Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sandhyavandanam- Achamanam

Om Sri Paramatmane Nama:
The name of the Lord is the most powerful weapon in this world that can save mankind from every danger. Is there any choicest of them among the numerous names of the Lord Sri Krishna ? He has more than 1000 names and we need a few for daily remembrance. How ? Our rishis have chosen fifteen of them. We will see them in the later part of this article.

Achamanam means partaking of a small quantity of water. The health experts of our times have come to a conclusion that taking large quantities of water at any time is harmful. They advice only sipping small quantities. But ours is a land of yogis who knew the anatomy and physiology of humans both physically and by intuition ( gnana drushti). They devised an ideal way of a treatment of the body with the infusion of a small quantity of water ( about 1 ml) repeatedly which created such a healthy effect.
During an achamanam, we usually take three intakes. Each time saying one name of the Lord in this order; Achyutaya nama: Anantaya nama: Govindaya nama:. The water is poured into the palm by a small spoon of 1 ml capacity and then poured into the mouth by the hand. This repeated after each mantra. This is followed by touching various parts of our body by our different fingers .There are two acamanams in the beginning, two in the middle and one in the end of one Sandhyavandanam routine. Totally, fifteen small intakes take place during this.
Now, we will look at the health benefits. There is a vidhi (rule) in Achamanam that the water should not be sucked from the palm. The water from a panch patra ( a tumbler like container which is wide at the top and bottom of approx 100 ml capacity of Silver or Copper) is transferred to the right palm by means of a Uddharni (spoon) of 1 ml capacity. The right palm is now lifted steadily without spilling and keeping the anterior end (wrist end) touching the lips and raising the neck and tilting the palm so that the WATER FLOWS INTO THE MOUTH BY GRAVITY. No sucking. We feel that the water is trickling down the food pipe but the water is of such a small quantity that we do not feel the trickling below the heart region. This, the Rishis call as ‘going into the heart’. Some acharyas say that this water directly mingles with the blood.
The immediate effect is a lowering of the temperature, or rather ‘heat’ of the body. Though allopathy still does not accept the ‘heat’ of the body as a parameter of health , (due to lack of research), we know it ourselves. Holistic therapeutic systems like Ayurvedha and Homeopathy recognize this. Modern living has made such disastrous effects that the burning sensation in single parts or extremities are so common. Achamanam takes care of this. Lack of perspiration raises the body heat. Constipation also is a cause. Even for a man in fever, giving drops of cold water steadily reduces the temperature. Achamanam removes the ill effects of today’s hectic lifestyle such as Constipation, Stress, fatigue etc.
The mental effects are subtle. Lowering of heat gives tranquility. Achamanam being the starting point of Sandhyavandanam, this must be a preparation of the Sadhak for further kriyas.
During Achamanam the names of the Lord are also chanted. After the first three of Achyutaya Nama; ( obeisance to the changeless)
Anantaya Nama; ( obeisance to the infinite , endless)
Govindaya Nama:,((obeisance to Him who is attainable by chanting Vedas)
twelve names are said
We know from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas how the name of the lord is more powerful than Himself. Rama’s arrows fell as garlands on Hanuman when Hanuman could not obey Sri Rama’s command. At that time Hanuman was chanting only Rama Nama !
Now we will go into why our Rishis chose these twelve names.
Vasudeva, the Parabrahman, when expands himself into four states (chatur vyuha- name 138 of Vishnu sahasra nama) for creation, preservation and destruction (recall) takes four names respectively
Vasudeva ( who is stationed in every living being)
Sangarshana ( who does not descend from his position)
Pradhyumna ( who is full of wealth)
Aniruddha (who can never be opposed)
These four vyuhas expand further into twelve vyuha states
  1. Kesava ( who takes many forms, one who is the total combined form of Brahma , Vishnu and Siva)
  2. Narayana (the final refuge of nara or Jiva)
  3. Madhava( Pathi of Lakshmi)
  4. Govinda-(One who is attainable by Vedic chanting)
  5. Vishnu ( One who pervades everywhere)
  6. Madhusudana(Destroyer of Madhu, the demon( Destroyer of Tamoguna))
  7. Trivikrama- (who measured the universe in three footsteps)
  8. Vamana-( the small figured, who gives as per one’s punya karma)
  9. Sridhara( One who sustains Lakshmi)
  10. Hrishkesa(who rules the senses)
  11. Padmanabha( Who has the lotus in his navel)
  12. Damodhara( One who has the universe as his abode)
So, by knowing these names and vyuhas and chanting them respectively during partaking of water and after, we get the multiple benefits. Also, touching various parts of the body with different fingers in a particular orders is like a kavacha ( armour ) and in my opinion prepares the sadhak by focusing the mind since an unconcentrated mind can not perform the series without mistakes.
In the next part we will see Prashanam- a somewhat similar kriya which is a self purification exercise.

