Tag Archives: Hinduism

Vatapatrashayee – Significance!

 

VATAPATRASHAYEE signifies a Man of Realisation – a Jeevanmukta. He is none other than Lord Mukunda: One who gives Mukti to the spiritual seeker.  

Sage Markandeya undertook intense tapas to propitiate Lord Vishnu. Pleased with the Sage’s austerity, the Lord appeared before him. Overwhelmed with joy at the divine and glorious darshan of the Lord, Markandeya put forth a unique request to the Lord. He wanted to ‘see’ the LEELA or the Sport of the Lord-of-Maya! Sri Narayana smilingly acknowledged. A few days later, the sky opened up, clouds burst, winds swept, thunderstorms and torrential rains created floods, the ocean rose and in a short time all the worlds including the entire earth was engulfed with water – it was Pralaya. In the darkness of the Deluge, drifting along in the dangerous and swirling waters, Markandeya who was ever well-established in the Higher State of God-realization beyond all traces of duality, now went through the gamut of hunger and thirst, fear and sorrow, pain and grief! He was unable to come out of it – the Play of Lord’s Maya! And suddenly, to his utter surprise, he found a small lone infant also drifting in the waters. Curious to know who it was, he swam towards the infant. Extremely divine was the vision! Markandeya saw a dark-blue hued child exquisitely charming and captivating lying on a banyan leaf. The infant held its lotus-like foot in its beautiful hands. And he was blissfully sucking at the toe which was in his mouth – Lord VATAPATRASHAYEE! Markandeya was sucked into the body of the infant along with its in-breath. There in the body of the infant, Markandeya saw the outer and inner space and all the worlds, including himself! With the infant’s out-going breath, Markandeya was thrown back to the surroundings. And suddenly the deluge-vision disappeared. Markandeya was back in his hermitage. Nothing had really happened. It was all Lord’s Maya – a mere delusion created illusion! Sage Markandeya had witnessed the Play of Lord’s inscrutable Maya!!

Significance: The waters all around represent pralaya (deluge) or dissolution, which is the Destructive Aspect of Nature. The infant on the banyan leaf represents the Constructive Aspect of Nature. At the Cosmic level, Nature balances the destruction-construction phenomena. If the dark waters represent disaster, trouble and spiritual ignorance, Sri Krishna (Vatapatrashayee) represents relief, hope and Light of Knowledge. 

The Lord’s ‘breathing-in’ represents the DISSOLUTION of the worlds. Hence Sage Markandeya was sucked into the Lord’s mouth. The Lord’s ‘breathing-out’ represents the CREATION of the worlds; the sage was thrown back into the surroundings. Between creation and dissolution, the Lord nurtures, nourishes and MAINTAINS all that He has created. Therefore BALA-MUKUNDA represents the Powers of Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution – the Ultimate Reality, BRAHMAN. The Lord’s face, hands and feet are compared to the LOTUS. The Lotus represents Beauty, Knowledge and Truth. The Lord is a personification of, an embodiment of Beauty, Knowledge and Truth. An infant/child always “lives and responds” in the PRESENT without the conditionings of the PAST and FUTURE: the Highest State in which a Man of Realization is revelling. Hence, the Lord is depicted as an “infant”. 

The waters represent the “troubled waters of samsara” – the ups and downs. To balance ourselves safely and sail through them we need knowledge. The banyan leaf represents “spiritual knowledge” and its green colour represents “balance or steady mind”. The banyan tree has long life and vast spread with roots hanging down from above. Hence the banyan tree represents the Eternal, Timeless Spiritual Knowledge which transcends all other knowledges, yet includes everything. It flows from the Higher to the lower.

Krishna lying down on the banyan leaf tossed up and down by the waves represents the Man of Steady Wisdom in perfect balance within himself and in absolute harmony with Nature. Krishna holds the big toe of His leg with both His hands, draws it towards Himself and is depicted as sucking the toe by putting it in His mouth. Feet is what one stands on. The Master’s Feet represent Spiritual Knowledge in which he is well-established and rooted in. The big toe is equivalent to the thumb and it signifies the essence of spiritual knowledge which the Man of Realisation is constantly experiencing and revelling in, after turning his attention within himself in his seat of meditation.This inward gaze is represented by the Lord pulling his leg inward, towards Himself. The blissful smile on the Lord’s face signifies the State of Sat-Chit-Ananda which the Jeevanmukta is constantly experiencing within himself!

“Karaavindena Padaaravindam Mukhaaravinde Viniveshayantam; Vatasya Patrasya Pute Shayaanam Baalam Mukundam Manasaa Smaraami” – Baalamukundashtakam

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Sri Sankara Bhagavadpada!

Sankara was born to Aryamba and Sivaguru in Kalady. He exhibited extraordinary intelligence and mastered all that was taught to him and even composed – Balabodha Sangraha. Even at that young age, Sankara wanted to embrace sanyasa. However his mother did not give him permission, but someday he hoped that his desire would be granted. One day when he was taking a dip in the river, a crocodile caught hold of his leg and started pulling him into the river. He cried out to his mother who was on the banks of the river for help, but she was helpless. At that moment, Sankara cried out and told his mother that now he was in the jaws of death and nothing could be done. He pleaded with her to atleast grant him permission to take on the sanyasa robes at this crucial juncture. The desperate mother agreed. Sankara loudly chanted “sanyastoham…sanyastoham…sanyastoham” (I have renounced). Miraculously the crocodile released its hold on his legs!

Sankara came out of the waters, and he requested her to give him permission to go in search of his Guru, now that she had allowed him to take sanyas. The mother agreed to let him go with a promise from him that he will be there by her side at the time of her death. Sankara promised her that he would be there at the time of her death.

Just before Sankara left, he had a vision of Lord Achyutha who directed him to go to the ascetic Sri Govindapadacharya, the disciple of the great Sri Gaudapadacharya of the Mandukya Karika fame at Omkaranath. Sankara composed tha Achyutha Ashtakam in praise of the Lord during this time.

Sankara walked Northward. As he was travelling, he came across a place where he saw something astonishing. A huge cobra had spread its hood like an umbrella over a frog to protect it from the scorching heat of the sun. Creatures who are inimical by nature were in harmony and peace with each other at this place! He concluded that it must be because of a great tapasvi’s presence somewhere around. It was the place where Maharshi Rishyasringa had performed tapas. Sankara immediately decided that if ever in future he established a math it would be at this sacred place. Years later, he established the Sringeri Math over here. 
Walking ahead, Sankara came to the banks of river Narmada. Sri Govindapadacharya lived in a cave very close by. He searched for the Mahatma and finally found him in meditation in a cave. Coming out of his meditation, yet with closed eyes, the Acharya asked him (Sankara) who he was. Sankara composed a beautiful hymn, known as Dasa Sloki expressing his perfect identity with the Supreme Reality. Sri Govindapadacharya opened his eyes and saw in front of him a young realized soul prostrating at his feet. The Master was filled with joy. Sri Govindapadacharya accepted Sankara as his disciple. The young ascetic stayed there with his Guru for three years and mastered all the scriptures.

Once during the rainy season, when Sri Govindapadacharya was meditating in the cave, there was sudden flash-floods in the river Narmada. The waters kept rising and rising and threatened to enter the cave, and disturb the Master who was in deep samadhi. At that time, Sankara placed his kamandalu at the entrance of the cave saying that it would absorb the waters into itself. As the waters rose and reached the kamandalu, the flash-flood immediately subsided and in a couple of minutes everything was back to normal. The other disciples were wonderstruck at Sankara’s feat and narrated it to the Master later on. Supremely happy at his disciple devotion and extraordinary achievement, Sri Govindapadacharya blessed him saying, “just as you contained the flood waters in the kamandalu, similarly you should write commentaries on the scriptures which will carry the essence of all the Vedas. This will bestow upon you eternal glory”. Sankara prostrated at his Master’s feet. To test the student’s calibre, Govindapadacharya asked Sankara to write a commentary on Vishnu Sahasranama – his first ever commentary. The teacher was extremely pleased with Sankara’s work. 

Sankara was sent to Kashi to invoke Lord Vishwanatha’s grace and wait for further instructions. Lord Vishwanatha blessed him and directed him to write commentaries on all the sacred scriptures. Many disciples reached him to pursue their vedantic studies. His disciples reverentially addressed him as SANKARACHARYA. 

Sankaracharya then decided to go to Badarikashram. It is here that he wrote the commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Geeta which are known as Prasthana Traya. Later Bhagavan Veda Vyasa blessed Sankara with an extension of another sixteen years (he was sixteen years at that time). Sankara extensively travelled from place to place across the length and breadth of the country to establish the supremacy of Advaita Philosophy and adorned the Sarvagnya Peeta – the Throne of Omniscience. He composed beautiful Hymns on all the principle deities and authored books on the fundamentals of Advaita Philosophy. He organised the Dashanami Sampradaya for the monastic order and unified the Sanmatha tradition of worship. In spite of the various different traditions, customs and rituals followed by the people, Sankaracharya with his lofty vision and zealous missionary successfully brought about integration amongst the people – indeed, a UNIFIED CULTURAL REVIVAL in BHARAT! NATIONAL INTEGRATION through SPIRITUALITY!! 

“Jaya Jaya Sankara! Hara Hara Sankara! Hara Hara Sankara! Jaya Jaya Sankara!!”

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Nandanar: Devotee for whose sake Nandi moved!

Nandanar was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He is considered as one among the 63 Nayanars (Shaivite Saints). Nandanar belonged to a small village known as Adhanur in Tamilnadu. He belonged to the community that made percussion instruments and in those days they were looked down by the upper community. After his daily work, he would spent most of his time singing the glories of the Lord.

Nandanar once visited Lord Shiva’s temple at Thiruppunkoor. Since he was not allowed to enter the temple, he stood outside and prayed fervently to the Lord. He longed to have darshan of the Lord from far, but the huge Nandi was right in front of the Lord and was obstructing his view. Nandanar prayed to Nandi to move a little so that he can have a glimpse of the Lord. His prayers were answered and Nandi moved a little so that Nandanar could have the darshan of Lord Shiva! Even to this day, Nandi is tilted slightly to one side in this temple!

Nandanar cherished a deep desire to go to Chidambaram and have the darshan of Lord Nataraja. Every day people would ask him when he planned to visit Chidambaram. But the thought of not being allowed to enter the temple made him postpone his visit and he would tell people that he will “go tomorrow”. Every day he would tell people, “I will go tomorrow”. All the people started mocking him. They concluded that he would never go to Chidambaram and started calling him “tirunalaipoovar” meaning “one who will go tomorrow!”

One fine day, having made up his mind, Nandanar asked his landlord for permission to go to Chidambaram. The landlord asked Nandanar to first plough his agricultural land and only then he would give him permission. It was a huge task which would take days. Nandanar prayed to the Lord and started ploughing the field. Late into the night, he was exhausted and fell off to sleep. When he woke up next morning the entire field had been ploughed and was ready for sowing. The landlord was surprised and realized the greatness of Nandanar and immediately allowed him to go to Chidambaram. 

Overwhelmed by the Lord’s grace, Nandanar happily proceeded to Chidambaram, but he was not allowed to enter the temple. Singing the glories of Lord Sankara, he went round the holy city a number of times. Lord Shiva decided that it was time the world realized the greatness of Nandanar and his supreme devotion. The Lord appeared in Nandanar’s dream and beckoned him to enter the temple. Next day, in the morning, Nandanar joyously started walking towards the temple. At the temple, the priests had lit up the huge Vedic fire for a yagna. With a mind soaked in single-pointed devotion to the Lord and oblivion of the surroundings, Nandanar walked straight into the fire-kund which was right in front of him. Everyone around were stunned at the sight of Nandanar entering the homa-kund. But nothing happened to him! He came out of the fire unscathed. Nandanar’s physical form was shining like burnished gold! The presence of an inexplicable divine aura around him was evident. The priests realized the greatness of the Lord’s devotee and respectfully escorted him into the sanctum of the Lord. In the presence of all those assembled, that very moment, Nandanar merged and disappeared to become one with Parameshwara: the Lord-of-his-heart! 

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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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