Monthly Archives: April 2021

Narahari realizes the Oneness of Hari and Hara!

Narahari Sonar (13th century) was a great devotee of Lord Shiva residing in Pandarapur. He was a goldsmith by profession and was known for his honesty and sincerity. His skill and craftsmanship in creating the best of jewellery drew lot of customers from far and near. He often visited the Mallikarjuna temple nearby. Being a staunch devotee of Shiva, he refused to enter the famous Vittala temple. He would not even look at the gopuram of the temple, and during the festival time, he would move away to the neighbouring village to avoid listening to the bhajans and keerthans sung by the devotees of Panduranga!

A rich landlord along with his wife visited Pandarapur. The childless couple prayed to Lord Panduranga to bless them with a child. The landlord took a vow that if blessed with a child, he would in return offer a gold waistband to the Lord as a token of his devout gratitude. The Lord answered his prayers and he was blessed with a child. To keep his promise, the landlord came to Pandarapur. On enquiring he was informed that Narahari was the best craftsman in the town.The landlord came to Narahari and asked him to make a gold waistband for Lord Vittala. Initially, Narahari refused, but the landlord convinced him saying that it was he who was the customer and he would pay him well. Narahari agreed but on one condition. He would not go to the temple to take the Lord’s waist measurement. The landlord agreed to get the same for him. With the help of the pandit the Lord’s waist measurement was taken and provided to Narahari.

Narahari made a beautiful gem-studded gold waistband for Vittala and handed it to the landlord. He took it to the temple and handed it over to the pundit. When the pundit tried to put the waistband around Vittala’s waist, he found it small. It would not fit the Lord’s waist. Disappointed, the landlord brought it back to Narahari for rectification. Narahari was surprised. He had made the waistband strictly as per the specifications. Narahari again worked on the waistband and gave it back to the landlord. When the pundit tried to put it round the Lord’s waist, this time it was large! The waistband slipped down the Lord’s waist! The landlord became impatient. This time he pleaded with Narahari to come to the temple and take the measurement himself. But Narahari refused to enter the temple and have the Lord’s darshan. The landlord suggested that Narahari could blindfold himself and take the measurement without seeing Vittala. Narahari agreed. 

Narahari blindfolded himself and was led to the sanctum of Lord Panduranga. With eyes covered, Narahari extended his hands towards the deity to take measurement of the Lord’s waist. Strange! As he moved his hands over the deity, he suddenly felt that it was his beloved Lord Shiva in front of him. He felt the Lord’s matted hair. His hands felt the familiar rudraksha and snake ornament round the neck. And around the Lord’s waist it was surely the tiger’s skin and not the silken robe! Narahari even felt a few drops of water on his hand – from Ganga who adorns Lord Shiva’s matted locks!! How could this be Shiva, the Lord-of-his-heart? He quickly removed the cloth that covered his eyes and looked. There in front of him was the smiling Vittala with hands on His waist. Rather annoyed, Narahari quickly blindfolded himself and again felt the idol with his hands. Sure, this time also, it was the idol of Shiva and not Vittala! There was no mistaking. Realization dawned on Narahari. He now realised that Lord Shiva and Lord Panduranga Vittala are ONE AND THE SAME. This was all the Lila or Sport of the Lord to make him realize the essential oneness between Hara and Hari! And Lo! The waist band perfectly adorned the Lord Vittala’s waist.

He fell prostrate at Lord Vittala’s lotus feet and begged to be forgiven for differentiating between Hara and Hari. Narahari was now a totally changed person. He renounced everything and completely dedicated himself to Lord Vittala who wears a crown with an emblem of Shiva-linga on it! Sant Narahari’s devotion to the Lord is evident in the beautiful abhangs (kirtans) that he has composed.

Hara Hara Mahadev!!Jai Jai Vittala Panduranga! Jai Hari Vittala Panduranga!!

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SRI RAMA NAMA VAIBHAVA!

RAMA means “sarveshu ramate iti ramah” – the “ONE who revels in all” – the Supreme Brahman. RAMA, the Absolute Reality is the very LIFE enlivening both: the insentient, inert things and the sentient, dynamic beings, lending to them all their very EXISTENCE. 

The Ashtakshara Narayana Mantra is: “Om Namo Narayanaya” – ‘Salutations unto Narayana’. Nara + Ayana means ‘the path (Ayana) taken by Nara (individual) to ultimately reach the State of Narayana’. If RA is removed from the mantra, it becomes ‘na-ayana’ which implies that there is ‘no path to reach the Higher’. Therefore, RA is the ‘life’ of this mantra. The Panchakshara Shiva Mantra is: “Namah Shivaya” – ‘Salutations unto Shiva’. Shiva signifies ‘Auspiciousness’. If MA is removed from the mantra, the meaning becomes negative: ‘na Shivaya’ or ‘inauspiciousness’. Therefore, MA is the ‘life’ of this mantra. When the two Aksharas, RA and MA come together it becomes RAMA. Hence the two-lettered word RAMA not only suggests that there is absolutely no difference between HARI and HARA, but also carries with it the power of both the mantras. 
RA originates from the word “Narayana” and therefore it represents the Ultimate Reality, the Spiritual GOAL. MA originates from “Namah” and therefore it represents surrender, the PATH to be taken to reach the Goal. Hence the word RAMA signifies the spiritual pilgrimage in total; since it represents the GOAL to be reached, and the PATH to be taken by the seeker. 

RA signifies “creation”. MA indicates “dissolution”. The A-kara inbetween which binds the two letters denotes “preservation”. Therefore, RAMA signifies the concept of Trinity: Brahma – Vishnu – Maheshwara. RA also stands for the Purusha-aspect or the SPIRIT. MA stands for the Prakriti-aspect or MATTER. Hence RAMA stands for Prakriti & Purusha: Matter & Spirit. 
The four Maha Vakyas (Great Statements) from the four Vedas denote totally and completely the journey of a spiritual seeker. Of the four Maha Vakyas, the second Maha Vakya: TAT TVAM ASI” is known as the “Upadesha Vakya”. Through this Maha Vakya, the Guru initiates and leads the seeker onto the path of contemplation to seek and realize the total identity between his individuality and the Absolute Reality. RAMA NAMA represents the Upadesha Vakya: TAT TVAM ASI. RA  stands for “Tat”. MA stands for “Tvam” and the A-kara inbetween signifies the total identity between the individual and the Universal. 

RAMA NAMA is known as the TARAKA Mantra – the mantra which helps an individual to cross (tara) the ocean of samsara and reach the State of Absolute Bliss (ka). When Hanuman had to cross the ocean, he placed the ring (with RAMA engraved on it) given to him by Sri Rama in his mouth (on his tongue). Significantly this means that the tongue should take to the chanting of the Lord’s name. The jewel of RAMA NAMA not only beautifies the tongue and makes an individual more cultured, but helps him to easily cross the shoreless ocean of samsara. It was RAMA NAMA that was written on the huge rocks that enabled them to float on water during the Setu bandhan! Indeed a gravity defying wonder showcasing the power of RAMA NAMA! Hanuman demonstrated that even the invincible and incomparable RAMA BANA (arrow) could not stand in front of RAMA NAMA! The RAMA BANA had to acknowledge the supremacy of RAMA NAMA and silently withdraw itself! Symbolically, Hanuman giving Rama’s ring to Seeta at Asokavana stands for the Guru giving mantra-deeksha to the disciple.

RAMA is the life-protecting (Raksha) and mukti-bestowing NAMA. In the sacred Kashi Kshetra, Lord Shiva known as Viswanatha, who knows the glory of RAMA NAMA has taken upon himself to delivery each and everyone from the bondages of samsara and grant them mukti by whispering RAMA in their right ear at the time of death (MARA-na). MARA denotes death, bondage, change, finite and mortal. The reverse of it, i.e., RAMA signifies life, liberation, changeless, infinite and immortal!

When Parvati asked Lord Shiva for an easy substitute-method for chanting the Sahasranama, Sankara simply told her to chant RAMA three times – the equivalent of Sahasranama!! RA is associated with the #2, and MA with the #5. A combine of the two letters RA & MA therefore becomes 2×5=10. Hence uttering RAMA once is equivalent to chanting the Lord’s name 10 times. To utter RAMA twice (10×10) is equivalent to chanting the Lord’s name 100 times. To utter RAMA thrice (10×10×10) is equivalent to chanting the Lord’s name 1000 times and hence equal to the chanting of the Lord’s Sahasranama!

“Sri Rama Rama Rameti Rame Raame Manorame,Sahasranama Tat Tulyam Rama Nama Varanane!”

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Sri Krishna and Paal-payasam!

Lord Krishna is worshipped as Parthasarathi, the charioteer of Arjuna at Ambalappuzha in the Alappuzha district of Kerala. The Lord has the whip in one hand and the conch in the other. The temple was built by the local ruler during the 17th century. The unique feature of this temple is the PAAL-PAYASAM (rice and milk kheer) which is offered to the Lord as naivedya and distributed as prasad to all the devotees. Tradition has it that Lord Guruvayoorappan daily comes to accept the Paal-payasam!

Chembakassery Pooradam Thirunal Deva-Narayana Thampuran was the king of this region. He was very good in the game of dice (chathurangam). One day, Sri Krishna disguised as a sadhu approached the king and challenged him for a game of dice. The king who was an expert in the dice-game readily agreed. Now there has to be a prize for the winner of the game. The king who was very confident of winning the game asked the sadhu what he wanted in case he happened to win the game. The Lord told the king that a sadhu’s life is a simple one and therefore he did not have any big demands, and all that he wanted was a few grains of rice as measured by the number of squares on the dice-game board. One grain of rice for the first square, two grains for the second square, four grains for the third square, eight grains for the fourth square, sixteen grains for the fifth etc., by the process of doubling (exponential growth!). The king readily agreed. 

The king very confidently participated in the dice-game with the Lord, but he lost the game. According to the terms and conditions of the game, the king asked for rice to be brought. He started calculating and placing the grains of rice in each square. Suddenly he realized that this was a measurement on a very large scale ! A 64 square dice-game board needs trillions of tons of rice!! All the rice from the granary was brought and still there was a shortage!

The king was in a dilemma because he was unable to fulfil the requirements of the sadhu and this was unpardonable. He knew that this was no ordinary sadhu. He prayed to the sadhu to help him with a solution. Lord Krishna revealed his true form to the king. The king was overwhelmed since he had had the unique fortune of playing the dice-game with none other than the Lord himself. Indeed what a blessing! Since the king was unable to fulfil the conditions that had been put forth prior to the game, as an alternative, the Lord told the king to serve “PAAL-PAYASAM” every day to the pilgrims until the debt is cleared. The king joyously agreed and started the unique tradition of offering PAAL-PAYASAM as Naivedya to Sri Krishna daily.
Every day, early in the morning, the preparation of large quantities of paal-payasam starts. Those in-charge of preparing the payasam seek the Lord’s permission at every stage of adding ingredients into the huge cooking vessel. When the sugar is being added to the payasam, one of them comes to the door and loudly calls out: “VAASUDEVA!” It is to inform the Lord to come for naivedya since the payasam is almost ready! Normally a small portion of the food is offered as naivedya at the Lord’s altar. But in this temple, the entire quantity of Paal-payasam prepared is offered to the Lord. The payasam filled vessels are carried to the altar to the accompaniment of shankha-naada. The paal-payasam is then offered to Sri Krishna and then served to all the devotees who come to the temple. The paal-payasam has immense medicinal value and benefits and hence is known as GOPALA KASHYAYAM.

“May Sri Krishna, the Madhuradipathi (the Lord of Bliss), the Lover of PAAL-PAYASAM, reside in our minds and render it pure and sattvic (like milk), fill it with sweet devotion (like sugar) unto His lotus feet, and finally grant the State of Realization unto us (like the cooked rice in the payasam: Annam is Brahman)!”

“Sri Krishna Govinda Hare Murare, He Natha Narayana Vaasudeva!”

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Hindu Calendar: Chaitra to Phalguna: A Spiritual Yatra!

Lord Surya

Life is a series of experiences – an eternal journey from birth to death riddled with ups and downs: pain and pleasure, profit and loss, success and failure. Man is so preoccupied with his outer journey that he completely misses out the inner journey. In fact, every step taken outside should carry the stamp of a beautiful step taken within. Each one of our life’s journey – YAANA, must become a YATRA: a movement which helps one to cross the ocean of samsara. If the inner life is taken care of, the outer journey is automatically taken care of. This inner reorientation and transformation is the content of the Scriptures and the theme of the Puranas. Fulfillment is in “living” the words of the Scriptures and Realized Masters.

However, in and through life’s journey, constant reminders and guides are essential to keep us on the right path. The whole WORLD as an open UNIVERSITY provides us with these reminders. The entire VISHWA is a VIDYALAYA!! Everything around and about us are silent reminders of the great grand spiritual pilgrimage to be accomplished within each one of us – a rich culture and glorious tradition indeed!

The Hindu Calendar Year, known as SAMVATSARA has twelve months: CHAITRA to PHALGUNA. And throughout the year there are numerous festivals celebrated: UGADI to SHIVARATRI. Every month or rather the NAME of the month indicates where we are and what we should do on the path of self-improvement. It is equivalent to twelve graded exercises or steps in the scheme of spiritual evolution: from MANAVA to becoming MADHAVA – from the state of NARA to the State of NARAYANA: from BONDAGE to ABSOLUTE FREEDOM. Similarly with the FESTIVALS too!

The first month CHAITRA, indicates “many” or “variegated” (chitra – vichitra). It denotes our present individual state in the space-time world in a cause-effect relationship. VAISHAKA means more or excessive branching. It suggests our outer and inner world of multiplicity, diversity and plurality – the realm of change. Once identification and relationships become predominant, JYESHTA arrives! Jyeshtha means elder, big, or superior. Their opposites then automatically become evident. Comparison, contradiction and conflict starts! There is “I or ME” and the “OTHER”. The individual is then in a state of ASHADA! ‘Shad’ means ‘to sit’. ‘A-shad’ is its opposite, and hence ‘A-shad’ denotes an inner state of restlessness – a state which is not at all comfortable. An individual may have everything in life, but still can come to experience dissatisfaction, discontentment and unfulfillment. It is then that one starts enquiring into the ‘why’, ‘wherefore’, ‘how’, and ‘what’ of life. This is when Introspection starts. This month is also known as AA-SHADA, which means to “continuously sit” and introspect, take stock of one’s life and investigate into it. Guru Purnima comes in this month which signifies that one is ready for the Guru to enter into one’s life – a major turning point! When the Guru enters our life, SHRAVANA or ‘listening’ to the scriptures begins. Having heard the scriptural declarations, they have to be now reflected upon again and again, so that the knowledge gets well-rooted in the mind. This is BHADRAPADA: the state of ‘well-securing’ the knowledge within oneself. It denotes a sense of inner well-being (bhadratva). The next stage is Nidhidhyasana or Contemplation, represented by ASWAYUJA. ‘Yuj’ means to connect, unite or identify with. ‘Swa’ means tomorrow. ‘Aswa’ means ‘not-tomorrow’ and therefore signifies TODAY or the PRESENT. ASWAYUJA therefore represents contemplation. It also represents ‘pervasiveness’ or ‘expansion’, wherein the attempt is to include and accommodate everything and every being within oneself: to connect the micro with the macro; the individual with the Universal.

The next stage is KARTHIKA: invoking the Light of Knowledge, with the help of which the seeker can discriminate between the Real and unreal, the Permanent and impermanent. MARGASHIRSHA: ‘marga’ means path; ‘shira’ means ‘head’ or ‘higher’. Therefore, Margashirsha denotes ‘path leading to the Highest’ – negating and rejecting the lower and the false; and asserting and identifying with the Higher and the Real. PUSHYA means to nurture, nourish and maintain. When the seeker starts getting glimpses of the Higher within himself, he must consistently, constantly and totally identify and maintain that Higher State within himself. MAGHA means “don’t fall or don’t slip”. The seeker must not lose his hold of that Higher State. Inadvertedness can cause a spiritual fall which can be disastrous. The seeker should be alert and vigilant on the spiritual path. PHALGUNA denotes ‘not this….not this’. It denotes the Highest State of “That Am I” – the Absolute State of Realization.

The names of the twelve months of a Samvatsara through suggestion, significance and implication represent one’s Spiritual Evolution – the inner Spiritual Yatra leading the seeker from the realm of ignorance, change and mortality to the State of Absolute Knowledge, Changelessness and Immortality: the State of Jeevanmukti (Liberated-in-Life).

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