Muruga, The God of Yoga and the Spiritual Path, Part 2

Part 2 of 3. Next in his talk on Lord Murugan, Bodhinatha spoke about how the worship of Lord Murugan can give success in advanced yoga practices and gave suggestions for cultivating bhakti. A major point about Lord Murugan is that he is invoked to give power to the Divine forces over the forces of darkness. Bodhinatha then spoke of the symbolism of the male God and His female Shakti, that they are one and inseparable, and the meaning of the vel (lance) and Lord Murugan's two consorts with respect to His and the soul's powers of desire, action and wisdom, known as iccha, kriya and jnana shaktis.

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Questions? Bodhinatha is the successor of "Gurudeva," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. If you have questions on subjects about spiritual life you will find answers in Gurudeva's books and teachings. Learn about ways to study these teachings by visiting The Master Course site or writing to mastercourse@hindu.org.

Unedited Transcript:

In the Saivite tradition, there is a definite relationship between the worship of Lord Murugan and being successful in advanced yoga practices.

Gurudeva describes it as follows. "To obtain even the permission to perform yoga, one must have the grace of Lord Ganesha and the grace of Lord Muruga. Lord Muruga is the God of the kundalini of the advanced yogic practices. Unfoldment all happens within the kundalini and the chakras within our subtle bodies. Once a profound relationship is developed with Lord Muruga,and with the Guru's permission and guidance, true yoga may commence. Otherwise no matter how long one sits in meditation, no matter how hard one tries, it is just sitting, it is just trying. There is no fire there, no shakti, no power, no change. It is the Gods who control the fire and at this stage help the devotee immensely, bringing him closer and closer to the Supreme God Siva. Quite often the yogi in his deep, internalize state may see a vision, the feet or form of God Siva before he begins to blend into the mind of God Siva called Satchidananda. It is God and Gods in form that help us to find the formless God."

You can develop a close relationship with Lord Murugan in which He feels like a good friend if you take the time to get to know Him through bhakti yoga. The practice of devotional disciplines, worship, prayer, chanting and singing with the aim of awakening love in the heart and opening oneself up to the Deity's grace. Bhakti, devotion, to Murugan can be increased or cultivated. Here are some specific suggestions.

1. Make the travel time to the temple a religious one. Don't allow yourself to focus on problems at home or work. Put on religious music in your car audio system and listen to it, for example.

2. Bring an offering. The act of giving opens you to the blessings of the Deity. Never go to the temple without bringing an offering and giving it to the Deity.

3. Put as much time and prana into the offering as possible. Buying a garland at the store is good, but making it yourself is even better. The prana in the offering, meaning the energy coming out of your hands when you make the garland, goes into the garland and therefore when the garland is put on the Deity, it is like you are touching the Deity and creates an even greater closeness.

4. During the puja keep focused on the Murthi and the priests chant. Pay attention. Don't let the mind wander. When singing bhajans, keep focused on the meaning of the words.

5. And last, the blessings, the shakti of the Deity is stronger on some days than others. So attending the temple on the strong days is helpful to attuning oneself to the shakti. For example, there is a stronger shakti on yearly festivals, such as Skanda Shasti for Lord Murugan.

One of the disciplines that Gurudeva gave to his monastics many years ago was to learn to do the traditional temple puja, Parartha puja for Ganesha, Murugan and Siva. Therefore, all the monastics have had the opportunity to do regular pujas in our temple. Speaking from experience we can all say that performing daily puja is definitely an effective way to deepen your personal relationship with Lord Murugan. Pujas can also be done in the home, the Atmartha puja and again provide an effective way to become closer to the Deity.

Lord Murugan is traditionally worshipped to invoke the forces of divinity, to overcome the forces of darkness.

This is an important theme, so I repeat that sentence. Lord Murugan is traditionally worshipped to invoke the forces of divinity to overcome the forces of darkness.

This process takes place both in the world and in the individual. It takes place through the power of His Vel which represents wisdom, jnana shakti. Gurudeva often stressed that the world changes because the individuals in it change. In other words, the world becomes a more divine, peaceful place as more individuals find divinity and peace within themselves. Certainly the worship of Lord Murugan and His Shaktivel, His Vel of wisdom is a potent force in moving the world in this direction.

Man's nature can be described as threefold - superconscious or spiritual, intellectual or mental, and instinctive or physical/emotional.

It is the instinctive nature, the animal-like nature, which contains the tendencies to become angry and harm others. The goal is to learn to control these animal instincts, as well as, the ramifications of the intellect and the pride of the ego and manifest one's spiritual nature. This is the inner process within the individual, of divinity overcoming darkness and the regular worship of Lord Murugan helps us to become a wiser person, better to make these inner changes and therefore make tangible progress on the spiritual path.

Hindu icons in our temples all have mystical symbolism. A common symbolism is to depict the God as male and the God's energy or shakti as His spouse. This is because in these temples, they have Murugan with two consorts. So, I have to explain two concepts.

God is everywhere seen as the beloved divine couple. Philosophically however, the caution is always made that God and God's energy are one. That the metaphor of the inseparable divine couple serves only to illustrate this oneness. In the case of Lord Murugan, His consorts are Valli and Devayani.

Additionally we have the Vel as an important symbol. These three represent three distinct energies, powers or shaktis. Valli represents the iccha shakti, the power of desire. Devayani represents kriya shakti, the power of action. The Vel represents jnana shakti, the power of wisdom.

Important insights into the soul maturing process can be gained by looking at the three shaktis of Lord Murugan. The power of desire, the power of action and the power of wisdom, which are also the three powers of the soul.

We first have a desire. When the desire becomes strong enough, we act. In young souls, the action may be ill-conceived and adharmic. For example, we want a computer, so we simply steal one. Money is needed, so we rob a bank. The soul is repeating a cycle of similar experiences, moving back and forth from desire to action, desire to action. In the case of the adharmic action of stealing, eventually the soul will learn the lesson that this is not the best course of action to take, to acquire possessions.

This learning is the jnana shakti. Wisdom coming in and causing one's behavior to improve. This process works for dharmic actions as well. We are helping out as a volunteer at the temple and teaching children's classes once a month. We like the feeling it gives us of helping others in a meaningful way and decide to help out every week instead, and even participate in the meetings to plan out the classes. We are doing a selfless action and the reaction it has on us is to feel more inner joy. Therefore, the jnana is to decide how to do even more of it and thus feel more joyful. We have again improved our behavior.

We can see in both of these examples how it is that the soul undergoes experiences in the world with desire leading to action, desire leading to action and eventually leading to wisdom and the improving of our behavior. This is the divine pattern through which our soul matures over many lifetimes, moving ever closer to God.

Whether an action we have committed is dharmic or adharmic, the worship of Lord Murugan and the power of His Vel, jnana shakti, can help us understand the wisdom or lack of wisdom of our actions more quickly. In fact, in some Murugan temples, the importance of the Vel is stressed by the fact that the only Murthi in the main sanctum is the Vel.