Monthly Archives: August 2020

Vamana Avatar: Onam and its Significance

From mortality to Immortality: Vamana Avatar:
The virtuous and noble King Bali was the grandson of Prahlada. Just like his grandfather he too was very devoted to Lord Vishnu. Bali had established his sovereignty over earth and heaven. Under the guidance of his Guru Shukracharya, Bali decided to perform a yagna, and he undertook a sankalpa or vow that whatever anybody sought from him, he would give away as charity, and he strictly adhered to it. The Gods wanted the terrestrial and celestial planes back from Bali, and they prayed to Lord Vishnu to help them.

Lord Vishnu as Vamana, appeared as the son of Sage Kashyapa and his wife Aditi. Short in stature, but most charming to look at, the young brahmachari, Vamana proceeded to Bali’s yagnasala with an umbrella in one hand and a kamandalu in the other. Everyone was wonderstruck at the compelling personality of Vamana and rose from their seats to offer their salutations.

Bali received the divine guest with all respect and reverence and asked the young vatu (brahmachari) to put forth his request. Vamana asked Bali for three measures of land as measured by his little foot. Bali was astonished. A piece of land as measured by three little steps of the young vatu would not serve any purpose! Guru Shukracharya intervened and tried his best to stop this dana because he knew that it was Lord Vishnu alone who had come in the form of a brahmchari. But for Bali it was living upto his vow of dana. He insisted on giving more land, but Vamana said that the land measured by his feet would suffice. Finally Bali agreed. He took a little water in his hand, took the sankalpa of dana, and poured the water on the earth in front of him. 

To the astonishment of all assembled there including Bali, the dwarf Vamana grew and grew to become Trivikrama – “Lord of three divine steps”. With the first step he measured all of the terrestrial plane. With the second step he measured the celestial spheres. There was no place to keep the third step. Bali was overwhelmed at the darshan of the Lord’s cosmic form. The Lord asked him where to place his third step. Bali knelt down in utter surrender to the Lord and asked him to place the third step on his head. The Lord took the third step and placed his sacred feet on Bali’s head and sent him to the realm called Sutala to rule over. The Lord also assured Bali that he himself would be there to guard and protect his kingdom. The Lord told Bali that on Vamana Jayanti, he could visit the kingdom he once ruled over which is celebrated as ONAM.

Significance:
Bali represents a seeker who is on the spiritual path. “Bali” means sacrifice – a knower and performer of karma yoga. His sovereignty over earth and heaven indicate that he is a master of the outer world of circumstances and the inner world of thoughts and emotions, and therefore the Master of his Jnanendriyas and Karmendriyas. He becomes eligible for “Indrapadavi” – the throne of Indra. “Indra” means “indriyaanaam raja Indra” (the Master of all the Indriyas). To such an advanced seeker, the Guru, represented by Vamana (One who has transcended his mind) enters his life and inspires him to move beyond just mastering the physical, mental and intellectual equipments. Lord Vishnu appeared as Vamana in the Sravana Nakshatra or Thiruonam Star (sravana indicates listening to scriptures) in the month of Bhadrapada (State of Auspiciousness).

Shukracharya representing the “standard of living – materialism” tries to dissuade the seeker. But the seeker surrenders totally to his Guru. With the grace of the Master, he transcends his equipments – the body, the mind and the intellect, which is represented by the Lord’s three steps, to cover the earth (body), space (mind) and head (intellect). At this juncture, the Guru  guides the seeker’s attention “within himself in contemplation,” which is represented by the Lord placing His foot on Bali’s head. This is “sparsha deeksha” (initiation through touch). Bali is “sent down” (to turn the attention inwards) to “Sutala” (the domain of auspiciousness) which is the region beyond our comprehension – the inner world of peace and quietude. The seeker turns his attention totally within, and through meditation comes to discover the inner kingdom of everlasting freedom and peace!

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King Kulashekara

Kulashekara Alwar and Lord Venkateshwara

King Kulashekara belonged to the Chera dynasty. Being a very powerful warrior he soon had the Pandya and Chola regions also under his control. He was a very virtuous and just king and endeared himself to his subjects. He was spiritually inclined and was a great devotee of Lord Rama. Lord Vishnu’s padukas adorned King Kulashekara’s crown known as Cheramudi. He longed to visit Srirangam and he also urged people of his kingdom to visit the holy city of Srirangam. As a reminder, every day there would be an announcement of a yatra to Srirangam on the streets of his kingdom. Knowing the king’s strong spiritual roots, the ministers used to arrange for kirtans and readings of the Ramayana in the palace and thus prevented the king from undertaking the pilgrimage to Srirangam. 

However, the king started spending more time with the Vaishnava saints and devotees. This irked the ministers and therefore they devised a plan to stop the holy men from coming to the palace. They hid some of the ornaments of the royal deity worshipped by the king and told him that the ornaments had been stolen. They charged the vaishnava devotees of theft. Kulashekar refused to believe that the Lord’s devotees had stolen the ornaments. He decided to go through a test on behalf of the vaishnavites and prove that there were innocent. He asked for a vessel with a poisonous cobra inside it. The king put his hand into the vessel and proclaimed to everyone present that if the vaishnavites were innocent, nothing would happen to him. Sure enough he retrieved his hand from the vessel safely. The poisonous cobra had not harmed him in the least. The ministers were stunned and shocked and revealed the truth to the king. 

King Kulashekar was very unhappy and disturbed that the Lord’s devotees had been falsely charged with theft. Already a renunciate within, he decided to hand over the kingdom to his son and leave for Srirangam. King Kulashekar was considered as one amongst the Alwars. He composed beautiful verses in praise of the Lord and it is said that the Lord himself used to come and listen to him. Kulashekar Alwar visited all the sacred vaishnava temples. His philosophy was of absolute surrender (saranagati) to the Lord. He never asked the Lord for mukti or liberation. He only longed to be a “servant of the servant of the servant of the Lord”. He was even ready to be born again and again but only as a devotee of the Lord. He was overwhelmed at the darshan of the Lord of Tirumala, Sri Venkateswara, and cried out to the Lord to make him a stone, a worm, a blade of grass, a fish in the pond of the sacred Tirumala hills! He entreated the Lord, “in Thy sweet remembrance, may the swan of my mind enter RIGHT NOW the cage of Thy lotus feet. At the time of death, which is riddled with pain, and when all the equipments are failing, is it possible for me to remember Thee?” And he prayed to the Lord, “make me a step (threshold) at your sanctum sanctorum so that I can joyously gaze on at your beautiful charming lotus face constantly.” The step or threshold of the sanctum in the Sri Venkateswara temple in Tirumala is known as “Kulashekara Padi” (Kulashekara Step) in honour of this glorious devotee of the Lord.

“I bow down my head to Raja Kulashekara in whose kingdom every day Ranga Yatra (pilgrimage to Srirangam) used to be announced (proclaimed)!”

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LORD GANESHA – Significance of His Name and Form ~ by Swami Chinmayananda

Lord Ganesha

Lord Vinayaka is the Supreme Reality, who is bountiful, eternal and the bestower of joy and glory to those who worship Him. He is of the nature of the Pure Consciousness and Liberation. Lord Ganapathi, the leader of the Ganas is extolled as one who brings well-being to the entire universe. As the Lord of all Obstacles Vighneswara, He is the Master of all Circumstances. He is the Master of Knowledge and the Champion of Worldly Achievements. He also represents a Man of Perfect Wisdom and a fully Realised Vedantin.

Ganapathi, the Elephant-headed Lord, represents the highest and the best that have ever been given in our scriptures. To a Vedantic student, since his ‘path of knowledge’ is intellectual, he must have a ‘great head’ to conceive and understand the logic of the Vedantic thought, and in fact, the truth of Vedanta can be comprehended only through listening to a teacher and therefore, Shravana (listening) is the initial stage. Therefore, Ganapathi has large ears representing ‘continuous and intelligent listening’ to the teacher. His intellect must have the depth and width in order to embrace in his vision the entire world of plurality. Not only must he, in his visualisation, embrace the whole cosmos, but he must have the subtle discriminative power (Viveka) in him to distinguish the changing, perishable, matter-vestures from the Eternal, Immutable, All-pervading Consciousness, the Spirit. This discrimination is possible only when the intellect of the student has consciously cultivated that power to a large degree of perfection. The trunk, coming down the forehead of the elephant-face, has got a peculiar efficiency that beats all achievements of man and his ingenuity in the mechanical and scientific world. Here is a ‘tool’ that can at once uproot a tree or pick up from the ground, pull heavy weights or pluck a blade of grass — the mechanical instruments cannot have this range of adaptability! Like the elephant’s trunk, so should be the perfect discriminative faculty of an evolved intellect, so that it can use its discrimination fully in the outer world for resolving gross problems, and at the same time, efficiently employ its discrimination in the subtle realm of the inner personality layers. The discriminative power in us can function only where there are two factors to discriminate between; and these two factors represent the tusks of the elephant and the trunk growing down between them. Between good and evil, right and wrong, and all the dualities must we discriminate and come to our own judgements and conclusions in life. The broken tusk indicates a real Vedantic student of subjective experience who has gone beyond the pairs of opposites (dwandwatita).

Ganapathi has the widest mouth and the biggest appetite. A Man of Perfection has an endless appetite for life — he lives in the Consciousness and to him every experience, good or bad, is only a play of the Infinite — he must have a big belly to stomach peacefully, all the experiences of life — auspicious or inauspicious.

A Mastermind sits with ONE foot down. Generally, we move about in the world through the corridors of our experiences on our two feet — the mind and the intellect. A perfect man of wisdom has integrated them both to such an extent that they become in him as ONE — an intellect into which the mind has folded and become completely subservient.

In the representation of Sri Vinayaka, we always find a “mouse” sitting in the midst of beautiful, fragrant ready-made food, but not daring to touch anything without His command. The “mouse” within each personality which can eat away a mountain of merit in us, is the POWER OF DESIRE. The Man of Perfection is one who has so perfectly mastered his urge to acquire, possess and enjoy — this self-annihilating “power of desire”, that it is completely held in obedience to the will of the Master. He rides upon the mouse — meaning, it is a “desire” to do service to the world and it becomes His vehicle to move about and act.

The Lord of Obstacles, Sri Vighneswara has four arms representing the four inner equipments — the ANTAHKARANA. In one hand He has the ROPE and in the other He has an AXE. On the spiritual pilgrimage, all obstacles are created by the very subjective and objective worlds in the seeker himself. Sri Vighneswara chops them off with the AXE. He cuts off the attachments of His devotees to the world of plurality and thus ends all the consequent sorrows. He holds the attention of the seeker constantly towards the Higher, and pulls us nearer and nearer to the Truth and ultimately ties him down to the Highest Goal with the ROPE. With one hand, He blesses all His devotees and protects (ABHAYA) them from all obstacles on their spiritual path of seeking the Supreme, and with the other hand He feeds the seeker with MODAKA, representing the reward of the joys of sadhana — the “Joy of Experiencing the Reality”.

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Lord Rama meets Shabari!

Shabari was from the tribal community. She left everyone and everything in search of a Mahatma who would initiate her into spiritual knowledge. At last she came to the ashram of Sage Matanga at the foothills of Rishyamukha. The Sage accepted her as his disciple and initiated her into the higher knowledge. She served the sage very faithfully and devotedly. Many years passed. 

Desiring to fold up his manifestation, Matanga rishi called Shabari and told her of his decision. Shabari prayed to her teacher to bestow liberation on her also. The far-sighted rishi told her that it was not yet time for her to leave her physical body. He told her that in time, Lord Rama would come this way and she could give up her life and reach the Highest State of Liberation after meeting him. Having advised her, Rishi Matanga left for his heavenly abode. 

Shabari eagerly waited for the arrival of Lord Rama. Every day she would clear the pathway of stones and twigs and decorate the path with wild forest flowers. She would bring fresh clean water from the nearby lake to wash the Lord’s feet. And she would daily collect fruits for the Lord. She would taste every fruit. She would discard unripe and tasteless fruits and set aside the sweet fruits for the Lord. Years passed. Shabari became old, but did not lose hope. She knew that the Lord would come one day – her Guru’s words would indeed come true. So Shabari waited and waited…..

One day she saw Sri Rama accompanied by his brother Lakshmana approaching the ashram. Shabari was overwhelmed. She received the Lord with her heart filled with joy. The Lord smilingly acknowledged her devotion. Shabari offered a seat to the Lord and washed his feet. And then she brought the fruits that she had lovingly gathered for him. She gave the tasted fruits to the Lord. Lakshmana noticed that the fruits were bitten and protested that the fruits offered were already tasted and therefore not fit to be offered to the Lord.

Lord Rama smiled at Lakshmana and told him that the fruits were very sweet, infact doubly sweet! Lakshmana looked at Rama questioningly. Rama told him that not only the fruits were sweet by their own nature but they were doubly sweet because they contained the sweetness of Shabari’s devotion! On hearing this, Shabari’s eyes were brimming with tears. She prostrated to the Lord and asked him to bestow on her the kaivalya-pada. The Lord smiled and told her that her devotion alone had already made her the recipient of mukti! Infact it was her devotion that had led the Lord to her simple hut. Lord Rama enumerated the “Nava Bhakti Sadhana” to Shabari – the nine steps to reach that State of Devotion which in turn is nothing but the State of Enlightenment. 

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