The satsang started on 12th September with Mrs. Anusha and Mrs. Booma from Dallas leading the Nama Kirtan. All of us got to listen and sing the Mahamantra in a different raga today. As always, it was soothing to the ears and the mind.
It was widely expected that the hurricane Ike will play havoc in the gulf coast and Houston area in a few hours after the satsang. Our Mahamantra Kirtan was focused on prayers for the safety of the residents of the area.
The Kirtan ended with ‘Satguru Natha Maharaj ki Jai!’ and we started off with introductions. About 32 people joined the satsang this day and we had representations from the east coast, the mid-west and the west, with considerably more people joining from the west-coast.
Shri Narayanaswamy of Seattle then gave a wonderful 15 minute discourse on Bhakti, a gist of which is below….
What is the unique aspect of Hindu Religion? According to Kanchi Mahaperiyava – Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswati Swamiji, it is that there are infinite paths to reach the Supreme.
Out of the various paths, ‘Bhakti Marga’ is one of the easiest. What is Bhakti. Getting closer to the Guru or Bhagavan through devotion and love – that is Bhakti.
When it comes to Bhakti, it is broadly stated that there are nine different ways to perform Bhakti. They are the ‘Nava vidha Bhakti’. Let us see the nine different ways, one after another.
The first among them is, “Shravanam” – listening to the Divine Names and glories of God. How long can one listen to the glories of the Lord? Not for a long time. We get bored too soon. But there was a great illustration of this kind of Bhakti – it was verily Hanuman. Hanuman had unflinching devotion for the Lord and always listened to nothing but Rama Nama and Rama Katha.
Another form of Bhakti is ‘Archanam’ – peforming pooja to the Lord by offering flowers. How long can a common man spend in performing pooja? May be an hour, two, or a little more. But there was a great devotee who performed Archana Bhakti and reached Lord through this. ‘Kannapan’ was the name of this person. By virtue of performing ‘Archanam’ to Lord Siva, He eventually attained His feet, and came to be called ‘Kannappa Naayanaar’.
‘Smaranam’ – thinking about the Lord always. Sita Devi was an exemplary illustration of this Smarana Bhakti. She kept thinking of Lord Rama every moment.
‘Vandanam’ is a form of Bhakti which is about prostrating to the Lord. We are supposed to do ‘Namaskaram’ to the Lord by falling at His feet. But what do we do today? We wave our hand, when we go to temples! There was one great soul who attained the Divine by Vandana Bhakti – Vibheeshana.
A distinctive example of ‘Padasevanam’ is that of Bharata, who sacrificed his whole kingdom and served at the feet of Lord Rama. It is said that Bharata’s sacrifice is greater than that of Rama, for, Rama sacrificed the kingdom only for 14 years, but Bharata sacrificed it forever, letting the Padhuka of the Lord rule!
‘Sakhyam’ is friendship. By considering the Lord as your friend, you can get closer to Him. One can see in the Mylapore temple in Chennai, where people tell out their woes to the Divine Mother there, thinking of her as their closest friend. How often do we consider the Lord as our true friend? Who can equal Guha, the hunter, who became Rama’s friend, and attained Him? ‘…Aivar anom’, says Kambar (we were four brothers, now with Guha, we have become 5 brothers, says Rama, in Kamba Ramayana).
‘Dasyam’ is the Bhakti to offer seva to the Lord. Lakshmana performed Dasya Bhakti to the Lord. He woke up before Rama and went to bed after Rama did. At any point in time, Lakshmana was always ready with whatever was needed for Rama. This is Daasya Bhakti.
One of the most difficult forms of Bhakti is ‘Aatma Nivedanam’, offering oneself to the Lord. A superlative example of this kind of Bhakti was that of the bird Jatayu, who gave his life to protect Sita and indicated to Rama, the direction in which Ravana took Sita. Bound by the offering of Jatayu, the Lord Himself performed the last rites for Jatayu!
The final form of Bhakti that we will discuss now is ‘Kirthanam’ – singing the Divine Names of the Lord. This is the simplest of all Bhakti forms. Great saints like Valmiki, Thiyagaraja etc. have attained the Lord by just chanting the Rama Nama. All the sages, down to our Swamiji, have shown us this glorious path.
When Kali Yuga started, a panicked Narada, asked Brahma what the solution to the ills of Kali Yuga was. Brahma gave the great Mantra
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare as the one cure for all the ills in this Yuga. By just chanting this Mantra continuously, one can cross this ocean of Samsara in this Kali yuga and reach the Divine Feet of the Lord, with utmost ease.
Karthik from Cincinnati, on listening to the Jatayu episode – of Rama performing the last rites for the bird, narrated this wonderful piece of experience:
In a place called Cheyyar in Tamil Nadu, Nama Kirtan happens regularly. An old woman travels all the way from a far away town every week to attend the Nama Kirtan in Cheyyar. On one such occasion, Sri Sri Swamiji paid a surprise visit to Cheyyar. On that particular day, no one else had turned up for the Kirtan except for this woman and the hosts. Sri Sri Swamiji was surprised learning that this elderly woman travels such a distance every week for Nama sake. He asked her, ‘What do you wish for?’ The woman replied, ‘I don’t wish for anything great. I just want to have Nama in my lips, at my last breath.’ Sri Sri Swamiji just smiled.
Just a few days later, this woman found herself in a party that set out on a trip to Gaya in North India. During the pilgrimage, one day, she complained of chest pain and when she was in her final stages of her life, she was right at ‘Vishnu Pada’, chanting the Mahamantra. Indeed her prayer was fulfilled!
Ms. Priya from Seattle talked about how the strength of her weekly satsang grew from 4-5 people to a 45 member group within a little over a year. A few take-away ideas for satsang:
- Start the satsang with Mahamantra and end with Mahamantra
- Bhajans and Kirtans
- Slokas, like Vishnu Sahasranama and the like
- A separate children’s satsang time that includes programs based on specific themes (eg. Ganesha during Ganesh Chaturti and so on).
- A short discourse/ lecture on greatness of Rama Nama.
For the news/events section, it was announced that the VanPurushottaman temple Samprokshanam was held in Sri Swamiji’s presence on the 11th of September. A brief about the activities at Smt. Jayanthi Janakiraman Memorial Aagama Prabandha Patashala at Thirunangoor and the Samprokshanams at other temples in Thirunangoor was also given.
If you happen to visit the Kumbakonam / Tanjavur belt or visit Tamil Nadu, do take a day off to visit the 13+ Divya Desams in Tirunangur. It will stay in your memory forever!
Sri Ramaswamy mentioned that this day was auspicious! Yes. It was ‘Onam’ festival (Sravana star) when the Lord took birth as Vamana / Upendra to take King Bali unto Himself. It is indeed an auspicious occasion and everyone felt blessed to be in the satsang on this auspicious occasion, chanting Nama.
With prayers for the safety of Texas residents and other personal prayers, Anushaji and Boomaji closed the satsang with Mahamantra Prayers.