Compiled by SRIRAM KUMAR RAVI
Sri Bhagavan, in Srimad Bhagavatam says that he can be easily attained through ‘SATSANG’ but not through other sadhanas. Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi used to say that ‘SATSANG’ means association (sangham) with the ‘SAT’ and the ‘SAT’ is the SELF. Hence one’s true satsang is one’s abidance in the self. Though the Maharishi speaks this from an absolute stand-point, the Maharishi himself used to deliver discourses in RAMANAASRAMAM for the benefit and welfare of the devotees. He used to discourse on the life history of various saints emphasizing true devotion and self-less service towards the lord.
Such discourses were very recently delivered by ‘SHRI Hari Anna’( herein referred to as Anna) and ‘SMT. Visakha Hariji’(fondly called as SMT. Visakha Manni) in Pondicherry organized by ‘SHRI Krishna Premika Bhajan Mandali’. The discourses were based on ‘Vaishnava Samhita’, a great grantha penned by ‘SRI SRI ANNA’ which recounts the life histories of saints all across India primarily highlighting the divine love between god and the devotee.
The satsang spanned over a week and it predominantly had 2 sessions. In the first session, ‘Shri Narayanan’ and ‘Shri Murali Mohan Anna’ did the parayanam of Vaishnava Samhita and Shri Anna gave discourses in the second session. I had the biggest fortune of attending the satsang completely, therefore trying to write a small article to recap the various events.
On the first day, ‘Shri HariAnna’ gave upanyasam on the charitra of ‘Shri Jayadevar’. Initially ‘Shri Anna’ stressed on the importance of bhakti (love) towards god. He said that in the age of kali, bhakti is the easiest way to attain the feet of the lord despite the shastras mentioning many other sadhanas. Jayadevar was born in a small village nearby the big kshetra ‘Puri Jagannath’ where the lord is in a reclining posture. Jayadevar was a devotee of the lord from his childhood and always used to engage in spiritual practices.
However he had a misconception that Gruhasthaasrama( The life of a householder) would spoil his devotion and hence decided not to get married, but the lord had a different plan for him. There was a devotee of lord Jagannatha who did not have any children. He prayed to the lord to bless him with a child promising the lord that the child would do bhagavat kainkaryam alone. Very soon he was blessed with a female child and they named her ‘Padmavati’. Since it was a female child he was in a dilemma of how to keep up his word. Unable to digest his mind, he prayed to the lord to award a solution.
The lord came in his dream and advised him to marry his daughter(Padmavati) with Jayadevar. Immediately he took his daughter and went to see Jayadevar. Jayadevar immediately ran away from that place after listening to his quest. He understood Jayadevar’s staunch devotion to the lord and informed Padmavati about the marriage. Soon, Jayadevar understood the bhagawat sankalpa and obliged to get married.
While explaining the ‘Garhastyam’ of Jayadevar and Padmavati, ‘Shri Anna’ gave an excellent bhava. Jayadevar was initially apprehensive about marriage, but marriage with Padmavati actually increased his love(Prema Bhakti) towards the lord.
Shri Jayadevar’s most celebrated grantha is ‘Gita Govindam (Astapati)’ in which he sings about the divine marriage of ‘Shri Radha Krishna’. Sri Jayadevar used to sing the astapati and Padmavati used to dance with full bhava.
To highlight the bhakti of Jayadevar the lord does a sport(leela). In one of the astapati, Jayadevar composes a bhava which seems to infer that Krishna became a subordinate of the gopis(Radha) and even fell on Radha’s feet. Immediately, Jayadevar decides not to pen that particular verse. He decides to take some time and goes for taking bath in the nearby river. Within few minutes he comes back again and writes the same verse he wrote few minutes ago. After some time Jayadevar comes back and to his astonishment he sees the verse getting completed with the same bhava. Puzzled by the occurrences, he enquires Padmavati and comes to know that the Lord himself came in guise of him and completed the verse. He praised Padmavati for getting the rarest opportunity to see the lord in person.
On another day, Sri Jayadevar was singing an astapati which contemplates on the ‘Viraha Vedana’ of ‘Sri Radhai’. Padmavati was finding it very difficult to dance as the astapati was up to brim with bhava. To guide Padmavati, Jayadevar advised her to dance with the dhyana of ‘Sri Radhai’. Immediately following his instruction Padmavati was easily able to replicate the bhava and due to which the couple(Jayadevar and Padmavati) were able to get the ‘Sakshaatkara’ of the lord accompanied with Radhai.
Similarly ‘Shri Anna’ recounted many other incidents and the devotees enjoyed throughout the discourse.
While the parayanam of ‘Vaishnava Samhita’ continued in the first session, ‘Shri Anna’ gave upanyasam on ‘Shri Purandara Dasar’s’ charitam. Since Purandara dasar is an incarnation of narada, ‘Shri Anna’ beautifully explained the greatness of the ‘Deva Rishi Narada’ by quoting apt references from ‘Srimad Ramayanam’, ‘The Prahlada and Dhruva charitram’ and also explained the subtle difference between sage Vishwamitra’s tapas and Narada’s nama sankeerthanam.
There lived a devoted couple, ‘Varadappa Nayakar and Kamalambal’ in a village named ‘Purandara Ghat’ nearby Hampi. They came to ‘Tirumala’, the abode of lord SRINIVASA (Venkatachalapati) and prayed to beget a child. Their sincere devotional quest was immediately answered and in 1484 were blessed with a male child. He was named ‘Cheenappa Nayakar’ as a reminder of the blessings of SRINIVASA. He was to be a bright student right from his childhood. His father’s primary occupation was
jewelry business where people can pledge their assets and borrow money. Cheenappa Nayakar lost his father at an early age and had to shoulder full family responsibility.
He took over his family business and became so wealthy that people addressed by the name ‘Navakoti Narayanan’ but he was not satisfied. He always wanted to increase his wealth. He directly held dealings with king ‘Krishnadevaraya’ and ‘Manjula Devi’. Being a merchant he used to talk so sweetly (‘SRI SRI ANNA’ also attributes the adjective ‘Priya Bhashanaha’).
Completely involved in business and household activities he was completely oblivious of his true nature. An extraordinary incident happens to help him realize his true nature.
One fine day an age old Brahmana comes to his shop. He had a very tight knot in his angavastra and was trying to unlock it. Nayakar was observing all this and was anxious to see the jewel the Brahmana would give him. But to his surprise the Brahmana had only ‘Akshatai’. Nayakar got very furious and shouted at the Brahmana who asked him money(danam) to carry-out his son’s upanayanam and daughter’s marriage. As the dialogue between both of them went on for hours, Nayakar asks his attendants to drive away the Brahmana.
The Brahmana, considering his misfortune, went to the next street. He saw a big house, went to the entrance and started chanting Bhagawan Nama. The house was none other than Nayakar’s. Laxmi Bai(Nayakar’s Dharma Patni) was doing Tulasi puja. She had a great heart and always wanted to involve in dharmic activities. On hearing the brahamana chanting, she rushed to attend him. Patiently listening to the Brahmana, she gave away her costly nose-ring to the Brahmana despite knowing that the Nayakar would not like it.
The Brahmana then blessed her to lead a prosperous and divine life. He then straightly headed to Nayakar’s shop to pledge it. On seeing the nose-ring brought by the Brahmana, Nayakar was shocked. He very politely requested the Brahmana to be seated and locked the nose-ring in a case rushing to this house. He called Lakshmi Bai and asked about her nose-ring. To control the situation, she lied saying nose-ring is safe inside the house since she had an oil bath. Immediately Nayakar demanded to bring the nose-ring. Feeling trapped Lakshmi Bai went to the sannidhi of Tulasi Mata and cried. To her surprise she found the nose-ring and showed it to Nayakar.
Completely puzzled, Nayakar went back to his shop to return the money to the Brahmana. The Brahmana was no-where to be seen. Stunned, he opened the case in which he put the nose-ring given by the Brahmana. Again to his surprise the nose-ring was not found inside. Completely astonished he went back to Lakshmi Bai and requested her to tell the truth. On listening to her he could not believe himself. He carefully gazed at the nose-ring which was the source of surprises all day, he could see a beautiful scene. Lord Ranganatha was seen ,reclining on the serpent, talking to sage Narada requesting him to descend on earth to glorify the path of Nama Sankeerthanam. Now Nayakar was aware of his true swarupa.
He cursed himself for deviating from the divine path and getting trapped. He himself says that he wasted 30 years. From this day none of the materialistic things mattered to him, he was always in the dhyana of ‘Shri Panduranga’ and sang 4,79,000 kritis. He is also revered as the ‘Sangeeta Pitamaha’. ‘SRI SRI ANNA’ also says that Dasa Vakya == Vyasa Vakya.
His new life chapter begins and he does not go to Pandaripuram directly. Instead his heart now craves for the grace of ‘Guru’. He reaches the feet of ‘Vyasa Rajar’ who was also the ‘Raja Guru’. He very sincerely listens to the instructions of his guru and implements it accordingly. He found extreme peace in rendering true service to the guru. He himself says that there is no Japa, Dhyana, Tantra, Mantra which is superior to instruction of the guru. It was his guru ‘Vyasa Rajar’ who gave him the deeksha namam ‘PurandaraDas’. The name means that he is the Dasar of the lord Purandara. In Vishnu sahasranamam, one of the names is Purandara(‘Adi Deva Purandaraha’).
Finally Dasar reaches Pandaripuram and stays there for the rest of life. He also carries out a small teertha-yatra in which he visits pilgrimage places like ‘Sri Rangam’, ‘Venkatachalam’ etc. to spread the path of ‘TiruNama Sankeerthanam’.
‘Shri Anna’ finished the discourse and dolotsavam.
‘Shri Anna’ gave the upanyasam on ‘Shri Kabir Dasar’s’ charitram. Once again, ‘Shri Anna’ highlighted the importance of Bhagawan Nama. Kabir Dasar was a great mahatma who was devoutly devoted to his guru ‘Shri Ramanandar’. In his initial days, he had great reverence for ‘Shri Ramanandar’ and was very much interested to get RamaNama upadesam.
One day he approached the ashram and was waiting to have the darshan of ‘Shri Ramanandar’. In the mean-time the ashram inmates enquired him of his purpose of visiting the ashram. When Kabir Dasar confessed the true reason, they cited several reasons preventing Kabir Dasar from receiving the initiation. Even after repeated requests the ashram inmates did not allow him to have the darshan.
Utterly disappointed, Kabir Dasar went to the banks of Ganga and started crying profusely for having lost the opportune moment.
In the mean-time a strange incident takes place. ‘Shri Rama and Lakshamana’ come very near to the ashram premises refusing to come inside. When ‘Lakshmana Swami’ enquires of the reason, ‘Shri Rama’ tells that a sadhu(Kabir Dasar) was unfairly treated which prevents him. All this happens in the dhyana of ‘Shri Ramanandar’.
Immediately ‘Shri Ramanandar’ reaches out to the ashram inmates to inquire about the ‘Bhagavataapachara’. Carefully examining the occurrence of events he decides to initiate to Kabir Dasar. To perform anushtanam, ‘Shri Ramanandar’, singing the praises of ‘Shri Rama’, goes to the banks of river Ganges. Unintentionally while walking briskly, ‘Shri Ramanandar’ steps on the head of ‘Kabir Dasar’. Immediately ‘Shri Ramanandar’ shouts ‘SITA RAM’ and Kabir is blessed with both initiation and ‘Guru Sparsa’. Full of ecstasy Kabir transforms into ‘Kabir Dasar’. ‘Shri Anna’ narrated the entire chapter to only highlight the importance of guru bhakti.
Very soon because of guru krupa ‘Kabir Dasar’ was fully established in ‘Rama Bhakti’. Some people who had an evil mindset wanted to defame ‘Kabir Dasar’. They prepared a fake invitation, inviting millions of
people for a fest being arranged on by ‘Kabir Dasar’. ‘Kabir Dasar’ was completely oblivious of the invitation being sent. Since, people revered ‘Kabir Dasar’, all of them started coming to the fest. ‘Kabir Dasar’ joined with them and was fully immersed in ‘Rama Bhakti Samrajyam’ and thoroughly enjoyed the fest. Throughout the festival time ‘Kabir Dasar’ assumed somebody else to be organizer. But, one day he happened to see the invitation. He immediately broke down in tears having understood that the organizer was none other than ‘Lord Shri Rama’ himself who shouldered paramount responsibility in keeping up the reputation of ‘Kabir Dasar’.
‘Kabir Dasar’ being a householder(Grihasta) had a boy named ‘Kamal’. One day ‘Kamal’ informed his parents and went on a pilgrimage. When he visited ‘Pandaripuram (abode of Lord Pandurangan)’, aperson approached him to bless him with ‘Rama Nama Upadesa’. Immedately Kamal obliged. As Guru Dakshina that person offered an expensive jewel. Kamal did not accept it, stating the importance and purpose of ‘Bhagawan Nama’. Unable to persuade Kamal, that person put that jewel in Kamal’s case.
After finishing his pilgrimage, Kamal went back to his parents and happily recounted on his experiences. While Kamal was showing them the things he had collected, Kabir Dasar saw the twinkling jewel in his case. Becoming furious ‘Kabir Dasar’ demanded the reason. Kamal, who had absolutely no idea, suddenly recalled his conversation with an unknown person in ‘Pandaripuram’ and confessed everything. Completely angry ‘Kabir Dasar’, ordered the jewel to be given back as it’s the greatest sin to sell ‘Rama Nama’. Immediately Kamal came all the way back to ‘Pandaripuram’ and gave back the jewel. ‘Kabir Dasar’ immediately accepted Kamal’s mistake. This only proves that when great people discharge their anger on us, it only purifies us but not otherwise.
‘Shri Anna’ highlighted ‘Kabir Dasar’s’ true devotion to ‘Rama’ much to the delight of the devotees.
The discourse finished and the day culminated with Dolotsavam.
‘Shri Tulasi Dasar’ charitram and devotion reverberated on day 4. Tulasi Dasar was a gruhasta( a householder), married to ‘Ratnavali’. Once, he goes on a small pilgrimage and Ratnavali in the absence of Dasar, went to visit her parents. During those days there was a constant fear of woman being abducted and treated inhumanly. After completing his pilgrimage, Dasar grew anxious of his wife’s welfare. He swims across the river Yamuna, overcomes many environmental obstacles(flood etc), reaches the home town of Ratnavali and met her finally. Ratnavali chided for this and further told that the Lord Rama himself would have manifested had he bore the same devotion towards the lord.
These were not simple words in the life history of Tulasi Dasar. The words transformed him. A new chapter began in his life. He accepted his wife’s words equivalent to that of Guru’s words and from then started a new life replenished with devotion.
Tulasi Dasar stayed in kasi. He used to give fabulous discourses on ‘Srimad Ramayanam’. However, he also had a desire to rewrite Valmiki Ramayana. He started to rewrite in Sanskrit. While he continued writing something miraculous used to happen which is beyond the cognizance of human mind. Whatever he writes would get expunged from the leaves or pages on which he wrote. With an astonished and curious mind, he wanted to investigate the purpose of such occurrences. The next day, he finished translating a part of the Ramayana and was waiting for the text to disappear. Suddenly, the
text disappeared and Lord Shiva (Vishwanathar) appeared. Tulasi Dasar gets the first darshan of the sundara moorthy, who is love and divinity personified.
Lord shiva standing infront of Tulasi Dasar, insisted to translate the Ramayan into regional language (Hindi). From the next day, abiding by the will of the Lord, Dasar started translating the Ramayan into Hindi. It grew into a big epic named ‘RamCharitaManas’. Here, ‘Shri Anna’ spoke volumes of the importance of RamCharitaManas and how deeply its rooted in our sampradaya. At this stage of life, Tulasi Dasar gets the divine desire of seeing Lord Rama himself. He indulges in severe sadhana, to beget the darshan of the Lord. Generally, he would translate the Ramayan in the morning and give discourses after dusk.
With his desire getting stronger, he accidently liberates a brahma rakshasa. Immediately when asked to select a boon, he expresses his desire of Rama darshan. Unable to fulfill his desire, the Brahma Rakshasa gives a timely hint that Lord Hanuman is listening to his discourses in the guise of an old man. Tulasi Dasar then requests Lord Hanuman to grant him Rama darshan. Hanuman obliged and informed Dasar to be fully prepared for the great, divine moment. One day, in the late night, Dasar heard strange disturbances outside. He attributes the noise to some procession and shuts his door and eagerly waits for Lord Rama to come. Suddenly, somebody bangs his door from outside. Completely unwilling to participate with them, he does not open the door.
Next day, with a sorrow mind Dasar asks Lord Hanuman as to why Lord Rama did not come. Hanuman explained that Lord Rama with his entire group (Parivaram) consisting of mortals, devas, rakshashas came to your door step and constantly banged the door waiting for you to open. Understanding the sport played by Lord Rama, Dasar wanted to intensify his sadhana and goes to ‘chitrakutam’.
There, one day while he was preparing sandlewood paste on the banks of a river, two young lads request Dasar to apply the paste on their forehead. The two young lads were none other than Rama and Lakshmana, but Dasar was completely oblivious of this sport of the Lord. Lord Hanuman, who was secretly watching the entire scene in the guise of bird, immediately flew near Dasar and explained him the truth. Dasar, on knowing the truth, was completely exhilarated and jumped with joy. Though the lord himself came, his desire was to see Rama as he was in Ramaavatara ( with the Kodandam and charming smile along with Sita Devi and Lakshmana Swami). He decides to go back to Varanasi (Kasi).
Like other saints, he goes on a pilgrimage.
During his pilgrimage tour, he visits ‘Sri Brindavanam’ the abode of lord Krishna, who spent almost 10 years in his descent (as Krishnaavatara) protecting the cows and herds (Gopalan). Tulasi Dasar, was a stout, austere Rama bhakta. He never worshipped any body other than Lord Rama. To explain this subtle nuance in devotion, ‘Shri Anna’ beautifully explained the nature of ‘Paramaikantyam’. Even though Dasar was in Brindavanam he was indulged in Rama dhyana alone. Lord Krishna decided to play with Dasar. In his dhyana the Lord manifested his divine form with the flute as Lord Krishna. Dasar starts interacting with Krishna and says, ‘You look so beautiful. I am afraid, I might get enticed by your beauty that I might become a Krishna Bhakta. Please give me darshan as Rama’.
While the discussion in these regards went on, Lord Krishna in brindavanam out of love, casted himself as Rama and gave darshan to Tulasi Dasar. In this way, in SRI Brindavanam, Tulasi Dasar gets Rama darshan, the purpose of human life.
Today, the traditional trademark ‘Radha Kalyana’ utsavam was conducted. It started at sharp 8:30 AM with Unchavritti followed by Divya Namam and finally culminated with the astapati bhajan by all the bhagavatas. It was more of a visual treatise thus making verbal explanation difficult.
In the evening ‘Shri Anna’ started to give upanyasam on Ekanathar’s charitram. Ekanathar was a staunch devotee of the lord. From his initial days he had a deep longing to serve a guru honestly with a complete heart. With his devotion bearing fruit, he was directed by the lord to serve ‘Shri Janardhana Swami’. He became a disciple of Janardhana Swami, served him with full interest and devotion. This relentless service to the guru continued for twelve years but Janardhana Swami had not initiated Ekanathar even then.
A divine incident happens changing the course of Ekanathar’s life. Once, Ekanathar was trying to settle accounts related to the ashram. Despite repeated sincere efforts, the accounts accounted were not tallying. Patiently, Ekanathar started to try out various combinations to settle the accounts for that day. Suddenly a thought struck him and he was able to solve it. Immediately he felt very happy and his joy knew no bounds. Shri Janardhana Swami, his guru was silently watching the entire episode. He came nearby Ekanathar, asked him what he was doing. Ekanathar politely submitted the answer. Janardhana Swami burst into tears for having attained such a great disciple who was relentlessly serving him inspite of not being initiated into any spiritual practice. However, Ekanathar always considered this to be a great fortune ( Bhagyam) for getting the opportunity of staying in the shadow of Gurs’s grace. Such was the respect, humility these saints exhibited.
However, Janardhana Swami wanted to bless him disciple (Ekanathar). His upasana murthy was ‘Lord Dattatreya’. ‘Shri Anna’ here impeccably gave the meaning and significance of the word ‘Dattatreya’. There was a great rishi named Atri (He is also mentioned in Sri Ramayana, when Lord Rama during the exile visits Atri’s ashram and Sita devi herself tells Sita Kalyanam to anasuya) who wished for begetting a son equivalent to the Lord himself. Since none can parallel the Lord, god himself descended as his son and hence bearing the name ‘Datta’. Since he was born to Atri rishi his gotra was ‘Atreya’ and combining both of them we have the ‘Lord Dattatreya’.
Very soon, as wished by Janardhana Swami, Lord Dattatreya grants his vision to Ekanathar. Ekanathar was absolutely enthralled by the beauty of the Lord, however immediately he subdued this infinite happiness and goes back to the ashram, boils milk and reverently serves his guru Janardhana Swami as if nothing unnatural had happened. His guru was completely puzzled with this behavior of Ekanathar. This only signifies the unparalleled devotion Ekanathar had. Ekanathar served his guru for 12 years.
A little later, while Ekanathar was staying near the banks of Godavari, a small boy named ‘Krishna’ was very faithfully serving Ekanathar. This boy also served Ekanathar for 12 years. During this time, there was a mantrika who had the power to talk with god. He used to go to many kshetras and often talk with the Lord. In the course of his pilgrimage, he visits Pandaripuram the abode of Vittalan. He visits the shrine and to his shock he observes the lack of spiritual strength (sannidhya) inside the idol. Through dhyanam, he could understand the play of the Lord and he headed straightly to Ekanathar.
He went to Ekanathar and told: “The boy named Krishna, who is serving you is Krishna himself. He is none other than the Lord of the universe who came all along to serve you. I came to know of this in
Pandaripuram”. Ekanathar could not just believe himself. He could not believe the lord serving him. He scolded himself for not being able to recognize the Lord despite being so close to him all these days. He rushed inside and shouted Krishna, Krishnaaa, Krishnnaa but there was no response. He burst into tears considering the simplicity of the Lord who served him for 12 long years without revealing anything about his stature. Here, I am reminded of a small story from SrimadBhagavatam. In the 9th canto, in the Ambareesha Upakhyanam, when Durvasa Muni curses Ambareesha chakravarthy, the Sudharshana chakra comes to the rescue of Ambareesha. Unable to rescue himself, Durvasa Muni initially visits Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and finally goes to Lord Vishnu. In Vaikunta, while addressing sage Durvasa the first word the Lord Vishnu utters is “AHAM BHAKTA PARAADENAHA” which means I would do anything for my devotee, which is very clearly evident from Ekanathar’s Charitram.
Finally, before closing the discourse ‘Shri Anna’ told a captivating episode. There was a bad man, whod had the nasty habit of spitting at everyone. One day, he observed Ekanthar going for bath in river Godavari. After bathing, while Ekanathar was on his way, that man spit on his head. To his wonder, Ekanathar should no signs of anger, he was calm, composed and went back to river Godavari to take bath again. This cycle continued for almost 21 times but nothing could ever disturb the tranquility of Ekanathar. Understanding the greatness of Ekanathar that man also changed and led a life of virtue. Here, ‘Shri Anna’ quoted an important point. Though Ekanathar could find many other paths to reach his home, but didn’t select them as he wanted to change this man’s behavior. Such is the greatness of each and every thought of Avatara Purushas. Finally, ‘Shri Anna’ finished the discourse with this healthy message.
Today, in the first half, Sri Manni performed Tulasi Kalyanam singing Kalyana Astapati and other kritis.
In the Evening, it was ‘Panduranga Leelai’ and Shri Manni gave a Sangeetha Upanyasam. Before delving in to Panduranga Leelai, Shri Manni gave a small and crisp recap of the entire satsang we had till then. The ‘Panduranga Bhakta Vijayam’ is limitless, hence Shri Manni selected 3 devotees and started to elaborate. The first of them was ‘Paramahamsa Yogananda’.
Paramahamsa Yogananda was greatly inclined towards the Vandana (one of the nine-modes) of worship. Every day, he would go to the bank of Chandra Bagha, recite every sloka of BhagavadGeeta and prostrate to the lord chanting ‘Om Shri Pandurangaya Namaha’. This was his everyday upasana. 700 slokas and 700 prostrations everyday.
While this was continuing effortlessly, one day it was raining heavily. He hid himself in a corner since the hut was quite leaky. A merchant carrying clothes, was passing by his hut with a fear of getting drenched. Yoganandar saw this and asked him to come inside, offered him the place where he took shelter. The merchant was completely happy but Yoganandar was drenched completely. The merchant as a token of gratitude offered a piece of cloth to Yoganandar. Yoganandar accepted and went to ChandraBagha to carry out his dairy ritual.
Today, as he was wearing a silk cloth, a different thought struck him. Instead of prostrating completely he adjusted in such a way that the silk cloth wouldn’t get spoilt. This process continued for all the 700 slokas. However, after finishing his ritual, he couldn’t gain the usual happiness he would have every day.
He understood his fault for giving more importance to the silk cloth than to the Lord. He was full of tears, and with a heavy heart wanted to punish himself for having got attached to something that’s very trivial before the feet of the Lord. To punish himself he rented a bullock cart, tied himself to the cart and set the bulls free. Due to the brutal strength of the bulls, his body rubbed against uneven surfaces (rocks, plains etc) and very soon was drenched in blood and was severely injured. That moment a boy comes and rescues Yoganandar. When asked, Yoganandar explains everything. The boy immediately said that the Lord would definitely not like any of his devotees to undergo even slightest of pain. Yoganadar couldn’t comprehend the meaning and hence that boy directs Yoganandar to the holy shrine of ‘Shri Panduranga’.
Yoganandar comes rushing to the temple only to see Panduranga’s idol severely attacked and wounded. Yoganandar understood that the Lord himself bore his pain. Unable to digest that, Yoganandar pleads the Lord to heal himself of all wounds. Accepting his will, immediately the Lord was devoid of all wounds. He blessed Yoganandar with his divine, beautiful form. Shri Manni through this charitra highlighted the lord’s ease of access through decotion.
The second was the great ‘Shri Samartha Rama Dasar’. As everybody knows, Samartha Rama Dasar is the guru of Shivaji. He is highly revered for reviving back the Sanatana Dharma from the hands of Mughals and others. Similar to Tulasi Dasar, he was a staunch devotee of Rama. He never knew god other than Rama. He was constantly in the dhyana of Shri RamachandraMurthi. In his life time, he happened to come to Pandaripuram. Though in Pandaripuram, he never visited the temple as Shri Panduranga was Krishna himself.
But, the lord wanted to see him. As usual he starts playing with Rama Dasar.
One day, Shivaji approached Rama Dasar and informed that a big ceremony had been scheduled in the premises of Shri Panduranga and requested Rama Dasar to bless him with his presence. Understanding that his presence was indispensable he did not deny the request but made up his mind, not to see Panduranga. The next day he decides to go to the temple and expects a huge crowd. To his surprise, no crowd was to be seen and he could also not see any arrangements being made for any ceremony. He enquires with people and comes to know that the Lord himself came in the guise of Shivaji and invited him to the temple.
Rama Dasar’s mind trail changes. Initially he came with a strong mind to not enter the shrine of the Lord, but now as the Lord himself all the way down to invite him, Rama Dasar was captivated by the love showered by the Lord. He immediately goes inside and expects the Lord with one foot on the ground another in the air, with a flute near his mouth and adorned with a peacock feather on his head. To his mere surprise, he could not see any of this. The Lord was standing pretty simple, with two hands on his hips, with a beaming, charming smile, with the tilak on his forehead, offering his feet to all those who come to him. Rama Dasar was once again captivated by the beauty of the lord, and starts conversing.
‘Are you Rama or Krishna. I see absolutely no traits in you confirming you to be Krishna. I am pretty sure that you are Lord Rama himself. If that is so, why did you leave Ayodhya and come to Pandaripuram. Why did you leave the beautiful Sarayu river and come near the banks of ChandraBagha’. While the conversation goes on, the Lord forgets himself, casts himself as Rama and gives darshan much to the delight of Rama Dasar. The particular story is very much in sync with Tulasi Dasar’s experience in Shri Brindavanam.
Finally it was Kurma Dasar. Kurma means tortoise. So, we can make out that Kurma Dasar was devoid of limbs (hands and legs). Despite taunted with many challenges, he was undeterred. He had only one desire. He wanted to get the darshan of the Lord in Pandaripuram, on an ekadasi day. So, he made up his mind to travel to pandaripuram. Since, it was only a few days away from ekadasi, many people discouraged him calling his attempt to be futile. Kurma Dasar hardly paid heed to these words.
I am reminded of a small story from the Ramayana which can possibly explain the devotion of Kurma Dasar. In Ashokavanam, where Sita Devi stayed post abduction, was so beautiful, completely surrounded by tress bearing flowers and fruits of all types. The environment was so clear and picturesque. Apart from this Sita Devi was surrounded by rakshasas, who spoke very harsh words much to the disgust of a common man. However, Sita Devi’s reaction was completely different. She was neither enthralled by the serene environment nor irritated by those painful words. She maintained equanimity through the constant dhyana of Lord Rama (‘Ekastha HrudayaNoonam Ramam Eva Anupasyati’). Similar was the mental maturity of Kurma Dasar.
Very soon, he embarked on his favorite jouney to Pandaripuram. He could travel hardly five-ten kilometers a day owing to his bodily condition. One day, a small boy comes and starts conversing with Kurma Dasar. He comes to know the purpose of Kurma Dasar’s journey. So, everyday he would go some distance in advance, prepares roti, waits for Kurma Dasar and offers him the food he prepared. This continues and finally the day before Ekadasi arrives.
The boy who rendered self-less service to Kurma Dasar took leave from Dasar to avail the darshan of the Lord. Kurma Dasar happily obliged as he did not want to impede the darshan of others. However, he requested the small boy to inform the Lord that this age old devotee is very eager to get his darshan. The small boy nodded in acceptance and went to Pandaripuram. Kurma Dasar still had a long way to go. He was heart stricken and felt much defeated. ‘I could not go before time. Of what use is this body, if I don’t see the Lord’. He wept profusely and started prostrating before all devotes who were on their way back from Pandaripuram. Such was his devotion and he did not distinguish between the Lord and his faithful devotees.
Finally Ekadasi dawns. The entire town of Pandaripuram was in an ecstatic mood with colorful decorations. The puja of the Lord began, saints like Nama Devar, Gnaneshwarar started singing abhangs. The saints were able to notice that the Lord was silently trying to slip away from them. Oblivious of the reason they followed the Lord to an extent. They asked, ‘Where are you going on such an auspicious day. All your devotees are here longing to see you’. The lord replied: ‘Yes, its true many devotees have assembled but not one. I am missing my favorite devotee here who deeply longed to be here. I am going to see him’. Saying so, the Lord ran and jumped infront of Kurma Dasar. Kurma Dasar immediately hugged him not with his hand but with his heart. Tears trickled down his cheeks and could not speak out the happiness that he derived.
It’s true that words fall short by a great extent before these experiences.
Shri Manni thus concluded. Throughout the discourse, Shri Manni sang many songs aptly echoing the meaning of the story but I fail recall many of them.
Today was the last day in the satsangh. The discourse was about the divine marriage of Shri Andal. Shri Andal was one of the 12 azhwars who descended on earth in the early stages of Kali Yuga to propagate the significance of Nama Sankeerthanam.
Shri Manni started the discourse beautifully, reciting the taniyan of Periazhwar (Svasuram Amaravandhyam RangaNathasya Sakshaat) which hails the azhwar referring him to be the father-in-law of the Lord himself.
In the famous land of SriVilliPuttur there lived Periazhwar, who was otherwise known as Vishnu Chittar. His name itself signifies that he was in constant dhyana of Lord Vishnu. This is a very straight forward interpretation but SRI SRI Anna gave another meaning. He used to say that, Lord Vishnu was constantly remembering the azhwar and hence he was called as Vishnu Chittar. Every-day in the early morning, azhwar used to pluck tulasi (Basil) leaves, prepare a garland and used to submit it to the Lord. To simplify it he used to do Pushpa Kainkaryam.
One fine day, while he entered the lawn to pluck leaves, he heard the sound of a baby crying. He finally figured out that the baby was inside the lawn. He immediately follows the sound and finds the baby in the midst of the bushes. It was a female child with a beaming countenance. Azhwar names her as Kodai. Right from her initial days, Kodai was very much inclined towards bhakti. She exhibited great character and had a great reverence for SriMadBhagavatam. Every day, she used to ask a lot of questions about Lord Krishna and azhwar would tell all the associated stories with great feeling (Bhava). Unlike wordly people, her bhakti increased exponentially. She developed great interest towards the Lord and always wanted to talk, smile, see him eternally.
Eventually time flew and she attained the age fit to be married. In this phase of life, she developed Madhurya Bhakti (Marrying the lord himself). Whenever anybody asks her to get married, she immediately refutes stating her love with the Lord. Obviously people could not comprehend her devotion and start framing her to be either mad or struck with some mental disease. She accepts that she has a disease but says that the world can never understand or at-least guess the cure for her disease. She says that, she would be cured only if that Shyama Sundara (Lord Krishna) comes and accede to marry her. Such was her devotional fervor which is absolutely unfathomable.
Even though all of her kith and kin discourage her, azhwar encourages Shri Andal in bhakti as he knows the nature of the Lord. He advises kodai to perform the vratam that the gopi’s performed in the dwapara yuga. Azhwar was her father and guru. She starts the vratam immediately and continues for 30 days. Thus, we have the wonderful prabandham ‘Tiruppavai’. In the very first song, she tells that the Lord would give all of us a gift (Narayanane namakke parai taruvan). In the next few songs, she wakes up many of her friends asking them also to participate in the vratam. Thus Shri Manni analogically interpreted that Tiruppavai is a prabhandam which awakens us from ignorance. She completes the ceremony and waits for the Lord to come and marry her.
However one day Kodai did something unusual. Unable to bear the separation from the Lord, she decides to exchange the garland which azhwar submits to the Lord. She thought that exchanging garlands was primary in a wedding. She herself prepared the garland, wore it and stood before the mirror and spoke : ‘Oh Lord, please accept my garland. The moment you accept will flag our marriage.
’, saying so she humbly submits the garland to azhwar and requests him to go to the temple. Azhwar was completely unaware of this activity of Kodai. As usual he goes to the shrine and submits the garland. While the priest was about to submit it, he finds traces of hair in it and comes back angrily and gives it back to azhwar indicating it as a sin to submit a garland which was worn by somebody else. Azhwar could not believe it. This had never happened. He asked the lord to forgive and ran home.
In the meantime, Kodai was happily rejoicing thinking that the Lord would have accepted her request. At that moment azhwar comes home, angrily asks Kodai to not involve in childish pranks. He immediately prepares a garland of his own and rushes to the temple.
One can imagine the state of Kodai. She was completely heart broken. She thought, ‘If the Lord didn’t accept my garland itself how would he accept me. Till today I was only dreaming of his grace. It’s all day dreaming’. She considered her dreams to be shattered and started to weep profusely.
On the other side, azhwar reaches the temple and submits the new garland. While the priest was about to submit it, the Lord Ranganatha spoke : ‘Oh Azhwar, how come you fail to understand the love that your child Kodai has on me. She has been crying for me since her birth. Now I command you to bring the garland which has the fragrance of Kodai’s hair associated with it. Pls bring back that old garland, I don’t need this new one’.
Hearing the words of the Lord, azhwar was on cloud nine. He was so happy for his child who had attained the supreme. He rushes back to his house requests kodai to give the garland she had prepared. When asked why, he told that the Lord himself asked for your garland and would tell the rest once coming back from the temple. It is in this phase, that the azhwar names Kodai as ‘Shri Andal’. He takes the garland and the Lord accepts it with grace.
He comes back to his house, and informs Andal of the series of events that took place much to the delight of ‘Shri Andal’.
Azhwar is now assured that the Lord has accepted his child and waits for him to come explicitly. In this time, Andal is blessed with divine dreams, which depict the marriage between her and the Lord. The Lord blessed Andal to witness the entire marriage in her dreams itself. Shri Andal herself sings all of her experiences in a prabandham called Nachiar Tirumozhi.
Finally the day of the divine marriage comes. Azhwar was sitting outside his house and in some distance a big procession was going on. There was a huge crowd, with many pandits chanting the Veda and many people merrily carrying a palanquin. It appeared as if it was some marriage ceremony of some big personalities in the town. The crowd slowly came and assembled before the house of azhwar. A boy aged around 25 jumped out of the palanquin and started to converse with the azhwar.
The boy said, ‘Oh azhwar I know you very well. I have seen many many times in Sri Rangam. I came to know that you have a jewel and I am here to redeem it from you’.
The azhwar who didn’t look at the boy said, ‘I am very poor swami. I do not possess any jewel.’.
The boy said, ‘I know but I am not speaking of an ordinary jewel. I am here trying to refer to you Kanya Ratnam’.
The moment the boy said these words, azhwar suddenly looks up and recognizes who the boy is. The boy was none other than the Lord himself. Immediately he rushes inside and informs Shri Andal that the Lord has come all the way down for your marriage. She felt very happy but was never surprised because she had immense faith on the Lord. The marriage ceremony happens in accordance with the shastras threby crowning the azhwar to be the father-in-law of the Lord himself as reflected by his Taniyan.
The marriage finishes, Shri Ranganthar holds the hand of Andal, briskly walks to the shrine of Sri Rangam. He goes inside the sanctum sanctorum and lies down as the great Periya Perumal. Shri Andal was shocked by this, but thought that she had the authority. Hence she climbed over the adisesha, and catches hold of the feet of the Lord. Immediately, she becomes one with the Lord. She becomes on with that paran-jyoti.
After all this happened, azhwar reached the premises of the Lord and started weeping. He was both happy and sad. He was happy for his child who attained the supreme but sad that he could not reach the feet of the Lord. His heart craves to get liberated. The Lord who is ever compassionate told azhwar to construct a temple for him and Shri Andal. Azhwar completed the command of the Lord and he also merged with the Lord.
Shri Manni, throughout the discourse sang many songs aptly adhering to the scenario.
Thus the Satsangh completed with the divine union of the Lord, Shri Andal and Periazhwar.
There can be many factual inaccuracies in the report with respect to both story and bhava. I request all elders to forgive me in case any of them persist.
I also sincerely pray to SRI SRI ANNA to bless the SatSangh to endure effortlessly through the grace of the Lord.
SHRI HARAYE NAMAHA
Compiled by SRIRAM KUMAR RAVI