Monday, December 22, 2008

The Lord’s Trident

One of the most recognized and ubiquitous symbols of Lord Shiva is the trishula, the trident. It is fairly common, in Shaivite iconography, to have anthropomorphic forms of Shiva represented with trishula in hand. It is also not uncommon to see the trishula alongside Shiva’s aniconic (Linga) form. On rare occasions, one even finds the trishula is Shiva’s very representation in the absence of any other. The trishula is such a powerful symbol of the Lord that when one sees the trishula, one thinks of Shiva.

But, what makes the trident such a special symbol of God, and what message does it convey? In this post, we explore these two questions.

What makes the trident such a potent symbol of God are its three prongs. In Shaivite theology, the entire manifest universe, its quantitative and qualitative nature, as well as the process by which it emerged from the unmanifest Absolute is described in triadic terms. In short, therefore, Shiva holding the trishula symbolizes that the entire triadic universe is held together by the Lord.

The three prongs of the trishula represent:

(1) The three Shaktis of Shiva - the Power of will (Iccha), the Power of knowledge (Jnana) and the Power of action (Kriya). It is through progressive expansion of these Shaktis that the Unmanifest impinges into universal experience.

(2) The three Aspects of the Divine – Paramashiva, Parashakti (Paranada or Shiva Tattva) and Parabindu (Parameshvara or Shakti Tattva). The three Aspects are the very Being (Aham or "I am") of Shiva, His very Self.

(3) The three great universal acts of creation, sustenance and dissolution. Shiva is the Master and Controller of all three universal acts.

(4) The three personified Divinities of creation, sustenance and dissolution known as Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra. The three Divinities depicted as separate entities in mythical stories are one and the same with Shiva. He alone creates, sustains and dissolves the universe.

(5) The three syllables of Omkara: A (akara), U (ukara) and M (makara). The Omkara is the primal sound, the Word of God, which gave birth to entire universe. It is for this reason that Shiva is also called the Lord of Omkara (Omkareshvara).

(6) The three causes of the universal manifestation: efficient, instrumental and material. All three causes originate and reside within Shiva, and there is no cause external to Him which brought about universal manifestation.

(7) The three planes of reality that make up the manifest universe: the physical, the subtle, and the causal. The multitudes of heavenly and hellish realms that make up the universe are all contained within these three planes of reality. Shiva alone is the Lord and Master over all planes and all realms of existence.

(8) The three qualities of prakriti (primal nature): sattva, rajas and tamas. All things in existence emerged by the admixture of these three primal qualities. Shiva is the supreme Purusha who is both Master over prakriti and the three qualities, yet beyond them at the same time.

(9) The three ordinary states of consciousness: waking, dreaming and deep sleep. Shiva is ever existent within the three states, yet exists in the fourth transcendental state upon which the three ordinary states are founded.

(10) The triad impurities - anava, karma and maya - which keep the individual being feeling that s/he is separate or separable from Shiva. Shiva is the Ruler over these three impurities, and alone by the descent of His grace can one work through these impurities to realize Him.

(11) The triadic essences - Pati, pashu and pasha - which make up the trichotomy of existence. The trichotomy of all existence is held together within Shiva and in Him all three are realized as inseparable from one another.

In Shaivite theology and metaphysics, therefore, the trishula is the perfect symbol of the manifest universe, just as the Wielder of the trishula is the perfect representation of Divinity.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Agnideva © 2008. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Aucun ne te connaît

Ton corps est tout les corps qui existent dans le monde,
Tes pieds et mains sont les pieds et mains de tes fervents,
Tes yeux deux sont le soleil éclatant et la belle lune;
Ta grâce, ta grâce douce, est notre appui seul.
O Shiva, mon Dieu, qu’est-ce qu’il y a de parler à part de toi ?

Tes battements de cœur sont nos battements de cœur,
Ta conscience est la conscience de tout les êtres,
Ton aspect inséparable de pouvoir est notre Mère Divine;
Ta prière, ta prière bénie, est notre vie entière.
O Shiva, mon Dieu, qu’est-ce qu’il y a de sentir à part de toi ?

Ton temple est la nature; les arbres et les nuages sont tes statues,
Tes offrandes sont les fleuves, la pluie, la terre et le ciel,
Ta forme subtile est celle qu'on éprouve dans le vent froid,
Ta réalisation, ta réalisation complète, est notre but final.
O Shiva, mon Dieu, qu’est-ce qu’il y a de savoir à part de toi ?

Aucun ne te connaît, mais tout le monde sait de toi.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Composition originale par Agnideva.
Agnideva © 2008. Tout droits réservés.

For English translation click here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brahma's Prayer

Brahmā said:

Oṁ! O Īśāna, O Mahādeva!
O Lord with the Bull as Your conveyance, obeisance be to You.
O Lord of living beings, obeisance be to You.
O Overlord of B
obeisance be to You.
Obeisance to Brahman in the form of
Obeisance to the Overlord of

adāśiva, may auspiciousness befall me.
O Lord representing
Oṁkāra in the physical form, obeisance be to You!
I resort to You! I have resorted to S
adyojāta. Obeisance to Sadyojāta.
Obeisances to the Unborn; the Source of [all] birth,
And who is beyond the worldly existence.

O Bhava, O
Īśāna, O Source of the worlds,
O Deity of great luster, bless me.
āmadeva, obeisance to You,
The eldest Being [J
yeṣṭha], O Granter of all boons.
Obeisance to Rudra, to K
āla, the Reckoner of time.
Obeisance to the Lord as the mind,
To the Lord dark in hue,
To the Lord as a religious Student,
To the Lord as the Strength in the strong,
And to the Lord devoid of organs and their function.

Obeisance to the Suppressor of bala,
To the strong One, O form of Brahman.
Obeisance to the Overlord, the Suppressor of living beings.
Obeisance to the Lord, the Impeller of the mind,
Obeisance to the Lord of great luster,
Obeisance to the refulgent V
And to the Supreme Soul.

