This series chronicles sweet experiences recounted by the devotees of HH Maharanyam Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji as well as some divine experiences of Sri Swamiji himself. These articles are translations from the series “Madhuramaana Mahaneeyar” that is published every month in Madhuramurali Tamil monthly magazine.
My Guru As I See Him
Sri Swamiji would say that bhakti is the genuine bhaava (devotional spiritual mood) arising in a true bhakta and that it is not an act. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa would say that a true bhakta’s body would, over a period, transform into the very form of love. Novel bhaavas arising in the love-filled heart of the bhakta who is forever thinking of and yearning for the Lord would be graceful, sweet, enjoyable, and would always shine with fresh beauty like the cool moon. That state can never be compared with any other. It would even suffice if one can understand that it is not akin to the oft-repeated ceremonial acts.
We wear various kinds of different coloured clothes. In it there are several patterns too, aren’t there? Countless are the varieties of dresses and ornaments. Lifestyles are also several, aren’t they? The world is full of diversity. It is countless. Nothing remains the same but keeps changing. Similarly, the way bhaktas celebrate, decorate their Ishtta (favourite deity) in rapturous love would be novel every time. It would reflect the bhaava rasaas (devotional nectar) that arise in a gush in their hearts. The way Sri Swamiji celebrates and takes delight in Premika Varadan is also the same.
It was once Gopashtami utsav. Gopashtami falls on the eighth day after the Diwali festival. It is the day that Indra crowned Krishna with the title ‘Govinda’, as this Gokula Krishna had saved His people – who looked upon Him as their all – from his (Indra’s) wrath of torrential rains by holding aloft the Govardana hill as an umbrella. That is indeed Gopashtami. On that day Sri Swamiji was in a high state of bhaava. The whole Ashram appeared golden to Sri Swamiji. The very place appeared as Gokula. To the devotees around him, Sri Swamiji said, “Oh, look here! Our Premika Varadan has asked Nandababa to stop the puja (worship of Indra) and offered everything to Govardhan! Indra, filled with wrath, is sending down torrential rains. Poor Gopa and Gopis! Krishna is sitting on Nandababa’s house pyol like Lord Dakshinamurti. All the Gopas, trembling from head to foot, are standing before Him, seeking refuge. It is pouring cats and dogs. All are looking up at the sky. Now Krishna, ocean of compassion, has lifted the Govardhan hill! All of us are, indeed, below Govardhan!”
The building made of brick and sand was not seen but only Premika Varadan holding aloft the Govardhan appeared to Sri Swamiji’s vision. As only His Naama (Name) pleases Krishna, Sri Swamiji had devotees from everywhere assemble here at Madhurapuri Ashram, and for full seven days poured torrential rains of Mahamantra! On the eighth day, Sri Swamiji exclaimed, “Here, Indra has come! He is accompanied by Airavata (Indra’s heavenly elephant) and Kamadhenu (the celestial cow).” Sri Swamijji said that all these were in reality taking place right there! (For our benefit) Sri Swamiji asked Veda patasala students to dress up as Indra and the Devas, and just as Indra had done, Sri Swamiji, with great joy, performed ‘Govinda’ Pattabhishekam (crowning) to Premika Varadan, along with Kamadhenu and Airavata. Never before had he celebrated Gopashtami in this manner. And it was different in succeeding years!
Sri Swamiji has discoursed on Bhagavatam, Ramayanam, life histories of Bhaktas, etc. in several places a number of times. But each time it would sound new! The story would be the same. But the content, the sequence of incidents and his interpretation would all have something new. It would not only appear new to the listener but Sri Swamijji himself would, each and every time, narrate with great fervor as if it were happening just then.
Looking at the little one Sri Swamiji’s lotus-like face bloomed, “Little Radha has come!” – the love-filled, soft voice was pleasantly heard in the hearts of all those around him! To Sri Swamiji who was then in Radhabhaava, it was the infant Radha, soft like the tender sprouting leaf, seen in his arms! From the divine lotus face a song sweeter than honey flowed. Even as he kept looking at the child and swayed her lightly in his arms, a soft, melodious lullaby blossomed. Just as Krishna’s birth day is celebrated as Gokulashtami the succeeding Ashtami, which is the birth day of Radha, is celebrated as Radhashtami. This is celebrated with great 飬at at Barsana (in North India), the birthplace of Sri Radha. Here at Madhurapuri Ashram also Sri Swamijji celebrated it grandly on 21st September this year (2015). Sri Swamiji was constantly in the thought of Sri Radharani even during the days preceding this event. He kept uttering Sri Radharani’s Name.
The morning of Radhashtami — an extensive abhisheka for Sri Premika Varadan and Sri Madhuri Sakhi had just been completed. Brahmasri Sivarama Sarma, one of the teachers in our Sandeepani Vedapatasala, had brought his infant daughter for Sri Swamiji’s darshan. Our Gurudev has named the little one ‘Vichitra’. The parents had brought that infant Vichitra for her first darshan of Sri Swamiji. Dressed in silk skirt and blouse the little one came to the divine presence of Sri Swamiji. Looking at the little one Sri Swamiji’s lotus-like face bloomed, “Little Radha has come!” – the love-filled, soft voice was pleasantly heard in the hearts of all those around him! To Sri Swamiji who was then in Radha bhaava, it was the infant Radha, soft like the tender sprouting leaf, seen in is arms! From the divine lotus face a song sweeter than honey flowed. Even as he kept looking at the child and swayed her lightly in his arms, a soft, melodious lullaby blossomed –
‘Vrushabhaanu kumaari jo jo! Barsaana Rani jo jo!’ (fall asleep, O daughter of Vrishabhaanu, princess of Barsana!)
The kirtan was sung with motherly affection (vatsalya bhaava). And Sri Swamiji concluded the lullaby with ‘Vichitra RadhadeviyE jo jo!’ adding the infant’s name to it! It was indeed a feast to the eyes and ears.
Procession and singing of kirtans had been arranged for the evening. But Sri Swamiji seemed as if his mind was in Barsana. Just as Krishna’s little butter-smeared Feet are drawn to depict His arrival, so too, did Sri Swamiji have the tiny red feet of little Radha drawn on a pure bright white cloth, from the end of Bhagavata Bhavanam hall up to the sanctum sanctorum. It seemed as if the little toddler Radha had walked slowly in, on her pretty little tottering feet!
‘Radhe! Radhe!’ the Name of Radha kept falling out of the lips of Sri Swamiji.
In the evening about eight little satsang girls beautifully dressed in silk skirts and blouses, and wearing jumkhas (hanging ear drops), came in. Immediately on seeing them Sri Swamiji felt that they were Radha’s eight companions (‘ashta sakhis’). Instructing their little feet to be painted red (‘nalangu’), Sri Swamiji gave each of them an object of worship, i.e., veena, chatram (royal umbrella) chamaram (fan), kumkum, sandal paste, lamp, tamboora, garland, and asked them to walk in front of Premika Varadan Madhuri Sakhi procession. At Sri Swamiji’s behest, they played with balls of flowers with Madhuri Sakhi.
Sri Swamiji himself, raining various kinds of fragrant flowers like jasmine and rose on the Divine couple, sang kirtans and danced. On seeing this, one wondered if Madhurapuri had become verily Barsana!
Radhashtami was celebrated in this manner this year: however, in the past, Sri Swamiji had celebrated it in different ways each year.
In an earlier year… It was Radhashtami – [the following was the scene seen by Sri Swamiji]
A wonderful fort in front with strong majestic walls as high as a mountain. On top of it and outside, tall soldiers with powerful arms stood guard; a huge drum was on top of the fort wall to announce the royal messages; huge lamps spread light; just then a soldier came up and beat the drum announcing the birth of Sri Radhadevi! – Oh, this is the palace of king Vrishabhanu! It was while Sri Swamiji was in this spiritual mood (bhava-anubhava) that he sang the Madhuragitam song, ‘Kottu murasE! yengaL Radhai pirandhaaL yendru kottu murasE!’ (Beat O drum! To announce the birth of our Radha! Do beat O drum!)
Another year –
A green garden filled with the melodious voiced cuckoos. Deer and does hop around, spending their time joyfully. There is no trace of fear on their faces; are their faces brimming with love? Peacocks are dancing with feathers spread out. But the sky is not filled with dark rain bearing clouds. Why then are they so delighted? Flower plants and trees are swaying jubilantly in the soft breeze. Rivers are flowing with a murmuring sound. Listen… aren’t they giving out some message! What is it?
Oh! Are Brahma, Subrahmanya and Siva, ringing the temple bells in tune with the blowing breeze? Have hills been infused with life? What a wonder! What is the reason behind all this?
Ah, there comes a little girl! Is she a celestial being? So cool and lustrous are her eyes that I am unable to take my eyes off them! Is it bright white silk? She runs; and she is ecstatic! She is uttering something as she runs! It is only on hearing that, that this whole universe has changed! What is it? Thus, on Radhashtami, along with Radha, was born Sri Swamiji’s kirtan ‘Radhai pirandhanaLE! – yengaL Radhai pirandhanaLE! – mayilgaLE! kuyilgaLE! yengaL Radhai pirandhanaLE!’ (Oh, Radha has born! Our Radha has born! O peacocks! O cuckoos! Our Radha has born!)
Sri Swamiji would say that an old lady who had come to see Krishna on the day He was born, poured akshadai (mixture of unbroken rice and kumkum used to bless youngsters) on her own head instead of on infant Krishna’s head! The reason – She felt: ‘He is a wondrous, divine child. It is certain that He is going to perform countless lilas; I should live long to see and enjoy them all!’
Similarly, that night while leaving the Ashram, there was only one prayer in the minds of all those fortunate devotees who had enjoyed the Radhashtami that Sri Swamiji had celebrated that day – ‘Sri Swamiji is going to celebrate Radhashtami every coming year in newer and newer ways. Let me ever have the fortune of seeing and enjoying it!’