9.20.2017

Sacred Ritualism - The True Path of Devotion

Its been a while since I took to serious worship, and when I say serious worship I mean a certain level of orthodoxy being practiced in my daily lifestyle. What started out as a need of the hour activity in my spiritual realm has now culminated into a deep, well nourished experience in sync with divinity. Have I felt the Gods yet, weirdly yes, but I can't explain it. 

I took to Tantra, to deep worship of the great Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati, who in my mind occupy more forms than one. I worship potent powers following rules of orthodoxy as prescribed during initiation. I have lived this way for a while and it has transformed me into a far better individual than I could have become, left to myself. 

I watched several friends follow their paths, we exchange notes but no one had the drive to go through with it in the purist way. There is a strong connect with materialism and a fear of the unknown that clouds their worship and I do not understand, why they would harbor such a fear. They are men, strong well placed, well initiated, luckier men who have had certain privileges that I have been denied, thanks to my gender and despite our education they seem to belong to an archaic world where women are forbidden to do most things. 

Yes I became a rebel, not just to defy these kind of men who believe they are the keepers of spiritual faith, but to find out just what about it prohibits me from doing what they do. I have had several people tell me I am not entitled to worship the Lord,  but here I am, a far more purposeful devotee more by denial. Somewhere along the way the focus moved away from rebellion to a deep rooted search, a thirst for the Lord and I find my kind of nature map towards one other person - Karakkal Ammaiyar. She is my guardian angel, she is my Guru, she is my Ammaiyar. 

I want to redefine Puja, in the method of Bhakti. Devotional love which I can churn up in plenty, has been carefully tuned to the service of the Gods. For me the Lord is real, not a figment of my imagination, he is for real. My day is not complete if I don't spend time with him, my hunger waits till he has been fed, my karmic duties pause till he blesses my day and my actions are but offerings for him. It has changed my outlook to life, well almost changed (I have a couple of thoughts to iron out and I will be good). People don't bother me, they are not the most important for their place has been taken by the Gods. 

For me, worship is not a wish fulfilling tree that grants me prosperity when ever I ask for it. For me, worship is a discipline, with a set of practices which enable me to focus more on the Lord. I am a ritualistic person by choice and I champion these practices in my own little way. I am not here to prove to anyone that it works, it works for me and that is enough. 

My world is best described by a few insightful thoughts that redefine worship in Karaikkal Ammaiyar's world:

Professor Elaine Craddock from the Department of Religion and Philosophy writes:

"Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s transformation from ideal wife to ideal demon devotee is particularly transgressive and serves to highlight the rupture between the domestic world of ordinary rituals and a life lived entirely as a ritual offering to Shiva. Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s renunciation of domestic life to live in the cremation ground praising Shiva is an example of "ritualization,” a term used by several theorists, and defined by Catherine Bell as ritual as lived practice, as a way of acting that uses diverse strategies to differentiate meaningful, powerful or sacred action from ordinary behavior."

The true definition of ritualism has been captured so beautifully. I can through my ordinary behavior, transform my own quality of existence by taking a little more trouble with a discipline that prescribes a method towards better effective living enhancing my spiritual growth. 

But the best is yet to come :-

"Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s poetry dismantles the paradigm of human order and duty rooted in the household not by focusing on gender roles, but by extolling devotion to Shiva in a community of devotees in which gender is irrelevant."

Karaikkal Ammaiyar's life is not just an example of exiting the social realm in order to seek pure love with the Lord, she signifies the departure of a woman from "household duties" thrust upon her by the social order of the time. Her transformation from a beautiful wife to a demon devotee shows just how much she defied society and chose to live in the silence of the cremation ground after sacrificing her youth. 

Her permanent home, is at the feet of Lord Shiva, where restrictions don't matter. When the heart is in the right place and the mind is in sync, there is nothing to stop it from achieving its goal. 

As the great Ammaiyar quotes in her poetry:

A female ghoul with withered breasts, bulging veins, hollow eyes,
white teeth and two fangs,
shriveled stomach, red hair, bony ankles, and elongated shins,
Stays in this cemetery, howling angrily.
This place where my Lord dances in the fire with a cool body,
his streaming hair flying in the eight directions,
is Tiruvalankatu. 

(Tiruvalankattu mutta tirupatikam 1.1)10

9.12.2017

The Hare and the Tortoise

It was a realization this morning that the story of the hare and the tortoise can be interpreted in more ways than one. While the common sought after and understood symbolism tickles our aspirations for success and ambition, there is a completely different revelation that invokes our spiritual side. It made me dwell deeper into the possible nature of both these creatures and it was extremely insightful. 

Before I move on to the actual story, lets just skim through their respective natures. 

Hares are short lived with a life span of a maximum of 12 years, they are extremely fast and sure footed and it is their defense mechanism when they sense danger. Now, hares run super fast, but not necessarily in a straight line, not necessarily on a given path, there is no logic to their running, except to run fast and hide. Hares are restless creatures, and far from calm. This very simple description of the hare makes me wonder - are we not all hares? 

In our mundane world, we are restless and distracted and surely far from calm. Our consciousness is limited to what attracts our senses immediately and we take the beaten track based on what we have been taught as the essence of living. And like a hare, we don't sit and think hard enough. 

Lets look at the tortoise. Calm, purposeful, slow but focused and they are there to stay. Tortoise have the longest life span, and they are resilient by nature as well as self sufficient. Give the tortoise a path and it will keep walking, not looking anywhere with no distractions. There is nothing in the way of the tortoise and they are extremely focused in their approach, they therefore tend to last longer and sustain themselves. 

Now when we look at the story, I see the attitude of the hare being my current lifestyle. Distracted, moody, agile, fast paced, restless and aimless. My only purpose is to run and run fast so as to out do the next hare. Is that all my purpose is? I would never win the race because I am just running with no sign of the goal. I am running in defense with no focus on the long term goal am trying to achieve. How, with this nature, do I even believe I am going to be successful and calm at the same time?! And then we have the desires, symbolized by the deep sleep that the hare has. Temptations that are scattered all over our path, and a hare stops to experience all of them. 

The nature of the tortoise is to be slow but it knows where it is headed and it is in no rush to get there and there are little temptations to fall for. The tortoise doesn't fall for desire, it just moves on purposefully. The tortoise is therefore calmer, silent, resilient, and strong. Its the focus of the tortoise that really intrigues me, the lack of distraction, the single point consciousness and the vigor to go through with it slowly despite all the noise around it. And when the din gets too loud, it just needs to go under its shell and block the noise out. A tortoise moves without a sense of doubt, it may be slow but that's OK, it is super purposeful and it knows, when it gets there, it has certainly arrived. 

Hare: "I Run and therefore I Am"
Tortoise: "I Am and soon I Am Not".

I need to move away from being a hare and I need to move towards wanting to be a tortoise. Slow, deep longer breaths, slower heart beats, fewer desires, and focus, single point consciousness towards reaching my goal. 

Because when I arrive, I know, there is no going back. Its the state of complete consciousness and there are no more races to run. 

9.04.2017

The Shiva Path

The Shiva Path is a state of mind that raises me from the dead...

||Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraya||

To live the state of Shiva
Is to give up the luxury of life
Is to dive deep into the basics of my existence
Is to dive into the reason for living
Is to dive deep away from this maya
From this noise

To live the state of Shiva
Is to question every rule in the rule book
Is to discover myself
Not as an extension of society 
But as the defiant one
Who has the vigor to look the truth in the face

To live the state of Shiva
Is to give up all attachment, 
And accept my inherent nature
Not as "I am"
But to get beyond it 
Focus on the "I will be"

To live the state of Shiva
Is to seek the grace of the supreme Lord
Divine grace, that which keeps me alive
Divine grace, that will guide me out of this maya
Teaches me mystical secrets
Awaken this inner soul

To live the state of Shiva,
One can't be frivolous
One can't be weak
One can't seek convenience
One can't let go of austerity
One expresses self restraint. 

To live the state of Shiva
Is to take life seriously
Is to evolve to silence
Is to evolve to single pointedness
Is to let go
Is to leave

To live the state of Shiva
Is to live Ekaggata
One pointedness
Non-scattering
Non-distraction
The Single focus on Om Shivam

I am a piece of log burnt to ashes 
Lifeless and reduced to dust. 
Seeking a drop of divine ambrosia 
Like sacred ghee 
To revive the sacred fires of grace
Of enlightenment within me.


||Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraya|| 

8.21.2017

A Spark of Potent Divine Love

I have been spending a good amount of mind time trying to understand what led up to the transformation of Karaikkal Ammaiyar - from a devoted house wife to a demon devotee.

This is not just a social transformation, this is a transformation at many levels which simply baffles me ... on what really happened. The recorded story and its dilutions just talks about her ability to muster up the power to acquire a mango from the Lord himself, (which is a super wow factor) but in reality it would have been quite something else to witness it.

We are talking about the period of 6th Century AD, a time when the Pallavas were the rising rulers in the South, and invasion from the Chalukyas was a regular feature. We are also talking about a period when Tantricism was on the rise, more as a chosen spiritual path than a ground for black magic (you have got to view this differently). Added to this is the social structure of not allowing the woman too much liberty. Belonging to a merchant class she was a devoted house wife and recorded history doesn’t talk about her being blessed with children. This is her broad external landscape.


Her internal landscape talks a completely different tale. An ardent devotee of Shiva, so powerful that she could request for anything and He would bless her with it. She clearly didn’t wish for much, had no inclination to wealth or materialism and from what circumstances have in store for her, her husband clearly didn’t match up. It is evident from recorded history that he left her and went, not because he fell for someone else but more because he got spooked out when she gave him a mango, out of nowhere. She couldn't help herself. He ruled the house and she was the obedient wife; he asked for a mango and she produced one out of nowhere. It triggered the start of change in her life as a house holder. It would have taken the next 5-7 years for her to realize that he had left her for good as we get to know he went to another town, got married and had a kid. And she waited this whole time, still devoted, hoping he would come back. The turmoil in her mind is unthinkable, given the simplicity of her life, sprinkled with spiritual overtones.

When she found him at last, she was in for one of the rudest shocks of her life. He didn't just cheat her, he was in a marriage with a child to boot. To see one's husband, whom she loved a lot (we assume), with another woman and a child still is a great shock to most people (time doesn’t count here, its emotion). What would she have gone through?

There were only two in her reality who received her devoted love - Her husband and Lord Shiva. Her world was complete between them when the jolt of letting go one of them came up. The most powerful abilities of a woman is to unconditionally and intensely love someone and endure any amount of pain for them. But that intense devotion also comes with a caveat. Should a woman be wronged, she gets what she wishes for and that can be a life changer, not just for her but for everyone around her. We see the most bewildering transformation in her case.

In her anger or her disappointment, or her sheer superior maturity and wisdom, she gave up what she held on to all her life. She had remained sensuously dress for the period her husband left her and she gave it up, probably in sheer disgust. The beaten track of marriage was taken away from her, not by the Lord but by the man who married her. He simply acknowledged he was not good enough for her and beat a hasty retreat. In sheer determination she gave up Grihasta, family, society, order, materialism, beauty, sensuousness - the world we call "normal living" - and opted for everything outside of it. The familiar world had no meaning left in her life.


Karaikkal Ammaiyar, transformed into an emaciated demon and inhabited the cremation ground. She chose a world where no human would bother her easily and devoted her world to Lord Shiva, the only one who really really stood by her. Devotion has a different meaning here, far more potent, far more intense and Karaikkal Ammaiyar proves to us that we can reach that pinnacle of love. Here is the twist in her story though. Her poetry describes her love for her Lord, love even among ghosts and ghouls. Love that is as intense and doesn't have to be sensuous alone. Love that knows no relationship, love that works magic.

She describes a cremation ground where creatures roam, creatures who have demonic attributes, feed on melting brains from bodies burning in the pyre... yes she is very graphic. She writes about a world that you and I don't have the courage to see. She talks about another realm, a parallel universe in the same relative space and time where other beings also inhabit the same planet we live in. What power did she possess that made her live with as much ease in a deadly dark world of ghosts as she lived in a marriage? Karaikkal Ammaiyar went through a transformation neither you nor I can stomach. It was her sheer determination that either transported her to that world, or transformed her while blessing her with the divine vision (divya dristi) to sit in a regular cremation ground and still view all the different realms at play at the same time.

Temple walls depict her playing the cymbals as Ma Kali dances with Lord Shiva Nataraja in Urdhva Nataraja pose. Karaikkal Ammaiyar's poetry talks extensively about the world of ghosts in the middle of whom the great Lord dances. And yet, our version of Karaikkal  Ammaiyar's life appears so simple and naive! Why did recorded history not give us the actual facts, explicitly for us to realize that Karaikkal Ammaiyar's life speaks of human transformation, and the sheer ability of a woman to do so?

Why are we so incapable that we cannot look through all this to understand that spiritualism works best outside of social order? Why are we so scared that we cannot take a step away from safe haven? Why are we so useless that we happily settle for a million lives of suffering than take up one life to have the determination to look at the truth in the face and transform. She did it, we can! We just don't want to! Seriously, we need to get those grey cells working.

Photo courtesy:
Shaivam.org
c1.staticflickr.com

8.15.2017

A Dance with the Divine Mother


Shiva Nataraja dances for Karaikkal Ammaiyar

I have lived and I have wondered all the time, what's the real point of this life. I don't see much sense in it. I just move from one whirlpool of human interaction to another, how does it help me. I get moralistic messages every morning advising me on how I should lead my life but isn't all this just a bunch of points of view? What is the real truth?

I am currently floored by one person, always been her admirer but now there is even deeper regard for her. The demon devotee of Lord Shiva, once a devoted wife to a man, but fate had other plans for her. Her life is about her transformation from a woman bound by social rule to her release into the darkness of the cremation ground seeking her enlightenment. How ironical is that, that she entered her blissful world in a place we consider "damned".

Karaikkal Ammaiyar taught me the existence of a world that is without bias, where every being, human or animal needs to be respected because they are a version of the supreme, just like me. She also taught me that Bhakti knows no gender. She taught me a strange kind of freedom, one that all of us fear, but well, since I have had a wind of it, I WANT IT. 

Through her journey I asked a few basic questions. How do looks matter? How does age matter? How does gender matter? How does race matter? How does education matter? How does wealth matter? How does ego matter?... when am going to discard all these eventually in my spiritual journey. The great Mother, the Ammaiyar of Karaikkal, sings her songs to the great lord, not in love as we know it but in divine adoration. She doesn't apply a relationship to her love. She doesn't call herself a lover or a slave. She is just devoted, period. If we ever understand the truth beyond relationship, we stand a chance towards emancipation. 

I have had deep moments of frustration, just attempting to answer "What is the purpose of my life". This has been the single most hard hitting question I have not yet found an answer to. And my inadequacy lolls it's ugly head out at me...all the time. What is it that am doing wrong which I need to fix to move on in my spiritual career. My regular life has hardly been an issue. Am not trying to scale greater heights in materialism because I simply lost interest in it. I have just one point of concentration and a few jobs to complete before I call it quits. And hence, I have made my rules, my world, my universe inside my head, geared to see me complete my tasks. 

The Ammaiyar of Karaikkal has called on me, by stepping into my mind in the form of thoughts. She is my guest, seated at the center of my thoughts in a profound conversation on living, on death and on the in between world in blissful adoration of the Lord. 

In the fires of the cremation ground
That light up the mystical stage
A sacred ground where life meets death
Face to face, the great Lord dances in Ananda

Time freezes into non existence
A different world erupts
And devotees from all realms
Come to witness a vigor of consciousness 

Space has a different meaning
Its secret hosts different dimensions
Different realms that we don't know
Even exist deep within ourselves

The beat of the drum
The rhythm of the cymbal
The echo of the damaru
Oh watch Him dance

I am but a part of Him
I am but a part of her
I am but a lost speck of dust
Blown away by time, by illusion

Oh wasted me
What depth of bliss is this
That makes me fear nothing
That makes me want to quit

The great Mother sings
The great Lord dances
Am I spiritually handicapped
To dismiss this bliss, to sink into oblivion?


Photo courtesy: arjuna-vallabha.tumblr.com via Pinterest

6.07.2017

The Secret World of the Green Parrot

Have you ever wondered why green parrots were chosen for being pet birds? In mythology, there has been a strong association of the damsel in love to carry a cage with a green parrot in it which has through ages been associated with the flavor of sensual love. In mystic poetry, green parrots hold the secret of her love mate, and have often spilled those beans when someone comes along and lets them free.


