The Nama Sankirtan was performed by Mukundji, Sriramji and family from California.
In the eleventh canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, talks about supreme Vedantic Truths. Akin to Geetopadesha to Arjuna, the Lord gave Upadesha to Uddhav, a Prema Bhakta. The eleventh canto starts with the Nava Yogi Charitra, in which the yogis expound on the Bhagavata Dharama, and the Yuga Dharmas. Then comes the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Uddhava. The first message that Lord Krishna gives to Uddava is about the twenty-four gurus, which is called the ‘Avadhoota Gita’. Avadoota had twenty four different gurus and learnt different things from each of them.
When Uddava questioned him on the easiest way to attain the Lord, Sri Krishna replied that the easiest means is the path of Bhakti. In order to cultivate Bhakti, the spiritual aspirant needs to be in the divine association of a Jivan Mukta. The Lord replied that he resides in the heart of these realized souls. Lord Sri Krishna revealed a secret to Uddhava.
Na rodayati maam yogo na saankhyam dharma eva cha
na svaadyaayastapas tyaago neshtapoortham na dakshinaa
vrataani yagnaschandaamsi thirthaani niyamaayama:
yatavarunde satsanga: sarvasangaapaho hi maam ||
‘Oh Uddhava! It is only satsang that entices me. Yoga, Svadhyaya, penance, meditation, renunciation, sacrifices, charity, recitation fo the Vedas and undertaking pilgrimages, observing strict austerities – none of these allure me as does satsang’
The Lord also gives a long list of great devotees who have attained His feet only due to Satsang – starting from the Devas and Asuras.
Satsang is the preliminary requirement in Bhagavata Dharma. We are indeed fortunate to have taken refuge in our Guru Maharaj, chanting the divine names of the Lord, making it a great satsang.
It was then followed by introductions after which Ramyaji from San Jose talked about Sant Jnaneshwar.
The devotees of Lord Panduranga in Pandarpur have sung crores and crores of abhnags. Abhangs are musical compositions in bhujangam style. One abhang stands out and is like this: “Namacha Bazaara Pandari Namaacha Bazaar”. Unlike a fruit or a vegetable bazaar where one pays moneys to get something, people give only one thing and get the same thing in return. And it is verily Nama. A unique bazaar isn’t it!. So what do we benefit out of this bazaar? The abhang says “Koti kulavudar”. It says just not you but all your ancestors are greatly benefited by the mere chanting of Nama. All the great devotees of the Lord have lucidly shown the path of Bhakti. The term Bhakti comes from the root “Bhaj” which means attached to god. It is pure and unconditional love for the Lord. How should one perform Bhakti. Sadhana Bhakti is the first step in the path of Bhakti. Lord Prahalada very beautifully mentioned the different ways to do sadhana bhakti.
“Sravanam Kirtanam Vishnoh smaranam pada sevanam archanam vandamam dasyam sakhyam and athma nivedanam”
- Sravana ( is hearing about God’s Lilas , his virtues and stories),
- Kirtana (singing of His divine glories),
- Smarana (remembrance of His name and his charithra),
- Padasevana (service of His feet),
- Archana (worship of God). Our Guru Maharaj always says that one should do Bhakti in a very soft way (lalitham). One should place the flowers at the Lord in a soft manner and instead not throw them/
- Vandana (prayer and prostration to Lord),
- Dasya (cultivating the servant sentiment with God),
- Sakhya (cultivating the friend-Bhava) and
It is said that “praptam durlabham haridasyam”. It is rare thing for even Lord Brahma to do service to Lord Hari. Having given a good health with all limbs intact the nama should always be in our lips forever. One great devotee of the Lord says “Bhava Brihmaadi Sura gana manyoham Bhuvantra yepi dhanyoham”
In which that devotee says that he is the blessed one in all the three worlds when compared to Lord Brahma, Indra and the Devas. Why? It is because he has the divine name of Lord Hari in his lips.
Arunagirinathar in his Thirupugazh says
“Maa malargal kondu malaigal panindhu maa padam anindhu paniyaenae”
He expresses his desire to place flower at the holy feet of the Lord.
It is also said that a Bhakta (devotee of the Lord) should be in the company of the like minded people.
Andal says, “Koodi iruthu koolir thaelor embavai”
Sag Sukha when he was about to expound on Srimad Bhagavatam, says “Rasikhaha Bhuvi bhavukaha”. He calls all the like-minded people to come and listen to Srimad Bhagavatam.
Our Guru Maharaj says that this nava vida bhakti should be congenital and not something that should be inculcated by someone. If that is the case, then that is pure bhakti. This is very clearly seen in Jivan Muktas. Sri Seshadri Swamigal did penance ever since he was a child. Tulasidas was chanting the Rama nam when he was a child. This is the case with Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Meera and other great devotees of the Lord. It is also said that one needs certain sounds (sabdas) to go reach the state of tranquility. It is verily the sound of Nama Sankirtan that will take us to that state.
It is always said that one needs to be indeed blessed to be bestowed with good things in worldly life. Say a good husband/ good wife/ lucrative job/ fit health etc. If these things itself needs blessing from the Lord, then what to talk about attaining the holy feet of the Lord.
Adi Shankara Bhagavatpada in his Viveka Chootamani says there are three things that are indeed very rare: The first of them being Manusyatvam (blessed with a human birth), Mumukshyatvam (thinking about the means to attain the Lord after being blessed with a human birth) and lastly “Maha Purusha Samsrayam” (one who is in the association of a Jivan Mukta).
It is said that Jivan Muktas are very rare to be seen in the age of Kali. It is only once in so many thousands of years that a realized soul is born. In the life-history of Jnaneshwar we see tht just not him but all his siblings are all Jivan Muktas.
Vittoba was a ‘vairagyasali’ – deeply dispassionate person. His mind was set upon attainment of the Lord as his goal in his life. He had won over all his ‘indriyas’ – senses. Nothing affected him, neither happiness nor sorrow. There was no happiness or sorrow experienced by him. He sought nothing of the Lord. His mind was set on embracing an ascetic life. One night, he lay on the banks of the Chandrabagha river in Pandaripuram. Lord Panduranga and His wife Rukmini are on their rounds. Wherever there is a temple, the God of that temple goes wandering around at night. Looking at this lone Vittoba, Rukmini’s heart goes out to him. She points out Vittoba to Panduranga and requests of Him, “Please do something for Vittoba”. Panduranga asks, “What do you want me to do?” Rukmini said, “Find a nice girl for him to marry”.
Lord Panduranga appears in Vittoba’s dream and informs him, “Tomorrow a brahmin couple will come to you offering the hand of their daughter. Accept the offer and marry her”. The aghast Vittoba tells Lord Panduranga, “Lord! You do know that I am totally dispassionate towards this world. Nothing matters to me. Please do not ask me to marry.” Panduraga points out, “Well, then, it is all the more easy for you to marry and live in this world. It is my wish and Will that you marry this girl and lead a householder’s life.”. And Panduranga also appears in the Brahmin couple’s dream and instructs them, “Go to the banks of Chandrabagha river tomorrow, taking your daughter along with you. You will find Vittoba (the Lord here describes the physical attributes of Vittoba to the couple) there. Offer the hand of your daughter in marriage to this young man.”
The brahmin couple do as they are bid. Vittoba gives his consent to the marriage. The marriage is conducted as laid down by the Shastras (‘vaidihic way’). They live together happily but no child is born to them even after many years. So, Vittoba feels he could now leave the family and embrace ‘sanyasa’ (ascetic life). He quits home and goes to Kasi (Varanasi) where he meets Ramananda, a great Mahatma, with 800 sanyasi disciples. Kabirdas was also the disciple of Ramananda. When Vittoba puts forth his desire and is accorded sanyasa.
Here at home, Rukmini is in grief over her husband’s disappearance. She enquires of everyone but is unable to learn of his whereabouts. Ramananda undertakes a pilgrimage along with his disciples. Vittoba offers to stay back to take care of the ashram. This is because in their wanderings the Master might pass through Ramananda’s native place and he might happen to meet his relatives. He does not desire any such meeting and wishes to avoid it. Ramananda, during his wanderings reaches Prathishtanapura. He spends some days here. Rukmini, Vittoba’s wife, is told that circumambulating the peepul tree will bring her husband back to her. So, she visits the local temple and goes around the peepul tree every day. It so happens that Ramananda notices this lady going around the peepul tree every day. Rukmini finds crowds of people going to meet someone and on enquiry learns that a Mahatma has come to the town. She, too, pays a visit to him. She prostrates before him and Ramananda blesses her with a fruit and the words ‘puthravathi bhava!’ (let you be blessed with children!) Only a childless woman goes around the peepul tree. Since Ramananda had noticed her going around the peepul tree, he blesses her, “puthravathi bhava”. The distraught Rukmini confides to the Mahatma, “Swami! You have blessed me so. But I know not the whereabouts of my husband”. Ramananda very kindly enquires about all that had happened. Rukmini explains, “We were leading a happy and peaceful life. There has been no reason whatsoever for my husband to quit home. But on enquiry I heard that he is in Kasi and has embraced ‘sanyasa’. I also learn that one Ramananda, a great Mahatma, has initiated him into the ascetic life.”
Ramananda learns that her husband’s name is Vittoba. His other disciples inform the Mahatma that they have heard Vittoba mention this as his native place and this must be his wife. Ramananda immediately sends a sepoy to Kasi to bring Vittoba. Ramananda informs Vittoba all that had taken place and tells him. “My words cannot be a bluff. It is Bhagavan who has made me utter these words. You must at once shirk the ascetic life and return to a householder’s life. Do not worry about the repercussions for, I take the responsibility. So do not worry about it and do as I instruct”. Vittoba has no second thought over the matter. All he desires to do is obey his Master’s order. When the Guru instructs you to act in a certain way he takes responsibility of all the repercussions. The four ashramas in a brahmin’s life is ‘Brahmachari’, ‘grahastha’, ‘vanaprastha’ and ‘sanyasi’ – life as a celibate, life as a family man, life in the forest and finally the ascetic life. In this order of life, one can move from brahamcahri to grahastha to vanaprastha to sanyasi and never the other way round. From the first to the next way of life one can move but not vice versa. And to turn from an ascetic life to the householder’s life is verily a grave sin. Unpardonable one! But here Vittoba, a deeply dispassionate person, enters the householder’s life in sheer obedience to the Master. Adhering to the words of one’s Master is the biggest dharma. And four children are born to this couple. Though Vittoba had spent many a year with his wife earlier no child had been born but now (only) due to the blessings of the Mahatama, four children are born to him. Nivritti deva – was the first to be born, Jnaneshwar the second child, Sopana – the third and Mukta bai the last. Nivritti is the incarnation of Parameswara (Lord Siva), Jnaneshwar of Lord Vishnu, Sopana of Lord Brahma and Mukta bai of Goddess Durga. They incarnate only to show and spread the glory of Nama Sankirtanam in the world. Vittoba, having spent the life as bid by his Master, now decides to quit home and spend the rest of his days on the banks of the Ganges. Rukmini, too, joins him.
The small children are left to fend for themselves. Days pass by and Jnaneswar feels it is time for them, the boys, to be initiated into ‘upanayanam’ (the thread ceremony for the Brahmins). Jnaneshwar approaches the local elders to help initiate them into upanayanam. The locals rebuke the children, “All of You are children of an ascetic. We cannot perform upanayanam for you. However, go seek the advise of the scholars. ” Prathishtanapura was filled with Scholars (Vidwans). So, Jnaneshawar along with his siblings meets the Vedic scholars. They ask, “What is your gothra?” (Each brahmin family bears the name of the particular Rishi as its ‘gothra’, in whose lineage the family has descended). Jnaneswar replies truthfully, “We do not know. But the shastras say that one who is not aware of his ‘gothra’ can adopt the ‘gothra’ of the one who performs the upanayana ceremony to him”.
The scholars scoff at him, “Oh! you know shastras?” Jnaneswar asserts that he sees Brahman in the form of Panduranga in everything around and so he is a brahmin. Jnaneswar explains, “Everything is Panduranga. You, I and everything around is Panduranga”. The Scholars laugh at the child. They think that this young boy must be speaking from what he must have heard from someone or read about it in some book. Just then a buffalo passes by and they order the child, “You seem to know everything. If everything is Panduranga as you say, is this also Panduranga?” Jnaneswar say, “Yes, of course! this is also Panduranga!” The Scholars then throw a challenge to the child, “Lord Panduranga likes ‘Sama ganam’. If this buffalo is also Panduranga make this buffalo chant the Sama Veda.” Jnaneshwar moves up to the buffalo, caresses it and says, “Hey! Panduranga! Chant the Sama Veda!” and lo! The buffalo chants Sama Veda to the astonishment of the on looking Brahmins! Jnaneswar truly saw everything as Lord Panduranga and that is why he addressed the buffalo as ‘Panduranga’ and did not look at it as a buffalo. The difference lies only in the external form; only the Lord permeates everyone and everything. With our mind as the base we see one as a man another as an animal or a bird and so on. The dumbfounded Scholars realize that these are not commonplace children. They declare, “You do not need the upanayanam at all, for, you are knowledgeable.” The buffalo, however, continues to chant the Sama Veda and the shocked owner refuses to take back his buffalo! None in the town is ready to take the buffalo that chants the Sama Veda! So, it falls on Jnaneshwar to take it along with him. The Samadhi of the buffalo is found in this region and people throng here to worship the buffalo.
Jnaneshwar later wrote a commentary on the Bhagavat Gita and it was called ‘Jnaneshwari’. It is a wonderful piece of work. While writing ‘Jnaneshwari’, at the end of the commentary for each verse, he used to read it to the buffalo beside him and only after it nodded its head in acceptance did he proceed to the next verse!
Sarngadeva was a siddha who lived in the same town as Jnaneshwar and his siblings. He was a thousand years old! It is said that as soon as he completed a hundred years, he would leave the body and hide himself in a nearby tree. Seeing the body lying down dead, Yama (the god of death) would leave, satisfied that the work had been done. As soon as Yama left, he would get back into his body and live another hundred years. In this way he had lived a thousand years! He performed miracles that attracted people from all over the country. One should never develop bad habits, for, habits die-hard. He lived in a huge palace attended by thousands of disciples. Wealthy devotees surrounded him. Performance of miracles is a very silly affair. A true Mahatma ignores it. This Sarngadeva used to walk on water, produce objects, etc. Ignorant as they are, it is miracles that attract people. A real Mahatma, a Sadguru blesses ‘jnana’ (knowledge) to the people and does not entertain them with miracles. Sarngadeva developed the ‘siddhi’ of reviving the dead! So the dead were brought to his doors. Every morning there was a long line of the dead brought by ‘its’ relatives. Sarngadeva would touch the dead and the body would jump up and walk away! That which had been brought in by four people now jumped up and walked away on ‘its’ two legs!
One day, Muktha bai, the three-year old sister of Jnaneshwar happened to see the long line of dead surrounded by relatives. The little one went up to one of them and inquired what it was all about. They tried to send the child away saying, “You are but a child. These are dead bodies. You may get frightened seeing them. Go away from here.” But the child insisted in knowing what was going on. So they explained, “Sarngadeva, living here in the big palace, is a great Mahan. He bestows life to the dead. So we have brought our dead to him.” To their surprise, the three-year old Muktha bai said simply, “Is it just this? Even I can bring them around to life!” The people took it to be a disoriented talk of a mere child and tried to send her away. But she was not to be thrown out so easily. Some of them said, “Well! Why not let the child try?” Muktha bai went up and whispered, “Vittala!’ into the ears of the dead, one by one. And all of them were up and what did they do? Unlike the ones risen up by Sarngadeva who uttered some worldly gibbering, those that were brought to life by Muktha bai with their hands held up and clapping, cried out ‘Vittala’ ‘Vittala’ and danced away! When Sarngadeva came out that morning he found an empty front yard! Though wonder struck for a moment he drew up the conclusion that his power must have increased to the extent of the dead being revived with the mere proximity to the walls of his palace! To his disappointment, he soon learnt that a mere child had brought all the dead to life! And it was none other than the three-year old sister of Jnaneshwar, against whom Sarngadeva nurtured enmity.
A man who performed innumerable miracles, who lived in a huge palace, who had people thronging his palace, who had the wealthy at his beck and call, who had innumerable disciples serving him, was jealous of the poor Jnaneshwar who lived in a hut with his brothers, sister and just a handful of friends! He had attained ‘siddhis’ and performed miracles but could not win over desire, anger, greed and lust. He was jealous of Jnaneshwar! Sarngadeva decided to settle matters with Jnaneshwar right away by showing off his ‘powers’! He, therefore, saddled a lion with a snake (!) and rode on it to Jnaneshwar’s hut. People thronged to see the ‘great man’ riding a lion. Jnaneshwar was repairing the broken down wall of his hut! When he saw Sarngadeva come riding on a lion, Jnaneshwar sat on the wall and patted it. The wall moved up – ‘tut, tut, tut’! Sarngadeva was aghast. The foolish people looked at Jnaneswar with amazement. To ride a lion is not great for the lion is a living creature. But to make a non-living (‘achetanam’) thing move! The mortified Sarngadeva jumped down from the lion and moved towards Jnaneshwar prostrating to him with every step taken! He did not feel mortified because of Jnaneshwar’s ability to make the wall move. But due to the blessings (‘Kataksham’) of Jnaneshwar the fountain of devotion had sprung up in his heart. And he sought refuge in Jnaneshwar and begged to be shown the right path. Jnaneshwar asked Muktha bai to initiate him. Accordingly, Muktha Bai initiated him into the Nama of ‘VITTALA’. Sarngadeva at once, then and there, threw away everything – his palace, wealth, the foolish disciples and devotees – and going to the banks of Chandrabagha river carried on the incessant chanting of the Nama ‘VITTALA’ and attained salvation. When I see the beautiful roses being sold I always wonder, “What greater thing could this person buy with the money earned in selling these beautiful roses!”
Sopana means staircase, Nivrithi means liberation/renunciation, Jnaneshwar means knowledge and Muktha means ‘avidyai’- removal of ignorance, true knowledge. Durga is one who cuts asunder the ignorance and shows the light of knowledge. Jnaneswar, Nivritti deva, Sopana, Muktha Bai, Nama devar, Jana bai were all great Mahans who lived to show the way of Nama Sankirtanam for the attainment of the Lord.
The satsang ended with Nama Sankirtan prayers, led by Sri Mukund from California.