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The Story of the Temple

Here’s the story of the famous temple in South India where people celebrate their 60th, 70th, 75th, and 80th birthdays, and where we celebrated my dad’s 70th birthday. There once lived a sage who was a great devotee of Shiva. Every day he would joyfully offer his prayers to Shiva. One day however the sage was a little downcast when doing his daily poojas. Shiva appeared before him and asked him why he was not his usual happy self. The sage told Shiva that he had no children and that was the cause of his misery. Shiva smiled and blessed him with a baby boy. But he warned the sage that the boy would only live till the age of sixteen. The sage was ecstatic and he named the boy Markandeya. When the boy turned five, his father taught him how to do Shiva pooja. The boy prayed to Lord Shiva every day without fail. When he was going to turn sixteen, his distraught parents told him that his end was near.

On his 16th birthday, Markandeya was praying to Shiva when Yama, the god of death came for him. Yama told Markandeya that his time was up and that he had to go with him. Markandeya ignored him and continued with his pooja. Yama repeatedly called the boy but he refused to go with him. Yama, livid with rage, took his noose and threw it around the boy. Unfortunately, Yama’s noose fell over Shiva’s idol. Shiva flew into a rage and annihilated Yama.

Shiva granted Markandeya the boon of immortality, so he would stay 16 forever. Markandeya was so grateful to Shiva that he travelled from one Shiva temple to another singing 16 verses in praise of Shiva. The last temple which also happened to be the 108th temple he visited was Thirukadaiyur. “Kadaisi” means last in Tamil. The deity in this temple is Shiva accompanied by Markandeya and a vanquished Yama underfoot. Abirami, Shiva’s consort is flanked by Saraswati, the goddess of learning, and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Right across from the deity is a shrine for Yama.

The story goes that after Yama was vanquished, there were no deaths on earth, but the births continued unabated. Mother Earth went running to Lord Shiva lamenting that the burden was too much for her to bear. She begged Shiva to do something. Shiva in his infinite mercy released Yama and gave him back his powers. With Yama back in his post, births and deaths were balanced out and Mother Earth heaved a sigh of relief.

The number 16 shows up in the temple quite often. They performed 16 homams for my Dad’s 70th birthday. Sixteen kalashams or pots of water were poured on my parents. The priests recited the 16 verses composed by Markandeya and we had to do 16 namaskarams or prostrations. The belief is that people who visit this temple will also be granted a long, happy, and prosperous life. And I do wish that for my parents and for my aunts and uncle who accompanied us.

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Our Mother

I have spoken of collective consciousness, oneness and a shared divinity before. But has it ever occurred to you that we all are children of the same mother. She is not human and she is not exactly a Divine Mother. She is made up of the same elements that make up our bodies. She is here in the physical world and very real. We walk all over her and our demands on her are never ending. Just because she doesn’t have a human face and body we think she doesn’t really exist. Or we categorize her wholeness into its multiple parts. And we seek to balance one or save one without saving the other. We do this in a detached sort of way as if she were different from us. After we have sucked her dry, do we have other mothers waiting whose arms we could run into when we are hungry?

We have no idea about the stellar battles she wages every day to keep us safe. The sun, our very own life-giving sun flares up every now and then and its coronal mass ejections can burn everyone of us and everything to a crisp, dry every last drop of the ocean and leave our planet uninhabitable. But our mother in her infinite mercy and compassion uses her magnetic shield to repel these solar winds. The particles that escape one force field have to contend with another one. The particles get pushed to the poles where they react with the atmosphere to create the beautiful aurora borealis or the northern lights.

Imagine she was really a living and breathing entity with a voice. Would she be proud of us, her children? What would she say? Like any Mom she’d first ask us to clean up and take out the garbage – only there’s no waste management company in outer space. Maybe you need to stop creating so much garbage and dumping it in the ocean. Guess what? The garbage island you created is visible from outer space. What a shame if we ever have visitors!

Don’t be such big bullies! The animals and forests also look to me as their mom. They are intimately connected to me and I sustain them. They never cut their cords while you have not only cut the cord but severed all connections with me and your distant cousins. Yes, they don’t look like you but they have equal rights. But you who see differences within your very own species and kill for no good reason cannot fathom this truth. Nor can you see the divinity in a blade of grass and the wing of a damsel fly.

It’s funny how you separate yourselves into little countries and point fingers at each other in the name of environmentalism. You fail to realize that every action affects everyone of you and has far reaching consequences beyond this planet. Wake up and try, try very hard to look beyond your own little noses and your own little planet.

I’m reminded of this story where a demon carries Mother Earth to the depths of the ocean. Mother Earth begs the Gods to come rescue her and eventually one of the Gods kills the demon and lifts Mother Earth from the bowels of the ocean. We all know that the sea levels are rising and several cities and islands may go under water. No God is going to come rescue us from our foolishness. We need to wake up and take charge and clean up our act.

Hollywood has been churning out movies like World War Z and After Earth. Have we given up on our Mother – the only perfect home we know? Are we ready to go destroy another planet? Seriously! Who put us in charge of the universe?

The prayers of all the human mothers who want a better life for their children has brought us to this point of awareness. Let your legacy be a beautiful flourishing planet where your children can raise their families. For no money in the world can buy us another Mother.



Return to Innocence…

It’s September already and we are fast approaching the end of the year and some think the end of the world. Now enough has been said about the apocalypse and the Mayan calendar and aliens annihilating our earth. So I will not delve into that. By the looks of it we sure seem to be headed toward total death and destruction. War in Syria. Drought in various parts of the world. Wild fires and hurricanes galore. And don’t even get me started on the pandemics that are breaking out everywhere! Yes, it does seem like the end is near. But wait and take a closer look. Look at it from another perspective.

Have you ever looked inside a compost pit? It looks disgusting and the smell can make you faint but after a while (a month or a year) it will be the best thing that you can put in your garden to help it flourish. That very thing that transforms garbage into garden gold is happening to the earth and to us. We have to facilitate this transformation. We have to purge ourselves of all the trash before we can shine and shimmer the way diamonds catch the light. We have to confront the shadows before we return to innocence. Innocence that was lost when we let the ego shroud our hearts and our minds with fear.

It could also be Mother Nature screaming out at us for help. Asking us to wake up and stop mindlessly polluting the air and water and filling landfills with garbage or cutting down trees in  the name of development. If she had a voice she would say – “Return to the innocence of the Native Americans who held the humble belief that they belonged to the land and not the other way around. Who treated every creature with respect, never wasted resources and had immense gratitude for all that the earth provided them. Relinquish greed and selfishness for gentler ways that nourish you and the planet. They were not the savages – you are!”

We can no longer pawn off all responsibility to others and let others take care of it. It’s much too late for that! We can no longer use apathy as a shield and excuses as a veil that keeps us from doing whatever little we can. There is still hope and ultimately light will break through the darkness but we cannot see the light if we keep our eyes closed. What I’m saying is this. We are very much a part of this transformation. The world will evolve with or without us. But we can hasten it by being actively involved in the transformation. Going back to the example of composting. You can help the organic matter decompose faster by adding earthworms and moving the material around every once in a while. Those two steps will give you compost in a month as opposed to a year if you let nature take its course! So let us be the earthworms of the world and digest and break down the stinky stuff so we can all enjoy the Golden Age!

So what can you do today? Do you recycle like there is no tomorrow? I do and now I’ve taken to cleaning up the beach as well. I heard about the 10 foot garbage island we have created in the ocean and that really got to me. Use less plastic, less paper. Detoxify your diet and your cleaning supplies. Drink more water and less soda, alcohol and caffeine. Eat fresh food and less fast food and processed food. Ditch the antibacterial soap and phospates in your cleaning supplies. Pray for peace and pray for our planet. Be an activist for peace and for the environment. Not all of us can hold up banners and go on protest marches or demonstrations. But you can write a petition. If you can’t write a petition, then sign a petition. If you can’t sign a petition then put a thumb impression on it…you get my drift! No excuses. No time to waste. No time to pass the buck.

Also no time to let the ego take over your mind and run with it. It will tell you the end is near and show you the worst-case scenario. But remember the world or universe does not have a built-in code for destruction. It has a built-in code for survival. We are a unique species. We are the sickness and the remedy. Give up your old ways and embrace a wholesome new way of life. It’s time to pause, breathe, roll up your sleeves and clean up your act.