Saturday 2 March 2013

Why seers entered Brindavana

Almost all the Madhwa seers that we know of and even those from other parampare, sampradaya or systems, have entered Brindavana either alive or after they left their mortal body.
The Brindavana is a four-paneled structure and the roof is closed after the saint sits within it, generally in the Padmasana posture. There are several instances of sages entering such Brindavana alive and some of them are Vadiraja of Sode Matha in Sode, Raghuttama Theertha of Uttaradhi Matha in Tirucoilur, Raghavendra Swamy of Raghavendra Swamy Matha in Mantralaya and Satyavrata Theertha, the Uttaradi Matha pontiff, in Sangli.
In West of India, Madhavendra Theertha, the seventh pontiff of Kashi Matha, entered sajeeva samaadhi at Walkeshwar, Mumbai, in 1775. Of all of them, Vadiraja was the first to enter Brindavana alive or Sajeeva in 1600 and Madhavendra Theertha the last.
Whether seers enter the Brindavana alive or they are placed there after they leave their mortal body, the brindavanas are constructed on a tortoise or Kurma.
Even today, all Brindavanas of Raghavendra Swamy that you see  are constructed on a Kurma or tortoise. There are several reasons for Rayaru and other saints for making Kurma their seat.
The Kurma they sit on is a vehicle for the second avatar of Vishnu who took this form when the gods and demons battled each other for nectar. This is the churning of the ocean or Samudra Manthana.
Both the epics-Ramayana and Mahabharata- tell us the story of the Samudra Manthana.
When the ocean was being churned, Lakshmi came up from the depths. Many Gods, including Indra, asked Vishnu who this was.
Vishnu replied that she was Lakshmi, his wife. He said Lakshmi is not different from him and then narrated the tale of Indradyumna to illustrate this point.
The story goes as follows: There lived a king called Indradyumna and when he died, he was reborn as a brahmana. He then began meditating and also prayed to Lakshmi. When Lakshmi appeared before him, the brahamana asked her about what constitutes true knowledge and what was her true nature.
A smiling Lakshmi said even gods and the sages could not apprehend her true nature. She said she is Vishnu’s illusions and there is no difference between him and me. As for knowledge, she said it is for Vishnu to grant that boon. Pray to him, she instructed the brahamana and disappeared.
The brahamana once again started meditating on God and when Vishnu appeared, he wanted to know the path to true knowledge.
Vishnu obliged and soon he was besieged by God and sages asking them what he had told the brahamana. Vishnu once again revealed it and this is what has come to us as Kurma Purana.
One of the many topics that this Purana covers is the life of an ascetic and the manner in which he has to conduct himself. It also contains slokas about Varnashrama dharma.
The Kurma Purana thus lays down the fundamental principles of righteous conduct and this is categorized by the system of four varnas (classes) and four ashramas (stages of life).
The four ashramas or stages of life  are brahmacharya  or celibate studenthood, Grahastya or householder, Vanaprastha or one who stays in the forest and the last stage is Sanyasa or one who has renounced the world.
The Purana gives us vivid and scholastic interpretation of each one of these stages. Mind you, all of this in the Kurma Avatara.
Thus the Kurma avatara is a teacher that sets people, including sages and others, on the righteous path. It is in this purana that Vishnu himself says that the human being is merely an instrument and that all actions are performed by a Brahamana.
Since all Madhwa seers hold Hari or Vishnu as supreme, they feel that the Kurma seat is most appropriate for them, to sit and meditate. The Kurma is the giver of knowledge and also the master of yoga. The Kurma Nadi posture helps them in making their minds still and vests them with the power to see God (Hari).
Moreover, these seers can seat themselves more easily on a Kurma than representation of any other avatara such as Varaha or Huli (tiger). The Kurma is responsible for churning the ocean of  knowledge, filtering out the bad and unnecessary and give nectar of life and immortality, knowledge and true light.
The many tenets of the Kurma are better illustrated in the story of Lomaharshana.             
While Lomaharshana, one of the disciples of Veda Vyasa, was reciting the Kurma Purana to the assembled sages, Krishna Dvaipayana or Veda Vyasa himself arrived on stage. Lomaharshana and the other sages requested Veda Vyasa to instruct them about the path to true knowledge.
Veda Vyasa then began the sermon and  he said that paramathma is the only truth and that is pure and omnipresent. It  encompasses everything, yet its boundaries are limitless.
The paramatma will always be present in the atma. The only way to bring about a synthesis between an atma and paramatma is by yoga.
Vyasa then goes on to trace the eight components of yoga of which the first is Pranayama or control of one’s breath. The other components are Pratyahara or control of one’s senses, Yama or practice of non-violence, truthfulness and piety,  Niyama or study of Vedas and meditation, Dhyana or austere meditation and the last component is Samadhi or the stage where we realise the parameters of Atma (here I mean Jivatma) and Paramatma.
This is what Vishnu revealed in the Kurma Purana and what Veda Vyasa, the fountain head of  Brahminism subsequently told the sages.

