How to Prepare for the May 15th Total Lunar Eclipse: Dos and Don’ts Guide to Prayer, Puja, and Gratitude
When the gods and the demons churned the milky ocean in days of yore, nectar came out of it. Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Mohini, a charming lady, deluded the demons and distributed the nectar only among the gods. But Rahu had disguised himself as a god. The sun and the moon pointed this out to Mohini who immediately slashed off the demon's head. Since the nectar had by then already reached up to the neck, he did not die. Thus the head came to be known as Rahu and the body as Ketu. To avenge this betrayal, Rahu and Kept periodically eclipse the sun and the moon."
- Excerpt from "Hindu Fasts and Festivals" by Swami Sivananda
How do you protect yourself during the lunar eclipse? The upcoming total lunar eclipse is this May 15th/16th (depending on your time zone). During the eclipse, the moon will be bathed red and the effects of the astronomical wonder will lead to a great catharsis, a profound emotional release accompanied by a spiritual cleansing and whole-body purification. If you are curious as to the measures you can take to protect yourself and deepen the benefits of the eclipse while avoiding the negative effects, do not be worried. Swami Sivananda wrote about the effects of both the lunar and solar eclipse in the book "Hindu Fasts and Festivals" and prescribed a whole program of dos and don'ts with a list of pujas to perform.
An Excerpt about Eclipses from "Hindu Fasts and Festivals" by Swami Sivananda
Astronomically speaking, when the Sun, the Moon and the Earth are all in line, with the Moon or the Earth at the centre, a solar or lunar eclipse takes place respectively.
At the time of the eclipse, people bathe in the sacred rivers. They do charitable acts. They give cows, money and gold. The day after the eclipse they feed the poor, the Brahmins and the Sadhus. After the eclipse they clean their houses, vessels, etc., and take a bath before they start cooking.
One should not take food during the eclipse. When the eclipse begins the food should by then have been digested. One should take food only after seeing the sun or the moon free from the eclipse. When the clear sun or the moon is not seen before sunset or sunrise, in the case of the solar and lunar eclipse respectively, food can be taken only after the sun or the moon is seen the next day.
Pregnant women should not see the sun or the moon during the time of the eclipse. If they do the child born may have some kind of defect. He may be born deaf, dumb or blind. Householders are forbidden from sexual intercourse on the day of the eclipse, for the same reason.
At this time one should take great care in avoiding bleeding, scorpion stings, etc. These have disastrous results. Even an earthworm has a poisonous effect when it bites one during an eclipse.
Those who do Japa at the time of the eclipse derive great benefits. The effect of Japa and Sankirtan during the eclipse contributes towards relieving the suffering of humanity and also of the planets. These people receive the blessings of the gods. They attain perfection quickly. Those who wish to tap the subtle force locked in the Mantra that will cure scorpion stings should stand in water and repeat the appropriate Mantra.
The little intellect cannot understand many things in this universe. Hence, have faith in the words of sages.
Ignorance has eclipsed Self-knowledge. However, this eclipse will disappear. You will shine in your own glory. This is the spiritual significance of the eclipse.
Pujas to Perform on the Day/Night of an Eclipse
Puja literally translates to adoration and worship. In Hinduism, puja is a Sanskrit term used to refer to the worship of the Divine through observance of rituals, daily prayers, and elaborate ceremonies. It is considered to be an especially powerful form of worship and devotional offering to the Divine, used as a technique or discipline for fostering one's spiritual growth. Performing a puja inspires the spiritual climb of a devotee by facilitating action (karma), devotion (bhakti), and knowledge (jnāna). Besides combining all of these components into one practice, performing a puja also helps to cultivate one-pointed focus (dhāraṇā) and introspection (dhyāna) in the devotee's mind. Performing a puja, therefore, not only helps ward the mind, body, and spirit against negative energies, it also helps to prepare the mind for devotional bhakti practices like kirtan and rāja yoga practices like meditation (dhyāna).
Here are some pujas that you can perform on the day and night of an eclipse (whether solar or lunar) to help protect yourself from any negative occurrences as a result of the raised energetic vibrations:
- Rudra Abhishekam Puja — A Shiva puja, it is done by offering various sacred articles (honey, milk, water, ghee, flowers) to the Shiva Lingam while chanting sacred mantras dedicated to Shiva.
- Chanting the Sri Rudram — A Vedic mantra or chant. It pays homage to Rudra and is taken from the Krishna Yajurveda's Taittiriya Samhita.
- Chant Mahāmrityunjaya Mantra (at least one mala) or perform a Mahāmrityunjaya Mantra Homa — Another mantra dedicated to Lord Shiva, it can be chanted to ward off all negative energies and unwelcome circumstances, protecting the chanter and those that are kept in mind while the chant is occurring from accidents and even death. The mantra can also be chanted in times of distress and for the cultivation of radiant health and peace of mind.
- Do puja to Durga and chant Durga stotrams — Durga or the Divine Mother is one of the three aspects of the Tridevi. She is worshipped as one of the principal aspects of Mahadevi. She is associated with protection, strength, motherhood, destruction and wars. Invoking her name will impart willpower, protective powers, and instill confidence and strength. Durga is necessary in the purification of our minds and bodies that must occur in preparation for the attainment of knowledge; she is known for slaying the demons that stand in the way of our spiritual enlightenment.
Dos and Don'ts of an Eclipse: Helpful Things to Do to Protect Oneself on the Day/Night of an Eclipse
- Stay indoors; remain calm and contemplative. Perform introspective practices such as journaling, self-reflection, meditation.
- Meditate and chant mantras.
- Do Japa (the repetition of mantras).
- Do fasting.
- After the eclipse, clean you house and remove all garbage, focusing on waste and the old things you no longer use.
- Cultivate gratitude and act with generosity; perform generous donations and charities.
- Pray for the welfare of all humanity
Dos and Don'ts of an Eclipse: What Not to Do on the Day/Night of an Eclipse
- Do not look at the eclipse.
- Do not eat during the eclipse; if you must eat, practice mindful eating.
- Do not expose any food or drinking water to the light of the sun or moon during an eclipse.
- Do not start important activities or ventures on the eclipse day.
- Do not travel during eclipse day.
- Do not sign contracts.
- Do not marry the day of an eclipse.
- Householders should not have any sexual activity during an eclipse.