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Invoking the Forces of Divinity with Lord Muruga

Satguru Bodhinatha presents an informal version of his talk on Lord Muruga, which has been heard around the world . He discusses Gurudeva and his many visions of: "Flying With Muruga." Bodhinatha puts forth the potential that devotees of this lineage may have personal experiences or anubhuti with the Saivite Deities. Lord Muruga's three shaktis are defined and Bodhinatha explains how to be receptive to the Deity's blessings, the benefits of learning from mistakes and the spirit of penance.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone. At the Skanda Shasti second day. Mystery of how our six day festival fits in five days. Have you ever figured that out? Six lunar days, six tithis, so sometimes six tithis fits into five calendar days.

So, I thought I'd talk a little bit about Lord Muruga this morning. Going to draw on a talk that's well traveled. It's been around the world this year. Started in Cincinnati in May. We were present at the installation of a Muruga Deity there that, the Hindu Temple of Greater Cincinnati, that we gave, Gurudeva gave the murthi to the temple a few years ago and it finally found a permanent home in, they had to build a little extension on the right side of the temple to accommodate it. Able to do abhishekam, cause the temple is primary North Indian in style with marble murthis and they don't have a place for abhishekam so they created a nice side shrine for Muruga and we were there. Then we went slightly north and gave the same talk in May in the Maryland Murugan Temple. Off to Vancouver in June where we visited two Murugan Temples and gave a short version. Talk comes in short medium and long options.

Off to Montreal. First time in Montreal, Murugan temple there which, that's getting ready for a kumbhabhishekam next this coming June. Any of you who would like to attend a Murugan kumbhabhishekam in North America you could note that in your calendar in pencil, they haven't given a firm date. Very nice group there. And then in Penang at a Malaysia, Penang, Chettiar Murugan Temple also got version of the talk in September. So it's been around the world.

So the first section of the talk, I'm not going to read it all but I'm going to read sections of it and just tell you what other sections say. It starts off and the first section is called: 'Murugan is a Real Being.' Sections all have names, I never read the names but just to remind me what it's about. So Murugan as a real being so this is common in a number of talks I give and there's a parallel talk on Lord Ganesha that probably most of you have heard about starts off, Ganesha the real being, and Ganesha of course starts off by talking about Auvaiyar. Murugan talk starts off by talking about Arunagirinathar and his 'Kandar Anubhuti' so in this section of the talk though we're trying to establish the Deity as a real being we talk about a saint who, a well known saint, who has experienced the Deity and written about the Deity in scripture. So in the case of Murugan, Arunagirinathar is the most famous and 'Kandar Anubhuti' is one of his scriptures so we give a quote from 'Kandar Anubhuti' and explain about personal experience of the Deity says: "This is a work sung by Saint Arunagirinathar as a result of his God experience, or 'Kandar Anubhuti' experience of Kanda or Murugan.

And then a very important part is to talk about Gurudeva. And in modern times Gurudeva has experienced siddhis. So this isn't just something that happened a thousand years ago and doesn't happen anymore and happened only in South India doesn't happen anyplace else. We have Gurudeva's example and in fact that impressed me even more when we had a young man here, about thirty, he was working in Silicon Valley and he brought his parents who were visiting him from Chennai. So they all came over from California and visited. And he got our grand tour and met with, they all met with me afterwards and he was the spokesperson for the family and said: "You know what really inspires me is what, I've been to the major temples in India and of course these wonderful experiences, these anubhuti, these visions of God took place there a thousand years ago, two thousand years ago. But you come here and it's all happened in the last few decades, the same thing. It's alive here. It's tradition, the honor of anubhuti, the experiencing of God in direct personal experience, is alive here. So he was very impressed as well as others who come here are impressed by that fact and one of the trends is to declare us the thirteenth Jyothirlinga. Jyothirlingas in India, famous sites where Siva was experienced and quite a few people are now coming here and saying we are the thirteenth.

So, the story I usually tell is the one about founding of Kaduval. It's a nice story because it's very unique. It's such a practical solution to a question that provided by the Deity. So, our bronze murthi came, a Nataraja and in 1973 from India and Gurudeva was wondering where to place it. He hadn't decided you know where do we want to place the Deity. Cause this structure we're all sitting in didn't exist in 1973. In fact where Nataraja's sitting was the front door of the building. So little renovation has taken place since then. [laughs] But it's the inner doors the front inner door now so you come in and you go in. If you go in that door you go into the second and third one so it's the front door from a mystical point of view, understand what I mean. So anyway, Gurudeva was wondering, he went to sleep, wondering where to place the Deity to establish the temple and Lord Muruga came to him in a dream, and he saw Lord Muruga standing on the front steps and Lord Muruga hit his Vel three times on the front steps and it made a loud sound indicating the front steps were the place to place the Deity. So Gurudeva woke up in the morning and came down all inspired and told us all about the dream and the vision, and don't want to call it a dream, the vision in his sleep and how Lord Muruga came. and he said: "You know that Vel, it's a real weapon, it could hurt somebody." [laughs] That's what I remember, really made it real you know to tell it such a human side to it. So that's the story I tell and then I go on to mention that Gurudeva had so many visions of Lord Muruga we didn't really think of it as unusual. One of the common experiences is he would find himself traveling with Lord Murugan in the akasha, which is one way of getting from one place to another in the inner worlds. So, when you travel in the akasha it's like the most, its like compared to airplane travel. The most recent trend in airplane travel, in first class is you get to lie down, right? Something new, so when you travel in the akasha you're lying on your side you're not lying flat on your back but you're lying on your side for some reason. Don't ask me why, no clue. Anyway you lie on your side and so Muruga's lying on His side facing, facing this way and Gurudeva's lying on his side facing that way and talking to one another, was a common experience Gurudeva had. He had the experience so often that he asked us to name the book on Lord Muruga that eventually we will publish, 'Flying with Muruga' based upon that experience. So it just showed the closeness between Gurudeva and Muruga they were so close and Gurudeva saw Muruga so often that we didn't really make, didn't think of it as abnormal, or something unusual. Oh, of course, what did Muruga say today?

So, then he goes on trying to establish Lord Muruga as a real being. Did this move? It did move. [aside comment re: microphone] So anyway we're establishing Muruga as a real being so we give the example from the past, we give Gurudeva from the present, and then to try and relate it even more so, because you know Gurudeva's up on the pedestal and here we are down here. I know Gurudeva had, that's nice, but it still makes it seem distant from us right? So then we talk about pilgrimage and we explain that we've had many pilgrimages to India and Sri Lanka since 1969 so that's thirty-five years of pilgrimages, have been going on, group pilgrimage, and on many of the pilgrimages devotees experienced the Deities including Lord Muruga. And then they tell us about it some of them, they're so excited they can't hold it in you know, running over, swami guess what. [laughs]

So what does a vision, how does a vision come? Well, in most simplest form it comes in the form of a stone or bronze murthi moving, distinctly moves and smiles usually, a big smile from the Deity, which not everyone sees of course. Or sometimes, which is more rare, the Deity turns into a human-like form, and He looks human, it's not made out of metal or stone anymore it's made out of, looks like a human being. Looks like its made out of flesh, third world flesh so to speak. Turns into a human figure that also moves or sometimes, with the eyes closed, devotees see the Deity's face in front of them, with the third eye, they see the face as a living being.

Here's my talk to them say something useful in their life. So then I go on to explain I talk about them, even if you know that doesn't relate, there's one more chance. I talk about the milk miracle and how Lord Ganesha drank milk in all the countries around the world and, and then we ask you know, did any of you see the milk miracle? And the first time I asked that question was in Penang Temple, Penang, the Penang Ganesha Temple, I don't know the proper name it's the one Sivaram teaches at. Right downtown, we had about six hundred people there, and about 70 percent of the people raised their hand. Four hundred people in that group, just a regular group of devotees at a Ganesha temple. Had seen Lord Ganesha drink milk. So I said well that shows you the reality of something going on on the inside right and everybody nodded. So that's the fourth example that really brings it down to earth because people have experienced that; a lot of them by just seeing it or their friends have seen it, family have seen it. So those are the four ways in which we talk about Muruga as a real being.

Second section. Blesses us through the temple. It was an important sentence so I'll read this starts it. "Knowing that the Gods are real beings and that the purpose of going to the temple is to experience their blessings is what transforms the temple from a cultural hall to a truly sacred place." So that's an important sentence. Some people go to the temple, it's more a cultural experience, they're not really that focused on the Deity. Some of course it's a social experience so we won't count that. [laughs] Others go it's a more cultural experience; they go to sing and listen and so forth but they're not that related to the Deity; they don't really focus on the Deity and trying to experience the Deity. So, in order to bring that aspect of temple worship to life of course we need to have a philosophical understanding that the Deity is a real being. You know though there is a symbolism involved in the murthi the Deity just isn't a symbol. Sometimes certain Hindu teachers focus solely on the symbolism. Well this means this, this means that, that means this, this means this, that's Muruga, this for Ganesha, this means this, this means this, that's Ganesha. You know they go through all the Deities and talk about the symbolism; they don't acknowledge that the Deities are real beings and that Ganesha's quite different than Muruga, and they bless us in different ways.

So then we go on and talk about Gurudeva's analogy of the telephone; that a murthi provides us a way with communicating with the Mahadeva who's in the inner worlds. It's like a telephone provides a way to communicate with someone who's at a distance and that the murthi is a temporary physical plane body, a channel for the Deity, particularly at the high points of the puja. We go through that. Then we talk about experiencing the Deity just as an energy that comes out through the murthi particularly at the high point of the puja. Say: "The most common way we experience the Gods and devas is as an uplifting, peaceful, divine energy or shakti that radiates out from the image; that is easiest to feel their blessings at the high point of the puja when the flame is held high." Then I usually make the joke and say, also when everything gets loud. [laughs] You know the ghanta's playing and nadaswaram's playing you know it's done that way on purpose. To bring back our attention if we're starting to talk to the person next to us or whatever you know, get loud, and we say yup we better pay attention. [laughs] So, then we talk about in this talk, Murugan: "Blessing the shakti of Lord Murugan is a particularly powerful force, has the ability to temporarily activate the kundalini force within the spine." And we talk about that a little bit, what that means. Then in the long version we develop that; in the short version we don't we relate our worship of Lord Murugan and the awakening of the kundalini force to the practice of yoga. So I read that quote from Gurudeva.

"To attain even the permission to perform yoga one must have the grace of Lord Ganesha and the grace of Lord Murugan. Lord Murugan is the God of the kundalini, of the advanced yogic practices. Unfoldment all happens within the kundalini and the chakras within our subtle bodies. Once a profound relationship is developed with Lord Muruga; then, with the guru's permission and guidance, true yoga may commence. Otherwise, no matter how long one sits in meditation; no matter how hard one tries; it is just sitting, it is just trying. There is no fire there." Fire means kundalini. "No shakti, no power, no change. It is the Gods who control the fire and at this stage help the devotee immensely; bringing him closer and closer to the supreme God, Siva."

So that's an important aspect of our teachings and isn't that common. Usually when someone teaches meditation they're talking just about sitting down and meditating. But Gurudeva says, no don't do that. First develop a relationship with Lord Muruga. There's no point trying to meditate in our particular tradition until you feel close to Lord Muruga. Then your meditations will be deep. Course that means for deep meditation doesn't mean just for simple meditation. Can't expect to have a profound meditation following Gurudeva's teachings unless you have a close relationship with Lord Muruga. So having said that of course. the next logical point is; how do you develop a close relationship with Lord Muruga? How do you develop a close relationship to the Deity? So we go through a number of points. We go through five points usually. The most popular point, and Yoginathaswami noticed this when we were giving the talk, and was it Montreal with the flower? So second point is; bring an offering. Ideally bring a flower for each shrine at which you are going to worship or if that is not possible at least a leaf. The act of giving opens you to the blessings of the Deity. Never visit the temple empty handed. So this is the teaching, such a simple teaching but we see it in the eyes. The room says: "Oh my I should be doing that." Some of course are some of the grandma's and all always come with lots of offerings. At least these days many devotees go to the temple and unless they're doing an archana they don't bring an offering. So Gurudeva's point is; you know it's not that hard to at least find a leaf. Northern Canada in the winter, you make an exception. [laughs] No one here's in Northern Canada in the winter, it's the only place I know of where there's not a leaf. Alaska, otherwise maybe you can have an indoor source. Otherwise it's easy to find at least a leaf. Flowers can be hard to find. Flowers better but at least a leaf and it's always been one of Gurudeva's teachings; you know even in the earliest lessons he wrote, back probably 1957 maybe he started with the Master Course back then. [get the mike fixed again... all right] So even back in 1957 if you look at some of the material you'll see always at least bring a leaf to the temple; says in writing on the bottom of some of the pages. So it's a very simple practice and as this example points out; you're going to the temple to receive blessings from the Deity right? That's the reason for going. So it's always helpful if you want to receive to first give. If you want to receive love from someone first give them something. That opens you up to them and therefore you're more receptive to what they give you. So the idea, give before you receive. Mystically it's part of temple worship.

Then in the long version, nice one, talks about the monks doing pujas and again that's not that common; but in our, the tradition Gurudeva established, all the monks learned how to do the temple puja; which is called the Parartha Puja to Ganesha, Murugan and Siva, and many of the monks have been doing puja everyday or a few times every week, for decades; in the temple and of course doing puja is a very effective way to deepen your personal relationship with the Deity; in this case Lord Muruga and so the monks can testify to that. They will, if you ever have a class you can ask the monks: Can you tell us about your experiences have been for Parartha Puja? So that's a good question. Might get some interesting stories. And of course, pujas can also be done in the home. You can do the Atmartha Puja and get close to the Deity by doing puja in our own home.

Then we move into a new section. Starts out, called: "Invoking the Forces of Divinity." That's pretty powerful. "Lord Murugan is traditionally worshipped to invoke the forces of divinity to overcome the forces of darkness. " And I always repeat that. Let me say. "Lord Murugan is traditionally worshipped to invoke the forces of divinity to overcome the forces of darkness. This process takes place both in the world and in the individual." So this takes place outside of us as well as inside of us. "It takes place through the power of His Vel which represents wisdom, or jnana shakti. Gurudeva often stressed that the world changes because the individuals in it change. In other world the world becomes a more divine peaceful place as more individuals find divinity and peace within themselves. And certainly the worship of Lord Murugan and his Shaktivel, His Vel of wisdom, is a potent force in moving the world in this direction." Then it goes through talking about man's instinctive intellectual super conscious nature controlling them; then it says: "The goal is to control these and manifest one's spiritual nature and this inner process within the individual, of divinity overcoming darkness;" which is another way of saying that same thing, the spiritual nature controlling the instinctive nature the intellectual nature and the ego. "Helps us become a wiser person, better able to make these inner changes and therefore make tangible progress on the spiritual path."

Then we go through the symbolism the three; the symbolism of the three shaktis; so quite often Murugan has two consorts; Valli and Devayani. Got my pronunciation of Valli corrected by our friend, who's that Tamil, that Tamil professor who used to be in Washington State, remember him? He's in Bethesda Maryland now. Subramanium? R.V. Subramanium yes wonderful person, longtime devotee. Some my American accent creeped out, crept out and I said vali, and you know, Valli not vali. So I said yes sir thank you. So I try and say Valli, American idiom hard to avoid. So Valli and Devayani and the Vel are the symbolism of the three shaktis. Valli represents Iccha Shakti the power of desire, Devayani represents Kriya Shakti the power of action and the Vel represents Jnana Shakti the power of wisdom. Then we go through a process talking about how desire leads to action, leads to wisdom, and the basic idea is that we get in these cycles. We have certain kinds of desires and when a desire gets strong enough; we act. And sometimes the actions are wise and sometimes they are unwise. So the desires cause actions and we formally repeat the same desires and actions for a period of many years. Particularly in the case of desire and action which isn't that helpful to our spiritual progress; we can have insights into how we can change it; how we can improve it. And the process of insight is the Jnana Shakti, wisdom. So desire action, desire action, desire action, finally we get some wisdom out of it. And then we modify our desires and modify our actions because we have new understandings about why that isn't the best thing to do. There are other ways of accomplishing things; there are other ways of living life that are more spiritual, more refined. So the process of wisdom coming in and helping us; amazing mike, doesn't want to cooperate today: [pause-fixing microphone] Maybe Ganesha wore it, [laughter] that's why it doesn't fit; somebody with a big ear must have put it on. [pause]

Then we go through, oh that's nicer now, then we go through the area of mistakes. You've heard that one before and it starts out: " For all of mankind, no matter where one is on the path, spiritual advancement comes from improving one's behavior. Said another way, it comes from learning from one's mistakes." Well then there's a section on learning from one's mistakes, you've heard that before which says: "Unfortunately, in many cases we've been raised to feel we're not supposed to make mistakes. And we've been yelled at when we make mistakes; told we're stupid when we make mistakes; so we have a little baggage there regarding this process; we come into adult life and if we make a mistake our reaction is to feel terrible that we made a mistake. Feel bad and think that this whole idea that we're not a worthy person; we're not, everybody else is better then us, or whatever so this baggage comes up. So, you know, we need to get beyond that and understand that mistakes are natural. You know how can you, those of you who have raised children; you don't think, imagine children growing up without making mistakes. Of course not you know that's how they learn. The whole process involves making mistakes and then the parents correcting them and showing them you know; that's not the way to do it, you do it another way and slowly making mistakes. One example we use quite often is dancing; when you dance of course, you make mistakes. There's no way you can become a dancer without making mistakes. So you know making mistakes is a natural process and we need to feel that it's all right to make mistakes. Once we do that then we move on to the second point; the second reaction to making a mistake is: I shouldn't do it again. The first reaction is: I shouldn't have done it. Some people get stuck in the first reaction: I shouldn't have done it, and they just feel that. But that's missing the point. What we want to move on to the second reaction is: I shouldn't do it again. We need to focus on learning from the mistake; what went wrong; did we learn something; do we know something new that we didn't know and therefore won't make the mistake again? Were there unintended consequences that now we know will happen and therefore we won't do it again? Whatever way we go about it we need to understand how to not make the mistake again.

And the point in the talk is: "The worship of Lord Murugan can be quite helpful in giving us the wisdom that helps us learn from a mistake quickly. The fewer times we make the same mistake the faster we are moving forward spiritually. We can go to the temple and pray to Lord Murugan to help us understand the patterns of desires and actions we are experiencing and ask for his Vel of wisdom to help us see clearly how to learn from this cycle of experiences. Improve our behavior and move forward on the spiritual path."

So that's the idea is that we can try and bring this into our lives, the worship of Lord Muruga; His ability to stimulate wisdom within us. This wisdom can be applied to our experiences, our pattern of experiences, help us improve our behavior and learn from our mistakes.

Then the last section is on penance. And encourages penance when it's done in the right spirit, such as at Thai Pusam or even Skanda Shasti and if you're doing a penance, particularly at Thai Pusam in a place like Malaysia there's a tendency, at least for younger people, to show off. You know: I can carry the biggest kavadi, I can impress my girlfriend, whatever, you know sometimes it's not done in a very religious spirit. But I'll show my fellow; you know all my friends that I can carry a bigger kavadi then they can. So that's not an effective way to do penance. There needs to be some remorse involved. The ideal way to perform penance is to have in mind specific misdeeds which you're sorry about. I've done this this and this wrong since the last time I did penance. I certainly wish I hadn't but I did and I'm going to try my best not to do it again, and I want your blessings to get rid of that karma for having done it, and to help inspire me not to do it again. So it should be a practical process, you know something cause it's penance, or adjusting for a misbehavior or compensating for a misdeeds. Gurudeva describes penance as punishing yourself. In other words if you do something wrong the law of karma will punish you so to speak, in the future. So why wait. You know, penance is you can get it over with now. Not have that happen to you in the future. Instead of somebody else mistreating you in the future you can mistreat yourself in the present. Get rid of it, get rid of the negative karma in that way, and it helps if you know what you did. So, if you really mistreat someone then you need to do penance and probably best not to do that again. So that's the talk. Thought you would enjoy it in it's casual form. And it's been around the world. So have a wonderful Skanda Shasti, have a wonderful day. Aum Muruga!

Photo of  Gurudeva
It is an error to say that the universe is mere illusion, for it is entirely real when experienced in ordinary consciousness, and its existence is required to lead us to God.