THE SWEET DEVOTIONPROF. CHITTOOR S NARAYANAN NAMBOODIRIPAD
OM SRI GURUBHYO NAMAH:The blazing brilliance of Vedantha Philosophy drove away the slithering evil of the slimy darkness ofignorance. Sankara, the Jagadguru, 12 centuries ago, wielded that trident of Wisdom, like Sankara,the God of Dissolution. His spiritual Digvijaya, conquest, to establish the pre-eminence of Advaitharevitalised the senile and besieged Hinduism.We lighted the Adi Sankara Jyothi on 21.04.1988, the 1200th birthday of Adi Sankara(788-820)atKaladi, his birthplace. With the benign blessings of Their Holinesses, Mahasannidhanam AbhinavaVidya Theertha Mahaswamigal and Sannidhanam Bharathi Theertha Mahaswamigal, we are takingthe Jyothi to Kedarnath, where Adi Sankara attained Videhamukthi.Blessed Athman, we have great pleasure to present this booklet on the occasion of this joyous JyothiDigvijaya.In the service of Sankara,SARADA SEVA SAMITHI
Other Books by the Same Author:The Abode of WisdomAithihya SampudamAithihya SanchayamNarayana NavakasThe True Blue FlameThe Abode of ExcellenceRakshassinte PrathikaramParadevatha UpasanaSarvangabhinayam
THE SWEET DEVOTIONPROF. CHITTOOR S NARAYANAN NAMBOODIRIPAD SARADA SEVA SAMITHI, KALADI, KERALA.
Published by: Sarada Seva Samithi, Kaladi. Kerala.Copyright: The AuthorNo of copies: 4000Price: Rs.4.00First Edition: December 1988Printed at: Saraswathy Printers, Cherpu
FOREWORDI had the sublime experience of addressing a very distinguished audience in the PravachanaMandir of Sri Sarada Peetham, Sringeri, during the 12th Centenary Celebrations of AdiSankara Bhagavatpada. It should have made me quake with fear since I had to stand beforeSaradamba, the Goddess of Wisdom and Sri Sankara, the Sarvajna. But it did not. What had Ito fear? My Guru, the Jagadguru, His Holiness Mahasannidhanam Abhinava Vidya TheerthaMahaswamigal was seated on his throne of wisdom with an enchanting smile – like a fondfather encouraging his baby to take a few faltering steps. Surely, it was a blissful experiencefor me. My address was rather short, just a comic interlude between the scholarly speechesof several Mahamandaleswar Swamijis and the divine Anugrahabhashana of the Jagadguru.Call me, if you like, a vain peacock but this booklet is based on my address at Sringeri –embellished with more ideas but substantially the same. If my words be slurred or senselessI hope my Guru will forgive me with an indulgent smile. I know how benevolent he is! I placethis booklet at the lotus feet of His Holiness Mahasannidhanam.Prof. Chittoor S Narayanan Namboodiripad
Offered at the Lotus Feet OF MY GURU, THE JAGADGURUHIS HOLINESS MAHASANNIDHANAMSRI SRI ABHINAVA VIDYA THEERTHA MAHASWAMIGAL of Sri Sarada Peetham, Sringeri.
THE JAGADGURUSH H MAHASANNIDHANAM SRI SRI ABHINAVA VIDYA THEERTHA MAHASWAMIGAL H H SANNIDHANAM SRI SRI BHARATHI THEERTHA MAHASWAMIGAL
THE SWEET DEVOTIONTwelve centuries ago, Kaippilly Sankaran Namboodiri, a precocious youngster from a remotevillage of Kerala called Kaladi proclaimed: “Aham Brahmasmi” – “I am the Absolute Truth!”That was a dark period for Hinduism; the misguided people, in search of fickle materialpleasures, had fallen on evil ways and black practices. Buddhism and Jainism were gainingground and someone had to reassert the supremacy of t he Vedic wisdom and rejuvenatethe senile Hinduism. Adi Sankara Bhagavatpada, the exponent of Advaitha philosophy didthat.Adi Sankaracharya, the Universal Guide, proved beyond all reasonable doubts, that themicrocosmic soul is the absolute macrocosmic soul even though a man who identifieshimself with this gross body cannot realise the truth. The Jagadguru’s famous simile of theGhatakasa, the sky within a crock, illustrates this. There is no difference between the infinitesky and the small space within the crock. A thin layer of dried clay might apparently dividethem for a while but once that shell cracks, the non-duality becomes evident; so too is thecase of the cosmic and the individual souls. The attributeless Absolute Truth isincomprehensible since ‘eyes cannot see, words cannot explain and even the mind cannotencompass Him’. ‘He is the Truth, the Wisdom and the Infinity’ but He is beyond all qualitieslike colour and form so that the five sense organs of man fail to know that transcendentTruth.An academic knowledge of the non-duality of the macrocosmic and the microcosmic souls isnot enough, just as an exhaustive study of musicology does not a singer make. Even whenevery note is meticulously accurate, a song falls flat unless he can energise it with Bhava,mood, and lilting grace. Likewise, we need an intuitive realisation to know and really feel theAdvaitha philosophy. That is the difference between the Sankaran Namboodiri who gracesthe idol at Sringeri and this Narayanan Namboodiripad who is just another weak mortalteased by desires and despairs. When Adi Sankara proclaimed, “I am the Absolute Truth!”,he was that – a Godman liberated from biting material shackles. That was exactly why hewas the preceptor of the universe. But even if this Namboodiripad repeats those words,parrot like, a thousand times, he will remain a prosaic Professor who tries to hide hisignorance with thundering words. We need a true blue liberation of the soul to reach thatpinnacle of Sankaracharya where we are beyond pleasure and pain.A legend from Kerala about the Godman Pakkanar makes this difference between a trulyliberated soul and a pretender clear. Once he was on one of his frequent travels through aforest. The tropical sun was harsh and he reached a small hut on the roadside where abronze-smith was working. The smith had some molten bell metal in a pot which was so hotthat he had to use a long pair of tongs to hold it. Pakkanar went up to tell him that he was
very thirsty and wanted something to drink. He wanted the molten metal to quench histhirst! Incredible! Yet that was exactly what the Godman wanted. The smith was aghast atthis request, and naturally, refused to comply. But Pakkanar insisted and very reluctantlythe smith extended the pot. Without the least hesitation, the Godman drank some of thered-hot liquid and wonder of wonders, it was like cold water to him. With a satisfied belch,he thanked the smith for the soothing drink, while that pop-eyed man tried to convincehimself that it was no fantastic dream. By this deed Pakkanar demonstrated thecharacteristics of an Advaitha philosopher.A true Advaithin is not bound by the laws of nature – fire cannot scorch him nor can painbother him in the least. He is the master of nature since he realises its illusory nature. OncePadmapadacharya, responding to his master’s call from the opposite banks of the riverGanges, walked over the hurrying waters. A lotus rose up from the waters at every step andthe soft petals held him up. Definitely he was Adi Sankara’s disciple! A pretender who learnsAdvaitha as an intellectual exercise, or a good, logical argument or even as an old theory toaccept blindly, is a mere mortal in the spiritual sense. Despite all his scholasticity he remainsa weak aspirant. The Godman exists at a higher, supernatural level; he realises how he isBrahman and that makes him divine. The pretender is not that and that is why Sri Sankaraspecifies the qualities that make one fit to become a student of Advaitha philosophy. Hemust have the wisdom to differentiate between the true and the false. He must renouncethe benefits of all deeds and restrain the mind and the five senses. Th complete faith in therevealed wisdom of the Vedas, he concentrates on perfect liberation. The Acharya’scommentary on Brahma Suthra proclaims that such a person alone can try to realiseBrahman. Of course, to know Brahman is to become Brahman. Sankara makes it aprecondition which means that the others remain pretenders only.How can a man become an Advaithin? For a Gowdapada or Sankaracharya, the path is not arutted track full of dizzying hairpin curves leading to a cul-de-sac. Such blessed souls tread awide, sunlit road singing the Vedic hymns, knowing full well their own omnipotence. Suchblessed souls but appear rarely indeed. As Vedas explain, He is Truth, Wisdom and Infinity.Our sense organs can analyse and know something only when the object has qualities likecolour, smell or form. Brahman is beyond all that and an objective study is impossible. TheUpanishads say that even Yama, the God of Death and Varuna, the God of Water could notteach that Wisdom objectively, using the prosaic intellectual tools. Where an outwardobservation is impossible, a student has to turn his vision inwards, by a kind of third eye,and develop his intuitive powers. He can, to some extent, use the technique of elimination,the negative method where he learns that the various material objects do not constitute theAbsolute Truth. Sankara Bhagavatpada argued with the different schools of thought like thePoorvameemamsa and proved that the only way to God-realisation is the Jnana Yoga, thePath of Wisdom. Rituals cannot do it, as he convinced Mandana Misra. That was howMandana became Sankaracharya’s disciple and the head of the Sri Sarada Peetham ofSringeri, under the name Sureswaracharya.
The Jnana Yoga, Wisdom which is indisputably the sole path is rather unapproachable forthe ordinary man. He may have to strive and strain through years of patient meditation anddisciplined rituals as a preparatory stage. We all know that music at its best is the tendermelody of vibrant emotion. For a blessed singer, it is a bubbling spring coming out of adevoted heart; almost identifying himself with Nada Brahmam, God manifesting as sound.Yet a talented boy needs elaborate voice-culture to prepare himself for that mellifluousflight of Raga delineation. Just as he repeats each note of the octave for years, a simple manhas to imbibe the culture of spiritualism ere he tries to tear away the veil of illusion. BhakthiYoga, devotion, is this spiritual culture. We know that the voice culture is not music, so toothe devotion which is the culture of Wisdom. Or, is it? A connoisseur might argue that thetraining strains of a gifted singer is better than the music of the second rate performers. At aparticular level of excellence we are aware of a quantum leap from the set movement of theRaga to pure musical bliss but it is hard to say how or when. So too with Bhakthi and JnanaYoga.The starting point is renunciation. “Thena Tyakthena Bhungeetha” as the Upanishad puts it.The rejection of the tempting world and the abstinence from illusory thrills, a mere negationof the stampeding thoughts cannot be called renunciation. If we stagnate through sheerlaziness or hibernate through lack of drive, it is not renunciation. An idiot has a kind of placiddetachment as he slumbers through a bewildering panorama of life. Above all, thenumbness of defeatism is not renunciation. The ascetic discipline can never be such anegative approach. A Yogi sitting cross-legged in the isolation of an unscalable peak isneither ignorant of the pleasures of the society below nor too senile to revel in it. He showssupreme dynamism and daring as he concentrates on his goal of liberation. His approach isvery positive and very determined. The goal is very vivid and single-mindedly he goes for it.His concentration is so unwavering that he forgets everything else. He simply scorns thewayside ventures and steamrolls his way on. Arjuna, the archer-prince of Mahabharatha,had that kind of concentration when he shot his arrows. The epic gives the allegorical storyof how Drona, his Guru, tested his wards. He fixed a target and asked all his disciples toconcentrate upon it but they could see not only the target but the surrounding scene also.Arjuna alone could concentrate so well as to exclude everything else. No wonder, Arjunaalone could bring the target down. The perfect student is the one who can see the bull’s eyebecause if he is aware of extraneous factors, his arrow takes a wayward course. A sprinteraiming at the world record cannot afford to look round to enjoy the bounties of nature. Hemust use all his faculties to reach the tape. The ascetic is like that; he wants the ultimatebliss and his determination to reach that pedestal is so fierce that he scorns to tarry awhileto taste the excitement of earthly existence. It is not escapism, nor the crippled retreat of adejected man into a world of despondency. Nor is it the senile sloth of a person withoutenthusiasm and enterprise. The ascetic might apparently be careless of even his obligatoryduties but that is a mistaken impression because it is the determination and dedication thatmakes him meditate exclusively on his goal. He knows how illusory the world is and does
not care to be smothered in it when he knows the ecstasy ahead. He does not identifyhimself with his gross body, or groping intellect; instead, delves deeper into that fourth,vibrant state; beyond the subconscious, a state of superconsciousness where he is aware ofthe cosmic soul as his own. The layman, driven by the shallow consciousness fears thelurking dangers; the wise who controls the subconscious is at peace with himself and thesuperman who is the master of the superconscious mind enjoys perfect bliss. The asceticknows that and checks the promptings of the grasping mind. That is Vairagya, renunciation.Often, great men, aided by the fund of virtue they have earned in previous births, choosethe path of spiritualism. The Jagadguru Sankaracharya himself cut off his mundane ties atthe age of eight when he realised the evanescent nature of the happiness that othersfondled. His widowed and heart-broken mother tried to dissuade him since he was her onlyprop in life. One day, while taking his ritualistic dip in the river Poorna, a crocodile caughthold of him while his hapless mother stood on the bank, at the site of the present SringeriSankara Math. Sri Sankara called out to his mother that his mortal life was at an end and theonly way in which he could save the body for the time being was to accept the ascetic vowswhich meant a new life. The poor mother had to agree and Sankaracharya went out into theworld as the master of Advaitha philosophy. But then, Sankaracharya was no ordinarymortal; he was the incarnation of Sankara, the Lord of Dissolution, the presiding deity of themassive sanctum sanctorum of the Vadakkumnatha Temple of Trichur. The Sankaracharya’sof Sringeri Sarada Peetham, Their Holinesses Mahasannidhanam Abhinava Vidya TheerthaMahaswamigal and Sannidhanam Bharathi Theertha Mahaswamigal, the spiritual heirs ofSankaracharya, also realised the folly of the mud-spattered world and carnal cravings andsought asceticism as small boys. I believe that they must have inexhaustible reservoirs ofvirtue from previous births. His Holiness Mahasannidhanam belonged, before his Sanyas, toa branch of the family which gave birth to that divine composer Saint Thyagaraja. Not a badancestor to show the spiritual path!The normal man usually pursues wisdom only when a seemingly cruel fate kicks him out ofhis complacency, his endless circle of daily routine. We often wonder why fate is so sadisticto virtuous men. The economists speak of a big push to make a static economy that spinsround a vicious cycle of poverty to take-off into a dynamic one. A steady push is not goodenough; it can give temporary relief only to the economy. A sudden, violent push aloneraises it from the rut. So too here, a man needs a big kick by a particularly harsh fate tobreak him away from the spiritually static state. An aeroplane lumbers along the runwayindefinitely unless a sudden acceleration enables it to take-off into the air. We know andlike the hard ground on which our lives run and moves on comfortably, confidently. We getthe momentum and the inflexible will to rise above the pastures we love only when wesuffer a hard kick. A painful, heart-breaking kick that ultimately raises us to sublime bliss!Melpathur and Poonthanam, two great Godmen of Kerala had such experiences.
