Thursday, November 8, 2012
Symbolism of the Five-Headed Cobra
If you look at the mythological pictures, you will find Mahavir sitting with a five headed cobra behind him. Or Lord Vishnu is sitting in meditation and there is a cobra behind him.
Even in the pictures of Rishis, you will find a cobra with its hood open at the back.
Have you seen such pictures?
It is a very subtle thing!
See, when you are sitting in meditation, what is happening? Your consciousness is getting alert, opened and awakened, as though in your back ground there is a thousand headed cobra. Cobra signifies alertness.
How many of you feel a lot of alertness in the back of your head during meditation? A sort of wakefulness!
So the cobra is a symbol of the energy that raises and opens up; energy which is alert and at the same time restfulness.
It is not that there was really a cobra at the back of their head, it is a symbol of wakefulness in the deep state of rest, and that is meditation – totally restful, wanting nothing, doing nothing, being nothing and being open, like the hood of a cobra; alert without any effort.
There are two types of descriptions for this. In one they talk about a Cobra, and in another they talk about a flower; it is like a thousand-petaled lotus, blossoming on the top of the head; on the crown chakra.
So some describe it as a flower, very delicate, and some describe it as a cobra which means alert. Both fit very well.
Now if you don't feel like that, then that means you have stuffed yourself with too much food. Then you won’t find any cobra, you will only find a buffalo, because you have stuffed yourself so much and you feel so dull.
That is why, world over people always talk about fasting and prayer; fasting and meditation. At the same time you should not fast too much. Sometimes people fast all day and then eat too much at night. That is no good. Fasting has some rules that need to be followed.
Naturopath and Doctors will tell you how you should begin a fast and how you should slowly come out of it.
Sometimes in Navratri we fast, and in the name of fasting, we feast.
People say, ‘We will not eat any grains, we will only have potato’, and we eat French fries and everything else.
‘We will not have rice, but we will only have idly.’
This is cheating I tell you. Real fasting does not include eating halwas (sweet dish) and puris (fried pancakes). It is a wrong type of fasting. You should not fast like that.
Alpahara Mitahara - a little bit food and easily digestible food.
That also counts as fasting. Little bit fruits and water.
So when body is not so heavy and dull, then it blossoms and meditation happens better.
At the same time too much fasting makes your Pitta go high and then also you cannot meditate. That is why drink enough water so that the Pita in your body does not go high.
Q: Gurudev, even though there is no difference between Lord Vishu and Lord Shiva, who originated from whom? The Vishnu Purana glorifies Lord Vishnu and the Shiva Purana glorifies Lord Shiva.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: When you think, who originated from whom, you are thinking on linear terms. But truth is not linear, it is spherical.
That is why this is also true and that is also true. From which side you see, that is where it comes from.
If you see from that side then that is true. If you see it from this side then this is true. But both are same actually. This is what spherical thinking is.
It depends from where you start and where you go.
Shiva and Vishnu are different, yet both are the same.
Q: In the Ashtavakra Gita, it says, ‘You can go on reading scriptures, but you will get liberation only when you forget the scriptures.’
So then what is the purpose of reading the scriptures?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: See, you get into a bus, but then you also need to get out of the bus.
Now if you argue with me that, ‘If I have to get out of the bus then why should I get into the bus?’
You get into the bus from somewhere else and you get out from somewhere else.
If you have to get out of the bus, why should you get into the bus in the first place - this argument doesn’t hold.
So, the scriptures are to make you understand your nature, the nature of the universe, the nature of this mind which is stuck in small things, and to give it a bigger vision.
So knowledge is like the detergent. See, you put soap on your body but at some point you wash it off as well, isn’t it?!
Similarly, you have this desire, ’I want to be liberated’, and that desire takes you away from all other small desires. But if you keep holding on to that thought, then it will also become a problem at some point. You have to wash that off as well and become free.
’I want liberation, I want liberation, I want liberation’, you won't get liberation. But that desire is essential till you are free from all other small desires. Then a point comes when you say, ‘If I have to get liberation let it be, otherwise let thy will be done.’
In that moment you are already free.
Q: What is the signifiance of Mahalaya Amavasya?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Actually this Amavasya is dedicated to the departed souls.
When you leave this body you are guided into another world by a set of Devas or Angels. Pururava, Vishvedeva - these are their names. They come and guide you from one level to another level.
Mahalaya Amavasya is the day when you remember all the departed souls and thank them and wish peace for them.
There is an ancient tradition in which the family members take a few sesame seeds and little bit of rice, and then they think of their ancestors and say, ‘May you be contented, may you be contented, may you be contented.’
They say this three times and then they drop the little grains of sesame seeds with some water.
The significance of this ritual is to tell the departed that – If you still have some desires in your mind, know that they are like sesame seeds. They are not significant, just drop them. We will take care of them for you. You be free, happy and contented! There is huge universe in front of you. The universe is infinite, so look forward and go; drop whatever is pulling you back.
This is called Tarpana.
Tarpana means bringing satisfaction and fulfillment to the departed. It is done to tell them to be contented and move further.
Water is the symbol of love. To give anyone water means giving love.
In Sanskrit, Ap means water and it also means love. And in Sanskrit someone who is very dear is called Apta.
So, in their memory, you give them water as a symbol of love and life and that is why this is called Mahalaya Amavasya.
On this day think of all your ancestors.
In Vedic tradition, three generations on the mother's side and father's side are remembered, and all others friends, relatives, and anyone who has crossed over to the other side. Think of them and tell them to be satisfied.
Usually in their memory, people also do some charity, by giving food to some people and to animals.
This is there almost in all the cultures of world. I was surprised to see that this is there in Mexico as well.
In Mexico, on 2nd November, every year people celebrate this.
Similarly, they do this in China as well. In the Chinese tradition, they have one day on which they remember their ancestors, and whatever was dear to the ancestors, they make that and offer it to them.
They do this in Singapore as well. Although Singapore is a very clean city, but one day in a year it becomes very dirty for a few hours because they celebrate this on the streets.
Do you know what they do? They make huge cars and homes out of card board and burn them on the streets so that it goes to their ancestors.
They also buy a lot of fake currency notes and burn them so that people on the other side get this offering and give blessings.
Almost all over the globe, from the ancient civilization, everyone practices this.
In Christianity also, there is a day called All Saints’ Day when the ancestors are remembered. On this day people go to the graveyard and pray for the departed.
This is also done just to remind oneself that life is temporary, and so many years these other people lived here and have now gone. We have come to this world and one day we will also go. So you wish them peace and thank them. That is the main idea.
In India the ritual is all in Sanskrit and so people don't understand them. The pundits say something and then they ask you to do this and do that, and you just do it with faith.
That is not bad but it is good to do it with a little understanding.
Q: How does the Karma of our parents and ancestors affect us? Are we also punished because of their bad karmas?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Listen, if your ancestor has left you a house, is it not a boon for you now? Why are you asking such obvious questions?!
They have earned a lot of money, toiled and built a home and they left it to you. You are enjoying their karma, is it not?! And if they are gone with a big debt in the bank, and if you have to pay that back then that is your karma too. So naturally it affects you.
Not just parents but your company also affects you.
If you keep sitting with very depressed people, you also feel down and depressed as well. If you are in the company of joyful and spiritual people your karma improves.
You have no escape from bad or good karma in the world. We have to carry on with this, because there are times when we have to interact with people who are sick. You cannot say I don't want to be near sick people. If everybody says that then what will happen to all the hospitals and the patients?
So in the world we need to be with everyone, and that is why being in knowledge and seva will help shield you. These are called Kawach.
Chanting Om Namah Shivaya is like an armor around you, it is like a Kawach. It protects you from all the unwanted karma, and other not so good affects are shielded.
But you don't have to chant Om Namah Shivaya 24 hours a day. If you do that, your brain will become so dull. Just for a few minutes every day, like brushing your teeth.
You don’t brush your teeth every hour, do you? If anyone brushes their teeth every hour you will not find any teeth at all later on. They will all fall off. And if you do not brush at all, then also it is no good.
In the same way, just like dental hygiene, you need mental hygiene as well. A few minutes of chanting, a few minutes of meditation, all these will help.
We take shower only for few minutes, isn’t it?!
By the way, everybody conserve water. There is a big water scarcity around the world that has come up, and in Bangalore also. All the lakes are dry and there is not much water this year.
So we will all conserve water. Use only as much water as you require.