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Swamusings @ 50 ~ Different Folks… Very Different Strokes..!

3 May

Swamusings @ 50 ~ Different Folks… Very Different Strokes..!

There were two sets of people with whom conversation happened today. That too in the morning itself, which is practically impossible in Swamyverse. It’s as rare as Pournami (பௌர்ணமி – full moon) and Amavasya (அமாவாசை – new* / no moon) happening on the same day, which actually happened only once as far as we know, resulting in the amazing, revered verses known as Abhirami Andhaadhi (அபிராமி அந்தாதி). The first stanza of the first verse ‘உதிக்கின்ற செங்கதிர் உச்சித் திலகம்’ is a near-perfect தமிழ் version of SindhooraaruNa vigrahaam (சிந்தூராருண விக்ரஹாம்) – the beginning of Lalitha SahasraNhaamam. Ah, the genre hopping mind…

Anyway, the first call was made to Swamy and the second one was made by Swamy (no choice there – yep, Swamy does make phone calls, once in a red moon). Both conversations were with elderly people, who diligently stick to the ancient practice of celebrating / wishing others only during the janma nakshathram day (ஜென்ம நக்ஷத்திர தினம்), and strictly avoid that on the birth date, which has never been part of this ancient culture anyway (anniversary celebration is a western import, unsurprisingly tied to all kinds of commercial extortion).

In both conversations, the male elders offered the customary aaseervadham (ஆசீர்வாதம் – blessings / wishes by elders) and promptly handed over the phone to the female elders (and most probably went on / away to finish today’s newspaper/s). It’s the conversation with the two female elders that did the naamakaranam (நாமகரணம் – giving a name to someone) for this post, i.e. ‘Different Folks… Very Different Strokes..!’

The first conversation (call-in on WhatsApp, in line with the social times we survive these days) was about Swamy’s childhood (the ‘primary school’ period, to be precise), which didn’t happen in his parental home but at his maternal grandparents’ home. The reason cited still is ‘good education,’ which is debatable to this date. In reality, there was a separation of a first-born child from the parents, for a few years, when siblings were getting added to the brood. It was most probably done without any ulterior motive, unless of course such a separation was advised by a family josier, in which case the elders of the day will ensure strict adherence to such ‘expert’ advise, without question. And that child grew up to be a loner, despite being part of a fairly large family, which moulded him into an inward-dwelling quiet persona (other than the moments of angry outburst, of course), who prefers solitude at all times, for the rest of this lifetime. Since any debate about the past is utterly pointless, let’s leave that aside, conserving time, effort and energy. 

Coming back to that first conversation, it was filled with reminiscences of events from a long gone past, which apparently was still vivid in the caller’s mind. Swamy couldn’t even remember one of the incidents recalled, which is quite surprising since that event has happened during his youth, much of which he could recall well – especially that particular time period, which was truly life-altering. Before you begin to wonder, no, it had nothing to do with spirituality, other than Swamy trying to be a non-believer for a brief period of time, resulting from a very active youngster’s utter frustration of being confined to a bed, for several months (due to a sports accident, that required 2 surgeries to fix and recover from the physical injury). Overall, that conversation was an enthusiastic recall of the past, ending with one more round of blessings for a long, healthy life.

The second conversation was predominantly about the event of Swamy’s birth itself, which should’ve been like any other child birth. It was and wasn’t. Instead of a BAUHumbug routine event, that child birth apparently transformed into a memorable event due to a few reasons, some of which may sound a bit imaginative, but were true nevertheless.

  • First, he was the first ‘male’ child to be born in a new government hospital (the hospital itself was fairly new and until then all child births there were producing only girls, apparently).
  • Second, he was born on the day of Dhikvijayam (royal procession on all directions – forgive the transliteration, since there aren’t any exact equivalent in english for many such sanskrit words) of the reigning Goddess/Empress of the town Devi Meenakshi (this is one of the key events of the famous annual festival known as Chithirai Thiruvizha – சித்திரை திருவிழா).
  • And third, the Apollo-13 spacecraft landed safely back on earth on that day on the other side of the world, despite major technical difficulties, which ended up giving this first-born male child of a tamil family an english nickname ‘Apolloer,’ in small town Madurai. Considering there was no social media or TV then – it was 50 years ago, after all – and the only news sources were the radio and newspapers, visualising that amusing/amazing situation is left to your vivid imagination.

The conversation which went on for some time turned out to be more about the mother than the child.. heh.. heh.. Despite Swamy’s poking, not much was recalled about that (supposedly) wonder kid, but quite a bit was spoken about the mother of that child and her childbearing experiences.

Thus started the actual anniversary dhinam of a child who was born in the popular temple town of Madurai on this exact day (per the janma nakshathram, of course), five decades ago. Today happens to be not only the janma nakshathram day, but also the Dhikvijayam of Madurai MeenAkshi Amman. Despite the amazing similarities of the two days, 50 years apart, there is also a significant difference, which is quite sad, considering it involves not just Swamy or his extended family, but the populace of the entire town and nearby towns and villages as well.

The famous annual (summer) festival of Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple is being celebrated this year in a very subdued manner within the temple itself, due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Both Chennai, where Swamy resides and Madurai, where he was born and brought up, are unfortunately marked as ‘Red Zone’s. Typically, there’ll be several thousands of ardent devotees thronging the vast – and ancient, needless to say – temple, during each day of the nearly 2-week long festival, despite the blazing summer sun. On the special days such as Thirukkalyaanam (திருக்கல்யாணம்), DhikVijayam (திக்விஜயம்), KaLLazhagar EdhirsEvai (கள்ளழகர் எதிர்சேவை), the crowd of devotees will easily swell to lakhs. Till date, Meenakshi Amman isn’t just a deity inside  the temple for the emotionally-charged Madurai folks. She is considered very much their own Amma, i.e. mother.

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Of course, as far as Swamy is considered, today is just another day – golden anniversary or otherwise. He’s thankful for waking up as usual, still breathing fine. The nondescript daily events list is getting ticked of one by one, as any other day in the recent past. His sahadharmini (சஹதர்மிணி) was kind enough to prepare sweet pongal (சர்க்கரை பொங்கல்) to mark the occasion, which is the only noteworthy change from the routine post-retirement living. Usually, some kind of sweet prasaadham (பிரசாதம் – offering to the divine) is prepared only for festivals celebrated in SwamyHome. Today is anyway the Jagathjanani (ஜகத்ஜனனி – universal Mother) RaajaMaathangi’s DhikVijayam festival day. So, in a household with Devi’s presence (in the form of Devi Linga Bhairavi Yantra), it’s appropriate to offer sweet prasaadham on this day.

Those two conversations of the day went on to highlight the saying ‘Different Folks, Different Strokes.‘ Very different strokes, i.e. perspectives, indeed. Neither is good or bad, obviously. They are who they are and what they remember and recall is what they have experienced and thereby know. What each elder expressed was certainly true, as it is based on their own direct experience. But it’s the perspective offered that makes them vastly different from each other.

One looked at it from the perspective of bringing up an interesting child, that wasn’t her own. She was only an indirect stakeholder in shaping up that child’s life trajectory, despite actually bringing up that child for a certain period of time – a very crucial time in that child’s existence. So the recall of her experiences reflected that child’s skills, attributes, characteristics. In a way, it was a retelling of that child’s growing up days, as it was.

The other elder’s experience was of her own, rather than the child. This could be simply due to her own very first childbearing experience (she ended up doing it quite a few times, afterwards), which must have been overwhelming for a young woman from a traditional upbringing with limited external exposure of the world. For the child, who himself is nearly as experienced as those elders now, as a retiree at 50 (the planned retirement itself happened 5 years ago), the perspectives were quite a revelation – despite not being able to recall an event or two, of his own life, covered in those conversations!

Oh, before concluding this one, it’s worth recalling (pun, absolutely intended 😉 another post by Swamy on the occasion of the calendar birthday/date, couple of weeks ago. That post, ‘ஐம்பதிலும் ஞானம் வரும்!‘ is much more elaborate and will offer quite a few insights for readers who contemplate whatever they read. Here’s a link…

ஐம்பதிலும் ஞானம் வரும் ~ ஸ்வாமியின் உயிர்மெய் பதிவு  

As a species endowed with relatively higher intelligence (not necessarily better though) in this vast creation, our perspective of things, events and people is a result of our ability to shape and utilise that intelligence. There’s no doubt the environment in which we were born and brought up – including the people around and close to us at the time of growing up – plays a significant role in shaping our personality and perspectives.

But one’s perspective can eventually change – wider, broader, deeper – based on one’s exposure to the external world, commonly known as society. Such change in perspective is an outcome of both personal and professional experiences. But the caveat for such a change is one’s in/ability to assimilate, contemplate and comprehend life happening all around, objectively, without colouring them with subjective bias of any kind. In essence, how much a being changes or doesn’t is entirely in the hands of that being.

At 50, Swamy’s perspective of Life (the way humans know and live it) has changed quite significantly. Realising mere survival is just a BAUHumbug routine, he has consciously bid adieu to the corporate world, where he performed his survival act in a reasonably successful way for nearly two-and-a-half decades, five years ago and started treading a different path, to realise the Truth (about Creator, creation, existence, et al) and attain Mukti (the ultimate liberation from the repetitive birth-death lifecycle spiral).

This ongoing journey has significantly altered Swamy’s perception of Life (the way it is, i.e. Reality) as well, though there is still a long way to go, inward of course. So for the seeker that Swamy is nowadays, pretty much full-time, this day too shall come to pass, just like any other day in the past, including the day in the long gone past when he came (back!) into the world of survival, one more time, as the jyEshta kumaaran (ஜேஷ்ட குமாரன் – first-born male child) of a god+government fearing humble middle-class family, in the temple town of Madurai, on the auspicious day of DhikVijayam of Meenakshi Amman (மதுரை மீனாட்சி அம்மன் திக்விஜயம்).

The just-born ‘apolloer’ has certainly travelled a looooooooooong way – literally and experientially – from that day and place. And life goes on, without being bothered about whether he has turned 5 or 14 or 23 or 50, on this particular day!

2016-02-07-19-45-40Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 

 

 

 

 

Annaiyarumai ARidhal – அன்னையருமை அறிதல் ~ a special ‘exceptional’ dedication

7 Apr

Annaiyarumai ARidhal – அன்னையருமை அறிதல்

~ a special ‘exceptional’ dedication

I’ve never been someone who’ll do முகஸ்துதி anyone… on any occasion. Not my parents… better-half (she truly is)… child… family… boss… friends… political leaders… celebrities… This has ensured me being kept away from many ‘inner circles’, on purpose, pretty much all my life – in this lifetime. I’ve even missed awards at educations institutions and on-time promotions at the workplace, despite having all the necessary credentials in place. I’m now actually immune to exclusion and rejection.
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People love to pleased. That’s the norm in the society we’re part of. I’m someone who brazenly shows the middle finger to the norms of the society, while diligently remaining a law-abiding citizen and an ethical, kind (as much as it’s possible at my level) human being. I have never attempted to ‘please’ anyone, ever. And don’t see myself changing during the remaining part of this lifetime. But people haven’t gotten used to this in-your-face fact. Even those who (probably!) knew me for almost five decades now. Yep, it’s just a few more days folks… for yet another utterly pointless lifetime ‘milestone’ – a golden one at that! BAUHumbug.
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That kind of attitude hurts people. And I know it hurts. Despite the honesty of not having two faces – a fake one for the society and the real one that’s carefully masqueraded. And people remember only hurtful things. Kind things, however frequent (or infrequent) they are, don’t count. ‘Being nice’ is grossly overrated, while ‘Being kind’ is greatly underrated in this world. Aghast at seeing someone not even pretending to ‘be nice’, people carry the ‘hurtful’ load till they can’t carry it anymore, ahem, when they have to be carried away by others to you-know-where.
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Anyway, let me stop the rant here and get to the point (man, this is already four paragraphs long… when am I going to learn to write kural-long posts..!).
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Here’s a hymn (it’s different from a poem, even though it’s also a kind of poem) I’ve written sometime ago (October 2016). That was when the Dhinam Oru Pathigam hymns were flowing almost uncontrollably, racing towards the 2-ton mark, unpredictably (they’re somewhere near 240 now, as I redirected my attention to writing ArutkuRaL ~ Gnaanappaal couplets, which is at 111, so far). I’ve consciously flipped that hymn-flow switch now, so that I write hymns only when I really like to. Talk about ‘control’ – another fav topic loved by the herds in the society. Ha.. Ha.. (oops, I’m digressing once again).
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This hymn is obviously dedicated to mothers, though I would’ve never written any such thing for my own mother, not because she’s not special, but because to me that would be an attempt ‘to please’ her. But the hymn doesn’t care about my perspectives or preferences, just as the Corona virus doesn’t care about who it infects. So, it flowed from within anyway and I simply wrote it down. But when I wrote the explanation for it (that one’s always been in my ‘control’ ;), I had to pause for a moment and reflect. I simply couldn’t help it.
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The reflection flashed the images of illustrious seekers (and Spiritual Masters – needless to say) of the past such as Adi Shankaracharya, Pattinathar and Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi in my mind. What do all three have in common – they all performed the final rights of their mothers, despite being renunciates. A sanyasi has already given up everything – family included. All of them were sanyasis, without a doubt. Yet, they made an exception to their mothers. Adi Shankara came all the way from somewhere far in the north, all the way to the south, to perform his mother’s last rites. Pattinathar went one step ahead and sang a heart-wrenching hymn on her and performed the cremation with wet wood (or plant). Ramana Maharshi went further ahead and simply dissolved her and told everyone around him that ‘she’s gone for good!’
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Of course my mother is still reasonably healthy (thank you my Lord ‘Kudikaakkum Kumaramalayan’) and I’m just another nondescript seeker, who isn’t worthy of even dreaming about such stalwarts on the spiritual realm (despite having an awesome Guru who can simply walk into such company any day, without even trying). Wonder why then so much build-up for a mere re-publishing of a hymn (that’s as much a question to myself, as it is to you)? Because mothers are not just exceptions, but they are exceptional beings. They are the only ones who actually create Life – a brand new life – in this world, which automatically elevates them to the level of a SaguNa Brahmam, i.e. a God with form and guNaas (attributes, characteristics, quirks… you get the drift). Our problem is we’re stuck with the SaguNa part of everyone – including mother (and father as well, but which child has ever given a damn about father anyway). Mothers are human too and naturally are full of flaws like any other human being. But there’s no taking away the fact that they are special, despite their flaws. They are exceptions. Period.
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Anyway, so why am I writing such a long – obviously controversial & most likely to be debated, within the family at least – post and re-publishing this hymn on this auspicious Panguni Uththiram day? Today happens to be Swamy’s mother’s nakshatra (birth star) birthday (she doesn’t celebrate ‘english’ birthdays, btw, which I completely agree with – surprisingly). She was born on this star, a little over seven decades ago. And she absolutely deserves such a hymn to be dedicated to her.
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Not just her btw… I’m going one step ahead, despite the fact that this is me not being myself, at least for this moment, and dedicating this hymn to every single mother in my extended family – my better-half (who has always been a super-mom to my one child with two legs and the other two with four), all my sisters-in-law, every அத்தை, மாமி, சித்தி, உடன்-பிறவா-சகோதரி and other such அம்மாs that I know of. Well, having come this far from my முயலுக்கு மூணே கால் position about not pleasing anyone, come what may, why stop just there? The “Annaiyarumai ARidhal – அன்னையருமை அறிதல்” Dhinam Oru Padhigam hymn is dedicated to all mothers of this universe, including the mother of the universe Devi Parashakthi herself. Jai Mata Di!
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Hymn explanation (for those who need it, which is probably most of you):
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Dhinam Oru Padhigam – தினம் ஒரு பதிகம் ~ 138
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Annaiyarumai ARidhal – அன்னையருமை அறிதல் ~ a hymn on the magnanimous motherhood , which goes unnoticed until the end , without realising the Grace of the divine Mother, residing within any & every mother.
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Annaiyarumai ARidhal – அன்னையருமை அறிதல் (realising the value of Mother) ~ hymn explanation
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When I was within (your womb), you carried me for 10 months
After I slid out (of your womb), you hugged and kissed me and fed me with the milk from your soft breast (mother’s milk)
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In the clear light of the moon, you sang lullaby for me to fall asleep
When I played around merrily, you clapped your hands in joy and cherished
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When I was studying, you prayed for me to do well, all along
After offering another woman’s hand (in marriage) to hug / hold me, you moved aside / away
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Since my stupid mind was always focused on the thorn (the rough / sharper part of you – like harsh words)
I failed to see / realise the soft fragrant flower, where Mother Goddess UmA Devi’s magnificent kindness resides (divinity within each being – especially mother)
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As the silver hair spreads on your head, you look forlornly at the entrance and long (for me) O’ Mother
Will I realise your value only on the day of lighting the (your) funeral pyre, crying inconsolably.
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*Annaiyarumai ARidhal is a tribute to the selfless motherhood & mothers of all beings – not just humans – who are the manifestation of the divine Mother Goddess Shakthi.
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P.S.: After all this COVID-19 lockdown pressure is over and the roads open up, my first road-trip will most likely to be to see the two mothers – my biological one at Madurai and the universal Mother at the Ashram of my Master! May Grace make it happen. Shambo.
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Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 

Lockdown Learning #1 – On Gautama the Buddha and his Path!

30 Mar

Lockdown Learning #1 – On Gautama the Buddha and his Path!

~a SwamyView insight

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Lockdown Learning is a new series of articles, through which #SwamyView on all things about ‘Life, the way it is’ is shared as insights, based on Questions raised by fellow humans, either seeking to comprehend something or simply expand their knowing.
This is the first article of the series.

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Questioner: Why was Buddha not convinced with any of the existing religions at that time? He did not choose to find enlightenment through Hinduism or even Jainism. He went ahead and created his own path… What could have made him feel that other religions don’t offer? I tend to agree that he did not start his own cult for fame or personal benefits.

First of all, let’s sweep aside all the misconceptions about Gautama the Buddha (he isn’t the only Buddha btw, every Realised Master that has ever been is a Buddha). We’ll refer to the great Master as GB from now on, to conserve some screen space.

Gautama_the_Buddha1sGB didn’t start a new organised religion. And no, it wasn’t a cult either. In fact, none of the Realised Masters to whom an organised religion’s founding is attributed to, ever actually intended to seed / start a new religion. That mostly happened after their time.

Vardhamana Mahavira (also a prince and grihastha with a child, his father’s name is ‘Siddhartha’ – not known to be related to GB though) didn’t found Jainism – he is just one of the Thirthankaras (not too different from Guru or messiah or prophet) in that religion, albeit one who is revered as God incarnation by the jains.

Jesus Christ didn’t found Christianity. And why would a ‘son of God’ propagate his own path, instead of his father’s, anyway? Jesus was in fact a jew, which means his religion (by birth and practice) was Judaism. And he was persecuted and executed by the Romans, who had their own belief system, with many a God. Incidentally, many jews don’t consider Jesus – referred to as Yeshu – as a messiah, let alone son of God, in Judaism. The organised religion attributed to him was founded by his disciples / followers, who believed his teaching, and the path based on those teachings, could offer salvation to the people.

Mahavira1Whereas, later day Gurus like Arutprakasa Ramalinga Vallalar, Ayya Vaikundar and Meivazhichalai Andavar actually ended up founding their own organised belief system akin to existing religions – Samarasa Sanmarga Sangam, Ayya Vazhi and Meivazhichalai, respectively. But even their systems have their roots firmly entrenched in Sanatana Dharma, which has been the ‘way of life‘ for several millennia, in this ancient culture. Vallalar’s magnum opus Thiruvarutpa actually has many verses in praise of Lord Shiva. He is known to have worshipped and sung the Lord’s praise in Kandhakottam, a popular Murugan temple in Chennai. Post his realisation, Vallalar simplified God as ‘jyoti’ (light), perhaps with the objective of eliminating the confusion caused by the vivid imagination of various God forms by devotees.  

TeachingofBuddhaGB chose the path of sanyasa, i.e. seeking the Truth through renunciation – of all materialistic attachments and worldly connections. It’s very much a path in the ancient culture of Sanatana Dharma, even now. Having been around two-and-a-half millennia ago, he must’ve certainly tried the methods and Sadhana (spiritual practices) of that time, which must’ve included severe penance, aka தவம். But at some point in time, during his journey along the spiritual path, he realised – to his utter dismay, most likely – that none of the known processes were offering the answer to what he was looking for (we’ll get to that in a few moments).

Shri Bhagavat Ayya, a contemporary living Master (in Tamilnadu), says that contrary to popular belief, Gautama the Buddha didn’t attain enlightenment by meditating under the Bodhi tree, but actually self-realisation happened to him when he sat under the tree in an almost despondent state, after realising that none of the sadhana he tried yielded the result he desired. This is not that different from the enlightenment experience shared by many other Gurus. Self-realisation, aka enlightenment, happens by its own volition, to/within a sadhaka. All sadhana is just preparing the sadhaka for that happening. 

GB did indeed show a different path to his followers, based on his experience of Reality. In fact, that’s exactly what any other Realised Master (Guru) too has done. Every single one of them offered a path that’s a variant of the original, where the tailoring or refinement is based on his/her own experience of realisation.

Sadhguru1For example, the core sadhana offered by Swamy’s Master Sadhguru is the Shambhavi Maha Mudra. It’s said to have originated from Adiyogi Shiva himself. Yet, Sadhguru’s version is tailored to eliminate the step(s) that will rekindle the sadhaka’s memories of past lifetimes, because most humans of this era simply aren’t ready to or capable of handling the stark facts about their past births. Sadhguru also emphasises the importance of knowing / realising the Truth (about Creator, creation, existence, et al, or ‘Life, the way it is’ as he terms it) through intimate direct experience and not based on how the scriptures or preachers describe it, since that’s the way he himself attained self-realisation, in this lifetime.

Incidentally, GB’s teachings such as ahimsa, renunciation, non-attachment, etc. are all very much part of Sanatana Dharma as well, one way or another. For example, the ‘yama and niyama‘ of Ashtanga Yoga (they are the first two stages of the eight-stage yogic path to realisation) elucidated by Patanjali Maharishi’s Yoga Sutras are nothing but a list of dos and don’ts, in terms of virtues essential for a seeker. Similarities such as these can be found in Mahavira’s jainism teachings as well.

GB didn’t include any kind of Gods in his teaching, possibly due to two reasons. And that’s purely speculation, of course. First, he didn’t find any God helping him attain enlightenment. That probably sounds pretty trivial, but it’s also a fact that none of the trinity, nor Devi, actually appeared to offer him self-realisation or salvation. But that isn’t surprising at all, since the manifest forms, i.e. Saghuna Brahmam of creator is typically left to the seeker’s choice. There are paths to realisation, using any form of God as the Paramatma, i.e. the supreme soul, with which the jeevatma (the individual being) aspires to attain union. So, a Devi upasaka chooses the path of Devi Shakti (the path of Tantra); a Subrahmanya upasaka chooses the path of the six-faced Lord Shanmukha (the choice of Siddhars such as Boghar and Pamban Kumaragurudasa Swamigal); a Vishnu upasaka chooses the path of the preserver among the Trinity (such as the path of Bakthi, chosen by the Azhvars); and the sadhaka who considers Adiyogi Shiva as the supreme soul chooses Shaiva Sidhanta or Yoga abhyasa (not for nothing is Lord Shiva known as both Adiyogi and Adi Guru – he predates all Realised Masters in this ancient culture). Alternatively, one can choose the formless ‘unmanifest’ form, i.e. the Nirghuna Brahmam as well, if one has got the guts and iron will to choose the abstract path to realisation. Sidhartha Gautama probably chose the formless or abstract form for his meditation is my guess.

Jiddu-KrishnamurtiSecond, he realised that despite believing in various forms of Gods and performing rituals to all of them diligently, people were still suffering. So he must have decided – most likely after his enlightenment – that it’s quite possible for anyone to be liberated from suffering (not just in this lifetime, but also permanently from the birth-death cycle), without actually having to believe in a(ny) form of God. If so, that would be a truly revolutionary approach to mukti, even during his time, preached by someone who himself is considered as one of the avatars of Lord Mahavishnu. That’s like God himself telling devotees that they don’t have to believe in him, yet they can attain the ultimate state possible for human beings! In fact, a contemporary world teacher such as J Krishnamurti too has eliminated the need for a(ny) God (or Guru, for that matter), in the pursuit of realisation of the Truth. JK neither identifies himself with any religion nor likes being called a Guru, despite the fact that he most certainly is revered by millions as a Realised Master, who isn’t that different from Gautama the Buddha himself!

Also, it may be surprising to know that there are quite a few Gods, or devatas in Buddhism, especially in the Tantric variants. Tara, for example is an important Goddess in Tantric Buddhist versions such as Tibetan Buddhism. Tantra in Sanatana Dharma has always been closely associated with Shakti, i.e. the Mother Goddess, who is considered the foundation or source of creation, according to Devi Bhagavatam and Devi Mahatmiyam. It’s quite understandable as Mother remains the sole source of creation, even in this digital era (even in a family of same-sex couple of two males, none of them can actually conceive, despite one of them being called ‘wife’). Moreover, depiction of Bodhisattva Avalokiteswara, the patron God or deity of Tibetan Buddhism with a thousand arms, quite possibly indicating the Sahasrara Chakra, (the opening, or blossoming rather – since it’s also referred to as the lotus with a 1000 petals – of which is an indication of self-realisation), also includes Sakhyamuni Buddha himself prominently. Oh btw, Buddhism hasn’t excluded karma either, and the reincarnation of beings due to that, unlike a few monotheistic religions. That idea has its roots in Sanatana Dharma goes without saying.

Buddhist_Gods

GB is once said to have gone into a deep state of meditation – most likely Samadhi – and narrated who he is, by recalling all his past lifetimes, right from the single cell organism from which possibly all life forms in creation originated. This is in perfect alignment with the teachings of Upanishads and Advaita Vedanta, which elucidate on the source of creation as a primordial energy, i.e. Nirghuna Brahmam, one without form or attributes, or the unmanifest stillness (aka Shiva – ‘that which is not’), which eventually manifested itself into all of creation, i.e. the manifest universe and the beings inhabiting its worlds. In his realised state, GB simply perceived himself as that source of creation itself, from the very beginning of creation, and all its manifestations, till himself. This is exactly what the mahavakyas from Upanishads, viz., ‘Aham Brahmasmi‘, ‘Ayam Atman Brahman‘, ‘Ta Twam Asi‘ and ‘Pragnanam Brahma‘ state. In essence, he was expounding none other than the fundamental idea of Advaita, i.e. non-duality, which itself doesn’t require any reference to a particular form of God or deity.

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So, there’s enough evidence to say convincingly that Gautama the Buddha’s findings and teachings weren’t so groundbreaking that they superceded every other religion or path that existed before. On the contrary, it’s quite easy to establish Buddhism as just another branch of the tree of Spirituality, that had been in existence long before GB came around. And that’s perhaps the primary reason why the religion whose founding is attributed to him, did not spread far and wide within Bharatavarsha itself, simply because most bharatvasis of that time must’ve been perplexed as to ‘what’s so new!‘ While he is certainly revered as a great Guru (Realised Master) in this culture, and even portrayed as one of Mahavishnu’s dasavatars (which directly links him to Sanatana Dharma), the fact remains that he is just one of the many Realised Masters who have treaded this land and guided thousands during and after their lifetime, to attain self-realisation and mukti (the ultimate liberation from the repetitive birth-death lifecycle spiral). He just happens to be one of the popular Gurus.

Now to that part of the question regarding why he offered a different path to his followers. The primary reason for that is the fundamental problem for which he set out to find an answer. “Why is there so much suffering in this world?“, upon witnessing suffering in the forms of old age, illness, death, etc., for the first time in his life. Safely assuming that he belonged to some variant of Sanatana Dharma, before his quest to find that answer, he must’ve been familiar with the various religious practices (vedic chanting, homams or havan, elaborate rituals for various deities, learning & contemplation using scriptures, etc.). Though legend has it that his father carefully shielded him from knowing about ‘normal’ life (of human beings) and any form of scriptural learning (since it was predicted by scholars that he will become a renunciate and great teacher, at the time of his birth itself), GB was a prince after all and must’ve been part of, or at the least witnessed, many such rituals sponsored by his father. Even the epics Ramayana & Mahabharata must’ve existed in some form during his time, so he must’ve certainly been aware that even incarnations of Gods go through suffering in human form.

So when he eventually set out to know the Truth, his quest was probably not to ‘liberate’ humanity from the karmic cycle (which he may or may not have been aware of, at the beginning of his quest to realise the Truth), but to find a way to alleviate their suffering instead. Finally, post self-realisation, he concluded and proclaimed that “Attachment is the root cause of all suffering.” So his teaching was naturally tuned to eliminate attachment of all kinds, so that suffering too can be eliminated eventually. This is also why Buddhism is perceived as the path for renunciates, i.e. monks who have taken to sanyasa, choosing to renounce all worldly attachments, just as GB himself did. And it certainly seems to have worked, especially during his time (he did travel and preach his path for many decades post attaining enlightenment), when he had thousands of monks as disciples, including his own child Rahula. Incidentally Mahavira also did the same thing (walking out of a life of luxury and family of wife and child), though his path is inclusive of both sanyasa and grihasta ways of life.

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Intriguingly, the removal of attachment that is considered essential to alleviate suffering in humans, isn’t new either. If one goes back a few millennia before GB’s lifetime, to the time of the great Yogi Krishna Paramatma (an avatar of Lord Mahavishnu, no less – the eighth one, preceding Gautama the Buddha), one of the most popular shlokhas of his teachings (enshrined in the eponymous Bhagavad Gita – considered the holiest of Sanatana Dharmic scriptures by many, even now) elaborates on how one must perform ‘actions’ without any attachment to either the actor or the outcome. It’s none other than the verse

Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,

Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhur Ma Te Sango Stv Akarmani.” 

Lord Krishna basically told Arjuna to get on with waging the war (of Mahabharata, at Kurukshetra), without being overtly concerned about the outcome. He also emphasised that not participating in the war was certainly not an option. Arjuna was hesitant to do so, since those who he had to face, and beat – most probably kill – were actually family. His decision making was obviously clouded by emotions and his subjective intellect was on overdrive, projecting a dreary future scenario, based on the vast repository of past information stored in the mind. In other words, he was ‘suffering’ due to the ‘intellectual thinking’ arising out of his mind, based on the past data, projecting a future scenario, preventing necessary action in the present. Krishna Paramatma’s way out for Arjuna’s ‘suffering‘ conundrum was to consciously ‘not getting attached to the doership and the outcome of the action.’ In essence, he told Arjuna to get rid of his attachment in order to alleviate his suffering. GB seems to have merely repackaged that teaching a bit, to suit the needs of people of his time.

In a letter to one of his disciples, Swami Vivekananda quotes the Bhagavad Gita verse and says,

‘Despair not; remember the Lord says in the Gita, “To work you have the right, but not to the result.‘ ‘To work‘ essentially means to perform an action. Actions can be performed effectively only if the actioner takes the responsibility to perform them. Both responsibility and performance are shaken when the actioner worries more about the outcome than the action. The cause for this is attachment. Objectivity requires detachment. And objectivity is essential for staying focused on the action, until completion. To put it differently, performing an action is akin to being in a state of meditation. Meditation, unsurprisingly, is one of the primary tenets of GB’s teaching as well.

1000349_10202443379629792_1133605306_n.jpgDuring his lifetime, GB’s followers seem to have comprised predominantly of monks (of both predominant genders), who have renounced material life and chose the path of sanyasa. This is known as the Sanga, one of the primary tenets of GB’s 3-fold teachings (the other two are Buddha and Dhamma). He is said to have had thousands of disciple monks around him, many of whom are said to have attained enlightenment as well.

Sanyasa isn’t an easy path to choose, yet it is very much present as a choice in Sanatana Dharma as well. Post the Brahmacharya stage, one can choose to be a Grihastha (life of householder) or Sanyasa (life of renunciate). Alternatively, even those who choose to be a Grihastha, can later choose Sanyasa, after completing their Grihastha duties and going through Vanaprastha. Therein also lies the clue to why GB’s path didn’t find many grihastha followers in Bharatavarsha. Interestingly, there have been many Gurus in this ancient culture who remained Grihasthas, even after their enlightenment, and continued to teach and guide seekers.

