Devotional Elixir in Srimad Bhagavatam-III
Everywhere in Bhagavatam it is written: “Devotion is the easiest path to God-realization.” Bhagavatam explains in so many places the disciplines to be followed in the path of devotion. We shall discuss only a few of them.
First, one must become wholesomely devoted to the holy people and the scriptures, and develop dispassion towards the worldly things. As we become more and more ‘attached’ to the holy people, listen to them, and listen to the excellences of the Lord, our mind slowly but steadily loses the taste for worldly pleasures. We may do everything in the world – we have to do our duties. All the householders cannot run away to the forest. But we can change our outlook. Remaining in this world, doing all our work, we can feel that God is supreme in our life. We can give Him the supreme position in our life.
The Guru teaches us how to cultivate this supreme devotion – how to develop non-possessiveness, how to overcome ‘I’-ness and ‘mineness’ (ahaṅkāra and mamatā) and how to get rid of desires. The Guru guides us in imbibing all these qualities. He teaches us the Bhāgavata-dharma (devotional disciplines), pursuing which a seeker can reach the pinnacle of devotion.
Even after getting exposed to the Bhāgavata-dharma, if one does not take to this path, it is said that he or she is committing ‘suicide’. We have got so much opportunity – we have got this human body, we have got a Guru or association of the Saints, we can come to satsangs and listen to the Lord’s name. We are so fortunate that we are able to hear His name, read about Him and think about Him. But, in spite of all this, if a person does not make any effort to cross this worldly ocean, saṃsāra-sāgara, then, he is verily killing himself!
नृदेहमाद्यं सुलभं सुदुर्लभं
प्लवं सुकल्पं गुरुकर्णधारम् ।
पुमान्भवाब्धिं न तरेत्स आत्महा ।।
Nṛ-dehamādyaṃ sulabhaṃ su-durlabhaṃ: To begin with, we have got this rare human body very easily, without any effort. We could have been born as insects or any other creatures, which are abundant on earth. But we have been fortunate to be born as humans. Plavaṃ sukalpaṃ guru-karṇadhāram: We have got this well built boat (the human body) to cross the worldly ocean (samsāra-sāgara), and also have the Guru who is like a competent helmsman. What is he doing? He is calling us, “Come! Come to my boat. I will take you across. Don’t grieve. There need be no anxiety, no fear!” Dear devotees, even though he is giving us that assurance, we fear to get into that boat. We have doubts!
And, the Lord says, “mayānukūlena nabhasvateritam - the boat is favoured by the winds of my grace!” We all have the grace of God. How? – one may ask. Are we not getting satsang? Are we not having books to read? Are we not having the association of holy people? All these mean that the Lord’s grace is there in abundance. Even after all these, pumān bhavābdhiṃ na taret sa ātmahā – if man does not make effort to cross this worldly ocean, then he verily commits suicide. He is an ātmahā – he kills himself!
Why is it called suicide? Because, we are choosing mortality to immortality! But the truth is that we are the immortal Soul. We are not the body. Whatever suffering is there for the body, mind and intelligence, it really does not touch us. We are the Soul, the imperishable, the undivided, without any attribute, and without any decay. But, when will that be known as true of us? Only when we pursue the sādhanā! Suppose we are not pursuing it, then we are not getting into the boat. By constantly identifying ourselves wrongly with the body, mind and intelligence, we make ourselves mortal and we continue to suffer.
Then what should we do? We should cultivate supreme devotion to the Lord. For that, we must go to the Guru. We must follow the discipline he gives. What is the discipline? It is to see the Lord everywhere – in all creatures, in all the moving and non-moving objects. Wherever we see, whomever we see, and whatever we see, we should see the Lord alone:
खं वायुमग्निं सलिलं महीं च
ज्योतींषि सत्त्वानि दिशो द्रुमादीन् ।
सरित्समुद्रांश्च हरेः शरीरं
यत्किञ्च भूतं प्रणमेदनन्यः ।।
All this – the space, the air, the fire, the waters, the earth, the celestial objects (like the sun, moon and stars), the beings, the directions, the plants and trees, the rivers and the ocean – is but the body of the Lord! One should prostrate to whatever beings exist, perceiving none as other than the Lord.
What a beautiful śloka! First time when I heard this śloka from my Gurudev, I was in tears. I kept thinking about it, chanting the śloka again and again. What should we do when we see anything? We should see it as the Lord’s body and offer praṇām. Whether it is a creature, small or big, a human or an animal, we should do praṇām. We should see Oneness in all these.
My dear devotees, this is how we can taste the devotional elixir! Can we have this elixir in day-to-day life? Yes, we can. And Bhāgavatam shows the way. When we see a flower, the mind should think of its Creator, the Lord. When we look at a person – whether he is beautiful or ugly – we should see only God in him. Whatever we see – whether it is the sky or a building, birds or trees, or anything else – the thought of the Creator, the Supreme Lord, should first come to our mind. Then only we will have this devotional elixir.
It is possible! Once I asked my Guru, “You are always saying that we should see God everywhere, Brahman everywhere. How is it possible? Is it really possible to have such a perception?” He said: “Yes! I will tell you how! Suppose you enter your Swamiji’s room, and there you see a book used by him. Whose memory comes to your mind? Is it not that of your Swamiji? Imagine a mother handling the clothes of her child. Whose memory will the mother will have? Will she not immediately think of the child? So, when we know that everything belongs to the Lord – when we have that feeling always in the mind – then, anything we perceive will make us feel the Lord.” Seeing Him everywhere, our mind should prostrate at His feet.
My dear devotees, I am very fond of ślokas. And this fondness I have developed from my Gurudev, Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha Ji. You must have heard the many ślokas he has been chanting. So many ślokas he chants, and so effortlessly, like the flow of Ganga. I have not been able to learn all that he has taught me. Still my interest has been there for ślokas. I think that is one blessing I have got from him – this love for ślokas.
Here is one śloka I learnt from him. It is about how to remember the Lord in the midst of all the activities throughout the day. We are ever so busy! Right from the morning, after we get up, we take bath, spend some time in the pooja room, go to the market, cook food, go to the office; and at the end of the day, we get tired and go to sleep. While involved in all this, is it possible to think of the Lord? In this śloka, he taught me about that:
या दोहनेऽवहनने मथनोपलेप-
धन्या व्रजस्त्रिय उरुक्रमचित्तयानाः ।।
It is about the Vraja women, the Gopikas. How blessed were they! Their mind was constantly fixed on Lord Krishna even while engaged in all sorts of daily chores, like milking, husking, churning, looking after the crying babies by swinging them in cradles, sprinkling and cleaning the house. They were singing with choked voice, with tears in their eyes, and their heart filled with love for the Lord.
If they could attain brahma-nirvāṇa-sukha (bliss of oneness with Brahman) while doing all their household activities, why is it that we are not able to have it? The question is, what did they do additionally that we are not doing? What special discipline or attitude they had, that we do not have? Where do we lack?
My dear devotees, the whole day has to be divinized. The Gopikas were fondly thinking of Lord Krishna always. We are not. We are thinking of all other things, “Oh, my son has gone out, he has not yet come back. What has happened?” Or, “My boss was not happy with me yesterday. How am I going to face him today?” So many things we think! Every moment for us is full of anxiety, tension and fear. But, our pursuit should be to make every moment, every thought, every word and every action divine.
सा वाग्यया तस्य गुणान्गृणीते
करौ च तत्कर्मकरौ मनश्च ।
शृणोति तत्पुण्यकथाः स कर्णः ।।
That speech is the right speech which extols His virtues and excellences. Those are the true hands that are engaged in His work. While working with our hands we should think that we are serving Him. Whether we are sweeping, washing, cooking, sitting at the computer or working in the office – all the work we should associate with the Lord. How? We should think that today God has given me this work. I will do it with all perfection, with utmost attention and devotion, so that He is pleased with my performance.
Smaret vasantam sthira-jaṅgameṣu: in all moving and unmoving objects we should see Him. We should reject those thoughts that take our mind away from Him. Śṛṇoti tat-puṇya-kathā sa karṇaḥ: that ear is the ear, which listens to His excellences and His words. Tad-eva yat-paśyati tadd-hi cakṣuḥ: that eye is the eye which sees Him everywhere. We are not seeing Him. We are seeing everything, but not associating the Lord with all those things. That is where we fail.
मनसि वचसि काये पुण्यपीयूषपूर्णाः
त्रिभुवनमुपकारश्रेणिभिः प्रीणयन्तः ।
परगुणपरमाणून् पर्वतीकृत्य नित्यं
निजहृदिविकसन्तः सन्ति सन्तः कियन्तः ।।
(Bhartṛhari’s Nītiśatakam - 79)
This should be our pursuit: Our mind, words and body should be filled with the nectar of auspiciousness. Tribhuvanam-upakāra- śreṇibhiḥ prīṇayantaḥ: We should help others, love others, do good to others and please everybody. Para-guṇa-paramāṇūn parvatīkṛtya nityam: Even a little of virtue or goodness seen in somebody, we should make mountainous. Nija-hṛdi-vikasantaḥ – by doing so, we expand our own heart. When we do that, we find that the whole world has become a nandana-vana (heavenly garden):
सम्पूर्णं जगदेव नन्दनवनं सर्वेऽपि कल्पद्रुमाः
गांगंवारि समस्तवारिनिवहाः पुण्याः समस्ताः क्रियाः ।
वाचः प्राकृतसंस्कृताः श्रुतिशिरो वाराणसी मेदिनी
सर्वावस्थितिरस्य वस्तुविषया दृष्टे परब्रह्मणि ।।
When we see Brahman everywhere, the whole world becomes a heavenly garden, where all are wish-fulfilling trees. All the waters become the Ganga-water and everything we do becomes auspicious. The words coming out of our tongue become scriptural and the whole earth appears as the holy Varanasi. It becomes like that! We human beings are very constricted. We always want to gain something from God. We worship, offer things, because we want something in return. But, look at Nature. There is no motive. I will tell you a short story.
There was a peepul tree near our house. It was long ago; I was very young at that time. On the branches of that peepul tree, there were birds’ nests. Everyday from early dawn, the birds would sing and sing and sing. There would be so much of sound, so much of chirping. And some birds would sing beautifully. I used to wonder: what are they singing everyday? Is it only that after getting up they are busy with their nests and household and children, or is it that they are singing in praise of the Lord? I felt that they were singing the song of the Lord.
One night, there was a mighty storm, and heavy rain, and there was a big sound. When I looked through the window, I found a huge branch of the tree had fallen. Immediately I felt, “Oh, so many nests would have got destroyed! What will happen to those birds and the squirrels? Where will they take shelter?” And I was telling God: “This is also Your leelā that You are giving them so much of suffering!”
But, before dawn I could hear the same songs filling the atmosphere! All the birds, may be the surviving ones, did not forget the Lord! The Lord who gave them so much of insecurity, so much of suffering throughout the night – they were still singing His glory! It was a revelation! I realized that we are not like that. We are not grateful to the Lord for whatever He has given us.
My dear devotees, it is with our whole heart that we have to fall at His feet. We have to embrace Him in the heart. We have to think of Him as our very own, who resides in our heart, who is giving us our life-forces, who is giving us everything. Many things He has given us without our asking – the sky, the air, the breath, the blood flow, the heartbeat. He has given us food, He has given us shelter, He has given us a tongue to speak, feet to walk. He has given us the mind and the intelligence. We should fill our mind and heart with blessedness, with gratefulness to the Lord.
As a child feels secure in the mother’s lap, we should feel secure wherever we are. We should think that we are in the Lord’s lap and there is no fear of anything:
समाश्रिता ये पदपल्लवप्लवं
महत्पदं पुण्ययशोमुरारेः ।
भवाम्बुधिर्वत्सपदं परं पदं
पदं पदं यद्विपदां न तेषाम् ।।
Devotees who are samyak-āśritāḥ, who have taken complete refuge at the Lord’s Lotus feet, for them, there is no danger. They are always protected. Protected from what? Protected from possessiveness and desire!
एकोऽपि कृष्णस्य कृतः प्रणामो दशाश्वमेधावभृथेन तुल्यः ।
दशाश्वमेधी पुनरेति जन्म कृष्णप्रणामी न पुनर्भवाय ।।
कृष्णव्रताः कृष्णमनुस्मरन्तो रात्रौ च कृष्णं पुनरुत्थिता ये ।
ते कृष्णदेहाः प्रविशन्ति कृष्णं आज्यं यथा मन्त्रहुतं हुताशे ।।
(Mahābhārata Śānti Parva 47. 92, 93)
One who is dedicated to Krishna, who constantly thinks of Krishna, and also sleeps at night and gets up in the morning with Krishna’s name on his lips, he becomes Krishnamaya, he attains Krishna. As “ājyam yathā mantra-hutam hutāśe” – when we give āhuti (oblation) in the fire, it becomes fire. Similarly, a Krishna-bhakta who offers himself completely to Krishna, becomes Krishna.
जय शंख-गदाधर नील-कलेवर
पीत-पटाम्बर देहि पदम् ।
जय भक्त-जनाश्रय मंगल-कारण
अन्तिम-बान्धव देहि पदम् ।।
Jai Guru ! Jai Guru ! Jai Guru !