1.16.2016

Jagannath Raas Lila - Silent conversation of affection.



Puri, sacred land of Shankha Kshetra, divine earth where the Lord Jagannath resides has come to become a part of me, it is what I call my home. Yes, this spiritual vagabond has found her home, previously at Tarapith, and now at Puri. 


Divine intervention or providence, I don’t know... and I frankly have stopped thinking. All I know is, when I get a chance to come to Bhuvaneswar, I can’t go back without setting foot into Puri to meet the Lord. After all its He who calls me all the time without fail. It’s been three visits, and there is no stopping this force from calling me. And each visit has had something new to offer. Somehow with these swelling emotions of devotion he just cares too much and takes care of everything, from permanently fixing a good panda who is genuine, giving me anytime access to the Lord to a meal, the maha prasad, before I leave. He has just been so real, so vibrant, pulsating in every breath of mine, now he just makes my heart melt. I can hardly think beyond him at the moment. 


Where do I start, how do I explain the impossibility of the trip, the lack of any chance to go to Puri, and yet He made me do it... against all odds to just book my return tickets a day later and not worry about the repercussions. I have not felt such levels of fearlessness and yet I seemed to have sailed through, not just unharmed... but protected as well. 


Well, I made the time but I was not quite ready for the next hurdle. It’s the time of Pongal/Shankranti and the temple is swarming with people, packed beyond capacity. I was blissfully unaware of what I was getting into. I just knew, I had to meet Him, with or without crowds, with or without company, nothing mattered, I had to go. But there was a catch, I wanted to submit my work of art, my manuscript at his feet, in my way and spend a few good silent moments with Him. I guess he knew that too. I have worked for this moment, not just waking up at 3:30am every morning in the last 3 months, but for the last 10 years, to close this work and reach my moment, my Jayadeva moment. I have grown, in my spiritual journey and He has taught me well. But nothing was possible without that last push and for that I realize now why I ended up visiting Him so often these last few months. He just made sure, I completed this manuscript, not in my way... but in His way. 


I barely wrote those words, but they stemmed from his consciousness. I barely strung them together, but the sweet fragrance of divinity was sprinkled by Him. I barely managed to complete it by noon, but He had devised His plan for me. It was truly accidental and while I tried to get my coordinates together, a friend walked in asking me if I wanted to visit Puri by night. It was unthinkable, 9:00 pm for a temple visit... does it even work? He was certain it did. But, none the less, “Yes” was my answer, and the divine excitement of meeting my Jagannath started to rise again, intensely, strongly leaving me speechless. This was not going by my plan, this was His plan and I was given a way to follow and sure enough, even the panda confirmed it was a better idea to finish it tonight.


We hit the road, with strange hope and even stranger anticipation of how the evening was going to unfold. So thick were the thoughts that I hardly realized when I reached Puri and we were hastily rushing to the temple, the panda had already called us thrice to figure out where we were. He caught us at the gate and we rushed in, as I carried the loose sheets of my manuscript packed into newspaper. I loved the ambience in the evening, the silent raas lila of Krishna Jagannath hummed in the air, in the winds. We lit lamps at smaller shrines, meeting Ganesha, Kasi Vishwanath, Ma Bhuvaneswari, Ma Mahalakshmi, and soon after headed towards the inner sanctum. 


There He was, my sacred world, my Jagannath adorned in silks, seated, looking back at me with a big smile on His face. We were ushered to a corner where I stood, staring at Him while the panda went ahead and kept the loose sheets of my offering at the Great Lord's feet. My Jayadeva moment had arrived. I stood speechless, feeling the warmth, feeling my emotions seek Him... I walked inside, around the sacred passage completing my pradakshina as I turned to Him again, this time closer, much closer. Everyone was warm, the pandas didn’t push me, and no one said a thing. I bowed to Him, looked at Him endlessly and thanked Him for calling me by night. Bowing down to Ma Subhadra and Balarama, I spend few silent moments there with them. There were no crowds, no noise. Just Him and me, silence outside, silence inside. He gave me what I had wanted.... He never disappoints. 


We headed back around 12:00am, along the peaceful stretch from Puri to Bhuvaneswar, as I reflected on the evening. Unplanned, fantastic, He had granted me my wish. I had planned to go there the next day, I did it anyway. I hit the road again at 6:30 catching the morning sun. This trip was about Him, everything else was incidental, a part of my karmic to do list. This was the real thing. 


Jagannath Puri, was filling up fast as I entered the temple, bhajans rang on one side, queues lined up everywhere and people thronged to the temple looking for hope, seeking faith, feeling his divine power. It was one of those moments of ultimate freedom on earth, where I am alone and I am just sitting on the steps of Lakshmi Mandapa staring up at the pinnacle of this magnificent 10 Cen AD architecture. Three good hours of bliss at the sacred shrine, practically spent with japa and silence as the crowds just buzzed around me. Its possible to feel the silence of Lord Jagannath in the middle of a lakh audience pushing each other to get a glimpse of Him. 


