(Over a thousand village deities gathered from all over Karnataka at the newly built Guru Paduka Vanam at the Art of Living International Campus at Bangalore on 12th May. The oval shaped amphitheater with a water body at the center completely full of decorated deities was an ethereal sight to behold, especially when all thousand of them were offered arati at the same time. The entire atmosphere was festive and full of celebration with sounds of drums, cymbals, conches and ringing bells. Explaining about the significance of the event, below is the transcript of Gurudev's address)
Two types of shaktis (energies) are protecting the world. One is the Daivi Shakti (Energy of the Devas) and the other is the Asuri Shakti (Energy of the Asuras). The conflict between the positive forces and the negative forces always goes on. When the positive forces win, there is contentment, comfort and happiness in the world. When the negative forces win, there are problems and violence.
Finally, it is always the positive forces that win, but negative forces keep surfacing from time to time.
Today different Grama Devatas (local village deities) from 1008 villages have arrived here. Some of the village chiefs were saying that their Gram Devatas have not moved out of their village for more than 60 to 65 years. This is the first time they have come out of the village, over here.
So people from different villages have brought their revered Gram Devata.
When we are peaceful and
contented with ourselves,
that is Naivaidya (offering
of food to the Divine).
When we feel love for
everybody, then this is
Pushpanjali (offering of
flowers) to the Divine.
When the mind is filled
with the light of knowledge,
then that is the real worship
of the Divine.
Our ancestors had invoked a Grama Devata in every village.
When do you call an idol as a Devata? When a Siddha (a spiritually perfected or realized person), by the chanting of mantras invokes the Divine Prana (life-force) into the idol, then the idol becomes a Devata.
There are Devatas (Divine forces) that protect each place or region (Kshetra), hence they are called Kshetra Paala. All people have deep respect and faith in the Devata, and worship it for their wellbeing.
There is a word in Sanskrit, ‘Nilimpa-parishad’ (meaning a council of the Gods).
Just like we have the parliament and the state assemblies, in the same way even the Gods have their own Parishad (council).
So this council of Devatas (demi-gods) are assembled here today to take part in the celebrations. We have brought the Devatas from all the places.
The elders have said, ‘Sthana pradhanam na tu bala pradhanam’.
God is in the pillars of the temple too, but we worship the Divine only in the Sanctum Sanctorum. It is not enough if there is strength, a position is also required. We give the Devatas a position. Only if the Grama Devatas are satisfied, things can progress.
If Grama Devatas have to be satisfied, there has to be unity amongst the people. Everyone has to be well and there should be prosperity. If there is sadness and hatred in the minds of the people, then the Grama Devatas feel a lot of pain.
To make the Grama Devatas happy, a celebration should be organized. Everyone in the village should get together, forget the past and thank God for all that has been given to them.
We celebrate this day by setting aside all differences of caste, creed and religion, and remind ourselves that we are all governed by one Divinity which looks after us. This is the significance of Grama Devata in every village.
When a person believes that he is surrendered to the Divine, he performs all his duties with the loyalty and gratitude of a servant, and not as an owner (meaning without ego or a sense of doer-ship).
There are two types of people in the society: one type is those who think, ‘I am nothing but a servant of the Divine’. The other type are those who think, ‘I am everything’.
If there is any problem in any village or city, it is only due to ego. Ego ruins any good work. So, in order to soften this ego, it becomes necessary to place all faith in the deity.
Here, by ego I mean Dur-ahamkaar (the bad and misleading ego). The Grama Devatas are established so that there is no arrogance or no Asuri Pravriti (demonic tendencies) among the people. When the people respect and worship the deity with full faith, they speak the truth and also follow a path of righteousness.
Do you know, earlier when there were no courts of law, people would present themselves in front of the Grama Devata? Whatever disputes people had among themselves would be resolved in the presence of the deity. So the Grama Devatas acted like a judge to resolve disputes, pardon crimes, and to ensure that everybody in the region abides by the law.
The affairs of the region would be run through the Devata.
Today also whenever anybody takes an oath before taking office, he does so in the name of God only. When a person becomes a minister, he takes an oath in the name of God before being sworn into office. This is done to remember and accept the presence of the Divine in everything. So, the Grama Devatas were established to remind and help people experience the presence of the Divine.
This did not mean that God was confined to an idol. It was only to remind people of the presence of the Divine in all that they did and wanted to achieve.
So today, we have this good opportunity, where the deities from so many villages have assembled here for the celebrations.
When all the Devatas get together, it is a Yagya. A big Yagya has happened here today. All the Devatas have come here and blessed you. Daivi Shaktis (positive forces) are in every atom. Awakening such shaktis through meditation, satsang and pooja (worship) is Yagya.
So we have been doing Gnana (knowledge) yagya, Dhyana (meditation) yagya, Japa (chanting) yagya and Keertana (singing the glory of God) yagya.
This culture is only in India and needs to be preserved and developed. Do not let it wither away. We have to ensure that the Grama Devata celebration happens in every village.
Celebrate this day by setting
aside all differences of caste,
creed and religion, and let us
remind ourselves that we are
all governed by one Divinity,
which looks after us.
This is the significance of
Gram Devata in every village.
Always remember God, be useful to others and be happy.
‘Daivadheenam Jagat sarvam’, the world is governed by God.
‘Mantradheenam tu Daivatam’, Devatas are governed by Mantras.
Those who have perfected the mantras become equal to the Devatas. That is why chanting and meditation have been given a lot of importance. By practicing mantras and offering prayers to Devatas, one gets comforts and wealth. Whatever we have obtained, we must share it with others. This is the essence of Dharma, i.e., worship the Daivi Shakti, and pray that society is free from Asuri Shakti.
In other countries, they say, ‘We will go and fight the negative forces’. In India, we say, ‘We will remove the Asuri Shakti (negative forces) using Daivi Shakti (positive forces)’. We need to ensure that the positive forces are strong. And how is that done? Through worship, celebration and Yagya.
Enjoying the celebrations today, is one thing. But you should also realize that all the Devatas (here, referring to different forms of one Divinity) reside within you. It is said that 33 crore Devatas reside in every cell of our body.
When we are peaceful and contented with ourselves, when the mind is pleasant, that is Naivaidya (offering of food to the Divine).
When the mind is filled with the light of knowledge, then that is the worship of the Divine.
When you feel love for everybody, then this is Pushpanjali (offering of flowers) to the Divine.
So what is the Pushpanjali to the Devatas? It is the blossoming of love towards everyone. What is Aarti (the act of rotating a lamp before the deity)? It is when the lamp of knowledge lights up in your heart; when the awareness dawns in you that, ‘I am not the body, I am pure Consciousness. I am neither born nor will I die. I am eternal. I am Sanatan (eternal and unchanging)’. Being in this knowledge is the real Aarti of the Divine.
So, in this way, you should worship all the 33 crore deities present within you by doing such a pooja within yourself. This is the higher knowledge that we must know.