Idols or images of God are inert objects. A form carved in a stone or painted on paper is an imaginary form and is not even a direct photograph. Idols and images are only models representing certain concepts. They facilitate knowledge.
The form of idols and photos is mainly human. This represents the concept that the Lord always comes to this world in human form as is said in the Bhagavad Gita (Manusheem Tanu Mashritam...). Please remember that the Gita did not say that the Lord would come in any other form. The forms of fish, tortoise etc., which the Lord took, as mentioned by the Puranas were only temporary. They were meant only to kill some demons and nobody worshipped such forms even during their time. Rama, Krishna, etc were the human forms of the Lord. They were worshipped by several devotees like Hanuman and Gopikas in their time and are being worshipped even today.
The Lord will come in every human generation; otherwise, He would be accused of being partial to a particular generation or age. The Lord comes whenever there is a necessity as said in the Gita (Yada yadahi). Once this concept is realized, there is no need of going to the temple and worshipping idols One should go from school to college and then to university. This does not mean that when one leaves the school, the school should be destroyed. The school must exist for others who need it.
Similarly, if for one person the idols and the images of God are not necessary anymore, it does not mean that the idols, photos and temples should be destroyed. They should be protected and must be respected as the models of divine knowledge for the ignorant devotees who need them. Some devotees cannot accept the human form, which is before their eyes as said in the Veda (Pratyaksha dvishah). For such devotees, idols and photos are necessary for meditation since they are still at the high school level in spirituality. Idols and pictures are useful for meditation for such limited minds as said in the Sastras (Pratima svalpa buddhinam).
The Veda says that the Lord does not exist in inert objects (Natasya pratima, Nedamtat), but It says that inert objects can stand as models representing the Lord (Adityam brahmeti). Therefore seeing and meditating upon idols and photos are acceptable in the case of ignorant devotees. However, a lot of other rituals like offering food, burning camphor, fume sticks, oil lamps and breaking coconuts and offering flowers are not mentioned in the Vedas and are unnecessary. These unnecessary rituals should be avoided especially since many of them cause pollution and harm humanity. Offering food should be done to the human form of the Lord only, where it is befitting and not to the inert idols. Ijya or yajna is cooking and offering of the food to God. The Gita says that such ijya should not be done to inert objects.
In the name of idols, some people are actually stealing food and money. Everyone knows that idols and photos do not take the offering whether it be food or money offered as gurudakshina. It is people in and around the temple who take the offerings. Most of these people are either use the money for their selfish ends or waste it due to their ignorance. Whatever gurudakshina is received from the devotees should be given to the priest and not the managing committee of the temple. The business of the merchants selling materials for worship within temples should be stopped, because such materials are not even heard of in the Veda. Of course, the priest should be a Sadguru and preach the divine knowledge to the devotees and the devotees should give gurudakshina to such a Sadguru alone. Thus, the temple should become a center of learning selfless devotion and divine knowledge and the priest must do only jnana yajna (propogation of knowledge) in the temple and not the dravya yajna (burning food and other materials in the traditional fire ritual).
It is said in the Gita (sreyan dravyamayat). The Gita condemns ijya of inert objects because such ijya is only a business and is a fraud. Devotees who perform such ijya will be born as inert objects (bhutejya yanti). Such devotees come to the temple in order to cleanse themselves of their sins. The sins have been actually perfromed by them. The come to the temple and perform some fire rituals, burn some food and other materials, give a donation to the priest and assume that their sins have been cleansed. They now expect to receive some 'good results' since they have done those traditional rituals. Good results are given as the fruit of good actions. Burning food and materials in fire cannot classify as good actions deserving good results. Therefore this business, which involves the removal of the bitter fruits of sins actually performed and getting of sweet fruits of good deeds which have not been performed at all, is a big fraud.
All this is false. The theory of karma says that one has to suffer for all his bad deeds and can never get the result of any good deed without actually performing it. (Avashyam anubhoktavyam...kalpakoti shatairapi). The real spiritual path should be preached in the temple which is niskama karma yoga i.e., sacrifice of work and sacrifice of the fruit thereof (money) to the Lord without aspiring anything in return. Remember, that only the ijya (burning of food and materials in the ritual fire) is condemned and not the temples or idols, which are the models of the divine knowledge.
Whenever a temple is constructed, the idol is established in it as part of the ceremony of 'life initiation'. The living God is invited to establish Himself in the inert idol. Then on the inert idol is treated as if it were the Living God.
If you take the life initiation as a model of knowledge, it is appreciated. The real meaning of the life initiation in an idol is thus: The inert idol + life initiation indicates the human incarnation of the Lord. The human incarnation of the Lord is the Lord (living aspect) which has entered the inert body made out of matter. It prepares one to accept the Lord in human form. If you say that the life initiation actually brings life in the idol, it should be condemned because the idol remains inert and can never even move even an inch. You cannot bring back life in a dead body by such life initiation. Can you?
An idol is a model representing a concept. It is actually a teaching-aid of the spiritual preacher. The idol represents Lord Datta. Datta means the Lord given to the world in human form. The human body of the Lord is made of the five elements (panca bhuta) out of which Creation or prakruti was made. The idol has the form of a human being and represents the human body of the Lord. The five metals represent the five elements. This means that the body of the Lord who comes down in human form is also the same prakruti and subject to the rules of nature such as hunger and thirst.
