Author: svp

An Antidote to Worldly Disease!

||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||

Dear avid reader-devotees!

The Ramayana is a masterpiece of Divine Love to Sri Ram. Throughout the verses of the Ramayana, the learned find knowledge, the singers get celestial music, the writers revel in rich poetry and the righteous, a storehouse of Dharma. In this respect the Ramayana is a repository of all sarva-mangala without parallel.

Narayana as Balaji in Tirupati, the famous Vaishnava sacred spot in South India. Courtesy: Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam, Chennai

Here, my mind is humbly reverting to Sri Hari as Sri Ram, beautifully described by Saint Tulsidas (AD 1532-1623) in his magnum opus Sri Ramcharitmanas.

Mother Kaushalya who in her past birth, as wife of Manu had unstinted devotion to Lord Hari. It was unique in that she wished that Lord Hari be born to her as her son. And she demands from the Lord that “chaahaun tumhahi samaan suta” – wish I would have a son like you!”.

Well, this must be a tall order to be complied with! So, the Lord in reply pathetically tells her “aapu sarisa khojoun kahan jaayi?” – Where shall I go to find my equal?” How poetically Tulsidas indicates to us that God is unique and therefore, cannot be xerox copied.

Take the beautiful song, “Thumaka chalata Ramachandra” where he describes so charmingly of his play with the child Rama. He was stunned at what he saw in his vision: the child form just looked exactly to child Rama and thus he wrote the song, looking at the playful baby.

“Raghuvar chavi ke saman, Raghuvara chavi bania”. One devotee from Dhanbad once wrote to me that  “as he thinks of a comparison to the picture of his beautiful Raghuvira, he can’t think of anything and finally decides that his beautiful form can only be compared to his (own) form itself.”

And when Lord Hari indeed appeared now, He came with shankha, chakra, gada, padma in his four arms. That was stunning to her. Immediately Kaushalya went into raptures and started singing hymns to Him. The most funniest thing she felt was that Sri Hari, being birthless, eternal and all-pervading was in her womb all these days! This very incomprehensibility of Lord getting a birth for her sake would even shake the steady minds of munis, she wonders!

Lord Hari, the ever compassionate and merciful as baby Ram…

But she would rather have the Lord as her baby and therefore she prays to Him with both hands folded. “O Lord! Vedas say that you are beyond maya, attributes and knowledge and that the whole universe in all its manifestations resides in your body. Who would ever believe that such as YOU, resided in my womb for nine months? Please O Lord, give up this appearance and become a newborn child, because that is what will give me infinite joy.” And then the Lord, the King of the divine kingdom, smiled, became a baby and started to cry in the lap of mother. Tulsidas in the last line of this lovely piece says that whosoever sings this passage, would be liberated from this world and will never be reborn. A right anti-dote to the disease of samsara (the cycle of birth and death)!

Every devotee is precious to the Lord, and He is ever ready to help us succeed. Every spiritual home must have a copy of the Ramayana, and regular reading of this sacred Book will enable us to emulate the lives of exemplary Sri Rama, the immaculate Mother Sita, the dedicated Hanumanji and a host of bright and wonderful characters found in this gem of our scriptures.

He who came as Rama and Krishna…

So, dear devotees, on this very auspicious occasion of Sri Ram Navami, let us all take a resolve to cultivate faith and love for our dear Lord Rama. Did not our Master Sri Ramakrishna assure us that “The One who became Rama and Krishna, has now come into this case (showing his body)”? May all be blessed with spiritual love and enlightenment!

In this entire journey of life – our merciful Master is with us, eager to help us when we stumble, forgive us when we make mistake, and encourage us when we falter.

Brother Swami Purnananda Ji  also joins me in wishing abundance of love and healthy life to every one of you!

With love and prayers
Swami Vimokshananda

Chaitanya Jayanti Celebrated

The 614th Birthday of Sri Chaitanya Deva was celebrated at Eire Vedanta Society (EVS) on Dol Jatra day which fell on Thursday 21st March 2019. A beautiful picture of Sri Chaitanya Deva holding a rosary signifying chanting of Sri Krishna’s holy name was kept at the altar for the first time. Devotees brought suitable offerings which were distributed as Prasad to all. 22 people attended the function.

