August 2008

Editorial + Message from the Master + Readers Contributions + Noticeboard + Swami Says + Swami Replies + Understanding Each Other + Yoga and Ancient Wisdom + Tending the Temple + Expanding Understanding + The Jewel Box + Understanding Energy + The Art of Leadership + FEATURE: Swami Siva Kalki and the Swayambhu Lingam + Food 4 Thought + Off the Shelf + Questions? + Faith + The Spirit of Vedanta + ABC of Life + Meditation + Inspiration + Letters from Heaven + Gitascendence + Great Science and Power of Gayathri + On Pilgrimage + Truth 4 Youth.

Cover image: Oil Painting of Swami Shankarananda by Carin de Cock

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Namasté all.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Gayathri Maha Yajna conducted by Swami Shankarananda on the 9th of August. It was, as always, a unique prayer and those who chose not to attend certainly missed out on a Divine experience.

August 2008 brings with it a few changes in Transcendence, starting with the MasterCard Series which has come to an end, to be replaced by a new series of YogaCards which will feature a new yoga posture every month.

We also welcome Brother Haridas Acharya as a regular contributor to Transcendence. He will provide us with fascinating insight into Vedanta and the development of Hinduism in an effort to dispel the misconceptions surrounding this most gracious and all-encompasing spiritual path.

This month we feature Swami Siva Kalki and his discovery of the rare Swayambhu Lingum in Trincomalee, during 1962. Swami Shankarananda explains why we are more powerful than we think and gives insight on learning about bhakti, while Yvonne Jarvis presents some interesting information on Ancient Egyptian Wisdom. We learn about the healing benefits of strawberries and Ruby and find out about Herbal Sadhana from Swami Murugesu. Suren offers advice on Spiritual Investing, we discover the reasons behind the Hindu ritual of blowing the conch and Mahavishnu takes us on a journey to Thiruthani.

On Sunday the 31st August, Swami Shankarananda will be at the Mind, Body, Soul Fair in Westville. Entrance is free and there are always lots of interesting stalls to visit, including that of the Peedam and Kailash Crystals. In addition Swami will be doing healing consultations on the day, so please pop in and say ‘namasate’.

Finally, remember that the Annual Yogathon of the Jadatharaya Institute is on the 27th September. This is not a competition, but a get-together of all Swami Shankarananda’s yoga students to share their love of yoga. As always, attendance trophies are given out to all students present, and a delicious vegetarian lunch will be served. Please invite your family and friends to the event to see what the Jadatharaya Yoga Students have been up to for the past year. For more information, phone Kailashadeva on 083 533 9001.

In Love and Service always, Ed.

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Swami Shankarananda

All disease comes about through microbial action. Even research in the West is showing that. Various microbes have been found to be associated with the arterial lesions of disease, as well as of the production of tumours in cancer. The microbes are just doing what they do. Diets that create the acidic environment are the true cause. We humans are either in an alkaline, high energy state, or we are in an acid state which signals the microbes living within us, or that come by, that we are ready to decompose. Disease is literally a rotting of some part of our bodies because the microbes around us have been given the signal that we are already dead. The food we eat determines almost entirely which of these two conditions we are in. Generally, foods that leave acid waste in our body are heavy, overcooked, over-processed and sweet, such as meats, flours, pastries, alcohol, coffee and sweet fruits. Alkaline foods are greener, fresher and more alive, sch as fresh vegetables and their juices, leafy green sprouts and fruits like avocado, tomato, grapefruit and lemons. It could not be simpler. We are spiritual beings in an energetic, spiritual world. Cooked meat and processed foods are not good for us and create an environment of slow disincorporation that takes its toll on us over time.

All the debilitating illnesses that plague mankind – arteriosclerosis, stroke, arthritis, AIDS and especially cancers – exist because we pollute our bodies, which signals the microbes inside that we are ready to break down, de-energize, die. We always wondered why some people exposed to the same microbes don't get a particular disease. The difference is the inner-body environment. The good news is that even if we have too much acidity in our bodies and begin to decompose, the situation can be reversed if we improve our nutrition to an alkaline, higher energy state. We are living in the dark ages when it comes to the principles of a vibrant, high-energy body. Human beings are supposed to live more than a hundred and fifty years, but are disincorporating before our eyes. It does not have to be that way.

The true cause of disease of every type is the polluting of the body's basic environment by the foods we eat and the toxins we take in, shifting the body from the healthy, vibrant, alkaline state of youth, to a dull, low-energy acid state, which creates a climate in which microbes flourish and begin to systematically decompose the body. Every ailment is the result of this slow decomposition of our cells by microbes, but they don't attach us without cause. It is the foods we consume that set us up for these problems.

We can fully open up to the inner source of energy that increases our vibrational state even more. We can learn to overcome our tendencies of fear and anger. We are more powerful than we think we are.

Excerpt from Secrets of Shambala by James Redfield

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Devotee: What is initiation and the significance thereof?
Swami Shankarananda: It is the ritualization of spiritual and social transformation. Spiritually, the significance of initiation lies in the centring of oneself in conformity with the Divine Order and in God during which we discard the lower self in exchange for a new birth of the spiritual Self. It is, literally, a new beginning of a higher order.

Devotee: Is it only practised by hindus?
Swami Shankarananda: No, all religions have some form of initiation. In some cultures certain rites are performed to celebrate the transformation of adolescents into adults; or to welcome consenting adults members into a special group. Confirmation in Christianity, the Bar Mitzvah of Judaism, and giving the sacred thread to young boys in Hinduism, are all recognized forms of initiations.

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Swami Murugesu Maharishi

Herbal Sadhana
Before you commence this practice you must be properly initiated by one who has attained Siddhi in this line; then only will you attain success. Some herbs have the power to easily draw divine power through one's mind and aweken it. Sahadevi Brahma Dandhi, Punarnava, Vishna Kranthi, Tulasi, Kollukkai Velai, Touch-me-not, Valta Thiruppi, Nayuruvi, Vallarai and Tumeric are some herbs of this nature. Generally these herbs are used in medicines. In Tantra Sastra, if worship is offered under a particular star and plucked, treated according to their live divine shakta, and pray with focused concentration, they will make the required 'palas'. If herbs are gathered without worship they will not confer the same benefits. The following illustrates the efficacy of a small herb. At midnight offer doopa, deepa and worship to a nochi tree. Say the mantra, 'Om Namo Ganapathaye, Kuberaya Seedanthaya Pat Swaha,' twenty-one times, circling the tree twenty-one times. Do this for seven days, after which you must take some bark of the tree, powder it and keep it in the mouth while walking. You will feel the presence of a metal. If someone has been suffering with a fever for a long time, give them a pinch of it three times a day and the fever will subside. If this is carried out out over a long period of time, one can gain extraordinary strength. In tantric sadhana, several herbs are listed which can attract and repel planetary forces. The Siddhas Navagraha medicines are based on this. If a planet is in a negative aspect, this can be neutralised by soaking a specific herb in water overnight and bathing in the water. For example, to neutralise Surya Peeda, one can use Alari, Korai Kizhangu, Deva Dharu and lotus stalks. To remove the ill effects of Chandra Peeda, Alli flower and Pancha Kavya can be used. For Mars Peeda, use Sandal and Ilandai leaves, and for Mercury Kadukkai, Amla nut and gorojana can be used. Eluppai flower, white mustard and Jasmine can be used for Jupiter, Rasanjana, black till and touch-me-not for Saturn, Chittarathai, Vasambu and Seenthil for Rahu and Korai Kizhangu, Jnazhal flower, Nei saltikkeerai can be used for Ketu. More information on navagraha herbs can be obtained from the Gayatri Peedam.

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Yvonne Jarvis

Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
What is the attraction that continues to lure thousands of visitors daily to Egypt, the land where two continents divide and where two worlds, ancient and modern, meet? Is it to experience the culture and heritage first hand, is it perhaps the history which dates back into the mists of time, or is it the hospitality of her people? Having recently had the privilege of visiting Egypt, I thought I’d like to share with you some of the insights I gained.

Herodotus once wrote of Egypt that “Nowhere are there so many marvellous things … nor in the world besides are to be seen so many things of unspeakable greatness.” The fascination of Egypt includes the majestic sphinx, the awesome pyramids, inspiring temples, the mighty Nile, the mummies, the living dramas,… and the list goes on.

Archaeologists and scientists have been trying to figure out for centuries what really went on in ancient Egypt. The original Egyptians, led by Thoth, are believed to have come from Atlantis at the time that it sank. They brought their knowledge and powers with them and used them to uplift the communities living there. They lived their lives based on spirituality and service to a higher being, as well as many other aspects of god, with the purpose of their existence to ascend to an afterlife of immortality.

Sir Norman Lockyer in 1894 first drew attention to the cosmic alignment of various temples, and currently Egyptologists recognize 81 astronomical monuments which contain star connections. They recognized that life in the heavens and on earth is one indivisible unity, and reflected cosmic harmony as the model for earthly harmony. The stars were used as a means of learning about the dimensions of the earth, and find meaning against the backdrop of space and time in the cosmos. How different to modern times, where we are largely insulated from nature and unaware of the sky above our heads; we have lost contact with the stars as physical realities, symbolic presences and practical timekeepers.

Ancient priests worked with consciousness and symbolism to convey truth. Many of the temples, or the houses of the gods, are built in the golden proportions of the human body, which was recognised as the living temple of the human spirit. Even today, there is a spirituality and energy in the temples, for the walls, the spaces and the hieroglyphics hold the wisdom of the ancients. The sphinx is very, very old, and is believed to hold much knowledge, which will be released to mankind when the time is right, which will challenge many present belief systems. The three pyramids at Giza mirror the three stars of the belt of Orion, and other pyramids represent other stars in the constellation. The Egyptian name for pyramids, which symbolize the spiritualization of matter, is ‘mer’, meaning the instrument of ascension, the stairway to heaven, expressing a meta-physical belief in stone.

The Great Pyramid is believed to be a large antenna, a receiving device for cosmic energy and a transmitting device for planetary energy. The shape allowed it to withstand the tremendous energies that ran through its peak. It is described now as being like a piano out of tune. The enormity, complexity, sophistication and brilliance of the wisdom of ‘Khem’, the ancient name of Egypt (and the root word for chemistry and alchemy), is staggering. It was like yeast which worked invisibly from within to raise the cultural level and spirituality of her people. For me, we can sum up the Egyptian divine model for life on earth in the famous phrase by Hermes: “As within, so without; as above, so below”.

References: The way of Egyptian wisdom by Naomi Ozaniec; Egypt throughout the ages; Odyssey Aug/Sept 2006; Hidden mysteries by Joshua Stone.

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Brother Haridas Acharya

Today the world is seeking a more practical religion, a religion that they can apply in their daily lives and not a mystical religion without purpose and meaning. The world desires a religion that must not be divorced from all facets of daily living. In fact, it does not seek a religion that covers only one aspect of our daily living and neglects the others. From the profile of global wisdom, Vedanta has been proclaimed as a practical religion that can be applied to all aspects of our daily life.

Vedanta is a religion for the active not the lazy; not for the one sitting on the edge and the one with an indifferent attitude. It is duty and work which are the real goals of Vedanta, a duty to the highest calling and working in the spirit of selflessness for the betterment of the world and for providing a better way of life for all. Swami Vivekananda says that work is worship, therefore work and duty are never done with a mind of disinterest, a disturbed mind, an indifferent mind, an inconsistent mind or a mind intent for pride and egoisms. It is performed against the backdrop of eternal peace and with a spirit of tranquillity and inner urgency. Vedanta insists that we work and carry out our spiritual duties with mental calmness, steadfastness and with love, undisturbed by any obstacle but a mind that is fixed on the highest spiritual goal.

Vedanta advocates the spiritual ideals of religion and does not draw down these ideals to create a religion of convenience. Spiritual evolution is integral to spiritual practice and if such evolution is not occurring then we are practising a false path or we are not practising our religion correctly. Spiritual evolution takes us to the highest spiritual goal. It is our material desire and craving for self enjoyment and selfishness which is driven by passion, greed, envy, pride, egoism and power that gets us to draw the spiritual ideals to suit our whims and fancies. Spiritual ideals are not unachievable and we must not cloud the truth of the possibility to achieve them. The saints and sages are examples and role models that demonstrate to us the practical possibility for spiritual evolution towards our ideals. It is the lazy, the atheist, the materialist that hide in the name of convenience and in denial of these ideals. The pure hearted express unbelievable faith in striving towards these ideals.

What keeps us away from the real goals of religion are superstition and ignorance. It is this superstition and ignorance which are unfounded in spiritual experience and which are based on irrationality that grips the minds of the weak and those that seek to use religion for mere convenience. Such superstition and ignorance denies us the true understanding of ourselves and enslaves our mental attitude to blind mechanical practices. By identifying with the spiritual ideal and remembering your eternal nature, you will transcend all superstition, ignorance, weakness and enslavement. The Katha Upanishad states 'Utishthata Jaagrata', 'arise, awake!', and we must awake to the clarion call of our true self. Vedanta insists that the spiritual ideals are not meant for a special group of people or for an exclusive religion, sect, organisation or denomination, these spiritual ideals are universal and are meant for the whole world, irrespective of race, religion, sect, creed, gender, sexual orientation or religious affiliation of the individual. Ignorance is not part of our nature or make up, we must shed it with right knowledge.

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Rod Briggs

Z is for Zeitgeist
The term Zeitgeist, literally meaning ‘time spirit’ in German, has been banded about over the last few years as a term describing changing societal norms and the global feeling in general.

The long view of history produces the most glaring examples: Every American school pupil learns that ‘in fourteen hundred and ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue’, they are not taught that he also committed genocide, simply because the natives were not Christians. In the Spanish Inquisition vast numbers of Christians were tortured and murdered by an opposing sect of followers of the same ‘Prince of Peace’. One hundred and fifty years ago Herman Melville’s Moby Dick became a best seller, describing the lives and deaths, of well-thought-of members of New Bedford society – Whalermen. The darling of Victorian/Edwardian England was Frederick Courtney Selous famous for books such as A Hunter’s Wanderings in Africa, as well as for shooting over a thousand elephant in his best season.

All of the above seem abhorrent today but, in their time, were all representative of the Zeitgeist and were, therefore, seen as perfectly normal. Before we get tempted to congratulate ourselves too much on how we have ‘evolved’ we need to remember that there are areas in which we are not doing so well. The change in society over the last two generations has been more rapid than at any time in our history; we are more affluent, better informed and part of the global village. One of the negative off-shoots of this is huge strain on natural, i.e. two-parent, families with children being left to their own devices more than ever, instead of learning from their parents they get ever-more input from MTV, DVDs, computer games and the internet. The result is a generation in crisis where extreme has become the norm: excessive and group sex, binge drinking, recreational drug use and gratuitous violence are standard fare for the teen of today. In many ways parents are unable to help as their life experience is totally different from today’s youth who are left to deal with life-changing issues without being nearly emotionally mature enough to cope. The seriousness of this issue was brought home to me on a visit to New York State last year where the city of Troy, having exhausted all other possibilities, has placed a curfew on all school pupils which comes into effect every day two hours after school closes. Any pupils found on the street after that, without their parents, are held in custody.

It’s our sensitivities which are articulations of our growing consciousness and, it seems that, in areas like genocide, religious freedoms and elephants, we are doing very well. To improve the Zeitgeist in areas of family morality and nurturing needs a shift in focus away from career and the pursuit of wealth back to values that your granny would know and appreciate. Our families are the basic building block of society. Instead of sitting back and bemoaning the fate of the world, start improving the functioning of your little part of it.

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Suren Pillay

In today’s world we find many people in delusion, poor health, depression and general unhappiness. To remedy this many have resorted to all sorts of remedies both physical and metaphysical. These remedies have helped to a certain degree but most have only helped in temporarily assisting people with their problems. Dissatisfaction with life implies that an individual already has a certain degree of expectation in life and somehow the outer circumstances of life have not met that individuals expectations.

The great sages have repeated with emphasis that the planet we live on is not a place to find any lasting happiness. They provided only temporary joy, far too short for most peoples appetite. As human souls our capacity to enjoy is infinite. We are attracted to joy, because our original nature lies in joy. We thus seek whatever joy the world has to offer us and in this joy we seek to find a more lasting form of bliss.

Bliss-consciousness is thus a very temporary attainment on the material plane of existence, and offers the worldly man relief from the endless pain which never fails to find every human being on the planet. In the material world we find that the successful investor is often a long term investor with a strategic goal of attaining quantifiable values over a specific period of time. The novice investor cannot delay his gratification and often buys risky investments at his own peril. Most long term investors become financially free, and most novices end up financially bankrupt.

A similar analogy can be applied to the philosophy of life in general. Those who often seek instantaneous gratification, forego their opportunity of finding lasting bliss. The spiritual novice or materialistic man pays attention only to the outer circumstances of life not cultivating any form of inner peace through spiritual practice. Thinking that his bliss will be unending in attaining his material goals, he invests all his energy in this activity and finds his joy to be ultimately short-lived.

The spiritually awakened devotee, spends a tremendous amount of time in spiritual practice forgetting the material world and cultivating inner peace through the scientific art of meditation. An inner calmness fills his being, his intellectual and intuitional faculties develop greatly, and he remains to a great degree unaffected by material consciousness. The spiritually advanced man thus foregoes instant gratification in favour of eternal happiness and peace which, when acquired, cannot compare to the material comforts of the physical world.

My message to you this month, dear readers, is to ask yourselves whether you are novice in the philosophy of life or if you have the wisdom and discipline to realise your own infinite potential. Introspection is an important part of spiritual evolution. Introspect with humility and you will find the wisdom of the universe flooding your being.

Aum, Shanti, Shalom, Amen!

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by Vish Moodley

Journey to Thirathani
Thiruthani is a distinguished Muruga shrine situated en route to Thirupathi, about 50km from Chennai. It is fifth among the Aarupadai Veedu, and is visited by many devotees who come to seek the divine grace of Lord Muruga, the youthful embodiment of all that is pure and perfect. It is also one of the postulated sites where the Tamil language was said to be imparted to Sage Agasthiya by Muruga Himself.

Mahavishnu had two daughters, Amritavalli and Sundaravalli. Both harboured a strong desire to marry Muruga. To please the Lord and ask that their boon be granted, the sisters went to Saravana Poigai, to perform penance. Saravana Poigai is the lake in which Aarumuga, or Muruga was born, from six light sparks that emerged from the third eye of Lord Shiva. The Lord was happy with the sacrifice of the sisters, and accepted their prayers, saying that he will marry them in their future births.

The chief of Chittoor, Nambi Rajah, had seven sons, but prayed to Lord Muruga for the birth of a daughter. Whilst roaming through the forests one day, he noticed a baby girl hidden among the creepers. The chief was very happy, and saw this as an answer to his prayer. He decided to raise the girl as his own, and named her Valli, a reference to the creepers among which she was found.

When the girl had reached the suitable age of marriage, she would think of none but Muruga. As per customs of the tribe, she was sent to sit in a platform from which she had to scare away birds and animals that tried to destroy the crops. This went on until the harvest approached, and the fields could be reaped.

