We received this beautiful letter from the Virashaiva guru from Mysore who we recently visited:
October 8, 2011
We are delighted to write about our visit to your Monastery few weeks ago. It was one of best moments of our brief stay in the US. The idyllic location of the Monastery combined with the true exponents of Saivite philosophy, thousands of miles away from its origin, is not merely surprising but exhilarating that such a monastery exists in reality in its pristine originality.
We were indeed overwhelmed at your hospitality. The Monastery is functioning exceedingly well under your guidance. The unusual spiritual comradeship is not to be seen elsewhere as it is found in Kauai’s Hindu Monastery. The dedication with which the Hinduism is practiced is worth emulating.
We once again express our deep sense of appreciation for maintaining the monastery exceptionally well. Our regards to all the Swamijis and others of the Monastery.
With best wishes,
Yours in the service of God,
Jagadguru Sri Shivarathri Deshikendra Mahaswamiji
Jagadguru Sri Veerasimasana Mahasamsthana Math
How to describe our 18-hour stay at Suttur Math in Karnataka? This Lingayat lineage is over a thousand years old and the spiritual preceptor here, Jagadguru Sri Shivarathri Deshikendra Mahaswamiji, heads up an institution that astounds. We got a few glimpses of their achievements, as you will see.
Arriving after a 7.5 hour drive from Palani Hills, we were sung to by 8 swamis and then ushered to guest rooms in this beautiful Mysore garden. After freshening up, we were off on a whirlwind tour guided by Almitta Swami whom we know well since our earlier visit in 2014 during their annual festival. The full article can be found on our Hinduism Today site here:
The monastery is over a thousand years old and holds many connections with us, not the least of which is that Sri Ganapati Sthapati, the Iraivan master builder, worked here to renovate two Chola-era temples, small ones, in 1996. And the team at Artha Enterprises carved many giant pillars for their peedam building.
Almitta Swami took us to the samadhi shrine of the founder and his several recent successors. We learned that at age 85 or so, the founder directed his disciples to inter him in a crypt while still alive, and that was no doubt part of the power that has driven this order, with its 2,000 sannyasins, to accomplish such extraordinary things.
We met in the chamber where the Guru presides, offering a small gift to Mahaswamiji and sitting with this unpretentious soul who seemed to present and affectionate, so centered despite the fact that he runs hundreds of institutions, educational, medical and such. Mahaswami inquired after our travels and after Bodhinatha then asked us to drive to their main school to address the school children who hold an assembly morning and evening.
We arrived to their singing and clapping (see the short movie below). They sang in three languages with a spirit of eagerness not seen these days in the Western school system. So forceful was their chanting, we could not help to see the future of India, a future of intelligence married to discipline underpinned by joy and comradeship. Here, we knew, where the leaders of humanity's future, learning so they might lead, learning so they might solve the problems facing the world.
We greeted them in Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami's name, and urged them to study hard, to love one another and see Siva in everyone they meet. We spoke of Gurudeva's teaching that Siva is a God of love, infinite love and that throughout life ahead they could find refuge at His Feet. We urged them to be proud of this enlightening and noble tradition they are blessed to follow. Half in the group are formal Lingayats, followers of God Siva. They sang for us and we said good bye to the roaring cheers of some 1,500 kids. They were clearly moved to see Saivites from the West. Clearly inspired to hear from a Westerner (via translation to Kannada) that they are the inheritors of a great spiritual heritage.
Early the next day we were taken to the Chamundhi Temple nearby, the Goddess who destroys adharma and who elsewhere is called Kali or Durga. A giant Nandi greeted us there.
We met the gardener, a man named Swami who is of course called Garden Swami. We had admired a plant, a special philodendron, climbing on a tree in the garden. Generously, a cutting ended up in our van to be taken to the worksite in Bengaluru where we can propagate it until such time as proper import permits can be obtained to bring it to Kauai. It's a gem as one of the slideshow photos proves.
We are nearing Bengaluru, having spent the past two hours assembling photos to share with all CyberCadets of this special day.
Our trusty chariot is sitting in front of the hotel waiting to take us to Palani Hills, that amazing citadel that is Tamil Nadu's riches temple and one that is dear to Gurudeva and the monks. We have arrived late and decide for the first time to take the little cable car to the top. Twenty fit into each train, so 40 at a time ride slowly up the hill. We do pradakshina and then are taken to Murugan's shrine. Just in time, the hour-long abhishekam has just concluded and as the curtain is drawn aside He is dressed ornately, His face pure white, His darshan more than potent. No photos allowed, so we can't share that part here.
We visit Bhogar Rishi's shrine, alive with his mystic power. Remember, he is the one who made the murthi here using nine metallic poisons and is said to still be meditating in the mountain below. You may not know that some years back the temple trustees hired our own Selvanathan Sthapati to resculpt eroded sections of the murthi, for which he did extensive research as you can imagine.
We stayed for the 7-8pm procession of the chariot around the entire temple. Hundreds follow and push the golden chariot which stops at nine stations for arati.
We seem to have stood out, and throughout the procession families, groups of teens and sadhus came up to us shyly inquiring: "Photo? Photo with us?" Mostly we relented, til it began to slow down the entire event and we had to just keep walking in front of the chariot.
There is such a genuine and universal respect for the path of the sannyasin here and even those who don't have the courage to ask for a photo, place palms together, smile or nod approvingly as if to say, "More power to you."
Our hotel, the new Ganpat Grand is so close we opt to walk the busy street back. If ever you are in Palani, this is a great little hermitage.
Off tomorrow to Karnataka State and Suttur Math. Aum Namasivaya!
Yogi Mayuranatha: "Nataraja was so powerful. The purity and dedication of the priests inspiring. The stones ancient, emanating over a thousand years of devotion. A truly divine experience."
"Always worship this great God. Never fear Him. He is the Self of your self. He is closer than your own breath. His nature is love, and if you worship Him with devotion you will know love and be loving toward others." With these words from Gurudeva ringing in our ears on March 7th evening we three reached Chidambaram, called the Center of the Universe. Sadasivanatha told the two yogis how one day he was traveling with Gurudeva by train out of Chidambaram after some days of being at the feet of Nataraja. Across from them sat two European men sitting on both sides of a black box with the look of science on it. They told Gurudeva they were several years into a survey of the earth's gravitational field, mapping where it is strong and weak. They shared that it was at the Chidambaram temple that they had just recorded their highest reading ever. Seems Siva's home here is a heavy place indeed!
The next day was all about Siva Nataraja. Here the murthi does not show the more common form with flailing hair, which is for His Great Dance of Creation, Preservation and Dissolution. Here the hair is normal since the dance is quieter, one of joy and bliss.
Sheela Venkatakrishnan drove all the way from Chennai to guide us, and introduced us to Prakash Dikshitar who took us around the entire temple (to shrines that if located anywhere else would be major temples themselves, carved 1,200 years back) and brought us to the morning crystal lingam and ruby Nataraja abhishekam at 10am.
The 3-inch perfectly clear crystal is worshipped six times each day and the ruby (a 6-inch-tall Dancing Siva) once a day. The Dikshitars hold that this morning puja is absolutely necessary for the existence of the cosmos. It is, they say, akin to the message from the brain that tells the human heart to beat. Similarly, the puja creates a powerful force that keeps the life of the universe going.
The monks meditated in the Chariot Madapam afterwards, the place where Gurudeva often gave dikshas during Innersearch here.
During a banana-leaf lunch at the Dikshitar's home (it is 11 feet wide and 120 feet long and three generations live here, 20 of them in all), we learned something new about the Dikshatar's disciplines. Not only must a priest be married for him to perform the rites in the temple, but throughout their life each month during her retreat he is not allowed inside the temple. Next we visited the home of Ananta Nataraja Dikshitar, who guided us during so many visits here in the 70s, 80s and 90s. We meet his son Guru Murthi whom we knew well in the olden days, and his grandson Raju Dikshitar.
To our amazement Raju took a photo from the living room wall See it in the above slideshow), of Gurudeva and Sadasivanathaswami holding him and his younger sister in our laps. Seems they regard that moment as a special one in their lives and though it was about 1995 speak of it as if it were yesterday.
Raju arranged for us to attend the last puja of the day in the temple. Amazingly, he took us into the place where the abishakam is held, and we stood in that ancient chamber for an hour, just 8 feet from the crystal is it was worshipped, alone with the priests who ran past us with the efficiency of having done this thousands of times. It was a potent moment.
After the last arati, the priests cleared the chamber and we were alone with Siva in the night. Raju said, "This is a good time to talk to Siva. He can hear you better without all the noise." So we spoke with Him wishing a flood of blessedness upon all of Gurudeva's devotees. Then Raju said, "I pray now for the success of Gurudeva's mission. It is so important, what you are doing. We are so proud to know all of you. I pray for Iraivan to be completed as Gurudeva saw."
That ended our day and we left filled and thrilled with Siva's light and love.
Jayanatha: "We had a wonderful visit to the center of the Universe today. Our lineage has a kinship with Chidambaram's Dikshitars that became more obvious the longer we spent there. In the evening as the temple became quiet, we were invited into the inner prakaram to witness the Spattika Lingam abhishekam up close. Quite a blessing. For such a small crystal Lingam, it holds great power. The hall is topped with gold tiles equaling the number of breaths we take in a day, patterned to the number of Nadis in the human body. Nataraja is at the heart. This being the Akasha temple, there is also a chamber to the left of Nataraja where arati is done to empty space. Our kind of temple. We feel blessed to have had such an experience."
Off we go through the Indian traffic to Tanjavur, arriving at a different place. At our last hotel the yogis learned that even the best hotel in town does not necessarily have little amenities like towels, hot water, soap or elevators that work. The little garden hotel in Tanjurvur has all those things, and we were welcomed by at least 8 staff!
Off to a brief darshan in the night, holding our real visit for the following morning. Dinesh did his magic (if you think something in Dinesh's presence, it happens). He arranged a milk abhishekam for 8am and we were there to witness the amazing 10-foot-wide Sivalingam, so large they had to install the lingam and build the vimanam above it. No photos are allowed here, but the awe factor is high and you can imagine gallons of milk flooding over this massive black stone (the priest stands on a 12-foot-tall scaffold to pour offerings.
The temple itself is also magical, with thousands of feet of hallways holding who knows how many lingams, all different sizes and shapes. The carvings are intricate, and the dwajapalakas (the guardians at the doors) as tall as our Dakshinamurthi.
Here is what Wikinatha has to say regarding the name:
Brihadishvara(IAST: Bihdvara) is a Sanskrit composite word composed ofBrihatwhich means "big, great, lofty, vast",andIshvarameans "lord, Shiva, supreme being, supremeatman(soul)".The name means the "great lord, big Shiva" temple. Locally, the temple is called the big temple, while in historic inscriptions it is also referred to as RajaRajeswara,RajarajeswaramandPeruvudayartemple.
The amount of human effort seen in the sculpture here is humbling. Humbling, too, that with all our modern means the human race cannot replicate this treasure.
We are on the road now (yes, still connected to the Internet), heading to Madurai where Sundara Meenakshi is waiting for us...
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