I had a blissful dream. I saw myself climbing atop a beautiful hill. When I went up, I realised I was at the holy kshetra of Tirupati. I could see the tranquil Swami Pushkarini theertha. I saw the magnificent Ananda Vimana glowing in all its splendor. I stood before the kulasekara step and had the Divine Darshan of the majestic Sri Venkatachala Perumal. As I was absorbed in Supreme Bliss, all of a sudden, the beautiful ornaments that The Lord was adorning, started falling down. Startled, without thinking for a moment, I crossed the kulasekara step and ran to embrace The Lord, as a reflex to hold the Divine Ornaments in place.
Many were baffled that I had the audacity to enter the sanctum and touch The Lord. Some said I was right and argued in my favour. A debate ensued. Finally it was decided that the intention behind my spontaneous reaction was noble, for which I had to be rewarded. They asked me what I would want as a reward. I told them I do not want anything material, I would only want to have His ekantha darshan (darshan in solitude) once a month. I would not trouble anyone, would just come quietly and go.
- A Devotee
Purpose of life is to realise the Absolute, Infinite and Supreme Brahman. Purpose of human birth is to realise God thereby freeing oneself from the vicious cycle of birth and death. If we understand and believe in this, we start seeking a Guru who will guide us in that path and make sure we reach the Infinite.
Bubbling with inquisitiveness and initial enthusiasm, when we finally meet our Guru, we expect Him to give us some ‘upadesa’, or to clear our innumerable doubts. When we do not see that happening, and on the contrary, we hear the Guru say, “Chant Nama! That will suffice. Do not worry about anything else”. That’s a first. We’ve never heard anything like this before. Unable to digest this simple path shown by our Guru, we prod him further, “But how do I attain God if I don’t follow the spiritual practices stipulated by our scriptures? How can I make any spiritual progress if I don’t study and understand the various shastras and brahmasutras?”
‘Just keep chanting. Even if you do it mechanically, it’s alright. Clap your hands and chant aloud’, the Guru insists. So we begin chanting, we start by keeping count and strictly adhere to the time allotted for Nama. Not a minute more, a few seconds less maybe. A few months into chanting mechanically this way, with no spiritual intention or thought whatsoever, we begin to observe our perspective towards the many things happening in our lives and around us.
We happen to witness a fund raiser program performed by ‘differently abled children’. We witness a small girl dancing with a pot on her head, so graciously and with extreme precision. She has no arms. The crowd breaks into a thunderous applause after the girl finishes. One exclaims, “What perfection and determination!” Another compliments, “Special child indeed. She is very gifted. God bless her”. A line of pity cuts across all the faces in the audience, including mine. I am equally distraught and in complete acceptance with all the words spoken by people around. But then, an unexpected thought occurs to me, “I have a perfectly healthy body. My arms are absolutely fine. What is stopping me from clapping my hands and chanting as much as possible?”
We witness the prevailing situations in many countries where the citizens have so many restrictions and rules. They are not allowed to pursue careers of their choice; they do not have freedom of speech, do not get to wear what they like, so on and so forth. Looking at this, we only wonder, ‘Living in such a liberal country, governed by good hearted people who have created an administration system that is truly by the people and for the people, where our choices are not forced or restricted, why are we still not doing something, which we know for a fact is for our greater good? Why are we still not chanting more and more Nama?’
When we see any political or social disarray in the country, we begin to feel that these are transient, and we rather spend time in chanting than discuss these affairs. We begin to recognize that good and bad are very subjective. What is acceptable to one, is completely unacceptable to another. What is recommended to some people or regions of the world, is totally banned for others. We realize all this is a matter of perspective and we start focusing on the path that we have been instructed to tread on by the Guru.
We see contract laborers working under the hot sun for negligible remuneration, terminally ill patients affected by cancer – ears, cheek or noses removed, in perennial pain and suffering. We hear of a close friend’s father die unexpectedly due to a massive cardiac arrest at the age of 50, contradicting the astrologer who had predicted a long life for him. We shed a tear. We are at a loss of words. But instantly our mind says, “God has given me such a lovely life filled with joy. Sufferings are only due to ‘prarabdha’ (destiny). Today, I am perfectly healthy. Yet here I am, wasting so much time every day doing petty things when I can spend that time chanting Nama”. At that time, when we hear people say, ‘Nama Chanting? Spirituality? Sure. After retirement, not right now’, we are amused at the manner in which they are so sure that death or disease will not strike them till or after retirement.
