Saturday, 14 April 2018

The significance of ‘Om Tat Sat’

Gita essays 32

In Chapter 17, Lord Krishna, after answering Arjuna’s question on sraddaha, voluntarily discussed four more subjects, namely aahara, yajna, tapas and daanam classifying them guna-wise.  After the classification of all the four subjects,  Lord Krishna started explaining the significance of the famous mantra ‘Om Tat Sat’, which is used in the beginning or end of their activity by spiritual seekers, as this powerful mantra can by its utterance with sraddaha convert even the rajasic and tamasic activities into satvic activities.  In verse 23 Lord calls it as the ‘three-fold designation of Brahman’.  Swami Chinmayananda calls, Om,Tat and Sat as three apects of Reality; Om representing the transcendental and pure Self, Tat indicating the eternal Goal, changeless and ever-perfect and Sat standing for the principle of Existence functioning through all things.  We shall see three Upanishad vakhyas where in each one of the vakhyas, one of the words of the mantra ‘Om Tat Sat’ figures.

The first and second mantras of Mandukya Upanishad talks about ‘OM’ thus; “Omityetadakṣaraṃ idagṃ sarvaṃ tasyopavyakhyanaṃ bhutaṃ bhavad bhaviṣyaditi sarvamonkara eva  sarvagṃ hyetad Brahma  (Om, the word, is all this [i.e. the whole universe]. A clear explanation of it is as follows: All that is past, present, and future is, indeed, Om. And whatever else there is, beyond the three-fold division of time, that also is truly OmAll this is indeed Brahman”.)   Chandogya Upanishad in chapter 6 refers to Brahman as ‘Tat’ nine times in Uddalaka Aruni’s teaching to Svetakethu, in the mahavakhya,  ‘Tat tvam asi” (You are that (Brahman)).  The same Upanishad also refers to Brahman as Sat in 6-2-1: “Sadeva soumya Idam agra asit ekameva advidhiyam” (In the beginning, my dear, ‘Sat’ alone was there as one only without a second)  As we can see from the above references the three words Om, Tat and Sat independently and together reveal Brahman. Invoking this mantra purifies not only all activities and the motives behind the activities; it also removes all defects in worship as well.  As it represents Brahman, it is the source of all, including Vedas and Yajnas.

Lord goes on to explain the context in which the words - Om, Tat, Sat - is to be used.  Lord says that when the acts of sacrifice, gift and austerity as enjoined in the scriptures are undertaken by the seekers the mantra OM is to be uttered to cherish in the mind the divine awareness of the supremacy of the Infinite.  This adds purpose and meaning to all acts of sacrifice, charity and austerity by freeing the mind from the egocentric attachments.  Thus liberated from its physical, emotional and intellectual attachments, the liberated mind functions more efficiently in all austerities, more selfless in all yajnas, and more liberal in all charities.

To work in the field of Yajna or Tapas or Daana by tuning the mind to the meaning of the word `Tat' i.e. the spiritual truth of universal oneness of all living creatures, is to work without ego and the resultant freedom from attachments.  With the utterance of `Tat', all acts of sacrifice, penance and gifts are undertaken by the seekers of liberation without expecting any reward.  Liberation means liberation of one's personality from its physical, emotional and intellectual attachments. With the  liberated mind, one can easily realize the Divinity in oneself.  One who endeavours to liberate oneself must perform all one's activities in such a way that the causes that create the attachments -vasanas- are completely eliminated or under control.

The word `Sat' means both Reality and goodness. It is also used for all praiseworthy actions.  It indicates steadfastness in yajna, tapas ans daana.  In our daily contact with the world of objects we more often believe that this world, as physically observed, is the reality although it is only relatively real in comparison to the unchanging substratum, the `Sat', the Absolute Reality. The mantra `Sat' is used to indicate man's faith and devotion in sacrifice, austerity and gift and also remind one that all these are relative realities and have the same substratum, Sat, the Absolute Reality.

Lord Krishna emphasises in the concluding verse of this chapter  that faith makes man and even if anyone performs most glorious acts without faith they are of no use either here or hereafter. Actions create effects depending on the faith behind the actions. The Lord states that whatever sacrifice is made, whatever penance is performed or whatever charity is given it is called `Asat'  only if they are undertaken without faith as they are mere barren actions. Such faithless actions will produce no spiritual results.  Whatever sacrifice, austerity or charity done without being dedicated to the Lord will be of no avail to the doer in this earthly life here or in the life beyond hereafter. The Lord thus indicates that the spirit of faith is very much necessary and that without faith no spiritual progress or evolution can ever take place. This is true in this life and the life after death. Both in the secular activities as well as in the sacred performances of the religion, the factor that determines the quality and quantity of the result is our own goodness and our faith in the field of activity undertaken.

If the activities of YajnaTapas and Daana are undertaken with the chanting of OM - the Supreme, TAT - the Universal and SAT - the Real (the Infinite Brahman), with faith and sincerity, the seeker's mind gives up all its selfishness, arrogance and ego. The principle behind this advice is that actions create reactions depending upon the motive and attitude of the performer while undertaking such actions.
 For the transformation from tamas and rajas to satva,  chanting of  Om Tat Sat is important.  This mantra can be chanted in the beginning or it can be chanted at the end as well and so every chapter of Gita is ended with Om Tat Sat.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Classification of Yajna,Tapas & Daanam

Gita essays 31

In chapter 17, Lord Krishna takes up for analysis the topic of Yajna, after the classification of faith and food into three categories as satvic, rajasic and tamasic.  In the words of Dr. Radhakrishnan “The Yajna of the Gita is not the same as the ceremonial sacrifice of the Vedas. It is sacrificial action without expectation of any reward by which man dedicates his wealth and deeds to the service of the ‘One Life’ in all.”  So it includes the varieties of karmas prescribed by the scriptures for human benefit as well, because in all these karmas worship of the Lord is involved, directly or indirectly.  Now let us look into Lord’s classification of Yajna in verses 11, 12 & 13 which runs as:
“That Yajna which is perfomed by one without desire for reward and as enjoined by the scriptures, with a firm faith that the performance of Yajna is a duty, is satvic Yajna”. (17-11)
“The Yajna which is performed seeking a reward and for ostentation, know that to be a rajasic Yajna, O Arjuna”. (17-12)
“That Yajna is called tamasic which is performed contrary to the scriptural injunctions, without food cooked (for distribution), without proper mantras, without proper dakhshina and without faith”.(17-13)

Summing up:
Satvic  Yajna - That which is sincerely done according to the scriptural injunctions, without expecting any personal gain or reward.
Rajasic Yajna - That which is done as a show and for the sake of reward or personal gain.
Tamasic Yajna - That which is done without observance of rules, and without proper faith, mantra, dakṣiṇā, and food-distribution.

Lord Krishna next takes up the topic of Tapas.  Tapas has two meanings, one general and the second specific.  The specific meaning is wilful self-denial, which is not the one employed here.  The general meaning of any form of religious or spiritual discipline is used here.  Further the topic is dicussed in two ways. One is based on the instrument with which it is practiced i.e physical, verbal and mental.  The second is based on guna; satva, rajas or tamas. Let us first see karana drishtya tapas (classification based on instrument) i.e kayika tapas, vachika tapas and manasa tapas in Lord’s words, as discussed in verses 14,15 and16:
Worship of the Gods, the brahmins, the teachers and the wise men; purity, straightforwardness, celibacy and non-injury - these are called the austerities of the body (kayika tapas). (17-14)
The speech which does not give offence to anyone, which is truthful, pleasant and beneficial, and the regular practice of the study of scriptures is called austerity of speech (vachika tapas). (17-15)
Serenity of mind, good-heartedness, silence, purity of nature, self-control, together is called mental austerity (manasa tapas). (17-16)

Devotion and reverence to people living a vedic way of life and teachers of scriptures is as much an act of worship as the worship of Gods. Such external acts and observance of purity, internal and external, straightforwardness in relations with others, keeping free of sense attractions and avoidance of all acts of injuring others are all called austerities of the body, kayika tapas.  Speech or the spoken words which cause no disturbances in others, which are true, sincere, agreeable and beneficial to others, diligent study and reflection of the scriptures are all called austerity in speech, vachika tapas.  Here we can recall the words of Manu smrithi which says “One should speak what is true; one should speak what is pleasant; one should not speak what is true if it is not pleasant, nor what is pleasant if it is false”.  Serenity of mind that is the result of one’s healthy relationship with outside world, a feeling of warmth towards all,  an inward calmness without agitating desires or emotions,  control of one’s lower nature within, honesty of motive – with the motivating factor for any action being noble and divine, constitute austerity of mind, manasa tapas

In verses 17, 18 and 19 guna drishtya tapas (guna-wise division) i.e. satvika, rajasa, and tamasa tapaha is discussed as follows:
This threefold austerity which is practised with great faith by those people who are disciplined and are not desirous of any reward is called satvic. (17-17)
That austerity which is performed with hypocrisy for the sake of praise, honour and worship is said to be rajasic, whose result is temporary and unstable. (17-18)
The austerity which is practised out of a foolish notion, with self-torture, or for the purpose of destroying another, is declared to be tamasic. (17-19)

The three –fold austerity viz. of body, speech, and mind, practiced by men of self-discipline with no attachment for the rewards and with utmost faith and sincerity is called satvic tapas. When this three-fold austerity is practiced with a view to gain respect and honour and with vanity and ostentation it is called rajasic tapas.  Such a kind of tapas is unstable and transitory and will only result in unproductive and painful self-denials. Tapas undertaken with a foolish obstinacy involving self-torture or with the aim of destroying others is of the lowest kind and is called tamasic tapas.

Lord discusses daanam (charity) as the fourth topic in verses 20,21 &22 thus:
Daanam which is made (with an attitude) that giving is a duty, to a person who may not reciprocate (and which is given) at the proper place, at the proper time and to a proper person is considered to be satvic daanam. (17-20)
That daanam which is reluctantly made for the sake of something in return, or expecting a result, is considered to be rajasic daanam. (17-21)
That daanam which is made at the wrong place and time to unworthy people, without respect or with insult, is said be tamasic daanam. (17-22)

That charity which is made to someone out of conviction that it is an act that has to be done is the right kind of charity. Even if the recipient of the charity can offer no service in return, the giver of charity should not hesitate while making the gift. Charity comes from within and out of one's heart and should not be considered as an investment. That danam which is given with respect to the right person, at the right place and right time considering other’s requirement is called a satvic daanam.  That charity which is made with the hope of getting some benefit in return or looking forward to some reward or given with a heavy heart is of rajasic type. Gifts which are made at the wrong place and time to an unworthy person with contempt and with no respect are said to be of tamasic type.

Summing up:
Satvic daanam - Daanam that is sincerely made to a deserving person at the proper time and place without expectation of any kind of return.
Rajasic daanam - Daanam which is reluctantly made or with the expectation of a future benefit or reward in return.
Tamasic daanamDaanam which is made with contempt and disrespect to an undeserving person at an improper time and place.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Classification of faith & food

Gita essays 30

At the end of chapter 16, Lord Krishna had stated that sastra is the pramaṇa in determining what is right and wrong and that one who discards the scriptural injunctions and acts according to the promptings of one’s desires cannot attain the highest knowledge of Athma Jnanam.  This generates a doubt in Arjuna’s mind about the fate of those who worship with faith and sincerity but without the knowledge of the scriptures and hence indifferent to the rules and procedures of worship due to ignorance. So he asks the Lord in verse 1:
“What is the condition of those people who ignore the scriptural rules and worship with faith? Is it satva, rajas, or tamas, O!Krishna?” (17-1) 

Lord in his reply first states that the faith may belong to any category satva, rajas or tamas according to one’s temperament.  Faith being an attribute of the mind is invisible like the mind.  But it can be inferred on the basis of three factors, Lord points out.  They are; 1) type of deity worshipped, 2) motive of worship & 3) mode of worship.  Lord prefaces his analysis with the remark that one is made of one’s faith, because the truth one sees is determined for one by one’s faith.  If a person’s innate tendencies are characterized by satva, then his faith will lead him to the pursuit of knowledge and spiritual growth. If they are characterized by rajas, then his faith will drive him to the pursuit of material happiness resulting in sorrow and suffering. If it is characterized by tamas, then his faith will land him in ignorance and delusion.

In satvic category, the deity worshipped is satvic devatha like Siva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna etc, and the motive of worship is spiritual growth and the mode of worship is one turned inwards, not highly physical or verbal but mental and this worship contributes to spiritual growth.  In rajasic category comes the worship of rajasic deities like yaksha, rakshasa, gandharva devathas, and they are worshipped for material growth and the mode of worship is highly ritualistic, extrovert, with pomp and noise, verbally and physically oriented.  In tamasic category falls the worship of tamasic devathas like spirits and ghosts, mode of worship involving blood and sacrifice of physical beings with deities invoked in skull and in burial ground and worship involves hurting and torture of one’s body with the motive of hurting or harming others.  Briefly stated faith in God and worship is satvic when it is used for spiritual growth, rajasic if used for material benefits and tamasic when used for hurting others and oneself.

After this analysis of faith, Lord voluntarily chooses to analyse four other areas; ahara (food), yajna (worship), tapas (austerity), and daanam (charity).  In the choice of one's food, in the type of sacrifices one will engage, in the kind of Tapas one will undertake and in the quality of charity one will make, any one of the three types of classification can be discernible.  According to our scriptures, the food that one takes has a great influence on one’s personality.  Food also is an important contributory factor in spiritual pursuit can be seen from a passage in Chandogya Upanishad (7-26-2) that reads as : “āhāra śuddhau, sātva suddhi; sātva śuddhau, dhruva smr̥ti; smr̥ti labdē, sarva granthinām, vipra mōkṣaḥ” which means that if the food is pure, it will make the mind pure and if the mind is pure, the memory becomes firm i.e. a person will be able to receive the knowledge, Self-knowledge and also retain it; dhruva smr̥ti; and, when a person gets Self-knowledge, that is liberation.  Lord Krishna talks about satvic, rajasic and tamasic food respectively in the three verses, 8th, 9th and 10th as follows:
Foods which increase life, purity, strength, health,joy and cheerfulness , which are sweet, soft, nourishing and agreeable are dear to the Sattvic people. (17-8)
The foods that are bitter, sour, saltish, excessively hot, dry, pungent and burning which cause pain, sorrow and disease are liked by Rājasic people. (17-9)
That food which is not properly cooked, which lacks nourishments, which is stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten and impure refuse, is the food liked by the Tamasic people.(17-10)

We can summarise Lord’s categorisation shortly as:
Satvic - Food which is delicious, which gives longevity, health, strength, and happiness.
Rajasic - Food which is excessively bitter, sour, salty, hot, pungent and which causes pain
Tamasic - Food which is improperly cooked, without nutrition, putrid, stale, left over, and impure.

In Chandogya Upanishad guru Uddalaka tells his son and sishya, Svetaktu “Food when eaten becomes threefold. What is coarsest in it becomes faeces, what is medium becomes flesh and what is subtlest becomes mind”. (6-5-1).  As per Swami Paramarthananda this statement means briefly as follows:  The food that we consume has got three layers; sthula bhaga, the gross part; madhyama bhagaḥ, the middle portion and sukṣma bhagaḥ, subtle part. The sthula bhagaḥ, the gross part of the food will only cater to the taste and it will be evacuated as a waste; then there is a madhyama bhaga, the middle portion, which does not contribute to the taste; but contributes to the physical nourishment in the form of carbohydrates, fats, minerals, salts, etc. And the sukṣhma bhaga, subtle part of the food, will contribute to the nourishment of the sukṣhma sariram; all the subtle 17 organs of sukṣhma sariram, including the mind and sense organs.  The type of mind that we enjoy; whether we have a calm, spiritually friendly mind, or whether we have a highly restless extrovert mind, and whether our sense organs are alert or dull, are determined by the sukṣhma bhagaḥ.  So if a person is interested in the nourishment of the sukṣhma sariram, which is very important for spiritual sadhana he should choose satvic diet which will be good for sukṣhma sarira growth; rajasic or tamasic food may nourish the physical body, but it will not be nourishing the subtle body that helps spiritual growth. So only satvic diet is supposed to be conducive to spiritual growth.

Monday, 2 April 2018

The nature of demoniac people

Gita essays 29

Lord Krishna starts discussing about nature of people with demoniac traits from verse 7 of chapter16, after dividing the human beings into two groups, divine and demoniac in verse 6.  This knowledge of people with demoniac nature can serve one as an aid in one’s own mental refinement.  Mental refinement involves two-pronged process; dosha apanayanam (removal of impurities) and guna aadanam (addition of virtues).  Dosha and gunas we saw in essay 28 as traits to discard and virtues to cultivate in oneself.   Identifying this in others can help one to cultivate satsangh and avoid dussangh.

Such people of demoniac nature are confused about the actions to be pursued and actions to be avoided.  They do not have inner purity nor do they maintain outer cleanliness.  Good conduct is absent in them nor do they maintain truthfulness in their words.  As  materialists they do not recognize the truth that upholds the universe i.e. they do not recognize the eternal unchanging Reality behind the ever-changing flux of things.  According to them the universe is formed as a result of mutual combination of the elements and the driving force that determines the creation is nothing but lust and that there is no commanding intelligence that orders, regulates, determines and guides the happenings in the world. They believe that the world has no substratum, that there is no controlling power and that it exists and continues on the basis of lust only.  They hold that sex-urge alone is the basic driving force behind all achievements and human endeavours and are totally ignorant of their Divine nature. Yielding to desires such devilish persons lead a life of perpetual suffering and endless disturbances in and around them as all their desires are insatiable. They are full of hypocrisy, pride and arrogance. They are the victims of their own delusion because they forget their divine nature by identifying themselves with the unreal things and values of life. With this attitude they carry out all sorts of licentious acts to the detriment of the world at large ultimately leading to the destruction of the world itself. They bring about a discordant note of disharmony in the community and plunge the world into disaster.

They have as their philosophy the materialistic doctrine which states:
yavad jivet sukham jivet rnam krtva ghrtam pibet |
bhasmibhutasya dehasya punar aagamanam kutah ||
“Eat, drink and be merry, for death is certain and there is nothing beyond”.
Such desperate men with all anxieties and cares lead a futile life. Struggle to acquire the desired objects and anxiety for preserving what is acquired are all they care for with satisfaction of lust as their highest goal. Their firm conviction is that there is nothing beyond this in life.

Entangled by insatiable desires, the energies of demoniac persons get dissipated. They become restless and impatient with their surroundings and lose their sense of judgment. Irritated and constantly unhappy with their environment, they become angry over unfulfilled desires. They ceaselessly try to acquire more and more wealth to satisfy their sensual hunger losing sight of a diviner principle of existence.

Such persons live in constant consciousness of what has been acquired and always exert to acquire more and more wealth of the world. As desires are insatiable, they remain in perpetual disappointment and thirst for unlimited possessions. They always raise the cry of success claiming themselves to be the lord and victor of all their enemies. They boast themselves to be perfect, powerful, healthy, wealthy and happy. They look down upon the world with conceit, vanity and contempt and entertain the hope of rejoicing in the world. In short, such people fall into hell because of a) their fanciful egocentric ideas b) their judgment and discrimination getting eclipsed by delusion and false values and c) their addiction to sense gratification.  Lord Krishna says that these people are deluded by their ignorance.

Lord Krishna then describes the characteristics of any Yajna performed by demoniac people.  The demoniac people because of their very personality are incapable of selfless service and whatever they do as yajna is merely a yajna in name only and is performed out of ostentation and contrary to scriptural injunctions due to their sensuality, arrogance and false values of life. As a result of this sorrow only ensues. Such men continue to fall lower and lower each day. They are full of egoism, brute strength, arrogance, passion and anger. A person of this kind of attitude would ignore the sanctity of life, become malignant and because of egoism would hate the Lord Himself or the Paramatma, in his own body and in those of others.

These people are called as the worst among the men in the world. They are malicious against the dignity of themselves and cruel to the people around. Hence Lord Krishna acting as per the rules of the Law of karma casts such people again and again to be born in the Asuric environments only till such time as they realize their follies.  Lord Krishna says that an individual having repeatedly reached the Asuric environments, life after life, fails to realize the Infinite Self for they never climb higher in their culture and only sink to the bottom most level in the evolution, making their fall total and complete.

Lord then sums up the entire asuri-sampat as the three basic materialistic traits of desire, anger and greed, which He terms as the three-fold gateway to hell. These qualities are inter-related to each other as anger arises when fulfillment of a desire is obstructed and greed grows as the consequence of fulfillment of a desire. Lord emphasizes that these three evils must be abandoned if one wants to rise up in the ladder of spirituality.  So a spiritual seeker should renounce desire, anger and greed.  Lord also says that when one avoids these traits and adopts the divine virtues, daivi-sampat, one becomes qualified for Self-knowledge and attains liberation sooner.

The Lord then lays down that sastra is the final authority in determining what is right and what is wrong.  So one should know what the scriptures say and act accordingly. Scriptures mean the dharma sastras and the texts discussing the theory of Truth - Brahma Vidya.  The seeker should therefore follow the authority of the scriptures in leading his life, with a clear mind as to what is to be pursued and what is to be avoided. Lord Krishna finally concludes this discussion with the command to Arjuna  that he should act always without desire, anger or greed, knowing the scriptural injunctions regarding the right way of living.