Friday, February 13, 2009

Spiritual Quest - Day 1

My trip to Haridwar and Rishikesh, two of the holiest places for Hindus, made me realize how little I know about Hinduism and its philosophy. I know the stories like Ramayana and the Mahabharata but there is so much more to know. I am not a deeply religious person (I went for years without entering a temple) but I want to be spiritual. I have decided to dig deeper into Hinduism and force myself to share atleast one interesting thing that I learn each day.

Let me start off with knowledge acquired on day 1:
  • A prayer that I have learnt to chant as a kid but I never fully understood

    "asato ma sadgamaya
    tamaso ma jyotirgamaya
    mrtyorma amrtam gamaya"


    Lead me from unreal to the real (or untrue to truth)
    Lead me from darkness to light
    Lead me from death to immortality

    How beautiful!!

  • "Prana" is sanskrit for "breath". (I always thought Prana literally meant life)

    Also came across an interesting parable on this matter. According to the upanishads, the 5 senses were having a discussion about which is the most important. They decide the only way to find out would be if they leave one by one and the others experience life without one sense. First, sight goes off for 1 year and once it is back, it asks the others, "how was life without light?". The other senses say, "the world was plunged in darkness. Life was bad but we got used to it and we began to rely on touch, sound etc to fill the void left. Life went on.". Similarly, hearing, touch, taste go out one by one and realize that life continues in their absence. Finally, it is breath's turn to leave. As it starts making its exit, the other senses realize that they too were disappearing along with breath. They realize their folly and accept that breath is the most important of the 5 senses. This is why prana, the word for breath, is often used to denote life. Infact, "prani" is the word used for "creatures". Interesting.


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