May 8: Prahlada and Gajendra

8 May

Narayananji from Boston, talked about the significance of Narasimha jayanthi which was then followed by a lecture on Gajendra stuthi by Gayatriji from Boston.

“The eighth of May 2009 was a very auspicious day indeed. It was lord Narasimha Jayanthi and also Chitra Poornima.

There is one thing that is special of Narasimha avatar. Our Guru Maharaj says that if one of the three things doesn’t exist, then we cannot see God – Stead-fast faith (Druda Vishwasa), truthfulness (Satyasandha) and thirdly strictly adhering to dharma (dharmatma). Prahalad had all the three qualities. However, the Lord liked Prahlad’s truthfulness and steadfast faith – and verily for the ‘satya’ of Prahlada, He came out of the pillar. Such is the greatness of a true devotee.

In the sloka remembering the Gurus, we have ‘Prahlada Narada Parasara Pundareeka…’.  We see that here, Prahlada is being invoked even before his guru Narada!   He even excels his own guru. It is interesting to see what this guru of ours (Prahalada) advices us.  He has instructed his father, mother; and he has advised his own gurus (Chanda and Amarka)!

What is the first advice that he gives? This is a piece of his learning that he shares with his father – He talks Vedanta. He says destroy the two thoughts. The first of them being “I” and secondly “Mine”. The characters “Hiranyaksha” and “Hiranyakashipu” are verily “I” and “Mine”. Hiranyakashipu is the quality of ego ,which is“I”. The hiranyaksha is the quality of “mine” (possessiveness).

Hiranyaksha is the younger sibling and the Hiranyakashipu is the elder.   If we see the order in which the Lord kills this duo, its Hiranyaksha who goes first.  That is, the Lord doesn’t destroy “I” first but only destroys the quality “mine”. Only when the possessiveness (mine) is removed can the ego be removed.

Prahalad advices his father saying “Oh Father! One who feels that the human body is futile and wishes to destroy the qualities of I and mine is indeed great”. The second part of his advice was  to renounce all the worldly possessions and go to the forest. The second part was very difficult to comprehend for people who are tied in the world of samsara, leave alone Hiranyakashipu! When his father asked him to repeat the learning again, at a later date, Prahalad made it simpler and showed the path of Bhakti. He apprised his father on the Nava vida bhakti which goes like this.

“Sravanam Kirtanam Vishnoh smaranam pada sevanam archanam vandamam dasyam sakhyam and athma nivedanam”

The first two components of bhakti namely sravanam (listening to the stories of God) and kirtanam (singing the Divine Names) is what our satsang focuses upon.

What does the word Azhwar mean? It means people who are filled with deep faith and devotion. One such azhwar is Gajendra Azhwar.  He was a divine elephant. He lived in the Trikuta mountains and ruled the ‘Ritumath’ forest. It is really surprising to see an elephant being a king when it is usually the lion or a tiger being the king of a forest. This divine elephant was protecting small creatures like the hare, deer from the ferocious animals. The divine elephant was following the divine law – “Dushta Nigrahamam and Sishta paripalanam”, which translates to destroying the wicked and protecting the good folks.

If we ponder on the fact as to how this elephant knew this shastra, Gajendra was born as a Pandya king Indradhyumna in his earlier birth. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu and belonged to the lineage of Manu. Sage Agasthya was his guru.

Once, Sri Agasthya visited the king at his palace. The king was performing pooja to this deity. What should one do when they see their guru? He should stop whatever chore he is doing and run to welcome the Guru and get his blessings. This was however not the case with Indradhyumna. He did not acknowledge the Guru’s presence and continued with his pooja. He had various utensils made of silver and gold which were decorated with precious gems. He also had a lot of food which were waiting to be offered to the Lord and wanted to show it off to his Guru, whose puja routines were fairly simple.

We very well know that Sadhus and Mahatmas are the personification of compassion. The guru thought that there was everything found in the pooja except Vinaya (humility). He thought that if the king continued performing pooja without being humble, then there will be no point in doing the pooja. Ego is a quality of an elephant. He cursed the king to be an elephant in his next birth. It is said that whatever the Sadhus do are verily for our benefit. Immediately the Guru felt compassion for the king and said that the king would be relieved from his curse when the Lord’s divine hands touch him.

