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18 Steps to Emancipation | Step 3 ~ The 3rd Dimension!

29 Jan

Step 3 ~ The 3rd Dimension

From the triumvirate of Gods known as ThrimUrthi, viz BrahmA, VishNu & RudrA (not ShivA, as it is usually misunderstood and stated – RudrA is an aspect of ShivA, not ShivA himself, who as MahAdEvA is the unmanifest that’s way beyond a mere role playing God) and God6desses Saraswati, Lakshmi & DurgA (all aspects or forms of Shakthi, the all-pervading, all-encompassing Mother Goddess of all creation, at a magnitude and scale that’s simply unimaginable by the limited human intellect), the number 3 has always been significant in SanAtana DharmA, which naturally reflects in many aspects of day-to-day living as well. Needless to say, there are countless upa dEvatAs or relatively lesser Gods, present around the sanctum sanctorum of Life, some of whom even have a specific role to play, during every being’s lifetime(s).

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ascend Step 1 ~ End or Beginning! here…

https://prakashswamy.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/18-steps-to-emancipation-step-1-end-or-beginning/

ascend Step 2 ~ Past in the Present! here…

https://prakashswamy.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/18-steps-to-emancipation-step-2-past-in-the-present/ 

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  • Mother, Father & Child(ren), in the family. The unlimited number of relatives that poke their nose into the family business are the upa dEvatAs, obviously

  • Teacher(s), Student, Parents(s), while studying (not to be confused with learning, which doesn’t usually happen within the school but mostly outside it). Lab assistant, Sports coach, unfriendly accountant diligently collecting the fee (and the fine), et al are the upa dEvatAs

  • Boss, Worker, Team, while toiling hard to make a living. Humourless HR, automaton Admin, funless Finance, sincere Security, clueless Quality, etc are some of the upa dEvatAs

  • Doctor, Patient and Insurance company at hospitals, with a zillion departments to perform quadrillion tests with imported equipments (gotta use em’ all), occasionally smiling nurses, always smirking attendants and the statuesque (read expressionless) billing clerk are the upa dEvatAs

  • Teams, Fans / spectators, Officials (including referees / umpires, organizers, etc) in sports

  • Actors who – supposedly – perform (and overrate themselves), Fans who adore them (consciously keeping the brain aside) and the Crew (including Director, producer, et al) that continues to churn one mindless dumb movie after another  

  • Shopkeeper (the one who sells), Shopper (the ones who buy) and Product makers (the one who make the ones that are being sold and bought) in shops – huge and tiny

  • Deity, Devotee and Priest (and the mysterious government department that merrily milks the devotion dry in the name of managing the temple administration) in places of worship

  • Trekker, SherpA and the Mountain, in mountaineering (not to be confused with the amateur day-trips – with tiny backpacks and shiny camera/phones, no less – called trekking, to the friendly neighbourhood hillocks)

  • Farmer, Cow/Bull and the Land / Crops…

  • Gardener, flowering Plants and Birds / bees / butterflies…


But when one starts the stroll down the spiritual path – accidentally, like Swamy, or otherwise – the 3rd dimension shines in an altogether different light. In fact, it is so in all the aforesaid examples too, if one is willing to set aside time to comprehend (which, humans hardly do).


For example, at home, the 3D is the actual upbringing of the child, which need not necessarily be all done by the parents themselves.

In sports, it’s the joy of being part of the action – actively or passively – where the team’s pursuit of excellence matters more than the talented bunch of chosen individuals.

In temples, it’s the devotion, which need not even be overtly expressed, of the devotee towards the divinity, not the deity per se’.

…keep comprehending (a better alternative to being a couch potato today, even as the epic, throwback to a glorious nostalgic past, Fedex-Rafa grand slam final plays out on your prized mega size UHD TV) the 3D of the rest of the examples…


The list of such 3s is as long as the utterly pointless conversations that humans have everyday as if their living is dependent on such small talk and not on the prANA that sustains Life. On the spiritual path, the 3Ds are the  Guru, Disciple and the Path itself (we’ll climb that next step together in “Step 4 ~ Four Paths of Pursuit).

In the context of SabarimalA yAtrA, the 3Ds are the GuruSwamy (an experienced, and in some ways authorised, guide to those seeking the Lord’s darshan – or an inner-darshan that’s encapsulated within the process of yAtrA), the YAtri (who is none other than the seeker, whether s/he realises it or not) and the yAtrA itself (leading to the final surrender at the lotus feet of Lord Dharma SAsthA, which represents shedding the last vestiges of the individual identity to become one with the supreme reality). And the upa dEvatAs in this soul search are innumerable, not just in number but also in variety and the numerous ways each one makes the journey absolutely enchanting.

The 3rd aspect or dimension of the yAtrA (pilgrimage) that is better experienced than explained, was revealed to Swamy, slowly but surely, in myriad ways (some even appearing to be mystical), through first-hand experience, as the yAtrA progressed.


Before the actual yAtrA itself commenced, while the vratham (preparatory sAdhanA for a mandalam) was in progress, Swamy’s Upa Guru (UG, from now on) told him something that captured the purpose of the yAtrA beautifully. The essence of that is (not necessarily verbatim),

“You can choose to be a driver or passenger in this yAtrA. You’ll see both types in this yAtrA (or any yAtrA for that matter). Neither is right or wrong. You get to be a driver, if you do sEvA (service, of any kind). The more sEvA you do, the more wonderful your yAtrA (experience) will be. It’s your choice, of course.”

In any journey, the passengers perform just what’s necessary for their journey. Exactly as they do while traveling from one place to another, during any time of the year. For many, it could well be the umpteenth journey, as a passenger. Mostly passive and occasionally active – in their areas of interest or zones of comfort – they chose to go with the flow. They too get to complete the journey, aiding its progress in doing a thing or two that they feel is sufficient. May be they don’t think the yAtrA as something very different from their daily routine, when one is usually served things, all through the day, without being expected to serve. 


It’s hard to read what goes on in a person’s mind, which has a way of its own. The passengers simply chose to ride along with this particular group and their ride probably wouldn’t be any different if it’s with any other group. From their perspective, may be it’s the right thing (or way, rather) to do – not hindering the progress by simply remaining a passenger. In any case, sEvA has to be offered by oneself and can’t be demanded from anyone.

The drivers perform what’s essential for the journey itself – not just theirs, irrespective of however many times they too have done it before. Right from purchasing to packing / unpacking / repacking to booking tickets to planning the itinerary to preparing food to performing pujAs to ensuring adherence to well-defined rituals to guiding the yAtris on well-practiced but hardly predictable treks to caring for every individual’s well-being to cleaning to leading teams to offering insights to what not… they’re the silent ones that keep the yAtra chugging along, as merrily as possible, while being a yAtri as well.


Swamy too had been a passenger before, in the life-altering yAtrA to the abode of Lord HariHaraSudhan’s illustrious father, the YakshaswarUpA who transmitted the ways and methods of liberation to the Saptharishis as Adi Guru (first Master) DakshiNamUrthy, i.e. KailAsh-MAnasarOvar, in 2013, when he first met his UG, who seemed to be everywhere, doing a multitude of things, all along the yAtrA.

But not being a stranger to volunteering – thanks to his many years with his Master Sadhguru’s magnificent spiritual organization called Isha Foundation, whose phenomenal global growth is rooted in volunteering – Swamy kept an open mind to what(ever) he could perform, in terms of sEvA, during this yAtrA. And the opportunities kept presenting themselves, sometimes one after another and at times without a break to even catch a breath or two.

May be it’s time for Swamy to follow his UG’s footsteps this time, being a part of the bus that aids the journey’s progress, in whatever little way he can. In hindsight, it appears that’s how the Lord has destined it to be – even if it’s just his maiden yAtrA to the powerful hill shrine of the PandaLa RAjakumAran, with limited knowledge of the yAtrA itself and pretty much no knowledge about what needs to be done during it.

The early signs of how the yAtrA would pan out could be seen at the very moment Swamy boarded the yAtrA bus that’ll take them from base camp at KalpAthi (near PalghAt), after the Irumudi ceremony (the most critical mandatory step for any yAtri, before the ascent begins) happened. Having done his bit at unpacking & repacking location-wise materials and a little bit of alankAram (floral decoration, which he immensely enjoys doing at DEvi Linga Bhairavi’s shrine in his humble abode) for the ceremony, Swamy boarded the bus after the customary coconut breaking in front Lord VignEswarA,  later that night, and faced a sea of strangers who have already occupied the many rows of seats with saha-yAtris who they’re already familiar with. May be they’ve been occupying those seats for several years, who knows.


None of them appeared too keen on befriending the strange looking KanniSwamy (Swamy’s appearance – an elderly looking man in saffron dhoti with a flowing white beard, which is invariably perceived as that of a seasoned SabarimalA veteran, if not a Guru Swamy, will lead to many hilarious situations, all through the journey :D, proving the age-old dictum that appearances can indeed be deceptive). Slowly making his way past all the rows of seats, he ended up in the very last row, where too there seemed to be no place for the new comer. As he can’t go any further (without breaking the rear window), Swamy made a little space in that seat where a few bags too were seated (the patented Indian way of reserving seats 😉 and sat down on that last row – notorious for guaranteeing a j/bumpy ride to any occupant, anywhere – expecting to be told by someone that that seat too was taken.

But his fear of standing through the journey was unfound (ah, the games that the devious mind loves to play ;), as a friendly gentleman who came minutes later, took off the bags that were on the seat, placed them on the floor and sat down at the corner, next to Swamy. He then let out a hoarse cry “bOlE bAbA,” that got an enthusiastic response “pAr karEgA” from many yAtris, followed by “TrishUl dhAri”, with an equally enthusiastic response of “pAr karEgA” from many.


In that moment – especially when he heard the name of AdiyOgi Lord ShivA – Swamy intuitively knew he was in good / right company. 80% of that last row occupants happened to be drivers in the yAtrA (there’s no escaping the 80-20 rule, even in the last row of a bus full of yAtris headed for an annual pilgrimage), i.e. full-time volunteers who were always in the thick of the action, not necessarily in the forefront but in the rear ranks that keeps fueling the yAtrA forward, making it easier for Swamy to get his hands dirty with sEvA, quite literally.

And at least one of them (obviously the remaining 20% part of the 80-20) was exceptionally silent, throughout the journey, something a serious seeker like Swamy immensely enjoys, even when he’s in the urban steel and concrete jungle that we hilariously call home. In short, Swamy felt at home in that last row, being exactly where he really belonged.

Just being open to possibilities led to Swamy getting a multitude of opportunities to perform different kinds of sEvA, all through the yAtrA. There were some he chose to be part of (sometimes simply to avoid getting embroiled in small talk going on in all directions) and quite a few where he was called to perform a specific task (and was kindly instructed how to go about it). As time passed (or paused, as it seemed – especially since there were no phones or calendars to check date and time), Swamy’s very first yAtrA to the abode of Lord YOga SAsthA simply went into autopilot mode, with even the miniscule contributions of his towards the many aspects of the yAtra driving his steps forward. One small step after another. All the way to the Lord’s sannidhAnam. Where the Lord who is always depicted as a child or youth gave darshan to Swamy as a yOgi with a beard!


… (at least) 15 more steps to be climbed…


~Swamy (@PrakashSwamy)

18 Steps to Emancipation! is a blog series on Swamy’s first yAtrA to the sacred hill shrine of Lord Dharma SAsthA at SabarimalA in 2017, as a Kanni SwAmy (first timer or rookie) of the ABASS Kolkatta, a traditional yAtrA group of SabarimalA veterans, who perform the annual yAtrA via the longer (& needless to say, harder) route known as Peruvazhi or Periya PAdhai. 

You’re welcome to cherish other Swamy blog posts (SwamysteryBeen There Seen ThatSwamyviewSwamyverseSwamygraphy), Quotes (SwamyRay / SwamyQuote) & Poems (Swamyem – including the 180 & counting #DhinamOruPadhigam hymns), leave a comment and share it with your social circles. You’re also welcome to stay connected to Swamy (@PrakashSwamy) on Social Media.

Be joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

18 Steps to Emancipation | Step 2 ~ Past in the Present!

22 Jan

18 Steps to Emancipation! ~ Swamys first SabarimalA yAtrA experience (January 2017)

Step 2 ~ Past in the Present

You may climb Step 1 ~ End or Beginning! here… 

Swamy consciously avoids dwelling in the past and speculating the future, trying to remain rooted in the present moment instead, following his Master Sadhgurus powerful saying This moment is inevitable. But as he sat on the wooden platform inside the viri (place of stay – there will be many all along the route to the holy shrine, while this one was specifically assigned to the group that Swamy belonged to) at SabarimalA, baked by the boiling sun, he couldnt help going back to how and when it all started.

When Swamy went to the Pancha BhUta Sthala* yAtrA with his UpaGuru^^ last year, there were many interesting conversations. During one of them, Swamy casually mentioned that he had never been to SabarimalA. Being a veteran of SabarimalA yAtrA (apart from many other such yAtrAs, needless to say), his Upa Guru immediately offered to take him along the next time. He promptly pinged Swamy in November 2016 and informed that he has to start the one mandalam Vratham (sAdhanA, to be observed by all yAtris to SabarimalA). Few other instructions and guidelines followed and on November 16, 2016, Swamy took the baby steps for his maiden yAtrA to the holy shrine of SabarimalA, which culminated in the darshan of the Lord of the Five Hills (AindhumalaivAsan) on January 15, 2017.

Though Swamy had witnessed the spectacle of grand pUjAs performed to Lord AyyappA at his maternal grandparents home in Madurai, while he was still in primary school (two of his maternal uncles have been regularly going to SabarimalA at that time, via the longer Periya PAdhai, as part of the famous Neelakanda Ayyappan group from Madurai), the thought of going there has never occurred to him. Later, one of his younger brothers also went a few time and even his father too undertook the yAtrA once. That makes it abundantly clear that SabarimalA yAtrA is more a calling of the Lord than a person’s choice. And the Lord must have decided that Swamy was ready only when he was 46 years old and completely free of survival related pressures.

The twice daily pUjA (floral offering while chanting the AshtOthram or 108 names of the Lord), followed by SharaNam (a series of 21 chants thats unique to the Lord, who is also known as SharaNa GOshappriyan, followed by prostrating on the floor, after each chant), NaivEdhyam (of a simple sweet liquid called PAnakham) and Aarthi (performed with Karpooram / camphor) happened beautifully without a break. Almost on all days, the Lord was also decorated with flowers. All austerities (that aren’t too different from the YamA & NiyamAs in the scriptures) to be followed along with the daily rituals were also adhered to, as prescribed.

Being a seeker on the spiritual path for a while now, guided by the boundless Grace of his Master Sadhguru, performing a sAdhanA for a mandalam or adhering to specific food consumption guidelines were a no brainer for Swamy (pretty much a given for any and every spiritual sAdhanA, which keep coming one after the other, year after year). But all that didn’t offer even a hint as to what the yAtrA itself would be like, which was both progressively exciting and excruciating, as the days rolled by.

Swamy was brought back to the present moment by a little bit of commotion within the viri. One of the Guru Swamys (referred to as GM from now on, for easy reference), a revered SabarimalA veteran of several decades, has just arrived, after having darshan of the Lord. Even before he rested after the long day out in the blazing sun, he was seen enquiring about the other Guru Swamy of the group (referred to as GJ from now on, for easy reference), who hasnt yet made it to the viri. He was also in the company of two more elderly veterans, which made the situation a bit worrisome, considering their physical wellbeing. So, it was time to find why was he delayed and where he was now.

Like any Guru Swamy who takes special care of the Kanni Swamys (first timers or rookies in the group), GM took Swamy along in his search of GJ, in the company of Swamy’s yAtrA Guru (leader of the smaller team of yAtris that Swamy was part of). Though they didnt succeed in locating GJ, Swamy ended up seeing the procession of MALigappuram^ DEvi, who was headed towards the Lords shrine to seek his hand in marriage, and also the spectacular procession of the AlanguLam** group, whose historic significance goes all the way back to when Lord AyyappA waged war against UdhayaNan, to reconstruct and restore the glory of the magnificent temple of Dharma SAsthA at Sabaripeetam. Though the 18 Steps can be climbed only once, and only by those yAtris with Irumudi, Swamy wished to at least see and bow down to it once more. That wish too was granted by GM, during the search for GJ. After returning to the viri, they found GJ seated there, obviously exhausted and not too thrilled at being left behind, though the graceful Lord ensured he too had his darshan by then.

As Swamy sat there wondering what’s next, his sexagenarian companion (a very busy wiry thin man, who was always on the move, defying his advanced age, pretty much always helping someone or other – especially the rookies, without expecting anything in return – a perfect portrait of Karma YOgi) transpired out of nowhere and offered to take him to the place of annadhAnam (good quality food offered free to all yAtris, all through the day, until the closure of the shrine at the conclusion of the mandalam) and then for another darshan of the Lord.

As the sun continued on his daily trip from east to west, the Lord would continue to shower his Grace on Swamy, with one enchanting darshan after another – 4 in all by the end of the day, each different from the previous one, and 5 in total before the descent began the next day. What more could Swamy – a staunch devotee of AdiYOgi Lord ShivA, not unlike any seeker on the yOgic path – ask for, as the number of darshans he had perfectly aligned with the PanchAkshara mUla mantrA of his blissed out Lord, the magnificent Lord of the Cosmic Dance, the first yOgi or AdiYOgi and first Guru or Adi Guru in the form of DakshiNAmurthy, the only PurushA and the father of all beings in creation, including Lord Sabarigireesan.

Hara Hara MahAdEvA!

