Category Archives: lord shiva

Mahashivaratri : Its Significance ~ Swami Chinmayananda

[Excerpts from talks & commentaries by Swami Chinmayananda]

SHIVARATRI is the day in India when winter ends and from the next day onwards it is summer. Positively the climate changes. The climate changes outside. The Ganges will be flooded because more of the lower layers of snow with be melting. So by this natural phenomena they fixed this particular day, because the day after SHIVARATRI the climate conditions must change. Where? Outside! Meteorological Department! No!! IT IS THE CLIMATE OF OUR MIND!!! After Realization, the Man of Realization gets up from his seat of meditation a totally different man. He is not the man who went to the seat of meditation. It is a complete transformation!

All movements in the Cosmos are elliptical, and therefore, the diagram of the ellipse represents our Cosmos. If that ellipse is half-buried, what would be seen on the surface is a SHIVA LINGA. So, the SHIVA LINGA represents the manifested and therefore, vividly visible part of the Cosmos, which is supported by the other part of the ellipse which is hidden from our vision. Thus, the universe of names and forms is the LINGA (symbol) for the Lord who supports it all.

A time when the usual world of plurality is blanketed away from our awareness of Pure infinite Subjective Experience is that which is indicated by SHIVARATRI. In order that it may come to the masses and the average man may spend time in lifting his mind, turning his mind’s attention to the Lord, it has been brought into a very significant ritual, dedicating this day to Lord Shiva. On this auspicious day, seekers rededicate themselves to the subjective science and the pursuit of excellence in their daily lives.In the present state of your ego, it sees very clearly MAHADEVA with name, form and all properties. When the ego in you through surrender to MAHADEVA comes to experience the awakening, the Essential Reality, that MAHADEVA represents a State of Eternal Auspiciousness and Bliss – SADASHIVA. Therefore, consistent and sincere sadhana is the bridge. Offer all your Rajas and Tamas to MAHADEVA – that is true Archana. As the Sattva predominates in you, your inner equipment become extremely pure and therefore steady in contemplation — there you experience SADASHIVA. 

A spiritual seeker’s sole purpose is to destroy the ego, and the “non-apprehension of the Reality” (Avidya), which is the cause for it. Where this destruction is complete, the very Lord of Destruction, SHIVA “alone” remains. Hence Lord Shiva is represented, often, as the Lord of Meditation. The ability inherent in us to destroy an undesirable thought in us is the “Shiva-Shakti”, the spirit of detachment. Invoking this “power-divine”, we, with the Grace of Lord Shiva, progress on our march from imperfections to PERFECTION. 

Quietened mind becomes contemplative and it becomes the grand way for realising the Shiva-State of Perfection. In the heat of contemplation, our vasanas get burnt down and if anything is burnt, it becomes the white ashes and theses ashes become an ornament “Bhooshana” of Lord Shiva. Beyond all vasanas is the PURE SELF. 

In Dhyan, the Mind, the seat of the separative Ego-centre melts and the relationships of I-seperate-from-my- Shiva….rolls off; the final experience is “I-am-Shiva.” This is ISHWARA DARSHAN — the vision in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum, in the Temple.

The process of Constructive Destruction is SHIVA, the Annihilator. Thus SHIVARATRI is the destruction of Ego in the discovery of the Self – SHIVA. 

May all devotees come to experience at least the shy rays of the early dawn at the end of one’s own inner “ratri” in the emerging beams of the Shiva-Spirit in us. Be quiet. Be silent within. Blind. Deaf. Mum. BE…..  Invoke. Be expectant. Let SHIVA happen. TRY….. May Lord Shiva’s Grace be upon all during this SHIVARATRI celebration!!

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Symbolism of Shiva & Significance of Shivaratri!

SHIVARATRI represents the State of Realisation – Jivanmukti. Ratri signifies darkness – the darkness of spiritual ignorance (Avidya). Shiva is the personification of Auspiciousness – the Awareness or the Knowing Principle. 

Where Shiva “is”; Ratri “is not” (Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya). To reach this Highest State, the spiritual seeker is advised UPAVASA and JAGARANA. 

Upa means “near”. Vasa means “to stay”. Therefore, UPAVASA not only means “fasting”, but in its broader perspective it means “to stay connected with the Higher God-principle”. JAGARANA means “to be alert and aware”. Hence, Upavasa and Jagarana means “to be constantly and consistently identified with the Lord and simultaneously to be in a state of inner awareness, so that the mind does not move away from its focus. In the inner Upavasa-Jagarana State alone, the Vision of the Divine can take place and this is referred to as Shiva Darshana. 

Lord Shiva is the Lord of Ascetics (Sanyasins). He is also the personification of Dispassion (Vairagya). As Dakshinamurthi, he represents the Adi Guru, imparting the Atma Vidya (Subjective Science) to his disciples through eloquent silence with the help of the Jnana Mudra (Chinmudra). As Nataraja, the Lord of Naada and Nritya, he represents the dynamic cycle of creation, sustenance and dissolution – at the universal and individual levels. The SHIVA-LINGA represents the Formless-form of Lord Shiva. The Linga, in its truest form is actually elliptical in shape. It represents the entire Cosmos wherein all planets and celestial bodies are moving in elliptical paths (Keplers Laws of Planetary Motion)! The upper half of the elliptical-shaped Shiva Linga which is visible to us in the sanctum of the temples represents the manifested universe of things and beings. The lower portion of the elliptical-form which is not visible represents the Unmanifest, Absolute Substratum or the Adhishtana for the manifested universe. The elliptical-shape allows maximum absorption of spiritual energy from the Cosmos and radiation of the same to the surroundings.  

To the spiritual seeker, Lord Shiva represents both the PATH and the GOAL. Lord Shiva residing on the snow peaks of Kailasa represents Tapascharya (austerity). The All-pervading Lord is clothed with the very directions from all sides (Dik-ambara). The perennial flow of Ganga from his matted locks stands for the “flow of Spiritual Knowledge”. The moon adorning his head represents the mind which is well integrated with Knowledge! Parvati seated next to the Lord represents Shakti – the ability and capacity to walk the spiritual path. Sankara wears the eternal flow of Time as an ornament round his neck in the form of a snake. The Lord has three eyes representing the sun, moon and fire – the natural sources of light. The two horizontal eyes represent EXPANSIVENESS or SPACE. The third vertical eye represents DEPTH or TIME. Also, the Lord’s RIGHT eye represents the SUN (Life-force, Purusha). The LEFT eye represents the MOON (Matter, Prakriti). The relation between the two factors: Matter and Energy or Prakriti and Purusha, gives rise to the entire universe of things and beings. The THIRD EYE of the Lord represents VIVEKA or DISCRIMINATION or the FIRE-of-KNOWLEDGE which helps the seeker to transcend the concept of duality.

Shiva wields the three-pronged weapon in his hand – Trishula. The three prongs represent transcendence over: the three states (waking, dream, deep sleep), the three gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas), three periods of time (past, present, future), and the three equipments (body, mind, intellect). Lord Shiva resides in the burning ghat (smashana vasi). The burning ghat represents the “inner state” of a realised person where the entire world of plurality with its names, forms, qualities and activities are all burnt up and transcended in the Fire of Spiritual Knowledge (Jnana-Agni). The only residue left behind is the One, Homogeneous White Ash – the Truth behind the entire plurality! The Lord adorns himself with this “Ash”. This is the Ultimate Glory – the Real Vibhuti – of a Man of Realisation. Lord Shiva has Nandi (Bull) as his vahana (vehicle). Nandi represents an individual who has complete mastery over his equipments as well as one who has totally surrendered to the Lord. Such an individual becomes the “fit instrument” for the Lord to function through for the welfare of the world. The Lord is invoked and worshipped with the sacred bilva leaves which are a cluster of three leaflets. The three represent all the tri-groups which one has to transcend in his seat of meditation to reach the State of Enlightenment – Iswara Darshana.

“Om Namah Shivaya! Hara Hara Mahadeva!!”

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Sri Sankara Bhagavadpada!

Sankara was born to Aryamba and Sivaguru in Kalady. He exhibited extraordinary intelligence and mastered all that was taught to him and even composed – Balabodha Sangraha. Even at that young age, Sankara wanted to embrace sanyasa. However his mother did not give him permission, but someday he hoped that his desire would be granted. One day when he was taking a dip in the river, a crocodile caught hold of his leg and started pulling him into the river. He cried out to his mother who was on the banks of the river for help, but she was helpless. At that moment, Sankara cried out and told his mother that now he was in the jaws of death and nothing could be done. He pleaded with her to atleast grant him permission to take on the sanyasa robes at this crucial juncture. The desperate mother agreed. Sankara loudly chanted “sanyastoham…sanyastoham…sanyastoham” (I have renounced). Miraculously the crocodile released its hold on his legs!

Sankara came out of the waters, and he requested her to give him permission to go in search of his Guru, now that she had allowed him to take sanyas. The mother agreed to let him go with a promise from him that he will be there by her side at the time of her death. Sankara promised her that he would be there at the time of her death.

Just before Sankara left, he had a vision of Lord Achyutha who directed him to go to the ascetic Sri Govindapadacharya, the disciple of the great Sri Gaudapadacharya of the Mandukya Karika fame at Omkaranath. Sankara composed tha Achyutha Ashtakam in praise of the Lord during this time.

Sankara walked Northward. As he was travelling, he came across a place where he saw something astonishing. A huge cobra had spread its hood like an umbrella over a frog to protect it from the scorching heat of the sun. Creatures who are inimical by nature were in harmony and peace with each other at this place! He concluded that it must be because of a great tapasvi’s presence somewhere around. It was the place where Maharshi Rishyasringa had performed tapas. Sankara immediately decided that if ever in future he established a math it would be at this sacred place. Years later, he established the Sringeri Math over here. 
Walking ahead, Sankara came to the banks of river Narmada. Sri Govindapadacharya lived in a cave very close by. He searched for the Mahatma and finally found him in meditation in a cave. Coming out of his meditation, yet with closed eyes, the Acharya asked him (Sankara) who he was. Sankara composed a beautiful hymn, known as Dasa Sloki expressing his perfect identity with the Supreme Reality. Sri Govindapadacharya opened his eyes and saw in front of him a young realized soul prostrating at his feet. The Master was filled with joy. Sri Govindapadacharya accepted Sankara as his disciple. The young ascetic stayed there with his Guru for three years and mastered all the scriptures.

Once during the rainy season, when Sri Govindapadacharya was meditating in the cave, there was sudden flash-floods in the river Narmada. The waters kept rising and rising and threatened to enter the cave, and disturb the Master who was in deep samadhi. At that time, Sankara placed his kamandalu at the entrance of the cave saying that it would absorb the waters into itself. As the waters rose and reached the kamandalu, the flash-flood immediately subsided and in a couple of minutes everything was back to normal. The other disciples were wonderstruck at Sankara’s feat and narrated it to the Master later on. Supremely happy at his disciple devotion and extraordinary achievement, Sri Govindapadacharya blessed him saying, “just as you contained the flood waters in the kamandalu, similarly you should write commentaries on the scriptures which will carry the essence of all the Vedas. This will bestow upon you eternal glory”. Sankara prostrated at his Master’s feet. To test the student’s calibre, Govindapadacharya asked Sankara to write a commentary on Vishnu Sahasranama – his first ever commentary. The teacher was extremely pleased with Sankara’s work. 

Sankara was sent to Kashi to invoke Lord Vishwanatha’s grace and wait for further instructions. Lord Vishwanatha blessed him and directed him to write commentaries on all the sacred scriptures. Many disciples reached him to pursue their vedantic studies. His disciples reverentially addressed him as SANKARACHARYA. 

Sankaracharya then decided to go to Badarikashram. It is here that he wrote the commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Geeta which are known as Prasthana Traya. Later Bhagavan Veda Vyasa blessed Sankara with an extension of another sixteen years (he was sixteen years at that time). Sankara extensively travelled from place to place across the length and breadth of the country to establish the supremacy of Advaita Philosophy and adorned the Sarvagnya Peeta – the Throne of Omniscience. He composed beautiful Hymns on all the principle deities and authored books on the fundamentals of Advaita Philosophy. He organised the Dashanami Sampradaya for the monastic order and unified the Sanmatha tradition of worship. In spite of the various different traditions, customs and rituals followed by the people, Sankaracharya with his lofty vision and zealous missionary successfully brought about integration amongst the people – indeed, a UNIFIED CULTURAL REVIVAL in BHARAT! NATIONAL INTEGRATION through SPIRITUALITY!! 

“Jaya Jaya Sankara! Hara Hara Sankara! Hara Hara Sankara! Jaya Jaya Sankara!!”

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Bhasmasura : The Intellect!

Vrukasura undertook intense tapas to propitiate Lord Shiva. Pleased with his austerity, the Lord appeared before him and asked him what he wanted. Vrukasura asked for the boon of “fire-touch” — anything that he lays his hand on should gets burnt! Lord Shiva granted him the boon, because of which he became known as BHASMASURA. The asura decided to test the efficacy of the boon and proceeded to place his outstretched hand on Lord Shiva’s head. Knowing the unfailing power of his boon, Shiva started running with Bhasmasura following him. Sankara reached Vaikunta. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Lord Vishnu with the help of his Yoga-maya assumed the form of a young brahmachari and appeared before Vrukasura. With the power of his speech and art of communication, Lord Vishnu convinced Bhasmasura to place his hand on his own head. Overwhelmed by the Lord’s Maya, the asura followed the Lord’s advice and placed his hand on his own head and reduced himself to ash (bhasma).

Significance: Bhasmasura represents the human INTELLECT. The extroverted, out-going, objective-knowledge seeking INTELLECT seeks, searches, analysis, probes, investigates the entire outer world of things and beings. And whatever it is trying to understand it can do so only by studying it in “parts”. The WHOLE is investigated and understood by studying it in PARTS — hence the intellect breaks, dissects, divides, differentiates……

This intellect, very efficient in dissecting, analysing and studying the WHOLE problem through PARTS, now wants to “know and realize” Shiva-tattva – the very “power” that lends dynamism to the intellect to function. The more the intellect tries to reach out to the Shiva-tattva, the more IT seems to move away from the intellect. This is represented by Bhasmasura with outstretched hands running behind Lord Shiva. Lord Vishnu as the brahmachari represents the Guru, the embodiment of spiritual knowledge, who comes into the seeker’s life and advises him to turn inward – represented by the hand moving not outward but towards oneself. This represents inner contemplation.

The intellect is transcended at that point and the seeker realises intuitively that what he was searching for outside – the Shiva-tattva – is he himself. In the ‘”white heat of meditation”, in the “fire of knowledge” invoked within himself, the whole world of plurality dissolves away. When anything is burnt, bhasma (ash) is the residue. What is left behind after transcending the intellect is the One Undifferentiated, Undivided, Pure Shiva-tattva — the Absolute Existence which lends existence to the entire world of things and beings! This is Mukti, Enlightenment — the real and true Glory (Vibhuti) of a Man of Realization!

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