Thursday, April 13, 2006

Chapter 12


After I had completed this project, I came across yet another form of Ganapathi called Shubha Dhrishti Pillayar. This image, the result of a vision experienced by a religious sculptor , was a kind of an amalgam of all major deities. Here was a Pillayar embodying in himself aspects of Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and Devi. It was a divine force that led me to discover this image and also allowed me to paint it to my satisfaction.

There is a reason I mention this. I finished work on my 32 Pillayars on Guru Purnima day in July 2004. I prayed for my Guru’s blessings and mentally dedicated all my art work to him. I was absorbed in meditation for a long time and seemed to get a strong
mental suggestion from my Guru to do another painting. He wanted me to do a massive reproduction of the Sri Chakra.

A few weeks prior to this, I had a marvellous vision in my dream of the Kamakshi Amman at Maangadu. In my dream I was busy painting a huge six feet image of her with the Sri chakra at her feet. About the same time, I had yet another intriguing dream. The scene, as if I can see it clearly now, is my mother’s room in my family home. A priest enters the room in a state of great distress. He informs my mother and my second brother (who is also there), that an idol has been lost from the MEL MAADI puja room and is going to cause us all some bad luck. I see a lot of servants engaged to find the missing idol. However, none can trace it. The dream ended on a rather sad note. The very next day I called my mother and related the vision. She reassured me that nothing had been lost from our puja room.

I was relieved to hear this. However, the uneasiness persisted. It was several months later that I discovered that a small statue of the Goddess Bhuvaneswari given by Swamigal to another sibling, had indeed been broken by accident and no longer remained in the
house. So, my dream had been right. I was not hallucinating as my mother believed! That was a relief for me.

Now, during my meditations on Guru Purnima day, I received another message from my Guru. He asked me to return that idol back to the temple at Salem and place it beside his Samadhi. This suggestion came just after the request for me to paint the Sri Chakra.
However, as the time of writing this, I have no idea how this request will be fulfilled. I have simply prayed to him for guidance. On the other hand, I was naturally very interested in the subject of Sri Chakra. I had already done a lot of digging on this topic because of strong thoughts in that direction. I knew how to draw this geometrical shape that represented the great vedantic truths of identity between the atma and paramatma. I was also aware of the significance of the yantra. In fact, during this time, I was fortunate to make e-mail acquaintance with a disciple of SHRI Shanthananda Swamigal who lives in Texas. This man seemed a veritable storehouse of knowledge. An astrologer, mathematician, philosopher as well as a Sri Vidya Upasaka, he exuded the quiet confidence that comes from the great accumulation of knowledge.

I exchanged a couple of letters with him and in the process obtained a few moola mantras for the worship of Ganapathi. In fact, in one of his letters he had asked me if I was interested in taking up the Sri Vidya Puja for devi. This is also called the Navavarana puja and represents the ultimate truth of the identity between Devi and worshipper. I felt I was nowhere near qualified to undertake this kind of demanding ritual. Also, my interests lay more on the philosophical plane, not really the ritual part of our Vedas. I informed this man I would take up the puja if my Guru so ordained it.

However, I wanted to execute the portrait of Kamakshi Amman and the sri chakra without further delay.

One auspicious day, I chanted the Rudram, lalitha sahasranama and trisathi, and after dutifully paying obeisance to my Guru, placed the blank sheet of drawing paper
on the table. Even before I could put pencil down on the paper, the door bell rang and there was a special courier delivery for me. My mother had finally sent me, after several months of my request, a small snapshot of the Shubha Dhrishti Ganapathi she was able to lay her hands on in Madras. Something inside my mind told me not to proceed with the Sri Chakra just then. Instead, I started painting the Shubha Dhristi Ganapathi, also known for his power to ward off all evil spirits immediately. Within a few weeks, this image was
finished. Summer vacation was upon us and the whole month of August went by without any other artistic output. However, every day during this period I was reciting either the Devi Mahatmyam or the Lalitha Sahasranamam. While on holiday, I had another vision,
around the time of Varalakshmi Nombu.

