Mahā Śivarātri

kamlesh

– Mrs. Kamlesh Kapur

Worship of Śiva as part of Holy Trinity

Śivarātri is celebrated by all Hindus. Many Hindus go to the temple and spend the evening singing devotional songs. Some celebrate it in home temple observing fast and doing prayers. The main places where this festival is celebrated with great pomp are at the twelve Jyotir Lingas—Śiva temples. These are at Kedarnath, Varanasi, Vaidynath, Ujjain (Avanti), Somnath, Dwaraka, Omkareshwar, Trimbakeshwar, Ghrishneshwar, Srisailam, Bhimashankar, and Rameshweram. For Hindus, these are the place for pilgrimage.

Many Hindus believe that Śiva as the life force is the creator of the universe. They believe in the ancient saying, “The creation is neither characterized by Lotus (the emblem of Brahma) nor by the Chakra (the emblem of Vishnu) nor by the Vajra (the emblem of Indra). Therefore, all creations are born of Maheshwara.” (Ganapati: Song of the Self by John A. Grimes)

Ten Praanas and atman are eleven Rudras mentioned by Yajanvalkya in Upanishad. The same are also mentioned in Yajurveda. As ten Rudras and the atman enters a living being, life begins. As these depart, life ends for that person. Rudras being good and mangalmai (auspicious) are known as Śiva or Śivam. Below is the picture of Lord Śiva as Nataraja. In Tamilnadu, India, there is a temple at Chidambaram. It is believed that at this place, Śiva performed the dance of creation. There are beautifully sculpted figures showing 108 postures and mudras (hand gestures) of Śiva’s dance.

Procedure and Ceremony on Śivarātri

Devas are invited. Śiva is invited. Yajna is performed by the community. Offerings are made with chants. Devotees sing devotional music. Ceremony ends with peace prayer. On Śivarātri, Hindus pray to the pillar of light for strength to keep peace within and in the world. Śiva manifested Himself as a pillar of light/ fire. Students may remember that the light in Hindu tradition refers to enlightenment, knowledge, vision, good speech, and wisdom. On the darkest night of the month in February, Śiva appears as the pillar of light to end ignorance. Ignorance gives birth to anger, violence, untruth, conflict, and darkness. All these are dark forces disturbing not only a person’s mental peace, but these forces also destroy peace in the society and in the nation.

Prayers are offered for the well-being of all the people in the world:

Asdo ma sad gamyo, tamso ma joyitir gamyo

Mrityor mam amritam gamyo

Sarve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve santu niramya

Sarve bhadarani pachyantu ma kaschit dukha bhagbhavet

Karpur Gouram karunavtaram, samsara saram bhujgendra haaram,

Sada vasantam, hrideya arvinde, bhavam Bhawani sahitam namami

On Śivarātri, during the prayer ceremony, usually, eleven kalashas (earthen round pots with water) are placed in a circle, symbolizing ten Praanas. The eleventh kalasha, the symbol of the Atman is placed in the middle.

In Kalahasti temple at Varanasi, the puja is performed showing the hand of time moving. In creation, transformation, and destruction, it is the hand of time that carries us forward. Thus, Śiva Linga is that pillar of two tattavas (elements) responsible for the formation of the earth and its atmosphere.

Śivalinga

The most popular form worshipped is the Śivalinga. Śivalinga is the bottomless pillar of light. In the beginning, there was only space; then a lighted pillar appeared—the echo sounded as the vibration of Aum, air (Vayuh) filled the atmosphere. The friction caused fire (Agni). In one of the Yajurvedic mantras, this pillar of light is referred to as Svastambhitam. It is believed that this happened on the day of Śivarātri. Śivarātri, that is, Śiva’s Night, is the famous festival in honor of Lord Śiva. The pillar has no base, for the space has no beginning or end. At best we can compare it with a shooting star. The light appeared and vanished having created the two tattavas (elements of air and fire), essential elements for sustaining life. There is a sculptured fresco of this stambha in the ASI archives. During the Indus-Sarasvati age (5000 BC to 1900 BC), people offered prayers to Śivalinga.

Below is the picture of Śivalinga

shivalinga

Linga means a pillar (stambha)- a pillar of light Linga means a “mark” in Sanskrit. It is a symbol that points to an inference. For he is the life force, the air we breathe. The pillar of light arising from Agni, the fire, and fanned by the pure air makes the shape of Śivalinga. In the evolution of elements, air fills the space followed by fire making the unfathomable base of the pillar, and thus, together they complete the basic sustenance for life on earth. Hindus worship this pillar as Śivalinga, knowing fully well that Śiva is unfathomable and formless. He has no form of his own, and yet all forms are his forms. Śiva is everywhere all the time. Stark and geometric, the linga is meant to represent, in an abstract fashion, a pillar. As a pillar, it stands for Śiva as the axis of existence, which Hindus believe extends from the Absolute to the everyday world. From this axis, the world is born, and it is to this axis that it will return to before complete annihilation at the end of time (end of the kalpa).

“Every form is the form or Linga of Lord Śiva. The Linga is only the outward symbol of the formless being, Lord Śiva—Lord Śiva incarnate, who is the indivisible, all-pervading, eternal, auspicious, ever-pure, immortal essence of this vast universe, who is the undying soul seated in the chambers of one’s heart, who is one’s Indweller, innermost Self or Atman and who is identical with the Supreme Brahman.”

There is also the literary evidence of puja of this stambha in Valmiki’s Ramayana. Ravana prayed to Śiva for a long time, and then he wanted to take him along with the Kailash Mountain. He shook it hard and was able to take an elongated piece of the rock, which he thought was the essence of Śiva’s being. Ravana started the puja of this stambha. Sri Rama also performed puja of this stambha before crossing the ocean. This story is sculpted in part at Kailash cave 16 at Ellora. Worked from top to bottom, the temple happens to be the largest monolithic temple made out of one rock. Ravana’s chariot is also carved. This archaeological evidence also reveals the idea of the Stambha. Long pillar, if constructed needs a base, and the base is in the diya; the combination of Vayu and Agni was thus completed. Artists down the ages created amazing pieces of art using diverse art media. Though early paintings did not survive the ravages of time and the invasions, cave temples, frescoes, rock temples and bronze statues have survived.

Here is another picture of Śiva created by the artists.

siva 1

Śiva is sitting in yogic posture. The river Ganges is falling from his hair. He has snakes around his neck, blue patch of poison on the throat, moon on his forehead; and his third eye is closed. A yogi is not afraid of the obstacles. In Hindu tradition, snakes usually symbolize worries, negative emotions, temptations, and obstacles. The blue patch on the throat is poison. A yogi digests the good and the bad equally well. Because of the blue patch on his throat, he is also called Nilakantha. The river Ganges is known as Sursari, which means its origin is Devaloka (associated with the cloud system or the atmosphere). The river may not descend with the full destructive force; so Śiva releases it slowly. The abode of Śiva is Mount Kailash in the Himalayas. Snow is the symbol of purity and austerity of mind. Thus, through this symbol, several concepts are connected—the origin of the Ganges from the Himalayas, the rainwater swelling the river and the rain originating from the cloud system. Śiva’s eyes are half closed, which indicates even though he is in meditation, he is aware of the material world. Śiva’s third eye signifies the eye of wisdom. Śiva is worshipped as Śiva and Parvati. He is also worshipped as Nataraja: King of Dance or Simply Dancing Śiva.

Below is another picture of Śiva as Nataraja which symbolizes Kaal and Mahakaal:

siva 2

Śiva as the king of dance shows the rhythmic cycle of birth, transformation, and death of life. It also signifies that the world as we see today may not be there at the end of the kalpa. Both the Creation and the annihilation are an integral part of all life. The upper right hand has tabor (dummaroo), which symbolizes the sound of creation. The lower right hand is raised in half-moon gesture, the upper left hand has flame of destruction in its palm, and the lower left hand is showering blessings. One leg is raised indicating remaining above the material world, and the other leg presses hard on all that is negative and evil.The late astrophysicist, Carl Sagan (1934-1996) in his book, Cosmos, asserts that the Dance of Nataraja (Tandava) signifies the cycle of evolution and destruction of the cosmic universe. Carl Sagan further says, “The most elegant and sublime of these is a representation of the creation of the universe at the beginning of each cosmic cycle, a motif known as the cosmic dance of Lord Śiva. The God called in this manifestation Nataraja, the Dance King. In the upper right hand is a drum whose sound is the sound of creation. In the upper left hand is a tongue of flame, a reminder that the universe, now newly created, will billions of years from now be utterly destroyed.”

No matter, how we worship, Śiva is the ultimate reality of the cosmic reality as well as the life circle of all life anywhere and everywhere.

 Mrs. Kamlesh Kapur, Author and Educator, USA

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सूर्य और सृष्टि

Mummy

– प्रो. माला रानी गुरु

ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं

भर्गो देवस्यः धीमहि धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात्!!

“तेजस्वी, सर्वश्रेष्ठ, वंदनीय तीनों लोकों पृथ्वी, अंतरिक्ष और द्युलोक में विचरण करने वाले भगवान सूर्य हमारी बुद्धियों को सन्मार्ग में प्रेरित करें”

यह वैदिक मूलमंत्र समस्त जीवधारियों का आलम्बन है| इन महिमामंडित, मण्डलाकार, ज्योतिस्वरूप सूर्यदेव को बारम्बार नमस्कार हों| उनके इस सृष्टि और सृजन के प्रति, सभी के जीवनदान के प्रति अपनी कृतज्ञता प्रगट करने के लिए उत्तर-भारत में सूर्योपासना के लिए किया जाने वाला छठव्रत, बड़ी ही श्रध्दा से प्रत्येक वर्ष कार्तिक एवं चैत्र मास में संपन्न किया जाता हैं| अन्य प्रदेशों में भी सूर्य उपासना के विभिन्न प्रकार हैं|

समस्त वनस्पतियों फल-फूल-ईंख-अन्न-मिष्ठान से भगवान भास्कर को संध्या समय तथा प्रातःकाल सूर्योदय के समय श्रध्दापूर्वक अर्घ्य प्रदान किया जाता हैं| अस्त हों रहे अथवा उदय हों रहे सूर्य की आराधना निरन्तर चल रहे कालक्रम-समय को ही धोतित करता हैं| यह आराधना आडम्बर रहित जनसाधारण का महापर्व है| श्रध्दापूर्ण श्रद्धालु-जन इस प्रकार अर्घ्य प्रदान कर कृतज्ञता प्रकट करते हैं|

एहि सूर्य सहस्त्रांशो तेजो राशे: जगत्पते !

अनुकम्पय मां देवो गृहाणार्घ्यं  दिवाकर: !!

इस छठ पर्व में स्वयं सुर्योत्पन (जैसा की किवदंती है) शाकद्वीपीय ‘मग’ ब्राह्मणों का विशिष्ट महत्त्व है| ये वही समुदाय है, जिनके पूर्वजों को भगवान श्रीकृष्ण अपने पुत्र साम्ब के उपचार के लिए शाकद्वीप से भारत लेकर आये थे, और कालांतर में ये ब्राहमण समुदाय वैद्य के रूप में प्रतिष्ठित हुए| कहने का तात्पर्य है की सूर्य के किरणों की महता प्राचीनकाल से ही रोगनिवारक के रूप में स्थापित है|

हमारी संस्कृति की अनुपम ज्ञानप्रद श्रृंखला जो पूर्वकाल में शिष्यों तथा ऋषि पुत्रों की श्रवण और मनन परम्परा से आगे बढ़ी थी| श्रवण और मनन में श्लोक केवल शाब्दिक अर्थ ही नहीं बल्कि उसके उच्चारण और अनुकम्पन से किसी खास अर्थ या प्रयोजन निमित्त होता है| आर्य ऋषियों की श्रवण-मनन वाली ज्ञान परम्परा के धूमिल पड़ने के बाद, आधुनिक युग में यह श्रुश्रुत परम्परा क्रमशः लेखन एवं दृश्यज्ञान में परिवर्तित हो गयी| परन्तु नई पीढ़ी तकनीक की अंधी दौड़ में ज्ञान के आधुनिक प्रकल्पों में अग्रसरित है, और शाब्दिक अर्थ से इतर प्रभावों से अनभिग्य होती जा रही है| शब्द ज्ञान से इतर की समझ के लिए किसी के पास समय नहीं| परन्तु इस समृद्ध ज्ञान वैभव के विरासत अगली पीढियों तक पहुचे, जिससे वे सार्थक जीवन जी सके, भौतिकता के दुष्परिणामों से बच सके और अध्यात्म की ओर मुड सके, और हमारी आर्य परम्परा की विरासत को जान सके, इसके लिए चित्रात्मक अभिव्यक्ति एक ससक्त माध्यम हो सकता है| इसीलिए यहाँ आदिदेव, प्रत्यक्ष प्रमाण स्वरुप भगवान सूर्य की उपासना को चित्र के माध्यम से अभिव्यक्ति दी गई है|

sun

(Editor’s note – The author has painted this image. Her present work is themed at  Sanskrit literature from where she picked up the myriad colors which make her painting style vibrant and classy. )

“सूर्य और सृष्टि” शीर्षक वाला यह चित्र सूर्य-वन्दना को स्पष्ट कर रहा है| आकाश में दर्शित तीन मंद्लाकृति भूलोक, अन्तरिक्षलोक, तथा द्युलोक को प्रकाशित करने वाले सूर्य की महिमा को प्रकट कर रहा है| परमात्मास्वरुप सूर्यदेव पंच आदि तत्वो पृथ्वी, जल, अग्नि, वायु, और आकाश से सृष्टि का निर्माण करते हैं| इस सृष्टि के निर्माण में प्रकृति देवी के सहयोग से, छः ऋतुओं की शक्ति से नित-नूतन समस्त जड़चेतन जगत की सरंचना करते हैं|

चित्र में सात-स्त्रियों की जो आकृति है, उसमे प्रकृति देवी सहित छह ऋतुओं के व्यहार एवं प्रभाव को दर्शाया गया है| उनके बस्त्रों का रंग उस ऋतु विशेष की प्रकृति एवं कार्य का परिचायक है| चित्र में दायी ओर की प्रथम स्त्री वसंत ऋतु की परिचायक है, जिसका पीला वासंती वस्त्र पृथ्वी को पुष्पित एवं पल्लवित कर संसार को सृजन शक्ति के आनंद से भर देता है, तभी तो बसंत को ‘ऋतुराज’ भी कहा जाता है| दूसरी स्त्री ग्रीष्म ऋतु का प्रतीक है, जिसका लाल वस्त्र मौसम के परिताप को प्रकट करता है| ग्रीष्म ऋतु में पृथ्वी गर्म होकर सृजन की ओर प्रवृत होती है| तीसरी स्त्री स्वयं प्रकृति देवी है, जो सभी ऋतुओ को स्वयं के कार्य निष्पादन को प्रेरित करती है| चौथे स्थान पर हरे वस्त्र में हरियाली की प्रतीक वर्षा ऋतु है, जो ग्रीष्म के ताप से संतप्त प्रकृति और जनजीवन में सृजन शक्ति भर कर जीवन का श्रृंगार करती है| तदन्तर हलके नील वर्ण वाली पांचवी आकृति शरद ऋतु की है, जो नव सृजित वस्तुओं में जीवन का संचार कर संरक्षित रखती है| उसके बाद छठी और सातवी आकृति हेमंत और शिशिर की है, जो वस्तुओं और जीवन को संपुष्टि प्रदान कर परिपक्वता देती है, उसमें जीवनदायी रस का संचार करती हैं| इस प्रकार छह ऋतुएँ समस्त चराचर जगत में सृजन-स्थिति एवं परिपक्वता से सृष्टि का क्रमिक संपादन करती हैं|   

इस प्रकार सूर्यदेव ही अन्न-जल, वन-उपवन, पर्वत-झरने, जीव-जंतु-पक्षीगण, कीट-पतंग, मानवादि का निर्माण कर संपोषण करते हैं| इस चित्र में आदिपुरुष मनु और आदिस्त्री शतरूपा (हिन्दू मान्यतानुसार) सूर्य का वंदन करते हुए दिख रहे हैं| भारतीय आर्य परम्परा में ‘यज्ञ’ को विशेष महत्त्व मिला है| हवन कुण्ड से उठती अग्नि की लपटें आदि पंचतत्वों में से एक अग्नि तत्व के निर्देशित कर रही है| अग्नि जल की भी सृजक है और जल जीव-सृजन की प्रथम कड़ी है| इस प्रकार सूर्य ही सृष्टी के केंद्र में विराजमान हैं, ज्ञान-विज्ञान की धुरी हैं|

