On the Power of Devotion: Shri Sugunendra Theertha Swamiji of Udupi Puthige Matha
Today, 20th March, 2015, we performed a puja for Lord Krishna in London. In fact, Shri Krishna has come to this house from Udupi today. According to Gita, wherever there is a devotee, God himself will come there. For Bhakta Prahalada, He appeared through the pillar. Likewise, Vidura was privileged to have Lord Krishna as his house guest. For Sabari, Shri Rama appeared in front of her and blessed her. Devotion is therefore the most important thing.
In Gita the Lord says
Bhaktya tvananya sakya aham evamvidho’rjuna Jnatum drstum cha tattvena pravestum cha parantapa (B Gita: 11-54)
The Lord says: through bakthi, you can see me. He says ‘ananya bakthi’ – a devotion that admits no other. Through such bakthi, one can reach the Lord, and, gain moksha. If we are devotees, God will be with us. That is what Sri Krishna has done here today. To his bakthas here, he has appeared today to bestow his blessings. In South India, three ‘Brahma’s are famous. In Tirupathi we have Kanchana Brahma, the Lord of money. In Pandarpur, Maharashtra, he is Nadha Brahma. Lord Vittala wants Bhajan. In Udupi, Shri Krishna is Anna Brahma. Our Acharya has kept the Akshayapathram in Udupi and for 800 years, the tradition of anna dhana, all through the day, every day, has been sustained. Udupi’s fame for good food has been passed on to the Udupi restaurants all over the world, especially, if you call it Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan! 5000 years back, Lord Vishnu took the Sri Krishna Avathar and came down to the earth.
‘Parithranaya Sadhunam vinasya cha dushritam Dharma Samsthanapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge’ (B Gita: 4–8)
Whenever there is gross injustice in the world, the Lord appears to re-establish Dharmic order. This is what He did in Mahabaratham, to protect the ‘good’ and destroy the ‘bad’.
Bhagavan also said:
‘Yadha yadha hi dharmasya glanibhavati Bharatha Abhyutthanam adharmasya tadtmanam srjamyaham’ (B Gita: 4–7)
When, everywhere, there is a decline in dharmic living and increase in adharmic living, He brings Himself into being on the earth. This is what He did at the time of Mahabaratham. And, once he fulfilled his mission in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, he returned to Dwaraka. As a child, He had shown his leelas to Yashoda – for that reason, he is called Yashoda nandana. Now in Dwaraka, at the request of his real mother, Devaki, in front of her – and, only for her eyes - he became a child once again, Devaki Nandana, and performed his leelas! Rukmini, Sri Krishna’s wife, also wanted to see the divine child, but could not see the child form. So, Sri Krishna arranged for a beautiful image of Sri Krishna to be made by the divine sculpture, Vishwakarma and gave it to her. Rukmani Devi used the idol for worship.
Several thousands of years later, in Kali yuga, a great event happened. In Tretha yuga, Lord Vayu had appeared in the form of Hanuman as a brahmachari to serve Lord Rama. In Dvapara yuga, he appeared as a grihastha in the form of Bhima in Mahabaratha to serve Lord Krishna. In Kali yuga to serve the Lord, Vayu took the form of Sri Madhavacharya, this time as a sanyasi. He worshipped Lord Krishna and established the order of Bakthi siddhantha – if you have Bhakthi, then and only then, will life be meaningful. He travelled all over India and spread the message of Dwaitha philosophy.
One day, Sri Madhavacharya was meditating on the sea shore near Udupi and saw a ship being tossed about in a storm and people desperately pleading to be saved. Acharya opened his eye, and waved his kavi vasthram. Instantly, the storm stopped. The owner of the ship did his pranam and offered everything he had to the Acharya. Acharya declined, but, as the pleading persisted, Acharya asked for the Gopichandan he had brought from Dwaraka, broke it and inside was the beautiful image of Lord Krishna – the very image of Lord Krishna that Rukmini Devi had worshipped during dwapara yuga, the one made by Vishwakarma. Seeing the image, Acharya composed the famous Dwadasa sthothram. He installed it in Udupi and started worshipping Him as Annabrahma through anna dhana, as Lord Krishna is famous for eating butter.
Udupi Sri Krishna Temple
The Acharya also nominated eight disciples, ‘ashta matha yathi’s, to worship Lord Krishna and established the system of paryayas – by rotation, each disciple worshipping Krishna in the temple for two years. The system has been followed for 800 years since then. One of the eight disciples was Sri Upendra Theertha Swamiji of Puthige Matha. I am the 30th in his guru parampara and for the last 42 years I have been spreading the message of Sri Krishna. For two years in every 16 year period, we remain inside the Udupi Sri Krishna temple for Sri Krishna worship and do not come out. Next 14 years, we travel outside to spread the message. I have personally done the paryaya now three times, the last one being 2008 -10. Puthige Matha’s next turn to ‘own’ the temple and run it will come in 2024/25.
While we have been spreading the message all over India for a long time, it was 17 years back, for the first time in our samprathayam, we decided to cross the ocean and visited the USA in 1997 at the request of our bhakthas. Since then, we have visited 20 countries. We have also established five temples in USA, covering all the time zones, from Edison in New Jersey to San Jose, one in Toronto in Canada, and one in Melbourne, Australia.
In the past, during our trips to the USA, we have of course stopped in Heathrow. Three years back for the first time, we visited London briefly just to attend a conference. This is the first time we are spending some time in London, doing poojas in a few devotees’ houses and public places. It is our intention to establish a branch in London also and start our activities in a more permanent way to spread the message of Sri Krishna even better.
We are particularly pleased to be in this house today with so many of you present. It is a working day, but, a special day for more reasons than one: it is Amavasya day and earlier in the day we had near 100% sun eclipse in London, surya grahanam. It is a Friday and by Indian time, it is Ugadi: we have entered the new year and are also beginning Vasanth Navarathri, which in 9 days will conclude with Rama Navami. So we are happy we not only did the Thottil Puja for Lord Krishna, but, also Sri Durga Pooja, along with ‘chandi patha’, the recital of Durga Sapthasathi.
May you all be the recipients of the blessings of Lord Krishna.