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God shows us Her presence in a 1000 ways….

February 27, 2014

Preface to this post:

‘You may deny your God, but who are you to question my God?’  – Shri Satya Sai Baba of Puttabarthi

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_33Bq_iPf0

Happy Maha Shivrathri to all !

On this day usually, I spend my late evenings in the Shiva Temple in my street.  Its not a big or grand or rich one, but a simple, austere one run by devotees managing to survive against all odds.  The Shiva Lingam here is on the peetam of ‘jeev samadhi’ of a Siddha who lived in this exact spot over 200 years back.  Ancient south Indian temples always were built over such ‘jeev samadhis’ of Siddhas that we believe until today, is the reason for the power of aura that surrounds our temples.

I am missing my temple and Shiva very much today – but this Shiv Rathri here in Doha is like a different experience for me.  Instead of rituals and chants, I am sitting before my computer, watching numerous You tube videos on Shiva, listening to his slokas on ear phones and thinking a lot more about Shiva than I could be doing in India at this same time. (In India, even if you are in Pooja, you cannot concentrate totally:  the courier man will ring the bell.  next phone call in landline or mobile.  then this or that – someone knocking on your door).

Downloaded the free e-book ‘Shiva – ultimate outlaw’ by Isha Foundations and i am presently reading it.

http://mahashivarathri.org/shivaoutlaw/

Like i am feeling right now, this kind of ‘bhakthi’ is sort of real true essence, spirituality, if we wish to admit.  Forget the surroundings – I am in my bedroom.  I am not fasting today and i ate before having a shower.  I lit a lamp though, not the traditional diya – but a scented candle in our make-shift Pooja here.  That’s it – no bells, no flowers, no aarthi.  Not even bhajans.  I stood a minute before our ‘altar’ in silence that’s all.  Then over to here and reading and listening to instead about Shiva.  Today is thursday night.  So we are going out and having  a blast – this is weekend here.  So its actually ‘Shiva Dhin’ for me in Doha today, not ‘Shiv Rathri.’  Through whole day today, I am thinking of Shiva, the ultimate.  I spoke to my son who returned from college and surprisingly he said he visited a Shiva temple this morning  (he sounded as if he is ashamed of it).    Until it is time for us to go out this evening, it is ‘Shivasmaran’ for me.

As such, listening to ‘Sivapuranam’ in tamil – my most favourite chant.   We recite Sivapuranam during every ‘pradosham’ in our temple, each fortnight.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IsgjxYy-9Q

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Now, to the purpose of this post:

Listen, I am terming God first a female, the better half of Shiva, the alpha male.  God is first a ‘She’ to me, any arguments?  (I will go to my story in the fourth paragraph from here).

A friend posted a You Tube video on controversial topic ‘conversion’ in which it is argued, Christ was just a man who walked the streets, went to market.  Well, I am neither a Christian nor a Muslim.  I am a Hindu, follower of Hinduism, that originated in India, in Hindustan not in middle-east.  My Gods had our names – not Arabic.  My Gods spoke our language, Sanskrit not Hebrew or Arabic.  My Gods were/are of my skin,  my Indian Race, of Indian gene not of Mediterranean or Arabian stock. Which is why I am a Hindu naturally, genetically, honestly, culturally, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically. In short,  I BELONG and I belong with this unbeatable, unshakable confidence.  I do not have to fake my beliefs.  I do not have to overdo my beliefs.  I do not have to force myself to listen to tiresome boasting lectures where conquests are measured by conversion rates.  I do not have to pretend that I am an arab or turk or mongol or persian or european in the first place.  I do not have this urge to convince anyone who I am, what I am.  I am open about my origins, NOT VAGUE.   There is no ambiguity about my ancestry.  I am not denying my past – I am not living in a state of perpetual denial as to how my culture was bred through generations, good or bad it was. In essence,  I am not the converted (or rather force-converted), My ancestors did not sell their soul for a few dhirams or english pounds – my forefathers clearly did not convert in last 2000 years atleast, and I remain unwavering in my inherent and intrinsic faith that’s closest to my heart, as did my great, great, great, great grandfathers. I am saying this because, you can only be born a Hindu, not convert into one. In short, I am a pedigree not a mongrel (excuse my language, intention is not to hurt, but to drive home a point).  My ancestry comes to me by blood, pure by over 2000 years minimum.  My faith is SOLID.  My story is solid with no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts.’  Blessed that I am not a walking proof of the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ where the converted, over time, turn out to be the fiercest fundamentalists or evangelists of an alien faith from an alien terrain.  I bet their ancestors are turning over restlessly in their graves, for all the sacrifices that have gone in vain.  Finest examples are Kashmiris, once purest Hindus. The reluctance to shed surnames like ‘butt’ and ‘guru’ show how even in conversion the old folks did not want to totally lose their bearings, that they hung on to this tiny bit of their roots steeped in glorious Hindu culture.

