Monthly Archives: November 2017

Story of Kannappa Nayanar

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Nagan was a tribal chief in the jungle area of Potthapi.  He and his wife Thaththai didn’t have children for a very long time and were praying to Lord Karttikeya (Shiva’s son).  They were blessed with a son whom they named Thinnan.

Thinnan grew up to be a reputed archer in his tribe; he often led his people on hunting expeditions.  On one such hunt, Thinnan was separated from his friends chasing a wild boar and found himself in an unknown part of the jungle.  Trying to find his way out, he came across a shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The shrine was a small one, consisting of just a Shiva Linga, but was clean and neat.  Thinnan found himself inexplicably attracted to the Linga.  He was filled with a desire to make an offering to the Deity.  Thinnan had no idea about the rituals to perform the proper ceremonies to the Lord.  He was so consumed with love that he decided to offer the meat he had with him.

This shrine, called Thirukalahasti, was a very ancient one, cared for by a brahman who lived in the nearest town, many miles away.  The poor brahman was an ardent devotee of Shiva, but could not make the long journey every day, so he came to the shrine once a fortnight, bringing the items of puja (worship) with him.  He cleaned and prayed to the Deity and made his offerings before returning home.

The brahman returned to the shrine the day after Thinnan had made his offerings, and was shocked to see meat lying next to the Linga.  He assumed that some animals must have left the meat there.  He cleaned it well with fresh water from a nearby stream before continuing with his routine.  The brahman left that day satisfied that he had done his duty.

The next day, Thinnan returned, bringing more meat.  He did not know any prayers or rituals, so he spent some time talking to the Lord and pouring out his heart.  This gave him so much pleasure & peace that he started coming every day, bringing with him the catch of the day.

One day as he walked towards the shrine he saw some beautiful flowers. He plucked some for his Lord and saved them in his hair, as he was carrying the day’s catch in both arms.  Then he noticed a small stream flowing nearby and had an idea, “How nice it would be to give a bath to the Lord!”  He then bent and filled water into his mouth and went to the shrine where he spit the water from his mouth on the Linga, thus bathing the Lord.  He happily made his offerings and spoke to the Lord before leaving for the day.

The next time the brahman returned to the shrine, the sight he saw repulsed him.  There was meat all over the place again, and this time, the Shiva Linga was covered by spittle.  “This was not the work of an animal, but a human being! How could anyone thus defile the Lord?”  He patiently cleaned up the shrine before chanting the mantras, purifying the Linga and making his offerings.  Again, he left, having done his duty, hoping & praying that such disrespect would not occur again.

But he saw the same thing every time he arrived there.  Heartbroken by the situation, he could not control his tears and addressed Shiva aloud, “O Lord, you are the purest of all, the greatest of all Gods.  How can you allow such indignities to happen to you yourself? You are the protector of the universe.  Please protect yourself from such acts.”

Lord Shiva was moved by the brahman’s plea and spoke out to his devotee, “My dear devotee, what you consider indignities is the offering made to me by another devotee.  He knows nothing of rituals and practices but, like you, he loves me with all his heart.  I am bound by his devotion, and have to accept all that he offers me.  If you wish to see the extent of his love for me, hide somewhere and see what happens.  It is time for him to come.”

The brahman was curious about this devotee whom the Lord himself praised.  The brahman hid himself behind some bushes.  Thinnan came very soon, as usual carrying meat in his hands, flowers in his hair and water in his mouth.

As usual Thinnan started his routine of bathing the Shiva Linga & offering what he brought to the Lord.  Suddenly, he noticed that there was something oozing from the Lord’s left eye.  Horrified, he ran and collected herbs and applied them to the eye, hoping to cure the problem.  It only made it worse, for blood started oozing.  He tried out a few more remedies, none of which worked.

Finally, he decided that the only way he could solve the problem was by offering the Lord his own eye.  Taking one of his knives, he cut his left eye out of its socket, and placed it on the Linga.  At once, the blood stopped oozing, and Thinnan heaved a sigh of relief.  He started dancing around with joy.

Suddenly, he was shocked to notice that the Lord’s right eye was now bleeding in the same way.  He now knew the solution and decided to offer his other eye too.  But once he had taken his right eye out, how would he see where to place it? He pondered for a minute and came up with a solution.  Lifting one of his feet, he placed it on the place where the Lord had his right eye.  With his knife, proceeded to take out his right eye from its socket.

