Karmanye Vadhikaraste - This is what Lord Krishna meant.

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 47 ||

karmaṇy-evādhikāras te mā phaleṣhu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅgo ’stvakarmaṇi

"Understand, 'Do your duty, don’t expect the results' is not told from that context, that if you work for ten thousand rupee, you may get only ten rupee but console yourself, don't rebel, don't feel injustice is done to you. No! Fool. Life is such if you work for ten rupee, you will be showered with ten billion rupee. But if you think you are going to be getting ten billion rupee and you need to work for that, you will be overwhelmed and never start the work! Listen! ...Results are caused by the cognitive shift, not by the work!

This is what exactly Krishna means - work, don't think about the result because result will be huge, and if you are thinking about the result you will do the reverse calculation - how much of effort you need to put for causing the result. Then you’ll get overwhelmed about the effort you need to put and you’ll never start.
There are two states - Ishvara and U-shvara. Ishvara is taking responsibility and making it happen. U-shvara is getting overwhelmed about the actions you need to perform for the result you need to cause and never move anything. And if you are forced to move, take u-turn!"

To Correctly Interpret Bhagawat Gita (Chapter 9. Verse 32)

The Bhagawat Gita has occupied a central role in Sanatan Dharam for ages. The verses of this Holy book are flawless in terms of language and grammar. Bhagawat Gita is not only meant for reading, but to be carefully interpreted in the correct context in order to deduce a coherent and valid explanation of the philosophy. Consequently, one can interpret a single verse of Bhagawat Gita in several ways based on his/her capability to comprehend the context which the specific verse deals with. 

And there indeed have been few wrong interpretations. The most popular of those being “Verse 32, Chapter 9”, and even Prabhupada has made a wrong interpretation of the same in his work “Bhagawat Gita As It Is”. This is one of the most read explanations of Gita by people across the globe and his explanation is all around the internet. It’s being quoted by many to prove that Shri Krishna considered women to be of low birth in Gita.

Here’s the Verse, (Chapter 9, Verse 32):

मां हि पार्थ व्यपाश्रित्य येऽपि स्यु: पापयोनय: |
स्त्रियो वैश्यास्तथा शूद्रास्तेऽपि यान्ति परां गतिम् || 32||

māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśhritya ye ’pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ
striyo vaiśhyās tathā śhūdrās te ’pi yānti parāṁ gatim

Let me now post Prabhupada’s explanation word to word: [LINK HERE]


mām — of Me; hi — certainly; pārtha — O son of Pṛthā; vyapāśritya — particularly taking shelter; ye — those who; api — also; syuḥ — are; pāpa-yonayaḥ — born of a lower family; striyaḥ — women; vaiśyāḥ — mercantile people; tathā — also; śūdrāḥ — lower-class men; te api — even they; yānti — go; parām — to the supreme; gatim — destination.


O son of Pṛthā, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth — women, vaiśyas [merchants] and śūdras [workers] — can attain the supreme destination.

Notice the word papa-yonayah (पापयोनय: ) - meaning - Born of a lower family. Now in the translation Prabhupada combines this word with the next three and says; people of lower birth are - women, vaishya and sudrah. Here’s another site following the similar line of thinking as Prabhupada. [LINK HERE]. Here the translator combines papa-yonayah with next word striyo to again get the wrong explanation and makes it “born of lower woman”.

If Krishna were to speak of women, he would have said, "papa yonayah, stribhi..". It was wrong to combine papa-yonayah with other 3 words by Prabhupada, or with just stribho by the other site. This is the main reason for confusion. 

This verse tells: O Son of Pritha, anyone who takes shelter in me, sinners, women, traders, workers, can approach the supreme destination.

In other words, word to word translation of Sanskrit to English not only dilutes the meaning, but it also distorts.

Jai Shri Krishna!

Lord Krishna & His Bamboo Flute!

There is a beautiful story about the flute of Krishna. You know Krishna always holds a flute in his hand, but there is a great story behind it. Everyday Krishna would go in the garden and say to all the plants, "I love you". The plants were very happy and responded back and said "Krishna, we love You, too".

One day Krishna rushed quickly into the garden very alarmed. He went to the bamboo plant and the bamboo plant asked, "Krishna, what's wrong with you?" Krishna said "I have something to ask you, but it is very difficult". The bamboo said "Tell me: if I can, I will give it to you". So Krishna said "I need your life. I need to cut you". The bamboo thought for a while and then said "You don't have any other choice. You don't have any other way?" Krishna said, "No, no other way". And it said "OK, I surrender to you".

So Krishna cut the bamboo, made holes in it, and each time, while he was doing that, the bamboo was crying with pain, because he was paining the bamboo so much. Krishna made a beautiful flute out of it. And this flute was with Krishna all the time. 24 hours a day, it was with Krishna. Even the Gopis were jealous of the flute. They said, "Look, Krishna is our Lord, but yet we get to spend only some time with him. He wakes up with you, He sleeps with you, all the time you are with him".

So one day they asked the bamboo, "Tell us the secret of it. What secret do you have, that the Lord treasures you so much?" And the bamboo said "The secret is that I'm empty inside. And the Lord does whatever he wants with me, whenever he wants with me and however he wants with me". So this is complete surrender: where God can do whatever He wants with you, whenever He wants, as He wants. And for that you don't need to be scared, you know, you have just to give yourself. And who is yourself in reality? It's just Him!

Who is a Sad Guru

"Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu Guru Devo Maheshwara
Guru Sakshath Parambrahma Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha"

The true meaning of Guru is "one who dispels darkness of ignorance". Guru resembles the trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is a creator. Guru creates or inculcates knowledge in the minds of the students. Guru is Vishnu. Lord Vishnu maintains the creation. Similarly Guru helps in keeping up the knowledge. Guru is also Shiva. Shiva is the destroyer. Guru destroys or gets rid of the ignorance from the students' minds.

The Lord in the Gita says:

“Uddharedaatmanaatmaanam Naatmaanamavasaadayet
Aatmaiva Hyaatmano Bandhuraatmaiva Ripuraatmanah”

One should uplift one’s lower self- the mind, by his higher self – the soul. One should never downgrade one’s self, for the self verily is both the friend and the foe of the self. As we see in this verse, a pilgrim’s journey to the Lotus Feet begins with developing the Atma Kripa. Once efforts to elevate the mind with the help of the Atma are undertaken and Atma Kripa is attained; we become ready to receive the next kripa which is the Guru Kripa. The Guru appears to guide us in our spiritual journey. Guru kripa qualifies us to the next stage of Shaastra Kripa. We learn to study contemplate on and practice the eternal teachings with the help of the Guru and thus engage ourselves in Shravana, Manana and Nidhi Dhyaasana. All these take us to the final stage of Eshwara Kripa when we become eligible to receive the grace of the Almighty.

In the word GURU, Gu stands for Gunaatheetha [The one who is beyond the attributes] and Ru, for Rupa Varjitha [The Formless one]. Hence, the true Guru is the Lord Himself. By putting into practice His teachings in our day to day life, we can easily spiritually understand every mundane mechanical activity of ours and qualify to earn the Eshwara Kripa – His Divine Grace. 

It is important to value the Master. But it is far more important to master His Values so that our life becomes His message. 

To the one who holds my hand, as i trod on the path laid by HIM,
To the one who gives me the faith to believe in HIS uncertainty ,
All that I can say is :

Anyatha sharanam nasti Twameva sharanam mama!

May Guru's grace be upon us all always!

Ishtadevta Concept in Hinduism

In Hindu way of life one may choose the deity that satisfies one's spiritual longing and make that the object of one's adoration, love and worship. Since each name and form of God constitute a pointer to something that is beyond and since each is at the same time a representative of some aspect or manifestation of the Supreme Reality, it is the entire array of all names and forms of God that will perhaps point to the fullness that is God. But it is advisable for each individual to concentrate on and have a special place for one particular manifestation or form of God and this would be his Ishtadevta. Even a person, who has realised the Brahman as the Ultimate Reality, does not reject image worship. For him all deities are alike. He is not averse to worshipping or meditating on any particular form of the Absolute. This is the reason why we see our Adwaita Acharyas give as much importance to idol worship and temple offerings as the non Adwaita Acharyas.

Hindu tradition has mainly six types of Ishtadevta worship. These can be listed as:

1.       Aditya, the Sun-God;
2.       Ambika, the Mother-Goddess, in her three forms of Durga, Lakshmi or Saraswati;
3.       Vishnu, belonging to the classic Trinity;
4.       Ganesa, the elephant-faced God, considered as the primal God of all worship;
5.       Mahesvara or Shiva, the third God of the Trinity, mostly in the form of the un-anthropomorphic linga;
6.       Subrahmanya, the six-faced God known also as Kumaran or Murugan in Tamil.