Prakruti (inert nature) is like the shirt of the Soul or the Lord. A blade can cut the shirt of any human being. Similarly the blade can cut the shirt of even a king. It means that the external human body of the human incarnation of the Lord is subject to the laws of nature. Therefore, you should concentrate on the inner form of the Lord that pervades over the human body of the incarnation just as electricity pervades all over a live metal wire. The wire gives you an electric shock no matter where you touch it. Delivering an electric shock is the property of electricity. The wire also maintains its own property of being thin and long. A live wire displays the properties of both viz. The electricity flowing through it and the appearance of a wire.
Similarly the human body of an incarnation shows both, the property of Its inner form, which is the Lord Himself and the property of a physical body made up of the five elements and subject to the rules of nature. One should therefore recognize this truth and worship the Lord in human form by physical offerings such as food. One must not assume that since He is God, that He would not have hunger. Of course the Lord can use His divine powers to remove the hunger felt by His physical body. The Lord however does not use His divine powers for the benefit of His human body. The very purpose of the human body of the Lord is to suffer the results of sins of His devotees. In such suffering the human body must follow the rules of nature or prakruti and must suffer like any other human being.
If the Lord uses divine powers to alleviate the suffering of His body, then the deity of justice is cheated. It is as if the Lord were cheating His own Law. The idol thus represents the human body of the incarnation of the Lord. The five metals of the idol represent the five elements of Creation, which constitute the body.
Temples and idols are necessary for low level people as said in the Sastra (pratima svalpa buddhinam). They are like teaching models for an elementary school student. For a college or university student they are not necessary. A model is called as a pratika. The Veda tells us to meditate upon the sun as the Lord. The sun is not actually the Lord. It is only a servant of the Lord. Even this is told in the Veda (Brahmeti, Nedam tat, Bheeshodeti Suryah). The Veda says that the Lord is not in idols (natasya pratima). The Veda also says that no inert object and no human being is the Lord because the object or human being is within Creation (neti neti).
The Bhagavad Gita says that the Lord comes only in human form (manushim tanumasritam). The idol, which is in the human form, is a model that teaches you the concept that the Lord comes in a human form for preaching divine knowledge in every human generation. Thus God does not favor any one generation over another. This is given in the Bhagavad Gita (yada yadahi). Once you understand this concept the temple and idol are not necessary for you but they should still be protected and respected as the models of divine knowledge for the other ignorant devotees.
Some people say that Kulluka Bhatt instructs us to worship idols. Kulluka bhatt is a Purva Mimamsaka (ritualist) and an atheist. He says "devo na kascit"; there is no God. How can he contradict the Veda, which says that the Lord does not exist in idols? How can he have greater authority than the Veda which is the Word of God? The Bhagavad Gita severely condemns a person who worships idols saying that he will be born as a stone. Here the meditation upon the idol is not condemned. Only the worship of the inert object by offering food is condemned because the idol does not eat the offered food. Such offerings to inert idols show the inertness of the worshipper who clearly is using a useful model beyond its legitimate scope and thereby abusing it. The idol cannot eat the offered food but someone else collects that food and eats it.
In the Bhagavad Gita the word bhutejyah means worshipping inert objects by offering food. Ijya means offering food. Bhuta means 'inert substance' or that which is one of the five inert elements (panca bhutas). Some people say that the word bhuta means 'ghost' and therefore they interpret the line from the Bhagavad Gita as 'those who worship ghosts become ghosts'. This interpretation is also plausible and we do not object to it. Our interpretation uses the same logic; he who worships a stone (inert object) becomes a stone. Moreover the verse further says that those who worship deities become the deities and so on. Yajna actually means feeding the divine guest after 'cooking' food in the fire. It does not mean 'burning' food in the fire as is commonly understood.
The guest is treated like fire. The hunger in his stomach is treated as Vaisvanaragni or the sacred fire. Lord Krisha stopped the practice of burning food in fire and ate the food instead stating that He was hungry. In the Srimad Bhagavatam, it is said that Kapila, who was also an incarnation of the Lord, condemned such burning of food. The yajna is only cooking the food and feeding the guest. In this true sense yajna is essential and must be performed.
Archanam means worship. In the nine stages of devotion the word archanam is mentioned no doubt but it does not mean the arcanam of a pratima (worship of an idol). It means the worship of the human form of the Lord. In fact the examples given for the nine stages of devotion relate only to the worship of the human form of the Lord. For example: Arjuna's devotion to Krishna is called as sakhyam or 'worshipping God as a friend'. None of the nine ways of worship pertain to worshipping idols.
The gayatri is a divine song, which protects the singer. Mantra means a divine sentence that attracts the mind and protects the person who utters it. If you join these two words, gayatri and mantra, we have a divine song, which attracts the mind, not with force but by virtue of its sweetness and protects the singer.
Poetry is better than the prose but song is better than poetry. The Bhagavad Gita says that the song is the best (vedanam samavedosmi). Therefore any divine song that attracts your mind is the gayatri mantra. It will please the Lord and protect you. Every mantra is attributed to a certain sage. The sage for the gayatri mantra is Visvamitra. The word Visvamitra means 'the one who is interested in the welfare of the entire humanity'. Therefore a human being can sing any devotional song to please the Lord. This is the real essence of the gayatri mantra.
Gayatri also is the name of a Vedic meter. Every Vedic mantra is chanted in a certain meter. There are several different meters and Gayatri is one of them. Traditionally, people chant only a certain verse which is composed in the gayatri meter. They think it is the gayatri mantra. This verse (tat savitu...), which is in the gayatri meter is not a song and therefore is not the Gayatri at all. Tradition requires that all male Brahmins chant the gayatri mantra and perform a certain ritual (sandhya vandanam) thrice a day. Males of other (lower) castes and women from all castes are denied the privilege of performing the ritual and chanting the gayatri mantra. However knowing the real meaning of gayatri, it is easy to see that the real gayatri is with women and the sudras (the low castes), who sing devotional songs. It is the traditional Brahmin men who are not doing the real Gayatri. The people who were denied the privilege actually possess the real gayatri. The people who denied others this privilege due to their jealousy, have lost it.
Gayatri is the super power of the Lord called Maya. The modification of Maya is this world as per the Veda (Gayatriva Idagum Sarvam). Gayatri is also believed to be a goddess related to the ritual of sandhya vandanam. The goddess described in the sandhya vandanam by the verse "mukta vidruma...." is not a Vedic deity at all. The meter of the verse is sardula vikreditam, which is not a Vedic meter. Some scholar wrote that verse imagining such a form of deity and introduced it in the sandhya vandanam. The word sandhya vandanam merely means 'singing (any prayer) at sunrise and sunset'. There is no particular text called sandhya vandanam in the Vedas.
7. You say that the present gayatri mantra is not gayatri at all. Yet in your childhood did you not perform the gayatri, idol worship and sacrifices? Why you have changed so drastically, later in your life?
I performed sandhya vandanam in my childhood. However I never recited the present gayatri mantra since as I said, it is not the gayatri at all. The present gayatri is not even a song as it is supposed to be. While doing the gayatri rituals, I used to recite several devotional songs in my mind and people thought that I was doing the japa or chanting of the present gayatri mantra. I used to tell people that I have chanted the gayatri but I never said that I chanted the so-called present gayatri mantra.
I worshipped idols and photos. I also performed fire sacrifices because I could not disclose my knowledge in the beginning itself. Had I proclaimed this knowledge in the beginning itself, people could not have digested it. When a bull is running with full speed, I have to follow the bull for some distance and then gradually control it. Similarly in order to become close with the people I ran along with their tradition for some time and became close to them. Then gradually, I revealed the true knowledge step by step. Sankara too had to bend a little towards Buddhism since Buddhism was very strongly rooted in India in those days. He was also criticized as a prachanna baudha or a 'Buddhist in disguise'. He was called so because His principle of Maya or Mayavada was very similar to the Buddhist principle of "nothingness" or sunyavada. He played along with the tune of sunyavada for a while, slowly brought people under His control and then disengaged from it. He made them accept the Brahman. Due to Him alone Buddhism which was born in India does not exist in India today. He saw to it that Buddhism crossed the borders of India. How can you then call Him a Buddhist in disguise?
Therefore the Bhagavad Gita says sarvarambha hi doshena, which means that ignorance is inevitable in the beginning. When you jump into the mud pond to help people who are drowning in it, you are bound to splash some mud on yourself. It is inevitable even to the human incarnation. I never condemned the present gayatri mantra which is traditionally chanted. I only told what the gayatri mantra actually is. Neither did I condemn temples, idols and images, nor did I reject their utility. In fact, I advised to preserve these models of knowledge for other ignorant devotees. They do have a limited utility in visualization and meditation. I only condemned the service to the idols (ijya) in keeping with the Bhagavad Gita. Idols and photos are fine only if used within their limited scope of utility.
In the name of idols and photos selfish people try to fool the ignorant public and are make business. They say that the idol is living. This is absurd and unscientific. I condemn the aim of the rituals but not the rituals. I condemn the burning of food in the name of sacrifice but sacrifice in its real sense, i.e., feeding the divine guest should be performed. I never condemned the school and college but I asked the people to come out of school to college and go to university in due course of time. One must come out of all the rituals which are part of the life of a householder (gruhastha) and come to renunciation, samnyasa, in the end.
One should become a samnyasi and reach Brahmaloka. Living and dying as a householder is not creditable. It is like discontinuing education halfway through school. When a person dies as a samnyasi, the post-death rituals are not done. This means that he does not go to hell. When a householder dies, post-death rituals have to be performed including the donation of a cow. This proves that the householder goes to hell. I never condemned the lower steps but I advised to climb to the highest step before one dies. I climbed all the steps in my life to be an example to others. Even the very tradition itself proves this. Such progression is supported by the scriptures. This fact cannot be contradicted since it is supported by both the tradition and the scriptures. Lord Siva came as Hanuman to show how to serve God. Therefore He acted as a servant to God in the form of Lord Rama. This does not mean that He was really a servant of Lord Rama. He acted like that only to set an example for others.
You are mocking a person traveling on the donkey towards the goal while you are traveling on a pig covered by a silken cloth. Is it not foolish then to mock at the donkey-rider? You sing the Ashtapadi to please God, which has a very much vulgar meaning in Samskritam. The line "gopi pina payodhara mardana cancala karayuga sali". This means that Lord Krishna is pressing the breasts of Gopikas. Don't you think that the cinema song, you mentioned has a more decent meaning than this?
Just because a verse is written in Sanskritam and you don't know its meaning, you sing it loudly and boldly. On the other hand, the song, "curaliya hai tumne jo dilko, nazara nahi curana hare", in which the word 'sanam' (darling) is replaced by the word 'hare' (Lord) gets directed to Lord Krishna. Therefore whatever may be the nature of the vehicle if it is turned towards God it is pious.
The Gopikas reached and pleased the Lord through romance as told in the Bhagavatam. Since it is directed to the Lord, such romance is the pious spiritual path. An atheist may do social service but that is only a sinful service. Any quality diverted towards the Lord is good and any quality diverted towards the world is bad. You may know Vedic hymns but if you pray to the Lord with Vedic hymns in order to achieve something in return then you are like a traveler traveling on a good horse in the wrong direction. You are getting further and further away from the Lord. A pig or donkey headed towards the direction of Lord is better than a horse traveling in the opposite direction.
Yes. If you carefully observe the present tradition itself, you can get the whole concept of spirituality without referring to any Holy Scripture. When a householder dies, rituals are performed and a cow is donated. This is so that the deceased person can cross the Vaitarini river (river of blood and pus), which comes on the way to hell. This clearly shows that every householder goes to hell. The householder does the gayatri japa, wears the sacred thread, worships inert idols and images all his life and yet he goes to hell.
When a saint or a monk (samnyasi) dies, such rituals are not performed. This proves that a saint goes to Brahmaloka or the highest heaven and not to hell. The saint has given up gayatri japa, the wearing of the sacred thread and worship of idols and images. He only propagates divine knowledge in the world. The present tradition instructs that all householders prostrate at the feet (bow down in respect) of the saint. This shows that the stage of the saint is certainly higher than the stage of the householder.
The stage of the householder and the samnyasi or the saint can be compared to different levels of education. The householder is like a student in high school while the saint can be compared to a college student. Each student normally passes through different levels in chronological order. When one passes from school to college the utility of the school and its curriculum is over for that person. However it is still essential for the other students who are still in school. They too in due course will move on to college. The rituals are analogous to the high school curriculum. They should be followed by those who are in that stage, namely the householder. They must also be preserved for the sake of others who need them even though a certain person may not need them anymore because he has crossed that stage and is a saint (renunciant) now. There is no need to destroy rituals just as there is no need to destroy schools. However one must graduate from school and go to college. One cannot remain in school forever. Likewise, being a householder and following rituals is fine but one should not live his whole life and die as a householder and a ritualist. One must move on to become a saint as a natural progression similar to going to college after graduating from school.
Leaving the house and family and taking up the saffron robes of a monk is necessary for a saint. These are merely an external display. A policeman does not have to be in uniform all the time to do his duty. Sometimes he may be on duty in plain clothes as well. An actor wearing the police uniform cannot become a policeman nor do the duty of one. Thus a person can become a real saint by participating in the propagation of divine knowledge and working for the welfare of humanity without the saffron cloth and without leaving the house.
A householder-ritualist burns camphor, fume sticks, oil and ghee in lamps and in yajnas and causes pollution, deforestations and droughts. He is actually harming humanity by such foolish deeds, which are not even mentioned in Vedas. Some ignorant preachers have fooled the public into believing in such rituals. Thus the householder cannot expect to benefit at all by performing these rituals. A saint never does these rituals because he cannot be fooled. He has attained the jnana or divine knowledge. Thus rationally analyzing the present tradition itself, one can get true knowledge without going to the scriptures. The ancient Indian sages (rishis) who are the real saints set up this tradition. If you do not understand even the tradition that is right before your eyes, how can you understand the Vedas and Sastras?
When a householder dies, rituals are performed in which a cow is donated (godana). When a householder dies, rituals are performed and a cow is donated. This is so that the deceased person can cross the Vaitarini river (river of blood and pus), which comes on the way to hell. This clearly shows that every householder goes to hell. The householder does the gayatri japa, wears the sacred thread, worships inert idols and images all his life and yet he goes to hell. When a saint or a monk (samnyasi) dies, such rituals are not performed. This proves that a saint goes to Brahmaloka or the highest heaven and not to hell. The saint has given up gayatri japa, the wearing of the sacred thread and worship of idols and images. He only propagates divine knowledge in the world. The present tradition instructs that all householders prostrate at the feet of the saint. This shows that the stage of the saint is certainly higher than the stage of the householder. Leaving the house and family and taking up the saffron robes of a monk is necessary for a saint. These are merely and external display. A policeman does not have to be in uniform all the time to do his duty. Sometimes he may be on duty in plain clothes as well. An actor wearing a quaky police uniform cannot become a policeman nor do the duty of one. A real saint is He who works for the propagation of the knowledge.
Rituals consist of two parts:
1) Prayers to the Lord
2) Sacrifice of fruit of work in the form of donating money to the deserving.
The prayers will give satisfaction and peace. The practical sacrifice will bring the fruit from the Lord. When a person does not do these two things while he is alive, he does not get any benefit when his son or family members do these things after his death. The son or the family members who perform the rituals and donations will get the fruits thereof and not the father or mother who died. Thus one should pray to the Lord while one is alive and get peace and satisfaction. Similarly one should sacrifice the fruit of one's work (food and money) to deserving people while one is alive. There is a belief that if the family members do not donate food during the death rituals, then the deceased person will starve in the other world. The food offered by the son will not reach the dead person. The Lord has made all the arrangements for food in the upper world. Even for a person in jail, the government is obliged to arrange for food. Likewise, the Lord will certainly arrange food for all the souls present in all the worlds.
