Art of Living Stories, Art of Living Wisdom.

Two Asuras named Shumba and Nishumba defeated the Gods and drove them out of heaven again. The gods prayed to the Devi for help. Devi appeared as Parvati and out of Parvati’s physical sheath (kosha) emerged form of Devi Ambika. Because she came out of the kosha, she is also called Kaushiki. The Devi was very beautiful and resplendent with the brightness of a million moons.

When Chanda and Munda, the two chieftains of Shumbha and Nishumbha, saw the Devi they told their masters of her celestial divine beauty and they added that since Shumbha and Nishumbha owned everything that was beautiful and precious in all the three worlds, they should also possess Kaushiki. Thus persuaded, Shumbha and Nishumbha sent a messenger to Devi to get her consent to marry one of them. Devi was furious on hearing the proposal and replied: “I made a promise to myself to marry him who defeats me in battle. If either Shumbha or Nishumbha wishes to marry me he shall have to defeat me in battle.”

Hearing Devi’s reply, Shumbha and Nishumbha got very angry. They summoned one of their bravest chieftains called Dhumralochana and sent him to capture and bring Devi to them. Dumralochana took sixty thousand fighters with him and attacked Devi. However, Devi reduced him to ashes with a mere sigh of the sound ‘hum’. Thereupon his fighters attacked her with all kinds of weapons but Devi’s lion killed them all. Thus Dhumralochana and his army were destroyed.

Shumbha then sent Chanda and Munda to destroy the Devi. Chanda and Munda took with them an array of elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers. Devi became very angry, and out of her frowned forehead emerged Kali wearing a garland of skulls, armed with a sword and noose. Her eyes were red and her tongue was lolling out generating fear in the hearts of the demons.

She destroyed the army of Chanda and Munda in no time. Seeing their army destroyed, Chanda rushed at Kali with great ferocity and hurled all kinds of weapons such as spears and chakras. Kali could not be hurt. Kali subdued Chanda and Munda with her subtle paasha or noose of light and then slayed both of them.

Devi Ambika told Kali that since she killed Chanda and Munda in the battle, she will be known as Chamundi.

Meaning of the story:

“Shumbha” means doubting oneself and “Nishumbha” means doubting others. Combination of Shumbha and Nishumbha means doubting everything, doubting at every step. When the mind is clogged with doubts about one self or others, there is no mental peace. Doubts drain the life force energy and strangulate growth. Life cannot progress if we doubt everything. That is why these are called kings of the Asuras.

“Dhumralochana” – “Dhumra” means smoke and “lochana” means eyes – smoky eyes. Dhumralochana means one who has no clarity of perception. As we accumulate stresses we lose the clarity of perception. Saying “hmm” dissolves barriers in the mind. Breathing techniques, Sudarshan Kriya free us from stresses and allow us to see things as they are. Lion indicates valour. All imaginary problems (perceived with distorted vision) disappear just by showing a little valour.  (Devi’s lion kills all fighters).

“Chanda” and “Munda” – Chanda means opposite head. Chanda will oppose anything you say. Chanda is one who cannot agree with anything. (Argumentative people) “Munda” does not have a head at all. He will not listen. Whatever you tell to him, it will all go in thin air. There is no reasoning at all. Wrong logic and perception prevails. The noose of light used by Devi represents wisdom. True knowledge purifies mind like fire along with establishing the mind in the light of the Self. True knowledge is irrefutable special logic (Vitarka). You can’t oppose or reason such knowledge. It simply uplifts.

Fifth Navadurga : Skandamata

On the fifth day of Navaratri we honour the Divine Mother in the form of Skandamata the fifth Navadurga. Skandamata is the mother of Skanda or Subramanya. She is depicted as riding a lion. She possesses four arms out of which two hold the lotus flowers.  One of her hands is always in the boon-conferring gesture and with the other she holds her son Skanda in her lap.  This signifies courage and compassion. Skanda is the skillful one. Often with skill arrogance comes. But here the skill is combined with a humility that nurtures innocence.

Salutations to Devi Skandamata !

Skandamata Maa

या देवी सर्वभुतेषु तृष्णारूपेण संस्थिता  
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥१३॥

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Trssnnaa-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |

Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||13||

13.1: To that Devi Who in All Beings is Abiding in the Form of Thirst,

13.2: Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, I bow down to her again and again.

 

या देवी सर्वभुतेषु क्षान्तिरूपेण संस्थिता  
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥१४॥

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Kssaanti-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |

Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||14||

14.1: To that Devi Who in All Beings is Abiding in the Form of Forbearance,

14.2: Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, I bow down to her again and again.

या देवी सर्वभुतेषु जातिरूपेण संस्थिता  
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥१५॥

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Jaati-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |

Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||15||

15.1: To that Devi Who in All Beings is Abiding in the Form of Race,

15.2: Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, I bow down to her again and again.

Also read :

SIGNIFICANCE OF NAVARATRI 

DEVI MAHATMYA 

DEVI MAHATMYA – STORY OF MADHU KAITABH

DEVI MAHATMYA – STORY OF MAHISHASURA

Jai Gurudev

Sanjay Sabnis

Art of Living Stories, Art of Living Wisdom.

Mahishasura was born out of the union of the Asura (demon) king Rambha and a buffalo. When Mahishasura became the king of Asuras, he fought a great war with the Devas (Gods). The army of the Devas got defeated. The defeated Devas headed by Brahma, went to Shiva and Vishnu. The Devas described to them their plight. Hearing this, there issued forth a great light from the face of Vishnu, Shiva as well as Bramha. From the bodies of Indra and other Devas also sprang forth a great light. Then that unique light combined to become the female form of Devi. The Devi was riding on a fierce lion.

The Devi then gave out a loud roar. By her unending, terrible roar the entire sky was filled, and there was great reverberation. Mahishasura rushed towards that roar, surrounded by innumerable Asuras. He saw the Devi pervading all the three worlds with her lustre. The Devi then killed hundreds of Asuras with her trident, club, showers of spears, swords and the like, and threw down others who were stupefied by the noise of her bell. Seeing his army thus being destroyed, Mahishasura pounced upon the troops of the Devi with his own buffalo form. He rushed to slay the lion of the Devi. This enraged the Devi. She flung her noose over him and bound him. Thus bound in the great battle, Mahishasura quit his buffalo form. Then he suddenly became a lion. As Devi cut off the head of this lion, he took the appearance of a man with a sword. Devi with her arrows chopped off the man together with his sword and shield. Then he became a big elephant. The elephant tugged at Devi’s great lion with his trunk, but as he was dragging, Devi cut off his trunk with her sword. The great Asura then resumed his buffalo form and shook all the three worlds. Mahishasura, roaring intoxicated with his strength and valour, hurled mountains against Devi with his horns. And the Devi with showers of arrows pulverized those mountains. She then jumped and landed herself on that great Asura, pressing him on the neck with her foot, she struck him in the heart with her spear. The great Asura was thus finally slain by the Devi. With the death of Mahishasura, the whole Asura army perished and the Devas regained their lost glory.

 

Maa Durga killing mahishasura

 

Meaning of Mahishasura story:

The buffalo is a symbol of ignorance (animal tendencies). When ignorance starts reigning then one becomes inert, insensitive and dull. Mahishasura never comes alone; he comes along with his army of Asuras. Similarly ignorance is also accompanied by inertia, delusion, arrogance, misery, sadness, depression, fear, insecurity and all other negative tendencies. All good qualities (Gods) get defeated in front of ignorance. Only by awakening of spiritual energy (Devi Maa) can one overcome this demon of ignorance. Spiritual energy gets awakened when each and every part of our consciousness comes together with a single pointed focus (all Devas contributing their energies).

Devi Maa has to fight a fierce battle to slay the demon of ignorance. When the Devi slays the ignorance in one form, ignorance transforms itself into another form. Ignorance cannot be eliminated with simple knowledge. When we remove ignorance in one form with some knowledge, other form of ignorance will arise. Just like knowledge; ignorance also is limitless and infinite.

Ma Durga then jumps up on the Asura and presses the neck of the Asura with her feet and then pierces his heart with her spear. This signifies opening up first of the “Vishuddhi Chakra” (throat center) and then the “Anahat Chakra” (Heart center). With the opening of Vishuddhi chakra, gratefulness dawns in life. With opening of Anahat chakra, unconditional love arises. Ignorance simply dissolves in front of unconditional love and wisdom dawns. When wisdom dawns all other negative tendencies (army of Mahishasura) get destroyed. Thus, by the grace of Maa Durga, the Devas get back their lost kingdom of heaven.

May Maa Durga bless everyone with such unconditional love and gratefulness!

Fourth Navadurga : Kushmanda

On the fourth day of Navaratri, Mother Divine is worshipped in the form of Kushmanda Devi, the fourth Navadurga. The name Kushmanda is made of three words – “Ku + Ushma + Amnda = Kushmanda”. Here “Ku” is “Little”, “Ushma” is “Warmth or Energy” and “Anda” is “Egg”, meaning the one who creates the universe as “Little Cosmic Egg” with the energy of Her divine smile, is called “Kushmanda”. Maa Kushmanda is also named as “Adi Shakti”.

Kushmanda” also means pumpkin. A pumpkin has so many seeds and each seed contains the potential for so many more pumpkins. This is representative of the creative power and its eternal nature. The whole Creation is like a pumpkin. As Kushmanda, the Devi contains the entire Creation within her. She is the Devi who can give you the highest “prana” energy. It is her splendour that pervades every plant and creature of this universe.

Salutations to Maa Kushmanda!

 

kushmanda_navadurga_the_nine_forms_of_goddess_durga_wk91

 

या देवी सर्वभुतेषु क्षुधारूपेण संस्थिता  
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥१०॥

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Kssudhaa-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||10||

10.1: To that Devi Who in All Beings is Abiding in the Form of Hunger,
10.2: Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, I bow down to her again and again.

 

या देवी सर्वभुतेषु छायारूपेण संस्थिता  

नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥११॥

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Chaayaa-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||11||

11.1: To that Devi Who in All Beings is Abiding in the Form of Shadow (of Higher Self) (Jivatma as a Shadow of Paramatma),
11.2: Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, I bow down to her again and again.

 

या देवी सर्वभुतेषु शक्तिरूपेण संस्थिता  
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥१२॥

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Shakti-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||12||

12.1: To that Devi Who in All Beings is Abiding in the Form of Power,
12.2: Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, I bow down to her again and again.

Also Read:

SIGNIFICANCE OF NAVARATRI 

DEVI MAHATMYA 

DEVI MAHATMYA – STORY OF MADHU KAITABH

 

Jai Gurudev

Sanjay Sabnis

Art of Living Stories, Art of Living Wisdom.

At the end of a kalpa (epoch), when the universe was one ocean and Lord Vishnu was stretched out  on Shesha and took a mystic slumber (Yoganidra), two terrible Asuras (demons), Madhu and Kaitabh took birth from the dirt of Vishnu’s ears. These two Asuras sought to slay Lord Bramha, the creator of the universe, who was sitting in a lotus that came out from Vishnu’s naval. In order to awaken Vishnu, Bramha prays to Yoganidra (Devi) dwelling in Vishnu’s eyes. Upon this Narayana (Vishnu) rises from his sleep and sees these two powerful and evil Asuras endeavouring to devour Brahma. Bhagwan Vishnu fights with these Asuras for five thousand years. The Asuras frenzied with their enormous power and deluded by Mahamaya (Devi) tell Vishnu to ask for any boon he wants from them. Bhagwan Vishnu says, “You both should get slain by me now, my choice is this much indeed.” These two Asuras, knowing that the whole earth is flooded with water tell Vishnu, “Slay us at a spot where the earth is not flooded with water.” Bhagwan Vishnu says, “So be it”, and expands his thighs and asks the two Asuras to put their heads on his thighs where there is no water. The Asuras also expand their bodies and Vishnu again expands his thighs ten times more. Seeing this, the two Asuras lay their heads on Bhagwan Vishnu’s thighs and the Lord then cuts off their heads with his Sudarshan Chakra.

On one hand the above story appears as a children’s story with not much essence in it. But if you understand the meaning, the story becomes quite interesting. Madhu means craving and Kaitabha means aversion.

So cravings and aversions are born out of the ears; you hear some words about something and you develop an aversion or craving for it. All cravings and aversions are nothing but thoughts and thoughts are nothing but words. Words can become cravings and aversions when awareness is sleeping. Cravings and aversions try to kill the creativity. The Nabhi Chakra (naval centre) is said to be the seat of creativity and Lord Bramha (the creator of universe) is also born out of Lord Vishnu’s naval centre. Narayana awakens from his sleep by the grace of Devi Maa and realizes that Madhu and Kaitabh are trying to kill Lord Bramha. We realize that cravings and aversions are causing havoc in life only when awareness dawns. However hard Narayana fought, he could not win over Madhu and Kaitabh because they were born out of Narayana. Cravings and aversions are nothing but thoughts in mind and you cannot win over your thoughts by fighting with them. On the level of mind whatever you resist will persist. With your own cravings and aversions; the more you fight with them the more they grow stronger and you are unable to win.

Here Devi again comes to Narayana’s help. Devi signifies the spiritual energy and water denotes love and attachment. So long as you are attached to your thoughts you cannot win over cravings and aversions. Only with the help of spiritual energy you can detach yourself from your cravings and aversions. Realizing that you are much bigger than your thoughts, you can get victory over your cravings and aversions. Only awakening of spiritual energy can make you realize that you are much bigger than your cravings and aversions. Only spiritual energy can make you realize your true nature. Meaning of Sudarshan is right vision and Chakra which is a ‘circular disc in motion’ indicates uninterrupted activity. Sudarshan Chakra indicates the power of uninterrupted, unblemished, choice-less awareness. Only with such awareness you can gain the final victory over cravings and aversions. 

May Maa Durga bless us all with such uninterrupted, unblemished, choice-less awareness!

Third Navadurga : Chandra Ghanta

On the third day of Navaratri the Divine Mother is worshipped in the form of third Navadurga – Chandra Ghanta. This form of Devi is depicted as wearing a bell-like ornament in the shape of the moon. The moon is connected the mind and the Ghanta or the bell is an instrument connected with alertness. The ringing of the bell brings the mind to the present moment. Just as the moon waxes and wanes the mind also wavers. By Chanting the name of this Devi with alertness the mind comes under our control. When such quality of alertness and steadfastness arises then the mind becomes like an adornment. Chandraghanta represents this aspect of beauty in the mind.

 3rd day

या देवी सर्वभुतेषु चेतनेत्यभिधीयते 
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥७॥

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Cetanety-Abhidhiiyate |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||7||

7.1: To that Devi Who in All Beings is Reflected as Consciousness,
7.2: Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, I bow down to her again and again.

 

या देवी सर्वभुतेषु बुद्धिरूपेण संस्थिता  
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥८॥

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Buddhi-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||8||

8.1: To that Devi Who in All Beings is Abiding in the Form of Intelligence,
8.2: Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, I bow down to her again and again.

 

या देवी सर्वभुतेषु निद्रारूपेण संस्थिता  

नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥९॥

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Nidraa-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||9||

9.1: To that Devi Who in All Beings is Abiding in the Form of Sleep,
9.2: Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, I bow down to her again and again.

Also Read Significance of Navaratri 

                  Devi Mahatmya – Day 2

Jai Gurudev

Sanjay Sabnis

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Wisdom.

The Devi Puja during Navratri festival is not considered complete without recitation of the Devi Mahatmya.  Recitation of verses of Devi Mahatmya is one of the most important aspects of “Chandi homa”. The Devi Mahatmya (also called as the Durga Saptshati or Chandi) is an ancient Sanskrit text dedicated to the glory of Mother Divine.

Devi Mahatmya is  divided into 13 chapters consisting of 700 Shlokas (verses). (Therefore the title Saptashati).  Three aspects of the Divine Mother have been depicted in this great work. These are –

  1. Mahakali (The Tamasik form of Devi)
  2. Mahalakshmi (The Rajasik form of Devi) and
  3. Mahasarasvati (The Satvik form of Devi)

Devi Mahatmya has multiple dimensions, some comprehensible and some beyond comprehension. For a simpleton, the Devi Mahatmya is full of awe-inspiring descriptions of the glory of the Devi and fascinating stories of battles fought by the Devi with the Asuras (Demons). For a Bhakta (Devotee) the Devi Mahatmya is the main pillar of strength for his faith. For a seeker, these stories depict the inner battle going on in human psyche and how the Devi shows the ways to emerge victorious in these battles. For some the Devi Mahatmya is like beautiful Sanskrit poetry and for others it contains powerful sacred mantras (incantations). Some consider the entire Devi Mahatmya as one single Mantra. One thing is for sure, the chanting of Devi Mahatmya has a definite positive impact on all levels existence.

The sacred text of Devi Mahatmya begins with the story of powerful King Suratha who lost his kingdom first due to external enemies and then due to his own powerful, vicious and evil-disposed ministers. The King goes to the forest and stays in the hermitage of Sage Sumedha (proper intellect). Even there the King continuously thinks about his kingdom and becomes miserable. One day he meets a merchant near the hermitage, whose name was Samadhi. Samadhi tells the King that he is a wealthy merchant who has been deprived of all his wealth and cast out by his greedy and wicked wife and sons. Now he is very sad and miserable because he does not know the welfare of his family and sons, whether they are living a good life or evil life? His mind is still attached to his wife and sons.

To get rid of their mental agony both Suratha & Samadhi approach Sage Sumedha and ask the Sage, “Both of us are drawn by attachment towards objects whose defects we do know and are exceedingly unhappy. How this happens, then Sir, that though we are aware of it, this delusion comes?” Sage Sumedha tells them, “Men are hurled into the whirlpool of attachment, the pit of delusion, through the power of Mahamaya, who makes the existence of the world possible. Marvel not at this. This Mahamaya is the Yoganidra, of Vishnu, the Lord of the world. It is by her the world is deluded.”

The King asks the Sage, “’Venerable Sir, who is that Devi whom you call Mahamaya?” The sage then narrates to them the story of the Devi, her glory and her victories over the Asuras (demons). Hearing this story both Suratha and Samadhi pray to the Devi, undertake penances and with controlled minds propitiate the Devi for three years and she appears before them in visible form as Devi Chandika and asks them to choose their boons.

Both have heard the same story yet the King saw the Devi vanquishing the Asuras. He saw that the people who had usurped his kingdom had done an evil act. So he was inspired to pray to the Devi for justice. He asks to become ruler not only in this birth but also in the next. The Devi blesses him with the same.

Samadhi is a businessman. (Yet his name suggests otherwise) Being in the material, his sights are firmly on the spiritual. All it takes is a little push for Samadhi to come searching for truth. Realising that the negative forces are within, he seeks pure wisdom and devotion which is the highest wealth. The Devi is pleased and grants his wish too and Samadhi gets enlightenment.

The Devi is like a wish fulfilling tree. It is up to us what we seek.

Second Navadurga : Brahmacharini

On the second day of Navaratri, the second Navadurga Brahmacharini is worshipped and honoured. Brahmacharya is celibacy. Celibacy brings strength, lot of strength. Brahmacharya has higher meaning than just celibacy. Brahma means “infinity” charya means “moving” – Brahmacharya means “moving in infinity”. Knowing your vast nature, not thinking that you are just the body; you walk like you are a glow of light; you move in the world as though you are space. The more joyful you are, the less you feel the body. The more you are in the infinite consciousness the less you feel the tension or the physical weight of the person – that is “Brahmacharya”

This aspect of the Mother Divine is present in the Svadhisthana Chakra. Invoking the qualities of this Devi our consciousness is expanded to infinity; starts moving in infinity, in our true nature; in that space you become vast and powerful with a lot of vigour, valour and strength.

 

2nd day

 

दुर्गायै दुर्गपारायै सारायै सर्वकारिण्यै 
ख्यात्यै तथैव कृष्णायै धूम्रायै सततं नमः ॥४॥

Durgaayai Durga-Paaraayai Saaraayai Sarva-Kaarinnyai |
Khyaatyai Tathaiva Krssnnaayai Dhuumraayai Satatam Namah ||4||

4.1: (Salutations to) Durga, Who helps us in Crossing over the Difficulties and Dangers of Life and Who is the Essence of All Causes.
4.2: Salutations Always to Her, Who is Renowned and Widely Known Outside (in Creation) Just As She is Dark and Smoky and Difficult to Know Inside (in Meditation).

अतिसौम्यातिरौद्रायै नतास्तस्यै नमो नमः 
नमो जगत्प्रतिष्ठायै देव्यै कृत्यै नमो नमः ॥५॥

Ati-Saumya-Ati-Raudraayai Nataas-Tasyai Namo Namah |
Namo Jagat-Pratisstthaayai Devyai Krtyai Namo Namah ||5||

5.1: Salutations to Her Who is Extremely Gentle like the Moon and also Extremely Terrible like Rudra,
5.2: Salutations to the Devi Who is the Supporter of the Universe and Salutations to Her Who is the Creator of the Universe.

या देवी सर्वभुतेषु विष्णुमायेति शब्दिता 
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥६॥

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Vissnnumaayeti Shabditaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah ||6||

6.1: To that Devi Who in All Beings is Called Vishnumaya,
6.2: Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, I bow down to her again and again.

Also Read Significance of Navaratri – Day 1

Sanjay Sabnis

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Stories, Art of Living Wisdom.

Today is the first day of “Sharad Navartri” also called as “Maha Navaratri (the Great Navratri). Today is the beginning of the most auspicious nine days period.

Navaratri has two meanings – “New Night” and “Nine Nights”. ‘Nav” means either New or Nine and ‘Ratri’ means nights.

Now, why these nine days are called nights? ‘Ratri’ or night relieves you and puts you to sleep. No animal needs to worry at night. Whether happy or unhappy everybody goes to sleep. Night is when our body gets rested and the spirit gets rejuvenated. The word “Ratri” is made up of “ra” and “tri”. Here “ra” means giving solace and “tri” means three types. Solace from three types of problems in life – physical, ethereal and causal. Every night during very deep sleep, for a few moments when all mental activity has ceased, the spirit merges with its source and gets rejuvenated. So these auspicious nine days of Navratri are meant for renewal of the life force energy and removal of all obstacles from life.

It takes nine months for a child to be born. The child rests in the womb during this period. Similarly during the nine days of Navaratri you get back to the Self. Dip into yourself and then you come out with more creativity, more clarity, more energy and become victorious in life. You get relief from all the negative forces like craving and aversion, dullness and inertia, lust and obsession, ignorance  and doubts  – get relief from all these. Get renewed by connecting with the source within.

During Navratri the seeker gets back to the true Source through fasting, prayer, silence and meditation. While fasting detoxifies the body, silence purifies the speech and brings rest to the chattering mind, and meditation takes one deep into one’s own being.

Gurudev says, “Just as the nature celebrates when spring comes, the Spirit celebrates when Navaratri comes.”

There are two aspects of Divinity, ‘Shiva and ‘Shakti’. Shiva is the un-manifest and Shakti is the manifest form of the same consciousness. The whole creation is a primordial dance of Shiva and Shakti. Shiva is the very basis of creation and Shakti is the creation itself. All creative impulses originate from Shakti. During Navratri we honour and worship this ‘Shakti’, the power behind creation, maintenance and emancipation of the universe.

We all are floating in the effulgence of one scintillating, unseen, vibrant cosmic energy of the Divine Mother or the Devi. The Devi (Mother Divine) is called Shodashakala (The One with all 16 Divine qualities or attributes). It means that she possess all divine and noble qualities, and lacks nothing.  If you see the Devi, on one side she is so beautiful and full of love, compassion and grace, but on the other side she is also Maa Kali (one of Her more terrifying and violent manifestations). She is graceful and serene in one form, but at the same time in another form she is terrifying and fearsome.

Goddess Lakshmi is very calm and graceful while Goddess Durga is very terrifying and awe-inspiring. The all-bestowing Goddess Lakshmi rides the harmless owl (the mount) and in another form the vanquisher of evil and ignorance, Goddess Durga rides the fierce lion.

You can see all the opposite aspects of Divinity coming together in the Devi. The world created by the Devi is also made up of opposites and it is sustained by opposites.

In the Durga Saptashati it is said,

“Ya Devi Sarva-bhutesu Bhranti-rupena Samsthitha Namastasyei Namastasyei Namastasyei Namo Namaha.….”

Oh Mother Divine, you are present in all beings as peace and as disturbance; as knowledge and as delusion. I adore you, I bow down to you again and again!

During these nine days of Navratri we will be honouring different aspects of Mother Divine called as the Nava Durgas or Nava Shaktis. Nava Durga are the nine aspects of Durga Shakti which act like a shield to ward off all negativities.

The First Avatara of Goddess Durga is Shailputri 

Shailaputri : Among the Nine Durgas, Maa Shailputri is considered to be the first manifestation of Goddess Durga.  She carries the trishul and the lotus in her hands. Her vehicle is the Bull, Nandi. Her worship takes place on the first day of Navaratri. “Shaila” means stone, “putri” means daughter.

Praying to her brings strength like a stone. It brings commitment. When the mind is wavering, chanting the name of this Devi helps the mind to be centred and committed. It gives us strength, courage, and composure.

Shailaputri

नमो देव्यै महादेव्यै शिवायै सततं नमः 

नमः प्रकृत्यै भद्रायै नियताः प्रणताः स्म ताम् ॥१॥
Namo Devyai Mahaa-Devyai Shivaayai Satatam Namah |
Namah Prakrtyai Bhadraayai Niyataah Prannataah Sma Taam ||1||

1.1: Salutations to the Devi, to the Mahadevi; Salutations Always to Her Who is One with Shiva (the Auspicious One).
1.2: Salutations to Her Who is the Auspicious (being One with Shiva) Primordial Source of Creation and Controller of Everything; We Bow Always to Her.

रौद्रायै नमो नित्यायै गौर्यै धात्र्यै नमो नमः 
ज्योत्स्नायै चेन्दुरूपिण्यै सुखायै सततं नमः ॥२॥

Raudraayai Namo Nityaayai Gauryai Dhaatryai Namo Namah |
Jyotsnaayai Ce[a-I]ndu-Ruupinnyai Sukhaayai Satatam Namah ||2||

2.1: Salutations to the Terrible, Salutations to the Eternal, the Shining One and the Supporter of the Universe.
2.2: Salutations Always to Her, Who has a Cool Brightness like the Moonlit Night, And the Radiant Form of the Moon, and Who is Joy Herself.

कल्याण्यै प्रणता वृद्धयै सिद्धयै कुर्मो नमो नमः 
नैर्ऋत्यै भूभृतां लक्ष्म्यै शर्वाण्यै ते नमो नमः ॥३॥

Kalyaannyai Prannataa Vrddhayai Siddhayai Kurmo Namo Namah |
Nairrtyai Bhuubhrtaam Lakssmyai Sharvaannyai Te Namo Namah ||3||

3.1: We Bow to Her Who is the Source of Welfare, Who is Great, Fulfilled and Abides as the Universe,
3.2: Salutations to Her Who is the Destroyer as well as the Prosperity which Supports the Earth and Who is the Consort of Shiva (in the Divine Play of Creation, Sustenance and Destruction).

 

Keep watching this space …More to come

Sanjay Sabnis

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Wisdom.

Medical findings about Sudarshan Kriya:

A world conference on science, consciousness and spirituality held in New Delhi noted the key findings of research conducted on the Sudarshan Kriya. Below is a simplified synopsis:

1. Less depression, more elation

Dr Richard Brown from the USA has postulated that Kriya contributes to a state of alert calmness through its effect on the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is crucial in social bonding, empathy and love; it is the centre of our gut instincts and is crucial to our ability to perceive, observe and make complex decisions. Impaired vagal activity is found in people with depression, anxiety, panic disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, violent adults, post traumatic stress disorder, early Alzheimer’s and obesity.

2. Sleep like a baby

`Stephen Porges suggested that the different rhythms of breath in Kriya stimulates different fibers of the vagus nerve. This makes SKY unique and likely to have a much wider range of effects. Interestingly, brain wave rhythms during and after Kriya are similar to those of babies.

3. Think Positive 

Dr Fahri Saatcioglu from Oslo did a 6-week study on the effect of Kriya on the relaxation response and feeling of wellness on 109 subjects. 56 of them went through the Art of Living course and performed Kriya daily for 6 weeks. The other 53 relaxed in an armchair for 15 minutes daily for the same period. 6 weeks later, a significant increase in the experience of wellness in the Kriya group was noted as compared to the ‘armchair’ group. There was a sharp decrease in anxiety, depression and stress and a marked increase in optimistic thinking in the Kriya group.

4. Live longer

Dr Neeta Singh from New Delhi studied the effects of Kriya on the genes that affect stress related pathways of the human body. She found an increase in vital antioxidant enzymes that are responsible for a longer life span and better protection against cancer.

5. Healthy heart, skin and blood pressure 

Dr Stephen Larsen from the USA studied neurophysiological responses before, during and after Kriya. The tests run were EEG (recorded at 19 cortical sites), EKG, heart rate variability, galvanic skin response, hand skin temperature, pulse plethysmography and blood pressure. He found that Kriya practices produced significant changes in ALL physiological measures. It appears that over a period of time, the practitioner’s health becomes more robust, flexible and able to deal with the challenges of stress. This explains why regular practice of Kriya is very important.

6. Decreased work-related stress

Dr Vedamurthachar from Bangalore studied the effect of the AOL Course on occupational stress and anxiety among 60 software engineers. At the end of a month, the 30 engineers who took the AOL course showed a sharp reduction in anxiety and improvement in stress coping skills as compared with the 30 controls.

7. Sudarshan Kriya and vegetarian meals for good health

E G Lyulyakina from Russia studied the oral micro flora of SKY practitioners. She found that the number of microorganisms in lacto vegetarians were 2-3 times less than that in ‘non strict’ vegetarians. She concluded that practice of Kriya and a vegetarian diet reduces the microbial content of the mouth.

8. Fight Cholesterol

Dr Chiplonkar from Pune studied the lifestyle, behavioral and health aspects of 105 adults before and after undergoing the part I Art of Living Course. She found that majority of micronutrients showed a positive correlation with sattvic foods. After the practice of Kriya for 2 months, she found a significant reduction in anxiety, sharp increase in antioxidant capacity, reduction in triglycerides and a marginal reduction in oxidative stress.

9. Beneficial for cancer patients

Arielle Warner in USA studied the psycho spiritual benefits of Kriya were studied in women diagnosed with breast cancer. The subjects were evaluated 2 weeks before the Art of Living Course, 8 days after the Course and after 5 weeks of regular practice. A significant improvement in quality of life, spiritual well being, positive states of mind and perceived stress was observed after the AOL course and was maintained 5 weeks later.

10. Sudarshan Kriya rules over other similar yoga tools

Dr Janis Carter from Australia compared the effects of different modalities like Iyengar and Desikachar yoga, Qi Gong, Sudarshan Kriya Yoga and a multi-component yoga intervention (MCYI) in treating Australian Vietnam war veterans with long standing Post traumatic Stress disorder. She found that the interventions that used many tools of yoga viz. Sudarshan Kriya and MCYI showed the greatest efficacy.

11. Psychoanalytical healing

Dr Patricia Gerberg from USA discussed the effects of doing the Art of Living Kriya program in a patient undergoing psychoanalysis since a long time. She found Kriya useful in healing negative past impressions and the `dissociation’ that rendered the patient unable to connect with others and with his own feelings.

It has come to almost everyone’s experience that Sudarshan Kriya is not just a physical breathing exercise. There is much more to it. Technique is one thing. Practicing it with faith, honor, respect and gratitude lends grace to the technique.  Being aware of the supreme power that is governing every molecule in the universe multiplies the efficacy of the technique.  There is absolutely nothing wrong in having an intellectual curiosity.  Spirituality is not opposed to science, rather it complements. There are examples of eminent scientists like Einstein who recognized spirituality in science. In fact spirituality is the conscience of science.  But I have realized, in life it is impossible to understand everything at the intellectual level. Life is a mystery to be lived, not understood. When something is beyond our comprehension, it is wise to drop questioning and start wondering. In my sixteen years into Art of Living, I have had multitude occasions just to wonder because there was no logical explanation available. Two people come to the course; learn Sudarshan Kriya along with other things. They have the same problem of hypertension for the same number of years and they both are almost the same age. While one gets completely cured within two sessions of Sudarshan Kriya, baffling his doctors, the other goes on battling the disorder despite regular practice. How do we account for it scientifically? What was lacking in the other person? Faith, trust, improper practice or was it just his karma? We have seen in Art of Living family people overcoming difficulties , be it health, relationships, finance or any other that was bogging him/ her just by being regular in sadhana, seva and satsang that burn the seeds of karma.  Sri Sri RaviShankar has said recently that “Grace has the ability to change anything at anytime”. It is just a matter of time and having infinite patience with the belief that the best is going to happen to me and whatever happens happens for the best. The mind becomes free. We are miserable only when we not in knowledge.
If only we give the divine a chance to work for us! To my understanding, it is keeping the intellectual curiosity alive; doing what needs to be done and at the same time to drop the intellect and be in the space of surrender for the divine to do the needful is the trick to reap the benefit. It is a journey from the head to the heart.

Once we have caught the hang of it, it is time to spread the message. What could be more fulfilling than sharing joy, love, knowledge, life itself with our fellow beings! Sudarshan Kriya taught in the Happiness course opens up all the channels in our being that was hitherto undiscovered. As i walk on the path, it is new discovery every moment into the wonderful recesses of my own mind. I cannot stop wondering at myself with a witness consciousness! A self development program unparalleled.

Self discovery

Sudarshan Kriya yoga practice leads one to a wonderland of self discovery. A spirit of inquiry is kindled. Once it is kindled, it is kindled forever. Over a period of time, I have developed ‘witness consciousness’ to a large extent which helps me to be blissfully detached and at the same time give my all to what needs to be done.

An experience cannot be explained effectively in words. The only way to know how a pudding tastes is to eat it!
Knowledge is contradictory, truth is contradictory and life is a mystery!

A Guru is but an excuse for us to realize this. It is foolish to bind Him in relationships who are just an embodiment of Guru Principle.

The Guru principle or Guru Tatva is like an ocean. Some like to watch the ocean standing on the shore. Some like to walk in, get their feet wet and come back to the shore. The really blessed ones dive deep and will not stop till they gather all the pearls of wisdom the ocean has to offer.

This may take a second, minutes, hours, years or several life times/ epochs. So what!!!! Waiting with infinite patience and love itself makes life a true celebration.

 

Jai Guru Dev,

Leela Ramesh

 

Do Read Sudarshan Kriya … Transforming Lives -1

Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Wisdom.

“Su means good, Darshan means vision, Kriya means action. Sudarshan Kriya means, by doing which action we get a vision of who we really are”.

I was intently listening to the Art of Living teacher before embarking on my first experience of Sudarshan Kriya some sixteen years ago. Who am I? …was a question I was fiddling with, not really making any effort to start a journey of inquiry?  I bumped into infinity by chance!

People shared their experiences. I feel very hungry.  I am craving jalebis. I want to kiss my children this moment. I felt light as though I am flying. I saw Kailash Mountain and Lord Shiva meditating. Electric current passing through my whole body. My fingers became stiff, could not move, but now I am fine. Feeling fresh as though I slept for 10 hours! Well, I was too dazed to speak but I must have shared something like I am so relaxed!  The whole package, with Sudarshan Kriya at the core, turned my life around.  The wall I had built around myself started to crumble and I was no longer afraid to reveal myself. I accepted myself first unconditionally with all my imperfections. I fell in love with myself! My heart sang, I am unique, I am beautiful, I am a masterpiece (Master’s piece, pun intended). I began to feel completely protected. I would look into the mirror every morning and marvel at my image.

A Bollywood song would come to my mind ‘ main wohi  , darpan wohi , na Jane ye kyan ho gaya, ke sab Kuch  lage naya naya’ ( I am the same, the mirror is the same. I do not know what has happened. Everything looks new)
The voice of the teacher reverberated in my ears every morning as I practised the Sudarshan Kriya. “There is rhythm in nature. Sun rises and sets at a particular time. Seasons come and go. So also there is a rhythm in our body, thoughts and emotions. By doing Sudarshan Kriya we are setting a rhythm so that we are relaxed and stress free”.

I noticed the fact that our emotions are linked to our breathing pattern. By changing the pattern we could change our emotions! If negative thoughts and emotions can be reversed by just following a rhythmic breathing practice for a few minutes on a daily basis, I was all for it.  I remembered the great poet John Milton’s words “Mind maketh heaven or hell”. My biggest enemy was nowhere outside. I recognized if I handled my mind, life will be a celebration. I became more aware of my body, breath, mind, intellect, memory and ego that was responsible for all the drama that was happening in my life. The teacher had explained ” as children, we lived in harmony with nature. As we grew up we lost the innocence and naturalness. It is like having all the musical instruments but not in tune. What do you hear if you play an orchestra? Just discordant notes. If all the musical instruments are perfectly tuned, just imagine how melodious the music would be to the ears?  Sudarshan Kriya is setting the tune so that we experience beautiful music of our own being”. The course impacted me so much that I dropped the old Leela and welcomed the new Leela joyously. I was reborn!

sudarshan_kriya_2010

My home became an ashram!

At the end of the course, I came to know that the organizers were looking for a venue to conduct courses.  I looked at my husband who was also equally touched by the course. “Shall we offer our home?”
The saga of Sudarshan Kriya courses started in our home. We moved all our furniture to corridors and made the hall free for Art of Living activities. Just as Sri Sri says, when something is started with good intention, all the necessary facilities will just present it. White sheets were brought in and spread across the hall. Volunteers came in to heat milk to be given after the Sudarshan Kriya.  I would sit through every course never tiring of repetition.
While answering a question by the teacher in one of the courses ‘ what is that one thing you want in your life’, I said “To sit in your chair and teach this course “. It was clear to me that if there was something worthwhile doing in this lifetime, it was teaching people how to be happy, stress free and calm. Gradually tapering off all other activities, I involved myself in sadhana, seva, satsang while attending higher courses that paved my way to be His instrument. My intuition became very sharp. I often got visions of Gurudev although I had still not taken His Darshan.

I gatecrashed to touch His feet!

While in Bangalore on vacation, I registered for Sahaj Samadhi meditation course with Bhanu Didi. On the last day of the course, we were informed Gurudev was arriving in Bangalore. It was pouring heavily. My mother and I hired a taxi and went to airport. Lot of people had already gathered at the Arrivals. While He was still inside, I implored the security to let me in so that I can meet Him properly. He refused. I pushed the glass door and touched His feet just before He got lost in the crowd.  When I stood up, I saw such compassion on His face that I had not seen on anybody’s face before.

It was my destiny…to be His instrument. As I write this episode on 15 th of August. 2014, I complete 14 years as an Art of Living teacher.  On this Independence Day, he made me free by placing a Sudarshan Kriya tape in my humble hands and telling me gently but firmly to teach well. Motherhood and teaching Art of Living courses have made me a complete person.  In fact, being an art of living teacher is to be a mother to the whole world.  God has given me one beautiful biological daughter but my Guru has blessed me to make the people of this world my children! What bliss! And what responsibility!

Sudarshan Kriya…transforming lives
One needs to be really fortunate to get Sudarshan Kriya. I know many people who have been striving for years to take time out to attend the program. I also know people who say they don’t need the program as they are already happy. I know many who have attended the program but not practising. Also there are people who got back to practicing after a gap. Guruji has said “There are only two kinds of people in this world. Those who have done the course and those who will do the course”. He wants everyone to be stress free.

The kind of transformation one experiences after starting to practice Sudarshan Kriya varies from person to person.  It could be health related, outlook towards life, relationships, understanding one’s own self and many others.  It is very individual and personal. It is a wrong notion that one has to become a follower if one attends the program.  Sri Sri just wants everyone to smile. He wants to increase the happiness quotient by giving happiness program to people. If people flock around Him, it is out of choice, as an expression of gratitude and love for the invaluable knowledge that they have received. If people serve in the organization by promoting Art of Living programs, it’s but to share with others.

It is human nature to share something good. Don’t we tell other people dear to us to go watch a nice movie that we have enjoyed? Don’t we talk about a new restaurant that has opened in our area that serves yummy food? Happiness multiplies when we share. When we share such mundane things as movies and restaurants, why not share the experience of Sudarshan Kriya that transforms life? It is also human nature to doubt the positive. Although there is no reason to doubt the efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya, some of us being human question its effect. For intellectuals, there is a lot of scientific research papers available on how Sudarshan Kriya works. But then, the simple explanation that Sudarshan Kriya works like a vacuum cleaner sucking out all kinds of accumulated garbage from every cell of our body should be sufficient enough to prompt us to practice it for a few minutes every day. My personal experience is that my observation, perception and expression is improving a lot which helps me lead a better quality of life.

 

More to come…

– Leela Ramesh

Art of Living Experiences, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Exactly eight years ago, the early morning of September 21st 2006 was very eerie for me in Colombo, Sri Lanka. There was that beautiful silence in the air but a whole lot of expectations were storming my mind. It was the International Day of Peace. And the war between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE) was reaching an alarming point.

It was just about 5 am when Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (popularly called as Guruji) stepped out of his room. He started walking towards the beautiful open courtyard of our host`s house and looked deep into the sky while I stood in silence. He then asked me “Are we ready to leave?”. I said “In a few minutes”. And he sat on the garden bench looking into the sky again and closed his eyes in bliss and went into meditation. My moods changed for the best.

I quickly rushed to the kitchen, picked up the lunch basket and placed it in the car boot and ran up to him to say that everything`s ready for the travel. Swami Sadyojathah who was leading our Sri Lanka operations then and Harish Ramachandran one of our senior Art of Living teachers were to accompany him to Killinochchi town, the LTTE`s war-time `capital – headquarters` to meet Prabakaran. Guruji cheerfully stepped into the car to leave for the Ratmalana (a Colombo suburb) helipad to fly to Omanthai town, the high-tension border between the LTTE controlled territory and the Sri Lankan Governments` area.

We had all valid permissions from the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. Both parties were extremely keen to consider the peace initiatives proposed by Guruji. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa granted immediate permission for the travel to Killinochchi including the provision of a special helicopter. I stayed behind in Colombo to co-ordinate with the Government.

After the helicopter touched down at the Omanthai air force base, Guruji and his entourage drove towards the Sri Lankan controlled border check-post after which there was a very long stretch of land called `no-man`s land`. This particular stretch of land between the `enemies` was under the  supervision and authority of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as per an international agreement and anything that happened on this patch of land was neither the full responsibility of the LTTE nor the Government of Sri Lanka. However, this particular place did have a long history of indiscriminate shoot-outs.

Just a week prior to Guruji`s visit, Government officials in Colombo had cautioned me that they were not going to be responsible if a bullet or a multi-barrel rocket fell when his peace delegation was crossing the `no-man`s land`. One senior official particularly told me “Guruji has real guts to walk into the Tigers` den at this time…when the war is raging…hats off to him”. To which I replied “Guruji is a man of peace…not just a peaceful man”.

As they drove towards the no-man`s land, Guruji asked the car to be stopped. He got down and started walking on perhaps one of the most dangerous zone`s in the world then. A European officer from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was seated in his small cabin looking at Guruji walk on this stretch of land where no one dared to during those months of conflict. He walked up to him and welcomed him to his cabin. They were engaged in a brief chat. All this was happening when they were waiting for a green signal from the LTTE side to cross into their territory. The call came through after a two-hour wait. Swami Sadyojathah accompanying Guruji suddenly thought why such a long wait from the LTTE side when they had already approved of the visit.

It was well past noon and Guruji did not wish to have any food or even water. He had had nothing since that early morning I saw them off in Colombo. In the blistering heat of the day they had reached the LTTE check-point on the other side and were lead towards Killinochchi the `capital-headquarters`. A group of senior LTTE members welcomed him and engaged in pleasantries. They appreciated his trauma-relief work in Jaffna and charity initiatives in several parts of the world.

It was almost over fifteen minutes when Guruji asked them about Prabakaran`s commitment to meet him. They looked at each other intriguingly and one of them took the courage to tell him that because of security reasons and the war in progress, Prabakaran was unable to come. Guruji then went on to explain that his visit and mission was purely to build mutual trust for a lasting solution to the Tamils` problems and stop the loss of precious life on both sides.

world-peace (1)

Just as Guruji was about to leave he placed white shawls on each of them (as he usually does during his tours) and gave an additional one to be handed over to Prabakaran. He then told them “Choose peace…go for peace “. Guruji was seeing their future and giving a very clear hint.

One of the LTTE members who was a Christian then told Swami Sadyojathah on the sidelines “I feel Guruji is not just a Saint… but Jesus himself who has come to show us a way out…and our Thalaivar (meaning `Leader` in the Tamil language and referring to Prabakaran) has not come to meet Guruji….this sounds really very scary and indicates the bad times we Tamils are in for”.

Perhaps Prabakaran did not want to give peace, that one more chance. Guruji returned to Colombo rather disappointed (as he himself had publicly declared recently in a Satsang program) but not dejected. That same evening I received him at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo for their onward journey back to India. I pulled Swami Sadyojathah aside and asked him “What happened? What happened? ”.  He said “Looks like they prefer to choose war…Prabakaran did not come nor even speak on phone to Guruji”. He added “Guruji did not eat the whole day nor did he have water”.

I then went up to Guruji and asked “ The lunch basket is full and heavy exactly as I had kept it…are you fasting for the people of Sri Lanka…for the Tamils…the Sinhalese”. He just closed his eyes. And a silent prayer was on his lips. The airport staff signaled to me that the flight is ready for boarding. I informed Guruji accordingly and he got up to leave the lounge. Swami Sadyojathah and Harish quietly followed him into the inner airport lounge, while I stayed back in Sri Lanka. For another seven years!!

Tears welled-up in my eyes as he left the lounge to board the flight. And a few minutes later i broke down inconsolably thinking of all the sacrifices Guruji had made over the years to bring peace in Sri Lanka.

The precious time, energy and resources that he dedicated to bring peace in that country and in many other communities and nations is simply invaluable. Such is the commitment of a man of peace that transcends borders, language, nationalities, religion or culture.

Sri. Vidyut Udiaver with inputs from Swami Sadyojathah

Art of Living Wisdom.

Onam Festival, Shravan Month and Shravana Star

 

This word “Onam” is the shortened form of Thiruvonam or Shravanam, since this event occurs in the Shravan month under the Shravana star in the Indian calendar.

Shravan is the month in the Indian calendar that typically falls between July-August in North and between August-September in the South. This period is characterized by heavy rains and many other festivals such as Narial Purnima, Raksha Bandhan, Ganesh Chathuthi, Krishna Janmashtami to name a few.

This month is called Shravan since the full moon during this month occurs against the Shravana star.

But why did this particular star get the name Shravana?

Which is this star in the sky?

The 3 footprints in the sky

 

Before we go to skies, let us recollect the story behind the Onam festival and why it came to be celebrated. How this festival marks the day when Maha Bali, the great Asura king was humbled by Vamana with His 3 giant strides.

The star Shravana is the set of stars known in western astronomy as Altair the bright star in Aquila constellation along with Beta and Gamma Aquilae that flank it on either side.

 

Shravana Constellation

 

These three stars are pictured as the 3 footprints of Vamana in His gigantic Trivikrama form.

One may wonder what does the legend of Maha Bali and Vamana, have to do with the name Shravana for this star?

The word “Shravana” means to listen, to pay heed to. The legend of Maha Bali from time immemorial has been a moral story on how one should pay heed to one’s mentor, teacher, failing which one could fall into trouble. Hence these 3 stars which depict the outcome of Maha Bali’s disobedience stand as a constant reminder in the sky to caution people to listen and pay heed to good counsel.

Another way in which the name of this star is spelt is, Shrona, which means “lame” or “to limp”, in SamskrtShrona is one who limped. Trivikrama after measuring the 2 steps, stood limping, with one leg raised in the air, asking Maha Bali where He could place his foot for the third step?

Trivikarma with one leg up

 

Hence these 3 stars, as Shrona, also depict the footsteps of Trivikrama as He covered the earth and the skies with His foot.

Another Angle to the Triangle

There is yet another tale associated with how these 3 stars came to be called Shravana.

Much later, closer to the times of Rama, Shravan was a young lad who lived in the time of Dasaratha, father of Rama. He used to dote on his parents and take care of them with love and affection. Since they were old and blind, he would carry them in two baskets hanging on either side from a rod on his shoulders, like a weighing scale, balance.

One day, he was filling a pitcher of water from a pond for his parents. King Dasaratha, out on a hunting trip, mistook the gurgling sound of the pitcher for an animal and shot an arrow in its direction. He rushed to catch his prey but instead found young Shravan Kumar mortally wounded. Even in that state, Shravan requested the king to carry water to his thirsty parents. Dasaratha, approached them with trepidation in his heart and from the sound of his footsteps the old couple realized it was not their son. On being asked, he narrated what had happened. The bereaved father cursed Dasaratha that one day he would also have to bear the sorrow of his son leaving him. Strangely, the king expressed happiness on being cursed because he did not have children at the time and was pining for a child. For the curse to come true, he would have to have children. Just this thought made him so happy, that he took mud and grass from the ground and showered it on his head. As fate would have it through, Dasaratha was later blessed with 4 sons out of whom he loved Rama, the eldest dearly. But when Dasaratha grew old and had pinned his hopes on Rama to take over his kingdom, he was separated from Rama – a separation that took away his life.

Shravan Kumar, even today, is remembered for his dedication towards his parents. Altair in the Aquila constellation, in the sky has been named after Shravan.

 

Why is Altair equated with Shravana?

Altair, flanked by the two dimmer stars, Beta and Gamma Aquilae gives an impression of a balance, just like how Shravan Kumar carried his aged parents.

Shravana and shravana constellation

 

What lies in a name?

The ancient astronomers of India had a practice of giving scientific names to stars, names that denote their function, characteristic. Sometimes legends from Puranahave been mapped to these objects to symbolically explain scientific principles or facts.

The story of how the Shravana star got its name is just one among many.

Does naming Altair and these 2 dimmer stars as Shravana indicate that the two stars flanking Altair are dying stars while Altair in comparison, a star in the prime phase of its life? This could be a lead for further analysis.

Incidentally Beta Aquila, also known as Tarzed though not very old, has burnt up all its fuel and has entered its dying phase. It has swelled into a giant and is expected to blast and later become a white dwarf.

Delving into understanding the detailed description of Puranic legends in connection with the stars they point to in the skies, could perhaps help provide more clues to understand these stars better.

We will understand why our ancients chose to name the stars what they did?

We will understand our ancients and our heritage better!

Thus concludes the story of Onam from Kerala, to Pathala Loka, to the skies.

Also in the same series

 

Onam Festival Part 1- The Story of Onam

Onam Festival Part 2 – PATHALA LOKA

Onam Festival Part 3 – Significance of Onam

 

Email bharathgyan@gmail.com
Website www.bharathgyan.com
Blog http://bharathgyanblog.wordpress.com
Twitter http://www.twitter.com/bharathgyan
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/bharathgyan
You Tube http://www.youtube.com/user/bharathgyan
 Books Available
In India Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Outside India http://www.amazon.com
Teleshop 1 800 258 8888 (India Tollfree)

 

Art of Living Wisdom.

Onam-Bali Pada is an occasion for us to relate to the story of Vamana where Vamana grew from a short young boy to a giant form and with His 3 strides covered earth, skies and finally placed His leg on the head of Maha Bali, a good but arrogant king and pushed him into Pathala Loka.

This legend where Vamana measured the whole universe does sound like some childish mythology. Even from a cosmological perspective, it appears to be unscientific and self-contradictory. If with His first step, Vamana had measured the whole of the earth then it should have included Bali’s head too as he was also on this earth.

Next, with the second step of His foot, if Vamana had measured the whole sky, then “this earth which is also a part of that sky”, was also included in the second step.

EarthinSolarsystem

Then where does Bali stand separately, to offer his head for the third measure?

Is this not self-contradictory?

Is there anything rational about this legend?

We must bear in mind that the legend of Vamana avatar is Puranic, i.e. it is an expression of a deeper truth, a moral lesson from historical or scientific incidents, clothed in a story, such that the commoner can easily grasp the essence of the incident and model his conduct accordingly, right through the ages.

What is the moral that lies behind this story of King Maha Bali?

Maha Bali was a great Asura king and ruled over all the lands he saw. While he was basically a good person and his intention to honour the knowledgeable was great, there was also arrogance in him because he owned the entire expanse that he could see on land and was considered invincible. That ahankara, arrogance, ego, blinded him and so, despite his goodness and the keen intention to respect knowledge, his ahankara, ego, did him in.

While he had his preceptor, Guru Sukracharya, next to him, who had warned him to pause, think, take sagely advice and act with caution, King Maha Bali had brushed aside the warning in order to keep up his image, of one who was willing to give away everything. This ego and arrogance got him banished to Pathala Loka.

Knowledge and humility help one transcend ego which can grow as huge as this earth and sky. This ego can be conquered in three simple steps like Vamana’s.

Step 1 – Measure the earth – Look around and be humbled by the sheer number of other living beings like you on this earth.

Step 2 – Measure the skies – Look up into the sky and be humbled by the sheer vastness and multitude of other worlds in the cosmos and how insignificantly small we are in this cosmos.

Step 3 – Place your hand on your head – Realize that in the cycle of births and deaths not only of living beings but the cosmos itself, the time span of each of our lives is very small and the role we play in the larger picture of the order of the cosmos, is even smaller.

This story by example has had a timeless relevance in conquering ego, ahamkara which has also been timeless. A little ahamkara is essential but when ahamkara takes over, it just suppresses the person, however mighty he may be.

These 3 steps of Vamana will keep our ego, ahamkara limited to the necessary.

But why remember this story on Onam Day? Why choose this particular day?

Also in the series :

Also in the same series

 

Onam Festival Part 1- The Story of Onam

Onam Festival Part 2 – PATHALA LOKA

 

More to Come …

-Bharath Gyan