Author Archives: Swami Nirmalananda

Krishna Avatar Part 31

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

In Dwaraka’s palace, Arjuna contemplated the situation all night.  He realized he had to act immediately to stop the marriage of Duryodhana to Subhadra, the youngest sister of Krishna, born to Vasudeva and his wife Rohini.  As she was already promised to be married to Duryodhana, a promise made by Balarama, her other brother, there was no way for Arjuna to win her through the traditional way.  For him to marry Subhadra, the only other way would be to kidnap her by force. 

In this case, force would probably not be necessary since Subhadra was already in love with him.  She was not at all happy about her arranged marriage.  Maybe an elopement!  That’s it.  Arjuna realized that was the meaning of Krishna’s hint given the night before!  Now Arjuna need only to wait for an opportunity to carry out his plan.

Subhadra’s older brother Balarama gave her the duty to take care of the needs of their guest, Arjuna, who was thought to be a sage.  It was considered a great blessing for a young maiden to serve a sage, so that she would get the blessings of a good husband and many children.  Arjuna thoroughly enjoyed every visit of Subhadra, thanking God for this unexpected gift.  He fell in love with her even more so, seeing her every time she came to serve him.

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Not knowing the true identity of the sage, Subhadra was delighted in serving him and being there, readily available for all his needs.  After a few visits, she became a bit suspicious about his behavior.  She found his interactions with her to be far from a saintly manner.  When she watched him closely, she noticed his callused forefinger, common for an archer.  

With this young sage, both of his forefingers were callused, which was a sign of a great archer.  Not only was it a sign, it was a proof that the sage must be none other than Arjuna.  Arjuna was the only archer who could have this as he was famous for shooting equally well with his right and left hands.  When she asked, Arjuna didn’t have any choice other than to reveal his true identity to her.  Ever since this discovery, their courtship progressed smoothly.  As his stay continued, the rainy season started to end, meaning Subhadra’s wedding day was approaching.  Now was the time to act.

They both had Krishna as their biggest ally.  First and foremost, he gave Arjuna his chariot and advised Subhadra to drive the chariot away from Dwaraka towards Indraprastha.  This was a crucial piece of advice, to make it look like Subhadra kidnapped Arjuna, not the other way around.  

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The next morning, Arjuna borrowed Krishna’s chariot and waited near the temple where Subhadra had gone for a puja.  As she came out of the temple, Arjuna drove the chariot in front of her so that she could easily get in.  When the soldiers on duty saw this, they thought that Subhadra was being abducted by the sage.  

Arjuna caught Subhadra by the arm to seat her in the chariot, preparing for her to drive away.  At that moment, the soldiers started to attack Arjuna.  Remembering Krishna’s advice, Subhadra took the reins of the horses.  Arjuna immediately started to fire arrows at the soldiers, revealing his true identity.  The soldiers ran towards the palace to inform Balarama of the incident.  

Balarama got into a rage, uncommon for him.  He pledged to punish Arjuna for what he had done, especially by breaking the trust by faking to be a sage.  Balarama felt that the entire Yadava clan had been dishonored by this act of Arjuna.  Since Arjuna was Krishna’s bosom friend, Balarama suspected Krishna’s involvement as well.  He wanted to confront Krishna about the event and sent word for him to come.  

When Krishna arrived, Balarama shouted at him, asking why Krishna was silent about his dear friend insulting them and the Yadava clan by kidnapping their sister.  He said to Krishna, “It’s an unbearable disgrace upon us.  Especially after we treated Arjuna so well, offering him shelter.  I cannot wait to hear why you let this happen, and you not yet getting ready to chase him down to fight!”

Krishna smilingly said, “Didn’t I warn you dear brother, about letting strangers stay at our palace, especially with our young sister around.  You are the one refused to believe me, and now you are trying to blame the event on me.  I heard from the soldiers that it was our loving sister, Subhadra who was driving the chariot and not Arjuna.  Therefore, this is not a kidnapping.  It is an elopement initiated by our sister.”  Balarama was a bit annoyed by Krishna’s sarcasm.  

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Then Balarama looked at Krishna and asked why he hadn’t said anything about the true identity of the sage, as well as the love affair between them. Krishna smilingly said, “As you had already promised Subhadra to Duryodhana, I didn’t want you to get involved in any elopement.  In this way, you are clear of all blame and guilt.  Since you knew nothing about this elopement, Duryodhana cannot blame you for breaking your promise.”  Balarama had no choice but to accept the marriage of Subhadra with Arjuna.

The couple was invited back with great honor and the wedding was celebrated grandly in Dwaraka.  After some time passed, it became time for the newlyweds to return to Arjuna’s home, Indraprastha.  Subhadra was getting ready to leave with Arjuna, bringing her huge dowry of precious metals, horses and maidens.  

But there was a problem in taking Subhadra to Indraprastha.  When all five Pandavas married Draupadi, they gave her their word that they would never bring any of their other wives whom they marry in the future to the palace where Draupadi lived.  Therefore, while they were allowed to marry many women, according to the tradition of kshatriyas, but Draupadi would be the only wife whom they would have in Indraprastha.  Arjuna decided to take his chances by returning from his exile to Indraprastha along with his new wife Subhadra.

He was welcomed by Kunti and his brothers.  But Draupadi was missing.  When he inquired about her, the brothers revealed that she was in a rage and didn’t want to see anyone.  They added that she was heartbroken, as Arjuna was breaking the promise by bringing his new wife, Subhadra, to Indraprastha.  

Hearing this Subhadra decided to mend things.  To save her husband from this difficult situation, she decided to visit Draupadi’s chamber in the attire of a cowherd woman.  When Draupadi asked who she was, she said that she came to serve her as her maid.  She then fell at Draupadi’s feet.  Draupadi got suspicious and asked her to come out with the truth.  Then Subhadra revealed who she was and promised Draupadi that she would never want to replace her or take her place in Indraprastha.  Seeing such humility, Draupadi accepted Subhadra as her younger sister.  

After some time, Subhadra bore a son to Arjuna.  He was the great Abhimanyu, who later became equal to his father in virtue, valor, and proficiency in archery.  A true son of Arjuna, he became the favorite of all the Pandava brothers and of Krishna.

Now let’s look at the marriages of Krishna, which also happened in this same time period.  

Mitravinda was a cousin of Krishna as her mother Rajadevi was an aunt to Krishna.  The princes of Avanti, Vinda and Anuvinda were friends of Duryodhana.  The princes arranged a swayamvara for their sister, Mitravinda, but without her consent. Mitravinda begged Krishna to rescue her.  She was devoted to Krishna and longed to marry him.  Knowing her devotion, Krishna obliged to her request.  He once again fought with all the other kings while abducting her, then formally married her in Dwaraka.

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Satya was the daughter of the King of Kosala, Nagnajita, who was married to Vasudeva’s sister.  This king owned seven vicious bulls with sharp horns.  He declared that whomever was capable of subduing these seven bulls would  win his daughter’s hand in marriage.  Many kings from all parts of the world wanted to marry Satya, so they attempted to calm the bulls but failed miserably.  

When Krishna visited Ayodhya, the capital of Kosala, King Nagnajita greeted him with highest honor and gave him a grand welcome.  His daughter Satya, seeing Krishna in person, immediately fell in love with his divine form and wanted to marry him.  As Nagnajita had already announced the competition, he had to request that Krishna accept the challenge, in order to fulfill Satya’s wish.

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Krishna entered into the arena which the bulls had been let loose.  He then multiplied himself into seven forms and calmed the bulls instantaneously with great ease.  The king along with his daughter were delighted to see this.  The happy father bestowed his blessing on the bride and groom in a grand wedding.  Krishna then took Satya with him back to Dwaraka.

Krishna’s marriage to his cousin Bhadraa was the only marriage that took place without any unpleasant occurrences.  Bhadraa was the daughter of Shrutakirtii, another aunt of Krishna.  Bhadra’s brothers married their sister to Krishna in a splendid wedding.  

Krishna also married Lakshmanaa (or Lakshanaa), the daughter of King of Madra.  In her swayamvara, he won her in an archery challenge similar to the one Arjuna won to marry Draupadi.  Thus, Krishna married about eight women during the course of this time.  He lived happily in Dwaraka until he received multiple complaints about the mighty King Narakasura.

Krishna Avatar Part 30

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Arjuna continued on his long journey and reached Manipura.  He went to the court of Chitravahana, King of Manipura, and introduced himself.  The king was delighted to have mighty Arjuna in his court and gave him a warm welcome.  The king requested Arjuna to be his royal guest, so he was given accommodation in the royal palace.  

One day Arjuna got a glimpse of the king’s daughter, Chitrangada.  He was totally bewitched by her masculine beauty and wanted to marry her.  He went straight to the king and requested his permission to marry her.  As Chitravahana did not have any other heir, he had trained Chitrangada in warfare and ruling the kingdom.  The king agreed for his daughter to marry Arjuna under one condition.  

Chitrangada, King Chitravahana & Arjuna
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As Chitrangada was his only child, thus the only one who could continue his dynasty, the king had decided to adopt her son and appoint him as the Crown Prince of Manipura.  This meant that a child, born to her, would be his successor, no one else.  Therefore, the condition was that Chitrangada’s son would remain in Manipura.  As Arjuna was so madly in love with her, he didn’t have a choice but to agree.  

The marriage took place in a grand scale and Arjuna stayed there for a few years.  In due course Chitrangada got pregnant and bore a son.  As was promised, Chitravahana adopted Arjuna’s son as his own.  It was time for Arjuna to move on with his journey.  Arjuna left his wife Chitrangada and his son, to stay in Manipura, as he continued his journey to the south.  

On the way to the south, he came across some sages.  Spending time with them he gained knowledge and wisdom.  He saw that the sages had problems getting water for their daily use.  When he asked about it, they revealed that there were five ponds nearby, but they were unable to get water from them, as each of the ponds was the home of a huge crocodile who ate anyone who came near the pond.  Hearing this Arjuna assured them that he would put an end to this terror.  

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Arjuna fearlessly got into one of the ponds.  The crocodile in that pond immediately came towards him to attack him.  Ullupi’s boon given to Arjuna, that he will remain unconquerable in water, came true.  Arjuna easily defeated the crocodile.  Catching it by its tail, he flung it out of the water and threw it to the ground, injuring it very badly.  As soon as the crocodile hit the ground it transformed into a heavenly damsel.  

The damsel paid her respect to Arjuna and said, “Oh Son of Pandu! All the crocodiles in these ponds are heavenly beings.  We have been cursed by a sage to remain in these waters as crocodiles for years now.  We have been waiting for a true warrior to liberate us from this curse.  As you liberated me, please do liberate the others as well.  Arjuna freed all of them from their curse.  The heavenly beauties thanked Arjuna and returned to heaven.  The sages were relieved of their problems and blessed Arjuna.  

Arjuna moved on with his journey.  As Arjuna’s years of pilgrimage were coming close to an end, he wished to end it in Dwaraka, where he could meet Krishna again.  The last time he saw and spent time with Krishna was when they took up their residence in Indraprastha.  

