Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In the Heart - 1

It began with a call i received late one night. 
“Do you think you can come to Badrinath? By Swami’s grace we are conducting an Athi Rudra Maha yagna there.. It will be an event worth capturing .”

A month later I found myself yet again in the deeps and highs of my beloved Himalayas. 

The sacredness, purity and cool airs of the mighty mountains took me back a year when i found myself at the feet of Lord Shiva at Kailash. This year it was Sri Vishnu who had summoned me to His abode to celebrate a Rudra yagna.

Like all grand sacred events, this one too welcomed us with a shower of rain. A fall of a drop and the temperature sinks to freezing cold.. The Yagna fire caused warmness in the heart for more than one reason. Listening to the powerful mantras and moving amongst  heat generated by the 11 yagnakundas can cause the consciousness to elevate beyond measure as the mind becomes a mute spectator, bedazzled by the purity of the occasion.

And yet there was something which caused me deep concern. I had not come alone, but was carrying with me various prayer requests to be offered to the Lord on behalf of various friends and people known to me closely, who were assailed by numerous problems.. the sickness of a child, a wife concerned about her husbands health, a sweet lady bearing numerous pains in her failing body, a beautiful couple distraught at the state of their handsome little son considered abnormal by societal standards, friends carrying social/marital problems and others.. Thinking about these issue bore heavy on my state of being. The high state of consciousness experienced in the yagna shala during the day was offset by the low feeling of gloom that i felt in the evening as i pondered over these issues. 

I tried to surrender these urgent requests to the Lord during my meditations but they returned and would always loom on my mind. With problems like these, the world seemed a heavy place to live in. I just couldn't let go of these thoughts... A state of depression persisted.

Part of the Yagna blessings was that the temple authorities of Badrinath had graciously permitted us to chant the Sri Vishnusahasranama in the temple precincts. 

On one such evening after the chanting and the deep meditation that followed, i entered the temple to have my first glimpse of Lord Badri Vishal, as He is referred to in those regions.  Like all major temples of India this one too was over crowded with people. Each person was trying his/her best to get a glimpse of the Lord. Naturally there was a degree of pushing and shoving and unfair tactics at play. Any state of calm, gathered in the meditation was lost as i tried my best to crane and stretch to steal a glimpse of the Lord. It suddenly occurred to me as to how we were behaving. I wondered what use there is of travelling thousands of miles to these remote regions and then to jostle and push through crowds to see the divine.. Where is the devotion? where is the discipline? To what end do i wish to see the image of the Lord given the chaos in my mind? 

Perhaps if i removed myself from the temple, the others would find at least some more space to enjoy the darshan. With this thought i mentally bowed before Lord Vishnu, and began making my way out through the crowd towards the exit.

The Divine had other plans.

One of our chief priests, Sri Sekhar who was within the barricades guiding and explaining the devotees the history of the temple, saw me and motioned me to come within. Not too sure, i decided to go with the flow and made my way in. There were no crowds here. I could sit at the boundary of the door to the inner sanctum, the closest one could get to the Lord, with an uninterrupted view of the divine figure.

I held my gaze one pointedly on the diamond eyes of the Lord, and continued thinking that to what end do we come to these temples.. If God is within me why do i travel distances to see Him in numerous forms. Is this a form of delusion too? 

Amidst these troubling thoughts, i suddenly found the presence of a clear light within, coming from the sanctum sanctorum in form of an intuitive understanding. An unspoken voice expressed:

“Temples such as these have a role to play in the divine human drama. These temples act as mirrors. When a devotee stands humbly before the altar, it reflects back the divinity within each of us. It shows the devotee the presence of the divine in the sanctum sanctorum of his heart. For that is where God has always truly been. But man has forgotten. The temples remind him. Is this not the reason why when a devotee after travelling miles, comes to a temple and  beholding the idol with his eyes, he then closes them and journeys within?

“In a temple, more than darshans of the divine with the eyes, one should have an inner attunement with the heart. Attune with devotion. Why worry about the crowds? Maya has its role to play, even in a temple. It disturbs your attention with crowds of people in the outer world and crowds of restless thoughts in the inner world. Be undisturbed, be even. Since ages humans have come to this temple to learn the truth that the real Badri is within.. in each and every one of you. If you understand this simple truth, then know your journey to be blessed and fulfilled!”

As I grasped what i received, I had goosebumps. This was not the first time I was hearing these words. I had heard them before, in similar circumstances, at the same time - one year back, from the same source - at Mt. Kailash.

Day 2, Dolmo La Pass, 19500 ft, Mt Kailash.

All my preparations at the physical and mental level had lead me to this hour. And it had failed me. 

Sheer fatigue overwhelmed my being as i climbed the seemingly unclimbable Dolmo la pass. I began regretting wanting to do the whole pradakshina on foot. I began regretting not taking the allopathic medicines to attune to the altitude. Summoning my last reserve of energy i finally climbed the top. After taking deep breaths of the low oxygen air I asked my sherpa “So this is it!” He looked at me pitifully and turning his head right he pointed towards the sky. I looked at the direction to see a peak and an ant like formation of humans who were laboriously climbing it. That was my destination.

View en-route the Dolmo La Pass

I choose not to elaborate the battle i fought with every step i took. For the first time in my life my body had failed me. My sense of devotion was gone. I was no longer chanting the mantra that i had received in my meditations* to be chanted during the Kora. I was angry at Shiva (Auspiciousness) and Shakti (Divine Energy) for i was convinced they both had forsaken me. There were others like me who were struggling on foot. But the locals were indefatigable. Old, almost ancient tibetan women in their 60’s and 70’s passed me by carrying children on their back, giving me their wrinkly smiles of encouragement. Some patted me on my back, some said words of encouragement in their dialect, others dug into their bag and gave me herbs which they said would help me. 

One step after the other, I finally reached the summit of my journey - The Dolmo la Pass, 19500 ft above sea level. As i crashed upon the nearby inviting rock, I closed my eyes and let go of my body and mind and became nothingness. Let me state in no uncertain words that I was not meditating or praying. I was purely tired. 

Moments passed and then it happened.

In the quietness of my being, I felt an unmistakable presence of a pure energy which i knew to be with me all along. Like a sharp ray of light in a dark cave, I heard its intuitive message of light beam into my being uninvited, and its unspoken message became part of my deeper understanding.  

It conveyed to the effect:
“You have been summoned, thousands of miles away from your home to these parts to impress upon you a single truth.. That the Kailash you always sought, is within you. The Shiva and Shakti principle is within you, and within every single human you encounter in life. If you assimilate and make this truth your own, then know that you have received from Kailash the highest one can receive and know your journey to be a success.” The vision of a golden Kailash flashed in my inner being and impressed itself on me.

I opened my eyes.  My tiredness prevented any elation. I became withdrawn as I got up and continued my descent from the peak into the second part of my journey. No longer did i focus on my tired limbs and walked robot like one step after the other in what seemed like an endless journey towards my base. My mind went over and over what I had experienced as I checked and rechecked if i had been hallucinating. But my mind seemed to be in a coma and refused to think let alone create such a profound experience. Above all i had felt the presence within. It was vibrating in my being. 

Any trace of doubts that i had, would be removed that night when i was blessed with a vision of Shiva - Shakti.

To be continued..

*Note : Prior to my kora i was dwelling on what mantra to chant through the kora - the sacred - Om Namah Shivaya, or the shorter - Shivoham, both of which carried the same meaning. In one of my meditations, i fail to remember where, i surrendered this query to God hoping i will receive His will in some sign or form. To my surprise, i received an instant reply. It wasnt either of the mantras, it was a third mantra - Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavantu. This was what i was suppose to chant during the kora.

I wasn't up for it.. i protested that this was my first trip to Kailash. "Let this trip be about You and me, lets keep the lokas out of it. I can chant that anytime else." But the clarity with which this mantra persisted told me that this was divine will. An understanding came that God, the lokas and i were not separate. Let my blessing be a blessing for all and so i gratefully accepted this as my mantra for the Pradakshina.

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In the Heart - 2

Saturday, July 25, 2015

An Encounter at Neelkanth

The Majestic Neelkanth

Whilst returning from an excursion to the Neelkanth mountain, I met a sadhu on the way. I offered my pranams (salutations) which he returned with a smile. He had a small piece of papad in his hand. He said "Son will you accept this papad?" I replied "Maharaj will you accept a chocolate". He smiled and agreed and we made our exchange.

"Come to yonder house for a cup of tea," he said pointing to a humble dwelling amidst the breathtaking setting. His mannerism was friendly as if he were a close acquaintance. My two companions and I could not refuse and we made our way towards his house.

The outer walls to his house was a mere formality for a boundary. In a setting of beautiful wild flowers carelessly growing in the empty spaces on all three sides of his house, we sat on rustic makeshift chairs.
As we conversed he gave us a highlight of his life prior to coming to these parts of the Himalayas. 
"I was from Rajasthan. Without a Guru, purely through Aakashwani (Inner guidance) have I been led through my spiritual life. The voice has led me through many extraordinary experiences both good and bad yet each benefitting me on my path."

"Please tell us about the Masters one hears about in these regions!" I asked.
"Masters indeed there are many, but they shy away from human gaze. Often it is more for the comfort of people then their own love of solitude that Masters will remain hidden from sight."
"Yet to those that dwell in these rarified regions, coming across such beings who often take the form of light, is not that difficult."
"A few days back a family known to me, came to my house with the intent to serve me. Many days passed when they complained - 'Sir, we have been serving you for so long, how is it that we have not been able to witness some divine sights known to be amply present in these regions. 'I laughed and replied - 'Dear Ones, I can say the same that since your arrival, I too have been bereft of visitation of Masters.'
"'That cannot be,' they protested.. 'We are here undertaking a holy cause of serving you. As per the scriptures, by virtue of this act alone we should be considered worthy of Divine grace.'
"'Look, what is that ..' one of them suddenly exclaimed. I looked out to witness 2 celestial lights traveling in the air at very close quarters to us in the chill of the night. One light disappeared and the other descended at a distance of about 200 meters from my house. This is the closest I had seen such a light coming towards my dwelling place.
"'Wait here,' I commanded them, as I carried a lantern and made my way through the bitter winds of the Himalayan night, much to their protest. Walking along I came to the cliff where the light had descended and was pleasantly surprised to see there a young monk in white clothes. I enquired 'Maharaj, who are you and what are you doing here so late in the night?'
"The mendicant replied in a distant tone 'Greetings Maharaj, I am a seeker who came to the Neelkanth mountain many days ago. As I sat in a meditative state, I slipped in a deep state of consciousness and have only emerged out of it now - many days later.'
"'Sir, you must be famished. Kindly come to my house a few steps away, where I can serve you some rotis made tonight along with a dal made this afternoon. I will heat it and serve you quickly.'
"'You need not heat the food, what you offer will suffice,' replied the mendicant as the two made their way to the house."
"After I served him the meal, he insisted on leaving immediately and stepped out. I came after him to show him some light but watched him take a light form himself and he vanished through the air."

The sadhu then spoke in general. "We are all seekers at the end of the day - you are seeking God to as much as I; only I have decided to give my quest more time then perhaps you can."

"Tell me Maharaj," I asked "How easy it is to control the restless mind, while living in these pristine regions. Surely your efforts bear richer fruits here."
The sadhu smiled frankly "I assure you, maya has its ways of keeping the mind engaged, though I must agree that these circumstances are far favorable to what one faces in the world. I am able to go deep every now and then and find divine grace more generous then at my efforts in the plains."
Ati Rudra at Badri

"Maharaj, a great Ati Rudra yagna is being conducted down by the temple. Tomorrow is the Poornahooti day. Please join us in partaking the prasad." We requested.
"Your invitation is enough. I prefer not to travel for food as the good Lord provides amply for my little needs and as a rule we try to avoid places with great crowds. But if He wills I shall come."
We offered our pranams to him, as we made our way back in the late evening to our yagnashala. We could not have the tea that he offered, but found other stories from him which warmed our soul.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Hackers guide to Self Realisation.

Lets begin with some basic facts - We live.. In a body.. On Earth.

From the beginning of human history, man has been driven on one hand by the demands of the body causing him to seek sustenance through hunting and agriculture; on the other hand the human mind has sought answers to the mystery of life. These two pursuits went hand in hand, until at some point in history the former overwhelmed the later and man began to live purely in mad pursuit of seeking satisfaction for the desires of the body and ego.

Yet man did pursue truths. Some sought to understand this world they lived in. So they investigated Earth - its flora and fauna, the land and seas, the elements and space and thus grew science as we know it today. 

But there were others who felt that before they understood the world, they must first understand themselves, and they began an inquiry within, leading to exploration of Spirituality as we know it.

The scientists of the spirit were the first to find their goal. They were referred to by the world as the Enlightened Ones, the Sages. The scientists of the world to this day pursue their goals, ever changing and updating their theories. 

The reason of this contrasting result stems from the fact that the universe a scientist studies, is an ever changing one and its understanding is dependent on how every individual perceives it. The Sages on the other hand explored the inner world, the soul which is in Oneness with everything in existence and in knowing the soul Self, a Sage becomes aware of the roots of all creation

Sages of all climes and times, brought forward the fruits of their labor to man through words and scriptures - encouraging man to find the joy and bliss that every man has been seeking since the beginning of time, within Himself, by understanding the Self. They revealed that the one supreme query worth pursuing above all others is not what is life, nor who made creation, nor who is God - but Who am I?

In the answer to this one question - Who am I, lies every possible answer. What's more, the Sages then revealed the answer to this Supreme Question. The answer being - Aham Brahmasmi! - I am Brahman. I am the Supreme truth. I am God. 

So, coming back to reality... Are you God?... am I God? Don't seem like it. If God is all love, all joy, all power, all wisdom, above and beyond life and death, then I certainly don't feel like God. If you ask me who I am, I would unhesitatingly describe myself as a male, Hindu, Indian with such and such name, family background, education and social status. 

So where is the disconnect? The enlightened Sages call me God, and I call myself a limited, error prone human personality subject to life and death! At this point it is apt to mention another intelligent entity that is deeply related to each of us and whose influence on our lives is immense.

The Sages explained that when God created this creation, the creation would soon sink back in God's divine energy, much as if the ocean spewed gems and precious minerals on its surface, they would all sink back into the ocean. So God created a counter intelligent energy whose sole purpose would be to keep creation in its place, preventing any aspect of creation to go back to its source in God.

The Sages referred to this counteracting intelligent energy as Maya. Maya is the force that works to keep creation as is. It is the cause of all cosmic illusion. It makes this creation seem real and as the only reality. It covers and hides in all ways possible the Divine truths and prevents mankind from recognising its true self as children of the Supreme God. Christ referred to Maya as the devil that tempts. Maya is that against which the true Jihad must be fought, as implied in Islam.

99.999% of all humanity are under full control of Maya. It makes them feel like a human personality and keeps them bound and limited to personal goals and objectives of this world. Maya has its allies in the human mind, senses and the ego. It lures and tempts the senses through sight, sound, taste and touch and keeps man bound to desires and temptations of the body. 

Maya - Cosmic Illlusion
Every human has Awareness within him through which he can cognise truth. This awareness has been completely hijacked and imprisoned by the mind. Through incarnations of wrong living, human awareness has been hypnotised into believing that it is a body, a name, a personality with needs and desires, a personality with a status in the society that it must ever keep upgrading to earn the respect of fellow personalities.

Thus from birth Maya ensnares a child with toys and candies, a youth with clothes, gadgets and temptations, an adult with jobs and life partner for a family. It controls a family man with requirements of his family and children till his old age where it keeps him tied to the body and its problems until comes death and everything that a man has earned through life drops away to nothingness. His name, fame, money, achievements are all left behind. 

And yet.... As much as a human seeks happiness, he also seeks with the same passion all ways to avoid sorrow. Though living in Maya does offer temporary happiness,  it is usually followed by arrival of sorrow. Men soon realised that living in Maya is living in duality. That sorrow will always follow happiness just as night will always follow the day; loss will always follow victory as death will always follow life. So man sought to find a permanent solution. When his seeking becomes sincere and deep, the enlightened Sages make themselves available to him and give him solutions to fight Maya and free his awareness from the limitations of the ego. 

Thus man learns that to avoid sorrow and gain permanent happiness he must first know his true Self. He can know his true Self only when he can realise that he is not the ego self. This can be achieved by disciplining the senses and conquering the mind. Christ said "Be still and know that I am God". This was a secret revealed to man that he must first still the restless mind and free his awareness with the help of which he can then become aware of his true self. This stillness refers to the science of meditation which leads to constant integrated Awareness.

In meditation one keeps the body in a relaxed state and turns all the senses inwards. The body and senses may be in ones control but the mind can still run about causing restlessness by umpteen ceaseless thoughts. 

Many find meditation to be difficult, controlling mind impossible.  It only requires patience and perseverance to slowly and steadily bring the mind to rest using the disciplined senses and controlled breathing for aid.

Take for example a fan. When the fan is in full speed and you switch it off, it does not become still immediately, but continues revolving till at some point it comes to a full rest (provided you do not switch it on again). So it is with patience and persevering efforts that mind can be brought under control.
Another example, when you are in the bright sunlight and suddenly enter a room, everything appears dark. It takes some time till the eyes can get used to the lowlight conditions of the room and begin seeing things within it. But this will not be possible if you keep stepping out in sunlight and stepping in the room. 

Similarly when one meditates he leaves the restless world of  Maya/mind and enters the inner world of Spirit, all may at first appear dark. If one with patience and perseverance stills the restlessness within, he will soon free his Awareness from the clutches of the lower mind and become aware of the light of God. 

Finding the Self means finding the end of all sorrows. Then no longer is man dictated by the ego and its limitations. He becomes aware of the majesty of his true, divine Self. He becomes love and distributes love freely. He becomes joy and distributes joy freely. He becomes wisdom and distributes wisdom freely. He becomes aware of his Oneness with all. He realises for Himself that the answer to the eternal query - Who am I is Aham Brahmasmi!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

An Encounter..

"By what name do people call you"

"Many names" was the answer.

"Then I shall call you Sir"

"As you like."

I asked him something to determine his age.

"I am ageless, neither birth nor death touch me."

"A tree is rooted Sir, How old are your roots?"

"That is not to be known" He gently reproved me.

"Tell me then Sir, the secret of your youth."

"Well, well, if there isn't my old friend!" He suddenly exclaimed

When I looked for his friend my breath stopped and my teeth chattered. His friend was a huge tiger! To my eyes she looked as large as a horse. Noting my terror my friend assured me that I was in no danger.

"Do you mean this fearsome beast is your friend?"

"Why not?"

"Who are you?" I asked in awe!

"Thyself!" His voice was gentleness itself.

Hardly believing my eyes, I saw him approach the tiger and fondly stroke its fur and the beast responded by every show of returned affection. "Come, come.. meet my friend" He beckoned me.

Tremblingly I ventured forward.

"See how sweet she is" he said, "such a good mother. She has a baby and two of her sisters who passed away. Show us the babies, will you?"

Obediently, the tiger stalked along before us and I silently followed. Since my courage had deserted me I couldn't question, though my thoughts were many. Half a mile we were led by the tiger to a wooded hill thickly overgrown with brush. There is a deep ditch frolicked three tiger cubs, one about a month old and two older ones. 

The cubs were harmless enough and very loveable in their rounded furriness. I asked permission to play with them. The youngest was a bit frightened, but soon warmed up and played along. A little later my comrade bade me come away from the cubs as we resumed our journey to the cave.

" You are a Master," I asserted, " I am sure of it."


"Because the tiger did not harm us."

"That is nothing. They attack only those who desire to kill them. If you have love in your heart for them and no fear, they won't harm you. Love in your heart for everyone brings love in return."

"Master, will you explain the secret of making a tiger like you?"

"If  man will relinquish the idea of killing, the love of every creature will be his."

" How long will it take to do this?"

He answered that if in twelve years the hand, eyes and tongue have not harmed anyone, the power will be gained. many who do not destroy with the hands, do so with their eyes and words. Neither beast nor man will ever attack such a one, nor will opposition of any kind be presented.

"Must one, Master, do anything else except abstain from killing any living creature?"

"Yes, my son, he should have love in his heart for everyone, but he should not fix his affection on any particular one, holding all in love. Nor should he fear death at anytime, realising that he is not bound by the narrow walls of flesh and bones, but is soul or spirit, of all and in all. His song should be ~

There is no jealousy, no fear.
I am the dearest of the dear;

No rival, no foe,
No injury, no woe,

Om, Om, Om!

Nothing can harm me,
Nothing alarm me,
The soul of all,
The nectar falls,

Om, Om, Om!

The heavens and stars,
Worlds near and far
Are hung and strung
On the songs I sung,

Om, Om, Om!

: Great Masters of the Himalayas