Circumambulation: Sparking Devotion by “Walking Around”February 28, 2018
Recently I visited a small neighborhood temple in Chennai which has a shrine in the back with 9 planet statues. A very simple practice is to walk barefoot around a set of 9 planet statues in a clockwise circle. This practice is known in English as circumambulation (derived from Latin words meaning “to walk around”). In Sanskrit, this action is known as pradakshina.
Many spiritual traditions have some form of moving meditation in which the center of a circle has a sacred focal point, whether a statue, stone or other sacred object. People walk around the circumference of the circle in a mindful manner. I was taught to walk in a clockwise direction. This keeps the sacred object on the right side of the person who is doing the walking.
When circumambulating a set of 9 planet statues, I like to walk around them 9 times in a clockwise direction, using my fingers as counters if need be.
I silently use a mantra which invokes all 9 of the planets in a traditional order of Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu:
Om Adityaya Somaya Mangalaya Budhayacha
Guru Sukra Sanibhyascha
Rahave Ketave Namaha
However, you could use other mantras or prayers if you prefer.
In larger temples, you may often see people circumambulating larger shrines.
Sometimes people will make a special trip to walk around a holy hill or mountain such as Arunachala in Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu (state in southern India). Crowds of people will make pilgrimage on a Full Moon to walk around Arunachala, a strong vortex where Shiva is said to be in the elemental form of fire.
In America, many people visit Walden Pond. They walk around the pond where Thoreau had a small cabin and read the Bhagavad Gita and other Eastern literature and wrote up his reflections and experiences into an inspiring book.
Some people like to walk laps in a park for health reasons and may use that walking time for silent personal prayer or mantra recitation as well. This way both their body and their mind are refreshed.
Sometimes we cannot get to a temple or visit an energizing spot. I learned from Dr. Pillai, AstroVed founder, a simple do-it-yourself-remedy that can be done at home is to take a small table (or even a chair) and place it in a clean area in the middle of a room (or wherever in your room it would be in a space you could walk around) with a clean cloth on it. Place a sacred object on the small table. This could be a statue or even a picture.
If your living situation permits, you may light a simple deepam lamp or a candle. Some people with small children or pets may not be able to do this, and that is ok. Always observe fire safety!
Stand facing the sacred object and make a sincere prayer invoking Ganesha, the archetype who removes obstacles. Or you can invoke some other angel/divine being that you are comfortable to ask to bless the practice you are about to do. Set your intention for why you are doing the circumambulation. Perhaps you are asking for a new job or an improvement in living situation or praying for health benefits for a family member or friend or offering this practice for the greater good of all. Consciously set some intention for your walking meditation, whether inwardly or outwardly. It is important for us to ASK.
Then begin your walk around the sacred object in a clockwise direction. You may recite some prayer either silently or out loud. Examples could be:
- the Lord’s Prayer if you are circumambulating a picture of Jesus
- a mantra like Om Namasivaya circumambulating a statue of the dancing form of Shiva
- quantum sounds Arut Perum Jyoti walking around a picture of Swami Ramalingam
Let your heart guide you and be authentic.
It is up to you how many rounds you want to walk. Some people like to walk an amount that is divisible by 9 (9, 18, 27, etc.). However, there is no “wrong” number to walk. If you are not well, even once is ok, or you may simply visualize yourself doing this practice if you are not able to get up and walk at the moment.
You may find your mind becoming more calm with this form of moving meditation. You may find your heart becoming enkindled with a fire of divine love.
At the close of whatever is your last round, you may wish to pause in front of the sacred object and make a bow of gratitude and thanks.
For some people, if they lit a lamp or candle, they may be able to let it burn out naturally. Some people may not wish to keep a flame going with small children or pets around. They can gently wave a hand over the flame to put it out with a small breeze (in many traditions, people do not “blow” out a sacred flame). Please be practical for your particular situation.
You do not have to keep the small table in the middle of the room permanently. For example, you can return the sacred object to your altar if that is where it came from, and move the table back to a corner it normally sits in. You may wish to fold up the clean cloth to use again for this single purpose of covering the table when you do circumambulation; that is up to you.
We hope you are inspired to experiment for yourself with walking meditation or circumambulation in some way.
As always, everyone at AstroVed is wishing you well.
Written by Swamini Valli Wells
Swamini Valli is available for ½-hour and 1-hour Live Astrologer Consultations (LAC) at AstroVed (USD global version only). She encourages people to create a free account at AstroVed and run free reports about their own Birth Chart, Birth Star, Moon Sign, and Planetary Influences. This is a simple way to begin to make friends with astrology. She invites everyone to join Facebook group for Astrology Club – AstroVed.
Reminder: All the planets like it when we help others in need. Please consider making a donation to Dr. Pillai’s non-profit charity Tripura Foundation