Tag Archives: Kailash

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

Stop before you Start!

18 Aug

Stop before you Start! 

~ the amber light for all spiritual aspirants, to pause before they start the journey

So you’re bitten by the proverbial spiritual bug. As soon as you’ve listened to a mesmerising Master eloquently explaining what enlightenment is, on YouTube, and soothingly assuring it’s a possibility for everyone – that includes, ahem, you! Or when you’ve seen your BFF lose weight miraculously, a mere month after s/he started a new yOgA practice, which s/he learned in your workplace itself. Or when you simply couldn’t put down the book on the methods for self-realisation that you picked up at the airport (at double the cost of Amazon, no less) during one of those pointless business trips. Or when your fav celebrity – one of the many, obviously, since there are one too many now – gushed about how her recent initiation into mindfulness has transformed her as a person overnight (though there is no proof of any such transformation, other than her own assurance to famished fans like you)!

Anyway, one or all of the above happened to you within the last fortnight and you’re all fired up to start the journey to know. Umm, you don’t know yet what you really want to know, but who cares about such nuances anyway. If your fav celebrity got transformed, you, her die-hard fan, too will most certainly get the transformation. And how could the bestselling book be wrong, you ask yourself. And the weight-loss too is a dangling carrot that’s hard to ignore. And, if in doubt, you can always check with the YouTube Guru, who seems to know about everything under the sun! So you can hardly wait and are all set to press the ignition button.

Wait… wait… wait… Hold on for one moment please. Consider this the amber light that may actually prevent you from wrecking not only your #MakeInIndia superbike by jumping the Red, but also potentially wrecking those around you – on the road or at home or even at work, for that matter. Please Stop, just for a moment, before you Start that journey, which might be inevitable, who knows.

The long journey to self-realisation is a lonely pursuit. And a very selfish one!

What the h#!!?,” you may baulk. “Aren’t there millions of seekers, like me, who are on the path, being part of so many spiritual organisations!,” you might marvel. Yes, but…

IMG_20170712_093824There may be many fellow seekers along the path, or on a different path, to the same destination. They may even be part of the same spiritual organisation that you chose to be a part of and may do all the same programs that you do and do all the daily practices that you are supposed to do.

But, rest assured, each journey is different and every seeker has to pursue the journey alone, even if s/he is part of a group of seekers. And because you are aligned with a group of seekers who are all guided by the same Guru doesn’t mean you are all going to work together for everyone’s enlightenment. Tsk.. tsk.. Self-realisation is such a self-explanatory term that one should never get lost in any imagination about it’s self-centered nature. There is no getting around the hard-to-swallow fact that it’s about you and you alone.

sp1.jpgIf I become a better person, as a result of my spiritual practices, won’t the people connected with me be thrilled?,” you may wonder. Indeed, they will be. And the weight loss would certainly earn a few more admirers as well. But…

There will be many spectators along the path – loving family, caring friends, acerbic critics, unqualified self-proclaimed masters, et al. All of them are but mere spectators, who haven’t started (or concluded – especially the half-baked masters) their own journey yet. In fact, many of them won’t even have a clue about the existence of such a journey. They are so entangled in survival that they may not even be interesting in knowing about it, let alone support you in pursuing it. So, don’t be surprised if the beloved ones end up being the befuddled ones, not being able to comprehend what’s going on with you, i.e. the person they thought they knew all along!

I’ve got a fantastic Guru guiding me man… someone so popular that everyone from politicians to celebrities to industrialists line up to be at his events that happen all over the nation!,” you may protest. Well…

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If you’re blessed, you may actually have a Guru (Spiritual Master, not the head of some religious establishment), with boundless compassion to guide seekers like you, shining the light along the path. But even s/he isn’t going to literally hold hands, till you reach the destination.

Not only that, the Guru will strip you clean of all the pretensions of your very existence, including the facade of personality that you’re hiding behind, in order to eke out a living in this man-eat-dog mad mad world that’s hell-bent on self-destructing the only planet it has got to live, so far, in this vast, still expanding, universe. Be assured, it won’t be a pretty sight, when you’ve no other choice but to look at yourself, in all your true-self g(l)ory… eeew! And that’s exactly what a real Guru does to you, because Guru is the light that annihilates the darkness of your hilarious ignorance, which you presumed to be intelligence, until the tables are turned, upside down.

adiyogi41s.jpgAll right, now that your iMax sized imaginary world of spirituality is shaken a bit with shattering Dolby Atmos sound, you better pause for a moment at this Amber sign (umm, Amber is the warning sign, in case you routinely fail to notice or jump at the sight of it on the roads), before speeding away into the unknown, but not uncharted, long winding path of spirituality.

Oh hey, you’re totally free to proceed on the well-known path of religion, which is the always available alternative, which most humans find very comfortable to tread, during any part of their existence. But that’s not going to take you to where you may actually want to go, since, most unfortunately, all the savvy preachers, heavy tomes and slick videos and impressive social media posts won’t bother differentiating one from the other, i.e. religion from spirituality. They are distinct and almost diametrically opposite.

The journey to realise the Truth isn’t a fun tourist trip that anyone curious can undertake. It’s a challenging yAtrA (pilgrimage) that not many get to complete, within a lifetime.

Yet, it’s been diligently undertaken by many, willingly, from time immemorial. And most of them did (and still do) have a Guru to guide them along.

Of course, anyone can start it. Even you, who loves whistle-worthy silly dialogues like “ரிஸ்க்ன்னா எனக்கு ரஸ்க் சாப்பிடற மாதிரி!” (“Taking risk is just like eating rusk for me!”) can. No one’s going to stop you from starting. And no one’s going to be there to ensure you sustain it. Or even complete it. You’ll be on your own. All the way, from start to finish. Hard to swallow but hey, that’s how Truth is.

Fun fact: The spiritual journey neither has a fixed schedule nor predetermined levels of difficulty.

RealizationBoth the length and difficulty of the journey is determined by you, not anyone else. So, if at all you don’t make it all the way, or you take a very long time to make it – may be a few lifetimes, the only being you can blame is yourself. And the “I told you so!” spectators will still be around to rub some salt on your wounded ego.

Along the path, there will be…

  • a number of tempting side attractions that will distract you from continuing the journey.
  • many a roadblock that will test your resolve to continue the journey.
  • a multitude of moments when you will be so exasperated that you just want to drop everything and run all the way back to where you started.

Naturally, there will be a number of fellow seekers too, who will pat you on the back, saying “Well, we’re on the same boat sis (or bro)!” hoping to cheer you up.

With plethora of content and myriad media to consume it, there are any number of aids available to a seeker, who should know how to utilise them, to progress further, along the path. The YouTube video that ignited the fire in you is one of them. That overpriced book full of practical methods is another. And it’s quite possible to be so enamoured by such aides that you may be stuck right where you are, without even realising it. After all, more videos and books are getting published every day. From everyone who thinks s/he has figured it all out!

CDD9-3And, if and when you make it to the destination, in this birth or another, you may be utterly baffled to realise that the journey is indeed the destination and you didn’t even have to undertake the gruelling journey in the first place, to realise what has always been there, right within you. Bummer!

Yet, upon the conclusion of the journey, you will end up immersed in the state of eternal bliss, overflowing with compassion, just like those who have attained self-realisation, before you. From time immemorial. And here’s the best part. There’s absolutely no obligation whatsoever for you to even share the experience with anyone, let alone shine the light of your hard-earned gnAnA (wisdom).

For every Agasthya Muni or Adi ShankarA or RamaNa Maharishi or Sadhguru, there have been thousands of other realised beings who simply chose to remain in the state of bliss, finding no compelling need to share it with anyone else. It’s certainly possible for you to be like one of them. Seems like a very tempting bargain, eh!

GuruPurnima1All said and done, there is a reason why there have been and are only a handful of realised beings and Masters, even as the human population kept on growing relentlessly. They are the only ones who walked the path all alone, all the way, consciously avoiding the distractions, and reached the ultimate destination, with or without the guidance of a Guru. They are the ones who have seen the glorious light of Truth, shining forever, within themselves. They are the truly blessed ones who had the glorious darshan of the Ananda ThANdavA (dance of bliss or ecstacy), with their eyes closed. And only a few of them, in an outpouring of compassion, chose to guide others along the path, as Guru.

So, before you choose to get on the path of spirituality, which btw – just to reiterate, because it’s extremely important to know – has nothing to do with religion, simply because someone known to you has done so or some social media post has fired you up, do take a moment to assess yourself. And be honest with yourself in accepting the fact that you may not be ready yet.

20120625_143222The humility to accept your lack of readiness to even begin the spiritual journey in pursuit of Truth, is indeed the starting point of the enchanting journey to everlasting realisation of the Self! Your humble acknowledgement of “I don’t know,” will eventually become such an unbearable thirst that it can be quenched only by the one(s) who has been there and seen that. Who knows, s/he may happen to you in this lifetime itself (don’t ever try going around shopping for a Guru – it just doesn’t work that way), to nudge you along the path.

Well, the Green light is on. It’s up to you now to Pause your Start or Continue unwaveringly. Happy journey fellow seeker!

May Grace be with you for a purposeful Life overflowing with Joy.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

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Swamy aka @PrakashSwamy is a seeker (full-time may sound funny, but that’s a fact) whose seeking was on-and-off from his teens (when a maternal uncle took him to a Transcendental Meditation program) and switched gears upward in 2009, when his Master Sadhguru (Mystic, Yogi and visionary founder of Isha Foundation, awarded the Padma Vibhushan by Indian Government in 2017 for the remarkable social endevours of his spiritual organisation) initiated him into the ancient Kriya of Shambhavi Maha Mudra. A few more advanced Isha Yoga programs followed, culminating in Samyama, the 7-day Silence program, in 2013. With Shivanga, the yatra to Velliangiri Mountains, aka Kailash of the south and the yatra to Kailash itself (in Tibet) happening in the same year (2013), Life, as he knew it until then, took a decisive turn. Swamy eventually bid farewell to his lucrative, and reasonably successful, corporate career in 2015, which he assures is a planned retirement, to pursue the VAnaprastha phase and experience Life, the way it is, with a definitive purpose – of attaining self-realisation.

UpaGuru1Swamy considers himself twice-blessed, since, apart from being guide by the boundless Grace of his Master, from within, his ongoing journey is also being actively guided now by his Upa Guru Shri Sohamanandaji (the other bearded one, in the above pics), who is kind enough to not only to dispel his ignorant assumptions about spirituality from time to time, but also to take him along on the life-altering yatras to spiritually charged spaces such as Pancha Bhuta Sthalas (sacred spaces of Lord Shiva, associated with the five elements) & Sabarimala (both in South India) and Char Dham, comprising of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedharnath and Bhadrinath (on the mighty Himalayas). These days, in his own words, Swamy’s existence – one day at a time -is focused only on “Read, Write, Meditate!,” not necessarily in that order.

Oh, in case you are curious, Swamy hasn’t attained self-realisation, yet.. ha.. ha.!

img_20161225_080543.jpgYou may enjoy knowing more about Swamy‘s spiritual journey and experience of Life the way it is in his poetry (Dhinam Oru Padhigam hymns – 218 and counting…), blogs, quotes and social media posts (links to all given below).

Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

Follow Swamy Facebook | Twitter | Google+

Explore Swamy’s creation (blogs, quotes, poetry, reviews, photography…)

Been there, Seen that | Swamystery | Swamyverse | SwamyQuote

Swamyem | SwamyView | Swamygraphy

 

Mystic Nation 1 – The God Conundrum!

18 Sep

ArtistSwamy6Swamy is fully aware of the pitfall of choosing a topic that’s pretty much guaranteed to raise passionate (and possibly violent – going by the recent murders of learned rationalists) reactions from fellow sheep, umm… humans, for the first post in the new seriesMystic Nation” (#MysticNation on social media) on demystifying the great #Bharat culture and encouraging + enabling it’s much needed revival. But having been born and brought up in this colourful milieu that survived not just one or two but many attempts at annihilation, century after century, it’s but natural for Swamy to pick a topic that exemplifies the truly liberal nature of this ancient culture.

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Bharat, aka India isn’t just a country of Gods (and Goddesses, of course – it’s important to be genetically correct in these neo-liberal days when fashionistas, feminists and femme fatales are quite vocal about gender equality – especially on primetime media, while remaining nonchalantly ignorant about daily reports on rape and other dire statistics that imperil their ilk), but a nation where you’ve the liberty to pick and choose a God. Any God, for that matter.

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KamadhenuStarting from the benevolent cow, worshipped as Gomata – mother cow, a benign being that’s quite shaken lately by finding itself suddenly on top of the TRP & trending lists, instead of its humble abode of Goshala – cowshed, because the argumentative Indian who worships the Holy Cow and drinks its milk by the litre everyday also wants to assert his right to butcher and eat her! What can one say, other than Mera Bharat Mahan!

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ArtistSwamy10Where were we… Oh, starting with the holy cow, you’re free to worship any plant (Tulsi – Basil), tree (Vembu – Neem), animal (Hanuman – Lord Monkey, Nandi – Bull), snake (many from Adisesha & Vasuki, and its abode, Putru that’s custom built by, umm… Ants), bird (Garuda – eagle), mountain (Kailash), stone (Saligram or Saalagram), geometric form (Linga – an ellipsoid), hybrid of human & animal (Ganapathy / Ganesha / Vinayaka /Vigneswara… – human form with an elephant head, Narasimhahuman form with a lion head, Hayagreeva – human form with a horse head), eerie looking beings (Kaaval deivam or deities of protection), king (Rama – Lord Ram), cowherd (Lord Krishna), female in a variety of moods wielding dreadful weapons or delightful instruments (Durga, Kali, Saraswathy, Lakshmi & a thousand other Devis – Ammans), beings with non-human features & superhuman abilities (Muruga / Karthikeya / Skandha with 6 heads & 12 arms who, as the General of Devas, extinguished Asuras like Surapadman), part male & female (Ardhanareeswara – talk about gender equality) and last but not the least, an alien being who wouldn’t fit into any kind of definition yet seem to encompass everything, even those beyond human beings’ feeble imagination, surrounded by dreadful looking demented beings (Ganas) and equally at ease in absolute silence or ecstatic dance or absolute annihilation or total bliss (Adiyogi Shiva)… The long list of Gods & Goddesses you can choose to follow and worship in Bharat is limited only by your imagination!

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ArtistSwamy9This idea of anything or anyone as God is certainly incomprehensible for those who grew up in any western civilisation, who from their childhood are brought up on a strict single God diet, eerily similar to some of those they despise and continue to wage war at – the other omnipotent God believers in the middle east, who would erase you from the face of earth without batting an eyelid, if you even dare to talk about their God. And of course, there are those who proclaim with pride their non-belief in a or any God – the atheists. And then there are also the antitheists who will beat any believer up black & blue with their vehement argument because according to them there’s not only no God, but there cannot be any!

