The Third Eye of Shiva (Sivaratri 2017)
Conversation With Aiya (12)
‘I know; it would be great to have Aiya with us for the Sivaratri, but he has chosen to travel’, saying thus, I looked at Aiya, who was smiling, seated next to me.
‘I really want to see the Sivaratri celebrations in India.Is it celebrated in the same way as Navaratri in London, with colourful dance and music?’asked Kavya.
‘Quite differently Kavya’, I said.
‘Sivaratri is sombre; yet very popular and followed with lot of stern austerities.’
It was Keerti’s turn to join.‘I always get confused which God to choose as my favourite.I like all of them.Siva, Krishna, Ganesh…mmm I really don’t know.’
She isstill in the age of unending contemplation of which God to choose at what occasions.
‘I really awe at Siva, especially His third eye,this always freaks me out. If Siva opens His third eye, all that is seen will be annihilated; that is ultimate destructive power’, said Kavya.
‘But Siva is compassionate’, said Keerti, ‘He opens the third eye only when His meditation is disturbed. Isn’t it Dad, like Manmatha, whoended up as a pile of ash, at the wrath of Siva?’
For me it was a great opportunity to get the insights from Aiya.
So I said, ‘As we recite Sri Rudram, there are expressions of our fear, and at the same time, reverence to the rage of Siva.At least this is how the text is literally interpreted.But there must be something beyond these, something profound.’
‘As per the scriptures,God is beyond guna or attributes, so there cannot be anger inHim.IfHe is not able to forgive even those who disturbHis meditation, then how He is different from any of us!’
I wanted to trap the attention of Aiya. Aiya turned towards me, as I continued.
‘YesAiya, I have never understood this. What is the import of such legends on Siva’s third-eye? If it is His weapon of destruction, then it is really fearsome. Is that the reason, His escort, Shakti pleaded not to open the third-eye?’
‘Look, there are many such legends in the Purana.Their purpose is only to steer us towards spiritual progress.However, if you want to know the ultimate purport of all these legends, then you need the light of Vedanta.If you are prepared to handle, I will tell you.’
I noticed in the rear-view mirror Uma asking the children to be quiet.
‘You were asking about the three eyes of Siva. Let me also introduce few other tripletsof terms in this context, to give a better perspective for inquiry during the forthcomingSivaratri Puja.’
We were all full of ears.
‘Life is but a stream of experiencesisn’t it, just a continuous flow of experiences!’ wondered Aiya.
‘Absolutely Aiya, You have quoted this from the scriptures before. Life is anubhava-dhara, a continuous link of experiences. I vividly remember’, said I.
‘Yes. As we are all different, our experiences are also many and varied.Yet Vedanta defines all our experiences into three, interestingly, calling as tri-avasta or three disturbances.’
‘Disturbances?’ I queried.
‘Yes, you will surely appreciate why it is so. For now, simply know thistri-avasta as jagrata, svapna and sushupti.’
‘I know Aiya -these are the waking, dream and deep-sleep states, are they not?’
‘Yes’, said Aiya.
‘Let me ask you, in the waking state, do you see? Do you experience?’
‘Indeed Aiya!In the waking-state, I do see the world.With my body and mind active, I experience everything, sometimes good and sometimes bad.’
‘So, let us figuratively say, that we all have “an eye” for the waking state.’
‘You mean an eye that makes us aware of the experiences in the waking state?If so, yes.’
‘Yes, what about in your dream-state, do you have an eye to see?’
‘No Aiya, at least not in the physical sense, as my body and the organs of perceptions are inactive in my dream-state.Butmy mind is active as the dreams occur in the mind; so in that sense….’
Aiya interrupted saying, ‘So, we can say that we have “another eye” in the dream state.’
‘Yes’, I was hesitating, wondering where he is taking the conversation next.
‘What about your deep-sleep? Do you have an eye?’
‘Nope’,my words came with certainty.
‘The body and mind are rendered inactive in the deep-sleep; we have nothing to see.’
Kavya also interjected, ‘We all have noexperience during the deep-sleep.’
‘Are you sure?’ Aiya asked with a giggle.
‘Yes Aiya, there is nothing to experience in the deep sleep?’, I said.
‘That would mean your life must also end at deep-sleep. As life is the continuous stream of experiences, if you have no experience in deep-sleep, then you would be dead every time you are in deep-sleep.But we don’t call a person who is in deep-sleep as the dead one, do we?’
