The elixir of life
The divine rays of the moon
The soft reflection of cool light
In the water of the stream that flows
The sounds of the ripples
Awakens the primordial sound
Bringing alive the subtle world
As I immerse my being in this flow
The universe brightens
The night sky all clear
The chill in the air sweeps by
In the pure breath that dives within
I am jeeva, I am life
I am this phenomenon present now
The shimmering waters cover my soul
Opening the channels of life within my breath
I drink this elixir of life
This wholesome breath enriches my soul
My body submerged in these divine ripples
I hear the primordial sound in my ears
I rise out of the waters
Tiny silvery droplets cover me
I wear this shimmering cloak
Moon droplets cover my being
The night has set in, the moon rises high as I step into this ocean of peace. The waters are silent shimmering in the moon light bathe me in this heavenly theater. I breathe, taking in this silent intoxication as I wake up to the shining rays of the moon defined by Kaala that brings energy of a different kind that needs to be consciously experienced during the pattern of regular breathing.
In the pleasant silence under the night sky shimmering with stars and other heavenly celestial bodies, my mind drifts into the wholesome breath that fills my lungs. Cool breeze in steady flow, pass through one nostril as I hold my breath to feel the chill in the air. The calm in the air brings alive the moment of lull, the equilibrium that knows no time, no kaala, no breath but just this cool sensation that begins to grow within myself. The breath gets slower, the exhalation lesser and the air turns into this growing elixir that stays on longer, bringing the senses to a halt.
The body relaxed, the senses settled, the mind at rest is the definition of this equilibrium. The night is quiet and all have slept leaving its beauty ready to be experienced by inner vision. The full moon glows, the light penetrates the space, the air settles and the magical world of the celestials comes alive. They have come too, to worship the supreme, to appreciate the untouched beauty of divine creation while the world rests in deep slumber.
As the moon waxes the kaalas expand, the rays become stronger and brighten this world, and as the moon wanes they contract fading into the darkness slowly. Every night I visit this stream, I breathe and experience this beauty that appears in my mind, this world that awakens within my consciousness. This is the world of Kundalini, as it rises from the Muladhara to the Sahasrara. This is the heat, this is the fire, and this is the Agni Kundalini that arises from the Muladhara to the Anahata as it awakens me at every point, as the lotus of my consciousness blooms. I rise from the Anahata, the Kundalini now glows as bright as the sun, bringing alive the surya mandala that has been lying dormant in me. This awakening is silent, in the moon lit night as the energy rises up towards Susumna. My breath is rhythmic, the nadis open, I breathe in wholesome and rise to Chandra Kundalini. Here the Kundalini resides at Sahasrara, here my energy converges into the divine as Turiya Kundalini.
With every rise of Kundalini I hear my heart resound, I hear the beat of creation as the rhythm of subtle life is ignited with every breath that flows through me. I am the self sustaining, I am one with the divine, and I am life that lives a thousand years. I stand here under the starry sky, as I feel the celestials arrive, blessing me in their divine light, that bathes me in the silence of this moonlit night. This is the world of the divine - of the devas, of the gandharvas and of the greater Gods, who bless me - as the Sun glows in his splendor blowing his conch and awakens the celestial world, welcoming me home.
This is pure consciousness, this is “chit”, this is the moment of truth, and in this silent moon lit night, I hear the divine couple play this beautiful game of dice. This is another world so far removed from the noise of maya that I have been sucked into. This is the pure sound of the pranava mantra, the sound of creation, the sound of OM. As the divine dice roll on, it is a small play of love, of union between Lord Shiva and his consort, Tripurasundari. This is the world of Lord Shiva and Tripurasundari, their beauty overwhelming as the Mother blesses me with her half opened eyes that bloom like water lilies in the night sky. This is pure elixir, this is pure amrita, this is somaskanda, that bring me to witness the divine couple within my mind, awakening my soul to new renewed undying consciousness.
Srinivasan breathed a heavy breath, he was exhausted and he wanted to just settle his mind on the form of Dakshinamurthy. Shiva, the intellectual, with his eyes closed in dhyana sits under the fig tree with the six great sages; the Sanakadimunivars listen in silence as the pearls of wisdom fall into existence. This is a form of Shiva who is composed of bliss, intelligence and existence, who controls the world of Maya at will, who has no beginning nor end and yet is formless himself.
There is eloquence in his being; there is purity in the air around him and the soft verses of praise rhythmically bathe the ambience for the seeker to listen.
