Value of Bhakthi


Karalagna mrgah kareendra bhango

Ghana-saardoola vikhandanosta jantuh:

Giriso visadakritischa cheetah

Kuhare panchamukho-asti me kuto bheeh.


Lord Narayana made up His mind to remain as a man when He incarnated as Rama, in order to teach the world the importance of reverence or Bhakti towards father, mother, teacher and God. He so identified Himself with His human role that He behaved exactly like an ordinary mortal and when any one attributed to Him qualities of God, He reminded him that He as only a man Aatmaanam maanusham manye. Similarly though Sri Adi Sankara was Lord Siva incarnate, he tried to inculcate Siva-bhakti in the people by his actions and writings. One such composition of his is Sivaananda Lahari.


In the above verse occurring in Sivaananda Lahari, Siva is conceived of as having five faces, four of them looking at each of the four directions, east, south, west and north, and the other turning upwards. The upturned faced is called Eesaanam, while other four faces are called Sadyajaatam, Vaamadevam, Aghoram, and Tarpurusham. Siva holds in his right hand a deer (hence valam-kai-maan in Tamil), symbolic of the mind which is unsteady or restless. This aspect of the mind is found referred to in the Gita in the words, chanchalam hi manah Krishna. The deer is also by nature restless and timid and continuously turns its gaze hither and thither. But when the same deer is held in the hand of Siva, it gazes into His benevolent eyes, keeps its look steady there, forgets its fear and remains motionless, with a feeling of security and happiness. Siva wears the hide of an elephant and that of a tiger. In the atmosphere of peace and security that pervades in His presence, all creatures remain motionless and blissful, their mind concentrated on Him and Him only. Where is fear, asks the great Acharya, when this five faced Siva is in the cavity of my heart?


There is an interesting story about the manner in which Siva came to wear the hide of an elephant. It is said some sages who believed that the observance of the rites prescribed in the Vedas is everything and that there is no need to have devotion or bhakti to God, created an elephant by their mantra power and set it to attack Siva, towards whom the wives of the sages were attracted, even as Sri Krishna attracted towards himself the devotion of the Gopis. Isvara performed his Oordhva Taandava, tossed the elephant about like a ball and ultimately tore it up and covered Himself with its skin. On account of this dress, He came to be known as Krithivasah. The Vedas use the expression, (Krithivasahpinaakee) in several places, Amara Simha, a highly intellectual person, though a Jain has done full justice to the Vedic names of God in his Sanskrit dictionary. When enumerating the names of Siva, he has included the Vedic name, Krithivasah.


There is a story about the meeting between Sri Adi Sankara and Amara Simha. Both Jainism and Buddhism expounded only truths which are within the comprehension of the intellect. Adi Sankara was able to convince Amara Simha that the Ultimate Reality or Isvara Tatva, is something beyond the reach of mere intellectual comprehension. Amara Simha thereupon started consigning all his writing to the flames. Adi Sankara rushed forward to prevent him doing so, but was in time only to save Amara Kosa, which has become a book of eternal value.


The Gita also teaches us that the Vedas and the rites enjoined therein are not the be all the end all of our spiritual quest, but that there is also the Vedanta or the highest conception of the Supreme which transcends the intellect. It is up to us all to develop Isvara-bhakti and derive happiness herein and hereafter.


The description of Siva, the Lord of the universe, in this verse, can also be applied to the lion, the Lord of the jungle, Panchaasya or panchamukha is one of the names for the lion, derived from the fact that its head and mane together present a broad (pancha) appearance in contrast to its wiry body. While roaming about, the lion catches hold of deer with ease and also kills the elephant or tiger that corsses its path. Its den is known as kuhara, and when it is prowling about, the other animals of the jungle remain hidden and motionless.


November 4, 1957