Cherished Memoirs 18 – Aasthikas & Bhaktas

This series chronicles interesting experiences recounted by the devotees of HH Maharanyam Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji. These articles are  translations from the series, “Madhuramaana Mahaneeyar” that is published every month in Madhuramurali Tamil monthly magazine.

 Aasthikas & Bhaktas

Sri Muralidhara Swamiji

“We use the words aasthikas (believers) and bhaktas (devotees) to denote those who are involved in spirituality. Aasthikas are those who get involved in all kinds of good deeds. They participate in a Gokulashtami Utsav; you can see them in a Ati-Rudram or Maha-Rudram event when one is organized; they undertake pilgrimage to Sabari-mala; they go in search of Sadhus and seek their benediction. These people are ‘aasthikas’.

Unlike ‘aasthikas’, ‘bhaktas’ do not go everywhere. They worship only their Ishta-Deivam (favorite deity) or possess unswerving devotion unto to their Guru alone. They do not harbor hatred against other gods or Gurus; it is just that their mind doesn’t get involved anywhere else or with anything else. Why is this? When the mind gets staunchly involved with someone, one naturally fails to involve himself in other gods or activities. What is the core of bhakti? It is verily involvement and dedication. Anything done without involvement and dedication is futile, and that is the very reason that they do not get involved in anything else or with any other deity.

“Doesn’t he lack broadmindedness?” some of us may think. If, for a woman, the best form of chastity is in not thinking about any other man than her husband, then this is chastity too. If that is considered as a virtue, then this is also a virtue and not a fault. Thyagaraja Swamigal, Meera, Hanumanji, the Gopikas, the Aazhwars and the Nayanmars – are all such devotees of the highest order and the entire world worships them, even today.

Let us look at this from another perspective. The word ‘naasti’ in Sanskrit means ‘does not exist”, ‘asti’ means ‘does exist’. ‘Naasthika’ refers to one who refutes the existence of God – an atheist. Aasthika is one who believes in the existence of God – a theist.

If you ask the question “Does God exist?”, most people will reply “Of course. Undoubtedly, there is some power above us.” But very few people live a life in consonance with God’s wish or employ themselves in God’s work or live a life yearning and crying for His vision and performing ‘sadhanas’. Irrespective of the deity they worship and the path they follow in performing sadhanas, they are indeed bhaktas.

If one strictly adheres to Karma Yoga, since he believes in that, he is a devotee. Similarly, one who routinely practices Yoga is a devotee too; one who does inquiry based on Vedanta is a devotee as well. Thus, it is not enough to be merely an aasthika; we need to transform ourselves into a bhakta. It is not enough to simply accept our Guru to be a Jnani (an enlightened person) or a Mahatma (great soul); we need to earn his blessings. How is that accomplished? By involving in acts that please him! By thus involving ourselves, we can easily become recipients of his grace.”

Excerpts from Sri Swamiji’s discourse.
Originally written in Tamil by Smt. Jayanthi Janakiraman, Nov 1998 issue of Madhuramurali magazine,
Translated by Sankar Ganesan, Dallas TX


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