Ganesh/Janus, and the Lost Hindu/Vedic Secrets of Christmas and New Year’s Eve (Part-I)

– Mr.Jeffrey Armstrong (Kavindra Rishi), Founder of VASA – Vedic Academy of Sciences & Arts, Canada, USA

jeggrey 1Mr. Jeffrey is a relationship expert, philosopher, practitioner and teacher of the Vedas for over 40 years. He is an International Speaker, Award-winning poet and best-selling author of numerous books. He is a sought after guest expert on TV and radio talk. For 15 years, he was a corporate executive in Silicon Valley. He is Media and Communications Director for both the Vedic Friends Association (VFA) and the Hindu Collective Initiative for North America (HCI-NA).

During the months of December and January, much of the world observes the transition from one year to another. It is no accident that Christmas and the New Year Holiday celebration takes place in the last days of December and on the first day of January. In our modern times, many of the original reasons for these seasonal observations have become lost or obscured by the historical changes in our world. This article aims to excavate some of the older and deeper meanings of Christmas and the January 1st celebration. Our digging into the history of these days will take us back to ancient Rome and finally back to even more ancient India.

Our story begins with the imagery we are most familiar with, a Winter Solstice on December 21st or 22nd followed by Christmas, a historically more recent celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th. It is now widely accepted by scholars of the Bible that Jesus was not born on December 25th and was probably born four or five years earlier than is currently observed and more likely in springtime rather than winter. But his birth was and is celebrated within a few days of the much older Winter Solstice celebration, the longest night of the year. Following that night, each day is a little longer until six months later we reach mid-summer night’s eve, the Summer Solstice and longest day of the year. Since the Winter Solstice is the return of the Sun, it appears that the birth of the “Son” was scheduled to coincide with the much more ancient celebration of that important solar day.

Returning to New Years Eve, the word January is derived from the Latin word Janus, who was known in Rome as the God of beginnings. Janus was also known as the God of gates and doors. He was also referred to as the God of change, transition and progress. He often represented the transition from rural to urban civilization. He was known to have introduced money, laws and agriculture. He was thought of as the guardian or custodian of the universe and specifically the protector of Rome. He was worshipped at the beginning of all things, planting time, harvest, marriages, births, the first hour of each day and the morning’s first prayer were dedicated to him. His name comes from the word “janua” meaning gate or portal.

The temple of Janus in Rome had two gates, one facing East and one facing West. Janus was depicted as having two heads, one looking toward the future and one toward the past. In the later Roman Empire, the face of Janus often appeared on coins depicted as a two-headed man facing in opposite directions. Because Janus was considered the protector of Rome, he was worshipped for success in war. It is said that when Rome was fighting a war the gates to the temple of Janus were left open and only during peace were they closed. The gates were said to be closed only once in the history of Rome.

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But the two heads of Janus were not originally those of a man. His previous form consisted of a man and a woman facing in opposite directions. They were known as Janus Geminus (twin Janus) or Janus Bifrons. Prior to that he was depicted with four heads and was called Janus Quadrifons or the four-faced form of Janus. The two-faced Janus depicted a male and female head, who shared a single crown. The man held a scepter in his hand, the woman a key. There is also a legend regarding Janus, that he once gave shelter to Saturn who was being pursued by Jupiter.

Janus is also supposedly related to the earlier Etruscan deity named Ani, from which our English word annual is derived, as well as the word anus. Like our own body, the year has a beginning and an end, the mouth and the anus are the two gates pointing in different directions, just as January and December are the beginning and end of a year cycle which itself is a kind of circle or gate in time through which we are passing. Obviously Janus has a relation to Ani and annual.

The next step in understanding Janus requires a little linguistic understanding. It is a well-known historical fact that much of the wealth of the Roman Empire was spent in buying luxurious items from India, which at that time was the wealthiest culture in the world. What many modern people don’t know is that both Latin and Greek as well of course as most European languages including English, are based upon the most ancient classical language of India known as Sanskrit. The final form of the Sanskrit grammar was published in India during the year 800 BCE. Many of the key root words in the European languages, Latin and Greek can be traced back to their roots in Sanskrit. Modern scholars have obscured this fact by referring to a nonexistent and theoretical language they refer to as Indo-Aryan. This only distracts us from understanding how much was borrowed from India and Sanskrit in the forming of Greek and Roman culture.

By this point in the article, anyone with knowledge of Indian culture has probably guessed the obvious connection between Janus and Ganesha, the elephant headed deity who is known as the “isha” or lord of “ganas” or guardians. Ganesh is the historical source of Janus, which the Romans learned of in their many visits to India. This also is why there is no mention of Janus in the Greek culture, which preceded and was the source of much of Roman culture and religion.

The many similarities between Janus and Ganesh are worth mentioning. First, Ganesh was created by his mother Parvati or Mother Nature from Her own body, in order to guard the gate or door to her bath house. One of the benedictions that was eventually given to Ganesh was that he would always be worshipped first before any of the other gods. As the Lord of the Guardians, he is considered the head of all the protectors or guardian angels. Many Asian cultures believe that every house has a Gana or guardian spirit which is often depicted as a face on the front door. Ganesha is viewed as the master of all those guardian angels.

As for the notion of change, transition and progress, this usually proceeds through the removal of some impediment or obstruction, or through solving of some problem. Ganesh is, of course, also known as the remover of obstacles. In this way he is popular with everyone, for who does not wish for their obstacles to be removed. He also leads us from unsophisticated thinking to subtler thoughts by challenging our imagination. He also represents the present as compared to the past or future. Just as Janus was said to have invented money, the word “gan” is the root of “ganita”, the Sanskrit for mathematics or the art of counting. For this, Ganesh is known as the Lord of “hosts” or the mass of people and the Lord of success, related to counting and money.

By trying to understand his having the body of a human and the head of an elephant, our imagination is challenged to develop from gross to subtle, from the known to the unknown. In the words of the scientist Albert Einstein, “Imagination is better than knowledge.” And so as we make the transition from rural and rough to urban and civilized, we progress in our sophistication. As for Ganesh (Janus) introducing money, he is also worshipped in India as the God of mercantile success or financial betterment and is often depicted in the company of Lady Luck or Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and wife of the maintainer Lord Vishnu.

to be continued…..

Environmental Sustainability & Cow-Protection in Vedas

-Mr. Subodh Kumar, Director, Maharshi Dayanand Gosamwardhan Kendra, Delhi.

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Mr. Subodh Kumar started his career with Engineering, worked with industries for over 45 years. For the last more than 15 years he is devoting full time to issues relating to Indian Cows-Nutrition-Organic-Agriculture and study of Vedas. Maharshi Dayanand Gosamwardhan Kendra, Delhi is non-profit organization where Mr. Kumar giving voluntary free service & dedicating in developing and maintaining Indian breeds of cows.

Cow has been held in great esteem as sacred not be killed by Hindus following Vedic tradition. The belief that cow is a sacred animal is not a mere religious belief but it is supported by modern science on environmental sustainability and food security for survival of humans on this Earth. It is very significant to know that cow-protection is important for scientific sustainable environment considerations, prevention of global warming and climate change, and also for food security of human life on this planet. To portray cow protection with religion is a totally misplaced view in modern world. 

There is a misconception among the western educated dairy scholars in India that cows are important for the milk they produce. Far from it, according to Rigveda (6.48.13) cows enable entire agriculture to feed the world while milk happens to be of minor significance. In USA according to researches of Prof. William Albrecht of Missouri University, in 1920s, ‘Only healthy soil produces healthy food that is good for health’. According to Prof. Albrecht for soil remediation through restoring its micro-components, all cattle and human waste have to be recycled. One could readily consult the book entitled Soil Fertility and Animal Health by William A. Albrecht for further verification.

