Thursday, March 31, 2011

Basic Knowledge of Advaita - Part 6 of 6


Experts in music pursue a lot of study about the svaras and the ragas, their elaborations and nuances and the nyasas and the vinyasas associated with them before they decide on a particular mode of delivery.

The child beginning to have music lessons also has the same sa-ri-ga-ma-pa-da-ni for his practice. He may not be taught all the elaborations and the nuances of the svaras, but the sharp and abrupt voicings of the svaras are supposed to be enough at that stage.

In the early stages it is the coordination of the shruti and the rough fixation of the svara-sthanas that are considered to be enough.

Starting from these elementary and rough beginnings, one is taken up to all the different nuances and gymnastics about the nyasas and vinyasas in the higher stages of practice. So also sannyAsa comes at the end of life.

What subtle realities and techniques of practice one gets to know at that end stage, the same realities and techniques have to be learnt by all in an elementary way like a child learns sa-ri-ga-ma-pa-da-ni.

Which is why the basic knowledge of Advaita is always necessary to be learnt by one and all, of all ages.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Basic Knowledge of Advaita - Part 5 of 6


‘SopAnaM’ means staircase.

In this work he gives a step-by-step procedure for us ordinary people to start from the rock bottom starting point and go all the way to that peak stage of Brahman-illumination.The beginning is

*vedo nityam adhIyatAm tad-uditaM karma svanushhTIyatAM*

“Daily practise the recitation of the vedas and perform the karmas prescribed therein”.

So obviously all this is for those who are to proceed by the karma path. But in the very same teaching it says: “Nurture the taste for the Atman! Get out from the household! Get the mahavakya upadesha from the Guru!” and then finally “Settle yourself in the Absolute Brahman”.

Naturally the Acharya means that even those who are at present qualified only for karma should be aware of subjects connected with jnAna-yoga.

If we continue our scrutiny like this it is confirmed that though the Acharya has distinguished between those who are qualified for jnAna and those who are qualified for karma just like the Lord distinguished very clearly between sankhyas and yogis, he did feel that the majority who were qualified for karma only should also have a basic knowledge of jnana.

Bhagavan (Krishna) also thought in the same way. He classifed Arjuna only as suited for Karma. All of us know the familiar ‘karmany-eva adhikAras-te’ teaching. He brought back to the battle that Arjuna who was ready to run away from the battlefield saying he would not fight.

But even in that very Gita which constituted that advice, he has not stopped with karma yoga but has elaborated about jnAna yoga in detail. Right in the beginning it begins only with Sankhya yoga in all its abstractness.

[And the Swamigal adds with a smile] : All this is ‘justification’ for me (and my talk)!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Basic Knowledge of Advaita - Part 4 of 6


If one keeps asking himself like this and analysing it by one’s intellect, one will get to know there is nothing of essence (sAra) in this samsAra. And there will come an urge to know the Atman that is the real essence.

That is when we realise it is only by pursuing the question ‘kiM samsAre sAraM’ relentlessly we have come to this stage of longing for this most noble quest (of the Atman).

It is only this question that opens our eyes from our being a samsAri (involved in samsAra) and thinking that that is all there is to our life. And so if there is anything worthwhile in samsAra, it is this question; a relentless pursuit of the question.

In other words the shloka means that we should be constantly engaged in the thought of the Atman. Note that he does not add the words of qualification like ‘vidvAn’ or ‘sudhIH’. So this is a teaching for all people.

The Acharya thinks that even the common man who was spoken of as ‘dead even when living’ if he leaves off his karma, has always to keep thinking of the release from the samsAra.

Here he has said that the question ‘What is worthwhile in samsAra?’ should be repeatedly asked of oneself.

A little later, he raises another question (Shloka 16) “What is it that should be thought about, day and night?” : *kA ahar-nishaM anuchintyA?*.

And he gives the reply: *samsAra-asAratA* -- namely, “the samsAra has no worth in it”.

The Acharya has blessed us with a work called ‘SopAna-panchakaM’.

When his devotees come to know that he was winding up his mortal journey and was ready to reach Brahma-nirvANaM, they requested of him: “You are leaving us all. You have given volumes of advice and teaching to us in writing. But we may not be abole to read all of that. So before you are done with this incarnation can you please condescend to summarise them all and give us an upadesha?”.

In reply to this he delivers what is called ‘upadesha-panchakaM’ also known as ‘sopAna-panchakaM’.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Basic Knowledge of Advaita - Part 3 of 6


Later one meets with the question: *kasmAt udvegaH syAt?* (Shloka 19) -- Of what should one tremble? The word ‘udvega’ means trembling or fearing. That is the direct meaning.

Nowadays many use ‘udvegam’ to denote an excessive haste or a speed of action sparked by a motive or urge. That is wrong. ‘udvegam’ means just ‘trembling’ or ‘fearing’.

The question is: “What deserves to be feared?”. The reply comes: *samsAra araNyataH sudhiyaH* -- he says it is the forest of samsara that has to be feared. And when saying this he characterises it by adding the word ‘sudhiyaH’. This means ‘those with higher knowledge’.

In other words what is implied is that only the people who are qualified for the higher knowledge think of samsara as a thing to be feared as a dangerous forest and so they should get out of it and obtain sannyAsa. The common man should just know that this will be the response of the man with higher knowledge and that is why this question and this answer.

The ‘knower’ scholar should break off from the samsara; the man with higher intelligence (sudhIH) should fear the forest of samsara – an average man like us should be aware of such things. Not only that. The Acharya has said one more thing that all of us should do; and that he says in an interesting manner.

*kiM samsAre sAraM* (Verse 5) is the question: What is the essence of samsara?

The answer is given: *bahusho’pi vicintyamAnaM idaM eva* -- “to keep thinking of this again and again”.

“Of what?’

“Just now you asked: ‘What stuff is there in samsara?’ –that is what you have to ask again and again and keep thinking of.

The objective of this birth is to ask oneself repeatedly whether there is any fruit for this birth and keep enquiring about it. That is what he means by *idam eva bahusho’pi vicintyamAnaM*’’


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Basic Knowledge of Advaita - Part 2 of 6


The same Acharya, who has said in works of Jnana like Viveka Chudamani that “Only he who renounces all his karma regimen, takes Sannyasa and enquires into the Atman does justice to this human birth, all others have killed their Atman; in other words they are dead even though living” – the same Acharya now says that man has to do only his bounden karma, otherwise he is ‘dead even while living’.

This shows that this work has been aimed at an audience of average people.

Again, to the question ‘By what is a man free from unhappiness?’, the reply is given: ‘By an obedient wife’ (Verse 31); ‘Who is the friend?’ – ‘Wife’ (Verse 49); again to the question ‘Who is a true friend? The reply goes ‘certainly the wife’. All these show that he keeps as his audience the householders who are living in the grahasthashrama.

But even in such works the Acharya does not avoid things that pertain to the Atman. And he has done it very artistically.

What I mean is, whenever he talks about the situation of the JnAni and his state of mind, he subtly indicates “This is not for you. You need not be right away like this. This applies to only those who have fully taken up the Atma-SAdhanA”, though he is actually describing the lakshana (characteristic) that pertains wholly to a jnani.

When he talks about generalities applicable to all, he just carries on his teaching without delineating any characteristic behaviour.

An example will help the understanding.
(For instance) Right in the beginning he talks formally about the Guru – of course, in the style of question and answer. Then (verse 3) the first question itself is *tvaritaM kiM kartavyaM vidushhAM*. It means ‘What should the knowing ones do immediately?’ Mark the word ‘knowing ones’ here. ‘VidvAn’ means a scholar, a person who knows. The plural of this is ‘vidvAmsaH’. The genitive case of this is ‘vidushhAM’.

The question raised is: ‘What is the immediate work of the knowing ones?’. The question is not about the common man. It is only about the higher level ‘knowing ones’. What is it that they should do with a sense of urgency? This is the question. The reply comes: *santatic-chedaH* -- ‘to cut asunder the chain of samsAra’.

In other words, it means to obtain the release from the repetitive deaths (and births). Thus the path to moksha should be recalled even right at the beginning to the common man – this view of the Acharya is implicit here. However the urgency about it is not for the common man, it is for the ‘knowing ones’.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Basic Knowledge of Advaita - Part 1 of 6

The entire society was conceived of by the Acharya as two classes – karma pathfinder and jnana pathfinder – and he kept advaita SAdhanA only for the jnana pathfinder. But though it was kept like that, the general knowledge about that shastra should be there for all, including the karma pathfinder – so did he feel.

I happen to hold his name. So I have the duty to tell every one about the advaita siddhanta that he propagated so meticulously. That is why I began to talk on this topic.

Usually I don’t talk on this. Because there is too much talk about advaita from every quarter and mostly it all ends up in talk and nothing in execution; and in the process, every one has a false feeling that they have become advaitins by just talking!. And I did not want to add to this talk and add to the Illusion of the general run of people.

But recently, there was a jayanthi celebration here [referring to the Shankara Jayanti celebrations at Tondiarpet, Chennai in 1965] and also a vidvat-sadas (symposium by scholars).

Some persons came to me and requested: “ Why can’t we be taught some advaita?”. So I thought, in the name of the position I hold as an advaita-guru, I ought at least to tell people about what the requirements are for advaita SAdhanA and what the restrictions are therein.

Those who so requested me are also here; so without further postponement, I am now beginning.

I was telling you how from his elementary treatise entitled ‘Bala-bodham’, we can easily conclude that the Acharya holds the view that every one should have the thought about the Atman and should know about the basics of advaita shAstra.

Another of his prakaranams for the general public is called “Prashnottara-ratna-mAlikA”. This is also written for the average householder. It is in the form of Questions and answers. ‘Prashna’ means question and ‘Uttara’ means reply. The two are combined in a raga-malika fashion and called prashna-uttara-malika.

‘Who is dead even while living?’ is one such question. *ko hatah*. The reply is: *kriyA brashhTaH*, that is, the one who avoids doing the karma that is his due.


Friday, March 25, 2011

The matter of Bhakti Yoga

An important point: Why did the Acharya, as well as Lord Krishna Himself, demarcate only two classes of people: those who qualify for karma yoga and those who qualify for jnAna yoga?[Bhagavat Gita - III – 3]

Why did they not make one more classification, namely, those who qualify for bhakti? This is because, both the karma yogi and the jnAna yogi need to have bhakti. In both the classes, bhakti is an important part and both have to do it. That is why it was not separated into a class by itself.

The karma pathfinder has to show bhakti at a certain level while the jnAna pathfinder has to do the same at a different level. Already I told you about two levels of shraddhA.

Just as we use the word bhakti-shraddhA, in bhakti also there are two such levels! – as we have two levels of courses in Shorthand and Typewriting!

