The Oxymoron called 'Material Existence'

Exciting as it may seem to possess objects that hold material value, it often seems quite a let down when one discovers that those very materials which one attached great value to, may themselves be worthless after all!

Saint Tyagaraja
There is a wonderful story of Saint Tyagaraja who was once sent riches by the King of Thanjavur. The story goes somewhat like this - Tyagaraja was a south Indian poet saint who sang and composed many kritis or 'songs' in praise of his favourite deity - Lord Rama - an incarnation of Lord Vishnu from the Hindu trinity. His name and fame grew and one day, the king of Thanjavur summoned him to his court. Tyagaraja did not heed his command. So, the king tried to lure Tyagaraja by sending him many gifts of great material value like expensive jewellery, many gold coins and regal clothing. Although his family which was in great poverty was very happy to receive these gifts, Tyagaraja refused to accept them and asked for them to be taken back to the king. Upon being chided and ridiculed by his friends and family alike, he broke out into a song:

"Nidhi chaala sukhama, Raamuni sannidhi seva sukhama,
Nijamuga telupu o manasa!"

The translation of which is, "O Mind, tell me the truth. Is wealth a source of great happiness or is the fortune of serving Lord Rama in close proximity a great source of happiness?"
Obviously, Tyagaraja found something far more valuable than the 'material' wealth at his disposal. In the worldly sense, it must have been a foolish act to reject the wealth that came knocking to his doorstep when his family was in abject
poverty. But, there was a greater source of joy that he was seeking. Something sublime, something intangible, something perhaps inexplicable.

Another famous poet saint from Rajasthan, Meerabai, also sang:
 "Paayo ji maine Naam Ratan Dhan Paayo, 
Vastu amol ik di more sadguru, Kirpaa kar apnaayo" 
- meaning "I have got the jewel of the Divine Name. It was an invaluable gift bestowed upon me by my Sadguru out of his grace, which I have accepted."
Meera Bai
Now, Meera was wedded to the Rana of Mewar into a royal family. If she chose, she had all the worldly wealth at her disposal. But there was something deeper that caused her to seek her Giridhar Gopal - her Lord Krishna. She was tested, tortured, vilified, ridiculed, even forced to drink poison, but she bore it all with a smile. There was something ecstatic in the name she took, the form she was wedded to, the Lord she was devoted to, which made her turn away from the so called 'material happiness' and made her feel happy and joyful in singing the Divine name. Surely, this must be madness in the worldly sense. But, this is verily the truth of what happened then. If it were not for great devotees like Tyagaraja and Meera and a host of other saints who inspired devotion in the hearts of many, perhaps the idea of
devotion to a form and name would have vanished from this country.

What is it that made these great souls put aside the worldly comforts and conveniences and seek something intangible and esoteric? Well, to know the depth of the ocean, one must dive into it.

We clamour after riches, material comforts, wealth, a comfortable lifestyle and so on. However, we forget to develop the equanimity necessary to handle these. In the Bhagvad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 8, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna:

||Jnana Vijnana Truptaatma Kutastho Vijitendriyah
Yukta Ityuchyate Yogi, Sama Loshtrasma Kaanchanah||

The meaning is - The Yogi who has perfected the science of the Self and who has his senses fully under control, and who sees a clod of dirt, a stone or gold as the same is said to be realized.

Note the intricacy of the verse which emphasizes on the equanimity of viewing a stone or gold as one and the same. Is it for this reason that the material possessions held no attraction for those saints who never seemed to care for it? Are we running after shadows which are virtually non-existent? Perhaps we are!

Swami often would say : 'Asthiram Jeevanam Loke, Asthiram Yavvanam Dhanam'  - meaning that life in this world, youth and wealth are all impermanent. Our constant struggle for things material is very much like chasing a mirage. Often Swami would give the example of a person trying to climb the shadow of a coconut tree to obtain coconuts. One who tries climbing the shadow will never get coconuts simply because they aren't there. To obtain the coconuts, one has to climb the real tree. The shadow will automatically be climbed upon then. He would liken running after worldly desires like climbing the shadow tree. He would exhort us by saying, "Run after the Lord and automatically everything else will be added unto you,"

Swami setting an example:


Swami during Paduka Puja
In the year 1997, a great devotee of Swami by name Subrahmanyam Chettiar got a beautiful golden chariot made and prayed to Swami to climb onto it and ride it. Apparently he had read in the nadis (palm leaves with the future written on them) that the Avatara of Kaliyuga will ride on a golden chariot and grant darshan during that period when he brought this chariot to Puttaparthi. There was excitement all around as Swami had benevolently acquiesced to ride the chariot and students were the blessed ones who got the opportunity to pull the chariot. After this, there was a Paduka Puja which was organized and the Chettiar family had arranged for the Puja in the Bhajan Hall at Prashanti Nilayam. They had brought precious stones, gold coins, gems, rubies, diamonds etc to be offered at the Lotus Feet. As the puja was in progress, Swami suddenly and playfully picked up some of the precious stones at His feet and threw them all around as if they were chocolates. There was a sudden furore and no one knew what was happening. The devotees around Swami quickly tried to salvage the situation but Swami was full of joy. Interestingly, what caught my attention was that Swami seemed to see no distinction between the chocolates which he hurled among devotees when a boy who was celebrating his birthday held them up in a tray some time before this incident, and diamonds. For Him, both were the same! Sama Lohstrasma kanchanah!

Lesson in Equanimity:


The year was 2001, fifteen years ago from the date of this blog. We were in a group interview with Swami and He lovingly created a beautiful ring for me. For those unfamiliar with Swami's ways, He would often create objects by the wave of His hand. Coming back to the incident, Swami looked at me lovingly and said, 'Come on boy'. I was hesitant and did not want to accept the ring. I said to Swami that He had already given me a ring before and that I was not interested in 'material' objects. Swami forcefully pulled my hand and thrust the ring on my finger. But, what He said is what is more precious...He gently leaned forward and said in Telugu, and I translate, "Equanimity does not mean aversion. It means that whether you get something or don't, you are the same. Neither should you get elated, nor dejected!"
The words still ring in my ears and whenever there are the crests and troughs of life, I retreat into the benign solace of this beautiful memory. It serves as a great pillar of strength and succour. Only a Sadguru can drive a lesson so deep into a young heart that it stays there forever.

As Swami would often say, 'Yedi ledu anuchuntimo, addi kaladu, yeddi kaladu anuchuntimo, adiye ledu. Vunnadi okkate shaswhatamu gaa.' - what we say is non-existent is actually existent and what we think is existing is actually non-existent. There is only ONE permanent entity - God! So, wouldn't the term 'material existence' actually be an oxymoron?

Sree Gurubhyo Namaha!!!


Comments

What a compilation
Jai sai ram. Brother.thanks for the tablet
CS.Bala said…
So wonderful narration about nidhi...sannidhi...keep writting such stuff...its in fact on line sathsangh for many around the globe. Sairam
Is that you Balajee anna?

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