Friday, August 31, 2018

Bael leaves and Lord Shiva

Bael leaves and Lord Shiva

One of the Hindu trinity, Lord Shiva is believed to be the destroyer of the world, while Brahma is the creator and Vishnu the preserver. New creation is possible only if the destruction goes on simultaneously. Therefore, each cells of the universe is passing through the cycle of creation, preservation and destruction. The destruction is painful, but necessary for new creation, therefore, Hindus pray Lord Shiva chanting Mahamrintyunjaya mantra to conquer death and depart peacefully.

 त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम्
उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान् मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मामृतात् ॥
(We worship the three-eyed Lord Shiva who permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance, may He liberate us from death for the sake of immortality, like the cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper)

Trifoliate (three pronged) Bel leaf (bilva patra) of Bael (wood apple) tree is one of the key ingredients of worshipping Lord Shiva. It symbolizes the trident held in Lord Shiva’s right hand, the three functions of creation, preservation and destruction, the three gunas of Rajas, Tamas and Sattva as well as Lord Shiva’s three eyes. 
In Savan month of Hindu calendar, Hindus worship Lord Shiva. They offer tridal Bilva leaves to Lord Shiva and pray him for fulfilling their material or spiritual desires. Leaves of Bilva trees are removed in millions these days. One wonders, how could the leaves be a mean for boons or salvation? One one side, the theory of Karma suggests that the fruits are the outcome of our Karma, then how could the bael leaves bypass the Karma and fruits effect? 
In Shiv Purana, there is story of a hunter worshiping Lord Shiva with the bel leaf.
A hunter once had to go hunting because his family was hungry. At the end of the day, the hunter was not able to find any prey. He climbed a tree and was watching around the movement of animal for hunting. As there was no prey around, free he, was subconsciously plucking and dropping the leaves of the tree on the ground. Suddenly, he saw a deer. He aimed his bows and arrow at the deer, but the deer asked him to give little time to meet the doe and come back. He allowed the deer to go and while waiting, continued plucking and dropping the leaves on the ground. The buck returned with the doe but both requested for one more time to go and come back after meeting the fawns. He allowed them and in waiting continued plucking and dropping the leaves on the ground. After a while, the whole family of the deer appeared before him for the prey. As the hunter was plucking and dropping the bael leaves on the ground, the leaves were falling over the Shiv Linga buried at the foot of the tree. This unknowing worship to Lord Shiva was enough to transform the hunter into a compassionate and understanding human being and frees him from his past bad karma. He saw on one side the deer family ready for the sacrifice and on other side his family hunger, which can be satisfied with alternative means. He allowed the deer family to return happily. Since then, the Hindus worship Lord Shiva with the Bilva leaves for purification of hearts and getting free from the bondage of their past karmas.
But why the Bilva Leaves? The story has spiritual meaning. The tridal symbolises the three gunas (qualities) of the Samsara, the Satva, the Rajas and the Tamas. He who surrenders the three gunas to the God, his mind and thoughts purifies and he then attains into the pure Consciousness of the Universe. In Chapter 15 of Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna has described the Sansara as Urdva moola adho shakha... 

ऊर्ध्वमूलमधःशाखमश्वत्थं प्राहुरव्ययम् |
छन्दांसि यस्य पर्णानि यस्तं वेद स वेदवित् || (१५/१, Geeta)
(An eternal ashvatth tree with its roots above and branches below. Its leaves are the vedic hymn, and one who knows the secret of the tree is the knower of the Vedas.)

The Upanishads also mention this tree: ūrdhvamūlo ’vākśhākha eṣho ’śhvatthaḥ sanātanaḥ   (Kaṭhopaniṣhad 2.3.1) (The ashvatth tree, with its roots upward and branches downward is eternal). ūrdhvamūlaṁ arvākśhākhaṁ vṛikṣhaṁ yo samprati, na sa jātu janaḥ śhraddhayātmṛityutyurmā mārayaditi (Taittirīya Āraṇyak 1.11.5) (Those who know this tree with it’s root upward and branches downward will not believe that death can finish them)
Generally, trees have their roots below and branches above.  But this tree has its roots above (ūrdhva-mūlam), i.e. it has originated from God, it is based in Him, and is supported by Him.  Its trunk and branches extend downward (adhaḥ-śhākham), encompassing all the life-forms in all the abodes of the material realm. 

The tree of Sansara/Jagat/material world has it’s roots above and it’s trunk and the branches extend downward. We/Atma are the hunters sitting on the top of the tree, searching for the prey to fulfil our desires with the help of three gunas: Satva, Rajas and Tamas. And according to our Karma, we decide our future. Till we became the doer, we are the lords of our destiny of hell or heaven. But as soon as we surrender our I with the three gunas to the God (Lord Shiva), the complete surrender to God brings salvation/moksha/nirvana and frees us from all the bondages. 

The bael leaves are symbolic. One has to remove all the impurities caused by the trigunas and surrenders to the God. Simple act of plucking the leaves and dropping them over the Shivlinga won’t serve any purpose unless surrendering the three gunas and offer the leaves to Lord Shiva. 

Bili or Bael tree has medicinal value in Ayurveda. The leaves are stimulator and medicine for sexual dysfunction and can cure Type2 diabetes.  It causes low appetite therefore useful in fast during the rainy season. It has anti fertility effects, therefore, can be used for family planning. Powder of Bael fruit is a great  medicine for stomach, ulcerative colitis, amoebiasis, intestinal and digestive disorders associated with bloody diarrhoea. It also boosts the immune system, fights off bacterial and viral infections, reduces inflammatory conditions, increases milk production for nursing mothers, improves ocular health. The fruit balances Kaph and Vata doshas, its roots improve digestion, leaves are good for pain, stem for heart and bel flower’s for curing of diarrhea.

ॐ नम: शिवाय। 

31 August 2018


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