Friday, April 27, 2012

Three Types of Purity to Observe While Preparing Food

If you read in detail about the life of great spiritual masters, you will notice that they are very particular about the type of food they eat and the source of food. While reading the book 'Mejda' about Sri Paramahansa Yogananda, his older brother talks about how their father would not allow them to eat from any unknown household or outside eating place as it was considered 'impure' and he used to say that if we want to stay healthy, we must eat from our own homes where the food we eat is prepared with the love of the mother.

There are similar stories about the Buddha too in this regard because He was very careful about the food He accepted from the followers.

Three types of Purity while Preparing Food 
According to the Vedic Hindu tradition, Bhagawan Baba told His earliest devotees that three types of purity or 'shuddhi' should be observed while preparing food.

  • Paathrashuddhi: The vessels in which the food is prepared and served should be clean.
  • Paakashuddhi: The mind and body of the person preparing the food should be clean.
  • Padaarthashuddhi: All the ingredients used for making the food should have been bought with money that has been earned honestly.
Also, Bhagawan Baba taught all devotees to chant 'Bramharpanam' and 'Aham vaishnavaro' mantra to sanctify food before eating it. Most of His devotees and students chant this mantra before eating any type of food.

How to Sanctify Your Food by Chanting Mantra
As we all know now, mantras have the energizing power to protect and the food that we eat is meant to also protect our gross bodies. Blessing our food with a thanksgiving prayer is a great way to sanctify the food that we eat. Blessing our food with mantra is a powerful way to keep the body from absorbing any negative energy or even negative karma that is associated with the preparation of food.

Since many of you may be cynical about what I have stated here, you can check into your religion's spiritual practices regarding preparation and serving of food. The spiritual nuances involved in the preparation of food are clear as daylight for most religions. 

CAN PRAYERS AND MANTRAS MAKE A DIFFERENCE? 
For those who scoff at religion, spiritual masters and so on, pick up the famous Rujuta Diwekar's book on the Weight Loss Tamasha and you will find that she says that chanting a mantra or saying a prayer before eating food has a very positive impact on the quality and speed of digestion of food in the human body. She says that it also energizes the mind in a positive way and is a stress buster. In fact, she advises her clients to do this. 

Therefore, when offering 'prasad' to God, it would be ideal to make it oneself rather than buy from the bakery or any outside source for the simple reason that when you prepare it yourself, you put all your love and energy into it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Preparation of Food: Beliefs and Traditions of Indian Women

Indians grow up hearing, "Don't waste food, food is God." In the same vein, for most Indian women, stepping into the kitchen without first having a bath is unthinkable. The preparation of food is viewed as much as a spiritual process as it is a material, sensory experience. 

The fusion of two realms - one that is of subtle spiritual energy and that of blending in ingredients that bring about a delightful experience to the five senses - this constitutes a perfectly wholesome experience in the process of preparing food for the family and the loved ones.

Different families have different beliefs about this. In a South Indian Brahmin family that I personally know of, no one uses shoes inside the kitchen because it is considered as dirty and full of germs. So, it is not used where food is prepared for the family. 

Beliefs are not just spiritual but they are also logical in view of the family's own dietary preferences and traditions.

In my parents' home, non-vegetarian food is a strict no-no especially in the kitchen because of the puja that my parents regularly conduct at home. I am the only non vegetarian in my family, all the others are strict vegetarians by choice.

My mother would always have her morning bath, followed by the first offering of breakfast (whatever we eat in the morning) to our deity and only then, my mother would sit down and have her first cup of tea with a smile. She would never enter the kitchen without first having a bath. This has been a disciplined, consistent practice for at least three decades of her life and she continues it, with the grace of God. 

The same applies to lunch as well. Lunch is first offered to God and only then the family sits down to eat lunch. When we have guests staying at home, the food is first kept in the puja room and then we serve the guests. Any fruit or food that is prepared and given to us by others is first kept for blessing in the puja room and then we have it as 'prasad.' 

On special occasions, the traditional brass lamps are lit, floral decorations are added to the festive occasion and different types of prasad are first offered on a clean, plantain leaf with a cup of Kerala's traditional milk dessert called as 'paal paayasam.'

What are the interesting beliefs, traditions or customs that your family follows? Or maybe you know of families where interesting customs or traditions are followed while preparing food? Do share it here on this blog post itself. I'd love to know.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

When Mothers become Tigresses


"A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. " - Agatha Christie
It's not funny how aggressive a mother can be when she feels that her child is threatened in the remotest way. What do you think? I'd love to know your thoughts, observations and interesting experiences on this.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Book Review: Someone Else's Son by Sam Hayes



For every parent out there who is juggling busy schedules with family life, especially managing kids who are going to college, this book opens up their inner worries with deep insights. As parents, we justify our busy schedules to ourselves in various names like 'deadlines' or 'appraisal time' etc. But ultimately, the choices that we as parents make go a long way in the growth and happiness of our kids. There is no point of hiding behind excuses. Parents have to own up and take responsibility for the choices they made for their kids and how that has impacted the kids.


To come to the book, Sam Hayes 'Someone Else's Son' is a gripping thriller which asks every parent one simple, life-changing question: Do we really know our children? We think we do but we really don't. 


The opening chapter itself is gripping. It reads like this:


"Before she knew what was happening, the knife was in and out of his body...It cut through the air, mesmerising them, slowing their lives, condensing everything to the beautiful moments before it started..."


"The vinegar from the chips till stung her lips."

In this gripping story, Carrie Kent is a household name whose daily morning TV show is about people whose real lives have faced some type of serious tragedy and she rocks the boat further by questioning their choices, values and everything else, putting the victims into a real dilemma. She does this with the confidence that most of us have that 'this tragedy will happen to someone else, not me." But tragedy strikes when her own teenage son Max is stabbed in college by a gang of boys and he dies. Carrie Kent falls apart, wondering what she had done wrong, what her son had done wrong to deserve such a cruel end to his young life and it throws up the dynamics of their turbulent relationship as parent and child. 


Topping it all is the fact that Carrie and Brody, her husband, a famous mathematician, are separated and living extremely opposite lives, in which Max remains at the corner of the edges, wondering desperately why his life was so messed up and empty. 


Carrie goes in search of the only eyewitness to her son's death - Dayna, a girl who was as much a social outcast in college as her son was. It is then Carrie gets to know that Dayna was also her son's girlfriend. It strikes her that her son had kept it as a secret from her. It hurts her that while she was prying into other people's lives on reality show, her own son's life had been a mystery to her.


But Dayna is in a state of shock and Carrie wants to get her to talk. It isn't easy for Carrie, knowing that Dayna knows more about her son than she herself did. The two women realize that each knows Max differently and now wants to know Max through the other's eyes. As Carrie digs out the past, she understands one thing: her son had been unhappy and his parents who could have made a difference hadn't understood it at all. Their failure had ultimately led him to his fall.


In a touching conversation, Brody asks his wife, "Have you ever once in your self-absorbed, precious life that consists only of Carrie Kent and more Carrie Kent, have you ever really considered how universally shattered and distant the three of us actually are....were..." 


For every parent out there, this book offers pain, heartache and tension but it also tells you subtly that there is no magic wand that parents can use to help kids. There is, however, an effective tool called 'listening' because when you listen to your kids deeply, it makes them feel more valued and loved.


It's definitely a very emotionally moving book. Do read it. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pregnancy related backache

Wondering what is pregnancy related back ache all about? Simply put, when expecting a baby, about 80% of women suffer from a back ache that seems to get worse as the pregnancy progresses. This happens because the ligaments, muscles and joints tend to become strained. Sometimes you may have suffered from backache even before pregnancy and the condition is worsened during the period of pregnancy. It also depends a lot on your posture, whether you have had any injuries and so on. 


One of the first things that my doctor told me in the first trimester is, "Stop wearing high heeled footwear. It can damage your posture and the body's balance. Excess weight gets pushed on towards the spinal cord. This also has bearing on the baby's weight." 


Now, I am one of those girls who always wore high heeled shoes & sandals because I always wanted to be tall and to some extent, high heels gives you the notion of being 'tall'. Even if there was a lot of discomfort and killing pain, I always wore high heels. I remember one of my law college friends smirking saying, "Are you in college or in circus? Such high heels are meant for circus." She saw my high heels and said this. I was irritated with her back then but now I realize what she meant. She is right. High heels are bad for health, posture and for the back itself.


So once the doctor told me to stay off, I completely gave up wearing high heeled shoes. I think that has helped because I haven't suffered back ache during my pregnancy. Touchwood.


Here are two easy tips recommended by doctors and nurses. 


1. While expecting, if you are suffering from pregnancy related back ache, use an ice pack from the freezer, hold it on your lower back for 10 mins and this will also relieve you from inflammation and aches.


2. Give yourself support while lying on the bed to your left side. Fold a pillow and place one beneath the tummy's bumpy area. This really helps to take the pressure off.


Hope these tips help. If you have some to share on how you are battling your pregnancy related backache, do share them here. 

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