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9.29.2009

Elements at the shrine of Lord Shiva

In this chaotic world
You have come to reside in my home
In this noisy jungle
You have brought silence to my mind
In this blind rush for wealth
You have given me the greatest gift of all
In this illusion of life
You light the fire of enlightenment.

I have often wondered what is it I am looking for when I visit a shrine. I have wondered what is it I feel when I come close to sacred altars. I have sat back to think, how does a person feel the presence of the Lord residing there?

The darkness within a shrine brings a mysterious world to light that is magical and exclusive. There are no words to describe what the heart and mind can feel when the sanctity of the shrine is preserved, and preservation is described such.

Darkness describes the void beyond this illusion of life, it is the darkness in the realm of nothingness. It is the space, the air where nothing exists. And in this darkness, there is a drop of light, that lights up the form of that who is formless. Fire, the beautiful path of enlightenment brings back to our real world a sacred truth that can only be imagined. The fire, is a path that illuminates the chamber inside, fire is the purity that enlightens one and blesses us with divine vision. Fire is so bright that it blinds the eye from all its illusion. Fire is the heat that reduces the ego to ash. Fire is the formless that gives us a glimpse of the form of the Lord. Fire can neither be created nor destroyed by us. That which is ever present, that which just appears and disappears, that which has the power to sustain us as well as destroy us, that which glows brighter than anything else within the chamber... isn't that the very Lord Himself giving us a small example of how vast and limitless he is, like the fire, he can be a drop of light or grow within seconds into a deadly forest fire? He can give warmth and scrotch us to death at the same time. Isn't this duality the very nature of the Lord Himself?

In these flames does one notice the silence deep within, the darkness now cut away as the light bathes the sacred shrine. The wet floor shimmers as the tiny waves of water come flowing down from the idol in mystical elegance. These are the waters of life, freely falling into the abyss of darkness below. These are the sacred drops that cover his form in purity as they drape his being as they flow down. Crystal clear waters form ripples of a thousand suns embedded in its various reflections. What a beautiful sight it is to see the Lord enveloped in such divinity. The formless, the shapeless, that takes the shape of anything its put into, like the atman that resides in any given body and gives it life, and yet it is so pure and crystal clear even if the container is flawed... Isn't this the very nature of the Lord we define in water?

The air is fragrant, the space is so pure. There is a rush of emotion as the eyes are set in a gaze to look up to this life beauty within these walls. The air is thick with the fragrance of flowers and incense. It is everywhere at the same time, all enveloping, and pure, unmoved and stable. It fills the space in this chamber, covers the ether with its presence and one can feel the gradual flowing waves of the sound that carries the rhythm of the sacred mantras spoken. It echoes within the shrine wall, and one syllable fades into the other rhythmically bringing alive the mystical presence of the Lord. How then cant the heart melt as such beauty overflows within the mind of the bhakta?

He is, He shall be, as he stands in the emblem of stone. He is the unshakable, He is that which has never changed. He is the definition of the eternal, that or equilibrium, that of silence and stability. He is and will always be there, through the world around may perish in its chaos. He stays there unmoved, untouched, unhurt...He is and will always be.

The shrine chamber presents to us the Lord, present in all the elements that adorn him, surround him in this miniature grandeur. This is pure life energy that empowers us to go back and face the world again. This is the power that is subtle and yet makes its presence felt if one has to reach its doors in complete humility. How then can we desecrate it with noise and corruption? How then can a priest have absolutely no faith while they utter the sacred verses? How can we tolerate this utter disrespect to the very shrine that protects our well being?

He is the formless, like the fire, He is bright and wonderful like its flame. He is pure as in its whiteness. He appears like the fire and He disappears all the same, but like the fire, he destroys all that has to die but doesnt perish in its flames. He shines in its glow, as the waters of offering reflect His being. He bathes in its pure light as the drops of water rhythmically wash his feet. He is like the water that takes the form of the vessel he resides within. He is always present like the unshaken stone alive and breathing within this chamber in small grandeur as the incense covers His little room. He is real, alive and silent watching the gradual decline of pure faith at his doorstep.

9.22.2009

Intricacy of the Shiva Beeja Mantra

Om Na Ma Shi Va Ya

Attainment of spiritual bliss has its various levels. To the totally ignorant just the mention of these syllables is a great feeling of achievement, since they are unable to control their fleeting mind racing from one thought to another. To the more inquisitive kind, these sacred syllables make their presence felt more often by constant recitation yet the significance of it does not awaken them yet. To the connoisseur the skill of pronunciation is of maximum importance, and clarity in each word matters the most. To the lover of Lord Shiva these syllables are pure music, so sacred and divine that even the utterance of these syllables makes them feel supremely blessed.

This is not just about having devotion but it takes us one step further towards the intensity of it. With every level of contemplation on this mantra crossed, there is a new high to be reached.

Om Na Ma Shi Va Ya, does not end here. It extends into a series of verses each starting with a sacred syllable assigned to this summary:

This is the Panchakshara Mantra

Om

Na:

Nagendraharaya Trilochanaya|
Basmangaharaya maheswaraya||
Nithyaya shudhaya digambaraya|
Tasmai nakaraya namashivaya||

Ma:

Mandakini salila chandana charchithaya|
Nandeeswara pramadhanadha maheswaraya||
Mandra pushpa bahupushpa supoojithaya|
Tasmai makaraya namashivaya||


Shi:

Shivaaya gowri vadanara vrinda|
Sooryaya dakshadwaranaasakaya||
Sri neelakantaya vrishadwajaya|

Tasmai sikaraya namashivaya||

Va:


Vasishta kumbhodhbhava gowthamadhi|
Munendra devarchitha shekaraya||
Chandrarka vaiswanara lochanaya|
Tasmai vakaraya namashivaya||

Ya:


Yaksha swaroopaya jada dharaya|
Pinaka hasthathaya sanathanaya||
Divyaya devaaya digambaraya|
Tasmai yakaraya namashivaya||

To the beginner, this is hard to pronounce. It requires skill and regular practice to twist the tongue around to recite each syllable properly. To the intellect, meaning of each word matters. Each word stitched into these verses either describes Lord Shiva in name or describes His actions in praise. For example, Trilochanaya is the 3 eyed Lord Shiva and Bhasmangaharaya is the ash clad Lord Shiva. Pinaka Hastaya is the one who holds the bow and dakshadwaranaasakaya is He who destroyed the sacrifice of Daksha.

At this level of intellect one would like to believe that the recitation of this mantra results in praising the Lord even by mere recitation. It is a time consuming art to remember the meaning of every word that is recited in this mantra. Having got the skill or correct pronunciation and having learned the meaning of each word recited one would like to believe one has done the best and has achieved all that there is to achieve in this.

But is this where it stops?

What we most often omit, which is beyond the realm of the intellectual mind clouded by ego, is that of hard core devotion and in that state we get to experience something else, something that is very different.

There is subtle truth in this mantra, and this goes far deeper. The secrecy in the magnitude of energy embedded in this mantra in not just in the realization of the meaning of what is being recited, but in identifying the rhythm of recitation. Stress and clarity of words matter, but what matters even more is the rhythm and the music it falls into. There is a difference between mechanical recitation and devoted recitation.

Each word in each verse has been selectively chosen to impart a rhythm of a particular nature. Similar words with similar stress level that need to be recited properly in exactly the same rhythm with adequate knowledge of where to stop and where to start with nuances of change in minor rhythmic pattern are strung together in a single verse.

Therefore the collection of words in each verse varies from that of the previous verse giving that beeja mantra its character. The sound emitted when the bhakta recites the first verse gives the bhakta the experience of the rhythmic flow of the Lord’s Sacred damaru beat in that order which is described by "Na". Similarly the character of the sacred syllable "Ma" "Shi" "Va" "Ya" is described by the words of praise painstakingly strung together giving a feel of alterations in sound for each verse. None of the verses appear to have the same rhythm, but the flow of sound elaborated the real meaning of the syllables that compose the summary of Lord Shiva's Beeja Mantra.

Language in its restrictive nature, allows me to explain just this much of the experience. To those who are inquisitive it is a good exercise to keep reciting and listening to one self, to identify this subtle underlying beat in each verse. A level of bliss is felt when we realize the pattern of this beat and start to sing it and make it a part of us, a part of our rhythmic breath. When the excitement of subtle beauty in realizing and appreciating the nature of sound touches us, bliss is felt in its own small way.

The experience of realization is undoubtedly most amazing and hard to leave once it has been started. At the end it is an overwhelming feeling to realize that this is just the tip of the larger iceberg.


[Please note:

There might be textual flaws in this mantra as I have come across 2 versions of it with minor variations.
This post in entirely my personal interpretation of the most sacred verse that describes Lord Shiva, and this interpretation has just started.]

9.14.2009

A Tribute to Kalika Devi

From the darkness there rises
A power of superior nature
That thinks not before destroying evil
That leaves only blood and ashes to spare

She is feared for her power
She is feared for her appearance
Yet she protects us from evil
In the dead of the darkest night

The gentleness in her eyes
Appears fiery in the night light
The blue sheen in her subtle glow
Appears mystical in the moonless night
The wrath to destroy
Is bright in her red eyes
She rises now to rule
Kalika Mata at Kalighat.

Its the best moment in time to test one's endurance, Kalighat has everything, the true display of corruption, the disgust on the priest's face, the sheer lack of devotion, the noisy mob of which I am a part, the absence of peace, the dirtiest shrine that has never been cleaned, and of course in the middle of it She stands in her silent fury - Kalika Mata. It is silent fury... that expression that stays locked on her face painting her so coy and yet so fiery and beautiful.

This temple appeared a lot different in the earlier days. The river flowed much closer giving Kalighat its name. Surrounded by forests, with a river flowing by and the burning of the dead near the shrine bring the mysticism of the moonless night to the fore. In the dark night one can listen closely to her presence, the sound of anklets as they walk around the floor, stamping it with a trishul. And then the rhythmic sound floods the air with resounding beats of a dancer so crisp in her movement.

And when we look up to her shrine, she sits there almost ready to charge forward, colored in vermilion, a bright orange that glows over her forehead. Its gleams in the light of the lamp, casting shadows of her form on the floor. She is so beautiful. She has this calm around her and yet there is wrath on her face. She is so gentle and coy and yet she yields sharp weapons. She stays static atop the body of Lord Shiva but she is shakti, the dynamic movement that destroys all life, all evil.

कालिकायै विद्महे श्मशानवासिन्यै धीमहि
तन्नो घोरा प्रचोदयात्।

She is the Mother of the moonless night. She is the jingling of anklets in the darkness. She is the flaming eyes of purity that vanquish all that is impure. Why do we fear her?

She took form to destroy the demons of the night, she took blood to destroy evil. Why then do we fear her now, why then do we offer blood of innocent animals when that of evil men should be at the altar?

She walks in nakedness into the blue hued sky. She knows no shame when she is so pure. Why then do we remain silent over her nature and yet not follow her footsteps to discard our vanity?

She walks wild with flowing hair, with an appearance of darkness that envelopes her. Why do we fear her when she sports her brilliance in her awakened third eye?

She is the light that is beyond life, she is the light that guides us to enlightenment. Why then do we fear death and not want to live near her home, the sacred place of the cremation ground?

She is the truth, she is that which burns in fury, she is the divine light that rules us. Why then do we hide in our ignorance and not want to take this path more seriously?

Are we scared of death, of unfamiliarity, of unpleasantness, of unlearning, of that path which we will tread alone, of silence, of the unknown?

9.07.2009

Mukti, the art of renunciation


I sit in front of His sacred shrine,
My emotions flow like a river of love
My mind fights back with an army of thoughts
My vision keeps my thoughts at bay

My senses focus on that single point
My eyes rest on His form
My voice recites the sacred words
My ears listen to the sweet rhythm

Few moments of concentration is called for when one sits to worship the Lord at home and yet it is difficult to achieve. It is a war within the mind when emotions that stem from deep rooted devotion get challenged by worldly thoughts. It is a fight with the self to discard the world and its people around. It is the biggest challenge to be comfortable alone while one sits to pray at home.

When the world and all its people is but a stray piece of illusion, when the thoughts within the head are but a figment of my imagination, when my mind is put to rest and nothing exists anymore, this is my first renunciation.

It is hard to find peace at a crowded temple, it is hard to ignore the corruption of the priests who is trying to make his ends meet. It is even tougher to forget the world when one is surrounded by a crowd of jabbering devotees.

Yet in this chaos there is peace to be found when I near the sanctum, when I set eyes on the beauty of divinity within these walls. There is sacredness to be felt when I realize this is about me and Him and nothing else really matters. This is my second renunciation.

It is hard to let go off the ego when my knowledge controls me. It is a deadly feeling of superiority when I realize I understand the root principle hidden in scriptures. It is a poison of egoism when I feel I own my thought and wisdom.

Humility is that which is invoked when the Lord gives me a harsh moment to learn this lesson. Praise and song is what comes out of me when I realize my focus is the Lord and not the knowledge I seek. Awakening of the soul happens when I realize the path to divine wisdom is pure love and not accumulated knowledge through books. It is my wish to see the Lord more than being granted my earthly wishes. This is my third renunciation.

The path through spiritualism brings surprises as well as benefits. It can draw the serious devotee to be very powerful and it can reveal its amazing secrets that the world can only imagine. It can transform the devotee into a person who knows little suffering and fear.

In all these enchanting experiences one is left with few to share their feelings with. In this wild ride to heaven there is little to explain that this is Real and everything else is just an illusion. It is even tougher to express oneself when the world doesn't want to listen anymore. This is when one leaves the world behind and follows their own path, with little or nothing to share anymore with anyone, this is my next renunciation.

Peace is when I detach from all, people and things, desires and aspirations. Calm is what I achieve when I realize the purpose of my existence, the value of this life given to me. Desire is what I give up when I realize this is an illusion I am stuck in and its time to let go.

The path of spiritualism has taught me well, showed me the way to an enchanting world that cannot be defined but can only be experienced. The Lord is Real and not just a figment of my imagination. I dream of Him, I talk to Him and I only wish he comes to me and reveals Himself to me. These tests of endurance are just a play of life now, these problems He creates are just a tease to see how I react, these miseries that present themselves are but a way of life. When nothing seems to affect me anymore except that last glimpse of Him before I part, this is my last renunciation.