My Selfie Moment with Lord Jagannath

It is yet another blessed day and I find myself headed to Puri once again with my colleagues. We called on the Lord really early this morning to see him before they closed down the great doors for his Bhog. The temple was brimming with life characteristic of its people and activities. Bhajans echoed through the distant walls that have housed the sacred shrines for centuries together. People buzzed around from shrine to shrine seeking every inch of blessings they could gather. The rhythm of the bhajans made a couple of people hop on their toes dancing to its tunes. The divine madness of bhakti and the urge to seek the divine transformed the river of people into a force that was hard to fight as we neared the great shrine. In the chaos that followed, we caught our glimpse of the sacred lord - Jagannathji, ever smiling, ever vigilant, ever alive well within the sacred shrine.

In contrast to all the people who have dotted this landscape across so many centuries, there lay other aspects of the temple that have never left their place through all this time. An ancient tree, believed to be as old as the temple itself, stood at the witness to the timelessness of this shrine. Staring up at the great shikhara from under the shade of this gigantic tree, time seemed to come to a halt. Many like me before and many like me later will stand in exactly the same spot and stare at this temple, wondering about our impermanence in this universe. The old stone, the beaten path ways, this immortal tree, the silent sculptures were all a testimony to a larger truth about the universe we live in. I am not permanent. I have been lucky to have come here, and I will be gone soon.

We soaked in the place, we soaked in the ambiance, we soaked in the history, we soaked in the peace. Lord Jagannath had a different attire on this day. Unlike last time, where he was draped in silks that flowed over his hands, and he wore a dashing mukut of tulsi leaves, this time he was more crisply dressed, in white. His drapes were pulled back, and beautiful strips of yellow splashed across him sparsely, bringing out the nath that hung down from his nose. Yes, Jagannath wears a nose ring, or Nath. And he looks really handsome with it. It was an incredible moment to be with him again, as the spiritual energies rose. He is big, life size and vibrant giving us all the energy we need to go back and face the world but the truth is, do I really want to go back? I could live here, with him, serve him, be by his side. I soaked in the sacred fire, the silent Dhuni that dances graciously within these walls.

"Oh sweet fire, oh sacred flames of purity that stays unaffected through all the din around you...bless me and help me purify myself."

Goddess Mahalakshmi smiled back, a brilliant smile on this Friday, what a lovely moment it was. It was just another day for anyone else, but for me it as special, simply special. I connected with my divine family again, I spent few very good moments with them. I felt good. The desire to seek them is so high and yet the path is so unknown. The Lord knows what he is doing, he will take care of me. I looked back at the sacred dhuni, the flames danced into the air before they disappeared. Made me wonder, what is this fire, what is its nature, why is it so distant and unfamiliar and yet so warm and self-luminous.

With a heavy heart my darshan came to an end. Kala was acting up, I had to go back into samsara. We stepped out of the great temple. My friends took pictures at the main gate, group snaps and selfies. They were surprised to see me not inclined to a selfie of my own. I just smiled back and told them...

"My Selfie moment was inside, when I silently touched the Lord. The self has not come out from the temple. My heart stays with him. This selfie... enjoy your moment. I have gone way past that. :)"

Photo courtesy: http://images.jagran.com/images/ 


A Sacred Lesson Through Death

Pati (grandmom), a brilliant woman who lived up to her late nineties, left her earthly presence a month ago. During her last few years I wondered, which was better - Death or Old Age? Old age looked as much a living hell as death, where family cared little to spend quality time with her. I had the good luck of serving her while she was alive, spending time with her the way she wanted it. 

Her death was sudden, and an eye opener to say the least. Death knocked on her door, not because of ill health, not because of an accident, but it was just simply time up. We, the younger folk had taken her living for granted, she was one of those permanent aspects of our life, she was "always there". We didn't quite know how to deal with a world when she would not be there. Death, just came, and in half an hour she was gone. No pain, no hint of lament, no warning, just permanent silence. I just realized she had been prepared, to some level... to face it. 

I spoke to her last on a Sunday, she was gone by Thursday. I wish, just wish I had spoken to her one last time. I remember the last meeting, my uncle, as usual, was bashing her up for being herself. Little did he realize that would be his last outburst, she wouldn't stick around being the punching bag anymore. That moment really haunted me and the suddenness of her death. Uninvited, silent, sure. 

The activities that surrounded her death, became clearer as the Brahmin priests directed us. She was that spirit who was suddenly an outsider, who had to go and we had to send her away. She was an outsider because she was not human anymore. I learned why we don't leave our hair loose in the south of India, or why wearing a bindi is such a must or why food is served with the spoon turning in the opposite direction. Its all because during the time of 13 days, when the spirit has to be sent away and cannot hang around the house, we do all of this to send them away, to show them they are uninvited and not to encourage them to stay behind. In India, traditional India, leaving the hair loose is equated to looking like a pishacha(meat eating demon). Being well dress, with bindi, is a mark of respect to invite a guest, and when it comes to a spirit that needs to be sent away, the reverse is done. 

It made me wonder, how could I do that to her, whether she was in human form or another state. She was grand mom, and disrespecting her in her spirit state... didn't feel right. The whole task of bidding her good bye left me uneasy, not because of the concept of death, but more about how we treat the dead in their next state. It was so unfriendly, and so rude, to shoo someone out just because they are not "human" anymore. How wrong was that. 

But she taught me something more serious, and that was the association of Lord Shiva with this whole process. The homa to Lord Shiva, the recitation of the Rudram, the offerings to the great fire made Him so real, as the subtle force that guided her through her journey to the abode of the Gods. The Lord of destruction sounds scary to the uninitiated, but to me, He appeared like the only truth I need to know. He became my purpose, He added meaning to my life, He made me realize just how distracted I really am. 

Pati taught me more through her death than through her life. She introduced me to the sacred book of the dead, the Garuda Purana. Believe me, its by far one of the best books am reading. Her lesson to me is not over, far from over. Her voice rings in my mind, she smiles at me through her photo, my darling Pati... I only wish we all had been kinder to her in her living days. We probably wouldn't curse ourselves so much after she went. 

Clearly, I haven't identified death earlier as much as I did now. I have lost people, close friends... but none came so close to teach me lessons with their death. I have been thinking so much on death, I have realized there is no point hanging on to life. Death will come when it has to, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can stop it. The only thing I really need to gear myself up to is how to look death in the face, smile and accept it as my transformation towards spiritual progress, when it shows up. 

And Pati was my first teacher to introduce me to this subtle truth that looms around us, waiting for its turn to make its presence felt. 


Lord Jagannath - The Divine Mystic

So many years have gone by as I reflect on the Great Lord Jagannath. He has made such a presence in my world, so silent and yet so sure. He came into my world when I was a little girl, growing up in Ranchi in my early years of school. I didn't know him much then except that he lived in a small fort up on a low hill in Ranchi. It was an immensely pleasurable ride to go to the temple of Jagannath every Sunday without fail, and what was the attraction?

The temple had 2 flight of steps, one concrete and the other was just rocks. I loved climbing up the rocky steps and when we reached on top, there was this small but really gorgeous fort that opened its big gates to us. The central shrine had a grand stair way that led up to it and each chamber led into the next, with demi-gods in their niches welcoming us as we walked past into the darkness. And finally the dim lamps lit up the sanctum, a silent sanctum, hardly visited by many people. And Lord Jagannath sits there, ever smiling, impacting my little life preparing me for all that was coming by. 

What appeared to be nostalgia initially transcended into a deeper state of gratitude, a state of sublime. To think that Lord Jagannath, this form of divinity, this spiritual power has always made a presence in my life whether i felt it or not consciously, leaves me rather speechless. Its not about an idol, it not about a school of thought, it not about a belief system that has been drilled into our heads from childhood. No, this is none of those prescriptive ways of existence as we know it. This is different, truly different. 

Fate took me to this little town to witness his presence the first time around. While I heard about Puri, I didn't get a chance to go there. But the Jagannath of Ranchi, was just as welcoming. Fate brought me back again towards him after so many years, this time with greater force. He is not just a belief, he is not just a ritualistic idol, he is not just a mythology dolled up within four walls. Alas, if only you could see what I see... 

He is my path to spiritual mysticism, he is the one who asks of me my complete love in surrender. He is the one who asks of me my life, my prana. He is the one who makes me realize, the noise around me...is just noise, trivial and potentially a complete waste of time. And yet, he has placed me within this world, to live with all, to live among all, with a mind that doesn't agree with what the rest think. I don't understand your world as you don't understand mine. 

And it doesn't matter. Nothing matters. What matters is the Lord's repeated presence in my world. He disappeared for a good 20 years only to reappear in my world with a complete jolt. One that transformed me, made me discard my previous state of mind and gave me a whole new universe to work with. He is a silent player. And how well he has made me change, gradual, sure footed, complete. 

What an amazing journey this has been, mind you, not very easy. Spiritualism needs nerves of steel, or maybe just a different mind set. It is a world where fear doesn't count, rules hardly matter and people ... are the imprisoning world built into maya. We live outside this madness, walk into it occasionally, but remain untouched by it. 

When the Lord is with us, things do start to look different. Refreshingly different. The great mystic, the great Tantrik, the Great Lord Jagannath takes us through. Jai Jagannath! 


Vamsa - A Journey Into One's Own Self

Vamsa - Quest for the Divine Calling is a fiction story that has been stitched together to make us think a bit - this has been the core objective of Vamsa since when I penned it down. It started with initial excitement of wanting to share my understanding of the faith with everyone around me, as I discovered it, but soon the sensationalism got overpowered by a deep sense of purpose. I grew up as I realized what the faith was actually trying to tell me. 

The story brings in various characters, all of whom have been painted to have characteristic natures that we see in our society today, well we are all human, are we not. And yet, in this so well understood statement, there is a deeper truth most of us overlook, the journey towards discovering one's true nature which has not even been tapped yet! 

Vamsa - Quest for the Divine Calling is a journey into realizing the basics of one's own nature. It is our temperament to be human, it is in us to take a few things for granted, but it is also part of our nature to question every action we have taken and question every thought we have entertained. It is our thoughts and our action that frame our destiny and between these two aspects we lead what we call - life. 

The journey into Vamsa, is the journey of trying to understand our own spiritual paths. While we need not subscribe to any one school of thought, it is in our nature to look up to certain phenomenon as super natural since we don’t have the complete understanding of it. And while we are at it, it would be a good idea to stop and look at ourselves, freezing time, freezing action and freezing thought for a short while. 

The characters in the book, are etched out of our own basic nature. We will relate to all or some of them, we will find a piece of ourselves in their search within the realm of this book. Vamsa builds more than one world, and poses a simple question, what is reality? Where do we really belong and who are we in the larger scheme of things. While a larger part of the story is fictitious with generous doses of mythology, it does ask a few hair raising questions on whether we have got our act right or are we just floating in time, like puppets  with no control on our future.

Vamsa is an intense concoction of thriller, mythology and deep emotions, all brought into a potpourri of spiritual fiction. For those who don’t care for spiritualism, it’s an interesting story; for those who do, there are enough insights to pick. For those who are deep into the faith, watch out... there are few secrets sprinkled for you to catch, if you care to look hard enough!