The story of Samudra manthana (churning of the ocean) behind Maha Shivaratri is symbolic for churning of the ocean of consciousness by meditation and other yogic practices. In doing this tapas (spiritual practice) one becomes aware of both the Halāhala (poison of the ego) and Amrit (the nectar of immortality). Both are within us.
When Shiva, the great yogi, saw that the poison of the ego which had come out first from churning of the ocean would destroy the world, he immediately drank it so that others would be protected from harm. As Shiva suffered intense pain from the poison, his wife, the Goddess Parvati touched Shiva’s throat and by the power of her love neutralized the effect of the poison.
The story of Maha Shivratri teaches us that the ego is a powerful poison that can delude the mind and be cause of much destruction. However, pure love, as demonstrated by the Goddess Parvati is overwhelming and can neutralize that poison of the ego and lead to the nectar of immortality. Happy Maha Shivaratri!
Mira Prabhu is now free from the torment of physical suffering caused by her cancer. Death claimed Mira at a young age when she was on the verge of becoming well known for her writings and spiritual novels. Mira left her body on January 6, 2019, in Tiruvannamalai, India, near the Holy Hill of Arunachala. Her ashes were sprinkled over the Holy Mountain.
Mira was a beautiful soul with a kind heart and I felt her warmth and love that she naturally had for Bhagavan Ramana devotees. We used to post each other’s blog posts on our respective blog sites. Mira often shared my FB posts on her wall. She was always generous in her comments and very supportive as we were both Bhagavan devotees.
Mira was a prolific and gifted writer. She was also a yogini and mystic. She was a devotee of Bhagavan Ramana and also followed Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teachings. Mira had been living close to the Holy Hill of Arunachala in the south of India (where Sri Ramana spent 53 years) before she passed away.
Mira was an amazing woman. She was fiery and fearless and authentic in her expressions. She despised hypocrisy, especially among the so-called spiritual people. She always spoke her truth from the heart without hesitation. She did not suffer fools and charlatans and false prophets silently. When she saw injustice, she spoke up.
Mira and I connected on FB in 2014. Mira seemed to like everything I wrote on my blog and on FB on Ramana Maharshi, Advaita Vedanta, and other yoga-related topics. She would frequently share my writings on her blog and her FB page. I also started visiting her blog and following her on facebook. I realized that she was an extraordinarily perceptive and brilliant spiritual aspirant. Mira and I became part of the mutual admiration society for each other!
In the summer of 2016, Mira asked me to recommend her book on my blog and also review it on Amazon. I was delighted to do it. Ten days later, after I had read more of her essays, I wrote to Mira an email. It stated in part:
“I am a professor and have read literally thousands of student papers and a few books as well. When I read your writing, I find myself thinking, “Mira is so immensely gifted and spectacularly talented with such a mastery of expression and command of the English language”.
“You are able to take the raw experiences of your life and through your knowledge of various fields, subtly weave them in enchanting stories and articles”!
“I feel so happy for you Mira. May all the universal blessings shine on you”…
All Love _______
Mira was ecstatic on getting my email. I only give part of her response to me below:
What a wonderful message to receive on a beautiful morning in the shadow of Arunachala! You pay me great compliments and I will treasure them because sometimes the inner journey gets hard and lonely and I for one rely on my closest friends (whom I call my “kalyanamitras”) to pull me through. Its been a rough ride all right, but everything in the past turns into light when I consider the grace of Arunachala and Ramana that drew me to this tiny town to know my Self.
Do you plan to make a trip to Arunachala? I would be so happy to meet you in person and might even cook for you, although I know you are a great cook yourself, vegan, am I right? But I can only try! I would also love for you to meet a few close friends too, so, if you get the opportunity to leave what must be a very busy life (based on what I know of the West), please seize the day, Carpe Diem!
Thank you again, Harsh. I’ve been dealing with the usual ups and downs (of living in a small semi-rural town where folks have odd ways of doing things) and was feeling a bit blue – when your email arrived and energized me. Arunachala’s Magic again!
Much love and Namasthe! Mira __________
Mira and I exchanged other emails and got to know each other. We kept in touch. Mira invited me to come to Arunachala where she was living and told me that she was never going to leave there. During most of 2018, I had gotten busier professionally and was not writing as much on my blog. I was on Mira’s general mailing list that Mira sent her articles to and got those on a regular basis.
The last communication I received from Mira was on November 8, 2018. She had sent it to all her contacts. Mira’s email stated, “HI ALL, just to say that I’ve been terribly sick and still trying to get better. Pray if you pray! Love!” I went on Mira’s Facebook page the same day and there was the exact same message there. I left a heart symbol for her on her FB page in response to her message. I had no idea that that was going to be the last communication from Mira.
I learned a few days ago (March 19, 2019) that Mira had passed away two months earlier in January of 2019. I was so surprised to hear the news. I felt sad that I did not get a chance to say goodbye.
Death freed Mira from her physical pain and suffering. But it left a big gap in the lives of her friends and followers. I will miss Mira immensely.
A number of other scholars/practitioners, including David Godman and Michael James have done admirable work of researching and identifying authentic sources of Bhagavan Ramana’s words. This is important for obvious reasons. We see too many misquotes of Sri Ramana’s teachings by people who are not intimate with Bhagavan’s teachings and whose main interest seems to be in finding nice sounding feel-good quotes.
Having said that the need to identify authentic sources of Sri Ramana’s teaching is important, it still needs to be acknowledged that the teachings transmitted via language, no matter how authentic and genuine a source is, have built-in limitations. That is why Bhagavan often stated that the highest teaching is always given in silence.
Sri Ramana used to say that once the basic teaching/method of self-inquiry is grasped, the books are of little use to the aspirant. It is the practical application of the teaching that matters. He stated this again and again in a variety of ways and in many different contexts in order to emphasize the point.
Despite the volumes written on Sri Ramana’s teachings, the teachings are easy to understand for a sincere person who makes the effort. The reason for that is that we are already the Self. Bhagavan is simply reminding us by speaking directly to our essence. Whatever the limitation of the language and the source, these words are full of the force of grace. It is up to us to be open to this power of grace.
Hence we have the ability to “Hear” Bhagavan Ramana, no matter what the source. It does not matter if we do not “Hear” him perfectly at first. It is the practice that purifies the mind and makes it subtle. It is then the teaching/grace works spontaneously and guides the mind to enter the Heart and understand the true nature of silence.
Sri Ramana never approved of devotees getting entangled with intellectual debates and losing their focus from the main purpose of life. Self Recognition.
There is no end to self-improvement and learning my dear friends. If you want to reach the Heart, unburden yourself from the mind, and just be. That is essentially Sri Ramana’s teaching.
A peaceful mind has the capacity to surrender to its source, the Heart, where the individual consciousness merges with the Universal Being. It is That, which the ancient sages referred to as Sat-Chit-Ananda. Existence, Consciousness, Bliss.
All the various yogas and tantras have only one aim and that is to help the mind attain peace. All genuine spiritual teachings, without exception, are meant for making the mind peaceful.
The wise say that the Tao that can be talked about is not The True Tao. Still, Sages such as Ramana Maharshi manage to indicate the existence of the underlying Reality with words and without words. Self-Realized sages point to the Truth easily and spontaneously. Knowledge of Reality is not just their first-hand knowledge but their very Being.
Sri Ramana, through his silence, words, and actions, was always pointing at the highest reality, the Heart of existence, the Self. Even in minor things like giving instructions on cooking and eating food, cutting wood, or other matters, Bhagavan was doing that. Sages like that are more than just Satsang givers, good public speakers, and charismatic orators.
I am often reminded of the words of Sri Ramana who used to say that the Supreme Reality, whatever it is, must Always be Real. It cannot be more real sometime in the future than it already is right now.
Therefore, the central truth to be grasped by a devotee of Bhagavan Ramana is that whatever is real, permanent, eternal, must be Here and Now also. In this very moment, it must be so!
If the Self is not Here and Now and is to be gained at some future time, then it must be subject to loss also. What can be gained can also be lost!
Therefore the sages declare that That which is Real, Absolute, Eternal cannot be gained. It is because you are already That! What You already Are cannot be attained because it is your very nature, very being.
Can we Accept This?
What undermines the acceptance of our Own Natural State?
Whether one is rich or poor, famous or unknown, bright or dull, wise or foolish, religious or an atheist, each experiences pleasures and pains, joys and sorrows, tears and laughter, victories and defeats in their life.
At some point, one may ask “What is all this?”
“Who am I that has all these experiences?”
Thus, as if compelled, the sages start to reflect on the nature of their existence and the mind.
The quest to know the nature of existence starts us on the journey to our own Heart, which is indeed the Universal Heart.
According to Advaitic/Yogic sages, all sins and atrocities which are committed by individuals and nations against each other are due to ignorance of the true nature of oneness of all life.
When we view “others” as separate from us and different, we are able to justify all types of ignoble acts against them. Sometimes, even the most heinous deeds are justified in the name of God, religion, or law.
People who are blinded by fear, greed, and ignorance are not able to see outside the cycle of violence that they are part of.
Fortunately, in the history of the world, there have always been good people as well and such noble souls still walk the earth today. I feel that due to their kindness, love, and compassionate influence, there is always a ray of sunshine and a hope to make this world a better place.
“Whether you make dhyana of God or of Self, it is immaterial. The goal is the same. But you cannot escape the Self. You want to see God in all, but not in yourself? If all are God, are you not included in that all?” Sri Ramana speaking in Talk 254 (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi).
Devotee: Is the Universal Soul (Paramatma) always different from us?
Sri Ramana: That is the common belief, but it is wrong. Think of Him as not different from you, and then you achieve identity of Self with God. (Talk 31).