Ardhodaya Yoga

As published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)
Edited by Paramahamsa Paribrajakacharyya Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj

APRIL 14, 1935

The third of February, 1935 when the last 'Ardhodaya-Yoga' took place, was a memorable day to the religious minded and pious Hindus of India, who took advantage of this auspicious moment, irrespective of their age and sex, to have a dip into the holy waters of the Ganges for acquisition of piety at an enormous cost of health, money and other sundry comforts, that beggar description. Like a stream gliding down the inclination with tremendous impetuosity, the concourse of the pilgrims, fully absorbed, literally ran towards the Ganges to have the touch of her sacred water. Where and why they were running thither was a question which probably found no place in the corner of the heart of most person but each instinctively followed the crowd often without rhyme or reason, only to have a dip in the Ganges. It was, indeed, a pretty sign of the times to behold that cares, anxieties and troubles lost all their bitterness to them when they were rushing towards the Ganges for their bath. There were other classes of persons who, though they did not join in the bath, offered their active help to the distressed pilgrims, by establishing medical and other organisations. And for such services rendered to humanity, the volunteers could not but feel satisfied for being able to do what they had done.

The 'Ardhodaya-Yoga' is not an everyday occurrence. It takes place only when a certain relative position of the earth with reference to certain stars and planets is reached. These are matters with which we are not much concerned for our present purpose, and we can safely leave them as food for the astronomers. It is sufficient for our present purpose to say that this coincidence in the positions of the stars and planets is an augury of an auspicious moment, the effect of which, in the eyes of those who are seekers of worldly good equals that due to ten millions of eclipses of the sun. Over and above that, according to them, all waters acquire the properties of the holy water of the Ganges, all pure Brahmins acquire the potencies of Brahma and even a small gift made at the time helps the donor towards his salvation. Now, if all ordinary waters possess at the time the virtues of the Ganges water, then it should be a matter of serious consideration as to how all the more efficacious the latter can be expected to be. It is also said that a dip in the Ganges at this auspicious moment is productive of an effect equal to the combined effect of several baths in all the (river) pilgrimages of India.

Some twenty seven years ago, the 2nd of February 1908, saw a similar occurrence; previous to that some seventeen years ago on the 8th of February, 1891, and on the 7th February 1864, reports of such occurrences are to be traced in the annals of the land.

The aspirations of the people vary according to the difference of mentality. Hence such auspicious moments are taken advantage of by some for 'Dharma (piety), some for 'Artha' (wealth), some for 'Karma' (gratification of their senses) and others for 'Moksha' (salvation). Even the deliberate and veteran sinners do not miss these golden opportunities to have dip in the Ganges to absolve themselves from all their sins. People who are in quest of wealth are not slow to open stalls and shops for the sale of various articles of necessity to the pilgrims at a much higher price than usual. People who are in quest of the gratification of their senses or fame or name, are found conducting Sankirtan parties to the banks of the Ganges or among the crowds. In a word, both the Elevationists and Salvationists are found conspicuous by their presence among these pilgrims and the bathers.

One class of religionists abstain on principle from joining in such functions. The pure devotee or Bhakta is never to be found among the seekers of elevation and salvation why it is that this section of people show such utter apathy of functions in which cent percent of the orthodox Hindus of India take an emphatically active part? Or, is it likely that they have not the worth or merit either to join or to have a dip on this auspicious occasion? As a matter of fact not only had these persons no sympathy for the function but they were not slow to declare from the house tops that such sympathy was ruinous to the cultivation of devotion or the service of Godhead, the true and only function of all jivas.

There is one other class of people who, being inimically disposed towards the smarta doctrines, openly declare that the religious functions of the type of baths during the Ardhodaya-Yoga, Kumbha-Yoga etc. are nothing more than superstitious practices. Of course, this distinctive feature of this set of people cannot be the criterion to place them on an equal footing with the followers of Bhagabat (Devotees), on the mere assumption that the latter are found to show apparently the same of apathy towards the doctrines of the smartas or towards functions like baths during the Ardhodaya-Yoga. Seeming faces being deceptive, one must dive deep under the surface in order to have a real and satisfactory grasp about the solution of this knotty problem, and that, too, with an open and unbiased mind.

The special peculiarity of the devotees of Godhead lies in that they never run after anything meant for the gratification of their own senses or for anything to their own credit, save and except the service of Godhead. But they do not look down upon anything, however, trifling it may be, if it goes to the satisfaction of Godhead. There line of thought is this, that if dips in the Ganges can help them in the least towards the service of God, they (dips) are welcome not only in this but also in other million births. Such dips in the Ganges may be conducive to the attainment of piety or salvation, but if they do not contribute to the satisfaction of Godhead, the devotees keep themselves aloof from them.

Now, if we make an earnest enquiry to know the ultimate goal of the Elevationists or the Salvationists, we will find that both of them are hunting after some sort of enjoyments, either in their gross or in their subtle form, of which they themselves are the 'enjoyers'. The elevationists are the 'enjoyers' of piety and the Salvationists of salvation. There is no gainsaying the fact that piety is covetable by the sinners and salvation by the bound jivas. It is too true that mere recovery from disease is not the criterion to judge of a man's good normal health, but it requires something more. By an analogy drawn from the mundane world, it may be said that mere redemption from sins and from bondage respectively cannot be considered to be the eternal function and the normal condition of jivas, because sin and bondage are only their casual and temporary conditions. And so-called religions that preach only for the above two kinds of redemption cannot be the eternal religion of an eternal soul.

The enjoyments of a virtuous life in heaven may dazzle the eyes of a man on earth, and his duration of life there may appear, to all outward appearances, to be long. But ultimately it has its end. To seek pleasure a man hankers after salvation; but if by salvation one sacrifices his own self, then who will be there to enjoy any pleasure? Therefore, the salvation which strikes at the root of the effect to be attained after salvation viz., the eternal blissful service of Godhead, should not be worth having. And where lies the utility of salvation which does not tend to the gratification of the spiritual senses of the Supreme Lord? The servitors of Vishnu, whose only function is to serve Him, therefore, are apt to condemn the elevationists and salvationists on these grounds. Familiar instances from the scriptures may be easily mentioned to verify the truth of these statements, but we forbear for want of space.

Bhukti (elevation) and Mukti (salvation), wherein a jiva plays the part of an enjoyer, are detrimental to the attainment of Bhakti (devotion) or the service of Vishnu which is the only natural function for the soul. It is but natural, therefore, that a devotee will always shun them from a distance. But a query may be made as to the reasons why our shastras are so overflooded with provisions for baths during the Ardhodaya-yoga, Kumbha-yoga etc. To an ordinary and superficial reader the shastras may appear contradictory and deceptive; but one who has eyes to see, ears to hear and the mind to learn, can arrive at the real truth with the help of the sadhus who are the only fit exponents of the Shastras. From that great Divine Book Srimad Bhagabatam, we learn that an elevationist ceases to be such as soon as he feels apathies for the fruitive effects of karma and as soon as he becomes regardful of the words about Godhead.

The underlying principles of the Scriptures are a sealed book to the superficial observers; hence they are apt to misunderstand the Scriptures. Good doctors use sugar-coated quinine to make it more palatable and hence easily acceptable to the patient. So, like good physicians, the shastras with a deceptive but sweet exterior of Bhukti and Mukti, have made attempts to carry people to their ultimate goal, the path of devotion, the real summum bonum of life. In places, men are advised to become elevationists (karmins), but it should be understood that such advices are only meant for the purpose that, after having enjoyed the bitter fruits of karma, men will try to abstain therefrom.

To return to our main point, with regard to baths in the Ganges to wash all our sins, we must not overlook this important consideration. Ganga Devi, having taken her bath from the Lotus Feet of Vishnu, is no other than a Vaishnava, and as such is an object of our worship. Therefore, to try to wash away the filthy dirt of a sinner by engaging her services will be adding more sins to his credit. A Vaishnava should always be the object of our worship and devotion. Now, what are the bathers out to do? They have their dips in the Ganges not to serve her but to have services done to themselves by her who should be the object of their worship at all times. This is not 'Seva' but 'Bhoga'.

The Vaishnavas alone are the only persons who know how to serve Ganga Devi. Sambhu, the best of all the Vaishnavas, has shown the ideal of service of Ganga-Devi by holding her upon his head. The devotees of God who have full faith in the influence of the association of Vaishnavas and in the Name of Godhead, have little interests in such baths ; because they know full well that while such baths cannot have the effect of eradicating the root cause of sins of a sinner, the mere reflection of the Name (in a sinner) and even an offence at the Feet of the Name (while chanting the Name), have got the said potency to uproot the causes of all to bring sins and within easy reach the effects of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Mokhsa.

The reason why the suddha bhaktas were not to be found among the large concourse of the pilgrims running towards the Ganges, heedless of all obstacles, difficulties and what not, can be gathered from the foregoing expositions. For their resolute apathy to the common concerns of the so-called religious Hindus of India, the Vaishnavas may be branded by the latter as bigoted persons and as unsympathetic to the cause of their fellow-brethren. But on close scrutiny, any impartial person should surely be convinced that these Vaishnavas were not in the least apathetic to the welfare of humanity at the moment; rather they seriously busied themselves and left no stones unturned to approach and try to convince these pilgrims, with all the emphasis they could command, that mere blindly following the blind in a sentimental mood is not the eternal religion of human beings, that there is something lying deeper under the super strata which requires to be enquired into and aspired for. And to achieve the desideratum, one must pause, hear and think about the doctrines laid down by the Supreme Lord Sree Krishna Chaitanya Deva, to make a full surrender of himself at His Lotus Feet to have the actual illumination of his soul and the deliverance from the bondage of Maya (Delusive Energy of Godhead)--a beatitude, fractional part of which cannot be attained by million such baths in million births.