14th Jan, Kila Raipur: After the chilling winters in the plains of Punjab, it was finally time for Maaghi – the first Sankranti of Uttarayana. As the sun starts its northward motion from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer, Uttarayana begins. With Maaghi, the winter is behind us. The spring can be felt from a distance. Further, this Maaghi also coincided with the first day of the grand baths to be taken at the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad. All this set the stage for Maharaj Ji to speak on the nature of cleansing baths. Beginning in his characteristic style from the sweet verses of Barah Maah (twelve months) composed by Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Maharaj Ji went on to explain the practical import of “bathing in the dust of the feet of a saint”. On the way, there is a narrative of Bhishma Pitamah’s tale from the Mahabharata too. The transcription in English of the original discourse in Punjabi, begins below: <Please click here to watch, listen or download this discourse in Punjabi..>
“In Gurbani, in Barah Maah, there is the following verse:
Maagh majan sang sadhuaa turi kar isnaan
Har kaa naam dhayaaye sun sabhnaa no kar daan
i.e. in the month of Maaghi, let the dust of Saints’ feet be your cleansing bath.
Meditate and listen to the Name of the Lord (Naam) and give it to one and all.
As we know, this Maaghi also coincides with the occasion of the first bath in the Kumbh of Allahabad. The Kumbh is the biggest fair in the world. There is no other fair where so many people gather at one time, at one place, for one goal. With the Kumbh is associated the talk of cleansing baths too.
The external cleansing baths do have their significance. We do not deny that. But these alone are not sufficient. What is the prime purpose of external baths? They are meant to become a means for us to take a dip in the Ganges that is flowing within. And which is that Ganges? It is the Ganges of “Naam”. Where is this Ganges of the Hari-Naam attained? It is attained from the company of Saints. And not only this – it is attained from the dust of the feet of Saints. And when is that dust attained? It is attained when we keep their company.
Here, do not understand this to mean that if a Saint is walking, we are to take the dust from his footprints and apply that to our forehead. That much is insufficient. It will not suffice. Yes, if one has faith then this action is correct, we are not declaring such an action to be wrong, but just that it is insufficient to connect to the Ganges of the Lord’s Name. Let us first talk about this occasion of Uttarayana. Then we will discuss what is that ‘dust’, how is that attained and how is one to bathe in it?
Many days have passed since Uttarayana happened, starting on the day of Winter solstice: there are two streams that last for six months each in a year – Uttarayana and Dakshinayana. Dakshinayan represents a circuitous route. When someone travels on this path of Dakshinayan, then he is forced to again take birth in the confines of the body. But there is another path of Uttarayana. Journeying and rising above on the path of Uttarayana that being becomes free of the confines of the body and attains to his true nature of supreme bliss.
This cycle of Uttarayana and Dakshinayan goes on both in the external world and in the internal world too. As it is said, “Yad antas tad bahi” or “Jo brahmande soi pinde” – all cycles which go on in the external world, also go on happening in the internal world. The Uttarayana has already happened in the external realm. By 21-22 December, the Sun starts on its ascending motion to the North. It is slow to start out and then bye and bye the motion gains momentum. But today’s occasion marks the first Sankaranti of Uttarayana. Until the arrival of Sankranti, the upward motion is not strong. But once Sankranti arrives, that marks the entry of the sun from one abode to another. And Maaghi being the first Sankranti of Uttarayana (the straight route to Infinite), it forms the doorway to Uttarayana and therefore there is much significance attached to cleansing baths on this occasion. We will come to the ritual of bathing later.
Not elaborating further on the motions of Uttarayana and Dakshinayan, let us merely illustrate them through the popular tale of Bhishma Pitamaha from the Mahabharata. During the great war of Mahabharata, his body was pierced through and through by numerous arrows, such that, when he fell on the ground, he was literally lying down on a bed of arrows. And yet, the vital force (prana) was so strong in him, that despite being in such a condition, that force sustained his body. Bye the way, even if a little thorn pricks us, how much do we suffer! And one should not think that those were some weak arrows. The arrows were such that Arjuna could kill an elephant, two miles away, with just one of them.
When Bhishma Pitamaha fell, it was Dakshinayan. He had been blessed with a boon that he could willfully give up (or not give up) his body. He could have given up his body and through the path of inner Uttarayana, attained liberation. But for the cause of portraying the significance of devotion to father and ancestors, telling the importance and worth of the company of saints, and demonstrating the truth of his father’s boon, he declared that he would not give up his body until the right time arrived. So he kept on waiting. Uttarayana arrived. Still he waited. And we feel, that when finally Sankranti (Maaghi) arrived, he decided to give up his body. This is an example of dying by choice or ichcha mrityu.
