As the rays of this full moon known as śarad pūrṇimā come streaming over the horizon, they bring us not only a night of enchanting beauty, but also healing. This moonlight is actual medicine for our spirits, minds and bodies.
This is a night to do more than glance at the full moon, say “Wow!” and go back to whatever we were doing. The wisdom of Ayurveda beckons us to linger in this moonlight, to drink it in both literally and subtly, and even sleep in it.
How does moonlight find itself featured on a list of medicinal remedies for this season? It’s all about calming and releasing the lingering, accumulated heat of summer, along with other pockets of inflammation tucked away in our bodies and minds.
Ayurveda highlights this as a really important seasonal aspect of keeping पित्त देाष (pitta doṣa) functioning harmoniously within us. Pitta doṣa is about heat and conversion, “cooking” and transforming the food we eat and the experiences we take in through our senses. When it’s in balance, it does these things brilliantly. But in excess, things start burning, and a whole range of symptoms from heartburn to red eyes, red rashes to short tempers can flare up. (For more details, see the earlier lesson on śarad-ṛtu.)
So how is moonlight medicine in this season? Along with eating specific foods that help balance this heat, exposing ourselves to the moonrays in this season, and particularly on the night of Sharad Purnima is immensely soothing and calming. It cools and refreshes our mind and spirit.
There’s a science to this. Pitta doṣa has five major aspects and places from where it functions. One of these aspects is called sādhaka pitta, which is located in the hṛdaya, which includes both what we would call the heart and the mind. Sādhaka pitta is responsible for intelligence, memory, self-esteem, and enthusiasm. It processes and analyzes input from the senses, and alerts us to things associated with pleasure and pain. It is also deeply connected with our emotions.
But out of balance, it can turn harshly judgemental, arrogant, driven and impatient, and a seat of hot emotions. Or it can leave us feeling judged, deflated, uninspired and confused, and at an emotional low: burnt out.
The rays of the full moon are remarkable medicine in all these scenarios, due to the effect of their cooling, nourishing qualities. If you close your eyes and picture the full moon, this all makes sense. All the more so when you actually spend time in the light of this full moon.
The healing power of moonlight isn’t confined to the mind and emotions. It’s a subtle but potent remedy for other aspects of pitta within the body as well: in the eyes, the skin, the liver and blood, and, of course, in the central digestive areas of the stomach and small intestine. The power of this moonlight reaches these areas not only through our eyes and skin, but by literally drinking moonlight infused in milk. This is one of the unique practices for this stunningly beautiful night.
So make a point of lingering in the moonlight on śarad pūrṇimā as much as you possibly can. Let its sweet light soothe, nourish and restore your being.
The traditional practice for śarad pūrṇimā is to spend as much time as possible under the moonlight. You can go for a stroll in the moonlight, or sit on a balcony watching the moon and the magical way it lights up the landscape. The moonlight seems to invite us to relish silence, to connect with the beauty and tranquility around us and within us.
Where the climate permits, it’s common for people to sleep outdoors on this full moon night, so they can spend the entire night bathing in the moon’s light. In other places, people sleep indoors with the curtains open to let the healing moonrays illumine the place where they sleep.
Another unique practice on śarad pūrṇimā is physically drinking the moon’s rays by making a special healing mixture known as dūdh-pohā in Hindi. The base of this drink simply consists of rice flakes soaked in milk, with some raw sugar and fresh cardamom. As we saw in the description of prasāda for Navarātri, these ingredients are all cooling and calming for pitta.
The special ingredient is added by keeping the entire bowl outside under the moonlight, to literally soak up the moon rays. After midnight, or the next morning before sunrise, the entire family shares this healing medicine.
For 1-2 servings: