Monday, October 16, 2006

Story 37 – Story of Gajendra - 01

Remembering the ultimate reality of Lord behind all illusory objects of the world and of the nature of Existence, Consciousness and Bliss absolute, let us now enter into the next story in Srimad Bhagavatham. The next story we are going to learn is the story of gajendra. This story is quite popular and most of us would know the story already. There are rarely few children who haven’t heard this story as this was one of the most popular story for grandparents to narrate to the children. This story even though is a short one and known one is yet filled with profound truth about ultimate devotion of the Lord. We find in many stories of Srimad Bhagavatham as to how the Lord comes to the aid of his devotees. In the case of people seeking knowledge, the Lord appears as the Guru to impart the knowledge of Brahman through upanishadic exposition. Thus we have Lord Dakshinamurthy coming to impart knowledge to the ever-young sons of Brahma known as the Sanaka sages (Sanaka, sanandana, sanaatana and sanatkumara). The ways in which the Lord serves his devotees is very strange indeed. In the case of Vyaasa and Sankara, it was through exposition of the Brahma Sutras and various commentaries on the scriptures whereas it was through silence that the Lord taught the Sanaka sages.

If the Sanaka sages who sought knowledge of the eternal entity, we find Prahlaada seeking devotion which was granted by the Lord through none other than Narada. It was through exposition about the truth of karma that the Lord helped his devotee-friend of Arjuna. Thus we find that the Lord helps his devotees in whatever way they seek the Lord.

The Lord propounds thus in Gita
Ye yathaa maam prapadhyanthe taamsthathaiva bhajaami aham
Mama varthma anuvarthanthe manushyaah paartha sarvashah

Whoever worships me in whatever form, I appear to them in that form. All beings follow the rules set by me alone, O Arjuna!

Thus whoever seeks the Lord in whatever form, the Lord appears in that form. It is for this reason that those who have worshipped the Lord in the form of Vishnu have seen Vishnu and whoever has worshipped the Lord in the form of Siva has seen Siva. But those who know the ultimate reality of Lord as beyond all forms & pervading all illusory names-forms will seek the Lord as the one and only real entity. Such people realize their own very nature of Lord knowing which there nothing else to be known remains. In the case of bhakthas contemplating on the form of the Lord, they will see the Lord in that form attaining salokya mukthi (attaining the world of that particular form of the Lord – if Vishnu, then they go to Vaikunta & if Siva, they go to Kailas). It is but true that all forms end in the formless entity of Consciousness. The Lord himself mentions this in many places of Gita.

But those who worship the Lord as a particular form will also be progressively taken to the reality of formless Lord by the Lord himself. Thus a seeker need not worry about whether he is contemplating on the form God or the formless God – what is essential as we saw in the story of Prahlaada is constant contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord through ananya bhajanam. Whatever be the form that we are contemplating on, we should see the form as pervading everything. If we are contemplating the Lord as the form of Siva, we should see Siva as pervading the Lord. Whatever we see should be considered as the form of Siva. When a devotee sees everything as the Lord, he enters into the realm of pure devotion where the devotee doesn’t see anything apart from the Lord. The devotee has nothing to see or hear or think apart from the ultimate reality of Lord. This is similar to the state of a lover wherein the lover thinks about his/her love alone – nothing else. It is this pure devotion which alone can make the lord reveal himself to us. The Lord who is in the heart of all beings is veiled by the various mental obstacles such as desire, hatred, jealousy etc. Once we purify our hearts through constant contemplation of the Lord present in all beings, the Lord reveals his very nature of the non-dual reality of Consciousness & bliss. Once the devotee merges into the ultimate reality of Lord, there remains nothing else to be known. This is the state wherein the differentiation between the subject and object vanishes. When there is thus no duality, what is there is poornatva or fullness which is nothing but eternal bliss.

It is this bliss that we all are seeking each and every moment. That the Lord reveals himself as bliss absolute for his devotees who have pure devotion is depicted through this story of gajendra. This story is one wherein devotion of the Lord is put forth clearly & Vyaasa again emphasizes that the Lord takes care of his devotee’s welfare.

Parikshit expressed the desire to know the story where the Lord came from Vaikunta to save Gajendra who was in the clutches of a crocodile. Shuka thus started explaining the story in detail.

In dravidadesham (south india), there was a king named Indradhyumna who was a great Vishnu bhaktha. Once he was doing pooja of the ultimate reality of Lord through mounam in his ashram in Malaya parvatha. Suddenly the great sage Agastya arrived there with his disciples. Seeing the king observing mouna and thereby not doing proper service, the sage became very angry. The sage concluded that the king doesn’t know the reality and thereby is a bad person. Therefore the sage cursed the king thus “Since you discarded a brahmana, therefore let you be born as an elephant and thereby be in utter ignorance”. The curse became true. Indradhyumna was born as Gajendra and started his life by becoming the king of elephant troops.


We find in Parikshit a devotee who is filled with utmost devotion to the Lord thereby wanting to know more and more about the Lord & his glories. Thus we find Parikshit expressing his desire to know in detail the story of Gajendra. As is the case with most of us, Parikshit had also heard the story of Gajendra (might be in his childhood days) and hence wanted to know it in depth. As the same statement made by different people has different impact, similarly story explained by none other than the atyaashrami (who is beyond all ashramas or any conditionings) Shuka has a different impact.

We all know the reality that “truth has to be spoken always, everyone has to be loved” etc. But when we mention it to our friends & when saints like AMMA mention it, there is a lot of difference. In our case, we speak from the intellect or the memory whereas for saints like AMMA it is a matter of experience & their words are from their experience.

Most of the people in the word “preach” whereas saints “speak through actions”. Vedantic preaching is quite easy because any person who has read the Gita or any of the upanishadic literature will easily be able to remember them & preach whether it is required or not. Thus we find many intellectuals preaching about the unpreachable through words & trying to attract followers. These are the many people whose goal is either name or fame or followers or arguments. It is keeping such people in mind that the Upanishads proclaim that there are many people who will be in utter ignorance still considering themselves as learned – they are people who will ever be entwined in the web of ignorance. Sankara himself mentions about such people in the Maya Panchakam that such people will be preaching hundreds of scriptures but still when it comes to their children or family, they will become totally ignorant.

It is very easy to find out through intuition and observation as to who is merely preaching and who is speaking out of experience. As the words of a graduate on the subject of mathematics and the words of mathematics professor have quite a different impact, similar is the case with a realized saint & a non-realized being. Shuka as we have already seen in the beginning of Bhagavatham itself was fully established in the ultimate reality of Lord. He was realized and in such a state that he went around as a digambara (whose dress is the various directions or who is not wearing any dress) and a madman. Thus Parikshit even though had heard the story wanted to hear it from the mouth of Shuka itself.

Other than the impact of words from a realized saint, there will always be emphasis on the ultimate reality of Lord in the words of a realized saint. Thus there is no chance of being distracted from the reality & being taken in the wrong direction. Thus this part of Bhagavatham emphasizes the truth being heard from realized saints which is very essential for a seeker. It is essential that a seeker seeks a Guru and hears from realized saint. Learning from the Guru doesn’t require much effort from the seeker as the words of the Guru automatically pierces into the heart of the seeker.

Thus Bhagavatham here emphasizes the importance of learning and listening to the words of realized saints. As the Upanishads proclaim, a saint is one who is established in the reality of Lord & whose words are in sync with the scriptures. For people who don’t know the scriptures, it is enough to know that the scriptures main import is the ultimate reality of Lord & thus any person who speaks about the ultimate reality of Lord from his experience is a saint. We find many such realized saints like AMMA, Sai Baba, Swami Tejomayananda (head of Chinmaya mission), Sri Sri Ravishankar etc. amidst ourselves. Thus we should not waste our lives by not imbibing the teachings of these saints and the presence of these saints.

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