Sunday, 10 April 2011

Savitri


 
Aswapati was the king of Madra. He was wise, austere, restrained, generous and truthful. Assisted by able ministers and attended by sages and saints he ruled his peoples, ever sensitive to their wishes and needs.
His wife was the daughter of Malva and matched the king closely in all virtues.
They had no children which was a matter of great sorrow for them. Not only did they merely crave for a child; they would satisfied with nothing less than a child which would be the embodiment of truth, purity and power. Loyally supported by his wife, Aswapati submitted himself to a severe discipline. For eighteen long years he meditatively invoked the Gayatri.
The Gayatri is the most revered Mantra of the Vedas, the essence of their wisdom and power. It invokes the energy of Savitur, Surya , pervading and presiding over the seven worlds or levels of function of increasing subtlety. These seven lokas or worlds of universal function correspond to the seven centres of human energy represented by the Kundalini. Gross mechanical vibrations represent the gross physical universe and its communication systems. Sound, heat, light and electromagnetic waves represent universes of respective subtlety and their systems of communication. The worlds - Bhuh, Bhuvah, Suvah, Mahah, Janah, Tapah and Satya represent levels from the gross Bhuh to the most subtle form of energy at Satya. It is believed that the human being carries within himself the capacity to open himself to these different worlds under certain conditions.
  For eighteen years Aswapati spent each day in full meditation on Gayatri dedicating all his actions to Gayatri and subsisting only on one meal a day before sunset.
  Then from the sacrificial fires arose Savitri, the very embodiment of Gayatri, the daughter of the Sun God, and blessed Aswapati and his wife. She declared that Aswapati would have his desire fulfilled but he would have a daughter.
  Thus was Aswapati blessed with a daughter of resplendent beauty and charm. They named her Savitri , after her God-Mother.
  Savitri came of age and the parents were desirous of finding a suitable husband for her. Mighty and popular as the king was many were the princes who visited his court and had the opportunity to see Savitri. But to the great disappointment of the king not one of them expressed a desire to marry Savitri. Savitri was of intense beauty and charm of manner but radiated the warm but severe lustre of pure spirit. Her whole being emitted and received only the purest Divine Vibration. Her presence not only did not evoke any carnal desires in the minds of men that saw her, but also squelched any such thoughts even before they arose, leaving then in a state of ecstatic adoration and joy. No wonder, then, that Aswapati was with no suitor for his daughter.
  As the years passed Aswapati was quite worried as it was a great blot on the parents if they did not find a husband for their daughter at the right age. One day Aswapati held counsel with his ministers and called for his daughter to join them. Savitri came in, touched her father’s feet and stood by his side awaiting his address. Aswapati spoke tenderly and spoke the truth. He told her how worried he was that despite her beauty and wit no suitor has come forth. Would it not be right for her, now, to go forth and find a husband for herself? He would arrange to send her on a journey, for as long as she liked and to whatever place she wished to go. She would be well provided for and escorted by the wisest and senior most ministers and priests of the kingdom. If she succeeded in choosing one he would at once arrange for the customary rituals of betrothal and marriage. Always restrained and limited of speech Savitri indicated her willingness by a nod and blush.
  A magnificent escort was provided for her. The escort of ministers, priests, waiting women and guards was ordered to implicitly obey Savitri and take her to whatever places she chose. To the surprise and alarm of the escort Savitri avoided all cities and capitals and princely seats and led them through forests and holy shrines. In each of these places she sought the ashrams of Rajarishis, erstwhile kings and princes who had taken to the path of an austere and meditative life. She spent time with them and their families in respectful concourse. She went from ashram to ashram, from forest to forest.
  The escort which was accustomed to courtly life and which hoped to have an enjoyable time in the different capitals and courts were getting saddle sore. At long last Savitri came to the forest where lived Dyumatsena, the Rajarshi.
  Dyumatsena was the  renowned and valorous ruler of Sala. In his later years he lost his eyesight and became completely blind. Taking advantage of this a neighbouring tyrant invaded and seized the kingdom. Dyumatsena with his wife and baby son migrated to the forests. There they lived in a hut amongst sages and devoted themselves entirely to the disciplines of self-realisation. And along with them grew Satyavan, their son, both in body and mind. Being a prince, even if an exile in forest, he received from his versatile sage teachers all the learning necessary for a king. He was  handsome, truthful and dutiful. Even as a a child he was fond of horses and not having one of his own in the forest he used to make clay models and paintings of horses which earned him the name of Chitrasena, the mystic horse. He embodied truth as did his name Stayavan.
Having stayed as a guest of the royal couple in their ascetic surroundings and having met Satyavan, Savitri there and then gave her heart to him, though she did not reveal it at that time. Having settled her mind on the purpose for which she came she started on her return journey.
One day Aswapati was sitting in court eagerly awaiting for news of his daughter when Narada had himself announced. Narada was a Devarishi blessed with eternal youth and with free access to all worlds and was therefore the source of information for the different beings- Gods, Demons and Men. He himself had no personal axes to grind. His interest was collection and dissemination of information. He often had news far in advance of the events on earth since he knew what was happening in the world of Gods and of Causes. Many was the time he caused friction between gods and demons and between men and others by his rovings. He had access to the highest Divine, chanting the name of Narayana to the accompaniment of a one-stringed tambourine was his occupation when he was not peddling information. He had a mischievous sense of humour and while everyone dreaded his coming and his invariably unpleasant news and his tendency to provoke quarrels no man, demon or god really hated him. And now Narada was with Aswapati exchanging polite pleasantries and gossip since it was long since Narada was last seen in the world of men.
It was then that Savitri returned and she came straight to her father. Seeing Narada she touched his feet, too, and received his blessings.
Narada wanted to know what Aswapati was doing about Savitri’s marriage. Aswapati said that was just what he was getting about and asked Savitri about her journey and asked her to speak freely for Narada was an elder from whom there could be no secrets.
Savitri, then, gave an account of her travels and how she had chosen Satyavan, son of the exiled and blind king Dyumatsena.
Narada exclaimed, "Excellent, excellent, but a pity! What a pity!"
That was Narada’s style - to find flies in ointments, albeit real flies. Savitri turned a shade pale and remained silent.
Aswapati was irate but restrained himself and respectfully wanted to know what the pity was about.
Was it because the parents were living in the poverty of a hermitage, for if so Aswapati would assure Narada and his daughter that was no bar. He, Aswapati knew the transience of material possessions and his daughter seemed to be aware of it. Was that a pity? "No," said Narada. Not all the riches of an empire were equal to the magnificence of Dyumatsena’s exemplary life. Was it that the boy was ugly? No, he was verily the embodied Manmadha, the god of love. Was he defective of character, or deficient in princely qualities? No, no he was the prince of virtues and the crowning glory of his parents’ spiritual aspirations and strivings. Then what was the pity about?
Narada said there was just one little flaw. Satyavan’s perfection was a bud that was not destined to bloom. Exactly to the day, a year hence Stayavan would die. Was it not a pity and was it not right to let Savitri know of this and would not it be wise for the elders to give her another chance and choice?
Aswapati remained speechless for long. Savitri stood stone-still. Aswapati, then , caressed his daughter’s head and asked her to set out again on her quest.
Savitri spoke, soft and firm: "In these matters the heart is given but once. When I had chosen Satyavan I did not take into account whether he was going to live seventy or hundred or two hundred years. So, father, if he lives but one hour from now it is Satyavan and none else. Pray bless me, and set about seeking the consent of Satyavan and his parents."
Narada said that was a most excellent thing to do, and gave his blessings. Aswapati hid his distress as best he could and agreed to his daughter’s decision.
 
  Soon Aswapati and his wife accompanied by Savitri set out for the hermitage of Dyumatsena. They arranged for an escort and entourage that was simple and austere as would befit their host.
Reaching the hermitage Aswapati paid homage to the blind king and his wife. They offered suitable gifts and then broached the subject of their visit. Of course Aswapati was no stranger to Dyumatsena. As kings they had met. Aswapati asked with all humility if Dyumatsena would condescend to permit Satyavan to accept Savitri as his wife. Dyumatsena was both touched and taken aback at this request. What would a delicate princess do in the forest, hewing wood, drawing water and sleeping on grass mats and how can Satyavan afford to look after her. It was different if they were in their own kingdom. Aswapati said it would not be for him to praise his own daughter, but he would submit that Savitri was a princess of perfection and could perfectly play the roles she chose. Savitri would soon prove to them that she would be as dear a daughter to them as Satyavan was their son. Could they please obtain the consent of Satyavan? Satyavan was called in and his joyous consent was taken. Savitri prostrated herself in front of the blind king and his wife and was affectionately caressed by then and blessed.
There and then sages were invited from the nearby ashrams and at an auspicious hour the sacrificial fire was lit and amidst the chanting of hymns Savitri and Satyavan walked round the fire and were sworn to eternal union.
  Aswapati, soon after, left with his entourage. Deep sorrow was within him as he left but not once did he give expression to it. Once his daughter had made up her mind he set about with speed, skill and courtesy to help fulfil her decisions.
  Savitri stayed back at the Ashram. She put away all her trinkets and fineries in the care of her mother-in-law. By her unobtrusive charm she brought sunshine into the life of the old couple. Verily she was a daughter for them. Savitri kept an accurate count of the days and while she watched over Satyavan like a protecting angel, not by the flicker of an eyelid did she reveal the deadly knowledge she carried in her heart. For Satyavan life was endless bliss in her proximity and the manner in which she looked after his parents filled him with respect. Days passed quickly.
Days, weeks, months passed. The dreaded year was coming to an end. Week more, four days left. Savitri took every opportunity to keep close to Satyavan, to have him under her eyes all the time without once neglecting her chores and without agitation. She then decided on ceaseless meditative vigil. She told her in-laws that she was going on a total fast for the four days. She would forgo sleep and would stay on her feet all night and day. The old couple thought that was too much for a young girl. Savitri said she was under a vow and she had to go through with it. Satyavan was deeply concerned for her health and strength. Savitri was firm- no, she would not lose strength. Strength did not come from food alone. Once she started this fierce austerity Satyavan stayed near her as much as he could. Smiling and gay Savitri went on with her tasks and all the entreaties of her husband or parents-in-law would not make her sit down nor rest in any way.
  Three days passed. Savitri was scintillating like molten gold. Satyavan showed no signs of fatigue or illness.
  On the morning of the fourth day Satyavan said he had to go to the deep forests and bring back firewood and flowers and fruits for the sacrificial rite due the following day. He took his axe and assured Savitri that he would be back early before sunset. Savitri was in a fix. She quickly made up her mind to follow him. She told the old couple that her heart was set on seeing the forests in Satyavan company and that it would be a fitting end to her austerities of the four days. Savitri rarely asked for anything and worried as they were about her health they let her have her way.
Satyavan was both delighted and worried to have her with him. But Savitri was full of laughter and light talk and Satyavan ceased to worry. Singing and shouting for joy as the beauty of the forest revealed itself they walked on. Savitri would respond with a spontaneous and deep sense of wonder at all the secrets of the forest as Satyavan showed them.
  All the while Savitri did not drop her vigil over him. Carrying the deep anguish of foreboding in her heart concealed under her smiles like a verdant volcano.
  At last Satyavan chose a suitable glade and they began gathering fruit and flower. Then Satyavan took his axe and began cutting firewood. Savitri was now counting hours and minutes. Satyavan suddenly stopped his work and coming to Savitri complained of a splitting headache as if someone was driving a spear into his head. For the first time Savitri sat down and laying his head in her lap rested him. Satyavan lay still. His voice was sinking and his colour was fading. He was no more conscious. Savitri’s grief was intense. But restraining herself she kept watching over his feeble breaths.
It was, then, that she was aware of a strange presence standing near Satyavan. He was richly crowned and dressed in flaming red robes. His face of exquisite beauty was of iridescent blue. He was throwing a noose on Satyavan. It was no ordinary earthly being.
Savitri laid aside her husband’s head and standing with bowed head humbly asked as to which august personage graced her with his auspicious visit, and how best could she serve him.

The presence replied, "Noble child, know me to be Yama, the custodian of law and order and of the disposition of souls in their appointed places and worlds. Mortals call me Lord of Death! Yama Dharma, they call me, controller of Dharma. Satyavan’s soul has other tasks to fulfil and its term in this which you call his body is over. I come to escort his soul. Grieve not, I need not give advice to such a remarkable young lady who astonishes me by being able to see me and speak to me."
  Savitri was struck by the majesty and benevolence that shone in his face. She asked how it was that so mighty a lord had himself come in person to conduct Satyavan’s soul when she heard that he usually sends his messengers. Yama replied that it was no ordinary soul, that of Satyavan, which acquired almost the status of a lord of gods. But no more would he say as the time was over and he threw the noose on Satyavan and lassoing the subtle body he strode out and mounting the buffalo he set off to the Southern quarters which were his abode.
  Savitri hurried alongside of him. "Stay, Lord,’’ she said, "Strangers become friends when they exchange a few words. Compassion strengthens the bonds, say the elders. Is it then true or false that compassion is the core of Dharma? Noble Lord, who besides thee can instruct me in such a matter?" 
  Yama said ‘’You speak the truth, child. Compassion is the basis of Dharma. More and more you amaze me. You fill me with joy not because of what you say but because you are what you say. Yet, we must part and I am in a hurry. The night has set in for you mortals and you must hasten to attend to the remains of your husband." He strode forth on his way.
  Savitri hung on to his side. " I am not daring to stop you, my Lord,’’ she said, "I am merely following my husband. You say the night has fallen. Yet I only see light for how can it be dark when I am beside Satyavan."
  Yama said, "Savitri, you please me beyond words. I grant you any wish save the release of Satyavan’s soul."
  Savitri said, "Thank you. May I then ask you to grant full eyesight for Satyavan’s father and restore his kingdom to him?"
  "Granted with pleasure", said Yama, "and now I must firmly ask you to go back. You have already come far, too far, and a long walk you have behind you."
  "Far!" exclaimed Savitri,"far from where and whom, my Lord. I see that I am in the same spot and have not moved for I see Satyavan is just here and I am beside him. There is only one measure for my distances, lord, and that is the space between me and my Satyavan. Tarry not for me."

Yama had to go on and yet he could not let her follow him and yet was seeing himself outwitted for he could not legitimately control her movements whatever authority he had on Satyavan's soul.       "Child,’ he said, ‘’the way is difficult and the hazards you know not even in your dreams. You can wish of me more things barring Satyavan’s soul and then go back to discharge your mortal duties."
  Savitri expressed profound gratitude. "You are verily the compassionate lord of dharma. My father hoped to have sons and he has none. Grant him sons".
  Yama readily agreed and moved on. Savitri kept apace. The night was pitch black. The sombre stillness of the forest was now and then seared by the ghoulish calls of invisible marauders and hideous shapes flitted through the air sending freezing chills through the forest life as they moved deeper and deeper into the regions of the Lord of Death.
  "Savitri," said Yama, "now you must really turn back. Wise as you are you must know that Satyavan and you are separate souls and the bonds of your mortal bodies dissolve at death. No, my daughter, for you are that to me, you must go back, and you must be tired beyond limit by now."
  Savitri replied,"Most benevolent father, it cannot be that Satyavan and I are different or separable for I swore by the sacred Agni and Sun, your father, that he and I were to be one. I and Satyavan are like the word and its meaning. How can you ever separate the two. And tired I am not. Tired! In the presence of my lord Satyavan and in the presence of my radiant father!"
  Yama could not get angry with her. Yet he could not delay his onward march through the ever deepening darkness and deadliness of the routes ahead. "More and more you puzzle me, young one. Yet you do not see far enough to realise the perils ahead. Though no mortal has set his eyes on me yet am I the most feared one amongst all. You call me benevolent and compassionate. You flatter me greatly. Neither do I find it possible to contradict your words of wisdom except to say that my books show no precedent for what you are doing though many have been there who said the same things. Just one more wish and then we must really, really part."
  Savitri said, "Presently I shall think of one good wish for I dare not waste your kindness. How refreshing is this walk with you and with Satyavan silently resting in your care. Yes, grant me just this one wish my lord, that I bear a hundred sons."
  "Yes, yes," said Yama, "granted and pray now do turn back!" Yama spurred his buffalo into some speed and sternly set his face on road ahead. But Savitri was scampering behind him.
  "Stay , Lord,"she cried, "just tell me this if so lofty a lord like you would utter sterile words."
  Yama was taken aback. "What are you talking about," he asked.
Savitri said, "You have granted me a hundred sons. And in what manner is this to be fulfilled for my mortal body you have not declared. You really mean what you say, father!"
  Yama jumped off his buffalo which was snorting impatiently under the burden of a slow march. The buffalo was wondering what was happening to his master, getting soft under a wheedling damsel of the mortals. Yama blushed blue and then with infinite compassion caressed her head and released Satyavan.
  "Go, child,"he said, "Go back and you will find Satyavan alive and I grant him four hundred years of life. Your relation with Satyavan is akin to the yearning of the separative self, Jivatma for inseparable union with the Total Self, Paramatma. You have shown that for the self which has the Self as its centre of reference and source of light there is no space and time nor darkness nor fear nor death. You have understood and conquered me. May you be the beacon light for many more to follow. I am dispenser of souls not their destroyer. I house them and appoint them to their apprenticeship in their journey to their ultimate goal and station. Only after long weary wanderings does the self realise that its goal is within itself and so the universe. And now child off you go for more I do not know nor wish to for I have tarried long and I do not seek to know more of my Master’s designs than is necessary for my job.”
  Savitri touched his feet with tears in her eyes and looked up to see that Yama had vanished.
  In the grim dark of the midnight forest Savitri walked back- and miles seemed but yards in the lightness of her step. Back in the glade she found Satyavan in sound sleep.
  Slowly Satyavan woke up and was shocked to see the night so advanced. He vaguely remembered having been fatigued and slept and of having had a strange person brooding over him. Savitri assured him that it was his fatigue and that she had allowed him to sleep. However, they set out for their ashram as their aged parents would be distracted with worry at their long absence in the forest.
At the ashram the parents of Satyavan kept awake as hour after hour passed and the sun set and night fell and the children did not return. Round about the middle of the night Dyumatsena found that his eyesight was fully regained and his sorrow at not finding his son and daughter-in-law was all the more acute. They went around the hermitages to seek news and comforted by the sages they remained waiting at the threshold of their hut.
Round about day-break Savitri and Satyavan reached the hut and were enveloped in the warm embrace of their elders. It was only then that Savitri gave an account of all that had happened.
In a short while messengers came from Sala bringing news of the downfall of the tyrant usurper and Dyumatsena was invited back to his kingdom by his faithful subjects.
Aum
Salutations to Savitri!
Daughter of Light,
Nectar of the realised Self.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Amrita Mandhana - Churning of Nectar

Once, the gods and demons were equally eager to discover and drink nectar - Amrita,which would confer invincible strength and immortal life.
The gods were many,each with his own sphere of influence and power over cosmic functions. They usually did their daily jobs well enough. If treated with respect they were helpful to man. The gods, between themselves managed to maintain the seasons, rainfall, course of winds and stars, and even the rhythms of man's being and thinking. Sometimes they could turn nasty and mischievous. Every now and then there came a man who wrested their secrets from them and even had himself elevated to their rank for short or long intervals of time. It is not surprising, therefore, that the gods kept themselves a little envious and suspicious of man, who alone of all creation could seek and secure direct access to The One who rules All.
The demons had the same parentage as the gods, both having been descended from the two daughters, Aditi and Diti, of Daksha, and who were married to Kashyapa, the great Rishi. The demons were always jealous of their cousins, the gods, and never gave up the feeling that they could do the jobs of the gods better than they, and from the perseverance born of jealousy they often succeeded in usurping the role of gods. The demons also harboured a suspicion that the Divine One was being too lenient with the gods, was not keeping a proper check on their efficiency, and in fact was getting too incompetent and insignificant, and so they were not even certain if He existed at all.
And there was Man. Beautiful of form, his body was provided with enough rooms for the gods and demons to freely wander in and out, and to play with the numerous gadgets provided therein. Gods and demons being never very cordial cousins, had always carried on haggling, squabbling and fighting to possess him for their own. But, the One Lord kept a bit of Himself, the size of a thumb-nail or grain of wheat, a single effulgent spark of fire, hidden in a secret recess of man's heart, silent witness of all that was happening. There He lay, so silent, compassionate, patient and tolerant that gods, demons and man himself rarely suspected His presence or benefited by it.
Occasionally there would come a man who got vexed with the din and smoke of the boisterous guests who had held him hostage in his own house, and he would, by labour or luck, come upon the Secret Master of his house, and thence forth rid himself off the tyranny , both of gods and demons. Of course, neither gods nor demons liked that to happen and very often they succeeded in pulling man out of his new won freedom by flattery, bribes and threats. And when such a man neglected the qualities of silence, compassion, patience and tolerance in order to loudly assert his freshly acquired freedom, he fell headlong into the arms of his crafty tempters and captors.
The gods met in council on Mount Meru and appealed to Vishnu, the Lord of Gods, to tell them the secret of making nectar. Naturally, they did not invite their cousins to the meeting.
Vishnu said it was going to be a formidable task. They would have to churn the ocean of oceans. The Mandara mountain had to be used as the churning rod. Its weight could only be borne on the back of Kurma, the turtle. They would have to use Vasuki, the serpent, as the churning rope. These were no small materials and no small jobs. The gods were staggered at the size of the task. For ages they were sitting in the soft seats of secure,comfortable and well-ordered routine jobs, and experiment and hard work was not much to their taste. When their faces fell Vishnu suggested that they could take the help of their cousins, the demons. Nectar could only come by common striving of god and demon.
Reluctantly and with tongue in cheek the gods asked the help of the demons. The demons yelled with joy and, of course, demanded equal share of the produce.
The ocean of oceans was approached and its permission obtained. The Mandara mountain, Kurma the turtle, and Vasuki, the serpent were duly praised and propitiated. All of them agreed on the promise of a share of the nectar.
At last the mountain was rolled into the ocean and set on the back of Kurma which lay on the ocean bed. Vasuki twisted itself round the middle of the mountain. Gods holding its head and the demons holding the tail they set to churn.
It was hard work, with a din that shook the worlds they shouted and swore as they pulled turn by turn.
As they churned Vasuki was spitting out dense fumes of poison that filled the air. The trees and rocks on the mountain caught fire with the friction and giant flames shot up into the skies. Indra, god of clouds and rain, sent cascades of water to wash the air off its poison and quench the all-devouring flames. Some of the fire hid itself in the ocean. Filled with the juices of herbs and shrubs and rocks that got blown to diamonds the swirling waters of the ocean turned into milk.
Days, months, years passed and they were no nearer the sight of nectar. Dejected, cursing and swearing, and yet athirst with the desire for nectar they continued. Vishnu, Brahma and Siva, the divine trinity asked them to go on with the task. Things began to happen.
First of all came the Moon, Chandra- like an effulgent mountain of butter hurtling through the waters and lighting up the sky, decorating the head of Siva.

image from google - non-commercial use
 Then came Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and beauty, rising out of a lotus, shining in golden splendour. Promptly, she settled herself on the chest of Vishnu.
In quick succession came out Sura, the essence of intoxicating bliss; Parijata, the desire fulfilling tree; Surabhi, the cow of plenty; Uchaisrava, the free horse of abundant energy; Airavata, the elephant for Indra; and Kaustubha, gem for Vishnu.
Then spouted forth a most firece, fiery poison - Kalakuta.
Enveloping the worlds it threatened total pralaya or dissolution. Lord Siva swallowed it and held it for all times in his throat, wherefore Siva's neck is dark giving him the name of Nilakantha.
At last there arose from the waters a magnificient person, clad in blinding white, holding a golden vessel. It was Dhanavantari, the physician of the gods holding nectar in his hands.
The demons were watching with wrath as one by one of the things that came up were appropriated or dispersed out of reach. As the goblet of nectar came up they tried to snatch it and run away and were preparing for a row. It was then that Vishnu took the form of a most bewitching beauty, Mohini, and by her coquetry wheedled the goblet into her own hands. Having induced both the gods and demons to seat themselves in separate rows she danced her way through them doling out mouthfuls of nectar to the gods and none to the demons.
One demon was, however, quite clever. Rahu disguised himself as a god and was served his mouthful. Hardly had he swallowed, Surya and Chandra - the Sun and Moon - shouted out their discovery and Vishnu severed his head. The head remained immortal and hurtling into the sky it pursues its vendetta against the Sun and Moon by now and again swallowing them, causing eclipses as they traversed his mouth and throat.
There followed a great battle in which the gods defeated the demons. Nectar gave the gods immortality but not the power to decide the mortality of others. They could defeat the demons but not destroy them.
Legend has it that throughout this event Vishnu was in the form of Narayana with his inseparable aspirant and companion, Nara or Man. Nara and Narayana, aspiring man alongside of the total Divine to which he aspires, represented as two Rishis, is the most popular representation of Vishnu.
At the end of the battle the gods gave the vessel with the remaining nectar to the care of Nara.
Neither Narayana nor Nara partook of the nectar. What need of nectar for Narayana to whom belongs all time and space and who is Himself time and space? What need of nectar for Nara, the inseparable shadow of the One who is All?
AUM
Salutations to Nara- Narayana - the Man-Divine
AUM

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Sri Ganesa

photo of Sri Ganesh temple outside Auroville, by Vikram Surya Chiruvolu
''Ganesa - The power that removes obstacles by the force of knowledge''
- Sri Aurobindo



Parvati was the daughter of the King of the Snow Mountains, the Himalaya. By years of disciplined aspiration and devotion she became the Divine consort of Lord Siva. Parvati is one of the many mystic forms of the Divine Mother.
One day, the story goes, that Parvati was preparing for her bath. There was no one to guard the bath-house door. She, then, made a boy-doll out of scented flour paste which Indian women, sometimes, apply on their body before a bath. This might consist of wheat or gram flour, turmeric, sandalwood powder, saffron and water.
Parvati was quite pleased with the doll she made, and she breathed Life into it. The doll became a real boy, and a more handsome boy there could not be.
Parvati stood the boy at the gate and charged him to guard it against any intruder whoever it might be.
It was like that when Lord Siva Himself appeared at the gate and was about to walk in when the boy stopped Him. Of course, Siva had never seen the boy before, and He was, at first, quite amused at the tiny one standing in his away. Soon things were different.
The little boy was getting obstinate, impertinent, rude and even threatening and what was worse questioning- who, what, why.
Siva had three eyes, as everyone knows, and all He has to do is to open His fore-head eye just a bit to burn up a whole universe. Fortunately too, He has control and compassion and rarely He allowed Himself such a drastic step. But this little boy was getting on His nerves - imagine the cheek, asking and ordering the Master in His own house! The questions little boys and girls go on asking their parents! Siva, Himself, got quite upset, and just knocked the boy's head off. Many parents would be tempted to do the same thing but, fortunately, they remember the trouble Siva got himself into by His haste and stop themselves in time.
Soon, Parvati saw what had happened at the door and was bedside herself with rage and grief. She did not give Siva a chance to utter one word. She could not reconcile herself to what had happened. She declare that she would have nothing more to do with Siva until he repaired the damage by restoring a head to the boy.
Siva, then, wandered far and wide thinking matters over. At last, He decided to secure the head of the first creature He would come across sleeping with its head towards the north. After long search he came upon an elephant which was lying with its head to the north. Siva took off its head, carried it home, and placing it on the boy's shoulders, restored him to life.
Henceforth the boy became known as Gajaanana - the elephant-faced.
Looked after by his loving parents and by millions of devotees, he grew up to be mighty lord in his own right, with many titles, duties and functions.
Representing collective wisdom he has come to be known as Ganesa - the lord of the group.
He was born from an act of Parvati's mind. Hence, he is the Divine Mother's son, the manifest Power of Her Creative Mind. He is ever attended by two maids - Buddhi and Siddhi, discrimination and realisation.
The elephant's head with its trunk resembles the human brain with its spinal cord. This reinforces the idea that Ganesa symbolises the power of knowledge.
A rat has been assigned as his constant companion showing his concern for the smallest of creatures.
He is called Vighneswara - the lord of obstacles. He is said to be at once the cause and cure of obstacles in our undertakings. He symbolises the inner inertia of the mind, and its momentum and impact when on the move.
He broke off one of his tusks and used it as a weapon to kill a demon. He also uses the same broken bit as a pen, for he is also the chief divine scribe. This shows the transition of a destructive impulse into creative uses.
He is the first lord to be propitiated before one undertakes any new task. Why should this be so?
Perhaps, it is because Ganesa represents the first human group, its formation, its conflicts and resolution. With the coming of the child the prototype of the human group, the family, comes into existence. The child and its parents are mutually strangers to one another - the psychic individuality of each being hidden from the other. The child also poses a threat to the freedom of physical relations between parents, and it competes for their physical closeness. Till this conflict is satisfactorily resolved the group cannot function in a creative way.
Ganesa, therefore, symbolises the basic obstacle to creative group existence and work, and also the key to resolve the obstacle. This lies in the innate physical needs the sexes feel towards one another, and the necessity of inhibiting these needs before any real creative and cooperative group work can be done.
This, briefly, is the story of Ganesa, the symbol of the power of the mind of the human collective and the conditions of it success.