Land of Soma
Nature has already blessed us with abundant snowfall this winter. Throughout the country people have been blanketed in snow the past few weeks. Even those of us in sunny Arizona got a sprinkling of snow. As I looked outside my window, the scenic red rocks of Sedona looked even more breathtaking, frosted in a pure winter white.
Ancient cultures throughout the world believed in the sacredness of mountains, valleys, rivers, and streams. They understood that divine energy flowed freely in places of majestic natural beauty. The Native Americans knew that the red rock formations of Sedona were special, and came here specifically to conduct their spiritual ceremonies.
The Hindu and Buddhist cultures could also feel the spiritual energies, the magic power of nature. To them, the shakti of certain places was palpable. They built their temples and shrines in those locations. One of the most revered mountain ranges in the East is the Himalayas. Of all the snow capped peaks in the Himalayas, Mount Kailash is supreme. Not because of its height (Mt. Everest is much taller), but because of its mythology. Mt. Kailash, as the Hindu’s call it, means “Crystal” mountain in Sanskrit. In Tibetan it is called “Gang Rinpoche”, or “Precious Jewel of Snow”. It is also known by the Tibetans as the Nine-Swastika mountain, the seat of all power.
Hindus believe that Lord Shiva, along with his consort Goddess Parvati, live in Mt. Kailash together, in eternal bliss. Unlike Lord Brahma or Vishnu, who reside in the heavens, Shiva and Parvati make their home, at the juncture of heaven and Earth, in the rooftop of the world, the summit of Mt. Kailash.
The mountain itself is shaped like a Shiva Lingam. At the base of the mountain, is the famous Lake Manasarovar, considered to be the Yoni, the feminine base for the lingam. Lake Mansarovar is the highest body of fresh water in the world. It is emerald green/turquoise in color, round in shape, and its waters are completely still, as its name implies. “Manasa -rovar” means mind – lake. May our mind be as still as this lake. The vedic puranas tell stories of the sacred waters that flow down from the matted locks of Shiva’s hair, and turn into healing rivers. This is not far from true reality, because geologists say that the four largest rivers in Asia, begin at the base of Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarover.
It is a “Yathra” or pilgrimage destination for holy sages and spiritual seekers. They perform “parikrama” around the mountain, trekking for about 3 days by foot. After circumambulating the Mount Kailash lingam, one would take a dip, a ceremonial bath, in the icy waters of Lake Manasrover, the personification of purity. This yathra pilgrimage is said to cleanse a person of sins, even from 100 lifetimes ago.
This is the fertile mountain/ valley region that is known as the “Land of Soma”. Hindu legend has it, that Mt. Kailash is the famous mythological Meru mountain, located at the center, the very naval of our planet. The mountain was used to churn the ancient oceans, to reveal the sweet soma, the immortal nectar, buried underneath the waters. Besides the story of the soma being churned from the ocean, ayurvedic historians state that the elusive soma plants and creepers were found high up in the mountains of India. The best “soma-genic” herbs grew around this crisp, pure, mountain, valley and lakes. These remote, protected, regions are ripe with pranic energy, so close to the heavens, and unpolluted by man. It is the land of the original vedic rishis.
So as I stared outside my frosty window in Sedona this week, I wondered how Shiva and Parvati sat there in Mount Kailash, in that frozen tundra, clad only in their tiger skins, cobras and white ash. Then the answer came to me. They stayed warm by doing their tapas. Tapas is the inner fire generated by austerities, self discipline, penance, spiritual sacrifice.
May we all resolve start off the New Year, by clearly defining our means of Tapas (meditation, yogic sadhana, kundalini activation, devotional worship). Not only to stay warm in the icy weather, but to burn off the ego’s desire, and purify ourselves. May we pilgrimage to the inner Kailash, the Sahasrara crown chakra, and drink from the inner lake of soma, found only in the still mind.
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