Happy Valentines Day, Shivatri & Chinese New Year
Welcome to the February 13, 2007 edition of the Satya Center newsletter.
Warm greetings from your Editors, Curtis Lang and Jane Sherry.
Tomorrow is St. Valentine's Day, and the Hindu Feast of Shivratri, which honors two of the most famous lovers in all of human mythology, occurs on February 15. On Sunday, February 18, we celebrate the Chinese New Year.
St. Valentine's Day has been a celebration of romantic and courtly love in the West for hundreds of years, and a time for soulmates to ponder their great good fortune in sharing an earthly journey that accelerates their spiritual evolution and provides them with countless opportunities to open their hearts and become One with a Love Divine.
This holiday has pagan and heretical Christian origins, and interesting analogies with certain medieval Hindu practices, all of which celebrate the Universal Life Force Energy in its manifestation as sexual union.
In ancient Rome, February 13 was the feast of the fertility god Faunus and February 15 was the Feast of Lupercalia, dedicated to another fertility god, Lupercus. The priests of Pan Lyceus would perform purification ceremonies designed to promote fertility among Roman women. Young priests would circle the city walls with strips of skin cut from sacrificial animals, scourging women they encountered along the way to purify them in preparation for pregnancy. The Latin "februaue" means "to purify" after this "Feast of Purification." Some sources say that the thongs made from the skins of sacrificed animals "which the priests used on the evening of February 14 to whip women" were called "februa".
At Lupercalia, young women wrote their names on slips of papyrus and put them in a box. Then young men would take turns withdrawing the slips of paper, and would pair off for the day with the women whose names they had picked.
In 12th century southern France, "Valentine Clubs" appeared, which constituted a more playful, chivalric, and Christianized version of the ancient Roman fertility festivals.
Every year on February 14th, the Valentines assembled in the local town square, according to John Rutheford's invaluable guide to medieval gallantry, "The Troubadors". Two couples, dressed as Cupid, Mercy, Loyalty and Chastity would lead a parade of couples around the town, accompanied by trumpeters and banner-bearers.
The procession would end at the local Hotel, where the celebrants performed a "mass" dedicated to the worship of Love. At the close of the ceremony, the couples dispersed, and a silver casket containing the names of all gentlemen present was presented to the ladies.
Each lady drew a slip, and Cupid then brought the ladies together with their chosen gentlemen. The newly formed couples were declared Valentines for the year. Gentlemen were required to be faithful to their ladies for the next twelve months, to provide their ladies with abundant flowers throughout the period, to offer regular gifts to their ladies, to escort their ladies wherever they so desired, to make songs and poems or to engage in jousts in her honor, and to guard her honor jealously. Marriage of any pair of Valentines was strictly forbidden.
As we celebrate today's secular version of Valentine's Day, let us all meditate upon the origins of the Feast, and celebrate the mysteries of Love and Life that are the traditional domain of the Goddess and the traditional rewards to those gallant gentle men whose spiritual veneration of the female principle provided entire medieval communities with the blessings of courtly love and chivalric romance, and served as a potent counterweight to the patriarchal, martial values of the feudal society, structured and stratified according to bloodline, personal battle skills and the ability to field a force of loyal soldiers in the quest for ever more lands to govern and control.
If you are interested in finding your soulmate, learning to live compatibly with your soulmate, or in learning to achieve loving Union with the Divine as an individual, you might enjoy learning more about the Spiritual Laws of Love on this St. Valentine's Day.
Jane and I are writing a free online e-book, Back to the Garden: Cultivating Love in Our Lives, and the first several profusely illustrated chapters are online now.
In our book, you will read the true story of the Garden of Eden, explore the true nature of the original sin of egoism, and discover how to surrender to the Higher Self. Find out about the root cause of the war between the sexes and how it is fueled by karma, egotism, and the tragic nature of romantic love. Discover strategies for building love partnerships that last, based upon equality and unconditional love. Learn about the pathway back to the Garden of Eden and uncover the hidden mythology of sexual balance and sexual partnership that provides the spiritual foundation for the dawning Age of Aquarius. It's a Valentine's Day treat for lovers everywhere.
In Hinduism, February is the month for celebrating Divine Love manifested in the creative energies of male and female union, represented by the Divine Soulmates, Shiva and Shakti.
Thursday, February 15 is the Hindu Feast of "MahaShivratri", which means, "The Night of Shiva". Shiva is the third person in the Hindu Trinity of Brahman, Vishnu and Shiva, analogous in some ways to the Holy Spirit.
Brahman is the name for the transcendent Divine principle, the ultimate, unchanging reality, composed of pure being and consciousness. Brahman lies behind the apparent multiplicity of the phenomenal world, and is ultimately identical to the "atman" or inner essence of the human being.
Vishnu is known as the Preserver and is identified with his many Avatars, who incarnate as human beings over many lifetimes, to protect humanity from its own folly and to provide help and guidance in furtherance of humanity's spiritual evolution. These Avatars include Krishna, Ram, Buddha and others.
Shiva is known as the Destroyer, and he is the Deity who is responsible for the destruction and creation of the Universe. As the primordial Deity, he is responsible for creating the other members of the Hindu Trinity by his thoughts during meditation. He is also the patron Deity of Yoga, and as such he destroys the illusions of the mind, purifies the heart of all negative emotions and grants Enlightenment to his devotees.
When Shiva was born from the Void, he immediately appeared as twin manifestations, both male and female. Shiva is and always has been inseparable from his Cosmic Consort, known as Paravati, Devi or Shakti. Shiva represents form, Shakti represents energy. Shiva represents consciousness, Shakti represents bliss.
The Cosmic Marriage of Shiva and Shakti sustains Universal creation. For the yogi, the cosmic marriage is the Union of the mind with the Higher Self, the moment when the Shakti energy known as kundalini rises from the base of the spine and enters the head, conferring enlightenment.
Shiva and Shakti are the First Soulmates, and their Eternal Dance of Joy is the ecstatic playfulness that continuously propels creative evolution in all its manifestations in all the worlds.
On Shivratri, devotees of Lord Shiva, the Lord of Yoga, Sexuality and Transcendence, stay up all night, deep in meditation and prayer. They make offerings at their home altars, and ask the Lord of Creative Destruction to fulfill their heart's desire. Although fearsome to the uninitiated, Lord Shiva is known to his devotees as a kind and generous deity, open-handed with those who acknowledge him and ever-ready to bestow great boons upon all those who approach him with an open heart.
In the Puranas, a collection of Hindu sacred texts, Shiva tells the Divine Mother, his wife Paravati, that Shivratri is particularly dear to him, and that those who perform the prescribed austerities on this day will be freed from all sins.
"The 14th night of the new moon, in the dark fortnight during the month of Phalgun, is my most favorite day," Shiva told his wife Paravati. "It is known as Shivratri. My devotees give me greater happiness by mere fasting than by ceremonial baths and offerings of flowers, sweets and incense."
The quintessential story about Shiva's gracious nature is told on Shivratri. There was once a poor hunter named Suswara who lived in Varanasi. Situated on the crescent shaped left bank of the holy Ganga, Varanasi is one of the ancient seats of learning in India. Varanasi is a great religious center for Hindus and one of their most sacred places of pilgrimage, being visited by millions of people every year. At a distance of 12 km from Varanasi lies Sarnath, where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon. Here he revealed the eight fold path that leads to the attainment of inner peace, Enlightenment and Ultimate Nirvana.
Suswara, however, was no Brahmin citydweller; he lived a simple life with his wife and children in a small hut. Suswara was no vegetarian, and therefore certainly no yogi, for yogis are vegetarians. Suswara fed his family by hunting small game in the forest surrounding his home.
Hunting small game means you have very little to put by for times when hunting is bad; it's a hand to mouth existence. One day, when Suswara had some success hunting, his bag was growing full of small birds and animals. Wanting to extend his successful day, he wandered deeper into the forest, until darkness found him many miles from home. Suswara decided to climb a tall tree, in order to hide from predators during the long and dangerous night.
Attracted by his scent, some carnivorous beasts surrounded his tree. Suswara threw twigs down at them to discourage them, but they remained close by. Suswara was understandably nervous throughout the night, and couldn't sleep a wink. He continued to toss leaves and twigs down from his perch in the tree, hoping to discourage the beasts below. Meanwhile, he cried from time to time as he thought of his family with great love and devotion and hoped to be reunited with them.
Unknown to Suswara, he was fulfilling the requirements for an exacting form of Shiva puja (or offering) on the sacred night of Shivratri. The tree Suswara was camping out in was a Bilva (or bael) tree, sacred to Shiva. The tripartite leaves of the Bilva tree and the fruit of the tree are part of well-known cures used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Suswara was unknowingly tossing these sacred leaves, dear to Shiva, down on a Shivalingam, or sacred oval stone, which lay at the base of this sacred tree all night long. Suswara had been watering the Shivalingam with his tears.
Thus Suswara was unconsciously performing the ceremony of Shivratri, making offerings to Shiva all night long. Shiva appeared to Suswara at dawn.
The story is an allegory of the search for enlightenment. The hunter represents the devotee searching for enlightenment. The forest represents the jungle of the egoistical personality, containing the mind, with its conscious and unconscious desires, which can lead a man to act like a wild beast in pursuit of transitory pleasures, and the jungle is also the home of the untamed emotions, lust, envy, greed, jealously, anger and pride, which can consume a man's heart and soul like wild beasts.
These wild beasts living within the human being must be subdued by transcending the egoistical personality. In the allegory, Suswara performed this difficult feat by climbing the sacred tree. There is yet a deeper esoteric meaning to this story.
According to Sri Swami Sivananda, "The tree represents the spinal column. The leaves of the tree are threefold. They represent the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadis, which are the regions for the activity of the moon, the sun and fire respectively, or which may be thought of as the three eyes of Shiva. The climbing of the tree is meant to represent the ascension of the Kundalini Shakti, the serpentine power, from the lowest nerve centre called the Muladhara (the base of the spine) to the Ajna Chakra (the third eye). That is the work of the Yogi."
The spinal column is identified with Shiva in yogic texts, and the kundalini energy which rises up the spinal column during the process of yogic enlightenment is identified with Shiva's wife, Paravati, also known as Shakti, or Devi. At dawn, Suswara achieved enlightenment as a result of his performance of the nightlong Shivratri puja, although he had no conscious awareness of what he was doing. Similarly, spiritual aspirants must work diligently throughout their lives, responding to the necessities of life, and through the grace of the Divine, they may achieve enlightenment, despite their ignorance of Divine Wisdom.
Sri Swami Sivananda says that Suswara's "wife and children are none other than the world. One who seeks the Grace of God must become an embodiment of love. He must have an all-embracing sympathy. His shedding of tears is symbolical of his universal love. In Yoga also, one cannot have illumination without Divine Grace. Without practicing universal love, one cannot win that Grace."
Suswara went home the next day, and when he arrived he sold the animals he had killed and obtained food more suitable for a yogi, with which to feed his family. In doing this, he accrued more spiritual benefits for himself and his family. Before he could sit down to eat, a stranger passing by asked for something to eat. He fed the stranger, even before feeding himself and his family, and achieved yet more spiritual benefits by this act of generosity.
When Suswara died, he went immediately to the abode of Shiva, and enjoyed divine bliss for long ages. Then, thanks to the grace of Lord Shiva and because of the spiritual benefits he had obtained through his Shivratri puja and his generosity, he was reborn as King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty, who ruled over the whole of Jambudvipa.
Those who wish to participate in a Shivratri ritual, should remember that Lord Shiva finds the offering of an open heart in meditation more valuable than any ceremonial offerings of precious liquids, herbs, gemstones or gold.
There is a simple Shivratri meditation that anyone can do. Simply sit and calm the mind. If you like, light a candle to symbolize the fire of the Holy Spirit, Mother Kundalini. You may also light some incense as an offering to the Divine, and to create an energetic pathway to Higher Worlds so your meditation will be heard.
Breathe in deeply from the diaphragm to the count of five. Breathe out deeply to a count of seven. Continue doing this several times, until you can simply breathe deeply in and out without counting.
Recite the mantra, "Aum Namah Shivayah", pronounced "OM, Nah-mah, Shee-vy-Yah". Chant, "OM, Nah-mah, Shee-vy-yah, OM, Nah-mah, Shee-vy-yah, OM, Nah-mah, Shee-vy-yah, OM, Nah-mah, Shee-vy, OM, Nah-mah, Shee-vy, OM, Nah-mah, Shee-vy". Then start over.
Aum Namah Shivayah means, "Adoration of Shiva", and is also translated as "I honor the Divine within". Om (Aum) means universal truth and knowledge. In saying Om, everything is encompassed independent of time. Om is the essence of all that is sacred. Nama means to bow or honor and Shivaya refers to Shiva. Shiva means purity and as we chant his name we are purified.
The sound of this mantra is said to emulate the sound of Spirit rushing down from the Higher Self into the mind. Chanting the mantra creates a channel so Spirit can flow into you from the Source of all creation. You can float upstream on the stream of sound created by chanting this mantra, and eventually you will wind up at the Source itself.
If you would like to learn more about meditation, please visit our Meditation Resources Homepage. If you would like to learn more about yoga and yogic wisdom school teachings, or if you would like to discover more about the spiritual path of yoga, about yoga teachers or yoga schools, please visit our Yoga Resources Homepage.
Gung Hay Fat Choy!
The Lunar New Year is known in China as The Spring Festival. According to the Wikipedia's comprehensive account of the 15 day Chinese New Year festival, "in ancient China, the nian, a man-eating beast from the mountains, could silently infiltrate houses to prey on humans. The people later learned that the nian was sensitive to loud noises and the color red, so they scared it away with explosions, fireworks and the liberal use of the color red. These customs led to the first New Year celebrations. Guo nian, which means to celebrate the new year, literally means the passing of the nian beast".
The first day of the Chinese lunar year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February and always begins on the New Moon. On the Chinese calendar, 2007 is Lunar Year 4704-4705. On the Western calendar, the start of the New Year falls on February 18, 2007- The Year of the Fire Pig.
If you were born in 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983 or 1995 - you were born under the sign of the pig. The pig is highly regarded for chivalry and pureness of heart. For pigs in 2007, any recent setbacks or obstacles can be overcome so look forward to a year in which to really shine, either personally or professionally.
According to Chinese Astrologer Richard Giles, "Each year, the elemental influence of the year changes, and this year we will experience a combination of Fire and Water. There are Five elements in the Chinese system: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water, with each successive element supporting the next. Across the five, however, they clash and Fire and Water do not sit well together. This year the element is Yin Fire, which is more powerful than Yang Fire. Yin Fire symbolizes emotions, tension, agitation and illusions. Underneath is Yin Water. Resulting from this combination will be many conflicts over politics, government and also authorities imposing their will onto the people. Yin Fire is also very explosive and symbolizes firearms. The AK47 assault rifle, a deadly weapon, was designed and began production in 1947, the last Fire Pig year."
Richard says that the forecast for "2007 is a mixed one with the year being ruled by the Fire element in Chinese and the Pig being ruled by Water element. With Fire and Water together it's going to be a struggle, as one is inimically the enemy of the other. Fire is on top this year with Water below - and Fire cannot burn without support. When Fire and Water clash, they either result in lots of scalding hot steam and explosions or they can transform whatever situation it was into something completely different."
"Previous Fire Pig years have been very dangerous, with much political to-ing and fro-ing, plus lots of upheavals. Other Fire Pig years were 1947 and 1887. In 1947 the separation of India and Pakistan took place and, although it was negotiated well, the two countries tried to move 4 million Hindus and Muslims between borders. By the end of the year, the two were at war."
In this tumultuous year of the Fire Pig, may each of you receive the Grace and Guidance you require to achieve your highest spiritual goals, just as Suswara did on Shivatri thousands of years ago! May you each have love in your life, and may that love grow and deepen into contact with the Source of Divine Love that sustains the Universe.
Top Satya Center Stories of the Week
"Traveling with the Big Dipper", by Taoist Healer Claire C. Cunneen, is a poetic reminiscence of a transcendent moment spent communing with the stars while traveling at 30,000 feet in a hermetically sealed flying machine -- proof that we can connect with nature even in the most unnatural of surroundings.
"As a natural energy cultivator and practicing Chi healer, I have practiced for a long time communing directly with nature to find deep knowledge, support, inspiration and healing, and I continue to find inexhaustible bounty in the energies of the sun, moon and stars, mountains, rivers, trees, rocks and simple hills," Claire explains. "However, this travel with the Big Dipper allowed for a profound recognition that the natural sky may help all of us strengthen our personal 'axis' and cultivate the natural universal wisdom that is so urgently needed at this time."
"Go With the Flow", by Washington, D.C. based astrologer and political commentator Nancy Sommers, analyzes Bush's failing Iraq strategy and pinpoints coming political flashpoints using astrology.
"Unfortunately, the Bush administration's present policy in Iraq is much like an attempt to force a river to reverse course," Nancy explains. "Disbanding the militias, trying to prevent the growing partnership between the Shia majority and its natural ally Shiite Iran, and refusing to acknowledge the increasing separation of the three indigenous ethnic groups are all policies doomed to failure. They each push fruitlessly against the momentum of events."
"Hope I Die Before I Get Old: Understanding Muslim Extremism", by international peace activist, healer and visionary Palden Jenkins, brings a first-hand account of the positive side of the political ferment occurring on the Arab street and in the Arab bazaar throughout the Middle East. If we are to have peace between America and Muslim countries, we must, above all, attempt to understand what is going on in those countries from the point of view of the great mass of their people, especially the youth, who outnumber the members of the authoritarian ruling classes who rule these aging gerontocracies. Although it is unreported in the Western media, there is hope, and a deep desire for change, and for peace, among disaffected Muslim youth around the world.
"To Westerners preoccupied with terrorism and insurgency - that is, assaults on our sense of order and control - what is not seen is the revival of love, humanity and spirituality lying behind Middle Eastern movements at the grassroots level," says Palden.
"Damazhon Mojo", by Mongolian Native-American Shaman Jade Wah'oo Grigori, explains how healers in his tradition of Neo-Archaic Ecstatic Shamanism work with nature spirits to help people live better lives.
"Damazhon are Spirits that typically flit about around those places we recognize as being sacred: springs, caves, vortices and the like," Jade recounts. A Shaman creates a Damazhon Mojo to help recipients find their path in life, for vitality, clarity, health, or spiritual protection.
"You're Doubtful About America's Moral Degradation? Did You See Those Superbowl Ads?" by philosopher and author Andrew Bard Schmookler, tackles the thorny cultural issue of advertising's negative effects on the American psyche.
Andrew asks, "Did you watch the ads on the Super Bowl? With a few exceptions, it seemed to me, these ads constituted a barrage of high-violence, high-conflict, occasionally sadistic mini-dramas, conveying the idea that life is war and cruelty and cheating are funny, or at least the way of the world."
Your editor Curtis Lang has posted three new stories about Reiki, the Japanese system of spiritual advancement and energy healing that has taken America ï¿½C and the world ï¿½C by storm the last few years.
Reiki practitioners and all those interested in learning more about this exciting practice will enjoy reading:
"What is Reiki"
"The History of Reiki"
and "Meditations on The Five Reiki Principles"
We are honored to introduce a new Sound Healer Practitioner who has joined the Satya Center community of healers in our alt.healer directory. Meet Deborah Thurlow, musician, recording artist & certified Sound Healer who practices in New Jersey. Deborah says, "Being a musician has enhanced my ability to work with the frequencies of the tuning forks. My intentions are to make you feel good in both body and spirit."
Top Spiritual Stories From Around the Web
Jesus' Last Words to the Church
BY REV. JOHN DEAR
This past spring, I received an invitation to meet the organizer of the National Prayer Breakfast, an evangelical Christian organization that brings together the president, members of Congress and the Supreme Court, and virtually every putative Christian in the government.
Mother Theresa famously addressed the gathering in the early '90s and fiercely denounced abortion. This year, Bono gave an equally forceful address, calling upon the government to end AIDS, HIV and extreme poverty in Africa.
There was some discussion that they might invite me to speak. Unlikely. An ex-con and long-time anti-war activist, they'll never tolerate my addressing the evangelicals in the government about the Gospel of Jesus.
Nonetheless, I was glad to meet the coordinator- for decades Billy Graham's assistant and organizer- because I heard such good things about him.
He felt passionately about the Gospel of Jesus. Turns out, he had spent a great deal of time with Mother Theresa and made retreats at the Abbey of Gethsemani- two things we shared in common. I liked him immensely.
But what does one say to such a prestigious Christian? I heard he had a few things to discuss, but I wanted to get right to the point. We shook hands and I asked him, "As the soldiers approached Jesus in the Garden of Gesthemani, what last words did he say to the church?ï"
My new friend looked at me. He didn't know.
"Put down the sword." Jesus spent his life teaching and practicing creative nonviolence, I explained. He commanded us to love our enemies and become blessed peacemakers.
The Greening of the Self
Macey, Joanna 1991 World as Lover, World as Self,
Parallax Press, Berkeley. ISBN 0-938077-27-9
Extract of: The Greening of the Self from "World as Lover World as Self" Joanna Macey
Something important is happening in our world that you are not going to read about in the newspapers. I consider it the most fascinating and hopeful development of our time, and it is one of the reasons I am so glad to be alive today. It has to do with what is occurring to the notion of the self.
The self is the metaphoric construct of identity and agency, the hypothetical piece of turf on which we construct our strategies for survival, the notion around which we focus our instincts for self-preservation, our needs for self-approval, and the boundaries of our self-interest. Something is shifting here.
The conventional notion of the self with which we have been raised and to which we have been conditioned by mainstream culture is being undermined. What Alan Watts called "the skin-encapsulated ego" and Gregory Bateson referred to as "the epistemological error of Occidental civilization' is being unhinged, peeled off. It is being replaced by wider constructs of identity and self-interest-by what you might call the ecological self or the eco-self, co-extensive with other beings and the life of our planet. It is what I will call "the greening of the self.'
At a recent lecture on a college campus, I gave the students examples of activities which are currently being undertaken in defense of life on Earth-actions in which people risk their comfort and even their lives to protect other species. In the Chipko, or tree-hugging, movement in north India, for example, villagers fight the deforestation of their remaining woodlands. On the open seas, Greenpeace activists are intervening to protect marine mammals from slaughter. After that talk, I received a letter from a student I'll call Michael. He wrote:
I think of the tree-huggers hugging my trunk, blocking the chain saws with their bodies. I feel their fingers digging into my bark to stop the steel and let me breathe. I hear the bodhisattvas in their rubber boats as they put themselves between the harpoons and me, so I can escape to the depths of the sea. I give thanks for your life and mine, and for life itself. I give thanks for realizing that I too have the powers of the tree-huggers and the bodhisattvas.
What is striking about Michael's words is the shift in identification. Michael is able to extend his sense of self to encompass the self of the tree and of the whale.
Plants With Eyes - A completely mesmerizing video! You'll feel like you are meeting your green neighbors for the first time...and you'll realize they appear to be sentient beings just like you!
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
A Human Approach to World Peace
By His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
I am sure that many people share my concern about the present worldwide moral crisis and will join in my appeal to all humanitarians and religious practitioners who also share this concern to help make our societies more compassionate, just, and equitable. I do not speak as a Buddhist or even as a Tibetan. Nor do I speak as an expert on international politics (though I unavoidably comment on these matters). Rather, I speak simply as a human being, as an upholder of the humanitarian values that are the bedrock not only of Mahayana Buddhism but of all the great world religions. From this perspective I share with you my personal outlook - that:
1. Universal humanitarianism is essential to solve global problems;
2. Compassion is the pillar of world peace;
3. All world religions are already for world peace in this way, as are all humanitarians of whatever ideology;
4. Each individual has a universal responsibility to shape institutions to serve human needs.
Published on 5 Feb 2007 by Transition Culture. Archived on 5 Feb 2007.
Peter Russell on life after oil, change and consciousness:
Living in the Age of Spiritual Emergency
by Rob Hopkins
What do you see as being the key aspects of the challenge facing us?
I see a key challenge is the psychological challenge, the mental challenge of making those inner adjustments. How do we let go of the habitual ways of doing things, let go of past way of solving problems to look at things with completely fresh eyes, because I think we're going to be in completely new situations which we've never encountered before and the ways of the past are not really appropriate.
So I think that ability to let go, to really think afresh, is going to be absolutely critical. And that's really challenging, because we don't know how to do it, and it's scary. And with that, I think also, how do