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Happy Sankranti: Inwards and Godwards

Excerpts from Bhagawan Baba’s Divine Discourses

The Sun appears cool
The day gets shortened
And is made pleasant by chill wind
On the fields lit by moonlight
The crows caw over the grain heaps
While the farmers sing in joy
Over the golden harvest
The flowers express their joy
By putting forth their petals
While in every home, filled with grain,
The people welcome the advent of Sankranthi
(Telugu Poem)

Sankranti means 'sacred change'! It is an ancient festival indeed, observed with gaiety to celebrate the glory of the Sun God and the joys of reaping a golden harvest. But religious festivals all over the world are observed for the purpose of raising humanity to a 'higher’ level of consciousness and conduct. And so it is with Sankranti too. This is the period for cherishing sacred thoughts and performing holy deeds. It is the time when the inward journey toward a pure and unsullied heart is made. It is the day on which the intellect is turned firmly toward the Atma for Self-realization.

Sankranti heralds the entry of the Sun into the house of Capricorn, and thus the beginning of the Sun’s northward journey (Uttharaayana). The Vedas declare that the period when the Sun takes its northward path is sacred. The scriptures have declared also that those who pass on during the Uttharaayana have no rebirth. Capricorn is a sign of peace and contentment; this period thus conferring a kind of mental and physical peace. The sages and seers of ancient times used to wait for the arrival of the Uttharaayana to embark on their sacred tasks. The great warrior Bhishma, lying on a bed of arrows, waited for 56 days for the advent of Uttharaayana so as to pass on during this auspicious time!

The Sun symbolises the vision of man, and the northward movement of the Sun is a call to human beings to turn their vision towards that which is cool, peaceful and unchanging. The north is represented by Himaachala. Hima means snow. It is pure, untainted and extremely cool. All these endow it with the quality of Prashaanthi (perfect peace). Achala means that which is steady and unshakeable. Himaachala does not refer to the physical Himaalayan region. It represents that which is cool, peaceful and steady. From today the Sun is said to move towards such a state.

This means that human beings should direct their vision inwards. This is the lesson taught by the Sun. Uttharaayana is an occasion to develop inward vision
Man's vision should not be confined solely to the external objects and worldly things which are transient and perishable. Man has been given this vision so that he may see the pure, sacred Divine consciousness abiding in his heart. The northward motion of the Sun is the appropriate occasion for developing this inward vision.

The Sun shines in every human body illuminating the six chakras (spiritual centres in the body). Of these chakras, two are most important: the heart (hridaya) chakra and the crown chakra (sahasrara chakra). The heart chakra has eight petals. God is the Lord of the eight-petaled heart chakra. These eight petals are regarded as eight consorts of the Lord. In this context, the Lord is adored in the form of the Sun. The world cannot survive without the Sun. The solar system is derived from the Sun. Hence, the Sun is worshipped as divine. The ancient sages adored the eight-petaled divine centre in the heart and thereby reached the crown chakra and enjoyed supreme bliss.

Sankranti enables human beings to discover that enduring bliss cannot be secured through physical pleasures. It has to be discovered that the source of this bliss is within! Like a man who, carrying his spectacles on his forehead, searches everywhere for them and discovers to his joy that they have been with him all along. The Divine is not anywhere else. It is enshrined in one's heart. Hence, the individual who seeks the Divine within his/her heart is redeemed. He/she then attains liberation.

All external spiritual exercises are of temporary value. They should be internalized to experience lasting bliss. All mental exercises also leave the heart unaffected. In the nine paths of devotion, beginning with listening to sacred things and ending with total surrender of the self (Atma-nivedanam), the last is the most important. After total surrender (Atma-nivedanam), there is no need for any other effort. Sankranti gives this call for total surrender.

Sankranthi promotes mental transformation. It illumines the minds of people. It induces the unfoldment of inner feelings. It brings about the manifestation of the invisible Atma within everyone. Sankranthi is pregnant with such immense significance. It influences not only the mind but also the powers of nature. Nature is a projection of the mind. The world is rooted in the mind (Manomoolam idam jagath). When the mind is turned toward the heart and the heart is filled with the Divine, the mind will cease to be a source of trouble. The mind is the master of the senses. When the senses are controlled, the mind is under control. Only the master of the mind can attain Madhava (the Divine, another name for Krishna). This is the royal road for the spiritual aspirant to realise the Supreme.

It is not enough, therefore, merely to recognise the northward movement of the Sun in this period. Every effort should be made to direct the vision inwards towards the pure, sacred Indwelling Self. For mankind, the Sun is the most important entity in creation. When the Sun himself is proceeding northwards, why should not humanity direct its vision Godward? Human beings today are a prey to many troubles because their vision is diverted towards ungodly objects.

This month, known as Pushyamaasa (according to the Hindu almanac) is noted for the peacefulness, prosperity and joy which it brings with it. Hence it is regarded with special distinction. Unless men give up their bad thoughts and actions, the month, however great in itself, will be of no avail. The observance of Uttharaayana should be marked by spiritual transformation of the people and not by lavish feasting and revelry. Sankranti is a kind of family festival. Yes. This is so. But the whole world is one family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam). The festival relates to the entire world. It is not confined to one's kith and kin. Sankranti is related to the entire mankind. This auspicious day heralds the conferment of many worldly and spiritual blessings on humanity. Whether people realize it or not, Sankranti promotes a feeling of happiness in one and all.