Monday, 9 July 2018

Hasthamalakeeyam

Sri Aadhi Sankaracharya’s question to Hasthmalaka in their first meeting, enquiring about his name and details forms first verse of Hasthamalakeeyam. In his reply the boy who had been keeping silence until then states first what he is not and then goes on to describe the Real status of the Athma that he is, in twelve verses.  In his question Sri Aadhi Sankaracharya, hereafter referred to as Acharya, stated “I am happy to meet you.  Please tell me who you are and your name and also wherefrom you are coming and where to you are going?”   The boy in the first verse of his reply stated that he is not a  human being  nor a deva nor a yaksha and none of the classifications made in respect of human beings like caste labels or ashram labels apply to him and he is of the form of innate knowledge meaning pure Consciousness (nija bodha  rupa).  This pure consciousness, the Athma in all, is elaborated in verses 3 to 14.  The refrain of all these twelve verses is: I am the Athma which is the eternal consciousness (nityopalabdhisvarupo’ ham atma.), while the content of these verses contain  the description of Athma as the elaboration of “Thou” in the MahavakhyaThou art That” (Tat Tvam asi).  We shall now see the description of Athma, one’s true Self, as given in these verses.


Athma like the sun which inspires all the activities in the world, inspires all activities of the body, internal and external, i.e. of the mind, intellect and all other sense organs. Though it is intimately associated with every organ of the body it is free from any links to the organs.  It is free of the limiting adjuncts of the body; gross,subtle and causal and it is boundless like space.  But unlike space, which is insentient, created, an object of knowledge, Athma is not an object of knowledge and it is sentient and uncreated.  Athma is drik while space is drisyam (verse 3).  Consciousness is the very nature of Athma and not its property like heat which is the very nature of Agni.  There is no cold Agni.  Mind and other sense organs like eye are insentient by themselves and derive their sentiency from Athma only, like the hot water getting its heat through association with Agni. (verse 4).

The face seen in the mirror is only a reflection.  It has no independent existence.  It has only dependant existence i.e. mithya.  Similarly Jiva is only a reflection of Athma i.e. Chitanyam, in the mind.  This reflection called Chidabasa along with subtle body is called Jiva and Jiva has no independent existence and is mithya.  While Athma is non-dual and one only, Jivas are many.  The plurality of Jivas is only an appearance whose timeless truth is the non-dual Athma (verse 5).  The empirical plurality of the Jivas is due to the superimposition, on the non-dual Athma, of the manifoldness of the modes, in which this Athma is reflected.  When the mirror is removed the reflection only vanishes but not the original face which is in intact.  Reflection while reflecting the original, suffers from the defects and deficiencies of the medium of reflection, while the original is not affected by the flaws in the medium.  So while Jiva is samsari, karta and bhoktha, Athma is asangha, unaffected and pure. (verse 6)  Athma can be called the mind of the mind, the eye of the eye etc, as mind and all the sense organs derive their respective power from Athma only through its reflection, chidabasa while Athma stands aloof from them, beyond their powers of perception.(verse7). 

Like the shining sun which is one only but appears many through its reflections in numerous vessels, the self-luminous, pure Athma appears many, reflected in various anthakaranams (verse 8)  Like the sun blessing all eyes with vision simultaneously, the ever-shining Athma blesses all the minds simultaneously with sentiency.  Blessing the mind with sentiency is not an event in time, involving order and Athma is self-manifested, ever-luminous and Pure intelligence. (verse 9)  The sun illuminates objects and makes them fit to be cognized but the sun gets illumined by the Athma and the sun cannot do the illumination of the objects without the blessings of Athma.  In other words, exactly like the sense organs the sun, too, derives its characteristic energies and capacities from the sole self-manifested source of all light and power namely Athma, called light of all lights (Jyothishamapi Jyothihi) in Gita.  As the Athma is the mind of the mind, eye of the eye etc., it is also the sun of the sun as well. (verse 10) As the one sun reflected in different ponds appears to be many and affected by the agitations in the water, so the one infinite Athma appears many and affected by the disturbances in the various upadhis. (verse 11)

 An observer whose eye-sight is obstructed by clouds is apt to imagine that the sun is engulfed by the clouds. Similarly ignorance clouds one intellect only and not Athma. Athma is ever experienced Consciousness and so Athma Jnanam and Athma ajjnanam refer only to jnanam and ajjnanam in the intellect and not in the Athma.  Athma appears to be bound due to ignorance.(verse12)  Athma is like the space associated with all and polluted by none.  The transcendence of the boundless Athma is to be seen together with its immanence in all phenomena.  On it, but without, in the least, affecting its wholeness and purity, are strung the phenomena constituting the cosmos (verse 13). 

In the concluding verse 14, the boy explains with the example of crystals and moonlight the fallacy in Acharya’s question “Who are you” as both of them are one only as non-dual Athma, with different upadhis. Just as the pure crystal appears endowed with different colours when associated with different flowers the Jivas having different upadhis also appear different though essentially they are one only, the eternal infinite Athma. Just as the reflected moon appears to move and flutter in running waters,  Acharya appears to be different from the boy in that he is wandering and the boy is not.  The psycho-physical organisms are multiple and varied in form and posture and Athma in empirical association with them appears to imbibe their forms and movements.  Thus the boy points out to Acharya that both of them are the same transcendental non-dual Athma in spite of all their differences, external and internal. Sri Adi Sankaracharya was so much impressed with this boy Jivanmuktha that he gave him the name Hasthamalaka and took him into his entourage. He also wrote a commentary for Hathamalaka’s words, Hasthamalakeeyam and nominated him later as the first Jagatguru of newly established Dwaraka Math.
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Friday, 6 July 2018

Hasthamalakacharya


During his travels in south India Sri Aadhi Sankaracharya, whom we shall refer to as Acharya Sankara, visited a village called Sri Bali (now called Shivalli) near Gokarn in Karnataka.  In that village lived a wealthy Brahmin called Prabhakara. His only son was quite handsome in appearance but behaved like an idiot. He was aged thirteen but he did not talk to anyone, study anything or play with anybody and did not get even angry, when teased or hurt by others.   Prabhakara performed the boy’s Upanayanam with great difficulty with the fond hope that this will at least bring about a change in the boy’s behaviour and attitude but that effort also failed as he continued as before only.  He did not take to studying the Vedas as expected but continued to sit idle doing nothing as before.  When Prabhakara learnt about  Acharya Sankara’s visit, he went to see Acharya Sankara  along with his son.  Prostrating before Acharya, Prabhakara also made his son prostrate before him and narrated his problem, explaining that his son sat idly all through the day without reacting to anything.  He prayed to Acharya Sankara that he bless his son and restore him to normalcy.  Acharya Sankara looked at the boy straight in the eye and asked the boy ”Child, who are you? What is your name?”  Prabhakara was surprised to see his son, who had been remaining silent upto now all his life, stare back straight at Acharya Sankara and pour out in reply twelve verses in chaste Sanskrit expounding the nature of his true self as eternal infinite consciousness.  As the essence of Advaita Vedanta had been lucidly explained by the boy in these twelve verses making it as clear as a gooseberry in one’s palm, Acharya Sankara called the boy Hastamalaka; amalaka meaning gooseberry.  Acharya Sankara also wanted to give the boy sanyasa and take him as his disciple as he was not suited for the life of a householder and would fit in better as an ascetic in his entourage.  Prabhakara willingly consented and Hasthamalaka joined Acharya’s entourage as a sanyasi.  The twelve verses of his reply was known as Hasthamalakeeyam and had the distinction of being commented upon by Acharya Sankara himself.

Hasthamalaka left with Acharya Sankara, accompanying him on his travels.  He later became one of the four chief disciples of Sri Sankaracharya, the other three  being  Suresvaracharya,  Padmapadacharya and Totakacharya.  Later when  Acharya Sankara established four Mutts in four corners of India i.e. at Joshimath near Badrinath in northern India, Sringeri in southern India,  at Puri in eastern India and at Dwarka in western India, he placed  Hasthamalaka now called Hasthamalakacharya in  charge of Kalika Mutt at Dwaraka.


But unlike  Suresvaracharya and Padmapadacharya,  Hastamalakacharya did not take to writing any Advaitic works or commentaries on other Advaitic works and he is revered more for himself only.  In fact even earlier when he attended the classes held by the Acharya Sankara, it was more to verify his own experience than to gain proficiency in dialectics. It was suggested to the Acharya Sankara that, by reason of his realisation of the Self, Hastamalaka was pre-eminently competent to write a commentary on the Sutra Bhashya and should do so.  Acharya Sankara negated the suggestion by pointing out that Hastamalaka’s plane of consciousness is different from rest and it always dwelt on the Higher Divine Self and he would not bring himself down to the mundane level to write books. Seeing Acharya Sankara placing him on a higher level than those engaged in dialectics, the other disciples were curious to know how one who was not known to have devoted any attention to learning the sastras could have attained the supreme realisation. Acharya Sankara explained to them Hasthamalaka’s background.  On the bank of the Jamuna, a great sage was seated in contemplation when some brahmin girls came there to bathe. One of them had an year-old baby which she was carrying on hand.  She placed the baby by the side of the sage and requested him to have an eye on the baby till she returned from bath and went to the river. The sage who was in a state of samadhi at that time saw nothing, heard nothing.  The unattended toddler slowly crawled, entered the river and was drowned. The mother coming out of the bath was aghast. She took out the dead body of the child, placed it before the sage and wept bitterly.   The sage, who had been in samadhi and quite oblivious to the happenings around him, was moved to pity for the grieving mother when he came out of his samadhi. Using his yogic powers, he left his saintly body and entered the body of the child. The dead child came to life, to the delight of its mother. That child is Hastamalaka, Acharya Sankara explained to reveal  how Hasthamalaka came to have such a complete, comprehensive knowledge without any apparent instruction. The set of twelve verses in which Hasthamalakacharya gave his reply to Acharya Sankara’s initial question in their first meeting and is known as Hasthamalakeeyam, we shall see another time.
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Sunday, 1 July 2018

