Saturday, 25 August 2018

The sway of desire

Bhaja Govindham 6

Verse 15
angam galitam palitam mundam dasanavihinam jatam tundam |
vrddho yati grhitva dandam tadapi na muncatyasapindam || 15 ||
The body is old and worn; head (the hairs) has turned gray; teeth have gone; he walks holding a stick; yet he hasn’t abandoned the bundle of desires.

This verse is composed by Sri Totakacharya.  Here he describes an old man with grey hair, toothless mouth and infirm body that needs a stick for support while walking and regrets that he is still in the grip of worldly desires.  Because desires belong to the mind and the mind can still be ‘young’ in an old body. Sensual desires, unless one deliberately tries to control and channelize in spiritual path can stay with one as an addiction till death and can get carried into the next birth as vasanas. Some do not try to control them but keep trying to satisfy them in the false belief that desires can be ended by fulfilling them.  While a young body with a young mind can entertain and experience pleasures an old body with a young mind can only entertain desires but has no longer the vigour and virility to experience pleasures.  Trapped in an old body and pursuing the path of indulgence, he leads an agonizing life.  Sri Ramakrisna Paramahamsa  points out “However long a stone may remain immersed in a river, it does not allow even a small particle of water to percolate into it. Even so the man steeped in worldliness does not permit any ethical or spiritual feelings gain access to his heart”  In the same way this person in spite of his handicaps seeks fulfillment of desires only.  To give up the desires that work up the mind, one should keep the mind and heart pure.  This one must start practicing from one’s youth so that in old age one has peace of mind and enjoys old age with inner peace and tranquillity.

Verse 16
agre vahniḥ pṛsthe bhanuḥ ratrau cubukasamarpitajanuḥ |
karatalabhiksastarutalavasah tadapi na muncatyasapasah || 16 ||
There is fire in front of him and the sun at the back;  at night, he crouches with his chin between his knees;  he lives under a tree and has only his hands to receive alms.  Alas, in spite of all this, he is not released from the rope of desire, which has bound him.

Sri Hasthamalakacharya has composed this verse.  This verse depicts the other extreme, utter self-denial, in the hope that it will exhaust all desires.  Here is a sanyasi who has renounced everything and is leading a rough and hard life of recluse. He has no money, no worldly possessions including essential needs of life, like the warm clothing for winter.  The poor man has only the sun to give him warmth and he sits with his back turned to the sun.  At night when fire is lit, he goes and sits in front of it and when there is no fire he keeps himself warm by crouching with his chin between his knees. There is no utensil to take bhiksha (alms), so he takes it in his palms. He has no place to live and so rests under a tree.  Anybody may take him to be a true Yogi; but it is not so, for a closer look at him will reveal that in spite of all these external austerities, he hasn’t been able to renounce his desires.  He is not free from the grip of desires, which are hidden deep in his mind.  All the external efforts are of not much use with the glaring internal defect which he could not get rid of.  So he has to make further efforts to bring his mind also under control to fulfill his dream of God realization. For renunciation has to be at internal level as well i.e. not only senses are controlled from sense-objects but the mind is controlled to eliminate the attachment to sense-objects. There is no doubt that renouncing the sense enjoyments is a way to keep out their influence on the mind; but there has to be deliberate mental effort as well to free the mind from the attachment to the sense objects.  Internal (mental) renunciation must accompany if not precede the external (physical) renunciation if one is to reap the fruits of his sadhana.

Verse 17
kurute gangasagaragamanam vrataparipalanamathava danam |
jnanavihinah sarvamatena bhajati na muktim janmasatena || 17 ||
One may go on pilgrimage to the river Ganga or the ocean; may observe fasts or give away wealth in charity. However, one will not attain liberation without the Athma Jnanam, even after a hundred births. This is the opinion of all schools of thought.

This verse is composed by Sri Subhodha. Ritualistic worship, pilgrimage to holy places or temples, ‘vratas’ and charity are all performed by pious householders in the fond hope that these acts of religious discipline will enable them attain moksha after death. All these above acts, no doubt, help the devotee to progress in the spiritual path. They are all sadhanas for self-purification and self-purification is a necessary requirement for gaining Athma Jnanam, Self-knowledge.  But, the acharya cautions, all these acts are not to be considered as the goal of spirituality as these are only milestones on the path, not the destination itself.  They are just important steps leading to a higher truth.  They are only the means and the end is attaining Athma Jnanam only i.e. the realisation of the oneness of the individual Self, Athma and the Universal Self, Brahman. Once one has attained Jnanam, i.e. realised the oneness of Athma and Brahman, one becomes free from all material desires and attachments.  Other schools of philosophy besides Vedanta are also in agreement with the message that Athma Jnanam is indispensable for attaining Liberation, freedom from the cycle of birth and death.  In reality, the Self is free, but it is taken to be limited and bound because of ajnanam and ajnanam can be removed only through Jnanam. Until ajnanam is removed one does not feel fulfilled totally and desire which is a symptom or manifestation of an inner dependence or an inner bondage will persist in the mind keeping one away from the final goal of Liberation.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Pull of Desire & Glory of Satsang

Bhaja Govindham 5

Verse 12
dinayaminyau sayam pratah sisiravasantau punarayatah |
kalah kridati gacchatyayuh tadapi na muncatyasavayuh || 12 ||
Day and night, dawn and dusk, spring and winter, come and go again and again; Time plays and life goes in vain; Yet the fire of desire doesn’t quench.

Day and night, dawn and dusk, winter and spring come and depart again and again.  The wheel of Time thus keeps rotating and one’s lifetime also flies.  In spite of advancing in age, one does not make an effort to get out of the clutches of samsara.  The mind makes one believe that all objects of the world that glitter with an illusory beauty can give happiness, but time proves otherwise. Life steadily ebbs away, but the desires do not abate, they only grow fuelled by sense gratifications.  As age advances one becomes infirm with a disease-ridden body but still desires and thirst for sense-enjoyments still haunt one and he fails to see that when the worldly objects give one a pinch of pleasure, it is also accompanied by a pound of pain. One does not abandon the desire for the things of the world even at that age and stage and turn spiritual looking inward, laments Sri Sankara in this verse.  One’s thirst for worldly pleasure even in the face of odds and hazards is typified in a story.  A man is chased by a tiger in the forest. He falls into a well. As he falls he grasps a protruding creeper midway down the well. As he looks down he sees snakes in the water. As he looks up he sees the tiger peering at him threateningly. At that time he hears a rat gnawing at the creeper.  When he is thus perilously balanced honey drips on his face from a honeycomb on the tree overhanging the well.  The man forgetting all his perils sticks out his tongue to catch the honey and lick it. One’s future in worldly life is unpredictable, uncontrollable and hence unstable.  Looking for permanent security from an unstable setup is delusion. Giving up this delusion, one should seek security from Lord’s Grace turning one’s attention away from sensual pleasures.

Verse 13
kate kanta dhana gatacinta vatula kim tava nasti niyanta |
trijagati sajjanasangatiraika bhavati bhavarnavatarane nauka || 13 ||
Oh fool! Who is your wife ? Why are you so worried about wealth ? Do you think you have nobody above to guide you ? In all the three worlds, satsang is the only thing which acts as the boat to cross the samsara (the worldly life of birth and death).

Sri Sankara addresses in this verse the deep-seated need felt in the human psyche for some form of support. Chiefly one looks for this support in the outer world, in spouse or in wealth.  He forgets that there is a higher Power that is taking care of everything in creation and one should just surrender all one’s concerns and anxieties to Him.  One should turn to the divine source of all creation for strength and support letting go the dependence on wife and wealth as Lord knows one’s needs even more than one does and would make the best support that will meet all one’s needs.  The second line of this verse provides a mundane alternative to “wife and wealth” as a support for one’s life. It is Sajjana sangatii i.e.satsangh, the company of good and holy people, who are traveling along the spiritual path to God.  Even in the three worlds of Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka, Suvarloka there is no other better way declares Sri Sankara.  Swami Vivekananda says “The only remedy for bad habits is counter habits; all the bad habits that have left their impressions are to be controlled by good habits”  Through satsangh one imbibes good values and good habits.  Sri Sankara compares satsangh to the boat that helps one to cross the ocean of samsara as good company has the strong rudder of sound values that can take one safely across the waters of life with its whirlpools of worldly desires to the other shore of Liberation unlike bad company which is like a rudderless boat that drifts and drowns.

Verse 14
jatilo mundi lunchitakesah kasayambarabahukrtavesah |
pasyannapi cana pasyati mudho udaranimittam bahukrtavesah || 14 II
One is with knotted hair, another with shaven head; there are others with plucked hair and wearing saffron cloth; The fools variously disguised in this manner “see”, but in reality, don’t “see”; All this is just a pretension for easy livelihood.

With the previous verse the Dwadasa Manjarika stotram, the first twelve verses composed by Sri Sankara comes to an end.  From this verse starts Chaturdasa Manjarika Stotram, the next fourteen verses composed by his sishyas.  Each verse is composed by a different sishya.  We do not know all their names but for the few where names are known an attempt is made to give them.  For instance this verse is the composition of Sri Padmapadacharya, whom and other disciples I shall refer by the generic name of acharya.
In the previous sloka, Sri Sankara stated that ‘Satsang’, the company of the good and holy alone will help us out of the worldly bondage. And now acharya continuing with that theme strikes a note of warning.  Beware! There are phoney ones in the holy garb who had taken up this dress for the respect it commands among people and the free food for which it serves as a good passport. Their claims to spirituality is spurious.  An important point this verse makes is regarding the insincerity and hypocrisy of these fake sadhus who make use of all external symbols like saffron dress, shaved head, knotted hair etc., to con gullible people and this verse is not an attack on the symbols themselves. The ploy to use an ascetic’s guise to dupe the innocent people was there even at Ramayana time, we can see from the act of Ravana using the guise of an ascetic to kidnap the  unsuspecting Sita devi.   Acharya calls these false sadhus, fools for they pretend to see the Truth but in reality they do not and they try not as well.  When one seeks satsang for spiritual upliftment they must be wary of such people who have really not shed their egoism and attachments and are still in the grip of thoughts of ‘I, me and myself’. 

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Path to Samsara - nasa

Bhaja Govindham - 4

Verse 8
kate kanta kaste putrah samsaro'yamativa vicitrah |
kasya tvam kah kuta ayatah tattvam cintaya tadiha bhratah || 8 ||
Who is your wife ? Who is your son ? Strange is the (way of the) world; Of whom are you? From where have you come? Brother, now ponder over these truths.

In this verse Sri Sankara deals with the process of enquiry that will help one to get out of the intense mental bondage concerning the immediate family members.  He is not denouncing the physical attachment that forms the moral foundation of society and which the scriptures uphold. But one should not mistake family life to be the end and aim of life.  So one should analyse all the things one is attached to including one’s own self and one’s family.  Detachment is the removal of selfishness, demands and expectations. It is the dropping of the sense of “my-ness”.  Analyze all the things one is attached to. What is one’s about the son, daughter, wife or husband? They are individuals with their own distinct personalities, life goals and aspirations. Let one analyse; “Before my birth, who I was, where I was? Who was my wife before our marriage?  She was a daughter of somebody. One fine morning she entered my life. Like this, I have no clue who were my sons or daughters. After death, all these relationships will come to an end, whether I like it or not; whether I accept it or not. Yet I foolishly think all this is permanent.” The more one enquires on these lines the more one will come closer to truth and realize the transient nature of these relationships which will be a good beginning for spiritual life leading to samsara-nasa.  This Sri Sankara gives as a brotherly advice for one’s spiritual well-being and so he addresses the other person as brother.

Verse 9
satsangatve nissangatvam nissangatve nirmohatvam |
nirmohatve niscalatattvam niscalatattve jivanmuktih || 9 ||
From the company of good and holy people, one develops a state of nonattachment; from this comes freedom from delusion; This leads to a state of tranquillity of mind, which enables one to attain Liberation from samsara.

In earlier verses Sri Sankara indicated to one how to detach from sensual and worldly pleasures through the Pratipaksha Bhavana.  In this verse he is giving a helping hand by showing a ladder of progress carefully climbing which, one can reach the spiritual heights of self-realisation that is Liberation or Moksha even before shedding the body.  
The first step is keeping satsangh: the company of holy people, saints, good men and women.  It is a well-known fact that good character is developed from the company of good people and the opposite is sure to follow from keeping the company of the wicked.  The light of satsang slowly lifts the veil of delusion that clouds our intellect. From that point onwards spiritual life begins in earnest. Satsangh helps one to know which is real and which is maya, which is permanent and which is transitory and which leads to God and which takes away from God. With this knowledge the mind can be weaned away from false attachments. This attitude of renunciation of worldly pleasures and charms is required for further progress.  Through this knowledge and in the company of good, one slowly starts to develop an attitude of non-attachment to things of the world. From non-attachment comes freedom from delusion that the worldly objects provide happiness. Once the veil of delusion that clouds one’s intellect is lifted one develops the firm understanding of oneself and with an unwavering and steady mind marches towards the goal of Self-realisation and gets liberated-in-life.
The message of this verse is: “With satsang, the foundations of ajjnanam start crumbling.  Satsang is at the start of the “chain” which if  pursued with devotion and dedication leads to Liberation (Moksha). The successive steps as given in the verse is: Satsang à Non-attachmentà Non-delusion à Self-realisation à Liberation.”

Verse 10
vayasigate kaḥ kamavikarah suske nire kaḥ kasaraḥ |
ksinevitte kah parivarah jnate tattve kah samsarah || 10 ||
What good is lust when youth has fled away? What is the use of a lake that has dried up ? Where are the relatives when wealth is gone ? Where is samsara, the worldly life, when the Truth is known ?

In this verse Sri Sankara using the analogies of youth, water and wealth explains that when truth is realized, samsara dissolves for that person.  
1.     When youth is gone and there is no sexual vigour, lust becomes ineffective ;
2.     When water is all dried up, the lake loses its utility and also its form and existence;
3.     There will be no relatives hanging around, when one runs out of wealth;
In the same way there will be no samsara for one who has attained Self-realisation.  God alone is Truth and with God-realisation one understands the world is a delusion and God is the unchanging eternal principle behind the ever-changing mortal world.  The driving force in life is the worldly desires. When one succeeds in curtailing them and the lake of worldly desires dry out, there is no samsara for him. The material world loses its attraction as he has understood its hollowness and also discovered the durable and fulfilling thing. The darkness of ignorance vanishes with the light of knowledge of the Self and mundane matters with their anxieties and sorrows have no impact on him.  In the words of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa “What remains in the man from whose mind lust and greed are entirely eliminated? The bliss of Brahman beams in him”

 Verse 11
 ma kuru dhana jana yauvana garvam harati nimesatkalah sarvam |
mayamayamidamakhilam buddhva brahmapadam tvam pravisa viditva || 11 ||
Do not take pride in wealth, friends, and youth. Time takes away all of these in a minute; give them up having known that all these things are nothing but delusion, and enter the state of God realization and merge in Brahman.

Sri Sankara in this verse cautions one against becoming proud and egoistic with the false sense of security provided by youth, wealth, one’s relatives and friends and other worldly possessions. One should not forget that there can be a change to this status that comes from wealth and influence in the society if the wealth is lost.  One should always remember that youth is not everlasting and neither is wealth. Money can be lost in many ways; misfortune, theft, cheating, quarrels, ill health, etc.  If the wealth is lost, friends and relatives will desert one, sooner than later. So the power and pomp, prestige and privilege one experiences due to wealth, friends, relatives, age and position at any time is not permanent and the appearance of permanence is only maya.  So Sri Sankara warns that one should not dissipate one's energies in these false vanities. Instead, realizing the illusory nature of the world of objects, one should concentrate on spiritual path and realize the true nature of one’s Self as Brahman, that will not only destroy samsara in this birth but also will give relief from the vicious cycle, of birth and death, itself for ever.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Truth of Human Life & Relationships

Bhaja Govindham 3

Verse 5 & 6
yavadvittoparjana saktaḥ stavannija parivaro raktah |
pascajjivati jarjara dehe vartaṁ ko'pi na prcchati gehe || 5||
As long as one is fit and capable of making money, he gets the affection of his family members.  Afterwards, when he is old and sick, nobody even bothers to enquire his welfare.

yavatpavano nivasati dehe tavatprcchati kusalam gehe |
gatavati vayau dehapaye bharya bibhyati tasminkaye || 6 ||
When one is alive, his family members enquire kindly about his welfare.  When the soul departs and the body falls, even one’s wife is afraid of the corpse.

In these two verses Sri Sankara uses human experience in old age and at death to expose how empty and false the human relationship is, to pull one towards the spiritual goal.  In this process he holds a mirror to the facts of human life and realities of human relationships.  He is not pessimistic, only realistic looking at things straight in the eye.
As long as one earns, family, relatives, friends, etc. are there with him showing him all attention and affection.  When the same person gets old and is no longer capable of earning money, all those who surrounded him and showered affection and attention slowly desert him one by one as his savings depletes. As the physical and mental faculties deplete with advancing age people distance from him. Even son or daughter, brother or sister do not consult much less discuss when deciding family matters.  As the ‘utility factor’ wanes, so is the respect commanded.  This is is the fact of life which one should remember and steer the mind clear of attachments and expectations and strive to develop one’s spiritual assets through introspection, reflection and contemplation on the higher values of life.  This verse aims to help one to choose one’s priorities right, not allowing unnecessary concerns over people to dominate one’s decisions and allocating time towards his spiritual well-being as well.

The theme begun in the first verse is continued in the next verse with a graphic touch added to it, to drive home the same point with added emphasis in respect of one’s own body to which one is much more deeply attached.  So this verse tries to set the attitude to attachment of one’s own body in correct perspective as the previous verse tried to set the attitude of attachment to relations and people in proper perspective.  Knowing the limitations of the body will help one keep a healthy attitude to one’s body and turn the mind to everlasting principles, rather than concentrating on daily affairs only.  As long as the breath of life is there, people come and crowd around. The departure of prana (jiva) changes the whole scene. People want to get rid of the dead body as soon as possible.  Even wife is afraid of her husband's dead body, the body which gave her pleasure and pain in life; which shared her joys and sorrows.  So body does not have intrinsic worth of its own and it is the human life which is very precious. The human body is the container one has, to do Sadhana to realize God, and to that extent only one is to be preoccupied with the body and keep the mind free to pursue self-knowledge.
In this verse delusion arising from overestimation of body is discussed and in the previous verse delusion caused by overestimation of relationships was analysed.  The reason why Sri Sankara is harsh in his words for things which hold back most people from pursuing the spiritual path more seriously is explained in the next verse, where he narrates the fact of man’s journey of life.

Verse 7
balastavatkridasaktah tarunastavattarunisaktah |
vrddhastavaccintasaktah parame brahmani ko'pi na saktah || 7 || 
As a child, one is absorbed in play. As a young man, one is attached to women (lost in women).  As an old man, one is lost in worrying thoughts.  Alas! No one is attracted to the Supreme Brahman, God.

Sri Sankara portrays in this verse the truth about man’s journey of life and laments that one at all times is immersed in worldly pursuits, but at no time is interested in realizing God.  As a child, one is immersed in play and games without a worry of the world. The play in childhood gives way to lust in the youth.  One’s main aim now is to attract the opposite sex and enjoy their company.  As one gets older, one worries about  the things wrongly done and things left undone on the material side in past life and also about one’s relatives, one’s children  and  their children and also about one’s present physical and mental drawbacks.  One hardly pauses to think about God or reflect about a spiritual goal in life at any time in one’s life.  If at any time spiritual thoughts arise in younger days, it gets postponed to the old age or to the days after retirement from active life. The problem here is one does not know how long one will live. Secondly even if one survives to old age, being immersed in materialism all through, the material vasanas become so dominating that to switch over to a spiritual life becomes well nigh impossible.  Sri Sankara’s aim in pointing out this is to make one resolve immediately to bring God into one’s life and slowly  increase gradually the time and attention for God so that as one gets older one will be able to detach oneself easily from mental ties and physical relationships and turn attention completely Godward, which is possible only in human life.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

“Kamini, Kanchana” delusion & uncertain life

Bhaja Govindam-2

Verse 2
muda jahihi dhanagamatrsnam kuru sadbuddhim manasi vitrsnam |
yallabhase nijakaramopattam vittam tena vinodaya cittam ||
Oh fool! Give up now the thirst to amass wealth.  Getting rid of vain desires, fill
the mind with good and holy thoughts.  Entertain it with the wealth you acquire by
fair means.

If in the first verse, Sri Sankara denounced the delusion in respect of the worldly education, here in the second stanza he decries the delusion in respect of the money, adoring it as an end instead of treating it just as a means only.  It is not seeking money that is deplored; it is the ‘thrushna’, the relentless quest for money that is decried.  Here ‘Dhana’ stands not for money alone but for the entire artha purushartha.  It is forgetting God in the chase of artha purushartha, that is denounced here.  Earning money through honest means is Okay. But one shouldn’t become greedy.   It is greed that is the villain that makes one indulge in unlawful means to amass money.  There is no end to one’s greed if it gains a free hand.  As Nachiketas tells Lord Yama in Kathopanishad (1-1-27) “ Na vithena tarpaneyo manushyaha” meaning ‘ man is not to be satisfied with wealth’.  Mind is always in a restless state and needs something to engage itself.  The mind isolated from greed should be filled with spiritual thoughts, thoughts turned Godward.  Wealth thus acquired without greed, through fair and legitimate means, when shared with the needy instead of hoarding, cools down the passions in the mind.  With a mind free from passions, one is able to concentrate on spiritual thoughts and engage in study of spiritual literature.

So Sri Sankara in this sloka points out that while acquisition of wealth is required to function in the materialistic world, one should do it without developing thirst to acquire wealth for  hoarding and be content with what one gets through legitimate means and this also he should do with prasada-buddi.  The mind thus freed of thoughts of amassing wealth should be engaged in thoughts of contemplation on God.  Cultivate detachment toward material enjoyments and fill the mind with love of God and good thoughts. Of such a householder who also uses his excess wealth to distribute to the needy, Swami Vivekananda states “the householder who struggles to become rich by good means and for good purposes is doing practically the same thing for the attainment of salvation as the anchorite does in his cell when he is praying”.   

Verse 3
naristanabhara nabhidesam drstva magamohavesam |
etanmamsavasadi vikaram manasi vicintaya varam varam ||
Don’t get excited with desire seeing the full breasts and navel area of women.
Think of them again and again as mere modifications of flesh, fat and the like.

Just like preoccupation with money, preoccupation with opposite sex also takes one away from the pursuit of spiritual goal of life.  It is natural for one to seek money for security.  Once feeling secure, one’s mind turns to seeking pleasure and sex comes to mind naturally because of the basic animal nature of human beings. That is why even when one rises to higher nature, one can fall a prey to kama easily if one is not careful and vigilant  against carnal slipups. Sri Sankara is talking about adopting prathipaksha bhavana to turn one’s mind away from the glamorous curves of a female body whenever the thought occurs.   In prathipaksha bhavana you try to see the full picture by seeing the other side as well along with the attractive side.  In this case one tries to picture the repulsive flesh and bones behind the attractive features of the body whenever one’s mind strays towards them so that an aversion to counter the attraction is also built up in the mind. This counter thought has to be reinforced again and again (vaaram, vaaram) for it to take firm root and ensure that one does not get lost in the temptation of the body,  to the exclusion of higher things in life a human life is meant for.   

This type of exercise is described in Viveka chudamani (verse 22) as “doshadrstya muhurmuhuḥ” meaning ‘observing the defects again and again.  In Kathopanishad Yama tells Nacchiketas (1-2-2): “Sreyas (the good and preferable) and Preyas (the pleasant and pleasurable) approach a man; the wise one using his intelligence chooses Sreyas while the ignorant one yielding to temptation prefers Preyas”    Sri Sankara is here cautioning about Preyas and helping to choose Sreyas as in the previous verse.  We should remember here that when sexual pleasure is criticized, it is not man or woman or marriage that is the target, but it is the uncontrolled temptation that has the effect of making one completely forget the spiritual purpose of human life that is denounced.  Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa often advised his devotees to slowly get rid of desire for “kamini kanchana” meaning women and wealth, as these two create the biggest obstacles for the sadhakas who want to progress on the spiritual path.

Verse 4
nalinidalagata jalamatitaralam tadvajjivitamatisayacapalam |
viddhi vyadhyabhimanagrastam lokam sokahatam ca samastamII
Life is uncertain and unstable as a drop of water trapped in a lotus petal; know
that it is prone to various maladies like diseases and egoism and the entire
worldly life of man is mostly grief-stricken.

After addressing the artha, kama  purusharthas in the previous two verses Sri Sankara is addressing the uncertainty of human life in this verse by comparing it to a water drop on a lotus leaf in the pond. Water drop on a lotus leaf is a beautiful simile in more than one respect.  It brings out the uncertainty of human life and the hollowness of its attractions.   The first look of a droplet delicately balanced on the lotus leaf is one of sheer beauty.  But on a closer look the other side is revealed – its shaky uncertain existence, for it faces many threats to its survival.
1.     A slight wind can simply blow it off the leaf.
2.     A slight wave in the water can shake off the droplet back into the water.
3.     Even if it survives that, as soon as the sun rises a bit higher, even without any
wind the droplet cannot avoid getting dried up out of existence
Life is similarly uncertain in duration. No one can escape from the clutches of death and death stalks at every moment.  Life is not only unstable, but it is afflicted with the maladies like diseases, pride and egoism.  Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says “Jnana and mukti cannot be had as long as egoism persists. Birth and death also do not come to an end to him who is given to egoism.”

This simile has also a Vedantic angle. Lotus grows in water. Hence the water drop which falls into the water again, joins its original source i.e, water.  If we think of the infinite Brahman as water in the pond and the Jeevatma as the water drop on the lotus leaf, then it conveys the idea of identity of Jeevathma and Paramathma indicated by the Mahavakya, ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ - Thou Art That (You are that), lotus plant growing out of water standing for the worldly life that creates the delusion of separation between Jeevathma and Paramathma.   Pratipaksha Bhavana is brought into play in this verse also.  When we realize the uncertainty of life, it will lead us to take to spiritual life more seriously, and with a sense of urgency.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Seek the Lord & save yourself

Bhaja Govindam - 1

Bhaja Govindam is a Bhajan song composed by Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada, whom we shall hereafter refer to as Sri Sankara, in which he has packed the entire essence of Vedanta.  Writing about this work, Rajaji remarks “Sri Sankara has packed into the Bhajagovindam song the substance of all Vedanta, and set the oneness of Jnana and Bhakti to melodious music.”  It is much more than a Bhajan song; it is indeed a philosophical treatise that can be ranked one among the prakarana granthas. The background behind the composition of this work is as follows.  As Sri Sankara was walking in the streets of Kasi with his disciples, they came across an old person of advanced age struggling to learn “Dukrin karane” formula from Panini’s book of grammar “Siddantha  Kaumudhi”.   Sri Sankara felt pity for him as he was spending time at such an advanced age trying to learn a language instead of turning his attention to God, singing His Glory and seeking moksha.  This prompted Sri Sankara to advise through this song this person and similar other persons suffering from various delusions to turn their efforts Godward, drawing their attention to the transient nature of life and hollowness of material possessions. 

This work contains 31 verses of which the first one is considered the pallavi, to be sung in chorus at the end of each verse.  This and the subsequent twelve verses are composed by Sri Sankara himself and this part is called Dwadasa Manjarika Stotram”(a bouquet of 12 flowers).  The fourteen disciples inspired by the Guru’s song, sang each one verse on the same theme and this part of fourteen verses is called the “Chaturdasa Manjarika Stotram”(a bouquet of 14 flowers).  Pleased by their efforts, Sri Sankara added to the work of 27 verses, another four verses in conclusion, to make in all 31 verses.   The work is also referred to as “Moha Mudgara”.  The word Moha means delusion. Mudgara means ‘hammer’. Together, Moha Mudgara means the remover or destroyer of delusion. It is called so because each verse gives a heavy blow to the excessive value one attaches to the worldly possessions and so naturally there is no softness in the tone of this composition to emphasise the urgency in the situation.  As per Swami Paramarthananda the work has one point programme- ‘Mumukshu bhava” {become a seeker of moksha)

Verse 1
Bhajagovindam bhajagovindam govindam bhaja mudhamate |
samprapte sannihite kale nahi nahi raksati ḍukṛnjkarane ||
Worship Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda, oh fool! When the hour of death approaches, the formula of grammar will not save you.
Sri Sankara starts straightaway advising the old man to spend his last days contemplating the Lord rather than wasting on learning the grammar.  The study of grammar stands for all secular knowledge referred to as apara vidya that can be of help in the material life only.   For spiritual upliftment one should turn to Para vidya, the knowledge by which Brahman, the supreme could be known.  In short Para vidya is the spiritual knowledge for moksha purushartha and apara vidya is the material knowledge that one seeks for the other three purusharthas;  dharma, artha, kama purusharthas.  It is the Para vidya that leads one to spiritual realization that bestows immortality and eternal bliss.  The glory of spiritual knowledge, Para Vidya, is thus emphasised by Swami Vivekananda who says “Spiritual knowledge is the only thing that can destroy our miseries for ever; any other knowledge satisfies wants only for a time.  It is only with knowledge of the spirit that the faculty of want is annihilated forever.”

Bhaja’ stands for worship with devotion, surrendering oneself to Lord.  It can be in any one of the nine ways as enumerated in Nava vidha bhakthi in Bhagavatham.
1.     Sravanam (Listening to Lord’s glory)
2.     Kirtanam (Singing Lord’s glory)
3.     Smaranam (constantly thinking of Lord)
4.     Padasevanam (Adoring the feet of the Lord in a spirit of self-obliteration)
5.     Archanam (worshipping the Lord with Vedic hymns)
6.     Vandanam (Paying obeisance to the Lord)
7.     Dasyam (Serving the Lord)
8.     Sakhyam (Invoking the Lord as a friend)
9.     Atma nivedanam (Offering oneself in total self-surrender to the Lord)
Govinda is one of the names of Lord Vishnu, as given in Vishnusahasranamam.  It has also other meanings as Sri Sankara gives in his Bhashya;
1.     One who has realized the substratum, or the very essence – the Truth.
2.     One who protects the cattle, or the very essence behind the all living beings.
3.     One who confers speech – or one who enlivens all sense organs
4.     One who is known thru the Vedas – the supreme Reality indicated by the Maha Vakyas
So Govinda here stands for the Supreme Brahman.  It is also significant that the name of Sri Sankara’s Guru happens to be Govinda i.e.Sri Govinda Bhagavat pada.
The repetition of bhajagovindam thrice signifies: 
1.     First, to seek guru. Seek a capable guru.
2.     Second, to seek knowledge. Seek the knowledge that leads to self-realization.
3.     Third, to seek Govinda.  Contemplate on Govinda, the Supreme Brahman

Lord Krishna assures in Gita (8-5):
Anta kale cha mameva smaranmuktua kalevaram
Yah prayati sa madbhavam yaati nasty atra samshaya
And whosoever, departs from the body remembering Me alone, at the time of death, he attains My Being: there is no doubt about this.
But this is possible only if one had been thinking all along about the Lord. So Sri Sankara chides this man as a fool for, not realising death may knock at his door at any time, he is foolishly busy in acquiring secular knowledge, without engaging fully in spiritual pursuits thinking of the Lord and Lord only, and tells him it is high time he becomes a teevra mumukshu.  A teevra mumukshu is one for whom moksha is the only goal unlike the mandha, madhyama  mumukshus for whom moksha is one of the goals only.   This verse is to be sung in chorus at the end of each subsequent verse.