Sri Narayananji from Boston talked about the greatness of bhakti.
Sanatana Dharma has a very unique quality that cannot be found in all other religions. All of us know that while other all faiths talk about a single god, Sanatana Dharma talks about multiple deities. If we get a little deep without scratching the surface, we find that it is only one supreme god who is held supreme in Sanatana Dharma as well. The reason why we have many deities is because of the fact that people are of different mentalities and they have to be given that kind of an ideal to follow so that they can eventually be lead to that supreme divinity. Hence we have different gods with different qualities [gunas] that finally leads one to supreme Brahman which is the supreme divinity of Sanatana Dharma.
“Brahmeti paramathmeti bhagawan iti shabdayatae” [1.2.11] , where Brahmam, Paramatma and Bhagawan are all the same. It talks about three different ways to reach divinity. Brahman is the name that the normal devotees refer to propitiate Lord Krishna. The devotees of Lord Krishna only see the Lord everywhere. They see the Lord as part of all their activities. That’s verily how normal devotees see the supreme god. People who adhere to the path of Atma Vichara and Jnana Marga see that supreme god as Brahman. There is this beautiful concept called “Nethi”, and its verbatim translation is “not this not this”. Brahman is infinite and can only be pointed in the direction of Brahman and by saying that it is not in that direction, and eventually if we remove all the different directions then he direction it finally points to is Brahmam. That’s verily how Atma Vicharis who do self inquiry realize their Brahmam.
The second great path that is explained is that of Yoga. The human body is indeed very auspicious and sacred and is used to attain the Lord. The body can be used for a Sadhana by proper practice of yoga. Our great Maharishi has devised this beautiful Ashtanga yoga, which comprises of eight steps. The first four steps refer to the control of the body [yama, niyama, asana, pranayama], the next set of four steps refer to the control of the mind, [dharana, dhyana and Samadhi]. The Swaroopa that he meditates in his heart, he calls Paramatma.
The devotees see the Lord [Bhagawan] everywhere and hence all of them are one and the same. This form of Brahman is beyond name, form and quality. So is this attainable at all? Srimad Bhagavatam elaborately describes the complex which is the form of truth, which is yet unchanging yet creates all the worlds. Brahman starts off by creating Lord Brahma and bestows him with all the knowledge, then creates the Maya which has all the three qualities sattva, rajas and tamas. From the Maya dawns the Ahankara and that leads to the creation of the Boothas [fire, water, Earth] and then the creation of humans. The truth is self effulgent and it is indeed the ultimate truth and so let’s meditate on all this ultimate truth says Srimad Bhagavatam in the first sloka.
The truth is indeed complex because of its nature, but Narayana Bhaatatri recognizes this Truth and says that the Truth is very profound and unclear [asphastam]. He says that he cannot explain it [avabhodatmakam]. He says that all the above qualities imply to the truth and yet it is reachable. He says that in the very first sloka of Narayaneeyam.
Nirmuktam nithyamuktam nigamashatashasrena nirbhasyamanam|
Asphastam drushtamatrae punarurupurushartaathmakam brahma thatvam
Thatvadhbhato sakshaat gurupavanapurae hanta bhagyam jananam||”
It is unique [anupamam] and does not have a second. It doesn’t have the three dimesnsions [kala, desa and avadi] and is totally independent of the three dimensions. He is Nithya muktam [eternal] and even though the Vedas have a great job in comprehending the Lord, they were not able to describe the Lord to the fullest extent. The Lord cannot be explained and expounded in hundreds and thousands of verses in the Vedas [nigamashatashasrena nirbhasyamanam]. All these qualities are so profound and I am lucky says Narayana Bhatari. In the eleventh of Srimad Bhagavatham, Lord Krishna uses the word “Alas”
“Hanta te kathayishyami”- — Alas Uddava, let me tell you the easiest way. But in Narayaneeyam, Narayana Bhatatri uses the word “Hanta!” in the first line itself. He is so proud to be born in the holy land of Guru Pavana Puri [Guruvayoor], where the Brahman which cannot be expressed by words, has now taken a form of a little boy wearing a loin cloth, having butter in one hand and a banana in the other hand and smiling at us. And he says that such is my benediction!
It does not necessarily mean that when you see the Lord, you are instilled with bhakti. Shisupala was bestowed with the darshan of the Lord face to face. He went one step further and merged with the Lord. But did he get bhakti? Maricha, Soorpanaka and Hiranyakashipu saw the Lord. Did they all get bhakti? It is only by the sheer grace of the Lord that one is infused with bhakti and the Lord in Ekadasa Skandam says, “Oh Uddava! Let me expound on the three paths to attain me! He talks about Jnana marga, Nishkamya Karma, Bhakti. He talked in detail about Jnana Marga, the Nishkamya Karma where people do inquiry on the core of their heart where I live and they finally find me.
He then talks Karma where he says by doing karma one cannot attain me. Bhagawan Ramana in his Upadesa Saram which was supposedly penned by Lord Shiva himself says,
“Karmam payantharal undi para” By merely doing Karma, one cannot attain me. Whereas the moment one offers himself to me and then perform Karma and offer the fruits of Karma to me then he will attain Jnana. This fact is very beautifully substantiated in Ramayana and Mahaharata.
Sharabanga was a great sage and he has accrued a lot of good merits. “Swanushithasya dharmasya” – By doing Yaga, tapas or by offering ablutions to the favorite deity and also by adhering to the path of Samanya dharma [feeding the poor, education he poor] one will attain Sawarga. We have seen that many kings have attained Swarga due the austerities they have performed. Swarga is ruled by Indra and by doing dharma and karma will lead one to the world of Indra.
By adhering to celibacy and performing sincere austerities, practice of Pranayama and Praathyahara and by constantly mediating on the Lord and that will bestow good merits and will eventually ad one to the world of Lord Brahma.
Sharabhanga, a great sage had performed austerities and Anustahana of his Swadharma and Indra was very happy to take him to Swarga. He was a chaste and performed penance and prathyahara and Lord Brahma was eagerly waiting to take him to his world.
Great yogis like Sharabhanga had been bestowed with the ability to leave the mortal coils as per their wish [Swachanda Mrithu]. Leave alone Yogis, Lord Kapila says in Srimad Bhagavatam that my devotees can stay in this earth for however long they desire [Swachanda Mrithyu] and once they give up their body, they will attain me and perform bhakti in my world as well.
When the devotees of the Lord can have Swachanda Mrithyu, then what to talk about that of the great Sages? So when Sharabhanga decided to forsake his mortal coil, Indra and Brahma came to invite him to their worlds. But he realized that Lord Rama who was ordained to go to the forest [Pitru Vakya Paripalana] was at Panchavati and Sharabhanga desired to perform Athiti Satrkaara before he abdicated his body. So he invited Lord Rama to his ashram. Lord Rama happily obliged to his request and visited his ashram. When Lord Rama came to Sharabhanga’s ashram, he had nothing to offer to Lord Rama. Even Sabari had some fruits to offer to Lord Rama but Sharabhanga had none to offer. He looked around and said I have accrued a lot of good merits by performing austerities and penance. He immediately offered his good merits [Punya] to Lord Rama and Rama happily accepted it. Lord Rama himself is a Swaroopa of Punya. The moment he gave all his good merits to Lord Rama, both Indra and Brahma left Sharabhanga. But since Sharabhanga had invited Lord Rama and gave away all his good merits to the Lord, he attained Parama Pada [the world of Lord Vishnu]. That is the fruit of doing one’s karma and by offering the fruits of Karma to the Lord, one will eventually reach Vaikunta.
In Mahabharatha, Indra visits Karna. Indra, the father of Arjuna was going to get the Kavacha and Kunadala of Karna. Even before Indra visited, Lord Surya came in the dreams of Karna and warned him about the impending Indra’s visit. Even in his dreams, Karna told Lord Surya that it was his Swadharma to offer his Kavacha and Kundala to the Lord. The next day as ordained, Indra came in the guise of a Brahmana. The reason he came in the guise of a Brahmana was because the Swadharma of a Brahmin was to do yachaka [to get alms]. It reminds us that Lord Vamana also came in the guise of a brahmin. In the later days of Karna, in the battle field of Kurukshetra, Karna injured Lord Arjuna and his group. The next day the Lord fights Karna and he is fatally injured. When Arjuna was about to take the life of Karna, the Lord realized that Karna’s good merits are protecting him and so the Lord took the form of a Brahmin and requested alms from Karna. He was so happy to see the Brahmin but had it been any other day, he would have happily given alms but today in the battlefield with his body torn apart, he had nothing to give to the Brahmin. He was afraid as to what the Brahmin was going to ask and when he asked for his punya, Karna happily gave it to the Brahmana. No sooner did he give his good merits than the Lord regained his original form and put Karna in his lap and comforted him.
