Conversations with the Dead

With every passing day of life and despite the integral presence of the mundane, (which is nice but I don’t always appreciate it) the thought that I am here for a limited period of time has not failed to cross my mind several times. I am still trying to grapple with the purpose of life, the basic reason for my existence and of course where am I headed from here. 

I have been immersed in the sacred scriptures, they are the source of all wisdom that has percolated into my mind. They are extremely enlightening in their poetic realm and yet I feel the lacuna, that I am not doing enough to answer this very deep and pertinent question. It has been even louder ever since two individuals left their earthly states, one who I loved dearly and one who I didn’t. They both affected me, in good and not so good ways. One ensured she remained relevant emotionally to me and the other ensured she messed with me completely, not intentionally though. They have left without a trace, owing nothing to the world and probably never to be remembered again. They had little to share materially and yet they had a significant impact on my mind.. the living mind. To keep it simple, let me refer to them as the good one and the lost one. 

What intrigues me is not just their exit, but the way they left their earthly sheath. The good one led a life of authority, keeping her herd together, ensuring the “family” didn’t break into nucleus bits. She guarded her fort ensuring no trouble from the outside and ensuring no trouble from the inside though she did come with a bus load of bias. She made rules and we toed the line. For all her autocracy which did get to her children at some point as they took pleasure in letting her know she needed to withdraw rather than govern, she did what she had to despite the inner opposition. Blamed, defamed and shot at almost every day, she ensured her pack stayed close to her taking all the brickbats in her stride. What mattered to her was a homogeneous family though that rule had started to fade quite a bit. What may have looked like an old age of turmoil, culminated into the most peaceful death within half an hour. She suffered no disease, she simply gave in to the call of death when it came… yes she had been waiting, we all had been waiting. She had not been super spiritual, she had deep attachments and she ensured she fed that desire well. She had outlived her time and yet it was the most peaceful exit that unfolded in front of our eyes. I held her hand one last time before she turned cold, she had left but her body remained plugged in at the hospital… just the mass of flesh breathing, the consciousness that was her had found its way out of her earthly sheath already.

In contrast, the lost one had been nothing but a trouble maker and maybe she didn’t even know how much of a trouble maker she was. She had given sleepless nights to many, created chaos in households and believed she wasn’t wrong at all. Spinster till death, she proclaimed to be the mystical one, the spiritual one and yes, we have crossed swords in the past. She defined her life differently, scoffed at the institution of marriage and the fall out that are children. Men were still her prey, and she craved for that attention. And yet, spiritualism for what ever reason was her definition of who she was. A master at communication with a charm that I could die for, yes she had a presence that couldn’t be ignored no matter how much I tried to push her out of my world. She came to haunt me in the weirdest of ways. For the spiritually inclined and one who had dedicated her life to Arunachala, apparently, her passing was a hell only she would have known how much she was subjected to. Lonely, misguided and with a host of physical ailments she fought her last war with the God of death, screaming her way through uncontrollable pain before she succumbed. She left me even more baffled, as the news of her last days trickled into my world. How or why was a person so mesmerised by the spiritual given such a torturous death? 

It has been a while since the passing of these two women, and yet their last days remains etched in my mind, keeps me speechless and makes me wonder about what impact the nature of the passing has with respect to the life we have chosen to lead. I wouldn’t believe it if we said, we have no control… we have all the control, we just need to define how we want to use it. It would be naive to believe that the one who was seeped in attachment of the family should have been granted a more painful death than the one seeped in spiritualism. And yet the reverse logic made me sit up and think, what exactly is the purpose of life and does it have an impact in the method of what death is inflicted on us. Death has intrigued me a lot more than life, and I have contemplated endless hours on the connect between these two realities. The life I live is incidental, what I make of my death is more important. And if I have to ensure the peaceful exit that I crave for, what would it take to fix the remaining of my life while the clock ticks on. 

I am still thinking, while the loud mundane shows its glamorous self to me I am trying very hard not to be enamoured by its presence. The silence that beats within my mind while I watch the chaos outside, is something I want to explore more… the answer lies there. I am here, you are here, we have a relationship undefined. Is there more to this connect or are we just spending our time coping with the mundane around us… its a decision we need to take, now, seriously to ensure a little that we have some answer to our earthly presence before we let go this sheath. The question really is do we fight the Lord of death, or embrace him. 


The Dilution in the Institution of Marriage

Originally, when this ideology was formulated there were 4 stages to living that were tuned towards the overall development of a person from Birth to Death. These 4 stages were conditioned to enable comfortable exit from life once a person had led it “to the fullest”. It started with Gurukula, Grihasta, Vanaprasta and Sanyasa as a broad classification that covered a range of years in the person’s lifetime. Along the way, gurukula was a must have for men and a nice to have for women but Grihasta dominated the whole social landscape so much so that Vanaprastha and Sanyasa are unheard of in today’s lifestyle, in fact they may be ridiculed. 

Its unfortunate, but the need to live with one's own self has been overshadowed by the need for companionship. Grihasta is integral to the social system for it ensures procreation, immortality in some form by the extension of the genes. It doesn’t focus on the inner development of each individual in the relationship and the outcome on the relationship there after. Following a set of rules for comfortable living isn’t exactly living life to the fullest. Knowing one's own nature, coming to terms with it and attempting to live with one’s own self is far more challenging that just leading a mundane existence by following a set of rules. In fact, it may just get restrictive. Everyone is growing old, a day less towards their exit with every rising sun. Self discovery, self stress, self love, and self preservation do take precedence but it doesn’t appear as if we are getting any wiser with age. Yes, the metamorphosis from youth to old age happens anyway without our consent, and we are left coping with it, trying to appear young and acceptable to the world around us, in an inner desperation for acceptance in the familiar world.  

Why is it so difficult to acknowledge old age? Why is it a larger nightmare to face than death itself. I have seen people struggle to be wanted, to be of “use”, escapists from the dignity of isolated living. We eventually are thrown there anyway by the younger less respecting folk in the family. In a changing universe of fewer human principles of good living and larger tilt towards greed, how can we claim to be superior when we are tumbling down into the very marsh of inferior thinking. 

Two people meet and decide to join forces to lead a life, procreation ensures a bond and progeny. The deed is done, stability largely has been achieved on the exterior. What about self growth, what about the challenges of dealing with one’s own self, the inner aspirations that haunt us while the outer social rules prove challenging to accept our way of thinking or being. I have seen a lot of people go through stress post 40, when they take on the baton of responsibility, when the older and the younger are dependent on them emotionally or financially. Added to that is the compatibility quotient between the pair. Even if it strikes a full 100% is that called complete living or is it convenient and are people missing a larger point altogether? Any one of the pair will quit sooner than the other, what happens then? Why is the mind so stitched into heavy emotional dependency outside of oneself when the hard truth at the end of the road is - you die alone, you can’t quite take your companion with you!

People change as they grow up, they may not remain the same for too long. As they discover themselves through the call of fate, they realise deeper aspects of living along the way. The same companion may not have done that distance hence that maturity to understand the change is not achieved. What degree of hypocrisy does the relationship face when one can’t share one’s own learning curve with the companion who apparently started out as a soul mate. This puts a lot of question on the permanence of marriage as an ideology. Clearly it was not meant to be a permanent affair as self growth and realisation at some point overshadows procreation which is done and dusted. Is the mundane the only way to lead life? I don’t think so, there is a lot more to discover about oneself beyond stability and procreation which unfortunately will not be achieved if inner contemplation isn’t exercised, given the looming presence of old age. 

Vanaprastha has unfortunately taken a turn for the worse. While there are old age homes cropping up everywhere the intent appears extremely negative as discarding of the older folk because of their lack of usefulness and greater irritable presence. Compare that to a decision taken by the elderly to lead a dignified old age in isolation, on their own. Vanaprastha is not as much a physical shift from the family but an emotional and mental shift of disconnection. The larger nightmare of old age sees quite a bit of uncertainty in one’s life. In the ancient times, Vanaprastha was meant to solve this very discord in the mind, but it has been done away with by society for all the wrong reasons. So is society right when things change for the worse and none of us can individually control it. Be it heightened interest in materialism or abysmal interest in goodwill, this society has done nothing right to enable itself to get wiser. So how do we claim to be superior except by feeding our egoistic nature within the same pool of crabs? Are we just not ridiculous as a species?

Sanyasa, a state of non expectation, a state of wisdom with detachment towards the madness around us is the perfect place to reach before death. Unfortunately neither the environment nor the self drive enables us to reach there. With the given landscape a peaceful death will only remain a far fetched dream… leave alone the need for accomplishment. No wonder… there are no Sages in our times…. 


Faith - A Subtle Lesson in the Spiritual World.

I wonder sometimes why spiritualism has not active takers, true seekers I mean. I realise one has to be as close as sage like, confronting every thought or concept around oneself. It takes a combination of intellect and emotional unconditional love to want to even understand the other side, leave alone getting there. I am trying to understand what about it makes it so inaccessible and gives us a feeling of always falling short. 

When I look at the world around me I see people just going about their lives not realising half it's potential. Is there something more than what is visible? I would say - actually Yes! But it is so subtle that it can't even be put in words leave alone being proven. Somethings about human life are greater than proving, they don't need proof to support their presence. They are, and it is our luck if we choose to experience their potential. It's like having a beautiful plant in our backyard. Chances are we never took notice of it, we have never seen it's beauty up close, experienced it's fragrance or realised it's magic but when we do, we tend to appreciate it's presence and come to understand how much we missed it all along. Well, it was always there, we just wasted time not noticing it because we considered something else way more important... for what ever reason. 

But is that really the problem? The fact that ignorance stems from not realising that we got stuck way too deep in the mundane. Yes, we can bring spice to our lives by questioning the mundane every now and then but when we start living that life, things start to change. Let’s take the same beautiful flower in the backyard. We now know it exists and it blooms every now and then but we haven’t found the time to go and spend with it. If we dedicated time to the plant, spent time with it, tended it and spoke to it and most important of all, loved it… the garden starts to look a lot more different. There is magic in there, magic we didn’t think even existed until we chose to be a part of it. This little paradise, is an extension of what our mind can do, and how it can transform the world around it, if it chose to. 

Similarly, with a mix of discipline, strong belief system and love for the divine, a lot can change. The Gods may not respond like a flower feeding our senses openly but they certainly ensure we got the point, subtly. When this change occurs it looks like a coincidence, but when they come one after the other it becomes a way of life. Miracles happen in succession and realising that change brings a host of possibilities around human potential. 

The quote "when you want something, the universe conspires to get it for you", actually starts to work here. It is a combination of our change in tune with the universe around us and that we affect it is a big deal... But it also brings with it a certain departure from the familiar world and that tends to instil fear till we are really comfortable with it. The idea is to see truth in the face, to accept everything - good and bad - as a way of life with not an ounce of discrimination (like looking at a rose and a dead body in the same light, we will mostly find them together but our mind will make the difference), thereby eliminating dualism altogether. This is when the real questioning starts to happen and we have to be really ready for the answers. We have questioned - yes, but do we have the courage to face the answer, most likely - no. 

This is where I was originally wrong, I believed people would jump to have such an experience. Apparently I was wrong, very wrong! For one, most people don’t seem to realise what they are missing, the few who do are grappling with “what just happened” and trying to seek explanation. While there are none within the purview of our limited language, it is subtle and that acceptance over a period of time starts to work on the fear we have. It is this fear that becomes our greatest enemy. It took me ages to get here, while I believed largely that I was considerably fearless, I wasn’t completely there. Its a deep sense of inadequacy and fear that we need to get over to even qualify to go to the other side, leave alone achieving things. And while most of the world around us hasn’t even reached this realm of understanding, those who have managed are struggling with self incompetence. There is the other crowd that is waiting endlessly for the magical guru to show up not realising that when we are potentially ready, they will come, but to get there, there is only one way forward - self help. 

I have had the luck of divine intervention in strange ways, when ever I was losing my focus, something would always bring me back to this. And yet that fear lurks. When the great saints say - look within - they are essentially telling us, unleash that unconditional love with you for it is the only answer to the fear we harbour. Unfortunately, the fear shouts out louder and the unconditional love is quite lost in this din. This is hoping that we have already put the noise of the mundane to rest. The inner fear of the unfamiliar, is a great place to start the investment on practicing courage, to face anything that comes through the world of contemplation. The only trump card we hold is Bhakti/faith/devotion, to want to be with the Gods no matter what hell should come in the way. Are we ready for that kind of a commitment… its continues to remain an unfortunate struggle and even a Guru may not be able to bail us out of this... because metamorphosis is a lonely journey. 


Relevance of Akharas in the Mahakumbh

Nagas at the Kumbh

Flamboyant pictures of Naga Babas and ascetics in various expressions of Sanatana Dharma have descended upon the holy city of Varanasi and Allahabad. Some of them beat our imagination on displaying their attention grabbing attires with dashes of Vermillion smeared on their foreheads. Yes, I roughly knew the importance of the Mahakumbh but this vibrance brought me to dig further, Nagas they are but who are these people really?

Ash clad, fearless, aggressive and unstoppable, these people draw their identity from the ancient ascetics group established by the great sage Adi Shankara. They belong to the Dashanami Sampradaya, the armed order of warrior ascetics, the Astradharis, who have come to sport a trishul that marks their individual identity and its presence describes them as the protectors of the Hindu ecosystem from calamity. 

They have a past, one ridden with massacre and bloodshed, they didn't kill but they were killed in thousands by the then tyrannical emperor Aurangzeb but he couldn’t wipe out their existence entirely. That's the wonder about Hinduism, it has survived every onslaught of insult and destruction till date… including the unnecessary, apparently liberal, peevish noise in social media these days, that adds to the din of normal existence.. 

Akharas today play a major part at the Kumbh, their presence is honourable as they have been the keepers of the faith, through history. But their importance in their world is defined by the politics that governs the various akharas that dot our countryside, not as much as the Hindu army that was designed to protect the intellects - the Shastradharis, or the protectors of Hinduism as envisioned by the great Seer, Adi Shankara.

Kumbh Mela 2019 Kinnar Akhada (News 18)

The Mahamandaleshwars are chosen by their peers and they come to head the respective akharas. While women still don’t have a presence here, the transgenders have taken centre stage in this Kumbh Mela. Spiritual discussions, Satsangs and solving organizational discord are the topics of discussion in these great meetings of saints. All in all its a great spectacle of spiritual brilliance and a unique flavour to imbibe if we want to explore a new world… but does it solve a deeper quest of spiritualism… am not quite sure, beyond reverence for these saintly men, they don’t quite affect our lives and ideologies anymore, except being a brilliant spectacle at the Mahakumbh. 

Naga babas are a mysterious bunch, who perform austerities in the silence of the Himalayas and descend into civilisation when the Mahakumbh calls them. There is a huge divide between them (the keepers of the faith) and us (the followers of some definition of the same faith). There must have been a time when they affected the ecosystem of the common people. In today’s world the enemy somehow doesn’t appear half as much as how Adi Shankara had envisioned it. The enemy is deep within society modernizing itself and questioning metaphysical aspects of spiritualism by the apparatus of western logic, on what purpose the Hindu way of life serves. 

Do these Akharas have the answer to a far more complex and pertinent question on the way of life that promises the vision of God in some form, tangible to human capability? While the life they lead as a recluse bunch does deserve a lot of credit, there is a very thick invisible wall that separates them from us. We are confused for sure, but gone are the days of being a witness to a discussion, one like that between Mandana Mishra and Adi Shankara… somewhere in our rat race and in the din of the virtual world… are we forgetting the true potential of the spiritual world and our individual capability to get there?

The Mahakumbh was to take us in that direction promising us salvation by a sacred dip at the auspicious hour in the Ganges, we have in today’s world reduced it to an extravagant spiritual spectacle. While there are still a few gems in that crowd who are unapproachable and probably are at the doorstep of Nirvana, the current crop doesn’t come with the vibrant charm that once walked the earth by the name - Adi Shankaracharya.

Truly such spiritual brilliance is hard to come by in today’s times.  


The Inherent Bliss in Worship

I am the state of God, Am just God, Aham Brahmasmi

The Laghunyasam has a wonderful verse embedded into it. It is the culmination of the all encompassing thought - Tat tvam asi. The more I read that verse, the more I relate to “who I am” and more importantly the more I realise “who I am NOT”. The unfortunate nature of mine to identify with my body makes it that much more difficult for me to relate to my subtle self. The subtle self is no big deal, it is not difficult to discover, it just needs time and effort to come to terms with something that is within us. It is a simple equation of who am I, should I remove the world around me, should I remove the relationships I have defined, should I remove my commitments and look at myself, in a silent room in isolation.

Tat tvam asi

The beating reality that I associate so much with my body and am such a slave to its various needs is a loud example of just how much I have moved away from my core purpose of existence. There is a distance to be covered, a bridge to be crossed between what I am and what I should be (in the spiritual world). It hasn’t been easy while I attempted to shut out the world and deep dive into “who” I really am. It takes immense courage to accept one self… given we hardly spend time there and when we do, we face some harsh realities of our own nature, which we originally didn’t sign up for. None the less, this is who we are and the sooner we come to terms with it, the sooner we chalk out what to do with it and move on. 

Faith doesn’t tell us whether we are right or wrong. Faith doesn’t throw judgement on us when the basics are in place. We are free to BE. Faith only recommends how we can grow spiritually should we work on a few aspects of ourselves. Self discipline, self restraint, self awareness, and finally self realisation. None of these have room for physical convenience or materialism. We need to discard that before we move towards the 4S.

When we are closer to this reality, our nature changes and we are more receptive towards the world around us, we are not half as angry or depressed, we are inherently happy with the world around us as the mundane doesn’t affect us half as much, people’s problems are trivialities and the defined purpose of existence has gone beyond the regular known definition. From here on we define the path, we are the path. Love overflows, jealousy and anger subside, forgiveness and compassion ooze… I am what I am and I be what I want to be. So what is this state?

प्रजनने ब्रह्मा तिष्ठतु  
Brahma is at the root

Vishnu lives in my feet

Hara - (incarnation of Shiva) lives in my hands

बाह्वोरिन्द्रस्तिष्टतु जठरे अग्निस्तिष्ठतु  
Indra lives on my shoulders, Agni resides in my stomach

हृद॑ये शिवस्तिष्ठतु
Shiva lives in my heart

कण्ठे वसवस्तिष्ठन्तु  
The vasus live in my neck

वक्त्रे सरस्वती तिष्ठतु  
Goddess Saraswati resides on my tongue

Vayu lives in my nose

नयनयोश्-चन्द्रादित्यौ तिष्टेताम्  
The Sun and Moon shine in my eyes

कर्णयोरश्विनौ तिष्टेताम्  
The ashwini devas live in my ears

ललाटे रुद्रास्तिष्ठन्तु  
Lord Rudra glows on my forehead

Adhityas live on the front of my head

शिरसि महादेवस्तिष्ठतु  
Mahadeva resides at the center of my head

शिखायां वामदेवास्तिष्ठतु  
Vamadeva resides in the tuft of my hair

पृष्ठे पिनाकी तिष्ठतु  
Shiva Pinaki guards the back of my head

पुरतः शूली तिष्ठतु  
Sooli lives on my brow

पार्श्ययोः शिवाशङ्करौ तिष्ठेताम्  
Goddess Parvati and Lord Rudra Shiva reside on my left and right.

सर्वतो वायुस्तिष्ठतु  
I am protected by Vayu - air who surrounds me 

ततो बहिः सर्वतो ग्निर्-ज्वालामाला-परिवृतस्तिष्ठतु  
Further to that I am protected by a ring of fire, that acts as a glowing garland of light.

सर्वेष्वङ्गेषु सर्वा देवता यथास्थानं तिष्ठन्तु  
All the deities are an inherent part of me

माग्ं रक्षन्तु
They protect me, they are me.

I am HE.

In this silent conversation of worship, in this love that flows, I am HE.


The Curious Case of the 5M Ritual

My current destination is to explore the abode of the netherworld, the 7 great Patalas. While its interesting to go into the depths of darkness to understand nature of life here in the celestial space, one particular abode took my attention by storm. Let me introduce the 7 patalas first so that we know where we are headed. 

In the celestial map of the universe, the celestial world below the earth has 7 divisions. These are believed to be mapped into the very form of Vishnu himself and everything, hips downwards belongs to Patala. The regions are called Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala, Patala. My focus is on the Atala and the Vitala mainly with respect to the nature of their realms. 

Atala is a place dominated by Bala, a son of Maya who possesses mystical powers. Bala, through his “yawn” or the sound embodiment of it, caused the creation of 3 women in the gross realm, with highly seductive natures described in 3 variants. The yawn, though strange as a concept, may indicate “tamasic” nature relating to man. 3 seductresses manifested from this yawn - Swairini the self willed, (Note: women’s freedom is described as those who have multiple male partners. Lets not go into the right and wrong of it in this article), Kamini the lustful one (marries men from any group) and Punshchali the one who wholly give herself up and keeps changing partners. When a man (mortal) enters this realm of Atala, these three women act like “predators” and attract him to tamasic realm of excitement with a cannabis drink to enhance his excitable state. They subsequently enjoy sexual pleasures with the man, giving him a false impression of excess masculinity, while in reality he is being drained off his vital creative fluids (semen), thus rendering him “dead” (impotent?).

Vitala is a realm of a different kind. This space is ruled by the terrific form of Shiva, the Bhairava state. Conceptually he is known to preside here with the mother goddess in the form of Bhawani or Gauri. The interesting part about this realm is that there is a river that flow, dominating the landscape and this is no ordinary river. The Hataki river here is the mixture of the vital creative fluids of Lord Bhirava and Bhawani in sexual union that flows through this region. What makes it special its that when this potent mixture comes in contact with fire, it turns to gold called Hataka. 

What struck me most is the unavoidable similarity I was subjected to when I compared this realm to the 5M ritual of the Vamachara path. In the earthly realm the Vamachara path has various types of rituals, some bordering on the unthinkable. Two rituals shout out loud. The first is the very common ritual practice of 5Ms, the Panchamakara - Madya (wine), Mamsa (meat), Matsya (fish), Mudra (grain) and Maithuna (sexual union). The other ritual similar in nature goes a step forward in offering the combination of vital fluids to the sacred fires of the cremation ground. The left hand path in Tantrik earthly rituals strangely seems to mimic the realms of Atala and Vitala. 

By scriptural evidence we understand that celestial regions come with their own equations of magical experiences. This in itself was quite a revelation for me, given most of recorded material around the Vamachara marga doesn’t really explicitly state the relation to the lifestyle of the celestial nether regions of Atala and Vitala. I can draw a parallel conclusion that the path of Alchemy in the deeper aspects of Hindu faith, as discovered by the Rishis, actually produced Gold, by combining Mercury (Shiva aspect) with Sulphur (goddess aspect) in a particular proportion and subjected it to “Fire”. 

But what really caught my attention was the nature of the Human being to ape the celestial world in ritual acts. It struck me like a bolt out of the blue, as to why we try so hard to mimic these worlds. Another interesting view is that, the combination of creative fluids of Lord Bhiarava and Ma Bhawani produces Gold in the presence of fire - the Hataka. In the earthly space, the merger of man and woman produces a child. Is the “child” considered “gold” in our realm. No matter what the material purpose of our living, the offspring is vital to our very existence today. 

Cutting out all the noise, the union of man and woman is considered sacred, the result in celestial workings is the gift of a child. Barren women and impotent men are not appreciated in our world, even today, no matter how rich. The gross purpose of our existence is procreation, which makes us no different from other Pashu. Then what is it that is the differentiating factor with the vital fluids we naturally have in abundance. How else do we describe the metaphorical meaning of “Gold” in the spiritual path if it is not manifesting itself as a child in physical form. 

What is the Vamachara Marg attempting to do by mimicking the Atala and Vitala worlds. It is very clear that Baital Deol temple, in Bhubaneshwar attributed to Chamunda was a clear cut destination for Tantrik practices surrounding the Vamachara marg of the Atala realm. It was a place of human sacrifice, the sculptures on the wall were not decorative as much as they were utilitarian, with bowls carved into the walls to collect “fluid” or “blood”. The temple seemed female dominated, but those who died in the physical realm were men, so were the main participants of the ritual women? Why is the central figurine Chamunda. 

The iconography of Chamunda pronounces her as the terrific form of Devi, consort of Rudra Shiva, which can be equated to Bhairava. She, in skeletal form,  wears bones, skulls and serpents all of which are attributes of the netherworld. But she also has “male” aspects of the yajnopavita made of skulls and a jatamukuta. The most powerful aspect of her is her eyes, sunken into their sockets by extremely intense which look at the bare truth in the face. I can’t run away from the basic fact that Tantricism is about accumulation of power, intense deep spiritual power by ritual (NOT black arts). In what form does Maithuna, in the Vamachara path produce the metaphysical experience equal to Gold - Hataka, in the physical realm of sexual union (and no it is not intense orgasm as that is considered a failure in ritual terms)? OR are we simply barking up the wrong tree? 


Discovering the Panchagni Ritual

As I dive deeper into the scriptures I have come to realize that almost every subtle logic of existence has a gross counterpart in karmic terms. The basic premise of Hindu texts emphasises on the fact that we are a part of nature and it is our responsibility to understand this silent truth and work with nature, not against it. 

Lets assume we are completely in sync with that statement, which is actually far from the truth, lets take it up for better understanding of a deeper subtle concept in the journey of discovering the self. "I am", and "my nature" is what I am wired to being. But does that mean the end of things?… no not quite, the whole idea of Sadhana, Tapasya, Vrat and Puja gear us towards a far more difficult lifestyle, with a zeal for endurance. The ideas here is, "I am, BUT I am NOT the center of things". I am but a figment of that great energy that has the inherent power to give me this birth and take it away from me as well, at will. While I am here, I am preparing myself with due discipline and austerity enhancing my capacity mentally, emotionally and physically to face that ultimate reality, better equipped than I otherwise would have been. 

But what is the real puja, the real sadhana. The version we know is still karmic in nature, we “do” puja, we “do” sadhana. Should we not do it, it alters our lifestyle and we possibly blame the world around us for it. The gross level of sadhana, is to ensure this particular lifestyle is set into our daily schedule, in the form of discipline. It brings with it many benefits at different levels, not necessarily material in nature. The focus remains of the purpose of the sadhana, the deeper meaning of the sadhana. We can start with a physical discipline, but at some point it needs to transcend into a mental discipline of deeper purpose to get to the true meaning of it. We need to stop “doing” and start “being”. Karma again is short lived, dhyana tends to stick on for longer. If we contemplate on the purpose of the ritual, the deeper and more subtle aspects of the faith start to shine. 

In my search to understand this concept of ritual performance in the mind, we may potentially call it Manasa puja, I have come to realize that the mind has to progress spiritually, hence a karmic ritual without the mind in contemplation alongside is a potential waste of time. At some point, the mind evolves so much that the karmic ritual may not be required at all. The puja is now Manasik, it has entered a different plane, it has been absorbed into out system so deep that its a natural output in the mind, we don’t have to take trouble on it… it becomes a part of us. Bhakti plays an integral part here. It stitches in contemplation with emotional love which is a potent mixture within us. The good news is we are capable of having brilliant spiritual experiences, the hard luck is, we need to make it persist. 

I chanced upon a very difficult ritual called the Panchagni Sadhana while I was hunting for deeper significance around the concept of fire. It has captured my imagination and it was hard to let go. The upanishads gave me a subtle view into its potent world but as I searched, it strangely landed me at the doorstep of the Nagas at Kumbh Mela. It intrigued me and I discovered, they perform the Panchagni ritual in a gross form, with fire surrounding them and the sun playing the central theme. The Sadhak sits at the center with bowls of fire burning in four directions around him, the fifth fire is that sun that burns down on him during the day or made even more difficult by placing a kapala-dhuni over his head. These are difficult forms of Tapasya, and they do make a person endure the heat of the afternoon in summer and the chill of the night in winter. There are various combinations of the fire but the bottom line is a deeper association with the divine flame. 

The subtle concept describes a world where the worship of fire actually triggers the conquest of the senses, the 5 elements, where fire plays a supreme role. The worship of fire as a being in itself, is a far more powerful form of worship. It opens the gates to unknown concepts that exists around us, we are just blind men walking through all these magical possibilities, practically unaware of them. This human body is capable of a lot more than we have chose to make it work on. We have powerful tools, and all we need is some decent direction with persistence to boot, to get to a place far more enlightening from where we currently are. And this journey cannot be done the karmic way. The outer display may look like we are “doing” something, but the inner journey is far more subtle and way more potent. The idea is to move from the gross form of ritual to a subtle form of living a breathing reality. 

There will be change, big change… the question is, are we ready to take that ride for if we do, there is really no turning back. 

Photo courtesy: Patrika.com


A Journey with Jagannath, Relived

The thrill on my son's face, the enjoyment of a new world... Nothing could beat this smile that brought back past memories.

While we spend most of our lives robotically leading it, there are some things that don't die.... They stay dormant in the crevices of the mind only to surprise us when a connect with the past is made.

Jagannathpur Ranchi, Jagannath Mandir

The innocence of childhood, the enjoyment of climbing the rocky steps to the temple, the peace  and tranquility at the main shrine... The connect with the divine, the mesmerising look of deep devotion in the face of Garuda, the vahan of Jagannath who looks up to him in adoration... All of this added up to my visit to this small temple on a hillock. The silent wilderness of Ranchi has given way to a noisy order and yet, the depth of a past enbedded in my head appeared to beat this very noise.

I had heard of a place called Puri, where the main shrine of Jagannath was, and in my many trips to Jagannathpur, I never knew when I would make it there. This trip to visit lord Jagannath again, was to introduce him to my son who till now, has seen him as a small idol in our puja Ghar. I had traveled 30+ years in time in discovering this journey in my head, my son would do the same journey in 2 days... And the excitement in my mind was immense. While, a part of me said this wouldn't stick in his mind for too long, my mind was determined to have it fed into his memory at this point. He needs to see the real Jagannath at Puri, at Ranchi, at home and hopefully some day, within his mind's eye.

The temple of Jagannathpur has been renovated a few times. What stands today is an architectural piece in Nagara style of Orissa architecture, but what sits in my mind is a silent, walled interior, away from the world, cutting away the winds, an echoing interior... A place I have been to in past lives, a place that has made several appearances in my dreams, a place I am visiting again... And it's mesmerising connect with me in my real world, dream state, in a spiritual plane, in a timeless plane across lives...

Jagannath Mandir, Puri

The temple of Puri Jagannath brings haunting familiarity, a flavour of having lived here and experienced it before, though in reality it appears fresh and new.. but the vibe, I have felt this vibe before. I remember carving pieces of chalk when I was kid. I carved temples, with a scalpel and black board chalk, and arranged them in an order that looked nice. Three shrines placed together two shorter shikaras and one taller in the center. For what ever reason, I made this arrangement and I liked it as a kid (though it didn't follow any rules of architecture). But what really got me was the recollection of the same arrangement of shrines when I stood in front of three Shiva Linga small shrines, exactly the same way within the premises of Jagannath Puri, under the shade of a silent tree, that has seen time roll by for centuries. Shrines (walls, shikara, with embedded garbha griha deep down within) stand next to each other, be it Lingaraj, Mukteshwar or Jagannath, but they don't stick to each other as in the case of this peculiar set within the walled world of Puri. What I didn't comprehend was how I made the temples look like Jagannath in pieces of chalk and arrange them in peculiar order, given I had no idea of this science at that age and neither had I visited any place that early. 

My extremely strange inclination to architectural rules, logic of sacred sciences and immense love for the Lord has led me down, not just memory lane of this life... It has been connecting a lot more dots in my head that I didn't know even existed. This journey has made me question the presence of time, it's nature, it's influence and it's mesmerising presence to baffle my mind. If I just had to remove all the gaps, across lives, I would know just how many times I have been at this place, and that may not even have been dependent on real geography... It may have been something else altogether.

Jagannath has been in my life from when I started to think and remember things. He has never left my side, though I have left his several times. This journey across time, has made me revisit elements of existence I took for granted, the tremendous potential of my mind to detect differences from established route, the impermanence of time and it's presence as a stage of events in sequential order, and of course the order of the universe that banks on my "nature" to be what I am...

And while I live now, while I am here I look at my son, the smile on his face when he says "Jagannath is very very big" makes me want to relive that innocence and sacred bewilderment that I have been blessed with, for what ever good deed in the past.


The Unexplored world of Surasundaris, their Personality, their Potential

She twirls around the branch of a tree
As she pull a thorn off her delicate feet
Her graceful curves entwine a branch 
As she holds onto it like a fragile creeper
She calls the green parrot, plays with its red beak
The sign of sensuality, the pleasures of love
She gently smells the fragrance of the lotus
As she tucks it into her thick plaits of hair
Tying the anklets in her feet
She plays the rhythm of her heart with the drum 
She dances her love dance with grace
Twisting the chauri along her naked back
She holds the mirror to her face
Completes the shringar with a dash of red
She lazily picks up the Ketaki flower
Delicate fingers imbibe its scent
This sensuous being is out to seek
Make no mistake with what you see
The partial nudity, the full breasts unique
She is not to be amorously felt
She is the power, splendid and divine
She is the connect to the supreme above. 

Surasundaris have been misunderstood to be just sensuous beings. Studies indicate that they adorn the walls of sacred temples and took to being more popular during the rise of the tantrik cults. But to ascertain that they were only sensuous beings to attract men into the walls of the sacred shrine for a tantrik ritual with no other objective to their existence would be foolhardy of us. Apsaras, Kanyas, yakshis are other names that these celestial beings have been identified as… but somehow … my belief is that they were way more superior than what they have been documented to being. 

My journey to understand these mystical women starts from the temple walls. On one side they ooze sensuality, on the other they appear extremely shy. They may be great exponents of kamasutra and yet they have the anxiety of union with the one of their choice, with whom they will lose their “virginity”. The signs of the thorn, the pose of the creeper, the sensuous conversation with the parrot are indicators of sensuality. They are also great dancers and they dedicate their existence to the lord himself. They are knowledgable and their wisdom shines through their Tejas. They are the epitome of beauty, but they are also mysterious celestials who can transcend the planes of existence, move from one to the other with ease. They cannot be owned, they cannot be touched until they want to, and they do fall in love against all rules, with gods, with devas, with men. And yet they roam all the worlds, on celestial missions, the knowledge of which only they have. They can come to us, if we call them through intense sadhana, they can help us or destroy us, they are powerful beings that we wouldn’t like to mess with…

And yet they are mysteriously more talented than mortals, their capabilities shine beyond human potential. When a Surasundari dances or sings we stay mesmerised, its like a spell they cast on us, a spell hard to get out of. They can hold a conversation with you, keep your grey cells churning, speak on the making of the universe, excite the nerves out of you and yet, we will not be able to tell whether this happened for real. They touch an intense world within us, they touch the psychological weakness we hardly knew we had. They transform the way we see the world, make us question exactly who we are and why are we going through this state of mind. 

The laws of Indian sculpture and their presence on architecture has tried to its limits capacity to bring the heavens down on earth. The temple being the centre of existence depicts the universe, the stages of divine evolution, from animals to daily life, to court scenes, to mystical celestial being flying across the sky, which could include ganas or gandharvas, kinnaras and the sacred tree of life. But as we progress above, reach the zone of the Gods, we find Surasundaris amongst them. They occupy a position of importance on temple walls, next to the gods, closer to the ceiling, be it the outer wall, a pillar or inner door jamb. Surasundharis have a presence of importance, which has not been explored in entirety. They occupy a space that is above human life, but below the shikara. They are the door to the heavens, but don’t really get there (within the limitations of the stone temple … who knows where this silent world leads… )

Indian art depicts mythology, the culmination of an act, of a great exploit of a God to depict their capability. They alternatively depict the nature of a being, in this case Surasundaris, explicitly depicting their sensuality. What they don’t depict is the capability of these beings, their potential which can be accessed only through ritual, sacred sadhana which is performed within the temple. The walls depict who they are, but the sacred ritual within the walls gives the way to find out what they are capable of, why they are there and where they can take us. 

Indian ritual worship is far more superior to modern science, and cannot be measured by that yardstick. They are so different that it would foolhardy to ask for proof for the limitations of our mind. So if we dismiss this sacred science, and measure it against the plague that has set in from the west, we do it at our own peril of losing sacred wisdom, that once was truly our very own. 

This elixir of divinity is hard to come by, and when it does, it even harder to brush away. Lets set our egos aside (move the focal point of existence away from ourselves) and ask the question - Are we blessed enough to receive it? 

* * * 

Indian lifestyle on the other hand created a role for them among women. They were married to the deity within the shrine but with time, they were exclusively called Devadasis, but yet again, the perversion of educated men (both ancient sciences and modern) reduced them to prostitution and the same men now look down upon them... How fair is the mind of mortal men, how biased are they that they give the position of honour and they reduce it to dishonour by their own lack of self restraint?! And therefore I ask, are they seriously capable of higher wisdom?


An Ode to Bhasavanna

At these troubled times, when politics decides to divide a society and rule them, where selfishness takes over principles of good governance, I am wondering how Bhasavanna would have reacted to this madness. Is this what he had envisioned when he founded the sacred extension of Shaivism in Veera Shaivism bringing about the Lingayat community? Today, these two brothers stand split up, when their very existence was originally based on the single belief system of internalising Lord Shiva, as an individual form of worship. 

Standing at the confluence of 2 sacred rivers, when I look at the sheet of purity that spans the expanse of the horizon glistening in the morning sun as it rises, another day is born but with a different ideology. Bhasavanna, stays silent in his watery samadhi and yet I wonder whether all that is taking place now actually makes any sense. 

Kudalsangam... The silent world of Bhasavana's Samadhi

In the depth of sacred water
A silent enigmatic world
Does my heart beat
A rhythm to your dance
I seek the mind of that Bhasavanna
The quiet one
Who holds the sacred emblem 
The Linga divine
Within the psychic world
Of his heart
The ash that remains
After his earthly destruction
Holds testimony
This sacred beat in his heart
Merged with the silent ripples
Of the Krishna
Still pulsating in my being
Long after his body
Flowed away with the stream