‘Parithavittha parikshittum kettadhu harikathayai
aridhinum aridhAna hari charaNaththai adainthAn…’
goes the kirtan of Sri Muralidhara Swamiji. Parikshit who was suffering from the three kinds of ills and Srimad Bhagavatam was an elixir to him, which he listened to and that was his means to attain the feet of Lord Hari, which is the rarest of the rarest.
Further, it says that it contains the stories of Bhagavatas like Gajendra, and the story of the Lord’s incarnation as Lord Hari, who came down to protect these great Bhaktas.
Let us look at a situation. A poor man needs some money for his daily bread. So he approaches a home and calls for help and is refused. Then he starts extolling the householder as the most generous person on earth. Immediately the householder is happy and gives him some money. On another instance this person wanted a bigger amount to treat an illness and he knows that the earlier householder would not donate such an amount, no matter how much he praised him. So he would go to a wealthier person with the same encomium. In general, one would assess the capability of a person before seeking his help. You wouldn’t approach an old / fragile person for help with a physical activity. Thus, for things that seem trivial, we go to people around you for help. If the situation is out of control and the solution seems to be beyond the ken of our intellect, then we surrender to the Lord. Bhagavatam shows us how one should approach the Lord for anything and everything. One who can give a million dollars can also give you $100! When one surrenders to the Lord, he saves us from all the trivial miseries of the world, as well as saves us from the huge ocean of transmigration. This fact is beautifully expounded in Gajendra Moksham.
When the alligator caught the feet of Gajendra, his instinctive prayer was to get himself rid of clasp of the alligator. But if that were his eventual motive, he could have called out to any and every deity that has the Siddhi to relieve him from the alligator. But Gajendra realized that this is not the end-all. Getting freed from an alligator doesn’t guarantee that he would be free from more dangerous entities, the most dangerous one being death!
Then Gajendra realized, ‘bhItam prapannam paripAti yatbhayAn mruthyuh pradAvatyaraNnam tamImahI’ – so he calls the one, who can allay that very fear of death! The one who can bestow him the state of deathlessness – or Moksha, and indeed Lord Hari came down.
In the Kirtan, our Guru Maharaj says,
‘hariyai nambi kettavar purANaththilum illai’ – there cannot be a more trustworthy entity than Lord Sri Hari.
And how does Bhagavatam transform one? ‘paripakkuvam Akki hari bhaktiyaitharum’ – it transforms one to be fit to do Bhakti. It transforms even a ruffian’s heart into a soft one and makes the flower of Hari Bhakti blossom in his heart. Such is the glory of Bhagavatam which is nonpareil!
From such a nectar called Bhagavatam, let us continue with the 11th canto lectures from where we left last…
The 11th Canto starts with Navayogi Upakhyana. Then Uddhava Gita starts. In any transaction, the ‘adhikaritva’ (capability) of the giver and the receiver matters. The giver is none other than the supreme being – Lord Krishna and in Bhagavat Gita, the receiver (listener) is Arjuna, who had been all along withKrishna since the time of Arjuna’s marriage and here the Adhikari is Uddhava. Although Uddhava’s father andKrishna’s father Vasudeva were cousins, they were not collocated and yet Uddhava thought about Lord Krishna all the time.
The word ‘Uddhava’ itself means ‘being happy / celebrating all the time ’ as Sri Swamiji’s kirtan goes – ‘Utsaaha uddhavam aham namAmi…’ . Now, how could can separation fromKrishnabring happiness to Uddhava? Uddhava would celebrate at the very thought ofKrishnaand His leelas. Bhagavatam says, that when Uddhava was 5 years old, his mother would call him to take breakfast. Uddhava would say, ‘Mom! I don’t want breakfast. I am busy herding cows. Wouldn’tKrishnatoo be herding cows back in Brindavanam now? Wouldn’tKrishnabe playing with the Gopas in Gokulam now? I too want to play with Gopas…’. Such was his ‘smarana’ Bhakti.
How could the Lord stand a devotee who thinks about Him always being separated from Him? So when the time was ripe, He takes over such a Bhakta unto Him. He summoned Uddhava whenKrishnacreated Dwaraka and made him the minister.
The listener of Uddhava Gita is such!
When Uddhava and Krishna meet at Prabhasa Kshetra, Uddhava pleads to Krishna with his questions whenKrishnadecides to leave this Universe. Krishna convinces Uddhava that he cannot accompanyKrishnaand that he had to lead the life of an ascetic being on this earth. To prepare him for such a life,Krishnaspeaks about the greatness of the Guru and narrates the Avadhoota Gita (the 24 Gurus). Uddhava recognizes Lord Krishna as His Guru. It is said in the Gita,
‘tadviddhi praNipAtena pariprashnena sevayA’
One may be ridden with numerous questions. But when he goes to the sanctum of a Sadguru, all his questions will vanish.
Paul Brunton a European, was fascinated by the mysticism ofIndiaand came down to the South. By God’s grace he chanced to meet his Guru – Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai. He had a notebook full of questions to ask Ramana. When he came to the precincts of the Ashram, the Sage recognized Paul Brunton and had him sit in His presence. He didn’t even bother to beckon Paul Brunton to shoot his questions, although He knew that there were many. Half a day passed that way and then, the Sage asked Paul to have his lunch, even warning that it could be a little too spicy for him! When Paul was back from lunch, Bhagavan Ramana said, ‘Go ahead with your questions’. At that moment, Paul Brunton closed his notebook and exclaimed, ‘No more questions’!
All his questions had vanished in the presence of the Mahatma, as Bhagavatam says:
‘Bhidyate hrudayagrantih chidyante sarva samshayA
kshIyante chAsya karmAni drushtayevAtmanIshvare’
‘all knots of the hearts are untied and all doubts cease…’.
But, still, if one has questions, then they are results of a true quest.
Someone, came and asked our Guru Maharaj ‘What is the purpose of my life?’. Many great men have given various different answers – ‘to realize God’, ‘to attain His Holy Feet’ and so on. But our Guru Maharaj’s answers are always unique.
He answered, ‘The purpose of your life hitherto was to ask this question. Today you have come to a point where you have this genuine question in your heart and you sincerely seek an answer to this question. That has been the purpose of your life!’ – The moment you attain a Sadguru, all your doubts will be cleared. But if there is still a question to ask, save the question and getting it answered – is verily the purpose of one’s life! Indeed an esoteric message made simple!
All the questions that Uddhava poses to Lord Krishna in Uddhava Gita are such questions!
EarlierKrishna concluded, ‘Uddhava, you have now listened to Avadhoota Gita. Let me tell you how one should lead his life – one should lead a life quitting vices like pride, laziness, jealousy, envy and ego and should have staunch faith in Me, not being distracted by anything in the world and speak as less as possible.’
Then Uddhava askedKrishnato explain him as to who is bounded to the samsara (‘baddha’) and who is liberated (‘mukhta’). He went further, requestingKrishnato expound on the characteristics of a liberated soul, how he walks, how he eats, how he sits etc.
With a smile,Krishnasaid, ‘Uddhava, your question is primarily flawed!’
He continued, ‘Who is bound? And who is liberated? There is no binding, and hence no relieving!’
‘baddho mukta itivyAkyA guNato me na vastutah
guNasya mAyA mUlatvAt na me moksho na bandanam’
One’s natural state is the state of being free – then where is the question of being bound and being liberated? It is only a figure of speech when we say one is bound in ‘samsAra’ and one has to be liberated. To clarify this fact, Lord Krishna goes on to narrate a story, one that has been spoken about in detail in the Upanishads.
In a forest is a Peepul tree with numerous branches and on one of the branches, there are two beautiful golden-winged birds, that look exactly alike. They were very close friends. One of the birds feeds on the fruit from the tree and as it eats more and more into the fruit, becomes pale and emaciated. The other bird keeps watching the feeding bird but not lets out a word, patiently waiting for the friend to turn unto it. The feeding bird is so busy into eating that it has completely forgotten the existence of a friend nearby, and does not even realize that the fruit is making it lose its complexion and health. This goes on for years and years together, and eventually there comes a point when the emaciated bird, gets bored of the fruit and stops feeding on it. At this instant, it turns to the friend, who is still there, patiently waiting, and the moment it sees its friend, it realizes the true nature and there are no more two birds – just one, it takes flight from the tree.
The Jeevatma and the Paramatma are the two birds, that look alike – sitting on a tree called Samsara – the human body. The Jeevatma is submerged in the ‘fruit’ of its activity (karma) and the Paramatma, although is the owner of everything, still looks on, as if it is disconnected from everything. The Paramatma or the ‘tattva’ of the Guru, patiently waits on the Jeevatma to turn unto ‘it’. Eventually, after births together, the Jeevatma, through ‘dukha doshanudarshanam’ – learning from experience the bane of the misery of the samsara and being frustrated by the sorrows through Guru’s grace, turns to the Guru / Lord. The rest is history!
After narrating this beautiful story, Lord Krishna goes on… answering Uddhava’s other questions, expounding the qualities of the ‘baddha’ (bound person) and the liberated.
A liberated one would never identify himself with his body, just like one who is asleep might, in his sleep, dream of himself being a pauper. The moment the dreamer wakes up, he knows that he is not the one who was personified in his dream. He is indeed a wealthy person. Likewise, one bound in samsara, identifies himself with his body and complains all the time that he is lowly, he is mean, he is entangled in the problems of the world and that he is a wreck. A liberated one doesn’t identify himself to be a body and hence is sans complaints.
The sense organs (‘indriya’) are the sensors of the mind and the mind reacts to the stimulus given to these sensors. Although a liberated one may physically possess all the senses (‘indriya’), he would not own them, or their responses. Though the sense organs work, he doesn’t believe that they work for him, while the bound one, believes, relies on and owns completely his senses.
To the questions on how he would sleep, eat, walk etc., Lord Krishna told Uddhava that there was absolutely no difference between the acts of a liberated soul and an ignorant one. By mere looks, one cannot identify a liberated one. He never claims himself to be a Jnani either! However, if you watch his activities closely, you may identify by his nature!
When someone badmouths him, he doesn’t care, and at the same time, when someone sings praises of him, he doesn’t care too, just like the child (in the 24 Gurus). Jadabharata was an example! Some wanted to perform Puja to him and some wanted to slay him! In either instance he sat like a rock, unmoved. Praises and abuses are alike to an insentient thing, can it?
Above all,Krishnasays, that by mere reading of the Vedas and the Upanishads, one doesn’t become liberated. Anyone that gives a discourse on Vedanta doesn’t become a liberated being. A liberated one brings into experience what is said in the scriptures.
Having narrated about all the qualities of a liberated soul, Lord Krishna makes us realize how lucky all of us are! We have been bestowed with a Sadguru, a beautiful Satsangam, and Bhagavatam!
There was a household that had bought a calf considering it to be auspicious and started feeding her. They waited for the calf to grow older so that she would give sufficient milk and so they could make a living out of it, as they suffered in penury. The cow grew older and all their material wealth was depleted in feeding the cow, but alas, the cow wouldn’t give a drop of milk! It was a non-milking cow! At this point, the household would be helpless, as they wouldn’t get rid of the cow, just because it is considered auspicious, and the cow wouldn’t milk after all! What a waste!
Then there was a couple who were married for a while. The wife was the spendthrift of the highest order. She would be involved in all kinds of social activity, spend all her time in meeting her friends, shopping, dressing up, attending parties and dinners. But when her husband would ask her for a small favor, she would tell him all sorts of reasons and turn him down. Not limiting to this, the wife would even speak ill of her husband in utter disrespect to her friends and neighbors. On the other hand, he would brag about the greatness of her wife to his friends! How terrible the family life becomes! What a waste!
God has blessed us with a beautiful human body so that we can perform Bhakti, Nama Sankirtan and Bhagavata Parayana. But instead, we end up selling our body for mundane joys of the world. What are the mundane joys? We spend all our energy, resources and time with work and work alone – off-hours, extra-time, so much so that we boldly complain that we don’t ‘find’ time to chant the Mahamantra! The boss wouldn’t sanction vacation if we planned to go to Madhurapuri to witness the Brahmotsav of Thakurji. Work, work and work all the time! All, with money in mind! Friends, haven’t we completely missed the point by making accessories as essentials, and essentials as optional? Haven’t we lost the wonderful opportunity given to us? What a waste!
The parents in a household leave no stones unturned to educate their son. They dedicate the prime of their lives in bringing up their son, sending him abroad for higher studies and seeing him well-settled. After his retirement, the parents wish to settle in Madhurapuri Ashram to enjoy the bliss of our Madhuri Sakhi – Premika Varadan day in and day out, at least in their old age. But they get a call from their son that they should fly to theUSto babysit his children. They fly to the US and the elderly mother is busy taking care of the newborn, and as the father opens up a notebook to write ‘Rama’ Nama or starts reading Bhagavatam or dials into a telecon satsang, the son would quip, ‘Dad, why do you while away time like this?! I shall look for a good part-time job for you in a grocery store nearby – that way it will serve as a good income for our family now!’ How unfortunate! Should not the son, as a duty, take care of his parents during their old age, or at the least, refrain from troubling them? Should he not try to repay all that the parents had done for him? What is the use of bringing up such kids! What a waste!
These four examples are cited by Lord Krishna to say, how one should not waste this human life of his.
Over and above these four examples,Krishnagoes on…
Every one has a mouth, everyone has a tongue. If that tongue cannot chant the Mahamantra or speak / read Bhagavatam but would speak of all the worldly matters, it is the waste of the highest order! Tulsidas Maharaj goes to say, the mouth that doesn’t chant the Rama Nama is like an anthill and the tongue is like a snake, spewing the venom of worldliness. They would spend hundreds on all worldly matters, but would think a hundred times before buying a bouquet of flowers for the Lord or buying fruits for offering!
What is the difference between a music concert and a bhajan, when both are about music and singing? A concert is about the claps of the people, while a Bhajan is about the claps ofKrishna. A bhajan gives an opportunity for all to sing along… ‘raaga jnaanamum thevaiyum illai….’ Says our Guru Maharaj in a kirtan. – No need of any knowledge of music, just requires devotion in the hearts. However, one may say that the Bhajans are too complex, are in a foreign language etc. and cannot be sung! That is why, we have the Namavalis, where the Divine Names are strung together in music and sung. A few can not even follow and sing the Namavalis. For those people, we have the Pundareekam ‘Gopika Jeevanasmaranam , Govinda! Govinda!’ Simply chant ‘Govinda’, ‘Govinda’. No pre-requisites here, and yet a few feel shy to open their mouths and would bend their heads down! A few would do it only in a large gathering (‘kootathoda govinda!’ in Tamizh) and a few keep mum!
Lord Krishna Himself feels sorry for such souls! ‘dukha dukhi’ He says! ‘who can help such unfortunate souls’,Krishnasays to Uddhava. ‘Truly fortunate are those who have gotten a beautiful satsang, who chant My Divine Names, who recount My divine glories all the time! They are indeed my true devotees’,Krishnaconcludes.
As we see,Krishnastarted off with the greatness of a Jnani and ends with a greatness of a true devotee – placing the true devotee at a higher pedestal than a Jnani! Uddhava acknowledges Krishna, ‘Krishna! I now understand the qualities of a Jnani, his disposition and qualities. But please throw more light on a Bhakta! What is the nature of a true Bhakta? Who else can speak about a true Bhakta other than You,Krishna!’
The satsang ended with Prayers with Nama Sankirtan.