Author: Raghunandana. Translated in English by Hunsur Sriprasad
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As the scriptural authority says “apyachuto guru dvaaraa prasadakRut” it is very easy to please the Supreme Lord (Narayana) using guru as the channel. This is very obvious in the case of Gurusarvabhouma Sri Raghavendra teertha (Rayaru), the Kalpatharu (the divine tree that grants all wishes) of Kaliyuga. He grants the desires of supplicants without hesitation; devotees serving him with a pure heart are doubly blessed because he also removes their sins, blemishes and other shortcomings. People have experienced this in person and is something that great gyAnis have vouched for. The benefits of obtaining Rayaru’s grace have been profusely documented in religious works like Sri Raghavendra Vijaya, Sri Raghavendra stotra and hundreds of compositions by great saints.
The very venerable Srimat Sushameendra teertha, the present pontiff of the Matha, has reassured devotees on innumerable occasions that coming to Mantralaya is not mandatory to obtain Rayaru’s grace, it is enough if one performs devout service in one’s home by going around Rayaru’s picture while reciting Raghavendra Stotra. Even reciting “Sri Raghavendraya namah” with intense devotion is good enough to obtain his total grace.
There are many popular ways of serving Rayaru. One of the most common but very potent advices that you get from Rayaru’s devotees while seeking solutions for life’s numerous problems is, “ Go to Mantralaya and perform the Sankalpa Seva, Rayaru will definitely bless you”. Sankalpa means an oath or a resolution to do something, Seva is the service performed to a celestial being. In this case Sankalpa Seva involves the following steps:
1. going to Mantralaya at a convenient time,
2. obtaining darshana of (or viewing) Rayaru’s Brindavana,
3. taking the oath to perform Seva in the prescribed manner
4. performing the Seva while following some strict rules.
The number of devotees who have performed Sankalpa Seva in this manner and benefited from it is so huge that listing them is next to impossible.
We are listing below 15 of the most frequently asked questions about Sankalpa Seva.
1.Who should take the oath to perform the service (Seva)? ^^^^^^
Anybody who wishes to benefit from Sri Rayaru’s grace is eligible to take this oath.
2. Who will administer the oath to perform the Seva?
One of the archaks or volunteers will do this.
3. Is there any fee for administering the oath?
Since this is a major service that the Matha is performing for devotees, nothing more than a symbolic token of Rs. 5 is expected. This should be tendered at the offices of the Matha.
4.What are the ingredients that the devotees should bring for the oath taking ceremony? ^^^^^^
a) Utensils to perform Achamana
b) A small plate
c) One new, unpeeled coconut
d) One coconut as a symbolic offering
e) Loose change as dakshina
5.What is the correct time for performing Seva?
In the mornings between 5 and 8 AM, and in the evening between 4 and 5, are the most appropriate times for performing Seva.
6.How many times should the pradakshina (going around the Brindavana) be performed?
Based on one’s ability, one can choose from 5, 11, 14, 28, 54 times.
7. For how many days should the Seva be performed? ^^^^^^
Based on one’s endurance, one can choose from 1, 3, 5, 7, 14, 21, 42 days.
8. What are the regulations governing the actual Seva?
a) The person taking the oath should bathe in the river twice, taking care to wet the head. A woman need to do it once only.
b) One should not use soap while taking bath.
c) One should not use cloths which have been dried in Madi for performing the Seva, and not use wet cloths.
d) One should dress in a traditional manner, using a pancha-kache (five folds)
e) One should not use hair oil or any type of ointments; one shold also not do any kind of make up or decoration
f) One should not have a haircut or shave in the days on which seva is being performed
g) One should not adorn one's hair with any flower, other than what has been offered to Sri Hari-Vayu-Guru
h) One should eat only once a day. In the night, milk or fruits can be consumed in moderate quantities.
i) Foods that have been cooked or fried or prepared in hotel should be avoided.
j) After the pradakshina is completed one should spend time by going through religious, pious works and avoid wasteful activities like idle gossip. Ladies should sing the compositions of Haridasas.
k) One should not sleep on a bed; however a chaape ( a thin mattress made of fibre) can be used.
l) On Dwadashi and during the Dhanur masa, one can continue pradakshine after taking food.
9. Are there any regulations governing the pradakshine and namaskaara (prostration)? ^^^^^^
Yes, the the pradakshine and namaskaara should be performed in the manner prescribed by religious scriptures. Devotees should keep the following aspects in mind while performing pradakshina during the Seva.
a) One should perform pradakshina 5 times around the Hanumanta icon in front of the brindavana
b) During each pradakshina, one should perform namaskaara 4 times, one on each side of the brindavana, with utmost devotion
towards Sri Rama, Narahari (Narasimha), Krishna and Vedavyasa respectively.
c) One should do one namaskaara in front of Sri Vadeendra teertha’s brindavana too.
d) During the pradakshina time one should recite pious religious compositions like Sri Raghavendra stotra, Vayu Stuti,
Dashaavatarastuti, Krishnaashtakam, Vishnu Sahasranama etc.
e) After performing the pradakshine in the main courtyard, one should also perform one pradakshine of the brindavanas of
Sri Sudharmeendra teertha, Sri Suvrateendra teertha, Sri Suyameendra teertha, Sri Sujayeendra teertha and the banyan tree.
f) Ladies should not peform sAshtanga namaskara wherein the entire body touches the ground. They should kneel and perform the namaskara.
10. Are there other ways of performing Seva to Rayaru? ^^^^^^
Yes. As stated before, if one is sincere and devoted to Hari, Vayu and Rayaru, there are many ways of performing Seva to Rayaru. The following section lists some of the main ones:
a) Sitting in one place and reciting Sri Raghavendra stotra 108 times.
b) Hejje namaskara (going around the Brindavana advancing one foot at a time and performing namaskara for each stride)
c) Urulu Seva – rolling on the body and going around the brindavana. This is forbidden for women.
d) Reciting Sri Raghavendra stotra 108 times while performing abhisheka for Rayara Brindavana with cow’s milk.
e) Going through religious works composed by great gyaanis; some of the popular ones are Sudha, Parimala, Sri Madhva Vijaya,
Sri Raghavendra Vijaya etc.
In all of the above cases, the main ingredient is sincerity, pure heart and intense devotion.
11. One of our relatives is handicapped. Can we take the oath in his name and do the pradakshina? ^^^^^^
Certainly. This is also acceptable to Rayaru. However, the person on whose behalf this Seva is being undertaken should be around.
12. One of our acquaintances told us that during the Seva period, Sri Rayaru appears in our dream and blesses us. Is this true?
Even though not many people can prove with absolute certainity that it was Rayaru himself who appeared in their dreams and blessed them, there is no doubt whatsoever that serving him with a pure heart and intense devotion will fetch his grace, maybe in a dream and sometimes even directly!
13. What is meant by ‘Poorna phala”?
As stated earlier, at the beginning of the Seva the devotee should set aside a new, unpeeled coconut. After the completion of the Seva, this coconut is symbolically offered to Rayaru and returned with mantrakshate. This is called Poorna phala.
14. What should be done with Poorna phala? ^^^^^^
After receiving the holy coconut from the priest, one should handle it with great care and respect. It should not be kept on the ground or made impure in any way. It should be brought home and worshipped with devotion as it represents Rayaru’s blessings. Later it should be consumed (without cooking) in the company of close relatives.
15. What should be done after performing the Seva?
Since it is absolutely certain that Rayaru will bless you with fruits appropriate to the level of service performed, one should be patient until the desired result is obtained. In addition, all the discipline and devotion displayed during the Seva should be retained as much as possible, as long as possible. This is a sure way of obtaining Rayaru’s grace.
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