Question: What is the significance of burning incense and should it be used in modern times?

Sadhguru: When certain substances burn, there is fragrance which is pleasant for the nostrils. But burning incense is about the atmosphere, not about you. One aspect is that it smells – especially indoors – and there are also different kinds of energy structures which will happen in different spaces because of the shape and size of the room. This is why in Indian culture, such attention is paid to the shape and size of the room in which you live. If it is heavily ventilated, like if two walls are open, then it almost feels like outdoors. That is different. Most homes are not made this way. You cannot open too many windows because you have neighbors, or there is air conditioning, or weather considerations. Different shapes and sizes create different kinds of energy structures. If they become very strong, these energy structures can determine your psychological and emotional state, which can either be conducive or become an impediment in who you want to be.

Sambrani and Its Benefits

Volunteer Offering Sambrani at Adiyogi Alayam | Significance of Burning Incense Sticks

There is something called sambrani which is a very powerful substance. If people want to do some auspicious event, they burn sambrani. When people are ill, the first thing they do is burn sambrani. It has now been found that it also kills certain types of bacteria in the air and on surfaces.

Especially if a death happens in the family, sambrani is burnt for up to twelve days, because they want to clear that air completely.

It is a certain kind of resin which a tree drips. You will see massive trees in the forest where people have carved into the tree in the pursuit of sambrani. The trees look solid outside, but there is a cavity inside where this resin drips. I do not know the natural reason why these resins come out, but people gather this. It is a precious little material and you have to walk miles to get a substantial amount of resin, because these trees have to be mature. That means they must be at least over thirty to fifty years old, otherwise you do not get it.

Sambrani has a powerful impact on the atmosphere. It is not necessarily a fragrance but a substance which purifies the air and makes the atmosphere feel livelier. If you burn mild sambrani in the house, though you are indoors, it will make it feel like outdoors, an unstructured space. Especially if a death happens in the family, sambrani is burnt for up to twelve days, because they want to clear that air completely.

Sadhguru’s First “Spiritual” Expo

I am a little apprehensive of speaking about these subtler aspects because there is already so much a new-agey stuff going around. When I first came to Nashville, someone told me, “Sadhguru, there is a spiritual expo happening.”

I said, “What, a spiritual expo? Even in India, it happens only once in twelve years.”

“No, here we have it every year.”

I said, “I want to see.”

They said, “Okay, let's go.” Then they came to pick me up in the afternoon and they said, “Sadhguru we have gotten a slot for you to speak in the spiritual expo.”

I said, “Great.” I went there. There was a huge tent and when we went in there, country music was going on full blast. Obviously, this was a group which would not find any other paid stage. Maybe better known groups would come in the evening. The stage was empty in the afternoon and anyone could use the sound system, so they were banging away. I said, “Okay, spiritual expo! But it is okay, music is just a cultural thing. Let me focus on the spiritual expo.”

I went inside. Someone was selling a spiritual bath soap, someone else was selling a spiritual stone or a pebble from somewhere which is spiritual. They were selling all kinds of exotic incense, too. Then I thought, “Oh, this is like the Indian shandy.” There will be all kinds of exotic things being sold. There will be a twisted root that could make you invisible. You must go grind this root with the left jawbone of a female whale, and the whale should be alive – that means you actually swam in there, cut a piece of the jaw and came out. If you grind this together, while chanting some mantra, and then put the paste in the upper palate, you will become invisible… Actually, if you go into the mouth of the whale, you will become invisible!

So, incense has a certain impact, but do not overdo it. Do not think that it will determine your spiritual nature. It can change the atmosphere a little bit but it should not be over-certified.

The Dangers of Chemical Incense

One can use incense in a sensible manner. But these days incense is being made with chemical stuff. You have enough chemicals floating around on the street, in the industry and on the factory floor where you may be working. At least do not burn chemically made incense within your house because I think almost eighty percent of what is available in the market today is chemical. You must check it out before you burn it because if you burn chemicals within closed enclosures, the negative impact of that is very big. It must be made of natural resin or certain other essential oils and materials. It makes a mild difference. If you need that kind of a difference, it definitely helps.

Editor's Note:  Pure herbal and organic incense sticks and cones in variety of fragrances are available from Isha Life.


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