WHAT IS BHAKTI?

What is bhakti? Love? Sacrifice? Or something esotericthat is beyond description?

In Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna reveals his love for Arjuna thanks to latter’s bhakti for the Lord.  Bhakti is love or devotion to the lord. But it must be unselfish love as a means of ‘devotional service.’ This is what Saranagati is all about. Either you surrender completely or you do not.

No wonder the best example for “Love for God” was personified byMirabai who when given a cup of poisonby her husband Rana drank it as nectar. The miracle worked thanks to Mira’s bhakti to Lord Krishna who turned into “prasad.” Mira had no desire for the throne, power or pelf. Her desire was solely to merge with super soul and bhakti became the easiest and the only medium.

Like Mira there were innumerable saints whose love and bhakti to the Supreme Lordis unparalleled. True bhakti seeks no reward or awards except merging with Him, the Almighty. It is the overwhelming love of individual soul that takes hold of the consciousness.Life then is in tune with God. In Gita Lord himself explains it:

Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekamsharaṇaṁ vraja

Aham tvam sarva-papebhyo mokṣhayiṣhyami mashuchaḥ (Gita 18:66)

(Abandon all types of dharmas and simply surrender unto Me. I shall liberate you from all sinful reactions; do not fear). Indeed,true bhakti is total surrender.

God realisation is not possible with worldly attachment to material wealth. ‘I’ and ‘Mine’hamper the spiritual aspirant seeking ultimate truthacting as a veil. It is like seeing the Sun with dust in the eyes.

Sum and substance of life as we experience is in understanding that nothing exists without the Lord’s grace and bhakti personifies that axiomatic truth. Gopis longing for union with the Lordwere successful through sheer love for god and it worked wonders while many rishis could not attain godhood even if they had excelled in their severity of their penance. True bhakti overrides worldly considerations and that is when a soul rises beyond the ambit of karma bondage to merge with Paramatma.

Unfortunately, we humans misplace our love on material objects.Physical love overrides bhakti.  It is so hollow that it turns into mere carnal love which is selfish and leads nowhere. This is what happened to Saint Tulsidas when he misjudged his love for his wife Ratnawali. Deeply attached to her he felt he could not live without her even for a minute.

Once Ratnawali was away to her mother’s house without letting Tulsidas know. When he came back home finding her missingimmediately rushed out at nighteven though it was raining to his in-laws house. Ratnawali was shocked to see her husbandat the unearthly hour driven by mad attachment to her body. She rebuked him saying:

“If you had shown even half the love you have for my body to Lord Rama you would have achieved divinity and redemption (free from cycle of life and death).”

These words found their mark and disturbed Tulsidas greatly. Without a second thought he walked out of the houseto the holy city of Prayag where he became a sadhu. His love for Lord Rama became one of tidal proportion leading him to write Ramcharitramanas, a magnum opus.

 

Tulsidas is an apt example of pure bhakti. As a selfish man his love was limited to his wife and the moment devotion and bhakti lying buried in him was kindled all his love for his wife turned into bhakti for the lord. It was this divine ecstasy which led him to be in communion with the Lord.

VEDIC RITUALS

Yajna is a Vedic ritual that tends to create a relationship with Cosmic forces of which the earth and the individual are integrally connected. As Rigveda starts with a hymn to Lord Agni the yajna basically symbolises the whole cosmic process that comprises light and heat, or Creation itself.

IndeedYajna is a creative activity as the law that governs the cosmic operation is called Rita, or the central propelling forcethat brings cosmic and social order. Devatas (divine forces) adhering to Rita participate in the cosmic sacrifice as mentioned in Vedic hymns. The Yajurveda conceives the divine forces as active agents in the cosmic functioning akin to sacrificial rites performed by humans. Yajnika or Vedic rituals are described in the hymns of the Rigveda and other Samhitas (collection of verses) of gods participating in yajna.

Yajna can be said as fusion of the individual soul to the collective whole or the Universe which comprises divine cosmic forces beyond the ken of understanding of we humans. It is the link between the macrocosm to the microcosm symbolising every aspect of life. Even a tree is symbolic of life and can be said to be part of Yajna.

Vedic hymns are wonderful poetry with a limitless and timeless appeal in its scope and meaning. It has the underlying truths regarding the inner nature of the universe as well as human life as exemplified by various components of the rituals.

Vedic hymns relate to as much to the cosmological as to the individual who is integral to a society and what a state is all about. On macrocosmic level moon, sun, wind, fire, sky, space, earth, stars are all part of the ritual process as cosmic energyemanate from it.

Oblation to Fire is Agnihotra. Interestingly all the divine forces are within man himself. Fire in stomach to digest food,wind the vital breathwhich transforms as speech, Sun in the eye, Moon in the mind, the directions in the ears, water in the semen and so on. Oblation to fire in broader sense includes every element of the cosmos which are holistically related. The ritual of the oblation to fire is only a replica of the oblation to fire constantly seen in the cosmos at various levels. Kathaka Samhita (6:7) says: The creation is verily the oblation to fire. On the microcosmic level the vital energy is oblation to fire.

Our body temperature has to be steady or we turn cold and will be declared dead. We therefore invoke fire at every moment of our life. Fire is the physical and mental energy. It is what constitutes the human persona or the “Will.” This energy as manifest is seen in the entire cosmos. Rituals may be symbolic,but they have to be understood beyond their symbolic meanings.

Yajna or Sacrifice is derived from the root Yajor divine worship. The sacrifice is symbolic,yet the different rituals have eternal value with its universal appeal even among gods.

O Fire, you are called upon to come to this peaceful ritual for illuminating everything. Come with the stormy forces. (Rigveda, 1.19.1)This is the universal truth when different forces in Cosmos combine to create life as we know.In the end cosmic energy merges into the Supreme Soul. Similarly, at the microcosmic level Vedicsacrifice symbolises merger of the individual self with the Supreme Soul.Rituals have deeper significance.

IMPORTANCE OF VEDAS

Are Vedas important in this modern world or the scientific world we live in? The question may sound silly or irrelevant. But, it is not. What we call knowledge today are in fact originated from Vedas that helped in the evolution of Man. Veda in Sanskrit means knowledge and constitute largest body of knowledge ever known to mankind.

Vedas embody the entire range of knowledge spanning the sacred and the secular. It represents eternal truths and thoughts. Truths have no origin as they are eternal having existed since time immemorial. However, thanks to our rishis of yore who sensed these truths we today can lay claim to this priceless heritage. And again thanks to our rishis truth was interpreted and given to mankind.

Vedas in fact are primordial as they are associated withsound. Verily it is the Omkara or Pranava that echoes in all the corners of Universe. Hence Vedic recitations are sensitive to vibrations and when uttered properly bring desired results. Veda mantras can beefficacious only when spiritual discipline and proper intonation are meticulously followed.

Vedic rituals have immense significance when offerings are made to the celestial beings like Indira and Agni. In fact,Lord Agni or fire had been venerated as a symbol of spirit throughout Man’s history and the very first sloka in the Rig Veda (oldest of all Vedas) is on Agni:

Om Agnim-IillePurohitamYajnyasyaDevam-RtvijamHotaaramRatna-Dhaatamam(I offer my humble prayer to Agni, who is the Absolute Divine, the awakener of the inner energy and the giver of prosperity).

Vedas not only gave worldly knowledge it also helped the rishis onto the path of Self Realisation or Liberation.

SIGNIFICANCE OF MANTRAS

Mantras have scientific basis as they create positive vibrations and dispel negative ones.

In daily life we face so many irritations and either we are angry at someone or someone is angry at us. This creates negative vibrations affecting our health and mind leading to physiological and psychological reactions and offshoot of these can be BP, diabetes etc. If carelessly handled these issues turn chronic.

When one recites mantra or hears it recited, namely the chanting part of it, it generates lot of positive energy all around that has soothing effect even on the surroundings since people and other life matter live all around us.

Mantras cannot be taken for granted. It needs to be handled properly as what counts most is the intonation. Every syllable must be properly intoned. If that is done properly then the mantra becomes a kavach or an armour to ward offharmful effects of negative vibrations thereby protecting our health in turn leading to improved productivity.

If fact we keep sending out vibes both good and bad which permeate the surrounding. As per a theory called “the law of attraction,” a philosophical movement dating back to 1901,the energy we put into the universe will dictate the world around us.You cannot expect others to be happy at you if you tend to be unhappy and makes others unhappy too. If we think positively we send out positive vibes out into the universe which makes life better. This is the basic concept of mantra. Conscious effort must be made to bring out positive aspect. If not,negative vibes take over making people around us seem repulsive. Mantras indeed neutralise negative, repulsive vibrations thereby generating positive ones that attracts others to us. This is the advantage of mantra chanting and we need trained Vedic experts and when done on large scale lighting the sacrificial fire or yajna brings about far-reaching benefits as it clears the air.

Even simple act of chanting simple mantras like ‘Om Namah Shivaya’, ’Om Namo Narayana’, ‘Sri Rama Jai Rama Jai Rama’ with proper intonation can bring internal peace. Many have found it efficacious when faced with danger.

Every human being has the right to chant mantras provided he gets proper guidance. Mantras are a way of being one with nature. It means channelizing energy. Which leads to physical health benefits by improving immunity of the body as chanting certain mantras generate vibration which in turn stimulates hypothalamusgland responsible for secreting hormones that enhances immunity.

Mantras have many benefits. Like the turbulent sea calming down mantras too quickly calm the mind. A calm mind fights diseases and depression better. Healthy body means healthy heart which leads to concentration and learning. There are instances when regular chanting of mantras helped cure asthma to a large extent.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, believes in boosting his brainpower by reciting mantras which he learns through online course. Mantras are Sanskrit verses and Sanskrit is the language of gods. Let the bounty of Vedas bring peace and happiness to the world.