January 1, while many exchange greetings on social media on the occasion of the New Year Day, devotees of Sri Ramakrishna rejoice in His compassionate glory manifested on the day as the Kalpatharu Day. Kalpataru means, "wish-fulfilling tree". How does God act as Kalpataru?
Sri Rama, as Kalpataru in Treta Yuga
When the Lord descended in human form, as Sri Rama and Sri Krishna, they provided shelter to innumerable devotees. Even today, scores of devotees are offering their prayers and meditate on these two great incarnations to their delight.
Devotional poet Tulasidas mentions Srimad Ramayana itself as a Kalpataru. He declares that reciting Ramayana helps resolve many problems including poverty, delayed marriages, marital disharmony, ego clashes among family members and colleagues. If a book about Sri Rama is capable of providing such goodness and benefits, what to speak of the characteristics of the hero of that epic?
Just visualise Sri Rama- Ravana war field for a moment. As the war was about to begin, Ravana's younger brother Vibhishana, along with four of his ministers came and surrendered to Sri Rama seeking refuge. Sugreeva and many others discouraged the request citing that Vibhishana could be a spy of Ravana and taking him into their fold may cause suffering.
Rama allowed everyone to express their views and after carefully listening to all their discouraging opinions, with his natural leadership quality, asserted with compassion
"Sagruteva prapannaaya thavaasmeethi cha yaachathe
abhayam sarva bhudhebyo thadhaami etat vratam mama."
It means 'Whoever surrenders unto Me and says ‘ O Rama! I am your devotee, I am all yours” to such people, it is my vow to protect from all difficulties.'
This is the quintessence verse of Ramayana. Sri Rama’s nature of Kalpataru was personified when He said, ‘my penance, vrata, not mere duty, is to protect whoever takes refuge in me.' He provided shelter to all beings who sought refuge under him - demons, monkeys, human beings, rishis, even tiny squirrels.
Sri Krishna, as Kalpataru in Dwapara Yuga
In Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna gave a detailed exposition on Karma, Jnana and Bhakti yogas. In the end, with compassion He showed an easy way for all to practise them as surrender unto Krishna, the God, who is Kalpataru.
Sarva dharmaan parithtescha maam ekam saranam vraja |
Aham thvaa sarva paapepyo mokshayishyaami maa sucha ||
Meaning, 'Giving up all your own ideas of righteousness or religion, take complete refuge in Me. I will liberate you from all sinful reactions (past karma). Do not fear.' The essence of this statement of Sri Krishna is ‘Go beyond all your means and hold on to the Supreme alone’.
Mahabharata says, ‘For human beings, both Aham (me) and Maam (mine) are equal to death’. Vaishnava acharyas give distinct meaning to these two words ‘aham’ and ‘maam’, as two important divine characteristics of greatness and compassion. They are supposed to be the essential nature of the one who protects all. The term ‘aham’ reveals ‘I am Krishna, the embodiment of wisdom - Gnana and power- Sakthi’.
Krishna’s wisdom will root out our ignorance; His power will remove all our sins. The term ‘maam’ indicates Krishna’s other characteristics such as easy to approach (saulabyam), affection (vatsalyam), ownership (swamitvam) and determination (sauseelyam).
Mother’s natural affection towards her child is vaatsalyam. The attitude of ignoring the mistakes and errors of the loved ones is vaatsalyam. Soon after giving birth, a cow would lick her calf’s body to remove the foul-smelling filth and clean.
Many people are possessed with qualities like greed, anger, delusion, illegitimate fancies and possessiveness, detested by everyone. It is said that God will ignore them even when each one of them is as big as a hill. He would consider them as, ‘after all they are my people’ and saying so He ignores their flaws.’
Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam mentions two names of the Lord as ‘avignaathaa’ (one who ignores errors) and ‘sahasraamsu’ (one who knows all). Lord being sahasraamsu, how come He can be avignaathaa? It means that He ignores the defects of His devotees by his vaatsalya and considers them as qualities.
For this reason Poigai Azhwar, one of the alwars among 12, sang ‘considering even defects of devotees, big as a hill, as qualities!’. Thus, in spite of the Lord descending in the form of humans and promising us of His support, modern man is delusively strolling around thinking of every problem that passed by.
A Zen master expressed about human weakness as, ‘Man always gets pleasure simply by wailing and sharing his weaknesses with someone.’ It seems he would even employ paid-listeners of his wails. This may be one of the reasons why people visit professional psychiatrists.
Everyone has some problems or the other, such as getting locked up in worldly life, weakness, grief, blind passion, etc. To confront these problems, which have no permanent solutions; will it help approaching another ordinary human being?
Whereas, being devoted to those who are incarnations of the God, they will not only remove our grief but also help us lead higher realms of life by removing the source of such problems.
With this attitude, hope and understanding let us celebrate the Kalpataru Day, January 1.
Sri Ramakrishna, as Kalpataru in Kali Yuga
Sri Rama and Sri Krishna have descended again and born as Sri Ramakrishna to bless us all. Kalpataru would grant anything to a person for any wish he asks from it; hardly it analyses whether it would be beneficial or otherwise. Whereas the Kalpataru of Kali Yuga Sri Ramakrishna, would bless us with only whatever is really good to us. His blessings are mainly on our real needs, not on our shallow wants.
Vaishanava acharyas term Lord as ‘arthi kalpan.’ ‘Whoever seeks (arthi) will get whatever he wishes, just as Kalpataru does, is the direct meaning of the term. Acharyas explain, in the light of the statement - ‘Arthi cha asau kalpas cha’, that the Lord, unlike Kalpataru, gives not only to those who approach Him but also goes to the devotee and attracts him saying, ‘I shall give all you seek if you pray to Me.’
It is said that for the sake of giving to the ‘arthis’ (seekers), the Lord Himself plays as arthi as well as Kalpataru. In order that devotee gets higher benefits, He develops interest and confidence in Him. Hence Nammaalwar says, ‘He fulfills me by giving Himself to me.’
On 1.1.1886, Sri Ramakrishna manifested fully His higher Self and blessed His devotees. Hence He is called ‘Kalpataru’. Oh! What a great incident that was!
Sri Ramakrishna stayed in a place called Cossipore Garden House, a place near northern Kolkata, in West Bengal, for his throat treatment. On 1st January his enthusiasm was high. Around 3 p.m, he came out of the room to the garden for a stroll. Since he ventured out after a long time, devotees flocked and offered prayers to him.
Sri Ramakrishna addressed Girish Babu, a famous dramatist asking him: “Girish, what have you seen and understood about me, that makes you say all these things (that I am an avatar, and so on) to everyone, wherever you go?”
Unperturbed, Girish knelt down at the Master’s feet, folded his hands before his raised face, and responded in a voice choked with emotion: “What more can I say of Him? Even the sages Vyasa and Valmiki could find no words to measure His glory!”
Girish's sincere faith expressed in those words so moved Sri Ramakrishna that he said to the devotees, while looking at Girish:
“What more can I tell you? I bless you all, May you all be illumined!”
Sri Ramakrishna became overwhelmed by love and compassion for his devotees, and went to ecstasy immediately. That selfless and profound blessing touched the devotees deep within their hearts and they became soaked in bliss. He touched and blessed each devotee around him. By His divine touch, devotees immediately felt free of their agonies and confident than ever before.
Probably, as Sri Rama during Vibhishana’s surrender and as Sri Krishna when He taught Arjuna ‘maam ekam saranam vraja’, Sri Ramakrishna too blessed the devotees as ‘May you all get spiritual awakening’ by establishing His highest spiritual Self by bestowal of freedom from fear on all devotees by revealing himself.
Swami Saradananda ji maharaj, one of the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, says about the Kalpataru incident as ‘Sri Ramakrishna’s self - revelation and the bestowal of freedom from fear’.
This promise given by Sri Ramakrishna can be verified through various incidents. Let us see one of them:
Once Sri Ramakrishna quipped, ‘ami karmanasa, faraasdaanga.’ In Bengali language ‘ami karmanaasaa’ means ‘I shall remove the effects of Karma’. ‘Faraasdaangaa’ refers to the then French territory within India, over which English rulers do not have jurisdiction.
“I belong to French territory. Those who disobeyed British will escape themselves by going to Chandan Nagar, the French colony. Similarly whoever has committed whatever actions, if they surrender unto Me, need not have any fear” said Sri Ramakrishna.
Swami Vivekananda describes Sri Ramakrishna as ‘kapaala mochana’ – meaning ‘one who can re-write one’s fate. Sri Ramakrishna considered himself as a devotee, follower of the Lord. He disliked others addressing him by various superior terms such as Guru, Baba, Kartha, etc. Yet, he himself said ‘ami karmanaasaa’ closely resembles a Bengali translation of what Sri Krishna said ‘sarva paapebhyo mokshayishyaami’ – ‘Oh! Devotee! I shall release you from all sins.’
In essence, what Sri Ramakrishna offers as His blessings to all of us is, “Oh, man! Do not see the results of your actions, but look at my compassion”. Without having simple faith in these words of Sri Ramakrishna, many people think only of their sins and weaknesses in delusion all the time. A dust fallen into fire will be burnt; but placing it voluntarily in our eyes will create distress. Similarly accommodating the pressure of our sins into our minds will give agony.
Before the Lord’s compassion, as Vaishnava women saint Andal says, “all our sins will become ‘like dust in the fire’; or like Mahakavi Subramaniya Bharathi says ‘like dew drops before the Sun.’ When the ever compassionate Sri Ramakrishna is around, who is more than our dear mother, let us not aimlessly wander here and there in search of peace.
Sri Ramakrishna is present even today amidst us as Nithya Kalpataru ready to give Himself to us. We should have faith as ‘I too have a place under the ever present Kalpataru Tree called Sri Ramakrishna’.
Every devotee of Sri Ramakrishna should stand firmly committed to that Faith.
May this be a New Year message for us from The Great Kalpataru!