Sunday, February 19, 2012

Happy Maha Shivaratri: Circumambulate Yourself.

Shiva's favorite moment of the year is upon us; today is the day that the Shaivites fast all day and stay awake all night, praying and chanting and anointing the various murtis of Shiva (particularly the Shiva Lingam) with milk and honey, bael leaves and wood apple, and vermillion paste. So, if you wish to celebrate in traditional fashion, get to work gathering your puja items. However, if all of that fanfare feels a bit foreign to you, consider this: what the yogi engaged in ritual is really doing is sending a message to their own consciousness that their fondest wish is to awaken, such that they may reside in the clarity and peace of that awakened state.
If that indeed is also your fondest wish (and whose is it not?) then you could also dispense of the ritual... Or, better said, absorb the ritual's intention into yourself, and, metaphorically, circumambulate yourself, as the holiest mountain you know. This, it seems to me, is what we most crave, what we most desire; simply to recognize the sacred nature of our own self, and to have the sustained inclination to remain inside that recognition.
It is said that the nature of consciousness is 'niralambaya tejase', which means that our consciousness is luminous, shimmering, and awake, and that this quality of luminosity is not resting upon any external support. In other words, regardless of whether or not you have a job, or whether or not your parents or your spouse or your children or your teachers or your students believe in you or approve of you, you are still just as illuminated: this is the essence of consciousness. It doesn't matter if you have a checkered past or string of failures behind you, or if you've never lived up to what was expected of you; your consciousness is ever-luminous, ever-brilliant.
Unfortunately we are fairly entrenched in the thought constructs dictated by conditioning, and all the patterns we've been building through our years on the planet. So it can be hard to remember our luminosity. In the trap of the painful web of conditioning, people easily abdicate control, and lean on the hope that some God or some Guru or some Lover out there will take the edge off, or perhaps bring ultimate salvation. But in 'our' system, and by that I mean the philosophy upon which Anusara rests, this revelation is right here and right now. The nature of Shiva, of consciousness, is "nisprapanchaya shantaya": Peace that is not beyond the fiveness that is this Earth, this worldly realm, this realm of experience. The peace that we are so desirous of is actually already here, on this green earth, and precisely on the little piece of it that you already occupy. Everything that we need, we already have, and everything that we have is exactly what we need. So, while a bit of ghee and milk smeared on your Shiva Murti is certainly not going to hurt, it is also not at all necessary, because all you really need is to circumambulate your own luminous self.

Another deep teaching of this system is that the essence of consciousness is 'Svatantrya'; total, utter, complete, absolute freedom. Therefore, no obligation to circumambulate anything. It's perfectly fine if we'd prefer to stay cozily asleep for a few more kalpas. And when we choose that we are ready to be free, we realize only that we are free already.