Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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The Seven Baths

Hari OM
'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.

We now explore the Sri Adi Shankara text, "SadaachaaraH". To obtain your own copy, click here.

Dharma shaastra relates that there are seven forms of sauchanam.

MANTRAM; this is an act of purification by chanting. Most of our daily mantras are recited in the morning and can thus be considered as 'bathing in chant'. Traditionally there are prayers which pertain to different parts of the body and these are touched during the recitation. This is still practiced in many parts of India.

BHAUMAM (or 'paarthivam'); mud bath. The application of mud to the whole body, permitted to dry and then flake away. Interestingly, this is now used in beauty parlours and natural health clinics around the world at quite some cost!

AAGNEYAM; this is the application of ash from the homa - sacred fires. Thus, 'fire bath'. This whole-body smearing is still commonly practiced by many sadhus in India. For householders who are participating fully in regular life, though, the application of the ash is generally reserved to a line or lines upon the brow. Whilst this is an homage to aagneyam, it could not be considered as bathing as such.

VAYAVYAM; the cow is a sacred creature in the Hindu culture. Wherever it walks, touching the earth makes the dust it raises equally sacred. Using this dust as an 'air bath' is therefore considered auspicious and cleansing. 

DIVYAM; sunbathing! More specifically, 'divine bath'. Scientifically, we now know there are many benefits to imbibing a certain amount of sunlight. It triggers a process within us for the manufacture of Vit D. It's pressure upon the pineal gland boosts our mood. Just being in the fresh air is rejuvenating. In the same way that we must remember to protect ourselves from over-exposure, though, the ancient Indians also applied oils and ointments.

VARUNAM; 'water bath'. This is the one with which we are most familiar. In days gone by it was always a river, waterfall, lake or such. Now we have tubs and showers. It is said there are ten benefits; good looks, glow, strength, purity, long-life, health, non-covetousness, good sleep, fame and memory. Some of these may be a bit of a stretch, but it perhaps refers to the associated prayers and movements which are ascribed for our use. Samkalpa (intent) for purification; suukta-pathanam (Vedic hymns chanting); maarjanam (ensuring the water reaches all parts of the body, by sprinkling or emersion); aghamarshanam (specific prayers for removal of sin); and devataa tarpanam (offering the water to the deities). By incorporating these with our varunam, we could indeed receive all ten benefits.

MAANASAM; the 'mental bath', executed by meditation on The Self. This is the 'bathing like a fish' which is referred to in shloka seven. When we physically bathe, we are not still. We have to move the water around us so that it carries away the impurities upon our skin. Similarly, contemplation upon the Higher exercises the intellect as it works out its doubts and seeks better knowledge and then, on reaching the breakthrough point to the well of knowledge itself, we enter full meditation. The body may appear very still to any who pass by, but internally, the jiiva is sporting in the Bliss of Self.

1 comment:

  1. Sacred Cow ~ awesome post ~ namaste,

    Happy Times to you,
    C & Z


Hari OM
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