Sita, the Sacred Mother

Sita, the Sacred Mother

South Africa joins the comity of nations in celebrating the International Mother’s Day on the ensuing 11th May. A Happy Mother’s day to everyone! Last Tuesday at our Glen Anil Main centre we handed over gift packets to a group of mothers from Greenbury Project. 

Today is Sita Jayanti. The Hindu culture has iconic mothers in plenty, but there was never “another” like mother Sita, in the words of Swami Vivekananda. She was found when King-sage Janaka furrowed the land for cultivation. She is the Divine Mother Mahalakshmi incarnate on the earth.  Four quotes from Swami Vivekananda’s Complete Works:

The Miracle Medicine
It is not without any reason that our sages in the past had described this ‘samsaara‘ – the cycle of birth and death – as immensely vast as (bhava saagaram) the ocean. They have even detailed in the most frightful terms how difficult it is to cross over this ocean. When you are almost on the verge of losing hope some other saint compares this samsaara with a mere river. But not an ordinary river, forsooth. He calls it ‘rana-nadi‘ – a ‘battle-river’ – whose waters are infested with terrible crocodiles and alligators all living in its forceful current that produces strong whirlpools! And lo! just imagine how dangerous it would be to attempt to cross such a river not to speak of the ocean! How many of us have in real life have even thought of attempting to cross such river or ocean?
Tulsidas, of course in his saintly way makes samsaara a little less fearful. He calls it a disease. If that can be wisely diagnosed, it can be well treated too. This brings us some kind of relief in knowing that my disease is curable and the condition is that I should take proper medicine. Does taking medicines indeed bring about the cure of the disease? Not necessarily! We have experienced in our lives that many a time the medicines not only fail to have any curative effect but to our chagrin add some disturbing side-effects.
Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 10.32.12 PMIf samsaara is a disease, then is there any medicine? Yes, there is, declares Tulsidas.  While expressing the greatness of the life of Mother Sita he considers her life story as nothing but a ‘medicine’ for the ‘worldly disease’. No one likes to take medicines as the chemical compositions generally make them bitter in taste. But this medicine, he adds, is exceedingly sweet. Normally after taking medicine one requires plain water to clear the throat. Here of course the very nectar is itself given! So Tulsidas opines that those that drink nectar of Sri Rama’s name, are indeed ever blessed! Yes, the story of Sita is a miracle medicine.
Sita in Sundarakandam
The holy book Ramayana is divided into seven kaandams. The fifth division called Sundarakaandam has gained much popularity among the devout Ramabhaktas. I do remember once when I was young, my mother was advised to recite Sundarakaandam verses with love for 41 days to ward off certain evil effects in the family. She gained such an unshakeable conviction about the marvel of this scripture that all problems got resolved within that period of paaraayanam.
What does Sundarakaandam teach? It speaks about in large measure the valour of Sri Hanumanji who undertook the work of Sri Rama in searching for and finding Mother Sita. Scholars of Ramayana say confidently that Sundarakaandam is all about Sri Hanumanji. Though I am not a scholar in Ramayana, purely from the point of view of a devotional angle I offer my two cents: I prefer to look at this way viz., that Sundarakaandam is all about Mother Sita.
Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 10.22.51 AMWhenever I had the opportunity to read this scripture (of course I didn’t read it for 41 days like my mother!) my mind was thrilled no doubt at Sri Hanumanji’s heroic sports. A great veneration swelled up in my heart that made me to remember him as an ideal for my monastic life. But more than that what was fascinating to me in this magnum epic – especially in Sundarakaandam – was the character depiction of Mother Sita. Swami Vivekananda was in awe of Mother Sita and exclaimed, “What to speak of Sita? You may exhaust the literature of the world that is past, and I may assure that you will have to exhaust the literature of the world of the future, before finding another.” I find her simply unique. In another place Swamiji says, “… the character was depicted once and for all. There may have been several Ramas, perhaps, but never more than one Sita.”
– Her dealing with King Ravana was indeed so majestic; in spite of his great offering of material temptations, she nonchalantly turned down his advances.
– Her interaction with her demoness guards especially with Trijata has no comparison; the care and concern for Trijata‘s welfare even though she had been appointed to spy over her, singularly exhibiting her divine compassion.
– Her polite refusal to Sri Hanumanji’s proposal to carry her away stealthily from Lanka and proudly speaking about her husband Sri Rama’s necessity to win the battle with Ravana and then only she would be ready to return with him in all glory.
Sri Rama walking in the forest followed by Mother Sita and Lakshmana
Sri Rama walking in the forest followed by Mother Sita and Lakshmana
In this Sundarakaandam Sita is not a mere loyal wife only to toe the line of her husband; she comes out in her own right (and in the absence of the physical presence of Sri Rama) that amazes me as I see her personality looming large into a bright towering one that demands not only an adorable worship with love but also absolute surrender at her feet.
Sita and Sarada
Thus, devotion to one form of Mother, if cultivated from a young age does not preclude love for other forms of Mother. Rather it definitely helps in transposing one’s devotion easily on another form of Mother, if needed! The variety of names and forms of Mother in Hinduism may bewilder anyone who is not acquainted with the philosophy of Vedanta. But a devotee in this tradition accepts the Divine Mother as ‘ananta roopini, ananta gunavati, ananta naamni girije maa’ – O Girije Ma! thou art infinite forms, infinite qualities and infinite names, says a poet-devotee.
Hence the transition from Sita to Sarada was smooth enough in my life. Ma Sarada’s experience in the Rameshwaram temple vouchsafes that she is no different from Ma Sita.

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When Holy Mother visited Rameshwaram temple, Tamil Nadu in 1910, she was directly taken to the sanctum sanctorum and was allowed to worship Lord Shiva in the form of uncovered Shivalingam. The Mother offered 108 golden leaves shaped like the real leaves of the bel (vilva) tree. She stayed in that small town for three days and every morning and evening she would visit the temple and perform worship with flowers, chandan (sandal) and vilva leaves. The Holy Mother observed all customary traditions of the temple.
It is said that Brahmachari Krishnalal who was an attendant to Holy Mother heard Mother uttering in a mood unaware of the external world: ‘It is just as I had left.’ After a few weeks in Kolkata when once Kedar babu enquired of Mother about her visit to Rameshwaram, she uttered once again, ‘He is just as I had left Him, my son!’
O Mind! Drink the honey that flows from the lotus feet of the remedy for worldly disease!
O Mind! Drink the honey that flows from the lotus feet of the Mother…best remedy for worldly disease!

Swami Gambhiranandaji in his authoritative biography – ‘Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi‘ – explains thus. “The devotees believe that the same personage who incarnated in the Treta yuga as Sita, the ever faithful consort of Ramachandra, descended again as the all-enduring and ever gracious Holy Mother, so that the sudden sight of the uncovered image carried her mind unconsciously across the vast span of thousands of years and the past appeared as a vivid present; and forgetful of her immediate environment she made that spontaneous remark.” Swami Abhedananda, one of the Direct Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, in resemblance to the ‘worldly-disease’ mentioned in the beginning of this post, follows the footsteps of Saint Tulsidas. What is the remedy? Abhedanandaji goes on to say that the remedy for this ‘bhava-roga‘ – worldly disease – is to sip the honey flowing from the lotus of the Mother’s feet.

On this Mother’s Day, let us take a vow to surrender at Her holy feet!

 May Mother Sarada who is no other than Mother Sita fill our hearts with her sterling qualities!

|| Aum Shri Raamakrishnaarpanamastu ||


Words that singeth…

Reading Sri Ramacharitamanasa of Tulsidas is always a rewarding experience. Indeed the original verses are so sweet that are no less a symphony stilled into the scattered words. They are not merely poetic in the sense you enjoy the structure and meaning and say ‘wow’! The work is undoubtedly a grand epic poem but the poem that is pro-active in putting an end to your slumber, in awakening you from dreamy sleep, and in instructing you on your way up. Can we have that same magic in its translated version? Very many people affirm a big NO!

Sri Rama talking to Lakshmana, while in search of Sita

I have of course read prosaic translation in English that does not, in my humble opinion, do  justice to the original. And how difficult is to translate the original in English verses? Will that make an appeal to your heart? These were some random thoughts when I received a  response in the Comments section, the following from Skendha. Who is she? A young lady from New Delhi, she is a regular visitor to this blog. In her own words, somewhere else on the internet, “I’m more a mind demon, love reading, writing, eating!…Idealistic and spiritual and sensitive…” Her favourite  quote is always from Swami Vivekananda.

After reading her creation, I was, to say the least, stunned. I read it out to a few others who were equally stunned and said that the translation has taken newer heights in understanding the original’s beauty. I am happy to place her ‘offering’ in my blog thus sharing the joy that I felt. (Incidentally this is the 100th Post in this blog!)

Skendha wrote:

Revered Maharaj,

I hope it will not be an impudence but since you made that kind suggestion, I am bringing it up… I had translated the passage into verse some years ago. And I am reproducing it here, just as an offering . Please kindly accept it. With warmest regards,

Sincere pranam,

Skendha, New Delhi


Epic of Ram: The Season of Rains

Translated from Goswami Tulasidasji’ SriRamCharitMaanas.

Lakshman behold the peacocks !
Dancing for the darkened skies;
Rejoicing as the devotee who
Discovers a Vaishnava monk in sight.
The rolling thunder of stormy clouds strains against the shadowy skies,
And in the absence of My precious Sita, bereft of all peace am I;
The lightning bolt tearing the clouds wilfully whirls across the horizon,
Darting and flitting as do the sentiments of a rake, loyal to no one.
The raining clouds are strung over the earth, bowed with their burden,
Humble as him who, toiling for years attains to divine wisdom;
How these great mountains do face the onslaught of pitiless torrents,
With calm fortitude as the saints, who endure the fool’s comments.
The sated streams blossoming into rivers, frolic along their shores
Glorying in their noveau riches, just as the knave who must make a show.
The embrace of the earth stains the fair, bright showers from heaven,
Muddied, as if they were the soul of man tarnished by dark delusions.
The streams rush on, and filling the lustrous lake are lost in it’s bosom,
Drawn unerringly as the divine qualities are towards a holy one;
The wild course of the heedless rivers ends in the placid expanse of the seas;
Sojourning like the soul which, merging with Hari, attains eternal peace.
Four quarters of this forest are dripping with croaks, chirps, many songs,
Blissful as when the bramhacharins, chant the Vedas, to herald the dawn.
The wet branches of dark brown trees which bring forth leaves of glossy green,
Are beautified as the mind of a seeker which, blessed by intellect, becomes serene.
Oh look Brother! how the stars are challenged by this brave battalion of fireflies!
Ill-advised as the gathering of cheats who make a hollow show for all eyes.
And here and there lie weary travellers, broken down and pining for rest,
Ravaged as the senses of a man, in whom discrimination has made conquest.
Lo! it is day as Divakar smiles, 
But He is hidden again and lo! it is night.
As the cloud-bank, so is company, My Son,
It fires or smothers our Eternal Light. 



Adorable Angad

The above is Sri Ram durbar in a South-Indian style of painting. Cute Angad is standing opposite Sri Hanumanji. Picture appeared as the front cover image in Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam, March 2010 issue. Courtesy: Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam, The Tamil Monthly of Ramakrishna Math & Mission

Today is Sri Ramanavami. On this holy occasion, I convey to every one of you my hearty wishes and prayers. The last 8 days were indeed hectic. The first day was at HQ where I spoke on The Three Queens of King Dasharath. Second day was at Chatsworth sub-centre where my topic was The Two Birds – Trials and Triumphs. On Friday and Saturday at Pietermaritzburg sub-centre. On Sunday at Asherville Sri Sarada Devi Ashram. Monday at HQ. Tuesday at Phoenix sub-centre and today at HQ again on The Divine Birth of Sri Ram.

My earlier write-up on lord Sri Rama and his sweet name is still having the highest number of views compared to other posts. When I was thinking what I should place here today, I had just glanced the Tamil Monthly magazine of our Order, Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam, brought out by Chennai Math and was thrilled to see the cover page image that gives a picture of Ram durbar as it is generally known.

The picture depicts the coronation ceremony of Sri Rama as ascending to the throne and thus made King of Ayodhya. The attraction of this picture is the inclusion of Angad. In the above painting one can see that Hanumanji holds the footrest below the throne wherein Rama and Sita seated and Angad stands erect as a security guard with his drawn sword held in his hand as Kamban in his Tamil poem explains in his inimitable style: ariyaNai anuman thaanga angadhan udai vaaL Endha

In North-Indian painting of the Ram Durbar, Angad is rarely included.

The epic Ramayana whether one reads Valmiki’s invaluable original in Sanskrit or Tulasidas’ charming creation in Hindi or Kamban’s mesmerizing masterpiece in Tamil, surely abounds with the galaxy of characters. Some are major and others are minor. But each character stands for some sparkling quality and none is insignificant.

Angad, losing his father Vaali in the hands of Sri Rama slowly raises to the occasion. Rama’s protective cover guides him to such an extent that he goes to Lanka and meets Ravana as Rama’s messenger! What a naughty boy he was in the presence of mighty Ravana!

Tulasidas’ description of the encounter Angad had with Ravana at his assembly is undoubtedly an all absorbing account. It shows that Angad was absolutely fearless. Understandably there were some comical moments in the forceful dialogues between the unequal two, yet the whole episode signifies the wonderful physical and mental strength of Angad at that young age and his unwavering devotion to the holy feet of Lord Raghunath and thus, I feel Angad rightly deserves a place in the Ram durbar.


Children’s Cultural Festival

Gurudevji training the children in yogasanas
Gurudevji training the children in yogasanas
Gurudevji training the children in cultural items
Gurudevji training the children in cultural items

The great ‘Gurudev’ Swami Nischalanandaji Maharaj was born in Newcastle. At his birthplace, the Children’s Cultural festival of the Northern Natal was celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year. It was not an accident; neither was it planned. But it had come in due course bringing forth how much ‘Gurudev’ loved the children and how much more he was interested in instilling the spiritual values among them. Some of the old devotees still remember how Gurudev used to stand on hours together in training the children in performance of cultural items. He used to personally conduct Yoga Camps especially for children training them in correct postures through practice of yogasanas.

I was pleased to attend the Northern Natal Children’s Cultural Festival held at Newcastle Richview hall. Branches from Estcourt, Ladysmith, Newcastle, Glencoe and Dundee participated. The enthusiasm of the children was infectious, each one vying with one another, making efforts in excelling in whatever he/she did. The Festival was an occasion to bring out the best in the child. There were scintillating sketches, soul-filling songs, sterling speeches and delighting dances interspersed with inspiring quotes from the Holy Trio. While I gave the Key-note Address, brother Swami Saradaprabahanandaji gave the Concluding Address. Overall the time from 9 am to 4 pm was well spent in the company of the children. In spite of the inclement weather of speedy winds, the officials did a splendid job in organising the Festival at the venue.

Abiding spiritual values are taught to the children who attend our Sunday School classes. The parents have reported to me that they are immensely benefitted as they could see emergence of the wonderfully shaping of their children’s personality. In my previous post I gave a brief intro about the Sunday School classes and three slideshows on the Certificates Award function.

To see all the photos of the Festival, just click on the below link that will take you to the picasa web album. There click ‘slideshow’, then relax and watch!    

Northern Natal Children’s Cultural Festival


Sri Rama Navami

In the ALL TIME stats as on today, the top Post was about Rama and the Post on Hanuman runs third. Hence I have brought these two old posts also in the front so that reading consecutively may be of interest to people. This is the result of a suggestion received from one devotee-reader Havasen Reddy, SA.

Sri Rama and his Sweet Name 1,390
Slide-shows 656
Hanuman – the curse and the cure 624
Celebrations in South Africa 605
Satyam Shivam Sundaram ! 531
Milk of kindness 501

||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||

Dear Devotees

The Ramayan is a masterpiece of Divine Love to Sri Ram. Throughout the verses of the Ramayan, 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 Ramayan is a storehouse of all sarva-mangala without parallel.

Pawanasuta Hanumani ki Jai ! - courtesy Sri Sunil Parthab
Sri Raama dootam shirasaa namaami - Pawanasuta Hanuman ki Jai ! - courtesy Sri Sunil Parthab

Here, my mind is humbly reverting to Sri Hanumanji. A perfected soul of sterling character, his matchless valour and invincible strength, self dedication and his devotion to Lord Ram is second to none! A true Karma yogin, he discharges his duties with utmost sincerity “Ram kaaj karibe ko aatura”. An ardent Bhakti yogin, he derives immense bliss in listening to his Lord’s story, “Prabhu charitra sunibe ko rasiyaa” Yes! all these wonderful traits are very important, especially if we are seeking to lead healthy, peaceful and spiritual lives. In this entire journey of life – our merciful Master is with us, eager to help when we stumble, forgive us when we make mistake, and encourage us when we falter.

Every devotee is precious to the Lord, and He is ever ready to help us succeed.

Every Hindu home must have a copy of the Ramayan, and regular reading of this sacred Book will enable us to emulate the exemplary and immaculate lives of Sri Ram, Mother Sita, Hanumanji and a host of bright and wonderful characters found in this gem of our scriptures.

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

Swami Saradaprabhanandaji also joins me in wishing everyone of you, abundance of love and healthy life.

With love and prayers

Swami Vimokshananda

Rama Navami decoration at Ramakrishna Temple in HQ
Rama Navami decoration at Ramakrishna Temple in HQ