...Feature Article - Eyes to See God
..."Deity Worship--Not Idol Worship" on-line lecture by Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
...About the web-site: What's there - how to utilize it.......
...New Entries on the Web-site..... quite a few since the last newsletter.
...SEARCH for Ishthadevatas and Devotees on the site......
...Please Visit the ARTICLES pages
...Vaishnava Calendar - Panjika
...The Salagram Sila - some nice information from Hari Bhakti Vilas:
...Understanding "Thine-ness" and "mine-ness" by Suhotra swami
...Words of encouragement from HDG
...IDOL WORSHIP VS. DEITY WORSHIP
...Salagram Kosh - chapter one - by SK Ramachandra Rao
...Lord Chaitanya comes as Gaura-gopala to receive the brahmana's offerings
...News Item ( Pilgrimage to the top of the world - Damodar Kunda)
- Diary of a travelling preacher
HH Indradyumna swami gets given a Salagram that was worshipped
at Kheturigram by Narottam dasa Thakur
...Happy 2004 (518 Gaurabda)
Sri-murti-lakshana, aara shaalagraama-lakshana
“The characteristics of the Deities should be discussed, as well as the characteristics of the Shalagrama-shila. You should also discuss visiting the Deities in the temple and touring holy places like Vrindavana, Mathura and Dvaraka."
(Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya-lila 24:335. text - 61 Explanations of Atmarama verse)
Namaskaragalu - Vanakkam - G'day
Please accept my respectful obeisances, All glories to Srila Prabhupad, All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga,All glories to all the Vaishnava devotees of the Lord
Chari Vaishnava sampradaya ki jaya
Sri Swayam-vyakta Shaligram Sila, Dwaraka Sila, Govardhan Sila ki jaya
Welcome to what we hope to be the fifth of many newsletters. The present plan is to attempt to maintain the site nicely and keep updating with new information and pictures and additions to help enthuse everyone, and use this newsletter to help keep everyone informed about that. With my other various services we figured that Quarterly would be a feasible beginning, so we are looking at April - July - Sept - Dec for now.
We very much welcome constructive feedback to further assist the development of the site and newsletter services - always open to that.
(To view some of the texts on this newsletter you will need to have the Balaram font installed on your system. You can download it for free HERE and then go to Start, settings, control panel and Fonts and Install New Fonts)
Eyes To See God
An excerpt from On the way to Krishna, by His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
How can we get the eyes to see God? How can we become God conscious, Krsna conscious, in every step of our life? Actually, Krsna makes it very easy for us: “O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability to man” (B.G. 7.8)
In this verse Sri Krsna is describing how we can become Krsna conscious fully, in all stages of our lives. For instance, all living entities must drink water. The taste of water is so nice that when we are thirsty, nothing but water seems to do. No manufacturer can create the pure taste of water. We can thus remember Krsna when we drink water. No one can avioid drinking water every day in his life, so God conscious is there-how can we forget?
There are nine different processes for associating with God, and the first method of association is sravanam - hearing. By reading Bhagavad-Gita we hear the speeches of Sri Krsna, which means that we are actually associating with God. (We should always remember that when we speak of Krsna, we refer to God.) Inasmuch as we associate with God, and as we go on hearing the words of Krsna and His names, the contamination of material nature is reduced. If we understand that Krsna is sound, illumination, water, and so many other things, we cannot avoid Him. If we can remember Krsna in this way, our association with Him is permanent.
Association with Krsna is like association with sunshine. Where there is sunshine, there is no contamination. As long as one is out in the ultraviolet rays of the sun, he will not be diseased. Western medicine recommends sunshine for all kinds of diseases, and the Vedas say a diseased man should worship the sun to be cured. Similarly, if we associate with Krsna - and we can see Krsna in the sun and the moon, and we can hear Krsna in sound and taste Him in water.
It is especially useless to speculate about God. Therefore Shrimad-Bhagavatam
recommends that one give up all sorts of speculation. Instead, one should
become submissive, realizing not only that he is an insignificant creature,
but also that this earth is only one small point in a great universe. New
York City may seem very large, but when one realizes that the earth is
such a small spot, and that on the earth the United States is another small
spot, and that in the USA, New York is but a small spot, and that
in New York the individual is only one out of millions, then one can understand
that he is not so very important after all. Realizing our significance
in the face of the universe and God, we should not be artificially puffed
up but should be submissive.
We should be very careful not to fall prey to frog philosophy. Once there was a frog in a well, and upon hearing of the Atlantic Ocean from a friend, he asked, “Oh what is this Atlantic Ocean?”
“it is a vast body of water,” his friend replied.
“How vast? Is it double the size of this well?”
“Oh no-much larger.”
“How much larger? Ten times the size?” In this way the frog went on calculating. But how could he ever understand the depths and far reaches of the great ocean? Our faculties, experience, and powers of speculation are always limited. We can give rise only to such frog philosophy.
After giving up speculation, what should we do? Bhagavatam recommends that we become humble and hear God’s message submissively. We may hear His message also from the Bhagavad-Gita and other vedic literatures. The only qualification is that we receive the transcendental message from a realized soul-a pure devotee of God.
In the 17th Chapter of Bhagavad-Gita, Sri Krsna gives additional ways to perceive Him in every step of life: “I am the heat of the fire. I am the life of all the lives, and I am the penaces of all ascetics” (B.G. 7.9).
Only Krsna can create flowers and fragrances. We may synthetically create some scents or fragrances but these are not as good as the originals that occur in nature. When we smell a good natural fragrance, we can think “Oh, here is God, here is Krsna.” Or when we see natural beauty we can think, “Oh here is Krsna.” Or when we see any form of life, whether it be in a plant or animal, or in a part and parcel of Krsna, for as soon as the spiritual spark, which is a part of Krsna, is taken away from the body, the body disintegrates. “O son of Prtha, know that I am the original seed of all existence, the intelligence of the intelligent, and the prowess of all powerful men” (B.G 7.10).
Here again it is obvious that Krsna is the life of all that lives. Thus at every step we can see God. People may ask, “Can you show me God?” Yes, of course. We can see God in so many different ways. But if one closes his eyes and says, “I shall not see God” then how can he be shown?
The easiest way to see God is to chant Hare Krsna always. Never mind
whether you are in a factory or in a hell, in a shack or in a skyscraper
- it doesn’t matter. Just go on chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna,
Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. There
is no expense, there is no impediment, there is no caste, there is no creed,
there is no color-anyone can do it. Just chant and hear. Then, by Krsna’s
grace, you will always have the eyes to see Him everywhere and always.
"Men in the mode of goodness worship the demigods; those
in the mode of passion worship the demons;
and those in the mode of ignorance worship ghosts and spirits." Bhagavad Gita 17:4.
Worshipping the Supreme Lord (visuddha sattwam) and the Devas (sattwa guna), worshipping powerful humans or demons (raja guna), worshipping ancestors and ghosts (tamo guna) - worship according to different modes of nature of the sadhaka.
"Those who are situated in goodness generally worship the demigods. The demigods include Brahmä, Çiva and others such as Indra, Candra and the sun-god. There are various demigods. Those in goodness worship a particular demigod for a particular purpose. Similarly, those who are in the mode of passion worship the demons. We recall that during the Second World War a man in Calcutta worshiped Hitler because thanks to that war he had amassed a large amount of wealth by dealing in the black market. Similarly, those in the modes of passion and ignorance generally select a powerful man to be God. They think that anyone can be worshiped as God and that the same results will be obtained.
"Deity Worship--Not Idol Worship"
Vrndavana, October 5, 1976
Please listen to this wonderful lecture on-line HERE:
spoken by His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
We have started this web-site and news-letter for the purpose of sharing inspiration among like minded devotees, with a like interest in serving the Lord. On the www.salagram.net/ site there are many topics all referenced to shastra with the express purpose of helping us all over the world to have Sadhu-sanga http://www.salagram.net/sstp-sadhusanga.html So we have tried to create a sacred place in Cyber-space where devotees can find refuge, can associate, gain inspiration, share inspiration, hence it is Shaligram Tirtha, a Holy Tirtha in Cyber-space. Some of you may have noticed the Warning........ it seems appropriate to some of us it be there as many devotees were feeling they didn't want to express themselves or reveal their "bhav" least people who had no such appreciation might misunderstand - misinterpret - criticise what they saw or read due to their own vision/motivation/agenda. So following the advice of shastra we are keeping our Ishthadevas hidden while sharing mutual appreciation found in rendering some small service to the Lord.
Those of you who haven't visited the site recently, or for the many new persons on the mailing list, you will find transcendental pleasure that there are so many resources and articles, all of which you are welcome to download or copy for your personal use and to inspire others. If however you find a published article there that you would like to publish or if you have a site or some media whereby you would like to on-share with others just check with me to see who holds the legal copywrite if none are mentioned, as we don't want to offend anyone, or do anything illegal, even with our zealousness to share nectar.
If you find any inspirational articles, or items, or pictures relevant to this site please feel free to send them to us. Please include all available references and details so that everything can be appreciated fully by all.
If for some reason http://www.salagram.net/index.html isn't working or available then please go to the mirror site http://www.hknet.org.nz/Sri-Shaligram-Tirtha.htm - and please remember to save these URLs in your Favorites (IE) or Hotlist (Opera) Bookmarks (Netscape).
Latest Updates & Additions @ A Glance
last updated 5th April 2004
In this section you can see all the latest additions, new picture updates of all the various devotees and Silas on the site.
We keep this page separate from the main SEARCH page so that regular nectar loving bees can quickly find their sweet flavoured source in what/Who has been recently added to the site. SEARCH and ARTICLES links and all other pages are also updated simultaneously.
for Isthadevatas and Devotees on the site
"There are no strangers, only friends we are yet to meet" (unknown author)
To all those devotees who are receivers of this first newsletter; if you still haven't sent in photos or introductory descriptions or stories for the Sila in your care, that's okay, time is not out, you can still send. We are continuously updating the pages, so your sending pictures etc is never too late. Please send.
If you have Photoshop please "save for web" to keep the size down, but if you don't have that too is okay, just send, I can "save for web" also, if that will help. If you don't have a scanner that too is no problem, please send me an e-mail and I'll give you the address where you can post (snail-mail) your photographs, and there's always disposable Fuji cameras if things get really tough...... Please also view the article by Param Seva prabhu www.salagram.net/sstp-HELP.html
Search here for individual Sevaks and Deities World-wide.
As the late Bhakta George Harrison so nicely put it in the preface of the Krsna Book, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating", so please go to the Articles section and make good use of all the links there. There's so much information and we hope and pray that you find it as useful as we have. =>:-))
This section has to be seen to be believed. We have tried, and had much success to find articles on almost every aspect of Shalagram seva pujan. All articles are clearly marked and ready for your perusal. We trust this serves you in this seva well.
Interactive Vaishnava Calendar page of Fasts,
Festivals, Functions and Feasts
http://www.hknet.org.nz/CalendarWhosWho-page.htm ( http://panjika.pagehere.com/ )
Now you can view the FULL years
1999-2000 & 2000-2001 & 2001-2002 & 2002-2003 & 2003-2004
All Calendar entries are explained - Appearance or Disappearance days, festivals, fasts, feasts, etc., for the Iskcon Gaudiya line
I am eating with my eyes
When Srila Prabhupada flew on planes,
his servants carried his silver plates and served him full meals. His disciples
usually cooked much more for his travels than he would eat. One time Srila
Prabhupada asked to eat just before the plane was to take off. The stewardesses
were making preparations for departure, but Srila Prabhupada's servant
brought him his prasadam, which had been recently cooked at the temple.
Prabhupada sat alone, undisturbed, as the other passengers looked at him
as they buckled their seat belts and put their trays and seats in the upright
position. Somehow the stewardesses didn't insist on Prabhupada's conforming,
and so he continued calmly eating as the jet sped down the runway. His
servant anxiously held on to the drinking cups while Prabhupada ate his
meal with no notice or care for his surroundings. Only when the plane was
high in the air did Prabhupada finish. Turning to his servant, he said,
"All right, you can take these away now."
At one of the ISKCON international festivals in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada rejected the singing of one of his disciples. The devotee had previously been a singer in a band, and his kirtanas were much appreciated by some devotees, especially those from his home temple. But when, with showy professionalism, he began leading the guru-puja in Prabhupada's presence, making the tune sound like a rock and roll ballad, Prabhupada didn't like it. He shook his head and indicated that someone else lead. The "great" kirtana singer was devastated by the rejection, another form of Prabhupada's mercy.
For a time in Mayapur, two Bengali ladies were cooking a large feast of about twenty five preparations and sending it over to Srila Prabhupada at his mealtime. But he was eating very little of it. "I'm eating with my eyes," he laughed. He then described how in the old days in Bengal aristocratic people would invite one another for meals. One would prepare a huge, sumptuous feast, and another would come and appreciate how it was cooked and arranged so nicely. The guest would merely look at the feast and say, "Oh, very nicely done." Then all the servants would actually eat it.
- From the Nectar by HH Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
If you want to introduce anyone else in reading Srila Prabhupada Nectars, please send their eMail addresses to email@example.com
and "mine-ness" by Suhotra swami
In Priti-sandarbha, Srila Jiva Gosvami states:
tatra bhagavati paramatmaparabrahmabhavenanandaniyabhimanino
jnanabhakti...satypi bhedapagame natha tavaham na mamakinastvam.
samudra hi tarangah kvacana samudra na taranga.
There is an intimacy in premabhakti that is superior to mukti. Because he loves Krsna with all his heart, the devotee feels a sense of madiyata (mine-ness) about the Lord: "He is my own in a way that nothing else can ever be." The mukta's mood toward the Lord is tvadiyata (Thine-ness): "I am Yours." Thine-ness leans towards the santa sentiment; it is an impersonal tendency when compared to madiyata.
Some devotees I've mentioned the above to have remarked that madiyata is the advanced platform. Our business is to try to become servants of Krsna. A servant, they say, is more tvadiyata than madiyata.
But consider this statement Prabhupada made on 25 June 1975 in Melbourne:
Krsna says, patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati. "A leaf, a flower, fruit and liquid, milk or water, all these things, within these categories, whatever a devotee offers Me in love and devotion, I eat." Krsna says. Krsna is not hungry. Neither He is dependent on your supply of foodstuff. No. But still, Krsna has become your guest. Just like you have brought Krsna here. He is very kind. Because you are devotees, you want to serve Krsna, Krsna has come in your temple in a form which you can very easily serve. Krsna does not require your service, but He is so kind that He is accepting your service.
Yes, we are Krsna's servants. But by His mercy Krsna is our guest. There is a "Thine-ness" and a "mine-ness" simultaneously, even at the sadhana-bhakti stage.
Other statements from Srila Prabhupada
attesting to this could be quoted. And there is no doubt of Srila Prabhupada's
madiyata mood toward the Deity. It was very strong, as evident in the pastime
of his receiving Sri-Sri London Isvara, and his determination to keep the
Juhu land upon which Sri=Sri Radha-Rasabihari are installed.
In a letter of June 12, 1974, to Sri Govinda dasa in Chicago, Srila Prabhupada stressed book distribution and stated that other programs should be minimized. After this letter had been distributed to various temples, several devotees wrote to Prabhupada asking whether they should actually cut back on other existing programs like Deity worship and other outside kinds of preaching. Prabhupada replies stressed the absolute nature of any Krsna consciousness service.
"The thing is we should have a little
common sense in all activities. The example can be given that women by
nature do not forget to dress very nicely although always engaged in household
affairs. Deity worship or lecturing in the colleges is just as important
as book distribution. So these things must be done very nicely, and at
the same time, book distribution should be done. Not that we should do
one thing at the sacrifice of another. That requires a little common sense.
Factually, we should be engaged twenty-four hours in Krsna's service and
everything should be done very nicely and perfectly."
Letter of January 2, 1975
"Regarding your question about the
controversial talks going on, this kind of talk is not befitting my advanced
students. This is childish. In Krsna's service, there is no inferior and
superior. Deity worship is just as important as book distribution. It is
not material...You should understand the importance of each and every item
of devotional service. Do not make any misunderstanding by devaluating
any of the spiritual activities...One who distinguishes a particular type
of service as inferior or superior, he does not know the value of devotional
service. It is all transcendental. Whatever item is suitable, that is accepted
as very elevated. Just like Maharaja Pariksit. He simply listened to Sukadeva
Gosvami. That is sravanam...So any devotee executing any one of the nine
items is transcendentally glorious. One devotee may be proud that his process
of service is best. That is not inglorious. This is called transcendental
competition. Every one should feel proud of his particular type of devotional
service. But that does not mean that other types of service are inferior.
Everyone should feel proud of becoming a sincere servant of Krsna, but
the pure devotee never minimizes the importance of other devotees. Krsna
is the enjoyer of varieties of service. It is not stuck up with any particular
type of service."
Letter of January 19, 1975
- From the Nectar by HH Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Don't think that the Deity is idol
When Srila Prabhupada himself installed
Deities for the first time in ISKCON - small brass Radha-Krishna Deities,
in Los Angeles, on July 16, 1969 - at the end of his class he said:
If you think it is a brass-made doll, I mean to say, idol- ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham - if you think this is a brass-made idol, then it will remain a brass-made idol to you forever. But if you elevate yourself to a higher platform of Krishna Consciousness, then Krishna, this Krishna, will talk with you. This Krishna will talk with you.
There is a Vamsidas Babaji Maharaja, he was talking with his Deity, and the Madana-Mohana Deity - He was talking with Sanatana Goswami. Sanatana Goswami at that time had no temple: he was hanging his Deity on the tree. So Madana-Mohana was talking with him: "Sanatana, you are bringing all these dry chapatis, And it is stale, and you don't give Me even little salt. How can I eat?"
Sanatana Goswami said, " Sir, where shall I go? Whatever I get I offer You. You kindly accept. I cannot move: I am an old man."
You see. So Krishna had to eat that [chuckles]. Because the bhakta is offering, He cannot refuse. Ye mam bhaktya prayacchati: real thing is bhakti. What you can offer to krishna? Everything belongs to Krishna. What you have got? what is your value? And what is the value of your things? It is nothing. Therefore real thing is bhaktya, real thing is your feeling. " Krishna, kindly take it. I have no qualification. I am most rotten, fallen, but [begins to cry] I have brought this thing for you. Please take it." This will be accepted. Don't be puffed up. Always be careful. You are dealing with Krishna. That is my request. Thank you very much.
- From the "Srila Prabhupada is coming!" by HG Mahamaya Devi Dasi
If you want to introduce anyone else in reading Srila Prabhupada Nectars, please send their eMail addresses to firstname.lastname@example.org
SALAGRAMA SILA TOYAM YAH PIVET VINDUNA SAMAM
MATUH STANYAM PUNAR NAIVA SAPIVET BHAKTI BHANG NARAH
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 9/22 from PADMA PURANA)
Any person, if he has even taken one drop of water which has washed Salagram Shila, he will not have to suck a mother's breast again in the future.
BHAKTYA BHUNAKTI NAIVEDYAM SALAGRAMA SILARPITAM
KOTIM MAKHASYA LABHATE PHALAM SATA SAHASRASAH
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 9/395 from SKANDA PURANA)
One who eats food after offering it to Shalagram Shila, he achieves the results of performing one hundred times one thousand times one million fire sacrifices
YE PIVANTI NARA NITYAM SALAGRAMA SILA JALAM
PANCA GAVYA SAHASRAIS TU SEVITAIH KIM PRAYOJANAM
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 9/20 from PADMA PURANA)
Any person who has drank the water which has bathed Shalagram Shila, what is the need for them to drink thousand and thousands of times pancagavya? (Pancagavya is made from five auspicious products of a cow offered to the Lord.)
NAIVEDYAM PURATO NYASTAM DRSTVAIVA SVIKRTAM MAYA
BHAKTASYA RASANAGRENA RASAM ASNAMI PADMAJA
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 10/360 from BRAHMA PURANA spoken by the Supreme Lord)
Oh Brahma, if someone makes an offering of food grains in front of Shalagram Shila (who is non-different from Me), I just by looking at it eat it, but I taste the food when My devotees touch it with their tongues (eat it).
GANGA GODAVARI REVA NADYO MUKTI PRADAS TU YAH
NIVASANTI SA TIRTHAS TAH SALAGRAMA SILA JALE
KOTI TIRTHA SAHASRAIS TU SEVITAIH KIM PRAYOJANAM
TIRTHAM YADI BHAVET PUNYAM SALAGRAMA SILODBHAVAM
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 3/293,294 from PADMA PURANA)
The water which washed Shalagram Shila includes the water from the Ganga, Godavari, Reva and other liberating rivers. If this bath water from the Shalagram Shila is available, then there is no need for thousands of other places of pilgrimage.
GANGA PRAYAGA GAYA NAIMISA PUSKARANI
PUNYANI YANI KURU JANGALA YA MUNANI
KALENA TIRTHA SALILANI PUNANTI PAPAM
PADODAKAM BHAGAVATAH PRAPUNATI SADYAH
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 3/301 from NRSINGHA PURANA)
Ganga, Prayaga, Gaya, Naimisa, Puskara, Kuruksetra, together with other places of pilgrimage, remove the sins of a person after long connection with them. But water which has washed the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead at once purifies a person.
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/257,258,259 from SRIMAD BHAGAVATAM 11.27.12-14)
Stone, wood, iron or metal, mud, picture, sand, mind and jewels are the eight ingredients that Deities can be made from in this world. Therefore, there are two kinds of Deities, movable and immovable, into which the Supreme Lord is called. Oh Uddhava, with both the movable and immovable forms, the Lord may be invited or sent away, but in the form of Shalagram Shila, this principle in not applicable He is eternally there. Bathing of wooden or clay Deities is done with a wet cloth. Otherwise, all the Deities are bathed with water.
GANDAKYAS CA IVA DESE CA SALAGRAMA STHALAM MAHAT
PASANAM TAD BHAVAM YAT TAT SALAGRAMAM ITI SMRTAM
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/296 from GAUTAMIYA TANTRA)
Near the Kali-Gandaki River, there is a big place called Shalagram. The stones which appear in that place are called Shalagram Shila.
SNIGDHA KRSNA PANDARA VA PITA NILA TATHAIVA CA
VAKRA RUKSA CA RAKTA CA MAHA STHULA TU LANCCHITA
KAPILA DARDURA BHAGNA BAHU CAKRAIKA CAKRIKA
BRHAN MUKHI BRHAC CAKRA LAGNA CAKRATHAVA PUNAH
BADDHA CAKRA ATHAVA KACID BHAGNA CAKRA TV ADHOMUKHI
(HARI BHAKTI VILAS 5/297,298 from SKANDA PURANA)
There are different kinds of Shalagram Shilas available such as oily ones, black ones, yellow ones, blue ones, crooked, dry ones, red ones, huge ones, without any marks, brown ones, in the shape of a frog, broken, with one or many disk marks, with many faces, non-specific? grand disk mark?, with a broken disc, facing down, complete disc, half disc, etc.
KHANDITAM SPHUTITAM BHAGNAM PARSVA BHINNAM VIBHEDITAM
SALAGRAMA SAMUDBHUTAM SAILAM DOSAVAHAM NA HI
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/309 from BRAHMA PURANA spoken by the Supreme Lord)
Even if the Shalagram Shila is broken in half or broken a little, or having a broken back, even in such a condition, Shalagram Shila is free from fault and can be worshiped.
KHANDITAM TRTITAM BHAGNAM SALAGRAME NA DOSABHAK
ISTA TU YASYA YA MURTIH SA TAM YATNENA PUJAYET
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/310 from SKANDA PURANA spoken by Lord Siva)
Broken, deformed or slightly broken Salagram Shila can be worshipped. There is no fault in worshipping Shalagram Shila in these conditions. Whatever form one appreciates, he should worship Him very carefully.
KAMAIH KRODHAIH PRALOBHAIS CA VYAPTO YO'TRA NARADHAMAH
SO'PI YATI HARER LOKAM SALAGRAMA SILARCANAT
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/370 from PADMA PURANA)
Those people who are the lowest of mankind and who are controlled by lust, anger and greed can be elevated to the abode of Lord Hari by worshiping Shalagram Shila.
