Monday, June 05, 2006

Story 33 - Story of Ajamila – 1

Srimad Bhagavatham - A Spiritual Insight - Story 33 - Story of Ajamila – Suka on Punya and Papa Karmaas

Suka said thus to Parikshit:
It is karma or action that makes the cycle of samsaara rotate. Good karmas or punya karmas leads to happiness and pave way for a seeker to progress in the spiritual path. Thus a person should always abstain from doing bad actions or papa karmas. Knowing and understanding the papa karmas, a person should get rid of them even as a doctor gets rid of disease.


We are starting a new story in Srimad Bhagavatham. This story is the story of Ajamila. This story has a very deep import of emphasis and importance on the name of Narayana or Lord. It points out that by mere chanting of the name of the Lord and contemplation of the Lord, a person gets rid of papa karmas and gets liberated. Sankara thus says in his Vishnu Sahasranaama commentary quoting from Vishnu Purana:

Jnaanatho ajnaanatho va api vaasudevasya keerthanaat
Tat sarvam layam yaathi thoyastham lavanastathaa

Knowing or unknowingly if a person chants the name of Vasudeva or the ultimate reality of Lord, he overcomes samsaara as salt gets merged and dissolved in water.

Here we find Suka explaining one of the most important concepts in Vedanta – karma chakra or cycle of action or samsaara.

Karma or action is what determines and upholds samsaara. Samsaara is nothing but filled with avidya-kaama-karma or ignorance-desire-action. It is filled with birth and death vicious circles. A person does action and that leads to a reaction. The reaction again leads to more action. As Vidyaranya says in Panchadashi, a person does action to enjoy and he enjoys to do more action – this cycle continues without any end. Thus it is karma which binds a person to the illusory world and its objects. If a person wants to get liberated from this world and its sufferings, he has to get rid of karma or actions. When karma is removed, desires vanish which in turn removes ignorance or avidya – the primal cause for bondage and that which is veils one’s own very nature of Lord. Thus a person has to come out of the cycle of karma or action. It is not that easy to come out of the cycle of karma as it is never ending and propelled by desires which is tough to overcome. Thus actions are split into two – good actions or punya karmas and bad actions or papa karmas.

The action which leads to the reality of Lord or helps in the progress of the seeker towards the reality is called punya karma. The action that leads a person away from the goal and path is called papa karma. Thus the various activities of sravana, keerthana etc. are punya karmas whereas the activities like drinking, adultery etc are papa karmas as they lead a person away from the reality of Lord.

Since it is tough to overcome karmas and vasanas (inherent tendency of getting addicted to doing karmas), therefore scriptures proclaim that a person has to get rid of papa karmas and do good or punya karmas. Punya karmas help in purification of the mind which thereby makes it easy to contemplate on the reality of Lord.

When a person constantly contemplates on the Lord, he gets rid of the vasanas and karmas – thus he gets liberated from the bondage of action-reaction. He thus is ever immersed in the reality of Lord. Always thus contemplating on the Lord, he very easily overcomes ignorance & realizes his own very nature of Lord, one without a second.

Ramana Maharshi thus speaks about punya karma leading to chitta shuddhi in Upadesa Saram
Ishwara arpitham na icchayaa kritham
Chitta shodakam mukthi saadhakam

That work which is offered to the Lord and done without any expectation leads to purification of mind and thereby helps in realization.

Lord thus says in Gita that a person should action without any expectation of the fruits of the action and as an offering unto the Lord.

In order to be able to do selfless karma and as an offering to the Lord, we need to first get rid of papa karmas. This can be easily done by offering the papa karma also to the Lord. When we have to do some bad action, if we are offering it to the Lord – we will not be able to do that action as we will not feel happy to offer bad action to the Lord. Thus if a person does bad action remembering the Lord, he will very easily overcome the bad action as he will not be able to do the action. Thus a seeker has to always offer all actions unto the Lord whether those are good and bad. When the seeker thus continues to do this, he overcomes bad actions & always does punya karmas alone and as an offering to the Lord. Thus he does punya karma and gets rid of papa karmas.

When the seeker does such good actions, as explained earlier – his mind will be purified and he will be able to contemplate on the Lord thereby making him realize his own very nature of non-dual Lord who alone exists amidst the illusory world and its objects.

We will continue with what Suka says to Parikshit and as to what is the context of narration of the story of Ajamila in the next.

We are learning the imports in the various stories depicted in Srimad Bhagavatham. It is better here to remember and keep in mind the ultimate goal to be achieved through learning of these stories.

The ultimate reality in the world is Consciousness or Brahman or Lord. Lord alone exists as the non-dual reality. The duality that we perceive in the world is but an illusion in the reality of Lord. The world and the objects that we currently perceive is not at all different from the dream world which we all perceive while sleeping. Once a person is dreaming, he thinks that the world he perceives is real – but once he wakes up he realizes that there is no dream world, there never was a dream world and there never will be any dream world. Similarly when a person wakes up from the illusory world that he is currently perceiving, he realizes that there never was any world at all nor is there any world at all but whatever is present is only the Lord alone, one without a second.

Thus whatever exists is only the Lord – we are all not different from the Lord but one with the Lord as there is no duality whatsoever here. Thus we are all the Lord alone but unaware of this ultimate reality that “I am the Lord as there is nothing but the Lord alone here”. This ultimate reality of non-dual Consciousness or Lord is what is being pointed out through each and every story in Srimad Bhagavatham. The one and only path to realization of the non-dual reality of Lord is constant remembrance of the Lord. This is what Jnaanis term as Anusandhaanam or Nidhidhyaasana whereas the Bhakthaas term this as Prapatthi or total surrender. Ramanujacharya terms the path as Saranaagathi wherein the seeker completely and totally surrenders unto the Lord – when there is total surrender, there is no seeker different from the Lord as the seeker merges into the Lord – thus there exists only Lord. Sankaracharya terms the path as that of Jnaana wherein the seeker realizes his own very nature of Lord or Consciousness and perceives the entire world as “I” or Consciousness. This way also what remains behind and what is really present is the non-dual reality of Consciousness or Lord alone.

Thus the same reality is being spoken about by various acharyas in different ways and at different levels. Whatever be the level or whatever be the perspective, that which really exists is ONE alone and that is the Lord of the nature of Existence, Consciousness and Bliss absolute. This is the final and ultimate reality to be realized by a seeker & realizing which alone a person gets eternal bliss which he is seeking out each and every moment.

Thus the reality is that there is the Lord alone, there is nothing but Lord alone & we all are the Lord alone. The perception of duality which seems to be real is only an illusion like the dream world and water seen in desert – it is due to ignorance of one’s own very nature of Lord. The very moment the realization dawns that “I am the Lord, one without a second”, ignorance completely vanishes and what remains behind is the Lord alone.

The one and only criteria for removal of ignorance and realization is CONSTANT CONTEMPLATION on the reality of Lord. This is what is being stressed in this story of Ajaamila. Ajaamila was a Brahmin who was very pious but as a result of getting in contact with a low-caste girl, he forgot the pious activities & thereby was leading a non-pious and non-devoted life. He had a child whose name he kept as Narayana in order to remember the Lord. Thus even though he was not leading a pious life, but still he was devoted to the Lord & had the earnest desire to realize the Lord.

This is what is essential in a seeker – a seeker needs to just have the earnest and burning desire to know the Lord & the Lord shows the seeker the path to the ultimate reality. That is what exactly happened with Ajaamila too. Ajaamila was very much attached to the child & hence at the time of his death, he called out the name of his child & died. As per the activities that he had done, he had to go to hell and the soldiers of yama came to take him away. But at that time, the soldiers or bhataas of Vishnu came and stopped them. The soldiers of Vishnu mentioned that since Ajaamila took the name of the Lord (even though unknowingly), therefore he will be taken to the Vishnu loka.

This is where we find the importance of even the name of the Lord chanted unknowingly. Each and every word in the world has an import attached to it even though one may not be aware of the import of the word. The word Narayana is meant for the Lord & ajaamila had kept the name for his son so that he could remember the Lord. Thus the entire life time he was chanting the name of Narayana through calling and getting attached to his son. Thus he was contemplating on the Lord indirectly. Therefore he was benefitted by the grace of the Lord and taken to the Vishnu loka.

This particular story thus gives the importance of constant contemplation on the name of the Lord whether knowingly or unknowingly. We have thus to learn from it that the very aim of human life is to realize the ultimate reality of Lord and that can be had only through constant contemplation on the reality of Lord – not through any other means of dhyaana, bhakthi, karma, jnaana or yoga – all these paths are mere means of fixing the mind unto the Lord or to get constant contemplation or remembrance of the Lord.

We will see as to what happened in the life of Ajaamila in detail in the coming days. Let this story like any other story in Bhagavatham lead us to constant contemplation on the ultimate reality of Lord – which alone can lead us to the Lord and thereby to eternal bliss.

In Kanyakubja (place), there was a Brahmin named Ajamila who through samsarga (association) with a daasi (servant) left all brahmana aachaaras or ritualis. He thus became a prey to untruth, treachery etc. as a result of the same. Time thus passed by and he became more than 80 years old. He had ten children of which the son named Narayana was very dear to both mother and father. He got very much attached to the son – Narayana. He didn’t realize death nearing him. When his death time arrived, he saw the yama kinkaraas coming near him. At that time, he looked at the child Narayana and called out loudly the name of Narayana, at the same time leaving his mortal coil. Thus the dhootaas of Narayana came there very soon (as Ajamila had taken the name of Narayana at the time of death).


Satsanga or association with good people or good thoughts is very important for a seeker. It is very easy in the world to get associated with bad people and bad habits but it is very tough indeed to get rid of those addictive bad habits. Thus scriptures give importance to association with sadhus or spiritual people. Yoga Vasistha mentions four guards to the door of liberation or moksha. The four guards are: Viveka, shama (calmness of the mind), santosha or contentment and sadhu sangama or association with good people. Sankaracharya saves in Bhaja Govindam thus about the way out of the ocean of samsaara:

Trijaggathi sajjana sangathireka
Bhavathi bhavaarnava tharane naukaa

There is no other boat in the three worlds other than Sadhu Sangama or Sat Sanga through which a seeker can cross over the ocean of samsaara.

There is a very famous story often quoted to show the importance of Satsanga. Once Narada wanted to know the importance of Satsanga. Thus he asked Lord Narayana about the same. Narayana told Narada to go to such and such place where an earthworm was to be born. Narada went there & found out the earthworm as it was born. That very moment it died. Narada went back to Lord sad that the earthworm had died after seeing him. Lord again asked him to go to a particular place where a particular colored cat was to be born. Narada went there and found that a mother cat gave birth to some kittens – one of the kitten was as mentioned by the Lord. Narada asked the kitten as to what is the importance of Satsanga (as he was directed by the Lord to put forth the question to the newly born kitten). The kitten saw Narada and then died. Narada went running to the Lord crying that he was the cause of the death of the kitten as it died seeing him. The Lord consoled him and said him to put forth the same question to a puppy that was to be born. Narada was not willing as he feared the worst but still did as he was told by the Lord. The puppy also died exactly as the kitten. Narada came back crying but was consoled and directed to a calf. The calf also died the same way. Narada then was completely crying when the Lord told him to ask the same question to the child who was to born to a king. Narada was afraid and did not want to do the same as it was a king!!! But the Lord said him not to worry – instead to do as directed.

Narada thus went to the king and the child was born. When Narada was taken to the child, the child jumped on the shoulder of Narada and asked him “don’t you recognize me???” Narada replied “No”. Then the child replied “I was the same earthworm who through satsanga with you got a higher birth – thus progressing through different births, I have reached the greatest of human birth. All this is because of Satsanga with you”.

Thus Narada realized the importance of Satsanga.

Hence each and every seeker should always try to be in the company of good thoughts and good people. This helps the seeker to contemplate on the reality of Lord at all times. Contemplation on the reality of Lord is the one and only way out of the ocean of samsaara filled with sorrow and sufferings. Thus those who really want to get out of the illusory world and its sorrows should try to be associated with spiritual people and environment at all times (whenever possible). Most of the saints mention about the importance of the presence of a Mahatma. AMMA says that the presence of a Guru is much powerful than 10 years of intense sadhana. This is because the very presence of the Mahatma quietens the mind thereby removing innate tendencies and vasaanas from the seeker even as the presence of an incense stick purifies the environment very easily.

There are two ways of putting forth an idea to the seeker – one is by emphasizing the positive side of the activity and second is by pointing out the disadvantage caused by the negative side. It happens with initial seekers that pointing the negative side help out to keep away from the negative things or activities. Thus Bhagavatham here points out the problems arising out of contact with bad people. Ajamila even though was a Brahmin came in contact with a dasi thus forsaking the good activities of bhajan, keerthana, chanting etc. which are the good actions that lead a person to the ultimate reality of Lord.

Ajaamila in this story depicts the seeker who has the goal of realizing the ultimate reality of Lord but whose nature is such that he can fall a prey to bad habits. The daasi denotes bad habits like untruth, treachery etc. which not only obstruct the seeker in following spiritual sadhana but takes the seeker away from the spiritual goal. Thus when the seeker falls a prey to these bad habits, he suffers through those habits entangling in the whirlpool of vasanaas and karmas.

The Yama kinkaraas here denote the continuation of the cycle of birth and death – more and more entangling into the vicious circle of ignorance and action. But when the seeker takes the name of Narayana or the ultimate reality of Lord knowingly or unknowingly, directly or indirectly – all his sins are burnt up. Thus the Narayana Dhootaas representing the good qualities that lead the seeker from the bad qualities and ignorance ocean to the reality of Lord help the seeker when he takes the name of Narayana. If the very name of Narayana (unknowingly chanted) can have so much effect, so what to speak about knowingly seeking the reality of Lord???? The effect itself will be instantaneous and spontaneous – the seeker will instantly feel eternal bliss in the mind & find that he is progressing very fast towards realizing of the ultimate reality of Lord.

Thus Bhagavatham here tells us all to constantly take the name of the Lord thereby contemplating on the Lord at all times – thus leading us to realization and liberation from the illusory bondages of the world which causes sorrow and suffering in the world.

We will continue with the discussion between the Yama Kinkaraas and Narayana Dhootaas and how the Narayana Dhootaas save Ajaamila from the yama kinkaraas in the next day.

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