Aarti is said to have descended from the Vedic concept of
fire rituals, or homa. The word may also refer to the
traditional Hindu devotional song that is sung during the
ritual. Aarti is performed and sung to develop the highest
love for God. "Aa" means "towards or to", and "rati" means
"right or virtue" in Sanskrit.
Aarti is generally performed two to five times daily and
usually at the end of a Puja or Bhajan session. It is
performed during almost all Hindu ceremonies and
occasions. It involves the circulating of an 'Aarti plate'
around a person or deity and is generally accompanied by
the singing of songs in praise of that deva or person
(many versions exist). In doing so, the plate itself is
supposed to acquire the power of the deity. The priest
circulates the plate to all those present. They cup their
down-turned hands over the flame and then raise their
palms to their forehead - the purificatory blessing,
passed from the deva's image to the flame, has now has
been passed to devotee.
The Aarti plate is generally made of metal, usually
silver, bronze or copper. On it must repose a lamp made of
kneaded flour, mud or metal, filled with oil or ghee. A
cotton wick is put into the oil and then lighted, or
camphor is burnt instead. The plate also contains flowers,
incense and Akshata.
The purpose of performing Aarti is the waving of lighted
wicks before the deities in a spirit of humility and
gratitude, wherein faithful followers become immersed in
God's divine form. It symbolizes the five elements: 1)
space (Akash), 2) wind (Vayu), 3) light (Tej), 4) water (Jal),
and 5) earth (Pruthvi). Communal Aarti is performed in the
mandir; however, devotees also perform it in their homes.
Why do we say Shaanti thrice?
Shaanti, meaning "peace", is a natural state of being.
Disturbances are created either by others or us. For
example, peace already exists in a place until someone
Therefore, peace underlies all our agitations. When
agitations end, peace is naturally experienced since it
was already there. Where there is peace, there is
happiness. Therefore, every one without exception desires
peace in his/her life.
However, peace within or without seems very hard to attain
because it is covered by our own agitations. A rare few
manage to remain peaceful within even in the midst of
external agitation and troubles. To invoke peace, we chant
prayers. By chanting prayers, troubles end and peace is
experienced internally, irrespective of the external
disturbances. All such prayers end by chanting shaanti
It is believed that trivaram satyam - that which is said
thrice comes true. For emphasizing a point we repeat a
thing thrice. In the court of law also, one who takes the
witness stands says, "I shall speak the truth, the whole
truth and nothing but the truth".
We chant shaanti thrice to emphasize our intense desire
for peace. All obstacles, problems and sorrows originate
from three sources.
Aadhidaivika : The unseen divine forces over which we have
little or no control like earthquakes, floods, volcanic
Aadhibhautika: The known factors around us like accidents,
human contacts, pollution, crime etc.
Aadhyaatmika: We sincerely pray to the Lord that at least
while we undertake special tasks or even in our daily
lives, there are no problems or that, problems are
minimized from the three sources written about above.
May peace alone prevail. Hence shaanti is chanted thrice.
It is chanted aloud the first time, addressing the unseen
forces. It is chanted softer the second time, directed to
our immediate surroundings and those around, and softest
the last time as it is addressed to oneself.
Why do we
In Sanskrit, Tulanaa Naasti Athaiva Tulasi - that means
which is incomparable (in its qualities)
For Indians it is one of the most sacred plants. In fact
it is known to be the only thing used in worship, which,
once used, can be washed and reused in Pooja - as it is
regarded so self-purifying.
As one story goes, Tulasi was the devoted wife of
Shankhachuda, a celestial being. She believed that Lord
Krishna tricked her into sinning. So she cursed Him to
become a stone (shaaligraama). Seeing her devotion and
adhered to righteousness, the Lord blessed her saying that
she would become the worshipped plant, tulasi that would
adorn His head.
Also that all offerings would be incomplete without the
tulasi leaf - hence the worship of tulasi.
She also symbolizes Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord
Vishnu. Those who wish to be righteous and have a happy
family life worship the Tulasi.
Tulasi is married to the Lord with all pomp and show as in
This is because according to another legend, the Lord
blessed her to be His consort. Satyabhama once weighed
Lord Krishna against all her legendary wealth. The scales
did not balance till a single tulasi leaf was placed along
with the wealth on the scale by Rukmini with devotion.
Thus the tulasi played the vital role of demonstrating to
the world that even a small object offered with devotion
means more to the Lord than all the wealth in the world.
The Tulasi leaf has great medicinal value and is used to
cure various ailments, including the common cold.
Tulasi taam namaamyaham
Why do we
ring the bell in a temple?
Is it to wake up the Lord? But the Lord never sleeps. Is
it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to
be told, as He is all knowing. Is it a form of seeking
permission to enter His precinct? It is a homecoming and
therefore entry needs no permission. The Lord welcomes us
at all times. Then why do we ring the bell?
The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an
auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om, the universal
name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within
and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is
Even while doing the ritualistic Aarti, we ring the bell.
It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of
the conch and other musical instruments. An added
significance of ringing the bell, conch and other
instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or
irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or
distract the worshippers in their devotional ardor,
concentration and inner peace.
As we start the daily ritualistic worship (Pooja) we ring
the bell, chanting:
Kurve ghantaaravam tatra
I ring this bell indicating
the invocation of divinity,
So that virtuous and noble forces
enter (my home and heart);
and the demonic and evil forces
from within and without, depart.
Why do we do Pradakshina (circumambulate)
We cannot draw a circle without a center point. The Lord
is the center, source and essence of our lives.
Recognizing Him as the focal point in our lives, we go
about doing our daily chores. This is the significance of
Also every point on the circumference of a circle is
equidistant from the center. This means that wherever or
whoever we may be, we are equally close to the Lord. His
grace flows towards us without partiality.
Why is Pradakshina done only in a clockwise manner
The reason is not, as a person said, to avoid a traffic
jam! As we do Pradakshina, the Lord is always on our
right. In India the right side symbolizes auspiciousness.
So as we circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum we remind
ourselves to lead an auspicious life of righteousness,
with the Lord who is the indispensable source of help and
strength, as our guide - the "right hand".
Indian scriptures enjoin - matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo
bhava, and acharyadevo bhava. May you consider your
parents and teachers as you would the Lord. With this in
mind we also do Pradakshina around our parents and divine
After the completion of traditional worship (Pooja), we
customarily do Pradakshina around ourselves. In this way
we recognize and remember the supreme divinity within us,
which alone is idolized in the form of the Lord that we
Why do offer
food to the Lord before eating it?
Indians make an offering of food to the Lord and later
partake of it as Prasaada - a holy gift from the Lord. In
our daily ritualistic worship (Pooja) too we offer
naivedyam (food) to the Lord.
The Lord is omnipotent and omniscient. Man is a part,
while the Lord is the totality. All that we do is by His
strength and knowledge alone. Hence what we receive in
life as a result of our actions is really His alone. We
acknowledge this through the act of offering food to Him.
This is exemplified by the Hindi words "tera tujko arpan"–
I offer what is yours to you. Thereafter it is akin to His
gift to us, graced by His divine touch.
Knowing this, our entire attitude to food and the act of
eating changes. The food offered will naturally be pure
and the best. We share what we get with others before
consuming it. We do not demand, complain or criticize the
quality of the food we get. We eat it with cheerful
acceptance (Prasaada buddhi).
Before we partake of our daily meals we first sprinkle
water around the plate as an act of purification. Five
morsels of food are placed on the side of the plate
acknowledging the debt owed by us to the Divine forces (devta
runa) for their benign grace and protection, our ancestors
(pitru runa) for giving us their lineage and a family
culture, the sages (rishi runa) as our religion and
culture have been "realized", maintained and handed down
to us by them, our fellow beings (manushya runa) who
constitute society without the support of which we could
not live as we do and other living beings (bhuta runa) for
serving us selflessly.
Thereafter the Lord, the life force, who is also within us
as the five life-giving physiological functions, is
offered the food. This is done with the chant
After offering the food thus, it is eaten as Prasaada -
Why do we
Most devoted Indians fast regularly or on special
occasions like festivals. On such days they do not eat at
all, eat once or do with fruits or a special diet of
Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. Upa means "near" +
Vaasa means "to stay". Upavaasa therefore means staying
near (the Lord), meaning the attainment of close mental
proximity with the Lord. Then what has upavaasa to do with
A lot of our time and energy is spent in procuring food
items, preparing, cooking, eating and digesting food.
Certain food types make our minds dull and agitated. Hence
on certain days man decides to save time and conserve his
energy by eating either simple, light food or totally
abstaining from eating so that his mind becomes alert and
pure. The mind, otherwise pre-occupied by the thought of
food, now entertains noble thoughts and stays with the
Lord. Since it is a self-imposed form of discipline it is
usually adhered to with joy.
Also every system needs a break and an overhaul to work at
its best. Rest and a change of diet during fasting is very
good for the digestive system and the entire body.
The more you indulge the senses, the more they make their
demands. Fasting helps us to cultivate control over our
senses, sublimate our desires and guide our minds to be
poised and at peace.
Fasting should not make us weak, irritable or create an
urge to indulge later. This happens when there is no noble
goal behind fasting.
The Bhagavad-Gita urges us to eat appropriately - neither
too less nor too much - yukta-aahaara and to eat simple,
pure and healthy food (a saatvik diet) even when not
Why it is not
good to touch papers, books and people with the feet?
To Indians, knowledge is sacred and divine. So it must be
given respect at all times. Nowadays we separate subjects
as sacred and secular. But in ancient India every subject
- academic or spiritual - was considered divine and taught
by the guru in the gurukula.
The custom of not stepping on educational tools is a
frequent reminder of the high position accorded to
knowledge in Indian culture. From an early age, this
wisdom fosters in us a deep reverence for books and
education. This is also the reason why we worship books,
vehicles and instruments once a year on Saraswati Pooja or
Ayudha Pooja day, dedicated to the Goddess of Learning. In
fact, each day before starting our studies, we pray:
Varade kaama roopini
Sidhirbhavatu me sadaa
O Goddess Saraswati, the giver
of Boons and fulfiller of wishes,
I prostrate to You before starting my studies.
May you always fulfill me?
Why do we
wear marks (Tilak, Pottu and the like) on the forehead?
The Tilak or Pottu invokes a feeling of sanctity in the
wearer and others. It is recognized as a religious mark.
Its form and colour vary according to one’s caste,
religious sect or the form of the Lord worshipped.
In earlier times, the four castes (based on Varna or
colour) - Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra - applied
marks differently. The Brahmin applied a white chandan
mark signifying purity, as his profession was of a
priestly or academic nature. The Kshatriya applied a red
kumkum mark signifying velour as he belonged to warrior
races. The Vaishya wore a yellow Kesar or turmeric mark
signifying prosperity as he was a businessman or trader
devoted to creation of wealth. The Sudra applied a black
Bhasma, Kasturi or charcoal mark signifying service as he
supported the work of the other three divisions.
Also Vishnu worshippers apply a chandan Tilak of the shape
of "U,” Shiva worshippers a Tripundra of Bhasma, Devi
worshippers a red dot of kumkum and so on.
The Tilak cover the spot between the eyebrows, which is
the seat of memory and thinking. It is known as the Aajna
Chakra in the language of Yoga. The Tilak is applied with
the prayer - "May I remember the Lord. May this pious
feeling pervade all my activities. May I be righteous in
my deeds.” Even when we temporarily forget this prayerful
attitude the mark on another reminds us of our resolve.
The Tilak is thus a blessing of the Lord and a protection
against wrong tendencies and forces.
The entire body emanates energy in the form of
electromagnetic waves - the forehead and the subtle spot
between the eyebrows especially so. That is why worry
generates heat and causes a headache. The Tilak and Pottu
cool the forehead, protect us and prevent energy loss.
Sometimes the entire forehead is covered with chandan or
Bhasma. Using plastic reusable "stick bindis" is not very
beneficial, even though it serves the purpose of
Why do we
prostrate before parents and elders?
Indians prostrate before their parents, elders, teachers
and noble souls by touching their feet. The elder in turn
blesses us by placing his or her hand on or over our
heads. Prostration is done daily, when we meet elders and
particularly on important occasions like the beginning of
a new task, birthdays, festivals etc. In certain
traditional circles, prostration is accompanied by
Abhivaadana, which serves to introduce one-self, announce
one’s family and social stature.
Man stands on his feet. Touching the feet in prostration
is a sign of respect for the age, maturity, nobility and
divinity that our elders personify. It symbolizes our
recognition of their selfless love for us and the
sacrifices they have done for our welfare. It is a way of
humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This
tradition reflects the strong family ties, which has been
India’s enduring strengths.
The good wishes (Sankalpa) and blessings (Aashirvaada) of
elders are highly valued in India. We prostrate to seek
them. Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good
wishes springing from a heart full of love, divinity and
nobility have a tremendous strength. When we prostrate
with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and
blessings of elders, which flow in the form of positive
energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed
whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables
the entire body to receive the energy thus received.
The different forms of showing respect are:
Pratuthana - rising to welcome a person.
Namaskaara - paying homage in the form of Namaste.
Upasangrahan - touching the feet of elders or teachers.
Shaashtaanga - prostrating fully with the feet, knees,
stomach, chest, forehead and arms touching the ground in
front of the elder.
‘Namaste’ or ‘Namaskar’ is the Indian way of greeting each
other. Wherever they are – on the street, in the house, in
public transport, on vacation or on the phone – when
Hindus meet people they know or strangers with whom they
want to initiate a conversation, Namaste is the customary
courtesy greeting to begin with and often to end with. It
is not a superficial gesture or a mere word, and is for
all people - young and old, friends and strangers.
Namaste According to the Scriptures:
Namaste and its common variants ‘Namaskar,’ ‘Namaskaara’
or ‘Namaskaram’, is one of the five forms of formal
traditional greeting mentioned in the Vedas. This is
normally understood as prostration but it actually refers
to paying homage or showing respect to one another, as is
the practice today, when we greet each other.
The Meaning of Namaste:
In Sanskrit the word is namah + te = namaste which means
“I bow to you” - my greetings, salutations or prostration
to you. The word ‘Namaha’ can also be literally
interpreted as "na ma" (not mine). It has a spiritual
significance of negating or reducing one's ego in the
presence of another.
How to Namaste:
Bend the arms from the elbow upwards and face the two
palms of the hands. Place the two palms together and keep
the folded palms in front of the chest. Utter the word
Namaste and while saying the word bow the head slightly.
Namaste could be just a casual or formal greeting, a
cultural convention or an act of worship. However, there
is much more to it than meets the eye. The real meeting
between people is the meeting of their minds. When we
greet one another with Namaste, it means, ‘may our minds
meet’, indicated by the folded palms placed before the
chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of
extending friendship in love, respect and humility.
Spiritual Significance of Namaste:
The reason why we do Namaste has a deeper spiritual
significance. It recognizes the belief that the life
force, the divinity, the Self or the God in me is the same
in all. Acknowledging this oneness with the meeting of the
palms, we honor the god in the person we meet.
Namaste in Prayers:
During prayers, Hindus not only do Namaste but also bow
and close their eyes, as it were, to look into the inner
spirit. This physical gesture is sometimes accompanied by
names of gods like ‘Ram Ram’, ‘Jai Shri Krishna’, ‘Namo
Narayana’, ‘Jai Siya Ram’ or just ‘Om Shaanti’ – the
common refrain in Hindu chants. This is also quite common
when two devout Hindus meet - indicating the recognition
of the divinity within ourselves and extending a warm
welcome to each other.
do we have a prayer room?
Most Indian homes have a prayer room or altar. A lamp is
lit and the Lord worshipped each day. Other spiritual
practices like japa (repetition of the Lord’s name),
meditation, paaraayana (reading of the scriptures),
prayers, devotional singing etc is also done here. Special
worship is done on auspicious ocasions like birthdays,
anniversaries, festivals and the like. Each member of the
family - young or old - communes with and worships the
The Lord is the entire creation. He is therefore the true
owner of the house we live in too. The prayer room is the
Master room of the house. We are the earthly occupants of
His property. This notion rids us of false pride and
possessiveness. The ideal attitude to take is to regard
the Lord as the true owner of our homes and ourselves as
caretakers of His home. But if that is rather difficult,
we could at least think of Him as a very welcome guest.
Just as we would house an important guest in the best
comfort, so too we felicitate the Lord’s presence in our
homes by having a prayer room or altar, which is, at all
times, kept clean and well-decorated.
Also the Lord is all-pervading. To remind us that He
resides in our homes with us, we have prayer rooms.
Without the grace of the Lord, no task can be successfully
or easily accomplished. We invoke His grace by communing
with Him in the prayer room each day and on special
Each room in a house is dedicated to a specific function
like the bedroom for resting, the drawing room to receive
guests, the kitchen for cooking etc. The furniture, decor
and the atmosphere of each room are made conducive to the
purpose it serves. So too for the purpose of meditation,
worship and prayer, we should have a conducive atmosphere
- hence the need for a prayer room. Sacred thoughts and
sound vibrations pervade the place and influence the minds
of those who spend time there. Spiritual thoughts and
vibrations accumulated through regular meditation, worship
and chanting done there pervade the prayer room. Even when
we are tired or agitated, by just sitting in the prayer
room for a while, we feel calm, rejuvenated and
Why do we
light a lamp, burn camphor and perform Aarti?
In every Hindu home a lamp or ‘diya’ is lit daily before a
Hindu deity or any symbol associated with Hinduism. Many
Hindus also perform an ‘arati’ with the traditional oil
lamp. The lamp is lit in the morning or evening or both
morning and evening. In some houses the lamp is maintained
continuously and is known Akhand Deep or Akhanda Diya.
The light in the lamp symbolizes knowledge. It removes
darkness, which symbolizes ignorance. Thus light
The wick in the traditional oil lamp symbolizes ego and
the oil or ghee used symbolizes our negative tendencies.
When we are lit by self knowledge, the negative tendencies
(oil) melt away and finally the ego (wick) perishes. When
the ego perishes, we realize that we are all part of
Brahman and that life is a continuity.
The lighting of ‘diya’ or lamp at home is considered
highly auspiciousness as it brings prosperity and good
health. The daily evening lamp lit at home also gives us
an opportunity to ponder over one’s omissions and
commissions in a day.
WHAT IS PUJA?
Puja is nothing but a reflection of one’s belief in God.
It is a blind faith of a person in God. It is possible to
reduce the suffering due to the unfavorable position of
planets through sincere reliance on God, the One who
controls the planets. Different people with different
religion have their own way of puja. Puja is the act of
showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of
the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and
rituals. An essential part of puja for the Hindu devotee
is making a spiritual connection with the divine. Most
often that contact is facilitated through an object: an
element of nature, a sculpture, a vessel, a painting, or a
During Puja an image or other symbol of the god serves as
a means of gaining access to the divine. This icon is not
the deity itself; rather, it is believed to be filled with
the deity's cosmic energy. It is a focal point for
honoring and communicating with the god. For the devout
Hindu, the icon's artistic merit is important, but is
secondary to its spiritual content. The objects are
created as receptacles for spiritual energy that allow the
devotee to experience direct communication with his or her
gods. It is nothing but a strong concentration towards the
There are several Pujas which people can do for specific
events, such as the starting of a business, or the
beginning of a new journey. The benefit of this type of
Puja is to remove obstacles. The Pujas are performed on
behalf of those who request them by us.
TYPES OF PUJA
HOME PUJA: Many Hindu homes have a personal shrine set
aside somewhere in the house that include pictures or ''Murti’s''
(Statue) of various deities. A daily ''puja'' is often
performed that may also include offerings for the family's
personal deity or religious teacher.
TEMPLE PUJA: Temple ''Pujas'' are more elaborate and
typically done several times a day. They are also
performed by a temple priest, or ''pujari''. In addition,
the temple deity is considered a resident rather than a
guest, so the ''puja'' is modified to reflect that; for
example the deity is "awakened" rather than "invoked" in
the morning. Temple ''Pujas'' vary widely from region to
region and for different sects, with devotional hymns sung
at Vaishnava temples for example. At a temple ''puja'',
there is often less active participation, with the priest
acting on behalf of others
BENEFITS OF PUJA
1.Disciplines the mind
2.Energizes the deity and the worshipper
3.Enables one to experience oneness with divinity as we
unconsciously offer the self through our material
Puja establishes a bridge between the worshipper (the
lover) and the deity (the loved). It is a two-way flow of
love-energy. This energy not only sanctifies the self but
also re-vitalizes the body's resources, making one
experience, what is called HOLY BLISS. Thus both the
worshipped and the worshipper benefit from Puja.