Tradition requires householders to offer food to their dead parents as a way to coerce greedy people to perform the rituals and give the customary donations. If it had not been for the threat that their parents would starve in hell if their progeny did not perform the rituals and offer them food, selfish people would never have performed the rituals. In fact, there is no truth in such a threat. A person, who sacrificed while he was alive, does not aspire for his sons to do such rituals.
Sankara, Vivekananda, Mira etc., who participated in the propagation of divine knowledge and devotion, did not even have children. They never bothered about such rituals. Theirs' is the path of knowledge (arciradi marga) as said in the Gita (Ekayaa Yatya naa Vrittim). It is said that such great people do not need petty rituals "Nahi tena Pathaa Tanutyajah, Tanaya Varjita Pinda Kankshinah" i.e., the people in the path of the service of the Lord do not require the son and such rituals after death.
A person must be wise enough to pray to the Lord and to donate to the deserving, while one is alive. He should not depend on his sons to do this after his death. In that unhappy moment the sons will not be able to get a deserving person to receive the fruit of the work (money and food). When they sacrifice the fruit to the undeserving persons, sin is accrued by the donation of food and money. Therefore it is better to give while one is alive by searching a proper deserving person. There is no one better than the human incarnation of Lord. He will make the best possible use of the donation. If the human incarnation is not available, at least a great devotee of the Lord should be chosen. If this real aim of the rituals is not understood, performing the rituals after the death as a formality, are simply a waste. In such rituals the priests recite the hymns without knowing their meanings like mere tape recorders. The idea of prayer is completely lost in such a recitation. When you donate to such undeserving tape recorders you cannot get the real fruit and you will accrue sin in such rituals. If one has prayed to the Lord and donated to the most deserving person while he was alive such rituals are not necessary for him after his death.
The first Veda (Rigg Veda) starts with the word agni i.e., the Holy Fire. The mantra says that agni means 'purohita', 'Ritvik' and 'hota'. These three words mean the preacher of the Veda. Therefore the Vedic scholar who is like fire, is called agni. The word agni comes from the Samskritam word agri, which means that He should be worshipped first.
Veda also says that such a Vedic scholar, should be the guest to whom one should offer food and guru dakshina (Vaishwanaro Brahmanah Pravihsatyatithih Grihaan). Such a Vedic Scholar, can only be the actual incarnation of the Lord. He alone is the Sadguru, who will give divine knowledge of the Lord and is called the Brahmana. Brahmana means he who knows the Brahman and not merely a person who is born in the caste called Brahmin. The word Brahman means the Lord as well as the Veda. Therefore a Brahmana is the Vedic scholar who preaches divine knowledge of the Lord according to the Veda. Such a Brahmana is also called as 'Vaisvanara'. The Bhagavad Gita says that Vaisvanara is the fire of hunger (Aham Vaishwanaro Bhutva). Therefore offering ghee (clarified butter) and food to such a Sadguru is the real 'yajna' or sacrifice.
The Veda describes three forms of fire.
1. Laukikagni or bhautikagni, which is the physical form of fire such as the fire, which is used to cook food.
2. Vaidyutagni, which is the electric form of fire as in lightening.
3. Vaisvanaragni, which is the fire of hunger in the stomach of the Sadguru.
Vaisvanaragni is better than vaidyutagni. Vaidyutagni in turn is better than bhautikagni. Therefore yajna in its highest sense, means to feed and give guru dakshina to a deserving Vedic scholar or Sadguru who preaches the true meaning of the Veda. The Sadguru is the abode of all the gods or deities (Yavateervai Devataah). When the Sadguru is satisfied with the food offered to Him, the land will be blessed with rains.
Without knowing this inner meaning, if you merely burn ghee and food in the physical fire of the ritual fire-pit, the rains will in fact stop due to environmental pollution. Lord Krishna stopped such meaningless sacrifice by asking the sages to give Him (Lord Krishna) food and satisfy His hunger. Kapila, the incarnation of Lord Visnu condemned the burning of ghee and food in the physical fire and stated that he who does such yajna is the biggest fool.
Of course the physical fire or agni stands as model or representative (pratika) for the Lord. As fire removes darkness so does the Lord remove the ignorance by giving divine knowledge. As fire burns everything, the Lord can burn all our sins. Thus one can meditate upon the physical fire, as a model of the Lord. However, one need not burn wood constantly to meditate upon fire in order to receive this Knowledge. You can light the physical fire once in your life and learn that the Lord is like fire. A model experiment is done only once to learn that for which the model stands.
In olden days, the population was less and there were no plastics and automobiles. Forests were plentiful and electricity was not available. Therefore it was necessary to light an oil lamp. Also the pollution due to the oil lamp was negligible. Fire was inevitable for cooking food. It helped keep away wild animals and the smoke drew away mosquitoes. It was very difficult to light a fire by rubbing sticks against each other. Therefore a constant fire was maintained. Shirdi Sai Baba also lit a fire called the dhuni in the old Masjid (mosque), to keep away snakes and scorpions. However, today in every Sai temple, Sai devotees keep a wood fire burning to keep up the tradition. It was a matter of necessity then but blindly following the same practice today, as if it were a tradition is nothing but a meaningless waste. It causes environmental pollution. You could instead donate all that wood to the poor, who could use it for cooking their food. Thus, the physical form of the fire should be taken only as a model or representative of the Lord and not as Lord Himself.