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ArtistSwamy1But Bharat being what it was, is & will be, in typical chaotic fashion, one-ups all those binary (only mine, 1 or none, i.e. 0) believers with even more options. First, despite having a plethora of God/desses to choose from, you’re free to remain a non believer too (take that a/ntitheists), with Charvaka being a noteworthy example of this tribe. Second – and this one really takes the cake (modhak or pooran poli is more appropriate, considering today is Vinayaka Chathurti) – you can also learn how to create a God/dess! :O

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ArtistSwamy11Yep, you read that right! This is possibly the only culture with not only an in-depth science of Spirituality but also a practical technology called Consecration (no, not the Mantra-based one done every 12 or 14 years at popular temples with great publicity these days, but the Praana Pratistha process founded by Agastya muni who is considered to be one of the 7 disciples of Adiyogi Shiva, known as the Saptharishis) to create God/desses. That turns the whole Creator (supposedly somewhere way high up) creating the Creation, including us obviously, at will and basically hands over the power of creating the Creator to the Creation itself!

Know more about the science of creation from Sadhguru, a present day yogi, mystic & practitioner, in the references section below.

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… You may take a pause here, long enough to pick your fallen jaw from that Italian marble floor.
ArtistSwamy16As this is only the beginning of a – hopefully & sincerely – blog series (might become a book/s as well, who knows), instead of diving deeper into each and every God/dess mentioned here & then some, let’s look at the idea of God instead. An auspicious starting point would be none other than Ganesha or Vinayaka, Adiyogi Shiva & mother goddess Parvathi’s elder son (there are those who say Ganesha is younger to the younger son Muruga or Karthikeya, considered to be an accomplished Yogi as his illustrious mystic father), who is celebrated & worshipped across this Mystic Nation today – the auspicious day of Vinayaka Chaturthi.
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There are many interpretations of Lord Ganesha, aka Vigneswara, Vinayaka, Ganapathy, Modhakapriya, et al. Devdutt Pattanaik‘s ‘Decoding Ganeshais a good one to start with and can be found in the references section below. In a nutshell, Ganapathy (Lord of Ganas – dreadful looking celestial beings who are always found in the company Adiyogi Shiva) prepares you for the following, if you’re open enough:
ArtistSwamy31. Acceptance – By being depicted as someone who would typically be despised or laughed at in physical form (rotund human form with a pot belly & big elephant head), Ganesha symbolizes acceptance that goes beyond form, shape, hue, et al. Obviously, a valuable example in these troubled times of racial angst and outbursts the world over.
ArtistSwamy182. Equality – The little mouse that’s at Ganesha’s feet depicts even the meek or not-so-equals are accepted as company and taken care of. A useful insight for all supervisors, managers and, ahem, bosses.
3. Physicality – Vinayaka’s form & associated ornaments – snake being one of them, gadgets (axe & ankusa) & delicious food (modhak & pooran poli) depict the material aspects of Life that hold us back from pursuit of Truth, i.e., Who am I? Something worth remembering before you sign the EMI forms for the 2nd house or 4th car.
ArtistSwamy144. Possibility The little mouse (Devdutt enchantingly calls it a ferocious bandicoot) is even depicted as Ganesha’s vehicle – just imagine that! Well, that too is a depiction in typical Bharat style, indicating one must learn to look beyond the obvious. The mouse’s depiction as vehicle of the rotund God possibly depicts size doesn’t matter and nothing is impossible. In fact, Ganesha’s creation (first by Parvathi and then by Adiyogi Shiva – both accomplished Yogis with absolute mastery over all realms & forms) itself is a depiction of the possibilities of creation. An energising thought to ponder before you go back to the BAUHumbug routine job.
ArtistSwamy45. Truth – By nature, humans are tuned to sense the physical form, with their 5 senses (seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting & feeling by touching) and hardly use the 6th sense (thinking) to go beyond the physical realm. Considering Vigneswara is the eradicator of all hurdles, if one learns to see past Ganesha’s form (which itself is many layered and enchanting to know – depicting our desire to know & be with fellow humans, who too are many layered), he depicts none other than the Truth itself, i.e., Aham Brahmasmi or I am Brahman (the source of creation). It won’t be far from truth to say this is the precedent to the long-winding talks about ‘Beyond the obvious’ & ‘Thinking out of the box’ by many modern management & leadership gurus! 
ArtistSwamy7Now that dear reader – the freedom to seek & experience the Truth, going beyond the myriad forms of God/desses (one or many), is the sacred thread that still holds this ancient culture intact, even after many mighty warriors tried to plunder, destroy, rule and annihilate Bharat, over many centuries. In this Mystic Nation, God was never a conundrum, but a potent idea. Not just an enchanting idea about esoteric superhuman beings who looked like humans (because we sketched / crafted them from our limited imagination), but about beings who depict a higher possibility for humans to attain. To transcend the physical limitation and be free… be one with the eternal source of creation.
ArtistSwamy2Not only this Mystic Nation has many God/desses, it also had/s possibly the most number of enlightened beings (the yogis & mystics who have experienced the Truth & attained a state of eternal bliss, transcending the physical) that graced this planet, have devised mechanisms & paths for any and every human being to seek liberation, which was considered the ultimate goal of human existence, not reaching esoteric places like heaven or hell, after death!
ArtistSwamy5aSuch benevolent beings – starting from Adiyogi Shiva himself (celebrated and worshipped as one of the Trimurti, i.e. triumvirate of Gods, along with Vishnu & Brahma), who as Adi Guru Dakshinamurthy transmitted his knowing to Devi first (expounded as the 112 ways to liberation in Vigyan Bhairav Tantra) and then seven disciples known as the Saptharishis on the auspicious Guru Purnima, the pantheon of enlightened beings is long, including but not limited to Lord Muruga (who is said to have left his physical form in a rare standing posture at the Kumaraparvata mountain), Lord Krishna (considered one of the greatest yogis ever to tread this land), Gautama the Buddha (founder of Buddhism who at a point in time is said to have had thousands of enlightened beings as disciples), Rishabha (presumed to be the founder of Jainism), Goraknath, Akkamadevi, Sadasiva Brahmendra, Sri Palani Swami, Sadhguru Sri BrahmaLahiri MahasayaSri Yukteswar Giri, Paramahamsa Yogananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Sivananda, Ramana Maharishi, Osho, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Nisargadatta MaharajRamalinga Vallalar and many more.
Sadhguru_Quote3Such beings are still among us – a few well known and many unknown. One such is Swamy’s Master Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, founder of Isha Foundation. And with deep reverence, Swamy submits this first post of his new “Mystic Nation” (#MysticNation) series at the lotus feet of his enlightened Master, whose boundless grace will shine the light on this new path Swamy has chosen to tread, with limited experience but unlimited enthusiasm. Shambho _/\_
… enchantment will flow…
@PrakashSwamy
Note: All sketches & paintings (except Kamadhenu) are Swamy’s own creations – out of imagination or inspired by other skilled artists – drawn during his youth.
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edited_1442284271572References:
Decoding Ganesha – Devdutt Pattanaik

Swamystery in 2014!

31 Dec Realization

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for Swamystery blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,100 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Master & Seekers!

19 Oct

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Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake! | Episode 2 – The Kingdom’s Tale!

16 Oct

Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake!

Trave(b)log on Swamy’s Kailash-Manasarovar yatra through Isha Sacred Walks!

Episode 2 – The Kingdom’s Tale!

Sadhguru_Kailash1Swamy looked up and gasped. Words that are usually his friends (he is a writer, after all) deserted him and lay around like the innumerable pebbles that were almost everywhere on the path. After months of planning, preparing, wondering, praying, practicing, imagining and of course packing (more about them in later episodes), it was an incredible feeling to be actually there in that sacred space. With Joy Drops streaming down from his misty eyes, Swamy stood there silently, wondering if this was the culmination of the journey of a lifetime or a beginning of a new one that will be as marvelous as the path paved by nature for the 115 yatris who trekked along with him, ably, gently and kindly led by the exceptionally capable Isha Sacred Walks crew! Click this link to read Episode 1 – The Seeker’s Tale!Swamy @ Kailash

Swamy’s yatra started on 14-Aug-2013, with a flight from Chennai to Kathmandu via New Delhi. Like any Isha program, the utmost care for all participants and amazing attention to detail started right from Chennai airport, with group check-in directly to Kathmandu (hence, no overweight luggage worry) and even packed breakfast for all yatris. Packing for the trip was crazy and got completed (sort of) only in the wee hours of the previous day. Swami went to sleep well past midnight after publishing a blog post on pro motion that was also the promotion for the yatra (you may find links to Swamy’s blogs at the end of this post).

Swamy got introduced to a few fellow yatris at both Chennai and Delhi that included interesting beings such as a uniquely attired veterinary doctor who also happens to be a Kailash veteran (this was his 4th trip & 2nd with Isha), a retiree who has done many trips including the Alaskan cruise despite his physical condition (which he handled on his own with poise), an LIC employee suffering from severe arthritis but driven by her fierce devotion to Sadhguru, an elderly devotee from a leading hospital group family who can barely walk but tirelessly covering a long list of holi sites over the years and a successful business person and IIM alumnus whose bucket list starts with the Kailash trip! And the enchanting group of people Swamy got to know kept on extending till the very last day of the yatra!

Tribhuvan_Airport1Nepal looked ravishing from the air with lush green fields surrounded by majestic mountains, until the yatris sighted Kathmandu. Immigration clearance was quick (Indian citizens don’t even need a passport to enter Nepal – even a driving license will do) and the ever friendly and exceptionally capable Sherpas (more about these amazing beings in later episodes) welcomed the group with a shawl in the designated buses.

Kathmandu1The drive from Tribhuvan International Airport to the hotel showed, like any world capital city, Kathmandu too is a concrete jungle with haphazard construction dotting both sides of very narrow roads. The road to the hotel was lined up with showrooms of all Indian automobile manufacturers, further showcasing the friendly relationship of both nations. Maruti 800 taxis looked funny (the Nano taxis in Sri Lanka actually look cuter and probably are better suited for the purpose as well) but were apt for such narrow lanes, err, roads. Well, it’s time you met the enchanting country of Nepal to hear what we’ve been through and done there, right from the horse’s mouth!

Kathmandu4Namaskaram yatri (or seeker or tourist or reader or whoever you are). I’m Nepal, until recently the world’s only Hindu nation. After the horrible assassination of almost my entire royal family a few years ago, things have changed dramatically for me, politically that is. Now I too am a democracy, not too different from your country Bharat, aka India. Though just a fledgling democratic nation, with a lot to learn from my bigger sister Bharat Mata, I already resemble her in many ways – from ill (or no) planned infrastructure such as pot holed roads to chaotic traffic that’ll make everyone other than Nepali drivers go crazy to bickering politicians who love to play the musical chair for the Prime Minister’s gaddi! But what’s the shame in being the younger replica of an illustrious elder sister whose rich culture and heritage still inspires awe in whoever experiences her warm Aditi Devo Bhava nature!

As the entry point for both mystic Kailash and mighty Everest, I host hordes of pilgrims, trekkers and tourists every year. So, it is natural that tourism, hospitality and sale of mountaineering and trekking equipment and accessories are the prime sources of revenue for me (apart from handicrafts, artworks, garments, carpets, pashmina and paper), despite the fact that access to both these mountains are seasonal due to weather.

Soaltee_Plaza7I’m very proud of my enterprising and enthusiastic citizens, most of who wear the thilak (bindhi or kumkum) and a bright smile on their fair faces (a vast majority are Hindus). While the women dress exactly like their Indian sisters (Churidar, Salwar or Saree), men wear a waist coat and a topi, over their kurtas. Either almost every citizen of mine speaks Hindi fluently or travelers like you have no clue about the difference between Hindi and Nepali. Hotel Soaltee Crown Plaza, where you’ll stay before you start your yatra and after you conclude it, is one of the finest 5-star hotels I have that hosts thousands of tourists and yatris every year. The mountain vistas seen from the hotel rooms would give a glimpse of what you would see and experience later during the yatra.

Daily_ScheduleOn the evening of Day 1, after the Sathsang, a sutra (sacred thread) dipped in turmeric was tied to the wrists of all yatris. Isha’s thoughtfulness was at display once again, when each yatri was also provided a white cloth to tie on the wrists over the sutra, to avoid any stains on the furnishing in their rooms! Day 2 of the yatra began with Guru puja – a daily ritual to pay obeisance to all the Masters that have graced this planet and showed the path to many a seeker over millennia that kept promptly reminding us the purpose of the yatra – quick breakfast at the restaurant (it was too early to try so many varieties of dishes served) and some spirited singing of the Indian National Anthem in the bus (it was August 15th). We visited the ancient Pashupatinath temple, Patan and Bakthapur during the day.

Pashupathinath11Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu. It is not known for certain when Pashupatinath Temple was founded. The temple for Pashupati, the Lord of all Pashus, which are living as well as non-living beings, dates back to 400 A.D. The richly-ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga, i.e., holy symbol of Lord Shiva. A sprawling temple spread over large tracts of land, the temple is throbbing with praying, offering and meditating devotees. There is also a cremation place a la Manikarnika Ghat of Varanasi, just behind the temple, along the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu. There are many legends describing as to how the temple of Lord Pashupatinath came to existence here, including this one.

Pashupathinath3aLegend says that Lord Shiva once took the form of an antelope and sported unknown in the forest on Bagmati river’s east bank. The gods later caught up with him, and grabbing him by the horn, forced him to resume his divine form. The broken horn was worshipped as a linga but overtime it was buried and lost. Centuries later an astonished herdsmen found one of his cows showering the earth with milk. Digging deep at the site, he discovered the divine linga of Pashupatinath.

Pashupathinath14

Sadhguru, the living Master and founder of Isha Yoga, explained the significance of Pashupatinath through a puranic lore, as the place where the Pandavas caught Lord Shiva’s (in the form of a Nandi, aka, bull) forehead or horn, while the hump, body and tail of bull surfaced elsewhere such as Thunganath and Mukthinath, each of which become sacred places of worship for the Lord of the Cosmos. The pre-vedic period Linga (8 – 12000 years old, at least) has 4 faces (6 according to locals – one each on top and bottom, unseen of course). It shouldn’t be a surprise to any devotee to find pashus (cows) lying right in front of the garba griha (sanctum sanctorum), exemplifying the fact that Shiva is the Lord of all pashus, i.e., beings.

Patan_Panorama

Patan was another kingdom (like my sister, I too was divided into many small kingdoms, which were later brought together by Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkha king) and has ancient pagoda like structures with intricate wood carvings. It is among the largest cities in the country, along with Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Biratnagar. The city was initially designed in the shape of the Buddhist Dharma-Chakra (Wheel of Righteousness) and has many monuments including the stupas erected by Emperor Asoka and the Patan Durbar Square, which has been listed by UNESCO as one of seven Monument Zones that make up the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site. While visiting its many temples, one is certain to be amused to see Gopika like ladies clad in red in the Krishna temple, sitting in front of the Lord’s sannadhi (an energized space with the sacred deity). While the Isha yatris roamed around marveling about the architectural splendor of Patan, they also helped me set some record of sorts in the number of locks sold on a single day as most of the 116 yatris bought at least one, if not two, locks! Some of you may find it shocking that animal sacrifice is still in practice in some of the temple. The water buffalo’s intestine hanging in the entrance of the palace is an intriguing and disturbing reminder of this ancient ritual that feels out of place in these modern times. Bhaktapur_Panorama1s

Bhaktapur too was a beautiful kingdom but just exists as a popular tourist spot now. Located about 20 km east of Kathmandu in the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur is known as the ‘City of Devotees’, the ‘City of Culture’, the ‘Living Heritage’, and ‘Nepal’s Cultural Gem’. It is one of the 3 royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley. A city built with temples or designed as a large temple complex, the city is dotted with pagodas and religious shrines, unfailingly making any visitor marvel at its mere sight. The museum at Bhaktapur has many a painting that showcases an amazing handshake between Buddhism and Shaivism in brilliant colors. Many forms of Shiva and Devi are very much part of the tantric practices in Nepal and those of you from India may not be surprised by this at all. Lying along the ancient trade route between India and Tibet, Bhaktapur is surrounded by mountains and provides a magnificent view of the mighty Himalayas.

Bhaktapur_Panorama2sRaj, a young art student and aspiring tourist guide does such a fabulous job of taking yatris like the Isha group around the town filled with monuments, most terra-cotta with carved wood columns, palaces and temples with elaborate carvings, gilded roofs, open courtyards that some of them ended up buying an enchanting painting of Buddha’s life story from his painting school. The fact that a portion of the sale went to an orphanage obviously helped the sale! Some smart yatris also purchased quality woolen clothing and accessories at throwaway prices, unlike their not-so-smart fellow yatris who’ve spent a fortune buying them in India! Raj may one day join the eclectic brigade of young tourist guides, who are proud about their nation’s culture and heritage and keep reminding me of my glorious past that I continue to cherish. Some of the Isha yatris also went to the neighborhood of Thamel, Kathmandu’s primary “traveler’s ghetto”, packed with guest houses, restaurants, shops, and bookstores, catering to tourists. A few devout type yatris visited popular temples in Kathmandu such as the Swayambhunath (Monkey temple), Kumari Chhen (the temple of living Goddess) and Kali temple.

Bhaktapur40After a long day out, Swamy and his group of Isha yatris returned to the hotel, had a sumptuous dinner, packed all their stuff in the large duffel bag (more about it in the “Despite my stupidity” episode later) provided by Isha (how thoughtful of them, again) and hit the sack for an early morning start to Tibet. Read about it soon in Episode 3 – The Nomad’s Tale!

Note: All the photographs – except Sadhguru’s & Lord Shiva’s – have been taken by @PrakashSwamy (or another yatri using Swamy’s camera) during the yatra. You may view more memorable pics taken at mesmerizing locales in, around and en route to Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake in Swamy’s Picasa album!

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Love + Gratitude > @PrakashSwamy

Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

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Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake! | Episode 1 – The Seeker’s Tale!

23 Sep

Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake!

Trave(b)log on Swamy’s Kailash-Manasarovar yatra through Isha Sacred Walks!

Sadhguru_Kailash3

Episode 1 – The Seeker’s Tale!

Kailash8A gentle, cold breeze caressed the tired body. The sky was clear and there was still ample sunlight. The only sounds that were audible were the steady stream flowing below the small wooden bridge and heavy breath that was trying to suck in as much oxygen – a rare commodity at 17500 ft. – as possible into the overworked lungs. It was 7.20 pm CST on 22nd August, 2013. Among the range of gray mountains that were silently watching the lean figure clad in 7 layers of clothing stood the majestic granite monolith, clad in pristine white snow. The Mystic Mountain that is worshipped as Lord Shiva’s abode – Kailash Parvat (Mount Kailash)!

Kailash1After a nine hour trek (time taken by Swamy, not necessarily all yatris, many of whom were much better accomplished to do it in half that time) over 15 kilometers, on a 1500 feet incline, Swamy looked up and gasped. Words that are usually his friends (he is a writer, after all) deserted him and lay around like the innumerable pebbles that were almost everywhere on the path. He quickly stepped across the bridge and stood on a smooth rock that waited for the inevitable to happen. Like a million times before. Swamy quietly prostrated on that stone, facing Kailash. And then the floodgates blasted open to let Joy Drops stream down from his eyes, uncontrolled, like the many waterfalls seen all along the path.

After months of planning, preparing, wondering, praying, practicing, imagining and of course packing (more about them in later episodes), it was an incredible feeling to be actually there in that sacred space. Swamy stood there silently, wondering if this was the culmination of the journey of a lifetime or a beginning of a new one that will be as marvelous as the path paved by nature for the 115 yatris who trekked along with him, ably, gently and kindly led by the exceptionally capable Isha Sacred Walks crew!

Animals27Making the Kailash-Manasarovar yatra (pilgrimage) is a lifetime ambition for not just Hindus but for seekers from as many as four other religions. It is not easy for any but has been made possible for many with better infrastructure that takes one closer to the Mystic Mountain. But the last mile (pun intended) – not just one or two, about nine or so – still has to be made by foot – either the yatri’s two or the pony’s four, on which (s)he rides. And nothing prepares one for the experience of the mountain itself and the path leading to it (or the totally enchanting Yaks and Sherpas that tread it like free spirits), which probably remain as raw and pristine as they were when Lord Shiva himself must have roamed the space in physical form!

Sadhguru_KailashKailash can do many things to a yatri. But the first (and probably only, for the devout ones at least) thing it does is to make one feel utterly, helplessly and honestly humble. As Swamy’s Master Sadhguru says, in the cosmic scale of things, we are so insignificant that we’re not even the equivalent of a speck of dust on Earth. And Life the way it is, is nothing but the Cosmic Dance of Shiva, the Lord of the cosmos. So it is but natural for a seeker to feel absolutely humbled in the Lord’s abode. Upon its darshan, all one can do is to remain awestruck, unable to peel one’s eyes from its magnificence. All the pervasive but pointless thoughts about I, my & mine will melt away like the snow that covers the sacred peak, leaving one feeling stark naked – not in the pervert sense, but in a more subtle, subconscious way – getting exposed in all one’s gory (sorry, any sense of glory must have already gone with the remaining I (non)sense)!

Kailash_Painting1True to being the most mystic of all places sacred, where the Lord, his first disciple (and significant half), their wards and scores of his ganas, gods, yogis, saints, monks and seekers have resided and roamed around, Kailash will play hide and seek with the seekers through mist and snow, like the younger child of the Adi Yogi, Lord Karthikeya would have with his elder brother Lord Ganesh, his foster mothers – the six apsaras known as Karthigaip pengal – and maybe even the ganas. Now you see it and now you don’t. The whole place seems to change so dramatically within minutes that you’re left feeling vulnerable with all your defenses down, because this doesn’t fit into the image of any defined places that are confined by boundaries, known to you. It doesn’t matter who you’re or how high and mighty you’re in the social hierarchy in the material life. Out here, everything, including the terrain, weather and all beings including those who made the effort to be here, will have to play by the Lord’s rules, which naturally amplifies the mystic quotient of the nature of the place itself.

Kailash27As one settles down in the humble place called hotel (remember, everything around here, except the Mystic Mountain, is humble), with the omnipresent gaze of Kailash’s North face piercing through the glass window round the clock (it’s funny to talk about time in a space that has practically remained timeless, from time immemorial), the reality slowly dawns upon the self. Despite one’s heroic or superhuman (depends on what genre’ of movies one prefers to watch or kind of books one reads) effort in actually making it this far (irrespective of what the pony or porter would think about it), there is surprisingly no sense of accomplishment or achievement within. Instead, one starts feeling a deeper sense of fulfillment. And that feeling starts growing with every passing minute, relentlessly, until it becomes all encompassing. One just can’t feel like one’s normal self anymore. The realization of what Sadhguru meant when he said, “Just Be!” suddenly dawns upon the self, leaving the already breathless one speechless!

