Sunday, 13 November 2011

Faith and Devotion the Panacea for weakness

|| Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam ||

Aum Namo Narayanaya

In these dark days of Kali Yuga when adharma seems to flourish over dharma, man because of his inflated ego sometimes tends to even question the influence of god in his life. There is an anecdote about a man who was late for an interview and as he approached the office building started to panic at the lack of parking. He immediately summoned the help of god and said dear lord if you organise me a parking I promise to buy you ladoo with the first pay cheque. As soon as he completed his prayer a vehicle started to back out of the parking. At this he immediately replied, dear lord not to worry I sorted myself out.

I really do not see a problem with testing god as I believe that it strengthens ones faith and devotion, but it is important that we do not continuously dwell on this, but used that faith gained to evolve spiritually. Swami Vivekananda on a few occasions even tested the Master. Swamiji has taught us that we must not blindly follow things , we should test and experience things for ourselves. Spirituality is not something we can gain from merely reading books or listening to discourses but it must be experienced.

Being the spiritual scientist I also decided to run a small experiment.  Merisha not so long ago spoke to me about the dependency she had on pain killers. She took pain killers daily and found it very difficult to pass a day without taking any. Upon hearing this, my first response to her was to seek proffessional counselling. As in most cases the dependency proved too strong and dissuaded her from seeking such help.

At that very time I had received a mail from the Divine Life Society about the 40 day Hanuman Chalisa Recital. I persuaded her to undertake this with firm faith in Sri Hanuman and Lord Rama. I advised her to  focus solely on the lord to give her strength and determination to give up her weakness and overcome her dependency. I asked that she write a diary of the 40 days and present her experience on this blog. She happily agreed.

It was truly remarkable to read how Lord Hanuman and Sri Ram had intervened in her life and gave her the power to overcome her weakness. Please find below her account for the month reproduced for you to read and be inspired.

Merisha – Hanuman Chalisa Diary Starts here:

Durgama kaaja jagata ke jete, Sugama anugraha tumhare tete.

The burden of all difficult tasks of the world become light with your kind grace.

(Hanuman Chalisa)

And, an abundance of grace I certainly received in these 40 days.

It all began on the 19th of September when I received an email about the Divine Life Society which was embarking on the 40 day Hanuman Chalisa Vrath.  I read the mail, then left it aside and thought ‘I must put this on my to-do-list’. Many things crossed my mind about why I wouldn’t want to do it now, much like the many things we procrastinate about daily. I mean how a thought like that even crosses one’s mind - when God doesn’t think twice when He gives and gives and gives to us.

So, a few days later, I mentioned to the family that I was to embark on this fast - and they all agreed to do it as well. Mum and Dad are firm believers that the family should pray together and important undertakings like this one are done together (it was a lovely feeling reciting the Chalisa together each morning). However, the first question that popped into all their minds was “Merisha, you have suggested this fast, but how will you manage eating vegetables for so long”.  I didn’t respond. I didn’t know the answer.

The beautiful 9 day festival of Navarathri began on 28th September, and as is customary at home, we go on a fruit and milk fast during this time. The Chalisa Vrath started concurrently on Sunday, 2nd October at the beautiful Ganga Rani at the Sivananda International Cultural Centre in La Mercy, and also eventually coincided with the auspicious month of Karthik. As I sat cross legged and looked at Gurudev (Swami Sivananda), I thanked Him, then asked for the strength for the remainder of my Navarathri fast and then for the 40 days ahead. It’s been a difficult year - juggling work, studies, relationships, friendships, family responsibilities, cultural and religious work… we also lost a very special person in our lives at the beginning of the year... but there was much to be appreciative for as well, and I could think of no better way to offer thanks. Thank You Gurudev!

Navarathri went off beautifully - I couldn’t have asked for a better time of self-introspection and singing Mata’s glories nightly…. but, one of the most numbing experiences I’ve ever had in my life was on the 9th day. I visited the Sri Sarada Devi Ashram in Asherville for the first time. As I entered, I approached a life size murthi of Master (Shri Ramakrishna) - I immediately just fell in prostration. I was then taken to meet a most friendly and humble soul, Mataji. She requested I stay for aarti and was given the song book to follow the words. I’m generally able to follow bhajans easily, but, about 3 lines into the aarti, I put the book down as I could not follow for some reason. I then closed my eyes, put my hands together and decided to just soak in the amazing atmosphere.

After a while - I couldn’t move… my body went tight… I almost froze… I couldn’t even part my hands or feel my legs. Then I could feel water on my face so I thought my eyes were strained. Before I knew it, tears were streaming uncontrollably from both my eyes (note, I went in with only my phone and car keys - no tissue or bag). I attempted to wipe my face and continued to pray. After aarthi, chanting began - but I only caught the end of it as I didn’t even realise chanting was on. We then proceeded to the Shivling where Mataji requested that I stand next to Her. Shiva, being my ishta-devtha - I was blown away at being able to do pooja at the Lingam. I left after having the chance to speak to Mataji, receiving Her darshan and persadh that she personally packed. I feel heart-sore at not being able to translate my experience properly in words - because it was just that - an experience! Thank You Master, Mother and Swamiji! Thank You Mataji!

I figured that merely reciting the Chalisa 11 times every morning will bring minimal benefit - and I must at least attempt to read some spiritual literature and give up some pleasures. I thought long and hard about all the sacrifices I was about to make and remembered reading Master’s words: Just imagine Hanuman's state of mind.  He didn't care for money, honour, creature comforts, or anything else.  He longed only for God.

I needed to give up my very bad habit of “popping painkillers” much like a drug addict, together with the things I daily cannot do without like cooldrink, bubblegum, ice-cream, chips, sweets, chocolates, television, Facebook, Twitter, eating out, getting up late, etc (I did not succeed in surrendering my BlackBerry though). I also needed to read more spiritual literature. But one of the true victories for my family was that I started eating fruit and vegetables - including the once unheard of brinjal, karela, calabash, lentils and others.

But, no doubt, the Lord in all His mercy also puts you through tests to test your bhakth (devotion). And the tests came in both standard grade and higher grade levels. There were days when my head and body ached so much; when work and study stress got me so down; when I couldn’t control my emotions.  The nature of human beings dictates that when times are tough, we question a lot and feel despondent. When Hanumanji’s devotion is questioned - he tears his heart opened to reveal Ram and Sita inside. A lighter ‘test’ included missing both live and televised cricket matches (I’m a huge cricket fan) - so I joked with Hanumanji that he owes me a live game in India next year.

Sri Hanumanji tears his chest

Much like how Hanumanji positioned himself in the flag of Arjuna's chariot to secure and stabilize the warcraft (the flag stands for equilibrium, sense-control and mind-control... and a sure sign of victory), I too believe that I will attain my victory. Swami Vivekananda reminds us that: Everyone on the spiritual path must worship Hanuman first. He is a perfect bhaktha (devotee).

Hanuman is also called sankat mochan. Sankat means problems and mochan means the remover. So sankat mochan is someone who frees you of the problems. My time reading also sent me to the Sundar Kaand of the Ramcharitmanas - it’s tales of Hanumanji’s prowess, devotion and love for Shri Ram are nothing short of inspirational. Hanumanji is quite the figure across many pieces - even cited in the Durga Chalisa: Kehari Vahan soh Bhavani, Langur Veer Chalat agavani (Reposing gracefully upon your vehicle, O Goddess Bhavani, You are welcomed by the brave Langur - Lord Hanuman).

Fasting and reading aside - as a female, there was one issue really bugging me.  I recall growing up listening to discourses at temples about how Hanumanji is a Brahmacharya and therefore females should not perform Hanumanji’s pooja, touch the jhunda at home etc. After research by many learned and respected leaders in the community, I’m happy to say this is just but a myth. In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna  wonderfully reminds us of God’s impartiality: The same am I to all beings; to me there is none hateful or dear; but those who worship Me with devotion are in Me and I am also in them.

Yogan Unna wrote in a previous blog about the beautiful day when Revered Swamiji Vimokshananda visited his home. I always enjoy Swamiji’s talks, so I was anticipating a beautiful afternoon - and He definitely did not disappoint. I almost felt like Swamiji was speaking to me during the talk, allowing me to walk away feeling like I was again ‘touched by an angel’. Thank You Swamiji!

The Lord always embraces his devotee

Hanumanji is described to be one for whom nothing is impossible and whom is the embodiment of faith, devotion, fearlessness, self-confidence, and loyalty. Both authors Valmiki and Tulsidas point out that success is the outcome of such an attitude. I certainly triumphed over my ‘addiction’!!! Thank You Hanumanji for giving me faith as strong as the sanjivini mountain; devotion like yours to Shri Ram; and bravery and courage symbolic of your gada (mace) - I couldn’t have done it without you!

And I conclude as I started…

Lord Rama praised Hanuman when the latter returned to Him after finding Sita in Lanka. Hanuman was not a bit elated. He fell in prostration at the holy feet of Lord Rama.

Lord Rama asked him, “O mighty hero, how did you cross the ocean?” Hanuman humbly replied, “By the power and glory of Thy Name, my Lord.”

Again the Lord asked, “How did you burn Lanka? How did you save yourself?” And Hanuman replied, “By Thy Grace, my Lord.”

With that in mind, the last week dawned, and the hawan completed at DLS headquarters on the last day, I felt somewhat lost already. Right now, just a day after the vrath has ended, I feel like something is missing. I bask in my renewed and refreshed spirit and energy... I feel like a new person - motivated and inspired to face anything. I am well aware that the good habits need to be sustained… but, I learnt to have hope, faith and an outpouring of love for the Lord. Thank You to everyone for your love, support and encouragement during this time. Readers, I hope you too have been inspired.

Swami Sivananda says: Where Hanuman is, there are Shri Rama and Shri Sita. And wherever Shri Rama and Shri Sita are praised and their deeds recited, there Hanuman

Cheer Ke Chaathi Bole Apni Pawan Putra Hanuman - Mere Man Me Base He Ram, Mere Tan Me Base He Ram… May Lord Rama reside in your heart, mind and in every cell of your body.

Jai Shri Ram, Jai Hanuman!

Merisha Lalla

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us was an enjoyable and definitely sensible read. I too feel inspired.
    Well done on the blog Yogan, look forward to reading many more of your discourses.
    Stay blessed...

    Warm regards,
    Sudisha Naidu


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