Also see

Sandhyavandanam- time

Om Sri Paramatmane Nama:

Sandhya Vandanam

The time:

What is the apt time for doing Sandhya Vandanam ? The name suggests Sandhya , the meeting time of Day with night, which is just before and during sunrise and sunset.

Ajyotisho darsanat sandhi, jyotisho bhanutare

The above statement of the shastra means

Sandhi is the time when the sun and the stars are together visible. The practical thing therefore will be to start

  1. In the morning before sunrise, give Arghyam( explanation later) during sunrise and finish just after sunrise.
  2. In the evening, begin before sunset, give Arghyam during sunset and finish later.

For those who always are inconsistent with their timings, Shastra says

For prAtha: (morning) Sandhyavandhan

Uttama tarakopeta madhyama lupta taraka

Adhama urya sahita prata: sandhya tridha mana

To do PrAtha: ( morning) sandhyA vandanam when the stars are visible is Uttama (first grade.); Maddhyama (middle grade) when doing without the stars; and Adhama ( least grade when Sun is visible)


Uttama suryasahita maddhyama anudita taraka

Adhma tarakopeta sayam sandhya tridha mata

To do Sayam( evening) Sandhya Vandanam , It is Uttama doing while the sun is still shining; Maddhyama when doing before stars are visible; Adhama after the stars are fuly visible.

Sri Abhinava Theertha swamigal says whatever be the grade, it is always best to do it regularly. Otherwise, he warns, one’s Brahmanathva itself is wasted.

The morning and evening sandhis are also ideal since, traditionally and habitually, a person’s stomach will be empty doing both sunrise and sunset. An empty stomach is achieved after four hours of a solid meal. An empty stomach is a prerequisite for Sandhyavandanam since there are at least three sets of pranayama totaling 15 in one full routine. A loaded stomach will interfere with pranayama greatly resulting in indigestion, sleepiness etc. Even the madhyahnikam ( noon) routine is done with an empty stomach before the meal.

There are three types of Karmas- Nithya, Naimithika, and Kamya karmas. Kamya karma is one which is done with a desire to achieve, like a yagya for long life etc .Even if kamya karmas are not done , there is no sin. Naimithika karma is one which is not shastra bound and not niyamic, i.e., a necessary duty , such as taking bath after an eclipse. Nithya karma is one which is ‘niyata nimitta’ meaning ‘ that which is done which is shastra bound’ . Sunrise and sunset are the reason for doing Sandhya vandanam. Hence this is classified in the Nithya karma, which has to be done daily , lifelong.

In the next part we will discuss a fascinating karma called Achamanam which is spiritual and profoundly scientific.

Sandhyavandanam - an overview

Om Sri Paramatmane Nama:

Sandhya Vandanam:

Our Vedas are an enormous collection of books. One cannot read them in an ordinary lifetime. But, we Sanatanis have to read them. Our Rishis made an easy , enjoyable, fruitful and powerful way of reciting some small portions of the Vedas every day together with some offerings that have been followed since time immemorial by our Sanatana family.

Most of today’s younger generation do not know our traditional language which is Sanskrit- which is pitiable. Without knowing the language, the mantras recited make no sense to them and the whole process becomes a mechanical one. There is a dearth of real teachers of these mantras who can teach them to the pupils at the time of upanayanam itself. Some Noble souls like Yoga Acharya Sundaram, Kadalangudi Brahmasri Natesa Sastigal, Sri Sri Abhinava Theertha Mahaswamigal of Sringeri Sarada Sankara Peetam have explained the intricate meanings of these mantras, the meanings of the various parts of Sandhyavandanam and most importantly , the health benefits and scientific brilliance behind these seemingly simple karmas.

This is an attempt by one who learnt the Sandhya Vandana late in his life. As a penance, I wish to present to all an easy to understand and apply document for the benefit of mankind in general and the individual in particular.

Sandhya Vandanam – who can do it ?

The Vedas declare that the three varnas of Brahmana, Kshatriya and Vysya are eligible. Today’s society has been completely overhauled by interchange of occupation that a Brahmin by birth runs an Industry, a Vysya is a teacher and a Kshatriya is a scientist. The list is endless. Since Vedic injunctions were by division of labour, now one can safely say that anyone who properly understands the Mantras and has the fire in him for the welfare of the society , can do it. This is my opinion. Almost a hundred years back, Vivekananda, put yagnyopaveetam on sixty dalit boys and declared them dwijas(twice born). I think their descendants are also called Brahmans in Bengal.

Now, I invite you all to read the fascinating Sandhya Vandahanam which is perhaps one of the best and subtlest daily routine of prayer, thanksgiving, and mantra meditation offered to mankind ever.

The articles will be in parts. The attempt is to go as deep as I could go into the inner meaning of these mantras and karmas. Meanings of every word uttered is given.

I thank Sri Krishna for this inspiration.

I urge all the fortunate who read this , to take printouts and keep them ready while doing Sandhya Vandanam. Most importantly spread the word to all you know about the necessity of such a holiest of Karmas in this degraded era of Kali.

Hare Krishna ! Jai Bharat !