Mahashivaratri 2021 – The Nectar of Sivanubhava

Hari Om and Hello! How is everyone doing? I am visiting this space after two months and it feels good to be back, most importantly with a post on Lord Shiva and the enthralling experience of Mahashivaratri this year! Hope you enjoy the read. ๐Ÿ™‚

I have had blissful Mahashivaratri celebrations since the past two years but this year was different. It was unexpected and beautiful in so many ways!

2021 was my first Mahashivaratri at my University โ€“ Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth housed in the hallowed premises of Sri Adi Sankaracharyaโ€™s maternal home. We also have a beautiful temple of Lord Dharmashastha (Lord Ayyappa) in the Ashram/Campus premises.

Needless to say, the celebrations were grand. More than that, it was transforming and soul-touching.

I began the day by participating eagerly in an absolutely divine Rudrabhishekam ceremony accompanied by mesmerizing chants of Sri Rudram and Chamakam. Very surprisingly all the Shiva-Aradhana shlokas I was yearning to chant were rendered by Swamiji (Swami Sharadananda, CIF) himself with all of us joining in as the Tiruvenis proceeded with the Alankaaram of the Shivalinga.

The atmosphere that was vibrant with Shiva-bhakti reached its peak when the temple doors were opened and all of us received Darshan of the Lingam in all its glory. That is one sight I will never forget!

It reiterated to me the importance of pujas for it purifies our minds. At that moment of Abhisheka and Darshan, when we are completely in tune with the effulgent form in front of us, very naturally we are attuned to Bhagavan residing in our hearts.

This was only the beginning. Let me jump straight to the evening, the crux of this enchanting day. At 6 PM I found myself waiting for the Chuttuvilakku ceremony to begin. Here, Bhaktas volunteer to light up the entire temple with lamps of Shraddha and Bhakti. The result is an enthralling sight that can never be described. To me, the lit up temple embodied that Satchitananda which is our own true Self. Added to it, I had been waiting to participate in this ceremony since I heard of it! ๐Ÿ™‚

At 7 PM we began our journey towards Bhagavan Shiva in every sense, one that would conclude for the day at 3 AM but set to go on for eternity. Participating in a Sahasra Linga Abhisheka Puja for the first time, we were enamored by the elaborate preparations. The Sannidhana with Bhagavan Sri Dakshinamurti blissful in meditation and a 1,116 Parthiva Lingas made from purified clay greeted us.

What followed was an unforgettable Manasa Yatra, a divine pilgrimage to Kailasa, the abode of Mahadeva.

Here I will recount various facets of the Puja and what we can imbibe from them into our lives –

1. The Sankalpa –

A Sankalpa is a strong resolve taken by the Bhakta to fulfil the purpose of the Yajna being conducted for the benefit of all. It can also be seen as a metaphor for life itself is a Yajna and the Sankalpa is to uphold Dharma and attain the Catur-vidha Purusharthas, thereby fulfilling the purpose of life. The particularly powerful Sankalpa for this particular night also echoed the same sentiments. As we move through life, all we need is to put in efforts and leave the rest to Bhagavan!

2. Worship of Devata-s –

Hindu Dharma has evolved organically over thousands of years guided by the principles of this infinite cosmos. Therefore it is no surprise that protection and reverence for nature is essential to its ethos. For it establishes that Bhagavan as Consciousness pervades all beings – everything is by nature divine. Imagine what this could do for our ecosystem when followed in spirit by all?

On the pilgrimage to Kailasa, the hordes of Devata-s guarding the gates include the 7 mountains like the Himalayas, the 10 rivers like Mother Ganga, the Trimurti-s, the five faces of Bhagavan Sadasiva, and so on. When we proceed forward with their Anugraha, we not only imbibe the virtue of humility but also expand to love all beings around – for that alone is true Seva and Prema.ย 

3. The Inner Pilgrimage –

Every step forward on this Yatra was a form of Sadhana and Tapasya built on the firm foundations of Shraddha in Sadasiva and the yearning to attain his Darsana. That experience of listening to the auspicious Sri Rudram and Chamakam multiple times as the Rudrabhishekam went on and finally beholding Bhagavan in the glorious form of the Sivalinga was inexplicable. The Alankaaram performed so with supreme devotion still stands in front of my eyes. The moment of offering the Purnahuti into the Agni towards the end, to me was symbolic of offering all of us to Bhagavan – is there anything which is ours really? The Maha-arati was the final merger for the Jiva into Sadasiva, of losing all traces of himself at Kailasa!

4. Being Present –

When we realize the importance of remaining present in the moment to stay attuned and absorb the spiritual energy in such ceremonies, we also realise how we can apply this in our living by staying tuned in to the present, to the presence of Sadasiva’s grace in the form of an umpteen opportunities and so much more in our lives!

