August 2012

Effectiveness of Japa to a large extent depends upon the spirit of surrender with which the seeker is practising it. – Chinmaya

Among all Yogas, the Japa Yoga has been the greatest attraction for the lazy, easy-going seekers of all ages as it promises great results with almost no effort from the part of the sadhakas.

There appears to be no condition in this Yoga. It is widely believed that one may chant the name wrongly, or even mechanically, at any time, in any place, with or without faith, with or without interest – but results are guaranteed… no consistency, no commitment needed… like the man who gets cleaned up and freshened up even if he accidentally falls in a river – so too with unintentional chanting … like Ajaamila, who attained the Supreme in his death bed while calling his son named Narayana…!

The beginners in spirituality get allured by these promises and take up Japa Yoga all at once. Result? Even after years of their half-hearted chanting, they remain where they were without any fragrance of inner-awakening, without an iota of progress.

The bead rolls, the tongue rolls, the mind also rolls, says Kabir!

The above quote targets such immature seekers. The message is clear and simple – there is a price to be paid to attain anything great. Nothing comes free.

Japa Yoga too, like all other Yogas, demands from the seeker the greatest of all prices – the price of self-surrender.

This story is about a lady whose mention comes in the list of devotees who were associated with Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Her name is Aghoremani Devi. She was born in a Brahmin family in 1822 at Kamarhati, a northern suburb of Calcutta.

She got married at the age of nine, but soon became a widow, poor and illiterate, at the age of fourteen, never meeting the husband even once after the marriage. However, she was initiated into spiritual life by her husband’s family guru and, with the child Krishna as her chosen deity, she was given the Gopala mantra.

Aghoremani rose at two o’clock in the morning and did her japa till eight o’clock, and after her daily chores, again continued with her sadhana from evening till midnight. She followed this routine daily for over thirty years – from 1852 to 1883. Very soon she was blessed with a continuous vision of Gopala, the baby Krishna of around 10 months of age. The boy would come while she chanted, sit on her lap, snatch her beads away, dishevel her hair, climb on her shoulders or ask for butter to eat. Then she had to feed Him, clothe Him, carry Him and even put to sleep.

It was Sri Ramakrishna who recognized her spiritual greatness when he said that she had attained everything with her single-pointed Japa sadhana. The devotees were amazed to see their Master, who never even touched a woman, in a state of ecstasy, sitting on her lap like a child and eating even the ordinary sweetmeats with great relish brought by her. She saw in him her beloved Gopala and fed him with her own hands.

Sri Ramakrishna loved humour. Once Gopaler-ma (Gopala’s mother), as she was called, was asked by Sri Ramakrishna to narrate her experiences to Narendra (later Swami Vivekananda), who was modern, educated, intellectual and a staunch believer of formless God.

While narrating she kept asking, “My son, you are learned and intelligent, and I am a poor illiterate widow. I don’t understand anything. Please tell me, are these visions true?”

With tears in his eyes, Narendra assured her, “Yes, Mother, whatever you have seen is all true.”

One day a group of devotees, knowing her high spiritual stature, began to ask her some questions. She said to them: “Look, I am an old, illiterate woman. What do I know about the scriptures?” But when they persisted, she said finally, “Wait, let me ask Gopala.

“O Gopala! I don’t understand what they are talking about. Why don’t you answer their questions? Hello, Gopala says this…” In this way, Gopaler-ma answered the abstruse questions of the devotees. They were amazed. That remarkable question and answer session ended abruptly, however, when Gopaler-ma suddenly said, “O Gopala! Why are you going away? Will you not answer their questions anymore?” But Gopala had left!

After returning from the West, Swami Vivekananda sent his Western disciples to meet Gopaler-ma. Later, to them, he said, “Ah! This is the old India that you have seen, the India of prayers and tears, of vigils and fasts, that is passing away…”

Once, being asked for some advice from a disciple, Gopaler-ma said, “Ask advice from Gopala. He is within you. No one can give better advice than He. This is the truth. Cry with a longing heart and you will reach Him…”

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Posted in: Chintana

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