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When beauty transforms itself into grim reality
When all curtains of illusion fall
When the mind comes face to face with the truth of death
When the mind gives up all attachment
When joy is overcome by the futility of existence
When it feels that this is Now the end
You're at Pashupatinath temple, Nepal.
On a cold wintry morning Nepal presents an ancient quaint little town basking in the morning sunlight. It is a beautiful city with ancient temples, plenty of emblems and the echo of Lord Shiva and Buddha surround you as you explore its lanes. Narrow streets, wooden walls, strange and exquisite carvings along roof edges against the mountains behind, it cannot get more picturesque, its a treat to the eye.
But as one walks down the narrow lanes of life along the Bagmati river with the anticipation of Pashupatinath in the mind one also sees endless burning ghats, bodies perishing into flames, souls departing and all of life coming to an end. It is a smoky lane to cross, where the blinding mist is overpowered by the thick curtain of smoke rising from these funeral pyres.
And there it stands by day. A gold roofed temple at the top, with a flight of ancient steps leading up to it. A gorgeous courtyard meets us right after the treat of death looming all around us. Its like we rose up to paradise or heaven , reaching the abode of Lord Pashupatinath. Dotted with smaller shrines and pillared halls, this is a "delicate" wooden temple with exquisite sculptures blanketing its wooden exteriors. A small wooden structure plated with gold, leads one into the tiny sanctum approached from four cardinal directions. And there He stands in the center in the form of a chaturamukha linga. The four faced Shiva, Lord of all the directions is seated at the center of this sacred shrine chamber. Each of his mukhas(faces) represent Isana, Tatpurusha, Vamadeva and Aghora attributed as guardians to the four directions.
This is the moment when all life halts, all desires for health and wealth fade away, all pain and agony in the mind disappears, and the life in us wakes up and the mind goes blank. The only reality of Lord Shiva lies ahead in front of us, the only question of what the value of this life is echoes in the mind. The limits fo existence wake the mind, we are born, we will die, we owe nothing, we belong no where, we have come and we have to go, the only constant is Lord Pashupatinath, our only reality and hope in our transition to the next world. The arti rises and the faces of the Lord glow within the dark misty interior. Its a moment of tranquil existence where, neither death or birth matter. Life will cease.
The landscape around Pashupatinath temple is dotted with smaller shrines of Lord Shiva along the river side. As one looks through all the shrines the thought that runs through the mind is the repetition of births we take and continuously toil through our many lives. At every stage we come face to face with the Lord as we go from one life to another, rather aimlessly. As one walks down to the river, to take her blessings and purify oneself, a small linga beckons us to come its way. A personal worship, a small abhishekam, with the river water and blessings for a fruitful life are granted at this little shrine out in the open. At the end of this small ritual, a lamp is lit, a flame of enlightenment as it burns and sails down the Bagmati. A fire, the light for the rest of our lives.
With a heavy heart and a torn mind, the steps lead back to our familiar worlds that lie ahead of us. With the vision of the Lord, His all pervading self, deeply engraved in us, one can't stop but think about the value of life. As one journeys back to the grind, Pashupatinath Temple leaves an uneasy void, that we are missing the presence of a greater reality, one before which all else is just nothing.