The Haidakhan Tradition
Babaji taught that Karma Yoga was the highest yoga in this age. However, the Haidakhan tradition also contains many elements of bhakta yoga or devotion. 'Hard work' and 'Service to humanity' were what Babaji emphasised above everything else.
Nama japa means to repeat a divine name which is highest for you. This can come from your faith or tradition and it is the name of God, Goddess or Great Spirit which you resonate with the most. Babaji taught that nama japa or repetition of divine names purified the mind and bestowed peace and focus. He taught that the most powerful mantra to use for this age is 'Om Namah Shivay'. This is the core mantra used by Babaji devotees.
Japa can be in different forms; you may sit and chant on beads known as a 'mala' which is basically a type of rosary. You can also say mantras outloud or whisper them or you can sing the mantras. It is also possible to write mantras. However, you prefer to do nama japa, the important thing is to do it with sincerity, with your whole heart and it will bestow great peace and calm. Nama japa is especially important in these times in the world to stay peaceful and centred.
Aarati is a daily ceremony where participants sing and make offerings to the divine. The literal meaning of Aarati is 'that which takes pain away'. Aarati is usually in front of a shrine with photos, statues and pictures of God/Great Spirit/Goddess. For Babaji devotees, the photos and pictures will usually be of Sri Babaji. It is for the individual to choose statues, photos and other objects which most resonate with their own heart. The aarati plate contains an oil lamp made with a ghee and cotton wool wick. There is also a red cloth and a lota of water. Other items which are offered include flowers, perfume, incense, camphor, rice, sandalwood paste (chandan) and vermillion paste (kumkum).
A home aarati is usually less elaborate and simpler than a temple aarati. In a public temple there will be initiated murtis (statues with the awoken essence of the divine) which are cared for a by a trained pujari. The items on the shrine such as the photos and statues are usually washed and dried each day as part of the ritual. Also, perfume, flowers, food (known as 'prasad' which is blessed food) incense and other items are all offered to the shrine.
These are songs sung to the divine and the singing of bhajans and kirtan invokes peace of mind and inner calm. This is a core part of the Haidakhan tradition. Singing bhajans and kirtan gives peace and bliss to a person. In Haidakhan Ashrams bhajans and kirtan happens in the morning and evening as part of the aarati ceremony.
The fire-ceremony, or yagna, is a thanksgiving to the divine and Mother Earth. When you give offerings to the sacred fire, it is a direct route to the divine to worship or honour the aspects of the divine you seek to. Havan is a deeply healing ritual which brings great blessings to people and the land.
In Vedic scriptures Agni is the God of fire and is seen as the 'mouth of the Gods/Goddesses'. Each offering to Agni has a mantra followed by the word 'swaha' which means 'I offer to the divine'. In many parts of the world, especially India and South America, sacred fire ceremonies are performed to bless and promote the growth of the crops. Scientific research has been carried out to show how the fire ceremony can stimulate the growth of crops and plants.
Navaratri is a nine day sacred fire festival to honour the Divine Mother. The literal translation means 'Nine Nights'. It takes place in the Spring and also in the Autumn each year. Navaratri commences on the new moon.
The nine days have different aspects of the Goddess which are honoured on each particular day. These nine names are called Nava Durga which means the '9 names of Durga'. Durga is a Mother Earth like Goddess. During Navaratri it is common for people to perform certain austerities to help their spiritual growth. The type of austerity, sometimes referred to as 'tapas' can be whatever you feel you need to do e.g. a vow of silence for certain times of the day, a period of fasting or just eating one meal a day, a time to give up smoking or drinking or abstain from coffee or tea. It is not fixed, it is up to each individual to choose to give up or reduce something during the 9 day period.