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Introduction to Hinduism

Hinduism is the religion of the majority of people in India and Nepal. It also exists among significant populations outside of the sub continent and has over 900 million adherents worldwide.

In some ways Hinduism is the oldest living religion in the world, or at least elements within it stretch back many thousands of years. Yet Hinduism resists easy definition partly because of the vast array of practices and beliefs found within it. It is also closely associated conceptually and historically with the other Indian religions Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

Unlike most other religions, Hinduism has no single founder, no single scripture, and no commonly agreed set of teachings. Throughout its extensive history, there have been many key figures teaching different philosophies and writing numerous holy books. For these reasons, writers often refer to Hinduism as ‘a way of life’ or ‘a family of religions’ rather than a single religion.

Defining Hinduism

The term ‘Hindu’ was derived from the river or river complex of the northwest, the Sindhu. Sindhu is a Sanskrit word used by the inhabitants of the region, the Aryans in the second millennium BCE. Later migrants and invaders, the Persians in the sixth century BCE, the Greeks from the 4th century BCE, and the Muslims from the 8th century CE, used the name of this river in their own languages for the land and its people.

The term ‘Hindu’ itself probably does not go back before the 15th and 16th centuries when it was used by people to differentiate themselves from followers of other traditions, especially the Muslims (Yavannas), in Kashmir and Bengal. At that time the term may have simply indicated groups united by certain cultural practices such as cremation of the dead and styles of cuisine. The ‘ism’ was added to ‘Hindu’ only in the 19th century in the context of British colonialism and missionary activity.

The origins of the term ‘hindu’ are thus cultural, political and geographical. Now the term is widely accepted although any definition is subject to much debate. In some ways it is true to say that Hinduism is a religion of recent origin yet its roots and formation go back thousands of years.

Some claim that one is ‘born a Hindu’, but there are now many Hindus of non-Indian descent. Others claim that its core feature is belief in an impersonal Supreme, but important strands have long described and worshipped a personal God. Outsiders often criticise Hindus as being polytheistic, but many adherents claim to be monotheists.

Some Hindus define orthodoxy as compliance with the teachings of the Vedic texts (the four Vedas and their supplements). However, still others identify their tradition with ‘Sanatana Dharma’, the eternal order of conduct that transcends any specific body of sacred literature. Scholars sometimes draw attention to the caste system as a defining feature, but many Hindus view such practices as merely a social phenomenon or an aberration of their original teachings. Nor can we define Hinduism according to belief in concepts such as karma and samsara (reincarnation) because Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists (in a qualified form) accept this teaching too.

Although it is not easy to define Hinduism, we can say that it is rooted in India, most Hindus revere a body of texts as sacred scripture known as the Veda, and most Hindus draw on a common system of values known as dharma.
•Hinduism originated around the Indus Valley near the River Indus in modern day Pakistan.
•About 80% of the Indian population regard themselves as Hindu.
•Most Hindus believe in a Supreme God, whose qualities and forms are represented by the multitude of deities which emanate from him.
•Hindus believe that existence is a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, governed by Karma.
•Hindus believe that the soul passes through a cycle of successive lives and its next incarnation is always dependent on how the previous life was lived.
•The main Hindu texts are the Vedas and their supplements (books based on the Vedas). Veda is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘knowledge’. These scriptures do not mention the word ‘Hindu’ but many scriptures discuss dharma, which can be rendered as ‘code of conduct’, ‘law’, or ‘duty’
•Hindus celebrate many holy days, but the Festival of Lights, Diwali is the best known.
•The 2001 census recorded 559,000 Hindus in Britain, around 1% of the population.

Temple Worship Procedures
  Temples are the connecting points of high importance in our religion and culture. The absolute necessity of the temple worship is stressed throughout by the great saints of the religion. It is not very difficult to realize the important role they play in cultivating the spiritualism in people. It is the place for collective worship. Given these significant roles of the temples it is required to have some discipline to be followed in the temples for having the real expected out of the worship. Here are a few one can follow to set that harmony. Most of these are in general applicable to all Hindu temples though a few are specific to shaivite temples.

