The Namasankirtan was led by Shaliniji from CA.
This was followed by a satsang talk by Sri Narayanan from Boston.
“Dharmo rakshati rakshitah” – our Shastras say. What does that mean? If we continue to perform a dharma, that very dharma will save you. Our Sanathana Dharma – Hinduism is actually a way of life.
Generally, Dharma is misinterpreted to mean charity. But the right interpretation is that Dharma is a practice that we follow – a way of living.
The first word of an epic or scripture is supposed to be auspicious. When Pauranikas narrate puranas, they start their discourse with the word ‘Sriyahpati’ – (meaning the Lord) because that is an auspicious term. Ramayana starts with the term ‘tapah’. Srimad Bhagavatam starts with ‘Janmasyadya’. ‘Dharma’ is also a very auspicious term. Many a scripture starts with the word ‘Dharma’.; for one, Bhagavat Gita starts as ‘Dharamkshetre kurukshetre…’ it starts with ‘Dharma’.
In Bhagavatam, this Dharma is spoken of in the second sloka. ‘Dharamh projjita kaitavotra paramo…’. The first chapter of the first canto also ends with ‘dharma’. The last of the six questions that the sages put forth is: ‘dharmah kam sharanam gatah’. Whom did Dharma take refuge in? Does this not sound paradoxical, because, in the beginning, we said, that it is Dharma that protects us!
This statement really means that Dharma cannot stand by itself. There has to be a Maha Purusha or an Avatara who will rejuvenate and resurrect Dharma when Dharma is subject to a threat, as Bhagavan says in Gita – ‘yada yada hi dharmasya glaanir bhavati bharata.. abhyuktaanam adharmasya dadaatmaanam srujaamyaham’ – I will incarnate whenever there is a threat to Dharma. Just like a creeper needs a support, Dharma requires a Maha Purusha to sustain itself.
In Thiagaraja Swami’s life, we see that he took the Upadesha of the Narada Mantra and chanted it continuously, as a result of which Sage Narada, a great Jnani in Sangeetha Shastra, presented him with the musical treatise called ‘Swaraarnavam’. It is said that this particular text did not remain in the earth. The moment, Thiagaraja Swami digested its contents, this text disappeared from the earth. Likewise, many such divine texts cannot remain in the earthly plane. Vedas are a classical example. Yogiramsuratkumar would say that the Vedas are a lifeline not just of our country, but the entire world. There are innumerable branches of the Vedas (Vedas are called ‘anantha’- infinite), and today, only a handful of them are found. Thus the Vaideeka Dharma cannot live on itself especially on this Kali Yuga without the support of a Mahatma. Such an Avatara was Kanchi Mahaswamiji. If we are even able to listen to some Veda Parayana today, it is thanks to this great Acharya. Volumes can be written about his dedication to the Veda Samrakshana (protection). He would summon his devotees and instruct them to collect support – monetary and otherwise, from those who could afford – for the sake of Samrakshana. One such devotee came to Mahaswamiji one night – with a list of people who had contributed for the sake of Vedas. Acharya asked him to read the list. The devotee read out the names, only the top few. Acharya asked, ‘you seem to have a lengthy list. You did not read all of them! Why so?’. The disciple said, ‘Periyava! These are the top contributors. The rest of the contributors are trivial. I don’t want to waste Periyava’s time by reading out the entire list!’. Periyava quickly remarked, ‘Why are you depriving me of the Punya (merits) I would get by listening to the names of those who contributed for the Vedas!’
One can imagine the Humility and dedication of this great Acharya towards Veda Samrakshana.
No doubt the Vaideeka Dharma took refuge in Him.
There are other Dharmas too, that took refuge in Avatara Purushas. It is important to see, which dharma is being referred to in the sixth question in the first chapter of Srimad Bhagavatam.
The answer is being given by Vyasa in the second sloka – ‘Dharmah projjita kaitavo…’. He says, that I am going to talk about a particular Dharma – that supersedes all other dharmas – and the name of that dharma is Bhagavata Dharma. Why Bhagavata Dharma – because it is devoid of all kind of hypocrisy. Every other dharma has an expectation of the fruit. (eg. Feeding the poor fetches a punya), but Bhagavata Dharma does not expect any results – not even expectant of the supreme result called Moksha (according to Sridhara’s commentary). Such is the glory of Bhagavata Dharma.
What is Bhagavata Dharma? The Dharma shown by Srimad Bhagavatam. Right in the center of Srimad Bhagavatam, it is said that only 12 people know the import of this secret Dharma called Bhagavata Dharma – Brahma, Narada, Shiva, Sanatkumaras, Kapila, Manu, Prahlada, Janaka, Bheeshma, Bali, Vyasa, and Yama – and the narration of the Bhagavata Dharma by these 12 people is what Srimad Bhagavatam is all about. Bhishma speaks of Bhagavata Dharma in the first Canto. In the second chapter, Brahma speaks this. In the third chapter, Kapila speaks of Bhagavata Dharma his mother. In the sixth chapter, Yama speaks of Bhagavata Dharma. In the Seventh chapter, Prahalada speaks of Bhagavata Dharma. It is in the 11th canto, after listening to all these narrations, and even Lord Krishna’s story, Narada speaks of Bhagavata Dharma to Vasudeva, (Krishna’s father), in the form of Nava Yogi Upakhyana. It is here that Bhagavata Dharma is explained in great detail.
If this Dharma is so secretive, then it must mean, it is only for an elite few. But it is not so. Narada says, Bhagavata Dharama is said by verily the Lord, and is for those unintelligent, mundane people, who cannot follow other dharmas, as well as for the scholarly and the learned. Then we see that the glory of Bhagavata Dharma is in the fact that is most harmless!
If ‘Stree Dharma’ is not followed, it backfires. Mahabharata is a classical example. Likewise, any other dharma, if not followed properly, will backfire and harm the person. But, Bhagavata Dharma is the only dharma that will not cause any harm, even if one quits following it in due course, or follows it blindly without knowing the fruit.
Then, the eleventh canto speaks in four sloka, what Bhagavata Dharma is. It would be interesting that all of us are following Bhagavata Dharma when we truly mean it while chanting this very common sloka, which is indeed a sloka from Srimad Bhagavatam:
‘kayena vaacha manasendriyar vaa bhudyaatmanaava prakrutair svabhaavaat |
karoti yat yat sakalam parasmai narayanaayeti samarpayetat’
Offering anything done through intellect, body, mind and word to the Lord is the first characteristic of Bhagavata Dharma. ‘yat’’yat’ – One ‘yat’ denotes those acts that are permitted by the Shastras, the second ‘yat’ denotes those activities that are prohibited. Even if you commit a sin by mistake, offer it to Lord.
The second characteristic of Bhagavata Dharma is that due to the Maya, we think we are the body, and one has to get rid of this thought. It would be highly difficult to follow this Dharma, if this sloka were left here, for, we are not given a means for getting rid of this thought. Luckily for us, the sloka continues, ‘this will be shown by a Guru’. Fall unto the feet of a Guru and the Guru will make you experience the truth that you are the Atma. Until such a time, live cognizant of the fact that the Lord, Atma and Guru are one and the same, and meditate on Him.
‘Srunvan subhadraani rathaangapaane…’.
Listen to the glories of Bhagavan Sri Hari on and on and on… and perform Nama Sankirtan. When you blindly perfom this incessantly, what happens?
‘Evam vrattastat priya naama kirtya, jaataanuraga nija ucha shikshaihi..’
Slowly, one develops the desire for the Lord, and one gets into the blissful state of experiencing the Supreme state – the state of Mukti. Thus simply performing Nama Sankirtan will lead one to Mukti, and that is the essence of Bhagavata Dharma.
Eventually, a beautiful comparison is given. When a hungry man eats a morsel of food, what happens? The moment he takes a morsel, his hunger vanishes, he gets happiness and thirdly, he derives strength from the calories that he intakes. It is not that your breakfast appeases your hunger, lunch gives happiness and dinner provides you strength. All these happen at once – the moment you take in a morsel of food. Likewise, the moment you perform Nama Kirtan – three thinks happen – you are filled with Prema Bhakti (a form of devotion that is devoid of any kind of expectation and in a bhaava that the Lord is everything for you). Secondly, one attains ‘Self-realization’. Thirdly, one acquires dispassion – everything else but the Feet of the Lord becomes mundane and dispensable.
Such a lucid explanation of Bhagavata Dharma is found in the 11th canto (Chapter 2) of Srimad Bhagavatam.
The satsang ended with Prayers with Mahamantra Kirtan.