||Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Aum Namo Narayanaya
Yesterday (Saturday), there was a little deviation from my normal routine. Normally, I would sit on a Sunday to pen my thoughts for the blog, but yesterday I awoke with a flurry of emotions and thoughts of Meenakshi - the Mother who resides in Madurai, yet presides over the universe. With the intention of capitalising on the stream of thoughts and heightened emotions, I cleared a few hours to pay homage to the Mother who had colonised my being at that time.
Mythology presents the scene where after having being insulted by Her father Daksha, the Mother flung Herself into the sacrificial fire. Not able to bear this, Lord Shiva placed the Mother on His shoulder and in His rage of Rudra began to dance the Tandava -the result of which is the dissolution of creation-. This premature dissolution was stopped by Narayana who used His sudarshana chakra and sliced her body into 52 pieces which fell upon the earth in strategic places as shakti peethas (places concentrated with the Mother's shakti). Indeed, we always proclaim that God is omnipresent but as Master said: "Although the milk of the cow is present everywhere in its body, it can only be tapped off the udders". She, through Her mercy, has installed Herself at these centres so man of his limited understanding can access Her grace.
Mother at Madurai is invoked resplendently as Meenakshi - because her beautiful fish-like-eyes fell upon that region. It is a sight for tired eyes... majestically enshrined within four towering raja gopurams, She stands bedecked exquisitely with the finest jewels of the land. The Maharani of the universe draped with a hand woven ruby red silk sari, studded nose ring and emerald earrings sporting a glowing green parrot on Her right hand. But of all these attractions, that which really enthrals and enchants the devotees are Her grace-filled fish-like-eyes which have the ability to lift one to the highest levels of joy and fearlessness. That is Her quality as a Mother - to make Her child instantly feel loved, cared for, and protected.
Being the Mother-Universal, She has not marginalised Her children out of India. Here in South Africa, Her shakti is prevalent in peethas as well. Over the Easter weekend, over half a million devotees will congregate at Isipingo and Mount Edgecombe Amman Temples to worship and seek the motherly affection from Her. The irony of life is that although we are circled by people, family and relatives, we very lonely in this world. There seems to be a void that gnaws at us from the depths of our beings. The loneliness that I speak of emanates beyond the physical body to the depths of our hearts.
The symbolism of thinking of Mother Meenakshi today is to look beyond this physical creation. That’s where we will be able to fill the void of our loneliness. The Easter weekend celebrated the South African 'rainbow' way cannot but be admired for giving a wonderfully profound message to humanity. Durban definitely comes alive with pageantry and prayer on Good Friday - when concurrently the Festival of Chariots and prayers to Mother and Lord Jesus Christ create a whirlwind of spiritual energy.
Each of these festivals provide a sublime message to humanity on how to fill the void in our life. The Festival of Chariots which is dedicated to Lord Krishna takes the Durban beachfront into a paradigm shift with its use of festive arrangements that will blow your mind. Carrying the Lord within a chariot through the streets of Durban reminds us that our own body is the chariot of the Lord in the form of the atman in the body. Man must identify this Lord that resides within and undertake life like a daily ratha yatra festival with auspiciouness, joy and festivity. There is no time to be sad, gloomy or despondent when you are the vehicle of the Lord.
The Amman prayer reminds us to be simple to the exterior world. Place less emphasis on the body and material possessions. This is represented by the simple offerings of porridge to Her. It also reminds us that the elaborateness should extend to our inner being. Her glorious decorations and jewels represent the finery and beauty of the atman that presides over the body. As we are attracted to Her in the temple, we must be attracted to the divinity within.
On Easter Sunday, as Jesus rose after being crucified to the cross on Good Friday, the cross for us is a symbol of removing the ego (the "I" that has been crossed out). In the life of Sri Ramakrishna, as expounded by M (the author) in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, we find that He never refers to His body as 'me' or 'mine', but always as 'this'. By giving up the body on the cross and subsequently rising, Jesus teaches humanity that only by ridding yourself of the body-consciousness and ego and indentifying yourself with the spirit, that we all can raise ourselves from the bondage of misery and suffering.
When we analyse our activities and prayers from a bird's-eye-view, we cannot but marvel at the singular thread that weaves its way across our ways. Inflamed with pride and ego, we rather contest with each other creating differences rather than embracing the oneness and unity that exists. Last week I pointed out that Master underwent severe penance and austerities to prove to the world that just as various rivers flow to the same sea, all religions lead to the same goal.
Hence, as I admired Mother's eyes today (Meenakshi), let us all “see” that beyond the flesh we are all one. Keeping your religious beliefs personal and close to your heart, let us embrace creation as a family and help one another achieve our personal freedom.
May Mother show us the way, is my sincere prayer.
With love and prayers always