Raksha Bandhan:Origin and Spiritual Meaning
The Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan, or ‘the bond of protection,’ is celebrated all over the country on the full moon day of Shraavan, the fifth month of the Hindu calendar. This festival is also known as Slono, which in Persian means ‘the new year’s day.’ On this day in contemporary India, sisters tie raakhi on their brothers’ wrists with the belief that the sacred thread will protect them from all kinds of dangers and mishaps.
This is the day that Hindu brahmins (traditionally the priest class) change their janeyu (consecrated thread tied across their torso). In Maharashtra, people submerge coconuts in the sea this day as offering to the gods; hence the day is also called naariyali purnima (the full moon night of the coconuts). It is also generally considered auspicious to start any new endeavor this day by breaking coconut for good luck. The Parsis also offer coconuts this day to the sea god in devotion and prayer.
Interestingly, we see that coconut is connected to nearly every aspect of our life — births, weddings, deaths, fasts, rituals, and festivals. But have we ever given a serious thought to its significance? If we were to closely inspect a coconut, we will find that it has three marks that seem like eyes, the upper one reminiscent of the spiritual ‘third eye’ or ‘shivnetra’ located between and behind the eyebrows in humans. In order to taste the coconut’s sweet water, we have to bore its eye open; similarly, in order to experience God within us, we have to get our inner or third eye opened.
And what is the janeyu-sanskaar (the ritual of tying janeyu or a consecrated thread diagonally across one’s torso) indicative of? According to ancient custom, after receiving deeksha or initiation from one’s guru or teacher, the student was supposed to wear janeyu all his life to remind him of the message of self-knowledge and God-realization inherent in the mantra (holy chant) granted him by his guru. Likewise, a perfect spiritual Master helps the initiate attain the supreme goal of human life, which is to find everlasting merger of our soul in God, and at the same time protects and shelters the pupil through the various ups and downs of material life.
When a sister ties a raakhi on to her brother’s wrist, he promises to protect her always. But who is there to protect the brother? Who is there capable enough to protect us in this world and the next? Only a satguru or a perfect spiritual Master is competent enough to help and support us through the myriad pitfalls of life. On the day of initiation, he ties us with an invisible thread of protection that shields us from harm every moment of our life. To be initiated by a spiritual adept is to ensure permanent getaway from the incessant cycle of life and death and to attain eternal salvation during this very lifetime.
The satguru, full of love and compassion for our soul, initiates us into the mysteries of the beyond. He gives our soul a strong spiritual boost at the time of initiation so that it is uplifted and is able to concentrate on the inner or third eye. The Bible says, “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”
A perfect spiritual adept enables us to still our mind and focus it at the seat of the soul, or our inner eye, by making us repeat the mantra given by him at the time of initiation. As the concentration of the mind deepens at this spot, we gradually start experiencing the divine light and sound of the inner spiritual regions.
By steadily increasing our absorption in this divine light and sound of God, our soul transcends body consciousness and enters the celestial regions. There it meets the radiant form of its spiritual Master, who then takes the soul on a journey through the astral, the causal, and the supercausal regions, and finally reaches the Sach Khand or the purely spiritual region where the soul attains merger in the Lord. And this is the ultimate goal of human birth.
This profound spiritual experience and protection cannot be provided to us by any earthly relation. Only our satguru can successfully extract us from the wheel of continuous transmigration into different life forms and liberate our soul from all worldly clutches. In this way he grants us true protection, not only during our life on this earth but even afterward.