This tribute and account of how his father Raja Deekshithar is his inspiration and how he initiated him in the sadhana by his eldest son Kandhan was first published in NAMARUPA Categories of Indian Thought, 4 Issue 12 Volume 03 in 2010
My name is Kandhan and Raja Deekshithar is my father. He was a really cool father to me. He gave me so many wonderful directions for my life. My brothers and my sister and I, and of course also our mother, miss him so very much. He always knew the answer to so many questions, he always directed us on our life path. He lived with a cool head and always guided so many people, not only for spiritual things, but also for their personal life and careers.
His life was most unusual. He was Deekshithar. Deekshithars are unique. We are one family living the traditions of the temple of the Dancing Shiva in Chidambaram, India. We live with Lord Nataraja’s Grace and we follow Baudhayana Maharishi Sutram. The Chidambaram Mahatmyam, the story of the temple, tells that we came on earth to serve Lord Nataraja and Mother Sivakamasundari in the month of Thai, on a Thursday when the full moon resided in the lunar mansion Pusam. We are considered to be initiated by birth, that is the meaning of the name ‘Deekshithar’. He followed the Deekshithar dharma but he also took his own personal path. This directed him to communicate with the West and to search for the deeper meaning of his life and tradition. His great motivation was to share his knowledge. And he also always directed us and shared his knowledge with us.
Our life was and is so very different from that of other Deekshithar children. Father always encouraged us but never forced us. He always talked to us about his life and his experiences. In this way he directed us and supported us. One of the great spiritual things he did during his life was to perform special meditation and japam at the time of a solar and lunar eclipse. In the Hindu tradition the time of an eclipse is very special and auspicious because during an eclipse all spiritual practice is especially powerful. The key to this is told in the purana of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk.
The Devas and Asuras both wished to obtain the amrita, the nectar of immortality. For this they had to churn the Cosmic Ocean of Milk. The snake Vasuki became the churning rope and mount Mandara the churning stick. The Devas pulled on one side, while the Asuras pulled from the other. Many treasures rose from the churning, but also the terrible poison which was swallowed by Lord Shiva. The last treasure to appear was Lord Dhanvantari with the vessel of amrita in his hand. A struggle for the amrita ensued between the Devas and Asuras. Drops of amrita fell in four places on earth. Then Vishnu took the shape of Mohini, the divine enchantress, and diverted the attention of the Asuras while the Devas took each a little bit of amrita. But at last one Asura took the form of a Deva and took a sip of amrita. He was found out by the Sun and the Moon and they betrayed him. Vishnu cut of his head, he became Rahu and Ketu who now chase the Sun and Moon across the sky and swallow them, occasionally causing eclipses. Therefore the time of an eclipse is a time of powerful spiritual energy and many sadhakas practice special meditation during this time.
My father was not only a father to me, but also initiated me and was as a guru to me. The goddess Bhuvaneshvari is our family goddess. My grandfather was a great Shakta Upasakar. My father also followed this all his life. One of his greatest spiritual achievements was the performing of Shri Bhuvaneshvari Yajna during the time of a solar eclipse. While I was growing up I experienced how he achieved so many great things through his spiritual practice, through his japam. For instance I myself was born a little over nine months after he performed the Sata Chandi Yajna in the temple of Tillai Ambal in Chidambaram in 1977. I admired him very much so when I grew up I also wanted to follow his path.
On January 23, 2003 he initiated me with a special mantra for Lord Ganesha and the goddess Bhuvaneshvari mantra. He chose this day because it was a special day in the auspicious month of Thai of the Tamil calendar. From that time I have been continuously chanting my mantras with his guidance and lessons.
In 2004 I performed for the first time the japam and meditation during an eclipse. Later, on several occasions, my father, my second brother Jayakumar, and I also did it together. We would go to the Shivaganga, the sacred tank of the temple, and begin at the moment of the first touch. We would first take a ritual bath and perform our Sandhyavandana, chanting the Gayatri mantra. Then we sat with the water up to our necks and began our japam. Japam means we repeat a specific mantra for a specific number of times. Spiritual practice for us has two goals. By chanting a mantra toward one’s chosen deity after having been initiated by a guru and doing japa regularly with love and devotion a person can become spiritually illuminated. One can also direct the spiritual energy towards some benefit in one’s life. My father taught me how to use the rudraksha mala, a rosary of small seeds sacred to Shiva, for the japam. We rotate the beads toward us, as the energy has to go inside, one bead for every one time we chant the mantra. When the eclipse is the at its highest point, we take another bath, and one more after the eclipse is finished. Also one of the processional murtis, one form of Shiva, is brought to the tank and also takes a ritual bath after the eclipse is completed.
Other people will also perform special japam and meditation at the time of an eclipse, but few will sit up to the neck in water. My father explained to me that the water is a soft conductor. All energy travels easily through water. Water cleanses and also strongly conducts energy. This is the reason sitting in the water makes one’s practice even more effective.
People who are not performing any sadhana will stay inside the house during an eclipse. Some will take a bath and worship in a temple after an eclipse. During an eclipse the main sanctum in temples will stay closed and no rituals will take place because it is an auspicious but also a dangerous time from the point of view of the spiritual practice. We protect drinking water and also food supplies by putting a small piece of Dharba grass in the vessels and containers.
My father is in every way a great inspiration and example for me. How he lived his life is a most wonderful story. I always used to enjoy so much when he told me about his dreams, his many adventures and his achievements. So what I and my brothers want to do is to carry his spirit forward, to keep his memory alive, and to live the spiritual path he showed us.
13 September 2010
Kandhan Raja Deekshithar