HOW TO VET A SPIRITUAL MENTOR

I wrote this piece on request by the Adhyatmikta page on Facebook. The admins have added a segment at the end dealing specifically with Tantra gurus while my post was a bit more general purpose.

This was how they led in….
A set of fantastic guidelines penned by Sri Rohit Arya on how to vet a spiritual individual/Guru. Particularly relevant to our times when things are not always as they may appear to be.

POINTERS TO VETTING A SPIRITUAL PERSON

21752191_171582570059021_8102284537780865395_n

A common question asked by those interested is – How do we know if the person set up as a Guru or spiritual expert is genuine? What do we look for? What are the signs of credibility or warning? This is a long and fascinating topic but before one ventures an answer something must be realized. What you would find acceptable and credible is more about you, your svabhava and your limits of acceptance than it is about gurus in general or particular. With this caveat in place we can move on.

Pointers to vet a ‘Spiritual Person”

Don’t delude Yourself.

Because you wish for a guru or a mentor don’t be credulous or gullible. What parameters are you employing to judge this person? Is there learning present? Intellect? Wisdom? Scriptural Knowledge? Manifest Shakti? Personality that seems spiritual? What is the visible track record and demonstrated credibility of this person and HOW DO YOU DEFINE any or all of the above?

What you seek demonstrates who you are and while you MAY find what you seek it may NOT be what you need to grow spiritually.

Always look for the impact of this person on others. What sort of disciples does this person have? All cut from the same cloth? All of similar ages, or diverse? All from same strata of society or diverse? Are they bright brainy people or buffoons you will run screaming from? Is there excessive deference? Cult like behavior? Are the disciples and students impressive in their own right, or does the Teacher suck all the air in the room out? Are they people with meaningful lives or those who do nothing but spirituality? What do people not inside the group say about them? Do these people have any friends or even life outside the circle? Does the Teacher? Again, the value you place on any or all of these questions reveals who you are.

What is the person like?

Is there bombast and incredible claims or a focus on the teaching? Claims of being reincarnations of famous teachers, being under direct guidance of great Masters of the past and directly chosen by aliens from other worlds to be the channel of light that will bring illumination to all souls, these are not good signs. In any case people claiming to be reincarnations of famous masters is a good enough reason to avoid that place. The parampara, processes and sadhana are obviously useless for they are not producing new enlightened people. The old lot are being endlessly recycled. Nothing could be more insulting to genuine traditions. There is a tiny chance it might be true but in general not a good development. If on their personal pages and groups you find comments like “When I was Veda Vyasa 5000 years back” it is a pretty good reason to clear out pronto. When you find comments that “Yes, I was told yesterday by Vishwamitra that you are indeed Veda Vyasa” you run, not walk for the exit. These are real examples by the way. Actual people said these things and meant every word.

Is the person willing to reveal the lineage or all they all beings from other dimensions? Has the person been instructed to teach by the Guru or has there been a schism and independent dukan has been opened? What does the person say about any of this?

What is the experience of meeting them like? If you meet them do you feel creeped out? Do you feel challenged? Does the talk, the satsangh and the meditation leave you peaceful and energized or drained out? Do you feel calm or agitated? Pay attention to creepiness. No real teacher will ask for illegal and immoral behavior as such. Immoral may have wide notions of interpretation but illegal is the law. Access may be restricted but when you do get it what do you feel? Is that something you wish to repeat or no?

Do you wish for supernatural things to transpire when meeting them? Most of these ‘abilities’ are very simple conjuring tricks. Some of them are the real deal, but they have nothing to do with spirituality per se. In the guise of spirituality are you seeking for a better standard of living? Too many testimonials are just about that. Is the person a miracle monger or a person who has sensible perspectives? Do they promise miracles or do they prepare you realistically for the long hard slog that genuine spirituality requires.? Any set up that guarantees ‘abilities’ or even enlightenment according to a time table, with the option to speed up the schedule according to increase in donations, hmm…

What are the personal behaviors like?

Does the person sit in a plush environment and preach austerity? Between professions and behavior is there a large gap? What are their notions of acceptable behavior for seekers and do the rich and influential get exemptions? How are people in general treated? Is there a deliberate hustle going on? What is the relationship of the teacher and his outfit to money? Lofty proclamations of service go hand in hand with donation demands? What is the treatment of genders? Access and answers, do they adhere to a system or is it all dependent upon whim and size of donation or potential usefulness? Is there a reputation for nastiness, berating students or exploiting them? Are people free to speak up or is everybody cowed and repressed? If there are many rumors of greed and sexual shenanigans they could be spiteful attacks. They could also be true. Pay attention.

What is the group mindset like?

Is there a lot of balderdash masquerading as spirituality? Are you assured you are the reincarnation of somebody famous? Is famous past lives a vital part of everybody’s self image in the place? I think I have met every famous person who ever lived on the planet in six thousand years of history in this short lifetime of over fifty years. There are so many Cleopatras, nobody who was a slave cleaning the floors. In general any group that prioritizes New Cage notions is not going to help in genuine transformations. Foo foo foo notions instead of actual practices that demand time and commitment are dangerous. Is there support and access for all the inevitable issues that will come up or are you at the tender mercies of people so recently hatched the egg yolk has still not dried? Or even worse celebrity “teachers”. When you sign on for the course do they hustle you with classic cult behaviors designed for inclusion, flatter you that you are now a special person with access to unique knowledge and also isolate you from the world? Are authentic practices being taught which have grounding in dharmic traditions or is it all wind usually pulled out of the rear end? What is the level of commitment expected and are standards rigorous?
So much for the approached.

Now a brief word for the approachee. CAVEAT EMPTOR. BUYER BEWARE.

While that is a perfectly valid position to take – don’t be a jerk. You are seeking and the other party is under no obligation to fulfill the terms of the imaginary contract you make with them in your head. You may have many expectations, but it is not the job of the Teacher of guru or the organization to fulfill any of them. All of them have their own unique ways of dealing with things. If you do not like it or disagree, move on.

If you have certain mental image of how a spiritual teacher should be and the person violates that, the flaw may be in your expectations. It is a great mistake to assume only the phate haal kangal types are the genuine spiritual people and all the others are less than… If you insist on diet and brahmachanrya filters too well that is your right. Insisting on a certain age, gender, learning, attractive appearance all of these are completely beside the point of spiritual transformation. The most unexpected might be the most useful. It is also better to have full access to an unknown guru than an occasional glimpse from afar of a person with millions of followers. Access cannot be overestimated, but it has to be earned and deserved, not demanded straight off the bat.

A person who is unexpected, who shakes up your mental rigidity, who holds you even as you feel your mental constructions of self dissolve, that person can certainly help you, even if he or she is not the guru proper. It is not so well known that from the point of view of rnanubandhana it might well be that you will meet a famous and powerful teacher but he has nothing to give you while a much lesser person can give you everything of his attainment. Don’t be a fool about this. Don’t have ego issues that I am smarter or more educated. Perhaps. But the other person may have something valuable you don’t.

To expect endless access, endless answers and all for free while you make up your mind may seem very reasonable to you but the other side may just see their time being wasted. Value is a two-way street. If perceived that you are there merely to take, many of them will correctly shut you out. Just as you will assess and evaluate, you will be judged too. If found wanting, it may not always be because the other side did not appreciate the glorious blessings you bring to all existence by merely existing.

Stay grounded, stay alert and best of all is to trust in the Divine. When it is time you will be guided to the Teacher you require.

* * * * * *

A few additional points from the Page admins:-

21617689_171582630059015_4103316008871941378_n

1. To add to this, when it comes to Tantrica Gurus the bar is both strict yet simple. The primary idea of Tantra is a bifurcation into the major path and the minor path, one that leads to a communion and permanently transformative vision of the Ishta Devata, or an attainment of specific abilities. Unlike other paths Tantra does not rescind or tell you that siddhis are not be attained, if a seeker is so tuned, or a guru thinks fit, s/he may certainly do sadhana to acquire them. Their use of course is a matter of wisdom and guidance. In any case the point is that Siddhis are perfectly legitimate in this path. So, when a seeker approaches a Tantric master one must be clear on what exactly one is looking for. If the highest is the goal, attainment of communion and the resultant transformation, then find out how many people have been able to attain the same under the direction of the said Guru, test them, test them well and thoroughly. Otherwise if there are claims of supernatural ability then ask for a demonstration. A genuine Guru will of course never display a siddhi merely to make a demostration of it, however if s/he does possess siddhi-s it will be put to use someday or the other, when circumstance so demands. Be patient and wait and observe. Without an external manifestation all claims of supernatural abilities are just that, claims, with no basis. If someone claims to have communion with a deity, then too observe and watch. For each deity has his or her unique nature and abilities and those will be reflected in the individual. This is a natural stage of sadhana, rare stage no doubt but a sadguru is also a rare term not to be trifled with in casual manner. Unless the bar is set clearly in the mind, and judged accordingly, one is most likely to get disillusioned in time.

