Culture, Religion, Spirituality

THE GURU IN HINDU DHARMA – KANCHI PARMACHARYA (1)

The 68th Paramacharya of Kanchi – Jagadguru Sri Chadrashkarendra Saraswati Mahaswamigal was in the eyes of many Sri Dakshinamurthy himself incarnate. The Paramacharya’s speeches and discourses were compiled by Ra. Ganapati who worked for the Kalki magazine and also assisted Rajaji in editing the journal Swarajya. His greatest work though is his magnum opus – “Deivathin Kural” (The Voice of God), running into 7 volumes and almost 8,000 pages which contain the compiled speeches of the Acharya.

It won’t be wrong to say that the Paramacharya was a modern day Veda Vyasa – his knowledge of the Vedas and Vedanta was probably second only to Vyasa himself. Interestingly just as Lord Ganapthy was Vyasa’s scribe, the Paramacharya’s scribe was Ra (R) Ganapti.

In the Vivekachudamani, Adi Sankara Bhagavadpada defines “Who a Guru is” {Verse-33}

श्रोत्रियोऽवृजिनोऽकामहतो यो ब्रह्मवित्तमः । 
ब्रह्मण्युपरतः शान्तो निरिन्धन इवानलः
अहेतुकदयासिन्धुर्बन्धुरानमतां सताम् ॥ ३३

“The Guru is one who symbolizes the spirit of the scriptures. He is sinless, and unmoved by desire, and among the knowers of the Brahman, the best (Brahma-uttama). He is one who has found his peace in the realization of the Brahman and is soaked in it. He is calm like that fire that has consumed itself (retaining its warmth). A boundless, limitless ocean of mercy and compassion, he is the friend of all good people who prostrate before him in humility”

The Paramacharya fitted this definition of a Guru to the T.

Paul Brunton in his book “A search in secret India” dedicates an entire chapter to the Paramacharya and begins with a short description of the Acharya’s countenance –

I look at him in silence. This short man is clad in the ochre coloured robe of a monk and leans his weight on a friar’s staff. I have been told that he is on the right side of forty, hence I am surprised to find his hair quite grey. His noble face, pictured in grey and brown, takes an honoured place in the long portrait gallery of my memory. That elusive element which the French aptly term spirituel is present in this face. His expression is modest and mild, the large dark eyes being extraordinarily tranquil and beautiful. The nose is short, straight and classically regular. There is a rugged little beard on his chin, and the gravity of his mouth is most noticeable… with the added quality of intellectuality.”

In the photos below all of what he describes and more can be experienced…”

The Paramacharya’s answer to Paul Brunton’s request that he take him as his disciple is another gem. He couldn’t do it himself as he was a Mathadhipathi.

“…His Holiness does not reply till after an interval of protracted silence.
“Yes. I know of only two masters in India who could give you what you wish. One of them lives in Benares, hidden away in a large house, which is itself hidden among spacious grounds. Few people are permitted to obtain access to him; certainly, no European has yet been able to intrude upon his seclusion. I could send you to him, but I fear that he may refuse to admit a European.”
“And the other ?” My interest is strangely stirred.
“The other man lives in the interior, farther south. I visited him once and know him to be a high master. I recommend that you go to him.”
“Who is he ?”
“He is called the Maharishee. I know him to be a high master”

It was the Paramacharya who guided Paul Brunton to Ramana Maharishi and Brunton became one of the greatest disciples of the Maharishi

kanchi-parmacharyaSri+Sri+Sri+Maha+Periyava

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Culture, Religion, Spirituality

THE SHAKTI ASPECT OF HINDU ‘RITUALS’

A Yogi’s perspective.

This is a guest post by Sri Guru Rohit Arya. It has been taken from his Facebook post (click to go to original post) and shared here with his permission. 

One of the regular observations made of Hinduism is that it has ‘too many rituals.’ In school, our history books assure us that one of the virtues of reformers was that they did not like ‘meaningless rituals.’ Well the ‘historians’ who write such muck are fools. Even the word Ritual is a package that contains so many processes operating at so many different levels. Homam, Yagya, Puja, Japam, Sankirtanam, Antiyeshti, Namakaranam, Prayaschitam, they are all saddled with the inadequacy of the word ‘ritual’. Samskaras seem a better all purpose word, – “putting together, making perfect, getting ready, to prepare”, or “a sacred or sanctifying ceremony” – and “puja vidhi” for all processes connected with worship and working with Shakti seems more appropriate.

Before we get into this business of puja vidhi something vital about Shakti and spirituality needs to be understood. It is something that the average English educated Hindu of today does not comprehend, but unless it is grasped we can’t move forward. So here goes.

Spirituality and Shakti cannot be found on the physical plane. By its very nature, its intrinsic setting, it belongs to a higher vibration or a different dimension. It is an intense and refined energy which cannot be found in the denseness of embodiment. All such processes are, at their core, systems and methods to access Shakti which can transform people. We reach UP-wards to access this Force, and then, after a while, it ignites within you and then things go much better. {Within does not mean the physical body} This does not mean the need to keep drawing Shakti stops, very far from it. The more Shakti you have the more you can mainline. But this concept is vital to grasp. If you cannot get on board with this, then indeed you are better off writing lies in books about ‘meaningless rituals’. In his extraordinary new book on the Vedic Yagna, titled Ardor, Roberto Callaso has spelt it out – “If one wants to talk about anything religious, some kind of relation has to be established with the invisible. There has to be a recognition of powers situated over and beyond social order. Social order itself must seek to establish some relations with that invisible.

People who have no experience or even basic comprehension of Shakti nevertheless feel they can comment on it.

The great, even incredible, thing about how samskaras and pujas were constructed and transmitted in Yogic culture is that even if the person doing the ritual has no to very little idea what is going on, as long as it is being done Correctly the Shakti flows. This really takes some getting used to.

All pujas and homams and so on, they are all methodologies to build up Shakti in double quick time and then release it into the surroundings. I was impelled to write this after reading that dishonest hit job on Gurus by some Kang lady in her book. At one point Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev explains to her that the Saptarishi puja in Kashi is amazing … “when the priests performed the ritual I was amazed… the stacks and stacks of energy they built, these Brahmin guys who only live for money” He is absolutely right but the author could not comprehend what an opportunity she was given by Fate and she let it go, instead of learning something valuable, because there is “disturbing amount of ritual” at Isha Foundation. This is how people miss the Avasaram, the karmic moment of possibility, the chance to evolve.

It is so in any good temple and with any good samskara. I have so many personal experiences of just that. Chidambaram temple is unique in that it does six abhiskhekams a day instead of the normal one or two – 4 in the morning till 10 at night with just 3 hours off in the middle of day.

And Chidambaram is an incredible Kshetram, the supreme Kshetram, because of that. The priests change each day, but the wallop of Shakti that flows never dips below a certain level of potency because of the manner in which the puja is performed. Flawless execution carries the day even if knowledge and Shakti are limited. When you stand there and see the Ratna Sabhapati Ruby Nataraja lit up with camphor flames at 11 am you have seen one of the great spiritual events on the planet.

Every temple has a different Shakti setting and impact. I have seen pujas at all the Aru Padai Veedu of Muruga. The abhshekam with bhasmam that they do at Tirrutanni releases a particular sort of Shakti. The white chandan Alamkaram they do to Skanda at the shore temple in Thiruchendur is one of surpassing beauty and power. But above all you have not lived unless you have attended the Uccha puja at Palani. They create a wall of fire and sound and the whole area is flooded with Akasha tattva. I have made a famous video on this for those interested, it is on YouTube . It is akin to a nuclear blast homam, done as a puja, but Palani is really supernatural in its impact.

I recall walking into the Surya Shivan temple, Shiva as Surya in murti form, at evening Deeparadhana and it was like being kicked by an elephant.

My great limitation in this life is my lack of interest in developing the accuracy needed to transmit such processes. I practice and teach a yogic process which makes me a living havan kunda so the shakti of any process is instantly accessed. I can walk into almost any puja and figure out what is going on at the Shakti level. But when you need to teach and transmit these things great skill is needed to do it accurately. I have the Shakti and the knowledge, but not the temperament to accquire the skills needed. It is actually a safeguard for this embodiment. In previous rounds I had developed scary levels of abilities in these matters and proceed to misuse them for stupid things – read sex and money and fame. So the Gurus have made sure I don’t go there again. I have such memories… things and procedures I have never read, heard or seen yet intense and immense details of weird ingredients and peculiar actions… well, well, we all do stupid things in our spiritual infancy….

Even the simple act of lighting an oil or ghee lamp is a powerful intervention of Shakti. It is a play of tattvas. The lamp is prithvi or earth, metal or clay or whatever though nowadays people use glass too which is fused silica so we can stretch the point and consider it earth. The oil or ghee is Jala tattva, air is anyways present and then we have to bring our conscious volition, our will, our sankalpa into play by igniting the Angi tattva. When you do that, no matter how dense your consciousness, a large amount of Akasha tattva releases into the surroundings.

When you have Shakti, it becomes a different thing altogether. My disciples think is is a big deal that the flames of homams respond to my hands and follow me. I have seen Yogis where they rise up and wash over the entire body so I don’t get any swelled head over such a minor thing. But every day first action on awakening, light the diya. I never miss that.

In one sense one should ultimately go beyond processes but to disparage and disdain them and call them meaningless is to succumb to the Asura Prakriti. Our puja vidhis were created by great rishis and unless you have surpassed them please shut the hell up and show some humility while at it.

The pictures I use. The Homam was an extraordinary Dhanwantri one at the temple of the same name in Coimbatore a few years back. I am being deliberately mischievous in showing Yogi Adityanath but look at the flames and look at the Murti of Gorakshanath. It should shake you if you have the slightest sensitivity.

The fiery photo is an example of the ‘disturbing amount of ritual’ in Isha. I bless everybody they all experience similar ‘disturbance’ in their life. The last pic is Yours Truly, Sri Guru Rohit Arya, working purely with shakti to energize a small murti. I DO NOT recommend this method. Why I act so I have already explained.

Pujas work. They are not meaningless, but power packed methodologies to evolve you. 
Sarvam Shivamayam!

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Politics

Hamid Ansari – The Islamist VP who caused irreparable damage to the "idea of India"

Hamid Ansari was a disgrace to the high office of VP-India. During his 10-year tenure he did irreparable damage to the idea of India (be it that of the left, right, or center). He has consistently shown that he represented only the Muslims of India and NOT ALL INDIANS. His speeches and utterances while couched in the Queen’s English have consistently looked to push a Muslim agenda. People have focused on his recent interview where he talked about fear and alienation. But this is nothing new. He has consistently pushed a dangerous and divisive agenda even while occupying the second highest constitutional post in India. Instead I am going to focus on three instances where Hamid Ansari bared his fangs and showed us who he really is.

  1. While speaking at the 50th anniversary of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM), he said “affirmative action” is a “prerequisite” for Muslims’ progress – essentially demanding for quotas for all Muslims within the state of India – that is not a VP speaking, that is a representative of a religious group speaking.
  2. He once observed “The ‘way of life’ argument, used in philosophical texts and some judicial pronouncements, does not help… identify common principles of equity in a multi-religious society…. For this purpose, principles of faith need to be segregated from contours of culture since a conflation of the two obfuscates the boundaries of both.” Now, Hinduism is the only religion that has been classified as a “Way of life” by the courts, so he is clearly targeting the Hindu religion and suggesting or demanding that the “Culture” of India which is intertwined with the Hindu religion be separated from the State – So what culture does he want for India? The principle has always been that all Indians share a syncretic and common culture and Indian muslims are part of this milieu – Clearly Hamid Ansari doesn’t see it like this. When we look at the third point below, his agenda will become clearer.
  3. In demanding that India become a part of the OIC, Hamid Ansari observed “India deserves to be an OIC member, not just an observer, because though India is not a part of the Muslim world, “it is not away from it; not a Muslim majority state in statistical terms yet host to the second largest community of Muslims in the world; not a society focussed on Muslim welfare only but one in which Muslims, as an integral part of a larger whole, get the attention that every other section does.” – See how carefully he chooses his words while making it clear that the Muslims of India are part of the larger Islamic world – not surprising given his family’s connections with the Khilafat movement.

The country should heave a collective sigh of relief that a fundamentalist like Ansari has finally completed his term. Good riddance…

Culture, Politics

The need for Hindu parents to inculcate Hindu values in Children

I am glad my daughter studies in a “Hindu” school. It is not easy nowadays to get an admission into a “Hindu” school given how the RTE act discriminates against “Hindu” establishments while privileging minority institutions.

The decision to move to Mysuru from Bengaluru has obviously helped. Mysuru is less crowded, less competitive, and importantly more culturally rooted, unlike Bengaluru where the majority have been deracinated from their cultural and religious moorings.

Importantly, she gets to read and learn Sanskrit, Kannada, and Hindi along with English. She gets to chant the Bhagavad Gita and Vande Matharam without having to worry about being “Secular”

I myself unfortunately studied for 12 long years in a christian missionary school. It is only now when I think back to those years that I realize how I was not exposed to a single Hindu custom or culture during those 12 long years. Syncretic culture is just plain bullshit. I remember listening to parables from the Bible, attending Mass before exams and participating in Elocution and poetry competitions where it was always about Shakespeare, Wordsworth and a litany of English authors and poets. No Vande Matharam, no Indian poets and nothing from the Hindu culture or History. I was just lucky that despite all this my upbringing at home kept me tied to my roots however tenuously. It has been a long and (still ongoing) uphill task as I make up for the “lost” years trying to play catch-up

I have over the last few years made every attempt to make up for the lost time as I battle on – learning sanskrit, reading and understanding the Vedas and Upanishads, the Gita and all of the other treasures that are scattered across the immensely vast landscape of Sanatana Dharma.

The responsibility of preserving our culture lies with us, this generation – it starts with Hindu parents telling their children about who they actually are and introducing them to the fountainhead of spirituality and culture. Else, I am afraid in a few decades Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma as we know it will be long gone…

Culture, Religion, Spirituality

Varalakshmi and Varalakshmi Vratha

When the Sun is in Kataka (Cancer in the Zodiac), in the month of Shravana, on the Friday of Shukla Paksha (Bright fortnight) the Varalakshmi or VaraMahalakshmi vratha is performed.

goddess-vara-mahalakshmi-beautiful-picutre

Lakshmi and Varalakshmi: Lakshmi is the goddess of not just fortune. She is श्री, “Shri” “Sri” or “Siri” the consort of Vishnu and source of his power and preservative function. She is the repository of all virtue, excellence, dignity, intellect, beauty, grace, splendour, prosperity, majesty, royalty, and wealth.

Lakshmi is described and depicted as enchantingly beautiful, sitting or standing on a lotus and holding two lotuses, one in each hand. Her other two hands are usually in “Abhaya-Hastha” and “Varada-Hastha” poses. The Abhaya-Hastha pose, where the palm of the right hand is seen with the fingers pointing upwards represents “protection” and the Varada-Hastha pose, where the palm of the Left hand is seen with the fingers pointing downwards represents “boon-conferring”

Her four hands by themselves symbolically signify her divine power to grant the four पुरुषार्थ (Purusharthas) of human life – Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha.

The different hues in which she is depicted are also deeply symbolic. If her complexion is dark then she is Vishnu’s consort, when she is golden-yellow, she is the supreme source of all wealth, prosperity, and happiness, when she is white and pristine, she is prakriti the all pervasive nature herself – that prakriti from which springs the universe with its animate and inanimate beings. When she is rose-coloured or peach in complexion she is the compassionate mother of the Universe.

She is also the “power of multiplicity” depicted as the one supreme goddess manifesting in different forms with eight of these aspects being most popular and depicted in popular iconography:

  1. Aadi-Lakshmi (The Primeval Goddess) or Maha Lakshmi (The Great Goddess)
  2. Dhana-Lakshmi or Aishwarya Lakshmi (The Goddess of Prosperity and Wealth)
  3. Dhaanya-Lakshmi (Goddess of Food Grains)
  4. Gaja-Lakshmi (The Goddess flanked by two elephants; the provider of “cattle wealth”)
  5. Santana-Lakshmi (The Goddess of Progeny)
  6. Veera-Lakshmi or Dhairya Lakshmi (The Goddess of Valor and Courage)
  7. Vidya-Lakshmi (The Goddess of Knowledge)
  8. Vijaya-Lakshmi or Jaya Lakshmi (The Goddess of Victory)

Varalakshmi specifically is the compassionate, wish-fulfilling mother of the universe. Two of her hands hold a lotus each and her other two hands are in the “Abhaya-Hastha” and “Varada-Hastha” poses.

Varalakshmi Vratha: There are several stories that talk about the origins, the significance and importance of the Varalakshmi Vratha:

Story-1: Shyama Bala was the beautiful daughter of King Bhadrashravas and his wife Surachandrika. Shyama Bala was married to emperor Maladhara. Once Goddess Lakshmi visited Shyama Bala’s mother Surachandrika in the guise of a poor old woman and tried to explain the procedure and importance of the Varalakshmi vratha. Surachandrika insulted Lakshmi (who was in the guise of an old woman) and Lakshmi walked away and with her so did all the riches of the household of Surachandrika and Bhadrashravas.

Lakshmi then went to Surachandrika’s daughter Shyama Bala’s house who received Lakshmi (in the guise of an old woman) with great regard and heard from her with devotion the methodology and significance of the Vratha and derived the benefits of the Vratha. When she learnt of the poverty stricken state of her parents, she sent them a pot of gold but even that did nothing to alleviate her parents poverty – It is perhaps (my conjecture) this that has given birth to the practice of invoking the goddess in a “Kalasha” or pot. Finally Surachandrika accepted her mistake and started the annual Varalakshmi vratha and regained her lost prosperity and happiness.

Story-2: Once Lord Shiva and Parvati were playing a game of dice. When the last dice was thrown, Pravati claimed victory. Shiva disputed her claim and asked Chitranemi one of the “Shiva-Ganas” to be the arbiter. Chitranemi was partial to Shiva and therefore declared Shiva the winner although in reality Parvati had won. An infuriated Parvati cursed Chitranemi declaring that he would lose his place amongst the Shiva-Ganas and live a lifetime as a leper. Shiva, interceded on Chitranemi’s behalf and requested that Parvati forgive Chitranemi as this was the first time he had uttered a lie and that too on Shiva’s behalf. Parvati relented and told Chitranemi that he would be released from the curse the day he witnessed the “divine damsels” observing the Varalakshmi vratha. Chitranemi suffered from leprosy for long. He started living on the banks of the Tungabhadra, waiting for the day of his liberation. One day he saw a few divine damsels come to the banks of the Tungabhadra and asked them who they were and when he learnt that they were “divine damsels” who had come to the Tungabhadra to observe the Varalakshmi vratha. Chitranemi requested that he be allowed to watch the Vratha. As prophesied by Parvathi, Chitranemi was cured of his leprosy.

The Vratha: When the Sun is in Kataka (Cancer in the Zodiac), in the month of Shravana, on the Friday of Shukla Paksha (Bright fortnight) the Varalakshmi or VaraMahalakshmi vratha is performed. The goddess is invoked typically in a Kalasha or pot (silver, copper, brass). A mango leaf-bunch is placed around the mouth of the pot and a coconut smeared with turmeric is inserted into the mouth of the pot. Over this an icon/image of the goddess made of silver is placed. This is followed by the Shodasha-upachara (16 steps) and Ashtottara-shatanamavali (108 names) puja. There are several videos and books that detail the puja procedure.


  1. http://www.hindudevotionalblog.com/2012/07/goddess-varamahalakshmi-pictures.html
  2. https://www.thoughtco.com/forms-of-lakshmi-1770371
  3. Hindu Gods and Godesses; Swami Harshananda; Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai
  4. Sampradaya Vratha Puja Vidhi; A.R. Parthasarathi, Dr. Kethu Ramachandrashekar; GIRI Trading Agency Private Limited.