Swami Purnananda performed the vesper service to Sri Ramakrishna amidst singing of “Khandana…” by the Ramakrishna Choir led by Jhuma Majumdar. While Prithwish Majumdar played the Tabla, Hariharan accompanied on Kanjira.

The evening was a moment of great joy when devotees enthusiastically sang a myriad of Sri Krishna bhajans. A few bhajans were led by Sharanya Bharathwaj and Malabika Basu.

Swami Vimokshananda, in his discourse on the Life and Teachings of Sri Chaitanya Deva,  traced the incident of his being given an uncommon name after his birth and how even at the young age he renounced name and fame just for his older friend Raghunath by throwing away all his superb writings on Logic in the Ganges.

Swami Vimokshananda also retold the story of Jagai and Madhai and how these two bad elements of society completely turned over a new leaf as servants of society through the holy company of Sri Chaitanya. Chaitanya‘s infinite compassion healed a leper. His untiring travels to South of India spread the Maha mantra among all classes of people irrespective of caste or creed. He brought millions of people into his bhakti fold.

Supta Ghosh read out the only written short work of Chaitanya Deva available today called Shiksha Ashtakam – an eight verse instructional hymn. Devotees finally offered colourful Abir to Lord Chaitanya.

Later they prostrated to both the monks of the EVS offered Abir.

A few snaps of the function here below in a slideshow:

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Gift of God

Little St Patrick at Dublin Cathedral

March 17 is an important Festival Day in the whole of Ireland. It is celebrated as St Patrick Day. He is the Patron Saint of Ireland. Apart from the associated mirth and colour that take many diverse forms including the unmanageable consumption of drinks and dancing, the life and teachings of St Patrick have inspired people for years and years. His belief in God the Lord was not just a statement but born out of deep conviction. The conviction, in turn, was born of his realisation. He saw God face to face as it were and he was transformed into a magnet to which millions of people were attracted to.

I had no idea about this great Saint before I was posted to Ireland. Once it was decided that I would be moving to Ireland which was for a long time, dearest in my heart due to its being the birth country of our Sister Nivedita (Margaret Elizabeth Noble), I started to read about Ireland. I came to know that this country was famous for its ‘Saints and Scholars’. Then I read about the Patron Saint Patrick who is lovingly called by people as St Paddy.

Recently when I was glancing through books in a book store by name Veritas in Dublin City, brother Swami Purnananda asked what I was looking for. I said I was on the lookout for a short account of St Patrick and he immediately picked up a book “Patrick in his own words” by Joseph Duffy and presented it to me saying ‘with my compliments!’
The book was unputdownable, to say the least! Plenty of inspiring things about St Patrick! His strong conviction that ‘nothing was impossible for God’ kept my attention on and made me compare to the parable of Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna where the devotee on hearing that Lord was trying to send a mammoth elephant through the eye of a needle exclaimed ‘Oh that was simple! Because nothing was impossible for God!”

Latu Maharaj [later Swami Adbhutananda] was extremely fortunate that he got the opportunity to live with Ramakrishna and serve him for over six years. Sri Ramakrishna taught Latu various spiritual disciplines. One day while Latu was massaging Ramakrishna’s feet, the Master asked, “Do you know what your Lord Rama is doing now?” Latu was dumbfounded and kept quiet. The Master said, “Your Lord Rama is now passing an elephant through the eye of a needle.” Latu understood that Ramakrishna, out of compassion, was pouring spirituality into him.

An incident that proved St Patrick’s conviction is worth reproducing here: “After three days we reached land, and then for twenty-eight days we journeyed through an uninhabited country.  The food ran out and hunger overtook us.  One day the steersman said to me, “Why are we hungry, Christian?  You say your God is great and all-powerful, then why can you not pray for us? Otherwise, we may perish of hunger.”  I said to them confidently, “Be converted by faith with all your heart to my Lord God, because nothing is impossible for him and everywhere he abounds.  Today he will send you food on your road until you are full.”  And with God’s help, this came to pass.  A herd of swine appeared on the road before our eyes, and they slew many of them.  We remained there for two nights, and the men were full of meat and well restored; whereas before this many of them had fainted and would otherwise have been left half dead by the wayside.  After this, they gave the utmost thanks to God, and I was highly esteemed in their eyes, and from that day on they had food abundantly.  On the journey, God provided us with food and fire and dry weather every day until on the tenth day we came upon people.” 

The Éire Vedanta Society here in Dublin celebrated the Day with due solemnity. In an evening function, the star of the function was Arka Chatterjee (15) who played violin instrument to the delight of the assembled devotees. He played a few Irish tunes admirably well. Sindhu Menon sang a sweet Krishna bhajan in Tamil mellifluously. Jayita sang with emotion a few Bengali bhajans on Sri Ramakrishna. The welcome speech was given by Swami Purnananda while the closing thanks speech was given by Swami Vimokshananda.

A few snaps of the St Patrick Day function:

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Bhagawan’s Birthday!

 The 184th Birthday of Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna was celebrated on 10 March 2019 at Eire Vedanta Society, Dublin in Ireland.

The programme began with a Puja of Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Vimokshananda assisted by Swami Purnananda. The little boy Advaith surprised everybody by appearing in the make-up of Swami Vivekananda and retold the thrilling words of Swami Vivekananda from his Chicago Addresses.

Basil Conroy did the Readings from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. The portion highlighted the child-like mood of Sri Ramakrishna that brought the occasion so much merriment. The children from the John Scottus School of Dublin chanted Vedic Peace Prayers followed by a few verses from Srimad Bhagavad Gita. The audience delighted at the diction of the Indian and Irish children who pronounced the Sanskrit lines remarkably.

Tapas Chatterjee read out from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna – the part where Thakur was making fun of ‘M’ when he had come to visit Thakur; Thakur was addressing Swamiji and other young monks and gave the example of the peacock. Rai Kamal read out a portion of ‘The Great Master’, vol 2 – the chapter on Spiritual Teachings by the Master; section 21 to 23 – where Thakur gave examples to Swami Brahmananda about the Tamasic qualities of certain people who wanted to meet Thakur, and Thakur’s advice to stay away from them. Another section talked about how Swami Vivekananda would bring his like-minded friends to meet Thakur. Sudipto sang in his mellifluous voice a few solo bhajans.

Jeff Delmar sang a song “Shepherd Boy” in an Irish famous tune, the poem that Swami Brahmananda Ji, a Direct Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna rendered during his last days. The children from Sanatana Ireland did many charming bhajans on Ganesha, Krishna and Shiva. Lucy, a daughter of Paul Hipwell played Cello instrument to the delight of the devotees. The Chai & Chant Group from Dublin performed several bhajans that brought exuberance among the listeners. The newcomer Hariharan of the Sanatana Ireland played dholak admirably.

The programme came to an end with a chorus singing of “Ramakrishna sharanam…” led by the Ramakrishna Choir, followed by Bhogarati and Pushapanjali and Prasad distribution. Earlier Swami Vimokshananda spoke on the importance of the holy occasion. He thanked on behalf of Eire Vedanta Society all those volunteers who supported mentally and assisted with donations and labour of love (tan,  man, dhan – as he put it) for the success of the function.

For a lot more photos please go to this link!

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Mahashivaratri at Belfast

On the invitation of the Indian Community Centre (ICC) of Belfast, the two Swamis – Purnananda and Vimokshananda of the Eire Vedanta Society, Dublin – attended the Maha Shivaratri Festival there on the evening of Monday, the 4th March 2019. The two-hour drive was simply charming with scenic features!

The ICC Committee members warmly welcomed and requested the Swamis to speak too. Swami Purnananda stressed the importance of holding such auspicious functions and offered the services of EVS to the Community. He also introduced Swami Vimokshananda to the audience. Swami Vimokshananda later spoke on the expansion of heart by re-telling the story as told by Swami Vivekananda at the entrance of Rameshwaram Temple in 1897.

