The word “Yajna” (Sanskrit root “yaj”) means ‘an act of pious and devotional worship’. It entails the performance of a Vedic rite with absolute devotion to the ParamAtman (Supreme Being). The Vedic Hindu tradition prescribes that ishtapoorta, which implies praying for the welfare of all through the conduct of yajnas as the highest of services. The Mahanarayana Upanishad categorizes eleven items in the discussion of moksha sadhana (the path of liberation) and speaks highly of yajnam (sacrifice) in this regard:
yajna itiyajno hi devAnAm yajnena hi devA divam gata …. yajnena dvishanto mitrA bhavanti yajne sarvam pratishThitam tasmat yajnam paramam vadanti
(Sacrifice is the means of liberation; sacrifice is indeed dear to devas. The devas attained heaven by sacrifices; by sacrifice even the unfriendly become friendly; everything is supported by sacrifice and so they say that it is the supreme means of liberation.)
The Sri Rudram hymn is an invocation to Lord Shiva. It consists of two parts, namely the Namakam and the Chamakam. The Namakam sings the glory of Lord Shiva and the Chamakam consists of prayers to the Lord asking Him to grant the devotee material and spiritual grace.. Now each of the Namakam and Chamakam consists of eleven chapters called as ‘Anuvakams’.
– Routine chanting of Sri Rudram is called ‘Roopam’ and consists of chanting the Namakam once and the Chamakam once.
– Eleven recitations of Namakam followed by one recitation of Chamakam are called ‘Ekadasa Rudram’.
– Eleven rounds of Ekadasa Rudram chanting constitute a ‘Laghu Rudram’.
– Eleven rounds of Laghu Rudram chanting constitute a ‘Maha Rudram’.
– Eleven rounds of Maha Rudram chanting constitute an ‘Athi Rudram’.
If eleven Ritviks chant the Ekadasa Rudram simultaneously, that would result in completing a Laghu Rudram. If 121 Ritviks chant the Ekadasa Rudram simultaneously that would result in completing a Maha Rudram. Typically, a Maha Rudram is completed in one day resulting in the chanting of the Rudram 1331 (121×11) times.
Recently, devotees were enthralled by an awesome Maha Rudra yagnam that was conducted in the Ramanashram. It went on for three days. On the final day, the culminating yagnam was performed in the new hall of the ashram with sacred energy and vedic excellence. The fires of the havan leaped upwards and seemed to dance with delight as the Rudram was chanted with great fervour by the venerable Agnihotras and the other brahmin priests assembled around. As is the tradition, the consecrated waters were then carried to the shrines of Ramana and the Mother and Abhishekam was performed over the deities. With such an auspicious beginning, we can look forward to a clement summer this year…
The anthropomorphic god Indra is an important god in the Hindu religion. He is also known as Śakra in the Vedas and is revered as the leader of the Devas or gods and the King of paradise or Devaloka. For the Aryas, he was their national god and he was regarded as the protector of the military aristocracy and the Kshatriyas warriors. The formidable thunderbolt-wielding Indra strikes an imposing figure but as king of the gods he is generally benevolent, being generous to his worshippers, guaranteeing peace and prosperity and delivering beneficial rainstorms to end droughts. He can also be called upon in times of war to give support with his divine weapons and favourable intervention. In later tradition Indra is transformed from a worshipped god into a mythological figure involved in various, sometimes unflattering adventures, whilst gods such as Vishnu and Shiva replace him at the head of the Hindu pantheon. Nevertheless, Indra continued to be associated with storms, rain and he is notably the reigning deity of the cardinal direction East.
God of Thunder & Storms: In the Hindu creation myth Indra was born (along with his brother Agni) from the mouth of the primordial god or giant Purusha whose various other body parts gave birth to the other members of the Hindu pantheon. These new gods then brought order to the cosmos and Indra, seated on his throne within the storm clouds of the svarga or third heaven is ruler of the clouds and skies alongside his wife Indrāni. In Hindu mythology, the clouds are equated with divine cattle and the sound of thunder during storms is Indra fighting with the demons who are forever trying to steal these celestial cows. In addition, the rain is equated with Indra milking his divine herd and the god is seen as a protector of earthly cattle belonging to his worshippers. Indra encompasses and controls the universe, balancing the earth in the palm of his hand and manipulating it according to his whim. He also created the rivers and streams by shaping the mountains and valleys with his sacred axe.
Indra has a favourite companion, his pet ape Vrishakapi, but his fondness for the creature did once incur the jealous wrath of Indrāni who then displayed amorous intentions towards Vrishakapi which were reciprocated and when the couple were discovered by Indra, the angry god drove the animal away. However, the tables were turned when, later, Indra himself was discovered in the arms of Vrishakapi’s wife by his once faithful pet. Thus being equal in their unfaithfulness, the pair’s great friendship was restored.
Here on Arunachala Girivalam, the Indra lingam shrine is located at the centre of Tiruvannamalai town in the main market area. Esconced between two jewellery shops, it is hardly visible from the main road. A little passage leads to the antechamber of the shrine from where one descends a small flight of stairs to the inner sanctum built on an underground level. And thus one is rewarded at last with a darshan of the eastern Ashta lingam, the lingam of Indra!
Of flowers many, flowers rare Are garlands woven, garlands fair But these, Thy holy ones declare Delight not Thee Delight Thee more garlands strung Of Syllables of Praises sung By those who sing with heart and tongue of piety Self Knowers they so can sing
– Thaayumanavar (Tamil Saivaite Saint)
“Arunachala Shiva Arunachala Shiva, Thou dost uproot and annihilate the ego of those who meditate on Thee in their hearts, O Arunachala” so begins the classic Arunachala Akshara Manamaalai hymn composed by Bhagavan Ramana in 1914 and sung almost every day by Him and devotees from then onwards right upto the last moments of his earthly manifestation. These sublime 108 verses brilliantlly combine the strengths of Jnana (knowledge) and Bhakthi (devotion) and thus appeal universally to every spiritual seeker and devotee of the Eternal Absolute Truth, call it God, call it the Self..
For what is Arunachala but the Heart of every being! The garland that weds us to the Akshara (the indestructible)is called Akshara manamaalai. There is a subtle word play on the word akshara as it means both letters and the indestructible.
Sri Muruganar composed a prelude to this hymn which says, “Getting rid of the mind that mistakes this perishable, insentient body as ‘I’ and turning it inwards to merge firmly in the Heart, realize the effulgence within as the Truth of non-dual pure awareness. This is the truth of Arunachala, the Heart-centre of the universe”.
Here is the story of how the Akshara Manamaalai came to be composed:
“During the early years of Sri Bhagavan’s abode at Virupaksha, Palaniswami and others used to go into town to beg food for the small group of devotees, and one day they asked Sri Bhagavan for a devotional song to sing as they went. He replied that there were plenty of devotional songs composed by the Saints, many of them neglected, so there was no need to compose a new one. However, they continued to urge him and some days later he set out on Pradakshina round the Hill, taking a pencil and paper with him, and, on the way, composed the hundred and eight verses. Tears of ecstasy streamed down his face as he wrote, sometimes blinding his eyes and choking his voice. This hymn then became the great devotional inspiration of the devotees. The pain of separation and the bliss of union are mirrored in its glowing symbolism. It is composed in Shringara Bhava (in the mood of a bride writing to her groom). The perfection of Knowledge is combined with the ecstasy of devotion. And yet this most heartfelt of poems was composed from the standpoint of the devotee, of one who is still seeking. It is also an acrostic, its hundred and eight verses beginning with the successive letters of the Tamil alphabet. Nevertheless, no poem could be more authentic. Some devotees asked Sri Bhagavan the interpretation of some of the verses and he replied: “You think it out and I will too. I didn’t think while I was composing it; I just wrote as it came.”
The centenary day of the Arunachala Aksharamana malai was celebrated in Ramanashram on Monday 30th December. The Arunachala Akshara Manamaalai hymn was chanted non-stop by devotees from 6 am to 6 pm in the New hall. A very special atmosphere of devotion and spiritual fervour prevailed here during the chanting and one could feel the presence of Ramana singing with us and making us realise the Truth of Arunachala in our own hearts…
Sphurana is felt on several occasions, such as in fear, excitement etc. Although it is always and all over, yet it is felt at a particular centre and on particular occasions. It is also associated with antecedent causes and confounded with the body. Whereas, it is all alone and pure; it is the Self. If the mind be fixed on the sphurana and one senses it continuously and automatically, it is Realisation.
Again sphurana is the forestate of Realisation. It is pure. The subject and object proceed from it. If the man mistakes himself for the subject, objects must necessarily appear different from him. They are periodically withdrawn and projected, creating the world and the subject’s enjoyment of the same. If, on the other hand, the man feels himself to be the screen on which the subject and object are projected, there can be no confusion, and he can remain watching their appearance and disappearance without any perturbation to the Self.
The ‘I’ is not known in sleep. On waking, the ‘I’ is perceived associated with the body, the world and non-self in general. Such associated ‘I’ is aham vritti. When aham represents the Self only it is Aham Sphurana. This is natural to the jnani and is itself called jnana by jnanis or bhakthi by bhakthas. Though ever present, including in sleep, it is not perceived. It cannot be known in sleep all at once. It must first be realised in the waking state, for it is our true nature underlying all the three states. Efforts must be made only in the jagrat (waking state) and the Self realised here and now. It will afterwards be understood and realised to be continuous Self, uninterrupted by jagrat, swapna and sushupti (waking, dream and deep sleep states). Thus it is akhandakara vritti (unbroken experience). Vritti is used for lack of a better expression. It should not be understood to be literally a vritti. In that case, vritti will resemble an ‘ocean-like river’, which is absurd. Vritti is of short duration; it is qualified, directed consciousness; or absolute consciousness broken up by cognition of thoughts, senses etc. Vritti is the function of the mind, whereas the continuous consciousness transcends the mind. This is the natural primal state of the jnani or the liberated being. That is unbroken experience. It asserts itself when relative consciousness subsides. Aham vritti (‘I’ – thought) is broken. Aham Sphurana (the light of ‘I’ – ‘I’) is unbroken, continuous. After thoughts subside, the Light shines forth.
– Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi (extract from Talks)
“Kartur ajnaya prapyate phalam. Karma kim param karma tajjadam”
Among all the literary works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, if one were to be chosen as the gospel of the sadhaka on the path of knowledge, it would no doubt be the Upadesa Saram, or the 30 verses on Reality. For, in these thirty brilliant verses set in beautiful poetry, Sri Ramana has compounded the entire truth of Advaita Vedanta as well as laid out the steps to be followed by the jnana marga sadhaka to reach the highest state of Realisation or, in Sri Ramanas words, the True state of Being, the ‘Sat’.
The title speaks for itself for it means the Essence of Teaching and is verily so. It would be no exaggeration to say that the profound study of the Upadesa Saaram would give the reader a clear understanding of the Truth and the concentrated practice of its Teachings would certainly lead him to Realisation. The Upadesa Saram is chanted by Brahmin vedic scholars daily in the Ramanashram at 5.30 p.m. at the end of the Yajur Vedaparayanam consisting of Sri Rudram – Chamakam, Namakam, Sri Shuktham and Purusha Shuktham.
The story of how the Upadesa Saram came to be composed is quite interesting. The devotee-poet, Sri Muruganar wanted to write 100 verses in praise of Ramana, identifying Him with Lord Shiva. The purpose was to sing the glory of Ramana by drawing a parallel with the legends around Shiva. After Muruganar had composed 70 verses, he wrote about the legend of the sages of Daruka forest. When he came to the point where Shiva had to impart spiritual instruction to the sages, Muruganar cleverly asked Ramana to complete the final 30 verses. Of course he would not accept a no and so Ramana composed thirty succinct verses containing the Upadesa or the Teachings that Shiva imparted to the sages.
Now these 30 verses in Tamil are called Upadesa Undiyar. Ramana himself composed them individually in Telugu, Sanskrit and Malayalam under the title ‘Upadesa Saram’ or Essence of Teachings. The Upadesa Saram seems to have two distinct parts. The first half deals with Karma, Bhakthi and Yoga or Action, Devotion and Union respectively. The second half deals with the straight path of self enquiry, an enquiry into the nature of the mind of the individual, the tools and methods to be used in the process leading one thus to the Ultimate Realisation or Self-Knowledge which is ‘here and now’. To quote Ramana’s words “The one who is aware of his divinity, while in the body, is in a state of bliss beyond description, transcending bondage and liberation. This is here and now.” – verse 29
“Bandhamuktyat’itam param sukham. Vindat’iha jivastu daivikaha”
The Na Karmana slokam from the Upanishad is chanted in Ramanashram every evening after the Sri Rudram vedaparayana.Na karmana na prajaya dhanena
tyagenaike amrta tvamanasuh
parena nakam nihitam guhayam
vibhrajate yadyatayo visanti
Neither by actions, nor by (aquiring) progeny and wealth, but by renunciation alone is immortality attained. (That Supreme State ) is far beyond the highest heaven, and the sages perceive it, hidden in the cave of the heart, shining brilliantly therein.
Vedanta vijnana suniscitarthah
samnyasa yogadyataya suddha sattvah
te brahma lokesu paranta kale
paramratah parimucyanti sarve
(Those) sages, who have a clear understanding of the principles of Vedanta, who have purified themselves by means of the yoga of renunciation,and who are (thus) established in the state of supreme beatitude, are totally liberated in Brahman at the time of dissolution of the body.
Dharam vipapam paramesma bhutam
yad pundarikam puramadhya sagastham
tatrapi dahram gaganam visokam
tasmin ya dantastatu pasidavyam
Located in the center of the city of the body is the subtle lotus of theheart, pure and untainted, which is the abode of the supreme. Meditate on the supreme being residing in that inner expanse, which is subtle and free from sorrow.
Yo vedadau svara proktah vedante ca pratistitaha
tasya prakriti linasya yah parahssa mahesvaraha
That which is described as the primal sound (om) in the beginning of the vedas, has been fully established as the supreme truth at the end of the Vedas ( the Upanishads) . The one who realizes that Supreme Principle is beyond the pale of those totally immersed in physical realities. Indeed, He is none other than the supreme Lord !
Na tatra suryo bhati na candra tarakam
nema vidyuto bhanti kutoyam agnihi
tameva bhantam anubhati sarvam
tasya bhasa sarvam idam vibhati
There the sun does not shine, nor do the moon and the stars. These streaks of lightning do not shine there either, (so) what to speak of this fire? That, shining, makes all others shine. By virtue of its luminosity, all these (manifestations) are illuminated.Brahmaloka may be interpreted subjectively or objectively. The latter meaning requires faith in sastras which speak of such lokas, whereas the former is purely of experience and requires no external authority,. Brahmaloka means Brahma Jnana or Atma Sakshatkara.
The whole passage means:
Deathlessness is not obtained through action or begetting offspring or wealth. Some attain that state through renunciation.
The Sages that have conquered senses, attain that Sat which is more supreme than Heaven and shining all alone in the Heart.
The adepts who by renunciation and one-pointedness are pure in heart and have known for certainty of Truth by the special knowledge proclaimed by Vedanta, get fully released in the Brahmaloka from the causal Maya at the dissolution of the body.
That alone which shines as the tiny akasa void of sorrow, in the lotus heart, the tiny seat of the spotless Supreme in the inner core of the body is worthy of worship.
He alone is the Supreme Lord, who is beyond the Primal Word which is the beginning and end of the Vedas and in which merges the creative Cause.
It seem that most people would prefer not to see the construction covering a portion of the bottom right view and would rather the camera were zoomed just enough to avoid it. We have now done that. The unsightly distraction is no longer visible. Many thanks for your responses.
Unfortunately our neighbor has decided to construct a tall building in the view of our camera over our objections to the excessive height. We had previously narrowed the view to avoid seeing it but now he has continued to raise the building height. We have no recourse but to accept this intrusion into the natural view of Arunachala as it is done on his property. However, we can zoom the camera closer to eliminate the view of this unsightly construction or leave it in the view in order to have a wider image. We would like to hear from devotees their opinion. For now, we will leave the full view of Arunachala including the building.
The Arunachala-Live team
In the year 1966, during a cyclonic storm at Melmarvathur, a neem tree secreting sweet medicinal milk uprooted to reveal the Swayambu (an oval stone- like emanation). Legend has it that the power above revealed itself in the form of the Swayambu and proclaimed that It had transmigrated into this form and would give Oracles through the form to save the World. Thus was established the Arulmigu Adhiparasakthi Siddhar Peetam. This Peetam is situated at Melmaruvathur, 92 km south of Madras in Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu.
This is believed to be the place where 21 Siddhars(saints) men as well as women from different religion, had their Jeeva-Samadhis (meaning, where the Siddhars left their human forms behind, while they are still alive as holy spirits).
The basic tenet of the Melmaruvathur Adhi Parashakthi Siddhar Peetam is “One Mother, One Humanity”, meaning that the whole human race is one and all the human beings who inhabit this vast earth are children of the Divine Mother and therefore there is no distinction amongst the human beings on any basis, be it religion, race, creed, community, caste or even gender.
The main objective for which the Siddhar Peetam strives is “the cult of Sakthi”. The principle being that the whole human race is born of one omnipotent Mother and hence the whole of mankind is one. This Shakthi cult has become increasingly popular in recent years and has led to the building of special Parashakthi temples perpetrating the principles of this cult in many major hindu religious places all over Tamilnadu. The Adhiparashakthi siddhar kovil situated on the outer girivalam Chengam road is one such temple.
The temple is located on the Chengam road in front of the Palakottu area and opposite the Shantimalai handicrafts centre. It was consecrated about two years ago. It is built over a fairly large area and boasts of a large mandapam with beautiful mandalas sculpted over the ceiling. The Parashakthi deity is represented as a graceful panchaloha idol in bronze set in a modern shrine. The walls are painted in hues of red and pink.
The Shakthi cult worship takes place twice a month at full moon and new moon during which times the temple is fairly packed with devotees mostly women all dressed in red and chanting loudly the praise of the Divine Mother. At other times the temple is almost deserted except at meal times when the sadhus line up to receive the free prasad that is distributed. The most attractive feature of this temple is the gentle view of Arunachala with which one is greeted as one traverses the portals of the temple..
Talk 212. Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
Maharshi observed: Pradakshina (the Hindu rite of going round the object of worship) is “All is within me.” The true significance of the act of going round Arunachala is said to be as effective as circuit round the world. That means that the whole world is condensed into this Hill. The circuit round the temple of Arunachala is equally good; and self-circuit (i.e., turning round and round) is as good as the last. So all are contained in the Self. Says the Ribhu Gita: “I remain fixed, whereas innumerable universes becoming concepts within my mind, rotate within me. This meditation is the highest circuit (pradakshina).'”