Narada, the great sage and divine ‘trouble-maker’, went to Lord Muruga, who was resting after defeating Surapadman at Thiruchendur. The muni told Muruga that Sundaravalli was now living as Valli, and that the time of marriage was imminent. Muruga decided that the time had come for him to fulfill his promise. He went to Valli as a hunter, but she was so occupied with thoughts of Muruga, she didn’t even take notice of the hunter. Muruga then transformed himself into an aged man, who was kindly served by Valli. When asked for her hand in marriage, Valli refused. Muruga then employed the help of his brother, Ganesha, who appeared before Valli as an elephant. Scared by the size of the animal, Valli ran into the arms of the old man, and agreed to marry him. Muruga then revealed himself as the Lord of Valli. It is at Thiruthanni that they married.

Amrithavalli was later reborn as the daughter of Indra. She also married Muruga, and as part of the dowry that Indra had to pay, he gifted his praised white elephant, his mode of transport, Airavatha, to Muruga. Consequently, the wealth of Indra’s kingdom weaned, and Skanda offered to return the elephant. This was not allowed, so a compromise was reached – the elephant should face Indra’s direction ie. east. Also part of the dowry was a stone, which is nowadays used to crush the sandal paste that is applied to the Lord’s image.

After defeating the evil king Ravana, Rama worshipped Shiva at Rameshwaram, and is said to have proceeded to Thiruthani to perform prayers to Muruga. When Vasuki was used as the rope during the churning of the ocean by the gods and demons, he sustained injuries to his body. He worshipped Muruga at that very spot, and all his bodily afflictions vanished. Another legend tells of Tarakasuran, the brother of Surapadman, who has stolen the divine discus of Vishnu. In order to retrieve it, Muruga engaged in a duel, and the tactful demon had hauled the discus of Vishnu at Muruga, thinking that it will kill him. The discus merely left a hollow in the chest of the Lord, and the image of Muruga in the temple is even portrayed with a hollow. Skanda then returned the chakra to Vishnu.

The temple is reached by 365 steps. On New Year’s eve, devotees begin at the bottom of the steps, singing praises to Lord Muruga and lighting camphor on each step, signifying each day of the past year.

It is evident that Thiruthani is a temple that is steeped in tradition, folk-lore and legends. From this, we may gauge that the people of the time adored the spot and wanted to glorify it in every possible way. But what remains even more precious than the tales are the countless throngs that go to the temple with heartfelt prayers and gratitude. It is that which makes any pilgrimage site so special, the fact that people go there in humility and complete surrender. We are told of Muruga having two wives. So do we condone polygamy? If you believe so, you have missed the point. In the material level, we would want to think of them as two wives. We fabricate legends and tales around the concept of two wives. These tales bring out a lesson, but they are nothing more than tales. The truth is that the ‘wives’ are two energies. The Vel is Gnana Shakti, or the energy of knowledge, and the ‘wives’ and the Kriya and the Iccha Shaktis, the energies of action and will. These are deep and esoteric concepts in Hinduism, and to bring it to life, we have personified them as wives. The problem is that we have misinterpreted the core message.

Perspective is a very important concept in any aspect of life. If I tell you on the last day of December that I will see you next year, it isn’t a long time. It is just a day away. That is perspective. If I said this at any other time of the year, it will mean a long time. That is perspective. It is the way you look at things; the way you see things from the place at which you are stationed. Even in spirituality, perspective is important. From the understanding that we have, we may perceive the highest form of God as being Muruga, to the point that even Rama worships him. To one who sees Rama as being the highest, the roles should be switched around.

It all comes down to this – God is Muruga in the same way that He is Rama. To distinguish the two is real ignorance, but to know that they one and the same is true understanding. You see, if I take a bucket of water from the sea, it has all the attributes of seawater. Now if I condense one quality, I end up with salt. If I take the sand, I may make glass out of it. That is what we have in Hinduism. Multiple condensations, each saturated with a particular quality. In Muruga, we find the saturation of youth and beauty. In Rama, we find the saturation of righteous living and dharma. So when we worship these deities, we aim to emulate these saturations, so that we may come to know our true selves, that we may come to know that “I am He, Blessed Spirit, I am He!”