Bhakti or Devotion should also come under the scrutiny of scriptural sciences. It should not be confined to intellectual scrutiny. The love for God should be constant, it is a sentiment that should absorb us, every moment of our lives. The word bhakti brings to my mind the names of countless devotees.
The Nayanmar and Alwars of Tamil Nadu, Poonthanam and Bhattathiri in Kerala, great sages and saints like Ramanuja Swamigal, Shri Shankaracharya, Raghavendra devotees like Bhadrachala Ramadasan, Purandaradasa, Eknath Maharaj, Tukaram Maharaj, Jnaneshwar, Andaal, and Bhakta Meera, Tyagaraja Swamigal, Muthu Swamideekshithar, Shyama Shastry, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsar, who spent all twenty-four hours absorbed in prayer and who infused their love of prayer into the world.
We must learn about their lives, understand the values that they lived by and emulate, and be guided by those values and qualities in our lives also. There was a monk Named Bodhendra in the lineage of Adi Shankara. Let me recount an incident of his life. Like the great saints and sages of yore, he traveled all over Bharatam (India). He reached North India. In those times, wayfarers usually sleep on the open verandas of houses. He rested on the veranda of a house. Something happened the next day.
A Brahmin lady and her wife, who came from the Dravida Land, were going on a pilgrimage to Kashi. They were ambushed by Muslims and the woman was abducted. She was raped by them. She somehow managed to escape from their clutches and reached Kashi. She met her Brahmin husband. He did not know what to do with his wife who was victimized by the Muslims.
Jagannath Pandit was the greatest scholar of those times. Everybody that Brahmin went to for advice told him that there was no penance that would atone for such a sin. They advised him to accept the counsel of Jagannath Pandit. The lady pleaded with him “you need not accept me as your wife, but at least allow me to remain with you as your servant.” I shall do the household chores and keep myself alive.”
Thus both the Brahmin and his wife went to take the counsel of Jagannath Pandit. Jagannath Pandit is seated inside his house Bhodendra Swami was sitting on the veranda of the house, but the other three were unaware of his presence. The woman recounted all that had happened. “I am now a sinner. How can I atone for my sins?” The pandit said, “It is enough if you chant the name of Rama thrice, chant, Rama Rama Rama. That is sufficient, and then you may bathe in the holy river of Ganga. You will be cleansed of all sin.”
There was a loud shout from inside. It was the mother of Jagannath Pandit , “What did you just say?” He went inside, O Mother, did I utter anything wrong? “Will not the utterance of the holy name Rama be salvation from her sins?” His mother said, “You asked her to chant his name thrice. Why should she have to chant it thrice? Isn’t a single utterance of his name sufficient to free her from every single sin that has been committed?”
He replied, “For my father, with his strong ascetic practices (Tapas), meditation and self-discipline, it was sufficient to utter “Rama” only once. But I wanted to free from the “ Three forms of sorrow” and hence advised her to chant the holy name of Rama Thrice. “It is true, I made a mistake, I need have asked her to chant “Rama” only once for her salvation.” Bodhendra Swami, who was able to hear the conversation, was extremely happy. The Brahmin lady came back from her bath in the holy Ganges, absolved from all sin.
Swami Bodhendra accepted alms from their home. Later on, he wrote a book called “Bhagvan-nama-rasodayam” in which he advises the people who live in Kaliyuga, which is steeped in sin, to remain absorbed in chanting the name of the lord, to read the Lalita Sahasranama, to constantly reflect on the meaning and essence of the Sahasranama and the concept embedded in it as the only means for liberation.
His “namasiddhantham” the theory of salvation by means of chanting. It was Bhodendra swamigal, Sridhara Ayyaval, and Marudhanallur Sadhguru Swamigal who evolved the traditional Bhajans. The Bhajans praise all gods and goddesses. He lived in the village of Govindapuram near Thanjavoor. Later on, he became the head of the Kanchi Math.
It was he who was responsible for popularizing the chanting of the divine name of the Lord and singing the devotional songs (sampradaya bhajans). Bhajan is an outer and visible expression of our devotion to God. Bhajans are sung with great devotion, eye overflowing with tears of love, words catching in our throat, with fervor, lost in the memory of the Lord. We shall continue with the glorious attributes of Devi, in the coming days.