He remembered going out on a hunting trip with Krishna.  At the end of the day, they were tired and thirsty.  They went to the banks of Yamuna to quench their thirst and refresh themselves.  When they reached the riverbank, they were struck by the beauty of a damsel wandering along the banks.  When questioned by him, she revealed herself as Kalindi, the daughter of Sun God.  She had been living in a house beneath the river due to a vow she had taken to marry the incarnation of Vishnu.  She had been observing severe austerities until she met one.  

Krishna and Kalindi
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Arjuna with a smile told her the time has come to receive the fruits of her penance, for the one she was looking for is only a few yards away from her.  He pointed to Krishna and Kalindi prostrated at Krishna’s feet, pleading him to accept her as his consort.  Krishna, with delight, accepted her and all three of them returned to Indraprastha.  After getting blessings from Yudhishthira, Kalindi returned to Dwaraka with Krishna. Krishna married her there, with the support of all in Dwaraka.

Arjuna also was thinking about Krishna’s sister Subhadra.  Arjuna had met her on one of his trips to Dwaraka.  They had been attracted to each other.  No one knew about this other than Krishna.  Arjuna was looking forward to meeting Krishna and Subhadra.  With all that in his mind, Arjuna continued his journey towards Dwaraka.  

Subhadra was Krishna’s younger sister.  She had grown up to be a lovely young lady.  She was highly pampered by her two older brothers, Balarama and Krishna.  Her happiness was everything to them.  As the eldest brother, Balarama was anxious to get her married to a suitable groom.  Duryodhana had heard about her exceptional beauty and showed his interest to marry her.  Not knowing Subhadra’s desire to be with Arjuna, Balarama agreed to Duryodhana’s proposal of marriage.  He was quite pleased about this alliance, as he always had a soft corner towards Duryodhana; Duryodhana was Balarama’s favorite student.  Not to mention, he was thrilled about the alliance with the great family of the Kuru dynasty, too.  

Krishna was not at all happy about this news, but it was too late as Balarama had already given his word to Duryodhana.  Nonetheless, Krishna didn’t want his dear sister to suffer at the hands of the cruel-natured Kaurava Prince, Duryodhana.  So he had to come up with a strategy to save his sister from marrying this ill-natured man, and to marry the one whom she carried in her heart.  

Arjuna arrived at the gates of Dwaraka.  After travelling so long his clothes were soiled and crumbled, and he had grown a long beard.  He looked like a sage.  No one recognized him in Dwaraka, though he was well-known there.  Arjuna chuckled about people not recognizing him.  He found a tree, sat under it and closed his eyes.  People started coming towards him, as they mistook him for a real sage.  The crowd gathered around him and some started gossiping about the news of Subhadra’s wedding to Duryodhana.  

Arjuna, Krishna and Subhadra https://vedicfeed.com/love-story-of-arjuna-and-subhadra/

Arjuna was devasted to hear this news.  He didn’t know until that moment how much Subhadra meant for him.  He couldn’t afford to lose her.  He closed his eyes, deeply lost in his thoughts.  He wondered about Krishna’s involvement in this, as he knew that Krishna was aware of his attraction towards Subhadra and her’s towards him.  He decided to sit in stillness, meditating.  He expressed no desire for anything, including food.  People were quite convinced that he was a great sage.

The news about a sage visiting Dwaraka reached the ears of Balarama.  He immediately came to visit the sage, not knowing he was Arjuna.  He paid his respect to the sage but Arjuna was quite embarrassed about this, as he was very much younger than Balarama.  He tried to hide his face as he was nervous that Balarama would recognize him.  But, to his surprise, Balarama didn’t have a clue about the one who was hiding behind the clothes of a sage.  

Arjuna’s years of spending time with great beings during this time period really helped him to suit the act.  Balarama was pleased with meeting the sage.  He went back to get Krishna to come along with him.  When Krishna arrived, and recognized Arjuna, he gave a quizzical look.  Arjuna couldn’t take it and closed his eyes.  Balarama humbly invited the sage to stay at the palace, as the rainy season had started.  It is customary for sages to stay with householders during monsoon times.  Arjuna glanced at Krishna and agreed to the request, as he knew that Krishna recognized him.  

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Krishna showed dissatisfaction with his brother’s decision.  He muttered into Balarama’s ear, though in such a way Arjuna could hear.  He said, “Oh dear brother, beware of bringing strange young men into our residence, even if they are holy men.  Don’t forget that our beloved sister is a maiden waiting to be married.  The sage doesn’t look old enough to renounce the pleasures of life.  You better think twice before you bring him into our home.”  

Balarama looked at Krishna in such a way to tell him to mind his own business.  Balarama went on with his plan, inviting Arjuna the sage into their home.  They all went back to the palace.  Balarama made sure the Sage was comfortable in his room.  What Krishna had said to Balarama was playing in Arjuna’s mind over and over again.  He knew there was a hidden message for him in what Krishna said.  He kept thinking about it all night.

Krishna Avatar Part 29

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Only a few who lived in the Khandava forest escaped the fire.  Among them were the four Saranga birds. They lived with their mother bird, Jarita.  Her husband had left her for another female bird.  The male bird was a sage named Mandapala.  He had to come back from the heavens to fulfill the karma of having children in order to stay in the heavens.  He had to experience a married life and have offspring, therefore he had to be born again.  Eager to return to the heavens, he chose to be born as a Saranga bird so that he could have many children and complete his karma within a short time.  Once the eggs were laid by Jarita, even before his offspring were born, he left her for another female named Lapita.  

Jarita’s four nestlings
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When the fire began the four nestlings panicked at first.  The older nestling urged their mother to leave them so she could save herself from the fire and maybe have more children. The elder nestling said, “Mother, if you are killed, we will not have any children for our family.  Further we will not have anyone to look after us.  Do what is right to protect our race without being influenced by affection only to us, which would be the destruction for all of us.”  Jarita was taken by the wise advice from the older nestling.  Taking the advice, she decided to protect the nestlings in the best possible way she could.  She was putting them into the hollow of a tree so she could seal its mouth with mud before flying to safety.  But the nestlings refused. Unable to convince them, the mother flew away, leaving them in God’s hands. 

The nestlings prayed to Agni, the God of fire, not to harm them by singing his praise.  Agni was pleased with their prayers and kept them safe from his flames.  They survived the fire.  When Jarita returned to check on them, she was so pleased to see them alive and well.  In the meantime, Mandapala, the male bird who became worried about his offspring, wanted to return to see them.  This made Lapita, the bird he had left his family for, furious.  Ignoring her, Mandapala flew back to the forest and found his offspring unharmed and safe with their mother Jarita, thus realizing that he was not needed anymore. 

New city of Indraprastha
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The splendid new city of Indraprastha sprung up from the ashes, where once Khandavaprastha stood, by the grace of Krishna and the great work of the Divine architect Vishwakarma.  Along with Krishna, the Pandavas were delighted to see the city being built in such a short time.  Indraprastha was glittering with glamour.  Soon they performed the inauguration ceremony of the palace by doing the relevant rituals and pujas.  The five Pandavas began living in the magnificent palace.  It took them a while to get familiar with the work of the Deva architect Vishwakarma and the illusion artist, the Asuric architect Mayasura.  Just figuring out where the floors, walls, doors, windows and water ponds were was a lot to learn.  The palace was mind boggling.  The city of Indraprastha soon excelled the grandness of Hastinapura. 

Sage Narada visits the Pandavas
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The Pandavas ruled Indraprastha with their cousin Krishna as their advisor and guide.  One day Sage Narada came to visit the Pandavas.  He had come with a purpose, as always, this time to explain that they must not fight over Draupadi, with her being the common bride.  So he told them a story.  The story was about Sunda and Upasunda, the two powerful demons who loved each other dearly.  To get the boon of unconquerable power they went to the Vindhya mountain range to perform severe penance.  Delighted with their penance, Brahma appeared and asked what they wanted. The brothers knew what exactly they wanted.  They asked for strength, mastery over all weapons, ability to create illusions, take any form and, of course, immortality.  Brahma gave them everything except immortality.   And he told them to ask for something else instead of immortality.  They thought for a while and asked that they could be killed only by each other, as they were very sure of their friendship.  As requested, the boon was granted by Brahma.  

The undefeatable brothers not only defeated the mighty Devas, but also terrorized all three words.  The Devas devised a plan, sending a beautiful maiden Tilottama to disrupt the friendship.  She tempted the brothers and made them fall in love with her.  Sunda and Upasunda fought over her ferociously and killed each other.  After hearing the story from Sage Narada, the Pandavas decided that each one would spend a month with Draupadi while none of the other brothers would intrude during that time frame.  If any of them violated the arrangement that person would willingly go into exile for 12 years. 

One day a brahmin came weeping intensely to the palace. He complained that his cows had been stolen by thieves. He came seeking help from King Yudhishtra for the restoration of his cows. Arjuna consoled the brahmin, promising that his cows would soon be returned to him. Arjuna decided to take matters into his hands and to go after the thieves to help the brahmin. But he realized he had left his bow and arrows in Draupadi’s bed chamber. It was his older brother Yudhishthira’s turn to be with Draupadi. 

Arjuna now had to make a decision. He didn’t want the brahmin to curse his brother, the king, due to not getting help.  But on the other hand, he had to violate the arrangement with his brothers by going to Draupadi’s chamber when he is not supposed to go there.  Arjuna was caught in a dilemma. Finally, he chose to violate the agreement and prepared to be exiled in order to restore the brahmin’s cows. Arjuna chose to put his duty first, knowing that it would cost him banishment so he went into Draupadi’s chamber to get his bow and arrows. After restoring the brahmin’s cows, Arjuna went directly to his brother. After offering his respects, he conveyed his guilt of violating the arrangement and his plan to go into exile.  He humbly sought Yudhishthira’s permission to go into exile. 

Yudhishthira
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After listening to Arjuna, Yudhishthira said, “Dear brother, you have not committed any violation at all.  It would have been a violation only if you would have entered the palace for a personal reason. What you did was for a noble cause to perform a duty which was in fact mine. As you did this to protect your king and his subjects, I and my queen will not punish you.” But Arjuna has already made up his mind about exile. He reminded Yudhishthira that it was his teaching that one should not be dishonest at any circumstances.  So, he begged for his brother’s permission to atone his sins. Hearing this Yudhishthira didn’t have any other choice other than to allow Arjuna to go into exile.

A few admirers of Arjuna accompanied him to the forest. After journeying through dense forests and crossing several streams they finally arrived at the banks of the river Ganga. Arjuna spent most of his time during this exile in listening to religious discourses by sitting with scholarly brahmins and sages.  Living a peaceful life, he was becoming more and more virtuous.  All this made his face glow with the divine light.

One day a beautiful maiden, who happened to see him while performing a yaj~na, fell in love with him. His glowing face and muscular body made her madly in love with him so she made up her mind to marry him. This damsel is named Ulupi, the daughter of the Naga King Kauravya of the under waters of Ganga. The next day, when Arjuna went into the river for a ritual bath, the Naga princess Ulupi gripped him and pulled him into the river, taking him straight to her underwater kingdom, the abode of King Kauravya her father. Taken by her act Arjuna inquired about Ulupi. She revealed her lineage and admitted her love and desire to be his wife. 