In this dream, I found myself part of a crowd of people, waiting expectantly for the arrival of someone. It was not long before I saw Her. There was Amma, Matha Amritanandamayi, walking slowly down the path, with devotees thronging each side of it. I felt myself being jostled in this crowd. As Amma walked close to me, I bowed down respectfully. However, to my intense surprise, she came straight towards me, singled me out from the crowd and placed a blood-red spot right in the centre of my eye-brows. Then, she vanished.

I awoke, rather puzzled by the significance of this dream. In a week’s time, I returned back to London from the U.S. The minute I walked through the door of my flat, I stooped down to pick up some mail that had been delivered in my absence. Right on top of a pile of correspondence was a newsletter. There was a large photograph of Amma and an announcement that she was scheduled to visit London on October 12th. Somewhere, at the back of my mind, a little voice said this was no ordinary coincidence.

The very next day, I set about painting a huge portrait of Maangadu Kamakshi Amman. I wished to depict her with the chakra at her feet. I went to the craft store I normally get my art supplies from. I picked up several sheets of drawing paper and some tubes of paint. When I went up to the cash desk to pay for my purchases, I smiled and said “Hello” to the lady at the cash register. Over the past few years, I had become a regular customer at this shop, and this assistant knew me by sight quite well. However, on that particular day, we got talking a bit more than usual. “What do you paint?”, this lady asked me. “You seem to be buying a lot of gold paint tubes from us”. So, I replied that I do paintings of Hindu religious deities. I did not want to embark on any complicated explanation because I thought it would go over this person’s head. The lady digested this information for a minute. Then she asked me “Do you know Amma?” I was taken
aback. I didn’t think for a minute that a shop assistant in Chelsea, London would have ever heard of her!

Immediately, I warmed up to her. We spoke at great length about my paintings and what they meant to me. She said she was looking forward to meeting Amma when she came to London in October. She also told me she had volunteered to help at the venue by cleaning
all the toilets! I felt humbled to hear this and I informed her I was going to do a massive painting of Devi and intended to bring a photograph of it so Amma could bless it. “Good luck on your painting”, she said, and I left. For the next two weeks I was totally engrossed with my painting. Each day I would recite the Devi Mahatmyam, followed by the Lalitha Sahasranama and then start work. I also meditated on the symbolism of the Sri chakra .

There is no doubt that this enigmatic, geometrical shape called Sri Chakra is the greatest symbol of this whole universe. It also represents the body of the Goddess Kamakala who resides in the central point Bindu, in addition to permeating this entire universe.
Therefore, by meditating on this shape of the chakra understanding what it stands for, we understand the basic Vedantic truth that establishes the identity between the individual jeeva and Brahman, or Creator or Devi or Ishwara, however you want to call that divine
energy force. At the very heart of the Sri Chakra, the Bindu pulsates with energy.

In fact, the five activities associated here are:
1. the emanation of the cosmos.
2. projection of that creation - that is the world as we see it,
3. the preservation of this universe,
4. the withdrawal of the life- giving energy source at the time of death and dissolution,
5. the retention of all that withdrawn energy in a potential seed-like form—so that the next cycle of rebirth can occur. Think of this as a form of unmanifest creation - just like you have in your hand a seed that can later, under proper conditions like water and light, sprout into a plant. (hiranyagarbha).

Coming to the geometrical diagram, next—there are four upward pointing triangles and five downward pointing triangles. The upward pointing ones are considered to be an aspect of Shiva’s energy, while the downward pointing triangles emphasis the importance of shakthi. These 4+5==9 triangles stand for the Mula prakrithis- or the fundamental elements that make up this universe or the macrocosm. In other words it refers to the abstract substance ( root stuff) or essence that gradually evolves into various forms of matter either concrete or subtle. It is this primordial substance that is the basis of all observable and non- observable phenomenon—e.g. physical shapes, mental or psychic projections. These elements are also found in the individual in the form of skin, blood, flesh, fat, bone, (coming from shakti); and semen, marrow, vital breath or prana, and the soul (from Shiva). These nine triangles interlock and form 43 further triangles along with the central dot or bindu.

Analysing the shape and structure of the sri chakra: the 43 triangles( 43+bindu) are enclosed by three concentric circles. This in turn is surrounded by two circles of lotuses. The first circle has 8 petals and the second has 16 petals. Surrounding these circles of lotuses, there is a square shape which is the outer enclosure. This is formed of triple lines and has gateways in four directions called DWARAS.
These dwaras are points of awareness.This outer enclosure is called the bhupura.
There are nine AVARANAS or enclosures in the Sri chakra and in what follows I am going to explain these in terms of their esoteric significance. Understanding this is the same as performing SRI VIDYA puja, which is also called Navavarana puja. The AVARANAS stand for various layers of ignorance and bad habits that prevent us from realising our own true nature and oneness with GOD. I sincerely hope this explanation will be easy to read. Also, what follows is just the explanation I have gleaned. There are many views and opinions on this topic and lots of extra details that I am not getting involved with at this stage.

The first avarana or enclosure: The bhupura or square enclosure with 4 gateways, plus two more( if you think of this as a three dimensional shape), stands for below the ground and Akaasha. The eastern gateway represents the path of mantras. The southern
gateway stands for bhakthi. The western dwara represents the practice of rites and rituals, and the northern gateway stands for wisdom or jnana. The below ground space represents the path of words, while the space above denotes liberation. As you can see, in this
outermost layer, every human being is seeking happiness through various routes. This is called the TRAILOKYA MOHANA CHAKRA—or the delusion of dreams.

Now we proceed inside to the second chakra. This is the ring of 16 lotus petals, called SHODASHA or SARVA ASHA PURVAKA CHAKRA. As you can guess, shodasha stands for 16, and the sarvashapurvaka represents the fulfiller of all desires(asha). In simple terms, a seeker who wants happiness is going to be very frustrated if many of his basic desires are thwarted. So, in this chakra virtue, wealth and pleasure is granted. There are shakthis that are present in each of the 16 petals that stand for the 5 elements (air, earth, fire, water, ether); the 5 sense organs—touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing; the 5 organs of action ( hands, feet, speech, organs of generation and evacuation); plus the mind. These, together make up the 16 petals. The expectation is that the person who has his basic needs satisfied can continue on the path of spiritual progress.

The third chakra is that of the eight lotus petals. This is called the Sarva Sankshobana chakra and is a kind of transition stage where the seeker is kept still prosperous and in a state of mental and physical equilibrium.
There are goddesses in each of the eight petals, manifesting the powers of:
Speech, motion, transcendence, ananda or bliss, detachment, attitudes of giving, rejection, acceptance and apathy. So, the individual has various options to develop the vairagya necessary to further his spiritual progress if he wants to!

The hope of spiritual success is firmly established only in the next chakra which is called the Sarva saubhagya dayaka chakra . This is the wheel that bestows all prosperity for the seeker. This is the fourth enclosure. There are 14 triangles in this avarana. There are 14
deities here who empower the ten Indriyas: that is the 5 sense organs plus the 5 organs of action explained earlier. The additional four refer to the four sections of the mind.
The Mind comprises of :
Manas: the originator of all doubts,
Buddhi or intellect, which makes all decisions.
Chitta or memory
And Aham - or the I conciousness or ego.

So, through mind control and sense control and discipline for the body, a seeker can hope for spiritual success.

The Fifth enclosure is called the SARVA SADHAKA CHAKRA. This is composed of ten triangles. These ten triangles represent the ten types of vital breaths or PRAANA. These are:
Prana- the inhalation and exhalation process
Apana- excretion processes—(i.e. the flow of air that aids these bodily functions)
Samana- circulation of air and oxygen aiding the digestion process
Vyana- the circulatory system—vital oxygen passing through veins and artery
Udaana—the upward movement of air: coughs, vomiting— and, at time of death, it is only this function that works and carries the last vital breath out of your system. In addition to these 5 breaths that are found in the human body, there are 5 more secret pranas pertaining to the movement of the atmic spirit in the realms of buddhi and manas. There are also vital breaths in the heart and head.

These are all vital fields that allow finer spiritual, intellectual and psychic forces to work.
Hence, in this chakra which is also called the preservation stage- or VISHNU- energy, the possibility of inner spiritual realisation is established.