Dr. Albert Howard, a British scientist, was posted to India in 1905 to ‘teach’ Indians the ‘Modern Agriculture’. After spending more than 30 years in India, he came to the conclusion that cow based agriculture being practiced in India is the healthiest form of Agriculture. He called it ‘Organic Agriculture’. On return to UK he started ‘Soil Association’ in UK, the first Organic certification agency in the world, and was subsequently joined by Rodale to promote it in the USA {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regenerative_agriculture}. To this important agriculture information, the latest researches of Allan Savory in last 50 years have added a new dimension. According to Allan Savory intensive cow grazing mimics the ancient climate sustainability to sequester carbon dioxide in the soil to reduce green house gases and prevent climate change and global warming {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Savory}. As a matter of interest Rigveda (6.47.20) specifically mentions importance of cows for reclaiming wastelands and maintaining green cover. It also confirms that cows should have free access to forests for grazing and maintaining soil fertility.images

Indian climate is unique in the world because it enables agriculture throughout the year.  Agriculture soil in India thus needs a constant supply of cowdung to keep it fertile and healthy. That made cow sacred for Indians in the first place. From prehistoric times nobody in India could even dream of cow slaughter.

Sanskrit : A Language Sculpted to Perfection

– Dr. Sampadananda Mishra, Director, Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture, Pondicherry, India

 Sampadananda Mishra

Dr. Sampadananda Mishra is passionate about Sanskrit. He has spoken at various conferences both nationally and internationally, conducts workshops, teacher training programmes and authored many books. Dr. Mishra has launched the first ever 24 hours Sanskrit Radio called Divyavani. The Govt. of India has conferred the President’s award (Maharshi Badarayna Vyasa Samman 2011) on Dr. Mishra for his outstanding contribution to Sanskrit.

Sanskrit, as many conscious learners have experienced, generates joy, clarity, purity and peace. It is indeed a perfect harmonizer (saamarasyaparaayanaa) that balances the body, mind and soul. It leads to true happiness and fills the heart and mind with a perfect sense of immortality. Its purity draws us, inspires us, constantly reminds us of the true aim of our life, and makes us conscious of the Truth that exists within us. The rhythmic beauty and melody of this language, vibrational purity of its sounds, richness of its phonetic quality, transparency of its root sounds and their senses, richness of its vocabulary and thought content, all these have made Sanskrit truly great.

Sanskrit always starts from a deeper base. It believes that the Sound and the Word are at the origin of creation. It believes that they have light, consciousness and power – the sound has potency. Therefore the meaning of the fundamental Sanskrit roots is not arbitrary but based on a deeper truth. Through a process of deep contemplation and intuition, it is possible for one to enter into the heart of a sound vibration and discover its meaning. This was the way of the Rishis when they gave meaning to the roots. Thus each seed-sound and each root-sound in Sanskrit has a fundamental meaning associated with this. Further the fundamental meaning can give rise to many other meanings related to the root-experience. By a deeper analysis of the Sanskrit sounds and words derived from root-sounds one can arrive at the fundamental experiences associated with those sounds and words. In this manner each word in Sanskrit has its own connotation, its definite shade of meaning, its special nuance.

Let us look at a few examples.

A letter in Sanskrit is called akshara (a + kshara) which literally means imperishable. This is not merely attributive. The term akshara reveals the whole secret of the speech process or the sound system. It says that the sound is eternal. It does not perish. Shabdonityah. Nityaavaivaak. Na vaakkshiiyate. It shows that the moment one makes a sound, it remains forever and can be retrieved by special yogic power. This is how the Veda Mantras are revealed to the Rishis in their meditation. The word vyakarana (vi + aa + kri + ana) is not limited simply to grammar. It shows the development and growth of speech from its undistinguished stage to the distinguished stage, and while doing so it leads to the Sound-force, the eternal shabdabrahman. The word darshana (from root drish to see) is not philosophy, but a seeing revelation; svaadhyaaya is not mere reading but the process of going deep into self contemplation. The word chatra is not an umbrella but anything that covers. The Sanskrit word for beauty is sushama. In its true sense it means superbly (su) equal (sama). This shows that true beauty is full of harmony. To remain svastha is not just to be healthy but to remain stable in one’s own state of being. When someone falls sick he becomes asvastha which means he has fallen from his own state of being. These are few examples showing not only the high connotative power of the Sanskrit words but also how Sanskrit has derived meanings of its words from their very depth. It shows that the meaning of the word is inherent within the word itself. And it is always discoverable by going back to the root of the word. And further the word and the meaning are inseparable. They fuse into one another and give life to one another. An in-depth study of many Sanskrit words shows that in this language a word is not just a conventional expression for an idea, but itself the parent and the creator of ideas. This transparent system of formation of words from the root sounds follows a natural process and is one of the important factors that makes Sanskrit an ever-creative language.

The resonating power and vibrational purity of Sanskrit make it a perfect instrument for an integral spiritual growth. Its very name Samskritam means ‘polished’, ‘refined’, ‘sculpted to perfection’. The physical structure of the language is flawless. Its construction follows an organic and logical development. In Sanskrit, all the sounds are articulated through five distinct places of articulation located in the mouth: throat, palate, cerebrum, root of the upper teeth and lips. Therefore, the sounds are guttural, palatal, cerebral, dental or labial. Though the letters of one group are pronounced from one location, yet each sound of that group differs from the other because of its internal efforts. For example: ka, kha, ga, gha and nga belong to the guttural group. Here ka is a hard unvoiced consonant with minimum breath; kha is also hard and unvoiced but it is pronounced with maximum breath; ga is soft and voiced with minimum breath while gha is soft and voiced with maximum breath; nga is the last sound in the group which is soft and voiced but nasal. For this sound, the breath gets released through nostrils and the mouth. The arrangement of the rest of the consonants in the Sanskrit alphabet follows the same order. The importance of this scientific organization lies in the degree of resonance created by each sound. Thus, the sounds of Sanskrit are amazingly capable of bringing clarity of articulation. And because of this refinement, perfection and structure, Sanskrit is capable of infusing into its conscious users a sense of completeness, scientific spirit and, at the same time, a sense of beauty and harmony.

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The mere speaking of or listening to the sounds of Sanskrit generates joy, clarity and inspiration. It has a refining influence on one’s consciousness. By a conscious use of this language one gets the result of doing Pranayama. Thus, Sanskrit, with its power of great resonance is highly powerful and potent for creating a happy and peaceful atmosphere in and around the one who uses it consciously. Furthermore, each language has its own dharma, its uniqueness, and when its growth and development are in harmony with that, then the language becomes capable not only of sustaining itself but also of enriching its users in many ways. An intimacy with Sanskrit also reveals that in its journey it has always been in harmony with its svabhava and svadharma.

The seers and sages (rishis) of ancient time were minutely discerning in their observations, and were highly conscious in the matter of using the language. They did not use the language just for the purpose of communication, they used it as a tool for discovering the true nature of their selves and all that they saw in and around themselves. Herein lies the sacredness of Sanskrit—it helps to discover the nature of everything; it helps to discover the sacredness of life. It is a force that functions at many levels of consciousness, ever purifying, ever formative and creative. It has tremendous potentiality to make the Divine Life possible on the earth.

However, the most practical value of learning Sanskrit lies in the fact that it trains the mind to think logically, brings clarity of expression, develops intellectual strength, and provides keen insight into the meanings of the words. The vibrational quality of Sanskrit has a direct impact on the functioning of the brain, and can help in enhancing memory and the ability to concentrate. Moreover, it helps in the growth of consciousness, has immense power in bringing a greater transformation.