Ma's India Blog: The Evocation of the Gods with Incense: A Favorite Remembrance Mas India

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Monday, October 5, 2009

One of my favorite remembrances of incense was at the Muktananda Ashram in Oakland, California in 1972. I had gone to visit Guru Muktananda for a private darshan. This was my first introduction to spiritual life. As I walked into the Oakland ashram, I was struck by the smell of Muktananda’s favorite incense, Nag Champa. Forever and to this day it is still my favorite incense. This is probably due not only to the smell itself but the fact that I have such a positive association with meeting the great Guru. Many types of incense have appeared since that time and I know that many of them are favorites of seekers. When I light my own incense, I feel that Nag Champa especially purifies the atmosphere of my meditative space and I am brought instantly into a quiet place. Even though it is not my first preference, I have found that the Auroshika incenses have that same purity.

One of the wonderful qualities of incense is its ability to bring a spiritual essence into any room when lit. Going into a church one is instantly enmeshed in religious significance when smelling the incense burning during the worship. Incense is used in not only Episcopal and Catholic churches but non-Christian Gnostic churches and in the practice of ceremonial magic. The purpose of incensing and the symbolic value of the smoke is that of purification and sanctification. The smoke symbolizes the prayers of the faithful drifting up to heaven.

The use of incense dates back to biblical times and may have originated in Egypt. Used by the Pharaohs, it was thought to drive away demons and gratify the presence of the gods. 

Moving forward in time, let us also not forget the three gifts of the Wise Men to Christ: gold, frankincense and myrhh. Myrrh is a resin (dried sap) from the myrrh tree used in both perfumes and incense. It was commonly used as an embalming ointment in Jesus’ day. Frankincense is another aromatic resin, made from the milky sap of the boswellia tree. An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. Used as perfume, incense and in aromatherapy today, frankincense and myrrh were costly gifts, and worth their weight in gold.

Japanese incense has been known to be more delicate incense, especially the high-quality aromas. It was brought to Japan in the 6th Century by Chinese Buddhist monks. Japanese incense is generally more refined, and in fact, the world of Japanese incense is like the world of wine, with a great variety of qualities ranging from merely good to connoisseur-level.
Tibetan aroma therapeutic incense is purely hand prepared from aromatic herbs in high altitude regions of Tibet according to fundamental principles of the ancient Tibetan traditional system of medicine that originated some 2500 years ago.
Another favorite and most traditional incense is sandalwood incense, capable of filling surroundings with a beautiful fragrance and giving a peaceful feeling to all who are present. Sandalwood itself is thought to be the most spiritual of all scents. It is best to light incense mindfully. First one lights candles, and then the end of a stick of incense is lit in the candle flame. Usually the incense burns with a flame for a few seconds, and then the incense is gently waved in the air. This has the effect both of extinguishing the flame so that the incense is now glowing as an ember rather than as a flame, and of sending a stream of smoke into the air.

When you visit Kashi Ashram, you are invited to light incense, ring a bell, sit on your meditation pillow or chair and enjoy the spiritual atmosphere as you plunge deeply into your meditation!

Find these and other great Incense at Ma’s India Spiritual Gifts.

by: Mas India icon18_email-3509160icon18_edit_allbkg-2258112

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