These six are the original subtle manifestations of the Absolute Transcendental Reality. The Avatars (Divine Descents) of Vishnu, like Rama and Krishna are more concrete manifestations of the same Absolute Reality. So they are identified with Vishnu in the above list. Every variation of the Ishtadevta worship may be considered as belonging to one or a combination of these six traditions. In addition, the choice of the Ishtadevta, instead of being an academic exercise, could also be a choice of one among the thousands of temples all over the country and the deity chosen may very well be the particular deity enshrined in that particular temple. It can have a specific name and form, though belonging to one of the six streams of divinities listed above. Thus arose the tradition of each family having a kula-devata (family deity). It is this variety that gives richness to Hinduism and it is this possibility of 'to each according to his need and capacity' that brings together under the one banner of Hinduism people with varying practices, attitudes and states of evolution. The religious life of India has thus been nourished through the ages on a visual panorama, unmatched, perhaps, in the history of any civilisation.

Gems from Kena Upanishad

The student inquires:

"Who makes my mind think?
Who fills my body with vitality?
Who causes my tongue to speak? 
Who is that Invisible one who sees through my eyes
And hears through my ears?"

The Guru replies:

"The Self is the ear of the ear,
The eye of the eye, the mind of the mind,
The word of words, and the life of life.
Rising above the senses and the mind
And renouncing separate existence,
The wise realise the deathless Self.

That which is not uttered by speech, that by which the word is expressed, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshipped.

That which one does not think with the mind, that by which, they say, the mind is thought, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshipped.

That which man does not see with the eye, that by which man sees the activities of the eye, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshipped.

That which man does not hear with the ear, that by which man hears the ear’s hearing, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshipped.

That which man does not smell with the organ of smell, that by which the organ of smell is attracted towards its objects, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshipped.

Nidhivan - Vrindavan!

Nidhivan is one of the most significant and popular temples of Vrindavan. It is termed as Madhuvan also. Swami Haridasa, a divine saint who was the very cause of appearance (advent) or Prakatya of Lord Banke Bihari at this renowned Nidhivana, used to please Lord Bankey Bihari by pouring the melodious rapture of his thrilling music in the periphery of this spiritual temple. It is surrounded with small-sized trees. So to say, it is a spiritually blessed temple where spontaneous overflow of devotion and penance flows every time.

As a result of Swami Haridasa's hard penance and spiritual aspiration, Lord Banke Bihari not only came in his dream but appeared also in this spiritually blessed Nidhivan. Popular belief is Radha-Krishna still visit Nidhivan in Vrindavan.

A very mysterious conception is associated with this temple.
After the sacred evening Aarti, no one can remain in the periphery of this temple. In case anyone remains during night in the compound of the temple, he/she is not found hale and hearty in the morning to disclose the spiritual secret of the lord Radha-Krishna. It is said that the priest puts two toothbrushes, some holy water in a jug with four sweets (Laddoo) and ready bed after Aarti in the night. And in the morning all the items look as if someone has used it. Popular belief is that Radha Krishna who are known as Priya Priyatam appear at night to perform their spiritual activities (Lilas).

Many worth-watching spots are there in this temple. These spots contain the spiritual mystery of the Lord Radha Krishna. There is a Samadhi of Swami Haridasa, The Radha Rani temple, The Sacred Well of Radha Rani and The Appearance Place of Lord Bankey Bihari.

Journey of Swastika across the World from time immemorial

The auspicious symbol of the swastika is very commonly used in Hinduism. It is usually a major part of the decoration for festivals and special ceremonies like weddings. The word ‘swastika’ is a Sanskrit word (‘svasktika’) meaning ‘It is’, ‘Well Being’, ‘Good Existence, and ‘Good Luck’. However, it is also known by different names in different countries - like ‘Wan’ in China, ‘Manji’ in Japan, ‘Fylfot’ in England, ‘Hakenkreuz’ in Germany and ‘Tetraskelion’ or ‘Tetragammadion’ in Greece.

The clockwise swastika is one of the 108 symbols of the god Vishnu as well as a symbol of the sun and of the sun god Surya. The anti-clockwise swastika (called a sauvastika) usually represents the terrifying goddess Kali, night and magic. However, this form of the swastika is not “evil” and it is the form most commonly used in Buddhism.

Vedas are possibly the oldest sacred texts and you find mentions of Swastika in Rig Veda, Atharva Veda and even Yajur Veda. Swastika has always been with the sanatan dharma. But when you do research on its journey, you realise how this has been prevalent from ages in different religion and civilizations. How and why did so many diverse countries and cultures, across many eras, use the same symbol and apparently with the same meaning, I do find it intriguing. In West, Swastika is now more associated with Nazis and Hitler. But use of it can be seen long before that and by different religion. What was common was the fact that everyone considered it as symbol of good luck. And it do proves a point - Humanity brings every religion together.

Five Kailash Yatra!

For past many years I had this wish of visiting all the five Kailash. It is said this gives you salvation. Frankly speaking I don’t think just visiting these Kailash can give you salvation, there’s lot more you’ll need to do. Getting salvation I feel is not so easy.

All the Five Kailash yatra are able to transfer trekker's physical journey into a spiritual experience, a journey in search of truth. The five Kailash Yatras is perhaps one of the most arduous calling pilgrimages. It entails long pilgrimages to five holy sites in upper reaches of Himalayas to seek the blessing of Lord Shiva who, as per the Hindu scriptures and legends, supposedly reside on the holy mountain peaks. Surrendering yourself through Bhakti lets you experience the oneness of "Jiva and Shiva", the union of jivatma with parmatma!

1.       Shrikhand Mahadev or Shrikhand Kailash

 When Bhasmasur got the boon from Lord Shiva that he can turn anyone into ash by placing his palm on anyone’s head, the Asura wanted to test if the boon really works by testing it on Lord Shiva. So Lord Shiva started running from this Asura. Finally Lord came to Shrikhand and sat down in meditation in the 50ft stone shivling till Lord Vishnu came and killed Bhasmasura by tricking him in putting his hand on his own head. Later Mata Parvati did long Akhanda Upasana to break his Samadhi, whereby she filled Nainsar Lake with her tears; Lord Shiva came out after breaking the shivling. Shrikhand Mahadev is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Its peak is 5155 meters high from main sea level. The journey passes through beautiful mist-laden forests filled with beautiful flowers and huge trees. Then the journey enters the difficult Himalayan terrain where you need to even cross few glaciers.

2.       Kinnaur/Kinner Kailash

 Located in the Kinnaur Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Mount Kinnaur Kailash is the holy abode of Lord Shiva. The trek is challenging and also rewarding spiritually. According to Hindu Mythology this is a very sacred place in the Indian Himalayas as it is associated with Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati. A natural pond/Kund near Kinnaur Kailash peak, known as Parvati Kund, is considered to be a creation of Goddess Parvati. She worshipped here for a long time. It is also the meeting place for Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati. Mythology states that Lord Shiva conducted a meeting of Goddesses and Gods at Kinnaur Kailash peak every winter.

There is something very interesting one can see here. I have now been to the peak four times. Every time I saw two birds perched atop the peak watching activities. At 6000mtrs, it’s indeed very intriguing to find them there. Locals feel they could be Lord and Mata Parvati keeping a watch on all devotees. You can feel the power and spiritual vibration near the peak, no wonder the peak never ever get covered in snow.

3.       Manimahesh Kailash

 Located 26 kilometers away from Bharmour in the Budhil Valley, Chamba, Himachal Pradesh, is Manimahesh Kailash and at its base is Manimahesh Lake which is considered spiritually at same level as Mansarovar Lake. None has ever conquered this mountain, few tried but they never came back. The peak is mostly covered with clouds and is visible when you go there with complete surrender to Lord Shiva. According to the popular belief, it is believed that Lord Shiva created Manimahesh after he married Goddess Parvati, who is worshipped as Mata Girja. Lord Shiva is believed to reside in Manimahesh Kailash peak. A rock formation in the form of a Shivling on this mountain is considered as the manifestation of Lord Shiva. The snow field at the base of the mountain is called by the local people as Shiva’s Chaugan (play field). Lord Shiva is said to roam here with his consort Parvati.

4.       Adi Kailash

 Adi Kailash as popularly known as Chotta Kailash is in many ways replica of the better known Mt. Kailash in Tibet, especially in appearance.  They both look lot similar. Adi Kailash is an ancient holy place and we get to hear of it in many scriptures. Adi-Kailash is in Indian Territory close to the Indo-Tibetan border full of nature, peace and serenity. Civilization tired by the incessant roar of urban life, will find here a healing quietude. Nearby lake called Parvati Tal catches the mesmerizing reflection of the peak.

Adi Kailash is an area of great natural beauty, peace and serenity. The route covers breathtaking land scapes and panoramas of the Kumaon Himalaya range. During the trek one gets an opportunity to view the snow cladded peaks of Annapurna, the gushing kali river, thick forests, water fall and wild flowers.

5.       Mt Kailash, Tibet

 Mt. Kailash is revered by four religions, Buddhist, Jainism, Hinduism, and Bon, as the most sacred mountain. This is the celestial abode of Lord Shiva. . It is attributed to the center of spiritual power, bliss, and liberation. It is the most sacred peak of Asia, Located in the far west corner of Tibet. The beauty of the peak, which looks like a symmetrical cone shaped ice, is echoed in various mythological and literary works. The surroundings include the beautiful Mansarovar Lake, which is world’s highest freshwater lake. Also known as Lake Manas Sarovar in Sanskrit and Mapham Yutso in Tibet, this huge lake mirror the image of snowcapped mountains in its crystal clear waters.  The lake is located at the southern foot of Mount Kailash and considered very sacred.

Krishna, Rama, Ganpati & others not in Vedas, yet worshipped by Sanatan. Why?

I have come across people asking this question over Krishna, Ganapati, Rama and others as they are not mentioned in Vedas. And our Sanatan Dharma is based on these very Vedas. We have to understand just what Vedas really mean, and just who or what Rama, Krishna, Hanuman and Ganesha stand for, to understand the deep ignorance from which such questions springs.

The Veda is the expression in Shabda, the Sound, the full and total play of the vibrations of the Light of Consciousness, and its transformation, Parivartana from one State to another.

The First and One Principle of this Consciousness, that is pure Existence, is the Paramatma (called by different names as Eshwara, Shiva, Satchitananda etc). This First and One Principle of this Consciousness, that is pure expression, is Paraashakti (called by different names such as Eshwari, Parvati etc).

The Paramatma exists in, and is this whole Creation (Manifestation). In its individual reflections, it is called the Aatman/Self. It is the Cause.

The Paraashakti expresses in and is this whole Creation (Manifestation). In the individual reflections, it is called the Manas/Mind. It is the Causer.

Every part and whole of this Creation is Paraashakti as the expression of the Paramatma.

Now Rama is the Self in the individual body, The Aathman.
Krishna is the Mind in the individual body, The Cosmic Manas.
The Hanuman is the principle of Vayu that resides in the body. Vayu is the container and transporter of Praana, the life force.
Ganapati is the first comprehensible State of the transforming Light of Consciousness. That is Light as we know it. The Light, that is a wave (Vakra) and a particle (Thunda), which is all-pervading (Mahakaaya) with the glory of countless suns (Surya Koti Samaprabhaa).

The Ramayana is the story of the Self or Aatman, Rama, in the individual body, Seeta, and their existence as the two halves of a whole. The story of the Suryavansha, the Sun is the source, the nucleus, the Aatman of our inner Solar System.

The Mahabharata is the story of the Cosmic Manas, Krishna, and the descending of the Infiniteness of the Paramatma into the Finite level of Matter (the Kaurava). And the ascendance of Finite Matter back to the Infiniteness of the Paramatma (the Paandava). The Mahabharata War is the war between the descending and ascending states of energy. Each character of the Mahabhaarata is one State/ condition of the individual human mind. The story of the Chandravansha, the Moon is the visualizer, the creator, the Manas of our inner system.

In Vedas all these Gods are mentioned. Not with these name but with some Property & Nature. For Common People its not easy to understand the in-depth knowledge.

Ignorance is acceptable. Arrogance is not. There is a saying, "He who knows not is simple. Teach him. He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool. Avoid him".

Surrendering to God, The Way to Joy & Bliss! - Bhagavat Gita

Many of us do Prayer sometimes, some do it daily. We all do get some peace of mind & happiness while doing Prayer. Later on when we get involved in our daily chorus, all tensions of life again surround us. Little peace that we get during prayer is lost when we experience tensions of our job. How can it be that our mind remains at peace & in a happy state of mind always?

To be at peace with yourself & be happy all the times, you need to surrender your ego to the God completely. We need to be in constant remembrance of God. We need to take complete refuge in God by surrendering our ego at the feet of God. By complete surrender to God we do get freedom from all our sins and sorrows. In God there is no sin or sorrow. God is like the Sun in which darkness cannot exist. God is complete Joy, complete Bliss. When we are surrendering our ego to God, then we are surrendering ourselves to Joy & Bliss.

Whenever our ego separates ourselves from God, we become sad & unhappy & all tensions of life surround us. In any case we should not be egoistic, as to be egoistic is to show our separate existence from God, separate existence from Joy & Bliss. When the subtle veil of ego is torn between you & God then you are full of Joy & happiness. Just think yourself to be an instrument of God & devote fully to God.

So do Complete Surrender to God, as in this way you shall be free of all tensions of life & shall be at peace & be happy during all walks of life. Below verse of Bhagwat Gita teaches the same.

"sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
mokshayisyami ma suchah" (Bhagwat Gita: Chapter Eighteen verse 66)

"Sri Krishna said: O Arjuna, Surrender unto Me alone. By surrendering all duties to Me, seek refuge in Me. I shall absolve you of all sins; grieve not."

Reasons behind Idol Worship in Hindu way of Life

A Guru Shishya Conversation!

Though Hindu way of life doesn't support idol worship but with time it has been embraced by all and with reasons too. Primitive man makes a scrawl of a head on wall and calls it God. Civilized man shuts his eyes and imagines an image and calls it God. Both are idols. The difference is not one of kind but only of degree. Hinduism has the courage to say so. It also has the humanity to admit within its fold even those who cannot rise above grossly concrete representations of God. A common illiterate labourer and an intellectual scholar require different concepts of God to satisfy them. So Hinduism declares that each can worship God in whatever form that suits his competence and stage of spiritual evolution.