Three important questions

(adapted from Sri OmSwami’s article in Tattvaloka)

Once a king wanted to know
1)    The most important person
2)    The most important time
3)    The most important karma
He posed it as three questions to his ministers and other courtiers.  He got varied answers like King, God etc., for most important person; death, birth etc. for most important time and charity, serving one’s religion etc., for most important karma.  King was not satisfied with the answers he got.  Then his chief minister suggested that the king take his questions to the sage who lived in solitude in a cave on the top of a nearby mountain.  The king agreed with the idea and went to see the sage. After a few hours of steep climb, he came to the mouth of the cave. He left his sword and costume outside and went in a simple dress and prostrated before the sage.  The sage asked the king for the purpose of his visit. The king told the sage about his quest and posed the three questions.  The sage took him to a cliff of the mountain overlooking the kingdom and left him there to contemplate in silence on the questions and retired to the cave. As the king was surveying his kingdom in silent solitude soaking in the serene atmosphere from the cliff-top, he heard a voice behind commanding him to turn back. Startled the king turned back and found himself looking at his sword pointed at him by the sage standing a few feet away. Taken by surprise the king stood in silence staring at the sword when the sage broke the silence and asked him whether he knew now, who is the most important person, what is the most important time and what is the most important karma.  As the king looked back into the eyes of the sage, a calm feeling swept over his entire being and he bowed in reverence signifying affirmation.  The sage handed back king’s sword and the king bowing once again in gratitude left the place and went back to the palace.

His chief minister who was waiting for him there asked him whether he got the answers and the king said “Yes” with a smile. The chief minister was eager to know them as well. The king said that he got the answers from the sage not directly but indirectly and started explaining them, after telling him what took place at the mountain top. When the king was surveying silently his kingdom he realised that he was a king because of the subjects, and the most important karma for him was to love and care for them. When he was staring at the sword held by the sage and was feeling he was a few moments away from death, he realised that the most important time was “Now”, the present moment. When the sage was speaking he realised that the most important person is the person who is with him at the moment.

After narrating the story, Sri Om Swami comments that if one could remember these answers all the time one’s life would undergo a change for the better and explains these answers in detail in a general context.  The important time in life at any stage in life is “Now”, the present moment because that is the only time one can act in.  That is the time one will ever have because past is gone and does not matter and future is not yet born and has no influence.  Giving attention to the present moment is the principle of mindfulness.  To be mindful all the time is the key to success in any action. So one should make “Now” the primary focus of one’s life.

The person one is with, “Now” is the most important person for the one at that time. One gives sole attention to that person, making the other person feel important, boosting the person’s self-esteem. The other person feels cared, feels respected and this makes for positive relations and positive feelings all around. When adopted in respect of members of one’s family, it promotes harmony in the family.

To bestow love and care is the most important karma.  It is the most worthwhile thing one can do not only with others but also with oneself as well.  When one is with someone else one should show one’s love and care through undivided attention. When one is alone with oneself one should not waste one’s thoughts and energy in nourishing the anxieties for the future nor keep nursing the grievances of the past. One should not give room to negative thoughts at any time.

All these; treating the present as the most important time, holding the person one is with as the most important person and having love and caring attitude to one and all, could be cultivated and sustained only if one keeps one’s mind calm and peaceful all the time, which is the case when contentment rules the mind.  When one is contented, one feels calm and peaceful, love and compassion overflows, struggle, anxiety and agitation disappears and one radiates happiness.  This gives room to acceptance of life’s situations, good or bad, beneficial or adverse without judging them or others, when one combines it with a prayerful attitude which, in short, is called the attitude of a karma yogi.   Eckhart Tolle author of “The Power of NOW” states “The moment that judgement stops through acceptance of what it is, you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace.”
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Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Three disciplines of purposeful life

(adapted from a new year talk by Swami Paramarthananda)

Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in Gita (18-5):
Activity in the form of yajña, dhana (charity) and tapas (austerity) should not be given up. They have to be performed necessarily. Yajna, dhana and tapas are purifiers according to the wise (people).
The above three disciplines yajna, dhana and tapas that are emphasised by the scriptures for purification of mind also lead to a purposeful life.  A purposeful life is a life lived with a conscious intentional goal.  We shall see the three disciplines as can be followed even by an ordinary spiritual person, in a little more detail individually.

Yajna
Yajna means worship. What we usually understand by worship is going to temple, offering puja, doing abhisheka etc.  But the worship that acts as purifier of the mind is a higher form of worship where one converts one’s very life itself into worship.  Swami Chinmayananda makes a wonderful statement “The life that we have is a wonderful gift from the Lord and what we do with this life is our gift, our offering to the Lord.”    Lord Himself has earlier given the formula for such a life in Gita(9-27) thus.
O Arjuna, whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer (as oblation) whatever you give (in charity), whatever austerity you undertake --- dedicate that as an offering to Me
We should live our life in such a way that it is a worthy offering to the Lord i.e. It must be the best, i.e a dharmic life of love and positive emotions.  This way let us start living from today itself without postponing it to a future date for every day spent is like a sword cutting into our life span as the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar says in his kural no. 334
நாளென வொன்றுபோற் காட்டி யுயிரீரும்
வாள துணர்வார்ப் பெறின்.
(Naalena ondrupor kaatti uyir Eerum Vaaladhu unarvapperin)
The wise get this : Time, that manifests itself as days; is a sword that slices off life.
As Swami Paramarthananda says while leading such a dharmic life of love and positive emotions let us love and enjoy what we have to do and that will be the best yajna to the Lord.
Dhana
Dhana means a charity which we do for others. Lord Krishna defines a satvic gift thus in Gita (17-20)
That gift which is given to a proper person at the proper time at the proper place, with an attitude that giving is a duty, without expecting the person to reciprocate is considered to be satvic gift.
Taittriya Upanishad contains advice on dhana in a passage where Guru addresses the students on the occasion of their leaving gurukula after Vedic studies to start life in the outer world.  This is similar to a convocation address and in this address guideline for dhana is given.  It runs as follows:
Sraddhaya deyam – Whatever you give, give it with faith i.e. gladly and willingly
Asraddhaya adheyam -  Don’t give without faith i.e. unwillingly
Sriya dheyam – Give with a sense of plenty i.e. to your capacity
Hriya dheyam – Give with humility
Bhiya dheyam – Give with sympathy
Samvida dheyam – Give with knowledge i.e. understanding of cause
Apart from complying with the above guideline governing a satvic gift there is a very important gift which must accompany all the gifts.  Accompanying a gift, it makes the gift more valuable and also all people, rich or poor, crave for it at all times and in all circumstances. That is the gift of love. Without love all other gifts remain incomplete, while love makes all other gifts meaningful.  Love is invisible; it is an inner feeling, a feeling of the mind.  So when we talk of love, we mean expressed love.  Love is both the consequence and cause of spiritual growth.  The best expression of love is giving our time and attention to the other person, to share their stories and their feelings.  It should start from one’s own family members in the house, especially the elders and children.  One can share their happiness and unhappiness without judging them.  Today when many families are nuclear families, the gift of giving quality time and to respect other’s feelings is the best dhanam.  Giving time to others especially the elders is one of the indices of spiritual growth. Dhanam made without the gift of love is only mechanical and the gift of love regularly and continually made makes one’s scriptural studies also meaningful.

Tapas
Tapas is the discipline of austerity.  There are a variety of disciplines one follows in austerity like fasting on important days like ekadasi.   Of all of them the most important tapas is vak tapas – austerity or discipline at the verbal level, as speech is an important instrument of communication between human beings and more problems arise from spoken words than even action. Sri Sankaracharya says in Vivekachudamani (verse 368) “Yogasya prathama dwaram vak nirodhaha” (The first doorway to Yoga is discipline of speech). Lord Krishna gives four criteria for speech to qualify as an austerity. They are:
  1. Anudhveshakaram -  No verbal violence. One must avoid verbal violence which is the most powerful and worst form of violence.
  2.  Sathyam - Truthful, sincerity in words, no hypocrisy.  There should not be chasm between our mind and words. When we say something, it is because we mean it.  
  3. Priyam  -  kindness. Our words must be soft, polite, and gentle.
  4. Hitham - Beneficial, to the other person. Before speaking any words we should pause and apply the filter whether it is beneficial to the other person. Better remain silent than speaking something not beneficial in the name of speaking truth.
Vak tapas requires that we remain alert to subject the words coming out of our mouth to a quality check always to ensure that they are sweet and good for the people, truthful and is for welfare of all
 So a life that conforms to the cardinal principles of dharma where gift of love and vak tapas is practiced is a purposeful life and let us start living a purposeful life from today.
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Sunday, 24 June 2018

Three great powers of the mind


(adapted from Swami Sarvapriyananda’s leture)

One of the three great powers of mind is the power of concentration or the power of focus. According to Swami Vivekananda the difference between an ordinary person and a great person is the degree of concentration one can bring to the job on hand.  The great person has greater focus on the work at hand and this focus when it is total is called ‘Flow’ by positive psychologists.   Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  (pronounced as ‘mehigh cheeksendmehigh’) describes the mental state of flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."  It is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. This focused absorption is what is achieved in Dhyana and when prolonged leads to the Samadhi state, as we can see now.

