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Harih Om Tat Sat. Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.
Today for Kerala, it is is a very very very special day; perhaps the most festive day and also a religious day I should say. It carries a tradition dating back to thousands and thousands of years back. Generally, this Thiruvoṇam is associated with Mahabali.
The story of Mahabali as adopted by Kerala and sought to be commemorated is not found anywhere. Generally, Mahabali’s story appears in Srimad Bhagavatam where the manner in which it is celebrated or commemorated in Kerala has no ground at all. But one point I find is very important. Mahabali was a lavish, a profuse giver. When Vāmana in the form of a dwarf went to him as a Bramacharin, he received him with a lot of devotion and fervour, washed his feet, made him sit, gave him some arghya etc. and then asked, “Why have you come? Please let me know.” He said, “I have come to beg for three feet of Earth from you”. Mahabali was very much touched and affected. So he started enticing Vamana, “Why is it that you are asking for such a small gift from me? I am a giver and I want to give profusely. Ask for not three feet of Earth, ask for several peninsulas from me”.
The Bramacharin continued to hold that, “Beggars should not have any desire or greed; they must be satisfied with the minimum. So I don’t need any more”. Mahabali continued to say, “No, after having come and sought anything from me, you should not go to any other place. I am the best and the most giver”. Mahabali continued to assert that he was the best giver, great giver and he should not ask for only three feet of Earth etc. Mahabali’s rule was considered to be very prosperous. Now you link up the prosperity with his giving habit.
You know, we have got a tradition which says that you have to kick Mahalakshmi when she comes to you. You should not be seeker of prosperity but you should be spurner of it. When you are bold enough, confident enough to spurn prosperity, Mahalakshmi will come to you as a dāsi.
Prosperity will not honor a man who has got greed to possess. On the other hand, prosperity will shower itself profusely when a man has no possessiveness, desire and greed. The only way one’s prosperity and riches can be preserved is by giving! If you have to give, you must have. Unless you must have ample, you won’t be able to give well. So to give is not to give, it is actually to get and gain. This is a truth which is mentioned in our śāstras and confirmed by our tradition, strengthened by tradition. But very few people know it. I believe anybody who has got a great mind, he alone will be able to wield prosperity and preserve it in full measure. It is very difficult to become rich and resourceful and it is even more difficult to preserve the resourcefulness. The only way you can preserve resourcefulness or prosperity is by profusely giving, giving, giving. But Mahabali succeeded in all this. He was a great giver but the trouble with him was that he had the ego and the pride of giving.
When Aditi underwent a payovrata as advised by her husband in order to redeem the status of her children, Mahavishnu appeared before her and said, “I know your suffering, the suffering of a mother when the children have lost all their place and right. So you need not tell me. I am pleased with your vow and I shall try to fulfill your requirement. But understand that Mahabali is a great man”. You should listen to what I say very carefully. “Mahabali is a great man. He has got the blessings of his preceptors, teachers, Brahmanas blessings are there in him. It is not easy to encounter him at all. He is himself great and honorable. He has also the blessings of Brahmanas, the preceptors. Such a man, what shall I do? He is a good man. Being a good man, how can I encounter him? I will have to devise a special means of encountering Mahabali. I cannot easily approach him for fulfilling your wish. I will have to make a special design, think about it”. Then he said, “Okay. I will be born to you. Keep this in mind and go to your husband, have your meeting”. That is how Vāmana was born.
Our purāṇās are a wonderful source of wisdom. Just imagine, Mahavishnu acknowledging the greatness of Mahabali and saying he is so blessed that nobody can oust him from his place. So He has to find out a very special means and that was getting born as the son of Aditi.
Then as a Brahmacharin, he goes to Mahabali begging. Understand this, ‘begging’. He went there as a beggar and in a way teased Mahabali to come out with all his pride and proud utterances and the encounter was Vāmana wanting nothing more than three feet of Earth and Mahabali repeatedly asserting that, “No, that is not sufficient, ask for everything, everything, everything. I shall give”.
Mahabali stood on his ground of giving, Vamana stood on his ground of not requiring anything else and then finally he agreed in spite of being warned by his Sukracharya that, “This is Mahavishnu who has come impersonating Himself as a Bramacharin. Your whole family and lineage will be destroyed”. The conversation is very touching, very touching, very touching and very revealing also.
“If He has come impersonating Himself as Vamana and He has come as Mahavishnu, then we will have an encounter. Either I will be slain by Him or I will slay him”, he said. “Having said that ‘I shall give’ I cannot go back on my word, my dear preceptor. There I beg to differ from you” and he stood on the ground of giving. Can you imagine the pride of Mahabali? Then he washed his feet. His wife brought water for the purpose and he sprinkled the water on his head and the wife’s head. He said, “Yes. I am giving. I have given.”
Then the little boy started growing, growing, growing, growing, growing and then he measured the Earth and the intermediate space, heaven, everything. So everything Mahabali had was measured by Him. “Where shall I place my third foot?”, he asked. Even then, Mahabali was not prepared to admit defeat. He has already taken the Earth, he has taken the heaven and everything that Mahabali had in which Mahabali is included. Even then Mahabali says, “No. I will fulfill my word. Put your foot on my head”, he said.
Just see the pride of Mahabali! He was not prepared to accept defeat. Now you tell me what is virtue, what is sin, what is goodness and what is bad. He was a profuse giver, the noblest man that you can think of but topping everything, transcending everything, he had the pride of giving. He had the pride of an unconquerable giver. That pride, that giver-hood, we give what we have and what we have is not our property, it is all God’s, nature’s. So in giving also we cannot have any ego at all. What ego can we have? Our body itself is not ours, Earth is not ours, air is not ours, water is not, nothing is ours. Then what kind of a giving do we have?
So we should not have any kind of a proprio even in the matter of giving but that is the one that was victimizing Mahabali. But Vamana did not place his foot on his head. He only ‘showed’ and that was sufficient. Many things happened, Prahlada also arrived and confessed that, “We are asuras. We will always have our ego. You have come to destroy the ego and make us humble and great. We are grateful”, and all that.
Now this is that day we are celebrating today but unfortunately the tradition is twisted and turned and people have a very wrong notion. Mahabali’s janma and this particular incident took place in Gujarat on the bank of Narmada. It has nothing to do with Kerala. But somehow Kerala has picked up the tradition but in a perverted manner. Kerala was lifted from the sea according to tradition by Lord Paraśurāma and Vāmana avatāra was earlier to it. So how can Vāmana avatāra be held here? So it’s all a confusion. But it is good to remember two points according to me. One is, prosperity will rule one who is very generous and hospitable. Generousness and hospitality or hospitable nature, these are the two conditions for enviable prosperity to be had by anyone. But in being generous and hospitable, you should not have the least ego that ‘I am an owner and I am a possessor’. Then the whole thing is lost. This is what we have to understand from this particular day.
This year, our Onam is not a festivity for us. It is a holy day where as Mahabali gave everything that he had, there is a call for all of us to give at least as much as we can from whatever little or much we have. There are about nine lakhs of people who are stranded, who have lost their houses or whose houses are flooded. A number of them have fallen, they are razed to the ground and the distress and the suffering are likely to continue for quite a number of weeks. Thousands and thousands, ten-thousands of kilometers of road are damaged. Kerala will need quite a lot of money and effort to restore whatever progress Kerala had so far. All these requires a lot of prosperity, wherefrom shall we get it?
If you ask me, all the people in Kerala on the one hand and all the Keralites who are outside Kerala, both of them put together should take up the responsibility of rebuilding Kerala. Now they have acted well. All the relief camps I am told had enough materials for feeding the people. There I think we have succeeded. We should equally succeed in rebuilding Kerala. Whatever sacrifices are necessary should be done and so far as the Government is concerned, the elected team of the Government and also the administrative team of the Government, both of them should ensure that whatever help is pooled and given to the Government either by the people or by Central Government or by their own taxational methods, every pie is properly used. That is where our administration fails.
People do not have faith in the Government, not this particular Government but any Government. Otherwise if a Chief Minister or a Prime Minister gives a call, I think people should respond with many hands and many hearts. What if we become austere for a week, a month or two? To be austere means our expenditure will be fifty percent or sixty percent. Forty percent of our expenditure, if is pooled together and made available for development and restoration, I think we will never lack funds. I am an optimist.
If people decide to build, any Government, Central Government or State Government, their money is what the people give, their hard-earned money and that money is lawfully taken away from them in the form of taxation. Government does not produce money, maximum they can claim that we are making an atmosphere for you to work with freedom and earn your living. Even then, to enable them to work, to pay the salaries, the people are giving the money.
So understand please that we are the givers, not the takers. Everyone is giving in the form of sales tax, GST and other things, we are giving, giving, giving. We should also add a little more to our gift then I think everything will be alright. So there should be that sarvabhūta hite ratāḥ as Srimad Bhagavad Gita puts it. We must have the feeling that we are all interested in the welfare of the others. Let us try for it. And Onam gives a message in this direction and also gives an opportunity to become austere this year in our festivity observance.
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru.