As I Know: The Lord of the Mountains – Shiv Purana: 14
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Holy ashes, Rudraksa and japa of Shiva’s name blesses a devotee and no sin ever assails and if he chants lord’s holy name, it quells sins and he attains a divine status that frees him from worldly bondages… the holy and sanctifying impact of Bhasma
Suta also speaks about the magnificence of holy ashes, Rudraksa and different names of Shiva for the benefit of brahmins. Those, who keep in mind and mouth the name of Shiva, feel blessed and attain happiness, and sins never visit them. Uttering the name Shiva destroys sins as if it were temple or holy center of the great lord and so it yields benefit of holy centers. Shiva’s sacred name, ashes and beads of Rudraksa are holy and equal to the confluence of holy rivers – Triveni. The triveni exercises influence on the body and is a rare blessing of the lord as it washes away sins. Sans these divine ornaments, a man is a sinner, for Shiva’s name is equal to Ganga, ash is at par with Yamuna, Rudraksa is equal to Saraswati and these destroy all sins, Brahma says, and therefore, Brahma, Vishnu and the gods of heavens wear the three insignia of the great lord and so are ever blessed.
Shiva knows the greatness of the three – name, ashes and rudraksa. The Holy Scriptures, the Vedas and Puranas carry the mysterious greatness and glory of the three as the these destroy all sins. Japa of Shiva’s name reduces to ashes all sins Sutaji tells. He, who chants lord’s name, is the real knower of the Vedas, a mystic Atma and a blessed soul. If japa of holy name of Shiva carries sacred rituals, it gives instant reward, destroys sins and the root cause of all sins, and makes worldly existence meaningful. Shiva’s japa is nectar for the distressed because it burns the sins like the blazing forest fire and bestows peace. In truth, constant whispering of Shiva’s name with purity of heart and mind, grants perfect liberation and the man is free from worldly sufferings. Therefore, persistent, astonishing and enthusiastic devotion to Shiva is a path to salvation, the great monk tells.
He further tells that sanctifying the body with the holy ashes and constant chanting of Shiva’s names blesses the devotees and so they get rid of the sufferings of worldly existence of pasas – bondages and attachment. It destroys all kinds of sins a man commits where even abusing wealth of a brahmin and killing do not hurt and a man is absolved of the sin. Therefore, holy ashes and japa of Shiva’s name is a path to final deliverance. Japa of Shiva’s name is a sure guarantee to sinner to get rid of life of sins and so the devotee shall obtain liberation.
Now, monk Suta on request speaks of the glory and blessing of sacred ashes – bhasma of two kinds i.e. Mahabhasma (the great ashes) and swalp (little) bhasma. Bhasma as categorised above are of different kinds and the use of sacred ashes is clearly specified, the monk tells. The great bhasma has three classes – Srauta – from the Veda, sruti, smarta – origin in smriti rites and laukika – ordinary ashes, which is for all people without chanting of mantras. The first two kinds of ashes belong to the Vedic traditions. The twice born make use of srauta and smarta ashes and they must apply on body through the chanting of mantra. For tripundra ashes of cow dung called fiery – Agneya are good. Ashes resulting from sacrificial rites are sacred and the wise men must collect, preserve and use it.
People from all varnas and ashramas can put on tripundra (on forehead) with japa of mantra or even without but with genuine reverence and purity of heart, the great saint Jabali says, tells Suta. Shiva, Vishnu, gods and goddess Uma and Laksmi all praise tripundra (three parallel line on forehead made with application of ashes). Brahmins, ksatriyas, vaisyas, sudras and varna-sankara and other people of mixed castes put ashes as tripundra on foreheads for its good and heavenly effect. Those who evince faith in tripundra etc. attain blessing of the lord. Its observance will assist a devotee gain and acquire knowledge of the great lord Shiva.
Suta also educates wise brahmins how to put ashes on forehead with devotion for its godly influence because it blesses the devotee with pleasures of life and ultimate moksa. Each line of tripundra (it has three lines of sacred bhasma-ashes) has nine gods, situated in all parts of the body and later, the great monk tells about the situation of gods in each part of the body in detail. Each letter – aksara of Pranava symbolises the gods and speaks of the greatness of it in the body – perhaps he emphasises that gods live in mortal frames and so, a man is an image of god and body if clean and pure, is truly the abode of gods.
Monk Suta tells sages that each limb of the body is a place of living of gods where deities like fire, water, earth, air, ten regions, ten dikpals and eight Vasus (Dhar, Dhruva, Soma, Aap, Anil, Anal, Pratyusha and Prabhashasa). It is good to put tripundra on forehead, brow, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, throat, hands, ankles, wrists, urus, heart, back, gulf knees, feet etc. for these parts of the body are abodes of gods. After performing sacred rites, the devotee, who is a realised soul should smear forehead with ashes even while chanting of mantra and application of bhasma frees him from all sins and wicked acts. White bhasma frees a devotee from sins he enjoys with the blessing of Shiva and after death, attains the primordial worlds. A devotee should smear forehead with bhasma and then, chant five-syllable mantra.
Even gods and asuras respect a man with tripundra on his forehead, he tells. Holy centers and rivers bless a devotee with Shiva’s knowledge, who smears forehead with ashes. A wise man applies bhasma, worships phallic image and engages in japa of six-syllable mantra. No god like Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra or sages can explain the glory of bhasma even if men of different varnas and ashramas apply it sans rituals but they are liberated from the sins if put tripundra on foreheads. It is sinful to exclude a man from holy rituals if he puts tripundra on forehead. Therefore, Suta continues to speak on the glory of wearing tripundra, for it blesses the man and releases him from the effects of wicked karmas and sins and so a devotee should put tripundra on specified parts of body he tells because these are abodes of gods and deities.
Each part of the body is abode of deities such as Ashwini Kumaras, Shiva, Shakti, Rudra, Esha and Narada and so we should worship them. He further tells that Shiva lives in the forehead, in hair Chandrama resides, and similarly Rudra and Brahma live in ears. Ganesha’s abode is the mouth. Vishnu and Laksmi, Shambhu, Prajapati, Nagas and daughters of Nagas, daughters of sages, oceans, mountains, vegetation and holy places of gods reside in arms, heart, navel, urus, knees, and feet and at the back.
Sage Suta specifies various parts of body where a devotee ought to put tripundra to get rid of wicked karmas and sins. If he adheres to rites, its affects are more effectual and immediate. A celibate, a householder, an ascetic, brahmin, men belonging to different varnas if put the holy tripundra on limbs of bodies get rid of sins and go to the land of Shiva. Bhasma, in truth liberates men from all sins of whatever nature these are and takes a devotee to the blessed lands of celestial beings where joy, pleasure and blessedness fill him.
Therefore, the great monk continues to glorify the application of bhasma and putting of tripundra on specified limbs of body and speaks of the divine influence of all on the devotee. He will live in joy and pleasure of the abodes of Brahma and Vishnu and then, will enjoy eternal bliss in Shiva’s land. Therefore, the sages after listening to the long discourse on Bhasma and Tripundra feel blessed and convey the message to the contemporary men that to know and understand the divine and ever generous and compassionate nature of lord Shiva grants liberation from all bondages mundane life imposes and creates.
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