In Ashtanga Yoga Dhyana, the uninterrupted focus is achieved through a process of steps starting from mental and moral disciplines outlined in Yama and Niyama.  These help to keep one on the path of Dharma, and staying on the path of dharma there are less distractions for the mind as compared to otherwise.  It is all the more important today where we are in the midst of an epidemic of distractions sparked by the latest smart phones and where it has become a habit to look into the phone for messages or latest updates in various fields all day long even in the midst of other activities, not to mention waking up in its face and going to bed with it.  Yama and Niyama are followed by Asana which brings physical discipline.  Staying quiet in a place also limits the field of distractions for the mind. Next step is Pranayama and control of breadth is a shorter way to control mind as Maharishi Ramana states in verse no. 11 of Upadesa saar “Through breath-control, the movement of the mind is contained, just as a bird is restrained when caught in a net.”  Pratyahara, withdrawl of the wandering senses, the next step leads to Dharana, focussing on a single object or chant.  This focus maintained continually for some time is called Dhyana. Dhyana, effortlessly achieved with ease and at will, helps one to achieve Samadhi.

Scientifically it is stated that our mind is capable of processing at the same time 150 bytes of information. In Samadhi state all the 150 bytes are concentrated on the object of meditation. But ordinarily only a fewer bytes are focussed on the object at hand.  The greater the number of bytes one is able to focus on the work on hand the greater degree of concentration one achieves in the work on hand.   But the effect this power has on an individual depends on the object of focus.  If the object of focus is on the positive values of life then greater the focus, the better the quality of life one enjoys. The greater is one’s misery when the object of focus is on the negative values of lie.  So to use this power to one’s advancement and happiness in life:
1)    Be focussed on whatever you do, cutting off the distractions from other sources.
2)    Hold to that focus to that point of absorption in the object of concentration.
3)    Hold on that way for extended stretches of time.
4)    Focus only on positive values of life.

This brings us to the second important power of mind, the power of making decision
Second great power of mind is the power of making decision on what to do, what to speak and what to think.  They include the opposites as well i.e. what not to do, what not to speak and what not to think.  This power one has all the time and one exercises it all the time when he does not act out of instinct of habit but engages in self-conscious activity.  As Swami Vivekananda has pointed out all that is great and excellent including power and glory will come to one rising to self-conscious activity all the time.  The conscious action should be not only in respect of others but even in respect of oneself.  Another important point to note is the conscious action in respect of thought, word and action should embrace Dharma to uplift a person.  In Mahabharata Duryodhana once told Lord Krishna, “ Jaanami dharmam, na cha me pravrittihi: Janaami adharmam, na cha me nivrittihi”  i.e. “ I know what is Dharma, but I cannot follow it;  I know what is adharma, but I cannot stay away from it”   When one acts self-consciously in an unrighteous way,  he is driving himself towards his downfall. On the other hand we have the example of Arjuna, who surrenders to Lord Krishna seeking advice and says at the end of advice in Gita “karishye vachanam thava” i.e. “I will act as per your advice”   Arjuna was here willing to be guided by the Lord. Even psycho-analysis and medicine can help only if one is willing to be changed. So one should remember for making the best use of the power:
!) Words are subtler than action; thoughts are more subtler than words.   So take care of your thoughts and be self-conscious to entertain positive thoughts only
2) Deciding consciously what not to do is as important as deciding consciously what to do
Swami Vivekananda said that all that is great and excellent in human life will come if one knows what to speak, what words to employ and what action to perform and acts accordingly.  So not only our actions be self-conscious, the guiding motive must also be righteousness and positive thoughts. 

