is on a better wicket than any other religion since it is the only religion which is based on science. Here we will take a few examples of the commonly used actions and ideas in Hinduism and prove that they are indeed based on science.

Namaste or folding the palms in greeting

Let us first take the common Hindu practice of greeting each other by folding the hands together and saying “Namaste”. This is of course an action which is normally done when we go to a temple and face the deity. It shows a high degree of respect and acceptance of the fact that we are facing something which is divine. This same action is done when we meet somebody and this implies that we are bowing to that divine which is present in that person however great or lowly, big or small, he or she might be. This is recognition of the divinity present in every human being whatever be his caste or religion. This forges a bond between us and the person on a transcendental level and not just on the physical level.

Secondly, the modern science of reflexology has recognised the fact that the tips of the fingers carry nerves to all parts of the body and hence when we join our palms together every time we meet someone, the fingers touch each other and stimulate these pressure points so that the corresponding parts of the body become more alive.

Another point to be remembered is that the habit of shaking hands is really not such a healthy habit since the person may be carrying some germs which will be passed on to us by the contact.

The dot or line on the forehead

In ancient days all Hindus, males and females had a dot or a mark between their eyebrows. People may think that this is only a sort of spot which enhances the beauty of the face. No doubt it does do this but again there is a scientific reason behind this. The spot between the eyebrows is known as the ajna chakra or the third eye, in modern parlance. This is the spot where the mind has its abode during the day. During the night it reposes in the anahata or heart chakra. These chakras are whorls of energy and some of them correspond to the endocrine glands which have been recently discovered by western science and which they feel have a lot to do with the balance and health of the whole body. Of course our rishis were well aware of this fact a long time ago and they asked people to wear some sort of dot on the ajna chakra. When we are applying the kum-kum (vermilion powder) our finger automatically presses this chakra and energises the mind, which become alert. Moreover whenever a person looks at us, their gaze is immediately drawn toward the dot which is our third eye. This again activates our chakra and makes our mind more concentrated so that we can listen or talk to the other person in a better manner. The kum-kum or vermilion which is used by women is not a synthetic product as it is now. The process of making it is quite elaborate and is done very well in the south, especially, Kanchiupuram and Madurai, both in Tamil Nadu. It is actually a mixture of turmeric and lime and is exposed to the rays of the moon for a fortnight before it is ready. This mixture again passes through the skin and beautifies the skin.

Nowadays of course people no longer know the reason for this and they use synthetically made powder or to make things easier, dots and other shapes made of some synthetic material. Of course even then if the dot is kept in the right place it will still have some value but sometime people place it high above the forehead and not on the chakra which of course, has not much efficacy.

There are three types of material which used to be used in olden times for making these dots and all three correspond to one of the three gunas which are sattva, rajas and tamas.

  1. Vermillion Powder
    The vermilion powder has been discussed already. This is related to the worship of the goddess and stands for rajas or the quality of kinesis or action. Shakti is responsible for all action in the universe. She is always personified as a goddess with various names. Naturally her colour should be red, the colour of energy and beauty.
  2. Sandal paste
    This is made out of sandal wood and is very cooling and soothing to the mind when kept on the forehead. Sandal paste has the quality of sattvaor balance and harmony and Vishnu is the god connected with this quality. All Vaishnavites (devotees of Vishnu) wear sandal paste on their forehead.
  3. Vibhuti or Bhasmam (ashes)
    This has the quality of tamas or inertia and is connected with Shiva, the destroyer in the trinity. This vibhuti has many medicinal qualities and can be applied to cuts, wounds, itches etc, and has immediate effect. However these ashes have to be made in a certain way. A few days before Shivaratri one has to make round cow dung cakes with fresh cow dung and place them inside a pile of rice husk. This has to be set on fire. Rice husk does not burn like firewood but will keep smouldering for many days. On Shivaratri day, you have to carefully take out the cow dung cakes which will be remaining intact in shape inside the smouldering fire. These have to be carefully taken out and powdered. In fact it will turn into powder as soon as you touch it so it has to be handled with great care. This is to be offered to Shiva on Shivaratri day and some of it should be used for abhishekam (poured over the lingam). This has to be mixed with the rest of the vibhuti and kept in a safe place to be used daily or as and when it is necessary.

Thus we see that the use of different types of dots or lines on the foreheads of Hindus all have a great esoteric and scientific significance.

Toe rings worn by married women

It is normal for married women to wear toe rings on the second toe of both feet. This is put on their toes by their husbands and is about the only time a husband touches his wife’s feet. This custom has a deep scientific principle underlying it. An essential nerve connects this toe with the uterus and passes on to the heart. Wearing a ring on this toe stimulates this nerve and strengths the uterus. It helps to regulate the blood flow and normalize the menstrual cycle. In this way it ensures a safe and good pregnancy. It also sustains the foetus while it is in the womb. The toe ring is always made of silver, never of gold. Silver absorbs polar energies from the earth when the foot is pressed down and passes it to the body.

Ringing of bells in temples

It is a practice amongst Hindus to ring the bell before entering the sanctum. Bells are also rung during the pujas (rituals). The sound made by bells which are made of certain specific metals cause sounds which set up vibrations in or brain and surroundings. The sound spreads in waves to the ecosphere and keeps echoing into space, like the waves set off in a pond when we throw a stone into it. They will keep on till they reach the banks. The sound of the bell also results in an echo which will last for 7 seconds which will have positive effects on all the seven chakras.

Why do Hindus circumambulate (go round) temples?

Temples are always strategically placed at those places where positive energy is abundantly available from the magnetic and electric wave distributions of north/south pole thrust. The main idol is placed in the core center of the temple, known as Garbhagriha or Moolasthanam. In fact, the temple structure is built after the idol has been placed. This Moolasthanamis where earth’s magnetic waves are found to be maximum. Moreover the idol itself is made of certain metals or stone and before putting it in place, a Yantra or mystic design made out of copper is placed under it. The copper plate absorbs earth’s magnetic waves and radiates it to the surroundings. This Yantra will keep on emitting vibrations which are activated by the ringing of the bell. These vibrations emanate from the idol in concentric circles and like the sound of the bell this energy whorls keep spreading out to the outer walls of the temple and even beyond. The devotee who is going round the temple is engulfed in this energy field and gets maximum benefit the more times he goes round. That is why people make vows to do 108 times and so on. Some people do this with their whole body touching the ground. Naturally they get extra benefit not only of the vibrations emanating from the sanctum but from contact with the earth which is also emitting energy.

Why do Hindus eat with their hands?

There is a deep science behind this particular Hindu custom for which we are despised by the westerners. Food is a gift from God and eating is an art in which all the five senses have to be involved in order to get maximum benefit and pleasure. The five senses are sight, smell, taste, sound and touch. Western culinary techniques take into consideration the first three of these senses but totally disregard the other two. It is deeply conscious of the fact that food should look good and be artistically arranged and it should smell good and of course taste good. But they make no use of the other two senses of sound and touch. This is like using only three fingers instead of all five. If the hand is to be of use we must use all five fingers. Similarly if eating has to be a fulfilling action it has to take all five senses into consideration. So in Indian cooking no meal is complete unless we serve something which produces a sound like crunching. AND most important we will never be able to relish the taste of any food completely unless we use the sense of touch and feel the food with our fingers. God has given the human being five fingers to use as spoons and forks and all children automatically use their hands to put food into their mouth. Western parents have to forcibly insist that the child uses an artificial aid instead of the ones given by god to shovel food into his mouth!

Why are Hindus asked to sleep with their heads to the South?

The human body is actually a huge magnet which attracts the beams from the Earth’s magnetic fields located in the South and North Poles. When we sleep with our head towards the north, our body’s magnetic field becomes completely asymmetrical to the earth’s magnetic field. This forces our heart to work harder in order to overcome this and leads to a rise in blood pressure and general discomfort. Our bodies also have a significant amount of iron in the blood. When we sleep with head to the North, the iron from the whole body starts to congregate in the brain and can lead to headaches, cognitive decline and brain degeneration.

Why do Hindus to pierce their ears?

Recently modern science has discovered that the lobes of the ears are extremely sensitive and has nerves leading to the auditory system and nervous system in the brain. When we are worried we should slowly massage our ear lobes and along the sides and we will immediately feel calmer. In ancient India piercing of the ears was a scientific process and known only to some special goldsmiths. They knew the exact point to be pierced by which our hearing, intellect and nervous system would be fortified. It also helps to develop creative powers. In ancient India both males and females used to pierce their ears. Sometimes you find that when doctors do this, even though they anesthetise the spot and supposedly do it in a very hygienic way, it often happens that the hole will not heal naturally and sometimes breaks out in a small nodule.

Importance of the Peepul Tree and Tulsi plant

The peepul tree is a huge tree which spreads out in branches and has beautiful leaves which shake and quiver at the slightest breeze that passes through them. It doesn’t seem to have much use since it has no flowers or fruit but the Hindus consider it holy. This again rises from the great botanical knowledge which the rishis had about all types of vegetation. They told the common people that it was holy and encouraged them to plant these trees in the village and care for them because they knew that the peepul is the only tree which produces oxygen at night. All other types of vegetation give out carbon dioxide at night. The quivering leaves obviously have a role to play in keeping the oxygen going throughout the night.

The tulsi (holy basil) is another plant which is considered holy by the Hindus. It is closely connected with the worship of Vishnu and his incarnations. Again the rishis knew well of the medicinal and healing properties of the plant and that is why they linked its name with one of the chief gods in the pantheon and insisted that every garden should keep a tulsi plant which should be protected and taken care of at all times. It is a remarkable antibiotic and if used daily in tea or simply chewed it will stabilise the health and balance the body system. If kept in the compound close to the house, it prevents insects from entering the house. Even snakes don’t like to go near a tulsi plant. Thus in ancient days people were encouraged to grow lots of tulsi around their house.

Why do Hindu women wear bangles?

In olden days even men were encouraged to wear bangles of copper or shell. The wrist is a very sensitive part of the human being. When a doctor wants to check your pulse he will automatically lift up your wrist. When bangles are worn on the wrist, the constant friction increases the blood circulation. Electricity passing out through the outer skin is reverted to one’s own body through the action of the circular bangles which make sure that the current is kept within the body and does not pass out of it.

Thus we see that almost all the so-called superstitious customs which Hindus are prone to do, have their basis in some scientific or medical truth. Western science did not pierce beyond the veil of the obvious which could be experienced by the five senses. Hinduism on the other hand always strove to reach beyond the obvious to the transcendental. Hence we find that almost every act in Hinduism has a deep spiritual meaning as well conferring physical benefits.

Hari Aum Tat Sat