1. Going to the temple with a clean body. Legs and hands shall be cleaned at entering the temple.

2. Going to the temple adorned with holy symbols like the Holy Ash, rudrAxam.

3. Taking something to offer to the Lord. It is an offering out of devotion. It would be nice if the offering is the one required in the worship.

4. Not to enter the temple with foot wear.

5. Prostrating in front of the flag column (dwajastaMbham) (towards the North) on entering the temple.

6. Not to prostrate anywhere else in the temple.

7. Not to prostrate to anybody else in the temple premises.

8. Taking the permission of nandi dEvar mentally before entering His abode.

9. Saluting the elephant headed Lord enter the Lord’s abode.

10. In Lord shiva’s abode, engage the mind in the thinking of the God. Avoid any gossip. Temple is not the place for gossiping. Can sing or chant His names loudly and sweetly if it would not disturb others. Otherwise it could be done internally without making noise.

11. The Holy ash given as the blessings should be worn saying “shivAya namaH”. It should not be spilled on the ground or wasted.

12. It is normally a procedure to offer something to the priest whose whole life should be in the service of the Lord.

Circumambulating the Lord saluting the Goddess and the deities in the temple. The circumambulation would be done at least for three times. On special occasions like pradoshham the are special circumambulation methods like soma sUkta pradhaxiNam are followed.

13. While in the temple either the Holy five letters or any praise could be chanted.

14. Before coming out of the temple go to the place of chaNdEshwarar and take permission for the materials which after worship are taken out of the temple as blessings. One must not take anything out in excess and things taken from the temple should be only as the mark of blessings. If nothing is taken it is the normal practice to wipe (rub) the hands together in his place.

15. Should do something in the promotion of the temple physically or materially or whichever is convenient and required.

16. On coming out of the temple, again prostrate in front of the flag column towards the north. Sit facing the north and meditate on the God chanting the Holy five letters.

17. While inside the temple should not make the place dirty in any way or make any noise.

18. Going to the temple at least once in a week with the family.

The mind should be focussed on the Lord like the dust of iron that stick to the magnet. A worship with such an orientation would have very good effect in us by the grace of the Almighty.

How to arrange the components of the ritualistic platter?

Before actually commencing the ritualistic worship it is important to arrange the tools and other components of the ritualistic worship. From the viewpoint of the Science of Spirituality it is appropriate to arrange them based on the level of the five cosmic elements. This is because such arrangement balances and coordinates the five cosmic elements that are active in the universe. This helps the embodied soul (worshipper) to derive maximum benefit of the ‘with attributes’(sagun) and attributeless (nirgun) frequencies emitted by the deity. Such arrangement indicates the sojourn of the embodied soul from the Great Illusion (Maya) to Brahma associated with the absolute earth to the absolute ether elements. The components included at every level and their arrangement is explained in detail in ‘Part 3 – Vol. 29 : Path of Devotion’ – ‘The Science behind the temple at home and the tools used in ritualistic worship’. An important component at the first level is the ritualistic platter. The arrangement of the components of the ritualistic platter is explained further.

  1. ‘In the ritualistic platter turmeric and vermilion is to be placed to the right of the embodied soul and bukka, gulal and shendur to the left.
  2. The perfume bottle, fragrant paste (usually sandalwood paste), flowers, durva and leaves (patri) are to be placed at the forefront in the platter. The subtle frequencies of the deities are activated by the fragrance particles in the perfume, sandalwood paste, flowers and also by the colour particles in the durva and leaves.
  3. The betel leaves, betel nut and the money to be offered in the ritual of offering money (dakshina) are to be placed at the lower end of the platter because they are an effective medium of transmission of frequencies of the deities.
  4. In the center, the all encompassing unbroken rice grains are to be placed. As the unbroken rice grains become the central portion of the platter, the frequencies of the five superior deities namely, Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga, Lord Shriram, Lord Shrikrushna and Lord Ganapati are attracted to them. They are then transmitted as per the requirement to the other components, e.g. vermilion, turmeric, etc. placed around them in a circular manner.’

(Divine knowledge received through the medium of Mrs. Anjali Gadgil. 6.1.2005, 11.20 a.m.)


‘What is the importance of the substances used in ritualistic worship?’, published by Sanatan Sanstha.

Currently hard copy of reference book is available in: English, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada

Why is Ganapati with the right Sided trunk not commonly worshipped?