Ulupi
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At first Arjuna declined her proposal, mentioning his celibacy on his pilgrimage. But he was convinced by Ulupi’s argument saying that his celibacy was limited only to Draupadi.  Arjuna accepted her proposal and agreed to marry her. A son named Iravan was born to them.  Arjuna then expressed his desire to go back to his companions.  Pleased by Arjuna, Ulupi granted him a boon that from that point forward all water creatures would obey and protect him.  He would remain unconquerable under water. 

Arjuna returned to the shore and told his companions all about Ulupi and the Naga Kingdom. The rest of the group then returned home, leaving Arjuna to continue his journey alone as he wished.

Awakening

By Swami Samvidaananda

I love spring.  Crocuses and daffodils bloom in the yard.  The trees’ limbs unfurl fresh new leaves and blossoms. Spring feels like a celebration of life.  Every day there are new signs of life.  Every day feels fresh and new.  I treasure that feeling.  I used to rely on the newborn beauty of spring to trigger it for me.

That changed when I found yoga.  Yoga says the entrancing newness of spring is always available to you.  It’s a quality of your Divine Essence.  This is described in a yogic text called the Shiva Sutras:

iccha-shaktir uma-kumari

In every moment, the yogi enjoys the newness of life, the gift of the Goddess. — Shiva Sutras 1.13

Uma-Kumari is the Goddess.  She is the energy that births the universe into existence.  She existed before time began, and she exists now, creating every moment anew.  She uses her Divine will, iccha-shakti, to blossom forth the world and everything that exists.  Everything that exists is made from her own existence, out of pure delight.  Including you.  You are an expression of the Goddess.  

You are made of her Divinity.  Except she and you are not two.  There’s only One.  One Divine Reality, called Goddess, called God, called Self.  Your Self.  You are the One Divine Reality.  Except you don’t know your Divinity, most of the time.  You get glimpses, like the way springtime gives me a fleeting glimpse of the glorious ever-newness of life.

So how does the yogi enjoy the newness of life in every moment?  This gift of the Goddess comes from another gift.  It’s the mystical initiation called Shaktipat.  Shaktipat awakens within you the knowing of your own Divinity.  That capacity to know has been lying dormant within you.  It is like a seed buried in the soil, awaiting spring.  My teacher, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, is a Shaktipat Guru.  She is a yoga master who has the capacity to spark awake your inner knowing.  When you receive this awakening, you’ll know your Self: immortal, ever-existent, ever-new. 

You probably won’t know all the time, right away.  A rare few do.  For the rest of us, we have our part to play.  Meditation is your most important practice.  The meditation in this lineage is called Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation.  Every time you meditate, you clear away more of the blockages that keep you from living your Divinity.  It’s like your seed has been awakened and is doing its best to grow.  But the soil is a little rocky.  Meditation clears away the mental and emotional pebbles and rocks that get in your way.

And day by day, meditation by meditation, the energy of your Divinity arises within you.  It’s the source of your aliveness, your joy and your happiness.  It’s the source of life itself.  So is it any surprise that you will become more fully alive, more fully present, more fully engaged in your life?  Whether the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing, or it’s a frigid winter day.  Or it’s a hurricane!  You’ll embrace it all, celebrating every Divine moment.  This is your destiny.  Gurudevi will give you Shaktipat if you want her to.  Are you ready?

Krishna Avatar Part 27

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Preparations for the royal reception of the Pandavas and their mother Kunti started shaping up. Dhrishtadyumna by his side, Drupada led the preparations personally. The palace was decorated with flowers, garlands, colorful flags and beautiful ornaments hanging from the ceilings. There was so much excitement among all the citizens of Panchala. All the arrangements for the wedding rituals also started to materialize.

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The Pandavas and their mother Kunti were officially welcomed with the highest possible honors. Then the marriage of Draupadi with the five Pandava princes took place in a grand way.

The story spread like wildfire — a brahmin showing his valor in the swayamvara, besting all the kings and princes in the archery trial, and thereafter defeating everyone who attacked him. This brought the talk that Arjuna was alive to the gates of Hastinapura. Simultaneously, the news about the Pandavas’ marriage to Draupadi reached the ears of Vidura through his spies. Vidura had kept spies all through the kingdoms since the Pandavas had escaped the burning house of lac with his help. Vidura decided it was the time to reveal the news of the Pandava’s survival to his brother, King Dhritarashtra.

He went to see his brother Dhritarashtra to share this most wonderful news. He said “Oh king, my beloved brother! The future of our dynasty is secured and strengthened with the most promising bride. The daughter of the mighty King Drupada has become the daughter-in-law of us, the Kuru family. Such a blessing this is to the kingdom of Hastinapura.” With so much love for his eldest son in his heart, Dhritarashtra believed Vidura was talking about Duryodhana. He was so happy! He told Vidura that he hadn’t had any doubt that Duryodhana would win the contest for Draupadi’s hand. Vidura then explained the whole story.

“Our dearest Pandavas are alive along with their mother Kunti. It was actually a young brahmin who won the hand of Draupadi. None of the kings and princes who attended the swayamvara were able to pass the archery trial swayamvara. And that young brahmin who won Draupadi’s hand at the swayamvara in Panchal is none other than your nephew Arjuna. All five of them married her due to the boon from Lord Shiva that she was blessed with. They are all safe and cared for at the hands of Drupada.”

Hearing this Dhritarashtra was terribly disappointed. But he couldn’t show his disappointment to Vidura, so he put on a happy face. With fake delight he said, “This is the most wonderful news I have ever received. All this while, I was mourning the death of Kunti and the Pandavas, not knowing they escaped from the dreadful fire. My dear brother Pandu’s sons and wife survived the fire. Not only are they alive and well, but also they married into one of the mightiest kingdoms. My heart is filled with happiness, bouncing with joy.” His heart truly split into two as he was saying this. Yet, as much as he hated the news of the Pandavas survival, part of him was truly relived of the guilt of his son killing his own brother’s children and wife.

Vidura (left) with Dhritarashtra en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vidura

When this news reached Duryodhana’s ears, he was angry and distressed. He felt terribly humiliated. He couldn’t believe that the Pandavas had been hiding for a year after escaping the fire. And now they had strengthened their position and their claim to the Kuru kingdom by marrying into one of the strongest kingdoms, the Panchala kingdom. The Pandavas were stronger than ever before. This thought made his anger, jealousy and vengeance grow double over what it had been. He, along with his brother Dushasana, immediately went to visit their uncle Shakuni to seek advice. He exclaimed to Shakuni that even the Gods were on the Pandavas side. How they could escape the deadliest fire and then get alliances by becoming in-laws of valiant Dhrishtadyumna and fearless Shikhandi. They asked Shakuni, “What do we do now?” Shakuni was sure to devise a plan for another cunning way to get rid of the Pandavas.

Later, along with Karna, they went to visit Dhritarashtra. They showed their dissatisfaction to their father for agreeing with Vidura to invite the Pandavas back into the kingdom. As Dhritarashtra was helpless, he asked Duryodhana to suggest the next steps. Duryodhana immediately started plotting. Some of his suggested plans were to divide Pandavas in some way by provoking Madri’s children, Nakula and Sahadeva, against the other three brothers, or bribing Drupada to go against the Pandavas. or by threatening them in some way that they would never return to Hastinapura. Karna laughed at Duryodhana and said that he was wasting his time with such useless ideas. He suggested that they go to war with them, saying that it was the only remedy.

Dhritarashtra didn’t like any of these ideas and decided to discuss the matter with Grandsire Bhishma and Guru Drona. Bhishma was in extreme delight about the news of the Pandavas being alive and that they were shortly returning to Hastinapura. Dhritarashtra asked Bhishma for his advice. After some discussions with Vidura, Bhishma said to make peace with the Pandavas by dividing the kingdom into half would be the right thing to do. He also said this is what the citizens of the Hastinapura desired. He added that people were already suspicious about the Kaurava’s involvement in the fire of the lac house. As an additional point, he mentioned that the kingdom was blaming Dhritarashtra, as the king of the nation, for not taking any action regarding the fire and not getting to the bottom of what happened. The only way to put all this behind would be to give half of the kingdom to Pandu’s children. Guru Drona completely agreed with Bhishma’s proposal.

Listening to this conversation, Karna was furious about dividing the kingdom. He loved Duryodhana so much that he didn’t want to see half of Duryodhana’s future going to the Pandavas. He addressed Dhritarashtra, saying that he was surprised that Guru Drona, who had gained everything by serving him, was advising him to give away half of the kingdom. He wanted Dhritarashtra not to merely listen, but to give some thought to what they suggested. Karna said they should go to war with the Pandavas. Guru Drona was offended by Karna’s remarks. He shouted at Karna. “You wicked fool! You are giving the king ill advice without any respect. If the king ignores our advice, for sure that would be the end of the Kauravas.”

Karna
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Puzzled by all this, Dhritarashtra turned to his chief minister, Vidura. Vidura said, “Grandsire Bhishma and Guru Drona has given you the best advice. Don’t ignore the advice from those wise ones. They always put the interest of the kingdom and its people first. Also, the Pandavas are your beloved brother’s children. Just like the Kauravas, they are your children too. Anyone giving advice against the Pandavas are the ones who will destroy our kula. Also, Drupada, with his children, along with Krishna and the Yadava clan are all standing with the Pandavas, strengthening them. So, there is no way to win against them in a war. Karna’s advice is worthless. It’s true that people are angry and upset about what happened to the Pandavas, and that they are blaming you and your children. Now that they are delighted to find out about the Pandavas being alive, this is the best opportunity to put the past behind you and move forward. They are anxiously waiting to see them. Listen to Grandsire, not to others who don’t have any experience in statesmanship.”

At the end, Dhritarashtra decided to divide the kingdom and to have peace with the Pandavas. He requested Vidura to visit the Panchala kingdom to invite Kunti and the Pandavas along with their new bride Draupadi. He planned to welcome them back with all due respect and honor. Vidura carried precious gems, fine jewelry and loads of grains as gifts with him to Panchala. Vidura was cordially welcomed by king Drupada. After paying his respects Vidura, conveyed the message from King Dhritarashtra, requesting Drupada to send the Pandavas and Draupadi, along with Kunti, to Hastinapura. Drupada was doubtful about Dhritarashtra’s motive as he never trusted him. But then he let the Pandavas decide what they wanted to do, saying “Whatever the Pandavas wish, will be my wish too.”

Vidura
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Vidura then visited Kunti and paid his respects to her. Kunti, equally suspicious about Dhritarashtra, said to Vidura, “Son of Vichitravirya, you saved my children once before. They are your children too. They trust and believe in you. So, advise them as to what they should do.” Vidura said, “Kunti, your children always stand for the truth, therefore they will never be harmed by anyone. They will have their claim on the kingdom and Yudhishthira will be crowned as king. They will rule with greatness. So, come, let’s go back to our kingdom of Hastinapura where you belong.” By saying this he was able to convince Kunti. King Drupada with a heavy heart, gave his blessings to all of them and allowed them go back to their kingdom with Vidura, following royal tradition.

