Apr 29: Greatness of Satsang

29 Apr

Bhikshu Gita of Bhagavatam says,

dAnam svadharmo niyamo yamascha shrutam cha karmANi cha sadvratAni |
sarve mano nighraha lakshaNAntA parohi yogo masah samAdih ||

In the 11th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, Lord Krishna speaks about all the paths that can be treaded to reach Him.  Giving charity, sticking to one’s Dharma, following rules and regulations prescribed in the Shastras, learning and reciting the Vedas, performing the Karmas ordained, and undertaking vows and injunctions – all of these cannot give Bhagavan directly – merely following or doing something will not give the Lord to us. Instead, they are aimed at the destruction of the mind (‘mano nigraham’)  There is a difference between ‘Mano layam’ and ‘mano nigraham’  – the former is a state when the mind is still, and the latter is the death of the mind.   The former happens to us everyday, for instance during deep sleep. Mind is like a thread tied at both ends. When slightly plucked, starts vibrating vigorously, and can be easily kept in the state of non-equilibrium, the vibration of the mind is the thoughts.  When the mind is still, as in sleep, it is called Mano-layam, which no doubt gives us peace and happiness.  The moment one wakes up, the equilibrium is disturbed. Given a choice between curling up on bed and doing some activity, we would chose the former, wouldn’t we?  That is because, mano-laya gives peace.  Beyond this is the annihilation of the mind, a state in which the vibration cannot be resumed.

All the Sadhanas take us to the destruction of the mind and that is the greatest Yoga.  The death of the mind can be done by various means.  Bhagavatam speaks about an easy way of silencing, quieting and destroying the mind – by offering it to Krishna.    Oscillation of the mind is contained by offering Krishna’s feet to the mind and making the mind strongly hold on to ‘That’ thought.

The mind has a tendency to go out to various objects and cling on to them.  One way is to forcefully pull the mind back into its source – Krishna.  The other way is to relate each and every of these objects that the mind holds on to  – to Krishna and the latter is the essence of Bhagavatam – especially the 10th canto.  There is not one dimension of the world and one entity on this Univere which you cannot relate to Krishna or His Leela.

Take age, Krishna has friends of various ages – there is no age in Krishna’s lifetime that you cannot attribute a leela to.  If your mind has a disposition to toddlers, the toddler Krishna played so many pranks, the Youth Krishna played Rasa, slayed Kamsa  etc.  Gender  – any male entity can be attributed to a Gopa, and female, Gopi.  Of all the entities, the nature is the greatest entity.  A  lush green plant reminds us of tulsi – Krishna’s favorite.  A champak flower is the favorite of Krishna.  Magizhampoo – that adorns our Premika Varadan’s neck all the time, the Lotus flower, that is on Krishna’s Feet etc.

Look at birds and they are instantly relatable to Krishna.  A peacock reminds us of its feather on Krishna’s head, a cuckoo reminds us of the beautiful song from Krishna’s flute. Thus, all different birds and animals remind us of Krishna.  Likewise, all seasons remind us of Krishna too.

Rainy season immediately brings into our memory Govardhan Lila – when It poured cats and dogs and Krishna lifted the Hill to give refuge to Gopas and Gopis.  Andal says Tiruppavai that the moment she sees dark clouds  and rains, she is reminded of the Lord –

‘aazhi mazhai kkannaa aazhi un kai karavel aazhi ul pukku mugarndhu kodaartheri
oozhi mudhalvan uruvam pol meikaruthhupaazhiyum tholudaya padmanaabhan kaiyil
aazhipol minni valampuripol nindradhirndhu thaazhaadhe saarngam udaitha saramazhaipol
vaazha ulaginil peithidaai naangalum maargazhi neeraada magizhndhelorempaavaai ‘

Dark clouds remind her of Krishna’s complexion, the drops of rain remind her of Rama’s arrows, lightning reminds her of the Lord’s discus and thunder reminds her of the conch!

Summer reminds us of the summer in Brindavan as explained in Bhagavatam. It was so hot that the entire forest (muncharanyam) caught fire and the Lord asked all the gopas and gopis to close their eyes and drank the fire.  Summer reminds of ‘daavagni paanam’.

Autumn / Fall season reminds us of the Lord’s venu gitam-
‘ittam sharad svaccha jalam padmAkara sughandinA, nyavishad vAyunAvAtam sagogopAla gochyutah’

The still waters carrying  the lotus, the humming bees, the cuckoos singing, the peacocks dancing – setting a beautiful orchestra for the Lord’s flute!

Winter again reminds us of the Gopis’ Katyayani Vrata
‘hemante prathame mAse nandavraja kumArikA cherur havishyAm bhunjAnAm kAthyAyanascha navratam’

The penance the Gopis undertook to attain Bhagavan – akin to Aandals’ Paavai Nonbu in Margazhi – winter season.  Over and above all, the Lord Himself says that He is Margazhi among all the months!

Likewise, when we think of the beautiful spring season, our mind instantly goes to the beautiful play of Krishna with the Gopas and Gopis – it is a season that He chooses to enjoy his childhood, sporting all the interesting Lilas.  Out of all seasons, He is the Spring!  The jasmine flowers that bloom in the evenings during the spring season set the mood and theme for the Lord’s sport!

‘bhagavAnapi tArAtri sharadotpulla mallikA’

A few ponds in Brindavan have water and Krishna goes with Radha Devi to these ponds and performs Lilas!  Mahans enjoy these Lilas in utmost Bhava.

Just like the Navaratri in the fall season, the Navaratri (9 auspicious days) during Spring, known as Vasantha Navaratri  starting from the Ugadhi day, makes us remember Krishna even better. Vasanthotsav is celebrated during this season, just as Jayadeva sings in his Gita Govindam –

‘vasante vAsanti kusuma sukumAraih avayavaih bramantIm kAntAre bahuvihida krishNAnusaranAm..’.

Back in Chennai, our Guru Maharaj decorates a beautiful pond filled with lotuses and aroma and in the center, places Thakurji with His consort in a pedestal / swing and sings kirtans celebrating the Utsav.

After introductions, Narayananji from Boston spoke about the greatness of Satsang.

Tulasidas Maharaj says,
‘binu satsang viveka na hoi, rAma krupA bin sulabha na soi ‘

When the intellect alone prevails, one becomes very dry; on the other hand, when emotions alone prevail, he is a very dangerous, as he is very week, impulsive and emotion-driven.   One should use his intellect when needed and also emote when appropriate.  Viveka  – or discrimination indicates the state where there is a beautiful balance between the heart (emotions) and the intellect.  And this balance, according to Tulsidasji, can be brought about only by Satsang.

In this sloka, he uses two negatives – ‘no discrimination is possible without a satsang’.  Had he used a positive sentence as ‘Satsang gives discrimination’ , then that would have left the door open for other factors to bring in discrimination.  By using double negatives, he rules that no other Sadhana / means can bring about ‘viveka’ but Satsang!  And going on to qualifying what the satsang is, he says, its impossible to understand what the satsang is – and only Rama Krupa will make one understand it!  Only the Lord’s grace can give a satsang, and one step further, only His grace can make us understand the Satsang.  Realizing the satsang is important because, one might very well be in the immediate vicinity of a satsang, but unless he realizes the value of it, it is futile.   In Srimad Bhagavatam is an episode where a Brahmin seeks protection of his children and Krishna politely denies, prompting Arjuna to hastily offer protection.  Arjuna miserably fails because that was the Lord’s plan.  Then Krishna and Arjuna, along with the Brahmin are led to the gates of Vaikunta where they have the darshan of the Lord of Vaikunta. Even in this blissful state, the Brahmin does not realize the divine state He has been put in; he still keeps thinking of his family!   That is what happens when one doesn’t have Rama Krupa – even if he is in a satsang, he doesn’t realize its greatness!

Bhagavatam and Ramayana go to speak volumes about the Satsang.  In Bhagavatam, Lord Krishna speaks about the greatness of Satsang every now and then in His upadeshas, whereas in Ramayana, Lord Rama doesn’t have time to discourse!  In Ramayana, the greatness of Satsang is shown in action every so often!

Of all the 24000 gems of Slokas in Ramayana, there is one that can be considered crest-jewel – in Bala Kanda.  Bala Kanda speaks about the birth and infancy of the Lord.  In Valmiki Ramayana,  Dasharata’s sacrifice, His receiving of the “Payasham”, distributing to his queens, and the birth of Lord Rama and His brothers are spoken of in great detail. Interestingly, Valmiki does not describe a single ‘Bala Lila’ of Lord Rama.  He does not speak, even in a single sloka, about Rama’s childhood.  Soon after the birth, he shifts to Rama’s youth – when Rama is just under sixteen – in the same chapter!   Why?  Because Valmiki is restless to give this beautiful sloka!

yathA amrutasya samprAptaih yathA varsham anaudake
yatha sadrusha dhAreshu putrajanmA prajasya vai
pranashtasya yathA labho yathA harsho mahodayah
tathaivAgamanam manye swAgatam te mahAmune!

Dasharata longs for a satsang and Satsang is at his doorstep – in the form of Vishwamitra.  Welcoming the Sage, he speaks of the greatness of Satsang –

‘yathA amrutasya samprAptaih’ – Amruta  is that which can bestow deathlessness, to humans, ‘mrutas’ – (who have death by nature)  – getting the impossible!  Indeed!  But let us not get that far, says Dasharata!  In a drought-ridden area, when the entire populace is expecting a drop of water, suddenly, there is a heavy downpour, how happy would one feel?  Even a common man wouldn’t feel happy, sitting inside a home, but a king that Dasharata is, he would be so happy for his subjects!    Such is the happiness that a Satsang can usher.  To make us, common men, understand better, he gives us a third example : ‘yathA sadrusha dAreshu putrajanmA prajasya vai’ –

A couple who has been married for years together have no children.  They hear about our Guru Maharaj, and during His darshan, speak about their woes.   Sri Swamiji asks them to come on an Ekadasi day to Madhurapuri Ashram.  Hundreds of people are gathered there on Ekadasi day, yet Sri Swamiji recognizes them as soon as they enter and lets them witness the ‘Tirumanjanam’ from the first row.  Right after that, Guru Maharaj offers them the honey from the Tirumanjanam, even before a word is uttered.  The couple consumes it and in three months time, they come to Guru Maharaj with a good news that the wife is in the family way!  There are tens and hundreds of such examples – where even after having medical tests turned negative, Bhagavan seeks to bless them through our Guru Maharaj.

How happy they would feel, on first hearing the good news!  That is the happiness the satsang would bring in, Dasharatha says, for he himself has experienced this, when Rama was born after a long hiatus.

‘Brahma Sparsham’ and ‘Putra Sparsham’ are the two great feelings that a person could possibly have – one the experience of the Brahman, and only next to it, the father’s experience of the touch of a newborn.

Still, a few people may not understand this bliss, so Dasharata gives us a 4th example  – one that all of us would have experienced in our daily life – ‘pranashtasya yatha labho yatha harsham ..’  All of us would have misplaced small or big things – be it valet, car keys, some important documents that were extremely important for that day – and we lose it momentarily and  frantically struggle upto the 11th hour to find the same, without much luck.  Then a quick prayer to the Lord chanting the Mahamantra – and there it is! Our eyes immediately spot the lost entity.  How happy one would feel, when he receives it back at the nick of the moment!

Saint Thyagaraja had exactly the same experience – with his Rama Parivara. Once his brother thew the deities into Cauvery because of jealousy, and the Saint writhed in pangs of separation and agony.  Then Rama Himself came in Thyagaraja Swamigal’s dreams and showed him the spot where he was.  Early next morning, Thyagaraja ran towards the spot and lo! He discovered his Rama! ‘kanukontini…’ How happy he felt then – one that even Dasharata wouldn’t have had!

These four examples may seem like random ones, but they are not so!  They reveal some beautiful truths.

The first one (amrutha) is about procuring the impossible – Getting a Satsang with a Mahatma is indeed next to impossible.  The second one (rains) is like being in such a  satsang at one point in time, but not having it anymore for reasons beyond one’s control (like the rains) – how one would long for the satsang, knowing the greatness and comfort of it.

The third example (birth of a son)  is like one who has heard about the Sadguru and His satsang in lectures, discourses but not having met Him, when everyone around him have gone to Madhurapuri and have had his darshan, and eventually, getting enough vacation days, getting the tickets and landing in Chennai – and meeting the Sadguru eye-to-eye – how happy one would feel?

The fourth (lost and regained), is likened to one knowing very well about the satsang, being in one himself and enjoying the bliss of it, but out of his own carelessness, go far away (physically  or mentally) and then long for it.  Has the Sadguru left him? No.  It is only his perception! [just like the lost object only gets outside the line of one’s sight, but doesn’t physically go anywhere else].  When eventually, through the grace of the Guru Maharaj, He calls you and says, “You have not gone anywhere! You are always under my super-‘vision’! “, how happy he would feel!  That is the greatness of the satsang!

One can boldly say that the satsang is not even the satsang with the Bhagavan – because when one speaks of his worries to the Lord in the temple, He just stands there!   But in the case of Mahatmas, they acknowledge it with a smile; they merely say ‘everything will be alright’ and take care of it completely, creating a protective shield around us.   He may just utter three words ‘Krishna blesses you’ – but that will take care of everything! And only those who have experienced this can appreciate this!

And that is why, Tulsidas Maharaj says, ‘Ramakrupa binu sulabh na soi’ – only by experience can one understand the Satsang  – and that is due to God’s grace.

‘Akhanda mandalAkAram vyAptam yena charAcharam |
tatpadam darshitam yena tasmai sri gurave namah ||’

The Supreme Truth that pervades the huge and vast universe – is being shown to us by that descent of Divinity – called the Sadguru – the ‘Sath’ – and the company of this ‘sath’ is indeed Satsang!

All of us are blessed to be in such a company, and be blessed with such a beautiful Mahamantra, which we are all committed to chant, not for material pleasures, not even for Vaikunta or Goloka, but     for  the pleasure of the Sadguru, which is experienced by one and all day in and day out through His grace!  Let us pray that we realize this grace more and more and have more opportunities to chant!

The satsang concluded with prayers with Mahamantra.

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