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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Why worship feet?

The focus on worshiping the Guru's feet is unmistakable in Hinduism - the following are a few examples:
  • Saint Tulsidas starts his popular Hanuman Chalisa with "sri guru charana saroja raja nija mana mukura sudhar" (Having cleaned the mirror of my mind with the dust from the lotus feet of my Guru..)
  • Adi Shankaracharya wrote an entire Guru Paduka Stotram, a collection of eight slokas describing the greatness of the holy sandals of the Guru.
  • Seemingly unsatiated with this, Adi Shankara went on to write the Guru Ashtakam, another eight powerful slokas that ask "Of what consequence are any earthly possessions or achievements, if your mind is not riveted in devotion to the lotus feet of Guru". 
  • The Ramayana story of Bharata installing Sri Rama's sandals on the throne of Ayodhya for 14 years


I always wondered - why worship sandals, of all things, the dustiest, lowest part of the Guru? By looking at sandals or feet, it's hard to even tell who they belong to - how can they inspire devotion? Is sandal worship a conspiracy by Gurus to establish their unquestionable supremacy over the disciples? Why not worship the face of the Guru, the whole form, something the Guru created like a book, or an abstract symbol like Om? Of all things that can be worshiped, why feet / sandals? Why should educated people stoop so low just because they respect someone?

I wondered in this manner for several years.


Recently a series of events took place in my life, which made me experience the sensibility, the beauty in this mode of worship. I understood that just thinking of Someone's feet can move you to tears and untold joy. That you find it impossible to think of Them as a mere human form. The only way you experience Them is as an all-encompassing, all-powerful presence, truly one with the Universe, as Truth itself, and you feel blessed to be able to behold their footprints in this insignificant, transient lifespan of yours.

Every time you touch those Footprints, you feel your existence being cleaned up. You experience Them as truly formless - as the air that courses through your body, as the divine sound permeating creation, as Grace itself. Their current form is incidental and of little significance; They walked the earth much before you came and will walk it forever after you leave. So the most tangible thing about them that you can physically hang on to are their footprints.

Further, you realize that your Guru is a continuity, not separate from the series of enlightened beings before them. It is as though a magnificent form, a coalescence of all Gurus since the beginning of time, the embodiment of all knowledge, love and compassion in creation, formless, limitless, and resplendent beyond imagination, stands on top of the two footprints that you worship. How can you dare to look up? It is not even the universe that stands on these footprints. The universe is a mere child's play for the Being, the Cosmic Energy that offered these footprints, with infinite compassion, to help an insignificant being like you dissolve. What pride can you have in front of that Being? Is your education, money, beauty, fame, intelligence, strength, or anything else pertinent in anyway before that Being? If your goal is to dissolve, and an invaluable opportunity to do so is being offered to you, is there anything more sensible to do than to shed all pretenses, all prejudices and offer yourself 100% at those feet?

Fortunate are those who naturally bow down at the Guru's feet with the necessary love, humbleness and awareness. But even for doubters like me, there is hope. Guru's grace can transcend doubt and bestow a beautiful experience on you. The following verse was born of Guru's grace and burst forth as a song.  
Guru paadam, ahamkaara naashakam
samsaara saagara tharaNOpaayam, sarva rOgaanthakam
manO-vaak-kaaya-karma puneetham, paramoushadham
Guru paadam, ahamkaara naashakam






1 comment:


  1. What an awesome post, I just read it from start to end. Learned something new after a long time.


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