Kamadeva (Wikipedia)

In the world of ancient iconography green parrots have been associated with the Lord of Love - Kama, who holds a sugarcane bow with a string of honey bees. The form of Parvati, Kanchi Kameshwari, holds a Green Parrot and a sugarcane bow with a string of honey bees in her hand as she resides on her beloved the Great Lord Shiva, at the Kamakshi Amman temple in Kanchipuram. Green parrots are associated with this potent essence of mortal love that transforms into divine love while sugarcane and honey bees describe the sweetness of such love. Somewhere along the way we lost the main meaning and just blindly followed the rule of pet birds. Maybe that’s a reason why parrots and love birds made it as pet birds in cages…a hope to keep the love energy active within grihasta.

But here is the twist to this beautiful story. While Goddess Kamakshi holds the green parrot in her hand, it is her consort Lord Shiva who slays Kama, the green parrot who hold the 5 potent arrows of love. Is there something for us to look deeper and wake up to? Kama, the cupid, Lord of sensual mortal love, holds 5 potent arrows tipped in 5 sacred flowers that can mesmerize any human to fall prey to the power of mortal sexual love and stay captive within its sweetness. And with one hit there is practically no chance of revival. It is one such deadly mistake that the great Devas made when they approached Kama to strike these arrows into the Great Yogishwara Himself. But little did Kama know of his own fate when he did that.

The great Ravana (yes I admire this asura) has furiously written this sacred verse on the potency of the love of Lord Shiva, who is way beyond the small world of love that Kama promises us.

Karaala bhaala pattikaa dhagad dhagad dhagaj jwala-
Ddhananjayaa hutee kruta prachanda pancha sayakae
Dharaa dharendra nandinee kuchagra chitrapatraka-
Prakalpanaika shilpini, trilochane ratir mama. ||7||

He on whose intense forehead the great fire of enlightenment burns Dhahaga Dhaga
He who burnt the God of Love, the one with five arrows,
He who describes the essence of pure love by drawing beautiful lines
On the tip of the breasts of the daughter of the mountain
He is of deep interest to me


Why did Lord Shiva burn Kama with the great fire of enlightenment? Now this fire of enlightenment is not any old fire, it’s the divine fire of wisdom. Let’s get past mere mythology and dive into the sacred world of Tantra Shastra. The divine fire of wisdom can destroy the mere fire of sensual love and that decided the fate of Lord Kama. That also decides our fate, if we choose to have the lesser fire of carnal desire burn in the divine flame of spiritual wisdom.

Our problem is that we didn’t ever get past the mythology of why Lord Shiva killed Kama. The deeper meaning of this great mythology is the deep wisdom that somewhere in our race to live, we have lost our purpose or never dug hard enough to find it.

What a beautiful verse the Demon Ravana writes:

The intensity of spiritual wisdom is so high in the great Yogishwara, that the arrows of mere mortal love practically had no effect on him. He writes instead of the spiritual essence of Lord Shiva's love, who is a greater spiritual lover, who describes a higher form of love that is not mere sensual excitement. Clearly the great Yogishwara is not a mere mortal, and such minor flames don’t affect him, hence it was Kama who burned in the fire of wisdom. Did he kill him - No, did Kama die - No, but symbolically Kama, the God of lesser love was taught the art of greater consciousness in spiritual love.

What effect does this story have in our world?
We are capable of greater love, in our mere mortal existence to move ahead beyond sexual boundaries. Divine love, bhakti, and a sense of greater adoration brings compassion into our minds towards lesser beings and greater bliss towards divinity. We have just one trump card - abundance of love - we need to channelize it towards greater spiritual bliss and not waste it in lesser mortal pleasures. The mythological story has a deeper secret towards earning spiritual energy and the green parrot is a constant reminder of how far away we are from it.




5.28.2017

The Journey from "I Do" to "I Am"

For a very long period of time I believed that the answer to my quest for the supreme resided in my actions. It was all about doing, what do I need to do to reach the Gods? Clearly, I didn’t get the complete answer, but I did find pockets of divine excitement when I saw a smile on the next man's face if I did something nice for them. Karma marga, supported by the boundaries of one's own dharma defines who we are and what we become based on the needs of this external society. So busy are we pleasing others that we have lost sight of our inner selves. Who am I and why am I here... is a question that hits us once in 20 years if we are lucky. I believed for a very long time, that this world within which I am imprisoned was all there was to it, and keeping others happy was my primary concern. It took a long while to realize, Karma marga is not something I can run away from, but Karma marga is not something that should control me so much either. We can't do away with Karma marga and sit back, we have to act and every action or inaction has a consequence. The decision of course is, what flavour of Karma marga we choose to take up. At the same time I realized very soon, that Karma marga was not enough in isolation, for action, though necessary for existence was inadequate in my spiritual pursuit.

Meanwhile the mind doesn't rest, it has its own problems. It asks questions, it dives into itself and it can go either way. If it is nurtured well, the mind can do more miracles that we thought it was capable of. But if we let it go its own way, it can be the most difficult monster we could ever tame. And this is where most people fall, they take it for granted that they are not capable, losing this crucial battle even before it started. Their biggest weakness is fear and its biggest defense is ego. You can well imagine what a royal mess that can create within us. The mind is capable, if we direct it well and it is doable if we try hard enough. Gyana marga can go one of 2 ways. It can deflect course if we fall prey to intellectual egoism or it can be our trump card if we accept its folly with humility. The mind is not me, it is a tool I use. When this truth is understood and realized as a way of life, we have reached the next stage of spiritual development. 

It took me ages to move from Karma marga to Gyana marga to Bhakti marga. Karma marga felt interesting but inadequate, Gyana marga is a beast am trying to tame, not very successfully but am getting there. Bhakti marga, by far has been my fort that I conquered with ease. Bhakti, is a song I sing so loud in my head, I don’t even know you are talking to me. Bhakti is my inner dialog with my divine family. Bhakti is when I feel the mysterious Shiva linga in front of me and my heart is torn apart because I don’t want to leave it, I want to know everything about it and yet the mind yells inside my head telling me I have to get back to samsara - Karma marga. It’s the moment I have hated the most in my life. It tells me so loudly that samsara is in the exact opposite direction of my spiritual endeavour. 

I have stared at sacred diagrams for ages, I have studied Yantras to whatever extent I could. I know there is something in there and I have felt it, and yet I am not able to get to it. What’s the relevance to the topic you may ask...Deities reside in Yantras, it is a mystical depiction of a sacred spiritual truth beyond our comprehension. When we say "deities reside" they don’t live there, they are what they are, it’s in their nature to be there with a certain energy within a certain power center. And they exude brilliance if their energy is tapped, and that energy is capable of changing the whole environment, the whole situation within which we live. That energy can change the regular course of time, of events that mark our existence.

This brings me to the next level of abstraction. What am I defined by? Is it my actions, is it the events that unfold sequentially that describe my life, or is it me who has disassociated from my temperament. My temperament defines my actions, my wisdom defines me and I start to live life similar to the deities within that yantra. I am, period. I do nothing... I just am. When this disassociation becomes significant, by the path of Bhakti in my case, offering every action and every worry and every happiness to the Gods, then the actions I do are immaterial, the knowledge I acquire is significant, the mind has been tamed. 

And that is when I realize this truth, I moved from "I do" to "I am". 

And this "I am" is a silent being, in sync with the Gods observing the universe play with all of you. Karma marga becomes an offering, Gyana marga becomes a blessing and Bhakti marga becomes a way of life. 

5.03.2017

The Art of Learning Wisdom

The mental detachment has set in, all that is around me appears like relative existence. Where then is my true home? 


It has taken many long years, to understand and control my own temperament and start working with my grey cells consciously. When trouble hit, the mind went its way and the heart went its way... that was my temperament. It was a tug of war between what I wanted - when the heart spoke, and how I wanted it - when my mind spoke. And they both were against me - The soul. How then were we to meet eye to eye and arrive at a solution that would work for all of us?

The mind had an ego to please, the heart was hurt and had to be soothed, and I, the soul, was left standing asking the question "what about me?"

The mind had traveled a million thoughts by then, from one potential disaster to the next, and the heart was on a self-inflicting binge, hurting itself more than it needed to. I sat down, quietly, detached from both and watched they till they went silent. Worship helped, the divine flame of wisdom glowed to guide me through the madness inside my head. I just rattled on with the japa, which appeared to be of no use as the mind and heart were tormenting me with their make or break deals. 

