As per the authority of Padma Puran, there are four bonafide sampradayas or the schools of devotional service, adopting any one of them and under the guidance of a completely perfect devotee of Supreme Personality of Godhead, one can become a perfected individual in the science of God consciousness.
Out of the four, Sri Sampradaya is the sampraday which originates from the eternal consort of Narayan, Srimati Lakshmi Devi. The main Acharya or the central guide of this school of devotional service is Sripad Ramanujacharya.
Sripad Ramanujacharya is the founder Acharya of Sri Sampradaya. He appeared in this material world in the year 1017 A.D. in Shriperumbudur. His parents were Asuri Keshava and Kantimati. He appeared in this material world on Panchami tithi of Shukla Paksha of Chaitra, four days prior to Rama Navami, the festival of appearance day of Lord Sri Ramachandra. At the small age of 16, he was married.
Just 4 months had passed after his marriage, his father departed from this mortal world, leaving him alone with responsibilities of the family. He moved to the holy city of Kanchi afterwards and lived a simple living in the city of temples and saints.
There, he enrolled himself in the school of Yadava Prakash, a devout follower of Sripad Shankaracharya, the propounder of advaita philosophy, deriving the conclusion that the soul is indifferent from the supreme lord.
This philosophy of advaita was propounded in order to rescue the Vedic literature which was being discarded in huge numbers due to the advent and preaching of atheistic philosophy by Lord Buddha, who specifically came to mislead the people and asking them to reject Vedic literatures. Since people became engaged in sacrificing the animals in Kaliyuga, which is forbidden, Lord Buddha preached the message of so called Jiva daya and asked them to reject Vedic literature.
Since it became a mass movement as Lord Buddha was an incarnation of the supreme lord himself, the Vedic literatures came to a stage of extinction. To preserve them, the lord ordered his devotee Lord Shiva to go on the earth, protect the Vedas and misinterpret them and preach the nonsense philosophy of Advaita. Since then, the philosophy was accepted by masses and after the passing away of Sripad Shankaracharya, his disciples followed his so called footsteps, despite his last instruction, “Bhaja Govindam! Bhaja Govindam! Bhaja Govindam Mudha Mate!” It translates to “O rascals! Worship Lord Govinda! Worship Lord Govinda! Worship Lord Govinda!”
Sripada Ramanujacharya admitted himself to the school and soon became a very sincere student and hence, got special space in the heart of his teacher. One day, after the class, he was giving massage to his teacher, when one of his disciples asked him a question from the Chandogya Upanishad. The teacher gave the explanation that the eyes of the lord resemble butts of a monkey. Hearing this nonsense explanation, hot tears emanated from the eyes of Sri Ramanuja and fell on the thigh of his teacher. When he felt the heat, he asked Ramanuja about the problem to which he humble pleaded that his teacher had given a senseless explanation. Enraged by his wisdom, he asked ramanuja to explain and he very humbly explained, “The two eyes of the Supreme are as lovely as two lotuses that are blossomed by the rays of the sun”.
His teacher scolded him for being impudent and disrespectful towards Shankara’s philosophy and asked him to correct himself. Being extremely humble, he didn’t say anything. Similar events again happened when he refuted the nonsense commentaries of Shankaracharya.
Being completely enraged, his teacher asked him to leave his class and start a school of his own. He very soon did the same and soon, many people became his followers.
Being envious, his teacher made a plan to kill him by taking him on a pilgrimage, which he somehow escaped and came back to Kanchi.
When they came back and saw him living, they became afraid and stopped further plans. One day, a saint visited his temple for alms. He was Sripad Alabandaru Yamunacharya. Sripad Ramanuja, in the course of his discussion, asked him to accept him as his servant. Yamunacharya agreed and blessed him.
Afterwards, he started preaching in a stronger manner and soon turned all the people into cult of Vaishnavism. Even his teacher Yadav became his follower.
He lived at Shri Rangam, serving the Deity of Narayana and imparting enlightenment to whoever came to him until he was 120 years old. One day while worshipping the Deity, he prayed, “dear God, whatever I could do to preserve the essence of the Vedas, to uplift the fallen souls, and to establish the shelter of your lotus feet as the supreme goal in life, I have done. Now my body has grown tired after many years in this world. Kindly allow me to depart from this mortal world and enter your supreme abode.”
With this prayer Ramanuja returned to the assembly of his disciples and announced his desire to depart from this world. Thrown into an ocean of grief, the disciples clasped the feet of their guru and petitioned him to remain with them. It is unbearable for us to conceive of the disappearance of your divine form, which is the supreme purifier, the abode of all that is good, the destroyer of all afflictions, and the fountain of unlimited joy. Out of pity for your children, please stay with us for some time longer.”
