Ratha Saptami – Light & Enlightenment

ॐ आदित्याय विदमहे दिवाकराय धीमहि तन्नो सूर्यः प्रचोदयत।
Om Adityaya Vidmahe
Diwakaraya Dheemahi
Tanno Surya Prachodayat

In a culture that reveres, celebrates and worship every aspect of creation, Ratha Saptami is an important day. It is observed on the Saptami Tithi (Seventh Day) of Shukla Paksha (Waxing phase of the moon) in the month of Magha (11th month of the Hindu Calendar). It is also called Magha Saptami, Surya Jayanti, Achala Saptami, Arogya Saptami and so on and is dedicated to worship of the Sun – it is believed that Chariot of the Sun is closest to the earth on this day.

Bhagwan Surya is considered the Pratyaksha Devata – Visible God. He is Apauresheya (which means not of Human) and was born to Rishi Kashyapa and Aditi on this day and hence the day also is often called Surya Jayanti.

Bhagawan Surya on His Rath, Charioteered by Half-Brother Aruna

It is on this day that Bhagwan Surya changes direction His Chariot to North-easterly direction and provides life giving and sustaining energy to all creations. He also nourishes and ensures good health. His charioteer is half Brother Aruna and there are interesting aspects to the Chariot itself. It is drawn by 7 horses. According to various beliefs Seven Horses represents Seven Adharmic acts (loosely translated as Sins) or Seven Colors of Rainbow (or components of white Light as modern science discovers much later) or Seven Days of the Week (Vasaras) The Chariot has 12 Wheels to represent Twelve signs of Zodiac or 12 months. Worship of Bhagwan Surya thus ensures mastery or control over all these aspects and help us lead a happy, contented or in other words, Dharmic life. It is on this day that there is a symbolic transition of season (currently 7th day of Shishira) towards Vasanta Ritu which starts on the day of Ugadi.

Navagrahas with Bhagwan Surya in the Centre

Being central to all the Life forces required for creation He is depicted as the central figure among the Navagrahas which also goes on to prove that our ancient Rishis were well aware that all planets revolve around the Sun and also that the number of planets are Nine (though in Hindu belief system, two of them, Rahu and Ketu are Shadow planets )

How is the day Observed

Devotees wake up before sunrise and finish their ablutions and have a ritualistic bath with Arka Leaves (see picture) placed on 7 parts of our body along with Akshate (Rice and Turmeric). 1 leaf on the head, 2 on the shoulders, 2 on the knees and 2 on the feet. In some families, the practice is for Men to bathe without Turmeric (only Arka leaves and Rice). It is also significant to know that Arka also means Sun Rays.

Arka Leaves (Calotropis porcera)

After ritualistic bath, it is time for Arghya pradhana to Sun. Offering water from the Kalasha facing the Sun chanting the following mantra

Namah Suryaya Shantaya Sarvaroga Nivaarine 
Ayu rarogya maisvairyam dehi devah jagatpate

I bow to you Bhagwan Surya, the ruler of the Universe, the one whose energy that is curative, Bless us with long life, good health and prosperity

After offering Arghya, light a lamp and agarbati (incense sticks), offer flowers (red colored one), and perform Karpoor (Camphor) Arathi.

Other Gayatris and mantras for Surya

Om Bhaskaray Vidmahe
Mahadutyathikaraya Dheemahi
Tanno Surya Prachodayat

Om Bhagwan Surya I meditate upon you, The one who showers the Universe with light and remove darkness and Seek your eternal blessings

Om Sapt Turagay Vidhmahe
Sahasra Kirnay Dheemahi
Tanno Ravi Prachodyat

I meditate upon you, The one who rides a Seven Horsed Chariot, the one who blesses the earth with thousands of rays and seek your eternal blessings

After the above prayers, we perform Sun Salutations or now popular Surya Namaskar. It is interesting to note that Surya Namaskar is also 12 postured asanas performed in smooth transition and performed under early morning rays of the sun, which is proven to have great benefits to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being of humans.

The ritual ends with Chanting Shri Suryashtakam (This is from Samba Puranam and recited by Samba, son of Lord Sri Krishna and Jambavati and as name indicates, it consists of 8 paragraphs of texts). Sharing link to a You Tube link available at the time of writing this with Kannada Lyrics

MAY BHAGWAN SURYA DESTROY ALL PLANETARY DOSHAS, MAY THE CHILDLESS BE BLESSED WITH HEALTHY PROGENY AND POOR BE BLESSED WITH ABUNDANT WEALTH
RATHA SAPTAMI GREETINGS TO ALL

#AOLShivaratri – Celebrations in Art of Living Ashram

On 17th February 2015, a huge ensemble of Devotees descended on The Art of Living International Ashram to celebrate the Maha Shivaratri in the Presence of Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji.

It began with a ceremonial procession of the Grama Devata (with Utsava Murthy) and installation of the same at the Puja Sthala.

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It was a sea of humanity at The Art of Living International Centre, gathered in a scale bigger than ever before. It drew devotees from 61 countries. The live webcast had more than 20,000 viewers connected via 6ooo connections with footprints of 104 countries.

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Starting with a blissful meditation, it was time for the highlight of the evening, the auspicious Maha Rudrabhishekam, performed by Sri Sri. While the atmosphere was filled with the sacred chants, the diverse gathering meditated for the well-being of humanity. This was followed by an evening of music, meditation and wisdom.

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With the Rudram chants of young pandits reverberating in the entire place, it was a perfect setting for an evening to soak in bliss, evening for Bhajans, evening for delving deeper into the self.

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On the significance of Shivratri, Sri Sri said, “One of the factors that affect the mind and its moods is time. Our individual minds follow the rhythm in Nature. For example, the sunrise has a different feeling associated with it than sunset. In the same way, certain days are more conducive for spiritual practice.”

On Shivaratri, the matter and consciousness unite. The subtle and gross worlds come together. And that is the celebration. Shiva is everywhere; there is no place where Shiva is not there. There is not even an atom where Shiva is not there.

When we violate the laws of nature, that is when disturbance and anger happens in nature. All the floods, forest fires, calamities are nothing but the anger of the nature. Nature’s fury. And nature’s fury can only be calmed by the transcendental divine consciousnesses, that is Shiva. Shiva alone can calm down the fury of the nature.

Three types of disturbance are counted: soul, mind, and nature. These disturbances manifest as droughts, earthquakes, floods, and calamities of nature. At another level, these disturbances manifest as restlessness within and lack of direction. When you are in such a situation in life, there is no peace inside and there is no happiness or joy.

Shivaratri is the night when we pray for us to be free from all types of misery: physical, mental, emotional, social, and natural calamities. And bestow peace and wisdom to everyone. Namah means the mind coming back to its center. Manah means the mind going outward. Namah is the opposite. Going back to the origin. The secrets of nature are hidden. Now, we now wifi. But the secret of wifi was there from long time, but it was hidden. It is the blessing of divine that science is developing.

That is what the Vedas say, through your blessing that science gets manifested. Secrets of nature are revealed. Mantras means the secrets in the nature. Shiva is within the mantras. Shiva, you are hidden within the mantras, where no one can reach. And you are the source of all thoughts, positive or negative thoughts that rise in me. You protect us. Kaksha also means the unfathomable universe, which nobody can reach. The secrets of that universe only you can reveal to us.

With this prayer, we pray with our heart and soul for peace in the world, society, happiness in the individual, progress of knowledge and society. Yagyas are done using the five elements from thousands of years. Shivaratri, we perform this yagya from morning to the early hours of the next morning. This morning also we had a pooja.

Divine accepts you however you are. That is why we offer flowers, thorns, leaves in the pooja to signify that God accepts you the way you are.

If you are a fruit or flower, whatever stage of evolution you are (at), the one consciousness accepts you. And that is truth and that is beauty. The synonyms of Shiva are truth and beauty.
Benevolence, truth, and beauty are inseparable.

Know that god accepts you and rest deeply. This is meditation. When you come out of meditation, then work with determination. This is the meaning of Rudra.

Our body is the bow and the mind is the arrow of this bow. The arrow should hit the aim: the eternal consciousness (parama tattva). Our mind should be centered on reaching this goal, then the purpose of this body is fulfilled.

Today is the celebration of nature rejoicing the presence of benevolence, truth, and beauty.

Everyone is enjoying? Thousands of us here and many people have joined us on webcast. All of us collectively when we meditate, we create an electrifying field which will eliminate all negativities and uplift human spirit. Very nice.

Shiva means the most beautiful. Aghora is a word for Shiva, which means most beautiful.

ViruPaksha means there is no form, but there are eyes. Even when you close your eyes, you can still see. Everyone has this third eye, which sees. Not just one, but thousands of eyes. Eyes everywhere.

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He further added, ” Shivaratri is one of the most significant days to meditate and come in touch with the deepest aspect of our consciousness. It is associated with India but the phenomenon is universal and that is why so many people from all over the world come here to experience it.”

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Lord Shiva is one whose worship is simplest of all – He accepts flowers or thorns, leaves or stalks. He is calmness personified as also fierce in His form. Truth, Benevolence and Beauty (Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram) is His personification – attributes that are inseparable. By honoring the truth, appreciating the beauty and worshiping Shiva tattva is the easiest route to elevation of one’s life. Lord Shiva accepts you as you are – knowing this and going withing is Definition. Moving from state of “This should be” & “That shouldn’t be” towards “Let It Be”! Accepting what is as it is… is the Mantra for Bliss.

The Bhajans as always was enchanting and elevating the positive atmosphere – obviously with  Dr Manikantan-ji, Dr Nisha Manikantan-ji, Srinivas-ji, Shalini-ji, Chitra Roy-ji and others.

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Enthusiasts from all over India and abroad – Argentina, China, Brazil, Oman, Kuwait, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Russia, Taiwan were a part of the festivities.

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All in all – A Blissful Shivratri!!!

|Om Namah Shivaya|

Enjoy 6 Collages of my collection of Pictures

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Click here for complete collection of my photographs (uploaded on Facebook)

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True Mantra

Couldn’t avoid reacting (though my Master Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living says it is a bad habit in the spiritual path) to a few characters for no rhyme and reasons keep harping on some stupid problem of theirs on another of my favourite discussion forum and a spiritual community. It is said some people have simply decided to revel and enjoy being miserable and here is one person who fits this example to the “T”. As a timely reconfirmation and the reasons why I should recover and move on I received a nice story which I am posting here for the sake of retaining it for posterity. A story with loads of hidden and obvious messages equally applicable to both proponents and skeptics. Here we go…

Once there was a king who was very fond of flowers. He had bought a lot of expensive pots with beautiful & fragrant flowers. He had them arranged in the courtyard just next to his bedroom & hired a person to take proper care of them.

Once that fellow broke one pot by mistake while arranging them. The king became furious to hear about this. He was a cruel & senseless king. He sentenced his servant to death for this pity mistake. He was ordered to be hanged after two months. The king’s minister pleaded mercy for the poor fellow but he did not listen. To find death inevitable, the poor servant started praying to God.

 

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Meawhile the king declared a reward for anyone who could repair the broken pot & make it exactly same as it used to be. Many people came & tried their luck but in vain.

How could a broken pot be repaired exactly like before? How could any doctor bring back life to a dead person? This mortal human body also is irrepairable. Even if a surgeon tries his best to put back the broken parts, it can never be the same; there is always some imperfection remaining. Similarly a kite when torn apart can never be made to look like before even if one applies all kind of glues. How could anyone ever do this?

The servant on the other hand was counting his days. He would every now & then pray to God to somehow make king’s mind change so that his life is spared.

