Sunday, September 20, 2009


NAVRATRA or nine auspicious nights signifies the basic principle of yoga that energies should involute back to the primal source to rejuvenate the individual form, which is the human body. This return brings out the union of the microcosmic individual, Pinda, and the macrocosmic consciousness, Brahmanda, passing through the entire cyclic process of creation because time and space are self-perpetuating.

In Navratra, Nav means nine and Ratra means night. In Indian philosophy the number nine is closely associated with the process of creation in the cosmic time cycle. The entire cosmic cycle consists of three phases -- creation, preservation and dissolution. Each of these three parts split into triads (3x3=9) brings the numerical order to nine. Adi Sankaracharya in the 8th century AD clearly indicated the significance of number nine in the Soundaryalahiri, 11th sloka: ``The four Siva chakras and five Sakti chakras create the nine Mula-Prakratis or basic manifestations, because they represent the source substance of the whole cosmos''.

These nine cosmic wombs or Nava-Yoni have a parallel nine categories of nature in the macrocosm. This nine-fold division is projected in nine apertures of the body -- two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth, genitals and anus, nine psychic centres, nine planets, nine divisions of time -- ghatika, yama, ahoratra, vara, tithi, paksha, masa, ritu, nine gems, nine moods or Navras and nine forms of Goddess Durga or Tripurasundari worshipped during Navratras.

The intricate relationship of the number nine with creation is clearly visible in the nine months' gravidity of the human being. According to the Tantric concept of cosmic involution from the Sahasrara chakra, 56 rays are said to proceed to Muladhara chakra to constitute earth element, 52 in Manipur to form water element, 62 in Svadhistan to establish fire element, 54 in Anhata chakra pertains to the character of the air element, 72 in Visudhi chakra forms ether element and 64 in Ajna chakra shapes manas or mind.

In total, there are 360 rays or potencies of universal sakti represented by Maha Tripurasundari. It is vindicated in the form of a circle which has a 360 degree angle indicating fullness. This 360 digit again totals to nine, the number of creation. The universe is also composed of 36 tatvas unfolding from primal unity or Parama Shiva which again has the numerical value of nine. The days representing the 16 phases or kalas of the moon constitute a fortnight or poksha and two pakshas -- waxing and waning -- make a month. These tithis are also 360 in a lunar year again depicting a total of nine. Nine is considered to be complete, puran, because any number multiplied by nine gives a figure that totals to nine. Likewise nine added or deducted from any number gives a figure with the numerical total unchanged. This concept is explained in the famous santi path mantra of the Upanishads.

The other significant part of Navratras is ratra or night. The Rig Veda clearly says that before creation began everything was shrouded in the darkness of night and from that darkness creation came about. The same idea is reflected in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. These nine nights occur on equinoxes or equal nights when the sun is vertically overhead at the equator or centre. Hence the human body also attains equilibrium with nature and meditation and worship of Sakti with Beej mantras revitalises the body.

Therefore forms of Durga are worshipped with their respective yantras. Barley is sown in homes as a symbol of the creative power of the mother Goddess. In recognition of the importance of sakthi or feminine force, traditionally, little girls are symbolically worshipped on the eighth day, Ashtami.

The Navratras also celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over the demon Ravana and many chant the famous Ramrakshastotra in the mornings. In Bengal these nine days resound with devotion and dedication to Godess Durga. Durga Puja was initiated by the landlord Kans Narayan of Bengal in the 16th century. In South India, especially in Mysore, Dussehra celebrations , symbolises the triumph of virtue over vice.

Kumbh mela

WATER is the basis of all life on earth. Of the Panchmahabhut or the five natural elements, water is considered to be the key to life. Human beings feel a close affinity to it, since three-fourths of the human body is constituted of water. In this respect, our body is like a microcosm, as the surface of the earth (the macrocosm) is constituted similarly, being three-fourths, water.

The confluence of three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati at Prayag stands for the meeting of Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadis at Muladhar Chakra known as Yukta Triveni. Kumbha symbolises the arousing of six chakras to reach Ajna Chakra where these three nadis meet again to form the Mukta (Liberation) Triveni for yogis.

The Ganga always flows and rushes very fast to the sound of Gama-Gam (meaning go-go) while the Yamuna moves slowly with a placid flow to the sound of Yam-Yam (meaning control-control). Likewise whether one acts fast in life or acts after deliberate thinking, it must be decided by his knowledge and temperament. And both these aspects should be supported by the invisible Saraswati, the faculty of Jnan (knowledge). The meeting of these three rivers in the spiritual realm represents the three gunas or qualities of the native, i.e. Sattvic or subtle represented by Saraswati; Rajasic or the vibrant Ganga; and Tamasic or the dark Yamuna. These three rivers also signify the three saktis, Mahalakshmi, Mahakali and Mahasaraswati; the three sacred fires of sacrifice; the three Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh; and the three notes of music, Sa for Saraswati; Re for Yamuna; and Ga for Ganga.

Further deep in the spiritual sphere, these three rivers represent the three phases of time i.e. present, past and future; the triangle or minimum space enclosed in time; Nad, Bindu and Kala; and the three humours, vata, pitta and kapha. The Triveni also denotes the three basic philosophies of the Gita, i.e. Jnan Yoga, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga.

The Kumbha occurs in a cycle of every 12 years - the most sacred or auspicious time is calculated on the basis of a specific planetary configuration, considering its cosmobiological effect on the human body and mind. Various astronomical conjugations during Kumbha represent various stages of the solar cycle which has a direct influence on human beings and the biosphere. The ritual bath or snan on specific days i.e. full moon, new moon and Basant Panchami have been specifically prescribed on the basis of the bio-effects of lunar phases. The imposed electromagnetic fields on water are transmitted into the human beings taking bath in the Holy Prayag giving them great health benefits. The number 12 here signifies time or Kal as there are 12 adityas, 12 zodiac signs, 12 months, and 12 Jyotirlingas (self-emergent sivalingas). The entire world exists in time, moves in time and space, and is controlled by time. According to Atharvaveda, Kumbh is the representation of space situated in Kal supervising all of us. Spiritually the holding of Kumbha at an interval of 12 years symbolises the need for purifying the body by sublimating the inherent vices of the 12 sense organs, i.e. Panchkarmendriyas (five organs of action), Panchjnanedriyas (five organs of perception, the mind and the intellect - and thereby to arouse the six psychic centres or chakras separated from each other at a distance of 12 angulas for attaining the Amrit Kumbha or pitcher of nectar.

There is another mystical explanation of the Kumbha. The human head and neck form an inverted pitcher or Kumbha from where Amrit or nectar flows downwards into the body. The two eyes represent the sun and moon gods, the nostrils represent Ganga and Jamuna, the tongue is Vani or Saraswati and it spans 12 angulas of space.

Astrologically during Kumbha the three grahas, Jupiter, Sun and Moon, play a prominent role in the two Zodiac signs, Taurus and Capricorn respectively. The presence of Sun in Capricorn or Makara signifies the Swadhishtan Chakra, the centre of procreation representing the water element. Makara also signifies the Kama as Kamdev, popularly knows as Makaradhwaj. It is therefore that one of the famous Shahi Snans occurs on Basant Panchami, the day of Kamdev. Likewise Jupiter's or Jiva's (life force) presence in Taurus signifies the creative power of universe, Shiva Shakti or the Male and female forces.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Sant Jñāneshwar / Sant Dnyāneshwar (1275-1296), also known as Jñanadeva, was a 13th century Maharashtran saint, poet, philosopher and yogi of the Nath tradition. Traditionally Jnanadev is said to have felt he had completed his purpose in life and left the body in conscious mahasamadhi (the final spiritual union of a saint at death), exiting life at the young age of 21, having already been acknowledged as a great saint and poet.

Changdev Paasashti, translation by Swâmi Abhâyânanda.

Salutations to the Lord of all, Who is concealed within the visible universe. It is He who causes this universe to appear and it is He who causes it to vanish as well. // When He is [fully] revealed, the universe disappears; when He is concealed, the universe shines forth. Yet He doesn’t hide Himself, nor does He reveal Himself; He is always present before us at every moment. // No matter how diverse and varied the universe appears, He remains unmoved, unchanged; and this is just as one would expect, since He is always One, without a second. // Though gold may be wrought into many ornaments its “gold-ness” never changes. In the same way, He never changes, though the universe contains so many varied forms. // The ripples on the surface of a pond cannot conceal the water; this universe of many forms— can it conceal His Being? (1-5) … Truly, everything is Himself, and He is the cause of everything. (8)

The condition of separation does not exist in one whose vision is clear; He remains alone, amidst all duality. To him, the perceiver and the perceived are one. (10)

It’s the one pure Consciousness that becomes everything— from the gods above to the earth below. Objects may be seen as pure or impure, but the ocean of Consciousness, ever pure, is all that ever is. (12) // … Though the shadows on the wall are ever changing, the wall itself remains steady and immobile. Likewise, the forms of the universe take shape upon the one eternal and unchanging Consciousness. (13) // Consciousness always remains in its pristine state, unmoved by feelings of sorrow or joy; even though It may suddenly become aware of Itself, Its state and Its unity remain forever undisturbed. (16) // From within Its own divine pure depths, It gives birth to the perceivable world. The perceiver, the perceived, and the act of perception: these three form the eternal triad of manifestation. // Throughout the triad of perceiver, perceived, and the act of perception, One pure and primal Consciousness enchantingly shines and sparkles alone. // Though It always has existence, It sees Itself only when this “mirror” [the triad] is present. Otherwise, there is no vision; there is only the [formless] Awareness of Itself. // Without causing any blemish in Its unity, It expresses Itself through this triad as substance; these three are the ingredients in the creation of this perceptible universe. (18-21) // … The three dissolve [ultimately] into absolute unity; then, only One exists. The three exist in the void of imagination; only Oneness is real. All else is a dream. (25)

By no means may It be understood by the intellect. It is always complete and whole…. // The pupil of an eye cannot see itself! … In the same way, even the Self-realized Yogi is helpless to see the Seer. Knowledge cannot know Itself; the Perceiver cannot perceive Itself. // Where Wisdom-Knowledge (Jñâna) is perfect and full, ignorance cannot exist at all; so how could even the desire to know Itself arise in Knowledge absolute? // Therefore, one should address It through silence by being nothing, if one would be free, all-knowing, all-pervading; for in that “nothing” all power exists. (30-3) // It is Seeing, without an object; It is Vision, clear, perfect, and free. It exists alone, without anything else; within Itself is everything—and nothing. // … It sees without any object to see. It enjoys without any object to enjoy; It is complete and whole in Itself. (35-6)

Jñânadeva says to Chângadeva: Your listening to my words is like my own hand accepting the clasp of my other hand. It is like words hearing themselves being uttered, or like taste having a taste of itself, or like a ray of light hoping to give light to other rays already bright. // It is like the attempt to improve gold by mixing it with gold, or like a perfect face becoming a mirror in order to see itself. // Our conversation, O Cakrapâni, … [is] like sweetness trying avidly to taste itself. Would its mouth not overflow with itself? So also shall our mutual love. (38-41)

A grain of salt went to fathom the ocean’s depths, but when it became immersed, where did it go? What can it do and what can it measure when it has altogether ceased to exist? // My plight is like the plight of that grain of salt; though I desire to see you, to play my role, how and where shall I find you? It is beyond my imagination to conceive! // Like one who awakes in order to encounter sleep, and misses encountering it, here I am in order to encounter you who are completely pure and free like Nothingness. // It is certain that there is no darkness in the light of the Sun, and it is just as certain that there is no awareness of “I” in the absolute Self. // Thus, when I embrace you in purity, “I” and “Thou” will swallow each other. Truly, our meeting shall take place when “I” and “Thou” are both devoured. (46-50)

… It is in this place of inner vision that we shall see the place where ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ both die. // Therefore, swallow altogether these limitations of ‘I’ and ‘Thou,’ and we shall meet, the pure harmony and joy of such a meeting we shall surely relish always. // It will be like taste eating itself for the sake of enjoying taste, or like an eye becoming a mirror in order to see itself. // … The perfect meeting with the Infinite is eternally within ourselves. // (52-4,57)

Regard yourself as a shining flame burning brightly, without name or form. (56)

Jñânadev says: You and I are one, without name or form; we are identical to the one blissful Existence in whom the blessed merge. //

O Chângaya, this knowledge has reached your door unbidden, of its own accord. Go now beyond both knowledge and what is known and reach the final state. // O Chângadev! My Guru [and older brother], Nivrittinâth, has spread this delicious feast for you with boundless, motherly, love. Please enjoy its sweetness. Thus, Jñânadev and Cakrapâni have met and merged, like two mirrors reflecting each other in the eloquent silence that is Eternity. // If anyone were to read these verses, using them as a mirror to see themselves, it’s certain they would find the pure and blissful Self of all. // Where there is nothing, what can one know? The eyes can see, but can they see themselves? How can knowledge be of use when all is oneself? To become one with the Self, surrender all the impulses of the mind. // Then you will know the ‘sleep’ beyond sleeping, the ‘awake’ which goes beyond waking.

Now this garland is at last complete, fashioned of the word-flowers which Jñânadev breathed.