Mixed bloods as I said have this orientation problem.  They need this frequent confirmation, recognition, acceptance, sense of belonging they always lack.  They belong neither here nor there.  You can see these traits clearly in Indian Muslims and Indian Christians.  Like fish out of water.  What has Arab way of life and belief system got to do with India and people of Indian origin or Indian stock.  It simply is not ours, does not belong in the Indian subcontinent.  Goes against our grain.  In conflict with a 10,000 year old desi, native culture.  And this is not healthy.

Coming to God’s presence and evidence of it, I am an ardent worshiper of Shakthi (Parvathi, Lord Shiva’s consort).   I  have had my share of dreams and visions that I believe in.  I don’t want to share them all for being mistaken for hallucinating.  But this happened very recently – in the last month.  I want to share only this experience of mine to indicate what faith is all about and how God shows us her presence in every turn of our life.

Mother Goddess Shakthi goes by a 1000 names and many, many more.  They say there are 33,000 Gods and Goddesses in Hindu pantheon, but the truth is, its Shiva and Shakthi we have in various forms or avatars.  The two complementing male and female parts of one very ‘Om’ that which cannot do without each other.  Each characteristic or trait of godliness in our culture is represented by a name, an avatar which is the reason we have so many deities in our temples.  Shiva is also the Rudhra, the Bhairava, The DakshinaMurthy.  While Bhairava is a problem solver like the guarding deity, Dakshina Moorthy is a fountain of knowledge, the guru.  Vishnu is known popularly for his avatars of Ram and Krishna.

Shakthi is basically ‘trishakthi’ – Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvathi rolled into one.  Shakthi is the source or energy.  Lakshmi is the goddess of good fortunes or wealth.   And Saraswathi is the goddess of wisdom.  Shakthi is the Mookambika – the trinity of Goddesses rolled into one.  Shakthi goes by the name Lalitha as we all know among others.  She also goes by the name Raja Rajeshwari – the Goddess of all Gods and Goddesses.  the ultimate Goddess.  I have a handsketched framed picture of Raja Rajeshwari in my pooja, handed down over generations from my MIL’s family.  Its all I have asked of my MIL for myself in all these years.  I also have a hand-drawn framed picture of Sri Lalitha, done by Shri Shankaracharya of Sringeri. These are my two most valuable possessions in life – like my family.

Every tuesday and friday I follow this ritual of reciting the ‘Lalitha Sahasranama’ and ‘Raja Rajeshwari Stotram‘ in my ‘Vilakku’ Pooja.  (A pooja in which i assume Goddess comes to reside in the very flame of my ‘kutthu vilakku’ – the traditional tall diya we use in Tamil Nadu.)  In fact I miss that here in Doha very dearly.

In January we took a break of three days with family to relax at ‘Yercaud’ – about 300 km from Chennai.  I had booked a resort within a coffee estate that was a breathtaking heritage property.   We reached Yercaud on a thursday morning.  This was our second Yercaud visit in last 10 years, long overdue.  Mostly Yercaud means rest and peace for us Chennaiites.  It is also the closest to us than other hill stations.  Altitude is not too high, so weather is bearable round the year.