1. Entire idol: Omkar, the unmanifest (nirgun) principle

2. Trunk: It is a popular belief that an idol with the tip of the trunk pointing towards the right and left are called right-sided and left-sided idols respectively; however this is not the case. One should not decide whether the idol is right-sided or left-sided depending upon which side the trunk is directed. It should be decided depending on the direction in which the initial curve of the trunk points. If the initial curve of the trunk in a Ganesh idol points towards the right and the tip of the trunk points towards the left yet the idol should be considered a rightsided idol. The reason for this is that, the initial curve of the trunk pointing towards the right indicates that the right (that is Sun) channel (nadi) of Ganapati is active.

Right Sided Trunk
Right Sided Trunk

Right Sided Trunk Ganapati
Right Sided Trunk Ganapati

2.1 Right-sided trunk: An idol of Ganapati with the trunk curved towards the right is called dakshinmurti or dakshi­nabhimukhi murti (the idol facing the south). Dakshin means the southern direction or the right side. The southern direction leads to the region of Lord Yama (Yamalok), the deity of death while the right side belongs to the Surya nadi (Sun channel). One who is able to face the direction of the region of Yama is powerful. So also, one with an activated Surya nadi is also radiant. Thus in both senses, the Ganapati idol with the trunk curved towards the right is said to be ‘active (jagrut)’.

One feels repulsed by the south direction because it is in that direction that scrutiny of one’s sins and merits is carried out after death, in the region of Lord Yama. Scrutiny akin to that done in the south after death, begins when alive if one faces the south or sleeps with the legs directed towards the south. The dakshinabhimukhi idol is not worshipped ritualistically in the usual manner because tiryak (raja) frequencies are emitted from the south. The ritualistic worship of this idol is performed by observing all the norms of ritualistic worship meticulously. Consequently the sattva component is augmented and one is not distressed by the raja frequencies coming from the south.

Left Sided Trunk
Left Sided Trunk

Left Sided Trunk Ganapati
Left Sided Trunk Ganapati

2.2 Left-sided trunk: An idol of Ganapati with the trunk curved towards the left is called Vamamukhi. Vam means the northern direction or the left side. The Chandra nadi (Moon channel) is situated to the left. It bestows tranquility. Besides, since the northern direction is spiritually favourable and bestows Bliss (Anand), mostly the Vamamukhi Ganapati is worshipped. It is worshipped ritualistically in the usual manner.

3. Modak (a sweet delicacy)

means Bliss (Anand) and ‘ka’ means a small part. So, modak is a small part of Bliss. A modak is shaped like a coconut, that is it is like the cavity ‘kha’ in the Brahmarandhra. When the kundalini (spiritual energy) reaches the ‘kha’ cavity, the spiritual experience of Bliss is obtained. The modak held in the hand signifies Bliss endowing energy. 

3.2 ‘The modak symbolises spiritual knowledge (dnyan): hence it is also called dnyanmodak. Initially it seems that spiritual knowledge is little (the tip of the modak represents this); but as one starts studying Spirituality, one realises its vastness (the base of the modak symbolises this.) A modak is sweet in taste. The Bliss acquired through spiritual knowledge too is like that.’

3.1 ‘Moda’

4. Goad (ankush) : Destroyer of the energies which are harmful to the mission of acquisition of spiritual knowledge and Bliss.

5. Noose (pash): Worldly bondage. The noose wielded by Ganapati signifies that He will tie the noose around negative entities and take them away.

6. Serpent wound around the waist: The universal kundalini (spiritual energy)

7. Hood of the serpent: Activated (jagrut) spiritual energy

8. Rat: The rat which represents the raja component is within the control of Ganapati.

Reference: ‘Ganapati’, Published by Sanatan Sanstha

Learn about Sattvik Ganesh Idol made by Sanatan Sanstha and spiritual experiences about the idol.

