Wednesday, November 28, 2007

108 Names of Shiva

शिव अष्टोत्तरशत नामावलि
śiva aṣṭottaraśata nāmāvali

ॐ शिवाय नमः ~ om śivāya namaḥ

1. Aum, Salutations to Shiva, the Auspicious One

ॐ महेश्वराय नमः ~ om maheśvarāya namaḥ

2. Aum, Salutations to Maheshvara, the Great Lord

ॐ शम्भवे नमः ~ om śambhave namaḥ

3. Aum, Salutations to Shambhu, the One who bestows happiness

ॐ पिनाकिने नमः ~ om pinākine namaḥ

4. Aum, Salutations to Pinakin, the Wielder of the bow

ॐ शशिशेखराय नमः ~ om śaśiśekharāya namaḥ

5. Aum, Salutations to Shashishekhara, the Bearer of the moon

ॐ वामदेवाय नमः ~ om vāmadevāya namaḥ

6. Aum, Salutations to Vamadeva, the beautiful Lord

ॐ विरूपाक्षाय नमः ~ om virūpākṣāya namaḥ

7. Aum, Salutations to Virupaksha, the One of spotless form

ॐ कपर्दिने नमः ~ om kapardine namaḥ

8. Aum, Salutations to Kapardin, the One with matted hair

ॐ नीललोहिताय नमः ~ om nīlalohitāya namaḥ

9. Aum, Salutations to Nilalohita, the One who is bluish-red in hue

ॐ शङ्कराय नमः ~ om śaṅkarāya namaḥ

10. Aum, Salutations to Shankara, the Causer of all good

ॐ शूलपाणये नमः ~ om śūlapāṇaye namaḥ

11. Aum, Salutations to Shulapani, the Wielder of the trident

ॐ खट्वाङ्गिने नमः ~ om khaṭvāṅgine namaḥ

12. Aum, Salutations to Khatvangin, the Wielder of the axe

ॐ विष्णुवल्लभाय नमः ~ om viṣṇuvallabhāya namaḥ

13. Aum, Salutations to Vishnu-vallabha, the One loved by Vishnu

ॐ शिपिविष्टाय नमः ~ om śipiviṣṭāya namaḥ

14. Aum, Salutations to Shipivishta, the One encircled in rays of light

ॐ अम्बिकानाथाय नमः ~ om ambikānāthāya namaḥ

15. Aum, Salutations to Ambika-natha, the Lord of Ambika (Shakti)

ॐ श्रीकण्ठाय नमः ~ om śrīkaṇṭhāya namaḥ

16. Aum, Salutations to Srikantha, the One with a shining throat

ॐ भक्तवत्सलाय नमः ~ om bhaktavatsalāya namaḥ

17. Aum, Salutations to Bhakta-vatsala, the One who loves His devotees

भवाय नमः ~ om bhavāya namaḥ

18. Aum, Salutations to Bhava, the One who is existence itself

ॐ शर्वाय नमः ~ om śarvāya namaḥ

19. Aum, Salutations to Sharva, the great Archer

ॐ त्रिलोकेशाय नमः ~ om trilokeśāya namaḥ

20. Aum, Salutations to Trilokesha, the Ruler of the three worlds

ॐ शितिकण्ठाय नमः ~ om śitikaṇṭhāya namaḥ

21. Aum, Salutations to Shitikantha, the One with a white throat

ॐ शिवाप्रियाय नमः ~ om śivāpriyāya namaḥ

22. Aum, Salutations to Shivapriya, the Beloved of Shivā (Shakti)

ॐ उग्राय नमः ~ om ugrāya namaḥ

23. Aum, Salutations to Ugra, the fierce One

ॐ कपालिने नमः ~ om kapāline namaḥ

24. Aum, Salutations to Kapalin, the Wielder of a skull-bowl

ॐ कामारये नमः ~ om kāmāraye namaḥ

25. Aum, Salutations to Kamara, the Destroyer of all passions

ॐ अन्धकासुरसूदनाय नमः ~ om andhakāsurasūdanāya namaḥ

26. Aum, Salutations to Andhakasura-sudana, the Destroyer of the demon of blindness

ॐ गङ्गाधराय नमः ~ om gaṅgādharāya namaḥ

27. Aum, Salutations to Gangadhara, the Bearer of the river Ganga

ॐ ललाटाक्षाय नमः ~ om lalāṭākṣāya namaḥ

28. Aum, Salutations to Lalataksha, the One with a forehead eye

ॐ कालकालाय नमः ~ om kālakālāya namaḥ

29. Aum, Salutations to Kalakala, the Ender of time (death)

ॐ कृपानिधये नमः ~ om kṛpānidhaye namaḥ

30. Aum, Salutations to Kripanidhi, the Treasure of compassion

ॐ भीमाय नमः ~ om bhīmāya namaḥ

31. Aum, Salutations to Bhima, the formidable One

ॐ परशुहस्ताय नमः ~ om paraśuhastāya namaḥ

32. Aum, Salutations to Parashu-hasta, the One who holds an axe

ॐ मृगपाणये नमः ~ om mṛgapāṇaye namaḥ

33. Aum, Salutations to Mrigapani, the One who bears a deer in His hand

ॐ जटाधराय नमः ~ om jaṭādharāya namaḥ

34. Aum, Salutations to Jatadhara, the One who wears matted locks

ॐ कैलासवासिने नमः ~ om kailāsavāsine namaḥ

35. Aum, Salutations to Kailasavasin, the One who dwells in Kailasa

ॐ कवचिने नमः ~ om kavacine namaḥ

36. Aum, Salutations to Kavachin, the One who is dressed in armor

ॐ कठोराय नमः ~ om kaṭhorāya namaḥ

37. Aum, Salutations to Kathora, the strong One

ॐ त्रिपुरान्तकाय नमः ~ om tripurāntakāya namaḥ

38. Aum, Salutations to Tripurantaka, the Destroyer of the three cities

ॐ वृषाङ्काय नमः ~ om vṛṣāṅkāya namaḥ

39. Aum, Salutations to Vrishanka, the One with the Bull standard

ॐ वृषभारूढय नमः ~ om vṛṣabhārūḍhaya namaḥ

40. Aum, Salutations to Vrishabha-rudha, the Rider of the Bull (Nandi)

ॐ भस्मोद्धूलितविग्रहाय नमः ~ om bhasmoddhūlitavigrahāya namaḥ

41. Aum, Salutations to Bhasmadhulita-Vigraha, the One who is covered in holy ash

ॐ सामप्रियाय नमः ~ om sāmapriyāya namaḥ

42. Aum, Salutations to Samapriya, the One who loves Sama chants

ॐ स्वरमयाय नमः ~ om svaramayāya namaḥ

43. Aum, Salutations to Svaramaya, the One who is infused with sound (of creation)

ॐ त्रयीमूर्तये नमः ~ om trayīmūrtaye namaḥ

44. Aum, Salutations to Trimurti, the One Being of three forms

ॐ अनीश्वराय नमः ~ om anīśvarāya namaḥ

45. Aum, Salutations to Anishvara, the One without a superior

ॐ सर्वज्ञाय नमः ~ om sarvajñāya namaḥ

46. Aum, Salutations to Sarvajna, the omniscient One

ॐ परमात्मने नमः ~ om paramātmane namaḥ

47. Aum, Salutations to Paramatman, the supreme Self

ॐ सोमसूर्याग्निलोचनाय नमः ~ om somasūryāgnilocanāya namaḥ

48. Aum, Salutations to Somasuryagni-lochana, the One whose eyes are the Moon, Sun and Fire

ॐ हविषे नमः ~ om haviṣe namaḥ

49. Aum, Salutations to Havisha, the Receiver of oblations (of yajna ritual)

ॐ यज्ञमयाय नमः ~ om yajñamayāya namaḥ

50. Aum, Salutations to Yajnamaya, the One who represents the yajna

सोमाय नमः ~ om somāya namaḥ

51. Aum, Salutations to Soma, the One with Uma (sa + uma; Shakti)

पञ्चवक्त्राय नमः ~ om pañcavaktrāya namaḥ

52. Aum, Salutations to Panchavaktra, the five-faced One

ॐ सदाशिवाय नमः ~ om sadāśivāya namaḥ

53. Aum, Salutations to Sadashiva, the ever-auspicious One

ॐ विश्वेश्वराय नमः ~ om viśveśvarāya namaḥ

54. Aum, Salutations to Vishveshvara, the Ruler of the universe

ॐ वीरभद्राय नमः ~ om vīrabhadrāya namaḥ

55. Aum, Salutations to Virabhadra, the foremost Hero

ॐ गणनाथाय नमः ~ om gaṇanāthāya namaḥ

56. Aum, Salutations to Gananatha, the Lord of hosts of beings

ॐ प्रजापतये नमः ~ om prajāpataye namaḥ

57. Aum, Salutations to Prajapati, the Lord of all people

ॐ हिरण्यरेतसे नमः ~ om hiraṇyaretase namaḥ

58. Aum, Salutations to Hiranyaretas, the One who emanates the golden (light)

ॐ दुर्धर्षाय नमः ~ om durdharṣāya namaḥ

59. Aum, Salutations to Durdhasha, the unconquered One

ॐ गिरीशाय नमः ~ om girīśāya namaḥ

60. Aum, Salutations to Giriisha, the Lord of the mountains

ॐ गिरिशाय नमः ~ om giriśāya namaḥ

61. Aum, Salutations to Girisha, the One who resides in the mountains

ॐ अनघाय नमः ~ om anaghāya namaḥ

62. Aum, Salutations to Anagha, the untainted One

ॐ भुजङ्गभूषणाय नमः ~ om bhujaṅgabhūṣaṇāya namaḥ

63. Aum, Salutations to Bhujanga-bhushana, the One adorned in serpents

ॐ भर्गाय नमः ~ om bhargāya namaḥ

64. Aum, Salutations to Bharga, the radiant One

ॐ गिरिधन्वने नमः ~ om giridhanvane namaḥ

65. Aum, Salutations to Giridhanvan, the One who holds the mountains like a bow

ॐ गिरिप्रियाय नमः ~ om giripriyāya namaḥ

66. Aum, Salutations to Giripriya, the One who loves the mountains

ॐ कृत्तिवाससे नमः ~ om kṛttivāsase namaḥ

67. Aum, Salutations to Krittivasin, the One adorned in skins

ॐ पुरारातये नमः ~ om purārātaye namaḥ

68. Aum, Salutations to Purarata, the One who resides in the wild

ॐ भगवते नमः ~ om bhagavate namaḥ

69. Aum, Salutations to Bhagavan, the glorious Lord

ॐ प्रमथाधिपाय नमः ~ om pramathādhipāya namaḥ

70. Aum, Salutations to Pramatha-Adhipa, the Lord of the spirits

ॐ मृत्युञ्जयाय नमः ~ om mṛtyuñjayāya namaḥ

71. Aum, Salutations to Mrityunjaya, the Conquerer of death

ॐ सूक्ष्मतनवे नमः ~ om sūkṣmatanave namaḥ

72. Aum, Salutations to Sukshmatana, the One with the subtlest of bodies

ॐ जगद्व्यापिने नमः ~ om jagadvyāpine namaḥ

73. Aum, Salutations to Jagadvyapin, the One who pervades the whole world

ॐ जगद्गुरवे नमः ~ om jagadgurave namaḥ

74. Aum, Salutations to Jagadguru, the Guru of the whole world

ॐ व्योमकेशाय नमः ~ om vyomakeśāya namaḥ

75. Aum, Salutations to Vyomakesha, the One whose hair is space

ॐ महासेनजनकाय नमः ~ om mahāsenajanakāya namaḥ

76. Aum, Salutations to Mahasena-janaka, the Father of Mahasena (Kartikeya)

ॐ चारुविक्रमाय नमः ~ om cāruvikramāya namaḥ

77. Aum, Salutations to Charuvikrama, the pleasantly heroic One

ॐ रुद्राय नमः ~ om rudrāya namaḥ

78. Aum, Salutations to Rudra, the praiseworthy One

ॐ भूतपतये नमः ~ om bhūtapataye namaḥ

79. Aum, Salutations to Bhutapati, the Lord of all entities

ॐ स्थाणवे नमः ~ om sthāṇave namaḥ

80. Aum, Salutations to Sthanu, the Immovable One

ॐ अहिर्बुध्न्याय नमः ~ om ahirbudhnyāya namaḥ

81. Aum, Salutations to Ahirbudhnya, the Serpent of the depths (Kundalini)

ॐ दिगम्बराय नमः ~ om digambarāya namaḥ

82. Aum, Salutations to Digambara, the One clad in the directions

ॐ अष्टमूर्तये नमः ~ om aṣṭamūrtaye namaḥ

83. Aum, Salutations to Ashtamurti, the One of eight forms

ॐ अनेकात्मने नमः ~ om anekātmane namaḥ

84. Aum, Salutations to Anekatma, the One soul of numerous (beings)

ॐ सात्विकाय नमः ~ om sātvikāya namaḥ

85. Aum, Salutations to Satvika, the purest One

ॐ शुद्धविग्रहाय नमः ~ om śuddhavigrahāya namaḥ

86. Aum, Salutations to Shuddha-vigraha, the One of stainless form

ॐ शाश्वताय नमः ~ om śāśvatāya namaḥ

87. Aum, Salutations to Shashvata, the eternal One

ॐ खण्डपरशवे नमः ~ om khaṇḍaparaśave namaḥ

88. Aum, Salutations to Khanda-parasha, the One who breaks through all problems

ॐ अजाय नमः ~ om ajāya namaḥ

89. Aum, Salutations to Aja, the unborn One

ॐ पाशविमोचकाय नमः ~ om pāśavimocakāya namaḥ

90. Aum, Salutations to Papa-vimochaka, the Absolver of sin

ॐ मृडाय नमः ~ om mṛḍāya namaḥ

91. Aum, Salutations to Mrida, the joyful One

ॐ पशुपतये नमः ~ om paśupataye namaḥ

92. Aum, Salutations to Pashupati, the Lord of all souls (creatures)

ॐ देवाय नमः ~ om devāya namaḥ

93. Aum, Salutations to Deva, the shiny One

ॐ महादेवाय नमः ~ om mahādevāya namaḥ

94. Aum, Salutations to Mahadeva, the great shiny One

ॐ अव्ययाय नमः ~ om avyayāya namaḥ

95. Aum, Salutations to Avyaya, the changeless One

ॐ हरये नमः ~ om haraye namaḥ

96. Aum, Salutations to Hara, the Absolver (of sins, bondages)

ॐ भगनेत्रभिदे नमः ~ om bhaganetrabhide namaḥ

97. Aum, Salutations to Bhaganetra-bhida, the One who plucked the eye of Bhaga

ॐ अव्यक्ताय नमः ~ om avyaktāya namaḥ

98. Aum, Salutations to Avyakta, the unmanifest One

ॐ दक्षाध्वरहराय नमः ~ om dakṣādhvaraharāya namaḥ

99. Aum, Salutations to Dakshadhvara-hara, the Destroyer of the sacrifice of Daksha

ॐ हराय नमः ~ om harāya namaḥ

100. Aum, Salutations to Hara, the Withdrawer of all things

ॐ पूषदन्तभिदे नमः ~ om pūṣadantabhide namaḥ

101. Aum, Salutations to Pushadanta-bhida, the One who broke Pushan’s tooth

ॐ अव्यग्राय नमः ~ om avyagrāya namaḥ

102. Aum, Salutations to Avagra, the steady One

ॐ सहस्राक्षाय नमः ~ om sahasrākṣāya namaḥ

103. Aum, Salutations to Sahasraksha, the One of a thousand eyes

ॐ सहस्रपदे नमः ~ om sahasrapade namaḥ

104. Aum, Salutations to Saharaspada, the One of a thousand feet

ॐ अपवर्गप्रदाय नमः ~ om apavargapradāya namaḥ

105. Aum, Salutations to Apavarga-prada, the Bestower of absolution

ॐ अनन्ताय नमः ~ om anantāya namaḥ

106. Aum, Salutations to Ananta, the endless One

ॐ तारकाय नमः ~ om tārakāya namaḥ

107. Aum, Salutations to Taraka, the One who liberates

ॐ परमेश्वराय नमः ~ om parameśvarāya namaḥ

108. Aum, Salutations to Parameshvara, the supreme Lord

------

Ashtottarashata Namavali is a prayer that invokes God, one of the Gods, or even a great saint or sage using 108 names. There are are dozens of such prayers in existence. The characteristic of all Namavalis is that each name begins with Aum and ends with Namah. Above is the list of 108 names of Shiva. There are other such Namavalis addressed to Shiva in other forms (Bhairava, Ardhanarishvara, etc.), but the one above is perhaps the most famous. This particular Namavali is recited in temple by priests during Shiva puja. Traditionally, the priest will offer either a few petals or a whole flower with each name recited. Sometimes instead of flowers, the icon of the Lord (Shiva Lingam) is offered bilva (bael) leaves, especially during special puja on Shivaratri. Many people also recite Shiva's 108 names at home pujas or as part of their prayers, particularly on Mondays.

Note: the names Giriisha and Girisha (no. 60 and 61) are slightly different and not repetitions.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Printable version of the Shiva Ashtottarashata Namavali.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Shiva and Incarnation



The doctine of incarnation (Avatar) is one of the most widely known of Hindu beliefs. A common question many ask, after learning of the many incarnations of Vishnu in Vaishnava theology is whether Shiva also has incarnations (Avatars), and if not, why not? The answer to this question is quite complex and technical. Obviously as one might expect, the answer will also depend on the person answering - whether it is a "general” Hindu person who speaks from a Smarta perspective, or if it is a Shaivite Hindu who speaks from a Shaivite perspective. The perspectives presented below are from Shaivite schools of thought.

What is Incarnation (Avatar)?

The Sanskrit term avatara (derived from ava + tarati) literally means “descent” or “to cross/come down”. The doctrine of Avatar can be loosely summarized as the belief that from time to time God specifically descends down or takes a birth in a certain form, usually human, to accomplish an intended purpose, and then quits that form after fulfilling that purpose. This doctrine is an essential part of Vaishnava belief, which elaborates various types and grades of Avatars. The most famous of the Vaishnava Avatars are obviously Rama and Krishna.

The doctrine of Avatar may be traced back to Tantric texts of Vaishnavism called the Pancharatra Agamas, which elaborate the five forms of God, including the Avatar form which is technically called the Vibhava Rupa (form of might or magnanimity). This early teaching of the followers of the Pancharatra system was summarized in the Narayaniya section of Shantiparva (book 12) of the Mahabharata epic. Following the Mahabharata, the Avatar doctrine received further structuring with the composition of the Puranas. This is the basis of the incarnation doctrine known in Hinduism today, which is Vaishnava in origin, but also accepted by Smartas with certain philosophical twists.

Agamic Shaivism does not recognize Avatars

From the standpoint of Shiva-Shasana (Agamic Shaivism), God has no Avatars (incarnations). What do we mean by Avatar (incarnation) here? As used here, Avatar or incarnation specifically means the idea that God takes a birth in a certain family, fulfills the intended purpose, and then gives up that form – this sort of teaching is absent in Shaivism and the Shaiva Agamas.

Now, what about all the instances in the secondary literature - Puranas and Itihasas - where Shiva appears in one form or another: are these legends completely rejected by Shaivites? No, these legends are not rejected by Shaivites, but put into perspective. These various appearances of Shiva in mystic visions, in various legends, stories, Itihasas, Puranas, etc. are referred to as forms or manifestations (not Avatars or incarnations), and technically termed Maheshvara Murtis (forms of the Great Lord). In fact, Agamic Shaivism recognizes 64 of these Maheshvara Murtis, and considers 25 of them as primary. These forms, however, are not to be termed Avatars.

“Avatar” in Agamic Shaivism

Within Shaivism, one finds that the term avatara (i.e. “descent”) has a different connotation altogether. The descent in Shaivism is not of God’s form, but of God’s knowledge. Some of the earliest of Shaiva Agamas begin with chapters called Tantra-Avatara Patala (Chapter on the Descent of Tantras). The most famous one of these comes from the first Agama text of Shaivism, the Kamika-Agama Mahatantra, which explains that Shiva alone is the source of all knowledge – Vedic, Agamic, philosophical, secular and even heretical. Since all knowledge is considered descended from Shiva Himself, Shiva-Dakshinamurti is the primal Teacher, the Guru of all gurus.

There is nothing greater than the Guru, nothing greater than the Guru, nothing greater than the Guru, nothing greater than the Guru. Shiva is Guru. Shiva is Guru. Shiva is Guru. Shiva is Guru. (Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati V:63)

Any human Guru or Siddha who is fully realized and perfectly embodies the divine knowledge of Shiva is therefore identified with Shiva Himself. This is why we find the most famous Sages, Siddhas and Satgurus like Dattatreya, Durvasa, Agastya, Lakulisha and Gorakshanatha identified with Shiva. Similarly, the most famous of Shivacharyas of Kashmiri and Tamil Shaivism, Abhinavagupta and Manikkavacagar respectively, have also both been called Shiva in human form because they were perfectly absorbed in the knowledge of Shiva. It is entirely possible that Adi Shankaracharya came to be originally identified with Shiva by his followers (Smartas) for the very same reason.

Avatars in the Linga Purana and Pashupatism

The identification of the true guru (Satguru) with Shiva is a very old tradition dating back to the ancient Pashupata religion. Around the first century CE, the Pashupata religion was reformed by the great yogi-master, Lakulisha, and came to be called the Lakulisha-Pashupata system. One of the key beliefs of the Lakulisha-Pashupatas was that in every dvapara and kali yugas, a great guru of mankind arises who so fully embodies the divine knowledge of Shiva that he is to be considered a veritable incarnation of Shiva. According to this system, such a guru who appears in the dvapara yuga is called a Veda Vyasa, and one who appears in the kali yuga is called a Yogeshvara. This teaching of the Lakulisha-Pashupatas is found in the Linga Purana, which identifies Krsna-Dvaipayana and Lakulisha as the most recent Veda Vyasa and Yogeshvara respectively. In fact, the Linga Purana goes on to list 28 Veda Vyasas and 28 Yogeshvaras that have thus far been. This doctrine, although well-known, has not been inherited by Agamic Shaivism and is not generally accepted, except possibly through the interpretation that fully realized gurus may be equated with Shiva Himself, but not as special descents of the Lord.

Summary

Once again, it must be stressed that in Shaivism, there are multitudes of forms and manifestations of the Lord that are recognized and worshipped, but the doctrine of Avatar as defined above is absent. The idea that certain beings may actually see/experience a form of God is definitely part of Shaivite theology. What is not found in Shaivite theology is the teaching that God especially takes a birth in a certain family, lives as a human being to fulfill a certain purpose, and then quits that form after fulfilling that purpose. It is not, however, contrary to Shaivism to believe that great beings may be born on this earth to uplift mankind spiritually. Shaivite theology calls them Siddhas or Sages, and not special descents (Avatars) of God. Certainly from a non-dualistic sense it may be said that every being is an “incarnation” of God; but it must be stressed that systems which truly teach of Avatars hold them not to be realized ordinary mortals, but special descents of God Himself.

Aum Namah Shivaya.
© Agnideva, 2007. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Rudrashtakam

Eight Stanzas on Rudra
~ by Goswami Tulsidas

Salutations to You, O Ishana, whose very form is liberation,
To the all-pervasive, mighty Lord, Brahman of the Vedas.
I worship Him who shines in His own self-glory, free of physical qualities,
The changeless, desireless One who resides in the space of consciousness. (1)

Salutations to You, O formless One, the very root of Omkara (Aum),
To Him who transcends all states, beyond speech and comprehension;
To the Lord of the Mountains, the Devourer of death itself,
The compassionate One, whose abode is beyond the universe. (2)

I worship Him, whose form is white as pure snow,
Who radiates with the luster of a million Kamadevas,
From whose head issues forth the river Ganga,
Whose forehead is adorned by the crescent moon,
And whose neck is garlanded by serpents. (3)

I worship Him, who wears shimmering earrings,
The compassionate One who is large-eyed and happy-faced,
Whose throat is blue, and body draped in lion skins and skull garlands.
O beloved Shankara, O Lord of all, I worship You. (4)

I worship the Lord of Bhavani, the fierce, luminous, indivisible One
Who radiates with the luster of a million suns.
The Wielder of the Trident, the One who uproots the three-fold suffering,
Who is accessible only through divine Love. (5)

O indivisible, ever-auspicious One, the Dissolver of great cycles,
O Tripurari, You are the very source of delight to those pure at heart,
O Dispeller of delusion, the personification of consciousness and bliss,
Be propitious, be propitious, Lord, Destroyer of Kamadeva. (6)

Those who worship not the lotus feet of the Lord of Uma,
Find no happiness, peace or freedom from suffering,
Be it in this world or the worlds here-after;
O Lord who dwells in the hearts of all beings, be propitious. (7)

I know not yoga, nor japa nor puja, O Lord,
But continuously and always I bow to You, O Shambhu!
Afflicted as I am by old-age, birth and other miseries,
Lord, protect me! O Shambhu, I bow to You. (8)

-----

The Rudrashtakam hymn comes to us from a famous Vaishnava devotional text called the Ramacharitamanas, the Avadhi language rendering of the Ramayana epic composed by Goswami Tulsidas (16th century CE). It may come as a bit of a surprise that a hymn glorifying Shiva in the highest of terms should be found in a Vaishnava devotional text. But, the fact of the matter is that Tulsidas repeatedly glorifies Shiva throughout his work, even though in most cases he does so using Vaishnava framework. The reason behind Tulsidas' repeated eulogy to Shiva is likely due to the fact that he composed his work in Kashi (Varanasi), Shiva's holy city. The central temple in Varanasi is the Jyotirlingam Shrine of Vishvanath, and Tulsidas felt that he was able to compose his work only due to Lord Vishvanath's grace. Regardless of Tulsidas' intentions, the Rudrashtakam is a well-known and oft-recited hymn of Shiva owing to the immense popularity of the Ramacharitamanas.

As is typical of post-Vedic hymns, we find in the Rudrashtakam a blending of philosophical concepts and Puranic legends. The hymn begins with high philosophy, identifying Shiva as the changeless, desireless, formless Brahman of the Vedas. He resides in the space of consciousness; He is beyond all understanding and description. Next, Shiva's personal form is eulogized, as it is known in popular imagination and Puranic legends. He is kind, compassionate, pure as snow, garlanded with skulls, clad in lion-skins, has a blue hue about Him, and brighter than a million suns. Then, a devotional element is added. Shiva is the personification of consciouness and bliss, there is no happiness without submitting to Him. The reciter has now become the a devotee asking the Lord to be propitious unto him. He knows not the complexities of yoga or japa or puja, he simply takes refuge in the Lord, and submits with the prayer, "Lord, protect me! O Shambhu, I bow to You."

Aum Namah Shivaya.

For printable version, click here (Sanskrit text, transliteration and translation).

© Agnideva, 2007. All rights reserved.

Take a listen:

Jyotirlingam Shrines

Somanatha in Saurashtra, Mallikarjuna in Srisailam;
Mahakala
in Ujjain, Omkara in Mamaleshvara;
Vaidyanatha
in Parali, Bhimashankara in Dakini;
Ramesha
in Setubandha, Nagesha in Darukavana;
Vishvesha
in Varanasi, Trayambaka on the banks of Gautami;
Kedara
in the Himalayas, and Ghushmesha in Shivalaya.
He who remembers these Jyotirlingas morning and evening,
Shall wash away the sins of seven births.
Hymn of the Twelve Jyotirlingas

~by Adi Shankaracharya

The twelve Jyotirlingam Shrines of India, it is believed, were built on holy sites where the ancients discovered self-manifest (svayambhu) Shivalingams. The first mention of the twelve Jyotirlingams and the related legends is found in the Shiva Purana in chapter 42 of the Shatarudra Samhita (book III) as well as in several chapters (ch. 1, and ch. 14-33) of the Kotirudra Samhita (book IV). In the present post, we consider the twelve Jyotirlingam Shrines and ask two poignant questions: (1) Why exactly are there twelve shrines? (2) What is the basis of the geographical positioning of the twelve Jyotirlingams?

Let us first consider the number twelve. Twelve represents, esoterically, both space as well as time. Twelve is the number of months in a given solar year (time), and twelve is the number of constellations that divide up the heavens above (space). For the ancients, time measurement was based on the movement of the celestial bodies through the twelve constellations (signs of the zodiac) that divide up the heavens. Movement of the Sun through one constellation was one solar month, and movement through all twelve constellations was a solar year. So, we can see how the number twelve connects both the idea of space and time. Naturally, therefore, there are twelve Jyotirlingams, each associated with a different zodiacal constellation. The enumeration of twelve Jyotirlingams connects Lord Shiva with the idea of space-time, just as we saw in the previous post.

Now, let us consider the geographical positioning of the Jyotirlingams. If we look carefully at a map showing the locations of the twelve Jyotirlingam Shrines, it is fairly easy to see that a majority (7 out of 12) Jyotirlingams are found in west-central India in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. The rest are dispersed in various other states. Why are these temples located where they are? If we take another careful look at the map and begin connecting the dots in a certain order from one shrine to another, the answer becomes self-evident. Try this -- using curved lines connect the Jyotirlingams in the following order: Nageshvar, Somanath, SriSailam, Omkareshvar, Mahakaleshvar, Trayambakeshvar, Bhimashankar, Grishaneshvar, Vaidyanath, Vishvanath (Varanasi), Kedarnath. When you connect these eleven, you will see a rudimentary 3-like shape on the map. Now, draw a curve from the center of that 3 to Rameshvaram, and voila, you've got something resembling the Omkara (Aum)! When the dots are connected appropriately the twelve shrines of Shiva display the mystic syllable Aum! The geographical distribution of the Jyotirlingams secretly connects Lord Shiva with the syllable Aum, the syllable which represents both the manifest universe bound by space-time, and that which is unmanifest beyond all this.

Aum is the imperishable syllable. Aum is the Universe, and this is the exposition of Aum. The past, the present and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be, is Aum. Likewise all else that may exist beyond the bounds of Time, that too is Aum. (Verse 1, Mandukya Upanishad of the Atharvaveda).

The Aum is time, the Aum is space,
The Aum is the Jyotirlingams twelve,
The Aum is verily Shiva Himself.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

© Agnideva, 2007. All rights reserved.

Other posts of interest: Jyotirlinga Stotram Video and Jyotirlingam.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Jyotirlingam

Once upon a time, it is said, the great Brahmā and Vishnu were engaged in a bitter quarrel. Each insisted that He was the original Being, the Father, and the other the son. And so, the argument proceeded for hundreds of celestial years, but neither emerged as a victor. Suddenly, out of nowhere, appeared in front of them an immense column of blazing light, one that seemingly had no beginning or no end. Surprised and dumbfounded, they each decided to investigate the column of light. Brahmā took the form of a swan (hamsa) and flew upwards, while Vishnu took the form of a boar (varaha) and burrowed downwards. For a thousand celestial years, each continued in his respective direction, but found no end to the column of blazing light. Both decided to return back to the original location and found there in front of them an image of Shiva appearing from the light of the column. Each bowed to the Great Lord (Maheshvara). Maheshvara blessed them and related to them how Brahmā and Vishnu are one with Him. That image of Maheshvara Shiva, that form as a blazing column of light, is better known as the Jyotirlingam.

The above is a well-known story from the Puranas. It is found in chapters 5-9 of the Vidyeshvara Samhita (Book I) and chapter 7 of the Rudra Samhita (Book II) of the Shiva Purana, as well as in the Linga Purana. There are various versions of the above legend, and numerous nuances we need not go into. What is important to take away from this legend is the identification of the Jyotirlingam as an infinite column of light, and the identification of Shiva with that infinite Light.

The Jyotirlingam legend overtly relates the concept of infinity in one dimension only. But as we extrapolate from a philosophical perspective, we realize that infinity cannot be a uni-dimensional characteristic, and should be true in all dimensions. Otherwise, that which we call infinite will have boundaries, and cannot be considered infinite! There is, however, significance to the legend relating that Brahmā traveled upward, and Vishnu traveled downward. Previously, we saw in the post on the Ashtamurtis, how Shiva is considered both the unitary center and, in His eight forms, the eight cardinal directions (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW). Now, we find in the above legend, how Shiva, as Brahmā and Vishnu, is also the two polar directions - up and down.

Bringing these legends together, we come to realize that Shiva is truly the Infinite One. He is Anadi (beginningless) and Ananta (endless). He is infinite in all three dimensions of space. And, as Mahakala, Great Time, we realize that Shiva is also the fourth dimension. He is past, present and future. That Shiva is space-time, the very fabric on which all this is supported. He is both the supreme Support, as well as that which is supported by the supreme Support!

Aum Namah Shivaya.

© Agnideva, 2007. All rights reserved.

Related posts: Jyotirlinga Stotram Video and Jyotirlingam Shrines.

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