दानतीर्थतपोयज्ञपूर्वाः सर्वेऽपि सर्वदा |
अङ्गानिहरिसेवायां भक्तिस्त्वेका विमुक्तये ||
Daana, teerthayatra, tapas and yajna are all instruments to perform constant service of sri hari; (They lead to bhakti) Bhakti is the chief instrument for mukti” – Sri Madhwacharya, Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya, Adhyaya 1, Shloka 98
It was a typical March morning. Bangalore’s fine weather and comparatively mild traffic meant I was early in office. The phone started ringing. It was, unusually at this time of the day, my chikappa (paternal uncle) Girish calling.
“Hari I’ll speak to you about other stuff later. I called to check one important thing. Abhijeet and I are planning a trip to Kailash and Manasarovar in May. He says he can take one more person. We want you to join. Can you?”
It was a complete surprise. Completely unexpected. Although I was jumping to say “Of course!” I played it safe and told him I’d call back in a short while to confirm. A call home to ensure there was nothing else planned in May and a quick check on my deliverables at office assured me it was all good.
“Chikappa. I am in. What do I need to do?”
“Nothing. Abhijeet says everything will be taken care of from his side. He’s not going to accept any money, not even for the travel tickets. Just send across you passport when I ask you to do so”
And so, in a matter of 30 minutes, I was all set to make one of the most desired teerthayatra in this land of ours. A benevolent acquaintance had agreed to fund and arrange my yatra. All I had to do was pack-up and go!
Anugraha Of Guru
For nearly 4 years since 2012, I had done everything possible to get over my never-ending troubles. On the material side of course, I had taken every possible step to get myself relieved of the troubles. At the same time, there wasn’t an attempt left in terms of astrological remedies and other sadhana that I hadn’t ventured to try. Finally, about two years ago, I got an advice. “Looks the only reason is the displeasure of Somanatha – the deva whom your ancestors have been worshipping for centuries. He needs to bless you”
“What can I do to obtain his grace” – I asked.
“That guidance can only be given by rayaru”
And so, for nearly two years, I would keep asking rayaru (Sri Raghavendra Swamiji) to help me ‘placate’ Rudra and obtain his blessings.
Rayaru of course is the kalpavruksha of kali yuga. He grants to even the most insincere. When my uncle called and told me I was about to go to the abode of Rudra, the place where he verily resides, I knew rayaru had blessed. He had granted him the requisite punya to make it to Kailash!
Vishnu rahasya provides wonderful details about the intricate system that is “karma”. It has extensive details about punya and paapa, its varieties and consequences. The only explanation for what I ended up with was in that grantha.
Every single day of our life, we experience events due to the “prarabdha” punya, and paapa, that is set to take effect. Both punya and paapa are primarily of two categories – “sa”beeja and “nir”beeja. That punya, due to which you end up doing some activity, which leads to further accumulation of punya or paapa, is known as sabeeja punya. Similarly paapa, which makes you do things leading to further accumulation of punya or paapa, is known as sabeeja paapa. On the other hand, punya or paapa which only gives you the experience of joy or sorrow, but does not accumulate additional karma, is known as nirbeeja punya/paapa.
तदेतत्त्रिविधं कर्म प्रत्येकं द्विविधं मतं |
सबीजं चापि निर्बीजं सबीजं द्विविधं स्मृतं ||
पुण्यबीजं पापबीजं पुण्यबीजमिदं शृणु |
सम्यगास्तिक्यभावेन ज्ञानपूर्वं तु यत्कृतम् ||
शाठ्यहीनं तु यत्कर्म पुण्यबीजं तदुच्यते || Vishnu Rahasya – Adhyaya 37 – 8-9 ||
“In this way, the three types of karmas (nitya, naimittika and kamya) ar, further, of two types each; Karma is of two types – sabeeja and nirbeeja; Sabeeja karma is again of two types – punyabeeja and paapabeeja; I shall explain punyabeeja karma now – listen; That karma which is undertaken with deep belief, with adequate knowledge and without hestitation (mental discomfort) is known as punyabeeja karma”
My daily prayers to rayaru to allow me to pacify Rudra was my ‘punyabeeja punya’ operating. Rayaru granting me the opportunity to make a yatra to Kailasha was most definitely the punya granted due to the punyabeeja. There was no other way I could have ever made it to Kailash, but for the kind grant by rayaru.
जायते पुण्ययोगेन पुण्यबीजं च तद्यदि |
तपोदानादिकं कुर्वन् पुण्यमेवाभिवर्धयेत् || Vishnu Rahasya – Adhyaya 37 – 14 ||
“If a person is born (with good physique and good wealth) due to his punya yoga and if the same is of punyabeeja type, then the person shall undertake tapas, daana and other such satkarmas and grow his punya”
Difficulties – and their interpretation
“There is a slight wind problem at Simikot. We may have landing difficulties. There will be a delay of 15 minutes” – announced the captain of our twin-engine Dakota plane.
It was 5:30AM on Wednesday, the 23rd of May. We had taken a flight from Bengaluru to Lucknow the previous morning, and then driven to Nepalganj for four hours to reach our first stop. At the border of Nepal, the immigration authorities (if you can call them that) scrutinized every paper that our cab driver had. But they did not even bother looking at us! Soon we were in our designated hotel, where we met our guide, Sri Narayan, who was to be with us for the next 3 days.
Narayan had ensured that, on the next morning, we had tickets for the first flight out of Nepalganj to Simikot, a hilly town close to the Tibetan border. From Simikot, we were to take a helicopter ride for 20 minutes and reach Hilsa, the Nepal-Tibet border. We would then cross a bridge to enter Tibet.
However, it was not yet time The 15 minutes wait turned to an hour soon. “The wind at Simikot is not relenting” – we were told. Two hours later, we got tired of sitting at the Simikot airport “lounge” and decided to get back to our hotel.
“Our deadline is 2PM sir. After that, there is only a 20-30% chance of any flight taking off” – Narayan told us. We knew we weren’t going to make it that day.
In typical fashion, our discussion turned to analyzing the reasons for the hurdle. Ours was a group of 12 yatris. 3 of us would take a separate vehicle once inside Tibet, along with Narayan. The other 9 had a longer yatra planned, spanning 5-6 days. “One of us is a big sinner. The rest of us are paying the price” – came one opinion. “One of us is super-pious. The rest of us have been prevented from a disaster due to the postponement” – came a retort.
Finally, in the evening, we decided that the exact same sequence would be tried next day, and retired to our rooms.
Thursday, 24th of May. 5:45AM. We were back at the airport. All of us praying really hard. Abhijeet, our benevolent sponsor, had to be back in Bengaluru by Saturday. We really had just one day to finish the trip. Any further delay and we didn’t know what would happen to our schedule.
Luckily, Indra smiled. The weather turned out to be superb. In 35 minutes, we were in Simikot.
However, just as we were about to board a helicopter, Narayan got a phone call. It was from the wife of one of our co-yatris. The father of the yatri had just passed away. It was a terribly sad situation. The person broke down and all that the others could do was to offer him some commiserations. Narayan made arrangements for him to get back to Nepalganj, and then back to India.
I finally knew the reason for the one day delay. Had we crossed into Tibet the previous day, our co-yatri would be somewhere in a camp, with some local guides, potentially cut-off from mobile communication. There was no way he could have made it back in less than 2 days. He had to perform his duty as a son. Mahadev ensured he did so. And the rest of us just exhausted some of our punyabeeja paapa!
Just like we enjoy the benefits of prarabdha punya every day, we also suffer the result of our prarabdha paapa daily. This paapa, manifests in two ways – sa-beeja and nir-beeja – with, and without, consequences respectively.
Sa-beeja paapa again has two varieties – paapabeeja paapa and punyabeeja paapa. The troubles and pain we undergo which leads to further accumulation of sin is paapabeeja paapa. On the other hand, those troubles we face which eventually lead to more good for us is termed punyabeeja paapa.
Vishnu rahasya explains this beautifully. The pain that we face when on a teerthayatra – the thirst we feel, the exhaustion we undergo standing in the queue (at Tirumala for e.g.), the frustration we feel when others are let inside ahead of us although we came in first – are all our punyabeeja paapa operating. It is a unique way of the lord of karma taking mercy on us – to rid us of our sins and yet making way for us to accumulate punya due to the same!
स्नानोपवासयात्रादौ हिमक्षुत्त्त्रुट् श्रमादिना |
दुःखं पुण्यफलं दत्वा पुण्यमेवाभिवर्धयेत् || Vishnu Rahasya – Adhyaya 37 – 52 ||
“(punyabeeja paapa) is responsible for the sorrow and pain during teerthasnana, during upavasas, during teerthayatras and the like; They lead to pain that (eventually) brings punya and increase our accumulation of punya”
Why our elders advise us to never complain while on a yatra was finally clear now!
More anxious moments
We crossed over to Tibet by crossing a huge bridge at Hilsa.
The immigration clearance at this border is handled by the Chinese Army. They made us wait for over 6 hours at their center, with no real explanation. Apparently, their systems were down that day! The long wait, plus the stinking toilets at the center, tested our nerves thoroughly.
I kept telling myself that it was all part of the package. The punyabeeja paapa working. The only thing that mattered now was the darshan at the end.
Finally towards the evening, we got our clearance and in about 45 minutes, we reached a town called Taklakot. Located right in the middle of beautiful mountains, the town appears straight out of a movie set. Sparsely populated, yet wonderfully well maintained, we had to go through a “customs” clearance here. This took an additional hour and it was already 6PM Tibetan time.
Narayan, our guide, was repeatedly trying to convince us of the need to acclimatize. Over the years, they had seen numerous healthy looking individuals getting troubled by the height and weather. We were around 13,000 feet above sea level. Girish and Abhijeet were both having a consistent headache and lightness around the back of the head. Naturally, this worried Narayan. But Abhijeet would have none of it.
“We are having darshan tomorrow and getting back home by Saturday. That’s it” – ruled Abhijeet. Narayan had option but to agree. So we decided to travel the same evening to Darchen, which is somewhat like a basecamp to both Kailash Parvat and Manasarovar. Located a further 2-3 thousand feet higher, and a 3 hour drive away, Darchen is another hill-town.
On the way to Darchen, we sighted the holy Kailash mountain. It is really difficult to explain my feelings when I finally got to see the abode of Rudra. A great sense of excitement and devotion swept through my nerves. I was totally looking forward to the darshan next day.
The drive to Darchen also passes by the Manasarovar lake. It was already past 10:30PM but we stopped near the lake as a panditji would join us there. Abhijeet had been to Kailash twice before, and he took a purohit every time. Soon, the five of us, along with the driver headed off further north and reached Darchen close to midnight.
Narayan made arrangements for some hot food, and we were advised to eat well as it would help reduce the effect of the thin air. Both Girish and I ate and drank lots of water. Narayan and Panditji put forth a condition that none of us would sleep alone. Just 3 days ago, a healthy looking lady had slept alone in the same hotel, and never woke up in the morning!! Narayan wasn’t taking any further chances with us.
Nausea that almost ruined my yatra
Girish, I and Panditji shared an accommodation that night. There were three cots. I chose the one farthest away from the window. The weather was freezing, and I finally had some warm covering. Planning to get some good sleep, I covered myself completely and dozed off. Little did I know that I had almost spoilt my chances!
The heavy food in the stomach, plus covering my head with the blankets and sleeping away from the window – all of this reduced the oxygen supply considerably. Around 2PM, I woke up feeling very sick in the stomach. It was heavy nausea. I was going to puke any moment. And I knew what that meant. Narayan and Panditji would create a scene, and ask me to take rest with no movement till I recovered. And Abhijeet had to start his return journey by that afternoon. My darshan chances were slipping away.
I thought of rayaru and somanatha and prayed that this was only a test, and pleaded for blessings. I got up from my sleep into a sitting position. Within the next few seconds, Panditji was on his feet.
“What is happening Hari ji?”
“Looks like I am going to vomit any time” – I replied.
“It’s due to shortage of oxygen. Listen to me. Take my cot. I’ll take yours. This one is close to the window. You will get more oxygen” – Panditji said.
I instantly agreed and we swapped places. He also gave me some water to drink. I spent the next 30 minutes – anxious as I never was before. Slowly the sensation reduced. Some more water 30 minutes later and I was back on track!!
I did not vomit. Which meant there was no reason for any change of plans.
At The Feet Of Kailashapati
I got very little sleep the remainder of the night. All of us were ready by around 7AM. The original plan was to start at 8AM. But Panditji noticed the weather was clear that day and predicted that there could be a chance Kailash Parvat will be golden during sunrise. So we decided to head out immediately. Our target was “Yama Dwara” – the southern gate of Kailasha – the place where Yama visits every day – to pay his obeisance to his master.
A short drive of about 20 minutes and we were finally in front of the majestic abode of Gourisha. It was a never before – never again – moment for me. The majesty of the Parvat just dwarfs you. Kailasha is not just a random mountain amongst the lot that our ancient rishis chose to call as Rudra’s abode. It has a linga type formation in front, on the southern side. Below the linga formation is another natural formation that, when there is no snow, appears like the face of an elephant. Further below, the formation appears like the face of a Nandi. Towards the eastern side, there are a series of “locks”.
“What is that formation on the right. It appears like steps” – I asked Panditji.
“Arre nahi sir. Woh to Ganga mata hain. Shiv ji ke sir se utar rahi hain” – he replied.
Abhijeet got busy with the Panditji. They had brought a lamp with 1.2 lakh battis in it – dipped in ghee. Panditji performed a full pooja and lit the lamp and did aarati of Shiva. All of us participated too. While the pooja was on,I sat down and chanted the namakam and chamakam from the Taiitiriya Yajurveda. It was the most sacred place on earth to chant the “Rudram” and I couldn’t be more thankful.
We spent about 90 odd minutes there, offered our namaskaras and headed back to Darchen. We took some light breakfast and headed out – to Manasarovar now.
Snana at Brahma’s Lake
Manasarovar was created by Brahma, and is one of the five holiest lakes on earth. The other 4 are Bindu Sarovar, Narayan Sarovar, Pampa Sarovar and Pushkar. Manasarovar relieves one of the sins committed in a 100 janmas. It finds a mention in the major puranas and itihasa granthas.
We reached Manasarovar at around 10AM. The weather, luckily for us, was just perfect. The sun was out and there was very little breeze. Abhijeet and Panditji got down to performing a small rudra-havan at the lakeside. But before that we had to perform the Tirtha-snan!
Panditji helped us with the sankalpa and Abhijeet and I took turns to have a quick snan. We weren’t permitted to deep into the lake due to the freezing temperature, which could cause problems for our breathing and also severe heat loss. So we entered a few feet into the lake, took the help of a kalash and performed our snan.
The purity of the water cannot be explained. The water appears deep blue, and is very very clear and sweet to taste. I managed to chant the aghamarshana sukta while taking bath. Once out, it was time for applying the gopichandana and giving arghya to surya. After that, we changed to warm clothes and participated in the havan.
In about an hour, the rituals were all complete. So was our photography session. Narayan, Panditji and the local guide were all relieved. “You guys turned out to be tougher than we thought. No health issues for anyone” – they said unanimously. “Nothing like that. It was just divine grace” – I told myself.
Utkata punya karma to remove sanchita papa
Based on when the effect will be realized, karma is divided into three categories – agami, prarabdha and sanchita.
The karma that one will accumulate due to actions he will perform in future is termed agami, while the karma that is in action currently is prarabdha. The karma that we have already accumulated, and which will take effect in future, is known as sanchita.
Garuda purana states how, every person, undergoes the effect of three types of karmas every single day of his life.
a) Janma prarabdha – the result of actions we performed earlier in our current life
b) Janmantara prarabdha – the result of actions we performed over the previous 10 lives
c) Janma-janmantara prarabdha – the result of actions we performed over 100s, or even 1000s, of previous lives.
Remember that the sanchita karma of earlier is what manifests as prarabdha in this life. So the three categories mentioned above apply to sanchita karma as well.
The effect of janma-karma is relatively easier to remediate. The effect of janmantara karma is really tough to remediate. However, the effect of janma-janmantara karma is mighty tough to overcome. And most of the time, the immense suffering and pain humans undergo is the result of this janma-janmantara karma! Naturally, we find many people “resigning to their fate” and saying it is impossible to overcome one’s destiny.
Vishnu rahasya, however, disagrees. It emphatically declares that sanchita papa, especially the janma-janmantara one, can be overcome by performing what is called ‘utkata punya karya’. In other words punya karya that is ‘intense’ in nature.
सञ्चितानि तु नश्यन्ति कर्माणि दिविधानि |
आगमाध्ययनं जाप्यं वेदशास्त्रार्थचिन्तनम् ||
विष्णोः संकीर्तनं भक्त्या तपो ब्राह्मणतोषणम् |
तीर्थसेवा तीर्थयात्राsहिंसा दानं प्रपादिकं || Vishnu Rahasya – Adhyaya 37 – 63-64 ||
“sanchita paapa gets destroyed by the relentless pursuit of (satkarmas such as) vedadhyayana, japa, understanding satshastra, keertana of Vishnu with devotion, tapas, pleasing brahmanas, partaking of teertha (from divine kshetras), undertaking teerthayatra, ahimsa, daana and arranging food and water for yatrikas”
And performing teertha yatras to maha kshetras is one such utkata punya karya. Teertha yatras destroy prarabdha resident in our naaDis (veins), and also destroy a lot of our sanchita paapa. It is for this very reason that our shastras insist on following various niyamas during a yatra. Not doing any loukika karya, maintaining upavasa, maintaining composure, constantly doing nama-smarana – all of these ensure that we do only punya karya during the yatra thereby adding to our sanchita punya, while the act of the yatra itself destroys our sanchita paapa.
It is my fortune that during this yatra of Kailash Mansarovar, I got the opportunity to perform some punya karya – such as chanting the rudram, performing snana at Mansarovar, and spending a good amount of time discussing spiritual and astrological matters with my co-yatris. I consider it my bhagya to have been bestowed with the opportunity to perform this yatra.
May Manobhimani Bless
Sri Madhwacharya, in many of his works, has highlighted how Rudra is the abhimani (ego) devata for ‘manas’. He controls our mind and decides whether it steers towards paramatma and bhakti or ventures into material pursuits. Worshiping Rudra with devotion provides one with a clear consciousness, and clear mind. It takes one further on the path of bhakti, and eventually on the path to moksha.
The great Sri Vijayadasa, one of the foremost exponent of the haridasa tradition, has said
“taila dhareyante manasu kodo hariyalli”
“O Rudra! Let my mind flow towards Lord Hari – just like the (seamless) flow of oil”
At the end of this yatra, that is the only prayer I too have – at the feet of Somanatha.