My panda was back, just like the genie in Aladdin, :) to magically help me through the crowd. And believe me he did it so amazingly well. The main door was shut down, the paths were packed with people and police yelled at poor folk who didn’t toe the dotted line. Can you believe the impossibility of this darshan when I hadn’t even gotten into line yet! I was blissful in the mystical world of Jagannath, hardly aware of the millions criss-crossing my way as I headed closer to the shrine. Close was not "close", we had access up to the second door way, two chambers away from the shrine. A couple of police men opened a corner door, as we walked through and sealed it immediately and we moved in swiftly. The crowds were crazy, a potential stampede was building up and in this sheer people force the panda said, bend down under the blockade and sit on the steps. Was it the panda or the divine intervention of Lord Jagannath, I don't know, but leaving the sheer madness of the crowds an inch behind, I sat at the steps for another 2 minutes, staring at Him, in my mystical silent world before I walked out. The sheer human force got me out of the temple as I found my footing again. I left the temple, almost breaking down into tears, it is possible to bypass the sheer volume of people if the Lord wishes it so. Before I left, the panda came back with a piece of red cloth, "this is a flag from the temple finial, this is for you". I opened the flag, it had the sacred mark of Chandra Bindu on it. Lord Jagannath had spoken to me, wished me well and gifted me his victory flag. 


I left the mad rush of the human world, walking out of the temple, this time, he truly touched my heart. He gave me more than I asked for, he gave me more than I deserved. 


Naachke Aye Natakhat Giridhar...He truly came dancing into my heart.

1.14.2016

Jai Jagannatha - The Lord Who Never Disappoints!



It’s been a year with the Gods, I spent time with them more than I spent time with people. I lived with them, thought about them, loved them, prayed to them, adored them, sang to them... it has been so fulfilling and they didn’t disappoint. Lord Shiva, Ma Tara, Ma Kamakshi, Ma Kali are real in my head, more real than you and me. But recently circumstances presented themselves, events unfolded and I found myself heading to the temple of Puri more often than I had planned for. 



The larger picture is starting to get clear, the play of fate is a game am slowly getting to understand. There is a way to control things and not let it unfold as it feeds on our temperament. That’s when we rise towards being higher than just human. In this subtle reality, the mind has to work harder but if the heart is in the right place, it’s completely doable. Astrology helps to give direction, lets you know what’s coming but doesn’t get down to the depth of it...it lets you figure it out. And when the Daksha of fate comes to challenge us, hang on...face him with the army of Gods to support. Lord Shiva will come, or he will send someone. In my case, he sent Lord Jagannatha... and he didn't disappoint. 



I speak of a subtle reality, which has now become very loud. In my consciousness everyone around me now has become an actor, of a larger play and I am in it. Life has started to look up, people hardly matter for now my enemy is within, it’s me, it’s my fate... can I change it? I believe I can.

When we keep faith, when we surrender completely, I mean completely without doubts the Lord will act on it. And it’s an intoxication, the mind hardly wants to come back and live in this world. The other world is just more beautiful. Am I hallucinating, I wasn’t sure but when Lord Jagannatha just kept coming back I was certain, this is for real. Yes the heart has to be in love with him, the mind has to be persuasive and the magic of living can bring all the difference. Its deep, it’s fulfilling and it’s beyond human frivolousness. We are capable, more capable than we thought. 

The calling is strong, very strong and I just end up following my heart. Puri, land of the great Lord, a bustling temple swarming with people and with monkeys. Lord Rama is there with his Vanar sena, Lord Shiva has descended from Kasi, Lord Hanuman has come from the east gate and Goddess Mahalakshmi is seated on her throne. This dham, one among four, is the great seat of Lord Jagannatha, Neela Madhava... oh the bhava of surrender is just so amazing as we make our way into the sacred sanctum of the Lord who stands with Subhadra and Balarama. 


It’s a quiet chamber with a bit of day light streaming in and the lamp lights brighten up the interior. Ignore the sounds of the people and then you can feel the silence. Jagannatha stands there, with his hands spread out, with his eyes that don’t ever close, with his heart that is ever open to receive if we are willing to give. HE is my Jagannatha, my dear Lord, who called me again and again to visit him, to be with him, to surrender to him and to leave my heart behind with him for safe keeping. In this world of divinity, full of energy and divine secrets, its his home and its my home, my Hrydaya Kamalam where he resides, where Lord Shiva resides, where I have chosen to merge with him. 

Lord Jagannatha never disappoints, if we let go He will come to protect. Jai Jagannath!

Om Na Mo Bhagavate Vasudevaya

12.19.2015

The Sati in Me Burns as the Daksha of Fate Looks on...

He is there, far out in the wild, far away from social rule, far away from the plague of human order of living. He is Shiva, the wild one, the living, the intense, the pure, the flawless, the fearless, He is my Shiva. But in this forest of human living, I have lost him in the crowd. I have lost him so bad that I wonder whether he even exists among them...anymore. And yet this heart yearns for the possibility that he exists. 

The wheel of time has turned again, fate has lolled out its ugly head and placed yet another test to me and I have this unsettling feeling am losing this war again, very badly this time. I have a quest, do I have the luck to meet my Shiva in this life.... ever, at all?

This heart is tired of the hunt, this heart is tired of the web of emotions it has caught itself in... this heart just wants to stop beating.

The ambiance of life is set, the great sacrifice is underway and Daksha, the father of my fate has rolled out yet another plan, but this time the sinking feeling is louder. And in the crowd of humanity I cant quite find my Shiva. Where is he and will he protect me, will he come? At the center of this earthly universe is the deep fire of burning human desire, large flames rising up threatening me to dare look for my Shiva in it. The flames are hot, fiery with possessiveness, crackling with anger and greed, raising their fiery arms to grab my poor soul that stares at them dance within the stage of their homa kunda. The black smoke of sorrow, of doubt and of betrayal rises out consuming every one standing there witnessing, sucking their emotions into its flames. Is my Shiva there?

I see people getting consumed in its flames creating illusions of deep emotions. I see people willingly succumbing to its tempting offerings as they dive into its flames, only to feel its real fury. They burn, they shout and groan in their suffering of burns as they writhe in sheer unbearable pain and yet they cant stop themselves from diving, its call is just so strong. This fiery pit is lethal and no one knows what they are signing up to until they take the plunge to only realize how it tricked them by playing into their hearts. And I stand here, trying so hard not to fall into this deadly pit of burning desire.

Daksha is watching in silence, as the fire rises to consume people, consume their minds, consume their hearts and consume their souls into sorrow, into hate, into anger... oh what is the real nature of its flames? I can see him sit there and smile, urging me to jump. I can see the lust and greed in the eyes of the people who willingly fall in, something is so not right in this fire and yet, in my world, that is all I see ... the fire and its tempting arms of a beautiful illusion of finding my Shiva there. 

And I jumped into its flames.

I can hear the screams of agony, I can hear the wailing of sorrow, its a terrible world in there as I start to burn. Its deep, it sucks me in and am trying desperately hard to find my way out, Ma Tara, help me... help me. Help me out of here. The fires are consuming my heart, its sinking deep into the black abyss of human plague. Its burning away the beauty of my soul, its burning away the purity of my being... its burning me to ashes, destroying the real me, the core that I need my great Lord Shiva to protect. And I collapse in exhaustion. Am losing the Shakthi within me, slowly but surely. 

The pain is deep, the hurt is immense and am waiting for him to lift me out of these raging flames to take me away. He will come with his army to lift me out of this burning ground of emotions. I am waiting ... as I burn in this pyre of life. 

Oh my Shiva, my calm Shiva, the fearless one, the strong one... where are you? Won't you listen to my cries.

Om
Na Ma Shi Va Ya... 
Na Ma Shi Va Ya...
Na Ma Shi Va Ya...
Ommm...
Shii Vaaa Yaaa... 

10.26.2015

To Lord Jagannatha I bow


You have come back again to quench my thirst, to dip my dumb head into the Gita, to shake the ignorance out of my mind once again. I am thankful to you for that. 

You came back to push me to think, to push me to realize the deeper nuances of human relationships, that which I never knew of, that which no one believes ever existed.

You held my hand and took me through the path of bhava, bhava of different kinds. Yes! This heart is capable of viewing love in more ways than one. 

You taught me sakhya bhava, and I was too dumb to learn. Eight years after you stole him away I realized what you meant. Spiritualism in human relationships, oh what a game you have played!

You taught me madhura bhava and I hardly got the point. What a waste I was, till you made me realize the hard way it was meant to be divine, not human. 

You taught me dasa bhava, and I melted in devotion not knowing where it led me. But today when I stand on what appears to be a pedestal for another, I realize what the previous sage didn't get right. 

And now when I need you most, you taught me vatsalya bhava, another version of the same love. And while this heart fears detachment, you threw the impermanent world at me to grapple with while I try to realize the actual truth. 

You have shown your grace to teach me tanmaya bhava, to see your form in everyone I meet, to cure me off human folly. To worship you in every living human, every insect, every being pulsating with life...and for that divine intoxication, I thank you again.  

And finally, when I rest my tired heart that doesn't know what else is in store, it awaits your lesson on shanta bhava to imbibe the silence of the universe, the void, the truth that you have so carefully hidden away from me. 

Oh when will you reveal your true form to me O Lord Jagannatha and claim this heart that truly belongs to you.

To Lord Jagannatha I bow.

9.27.2015

Divine Love, my encounter with the crazy world of Bhaktas

Are you a bhakta? How far does your Bhakti go? Will you take the leap, close your eyes and trust me and let go?

"No" would most likely be the answer. How then do we go on this path of faith, ahem blind faith. Blind faith which is not so blind that you take anything that’s given but blind faith that is informed on whom you take it from and what they have to offer. And yes, you had better know your faith better, way better because whoever you go to, won’t teach you that. 

Faith is what you make of it, it is not what you see in a group of people as to what they make of it. It is not a war of symbolism, it is not a war of numbers, it is not a war of belief (whether my belief is greater than yours or not). It is a STATE OF MIND. It is yours for you to manage, like your home, your work, your kids... faith is all about managing the creature called you. Why, because guess what ... you spent your whole life managing everyone and everything else around you but yourself. 

I belong in that world, the world where we think managing ourselves is way more important that managing others. We manage ourselves and define what principles and virtues we want to live up to and define who we really want to be...in the divine world. I discovered a handful of others who have tried as much to do the same thing with themselves and succeeded. And we have a common goal, the goal is to seek the divine, the goal is to exploit what we have in abundance - sheer love. 

Love - not the chemistry between a man and a woman, not a spark that defines a human relationship - but love that is free of human definition. You and I are capable of it. I discovered a man, I read his poetry and now I am deeply in love with his ideology, deeply in love with his craving for the Goddess, deeply in love with his purity towards the divine. And every line in his poetry just makes my heart cry out for him. Oh where is he, the great lover of the Goddess, who looks so dejected because he can’t find me. 

Alas, we are born in two different eras...we are born never to have ever met before. And as I scroll through his divine verses to the Goddess... I feel the pain of what he feels. We are simple people, we don’t know the ways of the world, and we just know one thing, deep love, just love for the divine Mother. 

He writes:

A Country Fair (Excerpts) 

Drive me out of my mind, O Mother
What use is esoteric knowledge
or philosophical knowledge
Transport me totally with the burning wine
Of your all-embracing love
Mother of mystery, who imbues with mystery
The heart of those who love you
Immerse me irretrievably
In the stormy ocean without boundary
Pure love Pure love Pure love

The Poet Stammers, 
Overcome with longing:
When? When? When?
When will I be granted companionship 
with her intense lovers. 
Their holy company is heavenly
A country fair for those mad with love
Where every distinction between master and disciple disappears

 - Ramprasad Sen (Shakta Poet, 18th Century, West Bengal)

Yes it’s a mad world when one true bhakta meets another, it’s a mad world of freedom from the hypocrisy of men. Out here there is truth, there is pure love and deep faith that pulsates, binding us together. We sing each other’s praise, we view each other as an extension of ourselves. We realize just what we need beyond the world of earthly human love and existence. And the divine mother drives us, like horses tied to her chariot as we run in directions of our own choice, of our own freedom. The harness of love keeps us steady and doesn’t let us stray away.



He taught me well. He taught me to love the Goddess. He taught me to look into the mirror and see him as a reflection of me. 

That is truly when the divine illusion of the Great Mother falls and she sees herself face to face with herself. We are but a figment of her imagination. Ma Kali meets Ma Kali, I am you seen through her eyes and this illusion too shall fall. 

At last... I have realized the meaning of true love.

8.17.2015

The Search for Lord Shiva

We are a bunch of mad men fighting about who or what the great Lord really is, fighting about who or what that supreme experience is all about, fighting about who is higher in the rat race to spiritual enlightenment. Isn’t it sad that such a sacred path to attainment can go so horribly wrong when we decide to pump in our ego and intellect and greed into it!

It has made me stop and think. I have blogged and blogged for years, I have sat and worshipped for a duration of time (nothing to be proud of really) and I have gone back to the texts to verify the conservative way whether I am doing it right. I realized just how far away we have gone from it.

I have been at this for a while, spent most of my time on it and if you ask me who the great Lord Shiva really is, I still draw a blank. I have enough theory but when it comes to practise I am doing something wrong which is not helping and I don’t know what it is. But yes, the only thing I really learned over a period of time is just how much I fell in love with him - The Perfect One. The only one to whom I managed to surrender myself doubtlessly.

This run is costing me good, it’s keeping the vigour alive, its keeping the mind active, its keeping me sane in a mad world. But am dejected, a little tired but the perseverance will continue. HE will come, he will reveal and I will not settle for second best.

In this mad world everyone has an impression, everyone has an opinion, but no one has the luck or the grace. It’s so sickeningly human to fight ruthlessly despite knowing clearly within our half-baked understanding that we are just a useless mass of flesh if we don’t get this right! What’s the point in fighting over a bunch of opinions, end of the day its wasted sound waves that could be used better, its wasted energy that has no decent outcome and its wasted emotion that could been spent better of holding on to faith - Bhakti.  Yours verses mine, seriously does it help?

Everyone, you and I have potential, we are built that way naturally, and we just need to tap our own resources. We have learned well to steal the natural resources from this earth, now let’s apply the same greed on ourselves. I am not your enemy and if we do this together we can achieve the higher realm. They say spiritualism is a lonely path. I agree to some degree but then we can go our separate ways when we are confident that we have found the right path. Meanwhile, let’s help each other spiritually.

Love the Lord, read about Him, understand Him, and try to realize Him. He is just a breath away and all we need to do is feel that freedom. That freedom beyond ordered society, that freedom beyond rules, that freedom of the inner self, that freedom towards enlightenment.

Here are a few thoughts from the Shiva Purana that I really thought relevant for us today.

Mental sin is wiped off by meditation
Verbal sin is wiped off by japa
Physical sin/karma is wiped off by emaciation
Sins committed by wealth can be removed by daanam
Sprinkling of water over the head suppresses the idea of committing sins/karma


 - Shiva Purana

And its so true. When we meditate we arrest the wavering mind. When we do japa we condition the tongue to speak only sacred syllables, it forgets everything else. When we moderate the food intake, the body is light and manageable, we feel positive energy within us. When we learn the joy of giving, we kill our greed. And when we think of the Lord for those two precious minutes we forget to do the wrong deed!

7.11.2015

To Ma Kamakshi, Ma Tara

You sit there silently watching me make mistakes
You smile down at me when my pathetic self madly dances about
You emerge as a feeling within me when I cry out 
You hold me close when am about to fall

This silence around me, I nurture it for you
To listen close and catch the sound of your sweet anklets
I feel you sit on my shoulders as I walk through life
I cease to exist when you glow on my brow

Oh Sweet Mother, Oh beautiful Kamakshi
You have graced me with your presence twice. 
Am not fulfilled, never will be Oh Tara
Why do play such hide and seek

I stare at the Sri Chakra, mystical nature of yours
I wonder what abstraction of math are you built of
Can blind folded love and surrender unravel
The depth of your potency within this earthly form

Time has passed and yet I am lost
Can I define your form at all
Do you enjoy my struggle or can you help
To raise me from the world of the dead

I have been granted a second life
One of color, of success and prosperity
You gave me all but you didnt reveal
The secret door to your home

I walk the ash sprawled cremation ground
I watch miserable wrecks burn to dust
I will be there one day I know
Will you come to take me with you

This earthly prison I have abused much
Your heavenly abode looks a faint distance away
I feel its presence and yet I cant find my way
What am I missing, where am I going wrong

Many have come and many have gone
Most want to reach godhood but remain human
Interactions reveal how much our ego rises
Where are the wise and where is that divine light

I sink back into my silent world
No human has ever brought me that happiness
The kind I feel with you, everlasting
Why then am I here, searching for you...

I have felt the madness of Aghori
I have felt the craziness of Bhadrakali
I have sensed the profuse love of Tara
All on a bed of ashes. 

I shall dance on the pyre of life with you
I shall dress in red robes of the fires
Here take my soul, this severed head is yours
This child awaits, for you to behold

Come back O Mother, hold me close
Raise me from this noise
Reveal to me the depth of thy mystery
Make me a part of that puzzle beyond life. 

5.19.2015

The Painful Three Days in the Month

Those three days in the month are all it takes to mark the difference of a woman's life from a man's. Its not an innocent 3 days that are done with and over, it comes with a host of issues that are morally disheartening to women, discriminating them through the ages and the sole reason for men to feel apparently superior. They have defined the restrictions of a woman's life and no matter how open we are in what ever era, when it comes to spiritualism we always seem to lose the battle...somethings just never change. Very few managed to stand up but we don't get to see a Mahadevi Akka or a Karaikkal Ammaiyar or a Mira Bai that easily anymore these days. What's really happening with woman power? And I of course went on my hunt trying to understand why there is such a level of discrimination and I stumbled upon the sacred scriptures and decided to roll my mind over them.

This was like opening a can of worms. Initial shock soon converted to anger which precipitated into a deep sense of need to understand what is in it for women. Hindu scriptures are predominantly addressed to men and they reduce women to either commodity or a different lesser species on this planet or that evil seductress who is going to ruin aspiring spiritual men. That was really the limit. Now I understand where male chauvinism stems from. Something is desperately wrong in the interpretation.

And so it became my journey to seek that truth, for I was certainly not in agreement with the resulting interpretation of the scriptures. Every scripture I picked (which isn't too many), but predominantly Vaishnavaite and the Vedas and Upanishads, for some reasons appear to be a rule book to men and very sparingly address women. Seriously, why wouldn't the male ego grow... though they don't do anything earth shattering when it comes to self-enlightenment!

It has bothered me forever now why women cannot go anywhere near the earthly form of the Supreme during those three days of the month. This further extends to the rules that having being born as women we are denied a lot of other spiritual perks that men are granted. Women never went to the Veda Patashala, they don't perform homams, they are not allowed into the sanctum even after they have crossed menopause for example... we are so restricted to home administration, procreation and being the symbol of pleasure to a man's desire. How fair is that?

It’s strange that I can hand pick less than 10 women who made it to Sainthood through known history. Were we suppressed so much that we couldn't ever rise, or were we brainwashed that such fate doesn't exist or did we never have the will to try hard enough?

My entire love for the Shiva cult and that of Devi rose from the basic realization that there is no such barrier for women in this realm. I have hardly come across a restriction, and much to my surprise I came to learn that women are considered superior and are worshiped, not suppressed. So who is misguiding us?

At some point, I decided no earthly Guru was pure enough, humble enough and wise enough to help me grow in my spiritual path without considering my gender. (I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I have an aversion towards self-made mortal Gurus – just doesn’t work for me). Hence this became a lonely journey of experiment, and I soon came to realize with the grace of the Divine Goddess what those three days really mean.

The reason why women have been suppressed and restricted over these past centuries is because in our world, spiritualism and child birth are opposite ends of the spectrum. If we move towards child birth, we have to give up spiritualism for that period of time. If we move towards spiritualism, we are likely to menopause sooner reducing our chances of child birth. Now imagine if we went down that lane, it would lead to the doom of humanity! And so the great wise men kept us a little away from it, though they granted us the miracle to deliver new life. And the mortal world made us believe that we are not "complete" without child birth. And we got locked down with a very well defined role - our sole purpose of existence turns out to be home administration and of course being the vehicle of reproduction. Is there really no more to this, is it really so blinding?

There is a far more potent reason as well as to why we are discouraged from venturing too far into spiritual activities. Have you ever wondered why some of our bodies break down when we go to powerful Shaiva or Devi shrines? Why do older women post menopause on a Kailash Yatra come back with a period? Why do women who go near Bhairava Shrines break down into period? Why are women not allowed to recite the Gayatri Mantra? Given our lack of training into deep spiritualism, our bodies are not accustomed to the powerful energies at these shrines. Had we been able to do regular intensive puja for a long duration, we would be able to handle the potent powers at these locations. But since we don’t, we are not able to handle it and the result is out of turn periods.

But here is the bright side. If we are regular with puja, if we recite sacred mantras and tune our minds and bodies, we are capable of enduring these powers because we have built up our physical reserves to withstand it, we are energized. And then if we come in contact with powerful shrines, there is a greater likelihood that the body doesn't break down into a period. While we succeed spiritually, and our body is evolving and energized we are likely to menopause sooner than expected.

But there is a silver lining to every cloud. Enjoy child birth, enjoy samsara, but along the way (sooner than 40 years) start the move into spiritualism once you have decided that you are not into child birth anymore. You can move into deep spiritualism. This is not about getting permission from the men, this is about seeking the divine for yourself. Once we have completed our earthly duties of procreation we are free to travel into the world of spiritualism and NO MAN can stop us then. From there divine grace will take us forward.

Our tryst with faith is in our hands. It’s in our hand to choose whether we want to hang in there and dedicate our whole lives to mortality or whether we want to consider the existence of the atman within us that wants to go home to the Supreme Mother. The choice is ours, the effort required is a lot more (since we lost time in child birth) and the results are amazingly fruitful. We need to realize that we can do it, we need to realize that our purpose is way more than what is taught to us, and we are more capable of handling our spiritual journeys because we DONT get seduced half as easily.

Bottom line: The scriptures are addressed to men because they just are the weaker ones in the head, be it in the unwavering persistence of principles which should not be twisted to convenience or be it the clear focus of purpose that they need to have. They need more attention and the scriptures are meant for those with less focus. I believe we crossed that bridge already.

5.10.2015

At Home With Kamakshi Amman - Atithi Devo Bhava

I walked up to her home deep within the temple walls through the crowds of people gathering there. I was oblivious to the noise, of the chattering people, of the fuming priests who believed they owned her home more than she did. I was oblivious to the swelling savagery of uncouth human behavior as people were herded in and out of the temple. And ironically I was looking for my peace here, within this din somewhere. 

I wondered as I saw the mass of people sticking close like ants in a line, falling over each other trying to get a glimpse of her divine form. They converged at the door of the shrine like ants attack a half dead prey, trying to get their share of the divine rays of grace that emitted from the chamber within. And the Brahmin priest cracked his caustic verbal whip as he shooed the crowds away. 

I felt sad for these people, they were desperate for love, they were frustrated with their lives and that’s probably what brought them to her doorstep. But how would they seek her grace when they didn’t realize that all she asked in return was undivided love and faith from them through the passage of silence which was too much to give. Was just a glimpse of the divine mother enough before they went back to their hell holes?

I was certain I didn’t want to be part of this. I was certain I wanted to keep my mind on her form; I was excited deep down waiting for my glimpse as I had wade past the priests to get my turn. This ambiance was a cauldron of swelling emotions, of herded people asking for more, of priests who treated them with utmost disrespect. But I wondered...didn’t they really ask for it? How else were they supposed to control a seething crowd that just wouldn’t listen, just wouldn't move and wanted that extra moment with the Goddess? 

I waited my time till I was called, silent and calm for the one thing I didn’t want was a priest or a security guard yelling at me. I was here to meet her, not them, and I had to seek their permission to enter her home but when I approached the Mother with love, the whole ambiance transformed. 

She called me in, picked me from the noisy crowd and gave me a seat in front of her as the priest gestured me about. We sat face to face, our eyes met, she smiled at me and I melted in my love unable to hold my emotions for long. My heart yelled out, “Take me mother, when will you come to take me...how much longer do I wait?” The priest broke the conversation asking me to give my offerings, and I held out all that I had. I was jostling between two worlds, that of the din around me and this beautiful conversation we were having in silence.

The flames flickered wild as they lit up her dim room, wet in water as she prepared for her bath. She was bare, her pure self-unveiled for me to get a glimpse as she smiled back at me. I was treated like a guest; she was gentle and kind oozing love and beauty as I felt the energies envelop me. I let my emotions flow as my hands shook, closing my eyes for a few seconds as I felt my body energized with her presence. I said nothing, I thought nothing, I felt everything I could and I let my pent up emotions flow. It was a river of love, between her and me. I gave whatever I could, I gave my being, I gave my heart, I gave my thoughts, I gave my love... I gave everything that was humanly possible to give. And she took it all with grace. No priest came between us then, no Maya knocked back at me. I was in her silent world for a short while. 

It was time to leave, I had a desire to see them bathe her and she granted me that wish and more. What was supposed to have otherwise ended as a darshan, continued as she gave me a pomegranate tossed into my hand by the priest. She gave me a seat far away from the maddening crowd to sit and worship her. High on a platform, far from the herd, in isolation and silence... I watched her being bathed. I witnessed her many forms as the priest took the divine light around her.

Four forms remained etched in my mind, the first was her in her pure bare state being readied for her bath, the second was when she was ash clad and the whiteness pronounced her features, the third was when milk and curd rolled down her being pronouncing her curved body and the fourth was when she was dressed like a bride. Each form depicted a different facet of herself - stark consciousness, freedom from attachment, vibrant purity, divine love.

She filled my eyes with her form, she filled my heart with her love, she filled my mind with silence, she filled my consciousness with her beeja mantra and I filled her with my pent up emotions. We merged in silence, in divine embrace...maybe that is what I call grace. 

I was called back into the chamber, she asked for me again and I was only too glad to see her up close. She is life size, real and enigmatic. I presented her my gift for her to touch with her grace and I quietly wore it round my neck, her grace enveloping my heart like an armour of love. She blessed me with abundant kumkum that reddened my hands, and I realized one truth then. 

Tara Ma and Kamakshi Amman were one and the same form. They both treated me to abhishekam, she allowed me to bathe her ughra form, while I witnessed her soumya roopam getting bathed. She colored my hands in alta red when I touched her ughra form and in kumkum when I felt her soumya presence. She hugged me close in her ughra form and spoke to me in silence in her soumya form. She energized me as I shook emotionally almost breaking into tears in both forms. She gave me two hours in Tarapith, she gave me two hours in Kanchipuram. She made the priests call me in; she made them treat me with respect. She made both the priests at Tarapith and at Kanchipuram give me their visiting cards and an open invitation to come back any time, she opened the gates to unlimited access into her divine home. 

She sent me back into samsara fulfilled with love, she sent me back to the world, blessed. It was a fantastic year with the Goddess. 

I truly felt Atithi Devo Bhava. 
  

5.04.2015

Through The Grace of Kamakshi Amman

Yesterday I was blessed with another year of life, another year of living within this human prison, and I felt there may just be more purpose to my existence. The yearning was back, the calling grew stronger and for some reason I had the strong urge to go to Kanchipuram to seek the divine Mother. 

I get crazy spiritual ideas, that may not make sense to anyone but they are paramount to me and I follow them more than any other rule ever written. I had the deep urge to wear rudraksha constantly, and sure enough quality thoughts flowed in during puja. It’s a time when I get instruction, it’s when I read every thought as divine grace, and it’s when I am conscious of which thoughts to kill and which ones to keep. During puja, I wait without expectation, without much wishing and seek the next steps as they pour in from the divine world into my little mind. And I just take what’s given, no arguments for the ego is dead at that moment. 

The calling was loud, the thought persisted and the steps unfolded in my mind. I was not very far from the day I was born years ago, and I had to do things really fast. I was advised to take the rudraksha that I had worshiped with the Lord for the past several years and string them into a strong chain. There was a need for haste and I rushed over to the jewelers shop with my little precious rudrakshas to get them strung. I was thankful they arrived well ahead of time. They were consecrated at the feet of Tara Ma and stayed there for three days being worshiped.

Finally the night arrived, and though I planned to get sleep early, I could barely catch a wink, it was the first time, and I had spent the week mustering up my courage and fears to hit the road to Kanchipuram on the highway alone, and now the time had come. Up fresh at 3:00am and ready to go, I hit the road at 4:00am. The night sky was gloomy, the winds were strong and the rain had wet the roads. I had to be careful with my speed and through the highway with occasional vehicles around me, it was a crazy drive into the darkness. It was amazing for not a thought of fear ever struck me on the road. I felt free, free of bondage, free of humankind, free of karma, free of everything... I was driving into oblivion and enjoying every moment of it. 

As I neared kanchipuram, I realized I might just make it in time for the Abhishkam of the great Mother. How lucky would I be! Armed with a gorgeous Saree, a garland of lotus flowers and some Archana offerings, I confidently walked in towards the sanctum. The crowds were huge and on this auspicious day of Chitra Pournami, I was just glad I was born on this day. I reached behind the main sanctum and placed my request to the security guard. While he couldn't promise me anything, he allowed me through to have an up-close darshan of the Mother. Seated in front of her, absorbing her divine presence, every anxiety to want to see her just flew off the mind. She was there, in front of me, in my heart and for now... my mind went blank. I shook in my seat, observing every bit of her form, her graceful body as she sat on her seat, getting ready for her bath. The shastris took the garland and the saree, while I held on to the silver chain that held my precious rudrakshas with me. I handed it over to the main priest, who was in silence right through the entire operation. He worked with gestures and the security guard deftly unfolded their meaning. (Reminded me of Karz for a brief moment, except that he didn't tap on a glass)


The rudrakshas lay on the Mother's lap absorbing all her divine grace while my heart worked hard to fill itself with love for the Mother, and my eyes worked even harder etching her form into my mind and I sat still for as long as I could, not disturbing any of the functions underway. In a short while, the head priest came back, returning the rudrakshas to me and having learned the strict aachaaram being followed I raised my hands but carefully didn't meet the eyes of the priest. He threw a pomegranate at me in typical Brahmin style, and I scrambled over the floor trying to catch it. (clearly I don’t play cricket yet with my kid) 

I rose up, thinking this was the end for I wasn't permitted to continue sitting there to watch the abhishekam. He gestured me to see the other forms of the Goddess on the other side of the inner sanctum wall. This was a blissful moment intellectually for I learned of Varahi, Annapurni, Lakshmi, Mahishasuramardhini, Bhairava and a lot of other Goddesses who sat within the niches of this great shrine. Clearly during the Chola time, this temple was not as large as it is today, it was way smaller. The Vijayanagar Kings had added the other prakaras to this temple over a period of centuries and now they had merged so well into each other... the difference could hardly be seen. But this is a tantrik strong hold, and I love every bit of this shrine. Adi Shankara had got it so perfectly right. 

I was ushered out of the chamber, and sent back to the guard. I was happy though I looked at him with a stray hope to get a glimpse of the abhishekam. He pointed me to another guard who took me to a seat directly in front of the mother, on a higher platform outside the sanctum. I was excited, I didn't ask for this, from here it was a bonus. I sat through the entire abhishekam, reciting Mrityunjaya swaying with the flow of the Mother being bathed inside the shrine. Every version of her looked gorgeous and Adi Shankarcharya was not exaggerating when he wrote the lines describing her form. They described her so well, I am tempted to go back again and read the Soundarya Lahari and map it to the etching in my mind.

She is straight backed, voluptuous, and slim. She follows the tenets of the making of a beautiful woman, she was the personification of that form. The curtains were drawn and the crowds went silent. I will never get enough of her, I knew that for sure. They drew the curtains again and this time she was ready, all her alankaram in place, she just looked every bit a bride, every bit a lover, every bit a damsel, every bit the great Mother, every bit ... 

We were asked to get up to leave, the security guard sent me back to the earlier one and I was ready to pay what every he wanted. I was just so thrilled. I stood at the back of the sanctum, as I watched the head priest gesture in his silence, frantically asking for me to come in. I quietly walked in, not knowing what to expect. I was quickly palmed off to another priest who I figured was his brother. He asked me about myself, my where about and placed a vcard into my hand. I was confused but took it anyway. He told me to mail him and render any help that I could towards their website. 

I was sent back into the sanctum, this time made to sit in front of the Mother again, and the whole thing played out once more, I saw her up close, this beautiful bride, this celestial being from heaven, this great Mother of Love. I quickly handed over the rudrakshas back to the priest and requested him to place it over the Sri Chakra. It was the only pending item in my divine list of activities. I was sent back to varahi and after bowing to all the Goddess around me, I returned back to the Great Mother. The chain was handed over, and the priest spoke with a lot of respect, considering he had been shouting at all the other folk, I was very lucky. As I turned to leave, the head priest broke his silence... all he said was "Call me when you get home". 

I nodded and walked out without paying anyone anything. The purity of Brahmin culture was visible for a few seconds thanks to the divine grace of the Mother, as I paid the security guard handsomely for his effort. I was fulfilled with the experience, fulfilled with the calling, fulfilled with the strong belief that the Divine Mother indeed communicates with me in her strange way. I walked out on to the streets of Kanchi, free from bondage, free from attachment, free into the world of divine love as the warm sun blessed me with its light. I felt I was finally home, and more than anything else, I felt deep down that Tara Ma had reappeared in the form of Kamakshi Amman. Divine grace had touched me again and I couldn't have asked for a better gift on my birthday.