Monthly Archives: October 2017

Traditional Tales:  Shiva’s Guru

by Nirooshitha:Sethuram

It was a beautiful day on Mt.  Kailasa, where Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were spending time together with their two children, Ganesha and Skanda.  The two children went off to play in the foothills of the mountain while Shiva and Parvati were giving blessings to devotees.

On that day Lord Brahma, the Creator-God, decided to visit Mt.  Kailasa to worship Shiva.  On his way, he saw Skanda at the foothills of Mt.  Kailasa, but ignored him, and went past him without paying his respects.  Lord Skanda got angry and, mischievous as he was, wanted to bring Brahma out of his egoism.

He patiently waited until Brahma returned from worshipping Shiva, heading back to Satya Loka where he resides with his wife Goddess Saraswati.  When he passed Skanda, ignoring him again, thinking that he is just a child, the little boy Skanda ran to Brahma, asking who he was, what he does, and what he is proficient in?

quora.com

Brahma replied that he is Brahma, the creator of the beings of the three worlds and that he is proficient in the Vedas.  He proudly said that he was creating the beings who have knowledge of the Vedas, and started to recite the Rig Veda text, beginning with the pranava (the primordial sound “OM”),

Immediately Skanda interrupted Brahma, and asked him to explain the meaning of the pranava.  Brahma couldn’t explain the meaning.  Skanda said, “Without knowing the meaning of the first word you use to do your job, you are incompetent to create the beings!”  He knocked Brahma on his forehead with his knuckles, and imprisoned him in Skanda Giri.  Skanda took up the role of Creator and continued with the creation.

The Devas (Divine Beings) were worried and surprised by the absence of Brahma.  They went to Lord Vishnu complaining that his son, Brahma was missing, asking for Vishnu to help them find him.  Vishnu, the Protector-God , came to know what had happened. He wanted to leave it to Shiva to attend to this matter, since Vishnu couldn’t win the argument with Skanda.  Vishnu, with the other Devas, went to Shiva and explained the situation.

Shiva decided to deal with this himself and went down to see his beloved son, little Skanda.  He with all three of his eyes stood watching Skanda play.  Then he went near his little boy with affection, embraced him and requested him to release Brahma.  Honoring his father’s request, Skanda released Brahma immediately.  Shiva was pleased by his son’s obedience and sat him on his lap.

Then, Shiva asked, “Do you know the meaning of the pranava?”  Being the son of the Supreme Being, Skanda smiled.  He mischievously replied that he does but will only tell the meaning if Shiva was prepared to learn the mantra in a proper manner, as a shishya (disciple) learning it from a Guru.

Agreeing to Skanda’s conditions, giving the proper respect to a Guru by a disciple, Shiva knelt with folded hands and bowed head, before his young son Skanda, the Guru, with great veneration and learnt the mantra from him.  Then Shiva blessed his son, giving him the name Swaminatha, meaning “Guru to the Guru himself.” Brahma went back to his duties, never to ignore anyone again, no matter how young they were.

The hillock on which this took place thus came to be known as “Swamimalai.” Today, thousands of devotees yet go to this holy place, seeking “True Knowledge” from Swaminatha.

Through this act of giving the proper respect to Skanda, Shiva, wanted to show the importance of the Guru.  He also wanted to show that we should never disrespect anyone however young, small or insignificant you may think they are.

Om Namah Shivaya.

 

Mystical Meaning

By Swami Nirmalananda

Devas, Gods and Goddesses, oh my!   Is the Creator-God really different from the Protector-God?  And who is Shiva anyway?

Mythology activates a part of your brain that nothing else touches, which is why superheroes are so popular.  I read Ovid’s Metamorphosis to my children, followed by the rich and meaningful tales from ancient India.  But the Western-trained mind asks, “Just how many Gods are there?”

The answer is simple.  One.

Though called by different names in different languages, different times, traditions and religions, the One is still the One.  Just like water, agua and pani all refer to the same liquid, each name points to something beyond the word being used.

You probably have many names, from a childhood nickname, relationship names like “Sis” or “Mom,” screen names, a professional name, pet names used by those closest to you, and maybe even a Sanskrit name to invoke your deepest sense of spirituality.  Each name brings forth a different quality from you, while you are more.

In India, the One Reality is called by different names when performing different functions.  When creating, the One is called Brahma, expressing qualities that makes creating possible:  innovative, focused on the moment instead of the future, and with quick-trigger reflexes.  Yoga’s sages described Brahma, even seeing him in Divine visions, thus making us able to depict him in paintings, statues and stories.

…………………………Vishnu………………………………Shiva………………………………..Brahma…………………………..

Vishnu is the name of the One Reality while nurturing and protecting that which Brahma created.  And the Goddesses are the energies that they use in their various tasks.  Since we’re talking about the One Divine Reality, how many functions are possible?  Thus, how many names are possible?  Millions!  But they are all forms of the One.  The Sanskrit word, “deva,” is the root word for the English word, “divine.”  Devas are Gods, Devis are Goddesses, each of which is the One Reality in a different guise.

This glorious multiplicity is not limited to the celestial sphere, for the One has become everything that exists, including you and me.  The goal of yoga is to know yourself as the Divinity you are, thus being able to see the One shining as all.  Yogis usually name the One as Shiva, which is technically “Paramashiva,” meaning the One who is beyond your idea of who the One is.

Skanda on Shiva’s lap – yogaxtc.com

In this story, the many forms of the One play out a drama complete with insult, confrontation, imprisonment, a “presidential pardon,” all superimposed on against a mystical background of the ever-reverberating primordial sound.  Then sweetest of all, the great Shiva takes on the role of a humble student, learning from his own son, Skanda, while knowing that Skanda got everything from Shiva himself.

Nirooshitha says that she chose this story because it’s all about the Guru principle.  “This story is from Skanda Purana, as is Shree Guru Gita.  This is one of the stories, which I was told and read many times while growing up. For me this story is about Shiva being himself and being his own son.”

It’s really a picture of your own condition.  While you are currently experiencing the limitation of human individuality, you are more.  To find the more, you go to one who knows, one who serves by sharing that knowing with you – the Guru.  While bowing to the Guru, you’re bowing to your Self, one really you but simply in another form.  It’s all done with mirrors!

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

The Perfect

By Yogeshwari (Melissa) Fountain

You are a Divine incarnation with the capacity to access the infinite within you.  Yoga describes that the vastness of Consciousness chooses to manifest, through many levels of contraction, to become matter.  From the formless to the form, all is made of the One.  Everything is Consciousness!

“Yoga promises you that you will know yourself to the deepest and fullest extent, recognizing your own Divinity and seeing it in everyone and everything else.” — Swami Nirmalananda

The point of yoga’s practices is that you know and experience this within yourself.  This is easy when you are emerging from a deep meditation or at the end of a yoga class.  Your quiet mind makes you able to experience peace.  You’ve found an entry into the infinite within, which is called “svaroopa,” your own Divine Essence.

Yet most of the time, you’re not experiencing yourself as Divine.  While the infinite reality is concealed in every object, you can’t see the it because you’re trapped in your preferences.  If you like how something is going, it’s yoga; if not, it can’t possibly be yoga.  A yoga student returned home one day to see her kitchen flooded.  She stood there and made a decision: “I guess this is my yoga for the day”.  She rolled up her sleeves, opened her heart, got to work, and was in a state of bliss throughout the clean-up.

Not everything goes your way.  Not everyone one is interested in yoga or inner peace.  Swamiji says, “If you’re looking for the world and the people around you to show you their Divinity, you’re going to have a long wait.”  The only way you can find the Divinity that pervades all of existence is by looking inward.   You must find God in yourself first.

I learned a beautiful Sanskrit verse in yoga teacher training which begins with:

OM poornamadah pooornamidam…

OM. That is perfect. This is perfect.

 

“That” is your Divine Beingness, already perfect and full.  “This” is everyone and everything in this world, already perfect and full.  If you had told me B.Y. (before yoga) that “everything is perfect, the perfect becoming the perfect,” I’d have thought you were crazy.  For I was a master of the “yes…buts.”  A lifelong skeptic, I was trying to make the world fit into my expectations.  To me, “the perfect” meant perfectionism.  If I perfected the poses, if I was the perfect wife and mother, even the perfect yogi, then my life would fall into place.  These delusions captivated me for years!  When I chanted that mantra, it felt like a promise of things to come.  Deep inside, somehow I knew I was more than my mind was telling me.

In order to behold the perfect in everything, you must first find it within.  You’ve already proved to yourself that figuring things out doesn’t make you enlightened.  You cannot really enlighten yourself.  Only One who knows the Self can reveal your inherent Divinity to you.

Swami Nirmalananda describes it this way, “I was so fortunate to find such a One.  I didn’t know that I was looking for my Self.  I didn’t know that my mind was what was in the way.  My Guru showed me what I was looking for and how to get deeper in, past my mind.  I live in undying gratitude to Him, and delight in serving others who want the same.”

Even though this world is chaotic and unpredictable, it is the form of formless Consciousness.  Everything coming at you is another form of the Divine.  Everything!  Your mind doesn’t have to understand.  Why?  Because you are more than your mind.  How do you find your Self?

  • Pause in the midst of your activities.  Take a breath.  Even sigh!
  • Offer whatever you are doing to your own Divine Self, the One who is being you while being all.

In this way, you will begin to explore yoga’s promise: to know your Self to the deepest and fullest extent.

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

Life’s Choices

By Mati (Sandra) Gilbert

Choices!  You make many choices each day, some easy and some hard.  When I was younger, I had to decide between change and security.  A single mom with an 8 year-old son, I had just purchased a home.  My job was very secure but I had advanced as far as I could.  Though I was good at it and it was easy for me, I was no longer satisfied with the status quo.  An opportunity came along.  There was a path for advancement but it did not offer any degree of security.  Was I willing to take a chance?  Decision time!

Family, job, projects, and other areas of your life bring you to the brink sometimes.  Life is not always easy.  If you continue to choose the easy path, looking for events and situations to flow easily, you are at the mercy of events and the people who cause them.  No matter how much effort you put into setting up your life perfectly, there will always be something beyond your control.  It often changes the outcome you had planned.  The only thing you have any control over is how you are during life’s challenges.  How are you?

“There are easy parts to life, but hard parts come along in spite of your efforts to avoid them.  Yoga says you must tackle the hard stuff, not merely handle the tough stuff when it comes up, but to look for the challenges and even create them for yourself.  This is called tapas.”                                                                                                                                 — Swami Nirmalananda

Tapas is doing the hard stuff even though it is hard.  Tapas is choosing to challenge yourself by doing hard stuff, precisely because it is hard.  When you get good at it, it is no longer hard for you, and it is no longer tapas.  Doing tapas means you get to choose the challenges you are going to work on, rather than having other thrust them on you.

Swamiji describes a 4-step process to help you make tough decisions.  The steps are

  1. Take an intelligent look at yourself
  2. Discern what would be the next step
  3. Decide to do it
  4. Then do it

While this process is straightforward, your choice should be based on what is best, not what you desire most.  This is a pure choice, without expecting a specific outcome.  In other words, you see what is needed and you just do it.

Tapas is very important.  When you decide to do the hard stuff without neediness or discontent, your body and your senses are purified and improved.  You gain a new understanding of your life and the world around you.  The benefits you get from doing tapas greatly exceeds the effort you expended.

Because of the teachings of my Guru, Swami Nirmalananda, and the Grace that flows through her, I am on the path to knowing my inner divinity — my Self.  Therefore, the hard stuff does not throw me like it used to.  Whether something is hard or easy is not the deciding factor in what I decide to do.  I can and must choose where to pour my energy.  Sometimes it is easy, flowing along almost effortlessly.  Sometimes it is hard, requiring work to accomplish the tiniest little bit of progress.

In yoga, the determining factor in what you are doing is not based on how easy or hard it is — it is based on who you are while you are doing it.  Through the practice of tapas, your own Self shines through your mind, your heart, your relationships, your work, and your life.  Your life will continue to have challenges.  However, it is much easier once you know your Self — your own inherent Divinity.