5. The Nectar of Sivanubhava –

This sacred Yatra was a reiteration to the fact that nothing more is needed in life than Sivanubhava! That attaining Aikyam or oneness with Mahadeva is very much possible through consistent Sadhana – for which Sadhana becomes our companion, Jnana and Bhakti deepen and the very experience of life is gradually heightened until we behold Bhagavan Shiva in the cave of our hearts! What is a greater blessing than sailing through Life with Him?

With that I leave us to contemplate upon Him. Hope you had a beautiful Mahashivaratri with Bhagavan too! ๐Ÿ™‚

P.S. Thank You Srinath Sir for the inspiration. You are truly His nimitta in my life. ๐Ÿ™‚

See You all soon,

Until Then,

Love and Om,

Lakshmi. ๐Ÿ™‚

Birthdays – The Indian Ways of An Uplifting Celebration

Hari Om! ๐Ÿ™‚ My heartfelt gratitude for all the wishes and blessings on this beautiful day. Hope you like this special blog! ๐Ÿ˜€

Birthdays bring with them excitement, love and happiness. ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

How do we generally celebrate our birthday? By cutting a cake, celebrating with friends and family or going out for dinner and partying, right? 

If this is what a birthday celebration means to you, maybe that is fine. 

But today, we are going to look at a subtler and more beautiful perspective of celebrating this special day – or should I say days?ย 

Because as per the Indian tradition or the lunar calendar, we celebrate our birthday on what is called the “Janma Tithi”, where the constellations of the astronomical bodies are similar to what it was during the time of our birth.ย 

Earlier I personally had zero belief in the “Tithi or Nakshatram(Star)” birthday as we call it – simply because I never understood this tradition.ย 

In 2019 however, I could sense a deep spiritual happiness the moment I woke up on the day of my star birthday, hence I spent time reading about it. I’ll simplify that bit of information here.ย 

The vibrations present in the surroundings on the Tithi are most supportive for true inner growth – because they match the vibrations we were actually born with, which make up our subtle body.ย 

Thus the ancient seers came up with celebration rituals that can enhance the person’s capacity to absorb these spiritual vibrations around him and evolve in all the aspects – spiritual, mental and emotional.

These celebrations are inherently Sattvic or purifying in nature. They enhance the qualities of purity and awareness in us and strengthen the vibrations of the subtle body. 

Whether you celebrate the date of birth or the Tithi or you actually choose to do both like I do – do it mindfully, integrating the best of Indian cultural practices on both days. Thus, both the special days can be greatly elevating. 

How? Let’s see!ย 

Abhayangasnan – Ah, how does it sound to begin the day early with a calming ritual of a gentle oil massage followed by a warm water bath? This Ayurvedic ritual helps wash away stress, fatigue and dead skin cells, is known to increase circulation to the nerve endings and levels mental alertness, amongst many other proven benefits. It is a complete nourishment for the physiological and psychological systems of the being.

Holistic Well-being – Remember how the mind automatically calms down due to divine vibrations when Arati is performed at home or at a temple? Similarly, here the individual sits near the altar at home and the elder performs the ritual of Aukshan – where subtler frequencies are activated by a lit lamp is waved in a circular motion in front of the person with a prayer for his/her well-being. It is completed by sprinkling unbroken grains of rice (Akshata) on the childโ€™s head.ย 

Sattvic Inspirations – In the earlier days, parents used to invite evolved beings like the Rishis and saints to bless the child for spiritual and material growth. Today, such a blessing is rare. If you receive it, cherish it with all your heart! Visiting the temple apart from engaging in listening to and reading greatly inspiring material and holding stimulating discussions with a like-minded person on this day, can be highly elevating.

The Birthday – By S.Aravind Raghavan (AKA Aravind Bhaiya! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Cakes Delight – This is something all of us love! But perhaps we can avoid blowing a candle off because it corresponds to extinguishing light. Instead say a simple heartfelt prayer and then cut the cake. That will enhance the positivity of the ritual!ย 

Light Lamps – What better than lighting colourful lamps and making it a mini-Diwali celebration? Light lamps of knowledge, love, happiness and well-being. And radiate light to all!ย 

Celebrations with Family – Again, an aspect all of us love. Birthdays are beautiful occasions for family get-togethers too.ย 

And a perfect day to seek the blessings of the parents, grandparents and other elders you revere! For it is said that the feet of an elder stands for the values he has lived through an entire lifetime.  

Give Gifts – Eh? Birthdays are all about receiving gifts right? Absolutely! But don’t forget you too were gifted to the world on this day. Gifts when given become more special. Make a gift of all the love you have to the world around. Give a donation, visit an orphanage, teach a child, grow plants, feed animals – or choose anything else!ย 

Make this day and life special for everyone around.ย 

Reflections and Growth – As we have already seen, this is a day with greater spiritual significance than we realize. This is when you can take time off, and reflect upon the year that has gone by. Where we fell and grew, the achievements and improvements to be made – this is a good day to see where you are and where you want to be in all aspects.ย ย 

Offering Gratitude – Finally offer heartfelt gratitude to Bhagavan for all the hits and misses,the sorrows and joy and for the beautiful life and birthday celebrations, for just about everything!

Thus, a birthday celebration in Bharatโ€™s advanced culture, is more like a spiritual fest of inner growth, seva and gratitude! It is truly a day for the seeker to be born again with fresh vigour.ย 

Incidentally both 2020 and 2019 were super special for me, because I could include most of these aspects in the celebrations on both days! The Star birthday especially in 2019 was truly special because I discovered an Ayyappa temple somewhere in a corner of Jaipur. It was indescribable for I also share my Nakshathram with Him. Let’s see what this year’s star birthday brings! ๐Ÿ˜€

Hope you like this blog and include some of the aspects mentioned in your celebrations too! And don’t forget to ask your elders when your Tithi or Star birthday is. ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

Until Then,

Love and Om,

Lakshmi. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Empowering “Why” Behind What You Do

Hari Om! Welcome back to the voyage inward. ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

Today’s blog is a reminder to myself and many of us – who want to do so much, do a lot,ย  leave some things halfway and keep going with some others and sometimes get frustrated due to dead ends! Read on. ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

โ€œWhat is the why behind everything that you do? When we know this in life or design it is very empowering and the path is clear.โ€

Jack Canfieldย 

On the path of life, each of us have various destinations we wish to reach at different points in time. 

But how many times do we pause to ask, “Why am I doing what I am doing?”

How many times do we pause to look at all those incomplete tasks we had begun with great enthusiasm and ask, “Why did I let all that drop off?” 

The answer lies in how strongly we hold on to the “Why” of what we do! If we lose sight of the reason behind what we have started, ultimately we lose sight of both the path and the goal. A strong sense of purpose and unbreakable determination can keep us walking without tiring!

If we look carefully at every personality who has achieved or have been achieving their dreams against all odds : We will know that they never lose sight of their “Whys”. What would happen to a company that goes against its vision and mission? It will fall into absolute chaos isn’t it? 

Lord Krishna knew the reason for every step in his life : to uphold and restore Dharma throughout the land of Bharatavarsha. Thus, he remained unperturbed in the face of every obstacle, even if they came from his own kin.ย 

For, “when you know the why behind what you do, you can bear with almost any how” says one of those people who inspires me!ย 

That is – when you remain steadfast in the principle that drove you to chase a dream, you can tackle every challenge that arises! 

A simple word – “Why”. But such layers of thought behind it. 

In today’s times of constant distractions, it becomes all the more important to stay in tune with the essence of our goals, to keep going back to why we began what we did. 

A good trick in the book would be to write your purpose down and keep re-visiting it from time to time. That is what I have recently discovered is an extremely fulfilling and reflective exercise which led to this blog piece.ย 

For example, if you are a dancer caught in self-doubt, go back to understanding why you are practicing this art form. 

If you have hit a roadblock in a new venture, remind yourself about your passion for it. 

When that energy floods your veins again, when the fire of purpose lights up your lives – no obstacle is too big and no victory too small. Every moment becomes a celebration, every goal worth striving hard for!

Just remember, to know why! ๐Ÿ™‚

See you Next Sunday,

Love and Om,

Lakshmi. ๐Ÿ˜€

When 9 to 5 becomes Transforming!

Hari Om Everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚ Feels amazing to be back here after such a long time. And this time for good. I won’t ever give up writing or blogging again, for I plan to evolve and grow better at it! Looking forward to your encouragement and love. ๐Ÿ™‚

I begin this new journey with an Ode to the place and the Master because of whom I am here today. ๐Ÿ™‚

Time has simply flown by and it is already a year! A year of working at this heaven called Chinmaya Mission.

I remember being stumped by the silent beauty of this Ashram right in the midst of chaotic Mumbai, when I first walked into the premises for my interview.
Since then this place has become home. My association with Chinmaya Mission goes way back to my childhood, yet this one year as a Sevak and an employee has enriched my life beyond words.

As I got out of college, I knew I wasn’t going to fit into the traditional Ad firm or media company. I wanted something different, something that fed my soul and gave flight to my dreams. As a global spiritual organization, Chinmaya Mission did just that.

From going out of my comfort zone by managing social media platforms, creating and visualizing content to still writing on what I loved,
Colleagues who are no less than family and a boss no less than a mother-like figure,
The youth camps that not just gave me some beautiful friends but also Masters who have transformed me from within,
Various activities that have taken my skills a notch up and helped me discover talents I never thought I had,
The knowledge that has helped me discover a richer inner self,
To be able to do work that makes a little difference, to be able to widen my horizons, to read more and learn more,
All the travel that has and continues to enhance my spiritual journey,
For all the challenges and growth-both personal and professional,

To the most important blessing bestowed : Finding my Guru, my Master- Swami Chinmayananda.
Each time I look around at the serene place I call my office, I can sense His compassion,
Each time I delve a little deeper into myself I can feel His Grace,
Each time I read, listen to and reflect upon His words, I can sense His guiding voice,
Each time, every moment I sense His presence!

And here’s to another year of transformation and service! ๐Ÿ™‚