WAVE 4: ESSENTIALS OF BHAKTI:
AN ADVANCED LESSON FOR THE FAITHFUL
For the ordinary person who may express Bhakti in one of nine ways as elaborated by Prahlada, the most important in modern times is that of nAma-sankrtana – reciting of God’s names and His glories and the majesty of His deeds. We should be indebted to the sage Vyasa in this connection because it is in his works, namely, the mahA-bhArata and the purANas, we find innumerable stotras that serve as texts for such recitations.
Incidentally, Vyasa and Valmiki are the two people
who have influenced the largest number of people for the longest period of time,
in the entire history of mankind.
The well-known sahasra-nAmas, for example, those of Vishnu, Siva and Lalita – to quote only a few – are unexcelled in world literature, for their massiveness in praising the glories of God, for their rhythmic sound effect, and for the elevating moods which that they can generate.
He is viSvam, indicating God’s immanence in everything of the universe that we know. He is vishNu, because His radiance pervades the firmament and transcends it indicating His nature of transcendence. He is the microcosm, aNuH. He is also the macrocosm, bRhat. He possesses all qualities, in fact He is a ton of qualities, superlative, guNabRt. On the other hand, He is devoid of every attribute, nirguNaH.
You see the same style in these sahasranAmas which is the distinctive characteristic of the Upanishads. On the one hand they use the superlatives of all the qualities they can think of, on the other hand, they use the negation of all the finite things we are capable of imagining. Whether it is this sahasra-nAma or that, it is the same. Listen to a few names from the lalitA-sahasra-nAma.
She is niranjanA, faultless. She is nirlepA, attachmentless. She is nirmalA, blemishless; nityA, permanent; nirAkAra, formless; nirAkulA, delusionless and therefore capable of removing our delusion and also not reachable by those who refuse to shed their delusion; nirguNA, attributeless; nitya-muktA, ever-free, nirvikArA, changeless; nitya-SuddhA, ever pure; nishkAraNA, not the effect of any cause, meaning, She is Herself the Cause; nirupAdhi, limitationless; nirAgA, desireless and therefore, rAga-mathanI, one who can destroy all desires; nirmadA, one without pride and therefore, mada-nASinI, one who can vanquish all pride; nirbhavA, one without birth and death, and for this very reason, bhava-nASinI, one who puts an end to the disease of birth and death.
It goes on like this endlessly, as it were. A recitation of these in the fullness of the understanding of their meanings is equivalent to recalling the divinity within us and thereby causing the eradication of the undivine vAsanAs accumulated in our minds.
Once we do that, the Lord assures us that He will not only reveal His presence to us by giving us divine vision but also He will never let us down. Over the centuries there have been innumerable devotees who have exemplified this in their very lives. But even before history started, the mythological names that have become proverbial in this connection cannot but be recalled, if nothing else, for paying our homage in this context of our attempt to understand bhakti. These names are, for instance, (in the alphabetical order of their names transliterated into English, for want of a better order):
ajAmiLa, akrUra, ambarIsha, arjuna, bhIshma, dhruva, draupadI, gajendra, garuDa, the gopIs, hanumAn, jaTAyu, lakshmaNa, nArada, parASara, parIkshit, prahlAda, rAdhA, sanandana, Saunaka, rukmAngada, sudhAma, sugrIva, Suka, uddhava, vAlmIki, vibhIshaNa, vidura, vyAsa, and yaSodA.
The story about each one of them would run to several pages and if we parents want our children to know anything about Hinduism we should be able to tell them these stories at bedtime. These stories are all part of the various purANas. Nobody teaches us these purANas nor do we have the time and energy to wade through these massive purANas, which are at least eighteen in number. But there is one book in English which gives a massive sample of everything in the purANas in an authentic way since it is an anthology of selections from the purANas. It is:
CLASSICAL HINDU MYTHOLOGY
A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas
Ed. And translated by
Cornelia Dimmitt & J.A.B.van Buitenen
© V. Krishnamurthy