Category Archives: Srimad Bhagavat

MAHA-RAASA: the Universal Dance of Life: A Celebration of Life!

(Sharad Purnima / Raasa Purnima falls on Saturday – 31st Oct 2020)

SHARAD PURNIMA is the full moon day in the autumn season. The full moon on this day is closest to the earth and therefore its influence and healing benefits are immense and profound. The moon represents the mind and the sun represents the Light of Knowledge. On the purnima day, all of the sun’s light falls on the moon unobstructed. Therefore the full moon in all its glory represents a pure satwic mind endowed with knowledge. The minds of the Gopis of Vrindavan are likened to the full-moon and Sri Krishna, the Personification of Knowledge (Sun) danced in their minds! This is the true inner RAASA-KREEDA. The entire inner Raasa-kreeda is externalised and dramatized beautifully as the dance-sport of Sri Krishna with the Gopis. Therefore Sharad Purnima is also called as RAASA PURNIMA. In some parts of the country, Karthik Purnima which comes in the next calendar month is also called as Raasa Purnima. 

On the full moon night (Sharad Purnima), Sri Krishna revelling in His own Ananda Swaroopa picked up His flute by name “Aakarshini” (the one which attracts) and started playing upon it. The flute represents the entire world of things and beings, macro as well as micro, through which Krishna – the LIFE flows, enlivening it and making it dynamic. SAARA means “essence”, the INCOMPREHENSIBLE “TOUCH-OF-LIFE” – the Ultimate Reality. When the word is reversed, it becomes RAASA, the COMPREHENSIBLE “PLAY-OF-LIFE” through the gross and subtle matter-equipments. KREEDA is “sport”. Hence RAASA-KREEDA represents the CELEBRATION-OF-LIFE: the play or sport of SPIRIT (Purusha) through MATTER (Prakriti): the Creation-Sustenance-Dissolution of the Universe. This Celebration is full of Joy and Happiness (Rasavath). This “Eternal Dance of Life-through-Matter” is both, at the individual (micro) as well as at the cosmic (macro) level, and hence it is known as MAHA-RAASA.

There is Naada (music), Nritya (dance) and Naataka (drama) very beautifully represented in the Raasa-Kreeda of Lord Krishna with the Gopis. The Nava-rasas (the nine moods) of the mind starting from Shringara (Beauty) to Shanta (Peace) are beautifully depicted. The GOPIKAS danced with KRISHNA. “Go” means “knowledge”. “Pi” means “to drink” and “Ka” means “happiness”. Therefore GOPIKA means “one who is revelling in the blissful spiritual knowledge”. GOPIKA hence symbolises all spiritual seekers. Infact, all things and beings created by the Lord are GOPIS – all for the Lord’s Leela (Sport). The Lord’s music enthralls the whole of Nature, the whole Universe.

In Sage Bharata’s Natya Sastra, RAASA has been defined as “a form of dance wherein a number of women, dance in a circle with their hands interlocked in the company of men who dance with them with their arms placed round the neck of their female partners.” In the Raasa-kreeda, though Lord Krishna stood at the centre, each gopi visualised the presence of Krishna next to her. Hence there were as many Krishnas as there were Gopis on the circumference of the circle. 
Krishna as the “motionless centre” represents the Absolute Reality: the UNIVERSAL LIFE, the BRAHMAN. All movement is at the circumference. Each Gopi representing the mind or the thoughts totally identifies herself with Krishna, and therefore sees Krishna next to her rather than at the centre. Therefore, the Krishna-and-Gopi pairs represent the “Individual Life expressing through the mental-thoughts”. Their dance of identifying and interlocking with each other, and their movement represent the INDIVIDUAL LIFE functioning through MATTER: the relationship between Prakriti and Purusha, the Vishwa and Vishwanatha.

According to Bhagavat Purana, Krishna is blue in colour representing Infinitude. Gopis are depicted as yellow (brilliant lustre) in colour. When they are dancing, the blue and yellow mutually overlap to yield green colour. Hence Krishna as well as the Gopis look like green emeralds! Green is the colour of balance, equilibrium and equipoise. In the infinite play of Prakriti and Purusha, there is divine equilibrium and balance in the cosmos (macro) and in each individual (micro). 
The Krishna-Gopi pair at the micro level represent “Consciousness+Thought” playing about within oneself – a mini Raasa! Infact, the Whole Universe is a MAHA-RAASA. From the celestial bodies, the planetary system, the silent mountain ranges, the rains, the roaring ocean, the flowing rivers, the passing breeze, the nodding fields upto the complex body system, the mind-intellect equipment – all are a play of Prakriti and Purusha – perpetual Raasa-Kreeda! So many…many mini Raasa-s in the Cosmic Raasa! 

“Tava kathaamrutam tapta jeevanam kavibhiriditham kalmashapaham; sravana mangalam srimadaatatam Bhuvi grhnanti te bhuridaa janaaha” (Lord’s divine glories in the form of nectarine stories, most auspicious to hear are recited and spread amongst the mortals by the great and compassionate sages which alone is the life-giving antidote to the miseries of samsara) ~ Gopika Geeta (Bhagavat Purana)

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Naama Traya Astra Mantra: Lord’s Names become a Weapon!

# The devatas and rakshasas came together to churn Ksheera Sagar, the great milk-ocean to obtain Amrita. The Mandara mountain was the churning rod and Vasuki, the serpent became the churning rope. Lord Vishnu helped by bearing Mandara mountain on his back in the form of a tortoise. As they churned, Vasuki started spewing venom from his mouth. The deadly poison “Halahala” or “Kalakoota” spread in all directions threatening to burn and destroy all the worlds. Fire and poisonous fumes rose almost upto the sky. All the devatas prayed to Lord Sankara, “the One who bestows well-being to all”. Lord Shiva immediately came and saw the havoc and disaster that the poison was creating. Sankara invoked Sri Hari: “Om Achyuthaaya Namaha – Om Anantaaya Namaha – Om Govindaaya Namaha.” This empowered him to be able to drink and handle the deadly poison. He contained the poison in his throat because of which it turned blue giving him the name “Neelakanta“. The three names of the Lord became known as “Naama Traya“, capable of handling any adversity – physical, mental or intellectual.

# Bhandasura was a very powerful rakshasa ruling over Shonitapura. Through severe penance he had acquired boons from the Lord. His was a regime for 60,000 years without any interference. Also whoever confronted him in war, half their strength would go to him. No one could overpower and defeat him. No weapon, however powerful it might be, could destroy him. And his death, if at all, was at the hands of “a woman not born of another woman!” With all these boons, he presumed that he was invincible and harassed both heaven and earth.
All the devatas prayed to the Lord who suggested that they should perform a Yagna, and offer themselves and their powers as oblations to it. And out of the Yagna-fire, Adi Parashakti, the Mother of the Universe would manifest herself and become the destroyer of Bhandasura. The devatas performed the Mahayagna and out of the yagna-kund, Sri Lalitha Maha Tripurasundari manifested herself. Riding on the Srichakraraja Ratha, accompanied by her army, she waged a war on Bhandasura. Every astra that he discharged was countered by her. It was a very fierce battle.

Seeing her might and power, greatness and glory, Bhandasura invoked and discharged a weapon charged with various deadly diseases, the Maha Roga Astra (Weapon of Deadly Diseases). The astra brought forth various types of deadly diseases which spread all around. Under the influence of this astra, the whole army of Devi collapsed. To counter the rakshasa’s astra, Devi through her yogic powers, invoked the powers of “Om – the Supreme Parabrahma” and created and released the most powerful and invincible Astra comprising of the Lord’s three Names which were invoked by Lord Shiva earlier, the Naama Traya Astra (Triple-Name Weapon): “Om Achyutaaya Namaha, Om Anantaaya Namaha, Om Govindaaya Namaha“. The three names of the Lord which are very powerful nullified the effect of the Maha Roga Astra, restored health and brought Devi’s entire army back to life. Bhandasura was finally killed by Sri Lalitha Maha Tripurasundari.

The Naama Traya Astra is considered as a very powerful Mantra (Triple-Name Chant) which can remove all the negative forces around a person. It is able to cure a person of all types of deadly diseases and serves as an antidote for toxic substances. It bestows good health, well-being and protects a person from misfortunes and untimely death. Lord Agni, the presiding deity of fire, assures that whoever chants “Achyutha – Ananta – Govinda” will be benifitted immensely. The Naama Traya Astra Mantra can also be used for japa and contemplation. The names not only indicate Saguna Paramatma but also suggest and signify the characteristics of Nirguna Parabrahma. Achyutha: One who is Unconditioned, Unlimited and who is unfailing. Ananta: Endless and All-pervading. Govinda: Supreme Lord of All.

Om Achyuthaaya Namaha! Om Anantaaya Namaha! Om Govindaaya Namaha!

Achyuthaanantha Govinda Naamoochhaarana Bheshajaat I Nashyanthi Sakala Rogaha Satyam Satyam Vadaamyaham II – Bhagavan Sri Veda Vyasa

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Lord Vithala and Pundalika

Janudev and Satyavati were a pious couple devoted to the Lord who lived in Dandirvan in Maharashtra. They had a son by name Pundalika (Pundarika). He was noble, respected his parents and was devoted to the Lord. At a suitable age, Pundalika got married. Under the influence of his wife, he neglected the worship of the Lord. He started abusing and ill-treating his parents. His wife started making them do all the domestic work. Tired and exhausted, sad and dejected at their plight they decided to go on a pilgrimage to Kashi. 

Pundalika and his wife also immediately decided to accompany them to Kashi. They made the old couple walk, while they rode on the horse-back. Throughout  the journey they harassed them enough that they even regretted having undertaken the pilgrimage. Enroute they arrived at Kukkuta Rishi’s ashram and decided to break the journey and stay there for a few days . 
At night when everyone was sleeping in the ashram, Pundalika was disturbed by the sound of anklets. He got up and went out to see from where the sound was coming. To his surprise he saw three young and beautiful women cleaning Kukkuta Rishi’s ashram. Their clothes were extremely dirty. And surprisingly, when they had finished cleaning the entire premises and were about to leave the ashram, their clothes were spotless white and clean! This happened consecutively for three days.

On the third day, unable to check his curiosity, Pundalika approached the women and asked them who they were and why their clothes were dirty and how their clothes became clean after cleaning the ashram. The women told Pundalika that they were the presiding deities of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. They said, “every day thousands of devotees come and take a holy dip in our waters and wash off their sins because of which our clothes become dirty. As a result of serving the great Kukkuta Rishi by cleaning his ashram, we get rid off the sins of thousands of pilgrims and inturn our clothes again become spotless and clean and we once again regain back our lost glory.” And the river-deities continued, “of all the people, you are the most sinful one because you ill-treat and harass your parents. We are able to regain our glory because Kukkuta Rishi consistently and constantly served his old parents by looking upon them as the Lord himself. That is the Rishi’s Greatness and Glory .”

These words went straight into Pundalika’s heart. He immediately remembered how badly he had treated his parents. He was overcome with remorse. He narrated everything to his wife and told her that the rest of his life would be spent only in looking after his aged parents. He ran to his parents, fell at their feet and asked to be forgiven. He convinced his parents to return home and promised to look after them well. They were overjoyed at the transformation of their son whom they had totally given up and happily agreed to return back home. While coming back, the aged parents rode on horse-back and Pundalika and his wife walked by their side.
After coming back home, from that day onwards, day and night, Pundalika looked after and served his parents with all devotion. To him they were the manifestation of Lakshmi and Narayana. The Lord was very pleased with Pundalika’s devotion and decided to bestow his grace upon him and decided to come to the banks of the river Chandrabhaga where Pundalika was staying. Lord Shiva came to know about this and wished to accompany Sri Hari. The Lord agreed and asked Lord Shiva to occupy the crown on his head and Shiva seated himself on the crown of Hari in the form of Shiva-linga. 

Hari and Hara came to the dwelling of Pundalika and Hari called out to Pundalika and announced his arrival. Pundalika was massaging his father’s leg at that time and therefore told the Lord that he was busy serving his father and would not be able to leave his duties and come outside immediately. He threw a brick that was lying nearby and told the Lord to stand on it and wait. Lord Hari stood on the brick and with both his hands on his waist, waited for Pundalika. After his service, Pundalika came out of his house and was overwhelmed with the darshan of the Lord. He prostrated to the Lord. Pleased with his devotion to his parents, the Lord asked him what boon he wanted. Pundalika told the Lord that he wanted nothing for himself but asked the Lord to permanently stay there to bless all the devotees. The Lord agreed and stayed there standing on the brick with hands on his waist as Lord Vithala along with his consort, Rukmini in Pandharpur on the banks of the river Chandrabhaga.