2. Ramakrishna Paramhamsa used to say that always observe a spiritual man when he is alone, and when he is in public. Is there a difference in behaviour? Is there a tendency to hide things – that’s a trigger for the necessity to hide or create projections is a certain sign that there is some agenda in the mind. An agenda of course is a normal human thing, but impossible when a mind is truly enlightened. The Self has no agenda, neither does a man who has really attained to a transformative and ulimate communion with a Devata – specially one of the major devata-s.

3. On being asked where and how does one judge true enlightenment, Sri Ramana Maharishi used to say you can only figure out an enlightened man if you are yourself in that state, otherwise you will only speculate. Good advice to remember at all times. In other words, if one follows common sense and applies the fundamental ideas of spirituality, one maybe easily able to tell who has NOT reached the ultimate stage. But it is impossible to say with certainty who has actually reached the ultimate stage, unless one has reached the Self himself/herself. Then it’s a different matter anyway.

4. Always judge an individual, spiritual or otherwise, by their actions and the gaps between their words and actions. Actions are what makes a man, words – well even politicians are good at.

5. Ramakrishna once sagaciously adviced one of his core disciples who was cheated at the local market,” I asked you to be a devotee, not a fool.” Prescient advice and valid for all times.

Sri Guru Rohit Arya is  the Founder of the Arya Yoga Sangha and a Lineage Master in a Kundalini path of Yoga. 

Advertisements

Ashwini Kumara – the Swift Gods of Light

sita-ashwins-staves-version-2

The Ashwinis seem to be the most energetically joyful of all the gods known to man. They hurtle through the cosmos in a dizzying effervescence of joy. They are the lords of speed, the swift rivers, the falcons of light, the riders of the fleet horse, agile and brilliant as Rig Veda says.  Speed is their keynote.  They bounce off the walls of heaven with a rush of energy, like young colts.  They are the most dazzlingly handsome personages in the universe, and they know it – ‘swift footed lords of bliss, much enjoying’. Later stories would elaborate on them as sensual gods. In some versions they marry jointly, Savitri the daughter of Surya the Sun God.  She was nominally supposed to marry Soma, lord of the moon and the sacred drink, but the Ashwins were much more handsome and cut a spectacular dash!  Other myths tell that they married the ten rays of the Sun, Surya’s daughters … But they had no time to lech like other gods.  Savitri was the only one who could keep up with their rapidity.

The Ashwini twins are Vedic gods who were once held in high esteem but have been all but forgotten. They were however, the prototype for the notion of Kumara the eternal youth, which is how both Skanda and the Buddha would be represented in future sculpture. AS healers they were emerged into Dhanwantri later.

“It is known to a few, that the Awhwinis were the first physicians, doctors to humanity as well as the gods.  They were one of many Solar deities in the Vedas; many of their attributes were taken over by Vishnu when his cult by a process of osmosis, engulfed all the solar gods in his vast embrace

“The Ashwins were not effete dandies, careering across the cosmos in solar powered Ferraris.  They were that rarest of heroes, intellectuals who could act decisively and swiftly. They were described as ‘effectual in action, the powers of movement, fierce-moving in their paths:  they embodied the Samurai dictum – ‘to think and to act are one and the same‘.  They are the power of movement itself, so speedy and firm were they perceived to be. They used their great knowledge to help the gods – which was appreciated – and also to alleviate the sufferings of Humanity – which was not. Like Prometheus they had to face an angry Indra, leader of the gods, who punished them by depriving them of the right to drink the sacred Soma, which conferred strength and immortality on the gods. Soma was only too pleased; they had cost him a wife. However, the angry gods could not punish the Ashwins – they moved too fast to be caught, and they were no pushovers. Nobody knew the extent of their strength, nor wished to risk finding out.

“The Ashwins did not care too much about being excluded from the sacred drink.  They were caught up in their experiments and always on the move, as an active life principle. They made an iron leg for the warrior named Vispala who lost his in battle.  They were physicians and worked tirelessly at their craft.  The jealous humans said they had forfeited divine honours by associating too much with humans!  In later medieval times, the physician’s job was regarded as greatly polluting as it interfered with the evil Karma which produced the disease – a cruel doctrine. It is greatly to the Ashwins’ credit that they chose compassion over the approbation of their fellows, and continued to do what they had always done. They healed countless numbers of the lame, and restored sight to many who were blind – an apt action for the Lords of the Light.  The similarities with events in Palestine many thousands of years later are also obvious.  One of the Ashwins’ most coveted boons was to restore youth and vigour to the aged and decrepit. That might explain why they did not need the Soma like the other gods did.

