The Fire Yogi of Tanjore

The Fire Yogi is a 47 minute documentary exploring a Yogi who has the extraordinary ability to use a unique breathing technique to get into union with Fire. This documentary portrays a rare and unusual Fire Ritual performed by the Yogi and the subsequent chemical analysis of his clothing & physical tests that examine this supernatural phenomenon. The Yogi has performed this Fire Ritual for a total of 1000 days over the last 45 years. The Yogi, weighing a mere 94 pounds (43 kilos), has been able to survive on only two bananas and a mere glass of milk with a few drops of water twice a day for the last 28 years. Many aspects of the Yogi are on the edge of unbelievability, while at the same time highlighting the power and endurance of human mind, body and spirit.

Yogi Rambhauswami, the 63-year-old yogi, claims that in 1975 he stopped drinking more than a few drops of water each day, that two years later he began limiting his daily diet to a banana and a cup of milk, and that he sleeps only three hours each night. By all rights the Sanskrit scholar should be malnourished and dehydrated, but in director and producer Mike Vasan’s documentary, he appears to be a relatively normal, if somewhat slender, senior citizen. Rambhauswami’s real claim to fame, however, is his elaborate fire ritual.

The ritual begins with his taking a bath, then moving on to meditation, pranayama, and a ceremony honoring Ganesha. The fire portion of the ritual is conducted over a sunken pit, into which Rambhauswami offers rice, coconut, sugar cane, and gallons of ghee. As he’s doing this, he goes into a deep meditative state. He enters the blaze and rolls around, protected by only a wool shawl, and remains there, in the fire, for up to 10 minutes at a time.

When Rambhau emerges from the flames, though, there’s little evidence that he’s just been charbroiled. Even his shawl is intact, its preservation credited to a protective aura. The shawl was later tested for fire retardant, and results showed that the material hadn’t been treated.

Published in: on October 2, 2008 at 2:33 am  Comments (2)  

250 Year Old Devraha Baba in Vrindavan

Devraha Baba was a siddha who lived for over 250 years, before entering samadhi in 1989. So elderly was he that the first President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, more than fifty years ago, said that his father had sat at the feet of Devraha Baba as a child – that is, in the middle of the nineteenth century – and Devraha Baba was already elderly at that time. Devraha Baba never took food, and never set foot on the ground. He lived in a unique hut that was raised off the ground by bamboo poles.

Published in: on October 2, 2008 at 2:29 am  Comments (12)  

SHIVA

Lord Shiva represents the aspect of the Supreme Being (Brahman of the Upanishads) that continuously dissolves to recreate in the cyclic process of creation, preservation, dissolution and recreation of the universe. As stated earlier, Lord Shiva is the third member of the Hindu Trinity, the other two being Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu.

Owing to His cosmic activity of dissolution and recreation, the words destroyer and destruction have been erroneously associated with Lord Shiva. This difficulty arises when people fail to grasp the true significance of His cosmic role. The creation sustains itself by a delicate balance between the opposing forces of good and evil. When this balance is disturbed and sustenance of life becomes i

mpossible, Lord Shiva dissolves the universe for creation of the

next cycle so that the unliberated souls will have another opportunity to liberate themselves from bondage with the physical world. Thus, Lord Shiva protects the souls from pain and suffering that would be caused by a dysfunctional universe. In analogous cyclic processes, winter is essential for spring to appear and the night is necessary for the morning to follow. To further illustrate, a goldsmith does not destroy gold when he melts old irreparable golden jewelry to create beautiful new ornaments.

Lord Shiva is the Lord of mercy and compassion. He protects devotees from evil forces such as lust, greed, and anger. He grants boons, bestows grace and awakens wisdom in His devotees. The symbolism discussed below includes major symbols that are common to all pictures and images of Shiva venerated by Hindus. Since the tasks of Lord Shiva are numerous, He cannot be symbolized in one form. For this reason the images of Shiva vary significantly in their symbolism.

  • The unclad body covered with ashes: the unclad body symbolizes the transcendental aspect of the Lord. Since most things reduce to ashes when burned, ashes symbolize the physical universe. The ashes on the unclad body of the Lord signify that Shiva is the source of the entire universe which emanates from Him, but He transcends the physical phenomena and is not affected by it.
  • Matted locks: Lord Shiva is the Master of yoga. The three matted locks on the head of the Lord convey the idea that integration of the physical, mental and spiritual energies is the ideal of yoga.
  • Ganga: Ganga (river Ganges) is associated with Hindu mythology and is the most sacred river of Hindus. According to tradition, one who bathes in Ganga (revered as Mother Ganga) in accordance with traditional rites and ceremonies on religious occasions in combination with certain astrological events, is freed from sin and attains knowledge, purity and peace. Ganga, symbolically represented on the head of the Lord by a female (Mother Ganga) with a jet of water emanating from her mouth and falling on the ground, signifies that the Lord destroys sin, removes ignorance, and bestows knowledge, purity and peace on the devotees.
  • The crescent moon: is shown on the side of the Lord’s head as an ornament, and not as an integral part of His countenance. The waxing and waning phenomenon of the moon symbolizes the time cycle through which creation evolves from the beginning to the end. Since the Lord is the Eternal Reality, He is beyond time. Thus, the crescent moon is only one of His ornaments, and not an integral part of Him.
  • Three eyes: Lord Shiva, also called Tryambaka Deva (literally, “three-eyed Lord”), is depicted as having three eyes: the sun is His right eye, the moon the left eye and fire the third eye. The two eyes on the right and left indicate His activity in the physical world. The third eye in the center of the forehead symbolizes spiritual knowledge and power, and is thus called the eye of wisdom or knowledge. Like fire, the powerful gaze of Shiva’s third eye annihilates evil, and thus the evil-doers fear His third eye.
  • Half-open eyes: when the Lord opens His eyes, a new cycle of creation emerges and when He closes them, the universe dissolves for creation of the next cycle. The half-open eyes convey the idea that creation is going through cyclic process, with no beginning and no end. Lord Shiva is the Master of Yoga, as He uses His yogic power to project the universe from Himself. The half-open eyes also symbolize His yogic posture.
  • Kundalas (two ear rings): two Kundalas, Alakshya (meaning “which cannot be shown by any sign”) and Niranjan (meaning “which cannot be seen by mortal eyes”) in the ears of the Lord signify that He is beyond ordinary perception. Since the kundala in the left ear of the Lord is of the type used by women and the one in His right ear is of the type used by men, these Kundalas also symbolize the Shiva and Shakti (male and female) principle of creation.
  • Snake around the neck: sages have used snakes to symbolize the yogic power of Lord Shiva with which He dissolves and recreates the universe. Like a yogi, a snake hoards nothing, carries nothing, builds nothing, lives on air alone for a long time, and lives in mountains and forests. The venom of a snake, therefore, symbolizes the yogic power.
  • A snake (Vasuki Naga): is shown curled three times around the neck of the Lord and is looking towards His right side. The three coils of the snake symbolize the past, present and future – time in cycles. The Lord wearing the curled snake like an ornament signifies that creation proceeds in cycles and is time dependent, but the Lord Himself transcends time. The right side of the body symbolizes the human activities based upon knowledge, reason and logic. The snake looking towards the right side of the Lord signifies that the Lord’s eternal laws of reason and justice preserve natural order in the universe.
  • Rudraksha necklace: Rudra is another name of Shiva. Rudra also means “strict or uncompromising” and aksha means “eye.” Rudraksha necklace worn by the Lord illustrates that He uses His cosmic laws firmly – without compromise – to maintain law and order in the universe. The necklace has 108 beads which symbolize the elements used in the creation of the world.
  • Varda Mudra: the Lord’s right hand is shown in a boon- bestowing and blessing pose. As stated earlier, Lord Shiva annihilates evil, grants boons, bestows grace, destroys ignorance, and awakens wisdom in His devotees.
  • Trident (Trisula): a three-pronged trident shown adjacent to the Lord symbolizes His three fundamental powers (shakti) of will (iccha), action (kriya) and knowledge (jnana). The trident also symbolizes the Lord’s power to destroy evil and ignorance.
  • Damaru (drum): a small drum with two sides separated from each other by a thin neck-like structure symbolizes the two utterly dissimilar states of existence, unmanifest and manifest. When a damaru is vibrated, it produces dissimilar sounds which are fused together by resonance to create one sound. The sound thus produced symbolizes Nada, the cosmic sound of AUM, which can be heard during deep meditation. According to Hindu scriptures, Nada is the source of creation.
  • Kamandalu: a water pot (Kamandalu) made from a dry pumpkin contains nectar and is shown on the ground next to Shiva. The process of making Kamandalu has deep spiritual significance. A ripe pumpkin is plucked from a plant, its fruit is removed and the shell is cleaned for containing the nectar. In the same way, an individual must break away from attachment to the physical world and clean his inner self of egoistic desires in order to experience the bliss of the Self, symbolized by the nectar in the Kamandalu.
  • Nandi: the bull is associated with Shiva and is said to be His vehicle. The bull symbolizes both power and ignorance. Lord Shiva’s use of the bull as a vehicle conveys the idea that He removes ignorance and bestows power of wisdom on His devotees. The bull is called Vrisha in Sanskrit. Vrisha also means dharma (righteousness). Thus a bull shown next to Shiva also indicates that He is the etemal companion of righteousness.
  • Tiger skin: a tiger skin symbolizes potential energy. Lord Shiva, sitting on or wearing a tiger skin, illustrates the idea that He is the source of the creative energy that remains in potential form during the dissolution state of the universe. Of His own Divine Will, the Lord activates the potential form of the creative energy to project the universe in endless cycles.
  • Cremation ground: Shiva sitting in the cremation ground signifies that He is the controller of death in the physical world. Since birth and death are cyclic, controlling one implies controlling the other. Thus, Lord Shiva is revered as the ultimate controller of birth and death in the phenomenal world.

Nataraja – symbolism

Nataraja is the Cosmic Dancer. Nothing remains static in dance, or to that matter of fact, in any performing art. That dynamsm is identifiable with naTana, not exactly playuacting, but ‘doing something’  ‘dynamism’ is metophorically termed as naTana, or for an easy identification, ‘dance’ of shiva, and this dynamism is the manifestation of the entire universe.

The manifestation,  maintenance, and dissolution of the entire universe being dynamic, it is represented in shiva’s dsances. and he does various kinds of ‘dances’ for the uplkeep of karmic cycle. Iconographically, he is depicted to be performing various dances at various stages of the existence of universe. This is one among the twenty five types of iconographic representations of shiva.

His dance itself is the personification of his eternal dynamism of the universe, and that dance, or the stage of universe is arranged into five categories: (1) adbhuta taanDava – amazing dance, amazing causation of universe; (2) aananda taanDava – blissful dance – blisful existnce of universe; (3) anavarata taanDava – incessant dance – incessant nature of universe; (4) samhaara taanDava – elimination time dance; (5) pralaya taanDava – dissolution time dance.

The fifth kind of dance is associated with rudra, the annihilator. shiva‘s name is five lettered panchakshari. The five syllables are na, maH, shi, va, ya and recited as Om namaH shivaayaH, and this is indicative of five capabilities for the divine functions, pancha kriyaa shakti-s namely,  sR^iSTi– creation; sthithi – maintenance; samhaara – destruction; tirobhaava – illusive; and anugraha – blessing. The five elements of creation, pR^iithivi, aapa, teja, vaayu, aakaasha, viz. solidity, liquidity, fire, ether, air, are also denoted by this five lettered name of shiva, which are the essential elements for formation of any being, either living or material.

Cosmic Circle

Nataraja is encircled by the ever glowing and flaming Cosmic Circle, which is termed as jwaala maala prabha maNDala, where jwaala = tongues of flames ; maala = garland [of flames]; prabha = glowing; maNDala= nimbus – a nimbus of a garland of tongues of glowing flames – surrounding the entire cosmos.

Nataraja is the embodiment of the resplendence of ever burning, flickering, glowing Cosmic flames like a garland around the deity. This whole universe is filled by him. The entire aspect is to be visualised as dynamism, radiance and glow of the Cosmic Fire, which is present ever and anon.

Nataraja need not be taken iconographically as a dancing god or a god who is designated for destruction. The Cosmic Being, Nataraja, is garlanded by the clusters of galaxies that glow and flicker like heavenly flowers. This Cosmic Entity is depicted by the arch around Nataraja, and with icons of flames studded therein. This glowing galactic circular arch around Nataraja is deciphered as OM, where OM is the sonic source of all the uttered words, to be used later by the living beings for communicating their pains and pleasures.

Ganga

Nataraja’s head is adorned with tufts of hairlocks, in which the ferocious, fleeting River Ganga is locked . Though locked up, Ganga is allowed an ordinary flow like any other river, thus she gave pasture lands to the peasantry. Ganga in the hairlocks of Nataraja represents sampat samvR^iddhi, where sampat is wealth; sam vR^ddhi is abundance. Thus River Ganga is an ever growing phenomena of according abundant wealth and material prosperity.

As a perennial river from the Himalaya mountains, Ganga is flowing across the country, enriching the natural resources of the country, even today, and hence she is revered as a goddess.

Crescent Moon

There is a Crescent Moon in these tufts of Nataraja. This moon is in the rising order to become a full moon, This chandra rekha; chandra = moon; rekha = crescent; is there for anugraha i.e., to bestow; to bestow the material pleasures. The Moon is also the deity of Time, according as his increasing / decreasing digits. Thus, Nataraja is designated as the presiding deity of Time, and called mahaa kaala or tri kaala, where kaala is time. Because he created the immeasurable time, he is regarded as a god who controls the time factor of living beings, hence shiva resorts to dissolution at the end.

Three Eyes

shiva has three eyes. Of which one is suurya = Sun; the other is chandra = moon; while the third eye is j~naana netra = wisdom eye. This third eye is in the centre of the forehead. Here is where the Hindus apply a decorative vermilion color spot, kumkum or tilak, lest the wise eye might see unwise things in the life.

Draw an imaginary line from here through to the centre of the brain. There is pituitary in there. It does the same function as that of the wise eye. The attributes of sun and moon to two eyes symbolise the light and darkness, good and bad, greed and content, or any pairs of opposites. But the wise eye shall pre-process this objective material before passing it to the central processor, the decision making manas = conscience. While these three are just the attributes to the Cosmic Being, the real living beings will also have these three eyes, physically and psychologically.

Right Earring

On the right ear lobe of Nataraja, there hangs an ear ring called makara kuNDala; makara = crocodile; kuNDala = ear-knob hanging. A golden ear hanging in the shape of a crocodile, usually worn by males will be there on the right ear of shiva. This denotes  shiva’s sagaciousness, as such he is the Supreme guru – in his manifestation as dakshniNAmUrty.

In the bygone centuries the pundits were awarded with the certain ornaments to let others recognise them as pundits of some order. The then universities of traditional education used to award Kashmiri shawls of a particular color, say green to one level, and red to higher level and gold or silver embroidered shawls to highest level of pundits. There were bracelets and anklets also, called simhatalata-s golden bracelet with lion’s head crafted on it. And anklets called gaNDa penDera-s. They were the ornaments of that day to indicate the social status of wellread pundits. The face being the index of the mind, the ear ring is the subscript of that mind’s IQ. These ear rings were also graded according to their studded diamonds, emerald or rubies, to indicate the educational grade with which they are bestowed.

shiva is the supreme symbol in education, which is symbolised by this ear-hanging on right ear.

While elucidating the guru attributes of shiva, the scripts call him dakshniNAmUrty. In sculputures and images we will be generaly seeing a picture of a young guru teaching octogenarian students under a big bayan tree, ashwattha vR^iksha, and we get a laugh about such a reversal of depiction. The teacher in such pictures is shiva in his role of supreme guru, called dakshniNAmUrty, and the silver-bearded students are the wisom-hungry sages and saints. Supreme intellect is always young and imparts wisdom untiringly, which is to be received properly at any age.

Apart from punditry, Nataraja’s single makara kuNDala of males on one earlobe, and an eloborate earhanging worn by females on the other earlobe, indicates his half-male-half-female entity. It indicates that his right half is a masculine while the left is a female – symbolised as artha naariishvar concept.

Left Earring

On the left earlobe hangs an earhanging, called taaTanka, which is the jewellery of females, The earhanging of ladies will not indicate scholarly status, but have beauty and decorative values. Hence taaTanka on left earlobe is symbol for a divine feminine beauty. Thus the feminity of left side of shiva’s body is indicated, suggesting that he is both male and female, artha narii iishwaraartha = half; naari = female; iishwara = lordship; he is both the lord and the lady.

This “halfness ” is not attributable to iishwara. If done so, he will become half God. As Supreme Being is not described thus, but it is said that a female is his part – say the better half – is contained in him. He is not some entity made up of parts, but he created parts from himself. Thus, the Supreme Being who is the whole macrocosmm also accommodates a feminine attribute in his entity – the Supreme Nature. Modern science validates this through X-Y chromosome theory.

The femalehood is given a place of equivalence with the Supreme.When we say, maatR^i devo bhava; pitR^i devo bhava;aacharya devo bhava – it is not just saluting the three, the mother, father and the tutor. These three, put together, are available in Nataraja; say shiva – the father; his half entity – the mother; and the guyru in his  dakshniNAmUrty variation. He is the father in his naïve being, and the tutor when he is in the role of guru, or dakshiNaamuurti and he is also the mother  called prakriti, lalitha, paarvati etc – symolised just by left ear-hanging. Thus, the two kinds of ear hangings of Nataraja emphasise that shiva is father-mother-guru. This is his family.

Cobra

There is a cobra creeping around his neck, upper arms, or chest. This snake is called kuNDalini. The serpent represents a coiling power, kuNDalini shakti; kuNDala = coiling, shakti = power; the innate power of any being. Physiologically this serpent is identified with the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous systems creeping along the vertebral column, or resting in a coiled form near at coccyx. The insignia of allopathic medicine may be remembered wherein two serpents entwine a trident like spear. This innate power is the one that keeps the system working by its coiling and uncoiling powers. Yoga, a physio-psychological system has vastly enriched in its tenets basing on this kuNDalini shakti, and brought into real life many of the hidden practices of good and great living.

Sacred Thread

A holy thread hangs from the left shoulder to the downside of right flank, called yaj~nopaviitam symbolising the Purity of Being. This thread is the basic requirement to perform a Yajna, a Holy Vedic ritual, performed for the purification of inner self as well as the society at large. Any person without this thread is not eligible to perform certain rituals. Thus the Supreme Being is attributed with the right to perform Universal Rituals, may it be creation and dissolution or maintenance of the Universe, He has the authority to perform them.

This sacred thread reminds them who wear it, to live a purified life and undertake a holy attitude towards his own living and that of others.

Divine Drum

Nataraja is depicted with four arms. It is the sculptor’s way of showing the personification of ambidexterity. He is not a person nor a created being. He is no effect of any cause, but a cause in himself. Thus his four arms are to be visualised for multitude of works performed for the creation, maintenance and dissolution of the universe. It is not like watching an octopus or a centipede, but a cosmic entity who can perform omnifarious deeds.

In the upper right hand there is a drumming instrument called Dhakka or Damaru. It is a double sided drumming instrument which gives out sonorous rhythm, too devastating to contain. Nataraja sounded it for fourteen times resulting in creation of roaring and thundering sonic boom in the skies, which in turn created the Universe. This drum is the symbol for the entire creation and perhaps the much discussed Big Bang might have emanated from this drum beat. In this sonic boom, dhwani, there emerged root sounds of aa, ii, uu etc., wherefrom the first letter a of Sanskrit is taken by mankind. Thus Nataraja is called naada brahma. This letter is common across universal languages, say Alpha of Greek or A of English or Aleef of Arabic or any other first letter. It is from this dhwani, the sonic boom, the Vedas etc., have emerged. Thus Natataja’s hand still bears that drum lest the uttered word is not dead.

Eternal Fire

The left upper hand holds Eternal Fire. He is already surrounded by devastating cosmic fire, then why handling this fire like a torchlight… This handheld fire is the essentail principle of life, with which everything transforms, either biological bodies to ashes, or seawater to raincloud etc. The process called Five-Fire Process, pancha agni vidya stems from this fire alone, which in a rudimentary way is this:

When humans on earth oblate watery substances like curds, ghee, milk, or at least water for gods, gods receive it and in turn oblate it in the celestial fire, called dyu loka agni, mixing with soma, the nectarious principle. Again when gods oblate that nectarian soma into parjanya agni, fire in raincloud, it becomes rain, and showers the same in the fire of earth, bhuumi agni, whereby earth yields food. Then the gods oblate that food in the fire of males, puruSha agni, i.e., they destine males to consume that particular food with nectarian principle in it, which gets transformed as a fruitful seminal fluid in males. And fianlly the same gods oblate the same fruitful fluid, via their fortunate males, in the fire of females called yoShita agni, whereby that soul which originally oblated liquids to gods takes birth as an offspring of that couple. Thus the cycle of birth and death becomes continuous.

This eternal fire keeps on burning from birth to death, causes Five-Fire Process, and thus it keeps the Universe on its wheel, as such shiva holds it, rather controls it.

Blessing Hand

The lower right hand is called abhaya hasta, the blessing hand, symboling safe existence. The creation shall exist till its sojourn is complete, which is blessed with this hand.

Apart from abhaya-mudra, hand-gesture during dance,  j~naana –mudra, hand-gesture of gnosis, is also depicted indicating shiva’s stature as supreme guru, dakshiNamurty.

Bestowing Hand

The dance-gesture, mudra of left lower hand is called Dola hasta, a munificent hand. This gesture indicates that benefits of living are bestowed as well as the benefit of dying, i.e. moksha, final liberation, from the cycle of birth and death, if the seeker is a correct knower of truth. Hinduism has no fanatic beliefs in religion. Hinduism itself is not an ardent religion, but it is a dharma, Way of Living. That is why a correct knower of the truth is required rather than a fanatic follower. Bhagavat Gita, the Divine Song, also says this. For that matter, every Hindu script iterates this: “just KNOW me, you are absolved of the birth-death cycle.” So, an honest seeker will get all he wants, not material gains, but spiritual upliftment, from this Dola hasta.

Firm Foot

The posture of right leg is called sthita padam, firm foot, firmly staying on its ground, meaning that the Supreme Being is Omnipresent. There is a dying demon underneath this firm foot. He is a dwarf demon representing Rug, jwara, maraNa; i.e., Rug= rugmata, roga = disease; jwara = fever, any febrile condition ; maraNa = death, decay; which are natural to the living beings, but most cruel at the same time.

To get rid of these evils, the demon is to be suppressed by the Supreme Being who created them along with the living beings. Living itself is a disease.

Notice that the demon is not dead under the thumping right foot of that powerful Supreme Being. That demon is suppressed, because living without these evils will tantamount living in heaven, which is promised only to the correct Knower, but not to all. This may be called the Spiritual Realism.

Dancing Foot

The posture of left leg is just raised from the ground, as a dance posture, and this foot is termed as anugarha pada or moksha pada, bestowing foot. In Indian culture saluting to the feet of elders or teachers is a symbolic representation of utter submission to elders. It is not like the kneeling posture of subjects at a throne or a monarch. Nataraja’s raised left foot is made available to the seekers for salutation in order to obtain knowledge of the Supreme Being and thereby to get moksha, he salvation.

Dress and Jingle Bells

Nataraja will be shown  either naked, digambara, means one who has quarters as his dress, or in a tiger’s skin, or in an elephant’s skin. This depiction is, viirata chihna, symbol of Omnipotence. He has chains of small ringing bells decorated at his ankles, thighs, waist, wrists etc.,  producing lilting sounds.

His Cosmic Dance in its totality is called pancha kriya shakti; pancha=five; kriya=functions; shakti= power; i.e. the absolute power to make the function of any pentad, say the creation of five elements of nature, pR^ithivi, aapa, teja, vaayu, aakaasha, viz. solidity, liquidity, fire, ether, air; or, to make the functioning of five sensory organs to work; or, the power to maintain pancha-agni-vidya… etc.

Unlike dialectical materialism, spiritualism needs some spiritual power as ” a priori “, which does all the creation, maintnance and dissolution of the universe. Thus, the pancha kriya shakti is vested with Nataraja.

Saivism: Six Schools

Introduction

Saivism is not a single, hierarchical system. It is a thousand traditions, great and small. In the broadest sense Saivism is life itself. Philosophically it may be understood as six major traditions with many similarities and a few differences.

In the search for peace, enlightenment and Liberation, no path is more tolerant, more mysticaL, more widespread or more ancient than Saivite Hinduism. Through history Saivism has developed a vast array of lineages and traditions, each with unique philosophic-cultural-linguistic characteristics, as it dominated India prior to 1100 from the Himalayas to Sri Lanka, from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. Here we seek to present the essential features of six major traditions identifiable within the ongoing Saiva context: Saiva Siddhanta, Pashupata Saivism, Kashmir Saivism, Vira Saivism, Siva Advaita and Siddha Siddhanta.

It should be understood that this formal and somewhat intellectual division, however useful, is by no means a comprehensive description of Saivism, nor is it the only possible list. In practice, Saivism is far more rich and varied than these divisions imply. Our discussion of these six schools and their related traditions is based upon historical information. There are wide gaps in the record, but we do know that at each point where the veil of history lifts, the worship of Siva is there.

The Saiva Agamas form the foundation and circumference of all the schools of Saivism. The system of philosophy set forth in the Agamas is common to a remarkable degree among all these schools of thought. These Agamas are theistic, that is, they all identify Siva as the Supreme Lord, immanent and transcendent, capable of accepting worship as the personal Lord and of being realized through yoga. This above all else is the connecting strand through all the schools.

Philosophically, the Agamic tradition includes the following principle doctrines: 1) the five powers of Siva: creation, preservation, destruction, revealing and concealing grace; 2) The three categories, Pati, pashu and pasha-God, souls and bonds; 3) the three bonds: anava, karma and maya; 4) the three-fold power of Siva-iccha, kriya and jnana shakti; 5) the thirty-six tattvas, or categories of existence, from the five elements to God; 6) the need for the satguru and initiation; 7) the power of mantra ; 8) the four padas : charya, kriya, yoga and jnana.

As we explore the individual schools and lineages within Saivism, keep in mind that all adhere to these doctrines. Our discussion necessarily focuses on the differences between one school and another, but this is not meant to obscure the overwhelming similarity of belief and practice among them.

Agamic philosophy and practices are conveyed to the common man through other channels, one of which is the Saiva Puranas. These oral collections of stories about the Gods are interspersed with Agamic philosophy.

A second channel is the Saivite temple itself, for the construction of the temples and the performance of the rituals are all set forth in the Agamas-in fact it is one of their main subjects. The priests follow manuals called paddhati, which are summaries of the instructions for worship contained in the Saiva Agamas, specifically the shodasha upacharas, or sixteen acts of puja worship, such as offering of food, incense and water. A third channel is the songs and bhajanas of the sants, which in their simplicity carry powerful philosophic import. A fourth is the on-going oral teachings of gurus, swamis, panditas, shastris, priests and elders.

Such matters of agreement belie the fact that Saivism is not a single, hierarchical system. Rather, it is a thousand traditions, great and small. Some are orthodox and pious, while others are iconoclastic and even-like the Kapalikas and the Aghoris-fiercely ascetic, eccentric or orgiastic. For some, Siva is the powerful, terrible, awesome destroyer, but for most He is love itself, compassionate and gentle.

For nearly all of the millions of Siva’s devotees, Saivism is not, therefore, a school or philosophy; it is life itself. To them Saivism means love of Siva, and they simply follow the venerable traditions of their family and community. These men and women worship in the temples and mark life’s passages by holy sacraments. They go on pilgrimages, perform daily prayers, meditations and yogic disciplines. They sing holy hymns, share Puranic folk narratives and recite scriptural verses.

Still, it is useful for us all to understand the formal streams of thought which nurture and sustain our faith. Now, in our brief description of these six schools, we begin with today’s most prominent form of Saivism, Saiva Siddhanta.