That brings us to the third great power of mind, Power of selflessness.  Thinking unselfish thoughts, speaking unselfish words and doing unselfish action makes one a good person.   Further unselfishness and spirituality go together. Swami Ranganathananda says that  when he closes his  eyes in meditation, he feels peace flowing in him and when he opens his eyes, his attitude is one of ‘what can I do for others meaning community’.  We should not feel other way i.e. with eyes closed in meditation, letting all agitations and problems surface and when eyes are open to have the attitude of ‘what I can get from the world’.  Get should change to give; it can be in money, time or service.  In a school a teacher once told the students “No class today. Let us all go to the theatre to watch a movie”.  The boys gladly followed the teacher. After returning to class, the teacher gave them each a sheet of paper and asked the students to evaluate their happiness on watching the movie in the scale of 1 to 10. Next week also this exercise was repeated but this time the visit was to a children’s home where they distributed, books, toys, clothes and sweets to the poor children housed there.  After returning to the class now also they evaluated their happiness of being with the children and helping them.  Six weeks later the teacher asked the students to recollect their experience and evaluate the happiness felt then separately for the two visits.  It was found that while the scores were now lower for the visit to movies, the scores for the visit to the children’s home was almost the same or even higher. Then the teacher used the comparison of scores to show them how the happiness derived in giving and helping others i.e. from selfless activity lasts much much longer than the happiness derived from personal entertainment i.e selfish activity..  No doubt one feels happy when entertaining oneself or enjoying a pleasure but the happiness is all more when one helps others and instills happiness in their lives. Swami Vivekananda gave as the ideal to the monks the motto “Athmanasthu mokshartham, Jagat hitaya cha.” i.e. “For the liberation of oneself, For the welfare of the world” and laid as much emphasis on “Love thy neighbor” as on “Love thy God”.  Advaita Vedanta does not subscribe to individual soul being separate and unique. Soul is only one for all and is in essence  Brahman, the Supreme.  So Vivekananda says to be selfish is immoral and he emphasized that each individual should work not only for their individual liberation but also at the same time for the uplift of the less privileged fellow men as well.  The interest and care one takes in working for the welfare of under-privileged and downtrodden in the community must be no less than the interest and care he takes in working for his liberation.  In practice one effort helps the other.

The above three great powers of the mind can be harnessed to promote the feeling of personal happiness and well-being in an individual all the time; if one thinks, speaks and acts self-consciously, engaging oneself in all activities one hundred percent, eschewing selfishness and entertaining positive emotions only.  
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Monday, 28 May 2018

Lord's final advice

Gita essays 36


After a brief reference to Karma-yoga with emphasis on swadharma and swabhava, Lord Krishna made a short reference to Jnana yoga highlighting the role of nitidyasanam. When one gets established in Athma Jnanam, one remembers his identity with Brahman spontaneously which Lord described as entering Brahman. Then Lord takes up a brief revision of Bhakthi yoga with emphasis on surrender for receiving Lord’s Grace.  For not all are comfortable in pursuing Jnana yoga with its disciplines of mananam and nitidyasanam, even though they may start enthusiastically with sravanam.  Surrender to Lord is not out of fear or weakness but out of love for the Lord, the highest form of selfless pure love which Lord reciprocates as His Grace to His devotees. Surrender is not a passive act of physical prostration but a constant continuous remembrance of God  in all contacts and transactions to the accompaniment of mental renunciation of ‘I’ness and ‘My’ness in all activities. Lord prescribes different modes of saranagathi for different types of devotees of which first one is propounded in verse 56 as:
Doing all actions ever taking refuge in Me, one obtains the eternal, indestructible state or abode by My Grace(18-56).

The above prescription of surrender is made keeping in view aartha bhakthas and artharthi bhakthas.  They are not interested in Jnanam but have devotion to God and are also devoted to their material pursuits which take priority over devotion to God.  Lord does not want them to change their physical ways, only he wants the change in their mind setup. They should accord devotion to God priority always substituting ‘I’ consciousness with God consciousness at all times.  Giving up their ahamkara and selfish motives, they must work selflessly seeking His Grace.  In short, what they do, they should do as a service to God and what they get they should accept as the blessing of God.

He then assures Arjuna that one can overcome all obstacles and achieve peace and success while doing his swadharma without ego and without sense of doership, surrendering himself to Lord.  But at the same time He also strikes a note of warning that if because of ego one abandons the path shown by the Lord, and strikes a different path driven by his egocentric desires then he will perish without achieving anything worthwhile. He applies this to Arjuna’s life itself and warns him that if out of ahamkara, he decides not to fight and leave the battlefield to take up a life of renunciation, this may not be possible.  It will turn out to be a temporary mental aberration only as his Kshatriya swabhava will not let him stay away from the battlefield deserting his fighting brothers and may force him to join the battle rather helplessly, when it may be too late either for his or their good.

After cautioning Arjuna, Lord reminds him of Iswara tatvamIswara as the Supreme power lives in everyone’s heart and guides everyone’s development.  The relations of one’s inborn nature and fateful compulsion are in His hands.  As puppets are moved by a string-puller seated behind the scene, so also the created beings move and act on the stage of the world under the control of the Lord seated in the hearts of all.  So we must be conscious of the Divine on all the planes of our existence.  Arjuna is called upon to understand the will of God and do his duty. He must surrender unto Him and put himself totally at the service of the Lord without any reservations. Then by His grace Arjuna’s delusion will be dispelled and he will attain inner harmony and peace.

With these words Lord wants to end His advice to Arjuna and give him a free rein to decide on the best course of action in the light of this advice and act freely as per his decision.  But then His love for Arjuna is so strong that he feels like adding a few more touches before calling it a day.  And He again emphasises saranagathi in two more verses before proceeding to sum up the benefits that these words of advice can confer on one and all. The first of the two verses runs as:
Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, offer worship to Me, bow down to Me. you shall come to Me alone; I truly promise to you (for) you are dear to Me.(18-65)

This can be seen as an advice of surrender to Jijnasu bhakthas for whom God is a priority goal. They do not have the Ikya Jnanam but are committed to acquire Iswara Jnanam. Lord advises them to make Him as the only goal, surrender to Him their ego and body consciousness and act without the sense of doership in all their activities. This can also be seen as a final summary of Karma/Bhakthi yoga.

The second of these verses is the final advice coming from Lord.  This can also be seen both as a prescription to surrender for Jnani bhakthas and also as the gist of Jnana yoga. The verse runs as:
Renouncing all actions, take refuge in Me, the non-dual; I will liberate you from all sins; Do not grieve.(18-66)

This is the final teaching verse of Gita as the later verses are only winding up verses; and therefore Sri Ramanujacharya calls this the ‘Charama-Sloka’ meaning the final verse.  The teaching that started from the verse 11 of the 2nd chapter concludes with this verse and this verse is considered to be a very important one and also a confusing one as this is open to several different interpretations. All actions relate to body-mind complex and so renouncing all actions is possible only when one gives up mentally one’s identification with the body-mind complex. One non-dual Lord is the Advaitic Nirguna Brahman and surrendering to Him is through Athma Jnanam realizing one’s oneness with the Nirguna Brahman as Athma.  This in turn leads to the realization that as Athma  one stands liberated always, as Athma is ever untouched by Punyam as well as Papam and it is only through adhyasa mistakenly saddled with Punyam, Papam and bondage.  So Lord’s advice can be interpreted as “ Realize through Jnanam your true identity as Athma, that is the non-dual Nirguna Brahman and shed your false identification with the body-mind complex; thereby freeing yourself mentally from all the notions of punyam-papam and Dharmam-Adharmam, be a liberated Self here and now.”

After concluding the advice Lord makes a few general remarks concerning the study and teaching of Gita and also the phalam.  He first advises that one who has no faith, discipline, devotion and desire to know should not be given this knowledge. Then He declares that one who imparts and the one who receives this wisdom will attain the Lord Himself   And even the one who merely hears this with faith will also attain higher worlds. Then Lord Krishna asks Arjuna whether his delusion is gone to which Arjuna replies positively with grateful acknowledgement and promises to abide by the Lord’s teaching.

Sanjaya who had been so far broadcasting the happenings in the battlefield to Dhridharashtra now tells the blind king how fortunate he was to hear this advice direct from the Lord and how thrilled he feels to have had Cosmic vision of the Lord, Viswarupa darsan.  Sanjaya concludes his remarks with the declaration:
Where there is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, and where there is Arjuna, the wielder of the bow, there will be permanent wealth, victory, prosperity and justice. (18-78).
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Thursday, 24 May 2018

Actionlessness & State of Brahman

Gita essays 35

 


After concluding the guna-wise analysis of various topics with a declaration emphasising the point that there is nothing in the creation which is free from the influence of the three guṇas, Satvam, Rajas and Tamas that constitute Prakrithi, Lord Krishna applies the characteristics of various gunas to the social fabric and classifies the entire mankind under four different heads viz. Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras. Lord Krishna has stated earlier (ch.4-ver.13) that human society is divided fourfold, based on duties and gunas. Now He elaborates further stating that different kinds of duties are assigned to each of these categories of individuals depending on their nature (Swabhava) which in turn depends on the gunas predominant in them.  This classification is based on the quality of the inner personality of the individuals and not on the accident of their birth. The emphasis on Swabhava indicates that human beings are to be treated as individuals and not as types. Predominating guna-wise classification is as follows:

1.     Brahmanas - predominantly  Satva (75%), some Rajas (15%) and a little Tamas (10%).
2.     Kshatriyas - predominantly Rajas (75%) with some Satva (15%) and a little Tamas (10%).
3.     Vaisyas - predominantly Rajas (75%), some Tamas (15%) and a little Satva (10%).
4.     Sudras - - predominantly Tamas (75%) some Rajas (15%) and a little Satva (10%).


The various duties of each of these categories of the individuals depending on their own nature (swabhavajam) are listed by the Lord as follows in verses 42, 43 & 44:

The control of mind and senses, austerity, external and internal purity, forgiveness, straightforwardness, jnanam, vijnanam, and faith in God and Vedas constitute the natural duties of the brahmaṇas born of their own nature. (18-42)
Valour, boldness, fortitude, resourcefulness, not running away from battle, generosity and overlordship are the duties of kshatriyas, born of their own nature.(18-43)  

Agriculture, cattle rearing and trade are the duties of the Vaisya class born of their own nature; action consisting of service is the duty of the Sudra class born of their own nature. (18-44)

A particular combination of gunas arise in a human being not because he is born in a particular group or community but because he is a product of his previous actions performed in his previous lives. Given the faculty of freewill, each human being performs different actions. These actions produce results, some of which are immediate and visible while some are invisible and carried forward as a residue. That which is immediate is enjoyed in that birth itself while the residual results come to fruition as vasanas in some future life.  When each one works according to vasanas in him and fully devotes himself to the prescribed duties, he develops within himself and attains gradually the state of spiritual perfection.  Lord Krishna says all these four professions are equally sacred; they are like the four organs of the body called the society; just as every organ is equally sacred in the body every profession is equally sacred.  Lord Krishna points out that karma yoga consists of worship of the Lord through any profession that a person undertakes. Through any profession a person chooses, he directly contributes to the world by way of benefit to the society. Social benefit is the direct outcome; but to convert it into an act of worship one should have the attitude of offering that action to the Lord.  When one learns to work and achieve in a spirit of surrender to God, work becomes worship free from ego and egocentric desires. Lord Krishna says by so performing one's own duties, svadharma, one can evolve into higher state of self-unfoldment.

Lord is not tired of repeating that sense-control and freedom from desire are essential to spiritual perfection, which Lord calls as “Supreme state of freedom from action (naishkarmya siddhi)”.  Attachments to objects, a sense of ego, are the characteristics of our lower nature. If we are to rise to gain knowledge of our true Self, we must conquer our lower nature with its ignorance and inertia, its love of worldly possessions, etc.  The state of actionlessness or transcending all work does not mean complete withdrawal from all work. Such a question is not possible so long as we live in the body.  What Lord advocates is the state of inner renunciation only. For attaining Brahman from this state of naishkarmya siddhi, Lord highlights nitidyasanam, Vedantic meditation, as the path in verses 51 to 53 thus:
Endowed with a clear intellect, controlling the mind by will, renouncing the sense-objects like sound etc., one should give up likes and dislikes. (18-51)
Resorting to a secluded place, taking limited food, controlling the speech, the body and the mind, taking to detachment, one should be ever devoted to dhyana yoga.(18-52)
Having given up egoism, power, arrogance, desire, anger, and possession, being free from ‘Mine’ notion, (and) remaining tranquil, one becomes fit for becoming Brahman. (18-53)

When our intellect becomes free from its attachments and thus controls our mind and body, then alone we are fit for renunciation of the lower ego-sense and reach for the Infinite Self which is the process of meditation.  Vedantic meditation involves sravanam, mananam as well besides nitidyasanam that involves meditation of the fact that I am akartha and abogtha athma which is different from the body and whose identity is Supreme Brahman.   Lord Krishna after summarising karma yoga as purification of mind for spiritual self-unfoldment, summarises jnana yoga as the means of liberation, highlighting the nitidyasanam.  The qualities required for successful meditation are summarised as
1)  An intellect without tendencies to acquire, possess and enjoy sense objects.
2)   Mind and sense-organs firmly brought under the control of such purified intellect
3)    Sense-organs restrained in their contacts with sense-objects
4)    Mind freed from the influence of likes and dislikes.
Further the true spiritual seeker of higher life must
1)        Seek a quiet place and solitude for sadh ana
2)    Have temperate eating habits
3)    Exercise control over his body, mind and speech
4)    Engage in continuous contemplation of Lord
5)    Lead a life of dispassion.
6)    Give up egoism, power, arrogance, desire, anger, covetousness and the notion of ‘mine’ness

Equipped with the above do’s and don’t’s, the spiritual seeker is fit for becoming Brahman, Lord says.  Becoming Brahman is to get firmly established in Self-knowledge that spells out the identity of one’s Athma with Supreme Brahman.  To know Brahman truly is to know that Brahman is devoid of all names and forms which are caused by maya and He is of the nature of the Absolute. It is also to know that Brahman alone is the essence of the diverse manifestations caused by His maya and He is non-dual, unborn, undecaying, unchanging and of the nature of Pure Consciousness. Entering Brahman is to own up the fact that this Brahman is one’s true Self as Athma and to say comfortably “Aham Brahmasmi”.  The acts of knowing and entering are not two separate and consecutive actions.  For such a person the ego is replaced by God Consciousness, the conception of individuality or `I-ness' ends and he is said to have attained the state of Brahman, oneness with Brahman or Brahma-Ikyam.

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