Boomaji from Dallas lead the NamaSankirtan to start the satsang.. Sriramji from Houston delivered a beautiful lecture on Bhadrachalam Ramadasa. Here it goes:
This is what Sriramji had to say…
Our Guru Maharaj has very beautifully said that there is a very clear sign as to whether Bhagawan has answered our prayers or not. It is indeed a very simple test. It is also a first sign of the Lord’s grace falling on each one of us. We might have done a recitation of any sacred text, say, Narayaneeyam, Srimad Bhagavatam or Ramayanam. The Lord gets very pleased by these activities and bestows us with more and more satsangs.
What is a satsang? It is a divine communion with Sadhus. In order words, it is a relationship with a Mahatma. It is very difficult to even get a glimpse of satsangs. It is only by virtue of the merits accrued in the past births that one becomes the recipient of God’s grace. If a Guru takes one unto his feet and exposes him to a satsang, then that is a clear sign of God’s grace falling on him.
But as soon as we get into a satsang or get the grace of the Guru / God, we tend to think that we should be free of all problems! But it is not true. It is the demerits one has earned in the past births that leads us to undergo trials and tribulations. The Guru comes and helps us and makes it easy on us to go through the difficult times. To substantiate this, we can take our lives as an example. We can retrace our steps back to see how difficult our lives would have been, if we had not been in contact with the Sadguru. A guru comes and saves us from being traumatized during the trial and tribulations in one’s life.
In the text called ‘Bhagavan Nama Rasodayam’, Sri Bhodendra Swamigal very lucidly listed ten points that are considered as offenses (Nama Apachara) – Abuse of Sadhus, speaking about the glory of Nama to the wicked, differentiating between Siva and Vishnu, distrust in the Vedas and Shastras, disbelief in Guru’s words, doubt in the glory of Nama, committing sins on the glory of Naama, non-performance of one’s routine karmas on the strength of Naama, equating Naama Sankirtan with other Dharmas. Bhagavatas should not commit any of these sins and Nama Sankirtan is the only atonement that will remove the sin of Nama Apachara. It is also said that any type of these sins are wiped off when one does Nama Sankirtan on an auspicious day like Ekadasi.
Today let us discuss the life of the great saint, Bhadrachalam Ramadas who lived in Andhra Pradesh. The name given by his parents for Bhadrachalam Ramadas was Gopanna. He was born in a wealthy family. His father worked as a minister for the Nizam of Hyderabad. Gopanna’s father died when he was a very small boy. Before he died, he made sure that Gopanna’s maternal uncle (Appanagaru) was his successor to his job. So Gopaana was not able to secure his father’s job. Even as a child, Gopanna was much devoted to Lord Rama. His family deeply urged him to get married. To his luck, his wife was also a great devotee of Lord Rama. With all the riches they had, Gopanna and his wife celebrated the Rama Navami festival is a very great manner. All the Sadhus were invited and the whole town took on a festive look. There was Nama Kirtan round the clock. The only thing that made Gopanna very upset was when someone questioned his spending for the Rama Navami Utsav. After a few years he was reduced to penury and it was becoming very difficult for him to conduct the Rama Navami utsav. Gopanna Garu as he was fondly known, started to ponder on the impending utsav and the thought that he could not afford for a grand utsav made him very depressed. His wife who was a great Lord Rama devotee consoled him that Lord Rama will not allow this to happen and a thought suddenly struck her. She requested him to go and meet his maternal uncle Appanagaru was the then minister in the Nizam of Hyderabad. So Gopanna went to see his uncle. Since Gopanna’s father had named Appanagaru as his successor to his job, he was waiting to show his gratitude to Gopanna’s family. He asked him to perform the Rama Navami festival with its usual splendor and he assured him that he will take care of the finances. He also asked him to come and meet him after the utsav and that he will find a job for him with the Nizam of Hyderabad. Gopanna’s joy knew no bounds and he did all the arrangements for the Rama Navami utsav. During the utsav Gopanna’s wife wanted to serve the sadhus all by herself and she cooked all the food alone. At the end of the day, when the Nama Sankirtan was going on, she was putting her only son Raghava to sleep. When the boy went to sleep, she lighted a little oil lamp next to him and she moved to the room where the bhajans were going on in full swing. As there were some fierce winds blowing outside, they blew the lamp away and the boy woke up and since it was pitch dark, he was wandering inside the house, oblivious of the path he was heading to. As fate would have it, he fell in a boiling hot porridge which was prepared to serve the sadhus. The mother who heard some sounds coming from other room was going in search and found that her little boy was dead. She couldn’t really come to terms with the fate and was totally shaken. But she didn’t want to ruin the utsav that was happening in the front room and so she wrapped up the corpse of her little son with a towel and moved on. She went and served the sadhus and when the utsav ended, the sadhus enquired about Raghava to Gopanna. Gopanna asked his wife as to where Raghava was and then she pulled him over to her side and told him what had happened. He was grief stricken in seeing the dead body of his son. Even the sadhus grieved over the mishap. Gopanna consoled them by saying that it was Lord Rama who had blessed him with Raghava and now he himself has taken him to his holy feet. Hearing this, the sadhus denied it. They said that the people will scoff at his Lord Rama for bringing this upon him. So they all prayed together to Lord Rama and pleaded with him to restore the child to life. Just then an old man stopped by at the door and enquired in a in a demanding tone as to what was happening there. When he was informed of the child’s death, he said that he was not dead and he went and tapped the child. The child woke up. The old man quickly walked out. Gopanna slowly followed him and saw the form of Kothandapaani Rama before he disappeared from the sight. This incident only intensified Gopaana’s faith on Lord Rama.
As advised by his uncle, Gopanna visited him after the completion of the utsav. He got the post of a Thasildar in a hilly city called Bhadrachalam. There is a beautiful temple of Lord Rama in Bhadrachalam. The history (stala purana) of Bhadrachalam is that it is situated in the banks of river Godavari. Bhadra means Auspicious and Achalam means mountain. So the word Bhadrachalam means auspicious mountain. There was a great saint by name Bhadra who did tapas and obtained the darshan of Lord Rama and he requested to place his feet on top of his head. That is how the temple came to existence on the top of a hill. There is an incident exemplifying the glory (stala purana) of Bhadrachalam.
There was once a brahmin by name Kaalakalan. His guru cursed him because he did a grave sin of desiring his guru’s wife. He was inflicted with leprosy and was thrown out of the town. He repented greatly for his wicked deed and prayed to god to save him from this hell. No one offered him food. He heard from someone that even a worst sinner was offered food by way of “Anna Dhaana” in Bhadrachalam on the day of Sri Rama Navami festival. He somehow managed to reach the Kshetra. As he took a glimpse of the temple he fell down dead. When the aides of Yama (God of death) came down to take him, an analogy similar to Ajamila Charithra in Srimad Bhagavatham, he was stopped by Hanumanji, who was a great bhaktha of Lord Rama. He was sent there by Lord Rama. Lord Rama has proclaimed that one who has stepped into the holy city of Bhadrachalam are under his clutches and can never be touched by Yama irrespective of the sins committed. He thus took Kaalakalan unto his lotus feet. Such is the great glory of this kshetra.
Gopannagaru was very happy to hear that there was a Rama temple atop the hill and decided to go and see that temple. He was very depressed to see the dilapidated condition of the temple. His eyes were filled with tears to see the poor state of the temple with the deities not decorated. He decided to use all his wealth to refurbish the temple but that amount was just not enough. It was then that he decided to use the tax collected from the people to set things right in the temple. Instead of sending the funds to the King, he started diverting the funds for temple renovation. When he was planning for a grand utsav, one of the close associates of the king went and complained to the king for diverting the funds to temple renovation. The King accused Gopanna for misappropriating the government money and hence sent him to prison for twelve years.
Ramadasa wrote all the kirtans in that twelve years in the dark cell, oblivious of whether it was day or night. Prisoners in those days were tortured in many ways. In spite of all the sufferings he underwent in the prison he sang “Deena dayalo Deena dayalo Deena Para Deva Dayalo”
_ Lord Rama is a Bhagawan of compassion. And he says that he is unable to take his grace. He had unstinted devotion towards Lord Rama. He carved out Lord Rama , Sita Maata and Lakshmana in his prison cell with his fingers and worshipped them. Lord Rama and Sita sit in a very beautiful pose. SitaMaata sits in the lap of Lord Rama (in ekasimhasana) and Lakshmana on the side.
In one of his kirtans, he teases Lord Rama and says that he glitters with all the jewels which are adorned on him and asks him as to who gave all these jewels. He continues further by saying that it was not given by Janaka, not by Lord Dasaratha. He then says that it was he who gave Lord Rama all the jewels and asks him as to why he is subjected to this cruel treatment in the prison. He urged Lord Rama to save him.
“Palukae Bangara Mayana Kothandapani” – He teases Lord Rama by asking him If the pearls that he is holding in his mouth would fall off if he opened his mouth. He then decided not to ask Lord Rama for help and goes to Sita Maata for help him. When Sita Maata requested Lord Rama to save him, he refused. He said to her that he didn’t ask him to renovate the temple. With continuous pleading of Sita Maata, Lord Rama told her that he will not be able to save Ramadasa until he was able to return the funds to the King that were used for temple renovation. Hearing this, Sita Maata who was none other than Mahalakshmi, poured gold coins. Lord Rama and Lakshmana wearing the garb of the servants (Thalaiyari) of Ramadas went to the Nizam. Seeing their ‘tejas’ and their beautiful face none decided to stop them and they knocked the king’s door. When the king opened the door he could not but wonder and admire at these two men who seemed so lustrous. They introduced themselves as the “Thalaiyaaris” to Ramadas and informed him that they had bought the money that was due. They gave the gold coins and asked him to release Ramadas. The King picked up his upper cloth and wrote the receipt for gold coing. Once Ramadas was released, he said to Lord Rama, “Hey Lord Rama is it because of the King’s money used in renovation of your temple, clothes and jewels adorning you that blessed him with your darshan”. This shows the great devotion that he had for Lord Rama. But for Ramadas the world would have not known Bhadrachalam.
After the wonderful speech, there was an announcement about the Srimad Bhagavatham study circle in Houston.
The satsang wrapped up with Namasankirtan.