Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa ? part 5 ?The meaning of 18 steps!?

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I am reminded of a story where an old man was repairing a bridge after crossing the bridge himself. A young man, out of curiosity, asked him, ?why do you want to waste your time & energy repairing a bridge, when you yourself have crossed it?? And the old man replied, ?so that the future generation need not find it difficult to cross the bridge, as I found it to be.? Most people, am sure, don?t find my blogs on Lord Ayyappa interesting, but I am writing it for the lost seeker who will find it useful someday in their lives.

Here comes my last blog on this series, and if you any doubt mail me on kennedig@yahoo.com, if I am aware I surely will help you out.

After the 48 days abstinence, Ayyappa bhaktas start their travel towards Sabarimala, which is 2 days long walk from Erimalai (foot hills).

They carry a bag on their head called (irumudi), which has rice, coconut filled with ghee, and few other ingredients, which in initial days were used to make food in the thick jungle. The coconut has to be broken on one of the 18 steps at the shrine (nowadays people are not allowed to break the coconut on the steps). The step is chosen based on the number of times you have been to Sabarimala. For instance, if it is your first year, you are supposed to break the coconut in the first step, and if second then in the second step so on and so forth?

The 18 steps signify control over - 5 senses, 8 ashtagrahas, 3 gunas and 2 steps, which totals to 18!

5 senses include

1) Visual - relating to the sense of sight - hence bhaktas are not supposed to watch movies
2) Auditory - relating to hearing - hence bhaktas are allowed to hear only bhajans
3) Olfactory - contributing to the sense of smell ? vibhuti, chandan, agarbathis gives a holy feeling
4) Gustatory - relating to the sense of taste ? hence control over food (especially non-veg)
5) Tactile - perceptible to the sense of touch ? hence no sex or intimate relationship

8 Ashtaraghas

Ashtaraghas are human feelings & emotions.

1) Kama -Desire
2) Krodha - Anger
3) Lobha - Greed
4) Moha - Love
5) Madha - Lust
6) Sringara kautikam - Make up
7) Asooya ? Duality
8) Nidra - Sleep

3 Gunas

1) Satv ? Satvik characteristic ? when you are in tune with nature like when observing a sunset
2) Tamas - Tamasik characteristic - when you are a bit aggressive, like waiting to board a crowded bus
3) Rajas ? Rajasik characteristic ? when you become violent enough to hit someone.

2 steps

1) Vidya - Knowledge, what you know
2) Avidya ? Ignorance, what you cannot know

Ideally each year a person is expected to have complete control over one of the above mentioned aspects. And in the 18th year he should have controlled all the 18 aspects, which will finally give him the glimpse of divinity, and makes you a Guruswami. This is what the shrine implies too ? that after you cross the 18 steps, you can see & become Lord Ayyappa yourself.

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