Today I am completing one week in the soil of Singapore! I am exhilarated to learn that only yesterday as it were, that is on the 12th June in 1893 Swami Vivekananda stepped into this great city! As Acharya Shankara says, “kaalah kreedati” Time sports in his famous Bhaja govindam– I find five months have gone by so swiftly after I left South Africa! The move from South Africa to Singapore was not on rosy petals! It had its own share of hiccups.
My last post was on 20th November 2014. Most of the readers of this blog knew that I was on the move on a pilgrimage tour of Ramakrishna centres in Europe. I left the shores of South Africa on the 30th December 2014 and landed in Belur Math on 14th February 2015.
The six-week sojourn before stepping back to India and again an eight-week post-arrival travels in South India were extremely hectic and I had no time to “sit and stare” at the computer!
It was heartening to see that many devotees, in the meantime started enquiring about my resumption of posts. I just wondered from where to start! From the ‘bidai’ of SA or from the ‘shuruAt’ of Singapore where I landed on the 6th June 2015.
One devotee’s suggestion came in handy. He said that I should give some space for my travels so far. My travels were in the nature of pilgrimage and hence the wonderful feelings that I experienced in all those places and in all those I saw would be worth recounting. Be as it may, now let me begin from Durban where I was given “Durga, Durga” !
I learnt to say “Durga, Durga!” after joining the Order by watching senior monks used to pronounce these two mystical words at the time of anyone’s departure. Later I found in Bengal this is customary. It appealed to me to say the name of the Divine Mother who protects every jiva than merely saying “bye, bye!” that lacks the spiritual import. Hence I taught the devotees in South Africa whichever branch I went, including children who fearlessly would say, at the time of my departure in loud voice “Durga, Durga!” .
In paying tribute to the great saint Shri Kanaka Dasa, the Government of Karnataka in India has declared his birth day as a State holiday. All the government offices, schools and colleges around the state celebrate the birth anniversary of Shri Kanaka Dasa who made even the Lord turn around and made Him listen to his prayers. At the request of Pravrajika Ishtaprana, I gave the following article, written for children. She published in Deepika, an annual children’s magazine brought out by Sri Sarada Devi Ashram at Asherville, Durban.
Magnet attracts Metal
The other day I was talking to a group of children. They were Sonal, Sashiv, Sundar, Mishka, Kareena and Payal. It is always refreshing to talk to children. One little girl, Sonal, enquired why she is attracted to visit the ashram regularly while some of her friends are not inclined to come. I told her that the Lord, who is the Supreme Controller of this universe, is indeed like a magnet. We are all like iron metal pieces attracted to this grand magnet and therefore visit the ashram. Those who do not like to visit holy places are also like metal but are covered with so much dust that the magnet cannot attract them.
I asked the children what they do at the ashram. Sashiv, a young boy, said that he neatly arranges all the prayer books that were used in the morning. Another child, Mishka, said that she loves to clean the shrine carpet so that they can sit and study comfortably. Kareena teaches the little kids on how to behave in the ashram. Payal takes care of all the musical instruments.
One boy, Sundar, said that he enjoys ‘meditation’. I was surprised and asked him what he does during meditation. He told me that his mother tells him captivating stories about Lord Krishna and he sits quietly in the shrine and mentally recounts the whole story.
So I said, “Come Sundar, today you will tell us the story that your mother told you!” Sundar gladly agreed and began relating the story.
The Singing Saint
The story is an interesting one and concerns a lovely incident that happened in the life of one great devotee. This devotee was born in the present Karnataka State in India, about 500 years ago. He became very popular by the name of Kanaka Dasa.
Kanaka Dasa was devoted to the worship of the Lord in the form of Sri Krishna. Whatever he did – whether working in the fields or going to the market to purchase any item, cleaning the courtyard of his home or even taking care of his parents – he used to think of Lord Krishna and would always express his gratefulness to the Lord Sri Krishna. He became expert in singing the glory of God.
Once on his pilgrimage, he came to a small town called Udupi. In this town there was a beautiful temple dedicated to Sri Krishna. Kanaka Dasa was very eager to visit this temple and have darshan of the Lord.
Denied but Determined
But in those days, people born of lower castes were not allowed entry into the temple. Only the people of higher castes could enter and perform the worship. Coming to know of his social status, the men at the gate forbade Kanaka Dasa from entering the temple. Greatly disappointed, he went behind the temple and sat outside the fence just opposite a small window. This window was behind the Lord’s beautiful stone image. Though denied he was fully determined to see the Lord.
Kanaka Dasa could not see the Lord because the image was facing the entrance on the other side. Sitting there, he felt so unhappy that he began shedding tears profusely. He pleaded with God that was he not like the piece of metal drawn by the magnet in the form of Sri Krishna? He came to see the Lord but was not successful in having His darshan. He began to sing the glory of the Lord throughout the night, with copious tears flowing from his eyes.
Metal attracts Magnet
Just before daybreak, the people of the town who were passing by that temple noticed an amazing and surprising phenomenon. When they went into the temple as usual to offer their morning worship, they found that the image of Sri Krishna had turned 180° (half circle) and was now facing Kanaka Dasa! Behold! It was a miracle that the Lord had performed to make others understand the glory of His devotee!
We listened to Sundar’s story with keen attention. The boy said that his mother also told him what she learnt from the Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna. Sometimes the devotee becomes the magnet, and the Lord a metal, who is attracted by the devotee. He told us that even today, in that Sri Krishna temple of Udupi, the Lord is facing the window and not the entrance to the sanctum!
The Lord always fulfils the earnest prayer of a sincere devotee.
May Sri Krishna bestow ‘buddhi yogam’ – the Right Understanding to all of us !
|| Aum Shri Raamakrishnaarpanamastu ||
Today we, with fondness and reverence, remember Mahatma Gandhi. His prayerful life was a powerful pointer in keeping the name of God in whatever situation one is. Just two days before his assassination, i.e., on 28th January he said: “If I am to die by the bullet of a mad man, I must do so smiling. There must be no anger within me. God must be in my heart and on my lips.”
His connection with South Africa as given in History.com runs thus:
Settling in Natal, he was subjected to racism and South African laws that restricted the rights of Indian laborers. Gandhi later recalled one such incident, in which he was removed from a first-class railway compartment and thrown off a train, as his moment of truth. From thereon, he decided to fight injustice and defend his rights as an Indian and a man. When his contract expired, he spontaneously decided to remain in South Africa and launched a campaign against legislation that would deprive Indians of the right to vote. He formed the Natal Indian Congress and drew international attention to the plight of Indians in South Africa. In 1906, the Transvaal government sought to further restrict the rights of Indians, and Gandhi organized his first campaign of satyagraha, or mass civil disobedience. After seven years of protest, he negotiated a compromise agreement with the South African government.
According to him, “prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.”
As a sequel to the earlier Post on Master’s manifestation as Kalpataru in fulfilling the prayers of His devotees, I would like to narrate a few real life incidents here.
Many of this Blog’s readers know that the Ramakrishna Centre in South Africa has 7 sub-centres and 8 Satsang groups. Some of my visits to certain Sub-centres have become routine: such as Chatsworth – every third Sunday for conducting Gospel class; Pietermaritzburg – every first Sunday for the same purpose. To Phoenix Sub-centre I generally go and address the Senior Citizens’ Forum, if not every month, at least more than 6 times a year.
In my interaction with the devotees I am careful in learning how their spiritual life is strengthened and whether they did have any personal experience to narrate and so on. Its always inspiring to listen to such abiding and unforgetful experience even it be a dream, but ultimately the result is that the devotee stands to gain in making the nascent devotion steadfast to his/her chosen ideal.
A poor old widowed lady approached us at one of our our Sub-Centres requesting assistance with groceries. Upon enquiring about her situation at home, she informed us that she lived alone. Her son lived with his family far from her home. They rarely visited her and seldom they see to her needs. She became depressed and lonely, until she began attending the programs at our Sub-Centre regularly. One day she felt very sad and unhappy. She felt unloved and uncared for. That night she dreamt of Sri Sarada Devi, who spoke to her in Hindi and asked her why she was depressed. The Holy Mother said that she was watching over her and she need not be afraid. The Mother said that she was providing groceries to her every month and mentioned the items by name, – dal, rice, sugar etc – and all her needs were being taken care of, so why must she still worry? The old lady got up startled and felt very peaceful. When we started assisting her with groceries, she felt greatly blessed to have seen and heard the Holy Mother in her dream and she knew for certain her prayers were being heard. Within a short time she developed a deep and abiding faith in fulfilling power of our Holy Trio.
Another old widowed lady, who lives alone, had been informed that she would have to pay a few thousand Rands to have the title deed of her house transferred over to her name. She could not afford this amount and prayed to our Master to help her out of this situation. Within a short time she received a notification that this amount had been waived and the house was transferred onto her name. She became emotional after realizing it was through the grace of the Master as a consequent to her intense prayer that her problem had been resolved.
A frail looking old man who comes to our Sub-Centre regularly, once came with a bandage wrapped around his head. Upon enquiring if he had got hurt, he replied in the affirmative and said he had slipped in the bath-tub and fell, hitting his head. He remembered calling out to Mother Sarada and said it was indeed a miracle that he had not sustained any concussion or broken bones, and the strangest thing was that there was hardly any bleeding. He knew that Mother had protected him.
While ruminating over these faith-bearing incidents, I was reminded of another interesting incident that happened when I was in Ranchi Sanatorium.
A devotee couple P & G used to come to the Ashrama regularly. One day the lady P was found very sad. Naturally I enquired what was the matter that made her so sad. She said that she was staying in the upper storey of the building and every day morning, on getting up from bed, she would look out through the windows and would be glad to see the freshly blossomed flowers. The sadness is due her inability to offer any of these beautiful flowers at the feet of the Master’s photo.
I asked why she could not collect flowers from down below. She replied that she could not because that the garden was maintained by the ground floor police officer’s wife and she was for obvious reasons reluctant to ask favour from her knowing how that lady was not social. Lo! that was terrible for her! I consoled her saying that whenever she sits for her doing sadhana she should pray to Master that He may bless her by providing opportunity to do offering of flowers.
A few days passed. And one fine morning this devotee P came to Ashrama. She was palpably very happy. I could not contain my surprise and I had to ask her what was the reason that she was found in so happy mood! She replied with all enthusiasm, “Maharaj, today I could offer some of those beautiful flowers to Shri Thakur! Thats why I am so happy and came running to tell you.”
I said, “Oh! thats wonderful! Finally Master has listened to your prayer! And you also could muster courage to ask favour from the police officer’s wife”! What she said was surprising to me. P continued, “Maharaj, no I did not go to her at all. This morning I heard some one knocking my door and when I opened it that woman was standing there. I was a little intrigued to find her as she never would even greet when our eyes met. She told me that yesternight she had a dream and in that dream she saw Thakur.”
Obviously one can very well imagine that on hearing this our devotee P was very happy. She narrated what that police officer’s wife told her. “Look, I am not aware of your Thakur whom you worship. Your Thakur appeared in my dream and He was luminous. He ordered me to reach every day a few flowers at your doorstep every morning. He also said that these flowers are required for your daily puja. Thats why I have come to tell you. From now on, my servant will place a packet of flowers every morning. On seeing Shri Ramakrishna, I felt unexplainable peace!”
While narrating this most pleasant incident the devotee P broke into tears and once again she looked very sad. I told her, “See P, you have no reason to be sad now. Thakur has fulfilled your intense prayer. Are these tears, tears of joy or sorrow?”
Her husband G, who was standing nearby replied, ” Maharaj, this is really tears of sorrow.”
I was stunned! P continued, “Why you know Maharaj!, because that lady had never worshipped Thakur even by mistake. I had been a devotee of the Master from my childhood days. See, that she had ‘darshan’ of Thakur and I have never had till now!”
Well, I didn’t know whether to weep or laugh! strange are the ways of Almighty! Inscrutable is His maya!!