The sixth enclosure is called the SARVA RAKSHAKARA CHAKRA, or the protection granting wheel. Tere are ten triangles in this segement representing the ten vital fires within our bodies that keep us alive. The fire principle is essential inside our bodies not only to maintain a constant body temperature, but also to aid with the digestion process and helps to break down the food we consume into smaller and more easily absorbed enzymes and chemicals and nutrients that nourish and protect the body. Basically the fires associated here are to do with helping the digestion of all food that is eaten, chewed, licked, sucked or imbibed.It is in this chakra of preservation that spiritual knowledge begins to flourish.

The seventh enclosure is called SARVA ROGA HARA CHAKRA, or the remover of all diseases. The eight triangles here represent the eight weapons held by Kameshwara and his consort Kameshwari. The healing aspect of Rudra is highlighted here. In this inner wheel, the aspirant is finally able to detach himself from earthly pleasures and is on the brink of self- realisation.

The eighth chakra is the primary or the innermost, first chakra and is called Sarva siddhi pradha chakra, or the Bestower of all Attainments or siddhis. The presiding deity here is Kama Kala, who is the very first effect caused by the energy flow from the central
Bindu. The three lines of this triangle are said to represent the three gunas—sattva, rajas and tamas; and alternatively the three states of conciousness during jagrat or waking state, swapna or dreaming state and sushupti or deep sleep. There is a fourth state beyond
this called turiya, that transcends all three states. The fourth state is ultimate awareness, conciousness, or bliss that is found in the ninth enclosure.

The ninth enclosure is just represented by the tiny dot Bindu, which is the Sarva ananda mayai chakra or the place of bliss. This ananda comes from the truth of self- realisation and the wisdom obtained by the identification of union between jivatma and paramatma. This Bindu can also be represented as a very, very small triangle made up of just three dots- One dot, the fire principle, corresponds to the Sushumna Nadi that runs through the centre of the spine and connects with the thousand- petalled lotus or sahasrara on the top of the head. Another dot corresponds to the energy power of the moon and represents the IDA NADI running on the left side of the spine. The third dot represents the sun’s energy and stands for the PINGALA NADI that runs on the right side of the spine.

The Sri chakra diagram is also representative of the ascent of the Kundalini—or serpent power—from the base of the body—mooladhara, through the various centres of energy in the body like the Svadishtana, Manipura, Anahata, Visuddhi, Ajna and finally the
Sahasrara. In other words, the seeker is able to attain complete mastery over his senses and mind, and by practising constant meditation, attains the true happiness that comes from pure awareness of conciousness.

Mind is a manifestation of divine energy or Shakthi . By continuous meditation on each chakra, the whole body assumes divinity! The practice of Sri Yantra meditation is supposed to transform the worshipper or Sadhaka, so that what is at first seen as lines and
triangles becomes a mental state in the sadhaka. He becomes one with the yantra and recognises this. He realises that there is no difference between the worshipper, object meditated upon, and the very knowledge gained through such a process. In short, the Sri
chakra represents the human body and the whole universe, for what is in the former is in the latter and vice versa. It is the greatest symbol of Devi as she is in her own form or Swarupa and as she is in the form of the universe.

I finally finished this beautiful portrait two days before Amma’s visit to London. Kamakshi Amman stands very serenely on a decorated pedestal, while at her feet is the golden Sri Chakra. I took a photograph of this painting, intending to get Amma’s blessing. On October 12th, I left the house very early, because I did not wish to repeat the long waiting process of last year. So, there I was in the lobby of this vast Sports Complex, ten miles outside London, on a cold, rainy morning, three hours ahead of the arrival time of Amma. I took my place in the short queue that had already formed to get the tokens for the darshan and hugging.

Since I had arrived early, my token was numbered within the first one hundred. I was relieved. This meant I wouldn’t have to wait 5 hours like the last time. I took my token and went along with my husband inside the huge auditorium. We sat down crosslegged on the floor, close to the big central dais on which Amma’s chair had been placed.There was still several hours more to go.

I spent the time doing meditation and prayers . My husband and I sat there, waiting patiently for Amma’s arrival. Finally, at 10 a.m. she entered the room. Dressed in her customary white saree and wearing a garland of flowers, Amma walked down the pathway lined with devotees on either side. We all stood up respectfully, until Amma sat down on her little seat in the centre of the auditorium.

When we were all seated, Amma greeted us with a lovely smile. Her eyes darted across the assembled crowd and she turned her head slowly from left to right, as if to acknowledge our presence. Then her eyes seemed to gaze in the direction where I was seated and then rested very gently on my face. She looked at me and smiled. The smile seemed to say “I know you, and everything about you”. It was the kind of smile a mother gives a child. Very tender and loving, yet I got the feeling she really knew everything about me. The gaze was on me for just a minute and, still smiling, she gestured with her right hand for me to move to the centre of the pathway. I was stunned for a minute and rooted to the spot until the person sitting next to me gave me a gentle push and asked me to sit in front of Amma.

Hardly believing my luck, I moved across, holding the photograph of my painting very tightly. I sat down right by Amma’s feet and then placed the photo on my lap. We were all asked to close our eyes and meditate. I recall my eyes closing but my heart was pounding very fast . We did some chanting and prayers. During the whole period I was mentally trying to picture my Guru, Shri Shanthananda Swamigal. However, his face appeared for an instant only to dissolve into that of Amma the next instant. I silently prayed to Amma. “You are my Goddess, my Guru and indeed the very Durga, Kali of the Devi Mahatmyam. I want nothing except to be with you at all times”.

Then I opened my eyes and Amma smiled at me as if she had heard my prayer. She asked me to come forward. However, an assistant next to her asked me where my token was. I was flustered because that tiny scrap of paper must have fallen off my lap when I moved
forward. However, I need not have worried. Amma was already hugging me. For a long time she held me in her arms and her right hand moved up and down my back several times. All the while she was talking to her assistant in Malayalam but I could get the gist of what was said. Apparently on her way to the auditorium there was an accident on the road. A car in front had rammed into a lorry. She was
remarking on this while continuing to stroke me. After a minute, I felt all my thoughts disappear and I was in this huge black void where there was nothing. No feelings, certainly no fear, but just a blank state. The only overriding emotion was one of absence of fear and a strange elation.

Then Amma leaned forward and whispered in my right ear “Chella Pillai, Chella Pillai” . This meant “ favoured child” in tamil. This phrase was repeated very clearly, distinctly several times. Then another hug and I was let go. Now, it was my husband’s turn. He too
was hugged and something whispered in his ear. However, just as he rose up to go,Amma turned towards him and asked him in Tamil if he had a job. My husband was taken aback. Only both of us knew the hardships we were going through because my husband
had stopped working eight years ago. Over the years we had put up this brave front pretending to be able to cope when in truth every day meant more financial set backs. So, to hear this holy person asking this pertinent question, and that too in a very casual manner was shocking to say the least.

My husband, I think, was too embarrassed to answer because the question had been asked loudly in front of the assembled crowd. He could not bring himself to lie to her just as he could do to other family and friends. Kneeling next to her, I was silently shaking my head
because I thought someone should respond. However, Amma did not really look at me. Her gaze was directly on my husband. She did not need to hear any reply. Then she turned to me and said still smiling “You are suffering?” Again this question was a rhetorical one. Tears were streaming down my face. She asked us both to come towards her and hugged us both at the same time while whispering Chella Pillai” again, several times in my right ear. After this she took some sandal paste and applied it to our foreheads and gave us prasadam.

All this time the photograph of my Kamakshi Amman painting had fallen near her feet. Her assistant picked it up and urged me to give it to Amma. Amma took it in her hands and turned it over several times. She remarked that it was very nice. I said that I had painted it and sought her blessings. I told her I was doing a lot of paintings of religious deities and wished I could continue with this effort as long as I had power in my hands. She listened to everything I said and instead of replying, just smiled at me and gave the photograph back. I accepted it gratefully and with tears blinding my eyes slowly made my way out.

I shall never forget this incident. I was not really concerned about my husband’s job. It truly did not matter to me whether he had one or not. What was paramount in my mind was that I had “connected” for a few minutes with this amazing divine power manifested in Amma.

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