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!