Today’s full moon comes to most of us during a time of bright light and blazing heat. The grass is dry; the soil is dry. Warm wind blows the dust around. At this time, what is the earth – and even the cells of your own body – longing for most?
The sacred practices for the whole month of Jyeṣṭha are built around water. And it’s particularly special to able to do water practices on the day of the full moon. This is because the moon is traditionally linked to the element of water, jala, as well as to the mind – beautiful, sparkling, pure, but fickle.
If you’ve spent time near a large body of water such as the ocean, you’ll definitely have noticed the moon making the tides dance. And it really impacts the energy of the mind! Maybe it’s because the human body is over 70% water?
Many indigenous cultures acknowledged the impact of the moon on the mind, even in ancient Europe. In fact, the English word lunatic comes from the Latin word luna – moon. In the Indic tradition, the moon’s energy is believed to have a cooling effect. (Perfect for hot summer nights!)
This fortnight’s practice is all about water. The traditional practice for this month is to bathe in sacred waters, allowing ourselves to be cleansed, rejuvenated, and blessed by the life-giving power of nature. All water is sacred, so what makes some water more auspicious than others?
Mighty rivers with very high and pure sources are considered particularly powerful. (The most sacred of all is Gaṅgā, which flows from the Himalayas, the highest mountains on earth). It is also important that the water be able to move freely, so rivers are preferable to lakes for this purpose. Any place where two bodies of water meet carries the energy of union, so that is also sacred. And most auspicious of all is where the river meets the ocean, symbolizing the merging of an individual stream with its eternal source (the goal of spiritual practice)!
Practice: The Gift of Water
Today, and for the remainder of this fortnight, you can practice by bathing in sacred waters. It is traditional to make offerings of fresh, brightly colored flowers to the water as an expression of gratitude and appreciation.
If you do not have access to a large body of water, simply praying and visualizing that you are bathing in holy water while sprinkling some on your head with your right hand is also acceptable. (The point is to have the inner experience). Let the dry and dusty places in your mind-body be cleansed and renewed as you do this.
Another very powerful practice for this time is jala-dāna, giving water as charity. There are millions of beings – human, animal, and plant – who do not have access to water in the summer months. If you have the good karma to live in a place with abundant water, you can contribute to a number of organizations around the world that help bring clean water to the poor and sick. You can also give water to local plants or animals, and of course, conserving water is also a way of helping share it.
For Extra Credit: This full moon also remembers Sāvitrī, the heroine who saved her beloved husband’s life through her deep devotion and strong will. A common practice is to fast or pray for the long and happy life of your spouse or beloved. Although this is most frequently done by women, both genders are able to participate.