The power of the Shankaracharya

Srinivasan took out the wooden box that lay untouched within his puja room and laid it on the floor. He stared at it closely and thought to himself over the many circumstances that had brought him this far. He looked up at the little home he had made with great care for the Lord to be housed in and now it was the most important thing he would guard, because his soul was in there protected and safe.

In the early hours of the morning before the sun rose, Srinivasan lit a small ghee lamp and incense and placed it next to the box. His heart beat fast as he slowly opened it. Within it lay a few items of puja, a yellow cloth and in its center in a cloth bed lay a piece of bamboo. It was smeared in turmeric and had a lot of threads rolled around it. He picked it up carefully and laid it on the floor. He whispered a prayer to himself and bowed to it, holding both the corners. Srinivasan was surprized as he had never felt this before. His arms shook as they could not withstand the energy that flowed through them. He was unable to hold the bamboo, as his arms trembled. With humility he raised himself up again and placed the piece of bamboo back into the box.

Srinivasan looked up to the Lord seated within the chamber of his little throne. He wondered what spiritualism was, what the energy of the Lord was and who he was as a drop of atman floating in this consciousness in this universe at this time in this space. He closed his eyes and a mantra of the three eyed Shiva flowed into his mind. He looked up at the slab of vilva wood that lay within the chamber. He had heard a story about it.

There was a saint who walked the earth in these times and touched the souls of everyone with his humility. It was one morning at his ashram that he walked up to a vilva tree and sat under it. In a while the tree descended to lie next to him. He spent hours with the tree in divine conversation, unmoved, unshaken and in complete deep thought. After a long time, he turned and asked his pupil to get a peice of bamboo shaped as an axe. The dying tree was cut, and each part of its trunk was made into a slap and given to his disciples with instructions to give it to anyone worthy of it.

Srinivasan looked back at the spiritual journey he had made in his life. He meditated over these simple things that had far more value than gold. He revered his Guru, the symbolism of whose he worshiped before he started his prayers to the Supreme. He had heard great stories about the Mahatma, of his appearance well after he had left his earthly self. He had revisited his disciples, and instructed them about their activities. He had blessed them and disappeared. All they ever saw was the sacred Dandam (staff) that represented the great Shankaras stand in front of them held by a hand mid air in space.
This was the great emblem of the Shankaras, a bamboo staff that was so simple to look at but so sacred that its energy could be felt within the mind when it was clean and immersed in divine love for the Guru. It was the staff of enlightenment that represented the ending symbol of every mantra written. It was the staff of knowledge that represented the supreme guru who is the solution to our earthly presence and our learning about quality life.

The great staff, is what we limited human beings are able to see because this is the only visible symbolism of the other world, the celestial world and the empowering knowledge that it comes with feeding our thoughts with divine wisdom. This is the dandam of the Shankaracharya. This is the emblem of wisdom and this is the power of learning that we lesser mortals need to worship. The truth is, the Lord is not out there, but he is in here within us and the noise of our worldly problems is the Maya that bars us from listening to his silence.

He awakens the other world, that which is fed by words and sustained by imagination, that which is invisible and needs to be sort after, that which speaks in silence and disappears in noise, that which is felt with emotion and logic, that which has rules that are never broken, that which always was and never changed, that which springs from deep rooted energy that gives us life, that which neither you nor I have ever cared to understand.

Srinivasan thought to himself, as he stood at the gates of his own divine world of imagination like a gatekeeper who guarded because he believed but didnt really know what was inside. He felt like a blessed ignorant fool, holding a diamond in his hand and not believing so because it didnt shine!

Tears rolled down his eyes as he stared on at the divine, he felt miserable that this was he, and he felt happy that at least he had come this far and now this was he. He felt the dualism in his existence, he felt the incompleteness in his form, he felt the inprisonment in his flesh and he experienced the dumb ignorance within his mind. This was he, this is he and hopefully will not continue to be him.


Bhava, an emotional language of divine Love

Along the stone walls Srinivasan walked, trying to listen to the sound reverberating within them. People busily rushed ahead of him, pushing him aside trying to catch that quick glimpse of the Lord. They walk out just as fast as they stepped in and he wondered whether they ever even cast an eye with reverence on this beautiful form of the Lord, for if they did that, they wouldnt even want to come out of this sacred earthly home.

Srinivasan now made his way towards Lord Shiva's shrine. The place, a mundane temple with a mundane idol with mundane people on a mundane day, there was nothing special about it and yet he felt something different. He had been here before, he knew every form of every God in here and yet the ambience within seemed to welcome him, a little different and yet special welcome that he seemed to have longed for.

He stepped in, catching the first glimpse of the Lord seated on his throne, his earthly peetha within the sanctum. His heart melted, and his eyes welled up with tears though he couldn't understand why he felt such emotion. The fire within the sanctum looked pure, the Lord looked simple yet divine in his attire and the air inside felt still.

He stared at the lamp lights dance graciously around the Lord, he thought hard looking at the fire...

The fire burns gentle as a lamp light for the Lord
The fire burns hard as it eats into flesh turning it to ash

The water, pure and crystal clear bathes the Lord
This same water consumes the ashes of man to deliver him to heaven

The air is here still and fragrant with floral offerings and incense
The same air is a grim reminder of death as the pyre burns

The earth holds the shakti of these earthly shrines
The same earth gives a bed for the burning departed soul

The ethereal presence of the Lord in his home here is felt so strong
The same ethereal state is so hard to achieve.

Srinivasan looked up as the priest held up the arti within. The flames lit up the glowing face of the Lord, among the flowers and vilva that decked his form. Srinivasan's heart was heavy with emotion, for he didnt know how to perceive the Lord anymore. This was strange love, love that made him suffer, love that made him ache to leave his earthly self and want to be ever present at the Lord's feet.

Srinivasan had had mixed emotions towards the Lord, he harboured various feelings towards the Lord and each expression of love made the Lord play various roles deep within his emotions. He felt Santa Bhava, where he was the eternal child, in the lap of the Lord who loved him and protected him as his very own. He felt he had been cursed to now live with this limited consciousness so far away from his divine father.

Srinivasan felt like a willing slave, the eternal servant who wished he could bathe and decorate all those present within the sanctum of the Lord. He wished he could live within, in the temple lighting the lamps, singing hymns to the Lord, bathing his various forms, the Trimurti, Kala Bhairava, Devi, Lingodhbhava, the 63 Nayanars, Ganesha, and the numerous Shiva Lingas that dotted the heavenly precinct. He craved to perform alankara, to drape the Lord in silks and flowers and sing to him in devotion as he decorated him. What enormous pleasure he would get to just clothe the Lord in his sacred garments and be his faithful servant. He felt a deep sense of Dasya Bhava as he humbly folded his hands in front of the Lord.

Srinivasan had felt Sakhya bhava, at rare moments when he had mentally demanded the Lord's attention as his closest friend whose help he needed. He had called His name to help him in his moments of distress. He called to the Lord, looking for him in desperation as he helplessly faced his circumstances. His heart was overwhelmed with the experience he had felt when the Lord listened and gave him the solution in the most unusual way possible. He whispered in his thoughts leaving Srinivasan awestruck that such experiences are even possible.

But most of all he felt love, pure love. The type of love that made him want to live every day with enthusiasm because he felt that Lord Shiva was always with him. He felt it in the events that unfolded in the day, he felt it in the way people reacted towards him, he felt it in the air that surrounded him, Lord Shiva was always there. His faith towards Lord Shiva was unshakable, his love for the lord was undying and his attitude towards the lord was one of protection and loving care. He felt the sweetness in the experience, he felt beauty in his presence and the thought of the Lord next to him made him divinely estatic. This was madhurya bhava. Eternal love, eternal bliss where the Lord occupied every thought in his mind.

Srinivasan walked around the shrine, circumambulating it and adouring every form of the Lord he crossed. He looked up with reverence and respect towards every saint present in there wondering whether he would ever reach that state.

He walked up to Nataraja, he had never seen someone so handsome, so charming, so graceful and yet so peaceful. His heart yarned for the Lord, Nataraja, Oh how he wished he could step onto that stage and dance with him, witness the grace of Ananda Tandava, be a part of the grand Shiva family that resides here within these walls.

Srinivasan's heart ached as he moved away from Nataraja, for he felt Nataraja looked straight at him, he felt the charm envelop him, he felt the presence awaken him like a dialog that seemed to rise within himself, between them as they stared at each other. He was numb with bliss, he was overwhelmed with love, he was sinking into a pool of ecstacy. Such love had never overpowered his emotions, such love had never made his feet weak, such love had never made him swoon so much. This was honey sweet, this was beyond words, this was paradise on earth, this was beyond the maya of mundane life... this was consciousness.

Photo courtesy:
Flickr Photo stream: shrirang k


Gaumukh, bringing the Ganges home

||Om Aham Gangai Mata Namaskaromi||

Gaumukh is the source of the river Bhagirathi that flows from the melting glacier feeding the Ganges as it heads out towards earth, towards Bhuloka into our world. It is a silent world of purity where the pranava mantra(Om) echoes in the stream, in its ripples and within the walls of the cave through which she flows. The air is fresh, cold, and pure, awakening our senses towards its presence in the winds that dance among the rocks in this little paradise. There is silence, peace and tranquility here as I sit among these rocks and close my eyes, listening intently to the sounds in this world, in this realm of life that is so rare to find.

The smoothness of the rock echoes the gentleness of the damsel as she dances her way down from the heavy locks of Lord Shiva's jatas into the realm of mankind. The tiny pebbles scattered around bring alive the shimmering jewelery that toss around her waist, emphasizing the feminine beauty she carries with herself. The ripples of the melting stream bring music in the mind, music that feel like the sweet sound of a damsel's anklets. The white snow brings alive the beauty in her veil, in her drapes that blanket the glacier. The shimmering sunlight in the waters glow like the necklaces and jewelery that adorn her form and the constant echo of stream awaken the vibrant presence of her sweet voice among these cave walls.As the beautiful words of Adi Shankara flow:

Mano nivruthi paramopa santhi
Sa theerthavarya mani karnika cha|
Gnana pravaha vimaladhi ganga
Saa kasikaham nija bodha roopa||

I am that kasika, which is the form of,
The real knowledge of the soul,
Which is pacifier of the mind,
Which is the greatest consolation,
Which is mani karnika among the holy waters,
And which is the clear flow of knowledge, the Ganga

She is here, she lives here and her ever shining presence brings calm to this world, washing away sins committed, releasing souls to the heavenly abode of Kailasa and keeping the sacred energy of the shrines of Lord Shiva alive as they are bathed in her waters. She is the personification of divine knowledge, she is the spiritual beauty that flows through the heart of the land, this dharma kshetra as Mani Karnika. This is the Ganges, her beauty and her purity that is so pronounced in this world as she descends from her mountainous heavenly abode to purify us.

Gaumukha, that which resembles the face of the cow, the gentleness of the cow and its enchanting beauty can be brought to live within the four walls of our homes. Gaumukha's real beauty, its experience and the enchanting sounds that reveal this celestial world of the Gods, of the river Goddess, of the Devas, of the great abode of Kailasa can be brought into our world, into our homes to be worshiped, to reside and to bless us when living at Gaumukh looks and feels so impossible.

How do we bring this divine experience home? How do we pray for this peace in our busy lives. How do we bridge the gap between that almost disappearing celestial world and ours that echoes of chaos and noise?

Gaumukha Shankha, the divine shell that resembles the face of a cow brings with it divinity that belongs to the heavens. Gaumukha Shankha by nature is so pure and sacred that it blesses the home in which it rests with peace and tranquility, that which is felt at the very feet of Bhagirathi, at the source of the Ganges. How beautiful it is, how strong the experience to realize that the beauty of Gaumukh at the seat of the Himalayas is reborn in the depths of the ocean in a mollusk. How tranquil is the feeling of holding the Shankha close to the ears to listen to the mystical sounds of Gaumukh constantly reverberating within its walls. How pure is the home that is sprinkled with water, fragrant with tulsi that has blessed the water within this Shankha through the day and the night.

Oh son of the ocean, from whose depths the divine Gods have raised you to give us a path to heaven, from whose self one can listen to the constant vibrant presence of the Ganges, I live to listen to the sounds of eternal bliss, to the pranava mantra that constantly vibrates within your walls. Its not the sound of the sea within yourself I hear, it is the music of the Ganges, the music of her waters, the music of her anklets, the music of the mystical penance that sage Bhagirathi performed to bring her down to earth.

As I descend into worship of the great Lord Shiva, as I place pure flowers at the feet of the Gaumukha shankha I raise the divine light in Arti, wondering with amazement over the many ways the Lord makes his presence felt within my humble home, within my heart and within my mind. Oh pure Ganga, who is imbibed in the water within this shell, who blesses the home where this shankha resides, I bow to you divine mother for considering my home, my world capable of being your earthly abode.

Other posts on the Ganges:
Potency of Lord Shiva
Scindhia Ghat, life with the Ganges, Varanasi
Worship at Shiva temple: Ahilyabai Ghat, Varanasi
From Giza and Varanasi to the Milky Way galaxy
Taraka Mantra - Passage to heaven
Manikarnika Ghat: Where life meets the world beyond
Enlightenment on the streets of Varanasi
Varanasi – Along the Ganges


Where are you O Shambho Maha Deva Deva, Shiva

My love for you doesn't seem enough
My thoughts fail me
My contemplation doesn't appear deep enough
Where are you O Shambho, O Mahadeva

The mysterious ways of your presence
The depth of your silence

The miracles that strike me in the mind
Where are you O Shambho, O Mahadeva

Your beautiful form I bathe my eyes with
Your beautiful songs I melt in
Your grace is all encompassing
Where are you O Shambho, O Mahadeva

The moon echoes your silent presence
In the poetry of the mystical night
I can hear the music in the rolling dice
Where are you O Shambho, O Mahadeva

The brilliance of a million Suns
The glowing rays of the Sun, of Agni, O the three eyed Lord

Where do I, the old blind fool look for you
Where are you O Shambho, O Mahadeva

The Rudram reverberates in my ears
The words awaken my soul
The glowing lamp makes me weep
Where are you O Shambho, O Mahadeva

That Primordial sound, will I ever hear it
That profound depth, will I ever reach it
That emotion of undying love, will I ever feel it
Where are you O Shambho, O Mahadeva

This Maya has made me a prisoner
This life has imprisoned me in this form
This breath is not enough to make me rise
Where are you O Shambho, O Mahadeva

I look for you at the temple
I look for you within my home

I look for you at the peak of the highest mountain

I look for you at the feet of the river Ganges

Where are you O Shambho, O Mahadeva

The Rudram echoes all around me
The milk of life bathes your form
The lamp light burn the oil of ignorance

The fragrance of flowers envelopes you
The pure garment adorns your form
The heavens open and shower flowers in worship
The Nayanars meditate deep at the precincts
You dance in Ananda, to the sound of the damaru
Ma Parvati graciously looks on

You raise your divine foot of light
Place it on my being, my ignorance
You are with me and guiding my through life
And yet...
Where are you O Shambho, O Mahadeva

Shambho Maha deva deva, Shiva
Shambho Maha deva devesa Shambho,

Shambho Mahadeva deva.

Prostrations to He who blesses us with prosperity,
Prostrations to the greatest God,
Prostrations to the abode of peace,
Prostrations to Him, who blesses us with riches,

And Prostrations to him who is the God of Gods.

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