Bhagavatam Mahathmiyam- Story of Atma deva.
The September 9th session started off with Umaji chanting the Mahamantra followed by Dhyana sloka.
Nithyaji beautifully rendered the last 13 slokas of the Kunti Stuti.
Mayakoothanji lectured on the significance of Srimad Bhagavatam as seen in Padma Purana.
He gave a beautiful outline on the last week topic: Bhakti ,Jnana & Vairagya. He concluded his explanation with a beautiful paasuram rendered by “ManavAla MAmunigal” on the deity Mannargudi Sri Rajagopalan. The Paasuram starts as:
Unnithhu matrroru theivam thozhaagh
avanaiyalaal nin michha sollinum
kozh kulaikkapadum annamin
mannappadu manavaalanai mann
dhuvarapathi mannanai ethuminn
This paasuram shows the amount of Bhakti Swami had. Imagining himself as the ‘Nayika’ (beloved) of Lord Sri Rajagopala, he falls unconscious owing to pangs of separation. ‘If only someone came and sang ‘Gopala! Dwarakapathi!’ would I wake up’, he says. This is compared with respect to the sons of Bhakti, the Jnana & Vairagya. When they both had lost their strength, they are revived by merely listening to the Mahatmyam of Srimad Bhagavatam. That is the Glory of Srimad Bhagavatam.
The story of Atmadeva was also narrated to glorify Srimad Bhagavatam.
On the banks of river Tungabhadra, lived a well learned person by name Atmadeva. He was good natured person, while on the contrary, his wife, Dunduli always liked to talk about others and cause chaos in other families. The fact that he was not blessed with a child made Atmadeva a very sad man.
Atmadeva lived with a ray of hope that someday he will be blessed with a child. However, as years passed by, his hopes started to diminish and one day unable to control his emotions, set out of the house. He didn’t know where he was going and finally reached a jungle.. In the jungle was a great Sadhu who was in meditation. His eyes caught sight of Atmadeva and seeing him in a very depressed state walked towards him and enquired about him. After hearing his desire to be blessed with a child, he started to perceive if he was fortunate to have a child in that birth.
The Sadhu could foresee that Atmadeva was destined with no progeny not only in his present birth but also in all his future births. Hearing this from the sage’s mouth, Atmadeva broke down and the sage was unable to console him. The sage tried to advise him that as the number of relationships (like the father-child/ husband-wife) increases, they are accompanied with joy and sorrow as well. The sage advised him to take the path of an ascetic. The only relationship that an ascetic life has is that of a Guru-Sishya and that path has only eternal happiness.
Atmadeva was not ready to listen to the Sadhu’s advise. He still insisted on being blessed with a child.
Seeing Atmadeva in that state, the sage gave Atmadeva a fruit and ordained that he would be blessed with progeny if his wife ate the fruit. Mahans have divine powers that they can even change the fate of a person as seen above. Atmadeva was destined to not have a child in all his births, but the blessings of a Sadhu changed his fate.
Overjoyed by this, he thanked the sage and came back to his house and asked his wife to eat the fruit. His wife was not very happy to hear this. She did not want to have a child as she was not prepared to bear the pain during the child birth. She devised a plan and asked Atmadeva to go out on a pilgrimage tour before the child was born. Atmadeva agreed to this and happily set off. In the meanwhile, she threw the fruit in her cow shed. She was curious to see the outcome of the sage’s prediction and so she waited to see if the cow gave birth after eating the fruit. In the meanwhile, her sister also gave birth to a child and having already decided to adopt that child, she lied to her husband that it was indeed their child who was born after eating the fruit. Meanwhile, the cow also gave birth to a human who had cow’s ears. Sri Sri Swamiji says Gokarnan had ears of cow, just because the ears of cow are designed to listen to only good things.
Atmadeva returned from his tour and was very excited to hear the great news. He named his first son as Dundukari, who was born through his sister-in-law and named the other son who had cow’s ears as Gokarna. As expected, Gokarna had all divine qualities while Dundukari had all the vices.
Over time, Dundukari started to abuse his parents and this really worried Atmadeva. One day he kicked Atmadeva from his home. At that time Gokarna was reading the tenth canto of Srimad bhagavatam. Atmadeva cried to Gokarna , ‘My son kicked me out of the house..I am not able to bear the pain.. please help me!’ Then Gokarna advised him about the unfortunate family bonding that he had with the very person who abused him, and explaining the futility of material life, requested his father to renounce the world and go to forest to and read the Tenth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam everyday.
It is interesting to note that this was exactly what the Sadhu had earlier advised him!
Sadhus and Mahans speak very little. Their actions are only for our well-being. So one must obey the Sadhus’ orders without questioning them. Atmadeva promptly abided to his son’s words and left the house and set out to forest and subsequently attained the lotus feet of the Lord. Gokarna left his house after his father’s departure. As years passed by, Dundukari started commiting more and more sins by bringing home women of illicit character. Eventually those women killed him and fled..
In the meanwhile, Gokarna, after going on pilgrimage that included a visit to Gaya where he performed ‘Pinda shrardha’ for his brother Dundukari, returned to his home town. As he sat on the pyol of his house, he was haunted by a terrible voice. He sprinkled water to eventually find out that it was indeed his brother Dundukari’s ‘preta sharira’ who was in such a terrible state.
Dundukari told him that the suffering that he was currently undergoing was inexplicable and was due to the sins that he had committed and requested Gokarana to find an elixir for his sufferings. Gokarna decided to help his brother. He went around asking people on the remedy and everybody told him that the final rites which he performed in Gaya would suffice and if that didn’t help then nothing else would help! But Gokarna was not dithered by this and he continued asking many learned scholars and one of them advised him to ask verily the Sun God. The next morning, Gokarana went to Lord Surya(Who was then google search engine )and asked him for the remedy. ‘ Perform Bhagavata Saptaham’- came the reply. That is the only resort for the soul to attain Moksha. So he immediately made all the arrangements for the Saptaha.
He bought a bamboo shoot with seven nodes and installed Dundukari’s ‘preta sharira’ onto it. At the conclusion of everyday’s Parayana of the Saptaha one node would burst open, signifying that each and every day of the Saptaha bestows good merits. At the end of the seventh day, all the seven nodes burst open, Vishnu Dhootas arrived in a vehicle from Vaikunta and took Dundukari along with them.
When the Vishnu Parshadas were questioned as to why it was only Dundukari who attained the holy feet of the Lord and not the others who listened to it (and not even Gokarna who recited it), the answer was that, it was because Dundukari listened to the whole Saptaham with full devotion and concentration.
Such is the prowess for Srimad Bhagavatha Saptaham. Thus Sanatkumaras narrate this story on the glory of the Bhagavata Saptaham to Sage Narada.
The study circle ended with Namasankirtan.