The Aghori Tradition and its practices

Q: Please tell us a little about the Aghori Tradition and its practices.

Guruji: This word Aghora itself conveys the meaning of this tradition. Aghora means that which is not terrifying, that which is beautiful and honourable. So Aghori means one who is very peaceful and who behaves in the same way. It means one who is very beautiful and has no aversions or hatred of any kind towards anyone. In the Rudram Chanting, one of the verses is, “Aghorebhyo Thaghorebhyo Ghora Ghora Tharebhyaha. Sarve Bhyaha Sarva Sharve Bhyo Namaste Astu Rudra Roopebhyaha”. How is Lord Shiva? Lord Shiva is both peaceful and terrifying, and yet he delivers and uplifts everyone. ‘Shiva’ literally means One who uplifts and blesses everyone. The verse means, “O Rudra (Shiva), I bow to you. You are the most beautiful and also the most terrifying of all”. This mantra is called the Aghora Mantra.

Nature is also the same way. When water flows as a river it is so peaceful and serene, but when the same water comes as a storming flood, then it is so destructive. A waterfall is so beautiful to look at, but at the same time it is also dangerous and terrifying. This is the closest example one can give for this mantra. For example, the Jog Falls in Karnataka, it is so majestic to look at, but there is huge amount of water falling from a height of many thousand metres. It is so dangerous as well. If you look at it from afar it is so beautiful, but if one gets caught in the waterfall, they will not be able to survive the intensity of the falls.

All the five elements are like this. Take the fire element for example. Fire is so wonderful to look at when it burns like a lamp. But the same fire can be terrifying when an entire house catches fire and goes in flames. Similarly the same goes for the air element. A gentle flowing breeze of air is so nice, but when the same air takes the form of a storm or a tornado, then it can cause so much destruction.

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There is a saying in Sanskrit, ‘Durjanam Prathamam Vande Sujanam Tadanantaram’. Worship the bad person also. The bad people are ruining themselves so convey your gratitude to them – since at their cost, while falling in a pit and getting ruined – they are teaching you a lesson.

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The soul is the truth of who we are.

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Q: If the parents don’t have a Guru but children have, will that help the parents.

Guruji: Yes. The sadhana you do helps many generations.

Om Namah Shivay

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The Journey of Life-2

Past the fake, or illusory, Facebook smiles most people live through a silent despair life brings with dawn every day. As if each one of us is carrying a weight inside us. It’s not always the weight of emotions. Sometimes, you are not angry, jealous, envious or discontent and yet you are not happy either. You don’t feel okay, fulfilled or complete.

Some days you may feel that life is perfect but it’s not a long lasting feeling. Almost everyone I know longs for a somewhat different life. Something different ought to happen, we feel. This fond longing quickly turns into a kind of melancholy. Consequently, feeling that our present life is inadequate and incomplete, we increasingly harbor regrets and grudges and go on to make dumb choices hoping it would erase the sadness within. All of this springs from just one perspective, one emotion: discontentment.

Arjuna once asked Krishna, “Who is a true yogi, Lord?”

“The one who finds contentment in the present moment and knows the way of moderation is the greatest yogi.”

Krishna did not call a meditator a true yogi, he did not call his devotee a yogi. He did not say that those who follow a certain belief system or practice rituals are yogis. Instead, he just simplified it. If you are content and tranquil, you are a yogi.

It is so easy to be obsessed about a pursuit. With a self-centered attitude, our obsessions lead to a sort of blindness. You fail to see the good around you. And this in turn creates frustration which ultimately brews anger. Clearly, you can’t be at peace or think clearly when angry. In such a state, it’s impossible to shed our maniac tendencies or find contentment in the present moment.

Gau dhan gaj dhan vaaji dhan aur ratan dhan khan,

Jab aave santosh dhan, sab dhan dhoori saman. (Saint Kabir)

IAST: godhana gajadhana vajidhana, aura ratanadhana khāna,

jaba āvai saṃtoṣadhana, saba dhana dhūrī samāna.

Your possession of cows, elephants, steeds, even a whole mine of precious stones is worthless compared to the wealth of contentment.

In my view, on the journey of life, contentment is the greatest blessing. By using the word blessing, however, I’m not suggesting that some of us are born with it and some others aren’t. Or that it is bestowed upon us by some external force. By blessing, I simply mean it’s the most divine emotion you can have. When you are truly content, you are compassionate and giving naturally. You spread happiness, goodness and kindness.

Om Namah Shivay

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Four Aspects of Mindful Parenting-2

Time (Samaya)

The most important question is do you have time for parenting? Luxuries, best education, gadgets do not make up for time. Good parenting requires that you give your children time. I know it’s demanding at work and you come home tired and have no energy to even utter a word, but to make a “good parent” you have to give “good time”.

This may mean cutting down on your TV or other activities and spending more time with your child(ren). Or it could be that you curtail your professional ambitions and put your family higher on the priority list. A family doesn’t need to be in a million-dollar home to be happy. You don’t have to take out that big mortgage or have a premium car. Millions of people communicate comfortably without an iPhone. You get the idea.

It’s not just true for parenting but everything. Whatever you want to nurture, you have to devote it time. Give time to angry thoughts and anger grows. Give your time to loving thoughts and love grows and so on. Want to learn anything, give it time.

Friendship (Maitri)

Ordinarily, maitri is referred to as loving-kindness. Its literal meaning is friendship. Anything coming from or given by a friend or even belonging to a friend is maitri. With friends, we can pour our heart out without being judged. If your children can come home and share their pains and sorrows without the fear of reprisal or penalties, the tree of friendship will take deep roots.

And, it’s true not just for a parent-child but all relationships. Friendship is the fuel. Lack of maitri, where two people are more focused on keeping things from each other than sharing them, gives rise to permanent undercurrents of tension and discomfort. As I have written many a time earlier that being a friend doesn’t mean you always say yes. On the contrary, it means to be able to say No in a positive way. It is to disagree while maintaining a healthy relationship. It is not as hard as it may sound in a sincere relationship.

Joy (Mudita)

Mudita is a simple word with a straightforward meaning: joy. Even if you have compassion and you are devoting time to parenting and there’s a degree of friendship but your relationship lacks joy, it’ll get very difficult very quickly. The joy of celebrating victories, the joy of having a family, the joy of laughing away at the pranks of life. The heart to live through failures. The courage to forgive and seek forgiveness. A sort of openness and honesty allows you to be comfortable with those around you.

If most conversations with your kids revolve around lecturing them, however soft or positive you may sound, even as friends, joy in your relationship with them will evaporate in no time. They’ll start avoiding you. Most parents have this strong tendency to keep showering advice on their children. Of course, it’s done with the right intention but would you feel joyous being with a “friendly” boss who keeps telling you how to become better? Sometimes, no advice is the best advice.

 

Om Namah Shivay

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The S’rîmad Devî Bhâgawatam-The First Book-Chapter 4-11

THE FIRST BOOK

Chapter IV

On the excellency of the Devî

  1. 11

38-43. Oh! Who is there in this world that is not freed from this terror of Kali, after he has heard this Bhâgavata. Even if the greatest sinner, void of the right ways of living and Achara as ordained in the Vedas, hears on a pretence this excellent Devî Bhâgavata, the chief of the Purânas, he enjoys all the great enjoyments of this world and in the end attains the eternal place occupied by the Yogis. She who is rare, in Her Nirguna aspect, to even Hari and Hara, who is very dear as Tattva Vidya to the Jñanins whose real nature can be realised only in Samâdhi, She resides always in the cavity of the heart of the hearers of the Bhâgavata Purâna. He who getting the all qualified human birth and getting the reciter of this Purâna, the boat to cross, as it were, this world, does not hear this blissful Purâna, he is certainly deprived by the Creator. How is it that the way-ward dull-headed persons, getting the vicious ears, can hear always the faults and calumnies of others, that are entirely useless, and cannot hear this pure Purâna that contains the four Vargas :– Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Mokhsa?

 This is my main point of doubt. O One of good vows! I am Thy devotee; be merciful to me and speak this to me. There is almost nothing that is secret to Mahâpurusas; this is a well-known fact”.

44-50. Thus hearing Brahmâ’s words, Bhagavan Nârâyana spoke :– “O Brahmân! I now speak out my mind to you; listen carefully. Though the Devas, Dânavas and men and all the Lokas know that You are the Creator, I am the Preserver and Rudra is the Destroyer, yet it is to be known that the saints, versed in the Vedas, have come to this conclusion by inference from the Vedas that the creation, preservation, and destruction are performed by the creative force, preservative force and destructive force. The Rajasik creative force residing in you, the  Sattvik preservative force residing in me, and the Tamasik destructive force residing in Rudra are the all-in-all. When these Saktis become absent, you become inert and incapable to create, I to preserve and Rudra to destroy.

O intelligent Suvrata! We all are always under that Force directly or indirectly; hear instances that you can see and infer. At the time of Pralaya, I lie down on the bed of Ananta, subservient to that Force; again I wake up in the time of creation duly under the influence of Time.

Om Namah Shivay

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The S’rîmad Devî Bhâgawatam-The First Book-Chapter 4-10

THE FIRST BOOK

Chapter IV

On the excellency of the Devî

31-37. Sûta said :– Thus questioned by Krisna Dvaipâyan Veda Vyâsa, the high souled Nârada Muni, well versed in the Vedas, became very glad and spoke thus :– O highly fortunate Parâs’arâ’s son. The question that you have asked me to-day was formerly asked by my father to Nârâyana. At this, Nârâyana Vasudeva, the Deva of the Devas, the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the Universe, the husband of Laksmî, the four armed, wearing yellow garment, holding conchshell, discus, club and with the mark S’rîvatsa (a mark or curl of hair on the heart of Visnu) adorning His breast and decorated with  Kaustuvagem, the Divinity Himself, became merged in great Yoga; at this my Father became greatly surprised and said :– “O Janârdana! Thou art the Deva of the Devas; the Lord of the Present, the Past and the Future, the Lord of this Universe; why art thou meditating in Yoga? And what is it that Thou art meditating? O best of the Devas! Thou art the Lord of the entire Universe and yet Thou art now merged in deep meditation. At this I am greatly surprised (my surprise is not without foundation; Thou canst Thyself see). What more wonderful than this can happen?

 38-43. O Lord of Rama! I am sprung from the lotus from thy navel and have become the Lord of this whole universe; who is there in this universe that is superior to Thee; kindly say this to me. O Lord of the world? Thou art the Origin of all, the Cause of all causes, the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer and the capable Doer of all actions. O Maharaja! at Thy will, I create this whole universe and Rudra destroys it due time this world. He is always under Thy command. O Lord! By Thy command the Sun roams in the sky; the wind blows in various auspicious or inauspicious ways and the fire is giving heat and the cloud showers rain. I don’t see in the three Lokas any one superior to Thee. Then whom art Thou meditating while being questioned by his very intelligent son S’uka Deva! not born in the usual way from womb, Dvaipâyana expounded all the secret excellent meanings of the Purâna and thereby I also came to know them also. O saintly persons! Thus S’uka Deva, sincerely earnest to cross this endless bottomless ocean of S’amsara, tasted of the wonderful traits of the Veda, the Kalpa tree, this S’rimad Bhâgavata with its numerous stories and anecdotes with great eagerness and intense pleasure.

Om Namah Shivay

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Four Aspects of Mindful Parenting-1

There’s a term often used in Vedic writings. They call it brahmachari. It’s frequently, and limitedly, interpreted as celibacy. Its true meaning, however, has little to do with abstinence. Brahmachari means the one who acts (acharna) like a divine being (brahma). To this effect, Buddhist texts call such a person Brahma vihari — the one whose conduct is noble and divine. There are four aspects of such a person. You inculcate these four and any relationship becomes divine. When it comes to love and parenting, in my view, there’s a fifth element as well.

Continuing from last week, where I covered the first one — compassion (karuna) — let me spell out the remaining four beginning with the most important one. As has become our wont, sort of, let me share a quick story first.

A contract worker had to do double shift at work. He came home knackered and irritated (you know that feeling).

“Dad,” his 6-year-old son said, “how much do you make an hour?”

“Not now, son,” he said. “Besides, you should know that it’s a rude question.”

“But, I just wanna know!”

“What the hell!” the man hollered. “Your tired father comes home and rather than giving me a hug you ask me a dumb question.”

“But, I want to buy something urgently,” the boy persisted.

“You selfish little weed!” The father lost it completely. “Get lost!”

“But—”

“No arguments! Get back to your room.”

The boy stood there with his head hung low. His eyes welled up and a tear trickled down.

“Go to your room, I said! Now!”

The son quietly walked back to his room and shut the door behind him.

At night, after the father had had his dinner and calmed down, he went to the little boy.

“I’m sorry, son,” he said. “I was very tired and I don’t know what came over me. What do you want to buy?”

“First tell me how much you make,” the boy said timidly.

“$20 an hour.”

Reaching under his pillow, he pulled out some money. Crumpled $1 bills, some nickels and dimes he had been saving for weeks.

“Here’s $10, Dad,” he said putting the money in his hands. “Will you play with me for 30 minutes?”

The father’s enraged reaction to the first question might seem unreasonable but that’s what anger is: unreasonable. In hindsight, after you’ve calmed down, you see how it was excessive or unjust but while going through the emotion, it feels right. Anyway, I haven’t cited this story to highlight anger but for an entirely different reason which leads me to the first principle of parenting.

Om Namah Shivay

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The Journey of Life-1

The other day I chanced upon a beautiful poem by Corey Mohler illustrated on his website. Although it was titled Two Brothers, it could have been easily called The Truth of Human Existence. I found the poem so profound that for a moment, I even contemplated on just sharing it as my post today sans all the commentary or my own thoughts. Without further ado, here it is:

Two sons were born beneath the old tree.

They grew together, both loved and free.

They travelled the fields, they roamed the hill.

They crossed the river, explored the mill.

They fought with dragons and giants tall.

Mighty warriors—they conquered all.

At each day’s end, they slept safe at night.

A loving father tucked them in at night.

The father aged and then he died.

The eldest wept and the youngest cried.

The farm, of course, would be run alone.

So the youngest left, to find his own.

They looked into each other’s eyes.

Beneath the old tree, they said goodbyes.

The eldest tilled fields, beneath the sun.

With his sweat and work, the farm was run.

A wife soon came to his warm, safe home.

He was always loved, but would not roam.

Each day, he dreamt of his brother free.

Always regretting that it was not he.

Years flew by, at last they met again.

Beneath the old tree stood two old men.

He told his brother of farming life:

No adventures — only work and strife.

Oh, how he dreamt of the open road

And how he felt trapped in his abode.

The brother told of the life he led,

Of the long and weary road, he said:

Many lonely nights in driving rain,

It was a single thought that kept me sane.

That my brother was home, safe and warm.

A loving home, far from rain and storm.

Hard work I could stand, but this I swear:

The days alone were too much to bear.

His heart grew sad as he bowed his head,

And to his brother, the elder said:

What a tragic tale then, for us two:

That you had not my place, and I you.

His brother sighed, then smiled wide,

Thought for a moment, before he replied:

You’ve missed the point of this little tale.

For I’ll tell you, brother, without fail:

Whoever would roam, whoever would stay,

We both would regret it, either way.

(Do visit Corey Mohler’s Existential Comics if you wish to see the poem depicted as beautifully as its words are.)

Om Namah Shivay

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