राधा (rādhā) means various things and people

  1. prosperity and success and refers to the completion of karma related to birth thereby becoming eligible for mokṣa which marks the real success
  2. it refers to the 21st Nakṣatra Uttara Āsāḍha which houses 14/15 parts of the intercalary nakṣatra Abhijit which is the seat of Hari (Nārāyaṇa, Jagannāth). The two nakṣatra 20th Pūrva Āsāḍha and 21st Uttara Āsāḍha are parts of the dharma bhāva along with Mūla nakṣatra in Dhanus (Sagittarius) Rāśi. In the lunar month of Āsāḍha, Jagannāth leaves his abode at the temple and travels to the Guṇḍichā (Rādhā) temple in the chariot – the famous Ratha Yatra festival.
    • The 19th nakṣatra Mūla represents the pitṛs and shows root (mūla) dharma coming from father. If father is Hindu then child shall be Hindu at birth; if Christian then child shall also become Christian. This is mūla dharma.
    • The 20th nakṣatra represents the śreṇi-guru i.e. all the teachers and professors of the university where we train for professional life as well as the boss at work who teaches us to become proficient in our karma. This brings professional success.
    • Finally the 21st nakṣatra determines the dīkṣa guru who guides us in the spiritual path to mokṣa.
  3. It also refers to the nakṣatra Viśākhā (containing 4 stars in the form of a curve marking the meeting of Libra and Scorpio). It is the power of purity and chastity of a lady.
  4. of the foster-mother of Karṇa, the first son of Kunti who was not a Pāṇḍava, the king of Aṅga (modern Bihar).  She was the wife of Adhiratha, who was Sūta or charioteer of king Śūra. Karṇa was also called Rādhā-suta.
  5. Finally, a celebrated cowherdess or Gopi (beloved by Kṛṣṇa, and a principal personage in Jaya-deva’s poem Gita-Govinda who was worshipped as a goddess at the time of Parāśara and later again after the medieval period. She is occasionally regarded as an avatāra of Lakṣmī although the prime avatāra is Rukmiṇī. In order to ensure that the prayers are addressed to this Rādhā and none of the others above, Parāśara teaches the powerful dasākṣarī mantra गोपीजन वल्लभाय स्वाहा (gopījana vallabhāya svāhā) with the lupta bīja which is given only to the initiated for learning jyotiṣa. Similarly the name Rādhikā is used instead of just Rādhā as in the aṣṭākṣarī mantra राधिकायै श्रेयं नमः (rādhikāyai śreyaṁ namaḥ) has the power to remove the debility of Venus and every kind of skin affliction. Later add the name of Kṛṣṇa to this mantra and it becomes the 13 syllable mantra resembling the 13 petal lotus at the door of the Jagannāth garbha griha. ॐ क्लीं कृष्णाय राधिकायै श्रेयं नमः (om klīṁ kṛṣṇāya rādhikāyai śreyaṁ namaḥ)

The Veśa

Now we can understand why Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu laid so much importance to this Rādhā-Dāmodara Veśa of Lord Jagannāth and was instrumental in reinstalling this veśa as a part of the annual ritual of the Lord. During his expedition to Śrī Kṣetra (Jagannāth Puri) in Odisha in the 16th Century, Śrī Caitanya had this powerful month long ceremony initiated. For an entire ‘Vaiṣṇava’ lunar month, starting from śukla ekādaśī (the 11th day of the bright fortnight) of Aśvina māsa to the śukla daśamī (10th day of the bright fortnight) of Kārtika māsa, the Deities are dressed in this Rādhā-Dāmodara veśa. Dāmodara refers to Bāla-Gopāla (baby Kṛṣṇa) with a rope tied around His waist to prevent the baby from straying (Kṛṣṇa childhood pastimes with Mother Yashoda). It was in this veśa that Kṛṣṇa gave mokṣa to the Arjuna trees as baby Kṛṣṇa was so strong that He pulled at the rope tying Him to the two trees and they fell down!

One mythological belief reveals that while Akrura the emissary of Kansa, while taking Kṛṣṇa and Balaram to Mathura, took a bath in River Yamuna, he saw this veśa of Jagannāth.

The deities wear three-crossed dress materials in this veśa. They are adorned with Golden hands, Crowns made of bamboo plates and velvet cloth.

Jyotiṣa Notes

Māsa is the period of a month and represents the entire living phase from birth to death. At the beginning of the month, the deities are like babies and then grow to adolescence and emerge as youth. Finally old age (vṛddha) and death like stage (mṛta) avasthā envelopes them. What amāvāsya is to the Moon and saṅkrānti is to the Sun, śukla ekādaśī is to Kṛṣṇa. On amāvāsya the Moon is naked and hides inside the trees; the Sun god is changing his clothes on saṅkrānti (implying being without clothes) while Kṛṣṇa is a baby on śukla ekādaśī. Those who worship the Kali fast on amāvāsya and sing the 22 syllable mantra; the brāhmaṇa seeking self-realisation fast on saṅkrānti and sing the 24 syllable gāyatrī mantra; the bhakta seeking union with Kṛṣṇa fast on ekādaśī and sing the 32 syllable mahā-mantra.

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This is a very beautiful vesha. It is done before the night time ‘pahuda’, when the deities can take rest. Simply stated, it is the ‘night dress’ of Jagannath and siblings Balabhadra and Subhadra.
It is therefore the vesha the deities appear in the following morning, for mangala arati.
This vesha is mostly made of different kinds of flowers. The Lords are decorated with flowered ornaments known locally in Puri as adhara, jhumpa, gava, chandrika, tilak, alaka, guna, hruda pallava, karapallava and tadaki among others.
The Deities also wear many flower garlands, some with tulasi leaves, and silk clothes called khandua.

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Costume Of Lord JagannathOn each and every day, the Abakash Besha (vesha) of Sri Lord Jagannath is made soon after completetion of Mangala Arati & Mailam.
The schedule time of this Besha is between 6 AM to 6:30 AM . The morning brushing of teeth and procedure of bathing of deities is known as Abakash. It is said that this abakasha vesha has been inducted into the daily rituals by Acharya Sankara i.e. Adi Shankara, in the 9th century B.C. during the reign of HRH Gajapati Maharaja Jajati, who ordered its induction into the daily rituals.
In this Besha, the Puspalaka is offering three Pata to each Deities i.e Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra.
One Cloth ais lso offred to Lord Sudarshana .
In addition to that the napkins are also offered to Jagannath & Balavadra as ‘Utariya’ during this Besha.

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The word Hindu is said to have two origins: –

Hindu (WRONG): As derived from the word Sindhu or the people living to the east of the Indus Valley Civilisation. This concept seems to fit into the rudimentary historical theory of the start of civilization with the Indus Valley cultures of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro. With more and more historical evidence pointing against it, it is doubted whether it will stand the test of times to come.

Hindu (CORRECT): This word refers to the people living between the Himalayas (Himavat: the Mountain father) and the Indian Ocean (Bindu-sagar: Bindu refers to the Divine Mother). This definition is that of Maharishi Parāśara in the VISHNU PURANA.

To the westerner Hinduism is an enigma, being as it is a complex mixture of sublime Vedic philosophies, dogmatic Brahmanical rituals, Yogic mysticism, Tantrik occultism, fertility cults, monastic orders, pagan customs and the firm rooted belief in unity of Godhead (i.e. one God who manifests as innumerable divine beings).

The Rig Veda is the oldest text and the root of Hinduism. For at least 2000 years before the final form of the Veda (perhaps 1500 B.C.), a great urban civilization existed in North-West India on the banks of the Indus and its tributaries. This coincides with the worldly sojourn of the Krishna Avatar and the beginning of the Kali Yuga at 3102 B.C. The sacred motifs of this Shaivaite civilization – like the bull, the serpent and the swastika – are still part of Hindu worship. There are many seemingly contradictions within Hinduism that came as it tried to assimilate every belief it came into contact with. However, as the knowledge increases, this vanishes. Hinduism acknowledges that the Ultimate Truth manifests itself in infinite ways which is beyond the capacity of the normal human mind to fathom. Yogi practices, austerities and all forms of Mantra aim at enhancing the mental capability to use more than the mere 5% resources that it normally does. This enhances the chances for a complete and better understanding of God.

In the eyes of the westerner, “Hinduism is a socio-cultural phenomenon that evolved in the Indian sub-continent and spread to South-East Asia. It does not have a clearly defined God or one dominating philosophy or one holy book or one prophet or one church or one religious hierarchy. The secular and the sacred are not separated. Hence, Hinduism is referred to more as a way-of-life than as a religion.” This maybe true for a so called scientific standpoint, but when we realise that some of the mathematical concepts like decimal system or the fact that the earth was circular or that the concept of relativity was ingrained in the concept of the Bha-chakra where the earth is the central focus of a study of the solar system etc, were known to peoples of this subcontinent ages before their rediscovery in the west, then this concept of development of Hinduism suffers a setback.

Nandi, the bull representing dharma, stands on four legs for the devout.

The historians mind perceives Hinduism as a religion and attempts to try to explain its beliefs and practices until he finally gives up as is seen in the quote given above. This historians “Growth concept in religion” gives way to a “Way of life approach of the socialist”. However they will still fail to understand the way as the definition of Hinduism is in its name itself “Satya Sanatana” or “Sanatana Dharma”. Dharma does not have any English equivalent and has been loosely interpreted as “Way of life or living” at the level of Physical consciousness and visible activities or monuments etc. In reality, Dharma is obedience and self-discipline at four levels (Chatuspada: four footed).

  1. The first is Vishwa dharma which requires strict following of the laws of Nature… the definition of Bhagavan.
  2. The second is Desha dharma which requires strict obedience of the laws of the nation in letter and spirit. Tax evaders and all sorts of criminals fall in this category. Desha can also be interpreted as social laws as ordained by one’s personal religion or social practices that are based on the books of tradition like the Veda.
  3. The third is Kutumba Dharma or duty towards the family. This is the town in large and personal family in the smaller scope. Thus keeping one’s town clean or looking after wife and children falls in this level.
  4. The fourth is Swa Dharma or duty towards one own self like looking after one’s daily diet, mental health etc. It is unfortunate that with the advance of Kali Yuga the Dharma priorities of most human beings have reversed with the self coming first, family far away in priority and nation / nature hardly finding any place. This fall in the value system is due to the erosion of Satwa (loosely interpreted as Truth force in this context).

Common Features

Having understood the basic foundation of Hinduism as ‘Sanatana Dharma’, the next step would be to try to examine the common features in the different forms of its actual practice.

Some common features of Hinduism are:

  1. Reverence of the faithful for the Sruti Literature which includes the Vedas.
  2. Belief in God (Bhagawan, Ishvar) Who is the cause of this manifested Universe as well as the Universe itself, not distinct from it (i.e. He is the Creator as well as the Created) and Who incarnates as innumerable divine beings called Avatars.
  3. Worship of the Earth Mother (Devi) in Her various forms (i.e. every physical manifestation of Creation must have a mother and refers to a form of the Divine Mother. Thus, She has innumerable forms (as there are innumerable creatures and forms of creation).
  4. All negative things in life are accepted as the products of Tamas (ignorance) or Rajas (passion & desire). Thus, there is no Devil or Satan and since this entire Universe is a part of Bhagavan, love of everything and all creation is the first step to God realisation. There is no place for hatred for anybody or anything. Even in battle, this level of non-attachment is to prevail without any place for hatred.
  5. This love of Bhagavan is expressed through rituals (Yagna, Poojas, Vrata, Samskara), including idol, plant, animal, ancestor and Nature worship
  6. Sansara & Rebirth: Belief in reincarnation of the soul and acceptance of present situation as a consequence of actions performed in the past life (karma) is the foundation stone of Hinduism. This leads to the study of Jyotish and other occult sciences/subjects in the search for emancipation (Moksha) from this cycle of re-birth. The path is enlightened by those who have tread earlier on it leading to the line of Guru’s & Sisya (Guru-Sisya Parampara).
  7. Balancing righteous conduct (dharma) with material aspirations (artha), sensual pleasures (kama) and spiritual pursuits (moksha). These form the four Ayana or Goals of life.
  8. Acceptance that there are many means (marga) to reach God and respect for each of these paths. Like blind people trying to describe the elephant by touching different parts of it, so also these paths to Godhead are like different organs of God. Just like the man who can see evry organ and can easily describe the elephant, so also the enlightened one sees (knows) all the paths and can understand Godhead.
  9. Caste system (varna, jati) based on Karma Yoga. [Since the Theory of Sansara or transmigration of the soul is also based on Karma, then the birth itself is a product of our own Karma and hence the Caste system was extended to the birth of the individual].

Perceiving the environment, the body and the mind as illusion (maya) and only the soul (atma) as the True Self that can be identified with the Supreme Divine Being (brahman). In Jyotisha, the Lagna and Saptama are the satya Peetha [The truth personified] whereas the other houses reflect Maya. This theory is also extended to (a) the Lagna and its Karaka (significator) Sun which is also the Atma-Karaka or the soul significator on the one hand and the Arudha Lagna and its significator Moon which is also the Mana-Karaka or Mind significator that perceives this unreal world as real. This is the great illusion.

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Karen Aren is a Registered Yoga Teacher trained in a style of yoga called Prana Yoga which was taught to her by Dr. Jeff Migdow MD in the lineage of Swami Kripalvananda.  In Prana Yoga the student is taught to hold postures for a longer duration with the simultaneous use of pranayama and mantra as a method of accessing the prana of the seven chakras.    Karen teaches Prana Yoga on Long Island, New York and is available for group and private lessons. She can be reached at +1-516-484-8294 or karen108@optonline.net

In recent years, yoga has gained much popularity and become a part of mainstream culture in the United States with an estimated 18 million Americans practicing yoga on a weekly basis.  Largely, yoga instruction has been in the practice of Hatha yoga which teaches asana (postures) and pranayama (breath techniques).  While many have come to experience increased vitality and peace of mind through yoga, many are left unaware of yoga’s spiritual purpose.  If we look at some of the ancient texts on yoga we find that almost the opposite situation, that the spiritual aspects were made very clear and the practice of asanas had little attention.

The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj” and means the act of joining, attaching or harnessing.   The joining refers to the union of the individual soul (jeevatma) with the Universal Soul (Paramatma) by which one can attain liberation from the cycle of rebirth.   Sri Krishna tells this to Arjuna in the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.  “The yogi who has completely calmed the mind and controlled the passions and freed from all impurities, and who is one with Spirit—- verily, he has attained supreme blessedness.  The yogi, free from all impurities, ceaselessly engaging the Self thus in the activity of yoga, readily attains the blessedness of continuous mergence in Spirit” [i]  The Bhagavad Gita affirms yoga’s spiritual goal of union with the Divine by controlling the mind and the senses with the practice of yoga of but only mentions the word asana to refer how one should sit for meditation[ii].

Patanjali compiled the philosophy of Raja Yoga from the Upanishads in his classic 2nd century text called the Yoga Sutras which consists of 196 terse aphorisms.   Raja Yoga consists of eight sequential steps to train the mind of the yogi to attain union with the Divine through meditation (samadhi).  These eights steps are yama[iii], niyama[iv], asana, pranayama[v], pratyahara, dharuna, dhyana, and samadhi.  Even though Patanjali includes asana in his path to samadhi, like the Bhagavad Gita, he only writes of seated postures.[vi] He goes on to writes that once “mastering posture, one may practice control of prana (pranayama) through stopping the motions of inhalation and exhalation”[vii] indicating that the practice of posture is a preliminary step before advancing on to the more advanced steps of concentration and meditation.  Swatmarama also makes this point in his 14th century text on Hatha Yoga, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. He gives detailed practical instruction in various asana, pranayama techniques and bodily cleansing techniques and writes that “ all method of Hatha  are meant for gaining success in Raja Yoga for the man who is well established in Raja Yoga overcomes death.” [viii]

Yoga in the United States has come a long way since Vivekanda first stepped foot here in 1893.  Many styles of yoga maintain it’s intended original spiritual purpose, like Sivananda Yoga founded by a disciple of Swmi Sivananda, Integral Yoga founded by Swami Satchitananda or  Kripalu Yoga founded by a disciple of Swami Kripalvananda, just to name a few. Many other yoga methods largely emphasis a vigorous physical workout so it’s good to be informed about a particular style and see if it meets your goals before beginning a yoga practice.

[i] Bhagavad Gita 6:27,28
[ii] Bhagavad Gita 6:11-12
[iii] Yama are the 5 restaints of ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (celibacy) and aparigraha (non-coveting).
[iv] Niyama are the 5  observances of saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (penances), swadhyaya (self-study) and ishwara pranidhana (dedication to the Lord)
[v]  pranayama: control of prana (subtle energy) through breathing techniques, pratyahara :sense withdrawal, dharana: concentration,  dhyana: meditation, samadhi: experience of oneness with the Divine
[vi]  Yoga Sutra 2:46
[vii] Yoga Sutras 2:49
[viii] Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4:102

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