On the auspicious occasion of Skanda Shashti 2023, here are a few key insights into Skandopasana and how this is crucial and highly applicable for the current times.
Arunagirinathar’s Keys to Skandopasana
Arunagirinathar is revered as a great poet-saint who lived during the 15th century hailing from one of the panchabhuta sthala for agni tattva - Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India. Swami Arunagirinathar has bestowed six prominent works for the world to cherish - Thiruppugazh, Thiruvaguppu, Kandhar Andhaadhi, Kandhar Alangaram, Kandhar Anubhuti and Vel-Mayil-Seval Viruttham. Among them, Kandhar Anubhuti is regarded as a Mantra-Shastra - a treatise of mystic imports to get the “anubhuti” experience of Bhagavan Skanda.
Kandhar Anubhuti is also especially revered because it intricately blends Bhakti and Jnana, devotion and wisdom. Kandhar Anubhuti is a text of great importance to sincere seekers, for in it lies the tremendous potential to attain the Lord’s Feet through Sharanaagati. Among the various gems in Kandhar Anubhuti, verse #14 has the keys to perform Skandopasana through “Indriya Nigraha”.
பாடல் 14 ~ கைவாய் கதிர் கைவாய் கதிர்வேல் முருகன் கழல்பெற்று உய்வாய், மனனே, ஒழிவாய் ஒழிவாய் மெய் வாய் விழி நாசியொடும் செவி ஆம் ஐவாய் வழி செல்லும் அவாவினையே.May you attain by reaching the sacred feet of Kathirvel Muruga Oh mind, may you ascend as you renounce firmly the desires and actions arising through the five sense-organs - the body, the mouth, the eyes, the nose, and the ears
Arunagirinathar addresses the mind-field here. In the Indic traditions, it is clearly stated that you are inherently divine, where you are the all-pervading fundamental principle. One’s attainment is the fundamental realisation that one is the “Akshara Purusha” - the indestructible unborn eternal Self. Now, where is the center of one’s life experience? We see that what we consider to be “I” is predominantly the body-mind-emotion complex. All the anubhutimaans have clearly guided humanity to realize one’s true nature, which is certainly beyond one’s body-mind-emotion complex. One may wonder if there is “I” beyond the body-mind-emotion complex. All of us have an experience of the deep sleep state called “sushupthi” where we have experienced complete cessation of our body-mind-emotion complex. But the “I” did not cease to exist! Hence it is clear that our Masters and Siddhas are very right in pointing us to the fact that our current experience of life is limited. Being identified with the five-senses and the objects of their perception we seemingly have endless desires and actions that spring from them. Here Arunagirinatha Swamigal inspires the mind the aspire to attain to the feet of Lord Skanda. In that anubhuti, the mind-field drops the limited sensory auto-drive and is completely stilled!
Skandopasana by the entire family is highly beneficial for Dharma
The key Shashti Vrata in the Skanda tradition, undergoing padayatras, chanting the great seers’ texts, performing Agni Kriya and chanting maha-mantras are all key factors of the Skandopasana.
Skandopasana, a sacred practice within the Skanda tradition, holds profound significance for individuals and their families, offering a holistic approach to spiritual and ethical living. Rooted in the rich tapestry of Hindu philosophy, this ritual involves the entire family and encompasses various elements that contribute to the well-rounded development of an individual on the path of Dharma.
Central to Skandopasana is the observance of Shashti Vrata, a key ritual in the Skanda tradition. This practice involves dedicated worship and observance on the sixth day of each lunar month, honoring Lord Muruga, also known as Skanda. This devotion fosters a deep connection with the divine and aligns individuals with the principles of righteousness and virtuous living.
Engaging in padayatras, or spiritual journeys by foot, is another integral aspect of Skandopasana. These pilgrimages signify a physical and spiritual commitment to the path of righteousness. By undertaking these sacred journeys, individuals strengthen their resolve, cultivate humility, and deepen their connection with the divine.
Chanting the texts of great seers forms a crucial component of Skandopasana. These texts, often rooted in ancient wisdom, provide guidance on righteous living and ethical conduct. The resonance of these chants not only purifies the mind but also imparts timeless teachings that help individuals navigate the complexities of life with wisdom and discernment.
Performing Agni Kriya, or fire rituals, is a sacred practice aimed at purifying the mind, body, and spirit. The symbolic act of offering oblations into the sacred fire represents a transformative process, burning away impurities and paving the way for spiritual growth. This ritual aligns individuals with the higher purpose of life, transcending worldly concerns and fostering a sense of inner harmony.
Chanting maha-mantras, powerful and sacred sounds, is a cornerstone of Skandopasana. These mantras carry vibrational energy that elevates consciousness and facilitates a deeper connection with the divine. Through the repetition of these mantras, individuals attune themselves to higher spiritual frequencies, promoting inner peace and spiritual awakening.
Our seers have showed that அறம், பொருள், இன்பம், வீடு or Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth and prosperity), Kama (fulfillment of desires), and Moksha (liberation) are the four fold objectives or the very purpose of a human life. For fulfillment to be attained one must design our lives to accommodate activities on these four dimensions. Skandopasana paves the way for that. The practice encourages individuals to lead balanced lives, incorporating activities that address each of these dimensions. By embracing Skandopasana, families create a harmonious environment that nurtures spiritual growth, ethical conduct, and a sense of purpose.
In essence, Skandopasana is not merely a ritual but a comprehensive lifestyle that integrates spiritual practices into everyday living. It serves as a guiding light, steering individuals and their families towards a life of purpose, virtue, and transcendence. Through the cultivation of Dharma, individuals embark on a transformative journey that encompasses the entirety of human experience, leading to fulfillment on both material and spiritual planes.
Vel - Offers Powerful Kavacha to all
Lord Muruga with His Vel(spear) wrote a mantra on Arunagirinathar's tongue, gave him a japa mala and commanded him to sing songs on Him. The symbolism of Vel, the divine spear associated with Bhagavan Skanda, extends beyond its representation of dynamic action. It also serves as a powerful protective force, safeguarding not only individuals but entire societies from the detrimental influence of the shad-antar-ripus, the six inner enemies that pose significant challenges to spiritual and moral well-being.
Protection for the Country/Society:
In the broader societal context, the Vel is considered a symbol of protection for the entire community and the country. Bhagavan Skanda, as a guardian deity, is invoked to shield the collective from external threats and disturbances. The Vel's presence signifies the vigilance and readiness needed to defend the values and principles that form the foundation of a righteous society.
Protection for the Family: On a more intimate level, the Vel is revered for its protective influence on families. It symbolizes the strength and courage required to maintain familial harmony and shield loved ones from negative influences. By aligning with the dynamic energy of the Vel, individuals seek to create a secure and nurturing environment within their households. Its presence is believed to bring auspiciousness and guard against potential disruptions or disharmony. Communities turn to the Vel to ensure the smooth flow of social activities and to foster a sense of unity and well-being.
Protection for the Individual from Shad-Antar-Ripus: The six inner enemies, known as shad-antar-ripus, are formidable obstacles on the path of spiritual growth. The Vel is regarded as a potent weapon to combat these inner foes. Its symbolic significance lies in its ability to pierce through the veils of desire (kama), anger (krodha), greed (lobha), the sense of 'I' (mada), attachment (moha), and jealousy (matsarya). By seeking the protection of the Vel, individuals aim to overcome these internal challenges and progress on their spiritual journey.
The Vel serves as a multifaceted symbol of protection at different levels—individual, familial, and societal. Its association with Bhagavan Skanda emphasizes the dynamic and proactive approach needed to safeguard against both external and internal threats. By aligning with the protective energy of the Vel, devotees aspire to create a harmonious and secure environment, fostering spiritual growth and well-being on a collective and individual scale.
Essential Indriya Nigraha Steps for Skandopasakas
The practice described here is a profound form of devotion and meditation, incorporating elements of mindfulness, breath control, visualization, and mantra repetition to achieve "Indriya Nigraha" (control of the senses) during the observation of Bhagavan Skanda's murti in the temple. Let us break down the steps and elaborate on the significance of each:
1. Deep Breathing and Observing from Feet to Top: Inhaling slowly while observing the murti from the feet to the top signifies a conscious and deliberate intake of divine energy. This process allows devotees to connect with the spiritual essence embodied in the murti, promoting a sense of grounding and reverence. Exhaling as you observe from top to bottom represents the release of personal obstacles, negative thoughts, and distractions.
2. Arti or Deepa Aradhana with Breath Stabilization: During the arti or deepa aradhana, stabilizing the breath is essential for cultivating focus and concentration. By carefully visualizing the play of light on different parts of the murti, devotees enhance their connection with the divine form. This act not only deepens their understanding of the sacred presence but also serves as a form of meditation on the luminous aspects of the deity.
3. Dharana, Mantra Chanting, and Visualization: Closing the eyes for dharana involves fixing the mind on the form of Bhagavan Skanda. Chanting the given mantra while internalizing the visualized form reinforces concentration and devotion. The gradual disappearance of the visualized form signifies a transcendence of the physical and a deepening connection with the spiritual essence of the deity.
4. Opening Eyes and Observing Again: Opening the eyes to observe the murti once more after internalizing the form reinforces the integration of the spiritual experience with the physical presence of the deity. This step emphasizes the seamless connection between inner contemplation and external observation.
5. Internalizing and Offering Mantras and Pushpa Internally: Internalizing the divine form allows devotees to carry the essence of the spiritual experience within. Offering mantras and pushpa (flowers) internally symbolizes the devotion and surrender of one's inner self to the divine, creating a sacred and personal connection with Bhagavan Skanda.
Preparation through Vratas and Niyamas:
Undertaking vratas (observances) and niyamas (spiritual disciplines) such as padayatra, kavadi, and long chanting serve as preparatory steps for the deeper states of dharana and dhyana. These practices purify the mind, cultivate discipline, and create a conducive environment for profound spiritual experiences.
The described practice is a holistic approach to engaging with the divine through the murti of Bhagavan Skanda. It integrates breath control, visualization, mantra chanting, and devotion, providing a structured path for seekers to experience "Indriya Nigraha" and deepen their connection with the divine presence.
Skandaarpanam! Aum Tat Sat!