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31 March, 2017

RAMA AND KRISHNA - A comparison in symbology

       "Vedas deal with Dharma in two categories, one for the path of Pravruti (action in mundane life) and the other for the path of Nivruti (redemption from the thralldom of Samsara).  These are respectively symbolized by the lives of the two Avatars, Rama and Krishna.  The paths of their lives appear to be diametrically opposite to each other; and there is an eloquent lesson in that.  A comparative study of the main incidents in the lives of the two great incarnations is very revealing and extremely rewarding and interesting.  There are so many incidents in their lives which are in striking contrast.  

       A few of  them are enumerated here under: these are not exhaustive, but only illustrative.  Those who search may find many more.  It is said, "Live as Rama lived, and learn what Krishna taught."


       Rama was born of parents who had to issues for long, were pinning for that, and who had undergone a lot of penance to beget children, while Krishna was the eighth child of his parents who, for that reason and due to the circumstances in which they were placed, were not at all eager to get issues.


      Rama was born in broad day light, in a palace, as the eldest Krishna was born in the middle of the night in a prison, and was the youngest.


     Rama was very fair in complexion, while Krishna was dark.


       Rama enjoyed life in the palace as a prince till his twelfth year, while the life of Krishna till his twelfth year was full of dangers and fights for his survival, as Kamsa had employed so many emissaries and stratagems to do away with this child. 


       The first victim of Rama was a woman (Tataka) while the first victim of Krishna in regular combat was a man (Kamsa).

       Rama's life was Dharma-oriented (Ramo vigrahavan Dharma); while that of Krishna was Karma - oriented.  Krishna even said "Sarva Dharmam Parityajaya".


       Rama was a man of "Eka Patni Vrata" (devoted only to one woman all his life) while Krishna had "Bahu Bharyatwa", a population of wives, so to say, as the story goes.


       Lakshmana, the incarnation of Ananta, was a younger brother of Rama.  The same Ananta in his subsequent incarnation as Bala Rama was the elder brother of Krishna.


       Rama protected the son of Surya (Sugriva) and killed the son of Indra (Vali) while Krishna did just the opposite.  He protected the son of Indra (Arjuna) and killed (caused to be killed) the son of Surya (Karna).


      Rama killed Tataka with a poisoned arrow, that is, he emitted poison.  Krishna absorbed poison and killed Putana.


       Rama was deluded for a time (fainted) in his war with Ravana.  Krishna brought back the deluded man, Arjuna, to his full faculties and made him fight to victory.


       Rama's wife was forcibly taken by Ravana.  Krishna forcibly took away Rukmini and married her. 

       Rama was the cause for mutilating and deforming a woman, Soorp[anakha.  Krishna made the deformed woman, Kubja, straight and beautiful.


       Rama was a king in his own right.  Krishna was never a king himself, but was a King-maker.


       Rama never claimed that he was an incarnation.  In fact, he had to be reminded of that at the last stage in his life.  Krishna announced that he was the Lord Himself as soon as He was born.


       Rama belonged to the Solar dynasty.  Krishna belonged to the Lunar dynasty - the Yadava Branch.


       Rama represented the perfected Jivatman - (Ramanate asmin Yoginaha iti Rama:), while Krishna was the Paramatman - the God (Krishnaat Krishna).  

       "Ramayana" means the "goings of Rama".  He was leading to the goal.  It can also mean "going to Rama", just as "Samudrayan" in the case of the river.  Whereas in the case of Krishna, he was the goal.  He was always calling unto Himself: "Mamekam saranam vraja".


       Rama fought the great battle himself: (Jivatman fighting the battle of samsara).  Krishna was the "Sakshi" in the great battle, While others fought.


       Rama left behind a prosperous Ayodhya, while Krishna had his city (Dwarka) and his entire Yadava race destroyed before he left.

       Even the names of the cities in which they lived held out opposite meanings.  "Ayodhya" means a city which is not vulnerable to any kind of wars, which should mean the mental state of the "sthithaprajna", while 'Dwarka', Krishna's city meant the "Door that opens into the Perfect State", one being the Means and the other the End.


       While Rama had to weep many a time in his life, Krishna lived throughout as a personification of cheerfulness.  Krishna's eyes became moist only once in his whole life; that was when his childhood friend Sudama called on him.


       Krishna is accepted as the Poorna-avatara.  Rama has not been accepted as such.     


       Even with only one wife, Rama could not lead a happy and harmonious life with her, while Krishna, with an army of wives, could lead the happiest of lives with no complaint from any of those women that she had been neglected even for one evening.


      While in the forest, Rama goes in search of the golden deer to satisfy his wife, meaning that he went in search of Kanchan to satisfy his Kamini.  In the attempt he lost both the Kamini and the Kanchan.  Krishna went into the forest in search of the jewel "Syamamantaka" and gets also two Kaminis in the bargain - namely Satyabhama and Jambavati, that is Krishna gains both Kamini and Kanchan at one shot.


       With the bow and the quiver always hanging on his shoulders, Rama had a warrior's life throughout, upholding and protecting Dharma.  Krishna went with a flute in his hands enchanting the world around with his divine music.  He too was protecting the righteous and upholding Dharma. While the former did it with his prowess, the latter did it with love.


       Rama was ready to take-up arms whenever required.  Krishna refused to take up arms even when everybody expected him to do so.

       Sita was lost, Rama wandered in search of her, weeping and enquiring of even inanimate objects whether they had seen her.  On the other hand, it was Krishna who had been lost, and the Gopis in Brindavan did exactly the same thing as Rama did in Ramayana.


      Rama had to go to the forest to fulfill the purpose of his incarnation, whereas for Krishna his mission took him to palaces frequently.


       Rama was insulted by his enemy in so far as his wife was kidnapped by his enemy, while we see that Krishna was respected by his enemies (the Kauravas) when he entered their Durbar.


       Ram's sons lived independently of him and were finally crowned by Rama himself before his departure.  Krishna's sons and grandsons lived under his shadow throughout, but where annihilated by the grand sire himself before his departure.


       Rama got a bad name on account of Sita, for which he sent her to the forest when she was in an advanced state of pregnancy.  Krishna got a bad name, not on account of a woman but a jewel called Syamantaka.  He went to the forest in search of the jewel to vindicate himself and ultimately got the jewel and two women in the bargain.


       Rama's name is chanted as "Sitaram" prefixed with that of Sita, his legally wedded wife, whereas, in the case of Krishna, we chant his name as "Radha - Krshna" prefixing his name not with any of his legally wedded wives, but with that of another man's wife, simply on the basis of devotion.

       To crown all these, we find a very interesting fact when we compare the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Geeta - which is the essence of the Mahabharata.  They appear to approach the subject from exactly opposite directions.  In Ramayana, Valmiki narrates to Sage Narda all the qualities of a "Sthithaprajna" and asks him whether there is any person living who satisfies that description, for which Narada answers that Rama, the Scion of the Ikshawaku dynasty, is a standing example for that.  But, when we come to the Bhgavad Geeta, Arjuna does just the opposite.  He asks the Lord as to what qualities  distinguish a "Sthithaprajna", and the Lord recounts those qualities.  The purpose is the same, but the approaches are from diametrically opposite directions.

Source: Excerpts from the book on SYMBOLISM IN HINDUISM published by Chinmaynanda Mission

01 February, 2017

The Ramayana

      THE RAMAYANA is a great epic of the Hindus.  The epical narrative with its many stories, anecdotes and incidents explains how man has fallen from his supreme state of peace and bliss to his limited existence of sorrow and misery and how he regains his original glory.

       As the story goes, King Dasaratha lied in Ayodhya with his his three queens Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi.  They lived a life of peace and contentment.

Dasaratha means one who has controlled his tenses

     Dasaratha means a man who has controlled his ten senses.  The three wives represent the three mental qualities, the [1] sattvika, [2] rajasika and [3] tamasika gunas.  To a self-controlled man the three gunas are at his service.  In a contrast a man who has no control over his senses is victimised by his own gunas.  Lord Rama was born into such a house of self-control, peace and contentment.  Sita was married to Rama.  Both Rama and Sita lived happily in Dasaratha's palace in Ayodhya.  with all the royal comforts and amenities of the palace at her disposal.  Sita was ever content and happy.  