The Lord told Karna that it was verily him who deceitfully came in the guise of a Brahmin to take away all his good merits that he had accrued. So the Lord asked him if he had any wish to be satiated and Karna says, “Janma labhah parah pumsaam anthae narayana smritih”. When the Lord is cuddling me at the time of my death, then am I a fool, to ask for a boon? The Lord was defeated by Karna’s reply and he automatically reached Vaikunta. This is another classic example where Lord Karna gave away all his good merits accrued by Swadharma and automatically reached the Lord’s abode.
When one offers everything to the holy feet of the Lord, he automatically reaches the Lord. This is known as Nishkamya karma. However, Both Sharabhanga and Karna have never tasted the sweetness of bhakti. They never knew anything about bhakti. By doing karma, one can attain knowledge [Jnana], but it is verily the Lord who can bestow bhakti. The Lord puts forth this beautiful term “yadricchaya”, where he says that “Bhakti to me is by my own grace”. “Jnanam vishudham aapnothi math bhaktim vayadhrucchaya”. Bhakti to me is only by my own grace. He says to Uddava that he cannot bestow bhakti to anyone and everyone.
The moment the Lord blesses one with bhakti, he needs to go and stand in front of the devotee always as an eternal servant.
“aham bhakta paradheenaha asvatantra ivadvijah
sadhu bir grutha hrudayoho bhaktaih bhakta jana priya “
The relationship of the Lord and the devotee is akin to a true husband and a wife, where they are bound by love. That’s verily why the Lord keeps bhakti to himself and gives to only a selected few based on their good merits.
The Lord conveys the beautiful fact that a person doing penance and other spiritual austerities [yaaga tapas, Ashtanga Yoga] for thousands for years will reach my holy abode, whereas a person who by being my ardent devotee [bhakta] will reach my abode in a matter of seconds.
Even though a devotee can be bestowed with whatever he wants, the greatness of a devotee is that he wouldn’t ask the Lord for anything.
“Na paarameshtyam na mahendra dishnam na saarvabhoumam narasadipatyam
na yogasiddhih apunarbhavam va maiyaarpitaatmechati mad vinaanyaat”.
The devotee will not even ask for Moksha. He is Nirapeksha and never asks for anything and derives the happiness by performing bhakti. He has won over his senses and his calm and a Swaroopa of Shanti (peace). He is at peace both inside and outside. There is no tumult anywhere. He is devoid of any enemies [Nirvaira]. He sees the whole world as Brahma Swarropam. By merely seeing me everywhere he has Samadharshana.
“Vanchanti yath paada raja prapanaha”. Nagapatni says the above verse to Lord Krishna in Kaliya Moksham. Who will ask for anything else but for singing your glories by remembering your holy feet.
“puuyeyet anghri renubih”. The Lord says to Uddava that the dust at the feet of such a devotee is so sacred that it can purify the material worlds. The dust from the holy feet of such a devotee is so sacred that I follow him. “Anuvrajami aham Nithyam”. I will follow that devotee eternally, says the Lord.
nirapeksham munim shaantam nirvairam sama-darshanam |
anuvrajaamy aham nityam puyeyety anghri renubhih ||
The Lord, thus speaking about the glory of Bhakti, talks about the human life – which is indeed rare (sudurlabham) , and yet easy (Sulabham).
It is easy when one attains a Sadguru.
A Guru who is an epitome of Prema bhakti is the sailor of the sip. The ship is the form of the human body that one has taken and Guru is sailing that ship.
The very moment one comes in contact with a guru, he is lead to me. If a guru who is just a teacher teaching the Vedas,Shastras ans Upanisads, then one needs to practice them in order o reach me. If it is a Guru Karna Dhara, then by mere Ashreya of that guru, by merely being in the company of that great Sadhu, will bestow me to you says the Lord to Uddava.
When the guru sails that ship, it is my grace that acts as the breeze that will set the ship sailing.
Those who take human birth and do not take the path to attain me have indeed committed suicide!
“nrudaham aadhyam sulabham sudurlabham plavam sukalpam guru karna dhaaraam mayaanukule nabasvatheritham puman bhavaabdim nataret sa aatmah”.
That man who has taken a human form and has taken the ashreya of a guru who can set the sail of the ship and it is indeed my anukoola [grace] that will steer the ship and will attain me and who has not made use of this birth to attain me to cross this Samsara is equivalent of committing a suicide!
The satsang ended with Prayers and Namasankirtan.