"Unflinching devotion to the Teacher is paramount in the life of a true seeker. To begin with, an external God can be the object of faith. But once the devotee grows to be a seeker, only a Wise Teacher can fulfil his quest.  It is then for the seeker to get purified and enlightened by the words of wisdom from his Guru.  Their bond and attunement put the Teacher on the pedestal of God.  Such an impeccable Guru-sishya bond alone bestows wisdom, strength and fulfillment to the seeker."

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Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

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Articles for Saadhana

[Published in Vicharasetu – November 1991. The author Ma Gurupriya was then ‘Ratnadeepa’]

Jagannaatha – Lord of The Universe

Earlier we had gone for a pilgrimage to Sree Jagannaatha Kshetra, Puri.  The pathways of this place have become holy by the footprints of innumerable devotees, Sages and Seers from every corner of the country over the ages.  The place is especially associated with the memory of the great Sree Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu, the widespread spirituo-social revolution brought about by whom through the double-edged sword of Jnaana and Bhakti had flooded the country five centuries ago.  His famous Naama-Sankeertana, with the power of which he united the people, fought the caste-inequities and led a massive ‘civil disobedience movement’ in Bengal, is still vibrant in the atmosphere of Puri. The dawns and the dusks get charged with the Naama-Sankeertana echoing from the small temples, Ashrams and by-lanes.

In the main Sree Jagannaatha Temple shrine, the Lord reminds one of the little Vraja-boy Krishna posing between His brother Balaraama and sister Subhadra.  The Lord here is called Jagannaatha (Lord of the Universe), and is significantly without hands and feet.  Standing in front of the shrine Aroopji recalled what Baba told him long back: “After visiting all pilgrim centres, a devotee finally comes to see Sree Jagannaatha and their he finds that the Lord of the Universe has neither hands nor feet; He does not do anything, He does not move.  The huge wide eyes of the idol speak only of the ‘awareness’, the ‘witness’.”

Jagannaatha indeed! One cannot but experience His Jagannaatha roopa in the vast expanse of the sea by the side of which the temple is situated.  As is devotion permeated in the air of Sree Jagannaatha Kshetra, so is He Himself permeating everything everywhere.  One can see His face with an all-embracing smile in the silent dusks and the serene dawns – against the horizon where the sky embraces the sea.  He is felt in the huge mighty waves rolling and lashing sportfully over the shore, and in the calm unfathomable depths far inside – away from the shimmering ranges.

Wherever nature stands with vast expanse, be it a mountain-top, an ocean or an open field, wherever the limitless sky descends to embrace the horizon, the sight brings in the revelation of how the Creator embraces His whole Creation. The mind becomes still with the realization that although small and insignificant, we too are a part of His great Creation which moves on and on in its own rhythm! Ego stands humbled musing over the marvel of the Great Jagannaatha!

Attention & Sacrifice – the Saadhana of Devotional Refinement

One day, while passing by the hawkers on the sea-side, my eyes suddenly fell on a brass idol peeping from a pile of brass vessels and lamps. It was a little Krishna, crawling.  With a crown decked with jewels and bright peacock-feather on the head he was stretching out his hands for butter. Tilting the head and looking up with wide eyes, he was saying: “Look at me, how sweet and beautiful I am!” beautiful indeed he was, charming and tender. I felt so beckoned by this little one that I stretched out my hand to take it home. I called Aroopji and expressed my desire.

Aroopji nodded but said: “Will you be able to look after him with proper care and regularity?” I told myself: “Yes, do I really deserve to take you home?  Till now, you have not given me regularity in devotional routine. I am enchanted no doubt by your innocent appearance; but if I take you home, will I be able to look after you with love and care in the proper manner everyday?”

It was very difficult to take my eyes away from the little one, who I felt was crawling forward to jump on to my lap, I stretched my hands twice or thrice, every time withdrawing them thinking the act would be an impulsive one.  On one hand my devotional fervour wanted to take him, but on the other it was the self-examination: “Am I really ready? Would not my lack of regularity and discipline make me neglect him soon?”

To be sincere enough in pursuing devotional acts with attention and regularity is quite different from the mere feeling of devotion. It is difficult too and calls for a great deal of sacrifice – sacrifice of one’s physical lethargy as well as mental preferences.  This is true in regard to the devotion to God; it is much more so in the matter of devotion to one’s Guru.

I decided to part with the idol although his face kept on haunting me.  I prayed:  “Let me be ready first to bring you home!”

