Roar 72 describes the two major functions – one Sri Krishna Janmashtami held on 14 August 2017 and another – a sequel to this function. The latter one was a Cultural programme where Children from the Hinduism classes participated…
Roar 72 describes the two major functions – one Sri Krishna Janmashtami held on 14 August 2017 and another – a sequel to this function. The latter one was a Cultural programme where Children from the Hinduism classes participated…
Bhagavan Sri Krishna’s birth is a great occasion to remember His Divinity. The Janmashtami function will be held at the Temple Hall from 6 15 pm…
In paying tribute to the great saint Shri Kanaka Dasa, the Government of Karnataka in India has declared his birth day as a State holiday. All the government offices, schools and colleges around the state celebrate the birth anniversary of Shri Kanaka Dasa who made even the Lord turn around and made Him listen to his prayers. At the request of Pravrajika Ishtaprana, I gave the following article, written for children. She published in Deepika, an annual children’s magazine brought out by Sri Sarada Devi Ashram at Asherville, Durban.
Magnet attracts Metal
The other day I was talking to a group of children. They were Sonal, Sashiv, Sundar, Mishka, Kareena and Payal. It is always refreshing to talk to children. One little girl, Sonal, enquired why she is attracted to visit the ashram regularly while some of her friends are not inclined to come. I told her that the Lord, who is the Supreme Controller of this universe, is indeed like a magnet. We are all like iron metal pieces attracted to this grand magnet and therefore visit the ashram. Those who do not like to visit holy places are also like metal but are covered with so much dust that the magnet cannot attract them.
I asked the children what they do at the ashram. Sashiv, a young boy, said that he neatly arranges all the prayer books that were used in the morning. Another child, Mishka, said that she loves to clean the shrine carpet so that they can sit and study comfortably. Kareena teaches the little kids on how to behave in the ashram. Payal takes care of all the musical instruments.
One boy, Sundar, said that he enjoys ‘meditation’. I was surprised and asked him what he does during meditation. He told me that his mother tells him captivating stories about Lord Krishna and he sits quietly in the shrine and mentally recounts the whole story.
So I said, “Come Sundar, today you will tell us the story that your mother told you!” Sundar gladly agreed and began relating the story.
The Singing Saint
The story is an interesting one and concerns a lovely incident that happened in the life of one great devotee. This devotee was born in the present Karnataka State in India, about 500 years ago. He became very popular by the name of Kanaka Dasa.
Kanaka Dasa was devoted to the worship of the Lord in the form of Sri Krishna. Whatever he did – whether working in the fields or going to the market to purchase any item, cleaning the courtyard of his home or even taking care of his parents – he used to think of Lord Krishna and would always express his gratefulness to the Lord Sri Krishna. He became expert in singing the glory of God.
Once on his pilgrimage, he came to a small town called Udupi. In this town there was a beautiful temple dedicated to Sri Krishna. Kanaka Dasa was very eager to visit this temple and have darshan of the Lord.
Denied but Determined
But in those days, people born of lower castes were not allowed entry into the temple. Only the people of higher castes could enter and perform the worship. Coming to know of his social status, the men at the gate forbade Kanaka Dasa from entering the temple. Greatly disappointed, he went behind the temple and sat outside the fence just opposite a small window. This window was behind the Lord’s beautiful stone image. Though denied he was fully determined to see the Lord.
Kanaka Dasa could not see the Lord because the image was facing the entrance on the other side. Sitting there, he felt so unhappy that he began shedding tears profusely. He pleaded with God that was he not like the piece of metal drawn by the magnet in the form of Sri Krishna? He came to see the Lord but was not successful in having His darshan. He began to sing the glory of the Lord throughout the night, with copious tears flowing from his eyes.
Metal attracts Magnet
Just before daybreak, the people of the town who were passing by that temple noticed an amazing and surprising phenomenon. When they went into the temple as usual to offer their morning worship, they found that the image of Sri Krishna had turned 180° (half circle) and was now facing Kanaka Dasa! Behold! It was a miracle that the Lord had performed to make others understand the glory of His devotee!
We listened to Sundar’s story with keen attention. The boy said that his mother also told him what she learnt from the Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna. Sometimes the devotee becomes the magnet, and the Lord a metal, who is attracted by the devotee. He told us that even today, in that Sri Krishna temple of Udupi, the Lord is facing the window and not the entrance to the sanctum!
The Lord always fulfils the earnest prayer of a sincere devotee.
May Sri Krishna bestow ‘buddhi yogam’ – the Right Understanding to all of us !
|| Aum Shri Raamakrishnaarpanamastu ||
Aum Namo Narayanaya!
Hearty, Happy Diwali Greetings! May this Diwali brighten up your life, may it lighten your burden and may it enlighten your path!
Swami Saradaprabhanandaji, officials from Headquarters and all devotees here join me in wishing you all a wonderful Diwali !
Ray of hope?
Our world today is at the crossroads. While charity to help the poor and needy is increasing, it is disconcerting to see the rise of violence – domestic or national, crime, obscenity, corruption and other expressions of ill-gotten wealth. Serious people devoted to God and godly means of living are indeed worrying about the future prospects of their children. Is there, among the gloomy cloudiness, any shiny ray of hope?
It is in this context that the various celebrations that have come to us from time immemorial from the spiritual land of Bharat hold the clue. One of the most loved celebration of all the Hindus the world over, is the Festival of Lights – Diwali, also called Deepavali. This ‘Five-day Festival’, as I explained in my last year Diwali post, traces the spiritual expansion of human growth culminating in the gaining of knowledge of God.
Diwali signifies lighting of lamps in every household on the Amavasya night that follows the bright fortnight after Vijaya Dashami. No doubt this occasion marks joy and merriment. On the Diwali Day, rows of lamps decorate the houses and presents are exchanged. Diwali, in the north of India, is associated with the coronation of Lord Sri Rama when he returned to Ayodhya (in Uttar Pradesh) after vanquishing the demon King of Ceylon, Ravana on the day of Dasshera. Sri Ram had been in exile for fourteen years and the people were pleased to see his return to Ayodhya.
We get a graphic description of how the people of Ayodhya welcomed Sri Rama, Mother Sita and others in Sri Ramacharitamanasa written by the great saint Tulasidas.
He says that “when the information reached the citizens, men and women all ran out in their joy (to meet their Lord). With gold plates containing curds, Durva grass, the sacred yellow pigment known by the name of Gorocana, fruits and flowers and young leaves of the sacred Tulasi (basil) plant, the root of all blessings, ladies sallied forth with the stately gait of an elephant, singing as they went.
All ran out just as they happened to be and did not take children or old folk with them. People asked one another: “Brother, did you see the gracious Lord of the Raghus?” Having come to know of the Lord’s advent, the city of Ayodhya became a mine of all beauty. A delightful breeze breathed soft, cool and fragrant. The Sarayu rolled down crystal clear water.
Again continuing to explain the warmth of reception accorded to Sri Rama, saint Tulasidas says that “the citizens were transported with joy at the sight of the Lord. All the woes begotten of their separation from the Lord now ended.
“Seeing all the people impatient in their love to meet the Lord, the All-merciful Slayer of Khara wrought a miracle. He forthwith appeared in countless forms and in this way the gracious Lord met everybody in an appropriate manner.
“amita rupa pragate tehi kala, jatha joga mile sabahi kripala”
Saint Tulasidas just wonders how the mystery of Sri Rama in taking many forms and meeting each citizen could not be comprehended by anyone! Here in the words of Sri Ramakrishna, God became the ‘needle’ and the bhakta, the ‘magnet’.
When the Devi Chandika battles with different demons, there emanates from Her forehead the awesome and ferocious Kali. As Her origin is associated with the third eye, called ajna chakra in the yogic parlance, She represents the intellectual and intuitive faculties. Kali seeks out and destroys the little lower self (which is ruled by rajas and tamas) so that it will obtain progressively higher levels of knowledge. This chakra denotes the silence of a soundless state when the true knowledge dawns.
The worship of the Divine Mother Sri Sri Kali at Belur Math on 13 November 2012, will be LIVE webcast at http://www.belurmath.tv
Lamp of knowledge
This festival gives us, Hindus, an opportunity to go beyond the external extravaganza. It offers an opportunity to dive deep into one’s heart and search for all types of demoniac qualities residing inside. Thus, the need is felt to clear the darkness from the heart. To drive away the darkness we have to light the lamp thus let the Light of knowledge in.
Sri Krishna encountered the demon Narakasura, who before his death entreated the Lord to celebrate with lighting of diya and burning firecrackers. We all do the latter part but do not pay attention in removing the darkness. As Swami Vivekananda says, darkness in a sealed room over one thousand years will instantly vanish the moment a matchstick is lighted. Knowledge of God is light. When a lamp is lit on Diwali, just pray to your chosen ideal that the darkness of ignorance be removed from your heart.
Destroying the darkness
It is in the Gita that ultimately the philosophy of Diwali emerges. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna says that out of compassion for the devotees, He, residing within their hearts, certainly destroys the darkness born of ignorance with the radiant lamp of knowledge. (Ch X.11). In The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, we find Master singing melodiously this song:
“Light up O Mind! Light up! True wisdom’s shining lamp and let it burn with steady flame unceasingly in your heart”
Hence, while celebrating Diwali, let us pray to the Divinity (in whatever form one may believe in) to bestow the right knowledge by which we can lead a peaceful and prosperous life with service to the poor and needy.
It is my fervent prayer that each one of us be blessed with such noble and divine qualities! May the light of the lamp burn brightly in our hearts on this holy occasion of Diwali !
असतो मा सद्गमय | तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय | मृत्योर् मा अमृतं गमय | ॐ शांति: शांति: शांति: || Om asato ma sat gamaya | Tamaso ma jotir gamaya | Mrityor ma amritam gamaya | Om shanti shanti shantihi ||
Enchanting eight day functionI have the honour to receive host of mails from devotees of different parts of the world enquiring how Sri Krishna Janmashtami celebrations were conducted by our Centre in South Africa. Thanks for their well-meant curiosity. I do take delight in expressing in detail an account on the Sri Krishnashtami celebrations here at our headquarters in Durban. There were Satsangs every evening from the first day to the last ashtami day i.e . for all eight days! Satsang here has a definite pattern.
Themes for Talks
First four days I had vocal rest, as, a week back I had a bad laryngitis. On fifth day morning I addressed Senior Citizens at our Phoenix sub-centre. The point of my address was that the idols or pictures are not to be viewed as mere stones or paper but as a manifestation of the One, supreme Divinity. In the evening I reached Verulam where in the Gopallaala temple I met devotees and spoke on Sri Krishna’s mercy. On the sixth day I had to travel to Stanger, a one-hour distance in the severe cold. There also the Gracious God was the theme. On the seventh day at our HQ Sri Ramakrishna Temple hall, I spoke on Sri Krishna and the Black Cobra. It was the story of poisonous Kaliya and how Sri Krishna tamed it and the spiritual import of this charming story.
On the eighth day, which was the last auspicious ashtami evening, my theme for the discussion was the Divine birth of the Unborn. We had two sessions. In the first session the theory of Incarnation was dealt with. And in the second session the secret of the Unborn Supreme God appearing as baby Krishna to Devaki and Vasudeva was explained.
Brother Saradaprabhananda this year went to Chatsworth branch and gave discourses there for all eight days on the significance of the Fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. The first six evening Satsangs at HQ were addressed by our Youth members. I was witness to their speeches. On hearing them speak with confidence, I joined others in the audience in appreciating them for the research they had done on different themes and how they, in simple form, placed the ideas before the public.
Every evening of the Krishnashtami celebration, Satsang attracted a large number of devotees. There were lot of bhajans and kirtans till the end of the program. Selected passages from Srimad Bhagavad Gita were sung to the traditional tunes every evening satsang. The temple was beautifully decorated. The yugal murti Sri Radha-Krishna bedecked with finery and ornaments dazzled every one. At the stroke of midnight 12, the baby Krishna in a beautiful cradle was brought out to the audience. Finally with arati to Sri Radha-Krishna and offering of flower and rocking the cradle by every assembled devotee the solemn program came to an end with distribution of prasad.
The devotion of the devotees is worth noting; what a verve and vigour in singing bhajans! And faith and fervour in performing worship! And the day-long fasting and sitting in the temple for such long hours – absolutely maintaining utmost discipline – no chitchat, no gossip and all are tuned to the discourse and songs.
Hearty, Happy Diwali Greetings to every dear reader-devotee! May this Diwali lighten up your life, may it lighten down your burden and may it enlighten your intellect and lead you from dark alleys to Lighted path!I owe an apology to all of you for not meeting you through this blog in the past four months. Well, its not fourteen years as Sri Rama’s exile! To return to blog writing is absolutely not only a pleasure but also a personal e-sadhana for me which I must nourish and cherish. This Diwali post is 101st and barely 2900 hits are required to reach one hundred one thousand hits! Enquiries from ever-loving readers evoke in me enough encouragement and I do hope at least once a month I shall, by His grace continue to visit your inbox without fail! Thanks for your wonderful support in keeping the lamp aflame!
Our world today is at the crossroads. While charity to help the poor and needy is delightfully increasing, it is disconcerting to see the rise of violence – domestic or national, crime, obscenity, corruption and other expressions of ill-gotten wealth. Serious people devoted to God and godly means of living are indeed worrying about the future prospects of their children. Is there, among the gloomy cloudiness, any shiny ray of hope?
It is in this context that the various celebrations that have come to us from time immemorial from the spiritual land of Bharat hold the clue. One of the most loved celebration of all the Hindus the world over, is the Festival of Lights – Diwali, also called Deepavali.
Diwali signifies lighting of lamps in every household on the Amavashya night that follows the bright fortnight after Vijaya Dashmi. No doubt this occasion marks joy and merriment. On the Diwali night, rows of lamps decorate the houses and presents are exchanged. Diwali, in the north of India, is associated with the coronation of Bhagawan Sri Rama when he returned to Ayodhya (in Uttar Pradesh) by pushpak-vimaan after vanquishing the demon King of Ceylon, Ravana on the day of Dasshera. Sri Ram had been in exile for fourteen years and the people were pleased to see and welcome back him with rows of lit lamps.
This festival of five days gives us, Hindus, an opportunity to go beyond all external extravaganza. First day marks Dhanteras meaning the thirteenth day of wealth. It is also called Dhanwantari Triodashi indicating the adoration of Dhanwantari. He is the God of Medicine for the devatas and originator of Ayurveda science. The importance of keeping one’s physique in a healthy way cannot be over stated. As the ancient Sanskrit dictum says, “shareeram aadyam khalu dharma saadhanam” – body is the best means for practising dharma, taking steps to improve one’s health becomes mandatory.
From here, with strong body, one has to ascend to the state of strong mind. Thus the second day, called naraka chaturdashi, is the fourteenth day signifying release of 16,000 princesses from prison by Sri Krishna. Bhagawan Sri Krishna encountered the demon Narakasura and killed him after granting his wish that on his death day people must celebrate with lighting of diya (lamps) in rows, taking oil bath, distributing sweet meats and burning firecrackers. We all do the latter part but do not pay attention in removing the darkness that has come to reside in our hearts! As Swami Vivekananda says, darkness in a sealed room over one thousand years will instantly vanish the moment a matchstick is lit. Knowledge of God is light. The ignorance inside is darkness – a prison. 16,000 women are none but our 16,000 nadis to be liberated from impurity.
If body and mind are kept free from impurities, then only this life can be truly enjoyed. As the Isha Upanishad says “ tena tyaktena bhunjeetaah” – this life can be enjoyed when detachment comes. The mind searches for the purpose of life and it tries to fix the goal. Lakshmi word comes from lakshya meaning goal. Thus the third day which is the most important day of the five days of festival is spent in the worship of Goddess Lakshmi whose dazzling luminosity is represented by rows of lamps. What is the ultimate goal of life? Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna clearly spells out the purpose of human birth. He says that a man is born in vain who inspite of having a human body, does not attempt to realise God! In eastern parts of Bharat, Goddess Kaali is worshipped. She is evidently invoked in order that our rakta (blood-attachment) is dried up (swallowed) and our munda (ego-head) can be cut asunder by Her grace.
When God becomes the focus, all obstructions, sufferings, troubles come to an end. Did He not assure in Gita that His devotee is never destroyed? – na me bhaktah pranashyati. Thus the fourth day is important milestone in the spiritual development of a sadhaka when he/she is rest assured of the protection of the Lord. This day is remembered as Govardhanpuja signifying how Bhagawan Sri Krishna lifted with his small finger the massive Govardhan mountain in order to protect his people from the deluge of rain.
Progress in spiritual life has some definite signs. One of them is the cheerful attitude with which one serves all brothers and sisters. The amity that is brought forth among the sisters and brothers is practised on the final fifth day as bhaidhuj. As per puranas Yama, the Lord of Death has assured that he would not bother those mortals who spread the message of love to their sisters. A perfect harmony leads to moksha, the ultimate liberation.
Thus this ‘Five-day Festival’ traces the spiritual expansion of human growth culminating in the gaining of knowledge of God. It offers an opportunity to dive deep into one’s heart and search for all types of demonic qualities residing inside. Thus, the need is felt to clear the darkness from the heart. To dispel away the internal darkness we have to light the lamp of knowledge. When a lamp is lit on Diwali, just pray to your chosen ideal that the darkness of ignorance be removed from your heart.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagawan Sri Krishna says that out of compassion for the devotees, He, residing within their hearts, certainly destroys the darkness born of ignorance with the radiant lamp of knowledge. (Ch X.11). Hence, while celebrating Diwali, let us pray to the Divinity (in whatever form one may believe in) to bestow the right knowledge by which we can lead a peaceful and prosperous life with service to the poor and needy.
Gita Jayanti – What it means to us?
The Gita as Nectarine drink
All over the globe the Hindus celebrate ‘Gita Jayanti’ on the 11th day (Ekadashi) of the bright fortnight (shukla paksha) of the month of Agrahayana (December – January). This month is also referred to as ‘Margashirsha’. Of the twelve months, Sri Krishna says in the Gita that He is Margasirsha. (X.35) It is seen that people generally attribute this day as the “Birthday of the Bhagavad Gita”. Well, can there be a birthday i.e., beginning for Divine Wisdom? As God is eternal (nitya) His knowledge is also ever present (sashwat). One cannot really say that the Song Divine has a birthday.
Actually, Gita Jayanti is the anniversary of the day, nearly 5000 years ago, when Bhagwan Shri Krishna spoke rather ‘sung’ to Arjuna, on the battlefield in Kurukshetra. Sanjaya, the Minister, recited those words for the blind King Dhritarashtra. When writing Mahabharata, this Divine Song was ‘threaded into’ the great epic by ancient Maharishi Veda Vyasji for the benefit of humanity. (vyasena grathitaam puraana muninaa madhye mahaabhaaratam – First verse of Gita Dhyanam)
But it is nowhere to be considered as an ‘interpolation’ as some misguided modern scholars opine. The internal evidence shows that there is homogeneity running all through language, diction and development of the subject ‘Brahma-vidya’ – the knowledge of Brahman, the Supreme. The entire story of Mahabharata, when condensed into philosophy becomes Gita. What the heart is to the human body, the Gita is to this Great Epic, says Swami Chidbhavanandaji in his English Translation of the Gita.
What is Bhagavad Gita? As the great ‘cyclonic monk of India’ Swami Vivekananda has once said in the West, ‘Everything goes to show that this Vedanta philosophy must be very practical; and later on, when we come to the Bhagavad-Gita…..it is the best commentary we have on the Vedanta philosophy — curiously enough the scene is laid on the battlefield, where Krishna teaches this philosophy to Arjuna; and the doctrine which stands out luminously in every page of the Gita is intense activity, but in the midst of it, eternal calmness. This is the secret of work, to attain which is the goal of the Vedanta.’
“Bhagavad Gita” literally means Song of God or rather Song of the Spirit. Since it is a Divine Song, the language of the original lyrics and the religion of the original singer do not have much relevance. For once, it has been ‘sung’ and written down to posterity, the song itself gets life, travelling across oceans and mountains, breaking all barriers of caste, creed and nationality. Such is the influence of a divine song. However, as Bhagwan Shri Krishna, Himself being the original ‘singer’, Bhagavad Gita gets the status of being the holiest and most sacred of all the songs of God. Therefore, What is its power? The lives of the lowly change, the world-disease afflicted gets healed, the morale of the depressed is uplifted. The results are as limitless as the Singer.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagavad-Gita…I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies and my life has been full of external tragedies. If they have left no visible, no indelible scar on me, I owe it all to the teachings of Bhagavad-Gita.”
The Gita consists literally 18 chapters with 700 verses (shloka). It has been said that all the Upanishads are the cows, the Milker is Krishna, the cowherd boy, Arjuna is the calf, men of purified intellect are its drinkers and milk is the supreme nectar of the Gita.
sarvopanishado gaavo dogdha gopaala nandanah | paartho vatsah sudhir bhoktaa dugdham gitaamritam mahat || (4th verse of Gita Dhyanam)
We have cows of varying sizes and in different colours. But the milk yielded by them is the same. Most of us do not even know how to maintain the cows. Neither are we adept in the laborious art of milking the cows. But to drink milk everyone is eligible. So also Gita is accessible for everyone, while studying the Upanishads is not for common people. However Gita is not just any milk. This milk is nectar that flowed from the Gods. What is in it for the humanity? The magical power to heal the sick, comfort the lonely, guide the lost, uplift the fallen and bring peace to the troubled. The milk is gentle and pure enough for a baby, and at the same time, strong enough for a soldier.
The Gita as palm of hand
Let us see what was the scenario when the Gita was ‘sung’. Arjuna, the third son of Kunti, surveyed the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The armies of Pandavas and Kauravas are standing on the opposite sides. Seeing the vast army, suddenly the great warrior was overcome with despondency and he laid down his arms. He told Krishna that he would not fight. “I do not see any good in slaughtering my own people in battle. O Krishna! I desire neither victory, nor kingdom not even pleasures.” (I.31) Thus begins the Bhagavad Gita.
The teachings of the Gita were indeed applicable on a battlefield as in the end, we see in Mahabharata that Pandavas come out victorious. Can the Gita’s teachings be made applicable to our ‘inner battlefield’ also? Can we get a clear vision of our life, its pitfalls and its progress as a palm of hand? Through the story of Arjuna and the battle, we also derive lessons for our lives from Bhagavan Sri Krishna. The ‘real’ Kurukshetra is not to be sought somewhere outside rather ‘within’ us. Each of us is Arjuna, not knowing what is right and wrong, teared down with temptation, fallen with fear and feeling forsaken due to frustration. Our bodies are our chariots, being driven all too frequently by our senses as the horses. The mind, ego, desires, lust and greed are the evil Kauravas with whom we must do righteous battle, from whom we must not shy away in fear. If we give the reins of our lives to God (as Arjuna made Krishna his divine charioteer), we will surely be victorious.
The Gita as a ‘palm of hand’ clearly shows us not only the destination but also in clearest terms the varying paths to reach there. One is free to select any path that suits well. Or one can even combine one with another. Throughout the Divine Song, Bhagwan Sri Krishna explains how – through devotion (bhakti), through knowledge (jnaana), and through action (karma) – one can reach the ultimate destination of union (yoga) with God. For different temperaments He lays out different paths, all the while reminding us that true, earnest yearning and pure, surrendered love for God are the surest and simplest way to attain one with the Eternal.
You don’t need to be a great scholar or a learned philosopher to understand the lessons of the Gita. Nor does the Gita demands decades of exacting penance to earn God’s favour. Rather, Bhagwan Sri Krishna offers infinite and eternal comfort by His words, “He, who is full of faith and zeal and is the master of the senses attains knowledge. Having attained knowledge one immediately attains supreme peace.” (IV.39)
The Gita as the Guidepost
Is the Gita relevant to the West today is an oft-repeated question. We can unequivocally say that yes, it is to West as it was and has been to the East. Not only for Hindus it is relevant but also for people professing any other religion. It teaches Hindus how to be better Hindus; it also teaches Muslims to be better Muslims, Christians to be better Christians, and Jews to be better Jews. For, if something is really “truth,” it must be universal. Truth is not limited to a religious framework. If it is truth, it must pertain to all. Such is the profound truth of Bhagwan Shri Krishna’s words.
The Bhagavad Gita is verily like Mother Ganga or the Sun; they do not discriminate. Mother Ganga does not bring water to only Hindus’ farms. The sun does not shine only on Christians’ gardens. Similarly, the Gita does not provide light and inspiration to only selected souls.
Aldous Huxley said, “The Gita is one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the perennial Philosophy ever to have been made. Hence its enduring value, not only for Indians, but for all mankind.” Sometimes, it seems that the West actually needs this wisdom even more than people of the East. Why? It is often seen that the West seem to hold even more tenaciously to their agendas, their expectations and their desires. The message in much of the West is “If you work hard, you will succeed, you will become prosperous.” So, people don’t work for the sake of being God’s hands. They work to reap the benefits, and when the benefits don’t come or don’t come quickly enough, they are frustrated.
It is the Karma Yoga of the Gita is the best answer to the problems engulfing the humanity in the West. People everywhere need both the message and the comfort of the Gita. With the ongoing assault of senses leaving indelible scars in the human psyche, the Gita stands as the harbinger of peace and harmony; it comes as the remover of pain; it bestows light dispelling the darkness of ignorance.
The Gita as the Reflector
It is remarkable that how Gita shines as the reflector for a practical spiritual life. What we see in the life of Sri Ramakrishna reiterates this point. The Paramahamsa never cared about the relative merits of religions. Neither did he entered into intricate differences of systems of philosophy. Verily he followed the footsteps of Sri Krishna. The unquenchable thirst for God and undying love for God’s name were the hallmark in Ramakrishna’s life. By his prolonged and intense spiritual practices, Sri Ramakrishna’s unique life that was transformed from an ordinary temple priest to paragon of spiritual values can best be clarified under this Gita Reflector.
Aum Namo Narayanaya!
Hindus all along have, from time immemorial, been worshippers of God in form. We strongly believe that the formless, infinite Ishwara who is nitya (eternal), buddha (awakened), shuddha (ever pure) and mukta (ever free) does alone takes any form out of His compassion for devotees.
Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna used to say that “Many are the names of God and infinite are forms through which he may be approached.”
One of the most essential and distinctive feature of Bhakti-maarga – the path of Devotion – is dependence on grace. The Gita speaks of two kinds of Grace: one is general or impersonal grace available to all people irrespective of whether they are Bhaktas or Jnaanis. (samo’ham sarva bhuteshu, Gita, 9.29). The other is a special, personal grace given only to the true devotee who has surrendered his all to the Avataara and depends on Him alone. Such a devotee’s spiritual and material welfare (yogakshema) God Himself takes care of.
For the first time in the religious history of India—perhaps the whole world—a divine Teacher gave this assurance to mankind:
“I lift up those who depend on me from the ocean of death” (12.7)
“I swear: my devotee, even if he is the worst of sinners, will never perish” (9.31)
“I will liberate you from all sins; don’t worry” (18.66)
The only condition for this otherwise unconditional Grace is prapatti or self-surrender. The type of self-surrender that Gita teaches is not a passive state of inaction which weakens the person. On the contrary prapatti is a dynamic state which gives tremendous strength to the person. Strong in the strength of God, he can face any problem, even fight a battle, with equanimity and calmness of mind (Gita: 3.30)
May we remember that every human body is like a temple wherein the heart of hearts is the chosen spot where God resides. While it is good to propitiate God in stone or marble, it is necessary that we should worship God in the poor, God in the sick and God in the illiterate. The worship of God in man should take the form of seva (service).
Swami Saradaprabhanandaji, officials and devotees of our Centre join me in conveying hearty best wishes for the success of the Krishna ashtami celebration at your home and at your Centre or branches.
May Lord Radhakrishna bless you all with devotion at His lotus feet! On this auspicious Krishna Janmasthami day, may the divine Lord take birth and manifest in our hearts. May He enact all His divine plays for our welfare and that of the world and as He lifted Govardhan for the safety of Vrindavan, may He lift the burdens of our life, so we may continue on our journey in divine bliss.
Children like to question. And I appreciate it as an expression of their intense thirst for knowledge. I wrote this given-below dialogue in an easy, conversational style between two children and myself. This is, of course, based partly on an actual discussion with the named children, and later written for Dipika 2009. It is an annual spiritual magazine especially for children, regularly brought out by Sri Sarada Devi Ashram at Asherville in Durban. My grateful thanks go to Sister Pravrajika Ishtapranaji for according her kind consent to reproduce it here.
After lunch, as usual, I was about to retire to my room and take my noon-day rest. Just then two fresh faced, enthusiastic, devoted boys came into my office, bursting with joy and questions. All thoughts of sleep left me when I sensed their willingness to have a conversation.
An interesting discussion began when I asked the children to state the names of two famous incarnations of God. Rahul immediately mentioned the name of Lord Ram. His little brother Trishul remembered Lord Krishna.
Trishul: Swamiji, why do Hindus believe that God incarnates on earth?
Swamiji: That is a good question! God descends according to the needs of the time, to help us live happily, be peaceful and live spiritual lives. When people start misbehaving, fight with one another and adopt evil ways, then God comes to protect goodness.
Rahul: But some of my friends ridicule us and say that we worship many Gods. Isn’t it true that there is only ONE God, Swamiji?
Swamiji: Undoubtedly, God is ONE. Have you not heard that God is Omnipotent?
Trishul: No! What does that mean?
Swamiji: It means that God is all-powerful. Though there is only ONE God, yet by His divine power He can assume many forms and have many names. Therefore Hindus believe in different incarnations of God. The Sanskrit word for incarnation is Avataar.
Rahul: So we see that God can take many names and forms because He is all-powerful!
Swamiji: Exactly so, Rahul! You do know that there are many people on earth, though we are one as humanity, yet we have different tastes. We are born with our own varied natures. You may not like what I like. Therefore every one should have the freedom to choose the form of God that he or she likes. Each one worships the same God in the form that appeals to him or her, the most. But always remember, no matter what form of God you love and pray to, GOD IS ONE.
Rahul: Why does God manifest Himself in human form?
Swamiji: God wants to help us realise Him. He teaches us the righteous methods of living on His beautiful earth and how to care for all living beings. God loves all living and non-living beings on this earth, because everything has come out of Him alone.
Trishul: Swamiji, but I find it difficult to think of God without a name and a form. Is not God with form more lovable?
Swamiji: Rightly said, Trishul! God in his personal aspect can be loved and served too. You should be able to choose the particular name and form of God, according to your nature.
Rahul: I love Lord Ram. He killed Ravana and brought righteousness back to Lanka. He ruled this earth from Ayodhya.
Swamiji: Oh! that is wonderful. Can you name one great devotee of Lord Ram?
Rahul: Yes Swamiji. Tulsidas! My father and mother read a portion from Tulsidasji’s Ramayana everyday. They say that reading the Ramayana in the morning helps them to cope with the challenges of life.
Swamiji: Excellent! What is the title of the Ramayana that Tulsidasji wrote?
Rahul: Sri Ramacharitamanasa.
Swamiji: Very good, Rahul. Now boys, let me narrate an interesting story about Tulsidas, the author of this great scripture.
Tulsidas loved Sri Ram with all his heart. In the beginning, he did not prefer any other form of God for his personal worship. One day some of his friends decided to go to Brindavan, the playground of Lord Krishna. They requested Tulsidas to accompany them. But Tulsidas was a little hesitant, because he did not want to go to any place that was not connected with Lord Ram.
Rahul: Was he a fanatic, Swamiji?
Swamiji: No Rahul, he was not a fanatic. But he had such deep devotion to the lotus feet of Lord Ram that his mind was not willing to accept any other form of God. When his friends insisted, he accompanied them to Brindavan. However, while entering Sri Krishna’s temple, he closed his eyes. The all-knowing Lord understood Tulsidas’ predicament. Lord Krishna looked at His beloved Radha and said, ‘Look Radha! My sincere devotee has come here. When he opens his eyes he would not like to see me in the present form. So, let us change our forms to satisfy him.’
Trishul: Which form did they take, Swamiji?
Swamiji: When Tulsidas made pranams (prostrations) to the Lord, he assumed that the temple deity was Sri Krishna, so he was unwilling to open his eyes. But his friends asked him to observe the magnificent murti (image) of Sri Krishna, which was decorated so well. Tulsidas opened his eyes slowly and, lo and behold! he saw the lotus feet of His beloved Sri Ram. When he raised his head in wonder he could see the bow and arrows held in Ram’s long, beautiful hands. The Lord’s eyes looked like a freshly blossomed flower. He also saw the serene face of Mother Sita. Tulsidas was stunned and overwhelmed to see Sri Ram. He now realised that Lord Krishna and Lord Ram are ONE and the SAME divine being!
Trishul: So Swamiji, does the word ‘deity’ mean ‘God in His personal aspect’?
Swamiji: You have understood rightly, Trishul! There are many deities and you can choose any one from the hundreds of forms, according to your taste and temperament. The one that you choose is called the ‘ishta-devata’, meaning your chosen deity. By worshipping the ishta-devata, your mind becomes one-pointed and devotion to God grows very easily and quickly. In the beginning of one’s sadhana (spiritual practices), worshipping many deities dissipates one’s energy and may not be conducive to spiritual progress. Therefore our sages have recommended that we have an ishta-devata, a chosen deity.
Rahul: Swamiji, which deity should I choose?
Swamiji: Choose that deity whose form you like the most!
Trishul: Is it not true that Hanumanji also has Sri Ram as his ishta-devata?
Swamiji: Well said.
Srināthe jānakināthe abheda paramātmani |
Tathāpi mama sarvasva rāmah kamala lochanah ||
Sri Hanumanji once explained that although there was no difference between the Lord of Lakshmi (Narayana) and the Lord of Janaki (Sri Ram), yet his chosen deity was the lotus-eyed Sri Ram.
So, Rahul and Trishul! What did you understand?
Rahul and Trishul: Swamiji, we understood that having a chosen deity is good for devotion but at the same time, we should not be narrow-minded. We should respect all deities because the ONE God alone has become many.
Swamiji: You both attend Sunday Classes for children. Tell me, can you remember any example that our dear Master Sri Ramakrishna has quoted?
Rahul: Yes, I remember! Master gave the example of a man digging a well. First he dug down to a depth of ten meters. He could not find any trace of water there. Then he selected another spot and dug a little deeper. He found no water there either. So he gave up that spot and dug in yet another place. Again he was unsuccessful. Disgusted at his failure to find water, he finally gave up his efforts.
Trishul: Now, let me complete the story! So, Master said that if that man had patiently dug at one place, he would have found water. The same is the case with anyone who changes his faith continually. By having an ishta-devata one can progress and reach the goal.
Swamiji: I really appreciate you, boys! How I wish all the children would attend our Sunday Classes!
Today we celebrate Gita jayanti. The Bhagavad Gita forms part of the great Indian Epic, the Mahabharata. The words of this “song celestial” have flowed from the Lord, Sri Krishna Himself. The Gita chanting is generally preceded with what is known as “Gita Dhyanam” – nine introductory verses in praise of Bhagavad Gita. Originally published in our quarterly magazine “JYOTI” of July-September 2007 issue, this article, focussed on seventh verse, was transcribed from the weekly Gita Talks that I deliver on Tuesdays, between 7 and 8 p.m. at the Ramakrishna Centre, Glen Anil.
Let us recollect what Swami Vivekananda says:
Gita is the best commentary we have on the Vedanta philosophy – curiously enough the scene is laid on the battlefield, where Krishna teaches this philosophy to Arjuna; and the doctrine which stands out luminously in every page of the Gita is intense activity, but in the midst of it, eternal calmness. This is the secret of work.
May this lotus of the Mahabharata, born in the lake of the words of the son of Parashara (Vyasa), sweet with the fragrance of the meaning of the Gita, with many stories as its stamens, fully opened by the discourses on Hari, the destroyer of the sins of Kali, and drunk joyously day by day by the six-legged bees of good men in the world, become the bestower of good to us. Gita Dhyanam, 7
It is customary to recite the meditative verses (dhyana shlokas) before beginning the study of Srimad Bhagavad Gita proper. The poet-devotee, who composed these nine verses, has charmingly explained the purpose, principle and the practice of the Gita in these meditative verses.
Vast and deep
In the above seventh verse, he stresses the utmost importance of the knowledge contained in the Mahabharata. He says that the Gita is like a full-blown lotus, grown in the vast lake of words dictated by the son of the Sage Parashara, thereby meaning Sri Veda Vyasa (author of the Mahabharata). The significance of not saying the name of Vyasa but indicating him as son of Parashara lies in the wonderful combination of wisdom of the Rishi with practical sense of a fisher woman, Satyavati who was the mother of Vyasa. Sage Vyasa, like his father Parashara, had a broad, vast knowledge of the Vedas and like his mother, Satyavati, who would go deep into the river to catch fish, also went deep into the meaning of Vedas.
Petals and fragrance
The full-blown lotus has an extremely sweet fragrance and many soft petals. The insight of the Gita is said to be the fragrance and the varied stories cum sub-stories that form the elaborate Mahabharata, the petals. The lotus is full blown by the speech of Lord Sri Krishna, who is verily Hari Himself.
The drink and the drunk
A bee continues its unending search for nectar from many flowers. But it is the flower that is most beautiful and exuberantly filled with sweet honey that attracts it the most. Likewise, we have a number of scriptures. Of them, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, which forms part of the world’s largest epic, the Mahabharata, contains that nectar which makes the learner go beyond birth and death.
The insight that the Gita provides in controlling our life’s destiny is unparallel. The Gita gives us wonderful courage to deal with the many challenges that life poses. In order to gain the rich experience that the Gita enumerates, noblemen – men of character – searching for the true meaning of life come to study the Gita.
The poet-devotee of the meditative verses compares a noble-minded person with the untiring bee. Bees, unlike other insects or birds, go much deeper into flowers. They go to the very source.
So it is clear that if we want to obtain the knowledge of the Gita, superficial study is not enough. Merely chanting the Gita may give us a sense of peace; a little more study may lead us on a good path to enjoy the blessings of a noble life. But only a deeper study can provide the knowledge of Atman (Soul) which is the real nectar of the Gita. Like a bee, we must go deep – meditate deeply on each verse of the Gita. This will light up the lamp of knowledge that is within each of us. Mahapurush Maharaj, known as Swami Shivananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna once said, “…You must meditate on them. Then, only will you assimilate them. Hari Maharaj [Swami Turiyananda] used to meditate on each verse until he had mastered it.”
Legs that lead
Furthermore, the poet-devotee has used the words “six-legged” when describing the bee. This also has a profound significance. Merely being noble may not be sufficient to understand the inner meaning of the Gita. Perhaps the man who is only “two-legged” has to acquire another “4 legs” in order to grasp the inner meaning of the words that flow from Lord Sri Krishna’s lips.
What then, are the “six-legs” that a noble man has to possess? They are discrimination, detachment, devotion, deep yearning, deliberate effort and divine knowledge,. Once a person of noble character possesses these “six-legs” he will be able to hold onto the slippery petals and drive himself deep into the nectar of inner meaning. Therefore, a study once or twice is not enough. “Again and again” one must devotedly pursue the study so that the bad samskaras – mental impressions – that are gained from birth to birth can be removed by continuous study of the Gita.
Thus the poet-devotee concludes in this verse of Dhyana Shloka on Srimad Bhagavad Gita, propounded by the Lord Himself, is great, bestows welfare and removes all the impurities that are born of this age (Kali Yuga).