Ramanuja remained on Earth for three more days. To appease their afflicted hearts. Ramanuja spoke his last instructions to those who were most near and dear to him: “Always remain in the company of and serve those souls devoted to Godhead just as you would serve your own spiritual preceptor. Have faith in the teachings of the Vedas and in the words of the great saints. Never become the slave of your senses: always strive to conquer the three great enemies of self-realization: lust, anger, and greed. Worship Narayana and take pleasure in uttering the Holy Names of God as your only refuge. Sincerely serve the Devotees of Godhead: by service to the great Devotees, the highest service is done and one quickly gains the supreme mercy. Remembering these things you should live happily in this world for the attainment of the next.” With these departing words, Ramanuja, keeping his head on the lap of Govinda and his mind fixed in spiritual trance, relinquished his mortal body and entered the realm of Vaikuntha.
One day during the evening dark and dense clouds were overcast on Shirdi. The wind was blowing and the clouds were roaring and sparkling with thunder. Torrential rain began and the water was evident everywhere. All the animals, birds and residents of Shirdi, became frightened and started to gather in the mosque. In spite of seeking help from all the other Gurus in Shirdi, none could come for help. Therefore, everybody requested Baba to do something and save them from the havoc of nature.
To allay the problem of devotees Sai Baba came out and looked towards the roaring clouds. He said them to calm down by pointing towards the clouds. After sometime the rain became slow and the storm calmed down. The moon was visible in the sky and all the people were happy to see the miracle of Baba. The faith of devotees in Sai baba grew stronger and they understood that He is the incarnation of God. One who bowed down and come to his shelter he will surely bless him. The sight of Sai Baba can grant all the wishes and consequently help them to become desire less.
After the recent incident where the Bihar board topper ‘Ruby Rai’ could not write about Tulsidas ji. She just wrote ‘Tulsidas ji, pranam’ and left the entire nation shocked. This incident evoked Shubhpuja to make the oblivious youth aware about the ancient sage ‘Goswami Tusidas’ and his revering work.
Goswami Tulsidas ji was born to Atamaram Dube and Hulsi in Rajpur, Uttar Pradesh in 1532 AD. Since birth he has been an unusual being who was born with all the teeth taking almost a year in his mother’s womb. It was said that he was born during the asterism mula (मूल नक्षत्र), which is considered unlucky for the parents. The solution was to either leave the child or not to look at him for eight years.
His mother died after few days of his birth and the father was helpless to support his own son, thus the father abandoned the child. The boy was referred as ‘Rambola’ since his first word after birth was ‘Rama’. A lady named Chuniya, who was the mother-in-law of the midwife who had helped during the birth of the child, took care of him. Yet this could not last for long and she died after 5 years. Now Rambola was left alone and there was no one to take care of him. He became helpless for food and had to beg from door to door.
Later Narharidas, known to be the descendant of Ramanand took Rambola to Ayodhya, where he stayed for about 10 months and then he shifted to Varanasi. He received his spiritual learning at an early age and got the knowledge of Sanskrit grammar, Hindu literature and philosophy, four Vedas, six Vedangas, Jyotisha from his guru Shesha Sanatana at the Panchaganga Ghat in Varanasi. Throughout these years his master and gurus used to narrate him the Ramayana and it became a part of his daily diet.
After coming back to his home town he married Ratnavali in 1583 and had a son named Tarak. Rambola (Tulsidas) was attached to his family and showered his complete love and care upon them. Seeing the intensity of his care once his wife told him that he should shower this love on God and not only on them. Love for God can help him to fulfill the purpose of his life. Soon after hearing such statements from her wife, Tulsidas left his home and went to Prayag after renouncing his grihstha life.
As the destiny had already decided Tulsidas fate; Lord Hanuman had predicted that a saint named Tulsi will recite the Ramayana in Hanuman’s words. Situations were created and as per the similar planetary positions (the day when Shri Rama was born) on Ram Navami, Tulsidas ji began writing the immortal verse- Ramcharitramanas. Tulsidas expressed his own divine feelings and love for his lord using the lyrical poetry. He completed the holy book in 2 years, 7 months and 26 days, on the anniversary of Rama and Sita ji.
Apart from it, Tulsidas ji wrote many other books like Dohavali (573 miscellaneous Doha and Sortha in Braja and Awadhi), Kavitavali (kavittas in Braja), Gitavali (328 Braja songs divided into seven books), Krishnavali (61 Braja songs for Lord Krishna), and many more.
Tusidas was in direct communication with Lord Rama due to his devotion and bhakti for Hanuman ji. Once Tulsidas expressed his ardent desire to have the pratyaksh darshan of Lord rama. Hanuman assured him that someday Lord will come to bless him in person. One day when Tulsidas ji was sitting on the stairs of river Chitrakoot, after taking bath and preparing sandal paste to apply on his forehead, he found two self illuminated people and a lady coming to him and asked him to apply tilak on his forehead. While he was performing the task Lord Hanuman murmured in his ears-
“Chitrkut ke ghaat par bhayee santan ki bhid, Tulsi daas chandan ghise tilak kare raghubir”
Then it dawned on Tulsidas that the person before him is Lord Rama with Lakshman and Sita ji. He immediately feel on their feet and seek their blessings.
It is said that his end was highly painful and he suffered from boils on his arms. At that time Tulsidas ji wrote Hanuman Bahuk. It is a series to portray the strength, devotion and virtues of Hanuman followed by his humble prayers to cure his problem by seeking His blessings.
Tulsidas ji is an epitome of perfection for the human beings and his love for Lord Rama is beyond expression. His life is an inspiration for today’s man and his teachings help us to get closer to the supreme reality. He said, “Sri Ram is Brahman itself. He is unknowable, unperceivable, beginningless, nonpareil, devoid of transformation, and indivisible. He is that which the Vedas have been describing as ‘neti-neti, not this, not this”. Tulsidas ji taught us the language of love leaving aside all the other barriers and his literary works are a silver lining for the deteriorating society.
The devotees may forget the Lord but the Lord never forgets them. Similarly Sai baba used to remind his devotees of His presence and offered them blessings. Once Babasaheb Tarkhad, who was a ‘prarthana samaji’ earlier was a humble devotee of Sai baba. His wife and son were also surrendered in the worship of Baba and adored Him judiciously.
Once in summers Babasaheb Tarkhad suggested his wife and son to pay a visit to Shirdi for seeking Sai baba’s blessings. The son was doubtful and didn’t agree to leave Bandra as he was afraid that the worship of Baba will not be performed properly in his absence. As his father was ‘Prarthana Samaji’, it is possible that he would not be able to pay complete attention. After receiving assurance from his father, finally the mother and son went to Shirdi.
According to his promise Babasaheb got up early morning and after taking bath, he prayed to Sai baba and told him- “O Baba! I will worship you exactly the same way as my son has been worshipping you, but please do not limit it up only to bodily labour”. After worshipping Sai Baba, he offered the oblation of ‘mishri’ and then distributed the Prasad. He judiciously worshipped Sai baba for another few days but one day he found that there was no Prasad in the plate and his cook forgot to offer it.
He got perturbed and immediately bowed in front of Sai baba idol and asked his apology. He wrote the entire incident in detail to his son and requested to place the letter in the feet of Baba and ask him to forgive.
This incident happened in Bandra almost during the noon and at the same time when noon arti was going to begin in Shirdi, baba told Shrimati Tarkhad- “Mother I went to your house at Bandra to eat the Prasad but I could not find anything. So I returned hungry.” She could not comprehend the context of Baba’s words but his son understood everything. He wanted permission of Sai baba for returning to Bandra but Baba told him to worship in Shirdi for few days. The son also wrote a letter to his father to explain the incident in Shirdi and requested his father to be careful in future. Both the letters reached next day and the son and father became careful in adoring Sai baba from then.
Florence Nightingale belonged to the elite social circle of the British family. Being a daughter of the wealthy landowner who had inherited two estates, Florence avoid being the center of attention whenever possible. Florence was raised on the family estate at Lea Hurst, where her father provided her with a classical education, including studies in German, French and Italian.
From a very young age, Florence Nightingale was active in philanthropy, ministering to the ill and poor people in the village neighboring her family’s estate. By the time she was 16 years old, it was clear to her that nursing was her calling. She believed it to be her divine purpose. When Nightingale approached her parents and told them about her ambitions to become a nurse, they were not pleased. In fact, her parents forbade her to pursue nursing. She even denied her marriage proposal and was adamant to pursue her passion. In 1844, Nightingale enrolled as a nursing student at the Lutheran Hospital of Pastor Fliedner in Germany.
In October 1853, when the Crimean war broke out and thousands of British soldiers were in a pathetic condition, Nightingale rose for help. She assembled a team of 34 nurses from a variety of religious orders, and sailed with them to the Crimea. Soldiers were lying on the bloodstained floors because there were not enough beds. There was a shortage of everything including bandages, medicine, blankets, even soap and the wards were rat-infested—there was filth everywhere.
Once again Florence Nightingale could make good use of her administrative talents. Together with her team she set to work. Her nurses scrubbed the wards, corridors and lavatories. She reorganized the kitchens and set up a laundry. For months she worked up to twenty hours a day, ending each day by visiting the wounded soldiers, carrying a lamp in her hand. She achieved something very close to a miracle. Within six months the death rate among her patients had fallen from 420 in every thousand to only 22.
Florence was highly dedicated to her service and considered the soldiers as her own family. At night she would often visit the soldiers while every one was asleep just to make sure they were okay and dint need any thing. Therefore she was referred as “The Lady with the Lamp” who was dedicated towards her job and hardly took time off to sleep.
Florence Nightingale became one of the most admired and respected women of her time. Queen Victoria offered her a reward for the work she had done. Instead Florence Nightingale asked people to give money to set up schools to train nurses. In 1908, at the age of 88, she was conferred the merit of honor by King Edward.
The ‘Lady with the lamp’ –Florence Nightingale surrendered her life for the service of others and is still broadly acknowledged and revered as the pioneer of modern nursing.