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Who is Lord Murugan?

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 27

The blessings of Lord Murugan awaken wisdom which resides in his chakra. "Pray to Lord Murugan to unravel the great mysteries of the universe." When we get emotional we lose touch with our wisdom. Murugan inspires penance to soften karmas and purify the mind, chitta-shuddhi. If you do kavadi in the right spirit, to get the full blessing, have in mind specific misdeeds, apologize to the deity, learn from it, promise to do your best. Visions are still happening. Feeling the energy of the deity is stronger during festivals such as Skanda Shashti.

Path to Siva, Lesson 27.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

This morning we're reading from Path to Siva, Lesson 27.

"Who Is Lord Murugan?

"Murugan is the God of religion and yoga. He is the second son of Siva, born of His divine mind. His electric power awakens spiritual wisdom to propel souls onward in their evolution to Siva's feet. Also known as Karttikeya, Kumara, Skanda, Shanmukhanatha and Subrahmanya, He is worshiped not only by Hindus but by Buddhists as well, in China, Japan and other countries. Majestically seated on the manipura chakra, this red-hued God blesses mankind and strengthens out will when we rise to higher consciousness through sadhana and yoga. He brings detachment, willpower and contentment, and His blessings strengthen our meditations. Lord Murugan caries a vel, or spear, representing the power to overcome darkness and ignorance. He is the authority behind the king (nowadays, any government which rules the people), there to see that justice is done and peace prevails. Murugan is especially loved by Tamil Saivites, who believe He guides their culture and history. Devotees look to Him for healing of the body and mind, and for strength to face life's challenges. He is said to love bamboo groves and hilltops, and His vahana is the proud and beautiful peacock. When we connect with Murugan, we have to be ready to change, for He brings a dynamic energy. He inspires penance, such as carrying kavadi during Tai Pusam, which softens karmas and purifies the mind. When Murugan's blessings come into our life, we become a better person, more kind, disciplined and spiritual. Many saints and devotees have had visions of Murugan and other Gods. But more often we just sense their presence, as we feel the warm rays of the sun when our eyes are closed."

And we have Gurudeva's quote:

"Pray to Lord Murugan to unravel the great mysteries of the universe. Pray to Lord Murugan to make you a spiritual person. Pray to Lord Murugan to release you into the arms of Lord Siva by teaching you more about your Saivite religion."

Every sentence is a possible talk here so I have to choose them well. Start with this one:

"His electric power awakens spiritual wisdom to propel souls onward in their evolution to Siva's feet."

Awaken spiritual wisdom, it's a very theistic statement that the blessings of Lord Murugan awaken wisdom. Well, how does that work? Where does wisdom reside? Well wisdom resides in his chakra. Simple way of looking at it though obviously He's helping you move from the three lower chakras into this chakra. If our consciousness rises into this chakra then we're a wise person. As soon as it falls out of that chakra we're no longer a wise person. Wisdom is still there but we're not in touch with it. That's why we discourage getting emotional. When we get emotional we lose touch with our wisdom. So, if we get emotional we want to pull ourselves out of it as quickly as possible. That's the idea. Get back into our wisdom and Lord Murugan can help us to achieve that. Just absorbing His blessings helps our consciousness rise into that chakra. That's what this is saying.

"Worshiped not only by Hindus but by Buddhists as well..."

I have a whole keynote on Lord Murugan as the guru. It's ninety minutes long. Ninety minutes of slides and I did it a couple of years ago for a group in Malaysia that was putting on a presentation on Murugan as the guru. As in Malaysia they have issues with, shall we say, questionable gurus. Come up all of the time. Different individuals are making pretty outlandish claims in Malaysia. So this was this organizations effort to look at things in a more traditional way. I did my research on images. And a very interesting one is Murugan is seated on a peacock and he has six faces. But the faces are those of a Japanese man. So we have a Japanese version of Shanmukha. Each face is Japanese and there He is on his peacock looking very Japanese but he's Lord Murugan through the Japanese way of depicting him.

