Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lost and Found Shivaji: A story

This post is from 2010 print edition of "Tattva - A hindu magazine for youth" on their 3rd anniversary. The story is about how Shivaji, after a discourse of Sadguru Tukaramji Maharaj leaves the path of a warrior and decides to go on the path of Bhakti yoga and become a devotee of Lord Ram. (With all credits to Sharath Kumar, a grad student at UT Dallas.)

People around him (Suryaraj and Jivamahal) are bewildered and get worried as to what would happen of Shivaji's newly founded kingdom if he renounces his duties like that. It took Tukaram Maharaj to persuade Shivaji to go back and take advice from Shree Samarth Ramdas who would better explain to Shivaji the path he should choose in life.

This is the excerpt when the conversation between Shree Samarth Ramdas and Shivaji starts:

"The ever compassionate Samartha Sadguru looked kindly at Shivaji Maharaj and said to him, "O Shivaba, I know what doubts assail you. What you saw at the Keerthan was indeed the infinite glory and splendor of Lord Rama, sung by Tukaram Maharaj, his great devotee. It is indeed this essence of truth and splendor that we are all striving to reach."

"There are many paths to this destination. Just like all paths up a mountain ultimately lead to the peak of the mountain, all paths lead to the same truth, the same essence of the universe."

As Lord Vishnu, in his Krishna avatara (incarnation) has said in the Bhagavad Gita, there are four types of yoga: Jnana Yoga, Bhakthi Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga. Each of these paths is as good as the other. But depending on one's inherent tendencies, which are a result of one's actions in this life and preceding lives, one gets attuned to follow a particular path. There is no path that is better than the other. One cannot argue that his path is better than another's path.

According to you tendencies in this life and in previous lives, you were born a warrior. It is this tendency, O Rajan (king), that made you take the oath of Swarajya ( a free land) when you were a mere stripling of a boy. It is this tendency that made you capture Torna fort when you were a mere teenager. If a person is standing on a cliff and sees nectar on another cliff separated from his cliff by a deep ravine, he may jump toward the nectar and end up falling in the ravine. Similarly, you are trying to jump from your chosen path of karma(duty) to the path of bhakthi (devotion)."

Shivaji Maharaj, who was listening attentively until now, spoke to the Sadguru, "But O Lord, why can't I become a haridaasa and chant the name of the Lord all the time? What is wrong with me, or what is wrong in choosing that path?"

The Samarth said, "Oh Shivaji, you are now enamored by the way of haridaasa. Let us assume that you do become one. It is of utmost importance that the heart and mind should be one hundred percent directed towards the worship of God. However should you hear that a temple is destroyed, should you hear of innocent people killed because they refused to convert, should you hear of women being abducted and their honor put to stake, would you still be calm? Would you still be able to see Pandurange? If those innocent and hapless women and the orphaned children of the Mughal tyranny start thinking, "If only Shivaji Maharaj had not renounced the world. Why did he do such a ghastly deed?", when you hear their cries and anguish, would you still be calm? Do you think you will be able to sing the glories of the Lord in peace?"

Shivaji Maharaj answered, "No, Guru Maharaj. I now realize that I cannot. But is there no way for me to glimpse the infinite glories of Lord Rama, which you have experienced? I know that I can by your grace. Kindly help me in this pursuit as well."

The Samarth replied, "Oh Shivaba, I see Lord Rama as clearly as I see you. There are various ways to reach him. I reached him by thinking of him and only him. All my actions were dedicated to him. I thought of him alone as the doer and myself merely as an instrument. When I gae up this false ego, I was able to see him and experience him. There was everlasting bliss. Having achieved his feet, what was there for me to do. Yet the Lord instructed me to spread his glory. As I was doing so, I saw the miserable conditions of the people of Sanathana Dharma. They groan under this foreign oppression. Hence I set about constructing temples of my Lord Shree Rama.

Take Mahavira (Lord Hanuman). How much was his surrender to the Lord? He did anything and everything for the sake of Lord Rama. He fearlessly flew to Lanka taking Shree Rama's name. He single-handedly combated the demons at Ashoka Vatika. He neither had fear nor cared for his life. All that mattered was service to Lord Rama. That was his duty.

Likewise, O Shivaba, do everything as a service to the Lord. Offer the results to Rama. You do your work. A grihastha (householder), who does his work with devotion and offers the fruits to the lotus feet of Lord Rama is as great, if not greater than a sanyasin (one who has renounced the world).

I accept you as my disciple. If you follow me as your guru, here is my advice to you. Let all your worries, doubts, and burdens be with me. Leave them to me, and thinking of me, do your dharma (duty) with sincerity and submit the fruits to Lord Rama. Then you shall reach the very same place, which Shree Tukaram Maharaj and I have reached. Do not have any doubts anymore. I will take you to the abode of Rama."

Thus dispelled of all fears and doubts, Shivaji Mahraj fell at the Lotus feet of the Samartha Sadguru and declared, " Oh Sadguru Maharaj. Your words are the Vedas for me. Now my mind is clear. I shall continue performing my duties, and offer the results at your lotus feet, O Maruthi (Hanuman) avatar. I am now fearless as I know that you shall guide me, and now no fear or doubt can assail me, since I am protected by your grace."

The Samarth Sadguru was pleased, and placing his right hand on the head of Shivaji Maharaj, he declared, "Go now Shivaba. Go to your favorite temple at Tuljapur. Go to Mother Bhavani. Pray to her earnestly for three days, and she will help you in the successful accomplishment of your duty."

Thus, Shivaji leaves for Tuljapur and prays to Mother Bhavani for three days. The Mother appears befor Shivaji and grants him her parashu (axe) and khadga (sword). With the discourse of Shree Samarth Ramdas Maharaj and boon from Ma Bhavani, Shivaji is now ready to take on the Mughals.

Moral: The successes that Shivaji had with the Mughals are well known. The story tells us that it was through Karmayoga that all of that was possible. Besides, as the Hindu nation reeks with follies such as this and this, while greater issues (and this of course) remain unresolved, one cannot help but wonder if the darkest of hours are upon us. As per the author, in these dark times, there are three lessons to learn from Shivaji's story.

1) The Hindus, even in the darkest of hours can overcome any obstacle.

2) With few resources too, the Hindus can make great achievements with confidence in their faith.

3) One individual can make a difference. It took just Shivaji to change the tide of history for the Hindu nation.

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