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On Devotion - discourse reviews

nabadip - Sat, 30 Apr 2005 19:00:30 +0530
Devotees' heart, Her abode

CHENNAI, MARCH 21. For spiritual progress many commandments need to be adhered to. Topping the list are two requirements. Virtuous thoughts and charitable acts in the service of fellow human beings are hailed as two traits, which would assuredly fetch aspirants the benign glance of Goddess Mahalakshmi. ``Wheresoever Her glance falls there wealth accumulates'' it is said. When Adi Sankara set out on his routine of seeking daily alms, a woman living in abject poverty nevertheless parted with a precious gooseberry. Immensely moved by the generosity of the pious woman, the saint implored the goddess of wealth to bless her.

Mahalakshmi, who resides permanently in the heart of the Lord, does not stay anywhere for long; the only abode pleasing to Her is the heart of those devotees who celebrate the traits of the Supreme Being, said Smt. Perundevi Seshadri and Sri Damal Ramakrishnan in their discourse.

When the purpose of His manifestation was complete and Rama was ready to leave the earth, Anjaneya chose to remain in order to enjoy listening to rendition of Rama's celebrated qualities. Likewise, Vedanta Desika preferred Kanchi to Vaikuntam while the Azhwars spurned the heavens and all else preferring the joy off chanting Achyuta's name. Some may be puzzled by such extreme devotional bliss, but seekers will know that His avowal to protect those who surrender to Him holds true. Sudhama was the true friend and devotee of Krishna who was totally indifferent to earthly riches and Bhattadri hails such exemplary conduct in `Narayaneeyam'. Despatched by his wife to seek material gains from Krishna Sudhama's principled nature prevented him from asking for such munificence and assured his host that he had come merely to visit his friend. Seeing the splendorous opulence of Krishna's dwelling he hesitated to offer his humble gift of puffed rice.Further, despite repeated queries from Krishna, he refrained from seeking charity as desired by his wife which was the purpose of his visit. ``I came for the pleasure of seeing You,'' he reiterated to the Lord.

However, the Omniscient Krishna, pleased that His devotee embraced devotion with steadfastness nevertheless sought the poor man's gift avidly. Simultaneously, the riches sought by Sudhama's wife were granted to her by the Lord. Why was He prevented from taking a second helping of the puffed rice by Rukmini? Scholars state that it is due to the apprehension that such an act could be misinterpreted by doubters that the Lord grants His grace only after repeated solicitation.
nabadip - Sat, 30 Apr 2005 19:04:38 +0530
A leader among devotees

CHENNAI, MARCH 19. As victims of circumstances people are forced to undertake certain tasks, which go against the norms of virtue. Rare indeed is it to come across a person capable of withstanding such a severe test, since all of us are governed by the necessities of eking out a livelihood. How is a man expected to both perform his duty as well as uphold virtuous conduct? Any task performed with an ulterior motive could only boomerang on the ill-willed and not on the executor.

In their discourse, Smt. Perundevi Seshadri and Sri Damal Ramakrishnan said Kamsa's nefarious intent of enticing Lord Krishna as if there were to be a `yagna' in order to kill Him caused untold anguish to Akrura who was given the thankless commission. However, the messenger did his job in the full knowledge that Krishna was invincible. It was a certainty that Kamsa would meet his end rather than the other way round. Such faith results in the correct frame of mind required for communion with God.

Throughout his journey to Brindavan, Akrura was filled with the presence of the Lord, dwelling on His lilas verily like Andal in the Thiruppavai. Can anything match the impish lilas of Krishna when He held out His palms replete with the Sri Chakra and the Conch to a fruit seller, thereby endowing her with untold blessings? The awareness that he was to enter the hallowed ground of Krishna's residence transported the devout courier, for, like Vedantha Desikan celebrated (in Daya Satakam), devotees hold His abode dearer than even Him; it lends to better appreciation of His presence. In `Narayaneeyam' Bhattadri marvels at this inner awareness of the Lord's presence in Akrura who could `see' the lotus feet of the Lord on the ground. Very rarely are people imbued with such vision. In the Ramayana when Bharata sank into melancholic despair over Rama's sojourn in the forest, his mood improved when Guha pointed to the spot where Rama sat, what He ate, what bed Rama slept on and where He walked. Akrura, likewise, carried the presence of the Lord in him, which is why scholars hail him as the leader among devotees. Wherever he turned he saw His image as it were, like sentinels on either side of the road. Scholars point out that in the thrall of pure devotion, Akrura jumped off the chariot and prostrated in sheer bliss on the road, thereby pioneering the act of circumambulation that devotees offer to the Lord to this day in temples, out of spontaneous love.
nabadip - Sat, 30 Apr 2005 19:08:48 +0530
True devotion leads to peace

CHENNAI, MARCH 18. ``I have no peace of mind,'' is a common refrain heard. Where does this entity reside? It is more pertinent to ask oneself if peace is a destination or is it an aspiration. Each one resolves this according to his individual proclivity. There are three types of people in this world-- men of wisdom, the cat-on-the wall type who are quasi-holy and part worldly and those who live only to enjoy life in purely materialistic terms. Is one type more likely to find that blissful state than the other ? Scriptures clearly prove that peace is an inner goal achievable by all. `Santi' occurs only when the feeling of having completed one's duty to absolute satisfaction takes hold of a person.

True sense of fulfillment can occur only when we have experienced the glory of the Lord, said Sri.Damodara Dikshidar in his discourse. Celebrating the form, history, sports and traits of Lord Krishna is an experience unparalleled in the entire universe. The delectable taste of sugar candy does not last long, but the reverberating glory of the Lord remains for ever in the conscience of a true seeker. To be rid of illusions, which keep man in a state of centrifuging materialism, the only option is to turn one's thoughts towards the Lord. The challenge for all human beings is to temper attachment to impermanent objects and relationships. When the mind turns towards matters spiritual, God awareness automatically displaces unwanted bonds. Sadasiva Brahmendra's famous song, `manasa sanchara re' exhorts man to focus the mind on that Supreme Being. Does the Ultimate Reality really conform to the popular image of shiny chignon replete with a peacock feather jauntily placed, one may wonder. The most fickle of all in this world is the mind. Given its propensity to wander, control becomes easier when it focuses on the desired object imaginable as the idolatory Krishna. When a man scales a branch that is likely to break at any moment, the best advise is to instruct him to grab the higher branch, rather than asking to let go of the weaker hold. Similarly rather than admonishing a person to shun all attachment if he were encouraged to seek the company of wise men and scholars the mind would automatically navigate to a higher plane. It may be felt by some people that the traits attributed to Krishna are not emulative in nature, as say Lord Rama's. Scholars point out that while establishment of virtue is the hallmark of all His manifestations, as Lord Krishna He remained a 'yogeswara' and as such ordinary people cannot experience Him blissfully unless filled with unstinting devotion .. Only intuitive love of Krishna can help a devotee achieve peace of mind in its entirety.
nabadip - Sat, 30 Apr 2005 19:41:32 +0530
God's abounding grace

CHENNAI, MARCH 8 . It is the wish of every devotee of God to remember Him during his last moments as the scriptures reiterate that there is no rebirth if he does so. The hymns of the Azhwars are dotted with their expressed sentiment to behold His divine form. Vedanta Desika prayed that he should be able to envision the bewitching flute-playing form of Lord Krishna when his end drew near. The import of this should not be missed by an earnest spiritual seeker that however spiritually evolved one may be there is no guarantee that he would be blessed with the vision of the Almighty when he wants. A devotee is then sure to get the doubt as to how a sworn enemy of the Lord like Sisupala attained liberation effortlessly.

In his discourse, Adoor Asuri Sri Madhavachariar said Sisupala had the good fortune of beholding the divine form of Lord Krishna wielding His discus (Sudarsana) even though he hurled the choicest abuses at Him. Besides, the weapons of the Lord are eternal, conscious deities, which when worshipped enable the devotee to realise God. The commentary on an Azhwar's verse describing Sisupala's redemption notes that he uttered Krishna's name every time he abused Him and thus the Divine name saved Him. As His discus killed him, coming into contact with it enabled him to gain the beatific state. Such is its potency and glory. Desika in his hymn, the Sudarsanashtakam lists the several benefits of worshipping Sudarsana— show the right path in life (realising God), bestow good qualities, vanquish enemies and nullify sins.

A devotee must engage his senses and mind in God even while going about his worldly duties so that it becomes a natural instinct to turn to Him always. This human birth is meant for attaining liberation from rebirths and hence when a spiritual seeker strays from this goal he must control his mind without allowing it to get distracted. One sure way to stay attuned to this objective is to contemplate on the Lord's countless auspicious qualities. Each trait gives insight into His compassionate grace. Bhishma is a fine example of one who was fortunate to behold Lord Krishna and glorify Him with the knowledge that He was the Almighty incarnate as he lay on a bed of arrows awaiting his end. He was a blessed devotee but that there is hope for even the worst sinner can be seen from Sisupala's case as He also redeemed him.
nabadip - Sat, 30 Apr 2005 22:20:00 +0530
Sterling devotee

CHENNAI: A devotee of the Lord who had the good fortune to be praised by Him during His advent in the world was Hanuman. He becomes the central figure in the unfolding of the story in the search for Sita when Rama and Lakshmana came to meet Sugriva to befriend him and seek his help. On beholding the brothers Sugriva afraid that they were Vali's men sent Hanuman to find out who they were. Hanuman went in the guise of a mendicant and while introducing himself tried to ascertain their identity.

After listening to him Rama told Lakshmana, "To speak in the way he has done is not possible for one who has not studied Rig Veda with an eye to its meaning, not memorised Yajur Veda and has no knowledge of Sama Veda either. Surely the entire range of grammar has been studied by him in many ways, as is clear from the fact that nothing has been wrongly worded by him even though speaking a good deal."

In his discourse, Sri Anantha Padmanabhachariar said just as the Lord had sized him up instantly, Hanuman also with his astute mind came to the conclusion that they were not ordinary men. The Kamba Ramayanam describes that Hanuman recognised Rama as the Lord incarnate. His father Vayu had foretold that he should serve the Lord during His manifestation and had also instructed him as to how to recognise Him. And when he came into the presence of Rama he felt an inexpressible bliss, which reassured him that his surmise was right. Kamban says he saw the qualities of the Almighty, a king and a sage together in Rama.

The Uttara Kanda of the Valmiki Ramayana describes Hanuman's extraordinary birth and attainments at length in the words of Sage Agastya. Rama's question to the sage gives insight into His assessment of Hanuman, "Incomparable indeed was the might of Vali and Ravana. The might of the aforesaid two warriors was, however, not equal to the strength of Hanuman; such indeed is My opinion. Heroism, cleverness, strength, firmness, sagacity, prudence, prowess and power have taken their abode in Hanuman. If Hanuman, the friend of Sugriva, were not with Me, who else would have been able to get the news about Sita?" High praise indeed! Did Rama not hug him in gratitude when he came with the good news of locating Sita?
nabadip - Sat, 30 Apr 2005 23:01:45 +0530
The Lord's accessibility

CHENNAI, APRIL 9 . Absolute surrender to God is identical with the acme of devotion. The devotee after surrendering to Him acknowledging his inability to adopt any other means for his redemption must remember Him in all his actions and accept everything that happens in his life as God's will. Chanting the Divine names and surrendering the fruit of all actions to God will insulate the devotee from the afflictions of the world and also help him to progress spiritually. The Lord also is beholden to such a sterling devotee. In fact, it is said that the Almighty who is difficult to be attained by even Yogis, who are adept in practices like meditation, makes Himself accessible to His devotees because only devotion matters to Him.

In his discourse, Nagai Sri Mukundan said there were instances in the lives of devotees to prove that God was indebted to His devotees, so much so, that they were considered to be greater than God Himself in the spiritual tradition. A priest who conducted the daily worship at the temple in Tirukannapuram was caught red-handed by the king for his misconduct but the Lord did not let him down because he had been performing the rituals properly. In the case of Sundaramurthy Swamigal the Lord went as a messenger to the house of Paravai Nacchiar.

The Pandavas were dear devotees of Lord Krishna and each one had a special quality, which endeared them to Him. But Sahadeva's devotion was exceptional as he bound Krishna with the cord of devotion and He could free Himself only when he allowed Him to. The special grace showered on Yashoda when Krishna allowed her to tie Him with a piece of rope thereby earning the name, Damodara, is an oft-quoted theme in the hymns of many mystics and saints.

Madhurakavi Azhwar's hymn praising his preceptor Nammazhwar opens with a reference to this gracious act of the Lord. This divine deed also offers insight into His nature. When Yashoda attempted to tie Krishna to a mortar as a punishment for breaking the pot of curds and offering the butter to a monkey, the rope fell short every time she added more and more pieces to it. And, finally when Krishna saw her becoming exhausted by her efforts with her hair becoming dishevelled and the flowers decorating it falling down, and beads of perspiration appearing on her forehead, He allowed Himself to be tied. Commentators interpret this episode as highlighting the Almighty's easy accessibility to His devotee.