Vedantha Athichoodi – Ukkamudan japam sei!

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.

Ukkamudan japam sei!

In the 6th verse of Vedanta Athichoodi, Sri Swamiji says,

“UkkamuDan japam sei”
Do japa with vigor

Japa is nothing but the constant repetition of the Lord’s Names. It is one of the easiest spiritual path yet has the potency to bestow the highest. A wavering mind cannot do dhyana but give it a Lord’s name and eventually, that itself will become dhyana. Have you seen an elephant in temples in India? The elephant’s trunk will keep moving, touching whatever object is within reach, sometimes even trying to reach. And touch passers by. Since, this would scare people, the mahout would typically give the elephant a steel rod or an object to hold on to. Similarly, the mind when it holds on to the Divine Name, will eventually cease to waver.

Now, one may have a question, “Even if I want to do Japa, there are so many mantras. What japa should I do?”
Knowing our minds, Sri Swamiji has beautifully said in the third verse itself,
“Ishan Oruvane”( God is One!). Just as the saying goes, “All roads lead to Rome!”, all spiritual paths lead to the same Supreme Being! Some call Him, “Rama”, some may call him “Krishna”, some, “Shiva” and so on. One can do Japa of any Divine Name, but if one has been initiated by a spiritual master then one has to do do Japa of that mantra alone! It is because, a spiritual master gives a part of his tapas during the initiation.

After the end of the Mahabharata war, when Sri Bhishmacharya was lying in the bed of arrows waiting for Uttarayana, Lord Krishna and Yudhishtra went to meet him. Sri Bhismacharya was well versed in all the scriptures and rules of Dharma, so Lord Krishna advised Yudhishtra to use this opportunity to ask questions he may have about Dharma. This question is found in the text of Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Yudhistra asked – “kim japan muchyate jantu: janma samsAra bandanAt”?
What should a living being chant to become free from the bonds of samsAra?

To that, Sri Bhishmacharya replied that one has to keep chanting the thousand names of the Lord( “……anantam purushottamam, stuvan nAma sahasreNa……”) and went on to give us the thousand names, which to this day, we chant as Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Understanding the plight of a common man, Lord Shiva made this even easier. In the last section of the Vishnu Sahasranama, Lord Shiva says that chsnting Lord’s Name “Rama” once is equivalent to chanting the thousand names! (… sahasranAma tat tulyam, Sri Rama Nama varAnane). So, just constantly chanting the “Rama” Nama is enough to break the bonds of this samsAra and to attain liberation.

When Mahans compose a work, every word in the work has a significance.
If we read this Athichoodi verse carefully, we notice Sri Swamiji has said, “Ukkamudan japam se”. What is the significance of the word “Ukkamudan?”

Sri Swamiji knows the state of our mind very well. Just as water flows downward, and a fire’s nature is burn upward, similarly the nature of the mind is to go towards the world! So, when we start a spiritual practise, we will be enthusiastic in the beginning and spend hours doing japa. As time passes by, the mind will lose interest and look something new. Eventually, the practice will completely stop! That is why, Sri Swamiji says, ”ukkamudan japam sei” everyday.

To persevere in the spiritual practice, in addition to adhering to a routine, a fervent prayer to the Lord to bestow us faith and perseverance will also help. With such a prayer it now becomes the Lord’s responsibility to keep us in check and help us in our spiritual path. Just as a mother watches a child and steps in to help the child when the child falls down, similarly, when we pray for strength to the Lord, He will watch our progress and if we get sidetracked, He will steer us back!

Sowmya Balasubramanian, Dallas TX

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