Due to his implicit connection to destruction and chaos Lord Shiva and death share a vital relationship. Death is one concept each and every one of us shall have to face no matter how much we may dislike it. It is difficult to form relationships with people in life, more so, those that have a substantial meaning in our lives. Those of us who have had loving families would know how important it is to be able to connect and depend on family members. They are there for us, warts and all. Parents, siblings and as we reach adulthood, spouses and partners constitute the strongest relationships we manage to make and often take for granted, until one day they are suddenly gone.
In our times, when so much of our relationships are conducted online, we call, text and video chat with our loved ones very often. Somehow the virtual connect seems enough to some of us. A lot of our issues and conflicts with each other are left unresolved because we choose not to have confrontations. The popular saying about this goes that “we always hurt the ones we love” and how true that is!
The absolute loss of connection that comes to pass upon death, tells us a lot more about ourselves than the deceased. Every time we hear of a death, we become implicitly conscious of our own mortality. Death spares nobody on the basis of race, class, gender, orientation, nationality or any of the other categories of differentiation human beings like to come up with, in order to make ourselves feel different and by extension, better than other people. The one and absolute equalizer, death has the power to tear to shreds all possible veils of vanity one may have. No matter how big one may become in life, one day all of that power, money and influence must be left behind. No wonder therefore that many cultures around the globe see death as a negative force.
Major world religions try to enforce obedience in their followers with the fear of death and the prospect of what is to come after death. The collusion of the state and religion in many countries still evoke the fear of God and punishments after death to perpetuate a hegemonic system of control over the poorest and weakest section of their population.
But what of us- those who live in advanced democracies, in developed and rapidly developing countries? We have seemingly managed to break the shackles of bigoted clergy, but very few of us would think of ourselves as Godless, and faithless. Even those of us who profess to be atheists, protesting the absence of God, pointing to the rampant suffering and heinous crimes in the world, would not deny the power and influence of death. Will Christ grant us redemption? Will our souls be saved, or shall we be doomed to perpetually suffer hell fires? Is there life after death that some religion like Hinduism professes? Or is our deaths the final closure of everything? That we end, not with a bang but with a feeble squeak?
Philosophers around the globe, across all times have pondered over these questions. Still, 10,000 years into human existence on planet earth, we are nowhere close to finding any definitive answer. All we do know for certain, is that one day we shall definitely perish and the most we could do is hope, we go with the least pain and suffering as possible.
So much for those that have left us forever and gone away! What of those of us that live and must live on regardless of how much it hurts us? What do we do with our thoughts about our beloved and our concerns regarding their fate after death? How do we come to terms with the inevitability of our mortality?
Many of us choose to deposit our worries with some form of idea of divine manifestation we like to call God. All discussions and debates about whether God exists or which religion to follow to reach Him with certainty, have only led to horrific fights and bloodshed throughout human history. In the contemporary times of globalization and multiculturalism, we have become more and more aware of other people and their ways of life. For the most part, we have evolved as a species by learning from one another, but in some cases, where politics and sectarianism have held sway, there has been and continues to be strife.
Ever wondered, why do we fight thus? Is it only to have and control more and more material resources? Or Perhaps there is a deeper insecurity that operates in our collective subconscious, that prompts us to violence? To protect against anything that tries to unsettle our traditionally cherished idea of a moral centre in the world? One would not be too far away from the truth if they were to look closely at the third possibility. We are always trying to control and bring meaning to the otherwise fluctuating world around us, that is in large parts governed by chance. Religion allows us to have that fixed centre to deposit the fears and anxieties that we cannot contain or control by ourselves.
As a system of social structure, Hinduism has survived over 3000 years. It shall be pointless to try underscoring its merits or draw comparisons with other faiths. It has its own share of internecine problems and contradictions just like every other faith, and so called empirical atheisms. Let us consider it to be just another system and try looking at one of its important contributions to the philosophy around death.
Lord Shiva and death happen to form one of the most important connection firstly due to Lord Shiva’s association with the role of the destroyer in the Hindu trinity but at a more deeper level, it talks of a certain understanding of the phenomenon of death that is unique. Just like other religions, it asks us to believe in a higher power in whom we shall all meld and find absolute benediction from, but when it comes to Lord Shiva, the philosophy turns more to this world than to the next. According to some Shaivite sects, the body is not something that ought to be chastised or neglected. It is seen as the medium through which we can experience all the wonders of the world. The sense organs come together and give us the ability to connect, even to our loved ones. We forget over time, that everybody we have ever known apart from ourselves belong to the world outside us. They are all products of the world that binds us to materiality.
