Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bhakti need not be demonstrative

The Hindu, Author - Suganthy Krishnamachari

The latest edition of Vijay TV's ‘Bhakti' programme was marked by the usual devotional fervour, with some old faces and some newcomers among the speakers.

The set was a little more glittery and jazzy than usual. But the conch and discus in muted shades of gold at the back of the stage were eye-catching.

Vadhavooran, Kripananda Variyar's nephew, was the first speaker on April 7, the third day of the programme. His topic was ‘Variyar Kaattum Vaazhum Vazhi.'

The same gentle humour that was the hallmark of Variyar's discourses characterised Vadhavooran's discourse too. And as in the case of Variyar's lectures, didactic messages were given to the listener through suitable analogies, with the speaker's erudition peeping out now and then from behind the down to earth examples.

Vadhavooran made the point that bhakti or love for God need not be demonstrative. In fact it need not even be made public. He gave the example of a king whose wife's one regret was that her husband never prayed to Lord Muruga. She prayed that if her husband uttered the name of Muruga even once, she would offer special prayers in all the temples in the land. That night the king had a nightmare, and in his fright, he called out to Lord Muruga. The next morning the Queen fulfilled her vow. When the king came to know what had happened, he said to the Lord, “I had kept my love for you concealed even from my wife. But now you have revealed it to the whole world.”

Our love for humanity, likewise, is vital, but is not something that needs to be advertised. Once when Variyar was asked to speak about himself, he was at a loss for words. Kanchi Paramacharya who was present on the occasion, said, “Why don't you tell people that you have given away every penny you have earned, keeping nothing for yourself?” Variyar remarked, “Even my wife doesn't know that I give away everything I earn, but now the Paramacharya has told everyone.”

Variyar saw God in everything. A pile of rice reminded him of a temple gopuram. The cooked lentils on top looked like the kalasam. The ghee poured on top looked like the sacred water that the priest sprinkles on the gopuram, during the samprokshanam.

Vadhavooran's discourse was touching, witty and scholarly. Vijay TV must be complimented for bringing to the notice of the public, speakers such as Vadhavooran.
Slow tempo

The next speaker was Baala Srinivasan, whose speech was a bit of a let down. He took awhile to warm up to his topic, which was ‘Thayumanavar.' Was it necessary to give the etymology and history of words like ‘Kadavul', ‘iraivan' etc? Such digressions led him down scholarly by lanes, which slowed down the tempo, and left the listener confused. But he also gave a few good examples. One such example that he gave to illustrate the need for bhakti was particularly good. If we have to anyway suffer for our sins, why should we have bhakti, we might ask. While it is true that we cannot escape the consequences of our actions, bhakti makes it easier for us to bear the burden of the yoke. “Imagine a man who has 5000 rupees in the form of five rupee coins. The bag holding the money will be heavy. But if the man has five 1000 rupee notes instead, he still has the same amount of money, but his burden is now lighter. Thus it is the bhakti that helps us bear our misfortunes with fortitude.” More such examples focusing on the subject would have made the discourse more interesting.

Five speakers were lined up to speak on the same day, and this together with namasankirtanam in between, made for a lengthy programme. Maybe the lectures could have been rescheduled so as not to crowd so many in one evening.

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