Omkara: The Guru

This month brings the solemn Utsava of Gurupoornima. Traditionally Ashadhi Poornima is celebrated as Gurupoornima because Sri Veda Vyasa was born on this day. It was Veda Vyasa who by establishing the Guru - Parampara protected the Vedic knowledge. Sanatana Dharma based on the Vedic vision is the life center of Bharat. Thus, this work of Veda Vyasa was a great work in the protection of the nation and its ethos. This is the day when we worship our Guru, offer ourselves for the work of Guru, to lead life in the direction shown by the Guru, perpetuating the Guru-Parampara.

Swami Vivekananda had said, “Each nation has a message to deliver, a mission to fulfil, a destiny to accomplish.” The mission of India has been to guide the humanity in spirituality - that is acquiring the vision of Oneness (as enunciated in the Vedas) and evolving a social order based on this vision of Oneness. It is the plan of the Divine that mankind should evolve in this direction. In this divine plan of evolution of mankind Bharat has a special role to play. Thus working for national regeneration is working for fulfilling the Divine plan - doing Ishvara’s work. This national regeneration is possible only when the Hindu society is united and is aware of its purpose.

Vivekananda Kendra, a spiritually oriented organisation is working for national regeneration. In national regeneration- Ishvara’s work- only Ishvara can be the guide, the Guru. Mananeeya Sri Eknathji, the founder of Vivekananda Kendra did not project either himself as the Guru of the Kendra nor did he even ask to consider Swami Vivekananda as Guru. He established Om as Guru in Vivekananda Kendra. Why?

Swami Vivekananda had said, “The national union in India must be the gathering of scattered spiritual forces whose hearts beat to the same spiritual tune.” It means bringing those people together whose spiritual views are the same. What is the way of bringing these forces together? He further gave his idea, “We must have a temple, for with Hindus, religion must come first. Then, you may say, all sects will quarrel about it. But we will make a non-sectarian temple, having only “Om” as the symbol, the greatest symbol of any sect. If there is any sect here, which believes that “Om” ought not to be the symbol, it has no right to call itself Hindu….Secondly in connection with this temple there should be an institution to train teachers who must go about preaching religion and giving secular education to our people… Then the work will extend through these teachers and preachers, and gradually we shall have similar temples in other places, until we have covered the whole of India. That is my plan. It may appear gigantic but it is much needed. You may ask, where is the money. Money is not needed…Where are men? That is the question. Men, men, these are wanted: everything else will be ready, but strong, vigorous, believing young men, sincere to the backbone, are wanted.”

It was this message that fascinated Eknathji. So when destiny guided him to the work of Vivekananda Rock Memorial and later Vivekananda Kendra, he chose Omkara as the Guru of this Punya Karyam. Why Omkara is accepted by all? Why is Omkara chanted in every auspicious Karya, before any Mantra? From Omkara come all the names and forms. Some say Omkara is only Pratika - a symbol. But that is not so. Its chanting itself has an impact at all levels whether one knows the meaning of Omkara or not. That way, all forms of God are also Pratika till one realizes Ishvara.

Ishvara is invoked in many names and forms. Generally everything is identified by a name. Name denotes a person and a person is known by his name. In ‘name and person’ evolves a Vachya-vachak sambandha - relationship. Vachya and Vachak become one. But this relationship is created by man. The day a child is named, slowly he and others start associating the child with that name. The names of Ishvara are like that. Those names are meaningful only to those who have accepted Ishvara in that particular form and name. Thus the name ‘Shiva’ means so much for a Shaivaite but it may not produce the same elevating vibrations in the mind of a person who does not have devotion for Shiva or do not know that Shiva is a name of God. Thus in all names and forms of Ishwara this vachya-vachak sambandha is created by man.

The quest of our Rishis was that, ‘Is there a name of God which can produce the elevating vibrations even if the person uttering that name does not know its meaning? Is there a name of Ishvara where Vachya-Vachak relationship is not created by man but exists on its own?’ In other words the quest was for a name of Ishvara which is not man-specific. Our Rishis discovered that such a name is Om. It is the primal sound, the first vibration from which came whole creation. So the Yoga Shastra says- ‘Tasya Vachakah Pranavaha - Ishvara is expressed as Omkar’. Omkar is called as Pranava because it is by chanting of this Omkar that the Ishvara is invoked intensely (prakarshena nooyate iti pranavah). So the Bhagavad Gita says, “ Pranava Sarvavedeshu - The best in the Vedas is Pranava”. It was Vyasa who found ways to preserve the Vedas and the names of Ishvara which are not bound by time-space or human beings. It is this work of Vyasa - the mission of India to evolve an ideal social order based on the Vedic principles - that is to be carried forward in the interest of the humankind.

Even the name ‘Vivekananda Kendra’ indicates why Eknathji chose Om as the Guru of Vivekananda Kendra. Eknathji explains in his Sadhana of Service, “We have accepted the name of Vivekananda for two reasons. Firstly, on the occasion of the birth centenary of this noble patriot of our Motherland we have erected the Rock Memorial and this Kendra is just the second phase of the same activity. Secondly, Vivekananda’s name stands for universality which transcends all parochialism. His mission is as expansive as the sky. His words of wisdom still ring in our ears though more than hundred years have rolled by. He attempted to unify and utilize the spiritual forces of the monk order. We aspire to make the Kendra as the meeting place for all the multifarious spiritual forces in the country for the cause of the nation. Vivekananda did not preach his own philosophy; he gave the thoughts of the Upanishads. He gave nothing new but he poured the new life and vigour into the age-old thoughts to enlighten the new age.” As Eknathji envisaged the Kendra as the meeting point of various spiritual forces, he chose Om as our Guru. What was that new life given by Swami Vivekananda to the age old thoughts?

Mananeeya Sri Parameswaranji, President, Vivekananda Kendra, wrote very beautifully in the Introduction for the book ‘Story of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial as Told by Eknathji’ that, “During the course of his campaign for the Rock Memorial he had realized that political factionalism and religious sectarianism, had always prevented people from coming together even on issues of national good, about which intrinsically they had no conflicting opinion. Politics being the pursuit of power, could be an instrument of division. But Eknathji was painfully aware that even spiritual movements degenerated into rival sects. As a keen student of history, he found that this had become a national defect with the Hindus and unless it was overcome national reconstruction would remain a mirage. Therefore, he encouraged an organization which would be meticulously kept beyond politics and sectarianism.

‘That was his vision of Vivekananda Kendra. After a careful study of Swamiji’s life and thought, he was convinced that Swami Vivekananda also stood committed to such a non-sectarian ideal.
“Such a non-partisan, non- sectarian organization could be built up only around a great ideal. Perusing the entire thought of Swami Vivekananda, with a thrill in a heart, Eknathji discovered that the magic word will be worship--the worship of Man is truly the worship of God. That was the unique contribution of Swamiji. He did not teach us to seek God. “by retreat to the cave, but by a return to the society” So Eknathji wanted to raise an organization around this central theme “worship of man is worship of God”… Spirituality must be made vibrant. It should be selfless action, rather than simple meditation.”

Swami Vivekananda told us to worship the Virat in the society. He said, “What vain gods shall we go after and yet cannot worship the god that we see all around us, the Virat (Janata Janardan)? When we have worshipped this, we shall be able to worship all other gods.” The best way to see God around is the Upasana of Omkara. Omkara is all inclusive, everything comes from Om. Like Dattatreya who had 24 Gurus from Nature, the Kendra workers by accepting Omkara as Guru strive to evolve themselves by acquiring humility to learn from everything and everyone. Accepting Om as Guru, doing Guru-pooja, is thus re-dedicating oneself to the work for national regeneration by making the Kendra a non-sectarian and a meeting point of all positive forces.
To sum up, Omkara is Guru. The upasana of Omkara means two things - to seek God in society by doing service, and to realize God within by excelling in one’s own duty.
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