Worship of the Sun
The Sun is none other than Mahavishnu Himself. He is the God manifest before our eyes. He is known as Aditya. Aditya also means the son of Aditi. Who is the son of Aditi? Vamana is the son of Aditi. And who is Vamana, but an avatar of Mahavishnu? So the Sun is indeed Mahavishnu Himself, said Trichy Kalyanaraman. That is why we worship the early morning Sun as Vamana. Worship of the Sun in the morning gets rid of our lethargy and laziness, and fills us with energy. Azhvars have extolled the Vamana avatara. Andal celebrates this avatara of the Lord, where He grew in size, and measured the worlds.
Thriuvalluvar in kural 610, says a king should be like Vamana in conquering the three worlds. Thiruvalluvar says that if a king were to shed his lethargy, then he can conquer the three worlds that the Lord did. The words ‘Adi Alandaan’, in this verse, refer to the Vamana avatar. And since the Sun is none other than the Lord who took the Vamana avatar, worship of the Sun will help us achieve what seems impossible.
The Sun is the most important among the navagrahas. All planets are controlled by the Sun. The celestial beings, namely the Devas, and all the planets revolve around the Sun. It is important to rise early in the morning and to have one’s bath early too. The Sun is to be remembered through prayer both in the morning and in the evening. In the evening, we worship the Sun as a manifestation of Varuna, or the rain god.
As part of the questions that Yama in the guise of a Yaksha puts to Yudhishtra, there are questions on the Sun too. The Yaksha asks, “Who makes the Sun rise?” Yudhishtra answers that it is Brahmam, the Supreme One, who makes the Sun rise. What makes the Sun set? It is dharma which makes the Sun set. The Sun is anchored in Truth. What is a daily occurrence, asks the Yaksha. Yudhistra replies that the illusory world may be seen as a vessel, covered with the sky as a lid. Day and night are the firewood, and the fire that lights this firewood is the Sun. Months and seasons constitute the ladle. With this ladle, Time stirs the contents in the vessel, which include all movable and immovable things, and this is a daily occurrence, replies Yudhishtra.
Those who believe in astrology, sometimes take fright when inauspicious predictions about their future are made. They begin to wonder how they will face the onslaught of planets that do not look favourably upon them. They forget that the best way to overcome fear and difficulty is to worship God, to meditate upon Him.
When the sun shines brightly, can any other light match it in brilliance? In the same way can a planet have the power of God? With God on our side, do we need to fear planetary influences? For those who fear that one or the other of the navagrahas, could harm them, the Kolaru Padhigam of Gnanasambandar is reassuring, said R. Narayanan. The story goes that Sambandar made the locked door of the temple at Vedaranyam open with just one verse. When Kulachirai Nayanar, the minister of Koon Pandian, the Pandia King, heard of this, he requested Sambandar to come to Madurai, to convert the King to Saivism. Tirunavukkarasar protested that the planets were not in an auspicious formation. The aim of Tirunavukkarasar must have been to prompt Sambandar to sing of the greatness of Lord Shiva vis-a-vis the planets. And that is when Sambandar sang the Kolaru Padhigam. It is easy to recite, and the theme that runs through the verses is that the devotees of Lord Shiva will not be harmed by the planets. For those who are unable to recite all of it, recitation of the first verse at least would be enough. The verse says that if Uma Devi’s consort, Lord Shiva, who plays the veena, and wears the faultless Moon and the Ganga on His head, resides in a person’s heart, the planets cannot harm that person. A similar sentiment is expressed in Arunagirinathar’s Kandar Alankaram, except that the deity invoked here is Lord Muruga. In the 38th verse, the poet asks what harm the planets can do to him. The answer is that they can do nothing, for in his heart resides Lord Muruga, the one who wears different kinds of ornaments on his feet, who has six heads and 12 arms. It is interesting to note that Arunagirinathar mentions the two feet, six ornaments, six faces, a flower garland, and 12 arms, all adding up to 27, the total number of planets.
Advent of Kali
The cause of human suffering continues to remain enigmatic and scriptures and sacred texts have discussed it from many angles. Parikshit’s righteous rule saw the end of Dwapara Yuga and the beginning of Kali Yuga and the entry of Kali Yuga is described in a symbolic manner in the Bhagavata Purana, pointed out Sri Venkatesa Sarma in a lecture. When Parikshit heard that there were signs of Kali’s attempts to enter the domain of his jurisdiction, he decided to confront the situation in the true nature of a warrior. One of his expeditions brought him to the banks of the Saraswati river and there he saw a person in the disguise of king harassing a bull and a cow and there was none to protect them. It was a strange sight of a bull (representing Dharma) that stood on one leg with a sorrowful cow (Mother Earth) beside it.
Parikshit wanted to know the cause of such suffering. Dharma spoke with deference and said that it would not be able to pinpoint the cause of human suffering and that there were many viewpoints put forth by different people. For instance, some believe that one suffers because of one’s actions, while others attribute it to supernatural causes. Some others believe that accepting outside authorities is the cause and that, on the whole, this subject defies comprehension. Dharma concludes that it is left to the king’s power of judgment to decide the cause.
Seeing Kali trying to destroy the remaining leg of Dharma, Parikshit understood that he was trying to usher in a reign of Adharma and thus cause distress to earth. He threatened Kali for his cruel behaviour and wanted to destroy him. Then Kali sought surrender at the king’s feet and the noble Parikshit did not kill him. He merely asked him to flee from his kingdom since Kali was in allegiance with all that is deceitful and unrighteous. Kali pleaded with Parikshit to grant him some place to stay. So Parikshit gave Kali permission to live in places wherever the sinful activities of gambling, drinking, prostitution and animal slaughter were taking place. Further pleas of Kali gave him gold as a dwelling place in addition since passion for gold brings in intoxication, lust and enmity.
Victim of circumstances
Queer are the ways of the world and strange the behaviour of people. The Mahabharata reflects these nuances of human nature and highlights the need to uphold the essential values of life and to practise the ordained code of conduct. That one who is innately good and hails from a distinguished family can easily go astray if caught in the grip of bad company is amply illustrated through the character of Karna, said Dr. Sudha Seshaiyan in a lecture.
Karna was befriended by Duryodhana who saw in his valour and honour a match for Arjuna’s and had calculated the benefits of having him as his ally. He offered Karna the kingdom of Anga at the right moment to save him from humiliation. Karna believed that this wealth and status could alleviate the sense of insecurity that was plaguing him always. Karna gains our sympathy because he was deserted by those who mattered to him much — his own mother Kunti who left him at birth and his preceptor Parasurama who rejected him when he learnt he was Kshatriya. Though Karna exemplifies the quality of magnanimity even to a fault, the epic captures the extent of psychological trauma that he experienced though being a victim of circumstances.
When he assumed the position of the chief of the Kaurava army, he was determined to defeat Arjuna and was sure he could do so if he too had an equally skilled charioteer like Lord Krishna and asked Duryodhana to seek the expertise of the Salya king for this purpose. The Salya king, Madri’s brother, had been inducted into Duryodhana’s side through guile earlier. At the behest of Duryodhana, he agreed to be the charioteer for Karna; but when he gave sane advice to Karna, the latter did not heed and met with his downfall.
His skills on the battlefield remain unquestioned and his bravery, courageous spirit, and honour are exemplary. Lord Krishna, Kunti and Indra sought from him those promises and assets that would have protected his invincibility to ensure victory for the Pandavas. His tragic flaw was his sense of pride in his accomplishments and this can devalue one’s integrity.
It is believed that Sage Vyasa wrote the Bhagavata Purana with the intention of its being a synoptic version of all Vedic literature and philosophy. It is stated that this text continues to attract people because its primary focus is on the process of Bhakti Yoga, by which one aspires for union with God through devotion for Him. When Suka was instructed by his father Sage Vyasa on the Bhagavata Purana it was clear that it would be handed down to humanity at some point of time, said Sri Venkatesa Sarma in a lecture.
This text begins with the final part of the Mahabharata. Aswathama, Drona’s son, who survived the war, nursed a grouse against the Pandavas who had tricked and killed his father. He wanted to take revenge on them and destroy all of them. He waged a war at night and managed to kill all the sons of the Pandavas. He then aimed the powerful Brahmastra at them but could not subdue it. Even Arjuna could not stop it. The weapon hit Arjuna’s grandchild through Abhimanyu growing in Uthara’s womb. Lord Krishna had to use His discus to shield the embryo and protect their progeny. Only the strength of Lord Vishnu could neutralise the effects of this powerful weapon.
Kunti’s words of gratitude to Lord Krishna, when he was about to depart to Dwaraka after the war, reflect her innate Jnana that saw Lord Krishna as the very transcendent Godhead. She extolled His omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence, but also showed how His greatness is covered by His Maya. Only those who are able to differentiate between the subtle and the gross aspects of creation are able to see His greatness present everywhere. Kunti recalled the many instances when Lord Krishna had rescued the Pandavas from many dangers. It was not only from poison, a great fire, man-eaters, a vicious assembly, etc, but also during their exile in the forest and against the deadly weapons during the war. Now He had protected them against Aswathama’s assault. She wished they faced more calamities for this meant they would have more opportunities to see Lord Krishna.
A realised soul
The glory of the Supreme Brahman is present everywhere but also remains hidden behind the veil of Maya. Only realised souls who meditate on the Supreme Being at all times are able to recognise His presence. Time not spent in such meditation is considered as time lost and wasted. When the Lord incarnated as Lord Krishna, some were able to realise Him as the Supreme Being, but many others were unable to do so. Bhishma is one such realised soul who recognised the Supreme nature behind the person of Lord Krishna and the Lord blessed him with the truth of inner knowledge and wealth of wisdom for the benefit of posterity, pointed out Sri P. Venkatesa Sarma in a lecture.
During the war, Bhishma had watched the movements of Lord Krishna as a charioteer and admired His commitment to the task on hand, His deft manoeuvring abilities with the chariot and above all His efforts to save Arjuna and the Pandavas from the menacing attacks of the Kauravas. When Bhishma became the army chief, he was determined to make the Lord break His vow and take arms to establish his allegiance to the Kauravas and hence waged a really fierce battle that the Pandava army found difficult to withstand. He started attacking Lord Krishna and then the Lord got out of the chariot and began to hurl the discus at Bhishma. But when Bhishma saw the Lord rushing thus towards him, he was overwhelmed with devotion and extolled the Lord’s compassion that made Him forego His vow to make true the vow of His devotee. After the war, Lord Krishna urged the restless and confused Yudhishtira to seek valuable instruction from Bhishma. Bhishma was once again overwhelmed when he saw Lord Krishna beside him during his last moments. Bhishma taught Yudhishtira the ethical codes of practical living and asserted the supremacy of the Lord. He pointed out that all the upheavals in the lives of the Pandavas (great warriors and followers of Dharma) were due to compelling effect of Time. Even when they had Lord Krishna as their ally they were subject to misfortunes and challenges. Bhishma then surrendered his entire self to the Lord.
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Why fear when God is our charioteer?