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Kashi Vishwanatha ~ Swami Chinmayananda

KASHI VISHWANATHA represents the Infinite Reality behind the entire universe of names and forms. Every name and form rises in Him, exists in Him and ultimately disappears into Him. The Sole Ground upon which the projected world of all minds exist and play out, famous in the Vedas as Brahman, is none other than Sri KASHI VISHWANATHA. The ever-present Self, by whose grace alone all activities of perception, feeling and thinking are made possible is KASHI VISHWANATHA. 

Devotion to KASHI VISHWANATHA is the MEANS, the way, to awake into the Supreme State of Pure Awareness; and the Viswanatha-State of Consciousness is the GOAL, the final destination.

KASHI VISHWANATHA as a “sacred symbol” is worshipped so that the wandering mind of the devotee, with the force of his devotion becomes quietened and comes to rest at the Altar of his devotion. The beloved Lord Viswanatha alone is the sole refuge. Seek the Lord and surrender totally unto Him – “O! Mind, seek the feet of Lord Mahadeva. Drink deep the honeyed sweetness of the memory of the fragrance of those lotus feet of the Lord and get intoxicated in its blissful fervour!” 

“Oh Lord! Thou art Ever-Full within and without. Thou art an ocean of kindness and mercy. Thou art the only one who can lift us up from this illusory world of names and forms. Thou art ever shining in Thy self-effulgent glory in the lotus of our heart like the ever-brilliant Sun. Only by realising Thee, as the very nature of the Supreme Self within, by transcending the body, mind and intellect, one can attain true Liberation, and remain ever in True Shanti.” 

“The final goal of all meditations, the blissful Self, is KASHI VISHWANATHA. May His auspicious form ever rise in our heart!”

Hara Hara Mahadev! Gange Hara Hara !

(Source : Sri Soumyakasheesha Stotra by Sri Swami Tapovanam. Commentary by Swami Chinmayananda.)

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Bhasmasura : The Intellect!

Vrukasura undertook intense tapas to propitiate Lord Shiva. Pleased with his austerity, the Lord appeared before him and asked him what he wanted. Vrukasura asked for the boon of “fire-touch” — anything that he lays his hand on should gets burnt! Lord Shiva granted him the boon, because of which he became known as BHASMASURA. The asura decided to test the efficacy of the boon and proceeded to place his outstretched hand on Lord Shiva’s head. Knowing the unfailing power of his boon, Shiva started running with Bhasmasura following him. Sankara reached Vaikunta. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Lord Vishnu with the help of his Yoga-maya assumed the form of a young brahmachari and appeared before Vrukasura. With the power of his speech and art of communication, Lord Vishnu convinced Bhasmasura to place his hand on his own head. Overwhelmed by the Lord’s Maya, the asura followed the Lord’s advice and placed his hand on his own head and reduced himself to ash (bhasma).

Significance: Bhasmasura represents the human INTELLECT. The extroverted, out-going, objective-knowledge seeking INTELLECT seeks, searches, analysis, probes, investigates the entire outer world of things and beings. And whatever it is trying to understand it can do so only by studying it in “parts”. The WHOLE is investigated and understood by studying it in PARTS — hence the intellect breaks, dissects, divides, differentiates……

This intellect, very efficient in dissecting, analysing and studying the WHOLE problem through PARTS, now wants to “know and realize” Shiva-tattva – the very “power” that lends dynamism to the intellect to function. The more the intellect tries to reach out to the Shiva-tattva, the more IT seems to move away from the intellect. This is represented by Bhasmasura with outstretched hands running behind Lord Shiva. Lord Vishnu as the brahmachari represents the Guru, the embodiment of spiritual knowledge, who comes into the seeker’s life and advises him to turn inward – represented by the hand moving not outward but towards oneself. This represents inner contemplation.

The intellect is transcended at that point and the seeker realises intuitively that what he was searching for outside – the Shiva-tattva – is he himself. In the ‘”white heat of meditation”, in the “fire of knowledge” invoked within himself, the whole world of plurality dissolves away. When anything is burnt, bhasma (ash) is the residue. What is left behind after transcending the intellect is the One Undifferentiated, Undivided, Pure Shiva-tattva — the Absolute Existence which lends existence to the entire world of things and beings! This is Mukti, Enlightenment — the real and true Glory (Vibhuti) of a Man of Realization!

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Nandanar: Devotee for whose sake Nandi moved!

Nandanar was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He is considered as one among the 63 Nayanars (Shaivite Saints). Nandanar belonged to a small village known as Adhanur in Tamilnadu. He belonged to the community that made percussion instruments and in those days they were looked down by the upper community. After his daily work, he would spent most of his time singing the glories of the Lord.

Nandanar once visited Lord Shiva’s temple at Thiruppunkoor. Since he was not allowed to enter the temple, he stood outside and prayed fervently to the Lord. He longed to have darshan of the Lord from far, but the huge Nandi was right in front of the Lord and was obstructing his view. Nandanar prayed to Nandi to move a little so that he can have a glimpse of the Lord. His prayers were answered and Nandi moved a little so that Nandanar could have the darshan of Lord Shiva! Even to this day, Nandi is tilted slightly to one side in this temple!

Nandanar cherished a deep desire to go to Chidambaram and have the darshan of Lord Nataraja. Every day people would ask him when he planned to visit Chidambaram. But the thought of not being allowed to enter the temple made him postpone his visit and he would tell people that he will “go tomorrow”. Every day he would tell people, “I will go tomorrow”. All the people started mocking him. They concluded that he would never go to Chidambaram and started calling him “tirunalaipoovar” meaning “one who will go tomorrow!”

One fine day, having made up his mind, Nandanar asked his landlord for permission to go to Chidambaram. The landlord asked Nandanar to first plough his agricultural land and only then he would give him permission. It was a huge task which would take days. Nandanar prayed to the Lord and started ploughing the field. Late into the night, he was exhausted and fell off to sleep. When he woke up next morning the entire field had been ploughed and was ready for sowing. The landlord was surprised and realized the greatness of Nandanar and immediately allowed him to go to Chidambaram. 

Overwhelmed by the Lord’s grace, Nandanar happily proceeded to Chidambaram, but he was not allowed to enter the temple. Singing the glories of Lord Sankara, he went round the holy city a number of times. Lord Shiva decided that it was time the world realized the greatness of Nandanar and his supreme devotion. The Lord appeared in Nandanar’s dream and beckoned him to enter the temple. Next day, in the morning, Nandanar joyously started walking towards the temple. At the temple, the priests had lit up the huge Vedic fire for a yagna. With a mind soaked in single-pointed devotion to the Lord and oblivion of the surroundings, Nandanar walked straight into the fire-kund which was right in front of him. Everyone around were stunned at the sight of Nandanar entering the homa-kund. But nothing happened to him! He came out of the fire unscathed. Nandanar’s physical form was shining like burnished gold! The presence of an inexplicable divine aura around him was evident. The priests realized the greatness of the Lord’s devotee and respectfully escorted him into the sanctum of the Lord. In the presence of all those assembled, that very moment, Nandanar merged and disappeared to become one with Parameshwara: the Lord-of-his-heart! 

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Karaikal Ammaiyar

Punithavati was a great devotee of Lord Shiva belonging to the merchant community in Karaikal (Tamilnadu). She belonged to the 6th century AD, and is one of the 63 great Shaivite saints known as Nayanmars. She spent her time in glorifying the Lord and serving His devotees, especially those who came visiting the town. A wealthy businessman, Paramadattan from Nagapattinam married the beautiful Punithavati. She devoted herself to household chores as well as continued her religious duties. 

One day a relative of Paramadattan visited him at his shop and gave him two mangoes. Paramadattan sent them to his house through his servant. Punithavati received them and placed them at the altar of her Lord. A little later, a Shiva Bhakta came along seeking for alms. Since nothing had been cooked, Punithavati gave away one mango to the sadhu. 

Later, Paramadattan came home and sat down to have his meals. He asked for the mango. She brought the one which was at the Lord’s altar and gave it to him. He found it extremely sweet and asked for the second one. It was not there. She had given it away as bhiksha to the sadhu. Knowing her husband’s temper and not knowing what to do, she ran to the pooja altar. With eyes overflowing with tears, she prayed fervently to the Lord to save her from the situation. As she pleaded with the Lord, a mango appeared in her hands! Overwhelmed at the Lord’s grace, she quickly went and gave it to her husband. This mango was far more sweeter in taste than the first one!! How could two mangoes from the same tree differ so much in taste? Obviously this was not the same mango that he had sent home. Paramadattan asked her to tell him the truth. Slowly she narrated everything to him. He was stunned. With absolute disbelief, he told her to ask Lord Shiva for one more mango. She was reluctant, but he insisted. She again went to the Lord and prayed to Him. Another mango appeared in her hand. She gave it to Paramadattan. The moment he touched the mango, it disappeared. Paramadattan realized that his wife Punithavati was not an ordinary woman but one of the greatest devotees of Parameshwara. He was filled with awe and respect for Punithavati. He no more considered her as his mortal wife. To him she was his Guru who had opened his eyes. He silently left home and settled down in the neighbouring Pandiyan kingdom. He married a local merchant’s daughter and even named his daughter Punithavati!

When Punithavati came to know that her husband had settled down in Madurai, she completely and totally dedicated herself to the Lord. Realising that her beauty and youthfulness was the greatest impediment, she pleaded with Lord Sankara to take away her beauty and give her an ugly form. The Lord granted her wish! Suddenly she became old in appearance and frightfully ugly to look at. Her frightful look brought fear to some, but evoked respect from others. She was reverentially addressed as: KARAIKAL AMMAIYAR. Many beautiful and devotional compositions on Lord Shiva are attributed to her. Desiring to have a glimpse of her Lord, she proceeded to Kailasa. The moment she saw the divine mountain, the abode of the Lord, she was reluctant to place her feet on them. She placed her head down and started walking with the help of her hands! Pleased with her devotion, Lord Shiva and Parvati gave her darshan. She asked for mukti. And if at all she had to be born again, it should be as His devotee only. She expressed her desire to see His Urdhva Tandava, while she sang for Him. The Lord told her to go to Tiruvalangadu where she would be able to witness his divine Nritya. Ammaiyar proceeded to Tiruvalangadu where Lord Shiva is worshipped as Vataranyeswara. With a pair of cymbals in hand Ammaiyar sang ecstatically while the Lord danced. Of the five famous sabhas attributed to Lord Nataraja, Tiruvalangadu is known as Ratna Sabha – the Hall of Gems. Ammaiyar stayed here singing the Lord’s glories and continued her devoted services unto the Lord till she finally merged with Lord Shiva.

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