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

MahaShivaratri 2012


Yesterday, Tuesday 21st 1012 (in Europe) was the new moon, marked as a very auspicious night, the great night of  Shiva… MahaShivaratri

A friend of mine recommended me to do things really slowly and take the time…Well I did not have to rush for anything, my husband was sick and stuck at home. The busy bee enjoyed spending the whole day at home… Getting out of my daily routine felt like getting out of time…loved it!

I dedicated my morning practice to Devo Maheshvara, one of the names for Shiva … the Destroyer…. remembering all the challenges we have been through the last year, and the transformations that they carried with them…. Great teachings from Guru Devo Maheshvara.  Om namah Shivaya!

The playlist below was the soundtrack of the class:

  1. Guru Brahma – Love Songs to the Dark Lord / Bhagavan Das
  2. Maheshvara Sutras – ‘In All Beings’ Sarva-Bhuteshu / Manorama, KV Mahabala
  3. Om Nama Shivaya (Thy will be done) – Remixes / Donna De Lory
  4. Om Namah Shivaya – The yoga sessions / Masood Ali Khan
  5. Shiva-Loka –  Journey in Satchidananda / Alice Coltrane
  6. Shiva Station (Namah Shivaya) – Shiva Station /   Uttal & The Pagan Love Orchestra
  7. Shiva Shambo  – Now / Bhagavan Das
  8. Rudrashtakam (Shiva Stuti) – Door of Faith /   Krishna Das
  9. Om Namah Shivaya (feat. Bhagavan Das) – Elephant Power / MC Yogi
  10. Pashupati – Sharanam / Sharon Gannon

And Pashupati was definitely the Song of the Day…

OM Namah Shivaya!

PS: you might be interested with last year’s article in french

MahaShivratri


Om Namah Shivaya!Om Namah Shivaya!Om Namah Shivaya!

Mahashivratri, la Grande Nuit de Shiva est célébrée en ce jour du 3 Mars 2011-  Veille de la nouvelle lune, c’est la nuit la plus propice de l’année, durant laquelle “le principe essentiel de Shiva”(shivam) est décuplé par mille. Il est dit que le mantra ” Om namah Shivaya” voit sa puissance multipliée par mille également! Ce mantra a le pouvoir d’accorder la réalisation spirituelle autant que la réussite matérielle.

Shiva est le dieu qui a transmis l’enseignement du yoga au monde par le biais de son premier disciple, Matsyendranath.

Divinité aux 108 noms, Shiva est la troisième divinité au sein de la Trinité hindoue. C’est le Destructeur qui favorise le renouveau, il détruit maya les illusions pour permettre à la nature divine en chacun de de se réaliser. Mahakali, Shiva est le Maître du Temps  et Pashupati , Maître des êtres vivants. Nataraj, Shiva est aussi le roi des Danseurs.  Il symbolise la transformation et le changement. A travers le mouvement, c’est tout le processus de création qui représenté.  Lorsque nous pratiquons la pose du danseur  Natarajasana nous expérimentons physiquement notre aptitude  à nous ouvrir au changement avec grâce (le coeur ouvert et l’équilibre préservé sur une jambe).

Mahashivrati est un véritable festival célébré dans de nombreux temples en Inde, au Népal et au Cambogde (entre autres lieux). De nombreux rituels (pujas) sont pratiqués.Les fidèles jeûnent et leurs offrandes (fruits frais, fleurs. etc..) déposées aux pieds des statues de Shiva seront le lendemain partagées comme un repas béni (prasad).

Tous les chanteurs de bhajan (chants sacrés) et de kirtan (mantrés scandés) chantent “Om namah Shivaya”. En version hip-hop avec MCyogi dans l’album “Elephant Power”, en version classique avec Krishna Das (dans tous ses albums!). Sur un registre plus féminin et mélodieux, on peut (entre autres voix) écouter la voix magnifique de Donna de Lory dans l’album “The lover and the beloved”,Deva Premal dans “Into Light”  et  Sharon Gannon dans son album Sharanam. Sa voix cristalline monte de plusieurs octaves sur un son un peu electro-transcendental…j’adore Pashupati.

Pashupati Ananda Sharanam (…)

Change, we should change, we should rise, again, again, again…
Each time, again, again, again.. again, over and over, again … (…)
Forever the same, forever change (..) We have always, always been here…(…)

Life is never that chaotic, life is never that chaotic… Om Namah Shivaya, Shivaya Namah Om…
And she is always on time, on time…
Magic is the shift in perception…

If time must come to end,
May I be happy to spend eternity with you
Eternity with you (…)
With you (…) ”

OM Namah Shivaya! Shivaya Namah OM!