“The Rishi Chyavana was old, feeble and ugly. Constant immersion in meditation had covered his body with vegetation until an anthill arose around him. The beautiful Sukanya thought his still visible eyes were glow-worms and poked them out with a stick, to capture them. Instantly the people of that region were cursed with terrible pain; the only way out of this was to marry her off to the sage she had wronged.  Sukanya accepted the grotesque situation as being fair – the blind sage needed someone to care for him. One day however, at the riverbank (a liminal, threshold site) Sukanya observed the Ashwinis frolicking in the water, and sighed for her lack of such joys.

“The Twins had a rare moment of lust, and propositioned her, confident in their youth and beauty. But she rebuked them severely and abashed them.  Yet they still had their hats in the ring, and offered to cure her husband of blindness and senility, and give him a handsome form like their own.  This was the catch: she must pick out her husband correctly from the identical trio, or agree to go with them.  Sukanya consulted her husband who decided to teach the presumptuous gods that he may be old and blind, but did not become a rishi for nothing.  When they emerged from the water in which the gods dipped the old man, she instantly recognised her husband through his instructions; the gods do not blink, sweat, cast shadows or leave footprints – and the human was easily found out.

“The Twins were sporting about it, and Chyavana, grateful for his rejuvenation, instructed them in an esoteric part of the Vedic sacrifice that even the gods had forgotten.  Armed with this new knowledge, the Ashwinis marched back into the divine company and traded off the right to drink Soma for this new rite in the fire sacrifice.  They came full circle – rejected for their love of humanity and restored by it too.

“Some have mistakenly translated their name to be Horsemen, from Ashwa the horse they ride. The horse as a symbol of prana indicates the Ashwinis’ perfect control over the breath, as well as their dazzling speed. The word Ashwini is derived from a root word which means ‘to fill everything’. One of the twins pervades the universe with Light, the other with Moisture – another indication that they were proto-Vishnu, ‘he that pervades’.

“In another story, they rescued a great sage from a flood that threatened to drown his learned life. The Ashwins sent him a log to clamber up onto and float around until realising who was responsible for this providential intervention.  Then they appeared before him, blessed him and instructed him in spiritual matters.

The Twins were heralds of the dawn, lords of the fleetingly transient state between night and dawn, again an attribute of their great speed. This places them firmly as liminal or threshold deities, guardians of sacred and rare times when higher levels of consciousness may be accessed.  This peculiar aspect of their potency is acknowledged in verses where the Ashwinis are addressed as the children of the sun, of the earth, of the waters, and even as sons of the submarine fire.  All are conjunctions, especially the horizon where one space interacts with another, forming a natural threshold, and are key areas for the Ashwini to act.  They are the great facilitators of transition, but only to the Light.  They simply do not have the time for anything else.

They give that impelling energy for the great work which, having for its nature and substance the light of the Truth, carries man beyond the darkness.

“The Ashwinis represent a glorious phase of Indian culture, and there are very few gods who are so reverberant with light. They are action incarnate, joyful graspers of life and laughter, quick to act and determined in their courses, intelligent and compassionate. The thrill they get out of being alive, is magnificent; it is a great pity that India has lost the ability to be in sympathy with such an exultant use of talent, ability and power. This is life lived to the fullest, to delight in action and glory in the mind … ‘Take joy in the Word, the holders in the intellect, by the luminously energetic thought’ …

“It was a sad time when India forsook the speedy gods of Light for more sedate worship.

“In the Vedic constellations, the Ashwins are in Aries, the sign of the New.

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.

He can be contacted on Facebook at

https://www.facebook.com/aryayogi/

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/

Bheesma Pitamaha is a very odd kettle of fish

sacred-india-tarot-8-of-arrows

The founding story officially designated to be the reason for the catastrophe of Mahabharatha war has always struck me as peculiar. It makes no sense in an epic that is otherwise relentlessly accurate about human behavior. Consider the scenario – the young prince Devavratha finds his aging father has fallen in love with a fisher girl, whose father is withholding consent to the union. The old coot wants his grandson to be the next in line instead of Devavratha, and the crown prince not only renounces his claim, he swears eternal celibacy so that his children will not fight his step mother’s children. This Bheehma Pratigya – Terrible Vow – gives him a new name and a shower of blessings from the gods and his father. There is only one problem with this narrative. It is hugely improbable.

