Dance of Shiva

shiva_nataraja

Dance of Shiva is not mere artistic rendition of a mental idea. It is the articulation of a spiritual experience, a clear perception of how one same consciousness wears its many masks of creator, preserver and destroyer. My two cents on this aspect of Shiva.

Sri Krishna says in the Gita, that one cannot help but act. Even the Rishi in his meditative immobility acts, blood courses through his veins, there is a being to sustain and keep alive…within him are the other sheaths of being that support the outer form…all these have to work.

Sri Krishna continues to say that even He the Divine manifest as Avatar for the Age has to act. Without his tendency to act there would be chaos and dissolution. Or perhaps just nothing.

That principle of constant activity, regeneration, destruction is ever present. The immobile stone is but the temporary decision of a group of atoms to hang in there for a while. When they meet their brother sculptor, upon the insistence of his chisel-will they morph into a statue. Where there was irregular block of atoms before, there is now a form of grace and beauty..worthy of adoration, perhaps even prayer.

This principle of making, unmaking and making again is what one sees in the inner experience.

The Dance of Shiva is the amplified version of this experience. His very descent is violent, filled with the immensity of Power. To give an idea of how stupendous this experience must have been, He is the only one of whom even the Vedic Rishis were afraid, “Pity us, O Rudra!”, they cried.

In the Dance of Shiva, it is not the static principle of the Divine one perceives. This is not the Silence of a Samadhi state, not the Void of Nirvana. This is vision of the Divine in all His kinetic glory. Not a snapshot, but a continuous perception of the dynamism of existence.

Thoughts on Sri Krishna’s Revelation of Universal Form

Sri_Krishna_Vision

Let us leave aside the assumption around Krishna’s identity..you could choose whatever works for you..whether as a King, manipulative schemer, beloved of gopis, as Avatar or anything else. The Vishwaroopam, the vision of the Infinite and Immanent Godhead is infinitely more interesting.

Let us remind ourselves of the context again. The hero of that age, Arjuna, has this crisis of conscience. The stark reality of war is in front of him. All the ills that befell him, his family and clan are forgotten. The brutality of what is going to begin makes his moral being shrink in repulsion. He is not afraid, this is his moral being shrinking from the carnage that is about to begin.

In response to this shrinking, Sri Krishna has expounded the larger basis of action, of morality, of spirituality, of how individual action and living can be perfected, of how laws of conduct can be gradually widened in scope to make every thought and action align with standards of living that transcend time bound social contracts into a veritable prayer. To make the individual see his role in the larger context of the Divine Lila, in the play of the Cosmos.

Sri Krishna has expounded the approaches to the Divine, of the ways of conduct that would assure ones entry into the borders of Heaven, to escape the cycle of Samsara and Maya. He has shared his view of the Sankhya path, the Purusha – Prakriti dance that makes up common life, ethical conduct, how individual Dharma coexists with Universal Dharma, how motive of action has more relevance than the action itself, of the role of ritualism, on how ritualism can be transmuted into an inner sacrifice to the Immanent Divine rather than the offering of material things. He has reiterated the various Yogas by which one can attain the Divine, he has reconciled and synthesized these approaches into one that is wide, all-encompassing and complete.

The human disciple who has received this knowledge is already familiar with the hundred roads using which one can approach the Divine. His mind sees how this tangle has been unified into a complex harmony. He realizes the one in front, his Charioteer in this field of battle, is someone not entirely known to him. Sri Krishna senses in his dear friend a mind at relative ease, but not the heart. Knowledge has been imparted but not the experience.

The unity of all existence, the play of Maya are all but theoretical constructs as yet. Arjuna is no trained Yogi, there is yet a patina of doubt that lives when knowledge has not yet become experience.

“Now”, Sri Krishna declares, “I shall show you my universal form, the one to which even the best Yogis aspire to. Because you are dear to me, I shall give you the Yogic sight, by which you shall see my energy in all its forms and manifestations.”

There is nothing symbolic in this. This is an experience. One that can be had by you and I too. The vision of the Universal Godhead. All its diverse manifestations, all its complex inter dependencies. One vision, one perspective too, of this all pervading Godhead and Power removes the illusion of separation. It destroys doubt, it is the certitude of the Godhead, the confirmation of our bright intuitions. We see ourselves surrounded, not with our eyes but an inner perception. We find ourselves as a speck, surrounded on every direction and dimension at the same time. All dimensions open up. We see that there is a Love, a Power than transcends our mind and being. There is a Beloved who watches and broods over us. That experience is the fruit for which we toil over many lives. All our perambulations through time has led us to this moment. And now we see we have looked in vain for the thing that is within us, and that is us too. All that exists is the Brahman. All is That. Nothing exists apart from It.

This is a qualitatively similar experience that Sri Ramakrishna Parahamsa imparts to a doubting Narendra, our later Swami Vivekananda about the nature of Time and Cosmos. The experience that Fritjof Capra has, as recounted in his preface to Tao of Physics, of seeing all reality as a dance of atoms, of the fact that everything is woven from a single fabric is similar to this. The experience of Sri Aurobindo, when imprisoned by the British, where he saw the jail walls, the jailer, the prisoners..even the bars that were holding him in as Vasudeva is similar to this.

There is nothing symbolic in this. Aspiration and/or the grace of a Guru can give this experience. Doubts vanish to one who has had this experience of the Universal form of the Divine. The unassailable poise of the Buddha, the acceptance of calamity with surrender, the ecstatic poetry of Annamayya, Chaitanya, Meera, Andal..all come from this experience in any of its infinite varieties.

Note: This was my answer to a question on Quora. Have posted it here after some editing.

If Sri Krishna Were to Appear

This post will not resonate with those who have not felt Bhakthi, if so apologies and I request you to return later. 

I have wondered for almost two decades now, how would it feel to be in front of the Divine. To stand in front of Him, the goal of our toils and the heights of our aspiration. To see Him with bare eyes, not as intuition, not as an experience where the little self vanishes. But here and now, to see Him as one would a dear-most friend. Or as the realization of every tear shed over many lives, of every longing that wracks the heart, or the becoming of every song ever sung.

Of all the paths to the Divine, the one of Knowledge taken by the thinker, or the one of Works undertaken by the toiler or even the road taken by the royalty..the Raja Yoga they call it, the most sublime of all paths to the Divine conceived by the Hindu race, is the path of Devotion and such a mighty conception it is. To give the heart its complete realization, to consider every strain of love and longing that the human heart gives itself to and make it an instrument of Yoga. God as Father, as Ishwara. God as Mother, as Shakthi in Her many manifestations. God as Child, as Skanda or Muruga in the Tamizh Bhakthi path and so on..so many ways of adoring the Divine.

But right at the top of the devotional path is to see God as Beloved, as Sri Krishna, the one who captivates souls, the one who makes Meera sing songs of anguish, one who makes a Chaitanya roam with a kirtan on his lips. Sri Krishna, the one to whom even the most fallen send their adoration, to whom mortal hearts sprout speech only to utter, “My Beloved, My Lord, My Master”.

So I have wondered, what would I do if He appeared in front. Would I jump in joy, would I rush into His embrace never to return..oh what would I do I wonder. What I have realized is this though, if Sri Krishna did appear I would break down, not in relief it is all over but rather ask through tears what makes Him put souls through everything, for what purpose.

What is the point of this post? Well, I came across a picture that, to me, captures that anguish of seeing Him and silently asking, “Why?”. See the picture. Have not embedded it in the post because I wanted to set context.

A Story by Sri Ramakrishna On Aspiration

In response to a query from a devotee, Sri Ramakrishna tells a story on how we should aspire to the Divine. This is my retelling of that story, in response to question on why I had said that the Sadhana we perform is paltry.

There was once a widow with a young son. With no earning member the family, they had to subsist on the generosity of villagers.

The boy was soon of school going age. There was an operational hassle, the school had to be reached by going through a forest. Those who could afford had their bullock carts or other helpers to ferry the kids to school and back. Our little boy had none of these, so naturally he was scared and reluctant.

The mother then does what every soul with no recourse amongst the living does, she kneels and holds him close to her and says, “Do not fear my dearest, you have a brother, Krishna is his name. Call him when you are afraid”.

For the mother, her child is all that makes life worth living. The love she bestows upon him sustains her. She fears as every mother that something would befall him. But what else could she do? She who would gladly give her life to let her child grow, gives him up at the feet of Sri Krishna.

The boy takes his mother’s word to heart and starts his trek to school. The unfamiliar always evokes fear. A barefoot, barely clothed 6-7 year old is no different. It is soon dark in the dense jungle and the path barely visible. The first tendrils of fear clutch him. Every play of shadow and rustling of trees are promises of horrors that would soon fall on him.

The Fates slay heroes, a child is no match and he is soon broken.

Crying and knowing his mother would not hear even if he called, he remembers what she told about a brother. He does not know this brother, never seen him and sees none around. But the fear soon overwhelms and he cries out, “Krishnaaa, Krishnaaa”.

No answer.

Was his mother wrong, does he really have a brother? But he knew his mother never lied.

So he cries out again, fear choking him, cowering amidst the forest clearing, “Krishnaaa..O Krishnaaa”.

And suddenly, from behind a tree comes out a stranger, a young lad of 9 or 10 years, clothed like a shepherd, a peacock feather stuck in his head. Smiling, he walks to the boy and says, “You called”.

Sri Krishna in Forest

I have found a lot of times that is all there is. That cry, that single cry of the entire being. And the answering grace from the friend of man and the goal of our journeys. The prayers we offer, the sadhana we perform is paltry. We cover ourselves in rituals, mantras and prayers, all of which are ineffective without that cry. Sri Krishna can indeed walk in front wherever you are reading this. What is needed is the cry, everything else is pittance.

How do I learn more about Hinduism?

Temple in Angkor Vat

That was the question asked by someone few days back. “Aspire”, was my response. For that is the key element, without which the Shastra[1. Veda, Upanishads etc] and Guru will be in vain with regard to understanding Hinduism and living its tenets meaningfully.

Aspiration is a subtle seeking, not the hankering of crude ambition, but a prayerful poise. The pride of external accomplishment left behind, we unmoor our little selves from familiar shores.

It is fine that we have nothing yet, not even a Guru. What matters is that in the depths of our being the gong has been struck and the time has arrived for the journey to begin.

Based on the intensity of this seeking, external events will be moved with an infinite precision by the all pervading Divine.

The stranger who guides you away from harm, the scrap of paper that latches onto your leg that magically clarifies your pressing doubt, a song of aspiration you hear when half-asleep and flying over a foreign ocean, the priest-less nameless temple in which you shudder in awe at an unexplained presence, the beggar at the traffic signal who provides an opportunity to practice generosity, the almost bare farmer sheltering his child from rain on a remote highway, the laborer who watches his toddler though slaving in sweltering heat..everything, everything becomes a book that you can and should learn from.

The Shastra and Guru will arrive when necessary, but know it is enough to depend on the Purushottama[2. The Divine, Perfect Being, Brahman] within.

For when not constrained by your personal preferences of institution, form and method, the Divine is perfectly free to engineer serendipity. And there is nothing more pleasing to Sri Krishna than a soul that not only “knows” of his omniscience but also acts with perfect obedience and strength upon the knowledge of that omniscience.

Yet, do not trust every stranger and charlatan who comes your way. Judge what you see, then think and decide. The one who carries the Divine light within carries it in silence. Many would tout their exclusive truths, ride rough with the strength of their swords or haggle for the allegiance of your soul. About these we shall not concern ourselves now.

Once you have begun to aspire, as Swami Vivekananda says and I paraphrase, “The quest for God is like canker, whether in this life time or next it is sure to lead you to the Divine”.

This and this alone makes one a Hindu, everything else is mere preparation and not the actual understanding or living the tenets of Hinduism.

Trey Ratcliff via Compfight

Aphorisms: Human Modesty

To shun human modesty is to grow aware of God nude wisdom and delight of self-seeing; then modesty becomes a condition of His nudity and utter delight of existence.

Modesty is a subtle form of human ego, a masquerade too dangerous to be part of a spiritual self-evolution.

Behind the human ego stands an infinite divine Person, stripped of our disguises and self-pretensions and it is to this inner Deity that we must turn for spiritual guidance and succour and give ourselves in earnest self-giving without the least reservation so that we may be undone of all constitutional make-up and re-emerge into the Spirit of light, pure of self and nature.

It is in this transformed state of consciousness that the all-Delight of the Divine could manifest and the human frame sustain it for the progressive play of Krishna.

Whatever Difficulties and Perplexities Arise…

SriKrishna-Arjuna

Sri Krishna assures Arjuna

All this personal effort and self-discipline will not in the end be needed, all following and limitation of rule and dharma can at last be thrown away as hampering encumbrances if thou canst make a complete surrender to Me, depend alone on the Spirit and Godhead within thee and all things and trust to his sole guidance.

Turn all thy mind to me and fill it with the thought of me and my presence. Turn all thy heart to me, make thy every action, whatever it be, a sacrifice and offering to me. That done, leave me to do my will with thy life and soul and action; do not be grieved or perplexed by my dealings with thy mind and heart and life and works or troubled because they do not seem to follow the laws and dharmas man imposes on himself to guide his limited will and intelligence. My ways are the ways of a perfect wisdom and power and love that knows all things and combines all its movements in view of a perfect eventual result; for it is refining and weaving together the many threads of an integral perfection.

I am here with thee in thy chariot of battle revealed as the Master of Existence within and without thee and I repeat the absolute assurance, the infallible promise that I will lead thee to myself through and beyond all sorrow and evil. Whatever difficulties and perplexities arise, be sure of this that I am leading thee to a complete divine life in the universal and an immortal existence in the transcendent Spirit.

In many ways the life of a Sanyassin[5. One who has renounced material life in pursuit of the Divine] is easy, he is a lone warrior armed with aspiration and wages inner battles to storm heaven. For an aspiring Grihastha,[1. Householder] locked in the baffling maze of Samsara, the problem is severe. To the inner battles and an unyielding Divine is added the almost fatal calamity of family, work and society. It is in this position we find ourselves, much like Arjuna[6. One of the Pandavas, hero, friend of Sri Krishna] on the fields of battle in Kurukshetra.[2. Scene of battle in Mahabharatha] Dire circumstances, a feeble will and a confused buddhi[3. Buddhi is the intellect, used in the modern sense. Check here for subtle distinctions according to Indian psychology] fogs every idea and ideal, and tinges our actions with uncertainty. It is to this human soul caught in the web of existence that Sri Krishna[4. Incarnate Divine, manifest on earth to uphold Dharma] addresses this message, this “infallible promise”, that He would lead the aspiring soul to Himself “through and beyond all sorrow and evil”.