Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ganesha, the wise One

Once, it is said, Shiva summoned His two Sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya-Murugan, and declared to them that whoever should complete three circumambulations of the world first will forever be declared the wisest of all. Kartikeya, whose mount is the peacock, immediately got on His vehicle and began to fly around the world. Ganesha, the Wise, whose mount was the mouse, knew that He could not possibly compete with Kartikeya. So, Ganesha used His wisdom, got on His vehicle, and circumambulated Shiva-Parvati instead. Despite Kartikeya's speed, Ganesha won the contest and was declared the wisest of all.


The above, of course, is only a story. Many different versions of this story exist, but the point is always the same. Stories such as these are created to illustrate important theological principles. The point is not to say that Ganesha is wise or Kartikeya is not. The point is that the wise always realize, as Ganesha demonstrates in the story, that the entire world, the whole of existence is a manifestation of Shiva-Shakti. Knowing Shiva-Shakti, there is nothing more to know.

We worship Lord Ganapati to bring us to that realization.

Aum Ganeshaya Namah.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Prana and Ganapati

The term Prana refers to the all-pervasive life force ("vital air") that sustains and enlivens all things in creation. Although Prana is all-pervasive, it is especially associated with the breath, as breath is associated with and indicates life. A fundamental part of yoga disciplines taught by all branches of yoga is the regulation of prana (pranayama), by means of regulating the breath. It is taught that mastery of prana is a key requisite toward self-realization through yogic Samadhi.

In the theology of the Vedas, one finds Prana (Mahaprana) personified as the first born or embryo of the Supreme Being, and referred to as Prajapati (Lord of creatures), Hiranyagarbha (Golden-Embryo) or Sutratman (String-Soul). He is the foremost among the Devas; He is the Sustainer and Support of all beings in the physical world. All beings in existence are strung onto the thread of Mahaprana. The Prana Sukta of Atharvaveda sings of this mighty Prana in the grandest of terms:

As all these creatures, O Prana, offer Thee tribute, so they shall offer tribute (in yonder world) to Him who hears Thee, o far-famed One!
He moves as an embryo within the Devas; having arrived and being in existence, He is born again. Having arisen He enters with His mights, the present and the future, as a father (goes to) his son.
When as a swan He rises from the water, he does not withdraw His one foot. If in truth He were to withdraw it, there would be neither today nor tomorrow, no night and no day, never would the dawn appear.
With either wheels, and one felloe He moves, containing a Thousand sounds (elements), upward in the east, downward in the west. With (His) half He produced the whole world: what is the visible sign of His (other) half?
He who rules over all this derived from every source, and over everything that moves; Reverence to Thee, O Prana, that wieldest a swift bow against others!
May Prana, who rules over this (all) derived from every source, and over everything that moves, (may He) unwearied, strong through the Brahmâ, adhere to me!
Erect He watches in those that sleep, nor does lie down across. No one had heard of His sleeping in those that sleep.
O Prana, be not turned away from me, Thou shalt not be other than myself! As the embryo of the Waters, Thee, O Prana, do bind to me, that I may live.
[Atharvaveda Samhita XI.4.19-26]

Prana is identified as the Sustainer of all beings, all life forms, and the Ruler of the physical world. Prana is the embryo (child) of the Waters (the Supreme Being). He, whom the Vedas personify and glorify as Mahaprana, is none other than Lord Ganesha, the first born Son of Shiva (Supreme Being). Ganesha is the Mahadeva who rules over the physical plane, all categories of beings (ganas), and is the foremost among Devas for this very reason.

While Prana is one unitary principle, in the living body Prana is divided into five forces (vital airs) known as prana, apana, vyana, samana and udana, according to their functions. These five pranas are responsible for vital functions such as inhalation, exhalation, hunger, thirst, circulation, distribution, transformation, digestion, absorption, elimination, expulsion, excretion, sleepiness, speech, motion, stillness, control of limbs, etc. The five vital airs work within the subtle body to enliven and maintain the physical body, which is the outer most shell of our being. The five faces of Lord Ganapati, in fact, are nothing but representations of these five pranas, over which He rules. Just as the five pranas are simply divisions of one unitary Prana, so the five faces are simply divided visions of one Being.

Homage to Him, the Mahaprana, whom we regard as our beloved Lord Ganesha, the first born and the first to be worshipped.

Aum Gam Ganapataye Namah.

Agnideva © 2007. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pancha Ganapati

Pancha Ganapati is a modern Hindu festival that goes every year from December 21-25, as proposed by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. It has since been gaining popularity around the world as a Hindu alternative to Yuletide. Each day comes with certain spiritual practices and disciplines as well as celebrations and gift-giving. Read more about the Pancha Ganapati Festival from Hinduism Today.

Since it is time for celebrating our beloved Lord Ganesha, the next few posts will be dedicated to Him exclusively. We begin with three Gayatris of Lord Ganapati:

om ekadantāya vidmahe |
vakratuṇḍāya dhīmahi |
tanno dantiḥ pracodayāt ||

Aum! May we know the single-tusked One,
And meditate upon the Him with a curved trunk.
May the tusked One guide us on the right path.
~ Ganapati Atharvashirsha Upanishad, verse 10

om tatpuruṣāya vidmahe |
vakratuṇḍāya dhīmahi |
tanno dantiḥ pracodayāt ||

Aum! May we know that divine Person,
And meditate upon Him with a curved trunk,
May the tusked One guide us on the right path.
~ Mahanarayana Upanishad I.24 of the Krsna Yajurveda
~Taittiriya Aranyaka X.1.5 of the Krsna Yajurveda

om tatpuruṣāya vidmahe |
hastimukhāya dhīmahi |

tanno dantiḥ pracodayāt ||

Aum! May we know that divine Person,
And meditate upon Him with an elephant visage,
May the tusked One guide us on the right path.

~ Krsna Yajurveda, Maitrayani Samhita II.9.1

These mantras (with some variants) also found in Chapter 10 of Loving Ganesha by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami.