Consider who Bheehma was – son of the goddess Ganga and the foremost badass of his time. He held his invincible guru Parashurama to a draw in battle– and that avatar of Vishnu had wiped out 21 generations of Kshatriyas – so the scale of the achievement is staggering. Yet this man, widely acknowledged to be the most accomplished nobleman in eons, has a peculiar fixation on facilitating his father’s sex life. It is beyond creepy – it is such an incongruous note in all of Sanskrit literature. What guilt was he assuaging, if any? This thunderous haste to foreswear marriage and procreation, it never raised eyebrows? India has a superstitious obsession, to the point of delusion, about the supposed virtues of brahmacharya or voluntary celibacy. So Bheeshma has always been held as an exemplar instead of as a crank. There are natural celibates – Tesla, Newton and Vivekananda to name just three. It is not impossible, just rare. But Devavratha was always in line to marry and be fruitful. A fiery prince like him, when a smarmy fisherman is pushing his luck, is more apt to draw his sword and gut the fool rather than keep conceding point after point in this incredible manner. What exactly is going on?

He kidnaps the princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika to marry his half brother. Amba loves another man so he lets her go but that guy refuses to accept her. She gets his Guru Parashurama to order him to marry her and he refuses. He refuses!!! The man who is the pinnacle of the culture breaks its cardinal rule, obedience to the guru. Bheeshma fights his guru rather than obey – he knows his guru is the Avatar and he still refuses to obey! This is just about the most insane episode in Sanskrit literature and nobody sees it for the sheer magnitude of crazy it is. Again what the hell is going on?

Then years later, his half brother Vichitravirya dies without any princes to succeed. His stepmother Satyavati suggests he perform niyoga and beget princes upon his brother’s widows, a sort of Indian version of levirate, and he recoils again as if pushed into a snake pit. He had no problems attending the swayamvara of the princesses and beating all the assembled princes of India to win them for his brother but this gives him the willies. Satyavati turns to her older son, the Rishi Veda Vyasa, and he, a rishi no less, does not launch into lectures about brahmacharya but gets on with it. I think that is just superb. Our rishis were all sexually active men – and women. It is only now that this forcible celibacy is thrust upon them with the usual consequences. When one of the princesses, repulsed by his ugliness, substitutes her maidservant, Vyasa takes this unexpected bonus in stride with splendid insouciance. The child born of that was Vidura, the wisest man of his time. Years later Dhiritharastra also had a dalliance with a servant and that child was Yututsu who was the most decent of all the Kauravas and even fought on the Pandava side and ended up ruling as regent too. {Exactly how superior were the daasis of the time that they ended up having the virtuous and great children is another matter.}

To return to Bheeshma, this peculiar behavior he displays has another possible interpretation. He batted, shall we say, for the other team? Occam’s Razor – when a simple explanation exists that covers the known facts it is futile to keep creating fanciful explanations. Given what we know of the Greeks and the Samurai it is actually more psychologically plausible than all the vows and brahmacharya insistence. I do not insist upon it – it merely needs to be considered. Otherwise, from a cultural, even a spiritual context, his actions are completely weird.

The_Death_of_Bhishma

Everybody acts in the Mahabharata from motives that are completely clear; Bheeshma alone is perplexing. His supposed inflexibility on ethics did not extend to personal destitution in old age for doing the right thing. He admits as such to Yudhishtara on the ninth night of the war – “Eunuch like, I blabber, but Drona, Kripacharya and I have to repay the food we ate in comfort when we were with the Kauravas.” Now that is the real authentic note of the epic, human concerns, human weaknesses, not this queer unrelenting insistence on a strange vow nobody, least of all his father, had asked him to take.

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/

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

dev kohli and sifu

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.

 

Kirtimukha – The Face of Glory

800px-Kirtimukha.Nepal1

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.

405px-Kirthimukha_at_Kasivisvesvara_Temple_at_Lakkundi

“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.

16-kekuli-serpent

“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;

 

kirtimukha

 

“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.

sacred-india-tarot-buddha-knight-disks-kartimukha

“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,

green-man5-fired-clay-mask-by-walter-storey-www-in-between-org-uk

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. 

 

The Buddha story – A brief overview

This piece was originally posted on Indiayogi.com {now, alas, defunct}, and also served as the basis for the storyline of the Suit of Discs {Pentacles} in the Sacred India Tarot. Speak memory….  This is one of my personal favorites and Jane Adams who resurrected it is to be  thanked greatly!

Buddhism was the dominant faith of Asia for a clear millennium, and it still holds a significant position there.  It is not normally realized that a great many countries which are Islamic now, were once strongholds of the Buddhist faith, especially Afghanistan and Iraq: the former famous for the now vanished Bamiyam monoliths, the latter for the finest monasteries the world has ever known, till medieval Europe.

Between the first century BC and the fifth century AD, Buddhism was unchallenged over Asia, with only pockets of the Confucian, Hindu and Zoroastrian beliefs holding out.  That makes the Buddha life story the most well known to all humanity, and in sheer numbers who religiously repeat it, it remains the most popular story told even today.

Before we begin recounting this tale however, one fact needs to be brought out.  The Buddha was not a prince.  That was romancing by later biographers, who could not conceive of anybody other than royalty doing such marvelous things.

Also, there was a caste agenda in place by then.  Buddhism was a Kshatriya response to a Brahmin hegemony financed by Vaisya support, and they needed a prince to be the mythical spokesman for the new faith.

The Buddha’s father was the head of a Janapada, a republican state, kingdoms merely having begun to emerge, and no real empire in place in society.  He was undoubtedly a privileged young man, but not a prince.  Since this narrative will deal with the mythic aspects of the life as popularly understood, we will go along with the prince fiction, but the historical Buddha is not the Buddha of invented memory.

He was born according to tradition as well as history, in the year 563 BC, son of Suddhodana, belonging to the Kshatriya tribe of the Sakyas, in Kapilavastu near the border of modern Nepal.  His name was Siddhartha Gautama, the latter being his family name.  His birth was attended by the usual portents that seem to grace the descent of a great Master, notably some dreams that his mother had, that the child she was carrying would be unthinkably exceptional.

The baby was supposed to have been born while his mother laboured standing up, so that his feet touched the ground;  and the Buddha is supposed to have been the only human infant who could walk immediately upon birth, as befitted a future world saviour.  The astrologers gathered around, predicted that the boy would become an emperor if he could be persuaded to reigh.  It was more likely however, that he would renounce the world as soon as he was aware of the reality of suffering.

The mother died seven days after the birth of the super child.  A human frame cannot endure the incredible strain of bringing forth a Saviour for very long.  Suddhodana married his wife’s sister Mahaprajapati, and for once we are spared the evil stepmother routine in myth, as the lady dearly loved the young child.  The doting father was not going to have his son turn to renunciation, so he began a celebrated social-control experiment.  He shut his son up in a great palace, surrounded by high walls that kept the unpleasant reality of the world out of sight, and hopefully out of mind. The young man was immersed in wine, women and song; and that his constitution as well as his mind survived such paternal solicitude, is one of the greater miracles known to humanity.

Siddhartha became the finest young warrior in the land, as well as a formidable scholar and in true epic fashion he wins the hand of his cousin Yashodara after a contest of skill in which he wipes the field of all comers at all contests, except curiously, sword play!  The ancient and enduring Indian disdain for close quarters fighting, which would be its eventual downfall, is here clearly reflected.  The hero could not do something so uncouth and dreadfully sweaty as fight well with a sword, even if he was the greatest warrior who ever lived.  The marriage was blissfully happy, and the king thought he had covered all the bases.  Siddhartha would become a world conqueror.

Then disaster struck, for the young man suddenly had an unwonted curiosity to see the world outside his magnificent prison.  The legend goes, that the gods despairing of him achieving his incarnate mission, promoted his mind with such strange whim.  In collusion with a famous confidante and charioteer, Chana, the young man slipped out and encountered the Four Sights, doddering Old Age, Sickness, a Dead man and finally an Ascetic who somehow seemed to have arisen above these inevitable and implacable miseries.  Later versions claim that in each case it was the god Indra who had assumed these forms to rouse him from his pleasure blinded ignorance.

A little digression would not be amiss here.  Many miracles would be attributed to the man later, but his appalled reaction to the sight of suffering has never got its due as the most important of all the miracles.  For we all know Sakya princes who live gilded cage existences, and it is a bitter psychological truth, that they are not particularly distressed when confronted by other people’s suffering.  They do not have either the experience or the mental concepts to make sense of suffering, looking upon it as something strange and quite unnecessary. “Why don’t they eat cake?” is not a cruel question, but a devastating confession of ignorance, of genuine puzzlement.  Siddhartha’s great leap of self transcendence was the realization that this sick person was like him, not “one of them”.  Somehow he preserved his sense of humanness against all the luxury that was stifling him.

The Four Sights could have been viewed as a freak show, the royal equivalent of slumming, a novel curiosity that amused, but did not touch in any way.  His feeling of despair at the general hopelessness of the human condition, is what should have been most exclaimed over.  In spite of genetics, environment and the prevailing zeitgeist, his spirit flared up when confronted with a moral challenge.

Back home, he became prone to brooding over the generally depressing nature of human existence – decay and pain and death, with an occasional narcotic experience of “pleasure” or “success” to numb the mind from the awful truth.

At this juncture, he was told his wife had given birth to a son, usually a matter of great joy to an Indian father.  It was the last straw.  “Yet another fetter has been born,” he moaned, inadvertently naming the son Rahula, a chain or fetter.   That night, he abandoned his new born son and wife, determined to seek out the secret to overcoming human suffering and sorrow.  It is an act known as the Great Renunciation.  He was 29 years old.

He took to the road, in an India that was an incredible intellectual adventure at the time.  Freethinking and speculation was at a peak never before achieved, or equaled after.  Mahavira the great Jain Master was his contemporary, though the two never met, in what is one of Destiny’s greatest oversights.  Originality of thought was matched by pugnacious championing of belief, and the young man soaked it all up.  However, while he was willing to learn from all, he was usually only too evidently the intellectual superior.  He used to learn, and then move on.  Tradition ascribes to him the discipleship of Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, both Brahmin sannyasis.  He seems to have accepted the need for a belief system, good conduct and the practice of meditation, though he was not convinced they had the answer.

In no time, he had accumulated five disciples himself, and they underwent severe austerities in the forest of Urevala.  Siddhartha tried to gain the knowledge of salvation through terrible fasting and overextended meditation.  The result was he became a living skeleton, and his mind began to lose its sharpness too.  So severely had he subjected his body to austerity, that when he stroked his skin his body hair would fall off, having no flesh in which to root themselves!  He even experimented with eating his own excretions, but he soon realized that this was no way forward.  Always intellectually courageous and integrated, he abandoned the path of self torture as well as the gigantic reputation for holiness it had given him.  His disciples left him, huffing with disgust at such backsliding.

Once his health had recovered, he recalled a mystical experience he had in his youth, and determined to pursue that line.  In the famous spot of Gaya, he sat under a Peepal tree, determined not to budge until he had cracked the secret of overcoming suffering and death.  His formidable will kept him there for forty days and nights, when Mara the Evil One, realizing his days of unchallenged dominance over Life was over, assaulted him with terrors and temptations.  The latter always meant impossibly voluptuous beautiful girls, and was regarded culturally as the greater threat to saintliness.

Siddhartha was unmoved by either fear or pleasure, as his Realisation was now complete.  The desperate Mara than accused him of the subtlest sin of all – egoism – the true feeling of having triumphed over fear and temptation.  Siddhartha merely touched the earth with two fingers and asked it to bear withness if a “person” was present there.  The earth announced that she did not bear on herself any human, there was only the Tathagatha, the Realised One, and ergo no human attributes.  This was the final victory, and the moment he entered into Nirvana, as well as the state known as the Buddha.  (“Buddha” is actually a way of being, a condition, not a title.)

The Buddha stayed in his seat for another forty days, unsure if his subtle and refined doctrine of transcending pain and suffering should be communicated to an uncomprehending world.  Finally, he resolved to risk the inevitable errors of the many for the sake of the few who would understand and profit from the new learning.  He went to Sarnath, a famous deer park, where his disgruntled disciples were living.  They saw him approaching, and resolved to ignore the apostle in their ascetic pride, but his transformed personality compelled them to offer him respect against their wills.  To them he preached his first sermon in the great event known as “Setting into Motion the Wheel of the Law”.  The Buddha was forty years old, and he had another forty two years of preaching ahead of him.

Having been somewhat of an extremist himself in his striving, he named his new doctrine the Middle Path, or Arya Marga, the Noble Way.  His first sermon contains all the key elements of the Megatharian structure that would become Buddhist theology.  They are the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Truths are devastatingly simple.

Existence is unhappiness. 

Unhappiness is caused by desire/craving.

Desire can be overcome.

It is overcome by following the Noble Eight-fold Path

… … which are

Right Understanding, Right Purpose/aspiration, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Vocation, Right Effort, Right Awareness/Alertness, and Right Concentration.

The need for chastity, truthfulness and nonviolence were core components of this.

 

Buddha rapidly became one of the most influential figures in the country.  Even his skeptical family fell under his influence, and the whole country saw a mass movement of renunciation.  He used to wander the land attended by his nephew and favourite Ananda, a petulant weak-willed sort, and therefore under his special care.  Ananda’s recollections of his conversations with the Tathagatha made him an invaluable biographical source once the Buddha was dead, and he was much referred to in the settling of theological disputes.

The Buddha did not care, much to the disappointment of more than a few of the faithful, for miracles and magic, but only in finding the shortest way to end suffering and attain Nirvana.  In a land where spirituality was automatically equated with the ability to work miracles, He stood out as a beacon for rationality and reason.

This may seem strange in a country which produced the Upanishads, but they were a rearguard action against a country that demanded magic, or a reasonable facsimile of it, from holy men.

