Ekapada Shiva – an unusual Yogic form

jambukeswaram3

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.

 

 

 Ekapada_shiva

 

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.

 

 shiva_ht74

 

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.

 

 Ekapada

 

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.

 

 ekapada-shiva_ap1

 

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

IMG_1018

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…

 

silhara ambarnath temple

 

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.

 

 IMG_1032

 

 

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.

 

roof shiva dance

 

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.

panel

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/

 

Rohit Arya on Yoga Sutras Ch1V1 Atha Yoga Anushasanam

patanjali

What is the very first verse? Chapter 1, verse 1, 196 verses in the yoga sutras. What is the very first word? It is the most famous. All these teachings like I said start like the explosion of a hydrogen bomb- a knock out punch!

 

The first verse: Atha Yoga, Anushasanam. That is the complete line.

 

Let me unpack the meaning of each word. This gets interesting. What is the implication? How do we engage, learn when we are given a sutra? This is how I came to this.

 

ATHA- NOW. AND NOW. . THIS MOMENT.

 

Atha means this sacred moment. This current moment is the only moment we have. I cannot catch what happened even two seconds ago. Life always happens in this moment. Why would he (Patanjali) start his text on Yoga not with the word ‘Yoga’ but with ‘Atha’

 

What does Atha Yoga mean? Yoga is the current moment! And what is Yoga? Yoga means to unite. Unite to what? Unite to the higher consciousness, unite to the self. Not to the fragmented, not to the conditioned, not to the limited. To unite to what is free, what is unconditional, to what is authentic, to what is limitless. And where do you find all that? Only in the current moment. Kalidasa says in his famous poem -The Salutation to the Dawn – ‘Look to this day, Because this is the only time we have.’ It was a salutation to the muhurta.

 

So, ATHA YOGA. Atha also means AND NOW. And now Yoga. Atha Yoga Anushasanam. Anu also means ‘after’. That which follows. It also implies that which is condensed. Something that was expansive has been brought to the core, the essence. The mandatory, non-negotiable, compressed level of truth and value. So much meaning in two words!

 

SHASANA: In Hindi it means to rule. Whom do you rule? Your family, society? No. you rule yourself. Then you achieve self mastery. Shasanam is discipline, teaching. To learn something is to be under Shasanam.

 

So Atha Yoga Anushasanam means, Yoga is possible in this moment after you achieve self -discipline. This is one interpretation.

 

Atha Yoga Anushasanam When was this written? It was put in writing about 2,300 years ago, but historically it is at least four or five thousand years old.  In those days we had the ‘Varnashrama Dharma’. Life was divided in 25 year segments. First 25- Brahmacharya where you learned, next 25- Grihastashram when you got married and had a family, then Vanaprastha where you went into the forest and then you would go into sanyasa.

 

So many authorities say, Atha Yoga means, after you have completed with your Bharmacharya and your Grihastashrama, after you have experienced life, achieved some success, then…And Now…Yoga. And that is probably true. Not that people were not doing sadhana and kriya, but they would come to hard core yoga around the age of 50 years. Osho Rajneesh used to say that “I want people who have succeeded in life and then realized that this success has not made me happy. I want people who have material success, I want people who have fame, I want people who have social positions. I don’t want a whole crowd of poverty stricken people looking for mental peace. That is not what Yoga will provide.’ People keep asking me, ‘If I do Yoga will I get mental peace? ‘ No, your peace will go to pieces!! It will shatter you first. This is also what Osho said, he was coming from the Yoga Sutras. You have to have achieved a certain level of success and social recognition, comfort and then realize that your body is not cooperating as much as it used to. So you have to have had that myriad of experiences, seen life. Then you are ready- Atha Yoga- And  Now…Yoga.

 

But this is not the only meaning. It means “Wherever you are..That Moment Yoga!’ start from where you are. Which is why Bhagwat Gita starts with the blind man. “Dhritirashtra Owachha.” Atha Yoga- no matter what your condition, your success, fame, money, health; whatever you are in this moment, please begin! How can you ever attain if do not begin? So Atha Yoga can also mean, Yoga is NOW. Don’t go looking for the most auspicious time by the horoscope. In Kautilya Arthashastra one of the sutras says “Only fools wait for an auspicious moment, for the evolved person all moments are auspicious”.

 

ATHA YOGA- the moment you decide, that is the moment your yoga begins. You can begin at any moment. It is like the “Avasara” . a moment in life which is a destiny moment, when your life can change, transform. Atha Yoga- the moment of transformation. What the Greeks called ‘Kairos’. Then normal time is no longer running. It is an aspect of time that can transform you. Atha Yoga- Right Now, This Moment. It is actually the only moment you have. When are you going to start Yoga? One day when you retire? When your responsibilities are over? No. these are all excuses. Yoga does not ask you to give up anything. That is all a two thousand year old practise. There were karmic cycles that required that. I explain this in the talk about Yugas. There was a reason for why things changed, went into survival mode. When yogis and spiritually evolved people stopped speaking about sexuality, money and power. They became ‘dirty’. The spiritual person was not expected to talk about society, and all this. So now those speaking about these very important aspects were those with lower level consciousness! Their values then define what the values are around sexuality, money, power and what society becomes. So Sri Aurobindo did something very profound when he said ‘All life is Yoga’. This is what Atha Yoga already encompasses, and he said it very openly. Atha Yoga- This moment. This is when we are living our life right here on this planet. It is not about bein reborn on another planet!

 

‘Naveenam Naveenam Kshane Khsane’- ‘New , ever new, every moment. That was another sutra that used to be given. Every moment is new, every moment is fresh, every moment is original, every moment is creative, because…Atha Yoga!

 

 

Atha Yoga Anushasana. Anushashanam means after Shasana. You can come to yoga only after self-discipline. This is also a possible interpretation. A person who is not mentally, physically and emotionally disciplined will never succeed in yoga.

 

Anushasanam: we do our Kriya, our system, our sadhana, the Eight Spiritual Breaths. Do you realize that every movement we have in that is for physical discipline? Don’t let your hands bend, don’t let your hands fly, they should be perpendicular etc. everything is training you in ‘Shasana’ and ‘Anushasana.

 

This is what makes sutras so enjoyable. You can read them in all directions. You can read them forward, backward or even in three dimensions. That is the way the sutra was supposed to play out. That is why in the Ashtanga of yoga we have the ‘Yama –Niyama’. The rules and disciplines. Don’t lie, don’t steal, be clean etc. I will speak on that separately. So this is vital. While yoga is self- mastery, but to achieve that you require a shasana or discipline. Self- mastery is an evolutionary stage of discipline. To be selfish is very easy, it does not require any discipline. To care only for oneself is very easy. To care for a larger social context requires discipline. To come to your authentic self requires the most discipline. So self-mastery is an evolution that is possible only from discipline. So “Anushasana followed by Yoga’. Anushasana Yoga. When you have Anushasana then time stops, you are always in ‘This Moment’ – ‘Atha’, the present moment awareness.

 

Yoga means to connect, to join, to link. It actually means to tie, to yoke you. So you are connected to the higher consciousness which happens only when you are in this one moment, the NOW. Because when you are in this one moment, then time does not function anymore for you. Enlightened people have no sense of time. They keep their consciousness about time with great difficulty. To them everything is the same. The past is the same as the present or future. Time is actually a big illusion and even physicists know that. When you travel at the speed of light, you do not start moving faster, you actually start growing bigger. You hit infinite mass. That is the paradox.

 

So, Atha Yoga Anushasanam- Anushasanam. Leave the ‘anu’ out of that. What do I require to do for shashana? What is the discipline I require? So we have the sadhana, the kriya, the meditation, the satsang, the sangha. These are all aspects. Shasana has these multiple meanings. Sanskrit is a polysemous language, which means one word has more than one meaning. So in ‘Shasanam” we have first discipline which evolves to mastery.

 

So when you are given this little torpedo, this hook- Atha Yoga Anushasanam, the teacher must have been very happy as the student will be dealing with this for anither two months at least! The student would come back and say, it means discipline. The teacher would ask, okay, so what is your discipline? What are your values? What are your habits? What is your evidence for discipline? When do you go to sleep? What do you eat? Remember our affirmation? ‘From this moment onward nothing that I shall do or think, eat or drink shall abuse this temple to the living God, my body!’ All that comes from here, this yogic vibration- anushasana.

 

Atha Yoga Anushasanam.  And Now Yoga. So discipline leads to self-mastery which keeps me in Yoga, which keeps me in the Now. But if you are in Now you are enlightened! So in that one sentence, Patanjali has covered all the schools of Yoga, Hatha Yoga which is about the body, Bhakti Yoga which is about emotion, Jnyana Yoga which is about the mind and Raja Yoga which is about the prana. All the possible dimensions of yoga have been covered in this first opening sentence, the first blast. It is such a simple definition of Yoga- Atha Yoga, Anushasanam.

 

 The most popular is ‘Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodaha  othe scholars and foreigners like it. But this is actually the most famous definition of yoga. Atha yoga anushasanam. Remember what I said about the Bija Mantras? Each syllable strikes at a particular point. It is not the meaning of the word or sentence, which is important, it is the sound. Each syllable, each sound has a particular vibration in your body, in your mind, in your emotion and in your prana. So in a few years, with enough kriya and meditation, you will realize what kind of a sentence this is- Atha Yoga Anushasanam. It has so much Shakti. They would not write these sutras unless they were in Samadhi. They would be written only in a waking Samadhi. In fact you may not understand these books unless you are in some kind of Samadhi, you will just  about grasp the meaning on the surface. Especially the Vedas and Upanishads. They seem to be saying something, but what is happening on the surface is far from the truth. It functions at that extraordinary level. When you really understand Atha Yoga Anushasana, then start reading the Vedas and Upanishad, as they are all mystical, at a different vibration, including the Bhagwat Gita. As you come more and more into yogic consciousness, the connected consciousness when you are connected to the force, the kundalini, the Shakti, the words start vibrating differently. So you were not allowed to read these books. Today they are widely available, that is also okay, at least the knowledge is not lost forever. But there is no real way to understand this, unless you have done some meditation, some form of yoga. Atha Yoga Anushasanam.

 

It is right there in the front. This is what it is going to be accomplishws, this is what is expected of you, and this is what is required to be done. Everything that you will accomplish is covered in this one sentence. The opening line of the book is therefore dramatic and important. the yoga sutra is so grand, they say that he (Patanjali) is the avatar of Shesha Naga. He was from a different dimension, he was a naga. The energy was playing out from a different dimension. This level of vibration and impact, this level of power! Just the opening sentence blows the mind.

 

Then you realize, “If I cross this, what I used to be cannot survive.” It is a conscious choice in evolution. Yoga is about conscious choice, to evolve oneself not only to the level of a deva but a rishi. So he put this first level barrier, to filter out those who were not serious.

 

Atha Yoga Anushasanam. And Now Yoga. And Now when? At what stage of life? It depends. Someone can look at it and decide they are not ready, they cannot make the commitment. That is also wisdom.  Not that their life will be destroyed (which is the usual fear). Their life will actually become much better. Yes, how you spend your time will change. Surely you may stop wasting time with people and thinking that is enjoyment!  Unfortunately for most people that is where all the psychological investment is. But if we are talking about Shasanam, when we are doing a course like the ‘Eight Spiritual Breaths’, you will not waste your life. Because the affirmations keep repeating the message, hammering it in- ‘Nothing that will lead to disease, decay, death..’ Shasanam- self-mastery, what is required for self discipline? It is implicit that you have to be in control of certain things. What will you control? Not your family! It is your body, your breath, your mind, your prana. And when do we get there? ’Anu- Shasanam’. After certain things are done. That is  Sadhana, practice, sincerity. You can have mastery over everything, if you become a BhrahmaRishi you can have Shasanam over the entire universe! They run the universe, not the Gods. Gods are just paid employees!

 

So when you engage, when you open yourself to the sutra and allow the power, the Shakti to flow into you, a lot happens that is otherwise not possible. A genuine sutra carries that vibration and power, if you allow yourself to be open to it, in this moment. Atha Yoga Anushasanam. In this moment I am open, I am connected, I am in yoga, I am in connection with the sutra- Atha Yoga. So what happens ? Anushasanam.

 

 

There are so many ways to play with this. Do you understand now what we were as a culture? How your mind and body and emotion used to be engaged with a teaching style like this, and how we are taught today. The catastrophic fall.

 

So finally, what is the Patanjali yoga sutra chapter 1, verse 1? ATHA YOGA ANUSHASANAM. It is a complete philosophy of life, a complete system of living. It has everything. Often people just say Atha yoga. That is a mistake. It is Atha Yoga, Anushasanam.

 

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/

 

When the ‘student’ is ready the Master perspires…

white

The crazy demands made on Teachers by delusional people who seek to use spiritual methods as yet another tool to emotionally jerk off.

So somebody who looks like the little sister of Jabba the Hutt slithered into one of my meditation groups. Such an intense mass of Tamasic blubber caused me to cringe with the dark vibration in the aura. The skin was smelling of alcohol – the sign of the hard core just functioning drinker; when the body cannot break down the previous night’s input and starts excreting it thru the sweat glands we are in the presence of ‘ I am a social drinker’ otherwise known as complete and utter denial. This person came ostensibly to sit in the meditation circle and learn the course in spiritual breathing that I am a Lineage Master in. Actually she came to check me out; one of my students had been developing faith in me and the process and she was suspicious her friend had fallen into the clutches of a fraud. I have seen that slinking look many, many times before ‘oh I am so cool and here causally but actually to monitor you.’ One of this constant tribe  had come,  years before, to save her friend. She ended up marrying me – which did not end well for me, but that is another tale!

 This person did not disappoint; she had myriad questions supposed to prove her knowledge and intelligence but only displaying that she did not have the slightest tinge of actual spiritual experience. That is okay but the sad truth is that the most viciously ignorant always have the greatest delusions about their spiritual stature. This person had zero compunctions in using up her friend’s good will with me and with her hatha yoga teacher checking us both out in the “Prove yourself to me while I sit and wheeze in the corner” manner that the delusional have. She was so corpulent that it is doubtful if she has seen her own toes in 15 years but she had no scruple in sitting in judgment over somebody who had been teaching Hatha Yoga for 13 years and maybe the best damn teacher in Mumbai for asanas. But no our Lady of Pathetic Delusion thinks she can check her out and decide if she will graciously confer her patronage. She knows the meditation and the breaths classes have to be paid for but naturally she had ‘forgot’ to carry money that day, correctly assuming that concern for her friend will prevent me from embarrassing her.

That evening I have an email exchange with my student where I outlined my concerns that this was Trouble and anyways this sort of interaction should not have been forced upon me. Her friend loyally defended her but I knew in my bones this would not end well. I am sometimes wrong about the goodness of people, but about their dark side, their selfish greedy exploitative aspect I am always right. So one day before the next class this person calls me up and says she had a previous appointment that she could not get out of so could I teach her the second Breath, while postponing the meditation so that she could make her appointment. I pointed out that I could not inconvenience 8 other people for her, she knew very well the times the sessions were held and if she could not make it she should not have begun the course.  This seemed to deeply offend her. When I suggested that she come early the next week she announces she is going to be out of town. At which point I said that in case she should resume after she returns whereupon she comes out with an amazing suggestion that I hand over the supporting study materiel and she would learn them on her own. Then I completely lost it and told her this is not the right attitude and she is not interested in learning – whereupon she resorted to vituperation and sundry conjectures about my ultimate fate to a hot place. Since it is almost certain she is preparing a special place for herself there I guess she has expert inside information – I wouldn’t know.

So let us sum up the situation. She has stolen one meditation class, one Breaths class, not one rupee has been paid as yet, but she feels perfectly entitled to instruct me to inconvenience everybody else, to break the established teaching method of the lineage, so that she and her corpulence can continue to float in a sea of delusion. She is instructing a lineage master in a parampara how to teach the system!!! This is not delusion. This is not even entitlement. This is lunacy pure and simple.

A certain type of urban India woman has descended into this pattern. Another sample made and broke three appointments for a reading. When I said that is enough I am no longer going to read for you she was bewildered at my ‘harshness’. Again no money had exchanged hands but the mere thought that in the future they were going to pay for something seemed to place them, in their diseased minds, as the lady of the manor and me as the leprous mendicant who should be honored – first that they condescended to notice me and then that some scraps would be thrown my way withal. These women seem to meet only the sort of men that the Men’s Rights Activists call a ‘Mangina’ and yes it means exactly what it sounds like. That is what they want men to be; it is a symptom of decaying brains I think, though I could be wrong. I doubt it …but all things are possible with God.

This delusional attitude to spirituality is what causes Teachers – in pure self defense  – to set up hierarchies and difficulties of access. Certainly that is the lesson I have learnt and I will apply ruthlessly in future. Also this is not in any way confined to women. Men are just as bad, but they don’t press it so much. They know they get shorter rope perhaps!

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/

Of hustle and mendicancy in teaching spirituality

touch

Teaching spiritual processes in urban India has become such a sad business. I have begun teaching my Yoga only in April this year and some interactions are surreal. There are too many people peddling wares purporting to be spiritual. Which is an issue but not as important as the fact that they are dependent upon those things to survive. This makes them desperate. The purchasers of such wares – they are rarely students – thus get an inordinate position of power. This is destroying the credibility of serious teachers as well as serious processes as the marketplace logic that prevails ensures a wheedling fawning mendicancy when it is not outright hustle. Those who think they are Seekers tend to act from that assumption. It is pretty obvious most of them have never met or engaged with a real Yogi, they would have got a sharp wake up call. It is even more obvious that this cringing marketing of supposedly valuable and life transforming processes is a disaster.

So pervasive has the hustle become that people engage from a place of profound suspicion and disdain. I do not market except by accident – all new students are word of mouth – but the significant majority of them come with this weird attitude – “I have money, now sell me, you sad case.” They have been educated to be so by the prevailing ethos. When I refuse to shrink or seek alms, or apologize for my prices, all of which seem to be the prevailing norm, they are astounded. Some of them are offended. The prevailing power dynamic is so askew that cancelling appointments more than once and expecting you to accommodate them seems to be the norm. When I refuse to tolerate such misbehavior there is incomprehension. What, no gratitude for the crumbs I deign to dole out at my convenience? The second cancellation is when I drop the person. This actually bewilders them. Such are the realities.

The other commonplace is the personal meeting. Everybody seems to want one. Quite other than the fact that it indicates you place no credibility in the friend who recommended me there are other issues. They expect to be wooed. They want to be called up and persuaded, pleaded with. When told ‘this is the date, place and time, turn up,” there is shock. After four books, as many ongoing blogs and over 100 teaching videos, what further credibility will a personal meeting confer? But the norm is to bow and scrape, to submit oneself to judgment and scrutiny.  So now I quote a stiff fee for the personal meeting and that is the end of that. This entitlement to the time and knowledge of others even before a single shekel has changed hands is very educative. Teachers have to insist on their dignity. It is not only for the famous.

People are not used to be being told “You are doing so many processes, why add one more?” Strange people abound; they have taken diksha from as many as five gurus. While they are disturbed, and need therapy not sadhana, what sort of vetting or questioning is being done on the part of these organizations that give away initiations en masse?  How are the basic rules of the Yogic traditions contravened with such insouciance? Since such a situation can be explained only by the prevalence of money grubbing, the caveat emptor mindset is not entirely wrong. What about the karma involved? Does anybody care? Is anybody aware?

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/

Brahma the forgotten creator god of India

brahma_g

The story of Brahma is one of the most puzzling aspects of Indian religious evolution, for a god who had bid fair for supreme status, and seemed poised to achieve it, suddenly fell in the regard of men and has almost no worshippers today. He has not suffered oblivion like the other Vedic gods who were his contemporaries. He has just shrunk into insignificance, the god who was once great and is now living off past glories. Brahma is the god who used to be. His place in the myths of India is pan-Indian, he is a constant presence in all of them but almost always he is merely the opening act for the cosmic crisis that will follow. It is for other gods to perform heroics and save the universe; other gods bring meaning and value to the lives of the faithful, not Brahma. Not any more at least.

This was not always the case. Brahma is perhaps unique in all the gods of India for never losing his primary function as the God of Creation. Every other god has evolved, changed, been assigned a different cosmic role but Brahma in all his various aspects has always been a God of Creation. This is an unchanged belief system for at least five thousand years in India now; India has never looked to any other god to bring forth creation. Other gods and goddesses may be nominally superior to him, but their part in Genesis stops once they produce Brahma. The real business of ordering and structuring the universe is always and forever Brahma’s. I believe this to be a unique myth structure in the entire world. No other Godly-function myth has endured so strongly with almost no change at all thus.

340px-Brahma_Statue_in_Prambanan In the Veda he is known as Prajapati, the All-Father, which is what Odin was called in Norse mythology too. He comes to our notice when he begins to people the universe with life forms engendered by an act of cosmic incest he is committing with his daughter. They take many animal and organic shapes and all the offspring take on the shape of the moment of copulation. Which is how a barren universe fills up with vegetable and animal life. This myth is not shocking by the standards of ancient cultures, many of which had as a Primal Cause an act of incest. However the other Vedic deities are not entirely comfortable with this action, but they are powerless to punish the All-Father. It is then that Brahma is overcome by the foe that will pursue him throughout the ages and will finally vanquish him – Rudra-Shiva, the dark outsider god, peculiar, outside the ambit of Vedic ritual, fearfully respected because grimly powerful. Rudra shoots his irresistible arrow at the Prajapati and wounds him into weakness, a punishment that reduces his stature. In this primary myth is already encapsulated Brahma’s fall from grace into an object of derision and the replacement of his values by the wilder and freer norms of Shiva.

By the time the Upanishads and the Brahmanas were being written, Prajapati was having trouble controlling his offspring who did not want any part of his mission to create, and instead chose to remain immersed in meditation. These were the Dakshas as well as the divine sage Narada, mind-born son of Brahma. In a fit of frustration Brahma curses Narada to fall and undergo the travails of human existence, for refusing to get married and raise a new race of humans. But Narada is a god too, as well as a great rishi, and he retaliates by cursing Brahma to lose his worshipers for this entire Cycle of Creation. It is only in the next Yuga that Brahma will again be worshiped. In this myth is given the first explanation for the loss of Brahma’s status, a matter that has lurked as an unacknowledged trauma in the Indian Psyche, for there are many stories which seek to explain away this totally unthinkable fact. He was the God of Creation, the All-Father and if he could fall, then what certainty was there in the universe. The second noteworthy aspect of this myth is the first acknowledgement in Indian thought that celibacy is superior to the expression of sexuality. With retrospective effect this notion served to tinge the original act of incest that Prajapati committed in even darker hues.

brahma-narada5 There was a time when Brahma seemed to have climbed out of this downward spiral. This was the time between the 3rd century to the 10th century. He was even part of the Buddhist pantheon at the time, as great as Indra, and the god who persuaded the Enlightened One to risk teaching what the Buddha regarded as a difficult doctrine that might confuse people. There were many temples built to him and I am reasonably certain there were some lost Puranas too. But once his decline was certain there was no incentive to preserve the texts and they died out. The Brahma Purana that survives today is named after him but it does not in any sense indicate his supremacy as a god. The only halfhearted exceptions are the Padma Purana and the Markandeya Purana. It was at this time that a key template in the perception of Brahma was created. This is the standard Brahma myth after stories of creation. There is a bellicose demon who performs great austerities and gains many boons from Brahma. Puffed up with this divine strength he assaults all creation and ascends to a temporary position of supreme dominance. The gods are cast out of heaven and hell is let loose on earth. At this stage one of the other gods – Shiva, Vishnu, the Great Goddess or any of their many variants take a hand and after some gory adventuring they destroy the demon. So typical had this become that Ravana, Hinduism’s Uber-villain, is actually the grandson of Brahma and always in good standing with him.

 

In the Pauranic period, Brahma, as befits a God of Creation, was granted Saraswati the goddess of learning as his wife. (See our section in Saraswati.) Brahma survived as an object of some respect by being aligned to Vishnu, albeit with a distinctively inferior status. He is supposed to perform his manifold tasks of creation while sitting on a lotus that grows out of Vishnu’s navel. This is a great degradation from his formal status as one of the Great Trinity, but Hinduism being an instinctual faith rather than an intellectual one, nobody seems to have realized what has happened. The conflict with the Shiva cult remained and Shiva is constantly visiting punishment upon the creator. Once he cuts off the fifth head of Brahma for his disrespectful and lustful behavior. In another version he acts just in time to prevent Brahma from acquiring supreme status. At one time Brahma did become the Supreme God. His fifth head began to glow with a luster that proved unbearably scorching for all the Worlds of Gods and men because it was shining with the light of understanding of the Vedas that it had heard from the other four heads of Brahma. Shiva therefore, to save the universe as well as to check such presumption, cut off this glowing head. Shiva is supposed to have pronounced the final curse that caused Brahma to fall forever from worship, an indication of the total triumph of the Shiva faction over the votaries of Brahma.

 

 shiva_ht74

 

The story is that Vishnu and Brahma were debating which if them was superior when Shiva manifested himself as a great pillar of fire with no end in either heaven or the nether world. Vishnu took the form of a boar and burrowed down for countless ages to seek the source of this strange fiery pillar. He failed to do so and recognized that Shiva was not only the pillar, He was superior to him. He gave up the quest therefore. Brahma however, flew up as a swan and came back many aeons later with the report that he had seen the summit. An angry Shiva curses him for claiming credit for achievements not his own. He is cursed with perpetual old age and the total desertion of all worshippers. That explains why Brahma is always depicted nowadays as a senile old man who is so decrepit you wonder if he is not going to expire instantaneously. But as our illustrations show that was not always the case with Indian art.

 

The furious Shiva is popularly supposed to have relented and allowed Brahma one spot on all the earth where he has a temple dedicated solely to his worship. This is the famous Pushkar temple situated in the middle of a lake and an unusually serene spot. However the common perception of there being only one temple to Brahma is untrue. There are at least four major temples to him still in use today. They are Pushkar in Ajmer, Rajasthan; Dudhai in the state of Madhya Pradesh; Khed Brahma at Idar, also in Madhya Pradesh and Kodakkal in the Malabar region of Kerala-Karnataka. Remember you heard it here first! I would not be in the least surprised if more temples came to light tucked away in remote and obscure spots. Brahma worshippers are not desirous of the limelight. In vindication of this hunch just recently, July 2004, I came to know of a fifth Brahma temple in the state of Andhra Pradesh. This temple is part of a group of predominantly Shiva shrines at Kaleshwaram, 130 kilometers from Karimnagar, and is in the middle of nowhere in particular, so that explains its anonymity. I am certain more temples exist to Brahma and will be discovered in due time.

 

Here is the complete list of brahma temples courtesy of Wikipedia as on September 16 2013.

 

Temples devoted to Brahmā

 

 

  • Chaturmukha(Four Faces)BRAHMA temple at Bangalore, Karnataka, India

 

 406px-Brahma_on_hamsa

 

 

Brahma is depicted as a four or five-faced man with four hands. He is the epitome of Vedic learning and hence has the Vedas in one hand, prayer beads in another, the sacred water pot in the third hand and a ladle for the Vedic fire sacrifice in the fourth hand. In some versions he is depicted with a bow. This would be consistent with mythology as the supreme weapon is a missile called the Brahmastra, and it is a much sought after boon of Brahma. His vehicle is the swan, like that of Saraswati, and his complexion is supposed to be red. The Male Trinity too are a Red, Black and White (primary colors of spirituality) trio like the goddesses are. A day of Brahma is a span of creation and lasts for 2,160,000,000 human years! Creation is in abeyance during the night of Brahma, which lasts for the same length of time and then the Cycle is repeated. Brahma lives for a hundred years thus, and then he too dies and all creation is finally dissolved. Only Shiva, Vishnu or the Goddess, depending upon your cult affiliation are eternal and bring about the next Cycle of Creation. His various epithets represent his ancient creative role. Amongst them are Sanat, the Ancient One, Adi-kavi, the first poet and Srashtri, the creator.

 

 

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 Vamana Avataar

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The first human form that Vishnu takes in his cycle of avatars is a deceptively simple and, at first glance, rather disappointing one. He comes as a little dwarf! Many fanciful interpretations of the avatar cycle being an embryonic theory of evolution have been bandied about. In this view, the Vamana or dwarf is evolutionarily correct, the first humans were indeed dwarfs as compared to our present stature.

The core story as narrated in various Puranas is simple. It is a highly expanded version of a single sentence in the Rig-Veda that,”Vishnu strode over this universe: in three places he planted his step”. By the time the Puranas got hold of that, it had become a great narrative. This avatar takes place in the Treta-yuga or second age of the Universe. The king of the Daityas or Asuras, one Mahabali (literally, greatly strong) had become powerful with the force of his austerities and he was showing up the gods in a very poor light indeed. They even had to vacate heaven for him, as they could not stand up against his might or his force of personality. It was very humiliating, but in terms of virtuousness they had to admit the Daitya had a better right to rule over heaven than themselves, who had habits and behaviors that were slippery and more than a bit reprehensible.

In this, Mahabali was very different from his notorious ancestors. He belonged to a family that was capable of causing trouble only on a cosmic scale and twice before Vishnu had to incarnate as an avatar to stop his ancestors from overrunning the universe. He was the grandson of the great Devotee of Vishnu, Prahalada. To rescue Prahalada and the gods from his persecuting father, Hiranyakashipu, the Narasimha avatar came in to being. And Hiranakashipu’s brother was the even more terrible Hiranyaksha, who had to be taken out by the Varaha avatar. So all in all, Mahabali had a very respectable pedigree when it came to universe conquering. However he was different in that even the gods had to accept his overwhelming virtues.

