Monday, March 21, 2011

Chandrama Manaso Jaathaha

Moon-like face of the Goddess Durga

Moon was closest to earth on the full moon day of March 20th, 2011 ( sometime between 19th midnight to 20th sunrise) in approximately 18 years or so. Even if the moon was still 356,577 kms. away, the size of the moon was 14% bigger than its usual size and 30% brighter than usual!!
Sri Adi Sankaracharya's Soundarya Lahari clearly conveys that the Goddess who is the Divine Spouse of Lord Shiva is the embodiment of moon. Her moon-like lustre and moon-like countenance are described most poetically by the great saint in almost all the 100 slokas of Soundarya Lahari. The day when Super moon happened was a full moon in the constellation of Poorva Phalguni (the nakshatra of Goddess Kamakshi/ Sri Bala Tripura Sundari).
"Chandrama Manaso Jaathaha", this verse from Purusha Sooktham conveys that the moon is born out of the mind. The approach of the Goddess closer to earth could be felt in the instant cooling of the mind.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tantra in daily life (Part 3)


Dasami thithi comes bang after the trying duo of Ashtami/ Navami. "Ashtami Navamulu Kashtapu Dinamulu", my mother keeps repeating my grand father's words, which means, "Ashtami Navami are difficult days". It is believed from times of yore that these two days that come one after the other are filled with negativity and therefore subject mankind to unexpected difficulties through obstacles and misfortune. Sri Rama Navami and Sri Krishna Ashtami are reminders that Divinity is all encompassing, leaving no scope for negativity. I also associate Ashtami with "Durga Ashtami" and Navami with Nava Durga.
An elderly priest once advised me to have oil baths on Dasami thithis. This practice (of having oil bath on Dasami thithi) would remove all negativity/misfortune subsequently yielding peace, joy and prosperity to the practitioner. Since Dasami comes right after Ashtami/Navami, it is possible that through oil bath we are cleansing by way of oil bath all the accumulated negativity of the previous two days! It doesn't harm to even give the house a thorough cleaning or changing the linen on a Dasami.
While on Durga, the Guardian Angel, (lexigram/anagram of DURGA is GUARD), it is advisable to stick Her picture on the main entrance door to ward off evil and negativity. The powerful image of Goddess Durga on the main door offers protection to the residents inside the house.
Even if spirituality is all about elevated thinking and contemplation of God, a simple practice in daily life brings about an instant rejuvenation of mind and life in general. If one's pooja room consists of very few photographs of Gods and Goddesses, the task would be simpler. Better still, if there is only one photograph or a just a couple of more God photos in the prayer room. More the photos, tougher the task!
Wash the photos (if difficult to remove, just wipe with a wet cloth and then with a dry cloth) clean. Make a wet paste of sandalwood powder. With devotion mark the key points of Gods'/Goddesses' images which are the forehead (between eyebrows), all the hands and feet, heart region with the sandal paste. On top of the paste stick red kumkum/vermillion. This procedure instantly cleanses, energises amd enhances the divinity of the act/subject and the doer, merging them into one. The resulting divinity and prosperity has to be enjoyed to be believed!
(To be continued...........)

Monday, March 14, 2011



Sri Venkateshwara

kAraNaparachidrUpAyai namaH

matsyakUrmavaraahaadinAnArUpavidhAriNyai namaH

veMkAro.amR^itabIjastu kUTamaishwarmamuccvhyate |
amR^itaishwarya saMghatvaadvenkaTAdri iti smR^itaH || [vArAhe 36-32]

The hill that grants eternal bliss is Venkatachala. Or, Vem refers to sin and kata, to destroy. That hill which destroys the sins is called Venkatadri. The lord of such a hill is called Venkatesha or Venkatadrisha. From time immemorial, the formless Brahman has been worshipped in his saguNa aspect as Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Surya, Skanda and Ganapati. Followers of each of these forms claim their chosen deity to be superior over the rest, ignoring the lofty truth of the Upanishads, which proclaim that the Parabrahman is formless and that these murtis represent the saguNa aspect of the same Brahman.

Does Sri Venkatesha at Tirumala represent Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti or Subrahmanya? This question has been raised, answered and contested by several individuals and sects for several centuries now. Sri Venkatesha has been worshipped by Jains worshipped as Adimuleshwara, Vaishanavas as Srinivasa, Shaivas as Harishankara and Shaktas as Sri Bala Tripurasundari. There are enough reasons to associate this mUrti with Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu and Subrahmanya. I will not list the reasons why this mUrti is associated with Srimannarayana as these are already well known.

