||Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Aum Namo Narayanaya
Nothing deals you a blow of reality than a visit to the high care trauma ICU of a hospital. As you make your way through the brightly lit corridors taking extra caution not to soil the sparkling floors which reflect your image with utter brilliance, you are suddenly greeted by a battlefield populated by various contraptions and aids, as patients lay fighting for the opportunity to live another minute.
Standing at an angle with the vantage of being able to view a number of them at a glance, the scene pours confusion over my thoughts as I am unable to distinguish if any of them come from a wealthy home or disadvantaged background; have a higher education or are illiterate; or even what religion they belong to for that matter. They have all been reduced to a mere hospital gown devoid of any attributes and consciousness of the outer world, feeding off a mere saline solution.
In the hands of the best physicians and most modern equipment, the power of the divine stamps its authority as in an instant a living being becomes a mere corpse. All your status, accumulated wealth, estates, degrees, awards, friends and family vanish as you enter the kingdom of Yama Raj, and the only commodity of value is your impressions of the life that you have lived.
Oh what a fool I have been to have wasted this human birth in the pursuit of all things which have no value. I have been trapped in the clutches of the enchanting queen Maya where all things are transitory - garlanded with anguish, pain and suffering. Yet all that earn great interest in the kingdom of God I heed not even an ounce of attention. This is the regret that will hijack your mind at the reception desk of Yama Raj.
Master Sri Ramakrishna said in the Gospel:
Worldly people wander about the four corners of the earth for the sake of happiness. They don’t find it anyway, they only become tired and weary. Through the attachment of lust and greed they only suffer misery. But what is there to enjoy in the world, the pleasure is only transitory. Take shelter in God and pray to Him with a yearning heart; He will surely listen to you and He will help you out this cycle of misery.
Yesterday, devotees of Lord Murugan would have descended upon temples throughout the world with intense bhakti and sincerity to commence the festival of Thai Poosam. In what can be described as a mass demonstration of devotion to Lord Murugan, devotees adorned with the patta (insignia of Shiva), will carry the kavady from a specified location back to the temple. This festival which features mainly amongst the Tamil speaking community has now attracted the attention of devotees across language and race barriers.
Here in South Africa, we find that devotees carry the kavady during three occasions ie: Thai Poosam, Panguni Uttaram and Skanda Shasti, and as much as devotees derive immense benefit from this ritual, like being cured of ailments or attaining success with business ventures etc., I find that this practice teaches and prepares us for the reception with Yama Raj.
|Kavadies in preparation|
A brisk walk around the ground where the procession commences provides the mind with a feast of images, sounds and scents. The fragrance of the freshly cut flowers vary from carnations,roses, marigolds and wild flowers - an indication of the financial status of the various devotees. The kavadies also don’t escape the touch of pride as they range from intricately carved solid exotic woods to a plane bamboo pole adorned with milk at either end.
The boisterous screams of Haro Hara by the priests signal the journey back to the temple. Dodging the thorns, gravel and heat, the barefoot devotees, amidst the devotional singing and chanting make their way to the temple carefully balancing the kavady on their shoulder.
At the temple, officials receive the devotees and immediately remove the milk from the kavady which is taken to the inner sanctum of the temple and is used to bathe the deity of Lord Murugan which is termed the abishegam. This act concludes the ritual and brings much delight to the devotee.
Close analysis and careful attention reveals that upon arrival at the temple, the kavadies are not allowed in the inner sanctum. It is only the milk which is received. Ironically, although much effort and resources were put into the kavady, Lord Muruga does not see the type of kavady that brought the milk to him, He only gets to feel the milk. He appreciates and receives the cool milk which has not been spilt and soiled, that which has been brought to Him with much care and sincere devotion.
In the world ruled by queen Maya, we pay so much attention to the body, wealth accumulation, degrees and status, yet like the kavady, it never enters the spiritual world. It is discarded at an instant. That which we fail to nurture and nourish in actual fact is what matters. Like the milk which adorns the kavady and is transported with utmost care for His abishegam; our consciousness and mind should be carefully prepared throughout our life so that it will be worthy of abishegam to the Lord.
Live a life of selfless service, purity and devotion always. Your life is like a long kavady procession. Engage every moment in thoughts of God, and every action as an offering to Him. Ensure that your mind and consciousness are not tainted and soiled by the impurities and trappings of this world. Immerse yourself in His love alone, and then alone can you stand at the desk of Yama Raj with a big smile.
May we be free from all our bondages like the cucumber severs its bond with the creeper and attain peace, bliss and abstention from birth and death is my sincere prayer. Urvārukam iva bandhanān mrtyor muksīya māmrtāt.
With love and prayers always.