The Buddha therefore is not only India’s foremost religious figure, he is also first in demanding a grounded view of life, which may yet be his major contribution.

We all know the famous story of Gautami, who had come to him with her dead child, and the usual hopes of resurrecting miracles.  Was he not the Tathagatha, the Ford-Crosser and the most famous holy man of the age?  Ergo miracles were expected.  He did perform one, by assuring her the child could indeed be bought back to life, if she got him some mustard seeds from a house in which death had not occurred.  The many wanderings within the city brought the distraught mother to her senses, as she realized that spiritual giants can offer another sort of immortal life, not the impossible one she was asking for.  He had no greater miracle to offer than the realization of the inevitable truth – suffering exists and can only be transcended, not avoided.

At another time he was told of a great feat of levitation that a holy man had performed, sending his begging bowl sliding up a flag post till it reached the top.  The reporters were evidently expecting a greater feat of supernatural prowess to be exhibited as an answer to their silent reproach – it was embarrassing to be the disciples of a guru who was not doing magic!  The Buddha merely said, in an elegant, celebrated squelch, “Such is not conducive to the cessation of desires and the attainment of Nirvana.”

His most famous conversion was that of the bandit and killer Angulimala, “Finger Garland”, an interesting type who used to keep count of his victims by cutting off a finger and adding it to his grisly garland.  Kings were his disciples too, most famously the king of Magadha, Bimbisara.  His son Ajatashatru slew him when the restraining presence of the Buddha was not there, but he repented and publicly confessed his crime to the Buddha the next time he visited. (Ajatashatru was too great a king for anyone to work up much indignation at his parricide, and in any case succession was usually decided by displays of such vigour.  It was, in a sense, expected behaviour.)  Royal patronage all over the country made the Buddhist stock rise very high indeed.

The Mahaparinirvana, the great and final Nirvana of the Buddha’s long life finally came when he was over eighty.  Never in his mission had he ever asked people to be anything other than sensible and intelligent in their spiritual approach.  “As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing on the touchstone, so are you to accept my words after examining them, not out of regard for me.”

He held fast to this doctrine, even on his deathbed.  His final sickness, incidentally, was brought on by his eating badly cooked pork at the house of a poor disciple he did not have the heart to refuse when invited.  The Buddha ate what was available, vegetarianism was a preference not an absolute fetish.  Three times he was ready to let the body go, but each time he was interrupted by somebody desiring instruction, and he held his Nirvana back, “lying on his side like a lion and instructing.”

Then he spoke to the disciples, “What need for the Tathagatha?  Become lamps unto yourselves.  The Buddha is a state, not a person.  Enter therein.  Decay is inherent in all component things.  Therefore work out your salvation with diligence.”

He died then, but the history of mankind had been for ever altered.

 

Jane Adams

My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books) – along with many other creations in house.  

I write, illustrate, design and print my books.   Watch this space.

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 is  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator for two decades. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

 

 

 

Teaching the Sacred India Tarot Oct 6-7 2012

I held a workshop in understanding the Sacred India Tarot and how to use it, not only for readings but also as a spiritual process. The event was held on October 6 and 7, 2012 at the World Trade Center in Mumbai. We had 17 participants – all ladies – so the infusion of Shakti into the pack was dramatic and vast.

Shown above is an altar with the two grace cards of the deck created by my friend Poonam Ahuha who organized the entire event with her typical grace and class. I cannot thank her enough.

We had decks and posters of images from the pack available for sale both days. The Ganapati was a favorite, as was the meditating Shiva.

Day One: I had to declaim a bit as some participants were having their first experience with the Tarot and also, I think, my unique take on Indian culture and spirituality! As a group they were amazingly sincere in their desire to learn and evolve.

Day 1 continues.

Day 2 second half. We had got to doing spreads – this is the Swastika spread created by yours truly! We had the inevitable debate that this is the ‘wrong way’. It is somewhat disconcerting to see how disconnected we have become from our own culture and spiritual practices that most Indians would feel the other anti-clockwise swastika is the ‘right’ one. We do our best to spread light one group at a time….

Looking up advanced meanings of the cards

I have very dramatic body language it would seem…

This looks intense but I think it was some sort of point about neatness in spread layouts as the sygil would be disrupted….

Some point being elucidated

Another Swastika spread…

It was a very high intense energy session, a veritable vortex. Jane Adams who illustrated the Sacred India Tarot says that “Readings, especially in a group, energise the deck tremendously” So much Shakti must have infused the deck. It was a real privilege for me to lead this event.

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 is  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator for two decades. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga