Talk by Sri M at Chengannur Mahadeva Temple | August 13, 2016

Akhaṇḍa-maṇḍalākāram vyāptam yena carācaram |
Tatpadam darśitam yena, tasmai śrī gurave namaḥ ||
अखण्डमण्डलाकारं व्याप्तं येन चराचरम् ।
तत्पदं दर्शितं येन तस्मै श्री गुरवे नमः

Om ajñāna-timirāndhasya jñānāñjana-śalākayā |
cakṣur unmīlitam yena tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ ||
अज्ञानतिमिरान्धस्य ज्ञानाञ्जनशालाकया ।
चक्षुरुन्मीलितं येन तस्मै श्री गुरवे नमः ||

Gururbrahmā gururviṣṇu gururdevo maheśvaraḥ |
guruḥ sākṣāt parabrahma tasmai śrī gurave namaḥ ||
गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णु गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः ।
गुरुः साक्षात् परब्रह्म तस्मै श्री गुरवे नमः ||

Om Namah Sivaya

My Namaskaram to everyone here. I thank the Temple Trust and all of you here for this warm welcome. As mentioned earlier, I am not coming here for the first time. I have visited several times before without anyone being aware of it and those visits were enjoyable ones. No one knew me then. Such visits may not be possible now.

Today, I am not going to talk about the Padayatra (Walk of Hope) as such. Firstly, I have come for a darsan in the temple. Secondly, I have come here to see all of you and tell you about this temple. This is the abode of Mahadeva. I will tell you what Mahadeva means to us according to our order (sampradaya), i.e., Nath sampradaya and what we consider Mahadeva to be. This will be a satsang and not a lecture.

According to our tradition (parampara), the main mantra is Nama Sivaya; Om Namah Sivaya. That does not mean that we will not say Namo Narayanaya. But Om Namah Sivaya is our mantra.

The term Sivam has many meanings in Sanskrit. One meaning of Sivam is Mahadevan. Why do we say Maha-devan? It means the Deva of the highest order, doesn’t it? When we say Maha-narayana or Maha-deva, we are referring to the deva of the supreme level. So, Maha-deva means the highest of all devas.

Other than that, what is Sivam? When we check the Sanskrit dictionary for the word Sivam, we find a lot of meanings, of which one is aiswaryam (abundance and grace). But when regarded as Rudra, Siva is considered as the samhara devata. We must understand that srishti (creation) is possible only after samharam. If what that exists here just continues like that, how will Srishti happen? So, when something existing is transformed, it is called samharam. Normally people translate Samharam as destruction in English. But I won’t call it destruction. I tell them that Samharam is not destruction. The more appropriate word is transformation. It just appears to us as destruction. Why? We think it is destruction as all that is old and obsolete are dismantled and replaced with the new and fresh. That is Mahadeva’s greatest function. So, when it’s time, he will perform the Thandava Nritya and transform everything.

If you ask me how this is relevant in the life of a yogi – Mahadevan ‘Sivan’ is the devata who destroys the various impurities (ashudhi), the undesirable and the bad Karmic results (Karmaphalam) from the minds of the yogis. Essentially, Sivam means that which brings the aiswaryam back to our hearts. The aiswaryam which was already there but was forgotten– that principle (Tatvam) is Sivam.

Prasadam is another substitute for Sivam. We usually receive prasadam when we visit a temple. Naivedyam (food offered to God) is distributed as prasadam. Prasadam is good to eat – it will be sweet and may contain honey. But prasadam means Santam (serene) Saswatam (eternal) Aanandam (blissful). Therefore, Sivam also means Aanandam. However, it is not the mundane happiness (aanandam). When we have an ice cream, we enjoy it and experience a lot of happiness even though we may get a throat-ache later. We may suffer the consequences the next day. Here we are not referring to such mundane aanandam. All things in this world, enjoyed through the five senses, come under the latter category. These will produce some after-effects later. But the former Aanandam is Anantham Aanandam Bhramanandam, which means the endless aananda or eternal bliss that is Sivam. Hence Siva is called Maha Devan.

If we go a bit more advanced, we also know Om Namah Sivaya as the panchakshara. Why is it called panchakshara? There are five aksharas (letters), Na Ma Si Va Ya excluding the Om. In our sadhana (spiritual practice), we place each of these five aksharas on each chakra of the Sushumna Nadi and meditate upon it. By doing this Siva-Sakti is awakened. Siva-Sakti is that which is sitting closest to Siva and does not leave Siva, that which is at the lower end of Sivalinga called the yoni (also known as Siva-yoni or Linga-yoni). When Siva is calm and still (santam), there is no creation. When Sakti is awakened due to a tiny spandanam (pulse or throb) ‘sh..’, Siva emerges from that stillness and we see all the prakrithi (creation) happening around us. Therefore, when we chant each akshara (letter) of the beejakshara of Namah Sivaya (the letters Na, Ma Si, Va, Ya) after visualizing and placing them at each chakra along with doing pranayama, it is equivalent to doing Sri Vidya upasana. In both, we combine the use of Mantram, Yantram and Dhyanam. This movement of Sakti through the Sushumna Nadi to merge with Siva is termed Soundayra Lahari by Adi Sankaracharya. The ability to achieve this is present in all human beings. I believe it is possible for every human being to reach this level. It may not be possible in this lifetime but the effort should start now – one should not wait. It may take several lifetimes or you may achieve it in this lifetime itself depending on your past. One can’t be sure of that.

In Soundarya Lahari, Adi Sankara begins by saying Siva Saktyaa yukto yadi… Although Soundarya Lahari is purely about Saktia and the experience of awakening of Raja Rajeswari, it begins with Siva: “Siva Saktyaayukto yadi bhavati Saktah prabhavitum” Thus, Sivam is a stage we all possess within us.

Although we follow the path of Kriya Yoga, our parampara is called Nath parampara. My Guru, Maheshwarnath Babaji, was a yogi of the Nath parampara. When he gave me diskha (initiation), he called me Madhukarnath. Hence, I am referred to as M. People call me Sri M though (well, let’s leave it there). But M stands for Madhukarnath.

In our sampradaya, ‘Om Namah Sivaya’ has an inner meaning – which is Sivoham. But one shouldn’t say Sivoham all of a sudden. I cannot be Siva suddenly. How can we be Siva when we have a body, we eat food, we are born and we die? However, the same omnipresent Siva present in me as a tiny element is also present in every being, whether male or female. How is it present? Where is it present? How do we understand or sense it? When we understand the answers to these questions and know there is Siva inside each one of us too, there will be no need to search for Siva anywhere outside. Then we can say Sivoham. Saying it before attaining this final stage is wrong. Until then, I can only say that I’m a bhakta (devotee) and Siva is there (in the temple). After reaching that stage and having attained Kaivalaym or Moksham, we can say Sivoham. It is an ability that is present in all human beings. Even if we only touch that lightly, immeasurable power will manifest in us. Moreover, after we have experienced this bliss once, we will not be able to compare that to any other happiness in this world– hence we say Anantham, Aanandam, Brahmanandam.

There is a popular Siva Mantram that a lot of people chant to recover from illnesses or when commencing a journey or be safe from dangers. Which one is that? We all know it and it is called Maha Mrityunjaya Mantram. There is Maha Mrityunjaya Homam, then there is Maha Mrityunjaya Yajnam and also Maha Mrityunjaya Mantram. Do you know the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantram?

Oḿ tryambakaṃ yajāmahe sugandhiṃ puṣṭivardhanam |
urvārukamiva bandhanān mṛtyormukṣīya mā’mṛtāt ||
ॐ त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम् |
उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान्मृत्योर्मुक्षीय माऽमृतात् ||

