Meaning of Smaranam
Smaranam is one of the nine forms of bhakti, where the devotee constantly remembers the name and form of the Lord. Smaranam also includes remembering the stories, teaching and talking to others about the glories of the Lord, meditation on aspects relating to God etc. Japa is another form of remembering the Lord. A few individuals keep a small mala which they especially use during Japa. Remembering the Lord continuously invigorates the devotee and brings him a step closer to the divine. Thus the bhakta is equipped to handle any or all obstacles he may face along the path of Sadhana.
How to practice Smaranam?
Smaranam can be practiced at all times without any restrictions on the time and place. The prerequisite for practicing Smaranam is concentrating or focusing the mind on the Lord or the Self. It is through Smaranam alone, the sense organs which are always after external objects can be turned towards God or inwards. Smaranam is a difficult form of Bhakti as, it requires the mind, (which is ever fickle) to focus on the Lord at all times. Smaranam is swimming against the wave of Maya. Maya deludes the mind. Controlling the mind is the key to Smaranam Sadhana.
Initially making the mind to constantly remember God is difficult. Thus to start with, Smaranam must be practiced for few minutes. Extending it to few hours is possible only when the Bhakta gets the realization that God is all pervading and all are His creations. When this attitude is developed, then the bhakta will consider all his actions as service to God. This will lead to non attachment and slowly the mind will become calm and the sense of “I” or ego will gradually dissolve. The mind will be able to focus more on God as other sense objects become frivolous. The mind which is so trained will not be affected by dualities of nature, like pain, pleasure, grief, sorrow, etc. The bhakta will remain equanimous in all situations.
Through regular meditation, the mind is able to concentrate on God for longer hours. Thus Smaranam which is initially started with just few minutes of remembering the Lord gets extended for hours and will reach a stage where it is done unconsciously. The mind gets so absorbed in the thought of the Lord that it has nothing else to think about. The bhakta will reach a state of thoughtless consciousness or Supreme bliss and immortality. He will not even be conscious that he is thinking about God. Examples of devotees who achieved this state are Dhruv and Prahalada.
In Swami Chinmayananda’s own words – “A lover knows nothing other than bliss, when continuously contemplating upon his beloved Lord. To remain in such a condition is in itself its own reward”.
Keeping the company of the devout is another pre requisite for practicing Smaranam. The company of the devout and attending Satang will lead a bhakta to think only about the Lord which will aid in his spiritual sadhana.
Serving the Guru is another prerequisite of Smaranam. This will help an aspirant in his spiritual progress.
Smaranam is a sure means to attain liberation from Samsara. An aspirant must endeavor to constantly remember the Lord while discharging his worldly duties. Remembering God is akin to how a mother constantly remembers her child even while discharging her daily chores. Another example is that of Prahalada who always remembered Lord Hari.
Fruits of Smaranam
Constant remembrance of the Lord will make an aspirant realize that attaining God is the supreme goal and all other goals are frivolous. When such is the attitude of the bhakta, God will take care of his needs and aid the aspirant in reaching his goal. Lord Krishna says in the Gita: “0 Arjuna! He who fixing his mind on Me, constantly remembers Me, I am easily attained by that Yogi, ever united with Me.”
Eg: Prahalada, who was punished in several ways by his father for remembering Lord Hari constantly, was saved from all the troubles due to the Divine Grace.
Even Vaira or Ninda Bhaktas (the ones who hate God) have attained liberation. Eg: Kamsa and Shisupala were Vaira Bhaktas who attained liberation, as even hating God means constantly remembering Him.
Examples of lives of bhaktas
Dhruv and Shabari attained Divine bliss by Smaranam.
Dhruv, son of King Uttanapada was admonished by his step mother Surichi for wanting to sit on his father’s lap along with his step brother Uttam. On the advice of Surichi, Dhruv, barely 5 years old, undertook a penance to be born as Surichi’s son. He met Sage Narada who dissuaded him from undertaking the penance. Dhruv was steadfast in his intentions and sought Narada’s guidance in doing the penance. Sage Narada advised Dhruv to head towards the Yamuna River and taught him “Aum Namo Bhagvate Vasudevaya” mantra. He asked Dhruv to meditate on the mantra. Dhruv undertook an arduous penance by giving up food and water. He survived only on air. He stood on one leg with hands upwards joined in prayer. Throughout the prayer he constantly chanted the mantra with the image of the Lord in his heart. Lord Narayana was moved with this young boy’s fervor and appeared before him. When Dhruv lost sight of the lord’s image within his heart, he opened his eyes. He saw the supreme Lord Narayana before him. He was overwhelmed and sought the Lord’s blessings. Lord Narayana blessed Dhruv immensely.
Dhruv then returned to his father’s kingdom, as he had achieved his goal- Supreme bliss.
Story of Shabari
Shabari was an ardent devotee of Lord Rama who lived in the ashram of Sage Matang. She went around the forest plucking fruits which she wished to offer to the Lord. It was her habit to have a bite of the fruit to check whether it was sweet or bitter. She collected all the sweet fruits in the basket, and stored them in her hut. She wanted to offer these fruits to Lord Rama. She longed to have a darshan of Lord Rama. Several years passed by, but her wish was not fulfilled. Then one day, Sage Matang based on his spiritual insight told Shabari that her wish would certainly be fulfilled and asked her not to leave the ashram after his departure. Shabari had immense faith in what Sage Matang had told. Thus she eagerly awaited the arrival of Lord Rama. Several years passed by, she continued her wait for Lord Rama forgetting everything. She was lost in the thought of Lord Rama. She became old and continued to collect fruits for Lord Rama. One day, Lord Rama finally arrived at the ashram of Shabari. Her joy knew no bounds, as there were several eminent sages who wanted to seek Lord Rama’s blessings. Lord Rama was moved by her devotion. She offered the fruits that she had collected to Lord Rama. Lakshmana cautioned Lord Rama saying that the fruits were already tasted by Shabari. Lord Rama, unfazed accepted the fruits that Shabari had lovingly stored for him. Shabari felt blessed and happy that her life-long wish had been fulfilled.