Friday, November 10, 2006

Faith - again

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

''O Faith, give us faith.''
Not something to be overlooked or underestimated, this thing, called faith. Not in life generally and certainly not in the context of sadhana, any kind of sadhana. Why? Why does one need faith? Is it a state of mind or an idea, a mental concept or is it an emotion of the heart? What has the ever free and aloof atman got to do with faith? A torrent of questions that beg an answer and yet the very mention of faith in a conversation and people think you are a born again evangelist! In the Lalitha sahasranama Sri Hayagriva mentions to Agastya - '' Na shatAya na dhushtAya navishvAsAya karhachit '' - that is, (this mantra) must not be revealed to one who is crooked/deceptive, nor to one who is full of hatred and violence, neither should it be revealed to one devoid of faith. The faith there signifies the faith in the guru and his words, the devata or the deity, and faith in the tenets and philosophies of the sampradaya that we follow. There are innumerable instances in the many texts of the Hindus which detail the glory and importance of faith and the need to cultivate it. Some feel that its a very strange concept, that of 'cultivating' faith. you either have it or you don't, they say. That the object of faith must 'draw' that faith out of us is their reasoning. Maybe it will if we can see it properly, but even to do that we need faith!

''Faith is composed of the heart's intention.''
Ah, so it is something to do with the heart, faith. An emotion of some kind maybe? But the use of the word intention indicates Will, something that is not an attribute of the heart. Will is something connected to the ego (aham) identity and the mind intellect complex. And intention or willing of any kind indicates effort, effort of a very conscious nature to be exact. There you have it, faith is a state of mind that is reached through conscious effort (cultivated) and wherever it might originate from, this faith is perceived or anchored in the heart. It is the heart's longing to be near,wrapped in a tight embrace, the object of its desire. The longing and yearning (to believe) when excited and strengthened intentionally opens the gates to this wonderful thing called faith. And in here, there are no believe it or not believe it conundrums. Not here, in this city of Faith there is no such duality - and it actually feels like an empowerment, to believe in something so completely and whole heartedly. It is like being united with your beloved in a sweet embrace - perfection and completion.
Having established (somewhat) the nature of faith, we must look at where to place that faith. As we do not know the truth about most things (as all our conclusions are drawn from a standpoint tainted by the notion of duality), we need to look towards the pramanas or the words of authority. Even though there are many schools of thought that fall under the wider umbrella of Hinduism with often contradictory thoughts and practises, one common thing among all systems is the acceptance of the Vedas as eternal and true. In fact all these separate systems try to emphasise their views in the context of the vedas for them to gain popularity and faith among the masses. So it is important to have faith in the pramanas of the vedas and of the tantras - some might be of the view that the tantras are contrary to vedas, but that is a false understanding. The great master Adi Shankara accepts the tantras to be valid pramanas as do many other great men, so we will not deliberate that at this juncture. It is enough to say that until we have a clear and bias free vision of the nature of this world by ourselves, it is important to follow the pramanas as they are true and have been true and will remain true eternally. That is after all why the vedas are eternal - sanatana. Truth is always true.

''Light comes through faith''
When we develop and hold the faith, things start becoming clearer and simpler. Clarity, of thought, word and deed ensues. But if that faith was instead of or was an alternative to free thought, no clarity comes as a result - rather we are left with confused fanatics. Who hold on to the dogma with very little or no awareness of the various processes that the above mentioned pramanas establish. Light comes through faith if that faith is applied fully and with proper awareness. It is not something that is developed to comfort those who are weary of the struggles of life, it has to be an active energy, something that will very visibly change the person from the inside and continue to bring forth that change in the world around the person. There is no injunction (religious or otherwise) that confirms that this faith should put a stop to the individuals critical thinking or his other god given faculties of thought and perception. Faith becomes confusing and veiling if it insulates the person from his environment which is the external world. But it becomes the lamp in his hand to find his way around the world if that faith enabled him to 'connect' to the world better and with a clear heart. Faith is not the same as 'blind' faith - faith doesn't blind, it illuminates. It is the light which makes the invisible visible, the intangible tangible.

'' Through faith men come to prayer''
A very self evident statement, needs no further exposition. The great sage Sri Mahaperiyava of Kanchi once remarked '' I feel it is better to be an atheist than one who is a doubtful believer''. We, the modern Hindus of today fall into this category. We follow many rites and rituals half heartedly as we do not have the discipline to take it to its highest degree of practise. We follow them as our forefathers did so, not because we have attempted and have found them to be true and thus useful to transform the inner avidya or darkness into an inner light or pure consciousness. Is that not what all prayer is about? Transformation of this (seemingly) all pervasive darkness into the pure light of the atman (which is real) that is the job of the various rites and rituals we perform. And that end will be attainable only when the magic ingredient of faith is thrown in the mix. Without belonging to a wider faith we will forever be alone; free maybe, but alone. And it is a choice we have to make.

''Faith in the morning, faith at noon and at the setting of the sun''
The lamp of faith is to be lit and attended to at all times, throughout ones life. Once lit through the grace of ones guru, this light called faith is to be kept safe, more than that one has to always strive to make this lamp into a mighty blazing fire. It might be a difficult process and a long one, but that doesn't make it a less important one. Wisdom takes courage as knowledge is responsibility. The time of the morning before the sunrise, the time of noon when the sun is directly overhead and the time of the evening when the sun is about to set, during these times the entire world is at peace. The tides are of rest and equipoise and all energy flows in accordance to this. This perhaps is the main (or only?) reason why the practise of sandhyavandana has long been held in such high esteem, as it is to be performed during the times mentioned above where the mind is naturally at ease and at peace. When practising meditation or japa or any thing else which requires the mind to be steady (without its natural state of agitation and activity), the calmness and fixedness of mind is of utmost importance. And the 3 sandhyas are the periods when all energy is calm and without much agitation. Why don't we then use this natural opening to give ourselves the momentum and strength needed for our sadhana?

''O Faith, give us faith.''
For that is the first step on this journey. For, without that (faith) it might not be possible to appreciate the light that we see. For, without faith that all important transformation never manifests.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Faith is composed of the heart's intention.

Light comes through faith.

Through faith men come to prayer,

Faith in the morning, faith at noon and at the setting of the sun.

O Faith, give us faith!

- Rig veda.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kanda Sashti

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

The intensely spiritual period of navaratri has just passed, and the joyous occasion of Deepavali has also passed. Now, it is another of those special periods - that of Kanda sashti. Is there ever an end to the many vratas and periods of spiritual austerities, I hear you wonder!

Though the vratas are for different deities (navaratri for the Devi, Deepavali for Krishna or Rama and Kanda sashti for Muruga), there is a theme that is common to all three. What might that be? If we look into the legends associated with these vratas, we can observe that all the three periods speak of the defeat that the forces of evil suffer at the hands of the forces of good. During the nine nights of navaratri, the supreme Devi battled with Bhandasura and his demonic forces and triumphed in the end of the battle. Bhandasura was destroyed along with his city (shunyaka) and his entire clan and army and the world was once again a pleasant and peaceful place. Then (at a different epoch) the asura Narakasura tormented the denizens of the earth and the heavens. Due to the boon that he had obtained from Brahma, Krishna along with Sathyabhama had to battle with Narakasura and defeat him. That day of his defeat and subsequent death at the hands of Krishna is celebrated as Deepavali.

Then again (at a different epoch) the asura called Tarakasura engaged in activities that were sheer torture to the devas and the people of the earth. This time (once again due to the boon obtained by Surapadman) it was Muruga, born of the seed of Siva, who had to command the army of the devas and battle with Surapadman. After a deadly battle which lasted 6 days (where the army of the Lord Muruga camped in different locations each night) Muruga or Skanda the Devasenatipathi (Commander in chief of the army of the devas) won the battle. On the sixth day or Sashti, Muruga killed the asura - Sura samharam- in Tiruchendur. It is also worthy of note that Muruga carried with him his weapon (Vel) a spear that was blessed and empowered for the specific purpose of defeating Tarakasura, by Devi Parvati. Hence his ayudha has been called Shakti Vel. It is also interesting to note that in the final stages of the war, Muruga flung his Velayudham at the asura and it split him into two halves. These two halves transformed themselves (due to his powers of maya) into a peacock and a cock. Muruga then made the peacock his vehicle (mayil vahanam) and the cock became the emblem of his flag (cevarkodi).

The devotees of Muruga usually spend the period of the six days by observing various vows and fasting from food (much like navaratri) and reading the various legends and puranas associated with Muruga. They also recite the Kanda sashti kavacham twice or thrice daily to empower themselves and to obtain the everlasting grace of the warrior prince, Muruga.

May the grace of Subrahmanya, who preached the meaning of the Pranava to Brahma himself lift all into higher states. May He shower His infinite wisdom (much like He did to Siva His father) on all and help us defeat the negative forces that are both within and without us.

Om soum saravanabhava shreem hreem klim kloum soum namaha.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Deepavali wishes.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Wishes for a Happy Deepavali to all readers!
Click here to view the Kanchi Acharya's Deepavali eve message.
Sri maatre namaha.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Kaivalya - Absoluteness

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Following on from the previous post where the nama sarvamayi suggests total and complete non separation (of the Devi) as a requisite for total or unlimited dominion, the concept of Kaivalya or Absoluteness takes an altogether new perspective.
Before I venture deeper into the details of the state of Kaivalya, it would be appropriate to first introduce you to what the term means - both in the way it is understood and what it really is. In the spiritually alienated society we live in today, religion, philosophies and other spiritual concepts are deeply penetrated by a dualistic perception of life and the world. Thus the non- dual ideas and concepts that are the very core of yoga and 'true' spirituality, like freedom, happiness or liberation etc are heavily misinterpreted or misrepresented. This is the case when we look at the concept of Kaivalya too. The more common translations/interpretations of the word Kaivalyam contain a false or wrong understanding of it as a withdrawal or as isolation. They purport to derive this meaning from the root 'kevala', alone or by itself, etc and thus paint the supreme state of Kaivalya to be akin to an isolation. They say that it is that state where one is 'free' from the pull of the external universe and its eternally confusing array of tricks. They also describe the state of being of the yogi in the state of Kaivalya as one who is (in appearance)not any different to any other human being. His life is still punctuated like all of ours by the night and day, rain and dry and all other natural stimuli. The difference is that, unlike others, the yogi in kaivalya is able to transcend the 'effects' of these stimuli and is able to be in a state of mental 'isolation' where these effects are not felt. Like a state of 'comfortably numb'. This, as we all know, is perhaps even achieved with the aid of morphine or other opiates! Why would anyone go through the tough and hard path that is yoga to arrive at a dull, uninvolved and non - present state of mind? This misinterpretation of Kaivalya stems from the attitude of separateness that affects all of us in the world today.
But that could not be all? The siddhars and many other yogis have actively sought and in many cases have also attained to this supreme state called kaivalyam. Surely, it cannot be connected to isolation and separateness. Surely, there must be a better explanation? Yes, there is! Kaivalyam cannot be viewed as freedom from anything in the context of escape, hiding, aversion,or sheer laziness to not be involved. Rather, this supreme state is a result of something altogether different in nature. It is not possible to arrive at this state through intellectual processes or though differentiation or reductionism or an attitude of separateness. Instead it is a state that is achieved through the release of such things! And once again, this 'release' is not a conscious process of giving up on things - it is more like a spontaneous surrender that is a result of some 'direct' spiritual experience or experiential realisation. Kaivalyam then should be defined as union more than isolation.
Like how the nama (in the previous post) Sarvamayi indicates that non separation (or union) is a requisite for unlimited dominion, the state of singleness without attributes (the definition of kaivalya) is also only possible on arriving at a state of union. Even the yoga sutras of Patanjali describe Kaivalya as the ''establishment in its own nature (swarupa) of the energy of consciousness.'' Bhojaraja, a commentator, explains that state of energy in which modifications are extinct and when it remains alone with its own nature is Kaivalya. This being alone in ones one nature is inclusive and not isolation as one's own nature is that of this universe. It is a state of absoluteness that happens as an effect of the self realising its unity with the entire universe. At that state all differences and modifications cease to be- as there is nothing that is not I. This supreme and totally connected state of samadhi is Kaivalya. It is solitary not because of the negation of everything else, but because everything is included into oneself. And the supreme Devi graces Her bhaktas by being Kaivalyapadadayini (Bestower of the solitary abode(kaivalya)). This She does by destroying the dualistic knowledge (a result of avidya) and manifesting the knowledge of oneness and unity, beyond all separation or objectification.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Nirbedha - without difference.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

We often hear about 'the way' that has to be followed to reach spiritual heights. There are as many paths and sampradayas as there stars in the night sky - and this is only in the wider folds of Hinduism, not to mention the many other religions and folk traditions in the world. Which then is the 'right' path? The followers of the various sampradayas vehemently argue that their own is the true path. This attitude perhaps starts because of their intense belief and exclusive devotion to their own chosen path, and in that context is perhaps acceptable. A similar pattern is visible if we look at the various puranas and upa puranas.
The Vaishnava (concerned mainly with Vishnu) puranas present stories which convey to the reader the all pervasiveness of Vishnu. To arrive at this end, they would often appear to belittle the other Gods particularly Siva, and have story lines where many prominent Gods of the Hindu pantheon struggle with and face defeat at the hands of Vishnu. The Shaiva puranas on the other hand would argue to emphasize the importance and superiority of Siva over the other Gods. The stories there would often portray Vishnu and other Gods suffering as a result of the wrath of Siva. The same pattern is visible in the Ganesha, Skanda, Vayu and other puranas. In all the puranas, the chief deity extolled in the stories is often shown to be superior and in control of the other deities. To make matters worse (or more interesting) the various puranas often convey the same story or set of events with a completely different emphasis or angle. In the modern world we are well used to this tactic and we might even expect the corporate giants or politicians and people of that ilk to put a favorable 'spin' on the story to further their ends. But would the great pundits and rishis of yore have used such a cheap and artificial tactic to stress their point? And if that were the case, what would become of the esteem and regard with which we view the puranas? From the stories it becomes as if not all of them can be true (as they are contradictory), and if they are not all true, are some true? Or are they all false? These are the questions that will trouble the minds of those trying to understand the truth and dharma through the media of the puranas.
The great sages and even the Paramacharya of Kanchi are of the view that the difference in the puranas does not indicate a 'falseness'. Rather, they urge the individual to understand the real reason behind the many contradictions and the differing emphasis on the same or similar events. They say that the stories in the various puranas were often intended to bring about a sense of surrender and intense devotion to the chosen deity (Siva, Vishnu or other) and to bring about that all exclusive devotion, the stories had to be in such a way as to make the chosen deity supreme and beyond others. They also urge us to find the many stories in the same puranas that show or speak of the unity among the different deities (eg. Rama praying to Siva before crossing over to Lanka, Siva coming as Hanuman to help Rama in his task, etc). And on careful study we find that there are many stories that speak of their connectedness too.

In the Lalitha Sahasranama, there are many names that describe beautifully and exceptionally the underlying unity of Lalitha and Siva and this entire universe. It is inspiring and uniquely expansive to feel and meditate on this oneness, it is pure joy, sheer bliss! There is a nama of the Devi that is Nirbheda (without difference) - why is She without difference? Does that mean there is nothing apart from Her or does it represent a different kind of difference too? Lakshmidhara in his commentary expresses that since the Devi is neither connected with anuyogitva (for) nor is She concerned with pratiyogitva (against) to the mutual non-existence, She is said to be nirbedha or without difference. That is, She is without bias and is devoid of all differences.
On realizing this non difference the dual knowledge (of the pair of opposites) is destroyed and the 'real' knowledge is firmly rooted. This aspect of the Devi is conveyed by the next nama Bhedanasini (destroyer of difference).
Another nama Sarvamayi (as All) drives this home further. Without non - separation there cannot be unlimited dominion, or omnipresence which is an essential attribute of the Supreme. The term sarva (all) here includes all the tattvas (principles) from earth to Siva. It includes the two hundred and twenty four worlds (bhuvana) and is represented also by the fifty letters (akshara). Our altogether human attitude of perceiving difference where none exists is a cause for much confusion often leading to war over such matters. And it is an unfortunate habit to posses as more often than not, it reduces the infinite beauty of this world and the subtle and precise balance with which everything is connected.

Sri maatre namaha.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Sri Gurubhyo namaha.
I am back in circulation - after sort of a 'retreat' over the Navaratri period. Its five days now since I completed the vrata and I am pretty much back to my usual habits of Cafe latte and an herb called tobacco for breakfast. It never ceases to amaze me how fast I let something become a habit, be they good or bad. I can as easily wallow in the morphic patterns of my more baser self as I can in the unbroken bliss of meditation. After a due course of introspection during the nine nights of the vrata, I can see that the root of all this lies in my complacency. It must be my very nature or it must be the effect of years of herbs, but I find it very difficult to not be appreciative of anything. Everything, well almost everything, appears to me to be meaningful and necessary, and it all feels 'right' for its own reason. You might not think that its anything to worry about, but let me tell you, it is very difficult to cultivate 'good' habits and do 'good' things when it is impossible to discriminate between things.
I have never observed a Navaratri fast before, not in the way that I did this year at least. I quite like fasting, ya, really. I like it for many reasons. Firstly, I like the way the day becomes longer when you do not eat during the day. A few hours into the fast and it becomes clear how much time we spend each day thinking about or in the preparation of food. Breakfast sort of blends into lunch with a coffee (or a couple) in between, and before you know it, its time for dinner and then the usual cups of tea before its bed time. The average day is punctuated by the many meal times and snack times and you end up with many spare hours when you don't have to think about eating. Next I love the ecological sense in fasting - I mean, really we don't need that much food to survive. Quite a lot of the time we overeat. It must be an instinct left over from the days our great ancestors were the hunter gatherers, the fear of what if the next time there was nothing to eat? And as a result we over do food when we have it. And at the end of the day when the world is seen in terms of available resources and those that are there to make use of those resources, it becomes clear that we need individual effort to make life on earth sustainable. I think it is more responsible of me to let go of a meal every so often so that the same resource is available to someone else, elsewhere on this earth. I understand that perhaps it is a very romantic way of thinking about it and I also understand that the couple of handfuls of food I give up is not going to do much for the starving millions in Africa (or India). But over the last six years I have fasted for something like 216 days! I normally fast 3 days each month ( not including the special fasts on occasions like Sivaratri or Navaratri) and that makes 36 days in the year. Try and do the arithmetic and it becomes clear that over 6 years I would have fasted for 216 days atleast. If you calculate three meals per day that will give us 648 individual meals! Imagine the amount of food that would spare for someone else (considering that all resources are limited). I feel that in the olden days when man was much more in tune with the universal rhythm, he understood the necessity of pacing oneself. As a method for sensible use of resources among other things (like yoga, movement of prana, etc) he evolved the system of fasts and other voluntarily imposed restrictions on oneself. These methods were intended not only for his own benefit and evolution but for the bigger universe and all things connected with it. Fasting I suppose is a good alternative to intensive farming using unnatural methods (GM) to deliver an unrealistic yield. Not only does that attitude wreck the earth and destroy the power of food, it also does nothing to encourage the individual to live a life of moderation. On the contrary, it strengthens the innate greed and want in the individual, making him (and thus society) develop an insatiable appetite. It alienates us from the natural rhythm and the seasonal cycles to such an extent that all that matters is the self and its needs - no big picture.
Another aspect of fasting that I enjoy tremendously is in the mental realm. Over the years, it has become clear to me that our connection to food is very complex and has lots to do with the mind than to the physical aspect of hunger and survival. I find that the hunger pangs and the rumbling stomach is very easy to rise above and ignore, but the same cannot be said for the mental impressions of food. Like cravings for example. During the initial stages of my fasting, it was the craving for a particular taste like salty, sour etc and the craving for certain foody aromas that needed effort to overcome. It wasn't hunger or physical fatigue because of not eating etc that troubled me. The very thought of salt or salty things would cause the immediate release of saliva in my mouth and it was this 'mental' connection to food I wanted to understand. And believe me, fasting is a great way to try and understand and isolate what is mental and what is physical when it comes to food. I like the mental preparation that automatically happens on each and every fasting day. It is like going away from your beloved or your family for a while. Like you say your goodbyes until you meet again, like you want to go to that one favourite bench in the park or go for a walk in the woods all the while knowing that it might be sometime before you are able to experience it all again. I like to say my mental goodbyes to food, tastes, smells, snacks, coffee and everything else for the duration of the fast and then I love the way everything feels new and fresh when the fast is finished. A new attitude of appreciation and gratitude is born (however temporary) and I feel like thanking the Lord and the earth and everything else for what I have. The lowly upmaa, or the dry idli and the humble curd rice, all become for a while as divine as the best nectar. Thanks and praises.
When we look to the yoga sutras it becomes clear that yoga is not accomplished by those who either indulge their bodies or by those who torment their bodies. That is to say, moderation is the key. Not great fasting and other practices by which the body is tortured and not the attitude of indulgence without any restrictions. Moderation is the key, the middle path, the path of yoga. But being Libran and burdened as I am with an 'addictive' personality,I am a complete stranger to moderation. Its all or nothing with me I am afraid and no in betweens. But Iam trying! Now you might say, why then do we need to fast or show any restraint in anything? I imagine that it is because only restraint (voluntary and not obligatory) can truly make us understand what moderation is. Everything in the way we live these days is geared towards excess. Success in life seems to be measured in terms of 'how much' of anything is there rather than in terms of 'what' is there. The quantity is stressed more than the quality. Lots of money, lots of food, lots of sex, lots of everything, the more the better. So, we have to cut down and show restraint only to come to 'moderation', and there we can stabilize ourselves for the next while. From there we can begin seeing things for what they are. The middle way.
During the nine days and nights of this Navaratri, I lived on two or three pieces of fruit every day. My body felt good, my mind felt better. The fast included not only restrictions on food consumed, but also in other areas of life. There was no sleeping on beds and mattresses, just on the floor, I tried to restrain my speech, thoughts, even actions. The fast was accompanied by regular extended prayers and meditation in the mornings and evenings and throughout the day. The Sahasranamam of devi Lalitha was my steady companion, the object of my meditations, the destination for all my prayers. Ganesha, as always gave me the strength to persevere and continue the fast till the end without any hurdles and I enjoyed every minute of it. The continuous attitude of introspection was refreshing for a change. Finally, having successfully observed the fast shows me the same thing that I mentioned at the very start of this post - I am as happy in the crystal clear waters of the Ganges as I am in the mucky waters of everyday.
Everything appears to be equally important and everything seems to be another manifestation of the same Devi. My eternal thanks and praises to Her.
Sri matre namaha.

Friday, September 08, 2006

On the comments.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

It seems that the last two of my posts (and who knows, perhaps more) have been understood by some to be 'sex laden'! A clear reading of the posts in question will make it obvious that there is no recommendation of any kind of sexual activity as a means to enlightenment. I have even hinted (like the anonymous commenters insist) that sexual control is extremely important in the spiritual quest. However, I do not prescribe to the view that staying away from sexual activity is a prerequisite (or like some hold, the only way) for 'enlightenment' . For if that were true, it would naturally proceed that many rishis (in fact all rishis) are not 'enlightened' as they were married- to more than one woman at times - and also presumably had a sex life, as they did father children. If they didn't, there would be no gotras etc (as they are the blood lineages).
It is a very valid argument that sexual control is extremely important in sadhana, but as I say, it is not the end game.
And did not the vedas proclaim that the grahasta (married householder) shoulders the other 3 ashramas (ie. brahmacarya, vanaprasta and sanyasa) by engaging in the activities of life and thus supporting those in the other 3 ashramas by giving them what they need? And the same texts also make it clear that it is the responsibility of the married man to keep his wife satisfied (emotionally, socially, and sexually), so the question of sexual abstinence while being married does not arise (as long as it is not the wish of both the partners). This point has to be deliberated with great caution and without the bias and prejudice that colour our perceptions.
Iam sure more on this theme will follow.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

More on the last post.

श्री गुरुभ्यो नमः

The fear of the endless cycle of samsara as a result of the birth into this world was mentioned in my last post as a probable reason for the unfounded fear and discrimination against women. But it isn't the only reason - there are quite a few reasons that have contributed to this faulty perception. One of the more crucial factors is the practice called Brahmacharya (celibacy) followed by those seeking enlightenment and 'release' from this cycle of life and death.
To understand why this practice has contributed to the confused state of mind, it will be necessary to look into the theory behind the practice of celibacy or brahmacharya (quite briefly atleast). It is known that most things in this universe and in the human body exist in triads (sets of three) - like the 3 gunas (rajas,tamas and sattva), the 3 states (jagrat,swapna and sushupti), the 3 murthys (brahma,vishnu and siva), the 3 actions (creation,preservation and destruction), the 3 doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) etc. It is due to the fact of all things being in triads that the Devi in Her transcendental aspect is called Tripura or TripuraSundari.

Similarly, there exists another important triad in us - the triad formed by the Manas (mind), Prana (life force/breath) and Shukla (sperm/sexual fluids). This is a very important triad which has been discussed in great detail by many texts and sutras following in the path of Yoga. The objective of Yoga is to harmonize the alternating currents of consciousness, to rid the lake of the mind of the ripples of multiple and contrasting thought processes. The sutras describe that intuition or insight is that which is derived from meditation. They further say that the mind or manas is like a large lake whose waters are constantly overrun by the ripples that are caused by the various stimuli of this world. This 'lake' of the mind has to be stilled (made to be without those ripples) so that it becomes like a pure mirror, capable then of reflecting the pure consciousness that it is in proximity to (or is in the exact nature of). This is insight. This is the path of yoga, through which it is possible to overcome duality and achieve the 'perfect' body and mind - the path of becoming supernatural, pure transformation.
Having established that, we come to the next part. How then can this mind be stilled? We know that it is in the very nature of this mind to travel faster than light or sound, it is constantly agitated, always on the move, never still. This body can be kept in place by chains or by the iron bars of a cage or prison, but that is not so with respect to the mind. It has the capacity (which it delights in making such a show of) to be unbound in an instant. A smell here, a sound there and there you have it, its gone....following that or to a different place all of its own choice! So how is this mind to be stilled or bought under control? This is where we come to the triad (previously mentioned) - this manas (mind) is connected to Prana (breath) and to Shukla (sperm/sexual fluids). Thus if any one of these (of the triad) were bought under control it will lead to the control of the other two!! Amazing isn't it? It is, and it is very true too! If the sadhaka has the capacity to control the mind, he can control the prana and the shukla, likewise if he can control the prana he can control the shukla and the manas, and if can control the manas he can control the shukla and the prana.
The importance of this triad (of manas, prana and shukla) in terms of spiritual growth and enlightenment/liberation can also be seen in the Skanda guru kavacham in the following words -

'' இடகலை பிங்கலை ஏதும் அறிந்திலேன் நான்
இந்திரியம் அடக்கி இருந்தும் அறிகிலேன் நான்
மனதை அடக்க வழி ஒன்றும் அறிந்திலேன் நான் ''

Meaning - '' I know not the method to restrain the flow (of prana) in the ida and the pingala nadis (i.e. the process called pranayama). I know not the method to control the organs (organs of action and those of perception) or Indriya (i.e. the process through which the organs including those of generation are controlled, control of shukla). I know not any method to control/still the mind (i.e. the control or the stilling of manas/mind). '' The very three parts of the important triad that we have been discussing so far!

This is why the practice of Pranayama or the control and regulation of the breath is so important in the path of yoga. The yogi is attempting through the control of prana to gain control over the shukla and the manas (which is the object of yoga). But this is a difficult and a time consuming process (pranayama) to achieve the full siddhi in and hence is not possible by all. The process of the control of the mind (manas) itself directly proves impossible for the most of us (only a handful of jnayana yogis have succeeded) while we are still pushed and pulled by the everyday events. The control of the shukla or the sexual fluids however is not so - it is a process that can be attempted by quite a lot of people. Here I use the word 'control' instead of complete abstinence as that is a subject of further debate (in my mind anyway) and depends on the ashrama or the state of life of the sadhaka. Hence the practice of Brahmacharya or the vow of celibacy was advocated for those on the inward path. However it has to be borne in mind that at this stage it was a purely 'technical' process, alchemical more like and did NOT have any of the moral tones that it has ended up being dressed in today. This fact can be verified by the existence in the path of yoga, the process (most esoteric) called Vajroli. Great siddhas and many masters have practiced it, Siva the great yogi is the paragon of this type of yoga (note that Siva and Parvati are engaged in sexual intercourse that lasts for hundreds of years as there is no letting down of the shukla or sperm of Siva). From the process of vajroli and the Priyanka yoga (or the yoga of the cot) mentioned in Thirumoolars thirumandiram etc, it can be easily understood that there was no moral taboo against sex. There was merely the understanding of the energetics of the body and mind to great detail - The control of the sexual fluids is different from the control of the sexual energy- and the shukla was found to be the essence of all the other dhatus (as per ayurveda and its understanding of the seven dhatus). This is also hidden in the Sahasranama (where the names and the specific dhatus and the preferences of the 7 yoginis are mentioned) and shukla there too is the essence of the synthesis of all the other preceding dhatus. Thus the yogis advocated the preservation of this shukla and its subsequent transformation into light and its reabsorption into the body as pure amrta or nectar. The fluid of life is 'transformed' if you like alchemically and this transformation results not only in the control over the mind, but also in prolonged life, increased 'thejas' and 'ojas' etc. The body becomes disease free and the mind still. But in the other yugas, the individual life span was much longer and people were very disciplined (in terms of sticking to vows etc) and the same cant be said for our times.
At some point in the not too distant past (say two to three thousand years ago) it was becoming increasingly clear that the effects of Kaliyuga were making themselves manifest. There was a decrease in the adherence to dharma and as a result there was a down trend in matters related to hard discipline. Then it was obvious that the practice of brahmacharya or sexual abstinence was not possible by many (lack of discipline and control etc). It was perhaps at that crucial point in the evolution of the Hindu society, that the element of 'morality' was linked to sex and the practice of brahmacharya. If the people lacked internal discipline to persist in the control of shukla, the next step to enforce that control was by manipulating the emotional/guilt mechanism of the individual or society concerned. The main distraction for the men trying to achieve the end result of the practice of brahmacharya was their alltogether 'natural' urge for sexual intercourse. So, slowly but thoroughly the scriptures and their commentaries were 'painted' over with this moralistic attitude. Every passage in the shrutis were configured/interpreted to present a picture that equated the act of sex with filth, sin and other negative attitudes, the main idea being to turn men away from their more natural (and baser, granted) tendencies. Thus the woman, the object of desire, was presented as a 'deadly trap', a snare, something that once you got entangled with you were destined for endless lives in hell and inferior births. Up until that period in time, even though the practice of brahmacharya (by a select section of people in the right stage) was very much in vogue, the women were only held as Devi's themselves. They were respected, loved and enjoyed life in a position that was equal to the men(if not a superior position).

This 're writing' of the texts and the general attitude of moral censorship etc had to be supported by the so called vedic and puranic authority (for it to achieve mass acceptance) as the people of those times held the vedas as the highest pramana to settle any point. So, even the puranas themselves were 're written' and stories like Vishnu's delegating a part of the karma/sin committed by Indra to women, the argument that women as a result of their operating in the realms of emotion were not suitable for the process of self inquiry and other such practices that were more 'heady', etc were introduced. This change in the tone of the puranas is also quite interesting and I will elaborate on that with a story from the puranas in my next post on this same subject.

In finishing up this post, I should add - If one is unable to see the Devi in one's mother, sister, wife, daughter, friend or any other woman in this world and respect and treat them with love, there is no way for that someone to see the Devi(Lalitha) or be called a devotee of the goddess or a shakta. Personally, I believe there is no way for them to even be called 'human'. The Devi Herself has said, I exist in the form of all women and all things feminine - what more do I need say?

या देवी सर्वभूतेषु मात्रु रूपेन संस्तिथा ।

नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Women are'nt dragons!

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

I was reading an article in the Hindu earlier today where it was mentioned that some women lawyers were challenging the Sabarimala Devoswom boards decision to not allow women between the age of 10 and 50 to enter the temple for worship. This is something that I have been trying to work out for quite some time - the attitude of the Hindu scriptures with respect to women. Even though the vedic texts give equal importance to the woman when it comes to the performance of the various rites and rituals (which is evident from the rule that the grihastha or householder is allowed to perform the various ceremonies only when his wife is by his side during the performance). This point is highlighted by the story where even Brahma had to marry Gayatri (a milk maid) to successfully complete a yaga within the stipulated muhurtha, when his wife Saraswati was taking too long to get 'ready'.

But somewhere along the line, there has been a negative attitude developed with respect to women in Hinduism. Most of the puranas and other texts are forever warning the sadhaka about the dangers of association with women. The yogis or people following the path of yoga and jnayana etc get hysterical when it comes to women, sexuality, etc. Why is this so? Do you really believe that the Gods have advised man to stay away from women? And if they did ordain so, why are all of the Hindu gods manifest with their own wives or shaktis? Sometimes the Gods have more than one wife, I am sure that would not be necessary if women were to avoided by those seeking enlightenment. What then is the reasoning behind such an obvious contradiction?

It seems to me that such a confused attitude is a result of their 'fear' of life. That is to say, the Hindu (who is in the pashu bhava or who like cattle does not question and just follows blindly) unfortunately, perceives only pain and endless suffering in life. I don't have to tell you how many saints and great beings have repeatedly warned against samsara or the cycle of life and death. They have often said that this ocean of samsara is impossible to cross over safely and that there is only pain and more pain to be gained as a result of being born. They see birth as an effect of 'bad' karma previously committed. They have after much speculation and discrimination arrived at the conclusion that life is full of pain (as against the superior state of Bliss that is achieved through union with the formless and attributeless Brahman. And because of this attitude towards life, they fear the woman, who is the very birth place of new life! Thus when they see the woman, they see the incredible power, the mysterious power really, that she possesses to give birth to new life. Perhaps it is this fear of life and their inability or dislike to participate in this life on earth that makes them fear women and wealth (material) as one would a deadly serpent.

It goes without saying that such fear is unfounded and actually 'ridiculous'. If it is true (which most agree) that this universe is the manifestation of the supreme Brahman, then how could pain, suffering, hell, women or anything else be any different to the nature of this Brahman - which is really Sat, Chit Ananda? Aren't the women of this world to be held equal to the Devi Herself, who using Her inherent power of Maya 'manifested' as being separate from the Brahman? It is my belief that we have to look deeper and repeatedly question (both ourselves and those who claim knowledge of the sastras and other texts) till we arrive at the 'real' reason why all our Gods and great rishis live the life of a house holder, with great enthusiasm and a lot of love for their wives!

The great God Siva, it is clear, loves His wife to the highest degree that He has shared half His body with Parvati (Ardhanari). Vishnu has Mahalakshmi residing in His heart and Brahma is forever united with Saraswati. Muruga (Shanmuga), who is always one step ahead and 'better' than most of the other Gods, has two wives! Krishna not only has wives but many lovers too. Indra has Indrani, Manmatha (Cupid) has his Rathi devi, Soma (Moon) has 27 wives and so on and so forth. If women were to be avoided at all costs, why would the Gods be 'tied down' in such a way. Moreover, if we do go with the argument that women are only distractions and are the root cause of trouble, the reason that is given by the so called 'great men' to avoid such trouble is further proof of the ridiculous premise their own argument is based on.

They advice us to have chaste and celibate lives and to keep our minds steady and free from the pull of this samsara cycle - and what may we ask is the fruit of such labour? They promise a great after life in Swarga (Heaven) or the many lokas like that of Vaikunda (Vishnu's realm), Kailasa (Sivas realm) and Brahma Loka (satyaloka or the realm of Brahma). There we are supposed be resident (after death of course) shining like gold along with the illuminous gods and goddesses. And then comes the ironic part - what do we do there in these great golden lokas? We will be engaged in amorous sport with damsels of divine beauty that will stop your heart, the gandharvas or the celestial musicians will play divine instruments and there will be a sweet scented breeze plying while we enjoy in the arms of 16 year old virgins on the banks of stunning lakes (filled with nectar, nothing less) and in glades and forests!! Doesn't make any sense does it?

I am reminded of a verse that says '' what is every where else (meaning in all the other worlds) is here (in earth) and what is not here (in earth) is not there anywhere else.'' So it might be a better bet to have a good and happy life here in this world while we have the chance, instead of not being able to see or find any happiness here as a result of the hope to find it elsewhere (in the other lokas after death). That would be like one suffering from thirst on the banks of the Ganges, yet thinking of digging a well on top a mountain far away to quench that thirst. I for one belive that women or wealth or anything else like that is not the cause of this 'pain' of samsara - the actual cause of that pain is the apparent 'perception' of pain and suffering when there is actually nothing but Sat Chit Ananda.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A thing or two about Rumi

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Rumi is one of the most famous sufi poets and mystics of all time. His tomb is in modern day Turkey and is one of the best places to see the unique spiritual dance of the Whirling Dervishes. A very interesting thing to note in connection to Rumi is that he had a lot of connection with the Hindu Siddhas from TamilNadu in India! Yes, its true really - It is clear from Rumi's own writing that he was once ''visited by the great mystics (siddhas) from India. There were four of them who came, and they came by flying (yogic) through the skies.'' Apparently the four Tamil Sidhars (might be Gorakhar, Bogar, and two others whose identities are not alltogether clear) came to meet Rumi to have a discussion on some spiritual matters. After the discussion, when the sidhars were about to fly back to their home land, Rumi had expressed that his wife and others would find it hard to believe that he was visited by the sidhars who came in the night by yogic flight. In response the sidhars gave Rumi a bunch of (Kurinji??) flowers and explained to him that the flowers were very special and that they bloomed only once every 12 years and that the blooms once picked would never fade. Rumi writes that the next morning he had given his wife the flowers and told her about the visit. He also notes that the discussion with the sidhars was about things that would/could change the very consciousness of people and this earth.

This visit and some details about it can also be found in the writings of the sidhar Bogar, who also talks about visiting an enlightened person far away and refers to the desert as the place for the visit. He also makes a mention of the bunch of Kurinji flowers that the sidhars from here had taken with them for the meeting!

It is a wonderful and most mystical experience to read and speculate on the life and poetry of the sufi mystic Rumi - do read some his poetry and I am sure you will learn a lot from it. And if you google Rumi, you will also find plenty of interesting reading about his tomb in Turkey and the sufi school which he founded and plenty about the whirling dervishes.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Rumi the Sufi

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Lest all of you come to the conclusion that I am moved only by 'Hindu' poetry, I make a note of a couple of lines (that say ever so much) from the pen of the Sufi mystic Jalaludin Rumi!

"Poles apart, I am the color of dying.
You, the color of being born.
Until we breathe each other in,
there can be no Garden."

"I am bewildered by the magnificence of your beauty
and wish to see you with a hundred eyes.
My heart has burned with passion
and has searched forever
for this wondrous beauty
that I now behold.---
You have breathed new life into me.

I have become your sunshine and also your shadow."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Love is All

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Those of you who know me, know my love of the Skanda Guru Kavasam - one of the most inspiring/inspired sloka, it is Bhakti incarnate. I cannot count the number of times that I have been sent spiraling upward to a state of blissful 'absorption' (laya) on reading and meditating on the verses of the kavacham. Though practically all the words of the kavasam are full of multiple layers of meaning and are exceptionally poetic, there are a few parts that are 'extraordinary' in every which way. Here I present a small part of it (about 18 lines) with the actual translation of the words followed by a small off tangent commentary of what these lines have meant to me (among many other meanings). Each time I meditate on these verses, a different light is revealed!

For those who don't have the actual text with you at home you can find the full text (in tamil) here and the part we are discussing below is here as a pdf document.

* Destroy all my delusions, (O Lord) and feed (sustain) me on Love.
* Transform me thus, into Love, and rule (guide) me thus forever.
* Anchor this Love (O Lord) in my Soul/Mind, and hold it there without any fluctuations (stable).
* With this Love as your eyes, protect me thus.
* Teach me (O Lord) to firmly grasp the truth, that '' Both what is within and without, the inner and the outer realm, is all in the form of Love. Which again is nothing but Your Grace.''
* (O Lord), You have said/declared '' Limitless Love (Unconditional Love) is the Light of God (realization).''
* (And) You have also said/declared '' Love is everywhere (Omnipresent), existing without the distinctions of here and there (time and space). '' - by this, the truth that love is the very fabric of this universe and all creation is to be understood.
* Love is Siva, and the same Love is Shakti.
* Love is Vishnu (Hari) and the same Love is Brahma.
* Love is the multitude of Devas and it is also the multitude of People.
* That very Love, indeed, is You, and that Love is also Me.
* Love is Truth, and (so) Love is Eternal (constant).
* Love is Peace and again Love is Bliss.
* Love is Silence (Mounam) and Love is the supreme state of Liberation (Moksha).
* Love is the Supreme Brahman(the One being) and Love shines as All (everything - the manifest universe).
* (O Lord), You have established/said that, '' There is no place (in all this universe) which is devoid of Love''.
* (And) That All Pervading Love is my Guru / And my Guru is the incarnation of that All Pervading Love (or) Let that All Pervading Love be my Guru (preceptor).

The above is more or less the translation of the text as it is in the kavacham at the sited part. Here below is a slightly more (deeper?) off tangent interpretation of the same verse in meditational/sadhana/transformation terms -

** By the ''Destruction of delusion'' - the different 'false' perception(s) of I, Me, This, That, etc, which we believe to be 'real' and stop ourselves from ever understanding or being aware of the underlying Love, which is the true universal fabric/essence - is meant.

After this process of cleansing of the mind (of its delusions), the cleansed mind is to be sustained on Love.

** The clean mind after due sustenance on love, is Transformed into (the very nature of) Love and such a pure, transformed mind is ruled/lived in/ abided in by the Lord (Muruga).

** Thus, the pure Mind/ Soul achieves Stillness - the state of Non Agitation of the mental waves. And there remains in the nature of Pure Love, rooted and firm, without wavering.

** This could also imply that such a pure mind in the very nature of Love is extremely precious (shown by equating it to the very eyes) and hence has to be protected (encouraged) fiercely.

** When the purified mind is concentrated by encouraging it to remain in the nature of Love (which by the way is its 'true' nature, as will become clear later), it attains the firm state of clarity, where the Oneness of the inner (microscopic) and the outer (macroscopic) reality is established. Here, it becomes clear that the constituent of All is Love and it is also understood that Love itself is an act of Grace of god. That is to say, through the Grace/Compassion of the Supreme, which is in the nature of All Encompassing Love, this entire universe is made manifest.

** At this stage, the pure mind which is fixed on this All Encompassing nature of Love, achieves the realization of God Head (the Space/Light of God). This realization is made possible only by the mind operating through Unconditional or Limitless Love (without bias).

......More on this tangent in the next post!

Friday, July 28, 2006


Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Siddhar Thirumoolar composed the Thirumandiram (a treatise of extraordinary brilliance) which contains 3000 verses (mantras). It is said that the siddhar composed one mantra after each year of intense meditation. That is, he went into deep undisturbed meditation and the condensed wisdom and perception of that years meditation and contemplation was given by him as a mantra - 3000 years, it took him to compose the entire Thirumandiram. It is a 'must' read for any one on the Saiva path (Siva worshippers) and is considered as one of the best works of the Saiva sect. However, Thirumoolar was a great devotee of the Devi as well, he understood only too well the equal essence of Siva and Shakti. He also shows first hand knowledge of many yogic practices and comes across as an authority par supreme when discussing the chakras and their position, power, etc. He is a direct disciple of Nandhinatha (who Himself is Siva) and belongs to the Natha sampradaya (sect).

Some of you have read the first couple of hundred of the mantras commented by me in english and others have not. So, I am including a couple of his mantras from the very first part of the Thirumandiram - a section titled ''In praise of God'', a 'Payiram' or Proem. The english translation of the actual verse is done by someone else. I have provided the english commentary.

* mantra 14 : '' Transcends All''

Transcended He Brahma on the lotus-seat,Transcended Mayan, the ocean-hued,Transcended He, Isan, who transcends all,Transcended He space infinite, witnessing all.
Com – Transcended He Brahma on the lotus-seat Siva, He stands above (transcended) the Swadhisthana lotus (sacral chakra), which is the seat of the creative principle (Brahma). Transcended Mayan, the ocean-hued He stands above the Manipura lotus (solar plexus chakra) which is the seat of the preservative principle (Vishnu, the ocean hued Lord of Maya) Transcended He, Isan He stands above even the Anahata lotus (heart chakra) which is the seat of the dissolution principle (Rudra) . who transcends all He has transcended even the Vishudhi lotus (throat chakra) the seat of Maheshwara and the Ajnya lotus (third eye chakra) the seat of Sadashiva. Transcended He space infinite, witnessing all And transcending all, He stands in the Sahasrara lotus (crown chakra), the highest seat, being a witness to all (i.e. As pure consciousness, being the observer).
* The highest Siva resides in the Sahasrara as pure consciousness, being the silent witness, while the 5 Beings (Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Maheshwara and Sadashiva) have been given the authority to perform the 5 functions (viz. creation, preservation, destruction, veiling and revealing) and have been stationed at their respectivecenterss.

* mantra 15 : '' Blossoms as All''

Into Brahma did He expand, into Hara did He,And into the soul of the body He pervadesAs the Effulgence Divine, the Dharmic law limitless,The Eternal and the Everlasting.
Com – Into Brahma did He expand Siva creates the world, by being manifest as Brahma into Hara did He He destroys the world, by His manifestation as Hara or Rudra, And into the soul of the body while it is again He, who preserves (protects and transforms) the body, He pervades while also simultaneously transcending all the above mentioned manifestations, He is all pervading. As the Effulgence Divine He is Light (divine light). the Dharmic law limitless He is the limitless, unbiased and eternal, universal natural law (Dharma), awarding the just fruit for efforts. The Eternal and the Everlasting And it is only He who is eternal and everlasting.
* Siva is the supporter of the continued existence of the worlds, by being the creator, preserver and the destroyer of infinite world systems. He oversees the continuity of the world, by being the Dharma or Universal natural law, which enables the awarding of the right fruit (effect) to the right effort (cause).

Through the above two mantras the author makes it wonderfully clear that Siva is the Lord of Lords. At the same time the verses also convey thseparatete meaning where by the seat (chakra) of the different manifestations of Siva for the accomplishment of the five different actions is made explicit. The fact that Siva pervades everything and simultaneously transcends everything is also brought to attention. A very crucial point to contemplate. This highlights the bhava (nature) of Siva which is there and not there simultaneously!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Non difference of Siva and Shakti

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

The dichotomy and the bigotry in modern day Hinduism with regard to the nature of Siva and Shakti is quite puzzling. I should not even use the word " modern" in this context as this dichotomy has been in existence for quite some time - there have been some great men like Neelakanta Dikshidhar, Bhasurananda, Nrasimhacharya etc who have commented on this bigotry on the part of the followers of Siva and Shakti.
The followers of the different tantras in general and the followers of the SriVidya in particular are the best examples of bhaktas who have succeeded in rising above this split. In this context, a couple of names from the Sahasranama will shed more light on the unity of Siva and Shakti.

Samarasyaparayana - The Supreme abode of the co equal nature of Siva and Shakti
There are a few places in the Sahasranama where the underlying unity of Siva and Shakti is described in ways that are both explicit and covert. This underlying unity of Siva and Shakti has been shown in context of name, form, nature, actions, kundalini, created universe, mantra etc. Through this particular name, it is made explicitly clear that " Siva and Shakti are equally pre eminent and equally fundamental in this universe. The Chandraloka says, " We praise the ancient pair, the parents of the universe." It further adds , " Each is the end attained by the penance of the other" - this is one of the most beautiful descriptions of this unity.

This united state of Siva and Shakti has been established to be the Brahman (see previous posts and audio sloka from VarivasyaRahasya) and there are further advanced scriptures that prove this unity in various ways. Even the Gayatri is constructed (matrika level) to covertly convey this unity as Brahman. There are a few slokas in the Varivasya that describe this in detail, which perhaps we will go through on another occasion.
The Markandeya Purana explains, " Thou art the supreme and eternal Devi in whom all are established. Brahman is supreme and imperishable. The universe is perishable. Just as the fire is in the fire stick and atoms in the earth, so remain Brahman and the whole universe in Thee."
And elsewhere in the puranas it is said " Know that the possessor of Power (Siva) and the Power (Shakti) cannot be distinguished as being separate from each other." Meaning that there is no difference between the power and the person in possession of that power. This truth is an excellent reminder to us of the co equal nature of Siva and Shakti.

The name Sivashaktyaikyarupini that occurs as the last but one name in the Sahasranama also explains the same unity. The fact that it occurs at the very end coupled with the name Lalithambika makes it clear that the final word of the Sahasranama is the unity of Siva and Shakti. The above name means the Union of Siva and Shakti - In this connection refer to shruti " By the will of Siva, the supreme Shakti becomes one with Siva tattva. Again She manifests at the beginning of creation like oil from the oil seed." The word Union here is used to mean the state of supreme equality, the being absolutely without any difference.
The Saura Samhita says " The Shakti which is separate from Brahman is not different from Brahman itself. Such being the case, it is called Shakti (as separate) only by the ignorant (those unaware of this supreme equality). It is impossible to distinguish the difference, O wise one, between Shakti and the possessor of Shakti."
This union of Siva and Shakti is also declared by the Hamsa mantra and this union can be expressed and understood only through the guru.

I could go on for days on end waxing lyrical about this supreme and underlying oneness but I will be sensible and leave you go for now. You can ponder and meditate on this unity and sameness in your own heart for the time being!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A plug!

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
Here's something new - click here to visit my other other blog (also reachable through the link in the links section on the right) and leave your vote on the idea.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Following on from the post regarding the birth of the Tattvas, it is time now to understand what the word/term Prakrti (Nature) signifies. The Sankhya in one of its aphorisms in this context says - '' Since the root has no root, the root (of all) is rootless.'' The commentators explain this as follows:
Since the" root "(mula) which is the cause of the twenty three principles (tattvas) [and which along with the Soul (Purusha) and the root itself make the 25 tattvas or realities accepted in the Sankhya system], has no "root" that is, has no cause; the cause of all (which is Nature) is "rootless" or void of roots. By this it is to be understood that there is no other cause for Nature, for if that were accepted, then there would be, by parity of reasoning, another cause for that and so on without end.
The sankhya clarifies this point further by saying that " Even if there be a succession of causes, there would be a halt at some one point. And so it is merely a name we give for that one point which is the point in question, when we speak of the 'root' of things with the name MulaPrakrtiti (Nature) ". That is to say, since there would be a regressus in infinitum, if there were a succession of causes - another cause of nature, and another cause of that and so on- there must be at some point, a halt, a conclusion, at one uncaused and eternal thing. Therefore, that final point at which it stops is what we call the Primal Agency (Pra - Kriti) and this word (Prakruti) is nothing more than a sign to denote the cause which is the root of all.

The commentator Bhasurananda, describes the following points in this connection when describing the name of the Devi in the Sahasranama (Mulaprakritihi) -
Amongst the actions (Karma) which are to become ripe in a certain time, those that ripen are exhausted by fruition, the others which are as yet unripe and have not come consequently to fruition, a new creation for their sake being useless, a prakrta (temporary) pralaya or dissolution takes place. Then Maya, consuming all the world, is absorbed into the independent Paramasiva, who is without attributes. This Maya abides thus (merged) till the ripening of the remaining Karma - when all the world is revealed again.
The Vishnu Purana says - " The earth, the basis of all, becomes dissolved in water, water is absorbed into fire, fire is absorbed into air, air into ether, ether into the Unmanifested (Avyakta or Maya), and this is entirely absorbed in the Unconditioned Purusha." The Avyakta or the Unmanifested is Maya. The dissolution of this Maya is not absolute annihilation, but like the modifications of the mind in the state of sleep, as there is no appearance of the modifications of Maya during Pralaya. Though at that time (of dissolution) by the power of illumination of the unconditioned Supreme Self (Purusha), Maya receives light, yet it remains as if it has no light. If there is no light at all to the Maya, then there is no existence of it. If you accept this theory, there will be no succeeding creation.
The modification of Maya in the form of desire for creation arises in Paramasiva for the sake of bestowing the fruit on those whose unripened Karman are absorbed in Maya, when their Karman become ripe in course of time. It is this state of Maya that is variously described in the scriptures by the words ' desire', 'sight', 'thought' etc. ( refer, And then the Brahman desired, May I be many, etc). This manifestation of Maya characterized by objective distinctions, is the first creation, the creation of Darkness called Tamasa Sarga, void of consciousness. From this creation called Tamasa, in which the three gunas were differentiated, there arose the creation of the partially manifested Mahat. This is the second creation. That is to say, the distinct manifestation of the three gunas as separate (instead of their equipoise), is the second creation, namely that of Mahat.
From that Mahat, arises the third creation, that which is called Ahamkara. In this creation (ahamkara) the three gunas are manifested objectively. This Ahamkara or egoism is threefold, namely Vaikarika (pure), Taijasa (passionate) and Tamasa (Dark) - note that the three gunas Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in concentrations produce the above mentioned threefold manifestations of Ahamkara. The last of these (namely the Tamasa) is the origin of the elements. And as the Tamasa is the origin of the elements, it is to be understood that the rest of creation belong to Sattva and Rajas.
From that Tamasa Ahamkara, which is called the origin of elements, arose, with the aid of Rajas, the creation of the five Tanmatras (subtle elements - refer previous post on tattvas for details). This is the fourth creation.
From the pure ego called Vaikarika Ahamkara, with the aid of Rajas, arose the creation of the aggregate of the eleven senses/organs (the two sets of Indriyas - refer post on tattvas for details). This is the fifth creation.
From the Rajas(passionate) ego named Taijasa ahamkara, arose the deities, Dik, Vata, Arka, Asvins, etc, who are the deities of the fourth and fifth creations. This is the sixth creation.

** The above description is of the Sankhya school. The Saiva school holds as follows - From the pure Vaikarika Ahamkara comes the Mind, from the passionate Taijasa Ahamkara comes the ten senses or Indriyas.***
The above named six creations are Prakrta as they belong to Prakruti.

Then comes the Vaikrta creation or the creation belonging to the products (namely Mahat,etc). This consists of trees etc (with upward life current movement), animals etc (with horizontal life current movement) and the bhuta and pretas (spirits,ghosts,etc with downward life current movement).
These Prakrta and Vaikrta creations when taken together are termed the Kaumara creation. The Puranas say - " The first is the creation of Mahat, there the inequality of the gunas arises. The second is that of egoism (ahamkara) and therein arise Dravya (object), Jnayana (Knowledge) and Kriya (Action). The third is the creation of the elements. There arises the subtle elements (tanmatras) having the energies of the dravyas (objects). The fourth is the creation if the senses (indriya) which consists of Knowledge and Action. The fifth is Vaikarika, the creation of the devas and which consists of the Mind. The sixth is the creation of Tamas which is the creation of the all pervading Maya, devoid of knowledge.
Here the commentator urges that the correct understanding of the above mentioned creations is helped by consulting the vayu and other puranas in this context. As even though the Avyakta or the creation of Maya is described above as being the sixth creation it has to be taken as the first is the order - as the previous one is the origin of succeeding ones. Thus the Supreme Brahman alone is the origin of Maya (Avyakta) and thus all the other creations. Thus He himself has no roots, being the root of all - hence that is the root matter named Mulaprakrti.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Vyasa Pooja

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

As some of you would already know, today is Guru Pournami - The full moon day that is dedicated since time immemorial to the compassionate and enlightened souls that have been the lineage holders of the various Sanatana Dharma lineages. Traditionally considered to start from Vyasa the great Guru, the founder of the vedic lineage that has been gracing the world with its wisdom and love through a succession of wonderful masters.
Today, there are two things to be done. One's own Guru, Parama Guru and Parapara Guru etc and the entire lineage is to be thanked and praised - for without their compassion and grace, the spiritual growth is almost impossible for us, conditioned as we are by eons of vasanas. Gurus in general, from Dattatreya to Dakshinamurty, from Veda Vyasa to Sri Sri Ravishankar, from Bogar to Gorakkar, from Bhaskararaya to Krishna Chaitanya, they all have to be thanked today. It is the accumulated vibrations from all of their (varied) sadhana and other practices that become the drum beat of the rhythm of upliftment for this world.
The second thing to be done is the review of the entire year that has just passed. We have to become aware systematically of the journey (in spiritual terms) that we have gone through in the year gone by. And it is to be acknowledged that all this has been through the grace of the Guru. We then make plans for the next year to come (in spiritual terms again) and perhaps take the vows that will enforce our discipline to be able to accomplish the goals that we set for the year to come. And again, it is to be acknowledged that all this will be possible only through the continued grace of the Guru.
The guru of gurus, Shiva the Yogi beyond all yogis is to be contemplated in the heart. With His five faces. Each of them being the source for the flow of waves of wisdom and knowledge. Waves of love, encompassing All.
The guru of even that Maha Yogi, the Devi, Maha Tripurasundari, is to be contemplated as being within the disc of the luminous full moon. No invoking (avahana ceremony) is needed, as She is eternally present in all Her power in the full moon (as the aggregate of all the Kalas(nitya deities) in the 16th Kala). Through Her grace, this entire three fold universe (Tripura) will be the sporting ground for the devotee. Nothing, then would be impossible.

Let the grace and compassion of the Gurus and the Masters (wherever they are) shower upon all of you, like rain from the dark monsoon clouds. And may all of you feel refreshed by that shower like the body and mind of one who has taken a drought of the nectar of Immortality called Soma.
Om Tat Sat - Sarvam Sri GurudevatArpanamasthu. Om

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Birth of the Tattvas.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

She Says -
''The knowledge of things imperceptible is by means of Inference; as that of Fire (when not directly perceptible) is by means of smoke'' - Thus declares the Sankhya. And since we are attempting here to gain an understanding of things (e.g Prakruti, Purusha, Atma etc) not cognizable by the senses, we must first establish that instrument of right knowledge - Inference (anumana). This inference can be more clearly described as ' the recognition of a sign', as the knowledge that there is a fire in such and such locality where we cannot directly perceive the fire, is brought about by the 'recognition of the sign' occasioned by the smoke. It can be further understood that, that which is true but is not established by inference, will be established by 'revelation'. But here, we will deal mainly with inference to establish the ground realities.

Forget all the stories you have heard before about this creation that begin by saying ' In the beginning there was nothing'....... Consider for a moment that there was in the 'beginning' Two things - Prakruti (Nature) and Purusha (Soul). Now, listen as the Sankhya exposes the rest of the Tattvas (principles) on which all creation is based on.
Prakruti (Nature) is the state of equipoise of Sattva (goodness), Rajas (passion) and Tamas (darkness). The state of equipoise of sattva, rajas and tamas means their state of being neither less not more (one than the other)- put simply, the state of not being an effect/product in which one or other of them predominates. Thus it is clear that Prakruti is the triad of gunas (qualities), quite distinct from the products (to which this triad gives birth to).
From this Prakruti (on the energisation of the gunas) proceeds the Mahat (the Great One/ Mind). This is the principle of Understanding or Buddhi.
From the Mind (Mahat) comes Ahamkara or self consciousness. This self consciousness can be understood to be the conceit of a separate personality.
Of this Ahamkara, the five Tanmatras (subtle elements) and the ten Indriyas ( organs) are products. The five tanmatras or subtle elements are (the principles of) Sound, Touch, Colour, Taste and Smell. The ten indriyas or organs are actually divided into two sets of five indriyas (internal and external). They are also termed Jnyanendriya and Karmendriya (the organs of perception and the organs of action respectively). The organs of perception are the sense organs - Ears, Skin, Eyes, Tongue and Nose and these are called the Jnyanendriyas. The organs of action are Hands, Feet/Legs, Mouth, Anus and Reproductive organs and these are called the Karmendriyas.
The five Tanmatras (subtle elements) give birth to the five Sthula Buthas (Gross elements) which are Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth.
And then there is the Purusha (Soul) which is something that is quite apart and different to either the products or the cause.
Thus the 24 (or 25 if the indriyas were taken to be 11 - will be explained later) tattvas or principles are born which are the aggregate of everything else - that is to say, without these tattvas there is nothing.
Now on the 'inference' relating to the tattvas (please note that the following are based closely on the sankhya doctrine) -
The knowledge of the existence of the five 'subtle elements' is by inference from the five 'gross elements' or the sthula buthas. That is, the Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether are proven to exist by perception and thereby (i.e, from that perception;for perception must precede inference, as sated in the Nyaya sastras) the 'subtle elements' are inferred. The application of the process of inference in this case is as follows:
1. The Gross elements are those which have not reached the absolute limit of simplification or the atomic state, and they consist of things (namely, the subtle elements or Atoms) which have distinct qualities (like for example, the earth element has the distinctive and innate quality of odour, and so on for the others).
2. Because they are gross - And everything that is gross is always formed of something less gross or more simply more subtle. Like the jars, webs etc - i.e, the gross web is formed of the less gross threads and so on)

The knowledge of the existence of Self consciousness (Ahamkara) is by inference from the external and internal organs (indriya) and from these the subtle elements as mentioned above. The application of the process of inference to this case is as follows -
1. The subtle elements(tanmatras) and the organs(indriyas) are made up of things consisting of Self consciousness:
2. Because they are the products of Self consciousness:
3. Whatever is not so (i.e. whatever is not made of self consciousness) is not thus (i.e. it is not a product of self consciousness) as the Soul (Purusha) which not being made up of thereof is not a product of it!
* But then, if it is so; i.e. if it is that all objects, such as jars, are made up of Self consciousness, while Self consciousness depends on 'Understanding' or 'Intellect' or 'Mind', the first product of Prakruti, then some may say that, since it would be the case that the self consciousness of the potter is the material (cause) of the jar, the jar then made by him would disappear, on the death of the potter, whose internal organ (or Understanding) then surceases. And this the objector might go on to say, is not the case; because another man (after the death of the potter) recognizes that ' this is that same jar (which you may remember was made by our deceased acquaintance)'
In reply to such an objection the Sankhya says - It is not thus, because on one's death, there is an end of only those modifications of his internal organ ('Intellect') which could be the cause (as the jar no longer can be) of the emancipated soul's experiencing good or ill. But it is not an end of the modifications of intellect on general nor is it an end of intellect altogether. Thus we are spared the trouble of further argument so far as concerns the objection on the assumption that the intellect of the potter surceases on his death. We can go further to admit, for the sake of argument, the surcease of the 'intellect' of the dead potter, without conceding any necessity for the surcease of his pottery.
Also to be understood as - 'Let the Self consciousness (Ahamkara) of the Deity be the cause why jars and the like (all objects) continue to exist, and not the self consciousness of the potter (who may lose their self consciousness, whereas the Diety, the sum of all life, never loses His/Her Self consciousness as long as living continues (which it will endlessly).

The knowledge of the existence of Intellect is by inference from Self Consciousness. That is to say by inference from the existence of self consciousness, which is a product, there comes the knowledge of 'Intellect' (Buddhi) or the great 'inner organ' (antahkarana). Hence it is called 'Mahat' or the 'Great one'. The existence of this is recognized under the character of the cause of this product (namely, self consciousness).
The application of this inference is as follows:
1. The thing called Self consciousness is made up of things that consist of the moods of judgment (or Mind).
2. Because it is a thing which is a product of judgment.
3. Whatever is not so (i.e. whatever is not made out of judgment or mental assurance) is not thus (i.e. not a product of mental assurance). Like the Soul (Purusha) which is not made out of this or anything antecedent.
* The reasoning behind it is as follows - Every one, having first determined anything under a concept (i.e. under such a form of thought as is expressed by a general term), after that makes the judgment, 'This is I', or 'This is to be done by me', and so forth, so much is quite settled. Now having in the present instance, to look for some cause of the thing called ' Self consciousness' which manifests in the various judgements just referred to, and since the relation of cause and effect subsists between the two functions ( the occasional conception and the subsequent occasional judgment, which is a function of the self consciousness), it is assumed, merely that the relation of cause and effect exists between the two substrate to which the two sets of functions belong. It hence follows, as a matter of course, that the occurrence of a function of the effect must result from the occurrence of a function of the cause.

Listen to the Caterpillar!

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

''O, Fellow Pilgrim, I hope that you have enjoyed your forays here over the last few weeks. I hope too, that you feel comfortable and ready to go with me on this yatra (yes, I am afraid we must begin our 'ascent' on schedule) from here. Before the ascent though, we must settle on a comfortable ' base camp' - don't you think? And from that 'base' (adhara) we will begin to gain altitude ( be warned - the dizzying heights of this mental exercise coupled with the effects of oxygen deprivation as a result of all the herbs, will I am sure, leave you fit to collapse).''
The welcome and the warning now done with, we shall go over to the disclaimer part - '' Well, do not try this at home on your own. If you are determined to try it anyway, then all the best! All litigation subject to the jurisdiction of Sri Nagara, Beyond all worlds.'' Now, over to the content and the description of the aforementioned 'base camp'.

Like with most things, you would (quite naturally) want to start at the very 'beginning'. Good. So I will. The only thing is, what could we safely assume to be the 'beginning' of this universe which is lauded in the Vedas as the 'one without any beginning or end'? Where then can we 'begin'? With my innate capacity for being distracted, I choose not to dwell on this theoretical dilemma at present, but rather, to surge ahead (ah, the delusions, the grandeur) with the task at hand. Namely, to begin, somewhere, 'any'where! After some deliberation I think that a microscopic/ pre natal view of Cosmology (the story of how all 'this' came into being) is what we will hold as our 'base camp'. From there we will begin this journey.

Come now, Pilgrim, sit here a while. Join me and the others here as we huddle together in a circle around the dhuni (yogi's fire place), warm but gently tingled by the clear crisp Himalayan air. The night sky is a riot of stars, and there is not a sound to be heard. Or is there? Sshhh, listen, can you hear it? Sounds like the swarming noise of bees, millions of bees, hhrriimmmm....did you hear it? And did you notice how the humming suddenly turned into the clear, pleasing voice of the woman? Ah, yes, She is a great story teller, and now, She is ready, with Her voice and our minds all tuned to each other.....

Thursday, June 29, 2006

More on Maya

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Some of you, perhaps, read and re read the story that was told through the past 3 posts. And maybe some of you noticed that the term 'Unborn' is used in quite a few places in the narrative to describe Maya. Perhaps, you questioned that in your own mind to try and ascertain the reasons for the use of such a term- and maybe you arrived at a conclusion from lots of deliberation? But, it could very well be that I am too delusional (being the romantic that I am) in expecting that! So, here is some additional context that might help in understanding the nature of Maya.
The great Maya (MahaMaya) is said to be unborn, as She is precisely that - Unborn! ''How so?'' I hear you question -
Maya is unborn because Her nature is that of the three gunas. It has been established by the learned that Prakruti is that state which is the equipoise (equilibrium) of the three gunas. In this state the activity of each of the gunas neutralize the other - i.e. the 3 gunas are present, but as they are in equilibrium nothing is produced not lost as a result of the gunas. Everything in this embodied universe (whether seen or not) is a result of the action of these 3 gunas. Thus Maya is inherent (due to Her being of the nature of the 3 gunas) in the very nature of this Moola Prakruti. Just like how in the banyan seed the size of a mustard, an immense tree is inherent (though there is no indication of that from the appearance of the seed itself). Maya (or the 3 gunas which are the components of Maya) is thus inherent in Prakruti (albeit in a latent/neutralized form).
Thus Maya is spontaneously manifest from the Unborn and eternal Prakruti, when that state of equilibrium of the 3 gunas is disturbed due to an agitation ( the nature and cause of the said agitation is for another day). Thus instantly and spontaneously many evolutes are manifest from the One cause. Hence this Maha Maya precedes all creation and as such is unborn and She forms the basis of all creation.

This nature of Maya having been established, brings before us the next question - How does this Maya operate? And what purpose does Her (Maya's) operation serve? There are many out there who would have you believe (if you gave them even half a chance) that Her chief purpose is to delude the jivas. They would paint a picture, quite terrible in nature, and quote endless scriptures to argue that Maya is the cause of all our woes. They would tell you that were it not for Maya and her deluding influence, we (humans) would always be at one with the Brahman. Furthermore, they would have it that Maya is the reason for the endless suffering in the circle of birth and death - the constantly turning wheel of Samsara.
But, ask yourself this - Would the Supreme Brahman (the root and essence of all creation), who is in the nature of Sat Chit Ananda (eternal,consciousness, bliss) and who is in the nature of Love, have it in His/Her/It's heart to delude on purpose? And what end could we assign for such delusion (of His/Her/It self)?? Why cause the birth of endless universes, all of them founded on and operating through an exquisite system of natural law (Dharma) - if the sole purpose behind is to deliver the worlds and beings so created in to an endless cycle of sorrow and delusion? It doesn't make any sense, does it?
My heart tells me that it certainly cannot be true that Maya is delusion (of a negative and misleading kind). Maya is delusion all right, I give you that, but She isn't a cruel joke played on the universe by its creator. If She is delusion, then Her purpose is to delude the Purusha (Brahman). For, when the One Being the Supreme Brahman (this Brahman is a 50 - 50 mix of Purusha and Prakruti, Siva&Shakti, consciousness & Power, Potential & Kinetic) 'desired, may I be many', then the Prakruti part of the Brahman energized herself (thereby disturbing the equilibrium state of the inherent 3 gunas). Were it not for the 'magic' of the effects of this energising of Prakruti, it would not be possible for the One Brahman (the Lord who desired to create and become manifold) to become manifest as many. This state of energized (activated) gunas is Maya and She immediately gives birth to the principal evolutes of Mahat (The Great one - which is to be understood as Manas, Buddhi and Ahamkara) and then the five Jyanendriyas(5 organs of sense perception) and the five Karmendriyas (5 organs of action) and they subsequently give birth to the 5 subtle elements from which the 5 gross elements (of ether,air,fire,water and earth) are born. The world as we know it is a gross and much later evolute that proceeded from the various combinations of the above mentioned 5 gross elements. Thus Maya precedes all and is Herself an aspect of the supreme Shakti (Para Shakti). It is through the veil of Maya that the world appears manifold and it is through the piercing of this veil that the world appears as the One Brahman. By 'piercing' I do not mean conquering or destroying etc - I mean 'piercing' or penetrating, similar to the piercing of the granthis (knots) in the sushumna by the Kundalini shakti as she ascends towards the Sahasrara.
A more detailed analysis of what has been discussed above will follow soon in another post where we will look at this aided by the Sankhya and the Tantrika points of view.
Part of this point is also touched upon by the following sloka in the Varivasya.