Happy Pancha Ganapati to all!

Aum Shrim Hrim Klim Glaum Gam Ganapataye Namah.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Theology of the Shiva Purana

In the Shaiva Agamas, we find a theology that is sublime, yet formidable and decidedly Shaivite. In the Puranas that lean toward Shiva, however, the theology is mild, makes concessions toward other systems, and is presented in a mythic format. The Shiva Purana, for example, has very few sections dealing purely with theology, yet the text is replete with myths. Certain important legends of the Shiva Purana are not only repeated in different books of the text, but the tales either gain or lose certain elements in different books. One example of such a legend is that of the Jyotirlingam. In the Vidyeshvara Samhita (Book I) of the Shiva Purana, the episode of Jyotirlingam is followed by a chapter dealing with theology. In this chapter, Brahmā and Vishnu are instructed on the nature of Shiva, Omkara (Pranava) and the Panchakshara, by Shiva Himself. Within this instruction, one finds a form of Shaivite theology that is generally consistent with the Shaiva Agamas, yet makes concessions for its Puranic framework (i.e. allows for the interpretation that Brahmā, Vishnu, Rudra, and Maheshvara are individual "Gods" in their own right with different functions, yet originate from and are ruled over by [Sada]Shiva Himself).


Brahmā and Viṣṇu said:

O Lord, please tell us the characteristic feature of the five-fold duties beginning with creation.

Śiva said:

I shall tell you the great secret of the five-fold duties, out of compassion for you. [1]

O Brahmā and Viṣṇu, the permanent cycle of the five-fold duties consists of creation, maintenance, annihilation, concealment and blessing. [2]

Sarga is the creation of the world; stithi is its maintenance; samhāra is the annihilation; tirobhāva is the removal and concealment. Anugraha is blessing. These five are My activities carried on by others silently as in the case of the statue at the portal. [3-4]

The first four activities concern the evolution of the world and the fifth one is the cause of salvation (mokṣa). All these constitute My prerogatives. [5]

These activities are observed in the five elements – sarga in the earth, stithi in the waters, samhāra in the fire, tirobhāva in the wind, and anugraha in the firmament (ākāśa or space). Everything is created by the earth, everything flourishes by virtue of the waters, everything is urged by the fire, everything is removed by the wind, and everything is blessed by the firmament (ākāśa). Thus intelligent men must know the same. [6-8]

In order to look after the five-fold activities I have five faces, four in the four quarters and the fifth in the middle. [9]

O sons, in view of your austerities, you two have received the first two activities: creation and maintenance. You have gratified Me and are blessed therefore. [10]

Similarly, the other two activities [annihilation and concealment] have been assigned to Rudra and Maheśa. The fifth one of Anugraha cannot be taken up by any other. [11]

All this previous arrangement has been forgotten by both of you due to lapse of time, not so by Rudra and Maheśa. [12]

I have assigned them My equality in form, dress, activity, vehicle, seat, weapons, etc. [13]

O dear sons, your delusion was the result of your not meditating upon Me. If You had realized My knowledge you would not have imbibed this false pride of being Maheśa yourselves. [14]

Hence, hereafter, both of you shall start reciting the mantra oṁkāra to acquire knowledge of Me. It shall quell your false pride as well. [15]

It is I who taught this great and auspicious mantra. Oṁkāra has come out of My mouth. Originally it indicated Me. [16]

It is the indicator and I am the indicated. This mantra is identical to Me. The repetition of this mantra is verily My repeated remembrance.

The syllable ‘A’ came from My northern face; the syllable ‘U’ came from the western; the syllable ‘M’ from the southern, and the Bindu from the eastern face. The Nada came from the middle face. Thus the complete set cropped up in five-fold form. Then all of them united in the syllable Aum. [18-19]

The two sets of created beings – Nāma [name] and Rūpa [form] are pervaded by this mantra. It indicates Śiva and Śakti. [20]

From this also is born the five-fold mantra [Namaśśivaya]. It indicates all knowledge. The syllables Na, etc. follow the order of the syllables A, etc. [21]

From the five-syllable mantra the five mothers [mantras] were born. The śiromantra is born of that. The three-footed Gāyatri also came out of the four faces. [22]

The entire set of Vedas and crores of mantras were born of that. Different things are achieved through different mantras but everything is achieved through oṁkāra alone.

All royal mantras are auspicious and directly accord enjoyment, but by this root-mantra enjoyment as well as liberation is achieved. [24]

Nandikeśvara said:

The Lord in the company of his consort Ambikā assumed the role of Preceptor (Guru) for both of them. He screened them and placed His lotus-like hand on their heads as they faced north and slowly taught them the great mantra. [25]

The two disciples received the mantra by repeating it thrice, along with the requisite yantra and tantra duly expounded. By way of fees, the disciples dedicated themselves. Thereafter standing near Him with hands clasped in reverence addressed the Lord, the Preceptor of the universe. [26]

Brahmā and Viṣṇu said:

Obeisance to Thee of bodiless form.
Obeisance to Thee of formless luster.
Obeisance to Thee, the Lord of everything.
Obeisance to Thee, the Soul of everything.
Obeisance to Thee stated by the Praṇava (Aum).
Obeisance to Thee having Praṇava as Thy symbol.
Obeisance to Thee the Author of creation, etc. (five acts).
Obeisance to Thee of five-faces.
Obeisance to Thee identical with Pancabrahma forms.
Obeisance to Thee of five-fold functions.
Obeisance to Thee the Ātman , the Brahman, of endless attributes and power.
Obeisance to Śiva, the Preceptor, possessed of both embodied and bodiless forms.

After eulogizing the Preceptor in verses Brahmā and Viṣṇu bowed to Him. [28-31]

Śiva Purāṇa, Vidyeśvara Samhitā [Book I]:Chapter X:1-31
The Śiva Purāṇa (Part I)
. Trans. and annotated by a board of scholars. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.

Aum Namah Śivāya.

Related posts: Shiva Purana: Sense and Sensibility; Theology of the Shiva Purana II

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Atma Sakshatkara

Atma Sakshatkara means “witnessing of the Atman” (i.e. self-realization), and is the name of a chapter within the jnana-pada (knowledge section) of the Sarvajnanottara Agama, an obscure Upagama (subsidiary Agama) text. The name of this text is nowhere found in traditional list of the Siddhanta Agamas, but some believe that Sarvajnanottara is a subsidiary of the Vatula Agama. It is not uncommon for a given Agama or Tantra to have different titles, and so it is speculated that Sarvajnanottara may have previously gone by the name Sarva Agama or Kalajna Agama. Either way, only a fragment of this text has survived to our times.

This text was discovered by the great South Indian mystic saint, Sri Ramana Maharshi, who translated the chapter entitled Atma Sakshatkara into Tamil sometime in the early 20th century, and also composed the introductory benediction verse. Below is an English translation of that chapter done by Dr. H. Ramamurthy. The sublime non-dual teaching of this text is in the form of a dialogue between Siva and Guha (Kartikeya-Murugan), where Lord Siva is the supreme Guru, and Guha is the Disciple.


Atma Sakshatkara
Chapter of the Sarvajnanottara Agama

Benediction Verse
This is the Direct Awareness of the Self,
Graciously expounded to Guha by Ishvara Himself,
The foremost and first Lord, now teaching this in Tamil
Seated as the Self in my Heart.

That Siva further says:

Guha! I shall tell You about a different way to reach that Reality which pervades partless in all, too subtle, though, to be grasped (by the mind). [1]

By which the knowledge of Awareness is well-attained, knowing which is to become Siva Himself, what has not been told to any by me, today, from me, that wisdom, hear! [2]

Handed down by the lineage of gurus, and beyond the ken of logicians, this is for liberation from the bondage of the birth-death cycle. Its supreme vision shines at all places. [3]

He who is the One pervading all things, He who has manifested as All, He who has faces in all directions, who is beyond thought, who remains Himself as all the verities and transcends them too, is the Self. [4]

He transcends all verities, He is beyond the reach of speech, mind and name. “I am That (Siva-Self)”: thus You should meditate with perfectly undifferentiated mind, on Siva. [5]

Firmly established as the eternal entity, imperishable and undifferentiated, the all-pervasive, partless Knowledge that cannot be fathomed by the mind, it shines, with nothing prior to compare. [6]

Without stain, indestructible, the totally serene, the knowledge transcending all objects, beyond the pale of thought, conception and doubt, that (Supreme) I am – no doubt about this. [7]

That Supreme divinity, Siva, indeed am I, of the nature of all the mantras, and transcending all the mantras, devoid of dissolution and creation. [8]

What is visible, what is invisible, the moving and the stationary – all these are pervaded by me. I am the Lord of this universe. All shine because of me. [9]

Filled with a variety of forms, one different from the other, filled with a galaxy of worlds, all this universe, from Siva down to the earth, are all established in me. [10]

Whatever is seen in this world, whatever is heard in this world, whatever shines, conceptualised as inside and outside, all these are pervaded by me, the all-pervading One. Realise this. [11]

Though considering himself the Self, He desires to attain that Siva, the Supreme Self, as one apart. Whoever contemplates on Siva thus in delusion, will not attain Sivahood by such contemplation – know this. [12]

“Siva is other than I; I am other than Siva” – uproot this attitude of differentiation. “I indeed am that Siva” – this conviction that is non-dual, ever practice. [13]

Full of this non-dual conviction, he who, everywhere, abides ever in the Self, shall see, in all things, in all bodies, only that Siva-self -- of this, there is no doubt. [14]

Whoever has this conviction always, of the one Self, shall rid himself of delusion, and dual perception. That yogi will attain to omniscience – so it is said in the Vedas. This You should know. [15]

He who is praised in all scriptures as the unborn, the Ishvara, that formless and attributeless Self, He indeed am I – there is no doubt about this. [16]

Only he who does not know his true nature is the jiva that is subject to the dharmas (characteristic) of birth, death and so on. He who knows his true Self is one who is eternal, he is the pure, He is Siva. Without doubt, know this. [17]

Hence, what men of discrimination should enquire carefully and directly realise is the Self; that itself shines twofold, as the transcendental and the inferior divisions, the gross and the subtle. [18]

The Supreme nirvana is the higher, the inferior is manifest as the creation, mantras are spoken of as its gross form, what abides in changeless awareness is the subtle. [19]

Shanmukha! Without realising It (Atma), what avails explanations thereof in endless ways? Tell me! All these are only a wonderful display of words, the cause for the delusion of the mind. [20]

All the dharmas (qualities) abide in the Self. Whichever of them the jiva imagines, whereby he concentrates his thoughts again and again on it, he will attain that object – there is no doubt of this. [21]

Thus has been told by me as the knowledge of the Self what has been gathered succinctly in a condensed form. All, by any means, is of the nature of the Self. Realising this, may You ever be strengthened in the thoughts of the Self. [22]

The Deities, the Vedas, the fire sacrifices, the various gifts to priests in the course of their performance – none of this exists there (in the nature of the Self). Be tuned to the blemishless, omni-faceted, steadfast knowledge of the Self. [23]

To the jiva drowning in the vast ocean of the birth-death cycle, and seeking a refuge, what affords refuge is only that knowledge of the Self, not anything else -- know this. [24]

He who becomes of the nature of the Supreme and realises it as it really is, shall, though experiencing all changing states, attain liberation without effort – be aware of this. [25]

There is no greater blessing anywhere, apart from the gaining of the Self. Meditate ever on the Self. He, who is the Self, He indeed is the one all-pervasive Supreme Self – be aware of this. [26]

It is not the prana (the vital air that circulates), nor the apana (the air that travels down) even, nor the instruments superior even to these, the senses, mind and such. Reach ever for the thought of the Self.That is the omniscient and the perfect. [27]

It is neither inside nor outside, not afar, nor nearby, nor does it fit in any place. That Supreme is formless, all pervasive and effulgent, direct Your thoughts ever to it. [28]

It is across, above, and below, inside and outside, which are divisions, ever established firmly everywhere – the void, the self-luminous Self. Ever mediate on that more and more. [29]

Not a void, not a non-void, it is also the non-void, and the void, pervasive everywhere, but without predilections – ever think of this Self. [30]

Affliction-less, and without any support for itself, bereft of caste, name, and form – that taintless, attributeless Self should You unceasingly meditate upon. [31]

With no refuge, with nothing to support it, beyond the range of comprehension, without parallel, faultless by nature, the eternal – the Self that is so, meditate upon it joyfully, forever. [32]

Embracing dispassion and thus desisting from all karmic activity, shying away from society, one should, thereafter, ever meditate upon the Self within oneself, in oneself, by oneself – be aware of this. [33]

Country and lineage, the traditional castes and style of life, effacing various thoughts arising in the wake of these, the wise man should meditate daily, upon his (real) nature. [34]

“This is the mantra”, “this is the Deity”, “This is indeed what is called meditation”, “This indeed is tapas” – casting afar all such thoughts, concentrate on the nature of Your own Self. [35]

The Self is without thought. Make it impossible for the thought-oriented (mind) to think at all. Make the mind that thinks, to get settled on the Self. Let not the mind think of anything else. [36]

The Self is not something that can be thought of nor is it something that cannot be thought of. It is not thought itself, it is indeed itself thought – what does not lean towards any of the above, the Supreme that is the Self, ever meditate upon it. [37]

Meditate ever on that which is beyond the reach of the mind, allowing no refuge for the mind. The joy that is attained in abundance in that Self, that is beyond all verities and complete. [38]

Without any differences, and beyond the reach of thinking, without any precedent, without anything similar, that which is the utmost frontier and extolled as the supreme bliss, be immersed in it. [39]

Discarding all desire for objects, destroying the modes of the mind, the non-dual state of being the One, when the mind ceases to be, is the one called supreme bliss. [40]

All directions, all places, all times are conducive for the yoga of the Self, so say the scriptures. Differences of castes and orders of life and such, cannot cause any differences in the least to the nature of knowledge. [41]

The colour of milk is one, the colours of the cows many, so is the nature of knowledge, observe the wise ones. Beings of various marks and attributes, are like the cows, their realisation is the same; this is an example we should know. [42]

Brahman intimately pervades all, it shines with faces in all directions. Established in it without a pause, think not of differences such as regions and directions. [43]

In this world itself, there is no mark, lifestyle, or tradition, for the one who becomes of the nature of the Self. He has nothing to gain by any action of his; no action need he perform, nor any injunctions prescribing actions apply to him – know this. [44]

Moving or standing or sleeping, waking or taking food or water, in the face of the wind, the cold and the sun, unaffected will he be, in any state, at any time. [45]

Fear, indigence, sickness, burning fever, indigestion – even when all these affect, one established in the Self, peaceful and shining full, He is never at his wit’s end on any count; he will savour the satisfaction of the Self. [46]

Whether going forward or returning, I am not the one that moves forward or back. When enquired into there is no going or coming. In the ever changing dharma of Prakrti, the cause of illusive creation, I never was immersed, nor am I now. [47]

All activities prescribed are the work of Prakrti, the illusion. Prakrti, so spoken of, is the source of all action. “I am the immaculate”, “I am the actionless”, thus indeed will reflect the wise man, the knower of truth. [48]

For him there is no bondage of Prakrti, the delusion. He has earned the name of the liberated one. He shall never be touched by the defects spoken of as the action of Prakrti. [49]

The manner in which a lamp shines, destroying darkness with its light – in like manner, by destroying the enveloping darkness, arising from inexplicable ignorance, the Self, of the nature of the pure light of knowledge shines. [50]

Even as the lamp, with the fuel of ghee spent, attains irvana (peace), the yogi, continuously contemplating on the Truth of the Self, will be at peace in the Self. Nothing greater is there to be attained than the Self – this is the truth. [51]

When the pot is carried, the space within the pot, though conceived of as carried: is it not the pot only that is carried? The Self too, like space, remains motionless. [52]

When the pot breaks, the space in the pot merges one with the great Space. When the inert body passes away, the Self, seemingly in the body, becomes immediately one with the Supreme Self. [53]

Thus, the Lord who is omniscient spoke with authority then: “One who is liberated, severed from all bondage, becomes all pervasive, endless, with absolute Awareness”. [54]

Discarding totally all the Agamas, attaining the pure samadhi of Atma yoga, realising, by due enquiry, there is nothing else greater than this, destroy all wrong ideas, in the mind, of differences. [55]

Meditating continuously on the great Knowledge thus, that yogi who attains ever the bodiless nature, that pure jnani whose dharma is the dharma of That (bodiless nature) alone, is the liberated one, shining inside and out, reaching across to every place. [56]

Omniscience and bliss, and mature wisdom, remaining independent, limitless strength – attaining all these, he shines ever, the Self without afflictions. With an immaculate body, he, as the Self, merges in Siva. [57]

Japa of the name, worship, bathing in holy waters, ritual sacrifices, none of these or others are needed. The fruits of dharma and adharma, water oblations to forefathers, none of these are for him. [58]

No injunctions for observance, no fasts, nothing required by way of getting into or out of (any action), no vows of celibacy for him, know this. [59]

Not having any recourse to falling into the fire or water, or falling from the mountain top, enjoy the feast of the Knowledge of Siva, eternal and pure. Rid of the rules applying to all creation, move about as You please. [60]

I tell You this is the Truth, the Truth, the Truth, thrice over. There is nothing greater than this, nothing greater is there to be known, nothing at all, nowhere ever. [61]

Rid of any blemish, rid of ignorance, with pure intellect, being the pure Self, by the pure conviction that all that is seen is pure, meditating on the immaculate nature, he shall attain Awareness. [62]

[Translated by Dr. H. Ramamurthy]

Source: Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Atimarga and Mantra-marga

The worship of Shiva-Shakti is exceedingly ancient, and is traced back to a time before recorded history. The written history of organized Shaivism tells us of two broad paths: the higher path (Atimarga) and the path of mantras (Mantra-marga).

The Atimarga is termed as such because its adherents believed that their path led straight to liberation (sadyo mukti) without any intermediate states in higher planes of existence. The Atimarga was a path for ascetics and generally meant living a life of a recluse. The Atimarga branch belonged to and was developed by Pashupatas, who early on formed orders of Shaivite ascetics. The Mahabharata epic, composed over a period of time between 200 BCE to 200 CE, declares that the Pashupata along with Veda, Sankhya, Yoga and Pancharatra (early Vaishnava) are the five systems that embody essentially the same knowledge (XII.349.64). Pashupatism is thought to have had its own set of Agamas, yet very little has survived to our time.

In 1940, one of the Pashupata Agamas called the Pashupata Sutras was rediscovered and published. The Pashupata Sutras, our primary source of firsthand information on Pashupatism, is credited to Acharya Lakulisha (ca. 100 CE). Acharya Lakulisha reformed the Pashupata system, its theology, philosophy, practice, and provided guidelines for entrance and behavior of Pashupata ascetics. Acharya Lakulisha made such an impact on Pashupatism that after him, the system came to be called Lakulisha-Pashupata, and he was regarded as an “incarnation” of Shiva. While Pashupatism itself has not survived to the present time, Pashupatism has provided the basic Shaivite doctrine, iconography, mythology, symbology and Vedic framework for all schools of Shaivism that were developing alongside, or have developed since. In fact, much of the Puranic literature connected with Shaivism was originally composed by Pashupata ascetics.

Mantra-marga, the other major path of Shaivism, was likely developing alongside Atimarga early on, and in time overcame, but retained some characteristics of the Atimarga. Unlike the Atimarga, the Mantra-marga believed its path to lead to liberation not directly but in a stepwise manner (krama mukti). The Mantra-marga is termed as such not because it is exclusive in using mantras as part of its ritual and practice, but because it taught that the stepwise progression to liberation occurred through mastery of mantra-siddhis (i.e. the individual gained special powers and raised himself to higher levels in other planes of existence as he progressed toward liberation). In the Shaivite systems of today, we find several technical terms involving the word “mantra” for the individual being who has raised himself to higher planes of existence such as mantra-pramatrin, mantreshvara, mantra-maheshvara, etc. The major difference between the Atimarga and Mantra-marga was however that the Mantra-marga, or at least some its branches, was open both to renunciants and to householders.

Over time, the Mantra-marga became highly prominent and developed a very large corpus of Agamic literature. Based on the Agamic literature followed and on the primary form of Shiva worshipped, the Mantra-marga bifurcated into two primary branches: the Siddhantika and the Kapalika-Kaula. The former was primarily focused on Sadashiva and the latter on Bhairava. The Siddhantika branch gave rise to 28 Agamas (10 Shiva Agamas and 18 Rudra Agamas). The Kapalika-Kaula branch gave rise to 64 Agamas (Bhairava Agamas including the Yamalas). Both branches produced hundreds more Agamas which were termed Upa- or subsidiary Agamas, as well as a body of secondary texts of interpretation written by various Acharyas (teachers). The prominence given to Shakti by the Kapalika-Kaula branch gave rise to Shaktism as a semi-independent religion (this is a highly controversial), which in turn went on to produce its own canon of Tantric texts. Since Shaktism has retained its relationship with the Kapalika-Kaula branch, part of the Tantric canon of Shaktism is in common with the Bhairava Agama canon of Shaivism.

Today, the Siddhantika and Kapalika-Kaula branches of Mantra-marga Shaivism are represented by Saiva Siddhanta and Trika Shaivism, respectively. Although the two branches have philosophical and ontological differences, much of the foundational doctrine is the same, and is shared with Shaktism. All the sects and branches of Shaivism and Shaktism, despite their differences and divisions, are united inseparably under one set of central theological principles. They all have in common the most basic belief of absolute oneness of Shiva-Shakti.

Aum Hrim Namah Shivaya.

Agnideva © 2007. All rights reserved.

Related post: Tradition of Shiva.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Shiva Raksha Stotra

Shiva’s Hymn of Protection

caritaṁ devadevasya mahādevasya pāvanam |
apāraṁ paramodāraṁ caturvargasya sādhanam ||1||

The exploits of the great Lord, the Lord of Gods, are most sacred, boundless, of utmost beauty, and the means to attainment of the four aims of man (dharma, artha, kama, moksha).

gaurīvināyakopetaṁ pañcavaktraṁ trinetrakam |
śivaṁ dhyātvā daśabhujaṁ śivarakṣāṁ paṭhennaraḥ ||2||

Having mediated on the five-faced, three-eyed, ten-armed Shiva along with Gauri (Shakti) and Vinayaka (Ganesha), one should recite Shiva’s Hymn of Protection.

gaṅgādharaḥ śiraḥ pātu bhālaṁ ardhenduśekharaḥ |
nayane madanadhvaṁsī karṇo sarpavibhūṣaṇa ||3||

May He protect the head– He who bears the Ganga;
May He protect the forehead – He who holds the cresent-moon;
May He protect the eyes – He, the Destroyer of Kama;
May He protect the ears – He who is adorned with serpents.

ghrāṇaṁ pātu purārātiḥ mukhaṁ pātu jagatpatiḥ |
jihvāṁ vāgīśvaraḥ pātu kandharāṁ śitikandharaḥ ||4||

May He protect the nose – He, the Destroyer of Tripura;
May He protect the mouth – He, the Lord of the world;
May He protect the tongue – He, the Lord of speech;
May He protect the neck – He, the One with a blue neck.

śrīkaṇṭhaḥ pātu me kaṇṭhaṁ skandhau viśvadhurandharaḥ |
bhujau bhūbhārasaṁhartā karau pātu pinākadhṛk ||5||

May He protect my throat – He of the shining throat;
May He protect the shoulders – He who takes on the world’s burdens;
May He protect the arms – He who ameliorates the world’s burdens;
May He protect the hands – He who holds the trident.

hṛdayaṁ śaṅkaraḥ pātu jaṭharaṁ girijāpatiḥ |
nābhiṁ mṛtyuñjayaḥ pātu kaṭī vyāghrājināmbaraḥ ||6||

May He protect the heart – He, the Causer of all good;
May He protect the stomach – He, the Lord of Girija (Shakti);
May He protect the navel – He, the Conquerer of death;
May He protect the waist – He who is clad in tiger skins.

sakthinī pātu dīnārthaśaraṇāgatavatsalaḥ |
urū maheśvaraḥ pātu jānunī jagadīśvaraḥ ||7||

May He protect the hips – He, the affectionate Refuge of the distressed;
May He protect the thighs – He, the great Lord;
May He protect the knees
– He, the Lord of the world.

jaṅghe pātu jagatkartā gulphau pātu gaṇādhipaḥ |
caraṇau karuṇāsindhuḥ sarvāṅgāni sadāśivaḥ ||8||

May He protect the legs – He, the Creator of the world;
May He protect the ankles – He, the Lord of hosts of beings;
May He protect the feet – He, the Ocean of compassion;
May He protect all limbs – He, Sadashiva, the Ever-Auspicious One.


Among the hundreds of hymns that have come into existence over the last several centuries, certain ones are to be chanted for protection from (impending) harm or bodily injury. Raksha Stotras (hymns of protection) and Kavachas (armor hymns) fall in this category. Although the overt idea of these stotras is to ask the Lord for protection while glorifying His exploits and epithets, the subtle idea is to shield one’s mind with the mantras therein. A mantra, it is said, is that which protects him who chants it (mananat trayate iti mantra). Therefore, the chanting of these stotras is a way to strengthen one’s spiritual character by being absorbed in God-consciousness. The Shiva Raksha Stotra rendered poetically into English above is written in Sanskrit meters called Anushtup Chhandas which contain thirty-two syllables per couplet. The sage and author of this stotra is said to be Yajnavalkya, and it is directed toward the Lord in His Sadashiva form. The full text of this stotra actually contains twelve verses, but only the first eight are given above, as only those are generally recited; the rest being the phala-shruti, an explanation of the use and benefit of reciting this hymn.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

For printable version click here.

Watch the Shiva Raksha Stotra video:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Panchakshara Stotra

Panchakshara Stotra means the Hymn of the Penta-Syllabic, and glorifies Shiva through the Yajurvedic penta-syllabic mantra – Namah Shivaya. Later on, these five syllables (na-mah-shi-vā-ya) are prefixed with the monosyllabic mantra (Aum) to form the Hexa-syllabic mantra (Aum Namah Shivaya), which we normally use in chanting. The Panchakshara Stotra translated below is quite famous with Shaivites, Shaktas and Smartas, and is attributed, like dozens of other hymns, to Adi Shankaracharya. As with the Shadakshara Stotra, in the below hymn the individual syllables are pulled apart and used to glorify the Lord with the utmost beauty.


Hymn of the Penta-Syllabic
By Adi Shankārācharya

To the One embodied in the syllable na, adorned with a serpent garland;
To the three-eyed Lord, besmeared with ashes, to the great Ruler over all,
To that eternal One, who is pure and sky-clad, salutations be unto Shiva. ||1||

To the One embodied in the syllable ma, honored with the waters of Mandākini
And anointed with the paste of sandalwood;
To the Lord of Nandi, the Bull, who rules over all the hosts of spirits,
To that great Lord worshipped with myriad flowers, with Mand
āra flowers,
To that ever-blissful One, salutations be unto Shiva. ||2||

To the One embodied in the syllable shi, who, like the Sun,
Causes the lotus face of Gauri (Shakti) to blossom;
To the Destroyer of the yaj
ña of Daksha, to the Blue-Throated One,
To the Bearer of the emblem of the bull, salutations be unto Shiva. ||3||

To the One embodied in the syllable va, venerated by Vasishtha,
Agastya, Gautama and other noble sages, as well as hosts of Devas;
To the One whose three eyes are resplendent like the sun, moon and fire,
To the Bearer of the Moon-Crest, salutations be unto Shiva. ||4||

To the One embodied in the syllable ya, who takes the form of a Yaksha,
To the One with matted locks, to the Bearer of the pināka bow, that Primeval Lord,
To that effulgent God, the sky-clad One, salutations be unto Shiva. ||5||

Whosoever recites this Hymn of the Penta-syllabic in the presence of God Shiva,
He will certainly attain the Supreme abode of Shiva,
And enjoy everlasting bliss with Him. ||6||

Aum Namah Shivaya.

For printable version click here.

Related posts: Shadakshara Stotra & Greatness of the Panchakshara.

Listen to the Panchakshara Stotra.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Essential Triad

Among the theistic philosophies of Hinduism, three topics are of prime importance: the nature of the Divine Being, the nature of the individual soul, and the nature of the manifest universe. Different schools of philosophy deal with these topics using different technical terms. In the Vedanta school, which is by far the most famous, the technical terms used are Brahman (Ishvara), Atman (Jiva) and Jagat (or Maya). By comparison, the Shaivite school of thought, while accustomed to the Vedantic terms, has its own unique triad of Pati, Pashu (Paśu) and Pasha (Pāśa).

The triad of Pati-Pashu-Pasha is known as the Essential Triad (Padartha Traya or Tattva Traya) because it is the essence around which Shaivite philosophies are constructed especially in the knowledge portion (jnanapada) of the Agamas. The conception of the Essential Triad is set upon an ancient, yet still quite applicable, pastoral image. The imagery these terms invoke is that of a cowherd, who at dawn lets his cattle out to graze. During the bulk of the day, the cattle freely graze without thought of their herder, who nonetheless is always with them, watching over them, though seemingly distant. At the end of the day, the cattle again become conscious of the herder and look for the cowherd to drive the herd back home. The cowherd in this analogy is the Pati, the cattle are the Pashus, and that which keeps them bound to the pasture (hunger, thirst, etc.) is the Pasha. In fact, in the literal sense, Pati means “master” or “owner”; Pashu means “beast” or “cattle”, and Pasha means “bind” or “fetter”. The philosophical ideation that emerges from this trite analogy relates that at the beginning of the day (creation), the Pati (Lord) has allowed the Pashus (individual souls) out to graze (i.e. experience the transient world or Pasha). The pleasures and pains of the transient world (Pasha) have bound them, and kept their thoughts away from the Pati, though He is always with them. Toward the end of the day (dissolution), the Pashus again long for the Pati, for only He can drive them back home, so they can be united with Him yet again.

Per Shaivite philosophy, then, Pati is a technical term for the Lord (Shiva), the supreme Creator, Sustainer, Dissolver, who eternally watches over and is inseparable from the Pashus. Pashus are the individual souls, beings that experience limitedness of the Pasha, which represents the transient world(s) of subjective experience. The Essential Triad of Pati-Pashu-Pasha is a Shaivite alternative for the Vedantic triad of Brahman-Atman-Jagat. Just as in Vedanta, where both monistic and dualistic interpretations exist, so also in the schools of Agamic Shaivism. The varying interpretations deal with the relationship between Pati, Pashu and Pasha. Monistic branches argue that essentially there is but one reality, the reality of Shiva. Multiplicity of Pashus and the multi-facted Pasha, though real, are non-different from the Pati’s reality, and are in fact part of His universal experience, willed upon Himself by Himself. Pluralistic branches argue that essentially there are three eternal realities: the reality of the Pati, that of innumerable Pashus and that of the Pasha. The reality of the latter two is held, supported and modified by the reality of Pati.

Seal of Pashupati

It should be clear from the above discussion that while the word Pashu-pati, a composite of two of the terms from the Essential Triad and one of Shiva’s many names, means in a literal sense “Master of beasts,” theologically and philosophically it implies “Lord of souls”. The term and image of Pashupati (meditating ascetic Shiva in lotus position) go back far into history, perhaps as far back as the Indus-Sarasvati civilization or even earlier. One of the most famous seals discovered in the Indus-Sarasvati excavations is the seal of Pashupati shown on the left. Note that the sitting Pashupati is surrounded by men and beasts. He is the Pashupati, and they are His Pashus residing in Pasha. The ancience of the Essential Triad is also reflected in the fact that the first historically identifiable sect of Shaivism called itself the Pashupata, taking its name after Pashupati, the Lord of souls. Finally, the icon of Lord Shiva enshrined in arguably the oldest living Shaivite temple is called Pashupatinath. Not surprisingly, the site of the temple of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu (Nepal) was once a major seat of Pashupatism, and has retained its strong connections with descendents of Pashupata ascetic lineages.

Aum Pashupataye Namah.

Agnideva © 2007. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Mantras for Lord Kartikeya-Murugan

Lord Kartikeya-Murugan is a great Mahadeva, a Son of Shiva, who commands large armies of Devas in the subtle plane. He rules over what is known in Shaivism as Shuddhashuddha tattvas, principles that are beyond the physical plane, yet bind our intellects and restrict us from fully experiencing Shiva-consciousness. Lord Kartikeya-Murugan, also known as Sanatkumara, is the supreme Guru of mankind, who opens our doors to spirituality and ushers us unto realization of Shiva. It is only He that is capable of destroying Tarakasura, the demon who prevents our crossing the ocean of worldly existence. Lord Murugan guides us from within and always has, whether we realize it or not.

Writes Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami: “Lord Murugan's shakti works deeply within us, within our spiritual sphere, within the great depths of the mind. His electric power issues forth from the shakti vel. Just as energy races through the universe in the form of radio, radar and light waves, x-rays, heat, gamma and cosmic rays, so does Murugan's electric shakti impact our life. Just as we experience light and darkness, positive and negative potential, so do the electromagnetic forces issue forth from Murugan's realm of positive and negative forces, of devas and their asuric counterparts.” (Chapter 4 of Loving Ganesha)


Murugan Mula-Mantra for chanting:

शरवण भव

om śaravaṇa bhava

Śaravaṇa Bhava means “born of the forest of reeds.” Śaravaṇa Bhava is made up of six syllables śa-ra-va-ṇa-bha-va – which subtly contain the essence of the six-faced (Shadanana) Lord Murugan.

Alternative form of the mantra:

शरवण भवाय नमः

om śaravaṇa bhavāya namaḥ


Murugan shlokas and mantras for worship/prayer:

(1) om jaya jaya mahāvīra bhagavān śrī skanda namo namaḥ

Aum! Victory, Victory (to Thee)! Salutations to the Great Hero, Lord Skanda.

(2) muruga muruga veḻ veḻ muruga, muruga muruga vetri veḻ muruga

This is a popular shloka in the Tamil language, it glorifies Lord Murugan and His Vel (a.k.a. shula, meaning ‘lance’), which represents His Shakti. Vetri means victory.

(3) jñāna śaktidhara skanda valli kalyāṇasundara |
devasenā manaḥ kānta kārtikeya namo'stute ||
om subramaṇyāya namaḥ ||

Unto Skanda, who holds the power of spiritual knowledge,
The Beloved of Valli and Enchanter of the mind of Devasena,
Praiseful salutations to Thee, O Kartikeya.
Aum! Salutations to Subramanya.

(4) mayūravāhanaṁ vīraṁ tārakāsura mardanam |
vande ṣaḍānanaṁ devaṁ kārtikeya śivātmajam

To the brave One, whose mount is the peacock,
That Destroyer of the demon Tarakasura,
Obeisance to Lord Shadanana, born of Shiva’s own Self.


Skanda Gayatri Mantra(s):

There are two Skanda Gayatris, the only difference between them is the name by which Murugan is referred to – Shanmukha or Skanda.

tatpuruṣāya vidmahe mahāsenāya dhīmahi |
tanno shanmukha pracodayāt
~ Mahanarayana Upanishad I.26
~ Taittiriya Aranyaka X.1.6

May we know that Divine Person,
And meditate upon Mahasena;
May Shanmukha impel us.

tatpuruṣāya vidmahe mahāsenāya dhīmahi |
tanno skanda pracodayāt ||

May we know that Divine Person,
And meditate upon Mahasena.
May Skanda impel us.

Aum Śaravaṇa Bhavaya Nama.

For printable version, click here.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Dance of Shiva

Dance, O Shiva, dance that dance of Yours, my Lord!
That hallowed dance called tandava, so dear to us all.
Dance that eternal dance, O Shiva, O Maheshvara!
That dance eternal which transcends eternity itself.
Your dance is but the dance of existence as we know it;
Of beauteous creation, of sustenance and dissolution,
All of this is but Your never-ending dance divine.
With that dance You obscure Your all-pervasiveness,
And with that dance indeed You reveal Your immanence.
Your dance – it inspires, it captures, it blesses and graces,
Your dance truly, O Parameshvara, so wondrous and sublime.
Deep inside the minutest of atoms and fractions of quarks,
Encompassing the grandest of galaxies and endless universes,
You dance Your dance, unabated, forever and ever.
All this that is, whatever there ever was, or yet to be,
Everything, every principle rides on the vibrations of Your dance alone,
Dependent on the expanse of Your very Being, O Shiva.
In the endless Space of Consciousness do You dance,
To manifest Your triad Shaktis of Will, Knowledge and Activity,
To manifest time, space, and all the Pashus who experience limitedness.
And yet again, we are certain, that Your dance will devolve all this
Back into the very fabric of Your divine Being, O Lord.
With every breath may we sing the praises of Your tandava, O Shiva;
With every beat may our hearts experience the vibrations of Your grace.

Aum Namo Natarajaya Shuddha-jnana Svarupine.

Agnideva © 2007. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Greatness of the Panchakshara

|| ॐ नमः शिवाय ||

Na-mah Shi-va-ya, known as the Panchakshara (Pentasyllabic) mantra, is the holiest of mantras for all schools of Shaivism, past and present. Unlike many other commonly used holy mantras, the Panchakshara mantra comes to us from directly from the Vedas. The Panchakshara is found for the first time in the heart of the Yajurveda Samhita, within the Sri Rudram (Rudradhyaya) hymn. Volumes have been written about the meaning and esoteric significance of the Panchakshara. Mantra science tells us that mantras are essentially verbal embodiments of the Deity. The Panchakshara, therefore, holds the essence of Shiva Himself. Prefixed with Aum, the seed-syllable that holds the quintessence of the manifest universe, the Panchakshara becomes known as the Shadakshara (Hexasyllabic) mantra. Together, Aum + Namah Shivaya brings together the manifest reality and the unmanifest reality, as well as the inseparability of the two. Below are two short excerpts from the Parameshvara Agama from a chapter entitled Recitation of the Panchakshara mantra. The Speaker of this scripture is Shiva, and the One being spoken to is Shakti (Devi).


All attainments are achieved by chanting the six syllable mantra, Aum Namah Shivaya. By the onset of grace all are able to attain, in all circumstances, the wisdom of the Supreme Lord manifested in the form of hamsa (swan, symbol of prana, life-breath). (5)

The five syllable mantra prefixed by Aum is the supreme among all mantras and is capable of fulfilling all the aspirations of the Shaiva devotee. (6)

The mantra consisting of a few letters is the essence of the Veda, and is the bestower of both enjoyment and liberation. This mantra is only accomplished by His grace, and undoubtedly is the form of Shiva Himself. This mantra as the form of Shiva Himself is undoubtedly self-evident by this injunction. (7)

This divine mantra is endowed with various spiritual attainments and is also pleasant to the common people, and possesses a specific esoteric meaning revealed by the Lord Himself. (8)

This mantra can easily be pronounced and is the fulfiller of all desires. Yea, it is the essence of the Veda in a few syllables, and is the provider of both enjoyment and liberation. (9)

Pārameshvara Agama XI:5-9


All the mantras, Ishana and Panchabrahma mantra etc., remain inherent in the union of the monosyllabic mantra (Aum) and the pentasyllabic mantra (Namah Shivaya). (16)

Shiva is the form of the pentasyllabic mantra is existent in a subtle way in the letters of this mantra symbolizing the perceiver and the perceived. (17)

Shiva is the object of knowledge and so, it is known that He is the perceived (vācya) and also the perceiver (vācaka) of this mantra. It (this mantra) is the means by which attainment of Shiva is possible, and thus both (perceiver and perceived) are united beginninglessly. (18)

O Shive (Devi)! It is but I, the omniscient Lord, who created this mantra. There are no other mantras equal to it. (19)

The whole scripture of the Veda with all its divisions and subdivisions are existent in this mantra. So there can never be any mantra equal or superior to it. (20)

All the seven crores of mantras along with innumerable auxiliaries are inseparable form of this hexasyllabic mantra just as the details inhere in the sutras. (21)

All the Agamas propounding the knowledge of Shiva and also other sources of knowledge are merely the elaboration and interpretation of the hexasyllabic mantra. (22)

What is the necessity of having various mantras and voluminous scriptures for the devotee who heart is adorned with the hexa-syllabic mantra? (23)

O Devi, one who has established himself in this mantra by constant recitation should be considered to have read and heard everything, and to have accomplished all good dispositions in his conduct. (24)

Blessed is the life of the devotee whose tongue utters Shivaya along with Namah. (25)

The devotee who recites pentasyllabic mantra with all sincerity and devotion attains freedom from bondage be he of any caste, a wretch, a moron or a learned person. (26)

Pārameshvara Agama XI:16-26

Aum Namah Shivaya.

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