Bhakti Yoga and Shivaratri Celebration
Kirtan with Sitaramdass, Shemaia Skywater and more coming up this Saturday Night.
Bhakti, or devotional practice, is a path of yoga practice which is concerned with total surrender to the divine, or to energies larger than ourselves. It is also a celebration of life, as our every day experiences are laid at the feet of something larger than us. In some of the spiritual traditions of India, each person is said to have a special relationship with their individual or “Ishta Devata” the personal form of the ultimate reality, or God. The forms of the Gods and Goddesses are numerous, and the call and response chanting of the ancient names of these “Heavy” beings is a practice which can bring about ecstatic states. Gathering a community to raise our voices is, for many, a profoundly healing experience. In this tradition, it is less about having the “correct” belief, and more about the spirit of devotion, of the smallness of ourselves and handing our hearts over to the experience of one-ness with the divine, whatever form that takes.
This Saturday will mark the annual celebration of Shiva, Lord of Yoga and a beautiful symbol for the transmutation of all darkness. In some traditions, Shiva is known to be the name for what is the ultimate reality, the principle which can contain the paradoxical nature of existence within itself, the ultimate truth beyond words. In other traditions, Shiva symbolizes the destroyer being, who makes way for new life. Shiva has also been known as one who makes friends with all of the unwanted or undesirable beings, even with the most dangerous of animals and spirits, and death itself—with many devotees of Shiva meditating in the smashan or cemetery grounds, so that they can be free of all fear. For those of us who may have passed through a difficult trial, or maybe are currently in one of those dark transits, Shiva can be a comforting symbol of strength and non-attachment, one who can sit calmly with anything that comes to pass, secure in the knowledge of who we really are.
In one particularly beautiful story, and one of my favorites, Vishnu was said to be reclining on the back of the cosmic serpent, Adishesha, watching Shiva perform his perfect yogic Dance, such as we see in the Nataraj statue which is found on our altar. Vishnu was so enraptured by this beautiful dance he began to vibrate and pulsate in response, which disturbed the slumber of the serpent. When Adishesha saw that even Vishnu was moved by Shiva’s perfect cosmic dance, he begged the great being to allow him to incarnate in human form, so that he could too learn this dance.
Vishnu agreed, and in that moment a Yogini on earth named Gonika, who was praying on the banks of the Ganges for a son, offering oblations with her hands in prayer, found Adishesha had fallen into her cupped hands, in the form of a half snake, half man who the grew to be the great Sage Patanjali—responsible for penning arguably one of the most important and influential texts on Yoga philosophy, the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali.
Shiva has been a beautiful form of the divine for me personally, and I am really looking forward to joining Sitaramdass and Shemaia for a night of chanting and community, in honor of the Lord of Yoga and a being who inspires me to be fearless, to practice, and to find grace in the great dance of life. This event is a benefit for refugees worldwide, 100% of the funds from the door will be donated to the International Rescue Committee, an international NGO who helps refugees across the globe. More info at: www.rescue.org
$10-20 Suggested Contribution (no one turned away for lack of funds)
See you Saturday!