Poonthanam Namboodiri from Angadippuram lost his only son under tragic circumstances.Shattered by that traumatic event, he sought solace at the lotus feet of Lord Krishna of theGuruvayoor temple. His grief was so intense that he forgot everything else and his devotionwas so pure that he was able to exclaim “When Lord Krishna plays in my mind, what needfor a boy of my own?” Indeed, the playful Lord did dance in his heart and stirring poemsflowed out of Poonthanam’s heart. He was happy! Melpathur Narayanan Bhattathiri was asuperb scholar in the full bloom of his youth when paralysis laid him low. Wracked by pain,he was carried to Guruvayoor. Every day, as a part of his penance, he fashioned ten Slokas inpraise of the Sustaining Lord. His physical infirmity opened his intuitive eyes and by the endof thousand Slokas he became a healthy Godman. And, he could see Lord Guruvayoorappanin every devotee who came there. Lord Krishna must have been in his playful mood since Hemade Melpathur a great scholar-poet, second only to Sankara Bhagavatpada himself. Thebig kick was physical for Melpathur and mental for Poonthanam but in either case, it wasstrong enough to make them dynamic disciples of spiritualism.A devastating kick of ill-luck, by itself, does not make us take off, we simple go mad orbecome crippled in character unless we have the culture to make us receptive. We have tofine-tune ourselves by listening to philosophical discourses, chanting hymns, serving God inHis manifest forms and the like. The agony that breaks the misguided person elevates theman trained to the devotional path into a superman. A scientist needs years of workaholicstudy and analysis before embarking upon the exciting odyssey of fundamental researchand a philosopher needs disciplined training before he unravels the mystery of the abidingjoy. Once he gains sufficient momentum, a big kick can raise him to the rarefiedstratosphere of Advaitha philosophy, well beyond the gravitational pull of the earth; wherehe orbits free with the twinkling stars of the heavenly pantheon. Anyway, Bhakthi Yoga giveswings to the soul and helps reach the Advaitha.The uninitiated might think that the Bhakthi Yoga is based on sheer idolatry, a blind worshipof all kinds of mysterious deities. Verily, the very large number of deities seem confusing. Toworship an Elephant-God or a Fish-God seems ridiculous. A vain thinker might exclaim thatit is absurd to worship God’s creations as God, nay, it is blasphemy. It is easy to sneer at themagnitude that he cannot comprehend. That is the ever present problem with Hinduism; itis too deep for a man with short breath; or worse, for those who cannot swim. The ancientsaints sang mellifluous hymns to propitiate Indra who wields the lightning as his weapon orVaruna, the Rain-God or Agni, the Fire-God. But we have to pity the cynic who calls thembarbarians worshipping unknown natural forces regarding them Gods. Did they not lack thesharp, realistic vision of modern science which explains the wind and the sun, even thoughthey paraded enchanting patterns of imagery? Awed worship of fierce natural forces is notdevotion. The detractors of Hinduism and the Bhakthi Yoga fail to follow the magnificentallegorical significance of these hymns. Maybe the critics lack the intellect to encompass thewisdom or maybe they are wilfully obtuse; but ignorant they certainly are.
The Thanthric lore explains the principles of idol worship and temple offerings.“Sivamathmani Pasyanthi, Prathimasu Na Yoginah: Ajnanam Bhavanarthaya Prathimah:Parikalpithah:” The ascetic perceives Lord in his own soul; not in the icons. The icons are forthe ignorant to meditate upon. The truly wise who knows the Omnipresence of Godbelieves that God cannot be present everywhere and yet be absent in himself. He cannothave a separate existence from God. He perceives God in all His glory within himself. But alayman is too weak to meditate upon or invoke that divinity within himself. He needs someaid, hence the idol. He does not try to propitiate the granite image or the God who trulypossesses the physical characteristics of the icon. Instead, he begs the attributeless God tograce the sculpted stone. No doubt, God is in the icon also; rather, the icon is not a differententity from God. Kind Father that He is, He has to grace the icon with great intensity whenHis devotees beg Him. The icon might be a hard stone, but the chief priest invokes Hiseffulgence and through his Yogic power and psychic pull, seats Him there. He does create abody for God in the idol, a Manthramaya Sareera – a body made up of mystic syllables andhymns. He propitiates not the stone image but the Manthra-God he himself creates! Wheninnumerable devotees chant hymns and prostrate in front of it, God has to be there. That isa fundamental aspect of Bhakthi Yoga, God is the personification of Love and is always readyto oblige His devotees. He assumes any aspect they want Him to – through Manthras.Prahlada, a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, proclaimed that He is everywhere, even in a mere,faceless pillar. Lo! He did manifest there in the extra-ordinary guise of a half-lion, half-manform. The idol represents God just as a photograph represents a man’s face. That is whyHindus often use paintings to help them in their prayers. The ancient temple of Perinchellurhas a beautiful painting on the wall within the sanctum where devotees invoke God knowingfull well that it is nothing but the masterpiece of a talented artist.In Kerala, some of the priests sing a special hymn while they perform the Pooja rites “YeDevasow Divyekadasasthe...” This Manthra states clearly that the idol represents all theDivine forces of the universe, the upper and the nether world. He offers boiled rice, not tothe stone image before him, not the finite form that resembles him, but to the infinitedivine power present everywhere. Even the rice has allegorical implications; it is the productof the Five Elements. Manthras enrich it in the esoteric sense with the nectar of Gods andthe quintessence of worldly sweetness as also energise it with his own devotion. The idolcannot gorge Himself upon the small quantity of rice; even a child knows that and the wisepriest tries to offer it only as an allegorical sacrifice of all that he loves to consume. At thesublimest level this Pooja is self-sacrifice, the dedication of the self to God. He offersdeathless devotion which is so dear to God! That is why Sankaracharya sang “JapoJalpassilppam Sakalamapi Mudra Virachana...” “May my mutterings be Manthras; hand-gestures the gestures of Pooja; my walk the circumambulation; food, offerings to You...”Maybe God does have desires! Does He not want the love of His children since without thatvirtue even He cannot bless the sinners? He is, without doubt a doting Father, but He has tobe a just one and cannot bless the sinners. That saint Vyasa seems to smile when he
describes how Lord Krishna destroyed the killer-elephant, Kuvalayapeetham. Krishna’swicked uncle, Kamsa had tried to crush Him by releasing the maddened pachyderm at hisnephew. Lord Krishna playfully caught hold of the huge tusks and swung the mammothanimal thrice around Him before killing it. Death by Krishna’s hands meant salvation andKuvalayapeetham had not deserved it. That must be why Krishna forcibly made itcircumambulate Him by swinging it round. That was virtue enough for the poor elephant’ssalvation!The Hindu saints knew very well that the Sun and the Fire were but different benignmanifestations of God. Yajurveda says that the Brahman, the Absolute Truth is attributelessOmnipotent but manifests Himself as the sky, then the wind and from that, as fire, waterand earth – grosser forms displaying more qualities. So the Vedic hymns are definitely notthe fearful wails of the simpletons, scared of unknown nature. In fact, the expression “God-fearing man” is the most misleading phrase. To fear God is the worst kind of spiritualism; akinked, perverted way for a devotee. Perhaps, it is something worse. A religious fanatic whowants to convert others to his own half-baked theories threatens dire punishments fromavenging God who destroys all those who do not obey all his thousand and one perversecommands. God is love, He is the endless bliss, as the Vedas assert.A devotee knows the Brahman, in His transcendent state is formless and that is whyPurushasooktha invokes Lord with a thousand heads, a thousand hands and a thousandlegs. We cannot take this piece in its literal sense; it would be very awkward for Lord tosport such a figure. The savants had their own special language and the word ‘thousand’ inthe allegorical sense invariably meant infinite. So then, the transcendent effulgence ofBrahman is Omniscient, Omnipotent and Omnipresent. Heads, hands and legs indeed! StillHe towers above this limitation (limitation, indeed!)of infinity. “Poornasya, PoornamadayaPoornameva Vasishyathe” “Take away infinity from infinity; infinity remains” theUpanishads insist. A devotee can beg Him to display one of those infinite qualities in Hisimmanent form. Often, the temple deities have this spiritual specialisation! We have thegreat Sastha temple of Thiruvullakkavu, Cherpu, where He manifests Himself as the God ofWisdom. The massive Erattayappan temple of Peruvanam has the Omnipotent blessing thechildren as merciful, smiling parents – Siva and Sakthi. They give prosperity and thelongevity to enjoy it in full. This is because great Godmen have lived there invoking thoseparticular traits. Sankara Bhagavatpada illustrates this principle charmingly in his SowndaryaLahari, a small poem of a hundred stanzas. Each stanza invokes special favours. Thus thestanza “Kirantheemamgebhyah” begs to cure bodily ills and “Thanuchayabhisthe” makeshim an attractive personality. We know that Brahman, being above all qualities, can assumeall when the devotees beg Him. We have the famous story of Sankaracharya’s‘Kanakadharasthavam’. Sri Sankara, a small boy at that time, went to the neighbouringBrahmin house; seeking some food, as neophytes always did. Unfortunately, thehouseholder was so poor that he could give nothing to Sri Sankara except a gooseberry. Apious and philanthropic man, he was very unhappy that he could not feed his guest
properly. Touched by the magnanimity and poverty of the householder, Sankaracharya sangthe famous poem ‘Kanakadharasthavam’ praising the Almighty as Lakshmi, the Goddess ofWealth. Of course, he knew that Brahman was not imprisoned in a feminine form. He simplybegged to appear in that specific form, that of an all-providing Mother. Rather, herequested the good God the boon of prosperity, that particular benediction to demonstratethe urgent desire to help the virtuous devotees. And Lo! A shower of gold pellets resemblinggooseberries fell on that householder. From then on, that house was called Swarnath Mana,the house of gold. Sankaracharya knew that householders need divine help for materialwealth even if a superman like himself was beyond all that. It might seem rather paradoxicalthat the master of Advaitha, the unbending prophet of the attributeless God wrote so manypoems praising the different deities of the pantheon. But then, he was the Jagadguru, thepreceptor of the whole world and had to guide even the flabby intellectuals who could notscale the dizzy heights of Advaitha. He had to make them spiritually powerful, first, hencethe need for the hymns to the deities. Snakaracharya did not need that Bhakthi Yoga, theman in the streets did.Is it not ridiculous to enumerate all the specific desires to the Omniscient? He knows betterthan the petitioner himself. Or is it not wrong to ask them since the savants advice tocontrol the carnal cravings? A Yogi alone can lead an austere life, a householder, motivatedby the needs of his domestic strife and social obligations, will always have desires. Indespair, he has no one else but God as his last hope. It is not despicable, either, since itleads him to God. Usually, unbearable pain, both physical and psychic or vaulting ambitionmakes him a devotee. The more desperate he is, the greater the intensity of his devotion. Asa preliminary step, it is welcome. The goal is wrong and perhaps the way too might featuredangerous curves, yet he comes to the fold and God Himself will see to it that he getsproper directions. By-and-by the mind becomes purer and finally, it brings about liberation.We have a legend in Kerala, to elucidate this spiritual progress. It also illustrates the effectof chanting special Manthras that beg Brahman assume specific attributes. Since theManthras invoke a deity, an attribute, it immediately grants the boon. But in the long run, itguides him to the state of a Jeevan Muktha. Uddanda, a great scholar from outside Keraladominated the famous court of Manaveda Raja, the Zamorin of Calicut. Year, after year, heused to win all the rich prizes offered for the various branches of learning, as a matter ofroutine. The Keralites did not like it and wanted a champion of their own to challenge anddefeat Uddanda. A large group of patriots chanted the Bala Manthra and prepared somerice spiritually energised by it. This they gave to a pregnant woman who, in due course, gavebirth to a boy, Kakkasseri Bhattathiri. The Bala invokes the Supreme manifesting Himself asthe Goddess of Learning and Kakkasseri Bhattathiri had to be a precocious genius. Even as asmall boy, he defeated Uddanda. Now, we might argue that those who chanted theManthra had only one aim, to destroy the pride of an outsider who had crushed them- not alofty ideal by any means. But the story had a sequel. By the time Kakkasseri Bhattathiri hadpassed his teens, he became a thorough-going exponent of the Advaitha Philosophy.
Eventually, the Manthra effulgence in him took him to the level of a Jeevan Muktha. Let thegoal be selfish and base to begin with, that does not matter as long as that takes him todevotion. Once he dedicates himself to God, He will make sure that he does not totter orgo-off into a cul-de-sac. The beginner might run round a bewildering maze awhile buteventually he will reach the divine path and then that final release of a Jeevan Muktha.The path of devotion is the preliminary step that prepares one for the free flight into thepath of wisdom. Sankaracharya himself uses the word Nididhyasana, meditation where theelement of self-sublimated love is not very prominent. There is something very interestingabout the base itself; the devotion itself is so blissful that seemingly, it can become the goal.I am very proud to state that I am a humble devotee of Bhagavathy, the presiding deity ofthe temple of Cherpu Padinjattumuri. There the Almighty reveals Herself as deified Love.She is a proud Mother, proud of the devotion of Her children and their excellence. Lying inthe lap of Maternal care, savouring of the dulcet Love, I refuse to tear away the caressingveil which makes one realise the attributeless Truth. I do not want to grow and becomeconscious of my own power; to remain Her baby for ever is so sweet. A weak, helpless baby,whom the Mother has to suckle! The grown-up youth might be able to stand on his ownlegs, strong enough to work out his own destiny. But Her baby is infinitely stronger since Sheis obliged to work for the baby. As Mahishasuramardini, the explosive kinetic power, She didit once. She does it always! Pardon me, if I wilfully pretend to slumber in my Mother’s lap;the warmth is so soothing. Oh, I want to see Her smile that makes my heart dance withunfettered joy.Saint Valmiki gives this idea in the form of a story. Lord Rama conquered Lanka killing themighty ten headed demon, Ravana, his sleepy brother Kumbhakarna and the warrior sonIndrajit and returned to Ayodhya, his capital city. There he was crowned with all pomp andglory. Lord Rama then bade his greatest devotee and unbeatable lieutenant Hanuman tobeg for any boon that he wanted. Any boon, bar none; and Hanuman wanted just one thing-devotion. Undying devotion to Lord Rama! What more could anyone want? It was bliss! Iknow why Sankara Bhagavatpada wrote so many devotional poems. Was he not theJagadguru? He surely wanted his innumerable disciples to sip the nectar of Divine Love.Who can resist a beatific smile after chanting the “Ardhanareeswara Sthotra”? By and by, hewill spring up like the irresistible Ganges from the frozen Himalayas and shout “Sivoham,Sivoham!”My Guru, the Jagadguru Mahasannidhanam Abhinava Vidya Theertha Mahaswamigal andhis spiritual heir Sannidhanam Bharathi Theertha Mahaswamigal have willed that I shouldbring you this message. I beg you to study some of the Bhakthi Yoga Stothras of SankaraBhagavatpada. I beg you to go to the nearest temple and chant the appropriate set of thosehymns, at least once every month. Sankaracharya has wonderful hymns like the SivaBhujamga and Sivaparadha Kshamapana for Siva temples and Vishnu Bhujamgaprayatha forthe Vishnu temples. No one need convince us the extra-ordinary efficacy of these; we need
only know that the Jagadguru wrote them. Once again, with the blessings of theSankaracharyas of Sringeri, I beg every Hindu to popularise Adi Sankara’s devotional poems.We know that the Prasthanathraya, the commentaries of the Brahma Suthra, the tenUpanishads and the Gita form the blazing trident of Hindu wisdom to banish the darkness ofignorance, the knowledge that creates Godmen. To learn them should be our greatestambition, we know. Yet most of us find them unscalable and incomprehensible. We have tomake a start and so let us begin with the brilliant Stothras of Bhagavatpads. Let us followthe colourful beacon that the supreme Guide holds for us. Let us prostrate at the feet ofthat Guide so that he might lift us up in his strong, protective hands. Surely, he is the masterof Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution. The best way to propitiate him is to repeat hisStothras. Come, let us chant them in the abode of Gods.Salutations to Sankara, Lord Sankara!