Lessons in spirituality

CHENNAI, OCT.8 . Among the innumerable living beings in the world man has an advantage because he is endowed with the faculty of discrimination which can be utilised to realise his spiritual nature and thereby put an end to rebirths. But in his daily engagement with the world he gets carried away easily by sensory attractions and becomes more involved with material pursuits without striving for the spiritual goal. Narayana Bhattatiri has shown how to overcome this human weakness in his hymn, the Narayaneeyam. He says very clearly that it is possible to remain steadfast in the pursuit of the goal of liberation only by the Lord's grace. Hence his constant prayer to the Lord of Guruvayur to be devoted to Him in this hymn so that he does not stray from this objective.

In his discourse, Sri P.R.Vaidyanatha Sastrigal said divine grace enabled one who was keen on attaining liberation to learn from the world around him. This truth is the crux of the Uddhava Gita, which occurs in the Bhagavata Purana on which Bhattatiri has based his hymn. This Gita is the farewell message of Lord Krishna to His dear friend and devotee, Uddhava before He left the world after completing His mission in this incarnation advising him to retire to Badarikashrama. It is intended as His teaching to humanity highlighting the importance of utilising this human birth for attaining liberation from bondage.

A spiritual aspirant can learn to look upon everything as his Guru so that every experience becomes a lesson in spirituality. This Gita shows how it is possible to overcome desire by observing the male elephant, which can be easily ensnared by a female elephant. That it is counterproductive to waste one's entire life in accumulating wealth can be learnt from the bees. Others enjoy the honey they gather with so much industry.

One can learn to be wary of sweet-sounding talk by watching a hunter trap a deer by luring it with music. By observing how a fish can be baited with food it can be surmised that over-attachment to food is an impediment to spiritual progress as it increases craving leading ultimately to indulgence. The Bhagavata Purana in this context highlights the importance of solitude in spiritual life by the example of the courtesan, Pingala, who learnt it the hard way in her life. A bird that was carrying food became the target of attack by other birds. Similarly a spiritual seeker who has a lot of possessions will have to suffer due to anxiety about guarding them from others.