Monday, July 21, 2008

The "City" of devotion

Jagannath Puri or just Puri was the first of the places we visited with the Master on our 14 day parivrajaka (wandering). Puri literally means - the City, which goes to say that at the time when this city existed, this was the only city the people knew. This City finds place in all great Masters' biographies like the Great Master (Ramakrishna Paramahamsa), Autobiography of a Yogi (Paramahamsa Yogananda), Lives of Sri Sarada Devi, Sri Chaitanya and Shankaracharya. This is the place of Krishna and the temple is world renowned for its Rath Yatra (the Chariot Festival) when three huge chariots carrying Krishna, His brother - Balarama and His sister - Subhadra, pass through the streets of this City.

This post is not about the city. It is about the beauty of the city which sings and dances like Sri Chaitanya did, in the name of Krishna. The Jagannath Temple that is the center of attraction of this city is a testifies what all masters have always been propagating - intense devotion leads to the Ultimate Truth. Whether it is devotional Masters like Sri Chaitanya and Ramakrishna or intellectual Masters like Shankara, all say - bhakti (devotion) and true love towards the Divine is the simplest way to connect to the Divine.

If you see the main deities of the temple (as shown in the picture), there are no features, i.e. no palms, no feet, no eyes, lips etc. They are just blocks of earth and the all the features have been painted on them. There is a beautiful story related to this. Let me narrate it followed by a very powerful message that the Master spoke about:

There was a king who made a beautiful temple and he wanted to installed the most beautifully sculpted deity of Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra in the temple. He announced it to the public and put a warning that if he is not pleased with the idols, the sculptor will be beheaded. Hearing this not many were willing to come forward. Once an old man came and took the job but he too had a condition, 'I will lock my self up in the sanctum sanctorum for next one month and no one should open the doors, whatever the case may be.' The kind agreed and the work started. People noticed that there were all kinds of loud sounds of rocks falling apart coming from the main room. The ministers patiently waited for 20 days but then they went and told the king that the old man might be destroying the temple. The king opened the door and saw that the old man stopped the sculpting work. He turned to the king and told him, you broke your promise and now I leave the idols in whatever state they are. Saying this the old man merged into the Krishna idol. It was then that the king realized that it was Krishna Himself who came down to break his ego.

The Master commented, 'Lets see the truth from this story. It was the king's ego to build the most beautiful temple with the most beautiful idols. It was not out of devotion or love that he was doing it. It was purely out of his ego, to show to the world; that's all. Later he understood his mistake and become a Krishna devotee himself. This temple stands now purely on true devotion. It is not the external beauty that matters but it is the intensity of devotion that is important. The three idols in the sanctum sanctorum are unfinished and they may not be as "beautiful" as other Krishna idols in other temples but this temple gets thousands of devotees. It is based on pure devotion and love to God, not the external looks. That is what we have to assimilate from this place.'

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