Monday, 10 June 2019

Matru Panchakam

(An elegy on mother)

Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada, known as Sri Adhi Sankara, was born to a pious Nambudiri Brahmin couple Sivaguru and Aryamba in Kalady on the banks of River Purna, now River Periyar, in Kerala State. The couple were childless and praying for a child when one day Aryamba had a vision of Lord Siva in her dream and she was told that the Lord Himself would incarnate as her child and the couple were overjoyed.  They named that child as Sankara.  Sankara lost his father at an early age and it fell upon his mother to get his upanayanam performed and to get him admitted in a gurukula for the study of Vedas and other Sastras.  When Sri Sankara finished his studies at gurukula he wanted to become a sanyasi but his mother wanted him to get married and live the life of a house-holder.  His mother complained of old age and her struggle even to walk to the river for her morning bath to convince him to get married earlier.  But Sri Sankara caused the River Purna to change its course to flow near his house through his prayer so that she need not struggle to walk a long distance for her morning bath.  Then he caused another incident to happen in which a crocodile grabbed his foot when he went to take bath in the river. He then called out to his mother to give him permission to take to sanyasa as otherwise the crocodile will kill him. His mother agreed in desperation, and the crocodile let go of his foot. He emerged unharmed from the river and proceeded to renounce all his worldly attachments and take sanyasa.  He comforted his troubled mother with the promise that he would be present near her in her final hours without fail and the left Kalady in search of a Guru. True to his word when he realized at Sringeri that his mother was nearing death, he rushed to her and was with his mother at the time of her death and also lighted the funeral pyre defying the custom and the village elders.  It was at this time he wrote this work ‘Mathru Panchakam’, a small work of five slokas that poured out from the depth of his heart.   The words written in grief for his departed mother rings true for all mothers at all times.  This is an emotional work and it is not extolling any God nor is it explaining his philosophy.  We shall see the verses which are simple and full of feeling, needing little explanation.

Verse 1
Aasthaam tavaddeyam prasoothi samaye durvara soola vyadha,
Nairuchyam thanu soshanam malamayee sayya cha samvatsaree,
Ekasyapi na garbha bara bharana klesasya yasya kshmo dhathum,
Nishkruthi munnathopi thanaya tasya janyai nama.
Salutations to you, O my mother.  The pain endured by you at the time of delivery, the emaciation of the body during pregnancy, the year-long sharing of the bed made dirty by me, none of these miserable experiences borne by you during pregnancy can be adequately compensated by me even after becoming a grown up person. 

In this verse the pain a mother undergoes is described.  The pain is not only at the time when a mother carries and delivers the baby, but continues also for sometime later during the feeding stages. She observes diet restrictions and she eats only certain kind of food, not from taste point of view but only from child’s health point of view. The food is generally devoid of spices and is a lot of lentils and green vegetables. The poet remembers this and also adds that she must have spent sleepless nights because the baby's filth would have to be cleaned up regularly and the constant vigil making her weak and tired. However great one grows, still one cannot compensate or offer atonement for the pain a mother undergoes bearing the child in her womb and feeding the child as a baby. 

Verse 2
Gurukulamupasruthya swapnakaale thu drushtwa,
Yathi samuchitha vesham praarudho maam twamuchai
Gurukulamadha sarva prarudathe samaksham
Sapadhi charanayosthe mathurasthu pranaama.
O Mother, once in your dreams you saw me as clad in the dress of a sanyasi. You came to the gurukula and wept aloud. The entire gurukula also wept with you.  What can I do except falling at your feet and offering my salutations.

Once Aryamba, the mother of Sri Sankara had seen in her dreams her son in the robes of an ascetic. She immediately ran to the gurukula, embraced him and wept aloud. Knowing from her the reasons for her grief, others also wept with her. Sri Sankara remembers this incident as he pays obeisance to the feet of that mother as he later took sanyasa, as she feared.
Verse 3
Na dattam mathasthe marana samaye thoyamapi vaa,
Swadhaa vaa no dheyaa maranadivase sraadha vidhina
Na japtho mathasthe marana samaye tharaka manu,
Akale samprapthe mayi kuru dhayaam matharathulaam.
O! Mother! I could not offer water to you at the time of your death. I cannot offer you food on the anniversary of your death by performing Srardha. O! Mother! I have not chanted the redeeming Taraka mantra in your ear at the time of your death. O! Mother! be compassionate to me who has come late.

Sri Sankara has promised his mother before leaving Kalady as a sanyasi that he will be at her side at the time of her death. Though he was at her bedside as she breathed her last he could not perform certain final religious rites, as he had become a sanyasi and a sanyasi cannot perform the final rites. So here he feels sorry and seeks forgiveness for not doing the funeral ceremonies as a dutiful son.

Verse 4
Mukthaa Manisthvam, Nayanam mamethi,
Rajethi jeevethi chiram sthutha thwam,
Ithyuktha vathya vaachi mathaa,
Dadamyaham thandulamesh shulkam.
Long live O!Son!  You are my jewel!; You are my eyes!; You are my dear prince!; you live long!;-You have said these fondling words!  But in return of that all, O my mother I am putting these dry grains into Your mouth' (in the mouth that has spoken the fondling words,)

Before the cremation of the dead body, dry grains will be put into the mouth of the dead person. So Sri Sankara here laments that he is putting dry grains in the mouth that had fondled him with words of adoration and praise and had always prayed for his welfare only, calling him as "O my dear pearl, my eyes, my prince (king), my life".

Verse 5
Ambethi Thathethi Shivethi tasmin,
Prasoothikale yadavocha uchai,
Krishnethi Govinda hare Mukunde tyaho,
Janye rachito ayamanjali.
O! Mother, That day at the time of the labour pains you cried aloud : O! Mother, O! Father, O! Lord Siva, Today I offer my humble obeisance to that mother chanting O! Lord Krishna O! Govinda  and Hare Mukunda.

In this verse Sri Sankara offers his homage to his mother who, at the time of delivering him screamed aloud in pain crying out to parents and Gods, by chanting the various names God. It is also Sri Sankara’s  acknowledgement of the hardships his mother went through in delivering him as a child. It is also said that by praying to Lord, he got her the vision of Lord Siva and Lord Krishna in her final moments. No doubt he would have ensured her Moksha after death also, through his prayer.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Kasi Panchakam

(An internal pilgrimage)

Kasi is a holy city of pilgrimage dating back to 11th century B.C.  It is considered as the spiritual capital of India, with the sacred river Ganga flowing through it and with one of the holiest of Siva temples, Kasi Viswanatha temple, enshrining one of the twelve Jyothirlingas.  Pilgrims flock to it as the faithful believe that a dip in the holy waters of Ganga washes off all signs and that death in this sacred city liberates one from the cycle of birth death. But, there is also a deep spiritual significance to every aspect of Kasi and its sacred river, Ganges. A study of the Kasi Panchakam by Sri Adhi Sankara helps us understand this spirit and rise above the literality.  Sri Adhi Sankara in this work ‘Kasi Panchakam’ talks about an internal pilgrimage drawing analogy from external pilgrimage to Kasi that would give liberation to the individual.  We can recall here the third valli of Kathopanishad in which the internal spiritual journey for Self-knowledge is presented through chariot imagery where the pursuit of Self-knowledge is taken as a form of external travel, with body, sense organs, mind and intellect as the four-fold instruments of chariot, horses, reins and driver respectively and the chidabhasa jivatma as the traveller for this knowledge travel.  In Sri Sankara’s work also we find the external pilgrimage of Kasi Yatra serves as an imagery for internal journey for Self-knowledge that liberates Jiva.  Kasi Panchakam, a small work of five verses, is a nitidhyasanam grantha, and we shall now see those verses one by one.

Verse no.1

Mano nivruthi paramopa santhi,
Sa theerthavarya mani karnika cha,
Gnana pravaha vimaladhi ganga,
Saa kasika’ham nija bodha roopa.

I am that city of Kasi in the form of my own pure Consciousness. The supreme peace that is the quietude of the mind is that Manikarnika ghat, the holiest of the holy. The flow of the waking consciousness is the divine Ganges.

Kasika means Kasi, the holy pilgrimage centre. The word ‘Kasi’ means that which shines and Sri Sankara plays with this meaning when he says ‘Saa kasika’ham nija Bodha rupa’ meaning I am that Kasi, the self-shining pure Consciousness. That Consciousness is the substratum, the light of lights, in which all human experience shine.  The multiple experiences of the waking and dream states shine in It. Deep sleep, which is absence of all experiences, is also an experience that shines in that Consciousness. One has to understand that Consciousness is the matrix of the universe.  That self-shining Pure Consciousness is the Kasi and that Kasi is our athma swarupa.  The Manikarnika ghat in Kasi is the popular and sacred cremation ghat and the pious take bath there and conduct their prayers. This ghat symbolizes the negation of identification with the body. One has to die to the body to become awake to the truth of one’s Self.  Further Manikarnika ghat is compared to a quiet, peaceful mind, which is free from longing for worldly objects that is necessary for absorption of Athma Jnana.  In Kasi, the river Ganges is vimala, sanctifying. Water of the Ganges remains pure despite a lot of toxins and chemicals that are dumped into it.  No other river has such power of self-purification.

Verse 2

Yasyamidham kalpithamindra jalam,
Characharam bathi mano vilasam,
Sachid sukhaika parmathma roopa,
Saa kasikaham nija bodha roopa.

I am the city of Kasi in the form of my own pure Consciousness. In it shines this unreal magic called the world consisting of moving and non-moving life forms. This world is mere playfulness of the mind. That Reality is One (without a second), Existence-Awareness-Bliss, obtaining as the innermost core of the individual.

This verse illustrates the essence of Advaita Vedanta “Brahma Satyam Jagat Mithya, Jeevo Brahmaiva Na Aparah”.  The world which was not present for oneself during deep sleep comes to life when one wakes up. The world also arises along with the body, and there is an instant identification with the body giving birth to the person. The body and the world arise and resolve together. Just as the film moving in the presence of the light makes a movie, so also the playfulness of the mind in the waking consciousness creates the world. The movie has all the elements of samsara consisting of pleasure, pain, attachment, aversion etc., including the space and time. It has mountains, rivers, gardens, flowers, animals, birds and creatures. Everything exists and shines in the brilliance of the projector light. Our waking world is no different.  The light is the self- shining pure Consciousness and the projector is manovilasa, the playfulness of the mind projecting the film of entire world of moving and unmoving, living and non-living.  The reality is ‘Sachid sukhaika’, the one Existence-Awareness-Bliss.  And the world that we experience is only a projection of the mind, a captivating and binding illusion like a magic show and this is realised when one negates all the projections through Self-knowledge.  The Real Self is the innermost Self, Athma that is ‘Paramathmarupa and not the self, identified with body-mind complex.  One normally derives the sense of Self from attributes of non-Self, like relationships, position, power, qualifications etc., and anything other than Athma is mithya only, not Real.  The real Self, Athma, shines gloriously when one ceases identifying with something that is non-Self.

Verse 3

Koseshu pancha swadhi raja mana,
Budhir bhavani prathi deha geham,
Sakshi Shiva sarva ganontharathma,
Saa kasikaham nija bodha roopa.

I am that city of Kasi in the form of my own pure Consciousness. The all-pervading witness, who is the inner ruler, is Lord Siva. The intellect shining as the presiding deity in the five sheaths in everybody is Bhavani (the consort of Siva).

Kasi is the Pure Consciousness, the Infinite, which manifests in the finite body-mind as sakshi Athma, witness of all cognitions and actions. Siva is that sakshi Athma present in all living beings.  It is the witness to the entire movement of the mind, which is broadly classified as waking consciousness, dream consciousness and the unmanifest consciousness of deep sleep. One becomes aware of the objects when they come into contact with its reflection in the intellect, which is Prakriti.   As the Gita says (13 . 22) purusah prakrtistho hi bunkte prakrtijan gunan, i.e. Purusa, here Siva, enjoys/suffers the qualities of Prakrti and acquires doership/enjoyership.  Prakriti is here identified with Bhavani, consort of Siva, as identification with Prakrti makes Siva (Purusha) a samsari.   

Verse 4

Kasyam hi kasathe kasi kasee sarva prakasika,
Sa kasi viditha yena thena praptha hi kasika.

The city of Kasi is indeed shining in the Consciousness that is Athma. That Kasi illuminates all. Whosoever realizes that Kasi indeed gains Kasi (moksha).

Kasi is the light of lights, the pure Consciousness that is Athma. In the waking state, the eyesight is light to shapes and colors and the ears are light to sounds. Mind is the light of all cognition. But all these lights are illuminated by one light, the light of pure Consciousness. In the dream state too, the light of pure Consciousness illuminates the mind and all of its projections. In the deep sleep state, all lights are gone; no sun, no moon, no eyesight, no ears, no mind and yet, the absence of all is lighted up by the light of pure Consciousness. This Jnanam is Kasi and this Jnanam gives liberation, Moksha.  So Moksha is also called Kasi.  The sadhaka who understands the Athma which is Kasi, gains Moksha, which is also Kasi.

Verse 5

Kasi kshethram sareram tribhuvana janani vyapini jnana ganga,
Bhakthi sradha gayeyam nija gurucharana dhyana yoga prayoga,
Vishwesoyam thureeya sakala jana mana sakshi bhoothontharathma,
Dehe sarvam madheeye yadhi vasathi punastheertha anyath kimasthi.

Body is the pilgrimage centre of Kasi. The all-pervading flow of knowledge is the Ganges, the mother of the three worlds. Devotion and faith are this city of Gaya. The communion of meditation on the feet of one’s preceptor is the city of Prayag.  So what is the need for pilgrimage as all pilgrim centres are in my body?

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was once asked if he would go on pilgrimage to Kasi. He replied that he was not interested because he sees Siva in his own heart. He urged his disciples to have motiveless devotion in the heart, rather than visiting places. He was highlighting what is important rather than putting down pilgrimage.  This spirit is reflected in this verse.
Pilgrims usually visit Prayag and Gaya in addition to visiting Kasi. Sri Sankara includes all the three places in the symbolism. The sacred city of Kasi is body. Just as the Ganges flows in Kasi, so also the manifest consciousness flows in this body.  Shraddha and Bhakthi, faith and devotion, is Gaya, where one performs srardha for  one’s pitrus.   Meditation on the feet of the Athma Vidya Guru is Prayag which is the confluence of the three sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati, the unseen and in meditation, on Guru’s feet, the body, mind and ego resolve in Guru who personifies the Paramathma.  So what is the need for pilgrimage to one, when the body is the sacred city of Kasi, and the manifested Consciousness in mind is the holy Ganga and one’s faith in the words of scriptures with devotion to Iswara is Gaya and one’s dhyana of  the feet of Guru who guided him to realisation is Prayag.  When all the pilgrim centres are visualised in one’s body, there is no need to go for pilgrimage anywhere else as for one growing out of the need to do sadhanas when he has absorbed Atma Jnanam and blossomed into a Brahma Jnani.  The real pilgrimage for a Sadhaka is discovering the inner Self by assimilating the Athma Vidya.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Kosananda and Athmananda

(Reflected happiness & Original happiness)

(adapted from the lectures of Swami Paramarthananda)

Each individual is constituted of three bodies, Sthula, Sukshma,  and Karana sareeras.  This division as three bodies is from matter angle; gross, subtle and causal that they are composed of.  These three bodies are also divided into five layers based on functional angle.  These layers are called KosasKosa means a sheath and it is as if they are the sheaths encasing the Athma.  It is said ‘as if’ because Athma is all-pervasive and it cannot be encased either by the three bodies or by the five kosas. The kosas are  Annamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vijnanamaya and Anandamaya in the increasing order of subtlety.  Anandmaya kosa is the most subtle and pervasive and the innermost of sheaths and is called Anandamaya  because it is characterised by ananda or happiness.  This happiness is called Kosananda, as contrasted with Athmananda, the happiness and bliss that is AthmaAthmananda is the original happiness whose reflection in the mind is experienced as Kosananda.  All happiness can be classified as either of the two; Athmananda and Kosananda.  Of the two, Athmananda is the original happiness also called Bimbananda and Kosananda is the reflected happiness called Prathibimbananda.

Athmananda is Absolute Happiness and is everyone’s inherent and intrinsic nature, one’s real svarupa. It is not something acquired or dropped like the other attributes of the body/ mind, it is something which exists by itself as one’s Real Self, Athma, which is the Sat Chit Ananda, the very svarupa lakshana of Brahman, the Absolute One. This Athmananda is reflected in the individual’s mind as Kosananda.  What one thinks as happiness derived from an object is one’s own Kosananda only.  For if that object is the source of happiness, then happiness should be a part of its nature and this object should be a source of happiness to everyone in the world.  On the other hand, that object may evoke hatred, the contrary emotion, in certain other persons for different reasons altogether. So, happiness is not part of its nature and this object cannot be the source of happiness.  This can be illustrated through the example of a dog and the bone.  A dog trying to chew a bone hurts its jaw and the dog mistakes the blood oozing from its own jaw as coming from the bone and bites the bone still harder hurting itself more.

Kosananda that one feels at the proximity or even thought of a loved object is classified as priya.  This happiness deepens when the loved object comes under one’s possession and this state of happiness is called moda.  This happiness becomes more intense when one enjoys it and this climax of enjoyment in respect of the object is categorised as pramoda.  Kosananda whether it is priya, moda or pramodha is only inside oneself and not from outside and is only a limited expression of Athmananda, the original ananda, being its reflection in the mind.  Further Kosananda is experiential happiness which is subject to condition of the reflecting medium, mind.

Athmananda being the very experiencer is not an object of experience; rather it is one’s higher nature. Just like one cannot see one’s original face and can see it as a reflection only in the mirror,  Athmananda is not directly experienceable as an object.  But, it is there at all times as one’s own Athma svarupa, the Sat Chit Ananda Athma without the experience/ experiencer division.  So one does not have to get Athmananda since he is himself that at all times and one should only claim it as oneself attaining Atmajnanam. Taittreya Upanishad refers to it as ‘ananda Athma’ to emphasise that Athma and ananda are one only.

We saw earlier that Atmananda is original ananda and Kosananda is only reflection in one’s mind.  Being reflection, it is under the influence of the medium.  The more calm the mind is, better will be the reflection and the higher the level of ananda. The level of happiness experienced therefore will depend upon the level of the calmness of the mind and the extent to which the mind is satvic and turbulence-free.  So this happiness is transient, subject to gradations and hence anityam. Taittiriya Upanishad says that the ananda enjoyed by a manushya and Hiranyagarba (Brahmaji) – the lowest level of ananda and the highest level of ananda, all fall under the category of experiential ananda alone, though there may be varying degrees of the level of ananda.

Let us list the differences between Athmananda and Kosananda as follows;-
1)    Athmananda is the original happiness, Bimbananda and Kosananda is the reflected happiness, Prathibimbananda
2)    Athmananda is ungraded happiness, taratamya rahitah niratisaya ananda, and Kosananda is graded happiness, taratamya sahitah satisaya ananda
3)    Athmananda is permanent (nityah) and Kosananda is impermanent (anityah).
4)     Athmananda is experiential and Kosananda is non-experiential.
5)    Athmananda is jnana prapya, attained only through Jnanam that I am Athmananda and Kosananda is visaya prapya or vairagya prapya, attained through a mind that becomes calm and peaceful either on experiencing the desired object or by developing vairagya through viveka

This Athmananda was called Mokshananda in the blog “Vedic view of happiness” and Permanent happiness in the blog “Plan for Permanent happiness” and is the state of the Jnanis all the time.  Even Ajjnani jivas are in this state temporarily during  sushupthi, deep sleep, when there is no sense of ahankara, awareness of the body/mind or the world, a state as good as moksha.  But it lasts only as long as the deep sleep lasts and at the end of sushupthi the ajjnani individual is back into the world of samsara due to ajnanam and adhyasa which automatically come into play when the jiva is back in the waking state and the mind continues to entertain all types of worldly desires leading to athripti and apurnathvam.  But a Jnani through Athmajnanam overcomes these hurdles and remains in the state of Athmananda, a state of total bliss and fulfilment, in all the three avasthas, Jagrat, Swapna, Sushupthi i.e. waking, dream and deep sleep states.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Plan for Permanent Happiness

(adapted from the lecture of Swmi Paramarthananda)

“Happiness ever, Sorrow never” is the aim and ambition of every living person,  irrespective of their age, sex, religion and nationality. But this cannot be achieved through any worldly object or relationship. This is possible only through the realisation of one’s identity at the level of Athma with Brahman through Self-knowledge, Athmajnanaam.  Brahman is described as Sat, Chit, Anand i.e. pure Existence, pure Knowledge and pure Happiness. So attaining this Atmajnanam, one is liberated from the feeling of limitedness and no more for him, while living, the struggle for happiness.  At death his Self, Athma, merges with Brahman and he is released from the cycle of birth and death. So Athmajnanam is a liberating knowledge that confers Liberation from Samsara while living and liberates one from the cycle of birth and death at death. This Liberation is called Moksha and this only confers permanent happiness.

Vedas, the only source for Athmajnanam, also show the way how one can plan for Moksha, by generating in one an ardent desire for Moksha, Moksha iccha, to be followed by efforts for acquisition of Moksha yogyatha, qualification for Moksha.  Both iccha and yogyatha are essential as without iccha, one will not exert for yogyatha and without yogyatha, iccha alone will not bear fruit.  Veda prescribes two types of karma yoga to develop Moksha Iccha and Moksha Yogyatha.  When one develops both Iccha and Yogyatha, that person will  sincerely and seriously embark on the step of seeking Athmajnanam.  Veda then through jnana yoga guides the person to spiritual enlightenment and Liberation.

In the first stage of karma yoga the seeker is made to become aware of the value of Moksha and develop a serious and committed desire for Moksha, Moksha Iccha. For this the Vedas suggest a life style designed to help the seeker to refine his mind to gain samathvam i.e equanimity and to be free of other preoccupations. And if a person goes through such a karma yoga exercise, he will learn a very very important lesson, which the scriptures present   as “Sarvam Paravasam dhukkam, Sarvam atmavasam sukam”. Paravasam dhukkam means depending upon the external world emotionally brings sorrow as it is the cause of anxiety and frustration. The reason is two-fold. One, the conditions of the external world is constantly changing and so the world and the people and the relationship are all unpredictable. The second reason is the conditions of the world are not under one’s control.  No doubt, one has a free will to contribute to the universe, but one doesn’t have sufficient power to control. One has a contributing freewill; one doesn’t have a controlling freewill.   As a karma yogi one will soon discover that the world is unpredictable, uncontrollable and unsustainable and depending on that world for one’s peace, security and happiness is a great risk.  To avoid disappointment, frustration and even anxiety, the only way is, one should stop depending on the world.  One may live in the world, one may use the world, one may serve the world, one may experience the world, one can do everything except emotionally leaning on that. We have the example of the cardboard chair; the cardboard chair is beautifully made, well decorated; one can keep it in the showcase, but one cannot sit on that.  In the same way, world has got beauty, world has got variety, world has got novelty, but world doesn’t have stability. Therefore, one cannot lean on the world and if he does he will have regrets later.  So as karma yogi one learns to discover peace, security, and happiness in oneself rather than from the world.

Veda says “ getting Iccha for Moksha alone is not enough: one will have to develop the Yogyatha as well”  For that one requires karma yoga number two through which alone, can one get the Yogyatha.  In karma yoga number two the scriptures prescribe a life of service and contribution, a life of giving rather than taking.  Consumer to contributor conversion is a very important conversion and the Vedas themselves prescribe five levels of contribution known as “Pancha Maha Yajna” They are:
1)    Brahma yajna – This is also called Rishi Yajna. This involves daily study of the scriptures and regular sharing of the scriptural knowledge with others through teaching, writing and satsang.  By so doing one discharges the debt to Rishis who by preserving and passing on made this knowledge available to us.
2)    Deva yajna– This involves ritual worship and prayer of Devas including Homams and Nitya karmanushtanam like Sandhyavandanam. Lord Krishna refers to this yajna only,when he tells Arjuna in Gita (3-11)
Devan Bhavayathanenate Deva bhavayanthuvaha
Nurture the Devas with this sacrifice and may the Devas nurture you. Mutually nurturing each other you shall attain the highest good.
3)    Pitruyajna - offering tarpana, libations regularly in respect and gratitude to all Pitrs and Pitr Devathas.   The word Pitrs primarily means the immediate ancestors i.e. father, mother etc. In Srartha ceremony three generations like father, grandfather and the great grandfather etc., are remembered and pindas, cooked rice balls, are offered to them. 
4)    Manushya yajna — Caring for, looking after and feeding fellow humans. Food and clothes to the poor and needy and shelter to the homeless all come under Manushya yajna.  In short all social services and  anna dhanam in functions and festivals besides feeding a guest will all come under Manushya yajna.
5)    Bhutha yajna — Caring for nature and all life. Not only feeding animals like cow, insects like ant and birds like crow but also caring for them as well as the plants and trees etc., in the environment come under Bhutha yajna.
This fivefold contribution is Karma Yōga number two. Along with this fivefold contribution, scriptures talk about developing healthy ethical values also which is also a part of Karma Yōga number two. One part is contribution, second part is developing ethical values.  In the 16th chapter of Gita Lord Krishna talks about the positive virtues and the negative mental traits under Daivi Sampath and Asuri Sampath.

So Samatvam is Karma yoga number one, Sat Karmani plus Sat Guna is Karma Yoga number two. If a person follows these two Karma yogas, then he becomes ready for entering Jnana yoga, for receiving the Self-knowledge. The two forms of Karma yoga are given in the Veda Purva Bhaga, the first part of the Vedas and, Jnana yoga for self knowledge is given in the Veda Anta Bhaga, the latter part of Vedas.

This essential teaching of Vedanta, Self knowledge, Swami Paramarthananda presents in the form of five capsules.  These together sum up the Self knowledge given by the Jnana Yoga part of the Vedās. The five capsules of Self knowledge are:
1) I’m of the nature of eternal and all pervading consciousness principle.
2) I’m the only source of permanent peace, security and happiness.
3) By my mere presence, I give life to the material body and through the body, I experience the material universe.
4) I’m never affected by any event that happens in the material universe and in the material body.
5) By forgetting my nature; I convert life into a struggle and by remembering my nature; I convert life into a sport (lila).

Therefore, the life plan as given by Vedas is as follows: - Follow Karma yoga one, develop Moksha Iccha; follow Karma yoga two, develop Moksha Yogyatha; follow Jnana yoga in the form of sastra vichara, comprising sravanam (study), mananam (reflection) and nitidyasanam (assimilation), attain Athmajnanam; and  with the absorbtion of the five capsules of Vedanta and rememberance of one’s true nature make the life a source of permanent happiness as Jivan Muktha.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Vedic view of happiness

(adapted from the lecture of Swmi Paramarthananda)    

All human beings without exception seek as their primary goal, happiness.  “Sukam  me  Sarvadha  Bhooyaath (May I enjoy happiness all the time)” is their constant wish and prayer.  But they have a problem.  The problem is that they do not know what exactly gives them lasting happiness.  They assume that certain things will give them lasting happiness but when they analyze their experiences they find that it is not so.  When one turns to scriptures for guidance, one learns Vedas divide happiness into three categories, based on the means by which the happiness is acquired by a person.  Those three types of happiness, are kama ananda, dharma ananda and mokṣa ananda.  Let us see them one by one.

Kama ananda / Kamananda - The word kama in this context means, all the sense objects in the world which are capable of giving one sense pleasures when one contacts them through one’s sense organs.  So here, the word kama means, not desire; but, the desired or desirable objects i.e. kamyate iti kamaḥ.  And the sense objects can give us ananda through sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa, and gandha i.e. sound, touch, form, taste and smell.. That happiness is called kamananda. In simple English, all forms of sense pleasures will come under kamananda.  This kamananda, sense pleasures, are not entirely condemned by the Vedas; but, are advised in moderation. All legitimate, dharmic, sensory enjoyments are accepted by Vedas. Vedas even prescribes pujas to get those pleasures. There is a homa, called avahanti homa that is mentioned in anuvaka 4. sikshavalli of Taittriya upanishad which is performed for prosperity that brings clothes, cattle, food and drink forever and also for good Brahmacharis as disciples. Kamananda is the most popular ananda, all over the world.  In fact, when one talks about happiness, the world understands it only as kamananda!

Dharma ananda / Dharmananda -  This ananda and moksha ananda are introduced by Vedas only. Dharmanandaḥ means the happiness that a person can enjoy by following a dharmic way of life.  And, dharmic life means, a life style governed by dharma, a life style that is prescribed by Vedas.  Dharma means, Vedic instructions or Vedic teachings. Swami Paramarthananda presents the vaidika dharma in 3 categories; sadbhavana, sadguṇa, satkarmaṇi i.e. healthy attitudes, healthy values and noble actions or activities. These three put-together is called dharma. All the three limbs are equally important and complimentary.
Sadbhavana - Healthy attitudes. While talking about healthy attitudes Vedas repeatedly mention, that we should have a healthy attitude towards the very world in which we are living i.e. appreciate the universe; admire the universe; revere the universe. The entire universe should be seen as Visvarupa Iswara.   And Visvarupa bhakti is a part of dharmic life.  And therefore, our attitude towards the universe must be one of love and reverence. So, the first component of dharma is a healthy attitude of reverence to the entire universe of things and beings, as an expression of Iswara, as a manifestation of Iswara, and as a gift from Iswara
Sadguṇa - Healthy values.  We can see that all the healthy values are derived from one fundamental principle, ahimsa.  All the living beings, including human beings, have got two instinctive desires. Being instinctive, they are universal.. They are: 1) Sukam me Sarvadha Bhooyaath i.e. Let me be happy,always; 2) Dhukkam Maa Bhooth Kadhachana i.e. I should never have sorrow.   And therefore Vedas say, dharmic life is a life which is led by taking into account these two universal desires. So, when one’s life is based on these two basic desires of every living being, and  does not violate or contradict that, one’s life is in harmony with the universal craving i.e.Sukha bhava and Duḥkha abhava i.e. prescence of happiness and absence of unhappiness.  Vedas say; since nobody wants unhappiness, let your aim be not to give duḥkhaṃ or pain to others; even by thoughts or words or deeds never give sorrow.  In this context  Swamii Dayananda Saraswati’s words are relevant.  Swamiji says, 'all other values are nothing but an extension or derivative of ahimsa only' . When it is said, "satyaṃ vada", what is the message? By telling lies, by giving wrong information, one is hurting others; therefore, 'don’t tell lies'.  So "satyaṃ vada" means, ahimsa.  In the same way 'Don’t cheat others' means, ahiṃsa. Thus, all values are based on one fundamental seed value, which is ahimsa. Therefore dharma consists of ahimsa as the fundamental value.
Satkarmani – Noble actions.  Noble actions are that which fulfills the basic desires of all living beings.  Nobody wants sorrow. Therefore, what one does to alleviate or remove the pain of others is a noble karma.  Even though one cannot spend money, a few nice words or whatever help one can give to alleviate the pain of others, duhkha abhavarthaṃ, will do  Everybody wants happiness. So whatever help one can do to give or improve the comfort and joy of others comes under noble karma.  So whatever one does for para duhkha nivrtti or para sukha prapti, directly or indirectly, they are all satkarmani.

