Some readers emailed me the following questions:

Tilaka

I have seen many wearing a chandan and kumkum tilaka on their agnya chakra.
What is the significance of wearing a chandan tilak on the upper part of the forehead and a kumkum tilaka at the agnya?

Traditionally, a tilaka is a symbol. A symbol of auspiciousness, a stamp of commitment, a declaration of belief and confidence. In all religious ceremonies of sanātana dharma, a tilaka, a mark on the forehead, and a mauli, the sacred thread, form an integral part of them. Socially, the wife puts a red tilaka on her forehead to declare her marital status along with an implicit commitment to the relationship of marriage. The maiden wears it to accentuate her beauty while quietly declaring her self-confidence. Religiously, the tilaka of various sects are different, a sign that allows them to recognize each other. A Shaivite may wear the tripuṇda, a Vaishnavite, the urdhav tripuṇda, and a Shakta, just the round circle. Each sect also seems to have a philosophy behind it.

An adept however puts it on for different reasons. The saguṇa upāsaka, worshipper of form, wears the tilaka as a reminder. It affords him the constant memory that he is a śarṇāgatī, a refugee, of his Ishta. The Nirguṇa upāsaka, worshipper of the formless, puts it on his ajῆa cakra, the sacral psychoneurotic plexus on the glabella pinpointing the location of the chakra. It helps him in achieving better concentration.

The aforementioned are text book reasons. But that is not why I wear it. I put two marks on my forehead. One of kumkuma, vermillion, on my glabella and the second one of candana, sandalwood, higher above. The bottom one is to honour Śri, the Cosmic Mother, and the top one, Harī. The bottom one can be taken for Rādhā, Parā Śakti, or Prakriti. And the top one for Krṣṇa, Śiva, or Purῡṣa. Please let me sound out loud that there is absolutely no difference between any of these.

They are simply different forms of the same God. I have used multiple names so you can relate to it based on your own system of faith. For ease, you can think of the feminine aspect (shakti) as the left side of your body and the masculine, as the right side. Together they make up the complete body. But even more than honoring, I do it out of my bhāva for my Ishta. Almost like dressing up for my deity. There is another reason; I can only share that in person. Whenever we meet, please remind me and I will bring it to light.

Commentary on Saundarya Lahiri

Namaste Swamiji, We all have been reading your posts regularly and are highly inspired by them. May I request a topic for some blog posts? If you could take a specific scripture and do a bhashya / commentary and enlighten us? We are fortunate that you can guide us on the scriptures with experiential knowledge. We would be very happy if you could take Saudarya Lahari to begin with. If you could take 5 shlokas per session we would cover it in 20 blogs. Pranam and deep gratitude.

Your suggestion is noble. There are tens of commentaries already available on Saundarya Lahiri, Waves of Beauty, though. I may not have much new to say other than what has already been written on the text, critically or otherwise. Personally, I think it will be better to expose seekers to a system of discovery instead. Following such a system will allow them to discover their own truth. Each of the one hundred verses in Saundarya Lahiri has a prayoga, application, its own yantra, the mystical drawing, and a vidhi, the process of invocation.

To an upāsaka of Sri Vidya, I am willing to share some of the esoteric secrets and crucial points that raise the probability of success. Briefly as much as personally, I find the Lalitā Sahasranama more than enough. The one hundred eighty-one verses of the Sahasranama can help you achieve just about everything you can possibly imagine. That combined with the Mula vidya, the primary mantra of the Goddess with the Sri Yantra and her invocation with the Sri Suktam is all that is required to see miracles unfold before your very eyes. Such things can only be passed on verbally in the time-honored tradition of the guru to the disciple or from a Siddha to a sādhaka.

To the one who is established in Her bhāva, no apparatus or paraphernalia are required. promptly grants Her vision to those who may know nothing about the system of worship but want nothing else except Her. However, please allow me to reiterate, if you want a vision of your deity, you must be prepared to put in a rigorous effort at the initial stages.

After the end of the beginning of your sādhana, the real meaning of the hundred verses of Saundarya Lahiri will emerge. Why, you will actually experience the waves of ānanda, bliss, and saundarya, beauty. And that, my dear, is going to be a far gratifying, fulfilling and lasting experience than a cognitive grasp of the text. I hope you agree; if not, please feel free to comment back with your thoughts. It is an important subject matter.

Celestial Music

Music is such bliss that it can change moods. How does this music link with the spiritual world and what role does it play? Some use it for meditation.
In one of your recitals you mentioned the sound of the gandharvas. Please could you describe it if possible, and please explain how one can feel or experience it. How do you link the Ghandarva music to the music we hear around us.

If I start narrating my experiences about hearing the music of the Gandharva, elves, most will label me a nut case. Not that it matters, fortunately. Merely documenting my experiences, I think, maybe even wrongly, is not going to accomplish much for anyone. I am happy to share such experiences in a personal setting, in a face-to-face conversation.

I can elaborate on this topic when underscored by a bond of faith between the audience and myself; where I feel that it is going to inspire the seeker. In fact, I would rather show them the actual path so they can experience, verify, and validate it themselves. Reading up on any music, however human or divine, is a poor use of one’s time. Why not go for the actual experience itself! And if you are desperate to experience it, please become a worthy recipient of it first. That requires working on self-purification and self-transformation.

Until such time that you are able to be one with the music inside you, learn to listen and enjoy — not just hear — the music outside. The celestial music inside is called anāhata nāda, the unstruck sound; a priceless yogic experience. It can be experienced by anyone who can commit to the practice of quality meditation for one year. Of such one year, six months must be fully dedicated to the discipline. 

Please know that unless you put in the effort, there are going to be no real experiences. And I am happy to play a broken record: you must sow the seeds of an intense effort to partake of the fruits of anything even remotely close to the ones you are aspiring to.

Hare Krishna
Swami