(41) THE TRUE NATURE OF PRADAKSHINA
15th April, 1946
You know what a good day it is today! Bhagavan has taught us something very great. From the time I came here, it has been my usual practice, mornings and evenings, to bow before Bhagavan after going round the hall thrice by way of pradakshina (A reverential salutation made by circumambulation from left to right so that the right side is always turned towards the person or object circumambulated).
When I was doing pradakshina as usual this morning, some other-worldly voice came out of Bhagavan’s mouth and struck my ears as if from a flute. Wondering what it was, I looked up towards Bhagavan’s sofa through the window. The rays of the morning sun were falling on Bhagavan’s body and were giving out a peculiar lustre. Dr. Srinivasa Rao was massaging Bhagavan’s legs with ointment. A light smile was visible on Bhagavan’s face. “Oh, it is only Nagamma! I thought it was somebody else,” he was saying. I felt that he would tell me something, and so I prostrated before him as soon as I entered the hall. Bhagavan smilingly said, “So! You too have started doing pradakshina after seeing others, have you? How many times do you do pradakshina?” I was rather surprised and as I was asked about the number of times, I said, “Thrice.” “Is that so? Others also will do the same, following your example. That is the trouble. I told them not to do it. I tell you also. What do you say?” “What is there for me to say? I shall stop doing it, if you advise me to.” So saying, I sat down. Looking at me, Bhagavan said, “See, these people go on doing pradakshina round the hall without end. It was only yesterday I told them not to do it. They will say, ‘Nagamma also is doing pradakshina. Should she also not be told?’ If people see you going round the hall, newcomers will think that they should do the same, and will start doing it as they do round a temple. That is why I am telling you.” Bhagavan then told us all: “What is meant by pradakshina? Sankara has written:
Real pradakshina is the meditation that thousands of universes are revolving around the Great Lord, the unmoving centre of all forms.
“The same bhava (idea), was expressed in Tamil by the author of Ribhu Gita in greater detail.” So saying Bhagavan got that book, read it and told us the following: “‘Oh Lord! I went all round the world to do pradakshina to you but you are in fullness everywhere. How then could I complete a round? I shall worship you as ‘kutastha akhila rupa’ (immovable entire form of the world). That is the only pradakshina to you’. Namaskar also means the same thing.
The merging of the mind in the Self is namaskar and not the mere act of prostrating whenever you get up or sit down or whenever you go that side or come this side.” Doctor Srinivasa Rao said, “What you say about pradakshina, namaskar and the like may be for those who are in atheetha sthithi, i.e., in a highly developed state, but for people like us, is it not necessary to prostrate before the Guru? It is said that the Advaita attitude should not be shown towards the Guru, even if it is shown towards all the three worlds.” “Yes, it is so. The Advaita attitude does not mean that you should not do namaskar and the like. Only it should not be overdone. Advaita should be in bhava, in the disposition of the mind; it will not do for outside, worldly affairs. You are asked to look at everything with equality (sama drishti) but can we eat the same food that a dog eats? A handful of grain will do for a bird but will that do for us? We eat a certain quantity of food but will that be enough for an elephant? So you should have the attitude of Advaita only in bhava, in the mind, but you should follow the world in other matters. Though there are no pains and pleasures for a Jnani, for the sake of others, he does everything. He is like those who beat their chests, and weep loudly, if ordered to, for an agreed wage. That is all. He is not affected by it,” said Bhagavan.
Someone asked, “What is that about beating chests and weeping for wages?” Bhagavan replied, “In olden times, there used to be such a practice. Supposing some elderly person dies and no one in the house bothers to weep for him, what is to be done? Someone must weep for the person who is dead. That was required by custom. There used to be some professional people whose vocation was to weep for afee. If called, they used to weep better than the deceased’s kith and kin, methodically, like bhajan and with great variety, by beating their chests and shedding tears, which flowed either by long practice or by squeezing onion juice into their eyes, and they used to finish this programme to schedule. In the same manner, the Jnani conducts himself according to the wishes of others. He keeps time to whatever tune is sung.
As he is well-experienced, nothing is new to him. He goes to whoever calls him. He puts on whatever garb he is asked to wear. It is all for the sake of others, as he does not desire anything for himself. His action will be according to the desire of the person who asks. One must therefore find out for oneself sufficiently well what is really good and what is really bad,” said Bhagavan.
Previously whenever Bhagavan asked those devotees who were close to him, “Why is this done?” or “Why is that not done?” I used to regret that I had not the privilege of being questioned so familiarly. I have now been disillusioned.
Not only that, I have received an upadesa (communication of an initiatory mantra or formula). Sri Bhagavan’s voice seemed to say, “When I am everywhere in my fullness, how could you do pradakshina to me? Do you think that I am a stone image that you should go round and round me as in a temple?”