Since the common mind of man cannot comprehend the abstractness and transcendence of the nameless and formless version of God, different idols and images enter the picture. Though these myriad images and idols may appear to be only symbols each of them points to the Supreme Power inherent in everybody and it is that One God who is worshipped in the form of idols and images. We are worshipping God in the idol and not the idol as God. This fundamental point in the practice of idol worship is the most important lesson to be learnt about Hinduism. So long as you think it is an idol you have not got it. People who do not believe in God propose excuses to find fault with the worship of God through idols and appear to be 'more loyal' than the religious, by putting forth the argument that God is formless and so should not be worshipped through idols. God can take any form and so the form of the idol is good enough for us to worship God.

QUESTION: Is the idol or icon of a deity itself the deity?

The deity is not just an idol or icon; it is that which has been invoked by mantras in the image. An idol, by constant worship through Mantras culled from the scriptures, becomes actually the very deity which has been invoked into the physical frame, by Mantra-chanting.

QUESTION: A flag is just a symbol for the nation; it is not the Nation. Does it not mean then that an idol of a deity is also only a representation and not the 'real thing'? But the Hindu tradition of giving absolute sanctity to temples and icons seems to point to the view that the icons themselves are the deities.

The answer to this question has to be carefully absorbed. In Hinduism the same question may have different answers to different levels of questioners. From the point of view that there is only one absolute Truth and everything else is only a manifestation of that Truth, an icon is only a representation and not the 'real thing'. But from the point of view of a devotee who needs to worship Divinity in name and form, the images and icons which have been sanctified by the various mantras and rituals are themselves the deities that have as much power as the Absolute. So hosts of such sanctified 'images and idols' should not be cast into the role of just a 'representation' of the Absolute as a flag for the army.  It is with this orientation that every devotee approaches a temple and worships the deity in the temple. In the beginning his attitude is to assume that the God is in the idol. But the God is certainly everywhere and so, in due time, the devotee, by the Lord's Grace, realises that his assumption that the God is in the idol, is actually a truism. Thus, what starts as an attitude or assumption, even though one may not have a belief, results in the realisation of the truth and this is far more than just belief or faith. This is the esoteric significance of idol worship. The millions of devotees who have benefited by such worship over the centuries both in their personal homes and in public temples constitute the unique testimony for the validity of this significance. The flag example is only an incomplete example.

Thus you see, Hindu way of life, its way of thinking, is broad enough to admit within its fold even those ordinary mortals who are yet to mature spiritually, above the grossly concrete representations of God. In fact the religion goes even one step further. It says, in essence, each individual can worship God in whatever form that suits his competence, taste, and stage of spiritual evolution. The strength of Hinduism, writes Monier-Williams, lies in its infinite adaptability to the infinite diversity of human character and human tendencies. It has its highly spiritual and abstract side suited to the philosopher, its practical and concrete side congenial to the man of the world, its aesthetic and ceremonial side attuned to the man of the poetic feeling and imagination and its quiescent contemplative aspect that has its appeal for the man of peace and the lover of seclusion.

The Absolute Brahman, in relation to the material universe, is called Ishvara. When we refer to Ishvara in His creative aspect, we call Him Brahma; when we refer to His aspect of sustainer and protector, we call Him Vishnu; and when we think of Him in His destructive and dissolution aspect, we refer to Him as Shiva. In each case the power or energy of the aspect is referred to as the corresponding Goddess. Just as sunlight is inseparable from the sun, so also is the power (shakti) of Ishvara inseparable from Ishvara and India naturally worships this power as Shakti, the Mother of the Universe.

QUESTION: But the practice of deity worship through idols and images seems to throw to the winds the majestic concept of Impersonality so emphatically asserted in the Upanishads. How can this be explained?

It must be admitted that all worship is image worship. Primitive man made a scrawl of a head on a rock and called it God. Civilized man shuts his eyes and imagines an anthropomorphic image with arms and legs and calls it God. Both are images. The difference is not one of kind but of degree. Hinduism has the courage to say so and also has the humanity to admit within its fold even those who cannot rise above grossly concrete representations of God. An illiterate commoner and an intellectual scholar require different concepts of God or Divinity to satisfy them. So Hinduism declares that each can worship Divinity in whatever form that suits the competence and stage of spiritual evolution of the worshipper.

Lord Shiva, the Adi Yoga Guru!

ॐ नमः शिवाय

When we talk about Yoga, Lord Shiva is considered the Adi Yogi. He is referred to as the Adi Guru because it is from him that Yoga got down to us. He is the foremost among the yogis and the first teacher of the science of Yoga. Lord is both, an ideal renouncer and also an ideal householder. He is depicted as sitting in lotus pose on mount Kailas, in deep Samadhi. The crescent moon on his head symbolizes mystical vision and knowledge while the serpent coiled around his neck symbolizes the mysterious kundalini energy present in all of us. River Ganges flows down from the crown of his head symbolizing perpetual purification that he bestows upon his devotees. He is the three-eyed one or Trilochana, the third eye or the eye of wisdom in the centre of the forehead. He is described as the “blue-throated” or Neelakanta as he drank the poison which came out during ocean churning to save this world. His trident represents the three gunas, namely tamas, rajas, and sattva.

Lord Shiva is aptly called as Yogeshwara, the lord of Yoga; Maheshwara, the Great God and Bhuteshwara, the lord of the five elements from which the universe is created.

It is said that Shiva first imparted his knowledge of Yoga to Parvati or Shakti, his consort. Also, for the good of mankind, he taught the science of Yoga to the ancient rishis who passed on this knowledge to the rest of humanity. This passing of knowledge is supposed to have taken place at the base of Kailash itself on the banks of Manasarovar Lake. All yogic and tantric systems consider him as the first Guru. These teachings by Lord Shiva have come down to us in the form of “Agama Sastras”. From these teachings, came various traditions which still exist. One of them is the Nava-Nath Tradition founded by Matsyendranath, Gorakshnath and the seven other Gurus of the Nath Tradition, which is still prevalent mostly in North India. In the South, it was the Siddha Agastya Muni, who disseminated this knowledge and created a lineage of Siddhas who specialized in Yoga, Tantra, Medicine, Astrology and other sciences.

In his teachings, Lord Shiva does not give any philosophical explanations, but instead gives very direct instructions on the methods to liberation. Shiva Sutras and Vigyana Bhairava Tantra are popular texts that contain specific techniques to liberate the embodied soul and experience his true blissful nature. These techniques got refined over the centuries through various masters, who perfected this art and then taught it their disciples. Thus a Guru-disciple tradition was developed and the wisdom of yoga was passed on through the ages.

Lord Shiva is worshipped both in his form or formless aspect. The Shiva described with form is worshiped as a powerful deity and a whole system of rituals have developed around it. He is one of the gods of the Trinity. Shiva as a God represents the destructive aspect of the Supreme reality, Brahman.

On the other hand, Shiva as formless is worshipped as the Siva Linga and is considered the ultimate reality itself. Even though the formless cannot be given a form, the oval shaped Shiva Linga is said to the first form taken during creation. Shiva is considered the supreme consciousness in which the play of creation happens in the form of Shakti. Shiva and Shakti are inseparable, just as the creation cannot be separated from the creator. The whole of creation is described as Shiva Tandava or the dance of Shiva.

Our Prostrations to the formless One, who has taken a form out of Compassion! 

The Special Shivling of Somnath

The Jyotirling of Somnath is considered to be the first Jyotirling. Pauranic traditions maintain that Moon had built a golden temple, followed by a silver temple by Ravana, Bhagvan Shree Krishna is believed to have built Somnath temple with Sandalwood. Even in Mahabharata there is a mention of Somnath. When Arjuna was on his solitary exile, he visited Somnath at the end of his exile and then went to Dwarika and married Subhadra, sister of Lord Krishna.

The research based on ancient Indian classical texts show that first Somnath Jyotirling Pran-Pratistha was done on the auspicious third day of brighter half of Shravan month during the tenth Treta yug of Vaivswat Manvantar. Swami Shri Gajananand Saraswatiji, Chairman of Shrimad Aadhya Jagadguru Shankaracharya Vedic Shodh Sansthan, Varanasi suggested that the said first temple was built 7,99,25,105 years ago as derived from the traditions of Prabhas Khand of Skand Puran.

Now lets come to the Shiv Linga of this temple. It is believed that the ShivLinga placed in the GarbhaGriha of the temple actually freely levitated in air without any support. Following is the explanation given for this property :

Mythology - The Shiva linga in the temple was believed to safely hide within its hollowness the famous स्यमन्तक मणि- Syamantak Mani, the Philosopher's stone associated with Sun god and Lord Krishna. It was a magical stone, capable of producing about 80 gms. of gold dailyIt had Alchemic and Radioactive properties. It could create a force field around itself that kept the linga floating above ground. The Linga was kept under cover of BelPatras-- Aegle marmelos-- to prevent the dangerous effects of its radio protective properties.

There is also historical account of this levitated Shivling and it comes from the account of none other than Zakariya Al Quazwini. Here's his description of Mahmud Ghazni's encounter with the Linga :
“When the king asked his companions what they had to say about the marvel of the idol, and of its staying in the air without prop or support,several maintained that it was upheld by some hidden support. The king directed a person to go and feel all around and above and below it with a spear, which he did, but met with no obstacle. One of the attendants then stated his opinion that the canopy was made of loadstone, and the idol of iron, and that the ingenious builder had skillfully contrived that the magnet should not exercise a greater force on anyone side-hence the idol was suspended in the middle. Some coincided, others differed. Permission was obtained from the Sultan to remove some stones from the top of the canopy to settle the point. When two stones were removed from the summit the idol swerved on one side, when more were taken away it inclined still further, until at last it rested on the ground.
In 1951 the Somnatha construction was completed and the sacred installation ceremony of the Shiva Lingam was performed by the president of India. The present Somnatha Linga is the largest of the 12 Jyotir Lingas. It is a greyish cylinder formed stone made of granite about 1m high and 60cm in diameter. The top is rounded and the Lingam is placed in a large silver plated Yoni.

Somnath Jyotirling Temple - Some facts

The temple city of Somnath or Prabhas Patan is situated in the state of Gujarat on the Arabian Sea. This is the first among the twelve Jyotirlings. Since ancient times, Prabhas Patan has been a pilgrimage center, being the confluence of the mythological Saraswati, Hiranya and Kapila. Legend has it that Lord Shiva’s Kalbhairav linga is situated at Prabhas. It is also associated with the moon as the Moon God is also said to have worshipped this Shivling. This is also the reason why this temple is popularly known as Somnath, the one named after the moon. The present temple, Kailash Mahameru Prasad is built in the Chalukya style of temple architecture and reflects the inherent skill of sompuras, Gujarat’s master masons. It has the shikhara, the Garbhagriha, the sabha mandap and the nritya mandap.
On the Southern side of the temple, on the wall at the sea shore, there is a pillar. It is called “Baanstambh” बाणस्तंभ्. On the top of the pillar is placed a globe of Earth and an arrow pierces through it. On the pole is inscribed “Aasmudrant Dakshindhuvparyant Abaadhit Jyotirmarga”. It means If you start travelling from Somnath Temple towards South in Arabian Sea, you will not meet any land until you reach the South Pole or the Antarctica. The temple has been built in such a position that there is no land between the Somnath temple and Antarctica.

This very sacred pilgrim centre is also called Prabhas Teerth. The temple houses one of the oldest consecrated Jyotir Lingas mentioned in Rigveda, Skanda Purana and Mahabharata. It is believed that the Shivlinga placed in the sanctum (Garbha Griha) of the temple actually freely levitated in air without any support. This is mentioned in the Puranas and also in the account given by Zakaria Al Qazwini, the famous astronomer and geographer. The present Somnath Linga is the largest of the 12 Jyotir Lingas. It is a greyish cylinder formed stone made of granite about 1m high and 60cm in diameter. The top is rounded and the Lingam is placed in a large silver plated Yoni.
Somnath Jyotirling
In AD 1026, Mahmud of Ghazni first looted the temple, and then came Afzal Khan, the commander of Ala-ud-din Khilji and later Aurangzeb. It is said that the temple was looted and destroyed as many as seventeen times. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was instrumental in the construction of this present temple, an edifice reminding visitors of the splendour of the original Somnath temple. Renowned temple architect Prabhaschandar designed it and the first President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad installed the Jyotirling in the new temple on May 11, 1951. The present temple is built in the Chalukya style of temple architecture and reflects the inherent skill of sompuras, Gujarat’s master masons. It has the Shikhara, the Garbhagriha, the Sabha Mandap and the Nritya Mandap.

The temple of Somnath that resurrected from ashes many a times.

The peak of the temple when seen against the sun reveals Nandi & Trishul on the Flag (Dwaj) atop the tower.
The roof of the temple has beautiful architecture. And it looks more grandeur early morning when first rays of sun fall on it.

Close by is the very old Sun Temple, which dates back to time of the original Temple of Somnath and gives a clue what the original temple looked like. This very old temple give an indication of what the original Somnath Temple was like.
Sun Temple near Somnath temple

In the northern main street leading to the temple is the Prabhas Patan Museum. The museum displays remains from the earlier Somnath Temples which were found on excavations. Those relics tells us the glorious past of this temple and its architecture. I’ll cover that with the detailed history and photographs of those relics of the temple later.
Not to be missed, just few meters away from the temple, on the Arabian Sea coast are found naturally formed Shivlings. Few lie on the coast itself while couple of them are in the sea with sea water doing the abhishek.