||Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Aum Namo Narayanaya
When former president Nelson Mandela declared to the world in 1994 that South Africa is a “rainbow nation”, it made us extremely patriotic to know that we are able to live and co-exist in peace and harmony. However, I feel even more pride living in the KwaZulu kingdom which takes prized position in presenting the rainbow brand.
In what is essentially a Christian celebration throughout the world, takes on a different outlook in the kingdom of KwaZulu-Natal. For tourists and former expats of the province, the landscape turns into a colourful and dazzling mosaic of religion, culture and leisure. This melting pot of diversity truly gives meaning to the ideals of oneness.
Pure and powerful spiritual vibrations emanate from the churches, mountains, temples and festivals that contribute to the wellbeing of not just the province and country, but the world as a whole.
The roosters must still be reeling from confusion as thousands started their Good Friday before daybreak, with their annual pilgrimages to the Ammen temples in Isipingo and Mount Edgecombe. With the popularity of this prayer increasing year-on-year, the smaller town temples also benefit from the support. The spiritual fervour gained extra momentum with Hanuman Jayanti celebrations co-inciding with the Ammen prayer. Our roads also took extra strain as devotees made their way to the Hare Krishna Ratha Yatra Festival of Chariots; churches; and temples on this morning. Despite traffic jams and hot weather, all frustration and irritation seemed to dissolve into the devotion for God.
It was heart warming to watch as families gathered at temples with trays of offerings, dressed in traditional wear and adorning smiles as they circumambulate the deity and queue to place their wishes and prayers before the Divine. At this hospital of divinity, no triage facility exists, and all problems and prayers are given the undivided attention of god.
The atmosphere was infused with a hearty dose of love, incense and joy - accompanied by sporadic bursts of bhajans and music through loud hailers - especially in Tongaat where the mood was being set for one of the biggest displays of devotion to Lord Muruga on the continent of Africa, where an estimated 500 kavadies and 20 000 spectators descend on the town to participate in this 103-year tradition. This continues the following day with another estimated 10 000 people attending the Sunrise Kavady festival in Tongaat.
|Mother Shabari serving Sri Ram|
Back at the temple, whilst watching the families in queue with their beautifully packed and decorated trays of love offerings, I for some reason thought of Mother Shabari, most probably stemming from the week long Ramayan week celebrations, where during the discourses her name was bound to come up at least once.
As much as Hanuman can be declared as the most devout devotee of the Lord, there are many unsung devotees who‘s unalloyed sincere love and devotion is very dear to the Lord. We see how Mother Shabari waited daily with the same intensity and love for Sri Rama, beautifully decorating her home and yard for His reception. She ensured she picked the best fruit and berries for His meal. Although He didn’t arrive for a long time, her love and devotion made time dissolve out of existence.
When He did arrive, her behaviour requires some special attention. Upon making the party comfortable, she went on to provide them with meals. But before she fed Sri Rama His fruit, she took each fruit to taste ensuring that He got only the sweetest fruit worthy of a Lord. Although this infuriated Lutchmana, it was warmly and lovingly received by Sri Rama.
A prayer group sang a beautiful song at the Hanuman Jayanti celebrations that I attended on Friday. The song which I think was sung by the legendary TM Soundarajen was - Anban Vaziye Yaar Nadanalam, Avanam Ramanan Woondru – meaning “He who walks the path of love and devotion; He and Rama are one.”
This idea underpins the thought that I projected last week and here today, that when one immerses oneself with intense devotion and love for God, they become one with their Lord. The identity of the self vanishes; and the Lord Himself acts through you.
Even in the life of Sri Ramakrishna, we find so much evidence where because of the pure and unalloyed devotion for the Divine Mother; He became one with Her or merged into Her universal consciousness.
As times become more challenging in every aspect, it is comforting to see so many people engaging in these pilgrimages and festivals over these auspicious days. But if we want to see radical change and improvements in our lives and our ability to meet the varied challenges that confront us; then we need to step up the pace by drawing inspiration from Hanumanji, Mother Shabari, Sri Ramakrishna and other saints and sages who showed through their life how pure bhakti transformed them.
May all our external practices transform into intense inner devotion for God, inspiring us and others to lead to a life of peace, love and prosperity. To all my Tamil brothers and sisters -Puthandu Nalvazhthukkal to you – all the best for the New Year.
May we part this week with the profound inspiring thoughts of Sri Adi Shankaracharya. Man is considered a born debtor. He has more debts to pay than the right to claim. Indeed he owes the world much more than the world owes him. For each morsel of his food millions of hands have to work, also for each piece of cloth he wears. Even tiny creatures render him great service, being ever engaged in cleaning the air, water and soil. Therefore as a householder perform the following five duties: 1. Worship God. 2. Cultivation of spiritual knowledge. 3. Preservation and development of ancestral lineage. 4. Service to humanity. 5. Service to other living creatures.
With love and prayers always