The lower level – karma pathfinder does bhakti in order to recognise the thought that there is an Ishvara above us who watches us and gives punishment. He should then progress in the same level and continue to do bhakti now to focus the mind through Love.

A further progress – still in the same ‘lower’ level, not ‘higher’ – would make him carry on bhakti with the attitude of surrender of all fruits of action. And now at the higher level, the jnana pathfinder does his bhakti with the thought: ‘The Brahman or the Atman for which I am doing my SAdhanA, it is the same brahman that, in its saguna, is the Ishvara; it is that Ishvara who has granted me the taste in this path and it is only by His Grace that I should obtain siddhi (success).

Above this -- above or below, higher or lower, none of which is applicable now – is the bhakti of those ‘siddhas’ who have reached that experiential stage (of Brahman Realisation). For them there is no reason why they do bhakti, says Sukacharya , one such realised soul. (Shrimad Bhagavatam I – 7 – 10).

Thus, at all levels, there is bhakti in both karma and jnAna; that is why bhakti is not separately mentioned.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Saadhana - the effort has to start

At the same time what we learn from this is that to be the real Self instead of the false Self it is so difficult. The false self is the mind, a creation of MAyA.

The real Self is the Truth that is Brahman.

It may take many life-times; it may be very difficult and long. But the effort has to start right now.

The more you postpone it, the life-cycle will get more extended. Suppose we don’t start this ascent of the spiritual ladder now.

What do you think will happen? We will be continuing to commit further sinful activities and these will accumulate more and more dirt and trash in the mind.

More life-times have to be spent. That is why I said the effort has to start rightaway, in order to escape from this life-cycle.

I said just now ‘escape from this life-cycle’; I also said ‘efforts have to be done’. These two together constitute the definition of SAdhanA.

Instead of doing certain things in a haphazard fashion as and when the mood or the occasion arises, those great ancestors of ours who have reached the goal have prescribed for us specific methodologies for us.

To walk that path is what is called SAdhanA.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Aim to become Brahman

‘To become Brahman’ is something really great. But the one who wants to win that high prize is so small! Naturally it has to take several several life-times.

Just to conquer another kingdom like his own a king has to make elaborate preparations for war. When that is so, for a small man to win over the kingdom of brahman-realisation, he has to take enormous efforts.

It is the kingdom of the Atman that the JIva is set out to conquer!

From one point of view the whole matter appears simple. We are not aiming for the kingdom of heaven in Vaikuntha or Kailasa which are far away from us. What we are aiming at is to know ourself, to know what is within us.

Just to be what we are is the goal.

There should not be any difficulty here; because we are being asked to be what we are and nothing more. When it is said that way it looks simple. But when we attempt it we come to know there is nothing more difficult than this SAdhanA.

It is like walking on razor’s edge, says the Katha Upanishad. But don’t lose heart, adds the Upanishad. Wake up, there are excellent teachers to guide you. Even if it be razor’s edge you can walk on it and come out successful! Thus the Upanishads speak of the difficulties of the path but also give you the path.

The Guru’s Guru of our Acharya has also talked of these in very formidable terms. “Advaita is the only fearless state. Even great yogis fear to tread that path. It requires that fantastic effort of emptying the waters of the ocean by using blades of grass, soaking them in the water and shaking the water off from the ocean. Only by such unceasing effort can the mind empty itself of all its thoughts and be in the Atman.” [Mandukya Karika: III-39, 41]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jnaanavaan & Jnaani

There are two categories: ‘JnAnavAn’ and ‘JnAni’.

Both are above the level of any ordinary human being.

A JnAnavAn, by learning and hearing, has convinced himself that the Atma that is called JivAtmA is nothing but Brahman itself, and is trying hard to bring that knowledge into one’s own experience.

A JnAni on the other hand has gone to that peak of realisation of that knowledge as own experience.

The JnAnavan who is making efforts to have that Brahman-realisation ‘reaches Me’, says the Lord, ‘only at the end of several births’ (*bahUnAM janmanAm ante jnAnavAn mAM prapadyate*) (Bhagavat Gita VII – 19).

Here ‘reaches Me’ means he attains the consummation of the realisation that Atman is Brahman). At another place (Bhagavat Gita VI – 45) He says: *aneka-janma-samsiddhis-tato yAti parAm gatiM* - meaning, slowly graduates to perfection only by several births.

Even this attainment of Realisation after several births happens only by His Graceful Hand that lifts us up. Otherwise the ‘bahu’ of (VII – 19) and the ‘aneka’ of (VI – 45) will be several times larger!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The running race between Ishvara & Jeeva

It is actually a running race between Ishvara and the JIva. The JIva tries to catch up with Ishvara. But Ishvara thinks it unfair to grant the Realisation of Brahman to this JIva ‘who has so much balance of karma’.

And the JIva having failed to catch up gives up the attempt and allows itself to be carried away by all worldly distractions. That is the time when Ishvara follows him with compassion and makes the ‘catching-up’ possible. But this compassionate easing up is done in a subtle way.

It turns the mind towards spiritual matters; that is what it means for Ishvara to ‘catch up’. At the same time it is done so gradually that the full ‘catching up’ of the JIva with Ishvara does not happen before the time for it is due. To that extent Ishvara ‘slips’ away.

But that itself makes the JIva fall headlong into the bottomless pit of sin and again the compassionate grip of Ishvara tightens. This tightening and loosening goes on and on until the JIva fills up its mind fully with Ishvara and nothing else. And that is the time for the consummation of the ‘anugraha’.

The Lord is called ‘karma-phala-dAtA’ – the dispenser of the fruits of actions. Like the decision of a judge He has every right to be very strict in His dispensation of justice. When He does so, we have no right to fault Him for His strictness. But He does not do it that way.

He very often condones our failings with His supreme compassion. He is neither too strict nor too lenient in His dispensation of justice. When the supreme-most status is granted to us it is not fair to expect Him to grant it without any concern whether the grantee deserves it well enough.

Justice may be tempered by mercy but it cannot go to the extent of denial of justice. In all these, it does not stop with just doling out the punishment for the karma done. It is in fact supplemented by the process of destruction of all pending karma, end of the mind and finally the benefit of Brahman-realisation.

With such a prospect, the condoning or forgiving nature of Ishvara cannot be expected to go too far!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nidhidhyaasana & Anugraha

I just now said that all actions are carefully watched by Ishvara and it is He who dispenses the fruits of actions. He also watches this ‘thinking action’, namely the nidhidhyAsana.

When we do this persistently and sincerely, He decides at some point that this person has done the nidhidhyAsana sufficiently enough to destroy his balance of karma and dispenses His Grace that will kill the mind that has been always struggling to establish our individuality that shows this JIva to be distinct from Brahman.

This is the meaning of the statement that by God’s Grace one gets Realisation of Brahman.

That does not mean however that God waits and calculates whether we have done enough SAdhanA to get our karma from all our past lives exhausted. If He does so then that should not be called ‘His Grace’!

A mechanical calculation like a trader to balance the positive and negative side of our work does not deserve the name of Grace. Love, sympathy, compassion, forgiving and allowing for marginal errors – only these will constitute what is termed as Grace, or ‘anugraha’.

The word ‘anugraha’ may also be interpreted as follows. The prefix ‘anu’ stands for concordance or conformity; also continuance. The word ‘graha’ connotes a catching up. When we try to catch up with the Lord by following or conforming with His attributeless nature, by the same principle of conformity He comes and catches us up. That is ‘anugraha’.

The mind of us, instead of being steadfast in its work of ‘catching up’ with the Lord, may also run away from Him. Even then the Lord’s Grace follows us and makes us ‘catch up’. That is ‘anugraha’.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Who dispenses the fruits of our actions?

In this mAyic world, the dispenser of the fruits for all our actions is this Ishvara. What fruits go with what actions – is all decided by Ishvara.

Every single action of ours has a consequence and the dispenser of this consequence is the same Ishvara. It is this cycle of actions and the cycle of the fruits of our actions that result in our revolving recurrence of new and newer lives.Only when karma stops may we ever hope to become the karma-less brahman.

What prompts the JIva to be involved in karma is the mind. It is by the prompting and urging of the mind that we do action. So action will stop only if the mind stops. But the mind refuses to stop.

How can a thing destroy itself by itself? Can a gun shoot itself out of existence?

So what the mind can do is only this: In the total agony of anticipation of its own death, it has to keep thinking all the time about the JIva-Brahma-Aikyam that would happen after its (mind’s) death. This is what ‘nidhidhyAsana’ means.

It has to be done with great persistence. The essence of advaita-SAdhanA is this kind of persistent thinking. Of course this is also ‘action’.

Walking is the action of the legs. Eating is the action of the mouth. Thinking is action of the mind.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Who is Ishvara?

Who is this God (Ishvara) that is bestowing this Grace on us?

JIvas and the universe are just a show of mAyA, but even in that ‘show’ there is a lot of regularity. It is not a haphazard mad show; it is a well-enacted play.

The mind, which is a part of this ‘play’ may be weird in its ways of dancing hither and thither, but the entire universe of the Sun and stars down to the smallest paramAnu’s vibration within the atom, are all happening with a fantastic regularity.

Even this mind has been stilled to silence by our great men and they have chalked out ways for us in terms of what they called Dharma , to follow their footsteps and still our minds. Further, there are thousand other things which happen according to the rules of cause and effect that our ancestors have discovered and left as a heritage for us.

The affairs of this universe are happening in spite of us according to some schedule chalked out for them so that we may live in peace.

If we observe all this carefully, maybe from the absolute point of view everything is a MAyA but in the mundane world of daily parlance, there is an admirable order that must have been initiated or chalked out by a very powerful force, far more powerful than all the powers that we know.

That power is what is called Ishvara (God).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Disposal of the mind- Part 2 of 2

When I say mind is stilled or stopped I do not mean the staying or resting of the mind on one object. That is something different.

Here when I say the mind is stopped or stilled, I mean something else. When the mind stays on some one object, it means the mind is fully occupied with that object. No other object can have then a place in the mind.

Even to keep the mind still like that is certainly a difficult process. This is actually the penultimate step to ‘dispose off’ the mind. When a wild animal is jumping and running all around, how do you shoot it? It is difficult. But when it is made to stay at one place, we can easily shoot it.

Similarly the mind that is running in all directions should be made to stay at one place in one thought. It does not mean the mind has disappeared then. No, the mind is still there.

Only instead of dwelling on various things it is now full of one and only one thought. This is the prerequisite to what I call the ‘disposal’ of the mind. After this the mind has to be vanquished totally. That is when Realisation takes place -- Realisation of the Atman. In other words the being as a JIva goes and the being as Brahman sprouts.

This process of stopping the mind at one single thought and then vanquishing even that thought in order to dispose off the mind along with its roots is a Himalayan achievement. Our scriptures very often refer to “anAdyavidyA-vAsanayA”, meaning “because of vAsanAs of ignorance going back to beginningless antiquity”. This is the reason for the dirt of the mind being so thick and dense. Removal of that dirt is no doubt a most difficult job.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Disposing the mind - Part 1 of 2

Mind refuses to be disposed off. What exactly is this mind? It is the instrument which creates thoughts. If the creation of thoughts stops, mind will also not be there. But we are not able to stop the creation of thoughts. All the time it is galloping to go somewhere.

We go through lots of experiences and enjoyments. We also keep seeing them; those of this birth that we know, and many more in the other births that we do not know. Each of them has left an impression in our mind. They keep running in our mind and sprout numberless thoughts.

It is like the smell that persists in the bottle in which we kept spicy asafoetida. So also even after we have gone through experiences and enjoyments, their smell persists in our mind. This is what is called VAsanA, or JanmAntara VAsanA (VAsanA that comes from other births), or SamskAra VAsanA.

What does it do? It keeps surfacing thoughts about that enjoyment and becomes the cause for further thoughts about how to have that experience again. These thoughts are the plans which the mind makes. This ‘smell’ of the past has to subside. That is what is called ‘VAsanA-kshhayam’ (Death of the VAsanA). And that is the ‘disposal of the mind’!

‘Disposal’ implies the ‘end’. What keeps running all the time has an end when it stops running. When a large flow of water is dammed, the flow stops. In the same way when the flow of the mind is stopped, it means that is the end of the mind.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How easy it is to adopt Advaita?

One may think that adopting advaita and truly understanding its depth should be very easy. Though it might appear to be very easy, it is really very difficult.

Because that is a big ‘if’! ‘If only, we can dispose off the mind, ..’, then there is the advaita-siddhi. The difficulty is exactly there – to dispose off the mind.

When our shirt loosely fits us we can take it off easily. But if the shirt is tight, the taking off might have to be made with some effort. And when we are required to take off our very outer skin, imagine how difficult it could be.

Just as the skin is sticking to our body, our mind is sticking to us, but in deeper proximity! A dirty stinking sticky cloth becomes pure when the dirt, stink and stickiness are off the cloth. It is not necessary to look for another cloth.

The same cloth, when the dirt, etc. are off, becomes the pure cloth. So also for our JIva we don’t have to look for a new entity called Brahman; if we can remove the present dirt and stink of the mind, that should be enough.

The same person will emerge as the pure Brahman. But that is exactly the formidable task – to remove the dirt and stink that is so deeply adhering to mind! Mind refuses to be disposed off.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Advaita - the bottomline

There is no such thing as the union of JIvAtmA and ParamAtmA. A union occurs only when there is more than one. Only when there are two any question of relationship between the two arises.

In truth the JIvAtmA and ParamAtmA are not two distinct entities. Atma is one and one only. It is itself by itself; other than itself there is nothing. The Self being the Self as such is what it is. That is called by the name ‘nirguna-brahman’.

However, with that Brahman as the support and at the same time hiding that very support, there appears a ‘mayic’ show, as if it is a magic show, in the form of this universe.

The movie appears on the support of the white screen. There is no show without the screen. Still that very show hides the screen itself which is its support. The screen has in no way been affected; it is still the screen and it remains as the screen.

In the case of Brahman there is an additional mystery. On one side Brahman remains as Brahman; but on the other hand, by its own MAyA shakti, it has become several individual JIvas each with a distinct inner organ (antaH-karanam).

By a proper SAdhanA if we can dispose of this antaH-karana, the JIva itself turns out to be Brahman. In other words there is no ‘union’ of two things called JIvAtmA and ParamAtmA. The one knows himself as the other. The same entity that does not know its own real nature thinks of itself as a JIva, and knows of itself as Brahman when the real nature is known.

There are no two entities. It is Brahman that has the name JIva when there is the bondage with the mind and when the bondage is thrown off, it remains by itself as itself; thus no one gets united with some one. There is no question of relationship here. Where is the question of ‘relation’ of ourselves with ourselves? It is the release from this bondage that is called moksha; so there is no place for calling it a different ‘world’ or ‘place’ of moksha. This is the bottomline of advaita.

One may wonder: ‘Dispose off the mind – we are ourselves Brahman. That is moksha’. This statement of advaita seems to make it all easy for us. All along, the other schools are saying that there is something higher than us, above our world, that is called a world of moksha; there is a ParamAtmA above us, we are only JIvAtmA, far below Him and we have to strive to reach His world. But advaita says there is no high, no low; we are ourselves that ParamAtmA and in order to reach this moksha we don’t have to ‘go’ anywhere; right here we can have that.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jivatma and Paramatma relationship

What would be the relationship between JIvAtmA and ParamAtmA?

This is an important question raised and answered by each of the schools in its own distinct way.

One school says that the JIvAtmA will always be distinct from the ParamAtmA; and in that state of moksha, the JIvAtmA would enjoy infinite bliss by worshipping the ParamAtmA with Bhakti – that is the Dvaita conclusion.

Another says: Even though the JIvAtmA will be a separate soul doing Bhakti towards ParamAtmA, it will have the feeling of the ParamAtmA immanent in it as its soul; this is Vishishtadvaita.

Still another says: When the Sun rises the stars do not lose their existence; they just disappear from view, because of the luminosity of the Sun; so also in moksha, the JIvAtmA, though it does not lose its existence, will have its own little consciousness submerged in the Absolute Consciousness of the ParamAtmA – this is the doctrine of Shaiva-siddhanta.

The school of philosophy propagated by Adi Shankara Bhagavat-pada is called Advaita. It says something totally different from all the above.

It discards all that talk about the JIvAtmA escaping from this world, from this samsara, about the JIvAtmA going and joining with the ParamAtmA and all the consequent underlying assumptions about this world and the so-called world of moksha and the relationship between the two.

There is no such thing as ‘this world’; it is only mAyA. Moksha is not a place or a world. When the Atma is released from the bondage of the mind, that is moksha. It may be right here and now.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

An introduction to Advaita

There is a Supreme Entity as the Cause for all this universe. For us also there is the same Cause. That is what created us.

We are only a finite JIvAtmA. But that is ParamAtmA, the infinite Supreme. This JIvAtmA has to go back to join that ParamAtmA. Only then this samsAra, the repetitive cycle of birth and death, the tortures to which this karma subjects us, and the unending turbulence in the mind will all end and we may reach the state of eternal happiness. It is that state which is called ‘Release’ or ‘moksha’.

Once we have reached it then there is no more death and there is an eternal peace.

So says Religion and it also shows us the way to reach that ParamAtmA. Each religious or philosophical school gives a name to that ParamAtmA.

One school says it is ‘Shiva’. Another says it is ‘Vishnu’. Still another says it is ‘Shakti’. Do this and this, then you can go to Kailasa where Shiva resides and that is the world of moksha, says one school. Another says that world of moksha is only Vaikuntha, the residence of Lord Vishnu. In the same way the Shakti school says moksha-world is the world of Amba, called Shri-puram. ‘Moksha is the Ananda-Bhuvana where Ganesha lives’ says another. ‘No, it is Skanda-giri, where Subrahmanya resides’.

‘Even Rama and Lakshmana did not go to Vaikuntha after they left this world, they have their own separate loka called ‘Saketa’; ‘Krishna has his own world of bliss, called ‘Goloka’ – thus the different schools of thought wax eloquent. Each one gives a methodology of worship and also mentions that the goal of all that Upasana is to reach that world of Infinite Bliss, to which they give separate names.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Namo Namaha - Part 15 of 15


If we do not reach the "luggage" of namaskara to its destined place, namely Narayana, "He" will give us the "wages" for our crime. Like the coolie feeling the weight of the load on him, we have also to feel the weight of the namaskara and not treat it as an honour done to us.

Out of our love for our bhakthas, the weight has to be carried gladly, though temporarily, until it is reached to Him. Even temporarily when it is carried, it is no doubt a weight. But if it is also appropriated, it becomes a permanent big weight of sin on us.

The predicament of the person to whom namaskara is performed is fraught with such risk!

On the other hand, the case of the person performing the namaskara appears a blessed state. Blessed in which sense? When he lowers his body and prostrates before another person whom he considers a saint, he also "pushes" a load off his mind as it were, in the belief that the other person will take care of that.

Namaha is sometimes itself interpreted as the meaning of "Na Mama" (not mine") – that is pushing away something as "not mine". A true namaskara will always be in this attitude only.

Most people do not perform such true namaskaras. As I said earlier, there are cent per cent and pass mark types. Even in a pass-mark namaskara, at least for that fraction of the moment during the actual performing of the namaskara, he feels a relief. This is what we notice daily.

Jaya Jaya Sankara! Hara Hara Sankara!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Namo Namaha - Part 14 of 15


Enthroned on a pedestal, and hundreds and thousands of people doing namaskara, and on top of that, hearing people saying "It is because of your blessing that such and such good happened; it is miraculous",….all this may land us into falsely thinking that we have the "authority" to give asirvadam, so, it becomes necessary to be very careful not to fall into the trap.

If we slip up even a wee-bit in this regard, we will be committing the maha-dosha of misappropriating what belongs to Narayana.

Though outwardly the "Peetham" and "position" are there, in reality we are like the coolie carrying load. The coolie carries the load (luggage) of another. He carries it on his body.

Similarly, we are to carry the "load" of your namaskara in 9our mind, and add the "weight" of our prayer on your behalf, and reach the whole to Narayana.

It is doubtful whether the truth which is clear to the coolie is equally clear to us. The coolie knows that the luggage he carries does not belong to him; it belongs to another; and his job is only to reach it another place.

This is the truth I am referring to.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Namo Namaha - Part 13 of 15


Look at the problem our position creates for us even in this. We are not able to ake even this prayer (prarthana) on your behalf with "anjali" (use of hand). When you perform namaskara to us, we ourselves give "asirvadam". You also expect us to do so.

If we say that we also have to do namaskara to another (nr0 and "try to tap" that source for giving the blessing to you, you will be disappointed. One feels comfortable only if the blessing comes immediately from the person to whom the namaskara is done.

So, even though mentally we transmit your namaskara to Narayana, our hand which should be turned in "anjali" to Him, has to turn to you in the "asirvada" mode.

All these years, you have been coming in numbers everyday and performing namaskara to me.

I, for my part, have been trying to do my utmost by way of mentally praying to Him on your behalf and for your good. Even then, if any of your prayers have borne fruit, more than my effort, it is due to your faith. I think that the "sincerity" of my prayer on your behalf cannot match your limitless faith in me.That is why I said that even your thinking that you get the fruit of my blessing is the fruit of your own faith.

In the ultimate analysis, the only cause for the fulfillment of your prayer is Narayana's compassionate Grace toward you, which is yours without my "vakalat".


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Namo Namaha - Part 12 of 15


In our case, unlike the other who has Swanubhuti as the only purpose, there is danger of our preoccupation with chores connected with our duties in the outside distracting and taking us away from what we should be doing for Swanubhuti. This is a big risk.

How far we are successful in performing the duties of the Guru without jeopardising the work for Atmalakshaya, in ensuring that the two works are not mutually detrimental but work in such a manner that the sadhana for Atmalakshaya imparts nourishing and vitalising power to our work for loka-kshema and the work for loka-kshema itself is performed in such a manner that the mind gets increasingly pure (chitta suddhi) and enhances the power or intensity of the sadhana itself, - how far we are thus able to neatly balance both the works and act within limits – that will also determine the power of our Asirvadam.

Even then, the real source of power is Narayana only. We should never forget that.

If nothing moves without Him, it means that an Asirvadam also can bear fruit only if His Grace is there. So, we can neither "push away" the namaskara (to Narayana) thinking that we have nothing to do with it, nor think that we have "power" to give Asirvadam and bless.

Then, what should we do? When you lower your body on the floor and prostrate before us, we should say "Narayana, Narayana" with the mouth, remember Narayana, mentally do namaskara to Him, and pray to Him, "Let your Grace do good to these children".


Monday, March 7, 2011

Namo Namaha - Part 11 of 15


Will Narayana accept this action? I ask you for "subscription" for the preservation of Vedas. I ask for money for gopuram construction. Daily I receive "biksha" from you.

All this is taking from you in the form of "dravya" . I also ask for physical labour. I ask for collection of rice from door to door for distribution. I ask for distribution of prasad from hospital to hospital. I ask for a pond to be dug for water for the cattle.

Like this, everyday, I ask you for money or labour. How will it be fair, if I say I have nothing to do with you when you perform namaskara to me? If, because of that, I give you my blessing for your namaskara, will it actually do some good to you?

Does my blessing have that power? People who are in constant communion with Paramatma have the true power of penance only can impart such power to their blessing. In the case of others, it can only have a small power to do good in the sense that all good thoughts have some power of doing good.

The amusing side of this is that the one who has cut off all connections with the outside and is immersed in his sadhana of Atma marga, acquires the power of Asirvada.

Grace, Anugraha, by virtue of his dedication to his sadhana and the (spiritual) experiences he gets in that process. Such power comes naturally to him. Even without his knowing and intending, his Asirvadam reaches the person doing namaskara to him and does good. It is like a fully ripe fruit bursting and pouring its juice in the mouth of anyone who opens his mouth below it.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Namo Namaha - Part 10 of 15


Some people may not understand whom I am referring to as half – sannyasis, like us. Let me make it clear.

I said sannyasi has no duties. His only duty is Atma Vichara: released from duties to wife and children, he has no duties to other people either. Therefore he should transmit the namaskaras also to Narayana and leave it at that.

But we sannyasis, occupying a Gurupeetham, and exercising the position as head of a Mutt, are the ones that I distinguish from other sannyasis and refer to pass-mark sannyasis.

If you ask me why, the reply is that when we took, the GURU title, we also took up a host of duties. There is a heavy duty towards people in general, the human community.

To consider the entire community as a body of devotees and aspirants, and conduct them to the right path is our big duty. We cannot be indifferent to the good and the bad that happens around us and to members of the community; if we did so, it will be a negation of duty, and we will be faulted for failing in our duty.

We have to concern ourselves with bringing the people to the right path and with their good and well-being; and we have a duty to perform with this purpose in mind. When this is so, when our devotees and bhakthas, believing that we will do good to them, come and perform namaskara to us, how can we think that we have nothing to do with their well – being and tell Narayana that is his business and keep quiet?


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Namo Namaha - Part 9 of 15


If his mind gets concerned with the welfare of a number of people in this fashion, what happens to his Ashrama Dharma, which demands that Atma Vichara be his only work.

His supreme and only Dharma is to be ever immersed in Atma Vichara. If he does not do so, he is not a sannyasi. Because, he is not a sannyasi, no one need perform namaskara to him.

So, when a namaskara is performed to a true sannyasi, he remembers his own Atma Swarupa in Narayana aspect – the Dwaita Loka Nirvaha aspect – and transfers the person's good and bad to Him almost as if saying that it is all your (Narayana's) concern: and severs further contact with that.

That is how it should be in the case of a true or cent per cent sannyasi. But in everything, there are good, bad and indifferent types.

There are people like us who cannot be called true or hundred percent sannyasis but who may be called half – sannyasis (Swamiji goes into irrepressible peals of laughter while saying this…and then reflectively) even half may be too will be fifty percent…let us use the word pass mark sannyasi…

So, can pass-mark sannyasis, like us, act the same way, namely, when one performs namaskara to us, think that they have nothing to do with that and transfer it to Narayana and forget?


Friday, March 4, 2011

Namo Namaha - Part 8 of 15


Smarana means remembering with the mind. Concentratedly remembering. Just speaking it out with the mouth is of no use. It has to be deeply and concentratedly remembered and spoken with that consciousness – from that Narayana awareness.

What we see in ordinary practice is that when as a routine we recite a sloka or mantra, it becomes only just uttering the words with meaning; it wanders thinking about other things and only the mumbling goes on. If that happens here, if the Narayana name is spoken without the mind remembering the Narayana, it will be a great crime – Maha Dosham.

