Is there more to Kashi than thousands of lingas and the notion of mukti at the banks of the Ganga? What makes myriads of devotees flock to this city? Sadhguru delves into the origins of Kashi, how it achieved its exalted status, and how alive its energy structure is to this day
Manikarnika: Of Shiva’s Mischief and Vishnu’s Sweat
Sadhguru : What is the significance of being in Kashi? The word “Kashi” literally means to be luminous, or more particularly, a tower of light. You know the story about how Shiva, the manipulator, asked Parvati to drop her earring. She dropped it; it fell and sank into the earth. Vishnu being a ladies’ man, had to show his chivalry. He went to pick up the earring. As he dug deeper and deeper into the earth to get it, he started sweating so much that his sweat gathered in a pool, which became the Manikarnika. Manikarnika was actually a pool, or a kund. On the banks of it, people were also doing cremations.This beam of light is the symbolism of Kashi, because Kashi is a machine, a yantra, a cosmogenic effort to bring the cosmos to you.
When they looked up, Shiva looked like a tower of light. Have you ever flashed a powerful torch in the sky? If you tried it in the night, you would have seen a tower of light going up, if the torch was powerful. You do not know where it ends. No one really knows where it actually ends. It looked like this beam of light went on forever, unstopped by anything. This beam of light is the symbolism of Kashi, because Kashi is a machine, a yantra, a cosmogenic effort to bring the cosmos to you.
Passage to the Cosmos
Because, fortunately, every tiny bit of this cosmos – from an atom, to an amoeba, to a single-celled animal, to everything else in the universe and the larger cosmos, are essentially made to the same design. Kashi is an effort to bring union to the microcosm and the macrocosm, to the limited and the unlimited, to physical manifestations and the limitless dimension of existence. It is not that we have to bring union; the cosmos is already in union. We have to reorient ourselves to transcend our survival mode and look at existence. For this, we needed tools.
If you perceive the nature of the cosmos, suddenly the way you operate, the way you relate to the existence in which you live will be totally different. Do you have to be in Kashi to do this? No, not necessarily. It is like you can achieve health anywhere, but a lot of people go to the hospital when they are ill, because it is a common place where certain tools, facilities, medicines, and expertise are available. Kashi is that kind of place, where there was a whole system – knowledge, mechanisms, methods, capabilities – and every kind of specialist lived there at one time.
The Secret Energy Structure
…the legend says that Kashi is on the top of Shiva’s Trishul, not on the ground.
The most important thing in human life is to know the limitations of your body. Yesterday, you were born; tomorrow, you will be buried – only today is there to live. This is the nature of existence. And before death comes, life needs to blossom. So across the country, we set up every possible mechanism that we could use for this purpose. There are many mechanisms like this – most of them unfortunately are broken, including this one, which is largely disturbed, but the energetic part of it is still pretty alive. Because always, when we consecrate spaces of this nature, including Dhyanalinga, the physical structure is only a scaffolding. Generally, the legend says that Kashi is on the top of Shiva’s Trishul, not on the ground.
What I see in my experience is the real structure of Kashi is approximately 33 feet above the ground. If we had any sense, we should not have built anything beyond 33 feet in height. But we have, because sense has always been a very scarce material in the world. And, by geometrical calculations, the energy structure could be up to 7200 feet. This is why they called it a “Tower of Light,” because those who had eyes to see, saw that it is very tall structure. And, it did not stop there – it gave you access to what is beyond. The idea is to achieve something that a human being could achieve within himself or herself, through an organized mechanism that comes from the distilled essence of thousands of years of realization of many, many people. If you have to realize things by yourself, it is like reinventing the wheel – unnecessarily going through a whole lot of painful processes. But, if you have to realize through others’ knowing, then you must have humility.
Building on the Knowing of Many
Shiva wanted to come here because the city was so beautiful. Before he came, it was already a phenomenal city.
This arrangement was done so that a lot of people could be transported. People came and set up all kind of methods and mechanisms. At one time, there were over 26,000 shrines – each one of them had a method of its own, as to how a human being can attain. These 26,000 shrines developed satellites; many angles of the temple became small shrines of their own, so the number went up to 72,000 shrines, when this mechanism called Kashi was in full glory. And, this did not happen overnight. No one knows in which period the basic structure happened. They said even Sunira, who is dated something like 40,000 years ago, came here looking for something. Sunira is dated something like 40,000 years ago. By then, already it was a flourishing city.
Mark Twain puts it in perspective saying that, “It is older than the legend.” In terms of antiquity, no one knows exactly how old. Shiva wanted to come here because the city was so beautiful. Before he came, it was already a phenomenal city. Just about two years ago, they discovered three layers of temples that were all closed down for a long period of time. This means the city sunk over a period of time, and again and again, it was rebuilt, one on top of the other. There are three to five layers of the city, because over a period of time, the earth kind of recycles itself.
The Ravages of Time
As long as they were seeking liberation, and they were sincere about it, they could do whatever they want. That is how significant mukti was considered to be – you must attain in this lifetime.
Kashi was ravaged for six, seven centuries continuously; in spite of that, if you are little sensitive, it is still a fantastic place. Can we put it back into full glory? I do not think so. One thing is – too much disturbance happened; another thing is – building back something like that is a fool’s paradise. It has been ravaged many, many times, but because the energy body of Kashi is 33 feet above the ground, it is still alive. The damage is substantial, but it is still a phenomenal place. One way to look at it is, it is like a home with 72,000 rooms. More than 3000 are alive in the energy form.
For every dimension of life, for every quality of a human being, they built a linga. This is how these temples came into being; for every aspect, there is one linga. Some extreme, some very much socially acceptable, some beyond all social acceptance – all kinds of things existed in parallel. No one found fault with anything. Anyone could do what they wanted, as long as they were seeking mukti. As long as they were seeking liberation, and they were sincere about it, they could do whatever they want. That is how significant mukti was considered to be – you must attain in this lifetime.
All for One Goal: Mukti
Mukti means liberation; liberation means, essentially, to become free from yourself – because you are the only nuisance in your life.
The entire process of seeking mukti comes from this point: you want to clear what they call karma – a cloud of memory and imagination that is playing up and deceiving you to believe so many things that are not true. As you sit here, the only damn thing you have is life; the rest is all your imagination. Mukti means just this: the illusion has to go. You cannot fight the illusion – you have to find the source of the illusion. Mukti means liberation; liberation means, essentially, to become free from yourself – because you are the only nuisance in your life.
Reproduced with permission for Isha Foundation.
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Editor’s Note: Watch Sadhguru and Prasoon Joshi delve into the intrigue of Kashi in Kashi Conundrum.