Let us become nobler

Sanskrit word 'Arya' or 'Aryam' stands for nobility. Let us implore everyone to become noble, the Arya or Aryam. Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Jews, communists or capitalists, rich or poor, clever or dumb, weak, meek or bully. Uncomfortable perhaps are they with other, threatening peace. Ray of hope for the world is ‘include-all’ ideas of ancient Indian wisdom popularly known as Hinduism. Only they knew how to celebrate individuality of each person. Aryas respect ideas of others, respect way of worship of others, help others and become a noble citizen of this wide and varied world. Idea behind this blog is to bring out those ideas and help each of us become better than what we are. 'N' in the 'Aryan', by the way, was a mistake made by colonial 'experts' who wanted to underplay and undermine the culture and religion of those who they clandestinely enslaved.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

3- Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi, A story of Shiva and Me..

(A decade ago after a trip to Tibet, Nepal and India, I wrote down my impressions. It was not meant to be a book, however after it was read by some, it was suggested that if it gets published, interested persons can use it. However I thought (and still think) that the narration was more of a personal quest into Bhagavan Shiva and that it may not interest a wider audience. Therefore instead of commercially publishing it, I thought of placing it on a website of Publishing house Harper Collins’s website known as Authonomy.com. It remained on their website as "Kailash Kathmandu and Kashi, a story of Shiva and me", for people to review my narration for many years. However, last year, when Harper Collins shutdown Authonomy.com and I realized that some people still wanted to read my account, I decided to place all 26 chapters of that travelogue on this blog. Reader views and comments are welcome)

Chapter 3.  Is Bhagavad Shiva a simple God or a perplexing One?

We are funny. We want our God to be merciful and kind and nothing more, never mind our meanness. He should not outsmart us. He should either not see our ‘crimes’, if seen, should preferably ‘ignore’ them; if really un-ignorable, He should give pardon; if unpardonable, give only a ‘black-point’ but spare punishment; if punishing is inevitable, award a minimum punishment. No wonder, the ‘pardoning types’, Jesus Christ and Bhagavan Buddha evoke abundant ‘love and respect’. They did not hit back. Roman Governor Pontius Pilate did not suffer for crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He lived his life as smoothly as ever. Jesus did not do anything against him or Jew conspirators. God’s son simply ignored them giving them benefit of doubt: “they do not know what they are doing”. Thankfully, in the Buddha country, kings and their subjects could never bring themselves to kill any Godly person in their known history.


We want our Gods to be pardoning types. Why not? In this sense, Bhagavan Shiva among other Hindu Gods fits that bill somewhat. To His devotees He is “Bholey Nath”, the ‘Innocent God’, easy to ‘please’ and easy to get pardon from.


Other Hindu Gods are somewhat ‘different’, they cannot be ‘outsmarted’. Bhagavan Rama did not pardon kidnapper of Sita nor was pardoned Kamnsa or Jarasangh by Bhagavan Krishna. These Gods are too smart, they question you. But Bhagavan Shiva, will trust your ‘sorry’ and boons are yours for asking. Bhagavan Shiva, therefore, is known as ‘Bholey Nath’. However, if you do succeed in making Him angry, His one glance through His Third-Eye would finish you in a split second.


If one was to read stories spun around Him, He seems to be a God that is ‘na├»ve’, ‘un-tricky’, ‘simple’, ‘easy to please’, ‘easy as pleasing a simpleton’. Every Hindu knows Him to be a God who grants the boons readily. His expectations are minimal. He does not need any elaborate offerings. He gladly accepts simple water as an offering and that 3-worded simple prayer said with a pure heart is sufficient to get His empathy. No wonder everyone loves Him!


Bhagavan Shiva demonstrates ample simplicity and austerity stretching almost to incredulity.  Leave alone luxuries of life, He does not possess a piece of cloth so much as to cover Himself. His home is a door-less, ceiling-less, wall-less mountain Kailash. He is one God that does not discriminate and rule out any individual, however good, bad or ugly he or she may be. His temples spread across world are open 24x7 and are open to everyone. No exception. Bhagavan Shiva, makes it easier and simple for his devotees, He is at a beck and call of His genuine devotees.


