A major Hindu holiday was recent. Shivratri, or actually Mahashivratri. A lot of people might not be aware that each year brings many Shivratris – one about 13 days after each new moon. The one we just had, though, is known as Mahashivratri because it’s apparently Lord Shiva’s favorite of them all (in a year’s cycle). During this holiday there’s lots of fasting and flocking to temples and pujas and especially lingam abhisheks. While I partook in some of those usual festivities, I did so from home in a rather quiet manner. I bathed my home mandir’s lingam, chanted the Panchakshar and Mrtunjaya mantras, and then after spending some with my very affectionate cat, Darel, I disappeared into myself in meditation.
It was nice. It was peaceful. And it allowed me to follow my saiva leanings while also practicing my Sahaj Marg path. While giving my attention to my cat I began to contemplate Shiva and his form as All-Pervasive Consciousness. Without going too much into it, this Hindu belief is one that draws me to Hinduism and more specifically to all things Shiva-centric. I think a self-existent, all-pervasive Consciousness is That which all things come from and to where everything returns. Indeed, science is more and more in support of the notion that consciousness is what everything rests on and some experiments, which are too tricky for me to explain, have even started to prove that things behave differently than expected when consciousness is directed or diverted. Spending time with Darel always leaves me grateful for the myriad forms consciousness takes.
While engaged in this contemplation, and as I entered into meditation, a well-known story about Shiva came to mind. The digest version of the story is that a poison arose during the churning of the primordial sea and everything was in jeopardy – everything. Shiva came to the rescue by swallowing all of it. To keep from suffering from the poison, he employed his yogic might (Shiva is, after all, the God of yoga) and stopped the poison while it was yet in his throat. The poison’s effect as it came to rest there was to turn his throat blue. Because of this, Shiva is also known as Neela Kanta (Blue-Throated One).
Many people know this story and certainly there are many interpretations and implications of it. One that came to me recently, though, felt new to me. The idea that the actual power of yoga – what enables true union – is the ability to stop.
Think about it. What goes up, must come down. Right? Left is balanced by right. Light is countered by dark just like hot is by cold. Surely for every in there is an out and every forward has its backward. No two lines are truly parallel, even if it looks as though they’ll never touch. The phenomenal world is maintained by these opposites. If you disagree, dissect any pair of opposites and see what you get. I promise the only thing you’ll get is a huge imbalance.
This is where it all gets kind of funky. In order to have a phenomenal existence, you have to engage in this back-and-forth-ery. There’s really no way around it. Sadly, once engaged in all of this, we confuse everything and kind of get trapped. We drink the poison to save what needs saved, forgetting about what that will cost. Or in modern terms, we go after what we think / feel / desire and in the process engross ourselves (and our karmas) ever deeper in Maya – that is, until true yoga becomes our path, our forte.
In the story of the churning of the sea, Shiva was able to fully perform and engage in phenomenal acts and remain unaffected because of true yoga. He was literally able to halt the motion caused by the actions he had made. It’s like in the Gita when we’re advised not to be attached to the fruits of our actions – only this feels a bit more active. Shiva was, through his yogic ability, able to act and not be touched by the fruit of those actions. He was able to perfectly fulfill his swadharma and avoid (escape?) the karma that would have affected anyone else. He was able to simply stop it. Shiva Shankar ki jay!
Everything about the evening and the story about Neela Kanta, who is the Lord of Consciousness and the Lord of Yoga, popping into my mind before closing the night seemed to help me become super aware of That which pervades all and of how my religion of yoga gently and surely brings me closer to It. The heightened awareness of That which marries my head to my heart set the stage for the night’s meditation, Sahaj Marg style. And I entered meditation with gratitude for a path that brings me closer to union by peeling away my layers and for a God with a blue throat.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha