Tag Archives: bhagavatam

Nov 11: Dhruva Charitra – 1

11 Nov

Ramya from San Jose commenced the lecture on Dhruva Charitra.

Sage Suka was expounding on the lineages of Manu from the fourth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. Manu had two sons – Priyavrata and Uttanapada. He also had three daughters – Aahuti, Devahuti and Prasuthi. It is normally the practice to talk about the lineage of the eldest son, but Sage Suka delineated on Uttanapadan and Devahuti. It was verily because, Devahuti was bestowed with Lord in her womb, who was Lord Kapila, which was Lord’s incarnation and Uttanapada’s lineage talks about the life-history of Dhruva, a great devotee of the Lord.  The charitha of Dhruva shows how Divine name combined with determination can help us achieve everything.

“Jayae Uttanapadasya sunitihi suruchis thayoho”

Uttandapada had two wives – Suneethi and Surichi. Their names go to speak a lot and are loaded with meaning. When the prefix ‘su’ is dropped from both their names, Neethi and Ruchi are left. When one favors comforts and mundane world he may not adhere to dharma [ Neethi] and hence dharma might be lost. Dhruva was the son of King Uttanapada and Suneethi and Uttama was born to Uttanadapada and Surichi. Dhruva was the 5-year-old son of King Uttanapada and his elder queen, Suneethi. But Suneethi was not favored by the king, who preferred his second queen, Suruchi.   Suneethi and Dhruva lived away from the palace. Nevertheless, Suneethi was very devoted to the Lord and she brought up Dhruva by feeding him stories of the Lord every day.

She did not disclose her sorrows in front of Dhurva and her life was centered around Dhruva. He was indeed a great Bhagavatotama and it is said that all Mahans and Sadhus would flock around him. It is also said that Sage Narada came to see Dhruva when he was born and he himself shared lot of stories with Dhruva. He had lot if interactions with Sage Narada even when Dhruva was only two years old.

When Sage Maitreya was expounding on the greatness of Shravanam to Vidura in the third canto,  reminisced Dhruva, since he attained the Lord’s feet by listening to the divine glories of the Lord from Sage Narada.

“Uttanapadasya puthro Munina gitayaarbakah” – says Sage Maitreya.

Dhurva during his early years of child hood was akin to any other kid. His life revolved around his mother Suneethi. Slowly as years passed by, when he was four years, he started to go out of the palace and play with his friends. Uttama and Dhruva were close friends and always played together.

One day while Dhruva was playing, Uttama did not show up. Dhurva was perplexed as to why he didn’t come and enquired with his other friends about Uttama and went in search of him. As he entered the Surichi’s palace in search of Dhruva, the guards were taken aback by his divine radiance. They let him enter Surichi’s palace not because he was the heir to the throne, but by merely being enticed by his divine look. As Dhruva approached the court, he saw Uttaman being seated in his father’s lap and being fondled by him and Surichi standing next to him. Dhruva’s earlier intention was to only take Uttaman along for playing, but as he neared Uttanapada, the urge to sit on his father’s lap crept in him too.

When Dhruva tried to sit on his father’s lap, Suruchi pushed him away and told him that he would be eligible to do so only if he was born to her. She advised him to do tapas to Lord Narayana, and ask for His blessings to be born as her son. Dhruva, being a young child, did not understand all this. He was too shocked and hurt by the turn of events. Bhagavatham portrays Surichi as an arrogant lady – “Maha Garuvitha”.

na vatsa nrupather dhishnyam bhavaan Arodum arhati
na gruhito maya yath tvam kuksav api nrupatmajah
balo si batha natmanam anyasthri garbha sambhratam
nunam veda bhavan yasya durlabhe rathe manorathah
tapasaaradhya purusham tasyaivaanugraheNa me
garbhe tvam sadhayatmanam yadicchasi nrupaasanam [Srimad Bhagavatham 4.8.11-13]

Surichi in her dialogue with Dhruva conveyed to him that although he is the son of King Uttanadpada [Nrupathmajaha], he is not eligible to sit on his father’s lap since he was not born in the womb of Surichi.

Surichi, made a caricature of herself and scolded Suneethi for all the events that just happened and further added that Dhruva was trying to accomplish a desire that is absolutely impossible to fulfill.

This dialogue between Surichi and Dhruva can be totally viewed in a different perspective. Although Surichi reprimanded Dhruva by citing that he was not born in her womb, this can be perceived as a bhaava, where Surichi was feeling bad that a boy like Dhruva was not born to her. She then advised Dhruva to go to the forest to do penance on the Lord to bestow him with a boon for being born in Surichi’s womb. She also added that she does not possess any good merits to have a divine child like him and by Dhruva’s sheer penance; she will be bestowed with a child like him.

 Uttanapada was witnessing the whole scene with his head down. Dhruva looked at his father once more to see if he will allow him to sit on his lap. Sage Maitreya says -

matuh sapatnyah sa durukti-viddhah svasan rusha daNDa hato yathahih
hitva mishantam pitharam sanna vacham jagaama matuh prarudan sakasam

 Akin to a snake when stuck by a stick, breathes heavily, Dhruva filled with anger was also breathing fast and was holding up. When he saw his father who was silent and did not protest, Dhruva left the place and went to his mother. When he met his mother, his eyes were trembling with fear and cried grievously. Suneethi placed Dhruva on her lap while the palace maid servants who had witnessed the dialogue between Surichi and Dhruva related her everything in detail.

sotsrujya dhairyam vilalaapa soka davagnina dAva lateva bala
vakhyam sapatnyAh smarati saroja sriyA drushA bAshpa kalaam uvaha [Srimad Bhagavatham 4.8.16]

Suneethi was unable to bear the shock and was inconsolable.

 Suneethi was getting ready to prepare Dhruva for the path that she was about to advocate and thus started –

dirgham svasanthi vrijinasya param apasyati balakam aha bala
mamangalam tata pareshu mamistha bhunkte jano yat para dukhadas tat [Srimad Bhagavatham 4.8.17]

 

In spite of Surichi’s harsh words on Dhruva, Suneethi advised Dhruva not to have any hatred against Surichi because a person who inflicts sorrow on others will himself suffer from that pain. She also added that when one goes out in search of the Lord with hatred and bad thoughts, the Lord will turn away from that devotee.

She said “Oh Dhruva, your stepmother Surichi’s words even though they were harsh, are indeed factual. You need to meditate on the Lord to attain him”.

aatishtha tat tatta vimatsaras tvam uktam samatrapi yad avyalikham
aradhayadhokshaja paada padmam yadhicchase dhyasanam uttamo yata [Srimad Bhagavatham 4.8.19]

The Lord will give himself to the devotee who holds on to his feet – [Athmanam api yachaati] and cited Lord Brahma and Swayambu Manu’s devotion to the Lord’s holy feet.

Suneethi in her instruction to Dhruva, thus asked him to meditate on the holy feet of the Lord and that is the only panacea for all the suffering in this world.

tam eva vatsashraya bhrutya vatsalam mumukshubhi mrugya padabja paddhatim
ananya bhave nija dharma bhavitae manasy avasthapya bhajasva purusham [Srimad Bhagavatham 4.8.22]

 

The mother’s love is generally considered to be the highest. However, if we take the case of animals, they go one step beyond. A dog when it gives birth, takes immense care and showers unconditional love on its puppies and it never expects anything in return from them. The Lord’s creation encompasses everything from an ant to a man and the Lord’s divine love on his own creation is incomparable. He is waiting to shower his grace only if one has a thought that the Lord exists and that one has to attain him. Once that earnest desire creeps in a devotee, the path to attain the Lord is verily shown by the Lord himself, says Suneethi when expounding on the greatness of the Lord to Dhruva.

nanyam tata padma palasa locanad duhkhacchidham the mrugayAmi kanchana
yo mrugyate hasta gruhita padmaya sriyetarair anga vimrugyamanaya. [Srimad Bhagavatham 4.8.23]

 

 

Suneethi continuing to expound on the greatness of the Lord told Dhruva that she was unable to find anyone who can mitigate the stress other than the Lord, who has eyes like lotus petals, who is the indeed the real father unto whom one should shower their love.

The satsang ended with prayers and Namasankirtan.

Sep 23: Vaishnava Lakshana and Vritrasura Chatushloki

23 Sep

Once a disciple went to Parashara Bhatta and asked him what a ‘lakshana’ (characteristic) of a Vaishnava.  Bhattar could have as well pointed to himself and said, ‘look at me, I am a Vaishnava’, but would a true Vaishnava do that?  He didn’t even reference a grantha/shastras; instead, he asked his disciple to go and see Ananthazhwar in Tirupati, who is a disciple of Ramanuja and had had the Darshan of Lord Venkateswara Himself, for an answer.  The disciple, after several days of travel, reaches Tirupati and in abject starvation, walks to where food is served and seats himself in the first serving (first ‘pankthi’).  He was kicked out of the serving as he was ineligible, by qualifications to sit in the first-serving, and likewise for the second-serving too.  Humbled, he skipped the other servings too, as he deemed himself ineligible, and ended up skipping food altogether. 

Ananthazhwar came out of his house and his sight fell on this man and the former enquired of his roots and learning that he came from Srirangam, sent by Parashara Bhattar, he is elated, exchanges pleasantries  and asks him if he had had his meal.  When the disciple nodded in the negative, Ananthazhwar chided his ‘kainkaryaparas’ for not having taken care of the visitor from Srirangam and asked them to feed him first.  Angered that the visitor has shown them in bad light, the ones who served food, srap leftovers from the utensils, make a small ball of food and present it to the visitor, who eats it as the Lord’s Prasadam, albeit feeling disrespected.  Later, when he met Ananthaazhwar again, he posed the question to Ananthaazhwar about the qualities of a Vaishnava. 

‘kokkaipol iruppaar, kozhiyai pol iruppar, uppaipol iruppaar, ummaipol iruppaar’, casually remarked Ananthaazhwar.  ‘A Vaishnava is like a crane, is like a hen, is like salt and is like you’.

The crane waits on the banks of a lake, and waits for the big fish alone to catch it for its meals, leaving out the rest of the tiny ones.  A Vaishnava is one who waits for the Periya Perumal – Lord Narayana to catch hold of His feet.  From a mass of dust and dirt, the hen carefully picks up the few food-grains and pecks them.  Likewise, a Vaishnava, amdist all the Shastras, granthas and Text, the Vaishnava picks up the essence of it alone filtering out the rest.   Salt gives any food its taste.  Without salt, however carefully prepared, the dish is not palatable.  A Shastra (scripture), Thirtha (holy river), Kshetra  (holy place) – gets its sanctity only by the presence/ benediction of a Vaishnava.  A Vaishnava’s presence is inevitable for sanctification, just like salt is indispensible for taste.  Finally, ‘ummaippol iruppar’  – this part, the visitor did not understand.  He ruminates on it for hours together, and then goes back to Ananthaazhwar again, finding little success in trying to decipher the meaning of the last part.

Ananthaazhwar said, ‘you have passed the test!’ – A true Vaishnava is truly humble – like you, who have disregarded all the ill-treatment  meted out to you and sought only knowledge; who did not claim to have understood everything but came back to me admitting that you have not understood yet!  That is the quality of a Vaishnava, said Ananthazhwar.

After a round of introductions, Nishaji spoke on Vritrasura Upakhyana from Srimad Bhagavatam.

The Lord does not see a disparity to shower his grace in his own creation.  Yet he has a little leaning to his devotees which is perhaps why Krishna crosses his legs!  From stories, it may seem as if He favors the Devas always, and punishes the Asuras even if the devotion of the former is not supreme.  In keeping with  his fame of fairness, the Lord has a few Asura devotees as well, Prahlada, his grandson Mahabali being the foremost.  Another lesser known devotee throughout our scriptures is Vritrasura whose devotion he kept as a hidden secret.  Just like Radha Devi, whose name itself is so sacred to take, Vritrasura’s devotion was such pristine – delicate heart housed in a grotesque form.

Once when Indra was immersed in sensual pleasures of entertainment in his Loka, he ignored his Guru – Brushaspati who arrived there.  An enraged Bruhaspati walk out, and Indra immediately realizes he has lost all his powers, and repenting for his bad-deed, goes searching for his Guru in vain.  He approaches Brahma who suggests Thwashta’s son Vishwarupa.  Indra approaches Vishwarupa but the latter doesn’t wish to take up the position of the Guru of the Devas.  Out of compassion, he finally agreed and teaches the devas, the “Narayana Kavacham” which serves as a shield for one from head to toe.  But however, Vishwarupa, gives a part of the offerings to his uncles, Asuras,              whenever he performs Yagas for the Devas.  Indra, enraged on hearing this, beheads the three heads of Viswarupa, killing his own Guru – a brahmana.  Twashta was extremely angry on hearing this news, performs a fire-sacrifice from which emerges Vritrasura who was gory in appearance.  The mantra was mispronounced  and hence Vritrasura was born as one who would be killed by Indra (rather than one, who would kill Indra).

Vritrasura was strong and daunting to the Devas, who took refuge in the Lord.  The Lord, who knew the real heart of Vritrasura, replied to the devas, ‘a true devotee who hankers for me will get me. One who looks for sensual pleasures is pitiable’ and blessed Indra with what he asked for – He instructed Indra to approach a sage called Dadichi and ask for his backbone with which he would make the ‘Vajrayuda’ – with which Vritrasura can be killed.  Indra does as instructed and confronts Vritrasura at the battlefield.

Vritrasura laughed at Indra – ‘Look at what you went and asked the Lord!’, he laughed, ‘It wouldn’t take me long to go to the Lord and ask for a boon to defeat Indra, and the Lord shall grant it to me! But, Indra, I wouldn’t ask him for that.  I wish for something greater and sublime!’   He very well knew that he was born to be killed by Indra and Indra also wanted victory over Vritrasura.   That was his wish too – to die at the hands of Indra – for the Lord’s will was his will too.

He would keep his prayer soft and secretive.  He had only 4 verses in prayer-
‘aham hare tava pAdaikamUla dAsAnudAso bhavitAsmi bhUyah |
manasmaretAsu pater guNAmste grhNIta vAkkarma karotu kAyah ||’

May my mind think about you and you alone; my hands serve you alone.

‘daasaanudasa’ – all great Mahatmas say this – May I be blessed t o serve the devotee of your devotee’s devotee! Such is their humility!  A bhajan by Kabir ends as ‘raam naam nij amrut saar, sumire sumire bin.. kahe kabir   chado harike charan nivaar‘ – ‘remembering the nectarine Rama Nama, devotees cross the ocean of the world, being a devotee of the devotees of the Lord, I shall not give up God’s Feet!’  Sekkizhar, the author of Periyapuranam calls himself ‘adiyaarukku adiyaar’; likewise, echo the Azhwars, – one of their name being Thondaradipodi (the dust at the feet of the devotees).    Sri Swamiji would say, if you can serve Rama like Lakshmana, serve the Lord/Guru, that is good. If that is not possible, be like Bharata – do what the Guru says.  If you cannot do even that, be like Shatrugna  – serve the devotee of Bhagavan.  Vritrasura asks for servitude to the servants of servants of the Lord.

And then in his second verse, he says,
Na naga prushtam nacha parameshtyam nasarvabhaumam narasadhipathyam
Nayoga siddhir apunarbhavam samanjasatva virahaiya kaankshe || (6:11:25)

Says Vritrasura, ‘I don’t want the pleasures of any of the worlds nor do I want any Yoga Siddhis; not even liberation if it means moving away from you, Oh Lord.  May I be constantly in your Smarana’.  Interestingly, in Uddhava Gita, the Lord uses these same words to describe the qualities of a true devotee.

The third sloka reveals the true nature of Vritra’s bhakti.
Ajatha pakshad iva maataram khagah stanyam yata  vatsadhara ksudhartha: |
Priyam priyeva vyushitam vishanna Manoravindaasksha didrukshate tvaam” || (6:11:25)

When a little bird is born from the egg and the mother is away, it helplessly cries out, and Vritrasura says he is like that bird, crying out for Bhagavan.  Then he goes one step higher and talks about a calf that is tied to a rope and can see its mother, but can’t go unto it.  He says that he is like the calf tied to the world  and hence not able to reach the Lord even though he knows the Lord is there.  Finally he reveals his true devotion when he refers to the love of a wife for her husband – she knows where her husband has gone and is capable of going, but she waits patiently for him to come – a devotee who wishes for Bhagavan to come down and bestow His grace and darshan.

In the final sloka,
“Mamottama sloka janeshu sakyam samsara chakre bramtah smakarmabi: |
Tvan maayayaatmatmaja daara geheshu Asakta chityasa na naatha bhooyaat”  (6:11:26)

He says, ‘Oh Lord!  Please bestow me with Satsang with your devotees. And keep me away from those who keep speaking of the world.’  He underlines that satsang is the root of everything.  He begins with satsang of the devotees of the devotees of the Lord and concludes with Satsang again, stressing the fact that if we are in a satsang, automatically, that which is referred in the other two slokas – staunch devotion towards the Lord comes.

In Pushti Marga, these slokas are the Chatusloki Bhagavatam.  They are indeed the four Purushartas – Dharma( serving the Bhagavan’s devotees), Artha (the Lord who is the greatest wealth), Kama (the greatest desire is to yearn for the Lord) and Moksha (satsang leads one to verily Moksha).  In Papa Ramdas’ words, ‘one whose lips has the Divine Name all the time is indeed a Jivan Mukta’.  Chanting incessantly is indeed Moksha.

After Vritrasura makes this prayer, Indra attacks him with Vajrayuda and Vritra is killed.
The sixth canto – the heart of Bhagavatam – has Ajamila Charitra and this story –showing us the greatest of Bhakti and the grace of the Lord.

The satsang ended with prayers and Nama Sankirtan.

Sep 9: Tiruvonam & Mahaprabhu’s childhood

9 Sep

It is the auspicious day of Tiruvonam and the Vamana Jayanti.  Andal, in Tiruppavai mentions all the 12 names of the Lord; and Trivikrama and Vamana are from the same Avatar.  And Andal gives the adjective ‘uttaman’ (noblest) when she refers to the Trivikrama Avatara.  (‘ongi ulagalanda uttaman peyarpaadi’).  Periyavaachaan pillai explains why, leaving Krishna whom she loved beyond anything else, Andal calls Trivikrama as noblest – it is only in this incarnation where the Lord does not destroy the bad – he rather corrects the evil quality in Bali – and that is a supreme quality – a quality of the Guru/Acharya – just as Madhura Kavi Azhwar says – ‘seyal nandraaga tiruthi paNi koLLvAn’ (the Guru corrects a jiva and employs him in the service of the Lord).  Secondly,  in this Avatara, the Lord descends as a boy, undergoes the ‘Upanayana’ samskara and then goes to Bali’s for Bhiksha, showing that one has to have a qualification to go for ‘Yaachanam’ (seeking alms).  We generally talk about going to temples and having the Lord’s darshan, but truly, it is the Lord who comes down to the doorstep of the devotee – just as Vamana goes to Bali’s doorstep. 

The Devas are in a bad state because the Asuras are in control and Aditi, the mother of Devas, prays to the Lord and the Lord appears to her and asks her to undertake the ‘Payo Vrata’, and Aditi follows as instructed.  In the Abhijeet Muhurta (the most auspicious time), when all the planets take the most beneficial positions, with all the divine souls expect in enthusiasm for His arrival.. the Lord is born to Aditi as a young boy, with a short stature (‘vamana’) as Indra’s brother (‘Upendra’)  and his Upanayana is performed.  Brihaspati gives the sacred thread, Kashyapa gives the Mekhala, Saraswati gives the Japa Mala, the Moon gives the ‘Palasha’ stem, Aditi gives the loin cloth, Indra gives the umbrella, Brahmaji gives the Kamandalu and the first Bhiksha is provided by none other than Uma Devi.  The charming lustrous young boy walks with an audacious gait unto ‘Brighu kachcham’ (today, Brauch) – the place where Bali is performing a Yagna on the banks of Narmada.  Seeing the little boy, everyone raise in respect.  An extremely happy Bali offers to give anything that the Brahmana would ask for.  The Lord extols the virtues of Bali’s entire lineage including Hiranyakashipu and seeks three steps of land.  Insulted by this petty request, Bali mocks at the Lord, ‘Ah! You spoke like an elderly, but you are indeed a little kid, for you approach the master of all the worlds, and ask for three steps of land!’.  A smiling Bhagavan replies, ‘Oh King, if one is not contented when bestowed with what he needs, and seeks more, he will never be contented even if all the worlds are offered to him.  A contented man attains his goals quicker. A Brahmana should, especially be contented with what he gets, and that will enhance his luster and power.’    Shukracharya, Bali’s Guru, at this point, warns Bali telling him that he was a representative of the cunning, end-oriented, Devas who has come to snatch his entire property – ‘maya manavakoharih’ – the ‘cunning – human-like Hari’!  Bali was extremely happy that the very Lord has come down, and with his wife Vindhyavali’s consent sanctions the Lord’s request.  Immediately, the Lord takes a colossal form of Trivikrama spanning all the worlds, measuring the Earth and the skies with two steps.  Brahmaji does a pooja when he sees the Lord’s Foot in his own loka. This water comes down as the Ganges.  Jambavan, the mighty bear, circumambulates this colossal form!  Turing to Bali, the Lord seeks the third step, which Bali is unable to provide and gets captivated.   Bali offers his own head to the Lord signifying the offering of his own self.  The moment Bali offered himself to Bhagavan, the Lord offered Himself to Bali!  He housed Bali at the Patala Loka, the most posh and comfortable place in all the worlds, Himself standing guard at its entrance.

Bhagavatam speaks of twelve people who knows the essence of Bhagavata Dharma, and Bali is one among them.  Bali is an eternal Bhagavata – he is a Chiranjeevi.

Legend goes that it is on this day, Tiruvonam, that Bali comes out and visits every home in his kingdom.  This is celebrated in Kerala in a grand manner.  ‘avaishnavo hato deshah’ – a country is doomed if it does not have a Bhagavata.  And we are fortunate that this eternal Bhagavata comes amidst us on this day.

 

Following introductions, Aravindji continued to speak on Chaitanya Mahaprabhuji.

Bhagavatam says that the life stories of Bhagavatas have to be listened to – for they purify one and inculcate  Bhakti.  And we are now fortunate to listen to the story of the Lord who descended as a Bhagavata – Mahaprabhuji.

‘Thyaga’ – Sacrifice and ‘Vairagya’ – detachment are the two main pillars to attain devotion.  Prema Bhakti comes forth with sublime devotion and it is beyond Mokhsa – and Mahaprabhuji descended to show this to us.  Sachi Devi and Jagannatha Mishra were delighted to see the little child with curly hair, chubby cheeks and fair complexion – Nimayi born to them.  On the day of the naming ceremony, a few articles like money, food, clothes etc. were placed in front of the baby and the baby was prodded to pick one – to see what it would grow into as – and undoubtedly, Nimayi picked up the Srimad Bhagavatam Grantha.

Soon after, Sachi Mata had a vision where she saw the Devas worshipping the little boy.  She ran down to her husband to convey this and Mishraji consented that Nimayi was no ordinary child as he was born with the great Mahatma – Advaitacharya’s blessings who predicted that he would be an Avatara Purusha, as Bhagavatam says, ‘naaraayana samo gunaih’.  One day, when the little one crawled, Sachi Mata noticed that his footprints were extraordinary with special streaks of ‘shanka’, ‘chakra’, ‘dwaja’, ‘vajra’ etc. on them – as Bhagavatam says when Bhagavan disappeared during Rasa Lila, His footprints could be seen –
‘padAni vyaktametAni nandasUnor mahAtmanah |
lakshyantyehi dwajAmbojA vrajAngushevAdibih ||

Understanding humans as humans is a good deal, as is understanding God as God, but understanding God as human is the greatest deal and that was the case with Nimayi’s parents who had no doubt that Nimayi was indeed Krishna re-enacting all His Bala Leelas.

One day, something upset Nimayi and he cried uncontrollably.  He wouldn’t stop after Sachi Mata’s infinite attempts to passify him, and eventually, losing temper, the mother walked out of the house.  No sooner this had happened than she felt someone pulling the tip of her sari and it was Nimaayi.  She swooned on seeing Nimayi and soon all the villagers gathered.  When Sachi Devi regained consciousness, Nimayi felt very guilty and apologetically promised to his mother that he would never misbehave from then on.  Overjoyed, the mother kissed the little one.

In Bhagavatam, Parikshit asks, what great fortune did Nanda and Yashoda do that they are parenting the very Hari –

‘nandah kimakaroth brahman shreya yevam mahodayam |
yashodAcha mahAbhAgAh papauyasya stanam harih ||

The state was the same with Sachi Mata and Jagannatha Mishra.

It was time for Nimayi to take up education – he was given a slate and chalk for ‘aksharabhyasam’.  The moment he had a chalk with him, he applied a tilak on his forehead and throughout his body and proudly showed it to Sachi Mata, who said, ‘dear child, you are always playful! When are you going to get serious?’  He would go to the neighbors’ and ask them to give ‘sandesh’ (a sweetmeat) and would dance for them in return, just like Krishna did for butter.

Nimayi’s favorite place was the banks of the Ganges, where he would make fun of the young girls.  He would beckon them to worship him and offer flowers at his feet, and would playfully grant them benediction.  One such girl was Lakshmi Devi, whom Nimayi blessed with the words, ‘may you get a husband who would match the Devas in virtue and beauty’, and aptly enough, she ended up taking Nimayi’s hand in marriage later.

Vishwaroopa, Nimayi’s brother, when he was 16, embraced Sanyasa and this put the entire family in gloom.  He decided against sending Nimayi to school because education verily ‘spoilt’ his brother!  Nimayi was extremely sad at this.  He dressed up as a blind boy and went to his own house to beg for food.  When Sachi Mata chided him, he said, ‘Mother, I am indeed blind and being illiterate and hence I am a beggar too!’  The divine parents decided to perform the sacred thread ceremony for Nimayi to send him to Patashala.   During Brahmopadesha, Nimayi swooned the moment he was initiated into the Gayatri Mantra, for he went into a divine trance.  When Nimayi went to his mother begging for his alms, and it looked like verily Vamana Bhagavan had descended!

The satsang concluded with prayers and Nama Sankirtan.

Jul 15: Banasura – Part 2

15 Jul

Glory of Vyasa

Of all Gurus and Sadhus, the greatest among the Gurus in Sanatana Dharma is Sage Vyasa, popularly known as Veda Vyasa. Earlier, there was a discussion between the Rishis as to which Avatar of the Lord is indeed the greatest. The Lord has taken ten avatars as far as many people are considered. Even though Srimad Bhagavatam describes the twenty four avatars of the Lord in great detail, the Lord is infinite – “Avatarah hi asankhyeya”. The infinite Lord took twenty four avatars says Srimad Bhagavatam. The Mahatmas on the banks of river Saraswathi discuss the twenty four avatars of the Lord and concluded that none of the Lord’s manifestations can be compared to the incarnation of Sage Vyasacharya. Sage Veda Vyasa was born to a devout couple, Parashara and Satyavati on the auspicious day of Ashada Poornima. Sage Veda Vyasa’s incarnation is considered very important because, but for the avatar of the Lord as Sage Vyasa, the world wouldn’t have come to know about the incarnations of the Lord. It is verily for this reason that Sage Vyasa’s incarnation is considered to be the greatest. It is verily because of Sage Veda Vyasa, that the Vedas are still alive and it was he who divided the Vedas into four parts, the Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharvana Vedas. Vedas expound the Yagnas and the procedures to do these sacrifices and rituals with the right Mantras are these four Vedas. The term Rick connotes to some kind of sloka and Rig Veda contains these entire Ricks’ to invite the Lord. The term Sama relates to all these Ricks coupled with music, while Yajur veda speaks about the procedures to perform all the sacrifices [Yagnas]. Sage Veda Vyasa divided the Vedas into four giving them proper lineages along with a Guru for each of them. Rig Veda was given to Paila Maharishi, Yajur Veda was handed over to Vaishampayana, Sama veda to Jaimini and Atharvana Veda to Sage Sumanth.

Sage Jaimini is addressed as a poet. Paila and Vaishampayana are renowned Rishis but Jaimini is a poet. The reason for Jaimini being addressed as a poet by Sage Suta Pouranika is verily because he enjoys the Sama Veda since he is a connoisseur in music. Sama Veda is all about music and a poet is an aficionado in music. It was verily Sage Veda Vyasa who divided the Vedas into four – Shisyaihi Prathishyaihi Tatshisyaihi”; and gave a beautiful lineage to all the Vedas. It is because of Sage Veda Vyasa that devotees reminisce and take part in satsangs. For people who were not capable of learning the Vedas and have no other recourse, he bestowed the Ithihasa Mahabharata which is also known as the Panchamo Veda and the eighteen Puranas. It is verily because of Sage Veda Vyasa that makes Sanatana Dharma still alive in today’s age.

“Guru Brahma Guru Vishnuhu Guru Devo Maheshwaraha
Guru Shakshath Para Brahma Tasmai Sri Guravae Namaha”

It is said that Guru is verily the creator, sustainer and destroyer [Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva]. He is an embodiment of all Devas and one should propitiate to that Guru who is verily the Brahman.

Achatur vadano brahma dvibAhuraparo harih
aphaAla lochanashambuh bhagavAn bAdarAyaNi ||

Sage Vyasa is verily Lord Brahma but the only difference is that he does not have four faces, he is verily Lord Vishnu without four arms as Sage Vyasa only possess two arms [vibhahu ] and he is truly Lord Shiva and is devoid of the third eye [aphala lochana].

With the above two slokas, one can draw a corollary that Guru is verily Sage Veda Vyasa and that explains why Vyasa Poornima is celebrates as Guru Poornima. Sage Vyasa was born as a result of intense penance by Parasara Maharishi.

It is said that during the third phase of Dwapara Yuga, all the Rishis came to the banks of river Saraswathi and were contemplating on the Vedas future since it was the advent of Kali Yuga and thus propitiated to Lord Vishnu, who came in front of them and assured them that he will be born to safeguard the Vedas and protect the Dharma. The Rishis then nominated Parashara Maharishi, the greatest among the Rishis to perform the penance. Even Lord Brahma had to do that penance in order to do the creation. Lord Krishna’s parents had to penance for three births [janmas] for Krishna to be born – Prsihni Sutapa, Aditi Kashyapa and Devaki Vasudeva. The Lord then came in front of Parashara and told him that he will be born to him. Hearing this, Sage Parashara was perplexed since he was a Brahmachari. Once when he was traveling on a boat, he was enticed by the boatman’s daughter Sathyavati who was steering the boat. Sathyavati bowed down to Parashara and Sage Vyasa was thus born to Parashara and Sathyavati as a sixteen year old boy. He spoke about the Lord’s promise to Sage Parashara. He was born as Ayonija akin to Sage Suka. It is said that Sage Vyasa appears and disappears in Mahabharatha as an Avirbhaham akin to Lord Krishna [Taasaam aavirabooh chourihi].

Banasura – Part 2

Following a short round of introductions, Shwethaji from Dallas rendered the Guru Ashtakam and then Sanjev from Dallas continued on Banasura’s discourse.

The divine mother Sita was separated from Lord Rama and it was verily the story narrated by Lava and Kusha that brought the divine mother back to Lord Rama. This lucidly shows the greatness of Katha Shravana that the Lord himself experienced. When Sita Mata was in recluse in Ashoka Vana, she was all set to end her life and it was Hanumanji who was a little hesitant to come in front of her and so he sat between the branches of a tree and sang the divine glories of Lord Rama which were nectarine droplets to the divine mother. Hanumanji thus saved the life of Sita Mata by extolling the divine glories of the Lord. It is verily by the divine grace of the Lord that weekly satsangs happen where the divine names of the Lord are chanted and the satsangs also expounds on the divine plays of the Lord.

Our Sanatana Dharma has the Vedas as its foundation. In spite of giving all the Puranas and Ithihasas, Sage Veda Vyasa was experiencing distress and per the advice of Sage Narada elucidated on the divine plays of the Lord and thus Srimad Bhagavatham was born. This Purana is the only antidote for the evil effects of Kali Yuga and is the fruit of the Vedas. Lord Krishna completed his divine plays on the earth and was getting ready to depart to Vaikunta, he transferred all his love, power and grace into Srimad Bhagavatam and thus every syllable in that scripture is indeed Lord Krishna. The Devas requested to exchange Srimad Bhagavatham with the Devamrtha and Sage Sukha belittled their request by saying that a worthless glass can never be compared to a priceless gem. One is absolved of all sins by merely prostrating and worshipping Srimad Bhagavatam. It is a repository of numerous Geethams and most importantly the stutis done by the Vedas themselves. This purana is often rendered for a period of seven days known as Sapthaham. Padma Purana one of the eighteen puranas has chapters that glorify Srimad Bhagavatham and when one attends a Sapthaham he is completely absolved of all sins and that Lord Krishna the heart. Just by listening to Srimad Bhagavatam for seven days King Parikshit, grandson of Arjuna attained liberation. By merely listening to Srimad Bhagavatam for seven days, Dundukari was relieved of all the atrocious sins that he had committed.
One’s real self [Swaroopa] is to always seek for happiness that is devoid of any sorrow. Sachidanandam is the Lord’s real swaroopa. The terms ‘Sath’, ‘Chith’ and ‘Anandam’ constitute to Sachidanandam. The term ‘Sath’ refers existence, ‘Chith’ relates to intellect and ‘Anandam’ is happiness. One is aware of Sath and Chith but fail to realize that the Anandam is indeed Lord Krishna himself. The tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam lucidly shows that Lord Krishna was always filled with happiness [Anandam]. The Vedas contain everything in it. Some of the mantras have profound meaning and is really hard to comprehend them.

There is a mantra –“Yo asmin dweshti yancha vayam dismahaha” and one who has hatred against the Lord should not stand in front of the Lord. If we misspell the words wrongly, then it might even bring destruction on us. That is verily the reason why one should not approach the Lord directly. A Sadguru is one who helps us comprehend the meaning of the Vedas and narrates the divine glories of the Lord and conducts festivals for the Lord. One should surrender to the holy feet of the Guru, one who is constant communion with the Lord and by serving the Sad Guru will be the sure straight path to lead Lord Krishna. When we do service to the servant of the Sadguru, it reaches both the Lord and Sadguru, while if we do service to the Lord alone, it reaches the Lord alone. It is easy to do service to the Lord but it is extremely difficult to be in the service of a Sad Guru.

Sanjevji then summarized the last week’s lecture on Banasura. He conquered the world with his ten thousand hands which he got as a benediction from Lord Shiva’s due to intense penance. He was very powerful and wanted to with someone of equal strength. Meanwhile, Aniruddha, Krishna’s grandson wanted to marry Banasura’s daughter Usha, and was staying in her courtyard without Banasura’s knowledge. Banasura was furious after hearing this and imprisoned Aniruddha with his Naga Astram.

Krishna and his mighty army came to rescue Aniruudha and a huge battle that ensued between the Yadavas and the Asuras. Lord Shiva and Karthikeya fought on behalf of Banasura. Lord Krishna was forced to his yawning weapon to make Lord Shiva transition to a sleep state. After Lord Shiva’s army was driven away, the Shivajwara appeared throwing fire in all directions and it was soon defeated by Vishnujwara and Lord Krishna cut Banasura’s hands with his Chakrayudha. Uma, Lord Shiva’s wife was not able to witness this scene and woke up Lord Shiva and requested him to save Banasura.

Lord Shiva thus did a stuti to the Lord offering his prostrations and thus offered his praises on the Lord in the form of stuthi. It is a known precept that Hari and Hara are the one and the same. They can read each other’s mind very lucidly.

tvam hi brahma param jyotir ghuDham brahmaaNi vanmaye
yham pashyanti amalatmana akasham iva kevalam
nabir nabho agnir mukam ambu retoh dyauH sirSham asaH shrutir anghrir urvi
chandro mano yasya dRig arka atma aham samudhro jaTharam bhujendraH
romaNi yasyauSadhayo ambu vaahaH kesa virincho dhiSaNa visargaH
praja patir hRudayam yasya dharmaH sa vai bhavan puruSo loka kalpaH
tavavataro yam akuNTha dhaman dharmasya guptyai jagato hitaya
vayam cha sarve bhavatanubhavita vibhavayamo bhuvanani saptha
tavavatharo yam akuNTha dhaman dharmasya guptyai jagato hitaya
vayam ca sarve bhavatanubhavita vibhavayamo bhuvanani sapta
deva dattam imam labdhva nRulokam ajitendhriyaH
yho nadriyeta tvat padau sa shocyo hy atma vanchakaH
aham brahmatha vibudha munayas camalashayaH
sarvatmana prapanas tvam atmanam preSTham ishvaram [Srimad Bhagavatam 10.63.34-43]
In one of our Guru Maharaj’s compositions, there is a verse “Un Mayai ennum peyai oru ganathil villaki”, where our Guru Mahraj requested the Lord to free one from material life.

Lord Shiva then told the Lord that Banasura was his dear and faithful follower and that he has been bestowed him with a boon to emancipate him from all fears and requested him to grant him y akin to the Lord’s grace on Lord Prahalada. The Lord immediately acknowledged to Lord Shiva’s request and promised him that he will not slay Banasura, the son of Virochana and re-iterated his promise that he made to Prahalada that he would kill any of his descendants. He also added that he severed Banasura’s arms to subdue his ego. Banasura who earlier used to accompany him in his musical dance performances stopped playing Mrudangam after he got his ten thousand arms and stopped singing bhajans and now that Banasura had only four arms, he had started to do kirtans again. Kunti in her divine hymns to Lord Krishna sings –
“ Janmaishwarya shutha shibihi raedha mana madha puman|
naivarhath yabidhatum vai thvam akinchana gocharam”||

In one of our Guru Maharaj’s compositions known as Kali Dharma Undhiyar, it is said that “Jeevan Kudiyirukum chinna kutilayae upacharam thevaillai undi para” “Upayogam mattil andu undi para”

The body is verily the house of Jeeva [Soul] and needs no unnecessary fittings and needs to have only what is required. The Lord left Banasura with four hands and immune to old age and death. The Lord also told Lord Shiva that Banasura would be conferred with a name known as “Mahakalan” and that will reside in Mount Kailash. Lord Krishna killed Banasura’s mighty army since they were a huge burden to the earth. Banasura then offered obeisance to Lord Krishna by touching his head to the ground. He then seated his Aniruddha and the bride Usha on the chariot and brought them before the Lord. Lord Krishna then took leave from Lord Shiva and departed to the capitol Dwaraka which was lavishly decorated to welcome the Lord. Aniruddha and Usha lived happily ever after.

It is said in Srimad Bhagavatham that one cannot comprehend Lord Krishna for those who do not completely surrender to a Guru. For people who perform penance with the hope of attaining Lord Krishna will never get a chance to serve the Lord’s devotees. Only Guru Bhakti can usher Krishna Bhakti and cannot be got by directly worshipping Lord Krishna and one can reach Lord Krishna by doing service to Sadgurus.

The satsang ended with prayers and Namasankirtan.

Jul 8: Banasura – Part 1

8 Jul

In Srimad Bhagavatham, although Sage Shuka wanted to speak about Lord Krishna’s glories, he only elucidates in tenth canto. He does so because he wanted to build the clarity of mind and usher peace in heart and so expounded on the life-histories of the devotees of the Lord prior to Lord’s glories. He makes King Parikshit yearn to listen to Krishna’s glories. He introduced the life-history of Lord Krishna in the ninth canto and

kalau janishyamaNaanam duhka shoka tamo nudam
anugrahaaya bhaktanam supuNyam vyatanod yashah [Srimad Bhagavatham 9.24.61]

 

Sage Suka mentioned to King Parikshit that since it was the advent of Kali Yuga, the whole world was filled with sadness and grief and Lord Krishna incarnated on the earth to eradicate the darkness. Hearing this, Parikshit sprang up requesting Sage Suka to expound on the divine glories of the Lord since his body was saved by Lord Krishna who entered the womb of Uttara to save Parikshit from Ashwattama’s chakra.

drauNyastra viplushTam idham madh angam santhana bijam kuru paNDavanam

jugopa kukshim gatha attha chakro matus ca me yaH sharanam gatayaH     [Srimad Bhagavatham 10.1.6]

It is only then Sage Suka started to expound on the divine glories of Lord Krishna, the tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. Lord Sri Krishna enacted the divine glories in three places, Brindavan, Mathura and Dwaraka. All the acts of Lord Krishna as a youth were enacted in Brindavan and the act of slaying of Kamsa happened in Mathura and all the other divine plays that the Lord enacted happened in Dwaraka, after establishing the kingdom.  If we see the Damodara Leela or Shira Chora leela, the motherly love is lucidly depicted [vatsalyam]. The Brahma Mohana Leela of the Lord clearly depicts the friendship he developed with the Gopas and the Lord’s prowess is clearly shown when kidnapping Rukmini. Each of these acts of the Lord shows different traits of the Lord.  The Lord enacted these divine plays for his devotees to reminisce and enjoy the divine acts of the Lord.

Following this, young Sanjev from Dallas delivered a beautiful lecture on life-history of Banasura.

It is a general belief that one needs to accrue tremendous good merits over thousands of births to reminisce Srimad Bhagavatham and Srimad Ramayanam. While the term ‘luck’ [Adhristam] connotes something that cannot be discerned by intellect, Bhagavatas use the term ‘krupa’ since it cannot be perceived by the senses, but can very well be felt. The fact that devotees conglomerate to attend a satsang amidst their worldly chores lucidly shows the immense grace [krupa] of the Lord. Lord Krishna normally showers his blessings in myriad ways. Whatever sorrow or happiness one may experience is only due to sheer blessing of the Lord. Once, Lord Krishna and Sage Narada descended unto the earth to meet the people. After traversing through a forest they finally reached a village. They decided to retire for the day and so they knocked at the door of a villager. The house belonged to a miser and provided some rotted food for them to eat and gave them a torn blanket to retire on the pyol of the house. Next day, Lord Krishna blessed the miser that he would enjoy a whole lot of riches in the years to come and left. After some days, they went and knocked at the door of another old villager, who was a great devotee of the Lord [Bhagavatha]. But for a cow, he carried no other possessions. He scurried out to the barn to milk the cow to feed the guests and tried his best to comfort the guests for that night. The next day, Lord Krishna blessed him that his cow will meet its end very soon. Lord Narada witnessing this scene was bewildered and asked Krishna as to why he blessed the two villagers so contrastingly. He explained that the first villager had myriad of births in the future, from an insect to a bird and all the way to an animal and that he is going to accrue lot of karma and relations, while on the other hand, the old villager had only one cow as his relation and if that cow died, then there is no one for the old man and that he can spend all his time and energy to attain the holy feet of the Lord. Sanjeev then began narrating the story of Banasura and the satsang waited to hear if the Lord blessed or punished Banasura.

Srimad Bhagavatam says that there are two ways to approach a problem. Darkness is no sign of non- existence of light. One cannot drive away darkness but one can try to usher in light. In Sanatana Dharma, mind and vision [the way one perceives] is used interchangeably. Being bounded in the clutches of ignorance is akin to being tied up in a dark room. Bhagavatam predicts that one can have mental stress due to one of the three factors – Soha [depression], Moha [chasing behind something that is non-existent] and Baya [fear]. Anger and fear are the two sides of a coin.  Banasura was the eldest son of King Bali. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna and used to play musical instruments for Lord Shiva’s dance. He always wondered about Lord Shiva’s son Karthikeya, the personification of beauty. He aspired to become Shiva’s son as well and so he decided to perform a ferocious nonstop penance on Lord Shiva for this benediction. The merciful Lord along with his wife Uma gladdened by Banasura’s penance and granted him his benediction and accepted Banasura as their son [Manasika]. He was also endowed with one thousand hands and with those hands he totally conquered the three worlds. He was imprudent to request Lord Shiva to guard the fort of his kingdom. King Bali’s father was Virochana, an epitome of truth who was the son of Prahalada.  King Bali indeed possessed lots of Rajas qualities and was filled with ego and pride and they were vanquished by Lord Vamana. One is entitled to get the grace of the Lord when his/her ego is completely subjugated akin to the numeral zero which is a conceit number and is hollow inside to have the Lord reside in. The Lord comes and resides in one when one is devoid of any ego. The numeral eight is a curved zero like Maya. One can get to eight by making a curve over the number zero. How can one get eight back to number zero? When one dissuades away from Maya, the number eight can be brought back to zero. Bana possessed lot of Asura qualities in him but he did not trouble anyone unnecessarily. He only used to fight with people who were equivalent to him. Once, he wanted to test the strength of Ravana and so Bana requested him to lift the earrings of his great grand-father Hiranyakashipu. Ravana was unable to life the earrings and went back ashamed. He was very eager to strike a fight with someone. He once went to Shiva and confided in him that he is unable to find proper use for his thousand hands. He indirectly beseeched Lord Shiva to fight with him. Shiva in reply to his request told Bana that when the flag in his palace breaks, that is verily the indication that the enemy has come closer to humble him. Bana had a daughter named Usha and she loved Aniruddha who was Lord Krishna’s grandson even though she had not seen him. She had seen him in her dreams. Bana had a minister by name Kumbhanda who had a daughter named Chitraleka, who was also Usha’s close friend and companion. Seeing Usha is a state of quandary, Chitralekha enquired Usha with solicitude. Usha replied that she met someone in her dream state and was dark blue in complexion and also had dark blue eyes and was clad in yellow robes. Chitralekha then drew exact resemblances of personages and when she drew Aniruddha’s portrait, Usha acknowledged that he was the person whom she wished to marry. Chitralekha was endowed with Yogic powers that she went to Dwaraka and brought Anirrudha to Usha’s courtyard. Both of them lived together very happily for some time until Banasura came to know of this.  A big battled ensued between Aniruddha and the Asuras. Bana embarrassed by the Anirruddha’s strength did not want to kill him and instead tied him with his Nagahastram and imprisoned him. The flagstaff at Bana’s palace broke that day. Aniruddha started praying to Katyayani Devi and Yogamaya in the guise of Godavari Devi came in front of him and assured him that the snakes will do no harm to him and that Lord Sri Krishna will soon come to save him. When Aniruddha did not return to Dwaraka, Lord Krishna and Balarama were in extreme distress. They came to know from Sage Narada about Aniruddha’s captive. A large army with the adept Yadava warriors along with Balarama, Pradyumna, Satyaki and Samban under the leadership and protection of Lord Krishna set off to Banasura’s fortified capital and laid siege to the city and destroyed the city’s ramparts, gardens and other landscapes. Bana was filled with rage in seeing the city’s destruction. Lord Shiva advised Bana to welcome Lord Krishna and get his daughter Usha married to Aniruddha. However, Bana wanted to fight with someone of equal strength and wanted to fight with Lord Krishna with an army of equal size and requested Lord Shiva to help him fight the battle. Lord Shiva acceded to Bana’s request and hence came in his Nandi vehicle along with his son Karthikeya to fight Lord Krishna and Balarama on behalf of Bana. With single arrow from Lord Krishna’s bow [saranga] made many followers of Lord Shiva to flee the scene. The tumultuous battle continued with Lord Krishna fighting against Lord Shiva while Pradyumna fought against Karthikeya, Lord Balarama fought with Kumbanda and Kupakarna, Samba shot various weapons at Bana’s son and Satyaki had a fierce battle with Bana. Lord Brahma along with other Devas, Yakshas and Kinaras came to witness the battle. Lord Shiva attacked Lord Shiva with a myriad of weapons and Lord Krishna abrogated these weapons with the use of appropriate counter weapons. Lord Krishna knew what Lord Shiva perceived in his mind and Lord Shiva also read Lord Krishna’s mind. Both of them were not wounded and they both were devoid of anger and arrogance.  Lord Karthikeya was bombarded by a flood of arrows that rained from all sides from Pradyumna’s bow and scurried away in his peacock. Kumbhandha and Kupakarna fell down dead unable to bear the attack from Balarama and all soldiers started to run hither and thither in all directions after seeing their leaders’ dead. King Bana was furious to see his army torn apart and abandoned his fight with Satyaki and charged to the battle field to attack Lord Krishna. While Bana pulled simultaneously taut the strings all the five hundred bows with two arrows in each bow, Lord Krishna spilt into two every bow of Banasura and also knocked down the chariot driver. He then blew his conch shell. In order to save Bana, his mother Kotara came to the scene without any cloth on her and the Lord turned away in order to avoid seeing a naked woman and Bana used this as an opportunity to sneak away from the battle-field. Since Lord Shiva’s supporters banished, the Shivajvara that possessed three heads and three legs, the one that can burn everything came forward to attack Lord Krishna. He counteracted this with Vishnujvara, the Lord’s fever weapon and the Shivajvara surrendered to Krishna after the overwhelming attack by Vishnujvara.

He folded his palms and prostrated to the Lord and sang praises of the Lord –

namaami tvanantha shaktim paresham sarvaatmanam kevalam jnapthi mathram
visvothpatti sthana-samrodha-hethum yath thad brahma brahma lingam prashantam
kaalo daivam karma jeeva svabhavo dravyam kshetram praaNa atma vikaaraH
tath-sanghato biija roha pravaahas tvan mayaisha tan niShedham prapadhye
nana bhavair lilayaivopapaannair devan sadhun lokha sethun bibharsi
hamsy unmargan himsaaya varthamanan janmaitath te bhara haraya bhumeh
taptho ham te tejasa duHsahena santogreṇaty ulbaṇena jhvareNa
tavat tapo dehinaam thenghri mulam no severan yavad aasanubaddhaH [Srimad Bhagavatham 10.63.25-28]

Lord Krishna pleased with Shivajvara dispelled his Vishnujvara fear and went away. He also blessed that anyone who remembers the conversation will be devoid of any fear. From nowhere, Bana suddenly appeared and came to attack Lord Krishna. The infallible Lord using his Chakra severed Bana’s hands.

Lord Shiva felt compassionate for Banasura prostrated to Lord’s Chakra and with folded hands started sing praises on the Lord.

The satsang ended with prayers and Namasankirtan.

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.

Nov 12: Bhagavatam Summary

12 Nov

Sri Aravindji fromFloridadelivered a beautiful lecture elucidating on the greatness of Srimad Bhagavatam.

Srimad Bhagavatam speaks volumes about the glories of Bhagavan and the Bhagavatas.  This holy granta is Lord Krishna Himself [Swayam Krishna].

“Srimad Bhagavathakyoyam Prathyaksha Krishna eva hi”

The lord merged into Srimad Bhagavatam to benefit the people in this age of Kali. Every syllable in this Maha Purana connotes Lord Krishna.

Can the Unborn be born? And even if he does, can He be born in the form of a book?  When he can take the form of a boar, why not as a grantha!  And the reason for all of this is nothing but His infinite compassion.

One day Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was performing a Pooja to Radha-Kantha – his personalKrishnadeity, when he was bestowed with a divine vision – a divine jyoti (light) rises from the deity, enters his own body and leaves it to enter Srimad Bhagavatam granta- and then converges back into Radha Kanta.  Unable to decipher the divine message, he questioned the Lord and the Lord said that it was to show that Srimad Bhagavatam is verilyKrishna.

“Srimad bhagavthi suranaam athi durlabham” – Bhagavatam is difficult even for the Devas!

A person from the South wished to undertake a pilgrimage toNorth India.  At about the same time, he received an invitation from his friend to attend a Bhagavata Saptaham that the latter hosted.  He gently denied the invitation and set out on the trip.  After traveling hundreds of miles, he reachedVaranasi.  It was late in the night and he rested in the pyol of a householder’s place.  Someone came to enquire directions to go to theGanges, and the householder replied that he didn’t know.  Witnessing this conversation, the gentleman from the south thought, ‘Ridiculous!  How terrible a sinner this fellow is, that living inVaranasi, he doesn’t know the route to theGanges!  Its verily a sin to even rest in this person’s house!’ and he walked away.  The next morning, he headed for theGangesto take a dip, and surprisingly, even as he reached the banks, he was not able to see the river flowing!  Later he understood that he was not able to see the river because of the two sins that he has committed!  Contemplating on his acts, the man walked back and realized what happened the previous night and went to the householder’s residence.  As he approached, he saw a few women, dingy dark and dirty entering the house and then leaving the house in a gorgeous celestial form.

He was now confident that the householder was no less than a Mahatma and that an ‘apachara’ to the Mahatma has made the river invisible to him.  He entered the house and fell at the feet of the Mahatma – and asked him, who those women were.  They were indeed the holy rivers –Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswathi!  He wanted to know what kind of austerities / poojas the person was performing that the very holy rivers were getting cleansed at his home!  All he was doing was – placing a flower on a text of Srimad Bhagavatam every day! At once he realized, that the second sin was that of declining an invitation to Srimad Bhagavata Saptaham!

A similar incident happened in our Satsang as well. There was a person in the town ofAmburin Tamil Nadu and one fine day, our Swamiji went to their house.  The entire family was taken by surprise! It later turned out that the only pooja that they were doing was to keep a flower on the Bhagavatam Granta at their pooja room – not even aware of the fact that it was Srimad Bhagavatam!  Such is the greatness of Srimad Bhagavatam.

The first canto of Bhagavatam speaks of three women –Kunti, Draupadi and Uttara, in reverse order, each one being the daughter -in-law of the other!  After the Mahabharata War, Draupadi woke up to be pained to know that her five sons have been charred to death by Ashwattama, Drona’s son.  Unable to bear the grief, Arjuna vowed to kill the perpetrators of the arson and chased Ashwattama and brought him before Draupadi.  Draupadi immediately bowed to Ashwattama and pleaded to her husbands to let him off, for three reasons – Ashwattama was a Brahmin, the son of their Guru, and above all, she didn’t want Ashwattama’s mother Gautami to suffer the same pains as she was going through.  Indeed, the compassionate heart of a mother, a woman being portrayed here.

Following this, Ashwattama is let off, and he casts another Brahmastra on the womb of Uttara, who bears the only child of the Pandava lineage.  Uttara comes crying running to Sri Krishna pleading to protect the womb.  This episode depicts Draupadi’s immense love and compassion on one who had caused her lots of grief.  That child was verily King Parikshit, without whom there wouldn’t have been Bhagavatam at all!  Bhagavatam also speaks about Kunti who does a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving for everythingKrishnadoes for her, and surprisingly asks for more sorrows!

Bhagavatam then goes to speak about the Leelas of the Lord starting from the cosmic creation.  The incarnations of the Lord, the ‘Charitras’ of His devotees like Dhruva and Prahlada are narrated.  In Dhruva Charitra,  narada is seen as giving benedictions to Dhruva and the latter goes to entice the Lord through his tapas.  Prahlada Charitra shows the beautiful precept that steadfast devotion of the Lord can surpass myriad of obstacles that come by in life.  As a central piece of jewel comes the story of Ajamila – who was liberated at his last breath by the Divine Name, even after having committed the gravest of sins is elucidated.  The liberation of the elephant king Gajendra who is put into terminal danger shows us that one can be freed from the pangs of death by surrender.  The churning of the ocean of milk to get the divine nectar (Amrutha Mathanam) and the story of Balifollows.  Then Sage Shuka speaks about the story of Ambarisha, to underline the importance of ‘Vinayam’ (humility) – the absence of which makes one unfit to Krishna Leela – which is the sum and substance of the following, 10th Canto, nay, the entire Bhagavatam!

In his Satpadi Stotra, Adi Shankara preaches about what one should ask for when offering prayers to the Lord –

“Avinayam Apanaya Vishno Damayam Manaha samaya visayayam
mhrihathdrishna Bootha daya vistaraya taraya samsara saarad taapad “

Humility is associated with a gentleman. The virtue of Vinaya constitutes humility, gentleness, consideration for others. The education that one acquires should inculcate this quality in all of us.

In Bhagavat Gita, while speaking about a scholar, says ‘vidyA vinaya sampanne…’ – underlining tha the trait of humility is the foremost.

Padmapada, a disciple of Adi Shankara in his hymns of praise on his guru Adi Shankara sings –

“Prathyasa Unmuka Vinitha Vinaya Bringah”

He calls the disciples of Adi Shankara as “Bringah” and that they are drinking the nectar of all commentaries from the lotus like lips of their Guru, Sri Adi Shankaracharya.

The expression used to indicate the disciples is “Vinitha Vinaya Bringah”. The disciples who have come to be equipped with humility have now been transformed into “Vinitha” which is verily the person possessing this virtue of humility.

So how is this possible?  It is verily the presence of the Guru that has bestowed the disciples with the virtue of humility. This goes to show that this important quality can only be bestowed by one’s own Sadguru. He would inculcate this important trait before placing his disciples unto the lotus feet of the Lord.

It is only with this virtue of humility that one proceeds to the 10th Canto, which is prescribed for everyday reading ‘nityam dasamasya paataath’.  The Eleventh Canto is the essence of Bhagavata Dharma described in the conversation of Uddhava with Krishna.  The 12th Canto speaks of the greatness of Nama Sankirtan  in this Kali Yuga!

“nAma sankirtanam yasya sarva pApa praNAshanam
PranAmo dukkha shamanah tam namAmi harim param”

So how is one bestowed with Srimad Bhagavatam? It is verily the grace of a Guru that will bless his devotees with this Srimad Bhagavatam.  When the Lord decides to take someone unto his fold, then the first indication is blessing his devotee with Srimad Bhagavatam.

The satsang ended with Namasankritan and prayers after reminiscing on Srimad Bhagavatam.

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