This morning, on the second day of the Bhagavatha Saptaaha Yajna, proceedings began at the scheduled hour, at 8:30, after half-an-hour Vedam chanting. After invocatory offering, commenting on the glory of the Avatar of the Age, the Maharaj went on expounding on the greater efficacy of Namasmarana, bursting out with a melodious rendering "Sriman Narayana Narayana Narayana...", a keertan he quite often repeats in between the commentary.
Starting from where he had stopped in the previous evening, he further went on elucidating the story of Raja Parikshit, as to how invited the evil deeds of Kali, which finally led him to earn a curse to die in seven days owing to serpant bite, and the king's greater urge to attain liberation in seven days. Exposition also had the story involving the Varaha avatar of Lord Vishnu in which He annihilated the demon Hiranyaksha.
Every story in the Bhagawatham is unique and wonderful and it inspires devotion in the listener. But hidden below the surface is also a deep inner significance which enlightens ones intellect and lightens the load of samsara on one's head and heart! Hiranyaksha translates literally into, "Eye on gold" and it refers to the quality of greed. And the demon carries away mother earth to the nether worlds. It is so symbolic of the state of earth today! "Man's greed has taken the earth to hell!" And the Lord has come to save mankind from this deadly demon- Lobha or greed.
As the narration continued, Bhagawan arrived at 10:10 for a complete round. After an elaborate, slow round granting Darshan, Bhagawan came on stage at 10:23 and sat through the entire session that ended at 11:30, when Arathi was offered. Subsequently, Bhagawan called an Iranian boy, studying in Primary School...
He is Sathya, who hails from Iran. Swami called him to the stage and asked him to chant the vedas. He did so with great elan and confidence. He began with the Durgasuktam. Swami stopped him midway and then began to speak to the artistes who accompany Sri Rituraj's commentary on the keyboard, harmonium, tabla and the octapad. These artistes lend the flavour to the whole commentary. The background score blends in so naturally and gracefully and one is transported into the stories being narrated.
Conversing with these artistes, Bhagawan mentioned about the boy and his 'prowess on Veda chanting. Subsequently his younger brother, Rama was called on stage, who came running up to the stage. At his full height also, he struggled to come up to even the neck of our seated Swami! Swami asked him as to whether He knew Vedas. He nodded a Yes and kept looking at Swami. Swami patted him on his cheeks and told the artistes, Bhagawan continued with his "Divine Appreciation", a scene which Prasanthi had witnessed even before, for the boys...Swami 'introduced the brothers to Sri Rituraj Maharaj also.
Subsequently Bhagawan moved off the dais, and while about to return, prasadam for Primary School was ready for His sanctifying touch. Upon blessing the same Bhagawan sat through for the next more than five minutes, watching the distribution, Divine Mother was ensuring the each and every kid from the school was getting his and her share of prasadam.
Read on for the storyline for the third Session, on the morning of March 18.
The distinguished Sri Rituraj Maharaj started his holy narration offering his humble salutations to our Bhagavan and then sang a simple melody “Sriman Narayana Narayana Narayana” urging one and all to chant the names of the Lord in the present moment without making the folly of postponing it to the last moment of our lives. The sound and claps of our singing, he said, will drive away the evil traits resting on the tree of our personalities. Those ears that have not heard the name of the Lord are like the door of a cave – rocky, hard and lifeless.
That is why, the revered speaker said, “Bhagavatha rasa ka pana karo… drink deep the nectar of the Bhagavatha” and then started the story of King Parikshit.
A noble and virtuous emperor, King Parikshit was a Chakravarthi, yet he was kind and humble, and treated all his subjects equally just as the essence of the food consumed by the mouth is distributed to all the organs of the body in equal measure.
Like all ideal kings, King Parikshit was keen to ensure the welfare of his subjects by visiting them personally. And so one day while he was out in his kingdom, he noticed a disturbing scene.
There was a shudra - a shudra, the speaker explained, is really not the one who is low-born but one whose thinking is shudra or narrow. In other words, a narrow minded person is a Shudra.
So, King Pariskshit noticed a shudra tormenting a Vrushabha, a bull. He was inflicting pain not only on the Vrushabha, but also on the cow, which was next to it. What was more pathetic is that the Vrushabha was standing on only one leg. Perplexed, King Parikshit asked the Vrusabha, “Who are you?” And the bull revealed with pain that he was in fact Dharma Deva and the cow next to him was Bhu Devi.
“I am standing on one leg because it is the age of Kali, I have lost all my other limbs - Daya, Soucha and Ahimsa,” revealed Dharma Deva, and continued, “And now Kali in the form of that Shudra was trying to remove even my last leg.”
At that moment, King Parikshit was about to end the life of the Shudra but Kali pleaded a place to stay, and so, King Parikshit told him that he would reside in all places where there is falsehood, deception, violence and all the other evil traits.
When Kali asked for one more place where all these evil tendencies could be readily found, King Pariskhit told him that it was Gold. Where there is ill-gotten wealth, where there is wealth acquired by unfair means, there one would find all the other vices.
Soon after this, Kali left the place and the King returned to his palace.
