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Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.
Many years back, possibly in 1985 or so, maybe 1983, there was a development in Kerala which inspired and compelled me to take up a Hindu renaissance program. It was the ill-famous issue of the Christian Missionary burying a concrete, a reinforced concrete cross in the Nilackal hill which is near Sabarimalai. One day, the workers working in the farmland extracted it and immediately there was a huge report. They can influence the press and the government with anything and to any measure, saying that “It is a cross belonging to A.D. 52.” At that time there was no cross like the one we have now in the Christianity. A bishop living a few kilometers away from the area, he had cast the cross and buried it there, then intentionally extracted it through the workers and suddenly through the Chief Minister who was here, he gave a big publicity. Suddenly it was surrounded by Christians for protection. The then Travancore Board Devaswom chairman, he presented the matter before the public. That was the best that he could do and left it.
Our Hindu protagonists took up the matter and they were trying to build up a demonstration which they called agitation and two months had passed, the government declared that it was a closed chapter. And particularly the people, R.S.S people, they were feeling that we have been agitating over the issue. Their idea is to construct a huge church in Nilackal where there exists a Mahadeva temple. You can imagine if a church comes there and the Mahadeva temple also is there, naturally there will be conflict of interest. It was like Sri Rama staying in Janasthana where Ravana had planted 14000 army people. Naturally a conflict arose which finally led to Sri Rama going to Lanka to retrieve Sita. This is recorded by Valmiki Maharshi in Ramayana.
So, the matter was very serious. When I came to know of it, I went to the people and said that, “What is your problem?”
“Swamiji, we don’t have a leadership. There is nobody in the Hindu Community who can give us a leadership and whose presence and value will be heard by the people. Two months we have struggled and there is no improvement in the situation. People are getting tired and there is reluctance and lack of enthusiasm.”
I consulted Purushotthama Swamiji and both of us said. I told them, “We shall be either in front or in the middle or at the back, but we will give you necessary support.”
I came to the Ashram and then prepared a write up, a small brochure and circulated around, near the Ashram around saying, “These are the circumstances in which I am going to enter this fray.” I want to tell you what my thought process was.
This is a spiritual institution and we are spiritual people. Being so, we are above religion, and that fact always remains. But why do I have this kind of an attitude, impersonal and impartial? Only because I was born in the Hindu society. Hindu society means spiritual society. It means a non-religious society. If I were born a different person, I would not have been able to pursue the truth or present things being what I am now. After all, it is the society to which I belong by birth and when matters come to a crisis, I have to defend the society, whatever it is. Suppose there are misdeeds and wrongs, we are the first people, we should be the first people to go and say, “Don’t do it.” I think the society would still have some respect and allegiance to us. So, this feeling I am not able to forget. I can subdue it by indifference but I feel that is not right.
We entered the fray, it started blazing. At one point, we had to disagree with the Hindu leadership when they took a decision saying that “We will withdraw from the agitation.” Purushotthama Swamiji was very firm that this is not a right step. Then our Parameshwaran Ji flew to Delhi to ask the RSS chief. The sannyasins have differed from us. They said, “They will go, take up the agitation themselves.” He said, “Whatever it may be, there should not be any difference in the Hindu society. Make sure that we go together.” And then we took up a program and went.
Finally, the object was fulfilled. Our Hindu leaders said, “We shall be happy if they take their cross and erect the church just a few yards away. But I was a person who said that, “If there is a real cross and it belongs to AD 52, we will allow them to erect the church, demolish this Deva temple, Mahadeva temple. Otherwise, no church should be erected even in the sea,” I said. This is something I had said. Finally, they took them away to Angamuzhi, very, very far away. I don’t know what has happened there.
Ever since then, to some extent I have been taking interest, wherever I go, I have my talks only in the temples. We don’t have any other place. So, the temples and the Ashrams are mutual and fulfilling. Our temples are a focus for practicing devotion. But our devotion is very impersonal. But each temple will have a certain deity, certain legend etc.
Recently somebody has posted a question in the Facebook saying that, “Swamiji who speaks about ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, why is he conducting a pongala in the temple? He should explain it.” I have not explained it, but I wanted to tell you. “See, we are living on the slope of Pandavagiri and this land belongs to the temple. Eighty percent of Travancore kingdom belong to the temple deities! This Devi has got a lot of land all around and many people are living there. Government took over the land and distributed it to the tillers. Therefore, our Gods and Goddesses became poor and they started starving. This starvation situation still continues to some extent. I address the people saying that, “Then also, we were contributing to the landlords in the form of rent. Now also we have to take up and see that the temples are properly installed, properly renovated etc.”
So, what I have to tell you is that, there are two centers in the Hindu society which have kept and preserved our sanatana dharma. One is the different temples and shrines and holy places where people assemble in tens of thousands, lakhs and crores. There are Ashrams where hundreds and may be thousands assemble. In the temple we have a mute God or Goddess, but in the Ashram, we have a vocal and a vibrant God.
Many people go to the temple, unload their grievances and loads and get relief and assurance. But it’s a unilateral approach. They cannot get anything from the object of worship. Their God is invisible and infinitely distant. Whereas in the Ashram, you have somebody to whom you can raise your questions, place your doubts and seek salvation and answer. One is mutual to the other. We don’t go to the temple and we don’t have to. But still many sannyasins go to the temple.
I am a person who was taken in my young age by my mother to Guruvayur. Three days we were in Guruvayur temple. When Mataji was there, I used to accompany her, but I could never find anything in Guruvayur at all. But Guruvayur temple, I want it. It is necessary for people. So, I am always a supporter of the temple. And people are to be told, what is a temple, how installation is there, how in the installation process the human mind excels the deity, the mind alone infuses and instills divinity and benedictory power to the deity. All these things, when I explain, people are stunned. There should be enlightenment.
The Ponkala idea is so very good. Normally it is priests who prepare pudding for the deity and they offer it. Nobody can go there. Ponkala has the concept of, all married women whose husbands are alive to come to the temple and they prepare the pudding standing on the sun in a mud pot and they themselves offer it to the deity. What a great thing is this!
Whatever my devotee gives, let it be a fruit, a flower, simple water, a leaf, I accept it. It is the devotion-filled offer that I want. I don’t take the material but I take the devotion. So, when people come, this is an occasion for many to assemble. There is a Ponkala in Attungal in Trivandrum. Do you know, 35 lakhs of people assembled this time! And the Ponkala crowd occupied many kilometres of the road! In a small steel oven, made out of steel rod, they keep a mud pot, take water, rice and jaggery, and boil it and they are offering it. What a great thing is this!
I always want the temple and the people to be more and more united and the temple should be a more meaningful place. It is in that background that I have been taking interest in the temples. We are managing seven temples. All of them have been given to us by the earlier managers saying that, “We cannot look after them, please try to do something.” And we have spent lakhs of rupees for rebuilding and rejuvenating the temple. If the temples are going away, where will the people flock and what do you do to perpetuate our culture? The house people do not know anything, do not know anything, the priest doesn’t know anything. Unlike in the other religions, we don’t have a teaching centre. There is no compulsion for people to come. So, in such a loose society, the citadels of faith where people assemble, that alone is a means. If they are taken away, it is just like fish taken out of water. So that is why I go and talk in temples, speak in temple. How, what a great thing is this!
Yesterday, I went to a Sapthaham function. About 300 people were there. What a sweeping devotion they have! All of them were particularly fond of me. And the whole family is such a good family. So, I went there. I spoke beautiful things on Srimad Bhagavatam. What a great presentation I made! And all of them were breathlessly listening to me. It was not the Bhagavatam that they normally hear. I was emphasizing the Bhagavatam exactly in the manner in which the scripture itself says.
Presenting three children, one is Shringi, the son of Shamika Maharshi, the second is Dhruva, Uttanapada’s child, five years old and Prahlada, seven years old. For Shringi, there was a father to admonish him and correct him. For Dhruva, there was a mother to confidently send him to Madhuvana. “My dear son, go, and do tapasya.” The mother did not think what will happen to the child. “You cannot get justice in this kingdom. You cannot get the lap of your father. I am also, I am also ridiculed by your father. So, the only place you will get justice from is Lord Maha Vishnu. Go my dear boy.” What do you think of such a mother? I want one lakh and one million mouths to tell people, “Your devotion and reliance on God should be that of Suneeti who sent a five-year-old son to the depth of forest never giving him any instruction as to what he should do. Poor boy went, encountering Narada and strengthened by him. Stopped taking food one after the other. Initially both times, later on one, finally stopped, took only water, that also he stopped. This is what a five-year child could do, can do, then what about the elderly people that you are? In the name of austerity, you must be able to do anything and everything. That is the culture of India, culture of India! This is the great possession that we have. We may lack in money, we may lack in education, we may lack in many things. But we need not and should not lack in devotion.
Srimad Bhagavata gives us the maximum of wealth, maximum of everything, rely upon it. So, this is my attitude. So, when I heard that Draupati’s Shila is there and Draupati came here during the Vanavasa and prayed to the Goddess seeking victory for the husbands and unbroken marital bond for her and Draupati was blessed by the Goddess, can you imagine? I am very much excited by the statement. Five thousand years back, the event took place and how many generations have passed! Throughout these generations, this corner of in a globe, the people have been preserving that link and that is why even now, the tradition is held and nedumangalya, pushpanjali etc. is being done. So, I felt that the whole world should be let known this fact.
I did not do anything, only when the temple was entrusted to us, the local people being unable to build it, I participated myself, Mā, Nutan Swamiji and the others, all of them did their part. I was physically present there for months together and lifted the lawn of the temple by 32 feet carrying head loads of earth. With no accident whatsoever, we were able to manage it. Can you imagine the austerity involved in it? So now, I feel we owe ourselves to this Devi, “We cannot be happy and comfortable and leave the temple to destitution.” Everything that is done in the temple is just like doing it to the Ashram. I want the temple to be an abode of divinity, to be an abode of austerity. Even the local priest and the others who come to the temple, they say, “The moment we come here we find, a special divinity and austere grace.” It is very difficult for them to say such a word. I am a person who respect whole tradition but I am also very critical.
And then I was asking others, they say, “Swamiji, whatever you say, people may find it difficult to accept, but your views are honoured and they know very clearly that you take a scriptural stand and administer corrections.”
So, two things we have taken up, one is the entry of women in Sabarimalai. Other is persecution inflicted upon the elephants. Yesterday when I went there was an elephant. So, in my talk I told them, “Everything was alright but you had put up an elephant.” And then I started saying about how elephant is persecuted. People were very enlightened and they were very informed. So, this is my stand.
Today Matrubhoomi has carried a writing on Draupadi’s Shila and the Draupadi Dinam. I wanted to show you. All these things require a little behind-the-scene work. They will not easily publish all these things, especially when it is a matter of faith.
So, I wanted to tell you how I became associated with the temple. I am not associated with all temples. But whenever temples ask us for some kind of a help, we give them. Now and then, I would like to give them some money also. There is a temple where Vedic recitation is going on. Right from the first year, we started giving them ₹ 5000 once in three years. Last year it was ₹ 10000. They said, “Shall we bring some religious ghee to your Ashram?” I said, “No, we don’t want. But we want the function to be done.” Vedic scholars are invited and for about 41 days or so they go on reciting, reciting, reciting the Vedas without looking into the book. What do you think of this great tradition? And we are a society who supports it. That is why India is India! Otherwise we would have become a piece of land. I would like you to understand this.
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru.