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An Appeal: This article has been written in English for the benefit of my non-Telugu friends

Om Shri Lakminaraayanaya namah

Om Ganeshaaya namah

Shree Gurubhyonnamaha

 

Here is a frugal attempt mainly for the benefit of those who are just aware of the Gajendra MokshaNam episode in Shrimadbhagavatam. For those who are well versed with its deep spiritual significance it would certainly act as a trigger to recall their great insights and enjoy the bliss emanated therefrom. Because experiencing a blissful state is what a seeker yearns for.

The very sight of Moon fascinates any human being. Each one of us gets a different feeling and association with it. Our feelings do change when we watch it at different locations, times and situations. Similarly our perspective about the Moon also undergoes a change when we watch it with different intentions, at different angles and from different altitudes. Thus one Moon appeals in many ways to many individuals. No wonder that Purusha Sookta declares that the Moon originates from the Mind of the God. God is understood, felt, experienced, visualized and seen by many persons in the history of mankind in many ways. The narration of God given in our Vedic Scriptures can best be understood by start questioning His existence. Similarly the best way to appreciate our scriptures is to challenge them with logic.

It is idiotic to state that an elephant can pray and Lord Vishnu Himself comes to its rescue, it is beyond any reason to believe that an elephant can have so many wives and they could not save their single husband from the clutches of a crocodile.. so on and so forth. This kind of ridicule is common among many modern Indians when they participate in any discussion on the Vedic Scriptures. At the same time, thanks to the idiot box (now it may well be known as an idiot frame – due aka thin and large LED Screens) the bhakti concept is alive in the common halls of the Indian homes. Further the emergence of new generation writers who wishes to make a quick buck by indulging in an Epic Makeover effort. An article published in Metro Plus of The Hindu with a title An Epic Makeover dated 30th November, 2013 speaks of this trend in detail. While this is an indulgence of different kind by these young writers to add their imagination to feed the market that buys the fantasies woven around the epics, it does make a reader to be inquisitive about the original works of Valamiki and Vyasa!

At this juncture an effort to be on the track laid by the Sanaathana Vedic Tradition can well be equated with a cake walk. Because whatever interpretation that I share here is not out of my imagination but from the moot questions raised by our Vedic Tradition itself. The only effort I had put in is to collect and collate these interpretations in a manner that might appeal to the new generation of seekers in their own might. One must bear in mind the fact that there is no new story or pattern that is not present in our Vedic Scriptures and the mighty ocean respectively. Therefore all that we weave with the words is nothing but with the help of the original works of our Vedic Lore. In other words our Elders state that the entire vedic literature is the uchchishta (the leftover) of Veda Vyasa. By ignoring this fact alone can we feel the sense of ownership of our so called “own creation”.

There was no home in our Andhra Pradesh - in the last century - that has got an adult who did not know the prayers of Gajendra in the chaste and inimitable style of Telugu Poem (Padyam) written by Sahaja Kavi Potana as per the traditional Telugu grammar. ThesePadyas being grammatical in nature are pregnant with a power of seeking when recited by any person with an intent to apply them to his/her need to find a way out of this rigmarole of life. If a translated version of Bhagavata Purana in Telugu carries this much power, it is unimaginable to talk about the spiritual power embedded in the original work so Vaalmiki and Vyasa in Sanskrit Language. By keeping these facts in mind we need to enter the story of Gajendra.

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“This happened during the period of 4th Manu by name Thamasa. During his time his ten sons Kethu, Vrushu, Nara, Khyati etc are the kings famous for their valour. During that Manvantara (the period of that Manu) Satyakaas, Haraas are the Demigods. Trishikhi is the Indra during that Manvantara. Jyothiryoma, etc are the Seven Rishis. Lord Vishnu took birth as a son of Harimedha and HariNi. Lord Vishnu rescued a mighty elephant by name Gajendra from the clutches of a Crocodile.” Having said this much Shuka concluded. This intrigued King Parikshit and he asked “how did this quarrel occur between an elephant and a crocodile and why Vishnu had to come to rescue Gajendra?”

The relevance:

Bhagavata Purana is all about Kalapurusha the time. It narrates the incidents that involve various persons and the involvement of Lord Vishnu in some form or other. This is a Maha Purana the king of all Puranaas that establishes the unique differentiation that operates among all the Demigods. It narrates the success stories of seekers who attained several divine portfolios like Manu, Greatest Kings who protected Sanathana Dharma, the position of 7 Rishis, the position of the King of all Demigods – the Indra, so on and so forth. Meaning the position of Brahma, Shiva, Saraswati, Narada, Vashishta, Garuda and Sesha are all the divine Positions being assumed by the Seekers based on their nature, quality and duration of seeking. The one and the only God of all Gods and Demigods (the sarvottama the supreme God Lord Shri Hari) dwells in all the Gods and Demigods and ensures seamless process of creation, maintenance and dissolution. Therefore there is a flawless gradation and differentiation between any two Gods/Demigods and all are subordinate to Lord Vishnu in His divine organization structure. When we accept without any qualms the grades awarded by our institutions /Govts/ Universities, etc., we need to accept this Divine Gradation and Organisation and its structure to be qualified for spiritual seeking. The very concept of the monotheism established with the help of our the very Vedic Scriptures by the third Acharya in our tradition Shri Madhva is to make our process of seeking simple and focussed. The dualistic perception of life makes the process of seeking a powerful journey soaked in an emotion called Bhakti. What I tried here is just to make a modest effort to bring forth the ease gifted by Shri Madhvacharya in sharing the quintessential interpretation of Gajendra Mokshanam episode.

While seeking the seeker shall have inquisitiveness to know the divine stories and their theological purports with full details. It is this urge to know more made King Parikshit ask that question. The seeker listens to the words of wise men as if it was the last chance to listen to in the life.

The stories that unfold any one or some of the infinite unique qualities of of Lord Vishnu are the ones that make the reader/listener more natural and hence ever blissful.

The story begins:

In the mighty milky ocean lies a mountain called Trikuta. This mountain has got three peaks that are golden, silver and iron. The valley is glowing with the reflection of several other oars and stones and making the mountain’s three peaks glitter in a unique way. On these peaks are the creepers and bushes; and brooks running through them with a soothing sound. The land and the sky assume variety of colours with glow. The Gods take a round in their aeroplanes above this mountain.

The dense forest land down the mountain is with the richness of variety of flora and fauna, birds, animals, insects, etc. The mountain also houses Vidyadhara, Vibudha, Siddha, Chaarana, Garuda and Gandharwa, Kinnera, Kimpurusha sects of seekers who had attained such status after pursuing as Human Beings a process of seeking that fits their physical, mental and spiritual calibre.

Sage Vyasa describes this mountain with meticulous details that include the names of trees, flowers and members of animal kingdom, water bodies in various ways. The trees with various fruits attract the variety of parrots to have a bite of the fully ripen fruits. Thus these fruit bearing trees become centres from where the nectar of fruits dripping down continuously making the land below soaked in brooks of such precious variety of juices.

At this juncture, a large group of well-built elephants came rushing out of the caves. As they came out found a large lush green pasture. Sampling the smell of the grass they stamp on it and run away rubbing the trunks of the trees with force. The tigers, bisons and the deers were running helter-skelter but were not allowed to go by these mighty elephants. This has become a game and they played it for some time and proceeded further. Thus the king of elephants (Gajendra) roamed with his retinue of female ones, breaking through trees, bamboo clusters and clumps of cane. By the mere body Elephants, even lions and tigers, hyenas, rhinos, pythons, yaks, wolves, boars, bisons, bears, porcupines, baboons, jackals, monkeys, all ran away in fear, while the weaker ones like the deer and the hares moved about joyously by the protective presence of Gajendra.

The meaning of this description and its relevance to the modern life:

Sanathana Dharmam can only be understood and felt through the Epics and Puranaas. One needs to know them. While it is very easy to ridicule the Vedic Literature without even reading fully an Upanishad or a Purana and Epic by understanding the literal, spiritual and philosophical meanings, it becomes a joyful journey when we start making an effort. The symbolism used in puranaas can only be deciphered through the theological interpretation of modern life. The mighty milky ocean is nothing but the human mind that is originally Shudhdha Satwik to the core. The Satwa guna is generally depicted in white colour. Just as the ocean has got waves the mind too has got thought waves. The Thrikuta is nothing but the three Gunas that our mind get influenced with viz., satvik, rajasik and thamasik. The golden, silver an iron peaks are nothing but these peaks in our behaviour due to satvik, rajasik and thamasik gunas and their gradation is also stated in the same order.

The world around us bombards our mind (the Milky Ocean) with various stimuli and we get conditioned by what we get attracted most. We can keep on interpreting each detail given by Sage Vyasa and derive meaning applicable to the modern life. This is the timeless narration of Vyasa. When we extend this string of interpretation the story appears very much as the one about self. The intent of the Mind is nothing but Gajendra. The forest is the body and the details are nothing but those of our nervous system. The lakes, fruit bearing trees are pigments of our imagination for a comfortable life.

In another angle we find that the mighty elephants are nothing but the Jeevis (Living organisms) in their prime age with best of their agility and courage. In the peak of our health and joy many of us go beyond the required and behave in an unusual manner. The fear of other animals is nothing but the indication of the fierceness with which a jeevi conducts itself during it’s heydays and makes the other less mortals’ life miserable. Gajendra is nothing but the individual self. Each animal that was stated in the description represent the innumerable number of Jeevis who have got their own paths of seeking and the disturbance they experienced is equivalent to the impact an anti-social element like a terrorist creates among the civilized ones. The innocent and the meek are the ones who become the easy targets. The beauty is that all other would become eventually the mute spectators for the fall of the callous mighty.

The story:

Out of the infinite number of Mighty Elephants one of them got separated while it is thoroughly enjoying the service being provided by its wives in many ways to the utmost delight of his all five senses. The acts of romance made this mighty elephant lose the sense of time. In the process of this pleasure seeking the mighty elephant lost its track and started feeling the need to quench its thirst. Oppressed by the heat of summer, dripping ichor and swarmed by bees settled on it for its sheer taste, tormented by thirst, accompanied by the whole herd of bull and female elephants and the young ones, they proceeded in a manner that almost caused tremors in the mountain by their weight. Gajendra smelt from afar the lotus pollen-filled cool breeze and with eyes tremulous in a state of rut, speedily approached the vicinity of the lake. It is a very huge body of water mixed with the pollen from the flowers, juices dripping from the fully ripen fruits dangling from the branches of variety of trees on its banks. The very sight of the lake made Gjendra release all his emotions. Plunging into it, he drank to his heart’s content the immaculate, sweet ambrosial water, flavoured by the pollen of the golden lotuses, lilies, sucking it with his trunk and freely showering on himself, and with his fatigue gone, equally offering mouthfuls and a liberal sprinkle of bath to his retinue.

The cool and mild breeze from the surface of that very big lake touched the body of Gajendra in a very delightful manner. The fragrance of the ripen fruits and pollen from the flowers mixed in the air made the inhalation a unique experience. The sounds made by the variety of birds and swans mollified the ears. Within a few moments Gajendra surrendered himself to the environment and entered the Lake along with his wives. As the water touched the body which is longing for it for quite some time, all the elephants had indulged in run riot.

The relevance:

The above statement is a succinct symbolism to denote the cycle of birth and rebirth. Sanathana Dharma establishes through its theological references - that can be seen in a seamless manner only through a careful study - the fact that each of us have got countless births. While many mighty elephants were on their way only one of them got separated because of the comfort that is being provided to him by innumerable number of wives. This number represents the no. of wives a Jeevi had and the ability he had to enable the sadhana (the process of seeking) of so many wives he had. Meaning we indulge in helping or not helping our partner in seeking through our acts. In other words this number of wives represents the number of desires the human mind generates. In satisfying these desires we indulge in various acts in the world around us. The indulgence of Gajendra in the large body of water symbolizes this. It is here to be noted what the Vedic Scriptures unfold the greatness of Human Birth which is obtained after several crores of births and rebirths! The birth as a human being we have got along with a limited liberty of taking actions with the help of our Ego or Conscience is the most invaluable gift. Among many of us only a few would realize the real purpose of human life. Of these few only very few would stay with this realization and among such a few only a few number of human beings get liberated from the cycle of birth and rebirth(refer Bhagavad Gita). Moksha is defined as the loving, eternal union with Shri Hari and considered the highest perfection of existence. It is different for different seekers based on their qualification. The bhakta (devotee) attains the abode of the Supreme Lord in a perfected state but maintains his or her individual identity, with a spiritual form, personality, tastes, pastimes, and so on. Every soul encounters liberation differently, and each soul requires a different level of satisfaction to reach Moksha. Therefore Moksha needs to be seen as the highest state achieved by a very few souls.

