Sunday, 9 February 2014

Awakening on the dark night

|| Aum Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Lord Shiva
pic - google images
|| Aum Namo Narayanaya||

On Friday, amidst huge pomp and fanfare, the flag was raised at the Shree Veeraboga Emperumal Temple - signalling the start of the 10-day festival dedicated to Lord Emperumal or Maha Vishnu. This festival which takes place at Tirupati Tirumala Devastanam during the period of Puratassi is known as Brahmotsavam. Mythology says that after the marriage of Lord Maha Vishnu to His consort, they were driven in a chariot by Lord Brahma Himself... hence the festival was named Brahmotsavam. Annually, Vishnu temples throughout the world re-enact this wedding through a 10-day festival. Although many temples observe the festival during the holy month of Puratassi, here in South Africa, we find that many Narayana temples located on former sugar barracks observe it during the months of March/April. Our forefathers who carried our rich culture and traditions on their shoulders endured many hardships during indenture but ensured that they kept their traditions and practices alive. It is said that because the sugar operations were normally shut down for maintenance during this period of March/April, they seized the only opportunity they had to celebrate the grand wedding of Maha Vishnu: the Lord of preservation and sustenance who helped them get through the pain and suffering of separation from India, indenture, colonialism and apartheid.

It is rather special that this celestial wedding is observed by the Veeraboga Temple during the internationally famed ‘month of love’ attributed to Valentine’s Day. On a very material level,  man celebrates the uniting of two beings in love and on a spiritual level we celebrate the uniting of our Divine Mother and Father. However, beyond the maya of this leela, lies significant and profound truths that help ameliorate the cyclic discharge of pain and suffering with man. I recall very vividly as if it happened yesterday... 3 years ago when Revered Swami Vimokshananda attended our festival and was the Keynote Speaker. It was on Valentine’s Day and the programme director was welcoming the devotees and doing an introduction to Swamiji. He made mention about Valentine’s Day and how pleased he was that so many people could attend on this special day. Swamiji, after being introduced, approached the lecture with His divine countenance adorned with a mischievous smile and with His opening utterances alone ripped through the veil of maya that suffocated us.

 Maharaj said after His opening invocation mantras: “I am indeed very happy to be with all of you on this very special Ekadashi day and the occasion of the annual festival of the Temple.” Our minds and consciousness which always dwells on the physical and material cannot truly see beyond that. Here, Swamiji showed how when the mind in fixed on divinity that you can see beyond the physical limitations of earthly joy.

 Many of us live our lives with our inner beings enthroned in complete darkness and like in the world how we have diurnal and nocturnal creatures; we have certain tendencies that thrive in these dark spaces. We sometimes fail to understand why we act in a certain way - why we hate, revel in untruth, why we love etc...... Operating from the perspective of this darkness is not only harmful to you but also harmful to the people around you.

Sri Adi Shankaracharya composed a beautiful hymn in which He said: I am not mind, nor intellect, nor ego, nor the reflections of inner self. I am not the five senses. I am beyond that. I am not the ether, nor the earth, nor the fire, nor the wind (i.e. the five elements). I am indeed, that eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.


Fixated with the outer beauty and drowning with infatuation welling with lust and greed... man becomes the recipient of untold grief and agony as the result of this. I am reminded of the melancholies yet hilarious episode where Parvati’s mother awaited to greet her son-in-law in the time-tested Indian tradition, but shrieked out in terror instead to see His body smeared with grey ash fresh from the cremation grounds, riding a bull, holding a skull in his hands, his eyes rolling as if intoxicated and looking utterly dishevelled and untidy - like He had not had a bath for several days. She wailed... lamenting her beautiful daughter’s choice of husband. “O daughter what have you done, you have ruined your family. Surely you were not in your senses when you made your choice. Why did I not remain a barren woman rather than give birth to you who have bought ill fame to the whole family. You have put away sandal paste and instead smeared yourself with mud; throwing away rice you have eaten the husk.”

Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna
pic - google images
 In this ‘month of love’, on the 27th of February... millions of devotees will observe the ‘great night of Shiva’ where they will pray to that mighty Lord for inner awakening. On the dark night of the new moon we invoke the shakti within to awaken and illumine our lives. Like how the awakened Lord Shiva at the mere glance of His third eye (eye of discrimination) reduces the God of Desire (Kama) to ash... we take inspiration from Sri Adi Sankaracharya’s hymn to manifest our Shiva consciousness (Shivoham). Like how the Lord’s mother-in-law failed to see His true nature and inner power and beauty, we must also remove our darkness from within and expose the light of divinity that we are. To remind us of this and to explain these truths in the simplest forms, the Lord also came to us in this month as Bhagwan Sri Ramakrishna who was born on 18th February 1836. His simple teachings lead the way for the peace and harmony and brought about a new understanding of bhakti and renunciation for this modern age. ‘Master’ as He is affectionately known within the Ramakrishna family said: “Is anything impossible for the grace of God? Suppose you bring a light into a room that has been dark a thousand years; does it remove the darkness little by little? The room is lighted all at once. Intense renunciation is what is needed.”

 Let us in this very auspicious month fill ourselves with the divine light that dispels the nocturnal parasites of adharma. May Sri Ramakrishna and Lord Shiva Peruman inspire us all to shine with our inner beauty and let the divine love between all humanity be heightened, is my sincere prayer. Happy Ramakrishna Jayanti and Maha Shivaratri!

Yours ever, with blessings and prayers

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