So Much Beauty – The Persian Verses of Rumi

Have we taken Allah out of Rumi’s poems?

New Age “translations of  jalaluddin Rumi’s works have become a type of ‘spiritual colonialism.’ We in the West have been bypassing, erasing, and occupying a spiritual landscape that has been lived and breathed and internalized by Muslims from Bosnia and Istanbul to Konya and Iran to Central and South Asia.” Extracting the spiritual from the religious context has deep reverberations. Islam is regularly diagnosed as a “cancer”  by people today and we are loathed to think that the  greatness of Sufi Poems are based on the Islamic faith.

In the 1800s, colonialist-minded translators found it difficult to reconcile Rumi’s poetry with their preconceptions of Islam as a “desert religion,” whose followers were forsaken with “unusual moral and legal codes.” In the twentieth century, prominent translators, such as R. A. Nicholson, A. J. Arberry, and Annemarie Schimmel, made limited headway into producing versions that stayed more true to the original Persian prose, but these translations have not been the most widely circulated among Western readers.

earlier translations of Rumi’s works – possibly

by R.A. Nicholson

That title is held by Coleman Barks, the American poet and interpreter responsible for re-introducing Rumi’s poetry for English-speaking audiences in recent decades. Barks, who does not speak Persian and is not trained in Islamic literature, has recast earlier translations of Rumi’s works into “fluid, casual American free verse,” according to Christain Science Monitor.

For his part, Coleman Barks sees religion as secondary to the essence of Rumi. “Religion is such a point of contention for the world,” he told me. “I got my truth and you got your truth—this is just absurd. We’re all in this together and I’m trying to open my heart, and Rumi’s poetry helps with that.” One might detect in this philosophy something of Rumi’s own approach to poetry: Rumi often amended texts from the Koran so that they would fit the lyrical rhyme and meter of the Persian verse. But while Rumi’s Persian readers would recognize the tactic, most American readers are unaware of the Islamic blueprint. Some have said, compare reading Rumi without the Koran to reading Milton without the Bible: even if Rumi was heterodox, it’s important to recognize that he was heterodox in a Muslim context—and that Islamic culture, centuries ago, had room for such heterodoxy. Rumi’s works are not just layered with religion; they represent the historical dynamism within Islamic scholarship.

Rumi used the Koran, Hadiths, and religion in an explorative way, often challenging conventional readings. One of Barks’s popular renditions goes like this: “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. / I will meet you there.” The original version makes no mention of “rightdoing” or “wrongdoing.” The words Rumi wrote were iman (“religion”) and kufr (“infidelity”). Imagine, then, a Muslim scholar saying that the basis of faith lies not in religious code but in an elevated space of compassion and love. What we, and perhaps many Muslim clerics, might consider radical today is an interpretation that Rumi put forward more than seven hundred years ago.

Such readings were not entirely unique back then. Rumi’s works reflected a broader push and pull between religious spirituality and institutionalized faith—though with a wit that was unmatched. “Historically speaking, no text has shaped the imagination of Muslims—other than the Koran—as the poetry of Rumi and Hafez,” it is said. This is why Rumi’s voluminous writings, produced at a time when scribes had to copy works by hand, have survived.

“Language isn’t just a means of communication,” the writer and translator Sinan Antoon has said. “It’s a reservoir of memory, tradition, and heritage.” As conduits between two cultures, translators take on an inherently political project. They must figure out how to make, for instance, a thirteenth-century Persian poet comprehensible to a contemporary American audience. But they have a responsibility to remain true to the original work—an act that, in the case of Rumi, would help readers to recognize that a professor of Sharia could also write some of the world’s mostly widely read love poetry.

Jawid Mojaddedi is now in the midst of a years-long project to translate all six books of the “Masnavi.” Three of them” have been published; the fourth is due out this spring. His translations acknowledge the Islamic and Koranic texts in the original by using italics to denote whenever Rumi switches to Arabic. His books are also riddled with footnotes. Reading them requires some effort, and perhaps a desire to see beyond one’s preconceptions. That, after all, is the point of translation: to understand the foreign. As Keshavarz put it, translation is a reminder that “everything has a form, everything has culture and history. A Muslim can be like that, too.”

earlier translation

Have we hi-jacked Rumi and moulded him to our own understanding – Yes indeed,  is that a bad thing? No! Indeed no. We have not destroyed the original Rumi and who would want to? We have  expanded on his wonderful poetry and by so doing, opened him and his works to an international audience and an entirely new generation. I think we have done good! 

