Sabari – the greatest symbol of pure devotion

sabariRecently a FB friend asked me: “What are god’s likes and dislikes? How to please god? I want to be god’s greatest devotee…I would want to surrender to god” I told him the story of Sabari.
Sabari was a woman saint in Ramayan period. She belonged to the hunter’s tribe. She used to pick fresh, tasty fruits and keep them for Sage Matangha. Pleased by her selfless service, before his death, Matangha told her: “One day Lord Rama will come to this ashram (hermitage) and bless you.”
Sabari in full faith decides to wait for Rama’s arrival, although she did not have the faintest idea of how the Lord would look, how He would come, etc. She waited for his arrival for 13 long years.
Every day she used to sweep the pathway for several miles and she would collect fresh fruits which were found in the forest, holding them as an offering, should the Lord manifest. She cleared pebbles and thorns in the path. She walked through the forest and removed overhanging creepers and briars, for she imagined Rama would not have combed his hair and it might get caught. She broke the lumps of earth, for she feared the soles of Rama will be hurt when he walks over them.
At last, Rama and Lakshman visited ashram. When Sabari saw them, they were dressed like hermits and carried bows and arrows. No known form of Lord or Prince. But she realized the ecstasy brewing up deep inside. She asked: “Where are you coming from? What are your names?”
Rama replied, smilingly, “Mother! We are coming from Ayodhya and we are residing in the forest, I am Rama, this is my brother Lakshman”.
At this, Sabari exclaimed, “My long cherished desire has been fulfilled, I have been waiting for your arrival, Rama, day and night”
The old woman was overwhelmed with joy. She washed the feet of the prince. She had nothing to offer to Ram. Tears trickled from her eyes. She was about to go to collect fruits that day. Suddenly she remembered about the wild fruits that she had collected the other day.
Sabari was not sure whether the fruits were tasty, sour or poisonous. She wanted to offer the sweetest among the fruits to Rama. So she tasted them first a little and threw away all that was sour and not good. And then she offered him sweet fruits only. The Lord heartily accepted them. “Mother! These fruits are as sweet as your own heart,” Rama said.
Lakshman was initially shocked to see the old lady offering fruits that she herself had tasted before offering to Rama. However, Rama was extremely happy to accept the sincere offerings, and blessed the old lady for her piety.
Lakshman, with tears rolling down his cheeks, was silently observing the pure love between Lord and the great devotee. Until now he used to think that there was nobody on the earth who loved Ram as dearly as he did. But today, Sabari proved him wrong.
“Lord I have no more desire. For what shall I live on? I survived until now for the darshan of Rama. I have had the darshan now, save me by merging this life at your Lotus feet,” Sabari said. After this divine incident, Sabari attained Moksha (liberation).
The story of Sabari teaches us about the innocent devotion to the lord. It shows us that no matter our caste or creed, it is always possible to attain the Lord through pure devotion. There are no rules of etiquette for devotion. Devotion is nothing but unconditional love of god for its own sake. The devotee does not expect anything in return for his love. He/she is ready to sacrifice everything for love of God.
“If one offers me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” says Krishna in Bhagavad Gita (9-26). Krishna says that He will accept anything if offered with devotion. God doesn’t have any likes and dislikes. “I am equal to all living entities, no one is disliked or favored by me” he said.
“The story of Rama teaches us that life is all about struggle, hardship and misery. We are made to believe that purpose of life is to seek pleasure, comforts and enjoyments. And we really miss the real happiness that comes out of the struggles in real life. With all the hardships, Rama was always smiling. Rama was so happy that when others look at him they become happy too! We are not able to look at him now. But the very thought of Rama should bring in the happiness, love and un-shakable devotion to the existence.” I wrote to him.
Rama is the divine pride of India. Rama is not a religious symbol. He was the very embodiment of spontaneous surging of love. The love for Rama transcends religion, caste, creed and race. I would like to invite you to listen to a beautiful Sanskrit song written by Yusuf Ali Kecheri (A Muslim) beautiful voice by KJ Yesudas (A Christian) and beautiful music by Naushad Ali (A Muslim) – those who fight and kill for religions should listen to it…

Udaylal Pai
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