Friday, 25 January 2013

Gunas and the Maya

Brahman  with unmanifest power of Maya is Nirguna Brahman, while Brahman with manifest power of Maya is called Saguna Brahman or Iswara.  In the unmanifest state all the three constituent gunas, satva, rajas and tamas are in equilibrium. When the equilibrium is disturbed, creation takes place. Everything in creation including Jiva, the individual, has all the three gunas but in varying proportions.  This point is emphasised by Sri Krishna in Gita, where He affirms that there is no entity on earth, or heaven, that is devoid of these three gunas (18-40). The functional equivalents of satva, rajas, and tamas are knowledge, action and inertia, in short.  Sri Krishna analyses gunas in the context of Jiva, the individual, with regard to Jiva's actions and qualities in chapters 14, 17 and 18.  
All the three gunas have one thing in common in that these three qualities, satva, rajas and tamas, born of prakriti, that is Maya, bind the imperishable Athma to body (Gita14-5).  The difference is the one abiding in satva evolves to a higher super-human, divine state, one abiding in rajas stagnates at the present human level and the one abiding in tamas degenerates to sub-human level (Gita14-18).  So Sri Ramakrishna calls the Maya where satva element is more than the other two combined as Vidya Maya and where, either by themselves or together, other two elements are dominant as Avidya Maya. Avidya Maya drags one down towards sensory level and below, and that one is endowed with qualities that Sri Krishna describes as asuri sampath in chapter 16 of Gita.  So we should strive to change to and be in Vidya Maya that makes one pure, moral and ethical, concerned with others etc. by cultivating qualities that Sri Krishna catalogues as daivi sampath in the same chapter. Only from Vidya Maya, one can strive to overcome Maya, by transcending the three gunas, as prescribed by Sri Narada in his Bhakthi sutras (sutra 47).

Vidya Maya has also to be transcended as Vidya Maya still has rajas and tamas. Tamas veils the Real, causing non-apprehension of the Real and rajas projects the Unreal as the Real, causing misapprehension of the Unreal as Real.  The need for transcending satva also,         Sri Ramakrishna explains through a story. A traveller was going through a forest to his home in the village beyond the forest.  Three robbers attacked him on the way, tied him up and robbed him of his belongings.  Then one of them said “Let us kill him and leave”.  Another said ”Let us not kill him but leave him tied up. The animals in the forest will finish him off in the night”. Then they left.  As the traveller was struggling fruitlessly to free himself, the third robber returned, untied him and took him to the edge of the forest where the village was visible and told him “There is your place. Go home.  Good-bye”. The traveller thanked this robber and pleaded with him to come home and have dinner.  That robber politely declined saying “I am also a robber, who is wanted by the police. So I cannot come into the village” and left.  The traveller in this story is Jiva, and the three robbers are three gunas.The one who wanted to kill him is tamas, the one who said it is enough to leave him tied up is rajas and the third who untied him and took him to the edge of the forest and showed the village is satva.   However beneficial satva is, this also is to be transcended. Sri Ramakrishna also says “Through Vidya Maya transcend Avidya Maya and then transcend Vidya Maya also.  It is like removing a thorn with another thorn and then throwing away both of them”.

Sri Adi Sankara calls Iswara a Mayavi, magician, in his Dakshinamurthy stotram(Sloka 2). If Iswara is magician, Maya is His magic.  The magic is so powerful that it has not spared              Sri Narada himself.  To illustrate this Sri Vivekananda narrates an incident from puranas.  Once Sri Narada asked Sri Krishna, as they were walking along, to explain to him the power of Maya. Sri Krishna said “I feel thirsty. First let me have a glass of water and then I will explain to you the power of Maya”.  Sri Narada looked around and saw a house in a village nearby.  He went there to get a glass of water.  As he knocked at the door, a beautiful young girl opened the door.  When Sri Narada saw her, he forgot all about the water and asked for her father.  When the father came he asked for the girl’s hand in marriage. The father agreed and Sri Narada got married, had children and completely forgot all about Sri Krishna and his request for water. Twelve years passed this way and then there was a violent storm and heavy rains and the river waters rose so high that Narada’s house got submerged and Narada with his wife and children tried to escape the floods in a boat.  The boat capsized and Narada’s wife and children were drowned and Narada only miraculously escaped drowning and was tossed by a wave to the dry land  unconscious.  When he regained consciousness and realized that he only had survived, he started crying aloud for his drowned wife and children when there was a pat on the shoulder.  Narada turned round and there was Sri Krishna standing.  Sri Krishna asked him “Where is the water? How long are you going to keep me waiting ”  Sri Narada  fell down at Sri Krishna’s feet and said “ My Lord, now I understand the power of Maya

Sri Krishna who deals in detail how these three gunas are reflected in various actions and behaviour patterns of Jiva also shows the way to transcend the three gunas.  When one perceives and stays in the perception that the three gunas are the forces that cause all one’s activities inside and outside and not the Athma, which is one’s real Self and which is also beyond all the three gunas, then that one attains liberation, transcending the three gunas (Gita 14-19). Such an individual transcending the three gunas, out of which the body is evolved, is freed from birth, death, old age and sorrow and attains immortality (Gita 14-20). 


Friday, 18 January 2013

New Year Satsang

The New year opened with a satsang at my friend Ramesh’s place on the new year day.  After Vedic chanting, chief guest Swami Paramananda Saraswathi gave a brief talk on Chapter 4 of Narada Bhakthi Sutra. In this chapter in five sutras, from 46 to 50, Deva rishi Naradji outlines the means for breaking the hold of Maya that not only veils Reality but also misleads one to believe the unreal as Real.

Maya is difficult to transcend and only those who are devoted to the Lord can cross over this illusion, Sri Krishna says in Bhagavat Gita (7-14). This devotion which is in the nature of supreme reverential love to Lord is defined as  bhakthi by Naradji and that is discussed in the sutras. So the bhaktha here is a mumukshu bhaktha, one who has chosen moksha as his goal, in preference to the other three purusharthas, artha, kama,and dharma. Naradji also describes earlier that in this state of total devotion, which he calls para bhakthi,  the bhaktha feels totally peaceful and totally happy intoxicated with the supreme love for the Lord (Sutra 6).  

Sri Adi Sankaracharya describes Maya in his Viveka  Chudamani as the power of Nirguna Brahman, the cosmic Supreme without name and form, and goes on to say that Maya is of the nature of three gunas, satva, rajas and tamas and is also known as avyaktha, the unmanifest. It cannot be described in words as it does not exist separate from Brahman but cannot be called a part of Brahman and its existence can only be inferred (verses 110 & 111).  It is also called prakriti, nature, as universe has come out of this in creation. Maybe Maya is the cosmology’s point of singularity, the state before big bang. More on this you can find in

Out of Maya is this universe projected and so the universe is only apparently real, like Maya its cause. Maya does not mean real or unreal, only it is not what it appears to be. To twist Swami Vivekananda’s statement, Maya is a simple statement of apparent facts, what we are and what we see around us. Advaita Vedanta has a word for it, transactional reality (vyavaharika Satyam). For instance, we speak about sunrise and sunset, medias also give time of sunrise and sunset, while all of us know that sun does not really rise nor does it set, only the earth’s motion around the sun creates this apparent vision.Under the influence of Maya, the universe is mistaken to be absolutely Real (paaramarthika Satyam) instead of the Lord, who is the absolute Reality behind and pervading this apparent reality of the universe. So a bhaktha to realize the Lord and remain in the state of para bhakthi, while remaining in the world, has to get out of the spell of Maya.

In the sutras 46 to 50, Sri Narada  spells out how one can free oneself of the hold of Maya.  Some of these are: 
  1)      By giving up attachments to objects – It is not the objects themselves but it is our attachment to objects in the fond belief that they will give us fulfilment which is to be given up. 
  2)    By serving great devotees – Service to really great devotees (Bhagavatha seva) is considered as even greater than service to the form of Lord (Bhagavat seva). 
  3)  By giving up sense of possession – It is the feeling of ownership over possessions (the feeling of mine, mamakara,) that is to be given up not the necessary required possessions themselves.  
    4) By being alone in a place of quietude with thoughts of Lord – The important thing here is not the solitude or external quietitude    but the inner freedom from the constant chattering of thoughts, to have the steady flow of thoughts towards the Lord in the seat of solitude. 
     5) By being a karmayogi -  though Sri Narada does not mention karma yoga as such, he lists all the virtues listed by Sri Krishna in Bhagavat Gita verses 2- 45 & 47, such as giving up the anxiety for acquisition and preservation of material possessions (niryogakshema),   renouncing all ego-centric actions and thereby the sense of doership in actions,  renouncing the attachment to fruits of actions, rising above the pairs of opposites (nirdwanda), transcending the three gunas (nistrigunya).  
    6) By giving up even the vedic rituals for engaging in uninterrupted ananya bhakthi . Here ananya bhakthi does not mean hatred towards or belittling of  Gods other than one’s chosen one (Ishta Deavatha) but seeing his chosen form in all forms of gods as Sri Tulsidas saw only Rama in Mathura or as Chaithanya Mahaprabhu saw only Krishna in Ayodhya. A true bhaktha while extolling his own Ishta Devata, does not show any disrespect to other forms in word, deed or thought.  
  In the summing up that followed the discussion after his talk Swamiji advised that one should take up and follow one sadhana earnestly and sincerely, be it karma, bhakthi, meditation or study of scriptures, without being tricked by Maya to keep on speculating which path is better and which comes after what, endlessly. The sadhaka must have a deep longing for God realization and must practise the presence of God in all his actions. He must eschew attachment to people and possessions, including his body, being conscious of their transitoriness. Then God’s Grace will guide such an earnest, sincere, serious seeker in right time to Realization and he should not have any anxiety or worry about when and how of it, Swamiji concluded.  The last point that Swamiji made Sri Krishna gives as assurance to Arjuna  in verse 6-40 of Gita, where He says that anyone who strives earnestly for God-Realization will not come to grief, failing in his goal, and  then goes on to explain how in subsequent verses.