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his Vedic hymn expresses the innermost urge   ment of sanyasa or renunciation, and He is adored as
                Tfor immortality that abides in the hearts of all   the embodiment of auspiciousness and gentleness.
           men. Life is a continuous struggle to overcome death       Finally, according to the mystic stories of the
           and to win immortality. Every action, every experi-   Puranas, Lord Shiva has a third eye, which, although
           ence, and every condition of life are phases of one’s   normally closed, is opened when needed to carry out
           evolution leading to the shining sea of immortality,   His Divine destruction. According to the Puranic  story,
           beyond the darkness and delusion of the world-process.  this great Deity was once practicing intense austerity
                This hymn, adoring Lord Shiva, was revealed      and meditation and was in deep samadhi. At that time,
           to the ancient seers during their long hours of com-  Cupid God with his army of temptations came to dis-
           munion with the Self. The lotus of divine experience   tract Shiva from that samadhi. After they had unsuc-
           bloomed in the clear lakes of their hearts, inspiring   cessfully exercised all their charm and power, Cupid
           them to compose this verse and many other verses      finally discharged his flowery arrow at Lord Shiva.
           abounding in the Vedas, and to present them to the    Lord Shiva opened His two eyes and looked around.
           world as keys to open the secret treasures of mystic   Then He opened His third eye and fire flashed from
           values.                                               His forehead, burning the Cupid God who was hiding
                It is called Maha-Mrityunjaya Mantra, meaning    in the bushes. Since then, according to the story, the
           a mystic verse that is the great conqueror of death.   Cupid God exists in an invisible form. Shiva’s third
           Maha means great, Mrityu  means death, and Jaya       eye, as indicated figuratively in the story, is symbolic of
           means  victory. Any method  that  prolongs life  is a   intuitive vision, which destroys ignorance, the source
           conqueror of death. However, this mantra is called    of desire and the cause of the world-process.
           great conqueror because when it is repeated with deep      Although Maha-Mrityunjaya Mantra is generally
           understanding and feeling, it confers Liberation—the   described as the remover of obstacles and the prolon-
           complete cessation of birth and death.                ger of life, when you meditate on the mantra’s deeper
                Lord Shiva is the Absolute Self presented in a   meaning and adore the Self in the form of Lord Shiva
           personified form. Like all forms of Divinity revealed   with profound understanding, you will attain no less
           by Sages, Shiva’s form is a highly mystical and poetic   than the highest goal of life: Liberation. Let us then
           representation of the Absolute. His head is generally   study the Mantra word by word and reflect upon its
           covered with matted locks, which represent mysteries   deeper meaning:
           of spiritual life. They also denote the chains of Hima-
 Maha-Mrityunjaya Mantra  layan Mountains that symbolically represent chains of         Om
           spiritual thought, the sublime thoughts that arise out
           of profound meditation.                                    Om is not an essential part of this Mantra, but it
                Further, Lord Shiva has the stream of Ganges     has been added to enhance its effect. Om is the symbol
           flowing from His head. That stream represents wis-
 Om Tryambakam Yajaamahe Sugandhim Pushti Vardhanam  dom. He also holds on His forehead a crescent moon,   of the Absolute or God, and it is a mystic formula for
                                                                 invoking that Supreme Self.
 Urvaarukamiva Bandhanaan Mrityor Muksheeya Maa Amritaat  which is the symbol of mastery over the mind. The
           mind, in most people, goes on waxing and waning;
           but in Lord Shiva, it remains a crescent shape all the
 “We adore the Supreme, who is the possessor of the three   time. It is eternally under control.  Tryambakam
                The snakes on Shiva’s body represent psychic
 eyes and the three energies, who is the enhancer of fragrance and   powers, and the ashes from cremation grounds that   Tryambakam means the three-eyed Deity. As dis-
 nourishment. May we be liberated from the meshes of death, as   cover Him remind one of the mighty power that destroys   cussed above, Lord Shiva is portrayed as having three

 a fruit is liberated from the bondage of creeping vines, and may   the world-process by the fire of wisdom. Although   eyes. Two eyes see the practical reality of the world. The
                                                                 third eye transcends this world, representing intuitive
 we be led to immortality.”  some artists portray Lord Shiva, the Destroyer of the   vision that destroys the world process. So Lord Shiva
           universe, as a terrifying personality—a ghostly being
           decked with ashes from cremation grounds with ghosts   has three eyes, implying that although He sustains this
                                                                 practical world and looks after all the practical realities
           as His attendants—to aspirants Shiva is the embodi-

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