(A discourse delivered on the occasion of Uttarayana Parva: 14th January)
Indian culture lays great emphasis on worshipping the five gods. Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and His incarnations, Lord Ganesha, Ma Shakti and Surya (Sun-god). One who renders devotional service to and worships any of these deities and does japa of their names gets all kinds of benefits – material, other-worldly, moral and spiritual.
Uttarayana or the day of Makar Sankranti is considered to be of particular significance for worship of Surya. The day when the Sun enters Makar Rashi (one of the Zodiacs), is called makar sankranti. Sankranti means Samyak (right) Kranti (revolution). The revolution in the material world involves violence and plundering. Spiritual revolution on the other hand teaches us to see our good in that of others. ‘Live harmoniously; talk affectionately in a sweet comforting tone’ for the real essence of all beings is the same. In a lake or in the sea, a large number of waves are seen on the surface but the real essence in depth is one, water. Similarly the real essence in all beings is one, existence Knowledge-Bliss Absolute.
The great Bhishma Pitamah waited for 58 days on the bed of arrows for the Uttarayana. He continued to bear the severe pain caused by the arrows pierced in his entries body but he didn’t let his Prana, leave his body and held them back by the power of his will, being a dispassionate witness to his pain. Yudhishthira puts questions to grandsire Bhishma and he answers them lying on the bed of arrows. What great equanimity! What a great valour! How strong this great son of India is in body and in mind trampling as he does the difficulties coming his way! What a great culture we have! Is there any other instance in history where somebody is holding his Prana for 58 days by the strength of his will and is imparting Knowledge to Yudhishthira as grandsire Bhishma did at Lord Krishna’s behest? The teachings are contained in Anushasana Parvaand Shanti Parva of the epic Mahabharata. Festival of Uttarayana is the day to remember that great man and to get inspiration to attain equanimity, knowledge and Self-Bliss even in the face of difficult circumstances that are akin to the bed of arrows.
The festival of Uttarayana marks the morning of gods. Applying sesame unguent on the body, bathing with water mixed with sesame seeds, drinking such water, fire sacrifice with sesame seeds as oblation, eating sesame seeds and giving sesame seeds in charity-all these things destroy sin.
The Sun is the symbol of the Self-God. As the Self-God illuminates the mind, the intellect and the body, the Sun illuminates the world. But the Sun too is illuminated by the Atman.