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Thursday, 18 June 2015

Pariseshanam - Anna Shuddhi (Purification of Food)

तैत्तिरीय उपनिषद् - तृतीया भृगुवल्ली

अहमन्नं अहमन्नं अहमन्नम्‌ । अहमन्नादोऽ ३ हमन्नादोऽ ३ अहमन्नादः । अहँ श्लोककृद् अहँ श्लोककृद् अहँ श्लोककृत्‌ । अहमस्मि प्रथमजा ऋता३स्य । पूर्वं देवेभ्योऽमृतस्य ना३भायि । यो मा ददाति स इदेव मा ३ऽऽवाः । अहमन्नमन्नमदन्तमा ३ द्मि । अहं विश्वं भुवनमभ्यभवाम्‌ । सुवर्न ज्योतीः ।

Taittiriya Upanishad - Third Anuvaka - Bruguvalli

Aham annam aham annam aham annam । Aham annādo’ham annādo’ham annādah । Aha’m ślokakrt aha’m ślokakrt aha’m ślokakrt । Aham asmi prathamajā rtāasya । Poorvam devebhyo’mrtasya nāabhāayī । Yo mā dadāti sa ideva māavāh । Aham annam aham annam adantam āadmi । Aham viśwam bhuvanam abhyabhavāam । Suvarnajyotīh ।

Translation: I am the food, I am the food, I am the food! I am the eater of the food, I am the eater of the food, I am the eater of the food! I am the maker of verses [poet], I am the maker of verses, I am the maker of verses! I am the first born of this world, the manifestation of truth as the formed and the formless! I existed before the gods! I am the centre of immortality! He who offers food, it is this me he protects! I am food, I am food and I am the one who eats up the eater of food! It is I that has become the entire universe! I am the golden light!

The Five Vayus

Through their exploration of the body and breath, the ancient yogis discovered that prana (life force energy) could be further subdivided into energetic components they called Vayus (winds). The five Vayus of prana all have very subtle yet distinct energetic qualities, including specific functions and directions of flow. The yogis were able to control and cultivate these Vayus by simply bringing their focus and awareness to them. Through this conscious control and cultivation they were not only able to create optimal health and well-being, but were able to activate the primordial Kundalini energy to obtain states of enlightened Samadhi.

Complete mastery over the Vayus is not necessary to benefit from using them to improve our inward focus and the ability to feel the subtleties within the body. Cultivating a basic awareness of one or more of the Vayus will help us deepen our awareness of body and breath to enrich our yoga practice.

The two most important Vayus are Prana Vayu and Apana Vayu.

Prana Vayu is situated in the head, centered in the third-eye, and its energy pervades the chest region. The flow of Prana Vayu is inwards and upward. It nourishes the brain and the eyes and governs reception of all things: food, air, senses, and thoughts. This Vayu is the fundamental energy in the body and directs and feeds into the four other Vayus. To experience Prana Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you inhale feel an energy flowing up the torso from the belly to the third-eye.

Apana Vayu is situated in the pelvic floor and its energy pervades the lower abdomen. The flow of Apana Vayu is downwards and out and its energy nourishes the organs of digestion, reproduction and elimination. Apana-Vayu governs the elimination of all substances from the body: carbon monoxide, urine, stool, etc. To experience Apana Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you exhale feel an energy flowing down the torso from the top of the head to the tailbone.

Vyana Vayu is situated in the heart and lungs and flows throughout the entire body. The flow of Vyana Vayu moves from the center of the body to the periphery. It governs circulation of all substances throughout the body, and assists the other Vayus with their functions. To experience Vyana Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you inhale feel the breath radiating outward from the navel to the arms and legs.

Udana Vayu is situated in the throat and it has a circular flow around the neck and head. It functions to “hold us up” and governs speech, self-expression and growth. To experience Udana Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you inhale and exhale feel the breath circulating around and through the head and neck.

Samana Vayu is situated in the abdomen with its energy centered in the navel. The flow of Samana Vayu moves from the periphery of the body to the center. It governs the digestion and assimilation of all substances: food, air, experiences, emotions and thoughts. To experience Samana Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you inhale and exhale feel the breath rising and falling in the front, sides and back of the torso.

Awareness of one or more Vayu has several applications in yoga, and is most easily illustrated within a yoga posture. 
  • The awareness of Prana Vayu creates a focus to lift, lengthen and open the upper body. 
  • The awareness of Apana Vayu creates a focus to ground and stabilize the lower body. 
  • The awareness of Vyana Vayu creates a focus of strength and fluid movement body. 
  • The awareness of Udana Vayu creates a focus to maintain a long spine and a correct posture. 
  • The awareness of Samana Vayu creates a focus to open and relax the body.

Sattva Ahar (Satvik Food)

Sattva increases when ahara, or the intake of the senses, becomes pure. Ahara means intake of the senses, and not necessarily just the diet which we munch through the mouth. All the objects which are fed to the senses are the diet of the senses. While we should take pure diet, sattvic diet, it also means we should see sattvic things through the eyes, hear sattvic words through the ears, speak sattvic words through the mouth, and touch and smell only sattvic things. All the five senses should be connected only with sattvic objects. That is ahara shuddhi. When ahara shuddhi is there, there is an increase of transparency of character, luminosity of nature. When sattva increases within us, our memory power, power of concentration and meditation also get intensified. When the power of concentration is there, the knots of the heart of bondage are broken. We become liberated.

Anna Shuddhi (Purification of Food)

Cow's ghee has a special place in Ayurveda as an ingredient for nourishment and healing, apart from its role in the daily rituals of cooking and worship. In India, ghee used to be the preferred edible fat. Naturally raised cow’s ghee is dense in vitamin K2, which is critical for skin and heart health and works with other fat-soluble vitamins.

Brain is one of the main sites that ghee acts. Only fat soluble substances and alcohol soluble substances can cross the blood brain barrier. Ghee is a fat. Hence it can cross the Blood Brain Barrier. Ghee acts on the brain and increases the receptive power, cognitive power, remembering power. Brain development takes place mostly during the childhood. So giving 1 teaspoon of ghee everyday especially during this age, will enhance the intellectual power of brain. 

In Sanskrit there is a word anna-shuddhi (purification of grains). It prescribes adding cow's ghee (clarified butter) to rice. If you eat rice alone, it is not as good for your body as the sugar level in your blood suddenly increases. By adding just a little bit of cow's ghee, the process of converting the starch into sugar is slowed down. So the digestion process becomes slower and you are less prone to diabetes. So we say rice gets purified when we add cow's ghee to it.

आहार शुद्धया नृपते, चित्त शुद्धिश्च जायते।
शुद्धे चित्ते प्रकाश: स्याद्धर्मस्य नृपसत्तम्।
- देवी भागवत्

Pariseshanam (Bhojana Vidhi)

The meaning and reason of the custom and practice of our performing Pariseshanam (meals-time-custom) before touching the food on the banana leaf before us. The practice is three steps or can be divided into three sections:

We will see about how to observe these three steps here.

1. Aabhojanam:

  • After sitting for meals, you'll be served with rice and ghee, as per your Sampradaya. Now take very small qty of water in your right hand and chant “Om Bhoorbhuvasuva”: and circle the banana leaf (Plantain leaf). 
  • Then take small qty of water and chant “tatsaviturvarenyam... prachodayat”: and sprinkle little water over the food.
  • Take very small qty of water in your right hand and chant “Deva Savita Prasuva”: and circle the banana leaf (Plantain leaf).
  • Touch the tip of the banana leaf with your left hand, take very small qty of water in your right hand and chant: “Sathyam Thwerthena Parichinchaami” (in the day) and “Rutham Dhwasathyena Parichinchaami” (in the night). Circulate the banana leaf (Plantain leaf) with this water. 
  • Then take small qty of water in your right hand and with your left hand, slightly lift the banana leaf (Plantain leaf) and chanting (mentally) “Amruthopastharanamasi” take in the Theertham.  


'Asmakam nityam astu Etat': First a prayer to the food  (Let the food be available to me and thus be available to 'The five pranas').

'Deva Savita Prasuva': Savita! give me permission to do this.

'Sathyam Thwerthena Parichinchaami': Here the food is addressed as 'Satyam'. "Satya" means that which is real or true. I encircle food with 'rutham'. The meaning of 'rutham' as righteousness."Rta" is a notion of the Divine Law or moral principle. 'Satyam' and 'rutham' are often used in Vedas.

'Rutham Dhwasathyena Parichinchaami': In the night the address is reversed as 'Rutham Dhwasathyena Parichinchaami'

'Amruta upastaranam asi': 'Be a 'lining' to the amrutam (i.e. the food)'.

2. Praanahuthi: the offering to the vital breaths:

Then using your thumb, middle and ring fingers, take ghee-mixed rice and swallow it without hitting over the teeth. This process has to be repeated six times, each time accompanied by a manthra as given below: (Prefix each mantram with Om and suffix each mantra with Swaha:)

The next step is the part of greater philosophical significance. Recall that in the Vedic tradition, every act eventually becomes an act of worship, an act of recognition of the pervasiveness of
the Supreme Brahman and Its power.

When we eat, we nourish our bodies. Food is therefore essential for bodily sustenance. Within our body is the "ana" or vital breath. The "ana" has five activities or 'pranas'.

The five pranas represent the various bodily functions that are critical for survival. They are considered a manifestation of the power of the Supreme in the bodily plane.

The vital breaths or 'pranas' are five in number. The latter four are derived from the first. They are:

prana -- the principal breath
apana -- responsible for excretory activity
samana -- responsible for digestive activity
vyana -- responsible for circulatory activity
udana -- respiratory activity

This act of thanks giving to God who through these bodily functions sustains life is done by saying the following mantras, and eating a little bit of rice and ney (ghee) without chewing it (because, after all, the food is an offering, not meant for personal consumption):

Om pranaaya swaha
Om apanaya swaha
Om vyanaya swaha
Om udanaya swaha
Om samanaya swaha
Om brahmani ma Atma amrtatvaya

The last line means, "May my self be united in Brahman (the Supreme), so that I may attain immortality."

Then catch hold of the banana leaf (Plantain leaf) with your right hand, cleanse up in your left hand with Theertham served by someone else.

3. Utharaabhojanam: 

After finishing the meals, as before, take small amount of water (either by self or served by others) and chant the manthra Amruthopithanamasi. This concludes the custom of Parisheshanam.

'Amruta abhidanam asi' means Be a 'lid or cover' to the amrutam.

Pour the remaining water from the Theertha paathram on the left side of the banana leaf saying:

rouravE apuNya nilayE, padmaarbuda nivaasinaam 
arthinAm udakam dattam akshayyam upatiSHThatu 

In the hell called Raurava , to those millions of souls,
Who need water , May this water be available without getting over.

and say 'annadaataa sukhee bhava' Meaning: let those who gave food have a pleasant life

Eating, then, is a profound act of worship which sustains the body so that we may further worship Brahman. There is also an implication that the swallowing of tasty food symbolizes the oblation of the individual self to God, so that God may, in a sense "eat" and "enjoy" us. Dress for food is water (Pramana from Upanishads)

Before and after eating the meal, water is sipped, once again with a mantra. The rishis of yore found this aspect of the ritual so important that they mention it in both of the largest Upanishads, the Brhadaranyaka and the Chhandogya, in virtually identical terms:

Chhandogya Upanishad , 5.2.1 & 2:

V-ii-1: He (the Prana) asked, ‘What will be my food?’ ‘Whatever there is here, even (the food) of dogs and birds’, replied the senses. Whatever is eaten, all that is the food of Ana. The name "Ana’ indeed is self-evident. For him who knows thus there is nothing that is not food.

V-ii-2: He asked, ‘What will be my garments ?’ ‘Water’, replied the senses. Therefore, indeed, those who are about to eat, cover it, both before and after, with water. (He who knows thus) becomes the obtainer of clothes and of upper garments.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 6.1.14:

'......... (The vital force said:) ‘Then what will be my food and my dress ?’ (The organs said:) ‘Whatever is (known as) food, including dogs, worms, insects and moths, is your food, and water your dress’. He who knows the food of the vital force to be such, never happens to eat anything that is not food, or to accept anything that is not food.

Therefore wise men who are versed in the Vedas sip a little water just before and after eating. They regard it as removing the nakedness of the vital force.'

Food, Water and Air:

Water is a purifier, and drinking water before and after Achamanam is a purifier and sustainer of the body. Furthermore, the yoga shastras recommend that we eat food to fill only half our stomach; one quarter of the stomach we should fill by drinking water. The rest one quarter should be air. This is supposed to be the ideal proportions for spiritual and bodily health.

Thirumoolar Thirumandhiram, 724:

"உடம்பார் அழியில் உயிரார் அழிவர்
திடம்பட மெய்ஞ்ஞானஞ் சேரவு மாட்டார்
உடம்பை வளர்க்கும் உபாயம் அறிந்தே
உடம்பை வளர்த்தேன் உயிர்வளர்த் தேனே"

“Udambaar Azhiyil Uyiraar Azhivar
Dhidampada Meignanam Seravum Maataar
Udambai Valarkkum Ubaayam Arindhae
Udambai Valarthaen Uyir Valarthaenae”

Meaning: 'Those who have their health destroyed, its as though they have destroyed their life. They would never attain salvation or realise the supreme being. Hence I learned the way to nurture my health. And thus I was able to nurture my life”

Thirumoolar Thirumandhiram, 725:

"உடம்பினை முன்னம் இழுக்கென் றிருந்தேன்
உடம்பினுக் குள்ளே யுறுபொருள் கண்டேன்
உடம்புளே உத்தமன் கோயில்கொண் டான் என்று
உடம்பினை யானிருந் தோம்புகின் றேனே"

“Udambinai Munnam Izhukkendru Irundhaen
Udambinukku Ullae Uru Porul Kandaen
Udambullae Uththaman Koyil Kondan Endru
Udambinai Yaanirundhu Ombukindraenae”

Meaning: “I first thought the body was blemish. Then I realised that the Supreme Being existing in my body. In my body, the Supreme Being (Para Brahmam ) resides in a temple within. And hence I worship and nurture my physical body”.

Udambu – Physical body
Munnam – Earlier
Izhukku – blemish, blame
Irundhaen – have an opinion, in this context
Ullae – Inside
Uru Porul – refers to the Supreme Being (Para Brahmam)
Uththaman – Flawless, Divine Human
Koyil – Temple
Kondan – Have, Reside
Yaanirundhu – Yaan (refers to self – Thirumoolar)+ Irundhu (exist, remain)
Ombukindraen – Worshipping, Nurturing

The religious attitude that God resides in one’s body, is a great thought, that will to those religiously inclined will consider the body to be divine thing and will start to maintain it in good health. 

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