Incense

Almost all religions and spiritual schools use incense in one form or other. Fragrant sticks, flowers, spices, perfumes and various other methods have been used for thousands of years in ritual worship and meditation sanctuaries. What role incense plays in spirituality and religion?

When I was growing up and came to study the theory of evolution-I wondered why we dislike some scents and like others. For example–why smell of a rose is pleasant and that of H2S so unpleasant. Hydrogen Sulphide is released from our guts along with excretion–similarly we don’t like Methane which is released from marshes. Gradually I came to understand that pleasant smells suggest that we can stay at those places and the air will not harm our organisms whereas unpleasant smells suggest that air would be detrimental for our respiratory system as well as bloodstream. I still don’t know what ingredients a rose contains which are beneficial for us but rose-water is used for eyes and for other purposes so it’s safe to assume that it’s indeed a fact that in this case pleasant smell is suggestive of good stimuli. There might be many exceptions to this and it is a general rule. For example–there are some dangerous trapping plants in the wild(I neither remember nor have time to look them up right now but I have read about them) which give wonderful effervescence. Another exception is allergic organisms. Allergy is still a mystery for medical science at large so we should leave it at that. Even most pleasant smells can trigger off allergies for some people.

Now, does meditation and religious ritual worship utilize this knowledge? Not directly. Our organisms have evolved in a way that unpleasant smells trigger bad moods. Some of them are apparent but others aren’t so obvious. There are subtle gradations of which we aren’t aware. Our senses flood our brains with infinite perceptions every second but only infinitesimal portions is brought into our conscious attention. There are plenty of scents which are mildly unpleasant but not alarmingly repelling. They trigger our moods sometimes without making us run away from those places. What incense does is–to carefully trigger positive moods. The aromas used in meditation sanctuaries and ritual worships are carefully chosen to trigger positive states of mind. It might not work for everyone and different people might like different scents(obviously!) but majority of mankind reacts positively to these scents.

Burning incense is a way of copying natural meditative states in ritual form. Beginners in meditation don’t have experience of divine fragrances or visions. Masters created some rules to give proper conditioning to trigger higher awareness. In deep meditation–wonderful visions, lights, smells and sounds are experienced–so ritual worship and meditation sanctuaries try to enact it using bells, conches, incense, fire, candles and sandal wood etc. When deep meditative states are reached external conditioning doesn’t matter that much but for most of us it is important to create an environment which is conducive to meditation at first and incense does play a positive role in doing so. That is why it has been part of the ritual worship since many thousand years though most of us don’t know about it. Use incense in your meditation sanctuary and it will positively alter your meditation experience. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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23 thoughts on “Incense

  1. I love sandalwood, and nag champa. I used to light incense every day, but now do so only during the summer, since one can open windows, and the smoke doesn’t oppress us, as it might in the winter in this part of the world.
    Very nice post, Anand!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sandalwood is one of my most favorite incenses. When my son was the cantor at the big Catholic church in town we used to go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. When the priest would come in swinging the thurible it would just about gag me. Don’t know what kind of incense THEY use, but it wasn’t very pleasant.

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  3. We use incense in our home on a regular basis. Sandalwood is a favorite, as is Jasmine. We often use it at naptime and bed to help bring a calming, restful feeling to the bedroom. It is great to use for ritual and meditation. Like other tools for ritual, it can help one focus on the task at hand. We regularly sage our home and it really changes the whole atmosphere in the house.

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      1. I apologize. I did not see this until today.I am not sure there is a short answer for the name choice. It should probably be a blog post at some point. I will try not to get to longwinded. I don’t quite fit anywhere that I go. Even in alternative lifestyles, I tend to be the one that just doesn’t quite fit the box or accepted parameters.My thoughts are abstract most of the time. My whole life has been kind of strange adventure. Some of it has been good some of it truly hard and painful but always a little or a lot out of the norm. I am definitely eclectic in all aspects of my life. I am geeky, introverted, and just a little strange. When I find something that interests me I tend to get quite obsessed with it until I find what works for me or I have learned all I can from it. It becomes a part of my journey. I guess that would be a way to put it. LOL I have googled my name in real life and there is no one that has my name spelled the way it is.
        It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t need to fit in. I am a little strange and a little weird but it makes me happy and seems to make my partners, family and friends happy. I like living my life my own way, having my own thoughts, and just being free to be different.
        I also have a partner that calls me their “Strange Addiction” so that is partially where it comes from as well.

        I am not sure I explained too well but I hope that helped some! Blessings and positive energy to you!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. My favorite is also champa and have the ritual to burn it on Sundays as that is the day I give myself my day off of my wellness routine, all the other days I use a diffuser and my favorite essential oil for that is lemongrass, my favorite scent that I like to wear is musk oil…not the perfume, the oil…I love the feeling that scents give me…they tend to be very meditative…great topic…happy valentine day to everyone

    Liked by 1 person

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