Kurma Avatar & Neelakantha

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Indra, the King of Heaven was riding on His white elephant.  As He returned to Heaven, He was greeted by Durvasa, a great sage, who offered him a very special garland of flowers vibrating with the energy and presence of the Divine Goddess Parashakti herself.

Indra, being a king, was arrogant, so while He accepted the garland, He gave it to the elephant.  The elephant was irritated by the smell of the garland, threw it to the ground and trampled it.  Durvasa, known to be a hot-headed sage, was predictably enraged, as the garland held all beauty and auspiciousness in it.  It was to be treated as sacred prasad, a Divine Gift.  Sage Durvasa cursed Indra, “Your pride has made you egoistic about your position and wealth.  Goddess Lakshmi will now forsake you.”  Because of the sage’s curse, without Goddess Lakshmi’s blessings, Indra and all the gods lost their strength, energy and wealth.

With all His powers diminished, Indra with the other Devas ran to Lord Vishnu seeking His advice.  Lord Vishnu said the only way to get back what was lost was to churn the ocean, then made of milk, to bring forth “amrit” (the nectar of immortality).  Thus Indra and the Devas could drink the amrit, which would make them immortal again and help them regain their lost powers.  Because of their depleted powers, Vishnu explained they would need help from their half-brothers the Asuras (demons), even though they had always been in conflict with them, in order to achieve this.

Indra led the Devas in approaching the Asuras for help.  After deliberations, they all agreed to churn the ocean together and share the proceeds.  The churning of the ocean of milk was not going to be an easy task, though they were working together.  They needed a huge churning rod and a very strong rope.

They sought the help of Mount Mandara to be their churning rod and the great snake Vasuki, the snake god, to be their rope, which they wrapped 3½ times around the mountain.  The churning of the ocean began with the Devas holding Vasuki’s tail (as advised by Lord Vishnu) and the Asuras holding the head.  The Devas and Asuras pulled back and forth alternately, rotating the mountain and churning the ocean.

As they were churning, Mount Mandara started sinking in the ocean of milk.  To prevent this, Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a tortoise and held Mount Mandara up from underneath.  This is known to be “Kurma Avatar” (kurma=tortoise, avatar=incarnation), one of Lord Vishnu’s ten Avatars.

The first thing to manifest from the churning ocean was a deadly poison, known as “hala hala,” which threatened the very existence of all the worlds.  As instructed by Lord Vishnu, the Devas and Asuras prayed to Lord Shiva, who is healer of sickness and remover of all poisons.  Lord Shiva came to their aid, while the Devas and Asuras watched in amazement, by swallowing the hala hala poison in one gulp.

Goddess Parvati, standing by His side, was terrified at the thought that it might poison Shiva, so She squeezed His neck to prevent the poison from going into His stomach.  The poison remained stuck forever in His throat, staining it a dark blue.  This gave Lord Shiva the name “Neelakantha,” which means Blue Throated (neela=blue, kantha=throat).

Not knowing what would happen to Shiva, they all stood vigil with Him through the night.  This was the first Shivaratri or Night of Shiva, which is still celebrated on the dark of the moon in February or early March.

Once the danger had passed, the Devas and Asuras began churning the ocean again.  As they continued to churn, several objects came out:

Kamadhenu — the wish-fulfilling cow

Ucchaisrava — the white horse

Airavata — the white elephant

Kaustubhamani — a rare diamond

Kalpavriksha — the wish-fulfilling tree

Sura or Varuni — the goddess of wine

And Lakshmi — the goddess of wealth

The Devas and Asuras divided the objects among themselves.  Lakshmi was gifted to Vishnu who had been supporting them all along as the tortoise.

Finally, Dhanvantari (the Divine Physician) appeared with the vessel of amrit in His skillful hands.

The Asuras overpowered the Devas in order to drink it all themselves.  Looking at the situation, Lord Vishnu turned into the loveliest of the nymphs of the Heaven, called Mohini.  Mohini distracted the Asuras, then stole the amrit and gave it to the Devas.

As Mohini was distributing the amrit to the Devas, one of the Asuras, called Svarbhanu, sneaked in to sit among the Devas and get some amrit.  The moment Chandra (Moon) and Surya (Sun), who were sitting beside him, saw that he was an Asura, they informed Mohini.  Lord Vishnu took on His real form and threw out the Sudarshan Chakra (a spinning disc-like energetic weapon).  The Asura’s neck was separated from his body, but he did not die as he had drunk one drop of the amrit.  His head was called “Rahu” and his torso “Ketu.”  Now, Rahu and Ketu periodically swallow the moon and sun to have their revenge, causing the eclipses to happen.  Rahu and Ketu are part of the nine planets of Vedic astrology.

After Indra and the Devas drank the amrit, they regained their strength.  The three worlds became filled with radiance and power.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h

Story of Ganga

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Ganga was born as the eldest daughter of Himavan, the king of the Himalayas.  She was not only beautiful, but also had the power of purifying anything she touched.  This quality made her a favorite among all, especially the Devas (Gods).  Led by Lord Brahma, they came to Himavan requesting him to let Ganga go with them to the heavenly realm.

Photo via sanatansociety.com

King Himavan was saddened by this request, but for the greater good of the three worlds he agreed to part with his first-born.  He blessed his daughter to go with them and told her to serve them dutifully.  In her absence, it became impossible for the people to live peacefully on the earth.  The Asuras (demons), who hid in the ocean during the day, came out at night and started harassing everyone.  Not knowing what to do, the people decided to hide in caves.

