From the Darkness of Ignorance to the Light of Knowledge
- Pujya Bapuji
(Makara Sankranti: 14th January)
The day on which the Sun-God enters on his northward journey is celebrated as the Uttarayana festival (Makara Sankranti). From this day onwards the night (darkness) becomes shorter and the day (Light) becomes longer. The literal meaning of ‘Uttarayana’ is the Sun’s northward movement, whereas the meaning intended to be conveyed by this term is that we should become detached from the lower desires by the grace of the Lord of the heavens (the Sun). Lower chakras are the seat of desires and sensual attraction, and the upper chakras the seat of selflessness, divine love and bliss. The festival of Sankranti has been instituted by the sages for changing the course of our life. On this pious day, you change the direction of your thinking and actions. Your thinking (mental attitude) will determine your thoughts and your thoughts will determine your actions. To give all comforts to the physical body composed of flesh and bones, and to enjoy sensual pleasures is the aim of western thought and to restrain the desires of the physical body through sense control while remaining engaged in the pursuit of awakening the man present before one into his supremely auspicious nature wishing his good even in the most trying conditions is the ideal of Indian thought.
Actually, there is a date of Sankranti in every month of the Hindu calendar. However, the Makara Sankranti does come but only once in a year. Bhishma, the grandfather of the Pandavas, waited on his death-bed of nails for the onset of this season before finally departing from the earth-plane.
A day for earning religious merits and health
One who doesn’t take a bath on the day of Sankranti would remain sick and poor in his seven next lives; and one who takes a bath on this pious day becomes bright and earns religious merits too. One should apply an ointment made of black sesame seeds before taking bath on this day.
Offer an oblation of water mixed with sesame seeds to Sun-God. On this day giving of sesame seeds destroys sins; eating sesame seeds restores health; while a havana performed with sesame seeds helps one earn religious merits. Even drinking water mixed with sesame seeds is good for health. The ointment made from sesame seeds too is conducive to health. One, who takes bath on this day before sunrise, does earn religious merits equal to that earned by donating as many as ten thousand cows. Any virtuous act that is performed on the day of Uttarayana bestows imperishable religious merits. Taking sweet dishes made from sesame seeds and jaggery, and the khichadi made with rice and split grams helps in prevention of diseases caused by the change of season. One taking a bath with water mixed with sesame seeds enables one fight diseases and distress caused by the change of season.
Mantra to propitiate Sun-God
The Knowledge of Brahman was first imparted to Sun-God. He imparted it to Manu who imparted the same to Yama. Thus the Knowledge of Brahman was successively passed on to others through Guru-Shishya Parampara. Lord Bhaskara (another name of the Sun-God) is a perfect Brahmajnani. He is absolutely spotless and desireless. And who can ever match him in selflessness and dutifulness? He neither desires for anything, nor does he have any sense of attachment or aversion towards anyone. Being established in Existence Absolute he showers light upon all, and he goes on giving like that. The Moola Mantra of Sun-God is given in the Padma Purana: ॐ ह्रां ह्रीं सः सूर्याय नमः । i.e. “aum hram hrim sah suryaya namah”. One doing japa of this mantra with the intention of Self-love and Self-Bliss while remembering Sun-God with devotional love develops intense love for God and gets inner joy.
Sun Salutations for radiance, strength and power
Practice of Sun Salutations increases radiance, strength and intellect. Man becomes radiant, strong and intelligent by doing Sun Salutations while chanting the mantras such as ॐ सूर्याय नमः । ॐ भानवे नमः । ॐ खगाय नमः । ॐ रवये नमः । ॐ अर्काय नमः ।... i.e. “aum suryaya namah”, “aum bhanave namah”, “aum khagaya namah”, “aum ravaye namah”, “aum arkaya namah”, etc. It gives benefits of both physical exercise and Pranayama.
Worship of Sun-God, offering oblation to Him, sun-bath and meditation on His form etc. help in fulfillment of one’s wishes. Concentrate to the chakra located at the middle of eyebrows on the Sun to increase your intellect. Concentrate to the navel chakra on the Sun to cure indigestion and improve health.
Health booster Sunbath
Food products like Ghee, oil etc. when kept in the sun for 2 to 4 hours become easily digestible. One may occasionally take bath with the water exposed to the sun for a while. It prevents rickets and increases immunity.
The curative effect of sun-rays is highly sung in a few verses of the Atharva Veda, Kand 1, 22nd Sukta as well.
I myself take sunbath every day for 15 to 20 minutes. Taking sunbath in the supine position is all the more beneficial; but one must take the sunbath during the period of 1 to 1.5 hours from the sunrise, when the sunrays are mild. This livens up the muscles and eradicates nervous debility. I have personally experienced these benefits of sun-bath. I don’t have nervous debility. One suffering from nervous debility, physical weakness, lassitude or general debility should take sunbath every day.
Sunbath also cures skin diseases, and strengthens the bones. It increases the levels of calcium, phosphorus and iron in the blood; while regulating the endocrine glands. The sunrays improve and regulate peripheral blood circulation in the body. It increases red blood cells count in blood. It promotes blood formation (haemopoiesis). It also helps in cases of gout, paralysis and arthritis. It destroys pathogens, and alleviates neurological diseases, lethargy, listlessness, depression, jealousy-hatred, etc. The sunrays also play a vital role in steadiness of mind. Sunbath, when taken regularly, increases mind control, hormonal balance, besides enhancing the tone of skin and muscles, and tolerance. A regular course of sunbath can cure the tooth-diseases. Sunrays cure diseases caused by deficiency of vitamin D like rickets, and infectious diseases.
Therefore, you too should keep the food grains and the bath-water in the sun for some time, and take maximum benefits of sunbath.
The day to make firm resolutions for spiritual progress
Uttarayana is considered to be the Brahmamuhurta (The most pious 2.15 hours of the pre-dawn period.) of the gods, and it is highly favourable period for attaining success in worldly and spiritual pursuits. So, while going to bed, just do the Bhavana (mental attitude) – ‘Now I am dissolving my physical body into the great five elements; mind, intelligence and ego into their source primordial Nature (Prakriti). I now repose in Supreme Self. And now I shall turn away from the pleasures of lower chakras to the higher chakras through meditation and devotional practices to attain the sun of equanimity just like the Sun-God enters on His northern journey turning away from the south. Aum peace…Aum bliss…’
If you go to sleep while repeating the mantra – ‘ॐ सूर्याय नमः ।’ i.e. “aum suryaya namah”, the next day when you arise, it will be easier for you to meditate on Sun-God at the middle of your eyebrows. It will develop your intellect.
*Ref: December 2013