Sunday, 8 January 2017

Bhakthi and Upasana

Upadesa Saara – verses 4,5&6

Verse no.4 of Upadesa saara reads as:
कायवाङमनः कार्यमुत्तमम् |   (Kaaya Vaang manah kaaryam uttamam)
पूजनं जपस्चिंतनम क्रमात् ||  (Pujanam japah chittanam kramaath)
Action of worship can be done with the body, words and mind. The action done with body is Puja, the action done with words is chanting and action done with the mind is meditation. Each is superior to the other in ascending order. (The action done with words is superior to action done with the body. The action done with the mind is superior to action done with the words.) 

In this verse Ramana Maharishi elaborates about Ishta Devata Bhakthi, Bhakthi in respect of one’s chosen Deity of worship. Bhakthi  is defined normally as reverential devotion to a superior - object, person or ideal.  Here we are referring to Bhakthi as a religious action, reverential devotion to God, the Cosmic Supreme.  This action can be divided into kayikam (physical), vachikam (verbal), and manasam (mental).  Physical action is doing Puja, by offering flowers. lighting a lamp, chanting slokas or Mantras etc., to one’s Ishta devata or visiting the temple and participating in the worship there or going on a pilgrimage to holy places.  Here all the three instruments of body, mind and speech are employed and this is called here Poojanam.  Verbal action consists of singing Lord's glory, reciting slokas in praise of the Lord, reading of religious texts containing the glory of the Lord, including Ithihasas and Puranas and repeated chanting of His Name or a Mantra, regularly.  Here mind and speech only are involved and so this requires more mental concentration than physical action.  This is referred to as Japa.  Mental action is meditation on Lord and this is called Chinthanam.  Manasa puja is also called Upasana. This requires a high mental discipline, much greater than that of physical puja and verbal worship.  All the three actions qualify as Yoga when action is done selflessly surrendering the ego in respect of a single Devata, adopted as one’s Ishta Devata.  It is this Bhakthi that transforms Karma as Karma Yoga. And when this Bhakthi is done for Bhakthi’s sake alone it becomes Bhakthi Yoga. In Bhakthi Yoga  reverential devotion yields place to unqualifed Love of the Lord to whom one surrenders one’s total will and ego.

As Bhakthi matures, the Love expands to embrace the whole creation as Bhaktha sees Lord in all and all as the Lord.  This is called Viswarupa Bhakthi.   Maharishi talks of this Viswarupa Bhakthi in the next verse, verse no.5.

जगत इशधीयुक्तसेवनम् | (Jagada Ishadee yukta sevanam)
||  (Astha murthy brid deva poojanam)
Service of the world is service of God having eight-fold form, with the idea that everything is God alone.

The eight-fold form of God consists of the five elements; space, air, fire, water and earth, the sun (representing all stars), the moon (representing all planets and satellites), and the Jivas (all living beings).  In verse 9 of Sri Dakshinamurthy stotram Sri Sankara describes specifically the Viswa Rupa of Lord Dakshinamurthy in the same way as eightfold form i.e. comprising the earth, water, fire, air, space, sun, moon and Jiva; the manifested Universe of all movable and immovable objects.  Sri Krishna also talks of His eight-fold Prakriti in Gita  (7 – 4), “This Prakrti of Mine is divided eight-fold thus: earth, water, fire, air, space, mind, intellect and also egoism.”  Further the very first nama of Vishnu Sahasranamam  is “Vishwam” – which means one who has entered into all beings, inert and sentient, movable and immovable -“Vishathi ithi Vishwam”.  Again Isavasya Upanishad also in the very first line states “Whatever is here in this world, everything is pervaded or covered by God

Understanding Universe itself as nothing but a form of God is the essence of this Bhakthi.  Initially, the understanding was that God as creator is only the intelligent cause for the Universe.  As one’s knowledge of God grows, understanding expands and one has the knowledge that God is both intelligent cause and material cause of this Universe. As material cause of Universe, God pervades all objects of creation, both movable and immovable, just as gold pervades all ornaments of gold.  A Viswa-rupa Bhaktha sees God in all and all as God.  From Viswa rupa Bhakthi, with expansion of vision and maturity of understanding one grows to appreciate Abhedha-Bhavana and gain Advaitic Jnanam, which Maharishi will discuss later.

In verse no.6 Maharishi elaborates on verbal worship.
उत्तमस्तवादुच्चमंदतः |    (Uttama stavaat uccha mandathah)
चित्तजं जप ध्यानमुत्तमम्
 || (Chittajam japa dhyaanam uttamam)
Singing of Lord’s glories is good, but better than that is loud chanting in japa, while superior to loud chanting is soft chanting in japa. However, best of all is silent, mental japa.

Japa means repetition of a mantra or Lord’s name.  In Japa one should always focus on the mantra or the nama. Focus on the deity is done before the japa begins, as an invocation, and not during the chanting.  Japa produces a vibration which is supposed to be beneficial. The importance of Japa as a sadhana can be seen from Sri Krishna’s words in Gita (10-25) “Among the Yajnas, I am Japa Yajna”.  Japa can be done in a loud voice or in a soft voice or mentally.  The most effective chanting is mental and least effective is loud chanting.  Mental chanting is as good as meditation and so is a form of Upasana.  So Maharishi calls it as Dhyana Japa

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Karma and Karma Yoga

Upadesa Saara - 2

Sri Ramana Maharishi discusses Karma and Karma-Yoga in the first three verses of Upadesa Saara.  In the first verse he refutes the philosophy of Purva Mimamsakas. They believe that:
1.    World and Vedas are eternal and not created by God,  as they don’t believe in God but accept the Vedas
2.    They believe that Karma by itself gives Karmaphala as they don’t believe in a Karmaphala dhata
3.    Vedic rituals by itself gives all benefits during and after life as well as get Moksha
They do not attach any importance to the Jnana Kanda portion of the Vedas.  They are referred to as Karmakandis and the Rishis of Taruka Vana were Karmakandis. So in the opening verse Maharishi states that Karmaphaladhata must be a sentient entity, as not mere Karma but motives are also to be taken into account in determining Karmaphala and Karma being non-sentient cannot fulfil this role. He further makes a positive assertion for the existence of God by emphasising that it is as only as per His dictates one’s Karmaphala is determined. The first verse:
कर्तुराज्ञया प्राप्यते फलं |    (Karthurajnayaa prapyathe phalam)
कर्म किं परं कर्म तज्जडम || (
Karma Kim Param Karma Tad jadam)
The fruits of all actions are attained and controlled by God (Creator). Then how Karma can be superior? Karma is just an insentient entity only.

From the first line it can be inferred that there is a Higher entity, God, which is the srishti stithi laya karanam of this world and God, who is Sarvajna, only determines through His sankalpa the Karmaphala for different types of Karma i.e. whether papa or punya, when to take effect and in what measure?, taking into account not only the action but also the motive.  Karma being insentient cannot play this role and so it cannot be the ultimate authority.  It is only subordinate to the Supreme, God, whom we can refer to as Iswara.  

In the second verse Maharishi refutes the Karmakandis’ philosophy that Karma itself can grant all purusharthas, including Moksha.  Maharishi points out that mere Karma becomes the cause for bondage and even a barrier in the spiritual path as it arises out of desire.  The second verse:
कृति महोदधौ पतनकाराणम |  (Krithi mahodhadhau pathana kaaranam)
फलमशाश्वतं गतिनिरोधकम ||  (Phalam asasvatham gathi nirodhakam}
The big ocean of action is the cause of fall down. The fruits of actions are not permanent and they obstruct the progress of a spiritual seeker.

Every action of a human being is prompted by a desire and there is no end to desire. It keeps multiplying trapping one in it making Karma a big ocean of Samsara. Each desire is responsible for a number of Karmas which in turn promotes more desires. This vicious circle of Karma and desire, i.e. Karma Kama cycle, is a cause for stress and anxiety which can lead to one’s spiritual downfall.  Further one cannot get the eternal purushartha of Moksha through rituals alone and all other fruits of Karma including Swarga are only transient and impermanent. This Sri Krishna points out in Gita (9-21) where he states “After having enjoyed that vast heavenly world (Swarga), they return to the human world on the exhaustion of their punyaphala. Thus, those who follow the rituals and duties prescribed in the three Vedas and desirous of pleasures, attain the state of going and returning (between earth and Swarga)".

Though Karma has these limitations one cannot refrain from doing Karma. As Sri Krishna points out in Gita (3-5):” No one ever remains even for a moment without doing work. For all are made to work under compulsion by the Gunas born of Prakrithi.Maharishi in the next verse gives the prescription for taking the sting out of Karma and making it a vehicle for attaining Moksha.  This verse gives the essence of Karma Yoga. The third verse:
ईश्वरार्पितं नेच्छया कृतम |  (Ishwara arpitam na icchayaa kritam)
चित्तशोधकम मुक्तिसाधकम || (Chitta shodhakam mukti sadhakam)
Work which is performed as an offering to the Almighty and done without any expectation for the fruits, helps in purification of mind & thereby leads one to Liberation or realisation.

Maharishi says “ Do perform action, only change the motive. Let it be performed with a worshipful attitude dedicating it to God”.  Sri Krishna also says the same in Gita (3-9):” This world becomes bound by any action other than that action meant as worship (Yajna).  So without being attached, O Arjuna, you perform actions for Him.”  This process can be described as doing work as Yoga.

Since work is dedicated to God one should accept with equanimity whatever result comes, be it favourable or not as the result depends not only on one’s efforts but also on God’s Grace and prarabdha.   Sri Krishna also emphasises this point when He declares in Gita(2-47) “Your right is for action alone, never for the results’. In Kathopanishad work is classified as Preyas and SreyasPreyas is work for sense-pleasures linked with the body-mind complex and Sreyas, work for spiritual growth.  While Preyas binds, bringing pain and sorrow in its wake, Sreyas liberates bringing eternal joy.  But even Preyas when done with Iswra Arpana Buddhi, with no attachment to results can lead to purification of mind without causing sorrow or pain.  

This attitude of ‘Iswararpitham’ (dedication to Iswara) and ‘Nechchaya kritham’  (not prompted by desire) will help us in neutralising our likes and dislikes converting them to preferences from needs. This leads to ‘Chitta sodakam”(purification of mind) which becomes ‘Mukthi sadhakam’ (aid to Liberation).