The Nama Sankirtan was lead by Nainar Mohammad from Mountain View, California.
We know the story that Rama and Sita who lived in Ayodhya and following Dasartha’s (Lord Rama’s father) orders, Rama went to forest for fourteen years. There he lost Sita Devi to Ravana and waged a war to get her back. During this journey, he met Hanuman, Vaali, Sugriva – many great devotees including Vibheeshana.
One way of looking at it is from a story perspective- the story of a great king of the Solar/Ikshvaku dynasty. The other way to look at it is from a philological perspective. All the stories in our Sanatana Dharma do have a philosophical view. Rama is the Paramatma and Sitadevi is the Jeevatma. Hanuman is verily the Guru. Sita Devi was separated from Rama for ten months. This ten months of separation that she underwent is akin to the ‘Garbha vasa’(the ten-month stay for the fetus in the mother’s womb) and then she gets united with Paramatma with a help of a guru called Hanuman.
Our Swamiji conveys a very interesting point. Sitadevi who is the Jeevaatma comes to meet Lord Rama who is the Paramatma when Rama broke the bow in Mithila. Here Sage Vishwamitra is the Guru. Vishwamitra is the friend of the world. A guru is supposed to be a friend of the world. A friend need not be a guru but a guru is most definitely a true friend! Here, Sage Vishwamitra is the guru and with his help, Jeevatma and Paramatma are united in wedlock. And from that point in time, it shows how a perfect ‘jiva’ should behave. Seetha being a Pativratha, had never looked at any other male. The moment Sitadevi married Rama, she was with Him always both during joyful and sorrowful times.
When Rama was ordered to go to the forest she was very adamant that she would also accompany him to the forest, as wherever Rama lived was her Ayodhya. That clearly outlines how a devotee should actually be. He should be in the company of the Lord. Now comes a twist. Let’s see what happens when a devotee is distracted from the company of the Lord. The moment she took her eyes from Lord Rama, and was attracted to a beautiful deer, misery befell her. At that point in time, there was something more beautiful to her than her husband. And that was that golden deer. In our scriptures, deer is equated with manas/maya/mind or the world. She got separated from het husband.
The key take away point from Ramayana is that one should always be in the divine company of the Lord. And the divine company is verily satsang.
Followed by introductions, Aravindji from Orlando gave a beautiful talk.
Every religion has a founder and the religion derives its name from the founder or from the holy book. For instance, the religion Christianity derives its name from the Jesus Christ. The word Buddhism, is deduced from Buddha and so on. When we take the religion Hindu, the word Hindu is neither the founder’s name nor is it present in the scriptures. Since there was only one religion present in the whole world, there wasn’t any need to give it a name.
Let’s take a step back and first define the word religion. It comes from the Latin word “religare” which binds each one of us to where we originate and that is none other than God. Any path that shows the route to get united back to the place from where we originated is called Religion.
Now let’s come back to the religion that was prevailing all throughout the world without a name. It did have a name but there was no need for it to be referenced by that name. That religion was Sanatana Dharma. Sanatana means eternal. And Dharma means righteousness. It was the only prevailing religion throughout the world, until the advent of new religions.
If we take the Mexican god, Quetzalcoatl, one can see that he is seated on snakes and is holding corn shells by his side, which precisely points to Lord Vishu from Sanatana Dharma. Let’s now take an example from southern hemisphere, the Aborigines of Australia. It is seen that on the day when the natives of India go over the holy hill of Arunachala praying to Lord Shiva, the Aborigines of Australia pull out a boy from the village and smear him with ashes all over his body and mark a tilak on his forehead signifying the third eye. They circumambulate around this boy and this boy for this festival is called Shiva. So, one can clearly see the presence of Sanatana Dharma in other religions as well.
As years passed by, more and more religions came into existence and hence people wanted to give Sanatana Dharma a new name. Since Indians were adept in trading and had expertise in dealing with merchants, they used to go all over the world and navigate by ship. If we step back and see how the word ‘navigate’ was coined, it came from the Sanskrit word, navgati, where the word ‘nav’ means boat. Indians were pioneers in navigation and since they extensively glob-trotted, Santana dharma thus spread worldwide.
The Indians did a lot of trading with the Persians and the Chinese. Since there was lot of religions which were coming into existence in the Persian world, the Persians decided to confer a new name to Sanatana Dharma. They initially wanted to name our religion as Sindhus, the people who come from the land of Sindhu, the land of Indus. They had difficulty in pronouncing the word Sindus and hence gave the name Hindu. The British people who came to India started to call us as Hindus. That’s how we got the word Hindu. And if we ponder as to who the founder of this religion was, the answer is no.
Hinduism is an experience of many saints and rishis. They did penance for many years and as a result of that they were blessed with Lord in the form of Vedas and gave it to the mankind. Are the Vedas really useful to this? Let’s take the sloka –
“Shuklambaradaram Vishum Sashi varnam chatur bhujam
Prasanna vadanam dyayeth sarva vignobhasanthayae”
It is interesting that in this sloka, dedicated to Lord Ganesha (who is an elephant God), they refer to him as ‘Sashi Varnam’ (color of the moon – which appears silvery white). It is strange because we have never heard of ‘silvery’ or ‘white’ colored elephants, have we? The only one that we know of from our scriptures is ‘Airavatha’. But Ganesha’s head was from a dead elephants, our scriptures say; so this is ruled out too!
All elephants are darkish grey in color. Then why did our Rishis call Lord Ganesha as ‘sashivarnam’?
The Rishis perceived the soil color of the moon because of their immense penance and this was later found to be true when the astronauts from NASA travelled to moon and when they picked the soil in moon they found it to be dark-grey in color. We can clearly see that religion can be proven by science.
In a similar manner, Rishis have clearly outlined the ways through which we can attain the lotus feet of the lord. One such path is ‘Ekadasi Vratha’. Ekadasi refers to the eleventh day of the fortnight belonging to lunar month. It is the eleventh day after the full-moon or the new-moon day.
On the day of ekadasi, one has to sincerely perform Upavasa. The word “Upa” means “Near” and “Vasa” means ”stay”. Ekadasi upavasa means staying near to the god all day. And the means to stay near god is verily through Nama Sankirtan, thinking about guru. But Vratha means fasting. So why should we fast on ekadasi day.
The science behind Ekadasi
If we take any particular system, the components of that system are governed by the laws of that system. We are part of solar system and what ever rules govern the solar system also imply to us. The earth is part of the solar system and we are part of the Earth/
On a full-moon day, the tidal waves in the ocean are very intense than any other normal day. It is because of the moon’s effect on the water. The moon’s effect is clearly seen on the water since water is liquid in nature, but the effect on earth is less perceivable. If we go to an asylum it is seen that the lunatics behave very strangely on a new-moon or a full-moon day because the moon has an effect on the mind akin to the sun which has an effect on the soul. The sun is called the atmakaraka. Atma means soul and karaka is the director. The word lunatic is derived from the word ‘lunar’ which translates to moon. It can be very clearly felt that during rainy days, one does not feel hungry whereas on a sunny day we feel extremely hungry. The mind works with the help of chakras. There are seven chakras and the mind uses these seven chakras in order to function. Just like how the same base (mud) is used to build a mirror and a pot but only the mirror reflects objects, in the same way whatever food we consume reflects our mind. Even though the mind travels through these seven chakras, there are only two chakras where the mind is at peace. They are the agnya chakra and anahata chakra. The agnya chakra is located right between the eyebrows and our rishis have strongly advised us to wear a tilak in the forehead because the mind at this focal point can be easily manipulated. The anahata chakra is located in the heart. On the eleventh day after the full-moon or the new moon, our rishis have proved that the mind is at home and hence comes to peace. On every other chakra the mind is very active and our minds cannot be controlled. The rishis have tuned their mind in such a way that the mind will abide to what the rishi’s desire to do and not the vice versa. The rishis have control over the mind and only when one has control over the mind, can one think about the lord. On the day of Ekadasi mind comes to rest and hence one should think about the lord in order to attain his lotus feet. So what does ekadasi got to do with fasting? When we eat more, the digestive system needs more oxygen and blood in order to digest the food. Hence the mind and other parts of the body are deprived of oxygen and that’s the reason we feel sluggish after eating. There are primary two reasons for fasting, the brain is not deprived of oxygen and secondly it is very beneficial for the body to rest the digestive system once a while in order for the body to function properly. We need a healthy body even for spirituality.
From our Puranas…
Let’s substantiate the significance of ekadasi from Srimad Bhagavatam. There was a great king called Rukmangada, and belonged to Ikshavaku dynasty akin to Lord Rama and ruled over Ayodhya. His wife was Sandhyavali and had a handsome son Dharmangada. One day he was taking a stroll in the patio and he saw some fairies (apsras) stealing some flowers from his garden. This sight caught his attention and he ran out to catch them. The fairies eyes caught sight of this and they started to flee in their celestial vehicle. Just as they were about to fly, Rukmangada caught hold of the celestial vehicle and it stopped moving. Since the celestial vehicle would stop at the very touch of a human, the fairies were in a state of confusion as to what to do next. Hearing this, an old day who has been observing Ekadasi fasting ever since her childhood came and touched it and the vehicle started to move. Rukmangada was surprised as to how an old lady can make the vehicle move and inquired about this. On enquiry he learned about the old lady’s Ekadasi vratha and from that day on, he started to observe Ekadasi fasting.
On the day of Ekadasi, he would fast and only think about God. The devas who were watching this wanted to test Rukmangada. One day, they sent a beautiful maid by name Mohini in front of Rukmangada in the forest where he was hunting and he instantly fell in love with her. He requested her to marry him and she agreed to it provided he satisfies her wishes. Rukmangada readily agreed to her conditions as she was smitten by her beauty and married her. One day, she requested him to have food. That day being Ekadasi, Rukmangada politely refused to that wish and pleaded with her to waive it. But Mohini wouldn’t listen and threatened him.
After numerous pleas from Rukmangada to ask for something else instead of making him break his Ekadasi vows, Mohini asked for the head of his son, Dharmangada and also ordered that not a single drop of water should come out of her eyes. The little boy readily agreed to be beheaded and so did the queen Sandhyavali, for, the whole family considered Ekadasi vows as the supreme.
Just as Rukmangada took his sword to behead his beloved son, Lord Vishnu was pleased with Rukmangada’s steadfastness on Ekadasi fast and Himself appeared in front of the King and amply blessed him.
Thus, it is very clear that Rukmangada was one of the very chosen devotees from this sloka
“Prahlada Narada Parasara Pundarika Vyasa Ambarisha Sukha Sounaka Bheesma Dhalbyan
Rukmangada vashishta vibishanadhin punyanimam parama bhagavathan smarami”
And such is the greatness of Ekadasi.
The satsang ended with Nama Sankirtan – prayers, by Nainar Mohamed.