Shiva could not bear to see this great sacrifice by his devotee and appeared in front of him.  At once, Thinnan regained his sight and prostrated fully before the Lord.  The brahman too came out from hiding and bowed before the Lord.

Lord Shiva blessed both of them and praised them for their devotion, given in their own way.  He especially lauded Thinnan, and declared him to be a saint – a Nayanar, as the greatest of Shiva’s devotees were known.  Since he had given up his eyes (“kann” means “eye” in Tamil) for the Lord, he would henceforth be known as Kannappa Nayanar.

Om Namah Shivaya

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h

The Importance of Your Mind

by Mangala Allen

Your mind is important. Respect your mind’s power and direct it for your benefit. You can enjoy what your mind gives you or you can suffer from the condition of your mind.

“The condition of your mind is of the greatest importance according to yoga.”  — Swami Nirmalananda (The Pairs of Opposites)

When your mind is busy, you experience an endless stream of thoughts. They can even tumble around running into one another. Sometimes it’s hard to follow one train of thought without getting derailed and following a different train. Following multiple trains at the same time is now mainstream.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Some reports say you think 65,000 thoughts a single day. These thoughts are seldom relevant to the present moment. You think about the past and how you wanted things to be different.  You think about the future, about how you would like things to be. You spend an abundance of time thinking about how you might proceed in order to achieve what you desire.

It is so easy it is to get lost in your thoughts. You even begin to believe you are your thoughts. You believe what your mind tells you, whether true or not. Your mind can create many stories based on untruths.

A friend of mine, whose opinion I greatly respected, came to see a performance I was in. I looked for her afterward, anxious to hear what she thought of the production. She was nowhere to be found. For her to rush out so quickly, I was sure I must have been just awful. I began to think about how difficult it would be for me to get cast in another show after performing so poorly. I tied myself up in knots imagining all sorts of scenarios. It turned out she hadn’t made it to the performance after all. All my imaginings were for naught. I created my own suffering. I let my mind convince me of things that were simply untrue.

“The condition of your mind is of the greatest importance, according to yoga.”
— Swami Nirmalananda

Yoga reveres a quiet mind. Yoga’s practices quiet your mind for you. It is when your mind becomes quiet that you can truly experience and appreciate the wonder of your essence, called “Self.”

You experience your own Self in meditation. Each time your mind becomes still you have an experience of Self.  Learn to steep in this profound experience. You saturated your mind with the Self and bring more and more of you into your life. You live from a deeper level instead of from your head or heart. Your mind becomes very different. It is not disturbed by anything.

“Everyone has a conflict going on between the heart and the head, between stillness and mental agitation.”
— Swami Muktananda (From the Finite to the Infinite, page 388)

I am fortunate to have a teacher who has helped me understand the importance of the condition of my mind.  She taught me the practices she learned from her teacher. I am learning day by day to live from my own Self and let my mental agitation go. I am truly on a path of Grace.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo namaha

To your Inherent Divinity again and again I bow



Yogic Nourishment

By Mati (Sandra) Gilbert

Food is important.  People eat to get nourished and to feel satisfied.  Though food can never fully nourish you and fully satisfy you, you try.  Yet what is lacking is your own Self for the food that is nourishing to a yogi is to know your own divinity.

You decide whether to pursue excess eating and drinking as well as fighting and the other instinctual pleasures of the world.  Animals pursue these activities.  What separates you from them is the ability to find and know your own Divinity.  Only human beings have the capacity to know the divine Consciousness vibrating within.  The study of sutras is one of the yogic practices that moves you toward your Self.

J-naanam anna.m

Knowledge is Food.  Pure knowledge is the only real nourishment, that which gives full satisfaction.  — Shiva Sutras 2.9, rendered by Swami Nirmalananda

You gain yogic knowledge in order to pursue the bliss of knowing your inherent Divinity.    Once you know and abide in the knowledge that you are Divine, you experience the world on a whole new level.  You still participate in activities of the world, but those activities do not consume you.  You remain established in the knowledge of your Self.

For the last several months, the challenges in my personal life has kept me in a constant turmoil.  As a yogi, I had the tools — mantra and meditation — to keep me grounded to some degree.  I used those tools but there were periods of time when my personal challenges seemed to win.  My small “s” self was powerful.

Swami Nirmalananda, my teacher, came to our yoga studio to hold a meditation satsang last month.  Just seeing her face made me feel better and more secure.  She gave a lecture on the ocean, how both the waves and deep water interact and how they are different.  My personal challenges were the waves, which kept me in a constant state of frustration and impatience.

Seeing and hearing the wisdom in her words made me yearn for the deep ocean where it is calm.  In this state, I am my capital-S Self: knowing I am more that my current emotional state.  I am Divine.  Do I lose my Self from time to time?  Yes. However, each time is shorter and less stressful.  I become more centered in my Self every time I say mantra and meditate.  Swamiji’s presence and love keeps me more grounded in my Self.

Yes, food is important.  It is a way to keep your body and mind healthy.  Getting the teachings about the Self truly nourishes your inner yearning.  Once I found my teacher, and through the Grace that flows through her to me, I now know I am Divine.   And my goal for today and the future is to always live in the knowingness that I am Consciousness-itself.  Even though you are always the Self, knowledge of the Self is the rarest of gifts, and it comes only through the Grace of the Guru.

A Divine Transition

By Yogeshwari Fountain

I thought I understood the nature of Aatmaa, your Divine Self.  It made sense to me that “the formlessness of your inner Essence, Aatmaa, is eternal and never decays.  You are an infinite being, having a human experience.” Yes!  However, I now realize that what you learn with your mind is nothing compared to what you experience in your heart.  You may think you understand something, but until you experience it on the inside, it remains a theory.

I recently had the privilege of tending to and being present with my mother through the last week of her life.  Day by day, I experienced the truth of Shankaracharya’s Vivekachudamani:

“Aatmaan is birthless and deathless.  It neither grows nor decays.  It is unchangeable, eternal.  It does not dissolve when your body dissolves.”

As her body systematically shut down, she shed her limitations; the radiance of the One Self being her expanded exponentially.  I sat in awe.  I chanted mantras.  I lay beside her in bed and read to her, and did mundane things like manicures and looking through photos.  I listened to her process, how she was figuring out what was left to be resolved, as she shared her vivid dream life and random thoughts.  She was shifting in and out of God’s time, the Eternal Self.

I stayed steady in my own Self, going along on an amazing cosmic ride through time and space.  This openness utterly took me by surprise.  Fear of my mother’s death had haunted me since childhood.  As a dear friend reminded me, I’d told her to expect me calling in hysterics when Mom passed.  Yet, when she did, I was sad yet fearless, and grateful for it all.  Even as I was surrounded by other’s deep grief, I felt full inside, closer to my mom than ever.  What happened? How did she cross the ocean of this world without me being shattered?

First, I was aware that Aatmaa was not born when my mother was born!  Aatmaa is being all that exists in form, and beyond form, while being you, me and everything.  This Self that you are is sustaining you, bringing your mind and senses into existence: making your eyes able to see, your ears hear, your tongue taste, and your mind think.  Yet when each of these senses dissolve, which I witnessed happening in my mom, Aatmaa does not die.  There is no death, even as the physical body decays and expires.

As my mom’s desires and identities faded away, there was only Presence left.  It didn’t feel like our relationship was slipping away, but actually solidifying.  There was more of me with her than ever before.  I was experiencing svaroopavidya; the experiential knowing of my own Self.

Most people view death as a transition into a better “place,” moving into the light or finding God at last.  But a yogi doesn’t wait until death for the liberation of the light, of God, of knowing the Self.  The purpose of a yogi’s whole life is to live in the Self NOW.  Teachers take it to another level, spreading that inner effulgence into the world.  Without the practices of yoga, I would not have been was able to abide in such peace during my mom’s transition.

I was also given the great gift of time (years of caregiving with my mom) and a supportive and loving husband.  And throughout it all, I felt cocooned within my Guru’s grace.  I realized that without Shaktipat initiation, I would have been burdened by the weight of my past karmas, stuck in my head, stuck in my “stuff.”  Instead, I felt clear and present.  Without mantra repetition, my mind might have spun into old limited fears around death.  And without the foundation of meditation, I would have been lost!  In Swami Muktananda’s book Does Death Really Exist?, he describes it this way:

“When we meditate, we become established in the seat of the inner Self, and then we are liberated from death.”

I will be learning from my mother’s departure for many years to come.  It will be an integral part of my sadhana, and of what I know myself to be, Consciousness-Itself.  On the day of her death, my family and I walked along the beach.  It was a glorious Indian summer day.  The monarch butterflies were everywhere!  “A sign from mom” they said joyfully, “there she is!” I said to myself, “Yes, and there I am”.  For in yoga, there is no here or there, no you or me, no beginning and no end.  There I am, there you are, being Shiva, for there is only the One, being All.

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah