Krishna Leela

“Vrindavan is at different realms” said the Avadhoot Babaji, seated on the ground! Someone had lit fire, on the cold January night and Babaji was enjoying the flames.  He seemed dark; his matted hair piled up almost casually, his radiant eyes pierced through the darkness around.

Someone had lit fire, on the cold January night and Babaji was enjoying the flames.  He seemed dark; his matted hair piled up almost casually, his radiant eyes pierced through the darkness around.

It was one January night, freezing cold with the western disturbance causing quite a drop in temperature of North India. Guarding myself with coats and mufflers, I had set out in the dark, wandering in the streets of Vrindavan.  Mornings are generally crowded with devotees from nearby places thronging around the countless temples in this small town. Evening however opens up a completely different atmosphere. A plethora of bhajans, that float around from almost every lane, fills the air with romance; the flowing Yamuna hums the songs that the trained ears can hear; the dust as if rises to add to the mysticism of this place. The breeze that blew…. carried a melody that could melt a stone.

“What do you mean, Vrindavan at different realms, Babaji?” I went on questioning the ‘Madman’.

Clothed only in a torn blanket, one could have passed him as a lunatic or a deranged person, one often encounters. Yet there was something about him, that pulled me to him. Lost in his own world he couldn’t care less on who is around, male or female, animal or human. Silence of the night blended with the silence of Babaji’s presence, one could glide into a trance …… that presence was beyond any description.

 

After a while Babaji spoke,–” Vrindavan is your heart! ” He looked straight – eyelids fixed – perforated through me, to a zone  he alone could fathom.  “You are Nand-baba and Yashoda maiya!  Gopis are the thoughts that play in you. And in amidst these thoughts, partly visible, part concealed, dancing and playing, laughing in His own merriment, Kanha plays on! His tiny hands and feet dance to the singing of Gopis.  As the ever-shining Truth, as the child of Nand-baba – He alone catches hold of your attention. How can you limit the limitless, to a place…. held in time?”

I must have seemed dull and weird to Babaji. He smiled and comforted, “that is the Vrindavan where He lives on”

 

Bhagwan Das Babaji – in these words – transported me to the realm where he lived. My friends who were a part of the trip, were searching for me desperately by now!!

 

While I heard their words of concern, care and desperation……. yet a part of me stayed on…. in the Vrindvan – the abode of Kanha. The heart suddenly felt joyous !

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For My sake

“Why don’t you have one more helping of the dessert – for my sake?”,said my host after serving me dessert the third time. There was a deafening silence all around. Here I was filled to the brim – and to please my host I need to eat another helping? “for my sake”?

“I love you deeply, because you make me happy”.

Isn’t that an oft noted feeling in all of us? We love the other only because he/ she makes ‘me’ feel good/ pleasant/ happy.  The reverse is even more applicable. Those who make ‘me’ feel uncomfortable are best kept at bay. Some, we avoid and for some we remain indifferent, they are not the people we are in love with.

Upanishad mentions, आत्मनस्तु कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति

atmanas tu kamaya sarvam priyam bhavati (Bri.U. 2.4.5)

For the sake of the Self, everything is dear – is a very precise statement of sage Yajnavalkya

 

It is one of the bold statements, a bold and blatant truth of the Upanishad. People, places, objects or you name it, whatever we love is only because of ‘my sake’. I do everything, hoping that action (or inaction) with eventually bring happiness for me. I love my dog and my cat for my sake, not for their sake. They make me happy, their presence brings delight to me. I love food or I abstain from food and keep a fast because it makes me happy. The wife loves her husband for her sake, the man loves his wife for his sake.

What then is undying and unconditional love? It is all for one’s own self. Is this a selfish portrayal of this beautiful four lettered word ‘LOVE’?

 

Not quite! Love is an expression, of the happiness that emerges out of ‘me’ spontaneously.

The ‘Me’ which is the source of all happiness, is yet unaware of its essence. Thus, in attempts to relate to the ‘happiness’, the ‘Me’ searches happiness all around, in places, objects, events and situations – to feel that ‘ananda’ that lies at the core. The deer that holds musk – runs all over, to reach to that fragrance, oblivious of the source within itself.

While leaving for work, the wife whispers to her husband, ‘ drive carefully and come back soon (for my sake)’… the underlying unsaid words remain, ‘If something happens to you (god forbid), what becomes of me?

 

आत्मनस्तु कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति.

 

 

Sant Eknath

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It is great to find faults in others, isn’t it? We are all equipped with enough knowledge to find faults and correct everyone around us. Eknath too did not sleep when he found faults in his accounts. Over and over again, he went through the accounts to locate the exact mistaken date…and ultimately, he found it! His joys knew no bounds – he danced – thrilled with his achievement. His master, Janardana Panth said, “If rectifying this mistake can give you so much joy, how much joy should you experience if you discover the mistakes in your life and rectify them? It is nothing short of self-purification and hereafter realisation of Godhood!” “Remove the impurities”, he said, “drop the defects and shed the desires. Dispel darkness; Realise Ignorance. You will shine in Godliness and bliss”.

 The life of Eknath acted like a bridge between his predecessors Jnaneshwar and Naamdev and his successors Tukaram and Ramdas His teachings of philosophy and practice is a synthesis of the quest for the eternal and transcendent while living within the imminent. This great saint of Maharashtra was born sometime around 1530 in Paithan, Maharashtra. Eknath’s father, Suryanarayan, and mother, Rukmini died shortly after his birth. Eknath was brought up by his grandparents, Chakrapani and Saraswatibai. Throughout his childhood Eknath devoted his time significantly to devotional practices.

Eknath was popular in his friends and in social circle for being devoid of anger. A Muslim friend, to win a bet with a friend, spat on Eknath. Silent as ever, Eknath went to the river and washed himself. The bribed friend spat yet again, Eknath washed himself without any reaction. We often say, there should be a limit to patience. Eknath’s patience knew no limits. Even the hundredth time he was spat upon, he bathed to clean himself. He was an embodiment of patience. All those who made fun of him or trouble him, ultimately gave in to his immense patience – they grew to admire and adore him.

Sant Eknath was an Intellectual-Poet, a Devotee-Poet, a beloved of lord Krishna. During the intervening period of about 250 years between Dnyaneshwar and Eknath, various Islamic invaders ravaged Maharashtra. Defeats after defeats had completely demoralised people. The great legacy of Jnaneshwar was nearly forgotten. Eknath devoted himself to change this situation. His first task was to locate the “samadhi” of Jnaneshwar and trace the undistorted version of “Jnaneshwari” (Jnaneshwar’s treatise of the Bhagavad Gita). In fact, without Eknath’s all-out efforts, the legacy of Jnaneshwar could well have been lost to the succeeding generations.

Just as Tulsidas is famous for ‘Ramacharit Manas’ in North India, Eknath is famous in Maharashtra for his inspiring ‘Eknathi Bhagvatha’. In 1606, he took Jal-samadhi by wading into river Godavari.

“To emaciate one’s body with fasts and the like is not true Penance” said Sant Eknath. “So long as evil passions persist in man, all external appliances are useless.”

“Remembrance is liberation, forgetfulness in regression. Utterance of the Name is Bhakti”

Sant Darshan – Andal

andal garland

India is a land of saints, since time immemorial. It is the land of living Tirthas – who demonstrated through their lives, the words of Vedas and Upanishads. The light emanating from these saints and sages have continued to guide many a traveler and showed them the source – the nectar of immortality.

This is my humble attempt to write on few such our country has seen over the years/ centuries.

 

ANDAL

A budding teenager – Andal…expressed her love for Ranganatha in words that spoke of deep emotion and utmost philosophy, reflecting maturity way beyond her tender years.

The lotus is greeting the rising sun

and the lily has closed its petals;
Wearing their saffron robes and ashes,

the ascetics are on their way to the holy temple

to sound the auspicious conch…..;

O talkative girl,

you, who boasted that you would be the first
to wake us up,

why don’t you get up!
We will sing the praises of the brave

and the beautiful Lord bearing
the conch and the wheel.

Andal was the very first lady poet of South India. She was one of the 12 Alwars and the only female of these illustrious Vishnu Bhaktas. Alwars were the saints who emphasized on devotion to God and worship through poetry, between the 5th and 9th Centuries. They were wanderers by nature and preached the love of Vishnu, phrased in words which were  passionate and philosophical. This brought about a heritage of intensely emotional bhakti. Andal stands a striking example of such Bhakti. Her life and writings –are celebrated in Dhanurmasa (Margazhi) (Dec-Jan) every year.

Vishnuchitta was a Brahmin in Villiputtur, near Madurai. Quite accidentally, he found a girl child in his garden. Bereft of his own child, he happily adopted this flower and named her Godai – a gift of Mother Earth. Vishnuchitta was himself a great devotee of Krishna and Godai grew up in an environment of devotional poetry and philosophy. The child through her gentle ways, fell in love with Krishna and vowed to marry no one else but Him. She often play-acted her role of a lover and bride of Lord Ranganatha. She would  adorn herself everyday with the garland prepared for the Lord at the temple and only then give it to the deity. Thus was her marriage every day to Lord Krishna.

One day her father found a stand of her hair in the garland adorning the Lord. He was aghast. Despite the philosophy and learning, rules and rituals seemed important. He strictly forbade his daughter from offering her garland to the Deity in the temple.   He made another garland and offered it to the Lord. Lord Krishna appeared in his dream that night and asked him to offer only the garland adorned by Godai. From that day, she was called ‘Andal’ – the girl who ‘ruled’ over the Lord.

When Andal came of marriageable age, she refused to marry anyone but Ranganatha- the incarnation of Vishnu at Sri Rangam temple. Vishnuchitta was worried on this strange obstinacy of his daughter. In his dream, the Lord appeared and asked him to send Andal as a bride to the temple. She was thus taken to the temple as a bride and became the united with the Lord and disappeared in a haze of glory. Andal was only 15 at that time.

 In North India, Radha is considered the queen of devotion. In Tamil Nadu, Andal is the epitome of love and bhakti.

Her first work is Tiruppavai, a composition of thirty verses, she imagines herself to be a cowherd girl (Gopi), communicating with Lord Krishna. Nachiyar Tirumoli (Sacred saying of our goddess)  is her second creation, has 143 compositions – borne of deep longing of Andal for Vishnu.  Her poetry remains a treasure house for Indian devotional literature.

Andal, the beloved, the poet-devotee, is present in all Sri-Vaishnava temples, next to her Lord as she always desired.

Pousha Ekadasi

For most of us, Ekadasi holds special meaning, varying inevitably from region to region. For some it means celebrations, for few, it interprets as fasting. When I mention celebration, the implication is on the varieties of food prepared to celebrate Ekadasi, to savour after the fast is over !!!!

 

Ekadasi, we all know is the 11th day – from Purnima (Shukla Ekadasi) and from Amavasya (Krishna Ekadasi). Thus we have two ekadasi’s  in a lunar month, one is each fortnight. Our festivals are aligned with the movement of Sun and the angle subtended by Moon. In this combination that holds Sun and Moon causing Ekadasi, the seers have noted the direct influence on the mind of a person. In this context, abstaining from food brings in discipline and a forceful injunction on oneself. Apart from cleaning the toxins of the body, the sublime joy of ‘observing a fast’ brings in healthier and devotional fervour as well.

 

Sun, the source of life, the source of all knowledge is thus worshiped by us – earthly mortals, as we are governed by the rules of Solar System. Moon, the significator of mind, plays a vital role in maintaining the ‘moods’ and ‘attitude’! In this context, keeping a control on oneself is easier on these specific days, for the one who is lives in worldly existence.

 

However – fasting, as I understand, is not just abstaining from ‘food’ that we commonly know!  Keeping the mind steady on the Supreme is the primary purpose of Ekadasi. Eating light and keeping a portion of the stomach empty, would help to keep one light and comfortable. Thus, one keeps off from laziness and sloth. Fasting of the senses, keeps one off from continuously indulging in sense pleasures. Spending more and more time with one self – in one’s chosen path – brings in sublime unfading joy.

Pousha Ekadasi comes up when Sun is in a powerful sign of Sagittarius, brings in added flavor for a seeker.

 

Sri Ramkrishna, the Master, hardly advocated fasting – especially by women. He would often ask them to eat in small quantities instead of abstaining from food completely. He would, however ask many to observe Ekadasi – keeping control on food, not just of the mouth but also of all the senses as well. This was for seekers, for those riding the waves of worldly life yet desirous of the Supreme.

 

One day, a devotee asked Bhagwan Raman Mahrshi, the purport behind such fasting.

Bhagavan replied: “All these things are only to control the senses. In a fasting person, the senses will be more subdued and will not go out, and the mind will be non-vacillating. But best thing is to control the mind.

 Where is the mind?

 Where is the body?

 Where is the Jiva?

 It is all in the Self.

 Food alone does not make up one’s determinations, thoughts. The very “fasting” of determinations, doubts and thoughts alone would control the mind. Even otherwise we are the Self. All these ideas, are only to be in the Self. If the Self is understood, all food controls are unnecessary.”

 Till one is settled in such a state – like an un-flickering lamp, discipline helps to hold the straying mind and senses.

 what-is-mindfulness-meditation

One simple chapter

Amidst the cacophony, her voice would reach me every morning, in those days of childhood. Care, that was abundant, was coupled with strict regime of do’s and don’ts which made up my childhood life. Stores of epics built up my days and nights, in those days where I played at the huge mansion where my mother had grown up.

 

It was a scary night, when I snuggled close to her, seeking protection and love. Strong that she was herself, she held my hands and made me speak out the holy mantras, gently- softly, adding a flowery tenderness to each name she uttered. Her fingers guided me to perform that which I later understood as ‘Japam’. Thus, without a notice or a dictation, she led me in the first path of spiritual life, – teaching me independence, strength and building in faith in the Supreme.

 

Years passed by, and I marvelled at her glow. Not that years favoured her more, yet the unfading beauty of those eyes captured my senses every time I visited her. Snuggling close to her, I smelt her fragrance, the fragrance of freshly lit incense, right after her worship. Meditate- meditate – meditate! That was her guideline, almost always. Be in the world, never run away, but know He alone is True. Keep your focus at the Truth while you perform your assigned roles, she mentioned – innumerable times.

 

It was just a few months back that I visited her. A nonagenarian by now, she outlived almost every one of her generation. Settled in herself, yet another time I marvelled at her. Hardly talking, quite engaged in herself, yet she was alert to the environment around. In her love, I noted the comforting detachment that she has mastered over the years. Placing herself at the feet of her Guru, she looked at every one with love yet with fond detachment. ‘Have you eaten’ she asked? That was her nature! But beyond that she contained in herself as she gently went on reciting the name of the lord – within herself. I looked at her, I admired her and knew somewhere that this was the last time I was seeing her.

 

Yes, she moved on, in the realm beyond time, beyond human limitations. That is my grandmother- the woman who taught surrender, who taught freedom and strength without cribbing of those tiny gaps of life. Despite all odds, she portrayed fulfilment.

 

A chapter of my life ended on the 1st of Jan!

Colors of life

Everyone was appreciating the painting in the hall. Comments of art work, color, the blends of brush and the strokes appealed to everyone. Standing these amidst the people, I wondered what made them say that. I was seeing only a blob, just one color and no strokes of brush at all.
What was wrong? My friend was smiling at me. She pulled me away from the painting and said, now look. And how true, all the colors were now visible, the miniscule dots, the shades of colors that added depth to the work of art. Slight distance made a whole change in the perspective.
Isn’t this exactly how we look at life, every day? Friends and relatives, who were once so dear, have betrayed our trust. Some close relatives or siblings, have let us down although we have been good all the while. All these are so similar to each one of us. Yet do these happen by mere accident or is this also a color that is added in the canvas of our life? Are we viewing everything too close or are we able to watch the painting unfold, from a decent distance?
The blue print of the entire journey, that is life, is already crafted out in various shades. The painter, in His deft strokes has made a beautiful picture of every being. Unaware of the canvas, we reflect only in the pains, the probable dark spots or the failed relationships. We are yet to open our eyes that every person who steps in our journey, right from the nurse who held us the first time we opened our eyes in the world, to the last person who gives us the last drop of water when we move on, are all aids to the color of our journey. The shade of red may be a little long lasting than the shade of purple, or the various hues of indigo may overshadow the tones of orange, yet the net outcome is the flawless painting that the master craftsman paints.
What then are we doing in the canvas?
We are doing exactly what we are meant to do. This is exactly like the inner systems functioning, each independent yet inter dependant. If the stomach decides to rest and feel lethargic one day, we know what happens. If the arteries feel tired and complain of the massive work it has to do, I am sure we will land up on the doctor’s operating table. Just as every system works independent yet inter linked, so too, each one coming in our life, good, bad or ugly, has a role to play, influencing this journey directly or indirectly. A role ever so important as to bring exquisite colors to my painting; without which my canvas would be a white sheet merely.