|| Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Aum Namo Narayanaya
|I eternally bow to my revered Guru|
It’s been a few days now as I tracked the moon wax to towards it glorious powernami. Much interest was taken in this particular period as it landmarks the auspicious birth thithi of Sage Veda Vyasa which is venerated throughout the world as Guru Purnima. Spiritual aspirants on this day show much reverence towards their Gurus by fasting and offering special pooja. I offer my total surrender at the feet of my Guru Most Revered Swami Athmasnandaji Maharaj.
The sun sneaked its way on the eastern horizon amidst the blaring sound of the conch and bells as the priests frantically waved the incense and lamps in a ritual to awaken the Gods. All this, as you pirouette around the narrow alleys in between the ancient pigeon infested buildings- trying to steer clear of lazing dogs, cows, people and exquisitely decorated rangolis, lured by the beckoning sound of the day. Most of these routes lead to the infamous bathing ghats along the majestic Ma Ganga. Yes you have guessed correctly, that I speak of the hometown of Kasi Vishwanatha, Varnasi.
Dubbed as the most ancient city in the world flanked by the purifying and cleansing powers of the Ganges and home of Maheshwara. Arriving at the ghat you are greeted by a cacophony of sights and scents as the conch and bells now blur against the thousands of pilgrims and residents bathing amidst the floating corpses, row boats bobbying along the chilly waters decorated with flowers and other prayer offerings.
The stench of death lingers as you see people in their last stages sit patiently for Yama Raja to terminate their stay on earth; a pass to join the eternal queue of the 24 hour cremation grounds, facilitating their final remains to be liberated through contact with Ganga. Sri Ramakrishna on one such tour, with Mathur and Hriday, came to a point opposite to the Manikarnika Ghat - the well known cremation ground of Varanasi. On the steps of this cremation ground, Sri Ramakrishna had the vision of the majestic Shiva. He later said: "I saw a tall white person with tawny matted hair walking carefully to each Jiva (the dead body) and imparting into his ear the mantra of supreme Brahman." Hence, you can understand why people from all over want to come to Varnasi to breathe their last breath or have their mortal remains cremated there.
However, 120km up-river, is a very interesting place called Prayag. This place is also refered to Triveni Sangam or the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the invisible underground river known as Saraswati. At this point, every 12 years, millions of pilgrims enter the Sangam to be bathed in immortal bliss. Mythology says that when the ocean was the churned some of the amrith that was derived by the process fell at this point. Whilst Varanasi offers one the paradise of post mortem liberation; bathing at the Triveni offers one a chance of liberation whilst living. Swami Vivekananda always quoted the Upanishads which stated that liberation is 'jivanmukti' or freedom while living in the body. It is not going to another realm or attaining something new, but realising our true nature. It is not freedom from anything, but being in the midst of everything. Vedanta asserts that in order to be believable, liberation must be attained before death.
Life is essentially about choices and we all have to make them some time or the other. Sometimes we have to live with the pain of choices that went wrong and choices that were difficult to make. Some good and sage counsel guides one to make informed choices, but that too, periodically comes with its barrage of gnawing challenges.
There is one choice however that brings with it unending joy; and its path although difficult, is not treacherous as every step is a strengthening process to receive torrents of bliss - beyond the capabilities of our current mindset. It is how Lord Shiva had to receive Mother Ganga in his 'jata' to prevent her deluge from ravaging the earth. Symbolically, this expresses the thought that inorder to receive that grace from God, one has to be constituted in the correct way, like Lord Shiva who is referred to as the perfect Yogi.
Having experienced the dullness of the mundane world where its transience eventually leads to anxiety, pain and suffering - one now wants to make a choice to pursue a spiritual path. Without a clue about God and the principles of Hindu Dharma, how does one charter this route? It is recommended by Bhagwan Himself in the Bhagavat Gita, Ch 4, Verse 34:
"Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from Him submissively and render service unto Him. The self-realised souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth"
If you take refuge at the feet of a bona-fide spiritual Master, one is certainly on the path of attaining the secrets to unlocking the divinity and unleashing the bliss within. It is said that all Hindu 'sampradaya' or spiritual lineage can be traced back to Sage Vyasa who is regarded as an avathar of Maha Vishnu Himself. Sage Vyasa who got the name Veda Vyasa for his contribution of classifying the Vedas into its 4 components is also attributed to writing the Mahabharat, the 18 Puranas, the Bhrama Sutras and the emotive and captivating Shrimad Bhagavatam.
On this auspicious day, we celebrate the great trail of knowledge left by this great sage and his successors who have brought the rich noble and lofty ideals in the sweetest form for man to digest. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the Master who lived in this age, was able to show through His life how to incubate and nurture love for God as the basis of spiritual life. Through His disciples like Swami Vivekananda and His contemporaries, the core of this devotion was unpacked and served in a palatable and practical way for man to achieve freedom from bondage.
On this Guru Purnima Day which falls on Tuesday; may we decide if we want to live an entire mundane life and make a final trek to Varanasi with the hope of post mortem liberation; or Like Swami Vivekananda advocates, to release the divinity within you now and enjoy the 'ananda' as you live and walk.
May the good Lord appear to you as your Guru if you don’t have one; and bestow enlightenment upon you. And if you have a chosen Guru, may His grace flow abundantly in you is my sincere prayer.
In closing, I also bow eternally to that Guru Swami Vivekananda who blessed this earth with His presence for only 39 years, yet left a legacy that will never extinguish eternally. 4 July marks the Maha Samadhi Anniversay of Swami Vivekananda - the giant amongst men. I envy those who had the opportunity to have been in His presence and served Him on His mission. He will always be guiding and protecting us, and working until every soul attains freedom from bondage.
Jay Shri Guru Maharaj Ki Jay.
Jay Maha Maye Ki Jay.
Jay Swamiji Maharaj Ki Jay!!!!