From This Ocean To That by Achyut Gopal Das


A few days ago, there was our annual Ratha Yatra of Lord Jagannath in Panjim, the capital city of Goa. Lord Jagannath rode majestically in His majestic chariot in the most majestic street of Goa. It was a beautiful procession with devotees chanting and dancing enthusiastically for the pleasure of the Lord. Towards the end of the procession, it started to rain very heavily. Most devotees were still continuing to chant and dance undettered by the heavy down pour. But, I chose to shelter myself under the umbrella of one of my devotee friends. As we were standing by a tree and waiting for the rains to subside, I noticed the waters of the adjacent Mandovi river. It appeared very turbulent and agitated. It was a little fearful to look at. I was thinking, "If waters of a small river can be so agitating and fearful, how much more fearful and scary it will be to be in between the ocean with rain and storm in full swing." Even if you are in a huge ship still, in front of the massive ocean, the ship will seem powerless and weak, just like a small matchbox floating in the ocean. Ocean journey in a ship may seem fun to the mind but once you enter the waters, you will realize that it is not that much fun.

I continued to ponder, "If the ordinary ocean of this world can be so scary, how much more scary and terrible will the ocean of birth and death - the ocean of Samsara (samsara sagara) be." The height is that we are amidst this cruel ocean of miseries without even a boat. We are being tossed up and down, smashed again and again by the dangerously dreadful waves and being forced to drink it's salty waters while trying to single handedly swim in it. This bhava-sagara, is infested with sharks, whales and other dangerous aquatics who are constantly attacking us, ripping us, piercing  and tormenting our hearts with fear and anxiety. How can anyone be happy and peaceful being plunged in this great ocean of sorrow? Not possible. And how can anyone even hope to cross this insurmountable ocean of material existence (bhava-sagar)? Even the best of best swimmers with high levels of positive attitude, enthusiasm and self confidence cannot safely cross this ocean.

The only hope is, if someone who is himself free from the clutches of this ocean becomes merciful on us and force lifts us from this mess. And that person is none other than the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna. Therefore, Lord Chaitanya teaches us how we should earnestly cry to the Lord for His mercy in the mood of surrender and helplessness through the medium of this beautiful prayer -

ayi nanda-tanuja kińkaraḿ
patitaḿ māḿ viṣame bhavāmbudhau
kṛpayā tava pāda-pańkaja-
sthita-dhūlī-sadṛśaḿ vicintaya

“ O My Lord, O Krsna, son of Maharaja Nanda, I am Your eternal servant, but because of My own fruitive acts I have somehow or the other fallen into this horrible ocean of nescience. Now, please be causelessly merciful to Me and pick me up from this terrible ocean and place me as a particle of dust at Your lotus feet."

Adi Shankaracharya also offers a similar prayer in his poetic composition to Lord Narasimha - 

dinam vilokaya vibho karuna-nidhe mam
lakshmi-nrisimha mama dehi karavalambam

"O all-powerful, ocean of mercy, please cast Your glance upon me. I am bewildered, helplessly sinking in the sea of samsara. You descended to remove the distress of your devotee Prahlada Maharaja. O Lakshmi-Nrisimha, please bless me with the touch of Your lotus hands."

For such a sincere devotee, Lord Krishna promises in the Bhagvat-gita 12.7 that He will personally come in His Garuda carrier and deliver such a devotee -

teṣām ahaṁ samuddhartā
bhavāmi na cirāt pārtha
mayy āveśita-cetasām

"For those who have fixed their mind upon Me, O son of Pṛthā, for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death."

The problem with all of us is that we don't understand the precarious nature of our condition in this world. The illusion is too strong and deep. We don't understand the seriousness of taking to spiritual life and getting out of this terrible ocean of Samsara. We take spiritual life too lightly and Maya too lightly. Srila Prabhupada, the founder acharya of ISKCON would always tell his disciples, "Your main problem is that you'll are not sufficiently fearful of Maya." We don't realise the meaning of taking birth in this world again - we don't realise that this casual, light attitude of ours is going to cost us a heavy price. What can be said of our misfortune and our obstinacy in enjoying the little pieces of bait offered by Maya in this terrible ocean and rejecting the merciful hand held out by the Supreme Lord!

The Lord and His devotees are time and again appealing to us to leave this salty material ocean of pure miseries (samsara sagara) and enter the nectarean spiritual ocean of pure bliss by embracing the path of Bhakti (bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu). It is up to us to awaken our good sense and accept this proposal and shift from "this ocean to that".
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  • HK..A very nice article. However just had one question reading this statement.... The problem with all of us is that we don't understand the precarious nature of our condition in this world....
    In today’s world, while lot of people have diff sorts of issues, quite a number of people seem to be somewhat satisfied as well (even though at a material level)...But their thinking is if they have everything needed, why should they bother about spirituality....How do we understand this ? Does having material comforts actually delay the process of realisation or true nature of this material world ?
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