Sri Narayananji from Boston delivered the lecture.
When we start anything it is very traditional to start with a pooja. We do invocations before starting an event. Be it a big function, big meeting we begin by invoking the almighty. Even in that invocation, we invoke a particular deity which is Lord Ganesha. Why should we invoke Lord Ganesha before any event? There is lot of science built into our Dharma. He is signifies the beginning of everything when we speak of Yoga Shastra, there are seven different chakras in our body and Lord Ganesha is residing in the first chakra called Moola Dhara. He is supposed to be the first in everything. Secondly he is the remover of all obstacles – GanaNayaka, Ganaisha. We hence invoke him so that whatever we do is successful without any obstacles. Usually we know of a beautiful sloka on Lord Ganesha.
Om ShuklAm Bharatharam Vishnum Sashivarnam Chathurbhujam
Prasanna Vadanam Dhyayeth Sarva Vignopa Shanthayé
It is interesting that even before we invoke Lord Ganesha, it is important to invoke someone else. There is an interesting story where a young boy went to a Gurukula to learn the Vedas. He was so excited since his master was renowned and was adept at Shastras. He went to his master and thus said – “My dear Sir, I would like to learn Vedas from you”. The master immediately replied “Oh Dear Boy, it is not a one or two year course. It is a twelve year course. Are you ready to learn Vedas”? The boy was extremely passionate and immediately signed up for the course. In the ancient system of Vedic education the student goes into a Gurukulam and learns the Vedas for twelve years. So this boy enrolled with the master and learned the Vedas for twelve years. At the end of this course, there is an examination to certify that the student has passed all the courses. When it was time for the boy to graduate [Samavarthanam connotes graduation of a Brahmachari learning the Vedas]. This boy fixed the date with the master for graduation. On that day, when the boy went and presented himself before his master for graduation, his master told him that he was very busy and that he would not have time to conduct the exam for him. It is a normal procedure for the master to have his disciples recite certain portion of the Vedas and they are graded appropriately. He asked the boy to go to the backyard and stand next to a particular tree. He asked him to recite a certain part of the Vedas [Anuvaka]. The tree upon completion will shed some leaves. The master asked the boy to count the number of leaves as they signify the number of mistakes committed during the recital. This was a new test for the little boy and he was eager to take the novel test. The boy was cognizant of the fact that before reciting the Anuvaka, he had to invoke Lord Ganesha. The moment he invoked Ganesha, all the leaves from the tree had fallen down. This little boy was baffled by the incident. He went into the master’s chamber and narrated the whole incident. The master immediately knew what had happened. He told him that before one invokes Lord Ganesha, one need to do a Dhyana on his Guru. Meditate on the most compassionate soul who has bestowed you with this knowledge. The Guru is verily the compassionate soul who is the incarnation of the lord itself.
“Guru Shiksheth Guru Athma Deivatam “– Bhagavatam says – The Guru, Athma and the lord are all the same. It goes further and says that thinking of the Guru who provides with the Jnana of the lord as a normal human being is as if digging our own grave. ‘Manyae kunjara souchaavathu’. The elephant is bathed by a Mahut using several brushes and it takes hours to give bath an elephant. He would then lead the elephant to the shore and while he goes to take a quick dip in the river, the elephant takes mud and puts it all over the body necessitating a bath again. The person who perceives the Guru who bestows the Jnana of the lord as a mere human being is akin to this elephant. The Guru is the one who bestows his disciples with the Jnana of the lord. Knowledge [Jnana] we all know is of myriad types. There is a difference in the phrases between ‘Jnana of the lord’ and ‘Jnana about the lord’.
Guru bestowing us with the knowledge of the lord is not a normal human being and that is the first person we got to think about when we begin any event and by doing so that will automatically lead to other positive thoughts. The moment one thinks about the Guru, that form of the lord who has incarnated on the earth he will be liberated.
“Tesham aham samudyartham mruthyu samsAra sAgartahu” The lord in Bhagavad Gita says to Arjuna that he will liberate that soul and bestow with moksha and he will he liberate—verily through the Guru. [41:53]
‘I’ and ‘Mine’ are generally avoided in the spiritual world. But it is not very easy to forsake them. The lord sensed this and hence sent Sadgurus to earth. According to them, it is fine to have ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ but they urge to make ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ Sattvik. What does Sattvik mean? Turning ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ towards the lord is Sattvik. I am a devotee of the lord, I am a disciple of the Sadguru, Lord Krishna is mine and Sadguru is mine to name a few. The moment the lord led a devotee unto a Sadguru it verily indicates that the lord became closer to his devotee. Srimad Bhagavatam began with six questions and the answer to those six questions is verily Srimad Bhagavatam. The sixth question was – “Dharma kam Sharanam gathaha” which means, “Where did Dharma take refugee?” One may ponder as to why Dharma should take refugee when one should follow as per the dharma? From time to time, dharma also falls and hence it takes refuge in Mahatmas. The lord in order to preserve and uphold the Dharmas, he incarnates every so often in the guise of Mahatmas– ‘Dharma samstapa nashaya sambavami yugae yugae”.
When the lord came down as Adi Shankara, he gave the path of Advaita, Sri Ramanujacharya established the path of Vishistadvaitha and when the lord incarnated as Madhvacharya, he established the Dvaita philosophy. Each one was seemingly contrary to the previous one and it was verily because the lord wanted to have diversity. He wanted to have diverse paths so that the devotees can chose one of them and reach him. The lord is infinite and so there are infinite ways to reach him as well and hence one can chose the path/dharma that is very much liked by him – ‘yatha dharmam yatha ruchihi”.
The question “Dharma kam Sharanam gathaha” is very valid because, when the dharma is on the decline, there has to be a different dharma in place to resurrect the entire system. The new dharma definitely is propounded by a Mahatma and who is verily the Acharya/Guru. When Dharma deteriorated, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu incarnated. He resurrected the dharma, by bringing out the best qualities of the dharma and elucidated on the compassion of the lord. The dharma that was propounded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was called Bhagavata Dharma. When dharma was put to torture hundreds of years back, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s incarnation took place. He exhilarated the dharma by invigorating Bhagavata Dharma through Bhakti.
So the answer to the question ‘Dharma kam Sharanam gathaha’, is that Dharma took refuge in Bhagavata Dharma which was established by so many great Mahatmas. Dharma took refuge in NamaSankirtan which was established by great Mahatmas, who are verily our Gurus. One may wonder as to why Bhagavatha Dharma, is a dharma about the compassion of the lord. Srimad Bhagavatam talks about the life-history of a great king called Bharatha. He ruled the earth for many years and then relinquished his kingdom and headed to a forest near Nepal, on the close proximity of river Gantaki to do penance. Our Guru Maharaj beautifully portrays how Bharatha did penance. He took some flowers and would recite “Krishnaya namaha dhyayami” which means “Meditating on Lord Krishna”. The moment he said that he is going to meditate, he would have actually started meditating and the flowers would have already dried before he came out of meditation. Bhagavatam shows that in spite of doing so much penance and having trained his body and mind for practicing such spiritual sadhanas/practices, he got enticed by a deer. A little deer when giving birth to its younger one, died and Bharatha got attracted to this baby deer. He started to grow this deer and in due course totally forgot his penance. In the next few chapters, Bhagavatam also talks about Ajamila, a sinner who was born in a very noble family. He did not uphold any dharma and led a totally wretched life. During his final moments of his life, he called out to his son, who was named Narayana and that very compassionate lord Narayana in Vaikuntam came down and saved him. Bhagavatam elucidates these two stories in detail. One about a person who was in the path of dharma but got diverted from the path of dharma and the other story is about a person who was totally oblivious to any path of dharma but the lord protected him during the final moments of his life. These two stories even though are totally contrary to each other shows one important precept. It outlines the normal dharma and Bhagavata Dharama. In the path of normal dharma, the dharma is about the devotee, whereas Bhagavata Dharma is about the lord. The normal dharma is about how far the individual can progress in that path towards the lord and Bhagavata Dharma is all about the lord coming to the devotee. A person practicing the path of normal dharma might take any amount of time to reach the lord based on his intensity of spiritual practices, but there is no limitation of space and time. The normal dharma might not help one in this day and age, however Bhagavata Dharma will certainly help anyone. Ramayana also shows this precept. When Sita Devi returns from forest, Lord Rama suspected her about her where about and ordained her to walk on fire. The lord here shows the path of Samanya Dharma. He showed the true dharma for a normal person and shows the way one is subjected to tests in life. However, Ahalya’s incident contrasts juxtaposed to that of Lord Rama’s actions on Sita Devi.
But in contrary, lord Rama showered his grace on Ahalya who was a known sinner. Sita is very well known for her virtues, purity and chastity. It is said that even Ravana was scared to go near Sita Devi, – Thirunamantra thatkrutva. She placed a blade of grass between her and Ravana and dared him to come near her, crossing the blade of grass. Such was her chastity and still Lord Rama suspected her. On the other hand, Ahalya had given her chastity and her husband Sage Gautama, had casted a curse that turned her into a stone and Lord Rama being cognizant of her actions, went to her place, and got her back to her original form. Not just that, he also called her as his mother and prostrated unto her. If we ponder as to why this difference between Sita Devi and Ahalya, it is verily because, in Mother Sita’s case the lord showed Samanya Dharma while in the case of Ahalya, it is Bhagavata Dharma. In Samanya Dharma, one is put to tests and the devotee taking steps to reach the lord, while in the case of Bhagavata Dharma, it is all about the grace of the lord and the lord coming to the devotee and liberating them.
Even though we know that Lord Narayana manifested as Lord Rama and Krishna, in this age the Mahans still come down and propagate the divine names of Lord Rama and Krishna to everyone. The most compassionate Gurus brought the divine names to the people in Kali Yuga. One such greatest of the Guru is Bhagavan Nama Bodendra Saraswati Swamigal. It is he who came down to liberate everyone.
‘Samsara Koopa pathithasya samakulasya Bodendra Deva mama dehi karavalambam’ – All of us are reveling in mundane world [samsara] and seemingly enjoying the worldliness, akin to a little child playing in the water for a long time during winter. The mother knows that this water is not good for the child in winter since he is bound to catch cold. But the child wouldn’t come out that easily and the mother also waits patiently. But when the child catches cold, she catches the child’s hand and pulls him out of the water. That is exactly what a SadGuru does. As we are struggling in the ocean called Samsara, he comes down as an incarnation of the lord and gives us a strong rope, verily the divine names that helps us to cross Samsara and thereby gets us liberated. Such is the compassion of Mahatmas. Sri Bodendra Swamigal was born to a very pious couple, Sri Mohana Pandurangan and Suguna Devi in a place called Kanchipuram in South India. They were very devoted to the Kanchi Mutt. The then residing Pontiff was Vishwadikendra Sarasawathi Swamigal. The couple was childless for a long time and with the blessings of the Pontiff, they were blessed with a child. They named him Purushotaman. Since the child was born due to sheer blessings of the Pontiff, they gave the child to the Mutt. The child was glowing with divine luster and radiance and he learnt all the Vedas and scriptures in a very short time. Once, his Guru had embarked on a trip to Kashi. He wanted to go in search of his Guru. So he and his friend Jnanasekaran set out on their trip to Kashi. En route to Kashi, Jnanasekaran died unfortunately. They both had taken a vow that if one of them is dead during the travel, the other person will end his life as well. Purushotaman survived and managed to get the darshan of his Guru. He then confided about the vow to his Sadguru, who then asked him not to end his life and advised him to embrace the path of Sanyasa which is equivalent to ending one’s current life. Our Guru Maharaj beautifully says that getting a Guru’s grace is itself akin to taking a new life. – Guruvin Arul Petravarae Iru Pirappala mediniyyil. As per the ordinance of his Guru, Purushotaman was accorded Sanyasa and was conferred the new name ‘Sri Bhagawan Nama Bodendra’ and ‘Sri Bhagawan Nama Boda’. Boda connotes one who is completely into it. Purushotaman was given this name which means, a person filled with divine names of the lord. He was blessed by his Guru to go out and propagate the chanting of divine names as it was the only elixir for people in the age of Kali and he started propagating the path of divine name chanting from the holy place called Puri. In Puri, he went to the abode of Jaganatha Kavi, whose father had written a Siddantha that chanting the divine names of the lord is the most easiest and pragmatic path in this Kali Yuga. He had written a beautiful book called Bhagawan Nama Kaumudi. Bodendra Swamigal read that book and realized the greatness of chanting the divine names of the lord. It was midnight and Bodendral by the time he had reached the house of Jagannatah Kavi and so he was resting on the pyol of Jagannatha Kavi’s house and there came a Brahmin couple enquiring for Jagannatha Kavi. They wanted to know what expiation can be done for the Brahmin’s wife who had gone into bad ways and now returned back to him. He was advised to take her to the pond adjoining Jagannath temple and take a dip in the pond chanting Rama Nama thrice. When she emerges from the pond, she would be a normal woman and the Brahmin was asked to lead a normal life with her after that. It did happen and everyone witnessed the miracle. In Ramayana, Lord Rama liberated one Ahalya, whereas Bodendra Swamigal liberated thousands by chanting the divine names of Lord Rama. He did a Siddanta of Rama Nama where he proclaimed that even when one chants the divine names of the lord, once in his life, knowingly or unknowingly, he becomes a recipient for the lord’s grace and compassion. The moment one chants Rama, he comes under the clutches of the lord.
‘Sanketyam paarihaasyam va sthobam helanam eva vaa’ – Even when mockingly chants the divine names of the lord, he still becomes a recipient to the lord’s grace and compassion.
Bodendral made a proclamation that even one hears the chanting of Lord Rama, he will be relieved from the grasp of Samsara.
He once met a deaf and dumb boy. He was a personification of compassion and the boy started chanting the divine names of Lord Rama by partaking the leftover food from Sri Bodendral’s plate. Even today, he sits in a place called Govindapuram near Tanjore, and incessantly chants the divine names of Lord. He also makes the devotees who come to Govindapuram chant Lord Rama’s name.
“Kauvery thira vasinam kamalAyadAnksinam” – He lives in the banks of Cauvery even today with all the dispassion and determination in his heart [“Kashaya danda kamandalu dharinam”] and with bhakti and compassion pouring from his heart which expresses as Rama Nama – “Nama keerthana priyam Ashritha bhakta rakshakam Bodendra Devam mama Gurum Ashrayeham”.
A devotee composed this beautiful verse where he prays to the Bodendral who is still living in Jiva Samadhi in Govindapuram. This great Mahatma is akin to a full moon who blooms and the moon is believed to come out from the sea. He has a sea of disciples mainly because of the simplicity of the path. The moment one chants the divine names of Lord Rama, he becomes a drop in the ocean of Sri Bodendral’s ocean of disciples. The sea is believed to be excited when the moon appears akin to how the devotees rejoice when the Sadguru comes in front of the devotees “Nrityathi Sri Sadguru Riha math Kirtana Shravanena”. Whenever the devotee chants the divine names of the lord, the Sadguru comes in front of the devotee and dances to his tunes, making very beautiful steps.
“Shishyaou Kambhodi Chandraha Niravathi Karuna Divya Piyusha Sandrahaha
Papavyala dwijendraha kalimala karirat Kumba nrithyan mrugendraha
En nithyam deshikendraha raghupathy charanAmboja pooja swakantraha
Sri Bodendradi shantu sriya anupamamitham tae sada mae yatindraha”
When the devotee chants the divine names of Lord Rama, Sri Bodendral comes in front of him, and blesses him with all his auspiciousness – “Niravthi Karuna Divya Piyusha Sandrahaha” and he destroys the elephant of sins accrued in this samsara by transforming himself into a huge Nrisimha – “Papauvyala dwijendraha kalimala karirat Kumba nrithyan mrugendraha” and shows the path of bhakti.
May Sri Bodendra bless us all with the rarest of the rarest wealth which is the wealth of faith and confidence in the Sadguru and Bhagavan Nama and thereby liberating all of us.
The satsang ended with prayers and Namasankirtan.