||Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Aum Namo Narayanaya
Yesterday saw many families make their way to the temples for the observance of the first Saturday in the auspicious period of Purutassi. Although many will congregate at temples, a significant number also observe their home prayer on this day. From a physical perspective it is marked with absolute purity as by the first Saturday many households would be thoroughly cleaned; all non-veg provisions completely removed; and a set of new utensils and cookware would have replaced the conventional ones. The bhakta by this time having abstained from, meat, alcohol and other pleasures is also in a physically purified state. This process assists in constituting a divine and conducive environment to welcome and serve the Lord with an assortment of delicacies prepared with immense devotion and love.
Seated at the feet of Narayana at our temple prayer, tears were instantly liberated from my tear ducts as I gazed at his blue fatherly countenance - bedecked with the finest ornaments, bracelets, armlets, fish-marked earrings, kasturba necklace and draped in His favourite pithambara (yellow) dhoti. This coupled with His ruby-studded diadem and naamam (insignia worn on forehead) and radiating with the beauty and brilliance of Mother Lakshmi. As I sat transfixed at His lotus feet, embraced by the coiled body of Adi Shesha, I bowed mentally again and again to the unborn merciful Lord who dwells in the hearts of the detached.
My mind grazing on the meadows of His boundless beauty hinged on the image of His feet at once recollected the avathar of Vamana. That very Srinivasa (abode of Maha Lakshmi) from whence all wealth flows, in this form armed with a begging bowl, staff and adorned with a mere deer skin and loin cloth - in complete contrast to Sriman Narayana as seen above, came for the benefit of His devotee Bali Raja.
Bali Raja, the grandson of Prahalad was an asuric King who was a great devotee, had won over the kingdom of the heavens by his might and prowess blessed upon him by his Gurus. In Fear of him, the devas abandoned their abode and sought refuge at the lotus feet of Maha Vishnu. The all-knowing and all-pervading Lord, already mindful of the catastrophe afflicting them, agreed to assist
At the behest and guidance of his Guru Sri Suckracharya, Maharaja Bali was asked to perform a special sacrifice in order to retain the power and status obtained. Taking the form of a brahmacharian boy, holding in his hand an umbrella and water vessel, Vamana approached the sacrifice hall on the banks of the Narmada river with the quest to reduce the ego of Bali Raja. Sage Vyas Dev described the countenance of the Lord as the rising sun at dawn, whose brilliance paled the others into a mere shadow, making them wonder if the visitor was the sun deity. He was accorded a warm and loving welcome as per protocols prescribed by the dharma.
After the ceremonious welcome, the King offered the Lord in His form as Vamana anything He desired as a gesture for blessing his sacrifice with His divine presence. In an exalted state after conquering the heavens’, assuming that he now ruled the universe, very proudly offered cows, gold, house, hearty meals, prosperous villages, horses, or anything that he fancied. In reply to his boisterous offer, the Lord humbly requested just 3 paces of land measured by His feet.
Hearing this, the King ridiculed the Lord, saying that He must be stupid and immature to seek such a pittance in land from the master of the universe who has the ability to gift an entire continent and implores the Lord to ask of more so that He may never need to ask assistance from another ever again.
To this, the Lord who is intelligence himself replied that even the pleasing of objects of the universe will not be enough to satisfy a man who has no control of the senses. A person who is not satisfied with 3 feet of earth will not be satisfied with getting a whole continent. He will aspire to get 7 continents. A man who is satisfied with what he has is happy. But a man who has no mastery of the senses will not be satisfied even if he received all 3 worlds. The chief cause of man's entanglement is his insatiable longing for wealth and pleasure. Upon hearing this the King laughed condescendingly and promised the Lord 3 paces of land although being warned by his guru that Vamana was indeed the Lord and his promise will bring ruin to him
Sri Hari immediately resumed His glorious form and grew limitlessly. With the first pace, He covered the entire earth and with the second pace He covered the entire heavens and then stopped. In a very aggrieved tone, He then asked Maha Bali for the 3rd step he promised clarifying that if one did not upkeep a promise then he would have to enjoy the regions of hell.
It was then when confronting this majestic form of the Lord, humiliated by this intellect and power, Bali humbled Him in defeat and offered his head as the 3rd pace. Thus having received the touch of Maha Vishnu, he was released from the bonds of misery and liberated.
This wonderful episode given to us by Vyas Dev - so descriptive and colourful in presenting the wonderful sports of the most merciful one - brings so much of inspiration and guidance for us humans plagued by these obstacles that prevent our spiritual progress.
Sri Ramakrishna said: "It is on account of the ego that one is not able to see God. In front of the door of God's mansion lies the stump of ego. One cannot enter the mansion without jumping over the stump."
With all his material possessions King Maha Bali's ego was so huge that it blinded him from seeing the Lord and the advice of his Guru (who could see the Lord because of His pure heart and unattachment to wealth, ego, fame and lust).
In two steps, the Lord stripped him off everything he owned - indicating to us that all that we possess is by the grace of God alone and must be used diligently and for His service. Abuse of such can be easily taken away. In the 3rd pace, by His mere touch, removed his ego. It is known that the ego operates in the realm of the mind, hence by placing His feet on the head, the Lord diminishes the ego.
Therefore, the placing of the naamam (symbol of Narayana's lotus feet) on the forehead during the observance of Purutassi reminds us to displace ego with humility and always serve His divine will.
During this month of Purutassi - apart from your personal sadhana - also take time to serve the Lord in the less fortunate. Swami Vivekananda always reminds us that the Lord is the sum total of all jivas. Utilise your resources to serve Him in all. In that way, your worship becomes more direct.
May the grace of Sri Hari be upon all is my sincere prayer.
With love and prayers always