Next day, the second day of our stay, was friday and right from the moment I stirred out of my sleep, I was thinking of my friday pooja.  ‘Why not a sightseeing trip?’ asked my husband.  Yercaud is such a small hillstation that we mostly like to stay indoors.  The weather was superfine and the estate property, immaculate.  Mere walking around was enough and food was good.

So I reluctantly agreed to the trip not wanting to leave for afar,  and there we went – the three of us in a cab.  Started at about 9 am.  Not much to see in Yercaud.  Our tourist guide, a retired government servant turned cab driver, after a couple of valley views, turned to me at about 11 am and said, there is a ‘Lalitha Parameshwari temple’ here newly constructed with the tallest ‘meru’ installed.  I am taking you there now.’  I froze in my backseat.  It was friday, my pooja time, the exact time i would be reciting the Lalitha Sahasranama.  My husband took one glance at me and knew.  As we walked into the quiet beautiful temple, obviously that of an Ashram,  both my husband and son respected my silence and emotional spiritual mind and left me to do the one-to-one darshan alone.  There was my goddess, so beautiful and beyond words to describe and to me, it meant that Goddess sanctioned my holiday and gave me her darshan – because she knew my heart like none other.  She reigned like a queen in the Sri Chakra, with the sugarcane bow and arrows gracing us with the most benevolent smile you can ever find in any face on earth.  It was like a reckoning moment for me.

After an hour in the temple we got back to the cab.  The driver next took us to a small ‘Raja Rajeshwari temple’ without any bidding on our part.  By this time i was dumbfounded.  It was clearly like a prearranged tour.  Only with the tour programmed very much by my Mother Goddess, I believe.  Now I saw Her once again as Raja Rajeshwari, the One supreme Goddess to all Gods.    I have to thank my family for not ridiculing me for my strongest beliefs and giving me the space when tears fell freely down my eyes.

Two back to back darshans on a friday of Lalitha and Raja Rajeshwari are not a simple matter of coincidence to me by any means.  After all there are a 1000 temples around every nook and corner of Tamil Nadu – and Shakthi Herself goes by infinite names.  Why should these two names or avatars beckon me?

Non-believers view everything skeptically.  For me, there can’t be a better way for my Mother to show me how She is looking forward to my Pooja every friday.  How she longs to hear my words of prayer every friday.  I can call Her by any name – Lalitha or Raja Rajeshwari or Durga and so on.  But she is the one and only one – Shakthi, my Mother Goddess.  That friday I had started out with an enormous burden of guilt – for being in TN, still not being able to recite my friday prayers…. and for missing the Pournami pooja the previous day.  By midday, my guilty feelings were assuaged and were replaced with a quiet and calm and peace.

Before talking anymore on conversion or gloating about conversion figures, You tube evangelists must know what faith truly is all about. Faith is not in numbers or in multiplying figures.   Or in trying to convince others of one’s nobility of beliefs.  Faith is totally believing, accepting, giving. Faith is not in comparing.  Hinduism is not so weak or insecure that any of our preachers have to head lectures and canvass for people to convert.  Gurus guide, don’t coerce people into conversion.  And Hinduism certainly did not and does not spread by the sword. 

I have said this before.  I am saying it again.  God made us all different because She wanted us to be different.  SHE. 

I thank my forefathers for not succumbing to any physical or mental pressure or torture through all the centuries, for their selfless supreme sacrifices of which I will never come to know, because of whom I am a Hindu now in this 2014 and not a christian or a muslim.   My strong Hindu faith makes me tolerant, accommodating, liberal and broadminded much, much more over others following other paths.  First of all, our dictionary does not have the word ‘infidel’ in it – will never ever have.  Which shows how much we respect others. Respect has to be earned first, and respect has to be given first to beget it later.  My faith is reinforced even stronger with my belief in pluralistic Gods and deities and avatars – all of whom converge positively into one great ‘Om.’  Write ‘Om’ in Hindi or Sanskrit.  Turn it over and see what you get.  That’s it.  And this Om is as old as the very human civilization.  We don’t have a date since when we are following Hindu culture in India.  We have been for some 10,000 – 20000 years, from time immemorial.

And now over to Lord Shiva.  You are our true father.  You are the father of this entire Indian subcontinent and this whole universe, whether others like it or not or want it or not or accept it or not.  Shakthi is our mother.  Brahma the creator, Vishnu the protector with 10 avatars including Ram and Krishna, and Shiva the ultimate destroyer.  Destruction is as much a part of Hindu cycle as creation.  Because until something dies, the new blood will not have breathing space to thrive.  We all have to yield our place someday and move on so that a younger generation can take over – whether we are trees, insects, animals or humans.

Television evangelists (who I don’t want to name) – I am only a housewife and not a seasoned professional like you guys.  And this is my ‘gyaan.’   This is my answer to you.  Nothing irks me more than this conversion issue.  Why are you people into numbers always?  Who are you?  Have you done a DNA mapping of your genes?  Can you marry one of ‘their’ daughters, of whom you claim you are kin?  If religion can unite, then African and American and Indian and Filipino christians must be one happy family.  Are they?

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Its not just with God’s faith.  I have felt this faint sense about our departed parents as well.  My mother last appeared in my dreams when we were holidaying in Mumbai.  She was with me and my sister and our families and told me in her school sari and handbag, it was time for her to leave.  Ofcourse it was a dream I had in Mumbai and dream only. My younger nephew Arju was then only one year old.  After that she never appeared in my dream again.  Its over 10 years now.  With a great regret and relief I have this feeling that she indeed has ‘finally left.’ She who would be in my dreams until the day I married, she who stopped visiting me in my dreams with childbirth, and she who resurfaced for one last time that early dawn in Mumbai, out of the blue.  No, I had not thought about her for months.  There wasn’t the slightest inkling.  She had lingered over waiting for this date I guess.  She said a proper ‘goodbye’ which is like a miracle if I think today. Even as I write this, I shed a tear drop.  People who have gone through such experiences will know.

The other experiences are: when I saw the picture ‘Ghost’ in tv.  ‘Somebody help me’ cries Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze lies dead close to her and I feel a feather like something brush softly my face.  For about a minute or so I sat frozen and alone with my head reeling, buzzing with an eerie sensation  – either of my parents must be, it dawned on me later.  Mostly my father i thought.  Its an experience i never dare to share with anyone.

Next was after some years when I was watching the film ‘The sixth sense.’   I was watching the movie with a trepidation because the story was like that.  Came the near-ending when I was wondering how the picture would close.  The moment the doctor gets the realization that its he who is the deaparted soul unwilling to move on to the other world, the eerie sensation returned.  A mild peacock feather brushing my cheek – the feeling was quite same and unmistakable.  This time I recognized it although it caught me unaware yet again.  The feeling that lasted just a fleet of a second or probably like upto a minute like it happened in the Patrick Swayze death scene in ‘Ghost.’   It was only after this ‘sixth sense; experience, I could in fact make a connection with probable ‘presence.’.  Now I realized both experiences had a striking similarity.  Being educated and aware of effects of hallucinations and dreaming powers, I wanted to deny myself both the situations. Within a minute I was under control, my senses returned to normal in the two incidents..

But in both cases,  I felt detached for a hanging, split second with a feeling as if my head was bobbing in mid-air.  Like drowning.  Like losing sensation in one side of the head.  Like draining of sensation in entire head.  Something like that.  The crucial point is the timing. The sensation – i have never felt ever before in my life and never after.  Its like a one-off experience.  I am very much sane and at at that particular time, was not under any medication.  I watched both pictures in broad daylight in perfect mental and physical conditions.

I am not saying I believe in ‘presence of departed souls’ (i hate to call them ghosts – its cruel when you know they are your own parents) just like that, but I am like, there is this presence, like a light, like a shadow – of our parents, especially if they leave us to fend for ourselves in a young age.  Very perceptive children perhaps can get it, feel it.  I have, but not my sister who is the kind who will laugh at this thing.  She is unforgiving when it comes to parents leaving soon their children, even if it is destiny to blame.

Reminds me now of the Mallu picture ‘Anandhapurathu Veedu’ – a loving, moving story of departed parents’ soul for their son and his family.  Recommend it one hundred percent to everyone.  This is what I reckon as parental love.   

In the picture ‘Fools rush in’ I remember the last climax scene in the airport when Mathew Perry remembers the Mexican sign/saying  ‘God puts in his signs everywhere for us to see – its we who have to find them.’

I truly believe in that.  There are signs everywhere.  Very few of us have the will and heart to look for them.

Whether in Yercaud with my Mother Goddess Shakthi or in Chennai right in my living room sensing a ‘fleeting presence’ (about which I could be wrong)- my acts were not deliberate.  They were not pre-planned.  They happened totally out of the blue, taking me by surprise.

We all believe in what we like to believe.

My belief is that, God sends us messengers because She cannot come to each of us everytime and all times.  That is why we have a mother. In my prayers I always thank my Mother Goddess, because I am seeing Her in my aunt and even in my Mother-in-Law in a way.  This is my kind of faith or religion.  To me they are the living Goddesses giving me moral support and strength –  human and practical avatars of my very own Mother Goddess.  God is what we interpret Her as.

And I always believe in a forgiving God, not in a punishing one.  The avenging one is for those who have reasons to fear Her.   But I believe in what Lord Krishna says in Bhagvad Gita, do your duty and leave the rest to God.’  I believe in the Christ who says, show your other cheek to the one who slaps your face.

I believe in all types of (original)  Babas like Shirdi Shri Sai Baba and Shri Ramana Maharishi and Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.  If anything, they were noble souls.

Don’t shoot the messengers oh preachers of conversion, finally the messengers are the only ones you can practically SEE, TOUCH and CALL GOD after all.  Otherwise anyone really seen Christ or Shakthi or Shiva or Allah with his or her eyes?  But we all keep seeing messengers don’t we?  All scriptures are man made.  Who is living today to tell you who saw which angel and where?

Finally it all boils upto beliefs, doesn’t it?  We believe, that’s all.

I come from the world where we believe idols are not simply’idols’ but focus of our concentration.  To you, it is stone, but not to me.  What I see in my reigning deity, the idol, is supreme contentment, happiness, divinity, wisdom, light.  Light that drives away ignorance.  Just like you cannot believe in idol worship, I cannot fathom a faceless, formless or shapeless god either.

So to me, God is first and necessarily Human (in nature), She has to be someone I can relate to, talk to, muse with.  Not the unattainable, which is why I worship her as my deity.  Which is also the reason, why I believe in Babas to some extent.  They are the closest we can come to God, physically.

This universe is vast and diverse enough to accommodate many many more deities and avatars than any one Allah, one Shiva and one Christ comfortably and all at the same time.  Relax everyone.  Go and read the first line of this blog.

PS:  As I wind up this post, hubby returns from work with holy ‘prasadham’ straight from Pashupathi Nath temple, Nepal.  His Nepali manfriday landed in Doha after vacation with the prasad this morning.  Right today – on this Mahashivrathri day.  Another coincidence? For sulking for days in my mind for missing Shiv Rathri in my street temple, this is the reward/compensation sent to me by my Shiva straight from Kailash what else.   Or may be Shiv decided to grace me with one more evidence of His divine presence. A sign.   Look at the timing.  

This is how God manifests Herself/Himself all around us.  Only if we care to look….  

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