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Sarana (Initiation) - its meaning for life from Admin's blog

by Gauri Sankar Borah

Lord Krishna must have been the first to use the word Sarana (lit., shelter) for initiation in Geeta (18/66). But we feel that Srimanta Sankaradeva's use and application of it was quite his own. It is as appropriate as it is unique. His Mahapurusism has four categories of Saranas, Sarana to Guru-Deva-Nama-Bhakata; but it is really one in four. It is the Guru (Preceptor) who comes first and sets the ball rolling. He acquaints the Jiva (self) with its own hunger of the heart and thirst of the soul. The Guru shows the Jiva its own wretchedness and tribulations it is always undergoing. He says that tri-tapa (three sorrows) are there : material, super-natural and spiritual; he affirms that there is a remedy, a panacea, against all these evils. This panacea is nothing else than taking shelter in the feet of God, as everything else is ephemeral and ever-changing.

With a grateful heart the proselyte then moves to Deva (God) and offers all the entreaties at His feet:

He Krisna ito ghora samsar panthata
Tini tape atisaya huya acho hata
Tayu pada-padma chaya-chatra bine tara
Nahike tarana ara tapa edaibar   1174

Tomara carana-yuga chatra biparita
Chaya kari sarvadise barise amrta 1175

He Krisna tayu pade pasilo sarana
Apada-grastaka moka kariyo raksana 1177

(Bhakti Ratnawali)

'Oh God, I am (almost) killed in this dreadful path of the world being victimized by the three sorrows. I have no other shelter to escape from their attack save and except the shade of the umbrella of thy lotus feet. Thy feet are an umbrella so wonderful that they shower nectar while spreading shade on all sides. So, O God, I take shelter under thy feet; do save the trouble-stricken one.'

But God denies that he may be more potent than his name: for has it not been said:

Ananta sakati tumi Rama / Laksmana, Sugriva, Bibhisana,
Hanumanta adi maha maha viragane
Ani taru-lata parvataka / sateka yojana samudraka,
Setu bandhi par bhailaha maha yatane 636

He prana-prabhu Raghupati / Rama Rama Rama Rama Rama,
Tomata karia tayu guna nama cara
Bina setu-bandha kari nare / Rama Rama Rama Rama Rama,
Apar samsar samudrar howe par 637


'O Rama, it is infinite power that you (yourself) possess. Lakshmana, Sugriva, Bibhisana, Hanumanta and other supreme heroes collected mountains with trees and creepers and bridged the sea hundreds and hundreds of miles long. It is thus that you crossed the sea with so much care. O, Rama, the Lord of my life, five times do I name thee and declare that thy name and glories exceed thee; for men, without making any bridge, cross the infinite ocean of this world (by reciting your name and glory).'

So the proselyte now asks God to grant him the privilege of seeking shelter in his Nama, for he knows:

Apona namara sanga nachadanta Hari:
yei Nama sei Hari jana nistha kari 514


'God does not part company with his Nama (name). Know it for certain that where Nama is there God is also.' So he prays:

Nama-dhana dia moka kina Banamali:
Dasa pai nalawa Kamana Thakurali 540

Nija dasa kari Hari moka kina kina:
Ana dhana nalagaya Nama-dhana bina 541


'O God, do purchase me by giving money in shape of Name. What master is there who would not buy a slave that offers himself ? Do purchase me as your own slave. There is no need of any money else than Thy Name.'

When the proselyte thus approaches Nama for shelter, Nama denies that it has any position without Bhaktas (Devotees) that contain it. Bhaktas are considered more foremost than anything else, even more foremost than God Himself. The great Nama-Ghosa was written by Madhavadeva as asked by the great master, Sankardeva. Madhavadeva started with the invocation to God having the ten incarnations as it stands now in the third verse. But as per traditional belief, Sankaradeva himself took the pen from Madhavadeva and to wrote the first half of the present first verse of the Namaghosa which was thus completed by Madhavadeva:

Muktita nisprha yito, sehi bhakataka namo,
Rasamayi magoho bhakati
Samasta mastakamani, nija bhakatar basya,
Bhajo hena Deva Yadupati

'I bow low to the Bhakta who is averse even to salvation. I beseech for Love that is full of joy. I dedicate myself to God who is the gem of all crowns, but is subservient to the will of His Bhaktas.'

This supremacy and preference given to the Bhakta has been sung in Mahapurusiya scriptures in a thousand ways. And Krisna is said to have told Arjuna in so many terms;

Bhaktar sesat pare bastu srestha nai
Taka bhunjibaka Sakhi mora iccha yai

'Nothing can be more desirable than the left-over of food of the Bhakta. Oh Arjuna, I myself feel a craving for tasting the left-over of my Bhakta's Food.'

Bhakataka pai yara nabhaila harisa
Harika paile sito karibeka kisa
Krisnara Bhakata jana paya thai thai
Bhaktara Bhakata Sakhi pabalai nai

'He who has not been moved with joy having met a Bhakta, what can he do if God happens to come across his path personally? Devotees of God are found here and there, but devotees of devotees are few and far between.'

Mora Guru Bhakatese svarupa svabhava
Yena bayu-akasara nahi bhinna bhava,
Sarva-tattva Bhakataka mai Guru mano;
Bhakata-Guruta pare anaka najano

'(Krisna says) Bhaktas represent the true nature of My Preceptor and are not different from Me just as the sky and air are inseparable. I respect Bhaktas, containers of all spiritual truths, as my Guru, and I know no others than my Bhaktas who are my Gurus.'

Thus we see that the chain of the four Mahapurusiya Saranas is a ring where the four are one as the one showed itself in four. It is a cult of Love which seeks direct communion with God being purged of all formalities and ritualities. So it is Mysticism which is "the expression of the innate tendency of the human sprit towards complete harmony with the transcendental order." It is not only not an intellectual speculation, but an investigation of it entails "a definite preparation, a purging of the intellect." To put in the words of Evalin Underhill, "Where the philosopher guesses and argues, the mystic lives and looks; and speaks, consequently, the disconcerting language of first - hand experience, not the neat dialectic of the schools… The Absolute of the mystics is lovable, attainable and alive." "Oh, taste and see !" ___they cry in accents of astounding certainty and joy. "Ours is an experimental science. We can but communicate our system, never its result. We come to you not as thinkers, but as doers." So it is that Madhavadeva welcomes us:

Piyu piyu piyu amiya madhuri Hari-nama

Durata tejia thaio anya yata mana-kama  704


'Drink, drink, drink ye the name of God full of ambrosial sweetness. Shake off, ye, all desires of the mind, at a distance.'

Vicari dekhasa, pamara Manai e
Iha para loke Harise suhrida bandhu 719

Majia rahasa, suhrida Manai e, …
Govinda bola Manai, Mukunda bola Manai

Hari guna-nama apara ananda sindhu 720

Brahma-Hare yat sarana pasaya, anara kona barai 722


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