The Vaisvanaragni is also called as Devatagni. This means the hunger or-the digestive fire that is present in the stomach of the human form of the Lord. Devatagni is the real fire worthy of worship. Today this inner meaning of agni as taught by the Veda is forgotten. Ignorant people are in fact 'playing with fire (the Lord)' in that they refuse to follow the actual injunctions of the Veda and continue with blind tradition. Yajna, in its true sense of sacrificing guru dakshina and food to the Sadguru is essential as per the Vedic injunctions and must be performed.
Both sages (suras) and demons (asuras) have existed in humanity irrespective of caste. They are both present in every caste, even the caste called Brahmins. The demons, Ravana and Hiranyakasipu were Brahmins. The sages, Atri, Bharadvaja etc. were also Brahmins. The sages were directed by the knowledge of Vedas and had sattvam or the quality pertaining to purity and knowledge. The sages are called as devas (gods) on the earth (bhudeva). It is said that Sage Kasyapa had two wives. The first wife was Aditi, who gave birth to the sages (devas) and the second wife was Diti, who gave birth to demons (asuras).
Both amritam, the divine nectar and halahala, the deadly poison, were born from the same mythical Milk Ocean or kshirasamudra. The demons are full of rajas (activity, passion) and tamas (ignorance, inertness) qualities. By the rajas quality, they are greedy and very fierce (rajaso lobha evaca -Bhagavad Gita). By tamas they are ignorant. They simply recite Vedas without inquiring into the meaning. There is no question of practicing what is implied in the Vedas.
The Bhagavad Gita identified the coexistence both the demons and the sages in the world and classified it as daiva-asura sampat vibhaga yoga. The rituals, which are now present in the tradition and which are not mentioned in Vedas were brought in by the demons, who were greedy, fierce and ignorant. They did not know that such rituals are not connected to the Lord in any way and can never please Him. This was their ignorance. Demons waste a lot of materials and wealth in these rituals and gurudakshina due to their greediness. If you tell them the true Vedic meaning they become furious. This is a clear evidence of their devilish nature.
In every age, Lord Datta reveals the true meaning of Vedas to the sages. Whenever the Lord comes and preaches the Truth, sages follow Him and demons oppose Him. When Lord Sankara came to preach the Truth, the Kapalikas who were defeated in arguments by Him, tried to kill Sankara by black magic. Swami Dayananda was killed by poisoning his food because he revealed the true meaning of Vedas. Similarly, Jesus was killed for revealing the real essence of spirituality. Wherever there is Krishna, there will be Sisupala (a demon). The true knowledge and false ignorance co-exist like day and night.
It is right, looking at it from one point of view. Most priests nowadays are not much more than tape recorders themselves. They chant hymns without explaining their meaning to people or even without knowing the meaning themselves. Therefore one may be tempted to ask as why one actually needs such a priest at all.
The actual principle behind performing Vedic rituals needs to be understood. If the goal were merely understanding what is told in the hymns then a recorded tape which has both the hymns and their meanings would be adequate. However the main aim of performing Vedic rituals is not only to know the Vedic knowledge, let alone merely listening to the hymns being chanted. The main aim is to sacrifice the fruit of your work (money) to a deserving person. It is therefore that listening to a tape recorder and performing rituals, is not acceptable.
The real aim of performing the ritual is not satisfied because the tape recorder cannot accept guru dakshina (donation). Whether you use a tape recorder or a priest you must know that burning substances like ghee or oil in the lamp, or burning fume sticks, camphor etc., which appear to take the center-stage in the rituals, are not mentioned in Vedas and are totally unnecessary. You must also know that the idols or photos worshipped in the rituals indicate the human form of the Lord. It is to the Lord in human form, to whom you have to perform all the sixteen modes of worship called upacaras. There comes the real sacrifice.
The Bhagavad Gita says 'nadatte kasyacit papam' which means that the Lord will not take away the sins of any soul. Priests recite another verse while serving tirtham which says that all the sins will be removed. The verse that they recite contradicts the above verse of the Bhagavad Gita. The verse of the Bhagavad Gita is a higher authority. Another verse in the Bhagavad Gita says that one has to bear the results of all his deeds whether good or bad (avasya manu bhokthavyam). There is no escape. Therefore at the time of taking the sacred water a person who has already suffered a disease adequately for his past sins, may get cured. Others would still have to continue to suffer the disease or whatever problem they may have as a result of their past sins. They can be relieved of that disease or problem only when they have completely exhausted its duration and intensity.
Therefore principle of the verse chanted by the priests is wrong. There is no reason to doubt the power of the Lord. If He were to wish so, He could remove the disease of anyone in a split second. All I am saying is that the tirtham is not a substitute for the power of God. The power of the Lord cannot fail in any case. Even the forces of nature such as sun and fire, which are controlled by God, do not fail in their powers. The sun always gives heat and removes darkness. Fire always heats and burns.
Of course the incarnations of Lord Datta clearly show the transfer of sins of His devotees on Himself. Lord Datta suffers for the sins of His real deserving devotees. Therefore neither your worship nor the sacred water is powerful without the will of the Lord. The will of the Lord to undergo the punishment of your sins comes only when you prove that you are a real devotee by serving Him practically without aspiring for any fruit in return. The Lord gives the judgment and the results of your deeds. He will not contradict His own judgment. The Dharma Deva (the deity of justice) is only the Lord's external dress.
Internally He contains all the deities. Therefore He cannot contradict His own judgment in another form of deity. I knew a person who was the principal and also the head of a certain department in a college. Once the person wanted to play a practical joke. So he, as the head of department, sent his resignation to the office of the principal. Then he, himself read the letter as the principal and rejected the resignation! This incident actually happened in an engineering college in which I was also serving as a professor.
The Lord will not cut such a joke. If He, has given you a certain result for your past actions then He will not contradict Himself and turn the Law of karma into a cosmic joke. The present tradition is trying to turn the Lord into such a joker.
Suppose there is a vacant room. Even if a millions of people have believed for a hundred years that the room is full of pots, it does not become true. I may be only one person and might have told you just ten minutes ago that the room is vacant. Yet my words are true. Therefore you should analyze what I say and what others say. Then you can know the truth. You must see the room with your own eyes and decide who told the truth. The number of believers and duration of time that a belief was held cannot stand as an authority for the truth. A thousand blind people may say that the world is all darkness, even though the sun is shining brightly. Would you believe them? Does their word become the authority? The Veda says the same (andhenaiva). Blind followers lead by blind preachers will fall into the well of hell.
The Veda says that one should not eat food that has been tasted by another (Yaducchistham). We find in the Ramayana that Lord Rama gladly ate the berries offered by Sabari although they were first tasted by her. This may seem to be a curious exception to the rule made by Lord Rama in Sabari's case. However a closer look will reveal that we are not prohibited from eating or drinking fruits or water that have been tasted animals and birds. The fruits from trees are tasted by birds and water from rivers and lakes are tasted by animals and birds. Animals and birds are selfless and so such food or water is considered pure. Sabari also was selfless. All human beings are usually selfish. In fact just like food, the money of another person should not be enjoyed.
In the Vedic practice called 'vaisvadeva' the person should not eat the food prepared by another person. The idea behind this is that the sins of the other person will be transferred to you along with his money. Today people following that practice, cook their own food. Yet they cook food out of foodgrains and vegetables obtained from someone else. This in the strict sense they are violating the principle of vaisvadeva. Any food or any wealth taken from another person in this world therefore, is not totally 'pure'. The purest food or wealth is that which is obtained from the one, who is totally free of sin. Such a person can be none other than the human incarnation of the Lord. Thus eating the remnants from the plate of the Lord, or eating food tasted by Him, is the purest form of food.
The Lord distributed divine nectar in the human form as Mohini, who was the Lord in the form of Divine Temptress. The human incarnation can be male or female. The sun and moon are planets (astrological term: graha) with light. Light represents knowledge. They are also deities and are worshipped as per tradition.
Astrologically speaking, during an eclipse, the dark planets Rahu and Ketu are supposed to swallow the sun or moon as the case may be. Rahu and Ketu are not real planets but are astrological planets or 'virtual planets'. Rahu and Ketu are called as the planets of tamas or darkness, which represents ignorance.
During an eclipse the sun and the moon give an indication to the Lord who has come on earth in human form that a demon in disguise is taking the divine nectar meant for humans. The planets which are deities think it is necessary for them to inform the Lord since they think that He may be unaware of the danger. This means that even deities come under the spell of ignorance. Otherwise, what is the necessity of informing the Lord who already knows everything? When the Lord is in the human form, even the deities think that He may not know everything. This is their ignorance. Such ignorance, which covers knowledge, is the eclipse. The ritual bath symbolizes the washing away of this ignorance.
The Sri Cakra is a mystic pattern or symbol consisting of a specific arrangement of triangles or pyramids and squares. Shri chakra represents the illusion of money existing in the heart of any human being. Sri means money. Cakra means a whirlpool.
This cakra, or the whirlpool of money, is considered to be the root of this world. Sage Vasishta told that money is the root of this world (dhanamulamidam jagat). The word dhanam commonly means money, which is represented by goddess Lakshmi. However a more general meaning of dhanam is wealth in general. Therefore it could mean the wealth of knowledge, which is represented by goddess Saraswati. Health is wealth and therefore it could mean health. Health also bestows power and power is Sakti, which is represented by goddess Parvati. The word dhanam thus includes Sakti or prakruti, which is modified to become the soul. Goddess Lalita also represents the soul because the word Lalita means awareness. Awareness is compared to a fragile flower consisting of tender nerves. Therefore Shri chakra represents the jiva (Soul).
One has to dedicate his wealth (karmaphala tyaga), his physical power in doing service (karma samnyasa) and his knowledge through propagation (jnana pracara) to fulfill the mission of the Lord.
Shri chakra is of two types. In the first type it is called as Srishti chakra in which the four triangles of Siva have their bases turned downward. The five sakti triangles have their bases turned upward. This means the jnanam (knowledge represented by Siva) is based on material wealth (Sakti). This is the formation of bond with the wealth. The wealth is shown to be controlling knowledge. The four triangles indicate the four forms of awareness (Manas, buddhi, cittam, and ahamkara). The five triangles indicate the five elements. The eight and sixteen petals represent the eight forms of wealth and the sixteen radiations of mind.
In the second type of Shri chakra, which is called samhara cakra, the two sets of triangles, are reversed indicating that wealth is in the control of knowledge. This represents Siva destroying the world. This second cakra indicates the destruction of the bond with the wealth. The three circles indicate the three qualities. The four bhupuras represent Dharma, artha, kama and moksha. The eight and sixteen petals in the second cakra represent the eight super powers and the sixteen incarnations of Datta.