‘Well, I didn’t mean that way.I was simply saying that in deep sleep, we are not being aware….’
Aiya again interrupted.
‘What do you mean by not being aware…’
‘I mean, the mind cannot cognize about anything when we are in deep-sleep’.
‘Well, the mind is not active in deep-sleep.Only when the mind is active, thoughts can occur.’
‘But you could say that your mind is inactive, if and only if you were able to cognize an inactive mind. This means, there must be an awareness of an inactive mind, even in the deep-sleep.’
‘Well… it is just the consciousness’, I was less assertive in my statement.
‘Hold that point!’, said Aiya.
‘In every one of us, there is forever an underlying consciousness which is cognizant of both the active and the inactive state of our mind.Without such a witness, there cannot be an assertion that the mind was inactive thenand is active now etc.’
‘Aiya, I assumed consciousness as a thought and that cannot be correct; thoughts don’t occur when the mind is inactive.’
‘I am unclear Aiya’ saying thus, as ever, I quickly surrendered with my utter ignorance.
‘Let us not dwell into the discussion on the definition of consciousness now, but focus on what we have derived.There must be an eye in the deep-sleep too, to know the inactive mind.A third-eye in each one of us!‘
‘Aiya, I don’t see the usefulness of such a concept.In the case of waking state, we can assume an eye for the experience of the world and also an eye in the dream state for giving the experience of the dream-world.What is the use of an eye in the deep-sleep state?’
‘Well, before knowing the usefulness of the third-eye, let us understand its role.The third-eye simply looks at your mind at all the time, merely as the witness, whether your mind is active or inactive’.
‘Where is this third eye? Why is it watching the mind only?’ asked Kavya.
‘The third-eye is the Witness-Consciousness. It is the Knower in you.It is the Subject, which objectifies everything else. It is pure consciousness. Vedanta calls this as the Atman or the Self. It is also known as cit, the effulgence which illuminates the mind for it to be animated.’
‘So, the mind is like a mirror reflecting the light?’, Kavya asked.
‘Yes, like the finest mirror!By merely reflecting the effulgence of the Sun, the mirror, which is inert in nature, behaves as if it is the luminousSun! That is why, we mistaken the mind as the Self!’
‘Aiya, is mind inert?Is not the mind that has the power to think and creates things in the world?’
‘Surely!Why limiting to things, even your world is a creation of your mind’.
‘Then how it can be an inert object?’, I shot back.
‘Well, that was already settled; indeep- sleep, the mind has no powerand is rendered to its natural state of insentience, until animated again by the benign grace of the Self, the Atman.’
‘You said that the third-eye is only watching the mind.Why can’t it watch the world?’, asked Kavya.
‘Well, the third-eye watches only the mind because everything else is in the mind.’
‘Are you saying the world is inside the mind?’
‘Yes, when there is no mind, there is no thought; where there is no thought, there is no time and when there is no time there is no space.Without time and space, there is no world of objects.This is what you experience in your deep-sleep’.
‘So nothing is there in the deep sleep then?’, I stressed on the word nothing.
‘The term “Nothing is “ surely is an oxymoron.The verb “is” signifies, Ishvara, the existence.In the deep-sleep, there is only the cit, the Witness-Consciousness. Nothing else exists.There is no world.’
‘How can yousay that the world does not exist, when I am in deep-sleep?’
‘I said, the world does not exist for you, when you are in deep sleep’, Aiya said with a strong emphasis on the phrase “for you”.
‘But when I wake-up, the world continues to exist; in fact, it exists in such a way to prove its logical continuation from where I have left before going to sleep.So how can the world be the creation of my mind?’
‘The world you see and the experiences therein are unique to you, different to each one of us. We should never fail to comprehend this.There may be commonality of objects of perception and therefore we may all see a common world, but each of our experience is unique and therefore our perspectives are different, so are our worlds! If we understand this clearly, we will not quarrel if someone doesn’t see an object in the same way we see. So the personal context is important and this is what we must focus in Vedanta. Remember we started our discussion on life as a chain of experiences.’
‘Very well Aiya, I am also keen to understand from a personal perspective.How can I relate the role of my third-eye with that of Siva? Is not His third-eye the annihilator of all?’
Aiya was sitting with his eyes closed for few minutes.I was simply waiting for him to continue.I know, many a times, not all his words are to my level of understanding, but never once his words have failed to penetrate my heart.I simply receive them with the hope of their blossoming someday.
Aiya looked at me intently and said.
‘When the third-eye of Siva is opened, what is annihilated is the mitya or the apparent reality.By the power of the third-eye, this veil of ignorance is cut asunder.This veil projects multiplicity of names and forms and so whenit is removed, all differences are instantly shed. Consequently, the objects of experience and the subject merge.There is only non-dual blissful existence’.
‘Like in the deep sleep’, said Uma.
‘Yes.When there is non-duality, there is eternal bliss or Ananta.It is the state where there is no fear but only fulfilment; there is neither pleasure nor pain butonly peace, unblemished; it is termed as poornam in Sanskrit.’
After a short pause, Aiya continued.
‘That is why we are never getting bored of going to sleep.In fact, when the worldly affairs are boring, we escape by going to sleep.If you contemplate on this, you will appreciate the boon of deep-sleep’.
‘Yes Aiya.But you are sounding as if the deep-sleep state is our natural home and going to the waking-state is an arduous and imposed task.That is completely inverting the common understanding of daily life.’
‘Well, manythings in Vedanta do invert our nominal judgementsabout ourselves and the world.This is a key reason why the study of Vedanta requires preparation and application of mind and above all a guiding friend’.
I thought to myself, ‘Don’t I know this, how hard I have been trying to prepare and how in vain my efforts so far!’
‘But I do take your point.We cannot take the refuge of deep-sleep and indulge in it always. Otherwise, it would simply mean coma and onto death.We are embodied to live in this world and therefore we need todeal with the world of objects and the apparent multiplicity of differences.There is no need to shy away from this.But the point is, when we realize the potency of our third-eye, we are then able to handle thechallenges effortlessly and cheerfully.Life then becomes a joy. We can view our life as a play, like watching the moving pictures on the screen,indulging us in temporal experiences.’
‘What would such an approach give us?’
‘Sheer confidence, total freedom andabsolute joy!You can engagewith your life yet be free of any entanglement, like a spectator, unaffected by the script of the movie! If you choose, you can even rewrite the script for the next screening.’
‘Aiya, I guess, in your example, my mind is the big screen.My life is the moving picture and I am the seer – the third-eye.’
‘Exactly, by remaining as a seer, you are not impacted by the script of your life’.
‘Aiya, but you will at least grant me this. Even as a spectator of the movies, we are overwhelmed by emotions. It is never easy to remain unaffected’, said Uma.
‘Of course yes; we pay money to watch the movie; we decide to go through the roller-coaster of ups and downs and if that is what you have paid for, then you will go through it.Yet, you always know, the impact of the movie is short-lived; unless you are insane, you always stand out of the movie script.’
‘Interesting Aiya;can you please tell me how this third-eye of mine isgot anything to do with that of Siva?’, I asked.
Uma also added.
‘In the Purana, I have read the story of gods requestingShaktito bring backManmatha, the lord of desire, who was burnt-down by Siva.Why did She plead to Siva for keeping His third-eye half-shut? ’
‘Well, it is also a monumental ploy to tell us thetruth through a magnificentweb of stories.The context of these legends has different but relevant appeal in the understanding of both microcosm and macrocosm.For example, at individual level, you have a mind and when it is rendered to rest, you are in deep-sleep, until awaken by the Self, to face up to the next day.Similarly, the collective mind of the universe is the cosmic-mind.When it is rendered to deep-sleep, there also remains the eternal bliss.Both at the microcosm and macrocosm, the non-duality is what remains as the eternal bliss, when the deep-sleep state is initiated.The multiplicity of names and forms are therefore simply a temporal and apparent reality, as the projection of movies on the screens of both personal and cosmic mind.’
‘Who projects this movie? Who writes the scripts?’ asked Kavya.As a digital media specialist, she has an eye for the details.
Aiya laughed and said.
‘It is a loaded question Kavya!Let me say, the lustre of your third-eye is the projecting light source.Your mind is the canvas.Interestingly, the script is your own making.You are the script writer of your life. If it turns out to be a comedy of errors, only you have the onus.’
‘Aiya, it is both frightening and freeing.How can I rewrite my life script?’
‘Well, you can. Every one of us can.But to qualify, firstly we must have the conviction and the ownership to our role.We are not there yet.Most of us are not even willing to contemplate about life as a play.We are so lost by taking a wrong notion of who we are. You think that you are the doer, you are the enjoyer, and your body and mind are your sole identification.All that leads to your peril. So there is no way, in such a state of affairs, you can dream of rewriting the script of your life!But don’t despair.With inquiry, when you understand who you really are and what your role is, then surely someday, you will have the clean sheet of paper and the pen to start afresh, for a new script of your life’.
There was silence for a while.
I was not sure Keerti was completely on what Aiya had said.She was still thinking on the Purana.
‘Aiya, I am still not clear why did Siva’s third-eye annihilate Manmatha!’
‘Well, Manmatha is the god of desire.You must realize that desire is the root cause of actions.Desirous actions bind us to the outcome of our actions.But desire is there only where perception of differences exist.There can be no desire, where there are no differences, or non-duality.The annihilation of Manmathais just that, removal of desires and thus differences. Desire is the root cause of samara and therefore the full opening of Siva’s third-eye is our succour’.
‘Is that the reason that Shakti pleaded for keeping the third-eye ashalf-shut?’
‘Yes, as the third-eye is half-open, the supreme truth of non-duality is still revealed but in disguise.By the mercy of half-shut third eye, Shakti can perform Her leela, the divine play and project on to Her veil of Maya, the multiplicity of names and forms.’
‘Aiya, I don’t understand.Why can’t the state of non-duality remain forever?Why should there be creation of the worlds etc. and the duality?’
‘Non-duality only is there forever.But Shakti,the power of Brahman, has the will for the divine play. Who can know the reasons for the will of God! Even the scriptures wonder if the boredom is the cause, so what am I to say!Until such time the power of God decides to call it quits, the Mityawill prevail. But there is definite rescue! By the grace of the half-opened third-eye, as we in the meditative posture of Siva, there is the revelation to inquire into non-duality and Self-realization.’
‘When does Siva open his third-eye completely and annihilate all?’
‘Well, when the time is ready, as His Shakti decides to quit the game; then in a flash, everything will be annihilated and return to His divine fold.Then there will be a sort of deep-cosmic-sleep, only to be awakened again for the recycle of cosmic mind.’
‘I read in a story that once Shakti by mistake tried to close Siva’s eyes completely?’
‘Yes, there is a story like that. When Siva’s eyes were completely shut, there was no trace of wisdom and no path for emancipation. Darkness of ignorance prevailed, with no recourse for redemption.Realizing the error, Shaktiinstantly withdrew and took upon Herself as a self-punishment, to be born as Parvation the Earth and performed severe penance to reunite with Siva. Again, the purport of the story is to impart the truth of third-eye’.
‘It means, there will be a waking-state from the cosmic-sleep.’
‘Yes, like we get up from deep-sleep and go on with the next day of our life, after the cosmic-sleep, everything is restored to another cycle of embodied life.’
‘Sounds quite exhausting….’
‘Yes, may be also exciting.It depends on how you perceive your role in this cycle of perpetual journey.’
‘Do I have a choice?’, I asked.
‘Of course, we all have.This is the only purpose of Vedanta, to make you aware.In spite of the limited, mortal and feeble embodiment, you are verily the Atman, the non-dual Brahman.This is the prize of understanding the potency of your third-eye.Only to contemplate upon this supreme principle, we celebrate Sivaratri.’
‘Is that why Sivaratri is celebrated in the night, the darkness symbolizing the ignorance of the inert mind?’
‘Yes, It also signifies the bliss of the deep-sleep.When Siva is depicted as the dancing Lordon the burial ground,understand that only the deep-sleep state of inert embodiments is indicated by the burial ground.The witnessing-consciousness, the third-eye is the dancing Lord.Also, the worship of Siva in the late evenings, and reverentially on specific times known as ‘pradosham’is to indicate the mark ofHis compassionate embrace to caress the Jivainto deep-sleep, after the bruising experiences of waking and dream states.This is the reason, Vedanta calls the experiences of the Self away from its natural state of bliss as a disturbance or avasta.’
There was silence in the car.
I was approaching the Airport, perhaps, deliberately slowing the car to extend the enchanting conversation.
‘Aiya, you have mentionedabout few other triplets for us to explore’.
‘Yes.It is because, you must know the spirit of Vedanta.It is not a study based on faith but on the experience.Vedanta encourages you to ask questions, in particular, its usefulness, “what is in it for me”.Unless there is a clear benefit, that too in this very life, ideally now and direct, what is the point of the Vedanta. Just to trigger your mind, let me also give few other terms as triplets for your pursuit of inquiry.’
‘In life, want enjoyments or kama, the necessary means or arta and of course all in a righteous way or dharma.These three objectives are sequenced as ‘dharma, arta and kama’, putting the righteousness as the first; only in the context of righteousness, the other two goals are to be sought. This we must remember.’
‘What is the next three Aiya?’
‘To achieve our goals, we need act and put right efforts or actions. These are physical, vocal and mental actions, or kayika, vacika and manasa karmas respectively. In short know these three means as sadana-triyam.’
‘We expect some benefits for our actions. Vedanta classifies all that we seek into three, known as sadya-triyam.’
‘What are these Aiya?’
‘Getting what we desire is vishaya-prapti; to enjoy our objects, we seek healthy mind and body; this benefit is called upadana-prapti, the word upadana referring to our embodiments. Also importantly, we need to be in a right and conducive environment for our enjoyment. We seek the right condition or the loka-prapti.’
‘But we don’t always get what we desire?’
‘May be.But no effort goes in vain.What is not obtained in this life, will surely come to fruition in the next births.’
‘Aiya, great, if we are able to follow this, and get what we want, then life will be perfect, is it not?’
‘Sadly no!Unfortunately, none of the objects of enjoyment that we seek are unblemished; those are inherently flawed. Firstly, these are mixed with grief or dukkha-misritam.Secondly, they eventually give dissatisfaction – adrupti-kartvam.Thirdly, we get entangled in the objects of desire, thereby losing our freedom – bandha-gatvam. In short, remember these as three inherent flaws or dosha-triyam.’
‘Aiya, I am not sure the children will understand, but I can surely vouch for it.What we thought to give us enduring happiness proves otherwise in the end. But in spite of this understanding, why are we persisting on such objects?’
‘Yes, sadly that is how we all are.Even though there is understanding, most of us will persist on the roller-coaster ride of samsara, due to the inexhaustible desires. This requires a big shift in our attitude. Understand, our personality is nothing but the mixture of three inherent qualities, triguna. These are, in short, dullness or tamas, passion or rajas and the balanced-outlook or satwa.Without nurturing, these will grow and mix wiled. attitude.This needs to be addressed.’
‘How, what is the remedy Aiya?’
‘You already know.Know thy third-eye.See through your third-eye.Even when it is half-shut, the futility of duality and the reality of non-duality will shine through it.Once it is realized, your attitude to life will change.Change of attitude or transformation of character is the foremost, if not the only, remedy for this.The most emphasis in the Bhagavad-Gita is on the transformation of character.With that, our goal will shift from thedharma, arta and kama, to mokshawhich refers to the absolute liberty andabsolutefulfilment.’
‘Moksha is not going somewhere after death. It is the freedom now, in this very instant.It comes from knowing that you are the Knower. You are the Subject and not the objects-of-experience.This very knowledge will change your perspectives of life and the way you handle it’
‘If I get moksha, will I still be going through the exams?’, asked Keerti.
Aiya laughed whole heartedly.
‘You still have to go through your exams, Keerti.But you will do so with great joy. You will not worry about the failure, because you will not fail’, Aiya winked at me while saying this.
I stopped the car at the Airport.As he was getting down, Aiya turned to Keerti and said, ‘Your task is to sharpen the sadana-triyamfor your exams.Focus on this.Someday, you will see the fruit of our discussion’.
After bidding good-bye to Aiya, we were driving back home.Kavya was trying to recall the key words.
‘sadana-triyam, sadya-triyam,dosha-triyam, tri-avasta,tri-guna,three-eyes…..so many threes to know in one day!’
That was when my mobile rang.Uma picked-up to check.
‘It is the Three-network calling,asking you to dial 333 for some fantastic offers’.
‘No, please don’t, not another 3 for the day. My head is already spinning’.
Weswitched off the phone, knowing very well that we are already switched-onfor the Sivaratri.