A month passed by like this. Then a saint visited that city. He heard about this reward which the king had declared for anyone who could repair the broken flower pot. He also learnt about the death sentence given to the poor servant who broke it.

That saintly person went to the king’s court & said “I take the responsibilty of joining back your broken pot. Show it to me” The king took the saint to his palace where all the flower pots were kept. The saint looked deeply at the broken pot. He also looked at all the other two dozen unbroken pots. He passed a divine smile towards the king. Then he asked for a stick. The servant brought him one. As soon as he got it, he started breaking all other flower pots. For sometime, the king totally confused at this scene kept wondering what is this way of repairing. May be this saintly person knows some new method. Then he looked at the saint who was standing fearlessly after having broken all the pots. He yelled “O saint! what have you done?”

The saint replied “I saved the life of two dozen poor people who at some point in time would have broken these pots.”

The king became furious & ordered that the saint be trampled under the feet of an elephant. The saint was a spiritually enlightened person. He had deeply experienced the teachings of the Vedas. He believed firmly in the universality of the soul & its oneness with GOD. He knew that the physical body is bound to be destroyed someday while the inner soul can never ever die. He’d never get frightened by even the worst of the worst situations since he was beyound death & birth.

An elephant was brought in front of him. The saint peacefully lied down on the ground & meditating on “So..hum.. Shivo..hum” (I am That.. I am Shiva ..The supreme lord) “Supreme Lord is prevalent all around. The elephant is also the supreme lord & so is its master. The king who ordered this execution is also the supreme lord & the one lying down on the ground is also the same supreme lord.” “The lord itself is playing with its own various forms. So..hum” “The minister standing in the corner is also the dear lord & the soldier holding a sword in the hand is also the same lord. The whole public watching this is also the supreme lord having taken various forms from tiny kids to veiled women.”

The blissful saint continued meditating like this visualizing the presence of supreme lord in every body around him. The master of the elephant whipped it hard but the elephant simply refused to go near the saint. Another elephant was brought in. But he also stopped within two feet of the meditating saint. His master also tried hard but in vain. The king finally gave up & asked the saint “Do you know any kind of mantra which brings every elephant under your control?” The saint smiled & said ” I do not know any mantra to control an elephant but I do know the mantra to control the self. I know the mantra of love”

No matter how bad one may think of you or make plans to hurt you, but if you do not think bad about him, then nothing in the world has the power to do bad to you. He may keep cursing you in his heart but he will never be able to do bad to you.

The saint said: “Oh King! When I lay straight then thinking about the Dear God in the elephant, you & me, I started loving Him & thought of good things to happen to the elephant. I thought of welfare of the elephant & you.

If I would have thought bad for you, then your bad qualities could have become powerful. If I would have felt jealous of you, then jealousy could have become powerful inside you. If I would have felt hatred for you, then hatred could have become powerful inside you. But friend! why should I pollute my heart by having hatred & jealousy for you?

I have got over ignorance by the grace of my Guruji. That is why the elephant could not hurt me even when it was pecked to do so again & again. If the destiny of the body would have been to die in this way, then nobody could have stopped the death. In that case even if you were protecting this body, it would not have lived longer. If destiny did not have this kind of death, then how does it matter if ten kings like you get annoyed! What harm can anybody do? Even if you get pleased how does it matter! I’ve done the work that I intended to do.

This body can die any second. It cannot become immortal. When this body is mortal then how can the pots become immortal. These will get destroyed & will vanish one day. The plant shall also die. You are taking the life of a servant for a plant which will anyway die soon. Therefore using the stick I broke all pots to give you a lesson that these are mortal objects. Do not ruin the kindness of your heart by having attraction for these immortal things.”

The king was highly influenced by the words of the saint. He came down his throne & begged for forgiveness. He cancelled the death sentence on the servant. Then he took “Guru Mantra” from the saint & set his journey on the road to God.

PS: The picture above is of His Holiness Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji in one of those playful moments with Maheshwara, the Ashram Elephant