सूर्य की दिव्य शक्तियों की जानकारी हमें बहुत अल्प हैं| हमारी आर्य ऋषि परम्परा से प्राप्त ज्ञान का मंतव्य है कि ब्रह्मांड में अनेकानेक सूर्य और उनका सौरमंडल हैं|अनेकानेक ग्रह-नक्षत्र-निहारिका-उल्कायें, तारागण और आकाशगंगाए हैं, कुछ अज्ञात शून्य भी हैं, जो एक दिव्यप्रकाश स्वरुप से संचालित एवं नियंत्रित हैं| गणित और विज्ञान का “शुन्य” घटक भी संभवतः सुर्याकृति पर ही निर्धारित हैं| समस्त गणना विज्ञान शुन्य से प्रारम्भ होकर असीमित शून्यों तक के माप का सफ़र तय करती हैं, जिसकी अवधारणा पूर्ण रूप से भारतीय है| खगोलीय दुरी की व्याख्या भी प्रकाश वर्ष में की जाती है| अतः सूर्य के बिना आधुनिक विज्ञान के परिकल्पना दुरूह है|

अतः हम परमात्मा की कल्पना प्रत्यक्ष प्रमाणस्वरुप भगवान सूर्य में कर सकते हैं| विश्व के अनेकानेक देशो में, विभिन्न धर्मों में किसी न किसी रूप में सूर्य उपासना का रूप मिलता है| मानव तथा अन्य जीवधारियों को सूर्य की दिव्य शक्तियों की प्रतीती होती है, उसी प्रकार से जिस प्रकार वायु तथा जल की जीवनधारण क्षमता का अनुभव होता है| इस प्रकार सूर्य की दैवीय शक्तियों को नकारना अपनी वास्तविकता को नकारने के सदृश्य है|

ज्ञान जीवन की सार्थकता और आनंद को संपुष्टी करता है, अततः ज्ञान की ही सर्वत्र पूजा होती है इसीलिए ज्ञान का अन्वेषण तथा अर्चना अनिवार्य है| सद्यः जन्मा बालक जीवनदायनी दुग्धाहार के लिए स्वतः ही दुग्धधारा को ढूंढता है| जन्मदात्री माँ के अस्तित्व-बोध से रहित वह उस व्यक्तित्व (माँ) से अगाध प्रेम और श्रध्दा से जुड़ जाता है, जीवन पर्यंत यही जुडाव ही पूजा अर्चना है| निष्कर्षतः शाश्वत शक्ति जो सृष्टि का सृजन करती है, उसके प्रति प्रेम और श्रध्दा, पूजा और समर्पण स्वाभाविक ही है|

वेदों में सूर्य की विभिन्न शक्तियों का ज्ञान, अन्तरिक्ष के रहस्य, अग्नि, जल-पिंडो इत्यादि की अन्तरिक्ष में उपस्थिति का ज्ञान और विज्ञान प्रतीकात्मक शैली में उपलब्ध है, उदहारणस्वरुप ऋग्वेद के प्रथम मण्डल के सवितृ सूक्त 35 में हिरण्यस्तूप ऋषि के अनुसार इस कथन की पुष्टी हो रही है|

ति॒स्रो द्याव॑: सवि॒तुर्द्वा उ॒पस्थाँ॒ एका॑ य॒मस्य॒ भुव॑ने विरा॒षाट् ।

आ॒णिं न रथ्य॑म॒मृताधि॑ तस्थुरि॒ह ब्र॑वीतु॒ य उ॒ तच्चिके॑तत् ॥

सवितृ सूक्त ऋगवेद| मण्डल (1:35) मन्त्र 6

स्वर्ग से उपलक्षित प्रकाशमान लोक तीन हैं| उनमें से दो लोक सूर्य के समीप है अर्थात् दो लोक-भूलोक और द्युलोक सूर्य से प्रकाशित होते हैं| एक तीसरा लोक अन्तरिक्ष है जो यम के घर जाने वाले प्रेतों को सहन करता है अर्थात् मरने के बाद पुरुष अन्तरिक्ष के मार्ग से यम लोक को जाता है| जिस प्रकार रथ के अक्ष में डाली गई आणि (किल) से रथ अवस्थित रहता है, उसी प्रकार अमृत अर्थात चन्द्र, तारे आदि प्रकाशमान नक्षत्र अथवा जल उस सूर्य के समीप अवस्थित हो गये है, और इस प्रकार के सूर्य को जो मनुष्य जानता है, वही मनुष्य सूर्य की महिमा का वर्णन कर सकता है|

इस प्रकार वेदों उपनिषदों इत्यादि के मनन, अनुशीलन एवं वैज्ञानिक गवेषणा से अद्भुत खगोलीय तथ्यों की बृहद जानकारी को मानवोपयोगी बनाया जा सकता है| इन्हीं सब तथ्यों को चित्र के माध्यम से व्यक्त कर, युद्ध, अशांति और प्राकृतिक असंतुलन की विभीषिका को झेलती मानवता की कुछ त्राण मिल सके, इसका एक छोटा सा प्रयास किया गया है|    

प्रो. माला रानी गुरु, संस्कृत विभाग, राम कृष्ण महिला महाविद्यालय, गिरिडीह, झारखण्ड

Can Spirituality be used to look ‘cool’ in modern times?

PPDr_for_web– Dr. Athavale

What is it to be ‘cool’?

The younger generation goes to great lengths in their desire to be seen as ‘cool’. In an ever-changing world, the context of what it is meant by cool would seem like a moving target. So, what is it to be cool nowadays? In a study* led by a University of Rochester Medical Centre psychologist and published by the Journal of Individual Differences in 2012, the characteristics of ‘coolness’ as per the zeitgeist (spirit of the times) of the new millennium were explored. Whilst there have been many studies associated with understanding what it takes to be considered cool, this research has been the first systematic quantitative investigation of ‘coolness’ from a trait perspective.

It was found that the traits associated with coolness today are markedly different from those that generated the concept of cool. While traditional elements of cool, such as rebelliousness and a hedonistic (self-indulgent) nature were still considered aspects of a person’s ‘cool’ image, they were not as strongly appreciated as socially desirable traits, such as friendly, competent, trendy and attractive. While it is good to see a positive shift in people’s perceptions about what is considered cool, the drivers behind anyone’s personality is complex and largely due to spiritual reasons. Therefore, if a person wants to be viewed as cool, he or she would need to make changes to this complex machinery that forms his or her personality.

‘Being cool’ and personality

The Maharshi Adhyatma Vishwavidyalay (also known as the Maharshi University of Spirituality) has conducted extensive research into understanding an individual’s personality from the spiritual perspective. It has been found that individuals’ traits are mostly decided from previous births. Unknown to most, every human-being has lived many lives on Earth. As per the science of Spirituality, a person keeps taking birth repeatedly (reincarnates) to settle his or her give-and-take account, which is the destiny or karma one is born with. According to how a person has lived in his past lives, and how he has used his wilful action in those past lives, his personality has been shaped. For example, if a person has let his anger go unchecked for lifetimes, then the impression of anger would be stronger than other impressions in the current lifetime. Personality traits such as anger, friendliness, loving nature etc. are stored as impressions in the subconscious mind continuously getting moulded/reinforced by actions and thoughts in any given lifetime. If one were to look at an average person’s past lives and their influence on his personality defects, the following would be the proportion of impact.

Past lives as a contributor to  personality defects Weightage as a percentage
Past 1000 lives 49%
Past 7 lives 49%
Current life 2%
Total 100%

Limitations of today’s education system

Perhaps the main reason why people want to be identified as cool is because of the need to be appreciated and liked by others. It is common knowledge that a person becomes likeable when the personality has more positive than negative traits. While the modern-day education and grooming system acknowledge that such positive traits need to be inculcated in students, it fails in the implementation. This is because most of the time and efforts is spent in educating students about some aspect of the sciences or the arts and not enough on shaping the personality. Also, it is not easy to change an individual’s personality as it means working on the subconscious mind which has been moulded over many lifetimes. Since the subconscious mind is subtle in nature, only subtle techniques can be used to bring about transformation. The most effective subtle technique is the practice of Spirituality.

How to make a personality that appeals to all ?

The woes of society are mainly due to the personality defects in people. Qualities bring about general well-being and have an overall positive effect on a person and his interactions. Conversely, defects bring mental anguish to the person who has them as well as the people he interacts with. Personality defects (PDs) include personality traits such as anger, greed, jealousy, hatred, fear etc. PDs are the main reason why people behave in an improper manner, why they feel stress and why the world is witnessing turmoil in recent times.

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(Source of Image : http://universoulawakening.com/no-mind-equals-presence/)

The Personality Defect Removal (PDR) process is to eradicate personality defects and help people become happier and more stable. By reducing defects in a person’s mind, a person can better concentrate, persevere and succeed in life’s endeavours along with reducing stress. For those who seek spiritual growth, the PDR process has become the cornerstone of spiritual practice as it acts as an enabler for faster spiritual progress. More importantly, reduction in personality defects minimises the creation of any new negative destiny as it reduces incorrect actions and behaviour.

The PDR process includes the following steps :

  1. Observation: Observing oneself objectively, accepting feedback from others and thereby becoming aware of one’s mistakes through various situations and thoughts.
  2. Analysis: Analysing the root personality defect responsible for the mistake one commits and having clarity of the thought process behind one’s actions and behaviour.
  3. Auto-suggestions: Taking auto-suggestions to train the mind to behave in an ideal manner.

Personality continues to be moulded throughout the eight stages which are – infancy, early childhood, play age, school age, puberty, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood and maturity. Thus, personality is not a static phenomenon, but a dynamic process which starts from the moment of conception and continues till a person breathes his last. PDR therefore needs to be a way of life and requires lifelong commitment.

Being spiritual is the ultimate in being cool !

The benefits of the PDR process are manifold. Through the PDR process, one proactively changes one’s own personality, value system and behaviour for the better and thus endears oneself to others.By practising Spirituality, one’s personality becomes unconditionally loving towards others and as a result, people are automatically drawn towards the spiritually evolved. By practising Spirituality, it has been observed that even a person’s facial features become more attractive. This is why from a holistic viewpoint, qualitative and sustainable ‘coolness’ for all ages can only be obtained through the practise of Spirituality.

[*https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/3531/what-does-it-mean-to-be-cool-it-may-not-be-what-you-think.aspx]

– Dr. Athavale, Founder, Maharshi University of Spirituality

Understanding Shiva and Maha Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in honor of Shiva, one of the trinities of Hindus. Shiva occupies the highest level in importance in most of the Hindu texts, and is also acknowledged in many cultures beyond India and Hindus. Although there are more than one legend associated with Maha Shivaratri, such as the marriage of Shiva to Parvati on this occasion, worshipping of Shiva on this night to get rid of sins, or get enlightenment, the most common legend connects this night to the cosmic dance or tandav of Shiva that initiates creation, preservation, and destruction of the cosmos.

Attributes of Shiva in his representation (damaru, trishul, moon on his head, serpent around neck, etc.), sitting bare body in yogic posture, tandav dance, opening of third eye, and focus of worship by all, including devas and other members of trinities, particularly prominent incarnations of Vishnu, all indicate to the symbolism in gross, thoughts, and action (GTA).

GTA are all the features of the physical world, which gets created, remains sustained for a fixed period, and then ends. This phenomenon is entirely attributed to Shiva to initiate through the sound of damaru and movements of the dance. Shiva is fully part of the physical world, thus has a place of abode (Himalaya), marries to the daughter (Parbati) of Himalaya or Parbatraj (meaning mountain), and has children, just like any other mortal being on the Earth.

sh

Among the trinities, Shiva is thus the lord or swami of the physical world. Brahma is the lord of the subtle world where his thoughts are all that are needed to create the cosmos. Brahma does not have any physical possessions, although he has manasputra (created through thoughts of mind) like Indra, Narada, etc. Vishnu on the other hand does not have even mental creation, as He is the lord of the causal world, where cause of everything exists.  As per the common practice each of these trinities respect and differ to the lord of the world they enter. For example, Vishnu incarnation Ram and Krishna both worship Shiva when on Earth to signify the supremacy of the Shiva element in the physical world.

With the above understanding, one should approach the Shiva and Maha Shivaratri to rationally and practically understand their importance and practice. Many times Shiva is considered the destroyer, even though the literal meaning of Shiva is auspicious. Shiva is a yogi par excellence sitting bare body in the coldest place on Earth to indicate that He has mastered the physical world, thus proving his lordship beyond any doubt.

On a related note, Om symbol is used with many chants and rituals of worship, but is most commonly associated with Shiva, like in Om Namah Shivay! Linguistically, Om or more appropriately Aum is expressive meaning of Shiva. It starts with the ‘a’ sound as the open vowel with only aspiration of air, passes through the closed vowel ‘u’, still using the air but changing the shape of mouth in the middle, and finally the last letter ‘m’ of the last of the five classes (guttural, palatal, cerebral, dental, and labial) of the consonants of the Devanagari-aksharmala (alphabets) arranged in two dimensions. The Aum thus represents the sutra or formula with capacity to express the entire visible world (i.e., the expressed physical world). Therefore, this linguistic expression is also consistent with Shiva being the lord of the physically expressed world.

shi

Why is then Shiva considered as the destroyer of the world? He is not the destroyer of the world, he presides over the physical world that is by nature destroyed. Anything that is created is destroyed by nature. However, people mistakenly attribute Shiva to be the destroyer. Similarly, people attribute Shiva with intoxication, such as cannabis and bhang, even though Shiva is yogi, totally away from all these vices. People considered him to be the epitome of purity who can live without even food, and thus started giving up their vices by surrendering those items at his alter, which others thought was an offering to Shiva. And, this was taken to justify their vices citing Shiva associated with those habits.

On the occasion of the Maha Shivaratri, traditions have provision for fasting, chanting, night vigil to give up even sleep, to indicate sacrifice rather than indulgence. Maha Shivaratri is to remind us of the nature of our existence and its ultimate disappearance. It is a celebration of this understanding which makes us free from the fear of even death.

Om!

Prof. Bal Ram Singh, School of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA

Children in Puranas

Great personalities have always their bright childhood as continuity of qualities is a fundamental truth-

 Dhruva

In some Purāṇas, we find story of a child Dhruva who was a symbol of firm determination and profound devotion towards God. Dhruva was son of King Uttānapāda  and his wife Sunīti . The king also had another son named Uttama, born to his second queen Suruchi, who was the preferred object of his affection. Once, five year old, Dhruva was sitting on his father’s lap at the King’s throne. Suruchi, the step-mother, who was jealous of the Dhruva, forcefully removed him from his father’s lap. When Dhruva protested and asked if he could not be allowed to sit on his father’s lap, Suruchi scolded him ruthlessly saying; ‘only God can allow you that privilege. Go ask him.’

dhruv-vishnu_1480423840

(Source of Image : Daily Bhaskar.com)

Sunīti, a lady of gentle nature but lesser favorite wife of king, tried to console her distressed son, but Dhruva was determined to hear about his fate from the Lord.  Seeing his firm determination, mother Sunīti allowed him to go to the forest. Dhruva was determined to seek for himself his rightful place. Noticing his resolution, the divine sage Nārada appeared before him and tried to abstain him from obtaining severe austerity at such an early age. But Dhruva was firm on his decision, and therefore, overwhelmed sage guided him towards his goal by teaching rituals and mantras to meditate and please the lord Viṣṇu. The one mantra, taught by Nārada which was effectively used by Dhruva, was Om Namo Bhagavate Vāsudevāya. Little Boy fixing his mind on Lord, started his meditation, and went without food and water for six months for the gratification of Viṣṇu. His tapasyā shook the heavens, and Lord appeared before him, but the child would not open his eyes being merged in the inner vision of Viṣṇu’s form described by Nārada. Lord Viṣṇu adopted a strategy to disappear that inner vision. Immediately Dhruva opened his eyes, and seeing outside what he had been seeing in his mental vision, prostrated himself before the Lord. He could not utter a single word. The Lord touched his right cheek by his divine conch and that sparked off his speech. He recited a beautiful poem of twelve powerful verses in the praise of the Lord which is called Dhruva-stuti. The Dhruva-stuti as mentioned in the ViṣṇuPurāṇa is quite different from the Dhruva-stuti of BhāgavataPurāṇa.

Having spent a long time in the Lord’s commemoration, he even forgot the objective of his tapasyā, and only asked for a life in memory of the Lord. Pleased by his tapasyā and by his stuti, Viṣṇu granted his wish and further decreed that the child would attain Dhruvapada – the state where he would become a celestial body which would not even be touched by the mahā-pralaya. Dhruva returned to his kingdom. Now he was warmly received by his family. He attained the crown at the age of six and ruled his kingdom for many decades in a fair manner. Today people highlight any fix position or firm decision, saying it as ‘dhruva.

 Prahlāda

Prahlāda, a young boy is known in the Purāṇas for his firm devotion towards Lord Viṣṇu. Demon king, Hiraṇyakaṥyapa was his father who had commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. But his son, Prahlāda refused to worship his father and became an ardent devotee of Lord Nārāyaṇa. Hiraṇyakaṥyapa tried several ways to kill his son Prahlāda but Lord Viṣṇu saved him every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holikā to enter a blazing fire with Prahlāda in her lap. For, Hiraṇyakaṥyapa knew that Holikā had a boon, whereby, she could enter the fire untouched. Holikā took her seat in a blazing fire with Prahlāda in her lap. Holikā was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone. Prahlāda, who kept chanting the name of Lord Narāyaṇa, came out unharmed, as the lord blessed him for his extreme devotion.

prahlad-as-the-devotee-of-lord-vishnu

(Source of Image : http://www.padhokhelo.com)

Prahlāda was finally saved by Lord Narasiṁha (half-man half-lion), a prominent avatāra of Viṣṇu who killed his wicked father too. After the death of Hiraṇyakaṥyapa, Prahlāda took his father’s kingdom and ruled peacefully and virtuously. He was known for his generosity, kindness, determination and faith in God. In the story, we see that God saved his devotees and punished the evil. Therefore, Prahlāda is regarded as a symbol of goodness and divine faith.

– Dr. Shashi TiwariGeneral Secretary, WAVES –India & Former Prof. of Sanskrit, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi

The Idea of God (Part-II)

– Dr. Koenraad Elst

Continued from Part-I

Mono- versus polytheism

The Sumerian ideogram Dingir was read as ElIn neighbouring Akkadian, a Mesopotamian dialect of Semitic. We know this word very well through Hebrew, a northwestern (Levantine) dialect of Semitic. Thus the names Uriel, “my light is God”; Gabriel, “my strength is God”; Michael, “who is like God?” But as we shall presently see, these names now carry a meaning of “God” that has resulted from a revolution, viz. from poly- to monotheism.

A derivative of El is Eloha, “a deity”, “a god”. We know it mainly through the plural form Elohim, “gods”, “pantheon”. Strangely, this form has survived the theological revolution described in the Bible book Exodus under the leadership of Moses, ca. 1250 BCE. Here, the many gods were replaced with a single jealous god, yet the plural form Elohim remained but with a singular meaning: God. Thus, the Bible, which received its definitive form only under the Persian empire ca. 500 BCE, when this usage was well-established, starts with the sentence: “Berešit bara Elohim et ha-šamaim ve-etha-aretz”, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The connection with the stars was severed, at least for the Israelites, not all the other nations: “Pay attention lest ye lift your eyes up to the sky for seeing sun, moon and stars, that ye be led astray and adore and serve them, those whom the Lord your God hath assigned to all the nations under heaven.” (Deut. 4:19)

A synonym of Elohim, referring to the same jealous God, is Yahweh. Moses himself introduced this god-name into Biblical tradition. Though new to the Israelites after centuries in Egypt, it must have existed earlier among the Arab (South-Semitic) Beduins as well as among the Northwest-Semitic people of Mari. Moses, when a fugitive from Egyptian law after he was found out to have committed murder, stayed with a Beduin tribe. They had a storm-god Yahweh, best translated as a causative participle of a verb meaning “to move in the sky”, whether “to blow” or “to stoop like a bird of prey”, from an Arab root HWY later attested in the Quran (22:32), but not in the Bible. This meaning is confirmed by the fixed expression Yahweh Sabaoth, “he who causes the motion of the heavenly hosts”, i.e. of the majestic procession of the stars across heaven. Here again we find a stellar meaning associated with a god-name.

Moses saw an apparition of this god in the burning bush. When Moses asks the god who he is, the god expresses his total sovereignty: “I am who I am”, ehyeh ašer ehyeh. Theologians and translators have contemplated this sentence profusely, until in ca. 1900, the German Orientalist Julius Wellhausen hit upon its probable original meaning: it elaborates a pun on the name Yahweh, which the Hebrews misinterpreted folk-etymologically as a causative participle of the verb HYY, “to be”, hence “the being one”, “he who is”, or more philosophically, “he whose essence is existence” “he who necessarily exists”, “he who causes existence to exist”. This edifice of profundities is entirely built on a folk-etymological pun, nothing more. Or to put it more positively: a new conception of the divine was grafted onto an old god.

The Arab form of the originally polytheistic term ha-eloha, “the deity”, is al-Ilāha, also “the deity”. A contracted form is Allāh, “thé deity”, “the god par excellence”, hence “God”. Originally it could refer to any earlier-mentioned god. Thus, Mohammed’s Pagan father was called Abdallāh, “servant of the deity”. Mohammed, in a bid to establish monotheism among the Arabs, reinterpreted Allāhas a synonym of Yahweh. He saw himself as the latest (and even last) one of the line of the prophets of Yahweh, renamed Allāh in Arabia. This way, the star-god El, the Semitic form of Sumerian Dingir, ended up shedding his connection with the stars and becoming the disembodied extra-cosmic Creator-god Yahweh/Allāh. The Quran (6:78, 22:18, 41:37) simply and strictly prohibits star worship.

In the footsteps of the reform movements Brahmo Samaj and Aryan Samaj, many anglicized Hindus claim that “Hinduism too is monotheistic”. This is a very defensive stand, and it is simply not correct. If the Hindu wealth of gods and of ways of worship were not polytheistic, what other religion would be? It seems to us that they are using a word they don’t understand. Monos does not mean “one”, it means “alone”, “one and no other”. Monotheism accepts only Yahweh or Allah, and considers all others as false gods, only good to be destroyed and discarded: Marduk, Ba’al, Osiris, Ahura Mazda, Śiva, Buddha. By contrast, Hinduism is inclusive. The Vedic verse: “The wise call the one essence by many names”, means that the different gods are not false but are essentially the same as your chosen god. There are no “false gods” in Hinduism. Reality is both one and manifold, and Hinduism is not bothered with the question whether the divine is single or many.

This also counts for other Pagan civilizations. When Protestant missionaries set up shop in China, they discovered that a native term roughly meaning “God” was Shangdi, so they appropriated this term as name of the Christian God. (Catholics preferred Tianzhu, the “Heavenly Boss”.) What they did not know, is that the Chinese language mostly does without the separate category of a plural, so the same word can be both plural and singular. Shangdi does not so much mean “the Sovereign on High”, as rather “the Powers on High”. In Chinese, even the grammar militates against the contrast between one and many. To monotheists this numerical matter is all-important, worthy of the iconoclastic destruction of all the “false gods”; but to regular people such as Hindus or Confucians and Daoists, it is just not an issue.

Širk

Heaven-worship is truly the universal religion, rivalled only by ancestor-worship. And even then, these two are intertwined. Deceased ancestors are deemed to be in heaven, often actually associated with a specific star. When your father has died, you take your child on an evening walk, and when the stars appear, you point out one of them and say: “There is grandpa, watching over us.” In a Vedic ritual, a zone in the sky, in the Scorpio-Sagittarius area, is designated as the destination of the dead.

For famous people, who had become part of the collective consciousness, the procedure could be to “elevate them to godhood” (Greek: Apotheōsis) by associating them with a specific star or constellation.A case in point from antiquity is Antinoös, the lover-boy of the Roman emperor Hadrian, who drowned himself and was given a star in Aquarius, still named after him. When in the 17th century the southern sky was mapped, one constellation was named after the protection given to Vienna by Jan Sobieski against the Ottoman siege: Scutum Sobieskii, “Sobieski’s shield”, now simply Scutum.

This practice was first attested in writing in Ugarit, Syria, where in ca. 2000 BC famous people upon their deaths were identified or “associated” with a star. In the native Semitic, this practice was named Širk, “association”. The term ought to be well-known today, but with an evolved meaning. When Islam imposed monotheism, it denounced polytheism and idolatry as Širk, i.e. the “association” of a mortal, a creature, with the Supreme Being, the Creator.

India too has known this practice. The stars of the Great Bear are named after the Seven Sages who composed most of the Ŗg-Veda. There are different variations of this list of seven, but one of the Sages who returns in all of them is Vasiṣṭha. He and his wife Arundhātī are associated with the twin stars Mizar and Alcor. In a moderate way, they did graduate to godhood, with a few temples in Himachal and Uttarakhand dedicated to them. Another sage who made it to heaven is Agastya, the Sage who went to the South, and therefore has the southern star Canopus named after him.

 Conclusion

At the dawn of history, and practically since the birth of mankind, star worship, partly overlapping with ancestor worship, was the main religion worldwide. With the development of civilization, conceptions of the divine grew away from their referents in nature. India generated a spirituality implying renunciation, and the gods followed suit. The Upanishads signalled a break with the Vedic focus on the gods and reoriented mankind’s attention to the spiritual path. A kind of relation with a kind of gods was restored, but adopting the new focus on Liberation.

Star worship remained alive, as “nothing ever dies in India” (in the words of the late Girilal jain), but that old layer was overlaid with new levels of abstraction. The highest of these was the abstract concept of the Absolute (Brahmaṇ) that appeared in the Upaniṣads and remained, in various guises, in the mai sects of Hinduism. But the lower levels, including the naturalistic, star-related levels did not disappear; it was an organic evolution.

A roughly similar evolution took place in the Greek world and then in the Roman empire. The elites outgrew the colourful pantheon and, mainly through Stoicism, accepted a more abstract and more unitary concept of the divine. In Neoplatonism, which may have been influenced by Indian developments, everything was thought to emanate from “the One”. In China too, “the One” was the name of a unifying abstract concept transcending the many natural gods of everyday religion.

Unfortunately, in the Roman empire, this natural evolution was interrupted and forcibly driven in a particular direction by the imposition of Christianity. However, at the same time, to better insinuate itself in the Greco-Roman culture, Christianity also took over much from Stoicism and Neoplatonism, which appear mainly in Christian morals c.q. theology.The breakthrough of monotheism followed the same pattern as the conceptual development in Hinduism to a some extent, but was unnecessarily brutal and destructive regarding the earlier religion. The same scenario repeated itself even more abruptly with the advent of Islam.

The resulting concept of divine unity (in Islam: tawḥīd) was also much cruder than a what gradual development would have made possible. While superseding the colourful old gods, Yahweh or Allah were much like them in their negative aspects: all too human, too personal, not nirguṇa, “beyond qualities”. As India has shown, it was perfectly possible to move from a naturalistic to a more abstract conception of the divine without destroying the earlier conception.