||Aum Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Swami Vimokshananda unpacked the concept of "Athithi Devo Bhava" in our last Tirrukural class. I always interpreted it as whoever comes to you as a guest should be regarded as God. Hindu dharma has provided some wonderful concepts and traditions that have a profound meaning and impact on our lives. Maharaj explained that the concept referred to whoever comes at an unannounced time, that is unexpected, is to be regarded and revered as God. The reason I am trying to recapture the discussions of that day is because time is wafting by so swiftly that the month of August comes as an unannounced guest, and in the tradition of Hindu dharma, it is loaded with divine events and is worthy of worship itself. The month is host to Raksha Bandhan, Vara Luxmi Viratham and the inspirational Gita Week culminating in the birth of Sri Krishna on Krishna Janmashtami.
Sometimes I think that Sri Krishna had come merely to release bhakti, love and compassion that have been imprisoned in the heart of man for so long. At mere sight or thought of His blue radiant body overflowing with His yellow cloth and bedecked with His golden ornaments, the heart gains its independence from the mind and becomes the Ganga overflowing with love, joy unspeakable and even floods the eye with tears of happiness. He is so attractive and captivating - it is like the grip of a crocodile which is so intense, it leaves an indelible mark on you.
During the Gita Week and the Janmashtami celebrations, many discourses and presentations will highlight and sing the glories of Krishna Bhagavan, but on this weekend, two days post the National Women's Day celebrations in South Africa, I am interested to know of the reason of this all powerful incarnation Lord Krishna.
It is through a chaste and pure woman alone that the Lord could enter the earth for the liberation of humanity from the terrible tyranny of evil. It is said that in Her previous birth, Devaki performed severe austerities and penance and asked that one equal to the Lord should be born to Her as a son. As none could be equivalent to the Lord, He Himself out of compassion for His devotee took birth on this earth through Devaki.
It can be declared then without a doubt, that greatness and progress in this world is the result of the good deeds and purity of women who have brought great souls into this world. Women have contributed immensely to every facet of society. Because of their humility and piety their contributions have been overshadowed by men.
On Friday, we at Shree Veeraboga Emperumal Temple observed the Aadhi Pooram prayer - which is the thithi on which one of the great female saints of Hinduism was born. Andal's devotion and love for Narayana is of the highest kind and is not separated from those of Her male counterparts.
She is also accredited to writing two admired bhakti works at the tender age of 15.
We find qualities of humility, compassion, love and selflessness intrinsic to women and they are all banded with an aura which makes one feel so comforted, safe and secure in their presence.
Women's Day in South Africa honours the mothers of South Africa of August 1956, when more than 50 000 women staged a march at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act (commonly known as the Pass Laws Act) of 1950, which forced non-whites to carry the "pass". They left bundles of petitions containing more than 100 000 signatures at the Prime Minister's office doors. Outside, they stood silently for 30 minutes, many with children on their backs. The women sang a protest song that was composed in honour of the occasion:
(Now you have
touched the women, you have struck a rock.).
In the 54 years since, the
phrase (or its latest incarnation: "You strike a woman, You strike a rock") has come to represent women's courage and strength in South Africa.
During the dark days of apartheid and even during the wars, it was the strength and perseverance of the women who worked as seamstresses and doing other work which kept the economy going. They also put the children through school and thus allowed them to be graduate professionals in our country.
Hence our dharma preaches that where woman are dishonored, there is no progress in that society. Women in Hinduism are therefore worthy of worship.
The expansive all-embracing hearts of our great Mothers of Hinduism like Mother Sarada has given credence to the adage: "Mother, Father, Guru and then God" in the hierarchy of worship. Mother's love was so infinite and non- discriminating, it is no wonder that She did not have any children, because She accepted everyone and all creatures of creation as Her own children. When one visits Belur Math, one will notice that Mother's Temple is the only Temple that faces the Ganges and the city of Calcutta, because it is said that She protects and guides Her children always.
This motherly compassion is also inherent in man. We see distinctively in the life of Sri Ramakrishna, how He expressed overflowing motherly love towards His disciples. If all of humanity can radiate this divine quality of motherhood within them, this world will be a better place for all.
Let the all-pervading divine Shakti and qualities of motherhood be manifest by us all, is my sincere prayer.
With love and prayers