31 Oct 2014 07:00
"Whenever you are in danger, whether in ocean or in war or in the wild, remember Me. I shall save you. You may not know Me. You may not realize who I am. Just pray to Me with a little touch of your heart and I shall free you from gripping sorrows and miseries." -- Baba Lokenath (1730-1890)
Every year, in the month of Kartik on the Bengali calendar (late October through early November of the Gregorian calendar), members of Bangladesh’s Hindu community come together to celebrate the “Rakher Upobas” prayer to the god Lokenath Brahmachari, who is said to embody love in the Hindu tradition. At the Shri Shri Lokenath Brahmachari Ashram near Dhaka, men and women light lamps and candles and bring offerings of fruit, sweets, nuts and cow’s milk. Devotees pray to Baba Lokenath to save their family and dear ones from curses and diseases like cholera and pox; they observe a strict fast and remain sitting absorbed in prayer until the flames burn-out. Members of other faiths are welcome and often present at the prayers, though for more cultural than spiritual reasons.
Lokenath Brahmachari was born to a Brahman (an elite caste reserved for spiritual service in the caste system) family on the birthdate of the Hindu Lord Krishna in 1730. At eleven, he ventured off to the woods with his guru to practice Ashtanga and Hatha Yoga. When he left, he is said to have lived a life of complete asceticism until reaching enlightenment at the age of 90, after which he traveled extensively through Afghanistan, Persia and Arabia, including making three pilgrimages to Mecca. At the age of 136 he is said to have settled in a small town near Dhaka to tend to people who came seeking his teachings and blessings.