A few devotees sang bhajans too. The officiating Priest honoured the Swamis by giving the Swamis the first place in conducting abhishekams to the large Shiva Linga kept on the altar. Mr Bharat, one of the Directors of ICC requested the EVS to visit Belfast and conduct some regular classes on Meditation etc.

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Swamiji Jayanti at Dublin

Pencil sketch of SwamijiThe 157th Jayanti day of Swami Vivekananda was observed recently in a grand scale in India and elsewhere. While perusing the ‘global medley’ of photos that were constantly pouring in at my WhatsApp on that day, I was thrilled to notice the surging enthusiasm of the people all over the world irrespective of caste or creed, race or religion. Here is a personality that can be truly called Universal.

On Sunday the 27th of January, the Éire Vedanta Society (EVS) celebrated Swami Vivekananda’s Jayanti at its Dublin Centre. The programme included a ritualistic puja by Swami Vimokshananda, talks by Swami Purnananda, melodious bhajan singing by a group of adult devotees, hymnal chanting and singing of short songs by the children of Sanatana Ireland and readings of poems and reflections by several devotees and finally bhogarati followed by prasad distribution!

The multi-faceted qualities that Swamiji possessed included his deep interest in classical music like dhrupad, khyal etc is well known to everyone. He was also good at playing musical instruments like pakhawaj, tabla, violin, tambura etc. One music artiste Ashish Dha, specializing in Nada yoga in Dublin paid homage to Swamiji by singing the morning raaga Miyan ki Todi. He also played dhrupad and a little khyal to the delight of devotees in an Irish instrument Hammered Dulcimer somewhat likened to the Indian santoor. He charmed the assembled children by singing an English funny song playing with his guitar! A grand birthday cake was also offered lovingly by the children while singing the beautiful song “janmadinamidam…” in a chorus. About 50 people attended the function.

For EVS, this fledgling centre, this is the very first tithi-puja celebration. There was all around joy among the visitors. The reason was obvious: That Swamiji was the Guru of Ireland’s daughter Margaret Noble! It was Swamiji who gave the delectable name of ‘Nivedita‘ to this dedicated lady from the West. Even after a distance of a hundred years of Sister’s writings and speeches, when one goes through them afresh today, one is unmistakably inspired by Swamiji‘s broadness and inclusiveness of all faiths and beliefs. In her representation of Swamiji, He shone as broad as the sky and as deep as the ocean.

His was a mission tirelessly telling everyone that Divinity is within and to manifest in everyday life must be set as the goal. And he inspires men, women and children everywhere with his clarion call to stop not till one reaches the goal.

A few snaps of the Dublin Centre celebrating Swamiji‘s birthday:

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Chicago Swami in Ireland – 2

Swami Ishatmananda Ji Maharaj, the Head of Vivekananda Vedanta Society, Chicago along with a devotee Sri Arup Patranabish visited the Éire Vedanta Society, Dublin, Ireland on 2nd January 2019. A brief Report was given in the earlier blog post.

The next day that is on Thursday, the 3rd January, the guests visited Dungannon that has become a place of pilgrimage where Sister Nivedita was born on Scotch Street in 1867. The first port of call was the First Steps for Women Centre, where they were received by devotees Ms Jean and Mr Larry McGuinness and Manager Mr Michael McGoldrick. Mr McGoldrick has dedicated his life to the Centre. He explained that the purpose of the Centre was to provide education for women as the first step towards literacy and to acquire skills for life and as a means to get employment. The Centre also provides for the children of attendees. Michael showed the visitors the state of the art facilities that had been funded by awards and grants. He recalled with thankfulness that In the past, the Éire Vedanta Society has also given donations and support,

Next, was a visit to the historical site of the Hill of O’Neill and the Dungannon Visitors’ Centre. The Visitors’ Centre houses a museum and a small theatre where Jean McGuinness has put on a play called “Awakening a Nation” as a tribute to the life and speeches of Sister Nivedita (1867 – 1911). Sister Nivedita is on the Hall of Fame at the Centre and a small terracotta statue of her is preserved in a glass case. Finally, the group made their way to the Blue Plaque on Scotch Street that commemorates Margaret Elizabeth Noble (Sister Nivedita).