The pleasures that we experience in our present life are similar to the ones that Gajendra experienced. The tendency to get engrossed in experiencing these pleasures that too in the presence of the beloved ones is the ultimate state of “enjoying life”. We can surrender to only one at any given time, either to the “pleasures-desires-efforts to seek them” cycle or to surrender all our efforts to the one whom we believe is the only one who can grant us the liberation from this never-ending cycle of pleasure seeking, which is actually the purpose of our life. The purpose of life is forgotten more often due to the presence of enticing environment that includes our desires and thoughts.

The description of the forest with its richness of flora and fauna is nothing but the description of our body with several organs with different and unique functions being controlled by Mind (the Gajendra).

The story..

The elephants had a great fun in the Lake. The purpose of reaching the lake is to quench the thirst. Having quenched it, they played with the water and disturbed the lake and transformed it into an unimaginably different one. The cooling, sweetness, the wind, the sounds and the total environment encouraged the elephants to play in all possible ways. Gajendra started demonstrating his prowess in playing with the water.

The relevance:

What happens when we get everything we want?

How do we behave when we feel that we are on the top of the world?

What happens to us when all our five senses are delighted beyond imagination?

When we are served by many and reach a state of bliss how does our mind react?

These are some of the questions that were answered with ample illustration in the story of Gajendra when he entered the Lake.

It is obvious that many of us get carried away by good or bad that happens to us – rather engrossed in it until we felt a need for a change. This characteristic among any living organism is generally evident and the story of Gajendra deals exclusively with this. When encountered with an unimaginable wealth or comforts the tendency is to forget the past the fully enjoy the present moment. This present moment enjoyment is not with the awareness of the present moment. It is with the greed to get the maximum out of it for self-aggrandizement among the kith and kin. In this process the knowledge about self in relation to the environment is thoroughly forgotten.

The story….

While the elephants were indulging in various water sports in the inspiring leadership of Gajendra, suddenly there was a sound coupled with a powerful wind. The water in the lake flew in mires created by the movement of a mighty alligator. The splashing of water when its tail comes up and goes down into the water makes huge sounds. The force of splashing made the crabs, fishes and other water born animals raise from within the lake and went up in the air and falling back into the lake as if the sky was raining them.

The alligator caught hold of the leg Gajendra and Gajendra without any surprise shook his leg and lifted the alligator with its shining tooth, up. The alligator was raised from the water while falling back into waters, it scratched the tail of Gajendra. Settling down in the lake the alligator gained more power and started sucking the blood from the leg of Gajendra. Gajendra never got terrified and he boldly fought a fierce battle with the alligator. Thus the fight between them lasted for 1000 years. Each of them fought with best of their abilities and skills with tact of attack and counter attacks. The fight bewildered the onlookers. At times the alligator raises up from the water and catches the trunk or neck and bites, Gajendra removes it with its teeth and trunk and throws into the water. The lake was with streaks of blood. As the fight continued in the water, naturally the alligator gained more power with the sucking of blood and Gajendra started losing his power and grip.

The wives of Gajendra remain mute spectators as they are bound by their relationship with him.

It is difficult for any Telugu seeker not to quote Potana. This is the power of his poetry which is soaked in bhakti. He had narrated the manner in which crocodile increased the strength of its hold on the leg of Gajendra by equating it with a seeker. The following poem speaks for itself:

పాదద్వంద్వము నేలమోపి పవనున్ బంధించి పంచేంద్రియో 

న్మాదంబుం బరిమార్చి బుద్ధిలతకున్ మాఱాకు హత్తించి ని

ష్ఖేదబ్రహ్మపదావలంబనరతిం గ్రీడించు యోగీంద్రు మ

ర్యాదన్ నక్రము విక్రమించెఁ గరిపాదాక్రాంతనిర్వక్రమై.

The relevance:

The mental state of Gajendra can easily be identified with many of us when we are confronted with a situation that we perceive as self-manageable. We continue to deal with the situation as long as we can or until we get an iota of doubt in our mind about our capability. This has precisely happened to Gajendra. This iota of doubt is to be seen inversely as a speck of spiritual wisdom. This wisdom dawns upon when the situation is clear and the status is well known. The enemy is naturally more powerful as the fight is on in its own territory. When we indulge in activities in others’ area in a manner that disturb them we are bound to get the rebuff and meet with failure. The onlookers being the wives of Gajendra could not do anything to save him. It might occur to any rational mind that all these mighty elephants should have entered the lake at once and stamp on the alligator so that they could have saved it. But this did not happen. The philosophical purport of this inaction on the part of Gajendra’s innumerable wives is the fact that a male organism take several births as a male only. Thus a male jeevi would have had several crores of births and in each birth he would have had one or more number of wives. Therefore he would have had several wives so far. So is the case with Gajendra who represent a Jeevi. The wives become mute spectators in the spiritual journey of a male. Meaning in our marital relationship whatever the spiritual seeking (sadhana/practice) that one undertakes is unique to him/her and there is no partaking of other in one’s own process of experiencing the results of deeds. Yes, if the deeds are good that do not disturb the relationship both the husband and wife would enjoy its fruits. Wives obtain the best merely by supporting their husbands in their pursuits. Their responsibility ends by giving righteous advice.

The story…..

With that speck of wisdom dawned upon Gajendra, he started thinking of seeking the help and that made him reflect on the situation had he not entered into the Lake. He abused himself for leaving a state of being comforted by his innumerable wives for a very long time, being powerful with his position and possessions. He wondered as to how the fear engulfs one!!

This self-abuse lead him seek the help of God. He started praying for the God who creates, bears and dissolves the whole world; who is the God of all Gods and the reason for this existence; who is timeless, everything and unborn; who is the witness for each act, both mental and physical of all living and non-living things; who is the soul of all souls; who is eternal makes souls act through their bodies in various ways.

Gajendra sought refuge in Him who is formless, nameless, beyond any quality, words and who is the darling of all Rishis and Seers; who is the eternal powerhouse; who is beyond genders; who is not bound by any Karma and yet indulges in karma and who is behind all actions of the souls; who assigns the role, name and form for Brahma and other Gods and entire organisms and matter; he who orchestrates the flow of thoughts in all living organisms.

Having enumerated the qualities of the God with the help of his past life memory, Gajendra waited for a long and yet the God does not give any indication of His coming. He recalled the God whom the renunciants and great sages who see all living beings equally, who are friendly to everyone and who flawlessly practice in the forest the vows of brahmacarya, Vanaprestha and Sannyaasa desire to Him. Gajendra wanted that such Supreme Personality of Godhead be his ultimate destination.

He also remembered the one Whom the unalloyed devotees, who have no desire other than to serve Him, worship Him in full surrender and always hear and chant about His activities, which are most wonderful and auspicious.

When the King of the elephants was describing the supreme authority, without mentioning any particular person, he did not invoke the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Indra. Thus none of them approached him. He started questioning as to why He is not coming, listening, and seeing his plight. As he continued seeking His help Gajendra started narrating the name of the Lord by which is he is well known and He is the one who has all the qualities enumerated by him. He offered his prayers to the one Who is the husband of Maha Lakshmi. He remembered the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is worshipable for such exalted persons as Brahma and Shiva and started meditating up on Him. It is then the Lord Vishnu appeared before Gajendra.

With the power of the crocodile Gajendra has been experiencing acute pain, but the very appearance of Narayana before him made him gain the strength and picked up a lotus flower with his trunk and offered it to Him. Gajendra uttered a very thought provoking prayer and offered the same to Lord Vishnu.