But the real story is how Bhishma gained the boon of ichcha mrityu. The real thing to know is how Bhishma gained access to the path of Uttarayana. The story is quite well known. It once happened that while Bhishma was still a boy, Shantanu, Bhishma’s father, went to hunt in a forest. There he saw a devi, named Satyavrati, and fell for her. He wished to take her as his wife. He was the king. He asked Satyavrati’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The father agreed but kept one condition. He would give Satyavrati to Shantanu only if the king promised that his child with Satyavrati would become the ruler of the kingdom.
Now, though King Shantanu was desirous of marrying Satyavrati, yet he wanted to do it in a righteous manner. He felt such a condition would deprive Bhishma of his rightful position to ascend to the throne after him. So the king declined to marry. He returned to the palace but was extremely sad. His body started to keep unwell. He lost his luster. Ultimately, all of this came in the notice of the boy Bhishma, and he finally heard about the entire incident. When he had done so, he laughed, saying, “It is such a trivial matter!”
He declared, “For the well-being of my father, I give up my right to the throne.” He went and told this himself to Satyavrati’s father. But the father said, “The issue does not end here. Even if you give up the throne, it is possible that your son might assert his right to it. That can create conflict. What can you do about that?” At this, Bhishma went further and made a firm vow that he would never marry.
Now, what is Bhishma’s intention behind his resolve? That is the important thing. You will meet numerous brahmacharis, numerous tapaswis. But Bhishma is unique. There are two things to note. First, he took this vow while living in the splendor of a grand palace and second, there was no desire for liberation or his own well-being. The only intention behind his resolve was the well-being of his father. And as a result of this so much power awakened within him, so much brilliance awakened in him, that he attained the state of ichcha mrityu.
Now, this is a stream, a tradition that is flowing. It is a tradition formed by the conduct of the great sages. Only if we can take a dip in this stream; only if we can immerse our mind, intellect, and ego in this stream, we too can then attain the path of Uttarayana.
This tradition is being described by the verse, “Maagh majan sang sadhuaa turi kar isnaan”. The bath talked of here is just the one that Bhishma took, of surrendering his ego and selfishness in the stream of this tradition, in the command of his father, in the command of the Guru.
Similarly, we are also sitting in one such tradition. We will say our tradition originates from the Adi Purusha Brahma or Narayana, flows through Vashishtha, Prashar et. al., Vyasa et. al., Shankaracharya, and flowing and flowing, it flows through Mewapuri, Kambli Wale, Maharaj Ji, and now all of us are sitting in this tradition. The Ganges of this tradition is flowing and we are to bathe in it. Which is that Ganges and how are we to bathe in it – let us discuss this today.
There are traditions and their streams are ever-flowing onwards. But this tradition is of tapa-tyaaga, vairagya, yoga-gyana-bhakti-seva; but how are we to bathe in this stream? How are we to fulfill this verse – “sang sadhuaa turi kar isnaan”?
We have already mentioned – when a physically embodied being walks then dust rises from the ground. But this is the journey of the physical body. Similarly, there is another journey, the journey of the sages – this is the inner-journey. They walk on the path of their sadhana. Their walk on that ground spreads its impulses here and there. Those vibes constitute the “dust”. And we are to bathe in this dust.
Let us understand this again. The physical body is a door. The physical body of the sages gets left behind too. Though it is a significant door, yet the physical body that we see is not everything. Using this door we are to identify the real body of a sage. That body is the one which, spreading from the tip of the toe to the head and making the physical body as its base, shines and vibrates in every atom of their being. And what is that body? It is the body composed of the light of Guru-Naam. As it has been said, “Sukham murat naam niranjan kaayaa kaa aakaar”. The physical body is the door. But within that is the subtle body made of the vibrations of the Name. They (saints) earned the profit of the Name. They put a seed in the field, it became a tree and then a thousand other seeds manifested.
The Name which flows through this tradition, originating from the eternal source and eventually flowing through Kambli Wale is now present in the hearts of all of us in a seed form. But in the body in which this seed germinates and grows and spreads in the entire body and manifests through every pore of it, inside that body, another body has also developed. This second body is composed of the Name. The physical body is the base, the ground upon which the inner road of sushumna, of Name is travelled. And in the end, the ultimate body, which is the Divine Himself, is realized. It is the same body which is the base of all of us too. But we have become forgetful of it.
The scriptures tell that what we call Ishwara, Guru, Atman, and Me – are the same in their ultimate natures, there is no difference. And from Atman’s standpoint there is just One. From the standpoint of the physical body too there is not much difference – the sages also have two hands, two feet, two eyes etc. From ultimate standpoint of the Atman also there is no difference at all. So where is the difference between an ordinary being and a sage? The difference lies in the subtle body, which is composed of the Name, in the sages.
But, let us understand the meaning of the Name. To write “Raam” on a piece of paper is no Name. “Om Namo Bhagvate Vasudevaye” is no Shabad. You write “Water”, “Water” on a piece of paper, write it in the best way you can and put that paper in your mouth – would that quench the thirst? Write “Fire”, Fire” countless times on a piece of wood – would it catch fire? So, a written name is not the Name. Which is that Name? The answer is, “Har kaa naam dhyaye sun, sabhna no kar daan”. The Name that is obtained from tradition, which when practiced and listened within, in every pore of the body – that forms the subtle body of a saint.
It is this subtle body which is to be given to one and all. It is this subtle body in which you are to bathe.
It is the dust. Which is this dust? Let us understand again. Just like Ganges is flowing and by the action of the wind, the “dust” of water rises and spreads around the banks, cooling them. Similarly those sages, whose subtle body is composed of the Name, when the unseen wind of an aspirant’s fate blows, some particles emerge from that Ganges of Name flowing within. This is the dust. And one is to bathe in that dust.
The Guru-Naam that one has got; go on absorbing that through the eyes, through the ears, through the nose, through the mouth, through the heart – this is the cleansing bath. Go on doing this. Go on increasing it. This is the bath. So how is one to bathe? Just like Bhishma ended all his ego, his desires in the command of his father, similarly, when an aspirant surrenders himself and his wishful desires in the command of the Guru, that forms a road on which a bathing ghaat (platform to bathe by a river) gets built and it through that ghaat that one dives in the Ganges of the Name.
The Ganges of the Name is flowing, equally, for everybody. It is huge. But if there is no ghaat, then one cannot bathe. Which is this ghaat? It is obeying the command of the Guru. One can never dive in the Ganges through one’s own wishful sadhana, howsoever hard one may try. “I will do this tapas”, I will do this and that” – wherever the “I” gets attached, there a deep gorge gets formed – one cannot bathe there.
Now, only some extremely rare beings get the command of the Guru. But this one command everyone gets. During deeksha everyone is told to practice, for an hour or so, it is also asked to remember the Name while walking etc; not to become forgetful of it. And alongside do seva – this command everyone gets. At least, let us obey this much of the command of the Guru.
For an hour or two, keeping the eyes closed, awakening the vibrations of Name within, and deep within we can do this practice of bathing. Bathing implies to wash away the filth of the mind, the senses, the intellect. Only if these are cleansed would we have take our bath. The impurity of the intellect is the ego. The impurity of the mind is the numerous attachments-aversions etc., the impurity of the senses is their tendency of remain stuck in the external world – someone says something and all control is lost, anger takes over etc.
If one truly bathes then all these impurities will begin to be washed away. And when all this is washed away, then one finds the path of Uttarayana, while still living in the body. One gains ichcha mrityu – when we will leave, the Universe will celebrate our freedom. All directions will go on opening the path.
So we have got this opportunity. This is the occasion of the Kumbh. Now does it come once after a long long time? Well, the Ganges is ever flowing. The issue is about taking the dive! The Ganges is ever-flowing, but the opportunity to take the dive come only sometimes. The Ganges is ever-flowing. Just like a river is flowing but the boat, stuck in sand, cannot flow in the river. But sometimes floods raise it from the sand, and then even a little effort to row it takes it right in the middle stream and then the Ganges takes it onwards. Similarly, sometimes the opportunities come – satsanga happens, intellect absorbs, desire arises to take Naam. Then one should not miss this opportunity. These positive thoughts must be fulfilled then and there. Else, once the opportunity passes, then who knows, it may come again or not.
So the Ganges is indeed flowing. But when would the rain of Divine grace dawn – that cannot be said.
Let us talk about one incident. It has also been written in the present issue of Kund Agni Shikha. Once, a boy returned to his village and saw little children swimming. Seeing them, he also wanted to learn to swim. So he went to the stream where others were swimming. He asked some friends to teach him swimming too. They said, “Well. You wish to swim. Ok. Then first immerse yourself in water.” But the boy said, “I will not immerse myself in water. You just teach me to swim.” Now, he wants to swim, but will not immerse in water, afraid that he will sink, that water will enter into his eyes and ears and body. Now can he learn swimming by just standing there and moving his hands and feet.
If you want to learn to swim, then you must first immerse yourself, your head, in water. And if your feet also can leave the support of the ground then what else matters – the one under whose instructions you took the dip, will himself teach you how to swim. But we don’t agree. We worry, “No! I will not immerse myself. What if I sink!”
“We will not take the Naam write now, lest something goes wrong later.” “Let me first improve myself, then we will take Naam.” If you have so much ability to improve yourself just through your own efforts, then what need do you have to take Naam also!
If you have faith, if you want to cross over then take the dive in the command of the Guru and then do not worry about this or that shortcoming you think you have. If you want to cross over, then the Ganges is flowing – just immerse yourself into it. Do this with faith and then to cross over is no difficult thing. This is the tradition of “Maagh majjan sang sadhuaa turi kar isnaan.” The turi (dust) is the Guru-Naam. Take it in through the eyes, ears, mouth etc. This is the bath.
Saying this, we rest the topic for today.”