“Tatrapi Devasambhuthyam Vairajasyabhavat Suta
Ajito Nama Bhagawan Amsena Jagata Patihi
Payodim Ena Nirmathya Suranam sadhita Sudha
Bhramamanombhasi Dhrta Kurma Roopena Mandara.”

This is how the story of the Samudra Manthana starts.
Madhwa seers felt that the Kurma would always be giving them knowledge and set then on the path of true knowledge and enlightenment. They felt nearer to Hari (please remember all Madhwa saints are followers of  Vaishnava faith wherein Hari is supreme)  and the only way they could continue with meditation was by immersing themselves in the manner in which Vishnu spoke in the Kurma Purana.
Thus they chose Padmasana to sit within the Brindavana which was generally built on a Kurma. The very fact that the Brindavana was atop a Kurma added to their meditative powers.    
Kurma gave them inner strength and complete devotion to God
Thus the Kurma Purana became a way of life and a guiding principle for our Madhwa sages, whichever matha they belonged to whether in life or after they left the mortal body. The Kurma was a vehicle for the seers to constantly remain in touch with the supreme God. It encapsulated whatever Madhwa said about Dwaitha philosophy.

“Aum Asana Mantrasya, Meru-prstha rsih, Sutalam Chandah
Kurmo Devata, Asanabhimantrena Viniyogah
Prthvitvaya Dhrta Loka Devi Twam Vishnuna Dhrta
Twam cadharayamma Nityam Pavitram Asanam Kuru.”

Here, the asana is extolled and a prayer is made to Kurma to help them (saints) feel secure and achieve their goal.

The first Madhwa saint to enter Brindavana is Padmanabha Theertha. His Brindavana is in Chakra Teertha in Hampi.
The concept behind the construction of the Brindavana is to ensue that life does not go out of a body. The seed cells in the body never get damaged.
When a saint enters Brindavana, his body will never decay as the  magnetic force within acts as a life force. Thus, people within the Brindavana begin to guide people as “unseen masters” or “invisible helpers” , though this may not be the case always as scores of people have seen Raghavendra Swamy sitting in the Brindavana. Some examples are of Sir Thomas Munroe seeing and speaking to Rayaru as did Jagganatha Dasa and the first person to see him in the Brindavana was Appanacharya.
Similarly, Sripadaraja has been seen sitting in Padmasana within the confines of his Brindavana.
Madhwas believe that the life force in the saints’ body in Brindavana remains forever and the time limit for the Samadhi status depends upon the saint's bio-magnetic strength. This may vary in terms of hundreds of years. Until then, the soul in samadhi stage will continue to bless the devotees.
This is perhaps the reasons why we feel a magnetic pull or divine force when we go near a Brindavana. Generally, Jeeva Samadhis have stronger and higher spiritual force and magnetic pull.
Madhwa saints chose such a Samadhi as Agni Samskara is forbidden for them. The only other option of antima samskaara for such seers is immersing their body in flowing water bodies like a river or sea or discarding the mortal body on the top of a hill or mountain in such a place so that it will not be eaten by wild animals.
Since the last two methods were not viable, the Madhwa saints chose the Brindavana method. This ensures that the brindavana becomes a places of worship with daily poojes. On their part, the seers guide us by emitting power and blessings due to the pranava mantra japa (Om mantra) and other mantras that they constantly recite.

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