Satyam Shivam Sundaram


Satyam Shivam Sundaram

This past weekend as I was walking up the mountain behind my parents home the words “Satyam Shivam Sundaram” kept coming to me like japa with each step. It filled me with joy. It felt like a message, and so I made a note to write a bit about these three words. 

Hinduism rests upon what is often called the holy trinity or “trimurti”. The trinity is Shiva, Brahma and Visnu: All three faces of the same univeral one (according to advaita).

  • Brahma is the lord of creation. Yoga and Samkhya says all creation is for the experience of the observer. Similarly in hindu philosophy the non-dual Brahman births duality (bringing the universe into existence). This is driven by the creators desire to experience itself. As the creator, Brahman contains all and therefore can become anything. At the point of creation Brahman splits in to the 1 purusha and the 24 tattvas of prakriti all governed by mulaprakriti consisting of the three gunas (sattva rajas and tamas). Brahma is the governor of rajas, creator of all that exists.
  • Vishnu is the great sustainer. the caretaker of all that is. The governor of sattva guna. The great illuminator and maintainer of all life as it works through the cycle of samsara.
  • Shiva is the great destroyer. All that lives must fall away. All the fructifies has a beginning and end. The activist and storyteller, Janaya Future Khan, recently wrote: “I learned in indigenous teachings that fires are only possible at the scale they are because we refuse to let go of that which is already dead.” Shiva through his cosmic dance governs the destruction and reincarnation of the world. Again, all falls away. We can cling on to that which is already gone or not. It is up to us but of course by stock piling debris we are giving the fire more and more fuel. Either way it burns. Shiva is considered the Adiyogi, the Adinath. and the Adiguru (the first yogi, lord and teacher respectively). Shiva is the governor of tamo guna (but unaffected by the gunas) and the destroyer of ignorance (through the fire of tapas).

The three are often depicted as three heads on one murti (hence -trimurti). The description “Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram” often given primarily to Shiva is also seen as a description to truth of the highest order. Truth is divine and the divine is beautiful.

Satyam, Shivam Sundaram

These three words, all powerful in their own regard really come together as a whole. 

  • Satyam: Pertaining to truth. We’ve encountered Satya already when discussing the yamas. Here adding m to the end of the word (satya+m) indicates absolute truth. Truth beyond duality, beyond idea. To be present to the truth we have to be utterly silent and not layer our mental projections on top. While Satya is a practice (requiring action), Satyam is a state of experience (pratyaksa) not a concept. Yoga and Samkhya state that prakriti has Sat (meaning it really exists) but because of it’s changeable nature is not eternal. The one who never ceases is the only truth we should turn our hearts towards.
  • Shivam: Auspicious/sacred. Like the abiding peace of Lord Shiva, the Adiyogi; The original destroyer of avidya and realizer of the truth. Beyond duality into the eternal. Shiva destroys the veil of ignorance so we can rest on in the sea of tranquility. And so Shiva is the original yogi, the first to realize and teach the practice and path to abiding peace. Shiva+m indicates divinity.
  • Sundaram: Beauty … not in the physical sense we are so accustomed to. Beauty here refers to that which is divinely effulgent and eternally pure; when we reside in the truth of our nature, seeing the divine within all this is beauty. Gazing upon the majesty of the mountains, watching the sun rise and set, witnessing the vastness of the ocean gives an indescribable feeling no doubt but is that beauty or is that sensation? The sun will “sleep” – the ocean turn stormy and the sensation will change. The ultimate truth is not tied to stimuli and the senses but is beyond form or as J.Krishnamurti said “ In that state when there is really freedom from all this, only then there is beauty.”  All that lives must fall away. True beauty is forever.

Yogic parinama (transformation) brings us to this “Satyam Shivam Sundaram” within… Truth without beauty is not the aim. Truth that harms or increases activity is not either. Truth should not harm (ahimsa) but should elevate our consciousness. Truth is divine and the divine is beautiful. So beautiful is the truth that when we realize it we don’t turn away- nirodhah.

The often used description of the Atman (the true self) as “Sat-chit-ananda” or Truth, Consciousness and Bliss is similar.

Prakriti has Sat- it exists. That’s real…But has no consciousness (chit)

Purusha has all three- it is true, it is consciousness and it is unshakeable bliss.

True beauty is eternal. Nothing that fades can be the ultimate truth. So while the world is often beautiful it is also changeable. When we see the beauty in the sunrise let that be a cue for us to reflect within on the sun that never sets. When the mind gets in the way we can repeat these words “satyam shivam sundaram” and let them guide us to the truth, eternal and beautiful within.

There is a song “Enter One” by Sol Seppy I used to play about 12 years ago on-repeat. I heard it once and then for atleast a year I put it on several times a day. The lyrics always feels like this, pointing to the true-eternal-beautiful.

“After a storm

I want to be brave

And keep you warm

And not fade away

As we float from the shore

Into the light

Into the unknown

Like thousands of lanterns

Glowing with grace

In glorious silence

Descending through space

To a friend

A sister in need

Who is not alone

And they are surrounding her

And they will enfold her outstretched hand

In our love

Into the light

It’s hard to believe

It’s always been ours to give

And to receive

I want to be shameless like the sun

Moving into you

Entering light

Welcome

Inshallah, Inshallah

Enter one

Amazing grace is pouring down

Fear not this light

We are of this light divine

So come

We move as one

Amazing grace is pouring down

Fear not this light

We are on this light divine

Welcome, enter one

After a storm

I wanna let go

Of the things that I’ve done

Without any worry

I wanna come home

Into the light

Into the unknown

I want to be shameless

Like the sun

Moving into you

Entering light

Welcome

Inshallah, Inshallah

Enter one

Amazing grace is pouring down

Fear not this light

We are on this light divine

So come

We move as one

Amazing grace is pouring down

Fear not this light

We are on this light divine

Welcome, enter one”

Enter One, Sol Seppy

See you tomorrow beautiful ones,

Jennifer

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