Pitta season is starting! As we move into the long hot days of Summer, we can easily become overheated. Not only do we experience the physical effects of pitta’s fire in our body, but many of us can become mentally and emotionally agitated as the sun is blazing. At this time of year, we can identify with Lord Shiva’s fiery form of Rudra, “the red”.
Lord Shiva being the Master Yogi, it is good for yoga students to understand the many ways in which Shiva can be worshiped. He is often honored in the symbol of a ‘Shiva Lingam’. There is a sacred ceremony called an ‘Abishekam’, in which the lingam is lovingly washed and bathed. During this ritual, offerings such as milk, yogurt, sweet bananas, ghee, honey, and turmeric paste are poured over the lingam one by one. The lingam is rinsed with fresh water between each offering. Following the sacred bath, the lingam is then decorated with beautiful flowers, holy ash, sandalwood and red kum kum powder.
It is a symbolical purification. It is said that any devotee who prays to Shiva in this way, is blessed by the washing away of sorrows and sins. In the Vedic tradition, it is said that performing an ‘Abhishekam’ ritual on the Shiva lingam, has a cooling, calming, and pleasing effect on Rudra , the fierce form of Shiva.
When traveling in India, I stayed at an Ayurvedic hospital, where each patient is given an astrological reading before treatment begins. I was told by the medical astrologer after reading my chart, that I should perform an Abhishekam once a week as a remedy. She gave me instructions to break a tender coconut, and pour the fresh coconut juice over a Shiva lingam every Monday. She said that this would help to appease Lord Shiva, and he in turn would bless me with a more calm, collected, and peaceful mind. This reaffirmed for me that Ayurveda is a spiritual science of healing, concerned with all aspects of the body, mind, and emotions.
Monday is of course the day of the moon, which controls the mind and emotions. Monday is also the day of Lord Shiva, who provides us with the lunar Soma energy. Shiva is often depicted with the crescent moon adorning his hair. Many Hindus believe that fasting every couple of Mondays on nothing but milk or sweet fruits, will bring the transformational blessings of lord Shiva in to their lives.
The thirteenth day of the moon’s cycle is known as ‘Trayodashi’ in the Vedic calendar. It is very auspicious to pray to Lord Shiva on the thirteenth day of the full and new moon. This would also be a good day to perform a simple Abhishekam of water or milk over a Shiva lingam. This should be done specifically 90 minutes before and/or after sunset. This is a powerful time in which Shiva grants his wish fulfilling blessings.
Most importantly it is the act of mindful meditation that helps us to align with the energies of Lord Shiva. We can help to invoke him by chanting the simple mantra ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ on a mala made of Rudraksha beads. Even in Ayurveda, the most powerfully healing chant used during treatment is the ‘Mrutyunjaya Mantra’ dedicated to Lord Shiva to alleviate illness. For those who want to go further in learning Sanskrit prayers, one can recite the 108 names of Lord Shiva. The most renowned hymn to Lord Shiva is the ‘Sri Rudram” prayer. Chanting the ‘Sri Rudram’ is known for its ability to burn away negativity and misery, and help the spititual seeker to obtain liberation.
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