Excerpted from Rozina Ali’s recent article The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi

Link to article

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-erasure-of-islam-from-the-poetry-of-rumi

The Stange Case of Madhusudan of Muddenahalli – Faith – Video

 

looking out over the darshan area, from the Mandir
looking out over the darshan area.

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Recent video of the Muddenahalli group enjoying holidays. Interesting footage.

 

 

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Madhusudan taking letters from people gathered in Muddenahalli 

exactly in the manner of the original Sai Baba

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“Oh, what a tangled web we weave When first we practise to deceive!”

A follow up on the Muddenahalli Team – two years on.

Curiouser and curiouser is the case study of Madhusudan Rao Naidu, the former student of Sathya Sai Baba and later colleague and friend to Mr. N. Murthy. Several years ago I wrote about the beginnings of the “Light-Body” phenomena, when it first became known to the public at large. I have never been able to quite understand how, at first, we were told stories that Mr. N. Murthy,  through dreams, was able to communicate with Sai Baba and to carry on the mission of Sathya Sai in a way most extraordinaire and beyond our ken! The whole idea that Sai Baba would be interested in carrying on a worldly sojourn from the astral planes just did not make sense to me. However, Mr. N. Murthy, decided he was the chosen one to take the Sai Baba mission forward and he explained why in detail, through a Souljourns video talk posted on line.  He spoke at length to Ted Henry about his amazing mission – for those of you  interested,  I have reposted it here.

Later the former student, Madhusudan came on the scene and proclaimed he was actually the one and only person to hear and see the “Light-body.”  (The astral Sai Baba)   and proclaimed himself to be the medium or “instrument” for the deceased Avatar! This caused many devotees to gather round him and pay homage at his feet,  or rather to the unseen Sai Baba who was readily available to Madhu – at least in his own mind!   The chosen venue for the darshans being Muddenahalli, the fourth branch of the Sri Sathya Sai University way up in the Nandi Hills.  I am not sure that  Madhusudan can actually cope with so many former devotees of the living Sai Baba now gathering  at his  feet, or to grant copious blessings and give Godly advice together with the odd trinket or two that he can now manifest – just like magic!

After the group’s Kodaikanal visit during May 2014, the show and Madhu, the impish raconteur,  was up and going and in full swing. The senior group with  Madhu, were off on travels to far flung places, while picking up handsome donations from some of the richest followers of the original Sai Baba. I have to think how must life  be for this youngish man upon whom, everything depends?  He is responsible for a host of grief-stricken Sai Baba “hangers on” and is also responsible for the building/s of a new Sai Ashram in Muddenahalli as well as  grandiose building projects for the future – among them,  no less, a casino and a hospital in Miss. USA!  Can he still be sane with so much depending on his dubious connection to the “unseen and unheard deceased Sai Baba?” Or has he, in his own mind, morphed into a self-styled God man while using the original Sai Baba name also mimicking his mannerisms? I cannot say. I only know that Madhu is carrying the world on his shoulders and I wonder if he can stay the course without some mishap or two.

Probably by now, he has convinced himself that he is indeed a very special personage, the chosen one to carry on Sai Baba’s mission here on earth. I am beginning to feel “sad” for Madhusudan, the  “Sukshema Baba”  who has so much depending on his continuing performances to convince people that he is indeed in deep communication with Sai Baba, who has afterall, now been gone five years. Notwithstanding that the Sai world at large is scrutinising his every move and just waiting to jump on his case, when the vibuthi runs low and the luck turns thin.

Just recently Madhu and his group visited Nigeria as guests of a wealthy follower of their cult.  By all accounts posted on the internet, they were detained and questioned  by the police about their activities and were then promptly deported. I am not sure they actually were deported, although that is the story one reads from the Sai Org. letter posted on line and the newspaper article that appeared shortly after. ( Both can be found on line.)  I am not going into the full details of the offical letter or the constant flow of claims and counter-claims on both sides of the Sai movement, whether this is true or not. I  would rather not be part of that. I actually don’t want to be part of anything or any movement other than be by myself nowadays.  Still, I do have to wonder how long Sadu Madhu will be able to stand the pressure of being a self-styled Godman  – to be the  provider of solace, substance and miraculous boons  to all who need a surrogate guru  for the now dead Sathya Sai Baba.

My original post from May 2014 – “Speaking of Sathya Sai Baba’s Light Body”

 

https://saibabathepurnaavatarandi.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/muddenahalli-fraud-and-scam-talk-by-leonardo-pablo-gutter/

https://sathyasaimemories.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/speaking-of-sathya-sai-babas-light-body-more-sathya-sai-memories/

 

http://www.news18.com/news/india/ahead-of-sathya-sai-babas-90th-birthday-karnataka-man-claims-he-is-babas-reincarnation-1167669.html

 

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Speaking of the  Astral World –

The  Rudolf Steiner link I meant to provide is very hard to understand and long to read. I have instead, re-written the one paragraph that stands out.

The  astral being or the  soul of the deceased – on reaching the higher realms does not interfere or mingle with souls on Earth, unless in the case of possession or are earth bound.  There are cases where a medium might contact a spirit, often one not on the highest levels, to give messages to their relations of survival of death. However, these links are not ever strong and can only be sustained for a very short time. The energy of the medium  or instrument and that of the astral soul, would not vibrate for long on the same frequency. That is just not possible. There are laws that govern the universe and for those who are complicit to using them for occult reasons, they are unable to do so at will. The boundaries between the Earthly  realm and other higher realms are overseen by the universal laws. (The angels of Light.) Thus, the many types of  energies, (the earthly souls and the astral souls,)  cannot co-exist for long, due to the energy and vibrations of those on the light realms being very different from ours on Earth. thank you.

 

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“I call those ready to see me; of course, there are different levels of readiness!!” ~ Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi

 

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Make Yourself A Light – Love And Friendship

light

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I  am very  sure that darkness and the light are equally sacred but that does not mean we benefit by becoming complacent about the darkness we find ourselves in. We may meet in ourselves the deepest darkness a soul can bare but there’s always a way  out of the darkest pit. For ultimately, if we are to cleanse the mirror of perception and purify ourselves, then we must bring light into the darkness. That’s always been the path of consciousness and the movement of illumination from the beginning of time. This coexistence of darkness and light indeed creates a merry dance in which the clarity of light is invited to lead and lead it must,  but it does not create a hierarchy.

from the wild-garden
from the wild-garden

 

 

When we meet a loved one, or see a beautiful flower, or hear beautiful music, we are instantly filled with light.We can feel ourselves literately lighting up. Simply by being in a positive state of mind, our  souls becomes receptive to the light.

We are capable of sending light to another by directing our thoughts, which are aligned with our feelings, toward someone, and when one does, instantaneously that light vibration and its energy is with that person. The quality and worth of  light that is received is exactly that which we send, although the receiver may not be aware of it on a conscious level.

 “We not only have light within us, but also emit light. The light we use for communication within and also emit is called ‘biophotons’. Experiments have shown that creatures of the same species emit and absorb light from each other in the form of these biophotons. These biophotons, being subatomic particles, may carry information. They also may carry energy, the vital force in Huna that is used by all three parts of the self. So when the religions speak of someone being filled with light or being the light, there is a physical basis for that reference. It is also another indication of communication that goes on all around us, that we are in fact a part of, but are unaware of, except when it is revealed by scientific methods.

Light in the tiniest amounts working on the tiniest particles that are nothing more than a possibility are the building blocks of our world and our bodies. Light, as subatomic particles that form waves, moves information from one dimension to the next, from one part of the family within to the next and it is happening all around us and through us. Light is our energy source and our information. When we consume food we digest the food and expel the carbon dioxide, but absorb the biophotons. The biophotons are absorbed by each cell nourishing the body. Our bodies are made of light and by consuming light we replenish our bodies. In every respect, like the Essenes, we are children of the light”

-Courtesy Wil Langford. “Our loved Ones – Ourselves.”

A Flicker Of Faith, Ram Dass – Early Sai Baba Devotees

 

 

How I remember Swami
How I remember Swami

 

Touching report from Ram Dass on his meeting Sai Baba back in those early days of the 1960’s. He tells us here how Baba created a ring for him. He tells us the ring was obviously man-made and come from the Sai Stores. We all remember the Sai Stores and the bits and bobs Baba would gather from there and give to devotees, just to encourage faith. Of course many say, he was wrong to do this, but he never made any secret that this was all “tinsel and trash” compared to what he really wanted to give, that was his love to change our hearts around.

 

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vibuthi
vibuthi

 

Flicker of Faith

Posted January 15, 2016

In India there was a very beautiful saint, Sathya Sai Baba, where you could go twice a day everyday and stand in his courtyard. He was a very high spiritual being. He would come out beautifully, just flowing and he would look at someone and say, “You have very bad dysentery.” Then he put out his hand, someone else holding out a piece of paper, and about a foot above his hand dust comes out of the air, verbouti or sacred ash. It comes right out of the air and falls onto the piece of paper. He folds it up and gives it to the person saying, “Here, put a little of this in your mouth everyday, and you will get rid of your dysentery.”

When I was there, as I was sitting at his feet and he was sitting on a chair, he said to me, ‘“Here Ram Dass, I’ll give you something.” and I said, ‘No Babaji, I don’t want anything.’ “No, no, let me give you something.” He held out his hand, and I knew he did things like this, manifest small things like bracelets, watches, small things like that. As a social scientist, responsible to the West, my eyes were going to watch his hand closely, I wasn’t going to blink. As I watched, a bluish light formed on the top of his hand, a flickering light, and it became more and more solid, and then it became a little medallion. It was a little circle a star on it with a little gold image of himself, Sathya Sai Baba. He gave it to me, it was definitely man-made, it did not have an astral quality to it at all. Later I asked a Swami there, “How does he do that?” And he said, “Well, he doesn’t make those; he just moves them from his warehouse with his mind.” And you can just imagine his warehouse, full of these little medallions, and if you were in the warehouse, they’d be disappearing from the shelves, literally.”

Here is a being who is far beyond all of this physical stuff, and it is very interesting what miracles do for most people who are ready to see them. They give a flicker of faith in the possibility that things aren’t the way that you thought they were.

This makes you open to the Spirit. For those who are not ready, it just makes them worship the person performing the miracle, because miracles are not the thing itself. Miracles have the power to give you faith through your rational mind and senses because your rational mind and senses can’t do the miracle, so it gives you faith that there’s some other reality. It opens you to it.

-Ram Dass

 

Womens’ Ecstatic Visions of God – Poems And Faith

 

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Next week, I will be on holiday and far away from the computer. Gosh! I need a break, time away to relax and indulge myself in photography. I leave you with this post on Truth as seen by several ancient women poets whom I admire greatly. Hoping  you will all enjoy this post as much as I did writing it.   I do enjoy comments, if only a one liner once in a while. They provide me with valuable feedback, without them, I am lost to know what to write and publish here. Here we go with my last post for a while.

 

I
n every spiritual tradition, the same truth appears: I am sure you have all noticed that at some time or another. Writing on spiritual matters as I do, I honestly can say, there are as many paths to the divine as there are people.

 

While it is necessary to undertake specific practices in spiritual life – prayer or meditation, the vows of right behaviour and right speech, all the many paths that lead to “being awake and aware at the core of our being” – such practices do not create anything that was not there from the beginning. They only open the door to what is already present within us. We do not pray or meditate or engage in good works in order to reach a goal or to become some way “better,” but because these activities are the fundamental expression of the heart freed of the distortions of ego and dualistic thinking. Nothing we do can bring the Sacred into existence and nothing we do can destroy it: this is the message the mystics have always brought to us.

What follows in this post are several poems from different traditions and different times – all from women, yet each points to this idea of the hidden treasure of Truth that does not change.

 


A small image of Lal Ded
A small image of Lal Ded

The first poem is from Lalla Ded, a fourteenth-century Kashmiri poet. she was also a mystic of the Kashmiri Shaivite Sect. She wrote many devotional and mystic poems, expressing her longing for the Divine.

I was passionate,

filled with longing,

I searched far and wide.

But the day that the Truthful One

found me,

I was at home.

To learn the scriptures is easy,
to live them, hard.
The search for the Real
is no simple matter.

Deep in my looking,
the last words vanished.
Joyous and silent,
the waking that met me there.

– Lalla Ded

 

 


 

Sun Bu-er (1124?) was the most famous woman teacher of Chinese Taoism. She began spiritual practice only at the age of fifty-one, when after raising three children to adulthood, she and her husband undertook study of the Way. Each became a fully realized being and teacher, and SunBu-er left behind a number of Taoist treatises and poems.

Cut brambles long enough,
Sprout after sprout,
And the lotus will bloom
Of its own accord:
Already waiting in the clearing,
The single image of light.
The day you see this,
That day you will become it.
-Sun Bu-er

 

Rabi'a
Rabi’a

 

 

Interestingly, the inner sacred is almost never desribed as residing in a temple, but as being at home, kept from public view behind closed doors, in the inmost rooms of the self. Here is one example of such a poem, by the Sufi saint Rabi’a (717-801), a freed salve who lived in the simplest of huts on the outskirts of Basra, in what is now Iraq.

O my Lord,
the stars glitter
and the eyes of men are closed.
Kings have locked their doors
and each lover is alone with his love.
Here, I am alone with You.

-Rabia al Adawiyya

 


Painting of Mirabai by GR Sharma
Painting of Mirabai by GR Sharma

From an early age Mirabai felt an irresistible attraction and devotion to Sri Krishna. As a young child she was given a Krisha doll, which she worshipped as if it embodied the living presence of Him. Although people misunderstood her, she considered Krishna to be both her best friend, lover and husband.  Swami Sivananda said of Mirabai  ‘It is extremely difficult to find a parallel to this wonderful personality – Mira – a saint, a philosopher, a poet and a sage. She was a versatile genius and a magnanimous soul. Her life has a singular charm, with extraordinary beauty and marvel.’

That dark Dweller in Braj
Is my only refuge.
O my companion,
Worldly comfort is an illusion,
As soon you get it, it goes.
I have chosen the Indestructible for my refuge,
Him whom the snake of death
Will not devour.

My Beloved dwells in my heart,
I have actually seen that Abode of Joy.
Mira’s Lord is Hari, the Indestructible.
My Lord, I have taken refuge with Thee,
Thy slave.

– Mirabai

Nisargadatta Maharaj Speaks On Wisdom – Faith

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Nisargadatta  Maharaj once said:

“Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between these two, my life flows.” ‘I am nothing’ does not mean there  is a void or a wasteland within. What it means is that with constant awareness we open to a clear, unimpeded space, without centre or boundaries, there is nothing separate.  Being nothing in this way, we are also, inevitably, everything there is. “Everything” does not mean self- importance or the egotistical idea that self-aggrandisement is everything,  but a decisive recognition of interconnection; we are not separate. Both the clear open space of ‘nothing’ and the interconnectedness of ‘everything;’ awakens us to our true nature.”

 

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Here is a story about a powerful emperor who found that owning nothing gave him more happiness that owning everything.

Ashoka was an emperor in northern India who lived around two hundred years after the time of the Buddha. In the early years of his reign, he was a bloody tyrant. He wanted everything for himself. Land, riches, gems, jewels, he was greedy for them all. Ashoka might have been emperor but inside he was a very unhappy man. A man who could not find happiness even though he had conquered all the lands.

One day, after a particularly terrible battle that he had launched in order to acquire more land and wealth, he walked on to the battlefield amid the appalling spectacle of corpses of men and animals strewn everywhere, already rotting in the warmth of the sun. He watched as the carrion-eating birds devoured the bodies. Ashoka was aghast at the carnage he had reaped. He sat down and cried.

Just then a Buddhist monk came walking across the battlefield. The monk did not say a word, but his being was quite radiant with peace and happiness. Seeing the monk, Ashoka thought, “Why is it that I, having everything in the world, feel so miserable? Whereas the monk has nothing to call his own, other than the robes he wears and the bowl he carries,  looks so serene and happy, even in this terrible place?”

Ashoka made a momentous decision on that day. He pursued the monk and asked him, “Are you happy? If so, how did this come to be? How can you be happy with nothing?” In response, the monk who had nothing, introduced the emperor, who had everything, to the Buddha’s teachings. The consequence of this chance meeting, was Ashoka changed from that day onward. Ashoka devoted himself to the practice and study of Buddhism and changed the entire nature of his reign. He stopped waging wars. He fed the poor and gave them homes.  He transformed himself from a terrible tyrant into one of history’s most respected rulers, acclaimed for thousands of years after as just and benevolent.

Karma Wisdom – Faith

 

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The word karma is a Sanskrit term that means “work, deed, or act”; it has also been interpreted to mean “cause and effect.”   Karma can simply be defined as memory. It is not really a “debt” that must be paid according to some universal tally sheet nor is it necessarily a set of specific circumstances that must be experienced because of deeds or misdeeds from the past. Karma is simply memory. It is a pool of information that the subconscious mind draws upon and can utilize in the present. It has elements that are positive as well as those which seem negative. For example, an immediate affinity toward an individual is as likely to be “karmic” as is an immediate animosity toward someone else. To be sure, this subconscious memory has an effect and influence on how we think, how we react, what we choose, and even how we look! But the component of free will is ever within our grasp. 

 

 


“It is often imagined that the human being is subject to an irrevocable law of karma in which nothing can be changed. Let us take a simile from everyday life to explain the working of this law.

 

A businessman enters debits and credits in his account books; taken together, these entries tell him the current state of his business. The financial state of his business is subject to the inexorable law governing the calculation of debit and credit. If he carries out any new transactions he can make additional entries and he would be a fool if he were unwilling to embark on further business once a balance had been drawn up. In respect to karma, everything good, intelligent and true that has been done by a person belongs on the credit side; evil or foolish deeds belong on the debit side. At every moment the individual is free to make new entries in the karmic book of life. It must never be imagined that life is under the sway of an immutable law of destiny; freedom is not impaired by the law of karma. In studying the law of karma, therefore, the future must be borne in mind as strongly as the past. Bearing within us the effects of past deeds, we are the slaves of the past, but the masters of the future. If we are to have a favourable future, we must make as many good entries as possible in the book of life.

 

It is a great and potent thought to know that nothing we do is in vain, that everything has its effect in the future. The law of karma is the reverse of depressing; it fills us with the splendid hope, and knowledge of it is the most precious gift of spiritual science. It brings happiness inasmuch as it opens out a vista into the future. It charges us to be active for its sake; there is nothing whatever in it to make us sad, nothing which could give the world a pessimistic colouring; it lends wings to our will to co-operate in the evolution of the earth. Such are the feelings into which knowledge of karma must be transmuted.

 

When a person is suffering, people sometimes say: ‘He deserves his suffering and must bear his karma; if I help him, I am interfering with his karma’. This is nonsense. His poverty, his misery is caused through his earlier life, but if I help him, new entries will be made in his book of life; my help takes him forward. It would be foolish to say to a businessman who could be saved from disaster by 1000 or 10000 marks: ‘No, for that would alter your balance sheet’. It is precisely this possibility of altering the balance-sheet that should induce us to help someone. I help him because I know that nothing is without its karmic effect. This knowledge should spur us on to purposeful action.”

 

– from ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM by Rudolf Steiner (ISBN 9781855840638)

Arathi – A Ritual in Light – Children Of Light

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Om Jaya Jagadheesa Harey
Swami Sathya Sai Harey
Bhaktha Jana Samrakshaka
Bhaktha Jana Samrakshaka
Parthi Maheshwara
Om Jaya Jagadheesa Harey

Victory to The Lord of the Universe, To The Lord, Who destroys grief, evil, and miseries of life and Who guards and protects us. Victory to Lord of Lords.

The prayer-song Arathi is often (but does not have to be) sung at the close of a devotional singing (bhajan) session.The word refers both to the song-prayer and the waving of a camphor flame to a Deity. Arathi is sung and performed to develop highest love for God and to express devotion. In Hindu temples, one may find Arathi being sung and performed to various aspects of God, such as Ganesha, Durga, and even the Ganges river. Correspondingly, there are different versions of the Arathi song.Arathi is sung and performed at the end of each darshan in Prasanthi Nilayam, while a camphor flame is waved in a slow circle, facing Bhagavan.

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aartisArathi – Hindu Temple

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Arathi

During my journeys through India, I am often amazed by the puja and Arathi worship performed by people of the Hindu faith, from the high caste Brahmin down to the lowly beggar merchant at some curb side altar. Even before work can begin, Puja (worship) is performed to the chosen deities, such as Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Sarawati, goddess of wisdom, or Krishna, Shiva or others. Sometimes, puja has even been done to objects in daily use, to computers and stoves, to cars, washers, and dryers – in acknowledgement of the supreme Intelligence and to honour the power that makes them work. So what is Arathi? It’s a ritual in light which completes the puja worship ceremony.

Puja consists of offering flowers, such as tiny, delicate petals of heavy scented jasmine, often accompanied by fresh fruits to the chosen deity. Joss sticks are then lit and clouds of incense fill the air with aromatic fragrance. Often bells or gongs, conches, and cymbals are sounded as the sacred flame is lit. And with tremendous devotion and intense concentration, the light ritual is then performed. In a graceful, slow clockwise motion, the light is waved in front of the deity three times, and then offered to the worshippers. They in turn, offer their outstretched hands to the flame, which they consider to be the blessings of the deity. The Arathi tray is then placed before the altar where the worshippers can pass their hands over the flames. Often at the side of the Arathi tray, – beside the flame, are objects such as turmeric, representing wealth, Kumkum, which signifies auspiciousness; rice, for abundance; and sometimes gold. Frankincense, myrrh and dhoop – a kind of incense made of medicinal herbs are lit to purify the environment

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. The Arathi is an esoteric ritual, but its purpose is really very simple. One of the meanings of the word Arathi is “to take delight in the object of worship.” Another, is that the light cleanses the soul and awakens our inner spiritual energy, which in turn helps with daily meditation. To merge with the Light is representative of our small selves giving way or melting into the larger Self, and is the real purpose of worship. The Guru or Master, tells us time and again, the significance of Arathi is the symbol of  becoming one with the light, and being purified by it and while doing so, to let it scatter light and love to all around, leaving us as nothing; no more to be born into a worldly life of pleasure and pain’. This brings us to the quintessential expression of the Arathi ritual which is the prayer,  “Jyota se Jyota,”  in which the Guru’s grace is invoked to awaken our inner awareness.

Arathi is a discipline and an art, it brings harmony, inspires devotion and sanctifies the worshippers. Arathi contains the sublime mystery of worship, in which we use forms to experience that which is beyond all forms. For God is both form and formless,  “Saguna and Nirguna.”

At home, I have nothing as splendid as a puja room, or even an Arathi lamp, and the custom of offering flowers, fruits etc. seems so out of place in my  living room, especially during the bleak Winter months when the garden has few flowers. I make do with a simple candle which I light early in the morning and sit down before, for just a few moments in quiet meditation, then offer a few wishes God-ward, for peace in our time.


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You tube with the Arathi ritual with Arathi chant. Please folks who do not understand the Hindu faith, a wee word. God  in Hinduism is both the formless and  God in form. The Gods and Goddesses are only aspects of the One Formless God.. Thank you.

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Arathi on the Ganges river - the Ghats,Varanasi
Arathi on the Ganges river – the Ghats,Varanasi