Divine teachings (3)
⁘ General guidelines from Swami ⁘
Vibuthi should be applied as is without mixing water by all of us. Only vaidheega brahmins who perform karmas taking upon themselves the karma of other pithrus and later on wash it away by chanting the Gayathri mantra a specified number of times can apply vibhuti after mixing it with water. Many of us wearing the ceremonial thread who call ourselves brahmins are not brahmins by practice. The principle on which the four varna ashramas were divided is based on occupation. Many of us by our occupation are now vaishyas or kshathriyas. If you want you can apply vibhuti as is and wet your fingers with water and smear it where you have applied vibhuti.
A person should not take bath more than once a day. Taking bath more than once implies he/she is taking bath for having lost some relative. On the other hand when you hear of a near one's death, you have to take bath twice as a rule, one being your routine one and the second specifically for the karma that comes upon us from the loss of a near and dear one.
Swami leads us by example. Except in rare cases when he has to perform pooja himself, as in the case of padi pooja during the Ayyappa festival, we do not find him taking bath more than once during the day even if the weather is oppressive. Replying to certain devotees' persistent queries, he said we could choose to believe that these rules don't apply to us since we are not brahmins in the real sense. You may take bath twice if you want. But it is for us to decide whether we want to follow Swami whose life itself is a teaching for all of us. He indeed teaches us by practice, leading us by example.
⁘ Venduthal (taking vows) ⁘
Many of us in the course of our life have invariably put forth mental proposals to the Lord. For example, "Oh! God, if I get through my interview I shall break 108 coconuts at your temple, if my business proposal goes through, I shall give 20% of the profit to your temple or if an ailing family member is cured of his or her illness I shall come to your temple on the seven hills all the way walking from the base of the hill" — so on and so forth. We keep making such business proposals to the Lord, making it conditional to the success of our prayers.
Many of us are honest enough to go through the deal once our prayers are answered. Some of us forget the proposal even after enjoying the successful fruit of our prayer. Bur what happens ih case the mission for which the specific offer we have made fails? Naturally, none of us would perform our part of the deal when the prayers have not been answered to our liking.
Swami says in such cases the offer that we have made stands as indebtedness to the Lord. Indebtedness to fellow human beings are not carried forward. But indebtedness to God gets carried forward even to the next birth. That is why we find that when we meet a saint or astrologer, they often ask us to go to a certain temple to offer a certain kind of pooja for solving our problems. Yes, indeed, these problems are the outcome of our previous birth's indebtedness.
Swami says whenever you feel like offering something to God for a specific purpose, then go ahead and perform your promise even if that prayer remains unsuccessful. The fact that you have done your part of the offering stands to your credit and will definitely help you in the later years when you need it most. Sodhanaikku ellai undu anaal Karunaikku ellai Illai — this means there is a definite limit to the testing period but the grace of God has no limits.
⁘ New year message, 2001 ⁘
Swami said that in Kali yugam, it is easier to be God in the form of kallu (stone). God in idol form does not talk. They hear our prayers and bless us according to what we deserve. Swami mentioned that Ambal has asked Him to be like a stone and starting from next year Swami, would remain silent. Swami had given his golden inlaid photo during the navarathri of 2001. Swami mentioned that he would talk through this photograph. One could ask questions and can see movements of eyes in the photo. Depending on one's concentration and devotion, Swami would respond from the photo. Swami wants each and everyone to see Him all around us and within ourselves. It is for this precise reason Swami wants to remain quiet and wants each one of us to see Him within ourselves and realize the true meaning of the song "naan kaanum porul nee aaga vendum".
⁘ Shrardham ⁘
Swami says that once one starts performing the yearly ritual of shrardham, he has to do it without fail. If he breaks it off in between, the backlash could be severe.
A person can have many sons, but the entire responsibility of performing the karma lies with the eldest son. If the younger brothers decide to participate in the yearly function, then their wives have to be present. If they stay far apart and cannot participate, the elder brother should perform the function by himself and the younger brothers should observe fast until afternoon and then have food after inviting two athithis (ceremonial guests).
According to Swami, the priest who makes you perform the ritual has to be dedicated. As per shastram, a priest can perform only one shrardham per day. He has to chant 3024 Gayathri mantras after the ritual and has to observe strict fast in the evening. Present day priests perform more than one shrardham in a day, they never eat in the house where it is conducted and never observe the strict rules which are prescribed. Swami asks when there are so many mistakes being made, how can we expect our forefathers to be happy and bless us?
⁘ Shrardham rites in the United States ⁘
In the US, the priest who performs poojas or religious rituals in the temple also conducts various rituals at home including shrardham. This is a very grave mistake according to Swami. The priest in the temple has studied Aagamashastram (sastram about temple rituals) and should only perform his duties in front of the Lord in temples. The priests who visits various houses have studied veda shastram and only they can perform family rites. A priest in the US would perform a shrardham in the morning and then in the evening would enter the sannadhi to do pooja for the Lord. He loses all the benefits accrued by doing service to the Lord this far. He and his family members get adversely affected.
Suppose a couple is blessed only with daughters, their grandson should do the karma, not the son-in-law. In case they do not have any grandson, anyone else — Govinda kolli — could perform the final rites. After performing the rites for 13 days, nothing more should be done.
A person is inside their mother's womb for ten months. Before that the child is resident within the father for two months. Hence it takes a total of twelve months for a new born to be made complete. The final rites takes thirteen days to perform. After that, every month the function is performed. The manthrams chanted during this ritual are meant to dissolve each part of the body and return it back to earth. The 11th and 12th month is for the jeevan and then the soul. The thirteen day ritual immediately following the death is a short version of the monthly function.
⁘ India, the karma bhoomi ⁘
Swami says India, starting from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari is the only karma bhoomi on earth. No other place on earth has this unique grace. The reason is India is the only country where we have rivers that run down from north to south and from west to east. This criss-crossing of rivers is symbolic of cleansing. For this precise reason, only karma performed in India gets recorded and registered. All other actions performed outside India is done for one's own satisfaction.
A devotee asked, "what about so many shrardhams performed in the US?". Swami explained that nothing would be recorded. You may have performed everything right. But the land is not right.
Swami gave an example about the importance of land. Lord Balaji has importance in Tirupathi, but does not enjoy the same importance nor attracts the same kind of crowd if installed in some other location. Similarly Lord Krishna in Guruvayoor has special importance. We can have an idol of Lord Krishna installed in other places but they do not enjoy the same level of attraction. The chaitanyam (sanctity) of the individual Gods and Goddesses is related to the ground where they are located.
If idols of Goddess Meenakshi or Lord Balaji, for example, are installed outside India, all that we see is a statue. The chaitanyam is missing. But if the priest in the temple is very sincere, then the chaitanyam is found in the priest and the Lord is resident on the priest. But if this priest performs shrardhams outside the temple, the sanctity is lost. Whatever blessing we get from the temple depends on the depth of our devotion to the Lord.
⁘ Adoption ⁘
Sometimes, people adopt a child and then beget their own child. In such cases, the child born to the couple has the right to perform the final rites.
A question was raised asking the reason why Swami often adopts some devotees and then conducts their marriage. Swami is above worldly karma. Swami explained that He is Ambal. The four vedas come from Ambal. Gurukulam (or vedapatashalaya in Sanskrit) is the seat for learning the vedas. Hence Swami is still following the rules and is adopting some devotees based on this concept. Swami then gives back the children in sweekaram to the parents to perform their marriage.
⁘ Our janmas & origin ⁘
It is believed that all humans take their form from monkeys.
Swami says this is false. It is true we were all animals before being born as humans, but we all were snakes. The reason is as follows - consider what we call a nalla pambu (good snake). The snake stores its poison and is very careful in using it. It knows its own power and the potency of the poison, hence treats it like a diamond. In fact, the stone nagamani is a concentrate of the poison inside a cobra. It thickens and finally hardens and becomes a nagamani, the most precious stone on earth. It is impossible for human beings to come across such a stone, the stone falls in the hands of divine persons only. Due to this quality of being selective in using the poison and displaying intelligence, the snake gets transformed and advances into human form.