Rituals Questions

Namaste or Hand shake -a Microbial Dark Matter?

President Barack Obama appears to be a fan of the fist bump, which scientists in Wales are saying are more hygienic than handshakes.

Through one handshake almost 100 million bacteria are transferred from another individual reports the American Journal of Infection Control in their August 2014 journal (42 (2014) 916-7 A more hygienic alternative to the handshake

The researchers Dr. David Whitworth and Sara at Aberystwyth University, UK says that handshake has the potential to transmit infectious organisms directly between individuals.

They developed an experimental model to show that transfer of bacteria during greeting exchange dramatically reduced to 10 million in fist bump compared with a 10 fold high during handshake.

Is there a way to greet someone without any transfer of any infectious bacteria? Yes. Namaste.

When foreigners saw Indians greeting others without touching anyone by doing Namaste with folded hands, they misunderstood that Indians were practicing untouchability. In the name of education, the Indians were then confused to believe that Indian cultural tradition was merely a superstition without any scientific rationality.

Many modern Indians think they are cultured if they do the hand shake   and feel low in doing the highly scientific hygienic Namaste.

Namaste also conveys the Universal message to respect everyone as equal and love as oneself.

This is done both at the emotional and intellectual level of understanding by gesturing by both the left and right brain controlled hands put together as Namaste.

Stay tuned for the next you-tube part to understanding the scientific reason behind eating with our hands and not the western style of eating with spoons and forks.

Why eat with hands


Also Indians eating with hands vs spoons and fork is ridiculed as uncivilized gestures without understanding the scientific reasons behind it.

Medical research since 2000 throws light about One of the great recent discoveries in modern biology was that the human body contains 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells. But much of that bacteria is still a puzzle to scientists. (see reference for these exact same words)

It is estimated by scientists that roughly half of bacteria living in human bodies is difficult to replicate for scientific research -- which is why biologists call it "microbial dark matter."

One of the largest human- associated microbial habitats is the skin,  where bacterial density may be as high as 10 million cells per square centimeter of skin. The average phylotype richness observed on a single palm surface was also 3 times higher than the richness observed in a molecular survey of
forearm skin  and elbow skin.

A typical hand surface harbored >150 unique species-level bacterial phylotypes, and we identified a total of 4,742 unique phylotypes across all of the hands examined.

Although there was a core set of bacterial taxa commonly found on the palm surface, we observed pronounced intra- and interpersonal variation in bacterial community composition: hands from the same individual shared only 17% of their phylotypes, with different individuals sharing only 13%.
 Women had significantly higher diversity than men.

The most abundant genera (Proprionibacterium, 31.6% of all sequences; Streptococcus, 17.2%; Staphylococcus, 8.3%; Coryne-bacterium, 4.3%; and Lactobacillus, 3.1%) were found on nearly all palm surfaces sampled.

We observed a total of 4,742 distinct bacterial phylo-types across the 102 palm surfaces sampled, and only 5 phylotypes were shared across all of the hands sampled. On average, the communities found on any pair of palm surfaces shared only 13% of their phylotypes.

The influence of sex, handedness, and washing on the diversity of hand surface bacteria.

Why is water sprinkled as an act of purification?

 Water is actually the symbol of Mind because water has the property to flow and it does not have its own shape but occupies the shape of the container it is present in. Similarly the Mind which is the flow of thoughts doesn’t have its own access but it tries to behave the way of the container i.e. the body or the attitude of the person. The reason to sprinkle water before doing any ritual is to bring the mind to focus on the act. So, water is sprinkled on the all the objects involved, meaning we are focusing our mind on the ritual and on all objects we are using. That is called purification. Purity means only "One". Here it means only one "Awareness" or thought of only "Consciounsess".

 But generally people take the word purification literally. When we analyze the word purify, it means having only one object or one nature. For example when we say, pure Gold it means no adulteration of copper or iron or other metals in Gold. When we say pure Gold ring then it is 100% Gold ring without any percentage of adulteration. When we say pure coconut oil, it means it is only coconut oil i.e. only one nature and there is no other oil mixed with it. Similarly, pure mind means the mind which has only one thought that is called purity of mind. Then the mind has only one thought, the thought that it is only One Consciousness. That is the reality. That is the ultimate level of purity a mind can achieve and that is the only purity that we can even think of. So that pure purity is that aspect of bringing one mindedness or one nature is what is symbolically represented by sprinkling of water on all the objects.

 When a priest does any kind of ritual he sprinkles water on all the objects involved in the ritual. For example consider Mundan function, where the child’s hair is cut for the first time. The priest first sprinkles water on himself, then on the child, the scissor and then on all the other pooja items involved in the ritual. So the sprinkling of water is done to denote that in my thought in my mind I understand that there is only one thing Consciousness. All these are different manifestations from one Consciousness. The act of cutting, one who does the cutting, the object used for cutting, the object that is cut. Everything is only One Consciousness and that is why they chant the mantra


"Brahmaarpanam Brahma Havir Brahmaagnau Brahmana Hutam,

Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam Brahmakarmasamaadhina"


Meaning all the things involved in the above ritual, the one who does the cutting, the object used for cutting, the act of cutting, the object that is being cut everything is Consciousness. When this oneness thought arises then the Mind is being purified. This is what is called purity. That is why water is used to bring that thought of oneness in Mind like only Gold and that becomes purity. So, water is sprinkled before performing any Vedic rituals, whether in the temples or at home or in any social gatherings. We even notice especially in south Indian temples, that after performing the ritual inside the temple, the Consciousness, too the water is sprinkled on the devotees. The devotees feel it to be very holy and pure. Here again purity means that water symbolizes oneness with God or Consciousness. When we are sprinkled with that water we feel it to be divine. This has to be properly understood and this holy or sanctified water is used to drive evil spirits. Here, evil spirits means any thought that actually limits or separates us from consciousness. So sprinkling of water brings that emotional bondage of the one ness within us. That is why when the water is sprinkled we say that it removes the evil or it purifies.

Here we have to properly understand that the purification means bringing oneness. So physically we may feel that water is being sprinkled but emotionally we understand that there is only one, intellectually we have to understand that there is only one, at awareness level we have to understand that the One which is in us is also the same outside us. That Oneness, that self-awareness leads to Self-consciousness and we become one and the same. That is at conscious level. That is the importance of water and its use in rituals.

 We can also talk more about water because water has the ability to easily take physical form from our thoughts. That is why there has been the evidence of how water crystals are formed based on our thoughts. So the easiest way to manifest our thoughts in crystalline or solid form is actually water. It is from water that everything manifests. That is from thought emanates everything all forms. We ourselves are formed because of a thought, our parents had a thought to have a child and that is how we have been born. So every solid form has a thought behind it. A car, or an aero plane or any invention did not happen just spontaneously. It is a thought that brought the manifestation. So that is why Mind or water is considered as the primordial for the manifestation. So the Mind should be pure. A pure thought is considered to be Divine when it represents or symbolizes or manifests the consciousness. Any thought that is going to manifest the same pattern of the consciousness is considered divine. And with those thoughts whatever we do is also divine. So the divine word itself has the meaning, Div. means to divide. That which negates the division is Divine. When there is no division then that is divine and pure. Hence sprinkling of water is an act of Purification.



Incense Sticks       

These following questions are discussed here

1. Why do we use lamp (light), incense sticks chanting, rotate rosary beads in rituals?

2. Whys is bell rung in aarathi or Arti?

3. Why do we close eyes in prayer?

       As we discussed in the earlier sections that seclusion helps a child to focus in studying his school books by preventing distracting thoughts in the mind. A spiritual place of worship is also meant for the very same environment that would be less distracting for the mind, so that it will be available for transcending.

       The rituals or mode of worship should lead  the individual to the awareness state. The place or ritual should help in less distraction for the mind. By the way here we do not mean by physical silence. Contrary is true because sounds of bells , prayers, songs, chanting, instrumental music drum beatings etc lead the distracting mind to the state of awareness.

       There are five sense organs (Eyes, nose, skin (hands), mouth and ears ) and the mind wanders when these five organs give stimuli to the mind. A temple or a puja room give these five sense organs stimuli that would allow the wandering mind to stay in focus. The bright lamp offers stimuli to the eyes, the smell of fragrant incense sticks to the nose, while the hands rotate rosary beads and mouth keeps chanting the prayers. In spite of these actions the mind wanders , but when the mind hears the most subtlest sense of sound through ringing of the bells, the wandering mind comes back to the present. This is called Arti or aarathi.

        The mind will can stay focus  only if there is some logic and so these logical work given to the five senses will help them to grab on it and so the mind is free to focus or transcend to the state of awareness. This transcendence is prayer. Prayer is transcending to our own Self which religion calls as God. There is no external God which can exclude this internal Self. Hence while praying we close our eyes to with draw our mind internally. This very act of closing eyes in prayer is a symbolic representation of with drawing mind to the Self.


For more details

1. "Journey to the Source" by Pradheep Chhalliyil .