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3.31.2009

Tulsi, at the seat of Samadhi

Far away in the ancient country side of Andhra Pradesh, along the silent ripples of the Tungabhadra that toss around the stony sides of this great river course, lies the Samadhi of Sri Raghavendra and 8 other great saints of the 16th cen. AD. There is peace and tranquility all around, and the air is so pure within this strange compound of rocky stones. Its a divine world of silence, of intellect and of superior life that lies buried deep within, under these stones.

What a magical picture it paints in this spectacular moment when the silver rays of the moon toss around the gentle waves of the Tungabhadra and shimmer in the pure waters as it bathes the stone slabs of ancient Samadhis in its silvery presence.

Sri Ragavendra's Samadhi brings alive the presence of divine potency to our existence, one that we would love to strive towards but simply lack the drive, courage and enthusiasm to do so. All that is left to echo back the ancient superior sense of living, are a few boulders of stone uniquely designed and put together to form a structure that resembles the potted Tulsi plant back in our courtyards, the Tulsi Vrindavan.


The original meaning of Samadhi, was not just a burial place of great beings, but a sacred and pure spot that continues to house their mortal remains "mummified" in holy sacred ash within a chamber, purified with worship, sacred mantra and ingredients of worship of centuries long gone. The belief then was that they could return to this mortal body if they chose to come back to our world. The human body buried deep was symbolized more as a vehicle that would house the returning Aatma if it so willed. The purity of sadhana, the evolved sense of living, the divine grace constantly surrounding them, the Samadhis have since grown into places of not just worship but of a silent serene ambiance where herbal purity is felt at its best.

Tulsi, the herbal plant of purity and longevity that wards off disease of any kind is typically housed in today's households within a pot that has a very unique design. The plant is worshiped and considered sacred and has the lady of the house light a lamp at its foot every evening, with a belief that this lamp of divinity will spread the purity of this plant and the superior energy that rises from it around her home and bless the inmates with a more prosperous life. But this light also makes me believe that its original intention was probably to revere the great soul buried beneath in the original prototype of such a structure - the Samadhi.

The shape of the Tulsi pot in the house strangely looks very similar to the traditional design used to make a Samadhi for the departed. This is a small example of purity, a small example of fragrance in the air that will attract all the celestials and siddhars to come and reside within. The much larger example of a great samadhi that hosts a whole forest of herbal plants both tulsi and vilva is that of the great hill of Thiruvannamalai. Here is the living mountain of Lord Shiva that is the home of many siddhas, that is the home of many herbal plants and that which is the home of the great parent Shiva and Parvati. Myths hold that many Siddhas reside here, worshiping the Lord and his consort within this divine hill. The potency of this hill, and the divinity it spreads around itself is beyond words to express.

There is silence within, there is tranquility, and the mind remains blank without thoughts trespassing and rests on the idea of this symbolism in this beautiful plant of unique life promising purity and longevity that grows out of a structure that houses deep within, the most pure form of the human body. A body that is preserved in sacred ash, seated in meditation, lost in eternal bliss. This is the definition of the ultimate form of preservation, of sustenance represented by Lord Ranganatha himself who lies in Ananthasayana, as the world churns around him.


With this saturation in symbolism that echos within the mind the very presence of the Lord Preserver, the silence in the mind begins to submerge into this great realm of calm and tranquility, of peace and harmony, of clarity and depth. Let the waters of life role over me, let the stones of every janma fade, let the tree of life take deep root and release me from this misery of living this haphazard meaningless life. I merge with this tree, my soul departs, what remains is a stony presence whose fading memories get washed away by the flowing waters of time.


Picture courtesy: Flickr.com | Copyright©pasulla

3.22.2009

Bindu Visarga - A drop of moon on the crown of Tripura Sundari

Tripura Sundari Mandir, Banswara Rajasthan

In the definition of Kundalini, this is the source of creation, represented by the dot or Bindu in the center of the Sri Chakra. The Bindu means the drop or
the point, or literally Bindu Visarga which is the falling of the drop. This is represented by the crescent moon and a white drop which is the nectar that is dripping down from the Vishuddhi chakra. It is the ultimate source of immortality, that state which is called bliss when this chakra is activated through sadhana.

"From that Bindu came ether, air, fire, water, earth and the letters of the alphabet" - Kama Kala Vilasa

The Bindu is connected with the Vishuddhi Chakra and its seat is at the back of the head, typically where brahmins leave a tuft of hair growing. It is believed during sandhya, the brahmin ties this tuft of hair tighter, and while he practices mantra, he develops a powerful and continuing awareness of this Bindu point. This is one of the traditional methods of accessing the Bindu Visarga consciously.

In Tantra, Bindu is depicted by the crescent moon on a moonlit night. The Bindu is closely related to the kalas, that is the waxing and waning of the moon. The Bindu gives a hint towards the vast void beyond, the Sahasrara. It is said when the Bindu is awakened, the sound of OM is heard within the self. It is also believed that this Bindu, or the moon, produces a very intoxicating secretion, which is nectar or ambrosia or amrita or soma. At this point, the bhakta enters the state of complete bliss and is no longer dependent on the world for sustenance.

Other explanations to the same Bindu define this as the red and the white Bindu, where the red represents the Goddess, alias blood of menstruation. White represents the sperm or shukla. The red Bindu is established as the sun and the white Bindu as the moon, representing the ida and the pingala. There are various interpretations to what the Bindu really is, but what strikes out most is that which is depicted on the crown of Goddess Tripura Sundari or that of the great Lord Kameshwara.

This is a phenomenon that renders the bhakta immortal, supreme and one with the divine. Great sages have made this secret phenomenon understandable to the masses by simple depiction. Simple depiction that hides within itself a supreme phenomenon unknown until contemplated upon.

This is embedded in the depiction, in the music, in the verses, in the songs to the great Goddess Kamakshi, Tripura Sundari. Quoting...

Tripurasundari Vijaya Sthava
[Ode of Victory to Tripurasundari]

Lakshya bhakthi rasardhra hruthsarasije sadbhi sadaradhitha|
Sandrananda mayi sudhakara kala gandojjwalanmoulike||
Sarvani sarana gatharthi samani sachinmayee sarvadha|
Srichakradhi nivasini, vijayathe Srirajarajeswari|| 14

Victory to the Goddess who resides in the center of the Sri Chakra, who lives among those hearts drenched in devotion towards her. She resides in the realm of happiness among those good. She wears the crescent moon on her crown and is the consort of Lord Shiva in her all pervasive form. She consoles those who seek protection in her, who is true knowledge, who is wisdom, who is Bindu, who is bliss all within the self.

Hreengarathraya saputathi mahatha manthrena sampoojitha|
Hothri Chandra sameerana agni jala bhobaswannabhoroopini||
Hamsa sohamithi prakrushtadishanair aradhitha yogibhi|
Srichakradhi nivasini, vijayathe Srirajarajeswari|| 15

Victory to the Goddess Rajarajeshwari who resides at the center of the Sri Chakra, who is invoked by the great chant in the three hreem, who is in the sacred offerings, moon, air, fire, water, earth, sun and sky. Who is worshiped by great yogis who look upon her in the divine form of Hamsa Soham.

Tripura Thilakam
[The Ornament to the Tripurasundari]

Eeshashad unmishada marthya sakhi kusumaavalee vimala tharakaa|
Vrunda Sundara sudhamsu ganda subhagee kruthathi guru kaishikaam||
Neelakunchithga naalakaam nitalabhooshanayatha vilochanaam|
Neelakandasukruthonnatheem, sathathasraye Tripurasundareem|| 3

My heart depends on the Goddess Tripura Sundari who is the greatest treasure of Lord Shiva, who is beauty described in her dense crown of hair which is embellished by the crescent moon she wears, that is surrounded by the very stars of the night sky. This appears like a fully opened flower of the Kalpaga tree. Among her blue locks of hair that gently flow down her crown, and frame her half open eyes that are like lilies blooming in the full moon night.

Lakshm aheena vidhu lakshanairjjitha vichakshanana saroruham|
Yikshukarmuka sarasanopamitha chillkayugamamathallikam||
Lakshaye manasi santhatham sakala dushkrutha kshaya vidhayineem|
Uksha vahana thapo vibhuthimahadaksharam Tripurasundarim|| 4

My mind remains awake towards the Goddess Tripura Sundari, who is beauty personified within the lotus face she has, growing like that of a million moons, and has teeth like the bow of a sugarcane of the God of love, who reduces the effect of all bad acts done, whose blessings is the greatest gift gotten from the worship of Lord Shiva.

The realm of the Goddess, the awakening of the Bindu is a drop of moonlight that descends into the consciousness of the Bhakta awakening him into the Sahasrara, the path to the realization of the void, of the universe beyond. The experience of this is probably far, but the very thought that the moon makes a poetic drop of elixir, brings intrigue and mystery into the subtlety of this great phenomenon, represented by a silver glow of the crescent moon on the face of the Goddess.

References:
Kundalini Tantra: Swamy Satyananda Saraswati, Bihar school of Yoga
Vedanta Spiritual Library.

3.16.2009

Sri Chakra Yantra - From Sri Nagar to Ujjain

The secrets of Tantra, the rituals, the powers, the sadhana, and the left path that was once followed in the devi cult apart from that followed by Aghoris towards Lord Shiva Kala Bhairava, leave us wondering about the enigmatic world that governs ancient Hinduism into the realm of higher knowledge.

Devi cult, steeped in enigmatic history and esoteric cult practices with popular followers like Adi Shankaracharya and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa completing their sadhana in this cult, and yet not recommending it to the masses leave me very curious about what is it that was taboo and was not meant for any lesser mortal?

This cult has brought to light, the art of love, the act of sex in ritual and the worship of the woman as the very incarnate of the Goddess and the man as that of Lord Shiva himself... its a silent ritualistic faith very secretive and yet very intriguing. The offering of creative juices, the practice of yogic poses and mudras to raise the self to higher spiritual level involving intimacy leave the layman blinking over what the depths of Hinduism can lead us into when the thick moral over of society is quite something else!

And all this goes back to the most powerful form of worshiping the Goddess - Sri Chakra.

It would be interesting to note that the Shankara matt are great followers of Kamakshi Amman, the Goddess of love, the consort of Lord Shiva. The principles of Advaita teach renunciation of desire towards flesh and lust and the Goddess is envisioned as the Mother rather than a divine consort. These great saints turn towards Shakti as their primordial source of energy and in the ancient times there were scattered across all Shakti Sthals, tantric peethas that were great centers of learning. Its unfortunate that what remains in the mind of the average learner is a fear, and respect for great Tantriks who are better known these days as great performer of magic, magic that we would love to stay away from. These powers invoked the goddess, raw Shakti to descend into the world of mortals and beat the unwitting who trespass into the way of these great sages. Tantriks were not that bad, they were phenomenal alchemists who knew astrology and the art of architecture and were most sort after to erect great temples assisting Kings who poured in their patronage toward religious propagation of faith.

At the pinnacle of this growth curve in the religious history of India, one man made a difference. Adi Shankaracharya brought these dangerous blood thirsty practices to halt and converted most of the bali peethas alias Shakti sthals into civilized centers of worship. And yet, deep mystery lies in two places, both of which were great Tantrik centers of learning, which once encouraged sacrifices of both human and animal to the Cult practice of Sri Vidya and also were great seats of learning in astronomy. And yet there is something strange in both of them!

Sri Nagar - On the banks of the river Alaknanda.

Here is no shrine covered by a man made temple! Here is a boulder that rests face down in the Alaknanda river. What makes this boulder so important, so eerie and so powerful? It is believed that this boulder has on its surface the very form of the Sri Chakra that demanded worship, signifying an ughra form of the Goddess that took the lives of any human who curiously set their glance on it without devotion. The Goddess claimed lives, by death and by bloody sacrifice that left an unsettling feeling in the minds of the masses. Sri Nagar, or the land of Sri Vidhya was a great center of tantrik practices of the left hand path and it took the Great Shankara to come and worship the Mother here in the 8th cen A.D. He is known to have performed a great ritual, one that appeased the Goddess and in the bargain turned the great boulder carrying her emblem face down into the river, hiding her very form from the world ever since. The pure waters continue to flow, the sacred rock rests in silence and all peace reigns again in this region, yet the form of the Goddess was mysteriously hidden from view. This sacred boulder is still worshiped, but the mother has hidden her divine Ughra form for ever.

Ujjain - Harasiddhis temple of Goddess Annapurni

This is the uncanny reality of the Sri Chakra, buried into a river bed in one place and displayed in all her flamboyance in another place. This is in the great city of Ujjain, one of the greatest Shakti Sthals that hosts the sacred shrine of Harasiddha Gauri, another form of Annapurni Mata. Though the exterior of this temple reeks of modernism of the times, the inner walls and ceiling speak of spectacular concepts in tantra. The sacred shrine within hosts the divine smiling Mother who decorates a sacred stone in vermillion and chandan. This is her form here, quite simple and yet powerful. Ujjain was a great seat of tantrik worship, and the original prototype of the Hindu Panchang(calendar) took its root here. It is believed that the
Bhumadhya rekha [possibly the prime meridian] passes through here and thus makes this town the seat of all astronomical learning and calculations [this information may not be authentic]. Here is where the link between the celestial world and human world is defined through the science of tantric astrology. The walls and ceiling of the Harasiddhi temple are a living library of astrological significance. Here the Sri Chakra has been described on the ceiling, with hundreds of deities in their personified forms within this elaborate diagram, quite the opposite of what hides deep and buried in the waters of the Alaknanda.

This contradiction to thought, this display of apparent difference between two shrines, of which both are great power centers and both were great seats of tantricism at some point in India history, now appear to be cloaked in divine innocence that one echoed a language of death sacrifice. Makes me want to ask, what is the Sri Chakra, what is the essence of the Goddess and what is her power that makes her so great, so deep, so unattainable and so potent that no mortal stands a chance except be her humble devotee!

Reference and image:
Tantra Unveiled: Seducing the Forces of Matter & Spirit
By Rajmani Tigunait

3.09.2009

Path to Shivahood in the Thirumanthiram

Every seeker wishes to know the way and wants every delusion cleared. Yet there is frustration and lack of knowledge on how one should even proceed in this path. It raises the deep question on why am I born human?

What is the meaning of being human?

The beauty of Thirumular's explanation is that it removes the veil of Maya straight away by presenting this concept to us. Being human is a state, its not me or you, but a state that we have taken on in this birth. This quite simply answers the question - Who am I. Aham Brahmaasmi - That I am/That thou art.

I am not human as much as I am consciousness in this form of a human in this period of time, in this kaal. I breathe because I have taken birth and in this birth my purpose is to raise myself to not just the state of a sidhha or a deva but to raise myself to the state of Shivahood. Is it possible, it is and Thirumular explains how.

Many people center their spiritual progress to offering 5 to 10 mins of puja, offering Archanai at a temple, and/or following few steps to do a parigaram to ward off immediate troubled forces created by planets and yet they wish for wealth, prosperity and progeny. Thirumular attributes all this to the path of Kriya where, though it is beneficial it also accumulates karma. We cannot consider our spiritualism as complete by any of these methods.


Thirumular further goes to explain that the nature of the supreme atman cannot be discovered or experienced by the senses hence it is vain on our part to hope to achieve salvation through our senses. Just as it is in the nature of the sun to rise in the east, one cannot wish it to rise from the west, similarly it is in the nature of the divine to be realized through contemplation and jnana and not just through momentary archanai/puja or action.


The higher form of worship is in the mansion of the mind, our mind, that which only we can control.

Offer oblations in love
Light lamps golden,
Spread incense of fragrant wood
And lighted camphor in directions all
Forget your worldly worries, and meditate
You shall attain rapturous mukti true

Worship is in the consciousness of the mind, where oblations are offered with love, lamp lights appear golden and the fragrance of incense spreads around the Lord. Burn camphor in all the four directions and forget all your worldly worries for a while, this time is for just meditate on the Lord. It is a state of bliss and peace that is achieved over time with practice. Ritual helps us do this with discipline and as one rises in their spiritual curve this turns into a conscious activity in the mind, rhythmic and simple as one tunes in their mind to spend some silent moments with the self.


The beauty of this practice is explained in another passage:

Even when other men's wives approach them
They touch them not
They have mastered passions all
Their mind is preoccupied perpetually
With offer of oblation diverse
They worship prostrating low
Constantly chanting mantra
Thus in the mansion of the mind they abide.

In the realistic world today seduction is an art not just known to women but men as well and these temptations can come from any where, to both genders included. Excluding the chauvinism in the verse that is very male centric, the essence applies to all. When the mind is so deep in the thought of Lord Shiva, in the conscious state it dwells on him in worship, and all passions are mastered and controlled. The mind doesn't waver, and the oncoming temptation doesn't affect it leaving the bhakta far from falling prey to seduction.

Thirumular quotes:

They know not to reach him by jnana divine,
They seek him by ways of senses, in vain
If within you constantly seek him in the right way
You shall indeed be in nadanta

As one rises up the charts of evolved spiritualism, kriya path gives way to that of jnana. Contemplation takes over action.

Bhaktas, yogis and jnanis do not take to kriya path but instead move into jnana and reach the state of Nadanta.

Yourself himself becoming
And himself yourself becoming
And with two none
And as one Shiva becoming
When thus it is,
Those who went the way of kriya
If they take to jnana
They with Shiva one become
They who seek kriya
May but devas be

There is so much inner beauty in this passage. By being in dhyana and contemplating regularly one can attain Shivahood. By mere practice of ritual in momentary intervals one can best hope to reach the state of being Deva. If the mind dwells entirely on Shiva, it entertains no other thought and life's problems appear like states of living without any attachment.


Problems are accepted situations and conscious mind time is spent in single point concentration leaving the mind passionate of Lord Shiva thus elevating the soul to a constant state of Shivahood.
In this state OM rises from under the navel, VA rises from the throat stretched, NA has its seat in forehead and bindu and nada are still placed higher. Nectar or amrit flows from the 7th centre, the bright light of jnana glows at the 8th chakra, in the 11th chakra lies the supreme and beyond it is the void described as the dwadasanta space.

In this world that we live in, in this stressful world that we belong to, time, contemplation, passion and persistence are the possible characteristics that can lead us closer to salvation.

* Dwadasanta is the mystical place 12 units above on the head counting from the region of the third eye between the brow. Each unit is an angula, measuring 1 division on the finger.
Courtesy: Excerpts from the Thirumanthiram written by Sage Thirumular.

3.02.2009

Shakti Peetha, Chamundeshwari - Chamundi Hill, Mysore

Chamundi Hill, read the board as the car took the right to ascend the hill that overlooks the little town of Mysore. Civilization has since grown and is slowly replacing old world charm with new. As the car turns through hair pin bends, the mind looks over the landscape in anticipation of the Goddess, who has since resided here, ever since the previous yuga when Shakti destroyed herself and her hair fell here on this sacred ground.

My mind lingers over the twists and turns in my life that made me come and visit the Goddess Chamundeshwari again. She brings an aura along with herself, that of shakti, of silence, of a slight uneasiness that over powers the mind. There is a mixed emotion to want to realize what great powers are preserved here which have now crystallized into a small temple for Chamundeshwari devi.


As we approach the entrance, I look at the steps leading up into a smaller entrance. Silver covers the doors, and transforms this whole ambiance into a totally different world. Goddesses of all kinds descend down onto the doors and bless the visiting Bhaktas, this is a theatrical moment as one walks in and the cool air breezing through the walls wakes us up to a heavenly world of beautiful Goddesses echoing the realm of Shakti Peetha. This Shakti peetha echoes of ancient cult practices, of vermilion kumkum smeared across the Goddess forehead and that of the fresh offering lying in waiting - that of an animal, of man, of me.

I closed my eyes and thought deep, I feel I have been here as I descended towards the balipeetha. The power of the Goddess beckons, and I swoon to its tune placing my head over the Balipeetha in complete surrender. Inscribed with the Goddess's feet in the center, this broad stone has felt the knife edge and has been bathed in blood, my blood. Blood flowed loose here, with human sacrifices that might sound chilling but when I place my head here, it doesn't feel wrong anymore! I am here to sacrifice myself, this life, this breath at the feet of the Goddess. What better death can I wish for as I lay my head here for the Goddess to severe and hold in her hand, as my blood flow down as an offering in her cup that she holds in her left hand. My mind I place here for her to control, to take as I merge into her!

As darkness took over I lay here, long ago, my head resting on this sacred stone at this small temple, the walls echoed with mantra bathing my being. As the fire in every oil lamp lit up this little temple, the Goddess residing at its center, descended to my side. Chamunda, in her original wild and untamed form came close and gently towards me, emaciated and present as the consort to Bhairava now sat close by and looks at me with loving eyes. As I lay across this Balipeetha I turned in to look at the Goddess within, the same Chamunda Devi put on a very tamed and warm exterior, decked in flowers and jewelery.

Among the bellowing flames that rise, the Goddess is invoked in sacred syllables that bring her power alive. As the holy water is sprinkled over me and my forehead is anointed with holy vermilion, I breathe slowly listening to the sacred words go by.

Lankayam Shankari devi, Kamakshi Kanchika pure|
Pradyumne Shrinkhala devi, Chamunda Krouncha pattane||

Invoking the Shaktis, Goddess Shankari Devi in Lanka, Kamakshi in Kanchipuram, Goddess Shrinkhala in Pradyumna and Chamunda Devi in Chamundi Hill...

The mind sinks into itself, the water trickles down my spine purifying me the sacrificial offering, and the oil lamps light up my face as the incense forms a gentle cloud of dancing celestial world around me. As I look up to the Mother dressed in a garland of skulls, the sweet notes of a conversation pierce the silence of the night.

Sanaischara Uvacha|

Bhagawan deva devesa krupaya thwam jagat prabho|
vamsakhya kavacham broohi mahyam sishyaya|
they anagha yasya prabhavath devesa Vamso vrudhir jayathe||

Oh God, Oh God of Gods, Oh Lord of the universe, please be kind and reveal that Armour to this faultless disciple of yours, which deals about family and by the power of which, the family will grow.

Soorya Uvacha|

Kantam rakshathu Chamunda hrudayam rakshathachiva|
Eesani cha bhujou raksheth kukshim nabhim cha kalika||

Let my neck be protected by Chamunda Devi
Let my heart be protected be her consort Bhairava Shiva
Let my arms be protected by Isana
Let my belly and navel be protected by Kalika Mata

I look up as the mantras rise, I stare up to the axe that waits, I look up to the Mother who holds me covered in vermilion, fearsome to all but warm and pleasant to me, a beautiful garland of skulls she wears, a garland of which I shall soon be a part. Oh Mother of Parasurama, Oh divine form of Kali, Oh divine daughter of the sage Mathanga, Oh Shambhavi divine consort of Lord Shiva, I give up my life to you, I offer my blood to you, I offer my breath to you. I merge into you.

With the rising tempo that echoes among these walls, this theatrical world creates this illusion as I pass from this world to the next. The shining tip of the axe lets loose and the Mother awakens my soul, as it rises up from this sacred stone, this sacred bed of mine, this balipeetha.

This Balipeetha stands here today, silent and cold. It was once my bed, it was once wet with my blood, on it long ago lay my corpse, on this stony bed my life was an offering. Am here I stand, wondering why, wondering what, wondering how.

Related topics:
A night with Nava Shakti - Chamunda
Chaunsath Yogini temple
The killing of Mahishasura on Vijayadasami
Ekapada Shiva - The one legged Shiva

Photo courtesy:

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