       As days passed by, King Dasaratha decided to retire leaving his kingdom to his eldest son Rama to Rule.  The coronation day was fixed.  All the Ayodhya was reveling in ecstasy.  Just on the eve of the coronation Kaikeyi, the step mother of Rama, demanded the two boons that Dasaratha had given to her. Firstly, that Rama be sent away at the jungle for fourteen years.  Secondly, that her son, Bharata, be crowned king instead of Rama. Consequently, Rama left Ayodhya followed by Sita and Lakshmana.  In the jungle Sita remained devoted to her Lord Rama.  She continued to live with the sense of contentment and happiness which she enjoyed in the palace at Ayodhya.

Rama represent Atman & Sita represent individual, jivatma

       The significance of this portion of the story is that man is very happy and contended as long as he is attuned to the inner Self.  All the sorrows of man are caused by his preoccupation with the external world. Rama represents the Atman, the supreme Self and Sita the ego, the individual.  

       As long as Sita's attention was on Rama she was ever blissful be it in the luxuries of the palace or the exigencies of the jungle.  Similarly, if man's attention and interest are upon the inner Self and not the enchantment of the world, he would remain ever peaceful and happy whether he is placed in a state of prosperity or penury.

GOLDEN DEER represent the fascinating sense objects

       One day Sita saw a beautiful golden deer in the jungle.  She was enchanted.  She desired to possess it.  She pleaded with Rama to capture it for her.  Lakshmana warned her that the beautiful deer was a raksasa demon in disguise.  Sita turned a deaf ear.  She insisted on having it.  Rama yielded and went after the animal.  The deer was in fact a raksasa.  It led Rama far away from their hut.  Rama shot it with his arrow. The deer fell and as it was dying it shouted the names of Lakshmana and Sita, as if to indicate that Rama was in trouble.  Sita heard the cry and bade Lakshmana rush to the scene to help his brother.  Lakshmana again warned that it was a trick being played on them by raksasa but Sita would not heed the words of Lakshmana.  Lakshmana therefore had to leave her alone in the hut and go.  As Lakshmana disappeared into the jungle a mendicant with a begging bowl appeared before Sita.  That mendicant was Ravana, the ten-headed raksasa in disguise.  Ravana carried Sita away to Lanka.  

Ravana, the ten headed raksasa.

       The meaning of this portion is simple.  Man is contented and happy as long as his attention and concentration are upon his real Self.  The moment he looks out extrovertedly at the sense-objects of the world he develops a desire.  The golden deer represent the fascinating sense-objects like colour and form for the eyes, sound for the ears, taste for the tongue and smell for the nose and touch for the skin.  The joys derived from the sense objects are transient, fleeting.  They swiftly pass away like the deer.  And yet man falls a prey to their golden enchantment and becomes a slave to his own sense organs -- the five organs of perception and the five organs of action.  He becomes a captive of the ten-headed Ravana as it were.

Ravana is meeting Sita at Ashokavana.
Hanuman is seen at the top of the tree.

       In Lanka, Sita refused to enter the golden palace of Ravana.  She chose to stay in the garden of Asoka trees called the Asokavana.  There she remained, away from Ravana.  Sita was tempted with gifts.  She was harassed with threat but she would not deviate from her unswerving devotion for her Lord Rama.  

HANUMAN represent faith and strength in spiritual person 

Rama hugging Hanuman

       As days passed by, her devotion and dedication to Rama were rewarded by the appearance of Hanuman, the messenger of Rama.  Hanuman gave Sita a ring as the token from Rama.  Sita was overjoyed and thereafter gained supreme confidence in her reunion with Rama.  With the renewed faith and confidence she continued to contemplate upon her Lord until Rama came and liberated her.

      This part of the Ramayana symbolises the ways and means of liberation for mankind from his abject slavery to his sense organs, to his sovereign state of Godhood.  Sita's refusal to enter Ravana's golden palace and her choice to remain in the Asokavana signifies the first step that man has to take to rise from his fallen state.  Having fallen a prey to the enchantment of the senses, man ought not to indulge indiscriminately in sense gratification.  He must first withdraw himself from such indulgence and perform tapas austerity as Sita did.  Tapas is an intelligent conservation and utilisation of energies towards higher pursuits inlife i.e., conserving energies which are dissipated in sensual indulgences and directing such conserved energy to the goal of Self-realisation.  When a man practices this he gains a relative peace and contentment whcih is symbolised by Sita remainign in the Asokavana.  
       Soka in Sanskrit means grief, askoka means non-grief.  With his consistent efforts towards self-control and contemplation upon the higher truth, he gains faith and confidence in is spiritual pursuits.  This is symbolised by Rama's ring that Hanuman gives to Sita, which gives her the assurance of Rama's arrival. Hanuman represent that strength and faith born in a spiritual man.

LANKA represent material splendour

       After his meeting with Sita, Hanuman set fire to the whole of Lanka.  He left behind a blazing red city to warn Ravana of the might and glory of Rama.  Lanka represents material splendour.  The burning of Lanka indicates that material splendour has no value to one who is spiritually evolved.  As man advances spiritually the sense -objects of the world no longer allure him.  They lose their power of enchantment.  They are burnt as it were.  

Three brothers -- Vibhisana, Ravana and Kumbhakarna


      Vibhisana, the younger brother of Ravana, pleaded with Ravana to give up his vicious deeds and return Sita to Rama.  Ravana was far too proud and lustful to heed his brother's advice.  The three brothers -- Vibhisana, Ravana and Kumbhakarna -- in fact represent respectively the three  gunas, the mental qualities of human beings, [1] sattvic, [2] rajasic and [3] tamas.  


Vibhisana - sattvic, Ravana - rajasic & Kumbhakarna - tamasic

      Sattva is the pure and noble quality of the mind. Rajas is passion and agitation.  Tamas is dullness and inertia.  Vibhishana was ever-poised and pure in nature.  Ravana was always riddled with passionate desires and agitations.  Kumbhakarna was known for his inertia.  He would sleep for months together at a stretch.  Vibhisana's appeal to Ravana represent the sattvika nature in man directing his passionate nature to the right channels.  But rarely indeed does man heed the inner appeal of his sattvika nature.  Ravana thus rejected Vibhishna's advice and prepared himself and his army for facing Rama in battle.  Consequently Vibhisana left Lanka and surrendered to Rama.

       On the other side, Rama and Lakshmana with the help of Sugriva and his monkeys forces prepared themselves to cross the ocean to conquer Ravana and release Sita from her captivity.  The metaphysical explanation of these events is based on the fundamental relationship between a monkey and a thought.  

Monkey forces represent human mind

Building Rama Sethu Bridge to Lanka

       A 'monkey' and 'thought' are identical in some respects.  The monkey forces represent the human mind.  A monkey, like human thought, has two distinct qualities referred to as asthira and cancala.  Both these terms means unstable.  

asthira - not being firm & cancala - it cannot remain in one place

      Sthira means being firm at one place.  Asthira is not being firm i.e., moving from one place to another.  Cancala being firm i.e., movement of the body while it is stationery in one place.  A monkey is asthira in the sense that it cannot remain in one place.  It keeps jumping about all the time.  That is the nature of the monkey.  Even if it is tied up in one place a monkey keeps fidgeting all the time indicating its cancala nature.  The human mind has these two qualities as well.  It keeps on jumping from one thought to another thought.  When it is given a fixed point of contemplation even then it slips into other thoughts.

Valli and Sugriva

Rama and monkey chiefs

      These monkeys were under the suzerainty of Valli (the lust king) who usurped the kingdom of his brother Sugriva (the virtuous king).  Rama destroyed Valli and made Sugriva the king of the monkey forces.  This is the first step that Rama had to take to win back Sita, to destroy evil and substitute virtue in its place.  The mind at present is under the governance of lust and greed.  In order to gain one's spiritual nature, the initial step to be taken is to divert the mind from lust and greed to self control and sacrifice.  A mind so prepared must surrender itself to the Supreme and put forth all its efforts to attain liberation.  When man makes a concerted effort with consistency of purpose, help is showered from all sides. The occasion of delusion, the sea of likes and dislikes is crossed over.   The ego with  ten sense organs (Rama) is destroyed.  The individual regains his lost Self.  Sita unites once again with Rama.

Sita going through fire 

Fire Test for Sita

       The battle was won and Sita was brought before Rama.  She passed through the test of purity by literally going through fire.  She emerged unscathed.  Rama accepted her whole-heartedly.  After the union, Rama and Sita ruled over Ayodhya.  It was a glorious reign - Ramarajya.  

       This last portion signifies that an individual must be cleansed of all his vasanas, desires before the dawn of Realisation.  When this is accomplished man gains the ultimate realisation of the Self.  He lives a life of absolute peace and bliss.

Source: Excerpts from the book on "Symbolism of Hindu Gods and Rituals" wirtten by Swamiji Parthasarathy

05 January, 2017

In Indian Culture..Why do we worship Lord SASTHA (HARIHAR)?

      On the peak of Sabari Hill at the southern tip of the Sahyadri ranges stretching southward into Kerala, there is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappan, who is popularly known as Sabari Mala Sastha.  This temple can be reached only by foot through the jungles which is infested with wild animals.

       In Hinduism, the transcendental message of the Vedas has been conveyed to man through the technique of Mysticism.  This technique is employed in all religions, but in the Hindu scriptures it has been developed to artistic perfection.  Saastha is one of the Hindu deities which has a deep mystic significance.

       Lord Ayyappan is the son of Lord Siva and Mohini (Lord Vishnu) in a delusory enchanting form.  Ayyappan stands for constructive destruction which is combination of Vishnu (construction) and Siva (destruction).  He is considered the 'Protector' of the weak.  He saves mankind from sickness, diseases and miseries of the world and endows them with Gnana [knowledge] leading to spiritual liberation.

       The Vishnu Purana describes that in heaven the gods and the demons - the devas and the asuras - decided to sink their differences temporarily, to come to a mutual understanding for a joint endeavour to churn and draw the nectar (amrutam) from the milky ocean, on which Lord Vishnu is described as ever reclining in yoga nidra(yogic sleep).  The gods and the demons stood on either side, used the Manthara mountain as the churn, and Vasuki, the mighty serpent, served them as the rope.  The great churning of the milky ocean started.


       The churning first produced a deadly poison called Halahala.  Seeing this poison spreading in all quarters, the living beings flew for protection to Lord Siva.  Siva, in His divine compassion for them, received the poison in His palm and not knowing what to do with it, decided to drink it Himself. When He swallowed thus the poison to save the universe from disaster, Mother Divine, the consort of the Lord, strangled the neck to prevent the poison from going down the neck.  The poison spread over the neck region and hence it is that Siva's neck is blue in colour.  He is called Neelakanta (Blue-necked).  The churning continued after the removal of the poison and several beautiful and powerful things issued forth from the ocean.  They were all given away and the gods and the demons pursued in their churning until the last of the products - the nectar (amruta) - emerged.  As soon as the nectar appeared, the demons snatched it from the gods and ran away with it.


       The gods prayed to Lord Vishnu to retrieve their loss.  The Lord answered their prayers and agreed to bring back the nectar (amruta) to them.  Meanwhile, the demons quarreled among themselves as they could not agree upon who should distribute the nectar and how much each should get.  In such a state of confusion, Lord Vishnu appeared in the enchanting form of a maiden named Mohini.  Fascinated by the seducing beauty of Mohini, the asuras (demons) stopped their quarrel and stood passionately gazing at her divine beauty.  Having attracted them thus, Mohini offered to distribute the nectar justly.  The demons accepted her suggestion and sat down to receive their share. Before the actual distribution started, however, she objected to their lustful looks, which were offending her modesty, and laid down a condition that they should keep their eyes closed until the distribution was over.  Whoever opened his eyes would lose his share.  Obediently, they all shut their eyes and waited for their share.  While they were thus sitting and waiting with their eyes shut, the maiden ran away with the pot of nectar (amruta-kalasa).  The demons learnt it too late that the maiden and the nectar had disappeared.


       Upon the request of Lord Siva this episode was narrated by Lord Vishnu.  Siva wished to see that enchanting form of Mohini who tricked the demons.  He was warned that the Maya form was too irresistible.  Siva insisted, being proud of His continuous tapas (austerity) in Kailas.  But lust is the last weakness to leave one's bosom.  Vishnu conceded to the request and once again took the maidenly form - the Mohini, one who deludes all.  Parameswara was charmed by that divine maiden, and a child was born of the contact of Siva and Vishnu, Saastha was that child. 

Mystic significance

       This simple story has a deep mystic significance.  It is an objective representation of a subjective phenomenon.  It explains the spiritual path leading to the Goal of perfection; the state of Immortality symbolised by the gaining of amrutam.  Amrutam means deathlessness or immortality.


       The milky ocean represents the Pure (sattwic) mind.  The gods (devas) stand for the higher nature/tendencies and the demons (asuras) for the lower nature/tendencies in man.  The individual (ego) who desires to spiritually evolve and obtain Immortality (amruta) must first cleanse his mind of its impurities and maintain it in a relatively pure sattwic state (milky ocean).  Such a mind is churned by the process of Assertion and Negation.  The seeker asserts that he is the divine Self and negates the perceiver feeler thinker and the material equipments as 'not-self'.  The whole process of such subtle discrimination and analysis between the good and the bad, the Spirit and the matter, the Real and the unreal is accomplished by the great churn, the subtle-intellect (Manthara).

       As a result of such discriminative analysis and contemplation, man evolves spiritually.  The evolution is first marked by the purging of low passionate animalistic tendencies (vasanas), which are symbolised by the issuing of the poison from the ocean.  These vasanas are detrimental to the well-being of mankind.  They pollute the head (discrimination) and the heart (feelings).  Hence, the consort of Siva, Parvati (representing sattwic mind) - arrested the poison in the throat of the Lord, i.e. kept it in between the head and the heart, not allowing it to poison either the feeling of the heart or the clear thinking of the intellect.

       As one evolves further in the spiritual path, one develops higher faculties and powers, siddhis, including the capacity to perform miracles.  These are represented by the attractive gifts that arose out of the churning.  The gifts were however not meant for self-aggrandisement but for distribution to others.  Similarly, if the powers obtaining by spiritual sadhana (practice) are not dissipated in selfish and ego-centric pursuits, and the seeker continues in his spiritual path, he gains the final reward of Immortality (amrutam) - the state of God Realisation.

       The bad tendencies in man trade even on the spiritual treasure gained by him.  In other words, they make use of his newly-gained spiritual distinction for self aggrandisement and low purposes. Such men are easily tempted by the enchanting sense-objects (Mohini).  'Moha' means delusion. Mohini, therefore, is 'delusion personified'.  Those who have low animal impulses and passions are deluded by the enchantment of the sensual world and they are blind to their own spiritual beauty. When they are thus led away by the senses, whatever spiritual unfoldment they have gained is lost. this idea is indicated in the demons (asuras) losing the nectar (amrutam).  

       Lord Ayyappan is the son of Siva and Vishnu.  Siva is the God of Destruction while Vishnu is the God of Sustenance.  These two powers are combined in Ayyappan, since he helps to destroy all low negative tendencies and maintains the pure sattwic nature in the seeker.  The Lord is considered the God of Constructive-Destructivion-the 'Protector'.  He protects our spiritual wealth and powers by maintaining the thought of godliness and destroys all other thoughts pertaining to the worldy infatuations.

Hari Hara Sutha

       This power of maintaining a single thought of the great Reality is invoked from Lord Harihara Sutha, as He is also known, meaning the son of Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Siva).  Without that great powers no meditation is is possible.  Hence all vedantins invoke His grace for maintaining a consistency in their meditation.

Ayyappa temple on Sabari Hill

       The Ayyappa temple on Sabari Hill, in Kerala, is one of the most popular pilgrim centres in South India.  Devotee from all over the country, belonging to all creeds and classes visit this sacred shrine .  Unlike other temples, the pilgrims visiting this temple have very strict and rigorous preparations to go through before reaching the divine altar.  The usual custom is to observe strict austerities and self control for forty-one days preceding the visit to the temple.  By such tapas (austerities) the mind is made to withdraw from the enchantments of the worldly objects and possessions and it is slowly directed to the thought of the Reality: Ayyappa Swami Saranam,

       During this period of tapas, the devotee is allowed to wear only black or saffron clothes and a mala and he has strictly to perform the daily rituals.  The special clothes indicate that he is dead to the world of peceptions, emotions and thoughts. m He remains in constant prayer immersed in the thought of Ayyappan, the Self in him.  'Swami Saranam' is his watchword: "the Lord alone is my protection, my safety".  

       The way to the temple is through jungle and the pilgrimage is undertaken by foot.  The idea is to further develop the concentration of the mind, which has been already prepared by strict austerities. All along the ascent to the shrine, the devotee tries to maintain the one thought of the Lord in his multiple experiences.  When such single pointed concentration and meditation is maintained, the Truth reveals itself to the seeker, which is symbolised by the darshan (vision) of the Lord in the temple.  The eighteen steps which lead the pilgrim to the plateau where the Lord is 'seen' have their endless mystic meaning in the number eighteen.

Source: Excerpts from the book on "The Symbolism of Hindu Gods and Rituals
by Swamy A Parthasarathy.