Wake up before dawn

By Amitabhan


Humanity's relationship with nature is unbreakable. We depend on her for everything -- sunshine, rain, food, air, clothing and more. Hence it is imperative that her laws are not flouted. Myriad creatures arise before dawn, and this natural law is applicable to humans too. If our mental and physical health is to be preserved, it is essential that we abide by this law.

For us, it is ideal to awake before sunrise. As per the Hindu scriptures, the devout Hindu visualises the Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati and Lord Vishnu in the palms of his/her hands and mentally prostrates to them, seeking their blessings in all undertakings.

Subsequently, they prostrate to the parents and the Guru. For those who have surrendered to a Guru, all deities can be seen in the Guru. The auspicious slokas or hymns for the morning can be chanted next. (For the appropriate slokas, see "Immortal Light," a book containing Amma's advice to householders.) Then we may brush our teeth and have a bath or shower. Amma advises us to make use of this time by chanting the mantra.

After this, we can light the lamp before the altar on which the pictures of our Guru and beloved deity are installed.This is followed by the chanting of the Gayatri mantra or the Lalita Sahasranama (or any other recitation of divine names) and our individual mantra.The surya namaskara can also be performed (the sun salutations, which form a part of Hatha Yoga) according to our capacity. The ancients regarded these as daily rites. Only if we rise before dawn can these rites be performed unhurriedly, with a calm mind.

The one and a half hours just before sunrise is known as Brahmamuhurta. At this time the expanse of the sky will have a rosy-red hue. A few stars may also be visible. This sacred interval is also known as the Amritavela. This is the best time to get out of bed and meet the day. All the birds and animals that Mother Nature has assigned to awake at this time are indeed up by then. Hence they are able to enjoy the sacred bliss of those pristine moments during the Amritavela.

Isn't it a pity that the human being, the pinnacle of creation, is the only creature that slumbers in sloth at this time?

Those who sleep at dawn will find that their intellect and senses are weakened greatly. The body will be dogged by lethargy, the lustre of the face will fade, and generally such people will not be prosperous. This is stated in the Subhashita:

"He who wears unwashed and unclean clothes, does not clean his teeth, eats too much, speaks harshly and unfeelingly, and sleeps at dawn and dusk is forsaken by Goddess Lakshmi even if he be Lord Vishnu, who is her own husband."

Kuchelinam dantamalopacharinam
Bahvashinam nishthurabhashinam cha
Sooryodaye chastamite shayanam
Vimunchati sreer yadi chakrapanih

On the other hand, those who arise at this time will experience increased health, strength and spiritual lustre. The following verses from the ancient Hindu text, the Atharva Veda (9.68.22), makes it clear that "Bathing in the rays of the rising sun at this time will destroy many illnesses." ("Udyannaditya rashmibhih seershno rogamaneenashah.")

Obviously the meaning here is that the rays of the rising sun have certain special qualities that are not found in the sunrays at other times. In many other places the Atharva Veda describes the curative power of the rays of the rising sun:

"The rising sun removes all the factors which cause death." (17.1.30).

"The rosy rays of the rising sun cure heart disease and paleness." (17.1.30).

These are some examples. Similarly, the Rig Veda, the most ancient Hindu text, also describes how the rising sun dispels all heart disease and jaundice (Rig Veda 1.50.11).

The scriptures exhort us to sit facing the east at sunrise, to perform worship (sandhya) and a fire sacrifice (homa). The Srimad Bhagavata, the gold mine of devotion, says that the main means of acquiring health through worship of the sun is the surya namaskara. ("Arogyam bhaskaradichhet.) The surya namaskara is also to be performed facing the sun. All this can be completed only if we wake up before dawn.

There is another health benefit which accrues from waking up early at dawn. Most of us begin our work in the morning. Those who arise late will have to rush in an unholy hurry to reach their place of work or study in time. How much tension and anxiety they have to suffer! All this will definitely take its toll on a person's health. If we wake up early, perform all our personal disciplines and then go to work and begin our job, how peaceful and secure we will feel! How many diseases will thus be kept away!

Thus, if we arise before dawn, if possible at brahmamuhurta, and perform our personal spiritual practice and then go to work, we can be certain that our health will be the best it can be -- the risks will be reduced significantly if not fully. Vaghbhata, the grand teacher of Ayurveda (Ayurveda is the ancient Indian holistic health and medicinal system. Ayurvedic medicines are usually prepared from medicinal herbs and plants.), says in his text Ashtangahridaya: "He who wants to live long and be healthy should wake up from sleep at brahmamuhurta. Such a one will also accomplish great deeds."

Brahme muhurte utthishteth
Swastho raksharthamayushah
(Ashtangahridaya: Sutrasthana, Chapter 1 on daily disciplines)

Let these words guide us towards the supreme goal of life.