Tuesday 26 May 2009

The Celestial Parrot.


Shuka means tropical bird, particularly, parrot.This bird has the special privilege of resting on the right shoulder of Goddess Meenakshi, who is none other than Goddess Raja Mathangi also known as Raja Shyamala.This Goddess is the upasana murthi for fine arts,especially music and dance.Meenakshi is identified with Raja Mathangi or manthrini,the minister of SriLalitha Tripura Sundari.The parrot resting on Her shoulder is certainly not a decorative bird,but the celestial partner of the Goddess,imparting knowledge of all the 64 arts to Devi. The saint composer,Sri Syama Sasthri in many of his compositions on Goddess Meenakshi has mentioned Shuka Shyamala(Meenakshi with the parrot). There are many versions of the 64 arts (chatushashti kalas).The abhyantara kalas or secret 64 arts are detailed in the manuals regarding love.The 64 bahyakalas(practical arts )are as follows(excerpts from "Experience Festival"):-
1.Singing,2.Instrumental music,3.Dancing,4.Painting,5.Forehead adornments,6.Making decorative floral and grain designs on the floor,7.Home and temple flower arranging,8.Personal grooming,9.Mosaic tiling,10.Bedroom arrangements,11.Creating music with water,12.Splashing and squirting with water,13.Secret mantras,14.Making flower garlands,15.Head adornments,16.Dressing,17.Costume decorations,18.Perfumery,19.Jewellery making,20.Magic and illusions,21.Ointments for charm and virility,22.Manual dexterity,23.Skills of cooking ,eating and drinking,24.Beverage and dessert preparation,25.Sewing(making and mending garments)26.Embroidery,27.Playing veena and drums,28Riddles and rhymes,29.Poetry and games,30.Tongue-twisters and difficult recitations,31.Literary recitation,32.Drama and story telling 33.Verse composition game,34.Furniture caning,35.Sexual arts,36.Crafting wooden furniture,37.Architecture and house construction,38.Distinguishing between ordinary and precious stones and metals,39.Metal-working,40.Gems and mining,41.Gardening and horticulture,42.Games involving animals,43.Training parrots and mynas to speak,44.Hair dressing,45.Coding messages,46.Speaking in code,47.Knowledge of foreign languages and dialects,48.Making flower carriages,49.Spells,charms and omens,50.Making simple mechanical devices,51.Memory training,52.Game of reciting verses from hearing,53.Decoding messages,54.Meaning of words,55.Dictionary studies,56.Prosody and rhetoric,57.Impersonation,58.Artful dressing,59.Games of dice,60.The game of 'akarsha'(a dice game played on a board),61.Making dolls and toys for children,62.Personal etiquette and animal training,63.Knowledge of dharmic warfare and victory,64.Physical culture.

After slaying of Kamsa and the thread ceremony,Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama went to the ashram of Guru Sandipani in the city of Avanthi.There within a span of 64 days,Lord Krishna learnt fourteen types of sciences(vidyas) and sixty-four arts(kalas).Generally to learn one science one requires two to two and a half years.Due to the Lord's knowledge of all the sixty-four arts,He probably blessed Sri Shuka Maharishi as thus (while He spoke to the sage's father,Sri Vyasa Maharishi):-"O Sage!Your son is talking like a Shuka(parrot).Hence name this boy as Shukadeva."What prompted the Lord to bless Sri Shuka Maharishi in such a manner?
The extraordinary level of Gnana and wisdom of the sage and his knowledge of the sublime made Lord Krishna to draw the comparison between him and the Shuka(parrot).Sage Shuka's divine gnana was evident while he was in his mother's womb itself. At the beginning
Sage Vedavyasa approached sage Jabali, seeking the hand of his daughter,Vatika, in matrimony.After the wedding,Sage Vyasa and his wife Vatika lived amidst forests ,in a lovely hermitage,enjoying marital bliss.Vatika became pregnant and the foetus began to grow in her womb for nearly twelve years without any child being born.
As shastras and vedas were being discussed in the hermitage,the foetus,in the womb of Vatika,used to listen to the discussions and absorb all the information.Not only that,the foetus could also retain all the knowledge within itself.The child gained expertise of Sanga,Vedas,Smriti,Puranas and all the Mukti-shastras .The child used to analyse all the scriptures within the womb itself.
The mother,Vatika ,used to experience extreme pain and discomfort due to the growing womb and no amount of cajoling or coaxing from the father,sage Vyasa, could prompt the child to come out.The foetus declared from the womb that it wanted to attain salvation from within the womb itself, fearing that all the knowledge would dissolve (due to maya)once it takes birth and comes into the world.
The foetus said,"I have taken nearly 84 lakhs of births and am determined to make this my last birth.I am practising yoga and meditation here itself(in the womb) and have no wish to yield to worldly maya by taking birth.Please get Lord Krishna's assurance that I would be unaffected by the maya and I will come out!"Sage Vyasa rushed to bring Lord Krishna to the hermitage and Lord Krishna assured the foetus that He would protect the foetus from illusion (maya).
After birth,the twelve year old boy started walking towards the forests.When sage Vyasa tried to stop him pleading that he needed to perform certain rituals for the welfare of his son,the boy replied-"O great among sages,thousands of rituals were carried out in many of my births.These bondages of rituals submereged me in the illusions of the world"It was then that Lord Krishna named the boy as Shukadeva,because he spoke with the knowledge of a Shuka (parrot).
Lord Krishna who was proficient in the 64 arts,compared the twelve year old boy (who had gained knowledge of all the vidyas and kalas while in his mother's womb itself),to a Shuka,conveying the greatness and significance of a parrot.Such a parrot is held on the right side of Goddess Raja Mathangi,who resides as Goddess Meenakshi in Madurai.The parrot is positioned in such a way that its beak is aligned with Devi's right ear.The parrot imparts its knowledge of the 64 kalas to the Goddess.While having darshan of the Goddess in Madurai,it is essential to seek the blessings of the parrot for upliftment in the knowledge of fine arts.I always make it a point to drink in the sight of the dazzling Goddess from head to toe along with Her parrot.I would never miss the parrot, taking a long ,hard look at it before retreating from the sanctum-santorum of the temple.
While interacting with a religiously well-informed practioner,I learnt that there was this mantra (after proper initiation) that could actually materialise the celestial parrot after a few crores of japam(recitation) of the same.Itseems,the parrot would fly around the musician,sit on his-her shoulder,fly on to the veena,dance on the strings, fly back to the player,(even its wings could touch the cheeks of the musician) all the while enhancing the knowledge of the practitioner's art to celestial heights!

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Music Tantra/Ragas-Benefits.


