Gautama Buddha was taking a satsang and as it progressed, there was a devotee who nodded off to sleep.
Buddha: Are you sleeping?
Devotee: No. No. No.
So Buddha continued the satsang. After some time, the person nodded off to sleep again.
Buddha: Are you sleeping?
Devotee: No. No. No.
The devotee sat up straight and tried hard to keep awake. But in a short while, he nodded off for the third time.
Buddha: Are you alive?
Devotee: No, No, No.
Buddha looked at him and said, “By mistake, you gave the right answer.”
This is a simple anecdote, but makes us think about what makes us alive to this human opportunity, the human birth that we have. Our entire lifetime can pass without us knowing the purpose of our birth. It is only in a human birth that we can realize the Truth. So, the two Padukas symbolize the Truth or Self-Knowledge, which we can realize in our life.
Padukas & Self-Knowledge
One Paduka represents the Truth or Self-Knowledge in which the Master is established, which lies dormant in our hearts and to which we have to awaken. The other Paduka is the symbol of awakening other people. Just as a lit candle, lights up other candles, the Master too has realized the Truth and His life is spent in awakening others.
When we worship the Padukas, we worship the Supreme Truth or Self-Knowledge. This Truth is in our own hearts as Consciousness, which is the All-Pervasive, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient Reality, which we also call Ishwara. Even though we are yet to realize the Truth, by worshipping the Padukas we pray that we may wake up and awaken others.
Poojya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda explained the significance of the pada-pooja/paduka pooja in the following ways:
“Just as a Shiva Linga represents Shiva and Shaligrama represents Vishnu, in the same way, the feet of the Teacher represent to the students, not the feet, but the underlying concept. What we are invoking is Brahman, the Lord. But we cannot go directly to Him. We want a symbol. At this time, there is no symbol more sacred than the feet/Padukas of the teacher. “
Padukas & Humility
Another question that may strike us is How can I realize this Truth? What is required to know it? Self-Knowledge is the direct means to Know the Truth. To attain Self-Knowledge, Humility is required. In the 13th chapter of the Geeta, Bhagawan says – Amaanitvam Adambhitvam Ahimsa Kshantihi Aarjavam – Amaanitvam means humility. Worship of the Paduka represents humility. When we touch the feet of the elders or the Guru, or when we worship the Padukas, we bow down the highest part of our body (head) towards the lowest part (feet). The head is the symbol of ego and so, by worshipping the Padukas, we surrender. When a person becomes humble the person becomes very open, is ready to receive knowledge, does not have pre-conceived notions, is not arrogant about money, power, pleasure, body, beauty, fame; none of these. Such a person comes to know the Truth, is ready to do what it takes to know the Truth. In this way, the Padukas show the goal as well as the path, which is through humility.
There was once a king who wanted to know the Truth. He went to his Master and said “Can you please guide me to the Truth?” The Master, who lived on the outskirts of the kingdom, said “You have to live here, and since I don’t have accommodation in my cottage, you will have to live in the pigsty outside.”
The king said “Pigsty? Not possible. I can’t stay there.” He went back. He ruled the kingdom for a few more years. However, he felt very uncomfortable and disillusioned that there was no real happiness in the world and went back to the Master. The Master said, “I had told you that you will have to stay in the pigsty. If you are ready then we can start right this moment.” The king said, “I really want to know the Truth but that is a little too much. If you permit me, I will build one more cottage next to yours and I will stay there” The master replied “It is not possible.” So, again the king went back and ruled for another few years. The third time when he came, he didn’t go to the Master. He went straight to the pigsty. The Master went there and said; “Now you are ready. Come, stay with me. The idea was not that you had to stay there, but whether you were willing to do what it takes to know the Truth.”
When we worship the Padukas everyday, we surrender the ego. Every time we say Namaha, Namaha, Namaha with each name of the Satguru, we surrender because namaha means na mama or not mine.
Poojya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda was personification of Humility. Once he asked his hosts in Hyderabad, “how was the talk?” The hosts were surprised and wondered – What did Poojya Gurudev mean by that question. They said it was very good talk. “Tapovan Swami Spoke Completely.” He always said that the entire work of Chinmaya Mission is the glory of Sri Swami Tapovanam. “I shall consider myself fulfilled if my life and work become my message of adoration and gratitude to my Teacher. Words can never gather Him in their embrace. Love alone can. Let us all adore Him and work for His fulfillment which is the goal of Chinmaya Mission”
Padukas & Gratitude
The third lesson taught by the Padukas is gratitude. When a puja is done, it is an expression of gratitude. We are grateful to the Lord that we have so many blessings in our lives. When gratitude comes into our life, our life becomes more fulfilled. Without gratitude, even if we have everything, life still looks empty and we keep complaining, cribbing and victimizing ourselves. With gratitude, even if we have nothing there is completeness.
It is commonly thought that prayer is only a means to ask for something. A teacher asked a child “Did you pray today?” The child replied, “I didn’t want anything today so I didn’t pray.” Another teacher asked a student “ Do you pray before food?” The student replied “No, my mother is a very good cook!”
Although one may attain things through prayers, it is primarily an expression of gratitude. This is especially true when we do the Guru Paduka Puja. In Vivekachudamani, Shankaracharyaji says that three things are a sure sign that the Grace of the Lord is with us:
1. Human birth – Manushyatvam
2. A burning desire to know the Truth – Mumukshutvam.
3. The Refuge under a Wise One – Maha-Purusha Samshrayaha
The very fact that a Satguru has come into our lives is a sign of the Grace of the Lord in our lives, as is the fact that we are able to study, understand and share that knowledge with others. When we do the puja we express that gratitude.
It is the Uncaused and Infinite Compassion of the Satgurus, which makes them leave the quiet moments of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, a life of seclusion and solitude and come down to live amidst us and guide us to the Truth patiently. No matter what we do for such masters it is always less because everyone in the world makes a finite into a better finite entity. Eg. A poor man gets money, sick one becomes healthy, ignorant gets knowledge etc. But their sense of finitude does not go. It is only the Satguru who transforms the finite into Infinite through the initiation into Self-Knowledge. What can we offer such a master who ends the hunger of many lives and saves us from the cycle of birth and death? Gratitude and service born out of it, is the least that we can offer.
In the Kathopanishad and the Geeta, it is said Ascharyavad pashyati kaschidenam – it is a wonder if somebody comes to know this Truth. Self-Knowledge and everything associated with it – the student, the teacher, the teaching, the methodology, the consistent seeking & Self-Discovery, sharing the knowledge; each aspect is a wonder. So, to express that gratitude, a puja is done to say, “We are blessed with this Self knowledge which is a rare and divine blessing.” Very few people have that blessing. It is not that others do not deserve it, but the time has not yet come for them to absorb that in their life. In Vedanta it is said that their punya karma has to fructify, and then this happens.
Whenever a child or anyone played the role of Swami Tapovanam, Adi Shankara or Sri Krishna, Poojya Gurudev would touch their feet because they are instrumental in invoking the bhaav of surrender in Poojya Gurudev and so he would express his Gratitude.
When asked to describe His Guru Swami Tapovanam, Poojya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda would become quiet most of the times. Once he said – ‘In whom I became Silent.”
On another occasion He said –“ Chinmaya’s work is dedicated to the Shruties(Scriptures) that told me what the Reality is, To Swami Tapovanji Maharaj of Uttarkashi who guided me to the end and pushed me into the Beyond,
And to Sat Gurudev Swami Sivananda Maharaj of Rishikesh who showed me in his life how to live and act in God as God!”
Padukas & Hard Hittings
Fourth, the Padukas represent the hard hittings of the master. The world pampers our individuality and encourages us to think more and more about this individuality. It is only at the feet of the master that we realize, “I am not this.” All the pride just goes away. The master delivers this message with love and understanding, but it also hits hard. A saint said it very well:
Satguru mera suramaa, kare shabd ki chot.
Maare gola prem kaa, hare bharam ki khot.
My Satguru is an expert in hitting (the ego) with words. He does it with love and destroys delusion.
As Shankaracharyaji says in Bhaja Govindam, to the old man, in his last few moments when he is still mugging up rules of grammar – Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam, Govindam Bhaja Mudha Mate– Oh deluded fool! Even when the master calls him a deluded fool, it is out of compassion and not to insult or to belittle the student. It is to actually shake him and wake him up from the slumber, through words. The basis is love. Poojya Gurudev used to do that to lots of people.
There is a quote: “The teacher does not look at our ability or inability, he wants our availability.” If available, even the dullest student realizes the Absolute Truth and if somebody is not available, even though the person maybe very bright, nothing happens.
When a Vedanta course was completed and the brahmacharis were posted in the field, Poojya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda would say “In the field, one is always surprised.” Because the brightest student sometimes would turn out to be an absolute miserable failure and the dullest student would shine. This happened only because the student was available and the bright one was still caught up in the ego. In Vedanta there is a lot of knowledge that we have and lot of people think that Vedanta is only intellectual, dry, subtle and boring. We often think that Vedanta is separate from bhakti. Actually, Bhakti is the most important component of Vedanta. If there is no Guru Bhakti, no transformation can happen through Vedanta. Adi Shankaracharya ji would say, it is “like a donkey carrying golden bricks.” All the informative knowledge is like the golden bricks. It will only add more weight instead of reducing the ego. So the fourth point is that it is the symbol of the hard hitting of the master and one’s readiness to accept it.
Padukas – Protection, Destruction, Realisation
Last one is the etymological meaning of the word Paduka. ‘Pa’ means to protect. The grace of the Guru always protects the disciple, whether the disciple knows and acknowledges it or not. The moment one comes under the umbrella of a Satguru, of a Master who has known the Truth, the grace of that Master always protects. It is not that the grace doesn’t protect other people. Poojya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda said that grace is like the sunlight. Sunlight is always available. But when I surrender, I open the window and allow the light to come in. Others keep their windows closed and complain that it is dark. In this way the Grace of the Master always protects. For a spiritual student, Grace is very important because there are lots of weaknesses that we have, which we cannot overcome by our effort. We may try very hard – anger, lust, jealousy, passion, insecurity, the very sense of identification with the body – all these are very difficult to overcome. Merely by self-effort it is not possible. Grace is necessary to overcome these. The more the student invokes the Grace, the more that Grace protects the student. Not just the student, but also his family, the people around, the whole environment gets purified. In Vibheeshana Geeta (part of the Tulsi Ramayana), there is a description about Vibheeshana getting very anxious that Bhagawan is standing without any chariot, any armor, without any proper weapons; only has a few arrows, bare-chested and stands barefooted on the ground. Ravana has a huge chariot and missiles, an armor, sword and shield, etc. Vibheeshana goes to the Lord to say, “Ravana Rathi, Birathi Raghubeera” – Ravana is standing with such a huge chariot and you have no chariot; how will you fight this Ravana? Bhagawan says, “ I have a chariot which is invisible; courage and fortitude are the wheels of this chariot. Satya and Shila are the flags of the chariot.” In this way He describes the whole chariot and says, “what is the armor that I have?” – Kavacha Abhed Vipra Guru Puja – the impenetrable armor is the worship of the wise person and the Satguru.
There are lots of arrows that the world will shoot at us. It may be temptations, sense objects, negative vibrations etc. It is very easy for the mind to get disturbed. How do I protect myself? Every time I remember my Guru, I can protect myself. I need to ask one simple question: “When I do this action, can I look at my Guru in the eyes? Will I be ashamed of myself if I do this and go in front of my Guru?” If the answer is yes, one has to stop. When one remembers the Guru at such a time, one gets the strength to ward off temptation. Individually if I fight against it, the mind is so weak and fickle that it will fall. But if I remember that I have surrendered to the Guru, with His Grace, I can stop.
Pa means Paati, to protect. It is the grace of the Guru that protects. Not only do the Padukas protect, but the Guru-Padukas promise that they will establish the seeker in the Kingdom of Dispassion and Detachment.
Poojya Gurudev said about Tapovanji Maharaj to the seekers –“Keep Him in your heart and let him purify you. His Grace is sure and unfailing.”
Du means Dunoti, it burns away. When the worship of the Padukas is done regularly in my sadhana, it helps to burn away my negative tendencies slowly and steadily because the devotion that grows in one’s heart will burn away all the negatives and limitations. In the fire of Self-Knowledge, all my ignorance is burnt away and karmas of many lives also get destroyed. Srimad Bhagavad Geeta says in the 4th Chapter – “The fire of knowledge burns away all one’s karmas, just as a small spark is enough to burn away huge stacks of hay.”
Kaa means Kaashate – to shine. A person shines in one’s own true glory when all the negativities are gone. The Self within reveals itself and one gets established in one’s true nature. The Gurupaduka Stotram says that the padukas establish a person in the state of Samadhi – the Self.
Negativities are divided into three –
1. Mala (kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mad, matsarya) –anger, greed, lust, passion, delusion and intoxication,
2. Vikshepa or Wanderings of the mind
3. Avidya – Ignorance – not knowing the Self/Truth.
These three impurities, when burnt, a person shines in one’s own true glory.
Blessed are we that we were found by a Satguru like Poojya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda and taken under His wings. Many lives of Punya must have fructified for this to happen. We pray that may our devotion to His Lotus Feet ever increase in our hearts and lead us to the ‘Chinmaya’ within.
In summary, these are few aspects about Padukas and when we do the Paduka Puja we invoke all these.
1. It is the goal, which we have to discover as humans.
2. It is the means, that is, humility.
3. Helps us to invoke and express Gratitude
4. Hard hittings of the master to blast our ego.
5. The word meaning – to protect, to burn and to shine.
Om Tat Sat Chinmayaarpanam Astu.