Guide to devotion

Narayaneeyam is a 15th Century Sanskrit devotional hymn of 1,036 verses composed by poet and mathematician Narayana Bhattatiri. Revered as a devotional hymn, which embodies the highest Vedantic ideals, it has for its theme the details of the cosmic creation, the divine incarnations and the utility and efficacy of pure love and devotion to the Lord.

As it was composed by the author at the temple of Guruvayoor in Kerala, it has been traditionally associated with that temple and Lord Krishna, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord Narayana. In a hundred cantos, the poet creates a veritable outpouring of devotional fervour, mingled with poetic and literary excellences and sublime philosophy, distilling the entire Bhagavata into an easily understandable work.

Canto 91 commences with the unequivocal declaration that at the root of all of man’s troubles and miseries lies the fact that man has consciously abandoned the path of righteousness and instead, embraced the path of materialism, greed and immorality, mistaking them to be true and enduring.

The remedy for this is the service of the Lord, which acts like a haven of refuge, setting man on the path of release from the endless cycle of birth and death.

A person who steadfastly follows this path will not be deluded easily into slipping into the world of vices. The poet next offers all that he does with body, speech and mind at the feet of the Lord, for it is such complete surrender that purifies and sanctifies man.

But for one whose pride and arrogance turn him away from devotion, it is nothing but a perpetuation of earlier misdeeds. The mind needs to be disciplined into the realisation of the Oneness of all creation through constant and devoted worship.

Devotion is engendered by association with like-minded persons, just as in this world, material prosperity is achieved by association with men of diligence and capability. So, the poet pleads for constant contact with men of piety and through their enlightening talk, to be charged with the spark of devotion.

Repeated chanting of the divine names elevates the spirits, till a stage is reached when the mind melts with love and one gets totally absorbed in the unitary, cosmic consciousness. At this stage, the mind and the intellect being under perfect control, a deep-rooted dispassion takes over.

All worldly troubles, desires and needs are superseded by a sense of equanimity, which takes both joy and sorrow in its stride.

Another form of devotion is in the worship and adoration of holy images, which gradually instill a sense of God’s Love, leading to an effacement of all sinful tendencies. The poet concludes with a fervent appeal to Pavanapuradeesha — the Lord of Guruvayoor — to grant him such devotion and thus freedom from his bodily ailments.

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