Kanthi, a necklace of bead worn around the neck, is the symbol of our surrender to the creator of this universe, the supreme almighty. The kanthi is the best symbol of one’s surrender, as it gives us the ultimate feeling of oneness with God.
How do we wear Kanthi?
Kanthi is to be worn at the hands of saints, who live life as per guidelines by Shreeji Maharaj. When a devotee wears a kanthi for the first time, a ceremony is performed. Saints gives water in right palm of the person who accepts kanthi, simultaneously chanting the following Sharanagat Mantra
“ Kal Maya papa karma yamdut Bhayadaham Swaminarayanam sharanam prapannoasmi sapatumam “
With chanting of this powerful mantra, all the sins of our past life and present life would burn away. Essentially we would start to live a new life, and kanthi would inspire us to lead a very spiritual and moral life.
After wearing Kanthi one should not:
- Consume alcohol,
- Eat non-vegetarian food,
- Commit adultery
- Accept food or water served by a person not approved by age old convention.
These rules are to be strictly followed:
A Kanthi consists of two lines of beads made of tulasi (basil) wood. One string represents the soul and the other represent the supreme lord. The tying of the two strings to gather symbolises the union of the soul with the supreme lord. It has great spiritual value, with Ayurvadic, virtues. There is an interesting history behind the custom of wearing a kanthi in our faith.
History of Kanthi:
At that time, Khima sutar, a devotee offered a beautiful Kanthi, made from the hard shell of a coconut. Shreeji Maharaj was very pleased to see such Kanthi. He expressed appreciation and offered him his shawl. The same Kanthi was also liked by Sadguru Shree Muktanand Swami, Brahmanand Swami, Gopalanand Swami and all other saints.
Shreeji Maharaj declared: “From today we should set a tradition in our Sampraday (sect) to wear such a Kanthi, but it should be made of holy basil or sandalwood.” All the Paramahans and devotees welcomed the advice, but sandalwood was not available in any nearby villages or town. Khima Sutar expressed his concern and requested Maharaj what to do if sandalwood is not available in nearby places. Shreeji Maharaj said he should go to Surat where it is available in plenty. Khima Sutar gladly accepted the advice and brought sandalwood from there. He made several Kanthi of two strings and offered first one to Shreeji Maharaj and then to all the saints and devotees. Since then, the tradition of wearing Kanthi has become an integral part of our faith.
The Glory of Kanthi:
Khima Sutar followed the order of Shreeji Maharaj and boarded a boat from Mahuva port, en route to surat. Coincidentally, a wicked person boarded the same boat for surat. He was jealous of Shreeji Maharaj and was notorious for dirty tricks. He saw Khima Sutar, a devotee of Shreeji Maharaj and was very annoyed. He played black magic, chanted dirty spell on Khima Sutar, exercised evil spirit, and threw black beans at him. Khima Sutar was a true devotee. He had a Kanthi round his neck, an U mark with circular red mark on his forehead, a Mala in his right hand and has divine name of Shreeji Maharaj on his tongue. The evil spirit of wicked person could not harm him. Khima sutar clearly understood that the wicked person was exercising dirty practices on him.
In the morning Khima Sutar collected all the black beans thrown at him, made a packet and get down at Surat port. After arrival at the port he proceeded to city and stayed at Dharamshala. The wicked person came to the same Dharmashala where Khima sutar settled down. Khima sutar finished his morning routine of bathing, and performing morning Puja. He then opened the packet of black beans, thoroughly washed them and prepared Khichadi (hotch potch). By seeing this, the wicked man was shocked. His dirty tricks, black magic, wicked spells and black beans could not cast an evil spell on him, and to his dismay all his actions proved ineffective.
On the contrary he prepared hotch potch of beans and had a sumptuous meal. Wicked person contemplated that when a mere devotee is so powerful, how powerful would be his Almighly? He then apologised Khima sutar and later came to have Darshan of Shreeji Maharaj, fell at his feet and accepted initiation and became saint. He was later known as Shunyantitanand Swami
AHARA SHUDDHI (Diet purity)
Like food, like mind (Ann evu man). Food has profound effects on mind and conduct of human being. The root of development of human being is in his brain. If mind is sacred then thoughts will be positive. If thinking is positive, the behaviour will be positive and good. Hence the mind becomes sacred by purified food only. We should avoid food that affects mind and vitiates thinking. We should accept food, recommended by our religious scriptures and reject the other. It is purified food. The religious scripture recommend our food to be free filtered. Food prepared of such clean, good quality ingredients and strained water should be accepted for our consumption and such food would have positive impact on our mind.
