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 ||


Brushing Bhagawan off…!

The Ramakrishna altar at the Pietermaritzburg Sub-centre tastefully decorated...image courtesy: Avitha
The altar at the Pietermaritzburg Sub-centre tastefully decorated…image courtesy: Avitha

We saw in our last post the efficacy of the holy name “Rama”. Mere understanding of its importance is not enough. The name has to be recited with utmost love, says Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna.

Yesterday at our daily satsang in the evening, Havasen, a senior member of the Ramakrishna Choir group, was singing a charming bhajan. That triggered some thoughts about the song itself. The writer (well, I do not know who was that poet) of the bhajan explains how we must ‘take‘ the name of Sri Rama. He says :

Prema Mudita Manase Kaho Rama Rama Ram
Rama Rama Ram Sri Rama Rama Ram
Papa katey Dukha Mitey Lekey Rama Nam
Bhava Samudra Sukhada Nava Eka Rama Nam
Shri Rama Rama Ram
Parama Shanti Sukha Nidhana Nithya Rama Nam
Niradhara Ko Adhara Eka Rama Nam
Rama Rama Ram Shri Rama Rama Ram
Parama Gopya Parama Nithya Mantra Ram Nam
Santa Hrudya Sada Vasatha Eka Rama Nam
Rama Rama Ram Shri Rama Rama Ram
Mata Pita Bandhu Sakha Sub hi Rama Nam
Bhakta Janara Jivana Dhana Eka Rama Nam
Shri Rama Rama Ram Shri Rama Rama Ram

With the heart full of Love, recite the name of Rama.

(the name) cuts down sins and removes miseries and to cross the ocean of birth and death it becomes a pleasant boat.

The Eternal Rama’s name (brings) supreme peace; a repository of bliss and is the only support of those who have no support.

Supremely secret and ever living Rama’s name is the mantra that resides in the hearts of sages.

The name of Rama is everything! It is Mother, Father, Relation, Friend. The only life-long treasure of the devotee is Rama’s name. (Chant the mantra) Shri Rama Rama Ram!

I heard a recorded bhajan sung by Sri Satya Sai Baba online recently. While listening to that melodious singing, (I heard him singing live way back when I was just an eighteen years’ old lad that left me with a lasting impression) one is enraptured by the mystic two syllable name Ra Ma. If His name is repeated continuously with love, who will take care of us? Will He meet our needs?

Today at Sri Ramakrishna altar Master as well as Rama adorned with yellow robes...
Today at Sri Ramakrishna altar of the Glen Anil Main centre, Master as well as Rama adorned with yellow robes…

The Tale of Two Monks

Swami Brahmananda had a great desire to visit Ayodhya, the birth place of Sri Rama. During his wanderings in places of pilgrimage, he reached Ayodhya along with his brother-disciple Swami Turiyananda.

It was the turn of Turiyananda to go out and beg alms for food and bring it to Brahmananda. The latter would be immersed in reciting the name of Lord and was averse to go for begging as it diverted his mind from doing continuous japa. Turiyananda had great regard for the sensibilities of Brahmananda and hence offered this service.

One day Turiyananda received a boiled kachu – an edible root – and gave the same to his brother. Kachu doesn’t suit every one and Brahmananda felt much irritation in his throat. It grew to such an extent that it almost was stinging and burning. The result was swelling of his mouth!

This effect is nothing but a sort of allergy and the best remedy known to Turiyananda was to give a piece of lime, which could work as an antidote. With great efforts Turiyananda at long last found a lime grove and sought the owner of the grove to hand him over one lime. The owner, of course was gracious and gave the only one lime that was left on the trees.

Turiyananda ran back to Brahmananda and beseeched him to keep a piece of lime in his mouth and instantly he was relieved of the pain and the attendant discomforts.

That night Brahmananda had brushed off his Master. Since no alms was received that day they had to fast. Addressing Sri Ramakrishna, he said: ‘Master, why did you take me from my home if you could not provide a morsel of food? Tomorrow morning if I get hot khichuri (rice and lentils cooked together) I shall understand that you are with me’. That was a challenge to Master!

Yoga kshemam vahaamyaham

Lord accepts at every challenge thrown at Him.  The next morning both the monks got up and went to take their bath in the Sarju river. This is a famous river wherein Sri Ram, the prince and his three divinely brothers would enjoy swimming and water sports. As the two monks were getting up the steps of the bank, they saw a sadhu running towards them.

Swami Brahmananda's temple in Belur math
Swami Brahmananda’s temple in Belur math

He said to Brahmananda, “Swami, I understand that both of you fasted yesterday. Please come to my cottage and have prasad! I am a devotee of Sri Rama and I offered the meal to Him and thus it became prasad.”

In his cottage he made these two monks sit on asanas and served them hot, hot khichuri. Tasty pickles were served too! The Swamis relished their meals. On being questioned, how did he select these two monks while hundreds of monks are moving around here and there, the host sadhu replied in all his humility:

“Blessed am I, blessed am I ! For the last 24 years I have been practicing sadhana here in order to have vision of my chosen ideal or to hear the voice of Lord Sri Rama. Today the beloved Lord has blessed me!” The monk’s cheeks were drenched with tears. On being prodded by Brahmananda he elaborated thus:

“While I was sleeping last night, I saw that Lord Rama touched my body with His soft hand and said, ‘Get up! I am hungry! Cook khichuri and offer it to me. Tomorrow morning you will see two devotees of mine bathing at the ghat of the Sarju river. They are fasting. Offer my prasad to them.’

The sadhu in his trembling voice continued, “It is by your grace that I had the vision of Lord Rama.” The two monks smiled at each other. Now they knew that the Lord’s promise – He would bear the burden of yoga-kshema for His devotees – in the Gita was undoubtedly true!

If faith can move mountains, can it not bring a morsel of food?

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|| Aum Shri Ramakrishnarpanamastu ||