So, what does this mantram mean? Nowadays, people chant mantrams, but they have no idea what they are chanting. Tryambakaṃ yajāmahe means: I worship that three-eyed deity. Tryambakaṃ means: three-eyed; ‘trye’ is three in English too. When we think of Siva as a figure and not as a linga, we see a third eye in the forehead; that is the spot where we apply the sandalwood paste, holy ash or sindoor. That’s called trikannu (the third eye). Now, what’s Siva’s usual pose? Siva sits with eyes closed but with an open third eye. Similarly, even humans can close their eyes for some time to block the external experiences brought in by the senses. So, closing your eyes means to close all the five senses. Once we do that in dhayanam (meditation), the third eye opens. But we can’t drive in a nail to open the third eye. That’s so because it is actually a chakra within called the ‘ajna chakra’. For us Yogis, it is the Varanasi. Ajna chakra is a place where ida nadi and pingala nadi meets and crosses. Likewise, Varanasi is the place where Varuna and Asi join and then flow together. So, with dhyanam and the chant of Om Namah Sivaya, we have to reach Varanasi and open the dwara. What is the dwara? It means the gate. Similarly, Dwaraka also means gate. Navadwara means the nine openings. A human body has nine openings but the gate to all those is here in the third eye. So, once we open this gate to go deep within, we will understand our connection with Siva and what Sivam is. Therefore, tryambakaṃ yajāmahe means I worship the three-eyed deity called Siva.

Sugandhiṃ puṣṭivardhanam: What’s its character? Its character is eternal fragrance (sugandham) and health (pushti). Pustivardhanam means always healthy. Even the tiniest touch, forget reaching there completely, just the slightest knowledge of Sivam will impart that pushti in you forever. I’m now 68 and people ask me, “You walked these 7500 Kms for the padayatra (Walk of Hope), don’t you feel tired?” Actually, after the walk, all the tiredness vanished. It is not my special power but it is the power of that Sivam in my heart and I live with that realisation. Thus, it is an inexhaustible energy which is always present in us as one. This energy is called Sakti.

There is a mantram in the Veda which is really about Sakti. Some think it is about Brahmam. But both are the same, like fire and the heat of fire are part of the same. They are inseparable.

Oḿ pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idaḿ pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate
pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate ||
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥

The meaning is IT is always complete and constant, we can’t take anything away from it nor can we add to it. Nor will it decrease. When Einstein scientifically discovered that energy is constant, scientists started studying this. But pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idaḿ was said 3000 years ago. So, that kind of energy is present inside us and it is called Sivam. When a yogi meditates at the third eye, a path opens to deep within and it becomes tryambakaṃ yajāmahe sugandhiṃ puṣṭivardhanam.

A yogi like this always has a Sugandha (fragrance) within. Wherever he goes, that fragrance remains and people around him sense this fragrance. It is not because there is any real fragrance but because of the sugandhaṃ within. It cannot be stolen and it remains even without a deodorant spray. Usually we get up in the morning and use the deodorant. This is not required for a Yogi as the fragrance already present within is felt by all. So sugandham doesn’t mean only fragrance, it means a sense of happiness and comfort when we are near that yogi. However, it is present in all of us. It manifests and increases as we move closer to Siva.

Next it says urvārukamiva bandhanān: You do know a pumpkin, after it has ripened, will automatically free itself from the stem, after which we cannot rejoin it. Similarly, once I attain knowledge (jnanam) and I understand the connection between me and Siva, “mṛtyor mukṣīya mā’mṛtāt”, it will free me from death and give me moksham, like how the pumpkin is freed from the stem. This is the assurance given in this mantra.

Hence, we worship Maha Deva here in this temple. We cannot worship (aradhana) Mahadeva inside us all of a sudden. Only after external aradhana is done for a while, it can gradually move within. Hence,when the temple is open and we visit during the time of arati, we must recognise the lingam kept there as a symbol of the omnipresent God. While worshipping it, honour it not merely as an image but as a symbol of the all-pervading paramananda (eternal bliss) called Siva. Therefore, we have to stand there during the puja with eyes open and watch what is done. It is kept there for darsan. Closing the eyes during the puja is not right. After this darsan, don’t be in a hurry and rush away. Many people are ignorant of this. When the puja is over, go and sit in a corner of the temple, close your eyes and visualize what you watched before, place it in the ajna chakra or in the heart and meditate on it. If it is a Siva temple, especially if it is this temple, close your eyes and visualise the linga/image in the Ajna chakra and chant Om Namah Sivaya. When bhakti increases and the dhyana becomes intense, understanding will come on its own and automatically the chant will evolve into Sivoham. We need not do anything. This is the greatness of Mahadeva. This is also the greatness of Devi (female deity). Though this is known as the Chenganoor Mahadeva temple, Chenganoor Bhagavati (the consort) is also famous. That’s because Bhagavati is an amsa (element) of Mahadeva himself. Saktas will say Mahadeva is an amsa of Devi, I am not ready to say so. In my parampara it is the opposite. All that depends on the beliefs of the followers. But we must understand that Devi is also very important.

Adi Sankaracharya, the author of Soundarya Lahari, was a great Vedantin. He was the one who publicized Advaita Vedanta. Advaita Vedanta declares, Brahma satyam, Jagath mithya. He understood all aspects so completely that he gave a lot of importance to Sakti in Soundarya Lahari. That’s because, without Sakti chalanam (movement), we will never be able to understand even what Brahmam means. After declaring that all forms are illusions and only Brahmam is real, he described Devi’s form so beautifully with intricate details in Soundarya Lahari. This makes us wonder how could he have so beautifully described:

Kvaṇatkāñcī-dāmā kari kalabha kumbha-stananatā
parikṣīṇā madhye pariṇata śaraccandra-vadanā |
क्वणत्काञ्ची-दामा करि कलभ कुम्भ-स्तननता
परिक्षीणा मध्ये परिणत शरच्चन्द्र-वदना ।

From this, we must understand that without bhakti (devotion), Vedanta, dhyana or jnana are impossible. Sankaracharya was born in a Sakta clan and possessed a lot of devotion right from his childhood. Therefore, even though Saivam, he knew the importance of Sakti so well since he was born in a family which performed Sri Vidya Upasana.

Today, we know the importance of Sakti. If you don’t give respect to Sakti, we can’t live in this society, can we? The Stri (woman) is the manifestation of an element of Sakti and purusha (man) is that of Siva. Both are required and we cannot exclude any one of them. Then again, a lot of devotion is also essential. Otherwise, why should a person who wrote Viveka choodamani on Para Brahma and the interpretations of Brahma Sutras and Upanishads say in the end ‘Bhaja Govindam, bhaja Govindam, Govindam bhaja moodhamate’ (chant Govinda’s name, you deluded man). In recent times, if people read just two Vedanta, they think there is no need for bhakti and go around saying “I know everything, Aham Brahmasmi”. Actually, they have the most Aham (ego) and this is a terrible type of Aham Brahmasmi.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a Sakti follower and a worshipper of Bhadrakali. Bhadrakali was his ishtadevata. Once he and his disciples were talking about Bhakti. During the discussion, he saw a few sanyasis of Dasanami order coming. Seeing them, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa stopped and said “Some Aham Brahmasmi people are coming, so we can discuss this later”. I agree that if you look at it philosophically, it is correct. But saying Aham Brahmasmi before reaching that stage is totally wrong because body is not the Brahmam. How can a body which takes birth and dies become brahma? Moreover, once a person understands and experiences Aham Brahmasmi, he will not say Aham anymore, he will only say Brahmasmi. There won’t be anything else.

So, these are a few things you should be careful about. We are unable to have a more detailed discussion today within this short time. If there is a satsang of 5-6 days, it will be possible. Today, I only have this much more to say – the premises we are sitting in is the temple of Mahadeva. The Bhagavati temple is in the vicinity. If you can visualise that a small element of the Para Brahma called Mahadeva is always there in your heart and keep chanting – Om Namah Sivaya – certainly you will move towards attaining the goal called moksham, either slowly or rapidly, depending on your devotion and dedication.

Om Namah Sivaya. Om Santi, Santi, Santi! Namaskaram!!

About The Satsang Foundation

The Satsang Foundation, founded by Sri M, is a meeting point for spiritual seekers of all persuasions. The Satsang Foundation also extends a helping hand to the less privileged of society.