On the way, the group visited the Dungannon Public Library where they met Manager Ms Elizabeth Synnott-Telford. The Library has a small section dedicated to the Complete Works of Sister Nivedita and Swami Ishatmananda pledged to donate the complete works of Swami Vivekananda and selected Nivedita publications.

Special thanks go to Jean and Larry who always receive our guests and are passionate about our beloved Nivedita. The Chicago Swami with his devotee left for London on the morning of 4th January. Swami Purnananda and Swami Vimokshananda saw the guests off at the Dublin Airport in the morning of 4th January.

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Chicago Swami in Ireland – 1

Swami Ishatmananda Ji, the Head of Vivekananda Vedanta Society, Chicago arrived at Dublin on 2nd January 2019. His was the very first visit for the Dublin Eire Vedanta Society in the new Year 2019. After taking lunch and rest, he was taken to some important places in and around Dublin. He evinced great interest in seeing the Trinity College campus and the St Stephen’s Green wherein a statue of Indian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore is maintained by the Park. The Christmas lightings were still available on the main streets of Dublin. On return, devotees were waiting for him to hear him speaking on “The Divine Grace”. A vesper service was held from 7:30 PM and immediately then Swami Purnananda Ji welcomed him and introduced him to the assembled audience. Swami Ishatmananda Ji spoke on the nature of Divine Grace and how we as devotees, should prepare ourselves so that we deserve the Grace.

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Christmas and Welcome Back Reception

The Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre at Dublin in Ireland celebrated Christmas in a holy atmosphere. The occasion was marked with a warm ‘Welcome Back’ Reception to Swami Vimokshananda on Sunday, 22 December 2018. He was earlier here in June 2018 when he was appointed as Minister in Charge of the new fledgeling Centre.
Carol songs were sung as part of Christmas Celebration. One devotee Mr Basil Conroy read out a part from the Gospel of St Luke that describes the divine birth of Jesus.

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Another devotee Mr Jeff Delmar read an inspiring article on the Love of Jesus comparing with the Love of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi.
Swami Purnananda explained the significance of the passages from the readings to the audience. Swami Vimokshananda narrated the incident that happened at Antpur, West Bengal, India where Naren (later Swami Vivekananda) expounded on the wonderful life of sacrifice led by Jesus.
All devotees partook the prasad at the close of the Celebration. The shrine was tastefully decorated for the occasion when about 50 people gathered. A few children were also present who joined the carol singing.

Sri Jagaddhatri Stotram

Today, I remember with nostalgia the wonderful Sri Jagaddhatri Puja held every year at Ramakrishna Mission TB Sanatorium in Ranchi District. By Her grace, I had the best moments of my life by organising for twelve years, this mammoth function where more than twenty thousand people were given lunch prasad! Many devotees requested me for the Jagaddhatri Stotram which I reproduce below with English Transliteration. By reading this Stotram, the grace of Divine Mother Sri Jagaddhatri will be ours. Earlier this Blog has published two posts on Mother Jagaddhatri. Links are given below:

Joyous Jagaddhatri

Magnanimous Mother

श्री जगद्धात्री स्तोत्रम्

आधाररूपे चाधेये धृतिरूपे धुरन्धरे ।
ध्रुवे ध्रुवपदे धीरे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ १॥
शवाकारे शक्तिरूपे शक्तिस्थे शक्तिविग्रहे ।
शक्ताचारप्रिये देवि जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ २॥
जयदे जगदानदे जगदेकप्रपूजिते ।
जय सर्वगते दुर्गे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ३॥
सूक्ष्मातिसूक्ष्मरूपे च प्राणापानादिरूपिणि ।
भावाभावस्वरूपे च जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ४॥
कालाधिरूपे कालेशे कालाकालविभेदिनि ।
सर्वस्वरूपे सर्वज्ञे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ५॥
महाविघ्ने महोत्साहे महामाये वरप्रदे ।
प्रपञ्चसारे साध्वीशे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ६॥
आगम्ये जगतामाद्ये माहेश्वरि वराङ्गने ।
अशेषरूपे रूपस्थे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ७॥
तीर्थयज्ञ-तपोदान-य्योगसारे जगन्मयि ।
त्वमेव सर्वं सर्वस्थे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ८॥
दयारूपे दयादृष्टे दयार्द्रे दुःखमोचनि ।
सर्वापत्तारिके दुर्गे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ९॥
आगम्यधाम-धामस्थे महायोगीश-हृत्पुरे ।
अमेयभावकूटस्थे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ १०॥

इति श्रीजगद्धात्रीस्तोत्रं सम्पूर्णम् ।

Sri Jagaddhatri Stotram

AdhArarUpe chAdheye dhRRitirUpe dhurandhare | 
dhruve dhruvapade dhIre jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 1 ||
shavAkAre shaktirUpe shaktisthe shaktivigrahe |
shAktAchAra priye devi jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 2 ||
jayade jagadAnande jagadeka prapUjjite |
jaya sarvagate durge jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 3 ||
sUkShmAti sukShmarUpe cha prANapAnAdi rUpiNi |
bhAvAbhAva svarUpe cha jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 4 ||
kAlAdirUpe kAleshe kAlAkAla vibhedini |
sarvasvarUpe sarvaGYe jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 5 ||
mahAvighne mahotsAhe mahAmAye varaprade |
prapanchasAre sAdhvIshe jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 6 ||
agamye jagatAmAdhye mAheshvari varA~Ngane |
asheSha rUpe rUpasthe jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 7 ||
tIrtha yaGYa tapodAna yogasAre jaganmayi |
tvameva sarvaM sarvasthe jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 8 ||
dayArUpe dayAdRRiShTe dayArdra duHkhamochani |
sarvApattArike durge jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 9 ||
agamyadhAma dhAmasthe mahAyogisha-hRRitpure |
ameyabhAva kUtasthe jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 10 ||  

iti Sri Jagaddhatri stotram sampoornam |

Transliteration courtesy: Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay

A few snaps of Sri Jagadddhatri Puja of this year 2018 at Ramakrishna Mission TB Sanatorium, Ranchi 
Photos Courtesy: Debu Bhowmik, Ranchi

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“Deepavali” – Is Kali black?

“Deepavali” – Is Kali black?
——————–
On Sunday, the 4th November 2018, brother monk Swami Shantatmananda requested me to deliver a Talk on the “Deepavali” Festival. It was held at the Sarada Auditorium. Deepavali is not a stand alone Festival as it is preceded by two other holy occasions and followed by another two holy occasions, thus can be in effect it is a Five-day Festival! I gave a synopsis of these five days’ occasions and went into introspective mode of discussing whether these five days can be imagined as linear progress in material and mental spheres of the human soul. While bringing up the topic of Kali Puja that is widely observed in the eastern parts of India on the Deepavali amavasya night, obviously the discussion veered round to a point of view on the subject of Mother Kali and the concept behind Her worship…
This lecture can be heard here:

A few snaps of that evening below:

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The Darknight Diwali Light

Hearty, Happy Diwali Greetings to every dear reader-devotee! May this Diwali lighten up your life, may it lighten down your burden and may it enlighten your intellect and lead you from dark alleys to Lighted path!

This is a repeat Post originally published in this blog on 26th October 2011.

 

Five-day Festival

Our world today is at the crossroads. While charity to help the poor and needy is delightfully increasing, it is disconcerting to see the rise of violence – domestic or national, crime, obscenity, corruption and other expressions of ill-gotten wealth. Serious people devoted to God and godly means of living are indeed worrying about the future prospects of their children. Is there, among the gloomy cloudiness, any shiny ray of hope?

It is in this context that the various celebrations that have come to us from time immemorial from the spiritual land of Bharat hold the clue. One of the most loved celebration of all the Hindus the world over, is the Festival of Lights – Diwali, also called Deepavali.

Sri Rama with Sita and Lakhshmana returning to Ayodhya by pushpak-vimaan

Diwali signifies lighting of lamps in every household on the Amavashya night that follows the bright fortnight after Vijaya Dashmi. No doubt this occasion marks joy and merriment. On the Diwali night, rows of lamps decorate the houses and presents are exchanged. Diwali, in the north of India, is associated with the coronation of Bhagawan Sri Rama when he returned to Ayodhya (in Uttar Pradesh) by pushpak-vimaan after vanquishing the demon King of Ceylon, Ravana on the day of Dasshera. Sri Ram had been in exile for fourteen years and the people were pleased to see and welcome back him with rows of lit lamps.

