Question: Namaskaram Sadhguru. Incense has been used for thousands of years in almost every culture, to invoke Gods, support meditation, and for healing and medicinal purposes. Burning herbs and resins has especially been a big part of both Indian history, as well as native American history. Can you please speak about the significance of burning incense, and how incense should be used in modern times?
Sadhguru: Well, the significance of this is – there are certain substances when they burn – one thing is there is fragrance, of course, which is pleasant for the nostrils. And, incense burning is about the atmosphere, not about you. Because different spaces, indoors especially – in different spaces there are different kinds of – one thing is smells. There’s also different kinds of energy structures which will happen. The shape and size of the room will do this. This is why there is such a attention to the shape and size of the room.
Incense burning is about the atmosphere, not about you
In Indian culture, there is a whole attention to the shape and size of the room in which you live. Because the shape and size of the room in some way… if it is not heavily ventilated.. When I say heavily ventilated – from both sides two walls are open, and it’s happening… then it feels almost like outdoors, that’s different. Most homes are not made this way. Because they have neighbours, you can’t open too many windows. Too many opening won’t work. There is weather. There are many things, alright. And, there is air conditioning – worse!
Different shapes and sizes [of rooms] kind of create different kinds of energy structures
So, different shapes and sizes kind of create different kinds of energy structures. These energy structures can – if they become very strong – can determine your psychological and emotional state. Which either can be conducive, or can become an impediment in who you want to be. So certain substances, like sandal in India. There is something called a sambrani, which is a very powerful thing. Which is used even when people are ill. First thing they do is this… and it is now been found it also kills certain types of bacteria in the air, and also on the surfaces. So especially if there is a sick person in the house, sambrani everywhere. If they want to do some auspicious event, sambrani all over the place. It’s a certain kind of resin, which a tree drips.
Well, in this pursuit of ‘sambarni’ – you will see in the forest, there are massive trees. People would have carved into the tree. Because the tree looks solid outside, but inside there is a cavity. In that cavity, it will be dripping – this resin. We do not know, at least I do not know, what is the natural reason why these resins come out. But people go and gather this. It’s a precious little material. And, you have to walk miles and miles to get substantial amounts of resin, because these tree have to be mature. That means they must be at least over 30-50 years old, otherwise you don’t get it.
[Burning ‘sambarani’] has a powerful impact on the atmosphere
This has a powerful impact on the atmosphere. It is not necessarily a fragrance. It is a different kind of thing that it clarifies the air. It just makes the atmosphere feel more lively. Fundamentally it – whatever structures that they are there, it will make indoor like outdoor. If you burn a mild – you shouldn’t to put too much then you will sneeze and lose your brains. Just mild ‘sambrani’ in the house will make it feel like, though you’re indoors, the feeling is of outdoors because it’s an unstructured space. Especially if death happens in the family, ‘sambrani’ is burnt for up to 11 to 12 days because they want to clear that air, completely.
These are subtler aspects. But, I’m little apprehensive of speaking about them in United States. Because there is already so much ‘new age’… you know. First when I came to Nashville – someone in Nashville told me that, Sadhguru there is a spiritual expo happening. I said – what, spiritual expo! Even in India it happens only once in 12 years! No, no – here every year we have. I said – I want to see. They said – ok, let’s go. And then in the afternoon they came to pick me up, and said – Sadhguru we’ve gotten a slot for you to speak in the spiritual expo. I said – great! For the first time I’m in United States – oh, spiritual expo! And, I went there. A huge tent, and… When we went in there country music was going on full blast. Obviously this was a group which wouldn’t find any other paid stage. Maybe in the evening more known groups would come. In the afternoon… it’s empty stage, anybody can use the sound system. So, they were banging away. I said – ok, spiritual expo! But it’s ok, music is just a cultural thing, let me focus on the spiritual expo.
I went inside – somebody is selling a ‘spiritual bath soap’. Wow! Somebody is selling a ‘spiritual stone’, a pebble from somewhere which is spiritual. Like this, roots, herbs, this, that. I don’t know if there was a toothbrush. Then I said – oh, this is like an Indian shandy! You know, in the Indian villages, there is a shandy. Sunday markets, or Wednesday markets, or Monday markets, like this. So here, there will be all kinds of exotic things being sold. There will be a root, just ‘this much’ [small], it’s twisted like this, it should not be straight. [gesturing twisted] I can’t do that with my finger. So, if you take this… this is a root that could make you invisible. You must go grind this, along with the left jawbone of a female whale! And, the whale should be alive! That means, you actually swam in there, cut the piece of the jaw and came. And together if you rub this together along with something, and there is a mantra. You do this – and then that paste if you out it [in your mouth] in the upper palette, you will become invisible. Actually, if you go in the mouth of the whale, you will become invisible. Anyway, then I saw – oh, this is like an Indian shandy. There they were selling all kinds of exotic incense also.
Incense has a certain impact but don’t overdo it
Incense has a certain impact but don’t overdo it. Don’t think it will determine your spiritual nature. It can change the atmosphere a little bit. It should not be over certified. It has certain impact. One can use it in a sensible manner.
But, these days incense is being made with chemical stuff. Best you don’t burn those things. It’s very, very important before… you have enough chemical thing happening on the street, in the industry, in the factory floor that you may be working, wherever. There’s enough chemicals floating around. At least within your house do not burn chemically made incense. Because I think that is almost 70% or 80% of what’s available in the market today is chemical. You must take it out before you burn it. It’s very, very important because within the closed enclosures if you burn chemicals, well the negative impact of that is very, very big. So it must be natural resin or certain other oils, essential oils and things which can make a difference. A mild difference, if you need that kind of difference – it helps.