1. Get up before Sunrise. Sastras say that one should get up two hours before Sunrise(4 a.m.) and meditate on Paramatma. Chant names of Bhagavan and slokas and think of Him.
After brushing teeth, it is nowadays a practice to do exercises/ go on a walk etc.
2. Sastras lay down rules for 'vapanam' (haircut). The same rules should be deemed applicable for self-shave. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are o.k. Sunday, Tuesday, Saturday, Prathama, Shashti, Ashtami and Amavasya are not o.k. Time upto 48 minutes from Sunrise and evenings are not o.k. It is prohibited on days of Tarpanam and Sraadham. Brothers, and father and son should not go for 'vapanam' on the same day.After 'vapanam', one should straightaway go for bath without touching any clothes, person etc. This rule applies also to self-shave and nail-cutting. Many people do not practise this. This is simple and must be followed.
3. Bath should never be taken without clothes. Chant Vedic suktams like Aghamarshana
suktham if you know. If not, chant these slokas:
गंगे गंगेति यो ब्रूयात् योजनानां शतैरपि ।
मुच्यते सर्वपापेभ्यः विष्णुलोकं स गच्छति ॥
गंगे च यमुने चैव गोदावरी सरस्वति ।
नर्मदे सिन्धु कावेरि जलेऽस्मिन् सन्निधिं कुरु ॥
Otherwise, chant names of any form of God.
4. Wear dry and clean clothes. Some people wrongly start showing Agarbathi etc. before God
with wet towel on. Wet clothes can be worn only during Apara kriyas. If perchance dry
clothes are not there, blow wet clothes seven times in air and then wear.
5. Apply mark on the forehead and other parts of body like hands and chest as per your family practice - Vibhuti, Tiruman etc. Sastras say that any prayer performed without this mark is
useless. In fact Sastras ask us to take bath with whatever clothes we are wearing (Sachaila
snanam) if we just see a person without mark on forehead; it is like visiting graveyard!
6. Perform Sandhyavandanam as early as possible. As per Sastras, it should be performed in
the morning when the stars are still there in the sky, before actual Sunrise. Much has been
spoken and written about the importance of Sandhyavandanam. Oupasanam and
Agnihotram, which are considered essential for a grihastha, have been given the go-by.
Sandhyavandanam is the only surviving link with Veda.
न गायत्र्याः परं मन्त्रं न मातुः परं दैवतम् । "There is no mantra greater than Gayatri; there is
no god greater than mother."
No religious activity, whether it is Pooja, Homam, bhajan, Namasankirtanam etc., should be
undertaken without performing Sandhyavandanam. It takes just 10-15 minutes. There is
really no excuse for not doing this. Learn the correct pronunciation of mantras and
procedural details. If time is short, chant Gayatri mantra at least 11 times. Arghyapradanam
and Aikyaanusandhaanam (chant of असावादित्यो ब्रह्म । ब्रह्मैवाहमस्मि) are important.
7. As there is no time for students and office-goers to perform 'Maadhyaahnikam' at 12 noon
now, do it immediately after morning Sandhyavandanam and prayers/ Poojas. Do not fail to
do it. Sastras recommend that Maadhyaahnikam could be done after 2h 24 min after
Sunrise, i.e. 8.24 a.m. If this is not possible, do it as per convenience; but do not miss it.
8. Perform 'Brahmayagnam' if possible. Unfortunately this simple ritual has gone out of vogue. This is our repayment of debt to Rishis. Perform whatever Pooja; chant whatever prayers
you can. If you know Veda, chant it first.
Adi Sankara says:
वेदो नित्यं-अधीयतां तदुदितं कर्म स्वनुष्ठीयताम् ।
"Veda should be chanted daily; karmas stipulated therein should be performed properly."
If you are performing Pooja and you do not have time for a detailed pooja with 16
upacharas, you may go for brief version with 5 upacharas, viz. Gandham (sandal paste),
flowers, dhoopam, naivedyam and deepam.
9. While taking food, do not miss 'Parishechanam'. This is purification of food and offering it to
the five Pranas, which are vital for the body to function. Do not pounce on food or taste it
without doing Parishechanam.There are elaborate rules for eating food. Food constitutes the mind. The bare minimum should be not to eat food prepared by woman in menses and other impure persons. Do not eat food in standing posture. Follow rules of maintaining food purity.
10. Chant Bhagavan's names mentally whenever you can during the day while travelling,
studying in school/ working in office etc. Chanting at frequent intervals, say 15 minutes, or
at important stages like starting from home, reaching school/ office, sitting for lunch, returning home etc. helps in purification of mind. It will at least prevent you from committing
a serious mistake.
11. Perform Sandhyavandanam in the evening as soon as you return home and wash your
hands and feet. Sastras say that it should be performed in the evening when the Sun has
not yet set. Perform as early as you can. You can chant Gayatri more number of times if
you have the time. Note that the prescribed numbers, viz. 108 in morning, 32 at noon and
64 in evening are the bare minimum.
12. Chant slokas etc., preferably with children in group. This will inculcate bhakti in children too.
13. Before retiring for the night, meditate on God. Think of the bad things you have done during the day wittingly or unwittingly and seek God's forgiveness and strength of mind for not repeating them.
14. During week-ends, spend more time on chanting Gayatri, slokas etc. and attending
Satsangh like Poojas, homams, visit to temples, bhajans, upanyasams etc. These build
character and strengthen bhakti. Avoid activities involving waste of time and money. Money
should be saved and given in charity for propagation of Vedas and other such good causes.
15. Some people tend to develop habits like smoking, drinking, eating non-vegetarian food etc. with the excuse that it is all part of their job requirements. Nothing is farther from truth.
There is no job or circumstance, which compels one to indulge in such grave sins. Realise
that drinking liquor is one of Pancha Maha Patakas (five great sins). The other four are:
killing a brahmana, stealing, coveting Guru's wife and being a party to any of the four great
sins mentioned. Those who commit such sins with flimsy excuses are just giving way to
temptation or weakness of mind. If you allow yourself to be dragged into such a habit once,
it will become more and more difficult to extricate yourself. Your aim on earth should be to