Liquor, fish, meat of animal, egg etc. are strictly prohibited for consumption of devotees of our faith. Food which has been prepared by use of liquor or flesh of animal directly or indirectly affects the mid negatively and that is why they are strictly prohibited. Intoxicated foods like onion and garlic, drink like tea and coffee containing caffeine are prohibited foods. Thus vegetarian food duly cleaned of germs and insects is the base of purifies food. The food items prepared with an intention of earning wealth in restaurant, hotel or road side restaurant can not have the desired purity. Therefore the food prepared of unstrained water, unclean raw grain, spices and stale rotten vegetables are extremely dangerous for our health. Reputed restaurant and hotels maintaining high standard of hygiene, in preparation of food to improve taste value add alcohol, stock of flesh and intoxicants during cooking. Hence it is imperative to forgo the food prepared in the market altogether.
Why onion and garlic is prohibited items for food?
Onion and garlic are offensive smell producing vegetables. After consuming them, not only foul odour comes out of our mouth but the whole body starts stinking. Even body sweat would have offensive smell. This not only spoils entire surroundings but becomes intolerable to others as well. When we meet out best friends or relatives we would like to talk to them, but when they open their mouth, offensive smell would force us to walk back and would turn away out face, even though they are so dear to us. Why this is so? This is because an offensive smell of mouth is intolerable and we would like to talk to them from a distance. Hence Shree Maharaj had advised his devotees not to consume them. Moreover they are Tamasi vegetable (Pertaining to evil attributes) (Tamoguni). Due to such food, one becomes lazy, dozes during daytime, and suffers from delusion and anger. This would bring other bad qualities in life making life miserable. This is the reason why our religious scriptures have forbidden the use of onion, garlic, acrid (Tikhu), fried food, and other Tamasi food (pertaining to evil attributes) as they severely affect the health of an individual and should be avoided.
What type of food one should eat?
Nutritious (milk & honey), healthy, fatty food (ghee & butter) and vegetarian food cooked in cleaned utensils should be used for eating. When we bring fruits like banana, apple, grapes, etc from market, they should be thoroughly washed, cleaned, and thereafter they should be offered to Shreeji Maharaj. We should consume then as Prasad there after.
The word Aarti has been derived from art (the inner feeling affected with great emotions coming out from heart). It means offering prayer to Shreeji Maharaj with a sacred lamp and heart filled with affection for him. Aarti means welcoming Shreeji Maharaj, because flame emits light and he could be viewed in life. When Aarti is performed. Light emits all around from the flame thereby having vision of Shreeji Maharaj.
Guru Ramanand Swami was preceptor of Shreeji Maharaj and Muktananad Swami. Ramanand Swami appointed lord Sahajanand Swami as he is successor at Jetpur, and advice all his followers and disciples to obey and act as per his wish, and breathed his last at Fareni Village. Muktanand Swami had lot of affection for his Guru Ramanand Swami. When Ramanand Swami breathed his last, he felt gloomy and could not concentrate on any thing. Shreeji Maharaj used to provide comfort during difficult time. While at village kalvani near Junagadh Shreeji Maharaj went for his bath with saints and disciples at nearby river around 3:00 p.m. Muktanand Swami and paravat bhai followed him. Muktanand Swami had to go to attend nature’s call, so he took a port fill with water and went to Khakhara ungle. He thought of Guru Ramanand Swami in his mind and speak softly to him “Kindly tell me who is God, You or Swaminarayan?” I want my doubts to be cleared. Suddenly there was lightening and he saw Ramnanad swami praying lord Swaminarayan. With tears in his eyes, he bowed down at the feet of his Guru Ramanand Swami, who asked him, the reason of his gloominess. Ramanand Swami said “I had told you earlier that I am just a drum beater, the real performer Sahajanand Swami would arrive soon on the scene. He is supreme God. You must obey him as he is your preceptor and Lord, act according to his wish and please him. Then I would be happy”.
Muktanand swami bowed down at the feet of Ramanand Swami and promised act according to his wish. After this event, the gloom of Muktanand Swami disappeared, emotions cooled down, felt extremely relaxed and happy and had lot of peace of mind. After having his bath in the river near by, he collected several red flowers of Karen, prepared a nice garland and rushed to Ashram. He arranged Arati of Lord Swaminarayan. When Sahajanand Swami returned after bath, Muktanand Swami requested him with folded hands to occupy the throne of his Guru Ramanand Swami and installed him as God. Thereafter he performed Arati, worshiped and prayed him with “Jay Sadguru Swami”. From that time on wards all his devotees had been performing the Arati with devotion for Shreeji Maharaj at all temples of Swaminarayan faith and in their residences. It is being performed even today and would continue in future. In all our Shikharabanddh temples (having peak) Arti performed five times a day as detailed here under:
Aarti’s of the day
Mangala: Wake up time (morning hours)
Shanagar: Fully dressed after bath (at sunrise)
Rajabhog: During lunch (at noon)
Sandhya: Evening prayer (at sunset)
Shayan: Just before going to bed.