Essence of Bhagavad Gita!

A disciple once asked his Guru, “Guru Maharaj, we have heard your exposition on all the great scriptures. But when it comes to the Bhagavad Geeta, we feel that it occupies a more special and significant place in your heart?” The teacher smiled and said, “My son! In life, whenever we meet anyone, the first thing we do is to get introduced to each other. But do you realize, we have never got introduced to ourselves at any point of time in our life. Bhagavad Geeta is the text that first introduced me to myself! Self-introduction is the first step towards self-discipline and spiritual life. Hence the Geeta has a very special place in my heart.”
It is the style of the scriptures that the entire contents of the text is indicated by a few specific and significant words.

In the Bhagavad Gita: the first chapter, the first verse, the first line and the first word is DHARMA. The last chapter, the last verse, the last line and the last word is MAMA. The entire contents of seven hundred verses of the Geeta is between these two words. If we put the two words together it becomes DHARMA MAMA. On interchanging, it becomes MAMA DHARMA. MAMA means ‘my’. The word DHARMA is derived from the root “dhri” which means “to uphold, sustain or support”. Therefore DHARMA denotes that which holds together the different aspects and qualities of an object into a whole. DHARMA represents “the law of being”, meaning “that which makes a thing or being what it is”. It indicates the essential nature of anything without which it cannot retain its independent existence. So, MAMA DHARMA means ‘my law of being’. If we are to live as true dynamic beings in the world, we must live faithful to our true nature as human beings, and the Geeta explains to Me “my Dharma”. It is not pointing out to someone else’s Dharma, but pointing out to each one of us – our own “my” Dharma.

The Bhagavad Geeta through the seven hundred verses across the eighteen chapters is significantly pointing out to each one of us our own Dharma to be followed in all places, at all times, in all situations, irrespective of who we are, where we are, what we are and how we are, in the materialistic or in the spiritual realm. Dharma takes care of not only individual well-being, but includes collective well-being also.

After understanding what exactly constitutes our Dharma, what is the next step? The first two opening words of the first chapter gives us the instructions. “Dharmakshetre Kurukshetre” can be further split into four words. Dharma – Kshetre – Kuru – Kshetre. ‘Kuru‘ means ‘to do‘. ‘Kshetre‘ means ‘field of activity‘. Therefore, if the words are reassembled it becomes: “Kshetre Kshetre Kuru Dharma“, which means “in each and every field of activity do your dharma“. This is simply aligning ourselves every moment of our lives in and through our daily activities with the Higher Reality, with the Lord.

"Geeta: it is a call to each one of us to get up and fight the battle of our own life, according to our own vasanas (swadharma)"~ Swami Chinmayananda

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Sri Kateel Durga Parameshwari

Arunasura was a rakshasa who was creating havoc amongst the sattvic and noble people. He was very arrogant that none could vanquish and kill him. He had performed rigorous tapas and obtained a unique boon from the Creator, Lord Brahma. According to the boon no devata, human being, rakshasa, any two-legged or four-legged creature or any weapon could cause his destruction. Because of his rakshasic ways, the entire land was ridden with drought and everyone was suffering.

The Sage Jabali was filled with compassion for the people around and decided to perform a yagna for the welfare of all. The Sage went to Indraloka and asked Lord Indra to send the divine Kamadhenu with him. Since Kamadhenu was not available then, Indra asked the Sage to take Nandini, Kamadhenu’s daughter, with him.  However, Nandini who was very proud refused to go with the Sage to the realm of mortals. Jabali became very angry and cursed her to become a river and flow in the very region which she refused to grace.

Nandini realized her mistake and sought forgiveness and asked the Sage to take back the curse. Jabali told her that the curse cannot be reversed, but assured her that Adishakti, the Mother of the whole universe would redeem her from the curse at the appropriate time. In the month of Magha on the full-moon day, Nandini descended down and flowed in the form of a river from the Kanakachala mountains.

All the devatas prayed to Adishakti. She appeared in front of them and assured them that she would annihilate the rakshasa. Devi took a beautiful form and as Mohini entered and moved around the courtyard of Arunasura. When Arunasura saw her, he was so enamoured by her beautiful looks and asked for her hand in marriage. Devi started teasing him and running away from him. He ran after her. She ran faster and unable to catch her the rakshasa became furious. As he tried to catch up with her, Devi reached the banks of river Nandini and disappeared into a huge rock in front of her. Arunasura hit the rock very hard with his sword. And a huge bee emerged out and stung the rakshasa to death. The bee was neither a two-legged or four-legged creature. It was a six-footed one. And it did not use any weapon. Its sting killed the rakshasa. The bee was none other than Devi herself who came to be known as Bhramaramba.  (Bhramara means bee)

All the devatas were overjoyed. Indra brought the tender coconut water from the celestial tree and performed abhisheka to Bhramaramba (Devi in the form of a bee) to calm it down. They requested her to stay there permanently for the sake of her devotees. She accepted their request. In the middle of the river Nandini, Devi chose to manifest in a “Linga” form, surrounded by waters on all sides. Since she rose from the river, she is considered as the daughter of Nandini. With that Nandini was redeemed of Sage Jabali’s curse. 

The place became famous as Kateel (Kateel means ‘in the centre’) and Devi is known as Sri Durga Parameshwari. Since she came in the form of a bee and bees repel the smell of champaka flowers, these flowers are not used for her worship. Tender coconut water in this kshetra is first offered to her and only then taken as prasad by devotees.

[Kateel is situated at distance of 18km from Mangalore]

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Akasha Ganga of Tirumala!

Tirumala Nambi was a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara. He was also known as Sri Sailapurna. He was highly learned in all the scriptures and was one of the Gurus of Sri Ramanujacharya, apart from being his maternal uncle. It was he who introduced the Ramayana and elaborated the concept of “sharanagati” (surrender) to Ramanujacharya. 
He offered his services to the Lord of the seven hills by bringing water every day from Pushkarini which is about eight kilometres down the hills for the Lord’s abhisheka. Even though he was quite old, regardless of that, every day all alone he would trek down the forest without any fear of wild animals and carry a pitcher of water for the abhisheka. The seva is known as “teertha kainkaryam“. The Lord was happy with his unique and devoted service and decided to bless and help him. 

One day when Nambi was carrying water from Pushkarini up the hill, the Lord came to him in the guise of a hunter-boy. The boy stopped Nambi enroute and said, “Thatha (grandpa) I am very thirsty, please give me some water to drink”. Nambi was struck by the charm of the boy but politely refused to give him water. He said that he was carrying water for the Lord’s abhisheka daily without any break and he did not want any hurdles to the seva. Also Nambi told the boy that if he gave him water he would have to go down all the way to collect it again and that was not possible because he was too old. On the other hand, the boy was young enough to run down to Pushkarini and drink as much water as he wanted. 

Thus, having told the hunter-boy, Nambi started walking uphill. The boy slowly walked behind Nambi and hurled a stone at the pot of water. The pot cracked and all the water flowed out which the boy delightfully drank. Nambi was very sad. He would have to walk back, pick up another pot and then carry the water for the Lord. He was too exhausted and expressed his helplessness. The boy smiled and told Nambi that he did not have to go all the way down to collect the water for the Lord but right there very close to the temple he would provide an alternative for him. As Nambi stood and watched in surprise, the divine hunter-boy released an arrow from his bow. It struck the top of the cliff where they were standing and lo! water started to gush down from the top of the cliff. Nambi knew that this was no ordinary hunter-boy, but the Lord himself come down to help him. He prayed to the Lord to reveal his true form. The Lord stood in front of Nambi in all his pristine glory and told Nambi that this water-fall would be known as “Akasha Ganga” and henceforth the waters from Akasha Ganga would be used for the abhisheka. 

Nambi continued his “teertha kainkaryam” and also introduced other forms of seva like thomala seva, tirumanjanam, vedaparayanam, mantrapushpa kainkaryam etc., for the Lord which earned for him the title “Acharya Purusha” of the temple. Since the Lord had addressed him as “thatha” he is also known as “Thathacharya”. Even to this day, it is the privilege of the descendants of Tirumala Nambi to offer all these sevas started by him to Lord Venkateshwara.

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Manjula: Devotee of Lord Guruvayoorappan

Manjula was a great devotee of Lord Guruvayoorappan. Every day she would collect flowers and make a beautiful garland and late in the evening she would go to the temple with her offering. The priest would adorn Lord Guruvayoorappan with the garland, and she would feel very happy and fulfilled. After having the Lord’s darshan and singing his glories she would return back home. This was her ‘nitya mala kainkaryam‘ to Lord Guruvayoorappan. 

One day, however it became late and by the time she reached the temple with the garland the temple was closed for the day. She felt very sad that she could not offer the garland to the Lord. Slowly she walked upto the banyan tree near the temple and sat down there. With tears filled in her eyes, she started singing Sri Krishna’s glories. Poonthaanam, another great devotee of Lord Sri Guruvayoorappan who had also come for the Lord’s darshan was going back home. He heard the Lord’s song and came there only to see Manjula crying. He asked her what the matter was. She told him about the daily garland-seva to the Lord. That day since she was late, the temple was closed and she could not offer the garland to the Lord.

Poonthaanam realized the deep and sincere devotion of Manjula. He smiled and told her not to worry. He asked her to place the garland on the stone under the banyan tree because the Lord is All-pervading, and exists in every ‘thing and being’. Hence, the offering would reach the Lord. On hearing the words of the great Krishna Bhakta, Manjula placed the garland on the stone and went back home.

Manjulalthara – Banyan tree

Next day early in the morning, the main priest opened the doors of the temple, walked into the sanctum and started removing the previous day’s garlands that were adorning the Lord. One by one he removed all the garlands, but he could not remove one garland. Try as much as he can, the garland simply stuck to the Lord’s Vigraha! The priest and all the devotees gathered there were surprised. At that very moment, Poonthaanam came to the temple. Seeing the priest perplexed, he asked him what the matter was. The priest told him what had happened. He was unable to remove one garland adorning the Lord’s Vigraha. Poonthaanam was overwhelmed. He immediately remembered what had happened the previous night. He joyously cried out, “That is Manjula’s garland. If it is so, let it fall down”. And lo! the garland immediately fell down! All the devotees including the priest realized the complete surrender, total devotion and loving service of Manjula to Lord Sri Guruvayoorappan. Everybody went and offered their prostrations to the banyan tree which came to be known as “Manjulalthara”. A majestic and beautiful deity of Sri Garuda was later installed under the banyan tree.  

Even to this day, devotees who come to Guruvaayoor offer their salutations to this banyan tree!

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