Madhura Geetham – Sloka Series
“Athichoodi” is a type of poetic work (in Tamil) that comprises of a collection of one-line philosophical verses. HH Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji has composed a “Vedanta Athichoodi”, a poetic work that speaks of life’s most important principles. We had published the entire Vedanta Athichoodi and its overall meaning as part of our Madhura Geetham Sloka Series, earlier this year. Read that article here.
Each of the lines of this Athichoodi are extremely deep and contain a wealth of meaning. In our sloka series over the next few months, we will look at the meaning of each line of this work.
Ekantham Pazhagu – Practice Solitude!
In the previous verse, we saw that Sri Swamiji advised spiritual seekers to shun the thought of “I” (ennam thavir)! When “I” is shunned, the rest of the thoughts automatically vanish. But how do we shun the thought? Sri Swamiji answers it in this eighth verse – “EkAntham Pazhagu” – Practice solitude.
Being in solitude is key to practicing any spiritual discipline. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the great saint who lived in the 19th century in West Bengal often advised his household devotees to be in solitude whenever they had some leisure time and practice spiritual discipline.
Just as the milk has to be set aside undisturbed to turn it into curd, to progress in spirituality, the aspirant has to practice spiritual discipline in solitude. With practice, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said, the mind will become stronger and then, the aspirant even when leading the life of a householder, will remain detached from the world and focus on the Lord.
Swami Ramdas too, in his book In Quest of God, emphasizes the importance of practicing spirituality in solitude. During his travel as a wandering ascetic, he once reached the town of Jhansi and stayed there for a few days. There he met two Muslim saints – Mirzaji and Pirjee. During his first meeting with Pirjee, Swami Ramdas’ companion, Mahadev, asked how he could find happiness in the samsaric (householder) life that he was placed in. At this question, the Pirjee replied sternly, “Well brother, as I have told you several times, there is only one remedy and that is, give up, give up the miserable life of the world and, going up to a solitary place, meditate upon God who alone can give you the happiness you are after. This is the only way and no other.”
Why do all saints insist on solitude for our spiritual practice? Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa explained this with a simple story. There was once a lady in a house. One day some guests arrived. She had to prepare a meal for them but she did not want them to hear her working in the kitchen. At the same time, she had to grind some atta to make rotis. As she went about grinding the grains, the bangles she wore in her hand made a lot of noise. Since she didn’t want the guests to hear her grinding the grains, she removed two bangles, kept them aside and continued to grind. She noticed that the remaining bangles still made noise. So she removed two more. This continued until she only had one bangle left in each hand. Then the bangles made no more noise. Just like that, if we are alone, it is easier to avoid distractions and focus the mind on spiritual sadhana.
When we progress in our sadhana, we can automatically stay detached even while living in this world just as Sri Swamiji sings in a song – Thamarai ilai mel thaneerai pol vazhndiduvom” – Let us live a (detached life) like water droplets on a lotus leaf. Practicing spiritual sadhana in solitude will help us lead such a life.
Sowmya Balasubramanian, Dallas TX