Monday, 25 September 2017

Worship of the Guru's feet - a meditation on Paadaseva

It was the year 2004 when all the final year postgraduate students of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning gathered in the bhajan hall at Prashanti Nilayam. They had sought an audience with their Guru and God, Bhagawan Baba, to offer their gratitude before leaving the portals of the glorious University. They had also carved, painted and created a ‘gratitude card’ to offer to Swami. On the card was a beautifully carved ship with a heartfelt poem beside it. Swami blessed the card and, pointed at the ship, mentioned,
“Children sing, Baa Baa black sheep. But this Baba is not a black sheep. Baba is a white ship!”

The Avatar comes as a great White Ship to ferry everyone across the ocean of Samsara or worldly existence.

It was a thrill as everyone present realized the import of the statement.  Gurus are often considered as boats who take their disciples across the ocean of samsara or worldly existence. But when the Jagadguru, the Avatar descends, He becomes a ship ferrying everyone across the same ocean. He is like the ark that saves all in the deluge. This was a reinforcement of what Bhagawan had declared when He announced the Avataric Advent:
Manasa Bhajare Guru Charanam Dusthara Bhava Saagara Tharanam.”
{Oh mind! Meditate on the Feet of the Guru. This can take you across the difficult ocean of existence, birth after birth."}

Worshipping the feet of the Guru is considered as one among the 9 forms of Bhakti or devotion. Getting an opportunity to do Paadaseva to one’s Guru is a blessing that has possibly been earned over several lifetimes. The beautiful thing is this Paadaseva need not be done physically alone. A Manasa Pooja (mental worship) is equally effective and redeeming. Based on real-life experience, here is a meditation on Paadaseva which is sure to delight every Bhakta’s heart. The description is set in the Hrudaya Brindavan (garden of one’s heart) where there is a sanctum of the Guru with a Jhoola (swing) for Him to sit on. Read on slowly and picture the entire scene to enjoy the meditation on your Guru or Swami (Master or Lord).

Drink in the picture of your Guru's lotus feet before you begin the meditation.
A meditation on Paada Seva

Swami walks into the sanctum and stands for a brief while in front of the Jhoola. Every cell in your body seems to tremble with the anticipative excitement. In sharp contrast, Swami is so calm. He gently glides into the ornate swing but that is enough to impart a tiny bit of momentum to the Jhoola. There is absolute silence as everyone waits in bated breath for Him to initiate the session. Swami is in no hurry. Sitting close up front, you are able to hear His rhythmic breathing. It is neither light nor forceful but definitely tranquil. It draws your focus to it without the slightest effort on your part. A serene joy erupts within you and the effect is meditative. You want the feeling to go on forever. You are soaking in every bit of the atmosphere so that you can recreate it at will in the future. At that very moment, He looks you in the eyes. Oh my God! What a feeling. You feel that you are completely exposed but there is no sense of vulnerability. Instead, the most positive of feelings seem to gush out from your heart.

His breathing is interrupted by His words. That is what His words are - an extension of His breath. The statement in the song “Truth is My breath” gains a new dimension in meaning as you realize that His words are Truth and His breath is His words. As the ears are gathering the nectar gushing forth from His mouth, your hands have now begun their quest. They set out towards His lotus feet that are hidden from sight by the saffron silk robe. In the lightest way possible, you gently and gingerly raise the robe a few inches and insert your fingers to touch His feet. However, the fingers encounter something rough on another smooth cloth. It is the golden border of the silk dhoti! You look at His face as your fingers ever so gently raise the dhoti. He continues to speak without the slightest disturbance. You are happy because that is the permission to go ahead with the Paadaseva. A moment later, your fingertips touch His toe tips and an electric current of joy seems to course through your entire frame. Salvation!

You gently massage His big toes between the index fingers and thumbs of your hands. That is how your Paadaseva begins.

The ancient Bharatiya culture placed a lot of emphasis on hand mudras or the positioning of fingers to attain different goals. One of the most common yet most powerful mudra is the Chin Mudra. It is also called the Jnana Mudra and it is employed by Yogis and common folk alike during meditation. In mudra science the thumb symbolizes the Divine or Cosmic Consciousness (Paramatma) and the index finger the human consciousness (Jivatma). When the two meet, there is realization, the oneness of humanity with the cosmic consciousness. It is also the symbol of the Infinite. The other three fingers, the small, middle and ring finger represent the three qualities of nature, the objective world (gunas): tamas (inertia), rajas (activity) and sattva (harmony, luminosity, creativity). This objective world symbolically disappears when union is achieved.

As your fingers fondle His toe, you realize that His feet actually help in bringing together and binding the thumb and index finger - the Jivatma with the Paramatma. The Guru is definitely the boat to connect the shores of Jivatma with the Paramatma.

At the present moment, you do not care about crossing the ocean of worldly existence. Actually, you care about nothing at all. You are so blissful in the NOW that no thoughts of the past or the future arise in your mind. As a result, neither are there worries (of the past) nor fears (of the future). The present has become so big... it is the omnipresent. But hey! Wait a minute! Maybe that is the secret to crossing the ocean of worldly existence after all...

Swami is pushing the carpeted ground with His feet to keep the Jhoola swinging. As His toes raise ever so slightly when the Jhoola moves back, you insert your fingers below them. Now, you are touching part of His sole; and that deeply touches part of your soul. Each time the Jhoola moves back, you insert a bit more of your hands under His soles. All the while you are looking at His face, hoping that you are not disturbing Him in your Seva. Swami continues to deliver His discourse but you are not listening. All your senses are at His feet. And when they are directed thus, why do you need any other thing? His feet are so unbelievably smooth... and perfect. It is hard to think that these are the soles that move on grass, concrete, sand, mud and carpets alike. You begin to gently press and massage those lovely feet. They are in no need of any massage but you are in need of the opportunity to do the Seva. Whatever the Lord does or gets done for Himself is selfless to the core. It is only for the other’s benefit.
The bare feet have trod upon earth, sand, concrete and what not...
...and yet, the soles remain so tender and smooth.
Presently, you begin using your whole palms and fingers to press His feet. In fact, you become a bit bold. Raising His feet completely off the ground, you take them closer to you and place them on your lap. Now, He has to press against you every time He wants to push the swing and you are the happiest person in the universe. Though you know that the time is flying, you don’t want this to ever end! And that desire kicks the mind into the process for the first time. Your meditation is broken as you start thinking about ways in which you can treasure this opportunity and moment. Is there someone recording the whole thing on video? Has someone at least taken a photo of you engrossed in the Seva? What should you do to get the maximum benefit of this chance? Shouldn’t you pray for your parents, friends and other dear ones also when you are at such proximity of the feet? A hundred thoughts crowd your previously empty mind.

The cuckoo clock in the neighbouring hall chimes to mark the time.
“Ah! It is getting late”, Swami says. That is an awakening call for you.
“Noooooo Swami...” you scream out mentally, “please I want to do this Seva some more.”
That is when you realize that you have not been doing Paadaseva in the last few minutes because your mind has wandered away! Paadaseva is not about being there physically; all the senses, mind and spirit should be at His feet. In fact, if these are present at His feet, the body need not be near at all! (That is why, even this text of the Paadaseva can be a perfect meditation though one is physically far from the Feet.)

Swami sits back. It doesn’t look like He is leaving. It is as if the alarm was simply to wake you from the worldly thoughts and desires. You go back into your state of living in the now. You continue to press those lovely feet - only you get more adventurous. Now, you move up and begin to massage His calves. They are smooth and delicate, without a single hair. You are scared that your powerful palms may hurt Him. You try to massage Him in the gentlest manner possible. He smiles as if He is tickled. Looking at you, He asks,
“Didn’t you have food today?”
Everyone’s focus is now on you and you wonder why Swami asked you that.
“Swami... I ate...”
“Then, why are you not having any strength. Press harder...”

Swami then goes on to show how the calf muscles must be massaged. Holding out His hands, He grips an imaginary wet towel. He wrings it in opposite directions clenching His fists.
“Squeeze hard like this”, He says.
You smile within yourself. You don’t want to crush those delicate legs with your energetic and power-filled muscles. So, you increase the pressure a bit but do not wring His calf muscles the way He showed. In a few minutes, Swami looks at others and says,
“This one did not eat properly today...”
The ego is hurt. You look into Swami’s eyes and catch the merry twinkle in it. You decide to give Him a taste of your strength.
“Don’t blame me for not warning You”, you mentally message Him and get on to the task at hand.

You suddenly increase in the force with you are massaging, fully expecting Him to wince in pain. But there is not the slightest reaction. You continue to use all the force you can muster and press those dainty feet and legs. Swami closes His eyes and seems to be in a blissful trance. As minutes pass, your hand muscles strain with the effort and beads of perspiration form on your brow. You realize that your Lord is soft and smooth but is also extremely strong! In fact, being strong yet soft, powerful yet pleasing are defining qualities of Divinity. After a few more minutes, you reduce the pressure. Your hands are unable to sustain. Swami opens His eyes and smiles at you. He doesn’t make fun now. He knows your capacity and is happy with your efforts. You are happy that He isn’t asking you to press hard. You continue to gently massage the feet and go back into your meditation.

Now Swami slowly lifts His feet off your lap and places them back on the carpeted floor. That is the signal that the session will soon be ending. Your palms are still under His soles. As He continues to push the swing, you feel the pressure of His feet on your palms. He begins to move His toes and to your greatest delight, you realize that He is now massaging your tired palms with His lotus feet! You allow your hands and palms to relax and enjoy the Divine service. Lost in divine bliss, you remember a statement that Swami makes often in His discourses,
“These hands of mine have never stretched out to receive. They always give and give.”
You think to yourself,
“Swami, not only your hands, your feet too never stretch out to receive. Even when they seem to be receiving Seva, they are gifting an opportunity and rendering Seva at the same time!”

The clock chimes again indicating that half an hour has elapsed since Swami said that it was time for Him to go. This time, Swami rises and indicates that it is time for Arati. You move back a little to allow Him space to walk back towards the staircase at the far end of the neighbouring hall. He glides away like the whiff of wind that He arrived as.

True Paadaseva

No meditation on the feet of the Guru can be complete without spending a few moments in contemplation of the true Paadaseva that every Guru seeks from the devotee. The memory of a Trayee session (a session with Bhagawan Baba for the students of the University in the Divine Residence at Bangalore - Trayee Brindavan). As He sat on the lovely ornate jhoola, Swami decided to speak to the boys on the nine fold path of Devotion, the Navavidha Bhakti Marga.

He dilated in length on Shravanam, Keertanam and Vishnusmaranam before arriving to Paadasevanam. It was here that Swami gave a unique interpretation - an interpretation that made one’s hairs stand on their ends with its meaning and significance. Swami said that people often thought Padasevanam only meant service to the Guru’s feet. This was the reason why everyone felt it was the easiest route to God because all one had to do was to get the opportunity to press and massage His feet. But that was not the actual meaning. Swami said that Padasevanam means to walk in the footsteps of Guru. To walk the path that the Guru walks is true service to His feet.

And to do that, one needn’t necessarily be in the Physical Presence right?

 For all the readers:

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  1. Amazing narration Aravind, truly pictorial in effect; very calming on the mind, elevating and purifying the thoughts and a delight worth repetitive rumination. Thanks again for facilitating this charge-up at the commencement of the week. Sairam

    1. Thank you Sethu... I wrote it with the hope that I do this visualization more often... Glad that you enjoyed it...

    2. Dear Aravind, You are truly blessed to experience Padaseva and also by sharing this experience, you have transfixed us. It was as if I was witnessing the Padaseva myself. My humble salutations to the MOST MERCIFUL LORD. JAI SAIRAM

  2. Dearest Aravind,your love for our spiritual Teacher is so much recognised flowing right from your heart to the tip of your tongue. Don't hope, Aravind but k n o w! The worship of His feet in the way you shared, is very heart touching. And... thank you, as always, for sharing. Lots of Love to you and yours from Grandma Gitta

    1. Thank you granny Gitta! Your blessings and good wishes always aid my progress and it is Swami's blessings that I have such loving souls showering me wishes...

  3. Sairam Aravind. This is an eye opener and guide to do manasa pooja. In the same manner one can close eyes and recall moments in Sai Kulwant hall or Sai Ramesh hall to soak in HIS darshan, create the feelings during bhajan sessions. Thanks a lot.
    Madhusudanvithal Nori

  4. Dear Brother - My Loving Sairam. Thank you so much Brother for placing the Divine lotus feet of Dear Swami in our mind, Thank you so much Brother. Thank you for re-training us again and again with His golden words - "all the senses, mind and spirit should be at His feet." Thank you for this blessing Brother.

  5. Thank you Aravind, the amazing thing about this beautifully written and original article is that it has given me a sweeter and more real connection with Swami's Holy Feet.


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