Goddess Kali: The One beyond thought

Kali, the Goddess with the shine of a blue lotus, is the Energy of Shiva. She is the form of Brahman for which birth, aging, death, and regeneration – are merely dance steps.

If I got this right, the Yoga Vasishtha holds that the universe in Kali’s body resembles a reflection in a mirror; it is illusory and yet true for the one who believes it to be true. If this sounds too complicated, we can reread it in even simpler words: “Kali is everything.” To memorize this should be easy but to understand its depth may again take most of us more than a lifetime and a darshan, like the one Ramakrishna Paramhansa experienced.

Luckily, for the common person, there is even a simpler option: to admit that we know nothing about Her. In line with this feel, many devotees standing in front of Her idol are often heard saying, “Mother, we do not understand much, but we are in Your refuge. Could you please take care of us?” The good part about this popular feel is its honesty, for admitting our inability to know Her may be, at times, much closer to Brahman than believing that we in the process of understanding the Great Illusion. No matter which approach we choose to worship Her, the intellectual or the emotional, it is important to be true, especially when we are communicating with Someone beyond thought…and time.

Diwali Special: Making our wish list

Tomorrow is Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrated on the Amavasya of the lunar month Kartika. In the midst of all the lighting, fireworks, get-togethers, and the distribution of sweets, Lakshmi-puja will be the chief event of the evening. Whether we offer flowers, sweets, food, incense or light, some wishes may be present in our minds as we remember the Goddess on this occasion. While we can always make minor changes to our wish list later, what we pray for may sum up all the hopes we have accumulated for the coming New Year.

Just as a reminder, our wish list does not have to be entirely focused on stuff money can buy. How about including some instincts for goodness, some knowledge, some truthful fellow beings to interact with, some love in life, and some desires for ‘letting go’? And remember, She can always bestow upon us the most precious gift that exists: firm faith in Her spouse, Lord Vishnu.

However, if you opt for material wishes alone, don’t forget to get auspiciousness (read righteousness) linked with them. Vedic Astrology can also throw some insight on which areas of life have been traditionally linked with Goddess Lakshmi. Contrary to what one may expect, the areas associated with Lakshmi in the horoscope are not the artha houses, signifying wealth, employment and profession, but the dharma houses (fifth and ninth) which stand for areas like intellect, creativity, expression, luck, planning, higher learning and spirituality. Along these lines, from this day, we can make a resolution to label all sattvic inspirations in our life as ‘luck’. Starting the puja with remembrance of Lord Ganesha may ensure that the right words flow from our mind and mouth as we put our wish list before the Mother on the most auspicious Hindu festival.

Happy Diwali !

Lord Shiva: The Benevolent One

In his Vinay Patrika, Tulasidasa eulogizes Lord Shiva, the Lord of all, in a very distinctive tone. Basically, Lord Brahma, who authors everyone’s destiny, visits Shiva’s abode and offers his resignation to Goddess Parvati. He complaints that Shiva keeps playing with the karmic law to bestow boons upon His devotees. As a result of Shiva’s habit to grant, Brahma believes that he is forced to create heavens for individuals whose destiny does not allow delight for even a moment. Because Brahma cannot take it any more, he concludes, “Could you please authorize someone else to write destiny? I would rather live by alms.”

The unparalleled kindness of Lord Shiva is reiterated everywhere in the Epics and Puranas. In the Ramayana, in spite being Lord Rama’s Personal God and devotee as well, He grants boons to Ravana, who symbolizes evil. In the Mahabharata, while showering His love on Arjuna, who is struggling for being righteous, He does offer a boon to Jayadratha that is responsible for the demise of Arjuna’s son in the war. Numerous mythological events of this category echo why fathering the universe is difficult. Just because some of His kids could not turn out to be righteous, Shiva does not entirely turn down their prayers. Nonetheless, He always ensures the eventual victory of dharma through His manifestation as Vishnu.

Vedic Musical Instruments: A Gift from God

The string instrument veena, the primordial percussion instrument damaru, and the wind instrument flute form a special trinity among Indian musical instruments. These instruments can be categorized as divinity’s choice as far as Hindu culture is concerned, for they are played to create the three components of music – melody, rhythm, and expression – by an ensemble of divine instrumentalists. The veena of Goddess Sarasvati creates the vedic musical notes (swara), the damaru of Lord Shiva ties everything together with rhythm (tala), and the flute of Lord Krishna is the source of expression and mesmerization. It is believed that Lord Shiva’s child, Lord Ganesha, is the maestro of mridang, an offspring of the damaru, but we may choose not to count this evolved form of the damaru separately.

Influenced by this symbology, followers believe that God adores musical sounds and they should offer vibrations from musical instruments in temples as a part of their devotion. In this context, Hindu scriptures have given a preference to some instruments over others. For example, the Skanda Purana tells us that besides the sound of Pranava (Omkar), the sounds of the bell (ghanta), the mridang, and the conch (shankh) are the favorite of Lord Vishnu. Today, while the sitar and the tabla have replaced the veena and the mridang to a considerable extent, particularly in North India, music from the newest instruments continues to be offered to God by professional musicians of all faiths.

Incarnations of Vishnu: The astrological connection

In the opening chapter of his classic Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, Sage Parashara, the founder of Vedic Astrology, declares that out of the ten incarnations of Vishnu, only four, namely Rama, Krishna, Varaha, and Narasimha, fully possess paramatma-tattva. Other incarnations, according to the book, possess fragments of jiva-tattva as well. In the language of contemporary Vaishnavism, the statement means that each of these four forms of the Lord fully represents the Supreme Person Narayana – the Absolute who is omnipresent, but transcends the universe.

We can find backing for this categorization of incarnations from Indian mythology as well. Varaha, Narasimha, Rama, and Krishna were responsible for annihilating evils in the form of Hiranyaksha, Hiranyakashipu, Ravana and Kumbhakarna, and Shishupala and Dantavakra, respectively. These forms of evil, according to a story in the Srimad Bhagavat Purana, were all rebirths of Jaya and Vijaya, Vishnu’s gatekeepers, who were born three times on earth with inherent demonic qualities to pacify a curse. Because complete eradication of evil may be difficult for a possessor of jiva-tattva, which is characterized by the presence of ignorance, only paramatma could have accomplished the task.

While matching energies of astrological planets with that of Vishnu’s incarnations, Parashara relates Rama and Krishna to the luminaries, sun and moon, respectively, giving them another advantage in astrological symbology which speaks out for itself. The divinity of Rama and Krishna, which resides in the hearts of believers, does not need astrological reinforcement, but it is worthwhile to observe how all Vedic subjects were intricately connected to underline the deeper reach of traditional knowledge.

Edited on April 18, 2019.

Agriculture in India: Role of an Incarnation

After Lord Krishna and His brother, Balarama, concluded their divine play on earth, things were a little different for India. The country had become an agricultural land that could value cattle and milk products. Krishna had honored cowherds by getting Himself nurtured by them, by spending His childhood with them, and by opting to be called “Gopal” by many. He had demonstrated His love for fruits by swallowing an uncooked banana peel, though it was mixed with selfless love of His devotees, Vidura and his wife.

Promotion of dairy products and implementation of technology in agriculture may have been part of Krishna’s plan to “establish dharma” on this planet. Dharma for an incarnation involves a lot more than we can imagine: it may include employment, food, and health for a majority of beings for ages to come. In the context of spiritual significance, cereals and dairy products make entries on Krishna’s list of sattva-natured eatables, which guide our instincts towards righteousness. They are offered to Krishna (and His other forms) with the belief that they are preferred by divinity. The trends He set up in agriculture have become permanent imprints on the Indian psyche.

Edited on July 27, 2013. Clarification: Balarama is known as Haladhara because he carried and probably promoted the use of the plough. He did not discover the instrument; Indians knew it even prior to his appearance on Earth.

%d bloggers like this: