Tuesday, September 30, 2014



Our longings are fundamentally very deep and cannot be easily satisfied by temporary make shift or day-to-day adjustment of outer circumstances. Our desires are profound, our yearnings are very unintelligible to outer atmosphere of our daily life. We seem to have a root which is deeper than what can be comprehended by our normal understanding of the world. We grow from all sides, and when we long for or desire or yearn or aspire, we do so in a very comprehensive manner. This aspiration of the human being is really the soul's longing for freedom.

All our desires are desires of the soul, ultimately. Though they look like sensory desires, mental desires, intellectual desires, social desires, etc., they are, at the bottom, the longing of the soul of the human being, which ramifies itself into various distracted rays through the operations of the mind and the activities of the senses. Our longings are, therefore, capable of being collected into a single essential power, an inward urge, which we may call the longing for freedom. It is the freedom that we ask for and it is freedom that anyone asks for. Varieties of the longings and multitudes of enterprises in the world can be collected into a single focus of the soul's aspiration for liberation. And this aspiration for liberation is not merely the longing of the human being, but of all that is created anywhere on earth or in heaven. Whether it is the plant or the animal, whether it is a man or a celestial, the aspiration is this much. All longings can be boiled down into the quintessence of the longing for liberation, freedom from all sides and an ultimate supremacy over one's own self in the realisation of this freedom.

The Devi-Mahatmya which, in a majestic poetry in Sanskrit, describes to us the Epic of the march of the human soul to its destination, the realisation of this freedom, is the dramatic aspect of the great worship of the Divine Mother during these nine days of Navaratri or Dassehra as you call it. The march of the soul is dramatic. It is not a lagging or a crawling, but a beautiful, sonorous, musical advent, you may call it. This is the beauty of the Devi-Mahatmya. All Epics have this particular character of grandeur, uplifting the emotions, and chastening the intellect of the devotee who goes through them.

The Devi-Mahatmya is a part of the Markandeya Purana, containing thirteen chapters which are grouped into three sections, known as the Prathama Charitra, Madhyama Charitra and the Uttama Charitra. As in the Bhagavad-Gita, sometimes we are told that the eighteen chapters can be grouped into three sections of teaching, consisting of six chapters in each, in the Devi-Mahatmya also, which is an Epic-counterpart of the methods of the Bhagavad-Gita in its practical implementations, it is capable of a division into three sections. The march of the soul is graduated into three major steps, though there are many minor steps involved in these three major ones. While we have to rise through various rungs of the ladder of evolution, we come to three points or halting places, we may call them, where there is a complete transformation of outlook, attitude and the constitution of our being.

These threefold transformations of the spiritual being of the aspiring soul are dominated or presided over by three deities known as Maha-Kali, Maha-Lakshmi and Maha-Sarasvati. These three presiding forces are representative of the powers of the spirit within manifesting themselves in an upward ascent towards freedom, ultimately, so that in this march of the soul to its freedom, it carries with it everything that is connected with it. The difference between the spiritual march and your march along the road or a highway is this, that while in your march on a roadway, you walk alone and nobody need accompany you, nothing need be connected with you, and you can have a free walk independently; in the spiritual march, it is not such an isolated march, but you carry with you everything that is connected with you. Now, what are the things connected with you that you carry? There are four stages of this relationship. Consciously we are related in a particular manner and subconsciously we are related in another manner altogether. Consciously, we people seated in this hall for example, have a particular sort of relationship among ourselves, but subconsciously our relationships are of a different kind altogether and they need not tally with our conscious relationship. And deeper still, we have a layer where our relationship is more akin to a unity of life than to a diversity of personality. There is a fourth stage which is incapable of any description at all. We do not know whether we are to call it a unity or a diversity, or oneness or otherness. This is the goal towards which the soul is marching. So, in the description of the Devi-Mahatmya, we are carried forward psychologically and spiritually to our destination of the ultimate realisation.

There are three stages of transformation described in the three sections of the Devi-Mahatmya. The first one is where Adi-Sakti awakes Maha-Vishnu who was asleep, so that He may destroy or overcome the original demoniacal forces, Madhu and Kaitabha. The second stage is where the same Sakti manifests Herself as Maha-Lakshmi and overcomes Mahishasura and Raktabija. The third one is where Sumbha and Nisumbha are destroyed by Maha-Sarasvati. And the nine days of worship comprehend these three stages adored in three days of worship, each. The final victory is called Vijaya-Dasami, the tenth day, as you know. That is the day of Victory, where you master the forces of Nature completely and your goal is reached.

When you step over nine, you enter into Infinity. Numbers are only nine, you do not have ten numbers. All the arithmetic is within nine numbers only. The whole cosmos is within nine. But when you transcend the nine, you have gone to Infinity, which is beyond the cosmic relationship. The lower powers of Nature are like dirt. We call them Mala, 'Vishnukarna-Malodbhuto Hantum Brahmanamudyato', says the Devi-Mahatmya.

The Madhu and Kaitabha, two Rakshasas (demons) are supposed to have come out of the dirt of the ear of Vishnu. The lowest category of opposition is of the nature of dirt, Mala; and psychologically, from the point of view of the seeking soul, this dirt is in the form of Kama, Krodha and Lobha. 'Kama Esha Krodha Esha Rajo-guna Samudbhavah,' 'Kamah Krodhastatha Lobhah Tasmat Etat Trayam Tyajet'--It is desire and anger born of Rajas; desire, anger and greed, these three therefore should be abandoned,--says the Bhagavad-Gita. These three are the gates to hell. These three are regarded as dirt, because they cover the consciousness in such a way that it appears to be not there at all. It is like painting a thin glass with coal-tar. You cannot see the glass. It is all pitch-dark like clouds. This has to be rubbed off with great effort. When this Mala or dirt is removed, we get into another trouble. Do not think that when you are tentatively a master of Kama, Krodha and Lobha, you are a real master of yourself. "There are more things in heaven and earth than your philosophy, dreams of, O Horatio," said Hamlet. So do not think that your philosophy is exhaustive. There are many more things that philosophy cannot comprehend. Kama, Krodha and Lobha are not the only enemies. There are subtler ones, more formidable than these visible foes.

As a matter of fact, the subtle, invisible enemies are more difficult to overcome than the visible ones. Sometimes, you know, an angry man is better than a smiling person. Smiling person is more dangerous than the angry one, because he can have a knife under his armpit. This is what we will face. When we manage somehow to overcome this Madhu and Kaitabha, Kama and Krodha, we get into the clutches of Mahishasura and Raktabija. They represent the Vikhepa Sakti, the tossing of the mind. Every minute the mind changes its forms which multiply in millions. You read in the Devi-Mahatmya, how Mahishasura changed his form. Now he is an elephant, now he is a buffalo, now he is something else. If you hit him in one form, he comes in another form. And this is your inexhaustible opponent. His energies are incapable of being exhausted. However much you may try to oppose the Vikshepa Sakti, it will manifest in some form or other. This is described in the form of the demon Raktabija, whose drops of blood were seeds of hundreds and thousands of demons like himself coming up. When the Devi severed the head of one Rakshasa, the blood fell on the ground profusely and from that blood, millions cropped up. And when She killed them, again another million cropped up. So there was no end to it. If you cut off one or two desires, the desire is not over. The root is still there. The branches are only severed. Unless the root is dug out, there is no use of merely severing the branches of the tree. So what did the Devi do? She asked Kali to spread her tongue throughout the earth, so that there is no ground at all for the Rakshasas to walk over. They had to walk over the tongue of Kali. So huge it was. And now the Goddess started cutting their heads, and when the blood fell, it fell not on the ground but on the tongue of Kali. So she sucked everything. Chariots and horses and demons and everybody entered her mouth. She chewed all chariots into powder. So likewise, we have to adopt a technique of sucking the very root of desires and not merely chop off its branches. Otherwise, desires will take various forms like Mahishasura. When we think that Mahishasura has been killed, he comes as a buffalo and when the buffalo is attacked, he again comes as an elephant, and if Devi attacks the elephant, he comes as a bull and attacks Her. So, there is no way of overcoming these desires by merely dealing with them from outside by a frontal attack. Their very essence has to be sucked. Because, a desire is not an outward form or an action, it is a tendency within. You may do nothing, and yet you will have desires. Because, desire is not necessarily an activity. A desirous person need not be very active. He can be sitting quietly, doing nothing, saying nothing, and yet be full of desires. Because, it is a tendency of the mind, an inclination of consciousness, that we call a desire. That can be inside, even if there is outwardly nothing. This is the Vikshepa Sakti,--distraction, tossing and the chameleon-attitude of desire,--which attacks us, when, with Herculean efforts, we try to destroy or gain control over Kama and Krodha, Madhu and Kaitabha. After Madhu and Kaitabha, we get Mahishasura and Raktabija. Thus Mala and Vikshepa are the primary oppositions in our spiritual pursuit.

Ancient masters have told us that while Mala or dirt of the psychological structure can be removed by Karma Yoga, by unselfish and dedicated service, Vikshepa or distraction of the mind can be removed only by worship of God, by Upasana. While Karma removes Mala, Upasana removes Vikshepa. But even now, we are not fully safe.

While Mala might have gone and Vikshepa is not there, we may have a third trouble, namely, a complete oblivion of consciousness. We will have no knowledge of anything as to what is happening. Ajnana or Ignorance is a subtler opposing power than its effects in the form of Mala and Vikshepa. Distraction and direct sensual desires are the outer expressions of a subtle ignorance of Truth, Avidya or Ajnana. Why do we desire things? Because, we do not know the nature of Truth. Why does a strong wind blow? Because, the sun is covered over with clouds. The sun is covered by the clouds first, then there is darkness and then a gale, cyclone starts blowing from the north, breaking your umbrellas and uprooting trees. All these happen because the sun does not shine. Even so, when the Atman is covered over by ignorance of its nature, the winds of desire begin to blow, and they come like violent storms. Impetuous is the force of desire. You cannot stand against it, because the whole of Nature gets concentrated in a desire. That is why it is impetuous and uncontrollable.

All the powers of Nature get focussed in a desire when it manifests itself, whatever be that desire. So the whole of Nature has to be subdued. You are not to subdue only your individual nature, but the cosmic Nature itself is to be subdued. This is what is depicted in the Epic of the Devi-Mahatmya. It is the subdual, overcoming, transformation of the cosmic Nature in the form of Tamas, Rajas and Sattva. While Mala represents Tamas, Vikshepa represents Rajas.

Now, Sattva is also a Guna, unfortunately. We always praise Sattva and regard it as a very desirable thing. But it is like a transparent glass that is placed between us and the Truth. You can see through it, but you cannot go beyond it. Because, though the glass is transparent, it can obstruct your movement. It is not like a brick-wall, completely preventing your vision, as Tamas does; it is not like a blowing wind, which simply tosses you here and there, as Rajas does; it is a plain glass, through which you can have vision of Reality, but you cannot contact Reality nevertheless. How can you contact a thing when there is a glass between you and the thing? Yet you can see it. So they say even Sattva is an obstacle, though it is better than the other two forces, in the sense that through it you can have a vision or an insight into the nature of Reality which transcends even Sattva. There is a glass pane and you can see a mango fruit on the other side of it. You can see it very well, but cannot get it, you cannot grab it. You know the reason. Even Sattva is a subtle medium of obstruction, which acts in a double form; as complacency or satisfaction with what has been achieved, and an ignorance of what is beyond. These two aspects of Sattva are indicated by the two personalities of Sumbha and Nisumbha. They have to be dispelled by the power of higher wisdom, which is Maha-Sarasvati.

Action, contemplation and knowledge are the three stages through which we have to pierce through the veil of Prakriti or three Gunas. And as I mentioned earlier, we are not individual pedestrians on the path. There is no individual movement here. It is all a total movement of everything connected with us and no item in the world is really disconnected from us. Every thread in a cloth is connected with every other thread. When you lift one thread of a cloth, the whole cloth comes up, because of the interconnection of the warp and the woof of the cloth. Likewise, there is an internal interconnection of beings, which prevents any kind of individual effort for the sake of salvation. That is why salvation is universal, it is not individual. When you attain to the Supreme Being, you become the Universal Being. You do not go as a Mr. So and So or as a Mrs. So and So, there. So the path of Sadhana also is a cosmic effort of the soul, a subtle secret which most Sadhakas are likely to forget. It is not a small, simple, private effort of yours in the closet of your room, but a dynamic activity of your essential personality, internally connected by unforeseen relationships with everything in the cosmos.

When you enter the path of the spirit, you have also at the same time entered the path of cosmic relationship. A Sadhaka is, therefore, a cosmic person. A spiritual seeker, an aspirant is a representative of cosmic situation. He is not an individual, though he looks like a person, and his Sadhana is not an individual effort. It is much more than what it appears to be on the surface. It is, as it were, the conversation between Nara and Narayana, Krishna-Arjuna-Samvada, as they call it. You and your God are face to face with each other. In Sadhana, in spiritual effort, you are face to face with your Maker. And the face of the Maker is universal. He is not in one spot, hiding himself in one corner.

So, the dance of the cosmic spirit, in its supernal effort at self-transcendence, is majestically described in the beautifully worded sonorous songs of the Devi-Mahatmya, where we are given a stirring account, a stimulating description of what Maha-Kali did, what Maha-Lakshmi did and Maha-Sarasvati did in bringing about this evolution, transformation of the whole range of Prakriti from Tamas to Rajas, from Rajas to Sattva and from Sattva to Supreme Vijaya, mastery in the Absolute, God-realisation.

All our scriptures, Puranas and Epics, all our ceremonies and celebrations, all our festivals and Jayantis, whatever be the occasion for a religious performance, all this is charged with a spiritual connotation, a significance which is far transcendent to the outer rituals which is involved in their performance. Every thought, every aspiration, every ritual and every duty of ours, every action that we perform automatically becomes a spiritual dedication of the Soul, for the sake of this one single aspiration which it has been enshrined in itself from eternity to eternity. This significance is brought out in all our Epics and Puranas.

Whether in the Mahabharata or the Ramayana, whether in the Bhagavad Gita or the Devi-Mahatmya, they tell us the same account in different terminologies and with different emphases. It is always a song of the soul. The Bhagavad Gita is a song of the soul, the Over-Soul speaks to the lower soul. Here again, we have a similar account of the actual Sadhana involved in the realisation of this ultimate harmony of the soul with the Over-Soul.

The spiritual practice of a Sadhaka is, therefore, a confronting of the three forces of Tamas, Rajas and Sattva, gradually, stage by stage, in their cosmic significance, forgetting not for a moment that we are not 'islands'. No man is an island. You must have heard the poet's saying: "A man is not an island." That means he is not surrounded simply by oceans and cut off from things. He is connected with everything. This is the significance we have to read in our practical lives. This is the meaning we have to see and visualise in our personal Sadhana. And when we learn to see the significance of the presence of divinity or the universality of God, even in our private actions, we are taken care of by universal forces. We need not even bother about the smallest problem of our life. Even the littlest of our difficulty will be taken care of in a proper manner by the forces that are in the world, provided, of course, that we are able to read the significance of universality even in the most private of our actions, even in the smallest and littlest of our actions. There is no such thing as a little action in the world.

Everything is important. Even the most insignificant event is a very important event, ultimately. Because, hidden behind it is the ocean. This significance we have to learn to read.

This is, in my humble opinion, what Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj meant whenever he said that God-realisation is the goal of life. He was not tired of saying this throughout his life. We can see, in his earlier books, especially, that they commence with the sentence: "The Goal of Life is God-realisation. " Whatever he had to say in those books, he said afterwards. So, the first thing is to remember that the Goal of Life is God-realisation. Do not forget this. The little petty tensions and turmoils and annoyances, and worries and vexations are not the goal of life. They are the obstacles that come on our way, which we have to carefully obviate and go with caution, like a pilgrim who has lost his way in this wilderness of life, and yet confident at the same time that the warmth of the spiritual sun is always energising our personality and that we are never, at any time, any moment of our practice, completely cut off from that source of energy.

So, through the worship of Maha-Kali, Maha-Lakshmi, and Maha-Sarasvati, we worship Mula-Prakriti, Adi-Sakti in her cosmic dance-form of transformation, prosperity and Illumination. In the beginning, what happens to a Sadhaka? There is a necessity of self-transformation. It is all hardship, rubbing and cleaning, washing, sweeping, etc.

That is the first stage through the worship of Maha-Kali, who brings about a destruction of all barriers. Then what happens? There is tremendous prosperity. You become a master and a progressive soul commanding all powers, getting everything that you want. This is the second stage. In the first stage, it looked as if you were a poor person, having nothing, very weak. But, when you overcome this weakness, by removing the barrier of Tamas, you become prosperous. Nobody can be as rich as a Yogi, you know. He can command all the powers. By a thought he can invoke all things, and this is Goddess Maha-Lakshmi working.

When Maha-Kali has finished her work of destruction of the opposition, Maha-Lakshmi comes as prosperity. A great Yogi is also like a royal personality, because of his internal invocations, though unconsciously done, of cosmic powers. When prosperity dawns, it looks as if the whole universe is a heaven. In the first stage, it looked like a hell. Afterwards, in the second stage, it looks like a heaven, when Maha-Lakshmi begins to work. But this also is not sufficient. Knowledge should dawn. It is not heaven that you are asking for. You want the realisation of Truth. Sarasvati will come for help and a flood of light on Truth will be thrown and you will see things as they are. There is no enjoyment, prosperity, richness, wealth or any such thing. It is Truth unconnected with yourself in the beginning, but later on inseparable from yourself. Thus, from opposition to prosperity, from prosperity to enlightenment, and from enlightenment to Self-realisation do we proceed. So, these are the truths esoterically conveyed to us in the Mantras of the Devi-Mahatmya.

Now, this Devi-Mahatmya is not merely an esoteric Epic. It is not only a great spiritual text in the form of occult lessons, occult teachings of which I have given you an outline. But, it is also a great Mantra-Sastra. Every sloka, every verse of the Devi-Mahatmya is a Mantra by itself. I will tell you how it is a Mantra, by giving only one instance, that is the first sloka itself. 'Savarnih suryatanayo yo manuh Kathyate-shtamah. This is the first sloka, Savarnih Surya-Tanayah. It is all a Tantric interpretation and a very difficult thing to understand. But I am giving you only an idea as to what it is all like. Surya represents fire, the fire-principle. 'Surya-Tanaya' means that which is born of the fire-principle.

What is it that is born of the fire-principle? It is the seed 'Ra'. According to Tantric esoteric psychology, 'Ram' is the Bija Mantra of Agni. In the word Savarnih, 'varni' means a hook; so add one hook to 'Ram'. Yo Manuh Kathyate, ashtamah. Eighth letter--What is Manu? It is a letter in Sanskrit. Eight letters are Ya, Ra, La, Va, Sya, Sha, Sa, Ha. The eighth is Ha. Add Ha to it. Ha, Ra and one hook, make 'Hreem'. Savarnih Suryo-Tanayo Yo Manuh Kathyateshtamah, Nisamaya Tadutpattim,--you hear the glory of that, the sage says. So, the first verse means: "Now, I shall describe to you the glory of 'Hreem'." This Hreem is the Bija of Devi. But, outwardly it means, "Listen to the story of the king, so and so, who is the eighth Manu" and all that.

Thus, in addition to the outer meaning, there is an inner significance of the Mantra. I am giving you only the case of one Mantra. Like this, every Mantra is full of inner significance. And every Mantra is repeated by devotees for some purpose or the other. Especially, the Devi-Mahatmya is recited for averting calamities in life. Catastrophes, calamities and tensions, personal or outward, whatever they are, all these are averted by a regular daily recital of the Devi-Mahatmya. When there is war threatening a country, for example, or pestilence, or epidemic spreading everywhere, or any internal tension or anxiety of any kind, the Devi-Mahatmya is to be studied and it is a very potent remedy prescribed by seers of yore, not only for temporal terrestrial prosperity, but also for the glory of the hereafter, for illumination, for the destruction of Avidya or Ajnana, for overcoming Mala, Vikshepa and Avarana, and to be a fit recipient of the grace of the Almighty. This is the outer significance and the inner significance of the Devi-Mahatmya and the special meaning that it has in the life of spiritual seekers or Sadhakas. Glory to God! Glory to Sadhana! Glory to the integral character of spiritual practice! May we be blessed with this illumination, with this wisdom, with the strength to tread the path of the Spirit, to our ultimate Freedom.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Astha Ganapathi

                             Astha Ganapathi 

The stories and legends of Lord Ganesha are referred in many pauranic texts out of which two Puranas viz. Ganesha Purana and Mudgala Purana (Upa Puranas) are totally dedicated to Lord Ganesha. As per these puranas it is said that Lord Ganesha got manifested in several forms out of which eight are considered to be most important referred to as his incarnations. These incarnations which have taken place in different cosmic ages are Vakratunda, Ekadanta, Mahodara, Gajavaktra (Gajanana), Lambodara, Vikata, Vighnaraja and Dhoomravarna.
In all these incarnations Lord Ganesha was depicted as having an elephant trunk. In five out of eight incarnations Lord Ganesha is symbolized with Mouse as his vehicle. In the other three incarnations he is said to have used Lion, Peacock, and the Serpent as his vehicle (Vahana). In each incarnation a philosophical concept is highlighted as the main theme apart from the other. Lord Ganesha is said to have fought in each incarnation with a demon symbolized with a weakness.
Above incarnations indicate the need for human beings to overcome these weaknesses in order to lead a happy and peaceful life and for realization of the ultimate reality.
It is said that the incarnations of Lord Ganesha as per Ganesha Purana are Mohotkata with Lion as his mount, Mayuresvara with Peacock as his mount, Gajanana with Mouse as his mount and Dhumrakethu with Mouse as his mount. It is believed and said that Lord Ganesha was in existence in all the Yugas.

Ganesha’s first avatara is of Vakratunda (twisted trunk) an embodiment of the Absolute Impersonal aspect of Godhood called Brahman in the form of Ganesha.
A demon named Matsara was born out of the Pramaada (Heedlessness) of Indra, the king of Gods. This demon performed severe penance and invoked the grace of Lord Shiva and obtained the boon of fearlessness from Him. Having obtained the boon he went about conquering all the three worlds," He was coronated as the king of Asuras by their preceptor Sukracharya. The defeated gods went to Kailasa and prayed to Lord Shiva for protection. On hearing the mission of gods, Matsara went to Kailas and vaniquished Lord Shiva also. When the gods were at their wit's end to know what to do next. Lord Dattatreya came there. He advised the gods to invoke the grace of Lord Vakratunda and imparted to them the secret of the monosyllable mantra Gam. All the gods, including Shiva did penance accordingly and at last Lord Vakratunda appeared and assured them that he would subdue the demon. The demon was so terrified at the sight of Vakratunda that he surrendered to Him and sought refuge at His feet. The Lord forgave him, and restored the lost glory and kingdoms to the gods, and to the various kings on earth.

The next incarnation was in the form of Ekadanta (single tusked) who defeated the demon Madasura.
The famous sage Chyavana created Madasura. The Asura sought his father's permission and went to Sukracharya, who was Chyavana's brother as well as the preceptor of the Asuras. He prostrated to the Guru and expressed his desire to become the ruler of the whole universe. Sukracharya was pleased with his nephew's submission and initiated him into the Shakti Mantra Hrim. Madasura did penance on this mantra for thousands of years. At last the deity of Shakti, appeared, before him and blessed him with the fulfillment of all his desires. Thereafter the demon went about raging battles against all the kings and the gods, and was victorious everywhere. He thus became the ruler of all the three worlds.
In his reign, all virtues and righteousness disappeared from the world. He married Saalasa the daughter of Pramada Asura and begot three children in her, viz. Vilasi, Lolupa and Dhanapriya. The worried gods approached Sanat kumara and sought his advice to overcome their plight Sanatkumara instructed them to propitiate Lord Ekadanta and seek his protection. He also described the glory of Ekadanta thus "Eka stands for Maya the “embodied"., and Danta for Truth (Satta). Thus Ekadanta represents the Supreme Truth, which wields the Maya." The Devas then meditated upon the Lord Ekadanta for hundreds of years. Pleased by their devotion the Lord appeared before them and assured them that He would remove their miseries. Narada, the celestial saint, promptly informed Madasura of the boon given to the gods by the Lord and prompted him to wage war against Ekadanta The demon got ready for a battle with the Lord. But alas, as soon as he reached the battlefield and beheld the terrible form of Ekadanta, all his courage drained away and he surrendered to the Lord.
The demon then gave up the worlds held under his reign, and sought the Lord's protection.
The Lord then told Madasura: "Don't stay in a place where I am worshipped in a Satwic manner. You are free to enjoy the fruits of all actions done with Asuric Bhava”.

The third incarnation was of Mahodara who vanquished Mohasura, the demon of Delusion and Confusion. Once again the mouse was the mount of Ganesha. The confused nature of this tale makes it difficult to understand exactly what was going on. It seems that once Shiva was sunk in meditation for ages, and showing no signs of coming out of it. Meanwhile, the gods were in need of help. Parvati therefore assumed an alluring form and wandered round his meditating spot. Shiva was brought back to normal wakeful consciousness by this act and she abandoned the alluring ‘cover’ so as to speak. This abandoned energy form became a demon in its own right over the ages and Ganesha subdued it. Shiva and Parvati are the parents of Ganesha, so the psychological implications of this tale make the head spin.
Mohasur worshipped the Sun God and attained the name of Daitya Raja meaning King of the Demons. He also conquered all the three worlds… “All the gods, sages hid in caves and jungles in fear of him. There was anarchy all over. At this time Surya, Sun God advised all the gods to worship Mahodara ie, Ganesha. “All the Gods and the Sages started worshiping Mahodara. Ganesha was pleased and granted them with a boon, saying that he would slay Mohasur himself.
When Shukracharya heard this, he told Mohasur to surrender in front of Mahodara. Lord Vishnu also explained to Mohasur that if he surrendered, he will not be killed or destroyed. That’s why he should accept the friendship of Mahodara. By saying this he started praising and singing the glories of Lord Lambodara. “Listening to this Mohasur became frightened and he requested Lord Vishnu to bring Mahodara giving him due honor and respect. When Lord Mahodara arrived, Mohasur greeted and welcomed him with pomp and gaiety. He sang his praises and asked for forgiveness for his evil sins. Mohasur promised the gods that he would return them their Swargalok and assured that he would be always on the path of righteousness. He also assured them that henceforth, he would not a dare to harass the Gods and Sages. Listening to this Lord Mahodara was pleased and commanded him to go back to Pataal loka and never return again. All the Gods and the Sages were elated, They all started singing the praise of Lord Mahodara.

Equally perplexing in the tangled web of intergenerational sexuality is the next tale, of the avatar of Gajanana or Gajavaktra who defeated the demon Lobhasura (Greed or Covetousness). Gajanana means “the Lord with an elephant face”, and Lobha was the demon of greed.
Kubera, the Treasurer of the heavens, once visited Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva. There he was blessed with the vision of the Lord and Goddess Parvati. Parvati was so beautiful that Kubera looked at Her with lustful eyes. The Mother became angry at this, and Kubera shivered with fear. From the fear of Kubera, there manifested a demon named Lobhasura. Lobhasura descended to the world of Asuras, where he received his education from Sukracharya, the guru of Asuras. He was initiated into the mantra "0m Namah Shivaya". The demon then performed penance and in due course the Lord appeared and blessed him with the boon of fearlessness.
The demon Lobha now went about conquering the three worlds and became the sovereign ruler. He sent word to Lord Shiva that he would like to rule over Kailas, and that it would be better if He relinquished His abode. The Lord thought for a while and decided to leave His abode. The gods, tyrannised by the demonic rule, approached sage Raibhya who instructed them to pray to Lord Gajaanana. The Devas invoked the grace of the Lord and sought His protection. The Lord blessed them, and sent Vishnu as His messenger to the demon to apprise him of the strength of Gajaanana Lobhasura was convinced of the Lord's strength and surrendered without putting up a fight.

Once upon a time Lord Vishnu had assumed the form of Mohini, the enchantress, to delude the demons. When Lord Shiva be held this seductive form. He was struck with passion. Vishnu immediately gave up the Mohini form and assumed His usual form. Shiva became sad and angry. Out of the seeds of His disappointment was born a terrible demon Krodhasura. This demon invoked the grace of the Lord Sun and became a powerful king. He married "Preeti" the beautiful daughter of Sambara and begot two sons in her—- Harsha and Soka.
The gods undertook penance to invoke the grace of Lord Ganesha in the form of Lambodara. The Lord appeared before them and for the sake of the world, subdued Krodhasura.

His next incarnation was of Vikata(”The mishappen”), who subdued Kama, the demon of desire.
The demon named Kamasura, i.e. The embodiment of lust, was born out of the seeds of Lord Vishnu. Like all other demons he was accepted by the preceptor Sukracharya as his disciple. Kamasura performed penance on Lord Shiva and after long and arduous austerities he was blessed by the Lord. He became the supreme ruler of the three worlds. He was ceremoniously married to Trishna, the daughter of Mahishasura, and begot two sons in her, viz. Soshana and Dushpoora.
The Devas, tormented by his rule, approached Mudgala Rishi for showing them a way out. The teacher advised them to meditate on the mantra OM at a place called Mayuresa Kshetra. Pleased by their devotion. Lord Ganesha appeared to them in the form of Vikata, and brought about their salvation.

The 7th incarnation of Ganesha Vighnaraja had a very unusual mode of conveyance - a Sheshnaag or Shasha. In this lifetime Ganesha managed to subdue the demon Mamasur (also known as Mamtasur or Mama), the demon of the ego. This is His (Ganesha’s) most popular incarnation, known as The Remover of Obstacles. Riding his vehicle called Sheshnag, a serpent, he strode into battle with Mamtasur, and overcame him.”
Parvati Devi, the daughter of Himavan, was married to Lord Shiva. After the marriage, one day when She was relaxing in the company of Her friends. She burst out in laughter in a playful mood, and out of Her laughter was born a handsome male form He prostrated to the Mother She was surprised at this manifestation of the form and asked him who he was and what he wanted. He said that he was born from Her laughter and asked Her as to how he could serve Her. She named him Mama, as he was born out of her outburst, when She was swayed by "Maan", the sense of I-ness, Ego. She then instructed him to remember Lord Ganesha always, who would fulfill all his desires.
Mama retired to the forests to meditate on Lord Ganesha. On the way, he met Sambara Asura, who managed to allure him into the Asuric cult and initiated him into the demonic methods of worship. Thus Mama of angelic nature became Mamasura, the demon. He married Mohini, the daughter of an Asura chief in due course he became the ruler of all the three worlds. The Devas who were exiled from their worlds propitiated Lord Ganesha, Who incarnated as Vighnaraja, subdued Mamasura and established righteousness and peace.

Dhoomravarna :
Ganesha has a mouse as his mount here. His life mission this time around was to defeat the demon Ahamkarasur, the demon of self-infatuation.
Once, Brahmaji, the grandsire, bestowed on the Sun deity, the lordship over the 'world of activities'. One day, a thought dawned in the mind of Sun: "All the worlds are governed by Karma—-activities; and by virtue of my being the Lord of Karma Rajya, I can consider myself to be the supreme governor of all the worlds. As this thought passed his mind, he happened to sneeze and out of the sneeze there arose a demon. He went down to the world of Asuras and Sukracharya gave him the name “Aham" on account of his birth from the ego of the Sun. He meditated on Lord Ganesha, who appeared before him in the form of Dhumravarna and blessed him to be the sovereign ruler of all the three worlds.
Aham married "Mamata", daughter of Pramadasura, and begot two sons in her named Garva and Sreshta. Tired of the demonic rule of Aham, the Devas meditated upon Lord Ganesha for salvation, and the Lord descended to their rescue- Ere long, Lord Ganesha in the form of Dhoomravarna subdued the demon Aham.

|| OM Gam Ganapathye Namah ||.........................

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

VRIKSHAM - The Vedantic metaphor

VRIKSHAM - The Vedantic metaphor

लक्ष्मीनाथ समारम्भां नाथयामुनमध्यमाम्
अस्मदाचार्यपर्यन्तां वन्दे गुरुपरंपराम्

Vedanta, which literally means 'End(or objective) of Vedas' is known from time immemorial for its metaphors to describe the state of affairs of this world, i.e., Samsara (the cycle of birth and death) and the physical body of living beings, the mystery of which still captures our imaginations. The evanescence of this material existence is an important theme.

When we analyse the cause and effects of a phenomenon/problem, we naturally tend to talk in terms of the 'root cause' or the 'seed' of the problem and the 'fruit' as the result. This suits Vedanta very well and hence we find the metaphor of the tree used creatively in similar contexts but with varying interpretations in different texts. The similes and metaphors of Sanskrit literature are timeless. Deviating a little from the topic, let us look at one subhashitam to illustrate this point.

दीपो भक्षयते ध्वान्तं कज्जलं च प्रसूयते
यादृशं भक्षयेदन्नं जायते तादृशी प्रजा ||

[The lamp consumes darkness and generates soot/smoke. (Similarly) The type of food you eat has a corresponding influence on the offspring.]

This is really an elegant comparison. At least I have never thought of darkness and soot as raw material and finished product, and that too relating them because of their black colour. The fact that a black input produces a black output is capitalized here to assert the importance of saatvik food. (Another variation of the subhashita ends as 'तादृशी मति: ' which means that the food you eat produces the quality of thinking that emanates from you).

Coming back to our metaphor, the tree**, the first example(and a famous one too) is from the Mundakopanishad (3.1):

द्वा सुपर्णा सयुजा सखाया समानं वृक्षं परिषस्वजाते |
तयोरन्य: पिप्पलं स्वाद्वत्त्यनश्नानन्यो अभिचाकशीति ||
[Two birds living together, each the friend of the other, perch upon the same tree. Of these two, one eats the sweet fruit of the tree, but the other simply looks on without eating]

The two birds are the Jivatma(individual soul) and Paramatma (Supreme soul). The tree is nothing but the human body while the fruit is the results of past karma. Here the onlooker, the Paramatma, is not touched by karma whereas the Jiva is bound to the cycle of rebirth. Observe how the flow of meaning occurs with this metaphor. An occurrence of the natural world is transformed into profound metaphysics.

** The tree is often used as a metaphor to describe the Vedic literature. The four Vedas, including the various Shakhas, six Vedangas, Itihasas, Puranas, Dharmashastras, Agamas, sutra Granthas, Bhashyams and Acharya Sri Sooktis are all different parts of the tree of Veda.

In the Bhagavatha Puranam (11.12.21-23), Lord Krishna, responding to Uddhava's question uses the tree as a metaphor with even more detailed correlations between its parts and the worldly existence.

य एष संसारतरु: पुराण: कर्मात्मक: पुष्पफले प्रसूते ||
द्वे अस्य बीजे शतमूलस्त्रिनाल: पञ्चस्कन्ध: पञ्चरसप्रसूति:
दशैकशाखो द्विसुपर्ण नीडस्त्रिवल्कलो द्विफलोर्कं प्रविष्ट: ||
अदन्ति चैकं फलमस्य गृध्रा ग्रामेचरा एकमरण्यवासा:
हंसा य एकं बहुरूपमिज्यैर्मायामयं वेद स वेद वेदम् ||

[This tree of mundane existence has no beginning, is characterized by activity and puts forth flowers and fruits. Two are its seeds, innumerable are its roots, three are its lower trunks, five are its upper trunks; it yields five kinds of sap, eleven are its branches; it bears the nest of two birds; three are the layers of its bark; it bears two fruits and spreads as far as the realm of the sun. Full of carnal desires, men of the world partake of its one fruit while the swan-like men of wisdom dwelling in the forest eat the other. He alone knows the Vedas, who through spiritual preceptors comes to realize the one God appearing as many forms through his Maya]

Here the objects indicated are:
Two seeds - Paapam and Punyam
Innumerable roots - Innumerable cravings
Three lower trunks - Sattva, Rajas and Tamas
Five upper trunks - Panchabhutams(the five elements)
Five Kind of saps - Objects of five senses(five tanmatras - touch, taste etc.)
Eleven branches - Mind, five karmendriyas, five jnyanendriyas
Two birds - Paramatma and Jivatma
Three layers of bark - the three humours (vatam, pittham and kapham)
Two fruits - happiness and sorrow
Thus the metaphor ties together all the important concepts of Vedanta in a coherent manner.
Lord Krishna uses the tree metaphor with a variation in the Bhagavad Gita(15.1-3).

ऊर्ध्व मूलमध:शाखमश्वत्थं प्राहुरव्ययम् |
छन्दांसि यस्य पर्णानि यस्तं वेद स वेदवित् ||
अधश्चोर्ध्वं प्रसृतास्तस्य शाखा गुणप्रवृद्धा विषयप्रवाला:|
अधश्च मूलान्यनुसंततानि कर्मानुबन्धीनि मनुष्यलोके ||
न रूपमस्येह ततोपलभ्यते नान्तो न चादिर्न च संप्रतिष्ठा |
अश्वत्थमेनं सुविरूढमूलमसङ्गशस्त्रेण दृढेन छित्त्वा ||

[The wise speak of the imperishable banyan tree, which has its roots above and branches below. Its leaves are the Vedas and he who knows this is the knower of the Vedas. Its branches extend all about; nourished by the three gunas, the sensory objects are its shoots and below, in the world of men, its secondary roots stretch forth, binding them in Karma. Its real form is not perceived here, nor its end nor beginning nor its foundation, but with determination one must cut down this strongly rooted tree with the weapon of detachment]

The inverted nature of the tree is important. Since Brahman or the Supreme soul is the substratum for all activities and existence itself, it is the root of all worlds and hence this tree is rooted in Brahmam. However, during every creation cycle, After samashti srishti (i.e., creation of raw materials like the 5 elements and their admixture, Sriman Narayana, the eternal Supreme soul creates Brahma, who then creates with his knowledge of the Vedas, the rest of the material universe that he is in-charge of. Hence the tree has its trunk as Brahma, who then goes on to create the inhabitants of all the fourteen lokas including bhoo lokam. Hence the tree's branches extends all over this material realm.

The comparison of the leaves of the tree to the Vedas are is very clear to my level of understanding. However, I have an interpretation. The leaves are the receptors of Sun's energy and nourish the plant because of this property. They lead to all further growth, production of flower and fruits in the tree. Similarly the Vedas are the source of any kind of prosperity, be it monetary or Spiritual. Hence, they are the leaves of the samsaric tree.

We find in the foregoing discussion that the tree is used as a metaphor for both the physical body of organisms as well as the whole world of samsara and this is an interesting fact in itself. There is a school of belief which sees an organism's body as a microcosm. Every physical body is a universe in itself and undergoes the cycle of birth, growth and decay very similar to the universe. Thus the universe is the largest reflection of this microcosm.

Now what does this have to do with the tree?

'Hunting the hidden dimension'- a NOVA documentary on fractals has an interesting fact about the relationship between a tree and its parent forest. The distribution of sizes of the individual trees within a forest appears to exactly match the distribution of sizes of different branches within a single tree. The forest has a fractal structure in the tree as an element and of course the tree itself has a fractal structure. Similarly, the whole world of existence could be thought as a fractal of the innumerable Jivas who undergo the cycle of their own.
The tree occurs in many other texts like Kathopanishad, AnuGita and other parts of the Mahabharata, Vivekachoodamani of Adi Shankaracharya and also alluded to in devotional hymns, from which we can be quite sure that our ancestors wanted to get this message across to us down the ages. At least the spiritually inclined people, instead of trying to accumulate more wealth and/or power and fame, must strive to cut down this tree.
The solution to this 'tree' problem is given by the Lord himself in the Bhagavad Gita(15.4)

तत: पदं तत्परिमार्गितव्यं यस्मिन्गता न निवर्तन्ति भूय: |
तमेव चाद्यं पुरुषं प्रपद्ये यत: प्रवृत्ति: प्रसृता पुराणी ||

Thereafter, one must seek that place from which, having gone, one never returns and surrender to that Supreme Purusha (i.e., Lord Sriman Narayana) of whom has streamed forth everything, from time immemorial.