Tag Archives: Yama

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

22 Jan

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

Step 2 ~ Past in the Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hara Hara MahAdEvA!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(at least) 16 more Steps to be climbed…

~Swamy (@PrakashSwamy)

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

Be joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

Middle of the Endless Beginning!

1 Apr

Kalachakra2A while ago I wrote the post “Endless Beginning!” It’s about Life, like many of Swamy‘s posts. Just the way there are two sides to a coin (in fact, there’s a third side too – check this post if you’re keen to know Third side of a coin!) there’s the other side to Life too. It’s a side none of us want to see or experience but all of us eventually will.

Most mortals call it death. Some call it afterlife, with a faint hope that there will still be some life, after Life! All think it’s the end. Only a few know it isn’t.

Death3Death is as omnipresent as Life and is everywhere around us. Yet, unlike Life, we wait for an instance of death to acknowledge it. Acceptance is still far away for most.

When some stranger gets killed on the road and finally (no pun intended) manages to get his 15 minutes of fame in the newspaper or TV, it doesn’t crate much of an impact in us, beyond the few minutes of reading or watching, or at the most a tea or lunch time chat.

Death6When someone known passes away, the effect lingers on a bit longer. We’re flooded with their memories for a while. A young relative of mine passed away recently. He was just a teenager with a long and vibrant Life to look forward to, until that future ceased to exist, on a certain day. He did suffer for long due to a medical condition, but his family wasn’t prepared in any way when he finally bid goodbye to this Life. I was more an observer than a mourning family member during his last rites. Not because I’ve a heart custom-made with the choicest granite from the now controversial Madurai (my dear home town) quarry, but because that’s the fact – however cold it may sound!

Death5When someone very close to us ceases to exist, the effect is much stronger. Even devastating! We cry, curse God (we even have a God – Lord Yama – specifically for this purpose) for snatching their Life away, chide others who don’t seem to be as impacted as we’re and do many other things that keep the memory flame burning long after their Life flame was doused. Whenever I look at my two lovely daughters Mylo and Maggy, the fact that their lifespan is all of just 12-14 years never fails to flash in my mind. Half-way through their Life now – a very happy one for sure, they don’t resemble middle aged women ravaged by health issues of body and mind in any way, but certainly fall in that category – at least in human age scale! I don’t see my family reacting any differently from you, whenever the inevitable happens.

CrashedBike1While this is understandable as humans are highly emotional beings, it is worth knowing that the attachment we’ve with other beings – human or not – is not too different from the attachment we’ve with many other objects of desire. All of us have our favorite objects – a pen, bike, watch, shirt, mug, jewel, recliner or any of the million things that every household is packed with. It’s not hard to recall how we felt the last time one of them got broken, stopped working or had to be given away.

Bhishma1When someone dies at a ripe old age, we try to pacify ourselves saying they lived a good Life. I was witness to this when my grandfather died a few years ago, a relative of mine lost his mother and a neighbor lost his father. They all lived well, died old and everyone seem to have come to terms with their death soon.

DeadBird3When someone dies too young – as a baby – we try to console ourselves saying they were saved from the suffering that we go through in Life. The recent incidence I recall is the baby pigeon that died during the Operation Pigeon Rescue we’ve performed not so long ago and the entire rescue team was actually glad that the baby didn’t live to suffer more.

FuneralPyre1But when someone neither too old nor too young dies, we find it hard to apply the same logic, though they too lived their lives fully before their time was up. I had seen this thrice in my Life so far – twice in person – and the reactions of near and dear were similar in both cases. Acceptance is hard and time seems to be the best healer of the scars left by the untimely death on the psyche of family members and a few close friends.

Sadhguru10If we know Life, the way it is, while Living Life, we’ll understand and accept death better. my Master Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev says we fear that we don’t know. We’re afraid of death, because we don’t know it well. Since all our focus is on living, we don’t spend any time thinking about death. In the absence of thought light, lack of knowledge shrouds our mind like darkness. So, we invariably conclude death as dark and end up fearing it.

Monkay1As firm believers of ‘Ignorance is bliss’, we eternally (pun certainly intended) live hoping death isn’t going to knock our door today or some day in the near future. What’s inevitable appears as improbable in our minds – especially when it comes to our own Life. But when the inevitable happens – it will for any and every being – we are unable to come to terms with it and continue to live in denial. We try hard to fill the assumed void with thoughts – about the one that is no more.

FuneralProcession4Interestingly, we also glorify death, when it happens to those who we revere. A saint is said to have attained Samadhi, when he leaves his physical body, which is then enshrined and worshiped  long after they’re gone. A popular actor or politician gets a grand farewell and some of them a memorial too, which eventually becomes a tourist spot. Armed services personnel who lost their lives in a war are remembered and even rewarded, posthumously. And intriguingly, all these events also involve vast amount of flowers – as decoration in the form of garlands, a mark of respect in the form or wreaths or thrown at the passing carriage to pay obeisance.

Sadhguru10Flowers themselves die every day, yet we cherish their blossom and fragrance but don’t bother too much when it’s time to throw the withered ones away. my Master Sadhguru, a Gardener of Life with boundless grace for all beings, loves flowers and says flowers are wonderful examples of what’s possible for every being. But before our ignorance starts shining with vivid imagination, Sadhguru also clarifies that flowers don’t blossom to be liked by us nor do they give a damn about whether we like them or not. They just blossom because that is Life the way it is for them.

Flowers2Instead of just be born, live and die like any human being, we too can blossom to our maximum potential, pleasantly, and spread the fragrance of joy in others’ lives. And when our true inner self blossoms, without attaching any expectations, it also offers us the ability to transcend Life and accept Death as just another phase of Life.

RamanaMaharishi2Very few beings such as the enlightened masters attain realization of the true self during their lifetime. But death is a phase of Life in which the true self can be realized by all, without the trapping of the physical – even at the very last moment when we breathe our last breath. If we’re prepared to accept death in full consciousness, when it happens.

Aum-Namah-ShivayaIn that state, we’ll remain a mere witness to what we love as Life and dread as death. While one is manifest to be seen, heard, smelt, tasted and touched by the five senses, the other is unmanifest and can be understood only when we can go beyond the senses. If the manifest is Shakthi, then the unmanifest is Shiva. And comprehending Shiva isn’t an easy thing to do as he’s beyond comprehension (Swamy’s limited experience of being a Shivanga – an anga or part of Shiva – can be read in Shambho and the 7th Hill)!

YinYang1But it isn’t that hard to comprehend that Life and Death are entwined together all the time, which is symbolized by Ardhanarishwara – a form that’s a combination of Shakthi and Shiva. Yin-Yang is a representation of the same truth as well. Binary, the core of all things digital, too is an embodiment of this. The smartest ignorant beings – with an overrated sixth sense – that we are, we look (by using just one of the five senses) at all of these as mere symbols without comprehending what they truly represent.

UnmanifestDeath isn’t the full stop for Life, i.e., the end of Life, as perceived by most. It’s a semicolon rather, indicating continuity of Life, in a dimension that can’t be perceived by most.

Butterfly1A worm slithers around, becomes a fly, flutters around and falls back and merges with earth – in the space of a few hours.

A flower buds, blossoms, gets plucked, adorns and withers – in the space of a day.

Birds3

A bird cracks out of the egg, eats worms fed by its mother, grows wings, flies away, lives in a nest, perishes with age or gets killed, cooked and eaten by another vicious two-legged being that relishes feeding on anything other than their own – in the space of months.

Gadgets1A shiny new gadget gets crafted out of metal and silicon, wows its potential buyers with mesmerizing power and abilities – many of which they won’t need, gets bought by millions, used for everything other than brushing the teeth, and gets traded or gathers dust when replaced by another shiny new gadget – in the space of an year or two.  

CowCalf1A mammal slips out of the womb, suckles, stands up, learns to walk, makes noises, feeds, finds a mate or falls in love, copulates, gives birth, takes care of its offspring, grows old and dies – in the space of years.

BanyanTree2A sapling springs out of a tiny seed, sprawls into a tree offering shade to all and bearing fruits for any, witnesses many a monsoon, typhoon and summer, gets cut by a stupid two-legged monster or falls when its purpose is served – in the space of hundreds of years.

Unmanifest1A universe appears out of nowhere, with a big bang, gives birth to planets and stars, lets Life find a way, spins around while Life flourishes and gets sucked into nothing, i.e., a black hole – in the space of many a millennia.

That’s the way of Life. That’s how it has been from time immemorial and how it will be for as long as there’s timeAs the Present becomes Past in the Future in no time, not learning the art of Living Life only exposes the Absurdity of Existence further. But to truly understand Life the way it is, one must be willing to go From Ordinary to Extra Ordinary!

Flowers3It’s always a Flower’s form at full blossom that’s remembered – as a garland adorning a deity or Guru, strung together and worn on hair or neck by humans, a sacred offering during puja or a natural ornament on the plant that gave birth to it. Their withered form, when removed and thrown away,  is hardly remembered by any, as they’re invariably replaced by fresh flowers, time and time again, starting the cycle all over again.

When the end comes, inevitably, it’s the Life we lived that should be remembered and cherished. Not the death, which is just another event in one’s Life. While celebrating death may be a bit far-fetched for many, accepting death as an inevitable event in one’s Life shouldn’t be so.

Death2

Fear not, for Death isn’t the end. Learn to embrace it, for it’ll anyway happen to all when their time’s up. Like the glorious crescendo of an orchestra, signaling the conclusion of perfect music played to a packed audience in a concert hall. In the Game of Life, both the musicians and the listeners will move on for another performance in another place on another day!

AfterLife2Fret not, for Death isn’t the beginning either. As the Life beyond it isn’t comprehensible with our limited senses. Like the glorious light from the Sun at dusk, which isn’t that different from that of the dawn! In the Dance of Life, the Sun is another dancer that goes on about its business, as long as it has to, before running out of gas and shrinking into nothingness.

Cemetery1

Face Death nonchalantly by knowing it better, for Death is more the Middle of the Endless Beginning called Life!

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