Ritual worship of Lord Shiva

Gupt Kashi, a small temple way up on the Himalayan foothills has this quaint little temple attributed to Lord Shiva Ardhanrishwara. The sculpture of the Lord and his consort is charming and the entire ambience plays into the tunes of folk music and is in line with the heavens. A dozen women roll on with the dholak and the folk songs that reverberate through the walls of this temple. The marijuana stoned sadhus at the entrance as against the household simple women singing inside, it was a strange view to see the rebellious world live in parallel with the conformist at the door step of the Lord.

What was really enchanting was a small Shiva linga not measuring more than both my palms put together, that sat right in front at the foot of Nandi who carried the divine couple on His back. What was so unique about this Linga? On the face of it, the linga was fantastically chiseled, made of stone and ravaged a little by time, yet it carried on its contours the sharp lines that pronounced every head that made up its central Lingam.

Yes, beautiful and elegantly carved out of stone and delivering a presence that either matched or overpowered the large idol of Ardhanarishwara Shiva, this linga was truly unique and divine to look at. Commonly known as a Chatura Mukha linga based on the canons of Indian art, this linga sports four heads so handsome in appearance with jatas rolling down on all sides. Seated on its square peetham, this Linga brought back the ancient verses penned down ages ago by Thirumular, one of the greatest Tamil poets known in ancient Indian history.

Tantra 7, 1777
"Shiva linga has 9 aspects
Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara, Rudra form the lower aspect
Shiva of the 5 faces, Bindu, Nada, Shakti and Shiva"

As Thirumular explains, the Shiva linga has 9 aspects to itself. The lower aspect that makes up the Chatura mukha linga comprises of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Maheshwara represented by the four perfectly chiseled faces while the upper aspect is made up of Sadashiva [Shiva of the 5 faces], Shakti, Nada, Bindu and Shiva.

Tantra 7, 1811

"Shakti, Shiva, Nada, Bindu are the formless aspect
Sadashiva is the form/formless, unmoving aspect
Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Maheshwara are the form aspects"

The Shiva linga is structurally comprised of the 9 aspects of the Great Lord, however  as the heart sinks into the very form of it, the realization that I, the human being, the matter that breaths here and now is a moving potent Shiva temple on my own. All these aspects of the Lord lie dormant within me to be awoken from this deep slumber called life.

Tantra 7, 1823

For the gracious Lord
The heart is the sanctum
The fleshy body is the temple vast
The mouth is the tower gate
to them that discern
Jeeva is shiva linga
The deceptiv senses are but the light that illumines.

To the gracious Lord I pray! My heart is the inner sanctum that is so pure and so fragile that it is housed within this body that makes up this temple I call myself. The mouth is the towering Gopuram, the Gateway that leads to this sacred sanctum and that which keeps me alive is the Jeeva, the essence of life and of Shivahood. I am the light, illuminated by my own senses that keep this darkness of ignorance away when I realize the potency of my very own presence here and now.

Tantra 7, 1826

you can think of him
you can speak his truth
but rarely can you see his holy feet
Only they can see his holy feet
who adore him with flower and water.

I am a part of Him; He is in my mind always, here and now. He rules my soul, my heart and my mind, for my thoughts revolve around Him. I speak what i know, but I dont know enough because this truth intrigues me so. I am but a willing slave in his arms, ready to listen to every pearl of wisdom that comes rolling to me in this sea of events that form my life. But when will I be blessed to see his divine feet, to feel the pulse of his presence? I pray in this hope, every waking hour with flowers and water asking him to awaken me from the dense ignorance of which I am a helpless part.

Tantra7, 1827

Why is it that the lord has taken his seat
in the hearts of the celestial beings
who bare the consecrated water
and the garland of flowers
They humbly prostrate in worship offering
the lord 5 sweet dishes and 16 upachara rituals
I try so hard, and yet he shows me no mercy, am I cursed to be born such? Why is every prayer of mine, every abhishekam and every japa that I so willingly sing in his name, falling short? And yet I see him choose the Heart of the celestials to reside. Because they so beautifully pray in all humility to Him with consecrated water,   garlands of beautiful perfumed flowers, and sweets that would please him.  To be blessed by him in return.

Tantra 7 verse 1818

This birth I took
these impurities I bear
He dispels off this maya cloud
You are rid of these
so saying this he places his feet over my head
and I gave up all my unworthy knowledge
I prostrated at his feet and prayed

And yet I tirelessly pray, knowing well that I shall win his grace someday when he places his divine feel over my head to pale the worthless knowledge from my mind.
He will fill me with divine knowledge, sacred ambrosia of a different kind to make changes in my current life, in this form, in this time and as I see these events unravel, I bow to Him with overwhelming emotion, true everlasting bliss that lasts beyond this state, beyond this life, beyond this being.


An encounter with Lord Shiva

Adi Shankaracharya had traversed most of the Indian sub continent and visited sacred shrines along the way performing rituals and reawakening sacred life into each shrine that had paled away with time.

He was now briskly heading towards the doors of the sacred shrine of Kashi Vishwanath, Varanasi, where he was stopped by an untouchable savage who dared to break his momentum. He purposefully ushered the man to move aside but the man stood in his place and asked him a few profound question...

"Do the Sun and the moon show bias when they shine on this earth. Do they shine any lesser in the home of an untouchable as much as they shine around a man of high intellect? 
Isn't a man as good as a 4 legged animal if he studies the Vedas and still doesn't understand anything of it? 
How blind can people be if they fight among each other and still consider Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Sadashiva 3 separate entities and not part of the same potent seed of spiritual energy?"

Shankara stopped, for these were not illiterate words that came out of the untouchable who stood smiling at him, they were the sacred sayings of the Lord himself. Shankara recognized the untouchable savage and broke into a dialog with him that were later penned down into 5 divine verses of wisdom called the Manishapanchakam. Those were precious moments of spiritual history that graced this world in that time and silently blessed the people who mindlessly walked on the same street, not realizing the miracle of the moment until it was long gone.

Hrishikesh, sacred land locked in the lap of the Himalayan foothills and washed by the pure waters of the Ganges has its own story to say. One can find faith here in the old traditional ritualistic style - controlled and disciplined - or the more sort after Bhairava approach - wild and high spirited.

The Ganges here is pure, as it cuts through the rocky hills that pave the way for this beautiful river to glide through. We were pilgrims without purpose as we walked through the bustling streets looking up shops and new age mendicants as we stroll by. The winters were setting in, and a hot cup of chai anytime was most welcome. While we admired the shimmering night light across the Ganges, we noticed a white man turned sadhu who had left his home and family back in Germany to become a Sanyasi here. He spoke perfect Hindi, with the tune of the local dialect as he explained his journey through his life and how Hrishikesh was now his home. While on one end we found it courageous and amusing, we also suspected that he probably didn't get onto the right side of the spiritual road...

And then it happened... a strange man briskly walked by and disappear into the darkness even before I could prepare to take a picture of him. He was awesome to look at, half covered in rudraksha beads and the rest covered in saffron. He had a divine "smartness" about himself with a stern purposeful gaze, as he walked by silently but aggressive at the same time. Power oozed out of him as he stared at us with a magnetic gaze before he disappeared. He held a beautiful trishul in his hand, covered in beaded malas. The trishul itself was breath taking, looking divine as it faintly glowed in the night light. It was exquisitely carved with floral patterns along its sides rolling over its graceful bends, yet it looked deadly in its aura and sacred to the Shiva loving devotee.

Within minutes he was gone, he came in like a flash, graced this earth and looked entirely different from the other lesser mendicants on the street. He was strong, silent and defiant towards anyone who intended to get into small talk with him. He walked through the crowd like a flash of lightening as the darkness covered the space between him and me and I never saw him again.

His presence captured my mind, his power shook the air and his gait was graceful yet sure footed. I felt a weird excitement within me, something that sensed "What if he was Lord Shiva himself?"

Would I have run behind and chased him till as far as he went, would I just take a picture of him and admired his persona in silence or would I bow to him and ask him to accept me as his disciple. There definitely was no room for a profound dialogue, though I was certain if he obliged we would definitely get into a spiritual monologue, or maybe I would have just been happy to sit far away from him and watch him perform in all his splendor. Shivahood gleamed in his being, even if he aped the great God, he did such a sure job of it, it was completely overpowering.

And then I wonder...how times had changed... how different do people view the world at large now. How strange it would be considered to walk up behind the man and accept fate leaving every thing behind, because that moment defined the profound miracle of potent spiritualism. To leave the safer beaten track and accepting the lesser known way of life as my own. To treat the familiar world as passerby in this dense cloud of maya and consider the Potent Lord as my own. To completely detach from this world and its various demands and feel the freedom of non attachment as my own...

To finally see the Lord himself... wherever... and hold my little personal dialog of love, intrigue and mysticism as I swim in the adrenalin of divine science... Ah! What a completely different life it would be!