Ragas yield various benefits!Most of the time,the names of the ragas suggest what they are capable of yielding.Careful analysis of the formula of the raga(Aarohanam/Avarohanam) also lend deep insight into the raga's tatwa(nature) and its capacity to grant a variety of boons to the practitioner.
Such effects of ragas were well understood and implemented by our saint composers in most of their compositions."Darini thelusukonti,Tripura Sundarini thelusukonti" by Sri Thyagaraja Swami has been composed in the raga SUDDHA SAVERI ("DURGA" in Hindusthani).The Hindusthani name of the raga is a give away of the Goddess forming the raga swaroopa of SUDDHA SAVERI.The fierce and protective Durga is materialised by practising the scale of Suddha Saveri.Sri Thyagaraja himself has conveyed through this raga that the path("Daari") to attain the Goddess is the raga SUDDHA SAVERI.
Similarly,the grand composition of "Devi Brova" in CHINTHAMANI by Sri Syama Sastri is yet another revelation that Kamakshi who resides in "Chintamani Gruha" resides in this krithi too.Tapas or japam (musical term of japam is "sadhana") of this krithi,bestows the grace of Sri Kamakshi.
A few ragas and there benefits are given below:-
VASANTHA:-New beginnings,promotion on the professional and personal fronts (enhancement of personal image).The Aarohanam,especially,the stress on Sa Ma Ga Ma(the long gap between Sa and Ma is a significant leap towards progress,aided and stabilised by Ga Ma.Practice to be done (till attainment of promotion or a new beginning) in the Aarohanam only.After achievement of desired objective,Avarohanam is practised for stability in the new arena.
BRINDAVANI:- Reconciliation.Prolonged sanchara involving the two nishadas thereby harmonising the two swaras bring together estranged couples or even friends / business associates.
BHAIRAVI,SUDDHA DHANYASI,KALYANI:-Spiritual upliftment.Many krithis on Devi have been composed in the above ragas.Kalyani is an embodiment of Amba,mastery of the same raga is equal to the attainment of the Grace of Devi.
SHAMA:-To curb anger and short temper.Sri Thyagaraja's krithi"Shantamu leka sowkhyamu ledu" reveals the raga's attributes.
SARANGA:-To de-stress and for severe depression.The Avarohana sanchara "Pa Ma2 Ri Ga Ma1 Ri" is the antidote for de-stressing and treatment of depression.
ANADABHAIRAVI:-For high blood pressure.
VALACHI:-To obtain desired object/relation.Sanchara of the entire scale while contemplating on one's desire.
SHANMUKHAPRIYA,KHARAHARAPRIYA:-To defeat enemies.
HAMSANANDI:-For valour. and to curb cowardly feelings and nature.
HINDOLAM:-For attracting masses.
KADANAKUTHOOHALAM:-For rejuvenation.
MOHANAM:-To attract particular person or relationship.
VIVADI RAGAS:-Confrontation,at times when subtle persecution is endured in silence.
GRAHA BHEDA,SCALE CHANGE IN RAGAS:-Unexpected changes in life/to escape from given situation or a tight spot.Shift-over to major scale is highly recommended(resulting in positive developments),shift-over to minor and melancholic ragas (resulting in negative changes)are to be avoided.Repeated sanchara at the point where the raga shifts to a different scale and the corresponding octave will yield desired results.
SUVARNAANGI:-For strong limbs and joints.Very good for treatment of rheumatism and arthritis.
NAYAKI&DARBAR:-For hormonal imbalance. For the balance of yin and yang(feminine and masculine factors in one's body and mind),both ragas are to be practised together.Sri Dikshitar's krithi ,"Ardhanaareeswaram"in the raga Kumudakriya is an excellent antidote for hormonal imbalance.
MALAHARI:-Purification,cleansing of sins,release from the cycle of births and karma.
SAHANA:-To treat hyper-activity,for relaxation.Tranquliser.
NEELAMBARI:-Tranquiliser,for inducing sleep.
AMRUTHAVARSHINI,MEGH MALHAR,MEGHA RANJANI:-To bring rains.
KAMAS:-For love and romance.
KANTHAMANI:-To enhance feminine nature,attraction and magnetism.The closely woven"Ma Pa Dha Ni" denotes the intricacies of woman's mind,"Dha Ni Ri..." - coyness,"Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa"-yielding.
OMKARAM in pure Adhara sadjyamam:-To dissolve all qualities for realization of the 'nirgunatwam" of Atma(soul).
There are many more ragas that yield different results and benefits.There are also unexplored avenues such as effects of octaves and swaras on human beings.

Monday 18 May 2009

Encinitas!




As I walk by the cream of glamour and richness in San Diego, I feel far removed from all of it. To know that Encinitas is not very far off from San Diego,(it is the place where Sri Paramahamsa Yogananda set up the Self-Realization Fellowship Colony in Encinitas in the year 1937) is a great consolation!
During the early years of Sri Paramahamsa Yogananda in America,He had combed the coast of California in quest of a small site for a seaside ashram.Whenever He had found a suitable location some obstacle had invariably arisen to thwart Him.In establishing the ashram in Encinitas,He saw the fulfilment of Sri Yukteswar's long-ago prophecy:"a retreat by the ocean."
Sri Paramahamsa Yogananda in His metaphysical meditations has spoken of nada yoga too.
He says:"Listen in the Cosmic Sound of AUM,a great hum of countless atoms,in the sensitive right side of your head.This is the voice of God.Feel the sound spreading through the brain.Hear its continuos pounding roar.
Now hear it and feel it surging into the spine,bursting open the doors of the heart.Feel it resounding through every tissue,every feeling,every cord of your nerves.Every blood cell,every thought is dancing on the sea of roaring vibration.Observe the spreading volume of the cosmic sound.It sweeps through the body and mind into the earth and the surrounding atmosphere.You are moving with it,into the airless ether,and into millions of Universes.Meditate on the marching spread of the Cosmic Sound.It has passed through the physical Universes to the subtle shining veins of rays that hold all of matter in manifestation.
The Cosmic Sound has entered the realm of Cosmic rays.Listen to,behold, and feel the embrace of the Cosmic Sound and the Eternal Light.The Cosmic Sound now pierces through the heartfires of Cosmic Energy and they both melt within the ocean of cosmic conciousness and cosmic joy.The body melts into the Universe.The Universe melts into the soundless voice.The sound melts into the all-shining Light and the Light enters the bosom of infinite joy!"

Saturday 16 May 2009

Silence-License!


Temples and religious shrines exhibit placards that say,"Observe Silence!"This is often mistaken for "Maintain silence"(even that seems quite tough for the general public to follow)!Silence is to be observed,the first step towards observation is to try maintaining the same!

Silence contains all the mysteries,that is why maybe silence has been described as "thick"!Silence is the origin of unmanifested,unstruck melodies which are not audible to the human ear.They are realised through channelised breathing via suspension of the surya and chandra nadis(ida and pingala) and inhaling through the sushumna nadi or the brahmarandra nadi which is in the middle of the spinal chord and beyond our ken,no xray can detect this fibrous nadi.
I felt I had neared the end of silence while shooting for A.R.Rahman's Jana Gana Mana in Ladakh.The imposing structures of the huge mountains and the vast landscapes and the endless stretch of silence everywhere was a testimony to Ramana Maharishi's preaching,"you are 'that'!"I felt no need for pooja or meditation,soaking in the silence was beyond every effort towards God.Silence surpasses the greatest of expressions,silence is loaded with cosmic messages,silence is the source of God.Silence has the power to unravel everything there is to know and it is not surprising that the anagram for 'silence' is 'license!'
Omkara is contained within silence to be realised within!"Mouna vratham" is not just to retain pranic energy without wasting it by talking,it is mainly to understand and explore Silence!

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Nishada in Surati!

Nishada in Surati,to achieve in life, is nirvana!Tossed in the lower octaves of Subha Pantuvarali the world has added flu gifted by swines to its chilling list of early morning slaughters,silent sufferance of various unknown souls,jailed in their own bodies,and further within concrete jungles, on roads and everywhere,subject to persecution,variety of abuses,driven by karma and adding to karma through attachment.The world longs for dew formed by the previous night's poorvikalyani,weaving fantasies of walking Man Sarovar's shoreline on a moonlit evening to the enchanting strains of Chandrakauns (on santoor), the lustrous thanam of Hindolam on veena building to a crescendo as one's soul wanders into the inner most sanctum santorum of the ancient saivite temples in the south of Tamilnadu; the quietness and the magic of sublime moments between 5.30 to 7.00pm despite sounds of heavy vehicle traffic from the main road,when soul has almost reached "That"!Amidst discordant notes produced by traffic snarls , cars reversing to brash tunes at deafening levels,the intimidating sea of humanity,televisions blaring loud tear-jerkers and violent outbursts,voices muffled,screaming,whining,wailing, everywhere and anywhere-----SILENCE ,the origin of Unstruck Melody, can only heal!