Jyothir Lingam – its Revelation

Introduction

Om Visveswaraya Mahadevaya Triyambakaya Trupuranthakaya Tripuragni kalaya Kalagni Rudraya
Neelakantaya Mrutyunjayaya Sarveswaraya Sadasivaya Sriman Mahadevaya Namaha:

Once the sages living in Naimicharinya requested Saint Soodhar to explain how Jyothir Lingams came to this universe.
Soodhar began to tell the Mahatmiyam to the sages “O virtuous men of God I will tell you the epic of Siva Puranam as far as I know and If there is any mistake Maheswar should pardon me.” Soodhar narrates as follows:

The great philosophers saw with their spiritual vision the phenomenal Image of Lord Shiva as in Linga swaroopam (incarnation) which no one can explain and no one can understand.

Brahmam ( as distinct from Brahma ) has no beginning and also it has no end. This is neither sthulam (body) nor sukshumam.(concepts) Everything is Brahmam and Brahmam is everything.
Brahmam lovingly created prakruthi (Mayadevi) with eight hands – bright luminous and resplendent in all fine jewellery. At the same time he created a handsome man also.

As the man and the Devi who thus came into being were contemplating why they had been created an invisible voice told both to do penence. Accordingly they did penence for long number of years as advised by the voice. In the process they both were sweatting and the sweat flowed like a stream from their body and the water became an ocean. The man and the Devi created by Brahmam went into ‘yoga-nidra’. From that time the man was named Narayana and the prakruthi devi was called Narayini.

( Prakruthi is the primordial matter which became the universe through the process of evolution.)

From the navel of Narayana came out a nice frangrant lotus flower with an immeseasurably long and wide stalk and innumerable petals. Brahma – the creator incarnated in the lotus.
Brahma saw around him. He could’nt understand anything – who he was, where-from he came, why he was created and so forth. Hence he went down through the lotus stalk to find answers to these questions. He was going on and on for years and years but he could not reach the bottom. He became very tired and turned round and began going up the stalk again for years and years. He could not reach the top either. He was bewildered when he heard an invisible voice which asked him to do penance.

Accordingly he did penance for 12 years. Atlast Sri Narayana appeared before him. Brahma asked him who he was and why he had appeared before him. Narayana said ” I am the one that created you to do work of creation”. Brahma was disbelieving and retorted ” you say that I have been created to carry on the work of creation. But I did not create you. Then how did you come into being ?” They were quarreling hotly when suddenly there appeared a bright Jyothi (light). They both looked at the four directions for the source of the brightness. A big Lingam appeared in front of them. They were stunned and stoped the quarrel. Narayana said to Brahma “you go up and see where this begins at the top and I go down and see the end at the bottom”

Narayana re-incarnated as a white boar and drilling the earth went deep down. From that time he was called ‘Swedha Varaham’ and the ‘kalpam’ became ‘swedha varaha-kalpam’.
(When we do any pooja ‘sangalpam’ this word ‘swedha varaha kalpe’ is mentioned) Brahma went up on his Hamsa vahanam (meaning: ‘Hamsa’ is a swan ‘Vahanam’ is vehicle). Years passed and they could not locate the end nor the begining. and they became humble and realised that there was one above them .

When they were doing prayer they heard sound “AUM” . They were searching for the source of the divine sound and they saw the letters ‘agaaram’ ( a ) on the south, on the north they saw ” ugaaram ” ( U ) and inbetween the “Magaaram” ( M ). and the The first letter ‘ Agaaram’ was like ‘Surya Mandalapradesam’ ( sun ) ugaram was like the brightness of Agni ( like fire) and ‘Maagaram’ was like the Chandra mandala pradesam ( moon the sattelite). Over that there appeared the “brahmam” bright like spadigam (pure crystal) with five faces and ten arms and with priceless jewels. God Aadhi sivam appeared in Jyothi swaroopam.

Thus appeared “JYOTHIR LINGAM”.
Narayana and Brahma bowed to Easwara and asked him ” My lord, who are you ? Please explain to us about your avathar.” Shiva said ” I am the one that created Narayana and Narayana created Brahma. I am everything and every-thing is I. I am the “Brahmam”. He told Brahmah ” I made Vishnu create you to carry on the task of creation.” he told Vishnu ” I have created you to sustain the universe. Rudhra who will be the destroyer is also my aspect.” Vishnu asked ” My Lord we now know the purpose of our creation how will be get the ‘sakthi’ to do our duties.”

Shiva was very happy and taught them “Om Thatvamasi” ‘Maha-vakyam’ (Mahavakyam means the great sentences) and Mrithyn-jayam, Pancha-ksharam, Chinthamani, and Dhakshina-moorthi Moola Jabam Brahma and Vishnu bowed to the lord. Shiva told them “Narayana, I am in ‘Lingam’ exactly how I appear now before you with 5 faces. I will fulfil the desires of all my devotees.

On my right side is brahma, on my left Vishnu and in center Rudran – all three united in me. You three are only my ‘swaroopam’ created to carry on the three duities of creation, sustanence and destruction. Though you are my ‘swaroopam’ I have no bondage with you. You should pray to me so that the universe you will create in future will be prosperous and people will take you as an example and be devoted to me.

Viswanathar
at Kasi
Triamba-keswarar
at Triyambakam
Beema-Sankaram
at Bovagiri
Maha-Kalar
at ujjain
Lord mallikarjuna
at Srisailam
Nageswara
at Taruka-vanam
Rameswarar
at Rameswaram
Omkareswarer
at Vindya
Somanatham
at Prabasa-patnam
Vaidheeswarar
at Vaidhyanatham
Kethareeswarar
at Badrika-ashramam
Kusmeswar
at Devagiri

Jambukeswarar
at Tiruvanai-kaval
Kalahasti-nathar
at Kalahasti
Annamalaiyar
at Thruvanamali
Natarajar
at Chidhambaram
Ekambaram
at Kancheepuram

Gandha Lingam It is made of three ingredients — four parts of sandal paste, three parts of kumkumam and two parts of musk. Size determines the quantity and cost to be put in, but the ratio remains constant. If worship is made to that sandal paste lingam, one gets blessed with Sivasayujyamukti – merging of his jivatma into the Paramatma. Then the cycle of birth after death comes to dead end.