Jai Sri Vithala! Jai Hari Vithala! Vithala Vithala! Panduranga Vithala!

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Adhika Maasa (Purushottama Maasa) -Significance

There is a difference in calculation between the solar and lunar calendars. After 32.5 months of the lunar calendar, there arises a discrepancy of 30 days (1 month) which has to be included in the lunar calendar to perfectly align it with the solar calendar. This month is called as ADHIKA MAASA (Extra Month). Each month has its own presiding deity. However Adhika Maasa did not have any presiding deity. Adhika Maasa approached Lord Vishnu and said, “Lord, there is no presiding deity allotted to me. I am known as “extra” and “unwanted” month. Everybody totally ignores me and no one associates anything auspicious with me.” The Lord heard Adhika’s plea and said, “Do not worry. I myself as PURUSHOTTAMA – “the Best of Beings”, will be the presiding deity of Adhika Maasa.” Hence the Adhika Maasa is also called as Purushottama Maasa. All the divine glories associated with the Lord are therefore associated with Adhika Maasa.

The Adhika Maasa is an extra month that Prakriti or Mother Nature has given to mankind which comes after every 32.5 (nearly 33) months. Normally an individual is constantly engaged in sheer worldly pleasures and materialistic activities all through the months, year after year. The call of our great Rishis is that atleast in the Adhika month we should refrain from all materialistic activities and devote the entire month to religious and spiritual activities. Hence in this month vivaaha, gruhapravesam, naamakarana etc are not celebrated. Importance is given to Japa, Tapas, Upavasa, Puja, Homa, and Dana. All the merits acquired by performing pooja, japa, tapa and dana in the other thirty three months put together collectively can be acquired by performing the same in just this one Adhika Maasa. Lord Brahma once weighed all the sadhana he had pursued prior to his work of creation with the sadhana performed in the Adhika Maasa. The scales tilted in favour of the sadhana undertaken in the Adhika Maasa!

Reading of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Geeta, Bhagavatham, Ramayana, Chanting of Stotras like Vishnu Sahasranama, Lalitha Sahasranama, Aditya Hridaya, Hanuman Chalisa, chanting the 15th chapter (Purushottama Yoga) of the Bhagavad Geeta, etc., attending Satsanghs, undertaking pilgrimage to various holy places are also taken up during this period. Lighting Akhanda Deepa (day and night) all through the Adhika Maasa which represents the “initiation of spiritual knowledge in an individual” is also undertaken during this period. There are Adhika Maasa Vratas and Vows prescribed for this month. Any noble and virtuous activity taken up during this Adhika Maasa is supposed to give Adhika-phala (extra merit). 

33 (thirty three) is a number associated very closely with the Adhika Maasa, since this extra month comes after 33 (32.5 to be precise) lunar months. If we have not performed our religious activities and charity during the last 33 months, it is atoned for now by doing the same 33 times in the Adhika Maasa. Therefore chanting of a specific mantra 33 times or in multiples of 33 is normally undertaken. When fruits, tamboola (betel leaves), or sweets are offered to the Lord the number prescribed is again 33 or multiples of 33. Similarly when dana or charity is given, it is 33 or in multiples of 33. This is supposed to take care of the lapses on our part in our religious activities and charity during the previous 33 months. 

Amongst the danas, “Anna-dana” (food distribution to the needy) is supposed to be very important. A unique feature of Adhika Maasa is “Apoopa dana” – the dana of “Athirasa” (Apoopa in Sanskrit). It is a deep-fried sweet-dish prepared by using rice flour, jaggery and ghee – a wholesome nutritious delicacy. Traditionally, 33 apoopas are given in charity every day along with 33 fruits, 33 betel leaves and 33 coins. If it is not possible daily, this unique dana is done atleast once during the Adhika Maasa. Apoopa dana is considered equivalent to prithvi-dana!

The glory and uniqueness of the sacred Adhika or Purushottama Maasa was narrated by Lord Narayana to Sage Narada, and by Sri Krishna to Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandavas.

[This year Adhika Maasa begins on 18th Sept 2020 and ends on 16th October 2020]

Charity must come from one's sense of abundance. True charity springs from a sense of oneness between the giver and the recipient. - Swami Chinmayananda

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