I also checked on Murugan in Shingon Buddhism. Part of the deities of Saivism ended up in Shingon Buddhism. Shingon Buddhism, traditional Shingon Buddhist place does a homa every day. And they write their prayers on wooden sticks and burn them in the homa. Just to show the similarities, they're burning prayers in the homa on a daily basis but they're writing them on sticks instead of writing them on paper. So He's called, in Shingon Buddhism He's called Skanda, Idaten and Kumaraten.

In Mahayana Buddhism He's called Skanda and Wei Tuo. And Skanda's function is very interesting, in Buddhism. Skanda's function is to protect the monastery, the monks and the religious teachings. That's how he's described, right? in the Shingon Buddhist page in Wikipedia. So very attuned with how we look, how He's looked at in terms of how Hindu monks look at him, same way. He's protecting the monastery, the monks and religious teachings.

"He is the authority behind the king (nowadays, any government which rules the people)..."

So this is an interesting graphic I have, I have the king there with his scepter and then I, I bring in through, it's low fade, the Vel right on top of the scepter. So the scepter turns into the Vel in this keynote slide. So, He's right there behind the governments. Doesn't care what government it is. He helps government rule in a just way.

And then:

"He inspires penance, such as carrying kavadi during Tai Pusam..."

Of course, the picture itself is of Batu Caves, which is famous for kavadi during Tai Pusam. Kavadi is also quite popular in Mauritius and it's ten days long. So ten days of austerities are performed in Mauritius not just one day. So very serious time of year for Mauritius Saivites.

And the purpose of carrying kavadi:

"... softens karmas and purifies the mind."

So, as in any Hindu practice, the practice doesn't work automatically. If you carry kavadi, no matter what you're thinking about, no matter how you do it, it's going to soften karmas and purify the mind. No it doesn't work that way. Have to do it in the right spirit, in order for it to work. Generally I describe that in terms of the temple. You know, temple has certain benefits. Simplest way of describing it is chitta-shuddhi. It purifies the mind. The blessings in the temple purify the mind. But if you're in the temple, you know, when you're standing in the back and you're thinking about what you're going to do when you leave, it doesn't purify the mind because you haven't put yourself in the right mood. You have to put your mind into the right attitude for the practice to work.

So similarly, we have to do kavadi at Tai Pusam time with the right frame of mind. The way I suggest it is, ideally we have in mind specific misdeeds that we're apologizing to Lord Murugan for doing. Not general, if you do it on a yearly basis then you're just looking back one year. Okay, these are the misdeeds that I did last year that I still feel bad about. In our explanation of how to respond to a mistake, the first one, which we try and get out of as soon as possible is we feel bad about having done it. So we want to pull ourselves out of that, quickly as possible, go on to the learning stage, right? We want to figure out how if we're in this situation again that this error won't occur. What can we do differently next time this comes around? Want to learn from it. And then if we still feel bad about it maybe there's other people we need to apologize that were involved. We've upset them. And therefore, in some way, either directly or indirectly, we need to apologize to them.

So, if we've done all those three things and we still feel bad about it, the fourth thing is penance. Cause we're not supposed to feel bad about anything. That's not Hinduism. "I feel bad about all these things I've done wrong." That's not Hinduism. We want to get, we want to get rid of that feeling by learning, by apologizing and by doing penance. So, there's no negative emotion to tie to it. Just, I've learned from this experience, certainly won't do that again.

So the penance, we need to have in mind specific misdeeds, apologize to the deity for doing them, commit ourselves to doing our best not to do it again. We're promising the deity. Okay, I'm going to do my best. We don't want to say: I'll never do it again, cause then if we don't live up to that we can really feel bad. So we're committing, you know, I'm going to try my best not to do this again. So that's the good spirit to approach it in. We're asking for Lord Murugan's blessings in that specific way. This is the misdeed, apologize for doing it, I'm going to try my best not to do it again. Then we get, we do it in that attitude, then a good chance we'll get the full blessings which, as it says here, softens karmas and purifies the mind.

"Many saints and devotees have had visions of Murugan and other Gods..."

In my presentations, when I, I have one for each: Ganesha, Murugan and Siva, depending on which is the main deity of the temple. It's a standard talk which talks about the sacredness of the temple but then it customizes it according to the main deity. So in a Murugan temple we talk about, in each case, Ganesha, Muruga and Siva. We talk about an ancient vision and then a modern vision to show that visions are still happening. And that's a very important point.

One young man, a few years ago, maybe it's three or four years ago by this point, mentioned to me after his experience here, that he'd read about places in India and been to them where visions of the deities took place thousands of years ago. But here, visions of the deities have taken place recently. In Gurudeva's case, he was very impressed. This is a place that visions are taking place, right now, in modern times. So therefore in, when I give this talk, I make that point. Okay here's an ancient vision. Arunagirinathar is having a vision of Lord Murugan at Thiruvannamalai. Writes about it.

Gurudeva has a vision, lots of them, but one of the one's that's symbolized right in the peedam there, you can see the Vel on the right side, is Lord Murugan's helping in the founding of Kadavul Temple. Very practical way, Gurudeva had a question, the bronze murti had arrived, right? Sitting outside this building doesn't exist. This is the front steps of the building. When we first bought the building you would enter this way. And this, none of this existed, just were steps there. We had the crate of the Nataraja, Gurudeva wondered: Well, I want to build a temple with this Nataraja; where shall I put it? And that night in his dreams Lord Murugan came in a vision and hit his Vel right on the front step. Three times, made a very loud noise. So that's what that little Vel in the peedam signifies. And ever since the building hasn't had a front entrance. God took over the front entrance. Now we're the dutiful servants. We go around through the side entrance. Only God is at, takes the front entrance. But it's a vision, Gurudeva had many visions of Lord Murugan but that's the one that we published a lot.

So that's very inspiring that Gurudeva had these visions in modern times as well as saints have had them in ancient times. And as the text points out but everyone can have an experience of the deity through feeling the energy that comes out from the deity.

And in the case of our Murugan shrine, it's not as consistent. It's much stronger during the festival days than on regular days. So festival days are a real opportunity to, for those, for anyone who feels that they're not that well acquainted with Lord Murugan, having come from a tradition where He wasn't worshiped when you were young. Attending Kadavul Temple on the festival days is particularly helpful in moving closer.

And then an additional point which isn't mentioned there because you can only fit so much in is the idea of a vrata. And a common vrata during festivals is the Skanda Shashti vrata where for six days an individual does a certain discipline, six days in a row. Even if it's just to come to the temple for six days in a row, attend Muruga pujas. Can be something simple or it can be more elaborate. Many individuals chose to follow such a vrata by fasting during the day and then attending puja in the evening and after the puja having a full meal. So you're not having the full meal until after they go to the puja and doing that for six days. So that's a pretty extensive vrata and that's a followed by lots of individuals. I usually get a request for permission for that from at least one individual a year wants to do that. So very effective and particularly here, it's good, not to do that particular fasting but coming for six days is good because the deity is quite strong and it's also right after Mahasamadhi so...

So we have Gurudeva's blessing, we have Deepavali and then we start six days of Skanda Shashti. So it's, that's not really a good time in this temple to do something extra, shall we say. Very powerful time. For many years in a row, I don't think it's happened recently, but perhaps I haven't been here on the exact days. We used to get massive thunderstorms during Skanda Shashti. So how each year it's like Lord Murugan was up there in the sky blessing us with elaborate thunder and lightning storms.

Have a wonderful day.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

Photo of  Gurudeva
The soul consists of an uncreated divine essence and a beautiful, effulgent, human-like form created by Siva.