Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Upadesa Sarah of Ramana Maharshi – Bhakthi & Its implementation

Bhakthi is mainly of two types – Para Bhakthi or higher devotion and Apara Bhakthi or lower devotion.

Here, Para Bhakthi can be said to the ultimate goal or end and Apara Bhakthi can be said to be the means to Para Bhakthi.

The only difference between both is that in Para Bhakthi, there is not distinction between the devotee and the God – but only ONE SAT or Existence is present, one without a second. But in Apara Bhakthi, there is the distinction between the devotee and God.

There can be eternal bliss only when dual perceptions vanish. This is possible only through Para Bhakthi which is not different from Jnaana or Knowledge. To attain Para Bhakthi, a person has to go through Apara Bhakthi alone. Thus, apara bhakthi is the path traversing through which a person attains Para Bhakthi.

When attaining is being mentioned here, one has to constantly remember that there is nothing new to be attained but only the ignorance about one’s own nature has to be lost. The Self or Consciousness is the same as God or Brahman. These are just various terms used to denote the one reality. If this ultimate reality of oneness is forgotten, then the path will be of no use to such a person. This is what is normally seen in people who are very devoted to either the form of Vishnu or the form of Siva – but still they refuse to accept this ultimate reality of Oneness and hence fight amongst each other in the name of sects and other things.

Therefore, the moment a person forgets the ultimate reality that there is only one thing present here – whether it is termed as God or Brahman or Self – one without a second – and that is one’s own real nature. This realization is what is to be achieved through devotion and this state of ultimate oneness is termed as Para Bhakthi in Bhakthi literatures and Bhakthi terminology.

This is the reason why Krishna says in lot of places that “a devotee merges into me”, “devotee is Myself and I am the devotee”.

Apara Bhakthi is the path to realize this ultimate reality – realizing which a person overcomes illusory sorrow and ever rejoices in the eternal bliss of the Self. There are many means through which a person can follow this bhakthi or devotion.

One of the most important qualities of devotion is ONE-POINTED nature. A devotee is one whose mind is always fixed on the Almighty or any form of God. He remembers God at all times. He never forgets God. Whatever activities are done, he offers them to God. Whatever good happens, he takes it as HIS prasadam. Whatever bad happens, he takes it as GOD’s wish. And the devotee knows that God is the ultimate goal that has to be attained or realized. All the other things, work, family, children, money, fame, happiness – everything is inferior to God. All these things have secondary importance only to the devotee. The devotee gives primary importance and significance to God alone. Therefore, most of the time, the devotee tries to do work for God like hearing to HIS glories, singing HIS glories, serving the devotees of the Lord and all.

One has to remember the story of Mira and Mahabali to know the import of Saranagathi or complete surrender. Mira drank nectar and still nothing happened. She left her home when Krishna said her to do so and she did it for the Lord.

Mahabali was a great Vedantin and the story of Mahabali has been interpreted wrongly by most of the people. Mahabali’s father was Virochana and his father was Prahlaada. Yoga Vasistha tells that Mahabali was taught the knowledge about the Self by his father when he was young.

Bhagavatham and Yoga Vasistha deals with the story of Mahabali in detail. Mahabali was doing a yajna and at that time, Vishnu took form as Vamana, a dwarf – and approached Mahabali. Mahabali welcomed the Brahmin Vamana with due respect and in proper obeisance with the scriptures. Mahabali then asked Vamana to ask whatever he wanted. Vamana asked for “three feet of sand”. Mahabali was surprised and told Vamana to ask for more. Then Vamana told him that a person should not be greedy and should seek only whatever is barely needed. So Mahabali gave his word of giving three feet of sand or earth to Vamana. After this, Mahabali was called by his Guru Shukracharya who then told that Vamana is Vishnu only and hence he will surely kill you – don’t give him whatever he has asked. Here, Mahabali refused to do whatever his Guru told & told that he was fortunate enough that the Lord had come seeking something to him. Thereafter, Shukracharya cursed Mahabali. But Mahabali did not turn away from the Truth and the Word that he had given to Vamana. After this, Vamana took Virata roopa or Vishwa roopa and measured the earth with one foot and the sky with the other foot. After this, there was no place for him to keep his feet – and hence looked at Mahabali. Mahabali just smiled and showed his head and asked Vamana to keep the foot on his head and take the third feet of earth. Here, Mahabali could have replied that “you are cheating me, I gave the word or boon only to a dwarf and not to this big form”. But he did not do that – he knew that it is the Lord and that he was fortunate enough to have got the grace of the Lord for serving him. Thereafter, Vamana blessed Mahabali and granted him the boon that whenever he wanted, he could see Vishnu & that Vishnu will be protecting him at all times. After this, he sent Mahabali to Sutala. It is a wrong concept that Mahabali was sent to Patala – or a lower world full of evil and bad. Instead, Mahabali was blessed by the Lord and sent to Sutala and not Patala.

This story shows that Mahabali did not grudge when his Guru told him to turn Vamana back. Mahabali did not get off the path when his Guru persuaded him to do so and even cursed him.

A devotee is like this. Even if the Guru tells the devotee to follow a different path – the devotee never comes off the path of devotion. A real Guru will never tell a disciple to follow a bad path – but today, there are lot of people posing as GURUS and wanting material and other benefits from the disciple. Such Gurus will be afraid whether the disciple will leave them & they want CHELAS and only normal idiotic and ignorant people posing as a Guru.

The important aspect to be taken from the story of Mira and Mahabali is that a devotee has God as the ultimate aim. This is termed in Sanskrit as “MatParatvam” – or considering the Lord (indicated here as Mat) as the ultimate or absolute goal.

Ramanuja acharya stresses a lot about Saranagathi in his works. This is nothing but having total and complete surrender to the Almighty. Whatever might happen, the devotee never forgets the Lord. There is not even a small chance of Ego creeping up for the devotee because the devotee always does all actions for the Lord and without any expectations. All actions of the devotee are just worship of the Lord and such worship can never make one egoistic – because the devotee considers all fruits (whether they are good or bad) as the prasadam of the Lord. He sees the Lord in everything, all actions, all objects, all things. For the devotee, there exists nothing but the Lord alone.

Such a devotee will never perish because of his one-pointed thought about the Lord. Slowly the devotee moves from apara Bhakthi and attains Para Bhakthi. As he is always thinking of the Lord alone, the difference between the devotee and the Lord vanishes. He either merges into the Lord or he realizes that he is the Lord whom he was praying and prostrating. This state of ultimate oneness is the aim of apara bhakthi or devotion.

A person never becomes a devotee by just chanting or uttering Rama’s or Siva’s or Vishnu’s name – it is the attitude of complete surrender and constant thinking of the Lord that makes a person a devotee.

A real devotee might never visit any temples or utter the name of Lord – but he who has the constant thought of the Lord and he who considers the Lord as the ultimate aim and works towards that aim is a real devotee. Such a devotee is indeed very dear to the Lord (Says Krishna again and again in the 12th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita).

Going to temple or uttering God’s name once in a day or twice in a day, speaking and thinking about God only with specific friends – these are just the starting step to devotion and these don’t make a devotee. A devotee is one who is constantly established in the thought of God.

One should read the lives of Nayanmaars or Saivite saints and the lives of Alwars or Vaishnavite saints – to understand about Bhakthi or devotion.

Krishna speaks about the real devotee who is very dear to the Lord in 7 slokas of Gita chapter 12 (sloka No: 13-19)

Adveshtaa sarva bhootanaam maitrah karuna eva cha
Nirmamo nirahankaarah samadukha sukhah shame
Santhustha satatham yogi yataatma drida nishchayah
Mayyarpita mano buddhih yo madbhakthah sa me priyah

He is a real devotee and is dear to me – who has fixed his mind and intellect on Me and
who doesn’t get angry or averse to all living beings
who has the qualities of Maitri or friendship and Karuna or compassion to all living beings
who doesn’t have “I” and “Mine” or Ego
who remains the same in Happiness and Sorrow
who is always content and ever established in Me through clear conviction

Yasmaan na udhvijathe lokah lokaannodvijathe cha yah
Harsha amarsha bhayordvegair muktho yah sa cha me priyah

He who doesn’t get affected by the world or affects the world – and who is liberated from excitement, sorrow and fear – he is a devotee and dear to me.

This is real bhakthi or devotion where the devotee thinks of the Lord alone.

Krishna mentions three points while defining a apara bhaktha in the 2nd chapter of Gita

“Mayi aavesha mano ye maam nitya yuktaa upasathe
Sradhdhyaa paraya upethaah te me yukta tama mataah”

He is a true devotee who
has fixed his mind unto Me (as the ultimate reality)
is steadfast in Me (means constant thought of God)
thinks me as the final goal of human life and works towards it.

Only when a person really follows this, he is to be considered as a real devotee. This devotion is a path that leads one to the eternal bliss of the Self. This ultimate reality that “I am God” is what is to be realized and only this knowledge about oneself can give one eternal bliss. There is no other path than this to happiness or eternality. One of the easiest path to this is the path of devotion wherein a person follows apara bhakthi and finally reaches Para Bhakthi and realizes the absolute reality of Oneness.

This apara bhakthi is not mere superstitious devotion of Vaishnavas where they just put everything unto God and do all bad and good things. But this is real devotion where everything is for the Lord and every action is performed as a worship to God. When something is being done as a worship, it can never be bad and hence it always has to be good alone. Therefore devotion is not mere blind faith where all good is considered as one’s own effort and bad as given by Lord.

This is what is normally seen in so-called devoted people who think they are devotees and that they always think of God. But such people fall away from the path and forget God when something good or great comes. When a person gets a foreign opportunity, there goes the thought of Lord & the next only thought that remains is the thought of money and life in foreign. J This is not real devotion. Real devotion is thought of the Lord always and always trying to think about the Lord alone.

A person can at the most go to the US or the UK or Switzerland or according to the scriptures to Heaven. That is the limit. If a person doesn’t understand that even people in those places are unhappy and unsatisfied and they turn towards the spiritual country of India for knowledge and happiness, what else can be said to that person? The lives of Indra, the ruler of heaven, will indeed show that he is not at all satisfied and suffers a lot – but still he is considered happy and remains happy because he is worshipper of God and a real devotee.

Until a person realizes that the Lord is the ultimate reality and my life should be to realize the God in Me, there will be no happiness or no contentment. And till then, there will be no devotion at all – but just name-sake DEVOTION alone.

Kunti Devi used to pray to the Lord to give her sorrow so that she will remember the Lord. Devotion is constant thought of Lord during times of happiness and sorrow, during times of excitement and misery.

Let us all try to have at least some percent of this real devotion so that we may be able to rejoice in the eternal bliss of the Self.


Post a Comment

<< Home