The Nama was lead by Sriramji and Nithyaji from Redding. Followed by introductions, Sankarji from San Jose discoursed on the Significance of Nama.
It is a known fact that every god is worshipped in a different manner. For example, Surya is pleased with Namaskara , while Lord Shiva likes Puja. However, Lord Vishnu very much likes Bhajanam. Bhajanam means incessant chanting of the name of the Lord with Shradda and Bhakti. It means ‘manas’ (mind) and ‘kaayam’ (body) should all be involved in it . Everything should be involved only in uttering the Name of the Lord. To substantiate this, Andal sings in one of her Tiruppavai, “vaayinaal paadi manathinaal sindikka’ – sing through the mouth and think in your mind. Chanting of the divine name should not be mechanical process. One should do Namasankirtan with devotion. Whatever ‘stotra’ we chant, whatever kirtan we sing should be performed with the mind harping on its meaning.
Adi Sankara sings, ‘Bhaja Govindam Bhaja Govindam Bhaja Govindam, moodamate!’ – Oh Foolish Mind, Sing and chant Govinda. Once Adi Sankara found an old man on the banks of the Ganges trying to learn some sutras in grammar in Sanskrit. Sankara was wondering as why this old man who appeared to be in his nineties was trying to learn grammar at this juncture of his life. He was thinking as to what he was going to achieve through this. When he questioned this to the young man, he explained that the king had announced a golden shawl to one who recited the grammar. He said that he wanted to get the golden shawl. Adi Sanakara immediately felt that he should be singing the praises of Tirumal (Lord Vishnu) and pray to attain a birthless state. He wondered if the prana (which is the body’s life force) leaves the old man’s body, will that grammar save him?
A man may be holding a high office. A man may be very wealthy. A man may be highly learned. But, when he dies none would speak of him as ‘the collector’ if he had held that high office but pointing to his body only refer to it as ‘the dead body’. The respect that he had received when holding the high office holds no more. He is referred to merely as ‘the dead body’.
It was at this time that Adi Sankara wrote the lyric,
‘Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
Bhaja govindam moodamate!
Sampraapte sannihite kale
Nahi nahi rakshati dukrn karane!’
Adi Sankara pointed out to him that at that age when death was so close at hand it is verily the chanting the Divine Names of the Lord that would support him and not some Sanskrit grammar and advised him to take up the chanting of the Lord’s Name. ‘He urged him to chant Govinda! Govinda! and told him that will save him and not thiegrammar; ‘nahi nahi rakshati dukrn karanae’ – This grammar will not save you.’
An Azhwaar sings in one of his ‘paasurams’ – ‘Oh! Lord! I do not know whether I will be able to utter Your Name or even think of you in the last stage of my life.’ Some people fall into coma stage and the life goes out at this stage. Some die in sleep. So, this Ãzhwaar sings, ‘Appodaikku ippode solli vaithen arangamaa nagarulone’ – ‘I will chant ‘Ranga! Ranga!’ now itself, for, I do not know my state at the last moment of my life. I may not even be able to think of You. So, as a precaution I will chant Your Name now while still alive and in good state!’
Panduranga is known as ‘sama saroja charanam’ – His two feet are held together side-by-side. This shows the equal treatment he metes out to all bhaktas. All he expects of people is ‘bhajanam’. His devotees were from all castes. Jnaneshwar was a Brahmin, Senayi was a barber, Gora Kumhar was a potter, Naamadev was from the sippiya caste, Tukkaram was a vysya (business man), Raidaas was a cobbler. They were all ‘amsa’ (aspects) of bhaktaas (devotees of the Lord) Prahlada, Narada, Parashara, Pundariika, Vyaasa, Ambareesha, Suka, Saunaka, Bheeshma. When the Lord came down, all his devotees came down to the earth along with Him.
Naamdev was a still a child when he made Panduranga to eat the offerings. Naamdev’s father used to perform pooja to Panduranga daily and offer ‘naivedya’ (offering of food). Naamdev desired to perform this but since he was a child his father told him that he was too small to perform pooja. However, one day his father had to leave town on some urgent work and Naamdev was sent by his mother to perform the pooja. Naamdev, the child, thought that Panduranga ate up the food offering of his father daily. So, after pooja when he offered food and Panduranga did not eat, he hit his head against the stone of the ‘peetah’ and questioned Panduranga as to why he was not eating the food offered by him. He gave an ultimatum to Lord Panduranga that if he didn’t eat the food, he will die in the peetam by hitting his head against the stone.” Panduranga immediately ate the food! This does not mean that the Lord does not accept the food offerings on other days. He does. The Lord does accept the offerings of Mahans and bhaktas. When anything is offered to the Lord, the grace touches it. That particular day the Lord showed it to Naamdev in a ‘stula’ (physical) manner.
Gora Kumhar was a potter. One day, when all were gathered together Gora kumbha playfully hit everybody’s head with his pot testing stick as he would a pot. On hitting Naamdev’s head with the stick he declared, ‘This (pot) is still unbaked!’ This angered Naamdev. He thought that Panduranga was so easily available to him and he speaks and plays with him. He was wondering as to who this Gora Kumbha was and why he called him as unbaked? He was thinking if he was mature enough to judge him. He rushed to Panduranga for support. But, Panduranga asserted this comment. The disappointed Naamdev questioned the Lord. Panduranga explained that he had come to him directly and not through a Guru. A Guru will be strict with his disciples and take them on the right path and asked him to seek a Guru. He further added that he was God and that he possessed only love for everyone. But, a Guru will be strict with his disciples when they err and lead them the right path.”
Naamdev requested Lord Panduranga to show him a Guru. Panduranga sent him to a nearby forest where there lived a Jnani. Naamdev was shocked to find the lying down Jnani’s leg placed on a Siva linga. The Jnani asked him if Panduranga had sent him. This surprised Naamdev. He thought that he knew everything and must indeed be a Jnani. But he was surprised as to why he placed his leg over a Siva linga? It is verily a sin.’ He said to the Jnani that Panduranga had sent him. He also told him that he was not aware that his leg was placed on a Siva linga.”
The Jnani asserted his statement and agreed that it was a sin indeed. He requested him to remove his feet and place it elsewhere. When Naamdev did so, a Siva linga came up there! He then placed the Jnani’s foot elsewhere and a Siva linga rose up there, too. Wherever the Jnani’s foot was placed there a Siva linga rose up! It was then that Naamdev realized that the Lord was omnipresent. He was not limited but was all-pervasive.
Naamdev sat on the banks of Chandrabhaga river doing ‘bhajanam’. But, now Panduranga was unable to stay in the temple without his beloved Bhakta! He came running to Naamdev and said to him that “Tthough I am present everywhere you need not sit here to do ‘bhajanam’. You must sit in my temple and do ‘bhajanam’. It is difficult for me to remain without seeing you. Come to the temple and do your ‘bhajanam’!” The Bhakta had attained ‘Advaita bhaava’ (oneness with God) but Bhagavan could not be without His Bhakta!
There is another incident that occurred on Shivaratri. People perform bhajan of Hari Naama at the gates of one of the twelve Jyothirlinga Kshetras. People object on the ground that it was Shivaraatri and how could they perform Hari Naamasankirtan in Lord Siva’s temple? The party moves over to the backside of the temple and continue their bhajan. What happens? The Linga turns to the direction where the Bhaktas were doing bhajan! The Linga continues to be in this position even today.
Panduranga loves ‘bhajanam’. In Bhagavatam we find that Ajamila calls ‘Narayana!’ in the last moment of his life. This came to be only because He had done ‘aavarti’ (repeatedly remembering/chanting) of it earlier – ‘Naryana! Narayana!’ He had been repeatedly calling out his son (whom he had named as ‘Narayana’).
The Lord is attracted only to devotion. Once, on a stormy night all houses were destroyed but for Naamdev’s house which was but a small hut. In the morning he was stunned to find the hut still holding against the storm. He came out only to find Panduranga holding his hut with a hand. Is it necessary for the Omnipotent One to come down to the earth to hold the hut with His hands? Could He not have done this from His abode in Vaikunta? But, this was only to show His love and ‘soulabhya’ (easy access) to His Bhakta.
All spiritual practices are same – dhyaana, yoga, bhakti. None is higher or lower than the other. What matters is faith (in it). Mere sadhana without faith amounts to nothing. One may do any amount of sadhana but if we do it without any faith it will not bear the desired result. Sadhana is only 50%, rest is F A I T H. Only with faith it can fructify. Only the Grace of the Lord can fructify it.
(Chaitanya) Maha prabhu once saw Radharaani and Krishna sailing in a boat. Suddenly the ear drop (‘jhumka’) of Radharaani fall into the waters. At once, the perturbed Maha Prabhu jumped into the waters to retrieve the ‘jhumka’ for Radharaani. Others will not be able to comprehend his ‘bhaava’. One has to get into such ‘bhaava’ to know his ‘bhaava’. Maha Prabhu was a great scholar; He was a great pundit. He stood above all. But, he threw everything away and took to chanting
‘Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare!
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare!’
Let us look at it from another logically. Sankara’s period was some 2500 years back. At that time every home performed ‘yaaga’, ‘yagna’ and puja to the Lord. There was no falsehood then – No bribe, no cheating, no robbing, no thieving, etc. Sankara who lived in such a period has said that dhyaana, yoga, ‘vichaara’ (enquiry) are not easy practices and has recommended chanting the Name of the Lord. Then what to speak of today when there is so much falsehood, sorrows, etc.? ‘Bhajanam’ is very easy and one can easily attain God through this.
When we walk in the rain we hold an umbrella over our head. A good umbrella shields us from the rain and we return home safely. Similarly, sorrows are the heavy rains that pour down on us. While walking in it hold the umbrella of the Lord’s Name over you if you desire to remain unaffected by it. Keep chanting the Maha Mantra
‘Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare!
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare!’
Let us all not only chant the Nama ourselves but also spread it to all the people whom we come across. This is the best service we can all do to our Guru Maharaj.
There were couple of satsang announcements and the satsang was wrapped with NamaSankirtan.