Through the illusion of Atman, he who sees the universe exist within himself during his hours of sleep, like a city exists within a mirror, such that the universe looks like a manifestation of its own, he who beholds himself when awake, his own, the incarnate of the teacher, to him, the teacher who faces south, to him I bow.
He manifests himself in the bodies of all, of Brahma, of the devas, of Purusha (man) and of pashu(lesser animals). He is within those that are womb born, egg born, sweat born and earth born. When he is realized the world melts into him as if it were a blissful dream. And therefore I come into existence, I am life, I am consciousness, and I am pure.
Tat Tvam Asi
But I am a prisoner in this thick fog of Maya, my consciousness manifests itself as imagination, doubt, confusion, memory, determination, guess... Thus I adopt a school of thought, to understand and find, to realize myself. And thus I hold on to life, to meaning and to philosophy, to escape the clutches of this Maya that imprisons my mind. And so philosophy was born.
Charvaka: or Lokayatas hold that nothing is real except that which is revealed to the senses.
Kanada: founder of the Vaiseshika school of thought, believe that character and attributes are inherent in the atoms themselves and thus gives rise to objects of creation as well as their qualities.
Sugata: the popular Buddha believes Atman is not independent of the state of consciousness which is ever changing with every moment
Sankhyas: who follow the doctrines of Kapila and Patanjali, that the universe consists of two realities, Purusha(consciousness) and Prakriti(phenomenal realm of matter), the experience and the experienced, and where ultimate realization is achieved by following Ashtanga yoga.
Vedantins: who believe in the system of Sariraka-mimamsa, that explains the nature of Brahman
Pauranikas: who believe in the puranas that explain the creation of the universe and its beings and explain the histories and descriptions of various Gods and Goddesses.
Pratyakshas: who believe in sensuous perception, right knowledge obtained by sense organs coming in contact with external objects, like color is obtained through the eye.
Anumana: right knowledge obtained from the process of inference, that where there is smoke, there has to be fire. Hence the inference is fire as the presence of smoke reveals it.
Sabda: right knowledge obtained through verbal statement from a trust worthy source.
Upamana: right knowledge that is obtained from the process of comparison
Arthapatti: knowledge in the form of presumption, surmising a thing to account for something else that is known.
Abhava: immediate consciousness of the non existence of something by the non perception of it, therefore if it existed it should be perceived.
Sambhava: the right knowledge as to the existence of a part, when we know the whole of which it is a part also exists.
Aitihya: right knowledge obtained by centuries of tradition, transmitted generation to generation of which the source is unknown.
Srinivasan sighed, feeling the silence and bliss within him. Time doesn’t exist, its part of the very Maya we are engulfed with, Kala defines the change that is felt or perceived in that which is living, that which has prana, that which is Atman. Srinivasan stood bewildered with the thought of the great Lord of the South, who touches the consciousness, who governs the ever open mind into a state of everlasting bliss.
He had awoken to the truth of Dakshinamurthy and yet he could scarcely comprehend it. The truth echoed in his mind and yet the fog didn’t lift. The peace of equilibrium and high emotional bliss touched him and yet he felt it was momentary. The thought of coming back to this world brought his mind crashing into the depths of Maya we all know so well.
Srinivasan opened his eyes, Lord Dakshinamurthy continued to be in dhyana with his eyes closed. The apasmara purusha, the emblem of ignorance felt like that of Shrinivasan’s as he felt the warm force of divine Lord gently crush his “imagined” self. He was the seventh present, who tried hard to listen to the truth of the universe and yet those words felt like they fell on deaf ears.
Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu | Gurur Devo Mahesh Varaha||
Guru Shakshat Para Brahma|Tasmai Shri Guruve Namaha||
Guruve sarva lokaanaam Bhishaje bhava roginaam|
Nithyai sarvadhiyaanam Dakshinamurthaye namo namaha||
Guruve sarva lokaanaam Bhishaje bhava roginaam|
Nithyai sarvadhiyaanam Dakshinamurthaye namo namaha||
Dakshinamurthy stotra of Sri Shankaracharya, text translated by Alladi Mahadeva Shastri
Puja brings peace to the mind, and as one observes the Lord in the lamp light, there is certain brilliance to his being as he appears to reside at his seat, within a humble puja room, enhancing this throne, this space to a higher spiritual level with his presence.
Fire has divine light, and as it glows, it brings alive the invisible presence of the Lord to us. This silent conversation brings deep thought as the Lord plays with the thoughts in the mind. Here is one such conversation.
Be it the chilling presence of the Lord on the river side in the cold wintry morning or be it the warmth of the Lord in the darkness of the Garbha griha, his form rings with enigma as one wonders about the various avatars he has taken in different mythologies. We are very accepting when it comes to his soumya forms, where he is depicted with Parvati as a gentle husband, as the divine Lord, but we can scarcely accept his presence as Kalabhairava, the fierce self.
As the conversation proceeds, the mind dwells on the fact that it’s not just material detachment that one is expected to do away with for higher spiritual satisfaction. That is probably the beginning of it. Detachment from the material world brings additional concentration and more time and mind space that can be spent on the Lord. It brings peace of mind and creates the ambience for higher thoughts to take shape. And then the subtle universe awakens in the mind.
Kala Bhairava rules the land of Ujjain and also the Ghats of Varanasi. And the bhaktas follow the rule when they life and experience the presence of the Lord here. Be it the aghoris of today’s world or be it the ancient world of Karraikkal Ammaiyar, the gore of the cremation ground and the fearful aspect of death is what echoes in these places. Kalabhairava creates fear, with well documented spells that state that blood and flesh needs to be sacrificed to win the trust and blessings of this form of Lord Shiva. This is enough to make us take a step back, us as in the so called civilized world.
Mahakala, Kalabhairava, Rudra are all fierce expressions of Lord Shiva, dressed in a garland of skulls, smeared with red kumkum on the forehead, free flowing matted hair and shown in a posture that spells destruction. Rudra on the other hand is red eyed and signifies tears with a fiery halo that makes him appear even more dynamic. These forms of the Lord do not look half as scary but the reality of these forms bring fear when the normal aghoris try to ape them, for they have not reached that level of divinity that calls for the warmth that is felt even in these wild forms when the Lord takes them.
This is the subtle world, a world of no bias towards preconceived ideas. This is the second level of renunciation that is expected of us. The first was material, the second is attitude. Did Lord Shiva take on these forms to teach us that there is no room for fear even if he appears fearsome? This appearance can make us squirm or this appearance can intrigue us that there is warmth and protection even when he appears to hold the kabala of a human in his hand and demands blood in his bowl!
Multi handed, the all powerful form of Mahakala is seated on his throne at Ujjain, in front of whom Bali is offered, it has been a blood bath of animals or people. This blood of sacrifice was religiously offered to the deity by pouring it into the cup he held in his left hand. In all his forms, with the variations in the number of hands he is depicted with, he is depicted holding a bowl in his left hand in which is offered blood or grain depending on where he is and the form he takes. Bhikshatana, or Nataraja, Kalabhairava or Mahakala, he walks with matted hair and little cloth roaming the forests or the cremation grounds. This is also Shiva.
In the holy city of Ujjain, Mahalaka here is offered liquor, liquor that is visibly consumed. This liquor represents the blood that used to be offered in ancient days. Mahakala’s association with liquor, may appear to be for the wrong reasons, be it an offering into his cup in the ancient temple at Ujjain or be it into the funeral pyre by the aghoris at Varanasi. This liquor is a lot more than an alcoholic offering for consumption by the deity. What could possibly be the association of liquor to blood that is considered so sacred, be it any form…
In this awry image of the Lord I am forced to make a distinct parallel. In the Bible, Jesus Christ held up his wine glass during the Last Supper and said “This is my blood” and then he held up a piece of bread and said “This is my flesh”. The Last Supper was recorded as a turning point in the life of Christ where he headed towards sacrificing his life for the rest of mankind, to be crucified at the cross. His last words "forgive them Lord for they know not what they are doing".
Disconnected though it may seem, I am unable to ignore this rare co-incidence of commonality between two very different faiths. What then is the significance of blood to wine/liquor? As one of the interpretations in the bible says, blood that flows as an offering to the Lord is the river of everlasting life, liquor or wine is the world of illusion, and the bread was the body of Christ in this case. And the forgiveness is towards mass ignorance, not towards crucifying him.
This description brings alive the presence of Mahakala Shiva, to whom human and animal sacrifices were once made, the flesh or the body of the deceased represented the corpse, the end of time, the end of life similar to that on which Ma Kali walks. This is the obvious description that hits the eye and that which has been documented. What is missing is the subtle thought of renunciation, where the blood flowing is the life that is within me, where the liquor is this illusion, this bias or attitude to differentiate that I wish to give up as I present it in the bowl that the Lord holds towards me. I give up my fear, I give up my colored thoughts, I give up the self that is so disillusioned. I am pure and I have lost every sense of attachment, to the world and to my thoughts, to my bias and to my attitude. And then I can join Karraikkal Ammaiyar in her unending bhakti towards Lord Shiva, who dances the tandava among the flames of the cremation ground, and all I see is pure love, pure bhakti, and pure thought.
The temple, sacred in its presence and alive with energy that sets the heart beating when a devotee walks in wanting to catch the sight of Paramatman again in his aniconic form, is the seat of the universe itself.
The walls don't just house the supreme emblem inside but fortify the very energy center along a ground plan that is the blue print of the yantra that forms the mystic symbol of the individual Gods and Goddesses.
The yantra is the mystical base on which either temples rise or Gods descend into puja rooms. Be it an elaborate architectural wonder or be it a picture of deity well decorated within the puja room, the form takes on that which is intricately woven into the sacred syllables within the yantra - the geometrical representations of these deities.
This is not just about geometrical patterns that mystically define a form that we feel a lot familiar with in pictures, these are sacred beeja mantra syllables that define a lot more and call upon the very living force to bless the home or the temple with their presence.
Entering into the main temple shrine is defined by the number of gates that surround it, in the south of India, this is defined by the gopurams in four cardinal directions as well as the number of walls one crosses to get to the main shrine, which is the same as depicting 4 square gateways that lead into the center of the yantra from its four square sides describing the same gates geometrically in abstraction. This in popular terms is possibly called Vaastu Shastra.
Coming into the vicinity of this energy center entails one to be pure physically as per the scriptures. Be it a bath before the puja or be it a dip in the temple tank one is purified physically before they make their way to the main shrine. With offerings of flower and fruit, coconut and small flame of life the devotee offers moments of contemplation to the Istha Devata.
Walking around the temple as one advances towards the sanctum, brings the devotee face to face with the many Avatars the deity took to bring calm into the universe, the same is described by sacred syllables and minute depiction of the sacred self in the geometry of the yantra either obviously or through direction that emphasizes the respective forms as in the case of Sadashiva who is made of 8 forms of himself, each representing a cardinal direction. Back in the picture, this might not be depicted altogether but is largely understood.
In contemplation, deities appear either 2 handed,4 handed, 8 handed or 16 handed. Each hand carries an element, that visually appears like a noose, a sickle, sword, axe, arrow or bow etc. but also carries a profound sound that is capsuled with energy around the deity, defining their presence a lot more effectively in contemplation. These profound sounds are small syllables that appear in petals around the main geometrical form, in numbers of 4, 8, or 16 petals of a lotus inscribed in the yantra. In the picture at home, the deity is seen carrying these elements or is seated on a lotus seat of similar number of petals.
The Yantra described triangles with colors representing various Gods and Goddesses, the same is redefined in the clothes they wear in the pictures. Authentic pictures always show Devi in red and Ganesha in green and yellow. Decorating the deity with a crown and ornaments with flowers and clothes is similar to doing alankaram to the yantra after regular abhishekam. The same is done in a more elaborate way within the temple walls where the deities are dressed in the same colors in silks.
Contemplation involves invoking these forms of the supreme by regularly reciting the sacred syllables and mantras that bring them alive. Back at home, this leads the bhakta into silent japa, at the temple the priest utters these sounds during abhishekam. The energy is kept alive and the deity invoked blesses the bhakta.
On completion of this contemplation, as the peace sinks in, the devotee raises the small deepam in aarti, culminating the puja to an end. The priest raises the aarti in various lights, of numbers 1, 3, 5, 27 and 108, with mudras and offerings of a parasol, fanning and other sacred symbols of divine praise, offering them to the devata who is seated on their throne, beautifully decorated within their sanctum. This is the same form that is captured in a picture that comes alive within the puja room, a visual and far more familiar and understandable form as compare to a yantra, that strangely asks for more rule and greater care in its worship.
As one goes deeper into worship, spending more time in contemplation, one comes into understanding deeper levels of worship, superior forms of ritual that define methodology that helps realize the secrecy of this mysticism which brings alive a different world to the bhakta. This mysticism can just be realized and experienced, as the devotee is blessed with heightened emotion, mesmerized by the very form that they see of the supreme paramatma. These are in the form of mudra, natya, song, japa, vrata and sadhana.
This entire ritual through life, awakens the istha devata within the self and triggers energy of a different kind within the physical temple that we are built of, awakening each chakra within our system and converting us into a living temple where the apasmara is smashed to give way for the supreme to be enthroned within the seat of our sanctum - hrudaya kamalam.