ॐ भूर्भुवस्व: | तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यम् | भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि | धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात्
Aum bhur bhuvah swah, tat savitur varenvam.
Bhargo devasya dhimahi, dhiyo yo nah prochodayay.
The four-part mantra is addressed to God (Aum) and the translation goes like this:
Oh God, you are the giver of life, you can free us from all the pains, you are present all over, you give happiness, you are the creator of this universe and beyond. We humbly submit to You and concentrate on your pious, sin-quelling and pervading ENERGY.
This ENERGY produced and released by You illuminates our mental faculties. We seek from you that this Energy resides in all our thinking processes so our thoughts are always inspired to undertake only those actions which can lead us to be on the path of righteousness.
OM PURNAM MANTRA
“Om purnam adah purnam idam
purnat purnam udachyate
purnasya purnam adaya
An ideological and free translation of the mantra begins with the word Om which is personified here as God. The word ‘purnam’ and its related derivates in the mantra mean complete, and signifies His completeness. As He is complete, everything emanating from Him is complete. From the Complete Wholeness only the completeness manifests. And even when a single complete is subtracted from the whole Complete what is left is still a Complete. The products produced thru Him may look small or big, but in core and quality all are complete units.
The mantra assures complete balance in all of His universal creations from the elements of nature to mankind. For humanity the mantra conveys a message that every human being is equal in his or her completeness as manifested by Him.
Atma, a single soul, is a complete manifestation of the Supreme-atma. The latter is the cause and the former is the effect. It is a cause and effect association. The effect cannot be less than the cause. The cause changes to effect, but continues to remain cause also. In essence the mantra reinforces that in every living being there dwells the Supreme atma as well. Equality and divinity are the themes of the mantra concerning mankind.
The mantra also stands out in making us realize how inter-related we are in this universe.
Rajneesh (Osho), a great thinker, philosopher and an explicit interpreter of Hinduism in modern times explains this universal tie-up. His explanation of the mantra:
“[Om Purnam] is one of the most significant statements ever made anywhere on the earth at any time. It contains the whole secret of the mystic approach towards life. This small sutra contains the essence of the Upanishadic vision. Neither before nor afterwards has the vision been transcended; it still remains the Everest of human consciousness. And there seems to be no possibility of going beyond it.
“The Upanishadic vision is that the universe is a totality, indivisible; it is an organic whole. The parts are not separate, we are all existing in a togetherness: the trees, the mountains, the people, the birds, the stars, howsoever far away they may appear – don’t be deceived by the appearance – they are all interlinked, all bridged. Even the smallest blade of grass is connected to the farthest star, and it is as significant as the greatest sun.
Nothing is insignificant; nothing is smaller than anything else. The part represents the whole just as the seed contains the whole”.
Excerpts from the book Hinduism beyond,rituals,customs and traditions by Promod Puri
Image formation is a very natural trait in human psychology. In our conscious state all our feelings, ideas and impulses manifest images. The genesis of an image is a cognitive imagination influenced by perception of an object.
In The Philosophy and Significance of Idol Worship, a Divine Life Society publication, Sri Swami Sivananda says:
“Idol is a support for the neophyte. It is a prop of his spiritual childhood. A form or image is necessary for worship in the beginning. It is an external symbol of God for worship. It is a reminder of God. The material image calls up the mental idea. Steadiness of mind is obtained by image worship. The worshipper will have to associate the ideas of infinity, omnipotence, omniscience, purity, perfection, freedom, holiness, truth, omnipresence. It is not possible for all to fix the mind on the Absolute or the Infinite. A concrete form is necessary for the vast majority for practicing concentration. To behold God everywhere and to practice the presence of God is not possible for the ordinary man. Idol worship is the easiest form of worship for the modern man.
“A symbol is absolutely indispensable for fixing the mind. The mind wants a prop to lean upon. It cannot have a conception of the Absolute in the initial stages. Without the help of some external aid, in the initial stages, the mind cannot be centralised. In the beginning, concentration or meditation is not possible without a symbol.
Pratima (idol) is a substitute or symbol. The image in a temple, though it is made of stone, wood or metal, is precious for a devotee as it bears the mark of his Lord, as it stands for something which he holds holy and eternal. A flag is only a small piece of painted cloth, but it stands for a soldier for something that he holds very dear. He is prepared to give up his life in defending his flag. Similarly the image is very dear to a devotee. It speaks to him in its own language of devotion. Just as the flag arouses martial valour in the soldier, so also the image arouses devotion in the devotee. The Lord is superimposed on the image and the image generates divine thoughts in the worshipper”.
One major drawback instituted in ambiguous rituals is the fear factor. And in absurdity, some rituals promise to work like cure-all miracles. Illogical rituals block the real spirit of religion. Such customs generate fanaticism. Rituals help in cult formation. The entry of fake gurus in the Hindu faith is thru the contamination created by inane rituals.
Irrational rituals pollute the religion and dilute the enlightenment contained in the Hindu philosophies and thoughts.
Hinduism is not a religion of fear. Nor it is meant for fanaticism and exploitation by self-appointed gurus or saints with claims of magical powers.
Bad rituals and bad traditions do make a deadly combination. Dubbed as “supreme sacrifice”, the institution of Sati, live burning of widow immediately after the death of husband, that of course is now abandoned, became a part of Hindu heritage. The word ‘sati’ means true and loyal in Sanskrit.
And equally condemning is the practice of sacrificial animal killings by asserting that gods will be pleased. For example in Nepal, a predominantly Hindu nation, mass and cruel beheading of buffaloes are a popular custom under the excuse of religious tradition.
Rationalization of irrational rituals as part of old traditions and customs is an unrealistic assertiveness of defense.
Rituals in the name of sanctified Hindu dictums are the cause of excessive abuse of people who technically are still Hindus but belong to no class. They are the ‘Outcastes’ or the ‘Untouchables’.
The religiosity of caste is an endemic feature of Hinduism. And this is where the brutality of some rituals and customs is being endured by a section of humanity simply because of their assigned status in the society. They are at the bottom of the Hindu social structure. Customs and rituals don’t allow them to come up from that lowest stratum.
Mahatma Gandhi called them “Harijans”, children of God. But because of rooted tradition in the name of religion, rituals of discrimination and untouchability against the ‘untouchable’ citizens are still quite widely practiced.
Nevertheless, this section of the society, which is mostly poor, along with the rest of the impoverished population among Hindus, still follows sacred Hindu rituals with allegiance and devotion. In fact, these rituals tender the only knowledge they have to practice their faith.
The art community’s fascination for Lord Ganesh is due to His unique appearance as a clearly recognizable elephant tusk-hooded portrayal. In Hindu thought, an elephant is revered for its intelligence. Consequently, Lord Ganesh in His elephant-look image is perceived as the god of knowledge, intellect, and wisdom.
Besides these scholarly exhibits, Lord Ganesh gathers a few more symbolic interpretations thru His overall appearance and possessions. These attributes include the pursuit of knowledge, sweetness, and humbleness.
Lord Ganesh is also widely worshipped as the god of Beginnings. “Sri-Ganesh” is the common expression for any new event, purchase or start-up enterprise. His name is chanted at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies. In most Hindu marriage invitation cards, the first invocation and invite are addressed to Lord Ganesh as symbolic adoration.