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Date:23 Feb 1990 Occasion:Shivarathri Place:Prashanti Nilayam

What the Avatars Mean

Embodiments of the Divine Atma!

The Atma is the basis for the Divine life. The Body enshrines the Atma. Worldly life should be in consonance with spiritual aspirations. Because man today is identified with physical existence as the only reality, he has to be taught the knowledge of the Spirit. The Divine Will is the determinant of the destiny of the individual or of society. Society itself is a reflection of the Divine Will. It is only when man conducts himself on this basis that he will be able to discharge his duties free from ego. Hence mans supreme duty (Dharma) is to act according to the Divine Will.

Dharma (Duty) is the spiritual expression of the Divine Will in relation to society. The term Aiswarya is derived from the word Easwara (The Supreme Lord). The terms Siva or Sankara mean Auspicious. Sam means Chitaananda (Blissful Awareness). Kara means the one who causes it. Sankara means the One who causes blissful awareness. Sankara is the One who confers Chitaananda on those who take refuge in Him or adore Him.

Symbolism of the Siva Form

The secret of Creation is evident from the description of the form of Siva. The crescent moon on Sivas head symbolizes the consciousness in human beings, the Ganga symbolizes the Life Force and the snakes on Sivas body represent the myriad of living beings. He resides on a silver mountain. His dearest friend is Kubera, the Lord of Wealth. Despite being endowed with all these, why was He obliged to carry the begging bowl? To demonstrate to the world that every kind of wealth is a hindrance to spiritual advancement, Siva renounced everything. It is through renunciation Siva became the eternal embodiment of supreme bliss.

The Lord has another name. It is only when the love principle underlying this name is rightly understood, the real form of the Cosmos can be recognized. That name is Saambasiva. Saa means divinity. Amba refers to the cosmos. Siva means the Supreme person (Purusha).

Easwara has yet another name: Yogasikha. The sky is His blue form. The directions (Dik) are His garment. Hence He is known as Digambara. He is also known as Panchaanana - the Five-headed One. The five are: Earth, water, fire and aakaasa (space). His five heads represent the five basic elements (panchabhuthas). Siva is also described as Bhuthanaatha - the Lord of all created beings. Bhutha refers to creation. Easwara is the Lord of every creature in the universe. Hence, the entire cosmos is reflected as an image in the Lord. Siva is known as Subhankara- the one who is ever good (Subham).

Man is the product of interaction of Purusha (the Supreme) and Prakriti (Nature). Consequently man should have the perennial bliss of the Divine and remain perpetually blessed. Man is made in the image of Nature. Man can divinise himself only by contemplating on the attributes of the Divine (Easwara). The three eyes of Siva represent the three worlds (lokas). Sivas trident is symbolic of the Past, the Present, and the Future, the three aspects of Time. The three gunas (Satwa, Rajas, Thamas) are images of the Trinity - Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. The three worlds, the triune aspect of Time, the three gunas (qualities) are the manifestations of the Easwara Principle. When the Divine is installed in the heart in this manner, man can raise himself to the level of the Divine.

It is for the well-being of the world that Siva swallowed the Halahala poison. Again, it is for the sake of the worlds good that Siva contained the Ganga in His matted locks. Siva bears the moon on His head to confer peace of mind on mankind. When man moulds himself on the pattern of Easwara, he will get rid of all his evil tendencies and offer to the world what is good in him. That is the meaning of the worship of Siva. It is only when man gives up utterly his bad thoughts, evil desires and wicked deeds, he will be able to transform himself into divinity.

The Realization Process

The spiritual process may be compared to the conversion of milk into butter. The body is like a house. The heart is the vessel in which the milk of consciousness is boiled over the stove of devotion The vessel is covered by the lid of earnestness (sraddha). When the fire of Viveka (discrimination) is lit, the cream of understanding comes up from the boiling milk. To prevent the cat of Maya from getting at the milk, the door has to be barred by the gate of Sujnana (wisdom). After the milk is cooled by Santhi (tranquillity) and the buttermilk of the Divine Name is added to it, the curd of Divine Grace is formed. When this curd is churned with the rod of knowledge and the rope of love, the whey of ignorance is separated and the butter of the Atma Reality (the Jiva) emerges. It is such a realized Self who attains oneness with the Divine.

Significance of the Avatars

Man today fails to recognize his own true nature. He adores men, but does not realize the humanness in them. He worships avatars like Rama and Krishna, but is not aware of the exemplary ideals offered by them to mankind. Because of his failure to recognize the avatars exemplary character, man is a prey to all kinds of doubts. Everyone should try to understand the highest human ideals represented by the avatars. He must consider how far he has lived up to those ideals. Real worship consists in practicing the ideals to the greatest extent possible. Instead of worshipping in this manner, man is degrading himself by resorting to mundane rituals. It is by constant control of thoughts and desires that man can purify himself and raise the level of his consciousness. To the extent man reduces his desires, his will power (ichchaa sakti) will grow. Today man has lost his will power because of the insatiable growth of desires. In the process, he has weakened his intellect, his memory, his powers of discrimination, his intelligence and his powers of speech and thought

Equality - When and How?

Without understanding fully your human nature, how can you expect to fathom the nature of the Divine or recognize the divinity present equally in all beings? For instance, you are told that God is present in a cat, a dog, a donkey, a pig, a snake or a scorpion, and you also talk about it. But if your parents, friends or anyone else hails you as you ass! you swine! you get angry and feel that you have been insulted. Likewise, if God is described in this manner, is it not an affront to God? When can you experience the sense of equality of all living beings? It is only when you have realized your oneness with God that you are entitled to speak about the equality of all beings. Till then, the dog is a dog, the donkey is a donkey, a man is a man. As long as you regard yourself as a human being, respect other fellow-humans, show love towards other creatures, but do not go about saying all are one and all are equal.

The Eleven Rudras

Embodiments of Divine Love! The auspicious and sacred Easwara principle is present in every man. This divine principle can be manifested only through the practice of pure thoughts and actions. Todays Sivarathri observance conveys a significant lesson. According to numerology, the three letters Si, Va and Raa make up eleven (Si = 5, Va = 4 and Raa = 2). These eleven are known as the Ekaadasa Rudras, the eleven Rudras. The fourth letter Thri represents the combination of the first three letters and Sivarathri is the day devoted to overcoming the eleven Rudras by adoring the Supreme Lord, who is master of them all.

The Rudras turn the intellect (Buddhi) towards sensuous objects and thrust the individual in the sea of (worldly life). The Paramatama (Supreme Spirit) is master of all the Rudras. Only the man who has conquered the eleven Rudras can expect to realize the Supreme. Who are the eleven Rudras? They are: the five organs of action (karmendriyas), the five organs of perception (jnanendriyas) and the mind. Man must seek to control as much as possible these eleven organs. From ancient times, the sages have stressed the supreme importance of sense-control as the means to God-realization,

Siva and Vishnu are one

No distinction should be made between Siva and Vishnu. The composer, Annamacharya declared: While uttering Linga! Sivalinga! do not forget, oh man! Ranga! Both are one. Whether the vehicle of the Lord is a bull or an eagle, the Lord is one and the same. Annamacharya indicated how this Lord is to be worshipped. To perform ablutions for the idol of the Lord he went in search of pure and sacred water. He could not find it in the Ganga, which was polluted by water coming from the mouths of fish and frogs. He lamented over his inability to get completely pure, unpolluted water from any source. He declared: The only pure water with which I can wash your linga, Oh Siva, is that coming from my tear-filled eyes, which have been moved by the devotion in my heart filled with the sense of utter dedication to the Lord. Annamacharya felt that only the tears filled with love of the Lord are pure enough for washing the Lords idol.

The Lord and The Devotee

Each devotee has his own conception of the Divine. No single specific form can be ascribed to the Lord. The Lords grace is conferred on each devotee according to the level of his spiritual consciousness Annamacharya exclaimed: Oh Lord! You appear to each devotee according to the nature and measure of his realization. The ocean is vast and boundless. But the amount of water you can carry from it is determined by the size of the vessel you take. If the vessel you carry is small, you cannot fill it beyond its capacity. Likewise, if your heart is constricted, Divine grace will be equally limited. Broaden your heart and receive the plenitude of Gods grace. How is one to broaden his heart? It is by getting rid of narrow differences and by curbing desires. By developing insatiable desires, the heart gets shrunk. A broad heart means recognizing the truth that the Divine dwells in everybody. Only then you can obtain the Reality that is unchanging and eternal.

[Source: Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Discourses Vol 3, 1991 published by Sri Sathya Sai Organization of the West Indies]