This article explores the profound influence of perceptors (or acharyas) and their words in Bharata, a country where the guru parampara is held in the highest regard. In this land, acharyas are revered even above God, for any knowledge not gained from them is deemed futile. Historical epics illustrate the repercussions of earning an acharya’s ire, leading to forgotten knowledge as exemplified by Karna. This underscores the tremendous power of acharyas. Their words are imbued with undeniable truth and significance, capable of materializing their blessings.
Let us explore a few examples from our epics in which individuals achieved great heights through the blessings and guidance of their acharyas and, conversely, faced unfortunate consequences due to their acharya’s displeasure. The most notable example of the former is Dhruva. Additionally, we will examine the story of Mahabali, who faced unfortunate consequences due to his acharya’s displeasure.
We all know the poignant story of Dhruva, who yearned for his father’s love but couldn’t bear the rejection and harsh words from his stepmother. Desperate for a solution, Dhruva turned to his mother, Sunithi. What could a mother say to console her 5-year-old son? She advised him to meditate upon the paramAtma SrimanNarayana, as he is the bestower of all boundless blessings and greatness.
Dhruva, fueled by determination to please Lord Vishnu, embarked on a path of meditation, despite having no knowledge of how to please the Lord. As he made his way to the forest, fate intervened when Maharishi Narada chanced upon him. Upon hearing Dhruva’s heart-wrenching story, Narada, overwhelmed with compassion, decided to guide the child to prevent him from facing further rejection and heartbreak. Sage Narada offered invaluable advice to Dhruva on where to go, how to meditate, and the mantra to chant. He also blessed the child and prayed for his welfare on this unknown journey.
Sri Narayana Bhattathiri beautifully captures this in his work ‘SrimanNarayaneeyam,’ which is a condensed version of SrimadBhagavatham, dedicated to the praise of Lord Guruvayoorappan in Guruvayur. This story is elaborated in Dashaka 17, and the verse is provided below for reference.
आकर्ण्य सोपि भवदर्चननिश्चितात्मा
मानी निरेत्य नगरात् किल पञ्चवर्षः।
त्वामारराध तपसा मधुकाननान्ते।।
(“The five-year-old Dhruva, determined to devote himself to your worship, ventured into a forest named Madhu after receiving instructions from Sage Narada on how to perform penance!”)
Dhruva’s unwavering dedication and the guidance of Sage Narada bore fruit as he successfully pleased Lord Vishnu and had the privilege of meeting the Divine and receiving His blessings. He was subsequently crowned as the rightful king and ruled the country with righteousness.
Reflecting on how Dhruva achieved this remarkable feat, the answer lies in the blessings of his acharya. Sage Narada served as Dhruva’s acharya, steering him onto the right path, ensuring that Dhruva encountered only success.
Let’s delve into the story of Mahabali and how an acharya’s curse led to his downfall. We are all aware that Bali was the grandson of the great devotee Prahlada. Bali was also a devout disciple and devotee of Lord Vishnu. He was an exceptional ruler, performed numerous sacrifices, and held deep devotion for his acharya, Sukracharya. During the samudra-manthana (churning of the milky ocean), a war erupted between the devas and asuras, resulting in Bali’s death at the hands of Indra. Sukracharya possessed the Mrtasanjivini mantra, a sacred chant capable of resurrecting the dead. With this mantra, Sukracharya revived Bali.
Bali was infuriated by the deceit of the devas during the churning process and by his own death at the hands of Indra. This insult was unbearable, given the inherent enmity between devas and asuras. Bali decided to retaliate by imprisoning all the devas, including Indra, and seizing control of their realm. The devas, along with their mother, Aditi, implored Lord Vishnu for assistance. Lord Vishnu assumed the renowned Vamana avatar (incarnation) and, as a Brahmachari, approached Bali’s sacrifice. He humbly requested three paces of land, to be measured by his own feet. Bali, taken aback by the request, but true to his benevolent nature, agreed.
At this critical juncture, Sukracharya, suspecting foul play, warned Bali not to grant anything to Vamana, as he might be Lord Vishnu in disguise seeking to deceive him. However, Bali remained resolute in fulfilling Vamana’s request, believing that if it were indeed Lord Vishnu in disguise, it would be a great honor to offer something to someone who already possessed everything. Bali’s response angered Sukracharya, and he cursed Bali, foreseeing that this act would lead to his downfall. Despite Sukracharya’s immediate regret, a curse once uttered cannot be undone.
As we know, Vamana later revealed himself as Trivikrama, and Bali was unable to fulfill his promise, leading to his banishment to pAtala (the Netherworld). Nevertheless, it can be argued that losing to Lord Vishnu was not necessarily a fatal outcome for Bali, as he ascended to the throne of pAtAlaloka, with Lord Vishnu as his protector. The fact remains that Lord Vishnu might not have been able to deceive Bali had he heeded his acharya’s counsel. Here, the acharya and his words serve as the savior for the disciple.
There are also verses in Sanskrit literature that depict the greatness of a preceptor’s words and their immense power. One such verse is found in the renowned poet Bhavabhuti’s masterpiece, ‘Uttara Ramacharitram,’ which explores the later stages of the Ramayana, including Rama’s coronation and its consequences.
लौकिकानां हि साधूनामर्थं वागनुवर्तते।
ऋषीणां पुनराद्यानां वाचमर्थोऽनुधावति।।
laukikAnAM hi sAdhUnAmarthaMvAganuvartate|
(“Ordinary individuals merely narrate past events, but the greatness lies in perceptors who predict outcomes and actions hasten to realize those predictions.”)
While these are examples from our epics and history, we also have noteworthy examples from the Kaliyuga, that of Adi Shankaracharya and Thotakacharya. Thotakacharya, though not as intellectually bright as other students of Adi Shankaracharya, was an ardent disciple. Unfortunately, he faced ridicule from his fellow students due to his limitations. Out of compassion, Adi Shankara blessed Thotakacharya, enabling him to grasp the Shastras, leading him to compose the famous Thotakashtakam in praise of his revered preceptor, Sri Adi Shankara.
Sri Ramanujacharya, the eminent preceptor who re-established the Vishishtadvaita philosophy, received blessings from his Guru, Yamunacharya. What’s profound here is that Yamunacharya and Sri Ramanujacharya did not have direct interaction. Instead, Yamunacharya saw the young Ramanuja in Kanchipuram and bestowed his blessings, foretelling that Ramanuja would become the next great preceptor. This prophecy indeed came to fruition.
Swami Vedanta Desika, the renowned Srivaishnava acharya, philosopher, and poet, received blessings from his Guru, Sri Nadadur Ammal at the age of 5, which paved the way for him to become the great acharya we admire today.
In conclusion, this article emphasizes how the blessings of an acharya illuminate the path to prosperity and tranquility. Through an acharya’s blessings, even the seemingly impossible becomes achievable, and miracles indeed happen!
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