Tag Archives: Yatra

Past in Present!

15 Apr

The extended Swamily recently made a road trip to his home town Madurai, for his mother’s 70th birthday celebration ceremony (the traditional way with homam or havan, vedic chanting, etc). After the ever-customary Temple visit & purchasing all kinds of stuff (from eatables to brass items to Nannari sorbet to clothing to sticker bindhi to lamp wicks to gift items to rug cloth bags for saving the planet from plastics to what not…) and now-customary visit to Ramana Mandhiram (RamaNa Maharishi‘s uncle’s house, in the lane opposite to the South Gopuram of the world famous Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple, where BhagawAn had the profound death experience, while still in his teens, which set his historic one-way trip to the sacred town of AruNAchalA aka ThiruvaNNAmalai, to shine his “Who am I!” spiritual light on the world), they had some time in hand to visit the residence where they’ve spent several of their formative years. 

Present Past… 

During the return journey, the family took a quick detour into a suburb of Dindigul called NGO colony, where Swamy lived for a few years, during the middle & high school years. Swamy’s sister-in-law #3 (of the 3) made an insightful observation, when the extended Swamily were about to get down from the vehicle to see the old house at NGO colony, Dindigul.


Past Past… 

After being away from the family for a few years (for better education, he was left with his grandparents & maternal uncle’s family in Madurai, during the Primary school years, which happened at BAla Gurukulam & Sri VidhyAlayam schools, in S.S.Colony), this independent house (Swamy Sr’s first own house – quite an achievement then, for an honest government servant with a fairly large brood & an extended family) is where Swamy lived & studied from 6-10th standard (@ MSP Solai Nadar Memorial HSS, which apparently remains one of the top schools in the town); met with a life altering (quite literally) sports accident (shattered the knee cap due to improper landing at long jump – for which the PET didn’t bother to train anyone – that too immediately after a sprint, for which Swamy seem have a natural flair) not only abruptly ended his potential sports career (India still awaits an Olympics Gold in Sprint 🐥) but also forced him to discontinue the scholastic education (due to incorrect treatment by an allegedly drug-addict doctor, which resulted in 2 surgeries & prolonged the period of recovery to several months) that he (pretty much always) did well in (a State Rank in S.S.L.C & University Rank in Engineering will sufficiently substantiate that claim), for an year (which eventually made him Anna to his fellow students, then onwards, simply because he was an year senior to them 😜); became an ignorant agnostic for a short duration (blaming God for letting him down😣); turned believer (is it gnostic! 🤔) again; discovered (or re-discovered) his talent for sketching & writing (no formal training in either craft, other than joining a popular online course for painting & promptly discontinuing it soon 🙃); silently appreciated the value of family (hint: his left leg was in a PoP cast for months, due to 2 surgeries to fix his damaged knee, so he couldn’t go to the restroom on his own for awhile – at least until he could pull himself around with the cast 🤕), et al.


Long story short… or in today’s SoMe terms – blog story tweet 😁, that house occupied a significant number of gray cell real estate, to store piles of unreal memories, letting the mind reminisce the long gone past, as and when it liked. And there are a few other places like that as well (Swamy Sr was a humble – untainted as well – government servant, who was routinely transferred from one town to another, every two or three years), not only in Madurai, but also nearby towns like RAmanhAthapuram, Dindigul & UtthamapALayam.


Present Past… 

Incidentally, Swamy was inadvertently visiting some of these places, in the recent past, for different purposes. As a serious seeker, he is fully aware that there are no accidents or mere coincidences in Life. So, his sister-in-law’s (an intellectual & writer similar to Swamy, but doesn’t dabble on the spiritual space, unlike Swamy) remark triggered a thought train… (ah, that bloody wily mind… how glad is it to be in the thick of pointless action again.. & again.. & again.. 💭😱).

Here’s what she said (may not be verbatim, but close enough)…

Anna, you seem to be the most excited person, who wants to see this old house!

A pertinent point, considering the group of people getting out to see the house (now in dilapidated condition, locked out without any inhabitants) included 2 (out of 4) of his younger brothers (who too have lived there) & one more sister-in-law (who is familiar with the house) & the other s-i-l’s parents (who happen to be paternal aunt & her husband, for the brothers & thereby familiar with that house as well). The 3 kids (of the younger brothers) & the driver were just curious about all the excitement of the (yet-to-grow-up) adults, as they had no clue about the place. But the kids were naturally excited about climbing the wall & exploring the ancient dwelling of their parents, where they probably were the past replicas of them in the present! 😯


After spending a short while, checking every part of the house (it was locked, but one can go around, climb the stairs to the open terrace & also peep through the partially shut windows) & recalling a few interesting (or intriguing, depending on the perspective) incidents, the group left the derelict place, overflowing with memories of a long gone, but obviously not yet forgotten, past. The smartphones captured the house, frozen in time, for posterity, as it’s quite possible that none of them may ever visit it again! 


Past in Present… 

As the vehicle continued to clock kilometres on the expressway, speeding towards Chennai, so everyone but Swamy can rush back to their survival routine the next morning, Swamy recalled a different incident, from his Master Sadhguru’s life, which resonated with what he’s now going through. 

It’s called the Karma YAtrA, which enabled those involved in Sadhguru‘s consecration of the Dhyanalinga, (a one-of-a-kind perennial energy form, consecrated using the ancient mystical process of PrANa PratishthA, which is his Guru’s will that took him 3 births to complete), to experience their past, the memories of which was impeding their participation / presence, by exploring places of their past!

(you may know more about it here… http://isha.sadhguru.org/mystic/dhyanalinga/consecration-process/karma-yatra/)

After reaching Chennai late in the night (which can also be termed as early in the morning), taking a brief nap & waking up fresh, listening to the cooing & chirping of birds, it became clear to Swamy that, he has started visiting places of his past recently, not to remember the past (that was a reality a long time ago, but obviously not anymore) but to let go of it (as it has no relevance or value to the spiritual pursuit, progressing towards self-realisation). For good! 
Though Swamy’s state of awareness is still limited to only the Present Past (past events of the present birth / lifetime) and yet to expand to the Past Past (past events in previous lifetimes), he’s at least clear about what needs to be done in the present, ASAP, about the past… Quickly cover a few more places that enshrine memories… to complete the Karma yAtrA, i.e. journey to the Past in Present! 👍👣😌🙌

Be joyful 😌 & spread the cheer 🌻
~Swamy

@PrakashSwamy 


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

29 Jan

Step 3 ~ The 3rd Dimension

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

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ascend Step 1 ~ End or Beginning! here…

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

ascend Step 2 ~ Past in the Present! here…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


~Swamy (@PrakashSwamy)

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

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

Be joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

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

22 Jan

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

Step 2 ~ Past in the Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hara Hara MahAdEvA!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(at least) 16 more Steps to be climbed…

~Swamy (@PrakashSwamy)

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

Be joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

18 Steps to Emancipation! | Step 1 ~ End or Beginning!

20 Jan

18 Steps to Emancipation! ~ Swamy’s first SabarimalA yAtrA experience (Jan 2017)

Step 1 ~ End or Beginning!

The seemingly never ending march – one delicate step at a time – on the concrete pavement, came to an abrupt end in front of the 18 steep steps, adorned in glowing Gold. Looking at the fellow yAtris, Swamy also broke the coconut on his hand by throwing it against the black granite wall, beside the steps. The wiry thin sexagenarian veteran who was beside him signaled that it’s time to climb the steps. As Swamy bowed before and touched the first step with reverence, the body shook involuntarily and joy drops (aka tears of joy) started flowing. The journey to SabarimalA – Swamy’s first in his 46 years of existence in this lifetime – was about to conclude, with a few more steps, which still appeared incredulous. It’s over. Done. With the same surgically repaired knee that ascended KailAsh, Velliangiri (KailAsh of the South) and circumambulated the holy hill of ThiruvaNNAmalai. Hard to believe but absolutely certain.

Swamy climbed the 18 steps in a daze and was ushered towards the Lord, who as AbhishEgapriyan (one who loves being bathed or showered with various sacred offerings, such as Ghee, rose water, sandal, viboothi, flowers, etc), was showering his Grace nonstop during the Mandalam (40-42 days) period, on the millions of devotees from all over the world, who throng his hill shrine, after adhering to a strict vratham (sAdhanA that’s unique for the Lord) and climbing a long winding, strenuous forest route, up and down 4 different hills, to get a glimpse of the Lord for a few fleeting moments. Year after year.

As Swamy stood in front of Lord Dharma SAsthA (aka AyyappA / MaNikaNdA), there was no sense of elation. Nor was there any sense of accomplishment. The mind simply went blank and it was as if he stood in an empty void, facing the magnificent one, sitting in the unique HarivarAsanam (apparently one of the toughest AsanAs in Hatha Yoga), showing the Abhaya hasthA (one of the blessing mudrAs known as Chin MudrA) on his right arm and pointing to his lotus feet with his left (indicating surrender of the individual self / personality / identity / ego). No prayers came forth. No chants either. And in that fleeting moment, before being pushed by the police personnel (whose incredible effort ensures every single yAtri gets the darshan of the Lord without fail), Swamy noticed something different.


The Lord of the SabarimalA (literally, hill of Sabari), who is always seen as a child / teenager in pretty much all the pictures, appeared to Swamy as an elder, that too with a beard! Thinking that it must be an illusion caused by the fatigue induced by the strenuous climb up the hills, Swamy tightly closed and opened his eyes and looked at the Lord again. No, it wasn’t an illusion. He indeed had a beard. At least that’s how he was offering darshan to Swamy in that moment. He would eventually know about that form a few hours later.


With his sexagenarian partner showing the way with ease, Swamy simply went through the motion of circumambulating the few smaller shrines near or around the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Hariharasudhan (son of Hari aka MahAVishNu and HarA aka Lord ShivA) and descended to the resting place known as Viri. Upon seeing his yAtrA Guru there (another veteran of several decades, who was the leader of a smaller group of 7 or 8 yAtris that Swamy trekked with, which was one of the 5 or 6 groups that made the yAtrA together), he bowed & touched his feet, hugged him and cried uncontrollably. Collecting himself within a few moments, he sat on the wooden platform there and the mind that has just come out of the void, started w(p)ondering if this was the “End or Beginning!


to be climbed till the 18th


~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 🙂

Mystic Nation 1 – The God Conundrum!

18 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swamystery in 2014!

31 Dec Realization

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

Here’s an excerpt:

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

Click here to see the complete report.

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Master & Seekers!

19 Oct

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

16 Oct

Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake!

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

Episode 2 – The Kingdom’s Tale!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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