Similarly there was a Gandharva by name Hu Hu. One day, Sage Devala (who always accompanies Narada) was performing his daily ablutions. Hu Hu for the sake of fun, caught the feet of Devala from the bottom of the pond. Devala cursed him saying that this was a quality of the crocodile and that he will be born as a crocodile in his next birth. However, he also promised that he will be relieved when the Lord’s chakra touched him.

One day, it was very hot and all the elephants including Gajendra were feeling very thirsty and went around in search of water. They spotted a pond and all of them were happy to see the water and started playing in the pond. This disturbed the crocodiles in the pond and they knew that it was the king of the elephants who was responsible for this.

The crocodile head went and caught the feet of the king of the elephant herd. How did the crocodile know who the king was? He had the memory of the previous birth and he knew that could be relieved from his sufferings only by catching the feet of a Bhagavata! Gajendran was in deep distress and all other elephants tried to pull him out but in vain. Days passed by and he was the struggle was still on.

A thought struck him. How long can a crocodile or an elephant survive for so long without any food or water and neither of them winning over each other? He realized that there was indeed a Divine power and started singing praises of that Formless Lord.

So who is this Brahman? It is independent and it not bound with any qualities and is eternal. Does this Brahman exist everywhere? Yes, indeed.  Sarvam Brahma Mayam

The mind is filled with a lot of dust and we need to cleanse our mind to see the ultimate Lord.

Gajendra begins with his beautiful stuthi on that Supreme Lord who is formless, nameless and had no properties associated with it and it is completely independent.

“Namo Bhagavathae thasmai yatha yeth thath chithathmakam

Purushaya adi bheejaya pareshayadi deemahi”

I surrender and bow down to bhagawan who is the ominpesent and is the creator for everything.

Since gajendran is not able to see that Supreme Being,  he says”I surrender unto him”. So why should one accept something that we are not able to perceive visually?

There are many different things that we are not able to see, for example, happiness and sorrow. We have only experienced happiness and sorrow and our mind knows what happiness and sorrow means. However Brahman is not in anyone’s experience just like happiness or sorrow. It is because, Brahman cannot be understood by mind and the sense organs. So why should one complicate their lives to decipher something that cannot be perceived by the mind or the sense organs?

It is indeed true that the brahmam who is the ultimate does exist. And how can we prove that? This Brahman is the chaitanya that is present in each one of us. As long as this chaitanya is present in ourselves, we are able to dance, sing move around. The moment chaitanya leaves our body, we fall dead. The sense organs of the dead man might be intact but he is not able to use them anymore. It is the key inside every human and it is this that makes the sense organs do what they are supposed to be doing.

Gajendra says, I surrender unto that bhagawan who is the chaitanyam  inside each and every one.

“Yasmin idham yaenaetham yahitham swayam

Yosmath parasmath cha parastvam prapathyae swayambuvam”

“Yasmin nidham:” translates to ‘from whom the universe originated’, “ yathascha itham” from whom the universe

Now let’s consider a wooden table. This wooden table came into existence from the material called wood. The carpenter carved this wooden table. For any object, we need two things, namely the creator and the raw material.

So for the universe, Brahman is the creator and the raw-material. Why is it that we are not able to see this Brahman when we can see everything else in this universe. It is because of a defect in our eyes. The saints can see Brahman as “Sarvam brahma mayam”. Hiranyakashipu says that he can only see a pillar, whereas Lord prahalad says that he can see only Brahman.

Kabirdas in one of his dohas very beautifully says that he had a disease called samsara and because of this ailment he had duality in his vision. He then went to a physician who is called as Guru. He made him wear a kajal (eye liner) called guru krupa and after applying that kajal bad vision was cured. So there are people who can only see the Brahman. So instead of proclaiming that Brahman does not exist let us pray that we be blessed to experience it. Gajendra says, “I bow down to that Brahman who created the universe, and who Himself is the universe”

If Brahman is everywhere, then where can one see it. It is there in each and everybody’s heart!  This would mean that every cardiac surgeon has seen it, which is simply untrue!

That’s because we can’t see brahmam just like that. We all know that Narasimha bhagawan came from the pillar. But did He really come from the pillar? He really came from Prahalada’s truth! It is true that he was inside the pillar. In order to see him, it was just not enough to break the pillar.

Just like how ash hides the fire, the Brahman that is within us is covered by vasanas (latent impressions). The yogis have the power to blow up these impressions. So the Brahman reveals itself to them. So is it true that only yogis can only see the Brahman? So what about the people who are entangled in this worldly life? Gajendra thought about all the worldly people in his prayers.

He says –

‘Maadruk prapanna pashupaasha vimokshanaaya….’

People like me who have completely surrendered to unto You, you are the ‘pasupaksha vimokshana’. Now if a cow and its calf are separated by tethering them to two opposite poles, the calf desperately tries to unite with the cow and be with the cow. Since it is tied to the pole it is unable to do so. We are akin to this calf. The jeevas are taking every possible effort to reach the god, but are tied to this samsara by some ties. Now who will come to free one from these ties. It is of course mukthaya, one who is completely independent and has a freewill can only liberate the souls from the bondages. Only bhagawan or a guru can do this. Bhagawan says, “Well, it is true that I have a free will. But why should I free you?” Gajendra could have said that “Lord! I surrender unto you. So please set me free.” If he had done that then it means that Gajendra trusts his ‘ability’ to surrender. Complete surrender is defined as one who completely believes in God and does not believe in his sadhana including surrender.

Gajendra says “Buri karunaya” which means “infinite compassion”. Free me! O! Lord, not because I surrendered unto you, but out of your own limitless compassion. Gajendra requests the Lord to free him from the clutches of the crocodile because setting everybody free is his ‘svabhava’(very nature)!

All the Devas including Lord Brahma are listening to this prayer and are awestruck. They very well know that they don’t fit Gajendra’s description and hence cannot help Gajendra.  But they are very curious and excited to see who is the personification of the qualities described by Gajendra. They also feared that the Lord might give his darshan only to Gajendra and hence start reciting the Gajendra Stuti. If Gajendra had prayed to the Lord to free him from the clutches of the crocodile, then it does not necessitate the Devas to recite the Gajendra Stuti. But he requests the Lord to free him from the samsara!

And guess who addresses Ganjendra’s call?

Sitting on the garuda, who is verily the form of Vedas, Lord Vishnu appeared with his conch and disc on his hand, wearing a pitambaram, having a mark called srivatsam on this chest.

The Brahman that Gajendra alluded to had no form or possession. But the person who came to address his call had a form, adorned a ‘Pitambara’, he had a lotus, chakra and a place called Vaikunta. Then how come he came to address this call? The very fact that he came to address the call proves that his form, name and characters are way different from other deva’s including Lord Brahma and are no different from the formless Nameless Brahman. If we take Brahman and add qualities to it (kalyana gunas) like omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence etc, what we get finally is Bhagavan. What character does the bhagwan not have? He does not possess any qualities that belong to Maya like Satvika, Rajasa and Tamasa.

In Bhagavatam Sri Sukha says “Brahmeti Paramatmeti Bhagavan iti Shabdyate”, which means Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan are all the same.

Is Bhagawan going to be of any use to us? How does it matter if he is omnipresent, omnipotent or omniscient? He has a unique quality that Gajendra refers to – ‘Sarva sharanyatva’ – he is the refuge for everyone who surrenders to Him. We know that we are incapable of doing any sadhana. If we just go and pray to him whole heartedly that we belong to him the Lord is very happy and takes care of us.

It is said that the Lord himself begs “tavaasmi vacha yachatae”. The lord says, “please tell me that you belong to me.”

When Lord appears in front of Gajendra, it is only then that he addresses Him with His name, “Narayana akila guro bhagavan Namaste”. He takes a lotus from the pond and offers it to the Lord. The Lord releases his chakra to kill the crocodile and Hu Hu is liberated to the Gandarva world. He put forward His hands to take Gajendran to His abode.

Gajendra asked the Lord to show him a way to attain liberation. The Lord himself gave a phala shruti that one who remembers this episode of Gajendra Moksha every morning will attain liberation.

The satsang ended with prayers and Nama Sankirtan.

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