Ever since Swami started
the Veda chanting in Sai Kulwant Hall way back on
September 18th, 2003 , there has been very good progress
and interest in the Vedas. Not only do a majority of
students in Swami's Institutions (including the primary
school) chant the Vedas with the aplomb of learned
Brahmin priests, but there is also a world-wide
resurgence, with devotees in many countries learning to
roll the ancient Sanskrit words on their Western
According to ancient lore,
the body of knowledge was embodied as the four Vedas
(Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharvana Veda) by
Lord Narayana Himself for the welfare of humanity. This
very sacred body of knowledge was thus gifted to man by
the Supreme Lord to help him evolve and elevate himself
from the level of humanity to the level of divinity.
One of Swami's oft stated
mission is veda poshana or nourishment of the
Vedas and to restore its pre-eminence and pristine glory
in human society. So while we devotees have made
progress in learning the Vedas by rote and perhaps even
chant it for the most part with an acceptable
intonation, we still need to ask the question - is it
enough? Is this all that Swami wants?
There is a story of a
religious saint reciting a holy text loudly with intense
feeling. Another learned saint, perhaps a little wiser,
gently asks the first one whether he understood what he
was reciting. The first one replied that he had no need
to understand it, for he was reciting it for his God and
his God understood it perfectly.
This quaint story perhaps
best summarises our situation also. Are we smug in the
belief that Swami is coming to sit in Sai Kulwant Hall
and derives pleasure from listening to our chanting of
the Vedas? Or perhaps, does He now want us to make the
next step and actually understand the meaning. After
all, this Veda chanting business is really for our own
benefit not for the benefit or pleasure of the Lord. So
while we now chant it blissfully thinking "He
understands even if we do not", it is perhaps time to
make the next step and understand the meaning so we can
chant it with full feeling, intensity and involvement
and derive the maximum benefit. The benefit of realizing
our full divine potential! That we are God!
With this preamble, we would like to recount what
happened in Sai Kulwant Hall in the afternoon of July
3rd. Swami came in as usual to the sound of Veda
chanting by the students, staff and devotees. After He
took His seat in the veranda, He started reading the
letters that devotees usually hand Him. On opening one
oversized envelope, He took out what seemed to be a
booklet. Swami perused it carefully and then called one
of our brothers, an alumnus of Swami's Institute now
working for the Ashram, who is part of the group that
leads the congregation in the Veda chants. Handing him
the booklet at a page open to a "comic-book" strip on
Vivekananda entitled I AM GOD, Swami told him that he
should read it to understand the importance of the Vedas
that they are chanting. Our brother took the booklet
respectfully and resumed his seat.
After a few minutes, he
was called again to the Divine Presence and given
instructions by Swami for the Narayana Upanishad to be
recited and the meaning to be explained to the assembly.
The "Vedam Group" first chanted a couple of stanzas from
this epic hymn, which were then translated by our
brother for the benefit of the audience. And so on it
went, a couple of stanzas at a time, till the entire
Narayana Upanishad mantram was thus translated
for the benefit of the congregation.
The Narayana Upanishad
deals with the glory of Lord Narayana as extolled in the
four Vedas. The opening stanzas deal with
creation and describes what we learn from the Rig Veda -
that from Narayana emerged the life principle, mind, all
the senses, sky, fire, water and earth; which all
combined together to form the Universe. Brahma, Maha
Rudra, Indra, all the prajapathis and the other
demi-Gods all emerged from Narayana. The twelve Adityas,
the eleven rudras, the eight lords of
directions, all the Vedas and all types of wealth were
born from Narayana. Everything is sustained by Him and
ultimately everything merges in Him.
From the Yajur Veda we
learn that Narayana is the eternal principle. Brahma,
Siva and Indra are all Narayana. Earth and Heaven, Time
and Directions are all Narayana. Narayana forms the
inner and outer worlds. Everything is the manifestation
of Narayana. Past, and the future are all manifestations
of Narayana. Narayana is blemishless, ever blissful, and
non-dual. There is nothing which is not Narayana.
Narayana is the very Supreme self, the one without a
second. Narayana and Vishnu pervade the entire universe.
It is Narayana alone who exists.
The Sama Veda declares
that the primordial sound "OM" has to be uttered first
followed by "Namo". Then comes the meditation on
"Narayana". " Om " is single lettered; "Namo" is two
lettered and "Narayana" is five lettered. All these
together form the eight lettered mantra OM NAMO
NARAYANA, which is the king of all the mantras. Those
who chant this mantra with sincere faith and devotion,
will attain good health, long life and prosperity. They
will also attain the status of "Prajapathi". They will
attain the immortal state of Narayana Himself.
The Pranava (" OM ") is
made up of three syllables A, U,
and M. Pranava is verily the life
principle. Pranava is supreme bliss. It is the supreme
state of Brahma or Atma. The masters of Yoga, who know
this adore the Pranava chanting " Om " and attain the
abode of liberation. Such yogis break the bonds of
birth, life and death. Those who adore the mantra, "Om
Namo Narayana" will attain the supreme abode 'Vaikunta'.
Narayana is 'Parabrahma'. His seat is the lotus of the
heart. Knowledge of this Lord is the highest wisdom.
This wisdom shines like lightning. Sri Krishna, the son
of Devaki, is the very embodiment of Brahma. He is also
adored as Madhusudhana. He resides in all beings. He is
the fundamental basis of everything. He Himself is
causeless. He is the causeless cause of everything. This
is what is pronounced in the Atharva Veda.
last stanza of the mantram calls this Narayana
Upanishad as the crest jewel of the essence of the four
Vedas. If this Upanishad is chanted in the morning, it
destroys the sin committed the previous night. If it is
chanted in the evening, it removes the sin committed in
the day. If it is chanted at noon , it pulverises the
five great sins. One who chants this Upanishad will
attain the merit of the study of the Vedas and
ultimately attains oneness with Narayana.
When the translation was
thus going on, explaining the importance of the OM NAMO
NARAYANA mantra and how it would help us attain
the supreme abode Vaikunta, Swami asked a question in
English to our brother (doing the translation) in a
voice just loud enough to carry to him, "What is the
meaning of Vaikuntham?" Hah, a divine trick question!
For most of us the answer would have been pat and along
expected lines - Vaikuntha is the abode of Lord Vishnu.
But this brother, better informed than most and with
great presence of mind, remembered a definition that
Swami had given in a discourse and answered, "Vaikuntham
is anything that is not narrow, but broad and ever
expansive". Swami beamed at this answer that He was
looking for, and wore the proud smile of a teacher who
realizes that Her students are finally "getting it".
At the end of the
mantra, a pregnant silence prevailed in the entire
hall. Swami raised His palm in the classical upward
gesture that He so often makes to elevate everyone's
mood. And then suddenly, without any warning Bhagavan
waved His right hand vigorously and materialized a
beautiful golden necklace. After undoing the clasp, He
called the brother who had done the translation and
handed the necklace to him. Bhagavan also told him
something to which he listened very carefully.
By now the entire audience
was electrified. The magnificence of the necklace was
patently visible to all, even to those seated in the
last rows. We also wondered if there was going to be a
revelation and we were not disappointed.
The brother turned to the
audience with the necklace held up. Hurriedly a mike was
set up for him. He then explained to all the
significance of the necklace, as explained to him by
Bhagavan. Bhagavan had said that the necklace contained
the power of the sacred mantra - "Om Namo Narayanaya."
He went on to state that Swami explained to him that all
the Vedas, Upanishads and the other scriptures illumine
the path that man has to take to attain his final
destination - Divinity. The mantra "Om Namo Narayanaya"
contains the essence and power of all the scriptures.
The fatherly and motherly aspect of divinity is
contained in this mantra. Without either of them, there
can be no creation. But, if one were to contemplate
deeply, said Swami, one would realize that there is no
difference between the two aspects- Purusha (God) and
Prakruthi (nature), they are indeed one and the same.
After explaining the
significance, our brother turned towards Swami and held
the necklace to hand it back to Him. Swami asked him to
keep it in his pocket and return it to Him later. What a
signal honour! And what a delightful afternoon basking
in the divine presence. How slowly and patiently Swami
leads us back to Him. For all of us present there the
Narayana Upanishad will come alive everyone time it is
chanted, for then the divine images from this
afternoon's happening will come before the mind's eye
and thrill us to the very depths of our being. Clearly
the time has come. And the time is right now. Let us
arise, awake, aspire, adore and achieve God!
This brings to a
conclusion the chronicles of another month at the divine
Lotus Feet. It has been an exquisite month, full of
surprises and spiritual gifts. And we are sure more is
in store as we count down to the 80th Birthday. We, of
course, will continue to report on all the activities
for you, our dear reader.
So till next time, Sai
- H2H Team