Thursday, September 9, 2010

Svaha! La Shana Tovah!

Last night we celebrated the auspicious Day of Shakti with a special yajna fire ceremony. The yajna is a very ancient Vedic ritual, traditionally performed by brahmin priests to maintain balance and harmony between humanity and the cosmos. The word yajna literally means 'churning,' and it is through this churning of the fire that we can burn our impurities away.

The fire is the center piece of Vedic life and religion. On a symbolic level it represents the fires of transformation within each of our bodies on the microcosmic scale. In yoga the internal fire is located in the Manipura chakra at our naval center. At the macrocosmic level the fire is the burning sun, the source of energy for all life. Just as we want to feed and nourish our physical bodies, to churn the digestive fires, similarly, we offer nice smelling herbs and grains to the yajna fire. It is an opportunity to make amends, ask forgiveness, and to let go of something that is preventing you from realizing your full potential.

During the ceremony, we chanted the Gyatri Mantra 108 times around the mala. At the end of each mantra, we'd let out a svaha! with an offering to the offering. Svaha is one of my favorite Sanskrit words, it means something like the Beatles' song 'Let it Be.'

It just so happened that this new moon was also the night of Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year! Our beloved Israeli friends Miri and Nimrod were there to help bring these two ancient traditions together. Similarly in the Jewish tradition, this evening begins a 10-day period of reflection, forgiveness, offering of your sins, to 'purify your karma.' On the evening of the tenth day, the Gates of Heaven (also the translation of Haridwar!) are said to be open, and it is known as Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement - where we can offer acceptance and repentance, clearing impurities and making space for a sweet new year! We celebrated as tradition with apples dipped in honey for a sweet nectary prasad.

Svaha! La Shana Tovah!

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