How have your practices with water been? We’ve been hearing great experiences a number of you have had around water since the last full moon. In India, the native place of this tradition, the blazing heat has finally transformed into sweet rain – the season of monsoon has begun.
Tonight’s New Moon marks the beginning of the month of Āṣāḍha. The skies are filled with deep purple and blue rain-clouds drenching the parched earth with warm, life-giving water. Peacocks come out to dance (check out this video!). They show off their feathers, reflecting the blue, purple, and dark green colors of the earth this month.
On this day, there are two traditional practices. The first is to perform dīpa-pūjā, which is to wash and honor all the flame lamps in the house. One of the great things about the tradition is that it’s very practical and inclusive – not only do we honor fire and light, but we remember to honor all the everyday instruments that allow us to experience divinity. So look through your house today and find all your lamps and candle-holders. Give them a deep clean, and offer your gratitude for them!
The second practice on this day is to honor the pañca-mahābhūta-s, the five great elements, from which everything is made. You will be studying these in nearly every Living Sanskrit course – whether it’s meditation or āyūrveda or sacred art. The five elements are:
Pṛthvī – Earth. This is the foundation and ground for all creation. This element is stable, strong, powerful, rigid. All solid matter is said to have the energy of earth.
Agni – Fire. This element is considered the purest of all the elements because no matter how you turn it, it always points upwards; no matter what you put into it, it reduces it to its purest essence.
Āpaḥ – Water. Also frequently called jala, this element is the nourisher of life. And like life, it has to keep moving to stay clean and healthy. This element is also associated with the mind – and, like the mind, once you’ve tossed junk into it, it is hard to clean.
Vāyu – Air. This element is strong and free. Without air, nothing can move or breathe – fire dies out; water becomes poison. All living things find their strength through air.
Ākāśa – Space/Sky. This is that which exists beyond what exists. It is the element of transcendence. Space holds all the other elements, permeates them, and exists beyond them.
Practice: Honor the Elements In the Body
Take a comfortable, upright, seated posture. Give yourself a few moments to breathe deeply, and arrive into the space.
Turn your attention inwards.
Become aware of your physical body. Feel the solid earth underneath you. Now expand your awareness to include both the earth and your body. Notice the stability and structure of the earth underneath you and the earth inside you – in your bones, your muscles, your organs, your tissues, even your skin. Offer your gratitude to the earth.
Now bring your awareness to the warmth and heat coursing through your body. Become aware of the fact that your body digests both food and air – a constant fire burning inside. Feel the warmth in your core, filling your body with vitality and beauty. Offer your gratitude to fire.
As you feel the fire inside, let your attention expand and turn towards water. The body is filled with hundreds and thousands of small rivers and lakes, each filled with fluid. This water circulates and moves through out the body, carrying nutrients and removing waste. Offer your gratitude to water.
Slowly turn your attention to your breath. Feel the air as it fills your body; feel the air as it leaves your body and merges with the air outside. See if you can notice that the air inside and the air outside is actually just one inseparable body of air. Offer your gratitude to air.
Finally, turn your attention to space. Can you perceive this imperceptible element? Inside and underneath all the movements of your body, become aware of space. You might recognize it as stillness or silence. Space is actually the largest element, with no beginning or end. Offer your gratitude to space.
Rest in the awareness that your human body and the body of the earth are one.
You are the child of the earth,
woven of the same sacred powers as the rest of creation.