In Hindu culture, plants have a special place.  Banana plants are used in special occasions as harbingers of luck and prosperity, mango leaves are hung outside the entrances to ward off evil, Tulsi plants inside the home bring Divine energy. Large trees are seen as protectors and as symbols of spirituality (Buddha got his Enlightenment under a banyan tree),  But a small seed with a special story takes the top place.  Elaeocarpus ganitrus - is a typical tropical tree with broad leaves and buttresses above the soil.  The raw fruit is green and when ripe it is ink blue.  The fruits are collected and dried so that seeds can be removed. And it is the seed that is sought after.  The seeds are unique and convoluted like human brain.  They are nearly spherical with variations in shape.  There are distinct compartments marked by lines.  Each compartment is called a face.  The seeds vary by number of faces 1 up to 21 - some being extremely rare and some quite common. The number of faces signify the specialty of the seed.  The single face is purely for attaining spiritual enlightenment whereas the 15 face is for general well-being.  The seed also commonly referred to as bead is called Rudraksha.

Rudra means Shiva and Aksha means teardrops. Shiva woke up from an intense meditation that caused him to shed 
tear.  It fell on the ground and grew into a tree whose seeds carry Shiva's energy. They are like little amplifiers that increase the spiritual energy - both internal and external.  It can be worn as a single seed  or as a necklace of many seeds around the neck.

With spirituality gaining popularity, Rudraksha seeds are also seeing increase in demand.  Recently an expo was held in New Jersey specifically for Rudraksha that attracted many vendors and suppliers. Rudraksha based accessories - necklace, chanting beads, meditating seats are getting popular. But what use is a can of gasoline for a bicyclist.  It is not uncommon for people buying and wearing them without any guidance and without any spiritual effort.  In the next blog, we will chat with Shailesh about the role Rudraksha can play in an initiate's life and spiritual growth.