Mar 12: Satyavan & Savitri – Glory of Satsang

12 Mar

The satsang lecture was delivered by Sri Narayananji from Boston.

The term “sangam” refers to company and when that association becomes divine, then it is called as “Satsangam”. Why is satsang so important? The Lord says that it is indeed through satsang that one can reach Him. He has lucidly explained this in the greatest truths that he expounded in the eleventh canto in Srimad Bhagavatham. It is only through satsang that one can develop attraction towards the Lord. The Lord substantiated this beautiful precept with a huge list of people who attained the Lord by mere satsang.

There was a monkey by name Sugriva. He feared for all his materialistic possessions. But by sheer satsang, he attained the Lord himself to be his friend. By having a satsang with Hanumanji who was a great sadhu, Sugriva attained Lord Rama has his friend.

In Srimad Bhagavatam, the eleventh canto expounds on the Nava Yogi Charithra on the greatness of Bhagavatha Dharma. Vasudeva inquires on the greatest of truths to Sage Narada.  Narada decided to enlist them through the nine Yogis who are the sons of Rishaba Yogiswara. The nine Yogis are great yogis and they expound on the Bhagavatha Dharma.

The nine yogis, Kavi, Hari, Anthariksha, Prabudha, Pippalayana, Aavirhotra, Durmila, Chamasa and Karabajana don’t confine themselves to one particular place and hence keep wandering. Once they reached Videha and he ruler of Videha, King Nimi, was performing a great sacrifice. On seeing the Nine Yogis, King Nimi prostrated and said

“Durlabho Manusho deho dehinam shana banguraha
thatrapi dhurlabham manyae vaikunta Priyadarshanam”

It is rare to be bestowed with a human birth. It is the rarest is to get the darshan of someone who is a Jeevan Muktha ,who is a devotee of Lord Krishna and who is forever engrossed in the Lord of the universe [vaikunta priyadarshanam]. And one should be immensely blessed to have the opportunity to serve a Mahatma in some way and it is indeed the rarest of the rarest.

Mahans however differ in the interpretation of “vaikunta priyadarshanam”. The phrase means that the devotees of the Lord who always hail the Lord of the universe. But Mahans beautifully interpret the phrase in another way. It refers to the devotees [premika rasika] whom the Lord of the universe loves a lot. Beautiful isn’t it! It is indeed very rare to have the glimpse and Darshan of those great devotees of the Lord whom the Lord likes very much.

“Atha athyanthikam ksemam pruchamo bhavthonagaha|                                Samsaraesmin  Kshanardhopi satsangahat sevadhirnrunam||”

King Nimi further added. Being in this tormented world [bhava] where everything is so fugitive, please tell us what is the most concrete and eternal in this world?

If one is blessed with half a second of satsang [kshanardhopi], an association with great mahans and pious souls is a great blessing to the human beings who are entangled in the world of samsara. If one is associated with half a second of bad company then that is verily enough to pull the soul and this is very lucidly seen in the case of King Parikshit.

He had a satsang for a very short duration with Kali Purusa. He subdued him and gave his four places to dwell. But Kali was not very happy and so Parikshit gave him a fifth place as well and he thus established dharma. But the company of Kali for that short duration of time started to trouble King Parikshit.

King Parikshit was born in the lineage of King Yadu and Dharmaputra [the forebearer of dharma ], developed a negative thought in his heart and hence started to suspect a great Bhagavatha and a sage called Shamika. He went and threw a snake on Sahamika and thus became a candidate for Shringi’s [Sage Shamkia’s son] curse which eventually took his life.

In our Upanishads, it is said –

“Satyam vada dharmam chara”

Speak the truth and walk on the path of dharma and lead a dharmic life. It is not enough if one is conversant and knowledgeable on dharma. A bachelor [brahmachari] should lead the life of a brahmacahari by strictly adhering to the norms laid for a bachelor.

In Mahabharatha, it is said that by merely speaking about the glories of Satsang and Sadhus to a Bhagavatha, will greatly bestow one with good merits.

There once lived a great king Ashwapati in eastern India. He did not have any children. He prayed to the Lord by performing spiritual austerities and oblations and the Lord bestowed him with a beautiful baby girl and she was named as Savitri. This child was not a normal kid. She came out of the fire akin to Draupadi. She possessed great courage, brilliance and boldness that no one possessed in the kingdom. As years passed by, she became a beautiful maiden. Ashwapthi decided to get her married and he could not find a matching bride-groom that matched her valor, beauty and brilliance. It was decided that it would be a Swayamvara. There are two types of Swayamvara. In the first type, all the great kings are invited to the kingdom and a contest is held to decide on the bride-groom. On the other hand, the bride is allowed to go out and find the bride-groom for herself. So Savitri decided to go out to find her suitable groom.

Courageous as she was, she set out and visited many kings but she did like anybody. She then came to a forest, where she saw a blind couple. This bind couple had a son, Satyavan. This blind couple Dyumatsena and his wife was a king earlier and he had now lost all his wealth and was leading a life in exile in the forest. Satyavan was a wood-cutter. Savitiri decided to marry Satyavan and went and disclosed about her interest on Sathyavan to her father. At that moment, Sage Narada arrived and he was all smiling. When Ashwapathi told him about Savitri’s prospective bride, his face wore a dull look and was worried. Upon inquiry he told Savitri and her father that Satyavan was a person with excellent qualities and perfect in every way but was destined to die in a year from now. This really worried Ashwapathi and requested her to find another groom but Savitri was firm on her decision. She told her father that she has set her mind and heart on Satyavan.

Ashwapathy acquiesced and said “Dharmo rakshathi rakshithaha”. He said to Savitri “Oh Savitri, since you are strictly adhering to the Pativratha dharma, we shall get you married to Satyavan and that very dharma will bless and take care of you”. So she was wedded to Satyavan and she  left all her wealth , her kingdom and went to live in the forest with her husband and in-laws. They led a beautiful life and every when every day dawns Savitri would keep counting the number of days left for Satyavan to be alive.

None other than Savitri knew about this.  She did not reveal this to anyone. Months passed away and soon it dawned. The last day for Satyavan in this world and Satyavan would die the next day. As the sun dawned, Savitri went and prayed to him. He is the visible Lord since he comes out to give darshan everyday. SO that day she prayed to the Sun God to save her husband and she decided to undertake a vow of fasting and vigil to the sun god. So she stood on her feet with her hands raised above her head and observed the fast. Satyavan was puzzled at Savitri as she did not oblige to his request to not to observe the fast. He then enquired with her mother and then they both let her observe the fast for the whole day. The next day also dawned and Savitri knew that it was her husband’s last day on the earth. But she also had faith and believed that the Lord will save her husband. Sathyavan started off that day with his normal chores. Savitri insisted that she will accompany him to the forest. Satyavan first resisted to her request. He went and told this to his mother. She aptly replied that every act of Savitri has a meaning associated with it and she requested him to take her along to the forest.

So they set out to the forest and enjoyed the scenic route en route to the forest. They reached the forest and Satyavan started splitting the wood. He suddenly felt very dilapidated and he laid his head on Savitiri’s head. She knew what was coming and feared this moment. Satyavan started to face difficulty in breathing and was slowly dying. That moment Savitri saw King Yama arriving at that the scene. She saw the soul of  Satyavan  taking the shape of a thumb finger and King Yama took it. She was surprised to King Yama as no normal human could perceive him and she could see King Yama taking the soul of Satyavan. She immediately covered the body of Satyavan with leaves and started to run behind King Yama. He was surprised to see Savitri coming behind him. She requested him to restore the life of her husband but King Yama denied.

She started to demonstrate formulas of wisdom. She told him that she was blessed with the discerning power to see him carry the soul of her husband. King Yama replied that she could envision it because of the determination to save Satyavan and he proceeded. She told him that he was a great protector of dharma and that she had learnt a lot of slokas in her childhood. She requested him if she can recite them and King Yama was very happy to listen to slokas.

He agreed to her request and she started to recite –

“ Satam sakruthaha ipsitham param thatha param vipla vitipra shakshasae”
“Nacha palam stat purusena sangatham thatha satham santhavasae samagamae”

In the above sloka, She sings and hails the glories of a satsang. She says when one is in the vicinity of a sadhu then that creates bondage with the sadhu [mahan] which can never be separated.  It will never leave you and will continuously pull us into satsang. Half a moment of satsang will never go waste. King Yama was overjoyed hearing the glories of satsang and told her it is this sloka is akin is to a person travelling in a desert with a parched throat and when he sees some water to drink, it gives him immense joy.

He offered her a boon except for the life of Sathyavan. Savitri was overjoyed. She said , ”I am the only child for my father and I am now married to my husband.  There is no lineage for my father to take care of his kingdom. She asked for a son who can take care of my father’s kingdom”. He bestows her that boon and is on the move. Savitri ran behind him and pleaded to King Yama for allowing her to recite another sloka.

“Andoha sarva boothaeshu karmana manaso gira”
“Anugrahascha danamcha satam dharma sanaatanah”

In the earlier sloka she sang the glories of the satsang and in the above sloka she sings about the glories of sadhus [mahans].

A Sadhu never thinks of harm [Andoha sarva boothaeshu] to any being in this world, not by virtue of his actions or thoughts  [karmana manaso gira] on both animate or inanimate beings in this world. The only dharma that Sadhus and Mahans adhere to is the path of Anugraham [bestowing blessing and showering of grace] and giving away whatever they possess that one requires.

King Yama was again very delighted on hearing the qualities of a sadhu. He again offered her a boon. She requested King Yama to restore the vision for her in-laws and King Yama promptly blessed her with that boon. She then requested him to allow her to recite one more sloka. He consented to her request and Savitri recited –

“Athman yapi viswasaha thatha bhavathi sachayuhu
Thasmat cha vivesena sarvam paranaya ichati
Sow suhuruthatha boothanam vishwasloka prajayathae
Thasmat cha vivesena vishwasam koruthae janaha”

She explained how the trustworthiness of sadhus. She says [athman yapi vishwasaha], that one cannot trust himself since one behaves unpredictably during different instances of time. But that is not the case with Sadhus. They are so truthful and unfailing that any animate or inanimate beings can completely trust their grace because their grace will never go waste.

King Yama was very excited. He is one among the twelve Bhagavathas who is conversant on Bhagavatha Dharma. The twelve Bhgavathas are Swayambu, Narada, Shambu, Kumara, Kapilo, Manuhu, Prahlado, Janako, Bheeshmaha, Balihi, Biyasaki and Yamaha. Bhagavatha Dharma is supposed to be a very secret dharma. It is secluded and sheltered because its greatness is often mistaken.

He again requested to ask him for a boon except for the life of Satyavan. She requested King Yama to restore the kingdom of her father-in-law which had been taken away by usurper. King Yama granted the boon and continued on his way.

Savitri told him that she had two more slokas and asked him if she can recite them. King Yama nodded and told her that he was always waiting to listen to her slokas.

She said –

“Sataam santha shasvath dharma vrudhihi santoha na sidanti nasavyadantihi
Sataam sada naaphala  sangama satyo nanu vardanti santhaha
Santo vishasvena suryaha santo bhomin tapasa danayanti
Santo bhootha bhavyasa rajan santo matya nama sidanti santhaha”

She continued to talk about the glories of the Sadhus. Where ever the Sadhus reside, there is a growth of dharma [Sataam santha shasvath dharma  vrudihi]. They are never a source of trouble to this world [santoha na seedanti nasavyadantihi].  Not a moment of satsang will go waste. The sadhus will not cause any fear and all fears will be completely destroyed in the presence of Sadhus.  They are the very reason for the Sun-God to come ouy and give darshan to everybody everyday, for the Earth to revolve and the prime cause for the days and nights and just by sitting in one place they make sure that the entire cosmos is functioning properly and they radiate happiness by their mere presence. Nobody will have any troubles when they are amidst the Sadhus.

He was thrilled to hear the glories of the Sadhus. He again granted her a boon. Savitri was excited and told him that he had bestowed her with a son who will carry  forward the lineage for both her father-in-law and her father. King Yama granted this boon too, and only later realized that Satyavaan had to be alive to make this boon come true!  That’s when he realized how immersed he was in listening to Savitri’s slokas. He granted Satyavan’s life and blessed her with a dharmic life.

She then went to the spot where Satyavan was lying and she removed all the leaves that she had covered over him. Satyavan regained his life and puzzled as to what had happened to him and narrated his bad dream that some people were carrying him. When one tries to narrate the difficulties that one encountered to save the beloved one, then it cannot be called as true love. The husband is called ‘bharthaa’ (one who carries) because he carries (takes care of) his wife – ‘Bhaarya’ (one who is carried).   She did not narrate whatever had happened and the sun was beginning to set and so they started to head back home. At home, everyone is worried about Satyavan and Savitri as they did not return home. As they go out to on search, they regain their eye-sight.

Meanwhile Dyumatsena’s friend restored the lost kingdom to Dyumatsena and all of them live happily ever after.

Savitri, the Pativratha, by her virtues and by elucidating the glories of satsang saved her husband, Satyavan.

This story was narrated by a great sage Brihadasva to Dharmaputra. Dharmaputra said to Brihadasva that it is indeed a husband who can protect his wife. He further added that in his case, Draupadi was married to a family where all the five husbands could protect her but it later turned to be the reverse.  Is there any story where the wife has saved her husband? He narrated the story of Satyavan and Savitri in reply to Dharmaputra’s question.

During the cusp of the Tamil month of ‘Maasi’ and ‘Panguni’, womenfolk in India observe a fast praying to Savitri Devi to bestow longevity for their husbands.

After hearing to the holy episode, the satsang concluded with prayers and Namasankirtan.


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