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2.25.2010

Dogs or Cats - What makes a good pet?

It was a very interesting conversation the commenced at lunch as Srinivas and Santhanam sat down to catch up on the day's updates. Apart from the worldly updates for the day, the topic slowly headed towards Pakshi Shastra and the pros and cons of keeping animals as pets. It started off as a mundane topic and took strange twists and turns to make any mind start to think.

In this amazing exchange of ideas a single thought percolated in both the minds. What kind of animals are best as pets. While both agreed that cats made good pets though they are not necessarily the most loved animals to most people in today's world, the idea of dogs for pets took a controversial turn. Santhanam had been meditating for long on this topic, watching closely at reality for clues to substantiate his theory and he was now quite assured that he was right. His assumptions had slowly begun to turn in to belief and as he poured out his findings he left Srinivas almost converting his belief to a fact.

This truly turns to be a very controversial topic to all dog lovers, but here were a few points though irrational to the logical head, might make an Indian mind rethink as we belong to the ancient system that believes such and we [Indians] would largely not dispute anything extraordinary though we would like to keep away from it as well.

Santhanam rolled out his thoughts:

Dogs :), though one of the most endearing creatures that make their emotions felt in minutes are not the best recommendations for animals to be bread within a home. Unlike cats that sense impending danger and can alert the inmates of a home, dogs on the other end do not give any such prior notice. Now, this changes our definition of keeping pets. Pets are not just a nice to have at home, or lovable and entertaining, they definitely have a job to do :), apparently!

This is ancient belief, that when there is a possible danger, or impending disaster to any of the inmates, cats behave strangely to indicate a possible mishap. Cats make a number of circles in front of the main door and do not wish to allow anyone who is a part of their pack to leave the home because they sense approaching trouble. They come with a superior sensibility and try to protect the family of which they feel they are a part even though they may not be as emotive and might appear rather selfish at first glance.

Dogs on the other hand behave differently. There have been many stories and myths that dogs can see spirits and ghosts of the night... well possibly they do and we don't see this behavioral change. Well where do we have the time for such small nuances in life that bring that additional punch! Dogs tend to howl or cry in the middle of the night, nearing the peak of midnight, the hour when all bhootas [ghosts] and pishachas [spirits] are alive and ruling the space. It is also the hour when bhaktas of the darker side awaken. This is their hour of awakening, this is their auspicious hour of living and worship. Dogs just don't sense ghosts and spirits, they attract them too. This is probably why they didn't make it to the most recommended pet list of our ancients.

This phenomenon may have also been the meaning of the stark representation of our Gods. While Goddess Durga has a tiger for a vahana, representing the emotions of life, agility, movement, energy and power, the aghora form of Shiva [Bhikshatana, Bhairava, Rudra and Kala Bhairava] always has a dog for a vahana, appear terrific and fierce [though dogs on the face of it do not appear to have any such quality]. Interestingly Kali Ma in her terrific form doesn't have a vahana, but in her sobered version has a tiger just like Durga. Could these representations mean more than just mythical vehicles?

Srinivas and Santhanam thought conclusively, cats definitely made more useful pets if we were in tune with their behavior. Dogs may make good pets if we would like to discount the idea that they possibly attract ghosts where ever they are at certain times of the night.

We can choose to ignore or accept the presence of spirits and ghosts or we can take up an unbiased attitude towards them. But this forces me to go back to a reference  that makes bhootas and pisachas look reasonably unfriendly:

Hanuman Chalisa: Bhoota pisacha nikat nahi ave, mahavir jab naam sunave.

Santhanam and Srinivas sat back thinking. While in the current world animals are endearing and entertaining to us as pets, in the ancient world the thought of keeping pets meant something entirely different. Something that went in the direction of protection from all impending trouble, keeping ghosts and spirits away from one's home and maintaining a clean and trouble free environment to ensure better evolution towards a possible spiritual growth. 

What a thought!

Disclaimer: This article is entirely based on analysis of traditional hand me downs spread by word of mouth and has not been validated by any reference from the Pakshi Shastra.

2.15.2010

Kailasa, sacred abode of Lord Shiva


Kailasa, Home to the Lord
Paradice in bleak regions
Sacred earth that calls to worshippers
Shrouded in myth and mysticism
Snow clad and white
Echoing the presence of the 3rd eye on itself...

Kailasa promises high spiritual powers to everyone. Here in prithvi loka, in this period of Kaliyuga,  aglimpse of this peak and an opportunity to do the parikrama is a great blessing. This great mountain soars above its earthly landscape, covering the skies and the heavens above with its sheer presence.

This mass of a monolithic rock in granite holds crystals of snow that shine in brilliance as the sun casts its light on them. By night this nectar of bliss powers over into the landscape as the moon glows, draping its divine presence on this great mountain.

I sit here at its foot trying to light my inner fire of enlightenment, as the guide leads us to the closest point. "Do not go any further, for those who have, never came back". Catching my breath, climbing to the highest point possible, my eyes soak themselves in the beautiful view of this mountain of light, this mountain of truth, this mountain of power that plays with the clouds that try to scale its peak. And then I wonder...

This earth is divine, so pure, so blessed that I in my human presence can go no closer to this great shrine. This is my line of consciousness. Beyond this line lies the next realm of power and spiritual enlightenment.

Time, the invisible measure has laid the path to me. What lies beyond is a mysterious world that belongs to all the other beings, celestial beings. In the mysterious realm of Kailasa, dotted with passing cloud, a different world comes to light, that of magic, of consciousness, of bliss. In this mystical world where clouds play vehicle to great spiritual being descending on to this earth, the aura around Kailasa is heightened, by its power and intensity though what appears to the eye is still a snow clad bleak region. And yet it glows in its inner light, in the energy that surrounds it.

Celestial beings from other lokas come here to stay, to witness the presence of the Lord, to witness the primordial sound that echoes loud among these great peaks and yet these divine sounds fall dead on ears as the winds whistle by. All the celestial world worships the Lord here, glowing in their being and performing severe penance to seek his audience, shining from within themselves, and yet, I can see only the subtle glow of the moon.

Sacred ambrosia trickles through the air, sweet notes of music play in this space as gandharvas and hrishis residing here breath and meditate, pulling all their consciousness to this central point - the great mountain of Kailasa.

Such is the power, so invisible and yet so strong for eachdrop of consciousness adds this intensity to the elixir of life, a life that I fail to understand right now. The air is pure and not a drop of dust falls through, the earth is still and the moon shines through the ice like a million stars. The atmosphere is clear, potent with divine consciousness, coupled with the powerful light that glows around the mountain giving me this uncanny feeling that I am not alone in this bleak land.

The heavens open and in my mind, I step closer to the power center of this divine peak. Th skies open up and this divine glow falls through leading me to steps snow white paving the way into this divine mountaneous abode. And then in the midst of this blinding light that glows from the sun, moon and fire, home to the collective consciousness of the devas, from the glittering beauty of the Goddess shining in yellow gold I witness, the formless Lord, the brilliance of this consciousness that led me through into this mountain, into this palace of gold. I am now pure consciousness, I an no body no more. I do not exist anymore in the human state I thought I was, I am now a drop in this divine cosmic ocean of light.

I breath and look up, as this short lived bliss fades into the darkness of my mind, leaving me staring up to this peak to see a vertical line of white snow cut through its surface, a cold white crack in the rock that remains still, cold and distant, as if He closed his third eye forever.

2.10.2010

The extravagant presence of Chaukhamba peak

The ride up north towards Kedarnath from Rudraprayag is a breath taking experience, though it is inter spaced with the overwhelming presence of human civilization cutting into mother nature's serenity. In these beautiful regions one can either observe the purity of this God gifted countryside or one can crib about the Lays chips and Coke that have made it to these remote tea stalls, or the dam constructed for the Hydro Electric power project that is a sore spot over the gorgeous Alaknanda river.

As we ascend into the mountains, the terrain gets tougher revealing the undulating landscape as we scale mountain sides as well as touch down towards the shores of the river Mandakini. There is prosperity to be found every where. The hills are green with life, oozing with clear water springs that just wash the roads as they flow down to the river. The river is crystal clear racing through bed rock that are eroded and white while the gigantic hills tower around us on both sides making us appear like dots in this panoramic landscape.




With the wind against us as the car swerved along the precipice, we got sudden glimpses of the Chaukhamba peaks, one of the most extra ordinary, in the mountain range that rose majestically in front of us. At first, Chaukhamba can really make anyone's heart stop a beat, skip a breath and leave us gaping at it as if we had the glimpse of Lord Shiva himself! And then the desire to want to keep looking at this peak covers the soul so strong that the eyes hungrily search the landscape to have another glimpse as the car turns into a bend in the mountains.



Chaukhamba, characterized by its majestic presence is an incredible piece of art that nature has presented to us in this beautiful landscape, its a picturesque treat to the eye. Its not just a snow capped peak, for it drives more emotion and adrenaline in my mind than the peak of Kedar which is not far behind in its beauty. Chaukhamba, in its form and its aura echos the presence of Lord Shiva in itself. One aspect of this peak is that its the only peak that towers over the center of all the Himalayan foot hills that converge in front of it paving the way for Mandakini to flow through. The other aspect is its sheer size and presence, which makes it so beautiful and serious that it cannot really be ignored in the landscape as just another peak. This peak is permanently snow capped, always bearing the halo of a cloud that ambitiously tries to scale it and so awe inspiring that it challenges anyone to try climbing its formidable rocky slopes. 



And yet there is something more about this peak that makes me want to bow to it in all humility because it is not just all this, it is really Lord Shiva himself. Chaukhamba appears like a trishul at first glimpse. The staggering imagery of the trishul rises, making its slopes feel sharp and dangerously steep. It is overwhelming to feel like a dot in this picturesque landscape where the Lord's presence is felt by the glow of the sunlight on the over powering snow capped peak that echoes the form of the symbolic trishul on itself. At this point, the mind doesnt ask questions, the heart simply melts thanking the Lord for revealing his secretive form somewhere and somehow in this blessed land.




And then it gets clearer. The Lord himself appears in the mind's eye as I close my eyes and meditate on this range. Chaukhamba, as the name suggests is the four headed peak. It echoes an uncanny resemblance with Chatura Mukha linga form of Lord Shiva. In this extra ordinary landscape, every foothill leads the way to this great shrine, this natural shrine that is larger than life, larger than any temple constructed by man, larger that anything imagined yet. This is the overpowering presence of Lord Shiva, in his aniconic form always present, always alive, always shining and waiting to be recognized. How wonderful and fulfilling this experience is, how completely fruitful, to wish and see the presence of the Lord, not just in man made temples, but everywhere, in everything, in every piece of natural art that this earth has presented us.

O Chaukhamba, 
I bow to this great mountain
That makes my heart beat faster
That makes me want to imbibe it
That makes me prostrate in all humility
That makes me break down into tears
That blesses me and this landscape
With its magnificent beauty
Proclaiming the silent presence
The symbol of Lord Shiva himself
So silently embedded in its being.

Photo courtesy: Picasa > Agasthya

2.02.2010

Feminine potency at the shrine of Kalimath


Buried deep within the mountains, cut away from all the noise and secluded in this quaint valley laced by the river Mandakini is the sacred and potent shrine of the Goddess.

What initially catches the eye is a rather modern shrine for Kali Ma in which one would expect to find the fiery red eyed Goddess enraged and ready to kill the savage demons and destroy all evil. It is pleasantly surprising to note that this [as far as I know] is probably the only shrine that displays an enormous Kali yantra that has been placed on the ground in the very same spot where demonic blood once fell as the Goddess massacred evil.

Red and yellow flags still flutter in the air to celebrate the victory of the Goddess who once graced this earth. And then they say, she vanished, into the very same earth where she killed him. 


This Kali Ma shrine is just the trailer to what actually lies behind these walls. A local priest ushered us to follow him to a world that hid silently behind the shops that sold offerings to Goddess kali. What lay ahead was not just the most potent shrines attributed to the Goddess's many forms but the ambiance that left us feeling a deep sense of peace and happiness. A sense of discovery enveloped us as we headed towards the inner sanctum.

Old rocky stone had been meticulously put together to shelter great power on this earth. In the silence of the morning with hardly any crowd at this temple, there seems to be enough life within this temple premises. It is energy of a different kind that stems from the soil, glows in the sun and exhibits power that shines through the vermilion. It was as picturesque as it could be, with the Mandakini flowing on one side, a small village precariously balancing itself along the sharp ridge and the sun penetrating through the hills, Kalimath has its own unique beauty.

This would have been a great seat of worship and learning in the ancient days. It just didnt echo the presence of a Shakti sthal here, but also a great seat of Tantricism and occult sciences not to miss the strong presence of the Goddess who also rendered it a Siddha Peeth.

In all its ancient charm, still untouched by modern renovation, stands the roofless Nandi shrine with small Shiva lingas excavated and placed around it. Ganesha adorns the entrance of the Saraswati temple, not by an iconographic measure but more as being unearthed and placed there. Shiva takes on center stage in the next temple with Parvati seated on his lap while a Linga is enshrined in a smaller temple closer to the river. The most eye catching aspect of this temple is the main shrine attributed to Goddess Lakshmi who resides deep within the Garbha griha with the matrikas on vigil outside her sanctum. Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped here in various "swarups" each divine version of her face is inscribed on the sacred rock and is silver plated. Opposite her sacred shrine is the yagnakund whose flames never die.

When the color of vermilion breathes life into the richness of the divine complexion of the Goddess, when her grace and beauty envelopes the air inside this chamber, when the smell of fire and sacred incense covers our soul, awaken to the world of the Mother, to her presence echoing in these rocks. This is life, this is bliss, this is beauty and this is power. 


***
Kalimath is a small town enroute to Kedarnath and 14 kms from Guptkashi.
Photo courtesy: Agastya, Picasa