'Vriddhim Karnatake gatah' - Part - 3
Travelogue of a divine journey with Sri Swamiji- by Sri Ramanujamji
The purest comes from above – be it Ganga Mata, or even the rain water. The place we were travelling was the region where the maximum amount of pure waters pour from the heavens above, within Bharat’s peninsular area. We may have been in have been the area that sees the second highest amount of rainfall in India, but another purifying downpour – the downpour of Sri Swamiji’s loving words and talks were second to none. The purest of all experiences, Srimad Bhagavatam itself was poured down (as it is nectarine 'rasa') by the compassion of Sri Suka muni to the fortunate few in this world, wasn’t it?
When we were receiving the constant downpour of nectarine words of Sri Swamiji near Agumbe, we were able to fully appreciate Sri Swamiji’s exposition of ‘aho bhuvi ghalitham’ – (Ah! The fruit of Veda Mata has descended to even our levels!). What else to say, but only ahaituki, aprathihata sadguru krupa (Beloved Master’s grace – causeless and ceaseless)!
Please read on for the third spate of divine downpour in our Madhura Yatra. We went to have darshan of an adishtanam (place of entombment) of a great spiritually elevated Mahatma in Varadapura – in the most divinely intriguing way! As Sri Swamiji explained it off the next day – ‘It was purely divine grace at play!’
27th December 2011 – ‘Divine grace at play’
27th and 28th December were the Bheema ratha Shanti function days of Shri Naveen Bhat / Sri Yogesh Bhat’s father Sri Gopal Bhatji. Sri Swamiji had asked all of us to be ready to go to Shri Bhat’s residence for the function. While we were travelling from the Matha to his residence, I could not help asking our beloved Master the significance of ‘Bheema ratha Shanthi’. Sri Swamiji graciously explained to us the spirit of such wonderful samskarams and rituals in our grand Sanatana Dharma.
Every act we do should have a scriptural authority (Pramana). This Bheema Ratha Shanthi is explained in the 'Shanthi Kalpam' of Sri Saunaka Rishi. When a person is just crossing 70, it is said that he would face a lot of obstacles in the form of adversity to his family, scarcity in food and property, etc. There may be some risk to his longevity also. These are called 'gandam's and they can be totally overcome or partially alleviated by doing a 'Shanthi' (akin to taking a preventive tablet while going to an area known to be infested with an epidemic!) This needs to be performed within 6 months of attaining 70 years of age. It is preferable to do this on the same birth month and birth-star of the person. The 'Shanthi' gets its power from its main deity 'Bheema Rudrar' who is also 'Mrutyunjaya' - conqueror of death - Lord Parameshwara. The supporting deities ('atidevata' and 'pratyatidevata') are Vishnu and Brahma. The verse from Sri Rudram (Yajur Veda 18.104.22.168) starting with 'Shruti Srutham' is repeated for destroying the enemies of the family and also for the longevity of the person
We reached the picturesque home of the Sri Bhat’s family. The house was a little below the road leading to the home and had a lovely view all around. The whole family was brimming with love welcomed our Master warmly. We stayed there for a couple of hours.
An uncle of Sri Yogesh Bhat invited our Master to his own home, which was a few kilometers away. We all went to his home from Sri Yogesh’s home.
That was when we understood that nothing ‘casual’ happens especially when we were in the holy company of our Master.
The house was a very old structure. It was lovely and transported us to a different era of simplicity, solitude and rustic beauty. The ancestral house was spacious and lovely. Sri Swamiji conversed with them in sweet Kannada and they took us to the backyard. It was a forest! There were betel trees, various climbers, shrubs etc. They even mentioned casually that tigers and bears would frequent the backyard many a time!
After returning from the backyard, Sri Swamiji was about to leave when the host invited him to visit their pooja room. When Sri Swamiji entered the room, he noticed the picture of a Sadhu. He stopped and asked, "This is Sri Sridhara Swamiji, isn't it?" The hosts were surprised and they nodded in affirmation.
Now I need to digress a little and give a little background. Sri Swamiji got the biography of Sri Sridhara Swamiji about 6 months ago, and he gave this book to many of the Ashram inmates to read, as it depicts the inspiring life of a great soul. Sri Swamiji also used to discuss about this Mahaan now and then. Needless to say, Sri Swamiji was very impressed by this great Mahaan’s life.
When he saw the Mahatma's picture in that remote house, he asked the host about the whereabouts of the adishtanam of Sridhara Swamiji. To our utter surprise and Sri Swamiji’s sheer delight, the adishtanam was less than 50 miles from the place where we were staying!
Knowing our beloved Master, who has utmost regard and respect for all sadhus irrespective of their school of philosophy and marga, we knew that our evening agenda had been divinely set now!
Immediately Sri Swamiji asked Hariji in the car to see if the book he was reading was still there. Hariji promptly gave Sri Swamiji the book. Sri Swamiji looked at photos of the Mahaan and told us, ‘See how bright his eyes are! How his child-like face is glowing! Are these not signs of divinity flowering within? We all are going to a very holy place today - to the adishtanam of this great Mahaan!’
How wonderfully the divine grace works! The whole afternoon Sri Swamiji went through the biography once again.
The fortunate ones who have had the opportunity to be with our Master could not have helped noticing this divine quality of 'absorption' (tanmayam in a divine bhaava). When Sri Swamiji takes us to Brindavan, more than a month before the yatra, Sri Swamiji would be talking, thinking, speaking and lecturing on Brindavana Mahatmyam, the glory of Gopis and Krishna leela alone. At that time, all the kirtans that He graced would be filled with Prema rasa of the highest order. Even casual conversations while talking, walking or travelling would be centered only around Brindavan. Lectures at Premika Bhavanam or Madhurapuri would be only Brindavan Mahatmyam or Bhagavatam. Sri Swamiji would carry us to the world of Brindavan long before we step into the physical Brindavan at the Vraja Bhoomi. At that point of time, no other bhava or thought would be noticed.
If it were Dwaraka yatra, the whole bhava, bhashana and bhajana (the divine mood, divine lectures and divine kritans) would be directed towards Srinathji and Dwarakdeesha and the devotees of Srinathji like Sri Vallabhacharyaji, Surdasji, etc.
If Sri Swamiji were to lecture on Ramayana in Thiruvanamalai, the days preceding this divine function and many days post this great utsav would find our Sri Swamiji in constant thoughts and talks of Sri Rama, Hanumanji etc.
One thing we always found was that people, publications, prasadams - all that come during these periods would be surprisingly and perfectly aligned to the ‘bhaava’ – the divine mellow / mood of our Master. There was absolutely no doubt that it was the divine plan that was unfolding to take our beloved Master to the adishtanam of this great Sadhu and Mahaan – Sri Sridhara Swami.
Sri Swamiji was relishing the biography of Sri Sridhara Swamiji on the day we were to go and have darshan of his adishtanam.
We were all very excited about this new opportunity. We all boarded the vehicle and in a few minutes of the vehicle rolling, the Master started his divine downpour!
Sridhara Swamiji (a 20th century saint) was initiated by none other Sri Samartha Ramadas Maharaj in the Yogic path. His life was the very embodiment of dispassion, intense devotion of servitude to his master and epitome of Advaitha Siddhi. Sri Swamiji has mentioned a lot about him to many of our satsang devotees. Sri Swamiji was repeatedly quoting Sri Sridhara Swami’s highest spirit of servitude to his beloved master.
Sri Swamiji said:
When I read how Sri Sridhara Swami served his master in Sajjanghad, I feel 'pulakankitha' (horripilation) all over! You know how he served his master? His lips ever repeating the Holy Names, his hands tirelessly engaged in the Guru’s service, his feet ever moving in that service and his mind charged with contemplation – such was Sridhara Swami.
Listening to his daily schedule itself is inspiring for spiritual aspirants.
He would wake up at three in the morning. After meditation for a brief period, he would prostrate before Rama and Samartha - his guru. Then he would clean the yard in front of the sanctum sanctorum with cow dung. He would then have his bath.
