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. 🙂

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 – Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth housed in the hallowed premises of Sri Adi Sankaracharya’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! 🙂

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. 

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! 🙂

P.S. Thank You Srinath Sir for the inspiration. You are truly His nimitta in my life. 🙂

See You all soon,

Until Then,

Love and Om,

Lakshmi. 🙂

To Shiva I Bow – The Significance of Om Namah Shivaya – Final Part

Hari Om! Welcome to the voyage inward once again. 🙂 I couldn’t post a blog last week because I was unwell. Just could not get myself to do anything. 😦

In the first chapter, the characters in the story discuss the origins of the Om Namah Shivaya mantra and how it represents the five elements of nature. You can read the chapter here for a sense of continuity – https://onavoyageinward.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/to-shiva-i-bow-the-significance-of-om-namah-shivaya-part-1/

Let’s continue with the second and final chapter! Hope you enjoy the read. 😀 

“Wonderful!” Shivaansh replied, visibly thrilled. “Now, before getting in further, I forgot to ask you a basic question. Do you know the meaning of the word “Mantra”? 

“Yes!” Devika replied excited. “Manah – is the mind and Trayate – means to protect. A Mantra is that which protects the mind.” 

“Absolutely correct.” he beamed at her answer. “What I am now going to explain is something I too have recently discovered and still trying to experience and understand. It is about the impact of this Mahamantra on the Chakras – the energy centers of our body. Now although that is a science by itself – I am speaking about it to you because you mentioned cleansing of emotional issues. Alright?” he sounded apprehensive. 

“Alright Anna. Go on, I understand that I like every other seeker will have to personally experience whatever you explain. For that we have to also know na. Go on.” she encouraged him. 

“Alright so each of the 7 Chakras is connected to an element – that is earth, water, fire, air and space. We have already seen how the 5 syllables of Om Namah Shivaya represent an element each. Let’s begin with OM. Om as we know is the very sound of creation, the beginning of all knowledge. The heart of Shiva. Thus it resonates in the 6th Chakra – the Ajna Chakra located in the center of our forehead. Where Shiva’s third eye – the eye of awareness is situated.” he explained slowly while pointing to the center between the two brows. 

“It is symbolic of intuitive spiritual wisdom. Now, each of these energy centers can also have blockages – which lead to various issues in the mind and body. Om is one chant which calms us down and leads us to deeper meditative experiences. It helps heal issues related to the very direction and purpose of life by bestowing clarity.” he paused, trying to gauge his listener’s understanding. 

She was listening to every word attentively. He went on. “Next with the syllable “NA”, the Mantra dips down to the very first Chakra situated at the base of our spine – the Muladhara Chakra. This one is connected to the earth. Thus it helps purify that element and energy – the issues here are mainly about the primal need to belong and survive. Any idea which is the next chakra?” posing questions to Devika was after all his favourite past-time! 

“Umm..the next element is MAH which is connected to Water. As far as the little knowledge I have of Chakras,” she chuckled, “The next one is Swadhisthana, right?” she asked him.

“Correct. A little below the navel. Because it is all about how we open up to new experiences, here we deal with issues surrounding a sense of well-being and the right to feel and our own desires. Are you observing how the Mantra is rising up and purifying the energy centers?” Shivaansh asked to which she nodded in agreement. 

“The third one is..” he began.

“SHI connected to Fire!” she interrupted now excited. 

He smiled, shaking his head. “Right, right. And the Chakra is the Manipura. Located in the upper abdominal area. Now this is about how confident you are of your own life and your decisions. So issues here will be about self-worth, self-esteem and so on. Want to try explaining the next one?” he winked. 

“Yup! So, the fourth syllable, “VA” represents air. And the next chakra is the Anahata which is located at our heart center. From what I have understood so far, we are also evolving as aware beings as we move up from the most primary needs to higher experiences. The Anahata is associated with love, peace and happiness. Our very ability to love not just those around but ourselves too.” she explained animatedly. 

“Right. Which is why this Chakra impacts our relationships greatly. Imagine, how much this chant is actually helping us at all levels. Continued practice in a very general sense can help us become more aware and calmer thereby improving our relationships to a great extent.” he could sense a deeper understanding growing in both their minds. 

“Now the fifth and the last syllable, “YA” represents space and is associated with the Vishuddha Chakra at the throat region. The energy here is associated with how freely we express ourselves and connect with people and other beings around at the same time – the skills of communication and empathy is impacted here. When it is balanced, it also helps us hear our inner voice of wisdom. So how you connect with yourself, that also matters.” he finished. 

“So it is like a complete potent package to help us not just deepen our meditative practice but heal at various levels of our being. Like it starts right at the center of knowledge, then dips down to cleanse other basic energies and rising up to bestow upon us intellectual and emotional clarity, finally equipping us to become aware seekers ready to absorb the highest truth.” Devika was in absolute awe. 

“Absolutely! An extremely potent chant which cleanses our energy and helps attune our thoughts, actions and awareness to that of the Infinite Shiva, your true auspicious nature. This is what I am discovering in my personal practice too.” he smiled, quite satisfied with this fruitful discussion. 

“And the practice also is so simple. Like any of us can do it! One of my friends practises writing the Mantra. She says that has helped her attention span and quietened the agitations of her mind too.” Devika said, still amazed.

“Definitely. Writing the chant, employs all your faculties in that particular act alone. It makes your mind single-pointed, preparing it for higher flights into meditation. Just as much chanting with the help of a 108-beaded rudraksha mala does. All you need is an erect spine, a comfortable seating position and the loving zeal of a seeker! You’re all set to fly.” Shivaansh shrugged. 

Both of them smiled and turned to the idol of Lord Jagadeeshwara, in awe of the simplicity and interconnectedness of everything there is – and the One who pervades all. 

As they closed their eyes for a 10-minute meditation before they left all that they felt was a deepening sense of inner peace and joy, the timeless connection with the Shiva in their hearts. 

The Chakras are a new area of knowledge for me that I had wanted to explore since a long time, as I kept writing I could sense the understanding deepen within me. It is amazing, how connected everything is.

I leave you with this very potent and calming chant – https://youtu.be/Z454rcr1HPw

Do Like and Comment – Cherish A Dream With Me! 😀

See You Next Week,

Love and Om,

Lakshmi.

Sources of information – Vedic Feed, Scienceandnonduality.com

To Shiva I Bow – The Significance of Om Namah Shivaya (Part 1)

Hari Om! Welcome back to the voyage inward. 🙂 A big thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the love and encouragement you shower on the blog! 

Today I am putting into words the compulsion I have been feeling from within – to begin to write on Lord Shiva. 

Although I have been with Shiva through dance all my life, my fascination for the mystical Lord deepened when I was all of 16. From then to now – working at a place which has a beautiful Lord Shiva temple in its premises – the journey continues! 😀 

This is a different territory of knowledge for me to be exploring. Hope You enjoy the Read! 🙂

Although it had a normal beginning, it was going to be quite a remarkable day for young Devika as she sat staring at Lord Shiva at her favourite temple – the Jagadeeshwara Temple in Powai, Mumbai. 

Her elder brother Shivaansh whom she had gotten here for the first time early in the morning was seated beside her, immersed in meditation. For the hundredth time, she couldn’t help but wonder at the serenity that shone on the Lord’s smiling face. 

Shivaansh opened his eyes and saw her lost in the Lord. He smiled. He was a Shiva devotee himself and had been on some wonderful pilgrimages, but this place had taken his heart away. There was this incredible aura of divinity, the white marbled Lord a sight to behold.  

“Quite divine isn’t he?” he whispered. 

“Anna, there is something about Shiva that is so fascinating. That has always touched my soul. He has an aura, an energy that completely dissolves all your false notions – that completely dissolves “you” as an entity. I don’t think I can comprehend this completely.” she said still lost in the Lord. 

He was surprised at the intensity of her words. There was no one in the temple apart from them. It only added to the piercing silence. Suddenly she turned towards him. 

“Don’t you think that when you look at Shiva, when you meditate on Shiva – you are looking at Life itself as it is. Like you are meditating upon your true nature?” she asked. 

“Absolutely.” He replied having just experienced what she was speaking about. “Now that we are having this conversation, I have a question for you. Up for it?” He winked. 

Devika smiled. Her brother and his ways of having insightful conversations. How could she forget that as an advanced seeker, he was an inspiration for her! She jumped at the chance. 

“Yes, yes.” she replied excitedly. 

“Alright. You recently started chanting Om Namah Shivaya isn’t it? Do you know it’s origins?” Shivaansh questioned. 

“No..but what I have realised in these months is that the chant is one of the most simple yet potent ways to attune our energy to Shiva’s universal energy,” she answered. 

“Rightly said. So, this is a powerful Mahamantra the origins of which goes back thousands of years. It originates in Shri Rudram of the Yajurveda. Do you have your diary with you?” he knew her habit of carrying around a journal wherever she went. 

“The Mantra appears appears in the eighth hymn of Namakam ( TS 4.5.8.1) of Taittiriya Samhita (TS 4.5, 4.7) of Krishna Yajurveda. Like this, look.” he wrote the mantra to show her. 

Namaḥ śivāya ca śivatarāya ca ( नमः शिवाय च शिवतराय च । )

“Now, Om Namah Shivaya means, “I Bow down to Shiva” – who is the Supreme Reality, my own true Self. Thus it is a worship that allows you to move closer to the Source of all energy, lying in the cave of your own heart!” he grinned. 

Devika was listening intently. “So Anna, one of the most popular interpretations we come across is in Bhagawan Adi Sankaracharya’s Shiva Panchakshari Stotram isn’t it? Where Na, Mah, Shi, Va and Ya represent the five elements through which the Absolute manifests in the form of this universe.” she questioned eagerly. 

“Yes. These five elements are the building blocks of the universe and of our own beings as well. Let me write the breakdown for you. There is one more interpretation which I’ll talk about after this.” he said picking up the pen again. 

Om – The first vibration or sound that arose from the void of pure existence to begin the creation of the universe.

Na – Earth (solidity of the human body)

Mah – Water (manifests as blood in our body)

Va – Air (the process of breathing)

Shi – Fire (temperature of the body)

Ya – Sky or Space (the body occupies space)

“Can you tell me some more about this?” a curious Devika asked. 

“Alright so, in ancient times the metaphors the Rishis had to describe their experience of Consciousness were condensed and subtler, possibly even more than what we have today in the form of modern physics. Their metaphor was Shiva.” he paused gauging her expressions.

In their deep meditations, the sages experienced Shiva as the entire universe and Shiva as their own Self. Thus, this mantra when chanted becomes a powerful vibration that allows us to tune into our own true self, that is Shiva. Tell me, you have started the Japa. What have you noticed?” he questioned after explaining. 

“Hmm..What I have felt when I chant, and as the practice is getting deeper is a powerful silence and a cleansing of emotional baggage. I feel a lot more calmer than I ever was. And I also believe that knowing the entire meaning and significance of the chant helps deepen the practice.” she answered thoughtfully. 

“Wonderful!” Shivaansh replied, visibly thrilled. “Now, before getting in further, I forgot to ask you a basic question. Do you know the meaning of the word “Mantra”? 

To Be Continued…

I leave you with two links. Here’s one to listen to the Shiva Panchakshari Stotram – https://youtu.be/CYJ4udIsfBc.

Here’s another link, a magnetic Om Namah Shivaya chant to help you begin your own journey with the Mantra – https://youtu.be/9jScRVIZLic

See You Next Week with Part 2 of the story! 🙂

Love and Om,

Lakshmi.

Sadhana – Uplifting the Mind

Hello! Welcome back to the voyage inward. 🙂 Thank You so much for the wonderful response on Towards True Mental Well-Being! It truly means a lot. 😀

Last Sunday, I had blogged about how the mental health of every individual needs to be addressed with a holistic understanding. 

By Sadhana we give the mind healthy and favourable surroundings, enough nutrition, restful repose, a direction etc. It must revive and grow by itself

Swami Chinmayananda

Today I will be writing about the practices – which we call Sadhanas on the spiritual path – that have helped my mind tremendously. Spirituality is a science that addresses life as a whole – the mental, physical and subtler aspects that we may not be aware of now. Thus, its practices has a deeper, profound healing effect on the mind and body. 

I am breaking this blog into two parts, the second one will be posted next Sunday. What I will be writing about is a very basic introduction because each of these Sadhanas need in-depth examining and experiential understanding too. 

  1. Japa – A powerful practice probably found in all major world religions – Japa is traditionally performed in the beginning with the help of Tulsi mala/Rudraksha mala of 108 beads. You begin by chanting out aloud the sacred mantras of your favourite deity (Ishta Devata – for example Om Namah Shivaya) or the Savitur Gayatri Mantra preferably in the morning hours. As your mind becomes more and more silent – this chanting will become a mere murmur within. It is a sadhana which builds our concentration and gain access to greater potential buried in the mind.

2. Yogasana – I mention Yogasana – because Yoga by itself has a multitude of definitions in different contexts. But here it would mean integrating the body and the mind with breath awareness and a set of practises called Asanas. Each Asana works on parts of the body, enhances one’s awareness and alertness and helps quieten the mind – thereby preparing it for higher flights into meditation. You may check out my trainer’s profile here (she is AMAZING!) and contact her if you have queries. 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Health—Wellness-Website/Yogatainment-612506432515155/ 

3. Meditation – One point that I have come to realise is that meditation begins as a practise we perform with closed eyes and slowly becomes a state of being. From 5 minutes of sitting straight, fidgeting and watching our thoughts to going deeper and deeper – we finally reach a calm state that penetrates into what we do with our eyes open too. 

While there are guided meditations on YouTube and Apps that you can check out – what has worked best for me so far is a slow chanting of Om.

4. Arpana Buddhi – This translates to maintaining a mindset of offering all that you do at a Higher Altar. This altar could be Bhagawan, Guru, the nation, your parents, your goals, etc. In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna asks Arjuna to surrender all his actions and thoughts at His Feet. When we bring this sadhana in our day to day life – the mind stops pondering over the fruits of its actions and loses all attachment with it. While performing the action itself, there is no anxiety for we are completely immersed in the present while being detached from the outcome. The mind is gradually lifted up into serene channels of inspiration. 

Even though something as simple as a walk, an affirmation or even music can help our mind – I wanted to blog about these Sadhanas which have helped me at levels – more profound than I can fathom. I believe they are long-term practises which while requiring tremendous patience and consistency – transform us from within and lift our minds to quieter channels. 

Next week, we’ll look at 5 more practises – and in the future examine these in-depth too.

Until then, please feel free to connect with me if you have questions on lakshstar97@gmail.com. I am a novice too – trying to blog, express and share so that all of us can grow together! 🙂

From now on, I’ll try to ensure that every blog leaves you with a simple resource you can use to uplift yourselves.

As we are in the Shravan month which is dedicated to worship of Lord Shiva – click here for a super-calming Mantra that will leave you feeling refreshed at any point in the day. 😀

See you Next Sunday! 😀

Love and Om,

Lakshmi. 

Towards True Mental Well-Being

Hellooo! 🙂 Now this marks a humble new beginning in the journey of creating content from the heart with two goals – to share and to enhance our growth. Do join me on this quest, I promise we will shine together! 🙂

Today as I woke up in the morning – a thought struck me. What is mental health? Do we actually understand what it means? 

We watch awareness campaigns rise for depression and mental well-being when someone close to us struggles or someone who has achieved a considerable amount of what is regarded as success also fights hard battles inside his/her mind. 

But, is mental health only about creating awareness around Depression, Anxiety or Suicide? No doubt, it is an extremely vital part. Tell me, do we understand physical health merely as being aware of various illnesses and the absence of those? Or is it much more holistic? 

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as, “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively or fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” 

Mental health is more than mental disorders. Treatment is only a part of the whole. The focal point is enabling a person to function at his optimum mental capacity and help him discover that mental fortitude which can stand by him in times of challenges. Mental health is as much about being at peace as it is about having the strength to face life’s struggles. 

We often notice that maintaining physical fitness comes quite naturally to us. While the mind does benefit in this process – why do we not recognize that the mind is far subtler and needs more care and understanding? The mind and body go hand in hand. What affects the mind, affects the body and vice versa. You can’t neglect either – for they are sacred vehicles we are blessed with. 

mental health - as your mind so your vision

In his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda says, “Mind is man. As the mind, so is the individual. If the mind is disturbed, the individual is disturbed. If the mind is good, the individual is good.” 

He explains the working of the Objective Mind (the Manas in Sanskrit) as that which faces the world outside and the Subjective Mind (the Buddhi in Sanskrit) as that which faces within and reacts to this stimuli received from outside. 

“That individual is whole and healthy in whom the objective and subjective aspects of the mind work in unison, and in moments of doubt, the Objective Mind readily comes under the disciplining influence of the Subjective Mind.” he elaborates. 

However, in the majority of us this is split and does not work in unison many times – due to our own delusory attachments and desires – which leads to inner confusion. 

To do each day what it takes to bring these two aspects together and minimize that layer of false notions will bring in mental health into our daily lives. 

I’ll talk in my next blog on 26th July 2020, about those practises which have been working well for me, in my quest. 

Until then, Keep Smiling and Shining!

Do click Like, Follow and leave your comments – cherish this dream with me! 😀

Love and Om,

Lakshmi.