The most famous of the divine incarnations are Rama, whose
life is depicted in the Ramayana, and Krishna, whose life
is depicted in the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavatam.
The Bhagavad Gita, which contains the spiritual teachings
of Krishna, is one of the most widely-read scriptures in
1. Matsya, the fish, appeared in the Satya Yuga.
Represents beginning of life.
2. Kurma, the tortoise, appeared in the Satya Yuga.
Represents a human embryo just growing tiny legs, with a
3. Varaha, the boar, appeared in the Satya Yuga.
Represents a human embryo which is almost ready. Its
features are visible.
4. Narasimha, the Man-Lion (Nara = man, simha = lion),
appeared in the Satya Yuga. Represents a newborn baby,
hairy and cranky, bawling and full of blood.
5. Vamana, the Dwarf, appeared in the Treta Yuga.
Represents a young child.
6. Parashurama, Rama with the axe, appeared in the Treta
Yuga. Represents both an angry young man and a grumpy old
7. Rama, Sri Ramachandra, the prince and king of Ayodhya,
appeared in the Treta Yuga. Represents a married man with
children in a very ideological society
8. Krishna (meaning dark or black; see also other meanings
in the article about him.), appeared in the Dwapara Yuga.
Represents a person in more practical society, where there
is one good or bad. Good or bad depends on society you
9. Gautama Buddha is considered an avatar that returned
pure dharma to the world.
10. Kalki ("Eternity", or "time", or "The Destroyer of
foulness"), who is expected to appear at the end of Kali
Yuga, the time period in which we currently exist.
There is also a "hidden avatar" mentioned in 11th canto of
the Bhagavata Purana.
Some consider Balarama, brother of Krishna to be the
eighth avatar of Vishnu, and delete Buddha. The Buddha
avatar, which occurs in different versions in various
Puranas, may represent an attempt by orthodox Brahmanism
to slander the Buddhists by identifying them with the
demons. Helmuth von Glasenapp attributed these
developments to a Hindu desire to absorb Buddhism in a
peaceful manner, both to win Buddhists to Vishnuism and
also to account for the fact that such a significant
heresy could exist in India.
Hinduism is a religion unlike any other; this is because
it has no founder and no specific religious text, though
the Bhagavad-Gita could be considered as one. According to
Hindu traditions as expounded in Bhagavad-Gita, the
religion is timeless and was first given to the Sun god by
Lord Krishna over 2.2 million years ago in the last Treta
Yuga and transmitted to the wordly beings in various
steps. Many religions' (such as Sikhism, Jainism and
Buddhism) founders are Hindu and therefore many beliefs
and customs are the same. Contrary to popular belief,
Hindus believe in many gods (each of which represents an
aspect of life, e.g. water, crops, fertility and health to
name a few) who are all part of one ultimate, formless
deity. All in all Hinduism is more than a religion (though
some try to argue this). Besides a wide diverse set of
beliefs, it has a set of customs and traditions that were
synonymous with the people of India. As invaders came and
left India, the term "Hinduism" loosely defined the people
who believed in Indian customs and tradition (to separate
the people who originally lived in India, from the
invading people), for example in the past a Christian or
Muslim could have been a Hindu as well, because the term
only defined Indian customs and beliefs. More recently
(last five hundred years), only people who believe in the
traditional Hindu gods are called Hindus, hence it is now
defined as a religion. Often Hindus celebrate Christmas,
despite Christian origins and many people of other
religions also celebrate Deepavali (Diwali), the festival
of light, and Holi, the festival of colour despite their
Meditation is a mental discipline by which one attempts to
get beyond the reflexive, "thinking" mind into a deeper
state of relaxation or awareness. Meditation often
involves turning attention to a single point of reference.
It is recognized as a component of many religions, and has
been practiced since antiquity. It is also practiced
outside religious traditions. Different meditative
disciplines encompass a wide range of spiritual and/or
psychophysical practices which may emphasize different
goals—from achievement of a higher state of consciousness,
to greater focus, creativity or self-awareness, or simply
a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind.
The word meditation originally comes from the
Indo-European root med-, meaning "to measure." From the
root med- are also derived the English words mete,
medicine, modest, and moderate. It entered English as
meditation through the Latin Meditation, which originally
indicated every type of physical or intellectual exercise,
then later evolved into the more specific meaning
TYPES OF MEDITATION
Concentrative meditation focuses the attention on the
breath, an image, or a sound (mantra), in order to still
the mind and allow a greater awareness and clarity to
emerge. This is like a zoom lens in a camera; we narrow
our focus to a selected field.
The simplest form of concentrative meditation is to sit
quietly and focus the attention on the breath. Yoga and
meditation practitioners believe that there is a direct
correlation between one's breath and one's state of the
mind. For example, when a person is anxious, frightened,
agitated, or distracted, the breath will tend to be
shallow, rapid, and uneven. On the other hand, when the
mind is calm, focused, and composed, the breath will tend
to be slow, deep, and regular. Focusing the mind on the
continuous rhythm of inhalation and exhalation provides a
natural object of meditation. As you focus your awareness
on the breath, your mind becomes absorbed in the rhythm of
inhalation and exhalation. As a result, your breathing
will become slower and deeper, and the mind becomes more
tranquil and aware. Mindfulness meditation "involves
opening the attention to become aware of the continuously
passing parade of sensations and feelings, images,
thoughts, sounds, smells, and so forth without becoming
involved in thinking about them." The person sits quietly
and simply witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not
reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories,
worries, or images. This helps to gain a more calm, clear,
and non-reactive state of mind. Mindfulness meditation can
be likened to a wide-angle lens. Instead of narrowing your
sight to a selected field as in concentrative meditation,
here you will be aware of the entire field.
Here are a
few tips to get you started:
Where Should you Meditate?
1.You may wish to set aside a special corner of one room,
your own private sanctuary, a calm, quiet and peaceful
2.You might furnish the area with objects or icons that
have spiritual meaning for you, developing a little altar
3.Use what will put you into a contemplative frame of
mind. You may want to enlist the help of Mother Nature.
4.Spend time at the ocean listening to the surf crashing
upon the rocks…walk through a shaded forest trail with a
cathedral of trees overhead…stand near a stream with water
playing over the rocks or a waterfall…or watch the moon
rise or birds fly overhead.
How should you Sit When you Meditate?
Although the classic posture is to sit with legs folded
and hands resting quietly on the lap or the knees, the key
is to find a way of sitting that is comfortable for you.
And remember, you can meditate anytime, anywhere…even
driving in your car.
Benefits of Meditation
1. Deep rest-as measured by decreased metabolic rate,
lower heart rate, and reduced work load of the heart.
2. Lowered levels of cortisol and lactate-two chemicals
associated with stress.
3. Reduction of free radicals- unstable oxygen molecules
that can cause tissue damage. They are now thought to be a
major factor in aging and in many diseases.
4. Decreased high blood pressure.
5. Higher skin resistance. Low skin resistance is
correlated with higher stress and anxiety levels.
6. Higher skin resistance. Low skin resistance is
correlated with higher stress and anxiety levels
7. Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier
breathing. This has been very helpful to asthma patients
8. Younger biological age. On standard measures of aging,
long-term Transcendental Meditation (TM) practitioners
(more than five years) measured 12 years younger than
their chronological age.
9. Higher levels of DHEAS in the elderly. An additional
sign of youthfulness through Transcendental Meditation
(TM); lower levels of DHEAS are associated with aging.
1. Increased brain wave coherence. Harmony of brain wave
activity in different parts of the brain is associated
with greater creativity, improved moral reasoning, and
2. Decreased anxiety.
3. Decreased depression.
4. Decreased irritability and moodiness.
5. Improved learning ability and memory.
6. Increased self-actualization.
7. Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation.
8. Increased happiness.
9. Increased emotional stability