This is exactly why Lord Shiva and his followers are said to frequent burning Ghats. They smear ash over their bodies and some sects known as the Aghoris are known to consume human cadavers. These are not mindless acts of barbarity. These are instead, the means to familiarize oneself with the grotesque realities of life. In our pursuit of pleasure and beauty, we forget that the ugly and the painful are as much part of existence. In our need to be loved, and in the comfort of the embrace of our loved ones, we become oblivious to the fact that it would be equally painful if we were to lose them.
One must remember always that Lord Shiva does not represent dwelling on the morbid parts and thoughts of life. He is also a householder with a wife and two sons. He is known to give vent to immense anger and pain, almost as much as he is known to be calm and dedicated in meditation and mercy.
Lord Shiva and death therefore represent a kind of philosophy that advocates constant reality checks in our lives. It keeps us aware of the dual existence of pleasure and pain. Meditations on Lord Shiva will not bring back our loved ones from their graves but it will help us to focus more on the good memories we had created with them or hoped to create. It would remind us that there really never is a ‘happily ever after’. It would grant us the fortitude to suffer bravely, not for the hopes of a fruitful return but for the attainment of a resignation that even we shall pass one day.
Immortality is achievable only when we manage to live life to the fullest. Being able to connect to and become one with the absolute realities of existence, allows for the true enlightenment of the mind. For all the remaining conflicts and loose ends, one can always look within to employ the Panchakshara Mantra and meditate on the ultimate truth of life- constant negotiations between the beautiful and the grotesque in all their varying Shades :
Om Namah Shivaya!
Today’s Lesson is about Shiva’s 1st Truth: Ekagrata – his ability to find single-minded focus no matter what the circumstance.
From his stories we find that even in the most adverse conditions, Shiva has the capacity to remain single-minded in order to come up with a solution. And while some may say these are simply ‘stories’, they nonetheless contain a core solution, or Truth, for reaching a state of Purnatva. You too, can learn to use single-minded focus to help you live a more peaceful life, by following the direction illuminated through the god Shiva.
Without Focus, Life Controls YOU
Most people go through life with very little focus. They live their days without any self-reflection. They do not seek within, in order to discover what could make them truly happy. These are people who see the external world as determining their life experience. This results in feeling powerless to make change. And when one perceives oneself as powerless, then whining and complaint are sure to follow.
But we all know that whining does not help in any situation. It has never got anyone a job or a raise. It does not have the ability to get rid of the horrible boss who makes your life a living hell; nor can it change your difficult teenager who simply wants to rebel, and it certainly won’t improve your health!
As long as someone continues to live without focus, all those external circumstances will control them. It is a state of profound disempowerment – quite the opposite of what Shiva demonstrates under stress!
Our minds continuously wander in several directions, hence making it tougher for us to focus and complete important tasks in our daily lives. This has been made much worse by the pressure many of us feel to “get everything done” through multitasking.
The Myth of Multitasking
Multitasking is very much the epitome of lack of focus. In fact, as a popular “solution” to getting more accomplished, it
glorifies the unfocused mind. But what few people realise, is that there have been significant studies which reveal how ineffective and unhealthy
this behavior actually is!
For example, in the 1990s, psychologists began experiments to examine human multitasking. Their conclusions have been consistent: multitasking is not as
efficient (and therefore not a time-saver) as periods of highly-concentrated effort.
Unfortunately, the results of multi-tasking are actually worse than simple inefficiency! These studies demonstrate what researchers call “severe
interference” when even extremely simple tasks are done simultaneously. (seePashler 1994 and Gladstones, Regan & Lee 1989).
The PsychiatristEdward M. Hallowell has even described multitasking as a “mythical activity” in
his book Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast-Paced Life. (2007. Ballantine Books).
Others researchers have focused their studies on learning. Their results should make every parent, student and teacher think twice about this false notion
of focusing on more than one thing at a time!
For example, in a 2003 study, researchers Mayer and Moreno looked at “cognitive load” in multimedia learning settings. Their conclusion: It’s difficult, if not impossible to learn new information while engaged in multitasking [emphasis mine].
And finally, a recent study of the effects multitasking has on academic performance found that students who used text messaging or Facebook while they
studied, negatively impacted their grades. However, they did note that online research and emailing did not have a negative effect.
The Antidote? – Shiva’s Fierce Focus
While reading through the Vedas and the Puranas many years ago, I came across the idea of Ekagrata – the art of single-minded focus. I was immediately enthralled by it, because I saw in it the potential to help so many people! I saw how Ekagrata was the antidote for people rushing about in this modern world, feeling stress from all sorts of external pressures; people trying to accomplish more through multi-tasking, yet ultimately, achieving less; and people whose worries about things they cannot control are literally making them sick.
Thus, Ekagrata has since been the topic of discussion in many of my lectures. What I discovered is that people are genuinely hungry for this knowledge. They want to understand Shiva’s ability to maintain such fierce focus and more so, they want to know HOW they can learn from him to do this themselves!
How Does Shiva Do This? What is His Secret?
Over eons, Shiva has risen to the top of the Hindu Pantheon. A Pantheon comprised of 10s of thousands of deities! From his ancient beginnings, (stories of his birth are shrouded in mystery), to today, Shiva has become one of the ‘great’ gods of India, and known around the world.
Shiva is known for many things. As an ascetic, he renounces all worldly ties in order to devote himself to intense meditation atop Mount Kailash. As a husband and father, he is known for his love, loyalty and passion. Shiva is also the god whom all the other gods turn to when they cannot solve a problem.
As a god, of course, Shiva doesn’t have worldly worries like you or I. He doesn’t need to hold down a job, support a family or pay for a home. Yet he does have a family. And when they get too much for him, he can lose his focus. So when the world gets too much for Shiva, he turns to Ekagrata, going to the mountains to meditate and regain a sense of inner harmony through single-minded focus.
The 1st Step to Ekargata
Wouldn’t it be great if you could leave everything behind for a month or two when life becomes too hectic, and spend time focusing solely on yourself?
Unfortunately, for most of us, a retreat to a mountaintop is nearly impossible. We live in a world that makes demands on us. Responsibilities such as family, career and paying bills all limit our ability to simply escape. Yet if those demands impinge too greatly upon us, we lose focus, becoming fatigued and unhappy with our situation and ourselves.
What I learned through Shiva’s 1st Truth, Ekagrata, is that we don’t need a complete escape to the peace and quiet of the mountains to help us have a more fulfilled life. It is possible to bring that peace and quiet into our daily lives. And this leads to the first step in achieving Ekagrata …
Each of us has an energy that lies dormant within, waiting to be shaken awake. If we focus all the energy we spent on whining or crying about the unhappiness of our lives into introspection – trying to understand ourselves, what makes us happy, what we really want from life – we would be able to take the steps necessary to make those things happen.
And this is only possible through Ekagrata.
Ask yourself difficult questions, Focusing on them fiercely! Questions like:
• “Is this what I want from my life?”
• “Is my life going in the direction I want it to?”
• “Am I unhappy/happy with where I am in my life?”
• “What can I do to make myself happy/content/fulfilled?”
Then look to Shiva. When he is deep in meditation seeking answers, nothing and no one can have an effect on him. His wife cannot distract him, nor his sons. Not even the other gods can shake his concentration!
How Complete Focus Can Help You In Love, Money and Health
Ekagrata isn’t just a way to get more done, improve grades or get a better position. The most valuable gift of mastering Ekagrata is the improvements you’ll experience in every area of your life. How? by helping you develop the qualities of patience and awareness.
These qualities are necessary for every relationship you have. They’re also necessary for making smart decisions about your career and money, as well as how to take care of your health properly. In fact, it is when you lack these valuable qualities of patience and awareness that your life can quickly spin out of control.
Shiva’s Power is within You, Too!
In Hindu mythology, the mind has been attributed with great powers. Shiva epitomizes this power of the mind by escaping from the chaos of the world, isolating himself in order to cultivate focus. Through Ekagrata, he is able to maintain control of his mind, his thoughts, words and actions. To achieve this control. In his guise as Maha (great) Yogi, Shiva teaches us the value of spending time alone, in introspection.
And when you understand Shiva, you will also accept that this power resides within you, too. Even when you are going through a personal crisis or challenge, when you recognize the power of your mind and its ability to maintain focus through disciplined practice, you have the ability to stay on the path and actualize your dreams.
3 Simple Steps You Can Take Right Now
Just follow these steps to begin your journey to Ekagrata.
1. Set an Intention
(to get a raise, find a new job, lose weight, improve a relationship …)
2. Give it your Total Attention
. This means action as well as focus: Be pro-active, let the boss see that you are working hard and interested in what you do. If you want to change your job, upgrade your resume/CV. For health or relationships, change your diet or find activities that bring you into circles of people you want to spend time with.
3. Stay Committed.
Setbacks happen, but you needn’t let them stop you. Keep moving forward and overcoming obstacles if they present themselves. Maintain your attention on your intention and allow your single-minded focus to lead you to achieving your dream!
Ekagrata is the first Truth to finding fulfillment or Purnatva. Right now, working towards Ekagrata will feel much like a daily battle. Will you get
discouraged as your mind sways this way and that? Of course! Will you sometimes fall asleep or feel ‘antsy’ because life is demanding your attention?
Definitely. But if you stick to this one practice, what you will find is that you will bring yourself closer to Shiva’s ultimate prize: Purnatva – the
Wholesomeness that comes from mental focus, balance and all of Shiva’s Truths!
Achieve Ekagrata Without Years of Lonely Practice
If the thought of achieving Ekagrata only after decades of self-discipline sounds too hard, then you’ll benefit from what you’ll achieve with the full, Shiva Experience program. Not only will you gain deeper wisdom through the stories of Shiva, you’ll also get valuable skills and tools for optimal meditation, as well as the support that comes from being part of the greater Shiva Experience Community!
Here are a few other benefits of working with the full program:
● When you channel Ekagrata into your career… you will gain greater focus and confidence in your decisions and abilities, that in turn helps you accomplish much more with less effort.
● When you channel Ekagrata into your relationships… communication with your loved ones becomes more meaningful and perceptive, as you intuitively connect with their thoughts and needs.
● When you channel Ekagrata into your health… you will start automatically rejecting unhealthy lifestyle habits, gravitating instead towards choices that honor your mind, body and spirit.
●When you channel Ekagrata into your finances… you will have the power to build greater abundance in your life, freeing yourself of struggle, or feelings of guilt or fear related to money or spending.
● And in addition to Ekagrata, the full program also give you detailed lessons for mastering the rest of Shiva’s steps to Purnatva.
Are you ready to accelerate your growth and Master the Power of your Mind? CLICK HERE to learn more about the full program, and try it out for yourself.
In tomorrow’s Lesson, you will discover Shiva’s 2nd Secret, and how mastering it will
>> improve your communication with anyone
>> lower your stress levels
>> help you make the best possible decisions in any situation
>> let go of pain and heartbreak from the past
So be sure to look for and open tomorrow’s email from me, entitled: “Vairagya – Shiva’s 2nd Truth”
Om Namah Shivaya
Dr. Nilima Chitgopekar
GO HERE to learn more about the full Shiva Experience Program.
Often I come across various articles that catch my eye and I could see a clear connection between Shiva and his teachings. They may not be directly related but are somewhat releasing similar energies helping clear our minds even further.
Here is one of the articles I read in a leading publication in India.
Below is the Article, it was published in The Times of India.
What is the difference between Yoga and Tantra?
Tantra says you have to accept yourself as you are – do not restrain, just accept, but be aware and you will transcend.’ Yoga promotes restraint. Both ways are acceptable. Tantra and Yoga may be two different manifestations but their genesis is the same. All concepts of Yoga are derived from Tantra.
How is that?
In Tantra you accept yourself because that is the expression of your life, of your consciousness, in its natural course of evolution.
Within us we have both ‘good’ and ‘bad’, creative and destructive. Usually, religions tell us to accept ‘good’ and reject ‘bad’ or negative aspects of our personality, but we, with our limited understanding, tend to mess things up. We try to change the pattern of our behaviour and thinking. This enforced change within the personality is suppression of the normal expression which applies to all levels of our consciousness.
Tantra talks of the union of Shiva and Shakti. Shakti has nearly always been defined as kundalini, and Shiva, the male aspect, has been defined as chetana or consciousness. Tantra is not really referring to a physical relationship. It says that in order to experience internal union you first experience external union; to experience internal bliss, experience external bliss. The difference is external bliss is momentary; internal bliss is continuous.
In Tantra there are initiations which are awakening of Shakti. The practice of asana is an initiation for the body. Pranayama is initiation of the pranas. The only difference between Tantra and Yoga is that Yoga is outgoing; it deals more with the world, body, mind, personality, emotions, actions and environment, whereas Tantra is more meditative.
You require desire because, for the evolution of consciousness, conflict is necessary. It is a means for awakening part of the consciousness. If there were no conflicts, there would be no evolution. There would be a stagnant state of consciousness.
How should we deal with desires?
We must accept them. If i desire to slap you, i should think of the repercussions it can have, positive or negative. If i simply follow my emotions there will be a big fight between us. This is where you have to learn to detach yourself. Both processes happen together. You allow emotions to flourish, observe them, and learn how to control them. You come to know when it is the right time for action and let that energy manifest. Then this manifestation will be positive and creative, rather than haphazard. You wait for the right time, you follow that desire through, so there is no conflict.
Do men and women have different spiritual attributes?
Tantra believes that feminine energy is more refined and of a higher quality than masculine energy. In Tantra the female principle has the position of guru, and the male principle that of a disciple.
Why is this so?
Because of a woman’s ability to flow without any kind of intellectual barrier which binds one to the material level. Women have intuitive ability because theirs is a psychically active energy. Male energy is passive and seems to tend towards tunnel-vision. Women are able to perceive things which the male energy cannot. One must learn to flow with sensitivity; one must learn to flow with higher awareness. This means the subtle or sukshma awareness. Awakening of the subtle awareness is an important aspect in the life of a yogi.
Satsang: Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati