Holy Ash or Vibuthi

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Holy Ash or Vibuthi

The holy Ash is the substance the devotees wear on their bodies with adoration and respect. This along with the rudrAxa beads (1) shows up the devotees of the Simple but Supreme Lord shiva. The holy Ash has lots of spiritual sense. There are lots of hymns telling the glory of the holy Ash. ((2) - for example). Ash - the substance that is arrived when things are completely burnt off. In natural terms it is a final state. The state where it has nothing left to burn off ! This indicates the transience of the beings and the Permanence of the Supreme that smears in this ash. This also indicates the matured state of bliss the devotees would be heading towards which stands beyond perturbance - transformation (nothing to burn off).

The purANic events associated with the holy Ash show its significance. When the three daemons of impurities (tripura) were burnt down by the mere smile of the God, the ash that remained got settled on the Lord, Who danced there. Thus the tripurAri was smeared in the Ash that came out of burning out of the three impurities. When the cupid - the deva of lust, tried to fire his arrows on the yogic Lord, he was burnt by the Lord into a heap of ash. The unruffled Lord appeared decorated with that ash. At the times when everything reduces unto It, the Everexistant Lord wears that ash.

The devotees of the Lord, Who gives His form to the ardent worshipper, wear the same way the holy Ash on their body. This holy Ash is prepared in the ritual fire in a specified way (3) along with the chanting of the Holy Five Letters (4) and other vedic hymns. Thus obtained Holy Ash is worn on various specified places of the body including the forehead chanting the Holy Five Letters. (There are two broad categories of wearing the Holy Ash. One is uddUlanam that is sprinkling the Holy Ash on the body and the other is tripuNDram that is in three distinct bands)

Some of the upanishads that hail the glory of holy ash.

* kAlAgnirudram
* taitrIya
* yogatattva
* jApAli
* sanyAsa
* vAsudeva
* bhasmajApAla
* jApAla (bR^ihajjApAla)
* nArada parivrAja
* rAmarahasya
* chANDilya
* tripurAtApini
* atharvashira

Holy Ash - Some Information

Lord kAlAgni rudra teaches bhusu.ndi - earth came out of the sadyojAta face of the Lord. From this came the gray colored cow called nanda from the dung of which came vibhUti. From the vAmadeva face came the water, from that came the black colored cow bhadra giving bhasita. From the aghora face came the fire, from that the copper colored cow surabhi giving bhasma. From the tatpuruSha face came the gas/air, from which came shAnti and from that came the white colored cow sushIle giving xAra. From the IshAna face came the space, from which came the multi colored cow sumanA giving raksha.

The Holy Ash which is called by five names, when pronunced raises the spiritual power of the individual and hence is called vibhUti. Since it burns the sins to ashes it is called bhasita. Since it gives the wisdom to all it is called bhasmam. Since it neutralises the bad things it is called xAra. Since it protects the people from evil forces, it is called raxa.

Irrespective of caste, creed, sex and all other differences all the people shall wear the Holy Ash. It is an old adage the says the forehead without the ash is a ruined one. The Holy Ash having the powers of agni and soma refreshes the one who wears it. For the seekers of yoga this Holy Ash kindles the spirit and provides early fruit. When wearing the Holy Ash the mantra shivAya namaH(The Holy Five Letters(1)) is chanted or the sadyojAtAdi paJNcha brahma mantra(2) or the tryambakaM or mAno mahAntam from rudra sUktam(3).

The Holy Ash purifies the one who wears it. This purification (bath) is called Agneya snAna. In this the renouced ones would smear the ash in the remains of ritual fire from the leg to the head. Others would smear in the ash from the head to the leg.

ska.ndha purANam says that the Holy Ash would have to be worn at the following fifteen places in the body.

* Head
* Forehead
* Neck
* Chest
* Both sides of the belly
* Two arms
* Two Ankles
* Two wrists
* Two sides of the back
* Behind the neck