What is the Difference Between Pournami and Amavasya?
Q: Traditionally, Indian spirituality has attached a great deal of significance to the phases of the moon. What exactly is the significance of Pournami (the full moon) and Amavasya (the no-moon)?
It is like turning up the volume on the microphone. The talk remains the same, but suddenly, it is a louder and clearer. Similarly, if there was a little madness earlier, when you give it a little extra energy or increase the flow of energy, everything seems to be magnified. The energy is a little higher on the full moon day. It is not just madness that is magnified. If you are peaceful, you become more peaceful. If you are joyous, you become more joyous. Whatever is your quality, it gets pushed up. People only noticed madness because most people are in that state! But even if you are a very loving person, your love will overflow on Pournami.
What makes the energy a little higher? One factor is that there is a certain aesthetic quality. Anything that you look at, if it is beautiful, your receptivity to that object suddenly becomes greater. Anything that you consider ugly, the moment you look at it, your receptivity comes down. The full moon has a certain aesthetic quality which definitely improves your receptivity.
Another aspect is that the planet has moved into a certain position in relation with its satellite, which makes the vibrations very direct and forceful. The tides rise on this day because of the gravitational pull of the moon. The water is spilling over and trying to “jump” up. Similarly, your blood is also trying to “jump”. When the circulation of blood increases in your brain, whatever is your quality gets enhanced.
Subtle Energies or Powerful?
Coming to Amavasya, there is a lot of difference in the quality of meditation on Pournami and Amavasya. For a meditative person, Pournami is better. But Amavasya is a good day to do certain rituals and processes. On Amavasya nights, your energies are supposed to be roguish. Like a rogue elephant, your energies run amok. That is why Amavasya nights are used by tantrics. It gets the energies moving. Pournami nights have a more subdued quality, which is more subtle, pleasant and beautiful – more like love. Amavasya is a baser energy. If you want to compare the two, you can say Amavasya is more sex-oriented and Pournami is more love-oriented. Amavasya has a grosser nature and is more powerful. Pournami has a subtler nature. You cannot feel the power, it is so subtle. The kundalini also behaves like this: on Pournami, it moves very gently and on Amavasya it moves in great bursts and thrusts. There is more violence about it on Amavasya.
Pournami is a tremendous presence. The presence of the moon is so clear that wherever you look, everything becomes translucent. The vibration and light have a quality where everything gains a new kind of aura. The vibration and feel of the full moon is very different from the moon in other states. The Ida and Pingala within you also function in a different way. The prana, or vital energy, flows in a different way. You whole energy flows in a different way because the vibrations have changed.
It is not that you cannot remain in Pournami every day. You can. If you have some mastery over your sun and moon – the Pingala and Ida – the beauty of Pournami remains within you even in hot sunlight. If you have a certain mastery and control, you can choose to have Pournami every day. Or you can choose Amavasya every day. Or you don’t choose at all: whatever is happening in nature, you enjoy all the stages of life as they are.
Presence vs Absence
While Pournami is a tremendous presence, Amavasya is an absence. A logical mind always thinks presence is powerful and absence means nothing. But it is not so. As light has power, the absence of light – or darkness ‒ has its own power. In fact, it is more overpowering than light, isn’t it? Night is more overpowering than day because darkness is just absence. It is wrong to say that darkness exists. Light is absent and that absence has an overpowering presence. The same can happen here.
Even in your own consciousness, when you become meditative, it means you have become absent. When you become absent, your presence is tremendous. When you try to be present, you have no presence at all. An ego has no presence. But when you become absent, there is tremendous presence. The same is true with Amavasya. Gradually, the moon has disappeared, and that absence has created a certain power. This is why Amavasya is held as important.
For a hardworking, tough, aggressive person, Amavasya is definitely an important aspect. For a person who is very sensitive and subtle, Pournami is a very important aspect. Both have their own power. In terms of qualities, Pournami is love, and Amavasya is aggression. But we can make use of both. Both are energy.
Editor’s Note: This article is excerpted from “Of Mystics and Mistakes”, a book from Sadhguru which reminds us that each one of us can make the journey from confusion to clarity, from error to enlightenment, from self-deception to self-discovery – if only we choose. Download now.