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Sri Vadiraja Tirtha of Madhva Parampara

Ramabhatta and Gowri were a pious couple living in Huvinakere near Udupi. Desirous of a child, they sought the blessings of Sri Vagisha Tirtha, the pontiff of Sode Math of Udupi. The saint blessed them and told them that their first-born will be a son who would belong to the Math! The couple were taken aback! However, the saint consoled them saying that if the child was born inside the house he would be with them; but if the child was born outside the house, he would belong to the Math. The couple agreed. Soon Gowri became pregnant. Great care was taken to make sure that she never stepped out of the house. Mysterious are the ways of the Lord! One day, when Ramabhatta was having his meal, a cow strayed into their agricultural land and started destroying the crop. Gowri went outside and while trying to drive it away, she moved far away from the house. Totally exhausted, she rested under a tree. And in the field, outside her house she delivered a male child! 

When Vagisha Tirtha was informed, he asked them to bring the child. The Acharya blessed the child and named him Bhuvaraha. He pointed the auspicious signs with which the child was born indicating its glorious future ahead. The parents were worried that they might have to leave their child in the Ashram. Vagisha Tirtha consoled the parents saying that Bhuvaraha would join the Math and get initiated into sanyasa only after their second son was born. When the couple was blessed with another son, Bhuvaraha, eight years at the time was initiated by Vagisha Tirtha and given the sanyasa name VADIRAJA TIRTHA. He started his studies under his Guru.
Vadiraja Tirtha was exceptionally brilliant in his studies. Once Vagisha Tirtha wanted to test his students. Silken clothes and variety of delicious dishes were laid out and the students were asked to choose whatever they wanted. All the students rushed forward and each took whatever he wanted. Vadiraja stood in a corner silently, far away from them all. The Guru asked him lovingly, “my child, you don’t want anything? What do you want?” Vadiraja burst forth with a beautiful verse: “Devotion to Guru I seek! Blessings of elders I seek! Constantly listening to the glories of Sri Hari I seek! True dispassion I seek! Worship of Sri Vishnu I seek! Constant Japa of the Lord’s Mantra I seek! Intense Tapas to reach the Highest State I seek! Control of Sense-organs I seek! Lord Sri Hayagriva’s Blessings I seek!” Vagisha Tirtha was overwhelmed at the young student’s extreme dispassion and total devotion along with his poetic abilities. After his studies, Vadiraja travelled extensively across the country and documented his experiences under the title “Tirtha Prabandha”. Wherever he went, he met scholars and participated in conferences, discussions and debates and upheld and established the supremacy of Madhva’s Dvaita Philosophy.
Sri Vadiraja worshipped Lord Hayagriva (Lord Vishnu with the face of a horse). A goldsmith living nearby was trying to cast a panchaloha idol of Lord Ganesha. However to his surprise, the idol took the shape of Lord Hayagriva. He tried again and again, but each time the idol cast itself in the form of Lord Hayagriva. That night, the Lord appeared in his dream and asked him to hand over the idol to Vadiraja. Next day the goldsmith along with others of his tribe met the Acharya and handed over the Hayagriva idol to him. Vadiraja was overwhelmed to see his Ishta-devata. On hearing the difficulties and hardships they were undergoing, Vadiraja brought their entire community into the folds of Bhagavatha-dharma. Every day, Sri Vadiraja Tirtha would offer a sweet dish made with channa dhal, jaggery, ghee and dry fruits as Naivedya to the Lord. Vadiraja would place a tray filled with the sweet on his head and sit down. On invoking the Lord Hayagriva, the Lord would appear in the form of a beautiful white horse, place both its fore-legs on Vadiraja’s shoulders and partake the sweet. This sweet dish is also known by the Lord’s name as “Hayagriva!” Vadiraja would sing his composition known as Dashavatara Stuti set to “Ashva-dhati” – tuned to the trotting of a horse! The Lord would dance while Vadiraja sang and then the horse would disappear into the idol!
While on tour, Vadiraja reached Pune where scholars from all over the country had met for a Vidvat Sabha. “Sishupala Vadha” by the great poet Magha was adjudged as the best literary work: a MAHAKAVYA. Vadiraja told them that there was a far more superior literary work and asked them to wait for a few days before coming to any conclusion! They agreed. In 19 days, Vadiraja composed “Sri Rukminisha Vijaya” in 19 cantos and presented it to the sabha. The entire sabha unanimously agreed that this was a literary work par excellence! Even the title “Sri Rukminisha Vijaya” was more auspicious than “Sishupala Vadha”. The manuscript was taken on an elephant in a procession round the city. Sri Vadiraja was duly honoured as the best amongst the poets. 
Sri Vadiraja Tirtha reached Pandharpur. He visited the famous Vittala temple and stayed there for a few days. Nearby was a field where lentils were sown. The owner of the field noticed a white horse entering the field and grazing. He tried to chase it away. After grazing it went into the Math premises where Vadiraja was staying. The landlord came to the Math and complained to Vadiraja that his horse had eaten and destroyed his crop. Sri Vadiraja told him that he did not own any horse but the landlord was not convinced. Vadiraja realised that it was none other than Lord Hayagriva himself who had visited the field and asked the landlord to go to the field the next day and especially check the places where the horse had grazed. When the landlord did so, he was surprised. Wherever the horse had grazed, he found golden lentils in place of the consumable lentils. He surrendered to Vadiraja and gifted the land to the Math.
Sri Vadiraja Tirtha composed many stotras and contributed to the Haridasa (Bhakti) movement. He authored many philosophical texts, both in Sanskrit and Kannada. Vadiraja Tirtha introduced the Paryaya system at Udupi Sri Krishna temple and also consecrated Sri Manjunatha (Shiva-linga) at Dharmasthala. Sri Vadiraja Tirtha entered the Brindavan alive after living a full 120 years.
“Jnananandamayam Devam Nirmala Spatikakrithim, Adharam Sarva Vidyanam Hayagrivam Upasmahe!”

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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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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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Bhima meets Hanuman – Lifting of the tail!

Hanuman and Bhima

The Pandavas were in exile living in the forest for twelve years. One day, as they were moving around in the forest, a gentle breeze carried along with it a beautiful celestial flower known as Saugandhika and dropped it on the ground in front of Draupadi. Draupadi was wonderstruck at the beauty of the flower and the divine fragrance emanating from it. She longed to have more of those flowers and requested Bhima to get them for her. Bhima obliged and went in search of the flowers.

Bhima walked through forests and mountains, roaring and thundering and exhibiting his might and strength.  Suddenly on his route, he found a huge, old monkey lying on a rock. Its long tail was obstructing Bhima’s path. Bhima shouted at the monkey to move away from his path. The monkey got up as if from sleep and asked Bhima who he was and why he was creating so much of disturbance in the otherwise quiet environment of the forest. Bhima boasted about himself and told the monkey that he was one of the Pandava brothers and that he was the son of Vayu and the brother of Hanuman. Again Bhima asked the monkey to move away, but the monkey replied that he was too weak and had no energy to move his tail. He asked Bhima to push his tail aside and move on.

Bhima, the most powerful and strong who had the strength of ten thousand elephants was now being asked by an old monkey to lift its tail! He was furious by this time. He tried to push the monkey’s tail aside with his mace but could not move it even by an inch. He was surprised! Bhima tried again and again to move the monkey’s tail with all his might but miserably failed. Exhausted, Bhima realized that this was no ordinary monkey. With folded hands he requested the monkey to reveal his true identity.Then, Lord Hanuman revealed his true form. Bhima was overjoyed to see his brother Hanuman. They both embraced each other joyfully.

Lord Hanuman told Bhima not to be arrogant of his might and strength, and this was just a lesson for Bhima to remain humble. Hanuman also advised him on the duties and responsibilities of the various categories into which the society is divided into – the intellectuals, the warriors, the tradesmen and the working class.  Bhima asked Hanuman to show him his huge colossal form with which he had crossed the ocean in search of Seeta. Hanuman showed his magnificent, effulgent, gigantic form to Bhima. Bhima was overwhelmed to see the awesome form of Hanuman and saluted him again and again. Hanuman showered his grace and blessings on Bhima and promised Bhima that during the Kurukshetra war, he would be on their side as a source of inspiration, might and strength. Hanuman also told Bhima that his thunderous roar would resonate along with terrible roar of Bhima during the war which would send shivers down the spine of the Kauravas. Hanuman also told Bhima that he would adorn the flag-post of Arjuna’s chariot and lead them on the path to victory. 

Keep the attitude of the humble-servant of the Lord and watch how your work can progress..... when ego rises in us, the harmony is lost and thereafter our work​ dims in its divine glow. He alone is the Sole Doer and Accomplisher; we are, at best, only mere instruments​. - Swami Chinmayananda

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