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||Aum Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
I recall it was only a few years back when the Indian population here in South Africa, on the occasion of the 150 years Anniversary of the arrival of Indians to the shores of South Africa, were searching the archives with anticipation to discover their ancestry and the region of their origin in India. The history books tell us that the majority of the first batches of people to arrive were of south Indian descent. This means that they occupied the areas of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka of the vast Indian sub-continent. Swami Vimokshananda never fails in His duty to remind us always of the huge responsibility that we carry on our shoulders to preserve and advance our culture and traditions. Our forefathers who landed here took lots of effort and spent much resource to establish centres and institutions of cultural and traditional excellence. Of the many things such as the unique language, scriptures, fine and performing arts, cuisine and fashion perpetuated by the South Indian community... this week we celebrated one of the most venerated Gods of the South. Once again, let us remind ourselves that there is only one God, but is appreciated by different people according to their temperament. Arguing or debating as to whose God is greater is futile. As Swami Vivekananda said in His Unity Hall talk in 1895: "As soon as a man stands up and says he is right or his church is right and all others are wrong, he himself is all wrong. He does not know that upon the proof of all the others depends the proof of his own."
Master, in the Gospel, repeatedly augments the idea that we are all calling on the same God."Jealousy and malice need not be. Some say that God is formless, and some say that God has form... and let another mediate on the formless deity if he does not believe in form. What I mean is that dogmatism is not good. It is not good to feel that my path alone is true and other paths are false. The correct attitude is my path is right but I do not know whether other paths are true or wrong." All because understanding comes with realisation alone, preached Sri Ramakrishna.
Pasted with sanctified ash on the forehead... with deep devotion and faith... hundreds of thousands if not millions bow to the feet of Lord Murugan daily. Eulogised and praised by poets and saints alike, adored by His devotees for His striking beauty, strength, intelligence and bountiful grace... without a doubt, He has captured their hearts in such a manner that their devotion and faith is shown through various means like carrying Kavady, paal kudams and drawing chariots draped in multi-coloured and inspirational floral art. In my opinion, apart from the Kumba Mela the Kavady festival is one of the biggest demonstrations of faith in the world. Muruga or Murugan which means 'celestial beauty' should not be beached or marooned on the island of beautiful rituals and acts of faith alone. His message is more profound and has the ability of allowing us to reach the zenith of beauty, bliss and peace. Therefore the message of Lord Muruga is not confined to the South Indian community but has a broader universal message of Vedanta to mankind.
Friday saw the culmination of the six day celebration of Skanda Shasti during which the epic battle between Lord Muruga and the demon Soorapadman is commemorated. I am not sure if it taunts you but it always troubles me as to why these demons gave the Gods such a challenging time. This battle took six days, Navarathri (9 nights) etc. But these are purunas and are allegories for methods of personal spiritual development. This number six seems to be intrinsically linked to Lord Muruga. He was born first as six babies and then became one, and He has six places of spiritual pilgrimage known as "Arupaday Veedu"(six houses) located throughout Tamil Nadu. Devotees who visit India and even the locals make sure that they try to visit each of these temples starting at any of the houses and normally ending at Palani for the grand finale of their Murugan "parikrama". These 6 Murugans, 6 days of worship, etc. represents a spiritual journey that we have to undertake to reach the real celestial beautiful Murugan.
I have quoted in more than 90% of my writings Swami Vivekananda's quote that "we are potentially divine beings". If that divinity is a bright effulgent white light situated at the centre of our beings... its radiance is attenuated by some sheaths or coverings known as "koshas".
There are 5 such koshas that cover man. They are annamaya, pranamaya, manamaya, vijnamaya and anandamaya koshas. These translated are the physical beings through which we experience the external world... the vital force which enables the physical to experience the outer; the mind which processes the thoughts and actions; the intellect; the discriminative aspect which differentiates between good and bad which most of the time is clouded by the mind; and then we have the sheath of bliss which is beyond all reason and actions - a state of joy, peace and bliss respectively. The spiritual aspirant must try to master this inward journey and when successful will reach the final destination which is the atman (self)... the divinity that you are. It is a resplendid beauty... suspended in eternity beyond description and ultimate state of satisfaction.
That is Murugan.
The observance of Skanda Shasti or the pilgramage to the arupaaday veedus is symbolic of the challenging journey to master the self through the 5 koshas and ultimately realising the self(sixth house) who is verily that Lord who you adore and worship. Sri Ramakrishna said in the Gospel that you cannot realise God by merely saying that you know God or by just reading scriptures. Like how devotees carry the Kavady in show of their faith... aspirants must action their knowledge, translate it into action of sadhana to realise and enjoy.