Jul 22: Swami Gnanananda and Mahatmas

22 Jul

The Ashada Poornima is very auspicious indeed as it marks the end of Uttarayanam and marks the advent of Dakshinayanam. It is during the Dakshinayanam, which spans for a period of six months, when the sun travels towards the south. Our scriptures have a special significance for these six months. It is the night time for the Devas and hence the Ashada Ekadasi is also known as Shayana Ekadasi. The Lord Ranganatha [Moolavar] in Srirangam is adorned with oil [Thaila Kappu] and his feet are covered from darshan. There is no darshan of the Lord’s feet after Ashada Ekadasi. The Kaishika Ekadasi [Vaikunta Ekadasi] is the time when the Lord wakes up and is the Brahma Muhurtham for the Lord.

The period from Ashada Ekadasi to Kaishika Ekadasi is considered as the evening time for the Lord and the Devas. Another precept to note that it is verily during these six months when all the important festivals are being celebrated starting from Vinayaka Chaturthi all the way to Makara Shakaranthi.

Mahans, as we know are personification of unlimited compassion and love and are totally devoid of the ego called ‘I’. Every act of theirs bears a meaning. Once a devotee questioned Yogi Ramsuratkumar if he possessed the ego called ‘I’. Yogiji who was bereft of ego jokingly asked the devotee as to which eye was he referring, the left or the right eye. Swami Gnanananda would first offer lots of food to his devotees who come to seek his darshan in Tappovanam. Once a wealthy person who was afflicted with tuberculosis had come to have the darshan of Swami Gnanananda. Swamiji looked at this devotee and asked him to come and stay in Tappovanam itself. He implicitly packed his bags and it was during the month of Ashada when he came to Tappovanam hoping that he will be able to spend some weeks there. A few weeks passed by and he was bestowed with the darshan of Swami Gnanananda. Mahans can generally read the minds of their devotee and in this case he was able to decipher his devotee’s question. This devotee wanted to know as to when he would be able to leave the ashram.  The month of Ashada is the when the Devas go to sleep and the Asuras are awake and are very active during night time. Swamiji told his devotee to wait for Ganesh Chaturthi since Lord Ganesha’s incarnation will remove all the Asuras and that he can depart after celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi. The devotee totally agreed to Swamiji’s advice verbatim. Days passed by and Ganesh Chaturthi was celebrated in a great manner. The devotee then went to seek darshan of Swamiji. When he offered his prostrations to Swamiji, he told him that Kamsa was unleashing his tyranny and that many Asuras are on the prowl and that Lord Krishna is going to be born soon and so requested him to leave the Ashram after Lord Krishna’s incarnation. The devotee acceded to his request and witnessed the grand Gokulashtami celebrations. The devotee met Swamiji after Gokulashtami to seek his blessings. Swamiji upon seeing the devotee told him that in spite of Lord Krishna’s incarnation the Asura population has not been completely destroyed and told him that in the month of Purattasi the right person for the Asuras – the divine mother, will manifest in not just one form but in three forms as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi. She manifests herself in all entities be it animate or inanimate objects  and shows her full prowess in three different manifestations and with different weapons she destroys all Asuras and that victory of slaying the Asuras is celebrated as Vijaya Dasami.

So Gnanananda Swamiji requested the devotee to stay in the ashram until Vijaya Dashami. The devotee continued to stay and Vijaya Dashami celebrations got over in a very grand manner. The devotee then went to meet Swamiji after Navratri. Swamiji then told him that the month of Purattasi was over and that Aippasi was not bereft of Asuras and that a mighty demon known as Naraksura was unleashing his tyranny on women folks and even the king that even Lord Krishna is scared to attack him alone and that he is accompanied by Sathyabama. Swami Gnanananda requested the devotee to wait until Lord Krishna along with Sathyabama to kill Narakasura and to celebrate that victory with firecrackers and sweet meat. As days passed by, Deepavali was also celebrated and the devotee came to seek the blessings of Swamiji. He then told the devotee that all Asuras have been admonished but the Asura called ego still remained. The Swarropam called ego is verily the Asura called ‘Surapadma’ and this can be extricated by diving knowledge [Jnanam]. Swamiji further added that Jnanaskandan bestows this divine knowledge in Tappovanam Ashram and earnestly asked him to wait until Surasamharam, where Lord Subramanya disguised as Jnanaskandan of Tappovanam will annihilate Surapadma. The devotee then waited for Surasamharam to take place. The Margazhi month followed the tamil month Aippasi. The Lord himself has proclaimed that he is indeed Margazhi among the months and so asked his devotee to wake up early in the morning and recite Thiruppavai and also to observe ‘Paavai Nombu’ akin to Andal and the Gopis. ‘Kudarai vellum Sri Govinda’- The term ‘Kudaar’ refers to the Asuras that one shouldn’t mingle with and the Lord was going to destroy these Asuras as well and to celebrate this victory of brotherhood – ‘Muzhangai vazhi vara’, a delicious dish called Akkaravadiasal is made and offered to the Lord and is then partaken in a satsang. This is known as ‘Kudaraivalli’ which takes place during the end of Margazhi month and the transition of the sun’s direction towards the north [Makara] is celebrated as Pongal which marks the advent of Thai month. This marks the sign on new hope and faith and so advised his devotee to wait for Pongal festival. The devotee implicitly obeyed Swamiji’s request and to everyone’s surprise the devotee never came back with the thought of leaving the Tappovanam Ashram. Even after Swami Gnanananda shed his mortal coil from the earth, the devotee continued to stay in the ashram and rendered divine service [kainkaryam] at the ashram. Swamiji protected the devotee akin to how the eye lids protect the eye balls and destroyed all the vices in him and converted him into a lotus and offered him to the Lord.

After the beautiful exposition of the significance of the Dakshinayana months, the satsang forum was opened for a brief round of introductions and was followed by a lecture on the glory and compassion of Mahatmas by Saraswathiji from Boston.

In this world there are myriad paths that can be followed to attain the eternal bliss of which selfless service to the SadGuru [Acharya Kainkaryam] and the path of surrender to the Lord [Sharanagathi] are very rare and unique paths. It is said that only a Sadguru can lead his devotee to the Lord. The compassionate nature of a Sadguru can never be quantified. Even if one commits a lot of sins, a Guru will bestow his grace [Anugraha]. Our Guru Maharaj always preaches to his devotees that one need not follow the path of Bhakti, Jnana or Karma Yogas to attain liberation. When one performs sincere service to the holy feet of a Sadguru that itself will take him to the holy feet of the Lord.  One can see this precept to be true from the life-history of Sant Ekanath, who was a disciple Janardhana Swami. Sant Ekanath is known for his selfless service to his Sadguru, Janardhana Swami. One day, when Janardhanaswami was getting ready to take bath in the river, he took a peek into Sant Ekanath’s room. He was awake the whole night trying to tally the financial accounts and was missing one penny that he was unable to account. Janardhanaswami felt guilty for not giving anything to his sincere devotee. He was wonderstruck that this young fellow had nothing to ask of him. So, he himself decided to bestow darshan of his Upasana Murti, Lord Dattatreya, on the selfless Ekanath. He asked Lord Dattatreya to give darshan to Ekanath when the latter returned from his morning bath in the river after washing the clothes of Janardhanaswami. The next day when Ekanath stepped out of the river Godavari he found Lord Dattatreya under the nearby tree with three heads Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Since one should not be disrespectful to God he prostrated and circumambulated the Lord. Lord Dattatreya blessed him by placing his Feet on Ekanath’s head. Ekanath then returned home.

Here, at home Janardhanaswami was restless. He walked up and down awaiting Ekanath’s return. He kept rehearsing as to how he should handle the stunned Ekanath. It was not going to be darshan in a dream but a real one, just as one person sees another. Janardhanaswami thought, “Anyone who has darshan of the Lord would swoon. Ekanath would be in bliss. He would come running with joy and narrate the darshan breathlessly. I must calm him down.” But Ekanath returned home and carried on with his work as usual! The Guru waited for Ekanath to come and describe the darshan in an excited tone. But Ekanath did not! The surprised Janardhanaswami called his Upasana Devata and asked him, “Did you not give darshan to Ekanath?” Lord Dattatreya said, “I did! Just you had asked me. I gave him darshan as he returned from his bath in the river”. The astounded Guru called the devotee. “How can you be so calm? Have you not had darshan of Lord Dattatreya this morning?” Ekanath simply replied, “I never desired this! Only if I considered someone other than you as God should I feel ecstatic! Since I consider you as God there is no new darshan of God to be had anywhere else. I never desired for it nor does this surprise me. I desire only you!”  “Ekajanarjanim charana Guru Eka Janardhana” – Sant Ekanath said that his Guru is verily his is Lord.  There is no difference between the Lord and the Sadguru.

The satsang then reminisced an example from the life-history of Adi Shankara, who used to conduct classes on Vedanta. Thotakacharya [formerly known as Giri] was an ardent devotee of Sri Adi Shankara. He was considered dumb by his fellow devotees and Thotakacharya used to wash the clothes of Sri Adi Shankara and lead a life by just serving his guru.

One day all the disciples of Adi Shankara were waiting to listen to their Guru’s discourse. Thotakacharya was not to be found and his Guru enquired about him. He spotted him in the backyard where he was hanging out the clothes, and suddenly Adi Shankara poured an overwhelming compassion on Thotakacharya and he started to experience horripilation and was bestowed Jnana by Guru Kataksham.

He came in and started to sing –viditakila sastra sudha jalatheâ”

This incident goes to depict the fact that by merely thinking about his disciple Giri, Adi Shankara imparted divine knowledge to Giri, who was later known to the world as “Thotakacaharya”

The satsang then listened to an incident from the life-history of Anathazhwar, an ardent devotee of Bhagavath Ramanuja. One day Ramanuja was expounding on Sri Bhasyam to his devotees. He used to be in total bliss when elucidating the divine qualities and plays of the Lord and tears used to roll down his eyes during his narration. His disciples who listened to Ramanuja’s lectures with rapt attention noticed that their Acharya was generally moved to tears when expounding the Moolakarana qualities of the Lord [Enthai thanthai thanthai than moothapan]. If tears flooded Ramanuja’s eyes when delineating on ‘Vanavar Vanavar polirukkum..’, then the disciples deciphered that he was enjoying the qualities of the Lord who was the king of the Devas [Devadi Deva]. When Ramanuja was shedding tears during his exposition of ‘Karayil Vanalae’, then the devotees understood that he was enjoying the beauty of the Lord.

In one of Puranadara Dasa’s kritis he sings “Oh! Lord Krishna, please do not go anywhere with your enchanting beauty as I am not scared about the Asuras but with the Bhagavathas, who are sure to trap you in the vessel meant for Unchavartis and will carry you away.” Such is the beauty of Lord Krishna.

One day as Ramanuja was delivering the meaning for the verse – “Sindhu poo maghium thiruvenkadam“- the devotees were unable to decipher the reason for tears in their Guru’s eyes and so humbly went to their master to inquire the reason. When his devotees posed the question to Ramanuja, he replied saying that Srirangam in surrounded by Cauvery River and that there is no water scarcity and that there are lots of Vaishnavites who string flower garlands to the Lord in Srirangam, whereas in Thirupathi there is none to string garlands for Balaji who is seated up in the seven hills. One had to cross six hills before reaching Thirupathi which was devoid of any civilization. In those days, lots of wild animals used to dwell in Thirupathi and hence it was not a safe place. The flowers that bloomed in Thirupathi withered away since there was no one to make flower garlands for Lord Balaji. Ramanuja then posed a question to all his devotees if anyone would be interested to serve the Lord on the hills on a day to day basis. Some were hesitant fearing the hard life up the hills, while some did not want to leave Lord Ranganatha in Srirangam while a few did not want to depart from their Acharya. But among the devotees was Ananthazhwar who decided to go and serve Lord Balaji in seven hills. He decided to do so since he wanted to wipe the tears from his Acharya’s eyes. He thus stood up in reverence and addressed thus – “If it is your order to do Pushpa Kainkaryam to Lord Balaji then I shall take up the task.” Ramanuja was immensely pleased and embraced Ananthazhwar and proclaimed that he was indeed the right person to take up this task.

Ananthazhwar along with his pregnant wife departed to Thirupathi. The couple managed to reach Thirupathi despite of lack of proper transportation. In Tirumala, he started to grow a flower garden atop the hills. He would collect the flowers from the garden and make a beautiful garland and bedeck the Lord every day. This was the routine for Ananthazhwar every day. During monsoon seasons, the gardens had ample water for the flowers to bloom while in summer there was water scarcity and so a thought struck Ananthazhwar to build a reservoir to store water during summer season.  He began digging up the earth to build the tank and he was assisted by his wife to empty the dirt to another place. The couple toiled hard to construct the tank and their only aim was service to the Guru and so Ananthazhwar decided to do this service all by himself and his wife.  A young boy was witnessing this scene and was moved to tears in seeing the pregnant women toiling in scorching heat. He came forward to help her but she resisted the hunter request and told him that it was her husband’s orders to complete this construction and that he would not want anyone else to take part in this divine service to the Lord. The boy did not pay any heed to her and snatched the dirt basket and emptied it for her. The boy’s help started to expedite the work and hence the removal of earth was happening faster than ever before and she was now productive than ever. This swiftness really surprised Ananthazhwar and he questioned his wife’s actions. She disclosed about the boy whose help really expedited her work. Hearing this, Ananthazhwar walked straight to the boy and severely reprimanded him and warned him to stay away from his wife since this service was to be rendered only by him and his wife.  The boy turned down Ananthazhwar’s request and continued to assist Ananthazhwar’s wife. The boy’s actions irked Ananthazhwar and he hit him with the spade and blood started to ooze from the boy’s chin. The hunter fled the scene and Ananthazhwar continued with his work. Later in the evening, the Lord summoned Ananthazhwar through some of the Pandits. He said that he would come to the temple after stringing the flower garland as it was his Guru’s orders to meet the Lord only with the flower garlands. The Lord was not happy to hear this and belittled that he will not wear the garland. Upon hearing this, Ananthazwar said that it was his duty to serve his Guru and to obey his orders and that he was in Thirumala to do only pushpa kainkaryam to the Lord.  The Lord then ordered him to leave the Divya Desam. He beautifully replied to the Lord saying that akin to how the Lord descended to Thirmala from Vaikuntam, he also landed in Thirumala from Srirangam in the same way and Ananthazhwar refused to move out of the seven hills and humbly said that he would leave Tirumala if he is ordained by his Guru.  The Lord was dumbfounded by his reply and was totally astounded by his divine service to his Guru. In the evening Ananthazwar went to the Temple to offer worship, and he was under the thought that the Lord must be angry with him because of the argument he picked with the Lord that morning and so he handed over the garland to the priest with his head bent down. However, the Lord was yearning for Ananthazhwar to look at him. He called out his name and when Ananthazhwar looked at the Lord, he noticed that the Lord’s chin was hurt and was oozing blood and he immediately realized that the rustic hunter was none other than the Lord himself.  He was terribly upset that he had failed to keep the spirit of his service to his Sadguru by hurting the Lord. The Lord requested him to place his SriPada Renu in the Lord’s chin as an emollient and the same is applied till date in Thirumala.

The Lord also confessed to Uddhava that he desires to purify the material worlds with the dust of His devotee’s feet.

nirapeksham munim shaantam nirvairam sama-darshanam
anuvrajaamy aham nityam puyeyety anghri renubhih  [Srimad Bhagavatam 11.14.16]

Jadabharatha in his instructions to King Rahugana preaches the precept that Jnana can be obtained only when one smears the dust of the holy feet of the devotees.

Rahugunaithat tapasa na yati na cejyaya nirvapanandh gruhad va

Na cchandasa naiva jalagni suryayir vina mahath pada rajobhishekham  [Srimad Bhagavtham 5.12.12]

The satsang then reminisced the precept of Sharanagathi, which is verily surrendering oneself to the holy feet of a Sadguru.

Adi Shankara in Soundarya Lahiri sings – “Sudha sindhor madhyae sura vitapi vaati parivruthae manidweepae nee po pavana vathi chinthamani gruhae”.

Godess Devi is surrounded by gems in the garden of Chinthamani trees. However, one should place the holy Padhukas of the SadGuru in one’s heart and it should be filled with Nava Vidha Bhakti and one must perform Abhishekam to the holy feet of the Sadguru with one’s tears.

Nava Bhakti ratnakachitam maa makam hrudaya mani peetam sangruhana
nayana galithena bhashpodakena paatyam sviguru Padma ramana.

Gajendra in his divine hymns to the Lord says,

madṛuk prapanna pasu paasa vimokṣhanaya
mukthaya bhuri karuṇaya namo layaya  [Srimad Bhagavatham 8.3.17]

When the calf and cow are being separated, the calf which is tethered to a pole yearns to be united with the cow. Akin to how the owner of the cow comes to unfetter the calf from the clutches of the pole, the Guru liberates the mortal coils from the cycle of liberation and bestows liberation.

The satsang concluded with prayers and Namasankirtan.

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