In his mansion there was a crown, a beautiful golden crown, which was locked up for years together. It was the crown of Jarasandha brought by grand father Bheema after defeating that demon. Fascinated with the beauty of that crown, King Parikshit, removed the crown of Yudhistira from his head and replaced it with the crown of Jarasandha. And the effect of this action was soon to be seen. There arouse in the King’s mind the desire to go into the forest for a hunt, an activity which he had never indulged in before because of his pious nature.
And so, King Parikshit was in the middle of the forest chasing wild animals; soon, he was tired and thirsty. Desperate to find water to pacify his parched throat, Pariskhit came to the hermitage of Shameka Muni. The sage was lost in Samadhi. He called out for the sage once, twice, thrice. When his repeated requests for water received no response from the sage, the King lost patience and in a moment of anger, he picked a dead snake lying on the ground, wrapped it round the neck of the sage and left the ashram in a huff.
When Shameeka Muni’s son Sanghi learnt about this deep insult inflicted on his father, he was enraged; he instantly cursed Pariskhit – “May you die from the poisonous fangs of Nagaraj, the king of serpents, in seven days from now.”
This news was conveyed to Parikshit by Goud, a disciple of Shameeki muni. The King, on whom the realization of his cardinal mistake had dawned the moment he removed the crown of Jarasandha, accepted the terrible news with equanimity. In fact, he said, “I am already dead now as I lost my satwic nature.”
King Parikshit now handed over the charge of the kingdom to his son, Janamejeya and headed towards the banks of River Ganga.
A host of distinguished saints and sages gathered there to offer support and solace to the king in the last few days of his life. But each one of them said, “O King! Liberation is impossible in 7 days.” And then arrived on the scene, the most exalted and ever-young Sage Suka.
The highly noble Sukha who shone with the radiance of Lord Shiva, said, “O noble King, I can grant you liberation in a moment.” But King Pariskhit declined the offer and asked that he may be allowed to relish the divine leelas of the Lord for seven full days before he achieves the ultimate.
And then the King asked the revered Sage Shuka many spiritual queries, “What is the duty of a man who is about to lose his life?”, “How did creation happen”, “How can one attain God?” and so on.
The revered speaker, Sri Ritu Raj from here on described beautifully with songs and similies, many anecdotes that the highly illustrious Sage Shuka narrated to King Pariskshit to pacify his spiritual thirst.
One of them was the story of Vidura, who was always first a devotee and then a minister. When all his wise advice fell on the deaf years of Duryodhana and all the others in the Kaurava clan, Vidura preferred to remain in a small dwelling outside the royal quarters. And when Krishna came to Hastinapur as a peace ambassador, he chose Vidura’s house to pay a visit and have his meal because the Lord is bhava priya and not bahya priya. And so carried away was Vidhura with the overwhelming love of Lord Krishna that he unknowingly offered the peels of the banana fruit instead of the fruit itself to the Lord, and Krishna too, the sweet Lord that He is, accepted it with a smile.
When Parikshit asks Sage Shuka if only noble souls or scholars can earn the grace of the Lord? Shuka Muni says that the Lord granted the same blessing to Puthana as He offered to Mother Yashoda. Even though Gajendra was not a scholar in the least, this elephant too received protection and benediction from the Lord because of his sincere prayer and surrender.
After a few such episodes, the learned Speaker, moved on to the story of Hiranyaksha and narrated how the gate keepers of the doors of Vaikuntha, Jaya and Vijaya, were cursed by the four Sanat kumaras, the sons of Brahma. And it was to fulfill the wish of Hiranyaksha to fight the Lord as well as to save the earth from total annihilation that the Lord assumed the form of Varaha.
Following this episode, we heard the sublime story of the advent of Sage Kapila who was another incarnation of the divine. The father of sage Kapila, Sage Kardama was blessed by the Lord to have as his wife Devahuti, the daughter of King Manu. After this holy wedding, the great sage was immersed in Samadhi for 40 long years. When he returned from this supreme state, in a chariot he was gifted nine daughters whom he gave in marriage to nine noble sages. And after this, he prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, bless me with a son like you.”
The Lord said, “There is no one like Me… I am unique. I Myself will be born as your son.” And that is how was born the enlightened sage Kapila. Immediately after Kapila’s birth, Sage Kardama left to forest to continue his sadhana intensely. It was sage Kapila who then granted the highest boon of merger with the divine to his mother Devahuti.
The respected speaker Sri Ritu Raj who spoke for nearly three hours this morning in his fluent Hindi interspersed with many songs, telling and humorous anecdotes, in the end narrated the episode of Sati Dahana, wherein Lord Shiva teaches a lesson to Daksha Prajapati, who out of his ego and ignorance, dares to humiliate Lord Shiva. After cutting off the head of Daksha, Lord Shiva, out of His kindness, returns life to this king but with the head of goat. The sound of a goat who says “mee, mee” and the words of an egoistic person who repeats “my, my” are the same.
The Lord always comes to instruct us to let go the ego embedded in our personalities so that we become pure and humble, and learn to surrender at His lotus feet. For without Him, without His lotus feet, there is no refuge, there is no joy, there is no peace and there is no bliss.
Swami says it is these sacred stories of Bhagavatham which can purify our minds. These take us on this spiritual odyssey of Bhakthi to Mukthi and grant us the ultimate - which is cultivating sincere and deep love for the divine.