Pushpa Lingam

This is made of various kinds of fresh, fragrant, multi-coloured pleasant flowers. It blesses the adorer with kingship and acquisition of lands.

Gosakru Lingam

It is made of the dung of brown coloured cow. The adorer will be blessed with wealth, if he worships that lingam.

Valuka Lingam

It is made of fine sand and the worship confers the status of Vidhyadhara, belonging to one of the denominations of worshipful angels, besides Sivasayujyaprapti.

Yavagodhumasalija Lingam

It is made of rice, maize and wheat flour, and if adored, it confers santanaprapti in addition to wealth..

Sitakhanda Lingam

It is made of sugar candy and blesses the adorer with robust health and disease free easeful life.

Lavana Lingam

It is made of salt mixed with the powder of Hartal and Trikatukala. It blesses the adorer

with Vasikaranasakti — the power that subdues other with the help of spells and charms.

Tilapista Lingam

It is made with the paste of gingili seeds. The desires of the adorer are fulfilled, if worshipped.

Bhamsa Lingam

It is made of ash and confers all desirable merits.

Guda Lingam Or Sita Lingam

It is made of jaggery or sugar and confers blissful life when adored.

Vamsankura Lingam

It is made of the tender leaves of bamboo, and confers a long line of genealogy.

Pishta Lingam

It is made of rice flour and blesses the adorer with education.

Dhadhidhugdha Lingam

It is made of milk and curd, on separating the entire quantity of water, and blesses the adorer with property and happiness.

Dhanya Lingam

It is made of grain and blesses bumper crops to the adorer.

Phala Lingam

It is made of fruits and blesses the owner of orchards with good crops of fruits.

Dhatri Lingam

It is made of a kind of acid fruit – phyllanthus Emblica and bestows liberation

Navanita Lingam

It is made of butter and confers fame and wealth.

Durvakadaja Lingam Or Garika Lingam

It is made of a kind of grass – agrostis linaries and saves the adorer from untimely or accidental death

Karpura Lingam

It is made of camphor and bestows emancipation.

Ayaskanta Lingam

It is made of magnet and confers siddhi – super natural powers.

Mouktika Lingam

It is made of the ashes obtained by burning pearls and confers auspiciousness and fortune

Suvarana Lingam

It is made of gold and confers mukti — deliverance of soul from body.

Rajita Lingam

It is made of silver and confers fortune.

Pittala Lingam Or Kamsya Lingam

It is made of an alloy of brass and bell metal and confers the release of soul from body.

Trapu Lingam

It is made of tagara metal and makes one’s life free from enemies, if adored.

Ayasa Lingam

It is made of vitroil of sulphate and relieves one from the menace of enemies.

Seesa Lingam

It is made of lead and makes the adorer invulnerable to foes.

Ashtadhtu Lingam

It is made of minerals and bestows sarvasiddi – all super natural powers.

Aahtaloha Lingam

It is made of eight metals and cures one of the leprosy.

Vaidurya Lingam

It is made of a precious stone called vaidurya – lapis and protects one from the enemy’s arrogant prattle.

Spatika Lingam

It is made of crystal and bestows fulfilment of all desires.

Padara Lingam

It is made of mercury and bestows inestimable fortune.

Published in: on June 29, 2008 at 8:55 am  Comments (1)  

Hinduism

The History of Hinduism

The term “Hinduism” was coined by Greek and Persian travelers to the Indus Valley in the 16th century. Though many Hindus have adopted the name for themselves, they also use the terms “Veda,” or “Vedic religion,” which refer to the ancient texts at the core of the tradition, or Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Law).

Hinduism originated in the Indus Valley in modern Pakistan. The Vedic texts were not written by any single person, but “heard” by rishis, or seers, and passed down orally until they were recorded in writing. The oldest of the texts is the Rigveda (Wisdom of the Verses), a collection of 1028 hymns thought to have been recorded around 1500-1200 BCE. Other important Vedic texts include the Yajurveda (Wisdom of Sacrificial Formulas), Samaveda (Wisdom of Chants), and Ataravaveda (Wisdom of Atharvan Preists) were also recorded. The Upanisads, secret teachings concerning cosmic equations, were recorded from 1000-600 BCE. From the 2nd century BCE to the 4th century CE two great Hindu epics were recorded: the Ramayana and the Mahabarata. The Mahabarata contains the Bhagavad Gita (“Song of the Lord”) that describes three paths to salvation: the path of duties (karma-marga), the path of knowledge (jnana-marga), and the path of devotion (bhakti-marga). Though the Upanisads emphasized renunciation and asceticism, these later dharma texts emphasize that these three paths can be used simultaneously for the maintenance of the world order (dharma) and release from the the world (moksha). Thus the goal for many Hindus is an equilibrium between social and ritual duties and the stability of the cosmos.

For a long time it was popularly believed that the Vedas originated from an Aryan people who invaded the the ancient Harappan civilization of India around 1500 B.C. However, there is no literary or archeological support for the theory and it has become associated with the racist ideology of colonialism.

Basic Beliefs of Hinduism

“When you hear about the Self, meditate upon the Self, and finally realize the Self,

you come to understand everything in life.”

-Brihadaranyaka Upanisad 4.5

Hinduism is a diverse religion found primarily in India. Ganesh There is variation in local practices and the worship of particular deities. However, there are central tenants that unify it as one religion. The core of Hinduism is the belief in Brahman, the underlying universal life force that encompasses and embodies existence. According to Hindu scriptures, one’s ignorance of the true nature of the self (atman) as one with Brahman is what traps one in the cycle of endless death and reincarnation (samsara). Thus, the highest goal of Hinduism is liberation (moksha) from the karmic cycle of death and rebirth.

krishnaHowever, Hinduism is much more than an esoteric practice. For the millions of people who practice this religion, it is a way of life that encompasses all aspects of life including family, social life, politics, business, art, and health behaviors. The sacred scriptures contain instructions on these aspects of life and have a strong influence on art and drama. While the ascetic practices of yoga are a well-known aspect of Hinduism, family life is also considered a sacred duty.

Most households have a shrine to a particular deity. Women conduct a household puja, the offering of fruit, raw rice, flowers, incense, and other items to the deity, on a regular basis. People may be invited to join puja on occasion, making it a communal event. After the food has been offered it is considered to have been spiritually consumed and blessed by the deity’s power. It is redistributed as a way to share the deity’s blessings.

Hindus are very conscious of Shivathe paradoxes that make up the universe. Siva is simultaneously the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of life. All phenomena is a constant interplay between hot and cold, male and female, light and dark. Vedic medicine teaches that keeping these opposing forces in balance is central to the maintenance of bodily, social, and cosmic well-being.

GsarawtThe belief that one’s karma determines one’s birth in the next life has supported the structure of the caste system in India, made up of four varnas that determine one’s occupation: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (nobles and warriors), Vaishyas (commoners) and Sudras (servants). Though the former colonial government officially abolished the caste system and implemented affirmative action policies to rectify imbalances in wealth and education, there are still socioeconomic advantages to belonging to a higher caste. The hierarchy of caste is a contested subject. There is evidence in the Upanisads that Brahmanhood is attained by depth of learning rather than birth. The tradition of bhakti (devotion) is sometimes an expression of criticism against caste and other practices such as image worship. Bhakti is associated with devotional poems composed across all social classes and emphasizes loving God over any practice or doctrine.

Hindu TermsCopyright 2008 IndiaStockPhotography.com

Ātman The real self, the eternal life principle which underlies physical human form.

Brahmā The god of creation. A member of the triad (trimūrti) of principle gods, which includes Visnu and Siva.

Brahman The Ultimate Reality that underlies all of existence.

Dharma “Law,” or “Truth” that is eternal and all-encompassing. The order of the universe and the way to maintain that order.

Karma “Action.” The universal law that every deed has a consequence that will come back to the doer. Good actions will reap good life circumstances and bad ones will do the opposite. The cumulative effect of one’s karma can influence one’s position in future rebirths.

Mahaābhārta A national epic of India.

Māyā “Supernatural power.” The power that produces the phenomena of physical existence.

Moksha “Release,” or “Liberation” from the cycle of endless death and rebirth. The ultimate goal of Hinduism which is attained by overcoming ignorance and desire.

Purānas “Ancient.” Non-Vedic Hindu scripture containing mythological accounts of ancient times. It is thought they were compiled between 500 and 1500 CE.

Pūjā “Respect, homage, worship.” The offering of food, flowers, incense, and other items to a deity. Often the food will be distributed and consumed afterword and is thought to impart the goodwill of the deity.

Samsāra “Wandering.” The continuous cycle of death and reincarnation caused by karma.

Siva “Auspicious.” A god of the Hindu trinity that is simultaneously creator, destroyer, and preserver. His creative powers come to life in conjunction with Sakti, his female aspect. He is the supreme yogi and lord of the animals.

Upanishad Literally, “To sit close by,” referring to the method of transmission from guru to student. Part of the Vedic texts containing esoteric teachings on the nature of the self (atman) as one with the Ultimate Reality (Brahman) and the way to liberation from the cycle of samsara.

Veda “Knowledge.” The scriptures that are the basis of Hindu belief and practice. The Vedas were “heard” or “seen” by priests from a divine source and passed orally through the family line.

Visnu “The pervador.” A god of the Hindu trinity that preserves the universe and embodies goodness and mercy.

Yoga “Yoking, joining.” The path to liberation from samsara through focusing the mind to experience higher states of consciousness.

Hindu Scripture

The Hindu scriptures are massive, and were written between 1400 B.C. and A.D. 500.  The oldest of the Hindu scriptures is the Veda, which literally means “wisdom” or “knowledge.”  The Vedas contain hymns, prayers, and ritual texts composed from about 1400 to about 400 B.C.

The Upanishads are a collection of writings composed between 800-600 B.C.  Over one hundred of them still exist.  These writings marked a definite change from the sacrificial humans and magic formulas in the Vedas, to the mystical ideas about man and the universe – specifically the Brahman, and the atman (the self or soul).  The Upanishads had a great influence on Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

The Ramayana is one of the two major epic tales of India, the other being the Mahabharata. A sage-poet named Valmiki wrote the Ramayana. The work consists of 24,000 couplets based upon the life of Rama, a righteous king who was supposedly an incarnation of the God Vishnu.  The Mahabharata is the second epic.  It is an the story of the deeds of Aryan clans, and consists of some 100,000 verses and was composed over an 800-year period beginning about 400 B.C. Contained within this work is a great classic, the Bhagavad Gita, or the “Song of the Blessed Lord.”

The Bhagavad Gita is not only the most sacred book of the Hindus, but it is also the best known and the most read of all Indian works in the entire world, despite the fact it was added late to the Mahabharata, sometime in the first century A.D.  The story revolves around man’s duty, which, if carried out, will bring nothing but sorrow. The significance this story has on Hindu belief is its endorsement of bhakti, or devotion to a particular god, as a means of salvation, since Arjuna, the story’s main character, decides to put his devotion to Vishnu above his own personal desires. The Gita ends with Arjuna devoted to Vishnu and ready to kill his relatives in battle.

Published in: on June 29, 2008 at 4:59 am  Leave a Comment