By then it would be four. He would sweep Samartha’s shayanagraha (where Sri Samartha Ramdasji used to live) and the sanctum sanctorum. He would place lighted scented sticks in the sanctorum and begin the aarthi at half past four. He would complete it by five. He would thereafter distribute the milk, sugar which had been offered to the deity and then he would clean the floor and the Samadhi of Sri samartha. He would decorate the floor with rangoli and then he would offer worship briefly to Sri Rama, Anjaneya, Ganapati and Sri Samartha and pray that his spiritual endeavor be crowned with success.
Listen to his lovely prayer to his Guru, “Vouchsafe that I may toil for the world conscientiously. May my shayanagraha (Place of rest) be rock-like at all times! May I look upon all women as my mothers and may every woman regard me with the affection of a mother.”
Unto Sri Rama He prays, “May my spiritual progress be unhindered”.
(Sri Swamiji used to say many a time , that such prayers were absolutely essential for spiritual progress.)
Right from early morning to late evening we find Sridhara engaging himslef in constant service, apart from his Nama kirtan and meditation. He did all the menial service of cleaning the sanctum, cleaning the vessels used, serving food to the pilgrims, cleaning the places where pilgrims ate, making floral garlands for Rama and Samartha, readying sandal paste for worship, washing divine clothes of the Lord bringing 20 to 30 pots of water from nearby pond, cleaning the place with cow dung...indeed he did all the service one can imagine to the Lord."
Then what our beloved Master said truly touched the deepest recess of our hearts. Sri Swamiji told us the real ‘bhaavam’ that Sri Sridhara Swami had in serving his beloved master! This would melt even stone-hearts, imagine us hearing this in the close company of our beloved Master!
"Sridhara Swami used to go to wash the wet clothes used for the Lord. He would bow to the cloth with utmost respect as to his Guru! He thought that even if the cloth was not sentient, he was fortunate because it served the Guru. He would bow to the stone that was used to wash the clothes and dry them!"
Simply imagining this divine scene itself is enough to inspire devotional service, isn’t it?
But even such a loving, humble, dispassionate and highly spiritual Sadhu was troubled by other people in the Sajjanghad temple! That too not by some other factions or outsiders, but by the very other inmates of the temple who had in fact come there for Sadhana! How strong is ‘Maya’! Though he was put to hardships, his Guru (Samartha Ramdasji) came to his rescue and taught the detractors a good lesson! We shall see this in detail during the return trip from Varadapura! Sri Swamiji recounted this wondrous incident on our return journey.
By the time we reached Varadapura (Sri Sridhara Swamiji’s adishtanam) it was almost dusk. To our surprise we found that the adishtanam was atop a hillock that had to be reached by about 300 steps!
The gatekeeper informed us that vehicles are not allowed up the hill. We were a bit disappointed that Sri Swamiji had come all the way, but not see the adishtanam. We were mentally preparing ourselves to return without darshan.
Then started the divine play of grace...
We asked the gate keeper if we could go up to the office and park the vehicle there, He nodded in assent. Sri Swamiji, Naveenji and myself were walking towards the office at the foot of the hill. We saw a two wheeler descending towards outer gate. We casually enquired if we can go atop hill on some conveyance. The rider promptly answered, "Go enquire in the office. They may even allow the car!" This was totally unexpected. We were so excited to explore the possibility.
Sri Swamiji always instructs us not to take undue advantage by referring to our Master as a Swamiji from Chennai, etc. He never allows us to do this. He ordained us to request the office as normal devotees. We first went to the office and we bought some books and CDs. Then we asked the manager sitting outside if cars can be allowed uphill. The initial hesitation of the officer sitting outside was annulled by a higher authority sitting inside who overheard our request. When we submitted our request, the higher-up wanted to see the vehicle and swiftly approval was given. An iron gate was unlocked for our vehicle to pass through! We were overjoyed and truly felt blessed. Sri Swamiji kept saying in soft voice, "It is only divine grace that is working here, nothing else!"
It was a short travel to the adishtanam uphill.
Let the Madhura Yatra continue uphill!