Obeisance to the Eldest and the Greatest,
Obeisance to Rudra, the Bestower of boons.
Obeisance to You, the Slayer of K
Obeisance to You possessed of noble soul.

Liṅga Purāṇa I.16.6-15

ā's Prayer is based on and is an elaboration of the Pañcabrahma Mantras of the Taittirīya Āraṇyaka (X.17-21) of the Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda. The Pañcabrahma Mantras, in essence, recall the Lord through His five forms - Sadyojāta, Vāmadeva, Aghora, Tatpuruṣa and Īśāna representing His five universal acts: creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealing grace and revealing grace, respectively. The Pañcabrahma doctrine of early Vedic Shaivism is later amplified in the Agamas and Purāṇas, and forms the core of all Shaivite theology. Reorganized and reformatted these mantras have been embedded within Brahmā's Prayer in the Liṅga Purāṇa. Brahmā's Prayer from the Liṅga Purāṇa represents perhaps the oldest recollection of the Pañcabrahma doctrine within the purāṇic corpus.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Related link: Five forms of the Supreme Brahman.

Related post: Suta's Prayer.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Où est Shiva?

Où est Shiva? Qui est Shiva? Quoi est Shiva?

Le Dieu éternel qui est entre nous maintenant et toujours,
Cette Divinité la plus haute qui n’a pas de noms,
Le Seigneur, l’un qui a toujours été et toujours sera,
C’est mon Dieu, Shiva, qui ne devient jamais vieux.

Le Dieu des Vedas qui a une forme et aussi n’a pas de forme,
Cette Divinité exalté, le mieux du mieux,
Le Seigneur qui vit dans l’espace infinie de conscience,
C’est mon Dieu, Shiva, qui n’a pas de commencement ni de fin.

Le Dieu qui n’est pas mâle ni femelle, qui n’est pas ici ni là-bas,
Cette Divinité unique, le Dieu des dieux tous,
Le Siegneur qui toujours existe dans nos cœurs et âmes,
C’est mon Dieu, Shiva, qui est au-delà de toute compréhension.

Shiva est partout, Shiva est chacun, Shiva est tout qui existe.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Composition originale par Agnideva.
Agnideva © 2008. Tout droits réservés.

For English translation, click here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Par la grâce de Ganesha

Mon Seigneur, tu es mon ami seul en tristesse,
Et en heureusement aussi, O Ganesha!
Qui est dans le monde pour ton fervent, mais toi?
Quand nous réalisons que tu es avec nous chaque minute,
Nous sommes heureux.
Mais quand nous oublions que tu es toujours avec nous,
Nous sommes tristes.
O Ganesha, le premier Dieu de prière,
Jamais nous ne t’oubliions; jamais nous ne t’abandonnions.
Car seulement par la grâce de Ganesha,
Sommes-nous vivants.

Aum Ganeshaya Namah.

Composition originale par Agnideva.
Agnideva © 2008. Tout droits réservés.

For English translation, click here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Upanishad of the Lord

Aum! The universe, with all that is mobile in it, is inhabited by the Lord; therefore enjoy renouncing and do not covet the richness of others. [1]

Acting in the world according to this wisdom, one can aspire to live a hundred years and action shall not restrict your freedom. [2]

After death, the killers of the soul go to the worlds of the demons, covered by blinding darkness. [3]

The Self is motionless, and even faster than the mind. The senses cannot reach Him because He goes before them. In His quietude, He exceeds the speed of any runner. Because of this, Mātariśvan (wind), the activities of every living being is maintained. [4]

While moving He is motionless. He is far also very close. He is both inside and outside of everything. [5]

He who sees everything and everyone in the Self alone, and sees the Self in everything and everyone, hates not anything or anyone. [6]

What can cause misery or illusion to the enlightened one, who has realized that everything and everyone is his own Self, when wherever he looks, he only sees unity? [7]

The Ātman pervades everything. It is radiant, incorporeal, devoid of muscles, pure, immaculate, self-created and all-embracing. It is the omniscient Seer and it is self-sufficient. It has established the laws and duties since time immemorial. [8]

Shukla Yajurveda XL:1-8 (Isha Upanishad 1-9)

Trans. Ramakrishnananda Swami Shaktipada


Above are the first eight verses of the Isha Upanishad, the first among the traditional Vedic (Mukhya) Upanishads. The term Isha means Lord or Ruler, and therefore the name of this text can be translated as "Upanishad of the Lord." Alternatively, it is also called the Ishavasya Upanishad, and is so named after the first word in its text ishavasyam (the Lord dwells). Unlike other Upanishads, the Isha Upanishad is literally the closing chapter of the Shukla Yajurveda's Vajasaneyi recension. Another name for the same Upanishad is the Vajasaneyi Samhita Upanishad.

Since it is literally a part of a Vedic samhita, its consists of poetic verses meant to be chanted, rather than prosaic verses meant to be recited. The poetic verses that make up Vedic samhitas are called mantras, and so this text is a mantra upanishad. The text consists of only eighteen short mantras, but its brevity is outweighed by its philosophical and theological import. Volumes and volumes have been written on this short, but important Upanishad. Great masters propounding different philosophies have commented extensively on this text, and tried to find evidence for their own philosophical standpoint therein.

Here, we examine only the first eight mantras of this text and highlight the salient points from a monistic Shaivite point of view.

The Upanishad begins with a bold declaration – whatever there is in this universe, it is pervaded by the Lord. He is everywhere and in all beings. There is nowhere that He is not. But, how do we find Him everywhere? The Upanishad says by renunciation – renunciation of selfish desires. When we renounce selfish external desires, we learn to look within ourselves for happiness. It is only by this wisdom, says the Upanishad, that we can progress spiritually. But this does not mean renouncing the world. Here the Upanishad informs us that we may live a hundred years and perform all the actions we need, but once we learn to experience the truth within ourselves, no external action will bind us and nothing will restrict that inner freedom or spiritual progress (verses 1-2). The Upanishad goes on to state that those who do not even attempt to look within enter the regions of darkness, and calls them “slayers of the soul.” This does not mean that they have “slain their soul” in a literal sense, but that they have deprived themselves of learning and experiencing the true meaning of existence. As a result, they have fallen down to levels of consciousness associated with lower chakras (worlds of the demons). Having never made the effort in the present lifetime, they must attempt to raise themselves to higher consciousness in successive lifetimes (verse 3).

In the next verse, the Upanishad begins speaking of the Atman, the Self. The term Self or Atman as used here indicates the Universal Self known as Brahman in Vedanta and Paramashiva (Parashiva) in Shaivism. The Upanishad declares that this Self lies beyond the reach of our ordinary consciousness consisting of the mind and the senses. The Self is realized only by surpassing the ordinary states of consciousness in samadhi. It is the Universal Self, the Self of all, that is the basis of all activity in creation. It is because of that Self that the wind (meaning prana, vital energy) functions in every living being – maintaining and enabling our activity (verse 4).

That Self which is everywhere is ever in motion and ever in stillness (verse 5). Here, we find much in parallel with Shaiva Agamic teachings that Paramashiva is not just pure, placid consciousness, but ever brimming with activity. The Absolute is never without activity. Its eternal activity manifests as cycles of creation, sustenance and dissolution. This activity is inherent to Paramashiva, and never to be thought of either external to It or as a mere thought construct on our part. Though the Absolute is an absolute unity, for the purpose of comprehension we speak of It in two aspects – the consciousness and the activity. The consciousness is Paramashiva and the activity is Parashakti. Paramashiva never exists without Parashakti. The Absolute is dimensionless, spaceless, and timeless. He is far and near, He is both inside and outside. It is utterly incomprehensible to the mind and senses.

Next the Upanishad moves to the topic of the realized sage who has mastered this wisdom. Such a sage realizes that Paramashiva is in all, in everything and nothing exists but That. He sees the Self in all and all in the Self. Such a realized being is called a jivanmukta, and such a being will not harbor any hate or bad feeling toward another because s/he sees everything as an extension of the same Self (verse 6). Of such a jivanmukta, the Upanishad asks a rhetorical question: “what can cause misery or illusion to the enlightened one?” (verse 7)

Finally in the eighth verse, the Upanishad declares again that the Atman pervades everything. Here we learn to put into context what is meant by pervading. The verb to pervade as used here and in the first verse does not indicate any distinction between the pervading and the pervaded. In the previous three verses, the text has already declared that nothing is distinct or different from Paramashiva. Therefore, the phrases the Lord inhabits or the Atman pervades should not be taken to mean that He is distinct from that which is being pervaded. Though He is truly the basis (material, instrumental and efficient) of and non-distinct from all existence, He is nevertheless seen and understood as the omniscient Seer of all and personified as the Lord (Isha), the first and highest Being.

In Shaivism, we call the personal Lord Shiva or Parameshvara (Highest Lord). Shaivism teaches that the Absolute consciousness (Paramashiva), its inseparable Activity (Parashakti), and the first conception of Being within the Absolute (Parameshvara) are three perfections of the Supreme. In Agamic terms, Parashakti is also called Paranada or Shiva Tattva, and Parameshvara is referred to as Parabindu or Shakti Tattva. They are not to be seen as distinct or distinguishable from Paramashiva. Understanding and worshipping the Supreme as the personal Lord is therefore not a lower or lesser path, but one of full realization of the unity of the Divine.

In essence, the philosophical teachings of the Upanishad of the Lord are in consonance with those of the Shaiva Agamas.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Agnideva © 2008. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bhavani Ashtakam Video

As it is presently the festival of Navaratri (Nine Nights of Divine Mother), we invoke and remember the inseparable Shakti of Shiva, the Divine Mother. It is only in our semantics and relative experience that Shakti is experienced or spoken as separate or separable from Shiva.

There are many beautiful and captivating hymns to the Divine Mother in Shaktism, where Shakti is exclusively worshipped. One of them is the Bhavani Ashtakam (Eight Stanzas on Bhavani) addressed to Her in the form of Bhavani. The name Bhavani means existence, and is a feminine form of the name Bhava which is of course a name of Shiva.

Like many such hymns, this hymn is said to be written by Adi Shankaracharya. The Bhavani Ashtakam captivates with its simple sound and its meaning, yet it is full of mysticism and devotion. In every stanza, the devotee accepts that the Divine Mother is existence itself and takes full refuge in Her.

Gatistvam Gatistvam Tvameka Bhavani.

For the meaning of the Bhavani Ashtakam click here.

Jai Mata Di.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Praises be unto Him

Praises be unto Him, our Lord, Shiva, of golden hue!

Of countenance more beautiful than the rising Sun;

He who rules all beings from within and without;

That King of kings, the Lord of all lords,

Dwelling within the holy Mount of the highest chakra.

Obeisances to Him, our Lord, Shiva, of many epithets!

The ever-present One, subtler than the subtlest;

He who encompasses all: here, there, everywhere;

That eternal Entity of pure existence and bliss,

Dwelling within the divisions of time and in timelessness.

Glories unto Him, our Lord, Shiva, of countless attributes!

The magnanimous One who abounds with compassion;

He who is the transcendent Creator and immanent creation;

That infinite continuum of pure consciousness and activity,

Dwelling within the ever-moving and in perfect stillness.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Agnideva © 2008. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 22, 2008

In Six Faces, O Muruga

In six faces, O Muruga, they have realized You.
But, how many faces have You in reality, O Lord?
More prevalent Your forms than grains of sand,
Never ending are Your names, O Kartikeya!
Ceaseless are Your praises and paeons on blessed tongues.
O Lord, hordes of Devas do You command,
Gracing us from the chakra of the jeweled city.
You are that spiritual fire that burns within,
Ever toward higher pursuits, toward goodness.
In the sixth hidden face of the five-faced One,
Have the sages realized You, O Agni-Kumara!
O Commencer of the holy Veda, O Knower of all births,
In You we take refuge, in You we find solace,
In You we walk the path of Arul, of divine Grace.

Aum Sharavana Bhava.

Agnideva © 2008. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Suta's Prayer (Linga Purana)

The Puranic literature of Hinduism is both complex and extensive. Within the compendium of the Puranas, only a few important texts stand out as the most ancient and influential. Per the dating schemes presented by unbiased scholars, one can gather that the most ancient of the Puranas are the Markandeya, Matsya, Linga, Vayu and Vishnu. Of these five most ancient Puranas, the Vishnu Purana is decidedly Vaishnava in character, while the Linga and Vayu are Shaiva. Just as the Vishnu Purana forms the basis of the larger, more voluminous Bhagavata Purana; so the Linga and Vayu Puranas form the backbone of the larger, more popular Shiva Purana.

Unlike the Shiva Purana which is a loose compilation of books containing legend after legend, the focus of the Linga Purana is largely on ritual, prayer, theology and philosophy all presented within the context of narrative legends. Though it abounds with legends, the legends of the Linga Purana are neither as detailed as their more elaborate Shiva Puranic counterparts, nor do they contain any element spiritual depravity as found in parts of the latter. A large majority of the Linga Purana, as we have it today, is a literary work that was completed sometime before or during the reign of Chandragupta Vikramaditya (375-415 ce) of the Gupta dynasty.

From the philosophy presented in the Linga Purana, one can gauge that it is a non-dualistic text which attempts to reconcile the differences between Sankhya and pre-Shankaran Vedanta philosophies. While the Linga Purana accepts basic Sankhyan scheme of reality with its own peculiarities, it places Maheshvara, the great Lord, above all the categories of existence. Just as the Shvetashvatara Upanishad (ca. 600 bce) blends together ancient Shaivite theism with Sankhyan ontology and Vedantic metaphysics within the Vedic canon, so does the Linga Purana; but within the context of Puranic legend and Agamic ritualism.

Much of the philosophy of the Linga Purana is written in the form of paeons sung by various Gods and sages. An apt and beautiful example of one such paeon is that which commences the text of the Linga Purana and is sung by its narrator Suta (Romaharshana):

Sūta (Romaharṣaṇa) said:

I bow down to the Supreme Lord, whose body is Śabda-Brahman,
Who is the Revealer of the Śabda-Brahman, whose limbs are the letters,
Whose characteristics are unmanifest, but who manifests Himself in diverse ways,
Who is constituted by the letters a-u-m, who is gross as well as subtle,
Who is greater than the greatest, who is the very form of Oṁkāra,
Whose face is Rgveda, tongue is Sāmaveda, throat is Yajurveda, and heart is Atharvaveda,
Who is the Lord over Pradhāna and Puruṣa, who is devoid of birth and death.
He who is called Kālarudra when He assumes tamas, Brahmā when He assumes rajas,
And Viṣṇu when He assumes sattva, who is Maheśvara when devoid of all the guṇas,
Who manifests the seven forms by enveloping the body of Pradhāna, then sixteen forms,
And finally in twenty-six forms, who is the source of the origin of Brahmā.
He assumes the form of the Liṅga merely for the sport of creation, sustenance and dissolution.
After bowing down faithfully to that Supreme Lord,
I begin recounting the auspicious narrative of the Liṅga Purāṇa.

Liṅga Purāṇa I.1.19-24



The hymn begins with an invocation to Shiva, the Supreme Lord, who is identified both as Shabda-Brahman and the Revealer of Shabda-Brahman. Shabda-Brahman (Sound Brahman) here indicates the indestructible divine vibration that pulsates through all existence, enlivening it, manifesting it out of the unmanifest. In Shaivite philosophy, Shabda-Brahman is often termed Spanda, and is equated with the Parashakti. It is this Shabda-Brahman which transforms into the holy syllable AUM (Omkara), and then into all sounds and letters bringing into existence all further sounds and words, all names and forms.

The Lord is identified as greater than the greatest (vide: Katha Upanishad I.2.20 - mahato mahiyan), the very form of Omkara. Shiva is Omkara, and Omkara is Shiva: the crescent moon atop Shiva’s matted locks is the same crescent moon written atop the AUM symbol. It is from Omkara, yea, it is from Shiva that the holy Vedas have emerged. He is Lord over pradhana (prakriti) and purusha. He is greater than the evolutes (tattvas) of classical Sankhya philosophy. As Overlord, He is called Maheshvara, who is beyond all modes (gunas) of prakriti. In association with tamas, He appears as Kalarudra; in association with sattva, He appears as Vishnu; and in association with rajas, He is called Brahma. They are merely three functional names of His, who is called Maheshvara. They are not separate entities with different abodes or realms or powers. They were never different, never are, and never will be. This theoretical teaching is perfectly realized in Shaivite practice with the use of the Linga icon. The Linga icon represents the perfect oneness of the so-called Trimurti, which although indivisible and non-distinct, are divided in linguistic and legendary terms only.

In this first paeon, one also finds a brief outline of the Linga Puranic version of the sankhya philosophy. The Lord upon impinging into creation, so to speak, manifests the seven forms, then sixteen forms, and twenty-six forms (in sum). Seven forms indicate mahat-buddhi (intellect), ahamkara (ego), and five tanmatras (subtle elements); and sixteen forms indicate manas (mind), the five jnanendriyas (organs of knowledge), the five karmendriyas (organs of action), and the five mahabhutas (gross elements). Per the Linga Puranic sankhya (see: Sankhya System and the Tattvas), the sum total of all tattvas is twenty-six which comprise the seven forms and the sixteen forms plus pradhana (prakriti) + jiva (individual soul) + purusha (cosmic soul). Maheshvara is the Supreme Ruler and Overlord over the twenty-six tattvas. He is both beyond the twenty-six categories of existence, yet within them. Though He transcends all existence, He is immanent within it.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Agnideva © 2008. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 4, 2008

That is Shivam

That divine Auspiciousness which surrounds us from every direction,
That holiest Auspiciousness which we breathe in and breathe out,
That eternal Auspiciousness which we sense with every blink of the eye,
That nurturing Auspiciousness which supports all evanescent life forms,
That permanence, that infinitude, that absolute reality, that Auspiciousness,
That is Shivam; That verily is Shivam.

That pure Consciousness of light which illuminates us within and without,
That gently flowing Consciousness of remarkable clarity, of pristine beauty,
That whirling Consciousness bejeweled with countless hues of perfection,
That immense Consciousness throbbing through all of creation like a heartbeat,
That steadiness, that tranquility, that supreme reality, that Consciousness,
That is Shivam; That verily is Shivam.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Agnideva © 2008. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Prayer by the Sages

The Sages said:

Obeisance to the Lord, who is clad in the directions,
Who bears the trident, who dissolves the universe,
Who is handsome, who is an axe to the tree of the universe,
To the One with a terrifying face. [1]
Obeisance to the formless One, to the One of handsome form;
To the One of the form of the universe.
Obeisance to the One who embraces the elephantine face of His Son, Ganeśa;
Obeisance to Rudra; obeisance to the One in the form of Yajamāna. [2]
Obeisance to the One bowed to by all;
Obeisance to the One who bows to His own Atman;
Obeisance to the One with a blue tuft;
Obeisance to the One whose neck is blue with poison. [3]
Obeisance to the One who is blue-necked,
To the One who smears ashes all over His body.
You are Brahmā among the Devas.
You are Nilalohita among the Rudras. [4]
You are the Soul of all living things.
You are known as Puruṣa in the Sāṅkhyā system.
You are Meru among mountains and Moon among planets;
Vasiṣṭha among sages; Indra among Devas;
Oṁ among Vedas; and the excellent Sāman among Vedic verses. [5-6]
You are the lion among beasts;
Bull among animals; and Lord of all men. [7]
In whatever form You are, whatever form You may assume,
May we be able to see You there in that manner mentioned by Brahmā. [8]
Lust, anger, covetousness, despondency and arrogance -
We wish to know about all these (vices); be pleased, O Supreme Lord. [9]
When the time of great dissolution arrived, O Lord,
The fire (of dissolution) was generated by You, the self-possessed Soul,
By rubbing Your hand against Your forehead. [10]
Then, the whole world was enveloped by that fire.
Hence these (vices - lust, anger, etc.) are distorted fires equal to the fire of dissolution. [11]
Lust, fury, greed, delusion, arrogance and harassment -
All living beings - mobile and immobile are burning from the fire originating from You.
O Lord of Devas, be our Protector even as we are being burned.
O highly blessed One, O Supreme Lord, O auspicious Observer,
O Lord, command us, for we shall carry out Your behest.
In thousands and crores of living beings in thousands and crores of forms,
We are unable to reach the extremities (of Your forms).
O Lord of Devas, obeisance be unto You. [12-16]

~Liṅga Purāṇa I.32.1-16


The above is a hymn from the Liṅga Purāṇa sung by the assembly of fourteen sages of Dāruvana (Bhṛgu, Aṅgīras, Vasiṣṭha, Viśvāmitra, Gautama, Atri, Sukeśa, Pulastya, Pulāha, Kratu, Mārīci, Kaśyapa, Kaṇva, Saṁvarta). In the Liṅga Purāṇic legend, the assembled sages eulogize Śiva upon seeing a form of the Lord manifest in front of them. Esoterically, however, the fourteen sages represent the fourteen stars of the Ursa Major (Big Dipper) and the Ursa Minoris (Little Dipper), and Śiva is the resplendent Sun rising in their midst. Since in classical Vedic theology, the Sun is the visible aspect of the Lord, the esoteric equation of Śiva with the Sun is both apt and appropriate.

Aum Namah Śivaya.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

That indeed

That unchanging Consciousness existing the core of all,
That eternal stillness, that timeless being, that supremely exalted state,
That indeed is supreme Shiva.

That ever-changing flow of creation, sustenance and dissolution,
That grand universal experience, that all-enveloping divine love,
That indeed is supreme Shakti.

That mystical word, that tri-syllabic holy mantra in which they are united,
That AUM, that seed which brings together Tripurantakari and Tripurasundari,
That indeed is the supreme Essence.

That Shiva and that Shakti, that eternal inseparable universal entity,
That alone is the whole of my being, of all that is internal and external,
That indeed is supreme Bliss.

That alone is, that alone exists, that alone and nothing else apart from that,
That is fullness, that is emptiness, that is completeness, that is perfection,
That indeed is supreme Truth.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Agnideva © 2008. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Within the very seed

Within the very Seed of all seeds, that supreme Shiva I reside,
Resonating as the primal sound, that deeply mystical Omkara,
As Shakti, the Divine Mother, the universal Creatrix,
That is the true fabric of my Being, of all Being.

That supreme calmness, that divine exalted State,
The eternal land, the realmlessness beyond all heavenly realms,
Free from all pleasures and pains, all desires and deeds,
That is my true residence, and has been always.

Where there is no time or space, cause or effect, no birth or death,
Bereft of parts or wholes, unions and separations, heres and theres,
Effortlessly flowing through the manifest, yet remaining ever unmanifest,
That is my true nature, the eternal, the immortal, the infinite, Aum.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Agnideva © 2008. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Legend of Nilakantha

The Legend

And so it came to pass that once upon a time that both the Gods and their archrivals, the demons, desired amrita, the nectar of immortality. Having learned that the nectar of immortality lay at the bottom of the cosmic ocean, they decided to team up and extract the nectar together. For this purpose, Vishnu took the form of a tortoise (Kurma) and supported the mighty Mount Mandara on His back, which in turn they used a churning stick. As a rope, they tied the king of serpents, Vasuki, around the mountain. Holding on to opposite ends of Vasuki, the Gods and demons churned away at the cosmic ocean.

As they churned the ocean of existence, twelve wondrous gems were extracted from the cosmic ocean and claimed by the Gods. But before the nectar of immortality could be extracted, a thirteenth substance emerged. This was a most dark and deadly poison called halahala-kalakuta. So deadly was the poison that it threatened to engulf the whole of the universe and destroy everything in its path. It even turned Vishnu a dark shade of blue.

Sensing the imminent danger to all of creation, Brahma prayed to Shiva, the Lord of all: "Save us, O Shiva, save us! For there is none other than Thee who can contain this terrible poison which threatens all of creation thus."

Hearing the prayer of Brahma, Shiva, the Benefactor of all existence, emerged there in a magnificent form. Smiling ever so charmingly, He gathered up the deadly poison and consumed it. As an eternal reminder of His munificence, He held the deadly poison in His throat, which caused His throat (kantha) to radiate a shade of deep blue (nila).

Since that day, Shiva, the Savior of Gods and demons and the Lord of the universe is called Nilakantha, blue-throated One.

[Legend adapted from the Vayu Purana]

About the Meaning

The story of Nilakantha is a very ancient one and is found within a larger legend called the Churning of the Ocean. The Churning of the Ocean is arguably one of the most important Indian legends and has been the subject of much artwork, sculpture, literature and grand festivals like the Kumbha Mela. Much has also been written about the meaning of this legend. Here, our focus is only on Shiva as Nilakantha. What is the poison described that arises from the ocean of existence? What does it mean for Shiva to drink the poison and hold it in His throat?

In Shaiva theology, the deadly poison is the poison of worldliness. By poison of worldliness we mean the subjective experience of transience, limitedness, endless desires, and the illusion of separation from the Divine that exists as part of our normal, everyday life. All these feelings exist in everyday experience, according to Shaivism, because of the triad impurities known as anava, karma and maya (see: Triad Impurites), which collectively represent the deadly poison of the legend. When the ocean of the mind is churned to obtain amrita (immortality: release from cycles of samsara), one must first overcome the deadly poison which engulfs all of existence.

At some level, our intellectual mind (known as mahat-buddhi, represented by Brahma in the legend) realizes that we are overcome by the deadly poison, and asks the Lord to intervene on our behalf. It is in this capacity then that the Lord comes to our aid, so to speak. At the appropriate time, the Lord appears to consume the deadly poison -- meaning that His Revealing Grace (Anugraha Shakti) descends upon the aspirant, and the aspirant is able to work through the deadly poison to attain amrita.

All the while, we are never to forget that creation is never separate or separable from the personified Creator. Both the poison of worldly existence and release from it are contained within Him. All of manifest existence is classically described as a fraction of the Lord’s Being, which in truth is indivisible (see: Purusha Sukta). So, all of manifestation is represented here as contained in His throat (kantha) from where it has been vocalized into existence. The color blue (nila) represents manifest reality because of the predominant color of our earth (the blue planet). Theologically speaking, therefore, Nilakanta is One from whom manifest existence has been vocalized into being, in whom it is entirely contained, and in whom it is dissolved. And most certainly it is Nilakantha Maheshvara alone who shall drink the poison of worldliness which binds us so.

namaste astu bhagavan viśveśvarāya mahādevāya tryambakāya
tripurāntakāya trikāgni-kālāya kālāgni rudrāya nīlakāṇṭhāya mṛtyuñjayāya
sarveśvarāya sadāśivāya śrīmanmahādevāya namaḥ ||

Salutations be to Thee, O Lord!
To the Lord of the universe, the great Lord,
The three-eyed One, the Destroyer of the triad cities,
Who is the very Time of the three fires,
Who is Rudra, the Fire of dissolution,
The blue-throated One, the Conqueror of death,
The Lord of All, the ever-auspicious One,
To the celebrated, great God obeisance be.

[Traditional Yajurvedic Prayer]

Aum Nilakanthaya Namah.

Agnideva © 2008. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nilakantha Maheshvara

Drink the poison, O Nilakantha! Drink it up.
Drink the poison of the trifold bonds.
The bonds which bind us to this world steeped in duality.
Drink the poison, O Nilakantha! Drink it up.
Drink up the poison of maya, O Nilakantha!
The poison of differentiatedness, of limitedness
Which keeps us feeling separate from You;
Which keeps us engaged in the material world.
Drink the poison, O Nilakantha! Drink it up.
Drink up the poison of karma, O Nilakantha!
The poison of cause and effect, of action and reaction
Which keeps us in a state of flux, unlike You;
Which keeps us engaged in cycles of birth and death.
Drink the poison, O Nilakantha! Drink it up.
Drink up the poison of anava, O Nilakantha!
The poison of individuality, of atomic reality
Which keeps us feeling we have an existence apart from You;
Which keeps us engaged in desire and dejection
Drink the poison, O Nilakantha! Drink it up.
Drink the poison of the trifold bonds.
May we become absorbed in layavastha --
The state of unitary existence within the body of Shiva.

Om Nilakanthaya Namah.

Agnideva © 2008. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Shiva Alone Is

śivo guruḥ śivo vedaḥ śiva devaḥ śivaḥ prabhuḥ |
śivo'smyahaṁ śivaḥ sarvaṁ śivadanyanna kiṁcana ||

Shiva alone is Guru; Shiva alone is Vedas;
Shiva alone is Lord; Shiva alone is I;
Shiva alone is All. There is none other than Shiva.

~ Varaha Upanishad (IV.32) of the Krsna Yajurveda

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Happy Shivaratri

I wish all the readers of this blog a very happy and blessed Shivaratri. May God Shiva's blessings and grace be you all now and forever!

Shivaratri is on March 5 in Europe and the Americas, and March 6 in Asia and Australia.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sage Tandi's Prayer

There are many ancient sages connected with the Tradition of Shiva. Of those, one is Sage Tandi. Almost nothing is known about the historical Sage Tandi. The name Tandi suggests a connection with Tandya branch of the Samaveda, of which he may have been the originator. One of the oldest and most important Vedic upanishads called the Chhandogya (a.k.a. Tandya Rahasya Upanishad; ca. 900 BCE) originates from this branch.

The Mahabharata epic (200 BCE-200 CE) mentions the illustrious Sage Tandi as a great Shiva devotee from remote antiquity, and credits him with authorship of the Thousand Names of Shiva (see Shiva Saharanama). In the Anushasana Parva (Book XIII) of the Mahabharata, Vasudeva (Krsna) teaches a prayer to Yudhishthira as taught to him by Sage Upamanyu. This prayer hymn is said to have been recited originally by Sage Tandi himself upon having a mystical vision of Shiva.

Sage Tandi’s Prayer glorifies Shiva in the most beautiful and exalted terms. It is a prayer based entirely on theological and philosophical principles found in the Vedanta, Yoga and theistic Sankhya systems. Note that unlike later hymns which heavily inject Puranic mythology into philosophy and theology, Tandi’s Prayer is free from Shiva's Puranic exploits (Shiva Charita).


Sage Tandi's Prayer

The Rishi Tandi, desirous of beholding Him who making Himself endued with life-breaths, resides in what results from it (the jiva), in the form of that effulgence which is called the mind, passed many years in the practice of the severest austerities, and having succeeded in beholding Him as the reward of those penances, he praised the great God (Mahadeva) in the following terms.

Tandi said:

Thou art the holiest of holies and the Refuge of all, O foremost of all beings endued with intelligence.

Thou art the fiercest energy of all kinds of energy.

Thou art the austerest penance of all penances.

Thou, O puissant One, art the liberal Giver of blessings.

Thou art the supreme Truth.

Salutations to Thee, O Thou of a thousand rays, and O Refuge of all felicity.

Thou art the Giver of that Nirvana which, O puissant One, Yatis, standing in fear of birth and death, strive for so hard.

The Grandsire Brahmā, He of a hundred sacrifices (Indra), Vishnu, the Vishvadevas, the great Rishis, are incapable of comprehending Thee and Thy real nature.

How then can persons like us hope to comprehend Thee?

From Thee flows everything.

Upon Thee rests everything.

Thou art called Kāla, Thou art called Purusha, Thou art called Brahma.

Celestial Rishis conversant with the Puranas, say that Thou hast three bodies -- those pertaining to Kalas, those pertaining to Purusha and those pertaining to Brahma or the three forms namely Brahmā, Vishnu and Rudra.

Thou art Adi-Purusha, Thou art Adhyatma, Thou art Adhibhuta, and Adhi-Daivata, Thou art Adi-loka, Adi-Vijnanam and Adi-Yajna.

Men of wisdom, when they succeed in knowing Thee that residest in themselves and that art incapable of being known by the very Gods, become freed from all bonds and enter to a state of existence that transcends all sorrow.

They that do not wish to know Thee, O Thou of great puissance, have to undergo innumerable births and deaths.

Thou art the door of heaven and of Emancipation.

Thou art He that projectest all beings into existence and withdrawest them again into Thyself.

Thou art the great Giver.

Thou art heaven, Thou art emancipation, Thou art desire (the seed of action).

Thou art wrath that inspires creatures.

Thou art Sattva, Thou art Rajas, Thou art Tamas,

Thou art the nether regions, and Thou art the upper regions.

Thou art the Grandsire Brahmā, Thou art Bhava, Thou art Vishnu, Thou art Skanda, Thou art Indra, Thou art Savitri, Thou art Yama, Thou art Varuna, Thou art Soma, Thou art Dhatri, Thou art Manu, Thou art Vidhatri, and Thou art Kuvera, the Lord of treasures.

Thou art Earth, Thou art Wind, Thou art Water, Thou art Agni, Thou art Space, Thou art Speech, Thou art the Understanding, Thou art Steadiness, Thou art Intelligence, Thou art the acts that creatures do, Thou art Truth, Thou art Falsehood, Thou art existent and Thou art non-existent.

Thou art the senses, Thou art that which transcends Prakriti, Thou art immutable. Thou art superior to the universe of existent objects, Thou art superior to the universe of non-existent objects, Thou art capable of being conceived, Thou art incapable of being conceived.

That which is supreme Brahman; that which is the highest entity; that which is the end of both the Sankhyas and the Yogins, is without doubt, identical with Thee.

Verily, rewarded have I been today by Thee in consequence of Thy granting me a sight of Thy form.

I have attained the end which the righteous alone attain to.

I have been rewarded with that end which is solicited by persons whose understandings have been cleansed by knowledge.

Alas, so long I was steeped in ignorance; for this long period I was a senseless fool, since I had no knowledge of Thee that art the Supreme Deity, Thee that art the only eternal Entity as can be only known by all persons endued with wisdom.

In course of innumerable lives have I at last succeeded in acquiring that devotion towards Thee in consequence of which Thou hast shown Thyself to me.

O Thou that art ever inclined to extend Thy grace to those that are devoted to Thee.

He that succeeds in knowing Thee is enabled to enjoy immortality.

Thou art that which is ever a mystery with the Gods, the Asuras, and the ascetics, the Brahman is concealed in the cave of the heart.

The very ascetics are unable to behold or know Him.

Thou art that puissant Deity who is the Doer of everything and whose face is turned towards every direction.

Thou art the Soul of all things, Thou seest all things, Thou pervadest all things, and Thou knowest all things.

Thou makest a body for Thyself, and bearest that body.

Thou art an embodied Being.

Thou enjoyest a body, and Thou art the Refuge of all embodied creatures.

Thou art the Creator of the life-breaths, Thou possessest the life-breaths, Thou art one that is endued with life-breaths, Thou art the Giver of the life-breaths, and Thou art the Refuge of all beings endued with life-breaths.

Thou art that Adhyatma which is the Refuge of all righteous persons that are devoted to Yoga-meditation and conversant with the Soul and that are solicitous of avoiding rebirth.

Verily, Thou art that Supreme Lord who is identical with that Refuge.

Thou art the Giver unto all creatures of whatever ends become theirs, fraught with happiness or misery.

Thou art He that ordains all created beings to birth and death.

Thou art the puissant Lord who grants success to Rishis crowned with success in respect of the fruition of their wishes.

Having created all the worlds beginning with Bhu, together with all the denizens of heaven, that upholdest and cherishest them all, distributing Thyself into Thy well-known forms numbering Eight (Ashtamurtis).

From Thee flows everything.

Upon Thee rests all things.

All things, again, disappear in Thee.

Thou art the sole object that is Eternal.

Thou art that region of Truth which is sought by the righteous and regarded by them as the highest.

Thou art that cessation of individual existence which Yogins seek.

Thou art that Oneness which is sought by persons conversant with the soul.

Brahmā and the Siddhas expounding the mantras have concealed Thee in a cave to prevent the Devas and Asuras and human beings from beholding Thee.

Although Thou residest in the heart, yet Thou art concealed.

Hence, stupefied by Thee, Devas and Asuras and human beings are all unable to understand Thee, O Bhava, truly and in all Thy details.

Unto those persons that succeed in attaining to Thee after having cleansed themselves by devotion, Thou showest Thyself of thy own accord, O Thou that residest in all hearts.

By knowing Thee one can avoid both death and rebirth.

Thou art the highest object of knowledge.

By knowing Thee no higher object remains for one to know.

Thou art the greatest object of acquisition.

The person that is truly wise, by acquiring Thee, thinks that there is no higher object to acquire.

By attaining to Thee that art exceedingly subtle and that art the highest object of acquisition, the man of wisdom becomes immortal and immutable.

The followers of the Sankhya system, well conversant with their own philosophy and possessing a knowledge of the attributes (gunas) and of those called the topics of enquiry, those learned men who transcend the destructible by attaining to a knowledge of the subtle or indestructible, succeed, by knowing Thee, in freeing themselves from all bonds.

Persons conversant with the Vedas regard Thee as the one object of knowledge, which has been expounded in the Vedantas.

These men, devoted to the regulation of the breaths, always meditate on Thee and at last enter into Thee as their highest end.

Riding on the car made of Om, those men enter into Maheshvara.

Of that which is called the Devayana (the path of the Devas), Thou art the door called Aditya.

Thou art again, the door, called Chandramas, of that which is called the Pitriyana (the path of the Pitris).

Thou art Kashtha, Thou art the points of the horizon, Thou art the year, and Thou art the Yugas.

Thine is the sovereignty of the heavens, Thine is the sovereignty of the Earth, Thou art the Northern and the Southern declensions.

The Grandsire Brahmā in days of yore uttered Thy praises, O Thou that art called Nilarohita (blue and red), by reciting diverse hymns and urged Thee to create living creatures.

Brahmanas conversant with Riks praise Thee by uttering Riks, regarding Thee as unattached to all things and as divested of all forms.

Adhyaryus, in sacrifices, pour libations, uttering Yajus the while, in honour of Thee that art the sole object of knowledge, according to the three well-known ways.

Persons of cleansed understandings, that are conversant with Samans, sing Thee with the aid of Samans.

Those regenerate persons, again, that are conversant with the Atharvans, hymn Thee as Rta, as Truth, as the Highest, and as Brahma.

Thou art the highest Cause, whence Sacrifice has flowed.

Thou art the Lord, and Thou art Supreme.

The night and day are Thy sense of hearing and sense of sight.

The fortnights and months are Thy head and arms.

The seasons are Thy energy, penances are Thy patience, and the year is Thy lower end, thighs and feet.

Thou art Mrityu, Thou art Yama, Thou art Hutasana, Thou art Kāla, Thou art endued with speed in respect of destruction, Thou art the original cause of Time, and Thou art eternal Time.

Thou art Chandramas and Aditya with all the stars and planets and the atmosphere that fills space.

Thou art the pole-star, Thou art constellation called the seven Rishis, Thou art the seven regions beginning with Bhu.

Thou art Pradhana and Mahat, Thou art Unmanifest, and Thou art this world.

Thou art the universe beginning with Brahmā and ending with the lowest forms of vegetation.

Thou art the beginning or original cause of all creatures.

Thou art the eight Prakritis.

Thou art, again, above the eight Prakritis.

Everything that exists, represents a portion of thy divine Self.

Thou art that supreme Felicity which is also Eternal.

Thou art the end which is attained to by all things.

Thou art that highest existence which is sought for by the Righteous.

Thou art that state which is freed from every anxiety.

Thou art eternal Brahman!

Thou art that highest state which constitutes the meditation of persons learned in the scriptures and the Vedangas.

Thou art the highest Kashtha, Thou art the highest Kāla.

Thou art the highest Success, and Thou art the highest Refuge.

Thou art the highest Tranquillity.

Thou art the highest cessation of Existence.

By attaining to thee, Yogins think that they attain to the highest success that is open to them.

Thou art Contentment, Thou art Success, Thou art the Sruti, and Thou art the Smriti.

Thou art that Refuge of the Soul after which Yogins strive, and Thou art that indestructible Prapti which men of knowledge pursue.

Thou art, without doubt, that End which those persons have in view that are habituated to sacrifices and that pour sacrificial libations, impelled by specific desires, and that make large presents on such occasions.

Thou art that high End which is sought for by persons that waste and scorch their bodies with severe penances with ceaseless recitations, with those rigid vows and fasts that appertain to their tranquil lives, and with other means of self-affliction.

O Eternal one, Thou art that End which is theirs that are unattached to all things and that have relinquished all acts.

Thou, O Eternal one, art that End which is theirs that are desirous of achieving Emancipation from rebirth, that live in dissociation from all enjoyments, and that desire the annihilation of the Prakriti elements.

Thou art that high End, O illustrious One, which is indescribable, which is stainless, which is the immutable one, and which is theirs that are devoted to knowledge and science.

These are the live Ends that have been declared in the Vedas and the Scriptures and the Puranas.

It is through Thy grace alone that persons attain to those ends, or, if they fail to attain to them, it is through thy grace being denied to them.

It was thus Tandi, who was a vast heap of penances, praised Isana. And he sang also that high Brahman which in ancient days was sung by the Creator Himself (in honour of Mahadeva).

Mahabharata, Anushasana Parva (Book XIII): Chapter XVI: 13-66
Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli
(Edited for clarity and capitalization)

Aum Namah Shivaya ~ Shivaya Namah Aum.

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