For innocent, simple devotees, he comes as a simple, unsophisticated God, however the moment one decides to take a further journey into understanding Bhagavan Shiva, one hits difficult terrain, more difficult than trek to Mount Kailash. Keep no false hopes, understanding Him is hard. Nearly an impossible task but indeed one that is worthwhile, even half way through.


Bholey-Nath kind of knocks us off balance upon closer look. Notice array of things around Him, many of them weird, perhaps irrelevant. Consider the aspects that are associated with Him! Seemingly so irreconcilable that, if it does not numb a stranger, it should surprise us.


Look at these stark contrasts: On one hand He is Bholey-Nath, but far from being simpleton, he is considered God of intellect, knowledge and wisdom earning him another name “Dakshina Murty” (The one who gives wisdom). He is the God of destruction and yet he is said to be the kindest among all Gods and said to be easiest to please and that is why known as “Ashutosh”Dina Nath”, “Maha-Deva”, “Pashupati Nath”, “Vishwa-Nath” (Easy to please God, God of Poor, Great God, God of all beasts, God of the world). If on one hand His life is so austere; he does not posses even a piece of garment, how is it that He is God of all arts, crafts, music, drama and dance, the ‘Nataraj’(God of acting). On one hand He is said to be God of Yoga, the ‘Yogeshwar’, the master of all senses, and yet He is said to possess uncontrollable rage; loses His temper at throw of a hat, earning him the terrible name ‘Rudra’ (Very Angry God). He has annihilated Cupid Kama-Deva, (Hindu Deva of passion, who travels on a parrot and has roses for arrows to conquer the target. Whoever is hit by his arrow unfailingly falls in love). Anyone would therefore assume Him to be against love and passion, however Himself, He is said to be in a perpetual passionate union with his wife Parvati, occasionally shown her to be sitting on His lap. Everyone, even all Gods have two eyes; He has three (thereby known as “Tri-Netra” (three-eyed) or “Virupaaksh” (distorted-eyed).  All other Gods are shown as either male or female, Bhagavan Shiva, however is said to have half the body of male and half the body of female (thereby known as “Ardha-Nari-Nateshwar” (Half-Male-Female-Great Dramatizer-God).


These contradictions apart, for me it became hard to understand, leave alone appreciation, his necklace of human skulls, His love for the cremation grounds and Graveyards, His army of terrible Ghosts, a crescent moon (moon of the second night after new-moon) on his head (Therefore called as ‘Chandra-Shekher’ or ‘Chandra-Mauli’), His sprinkling of ashes of burnt corpses, His cloth-less naked body (earning him the name “Dik(g)amber”-meaning “having four horizons of four directions as garments”), Snake coiled around His neck (earning another name: “Nagendra”-God of snakes), matted locks of hair on His head (hence also named as “Jatadhar”-having matted-locks) through which spouts the holy River Ganga (Also known by Anglicized word ‘Ganges’), in one hand He has a lively musical instrument, the Drum but a deadly trident in the other  and last but not the least, His symbol represented by Shiva-Linga[1], often described as representing male and female genitalia elements in ‘cosmic’ union.


What is this if not bewildering, mystifying and incomprehensible? I guess, a lot of intrigue surrounds Bhagavan Shiva as He comes to us from an extraordinary antiquity. He is even mentioned in the world’s oldest text, Rig-Veda. A verse famously known as “Maha-Mrutyunjaya[2] (at 7-59-12 RV) is extremely popular with the believers and is credited with unfailing powers that precludes devotee’s untimely death upon its regular chanting. Rig-Veda is estimated to have been scripted around 3000 BC; a time when according to the historians, man began writing. However, if one was to consider literary quality of words and that India lived mainly on oral traditions, one can easily estimate antiquity of the content of this verse and its addressee to much earlier period.


I can understand that some mystery or inexplicability may remain owing to yet undiscovered science or inaccuracies of History. When, for an easy comparison, I mull over the fact that Bhagavan Buddha, Bhagavan Krishna and Jesus Christ even if much more recent in the chronological order than Bhagavan Shiva, a lot of abnormality and implausibility, remain attached to Them. Is it any wonder than, when our moment is so far apart from the moments described in the ancient Shiva-scriptures that it can sometimes become difficult connecting with the traditions of Bhagavan Shiva. However on the other hand, enough information is available for a devotee to worship Bhagavan Shiva in a meaningful way. Mercifully, more than that, Bhagavan Shiva, allows a lot of direct experiencing of Him that it soon renders irrelevant and meaningless, our trying to find logic and reason in the stories woven around. However for researchers, a lot of text, oral traditions, astronomical connections, ancient structures, caves, repeatedly renovated temples over centuries and other data exist to work on and arrive at ‘sensible’ reconciliation suitable for modern-day man. Not withstanding ‘irreconcilability’, a lot of people have had direct experiences of Bhagavan Shiva. Some of them, as we did, in our Kailash expedition, can be experienced by many. Well guided lessons can help reconcile all aspects and things, even the weirdest of things, as it happens to me before starting out writing my story. I am not claiming any great knowledge or accomplishment. I am just writing what I have sensed, felt and understood for myself. Reader is an independent body-soul-mind instrument and will have to discover for himself. His discovery can be even more tantalizing.


Discussion on Bhagavan Shiva can not be complete without including His wife Parvati. If Shiva is father, Paravti is mother, Mata in Indian languages. The Mata Parvati. In Her case too, my skepticism prevented Her early recognition, until one day it hit me as if with a thunderbolt. I do not recall with accuracy when and how, but remember distinctly what the content was. Probably it was during my morning prayers when I was fresh from momentous trek in Himalayas during which, my wife and me had reached the origin of River Yamuna[3] and River Ganga[4], as also ancient temples of Kedar-Nath[5] and Badri-Nath[6] nestled at a height of around 10-11,000 feet. Mata Parvati is said to be daughter of Mountain Himalaya where these holy places are situated in the mountainous Indian state of Uttara-Khand. It was around five years before my travel to the Mount Kailash.


In the sudden flash of awareness, it dawned upon me as to how infinitely intelligent Mata Parvati was. She insisted on choosing that apparently dreadful ascetic for husband. She had understood vain and short-lived nature of the worldly things, relationships and attachments. She could recognize, where most people are expected to be clueless, the timelessness of the ultimate intelligence, ultimate love and ultimate creativity that God is and She maintained Her undivided longing for Shiva until He recognized intensity and understanding behind Her wish. If Mata Parvati’s devotion to Her husband-to-be was intense, it became even more after wedding and was reciprocated by Bhagavan Shiva. These thoughts have not left me since then. I know, Both knew it when I had my miracle on the north face of Mount Kailash.


I assume, Mata Parvati was perhaps latently in my consciousness, thanks again to my parents. My dad used to fondly call my mom as ‘Uma’, not because ‘Uma’ is also a name of Mata Parvati, but as an appropriate nickname derived from her proper name ‘Urmila’. For me, probably on account of my mom being occasionally addressed as Uma, somehow or the other, Parvati may have been firmed up in my little mind as Mata (Mother-Goddess) during childhood. I must honestly admit though, certainly it did not connect with any conscious reverence to Mata Parvati at that time and remained so until that sudden flash several decades later.


Not withstanding semblance of clarity on Mata Parvati, the Bhagavan Shiva remained an unsolved mystery; He is simple for ordinary like us and profound for extra-ordinary, who can take the arduous task of understanding Him.


[1] Symbol or sign
[2] Sanskrit Verse, Om, Tryambakam Yajamahe, Sugandhim-Pushti-Vardhanam, Urvarukmiva-Bandhanat Mrutyor-Mukshiya-Mamrutat”, simplified, would mean: O God, Three-eyed, you have nourished me (through my life), like a fruit (as a tree does to fruit) let me be liberated as (painlessly as) a ripe fruit detaches from its stem. This verse also gets repeated in the Yajur-Veda.
[3] Place is known as “Yamanotri” and is reachable after a specially difficult trek
[4] Location known as “Gangotri” reachable by Himalayan road, built and maintained by Indian Border Security Force.
[5] In the Himalayan Town of Kedarnath, reachable after a longish and difficult trek
[6] In the Himalayan town of Badrinath, reachable by road built and maintained by Indian Border Security force.

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