Sacred Ritualism - The True Path of Devotion

Its been a while since I took to serious worship, and when I say serious worship I mean a certain level of orthodoxy being practiced in my daily lifestyle. What started out as a need of the hour activity in my spiritual realm has now culminated into a deep, well nourished experience in sync with divinity. Have I felt the Gods yet, weirdly yes, but I can't explain it. 

I took to Tantra, to deep worship of the great Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati, who in my mind occupy more forms than one. I worship potent powers following rules of orthodoxy as prescribed during initiation. I have lived this way for a while and it has transformed me into a far better individual than I could have become, left to myself. 

I watched several friends follow their paths, we exchange notes but no one had the drive to go through with it in the purist way. There is a strong connect with materialism and a fear of the unknown that clouds their worship and I do not understand, why they would harbor such a fear. They are men, strong well placed, well initiated, luckier men who have had certain privileges that I have been denied, thanks to my gender and despite our education they seem to belong to an archaic world where women are forbidden to do most things. 

Yes I became a rebel, not just to defy these kind of men who believe they are the keepers of spiritual faith, but to find out just what about it prohibits me from doing what they do. I have had several people tell me I am not entitled to worship the Lord,  but here I am, a far more purposeful devotee more by denial. Somewhere along the way the focus moved away from rebellion to a deep rooted search, a thirst for the Lord and I find my kind of nature map towards one other person - Karakkal Ammaiyar. She is my guardian angel, she is my Guru, she is my Ammaiyar. 

I want to redefine Puja, in the method of Bhakti. Devotional love which I can churn up in plenty, has been carefully tuned to the service of the Gods. For me the Lord is real, not a figment of my imagination, he is for real. My day is not complete if I don't spend time with him, my hunger waits till he has been fed, my karmic duties pause till he blesses my day and my actions are but offerings for him. It has changed my outlook to life, well almost changed (I have a couple of thoughts to iron out and I will be good). People don't bother me, they are not the most important for their place has been taken by the Gods. 

For me, worship is not a wish fulfilling tree that grants me prosperity when ever I ask for it. For me, worship is a discipline, with a set of practices which enable me to focus more on the Lord. I am a ritualistic person by choice and I champion these practices in my own little way. I am not here to prove to anyone that it works, it works for me and that is enough. 

My world is best described by a few insightful thoughts that redefine worship in Karaikkal Ammaiyar's world:

Professor Elaine Craddock from the Department of Religion and Philosophy writes:

"Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s transformation from ideal wife to ideal demon devotee is particularly transgressive and serves to highlight the rupture between the domestic world of ordinary rituals and a life lived entirely as a ritual offering to Shiva. Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s renunciation of domestic life to live in the cremation ground praising Shiva is an example of "ritualization,” a term used by several theorists, and defined by Catherine Bell as ritual as lived practice, as a way of acting that uses diverse strategies to differentiate meaningful, powerful or sacred action from ordinary behavior."

The true definition of ritualism has been captured so beautifully. I can through my ordinary behavior, transform my own quality of existence by taking a little more trouble with a discipline that prescribes a method towards better effective living enhancing my spiritual growth. 

But the best is yet to come :-

"Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s poetry dismantles the paradigm of human order and duty rooted in the household not by focusing on gender roles, but by extolling devotion to Shiva in a community of devotees in which gender is irrelevant."

Karaikkal Ammaiyar's life is not just an example of exiting the social realm in order to seek pure love with the Lord, she signifies the departure of a woman from "household duties" thrust upon her by the social order of the time. Her transformation from a beautiful wife to a demon devotee shows just how much she defied society and chose to live in the silence of the cremation ground after sacrificing her youth. 

Her permanent home, is at the feet of Lord Shiva, where restrictions don't matter. When the heart is in the right place and the mind is in sync, there is nothing to stop it from achieving its goal. 

As the great Ammaiyar quotes in her poetry:

A female ghoul with withered breasts, bulging veins, hollow eyes,
white teeth and two fangs,
shriveled stomach, red hair, bony ankles, and elongated shins,
Stays in this cemetery, howling angrily.
This place where my Lord dances in the fire with a cool body,
his streaming hair flying in the eight directions,
is Tiruvalankatu. 

(Tiruvalankattu mutta tirupatikam 1.1)10


The Hare and the Tortoise

It was a realization this morning that the story of the hare and the tortoise can be interpreted in more ways than one. While the common sought after and understood symbolism tickles our aspirations for success and ambition, there is a completely different revelation that invokes our spiritual side. It made me dwell deeper into the possible nature of both these creatures and it was extremely insightful. 

Before I move on to the actual story, lets just skim through their respective natures. 

Hares are short lived with a life span of a maximum of 12 years, they are extremely fast and sure footed and it is their defense mechanism when they sense danger. Now, hares run super fast, but not necessarily in a straight line, not necessarily on a given path, there is no logic to their running, except to run fast and hide. Hares are restless creatures, and far from calm. This very simple description of the hare makes me wonder - are we not all hares? 

In our mundane world, we are restless and distracted and surely far from calm. Our consciousness is limited to what attracts our senses immediately and we take the beaten track based on what we have been taught as the essence of living. And like a hare, we don't sit and think hard enough. 

Lets look at the tortoise. Calm, purposeful, slow but focused and they are there to stay. Tortoise have the longest life span, and they are resilient by nature as well as self sufficient. Give the tortoise a path and it will keep walking, not looking anywhere with no distractions. There is nothing in the way of the tortoise and they are extremely focused in their approach, they therefore tend to last longer and sustain themselves. 

Now when we look at the story, I see the attitude of the hare being my current lifestyle. Distracted, moody, agile, fast paced, restless and aimless. My only purpose is to run and run fast so as to out do the next hare. Is that all my purpose is? I would never win the race because I am just running with no sign of the goal. I am running in defense with no focus on the long term goal am trying to achieve. How, with this nature, do I even believe I am going to be successful and calm at the same time?! And then we have the desires, symbolized by the deep sleep that the hare has. Temptations that are scattered all over our path, and a hare stops to experience all of them. 

The nature of the tortoise is to be slow but it knows where it is headed and it is in no rush to get there and there are little temptations to fall for. The tortoise doesn't fall for desire, it just moves on purposefully. The tortoise is therefore calmer, silent, resilient, and strong. Its the focus of the tortoise that really intrigues me, the lack of distraction, the single point consciousness and the vigor to go through with it slowly despite all the noise around it. And when the din gets too loud, it just needs to go under its shell and block the noise out. A tortoise moves without a sense of doubt, it may be slow but that's OK, it is super purposeful and it knows, when it gets there, it has certainly arrived. 

Hare: "I Run and therefore I Am"
Tortoise: "I Am and soon I Am Not".

I need to move away from being a hare and I need to move towards wanting to be a tortoise. Slow, deep longer breaths, slower heart beats, fewer desires, and focus, single point consciousness towards reaching my goal. 

Because when I arrive, I know, there is no going back. Its the state of complete consciousness and there are no more races to run. 


The Shiva Path

The Shiva Path is a state of mind that raises me from the dead...

||Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraya||

To live the state of Shiva
Is to give up the luxury of life
Is to dive deep into the basics of my existence
Is to dive into the reason for living
Is to dive deep away from this maya
From this noise

To live the state of Shiva
Is to question every rule in the rule book
Is to discover myself
Not as an extension of society 
But as the defiant one
Who has the vigor to look the truth in the face

To live the state of Shiva
Is to give up all attachment, 
And accept my inherent nature
Not as "I am"
But to get beyond it 
Focus on the "I will be"

To live the state of Shiva
Is to seek the grace of the supreme Lord
Divine grace, that which keeps me alive
Divine grace, that will guide me out of this maya
Teaches me mystical secrets
Awaken this inner soul

To live the state of Shiva,
One can't be frivolous
One can't be weak
One can't seek convenience
One can't let go of austerity
One expresses self restraint. 

To live the state of Shiva
Is to take life seriously
Is to evolve to silence
Is to evolve to single pointedness
Is to let go
Is to leave

To live the state of Shiva
Is to live Ekaggata
One pointedness
The Single focus on Om Shivam

I am a piece of log burnt to ashes 
Lifeless and reduced to dust. 
Seeking a drop of divine ambrosia 
Like sacred ghee 
To revive the sacred fires of grace
Of enlightenment within me.

||Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraya||