||Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Aum Namo Narayanaya
From the moment we arise from bed to the time we retire to bed, we interact with various experiences that create many impressions in our mind. A multitude of these experiences constitutes our life. Apart from the current direct interactions with the experiences of daily life, we have to also contend with our past experiences which indulge on us as samskaras. Hence, the human journey can become quite taxing at times. It leaves one confused, overwhelmed and despondent when life unfolds against their wishes and efforts with no apparent reason.
Swami Vivekananda explains the phenomenon of life as a continuous struggle between us and everything on the outside. Every moment we are actually fighting with external nature, and if we are defeated then our life has to go. Ask for nothing, want nothing in return. Give what you have to give, it will come back to you, but do not think of that now.
I generally don’t like to attend commercial conferences because from my past experiences it proves to be a very elaborate and exhausting ‘talk-shop’ which ultimately results in or amounts to nothing. However my mind has failed to close its doors on the Hindu conference organised by the Sri Sarada Devi Ashram at the University of Kwazulu-Natal last week. The flood of well researched, awe inspiring papers and talks based on scriptures like the Ramayana and Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna has yet to subside as it continues to erode my ignorance and misconceptions of life.
Swami Vimokshananda’s talk on Prayer in the Gospel was a vibrant, ingenious and candid expose of our ignorance and lack of understanding of the operations, laws and mechanisms within the universe, and our fragile and sketchy faith in the Master of the universe as the preceptor of our liberation.
Is there one who has not shed tears of anguish or questioned God as to why certain prayers were not fulfilled. You may have done pilgrimage to all the main temples in hope of certain rewards; you make have undertaken severe austerities and fasting and still not achieved what you wanted. On the other hand, you see people making no effort and achieving their wishes. Everything they touch or do turns to “gold”. It is at these junctions and moments of despair that we see faith shatter into a million pieces.
A very profound poem by Mary Stevenson comes to mind now, which brings some solace to the mind when you sit back and reflect on these incidents and try to simulate how your life actually would have turned out if your prayer was answered.
One night I dreamt I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
‘You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there were only one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, were you not there for me?’
The Lord replied,
‘The times when you saw only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.’
A sense of gratitude conjures in your heart, bowing in prayer to the Lord for saving you from what would have been a total disaster. It is your needs that the Lord takes care of not your wants, expressed Swami Vimokshananda, whose countenance radiated with divine effulgence as He relayed these assuring words to a devoted audience.
Being exposed to the mind-purifying aura of revered Maharaj on that day, I was constantly subjected to a mental image of Lord Shiva for the entire week after the conference. It was only on Thursday night when I was doing some reading on Revered Swami Madhavanandaji Maharaj, the 9th President of the Ramakrishna Order (as His mahasamadhi day according to the Gregorian calendar fell on Saturday, 6 October) that I found resonance in this image.
Swami Madhavananda like Swami Vivekananda translated the Vairagya Satakam - a poem by the illustrious Saint Bharthari which contains 100 verses on renunciation. It is after reading this poem that the mind relinquishes any doubt that insatiable desires are the root cause of his troubles.
Mahadeva is regarded as the Lord of renunciation, who adorns nothing but a tiger skin smeared with ash seated in the cremation grounds, absorbed in deep meditation on the self. Even though the moon which is so far away can cause mental turbulence in man, how is it that He who adorns the crescent moon on His head radiates such bliss? It is this state that we should all aspire to achieve. A few verses below will give you an indication of how renunciation of desires will help elevate your levels of bliss instantaneously.
Hope is the name of this river, whose water is desire,
And thirst the waves thereof.
Passion is the crocodile living in that water,
Vain resolves are the birds that reside
In the tree of virtue on the shores and kill it.
But there are the whirlpools of delusion
And despondence, the high banks.
The great Yogis are blissful because they,
With their pure minds, never crossed this river.
Many of us, like Maharaj mentioned in His talk, engage in ‘petitionary prayers’ - with the hope of fulfilling our desires in exchange for the worship rendered. Swami Vivekananda has cautioned us against such with His fiery words:
Give up hope, says the Vedanta. Why should you hope? You have everything, nay, you are everything. What are you hoping for? If a King goes mad, and runs about trying to find the King of his country, he will never find him, because he is the King himself. He may go through every village and city in his own country, seeking in every house, weeping and wailing, but he will never find him, because he is the King himself. Knowing that we are God we become happy and contented. Give up all these mad pursuits. It is better to love God for love’s sake; and the prayer goes: O Lord, I do not want wealth nor children nor learning. If it be Thy will, I shall go from birth to birth. But grant me this, that I may love thee without the hope of reward - ’love’ unselfishly for love’s sake.
It is with this firm conviction and surrender to the feet of God alone, that you can rest assured that all your needs will surely be taken care of. This assurance is also given in the Bhagavat Gita itself by Sri Krishna: Those persons who worship Me, meditating on their identity with Me and ever devoted to Me—to them I carry what they lack and for them I preserve what they already have.
On this day as we remember Revered Swami Madhavananda and His contributions, may we strive to cultivate deep love for God alone; renouncing all wants for desires, and attain the perfect state of bliss and yoga like Lord Maheshwara, is my sincere prayer. Please follow the hyperlink below to read the complete Vairagya Satakam.
With love and prayers always
Link for Vairagya Satakam: http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_9/writings_prose_and_poems/bhartriharis_verses.htm