Nevertheless, they complained to their nominal mother, Aditi, the wife of the great rishi Kashyapa. Aditi’s fervent pleas convinced Vishnu to do something and remedy this situation, especially as Mahabali was beginning to show signs of being corrupted by power. He agreed to be born to Aditi and Kashyapa as a dwarfish son, so as to disguise the potential threat he was. By now Mahabali was having delusions of grandeur and he also thought that he was greater than the creator. For he was holding a great festival-sacrifice, and he announced that he would satisfy the desires of all who turned up. Vishnu appeared as this extremely charming little Brahmin boy. His speech and intellect captivated the poor unsuspecting Daitya, who wished to reward the little man for his formidable display of learning. He rashly and proudly promised to grant any wish of the visitor.

By now his guru, the wily and suspicious Shukracharya, had worked out that this Brahmin was none other than Vishnu and he was here to play mischief with the glory of the Daityas. He urged Mahabali not to go on with this fatal generosity, as Vishnu was sure to ask for something that would destroy them. Mahabali however, would not budge from his pledged word. Such exemplary fidelity to truth was going to destroy his race, and his guru was angry that he was putting his personal reputation above his duty to his people. This refusal to listen to good advice is indicative in the Hindu Worldview of a wilful desire for self-destruction. In any case, the dwarf was only asking for as much land as could be covered by three paces of his feet. It was almost insulting that he was asking for so little when the riches of the great Mahabali were at his disposal. However the dwarf answered that he who could not be satisfied with three paces of land would never have satisfaction in anything, with no end to his desires.

maha005 Mahabali promised him his three paces, whereupon the dwarf suddenly assumed a cosmic galaxy spanning size and covered the universe in two paces. The third pace was thus a debt upon Mahabali and he asked Vishnu to place it upon his head, as that is the most valuable possession he owned, Vishnu having already achieved dominion of all else. In some versions of the myth, Vishnu uses his three paces and covers the triple worlds. Mahabali is thus deposed from his position as ruler of the universe and Vishnu, like all good leaders of such revolutions, exiles the former ruler to the nether regions, called Patala. There is a sneaking sense of regret at such scurvy treatment towards a ruler who had done no wrong and kept his word to boot. Vishnu is supposed to have given him the eternal dominion of Patala as some sort of compensation for being cheated in such a fashion.

onam_festival In fact Kerala’s Onam festival is based upon just this aspect of the myth. Once a year, Mahabali comes back to see how his former subjects are faring, and they put on a gorgeous spectacle to reassure him and not cause him any unhappiness that his people are suffering! In this rather naïve outlook is clearly represented the fact that public opinion felt Mahabali had been done a dirty trick. That however, is the nature of Vishnu who is the Trickster God of mythology par excellence. One very unusual version of the myth says that Vishnu felt remorse at this treatment of a pretty decent king and asked him to choose between a place in heaven and hell. The only catch was that his companions in heaven would be five fools, while in hell he could have five intelligent and wise sinners. Mahabali chooses the latter feeling that hell is the company of stupid people. Vishnu was enchanted by this perception and granted him the dominion of Patala. So strongly is the injustice done to Mahabali felt that it is also written that he will ascend to the position of the leader of the gods, Indra, in due course after the present incumbent’s term is over.

In this myth there is also a curious aspect of the Avatar cycle which is passed over, and that is the fact that some avatars are double avatars. The Vamana form is what the avatar is known as, but when he transcends it and grows, he becomes Trivikrama, the Triple Victor of the three worlds. In a sense therefore, it’s the most complete avatar, there is nothing greater than this. This is Vishnu’s greatest form, in no other avatar, not even as Krishna, did he ever manifest such glory. It also is an allegory on the latent potentiality in every living thing as well as a warning never to underestimate anything because of its appearance. The insignificant looking dwarf, a butt of ridicule and fun, turns out to be the World Overthrower. It Illustrates an old Sanskrit saying, Yatha Pinde, Tatha Brahmande. Which means, “As with a man, so with the Universe”. It is the same thing as the old mystical definition of man as a Microcosmos, which mirrors and is in essence the same as the external Macrocosmos. Or – As within, so with out; As above, so below and so on and so forth. We are all, in potential, the Universal Man.

Vamana Avatar However, this lesson seems to be slightly more than the average mind could easily take within and the Trivikrama form has only been used to illustrate the walls of temples, almost never worshipped. A sympathy with such a transcendental form would have caused a social revolution, and it was quietly put aside in favor of the more manageable Rama and Krishna or the placid Sleeping Vishnu

 

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/