Swami says: “life is a pilgrimage”. If life is a pilgrimage, then where do we start this pilgrimage and what is the destination? Swami provides a simple and yet profound answer to this complex question: It is an inward journey from the body to the soul
Our outermost layer is the physical body and just beneath it is the nervous system which connects our senses to our mind. A simple example: touch any part of your skin and feel how the sense of touch sends a message to your mind.
If you inquire deeper, you will find that there is an intellect that helps us discriminate and tells the mind how to react. For most of us, unaware of the soul, this is how deep we can go. But upon deeper inquiry and spiritual practices, you will hear a subtle voice that will guide this intellect. This is the inner voice, the voice of the spirit, the Atma [soul]. (Have you not heard this faint voice that warns you every time you are about to do something wrong?) This inward journey is our pilgrimage and the realisation of our Atma is our destination.
Swami urges us to practice mastery over the senses and control of desires as the senses prompt the mind to satisfy the needs and desires of the body. Therefore, our senses drag us outwards - towards body consciousness. The more we satisfy the whims and fancies of the senses, the more we are moving from soul consciousness to body consciousness i.e. we are moving backwards on this spiritual pilgrimage.
Once the senses are satisfied, we develop attachment to the objects that grant senses gratification and desires are in turn generated and proliferated for the senses to be satisfied again and again. This is how man develops attachment to pleasures of the world and thus the inward journey is hampered. Without an intellect which is pure and guided by the inner promptings of his soul, man falls an easy prey to his desires and forgets the purpose of his birth on earth.
Lord Shiva is referred to as Mrityum Jaya [Death Conqueror]. Does Shiva render us immortal by extending our lifetime? The answer is no. We all remember the story when Kamadev [The God of Desires] sent a beautiful lady to disturb the meditation of the Lord. Shiva was very angry at the behaviour of Kamadev and burned Kamadev to ashes. This destruction of Kamadev to ashes symbolises victory of the Lord over the senses and worldly desires.
Lord Shiva grants us freedom from Desires. Freedom from desires leads to detachment from worldly objects and detachment in turn leads to Liberation. The inner significance of the Vibhuti [sacred ash] that Swami materializes is also meant to remind us again and again of the need for mastery over the senses and control of desires. The mind is nothing but a bundle of desires and these desires create thoughts which generate unrest in the human mind. So when the desires are destroyed, the mind automatically becomes peaceful and ultimately disappears. Then one can live in constant peace and in the contemplation of atmic bliss.
Brother Subheer Ramnoruth