The soul stood up finally, deciding for everyone, mind, heart and itself, that war was not the answer. Things had to be sorted out amicably. And, with the grace of the divine flame, a messy situation actually got averted. Peace reigned again. In the external world, the problem actually subsided for the better. I made peace. 

*-*-*-*

This is a state we all go through, when any kind of trouble hits us. Some of us may face ourselves head on, some of us may play escapist and some of us may just inflict more trouble on ourselves. Such is our temperament and we keep adding to the karma bucket endlessly because we didn’t use the grey cells to their fullest potential. 

So what is fullest potential? Is there something beyond that state that I can tap to avert a possibly mishap in my life - thanks to me being me? Fullest potential is when we take control of 2 things, our ego, and our selfishness. We need to believe that it doesn’t hurt to let the ego go, it doesn’t hurt to let go our selfishness and all its related fears. 

The outcome, believe me, is a breath of fresh air. Using the grey cells to the fullest potential is to not give the mind what it wants, is to not nurture the hurt in the heart but to just switch off the brain for a while and live in the lull. The soul takes over at this time, the silence helps calm the madness, in the external world, I am silent and no one knows the massacre of the mind and heart that is taking place inside. I fix the problem because I just let go my ego and selfishness. 

At the end of this ordeal, there was peace outside, everyone out there was happy and I turned a step closer to understanding wisdom. 

*-*-*-*

I had to move mountains inside my head, I had to appease two parts of me that never have listened to me, I had to nab my temperament, and it worked! It worked brilliantly. I learned the art of exercising wisdom. And what a learning that was!

Will I be able to do it again, next time... i don’t know... but for now I have learned one thing - I am capable of doing it and that is a lot of divine wealth for now.

4.14.2017

My Selfie Moment with Lord Jagannath



It is yet another blessed day and I find myself headed to Puri once again with my colleagues. We called on the Lord really early this morning to see him before they closed down the great doors for his Bhog. The temple was brimming with life characteristic of its people and activities. Bhajans echoed through the distant walls that have housed the sacred shrines for centuries together. People buzzed around from shrine to shrine seeking every inch of blessings they could gather. The rhythm of the bhajans made a couple of people hop on their toes dancing to its tunes. The divine madness of bhakti and the urge to seek the divine transformed the river of people into a force that was hard to fight as we neared the great shrine. In the chaos that followed, we caught our glimpse of the sacred lord - Jagannathji, ever smiling, ever vigilant, ever alive well within the sacred shrine.

In contrast to all the people who have dotted this landscape across so many centuries, there lay other aspects of the temple that have never left their place through all this time. An ancient tree, believed to be as old as the temple itself, stood at the witness to the timelessness of this shrine. Staring up at the great shikhara from under the shade of this gigantic tree, time seemed to come to a halt. Many like me before and many like me later will stand in exactly the same spot and stare at this temple, wondering about our impermanence in this universe. The old stone, the beaten path ways, this immortal tree, the silent sculptures were all a testimony to a larger truth about the universe we live in. I am not permanent. I have been lucky to have come here, and I will be gone soon.

We soaked in the place, we soaked in the ambiance, we soaked in the history, we soaked in the peace. Lord Jagannath had a different attire on this day. Unlike last time, where he was draped in silks that flowed over his hands, and he wore a dashing mukut of tulsi leaves, this time he was more crisply dressed, in white. His drapes were pulled back, and beautiful strips of yellow splashed across him sparsely, bringing out the nath that hung down from his nose. Yes, Jagannath wears a nose ring, or Nath. And he looks really handsome with it. It was an incredible moment to be with him again, as the spiritual energies rose. He is big, life size and vibrant giving us all the energy we need to go back and face the world but the truth is, do I really want to go back? I could live here, with him, serve him, be by his side. I soaked in the sacred fire, the silent Dhuni that dances graciously within these walls.

"Oh sweet fire, oh sacred flames of purity that stays unaffected through all the din around you...bless me and help me purify myself."

Goddess Mahalakshmi smiled back, a brilliant smile on this Friday, what a lovely moment it was. It was just another day for anyone else, but for me it as special, simply special. I connected with my divine family again, I spent few very good moments with them. I felt good. The desire to seek them is so high and yet the path is so unknown. The Lord knows what he is doing, he will take care of me. I looked back at the sacred dhuni, the flames danced into the air before they disappeared. Made me wonder, what is this fire, what is its nature, why is it so distant and unfamiliar and yet so warm and self-luminous.

With a heavy heart my darshan came to an end. Kala was acting up, I had to go back into samsara. We stepped out of the great temple. My friends took pictures at the main gate, group snaps and selfies. They were surprised to see me not inclined to a selfie of my own. I just smiled back and told them...

"My Selfie moment was inside, when I silently touched the Lord. The self has not come out from the temple. My heart stays with him. This selfie... enjoy your moment. I have gone way past that. :)"

Photo courtesy: http://images.jagran.com/images/ 

3.15.2017

A Sacred Lesson Through Death



Pati (grandmom), a brilliant woman who lived up to her late nineties, left her earthly presence a month ago. During her last few years I wondered, which was better - Death or Old Age? Old age looked as much a living hell as death, where family cared little to spend quality time with her. I had the good luck of serving her while she was alive, spending time with her the way she wanted it. 

Her death was sudden, and an eye opener to say the least. Death knocked on her door, not because of ill health, not because of an accident, but it was just simply time up. We, the younger folk had taken her living for granted, she was one of those permanent aspects of our life, she was "always there". We didn't quite know how to deal with a world when she would not be there. Death, just came, and in half an hour she was gone. No pain, no hint of lament, no warning, just permanent silence. I just realized she had been prepared, to some level... to face it. 

I spoke to her last on a Sunday, she was gone by Thursday. I wish, just wish I had spoken to her one last time. I remember the last meeting, my uncle, as usual, was bashing her up for being herself. Little did he realize that would be his last outburst, she wouldn't stick around being the punching bag anymore. That moment really haunted me and the suddenness of her death. Uninvited, silent, sure. 

The activities that surrounded her death, became clearer as the Brahmin priests directed us. She was that spirit who was suddenly an outsider, who had to go and we had to send her away. She was an outsider because she was not human anymore. I learned why we don't leave our hair loose in the south of India, or why wearing a bindi is such a must or why food is served with the spoon turning in the opposite direction. Its all because during the time of 13 days, when the spirit has to be sent away and cannot hang around the house, we do all of this to send them away, to show them they are uninvited and not to encourage them to stay behind. In India, traditional India, leaving the hair loose is equated to looking like a pishacha(meat eating demon). Being well dress, with bindi, is a mark of respect to invite a guest, and when it comes to a spirit that needs to be sent away, the reverse is done. 

It made me wonder, how could I do that to her, whether she was in human form or another state. She was grand mom, and disrespecting her in her spirit state... didn't feel right. The whole task of bidding her good bye left me uneasy, not because of the concept of death, but more about how we treat the dead in their next state. It was so unfriendly, and so rude, to shoo someone out just because they are not "human" anymore. How wrong was that. 

But she taught me something more serious, and that was the association of Lord Shiva with this whole process. The homa to Lord Shiva, the recitation of the Rudram, the offerings to the great fire made Him so real, as the subtle force that guided her through her journey to the abode of the Gods. The Lord of destruction sounds scary to the uninitiated, but to me, He appeared like the only truth I need to know. He became my purpose, He added meaning to my life, He made me realize just how distracted I really am. 

Pati taught me more through her death than through her life. She introduced me to the sacred book of the dead, the Garuda Purana. Believe me, its by far one of the best books am reading. Her lesson to me is not over, far from over. Her voice rings in my mind, she smiles at me through her photo, my darling Pati... I only wish we all had been kinder to her in her living days. We probably wouldn't curse ourselves so much after she went. 

Clearly, I haven't identified death earlier as much as I did now. I have lost people, close friends... but none came so close to teach me lessons with their death. I have been thinking so much on death, I have realized there is no point hanging on to life. Death will come when it has to, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can stop it. The only thing I really need to gear myself up to is how to look death in the face, smile and accept it as my transformation towards spiritual progress, when it shows up. 

And Pati was my first teacher to introduce me to this subtle truth that looms around us, waiting for its turn to make its presence felt.