Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Spiritual Path of Madhavadeva

[Mahapurusa Srimanta Sankaradeva (1449-1568) was the revealer - founder, propagator as well as foremost exponent - of the path of Eka-Sarana Hari-Nama Dharma in Indian spirituality. His foremost disciple Mahapurusa Madhavadeva continued the Guru's Teachings in his Nama Ghosa. This post was written on the occasion of the Birth Anniversary of Madhavadeva (June 05, 2012); our salutations at the Feet of Madhava Guru]
Shri Shri Krishnaya Namo Namah
Jai Guru Sankaradeva
Madhavadeva, the closest and most beloved disciple of Sankaradeva, in his Nama Ghosa, lays down a spiritual path that seeks to transcend the limitations of other paths and to maintain an all-time link with God for the maximum benefit of all people, irrespective of time or clime. This is the path of ‘Hari-Nama’ or the vocal explication of the Name of God. The aspirant is simply to take sole-refuge in God and then keep on chanting His Name at regular intervals. This God, however, is not the abstract God but God as Purusottama or ‘Best Person’ endowed with all the best attributes that can be conceived by the range of human knowledge and experience.

Universality is the most important feature of this path. Hari-Nama may be practised by anybody - anytime, anyplace. It is not confined to the limitations of time, space and eligibility of the practitioner which are there in other paths or dharmas. Madhava says that simply by taking refuge in Hari and doing the Kirttana of His Name, one may secure accomplishment. No other means are necessary. Whether one be in a busy work-place or in outer space, in market or bustling city-state, on the battle-ground or under the ground; whether one be a toddler or a geriatric, a scholar or rank illiterate, a prince, a pauper, ‘twice-born’ or ‘outcast’; whether it be morning, evening, day or night or even twilight, the Name of Hari can be taken. This contrasts well with other traditional approaches like that of activism or knowledge. Imagine trying to tranquilize the mind through meditation in a raging battlefield with shells whistling over the head or attempting to kindle a fire inside an aircraft to do a yajna. But, even in such extreme situations, when other spiritual methods fail, vocal explication of ‘Hari’ can be done. The point, repeatedly stressed upon by both Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva throughout all their writings, is that while the other paths require tight ‘laboratory conditions’ to work, failing otherwise, Hari-Nama does not. We have historical instances when people showed no nerves even in the face of ruthless torture by simply immersing themselves in the Song of Hari.

It is precisely due to this all-embracing, all-encompassing quality that Hari-Nama, according to Madhava, is the ‘King of All Dharmas’. The analogy ought to be clear straightway. Just as a supreme ruler exercises his sovereignty over all his subjects, so also Hari-Nama has complete sway over the entire human race. All humans are eligible for this dharma - the entire world – and not only merely eligible, but also perfect candidates for the same. In the Bhagavata, Sankaradeva exhorts therefore, ‘Oba naraloka, Hari bhajiyoka’ meaning, ‘O naraloka (entire human race), take Hari’s Name’.

Now, as any potential customer of a spiritual ‘product’ would ask, what benefits may one derive from uttering Hari’s Name? In the Nama Ghosa, Madhavadeva lays down the supreme profit of chanting Hari-Nama, both from spiritual and material viewpoints. It gives to its ‘purchaser’ atyantika sukha or extreme happiness. This is the maximum happiness realizable by any embodied being. The other joys of the material world do not measure up to even an atom of this transcendental nectar. To be sure, for spiritual uplift, “First, Hari-Nama will burn out all sins and negative mentalities. Second, it will arouse great merits. Third, it will create aversion for worldly pleasures, which is essential if one desires to savor the supreme nectar. Fourth, it will develop loving devotion to God. Fifth, it will give birth to the mood of a Vaisnava. One sees God in all creatures. Sixth, it will extinguish all illusions from the mind. Seventh and last, it will merge the practiser in God who is all life and all joy”.

Uttering the Names of Hari has a wholesome effect on our personality. “His Names indicate the capacity of God in influencing life and soul of man. If their significance is properly understood they can give a real sight into the greatness of God and His workings. As for instance, the name ‘Krishna’ indicates that, which can give bliss to man and remove narrowness from mind; ‘Rama’ indicates that, which can make the world pleasant; ‘Hari’ indicates that, which can steal all suffering; ‘Purusottama’ indicates that which can elevate a heinous person to the highest level; ‘Narasimha’ indicates that, which can enable a person to move in the world fearlessly like a lion and so on and so forth”.

Therefore, in the school of Sankaradeva, Hari-Nama is religion. Some critics sometimes raise the question as to how Hari-Nama could be an independent religion superseding all other rituals and traditions. Sankaradeva removes this doubt thus, “Just as water, in combination (with other agents), gets the job done and, independently also, fulfills all our needs of bathing, drinking, etc., so also Hari-Nama brings all rituals to completion and, independently also, serves as the most excellent religion”.

But, Madhavadeva makes it clear that it is only by taking sole-refuge (Eka-Sarana) in Purusottama that embodied souls (purusas) may hope to become best or perfect (uttama). Such a philosophy is transformative in character. Hari-Nama is only the technology to effect this transformation. In view of this, Madhava says that God must be worshiped only in His true form of pure goodness (suddha sattva); the other manifestations of passion (rajasa) and ignorance (tamasa) are to be altogether evicted from our system of upasana. Indeed, one of the most famous quotes from the Ghosa is that the mind assumes the shape of whatever is worshiped. If one dedicates oneself to pure goodness, nescience is easily overcome.

Hari-Nama, in the ‘age of the losing throw’, the uttermost yuga of Kali, is prescribed by Madhavadeva as the only religion for mankind. It is actually a profound spiritual therapy which intends to cure the people of such worldly afflictions as lust, anger, I-ness, etc. at a time when man’s intellect has been completely soiled by the dirt of the Iron Age. ‘O Hari, Thy Name is beneficial for the entire creation’ (jagatara sumangala tuva guna nama) - such is the compassion of the Saints for humanity.

References: -
1. Nama Ghosa, Madhavadeva
‘Hari-Nama-Kirttanata / nahi kala desa patra…’, Nama Ghosa, 28
‘atyantika sukha tayu pada seva…’, Nama Ghosa, 752
‘moksa adi kari yata sukha…anu eko nuhi samasara’, Nama Ghosa, 148
‘Namara Anvaya’, Nama Ghosa
‘satya asatyara…yijane yaka upase’, Nama Ghosa, 204
‘…etekese Hari-Nama / samaste dharmara raja…’ Nama Ghosa, 129
‘…Purusottamara prema bhakatika karila Asraya /’, Nama Ghosa, 135 
‘…jagatara sumangala tuva guna Nama ’, Nama Ghosa, 941
‘durghora kalita / Hari-Nama bine gati anamate nai’, Nama Ghosa, 267-268
2. Bhakti Ratnavali, Madhavadeva
‘yadyapi bhajani honta tinio isvara…suddha satva gunatese mile tattvajnana’, Ratnavali, 33
3. Bhakti Ratnakara, Sankaradeva (Assamese verse trans. by Ramacarana Thakura)
‘Hari-Kirttana Mahatmya’, 300-301
4. Books/Articles
The Nam-Ghosa and Its Place in Literature, Rameswar Barooah
Jagat-Guru Sankardew, Dimbeswar Neog, Ch. 7    

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