Lockdown_Migrants1Today, during the nationwide lockdown enforced to protect the masses from getting infected by the deadly virus pandemic known as COVID-19, we come across many a news article or visual crying out loud about thousands of migrant workers walking or transported back to their hometown, highlighting their misery and suffering all along. It’s quite obvious that they endure a lot of suffering during their existence – not just during pandemics or natural calamities. Yet, a significant portion of such poor population hold dearly on to their ancient belief system, passed on through many generations, i.e. Sanatana Dharma in one form or another, and not willingly shift en masse’ to a different faith such as Buddhism (for example), which was founded from the quest of a great Master who set out to find the cause of such suffering and alleviate it. It’s a fact that they do find solace in their favourite form of God and trust their faith to survive their existence filled with one form of suffering after another. One need to only witness the millions (literally!) of padayatris who walk hundreds of kilometres, year after year, to Rishikesh and Gangotri, chanting ‘Har Har Mahadev‘ fervently, to comprehend the sheer power of their belief.

Have GB’s teachings eradicated suffering from the world? Obviously not.

Were there not such teachings aimed at alleviating the suffering of people, either before or after the Buddha’s existence? Of course there were many – by many a Realised Master, not too different from GB himself (though many may not be that well known – limited to a certain region or even a particular place).

The reason why so many belief systems and paths of seeking coexist only in this nation is that all of them lead the seeker (or believer) to the realisation of the same / singular Truth (about the Creator, creation, existence, et al) and the ultimate liberation (from the suffering of repetitive birth-death survival spiral). Gautama the Buddha’s path and preaching were based on his own quest (to find a way to eradicate suffering) and ways of attainment (renunciation, meditation, etc). So are all the paths that were and still are in existence. Each Master teaches differently, yet they all guide their followers – seekers and believers alike – towards the same end state, that of realisation and liberation. That hasn’t changed for several millennia that have come and gone, and isn’t expected to change for several more to come. Teachers come and go, but their teachings continue to resonate with newer generations of seekers and followers. That’s why Gautama the Buddha is as relevant today as he was two-and-a-half millennia ago. Yet, the suffering that he tried to alleviate still pervades all sections of humanity even today, for which he (or any other Master, for that matter) can’t be held responsible.

Before we conclude this learning, two incidents in GB’s life are worth recalling, in order to truly comprehend this long-form response.

Buddha_and_Widow_taleThe first is a famous, oft-quoted, tale of a widow who requested GB to bring her only child back to life. Buddha, the ever-compassionate yet pragmatic realist, told her it can be done, adding an ‘if’ clause. He told her “If you can fetch a handful of grain (till or something similar) from at least one family in this village/town, which hadn’t seen any death whatsoever, and bring it to me, your child shall be brought back to life.” That poor grief-stricken woman went around, from door to door, seeking a handful of grain, but was left empty handed by the end of her seeking. For, there was not a single household in that place (or anywhere else, for that matter) that hasn’t seen death of a beloved member of the family. Everybody dies. And everyone connected to them grieves. That’s the harsh reality of existence. The woman realised that and became a disciple – monk, of course – of GB himself. This tale highlights one noteworthy aspect of the great teacher – his teaching was direct, bereft of any hard-to-comprehend fantastic expositions of Truth (typical of scriptures, puranas and ithihasas), and based on direct perception / experience of reality. That’s the primary reason it was so effective.

Buddha_first_sermonThe second, less known tale, has been shared by Sri M, a contemporary living Master, of the Nath yogi order (founder of ‘The Sathsang Foundation’). In his autobiography (two volumes titled ‘Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master’ & ‘The Journey Continues’ – highly recommended, even for non-seekers), while recalling his many past lifetimes, Sri M narrates his experience of being in the presence of Gautama the Buddha. This happens during GB’s now-famous first sermon at Saranath, when the world was about to hear from the new Realised Master, for the very first time. Sri M in that lifetime belonged to a lower caste and GB passes through his place. Sri M offers him water, which GB accepts and drinks. Then he invites Sri M to be part of his sermon. Sri M, being a lower caste person, sits away from the crowd of curious people who assembled for the sermon, and listens to the Master. The crowd for the epic first sermon of the Buddha was less than twenty people or so, apparently. And Sri M says, in all his lifetimes (which includes him being part of the epic Mahabharata battle at Kurukshetra, witnessing the great Yogi Lord Krishna himself in action, as a woman then) he has never seen a being that was as compassion personified as Gautama the Buddha, the great Master who taught his path to less than two dozen people in his first sermon. Swamy had tears rolling down his eyes, involuntarily of course, while reading this passage in that book. But GB certainly fared better than Adiyogi, who as Adi Guru Dakshinamurthy, had just 7 sages to transmit his teachings, which is the firm foundation of all spiritual seeking, till date. Yet, look at how much Adiyogi is revered, worshipped and fervently followed even now. Size doesn’t matter, after all, certainly not in the spiritual realm!

So, in conclusion (at last..;), there’s no question that Gautama the Buddha is one of the greatest Gurus (Realised Masters) of this ancient culture. The fact that his teachings still prevail is proof enough for their effectiveness. But there’s no denying the fact that his teaching, and thereby the path which is based on his teachings, have their roots in Sanatana Dharma. Just as there are many tributaries to the mighty Ganga Maa, there have always been many spiritual paths / organised belief systems that branched away from Sanatana Dharma. The beauty of this culture is its acceptance of all such tributaries as well, alongside the eternal mother river. That’s why teachers such as Gautama the Buddha and Mahavira were neither persecuted nor prosecuted here, but accepted and revered as a Gurus, and had scores of disciples who chose to follow their paths and put their teachings to practice. That in essence is the greatest aspect of our culture, highlighted in the saying ‘unity in diversity!

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Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

Two Switches!

6 Jan

Two Switches!

~a Swamystery Blog


Every being that’s alive has two switches within ~ the self-start and the self-destruct

The beings with supposedly lesser senses, i.e. all the beings other than humans,  naturally know how to access and use the self-start switch, as and when required, since they are aware of its necessity for their very existence.

They are certainly aware of the actions they need to take, on a day-to-day basis, such as fetching food, finding a reasonably safe place to rest and avoid skirmishes with beings that aren’t known to be kind to them (Homo Sapiens feature at the top of their ‘unkind list,’ unsurprisingly). Despite the dangers lurking in every corner (including but obviously not limited to being hit by a speeding vehicle driven or ridden madly by a human, who is always in a hurry, for no particular reason or worse – getting shot or maimed by them), threatening their survival, such beings seem to live a content life, quite joyfully, and then leave peacefully, when their time’s up.

Human beings who simply can’t stop boasting about their extra – ahem, sixth – sense, apparently don’t know how to use that unique faculty wisely, to access the self-start switch to live joyfully and seek liberation. Instead, they are easily seduced beyond redemption by the self-destruct switch (may be it’s in shiny red colour that’s simply irresistible, a la the one baby Groot tries to press repeatedly, simply driving Rocket mad), considering how tragically hilarious their survival has turned out to be.

Two Switches! ~a Swamystery blog

We compete for every damn thing, day in and day out, yet we forgot how fun and enjoyable competition can be. Why should all competitors be bitter rivals, always trying to cut each other’s throat, at the earliest available opportunity, is something race horse would never be able to comprehend.

We are obsessively focused on pleasing fellow humans by being nice to them, believing how others perceive us is the most important thing for our survival. But the ever-rising flame of desire to please others that continues to devour any semblance of kindness left in us, like the raging Australian bushfire, is something even the billions of animals affected by that fire won’t understand.

We imagine information as knowledge and consider ourselves to be wise, with ready access to the trove of information, thanks to big G (no, not that hard-to-find heavenly G, i.e. Godji, but the easy-to-access internet G, aka Googleji). Pretty much any other species that’s cursed to cross our paths will most certainly shake their heads, shrug and scramble away in a tearing hurry, when they discover first-hand our educated stupidity.

We keep acquiring things during the entire, albeit brief, lifetime – including different versions of things we may already have. A broken bucket or utensil certainly needs to be replaced. But why are people so crazy to keep replacing a cellphone or tv or car that’s still working fine is something that would confound even the Creator!

We have concluded that ours is the only inhabitable planet in the entire vast, still expanding, universe (despite the known fact that we don’t even have the means to check out the notional periphery of our own galaxy – which happens to be just one among possibly billions) and anointed ourselves as the smartest species in existence. Whenever we actually manage to do interstellar travel and reach another inhabitable planet in a galaxy far far away, and explain to beings like Leia, Luke or Rey that we had to come there because we practically destroyed the only tiny planet we ever inhabited, they will be well within their galactic rights to annihilate us – the aliens – then and there, in order to preserve their own existence.

Yeah, we actually turned out to be a despicable species, despite the fact that we happen to be only one of the millions of species inhabiting this single tiny planet in some nondescript corner of one galaxy. We are a threat to not only our own existence, but also to those other millions of species that are content with what they have got on this planet and don’t nurture purposeless daydreams about finding another green planet a few million nautical miles away, because they haven’t really done anything stupid to destroy their home. And they certainly don’t deserve to perish along with this planet, because of a single species’ immeasurable and incomprehensible self-destructive nature.

Here’s a question that’s worth pondering ~ “When was the last time you actually read the contents of the printed material that are stuffed within the package of any thingamajig you’ve ever bought?” The answer from six-sigma of human population that has bought something or other in their lifetime that comes packaged will be “Never!” Go on and ask yourself that question and ask everyone you know the same. The answer will invariably be the same.

All of those unread printed material require trees to be cut, to make the paper on which they are printed. Now take a moment and think how many billions of tress we would’ve cut so far, for this utterly useless stupidity. The cartons in which that product was packaged and the labels too consume trees. So are all the wooden furniture that we cherish possessing for generations and the copious amounts of wood used in all kinds of construction. And toothpicks, chopsticks, matchsticks, notebooks, nonsensical fiction, newspapers, magazines… The list of things that use murdered trees as their source is seemingly endless.

And that’s just the tip of the titanic iceberg of our wanton destruction of the precious natural resources that we obviously didn’t create, but chose to use anyway, without a break, from time immemorial. Oh yeah, we are a despicable species… we don’t need a PhD in any science to figure that out

You’re supposed to observe 2 minutes of silence, repenting for the inexcusable sin of cutting billions of trees so far, even though you may not have done so personally

There’s some hope for redemption though, even in this bleak scenario, which of course is self-created by the shenanigans of the beings with a sixth-sense. Saving the planet and restoring it to its original glorious state is clearly beyond our ability, but limiting our flagrant robbery of the natural resources this planet is endowed with is certainly within our ability.

If we can start with something as simple as not cutting any more trees, for any kind of needs, then the planet is quite capable of self-restoration. In fact, as consumers, we should force all manufacturers who create any goods for our consumption to take a pledge to offer all product information – manuals, installation guide, warranty and safety information, etc. – only digitally, from this year onwards. That would be a worthy start to preserve the green cover that’s so critical for the sustenance of life in this planet.

There are obviously other things all of us can do… Not buying new gadgets to replace those that are still functional would be on the top of the list (YouTube reviewers be damned). If your cell phone still does all the things that you ‘need’ (not ‘want’) it to do, then you actually don’t need another one with the latest and greatest processor. Same goes for your headphones, speakers, tv, motorcycle, car, shoes, watches, clothing, etc. It’s as simple as that.

Practice this restraint, i.e. not buying something new that you may want but don’t really need, at least for a few months. Then suddenly you’ll realise that you’ve a substantial amount of money in your savings bank account. And real money is always useful, isn’t it – irrespective of whether you’re someone stuck in the survival plane of existence or seeker on the spiritual path.

Now that you’re less needy, and hence not so greedy, you may also realise that you’re a little bit more gentler and kinder than before. This happens when you stop chasing things to acquire for yourself all the time and instead start observing life that’s vibrantly happening all around you. This is when you start to unknowingly expand the boundary of your kindness by doing simpler things such as feeding a stray or two, offering clean drinking water for birds, simply listening to fellow human beings without any prejudiced judgement, volunteering at some place – orphanage, old-age home, ashrams doing worthy charitable activities for human well being, schools for people with limited physical abilities, animal shelters, and so on – where kinder hearts, minds and limbs are always required, and useful. The trickle of kindness will eventually turn into a pond of compassion that you never realised was always within you, waiting for meaningful expression.

Along this journey of self-discovery, which could turn out to be life-altering for some, you may also discover the long suppressed desire to know the Truth – about the Creator, creation, existence, et al. For many humans, this desire would’ve been suppressed for many lifetimes, due to the nature of their karma (accumulated actions of the past and the present). When this desire to know becomes a seemingly unquenchable thirst, and you start to silently scream for some kind of guidance, a Guru (Realised Master) will appear to guide you, towards self-realisation, aka enlightenment or knowing the Truth as an intimate direct experience. S/he will not only show the path towards realisation but also Mukti, i.e. the ultimate liberation from the repetitive birth-death lifecycle. That, in a nutshell, is the purpose of being born as a human being. Not showing off the umpteenth iteration of a particular model of uber-expensive cellphone, every time a new model is launched!

Since many of us lack the innate wisdom to choose the self-start switch within and end up choosing the self-destruct switch instead, inadvertently or otherwise, the Guru performs the role of the kick-start (remember those things in your first motorcycle, which was most probably a humble functional model), to restart the engine (our life energy, which is the source of our existence) and steer us along the right path (towards the destination of mukti). Receiving the guidance of a Guru (Realised Master) in any given lifetime itself is a blessing. With Grace (of Guru and the Creator, who are in essence one and the same), may the purpose of your birth as a human being be realised in this lifetime itself. Shambho! 

Be joyful & spread the cheer…
~Swamy | ‘@PrakashSwamy

P.S: I could’ve published this post on New Year’s eve, making it a worthy New Year Resolution for a few readers (only a handful read such posts regularly anyway.. heh.. heh..) and garnered a bunch of likes and even a few comments. But, with my Guru’s Grace, I’ve realised that the purpose of my writing is to simply share ideas, insights and inputs, without getting attached to the outcome of publishing. In essence, he has taught me how to transform karma (action) into Karma Yoga (purposeful action performed with total involvement, while remaining absolutely detached from the outcomes). Shri GurubyO Namaha.

NhAdha Brahmam ~ a tribute to Shri Kadri Gopalnath, the incomparable Saxophone Maestro

12 Oct

NhAdha Brahmam

~ a tribute to Shri Kadri Gopalnath, the incomparable Saxophone Maestro

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Over a decade ago, I’ve left Jr in a tournament hall (he’s a professional Chess player at international level) somewhere in Mangaluru and walked a few kilometres in blazing sun, with the help of the directions on the phone (it’s probably a Nokia – well before it’s android days) to reach an ancient ShivA temple, that’s located on a rocky hillside. The darshan was wonderful and I’ve returned in time for lunch with Jr (sensibly took an autorickshaw this time). The place I’ve visited is Kadri, which has been made world famous by a son of the soil, who gave the darshan of NhAdha Brahmam to even untrained musical lovers such as this writer, whenever he played a classical song on the western wind instrument known as Saxophone. Instrumental music is naturally formed a significant portion of Swamy’s music collection, in cassettes (do ya know what they are Gen X/Y/Zers) and CDs (used to spend a fortune at the annual music sale at Shankara Hall once upon a time, just like the hundreds of books purchased during the annual Chennai Book Fair, year after year), which now await digitization, quietly lying down under the bed (oh don’t worry, they’re pretty safe), though even that effort seems pointless in this digital age, when there are apps aplenty to play any kind of music anyone fancies, in the phone itself!
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The bassy nhAdham emanating out of the instrument was simply out of the world and can easily bring tears of joy flowing from the rasikA’s eyes. Just like RAjarathinam PiLLai, SrinivA, MAli, BAlachander, Kunnakkudi, UmayALpuram & Valayappatti are simply known by the name of the respective instruments they played with absolute mastery, the name Gopalnath is synonymous with Saxophone. The identity of Master (Maestro!) musicians like him is inseparable from the instrument they play. In other words, they’ve attained union with not the instrument, but the music that flows through it / them.

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Their worship of NhAdha Brahmam, i.e. the Divine in the form of sound, is the music we are blessed to listen to. If done with awareness, perhaps the rasikAs too will be blessed with the darshan of the divine, in the formless form of NhAdha Brahmam. And thanks to my maternal grandfather Shri Rengasami Iyer, I was fortunate to listen to Shri Kadri Gopalnath live once, at the NhAradha GAna SabhA, at a much younger age – accompanying him, which will remain etched in the memory (along with the vocal music performance by another legend, Shri KJ Yesudas), forever.

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Legends aren’t born as legends. But they certainly become aware of their real talent (an inherent gift, unlike skill that’s learnt, which comes into play in a given lifetime, based on one’s prArabdha karmA), work diligently to hone it and attain mastery over it, over a period of time. Whether they know it or not, playing music is their sadhana (spiritual practice) and daily offering to the divine. RasikAs – knowledgeable or otherwise – become a part of that offering, by simply being present, with nary a distraction (kinda hard in the present days with the constant notification wink of the omnipresent smartphone), during such performances. In an(y) unexpected moment, the darshan of the Creator can happen, even if it’s just a glimpse, like a momentary lifting of the veil, making that time worthwhile, eventful, purposeful and joyful. And true legends such as Shri Kadri Gopalnath are the chosen instruments of the divine, to offer the rest of us a glimpse of the boundless Grace! Shambho.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

Wellknown… Unknowns..! ~ AruNAchala Tales #0

25 Jun

Wellknown… Unknowns..!

AruNAchala Tales #0

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ThiruvaNNAmalai aka AruNAchala needs no introduction. Known as the “நினைத்தாலே முக்தி தரும்” sthalam (holy place that offers mukti to the one who simply thinks about it), it’s an ancient place of pilgrimage whose antiquity dates back to the age before that of Gods (33 million of ’em, no less) and demons (aka asurAs), which remains well known through history due to the innumerable saints, yogis & siddhars who lived and attained mukti there and the eponymous Girivalam (circumambulation of the holy hill, barefooted, covering approximately 14 kms, in one go) that brings lakhs of devotees from all over to this quaint little town, every PourNami (full moon).

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Ask anyone who had either been to AruNAchala or knows someone who had, about AruNAchala, and they will unfailingly tell you an enchanting tale or two about the Adiyogi & Adi Guru Lord ShivA himself who is worshipped there as AruNAchalEswarar, BhagavAn RamaNa Maharishi (the great Realised Master of the GnAna yoga path needs no introduction either), Saint-Poet ArunagirinAdhar (the famed Saint-Poet who is associated with the illustrious warrior son of Lord ShivA, who is celebrated in this part of the world as தமிழ்க் கடவுள், i.e. the God of Tamil people), siddhars like IdaikkAdar and SEshAdri Swamigal, devotees like AmmaNi AmmAL, Realised Beings & Masters like Yogi Ramsurathkumar aka விசிறி சாமியார் (the saint with the handheld fan), about the holy hill itself and seemingly miraculous experiences that keep happening to those who undertake the Girivalam (circumambulation of the holy hill), diligently with piety. But there are amazing facts about this ancient holy space that even a dyed-in-the-wool Shiva bakthA may not know. So, here goes the “AruNAchala Tales”…
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ArunAchala Tales #0

Every enchanting tale has a beginning. In the age before Gods & demons, possibly during the early stages of creation itself, VishNu and BrahmA wondered who is the greater among them, since they seem to be the only two beings around in the vast emptiness. While they were debating to establish their superiority, a blindingly brilliant column (pillar / tower) of fiery light appeared, whose beginning or end couldn’t be seen. Dumbfounded by the magnificence of that light, the debating duo set out to know more about it. While BrahmA took the form of a swan and flew upwards towards the top of the column of fiery light, VishNu took the form of a wild boar and started digging into the earth towards the bottom of the same.

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They went on seemingly forever and simply couldn’t get to either the top or bottom. While VishNu gave up his quest and humbly bowed before the light, BrahmA conjured up a yarn of how he had actually seen the top, while all he did was to see a flower falling from the top somewhere along and persuaded (coerced!) it to vouch for the completion of his quest.

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There was a mighty roar and the SarvEswara revealed himself to be the column of endless fiery light. He praised VishNu for his honesty and humility, reminded him about his purpose, i.e. to nurture + preserve all creation and offered him the right to worship that’s almost like his own. This is why wherever there’s a Shiva temple, a VishNu temple could also be found somewhere nearby, even in nondescript villages and tiny towns. Lord MahAVishNu not only remains a popular God through the yugAs, but eventually also became related to the MahAdEva (God of Gods) by offering his sister Devi Shakthi in marriage to Lord ShivA.
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Then the mighty RudrA turned his fiery gaze towards the shivering BrahmA and simply plucked away one of his five heads and thrown it away, which was like a rap in the knuckles for his blatant lie. He also cursed BrahmA that he won’t be worshipped by humans henceforth. This is why there’s hardly any temple for BrahmA, the God of creation.

.

Despite being very knowledgeable, BrahmA obviously wasn’t very smart to learn from this event, which cost him a head and the right to worship, no less. At a later point in time, he got another rap in the knuckles from the illustrious Son of ShivA, aka KArthikEya alias ShANmukhA, the greatest warrior in the history of Godkind who was anointed the commander-in-chief of the Deva armed forces, who incarcerated BrahmA and stripped him of his power of creation, for not knowing the meaning of AUM, the praNava mantrA, which is the primordial sound of creation itself. Lord Subrahmanya, incidentally, is the manifest form of PraNavA itself. But that’s another enchanting tale for a different time.

.

Finally, the TriambakA turned to the pitiful flower that was forced to vouch for BrahmA’s lie and banished it from his worship. This is why, thAzhampoo (தாழம்பூ / ketaki flower) isn’t used for ShivA worship, till date.

.

Moral of the story…

  • Be humble and truthful, in order to be receptive to Grace
  • Lying is easy but the consequences will be unimaginably hard
  • Intellectual (acquired / accumulated) knowledge is grossly overrated. Acceptance of “I don’t know” is the beginning of really knowing the Truth
  • And last but certainly not the least ~ don’t even think about messing with the all-knowing, omnipresent and omnipotent almighty ShivA, ever!
.

The symbolic representation of this ancient event can be found in pretty much all ShivA temples, right behind the garbhagrihA, in the form of LingOdhbhavar (லிங்கோத்பவர்). In a few temples – including AruNAchala – a form of Lord VishNu (VenugOpAla Swamy in ThiruvaNNAmalai) can be found facing LingOdhbhavar.

.

Now to the AruNAchala connect of this ancient tale…
  • The place where the Lord appeared as the seemingly endless column of fiery light is none other than AruNAchala, aka the holy hill at ThiruvaNNAmalai, making it possibly one of, if not the earliest known geographical location of Lord ShivA’s physical presence, on this tiny planet.
  • The popular KArthigai Deepam festival, when a huge light is lit atop the holy hill, is symbolic of this ancient tale, though the festival itself is associated with Lord KArthikEya, the Son of ShivA, who is considered to be an aspect (அம்சம்) of ShivA himself.
  • As a proof of the fiery nature of the magnificent light form of the Lord, intense heat emanates from the GarbhaGrihA (sanctum sanctorum) of the temple, where the மூலவர் (primary deity) of Lord ANNAmalayAr aka AruNAchalEswarar is worshipped, even today. One can experience this directly, while worshipping the Lord in close quarters (guided by a GurukkaL certainly helps and many are willing to offer this service, informally, for an fee, of course). The heat is always on and anyone in the fiery presence of the Lord will start to profusely sweat, instantaneously. Is it any wonder that among the Pancha BhUtha kshEtras of Lord ShivA, dedicated to the five primary elements of creation, AruNAchala is the kshEtra for Agni / Fire (பஞ்சபூத ஸ்தலங்களில் அருணாசலா எனு‌ம் திருவண்ணாமலை அக்னி ஸ்தலமாகும்)
  • Since the Dancing Lord appeared as the tower of light sans beginning or end (அடி முடி காணா ஜோதி ஸ்வரூபம்) on the hill of AruNAchala, the hill itself is worshipped as ShivA here. That’s why the pradakshiNam (பிரதக்ஷிணம் / circumambulation) is done around the hill itself, in the form of Girivalam (கிரிவலம்). .
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With the Lord’s boundless Grace, AruNAchala Tales will continue…

.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

Wellknown… Unknowns..! ~ AruNAchala Tales #0

25 Jun

Wellknown… Unknowns..!

AruNAchala Tales #0

.

ThiruvaNNAmalai aka AruNAchala needs no introduction. Known as the “நினைத்தாலே முக்தி தரும்” sthalam (holy place that offers mukti to the one who simply thinks about it), it’s an ancient place of pilgrimage whose antiquity dates back to the age before that of Gods (33 million of ’em, no less) and demons (aka asurAs), which remains well known through history due to the innumerable saints, yogis & siddhars who lived and attained mukti there and the eponymous Girivalam (circumambulation of the holy hill, barefooted, covering approximately 14 kms, in one go) that brings lakhs of devotees from all over to this quaint little town, every PourNami (full moon).

.

Ask anyone who had either been to AruNAchala or knows someone who had, about AruNAchala, and they will unfailingly tell you an enchanting tale or two about the Adiyogi & Adi Guru Lord ShivA himself who is worshipped there as AruNAchalEswarar, BhagavAn RamaNa Maharishi (the great Realised Master of the GnAna yoga path needs no introduction either), Saint-Poet ArunagirinAdhar (the famed Saint-Poet who is associated with the illustrious warrior son of Lord ShivA, who is celebrated in this part of the world as தமிழ்க் கடவுள், i.e. the God of Tamil people), siddhars like IdaikkAdar and SEshAdri Swamigal, devotees like AmmaNi AmmAL, Realised Beings & Masters like Yogi Ramsurathkumar aka விசிறி சாமியார் (the saint with the handheld fan), about the holy hill itself and seemingly miraculous experiences that keep happening to those who undertake the Girivalam (circumambulation of the holy hill), diligently with piety. But there are amazing facts about this ancient holy space that even a dyed-in-the-wool Shiva bakthA may not know. So, here goes the “AruNAchala Tales”…
~~~~~~~~~~

ArunAchala Tales #0

Every enchanting tale has a beginning. In the age before Gods & demons, possibly during the early stages of creation itself, VishNu and BrahmA wondered who is the greater among them, since they seem to be the only two beings around in the vast emptiness. While they were debating to establish their superiority, a blindingly brilliant column (pillar / tower) of fiery light appeared, whose beginning or end couldn’t be seen. Dumbfounded by the magnificence of that light, the debating duo set out to know more about it. While BrahmA took the form of a swan and flew upwards towards the top of the column of fiery light, VishNu took the form of a wild boar and started digging into the earth towards the bottom of the same.

.

They went on seemingly forever and simply couldn’t get to either the top or bottom. While VishNu gave up his quest and humbly bowed before the light, BrahmA conjured up a yarn of how he had actually seen the top, while all he did was to see a flower falling from the top somewhere along and persuaded (coerced!) it to vouch for the completion of his quest.

.

There was a mighty roar and the SarvEswara revealed himself to be the column of endless fiery light. He praised VishNu for his honesty and humility, reminded him about his purpose, i.e. to nurture + preserve all creation and offered him the right to worship that’s almost like his own. This is why wherever there’s a Shiva temple, a VishNu temple could also be found somewhere nearby, even in nondescript villages and tiny towns. Lord MahAVishNu not only remains a popular God through the yugAs, but eventually also became related to the MahAdEva (God of Gods) by offering his sister Devi Shakthi in marriage to Lord ShivA.
.
Then the mighty RudrA turned his fiery gaze towards the shivering BrahmA and simply plucked away one of his five heads and thrown it away, which was like a rap in the knuckles for his blatant lie. He also cursed BrahmA that he won’t be worshipped by humans henceforth. This is why there’s hardly any temple for BrahmA, the God of creation.

.

Despite being very knowledgeable, BrahmA obviously wasn’t very smart to learn from this event, which cost him a head and the right to worship, no less. At a later point in time, he got another rap in the knuckles from the illustrious Son of ShivA, aka KArthikEya alias ShANmukhA, the greatest warrior in the history of Godkind who was anointed the commander-in-chief of the Deva armed forces, who incarcerated BrahmA and stripped him of his power of creation, for not knowing the meaning of AUM, the praNava mantrA, which is the primordial sound of creation itself. Lord Subrahmanya, incidentally, is the manifest form of PraNavA itself. But that’s another enchanting tale for a different time.

.

Finally, the TriambakA turned to the pitiful flower that was forced to vouch for BrahmA’s lie and banished it from his worship. This is why, thAzhampoo (தாழம்பூ / ketaki flower) isn’t used for ShivA worship, till date.

.

Moral of the story…

  • Be humble and truthful, in order to be receptive to Grace
  • Lying is easy but the consequences will be unimaginably hard
  • Intellectual (acquired / accumulated) knowledge is grossly overrated. Acceptance of “I don’t know” is the beginning of really knowing the Truth
  • And last but certainly not the least ~ don’t even think about messing with the all-knowing, omnipresent and omnipotent almighty ShivA, ever!
.

The symbolic representation of this ancient event can be found in pretty much all ShivA temples, right behind the garbhagrihA, in the form of LingOdhbhavar (லிங்கோத்பவர்). In a few temples – including AruNAchala – a form of Lord VishNu (VenugOpAla Swamy in ThiruvaNNAmalai) can be found facing LingOdhbhavar.

.

Now to the AruNAchala connect of this ancient tale…
  • The place where the Lord appeared as the seemingly endless column of fiery light is none other than AruNAchala, aka the holy hill at ThiruvaNNAmalai, making it possibly one of, if not the earliest known geographical location of Lord ShivA’s physical presence, on this tiny planet.
  • The popular KArthigai Deepam festival, when a huge light is lit atop the holy hill, is symbolic of this ancient tale, though the festival itself is associated with Lord KArthikEya, the Son of ShivA, who is considered to be an aspect (அம்சம்) of ShivA himself.
  • As a proof of the fiery nature of the magnificent light form of the Lord, intense heat emanates from the GarbhaGrihA (sanctum sanctorum) of the temple, where the மூலவர் (primary deity) of Lord ANNAmalayAr aka AruNAchalEswarar is worshipped, even today. One can experience this directly, while worshipping the Lord in close quarters (guided by a GurukkaL certainly helps and many are willing to offer this service, informally, for an fee, of course). The heat is always on and anyone in the fiery presence of the Lord will start to profusely sweat, instantaneously. Is it any wonder that among the Pancha BhUtha kshEtras of Lord ShivA, dedicated to the five primary elements of creation, AruNAchala is the kshEtra for Agni / Fire (பஞ்சபூத ஸ்தலங்களில் அருணாசலா எனு‌ம் திருவண்ணாமலை அக்னி ஸ்தலமாகும்)
  • Since the Dancing Lord appeared as the tower of light sans beginning or end (அடி முடி காணா ஜோதி ஸ்வரூபம்) on the hill of AruNAchala, the hill itself is worshipped as ShivA here. That’s why the pradakshiNam (பிரதக்ஷிணம் / circumambulation) is done around the hill itself, in the form of Girivalam (கிரிவலம்). .
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With the Lord’s boundless Grace, AruNAchala Tales will continue…

.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

The Sublime Sound of Salvation!

12 Apr

The Sublime Sound of Salvation!

~ insights on nhAdha (chants and mantras)

 

🙏 Namaskaram. Recently Swamy came across a WhatsApp share (forwarded, of course!) that went gaga about the ‘mathematical insights’ of Vedas. Here’s an excerpt…

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Till I came across this posting, I was unaware of the significance of Rudram, Chamakam. High school students will greatly benefit from memorising  these, to help them in their study of Mathematics. If we  take a look at this excerpt from Chamakam of the Rudra Namaka Chamaka, we will get to know the mathematical genius in the Vedas.

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By now, it’s quite obvious to anyone other than the exclusive (and downright abusive, needless to say, especially when it comes to any aspect of this very ancient culture) non-pseudo-secular pretentious intellectual blabbermouths that there are many dimensions and layers to pretty much anything in this ancient culture, which manages to thrive even after several destructive invasions and even more destructive rule by cringe-worthy politicos, post a hard fought and won (with nary a bloodshed – especially on the invaders’ side) independence.  Even the common citizens who weren’t privileged enough to go to branded scholastic institutions and work really hard daily to eke out a living in this unforgiving ultra-competitive success obsessed society know this, though they don’t get screen time on any media to speak about it. 

Swamy is no vedic expert, but as a voracious (at least once upon a time, reignited again recently, but more like carbureted than fuel-injected) reader, reasonably prolific writer (no formally published work yet, but plenty of 100% agmark original content on various social media platforms – including this one) and seeker (of Truth, not anything connected with mere survival, at least not anymore), he sure knows a thing or two about the breadth and depth of this culture (we never aspired for the height of greatness, hence no invasions by us to spread our culture anywhere else). So, here’s some insight that might be helpful in comprehending the essence of this newfound vedic insight (one of the many, obviously), than merely going gaga over it (which itself is a fundamental problem, as such marvelling and social sharing is so superficial that the same person will end up sharing in the same groups the same thing, sooner than later, without actually gaining any insight whatsoever)…

VedicChanting

Vedas are essentially ‘sounds that were/are heard,‘ referred to as Sruti or Shruthi in SanAthana DharmA. Here’s a simple explanation from the ISKCON website. 

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Hinduism has no single scripture but many. They include the Vedas and their corollaries sometimes called collectively “the Vedic scriptures.”

There are two main divisions:

shruti – that which is heard (revealed truth)

smriti – that which is remembered (realised truth)

Sanskrit is the language of most canonical texts, but many subsidiary texts are written in the vernacular.

Shruti is canonical, consisting of revelation and unquestionable truth, and is considered eternal. It refers mainly to the Vedas themselves.

Smriti is supplementary and may change over time. It is authoritative only to the extent that it conforms to the bedrock of shruti.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In a certain state of meditation, the sages / yogis of ancient times simply heard these sounds – most probably within themselves, than from anywhere outside. 

Then they started chanting those sounds, as they heard them (without any intellectual interpretation), observed certain outcomes and then started teaching the chanting of Shruthi to others. That’s why, even today, in this so-called digital yuga, students learn vedas through repetitive recitals and not by reading books and vomiting what’s read in exams (though printed and digital versions are certainly available now for reference – primarily for the armchair scholars and SoMe sharers).

In SanAtana Dharma (not to be confused with Hinduism, which is categorised as a religion – something done on purpose by the invaders), which is the core spiritual foundation of the ancient BhArath / Sindhu civilization, the Creator had been defined in many ways. While ancient scriptures such as the Upanishads (which too are part of the Vedas, but were crafted by humans, thereby belonging to the Smriti category) define the Creator aka God as Nirghuna Brahmam ~ நிர்குண பிரம்மம், i.e., an entity without form or attributes / characteristics. The same entity is worshipped in many forms as well, which is known as Saguna brahmam ~ சகுண பிரம்மம். 

Dhyanalinga2.jpgSince this is a Mukthi focused culture, anything and everything that aids one towards the ultimate liberation from the repetitive birth-death lifecycle, were effectively utilised by the seekers. This includes devices (YantrA), chants (MantrA), methods or techniques (TantrA), processes (KriyA, for example) and even Gods. This is quite possibly the only culture where the technology to craft one’s own version of God was in practice, which is known as PratishthA aka consecration. There are a few practitioners of this ancient God-making craft even now, such as Swamy’s Guru Sadhguru, who has created divine forms such as the DhyAnalinga and Devi Linga Bhairavi. This is the reason why everything from a plain-looking uncarved stone to tree to cow to many a phenomenally intrinsic idols being worshipped as God here, even today. The divine is also defined as pure light (exemplified by historical Realised Masters such as VaLLaLAr ~ வள்ளலார்) and also as pure Sound, i.e. NhAdha Brahmam ~ நாத பிரம்மம். 

In essence, the internal comprehension of everything in existence as a manifest form of the unmanifest divine by many a yogi / siddha / saint has led to that realisation being reflected in the various means and paths towards self-realisation. The fortunate people of BhArathavarsha never had any qualms about following one path or another, knowing full well that all of them lead to the realisation of the same Truth (about Creator, creation, existence, et al) and the ultimate liberation. Heck, we even had many a non-believer amidst the sea of believers, from time to time, whose philosophy too is available for anyone interested. And the best part is, they weren’t hunted or annihilated but simply allowed to co-exist in the same society!

Recently, scientists have arrived at conclusion (though in reality, nothing is ever conclusive – especially when it comes to science) that the entire existence is nothing but sound. Or vibrations / reverberation, to be precise. This is essentially science acknowledging what spirituality said a loooooong time ago. Anyway, when we say the entire existence is just sound, the essential question that will arise in our intellectual mind is, ‘then how come there are so many different forms – including humans, each of which is so vastly different from everything else in existence?‘ 

JBD_09M17-1.jpg

Now, each sound is said to have a form associated with it. This is the fundamental principle of NhAdha Yoga & Mantra Yoga. By reciting a certain sound, at a certain time, for a certain number of times, one can realise the form associated with that sound. This is why Devi UpAsakars ~ தேவி உபாஸகர் get darshan of Devi by chanting her Mantra, while devotees of Adiyogi Shiva get darshan of MahAdEva by chanting his moola mantra, and so on. Lord SubrahmaNya (or Muruga, ShaNmukha, KArthikEya, etc) in the form of BAla DhaNdAyudhapANi (பால தண்டாயுதபாணி) at Kumaramalai (குமரமலை) is Swamy’s kula dheivam (குல தெய்வம்). Created by Lord ShivA for the specific purpose of leading the Deva army (as it’s General) to annihilate the AsurAs, he is considered and worshipped as the form of the moola mantrA of creation itself, i.e. AUM, the supreme sound of all sounds.  

Since there are various mantrAs (a mantrA is essentially a collection or sequence of sounds, organised for a specific purpose, and associated with a specific divine form) for each deity, the darshans of the deity by the individuals who perform Mantra yoga or NhAdha yoga also vary accordingly. 

Om Swami, a young contemporary – living – Realised Master, has written about how the diligent practice of Mantra yoga led him to the actual darshan of Devi, in his autobiography “If Truth Be Told.” He now teaches the ancient practice of Mantra yOga to seekers. Swamy’s master Sadhguru had got the experience of the divine as NhAdha Brahmam at KAnti SarOvar, a lake located above (and beyond) KEdhArnAth, which is where Adiyogi Shiva is said to have transmitted his yogic Wisdom to Devi Shakthi, in absolute intimacy (the 112 ways to Realisation taught by him are available in ‘VignAna Bhairava TantrA). This experience happened much later than his actual enlightenment experience at ChAmundi Hills near Mysuru. 

Vedas, which are essentially a very structured way of chanting pure sound, the way it is in nature, and thereby resonating with the reverberations in creation in a certain way, can be considered as a method to define the nature of the divine, which is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. So when someone chants Sri Rudram ~ ஸ்ரீ ருத்ரம், what’s actually happening is the definition of the form of the divine as RudrA, in all its glory. 

And there’s a specific reason why vedas are in Sanskrit and not any other ancient language (e.g. Thamizh, which happens to be Swamy’s mother tongue, in which he writes classical hymns / poetry). Sanskrit is a language that’s entirely based on, and – needless to say – crafted from, sound. The syllables of Sanskrit are said to have emerged from Lord ShivA’s Damaru ~ உடுக்கை, which was listened to by his ever present companion NandhikEswara. This too has been mentioned by another contemporary Master Swami SukhabOdhAnanda (of ‘மனசே ரிலாக்ஸ் ப்ளீஸ்’ fame – he’s a disciple of Swami ChinmayAnanda) in one of his books. 

Anyway, the point is, both vedas and mantrAs being in Sanskrit is quite simply because the foundation of all of these is sound – in a multitude of variations, of course. Oh btw, there’s another very ancient language that’s spoken by rishis, yogis and Siddhars of yore, known as SandhyA bAsha ~ ஸந்த்யா பாஷை, which could even be dated before the advent of sanskrit or possibly a contemporary one to sanskrit. This language was quite possibly much closer in tune with the vibrations in nature and doesn’t seem to have a script. Without any active practitioners – at least in the limited field of perception of contemporary humans – it is not known to be known to anyone now. 

ClassicalMusicThose who follow any form of classical music know about the various precise measurements that make sound enchanting, and even purposeful beyond mere enchantment (e.g.: Music therapy). With this context, if one looks at the mathematical precision / definitions in vedas, it’s quite easy to comprehend that it is simply yet another way / method to define the form of the divine, and thereby the Creator, creation, existence, et al, through precise measurements, expressed as sound. 

From now on, whenever you chant a mantrA such as AUM Namah ShivAya or GAyathri, you may inherently be aware that it’s nothing but a nondescript creation’s (ahem, that would be you – on a cosmic scale!) feeble attempt to depict the form that’s associated with that mantrA, i.e. NhAdha / Sound. Just keep aside whatever you think you know, i.e. the intellectual aspect or acquired knowledge, and simply resonate with the sound of the mantrA, so you may realise the real purpose of that mantrA, whatever it is that you’ve been initiated into or have learnt to chant.

Fun Fact 1: In either Nhamakham ~ நமகம் or Chamakham ~ ச்சமகம் (as mentioned in the beginning, Swamy is a vedic illiterate, so his lack of knowledge in such nuances of vedas may kindly be forgiven), pretty much each chant or stanza will end with a mEh ~ மே. There’s an enchanting background tale about this (all ancient tales in this culture are not only enchanting, but have a deeper aspect of the Truth, well hidden beneath the superficial sheath if the tale itself). When Daksha PrajApathi was annihilated by VeerabadhrA (a fierce form created by Lord ShivA, with a single hair from his matted locks, for the sole purpose of destroying DakshA and his acolytes), post his insult of Lord ShivA (by refusing to invite him to his yagnA and refusing to offer the Ahuthi that’s due to him, which resulted in Devi Shakthi, in the form of of Sati – DakshA’s daughter, committing Atma hathyA and leaving her mortal form), he was beheaded by Lord VeerabadhrA. When he realised his unforgivable mortal error and surrendered to the Lord seeking salvation, he was revived back to life by Lord MahEswara who is the ocean of benevolent Grace, but with a goat’s head. Since goats are known to communicate with the sound mEh (மே), it’s believed that in this particular chant by him, worshipping the MahAdEva (God of Gods), every stanza ends with the basic sound of a goat! 

Fun Fact 2: Swamy has written and published (on Social Media, naturally) more than 230 hymns written in classical Thamizh, collectively known as Dhinam Oru Padhigam ~ தினம் ஒரு பதிகம், so far. In his experience, these hymns are written through him than by him. And invariably all of them come with a tune as well. Neither a trained musician nor a qualified poet, it’s truly an enchanting experience for Swamy to not just write these hymns down but also to sing them without having any idea about their musical nuances, i.e. rAga, thALa, et al. In a way, that too is an experience of being in resonance with sound, i.e. NhAdhabrahmA, without actually realising the nuances of it!

May the Grace of NhAdhabrahmA be with you for a purposeful Life, overflowing with resonant Joy. ShambhO. 

149c5-ad3c94c2-334c-499b-8d29-69ee802d7645Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

உயிர்மெய் (Tamil posts by Swamy) https://swamyuyirmei.wordpress.com/
Swamystery (#ThinkOpposite blog posts by Swamy) https://prakashswamy.wordpress.com/
SwamyQuote (quotes by Swamy) https://swamyray.wordpress.com/

What’s In A 1000 Names ~ musings on Sahasranamam!

2 Mar
What’s In A 1000 Names!

~ musings on Sahasranamam (LalithA & VishNu)

A recent share by a family member on conducting ‘VishNu SahasranhAmam PArAyaNam‘ session at their home triggered an interesting discussion thread. Sharing it here, which hopefully offers some enchanting insights into two of the most popular Sahasranhamam sthothrams, i.e. LalithA SahasranhAmam (1000 sacred names of DEvi LalithA ParamEswari) and VishNu SahasrahAmam (1000 sacred names of Lord MahAVishNu).
‘Vishnu SahasranhAmam’ (விஷ்ணு சஹஸ்ரநாமம் ~ 1000 sacred names of Lord MahAVishNu) chanting for Swamy was initiated by his Upa Guru Sohamanandaji, during the ChAr DhAm yAtrA (YamunOtri-GangOtri-KEdArnAth-BadhrinAth). 👣

A daily practice at many Vaishnavite households (along with the ubiquitous SuprabhAtham), Vishnnu SahasranhAmam chanting continues to happen at SwamyHome, which, per religious / social norms (and spiritual practices, needless to say) is a Shaivite household (with the help of ‘பெரிய எழுத்து’ ~ bold letters edition by Giri Trading Agency, of course) every Saturday, after the daily chanting for Lord SkandhaGurunhAthan (Swamy’s Kuladheivam [குலதெய்வம்] ~ worshipped in the form of VEl [வேல்]). 😌 On Fridays, it’s the turn of Sri LalithA Sahasranhamam (ஸ்ரீ லலிதா சஹஸ்ரநாமம்), needless to say 🔥🙏

Incidentally, ‘ஸ்ரீ லலிதா சஹஸ்ரநாமம்’ (Sri LalithA SahasranhAmam) is said to have been chanted by Lord Hayagreevar (ஹயக்ரீவர் ~ Horse-faced Lord), who is an amsam or manifestation of Lord VishNu (not an avatAr, like Sri RAmA or Sri KrishNA). So it’s essentially a sthOthram by the elder brother praising younger sister (who was given away in marriage to Adiyogi ShivA)🙌, which is practically unheard of, but truly awesome. For those on the path of ShAktham (சாக்தம் [அ] சக்தி வழிபாடு [அ] தேவி உபாசனை ~ worship of the supreme reality as Shakthi, i.e. Mother or DEvi), it’s the child praising its mother, as all three primary Gods (and their consorts as well) are said to be created by the Divine Mother, for the sake of creation, with specific responsibilities, viz. Creation (Lord BrahmA), Sustenance (Lord MahAVishNu) and Transformation / Salvation (Lord ShivA).

The place where Lord Hayagreevar is believed to have chanted LalithA Sahasranhamam is enroute to Mount KailAsh, along the trekking path from the base camp. 👣

Swamy’s Upa Guru Sohamanandaji is a DEvi upAsakar (the form worshipped by him is DEvi ChinnaMasthA ~ தேவி சின்னமஸ்தா), so he has naturally started chanting LalithA Sahasranhamam during the trek to KailAsh (he was part of the same Isha SacredWalks group as Swamy, but hasn’t yet become Swamy’s Upa Guru, then), while crossing a particular spot. A Buddhist Monk who was going the other way stopped for a moment and told him “Horse face God chanted it here,” and pointed to some form of identification at that spot. 🙌 ShambhO 🙏

However, the origin of LalithA Sahasranhamam is said to be DEvi herself 🔥, since it’s practically impossible for any other being in creation to express Adi ParAshakthi’s (ஆதி பராசக்தி) magnificence in full🙏. With the possible exception of her other half, of course! 😂

Naturally, there’s an enchanting sthOthram on DEvi by none other than Lord ShivA himself, which is known as ‘Soundharyalahari’ (சௌந்தர்யலஹரி), which is essentially a husband’s praise of the enchanting beauty and virtues of his wife, with intimate details about her physique, mind, nature, etc.

The version of Soundharyalahari sthOthram that we’ve now is said to be an abridged edition, offered to us by Jagadguru Adi ShankarAchArya ✍

According to mythical lore, when the Jagadguru had the privilege of listening to the entire hymn (while having the darshan of அம்மையப்பன், obviously), he wanted to naturally share it with humanity. But when he was leaving KailAsh with the entire hymn (in which form is unknown, but that’s just a trivial detail), NandhikEswara (நந்திகேஸ்வரர்) apparently intercepted him and removed a whole bunch of verses that are considered too privy to be shared with anyone else. That makes Lord Nandhi the first censor board official! 😂🙏🙌
Here’s an(other) enchanting tale about VishNu Sahasranamam…

A lot of devotees know that VishNu Sahasranamam was chanted by Bheeshma PithAmah (பீஷ்ம பிதாமஹர்) while waiting to leave his body at an auspicious time (there’s a tale related to the actual event – of his inability to leave, despite his boon – which is covered well in the insightful Ratha Sapthami video by ஆலயம் செல்வீர் ~ Aalayam Selveer YouTube channel).
But only after the chanting was completed by Bheeshmar, everyone present there realised the significance of the hymn and regretted that no one recorded it for posterity. So, Lord KrishNa himself offered them the solution.
The Lord, the eighth avatAr (incarnation) of MahAVishNu, pointed out that since SahAdEvA (or NakulA, not sure which one, but most likely the former, who is an expert in many ShAstrAs, including Astrology, which alludes to him being the chosen one) is the one wearing a Spatikha mAla (ஸ்படிக மணிமாலை), he should be able to recall the hymn, in its entirety.

Spatikha apparently has memory that enables it to absorb nhAdha (sound / vibrations), which is the insight one can gain from this. 😇 Our limited knowledge is only about the cooling property of the gem. That’s how we ended up getting the enchanting VishNu Sahasranamam sthOthram. 🙏
So, is it any surprise that most (all!) those who do Vedic chanting and chanting of hymns regularly wear Spatikha mAla, in addition to RudrAksha mAla (whose purpose is vastly different)! 🤔🤘

Disclaimer: Swamy is just a seeker on the spiritual path, blessed to be guided by the Grace of a Guru (Realised Master) and experiential wisdom of a Upa Guru, and never claimed to be an expert on SanAthana Dharma. So, if you know more about these Sahasranamam chants, kindly share as comment and Swamy would be glad to learn.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

Lovely Emotion!

16 Dec

“But then what is the definition of love.. emotions reflect love ain’t it?”

The question was raised by an acquaintance, as a response to this quote by the Realised Master J Krishnamurti.

Since humans are proven masters in misunderstanding pretty much everything in existence due to their overt reliance on the grossly overrated extra sense, and it’s a question that might have arisen in quite a few minds, at some point in time, in their miserable existence on the survival plane, I’ve decided to share my response to that acquaintance, with anyone who still cares to read – to know!

Disclaimer: Swamy’s pov on emotions & love is primarily based on his Master’s (Sadhguru) teachings and contemplations based on his own personal experience 🙌😌🙏

When emotional, Humans react to events and people, don’t respond to the situation.

~Swamy

Reaction mostly tends to be harmful, both to the individual who is reacting to an incident or person(s) who may’ve caused it and those at the receiving end. This can be observed anywhere, by anyone, on the survival plane of existence.

Since humans are emotional beings by design, smarter humans effectively exploit this dimension to achieve whatever they desire, from the not-so smarter emotionally charged humans. Examples would be politicians amplifying communal passions to win elections and corporates exploiting employees’ desire for success to rake in profits and even family members getting whatever they want through emotional blackmail.

This is what JK is pointing to in the second part of the Quote.

An emotional person can be stirred to hatred, to war, to butchery.” ~JK

The love that we generally refer to is the filmy kind that is hilariously superficial, extremely subjective and obviously biased.

~Swamy

So, however emotionally attached a person is to those who s/he loves, it’ll always be limited to only those select set of people. If you find it hard to digest (it really is, trust me), let’s ask these questions to ourselves…

  • Will we ever treat a servant maid as an actual family member..?
  • Can we ever treat all the classmates of our children as our own..?
  • Is there even one instance in our lifetime, when we treated a street dog exactly as our own pet dog..?
For most humans, the answer to all those questions will be a resounding NO. That’s why, even though we may treat the servant maid respectfully as a fellow human and have fun with our child’s classmates during parties and never hurt a stray dog willfully (and may even feed them occasionally), this isn’t true love at all. Despite the significant emotional investment made by us, our love is always conditional, limited and subjective.

That what JK implies in the first part of the Quote. 🤘

However, on the spiritual plane, emotion can be effectively utilised as a path to liberation, known as Bakthi yoga. This Bakthi is not the puja performing, temple visiting kind that’s in practice today, but letting go of oneself in devotion to a God or Guru or even a cause. It’s essence is captured better in தமிழ், i.e. நான் என்ற உணர்வு முற்றிலுமாய்க் “கரைந்து போதல்.”

When one attains that identity-less state, then everything in existence becomes divine in one’s perception and the expression of love towards every being will be pure, unconditional and unbiased. This அன்பே சிவம் state is the true nature of the divine. That’s the kind of love seekers receive from a Realised Master (Guru), from time immemorial. 🙌😇🙏

On a related (and slightly lighter) note, here’s a blog Swamy has published a while ago, on Love of course, on the occasion of Valentine’s Day, one of those typically silly western style day-based celebrations. 🙄

This was certainly after Swamy got initiated into Spirituality by his Master, 😌 but haven’t yet got fully immersed into seeking the Truth. 😂👇

http://prakashswamy.blogspot.com/2012/02/truly-madly-deeply.html

Oh btw, my Master repeatedly says that one of the Guru’s most important actions to the seekers is to constantly deflate their ego. Having experienced it first hand, many times, I know it’s a hard but very effective way to enable the seeker’s progress along the spiritual path. So, it’s no surprise that right after I’ve given my perspective on emotions and love, JK himself responded to not only clarify what he said about emotion and love (through the daily email I receive from the Krishnamurti Foundation), but also to ensure my ego isn’t inflated by my explanation of Lovely Emotion! 🤔😂🙌

👇

~~~~~~~~~~

What role has emotion in life?

~J Krishnamurti

How do emotions come into being? Very simple. They come into being through stimuli, through the nerves. You put a pin into me, I jump; you flatter me and I am delighted; you insult me and I don’t like it. Through our senses emotions come into being. And most of us function through our emotion of pleasure; obviously, sir. You like to be recognized as a Hindu. Then you belong to a group, to a community, to a tradition, however old; and you like that, with the Gita, the Upanishads and the old traditions, mountain high. And the Muslim likes his and so on. Our emotions have come into being through stimuli, through environment, and so on. It is fairly obvious.

What role has emotion in life? Is emotion life? You understand? Is pleasure love? Is desire love? If emotion is love, there is something that changes all the time. Right? Don’t you know all that?

… So one has to realize that emotions, sentiment, enthusiasm, the feeling of being good, and all that have nothing whatsoever to do with real affection, compassion. All sentiment, emotions have to do with thought and therefore lead to pleasure and pain. Love has no pain, no sorrow, because it is not the outcome of pleasure or desire.

~~~~~~~~~~

So the next time you’re all set to explode into an emotionally charged destructive reaction, take a deep breath and contemplate for a moment what your constructive response could be, to that situation. You’ll be surprised that the outcome could be a ‘Lovely Emotion!

Be Joyful 😇 & Spread the Cheer 🌻

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

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