Monthly Archives: July 2017

Shiva, Swamp, Guru

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Shiva, Swamp, Guru
by Barefoot Justine

My longing plays its ripples upon your placid lake,
My forever is the flowing of your loving grace,
My walking is deep study of your truth and light,
My joy it only rises if after you I’ve given chase.

My guru is this swamp, green and one in all as I,
He is the path I walk and the rainfall all around,
He is hot sand underfoot, and tall amidst the pines,
On this path, as within, his wisdom is the ground.

Oh winding guru I felt your wholeness in my heart,
In coming home to your shaded land of golden sand,
Where wisdom of the wolves laps the swampy shores,
Where ash of Shiva’s embers warms me as I stand.

Once trees with fiery hollows graced my eyes with awe,
In my guru Agni danced in silks of red and gold,
Among the ashes, deep as snow, I as Aghori roamed,
Under ash embers burned in Mahadev’s stronghold.

Shiva dances maya in the windsong between the leaves,
He nests my pains into a hole amidst the tallest pines,
My guru is this forest and all I know there grows,
Where Soma’s light falls in Shiva’s deepest shrines.

Be with me Guru on Kuruksetra as I string my bow,
Come to me oh Guru, in the restless dark of night,
Reveal to me your self in dreams if not in words,
May I sleep in your embrace of one of love in light.

Shiva Aghori (2 of 2)

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To see PART 1… scroll down…

On The very same night of realization I wrote about in part one, after meditation, study, and contemplation of Shiva’s stories in “The Siva Purana,” I fell into not only ecstasy, but a second realization. This time the realization came about through another story of Shiva’s marriage, his second, this time to Parvati. But before we go into that, let’s briefly discuss the importance of “realization.” Just to be clear, it is one thing to know a thing, to read it, to have an intellectual understanding of it, but that sort of knowledge comes at a great distance from the truth. That sort of knowledge vibrates only in the left side of the brain. In moments of “realization,” those things that we knew on the shallow level of vibration that only happens in the logical side of the brain become internalized and integrated, and that knowledge become Truth that resonates and vibrates through every cell and particle in our bodies. Realizations are when we “KNOW” a thing at a much deeper level, a level so deep that the words we had once understood intellectually become far too small to hold what we now know through realization.

Parvati’s mother awaited Shiva and his wedding party to arrive, eager to see him, but to her horror Shiva came in full Aghori mode, some say he was inebriated, but regardless he came smeared in the ash of a renunciate, riding a bull, and covered in animal skins. His attendants and followers were in tow, a mass of deformed and demented beings, demons and spirits. It was said of Shiva that he spent time with dogs and ghosts. Here he arrived totally unfit for polite society.

“On seeing Siva in their midst, the mother of Parvati trembled. She saw Siva who though devoid of attributes was better than those who had all the attributes, He was seated on the Bull. He had five faces and three eyes. He had ashes smeared over the body. He had matted hair with the crescent moon on His head. He had ten hands with the skull in one of them. His upper cloth was a tiger’s hide. He held the bow of Pinaka in one of his hands and the Trident in another. he had odd eyes, ugly features utterly dishevelled and untidy. He wore the hide of an elephant.”

Description of Shiva as he came to the wedding from “The Siva Purana.”

“You do not know Siva. Siva has many names and many forms. Seeing a peculiar distorted form you have become excited.”

Himacala speaking in “The Siva Purana.”

When this scene which I had read and heard numerous times was enacted in “Kahi Suni,” the portrayal somehow moved me to realization. Seeing the Aghoric Lord Shiva so beautifully represented brought me to a sudden and gripping ecstasy so intense I had to lay prostrate on the floor before a vintage Indian poster of Lord Shiv. I did not know what to do with this sudden ecstasy, whether I could bear it, whether I could go deeper, or whether I could hold it. I tried to let go of everything between (i.e. the ego and monkey mind) me and ecstasy, to let it do what it needed to do with me. I let it flow through me as long as it needed to. It was only after that when I began to reflect on it.

This couldn’t be so? Could I actually be so profoundly aroused by Shiva in his Aghoric form? I can’t think of anything less practical, let alone possible or sane, as being drawn so powerfully to the Aghoric aspects of Lord Shiva? While it is difficult to imagine myself meditating in cremation grounds, drinking from skulls, or living in the extremes of the Aghori… I did, after the controlled burn of the forest I live in, spend a lot of time wandering half-naked through the ashes. That scorched forest, which I so often had entirely to myself, became my cremation grounds… it was then that the forest became my Guru. That forest became one huge lesson in the constructive destruction of Shiva the Destroyer! As much as I thrilled to watching Agni dance through the forest in his robes of red and gold, as much as I sunk into my own Aghoric reality in the aftermath of the ashes, so I equally enjoyed the profound lessons of Shiva’s constructive destruction as I watched Samsara taking place before my eyes when up through the ashes sprouted new growth… new life! Since then I have watched my scorched forest, my Guru, grow lush and green with life. Still, part of me misses the fire and ash of my forest in its Aghoric sate.

“Aghora is not indulgence; it is the forcible transformation of darkness into light.”

Robert E. Svoboda from “Aghora, At The Left Hand Of God.”

Yet I cannot even say that I romanticize the Aghori, cannot even say I aspire to become one, nor that I am obsessed with them or know much about them, but what I can say is that there seems to be far too much truth in Aghori to be ignored, and furthermore, far too much Aghori in me to ignore, and I am afraid it has liberated as well as complicated my spiritual life. How am I to submit to a Guru or commit to an ashram when I have so little respect for polite society, when I see the Aghoric truth that filth is no less sacred than a flower, my dirty feet no less sacred than my freshly washed hands? How can I turn my back on the truths that formed me, not considering that when I came to Lord Shiva it was through a dirty-footed orgasm while stoned on cannabis? How am I going to resolve my spiritual life when I have this side of me that is so transgressive that the mere portrayal of Shiva’s Aghoric nature and company can reduce me to trembling ecstasies? How on earth am I going to be able to submit to the teachings of any Guru who does not see the value in “Shiva’s Gift”(ganja), in our plant teachers, in ash and transgression? I ask myself if it is possible to submit to the disciplines of a Guru who denies the truths of my realizations? And yes, these are questions, NOT arguments, because the truth is… I do not have the answers to the above questions.

I do not know where all my questions and realizations are leading me, but what I do know is that there was a practical lesson in this Aghoric ecstasy, and the lesson applies to the same hell I had fallen into after being bullied a week ago to the day of my realizations and ecstasies. I began to realize that Lord Shiva does inhabit the cremation grounds as well as the pure and still white snows of Mount Kailash, and that he kept company not only with Devi’s, but with dogs, ghosts and demons. To truly be Shiva, to truly know “Om Shivoham,” I must learn to accept the demonic nature of other men and see that they, too, are part of Shiva. These animal men who persecute me are demented beings, beings no less demented than those in the company of Lord Shiva. Moreso, I must recognize that my own demoniac and demonaic qualities, while to be strenuously overcome, are to be accepted as part of Shiva. Indeed, the Rakshasas (demons) are to be risen above and not too greatly indulged, but all, good or evil, light or dark, ignorant or illuminated, all is Shiva. Yet… Shiva is the road to light beyond the path of darkness. Shiva teaches us to elevate ourselves beyond the darkness, but, more importantly, to view the darkness without fear. Darkness is to be accepted fearlessly, but never should darkness become a wallow we delight in. It is a trap and madness lies there. Life is messy, Shiva is messy, and one cannot follow Shiva who is too weak to cope with such messiness.

“Fear destroys the alignment of the mind; rather than accept the reality of nature, the mind seeks to change and control it. These attempts invariably fail, creating frustration and fear and confusion that blinds one to spiritual reality.”

Devdutt Pattanaik, “7 Secrets Of Shiva.”

Will I ever be able to learn to love such demented demonic beings and traits? Will I ever learn to love those animal men who seek out nothing but misery, their own misery, and the twisted delight they enjoy in passing their misery into others? Such men are bearers of misery, just as lepers bear and transmit leprosy. So how can I love men diseased with demoniac tempers?

I think the answer is to come to realize that while I need not love evil, need not love cruelty, darkness and ignorance, I can recognize that those qualities. are merely crusts, are merely twisted and ugly Maya slopped upon the Supreme truth, and this should be considered with some compassion. We are all composed entirely of infinite space, vibrating briefly between poles of infinity, the same poles of infinity. We are all composed of the same atoms, but all vibrating in different manifestations. We are all Shiva, even if we only display the most demented aspects of His Sports, of His Maya. The only difference between the Dalai Lama and Trump is that Trump has forgotten who he is, and has fallen so far from the supreme reality of his being that it may well take lifetimes of groveling as a worm before he will even begin to crawl into awareness, before he will even begin to awaken from the dream his ego has encrusted around him… then again, maybe not. And that is the thing, who knows what realizations may come to any man, or any woman.

I certainly don’t know.

And here we learn that dark, ignorant and demoniac men are more to be pitied than despised as they have fallen so far into the darkness that their only company is misery and a shallow occasional happiness that is always tainted with wickedness.

Yet, are we then to suffer their demoniac tempers with surrender? Perhaps these deominiacal men, these twisted beings, perhaps the only way they will learn and rise above is to fall so deep into despair and misery that there is nowhere to go but up. Many years ago I was molested in a bar, and I defended myself violently. While I do not hate the man who molested me, and while I feel no anger or need to avenge myself further, I also know that perhaps it was my duty to have defended myself so violently. No, loving the Godhead, the Shiva, in another person does not mean loving or even passively enduring their wickedness, nor even allowing them to get away with it. Sometimes the greatest love is demonstrated when we defend ourselves, when such men are, sometimes painfully, taught the lessons they need to learn to begin their journey inward, or upward, or at the very least, out of the karmic pit of bile they have been wallowing in. Are we not supposed to confront darkness fearlessly? Are we not supposed to shed light upon darkness? Again, I ask questions that I have yet to find answers to.

Life is complicated, Karma is complicated, it’s messy, it’s a battle, and while we Seekers seek peace and love and grace, sometimes we have to fight. Sometimes in order for karma to realize itself we have to do so through action, through fighting our battles, but we need not fight them in hatred or with revenge or anger in our hearts. We must be just and in control. After all, as much as “Fight the battle” was one of the lessons Krishna taught Arjun in The Gita, the one theme running through the scripture, the one truth that had cankered Arjun, was that he loved the men he had to fight.

Arjun loved his enemies, as they were family to him. And aren’t we all family in Om Shivoham?

Regardless, he had to fight them even as he loved them. Easier said than done… right? Do I have light and wisdom enough to love those who persecute me? Perhaps, but at the moment, only abstractly.

Har Har Mahadev!

Shiva Aghori (1 of 2)

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Yesterday I encountered 2 truths, both revealed through Lord Shiva, and one, once again, through his Aghoric aspects. Prior to the studying I am doing now, I read several books just to prepare me for my current undertaking, as what I am reading is so thick with symbolism and nuance that to have launched into it unprepared may well have been dangerous. At the moment I am reading “The Siva Purana,” yep, all 2,200 pages! The best estimate of when it was written speaks to the text being written between the tenth and fourteenth centuries, which means that much of the text contains intrusions from politically motivated Brahmin who, so it seems, were very concerned with preserving social order and the hierarchical position of their caste. When reading these scriptures, as is the case with any scripture, it is wise to root the wisdom out while leaving burried the material concerns of the men who intruded upon the wisdom of the sages.

One of the big challenges in doing this reading was to empty my cup of dogmatic and fundamentalist notions, leftovers from my upbringing as a fundamentalist Christian. This cup continues to need emptying at regular intervals. In my continued efforts to understand this nuanced scripture, I am not only rereading some of the texts I have already studied, but have been watching “Kahi Suni,” which is an Indian television program that visits the sacred places and explores the myths, legends and stories of India.

The past two days I have spent immersed in meditation, devotion, study and contemplation in the forest. Honestly, I am beginning to think that this is what I am meant to be doing, as nothing else brings me peace. Every one of my material entanglements, work, art, relationships, my car, finances, you name it, all of it leads me down the same path, that of anxiety, fear and depression. The cycle seems to be that I devote myself to Lord Shiva, spending all of my spare time in meditation, contemplation and study, and come to peace, joy, and levels of wisdom and realization that have astounded me… but then the ego begins whining in my skull like an annoying little bitch or begins barking like a tyrannical selfish father, and I am called back to engagement in material concerns, and then I am let down, disappointed, fearful, anxious and depressed. Why do I keep going down the path of darkness when I know the road that leads to light? But, then again, that does seem to be the eternal struggle, doesn’t it?

I keep falling from grace because the ego is loud when it becomes threatened, it insists upon being in control, and as it sees me wandering farther and farther down the path of spiritual life, it begins to ask me questions and telling me things, such as, “You can’t live like this? You cannot spend your days meditating and studying. You are wasting your life, your days are numbered, you need more money, a husband, fame and a large body of work.” And this ego raises itself before my eyes and I follow it like a dying woman follows death. It is one thing to recognize that our culture is constantly at work brainwashing us, but another level of comprehension entirely to recognize that we are perpetuating this brainwashing from a much more insidious place… from within our own minds!

This last 2 days of immersion began in fear and helplessness. I felt abandoned by Shiva, I had succumbed so fully to the ego that meditation and Shiva began to seem foolish to me. But, slowly, as I shed my material concerns, as I studied, increased my meditation and the length of time I spent in the forest, the quietude of clarity began to dawn within me again. So desperate was I to let go, to fall into Shiva, that I laid myself on the floor and begged him to reveal himself to me.

Ultimately, as usual, he did. I was taught once, in a profound moment, while in the audience of a Pandit, that Shiva cannot help but rush to the aid of a Devotee who cries tears for him.

A week ago yesterday I was badly bullied in public again. The experience was humiliating and enraging, and I felt a deep resentment at having to live in a world full of vile troglodytic animal men. Having to share the planet with hostile ignorant Rakshasas and leeching vampires can be exhausting, and I found myself being drug back into the hellish world of my damaged ego.

But this was when the first lesson came to me, and it came in the story of Shiva’s marriage to Sati. I had read it numerous times, knew it well, and as I watched a version of this story played out in “Kahi Suni,” aspects of the story and its secrets suddenly became relevant and known to me in a way that elevated me out of my stupor of self loathing and self pity. Though abstractly, the lesson in the story was applicable to my own experiences of the moment.

Daksha, father of Sati, was holding a sacrifice, and Daksha had intentionally snubbed Shiv and Sati, this infuriated Sati. She was enraged that Daksha, her father, would dishonor Mahadev, and the insult grated on her. Shiva tried to tell her to let it go, tried to instruct her, but Sati was insistent. Shiva knew that the moment she defied him, she would be lost, and while this may seem like a patriarchal notion, that reading would miss the point. The point being that when we deny and question God, as we become taken in by the constructed “reality” of the material world and culture, we are likely to fall into its traps of misery and unconstructive destruction. She went, uninvited to confront Daksha, and encountered a cold and unrepentant Daksha, in the end, unable to move Daksha, she immolated herself in the sacrificial fire.

“All these Suras and Asuras, brahmins and sages bow to me. How is it that this gentleman who is always surrounded by goblins and ghosts behaves like a wicked man?

How is it that this shameless frequenter of cremation grounds does not bow to me now? he is devoid of rights. He has cast off religious practices. He is surrounded by spirits and ghosts. He is elated and spoils good policies and conventions.”

Daksha speaking of Shiva in “The Siva Purana.”

Now, of course, Daksha is a manifestation, or metaphor, for the ego, the ego of social order in particular. His daughter was a manifestation of nature, of worldly and social existence. Shiva, of course, not only rejects, but flaunts social convention, this, of course, is intolerable to Daksha. Let’s step into this for a moment and apply this to our world. Think of Nixon as Daksha and the youth of the sixties as Shiva. Look back at how, not only threatened, but insulted, enraged and offended Nixon was that he had become BIG and powerful, the PRESIDENT, and here were a group of people who were not impressed, who rejected not only his world view, but the immensity of his very material accomplishment. Essentially if a person or people rebel against a man of power, to the transgressors he is seen as and becomes impotent and powerless. The powerful cannot abide those who do not recognize and praise their power. Recently when talking to a friend, he complained after the election that “The next 4 years are going to suck.” To which I told him that whether or not the next 4 years sucked were entirely up to him. I explained that Trump only has as much power over you as you give him.

Shiva, quite innocently and as is natural to his character, meant no offense to Daksha’s power, or his constructed “reality,” but he had no interest in being part of it. Now, of course, just as it is Shiva’s job, his Dharma, to transgress social norms, to challenge the reality of power, it is also the job of Sati to exist between her father and Shiva. She, a woman, as was traditionally realized in India, was a creature of nature, of the world, and it was her job to keep Shiva engaged in the world, lest “reality” as we know it be destroyed. That, however, is Shiva’s Job, to destroy the construct most people have democratically accepted as “reality.” His destruction contains no malice, only Dharma, it is Shiva’s job to destroy not only constructed “reality,” but to destroy our attachment to it so that we may shun this temporal construct and engage with the supreme reality that we already are. Om Shivoham… I am Shiva! Under the heavy robes of the ego, under the crust of material construct, we are all Shiva. And we all decide how much power men of power have over us. Me, I refuse to recognize most men’s power as it exists only within the confines of a construct of reality that I do not buy into. Hence Trump is powerless against me just as Daksha was powerless against Shiva, and Sati, had she the wisdom to see that.

Sati, being caught between Daksha’s ego and social order and Shiva’s renunciation, slips so far into the power of her father’s ego that she becomes consumed by it… literally consumed by fire! So as to keep Shiva from becoming attached to the remains of her corpse, Vishnu has her dismembered and her parts drop throughout India, and wherever her remains fell, holy temples were raised.

So what, beyond the less than significant political ramifications of this story, was the lesson here for me? To listen to Shiva, to be like Shiva. Why was Sati allowing Daksha’s ego to damage or control her own? Why, Shiva must have wondered, did Sati become so caught up in Daksha’s ego that her own was consumed by him, by his fire, his fire which had excluded Mahadev? And this was the lesson for me, when being bullied and sexually harassed, of course it is hurtful and dangerous in the moment, but why would I, a week later, remain consumed by the wicked and demonic ego of the animal-man who had offended me? Why would I allow myself to be consumed by his godless fire? In the actions of this man, he, like Daksha, had started a godless fire, and I allowed myself to be consumed by it. Furthermore, when harassed, I chose to confront the man, just as Sati had confronted Daksha, and just as Daksha could not be moved, neither could this animal-man. Any effort to confront ignorant and material-minded men like Daksha and my own bully will result in little more than a deeper state of entanglement in not only your own, but their egos! Shiva had warned Sati, had warned me, but we both became consumed. The lesson is to stop becoming consumed, to be with Shiva, to be Shiva, after all, I am Shiva… I am Shiva!

Om Shivoham.

NEXT: Part 2