Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi
  AHYMSIN Newsletter, Issue - April 2013  

Maha-Shivaratri 2013

by Joanne Sullivan (Divya)

Shivaratri 2013, in the Crystal Shiva lingam temple at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama. Nighttime. Swami Veda Bharati, before Agni, the sacred fire, entered his vow of 5-7 years of silence at the yajña shala earlier this morning breathing life into these last two words:

Om sham.

In all its luminosity, some call Shivaratri the darkest night of the year. When you enter the space of the priests’ chanting, you have nothing. You are nothing—but this is the nothing called Shunya—an emptying, a fullness that has no name.

Om kham Brahma.

This is the Mahavakya practice Swami Veda has just given to the worldwide sangha along with the Shiva Sankalpam astu. [Please see: http://www.ahymsin.org/main/index.php/Swami-Veda-Bharati/practice-for-the-next-five-years-and-the-rest-of-your-life.html]

A quiet, a hush. SVB has entered the temple now. The quiet has arrived at a new depth. He is seated at the crystal lingam.

“…Unknowable, as the body of a yogin in the state of Samadhi might be—
the body of a cosmic yogin—is worshipped in the form of jyotir linga, linga
of light. The word linga means that into which everything dissolves. It is the
linga sharira, the subtle body of the universe, the linga sharira of the individuals.”

— Swami Veda Bharati
1000 Names of Shiva [audio file]
Shivaratri, 2010, SRSG

The chanting resumes, a small container of vast and immeasurable spaces. At the beginning, the bael or bilva leaf, Lord Shiva’s leaf, is placed on one’s crown, then on the lingam, back and forth touching leaf to lingam and leaf to limbs until all limbs, all sight, sound, touch, smell, everything you claim to be you and yours, are sanctified.

SVB offers rose petals onto the bilva leaf that sits atop the lingam, the symbol of Shiva.

I don’t know much, but I know one thing: I have no idea what, Who has been placed, moved, removed, altered--- born in a realm beyond my understanding. I feel it and I inwardly bow to it.

A mixture of milk, water, curd and honey is offered.

Mr. and Mrs. Virendra Pal are also seated at the lingam. These people are guardians of the palpable impalpable, have quietly given their lives to the Guru’s heart-work. The tiny matriarch of that family, Mother Pal, is physically absent but always here nonetheless. She was installed as the Mother of the whole ashram in 2004. I still sometimes feel tears coming upon her arrival. A deeply moving being. To see her you would know what I mean. She knew the young Usharbudh Arya, the previous name of the one who has shed that life to become Swami Veda Bharati, in the 1950’s. Mother Pal knew him when he spoke to crowds in Delhi, a mere child.

Sugar is added to the lingam now. The lingam is awash with sweetness.

The chant feels one seamless whole and we are made into one seamless whole through sounds and syllables I do not understand but feel. There is the occasional beam-of-light familiar word like Savitur (to the sun) or namah (I bow deeply).

Swami Veda is holding the brass cone, white liquid pouring onto the Formless, for the lingam is said to be the closest form to formlessness of all shapes. The tapas, vairagya and sheer will that I cannot fathom of this man! He is frail of body yet carries a strength I have seen in perhaps no one else but his master, Shri Swami Rama.

This all reminds me of the roar of the tiger or leopard heard three times over the last few weeks in the jungle directly across from Sadhana Mandir. Ma Sewa Bharati messaged me each time. She wrote: first time in all these years (that she heard this roar).

Today, Swami Veda Bharati has commenced a 5 to 7-year - or lifelong - vow of mauna, deep silence, not just of speech.

Just now, Swamiji has written on his slate, the kind that children write on. Sanjay Shastri reads it. He says “Those doing a 9-day silence should begin immediately after this worship.”

Cleansed like the freshness of Mother Earth in springtime and anointed, the lingam is wrapped in white cloth and tied with white string. Swamis of our lineage sit close by Swami Veda: Swami Prashant Bharati, Swami Ma Radha Bharati, and Swami Ritavan Bharati.

I hear the word Dibyam (a form of Divya), a Sanskrit word for Light. Swami Rama once said “it refers to that most ancient light.” Perhaps this is the chamber that the chanting has created—the light of another world hidden in this one.

A profusion of rose petals are offered by Swami Veda. Garlands of flowers burgeoning with freshness keep coming and the lingam is blanketed in the full freshness of spring. The silver cobra wrapped around the lingam wears a rudraksha mala.

Shiva’s leaves, more of them, keep coming. What world are we in?

“It is a secret preserved by the yogis, around which many externalized stories are woven. The secret of the yogis is that there are many shaktis, many energies, in the universe, each with its own wave, its own rhythm, its own vibration. In the Tantra tradition there is a power known as surashee, consisting of 16 dates of the lunar calendar. At different times in theuniversal movements, certain shaktis flow with a greater force and they touch us and pass through us. That is a secret of the sacred days, on which day of the lunar calendar or solar calendar which divine power will vehemently manifest itself. To respond to the presence of those shaktis at those specific time cycles, we set sacred days of worship so that we may be joined to them, they may be joined to us, and we may receive them into ourselves in their fullness. The shakti of the divine Cosmic Meditator [Shiva], whose representation is jyotir linga, manifests itself specially at this time.”

— Swami Veda Bharati
1000 Names of Shiva [audio file]
Shivaratri, 2010, SRSG

Swami Veda offers more rose petals - the flower which some say suggests the presence of St. Theresa. To me, this is not odd, this mixing of world views. I have learned in this tradition that in sanctity, there are no boundaries. The divine is boundless, free of such manmade artifices.

Again, more rose petals. The manner of giving suggests a great billowing of invisible, diaphanous robes. I felt the same thing once when Swami Veda - S/he - not a person - whispered a sacred stream of words in my ear through his voice.

With the last of the rose petals in which he offers endlessly ---what? Who? Himself? All of his spiritual children from every inhabited continent? All of the all beyond 10 fingertips? Whole realms greet him, welcome him in.


Then the chanting resumes like overlays of waterfalls. And again the blessing of eyes, ears, smell, touch, mind, - all senses - may I see hear, smell, touch, think only purity. External obstacles, habits, inclinations are diminished if not swept away.

Now, two hours into the ceremony, the central part of the puja begins. One by one, sadhakas come up to place Bilva leaves on the Shiva lingam and bathe the lingam with a mixture of water, milk and honey ---a purification of all samskaras.

On this, Mahashivaratri, the Great Night of Shiva, could it be that Shiva Himself is here? I think so. Will he perform open heart surgery on all my shoulds and should nots? He should this, she should that, he should not, and so on. At that moment, I think I’d like to wipe clean that part of my mind, because, in truth, I don’t know much. The small voice who pushes in front - is this the selfsame author of the Hammurabi Code? The stone tablets, I know them well. They are heart and heartbeat. Owner of one square inch of moral real estate.

I ask myself:  Is this a Lenten offer? But can I give it forever? I want to. I suppose I will want to until I observe some perceived injustice, some petty crime in my petty pantheon of s/he shoulds and should nots.

I make the leap.

Then finally comes the recitation of the 1000 names of Shiva.

“The recitation in India of a thousand names of each of those shaktis, thousand
names of Kali, thousand names of Durga , thousand names of Brahma,thousand
names of Vishnu, thousand names of Shiva. There are 2 ways in which Shiva Sahasranaama, the thousand names of Shiva, are recited. One is direct recitation of the names in the verses. The other is by changing each name to its dative case with the word Namah, homage, surrender. I take my iccha shakti from the heart, jnana shakti from the head, kriya shakti from the hands---power of volition from the heart, power of knowledge from the heart, power of creativity in the hands—joining them together in the hands I say namah, not mine.”

— Swami Veda Bharati, 1000 Names of Shiva [audio file], Shivaratri, 2010, SRSG

We are hearing (above) the audio file by Swami Veda from Shivaratri 2010. What occurs to me is that these are not names. Each is bowed to with namah. Each name is a mantra. Each name is a Presence invoked, a being of light, a particular form of Shiva, just as all the gods of the Hindu pantheon are vortices of Brahman, the One God. What is even more compelling to me is the thought that he, Swami Veda, knows each of these beings of light, these forms of Shiva. Just then I remember how Dr. Arya used to chant the Shankaracharya shlokas with total abandon and sankalpa shakti. “Shivoham, shivoham. I am Shiva. I am Shiva.”

“Millions of people the world over are saying ‘I am Shiva.’ If you are Shiva, then who do you think is doing the worship, the meditation?”

— Swami Veda Bharati, Manasa Puja Introduction (audio file), Shivaratri, 2010, SRSG

After the 1000 Names of Shiva, we all convene in the Meditation Hall with Swami Veda for a manasa puja, an internal practice. The question above is posed by Swami Veda in the manasa puja audio of Shivaratri 2010. It is a classic. We listen again with gratitude as we sit with our now silent teacher before us. His endlessly loving voice leads us once again.

In the summer of 1970, in the attic of their family house in Minneapolis, Dr. Arya taught us four Shankaracharya shlokas. Between the verses, he would sing “Shivoham, Shivoham - I am Shiva. I am Shiva.” Those nuanced amber tones caught sunlight! He always said he couldn’t sing,  but no one sang like he did. When he sang there was no hiding - such a strong yet bare naked child’s openness came through in his singing. In the early days at SRSG, when he was alone, one room over, one could sometimes hear a wee voice on those high notes, singing to Whom—no, in Whom--- I can only aspire to know one day. Shivoham, shivoham!

After so many blessings we were once again invited to go up the road to the Virbhadra Temple for the final puja of this grand night of Shiva. Swamiji was already situated in a corner of this tiny temple when I arrived. The temple was full to overflowing. But I had brought my stool and wrapped in many layers of warm woolens, sat outside, absorbing it all. The priests were, as usual, such a Shakti force, pure vibration in their recitation of familiar mantras.

My first Shivaratri at Virbhadra Temple was in 2004. There were many more people who wanted to get inside this tiny temple than there was room for. At one point that first time, I stood outside facing the temple walls thinking “Will I ever know surrender? I am a walking wall. Why should there be room for me in such a sacred place?” Just then someone popped out of the temple right in front of me and someone else pushed me in from behind. That year, people made a steady stream into and out of the temple after only 5 or 10 minutes inside. Normally though, it is not like that.

By 7 A.M. at the start of Shivaratri, I had received a text message that the queues by Virbhadra Temple were winding far down the road along Ma Ganga. Out for an early morning walk before the big day, a dear friend likened it to the pilgrim crowds at Kedarnath.

The handful of seekers who ushered in the dawn at the end of Shivaratri were a crowd of stars in the starlit sky entering a world made new.

Editor’s Note:

Shivaratri fell on 10th March 2013 during the 2013 Sangha Gathering.

Swami Veda Bharati took a 5 year vow of silence on 10th March 2013. To read more on, click on the title:

Please read “Swami Veda Bharati's Silence Vow Ceremony” earlier in this newsletter.

There are also other articles with pictures in this edition of the newsletter about the 2013 Sangha Gathering.

In addition for more about the gathering in words and pictures, please read Rajini Prakash’s article at http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/1303Mar/13.html

Photos courtesy of Michelle Kinsey and Heung Min Baik