About Narayaneeyam: By Swami Tapasyananda of Ramkrishna Mission
The Narayaneeyam is a major work of Shri Narayana Bhattatiri a renowned and great Sanskrit scholar of Kerala. It is a condensed version of the Bhagavata. The work is known by this particular name for two reasons – one, that it deals with the glories of Narayana, the Supreme Being who is the resting place (Ayanam) of all Jivas (Naras), and the other, that it is the composition by the poet Narayana. It is a work consisting of 1036 verses in various Sanskrit metres, into one ending with a prayer to the Lord to cure the poet of his crippling ailment. It is a unique work in the Sanskrit language in so far as it combines in itself three distinct features:
(a) It is a literary masterpiece, a great poetical work (Kavya), comparable to the compositions of any of the classical Sanskrit poets.
(b) It is a hymn of rare devotional fervor having several distinctive features shared by no other hymn
(c) It is an exposition of Vedanta with a dominance of devotional teachings.
About Temple of Guruvayoor:
The temple of Sri Krishna at Guruvayoor is situated 25 km to the Northwest of Trichur in Kerala State. Like all great temples this temple too has its stahala-purana or traditional account of origin, growth and greatness. A Sanskrit work named the Guruvayu-pura-mahatyam, supposed to embody a conversation between sage Atreya and king Janamajeya, is the source of these. Much of these though legendary are very significant from a devotional point of view. A small account of some is given below.
The image of the temple is said to be not of earthly origin. Originally, Mahavisthnu gave this image made of a material called Patalasila to Brahma. Brahma gave it to a Rishi named Sutapas; he to Kasyapa-Prajapati; and Karyapa to Vasudeva, the father of Sri Krishna. From his father Vasudeva , Sri Krishna got it and it was installed and worshipped at his capital Dwaraka. Before the divine ascent of Krishna and the inundation of His capital city of Dwaraka, He instructed His devotee and minister, Uddhava, that this image would come floating after the sea engulfed Dwaraka. He instructed His devotee and minister Uddhava, that this image would come floating after the sea engulfed Dwaraka. Uddhava was asked to communicate this to the Guru of Gods, Brihaspati and request him to install it in a suitable place so as to serve as a means for the spiritual uplift and salvation of man in the age of Kali. Brhaspati the Deva-Guru, accordingly got possession of the image, and along with Vayu, the wind-God, who help he sought, went all over the world to select a suitable spot, and finally , at the direction of Shiva, installed it at a place in the coastal regions of kerala near ‘Ambapura’. As the image was installed by Guru and Vayu together, the place came to be known as Guruvayoor. As the image installed had its origin in Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu, devotees began to look upon it as a ‘Vaikuntha on the earth, and its reputation spread.
Canto 1 – The Glory of the Lord
1. In the temple of Guruvayoor there shines, in truth and in reality, what appears at first to be a mere image but on contemplation reveals itself to the condensed essence of Consciousness-Bliss – the veritable Brahman Supreme – who is the ultimate end of all human endeavours, to whom there is none comparable, who is ever beyond the limitations of time and space, who is eternally free, and whose nature the numerous texts of the Vedas seek to reveal. Fortunate, indeed, is mankind (that such a manifestation of Divinity exists in its midst as the image of Shri Krishna)
2. But alas! What a pity that in spite of the easy availability of this rarest of blessings, men prompted by their base nature, overlook it and pursue worldly objects with all the powers of their body, mind or intellect! But we, devotees, however, shall, with unswerving devotion, serve the Lord of Guruvayoor, Shri Krishna, the soul of all beings, for the total eradication of all our woes (physical and spiritual)
3. Sage Vyasa has repeatedly stated that Thy form is constituted of Siddha –Sattva (pure Satva) without any admixture of Rajas and Tamas. Because of this absolute purity, Thy form gives an unobstructed revelation of its underlying essence of Consciousness-Bliss, and therefore enlightened men delight to contemplate on this, Thy Divine formful manifestation, which is easy to grasp and which is all sweetness to those who think or hear about it.
4. O Infinite Being! Thy Suddhtta-Satva form is like the wavy surface of the pure Ocean of Brahman, who is unperturbed, ever-full, constituted of inexhaustible Bliss and supremely attractive as the repository of countless pearls of liberated ones absorbed in it. Embracing, as Thy Form does the whole of that Ocean, why should not Thou be termed Nishkala (Indivisible Whole i.e Complete Incarnation) while all other manifestations are but Kalas (partial revelations) of that Ocean
5. O Birthless One! Though by nature beyond activity, Thou, at the beginning of a new cycle of creation, dost activate spontaneously by a glance, Thy Prakriti (Power) which abides in Thee latent without in any way affecting Thee, as if it were a non-existent entity. O Lord of Vaikuntha, assuming the pure Sattva aspect of Thy Prakriti (power), which, because of its purity, does not in the least hide Thy glories and majesties, Thou hast manifested Thyself as this Divines form.
6. O Lord of Guruvayoor, I meditate continuously on Thy Form, which surpasses fresh rain clouds and blue lotuses in its dark splendor, which embodies in itself the essence of all that is beautiful, which is, as it were, a holy Descent manifested before the eyes of all virtuous men as the reward for their good deeds, which is the playground of all the unrestricted graces, charms and majesty of Goddess Lakshmi, and which generates an abundance of intense Bliss in the hearts of people meditating on it.
7. O Supreme Being! Once I thought that Thy creative activity is a tragic sport, as it inflicts various forms of suffering on embodied beings (Jivas) involved in the cycle of births and deaths (Samsara), but now I do not think so. For if there were no creation and therefore no embodied beings (Jivas), who would have been there to revel in the ocean of unparalleled joy derived from the experience of seeing this Form of Thine replete with Consciousness and of hearing descriptions of Thy glory?
8. Manifesting ever before Thy devotees, Thou grandest unsought, all the fulfillments of human life besides the bliss of final liberation. O Lord! When such a unique Parijata Tree as bounteous and accessible as Thou art, is available for them, alas, the vast body of desire-prompted men long for the trivial blessings of the Kalpaka-Vriksha (Wish-yielding tree) of Indra’s heaven (which can yield only sense enjoyments, and that only if votaries specifically pray for them to the accompaniment of elaborate rituals).
9. O Lord! Thou art indeed unique and incomparable in Thy greatness. Other deities grant the desires of their votaries when they are pleased with them. But Thou art unique in granting Thyself (i.e identity with Thyself) to Thy devotees. Other deities rule over the world ( as being external ttto it) by virtue of the power they are invested with; but Thy mastery over all rests on Thy being the inner controller of the essence of all beings (including these deities). All fortunate Jivas seek delight in the inexhaustible mine of joy that Thou art. But alas for Thyself, Thou art ever self-satisfied (having none besides Thee as equal or greater).
10. Lord, Thou who art the resident of the temple of Guruvayoor and the destroyer of Mura! Thy Aishwarya consists in being the controller of all Gods beginning from Sanaka; Thy Virya (Prowess), in possessing the potency to contain all forces that are destructive of the good of the worlds; Thy Yashas (Fame), in providing material pure and holy enough for all-renouncing sages to sing about; Thy Sri (beauty-cum-auspiciousness), in becoming the very abode of the Goddess Sri; Thy Jnana (wisdom), in being the all-knowing; and Thy Vairagya (renunciation), in being non-attached (in respect of all Thy creative activity). The term Bhagavan (which means one possessing the above mentioned Bhagas or divine majesties) is therefore primarily applicable to Thee.
Sri Haraye Namah Gopika Jivan Smaranam Govinda Govinda
The Theory and Practice of Bhakti - By Swami Tapasyananda
The term Bhakti comes from the root ‘Bhaj’. ‘To adore’, ‘to love’, and ‘to keep companionship with’ are a few of the religiously significant meanings out of about two dozen meanings of varying import attached to this root. From these is derived t he current meaning of the term Bhakti as adoration and loving service of the Supreme Being. As the term is commonly used to indicate all the stages of development of devotion, it will be advantageous to distinguish these stages.
At the lowest rung is conventional religious (Sadharana Bhakti) which means conformity with the accepted beliefs and observances of a religious community as a matter of routine, without any inner spiritual urge or dynamism. It may sometimes take the shape of a blind and conservative formalism, or even of a religiously oriented and intolerant groupism of a fanatical nature. These hardly deserve the name of Bhakti.
The next stage is Shraddha (Faith), when the truths of God, the soul, the hereafter etc and taken very seriously and the need for some set of practices to instensify one’s spiritual perception is felt. Generally it is a calamity in life or contact with a really holy man that brings about this conversion. The Bhagavata everywhere extols holy company as the one unfailing factor in generating and augmenting the devotional sentiment in man. Says the Bhagavata : ‘In close association with holy men, one hears the sweet and inspiring accounts of My works and excellences. Soon does a man imbibing them develop in succession Shradha (Faith), Rati (Attachment) and Bhakti(Love)” Bh. 3.25.25) A man with Shraddha persistently seeks holy company, as it is the only source of nourishment for his infant faith. He also seeks a spiritual teacher and practices disciplines prescribed by him for the development of his devotional life. At this stage called Shraddha it is only by devotional disciplines that love for God and attraction for Him can be stimulated. In their absence the mind relapses to one’s worldly pre-occupations. But with continued practice, the aspirant begins to feel a blissful feeling in communion with God. When this stage is reached he does not depend much or mainly on external stimulations given by the practice of disciplines, even though he might be practicing them. The mind develops a natural proneness to God because of the inward joy His contemplation gives.
This stage of the mind in feeling a natural joy in God and continuous attraction for Him is called Rati. Now Rati may take an impersonal form – what may be called Jnana-oriented or intellectual love of God – if He is looked upon as the Impersonal Absolute, and the goal of spiritual striving is then conceived as the mergence of one’s self in that Absolute. Or, according to the temperament of the aspirant and the nature of the Sadhana it may take the form of intense personal love of the all-perfect Divine Person.
To distinguish these two developments at the high levels of devotion, the former leading to Sayujya or the mergence in the Absolute may be indicated by the common name Bhakti and the latter by the term Priti. Or if both are to be known by the common name Bhakti, the former may be distinguished by the expression Jnana-Bhakti and the latter by Priti Bhakti (devotion characterized by delight in the service of the Divine Person). The experience of Priti is possible only for the person for whom Bhagavan is both the Absolute and the Divine Person. The Bhagavan is identified with Vishnu or Krishna in the Bhagavata. In the Priti discipline he may be looked upon in any forms of loving personal relationship as master, child, friend, husband or the beloved.
Pure love is based on the sense of the object of love being one’s own; and this is possible only when there is a sense of unity of substance inspite of apparent distinction. The point may be illustrated by comparing the relationship between a king and an officer of his, with the one between the king and his son, the heir-apparent. The former is a purely external relationship. It is based upon the apprehension of the king’s power only. It ceases to subsist when the king loses his power. For basically he is a stranger, and the relationship with him depends mainly on considerations of obtaining advantages such as wealth, position etc. if he is pleased. The relationship of the prince with his father, the king, on the other hand, stands on quite a different footing. The relationship is inherent and cannot be broken by any extraneous circumstance. Though there is a sense of distinction, it is cemented by an inseparable sense of unity expressing itself as a felling of ‘belongingness’ or an attitude of ‘being one’s own’. As a consequence, the sense of intimacy overcomes the awareness of the power and the majesty of the object of love. It also results in spontaneous service of that object, without expectation of any extraneous reward, the pure delight of such service being the only reward if any. Priti is this delight in the service of God as one’s beloved, wherein the sense of Divine power and majesty is counterpoised by that of the Lord’s lovableness and by intimacy of His relationship with the devotee.
Om Tat Sat