Shri chakra is the most important aspect in the spiritual effort because sacrifice of your wealth for the sake of the Lord proves your real spiritual maturity. Your real color comes out only when you are called upon to sacrifice your wealth. Therefore the Veda says dhanena tyage naike i.e., only by sacrificing the wealth one can attain the grace of the Lord.
The five yajnas (services or sacrifices) are:-
1. Brahma yajna:- To serve the Lord in human form who is called Brahma.
2. deva yajna:- To serve the devotees of the Lord.
3. pitru yajna:- To serve the parents and the family members.
4. manuya yajna:- To serve the incapable persons or beggars.
5. bhuta yajna:- To serve harmless animals and birds.
The service is called yajna or sacrifice. It consists of two parts:-
1. To cook and donate food.
2. To donate dakshina or money.
The yajnas are performed (donations are made) only to deserving persons. Such a donation is meritorious while a donation made to an undeserving person is to be avoided. The five yajnas are listed in the order of preference. According to the Veda, this is also the order of worthiness of the persons who are to be served. The most deserving person is Brahma or the Sadguru. He is the Lord who has come in human form to preach the right knowledge of the scriptures. The Veda describes this sacrifice and service extensively. Practical sacrifice alone pleases the Lord as said in the Veda (tyagenaike amrutatvam). The word Datta itself means sacrifice or donation. Therefore yajna is most sacred. It is the real form of the Lord. Moha or blind love (attachment) is the exact opposite of sacrifice. This enemy of sacrifice is divided into the following:-
1. Dareshana, which is the moha for one's wife (spouse) and this relates to the gross body (sthula sarira).
2. Putreshana, which is the moha for one's children and this relates to the mind i.e., subtle body (sukshma sarira).
3. Dhaneshana, which is the moha for money and wealth, which is the root of all the bonds and is the causal body (karana sarira).
Sage Vasishta said that money is the root of the entire world (dhanamula midam jagat). Unless these three bodies are destroyed, the eligibility to please the Lord is not attained. Sadhana is the constant spiritual effort, which is put up to destroy these three bodies. This a humongous task and in order to achieve this lofty goal, how can you achieve it through scattered and unrelated efforts? In order to have a meal, you should procure the necessary materials and cook food. You cannot make a meal by merely singing songs or collecting flowers. Similarly you cannot please the Lord by praising, meditation or worshipping idols. Idols are only models that represent Him. They are not the Lord Himself. Going to temples, performing exercises and gymnastic feats in the name of yoga, or expressing your love for God through words and feelings, are all a waste. They will not reach God. They are only efforts to butter up God. Neither can logical discussions and debates please Him. The Veda supports the above contention (yato vaco nivartante aprapya manasasaha, namedhaya).
Some sacrifice money in the name of God but in a useless manner such as by lighting lamps, burning ghee (clarified butter), food and other items in the ritual fire. Such sacrifice is not only a waste but it is also annoying to the Lord due to two reasons:
1. They are wasting money by burning food and useful materials in the inert fire due to their ignorance. Food should be sacrificed in the (digestive) fire of hunger present in a living being as told in the above panca yajnas.
2. They are doing this sacrifice with selfish desires for themselves and their family.
Sacrifice for the sake of the undeserving is a sin. Instead of doing this sin it is better to enjoy that food or wealth. It is better to enjoy wealth and not accrue any merit than incurring sin by donating the wealth to an undeserving. A zero is better than a negative number. Of course it is best to donate to the deserving. It is like a positive number.
In the Mahabharata, Dharmaraja, the Pandava king wanted to give up his rightful kingdom to his cousins, the Kauravas, in order to avoid a war within the family. However the Kauravas were evil and unjust. Giving up his kingdom to such undeserving people as the Kauravas would have made Dharmaraja incur sin. The Lord did not agree to this and recommended war. He asked Arjuna (the brother of Dharmaraja) to defeat the Kauravas and enjoy the kingdom (Bhokshyase mahim). Thus He prevented the Pandavas from incurring sin and brought them from the negative to zero. After their victory in the war, He advised Dharmaraja to perform the asvamedha sacrifice in which tremendous amounts of wealth was donated to the most deserving sages. Thus He brought them from zero into the positive. Asvamedha does not mean killing a horse as a sacrifice. It means killing the senses, which are the horses as said in the Veda as well as in the Bhagavad Gita (Indriyani Hayanahuhu). By killing the senses, you get detached from self-indulgence. The Veda says that your desire must be burnt and not ghee. Your ignorance is to be cut and not the animal in a sacrifice (Kama Aajyam, Manyuh Pashuh).
20. You wear a sacred thread across your shoulder, which is characteristic of a householder and you also wear saffron clothes which are characteristic of a monk (samnyasi). So are you a householder or a monk?
You know that I belong to the tradition of Lord Datta. In the forest of Badari, the siddhas (the accomplished ones) put the same question to Him. He said that He belongs to the turiya asrama, which is beyond all the four asramas or stages in life. The four asramas namely the brahmacarya asrama or the life of the student celibate, the gruhastha asrama or the householder, the vanaprastha assrama or the retired solitary devotee and the samnasa asrama or the monk-saint, all have their own rules. Turiya is the final stage, where there are no rules.
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