19.2 A 36-SHLOKA SELECTION FROM NARAYANEEYAM : P.1
This is only an Introduction.
I intend to dwell on the subject of symbiotic verbal expression of Bhakti as understood and practised by an advaitin. For this purpose I have selected 36 verses from nArAyaNIyaM, the great poetical work of Narayana Bhattatiri, who lived in the 16th and 17th centuries. This work is an inimitably faithful epitome in 1036 Sanskrit verses of Srimad Bhagavatam, in such a masterly fashion that the epitome itself is considered as sacred as the original, which contains 18000 verses. In 1587 A.D. Bhattatiri took the paralysis of his Guru on himself and then to get rid of his illness, he composed the nArAyaNIyaM sitting in front of the idol of Krishna at Guruvayoor temple, where on the 100th day of the composition, he was blessed by the Lord with a darshan and also a complete cure of his illness. In all the works of Bhattatiri, the Absolute Transcendental is Krishna, the deity of Guruvayoor in the state of Kerala, India. He is usually referred to as Guruvayoor-appan by his devotees throughout the world. As sAdhakas towards the goal of advaita we should not have any qualms in conceiving of Guruvayoor-appan, (or for that matter any deity of a temple) as THE manifestation of The Transcendental Absolute.
It is generally thought that advaita is just a philosophy and bhakti is a way of life. In my personal experience of having seen my father Sri R. Visvanatha Sastri live his life, I feel that the advaitic attitude is also a way of life and (according to me, as I understood him) THE way of life. It is the continuing practice of this advaitic attitude by my father that convinced me that the expression of true bhakti has to be advaitic in essence. In fact Adi Sankara says (Vivekachudamani–33). that contemplative living in one’s natural state, that is the divine state, is bhakti.
I have seen my father practise it (perhaps) all his life – he was already 45 when I was born, and when I was 29 he was no more.
The 36 slokas that I have selected from nArAyaNIyaM are mostly expressions of bhakti but, with my experience of my father’s life, I can see how Bhattatiri must have felt and lived. These slokas have a running thread of the advaitic spirit and attitude. In fact Bhattatiri transforms philosophy into scintillating poetry. His is a philosophy of advaita which is devotional, almost like (in the devotional aspect) the one which Sankara himself followed in his own life, though, Bhattatiri’s understanding of the advaita concept has shades of the Vaishnava philosophy in it. For the past several years I have been contemplating on the thread of these 36 slokas daily at all possible times of day and night. The Slokas and their meanings are listed in these posts in the order in which I have sequenced and remembered them. This is, however, not their sequential order in the text. The sequence below is mine. It is so because I feel that this way it gives expression to my feeling towards the Lord and to my conviction that it is leading me – mark it, ‘leading me’ – to that distant goal of realisation of NON-DUALITY. The reader of these pages may or may not resonate with this feeling of mine, but still I thought I will share with you my experience.
Each of these pages, starting from the next, will dwell on four slokas, in my sequential order. I am sure there can be several opinions on my selection of the particular slokas as well as their sequencing, but what is to be remembered is that it is a personal selection and I enjoy contemplation on it. I consider it as a spiritual exercise in tuning my mind to advaitic practice – my model being, my FATHER.