|| Swami Ayyappa and Sabarimala Pilgrimage ||
:: Pilgrimages that deepen Awareness ::
Our ancient masters have inculcated mind and body purification practices to deepen Awareness through enjoyable rituals and pilgrimages. One such yearly pilgrimage, is Sabarimala in Kerala. Ayyappa is the deity in Sabarimala and this temple is visited by men of all ages but restricted to women of age group of 12 to 55. One of the reason is that women at this age group has to take care of the family when men observe this 41 day ritual every year.
:: What is the need of Sabarimala pilgrimage? ::
The importance of pilgrimage is to transcend to Awareness state, the Source of Healing and all other creativeness. The mind because of its wandering nature, tries often to be away from its pure Awareness state. Through rituals and practices (Sadhana) the wandering mind is brought to the state of awareness and finally realize Consciousness, the ultimate aim of life.
To achieve this the mind and body should be purified and finally the Ego has to transcend to Awareness state and realize the pure Consciousness. The various practices and rituals to purify mind and body and the practice of abstinence to transcend from the realm of Ego to the Atma is all beautifully integrated in this pilgrimage. This should be clearly understood, otherwise it will remain as a meaningless torture to the body and mind.
:: What does the form of Ayyappa symbolize? ::
The very form of Ayyappa is very symbolic and denotes the principles of Vedas.
The whole body (foundation) rest on his feet that represents perfection attained by the strict discipline of mind. In Vedic culture, importance is given to the feet of a great person. Feet represents the principle on which the great person stands. It is the principle (Dharma) that had made the person great and he stands on that great principle. We are not prostrating before the mortal body of the person, but we are actually worshipping the highest principle on which that great person stands. Same way the feet of Lord Ayyappa represents that great Dharma obtained by the strict discipline of mind, on which Ayyappa stands.
His sitting posture reflects that of a Yogi, one who has mastered the Self. A black belt around his legs anchorages the wandering mind and the color black represents complete with drawl or absorption to inwards. The color of an object is due to its ability to absorb one or many colors in light spectrum and reflect the rest. Black represents complete absorption of all colors.
Hands represent action and his hands are in a state of inaction (which means witnessing) and one hand in fearless posture, shows a mind that is free from the clutches of the Ego. Ego controls the mind by inculcating different types of fear.
When there is no fear and the mind is drawn internal, there is Awareness of the thoughts. This Awareness then witness everything as shown in the picture below. This witnessing finally transcends to the bliss of pure Consciousness.
Thus there are three aspects, the Consciousness (Sath) and Awareness (chit) and the bliss (Ananda) and therefore Ayyappa is called as Sath-Chit-Ananda or Sacchidananda. He represents all these three states of Consciousness, Awareness and Ananda.
:: Symbolism of Ayyappa ::
Ayyappa represents the state of a Yogi in Sath-chith-ananda. Why Ayyappa is called the son of Vishnu and Shiva? Vishnu is the witnessing Consciousness (sath) and shiva is the acting awareness (chith). Witnessing is static witnessing, while Awareness is in dynamic action.
Ayyappa is in the sitting posture to denote the two aspects of life, action (dynamic) and inaction (silent static witnessing), as told in Bhagavad Gita. Sitting posture is neither in action (Awareness) nor in-action (Consciousness). Our true nature is witnessing Consciousness, but for Consciousness to witness to happen, Awareness (action), takes a form of a body (matter). But in the body form we are always think that we are just the body and mind. We never realize that Awareness is behind all the action of life and our true nature (Atma) is that witnessing Consciousness.
We have taken a human form to experience our true nature that is Consciousness. Unfortunately we always identify with the body form and forget that our true nature is Consciousness. This ignorance of our own real self, causes us to discard the old body (death) and take new body form (birth) again and again. This endless birth and death is called Samsara. An exit out of this roller coast ride happens, when we realize our true Self, which is Brahman or Consciousness. This exit is called Moksha or liberation, salvation etc.
~ Om Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa ~