Srimad Bhagavatham and Ramayanam are two major Granthas that show us light as we tread on our spiritual journey. Our Guru Maharaj, Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji stresses these two scriptures as they ratify the path of Bhagavata Dharma. If we see in Srimad Bhagavatam, it starts off with a life-history of a great Bhagavatha, Sage Narada and culminates with the life-history of another great Bhagavatha, Markandeya, who is a great Vaishnavite. Even though Srimad Bhagavatham expounds on the life-history of Lord Krishna it is named as Srimad Bhagavatham and not as Krishna Bhagavatham or unlike other deity’s Bhagvatham. It is verily because of the fact that Lord Krishna is verily Bhagavan. Sage Shuka brings out this phrase very beautifully in the first canto –
“ko Naama Loke Bhagavat padarthah”
The above verse means that can there be any other person who can give a definition to the term Bhagawan other than Lord Krishna himself. Hence the two grantas are named as Srimad Bhagavatham and Bhagavad Gita. Bhagavatas who worship Lord Shiva are called as Shaivites, but those who worship Lord Krishna are called as Bhagavatas. This again goes to show that Lord Krishna is indeed the Bhagawan.
“Krishnastu Bhagavan Swayam”
In Srimad Bhagavatham, we see the life-history of Markandeya. He was a great Vaishnavite but we also see the Bhakti that he performed to Lord Shiva. He had the complete benediction of Lord Shiva to be a chiranjeevi forever. But beyond that, Markandeya had the blessing of Lord Shiva to be a “Puraanachaarya”. Srimad Bhagavatham says, “Puranaacharyataastuthe”.
Once Shiva and Parvati came on a Vimana and they happened to see Markandeya who had conquered Maya and he had also been bestowed with the Lord’s darshan on a beautiful ‘Vata Patra’ leaf. He was blissfully meditating on the Lord when Lord Shiva and Parvati came to have the darshan of this great Bhagavatha. He immediately prostrated upon seeing Lord Shiva and Parvati. They conferred on him the title “Puraanacharya”, and blessed him to discourse on the Puranas and expound on the glories of the Lord. Earlier, Markandeya had the divine darshan of Nara and Narayana, who are verily the forms of the Lord. He also witnessed the Maya through the darshan of Lord (as an infant on a leaf). After having conquered the Maya, greed and lust, he spent his life by listening to the glories of the lord and by sharing it with others. One needs the grace of a Guru to share the glories of the lord with others. He had Guru Krupa through Lord Shiva’s blessings so that he could narrate the divine glories of the Lord to everyone in the world. It is also said that in the seventh canto of Srimad Bhagavatham, he was an exponent of Ramayana. It is said that the Pandavas have listened to Ramayana which was expounded by Markandeya. Akin to this, Suta Pouranika had the benediction of Balarama Swamy who also narrated the Srimad Bhagavatham Purana.
In Ramayana also the purana extols the glory of Bhagavathas, not by Valmiki but by Lord Rama himself, akin to how Lord Krishna glorified the greatness of Bhagavatha Sage Narada when Nalakubara and Manigreeva were revived back to life. In Aranyakanda, there are two places where Lord Rama falls, one is by Nagapaasa, an arrow in the form of a serpent and to be relieved from Nagapaasa, Garuda Swamy, the prime most Bhagavatha himself comes to the rescue. This goes to show that even to protect the Lord, the help of a Bhagavatha is greatly needed. The next time when the Lord fell, Hanumanji, another great Bhagavatha lifted the Sanjeevini Mountain. These two incidents go to show that the Lord himself is to be resurrected when they are in trouble. Hanumanji did not show his prowess for his ability to lift the Sanjeevini Mountain, but he prostrated unto the holy feet of Lord Rama to bestow him with the ability to get the herb from that mountain. This goes to show the humility of Hanumanji, a great Bhagavatha. It also depicts the dependency of the Bhagavathas on Bhagawan for anything and everything.
Following this Nishaji from Houston discoursed on the Nava Yogi Upakyana.
Vasudeva, Lord Krishna’s father asked Sage Narada for the path to get liberated from the cycle of samsara. In reply to Vasudeva’s question, Sage Narada started to expound on the path of Bhagavatha Dharma. It is a usual practice to expound on any dharma with reference to our ancestors as that would instill more faith and belief. So Sage Narada embarked on the path of Bhagavatha Dharma to Vasudeva by reproducing the dialogue that happened between King Nimi of Videha and the Nava Yogis, who are the sons of Risheba Yogiswara. Over the last few weeks, we have listened to the first eight Yogi’s discourses to King Nimi.
The Nava Yogi Upakyana gives the complete essence of Bhagavatha Dharma in very few chapters in the eleventh canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. It looks at every aspect of Bhagavatha Dharma and it is very important for people following the path of Bhagavatha Dharma to read the Nava Yogi Upakyana. The names of the Nava Yogis are related to the discourses that they deliver. The first Yogi is Kavi. Kavi connotes poet. It is only a poet who can explain and articulate things in a beautiful manner. He expounds on the path of bhakti. The next Yogi is Hari. Hari refers to the name of the Lord. It is verily the lord who can talk about the characteristics of a Bhagavotatama. Hari Yogi expounded on the characteristics of the Bhagavotama. The third Yogi is Antharikshar. He elucidated about Maya. Maya is related to sky [aakasha]. Anthariksha means Aakasha. The next Yogi is Prabuddar. The term Prabuddar means one who is a realized soul. He explained how it is imperative to take the shelter of a guru. He outlined the need for doing Bhakti to a guru. A sleeping person cannot wake up another sleeping person. Only a person who is already awake can wake up the rest. The next Yogi Pippalayanar, whose name refers to a Jnani, delineated the characteristics of Lord Narayana and also portrayed the greatness of Jaagrath, Swapna and Sushupti. It is only a Jnani who can bestow knowledge [Jnana]. The sixth Yogi is Avirhotrar. Avirhotrar means one who performs spiritual austerities [homam] and hence he explicated Karma, Akarma and Vikarma. The next Yogi is Dhrumilar and his name translates to a Dravidian/Pouranika. He explained on the characteristics of the Lord and the innumerable incarnations taken by the Lord. The eighth Yogi is Chamasar. Chamasar means Ajnanam. He expounded about the atheists [Agnanis.] His discourse was a very powerful lecture as he lashed out the agnanis who make fun of people who follow the path of Bhagavatha Dharma. The last of the Yogis is Karabhajanar and his name signifies to someone having a vessel in his hand. His discourse is all about the essence of the eight Yogis and finally gives on our hands what one needs to know. Karabhajanar embarked in his discourse by talking about the four Yugas. We all know that there are four Yugas, Krita [Satya] Yuga, the Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. In the Krita Yuga, the mind set of people was pure and pristine. They were Suddhaatmas. The prescribed path for Krita Yuga was dhyana [meditation]. In the age of Treta Yuga, the people’s mind was not as pure as in Kreta Yuga. The path of worship in Treta Yuga was sacrifices. In the Dwapara Yuga, the mind and hearts of the people deteriorated even further and hence the spiritual path advocated for Dwapara Yuga was Archanam [pooja], one step easier than the Treta Yuga. Finally in the age of Kali Yuga, which is the present Yuga, people are reveling in the mundane world and their minds are tainted with the sensual pleasures and they do not possess the strength to do meditation/spiritual austerity or pooja. So Lord Sri Krishna advocated a dharma for all the people living in the age of Kali. That path is chanting the Divine Names of the Lord. Karabhajanar, the last Yogi discoursed on the path of Nama Sankirtanam. He also elucidated as to how one should chant the Divine Names of the Lord,
“Krishna varnam Tvisha krishnam Saangopaanga astra parshadam”|
“Yagnaih Sankithirthanah prayaih yajanti hi sumedhasah”|| [Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.32]
Karabhajanar in the above sloka says how one should propitiate the lord in the Kali Yuga. He lucidly says adore the Lord who is black in complexion but brilliant as a sapphire. The worship of the lord should be filled with recitals of the divine names of the Lord. This however does not mean that one cannot reach the holy feet of the Lord by doing penance or Yagna in Kali Yuga. One can definitely adhere to these paths, provided they have the strength and capacity in the age of Kali by scrupulously following to the dictates of Dhyana and Yagna dharmas. We do not have the time to do even our daily ablutions in this fast-faced life as prescribed in the Vedas. All our scriptures advocate the path of Nama Sankirtan for the age of Kali. The efficacy of Nama Sankirtan has been clearly elucidated in all the scriptures.
“harer namaiva namaiva mama jeevanam
kalau nastyeva nastyeva gatihr anyata”
Compared to the other ways of purifying the mind, the path of chanting the divine names of the Lord is one of the easiest and most pragmatic paths in this age of Kali.
Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita explicitly delineated as to when he takes an incarnation. The Lord descends on earth in order to protect the virtuous people and restore the path of dharma when adharma rises.
Paritranaya sadhunam vinashaya cha dushkritam
Dharma samsthapana arthaya sambhavami yuge yuge (Bhagavad Gita 4.8).
Lord Krishna’s incarnation at the end of Dwapara Yuga and as soon as Lord Krishna left the world, it was the onset of Kali Yuga. So one may ponder as to why Kali Yuga was the worst of all Yugas even after the incarnation of Lord Krishna before the advent of Kali Yuga. Mahans give a beautiful explanation as to why Lord Krishna’s avatar happened before the age of Kali. The avatar of Lord Krishna is a panacea for all the jivas in the age of Kali. It is only after this avatar that one can chant the divine names of the Lord and enjoy his divine exploits.
So ‘Dharma samsthapana arthaya sambhavami yuge yuge’ refers to the path of Bhagavatha Dharma that the lord established before the onset of Kali Yuga. This was only possible due to His immense compassion since he had a vision of the quality of life of the people living in the age of Kali.
Srimad Bhagavatham shows how Sage Narada was petrified when he came down to earth during the advent of Kali and he eventually returned back to Vaikunta. The lord was very surprised as to why he returned very soon. It should be said that Sage Narada went to Kamsa and all Asura’s court yard’s and chanted the names of Lord Narayana without any hesitation. Such a person was so scared looking at the people in the Kali Yuga. Sage Narada upon his return to Vaikunta confided in the lord that while in the court of Asuras he would for sure know who is good and who is evil, he was not able to differentiate the same amongst the people living in Kali Yuga. Such a dreaded Yuga is Kali and it is only due to the immense compassion of the Lord that he has advocated the path of Bhagavatha Dharma for the Kali Yuga.
One may now ask that as per our Vedas and scriptures, lots of daily ablutions are enlisted that every Brahmana has to stringently follow. So why should one just chant the Divine Names of the lord without adhering to the Vedic rituals. In order to explain this, let us consider the following example. A mother has three sons. She ordered the first son to finish all his homework before he had his dinner. So the first son implicitly obeyed his mother’s orders. He completed all his home-work and then ate his dinner. She also had a similar regulation for her second son. He was asked to tidy his room before his dinner. He also met his mother’s expectation by cleaning his room before dinner. However, her third son is sick in cradle and is always crying. The mother cannot order this child since she is cognizant of the fact that he will not be able to do anything due to his age and ailment and all he knows is to only call out his mom’s name. So she does everything for him, right from his diaper change to feeding and all the way to putting him to sleep by showering love on him. So we, the ones living in this age of Kali are akin to this child in the cradle. Our minds are tainted and we are not adept and agile to do mediation or any spiritual austerity. In spite of all our short comings, the lord who is an epitome of compassion only wants us to chant His Divine Names and that will bestow bhakti and devotion in all of us.
All our scriptures explicate the greatness of Nama Sankritan.
kalau kalmasHa chittAnAm pApadravyOpa jIvinAm |
vidhikriyA vihInAnAm gathir gOvinda kIrtanam ||
In this Age of Kali, where the mind is impure and the living is earned through sinful means and where living by prescribed rules is difficult, the only way to liberation is singing the Holy Name of God!
This is the crux of Karabhajanar’s discourse and it is verily Namasankirtan – Chant the divine names of the Lord.
Kali Yuga is indeed great in two aspects. Firstly, by following the path of Nama Sankirtan in Kali, one can reach the holy feet of the lord. Secondly, the lord will take infinite incarnations in the guise of Mahans and Jeevan Muktas to propagate the path of Nama Sankirtan. In the age of Kali, it is said that there is just not one avatar of the lord. The Kalki avatar is said to happen at the end of Kali Yuga which still has about four more lakh years. It is hence said that the lord will take infinite [asankeya] avatars in Kali Yuga to spread the sweet fragrance of chanting the divine names of the lord. Sage Veda Vyasa was cognizant of this when he wrote Srimad Bhagavatham. This was lucidly depicted by Sage Suka to King Parikshit about 5000 years ago as well. Srimad Bhagavatham also highlighted the places where the Mahans will take birth.
“Kruthadishu praja rajan kaalavichanthi sambhavam”|
“Kalau Kalu bhavisyanthi Narayanaparayanaha”|| [Srimad Bhagavatham 11.5.38]
“Kvachith KvachinMaharaja dravidaeshu cha boorishaha”|
“Thamraparni nadhi yatra KruthaMala Payasvini”|| [Srimad Bhagavatham 11.5.39]
“Kauveri Cha mahapunya pratichi cha mahanadhi”|
“Yae Pibandhi jalam thaasaam manujha manujaeshwara”|
“Praayo bhakta bhagavathi vasudevaeamalaashayaaha”||| [Srimad Bhagavatham 11.5.40]
Sage Shuka when expounding Srimad Bhagavatham to King Parikshit mentioned that people who lived in Kruta Yuga possessed pure mind and manas and they will seek birth in Kali Yuga again and again. It is said that Lord Rama and Krishna incarnations are complete [poorna] and they did both good [anugraham] to the mankind also destroyed [nigraham] their enemies. However, in the case of Mahans, they descend on the earth, only do for doing good [anugraham] to everyone. They don’t even have an iota of bad intention and there is no negativity in them. Such is the greatness of Mahans and Jeevan Muktas. Karabhajanar in his discourse lucidly elucidated on the banks of the rivers where the incarnations of the Mahans will happen. Prime importance is given to Dravida Desa [Tamil Nadu]. He mentioned the rivers on whose banks the mahans will take avatars. The innumerable devotees of Lord Hari have descended on the banks of Tamaraparani river. Who are these devotees of Lord Hari who incarnated on the banks of Tamaraparani river? They are verily the Azhwars who first propagated the path of bhakti. They descended first and it is only after them that other devotees of Lord Hari took avatars. Karabhajanar does not say that the devotees of Lord Narayana will incarnate only in Dravida Desa, and he goes to say “Kvachith Kvachin Maharaja”. In this verse, it refers to the myriad of Lord Hari’s devotees who will be born in rest of India aswell. Namazhwar and Madhurakavi Azhwar were born in the banks of Tamaraparani, PeriAzhawar and Andal in the banks of Vaigai, Poigai AzhwAr, Phuthath AzhwAr, PeyAzhwAr, and Thirumazhisai AzhwAr were born on the banks of Paalaar river and Thondaradippodi AzhwAr, ThiruppanAzhwAr, Thirumangai Azhwar on the banks of the
river Cauvery, the best among the rivers. He says that one who takes a dip in the river Cauvery will be instilled with bhakti and devotion to Lord Narayana akin to how a dip in river Ganga absolves all the sins.
Bhakti Devi herself explains this in Padma Purana. She was born in Dravida Desa and grew up in Karnataka. This substantiates that the Azhwars were the first and foremost devotees of Lord Hari who incarnated in Dravida Desa. They preceded all the devotees of Kali Yuga. After the Azhwars came all the Dasa devotees in Karnataka, Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa and Govinda Dasa to name a few. Maharashtra is the home ground for all the numerous devotees of Lord Panduranga, Sant Namdev, Sant Tukkaram and the list goes on. In Gujarat, we have Narsimha Mehta and in Rajasthan we have Meera Bhai. Going to north, in Uttar Pradesh, we have Kabir Das, Tulasi Das and in North-East part of India, we have Krishna Chaitanya who himself moved around in Assam and Bihar. In Orissa we have Jayadevar and in Andhra Pradesh we have Bhadrachalam Ramadas. If we do a Bharatha Pradakshina and come to Tamil Nadu, we have Bodendral, Sridhar Ayyaval. We can clearly see that the holy hand of Bharat grows Mahans after Mahans to help the people. The lord indeed takes incarnations after incarnations as Mahans out of his sheer compassion to help the people. All the Mahans propitiate the path of Nama Sankirtanam as shown below:
“Yatra Sankeerthaeniva sarvaha Swartophi Labyathae”
NammAzhwar in his pasuram in Thiruvazhimozhi says-
kaNNan kazhaliNai naNNum manamudaiyeer!
eNNum thirunaamam thiNNam naaraNamE! [Thiruvaaymzohi 10.5]
In the above verse, he urges the devotees of the lord to chant the name “Narayana Narayana” in order to reach the holy feet of the Lord.
PeriyAzhwar encouraged all the devotees of the Lord to name their children with Lord’s divine names. By calling out their names, one will reach the exalted state that Yashoda attained. The entire Naalayira Divya Prabandham expounds on the greatness of Prema Bhakti and Namasankirtan.
Purandara Dasa in one of his kirtans sings –
“kaliyugadali hari naamava gati” – In the age of KaliYuga, the only panacea is the chanting of the divine names of the Lord. All the mahans lived in different instant of time but propagated only path and that is verily NamaSankirtan. He further goes to say, that he doesn’t know how to do meditation, or any spiritual austerities and all other practices and all I know is chanting the Divine Names of the Lord.
The verse is mentioned below –
“ snAnava nEriyenu mounavanariyenu
dhyAnavaneriya nendhalaiyya bEdA
thanthrava neriyanenthu alaiya bEdA”
He goes one step further and says- Oh Lord, I don’t need You nor Your form. I only need to chant your Divine Names.”
neen yako, ninna hang yako, ninna namada bala ondiddarey sako
Sant Tukkaram in one of his abhangs says-
“Kaliyinchi kaama managathae Raama Naama”, translates to chant the divine names of the Lord in this age of Kali.
Kaalavela naama ucharitha nahi, sings Sant Jnaneshwar. There are absolutely no restrictions to chant the divine names of the Lord. Just keep chanting the divine names of the Lord and the Lord will come running behind the devotees.
Meerabai went one step ahead and requested even birds and animals to chant the divine names of the Lord in this verse- “Radhe Krishna Bolu thotimaina Radhe Krishna Bol”
The main crux of Ramacharitamanas, is to chant the divine names of the lord Rama.
namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-shaktis
tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah [From Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Siksastaka]
In the above verse, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu hails the greatness of chanting the Divine Names. He says that chanting the Divine Names can alone render benediction to all the mortals in this world.
Purandara Dasa says, “narajanma bandAga nAlige iruvAga krSNA ena bArade”- When one is bestowed with a human birth and a tongue, can you not say Krishna?
The Lord has thus given all the strength and prowess to His Divine Names and has gone to take rest. Our only refugee is to chant the divine names of the Lord. Chanting the Divine Names will also bestow dharma, artha,kaama and moksha. Purandaradasa says that there is no other greater dharma other than chanting the Divine Names of the Lord. If we see how NamaSankirtan can bestow Artha, it is clearly seen in the case of Pandavas and Sugreeva. After they chanted the Divine Names of the Lord, they regained their kingdom back.
KArabhajanar in his discourse says, –
“Devarshi bhootaatma nraunaam pithrunam na kinkaro nayamruni cha rajan|
Sarvathmana yah sharanam sharanyam gatho mukundam parihruthya kartham| [Srimad Bhagavatham 11.5.41]
Svapadamoolam bhajatha priyasya thyakthanyabhavasya harih pareshaha|
Vikarma yachothpathitham kathanchithu dhunothi sarvam hrudhi sannivishtaha|| “ [Srimad Bhagavatha 11.5.42]
He says that one who has surrendered everything to Lord Mukunda, the Lord himself takes care of all his responsibilities and absolves him of all the sins of his duties. He does not have to indebted to any of the deities, the Rishis or any other living creature since the Lord will now take care of his devotee. And for a devotee who has the Lord residing in his heart, the lord by sitting in the heart of his devotee will completely erase all the sins of the devotees past birth.
The essence of Nava Yogi Charithra is the chanting of the divine names of the lord and Karabhajanar extols the greatness of Kali Yuga by having the benediction to chant the Lord’s Divine Names in this yuga, which is also the path shown by innumerable Mahans.
Finally Sage Narada requested Vasudeva not to worry since the lord himself is born as his son. What to speak of you to whom Lord Narayana himself is born to you as your son. Can there be anything greater than this? Ajamila attained the holy feet of the Lord, by just calling out the Lord’s Name in his last moments of his life.
The satsang ended with prayers and Namasankirtanam.