Tag Archives: Lord Shiva

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 🙂

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NATYA – a simple formula for success

25 Oct

On Vijayadasami day (Oct 22, 2015), considered auspicious for Vidhyarambham (initiation of learning, of all kinds, including performing arts) in Bharat, Swamy was invited to be one of the chief guests for a classical dance event. While Swamy doesn’t have any claim to be associated with dance in any way (he at least actively listens to many kinds of music, including the classical, and even sings & plays percussion instruments, though not formally trained in either), he chose to accept the invite as a mark of respect for the tremendous amount of effort that goes into learning an art or craft (or even sport for that matter, which Swamy has witnessed up-close-and-personal as he’s been part of the quest to raise Jr as a sports – Chess – champion) by all beings involved – the learner (usually an eager child), the learned (the teacher, trainer, coach or Guru, who trains many eager children), the learning enablers (usually parents and a few near & dear) and the learning itself, which is an excruciating, arduous & invariably long process that inevitably consumes a significant part of the childhood. But on any day, Swamy would gladly vote for children spending time learning a performing art, craft or sport, instead of wasting long hours pointlessly in rote learning.

wpid-20151022_181121.jpgThe event Swamy was invited to was a Salangai Puja, to mark the elevation of learners of classical dance from beginner to intermediate level, by letting them wear the salangai on their legs (around the ankle) for the first time, after a few years of learning the basics of classical dance – Bharatanatyam, in this case. The learners will continue to learn for a few more years under the Guru before they can do the Arangetram, i.e., first (typically public) solo performance, announcing to the world that s/he is ready to perform the dance independently anywhere.

SP31Four children – Adhira, Shailaja, Shivadarshini & Srujana – from Siva Natyalaya (the popular dance school of Mrs. Bhuvanadevi Karthikeyan located at Madambakkam, near the famed ancient Shiva temple) were elevated by their Guru to the next level on Vijayadasami & Swamy was one of the chief guests (the other two – Mrs. M.R.Lakshmi & Mrs. Krishnakumari Karthikeyan – were eminent persons from music & dance arenas respectively). This blog post is an excerpt of Swamy’s speech at the salangai puja (not his first public speech but certainly the first at a performing arts or cultural event).

NATYA – a simple formula for success

SP4Swamy’s speech at Siva Natyalaya’s Bharatanatyam Salangai Puja (சலங்கை பூஜை) event in Chennai on 22-Oct-2015 (the speech was in Tamizh தமிழ், which Swamy is quite conversant with, as it happens to be his mother tongue தாய்மொழி)

Namaskaram. After seeing my profession on the invitation (in chaste தமிழ், no less), you must’ve been wondering about what I really do for a living and what relationship do I’ve, if any, with dance!

பிரகாஷ் ராமஸ்வாமி – முழுமை வழிகாட்டி, மனித உள் ஆற்றல் கண்டறிதல் மற்றும் பேணி வளர்த்தல் வல்லுநர் 

SP14I too have wondered the same way about the dance part, as unlike the other two chief guests here – one from the classical music world (learning from none other than the great Semmangudi himself) & the other from the classical dance world (whose grandfather learned from the legendary Balasaraswathi), I’ve nothing to do with dance. Music has been a part of my Life but dance not so much. But as I also write (blogs now, books soon), it’s natural for me to ponder about things and wonder about connections between seemingly unrelated things. When I thought about me & dance, it dawned upon me that there indeed is a powerful connect. And that is Adiyogi (Swamy pointed to the bronze Nataraja statue on the stage that was decked up with flowers for the auspicious occasion).

SP2As someone on the spiritual path for the about 6 years now through Isha yoga, we’re deeply reverential to Adiyogi. Shiva is considered the first yogi in the yogic culture. Incidentally, he also happens to be the Lord of Dance, i.e. Nataraja. His famed dance is the Tandava – in Ananda & Rudra forms – and he’s also known as Thandavakkon in Tamizh because of this. So, now you know the connection between Swamy and dance (the audience chuckle). 

SP9Once that became clear, I’ve thought about what to say in this forum, where eminent persons from music & dance arena are there and children are performing the traditional Bharatanatyam dance beautifully with able guidance from their Guru & the accompanying musicians. Since children are familiar with formulas in many subjects they learn at school such as maths, physics & chemistry, it would be appropriate to give them a simple formula for achieving success in their quest to become eminent classical dancers. And that simple formula is NATYA. Very easy to remember (as the term itself means dance) and hopefully to follow & practice as well.

SP10N is Nada. Nada means sound. The universe that we’re part of is said to have originated from sound –  the primordial sound AUM. Recently, NASA scientists have managed to make the sound of Sun audible and it incredibly sounds as AUM (which isn’t surprising for our ancient culture as the many sages & enlightened beings have figured it out many centuries ago). All Creation is said to be just sound and the creator is also known as Nada Brahma. For dance too, the basis is sound. We’ve seen how beautifully the word Pankajam in a song was depicted as blossoming of lotus by the children. When we hear the word (sound) and see the depiction through gestures or mudras (movement or expression), we can connect with it easily and can comprehend better. 

What’s critical in this relationship is the alignment – between sound and movement in the case of dance. It could be something else for other types of Life pursuits. Alignment with a source, principle, goal or purpose. If your action is in alignment with a purpose, the result will be beautiful and the expreince will be joyful.

SP12A is Agnostic. In these turbulent times of religious intolerance, agnostic is a very sensitive world. But agnostic doesn’t just mean non-believer. It also means someone who is not biased – towards good or bad, like or dislike, progressive or regressive and so on. Shiva is also known as Aghori, someone for whom nothing is ghori or horrible. He accepts everything as it is. The people surrounding him are always depicted as demented beings, but he loves them the same way he would love any other being. He’s as comfortable being in the graveyard smeared in ash, wearing skeletons as he’s in his magnificent Somasundareswara form (worshipped in the famous Madurai Meenakshi temple, in Swamy’s home town). That’s why he symbolises Life the way it is. 

As a learner of dance (or anything for that matter), you shouldn’t be biased towards one or the other. I like this adavu or I don’t like that jathi. This song is more beatiful to perform than that song. I prefer that accompanying person to this one. Your focus should remain just the dance itself (performance or action). And you’ll just accept everything else around it as it is. Nothing is good or bad, no likes or dislikes. Everything just the way it is. That’s being agnostic.

SP21T is Transendence. Loosly translated (as Swamy was speaking in Tamizh – a far deeper, more delightful & meaningful classical language), it is elevating oneself from the present state to a state that’s many levels above or beyond. In the yogic path, it is achieving the state of Samadhi – an eternal state of bliss, which enlightened beings are said to be in, all the time. 

In dance (or any performance or action), Transendence is not just for the dancer (to go from a learner to a spectacular performer) but for the spectators too (going from hmmm to wow). You should reach a level of performance where there’s no stage, no accompanying artists, no spectators, not even the dancer but just the dance. That kind of a dance would bring tears flooding from the eyes of anyone blessed to be present. Tandava certainly would’ve done that to the sages and celestial beings who may’ve witnessed it, as Tandava is the dance of transendence. Both at cosmic and atomic level as creation is also known as the dance of Shiva.

SP28Y is Yearning. Not earning, which unfortunately is the focus of many star performers in any performing art today. Without yearning for something, it’s not possible to achieve the state of transendence. The sages who’ve become enlightened have performed yoga or tapas for many years. The saptarishis have spent not one or two but 84 years in preparing themselves to receive the grace of Adiyogi, who after observing their diligent preparation has become the benevolent Adi Guru (first Guru or Master) as the benevolent Dakshinamurthi to transmit his yogic knowledge to them, several thousands of years ago.

SP23As a dancer (or anyone performing a purposeful action), you must have immense interest and expend tremendous effort to be someone that people line up to see, not because you follow the principles of dance to the T but because being part of your performance lets them transcend to a different level. That’s how you’ll be known as a Balasaraswathi, Rukmini Devi, Padma Subramaniam or Alarmelvalli. In classical music, Bho Shambho belongs to Maharajapuram Santhanam. One can’t think beyond Madurai Mani Iyer when it comes to rendering Ka Vaa Vaa. Suprabatham is synonymous with MS. The same holds true for Kanda Sashti Kavacham and Sulamangalam sisters. Such astonishing levels of achievement is possible for you too, if you truly yearn for it.

SP17A is Absolute. Adiyogi is depicted as either an ascetic in a blissed out state of meditation or ecstatic state of tandava. He’s not partially in either state but absolute in both states. Whenever you perform dance (or any other purposeful action), your intent, focus and intensity has to be absolute. Such a state is not possible if you are performing for others. The performance or action will naturally flow from within and encompass all those who are touched by the performance or action in some way, only when it is absolute. If every moment of our Life is absolute, there’s no other choice for us but to be joyful.

So, that’s the simple formula of NATYA
Nada – action in alignment with a purpose.
Agnostic – accepting Life the way it is, without any kind of bias.
Transendence – elevating oneself & others from the mundane routine to an eternal state of bliss.
Yearning – immense interest and effort to achieve peak performance.
Absolute – intent, focus & intensity to achive transendence.

SP35Nataraja’s (Shiva in the form of Lord of Dance) dance Tandava is said to depict or embody the 5 thatvasSrishti (ஆக்கல் அல்லது படைத்தல்), Sthiti (காத்தல் அல்லது பொறுத்தல்), Samhara (அழித்தல் அல்லது மாற்றல்), Tirobhava (மறைத்தல் அல்லது மாயை விளையாடல்) & Anugraha (அருளல் அல்லது விடுவித்தல்).

It’s easy to see the NATYA formula is directly associated with the 5 Tandava thatvas (தாண்டவ தத்துவம்). But if I start explaining that now, the organisers may open their Netrikkan (third eye), as we’re running out of time. So, let me conclude by requesting you to use the NATYA formula for success in your pursuit of Dance. May Nataraja’s Grace be with you for a purposeful Life of dance overflowing with Joy.

The following is an extension to the speech (not shared at the event due to paucity of time), connecting the dots between NATYA & Tandava.

SP29Nada = Srishti (creation or Shiva as the source of creation) – Life of creation (humans inclusive) in alignment with the creator.
Agnostic = Sthiti (existence or Shiva as the preserver of creation) – Accepting Life the way it is, without any personal bias.
Transendence = Samhara (transformation or Shiva as the transformer of creation) – Elevating oneself (& others in one’s presence) from the mundane routine to an eternal state of bliss
Yearning = Tirobhava (maya or Shiva as the master who plays with the ignorance of his creation) – Having immense interest and willing to expend any amount of effort to know the Truth or purpose of Life.
Absolute = Anugraha (enlightenment or Shiva as the Guru who benevolently enables one to achieve and remain in the state of eternal bliss) – Having absolute clarity of intent/purpose, total focus and burning intensity to achive self-realization.

SP34As there is Nada Yoga (yoga of sound), there is also Natya Yoga (yoga of dance or movement). Dance, when performed as an offering to the ultimate (Shiva as Nataraja) and not as a mere performance, has the potential to let the performer transcend to the state of bliss. Just the way being in the mere presence of a realized being (like Sadhguru) can elevate a seeker to a different state of Life experience (beyond the known physical, limited to the five senses), being present during the perormance of a dancer whose dance is an offering to the Lord of Dance can and will let the participants transcend to a different level of experience – akin to being present during Nataraja’s Tandava itself.

NATYA(Oct-15)May Adiyogi’s grace be with you to immerse yourself in and experience the joyful dance of Life!

@PrakashSwamy

Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

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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.

Journey of Life!

15 Dec

Patti1When Swamy held his frail grandmother in his arms, like a child, Life had indeed come a full circle. She had, somewhere in the long lost past, proudly held him in her arms, as he is her first grandson after all – a fact that hardly registers in her fragile mind now!

It’s just incidental that two events – both anniversaries – were celebrated by his extended family on that day. While his maternal grandmother’s 80th birth anniversary was more symbolic (she’s obviously too frail to last the long ritual), his cousin’s son’s 1st birth anniversary was an elaborate ritual, held on the same day at the same place. While physically being part of the event, Swamy’s mind started racing ahead (as usual, as you may say, dear reader), pondering Life, the chaotic and totally unprepared way we live it and, inevitably, Life the way it is, i.e., the way it is meant to be lived!

SwamyHome_FlowersA bud blossoms, petals untie themselves from the tight embrace to bathe in the mellow dawn light and the flower in full bloom, wafting in the gentle breeze, brings an impromptu smile on the face of anyone who cares to see. By dusk, the flower has departed the plant and falls on earth, to be part of the process of creation all over again. Other than plucking it to decorate either our mane or a deity, we hardly shed a tear when it completes its mere daylong Journey of Life.

Gardening1A seed gets buried into earth, sprouts a branch with a few leaves, sprawls into a tree with many branches and leaves offering shade (and even fruits) to all or grows into a plant yielding a crop. A tree’s Life is much longer than the humans, who, of course, will remorselessly axe or saw it off. A crop yielding plant’s Life is much shorter, depending on the type of crop it yields and the greed of humans who harvest, sell and consume that crop. Other than relaxing on an ancient rosewood chair in the patio, relishing rotis made from the finest wheat along with piping hot korma made with freshest veggies and sipping the choicest Chamomile Green Tea, we hardly spend a moment thinking about the plants and trees that yielded all those we cherish and relish, during their months of years long Journey of Life.

Manasarovar26Water evaporates into air, pours back to embrace earth as rain, gets stored in ponds, wells or dams, and is eventually used by humans in some form. Despite the fact that it fills most of this planet’s surface (and most physical life forms), it doesn’t seem to brag about how deep, far and wide it is. On the rare occasion it gets really upset, it reminds how frail we humans are, in the form of a torrential downpour, raging flood or all consuming towering wave called Tsunami. Despite its sheer magnitude and magnanimity of keeping every Life form alive, we hardly bother to wonder about Water, in myriad forms all around us, during or after its short or long Journey of Life.

Mylo_Maggy1A pup slips out into this big bad world, rolls on the dirt (or carpet), suckles, wags the tiny tail and starts playing as soon as it can stand and move around. Whether it’s a stray on the roadside getting pelted by humans or a pet cuddled at home by the same silly humans, it doesn’t have a problem with playing – on its own or with anyone who cares. It grows, probably gives birth to more pups and eventually leaves this thankless human infested world in 12-14 years. Most animals do the same, with varying age spans, if the 2-legged descendents of apes with a grossly overrated 6th sense, let them last that long, depending on whether they’re on the hunting and/or eating list. Other than eating most fauna and caring for a few (pedigree pets that come with bragging rights or caged beasts that are a paid spectacle), we hardly bother to think about most of them, during or after their human-controlled Journey of Life.

JumpA baby sneaks out from the warmth and safety of mother’s womb – naturally or otherwise, cries, suckles, marvels at any and everything around, bewitches everyone with a pristine toothless grin, charms all and sundry with meaningless babble, crawls on all four, rises on two, falls and learns to walk and run, eats and grows, loses its priceless childhood by being forced to study for half a lifetime by stupid adults (What Say Doting Parent?), learns to work and make a living the hard way, falls in love with a fellow human, gets into a relationship, raises its own family to continue the cycle for at least another generation, grows old, falls sick and dies one fine day, which isn’t that different from any other day.

Death2Despite the fact that this is how the supposedly evolved human species lived for many a millennia, we still make such a fuss over a perished fellow human – near, dear or otherwise, cry and mourn and try hard to remember the departed, long after they’re gone, even if we haven’t bothered to pay much attention when they were alive. We even celebrate the mourning year after year, even if the departed human hadn’t a clue about Life the way it is, during their long pointless lifetime.

Flowers2It’s the flower’s nature to blossom and it does so with ease, time and again, not bothering about who smells its fragrance or smiles at it.

BuddhaUnderBodhiTreeIt’s the seed’s nature to grow into shade giving tree or a crop yielding plant and it does so with ease, time and again, not bothering about who rests in its shade or relishes food made from it.

Manasarovar11It’s the water’s nature to evaporate and pour back and it does so with ease, time and again, not bothering about how it’s used or who uses it.

PepsiSIt’s the pup’s nature to play and it does so with ease, time and again, not bothering about who cares to feed it or chooses to play with it.

Monkay1It’s the human’s nature to feed and grow physically, not learn much despite studying for long, try hard to live for and please other humans, ignore all other beings that share this tiny planet, remain oblivious to the Purpose of Life and die without realizing what the Real Dream of Life is really all about.

Every flower will blossom, waft in gentle breeze, spread the fragrance, feed the bees, spark a smile and fall to earth.

Every seed will sprout, yield a crop or offer shade, provide clean air to breathe and get uprooted or become part of earth.

Every drop of water will be part of a well, pond, river or ocean, will evaporate and pour back to be part of earth.

Every pup will play, dig, roam freely, be loyal, love unconditionally, protect and perish to be buried in earth.

Puppy_PotpourriNone of them bother about what their ilk will think of them and try to live differently trying hard to leave their own mark in the sands of time, because they understand Life the way it is and are thankful to be a part of it – however short their lifespan is. They just go about their lives, being in the present, not bothered about past or future. In fact, without studying hard for long, they just seem to instinctively know that Present is Past in Future!

Cosmos2From bud to flower to fallen petals…

From seed to plant to fallen leaves…

From droplet to stream to vapour to fallen raindrop…

From pup to dog to fallen animal…

From child to youth to adult to fallen body…

the cycle of Life just goes on and on….

20120625_143222Until one learns to listen to the song of silence, see the luminance of darkness, smell the fragrance of nature, taste the nectar of love and feel the throb of energy in stillness. That’s when one breaks beyond the limitations of the five senses that tie one to that which is, i.e., all that’s manifest and traverse a different path to realize that which is not, i.e., the unmanifest, also known as Shiva*!

Sadhguru_Quote3Every human has been endowed with the ability to comprehend Life, make decisions to enrich the way of Living Life and embrace it fully by including all fellow beings as a part of the joyful Dance of Life.

Trying to hang on to some glorious (according to each, obviously varying from person to person) past and daydreaming about an unknown future, the Wise Fools let the gift of present slip out slowly and steadily, failing to Light Up this Life. A few transcend the timid mind to dream big, expand their horizon, enjoy playing the grand Game of Life and even inspire and enrich fellow human’s lives. A handful, realize the Truth and become one with Endless Beginning called Life, erasing the imaginary boundary between the creator and the creation and offer Boundless Grace for all Beings!

Thinking2Alas, most humans remain entrapped for many lifetimes in the bubble of Life Matrix, fail to learn the A-Z of Life, spend enormous effort and time on pointless pursuits and events such as the Middle of the Endless Beginning, have limited or no understanding of Life the way it is and hardly appreciate the wonderful opportunity to go from Ordinary to Extra Ordinary.

Irrespective of whether you’re shaken or stirred by this Mjolnir blow to wake up from the Absurdity of Existence slumber, you may do well to remember the LaaSting Truth of Life that Birth isn’t the starting point, Death isn’t the destination and all the events that happen between Birth and Death aren’t milestones in this enchanting Journey of Life!

Dhyana1Life was, is and will be, until it chooses to recycle time to start all over again (this one’s the 84th such cycle, aka Rudra’s Roar, and this will go on till 112, says Swamy’s Master Sadhguru). We – quite possibly the dumbest species that keeps boasting about an extra sense than all fellow beings – are just passing by, in the umpteenth journey that we call as a lifetime. Yet, we choose to remain ignorant of the magnificence of Life in this lifetime too (who knows how many we’ve been through and how many more we’ll be through), letting the bubble last, entrapment continue and ignorance darkness keeping us sealed in the mortal envelope.

Swamily_GardenThe mellow light of dawn beckons…

The vibrant blossom of flower smiles…

The chaste green sprout of seed dances…

The pristine drop of water sparkles…

The nonchalant play of pup enchants…

Flowers3Life throbs all around, beside, above and beyond us in countless myriad forms, shapes, sizes and hues. Not expecting anything from us, but just inviting us to be an active part of it – not knowing, doing, wanting or needing but just being.

It’s up to us to wake up from the prolonged ‘i’coma, dear fellow humans, for the time has come to see, listen, smell, taste, touch and comprehend Life the way it is, be truly joyful inside out and enjoy – along with all fellow beings – this enchanting Journey of Life!

* Shiva = Shi+Va = That Which Is Not (as told by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a realized Master and founder of Isha Yoga, the spiritual path followed by Swamy and many seekers like him).

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Swamy_ACC_SignatureBe Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

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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!
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