Yesterday after the vesper service (Sandhya Arati) I was reminding every one that before closing the temple, Ma Lakshmi’s photo must be placed in the altar as the next day (i.e. today) is Vara Lakshmi Vratam day. This is the one of the popular Day of austerity and worship among the Tamil, Telugu and even Hindi speaking Hindu communities in this country. It triggered my memories of the childhood days when my mother would call me to sit with her during her Puja of Mahalakshmi in the evening. Somehow I used to feel strange that the menfolk of the household would be, I would not say ‘not interested’, but were definitely nonchalant about the puja while women and girls would be all excited about it.
I observed that the Mahalakshmi worship was done on a kalasham with a turmeric-stained coconut surrounded by mango leaves and face of Mahalakshmi made of silver used to be fixed over it. The wall against which the kalasham was kept would be white-washed afresh, and with all the usual ingredients the worship would begin. When the fully decorated pot would shine with gold ornaments, red saree cloths and red and yellow flowers, and with all the devotion of their melodious singing of songs in mesmerising karnatak ragas that would envelop the entire atmosphere, I could visualise that actually Mahalakshmi was alive.
Ma Sarada and Ma Lakshmi
Incidentally when I would close my eyes and think of Mahalakshmi, I would remember one particular face appearing prominently before my mental eye and that was of Holy Mother. I had seen only the picture that was hung as a calendar on the wall. In those years I could not connect Mother Sarada with Mahalakshmi as I was just beginning to read Vivekananda and had rudimentary awareness about the greatness of Mother from the Tamil classic by Ra Ganapathy. I was an avid reader awaiting every week for the weekly magazine to arrive. This magazine carried a series of biography articles on Vivekananda called “arivuk kanale arut punale” which later came out in a book form and became highly popular.
Mother Sarada had a special significance in my mind, and as I grew, I used to keep her photo with me. When I started learning Bengali, one song that drew my attention was a simple charming line “vaikuntho theke lokkhi elo prithiveete maathithe joyraam baati te” sung in lilting tune. How I wish even today to listen to such memorable songs live from the monastic singers! This song glorifies Holy Mother as that very Lakshmi who came all the way down from Vaikuntha to the earthly home in Joyrambati. We read in her biography that later she admitted that she used to see a bevy of eight girls of her age coming from an unknown place and escorting her in her chores during her childhood.
Our sages had described Mother Lakshmi with eight aspects and called her ashtalakshmi. It is interesting to see the names of these eight aspects of Mahalakshmi that logically speaking, appears to trace the evolution of material and spiritual life (bhukti mukti prade devi) of any human.
The first is called Adilakshmi. Mother as the beginning. As Tirukkural says that God is the beginning of this Universe (aadi bhagavan mudadtre ulagu). God and His Power (bhagavan and His shakti) are non-different as Sri Ramakrishna aptly describes. Creation must be claimed from that shakti called Adilakshmi.
To live in this world a man definitely requires wealth. Money does matters as again, Tirukkural says that “this world is nought without money” (porul illaarku ivvulagam illai). – Dhanalakshmi.
Only with money one can’t live. What is needed is health that can be nourished from variety of food items. – Dhaanyalakshmi.
Apart from human body, money and food, man requires status in the society. Status in ancient times was viewed with the possessions of like elephant etc. – Gajalakshmi.
What would be value of life if a householder does not have a progeny is spite of having a human body, well settled in family life with wealth, health and possessions? – Santhaanalakshmi.
Then without having courage to face the challenges in life, one becomes an absolute failure. – Veeralakshmi.
If courage is added with ‘faith in oneself and God’ success is sure. – Vijayalakshmi.
By propitiating Divine Mother Mahalakshmi, one attains all the desired boons. – Varalakshmi.
Would you ‘ask’?
The above may be a simplistic interpretation of one’s evolution as a human through eight stages in order to climb the success ladder. I remember once my mother prodded me to ‘ask’ Ma Lakshmi as, on the very Varalaksmi vratam night, she said that the Mother becomes all merciful, and She is ever ready to grant what ever boon one may ‘ask’ for. I thought what would I ‘ask’? pass in exams? getting rich? successful in life? whatever came to my mind seemed to be absolutely insignificant when I compared with her might that she holds within her Power. She is the Goddess and such ‘small’ things should I ask from Her? Finally I did ‘ask’ her.
Are you, my dear reader, curious to know what I asked for? Eventually I did ask.
I asked ‘nothing’.
At every step that I take, at every turn that I pass, at every situation that I am placed, I can patently feel the presence of Her benign grace because, I am certain, I asked nothing; everything She provides!
With 9th August being National Women’s Day in South Africa, the Ramakrishna Centre held a special programme for women at the Glen Anil Ashram. Despite the damp weather, approximately 100 ladies enthusiastically attended the programme, which specifically catered for the needs of women.
The programme commenced with prayer and the melodious recital in chorus of the Sri Ramakrishna Ashtakam, Sri Sri Sarada Devi Stotram and a hymn to Swami Vivekananda set the tone for the day. This was followed by reading from the Gospel of Sri Sarada Devi done by Arathie Singh .
The three Talks presented rejuvenated the spirits of the ladies and inspired them to strive to greater heights for themselves and their families.
To evaluate how much Motherliness is manifested
Revered Swami Vimokshananda, the Spiritual Head of the Centre, in a most methodical, yet elegant manner pointed out that a Mother is not only she who has biological children but anyone who displays the qualities of a mother. This would include young girls and even fathers and unwed men too as the qualities of caring and loving are not exclusively for women. This occasion, he added gave an opportunity to evaluate introspectively how much motherliness could be manifested in one’s life.
Revered Maharaj also explained that the vibrations created by the word “ma” play a significant role as opposed to “aunty” in kindling the caring, loving and nurturing qualities of a mother. It is therefore essential that these qualities are instilled and nurtured from childhood and a very effective means of doing so is by addressing every female (from the moment they are born) as “ma”!
The Practice of japa an essential element
Sister Avintha of the Sri Sarada Devi Ashram lovingly addressed the ladies on the topic, “Japa – The Repetition of Holy Name according to Sri Sarada Devi”. She highlighted the importance of practicing Japa, and effectively pointed out that “lack of time” should not be an excuse for not practicing Japa as there is no restriction of time and place for the practice of Japa. She showed us how to give practical application of Holy Mother’s message of doing our duties but keep our minds on God by pointing out that one can easily repeat God’s name whilst engaged in daily activities such as cooking, attending to household chores, traveling or even lying down.
Dangers of “burn out”
Mrs Shireen Dhunraj pointed out the realistic challenges faced by working women and highlighted the importance of having coping skills. She warned of the dangers of “burn out” and stressed the need to maintain a balance in life. She advised that to this end, spiritual practices such as Japa and meditation and attending satsang and keeping holy company, play a significant role.
A DVD on Jayrambati – the birth place of Holy Mother, Sri Sarada Devi, was aired. It was an excellent documentary that immediately transported everyone to Jayrambati through the beautiful narration, music and visuals of Mother’s actual homes, the ponds, rivers and pilgrims.
Ask thy shall be given
From the question and answer session it was evident that the ladies were deeply inspired and motivated to implement all that they had learnt. Apart from Swami Vimokshananda, Mrs Sita Gangay, Mrs Shireen Dhunraj and Sister Avintha also answered some questions. The programme ended with closing prayers and followed by prasad in the form of lunch to all.