Sunday, September 28, 2008

Blessings for long life – ‘Ayushmaan bhava’.

The commonly heard word of blessing from elders is to live long.
Elders bless us with
“Ayushmaan bhava” or “Deerghayushmaan bhava”
when we prostrate before them.

In today’s world of pollution, diseases and struggles of survival in all spheres,
this blessing may be viewed as a curse!
But if we know why long life comes as a blessing,
we may not consider long life as a curse but rather a real blessing
that helps us to make a way out of the bondage
from the world of samsara.

The term of life.

The ideal duration of long life is considered to be 100 years.
The four-faced creator Brahma in whose realm our world is moving forward
has a life of 100 years!
It is in line with this, a life of 100 years is
considered as the ideal or the maximum period
that one can wish for.

This does not negate the 120 year duration spelt by the
Vimshottari dasa system of astrology.
This dasa system is about
the cumulative longevity granted by all the 9 planets of astrology.
This differs in different systems of astrology.
For instance, the cumulative longevity given by 7 planets,
excluding Rahu and Ketu
is 7 years more,
i.e., 127 years, as per Pindayu calculation.
What is inferred from this is that it is possible to live long
for as many as 127 years
provided one’s birth has taken place at a time that guaranteed healthy and long life.

So all this tapers down to good health.
If one is in the pink of health, one need not worry about threat to life.

Life of 100 years is also mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana.
When Sita meets Hanuman in Ashoka vana,
she expresses how true it is that if one were to live for 100 years
he would certainly see joy.
“ehi jeevantam aanando naram varsha shataat api”
is the famous adage she mentioned
" 'Joy rushes to surviving man even though (it be)
as the end of a hundred years' –
this popular adage appears true and auspicious for me."
says Sita.
100 years is time scale – a duration that a man can aspire for.

Another place where we find a mention of 100 years
is in the Sandhya vandana mantras.

On seeing the sun every day,
man must know that a day in his life is gone.
So his prayer is –
`may I see you (the sun) for a hundred years.'
This is explicit in noon- vandana for all,
whereas in the twilight vandana,
both the Sun Himself and the Lord who is in the Sun
bless the worshiper with a hundred years!
A man can live long only when he is free of diseases and
when he is not afflicted with sins.

That is why this component of
removal of sins is also included in sandhya vandana.

Again it is because the sun moves to the same position
in the bha-chakra
once after every 60 years
the man who has lived
to see the Sun for 60 years,
finds himself `born again' and
prays for another round of life on his 61st birth day.
This is the rationale of Sashti aptha poorthy.

The 60 year cycle of the sun is based on
the 60 rounds it makes in the 5 year cycle of Pancha varshatmaka yuga.
The 5 year cycle of the sun which also sees
2 adhik masas by the moon in the lunar calendar
was the original version of Yuga cycle
as enunciated by Vedic rishis.

These 60 years have been named based on the events predicted for the year
starting from Vijaya, not Prabhava.
This is as per Brihaspatya mana –
the new cycle of this mana (measurement)
begins in 2013 with Jupiter entering Taurus.
But later scholars in astrology incorporated these names of years
into the solar years
and started with Prabhava.

Since 60 years were originally calculated as yuga duration,
we are still following the 60 years + 60 years
to complete a cycle of ascending and descending order.
Though this tallies with Vimshottari dasa calculation,
longevity means Shatayush – 100 years.

Why live long?

There are two reasons for desiring long life.
This is because of the two uses for man’s body.
In other words, man is created or
birth is necessary for two reasons.

One is to sustain others including the chain of creation to go on with out break.
Another is for one’s own spiritual development
so that one is ultimately released from the bondage of birth and death.

Man is required to live long, because
there are many who depend on him for their survival.
-because he has a number of duties and responsibilities to be performed.
(jana samooha kadamai)

Of the 4 ashrama dharmas,
the importance of the Grihastha is stressed
precisely for this reason.
The entire Nature around him depends on him and
therefore he needs to live long.

The devas need him for mutual help.
The living beings need him for their sustenance.

And pithrus need him for their own betterment and
for the sake of well-being of future progeny. (read post labeled as Pithru tarpan)

For the yajnas at man's level, namely the pancha yajnas
(Brahma, deva, pithru, bhootha and manushya),
what is aimed at is sustenance
and continuation of man kind .
At the individual level, what the doer (of yajna) gets is long life!

The Pancha yajnas also have laid down that
when one eats after having made the oblations to the 5 people,
he can not be said to have sinned
or robbed his food from Nature.
Since food and water are the two main
components that make the prana or vital air go on,
these two are offered in the pancha yajna and in nithya karmas.

Food and water – their inseparable connection to life is
given in Chandoghya Upanishad.

Food is eaten and water drunk,
mainly to keep up the life in the body going.
"The prana said: "What will be my food?"
They answered: "Whatever food there is-including that of dogs and

The Upanishad says: All that is eaten is the food of the ana. Ana is
his (i.e. the prana's) direct name. For one who knows this, there
exists nothing which is not food.
He said: "What will be my dress?"

They answered: "Water." Therefore when people eat they cover him (the
prana), both before and after eating, with water. Thus the prana
obtains clothing." (Chandogya)

The above passage is explained in other upanishads too in the context
of why people sip water during various kriyas,
like in the middle of
some mantras, before eating food etc.

The prana is satisfied then and
the Auyush is extended by such mantras-related - water-sipping.

But why should prana, the vital breath be nurtured? Why should one
seek to live in this mortal body?

The answer explains the second reason for desire long life.
It is for enabling oneself to progress in spiritual development.
It is for realizing that deity whom he worships.
If he worships
prana as Brahman, then It is Brahman.
He attains Brahma hood.

"Now there is this verse (sloka):
The gods observed the vow of that from which the sun rises
and in which it sets.
This vow is followed today and this will be followed tomorrow.
The sun rises verily from the prana
(the vital breath in its cosmic form)
and also sets in it.
The gods even today observe the
same vow which they observed then.
Therefore a man should observe a single vow-
that he should perform the
functions of the prana and apana (respiration and excretion),
lest the evil of death should overtake him.
And if he performs them, let him try to complete them.
Through this he obtains identity with that
deity, or lives in the same world with it."
(Brihadaranyaka -Part 1 chapter 3 - verse 23)

In Kathopanishad, yama tells Nachiketas
why body is needed and why longevity is needed.
Yama says that the shariram (body) is the
vehicle for the jiva to reach Sri vaikuntham.
“The jivan enshrined in the body enjoys paramaanandham
in Sri Vaikuntham.
Therefore treat the shariram as a
vehicle capable of transporting the jivan to Vaikuntham.”

Yama tells that the SharIram (body) is a chariot.
The jiva is the yajaman (lord) of the chariot.
And Bhudhdhi is the charioteer.
The chariot is being drawn by the horses which are nothing
but the Indriyas and
it is for the Bhuddhi (charioteer) to control / rein
them using the manas.
The horse may stray anywhere as they like,
but unless the charioteer guides the horses
properly , he can not take the Yajaman
(the jiva – Bhokhtha) to his ultimate destination, Sri Vaikuntham.

In the journey, the chariot, namely, the body is an
important carrier because,
in the absence of it ,
the yajaman can not undertake his journey.
That is why
Yama concludes that the body is the
vehicle for the jiva to reach Sri Vaikutham.

When blessed with a long life,
the one who has become aware of the use of this body
will have utilized the long life for the purpose it is intended,
namely, to do the
“jana samooha kadamai’
(duties and responsibilities to the society as
a grihastha and through Pancha yajnas)
and to work towards spiritual development to attain Him.

This is said to be the “tapas” – a penance
by Taittriya Upanishad
The foremost purpose of blessing one with long life is
that he may be capable of performing
this “TAPAS” in all effectiveness.
The blessing
padinaarum petru peru vaazhvu vaazhga’
is to emphasize that the person be
endowed with the 16 types of wealth in order to
discharge his ‘jana samooha kadamai’.

At the inner level,
Past karma is shed and one moves to a newer equation
with reference to soaring towards Brahman.

A pretty long life, even in good many births is
something great to ask for,
provided the jiva knows how to conduct its journey well
for the purposes it has been ordained to.

Contexts for ‘ayushmaan bhava’.

In Shanti parva, (MB chapter 191)
we find Bheeshma telling the contexts when
one must bless the other with ‘ayushman bhava’
This is in addition to the occasions when
those younger in age pays their respects.
One must bless the other with long life when the other sneezes!

When some sneezes, we have to invoke the power of our speech
To guarantee that the person's life is not lessened
by the disturbance
to his prana (in inhalation and exhalation).
We have to say
`Dheergaayushmaan bhava' when one sneezes.

When one sneezes again, we make our vow strong
by blessing him
`sadhaayushmaan bhava'. (live a 100 years)

There are other times too when others in
the vicinity must ensure that a person is blessed with long life.

Bheeshma lists those occasions as
-when one sees another taking bath
(because by bathing, it means a
day in his life is gone and another day has arrived.)

-when one sees a person in ill-health.

- when one sees a person shaving
(even now we can hear some old
timers say that they are going for `aayush-karma'
while going to have a hair-cut.
This is because hair is supposed to signify power / shakti.
The tuft of hair or kudumi or sikhai in indicative of the
accumulation of spiritual power that one does.
Removal of hair is therefore considered as reducing that power.)


Ganesan R said...

I recently read that Kanchi seer Mahaperiyava explained that blessing one as 'Ayushman Bhava' is equivalent to wishing him auspicious effects of combination of Soumya vara (Wed), Ayushman yoga and Bava karana.

jayasree said...

Thanks for the info Mr Ganesan. Can you give the link to that talk by Maha Periyava?

Ganesan R said...

I went thro' your follow up
comments just now.

Pl. see


jayasree said...

Thanks Mr Ganesan.