First, the definition. A ritual is defined as “an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite”. There is another definition: “A ritual is any practice or pattern of behaviour regularly performed in a set manner”.
The second definition implies that we are ritualistic all the time. Brushing, bathing, applying gel, having breakfast, going to work at the set time, catching the same train, taking medicines, etc – all these are rituals because they are as per the definition – “practices or patterns of behaviour regularly performed in a set manner”.
However, we never castigate anybody for following these rituals, do we? We don’t say “Oh, you are so ritualistic – brushing your teeth everyday”. In fact, we come down on them if they don’t follow them. Are we not then adopting double standards?
The point is we ‘accept’ a ritual if we understand why it is performed. We know why we brush our teeth. We may have baulked the first time we were told to do it. But over time, we know the implications of not brushing. Ditto for the other daily rituals we follow.
Religious rituals too have some purpose. If we understand them, we probably will agree to do it. The issue with religious rituals is that they have been handed down over generations, and every successive generation has learnt less than its predecessor. Our grandfather’s generation probably knew more than our parents’ generation. The worst hit is that generation that left their roots in the villages and started life in the city. Strangely, urban living makes you compromise on tradition. What became more important was to earn money and send enough back home.
As a result, the spiritual knowledge that had been passed down since eons, suffered. The grandpa knew, but the papa didn’t. Therefore when papa’s son asked the meaning of the rituals, papa just expressed helplessness. And as a result, the son – who is from the current generation – chose to dismiss rituals, and thereafter branded it as a bad word.
Rituals help in bringing about discipline. They help in regulating a daily activity so that you don’t forget to do it. They act as an inbuilt alarm that programmes you accordingly. Rituals are useful as long as you understand why you do them. If you don’t understand them, well, go and find out. We live in the information age and hence are most equipped to find out things that our forefathers couldn’t. It is not fair to dismiss something as nonsense without understanding its purpose in the first place. Find out, understand, and if you don’t agree, dismiss it. But remember, a ritual hides many a hidden truth.
We learn how to get sick at a very young age. We are actually programmed for it with such messages as, "If you get your feet wet, you'll catch cold". The brain neurons accept such programming as an instruction, an order to be obeyed. And so such a message becomes a self-fulfilling prediction.
Day in and day out, we programme ourselves. Therefore it wouldn't be wrong to say we create our illnesses, in fact, even our future. It's all a question of mind over matter. Have you seen the priests of Banaras having a holy dip in the Ganga at 4 am in the coldest of winter mornings? They have nothing more than a towel on themselves. And the freezing temperatures hardly seem to bother them. Would you be able to do that? They are able to because they have programmed themselves to brave the elements.
The brain has within it approximately 30 billion neurons, about three pounds of material in all. These neurons are like the components of a computer. Your computer-like brain is programmed to run your body, store your experiences and learning, and feed back this information to you on demand. It has been estimated that we are born with some 2,000 separate programs in our mental computers, which are designed to run our bodies perfectly. The defects in these otherwise perfect programs are caused by stress, which begins almost the moment we are born.
Stress first affected your system when the doctor caught you by your feet and hung you upside down as soon as you entered the world. When it happened, it caused you anxiety. You wetted your nappy and there was no one to help? More anxiety. More stress.
Stress interferes with perfect programming. The greater the stress and the longer its duration, the more the interference. Eventually, that interference wins out. Perfect programs become imperfect and vital organs and essential systems of the body begin to function less than perfectly.
Prgramming is also caused by worry (We watch others get sick and we picture it happening to us), thoughts and words (negative thoughts and expressions produces unhappiness, failure and ill-health, and positive thoughts just the opposite).
A simple solution to most ailments is simply reversing the programming we have been doing all these years. You could either repeat a strong postive sentence like - I enjoy the best of health - while meditating. Or at the end of the day, write down this sentence how many ever times you can. Keep mentally repeating this sentence throughout the day.
What this does is to stimulate a programme for your brain. The rest, of course, is automatically taken care of.
For instance, in the case of temples, it depends on how and where the temple is built, how and what kind of material is used to make the idol, and what rituals are performed to energise it. Now, this is common knowledge. However, we often tend to assume that every stone sculpted in the form of a god or goddess emits positive energy. We tend to see God as a form, not as energy.
This article is not about all roadside temples, but about those built with ulterior motives and improper techniques. Today, temple building is a national pastime and crores of rupees are sunk in it. In reality, it has become a territory grabbing exercise where devotion often takes a backseat. So, we find temples near garbage dumps, near sewage canals, and what not. Even the directions that the temple is supposed to face are sometimes not adhered to. Some temples are well maintained, while many others languish with cobwebs for company - a far cry from the euphoria that followed their construction probably weeks or months back.
Roadside temples best epitomise the impersonality of city life in Mumbai. It appears as if we have become so busy in our lives, that a visit to a temple has become a chore. So the best solution is to "bring" the temple near our houses instead of us going "all the way" to it. How convenient!
Before we analyse the importance of temples, we need to understand why a temple or any place of worship is built. For instance, if God is omnipresent, why should we go to a temple, mosque or church to pray? Can't we do that in the bathroom?
Well, a temple, or any place of worship, is a place where positive energy is accumulated through processes (rituals) that have been known to enhance such energy. For instance, in a temple, rituals like ringing bells, performing the aarti, lighting an incense stick, circumambulating the idol, chanting mantras and reciting shlokas, etc., enhance positive energy. This energy is also increased due to the architecture of the temple and its location. It’s amplified by the yantras or geometric diagrams that are embedded in the walls of the temple at specific locations.
This accumulated energy is then stored in the dome or vimana that is above the sanctum sanctorum (garbha griha or the place where the idol is located) in every temple, because positive energy being light, rises. When you go to a temple to pray, you add to that positive energy and also "bathe" in the energy that is already accumulated there - and you come out spiritually washed. This washing is essentially a cleansing of your aura, which is exposed to continuous attacks of negativity due to thought, illness, physical contact, etc.
That essentially is the purpose of a place of worship. The techniques to raise that positive energy may differ from religion to religion, but the basic purpose remains the same.
Now cut back to roadside temples. Building places of worship is no child's play. If it has to be done, there are a lot of rules to be followed; else instead of positive energy being emitted, the place will emit negativity. And those who worships the idol there, will take in that negativity. The issue, you see, is about how we harness energy. Also think about the negative energy that all these illegal and improper temples release into the ether, and the effect it must be having on the energy of the city. Scary, isn't it?
The answers to these questions lie in our aura. We all have a three-dimensional energy force field called the human aura, that surrounds our physical body in all directions. In a healthy individual, it makes an elliptical shape around the body. Its thickness varies from a few inches to many feet depending on the health, thought, charisma, and energy of the person. A sick person would have a weak aura whereas a spiritual guru will have a strong one.
Reams can be written about the aura; there are numerous articles written about it too. It all points to the importance of keeping your aura clean because its health determines how well you will live your life. While it is important to know what gives you more energy and thereby a healthier aura, it is equally important to know causes the aura to “tear” and the energy to “leak”.
Largely, the aura is weakened by poor diet, stress, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, negative habits, and lack of exercise, fresh air and rest, to name a few. The aura ‘tears’ when the fabric of the auric field is damaged due to wear-and-tear, strain or physical trauma of some kind. Leaks are usually found on the front of the body, and over joints viz. knees, shoulders neck, ankles and elbows.
Tears cause ‘holes’ in the aura and your energy starts to leak from here thereby draining you of energy. They also make you vulnerable to outside energies, which means a person with a weak aura falls prey to all kinds of influences – suspicion, insecurity, fear, ‘evil eye’, etc.
Apart from the points mentioned, leaks in your aura can also happen on many different levels and for many different reasons. Here are a few for you to monitor:
Keeping agreements: Even small agreements with yourself (I'm going to bed tonight at 10 pm) when broken, leak energy.
Incomplete tasks: When you decide to do something and don’t end up doing it, you cause a hole in your aura. In fact, you can sense your energy draining because that little voice inside you will constantly nag you and remind of you of the unfinished task. Only when you complete it do you feel a sense of accomplishment. Sounds familiar? Similarly, all those unanswered letters, emails, phone calls, unread books, stacks of magazines, unfinished hobby projects around the house drain your vital energy reserve.
So how do you prevent it?
At the end of each day declare all unfinished or incomplete projects complete, appreciate your accomplishments as good and well done. Write down all the agreements made with yourself over the last month. If you are not going to keep them - renegotiate or declare them null and void.
Take a thinking break. Worrying, obsessing, negative mind chatter, rehearsing unspoken conversations distract focus, attention and create unnecessary energy leaks. Observe your thoughts. Let go of distracting mind patterns and redirect your thoughts into upliftment, beauty, gratitude, or contemplating the goodness that you are.