The relevance:

Is it not easy to find out the relevance of the above to our contemporary life and the system of our seeking?

The previous births

Of Gajendra: Indradyumna is a king who was cursed by sage Atasthya for not being able to take the cognizance of his presence. He cursed king Idradyuman to take birth in the womb of the best of all elephants. One might wonder at this egoistic tendency of a Rishi to curse for apparently trivial reasons. All these are acts synchronized by the Antaryaami of all beings for a noble and welfare cause of the Seekers. Each shaapa (curse) by a Rishi or a God has got a divine rationale and it suffices to say this much at this point of time.

Of Crocodile: Hu Hu is a Gandhrva who was cursed by Seer Devala for his act of pulling his legs in the water as an act of fun to test the Seer’s power of concentration. Then Seer Devala cursed him to become a crocodile to be killed by Shri Hari.

The above two previous births confirm the fact that the today’s body is not permanent for the soul to dwell. The soul as a seeker must continue seeking the grace of the Lord to liberate it from the vicious cycle of birth and death.

Interested devotees of Lord Vishnu can listen to the Gajendra Stuti at this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVEAf0AoU4Y&feature=player_embedded#t=0

The intent of Veda Vyasa in capturing this incidence in Bhagavata Purana can also be understood by reflecting on the following:

Just as the one Who created this whole Universe is real, His creation is also real. This is amply described by the meticulous description of the Dense Forest.

Each one who seeks to find a place in the abode of Lord Vishnu cannot become Jivan Mukta (the one who leads a life that is already liberated) at once. The process of seeking is influenced by Prarabda, aagaami and sanchita papa karma. The fruits of our deeds that are to be realised in the present birth are called prarabda. The fruits of the deeds that we enter into now for our next birth is called aagaami. And the accumulated fruits of our karma from the left overs of prarabda and aagaami in the eternal journey of our soul becomes sanchita. We do not know when this Karma Phala would become a Zero balance to enable a seeker to rest in peace in the abode of Lord Vishnu!

The process of seeking is possible only when it is done in a state of suddha Satwik meaning very pious and very compatible for seeking in both material and spiritual terms. Thus Bhagavata is the symbol of suddha satwikata state hence it is the satwik purana among all the puranaas.

In the divine governing system of Lord Vishnu all Demi Gods have got their own portfolios to function and the Gods of these Demigods namely Brahma, Shiva and Indra too meditate up on Lord Vishnu for fulfilling their spiritual seeking. The gradation of gods and their portfolios need to be understood with due prayers addressed to them. The subordination of these gods to Shri Hari does not intend to nullify their importance rather institutionalize their significance in the process of seeking. When Gajendra sought the help, Chandra endorsed it to his next higher God Sun, the Sun to Indra and Indra to Rudra and Rudra to Brahma and it is Brahma who had passed on the prayers to Shri Hari. This is the order of Taratmya (or ascending gradation) described inherently by Gajendra while seeking the help. Moksha can only be granted by Janardhana.

Vyasa recorded in the Bhagavata Purana that Shri Hari just appeared with his consort sitting on Garuda signifying the fact that "Vishwam Vishnuh"  He is every where at all times.  The great poet Potana while translating Bhagavatam added more drama as his own creation to this episode.  Further Gajendra being fully aware of Shri Hari never doubted as narrated by Potana "కలడు కలండనెడివాడు కలడో లేడో" . Therefore it is apt to read what Vyasa wrote and that is the ultimate.

 

Harih Om.

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Comments   

 
+1 #2 Gajendra Moksham – Its Eternal Relevance IVNS 2016-03-03 05:53
Dear Shukla ji
Thanks for your comment
If you can understand Telugu here is the website that has an audio version of Potana Bhagavatam http://www.telugubhagavatam.org/?tebha&Skanda=1&Ghatta=2
You click on the audio link (typical play button) and listen.

As regards murals teaching, I am not fully aware of them and express my inability to share any further details.
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+3 #1 Gajendra Moksham – Its Eternal Relevance R k shukla 2016-03-02 14:30
Very good read in simple English.Always wanted to know about Potana and his works but ignorance of Telegu came in the way.Would also love to know about Murals teachings
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