The Sivalinga

My prayer was granted. I was growing regularity in spending time near my small pooja shrine.  Seeing me getting ready, my Lord now desired to seat Himself in the pooja shrine and be worshipped.  But He chose to come in the form of a Sivalinga. Just before I started for Amarnath yaatraa, He gave me this thought:  “I shall bring a Sivalinga from Amarnath.”

On our way back from Amarnath, as we were trekking down the snowy mountain pass overlooking Seshnag Lake, Aroopji asked me whether I had brought the Sivalinga I desired. In fact I was so full with my darsan that I did not remember anything else. Aroopji took out an oval stone kept wrapped in cloth from his pocket and told me that he had picked it up from Amarganga – the ice-cold stream flowing down from the Amarnath Cave. In fact he was picking up some other stone from the side of the river when his attention was drawn to this one, a little inside the stream.  Peeping out from the ripples it was calling: “Take me, take me please!”

A beautiful stone, light grayish-white in colour. As we climbed down, the stone became darker and darker and finally assumed the colour of dark clouds – Meghasyamam. This became our Sivalinga.  We brought Him home.

I had already kept a small wooden stool in one corner of the bedroom and had placed there photos of Baba and Swamiji.  Now the shrine looked ornamented with the Sivalinga sitting in a tiny stone bowl placed on a small stone plate.

Both Aroopji  and myself never wanted a pooja room where idols and photos would accumulate but would not be taken care of. “If we have anything, we must look after it with love, care and attention, unfailingly, as we would our own body or children.” And this was true not only of the pooja-shrine but also of every other article in the house.

Spontaneous Pooja of the Heart

Having placed the linga I felt like doing pooja. I knew not how to do ‘pooja’ with the proper rituals and mantras. I started in my own way with whatever came from my heart. I gave abhisheka to the Sivalinga, lighted lamps and incense sticks, offered flowers and decorated the shrine. The shrine and the pooja-vessels I used to keep spotlessly clean and bright.  The sight of the shrine and the shining pooja-vessels of copper and brass used to remind me that the mind also has to be kept spotless and pure through constant effort, through introspection and sublimation.

Soon I was growing love for these simple acts of ‘pooja’. A mother looks after her child not under compulsion but out of sheer love and fondness. However much she may remain busy, neither does she forget to do whatever is needed for her child nor can she afford to become lazy. I too, because of my growing fondness for the linga, could not be irregular or lethargic any more in my devotional routine – I was looking after my own little child whose needs and demands I began to feel more and more.

I used to sit in front of the shrine regularly for long hours, keeping my gaze fixed on him.  He looked brilliant with ghee smeared on his ‘face’ and a sandal tilak on his ‘forehead’.  And, what a wonder! In this Sivalinga I started seeing the sweet alluring face of the little Krishna – the crawling one, asking for butter, the one whom I wanted to bring from Puri; the Gopala and the little lad of Vrindaavana, the nectarine tales about whom I had read in Sreemad Bhaagavatam. We started calling Him ‘Poshaa’ – ‘the Pet’.

I knew no songs to sing for him; nor did I know mantras. Sitting cross-legged before the shrine I used to chant ‘Harih OM’ in a low voice and different tunes and raagas coming from my heart. The voice would become lower and lower, taking me finally to a meditative silence. Everyday, while I used to be absorbed in such worship, a kitten would come softly to my room, get into my lap and start purring. Slowly the purr would merge into a silence. My mind used to feel that it was Posha himself!

Through this natural worship of the Sivalinga, I was immensely benefited.  I realized that worship and the rituals are not for the idol or God, but for the worshiper. Through the emotions built around the object of worship, it is only the subjective personality of the saadhaka that grows – gets enriched, refined and purified.

Lord Amarnath had bestowed on me bliss and calmness. He made me see Him within. But above all, He gave me this wonderful realization:  When the mind gets naturally absorbed in Him, then there is neither ceremony nor ritual. That is why I never felt any sense of loss not having done any pradakshina or not having touched the ice-linga in the Amarnath Cave. When my mother-in-law called me to light incense sticks, the hands had moved but the mind felt nothing as it was already in union with the Lord. At that moment, the mind itself was the unwavering flame, the mind itself was radiating a fragrance which the incense sticks could not.

My worship of the Sivalinga helped me to stabilize this realization. I developed regularity in devotional routine no doubt, but at the same time my way of worship remained simple and intimate, with no burden or fear of routine and rituals. And that ushered my mind to a unique closeness and freedom – an inseparable loving identity – with my Lord.

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