The satsang started with Nama Sankirtan by Sri Thiagaraj and family from Dallas. Following this, a brief introduction was given by Sri Narayanan from Boston…
The first streak of Bhagavan’s grace falling on us in the form of a Satsang. Many a Mahan has talked about the glory of Satsang. Srimad Bhagavatam talks about the glory of Satsang in each story that it narrates – right from Narada’s story and Ajamila’s story, all the way until Rasa Lila, where the Gopis, after having lost Krishna amidst their dance, join as a satsang and sing His glories in order to get him back. Likewise, the greatest compilation of Azhwars – the Divya Prabandham talks about the glory of Satsang. Andal in her tiruppavai, does not go as a single person to do the ‘Paavai Nonbu’. She invites all her friends along, in order to gather a satsang. Most of the verses in Tiruppavai is such an invitation. She mentions ‘koodi irundhu kulirndhelorempaavaai’. Right at the beginning of the Prabandham, the first three Azhwars have shown us the glory of Satsang. It is only when there was a wonderful satsang consisting of the first three Azhwars – Poigai Azhwar, Boodathaazhwar, and Peyaazhwaar at Mrukandu Ashram in Tirukkovilur that the Lord appeared before them and it was only in such a satsang that we got the verses in Divya Prabandham. Such is the glory of a Satsang. Ours is one such satsang which has Nama Sankirtan and Katha Shravanam.
Following this, Sudhaji spoke about the glory of Bhakti and Nama Sankirtan.
na saadhayati maam yoga na saankhyam dharma uddhava
na svaadyaayah tapah tyagah yatA Bhaktir mamorjitA
Uddhava! Neither Yoga nor Sankhya, study of Vedas, austerities or renunciation captivates me as does intense devotion.
The Lord thinks of innumerable ideas to liberate the Jivas, and till date, his attempts have not been fully successful, as creation still takes place! Although Bhagavan may be omnipotent and omnipresent, our ignorance is so deep as to even outwit the Omnipotent Bhagavan! “Is there no way to bring these ‘jivas’ ashore?” We are an obstinate lot! We possess ‘intolerable’ stubbornness. We are very cautious and avoid being caught in the net spun and thrown by Bhagavan to liberate us. And Bhagavan possesses ‘intolerable’ compassion! In what “Try as he may I will not give up my effort to bring him ashore!” says Bhagavan and is relentlessly creating new ideas to attract us.
As the first effort Bhagavan gave the Vedas. All those who have learnt the Vedas are aware that the essence of the Vedas is Bhagavan. But merely giving the Vedas did not help the Lord in completing His sankalpa!
Then Bhagavan decided to incarnate Himself as Lord Rama. Periyavachhanpillai Swamy in His ‘vyakyana’ says, ‘Man kondu man pidiparpole’ – to catch a deer with the help of another (deer)’. A thorn has pricked the sole of a deer’s hoof. When we approach it to render help the deer runs away out of fear. The reason for this is we do not belong to its class/group (‘swajathi’). While another deer would be able to easily approach this one. So, Bhagavan desires to be born as a man
Having incarnated on earth, if Bhagavan always remained in Bliss it would not serve the purpose; He could have remained in Vaikunta itself! Well! Having incarnated on earth if Bhagavan were to be immersed in sorrow like we do, this too, would not serve the purpose. We, jivas, here on earth are already drowned in sorrow. We do not need a Bhagavan to add up to this number! How then should an Avatara be?
He should always be in Bliss within but externally behave as if He, too, were affected deeply by the joys and sorrows of the world. Act like a human – ‘Kapatankiikrita manusha vesham’ – Wear the garb of a man and act like one. Behave like a man. And how should that man be?
A man should hold himself in such a position as to create awe in God and the Guru. This is the essence of Ramayana.
Sri Sri Swamiji says, ‘If you question, “Is it enough if I do not try to assimilate Rama’s qualities but just surrender to Him?” Well! The answer is simple. “Surrender to him. You will become one like Him. He will transform you!’ Ramavatara has been so great. ‘
But has Ramavatara served the purpose of the Lord’s incarnation? No. What is the reason for this? Till date actions of Rama in having hit Vali, hiding behind a tree and the like are being questioned. So Bhagavan decides to take an Avatara exhibiting his entire prowess. “Tam adbutam balakam ambujekshanam, chaturbujam, shankagadharyudayudam, srivatsalakshmam galashobikoustubam”.
Bhagavan took an Avatara that exhibited His divinity right from His birth. His birth itself is a marvel! Even as a babe Bhagavan destroyed asuras like Putana, Trinavarta, Sakatasura, etc. The entire Bhagavatam is filled with His wonderful divine lilas. One wonder after another! It is filled with His wonderful feats.
Well! Did this Avatara whence Bhagavan exhibited His entire glory fulfill His desire? The answer is a simple ‘No’ once again!
Bhagavan also shows His colossal form (‘Viswaroopa’) to Arjuna. Probably just for that moment Arjuna felt awed; wondering, “is this the One who has been so friendly with me?” but within a few days he is his old self again, having forgotten the colossal form. There is absolutely no sign of any transformation in Arjuna. He even wonders if it were some sort of a hallucination! So, in Krishavatara also Bhagavan’s wish was not fulfilled.
Neither the Vedas nor Rama-Krishnavataras fulfilled the wish of the Lord. Bhagavan, therefore, felt that He Himself should not come down to the earth.
“Kalau Khalu bhavishyanti Narayana parayanah”
“Tamraparni nadi yatra kritamala payasvini”
says the Bhagavatam
In this Kali Yuga innumerable Sadhus will come down to the earth, and being compassion incarnate, they liberate the Jivas by giving them the Divine Name of God. Once Perumal asked Bhagavat Ramanuja how he had so much of a following, while Perumal had very few people listening to what He said. Ramanujacharya replied, ‘Lord! You pointed them to yourself and said sing ME, sing ME! And they did not listen. Whereas, I point them to you and say ‘Sing HIM, sing HIM’ and they do listen!’
The sadhus and Mahans transform us into a beautiful golden flower and throw them at the Feet of Bhagavan, even without our knowledge.
When you attend a Nama Sankirtan, first you will be just sitting, then slowly you will start clapping, then you start singing and one point of time it will make you to dance too. That is the power of Sankirtan.
How did we acquire Ramayana? In Ayodhya, having sacrificed Sita, Ramachandra Prabhu is in silence and solitude. He, therefore, appears majestic. After attending to His royal duties he gets back to His room. He shows a deaf ear to anyone who speaks about Sita to Him. He behaves as if he is in no way connected to Sita! But in the solitude of His room he sheds tears thinking of Sita. Filled with love (‘prema’) within He sports a rough exterior. Therefore, nobody is able to approach Rama. It is at this time that two young children sing the life of Rama on the streets of Ayodhya. In Ramayana, Valmiki says that Rama was an adept in Sangeetha Shastra (Music shastra). Valmiki explains that Rama knew the intricacies of music. These two children who went about singing the life of Rama on the streets of Ayodhya were very fine looking. Valmiki writes, “If Rama were to look at His own reflection in the mirror and call out to it and the reflection took a young form and came out how would that be? These two children seemed to possess such a form!”
Their melodious rendering of Ramayana was heard and enjoyed by Lakshmana, Bharata, Shatruguna and all the others. All of them desired Rama to hear this since it was the story of Rama. But none of them had the courage to approach Him with this request.
Once Rama was strolling around in His garden. The melodious singing of the two children reaches His ears. Rama at once enquires of Lakshmana, “Lakshmana, where does such melodious music come from? Who is singing so captivatingly?” Lakshmana informs Rama, “Brother! Two children have come to our Kingdom. They resemble you very much and are going about the Kingdom singing the story of our family. You should definitely listen to them.” Rama replies, “It would not be proper for me to invite them to the court and ask them to sing my life. Let them come to Naimeesaranya where a Yajna is to be held and sing there.” Rama is anxious to hear the two children not for the reason of listening to his life being depicted; instead to listen to how Lakshmana, Bharata, Shatruguna, Piratti (Sita) had all sacrificed their lives for His sake.
Rama invites the two children to Naimeesaranya and requests them to sing Ramayana. “Tapaswadhyayaniratam…….” – the children begin to sing. Totally engrossed in their singing, Rama slowly moves up to the children and with tears flowing from His eyes listens to the rendering of the ‘Divya Charitra’ (the divine life history). The glory of Ramayana lies in the fact that the very first rendering of Ramayana on stage (‘arangetram’) was heard by Lord Rama Himself! At close the children sing, “All the people of Ayodhya are content and comfortable. Rama is their protector. This is the reason for their well-being. Henceforth, anyone who reads or listens to Ramayana will enjoy all comforts.” “Vishnorbalam vardhate” — Even Vishnu receives His strength from this. But Rama’s family is suffering till date. Sita and Rama have been separated. The children are wandering about like orphans. The children explain that Rama was undergoing sufferings as He had no protector But since Ramayana has now come as His protector the sufferings of Rama’s family has at last come to an end!
So what has given Ramayana to the World? ‘Gana’ – music! Attracted by music Rama desired to listen to it. Therefore, music attracts Bhagavan.
In Bhagavatam, Bhagavan performs ‘rasa’ with the gopis. But, Bhagavan disappears since the gopis are seized with what is known as ‘sowbhaga mada’. Gopis yearn to see Bhagavan again and play lila. They do not then perform dhyana or yoga or mantra japa or go on fast. ‘ruruduh suswaram rajan’- they sing Gopika Geetham. As soon as they sing Gopika Geetham Bhagavan appears before them. So, it was music that attracted Bhagavan here. This is the reason that one finds ‘pancha geetam’ in Bhagavatam. Just as there are pancha ratna keertanas of Thiagaraja Swami the five ‘geetas’ in Bhagavatam are known as ‘pancha geetam’. Thus, music attracts Bhagavan.
The Azhwars, the Nayanmars, Thiagaraja Swami, Panduranga Bhaktas, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu have all shown that one CAN attain liberation through mere chanting of Nama.
The power of their (such Mahans’) Namasankirtan is known by the incident in Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s life – He used to dance in ‘bhava’ on the banks of the Ganga (when no one was around) clapping his hands and singing the Maha Mantra ‘Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare! Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare!’ People who happened to witness this believed that he was none other than Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as it was the period immediately in succession to Mahaprabhu’s period. Totapuri used to mock at his clapping the hands for Namasankirtan as ‘preparing roti’! Once, Totapuri suffered from severe stomach ache. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa sat near him and sang ‘Hare Rama …’ and he was cured of it! This is found in the Gospel of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. They have all enjoyed Namasankirtan to this extent.
So, Mahans have shown two ‘margas’ in Kali. One ‘marga’ is ‘katha sravanam’ and the other is ‘kirtanam’. These are the only ways that will do ‘uddharana’ (liberate) of all the Jivas.
Even today we find Sadhus who have attained the highest state through mere chanting of Nama. This is the glory of ‘Nama Sankirtana’ — An absolutely easy, simple path.
As a final thought,
shRunvanti gAyanti gRuNantyabhIkshNasha: smaranti nandanti tavehitam janA:
ta eva pashyantyahireNa tAvakam bhava praVahoparamam padAmbujam.
The Meaning: Those people who listen to, sing, repeatedly narrate, often reminisce your story and derive joy out of it, are the only ones who attain, in no time, your lotus feet that terminated the cycle of births and deaths.
Gayathriji from Boston shared her Nama Anubhava.
The satsang ended with prayers with Mahamantra Kirtan.