Sri Narayananji from Boston delivered the lecture. There were three great Mahatmas in South India who initially showed the path of Bhagavatha Dharma. Even though this path was propounded by the Lord himself, “Bhagavatha Proktam Bhagavatham”, many a Mahatmas came down in the age of Kali to show the beautiful path of bhakti. Bhagavatha Dharma and Bhakti are no different. People do not comprehend the term ‘bhakti’ and have a wrong notion that they might not develop bhakti and that is why we call it as Bhagavatha Dharma because dharma is something that everyone can follow. Many Mahatmas showed the path of bhakti from time immemorial. But if we were to pick the proponents of bhakti from South India, they were three Mahatmas – Sri Bhagawan Nama Bodendral Swamigal, Sri Shridhara Ayyaval Swamigal and Sri Sadguru Swamigal. Sri Bodendra was an ascetic who showed the greatness of Rama Nama. His life was a standing example depicting the greatness of chanting the divine names of the Lord. We see from his life history [charithra] that a deaf and dumb boy when he consumed Bodendral’s food remnants [the leftover food that was consumed by Sri Bodendral] immediately started chanting the divine names of Lord Rama. Shri Shridhara Venkatesa Swamigal fondly called as Shri.Shridhara Ayyaval was born in Karnataka and later migrated to Thiruvisainallur, a place that housed many great scholars and was a feet of intelligence. In Karnataka, he was serving the Karnataka royal family and relinquished his royal honor and settled in Thiruvisainallur purely out of bhakti and devotion to Lord Shiva. He was incessantly chanting the divine names of Lord Shiva – “Srikantam Iva Bhasvantham Shiva Nama Parayanam”. He was a householder but only led the life of an ascetic akin to the drop of water on a lotus leaf. The drop of water would not have any contact with the lotus leaf and will happily flow down when pushed away from the lotus leaf. Being a staunch follower of dharma, he performed all his duties as a house-holder including all the religious activities like shrhada, which one does to their fore-fathers once a year. Shardha is usually performed after sunrise during the mid-day. One day, Sri Shridhara was getting ready for the Shradha and went to take bath in Cauvery River and was returning back to home. It is believed that on the day of Shradha, the ancestors come down and par-take the food that was offered by the householders. They get immensely pleased by the hospitality of these householders and bless the householder and his family abundantly. Special dishes are normally cooked and offered to the ancestors. When Sri Sridhara was returning from the river, he spotted a man who was starving and hadn’t eaten any food for many days and was on the verge of death. All scriptures describe compassion as the first good quality of a Bhagavatha. A thought struck Sri Sridhara – “What is the use of serving the fore-fathers when one of my brothers is on the brink of death”. He brought the beggar home and sumptuously fed him. The Pandits who were supposed to be performing for the Shradha came to know of this and were enraged by Sri Sridhara’s act and they walked away. They also made sure that no other Pandits steps their foot at the residence of Sri.Shridhara. When the Pandits questioned his act, he pleaded guilty for his act from the Shastras perspective and requested the Pandits to complete the ceremony. Even though he pleaded with all humility, the Pandits did not listen to him. Ayyaval then requested them to advice on the atonement for the sin that he committed. They then consulted each other for the expiation and advised Ayyaval to perform the ceremony after taking a dip in the Ganges River in Varanasi. It is a fact that one’s sins get absolved after taking a dip in Ganga. Ayyaval was glad to hear the remedy [prayaschitha], however it was not possible to go to Varanasi and return the same day. The ceremony had to be performed that very day and pleaded with the Pandits to finish off the Shraddha and that he will certainly make a trip to Varanasi and take a dip in holy Ganges. They however did not budge and so Ayyaval told them that he cannot go to Varanasi that very moment and that he can have Ganga come over to Thiruvisainallur. Saying so, he went to the well at the back of his house, and started chanting the divine names of Lord Shiva – “Gangadhara Gangadhara”. The very moment he started chanting the divine names of Lord Shiva, the well began springing up with water, which was verily the water from Ganges. It started springing with so much water that the well began to overflow and soon flooded Ayyaval’s home and all the streets in Thiruvisainallur. In the beginning, the denizens of Thiruvisainallur did not believe that it was verily Ganges that was flowing in the streets. The people who had earlier talked bad about Ayyaval went and hid themselves in their houses and were afraid that Ayyaval would curse them. Only a chosen few who realized that it was Ganga Devi who visited them in their village took a dip in the waters and got themselves purified. This incident happened on an Ammavasya day in the Kartika month and it is believed that every year since then, on the Kartika Ammavsya day, Ganges does come to this well in Ayyaval’s home and people take a dip in river Ganges. The whole incident is celebrated till day as “Ganga Karshanam – attracting Ganga to one’s own house”, which purely comes by the merit of Ayyaval’s bhakti which was verily generated out of his love for the divine names of Lord Shiva.
The Lord takes so many Avatars in this earth and each of these Avatars [descension] coming down tis verily due to his compaasion. When he comes down, he is at a very high level and descends [irangi varadhu in Tamil]. When the Lord comes down it is Irakam in Tamil, which also connotes compassion. He comes down to shower his grace on everyone. Our Guru Maharaj always cites a beautiful example to substantiate this descent. A normal householder one day decides to clean the road behind his house. The next day he is all clad in dirty rags and cleans the road with his friends. Inspite of this being a good act by responsible citizens, it however does not hit the media headlines. On the other hand, if the same act was done by the President of a country, it is the important news in the media. Why? A President is not expected to do that and his position and stature in the society doesn’t merit his coming down to such a dirty place and cleaning it. This is verily descent. He lowers his level and mingles with all the jivas, does all the work and in turn cleanses the jivas. So when the Lord descends he definitely demands the attention of Brahma and other Devas, which are akin to the media and press in the mundane world. He might descend down in a unique creature like half man half lion and this incarnation might not require lot of compassion since it is indeed an unique manifestation. He came down as a Kshatriya king as Rama and it merited lot of attention because he was a normal mortal and did all the activities of a normal living-being all throughout his incarnation even though he was born in royal family. People were afraid to approach Rama because of his stature. It was Rama who went behind Guha to embrace him even though Guha didn’t expect this out of Rama. He made friends with monkeys out of sheer compassion. The Lord however was not satisfied with his incarnation as Rama because of his demeanor and decided to incarnate as a mere cow-herd and merged with the normal mortals. Even though Lord Krishna enacted myriad of divine plays during his incarnation, the stealing of butter episode captivated everyone the most. It is verily the “Makh and Chor Krishna” that people worship in their homes even today. He always resides as a little naughty kid inside everyone. Even though we can find such a Krishna in so many different places across our country, the Lord in Guruvayoor stands out and has enticed everyone the most. The beautiful stature of Lord Guruvayoor attracts the devotees to come and hug the Lord. Guruvayoor is located in Trichur district in Southern India. Sri Narayana Bhattatri composed the beautiful Narayaneeyam, containing thousand slokas. He starts off on the first sloka with the term, ‘Hantha – Alas’. He looked at the compassion of the Lord and his own fortune – “hantha bhagyam jananam” and hence said ‘Alas’. One may ponder as to why he is fortunate. Bhatadri beautifully says, that very beautiful form of the Lord filled with compassion and incarnated after shedding all his qualities. Some opine that the Lord cannot be understood [aspashtam], but through his divine incarnation as Lord Krishna, everyone can understand the Lord with ease. Some say that Lord is “Nirmuktam”, the one who is completely free from all bondages. But in his manifestation as Lord Krishna, he has completely given himself to the strings of mother Yashoda. It is a fact that the Lord can never be bounded [nithyamuktam], but today the Lord gives himself to anyone who visits Guruvayoor today. The devotees are enraptured by the beauty of Lord Guruvayoorappan and place the Lord tightly in their hearts.
Nirmuktam nithyamuktam nigamashatashasrena nirbhasyamanam|
Asphastam drushtamatrae punarurupurushartaathmakam brahma thatvam
Thatvadhbhato sakshaat gurupavanapurae hanta bhagyam jananam||”
Bhattathri conveys the fact that even though one may have a strong intellect and that the mind always tries to find a logical reason for every act and always questions each and every thing. One cannot be satisfied with things that don’t have logic and use the sense organs to question everything. Finally, at the end of questioning, is one satisfied with the answers? No. If one is satisfied, then he will not have any questions. Bhattathri says that there is an easy way to find answers to the questions of the intellect. The easiest way is to engage the sense organs with something else. When the eyes are busy admiring a form which is more attracting than finding the answers to the intellectual questions, when the ears are busy hearing to some music which is more enchanting than finding answers to the questions, then one need not take any effort to find the answers. The best form of answers to the questions is to realize that these questions don’t matter to us and that the form of Lord Krishna is more impactful than all these questions and answers. That state is verily an exalted state and Bhattathri extols the glory of bhakti in the second Dashakam, where he says that Guruvayurappan can bestow one with answers to these questions and that there will be no questions any more. The little Krishna has been in Guruvayur for ages and Puranas goes to say that this Krishna was verily the form whom Vasudeva worshipped in the purana of Mathura. The holy town of Mathura has the presence [Sannidhya] of Lord Sri Hari always. Srimad Bhagavatam hails Matura as ‘nithyam san nihito harihi’ and it was the abode of Vasudeva and Devaki. They used to perform Pooja to Lord Krishna in Adikeshava Perumal temple. This Krishna who is now in Guruvayur was in Adikeshava temple before coming to Guruvayur. It is verily the Pooja performed to this Krishna that Lord Krishna was born to Vasudeva and Devaki. In other words, the Guruvayur Krishna bestowed us with Lord Sri Krishna and Srimad Bhagavatam. Even after Lord Krishna was born, Vasudeva continued to do his poojs to Krishna in Adikeshava temple. Since Jarasandha started to torment the denizens of Mathura, Lord Krishna vacated Mathura and settled in Dwaraka. Vasudeva couldn’t part with Adikeshava Perumal and so he took him along to Dwaraka and established a temple. When Lord Sri Krishna was about to depart from his earthly sojourn, he presaged to his dear friend that Dwaraka would be submerged in the sea soon after his departure and instructed him to perform Pooja to Adikeshava Krishna. As per Krishna’s ordinance, Uddhava was performing pooja and also read Bhagavatam to Adikeshava Krishna. That is verily the reason why the Lord in Guruvayur is a connoisseur of Srimad Bhagavatam. He soon moved to Bhadrikashrama and as Dwaraka was getting submerged in the waters, two Devas namely Brishaspathi [Guru] and Lord Vayu [the wind god] wanted to keep this Krishna alive and brought Krishna down south by air. They were looking for a perfect place to install the Lord and spotted a place in Western Ghats that had a lot of Lord Shiva’s divine presence [sannidhya]. Srimad Bhagavatam speaks a lot about Prachetas. The children of Practeas went to meditate on the Lord and Lord Shiva appeared in front of them. He gave them an advice on how to meditate on Lord Krishna. He advised them to go and meditate in Narayana Saras, which has the full presence of Lord Shiva.
“Jitam thae atma vithurya swasthayae swasthirasthumae”
“Bhavatha rada saarathman sarvasvayai athmanae namaha”
Guru and Vayu brought the idol of Krishna to Narayana Saras and Lord Shiva is residing in a temple. On seeing the little Krishna, it is said that Lord Shiva moved out of the temple and shifted to a place called Mammiyoor. So Lord Shiva gave his own place to Lord Krishna and that is verily where Guru and Vayu consecrated Krishna. The little Krishna stands there as “Guruvayurappa” even today. Lord Shiva’s temple in Mammiyoor is about a kilometer away from the Guruvayur temple. It is believed that Lord Shiva looks at Lord Krishna and is doing penance in Mammiyoor. The place originally belonged to Lord Shiva. It was verily the staunch devotees of the Guruvayurappan who made the temple very popular – “Guru prakashae deeman”. It is verily the devotees of the Guru, who make the Guru renowned to the world. Akin to how the devotees of the Lord ranged from a disfigured person [trivakra] and all the way to an elephant, ant, crab and eagle, the Lord in Guruvayur also had many such devotees. There was an elephant called Keshavan, who was a staunch devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan. When we ponder on the devotees of Lord Guruvayurappan, the first one who comes to everyone’s mind is Sri Narayana Bhattathri. HE was afflicted by a disease known as paralysis and composed Narayaneeyam, which contains one thousand slokas. Narayeenam is an essence of Srimad Bhagavatam, not missing any divine play of Lord Krishna. Whatever is mentioned in Bhagavatam is given in essence by Bhattathri in Narayananeeyam. As we all know, Bhagavatam is a dialogue between King Parikshit and Sage Suka, where Sage Suka speaks about the glory of the Lord. The interesting precept to note in Narayaneeyam, is that Bhattathri speaks to the Lord and in turn composed Naryananeeyam. He says – “Oh ! My little Guruvayurappa, weren’t you the one who came out of the pillar, when Hiranyakashipu smashed it?, weren’t you the one who churned the milky ocean, weren’t you the one who came as a midget and who eventually grew up in size to subdue the ego of King Mahabali? It is beautiful to note that the Lord replied to Bhattathri that it was verily he who enacted all these divine plays and also enacted the same in front of Bhattathri. He enacted all the divine plays to confirm that Bhatthari’s imaginations were indeed true. The place where the Lord enacted all the divine plays and the place where Bhattathri composed “Narayananeeyam” still exist. At the end of Narayananeeyam, Bhattathri was cured of his paralysis and was bestowed with the divine darshan of Lord Krishna.
“Agrae pashyami thaejo nibidatharakalaavali lobhaneeyam
Peeyushaplavithoham thadanu thadhutharae divyakaishoravesham | “
“Tharunyaa ramba ramyam paramasuka rasaasvadaro maanchithangai
Raavitham naradhadyai vilasadhupani shath sundari mandalaicha ||” [Srimad Narayaneeyam 100:1]
“Neelambham kunchithagram Ganamamalatharam samyatam charubhangyaa
Rathnothamsabiram valayitha mudhayach chandrakaihi pinchajalaihi |”
“Mandaara sangranivitham thava prithukabarrr bhara maalokayeham
Snigdashwethodhva pundramapi cha sulalithim phalabalaebdhuvithim ||” [Srimad Narayaneeyam 100:2]
In the last ten slokas of Narayaneeyam, Bhattathri extolled the beautiful form of Lord Krishna from head to toe, when the Lord appeared in front of Bhattathri. Bhatthri enjoys the form of the Lord in front of him and says that he is bathing in nectar and that he develops goose bumps all over the body seeing the form of the Lord who is in his youth.
“Manjarim manjunadairiva padabhajanam sheya yithyalapantham
PaDagram Branthi majath pranatha janamano mandarodhAra koormama |”
“Utthungaa thamRa jannakara himakarajyothsnaya chashrithanamam
Santhapadhwantha hanthrim thathimanukalaye mangalam angulinam ||” [Srimad Narayaneeyam 100.9]
Bhattathri admires the anklets in the Lord’s feet that the sounds that emanate from the anklets are forever ringing in his ears and that the Lord’s feet is akin to the tortoise lifting the devotees from the transmigration of life and death.
“Yogindranam tvadangaeshavadika sumaduram muktibhaajAm nivAsO”
Bhaktanam Kamavarshadh dutharakisalayam nAthatae pada moolam |”
Nithyam chithasthitam mae pavanapurapathae kRishna kArunyasindho
Hruthva nishshaesha thaapan pradishath paramananda sandhoha lakshmIm ||” [Srimad Narayaneeyam 100.10]
Bhattathri then admires the holy feet of the Lord. He says “Oh Lord, your feet is the most sacred to the Yogis and it can bestow liberation to everyone.” It can grant whatever one desires and finally declares that the Lord’s feet is the most admirable part in the Lord’s whole body and that all Yogis’ yearn to have the darshan of the Lord’s feet.
Bhagavatam says –“Akamo sarvakamo va moksha kamo udharathihi” The holy feet can bestow one all way from an ordinary mundane desire to liberation. It is not a Kalpataru but indeed a leaf from the Kaplataru.
And finally Bhattathri prays to that beautiful form of the Lord standing in front of him to reside in his heart forever. He finally concluded with the prayer that the feet that was cause of happiness for Goddess Lakshmi be the cause for his happiness. The Lord also bestowed Bhattathri with that wish. It is ok to turn to the Lord for desires as long as the desire ends in desire for bhakti and liberation.
The satsang ended with prayers and Namasankirtan.