Currently hard copy of reference book is available in: English, Marathi, Hindi, Kannad, Gujrati, Bengali, Gurumukhi, Malyalum, Tamil, Oriya, Telugu

Hindu Rituals 


Hindu Rites
Death & Funeral
Domestic Worship
Temple Worship
Visit to Sacred Sites

Hindu Rites
Rituals are basically an art of worshipping God. Rituals in Hinduism vary greatly among regions, villages, and even individuals. To the Hindus, every stage in a Hindu’s life is defined by a series of rites or samskaras. There are 16 Vedic rituals or samskaras in the life of an individual. However many Hindus today either do not perform these rites or perform them very selectively. Among the main Hindu samskaras are the rites for marriage, pregnancy and confinement, celebration of a newborn, and death. Even for the more commonly practiced rites a lot of regional variations have come into them and each region and linguistic community follows them according to their respective local customs. It is very true that today most of the Hindus perform these rites more as a social obligation rather than a religious duty.


Pregnancy, Birth, Infancy
Hindu rituals begin before a child is born. Ceremonies may be performed during pregnancy to ensure the health of the mother and growing child. Charms may serve to ward off the evil eye and witches or demons.
During the third month of pregnancy the ceremony of Punsavana (fetus protection) is performed. This is done for the strong physical growth of the fetus.

The Simantonnyana is performed during the seventh month. This is the equivalent of a baby shower and means ‘satisfying the craving of the pregnant mother’. Prayers are offered for the mother and child with emphasis on healthy mental development of the unborn child. Hindus believe that mental state of a pregnant woman affects the unborn child.

Once the child enters the world, Jatakarma is performed to welcome the child into the family, by putting some honey in the child’s mouth and whispering the name of God in the child’s ear.

Other rituals include a naming ceremony (Namakarna), the child’s first trip out (Nishkarmana) and the child’s first taste of solid food (Annaprasana).

The ear-piercing ceremony (Karnavedha) and first haircut (Mundan) ceremonies are also considered highly significant. These sacraments are performed on both the sexes. Hindus believe that the piercing of a hole in the lower lobes of the ear have benefits of acupuncture. Head saving is connected to the removal of impurities.

The next important transition in life is marriage. For most Hindus, the betrothal of the young couple and the exact date and time of the wedding are matters decided by the parents in consultation with astrologers. At Hindu weddings, the bride and bridegroom represent the god and the goddess, although there is a parallel tradition that sees the groom as a prince coming to wed his princess. The actual ceremonies in many cases become extremely elaborate, but orthodox Hindu marriages typically have at their center the recitation of mantras (prayers) by priests in front of a sacred fire.

One of the most important signs of an Indian marriage is the thali. This is a gold locket, made from a small nugget of gold provided by the groom. The thali is a symbol that binds the couple in marriage.


Death & Funeral
After the death of a family member, the relatives become involved in ceremonies for preparation of the body and a procession to the burning or burial ground.

The body of the departed is given a bath and dressed in fresh clothes. Fragrant sandalwood paste is applied to the corpse, which is then decorated with flowers and garlands, followed by a small amount of gold dust sprinkled on different parts of the head and face. After some purificatory scriptural chants and worship rituals, the body is placed on the funeral pyre facing either north or south.

For most Hindus, cremation is the ideal method for dealing with the dead, although infants are buried rather than cremated. At the funeral site, in the presence of the male mourners, the closest relative of the deceased (usually the eldest son) takes charge of the final rite and, if it is cremation, lights the funeral pyre. In larger cities bodies are cremated in modern crematoria. After a cremation, ashes and fragments of bone are collected and eventually immersed in a holy river or the sea.

After a funeral, everyone undergoes a purifying bath. The immediate family remains in a state of intense pollution for a set number of days (sometimes ten, eleven, or thirteen). At the end of that period, close family members meet for a ceremonial meal and often give gifts to the poor or to charities.

Domestic Worship
The home is the place where most Hindus conduct their worship and religious rituals. The most important times of day for performance of household rituals are dawn and dusk. For many traditional households, the day begins when the women in the house draw kolam (floor art) in chalk or rice flour on the floor or the doorstep. For traditional Hindus, dawn and dusk are greeted with recitation from the Rig Veda (Holy Scripture). After a bath, there is personal worship of the gods at the family altar, which typically includes lighting a lamp and offering foodstuffs before the images and idols of the Gods. In some families prayers in Sanskrit or an Indian language are recited.
Temple Worship
Rituals performed at temples, like household rituals, may be described as those that take place daily, nitya; those performed on specific occasions, naimittika; and those performed voluntarily, kamya. Hindu temples are dedicated to a deity or several deities who are believed to preside over the temple. Hindus visit temples to worship the temple deity or to worship another deity of their choosing by means of these three types of rituals. As at household shrines, they worship sculptures or painted images of the presiding deity and make offerings.

Basic rituals performed daily at most Hindu temples include rousing the deity from sleep at dawn, making the deity available for worship and offerings by visitors at midday, and putting the deity to bed at dusk. At some temples, the additional rituals of bathing and feeding the deity take place between dawn and midday. These rituals express the personal nature of Hindu love of and devotion to their deities. A visitor to a temple might request the performance of puja, or daily prayers, at the temple and make a donation for that purpose.

Visit to Sacred Sites
Hindus make pilgrimages to sacred sites in India in the hope of cleansing themselves of sins and lessening their karmic debt.

Hindu Customs
Each of the religions of the world has its own culture, with many customs, traditions and refined qualities. Central to Hindu culture is honouring others and humbling one’s own ego. Listed below are some behaviors of the Hindu community.
Touching feet in respect
Footwear is not worn in the home and temple
Giving and receiving with both hands
Flower offerings
Care in sitting
Hindu marriage symbols
Cows are revered


“Namaskaram” is the proper Hindu way to greet someone. The greeting is said with both hands clasped together.
The translation for “Namaskaram” is ‘The God in me greets the God in you. The Spirit in me meets the same Spirit in you’.

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Touching feet in respect

Feet of holy men, teachers and elders are touched as a mark of respect. Respect for elders is a keystone in Hinduism.

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Footwear is not worn in the home and temple

Footwear is considered impure. It is also important to apologize when one touches someone with his or her shoe or sandal. The ultimate insult is to be hit with a shoe.

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Giving and receiving with both hands

Hindus are required to give and receive gifts with both hands. This is especially so when presenting offerings to a deity. The reason for this is that with the gift, prana (life force/ vital energy) is passed through the hands to the gift. The recipient receives it with both hands along with the prana from the gracious giver.

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Flower offerings

One does not sniff flowers picked for deity worship; even the scent is reserved for the Gods. Flowers which have fallen to the ground are not offered.

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Care in sitting

It is considered improper to sit with one’s legs outstretched in front of a temple, shrine or altar, or even toward another person. This is considered disrespectful.

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Conversations are not held inside or through doorways. This is considered inauspicious. Likewise to exchange, give or lend an object, one steps inside the room first, or the recipient steps out of the room so that both persons are in the same room.

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Offerings of food should not be tasted before placing in front of a deity. Only vegetarian foods, sweets, flowers, gold or silver, and prayer items are offered to deities.

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The devout Hindu sets aside a small portion of food as a thanksgiving offering to God before beginning to eat. Food is traditionally served on a banana leaf. Food is consumed with fingers of the right hand. Cutlery is generally not used for eating food from a banana leaf. While eating, fingers are neither soiled above the second knuckle nor put into the mouth.

There are clear cut restrictions and rule son what food to serve for weddings, birth and death ceremonies. Hindu customs also specify various fasting days so that health restrictions can be easily imposed through tradition and religion. Many people observe fast on selected days of the week as a prayer to their favourite deity.

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Hindu marriage symbols

Married Hindu women can be identified by marriage symbols they wear. These include a thali (usually a gold pendant worn with a yellow string or gold chain), sindoor dot (red powder dot) they apply on their forehead, and / or toe ring worn on the second toe of both feet. Some married women apply the red sindoor powder along the parting of their hair.

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Cows are revered

Ancient Hindus took into account various factors concerning the commodity men used for consumption. First in order are vegetables: then fish, then the other animals. They prohibited slaughtering of cows for consumption. The reason is not far to seek. The cows are more useful alive than dead. It provides milk for babies and grown- ups alike: it ploughs fields for cultivating food: its urine has medicinal properties and the dung is used as manure for our crop as well as to light village fires. The smoke that emanates from it kills mosquitoes and other disease-carrying germs. It is small wonder then that the cow is worshipped by Hindus.


Namaste and Namaskar

The definitions for both Namaste and Namaskar are below :

The traditional form of greeting in India is based on a 
profound philosophy of non-arrogance or negation of ego.

NAMASKAR is made of three words: 


NAMAH literally translated means NOT ME. It is a 
negation of one's identity and hence of one's ego 
or arrogance.

OM is the sound of life. It is believed that to begin 
with there was only the sound of OM and the whole 
world evolved from it. OM is used often in meditation. 
The whole cosmos is summed up in word OM. 

KAR means shape/form of or manifestation of. OMKAR 
hence means manifestation of OM. OMKAR means the whole 
of UNIVERSE / COSMOS. The totality of the Universe is 
like a System taken as a whole without dividing it 
into divisions and sub-divisions. OMKAR can be called 
by various names such as BRAHMA, SHIVA etc. In a way, 
OMKAR is similar but not identical to GOD. OMKAR is 
omnipresent and omnipotent. Though OMKAR may take a 
human form but OMKAR is not necessarily human.

The above interpretation of NAMASKAR as NAMAH + OMKAR 
has been questioned by some experts on the ground 
that the disappearance of the sound of O is inexplicable. 
Grammatically speaking, the objection seems tenable, 
even though the above interpretation is popularly 
accepted. In view of this objection, the following 
interpretation is proposed.

NAMASKAR is made of three words: 


NAM is the root form of NAMAH and has the same 
meaning as NAMAH - NOT ME.

AS means "To Be" or "To Exist". Another word derived 
from the same root is Astitva which means existence.

KAR means doer or one who makes or creates. For example, 
KAR can be seen in the words Kalakar, Chitrakar, Karmkar, 
Charmkar. In the above words, the suffix kar leads to 
the meaning of one who creates art or painting or work 
or leather.

ASKAR would hence mean the the creator of all that exists 
or the one who causes the property of being or existence.

NAMASTE is also used as a greeting:

Namaste is made of two words: NAMAH + TE = NAMASTE

In Sanskrit, Te means they. The literal meaning of 
NAMASTE hence is "Not me, they". The word they refers 
to all the Gods. NAMASTE is hence a philosophical 
statement affirming that the doer of everything is not me 
but the Gods.

In Oriental culture a greeting is an affirmation of one's 
belief and is a recitation of the name of the Lord, as 
one sees Him. The utterance of the name of the Lord is 
said to be sufficient to make the day / morning / 
evening good for both the persons - the person conveying 
greetings and the person receiving greetings. Some 
examples are as follows:

or JAI SIYA RAM are some of the common greetings in 
Hindus. All of them have name of a deity and either 
proclaim the victory of the said deity or declare the 
said deity to be GOD.

Sikhs say SAT SHRI AKAL, which means that Truth is the 
God and is timeless. Sikhs also say WAHE GURUJI KA 
KHALSA, WAHE GURUJI KI FATEH. This is a declaration 
that the ultimate victory will be of the Guru and 
his followers.

Muslims say KHUDA HAFIZ, which means Khuda is the 

In all the above Oriental Greetings, persons 
exchanging greetings, invoke a principle or thought 
or belief, which forms a bondage between the persons. 
In no case, does one make a direct wish to the other. 
Both persons start with a common premise which is 
generally a negation of their own egos and identities. 
Their individual egos and identities are submerged 
in the identity of Larger than Life Reality which 
both persons accept as sacred. Being a part of the 
same larger than Life Reality, gives a sense of 
oneness and is the beginning of a harmonious 

While wishing you NAMASKAR, Samarth Bharat proclaims a 
complete absence of arrogance. We accept that we are 
virtually nobodies while the Cosmos is the Ultimate 
Being. We see ourself in mathematical terms as "Limit 
tending to Zero" while the Cosmos is all pervading 
and is infinite. We see ourself as a part of this 
Infinite. The reality is this infinity and role of 
each one of us is only a small beep on this time-space 

Om Namah Shivaya

Taken trom message in :

  • Narasimhaye: If you are able to talk to your or sister and your girl cousins, you will be able to speak to any girl you like. Don't be shy. Try to be confident in
  • arjun: sir please help me I cannot talk to any girl I'm not frank and I am very afraid of doing things I think what the world will think I don't have confide
  • Narasimhaye: I meant do Puja , not pika sorry.