Association of Sri Venkateshwara with Lord Mahadeva and his parivAra:

1. Early Azhwars [Vaishnavaite saints] praised Venkateshwara as a blend of Hari and Hara. In some of the older pasurams of Azhwars, the lord is said to have worn Chakra and Parashu, signifying Hari-Hara-Samaikya Murti But after the advent of Ramanujacharya, this practice was severely discouraged. By this time, Shaivaites called him Shiva and Vaishnavaites called him Vishnu. This becomes clear after one reads several shAsanas in the name of a local king called Thalalu Gosina Yadava Rayalu. He was a staunch devotee of Ramanuja who beheaded 101 Shaivas who claimed Venkatesha to be Shiva. For his staunch adherence to Sri Vaishnava philosophy, he was honored by Ramanuja with the title Sri Bhashya, to be named after him. We find the mention of this king with the epithet Sribhashya Yadava Rayulu. It is said that the original deity at Venkatachala did not sport Shamkha or Chakra or even the Srivaishnava Tilaka we see today. After a series of conflicts between Shaivaite and Vaishnavaite assemblies in Kalahasti and Tirupati, Ramanuja fitted Shankha and Chakra to the hind wrists of the original deity.

2. The Mula mantra of Venkatesha is of nine and eight letters [ashtakshari and navakshari], both of which refer to Venkatesha and not Srinivasa. Traditional Vaishnavaites have always preferred to use Srinivasa and not Venkateshwara as the word 'Isha', though meaning 'Lord' in general terms, was always seen with suspicion as only referring to Lord Shiva. Also, the Dhyana Shlokas for these mantras [given in Brahmanda and Brahmavaivarta Puranas] refer to nAgabhUshana and Srivatsa chinha which suggest a Hari-Hara murti.

3. It is a practice to worship Srinivasa with Bilwa during Dhanurmasa. Bilwa is very sacred for Shivarchana and traditional Vaishnanas stay away from Bilwa, though it is recorded as sacred for the worship of Mahalakshmi as well.

4. The idol of Srinivasa has a jaTA - matted hair, which is a lakshana of Shaiva Murtis.

5. On Shivaratri day, all archakas of the temple visit Kshetrapalas and Abhisheka is performed according to Shaivagama. Though Srivaishnavaite scholars claim this to be non-traditional, this practice is still in vogue. This is suggestive of a greater celebration on this day in the main shrine itself in the bygone days, which has now seemingly got reduced to a customary visit of the Kshetrapalaka. In fact, this is similar to the worship offered to the Shiva Linga behind Lord Narasimha in Ahobilam in the cave, neglected on all days other than on Shivaratri.

6. On Vinayaka Chaturthi, Modakas or Kadubu is offered to Lord Venkatadrisha, suggesting his swarUpa as Lord Mahaganapati.

7. Shiva Rahasya, an Itihasa, describes Venkatadri as the abode of Lord Subrahmanya in his form as a VaTu, without a consort. It is described that the famous tIrtha - swAmi puShkariNi - is named after swAminAtha or kumAra swAmi. This is also indicated by the Sahasranama of Venkateshwara which has the nama: swamidhyeyaya namaH, one who is meditated upon by Kumaraswami. According to some legends, Vishnu and Subrahmanya worshipped Dakshinamurti in the hill of Venkatam and attained oneness with each other and the Lord. Another name, kartikeyavapushe namaH is suggestive of the same.

8. Also, from the story of Venkateshwara, one can see an episode where he emerges from an anthill, suggesting his oneness with Subrahmanya. It is very common to find names such as Venkatasubbayya or Venkatasubrahmanyam in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, indicating this forgotten aspect. Also, one should carefully understand the Muttuswami Dikshitar Krti - subrahmaNyena rakShitoham - in Suddha Dhanyasi: venkateshwara namarUpeNa, vichitra vishAkhA mahotsavena. This was later modified as venkateshwara vibhavitena, probably by Semmangudi mama, but pAtti's (DKP) version has the former pATha.

9. The Venkatesha Sahasranama goes like this: venatesho virUpAkSho vishwesho vishwabhavanaH, the very second name indicating his shiva swarUpa. Every hymn, in the first verse, conveys the gist of the entire hymn by indicating the central focus of the hymn, the path or the philosophy adopted to elaborate on the chosen subject etc. The first verse has no mention of any of the popular epithets of Vishnu at all. Exactly 500 names apply to Shiva in this Sahasranama and 500 to Vishnu.

10. The feet of the idol is underground, which is a necessity for all Shiva murtis according to kAmikAgama

Association of Sri Venkateshwara to Sridevi:

1. Lord has Simha Niketanam [emblem is a couchant lion] which is peculiar to forms of Sridevi everywhere.

2. The special annual festival of the Lord is performed during Sharannavaratri, special to Sri Lalita.

3. Swami is bathed in Manjal or turmeric every friday, which is generally a prescribed practice for Amba [Durvasa Samhita, 29-6].

4. To this day, auttareyas worship Lord as Balaji - non-different from Sri Bala Tripurasundari, and it is believed that the prosperity of this shrine is due to a Srichakra established by Adi Shankara somewhere on this hill.

5. Lord's waist is very slender which, according to sAmudrikA shAstra, is characteristic of Ambika.

6. Lord's hair is very long, reaching the knee, again characteristic of Ambika.

The Gayatri associated with Venkateshwara Ashtakshari is:

OM vekateshAya vidmahe tripatinAthAya dhiimahi tanno sriinivAsaH prachodayAt ||

What we currently refer to as Tirupati, is a distortion of `Tripati'. Tripati is the original name of the place, metaphorically referring to Ajna chakra, where the three nADis iDA, pingaLA and suShumnA join. Lord, situated above this hill in an elevated place, which is sahasrAra, is tripatIsha or vekatesha. Tripati also refers to that Brahma Vastu, who is the Lord of three kUTas - vAgbhava, kAmarAja and shakti, which form the three elements of the mantra of Sri Bala Tripurasundari. Or, tripadi is an alternate reading, which refers to Kundalini Shakti residing in a triangle or trikona in mUlAdhAra, who reaches her Lord Paramashiva, called here as Venkatesha or tripadi-Isha residing on the seventh hill of Sahasrara, after crossing the six chakras [mUlAdhara to AjnA], represented by six hills.

Thus, it would be limiting to exclusively associate Sri Venkateshwara with Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Subrahmanya or Ganapati. He represents any/all of them. Today someone orwarded an article written by yet another Professor at some Western University who wrote endlessly on how Samayachara was extinct, a concoction of Brahmins [Brahmin-bashing I thought was Karunanidhi's patent, by the way the latest I heard was that the Brahmins were responsible for global warming, for Bush's war in Iraq and for the outbreak of Bird flu], how interpretation of Srichakra was incorrect in Samaya form [The Srichakra at Kamakshi temple, drawn by Sri Durvasa, prescribes to the rules laid out in Shuka Samhita, later quoted by Lolla Lakshmidhara, who represented one school among the five], how nyAsa is impossible [he seems to have no clue of samayAchAra as nyAsa is performed in Shatchakras and according to samanvayAdhikarana], how everyone followed Kaula but called it Samayachara etc. It is the mindset of the ignorant to reject what is beyond their realm of perception or understanding as untrue. Some sane unbiased thinking guided by a study of scriptures and personal experience is the only way out in such cases. The same is applicable in the case of Sri Venkateshwara as well. To conclude, it would be right to call the parama puruSha: shivashaktyaikya rUpiNi or harishankararUpavAn or skandanArAyaNAtmakaH.

govindarUpiNyai namaH

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tantra in daily life (Part 2)


Sticker bindis that come in various shapes and designs ( the most hideous stickers are images of snakes, scorpions and other reptiles!!!!!!!!!!) abuse the power of 'agna chakra' which is the conscience of oneself. Tattoos are the latest fad. Many get their bodies tattooed according to body fengshui! I found dragons, raging bulls and other wild animals tattooed on arms, backs of people in my recent trip to the US. Imagining the consequences of wearing such sticker bindis or tattoos in the shape of wild beasts made me shudder!
To wear divine images or writings on the body conveys an attitude of recklessness towards religious principles. Making light of divine symbols and signs is nothing short of blasphemy. What should be placed on the altar of worship is abused when used for decorating the naked skin of a person, be it male or female! I have noticed women wearing sanskrit "OM" stickers on their arms and God forbid... even on their midriffs!
Such acts incur corresponding karma and are best avoided.
Designs made out of the leaves of Lawsonia inermis (marudhani in tamil, gorintaaku in telugu, henna in Arabic) is considered auspicious. Both Hindu and Muslim religions consider "mehndi" as auspicious. The red stain on skin which is caused by mehndi is considered a great omen especially for brides who decorate their hands and legs with the paste made out of these leaves. Application of the same even on regular days invokes auspicious events in one's life.
Betel leaf is yet another leaf that stains the body red ( the tongue to be precise) and considered to be equally auspicious ! Red is regarded as an auspicious colour for promoting love and passion which makes mehndi and betel leaves the most naturally auspicious symbols for celebrations and joyous occasions. Poor man's mehndi which is known as "alta" or red-dye is almost as good as mehndi for invoking love and auspiciousness into one's life.
Coming to body fengshui, the addition of a black or red mole on the correct place (by determining the north, south, east, west of the face) are believed to bring about changes. Come to think of it, even parting of the hair determines little occurences in day to day life. If someone has a side parting and is looking for a change, all he/she has to do is to change the side (from right to left or vice versa) or go for the middle parting. And wait for the changes to happen! It could happen sooner or a little later, but HAPPEN they will! Only caution here is to beware of adverse changes! If the results are negative, quickly revert back to the known devil, that is the old parting! The latest zigzag parting is a big NO NO!
During an interesting conversation with a tantrik, I learnt that there is a surefire remedy for artistes, especially women artistes and other popular personalities who are prone to negative effects of "drishti' or evil-eye. 'Drishti'/evil-eye results in the affected person falling gravely sick or even meeting with some freak accident! To divert the evil-eye or 'drishti' of public gaze, the tantrik advises the public personality to wear oodles of jewelry and other attractive accessories on the body. He asserts that the public attention is diluted/diverted by the presence of overwhelming jewelry and silks. The 'evil-eye' instead of being centered on the person in lime-light strays to the artiste's jewelry and other effects like, silks and flowers too! Of all jewelry, he claims that pearls are the best in capturing 'drishti'! (To be continued......)

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