Spirituality Insight

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Many are the names of God, and infinite the forms that lead us to know Him. In whatsoever name or form you desire to call Him, in that very form and name you will see Him – so taught Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, the ascetic who often lost himself in divine ecstasy.

By Madhuri.Y

orn in Kamarpukur in West Bengal to a poor Brahmin family as Gadadhar Chattopadhyay, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a 19th century mystic who taught that God-realisation is the supreme goal. He later became the priest at the Kali temple in Dakshineshwar.

By the time his wife, Sarada Devi joined him, Ramakrishna had become a sanyasi and she became his devout follower. While the lady ascetic, Bhariavi Brahmani introduced him to tantra, the monk, Totapuri introduced him to Advaita Vedanta’s non-dualism – Brahman alone is real, and the world is illusory; I have no separate existence; I am that Brahman alone.

Teaching through parables, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa reached out to many. He also practised Islam and Christianity for a brief period. With Swami Vivekananda as his disciple, he was instrumental in propagating the truth that all religions are valid despite their differences.

One Manifestation
Once, a dispute arose among the learned men in the court of the Maharaj of Burdwan. The question was who was the greater deity, Shiva or Vishnu? Some gave preference to Shiva, others to Vishnu.

Dakshineshwar-Temple

When the dispute grew hot, a wise pandit addressed the King: “I have neither met Shiva nor seen Vishnu; how can I say who is greater?”

At this, the dispute stopped, for none of the disputants had really seen the deities.

Similarly, none should compare one deity with another. When a man has really seen a deity, he comes to know that all deities are manifestations of the one Brahman.

Hurting Another
Lord Kartikeya, the leader of the heavenly army, once happened to scratch a cat with his nail. When he went home, he saw a scratch on his Mother’s cheek.

“Mother, how did you get that ugly scratch on your cheek?’ he asked.

Goddess Durga, who is a manifestation of Parvati, replied: “Child, this is your own handiwork, the mark scratched by your own nail.”

“Mother, how is that possible! I don’t remember scratching you!” said Kartikeya.

She replied, “Have you forgotten having scratched a cat this morning?”

“Yes, I did scratch a cat,” said Kartikeya. “But, how did your cheek get marked?”

The Mother replied, “Dear child, nothing exists in this world but myself. I am all creation. Whomsoever you hurt, you hurt me.”

Ramakrishna
Sarada-Devi

“Meditate on God either in an unknown corner, or in the solitude of forests, or within your own mind.”

Adi Shankaracharya

One of the most revered Hindu philosophers and proponents of Advaita Vedanta, Adi Shankaracharya is credited with the revival of Hinduism

By Madhuri.Y

Adi Shankaracharya, also known as Shankara Bhagavatpada, lived during early 8th century AD. According to legend, although Shankara wanted to take sanyasa at the tender age of eight, his mother would not give her consent. One day, while he bathed in the river Poorna, a crocodile caught his leg and Shankara requested his mother for permission during these last moments of his life. Once his mother gave consent, the crocodile let go of Shankara and he became a monk. He travelled north in search of a guru where he met Govinda Bhagavatpada, a disciple of Gaudapada, at Omkareshwar on the banks of the Narmada River.

When Bhagavatpada asked for Shankara’s identity, he replied with an extempore verse that brought out the Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Adi Shankaracharaya consolidated Advaita Vedanta with its philosophy of oneness – that there is no difference between the Brahman (Supreme) and the Atman (individual self). According to Advaita, Brahman alone is real, the rest being illusion. Bhagavatapada was impressed and took Shankara as his disciple. He then travelled across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers.

Raja_Ravi_Varma_-_Sankaracharya

He strengthened Hinduism and established the four ‘mathas’ (monasteries). These are at Sringeri in Karnataka in the south, Dwaraka in Gujarat in the west, Puri in Orissa in the east, and Jyotirmath (Joshimath) in Uttarakhand in the north. These monastic centres were assigned one Veda each – Govardhana Pitham in the east with Rig Veda, Sringeri Sarada Pitham in the south with Yajur Veda, Dwarka Pitham in the west with Sama Veda and Jyotirmath Pitham in the north with Atharva Veda.

In Thrissur, four mathas – Naduvil Madhom, Thekke Madhom, Idayil Madhom and Vadakke Madhom – were founded by the disciples of Adi Shankaracharya after his samadhi at Vadakkunnathan Temple. He had composed many treatises and hymns, explaining Advaita Vedanta based on the truths in the Upanishads, the Brahamasutras and the Bhagavad Gita.

He is also believed to be the organiser of the Dashanami monastic order and the founder of the Shanmata tradition of worship. He composed five shlokas known as Manisha Panchakam. He also gained expertise in different forms of yoga – Hatha, Raja and Janana. Even though he passed away at the young age of 32, his impact on Hinduism and as a saint was impeccable.

AdiShankara1

Bhaja Govindam

Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
Govindam bhaja mooda mathe,
Samprápthe sannihite kale
Nahi nahi rakshati dukrunj karane

Adore the Lord, adore the Lord,
Adore the Lord, O fool!
When the appointed time (for departure) comes,
The repetition of grammatical rules will not save you.

Dhanyashtakam

Aadhou vijithya vishayan mada moha raga
-dweshadhi shathru ganamahrutha yoga rajya,
Jnathwamrutham samanu bhootha parathma vidhya,
Kanthasukha bhatha gruhe vicharanthi dhanya.

He is blessed, who wins over the enemies within
Of passion, desire, hatred and excess of emotions
And gets in to the kingdom of yoga and reaches
The deathless state, and lives happily with
The wife called knowledge in the house of reasoning.

Gita Jayanti

Revealed by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, the Bhagavad Gita is the Hindu holy text of selfrealisation.

It was the first day of the 18-day war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Seeing his brothers, uncles, and other relatives stand against him in battle, Arjuna lays down his weapons, refusing to fight. Lord Krishna explains to him, the truth of life and of karma and dharma, giving birth to the Bhagavad Gita.

Celebrating Gita Jayanti

While the Gita Jayanti day is relevant to all, it is celebrated with particular fervour with bhajans and puja by the devotees of Lord Krishna. All 700 verses of the Gita are read through the day.

At Kurukshetra, the birthplace of the Gita, Gita Jayanti Samaroh, a week-long celebration, is organised by the Kurukshetra Development Board. After reading from the Gita, discussions and seminars by scholars and priests are organised. Devotees from all over India take part in the ritual bath in the sacred ponds, the Sannihit Sarovar and the Brahm Sarovar. A fair is organised which lasts the week.
Shlokas are recited from the Gita and plays and dance are performed.

Gita Jayanti is a reminder of the great spiritual and philosophical teaching of the Bhagavad Gita.

What the Gita Teaches

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati Bharata;
Abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srijamyaham

Whenever and wherever there is a decline in righteousness and a predominance of unrighteousness, O descendant of Bharata, at that time I manifest Myself.

Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya cha dushkritam;
Dharma-sansthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge

to deliver the pious, to annihilate the wrongdoers, to re-establish righteousness, I appear millennium after millennium.

Vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya navani grhnati naro parani
Tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany anyani samyati navani dehi

Just as an individual discards old garments and wears new ones, so does the body-dweller discard old bodies and accepts new bodies.

Yam hi na vyathayantyete purusham purusharshabha
Samaduhkhasukham dheeram somrutatvaaya kalpate

the person who is not agitated by these (contact with material objects) O strongest of men, and can remain balanced in joy and sorrow, that wise person is fit for immortality.

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