DIKSA VIDHANA MANTRAJNAS CAKRE YO BALIM AHARET
SA YATI VAISNAVAM DHAMAM SATYAM SATYAM MAYO DITAM
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/374 from PADMA PURANA)
Anyone who has attained mantra diksa initiation properly and is worshiping Shalagram Shila, whatever he offers to Shalagram Shila, he achieves the abode of Lord Visnu. Of this, there is no doubt. I personally say this.
SALAGRAMA SILA CAKRAM YO DADYAD DANAM UTTAMAM
BHU CAKRAM TENA DATTAM SYAT SASAILAM VANAKANANAM
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/382 from PADMA PURANA)
Giving charity of Shalagram Shila is the best of all charities. Any person who has given this charity has achieved the result of performing all auspicious activities and he has given charity of the whole earthly planet, decorated with forest, jungles, and mountains.
DRSTVA PRANAMITA YENA SNAPITA PUJITA TATHA
YAJNA KOTI SAMAM PUNYAM GAVAM KOTI PHALAM BHAVET
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/384 from SKANDA PURANA)
Lord Shiva spoke to Skanda, his son, saying that any person who has seen Shalagram Shila, paid obeisances to Him, bathed and worshipped Him, has achieved the results of performing ten million sacrifices and giving ten million cows in charity.
PUJITO'HAM NA TAIR MARTYAIR NAMITO'HAM NA TAIR NARAH
NAKRTAM MARTYA LOKE YAIH SALAGRAM SILARCANAM
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/396 from SKANDA PURANA)
(Lord Shiva speaks to his son, Skanda) In this mortal world, if anyone does not worship Shalagram Shila, I do not at all accept any of their worship and obeisances.
YO DADATI PHALAM VISNOH SALAGRAMA SAMUDBHAVAM
VIPRAYA VISNU BHAKTAYA TENA ISTAM BAHUBHIR MAKHAIH
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/407 from SKANDA PURANA)
Any person who has donated a Shalagram Shila to the devotee of Lord Visnu (Vaishnava) or to a qualified pure brahmana, he has achieved the results of performing unlimited sacrifices and austerities.
SA DHANYAH PURUSO LOKE SAPHALAM TASYA JIVITAM
SALAGRAMA SILA SUDDHA GRHE YASYA CA PUJITA
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/409 from SKANDA PURANA)
In any house, if a person worships Shalagram Shila properly, those persons are glorified and their existence is successful in this world.
SALAGRAMA SILARUPI YATRA TISTHATI KESAVAH
NAVADHANTE'SURAS TATRA BHUTA VETALAK ADAYAH
SALAGRAM SILA YATRA TAT TIRTHAM TAT TAPOVANAM
YATAH SANNIHITAS TATRA BHAGAVAN MADHUSUDANAH
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/427,428 from BRHAN NARADIYA PURANA)
In any place, if Lord Keshava is situated there in the form of Shalagram Shila, there, neither demons, nor ghosts, nor devils, can create any obstacles to that person or place. Any place where Shalagram Shila is situated can be turned into a place of pilgrimage and a place for performing austerities because the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Madhusudana (killer of the Madhu demon, personally resides there.)
SALAGRAMA SILAYAM YO MULYAM UDGHATAYET NARAH
VIKRETA CA ANUMANTA CA YAH PARIKSAM UDIRAYET
SARVE TE NARAKAM YANTI YAVAD AHUTA SAMPLAVAM
ATAH SAMVARJAYED VIPRA CAKRASYA KRAYA VIKRAYAM
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/436,437 from SKANDA PURANA Lord Siva to Skanda)
Oh brahmana, under no circumstances should anyone ever buy or sell Shalagram Shila. One should not even suggest a price to be paid for Shalagram Shila. No one should find faults in Him or explain some mistakes in Him. All of these persons must go to the hellish planets and live there until the complete annihilation.
SALAGRAMA SILAYANTU PRATISTHA NAIVA VIDYATE
MAHA PUJANTU KRTVADAU PUJAYET TAM TATO BUDHAH
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA, 5/438 from SKANDA PURANA)
There is no installation process for Shalagram Shila. The learned and purified souls have recommended a grand worship of Him and then regular worship thereafter.
SALAGRAMA SILAYANTU SAKSAT SRI KRSNA SEVANAM
NITYAM SANNIHITAS TATRA VASUDEVO JAGAD GURUH
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/444 from PADMA PURANA)
The worship of Shalagram Shila is the worship of Lord Hari directly. Jagat Guru, the spiritual master of the universe, Lord Vasudeva, eternally resides within Shalagram Shila.
STRIYO VA YADI VA SUDRA BRAHMANAH KSATRIYADAYAH
PUJAYITVA SILA CAKRA LABHANTE SASVATAM PADAM
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 5/452 from SKANDA PURANA conversation between Lord Brahma and Narada Muni)
Worship of Salagram Sila can be done by women, sudras (low caste),
brahmanas (twice born), kshatriyas (administrators), etc. and they can
all achieve the eternal abode of Lord Krsna perfectly.
IDOL WORSHIP VS. DEITY WORSHIP
RABBI: Here are two verses from the Holy Torah that mention idol worship: "Cursed is the man who carves an image or casts an idol-a thing detestable to the Lord, the work of the craftsman's hands--and sets it up in secret." [Torah, Duet, Ki Thavo, 27:15] "When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw our fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved." [Hosea IX: 10] Although God so thoroughly condemned the worship of man-made Gods (idols), I have seen that in Hindu temples such images are worshiped. Our conversations have revealed many similarities between Judaism and Hinduism, yet it appears that on this point we strongly differ.
DEVOTEE: The Vedas also are thoroughly
opposed to idol worship, but what you have seen in Hindu temples is not
idol worship but rather Deity worship. It is very easy to understand how
Deity worship may at first appear as idol worship to a person who is unfamiliar
with the principle behind this important devotional process. After all,
the form of the Deity is crafted by a man out of some kind of material
elements, and that form is later worshipped in the temple with devotion.
In the Vedas, Deity worship is an extremely important devotional process to help us develop love of God. In fact, it is one of the nine general classifications of devotional service mentioned in Sanskrit in the Vedas. It is said,
shravanam kirtanam vishnoh
archanam vandanam däsyam
[Srimad Bhägavatam. 7.5.23]
"Devotional service consists of (1) hearing about the Lord, (2) chanting His glories, (3) remembering Him, (4) serving and meditating upon His lotus feet, (5) worshiping Him, (6) praying to Him, (7) thinking oneself His eternal servant, (8) becoming His friend, and (9) surrendering everything to Him." The fifth process mentioned here, arcanaà, worshipping the Lord, refers to Deity worship.
RABBI: I still do not see the difference. The Torah also says that one should worship the Lord, but the act of worshipping idols as God is condemned. What makes the Hindu's Deity worship any different from the worship of idols so condemned in the Jewish tradition? How can man worship a form that he himself has crafted?
DEVOTEE: The difference is that God authorizes the worship of Deities. For example, if you put mail into an authorized mailbox it will be delivered to the address written on the envelope. But if you drop that mail into some box other than an authorized mailbox, it will not be delivered. Similarly, if you create some form, call it God, and worship it, all according to your own mental concoction, there will be no benefit and your act will be condemned by God. If however, you create a form according to the actual description of God's form given in the revealed scriptures, and if you worship that form according to the rules and regulations given by God in the scriptures, you will achieve excellent results. The result of that worship is love for God.
RABBI: In principle I understand that if God actually authorizes some activity, it must be correct. Still, I have difficulty understanding how a person can learn to love God by worshipping a form that He himself has created. Perhaps my difficulty is that in the Jewish scriptures, I know of no description of God's form that is detailed enough to allow someone to craft a form like it. Also, I am not familiar with any descriptions in the Jewish scriptures about how to worship such a form like a Deity. Such worship is repeatedly condemned as idolatry.
DEVOTEE: The Torah may not give a clear and detailed description of the form of God, but the Vedas do. The Vedas also give a very detailed description of the method of Deity worship. The principle is that if you want to love God, you must be able to develop some personal relationship with Him. As we have discussed several times, the purpose of religion is to develop love of God. Service to God is the symptom and means to that love. In our impure state, we are not qualified to see the original spiritual form of God and to worship Him. By His mercy He has agreed to appear in the form of His Deity. Therefore, the whole process of Deity worship gives us an opportunity to practice serving God. As the devotee renders continuous and regulated service to the Deity according to the methods authorized in the scriptures, the impurities of our heart gradually become cleansed and our natural loving relationship with the Lord is manifest. Without being able to relate to God in some personal way there is no question of learning to love Him, even though He is all pervading and can accept our offering any time or place.
RABBI: Your explanation helps me have a clearer understanding of Hindu Deity worship. As I was listening to your explanation, I remembered one verse I read, along with the commentary of Rabbi Jose. The verse said, "If they be peaceful and likewise many, and they likewise be shorn, then he shall pass away; and though I have affected thee, I will affect thee no more." [Nahum1, 12] [Zohar II, 200b] Rabbi Jose explains this verse thus, "When a people live in peace, and harbor no quarrelsome persons in there midst, God has compassion on them, and rigorous justice is not invoked against them, even though they worship idols. This is in harmony with the verse, "Ephraim is serving idols, let him alone" [Hosea. IV, 17] [Zohar II, 200b] It appears from this verse that the term idol can be used in different ways. Persons who had no faith in God and who were envious of Him preformed the idol worship that was condemned by the Lord. They were people who gave up the authorized worship of God for the worship of an unauthorized, manmade idol. It is said, "They consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God." [Hosea IV, 12][Zohar II, 200b] That kind of worship would never lead to love of God. In fact, it could only lead one away from Him, and thus it was condemned.
DEVOTEE: Yes, Rabbi, I agree with you. The Lord is ultimately interested in the spiritual welfare of everyone. He instructs us to do that which is for our ultimate spiritual benefit and He condemns those activities that are unfavorable for us to develop our love for Him. If we serve the Deity according to the authorized process, then we will be spiritually benefited.
What are Salagramas?
Among the natural objects held in extraordinary veneration in India, the salagrama-stones (black stones in which fossil ammonites are embedded) are the most celebrated universally. The worship of these stones is widespread and dates back to a distant past. They are worshipped in temples, monasteries and households all over the country, as visible and natural emblems of Vishnu. The sipping of water in which these stones are bathed is a daily ritual for the pious Hindu belonging to the old and traditional families. The presence of these stones is indispensable while performing daily and occasional ceremonies and festivals of a religious nature. They are also worshipped in quasi-religious functions like house-warming (grha-pravesa, vastu-puja), pacificatory rites of different sorts (santi), marriages and funerary rituals. A salagrama is worshipped by householders as well as by ascetics.
The famous image of Vishnu in the Himalayan Badri-nath is said to be carved out of a salagrama, as also the image of Krishna in Udupi (in Karnataka). During the image-changing ceremony (nava-kalevara) in Puri-Jagannatha, the salagrama-stone is the essence (padaratha) that is concealed within the main wooden icon of Jagannatha. A salagrama-stone officiates as the snapana-murti (icon for bathing) in the shrine of Natha-dvara.
Like the worship of Siva in the form of a linga, the worship of Vishnu
in the shape of a Salagrama is aniconic in character. However, the linga
may be a natural object like the white quartz (known as bana-linga) found
in the river Narmada, or carved in stone by man. Natural stone forms of
Linga are called ‘svayambhu’ lingas, while those made by man are ‘manusha’.
There is also the practice of making temporary lingas out clay (mrt), cow-dung
(go-maya), flowers (pushpa) or grain-flowers (pishta), which are dispensed
with when rituals of worship is completed. The stone-lingas are usually
found only in temples, and white quartz or crystal emblem represents Siva
in household worship.
But Salagramas are always only those which are naturally found in the river Gandaki; they are never made by man. And Vishnu has iconic images (like the incarnations, emantory and sportive forms; Rama, Krishna, Narasimha, Varaha, Kesava, Vasudeva, Hayagriva, Venkatesa, Ranganatha and so on), made by human sculptors.
There is an inscription of about the second century B.C. which mentions a shrine for the twin gods Vasudeva and Samkarshana in the form of salagrama-stones (Ghosundi – Nagari near Mewar in Rajasthan, Epigraphia Indica, Vol. 22, p. 204); the Gajayana King Sarva-tata of Parasara-gotra caused the enclosing wall around the stone-shrine (puja-sila-prakara), which was called ‘Narayana-vatika’.
Another inscription dated 404 A.D (Mandasor rock inscription of Maharaja Nara-varman, probably a feudatory of the Gupta monarchs) begins with an invocation which strongly suggests the adoration of Vishnu in the Salagrama-stones (‘vasudevam jagad-vasam apremeyam agam vibhum’):
Although the one line brahmi inscription of the first century B.C. (Burhikhar, Bilaspur in Madhya-pradesh) on a sculptured representation of a deity (chaturbhuki bhagawan) suggests that Vishnu was worshipped also in his iconic form, it was more usual for Vishnu to be worshipped in his aniconic salagrama form. Even this sculptured representation may indeed be that of Vishnu’s attendant deity (judging by the anjali-mudra in its normal hands, although the two extra hands carry discus and mace).
The well known Mora inscription of about the same period (near Mathura, Epigraphica Indica, Vol. 24, 194 ff.) mentions ‘five worshipful heroes’ of the Vrshni dynasty in their five luminous stone-forms (viz. Salagramas, ‘bhagavatam, vrshninam pancha-viranam pratimah…. Archadesam sailam pancha-jvalata iva’). The five ‘heroes’ are obviously the five vyuha-forms of Vishnu: Vasudeva, Samkarshana, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Samba (son of Pradyumna). They had their iconic forms (pratima) as well as the aniconic stones (sailam).
It is interesting to that the great Samkara (632-664 A.D.) mentions in his Vedanata-sutra-bhashya the worship of no other god other than that of Vishnu, and that too in his Salagrama aspect (1,2,7 ‘yatha salagrama harih’; 1,2,14 ‘salagrama iva vishnoh’; 1,3,14 ‘yatha salagrame vishnuh sannihitah, tadvat’), and not in iconic forms. There is a wide-spread belief that the aniconic salagrama must necessarily accompany the iconic representations; and the worship offered to the salagrama takes precedence in the worship offered at home or in temples. It is a fact that in the Vishnu shrines, salagramas are invariably placed in close contact with the ‘mula-murti’, which worship is offered. Even in the celebrated temple of Vengadam (Tirupati-Tirumalai), the group of salagramas always kept at the feet of the main deity in the sanctum partakes of the principal worship daily; administrating a ceremonial bath to the salagramas is an important detail.
The concept of ‘vibhuti’ of godhead is an important one in the philosophy of worship. The expression ‘vibhuti’, which is as old as ‘’Rgveda (1, 8, 9 ‘evahita ibhutayah indram avate’ and 6, 21, 1 ‘raviv vibhutir iyate vachasa’) is used in the sense of might or power, as well as in the manifestations of Godhead in the tenth chapter of Bhagavad-gita. Sayana explains the vibhuti means special powers ‘aisvarya-visehah’, Rgveda 1, 8, 9) which are the cause of all the variety, expanse and glory of the world (Rgveda, 6, 21, 1 ‘vibhutir jagato vibhava-hetuh’). The word has in it the implied sense of spread, abundance or profundity. There is also an element of mystery in it.
This mysterious divine power manifests itself in many forms. The fullest and most direct manifestation of Vishnu is said to be in his inseparable consort, Lakshmi. This is like the presence of Siva in Shakti. The manifestation here is ‘nita-vibhuti’ (direct). The abiding presence and power of God in the soul of every one (jivantargata-bimba) is innate and continuos manifestation (naija-vibhuti). The manifestation of Divine power in icons which are properly installed and worshipped (pratima), in the milch-cow (go), in the tulasi plant (three months after germination) or in the asvattha-tree (after it is ceremonially wedded) is described as ‘ahita-vibhuti’ (projected, place of effected). And the manifestation of divine might in the salagrama-stone and in the consecrated fire (samskrtagni) is ‘sahaja-vibhuti’ (natural, original, congenital).
The theistic vibhuti-ideology is accepted also in the Vedanta framework. Samkara for instance speaks of vibhutis as manifestations of the one Brahman in diverse ways so as to facilitate the devotees to approach and understand the ultimately real. There is multiplicity of divine appearances, despite absolute unity in Brahman (Vedanta-sutra-bhashya, 3, 2, 23 ‘ekam api brahma vibhuti-bhedair anekadha upasyata’, cf. Also 2,4,10; 3,3,23; 1,4,4 and 3, 3, 43).
Vibhuti also signifies pervasion, penetration and comprehension of the supreme reality. We read in Kaurma:
Whatever is the vibhuti of the one godhead is to be regarded as identical with the godhead, and not as a part thereof or as a mere representation of some principal referring to the godhead. It is no doubt a manifestation (avir-bhuti), but it is manifestation in eternity.
Salagramas as vibhutis become worthy of worship. In fact, as objects of worship they are preferred to the man-made iconic representations. The latter suffer from certain disadvantages, like being carved into a shape by sculptors who may not be clean in body or pure in mind., being subjected to violence while carving, and being pushed around and placed on unclean ground. An icon fit for worship must invariably be cleansed of these disadvantages (sodhana) and properly consecrated (pratishtha). Otherwise, the power of Godhead will not be drawn into it. Salagramas, on the other hand, do not require preliminary rituals of purification and consecration. They naturally contain the vibhuti of the Godhead, and may be worshipped straight away.
In the worship of Salagrama, no initiation is required; there is no special hymnology or specific procedure of worship, nor any need for a qualified priest or master of ceremonies. Worshipped anyhow, it will bestowal the benefits; and there is no error of any kind.
If, however, it is formally worshipped with all the details scrupulously observed, the benefits procured are boundless.
The worship rituals of an icon in the household necessarily begin with ‘the formal infusion of vital force’ into the icon (technically known as ‘prana-pratishtha’), and making the power incline (‘sammukhi-karana’). Unless these preliminary rituals are gone through, rest of the worship is in vain. The presence of ‘vibhuti’ in the icon is a necessary prerequisite for worship; and this has to be priorly and formally accomplished.
However, these rites are unnecessary in the case of Salagramas, for the ‘vibhuti’ is always present in them. Invoking of life into them is thus a meaningless procedure. An icon in a temple, duly consecrated, is also like a Salagrama: it does not, need formal infusion of life into it or invoking its attention by a formal ritual. These aspects of the worship ritual are taken care of by the procedure of consecration itself.
The pentad form of domestic worship, known as panchayatana-puja, is the popular usage in country since about the eight century A.D., it involves worship of five major deities (Vishnu, Siva, Devi, Surya and Ganesha) on a common platform. The deities are more usually represented by characteristic emblems: salagrama for Vishnu, bana-linga (white quartz picked from the Narmada river) for Siva, metallic ore (dhatupatra or yantra) for Devi, crystal (sphatika) for Surya and red-stone (sona-sila) for Ganesha. The five deities of the group are arranged according to the sectarian preference. The Vaishnavas place salagrama in the centre and the other four deity-emblems in the four corners; the Saivas place the bana-linga in the centre, and the other objects in the corners; and so on. Given below is the tabular account of the five arrangements according to sects, as is usually done.
The five sacred objects are placed on a metallic plate, on which the tulasi leaves and the bilva-leaves are also offered, and the worship is conducted to all the five deities. It is usual to offer the sixteen sequences of worship (shodasopachara), reciting a verse from ‘Purusha - sukta’ for each sequence. The Shaktas, however, prefer to worship five water – vessels (kalasas) in which the deities are invoked, instead of the aniconic emblems mentioned above.
Some texts like Jnana-mala provide different accounts regarding the placement of deities:
The five deities in ‘panchopasana’ are also regarded as symbolizing
basic ingredient elements of the universe: Vishnu-akasa, Siva-earth, Devi-fire,
Surya-air and Ganapati-water. These elements are also constituents of human
body, and the personality of an individual is predominantly one of these
five elements, although all the elements are necessarily involved. The
worship of one of the five deities, according it the central position is
indicated for the devotee in whom the corresponding element is prominent.
So we read in Mantra-yoga-samhita:
Any of these five deities may be worshipped in the iconic emblem (pratima), aniconic emblem (mentioned above), or in an appropriate mystic diagram (mandala); the deity may also be invoked in a pot of water (kalasa) or on a vacant but consecrated seat (sthandila). There are also salagramas for the five deities. There is this verse with reference to Vishnu.
Salagrama stones are obtained only from the river Gandaki, which is a Himalayan stream, celebrated since antiquity as Narayani, Salagrami, Hiranvati and Hiranyavati. The epic Mahabharata speaks of its sanctity (Bhishma-parva): it contains in itself the waters of all the holy-rivers (Vana-parvan, 84, 113), and it is the abode of Agni, the fire-god (ibid.). Krishna, Arjuna and Bhima are said to have crossed this river on their way from India-prastha to Girivraja (Sabha-parva, 20, 27). The puranas also describe it as a sacred stream in which all the gods and titans abide (‘punyodaka surasura-nishevita’). By merely looking at it, one would eliminate all his mental defilement’s, by touching it his bodily sins are burnt up, and by sipping its water the verbal demerits are thrown out:
One who comes into contact with this sacred stream will be liberated
from the cycle of birth and deaths, even if he be a sinner.
For the very stones found in this river, marked with discus, are verily the glorious gods themselves:
The Salagramas are specifically described as fossil-stones which have taken shape in the Gandaki-river, and as characterized by the presence of discus marks (‘gandakyudbhava-vajra-kita-krta-chakra-samayukta-sila). The legend, related at length in the next chapter, tells us that Gandaki, the lady-devotee, performed penances for long years, and that she got a boon from Vishnu, which made Vishnu reside in her womb (in her depths) as her own offspring; the Salagrama-stones are thus the forms of Vishnu. The presence of divinity in the Salagrama is for the welfare of the devotees.
And for the reason, the river Gandaki became among all the rivers extraordinarily sacred (‘mat-sannidhyan nadiman tvan ati srestha bhavishyasi’). Being a mystic river, looking at it, touching it, bathing in it and sipping its waters will be conductive to eliminate all sins, even the greatest of sins pertaining to the body, speech and mind.
In the ancient texts, the river Gandaki is located in the south of the Himalayas, ten yojanas distant; and an area in the river is regarded as the holy Chakra-tirtha.
It is in this part of the river that Salagramas are found. In Varaha-purana (Reva-khanda), a mountain called Salagramagiri) is said to be responsible for the salagrama stones (‘salagramotpadaka – parvata). If this mountain represents Vishnu, there is said to be another mountain close to it (called Somesvara-giri), which provides sacred stones (called siva-nabha-sila) representing Siva.
The puranas also claim that in the Avanti country, there is a mountain called Hari-parvata, at the foot of which is a big pond known as chakra-tirtha; and that the Salagrama-stones are produced here.
Salagrama is actually the name of the village on the banks of the river Gandaki, where the holy stones are picked up. The name is derived from the hut (sala) of the sage Salankayana, who beheld the form of Vishnu in a tree outside his hut (cf. Varaha-purana). This hut was on the banks of the Gandaki, and it was in that particular spot that these sacred stones were found in abundance. The stones were therefore called Salagrama.
Shala (or Sala) also means the hardwood tree known to botanists as Shorea robusta or Valica robusta (Sarja), grown in Nepal (known there as Sukhava). It is said that the cluster of these trees in the otherwise barren stretch of the Himalayan foothills called Mukti-sthana, was responsible for the village close to this cluster, being known as Sala-grama. On the banks of the river Kali-Gandaki, the sacred stones were also found in abundance.
The river Gandaki is a very ancient river; and the geologists say that it existed even before the formation of the Himalayan ranges. It rises beyond the Himalayan ranges, probably in Tibet, and flows (in the north-south direction) into Nepal, which is the southern valley of the Himalayas, and India. The situation of the birth of the river is given as North 27 27 and East 83 56’; it courses in the south-western direction, and joins Ganga in a place called Bhavatyapur in Bihar. It is an important tributary of the river Ganga. It is called Salagrami or Narayani in Uttar-pradesh. It was known to the Greek geographers as Kondochetts.
It has abundant water throughout the year, as the rain in the rainy
season and melted snow in summer keep it full of water. It courses for
about one hundred and ninety miles, making itself useful throughout, especially
in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in India. It rises on a high peak, and flows
down in swift torrents. The area inundated by the rivers in this part of
the country has four important rivers: Kosi in the East, Gandaki in the
middle, Karanali to the west, and Mahakali in the far-west. Trisula-ganga
is its tributary in India; the river Gandaki joins Ganga near Patna (near
Sonapur) in Bihar, having coursed through Champaran to Mujafharpur district.
There is a lake at the source of the Kali-Gandaki (Krishna-g), called Damodar-kunda, connected in legend with the sage Salankayana, on the Nepal – India border. The lower Gandaki is well known as Mukti-natha-kshetra, also called Salagrama-kshetra. The sacred stones are largely found on the banks of Kali-gandaki near Tukche, between the two mountains Dhavala-giri and Annapurana. Damodara-Kunda is a Saivite place of pilgrimage (Somesvara-kshetra): it was a custom for the rulers (Ranas) of Nepal to visit the shrine during Siva-ratri to receive the salagrama-stones specially selected and picked up from the Gandaki-river.
The spots where salagrama-stones are found within the Nepal territory. Actually there are four spots in the river within Nepal jurisdiction, where the sacred stones are picked up. Until recent times, the spots were leased out to private enterprises, and the palace of the Maharaja reserved the right to appropriate what it considered as the most precious and valuable stones; other stones were given over to the lease-holders. While the texts prohibit the sale of these stones, they were indeed sold for extraordinarily high amounts, some of the stones costing more than five lakhs of Nepali Rupees.
Because of great demand for these sacred stones, and high prices they fetch, there has been a steady practice of making fake salagramas. Many monadic mendicants (bairagis - vairaghis) pick up round black pebbles, which are found in many rivers, but which do not contain the chakra-emblems, and make them in imitation holes (vadana), and tracing artificial chakra-marks in slate stone, they paste them up on these pebbles. This deceit is so skillfully perpetrated that it would be impossible to recognize the fake-salagrama straight away. Over years, however, the daily washing of these pebbles will wear away the tracery, when the deceit is detected.
Thus, the elaborate examination of the salagrama-stone becomes necessary to ascertain its genuineness. Usually, the stone which is passed off as a salagrama is gently struck on all sides by a small hammer, or knocked with one’s fingers firmly. If it is a fake stone, the boring of the hole and the tracing of the chakra marks would have left soft powders within, which will fall out when the stone is struck or knocked.
There are other tests also, like placing the salagrama-stone with its equal weight of rice in a plate or in milk in a bowl and leaving it for a night; if it is a genuine salagrama, there will be a slight increase in the weight of rice or quantity of milk. But this test is more than often employed as to ascertain if the genuine salagrama is a lucky one: if there is no increase it is an unlucky one, and if there is a decrease in the quantity of rice, it would be disastrous to have it.
There are numerous popular beliefs concerning salagrama. Salagrama alongside Tulasi leaves and conch (samkha), placed in one plate is regarded as most meritorious.
Any religious observance, gift, consecration, obsequies, and worship
should preferably be done in association with a salagrama:
(Brahma-vaivarta-purana, Prakti-khanda, 19).
Regarding the obsequies or the last rites (sraddha), it is usual to
conduct such ceremonies in front of a salagrama. For that would ensure
the departed spirit reaching Vishnu’s abode directly: and subsequent death
ceremonies would become unnecessary:
(Padma-purana, uttara-khanda, 127).
When the dying person is made to sip a little of the water in which
the salagrama-stone is bathed, he will be freed from all sins, and will
reach the heavenly abode of Vishnu. And death itself when it occurs in
the presence of a salagrama-stone will pave the way for Vishnu’s realm,
for Vishnu is present in that stone.
The rites of expiation of sins (prayaschitta) becomes effective more by drinking the water in which these stones are washed than by gifts or fasting or by observances of various kinds.
In times of solar or lunar eclipse, whatever ritual is undertaken becomes all the more effective when done in front of a salagrama-stone so says Hemadri.
It was practice in the olden days to ask the witness to hold a salagrama
in hand while testifying in a court of law; if he uttered utter falsehood,
he was believed to suffer immensely and long as a punishment:
(Brahma – vaivarta – purana, op. Cit.)
And while making a solemn promise or undertaking, holding hand of a salagrama, it was considered binding; if the person went back on a promise, he was sure to be subjected to terrible punishments in hell.
Merely looking at a salagrama stone would wash away the sins of the beholder, even as the mere sight of a lion would make the antelopes run for their lives in the forest.
Whoever glances at a salagrama would be purified of his past demerits; what then would be the benefit of one who is mindful of it, who praises it, meditates on it, worships it, and prostrates before it?
Whether one has real devotion or not, if he worships a salagrama-stone with prostration before it, he will surely get emancipated from the cycle of phenomenal existence.
The person who offers a daily service for the salagrama stone will be freed from the fear of death, and he will cross over the stream of births and deaths.
A regular worship of the salagrama-stone, bathing it in curds, ghee, milk or water will cause untold merit.
In the salagrama-stone abide the three realms, and all the immovable and movable aspects of creation; and hence Vishnu resides in it.
The gifting of a salagrama-stone is also described as most meritorious.
One who with delight in his mind worships a salagrama-stone placing it in front of him, will instantly obtain the merit of performing a million sacrifices.
When excellent men worship a salagrama-stone, the area of a yojana (three miles) all around that spot, would become as holy as all the sacred places of pilgrimage together in one spot.
Even the worst criminal who has committed countless sins will instantaneously
get purified by sipping water in which salagrama stone has been washed.
Tulasi leaves, sandal paste, discus, Gomati-sila (stone from Dvaraka), conch, bell, salagrama (stone from the Gandaki), lamp (sikha, flame of light) a vessel of copper, uttering the name of Vishnu and sipping the water in which the salagrama has been bathed – these nine will burn down the mass of sins, so say the learned sages:
The Devotee who worships the salagrama-stone must be of good conduct, free from arrogance and infatuation, and averse to temptations of sex and wealth; he must worship with influence and deliberation.
For worshipping sacred salagrama-stones, there is no need for a guru (the preceptor or master who initiates), a mantra (the hymnal formula given formally by the preceptor) japa (ceremonial repetition of the mantra), bhavana (visualization of a deity), stuti (eulogy) or an upachara (Service).
An even number of salagrama stones must be worshipped, but they must not be only two; an odd number of them is never worshipped, but one only is regarded best.
If a person worships daily twelve salagrama-stones with devotion, his
merits will increase, and sins will be destroyed:
The salagrama stones must never be bought or sold; they must be presented by a teacher or well-wisher, or gifted by an ascetic freely. A commercial transaction in this regard is sinful for all those who are involved in it:
(Padma-purana, Patala-khanda, 11)
It must always be presented freely by a teacher or well-wisher with the words “peace, may it be good to you”; it should be received with reverence in the cupped hands and placed on ones own head, as a mark of acceptance.
Even as the fire lies latent in wood, and bursts out when ignited, Vishnu pervades the salagrama-stones and appears when the stone is worshipped.
A salagrama-stone continues to be worthy of worship even when it is broken. Split or cracked, it does not lose its auspicious nature. Only the mark of the discus must be present in the stone.
A salagrama-stone damaged in any way will not become unfit for worship; it is not always sacred and worthy; nothing can be a deterrent for its worship.
A salagrama-stone will not bring luck if it is got by fraud or by force; worshipping an illicitly obtained salagrama will be in vain.
The salagrama-stones are associated in worship with similar stones (but white in colour) obtained in Dvaraka (dvaravati-sila), a holy place for the Vaishnavas because of its association with the career of Sri-Krishna. These latter stones also contain numerous discus-emblems (chakra) but also have numerous other marks (‘suklas cha bahu-chinhitah’). Dvaraka was a township, created by Krishna and Balarama for the Yadavas, to escape the constant attacks of Jarasandha. The township was on the banks of the river Dvaravati, and later the river as well as the township, were submerged by the sea. Worship of the stones from this site along with the salagrama-stones obtained from the Gandaki river is said to be especially meritorious.
Because the stones from Dvaraka are white in colour, they are regarded as representatives of Siva (‘sivakarah chit-svarupam niranjanam’); and the black stones from Gandaki represent Vishnu. The worship of Vishnu and Siva together is indicated here, as it will destroy all sins accumulated over innumerable births.
It is believed that the salagrama-stones will lose their sanctity in India and become devoid of the presence of Vishnu at the end of ten thousands of years of the Kali age (the present year 1996 corresponds to 5097 years of the Kali era). This is the belief voiced in Brahma-vaivarta purana (Prakrti-khanda, 6).
But as long as Vishnu abides in these stones, all the gods dwell there, all the benevolent spirits and indeed the fourteen worlds reside in these stones.
Hence, we have it as an assurance from Vishnu himself that whoever worships
the salagrama-stone even once will surely be liberated: and also will obtain
all prosperity here, while alive.
(Padma-purana, Uttara-khanda, 127)
Gifts given and rituals observed in the vicinity of a salagrama-stone
will be infinitely meritorious, for where that stone is, is indeed a sacred
place for miles around.
And whatever comes into contact with the sacred stone will at once be purified.
Worshipping the salagrama stone with articles like milk, ghee and curds, bathing the stone with them, will entitle the devotee to dwell in the heavenly realms for countless years.
In Skanda-purana (Kartika-masa-mahatmya), Siva tells Skanda that all the three worlds in their entirety and he himself abide in a salagrama-stone and a mere glance at it is meritorious, and much more so worshipping it.
Texts also say that it is rarely that one procures a salagrama; the possession of the sacred stone speaks of the merits of the person; he should consider himself as extremely fortunate, and worship it diligently.
The water in which the salagrama-stone is bathed in is sipped reverently by the orthodox folk when they take their baths, before they begin eating their food, and after the food is eaten.
The salagrama stone is known to the paleontologists as an ammonite fossil. The ammonites are sea-creatures (animals of the sea-shore) so called because of the horn-like features (Latin, cornus Ammonis, after the Egyptian god Ammon) presented by them in their fossil impressions (whorled and chambered shells). They belong to the fossil genus of cephalopods (‘head-foots’), which were once imagined as coiled snakes; when petrified, they were known as ‘snake stones’. Cephalopods belong to a highly organized class of Mollusk, which is known by the possession of a distinct head with arms or tentacles attached to it. They are soft bodied and devoid of bones of any sort. They have instead hard shells. They make up as much as one third of the main group of mollusks. They dominated the era of middle life (Geniotites), called, Critacius ages, but became extinct as this era ended. That was more than a million years ago. All that we have now are their fossil remains in flat spiral form. The salagrama-stone among these fossils.
Animals called Mollusca are known to creep with their muscular feet and to have often protective shells. The familiar conch (samkha) is a protective shall of the mollusca. According to Cuvier, they constitute a phylum of soft-bodied and unsegmented animals, usually having a hard shell, and occurring in five classes; amphineura (chitons), gastrpoda (limpets, snails, slugs without shells etc.), scaphopoda (tooth-shells), cephalopoda (cuttle-fish with tentacles on its head, equids, octopus etc.) and lamellibranchia (oysters, mussels etc.). The animals of this phylum occur in a large number of sizes, from the size of a pins head to the size of more than a foot across.
The molluscs follow different plans in making their own shells; there is thus almost an infinite variety of fossil specimens that are available now.
The puranas have recognized the salagrama-stones as fossils of sea-creatures, but describe the ammonites as ‘varja-kitas’ (adamanita worms), living in water. These worms are responsible for the creation of ‘chakras’ in stone and other marks, which are incidental to their efforts to make their own shells.
They speak of marine monsters, marine creatures (graha matanga) and aquatic worms which are inside hard-shells (pashanantargata-kitas); they also describe the cadavers, broken, shriveled and shrunk, resulting in fossilized forms (sirna); and the hardened forms of the fat and bone-marrow of these creatures (medomajja-sambhavah).
These fossil cephalopods (ammonites) are usually small, smooth and shiny pebbles of diverse forms and shapes (although in a large number of cases round or oval). They have natural holes or openings (called vadana, sushira, vaktra, dvara etc.); marks of flat spiral lines (discus or chakra) may be found inside these holes or on the outside. The stones are also sometimes flecked, and inlaid with gold (pyrites), identified as ‘hiranya’. Although the stones are usually black in colour, they occur in several shades and hues.
The puranas speak of 84 lakh (8,400,000) species of this ammonite phylum: some are hidden inside the earth (bhu-garbha), volcanic matter lodged inside (hence called agni-sali), and some in the excessively cold places like the North and South Poles (hima-sali). Those which belong to the jala-sali variety are either in the depths of seas or in mountain torrents. Gandaki river in India is where the jala-sali ammonites are found in abundance.
The other varieties of sacred stones always associated with the salagramas is white in colour, and fossil forms of cartiligenous water-creatures (somewhat like cuttle-fish, with radiating arms) found in the Gomati-river as it joins the sea (at Dvaraka). The salagrama-stones answer to the variety of self-pierced (svayam-trnna) stones mentioned in the Brahmana texts in connection with the ‘agni-chayana’ ritual.
Not withstanding the details mentioned above, the salagrama stones are regarded as divine manifestations, as the vibhutis of Vishnu. The ammonite origin of these stones does not make them less sacred. Even the icons in temples are actually stone carvings, but they are not regarded as stones by the devotees. Divine presence is invoked and secured in them by the excellence of the sculptors efforts (‘bimbasya saushthavat’), by the extra-ordinary nature of the worship that is conducted (‘archanayastisayivat’) and by the discipline and devotion of the person who worships (‘archakasya-tapo-yoga’). In the case of the salagrama-stone, however, the sculptors effort is not involved; it is self-pierced (svayam-trnna) and self-manifest (svayam-bhu) in character. And it’s hoary antiquity is a factor in its favour of its superior sanctity. The salagrama is not a mere stone; it is a sacred stone, and that makes all the difference.
According to Vishnu-purana, the salagrama-stones represent the everlasting presence and power of Vishnu, the ‘nitya-vibhuti’ mentioned earlier.
Incidentally, this text mentions nine other vibhutis : nita (projected in an icon from out of the devotee’s own heart), sadharana (universal, present in all things and beings), visesha (specific presence in persons with a mission in life, e.q. Arjuna, Lakshmana, Hanuman etc.), sajatiya (the ten incarnations of Vishnu, matsya and so on), naija (god’s own innate characteristics, jnana, ananda etc.), ahita (the divine forms in sages and wise men ‘jnanyahitani janihi sarvatra’), sahaja (the power manifesting in the effect owing to the cause), vijatiya (the divine power hidden in different deities like Agni, Vayu, Indra and Brahma), and khanda (the power differentiated in every small detail or organ). The vibhuti present in salagrama-stone is of the akhanda-variety (undifferentiated whole). Prameya-ratnakara enumerates as many as 5,535 forms of Vishnu in salagramas, while the iconic forms are only 513.
Thus ends Chapter One:
Chapter One - What are Salagrams 1- 26
Chapter Three - Vishnu and His Forms
Chapter Four - Details of Shaalagraama page 107 - 136.
Chapter Five - Identification of Shaalagraama pages 137 - 174.
Salagram Kosha - SK Ramachandra Rao. 1996. Kalpatharu Research Academy, Bangalore India.
The following pastime is found in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, but is more elaborately described in the Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, Adi-khanda, Chapter 3 as follows:
One saintly brahmana who was most virtuous was touring the places of pilgrimage in order to obtain Sri Krishna. He used to worship Gopala by chanting the six-syllable Gopala mantra, and without having offered bhoga to Gopala he would eat nothing. Hanging from his neck like a brilliant jewel was his Bala Gopala Salagrama. By his transcendental good fortune, one day he came to the home of Jagannatha Misra in Navadvipa. The pious pilgrim's brahma-tejas was incomparable; from his mouth, the sound "Krsna, Krsna" was always emanating, and within his heart he was always relishing the transcendental mellows of affection for Govinda, such that his eyes were always filled with tears.
Seeing such a devotee, Jagannatha Misra at once got up and offered him respects. Jagannatha Misra did everthing appropriate to receive his exalted guest. He washed the water of that brahmana's feet and offered him an elevated seat. Inquiring about his welfare, Sri Misra said, "Dearmost brahmana, where is your residence?" The brahmana replied, "Having become indifferent to household life, I have left my own country and continually wander from one holy place to another. I cannot become attached to any one place any longer. That's why I constantly wander." Sri Misra responded with great humility, "Actually, I think that you are wandering about just to spread good fortune among the residents of this world. Especially today the topmost fortune is mine. If you give me your order, may I make arrangements for your meal?"
The brahmana said, "Misraji, whatever you desire." Sri Misraji in great ecstasy collected the best of all materials and cleaned the kitchen thoroughly and presented everything to the brahmana. He also supplied the best of all foodstuffs from his pantry. The brahmana, becoming very happy, cooked everthing and sat with eyes closed in meditation to offer the bhoga to Sri Gopala Krsna (his Salagram shila).
Sri Sacinandana is the all-knowing Supersoul in the hearts of all living entities. He desired to give His darsana to that brahmana. The brahmana had just begun his meditation when the Lord crawled into his presence. His whole body was covered with dust and he was wearing no clothes at all. His eyes were very restless, and His feet were most beautiful. The child laughed and took a mouthful of the bhoga and the brahmana's meditation was broken. That fortunate brahmana saw what had happened and cried, "Hay! Hay! This child has ruined my offering. Sri Jagannatha Misra came and saw little Gaurasundara eating rice and smiling. Misra became furious and ran toward the child to beat him. The brahmana quickly got up and caught Jagannathe Misra with his hand saying, "Misra, you are very great, you're a very intelligent, pious gentleman. You know better than to hit a child. You know the nature of children. They know no distinction between good or bad. Please do not hit the child."
Sri Misra, becoming dejected, sat down and held his head in his hands. He was so angry, he could say nothing. The brahmana said, "Misra, don't become dejected like this. Some days are like this. Bhagavan knows everything. Some days I get only fruits from a house; sometimes wonderful foodstuffs. I'll just take something simple today. Please don't mind."
Misraji said, "Priyavara, if you will consider me your servant, please once more cook in my kitchen. I will supply you everything you need. Please cook again and my mind will become peaceful. This is my only request."
The brahmana replied, "All right. If that is your desire I will cook again." Hearing this, everyone was happy, and somehow or other collected everything from other places, cleaned everything, and arranged for the brahmana to again cook. Everyone said to one another, "This child is too restless. See that he is restrained and cannot return again to cause more disturbances." For as long as the brahmana was cooking, the Lord was taken to another house and kept there.
Then Sacimata, holding young Nimai in her arms, took him away to another house. There, all the ladies said, "Why Nimai? Why did you eat the brahmana's offering?" The Lord smiled. His smile was as beautiful as the moon. He then said, "What fault of mine is there in this? The brahmana himself called me to eat!" They all said, "You rascal Nimai! You ate his cooking, but do you know what his caste is? Or where he's come from? What will you do now? How will you maintain your caste?" Nimai smiled and said, "I am just a cowherd, but I eat the food of brahmanas all the time. Can a cowherd's caste be spoiled by eating the cooking of brahmana?" They all looked at Nimai's mouth and they all looked at Nimai's mouth and began to laugh. Sri Gaura was explaining his factual identity, but they were unable to understand a single thing of it. Hearing the Lord's words, they simply laughed and squeezed Nimai to their breasts; they were unfazed.
The brahmana again finished cooking and offered the bhoga to Gopala with his eyes closed, seated in meditation. He began to meditate upon Bala Gopala in his heart. This fact was taken note of by Sri Gauracandra. He is the Lord within the heart. Bewildering everyone, and laughing to Himself, He somehow escaped that house and arrived once more to where the brahmana was meditating. Quietly, He sneaked a fistful of rice and put it into His mouth. The sounds of His munching broke the brahmana's meditation--he saw Nimai. The brahmana again cried, "Hay! Hay!" and Sri Gaura Prabhu swallowd the rice and ran off. Misraji saw this and quickly took one big stick in a rage, and ran off to catch Nimai.
Sri Gauranga became most fearful and ran from one house to another, and Misraji quickly followed Him, burning with anger. Sri Misra said, " If I catch you for what you've done today, I will beat you with this stick. I've lost all my patience and discrimination." "Where is that great thief of a son of mine? Which house is He hiding in?" Saying this, Jagannatha Misra pursued his son Nimai. Everyone began to say, "Misraji, you're very great and magnanimous. You ought to forgive such a minor offense. These children, they have no sense. How can you beat a mere child like this? In this way, they began to give him instruction, but to no avail.
Somehow or other, the pious brahmana appeared on the scene and, clutching Jagannatha Misra's hand said, "Misra Rai, look, there's no fault in this boy. What's meant to happen is meant to happen. It just must be my fate that today Krsna will not accept my bhoga offering. That's my problem. Please don't be so dejected. This I'm telling you." Jagannatha Misra simply stood there completely angry and completely miserable.
At this point, Bhagavan Visvarupa arrived there. There was incomparable beauty in all of His limbs and He had great transcendental effulegence, and charming countenance, with a yajna-sutra hanging from His shoulder, He was the personification of brahma-tejas. He was non-different from Nityananda Prabhu. All the sastric conclusions were always ready upon His tongue, and He was always explaining pure devotional service to Lord Krsna. Seeing such an unprecedented personality, the pious brahmana was struck with wonder and began to look at Him. His eyes filled with tears. He asked, "Noble Sir, whose son are You?" Everyone answered, "He is the elder son of Jagannatha Misra." Hearing this, the brahmana became very happy and embraced Visvarupa. "Your mother and father are most fortunate to have such an unequalled son as you." Sri Visvarupa offered His pranamas to the brahmana and the two sat down. As if exuding a stream of nectar from His transcendental mouth, He said, "What a fortunate, greatly auspicious day has come upon us. My house is blessed with such a saintly personality as Your Grace. Great personalities such as you wander from one place to another to bless the denizens of this planet with your purifying association. You are always full in ecstasy and, freed from any material desire, simply wander at will filled with bliss. We are most fortunate that you have arrived as an unexpected guest in our house today. What can I say of our misfortune that you are fasting? The house from which a guest leaves without having eaten will only see misfortune henceforth. Having your darshana, I am most fortunate but hearing what everyone (about your fasting) has said, I have become most unhappy.
The brahmana said, don't be unhappy about anything. If there are any roots or berries available, I am content to eat that only. I am a forest-dweller, and I am well-accustomed to eating such things. Some days, nice grains are cooked, and sometimes there is some obstacle which makes this impossible. Just seeing you people has given me greater joy millions and millions of nicely prepared offerings.
Jagannatha Misra has been standing nearby, silent. He was unable to speak. Holding his head in his hands, he was simply overcome with despondancy. Sri Visvarupa said, "I am a little fearful to say this, but you are a great personality, and great personalities are like oceans of mercy. Sadhus are always unhappy at the unhappiness of others. They become jublilant in the rejoicings of others too. Therefore if you are pleased to take a little trouble to cook once more and offer your bhogas to Lord Krishna, then everyone's unhappiness will be mitigated. Then we will all experience paramananda."
Sri Visvarupa continued, "Priyavara, please don't take offense, please cook something at least, just once more, and everyone will become happy. Bowing down, He clutched the feet of that brahmana in his hand with this entreaty. The brahmana looked at Visvambhara and said, "Alright, I will cook." Hearing this, everyone became joyful again, singing out, "Hari bol, Hari bol!" They all cleaned the kitchen again and in but a minute, everything was assembled and ready. The brahmana then entered the kitchen. Sri Gaura-gopala took note of this.
Everyone told Jagannatha Misra, "Misra, lock your door from outside so that Nimai won't be able to get out." Misra said, "Good, I've already locked Him up inside, too. Meanwhile everyone on the outside locked the door to Jagannatha Misra's house from the outside. The ladies all said, "Don't worry, Nimai has gone to sleep now--He won't be going out to eat anything tonight!" The brahmana soon finished his cooking.
That fortunate brahmana then began to offer his bhoga to Lord Bala Gopala. The indwelling Supersoul Sri Gaurasundara then thought, "The bhoga is ready now." Once again, the desire to give His darshana to that brahmana arose within His heart. Thus the Lord left the house while everyone was sleeping (by this time, it was late at night). Nobody knew about this. Nimai appeared at the place where the brahmana was meditating. Seeing the child again, the brahmana again cried, "Hay! Hay!" In utter frustration, he began to cry. But this time nobody heard him -- they were all fast asleep. Then Sri Mahaprabhu said, "Oh, brahmana, you are very exalted. What is My fault if I come as soon as you call Me? You're chanting My mantra, invoking My name, how can I not come? Every time you're making your offering with such pure devotion, so every time I come to give you My darshana.
At that very moment, the brahmana had the darshans of Lord Gaura in a wonderful form. Before him, Lord Caitanya manifested His eight-armed Bala Gopala form. In four hands were the conch, disc, club, and lotus; with two hands, He was playing the flute; in one hand He was holding a ball of butter; and with the other hand He was eating butter. Upon His breast were the srivatsa and the kaustubha jewel, and brilliant garlands of jewels hung from His neck. All of His limbs were bedecked with beautiful ornaments and jewels, and upon His head was an ornament of gunja beads and a peacock feather. The lips of His moon-like mouth were enchanting, and He looked about here and there as He smiled. He had a vaijayanti mala, and there were shark-shaped earrings swinging from His ears. There were jewelled ankle bracelets upon His feet, and His toenails were resplendent. The brahmana then saw that the Lord was beneath a kadamba tree and He saw Vrindaban, there were birds flying in all directions. On all sides of the Lord, there were cows, gopas, and gopis. Whatever the brahmana was accustomed to meditating upon within his heart, that beautiful vision was now manifest directly before his eyes.
That fortunate brahmana saw such wonderful opulence that he simply fainted in bliss. The ocean of mercy, Sri Gaurasundara held him in His own transcendental hands. From His touch, the brahmana regained consciousness, but he was struck dumb with transcendental bliss and he could not even utter a word. Again and again, he fainted to the ground, and again and again he would rise in great ecstasy. There was perspiration, trembling, horipilation, and all manifestation of ecstatic symptoms in his body. A vast river of tears flowed from his eyes. For a moment the brahmana regained his sense and fell at the feet of Sri Gauranga and began to cry loudly. Seeing the condition of this brahmana, Lord Gauranga began to laugh. Sri Gaura Prabhu said, "He, Priyavara, listen. You are My servant for many births. You are always desiring my darsana, and in this way I am always giving you My darshana. In a previous birth, I gave you My darshana in just this way in the house of Nanda Maharaja. You don't remember this. When I appeared in the home of Nanda Maharaja in Gokula, in that birth, you too appeared as a brahmana wandering from one holy place to another. By transcendental fate, you came to the home of Nanda Maharaja and offered bhoga in just this way. At that time, I tricked you and ate your offerings, giving you My darshana just as I have today. You are My servant birth after birth. How could you get the darshana of such a wonderful form if it were not so? The Lord then said, "Hey vipra! This is a very confidential matter. You should not disclose this to anyone. If you mention this to anyone, I will annihilate you! Listen, I have now appeared in this world for the purpose of spreading Krsna Sankirtana, and I will do this. I will go house to house giving out such devotional service as either Lord Brahma or Siva cannot desire.
In this way, Sri Gaurasundara pacified the brahmana, and bestowing His mercy upon him left the room. Becoming as if an ordinary baby again, He went to sleep with His mother. No one was able to understand any of these activities because of the agency of Yogamaya. Having seen this wonderful form of the Lord, the brahmana, his whole body filled with ecstasy, took the wonderful prasadam of the Lord and danced in ecstasy, crying, laughing, and singing, "Bala Gopala ki jaya!"
Repeated sounds of his calling and crying woke the others in the house. They shook off sleep, said achamana, and came to see the brahmana. Seeing him, everyone became very happy. The brahmana in his mind again and again began to think, "If I could only tell these people that Parameswara is living in their home, they could become liberated from material existence and go back to Godhead." Then he thought, "Oh, even Brahma and Siva cannot have such good fortune to have the Supreme Lord living with them. They all simply think that He is an ordinary child. If I could inform them of the real situation, they could obtain the Supreme destination. But then he remembered that the Lord told him not to reveal this to anyone. And he became afraid, the Lord's request should not be broken. In this way the brahmana said nothing to anyone. Having recognized Bhagavan, that brahmana then stayed only in Navadvipa and resided there concealing his feelings. That brahmana would go here and there to beg and every day would come with the hope of seeing Lord Gaura Bhagavan.
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b) All three course meals in trekking days (not in hotels in Katmandu)
c) All staff and trekking leader wages included.
d) 4 nights at Kathmandu and 1 night in Pokhara on Bed and Breakfast.
e) Departure and arrival transportation.
Cost does not include.
a) Visa fee - which will be purchased at your home country.
b) Special permit fee of Upper Mustang (US$700. - as of August 2003 we are now getting this Permit @ US$350. each)
c) Private and Personal Expenses.
d) Tips and donations that you may feel obliged to give along the way......
For those in doubt of ridiculous price of Special trekking permit, sadly these are the prices for such a remote area as Upper-Mustang. The following URLs are Nepali Government sites supporting and confirming the US$ 700 cost.http://www.manang.com/Trekking%20Permit.htm and http://www.project-himalaya.com/info-visa.html and http://www.buddhatreks.com/nepal/trekking/trekking-permit.htmsorry !!!
(presently we are getting these permits for US $350 each 8th Aug 2003 - get back to us NOW.)
For Enquiries/Inquiries Bookings send E-mail
To get some idea of the views etc please visit HERE: Visit Shaligram Tirtha
Diary of a Traveling Preacher
Volume 5, Chapter 14., January 30 - February 10, 2004
"Narottam! Narottam! Narottam!"
HH Indradyumna swami & Jaya Tirtha Charan dasa @ the Auckland Temple Opening 2004
"Why do you want to visit my country?" the Bangladesh Ambassador asked suspiciously. "We're the poorest people on earth."
"I know, Sir," I replied as I adjusted my Yankees baseball cap, "but in a BBC survey several years ago it was determined that the people of Bangladesh are the happiest on earth. I am curious to find out why the poorest are the happiest. My country, America, is the world's richest, but came in a disappointing seventh place in the survey in terms of contentedness. Obviously, happiness is not synonymous with material prosperity."
"I'm intrigued by your reasoning," the ambassador said. "I'm a Muslim, and the Koran teaches the same principle. I'll make an exception and grant you a visa. As an American, you'd normally have to obtain it at our embassy in America, not here in a foreign country.
"Thank you very much," I replied, for I had been unsuccessful in applying for the visa at Bangladesh embassies in three other countries, and was relieved to have been granted it before leaving the Islamic nation I was visiting.
"I've got one request, though," the ambassador said. "Please come to my residence this evening for dinner. My wife is an excellent cook and she is preparing stewed lamb. We can continue our talk about the illusion of material happiness."
I had to think quick. An invitation to an ambassador's house is rarely refused.
"I'm so sorry, Sir, I have a flight out tonight," I replied.
"Well, here's my card. Next time you come and stay with me," he concluded.
As I got up to leave, the ambassador took a photo guidebook from his desk. He then quickly signed it and gave it to me with a handshake. It read: "To Mr Tibbitts with love. May you find the happiness you're looking for in our beautiful Bangladesh. Mohammed Ilah."
I had no doubt I would find happiness in Bangladesh, but it would be of a specific nature. The former Indian State of East Bengal (known as East Pakistan after the partition of India by the British in 1947) became the sovereign state of Bangladesh in 1972 as a result of the war for independence. Being part of India's rich spiritual past, it contains many holy places especially dear to the followers of Lord Caitanya. Numerous devotees of Lord Caitanya took birth there and the Lord Himself performed many sankirtan lilas throughout Bangladesh's towns and villages. The capital, Dhaka, was a favorite preaching place of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati in the 1930s. He once called Dhaka a second Vrindavan, because it contains more than 700 magnificent Radha-Krsna temples.
I would be traveling to these holy tirthas with a dear godbrother, Radhanath Swami. Months ago, we had met in our travels and discovered that we shared the same attraction to the pastimes and songs of Srila Narottam das Thakur, one of the principle acarayas in our Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya, who appeared after Lord Caitanya's departure from this world. We had longed to visit his birthplace, Keturi, in Bangladesh, for years. Our trip was a dream come true for both of us. I would be meeting Maharaja and several of his brahmacaris in Dhaka the next day. My visa had come at the last moment!
As I was packing my bags that afternoon for the overnight flight to Dhaka, I realized I needed a number of toiletries, so I left the apartment where I was staying and took a short walk to a local store just across from a large mosque. On the way back, three young Oriental women ran up to me in apparent distress. Sensing they might be in danger, I instinctively stepped forward to help when suddenly they threw their arms around me and said in unison, "Nice American man need a lady?"
In the split second it took me to realize they were prostitutes, one of them drew closer to kiss me. Yelling out "Nrsimhadeva," I broke free from their grasp and ran down the street in a state of shock that prostitutes would operate on the streets of such a strict Islamic country. When I returned to the apartment, several devotees saw me. One said, "You look like you've seen a ghost!"
"Worse," I said. "Some prostitutes accosted me. I feel contaminated by theirtouch."
"Take shelter of Haridas Thakur," another boy suggested. "He was also attacked by a prostitute, but was protected by the holy names of the Lord."
I recalled the incident during the flight that evening and prayed: "Dear Namacarya, please give me shelter at your lotus feet and free my mind of any impurity."
At Dhaka Airport I handed the immigration officer my passport and a form all passengers had to complete with their personal details. I was in nondevotee clothes, as Hindus comprise only 10% of the population and there is sometimes tension between them and the majority Muslims. After studying the form for a moment the officer looked up and said, "You wrote that you'll be staying in a hotel, but you didn't mention which hotel. You have to tell me which hotel or I can't let you in."
I was stunned. I had no idea of the name of any hotel in Dhaka. I stood there for a moment, and then the officer motioned me to a nearby room. Suddenly, an Indian man who was watching us stepped forward and chastised the officer.
"For goodness sake, man, he's a tourist. How is he supposed to know which hotels we have here? Foreigners don't come here often and when they do we can't treat them like this. Let him in through!"
Somehow his words worked and the officer stamped my passport. As I collected my baggage the Indian man walked by and whispered softly, "Hare Krsna. Have a good trip."
Outside the terminal I met Radhanath Swami and 12 brahmacaris from his temple in Mumbai, also all in nondevotee dress. We took prasadam and then sat in a nearby field to discuss our itinerary. We had only 10 days and had to select which tirthas to visit. We decided to begin our journey at the birthplace of Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami in Jessore in the southwest of the country. Our guide, Caru Candra das, the regional secretary for the Bangladesh yatra, quickly purchased our tickets and two hours later we were on our way.
During the flight Radhanath Swami leaned over and said to me, "Maharaja, I have a suggestion. Before visiting the home of Rupa and Sanatana we should first visit Benapol, which is only a 45-minute drive outside Jessore."
"Fine," I replied, not bothering to ask which pastime took place at Benapol. I trusted that Maharaja knew best, as he is familiar with the tirthas of Lord Caitanya and his followers.
As I reclined in my seat, exhausted from the long-distance flight, I reflected on my good fortune to be traveling with Maharaja and his men. "I need it," I thought, "especially after that encounter with the prostitutes."
Just as I was about to fall asleep curiosity got the better of me. I opened my eyes and looked over at Radhanath Swami. "What pastime happened in Benapol, Maharaja?" I said.
"Oh, that's where Haridas Thakur delivered the prostitute who approached him," he replied nonchalantly.
I practically jumped out of my seat.
"What's wrong, Maharaja?" he said, amazed at my reaction.
"I'll tell you when we get there," I said, "but I think the Lord has answered my prayers." I was thinking of a passage from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's "The Bhagavat: Its Philosophy, Its Ethics & Its Theology":
"Do the spiritual masters, after they disappear, bestow their mercy upon the living entities? The souls of great thinkers of bygone ages, who now live spiritually, often approach an inquiring spirit and assist him in his development."
From Jessore Airport we took a taxi to Benapol, a small village in the jungle. It was dark when we arrived, but Haridas Thakur's bhajan kutir was still open. I almost ran to it and falling down before his murti repeated my prayer for mercy. As I studied the altar I was curious to see the murti of a shaven-headed woman in a white sari, the same size as that of Haridas Thakur.
"That's Laksahira, the prostitute who was sent by a government official to make Haridas Thakur fall down," Radhanath Swami said. "The idea was that soldiers hiding in the foliage would catch them in union and arrest and defame Haridas Thakur. But after listening to Haridas Thakur's chanting of the holy names for three days, Laksahira became purified and surrendered to him. He initiated her and she became a great devotee."
I prayed for the mercy of Haridas Thakur and Laksahira.
That night we slept in a darmsala on the property and I had a wonderful dream. All night I dreamt that myself, Radhanath Swami and the brahmacaris were dancing around the courtyard of Haridas Thakur's bhajan kutir. In fact, I woke up several times, but when falling asleep again would have the same dream. In the morning I awoke feeling purified. For the rest of the trip I never again thought of the prostitutes who attacked me. Such is the mercy of the "soul of a great thinker."
The next day we went to Rupa and Sanatana's birthplace outside Jessore. Like most of the other holy places we would visit, there wasn't much to see. After partition, the minority Hindus were persecuted and many of their temples destroyed. The policy continued after the founding of Bangladesh. Thus, wherever we would go, all that would be left of most tirthas was one or two reminders of the lilas that manifested there. This was particularly true at the home of Rupa and Sanatana. All that was there was a single tree. But when we learned it was the very tree under which the goswamis did daily bhajan, we ourselves nestled under it and had kirtan for several hours. Often a holy place is built up with many shrines and temples to attract pilgrims and impress upon them its importance, but here we had only a single tree on which to focus. As we were chanting in the simple jungle environment, I was thinking that one day it, too, might become a renown holy tirtha. For the moment it remains hidden from the world, retaining a charm rich in Gaudiya history and saturated with mercy. As the hours passed, I closed my eyes and absorbed myself in the holy names at the spot where Rupa and Sanatana chanted the very same names.
Our next destination was ISKCON's large temple a few kilometers away. As we drove there I inquired from Caru Candra why the temple was not built at the auspicious site we had just visited. He replied that the local Muslim authorities would not sell it to us, so ISKCON accepted an offer from a Hindu organization that owned land nearby. It proved to be a better arrangement, because the ISKCON land is situated in the center of 96 Hindu villages. It is a more secure location and we have a captive audience. In fact, when the beautiful temple was opened in 1999 after years of construction, more than one million people from all over the country attended.
Two days later we flew to Rajshahi in the northwest, a short distance from Keturi on the banks of the Padmavati River. As our car rumbled along the dirt roads leading to the isolated village my heart beat in anticipation of the darsan ahead. I was praying that we'd find more than a single tree. I wasn't disappointed. Though Keturi consists of only 40 families (38 Muslim and two Hindu), we were happy to discover a small, walled temple compound just outside the village.
One of Narottam das Thakur's major contributions was organizing the inaugural Gaura-purnima festival, the yearly observance of Lord Caitanya's appearance, at Keturi, with many important Vaisnavas of the time attending, including Lord Nityananda's wife, Jahnava mata. At that historic event, Narottam das Thakur installed six Deities - five Krsna Deities and one pure gold Lord Caitanya Deity. The six Vaisnava devotees currently living at the lakeside temple, built by a pious Hindu businessman more than 100 years ago, told us that Jahnava mata collected water from the lake for cooking for the Keturi festival, and to this day the water is used only for the purpose of cooking. I was unable to discover what happened to most of the Deities - Sri Krsna, Vallabha-kanta, Radha-kanta and Radha-raman. I do know that Vraja-mohan was sent to Vrindavan soon after the installation and the Gauranga Deity was moved to India during the war for independence. I noticed, however, six beautiful salagram-silas on the altar. When I later inquired about Them, the pujari told me They were from the Keturi festival era.
We spent most of the next day hearing and chanting. It was clear that being literally in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by paddy fields, there was nothing to do but fully immerse ourselves in hearing and chanting. The following day, however, a trip was arranged to a small hill where Narottam das Thakur did his daily bhajan. It was a 4km walk through the fields, and I was again struck by the fact that such a tirtha was so isolated. There was only a small stone asana with no inscription marking the spot. Of course, the fact that there was no significant shrine didn't diminish its spiritual potency, so we again immersed ourselves in bhajan and japa, trying to open our spiritual eyes and see the sanctity of the place with spiritual vision.
In the afternoon, we visited the place on the Padmavati where Narottam das Thakur received the special mercy of Lord Caitanya. Once while having kirtan with His associates in the village of Rama Keli, Lord Caitanya began calling out, "Narottam! Narottam! Narottam!" and fell to the ground unconscious. When He awoke He revealed that soon a great devotee named Narottam das would take birth and would be instrumental in carrying on His mission. Mahaprabhu told the devotees that He would deposit his prema (love of God) in the Padmavati, and at a certain time Narottam das would take bath there and attain pure love of God. Years later, when Narottam das was still a boy, he bathed in the exact spot where Mahaprabhu had deposited His prema and immediately he was overwhelmed with ecstatic love for Krsna. Imbued with that mercy, he was constantly floating in the ocean of love of God and was empowered to spread that love everywhere.
As we searched for the precise location of the lila, we came to a small Vaisnava temple on the banks of the river. Inquiring further, we discovered it was indeed the place. The devotee couple and their two children who oversee the temple were overjoyed by our unsolicited visit. Because Bangladesh is a Muslim country, it is rare that devotees visit such holy places. The man excitedly showed us the tree under which Narottam das Thakur had bathed and which the couple worship daily. We paid our obeisances to the tree, had kirtan there and then bathed in the sanctified waters nearby. I had brought a two-liter plastic Bisleri water bottle for the occasion, and after emptying it carefully filled it with water from the holy river.
As we were preparing to leave the next morning, I went to the main temple at Keturi to take a last darsan of the Deities. The pujari was doing a quick puja of the salagrams, and I was surprised to see him simply throw some water over Them, dry Them quickly and place Them back on the altar. It was a simple worship at best. He didn't massage Them in oil, which is customary, or even offer sandalwood paste or Tulasi leaves. When I saw the small fruit plate he offered Them I became disappointed. Just then the superintendent of the temple appeared and I brought the seemingly poor standard of worship to his attention.
He hung his head and said, "It's true what you say. I've tried to impress this on the priests for years but they don't seem to care."
I thought, "These are such important Deities, a part of the pastimes of Narottam das Thakur. They deserve more than this," and decided to take a chance.
"Narottam das Thakur is a great source of inspiration for me," I said. "He's a great preacher and a deeply realized devotee. He's one of my heroes. I often think of him while preaching his message in western countries."
Pausing for a moment and praying for mercy, I then said, "Would you consider giving me one of those salagrams? I'll take good care of the Deity, offering Him opulent worship. And He'll be part of Lord Caitanya's preaching movement in the West, inspiring many devotees."
I was stunned by his reply.
"I've been observing your group closely," he said. "I can see that you are sincere Vaisnavas and that you all have deep affection for Narottam das Thakur. So take any salagram you want. Just indicate to the pujari which one you desire."
I had already chosen the principle salagram on the altar. He was the biggest one, exquisitely beautiful and smooth as glass. He had a big mouth with two enormous cakras inside. A sweeping cakra also came around His side.
"I'll take Him," I said, motioning with my head (not my finger, which is considered impolite in Vedic etiquette).
The superintendent instructed the pujari, who took the salagram off the altar without any apparent emotion. He quickly put Him in my hand. I stood there, my hand trembling, trying to fathom the mercy I had received.
When I went back to my room to collect my belongings for our departure, I showed the Deity to Radhanath Swami, who was struck with wonder.
"He's so majestic," were his first words. "You are so fortunate. You're taking a part of Keturi's history with you. Who is He, which incarnation?"
"Because of His large mouth and cakras, He's surely Nrsimhadeva," I replied. "But because he has that tusk coming around the side, I think He's also Varaha. And from what I learned from the late Viswambara Goswami, of the Radha-Raman temple in Vrindavan, that small cakra inside could indicate that Laksmidevi is present. I think this sila is Varaha-Nrsimha. But let's call Him Keturi-nath, Lord of Keturi."
"That's wonderful," Maharaja said.
"Tomorrow we'll offer Him an elaborate bathing ceremony, with lots of Tulasi leaves and a big feast," I concluded.
Sadly, we then left Keturi, the holy abode of Narottam das Thakur's pastimes. While clutching the precious gift to my heart, I considered that not only our small group of pilgrims had received the good fortune of Keturi but so, too, would many Vaisnavas around the world.
We visited several other holy tirthas in the following days, such as those of stalwart associates of Lord Caitanya like Pundarik Vidyanidhi, Vasudeva Datta, Mukunda Datta and Murari Gupta. We even visited the ancestral home of Lord Caitanya's father, Jagannath Misra, an ancient array of stone buildings in the jungle in northern Bangladesh. But our experiences in Keturi left the greatest impression upon me. After Keturi I hankered to get back to my preaching services in the West. In more ways than one, I had received special mercy - and I wanted to share it with others.
I didn't have long to wait. At Dhaka Airport, while in a lounge preparing to board my flight out of the country, a Muslim holy man approached me. As a security measure, I was dressed in nondevotee clothes and sported a two-week beard. Many Muslims assumed I was one of them, and had been respectfully addressing me with salamalekam (greetings). This particular man pointed to my bottle of special water and said in broken English, "Allah Akbar! I'm very dry. Very thirsty. Please water."
I froze. He wanted to drink from my bottle of water from the Padmavati River where Narottam das Thakur had received prema. Every drop in that bottle was sacred. It was capable of giving more than liberation, it could give love of God. But he thought it was just an ordinary bottle of water. I hesitated for a moment, and several Muslim men looked at me. Obviously, you don't refuse a Muslim holy man's request for a simple drink of water. So I handed him the bottle and he proceeded to drink with gusto. I watched in shock as he guzzled more than half the bottle. He then turned to me and said, "Allah has been very kind to me today!"
"Yes, indeed He has," I replied with a smile.
I thought, "My preaching has already begun. Even before leaving Bangladesh I' m sharing the good fortune of my pilgrimage with others. Indeed, this must be the perfection of visiting a holy place."
gaur amara, je-saba sthane,
koralo bhramana range
se-saba sthana, heribo ami,
"All those places where my Lord Gaurasundara traveled for pastimes I willvisit in the company of loving devotees."
[Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Suddha-bhakata, from Saranagati]
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Sri swayam-vyakta saligram silas ki jai
#004 - Dec
31st 2003 - 01st Jan 2004
#003 - Sept 2003
#002 - July 2003
#001 - April 2003
Personally we find that so many devotees are inspiring us in so many different ways, by the grace of the Lord. Especially I'd like to thank HDG Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad for saving my very life, and to HH Jayapataka Swami and HH Indradyumna Swami for all the support and encouragement in seva pujan. There are literally hundreds who have helped in this humble service of ours here, Paramseva dasa was the catalyst for the web-site, Hrsikeshananda prabhu has kindly sponsored the site and maintains it financially, so without his help it wouldn't be, and similarly for the mirror site Tirtharaj prabhu allowed us space and hosted us for free for some time with www.hknet.org.nz to both these devotees we are so much indebted. Now we are kindly sponsored by Bhakta Gary Kearns and Yagnesh Rajani on www.hknet.org.nz on a huge new host - plenty of bandwidth. There are so many others who have and are helping so much with articles, gifting Silas, books, and paraphernalia, and support; special thanks to Gaura Keshava prabhu ACBSP, Ramadasa prabhu ACBSP, Kurma prabhu ACBSP, Hari Sauri prabhu ACBSP, Sukadev prabhu ACBSP, Bhaktisiddhanta swami JPS, Ameyatma prabhu PVS, Aisvarya prabhu HDG, Jvala Nrsimha prabhu IDS, Matsya Avatara prabhu BTS, Kailash mataji, Hamsa Avatara prabhu, Jagjeevan prabhu and Sudevi mataji MVG, Vikram and Aasha Murthy, and mother Neeta Sharma and Mukunda Khatiwada, and my eldest daugther Kirtida Sundari to name but a few. Sarv-lok vaishnavebhyo namo namah so as not to miss anyone, as we so much appreciate all of you who are receiving this newsletter, otherwise we wouldn't do all this, thank you so much for just being part of it.
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