Tag Archives: CharDham

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

Upa Guru ~ demystifying the valuable but unknown Guide’s role

3 Aug

Upa Guru ~ demystifying the valuable but unknown Guide’s role

It’s always amusing to see the perplexed look on people’s faces – seekers or not – whenever Swamy mentions Upa Guru! Oh btw, it’s not a fancy spiritual term that Swamy has invented, but has been there in active usage from time immemorial, in the magnificent culture of SanAthana DharmA.

Most people know (or at least pretend to) the oft used terms in spirituality such as Guru, Sadhguru, Sathguru, Satguru, GurunhAthar, Master, GnAni, et al. This, despite the fact that Guru being one of most abused (trust me, it’s gone way beyond misuse) terms that’s been made synonymous with expert today, which is downright ridiculous, considering the exalted position the term Guru occupies in SanAthana DharmA!

Guru_Swamy3

Just the way there is yOgA, i.e. the ultimate union of individual self with the divine or supreme self (not to be misunderstood with mere AsanAs, which is but a mere wave in the vast ocean of yOgA) and Upa yOgA, i.e. preparatory or sub-yOgA (which is usually done before starting the regular yOgA practices), there’s also Guru or Sathguru aka a Realised Master / Spiritual Teacher (one who has experienced the union with the divine, having realised the Truth of existence through direct perception of reality and chose to guide seekers on the spiritual path*) and Upa Guru or Upaguru aka spiritual guide (consciously not using the term ‘secondary’ or ‘assistant’ as English has acute limitations when it comes to accurately reflecting the meaning of many magnificent Sanskrit terms) who can be a stepping stone or guidepost or user-manual (who is like a Guru – sometimes even an apprentice / disciple of a Sathguru, but need not necessarily be a realised one and typically more accessible as well).

* There have always been many self-realised beings who didn’t choose to actively guide others. Though enlightened, they are not Masters. Seekers may still benefit by merely being in their presence. To guide others or not is a choice of any realised being and there’s nothing right or wrong about either, as Spirituality clearly is beyond the binaries of materialistic living.

Does one really need a Guru on the spiritual path? Yes, without a doubt, unless you’re a once-in-a-generation/century exception like Bhagavan RamaNa Maharishi.

Does one really need one or more Upa Gurus? Not really, but an(y) additional guidance (that’s more accessible, needless to say) on the pursuit of Truth doesn’t hurt, isn’t it!

While the Guru-sishyA (Master-disciple) relationship is pretty much always one-to-one (even if a seeker happens to be part of larger group of disciples of the same Guru), the UpaGuru-follower / disciple relationship can be many-to-one, i.e. it’s possible for a seeker to have more than one Upa Guru.

SQ0Now, if you haven’t even got a Guru yet (remember to not confuse Guru with Expert, though s/he is most certainly, in a different dimension of existence), you may be utterly perplexed, which is perfectly understandable. And be assured that it’s not up to you to search for and find a Guru, because s/he isn’t someone you get to choose, like a gadget you compare and buy on Amazon (or Flipkart, if you’re an overt patriot and are extremely patient to bear with their annoying adamant insistence on installing their app on any mobile device). All you can do is, provided you’ve decided to test the waters of the vast (and, needless to say, extremely deep) ocean called spirituality (not to be confused with religion, at all), is to start pondering your existence and long for the answers for a few (or many) Whys that may spring forth, from such pondering.

When that longing becomes unbearable (trust me, it will, eventually – even if it doesn’t happen in this lifetime), i.e. when your thirst to know the Truth reaches a point where you must get it quenched, then a Guru will happen (in your Life, obviously). And then, inevitably, you’ll start wondering why the heck you’ve longed for him/her to happen, in first place, as you begin to comprehend the real role of a Guru, in a seeker’s Life… ha.. ha..!

Anyway, before you get scared and choose to lock your desire to know deeper inside the mind locker, let me throw some more light on this – spiritually speaking, of course.

SG1Sadhguru (yep, that’s his name, which incidentally resonates with the spiritual term used to define anyone like him), YOgi, Mystic & visionary Founder of Isha Foundation, is Swamy’s Guru. A realised Master, he “happened, as Guru” in Swamy’s Life, who never really sought a Master, until the moment. When his Master happened, on a typical traffic-choked sultry evening in Chennai (inside the safe confines of an air-conditioned training room, of course – through an introductory video, not in person), Prakash Ramaswamy, Director (in a global IT organisation), as he was known to many at that time, who happened to be a successful professional filled with the self-assured arrogance of any such successful professional, simply fell like a tree that got uprooted in a flash flood! Today, more than 8 years after his “Guru happened,” humbled beyond belief (especially to those who’ve been with / known him during his corporate career), he simply refers to himself as Swamy, a non-descript name that can be anybody. Or nobody!

Confounding matters further, Sadhguru never made any claims to being Swamy’s Guru (or for any of the millions of Isha meditators like him worldwide, for that matter). Despite having been initiated into the ancient KriyA yOgA practice of ShAmbhavi MahAmudrA by his Master in 2009 (in a corporate program conducted in his office itself), Swamy has been in his Guru’s close proximity only thrice (during the 7-day SamyamA or Silence program in 2013, YantrA ceremony to receive DEvi Linga Bhairavi yantrA in 2016 (the first anniversary of Devi’s arrival at SwamyHome is celebrated on 04-Aug-2017, Friday & you’re most welcome to join the celebrations) and the Sathsang during KailAsh-MAnasarOvar yatrA in 2013, when he received prasAdham directly from the Master) during all these years. And he hasn’t directly interacted or spoken with his Master even once! At least, not yet.

AnandaAlai-SadhguruSpot-20thJune2014-2From the moment Sadhguru, his Master, has “happened” in his Life, till this very inevitable moment, Swamy never had any doubts about who his Guru is. Such is the clarity of a seeker, whose Master has found him/her (it’s never the other way around)!
You may cherish reading all that Swamy has written about his Master here…

Guru DEvO MahEswarA
http://swamyverse.blogspot.in/2013/07/guru-devo-maheswara.html

SOhamAnandAji, aka Samir Parekh anna, a person like you and Swamy, is Swamy’s Upa Guru (only one, as of now). An elite corporate consultant & trainer by profession, he’s a GrihasthA (householder) with a wonderful spouse (she must be, it can’t be any other way) and two children.

PBY4A deeply spiritual soul that’s been blessed by many Masters, including Swamy’s Master Sadhguru (& ParamAchaAryA Sri ChandrasEkarEndra Saraswathi of KAnchi KAmakOti Peetam & Swami ChinmayAnandA, the founder of the ChinmayA mission, who he considers as his Guru & Swami AthmapriyAnandA of Ramakrishna Mission & Guruswamy NatarAjan of Akhila Bharata Ayyappa Seva Sangham & probably a few more Masters as well…). He’s a DEvi upAsakar (worship of DEvi Shakthi as the ultimate reality) and an ardent SabarimalA yAtri for several decades. Well-versed in the sacred scriptures and rituals of SanAtana DharmA, he guides a group of seekers such as Swamy on their spiritual pursuit.

UpaGuru1Though Swamy & his Upa Guru SOhamAnandAji were part of the KailAsh-MAnasarOvar yAtrA (organised by Isha Sacred Walks) in 2013, their spiritual connect didn’t get activated until a few years later. Eventually, SOhamAnandAji took Swamy on yAtrAs (Pancha BhUtha Sthalams, SabarimalA & ChAr DhAm), guided him on DEvi worship (for NavarAtri pUjA) and gave him Mantra DeekshA / UpadEsA as well. Swamy, being an intellectual (yep, yet to get around that enchanting mind trap!), always had a zillion questions about everything and his Upa Guru, until now, seems to not only have the appropriate answers for all but also doesn’t mind sharing them from time to time. And, to the grey-haired millennial Swamy’s delight, his Upa Guru is accessible even on WhatsApp!

upaguru2.jpgNeither is SOhamAnandAji Swamy’s Guru, nor does he even bother to claim to be Swamy’s Upa Guru. But his role in enabling Swamy’s progress on the spiritual path, in pursuit of self-realisation is so valuable that Swamy has to elevate his spiritual practices to an entirely different dimension / level, if he has to get such ongoing guidance from his own Master (which is obviously Swamy’s limitation, not his most benevolent Guru’s)! And the Upa Guru too happened in Swamy’s Life, just in time, only with the Grace of Swamy’s Guru!

With that luminosity shredding the wraps of ignorance a bit to seep some light into the dark cavern of your all-knowing mind, on this sublime subject, let’s also look at how the Upa Guru’s role is perceived / defined by a few others, who too were blessed to have one or more, in their Life.

Here’s an insight by Ram Dass, who is a disciple of the world famous Realised Master Neem KarOli Baba, known popularly as MaharAjji, on “Sathgurus and Upagurus.

NeemKaroliBabaThe Sat Guru is somebody who beckons from beyond. He’s somebody who’s all finished. The Upa Guru is anybody or anything along the way that points to the path that helps you along a little. So that even your enemies are often your Upa Gurus because they wake you up to a place you’re not, which helps you to get free of that place, which helps you get on with it.

You may read the entire article on “The Need for a Guru” by Ram Dass here…
https://www.ramdass.org/need-guru/

Here’s what Thakur RAmakrishNa ParamahamsA said about Upaguru

Ramakrishna_ParamahamsaThe Guru is only one, but Upa-gurus (secondary gurus) may be many. He is an Upa-guru from whom anything whatsoever is learned. It is mentioned in the Bhagavata that the great Avadhuta (a great yogi) had twenty four such Upa-Gurus.

You may read about the “THE AVADHUTA AND HIS UPA-GURUS” by RAmakrishNa ParamahamsA here…
http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/parables/1_files/1-169.html

Here’s the perspective on Upaguru by a seeker named Elizabeth (who, incidentally quotes Ram Dass, in the article) that certainly resonated with Swamy…

Sometimes the upagurus come from the past.  They are seeing you through the filter of their own past and have reappeared for something on their own journey.   In such people, we perhaps get a teaching that reminds us why we are seeking to better align, why we have sought to shift and change old patterns.  We might also meet in an upaguru who has been part of our past someone who has shifted and grown and inspires us to go further on the path, sharing it for a while.  Those who are parts of our life for a long time, I think generally serve as both teachers and teachings, and we are the same for them.

You may read the entire article “Sathgurus and Upagurus, Teachers and Teachings” here…
https://rosegardenyoga.com/2011/01/satgurus-and-upagurus-teachers-and-teachings/

GuruPurnima1By now, hopefully, you should have a fair idea of the role of the Upa Guru, who is like a catalyst that’ll potentially accelerate the seeker’s progress on the spiritual path, that could become a reality in a seeker’s search for Truth. Sometimes, even before a Guru happens. Or it could be the other way around, like in Swamy’s spiritual journey, when the Upa Guru happened, with the Guru’s boundless benevolent grace.

Either way, there’s no denying the fact that it’s an immensely valuable role, to lead / guide a seeker’s progress on the long-winding spiritual path. Like a teacher in the academic space, who teaches you how to learn (not just study) something effectively. Or a mentor in the cut-throat corporate world of survival, who helps you navigate the career maze. Or an all-knowing uncle (or aunt) in the family, who inadvertently became your role-model, by sharing the secret recipe for circumventing / avoiding marital disharmony. Or a friend, who just knew how to wriggle out of any seemingly impossible situation and doesn’t mind sharing that knowledge. Or a D-I-Y expert who showed you the ways to do something better and swifter…

IMG_20170704_111911Now that you know who an Upa Guru is, it shouldn’t be that hard – hopefully – to be open to getting guidance from one (or more) who had been there and done that and willing to share the pearls of wisdom for your own progress. The key to finding, one or more, is for you to be open and humble, keeping aside your limited intellect (it is & will remain so) and presumptions about Life (you’ve no idea what “Life the way it is”, is). Happy journey – on the spiritual path that is!

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy  

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GangA Nhadhi DheerEy ~ Step 0

19 Jul

GangA Nhadhi DheerEy ~ Step 0

In the mountain abode of the Lord of Gods!

At 4.44 pm on 8th July 2017, the tower of the temple came into Swamy’s view. It was exactly as seen in the countless photos that pop up from a Google search for that exalted place. The 16 km uphill trek that took a little over 7 hours was about to conclude. But unlike in KailAsh, the floodgates held strong. Until an hour or so! 

When Swamy inched his way to the ancient temple that millions dream of going to, but only a few thousands actually manage to do every year, most only once in a lifetime, and had darshan of the Lord, the floodgates blasted open… washing away the wrongs – known & unknown – committed over several births, including this one. They weren’t tears of toil or torment, but those of pure joy. 

Through teary eyes, Swamy drank to his heart’s content, the magnificently decorated Swayambhu form of Lord KEdArnAth, the Lord of the Gods, MahAdEvA, glittering in beautiful alankAram, that’s more like his brother-in-law’s. It reminded Swamy about Lord AruNAchalA at ThiruvaNNAmalai, literally in the other corner of this culturally rich, complex nation called BhArat.

The wavering mind that usually wanders all around, simply seemed to stand still. The legs that were begging for rest, after the slow & steady uphill trek for over 7 hours, weren’t complaining anymore. Every acquired thing that was considered something in this lifetime, suddenly appeared insignificant. The mantrA that was being chanted inward almost non-stop till then too has chosen to remain silent. Nothing else seemed to matter anymore – other than just being in the presence of Lord KEdhAr, encompassed by his absolute stillness… immersed in his boundless Grace… 

The darshans of Adi Guru will continue to happen, all through the next day, Guru PUrNimA, a very significant day of the year for spiritual seekers. Some of the darshans were so intimate that Swamy, along with the fellow yAtris, would perform abhishEkam and arpaNam to the Lord inside the sanctum sanctorum, which is unimaginable in his state, where the Lord & DEvi can only be worshipped from a significant distance, especially in popular temples. One has to pay a hefty fee to get a closer darshan of the divine. Getting inside the Garbhagriham is entirely out of question. But in KEdhAr, the most benevolent Lord would let anyone – irrespective of caste, creed, status, wealth, fame, et al – to not only see him up close, but also to touch his Swayambhu form and offer worship directly. 

Two incredible happenings, within the short duration of a couple of days, would change Swamy’s perception of ancient consecrated spaces, forever. Experientially, of course, not philosophically. His inner experience at KEdArnAth, one of the holiest spaces of worship for the followers, believers & devotees of Lord ShivA, would incredulously repeat at BhadhrinAth, one of the holiest spaces of worship for followers, believers & devotees of Lord VishNu, in exactly the same way. 

The experience would quite literally show Swamy that 

அரியும் அரனும் ஒண்ணு, அதை

அறியாதவர் வாயில மண்ணு!”

“Hari (Lord VishNu) & HarA (Lord ShivA) are one & the same. 

Those who don’t realise that (Truth) will simply persish (to be born again)!” 

… next in GangA Nhadhi DheerEy … 

“Step 1 ~ DEvi delays Swamy’s yAtrA!”

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy 

🙏👣😌🙌🌻

GangA Nhadhi DheerEy” is a step-by-step retelling (well, almost) of Swamy’s absolutely enchanting ChAr DhAm yAtrA experience, which happened with his Upa Guru SOhamAnandAji’s able guidance, in July 2017, along with a small group of fellow seekers.

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