Tag Archives: shrishthi brahmarupa

Choosing a Mala: Tulasi, Rudraksha or Both?

by Shrishthi Brahmarupa

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Hare Krishna and Om Namashivaya.

The reason why Sanathana Dharma (known to some as Hinduism) is not easily defined is because it’s not quite a religion. People who follow these paths come from all walks of life and have spiritual principles that come in all combinations. This in turn, reflects in the external paraphernalia they choose to adorn themselves with, including spiritual beads (Sanskrit: mala).

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Ask any person who claims to be a Hindu: what makes someone a Hindu? It’s not a question anyone can answer with absolute certainty and finality. Sanathana Dharma has no real boundaries that ‘disqualifies’ a follower of its varied paths.

Some Hindus are staunch worshipers of Shiva and only Shiva. Others will bow before none but Vishnu. Then there are people who connect with various deities, from Karthikeya to Ganesha to Durga. Our ISKCON friends chant Krishna’s names with every breath. And finally, there are people like me who can’t be categorized – I happily do regular archanais for every major Hindu deity, I go to both Catholic and Protestant churches, I like mosques, I’m an atheist and an omnist, and finally I’m everything and nothing. I can’t be bothered to consider what labels and limitations fit me – I’m too busy immersing myself in the unlimited wonders of the universal experience.

Tulasi or Rudraksha?

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I wear both. And more, including neem, sandalwood, spathikam (clear quartz) and navrattan (nine sacred gems). I even have Christian rosaries. Sometimes I use just one. At other times, I wear a few together.

Why choose? Your spiritual experience of the universe is only as limited as your mind – remember that.

Here are some facts to consider:

  • The foremost known Vedic scripture about rudraksha (the Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad) does not mention anywhere in it that wearers of rudraksha cannot wear tulasi beads.
  • Similarly, nowhere is it stated in any accepted Vaishnava-related Vedic scripture that the use of rudraksha is forbidden for Vaishnavas.

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I’ll leave these self-explanatory Vedic verses below for you to think about:

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Rudranam sankaras casmi.” (Translation: “Of all the Rudras, I am Lord Shiva.”)

~ Bhagavan Sri Krishna, Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10, Text 23.

Vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh.” (Translation: “Lord Sambhuh [Shiva] is the greatest of Vaishnavas.”)

~ Bhagavata Purana, SB 12.13.16.

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The highest universal powers don’t have issues with each other, yet we humans are arguing over wooden beads.

Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti“. ~ Rig Veda

(Translation: That which exists is One. The sages call It by various names.)

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Conclusion

Sanathana Dharma (Hinduism) is not a limited concept and will never be. There is no such thing as “if you do X, you’re a proper Hindu and if you do Y you’re breaching the boundaries of Hinduism”.

Come on. We have cannibalistic Aghori sadhus in rudraksha, and tulasi-wearing Vaishnavas who won’t even consume garlic in keeping with their strict vows of a vegetarian sattvic diet. Who’s to say they’re right or wrong in their practices? Those paths have their scriptural backing too.

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That which is said to have good energy and positive vibrations (tulasi, rudraksha, Ganges water, Vibhuti or Bhasma, Gopi Chandan, prasada, etc.) will always remain purifying, sacred and beneficial to the wearer, regardless if they are used in combination with each other or alone.

In summary, wear rudraksha beads if you wish. Wear tulasi if you prefer that instead. Wear both if your heart so desires – neither Krishna, Shiva nor any authoritative figure of Sanathana Dharma has ever forbidden it.

~Loka samasta sukhino bhavantu~

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Related Links:

Everything You Need to Know About Rudraksha

The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad (Full Text)

How to Know if Your Rudraksha Beads are Genuine

 

Blue Butterfly Spiced Milk

by Shrishthi Brahmarupa

According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, fresh milk is a highly recommended food for hatha yogis. This 15th-century yoga manual by Swami Svatmarama praises milk as a wholesome, nourishing food and states that it is an essential part of a sattvic yogic diet.

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Understandably, unethical dairy farming methods are a huge concern these days. I usually get my supply from small local dairy farms or ISKCON centers (ISKCON cows are protected for life and never slaughtered) to ensure that the least cruelty is involved. If you can get ahimsa milk where you live, fantastic! For a vegan version of this drink,  see the notes within the recipe below.

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Spiced milk (Hindi: masala doodh) is a common beverage in India. The spices in this recipe impart fragrance, flavor and medicinal properties to the milk, as well as help in aiding digestion.

It just so happens that my favorite color is blue and my good friend, Alex Lee, has a Clitoria Ternatea flower farm in Australia. Alex provided me with a sachet of her organic, all-natural Blue Butterfly powder, and this is my first attempt at using it in my cooking. This flower is commonly known as bunga telang in Malay, and it’s popular in Peranakan cuisine. The plant is a creeper, and pretty easy to grow in a tropical climate.

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As a kid, I saw Luke Skywalker drinking blue milk in Star Wars, and I’ve wanted to drink it ever since. There you go, an idea to get your kids to drink more milk – actual dairy or a quality vegan substitute, whichever your choice may be.

Here’s a simple recipe for spiced milk. I consume this almost daily before bedtime. You can vary the spices if you wish, or add a pinch of saffron. This beverage makes an excellent and nourishing meal substitute, especially at night.

Blue Butterfly Spiced Milk

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • ½ tsp Blue Butterfly powder (mix with 2 tablespoons warm water)
  • 500ml fresh cow’s milk (or a vegan milk substitute)
  • 3-4 cardamom pods
  • 1-2 whole dried cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 small springs of Indian holy basil (tulsi)
  • ½ tsp organic chia seeds
  • Honey or jaggery to taste (optional)

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Method:

1) Pour the milk into a sturdy pot. Add in all dried spices and stir well. Bring the milk to boil on medium heat, stirring regularly. Milk burns easily, so stir briskly and well, scraping the bottom of your pot.

2) When the milk comes to a rolling boil, stir well for 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat. Allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes. (If you wish to sweeten the milk, allow the milk to cool for 10 minutes before adding the honey or jaggery, then stir well).

3) Add the Blue Butterfly powder solution to the milk. Stir briskly until the color is uniform.

4) Pour the milk into serving glasses or mugs. Add the springs of holy basil (one per glass), ensuring that the herb is at least partially submerged in the milk – this helps the Ayurvedic medicinal properties of the leaves to steep into the milk. Garnish with the chia seeds and serve hot.

Vegan variation: To make a vegan version of this recipe, simply substitute the cow’s milk with any vegan milk of your choice. Also, when using vegan milk, do not allow the liquid to boil – simply heat the vegan milk up, then turn off the heat when it’s close to boiling point. The best vegan milks to use for this recipe are soy, cashew, oat, almond and coconut. 

Related Links:

My Blue Tea – Blue Butterfly Flower Powder

Kitchiri, the Best Sattvic Detox Food

Healing And Rejuvenation With Abhyanga

by Shrishthi Brahmarupa

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Traditional Ayurvedic oil massage, known as abhyanga, has been practiced in India for centuries. A good-quality vegetable oil is massaged into the whole body and left on for a few minutes, than cleaned off in the shower. This simple practice has numerous amazing health benefits. The ancient Vedic health treatise, the Charaka Samhita, says this about abhyanga:

“The body of one who performs oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries or strenuous work. By having oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.” – (Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, verses 88 – 89)

If you find yourself suffering from the effects of stress, aging, pollution and an unbalanced lifestyle, abhyanga will do wonders for you. The scriptures recommend that abhyanga be done daily, preferably in the morning. However, I find that a weekly or even monthly session gives wonderful results. It can be a little messy, but it’s well worth the effort.

Benefits of Abhyanga:

  • Keeps the body healthy, toned and youthful
  • Helps eliminate accumulated toxins
  • Improves blood flow
  • Cures stress-related problems
  • Promotes abundant and luxurious hair growth
  • Improves digestion
  • Reduces body odour
  • Helps heal skin damage (i.e. from eczema, psoriasis and acne)
  • Restores balance to bodily functions

How to Perform Abhyanga at Home

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Things You’ll Need:

  • ½ cup of good-quality vegetable oil, preferably cold-pressed and organic (recommended oils: sesame, coconut or olive oil)
  • 2 – 3 old towels (kept specifically for this purpose)
  • A pair of old socks or flip-flops with good sole traction
  • 5-8 heaped teaspoons of chickpea flour (also known as gram flour)

Method:

1. Pick an appropriate spot to perform abhyanga. It should be comfortably warm and free of distractions, such as pets and children. Bear in mind that once you start abhyanga, you’ll be unable to do anything else until the oil is rinsed off in the shower, so plan in advance. You may play some relaxing music if you wish.
2. Put the chickpea flour into a bowl and add enough water to make a thick paste. Stir well to remove lumps. Leave this paste near your shower area.
3. Warm the oil slightly, taking care not to burn it. The safest way is to put the oil in a metal container, then place the container in a larger bowl filled with hot water for a few minutes. Place the warmed oil near your designated abhyanga area. Note: NEVER microwave the oil; microwaving damages the delicate healing botanical properties, and can be very dangerous if the oil heats unevenly.
4. You may have a quick, warm shower with plain water before abhyanga if you wish. I personally do this to remove dust and sweat. If you do have a shower, dab your skin dry before beginning the massage.
5. Lay one of the old towels down on the floor. Undress and sit comfortably on the towel. Dip your fingers into the warmed oil and start the massage, beginning at the crown of your head and moving down your body, eventually ending at the soles of your feet. Take your time – abhyanga should be performed leisurely and lovingly for best results. Use generous amounts of oil.
7. Use gentle but firm pressure, moving in circular motions across the scalp. Switch to long, firm strokes once you get to the neck, shoulders, arms and legs. The stomach should be massaged with firm, clockwise strokes – this greatly aids digestion. Massage every inch of your skin, paying particular attention to joints, chakra centres, the fingers and toes as well as the spaces between them. When massaging the face, avoid the eye area (oil may irritate sensitive eyes).
8. Once you’ve covered all parts of your body, sit in a comfortable position and meditate for about 5 to 10 minutes. Relax and internally observe the new flow of positive energy. Envision your body regenerating youthful, new tissues and eliminating accumulated toxins. Maintain a gentle smile on your face.

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9. Complete your meditation with your palms pressed together and a personal prayer of gratitude to the Universe. I always end my meditation by reciting the Shanthi mantra. Then, using the spare towel, gently but thoroughly wipe all traces of oil off your body. Wipe your feet and toes well to minimise slipping.
10. Put on the socks (or flip flops) and head to the shower. Wet yourself thoroughly, then use the chickpea flour paste to clean yourself, the same way you would with soap. Give your body a good scrub with the paste, then rinse off and towel dry. If you have long hair, you may need an additional amount of chickpea paste to get the oil out.
11. Gently towel dry after your shower and wear loose-fitting cotton clothing. Sit (or lie down) and relax for at least 10 minutes. You may use some music or sip some herbal tea if you wish.

Notes:

  • Make sure the vegetable oil used is of good quality and cooking-grade. Baby oil is unsuitable for abhyanga (it is made of mineral oil, which is a petroleum derivate and has no Ayurvedic medicinal value)
  • Take extra precautions to prevent slipping and accidents, especially in the bathroom.
  • Don’t use soap to wash off the oil – you have just infused your skin with the precious rejuvenating properties of a natural oil, and we don’t want to ruin that with chemicals immediately after. Chickpea flour paste is sufficient to soak up and remove any excess oil; a very thin film of oil left over after showering is highly beneficial. If you prefer to remove all traces of oiliness completely, prepare more chickpea paste for your shower after abhyanga.
  • Abhyanga should be done in a warm room. The shower water should be warm as well. This ensures muscles stay warm and aids circulation, as well as enhances the effects of the massage. If you’re unable to reach all parts of your back, it’s perfectly fine to get someone’s help or use an oiled massaging aid.
  • You may play some relaxing music if you wish.