AKBAR AND BIRBAL
Birbal was a minister in the court of Akbar. Birbal, apart from his sharp intellect, was also a devotee of Sri Rama. Akbar had a special regard for Birbal. Akbar used to openly ask Birbal to clarify his impulsive - and very often strange doubts. Birbal never failed to give an immediate and a fitting reply to such questions. Wherever Akbar went, he used to take Birbal along with him.
During one such instance, when they travelled for some official purpose, they had to take a route through a dense forest. In the course of the journey, both were totally exhausted and famished. So they decided to rest under the shade of a tree for a while before continuing their journey. Since Akbar was very hungry, he wanted to look around the place to see if he can find a house to get some food. He induced Birbal to follow suit. But Birbal who was in the midst of Rama Nama Japam (Repetition of Rama Nama), turned down Akbar's request.
Akbar said to Birbal, 'Mere chanting of the names of the Lord would not fetch you food. You have to put in your efforts.... You cannot achieve anything without self effort...'
Akbar left Birbal in the pursuit of pacifying his belly. In a little while he spotted a house. The inmates of the house were overjoyed to see their King coming to their very doorstep for food. They treated him to the best of their capacity.
Akbar finished his meal and took a little food for Birbal too and left the house to meet Birbal. He met Birbal and gave him the food.
'See Birbal, I told you... I took some efforts for the food and I got it. You were just sitting and chanting Rama Nama , and you did not get any food.'
Birbal ignored his scoffing and partook the food given by Akbar. After he finished the meal, he looked up at Akbar and said,
'I have just now experienced the power of Rama nama, like never before.You are the ruler of the land. But today even the King had to beg for food. But you look at me. I was just chanting Rama Nama here and the Rama Nama made the king himself to get me food, that too by begging. So I got the food, just by sitting here and chanting Rama nama without any other special efforts. Such is the power of Rama Nama!!'
The Lord's name is the one aspect of HIS that we can keep with us and draw strength whenever we wish. This is why nama japa is considered important in spiritual life. There is glory in the Lord's name - the Lord's form is with HIM but we can hold on to HIS name,just like any object whose form always remains with the object but its name can be with us. But why is name so important?
Experience shows that if we do not know the name of an object, then, even if that object is in front of us, we do not recognise it for what it is worth. For example, will the gift of a diamond ring give us the joy of possessing one if we had not known what it was? Only by knowing its value would it thrill us. What made the difference? The name! So the name has the power of manifesting the real worth of an object.
Often, the form or image of an object is brought to memory only when its name is heard or remembered. Even if the object is not physically present, its name or remembrance has the power to project it before the mind's eye, is it not? Conversely, even if a person is right in front of us, but if we are unable to remember his/her name, it means he/she is far from our thoughts. So if we want someone to be close to us, it is important to remember his/her name. Same applies to chanting and remembering the Lord's name.
The Lord's name can be the greatest support at all times. HIS name has the power to melt HIS heart and grace us with HIS blessings.If we keep chanting HIS name with devotion, HE will have to come to us, just like a loving mother who quickly responds to the call of her beloved child and runs to embrace her child. Likewise, when we sincerely call the all loving compassionate Lord, will HE not come running to us, embrace us and grace us?
When Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated his last words were 'Rama, Rama.' Just a few months before he died he said, "Even if I am killed, I will not give up repeating the names of Ram and Rahim, which mean to me the same God. With these names on my lips, I will die cheerfully." He also said - "One may repeat any mantra one pleases. I have suggested Ramanama as I have been familiar with it since childhood, and as it is my constant support in my struggles. One must be completely absorbed in whatever mantra one selects. The mantra becomes one’s staff of life and carries one through every ordeal." .
Like Gandhi, we can choose any name of the Lord as our everyday mantra. The word mantra means to protect the mind. "Manas" means the mind and "Tra" means to protect. Mantras are one of the many tools for spiritual transformation. It can be chanted by anyone, at anytime, it costs nothing, and is incredibly effective. Sage Parashara, considered to be the father of Vedic astrology, frequently recommends mantra recitation in his classic text, Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, where he says by constantly remembering the Lord and chanting HIS name, even the effects of planets are nullified. Likewise the benefits of chanting the Lords name are numerous.
Here are some examples whereby chanting the Lord's name has brought about numerous benefits for the devotees in all ways:
1. Sita braved the taunts, insults and tortures of the ogresses in Lanka. What was it that gave her the stamina? It was Rama-Nama and nothing else.
2. Of Hanuman it is said 'Roma-Romamu- Rama- Namame,' every single hair recited 'Rama.' His tail was a formidable weapon, for it was filled with the might of the Name. He is also called 'Sundara' or 'the Charming One', the Beautiful One'. Why? Because he had Rama installed in his heart and the splendour and beauty of Rama was reflected in his face. This made him charming to behold. He was also a 'sweet companion' because he spoke of only Rama and sang only Rama's glory.
3. Draupadi, the Queen of the Pandavas, whose story is one long series of humiliations and calamities, was rescued from dishonour and distress time aftertime. Rukmini and Sathyabhama were curious to know the nature of the devotion that could draw such bountiful Grace of the Lord on her in such a continous stream. So Krishna took both of them to Draupadi when she was drying her hair after a bath and asked his queens to comb her hair which had got into tangle. When they did so, they heard from the tip of each hair the sound of Nama-japa 'Krishna! Krishna! Krishna! Krishna!' The Name of the Lord had impregnated each single hair of her head ! That was the extent of her devotion to the Lord.
4. Thyagaraja started Nama Japa of Sri Rama in his twentieth year. He recited it ninety six crores of times and took 21 years and 15 days for the vow to fructify. As a result, he had the Darshan of Sri Rama. 'The letters of the Nama had taken shape', he says about this experience.
5. Meera quaffed the cup of poison with the Name on her tongue, and it turned into nectar.
6. Namasmarana saved Prahlada from the agony of torture: the elephants brought to crush him turned back when they saw the boy! Fire could not singe him! The rocks on which he was thrown from great heights could not bruise him! No poison could affect him.
So why dont we start doing it right away? Keep chanting the Lords name at all times and see the difference it brings to our lives!