MATSYENDRANATH, THE FISH



hānan eṣāṁ kleśavad uktam
The greatest obstacle to the practice of yoga is one’s own prejudices based on one’s own preferences.

PYS IV. 28

Once upon a time, the strong, wise, out-of-this-world God of Transformation Lord Shiva was sitting with his companion, the great Goddess Parvati. He was telling her about the methods of yoga he had just discovered. He talked for a very long time, not noticing Parvati was bored. After all, it was she who had designed the whole system of yoga in the first place and hardly needed to be lectured on it! As Shiva continued to talk, Parvati dipped her hand in the river and started to gracefully caress the water, making subtle ripples which went on to become waves. One fish recognized that something interesting was coming from the riverbank and swam over to check it out. That fish, whose name was Matsya, listened to Lord Shiva’s teachings with rapt attention. When Matsya asked him to repeat them again from the beginning, Shiva immediately agreed, not surprised in the least that Matsya was a fish. Shiva treats all souls with equal respect. He determines a person’s eligibility by their sincere desire to know the Truth, not by their age, religion, gender or species.

Shiva renamed Matsya, Matsyendranath or “Lord of the Fishes” (Matsya coincidentally means fish in Sanskrit and Indra means Lord). He instructed him to go on and teach others about Hatha Yoga. That’s how it works. The teacher gives the teachings to the student, and the student’s job is to then become the teacher. And so Matsya was the first student who went on to become Matsyendranath, passing on the teachings to others. Yoga is transmitted from teacher to student in an unbroken lineage that remains today. All of us who consider ourselves teachers of Hatha Yoga are descendants of that Fish, Matsya.

At the beginning of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the author, Swatmarama, acknowledges the lineage as being passed from Adinath (Shiva) to Matsyendranath. Yet most people have trouble believing that the first yoga student was an actual fish! How could that be? A fish could never do eka pada shirshasana or even padmasana! The automatic assumption is that Matsya was a man. At most they suppose he may have had wide-set eyes, scaly skin, or some other characteristic that earned him a fish-sounding name. In India, you can see images of Matsyendranath and he appears to be a strong, long-haired, bearded man with two legs instead of a fish tail.

Why is it inconceivable to us that a fish could have received teachings directly from God and gone on to become a yoga guru? It is because of deep rooted prejudice. We human beings arrogantly assume that we are the only species on the planet endowed with consciousness, intelligence, language and a soul. We think it has always been this way, when in fact, all living beings possess these qualities. Scientists today agree that there was life on this planet before human beings appeared. There was a time when aquatic beings outnumbered all other forms of life on this Earth. The Vedas speak of Lord Vishnu’s ten incarnations, and the first avatar was a fish!

I once heard someone tell the story of Matsyendranath and relate it to the biblical story of Jonah and the whale in an attempt to rationalize the “fish” issue. “Jonah,” the teacher said, “was a man swallowed by a whale. He’s inside the whale, which is sort of a big fish. Jonah was a wise and important person in the Bible. Matsyendranath was kind of like Jonah — a man inside a fish’s body. When you see Matsyendranath’s name at the beginning of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, you don’t think of it as referring to a real fish.” This teacher was adamant and to drive home the point and said, “Matsyendranath was a man, a person.” When I heard that, I wondered, are they saying that he was a person inside a fish’s body? And if so, don’t all fish have people inside of them? Isn’t every fish a person, truly, inside? Aren’t all living beings persons? If we define a person as someone with a soul — someone who can feel and think, who cares about their life, cares about their children, cares about their parents, cares about and feels things — then yes, a fish is a person.

The Vedantic teachings declare that all is Brahman—there is nothing in this universe but God. God resides in all beings concealed inside their outward form. But nonetheless, the essential nature of all souls is divine. The outer form of any being or thing is not their true eternal identity. I think the teacher who didn’t want us to think that Matsyendranath might have been a “real fish” was not prepared to think that way. Prejudice based on species can prevent us from embracing this idea. I hope the time will soon come when we do not look upon other animals as inferior and that, as teachers, we won’t be ashamed to teach that great gurus might not always appear in human form.

~ Sharon Gannon

DRENCHED IN DEVI, DIVINE MOTHER GODDESS


devi-goddess-image-cropped-canstockphoto20281871

Narayani Namo’Stu Te
With my head resting at your feet Ma,
I offer you, my sincerest love and respect.

Saturated in the lap of the devi, the divine mother. Held close to her bosom, her heartbeat, your heartbeat, syncing together… into the veil you pursue and find the blessed rhythm. Lift your courage and glimpse the lost art of yielding, of receptivity, of deep listening awakening to its time, through you, in you. The time of the mother is here.

The Divine Mother Goddess

Listen in silence to the cave of your heart, you’ll hear the sweet jingle of feminine ankle bells that conjure images of swaying feminine form with curving lines. Enter her abode, it’s nature in all of her glory. Here you will find you have entered the sacred hall of the mother goddess.

When called, through chant, that goddess enters the temple. She comes for adoration, for recognition, for receiving the offering. The mother will tell you that this recognition we extend, is not for her, and she is right. Through it we receive the blessing, the force of protection of glorious union with pure energy that resides within us all.

Origins of Manifestation

The devi was realized as light that sparked, cracked and sprang forth from the wish of each god. Through their sacred wish, she rose and lit the sky manifesting for us, in us, through us. Through lore we learn that the gods unified their light together in one form, and that became known as the devi. She is the collection of luminous rays manifested from each god. Brahma, Visnu, Shiva and the other gods wanted to appease their suffering devotees of demons so they brought their light together for supreme protection. The gods gave some light from their form, light of their thigh, light of their eyes, light of their arms, light of their weapons, light of their knowledge, light of their feet and the great goddess manifested as the collection of the gods’ brilliance. The gods’ sent her forth to resolve ignorance in us, and so that we could once again feel oneness.

Root of ‘Devi’

In Sanskrit, the root Div means to shine, or light. Devi derives from this root and symbolizes compassion, protection, yielding, gentleness, fierce slayer. As form, she is woman. As embodiment, she is all emotion, raw, and receptive, messy, fierce, protectress, curving, weaver of the maya and all that is measurable. To move about with ease in this world, we must make offerings to her.

Growing Up

Growing up with Guru ji, I was ever immersed in teachings surrounding the cosmic mother. Was it tantric? Not so much. It was more that Guru ji was a devotee of Durga Ma and wanted to share his discoveries. The story goes that during some very difficult time in his life, he turned to Durga Ma for mercy and support and through his singular puja and respect, she granted him blessings and helped him through that turbulent time.

Since then he was deeply devoted to her. In Guru ji’s private apartment rests a small altar that invokes the mother goddess. She is surrounded by rock formations of power along with the vibration of endless sacred chants which were invoked just for her.

Who is the Devi?

She is Durga, Sharada, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kali, Parvati, Lalita, Ambika, She is Vidya, Bhavani, Nirmala, Dark and misty like the moon she is Gauri, White creativity, knowledge itself, she is Saraswati.

As alignment and beauty she is Shri, Lakshmi. As protectress and loving mother whose battle cry is the sweet breath and rhythm of mantra she is Durga. Wild, she rides with skulls clanking as a necklace around her neck and hands spread out swords at the ready, she is Kali. Pure without any lack of clarity, she is Nirmala. As knowledge of all, she is Vidya. As Parvati, she reflects devotion and singular focus to her lord.

Compassionate Lalita granting soothing glances to all who are lucky enough to come under her vision. As the mother of the world and consort to Bhava, she is Bhavani. Becoming embodied in the world as Sita. She is the determiner of the great Lila, the play of the entire universe that all must pass through. The winding ganga river that nourishes civilization is her gift to the world. She is kundalini rising in us reaching its union within. She is you. She reflects the purpose of your life, embodied. She is the bridge between the manifest and unmanifest. She is the tenderest part of your being.

There’s nothing like feeling the auspicious protection of Mother…

Wearing a delicate reminder of Cosmic Love is the perfect gift this Mother’s Day. Choose the Ma pendant from Surya Jewels with hand-written Sanskrit, embossed in silver.

*All references to Guru ji, refer to Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati in this article.
**Devi means Mother, Goddess, Light.
***Murti means form, statue.
****Maya: illusion, manifestation, enchantment, force of love.

© 2016 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama

original article http://ayurvedanextdoor.com/devi-divine-mother-goddess/

Girl power is a pleonasm


Today, October 11th, I was told, is International Day of the Girl. I quickly checked the fact, and found  it was the first international Day of Girl… What a concept!

The first two in my personal pantheon are women. So when I discovered Hindu philosophy, I felt a great sense of validation. I was in love with all the Goddesses: Durga, Kali, Parvati,Lakshmi, Saraswati, … all of them inspired me with awe, all of them. Just think of the many Ancient cultures which worshipped the Goddess: Isis (among many titles she was The Only One, The Maker of Kings, the Wife of the Lord, Lady of Green Crops, etc..) in Ancient Egypt, Yemaya (She Who Gives Birth to All of Life) in the Yoruba tradition and more recently, my peruvian friend Marina introduced me to la Pachamama,  an other benevolent mother, benefactress, Goddess of the Cosmos. I spare you the proverbs and sayings…

There must be something very special about women, but what?

With his incredible sense of humor, my teacher David Life (co-founder of the Jivamukti Yoga method) put it very nicely :

“In Hindu philosophy, the woman, the Shakti, is the energetic aspect and the men just lay around. The male principle of the Universe just kind of lays around, and it’s the female principle of the Universe that shakes things up, kicks him out of bed and gets things rolling, and I really think that’s the way it works.”  David-ji, in a very cool interview  by Diane Ferraro aka @urbansiren

Then of course, I take a look around the world. In Switzerland where I live, women were granted the right to vote only in 1971 and equal pay remains far from reality (despite the law). In Rwanda where I come from, the parliament was the first in the world where women could claim the majority. Women’s organizations contributed a great deal to the country’s reconstruction after the Tutsi Genocide. Today, young girls are empowered, there is great hope in the future … Nevertheless, all over the world, it is a fact that gender based discrimination still persists.

Looking at the recent history, I see the girl-power movement, the pussy riots, etc… Women, female activists are game changers…everywhere.

I keep on thinking about the incredible women in my family and my beautiful girl-friends (they are family). And I can’t help thinking about my papa who still believes I will one day invent something great (and that the NASA should hire me…no kidding), the man beside me whose love for me is unshakable and that little man, our son, my first admirer…. Sheroes and Heroes they are, God bless them all!

To be honest, I would not trade my place with anyone else in the world.

“Girl-power” is pleonasm, my friends.

Love is the power – but don’t forget the Shakti principle

Happy G-day (that sounds cool) to all!

Jeanine