March 17, 2010 – Day One of Bhagavatha Sapthaham

It is said that the great sage Vyasa, having written the great epics was still dissatisfied. He knew not the sweetness of pure joy and felt incomplete. It was then that the celestial sage Narada advised him to write the stories of the Lord for what could be sweeter than that? And that was what brought solace to the great sage. That is the power of the Bhagawatham - "Baaga Avatamu (we will become good)” as Swami puts it so succinctly.

Starting from March 17, a week long Saptaham as it is called, on the Bhagawatham, had been arranged at Prasanthi Nilayam and it was to be conducted by the Balsant (literally translates as “The Boy Saint”), Sri Rituraj Maharaj.

The morning saw the traditional manner of installing the holy book and the Vyas Peeth had been prepared for the Balsant. The commentary was scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Swami had not yet arrived but He sent word that it must start only after He comes! The Balsant was thrilled! He had made his first brief talk in Swami's presence during the Ashadi Ekadasi festival in 2007.

Ever since tasting the joy of Divine proximity, he had been pining for doing a Saptaham in His presence as he said later. And when a devotee prays, the Lord responds, always and without fail. It was to the unbounded joy of Rituraj Maharaj that Swami arrived in the morning and after taking a complete round, moved to the stage.

On the way, He paused to study the mural of the child Dhruva seeking and finding the Lord. A corner near the interview room has been occupied by a frame in which the murals are changed daily, like the "picture of the day" concept!

Swami lit the lamp on the stage and blessed Maharaj to begin. In the center was Sri Rituraj and Swami sat by the side.

As a prelude to the commentary, an invocatory prayer was offered to Swami followed by various other Mantras invoking the various gods and goddesses of the Hindu tradition. The story began with the dialogue between Lord Sri Krishna and His devotee Uddhava. When Uddhava asked as to how he could offer worship to the Divine form of Krishna after He departs from physical form, Krishna answers, "By worshipping and studying the Bhagavatham."

Elucidating on the great good fortune of all assembled to hear His story in His presence, Maharaj in his inimitable style went on narrating the birth of Sage Suka and the story as to how he was endowed with wisdom before his birth. Sage Narada is approached by a woman who is Bhakti (devotion) in reality. Her sons Jnana (wisdom) and Vairagya (renouncement) are aged far beyond the mother and she says that Bhakti is of no use without the sons! And so the remedy that sage Narada offers is the sacred stories of the Bhagavatham.

Next to come was an incident that happened in the banks of Tungabhadra involving Atmadeva, narrating the birth of Dunduli and Gokarna.

Dunduli’s evil deeds and atrocities on Atmadeva form an important message as to what is permanent and what is not!  Upon informing Gokarna about his travails, Atmadev finds great wisdom by listening to the advice of his son about the unfortunate family bonding.

Explaining in detail the futility of material life and requesting his father to renounce the world and go to forest, Gokarna tells him to read the Tenth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam every day.

Swami sat through the whole parayanam, listening and looking at the beautifully decorated stage. In between, He went into the interview room for a short while but even as He went, He told Rituraj to continue speaking and that He would return soon.

As He had said, He came out quickly and sat for the rest of the talk. At almost nearing 11:00 a.m., the commentary concluded and Swami smiled and blessed Maharaj. He asked him as to what time he would begin in the evening.

He said, "4:30". Swami told him to announce that over the mikes. Then, receiving aarthi, Swami retired for the morning.

In the evening, shortly after 4:00 p.m., the summary of the morning's commentary was read out following which the Veda chanting went on. Soon, the evening's parayanam began after Sri Rituraj took his place in the centre.

Swami blessed him to begin and the evening's theme centred around the saving grace of Lord Krishna which rescued the Pandavas time and again. The dying Kaurava prince, Duryodhana, requests Ashwatthama to bring him the heads of the Pandavas. As Ashwatthama plans to make a cruel attack at night, Lord Krishna advises the Pandavas and their sons, the Upa-Pandavas to sleep elsewhere. "Like the modern youth, the sons do not listen to the Lord and so they were all killed!" said Sri Rituraj.

And then, as Ashwattama decided to direct the Brahmaasthra to the womb of Uttara to destroy the last hope of the Pandava lineage, Lord Krishna intervened and saved the child. The child was Parikshith, who was so named because ever since his birth he was on a search to find his Saviour! "All of us too must search keenly for our saviour for aren't we also Parikshith? Are we also not mysteriously protected and nourished when in the womb?" asked the Balsant.

He soon concluded and Swami asked for bhajans to begin. First, He asked for the "Shlokam" bhajan and so “Shri Raghavam” was sung. Then, a flurry of Krishna bhajans followed which everyone enthusiastically participated in. After about half an hour, Swami blessed prasadam to be distributed to all.

After the bhajans, aarthi was taken. After this, Swami told a student in the front that the summary of the talks being given may be presented daily. He then blessed a few more students in the front and told everyone, "Go and take rest. Tomorrow, all that was said today will be summarised." It was 7:15 p.m. when He moved towards Yajur Mandir.

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