PUJA FOR GURUJI
Last night was the puja and prayer session for Pattabhi Jois at YogaNow.
It started at 9pm and concluded after midnight.
There was a beautiful altar of flowers, incense, candles, images of Guruji, and prasad.
The session began with us chanting Oms while the pujari (priest) did his slokas facing the altar.
Then Amy Beth played the harmonium, and led us in bhajans to Amma, Shiva and Ganesh.
Flowers and a turmeric-rice mixture were passed out to everyone in attendance.
Then we chanted the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra* 108 times. It is a prayer for healing and comfort (and is the one Nina Hagen is singing, above). As we began chanting each round, we took a small amount of the flowers/rice, and drew it up the center of the body and paused at the throat. Near the end we drew it towards the third eye and then tossed it at the altar as we finished. This was to help Guruji on to the next... segment.
Then we read things and gave recollections and offerings. I read something Suddha (who brought ashtanga to Chicago) had written, and some excerpts from this post. Amy Beth talked about how on her first trip to Mysore, she asked Guruji's advice for a personal problem. He told her to do headstand for 250 breaths. It worked.
Afterwords the pujari spoke a bit about death and how it's a transition, not an ending.
Next we sang another bhajan while he did something with fire and blessed the prasad (fruit and other sweet offerings, including wonderful home-made cookies and an amazing vegan chocolate cake from PH decorated with the words "Jai Guruji").
We all took the light, and some prasad.
Then we ate, and drank vegan chai sweetened with coconut milk.
It was very moving, very healing - and well worth staying up past my yogi bedtime.
I urge anyone else who can attend one of these to please do it.
If not for you, then for him.
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Since I had to teach Mysore class at 6:30 the next morning (and there's no parking after 10pm in my far-flung neighborhood), I stayed the night at the yoga center. I slept on one of the massage tables, and experienced deep, dreamless sleep (this was a very welcome after Wednesday's sleepless night due to yet more late-night loud music from the neighbors. I must find a sattvic place to live if I want to reach the Goal).
* * *
This morning I awakened and saw that the flame for Guruji, which must last for 11 days, was still going strong. Part of the altar is still in the main yoga studio, which was a comforting sight to wake up to.
There was a lot of leftover prasad (blessed sweets), so after teaching I brought some home. I'd heard that giving prasad to an animal can help them get a human birth in the next life, so I gave some to Kirby.
He ate it greedily.
And then he promptly threw it up.
All over the house.
Maybe he likes being a cat after all.
Mahamrityunjaya Mantra (from this website):
Mahamrityunjaya Mantra is a great mantra dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is called Maha Mritunjaya Mantra because it is a great death-conquering mantra. Sometimes it is also known as Mrita-Sanjivani Mantra. The Maha Mrityunjaya mantra is hailed by the sages as the heart of the Veda. This mantra holds the highest place along with the Gayatri Mantra among the many mantras used for contemplation and meditation.
It is believed that to overcome the fear of death, Lord Shiva himself gave humanity the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra. This mantra restores health, happiness and brings calmness in the period of death. When courage is blocked, it rises up to overcome obstacles. The Maha Mritunjaya Mantra is as follows:
"Aum Trayambakam Yajaamahey
Sugandhim Pushti Vardhanam
Mrutyor Muksheeya Maamritaat"
Meaning: Lord Shiva is the three eyed god. Shiva is always perfumed. He fosters all the creatures of the Universe. Lord Shiva releases from death for the sake of immortality, as cucumber detaches its bondage of the vine. We worship Lord Shiva to liberate us from death.
This mantra is really powerful and even regarded as a life saving prayer.