Where Karma dies in the seed – Perur Pateeshwara Shiva temple

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A kshetram so powerful in dissolving karma that the sacred tamarind tree has seeds that do not sprout. The Perur Shiva temple near Coimbatore city in Tamil Nadu has sculptural marvels and is an unknown treasure for yogis. The Shivalingam is svambhu and of a quality and vibrational energy that is distinct and somewhat strange until you realize what it is doing… stilling the constant movement of karmic potential.  This temple is called Melai Chidambaram or Chidambaram of the West and while it may not match the peerless kshetram of Chidambaram it is of immense value in itself.

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Elaborate carving everywhere though the current structure seems to be of late Nayak period… 17 century or so

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Part of the Sthala Purana, Kamadhenu the divine cow worshiped a Shiva lingam inside an anthill hoping to become the next Brahma. Why she wanted such a thankless job is never revealed in the story. Her calf, annoyed at being neglected kicked over the anthill. Kamadhenu was appalled at this act but Shiva being Shiva was deeply amused and granted her a slew of wishes plus bonus blessings for mere mortals who visit the site. Our temples are always generous in the matters.

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It is the Kanaga Sabhai, the hall of Nataraja that is the stunning aspect of this temple. I had thought that the Elephanta caves Shivas were the pinnacle of Shaivaite art but something was left in the toolbox yet and this miracle of sculpture emerged. 8 larger than life murtis, part of the stone itself… just astonishing… or they would be were they not locked up behind ugly cages now.

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This comfort with the unaesthetic and ugly is a strange aspect of modern Hindusim…

the Kanaga Sabhai was built in 34 years, from 1625 to 1649 by the architect Kambanarchari… under the patronage of the Nayak kings. it is a deeply symbolic structure… suffused with Shaivaite theology…

The Kanaga Sabhai has 36 Pillars representing the 36 tenets of Saiva Sidhanta. There are fifteen steps situated at three different levels. Each set of five steps represents the Panchakshara –  the five letters of the sacred Mantra of Shiva, “Om Na Ma Shivaya” The garbha griha of Nataraja has four pillars representing the four Vedas…Nine windows stand for the nine grahas or celestial objects of Hindu thought and also the nine dvaras or openings of the human body. As explained before the temple is deemed to be capable of granting liberation from karmic influence. It is interesting to note that the Dhayana lingam created by Jaggi Vasudev at the Isha foundation which is about 20 kms from Perur is also supposed to plant a seed of liberation within you, which dries up all other karmic seeds. Must be something about Coimbatore that helps to drop karma….

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Nrithya Ganapati, the dancing form

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Urdhava Tandava murti, an esoteric aspect of Nataraja and his 108 karanas

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One of the most brilliant interpretations of Bhadrakali ever seen

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Skanda of the six faces, his sixth face is inside the pillar

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Veerabhadra in his wrath at the Daksha Yagya

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Old illustration showing Veerabhadra and also a rare form of Agni Veerabahdra, the one one the right

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the pics are sourced from the net as permission to shoot is a huge huge pain

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Bhikshantana moorti… Shiva as the nude yogi…it is also Interestingly called the Sarva Loka vaseekara murti, the enchanter of all the Worlds

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19th or early 20th century photograph, of veerabhadra… it now needs protection in a cage, such is so called progress

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Gajasamhara murti, just extraordinary in its power

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A senseless practice that the ASI of Tami Nadu is addicted to , slathering all murtis in the name of protection and making them dreadfully ugly and even shapeless

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Another old illustration

The Great Gorakshanth is also supposed to have spent significant time at this temple. His spot is a grove and is unmistakable in its fierceness. I have said this many times before, but the yogis and temples of South India are beyond belief, they actually succeeded in making a kshetram of the whole land. Today the consecrated space has fragmented but even spots remain for those who are serious about their yoga…

Sarvam Shivamayam!

Sri Guru Rohit Arya is a Yogi , Author and Polymath, being a Spiritual Mentor, a writer, a corporate trainer, a mythologist and a vibrant speaker. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five European languages} the first book on Tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He was the Editor of The Leadership Review, and on the advisory panel of Indiayogi.com, the first spiritual portal in the country. Currently he is the Director of Pro-Factor, a leadership and change facilitation corporate training outfit. He has been an arts critic and socio-cultural commentator for over two decades. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga. He founded the Arya Yoga Sangha in 2013 and leads multiple meditation circles each week.

The videos of his talks on various subjects can be found here http://www.youtube.com/user/TheAryayogi

His blogs can be accessed here

https://aryayogi.wordpress.com/

http://actpersistintensify.wordpress.com/

http://creativeaye.wordpress.com/

http://zestandgrit.wordpress.com/

Ekapada Shiva – an unusual Yogic form

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A Shiva with only one foot, replicating a Lingam shape, sometimes with Vishnu and Brahma emerging from him, the Ekapada Shiva is one of the most striking creations of the Yogic aspect of working with forms. It has a Tantric variant also, found in Shakti temples, where he is more Bhairava than Shiva, and which may provide a clue as to the sadhana aspects of such a rupa. For the Yogis used to create devatas in specific rupam for very precise reasons, to help in particular types of transformations of consciousness. It is perhaps not particularly co-incidental that this form of complete stillness is most widely seen in the same areas where Shiva is also known as the Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance.

 

 

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I am not particularly concerned with the historical development of this rare form. The details can be found here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ekapada.

My concern is why Shiva Nataraja would be depicted in such a manner. There had to be very good reasons indeed at a time when sectarian abuse of each others devatas was rampant and such a form was so easily open to  perjorative interpretations. Swami Vivekananda was the first modern Hindu to speak up against western psycho-sexual interpretations of the Lingam as a phallus alone – a process the West is still addicted to, ref Wendy Doniger.  He clearly stated that the lingam was the Yupa Stambha, the central pillar present in all yagnas, representative of the Axis Mundi, which in Yogic terms is the spine up which the kundalini travels. The energy body of a high level yogi automatically arranges itself into a lingam shape; it is incredibly stable as a side effect. Such forms are anthropomorphic representations of that yogic insight, rather like the mukha lingams, lingams with faces on them which would be a difficult task if they represented the phallus.

 

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Another form of Shiva also has this lingam like shape and is associated with Brahma and Vishnu. That is the famous Pillar of Fire Shiva, Lingodbhava ,which is an interesting name in itself. The bhava is the sensation, the vibration, the perception, the feeling. The bhava of a lingam is shown in forms that devotion creates.  [while also taking the opportunity to put down the worshippers of Brahama and Vishnu- sectarianism was always a reality.} The Ekapada implies stillness lack of movement, rather like the forms of the Jain tirthankaras, who according to some schools, freeze into these still forms after final attainment, for even the smallest movement is karma and they are free of that taint! The area where the Ekapada is found, South India, Rajasthan Orissa were very much the catchment area of Jainsim too and the theological idea must have been well known to all of them.

 

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There is certainly an aspect of asserting superiority over other sects in this Ekapada form. Or an attempt to assimilate them. Both processes could have gone on simultaneously. But the Tantric shrines where Bhairava is in Ekapada form shows that the process could flow the other way also. . We are told that it originates in the obscure Vedic deity Aja Ekapada which may be true. The yogic sandhana roots seem clear once we read that Aja Ekapada  – The unborn one footed – was almost always associated with Ahi Budhnya – the serpent of the ocean – so much so they were thought to be twin or the same god. This is formless consciousness associated with the creatrix serpent of the kundalini. So the roots are clear for those who know how to see it.

 

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The single form Ekapada {Vishnu and Brahma  attached is also called Tripada} is almost always associated with attendants who are tapasvis, so it is a hard sadhana aspect of Yoga. The unusual rigidity and stillness of the form is also a clue, this is like shambhavi mudra practice, where everything is stilled, every sensation, every external and internal input is stopped, and the experience of inner akasha is allowed. Brahma and Vishnu, creating and ongoing aspects have to be stilled to experience the essence of consciousness that is Shiva. At least that is what arose in my understanding and my samyama on these things is usually pretty accurate. I do not urge this conclusion upon anybody, it is my insight. The yogis of South India used to create rupams all the time and the clues as to the purpose of so doing were always available for those who meditated upon them. I am reasonably sure I am on the right track here!

 

 

Sarvam Shivamayam!

 

 

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath, being a writer, a corporate trainer, a mythologist and a vibrant speaker.  He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five European languages} the first book on Tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He was the Editor of The Leadership Review, and on the advisory panel of Indiayogi.com, the first spiritual portal in the country. Currently he is the Director of Pro-Factor, a leadership and change facilitation corporate training outfit. He has been an arts critic and socio-cultural commentator for over two decades. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga. He founded the Arya Yoga Sangha and leads multiple meditation circles each week.

 

The videos of his talks on various subjects can be found here http://www.youtube.com/user/TheAryayogi

 

His blogs can be accessed here

 

https://aryayogi.wordpress.com/

 

http://actpersistintensify.wordpress.com/

 

http://creativeaye.wordpress.com/

http://zestandgrit.wordpress.com/

The Ambarnath temple a forlorn jewel

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India has too many great temples. Architectural genius has been recklessly expended out over the years. The Ambarnath temple, so close to Mumbai, {in Thane district and at the end of the old central line of the local trains,} is completely neglected. What other explanation can there be? In another country this would have been a center piece of tourism. With Elephanta close to the city and Ajanta Ellora taking up all the press, this temple, which rivals anything Mount Abu could offer, sits glumly next to a polluted stream. Perhaps that is also good, the ubiquitous crowds of India are mercifully absent. But it is still regretful…

 

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One goes down into the garba griha to worship the lingam, the usual story perhaps of svyamabhu – self manifest – lingams having temples constructed around them. It also feels a bit like Pataleshwar cave temple in Pune city, so the descent into the earth was perhaps part of the design and was based on tattva shuddi considerations. It is a lingam in worship, but that is about all that can really be said about it. It is for aesthetic and cultural reasons that one comes not spiritual ones. This temple in the hollow beside a hill with a stream flowing by is an ancient template in the Agama Shastras the texts for building so this is very classical indeed. Built in the Golden Age of mythological Hinduism, 1060 CE, when the faith was riding high and invasions and destruction only a nightmare yet to arrive, it is a little marvel in soft stone.

 

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As in most ancient temples in my state of Maharashtra it is neither purely Northern style nor Dravidan style but an eclectic and creative mix of the two. Technically it is the Hemadpanthi variant of the Vesara school of architecture named after a great patron, Prime Minister of the Devagiri kings who reigned over much of this part of India. The temple seeks to cram in as much sculpture as is humanly possible so they fluted or corrugated the outer wall, more than doubling available wall space for the classic relief sculpture of Indian temples representing the principle of Vyapta-Ayapta, manifest – unmanifest, a yogic concept that holds the universe and the gods are constantly emerging out of and merging back into primordial Consciousness. It is the reason sculptures are rarely 3 dimensional in our temples. The universe is Flux, and Time blurs everything.  The central tala or unit of measurement is also classic, humans 5 to 7, devas and so forth more than that, caryatid dwarfs and so one less than 5. In that sense this is not an experimental temple, but one that functions within well established conventions of sacred architecture.

 

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But only the Hoyasala temples and Mount Abu can match the sheer profusion of sculpture. You have to look at it rather like entering a forest. You have to sit still and gaze, and slowly the magnificence of the detail becomes clear as the eye grows habituated to so much detail. The Kirtimukhas tucked away on an higher level, visible but not conspicuous, placed for pragmatic not aesthetic reasons are one such delightful touch and of course the famous dancing Shiva on the roof level. The myths are the standard ones, with all the gods represented, though it is natural that they give prominence to Shiva. There are many bhairavas, even a Hari-Hara, and an unusual Narasimha using a dagger to kill Hiranyakahipu not his claws! Apsaras and other fertility symbols are  up to the usual complement in such temples.

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There is a really beautiful Gajasura moksha tandava panel that is unfortunately damaged now but is as good as the one in the famous Shiva temple at Ramappa near Warrangal in Andra Pradesh. The problem as I see it is that all the works here are of such uniformly high standard that they tend to be subconsciously devalued. This temple is so much better in every way than the incredibly overrated shore temple at Mahabalipuram but that gets the World Heritage status for location and visual appeal alone! Well at least it is still in worship and some rudimentary repairs have been done – that is more than most ancient temples get today. But such a jewel… and such neglect…

 

Sarvam Shivamayam!!

 

 

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath, being a writer, a corporate trainer, a mythologist and a vibrant speaker.  He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five European languages} the first book on Tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He was the Editor of The Leadership Review, and on the advisory panel of Indiayogi.com, the first spiritual portal in the country. Currently he is the Director of Pro-Factor, a leadership and change facilitation corporate training outfit. He has been an arts critic and socio-cultural commentator for over two decades. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga. He founded the Arya Yoga Sangha and leads multiple meditation circles each week.

 

The videos of his talks on various subjects can be found here http://www.youtube.com/user/TheAryayogi

 

His blogs can be accessed here

 

https://aryayogi.wordpress.com/

 

http://actpersistintensify.wordpress.com/

 

http://creativeaye.wordpress.com/

 

http://zestandgrit.wordpress.com/

 

Shiva Shakti in the head

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The two hemispheres of the brain are in Yogic terms, controlled by the energy constructs we call Shiva and Shakti. This image demonstrates in visual expression what had been hitherto part of the oral tradition. It is a stunning image, and replete with Kundalini yoga symbolism. Since it has come into the public domain I will explain some of this ancient vidya or process. Not all of it. Some rahasayas, spiritual secrets have to be discovered through Shrama – toil! Those are the rules so I make no apologies for reticence. What is safe to reveal I will.

The left hemisphere controls the rational logical thinking aspect of the personality as well as more or less the right side of the body. It is mental and deductive, planning and hypothesizing. These are supposed to be masculine vibrations, in the sense of Yang, not gender roles. The right side of the brain is intuition and creativity, instinct, feeling, the sense of joy and wonder and the right side of the human frame. These are the feminine vibrations in the sense of Yin. So the traditional Yogic take on which impulse is dominant on a particular side of the brain was well grounded.

In symbolic terms this image is a dense and rich harvest of yogic communication. I do not know the artist to give credit where it is due but I suspect it is Harish Johari. The style and depth of knowledge seems to favor that conclusion. In astrological terms, the Sun controls the right eye, the Moon the left. Shiva is the Sun who is Shiva, “Akshayam param shivam” which can be read in both ways simultaneously. The sun like Shiva is the guru, the source of life which is literally as well as metaphorically true. The Moon has famously been the lord of emotion and hence Devi controls it and the left eye. Shiva wears the moon on his head – Chandrashekara – to symbolize his complete integration of emotions as well as to stress that his responses come from awareness, not instinct. Devi’s head naturally pulses with the Sun. Her power of impulse and instinct is not unaware; it is suffused with the shakti of evolving consciousness, it flows from the Source.

The left nostril connects to the Ida nadi or lunar channel for the Kundalini Shakti to flow. It is cooling, calming, intuitive and creative, traditionally known as feminine. Hence it is depicted as cool waves or water, which is pretty accurate as a sensation of breathing in thru that nostril once you are deep into kundalini or pranayama.  The right nostril connects to the Pingala nadi or solar channel and is fiery, energetic action oriented and masculine. The breaths flow like fire, generating heat and energy for action. As is clear from the imagery and all the teaching of the tradition, neither aspect can subsist independently or without active support from the other vibration. They are not separate, they cannot be separated either. Life is troubled when such futile attempts are made to privilege one side or the other.

The erect serpent at the center of the brows is the fully active Ajneya chakra. It is also one of the points where the Ida and Pingala cross each other forming a grand marma or spiritual junction of power. It is the highest point at which you can keep the kundalini energy in waking consciousness and also carry out your work physically. It also confers a lot of power and occult ability as well as wisdom. If the Kundalini rises higher then you go into deeper Samadhi, At this juncture waking and physical action consciousness, including talking and writing, cannot be maintained together. The inverted triangle at the forehead is the spiritual Yoni, the Matrix of creation of generation, distinct from the lower yoni that is controlled by the svadhishtan chakra and is the Eros impulse. When your kundalini rises to this point you can send a surge of energy into the world and what you wish is manifested. It is a process requiring great responsibility and it is fortunate it is beyond most people! Even to keep the energy at ajenya is fearsomely difficult. Even higher than that the kundalini rises to experience the blue pearl, Sun and Moon conjunct, about which I will hold my peace. It is important  – that is all I will say.

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Shiva is indeed the Purusha, Man Primal also known as aware consciousness while Devi is Prakriti, Woman as the Activating Force, the dynamic principle of the Universe, the unfolding action of life that takes place across the backdrop of Witness Consciousness that is Shiva. To be Integral which is the point of Yoga is to have both aspects function optimally, in harmony and as required rather than in simpleminded alternation or even lopsided dominance of any one side at a time. To live life privileging one side is to make an immense blunder.  The Ardhanarishwara, the Masculine- Feminine, Shiva and Shakti merged, united, Integral has always been the ultimate goal and aspiration of the Human Endeavor in the culture.     

Sarvam Shivamayam!

 Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath, being a writer, a corporate trainer, a mythologist and a vibrant speaker.  He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five European languages} the first book on Tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He was the Editor of The Leadership Review, and on the advisory panel of Indiayogi.com, the first spiritual portal in the country. Currently he is the Director of Pro-Factor, a leadership and change facilitation outfit. He has been an arts critic and socio-cultural commentator for over two decades. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga. He leads the Ka Sangha meditation group, as well as The Integral Space meditation circle each week.

The Sacred India Tarot{and its creator} gets some praise

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After the 2 day foundational course in The Sacred India Tarot which I conducted at The Integral Space on August 10 and 11, 2013 this gratifying feedback….

 Taking the Sacred India Tarot with Sifu Rohit Arya is like taking a plunge into the vast culture that came before its conception.  Charismatic, sharp and funny, Sifu Rohit has a magical way of telling the stories behind the artwork and the symbolism of the cards themselves. A most concise introduction to a labor of love, Sifu Rohit painstakingly researched, analyzed and created the unfathomable Sacred India Tarot. Who better to teach it’s course? An unparalleled teacher, Sifu Rohit bridges the traditions and practice of the western tarot and integrates the mystical Indian traditions. A sense of history and spirituality is perfectly balanced in his teachings. This beautiful deck and enlightening course is like no other. The discussions on vast Karmic lessons, correct usage and the respect for wisdom which Sifu Rohit imbues to his students, is what one expects from a master practioner. The cards come to life under his guidance. The misconceptions and secrets of the tarot practice combined with the understanding of the Sacred India Tarot inspire a student to use the tarot as a tool for personal growth. A sense of empowerment is a big gift from learning under Sifu Rohit. Being a person who has attended several tarot workshops, The Sacred India Tarot course is a treat to experience with Sifu Rohit’s tutelage of tarot as a discipline. Here lie the secrets that most conventional tarot courses will not divulge. So, one leaves the master with a sense of power in the cards as well as faith in the future.”   Divianshu Kohli Bij, 25 years  from USA, studying to become a therapist.  

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath, being a writer, a corporate trainer, a mythologist and a vibrant speaker.  He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five European languages} the first book on Tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He was the Editor of The Leadership Review, and on the advisory panel of Indiayogi.com, the first spiritual portal in the country. Currently he is the Director of Pro-Factor, a leadership and change facilitation outfit. He has been an arts critic and socio-cultural commentator for over two decades. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga. He leads the Ka Sangha meditation group, as well as The Integral Space meditation circle each week.

 

A Yogic perspective to the Medusa myth

587px-Medusa_by_CarvaggioTraditional narratives and modern interpretations view the Medusa story as one of harrowing patriarchal unfairness to a hapless young girl. Viewed as Hindus see myth- as a teaching tool – it becomes a tale of redemption thru Grace after misfortune.

This is not a point of view I have seen espoused as yet so I will take a shot at it.

The Gods of Greek mythology were a pretty cruel bunch. Not even their own worshippers have ever seriously challenged this. Shakespeare summed up the general sentiment for all time in King Lear – “ As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods/ they kill us for their sport.” In this sorry collection of tyrants there was one admirable figure, perhaps solely by contrast. That was Pallas Athena, who was a symbol of high culture and intellect, instead of being driven entirely by crude desire as the rest of the pantheon seemed at most times. So her treatment of Medusa, who was originally a priestess in her temple, seems especially cruel and unworthy. The young girl was stunningly beautiful and had many suitors but she shunned all that for a life of service to the Goddess of the Spear, a role that required lifetime virginity. Poseidon, lord of the sea, desired Medusa and raped her in Athena’s temple. Furious at such desecration Athena punishes, not her uncle the Earth-shaker, but Medusa! She curses the poor girl to become hideous like a corpse, have snakes for hair and turn to stone anybody who looks into her eyes! This seems a toxic combination of male entitlement and victim blaming; Poseidon is excused, for virile male gods are not expected to act any different. WTF seems about the only reasonable response to this.

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Now classical scholars and feminists are united in their opinion that Athena seemed to always take the part of the Male values of Greek society. There is some truth in that, though opposing the Furies in their vengeance against Orestes could be seen as an intervention on the side of Law as against simple revenge.  The tendency to support the values of the system that grants you power is inflamed if you are a member of a traditionally devalued group, as women in the Greek world. That has always been the charge against  Athena. But the Yogic perspective offers another way to look at this whole situation. In Yoga the gods or devas are recognized as Vital Beings, super powerful it is true, but not the Godhead or Source itself. Some of them thus act in less than admirable ways. Athena has always been one of the more evolved devas so her actions in this case seem completely brutal and out of character. But the gods, no less than humans, cannot be psychologically inconsistent, so this might not be as simple as seems evident.

In Indian mythology the wrath of a God is a path to salvation!

Now this is weird, but if a God strikes you down then you are liberated. I propose a Hindu reading of Medusa and everything changes in meaning. Athena could not protect her priestess initially, so she later grants her power and safety beyond expectation. To become a Gorgon, to freeze men into stone, to literally petrify them, and live alone on an Island – none of this was very different from her life as a priestess to begin with. She was not to have sexual relationships then; now she is protected against any further violation. The granting of visual ugliness to women as a protection against male lust is a common theme in the bhakti stories of India. Medusa is also given power beyond  belief. Any man who approaches her is petrified for his temerity. Poseidon gratified his itch, but he emasculated a generation of Greek heroes. They would go up against this unconquerable being and lose. As long as Medusa lived, she was the strongest, the greatest; it must have been severe humiliation for the men. Athena made the men of Greece pay for their vanity and lust, again and again and again until she finally sanctioned a hero to liberate Medusa. That was Perseus.

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Perseus is almost unique in the Heroic Age in that he had one of the few happy endings vouchsafed to a Hero. Immortal glory normally comes to the Hero at the price of a miserable or painful conclusion to a life of suffering. But Perseus is a favorite all thru; the gods tumble over themselves to help him, to advice, to give him magical implements. The Hesperides give him a knapsack to safely hold the head of Medusa. Zeus gives him an adamantine sword, Hades a helm of darkness to turn invisible, Hermes a pair of flying sandals… it is reasonably obvious Athena was extracting this co-operation as recompense for the desecration.  He sneaks up on the sleeping Medusa, viewing her face in his shiny shield, cuts off her head. He gains Pegasus the winged horse, who spurts from her blood, as a reward. Perseus uses the still potent head to freeze an unwelcome suitor to his mother and finally hands Medusa’s head to Athena, who incorporates it into her shield. Alexander the Great wore Medusa on his breastplate and she became a protector of thresholds all over the Greco-Roman world.

In Hindu myth the slain foe merges into the God as an attribute of his power. Thus the elephant hide and tiger skin that Shiva wears, the rooster that is Skanda’s flag, and the mouse that is Ganapati’s vehicle, are all peculiar devotees who chose the violent path of opposition  to the god and liberation by death at his/her hands. This final, and literal, seal of approval and liberation, by merging with the body or attributes of the God is a common trope of Indian myth. From a yogic teaching perspective, Medusa was a devotee who had a catastrophic misfortune owing to some negative karma, which was then rectified by the Goddess taking a personal interest in the matter.

Perseus get a happy marriage, after rescuing the original damsel in distress, Andromeda. He later founds the city of Mycenae, and dies in honored old age. So there!  Athena knew what she was doing.

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath, being a writer, a corporate trainer, a mythologist and a vibrant speaker.  He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five European languages} the first book on Tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He was the Editor of The Leadership Review, and on the advisory panel of Indiayogi.com, the first spiritual portal in the country. Currently he is the Director of Pro-Factor, a leadership and change facilitation outfit. He has been an arts critic and socio-cultural commentator for over two decades. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga. He leads the Ka Sangha meditation group, as well as The Integral Space meditation circle each week

Kirtimukha – The Face of Glory

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IN many Indian temples you will find over the main gate, or over the door frame of the inner sanctum, a monstrous disembodied head glaring or grinning down at you.  This is the Kirtimukha, face of glory.  Our myth seeks to explain how this seeming incongruity came to occupy this respected position

In the Indian mythological systems, the asuras (demons) are cousins of the gods, and indeed are created from the same cosmic material.  They are demonic however, because they identify the Self with the body.  All their cosmic power is perverted in finding ever fresher ways to satisfy the material consciousness.  That gets them in self-destructive trouble over the long term, though in the short term they create some trouble of their own.

“This situation actually works for the good of all sentient beings in the universe, as the asuras are infinitely more powerful than the ‘gods’ – a situation that the Norse divinities knew only too well – and if they were more disciplined or wise, they could have taken over heaven on a permanent basis.  As it is, the asuras are always a chaotic force in the evolving universe.

“One such asura suddenly got it into his mind that since he was the strongest being in the universe, he deserved the most beautiful woman existing.  This sort of logic is typical asura, but for them to think is to act.  He turned up at the abode of Siva the great God himself, and peremptorily demanded possession of Siva’s wife Parvati.  Now Parvati is the Great Goddess, and this was stupidity on a scale that even the asura should have quailed at.

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“Siva being pure consciousness, merely projected back at the asura a crystallization of his own insatiable desires.  This new entity was far worse than anything the asura had seen.  It was the living manifestation of a raw hunger, a world devouring flame that needed more, ever more, and was still left empty.  The immensity of his own endless desire was now in front, and the asura turned and ran.  The new demon chased him, intent on eating him up, devastating and devouring all that was between him and his prey.  Peril breeds perspective, and the asura realised that his only hope was Siva.  According to Indian mythology, you cannot refuse to grant quarter and protection if it is asked for.  So now Siva had one suitably chastened asura on his hands – as well as an enormous problem that seemed determined to eat up the universe.

“The Hunger was accepting of Siva’s mercy, but he had a problem.  ’What do I eat now?‘  He was brought into being to solve a crisis, and now his own existence was jeopardised – which reflected poorly on the God.  Siva came up with the sort of Trickster solution so beloved of India – ‘Why don’t you eat yourself?’

“A god’s word is worth following, even if it seems senseless and destructive, and with faith in the Lord the demon did just that.  He began to chomp and champ away, beginning with his toes and working upward in a grim straight line that never wavered, never doubted and never ceased to masticate.  Finally he came to the neck and that was it – he could no longer contort himself to provide any room to bite.

“Siva laughed, the earth shaking peal of pure joy  the attahasam that Kalidasa said was the Himalayas – the frozen laughter of Siva.This episode was a grimly humorous illumination on the nature of life.  Life feeds on life, no matter how monstrous that may seem at first glance.  Desire forms a perfect feedback loop that ends up eating even what is desired.  This concept was known to the Sumerians as Ourobouros, the serpent eating its tail.  Life feeds on Life.  It is wildly exhilerating and liberating to realise and accept this concept, but it seems monstrous to those who have not had the experience.

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“Siva named the Hunger Kirtimukha, the immortal face of glory.  He is seen above the doors of all temples.  Siva who is Constant Awareness, wants you to be aware of the real nature of the universe, to accept it. A philosophy of life and spirituality that will not acknowledge the dark side is only a milk and water religion after all, not really nourishing in the long run.  To live in the world, is to be aware of that constant hunger, and as always Siva or Awakended Consciousness is the only way in which you can transcend it.

The important thing to realise, is that Kirtimukha is the Green Man of India, or to be precise, the Green Man as India experienced him.  He is usually found above sculptures of gods forming an arch of vegetation, which erupt from his mouth and flow from his hair, usually from the Crown chakra. Even houses have him over the front door, even in the heart of a city like Bombay.  He is tropical vegetation run riot in all his representations;

 

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“The Kirthimukha is a protector deity, a threshold guardian belonging to one of the two oldest groups of Cthonic deities in India:  the Yakshas from the word Yakshamam – we shall protect.  The other group is the Nagas – serpent energies of the earth.  These are easily the oldest and perhaps original gods of India, predating the Vedas.  Even the Buddha was at birth taken to the shrine of his clan’s guardian Yaksha – Sakha Vardhana. Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism had to totally assimilate Yakshas and Nagas before they gained wide acceptance.

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“Kirthimukha is the male aspect of nature, for while the earth is female, vegetation is masculine.  … Europe knew him as Dionysius, then the Green Man or John Barleycorn,

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while the Sufi mystics still experience him as Khwaja Khidur – a gigantic being, a spiritual initiator and mentor, whose footsteps sprout vegetation…  the special meaning of this card is forgiveness.  Let go of grudges and hate, and let time take care of the rest.”

“To recognise Kirtimukha is to grow up, to have an adult understanding and acceptance of the universe, not a child’s fantasy.  In Jungian terms, Kirtimukha is a visibilization, a personification of the Shadow (or some aspects of it).  Kirtimukha is thus a threshold guardian to maturity, to the deepening of experience which is called wisdom.”

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five languages} the first book on tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga.