There are two types of Navrathri in a year. The first of the kind comes in the spring season and is known as Vasantha Navarathri and the other Navarathri comes in the autumn (fall) season is Sharad / Sharada Navarathri. Even though Navarathri is celebrated across the country to worship the Goddess Devi, it is actually the worship of three goddesses Devi (Shakti), Lakshmi and Saraswathi for three days each. The festival of Navrathri is celebrated for nine nights, but the word ‘rathri’ also connotes both day and night and hence Navarathri is celebrated for nine days. People reminisce and extol the compassionate nature of the Divine Mother. InSouthern India, it is a tradition to arrange dolls in odd number of staircases. The dolls are variegated – some being images of Gods while others depicting social and cultural activities like marriages, games, flowers and vegetables etc. The precept of Golu, the seven day doll festival is that one gets to imbibe the fact that the Lord is present in every object in this Earth and this festival is mainly for woman folks. The reason why the festival of Navrathri was extensively for woman was because they were mainly confined within homes and this festival was one occasion where they stepped out of their homes and mingled with other womenfolk in satsangs, thus promoting communication with other families. We all know that one needs immense grace of the Lord to be in satsangs and Navrathri is one such great occasion where people are in divine communion with the Lord.
After a short round of introductions, Sri Narayananji fromBostoncontinued his discourse on the eleventh canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. The eleventh canto started with the Nava Yogi Upakhyana and was then followed by the Avadoota Gita that spoke the glory of the Guru.
After expounding on the twenty-four Gurus, Avadoota advised King Yadu that the knowledge one accrues from these Gurus will blossom in one’s heart only with sheer grace of the Lord. Avadoota took leave from King Yadu after expounding on the twenty-four Gurus.
Having narrated this story,Krishnaadvised Uddhava on how one should lead a life based on the tenets in the Shastras and perform Guru Bhakti. One should not forsake one’s Karma (one’s work) until the Karma, by itself forsakes him, addedKrishna.
Mahans give a beautiful analogy for this precept. When one is sick and seeks medical advice, the doctor prescribes medication to cure the ailment – thus medication is to be taken by the ill person as long as it gets him to the state where he doesn’t need to take medication anymore!
In the beginning of Uddava Gita, we saw that Uddava was asked to embrace the path of Sanyasa by Lord Krishna. Uddava was hesitant to take Sanyasa and hence Lord Krishna talked to him about the Avadoota Gita. After the completion of Avadoota Gita, Lord Krishna told Uddava that it was about time that his Karma is going to leave him. When one’s karma leaves a devotee, then his pride, ego, laziness will also leave him. His questioning mind will also leave him which will then instill more faith in him. All the dirty qualities will depart from a devotee when his karma leaves him and he thus reaches an elevated state and this is only possible by the sheer grace of a Guru! Krishnainstilled such a surrender to the Guru in Uddhava. The knowledge [Jnana] that the Guru imparts to his disciple will take the devotee to this elevated state.
Continuing His talk about the good and bad Karma,Krishnatold Uddhava that the reason for one holding on to his body is verily because he is still engaged in the process of doing his karma. When one does good karma, he reaps good merits and reaches the world of Lord Indra or Lord Brahma. It is said that one gets to enjoy these lokas for a finite duration based on the amount of merits he accrues. When this account is exhausted, he comes back to this world again. Likewise, when one commits sins and accrues bad merits, he tends to go all infernal regions and after spending finite amount of time in all these naraka lokas, he also takes another birth in some lowly birth.
‘kshINe puNye martya lokam vishanti’
Once a teenager received a huge sum of money from his parents and embarked on a road trip with his friends. He started to spend the money in a lavish manner – renting the most expensive car, staying in the most exotic hotels etc. on the way and soon, he found himself in a state where he had spent all his money by the time he reached the destination and lo! He didn’t have a penny pie to help him get back! Then he stood on the road and got ride from people, and returned to his hometown, after having gotten many consecutive short rides! The journey of the soul is likewise too!
When one amasses wealth, one can go only to a certain limit. This is well depicted in the life-history of Trishanku in Ramayana. Sadananda, the son of Ahalya and Gautama speaks to Rama and Lakshmana about the glory of Vishawamitra before Seetha Kalyanam and as to how the latter performed Tapas. Trishanku aspired to go to Indra Loka with his material body. Lord Indra was however not very happy about this. So Vishwamitra decided to give all the good merits that he had accrued from his penance to Trishnaku so that he can thus reach the world of Indra. Lord Indra is also known as ‘Sahasraaksha’, one with thousand eyes. The reason he had thousand eyes was because he was adept at finding faults and not allow anyone to reach Indra loka and so he did not allow Trishanku to enter the heaven and hence he had to find a spot somewhere in the middle!
When one is bound by the results of his actions – by ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ – he is not free, but when he equates himself with the ‘Atman’, he is independent / free. The moment Krishna said this to Uddhava, Uddhava was confused and requested Krishna to elucidate on the differences between a ‘Baddha’, the one who is caught in the quagmire of Samsara and a ‘Mukta’, the one who is a liberated soul.
“katham vartheta viharet kairvA jnAyeta lakshanaih”|
“kim bhunjIthota visrujechchayaithasitha yAti vA”|| [Srimad Bhagavatham 11.10.36]
In Bhagavat Gita, Arjuna also questioned the Lord as to who was a “Stitha Pragnya” and requested the Lord to expound on his characteristics and his dispositions. [41.22]
Uddava Gita is akin to Bhagavad Gita. The former is the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Uddava wheras the later is between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. Uddava started the conversation with the lord since he did not want to embrace the path of Sanyasa and in Bhagavad Gita the discourse started when Arjuna since he did not want to fight the war. In both cases, they wanted guidance from the Lord and the questions they put forth to the Lord were also the similar!
Amused by Uddhava’s question, Lord Krishna said, ‘There is nothing called as Baddha and a Mukta! In fact there is nothing called ‘Mukti!’”
baddho mukta iti vyAkya gunato me na vastutah|
guNasya mAya moolathvAn na me moksho na bandanam|| [Srimad Bhagavatham 11.11.1]
This reply of the Lord puzzled Uddava andKrishnaexplained in detail…
‘Mukti refers to freedom. When one is bonded / secured in a location, and one is freed, then that is called freedom, ain’t it Uddhava?’,Krishnasaid. Continuing, ‘When one is not really bound, then where is the question of freeing him?’Krishnaasked. It is only his perception that he is bound, and hence he seeks freedom. The truth though, is that he is never bound! One’s natural state is that of independence’,Krishnasaid. He elucidated this with a beautiful example –
“Shokamoho sukam dukham dehApattischa mAayayA”|
“swapno yathAtmanah kyAthih samsruthirna tu vAstavi”|| [Srimad Bhagavatham 11.11.2]
One was experiencing a terrible dream. In the dream, he had committed a grave crime and, gasping for breath, was trying tried to run as fast as he could from the cops who were closely chasing him. But the cops managed to nail him down and secure him in prison. He has been suffering untold misery in the prison. Suddenly he woke up, with sweat and fear all over his face! Confused, he turned around and realized that everything was a dream! After all, he did not commit the crime at the first place and was not in jail confines either! He was not undergoing any of the pains ipso facto, and so, where is the question of ‘freeing him from prison?’
Bandha (bondage) and Moksha are mere constituents of Maaya and are not part of the true Self [the atma]. The Atma remains a ‘Sakshi’(witness) to all the happenings, ever being free – and it is the body that undergoes all the sufferings (and hence the notion that it is relieved from the sufferings!) The truth is that it was never bound and hence it need not be relieved!
To expound this a little further,Krishnanarrated a story.
“SuparnAveto sadrusho sakhAyo yadruchayaito kruthanidou cha vrukshae|
ekasthayoh khAdati pipalAnna manyo nirannopi balena bhUyAn”|| [Srimad Bhagavatham 11.11.6]
There was a Peepul tree and there were two birds of the same clan residing on the same branch in that tree. Their wings were made of gold. One of them was totally emaciated and had no sign of happiness on its face and was totally wretched whereas the other bird was blissfully smiling. The bird that was in dilapidated state was eating the fruit from the tree as it seemed very tasty. This is akin to a dog when it bites a bone and the bone pricks the teeth and hence it starts to bleed. The dog however thinks that the blood is the taste of the bone and relishes the bone. The very fruit was making it weaker by the day, but nevertheless, the bird was enjoying it.
The healthy bird did not make any attempt to prevent its friend from eating the fruit; although they were thick friends, although they were on the same branch; although they belonged to the same noble clan! The emaciated bird, not at one instance, turned to look at its healthy counterpart, for a mere look at it would make it regain its original state! Such was its interest in the fruit!
The healthy bird patiently waited for the other one to look at it. It hoped with optimism, that some day or the other, the poor one would look at it. Eventually, when the emaciated bird looked at its counterpart, they both flew away from the tree- there were no more two birds! It was one!
The Jeevatma and the Lord / Guru are the two birds on the tree called the human body / Samsara., the Jeeva eating the fruits of its actions, and becoming lackluster because of it repeatedly, while the Guru / Lord waits patiently for it to look upto Him. Eventually, bitten by the pangs of pain and suffering owning to the fruit it was eating, the Jeeva turns towards the ever-patient Guru / Lord, who shows him his true nature. That very moment, He takes over the Jeeva and they quit the Samsara / human body. This supreme realization is possible only by the sheer grace of a Sadguru, who is patiently waiting!
The satsang ended with prayers and Namasankirtan.