Few more months of chanting pass. We become more refined and a little more at peace. At that juncture, we listen to a song’s lines playing at a distance… “Poovarasan Poo Poothachu, Ponnuku Seithiyum Vanthachu” and we find ourselves mumbling along unconsciously. The moment we become conscious of this, we find it very meaningless, and remind ourselves to rather chant Nama than waste time singing along those meaningless lines. The TV Shows of dance, glitz and entertainment that were once our favorites begin to look very silly and superficial, and we cannot but wonder how the ones on screen look like jesters to us. Even socializing and meeting up with friends, and exchanging pleasantries start appearing futile. Every moment spent without Nama on our lips, seems to be a colossal waste.
We stop getting frustrated over feelings like lust and greed. We are in agreement that we need to get rid of them, but we also realize that these are a result of accumulation of our ‘vaasanas’(latent tendencies) piled up over hundreds of births, and just like bad odor emanating from filth, it is natural that these feelings emerge out of us now and then. We are assured that chanting Nama will slowly vanquish these ‘vaasanas’.
On consciously observing all this, a series of realisations invade our minds. What started as a mechanical process with ‘nil’ spiritual inclination has caused so much refinement and transformation in our thoughts. Was this voluntary? Was this our intention? Not at all, I would say. Nama has softened and refined our minds even without our knowledge. It has increased our faith, brought upon the fear of death, belief in after life, and fear of losing much time. We get over our ignorance and realise how insignificant, temporary and futile our role and part in this world is. Above all, it dawns upon us that Nama has planted a sapling called ‘thirst for god’ inside us without us even asking for it. Our yearning to reach God and liberate ourselves has become multifold. All this has happened over a period of time after we started chanting Nama and without us even wishing for it to happen. What we thought could be achieved only by complex spiritual practices and study of holy texts, we achieved by sheer repetition of the Holy Name.
Sri Swamiji explains this wonderfully by quoting Sri Sankaracharya’s Tattva Bodha - “nitya-anitya-vastu-viveka”, which means the ability to discern between the eternal and the ephemeral, the real and the illusion. It is easy to understand and relate to that which is visible to our eyes in this material world. But to understand or realize the invisible, formless, attribute-less Brahman, a Guru’s Grace is vital. To be recipients of the Guru’s Grace, one must believe in the Guru’s words, and implicitly obey his instructions and upadesas, sans any doubt or questioning. Although the instructions given are initially related to disciplining our worldly routine and affairs, as the disciple begins to follow them with steadfast faith, the Guru begins to believe in that disciple. It is the belief that the Guru gets on the disciple that will make His eternal Grace work, and take the disciple unto His loving fold.
We begin to agree that God Realisation cannot be obtained by a single request or permission, but should be a life-long quest with true yearning and craving that increases with each passing day. The more Nama we chant, the more our thirst and faith appreciates!
We, who were initially longing for an ‘upadesa’ from the Guru, begin to experience that the Nama bestowed on us by Him, has itself become our Guru!
~ Vignesh Sundararaman
It was a pleasant December morning. I had planned a visit to a school to give the students a couple of quick lectures on values and to conduct a nama kirtan for the middle school and high school students. In course of my discussions with the middle school children, I narrated the classic tale of the professor and the student --
“A student who was widely read—and hence considered himself to be highly knowledgeable—approached a wise teacher to gain further “understanding” And deepen his “knowledge.” The teacher, in one glance, saw through the mask of the student and discerned that this young man was full of false pride for his learning. He invited the student and placed a cup before him. He started talking to him and, while speaking, poured tea into the cup. Eventually, the cup became full; yet, the teacher continued talking and pouring the tea. Seeing this, the student exclaimed, “Sir, the cup is full. You cannot pour any more tea into it!” To this, the teacher replied, “Right. I cannot add anything more to you too.”
Sri Sri Swamiji has recently composed a simple yet wonderful Kirtan on the glory of the 'Divine Name' - the 'Rama Nama'. Giving illustrations of how, through Rama Nama, great Mahans accomplished insurmountable tasks in this worldly life, as well as attained liberation, this Kirtan in sweet Tamil Language, boldly proclaims that singing the Holy Name is the only way out in the Kali Yuga, forgetting which one is doomed!
The Kirtan in Tamil, its transliteration in English and explanation in English are presented here. Above all, a video clipping of Sri Sri Swamiji rendering the Kirtan himself is also available.
The Kirtan is in the tune of "Neelamegha Shyamala roopa Gopala..."
God cannot differentiate between people; His grace and compassion knows no such thing as distinction between devotees.
The wealthy are capable of seeking treatment for their ailments in expensive private hospitals, while hospitals running on charity are the only source of medical aid for the poor. Despite the fact that the value of human life is greater than that of money, we do encounter these differences in the very protection of life. Only God’s compassion is equally available for all. However, some close-minded people with vested interests have managed to use some faulty logic and obstruct everyone from experiencing God’s grace and compassion equally. To change this situation and to ensure that God’s grace reaches one and all, the rich and poor alike, I would like propose a simple and beautiful solution, which is in line with the path treaded by our great Mahatmas — Nama Dwaar.
The following is the emotion filled benedictory address by Sri Sri Swamiji at our Mathurapuri Ashram on the Republic day:
“I wish everyone was taught how India attained independence rather than being told when she attained her independence. Today, the Department of History enjoys very little status for the very reason that all desire to pursue only that study which would land them in gainful employment.
Just as one earns Bhakti by reading the life histories of great devotees like Mira, Aazhwars, Nayanmars, so too, does one earn love for the Nation and realize the value of independence only by reading the history of our Nation wherein we find the struggle, the torture undergone by our forefathers in the Andaman prison cells for gaining the freedom for India.
While looking at the ‘self-centered’ who provoke the feelings of the people (to fight each other in the name of religion, language, state, etc.) to meet their own selfish needs one is roused to anger and feels emboldened to fight them.
Sri Sri Swamiji talks about His divine experiences. These are being narrated here by Dr. Bhagyanathan of our satsang.
Long ago, it was the days when the world did not know Sri Sri Swamiji. In those days Sri Swamiji had not begun giving public talks. Once, He was traveling by train. Sri Sri Swamiji was returning from Kumbakonam and among His co-passengers were this fine couple from Chromepet, Chennai.
As it always happens in Sri Sri Swamiji's presence, the conversation mostly centered round Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavan Sri Krishna. The couple at some point, amazed by Sri Sri Swamiji's wonderful expounding of Srimad Bhagavatam, requested Him to discourse in their residence in Chrompet. Sri Sri Swamiji accepted it as Sri Krishna's will.
Sri Sri Swamiji talks about His divine experience --
Once Sri Sri Swamiji asked Lord Krishna, 'There are three different well-known commentaries to Bhagavad Gita. Which one of those should I accept?'
Sri Krishna replied, 'I taught the Gita. Why do you bother about others' commentaries? You ask me and I will tell you the essence and meaning of Bhagavad Gita.'
When Sri Sri Swamiji asked Bhagavan Sri Krishna Himself, He answered,
'The essence of Bhagavat Gita taught by me is -- Chant the Maha Mantra always and do not worry about anything. I will take care of the rest! The extract given above is not a figment of imagination. These are intense spiritual experiences, which His Holiness has condescended to reveal. Such spiritual experiences cannot be possibly appreciated unless the reader either believes in such spiritual experiences or he/she himself has had a taste of similar experiences.
Our Guru Maharaj would say often that the uniqueness of our Sanatana Dharma lies in the fact that it quite literally, encompasses all. There is nothing that is left untouched by our scriptures and works of Mahatmas.
From the greatest principles of spirituality to even a simple recipe for a food delicacy, one can find “everything under the sun” in our Vedas, Itihasas, puranas and works of Mahatmas. Every scientific fact that is accepted today can be found in our scriptures – represented cryptically as riddles or artistically as stories.
Let us consider the following …. Did our Maharishis not accurately predict so many astronomical facts such as the red colour of Mars, the timing of eclipses, the shape of the earth, so and so forth without the aid of the sophisticated device of this age?
This multi-faceted nature is the beauty of our religion. Look at anything from any standpoint – spiritual, philosophical, scientific, psychological or social – it will always make perfect sense!
In Srimad Bhagavatam, there is a conversation between the great Kapila Vasudeva and his mother Devahuthi in which the stages of development of a fetus during pregnancy from the moment of conception to delivery has been described in a chronological order. The amazing thing about this description is that it is in perfect synchrony with the embryological timeline given by modern science. To imagine that all this was done in an age when there were no modern laboratories and investigative tools like ultrasound scanners is simply startling!