This festival of five days gives us, Hindus, an opportunity to go beyond all external extravaganza. First day marks Dhanteras meaning the thirteenth day of wealth.  It is also called Dhanwantari Triodashi indicating the adoration of Dhanwantari. He is the God of Medicine for the devatas and originator of Ayurveda science. The importance of keeping one’s physique in a healthy way cannot be over stated. As the ancient Sanskrit dictum says, “shareeram aadyam khalu dharma saadhanam” – body is the best means for practising dharma, taking steps to improve one’s health becomes mandatory.

Sri Krishna releasing 16 000 princesses from prison…

From here, with strong body, one has to ascend to the state of strong mind. Thus the second day, called naraka chaturdashi, is the fourteenth day signifying release of 16,000 princesses from prison by Sri Krishna. Bhagawan Sri Krishna encountered the demon Narakasura and killed him after granting his wish that on his death day people must celebrate with lighting of diya (lamps) in rows, taking oil bath, distributing sweet meats and burning firecrackers. We all do the latter part but do not pay attention in removing the darkness that has come to reside in our hearts! As Swami Vivekananda says, darkness in a sealed room over one thousand years will instantly vanish the moment a matchstick is lit. Knowledge of God is light. The ignorance  inside is darkness – a prison. 16,000 women are none but our 16,000 nadis to be liberated from impurity.

If body and mind are kept free from impurities, then only this life can be truly enjoyed. As the Isha Upanishad says “ tena tyaktena bhunjeetaah” – this life can be enjoyed when detachment comes. The mind searches for the purpose of life and it tries to fix the goal. Lakshmi word comes from lakshya meaning goal. Thus the third day which is the most important day of the five days of festival is spent in the worship of Goddess Lakshmi whose dazzling luminosity is represented by rows of lamps. What is the ultimate goal of life? Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna clearly spells out the purpose of human birth. He says that a man is born in vain who inspite of having a human body, does not attempt to realise God! In eastern parts of Bharat, Goddess Kaali is worshipped. She is evidently invoked in order that our rakta (blood-attachment) is dried up (swallowed) and our munda (ego-head) can be cut asunder by Her grace.

Sri Krishna holding mount Govardhan – painting of Bikaner School of Art – Circa 1690

When God becomes the focus, all obstructions, sufferings, troubles come to an end. Did He not assure in Gita that His devotee is never destroyed? – na me bhaktah pranashyati. Thus the fourth day is important milestone in the spiritual development of a sadhaka when he/she is rest assured of the protection of the Lord. This day is remembered as Govardhanpuja signifying how Bhagawan Sri Krishna lifted with his small finger the massive Govardhan mountain in order to protect his people from the deluge of rain.

Progress in spiritual life has some definite signs. One of them is the cheerful attitude with which one serves all brothers and sisters. The amity that is brought forth among the sisters and brothers is practised on the final fifth day as bhaidhuj. As per puranas Yama, the Lord of Death has assured that he would not bother those mortals who spread the message of love to their sisters. A perfect harmony leads to moksha, the ultimate liberation.

Thus this ‘Five-day Festival’ traces the spiritual expansion of human growth culminating in the gaining of knowledge of God. It offers an opportunity to dive deep into one’s heart and search for all types of demonic qualities residing inside. Thus, the need is felt to clear the darkness from the heart. To dispel away the internal darkness we have to light the lamp of knowledge. When a lamp is lit on Diwali, just pray to your chosen ideal that the darkness of ignorance be removed from your heart.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagawan Sri Krishna says that out of compassion for the devotees, He, residing within their hearts, certainly destroys the darkness born of ignorance with the radiant lamp of knowledge. (Ch X.11). Hence, while celebrating Diwali, let us pray to the Divinity (in whatever form one may believe in) to bestow the right knowledge by which we can lead a peaceful and prosperous life with service to the poor and needy.

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