Message on World's Largest Holy Bathing by Swami Vidyadhishananda

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World's Largest Holy Bathing Congregation


Divine Devotee, 


     The new moon this weekend, known in Sanskrit as theMouni-Amavasyā, is associated with the depth of silence from meditation. This new moon is on the 9th or 10th of February depending whether you are in the Western or Eastern part of the world respectively.


     You might have heard about the world's largest holy bathing congregations known as Kumbha-Melā currently taking place in India in Prayāg. This grand event spanning over a month has been attracting millions of devotees from within India and around the world. The energy in the Melāgrounds is intense and spiritually charged. There is clarity about spiritual aspirations that is prevailing over the waves of rolling dust whirling around from the sand and silt by the riverside.


     This new moon day in India, which falls on the 10th, when celebrated during a Kumbha-Melā gathering is remembered as the largest holy bathing congregation on a single day. On this day, about 30 million devotees are expected to take a dip in the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna flowing within an area of less than 20 square kilometers.


     A deep meditator who becomes completely absorbed (samādhi) and attains higher realization is known in Sanskrit as Muni. This root word transforms into Mouni or the great silence of deep meditation. When appended withAmavasyā, denoting the new moon, this word Mouni-Amavasyā implies the silence of the great void - a silence attained through deep meditation whereby all remaining internal chatter and imagery are conquered. In other words, the limit of perception is reached after overcoming all thought waves from subtle impressions in the heart. Herein the metaphor of darkness is aptly connected with the mystery of the new moon. On a new moon, the sun and the moon are overlapping and aligned together with respect to the earth, signifying the imbuing of light in the emptiness of the mind so that the consciousness can be revealed. The meditator is now ready for the conception of the light of consciousness in the heart having conquered not only the emotional and physical disturbances but also the remaining subtle desires. Thus this great leap of faith is celebrated by a holy dip in the confluence of the rivers.


     A momentous event such as this takes place when special planetary transits herald such a mass ritual cleansing. Sanskrit literature provides detailed guidance about these occasions when waters will be charged with the subtle blessings. However, this holy bathing has more to do with one's own subtle vows and affirmations than just a mad rush to forsake all demerits! Kumbha means a pitcher, wherein wine of the mystic is stored. It is also the Sanskrit name for Aquarius. The zodiac sign Aquarius is hailed for imparting mystical characteristics. Bathing in this elixir is akin to a refreshing restart, a rejuvenation that symbolizes the washing away of obstacles by effecting a subtle mental purification.


     On these special days, monks, yogis, mendicants and spiritual figureheads take their bath through a collective procession based on their order or affiliation and pre-assigned times for their own councils and consortiums. Thereafter, the brave devotees take their much-awaited dips by plunging into the waters with deep faith while putting aside concerns about being caught in a stampede. With such a rush, devotees take extra care in positioning themselves within the realms of the confluence of river waters.


     Ganga and Yamuna are known for their subtle purificatory powers which are said to be increased manifold on such auspicious days. Even though there is no physical evidence of erstwhile Saraswati merging its waters into this confluence, most devotees believe that the confluence carries the waters of three rivers. Many monks, scholars and geologists consider river Tamasa as the main remnant of the ancient Saraswati river. The Tamasa river drains its waters into Yamuna in the lower Himalayas, thereby making the confluence effectively carry three river streams.


     This largest bathing which takes place on the new moon will be followed by the next two biggest mass bathing ceremonies on Vasanta-panchami (fifth day of the ascending moon) and on the Māgha-purnimā (upcoming full moon). Just like the metaphor of the new moon bathing, these upcoming auspicious dates bear similar spiritual symbolism. The upcoming fifth day is associated with the onset of enlightenment by the grace of the goddess of knowledge, Saraswati. Thereafter, the mind is filled with light on the full moon.


     Thus February 2013 marks a special period for those gallant souls who are brave enough to practise the tradition literally. Of course, one of the main attractions of the Melā grounds is the darshan (seeing and being) of multitude of monks and saints, who come down from their abodes during these times. Those who are able to invoke the silence and light through inner practices, away from the challenging Kumbha-Melā pilgrimage, are welcome to create their own intensity of meditation in their own sacred environment. Kindly note that in the USA, the auspicious dates fall on 9th, 14th and 25th February, culminating with the full moon.


     On behalf of our monastic council and consortium of Vedic monks, I am conferring our choicest blessings on all of you valiant souls wishing to take a dip in the flowing grace of a chilling elixir in the heart. God bless you.


Swami Vidyadhishananda