Lord Brahma and the Devas felt sympathy towards the people of earth and decided to help them to find and conquer their mysterious tormenters.  They went to Lord Vishnu, the sustainer of the three worlds, to ask for guidance.  Lord Vishnu told them the only way to defeat the Asuras was to dry up the ocean they hid in.  He then said that Sage Agastya was the only one capable of doing that job.

Photo via hinducosmos.tumblr.com

Hearing this from the Divine Protector, the Devas led by Lord Brahma went to see Sage Agastya.  The great sage agreed to help the Devas by drinking up the ocean.  This exposed the Asuras, helping the Devas vanquish the Asuras.  The Devas pleaded with Agastya to fill up the ocean with the water again, but the sage couldn’t do it as he had already digested it.

Devastated, the Devas ran back to Lord Vishnu seeking help to solve the new problem.  Vishnu told them that only the descendants of King Sagara could cause the ocean to be filled up again, so they needed to be patient as Sagara had no children yet.

King Sagara was yearning for heirs, so he decided to perform intense tapas (yogic austerities) dedicated to Lord Shiva, to win the boon of having children.  Lord Shiva responded, appearing to King Sagara and his two wives.  Shiva was pleased by their devotion and granted the boon.  By this boon, Keshini gave birth to one son and Sumati gave birth to the 60,000 sons.  While Sumati’s 60,000 sons grew up conscious of their royal status, Keshini’s son Asamanja was a wicked prince.  However, Asamanja was the only son who had a son, Amsuman.  He was opposite of his father, strong and brave like his uncles, also kind and loving.

King Sagara decided to perform the great Ashwamedha Yaj~na to earn the blessings of gods, making him a mighty king.  In an Ashwamedha Yaj~na, a horse was set free with an army following it.  As the horse goes where it likes, if no one opposes it and imprisons it, it then returns to the yaj~na location.  If the horse is imprisoned, the king must free it by peace or by force.

Indra, the king of Devas, suspected his own position would be threatened by Sagara’s Ashwamedha Yaj~na, so Indra stole the horse and tied it to a tree at Sage Kapila’s ashram.  When the horse didn’t return, King Sagara ordered his 60,000 sons to find it.  After a long search, they found the horse in Sage Kapila’s ashram and accused Sage Kapila of stealing the horse.

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Angered by their audacity, the powerful sage opened his third eye and burned all of them to ashes, cursing their souls to be stuck in the world with no liberation and no heaven.  When his 60,000 uncles didn’t return, Amsuman went in search of them and the horse.  Finding the horse at Sage Kapila’s ashram, unlike his uncles, Amsuman greeted the sage with great respect and inquired of his uncles.  Discovering what had happened, grieving, he asked the sage for a way to liberate his uncles’ souls and send them to heaven.  The sage replied that the only way would be to bring Ganga to earth and make her touch the ashes, thus purifying their souls.  Kapila allowed Amsuman to take the horse back with him because Amsuman was patient and righteous.  Amsuman told King Sagara, his grandfather, about his uncles’ ill fate and the remedy given by Sage Kapila himself.

For many years, King Sagara, Amsuman and his son Dilipa tried but failed to bring Ganga to earth.  Day and night, the thought of the fate of the 60,000 princes tormented all of them.  Dilipa’s son, Bhagiratha made a vow at his father’s deathbed that he wouldn’t ascend the throne until he brought Ganga to earth.

Bhagiratha did severe tapas and meditation for several years, dedicating them to Lord Brahma.  Pleased by Bhagiratha’s efforts, Lord Brahma appeared before him and granted him the boon to bring Ganga back to earth.  He also said that Bhagiratha would need the assistance of Lord Shiva to soften her fall onto the earth, as no one else would be able to bear the force of her descent from the heaven.

Photo via vijayagalagali.blogspot.com

Hearing this, Bhagiratha performed many more years of tapas and meditation, dedicated to Lord Shiva.  Lord Shiva appeared and agreed to receive Ganga on her descent to earth.  But Shiva warned Bhagiratha that Ganga should be conducted properly on earth, because she is so used to flowing anywhere at her own will.

After all Bhagiratha’s great efforts, at last Ganga started to descend to earth.  Being willful and powerful, she decided that she would come down in a torrent and sweep away everything in her path.  Shiva foresaw her intention and imprisoned her in his matted hair, only letting her flow onto earth after Bhagiratha’s plea.

As Ganga started flowing as a river on earth, Bhagiratha steered her to Sage Kapila’s ashram.  As Ganga was sanctified again by Lord Shiva’s hair, on the way to Sage Kapila’s ashram, she washed away all the sins of the people whom she touched.

Photo via indianetzone.com

But, along her way, she capriciously flooded sage Jahnu’s ashram, only to be swallowed up by the great angry sage.  Again, Bhagiratha had to pacify a great sage to release her.  Jahnu poured her out through his ear, so she is called Jahnavi, the daughter of Jahnu.

After being released, Ganga flowed over the ashes of the sons of Sagara, purifying them and releasing them to go to heaven.  Then she reached the ocean bed, filling the ocean up again.  Since she was brought back to the earth by Bhagiratha’s great penance Ganga is also known as Bhagirathi.

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Her earthly body as a river still flows today, with her purifying everyone who comes to her.  When Brahma granted the boon that brought her back to earth, she resisted because she would collect so many sins and impurities from the millions of people who would bathe in her.  Shiva promised her that she would be freed from the weight of those burdens any time a great being stepped in her waters.