OM NAMAH SHIVAYA & THE ECOLOGY OF THE HIMALAYAS
Mt. Kailash & Mt. Nanda Devi: Two Great Sacred Sites
A couple of weeks ago a yoga friend said, "Om Namah Shivaya." I wondered what that mantra really means. The Maha Mantra (Hare Krishna Mantra) is one of the most popular of mantras, but Om Namah Shivaya is also another very popular Hindu mantra. With Shiva Ratri being celebrated on March 7th in the West, I thought it was an excellent time to look at this great mantra. Because Mount Kailash and Mount Nanda Devi are two sacred sites for Shiva and Parvati, I also think it is good to look at the ecology and effects of global warming on the Himalayas.
The phrase, "Om Namah Shivaya" is translated as "Prostrations to Lord Shiva." Each syllable of the mantra symbolizes an aspect of Lord Shiva. It is called the "Panchaakshara Mantra." It is believed that those who chant the mantra will be blissful in the true spiritual aspects of life.
"Na" is the first syllable in the mantra. It is connected with who and what Shiva does in the Universe. He is the Lord of Snakes, with the three eyes. The sun, moon and fire make up his third eye. All of us have a Third Eye. It is our intuitive center which helps us in every day. The whole Universe is Shiva's garments. He is in everything and everyone in the Universe. He is an aspect of the Hindu Trinity to do with destruction and re-generation.
"Ma" is the second syllable of the mantra. He has the Ganga River flowing through the locks of his hair. He is very connected to Mother Earth because of this situation. He is honored by offerings of Mandara and other flowers.
"Shi" is the third syllable of this mantra. This symbolizes the sun and his connection to Mother Parvati blossoming like a lotus in his presence. Nandi, the bull, is his carrier or vehicle. Mother Parvati, his beloved, is the Shakti or energy aspect of the Universe. He can not do anything without Her energy.
"Va" is the fourth syllable of the mantra. He is honored and worshiped by the great Rishis and Rishikas (female sages) also by the gods and goddesses and the devas (angels).
"Ya" is the final syllable of this powerful mantra. It symbolizes sacrifice. His famous bow is called the Pinaaka Bow. In the Ramayan Sri Ram was the one who broke the Bow of Shiva in the ceremony where Sita choose him to be her husband. In her childhood she played with this bow and carried it around her abode. Only avatars can carry or break this bow. It is too heavy for any human to lift without a lift or cart.
Ecology and respect for Mother Earth is a very important aspect of Hinduism. The Vedas are a collection of texts written by Rishis and Rishikas on various spiritual topics. Ecology is one of the main themes of these texts. The first explanation of the eco-system in a spiritual text is found in the Vedas.
Amma, the hugging saint of India, really loves Mother Earth and she is heavily involved with environmental projects as part of her ministry. She is famous for teaching "Om Namah Shivaya" to group of deaf and hard of hearing children. This shows the power of this mantra that even deaf children can learn such a mantra.
Amma says, "When we come to see a river as God, how will we dump toxic waste into it? When he see trees as manifestations of the Lord, how will we disseminate the forests? When we see the very air as Vayu Deva (wind spirit), how will we allow poisonous fumes from factories to fill it?"
Mount Kailash is worshiped by the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Bons. People from all these traditions circumvent the mountain several times during pilgrimages. This mountain is connected with Shiva and Parvati. Mount Nanda Devi (Goddess of Bliss) is Mother Parvati's sacred mountain. These two mountains are important sacred sites which need to be preserved for future generations.
Four great rivers are surrounding these sites. The Indus, the Brahmaputra, the Sutiej and the Karnali rivers all have their sources within 100 km (62 miles) of Mount Kailash and Mount Nanda Devi.
Keep in mind that there are many glaciers in the Himalayas. So many that this area is called the Third Pole. With global warming going on, there is less snow and less moisture for the crops. In some areas of the Himalayas, there is flash flooding which destroys fields, farms, trees and livestock. The Gangotri Glacier, which is the source of the Ganga, is melting quickly and is receding 20 to 23 miles per year. Drought comes at different times of the year and is getting worse because of global warming. According to Dr. Vandana Shiva, one of India's greatest ecological activists and scientists: "According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, the total area of glaciers in the Himalayas will shrink from 193,051 square miles to 38,000 by 2035." More people are effected by climate change in this area than any other population center. Millions live in this area. Plants, trees, birds and other animals are becoming extinct because of global warming. Each of us has a responsibility to take care of Mother Earth and preserve sacred sites and delicate ecosystems like the Himalayas and the poles.
We must further develop solar, wind and other alternatives to fossil fuels. Recycling and re-using is very important. It reduces landfills usage and air pollution of garbage burners. We have garbage burner in Minneapolis, so I recycle everything I can to reduce air pollution in North Minneapolis. Use natural products instead of chemical cleaning products. Our bathrooms have to stop being toxic waste dumps. Replace the chemical products with: baking soda, lemon or lime juice, salt, water, natural soaps, borax, bon ami, almond or olive oil, vinegar and essential oils. All churches, temples, mandirs and mosques need to recycle, use natural products and use alternative energy as much as possible. Solar can be used in the parking lot. Geothermal uses the heat of the Earth itself for heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. Non profits can save a lot on energy bills in the long term. Energy efficiency is important, but do it right. Do not use CFLS because they contain mercury and cause a disposal nightmare. Use LED and full-spectrum lighting instead. Using ceramic dishes is the best practice. Next best practice is composting paper products. Youth love to help out in these green projects. They are also being taught spiritual and Hindu values. When we encourage pollution, we encourage something very negative. It says it is okay to pollute. It is not okay to pollute.
This is Shiva Ratri. Really worship Shiva and Parvati by being more ecological in your every day life. Preserve their great sacred sites and the great delicate ecosystems of the Earth.
JAI SHRI SHIVA! JAI SHRI PARVATI! JAI SHRI MOTHER EARTH!