We have seen earlier that punya or paapam are nothing but good and bad sakti that holds on to a person. Manu says, “Alone does a man come into the world, alone does he leave it. All that he takes when he leaves is his paapam and punyam.” Just like the smell of garlic or yellakai lingers in the kitchen long after the cooking is over, so the good and bad deeds we do cling to us. Just as the use of a room freshener or an exhaust fan will dissipate these smells in the kitchen the use of a mantra or the strong influence of a Guru who is a srotriya Brahmanishta will remove these influences.
In addition to the most obvious source of punyam and paapam, viz. our own actions, there are other sources of positive and negative energy, which enters into us. They come to us in many ways, by association with things or people, by actions performed in different places and from certain places which are very sensitive and which radiate energy. Some things generate good or vibrations only, some become good or bad at different times and some become good or bad according to the persons that associate with it.
That we should be able to avoid the bad effects of actions that bring us bad shakthi and do acts that bring us good shakthi, the ancient Rishis laid down some rules which we now call achara. Achara means conduct. The Rishis gave us these rules of achara so that we would be able to live fruitful, successful lives with happiness both in this world and also in the next.
When we practice achara in our lives then we gather only good shakthi and avoid the bad shakthi, which could cause us to do further wrong deeds or bring us further misfortunes. Which is why a version of the phala stuti of the Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam says, Achara prathamo Dharma, Dharmasya prabhur achyutah.” Acharam is the foremost duty and the Lord of all Duty is Achutah,
Things we think as minor sometimes can have great meaning. For instance, there was a person who was very proud of what he thought was his acharam. He used to say, “These younger people do not wash their feet after answering the call of nature. I always do.” I asked him. “Why should you do it? What is the significance of it?” He had no answer, he was just blindly following what he had heard, and he didn’t know that the hands and face had also to be washed.
The hands, feet and face are the means by which we communicate with the rest of the world, they are the doors through which we approach the world and through which the world approaches us. When we perform any action of excretion we are ridding ourselves of negative energy. When any energy leaves us, there is a change in us. To protect ourselves from any disturbance in our minds and bodies we are expected to wash our hands, feet and face.
That the times for these actions have been prescribed is not a part of a control – system that dominates the lives of believers. It is just that the Braahma Muhurtam is the most suitable time to receive Daivic forces and if we empty ourselves of negative energies, we will find it easier to receive them.
The morning prayer strengthens us for the day ahead, the evening prayer consoles us for the losses sustained in the day and reminds us that the successes we have attained are by the Grace of God The sandhya times when prayer is prescribed, art sunrise, sunset, mid day and midnight are times when asuric forces are active. Prayers at such times are effective armour to prevent them harming us.
A bath before prayer not only cleanses us and refreshes us physically but also washes away all negative vibrations and associations, which we may have gathered.
The sacred malas that we wear like the tulasi, spatika rudraksham etc collect these vibrations and protect us. They must be respectfully washed periodically and used only for a specified before they get super saturated with the vibrations that they have collected and cease to be a protection to us. The Yagnopavitam (poonol) performs a similar function. The Resident at the Travancore Court, General Cullen took umbrage because the Maharaja Swati Tirunal, after meeting him invariably bathed and changed his poonol. This was because the Maharaja had to shake hands with the Britisher who was a beef-eating mleccha, and the Maharaja wanted to wash away the vibrations, which would have been transferred by the touch.
All these vibrations come into us and enter into our minds and bodies filling us with their influences and changing our thoughts and actions. Like food influences us, these influences also affect our thinking. So like we are careful about what we eat and where we eat, we must be careful about influences, which enter us. Which is why achara is so important that it is called the foremost dharma.
May Sri Sathguru who teaches us to nurture Dharma, be pleased to accept this humble offering!
Sri Satguru arpanamastu!