June 2009 Archives

The Meaning of Sacrifice

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Continuing with our discussion of mahamritunjaya mantra or Healing Mantra…

Om tryambakam yajamahai

We have discussed the meaning of tryambak and now can look at yaj—sacrifice. “We sacrifice to the three-eyed Lord.” What does it mean to sacrifice to the Three-eyed Lord? This can be understood according to the four levels of interpretation.

On the literal level, mahamritunjaya is a mantra designed to be used in homa or fire ceremonies. Here at Alandi Ashram we do healing copper pyramid fires using this mantra for world peace and healing. According to the Vedas, the earth is the abode of the sacrificial fire, humanity is the sacrificial priest, and through such rituals we renew the earth and our own souls. Fire is the messenger of the gods and carries our prayers to them. Fire is the mouth of the gods, devouring the oblations of food grains and ghee and leaping high in response to our offerings.  “From rain comes food, from sacrifice comes rain.” (Bh. Gita 3, 14). Our offerings into fire restore the natural order and balance the climate. Once my friend Sita Sharan was made to stop during a fire ceremony by the fire department. “No rain, no fire,” they told her. She responded, “That’s funny. We say ‘no fire, no rain.”

On the next level of interpretation, the moral level, sacrificing to the three-eyed Lord means letting go of negative qualities such as greed and selfishness, and developing positive qualities reflective of the nature of Shiva. We offer our negativity into the fire of the Divine, allowing that fire to burn away the dross and let the pure gold of our true nature manifest. We can do this through various forms of tapas (austerity) such as asana and pranayama, which generate a literal fire or heat within us, purifying our subtle body. We can also do this in a very simple way by setting aside some of our time to serve others instead of pursuing our own pleasure and by giving some of our income to help those in need. “One who does not follow on earth the turning wheel of sacrifice is a thief and living a useless life.” (Bh. Gita 3, 16).

On the third or symbolic level of interpretation we look at the big picture of sacrifice within each of the four Ages of history. In the Age of Taurus (approximately 6,000-4,000 years ago) we offered human sacrifice. In the Age of Aries (4,000-2,000 years ago) we offered animal sacrifice, beginning from the moment Abraham went up on the mountain to sacrifice his firstborn son and instead sacrificed a ram, the symbol of Aries. In the Age of Pisces we offer the sacrifice of words through prayer and recitation of mantras. And in the dawning Age of Aquarius—although we still need to continue prayer and chanting as a direct means of purifying the heart—we sacrifice our individualism into altruism.

Finally on the spiritual level of interpretation, we sacrifice our limited identity into the boundless truth, realizing our true nature. To sacrifice ahamkar, or the “I am the body consciousness” seems to us to be very difficult, and yet it is really the sacrifice of nothing. As Anandamayi Ma, a great saint of India, said, “You are all supreme renunciants because you have renounced the Supreme.” This ultimate level cannot be spoken in words, especially in prose. And for the bhaktas (those on the path of devotion) such as myself, there is no end to the sweet play of lover and beloved. “Those who worship Me with devotion, I am in them and they are also in me.”  (Bh. Gita 9, 29). This is the sacrifice of love and devotion which transcends even the sacrifice of knowledge

Lord Shiva's Three Eyes

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The Inner Meaning of Aum Tryamabakam

This is the first in a series of posts exploring the meaning of mahamritanjaya mantra, which we chant at Monday night Shiva bathing, and the process of Shiva bathing. Actually, I gave this talk in my dream last night.

Tryambak means having three eyes. These three eyes are the three ways of perceiving the world. Two of these eyes correspond to the Relative view and the third to the Absolute view. The right eye is that aspect of the Relative view which splits the world into its components, analyzes, judges and compares. This view corresponds to the left brain and to the pingala, the solar channel and has an objective character. It is also seen as the masculine view and relates to the planet Mars, which carries the sword of separation. This view is crucial to our correct understanding of the relative world. For example, we would need this view to conduct business, negotiate a loan, organize an office and many necessary functions. However, this view does correspond to the tamas guna or mode of ignorance. So beware of the root poison of hatred and aversion when you are using this view. We need good judgement but not judgementalism, critique but not criticism, discrimination but not prejudice.

The left eye is that aspect of the Relative view which is holistic and intuitive. It takes a subjective, symbolic and emotional view of world, seeing the connection between things. The left eye has a creative and playful perception. This view corresponds to the right brain and to the ida, the lunar channel. It has a feminine characteristic and also relates to the planet Venus, which holds the mirror of reflection. We need this view in order to write poetry, play with children or participate meaningfully in rituals and ceremonies. Yet this view does correspond to the rajas guna or mode of passion. Think of the moon card in Tarot. This view can deceive us and lead us astray though excess subjectivity just as surely as the right eye’s view can distort reality through reductionism and fragmentation. When you are using this view, watch out for the root poison of desire which can carry us away and leave us lost and bewildered.

Between the two is the Transcendent View of the Third Eye. The Third Eye does not reveal the phenomenal world with its multiplicity of forms. That is the job of the two eyes. This is the ‘single eye’ which ‘fills the whole body with light’ as Jesus said. This eye cannot see the relative world; it perceives instead the vast expanse of reality. It is connected with the third ventricle of the brain—the Inner Space—and with the sushumna or central channel. This view does correspond with the sattva guna or mode of purity, because we need to move into purity and go beyond ignorance in order to access this view. Yet the transcendent view by definition transcends the three gunas, all of which are part of the phenomenal world.

Tryambak is not an external being but our own true nature when our third eye is activated to see the Transcendent View and our two eyes are purified to see the relative world without aversion or desire. Jiva is Shiva; the personal self is the supreme self. By attaining the state of the Three Eyed Shiva, although we may still have to endure disease due to karma, we will spontaneously heal all illnesses due to stress and confusion. This is the blessing of mahamritanjaya mantra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update on my life June 2009

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It’s been quite a while since I blogged and I’m looking back at all the things that have happened in the last twelve months. First, reconnecting with Sadananda after it became apparent that he wasn’t really going to leave and take up a new life as a householder…meaning that I’m also not going to take up a new life as a sannyasi either! Instead, here we both are in our urban ashram living a rich and humble life just as we have been doing for twenty years.

In the course of taking temporary vows of sannyas I learnt that celibacy is possible—with a lot of prayer and guru’s grace— but I also realised that it is not truly what I desire.  My heart is drawn to the teachings of the path of love, intimacy and communion rather than to the way of solitude.

Then, my father having a heart attack and going to visit him when he was quite weak, yet still, with great determination, taking a little walk every day.

Attending the Swastha Ayurveda conference in London, where I was a ‘special guest speaker,’ talking on spiritual aspects of Ayurveda—specifically, the importance of love, compassion, joy and equanimity as qualities of the physician.

 And a Sufi pilgrimage in Turkey with Sadananda, visiting Istanbul and Konya. It was wonderful to be able not just to visit places like the Blue Mosque but also to join in community prayer in these holy places. And Rumi’s tomb in Konya was a profound experience.

 Soon the first semester of our new Gurukula program started up and the ashram was full of happy, excited students making potions, cooking, giving oil massages, assisting in clinic and attending classes. It was a fulfilling experience, yet coloured at the same time with painful news from home. In November both my parents had open heart surgery at Papworth National Heart Hospital in the UK. My mother made a good recovery but not so my father. As it turned out, open heart surgery re-awakened the TB he had as a young man. He was in intensive respiratory care for six weeks.

In the winter holidays I went to Ipswich to visit my father, arriving just in time to sit and hold his hand as he was passing on. We worked together with a Dzog Chen (Buddhist) practice of the triple ah, “Ah, ah, aaah,” dissolving with the ‘aaah’ into the vast expense of reality. As he was dying we did the triple ‘ah’ and he dissolved on the final ‘aaah’ and didn’t take another breath. It was a very special moment. He left his body on New Years Eve and as we left the hospital it was the stroke of midnight. The sky filled with fireworks and all the church bells rang. It was quite a send-off.

After the funeral I returned to Boulder dealing with jet lag, school, clinic, running the ashram and the grief process. Being a Ma does not make one immune to grief. If anything it makes feelings more poignant and intense. As if that were not enough to deal with I slipped on black ice and snapped the head off my left radius, (I’m a leftie) and had to have surgery. Now my arm is out of the cast and I’m in hand therapy. Not yet fully functional by any means.

At one moment I burst into tears declaring, “This year is half over and all it has consisted of is my father dying and me breaking my arm!” This, in a way, was true. It’s hard to follow the usual routines when your energy is low and your arm is in a cast. But, it’s also true that, “My life is my retreat,” and retreat practice isn’t always easy. Best to take the sacrament of the present moment even when it appears in unpleasant forms, as De Caussade reminds us in Self Abandonment to Divine Providence. Aside from the fact that my own problems are quite insignificant compared to the lives of people in Darfur or the Svat Valley or Baghdad, I understand that these are simply purifications along the way.

And today we had a beautiful community garden day, planting summer squash, zucchinis, winter squash, pumpkins, purple haze carrots, cucumbers and nasturtiums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sufi Love Poem

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My Love for You is as the Fountain of Tasnim

 

You will recognize in their faces the brightness of bliss.

 They are made to quaff of a pure drink that is sealed.

The sealing of it is musk

And the admixture of it is a water of Tasnim

 A fountain from which drink they who are drawn near.

Holy Quran

 

My love for you is as the fountain of Tasnim

In the green meadows of paradise.

 

In the valley of undisturbed peace

This love is a fountain of mingled joy and tears.

In the wine-cup of one taste

It is the bittersweet water of human experience.

 

My love for you is as the fountain of Tasnim

In the green meadows of paradise.

 

On the journey of alone to Alone

This love is a trembling hand of companionship.

Amid the lofty crags of solitude

It is a downy eaglet, crying for nurturance.

 

My love for you is as the fountain of Tasnim

In the green meadows of paradise.

 

In the deep velvet night of haqiqat

This love is a beacon of warmth and fellowship.

On the uncharted ocean of unity consciousness

It is a lighthouse of pathos and compassion.

 

My love for you is as the fountain of Tasnim

In the green meadows of paradise.

 

In the boundless expanse of serenity

My love for you is an ache of tenderness

In the silence of this unfettered heart

It is the poignant melody of human sorrow.

 

 My love for you is as the fountain of Tasnim

In the green meadows of paradise.

 

This love is stronger than death

It conquers distance and time

For it is the shimmering play of appearance

Within the radiant void.

 

My love for you is as the fountain of Tasnim

In the green meadows of paradise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Short Dharma Poems

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Apples

 

Seven red apples and one green tennis ball

Bobbing in foam on the creek.

They float a few feet down,

Turn, sail back again,

Caught in an eddy current.

For a moment the tennis ball seems to escape—

Moves almost to the edge of the pool

But a bigger eddy catches it

And back it comes again.

 

Friends, beware the eddy currents of samsara.

Keep to the swift midstream

Go straight to the vast ocean.

 

 

Mother’s Feet

 

Mother, the touch of your dancing heel

Plunges the world into dissolution

The sparkle of your toe jewel

Creates the universe anew.

All the wise men of the world

Are just tiny jingling bells on your anklets.

Place your foot on my head!

 

 

The Pearl

 

My beloved is a priceless pearl

Hidden in the desert of the world.

Holding a bag of gold

I searched every bazaar

Yet I could not buy the pearl.

Shedding a thousand tears

I dived to the ocean floor

Yet I could not find the pearl.

Heaving a thousand sighs

I soared to the mountain top

The pearl was nowhere to be seen.

 

Friend, look in your own heart.

The priceless pearl

Is waiting for you there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A poem for my Father

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To Dad with Love

 

There are so many wonderful things I’ve learnt from you.

I want to remind you of a few.

 

You taught me that reading didn’t end with Jack and Jill

And that books would open a world of wonder for me.

I got the message….and you made me a bookworm costume

For the carnival.

You traced my ancestry back to Ur of the Chaldees

With a bit of a detour in Poland.

You taught me to be kind to tramps

And to give a penny to the RNLI.

I went door to door with you

Raising money for Hungarian émigrés

(One of whom later became my surgery boss.)

 

You taught me to let dogs smell my hand before I patted them

And that circuses were cruel to animals.

You gave me ‘thinkabouts’ before bedtime

To keep the nightmares away

And that’s the first time I heard of Fleming

And the discovery of penicillin.

You made swords of rolled up newspaper

For back garden jousting events

And a local post office from a cardboard box.

 

You saw the scientist underneath the Romantic

And together we looked for badgers at night

Gazed at stars

Watched a total eclipse through photographic film

Made copper sulphate crystals in the cellar.

 I helped you construct a nine foot pram dinghy

To ferry a family of six—

Developing a permanent aversion to linseed oil.

You made me a long jump and a high jump

Built an igloo and brought cocoa to sip

In my warm snow cave.

 

You taught me to aspire

Like the fairy atop the Christmas tree

To have an enquiring mind

And be an independent thinker.

You taught me to live life as an adventure

Borrowing courage and faith from Colum Kiel.

You taught me that the love of the Lord

Is a lamp for my steps

A light for my path.

 

You taught me to brave the elements

To add a stone to the cairn

And never to set off down an untracked hillside

In the late afternoon.

You taught me to belay and to cast off

To read the winds and the tides

To pitch a tent

And not to forget my anorak.

(I still don’t forget my anorak).

 

You instructed me in the political philosophy

Of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky,

Gave me a banned book by Prince Kropotkin

Imparted to me a thirst for justice

Nurtured my prophetic spirit.  

 

You taught me not to lie

To stay out of debt

And that swearing is more effective

If you hardly ever swear.

You said that the true meaning of “God provides”

Is that everything you need is right at hand

If you just know how to look:

And that it doesn’t matter if there aren’t many

Of whatever it is you’re looking for

Because you only need one—

And you will find it.

You showed me that privilege and responsibility

Are two sides of same coin

And that I, like little Hans

Can make a big difference.

 

Most of all, as good Dads do

You believed in me

And taught me to believe in myself.

That lesson, like the anorak, has stuck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2008 is the previous archive.

July 2009 is the next archive.

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