*Pancha BhUta SthalAs are five significant shrines of Lord ShivA (& Devi Shakthi, of course), specifically consecrated to enhance (or moderate – depending on the yAtris disposition) that particular BhUtAs (elements – Agni / Fire, Jal or Appu / Water, VAyu / Air or Wind, Prithvi / Land or Earth and AkAsh / Space) attribute. By performing specific rituals / processes at each SthalA, one can observe / experience changes, both internally and externally. The sthalAs / temples are as follows:

VAyu sthalam (wind) ~ SriKALahasthi (KALathinhAdhar or KALahasthEswarar and GnAnaprasUnAmbikai amman), which is also known for RAhu-KEthu dOsha nivAraNam (relief) and the place where hunter-saint KaNNappar received the Lord’s Grace through his raw expression of pure bakthi (devotion). 

Prithvi sthalam (earth) ~ KAnchipuram (EkAmbaranhAdhar or EkAmbarEswarar and KAmAkshi amman, who is worshipped in a separate shrine), popularly known as the temple city that literally overflows with hundreds of temples.

Agni sthalam (fire) ~ ThiruvaNNAmalai (ANNAmalaiyAr and UNNAmulai amman). Also popular as the place from where BhagavAn RamaNa Maharishi showered his grace for many decades, after his self-realisation, and guided scores of seekers thru the path of GnAna yOgA.

AkAsha sthalam (space) ~ Chidhambaram (SabApathy or NatarAjar and SivagAmi or SivakAmasundari amman). This is also one of the Nadana Sabhais (courts or halls of dance) of the dancing Lord, known as Ponnambalam or Golden SabhAi. Also considered the spiritual center of the universe, where the Lord eternally performs the cosmic dance of Anandha ThANdavA (dance of bliss).

Jala or Appu sthalam ~ ThiruvAnaikkAval (JambhukEswarar and AkhilANdEswari amman), near Srirangam, where the popular Dhivya DEsam of Lord MahAvishNu is also located. There is also a shrine for Sadhguru Sri BrahmA (Sadhguru in his previous birth), where he was in SamAdhi, buried in the earth, for a mandalam. Swamy’s small group of yAtris, led by his UpaGuru, were fortunate to conclude their Pancha BhUta Sthala yAtrA in Sadhguru’s shrine.  

^When UdhayaNan attacked the Lord while he was in meditation, MALigappuram DEvi, who was held captive by him, is said to have given her own life by taking the blow of the weapon . She wished to be married to him, but as a brahmachAri and yOgi, the Lord politely declined but assured her that he would indeed marry her, in the year when no new yAtri (Kanni Swamy) visits his shrine. Nurturing that hope, she visits the Lord’s shrine in an impressive procession (used to be on elephants, with regal decorations) every year, but she would eventually return to her abode, sadly disappointed, upon seeing the thousands of sarams / arrows placed at Sanguththi, by Kanni Swamys like Swamy, which means she wont be able to marry the Lord this year too.

**Kochu Kadutha Swamy of the AmbalappuzhA yOgam band of warriors is the one who finally slayed UdhayaNan, as Lord Ayyappan has already sat in deep meditation. Along with AmbalappuzhA yOgam, PandaLa yOgam led by Villan & Mallan and AlangAd yOgam led by VAvar formed Lord Ayyappan’s formidable army,  which earned them the special rights in SabarimalA worship. While PandaLa yOgam preserves the Lord’s ThiruvAbharaNam (ceremonial clothing, jewellery) & brings it to the shrine on the day of Makara JyOthi, AlangAd yOgam got the right to perform PEttai ThuLLal at Erumeli (a stone’s throw away from VAvar Swamy’s mosque shrine & also the right to ascend the sacred 18 steps, without the Irumudi, which is mandatory for everyone else.

^^UpaGuru is like the VP of a nation or Vice Captain of a team, in the spiritual space, a Guide with immense knowledge & Mentor with extensive experience, who is readily available – and approachable, needless to say – for a seeker who has a Guru but needs ongoing guidance and direction, for which s/he couldn’t reach out to her/is Guru for various practical reasons. 

(at least) 16 more Steps to be climbed…

~Swamy (@PrakashSwamy)

18 Steps to Emancipation! is a blog series on Swamy’s first yAtrA to the sacred hill shrine of Lord Dharma SAsthA at SabarimalA in 2017, as a Kanni SwAmy (first timer or rookie) of the ABASS Kolkatta, a traditional yAtrA group of SabarimalA veterans, who perform the annual yAtrA via the longer (& needless to say, harder) route known as Peruvazhi or Periya PAdhai. 
You’re welcome to cherish other Swamy blog posts (SwamysteryBeen There Seen ThatSwamyviewSwamyverseSwamygraphy), Quotes (SwamyRay / SwamyQuote) & Poems (Swamyem – including the 180 & counting #DhinamOruPadhigam hymns), leave a comment and share it with your social circles. You’re also welcome to stay connected to Swamy (@PrakashSwamy) on Social Media.

Be joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

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