Kailash5Now that you’re sufficient mystified about the Mystic Mountain, Swamy will try and take you through his life-altering journey to Kailash-Manasarovar, organized by Isha Sacred Walks (A1 group, 2013), through many an enchanting tale, told from the viewpoint of a multitude of companions (not just his ilk) on this possibly once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage. Shambho!

Next: Episode 2 – The Kingdom’s Tale!

Note: All the photographs – except Sadhguru’s & Lord Shiva’s – have been taken by @PrakashSwamy (or by another yatri using Swamy’s camera) during the yatra. You may view more memorable pics taken at mesmerizing locales in, around and en route to Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake here!

Shambho and the 7th Hill!

19 Mar

ShivangaThe sun was blazing bright but the gentle breeze soothed our tired bodies. At around 1.30 pm on 11th March 2013, the day after Mahashivarathri, after a 7-hour strenuous trek up the mountains, this self stood among thousands of other Shivangas on the top of the sacred 7th hill of Velliangiri mountains, to conclude the 42-day Shivanga sadhana. As we looked at the Swayambhu Linga, where the final stage of the process has to be performed, joy drops flowed from my eyes uncontrollably – just as they invariably do in the presence of my Master Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. The physical improbability of the task that we’ve just accomplished made me speechless and even more humble than I was, when I began the sadhana. And we were already an hour behind schedule for the descent, which will take nearly the same time as the ascent!

ShivangaNote to Readers: This post is my first person experience of a spiritual process that I’ve recently undertaken – especially the concluding part of it. If you’re expecting Swamy’s ‘Monday Morning Post’ as usual, you’re in for a surprise – of the pleasant kind. Of course, another post – “7 Life Lessons from Shivanga!” – usual or otherwise, will be published next week! And btw, if you notice the more than usual usage of “I” all through this post (assuming you’ve by now chosen to go beyond this para), be assured that it is purely for the purpose of narrating this fascinating experience within the language’s constraints, and not in any way a depiction of this self’s ego!

Shivanga1The Shivanga sadhana was announced by Sadhguru for the first time this year and promptly taken up by over 6000 Isha meditators globally, on Thaipoosam day. For a period of 42 days, the sadhakas went through a routine including a process named Shiva Namaskar (to be performed 21 times before or after sunrise, on empty stomach), chanting a mantra three times, twice a day after bathing (there were days when I had to do it just before midnight!), not consuming any regular food – liquid or solid – till 12 pm every day (other than a handful of groundnuts soaked in water the previous night and lemon juice with honey) and limiting food intake only 2 meals after that during the entire day. Sadhakas were also advised to avoid smoking, drinking alcohol and consuming non-vegetarian food during the period of sadhana (no brainer for a non-smoking, vegetarian teetotaler such as self).

MahaShivarathri3The conclusion of sadhana was to start on Mahashivarathri night at the Dhyanalinga yogic temple at the foothills of Velliangiri mountains and conclude with a trek up the 7 hills of Velliangiri mountains, also known as Then Kailayam (South Kailash), where Adi Yogi Shiva himself is said to have spent some time. Just like the lakhs of Isha meditators and Shiva bakthas who congregate at the Isha Yoga center on that auspicious day, all the Shivangas too stayed awake on Mahashivarathri night, immersed in the grace of Sadhguru and Shambho, during the night long celebrations at the Isha Yoga Center.

Shivanga1At midnight, after the Mahamanthra (Aum Namah Shivaya) chant by Sadhguru, the sadhakas walked from the Mahashivarathri venue (about 2-3 kms away from the Ashram) to the Dhyanalinga temple and performed the first stage of the offering that included the Biksha hundi with amount collected from pious and benevolent souls for Annadhanam (free meal), which is offered to all who participate in the Mahashivarathri celebrations  worldwide, along with a coconut (first of three) and sesame seeds, both tied in black cloths.

Dhyanalinga3Our trek to the Velliangiri Mountains started at around 6 am in the morning after Mahashivarathri, after Sadhguru concluded the celebrations with the Shambho chanting. Shirtless and without footwear (at least most of us), we reached the Velliangiri Aandavar temple at Poondi at 6.40 am and performed the second stage of the offering – breaking the second coconut – and started the trek up the 7 hills. We were all offered food and water for the trek at the Isha Yoga center – apart from a cup of delicious Kanji (gruel) on the way to the foothills – and also the choice of collecting a stick to help with the trek. I skipped collecting the stick and went ahead as there were thousands waiting for that – a mistake that I’ll regret within hours.

Velliangiri6Velliangiri is a mountain whose raw, pristine nature hasn’t been spoilt by modern technology yet. And probably won’t for many years to come. While the 1st and 7th hills can be termed the hardest to trek, the other five aren’t far behind on the hardness scale. The first 3 hills wind through dense forest (protecting the trekkers from the sun that was already out in all its morning glory) and have some semblance of steps made of rocks, some of which were missing at many places. The hills were steep and the trek up was slow. While going up, we continued to see many trekkers coming downhill. They were Shiva devotees from nearby places – including the elderly and children – who started their trek on Mahashivarathri night. Some of them seem to perform the trek occasionally during Amavasya (new moon) and Pournami (full moon) days. Many curious Shivangas obviously asked them about how long it’ll take to reach the peak and which hill we were in at that point in time. While none of the descending devotees offered much hope to us who’ve just started the ascent, invariably all of them were either amused or surprised by the large group of novices who were attempting this strenuous (we came to know of it only much later – apparently displayed in a board at the Poondi temple) trek, that too after dawn. They were certainly not amused by the traffic jam we were creating – not just due to our sheer numbers but also due to our naiveté.

Velliangiri7It didn’t take much longer for us to realize that just physical prowess doesn’t guarantee the completion of Velliangiri trek, whose challenge level kept increasing till one reaches the crest, and blissfully repeats all over again, while coming down! It’s certainly not possible without either blind faith (which the descending trekkers obviously had – in Lord Shiva) or practice + faith (which we did for 42 days and had in Sadhguru). Of course, there were groups of youth who did it probably just for the heck of it. Then again, youth are known to do such things impulsively, just to prove a point to themselves and to the world and should hence be considered an exception than rule. With the right preparation and commitment, the possibility of receiving grace is higher for a sadhaka. But the trek proved that practicing a process at home is vastly different from performing a trek on the mountain!

Velliangiri2The 42 day preparation was obviously for getting this frail physical body ready for what’s near impossible for lesser mortals. The Shiva Namaskar did prepare our ankles, knees, hip and arms – pretty much all the vital joints – for this trek. The diet restrictions made us lighter (many well-wishers observed that I’ve lost weight during the sadhana period), enabling the ascent for most of us. One of the items we were told to consume in empty stomach each morning during the sadhana (few neem leaves and black pepper soaked in honey overnight) must’ve also strengthened the physical body for what it would be subjected to during the trek. But despite all that preparation and strict adherence to the guidelines, it was amply clear that the completion of this trek would be possible only with Sadhguru‘s grace!

MuladharaChakraThe 7 hills are said to represent the 7 Chakras in our bodies. While the transition from 1 Chakra to another is seamless during the trek (it obviously isn’t that simple within our physical body), each hill was distinct and different, indicating the unique nature of each Chakra. As most of us are typically stuck in Mooladhara Chakra (1st or Root Chakra) itself, many sadhakas sat down to eat their food after the 1st or 2nd hill itself. But after consuming food, it became even harder for them to continue. Later in the night, we came to know that not all sadhakas have successfully completed the trek. Many apparently returned without making it till the 7th hill! And not all of them stopped due to a physical ailment, which several other sadhakas have overcome to complete the trek, living the quote “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Shivanga3I was going along with a relative (an Ashram resident married to my cousin sister, who was kind enough to get me a guest pass for Mahashivarathri) and a few friends of his – at least till the 2nd hill. We shared fruits (probably the only wise thing I did – as I missed out on getting both the health kit and the stick) and light snacks such as dry fruits and nuts, during brief stopovers. After the 2nd, some of them have progressed much faster, which isn’t a surprise for long term meditators, who’ve been practicing Kriya for several years (both my cousin sister and her husband – younger than self – have joined the Ashram full-time about four years ago as ‘Class Parents’ in the Isha Home School (their child also studies in that school), an enchanting model that’s based on ISCE curriculum but one that turns the whole education system on its head, for good. They diligently follow several spiritual practices, every single day.

20130311_102951One of my relative’s friends had a physical condition, which made even normal walking, sitting down or turning his head in any direction strenuous. A long term meditator himself, he continued to be my motivation during the entire trek. We both went slowly compared to many who went ahead merrily, covering one hill at a time. When we eventually got closer to the 5th hill, he couldn’t move any further due to severe dehydration, which brought to light the other mistake I’ve committed – not carrying electrolytes or glucose, a must have for such treks. I wasn’t doing any better with a twice repaired knee crying to be spared immediately and a cramped thigh too begging me to stop right away. I offered him an orange, but that wasn’t sufficient to get him back on his feet. We just waited at a narrow passage with some shade – he panting and I massaging my cramped thigh – wondering what to do next!

Velliangiri4All along the trek, everyone was helped by someone. All were just Shivangas, with no class or social status separating us. Without our shirts (which we were told to take off while taking Biksha during the sadhana period also – to ensure not a trace of “I” was left in us) and the constant chant of Shambho on our lips, we were just a thousand versions of the same self. There were a few foreigners as well, at least one of whom was attempting this trek for the second time. Chanting Shiva and Shambho continuously, he suddenly asked for North at noon to many Shivangas and moved to a shaded part of the path to offer Namaz, before continuing the trek again.

Velliangiri23-640x3601All Shivangas were addressed simply as Anna (brother), just as all meditators and visitors are addressed at the Isha Yoga center and Isha programs (women are addressed as Akka – sister). While one sadhaka offered electrolyte for my dehydrated friend, another readily gave lemon and honey to mix with water. Eventually he felt better – relatively speaking, of course – and slowly started to walk again. Having done this trek once before – when he was much healthier – he told me that the path would dip at the 5th hill before ascending again. It certainly did, with sheer drops without any steps at a few places. We eventually reached a Sunai (natural spring) with cold water to soothe our feet and throats. When we went past that and took a right turn, the sacred 7th hill appeared majestically, and took our breath away. And what a sight it was to behold!

By the time we reached the beginning of the sacred 7th hill, I had absolutely no strength left in my physical body to move any further. I just stood there looking forlornly at the peak and was ready to concede my quest and conclude that this is the end of my Shivanga sadhana. All the diligent daily practices weren’t sufficient to go any further. Alas, what did I know?

AjnaChakraAt that point of utter despair, on top of the 6th hill, I closed my eyes, dropped the “I” (whatever was still left of it) and surrendered unconditionally to my Master, seeking his grace to somehow complete the sadhana. I pleaded to him that I did perform the sadhana diligently and wholeheartedly – as if he didn’t know about who did or didn’t. Sadhguru must’ve seen the plight of this pitiful soul in his Ajna chakra (the 6th Chakra, also known as the 3rd Eye, located between the 2 eyebrows) and decided to lift the cobwebs of doubts clouding my mind about how to continue the trek and enable my limp legs to go beyond their limits. Help came instantly in the form of another Shivanga!

MahaShivarathri-Padam-drawingMy friend who was beside me by now (we kept catching up with each other at many stages, with him leading the way for the most part) looked at my condition and asked if I can continue. He obviously appeared ready to go till the top, clearly defying his physical condition. I told him that if I had a stick, I could at least give it a try. Exactly at that moment, his friend (an ISRO scientist and Isha meditator, who was with us during Mahashivarathri event also) came down the 7th hill and upon my benevolent friend’s request, offered his stick to me, without even thinking about his own descent. Using the stick as my 3rd leg, I started pulling my other 2 legs upwards, one slow step after the other. And what a final stage of trek that was!

Velliangiri5The 7th hill is mysterious, raw, challenging and can’t be scaled with sheer physical ability alone. It has no steps for climbing and whatever appears to be the path twists upwards and turns many times. So, every time one thinks that this is it, there’s just one more turn, upwards. I would tread about 10 steps and then hold on to the stick to catch my breath and then push myself for another ten. This went for more than an hour – on just the 7th hill. Seeing my friend ahead of me, I kept telling myself that “if he could, I should.” The slow trek on the sacred 7th hill helps one realize that Shiva and Sadhguru aren’t simple beings for us to comprehend, understand and appreciate. Both are simply beyond the physical dimension bound by five senses, which we’re limited to. After more than an hour of painfully slow progress, the first paragraph of this post happened!

A temple on routeWe completed the final offering (breaking the 3rd coconut) to the Swayambhu Linga at the hilltop (where I offered a prayer for all the Shivangas and those who offered Biksha for my own sadhana) and slowly moved to the other side of the hill (the path was so narrow that only one person at a time could pass). To our surprise – a welcome one, for a change – ice cold wind swept at us, exemplifying the title ‘Then Kailayam‘ (South Kailash) for this mountain. As we sat down to have the packed food before the descent, the journey so far flashed past in my memory and helped in understanding the difference between pain and suffering. Sadhguru used to tell that while pain is there in the physical body for all – enlightened being or otherwise – suffering is made up by the mind, and hence can be alleviated. While there was a tremendous amount of pain all over the body, most of the sadhakas – including self – were feeling elated at that time than deflated.

Sadhguru_DevotionShivanga showed in a matter-of-fact manner that it is indeed possible to go beyond one’s physical limits. I was unable to go past the 6th hill not more than an hour ago, with a severe cramp in the thigh apart from a twice repaired knee that was hurting and my feet, which were used to walking around in comfy shoes for more than two decades, were begging me not to go any further. Many of us pushed ourselves beyond our physical limits (something many meditators also experience during the advanced Isha Yoga programs) and managed to complete the trek with Sadhguru‘s grace. Before we lost ourselves in the serenity of the sacred 7th hill and the pristine nature pulsating with Life all around it, we had to remind ourselves that there’s a long trek back to the foothills and the Ashram, for finally concluding the process that started over 42 days ago!

Velliangiri1The descent was not an easier one by any means, but the stick that I got from a benevolent Shivanga (I sincerely hope he didn’t suffer too much without the stick on his way back) was handy. I waited for my friend – assuming he should be somewhere behind me – for about 15 minutes, near the Sunai at the 6th hill. Not only due to gratitude – I certainly owed the final stage of the trek to him for getting me his friend’s stick – but also out of concern due to his physical condition. Not finding him even after hundreds of Shivangas passed me by, I started my slow descent, praying for his safe return. Little did I know that my Master had a plan for each and every Shivanga on that special day of our lives!

Dhyanalinga1At either the 4th or 3th hill, I acquainted another friendly Shivanga – a happy soul  walking along with some of his friends – who shared many a topic of common interest with self. That he too worked in the IT industry was just coincidental. With dusk approaching fast, we slowly made our way down, marveling about the whole Shivanga process, its effect on each of us and how Life would be from now on for us. We were both amazed by the multiple facets of Isha Yoga, Sadhguru’s boundless grace for all beings, Dhyanalinga’s meditativeness and Linga Bhairavi’s benevolent control over her devotees and continued to discuss many topics including, but not limited to, the following.

  • Velliangiri4-640x360While many youngsters struggled with the trek, few elders – including a Shivanga who was over 70 years old and came along with his son-in-law – went ahead and completed the trek without much ado. But the Velliangiri mountain trek isn’t recommended for such elderly people or those with known physical conditions that can’t withstand such a strenuous adventure.
  • Food and rest that naturally followed it delayed or stopped many an ascent. Despite controlling one’s hunger and craving for 42 long days, many couldn’t control the primal urge on the day that really mattered. And some of them (someone said nearly half of the Shivangas) couldn’t complete the trek this time.
  • When we’re focused on achieving something impossible, it’s quite possible to forget about mundane things in Life. I was astonished by the fact that not only did I not think about anything else – family, work, blogging, the long planned but still overdue first book and a hundred other things that swirl around in the mind all day – during the trek, but I also didn’t take a bio break for over 15 hours!
  • A group of Shivangas walked over 430 kms from Nagercoil to the Isha Yoga center and then trekked along with us. They were accorded a rousing reception befitting their incredible devotion and accomplishment, even before they reached the Ashram – prompted by none other than Sadhguru himself. Such feats provide a hint at what’s possible for any of us, with absolute faith in the Guru and unwavering focus on the goal.
  • ShamboThe Shambho chant that was on the lips of many a Shivanga on the way up, was forgotten by many on the way down, which was no less harder. I can’t help reminding myself of the quote by Tenzing’s son – himself an accomplished mountaineer, scaling the mighty Mt. Everest just like his father – “Climbing up the mountain is optional for anyone, but climbing down is mandatory!
  • Climbing a mountain doesn’t necessarily mean, up on the ascent and down on the descent, all the time. There were at least two sections on the Velliangiri mountain that turn this theory upside down. And anyone who thought it’s easy to climb the stairs than a path without stairs, were in for a surprise from the 3rd hill onwards – both upwards and on the way down. With very few of us carrying torch lights, some of us were actually guiding the Shivangas behind us on each step, on our way back.
  • Some of the Shivangas also carried sacks to collect the garbage we left behind, thereby doubling their effort, without thinking twice about it.
  • While listening to several conversations on the way back, it was apparent that many would go back to their daily nonsense from the very next day. It was sad that some did so even during the sadhana. Just goes on to show that doing something for the sake of doing it or just because we started doing it isn’t the same as doing the right thing – with utmost devotion, needless to say – the right way, as it was meant to be.
  • velliangiri6-640x360Biksha (taking alms), a critical part of the sadhana to let go of one’s ego, was done right by many Shivangas – including the friend I acquainted on the way down – who went and stood outside temples or went from door to door to collect Biksha from complete strangers. Mine was a sedate affair in comparison, but I too was obviously overwhelmed by the benevolence of many souls who came forward and offered Biksha generously, upon being asked. Our servant maid, who offered Biksha along with her husband – continues to bring flowers for worship to our home daily. All I could offer in return to these benevolent souls was to pray for their well being, at both the 7th hill and Dhyanalinga shrines.
  • Several comments were made by a few Shivangas on the process, preparedness, food, etc. While some were in the realm of fantasy such as the wish for a ‘cable car’ like Palani (one of the richest temples in the country, with a devotee crowd from both Tamilnadu and Kerala, thronging throughout the year) – at least for the descent, one said – some others were uncharitable remarks that were certainly not expected from those who went through the process with the full knowledge of what they were expected to go through.

Velliangiri_TempleWe eventually reached the Poondi temple at the foothills by 8.40 pm – exactly 14 hours from the start of our ascent, from the same place. While many Shivangas made it down faster than us (with some reaching the Ashram in time for Sadhguru’s sathsang that evening), there were also many who were still climbing down – in pitch darkness (it was the new moon day after all). At least three Dolis (an open palanquin like chair on two long beams, used to carry those who couldn’t walk on their own) also went up during our descent, to carry those Shivangas who couldn’t walk any further.

Sadhguru_Suryakund_Consecration13I got a free ride from the father-in-law son-in-law Shivanga duo to the Ashram, where we completed the process by tying the black cloth that adorned our arms for 42 days on the tree near Nandi and taking a dip in the Theerthakund (soon to be renamed to Chandrakund, exclusively for women). Sadhguru has recently consecrated a larger theerthakund (consecrated water body) called Suryakund with 3 Rasalingas (energized ellipsoids filled with mercury) and my better half and offspring were blessed to be part of the Prana Pratishtha (energy consecration) process itself. The Dhyanalinga temple was closed by that time so we couldn’t get a darshan at night. After having dinner offered to all Shivangas at the Adi Yogi aalayam, self and most other Shivangas just crashed and slept like a log till next morning.

Banner3During my return trip back home the next day, I ignored the amused look on many onlookers’ faces – at the restaurant, airports and pretty much every other place I passed by – as I limped slowly with the luggage. They must’ve quizzed themselves on why a perfectly healthy looking middle aged man moved as if he just completed a mountaineering expedition. Only I and a few fellow Shivangas traveling on that day knew we actually did! As I waited at the airport to catch my delayed flight, the forever active mind kept going back and forth among those 43 days of Life altering experience.

Aum-Namah-ShivayaNow that the Shivanga sadhana is completed – fully – is there a sense of fulfillment? No. Only the sense of longing – for the Guru, for the eternal quest of Life, for knowing the truth – has been rekindled with a renewed fervor.

Having been there, done that on that challenging terrain up and down the sacred 7 hills, is there a sense of accomplishment? No. Only a heightened awareness of how tiny a speck we’re in the grand scheme of things called Life, in the known universe.

Looking back at all that has happened during this mandalam (a duration varying between 40 and 48 days, that’s of significance in Spirituality, Yogic practices and the ancient medical practice of Ayurvedha), is there a sense of pride in being part of the first batch of Shivangas? No. Only a sense of utmost humbleness that this self too got to be part of this magnificent opportunity that my Master has offered to all and sundry.

Shiva_AdiGuruShivanga means an anga (part) of Shiva. Shiva or Rudra or Shambho or Mahadeva isn’t that easy to comprehend and doesn’t happen that easily to any being. Shiva isn’t considered a God in the Yogic way but the Adi Yogi, the one who figured it out and eventually – after a very long wait – taught it to his other half (Shakthi or Prakriti) and the Saptha (7) Rishis (sages). So, the Shivanga sadhana’s essence to me is if one strives and gives his or her fully, the possibility of growing small without, i.e., losing the “I” or the larger sense of self or creation, and growing big within, i.e., sensing what the true “I” or knowing the one self or creator, is available to all seekers. And that possibility is revealed and can be availed only with the Guru’s grace!  

Sadhguru15The next time – if and when it happens – this self will be better prepared, physically and with a survival kit for self and others. At least, I now know what it takes to perform the trek, though the experience next time could be a completely different one. my Master willing, Swamy will attempt the trek again, not to prove a point to anyone, but to meditate at the Sadhguru Spot (a sacred place where Sadhguru attained Mahasamadhi – leaving his physical form through all 7 Chakras, thereby earning the title of Chakreshwara – in his previous birth as Sadhguru Sri Brahma and where he went back once again as Jaggi in this birth and came back as Sadhguru, during the preparation stage of the Dhyanalinga consecration), which we missed out during this trek.

Dhyanalinga4After I reached home and while trying my level best to answer a million curious queries from family and friends, I checked with my relative at Ashram about the (ascent) friend’s return. Considering his physical condition and the dehydrated state he was in during the ascent, I was genuinely worried if one of the dolis went up for him. And what I heard not only left me dumbfounded but also made me even more humble than I already was by now. He has climbed down the 7 hills, and reached the Ashram, at least half an hour ahead of me – safe and sound. I bowed down before my Master Sadhguru and Lord Shiva, once again left marveling at their benevolence and boundless grace, with a sense of gratitude and a content smile. Shambho!

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