In Pujya Swamiji's audio message, Pujya Swamiji read the account of an American devotee, Sharon Brown, whose amazing experience exemplified the power of the Om Namasivaya Mantra. When she was informed that she had aplastic-anaemia (a disease that attacks the bone marrow) she sought Divine help and was advised by a devotee of Swami Muktananda to chant the Om Namasivaya Mantra. On simply hearing the Mantra even once, Sharon Brown experienced extraordinary exhilaration. The Mantra and the world appeared as one. At one point she felt that cancer came to her as a blessing so as to bring her into contact with the Mantra. Through the chanting of the Om Namasivaya Mantra, she experienced great peace and courage during the illness as well during the operation that was performed on her.
In the same Prahara, we heard from the story, "The Living Presence of God" by Sri Swami Sivananda, how Puran Chand, despaired of getting the coveted fruits of his spiritual practices. He approached his spiritual Preceptor and was initiated into various Mantras, without any success. Finally, Puran Chand had the vison of Lord Siva. Perplexed and in ecstasy, he addressed the Lord, "My Lord, kindly enlighten me. You did not deign to bless me when I devoutly worshipped you, when I repeated the Panchakshara Mantra for six months. But you suddenly chose to reveal yourself to me when I had discarded your image and had given up your worship. What is this mystery of Thine?"
"My child, there is nothing mysterious in this. How could I reveal Myself when you treated Me as a mere image, as a mere piece of metal, to be worshipped and discarded at your sweet will and fancy? But when you looked upon My idol as a living Presence, when you began to plug the nostrils with cotton so that the incense might not enter them, this revealed that you recognised My living Presence in it. I could no more withhold Myself from you."
Speechless but enlightened, Puran bowed to Lord Siva and was immersed in His love. He could ask for no boon. In His love he found everything.
One of the readings that made a deep impact is "Akshara Mana Malai",,an inspired poetical composition by Sri Ramana Maharishi. The verses gushed out of the sage like a cloudburst. It is an exceptional outpouring of devotion for the Lord of Arunachala in which the Maharishi assumes the role of a lover (seeker) seeking her beloved (the Supreme Being). One of its most evocative verses celebrates the death of the ego: "Arunachala"! "I came to you with the intention of making you mine. But instead it was you who consumed me. You swallowed my ego. You consumed my individuality and absorbed me into yourself. Now there is peace. He who came to feast on you became a feast for you. The eater and the eaten have merged into one." It is said that anyone who recites the work with devotion will merge with Lord Arunachaleshwara.
Throughout the night, readings were selected from our Master's book, Sivananda's Gospel of Divine Life. We reproduce herewith two extracts:
THE MASTER'S WORSHIP: It was the Viswanath Mandir Pratishtha Anniversary Day. A programme of worship was being conducted in the temple. Several aspirants and Sadhus were sitting inside the temple, worshipping the Lord with flowers and bael leaves. The Shiva Lingam was fully covered with a thick shawl of flowers. The Master was circumambulating the temple. As he appeared at the threshold of the shrine, one of the aspirants offered him some flowers and bael leaves with which to worship the Lord. As the Sannyasin outside was going on with his recitation of the Mantras, the Master also joined the devotees in offering flowers to the Lord. This went on for some minutes. In a mood of complete self-forgetfulness, the Master now turned to the Sadhus and aspirants sitting around the Lingam and began worshipping them with the flowers intended for the Lord. There seemed to be not a trace in his eyes or face indicating his recognition of who exactly the individuals were. The eyes seemed to gaze on, but only he could say what he saw.
IDOL WORSHIP: A group of Excise Officers arrived at the Ashram for the Master's Darshan. One of them asked, "Is Idol worship good?"
"Yes," said the Master, "everyone is actually an idol worshipper. The Muslim worships the Kaaba, and the Christian worships Jesus on the Cross. The mind wants a prop upon which to lean. In the initial stages, without the help of some external aid, the mind cannot be made one-pointed."
Another officer asked, "Is Idol worship intelligent?"
"Yes. The whole of the Srimad Bhagavata speaks of meditation on Lord Krishna. For a beginner, meditation on a form is necessary. If you are an advanced student you can meditate on the attributeless Brahman. Meditation on a form is also very efficacious. The mind is purified when you meditate on the Lord's form. When purity increases then knowledge dawns!"
Once again, we were indeed blessed to listen to the golden voices of our Divine Master and Pujya Swamiji. Their melodious singing, speaking and chanting, charged with the Shakti of their Sadhana, would have radiated much healing energy throughout the world, in these times of the scourge of Coronavirus.
During the scheduled chanting of the sacred Om Namah Shivaya Mantra at the end of each Prahara, devotees were encouraged to get up from the comfort of their couches and walk around the "dining room table". This afforded much-needed leg-stretching and variety.
We record our deep gratitude to the following guest artistes for their divine outpourings: Smt Mahenthri Pillay and Isaiselvamani Karthiegasen Pillay. Their melodious contributions enhanced the quality of the Satsang, inspiring devotees the world over.
Our report would be incomplete if we do not allocate space to some of the famous Saiva Acharyas, who have blessed us with their supreme wisdom and also inspired us with their matchless devotion. Their lives are a continual source of inspiration for us. Appar, for example, was a great saint of Tamil Nadu. He lived at the time of Sambandhar, another glorious saint of South India. They both loved each other dearly. When Appar was serving in a temple near Tiruvarur, gold and diamonds appeared at his feet. He regarded them as stones and threw them away. On another occasion, celestial damsels appeared before him and tempted him in a variety of ways, but he remained unmoved in his meditation. This is the kind of renunciation, aspiration and steadfastness one requires for success on the path of Yoga.
We are pleased that devotees from various parts of the world have followed our Mahasivaratri Satsang for the entire duration of the programme or in part. There were 6507 tune-ins. Judging from the feedback we received, our online Satsangs have been beneficial to many who regarded it as one of the coping skills during this lockdown.
We conclude this report, reflecting on the words of our Master of the purpose of this great night, "The two great natural forces that afflict man are Rajas (the quality of passionate activity), and Tamas (that of inertia). The Sivaratri Vrata aims at the perfect control of these two. The entire day is spent at the Feet of the Lord. Continuous worship of the Lord necessitates the devotee's constant presence in the place of worship. Motion is controlled. Evils like lust, anger and jealousy, born of Rajas, are ignored and subdued. The devotee observes vigil throughout the night and thus conquers Tamas also. Constant control is exercised over the mind. Every three hours a round of worship of the Siva Lingam is conducted. Sivaratri is a perfect Vrata. Lord Siva assured Parvati as follows: There is no ritual, O Parvati, which can compare with this simple routine in sanctity."