Friday, September 21, 2007

Science of Rituals

A few days ago, we had the inauguration ceremony of our new Nithyananda Center in Singapore (Pictures of Event), for which we had some prayers and rituals done. The energy that day in the center was phenomenal. A few years ago, I used to wonder 'What is the point in all these rituals?'. Often we attach the tag of 'superstition', 'blind belief' etc. with rituals and idol worship.

Swami Nithyananda throws light on this subject beautifully. He says when a ritual is done with awareness it becomes meditation; but when even meditation is done without awareness, it becomes a mere ritual. Existence is made up of 5 elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. Each of these rituals is an attempt to connect with Existence, with the Cosmic Energy that lies within us.

The five elements are in order of subtlety. The earth is the grossest element; one can feel it, see it, hold it, smell it. Water is more fluid; you can see it and feel it, but cannot hold it. Fire is more subtle; you can feel it, sometimes cannot even see it. Subtler than fire is air; you can feel it but can never see it. The last is ether; it is beyond the sense perceptions, you can only experience it. Let us now see how we connect with each of these elements through rituals and meditation.

Take the earth element. All our worship of idols made of stone or metal are means to connect with the earth element in us. When this is done with awareness, you will no longer be worshiping the stone. You will be worshiping through the stone. Next, the water element. Taking a bath in any of the holy rivers or bathing the dieties (abhishekam) helps us relate with cosmic energy through water. Next is the fire element and all fire rituals and offerings (homa) are ways to relate with this. The air element is us is responsible for the words that we speak. Prayers that involve chants invoke the air element in us. Lastly, ether can be experienced only through silence. Silence does not refer to absence of words, it is a vibrant silence that is experienced in deep moments of meditation.

Of course when we see priests at temples chant away mantra but counting money in their hands, you lose respect for these rituals. Awareness is the key. When we do these rituals with a deep understanding, they can transform our very being. Here is a video where Swamiji gives some amazing insights into rituals.

Those of us who do guru pooja (an offering of gratitude to existence) regularly invariably experience a deep joy and silence within, it is certainly a powerful meditation in itself. In Singapore, we will be starting to conduct classes to train people to do the guru pooja/guru homa on their own. Those interested can send an email to

-- Ma Nithyananda Arpana

1 comment:

Magesh said...

An important article to understand.Excellent :)