Touching the feet of an elder for seeking blessing is a very inseparable part of the Hindu culture. This practice has been followed since the Vedic times when it was known as charan sparsh (charan means feet and sparsh means to touch. If you are from India, you must have seen this practice being followed somewhere or the other.
But in the name of modernity, most of our culture is getting lost. This is the time when we need to understand the reasons behind these customs. The belief system cannot work in modern society. Ancient Indian customs were born out of a deep understanding of life and its mechanics. That's why they are relevant irrespective of time and place.
The same is true with the custom of touching the feet of elders as well. This is not just a formality, rather a complete science. In this article, we are going to explore the relevance of touching feet of elders, and also the reasons behind the same.
1. Destruction of Ego: All of the ancient customs had one common objective attached to them; liberation. Every custom somehow or the other advanced one's spiritual growth towards the ultimate.
One of the biggest hindrances on the path of liberation is the 'Ego'. Now, we can not bow in front of someone without letting our ego bow down as well. So, while touching somebody's feet, we are surrendering our ego at his/her feet as well. If we keep touching the feet of the elders, we may keep our ego from becoming strong. As a result, we will maintain a humble nature and also advance our spiritual growth.
A strong ego keeps us away from seeing the reality as it is, and starts manipulating our perception on its own accord. This is also one of the main reasons why people prostrate in front of deities in the temple. You must have seen that a man, who doesn't bow down in front of anyone in the world, even he prostates in temples.
There must be some places where you can keep your ego aside for some time. No matter how big a man you are, you will never find peace if you are always full of ego. That's why touching the feet of elders has always been thought important in this culture.
2. Channelising of energy: Our nerves are spread all over the body from head to toe. When we touch someone's feet with our hands, a complete energy channel establishes between the two persons.
This allows the person who is touching the feet to imbibe some qualities of the other person. It can be love, wisdom, intelligence, compassion, or anything else. The energy channel becomes even more complete when the person places his hand on our head to bless us. Our touching their feet also gives them respect, which they return in the form of love. That's why, we have always touched the feet of the wise, irrespective of their age.
Elder may not necessarily mean in terms of age. If anyone is elder than us in terms of any quality that is important for a fulfilling life, we touch their feet.
3. Health benefits: We may say that touching feet is a kind of yoga posture in itself. When we touch feet, our back and hand stretches and gives some muscle relief. There are two more ways of touching feet.
In one of those methods, first, we sit on our knees, and then we bend forward to touch the feet. This method also works as a great stretching exercise for our body.
The last method is called shastanga pranam. It is when we completely lie down on the ground with our head touching the ground, to touch the feet. Shastanga Pranam is observed in temples a lot of times. In this method, not just some muscles, but the whole body gets stretched. So, in terms of health, touching feet is very scientific.
4. Emotions and Devotion: Although all the previously mentioned points are completely valid, human intellect has some limitations of its own. Everything can't be justified just on logical grounds. There is always something of the beyond. Touching the feet has a very emotional ground as well.
It is not always done as a formality or a practice. If one is sensitive enough, he will feel that if one is really thankful to the other by heart, there is a natural urge to be near his feet, to embrace him. A heart to heart connection gets established that can't be expressed in words. That's why disciples always find themselves in their Guru's feet. Not a part of the custom, rather a feeling, feeling of love, feeling of devotion.
We have dived deep into this topic and tried to understand the relevance and reason for this popular custom. From now on, whenever you touch someone's feet, you won't be doing just as a practice. You will know why you are doing it. This will give a different fragrance to the whole custom.
Once the reasons for these practices are explored, only then they will survive the test of time. That's why, you should explore this aspect, and make others aware of this knowledge as well.