Thus, dharma consist of three principles: sadbhavana = visvarupa bhakti; satguṇaḥ = ahiṃsa; satkarmani = para upakara.  If these three one follows to the extent possible, that life is called a dharmic way of life. Vedas say, this dhārmic way of life itself will give immense joy; a joy derived by giving joy ! Because, in paropakara, one gives joy and through giving joy increases one’s joy.  A win-win situation in which both benefit.  This ananda is called dharmananda.  And Vedas say, dharmananda is quantitatively and qualitatively much superior to kamananda.  Materialistic society promotes kamananda and Vedic society promotes dharmananda.

Moksha ananda/ Mokshananda. - Just as In kamananda, kama is the means of ananda; in dharmananda, dharma is the means of ananda; in mokṣhananda, mokṣha is the means of ananda.  Mokṣha means, liberation or freedom or release.  This liberation is from self-ignorance and self-misconception that makes one think that one is a limited mortal, which gives rise to the thought that, to be happy one has to get happiness from the external world.  Moksha is attained through knowledge of one’s Self, Athma Jnanam. With Athma Jnanam one realizes one’s identity with Brahman, which is described as Sat,Chit Ananda, pure existence, pure knowledge and pure happiness. The ignorance and misconception about one’s Self makes one believe that for one’s happiness one has to depend on the external sources    Really speaking the external things are not giving one happiness; they are only bringing out the happiness which is already in one, as Athma.  So, Vedas say those happiness-giving-objects are nothing but a mirror to reveal one’s own happiness. They are only reflecting one’s inner happiness!  With mokshananda all the struggle for ananda will cease.  Lord Krishna speaks of such a person who has attained mokshananda thus:
Yastwaatmaratir eva syaad aatmatriptashcha maanavah;
Aatmanyeva cha santushtas tasya kaaryam na vidyate (Gita 3-17)
For that man who rejoices only in the Self, who is satisfied in the Self, who is content in the Self alone, verily there is nothing to do.

That is Liberation; freedom from struggles to get happiness.  So we can take Vedic formula for happiness as “Enjoy kamananda but always with dharmananda, keeping mokshananda as the goal”

Monday, 25 March 2019

Sanyasa, a study


        (adapted from the lectures of Swami Paramarthananda)   

In Vedic way of life one goes through four asramas in life, namely Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa, the last one being solely devoted to working for one’s liberation, Moksha.   The primary means of liberation is spiritual knowledge. Next to spiritual knowledge, Sanyasa or renunciation is almost as important as spiritual knowledge.  One enters the Brahmacharya asram early in life, mostly before seven, and takes to Grihastha asram after the studies are over, thus enabling one to take to Sanyasa asram with faculties in good condition.  Those who take to sanyasa asrama are classified in four groups as below:-
1)    Kuteechaka
2)    Bahudhaka
3)    Hamsa
4)    Paramahamsa

Kuteechaka Kuteechaka sanyasi is a Grihastha who takes to sanyasa but lives with the family.  He lives in a separate Kutiya or place apart from the house, but within the compound.  He takes his food from the house but does not involve or interfere in family matters.  He wears Yagnopaveedham and has stick and carries three thandas put together as one, each danda representing discipline at Kayika, Vachika and Manasa level.  He wears ochre robe.  He does not travel.  He does Puja and Vedanta study and parayanam

Bahudhaka Bahudhaka sanyasi is like Kuteechaka sanyasi but lives outside the family fold.  He does not travel much.  He takes food from the village on Biksha basis.  He is also Trithandi.  He also does Puja and Vedanta study and parayanam.

Hamsa -  He does not have Yajnopaveedam as well as shikha.  All his pujas are manasam,.  He spends his time in Sravanam, Mananam and Nitidyasanam.  He also does not travel much.  More committed to Jnanam and less and less to ritual

Paramahamsa – Paramahamsa sanyasi is a more advanced Hamsa Sanyasi and there are two types of Paramahamsa sanyasis.  
1     Amukya ParamahamsaVividisha Sanyasi
He carries one DandaEkadanda.  He does not travel much .  He does parayanam of Veda Bashyam, Upanishads and does japa on Mahavakhya.
2     Mukya Paramahamsa - Vidwat Sanyasi
Even the minimum discipline prescribed for Vividisha Sanyasi is not for him.  No puja , no rituals.  Only Nitidyasanam.  He gives up Danda and Kamandala as well and he wears minimum clothes if he chooses to.  He travels freely and is also known as Paramahamsa Parivrajaka SanyasiVidwat Sanyasa is the highest form of Sanyasa and the word Sanyasi generally refers to Vidwat Sanyasi only. For Vidwat Sanyasi owning up Brahmanhood comes naturally. He is the ideal model for Bramhan as he is asanghaha, relationship free; karma mukthaha, free of performance of duties; belongs to everyone and does not depend on external source for security.

Even though it is said Sanyasa is ideal for study and assimilation of Vedanta knowledge, one in Grahastha asrama,  with an attitude that all belong to Lord and Lord only and has mentally freed himself from all attachments and relationships and has an attitude of inner surrender, called Saranaagathi, is also an ideal student for Vedanta.   Such a person is called internal sanyasi, Aantara Sanyasi.  As per the Sastras it is said that to become an Aantara Sanyasi, one should renounce three things as follows:
1     Sarva Abhimana Parityagaha
2     Sarva Chinta Parityagaha
3     Sarva Vishesha Prarthana Parityagaha

Sarva Abhimana Parityagaha - The word Abhimana means the sense of ownership and controllership.  From the study of Vishwarupa Darshana in the Bhagavad Gita, one learns that Bhagawan is everything and the owner of everything. Bhagawan has temporarily given certain things for one’s spiritual growth and use.  Bhagawan can give anyone anything at any time and Bhagawan can also take away anything from anyone at any time, whether it is tangible things like people and property or intangible things like name, fame, honour, prestige, health etc.  So when one claims ownership of anything, he is only misappropriating Bhagawan’s property which is a serious spiritual offence, for which he suffers the punishment of imprisonment in Samsara jail.  And not only one renounces the sense of ownership, one also renounces the sense of controllership as well.  Everything and every event is controlled by Bhagavan according to the Laws of Karma.  One is only a contributor. One’s freewill is limited to the extent of making a choice to become a contributor only.  This mental renunciation of ownership and controllership of everything with the understanding that only Bhagwan is the owner and controller is Athma Nivedana Bhakthi, also called surrender.

Sarva Chinta Parityagaha - The word Chinta means anxiety or worry. If one analyzes, all the anxieties and worries are only centred on those things and beings where one has got Abhimana. Abhimana and worry are interconnected.  Greater the Abhimana, greater is the worry and vice-versa.  Therefore as Aantara Sanyasi, not only should one renounce all the Abhimana,, but  also should renounce one’s support for all forms of worry. One cannot avoid the arrival of worry, but as Aantara Sanyasi, one uses all one’s resources to disengage the mind from all forms of worry.

Sarva Vishesha Prarthana ParityagaVishesha Prarthana means all forms of special prayers, vows etc, which are meant for special purposes. If one studies the psychology of special prayer, one will note that one offers special prayers only with regard to the things and the people where one has Abhimana.  Just as worry is integrally connected to Abhimana, all special prayers are also integrally connected to Abhimana. Therefore, they reinforce each other. More the Abhimana, more will be the special prayers.  More the Abhimana, greater is the spiritual offence.  Greater the spiritual offence, Samsara is more perpetuated.

Further as Abhimana is the seed of raga and dwesha one free from Abhimana is free of raga and dwesha as well.  Lord Krishna calls such a person ‘nithya sanyasi’ in Gita 5-3
gneyah sa nitya sanyasi yona dweshti na kankshati
nirdwandwohi mahabaho sukham bandhat pramuchyate    (5 – 3)
He should be known as a perpetual Sanyasi who neither hates nor desires; for, free from the pairs of opposites, O mighty-armed Arjuna, he is easily set free from bondage!

But one taking to internal sanyasa should bear in mind a few points.  Since there is no formal Sanyasa and so no initiation, one adopting internal sanyasa should choose a day and take a formal Sankalpa on that day before his Ishta devata to renounce the three; Abhimana, Chinta and Visesha prarthana thereafter. He should remember this renunciation includes the three in respect of his own body mind complex also i.e, Deha Abhimana Parityagaha,  Deha Chinta Parityagaha,  Deha Vishesha Prārthana Parityāgaha.  He can continue his pujas and pilgrimages as before but they all must be undertaken on Nishkama basis, only as a thanks giving for all that he has received in life.  He can continue his Nithya karmas on a Nishkama basis with no guilty feeling as his Sankalpa is not in conflict with them. Further adherence to the Sankalpa will purify the mind and make it fit to absorb Vedantic studies.

So to conclude Sanyasa can be either internal or external.  Of these external Sanyasa with its emphasis on seclusion and spiritual studies is ideal for the pursuit of spiritual goal of Athma jnanam and liberation, while internal Sanyasa also provides a conducive infrastructure for spiritual pursuit, with its emphasis on Abimana Thyaga and forsaking of raga and dwesha.