In Srimad Bhagavatam, there is an episode where the Prachetas are instructed to perform penance to the Lord. They head in a particular direction towards doing penances. When they were in a confusion as to how to meditate on the Lord and what to ask, Lord Shiva himself comes as a guru and instructs them. In the song known as the “Rudra Geetam”, He describes the beautiful form of the Lord to meditate upon. He says, “When God comes in front of you, do not ask Him to bestow you with any worldly or spiritual goodness. If at all you ask for something, it should be satsang for even half a second.
Kshanaardhenaapi tulayam na svargam naapunarbhavam |
bhagavat sangi sangasya martyaanaam kimutaasishah ||
The union with Bhagavatas is indeed the rarest of the rarest. Satsang represents sheer bhakti. Association with a Jivan Mukta, or constant chanting of the Divine Name and listening to the glories of the Divine is indeed satsang.
The Nama chanting was lead by Sri Thiagaraj and family from Dallas. It was Rama Navami, a very auspicious day.
Followed by brief round of introductions, Gayatriji from Boston gave a blissful satsang talk.
When Sri Sukha talks to King Parikshit about Prahalad’s life-history he says “Yat bhagavatha mahatmyam bhagavat bhakti vardanam”. By listening to the life-histories of the devotees of the lord, one develops bhakti. Why should one develop bhakti? Our aim in life is to reach the holy feet of God. Bhakti is a special path because the journey to the destination is enjoyable if that path is followed. Unlike other margas, where one has to perform many difficult tasks and also undergo lot of physical stress to attain God, the path of bhakti is very pleasant and is very joyful indeed. How does one develop bhakti? We are not the right person to define what bhakti is. We tend to develop bhakti by listening to the life-histories of great devotees. One such devotee of Lord Rama was Sri. Tulsidas.
Tulsidas was born in a village near Kasi under a tulasi plant. What is special about a Tulsi plant? Every other flower releases its fragrance only when it blooms but tulsi releases its fragrance right from the time it sprouts. Akin to the tulasi plant, Tulsidas exhibited his love for Lord Rama ever since his birth. Instead of crying “qua qua” he shouted “Rama Rama” when he was an infant. Being born in a Brahmin family, he learnt all the shastras and Upanishads. His parents got him married to a woman by name Ratnavali.
Tulsidas was a person who loved his wife a lot. He worked as an adviser for a king. The king one day asked Tulsidas to accompany him to a trip to some other town. Tulsidas couldn’t deny this offer but was also not very happy to leave his wife alone. He cautioned his wife Ratnavali to be at most cautious when she was alone. Those days it was not safe to leave women alone at home. So he stocked his house with all groceries and promised his wife that he would return in a few months. But his trip got delayed and it took some more months for Tulsidas to return to his town. The day when he returned he found that his wife was not home and the house was locked. He immediately enquired his neighbors and they informed him that she had left for her parents’ place. They also informed him that she was accompanied by an unknown person. Scared, Tulsidas started to his parents-in-law’s place. It was dark when he went there and he found her sleeping in her room. Ratnavali was shocked to see Tulsidas and asked him “Why did you come here at this point of time?” In reply, he asked her how she could leave that house and come to her parents place. He told her that he was very much worried about her. Ratnavali said “Oh You always tell that Lord Rama will always take care of everything –
“Apathadam apahartharam dhathaaram Sarvasampadaam
lokabiramam Sriramam bhooyo bhooyo Namamyaham”
So why should you worry that I am in danger when Lord Rama will always be there in case of any lingering danger? She continued further and said “You love my body that is made of bones and flesh more than what you love Lord Rama. Had you placed the same love upon Lord Rama, you should have seen Lord Rama by now”. This enlightened Tulsidas. He decided to do Bhakti to Lord Rama and wished to have his darshan and so he left for Kasi the very same night.
Since then, he performed crores and crores of Rama Nama chanting in the mornings and in the evenings he discoursed on Ramayana. In the night, he used to write his own version of Ramayana in Sanskrit. One morning, when he woke up, he found that all the Ramayana he wrote the previous night were all gone. However, the leaves in which he wrote the Ramayana still remained there but all the slokas had disappeared. So Tulsidas decided to see who the culprit was and stayed awake the whole night. And guess who that person was? It was none other than Lord Shiva. He had done this deliberately so that he could talk to Tulsidas and request him to write Ramayana in Prakrita Bhassha, which is the local language so that the local people could understand it better. From then on he started to write Ramayana in Prakrita bhassha. Every evening he discoursed on the portion of Ramayana he wrote the previous night. Tulsidas noticed an old man who came to his lectures every day and he listened to his lectures with rapt attention and with tears flowing in his eyes.
One morning after his daily ablutions, he splashed the water from his kamanadalu in a nearby tree and instantly a brahma rakshasha (a demon) came out of the tree. Tulsidas asked “who are you? The demon said that he had got this birth as a demon because of the sins he had incurred in the past. And now the Rama Nama Kamandalu Thirtha (the holy water) had purified him and just when he was about to leave to his holy abode, he expressed his desire to do some good deed for Tulsidas. Tulsidas told the demon that all his life he has been longing to have the darshan of Lord Rama and asked him if he can help him get the darshan of Lord Rama. The demon replied back by saying that he didn’t have the powers to give him Lord Rama’s darshan. He however told him that the old man who listens to his daily lectures with rapt attention was none other than Lord Hanuman.
Tulsidas now couldn’t wait for the evening lecture. When the lecture was over, he immediately followed the old man behind and fell at his feet. Tulsidas said to the old man, “I know that you are Lord Hanuman”. The moment he said that, the old man disappeared and there was hanuman. From that day onwards, Lord hanuman and Tulsidas became friends. Tulsidas in a song sings, “Pavanathanaya Paramasakha”
One day Tulsidas asked Hanuman if he could recommend Lord Rama to bless him with his darshan. Hanuman agreed to put forth the request to Lord Rama. He told Hanuman that he didn’t want a darhsan of Lord Rama for few seconds and instead desired to have Lord Rama come to his house, have dinner at his place and rest that night. He came back to Tulsidas and told him that he will have Lord Rama’s darshan on the next Punarvasu day. On hearing this he was very excited to see Lord Rama.
On the day of Punarvasu, he prepared everything for Lord Rama and was eagerly waiting for him, when he suddenly heard heavy footsteps at the door in the middle of the night. The sound was akin to an army marching towards his door. Tulsidas feared that it could be attackers and that they could damage all the decorations that he had done for his Lord and decided not to open the door. The sound receded after sometime and was quite very soon.
Next day, Tulsidas was very upset that he didn’t have Lord Rama’s darshan and asked Hanuman as to why even his words went wrong. Hanuman told him that Lord Rama had indeed been to his house and knocked his house but he didn’t open the door. After listening to this, Tulsidas asked him if it was a reason to not to bless him with his darshan. He told hanuman that he could have himself opened the door and come in to give him darshan. Hanumanji immediately told him that it was not how he wished to have Lord Rama’s darshan! Since he wanted Lord Rama to come like an ordinary person, Lord Rama decided to do so. Tulsidas felt that he lacked bhakti and thought that hanuman’s words would never go wrong. He went to Brindavan and performed Ramayana Navaham and that’s where he was blessed with Lord Rama’s darshan.
People in Brindavan greet each other by saying “Radhe Radhe”, whereas Tulsidas who didn’t want to let go his Rama bhakti greeted everyone by saying “Sitaram”. Tulsidas was sitting and reading out Ramayana right across the Vamshi Vat. Suddenly he heard the sound of a flute and turned back and there was Lord Krishna standing in front of him with his Vyatyasta Charana with his flute and peacock feather in his head. Tulsidas was now very confused as to whether he wanted to have Lord Krishna’s darshan or not. All these years he had truly wished to see Lord Rama and not lord Krishna. He requested Lord Krishna to go away. Lord Krishna said to him that he would not go away. He said that a great saint (mahan) has come to his place to discourse on Ramayana and that he wouldn’t go away. Tulsidas decided not to get distracted with Lord Krishna’s darshan and continued to read Ramayana with rapt attention. But the beauty of Lord Krishna had a greater impact on him than his Ramayana and Lord Rama. With tears rolling down his eyes, he fell at the feet of Lord Krishna and said, “Oh Lord Krishna, I am akin to a pathivratha (a faithful wife). I am a Rama Bhakta! Please preserve my bhakti for Lord Rama. Please bestow me with a darshan of Lord Rama. Lord Krishna told Tulsidas that “Pathivratha para grham na gacheth”. Pathi vratha does not go to somebody else’s house. You are not in Ayodhya, but in Brindavan! He further added that even if a Pathivratha goes to somebody’s house, she would not see the men in that house. Even if she saw the men, she would not talk to them. Lord Krishna said that he had not only seen him but also talked to him. Even when talking to the Lord, he should have only referenced Ramayana and Lord Rama in the conversation. Tulsidas pleaded with him asking him to preserve this bhakti to Lord Rama. He stood and raised his hands. Immediately his flute became the bow and arrow and there stood Lord Rama. Krishna told him that he will show his form as he desired and blessed him with Lord Rama’s darshan. Thus Tulsidas was blessed with Lord Rama’s darshan. With all humility, he prayed to Lord Rama
“Tu dayalu deena ham
Tu dhani ham bhikari
Ham Prasidda papa ki
Tu papa punja haari”
He returned to Kasi and established an ashram there. During the day, many sadhus used to visit the ashram and have the darshan of Tulsidas, recite Ramayana for some time and take leave. One day few Brahmin sadhus had come to have darshan of Tulsidas. After their morning ablutions, they were seated to have their lunch. At that instant of time, a person who appeared to be Bhagavatha, with sita ram cloth on his body, chandan on him and came inside singing the nama kirtan. Tulsidas was very happy to see him and invited him to have lunch. When he was about to be seated , the Brahmin sadhus got up and told Tulsidas that it was not correct to have lunch with that man and it is one of the means to accrue sin. Tulsidas told him that anyone who chants the name of Lord Rama is not a sinner. The Brahmins did not reconcile to this fact. Tulsidas in the meanwhile took the uchistam (the left-over of the food) and placed it in front of the Nandi in the temple and started to pray. Nandi came right there to consume the food and that verily proved the fact that the divine name chanting of the lord can do wonders.
It was the Akbar reign then and he honored people who were adept in different skills. He had a love for music. Tulsidas who was very skillful in music was invited by Akbar to his court. Tulsidas had accepted the invitation. After Tulsidas sang some songs on Lord Rama,the king asked Tulsidas if he can recommend his name to Lord Rama so that he is blessed with his darshan. Tulsidas told the king that he didn’t have enough qualifications to see Lord Rama. Akbar immediately asked as to what are the qualifications to see Lord Rama. Anybody who aspires to see Lord Rama should have Rama bhakti. How can one get Rama Bhakti, the king questioned. Tulsidas replied that one should always think of Lord Rama, perform to pooja to Rama’s idol, speak Rama stories(Katha), sing Rama’s praises. Live for rama and breathe for Rama. When King Akbar heard that he was not eligible enough to see Lord Rama, he threw Tulsidas into the prison. Since Hanuman was Tulsidas’s pal, he called him for help and requested him to ask Lord Rama to save him. Hanuman told Tulsidas that they themselves can deal with this issue and not involve Lord Rama! So that night, about a dozen huge monkeys called gorilla monkeys, came into the palace and ransacked the whole palace. The king was furious because every single item in the palace which his queen would enjoy had been destroyed. When he inquired about this incident to his minister, he was told that it was because of Tulsidas arrest who is an ardent devotee of Lord Rama. The king immediately went to his prison and there Tulsidas told him that he had requested Lord Rama to give darshan to the king and it looks like his family is in the midst of arrival and Lord Rama will himself be here shortly. Akbar took back his request to see Lord Rama and Tulsidas told him that anyone who values his palace and other worldly possessions more than Lord Rama doesn’t deserve to see him. He then walked out of the prison and went back to his ashram and lived happily by spreading the glories of Rama Nama.”
Following this wonderful lecture, Narayananji from Boston talked about Lord Hanuman. In all our Friday satsangs, there is one person who sits and listens to the satsang but is always anonymous. It is none other than our Hanunmanji. It is said that –
“Yatra Yatra Raghunatha Kirthanam
Thatra Thatra krutam mastakaanjalim
Bhaspavari paripurna lochanam
Maruthim mamada raakshasaandhakam”
Wherever there is chanting of Lord Rama’s Names, wherever one reminisces on Lord Rama, Hanumanji is verily in that place listening to all of these. It is true even today.
There is a great saint in the lineage of Sringeri Mutt. He happened to narrate Ramayana and he kept a plate which had fruits that was offered to Hanuman. One of his disciples one day asked this saint about the plate. The saint replied that it was for Hanuman as he comes wherever Rama Katha is being expounded. But this disciple didn’t quite understand it. When the Ramayana katha was about to conclude on the last day, Hanumanaji did come in form of a vanara and consumed the fruits and went away. This dates back to some few years ago.
In 2004 Our Guru maharaj preformed a Maha Samrajya Patabishekha, in which about hundred and twenty eight Bhagavathas were reading Ramayana. There was one person who listened to Ramayana with full concentration and when there was a small break during the parayana, he used to climb a tree and chant Rama Nama and when the parayana resumed he joined back again. He participated in each and every event during the navaham and after the nineth day he was not to be found. Our Guru Maharaj told the devotees that he was verily a form of Hanuman.
Following this, Sri Thiagarajan talked on the difference between Sharadha navarathiri and Vasantha navarathiri. The former is very holy for goddess Devi and Rama Navami falls during the Vasantha Navarathiri. It is very auspicious to do any parayana or chanting the divine names of the Lord during Vasantha Navarathiri. It is a good time to do Ramayana Parayana because Rama Navami falls on the navami day akin to Sarasawati pooja which also falls on the navami day of the Sharadha navarathiri.
The satsang wrapped up with Namasankirtan prayers.