The application of bhasma or ashes forms an integral part of tattva shuddhi sadhana, as it is a symbol of physical purification, as well as subtle and causal realms. Mahayogi Shiva, who is considered to be the father of tantra, is depicted naked and his whole body is besmeared with bhasma. Thus it is considered to be an auspicious act of discovering your shiva nature.
Bhasma literally means ‘disintegration’. Any matter which is disintegrated or broken up through the process of fire or water etc. is considered to be reduced to its ‘bhasmic’ form. When this process is completed, the residual substance is known as bhasma, which can be considered to be infinitely more refined and pure than the original matter. Thus, through a process of disintegration, the essence of any matter is discovered in its purest form.
Any matter which is disintegrated or broken up through the process of fire or water etc. is considered to be reduced to its ‘bhasmic’ form.
This process of disintegration is significant for it represents the disintegration of objective awareness as it occurs in tattva shuddhi. Just as we reduce matter to its bhasmic form externally, in the same way, we utilize the ‘fire’ of this tantric practice to discover the essence which is responsible for our body and mind with all its subtle manifestations. The result of this disintegration is in the form of an inner experience.
Matter has to be disintegrated in several stages to discover its essential nature and each stage reveals a residue which is subtler and finer. Similarly, there are many stages through which we have to traverse in order to fully disintegrate ourself, to experience our true essence.
These stages, which are known as Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana, induce an experience that gradually grows subtler and subtler, culminating into the fragrance of samadhi, the ultimate essence.
It is the grossness of matter that obscures the subtle essence inherent in it. As such, disintegration is a vital factor in all processes that deal with purification, whether external or internal. Purification means the elimination of all the dross and impurities already present within the self, and offers no improvement or addition within the self. Therefore, the application of bhasma is symbolic, because it represents the culmination of a process through which your inner awareness travels in its journey from matter to pure consciousness. Bhasma also symbolizes the transience of life; as it is said in the Bible, “From dust to dust, ashes to ashes …”
Bhasma is widely used in India as a medicinal treatment in the system of Ayurveda, one of the oldest and most profound medical systems, for the rejuvenation of life. Bhasma can be made from gold, silver, copper or any other metal with curative properties. However, in the practice of tattva shuddhi, bhasma is prepared from cow dung. The Sanskrit word for cow dung is gobar which literally means ‘gift from the cow’. During your travels in India, you may often have noticed the village women making round cakes out of gobar(cow dung) and leaving them to dry outside. It is these cakes that go into the making of bhasma.
Gold (Suwarna) is used in many Ayurvedic medicines in a processed (Bhasma) form
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The use of gobar is two-fold in India. Its inherent properties are a boon for overcoming many ailments. Admittedly, the feces of most animals, and even human beings for that matter are a source of disease and bacterial infection. However, on scientific analysis, it has been found that the feces of a cow are not only free from virus and infection but also contain useful hormones that have germicidal properties. In many South American countries, a mixture of cow dung has been used to fight foot-and-mouth disease, which is caused by a certain virus, and this mixture has proved effective in fighting the epidemic.If this cow dung system does not convince you of its hygienic and mystical properties, then you may completely do away with the practice. However, it is necessary to mention that many appliances, which you use with pride and utmost faith in your daily life, are unhygienic and culturally dangerous, but you never question them on scientific grounds. Even medicines are no exception,they are often made from many unhygienic elements. Gobar cannot be compared with these so-called medical and beauty items.
Why Do we apply vibhuti on our forehead
In yogic parlance, the word go is symbolic of our senses. Thus, Gopal, a name for Lord Krishna, means ‘protector of the senses’. Another name of Krishna, Govinda, literally means ‘Lord of the senses’. Similarly, gochar, which is symbolically used as the field where cows graze, literally means ‘the field of senses’, where the objective experiences are taking place.
From this diverse symbolism arose the word ‘go’ or ‘gomata’ for the cow. Gomata means ‘creator of the senses’.Thus the cow is revered in India and what we commonly refer to as cow dung is known as gobar or go-maya, the literal translation of which is ‘gift from the cow’.This is the reason why gobar and no other substance is used in the practice of tattva shuddhi.
Bhasma has been tried and tested by many yogis and rishis and its benefits have been verified by all. That is why this practice still continues till today. Yoga has proved to be a thoroughly scientific system of the body and mind, and it is impossible that they would accept or advocate the practice of applying bhasma if it did not induce the required effects in the person who uses it.
Preparation of Bhasma
As the application of bhasma is considered a vital part of tattva shuddhi, the method of preparation is detailed below.:
Bhasma should be prepared a few days prior to the practice and stored in a closed jar ready for use.
1. Take some cow dung and prepare several flat, round cakes.
1. Take the residue from stage 1 and add some cow’s milk and ghee (clarified butter made from cow’s milk).
2. Make a smooth paste, taking care that it should not become too watery, and then roll the paste into several medium sized balls.
3. Leave these to dry for a few days, and when they are completely dry, burn them as in stage 1.
4. Strain the residue through a thin muslin cloth. The residue, this time, will be finer and lighter in color.
5. Stage 2 can be repeated eleven times, with an addition of milk and ghee each time. With each successive burning the residue will become finer and more white, and the aroma will be as good as any expensive French perfume.
6. After the final stage, store the bhasma in a closed jar, so that the aroma does not escape.
The significance of burning the gobar eleven times is that the numerical equivalent of the shiva consciousness is eleven and, therefore, after burning the gobar eleven times, the residue is as subtle and fragrant as the experience of pure consciousness.