If misappropriation is a crime between people, is it not a very big crime when what belongs to HIM is misappropriated? Everyday, sannyasi receives namaskara from a number of people. There is a great risk of his saying Narayana becoming a mere routine unless he remains ever vigilant and always awake. Otherwise, he may easily find himself involved in committing Maha-dosha.

That is why I said this rule looks easy to follow; it is not actually easy.

A true sannyasi, a hundred percent sannyasi, has no duties. He has no obligations to fulfil. He does not have to think about the well-being or otherwise of another. In that state, if someone performs namaskara to him, he does not have to think about the welfare of that person. If he starts thinking about that, slowly he will start thinking whether some good happened to that person.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Namo Namaha - Part 7 of 15


Therefore it is appropriate that this Sankara also gives a special niche for the name Narayana. Thus it is clear that the Acharya has referred to the great causal principle of the Jagat by the name NARAYANA.

So, when he intends that the namaskaras performed to us must be conveyed to the Jagat-Karana-Vastu, he instructs: Convey to Narayana. And to carry out the instruction, he has made a rule, which appears easy on the face of it.

Only that Narayana, who has created all this and has endowed all this with vital energy (sakthi), has the "right" to accept all the namaskaras. Namaskara to any deity goes to Kesava.

We recite the sloka: Sarva Deva Namaskara Kesavam Pratigachhati. When namaskaras performed to the deities go only to HIM, how can namaskaras performed to ordinary people belong to them?

All these namaskaras also go to HIM only. It is that we have been asked to always remember when namakaras are performed to us.

In order that we do not "misappropriate" the namaskaras rightfully belonging to HIM only and make sure that the namaskara is duly redirected to HIM, the Acharya has most kindly defined a rule for us – a rule, which as I said earlier, is seemingly easy.

The rule is that when someone performs a namaskara to us, we should say "Narayana, Narayana". If that is done, when the name is uttered, does not the person immediately come to mind?

Here Narayana is that person. The moment He comes to mind, the thought that all namaskarams belong to HIM and we should not take away what is HIS right and possession also will come to mind; and we will convey the namaskara to the right place.

That is why, the Acharya prescribed remembering Narayana (Narayana Smaranam). The smaranam is important.When we utter the word Narayana, it is only speech (vachanam). It is not remembering (smaranam).


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Namo Namaha - Part 6 of 15


Ayana means path (marga). Ayana also means the end (goal) of the path. In both these senses, Narayana is the Ayana for the Nara (Jivatma).

Bhrama Vidya Sastra gives the path to salvation. Narayana is Bhrama Vidya. When He appears as Krishna Paramatma, he himself says "Adhyatma Vidya Vidhyanam" in the Gita. The final goal of that Vidya is also He only. Therefore it is that when Bhrahma Vidua Guru Parampara is talked about, it starts with "Narayanam".

So it is quite appropriate that in the Bhashya books, which are Bhrahma Vidya Sastras, the Narayana name is used.

The name Sankara joining with the name Narayana has given rise to a name Sankaranarayanan. In south Pandya country, there is a place where the worshipped image (murthy) is the image of Siva and Vishnu in one body showing their oneness. That image is known as Sankaranarayanan.

The place is called Sankaranarayanan Koil. This is now commonly pronounced as Sankaranainar Koil in usage.The Acharya himself has used the above name in an important context.

He has bequeathed to us in a question – answer form a text called "Prasnottara Ratna Malika". In the penultimate sloka of this work, the question is: Who is called Bhagwan and Maheswara.

Our Acharya does not in reply give the names of Siva or Vishnu. Our Advaita Acharya gives the reply as the one Atma which is a communion of Siva and Vishnu. Even there he does not use Siva – Vishnu or Hari – Hara but has used Sankaranarayanan.

Q: Kascha Bhagwan Mahesah?

A: Sankara Narayanatmaikah


Maha Shivarathri - An intro by Periva

Here is an intro of the importance of Maha Shivarathri, and what types of Poojas should be done - all explained by Sri Maha Periva himself.

Take a look at this link, and read it all for yourself (in Tamil).

Jaya Jaya Shankara!

Hara Hara Shankara!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Namo Namaha - Part 5 of 15


The Parameswara (God) himself gave to his Avatara five Spatika Lingas and commanded him to have them installed in five places and arrange for the pooja. In carrying out this command, the Acharya installed in both his Mutts, here in Kanchi and in Sringeri, two of the Spatika Lingas.

Thus the Lingas that Parameswara himself had given and installed in these two places for which poojas were arranged became the central deities of worship in these Mutts and other deities became parivara deities.

In the remaining Mutts also, for the sake "uniformity", the Acharya had necessarily to make the pooja arrangement as Siva Panchayatana.

Now you may ask: You said that Acharya, when he wrote Bhashyas which were books on Atma Sastra, was only in "Atma Swarupa" and had no "identity"; if he was "Atma Swarupa" , and remained as such, then why should he identify with Siva Avatara, and therefore think about "not talking about himself" and therefore think about using the NARAYANA name.

I knew such a question can arise. I have my answer ready. I came to talk about this with a question paper and a answer sheet, all prepared.So, what is the answer? The answer is that "Atma Swarupam" will not write books. In fact, it does not do anything.

It will just be as it is. It will not act or do. The moment he sat down to write, it means that the "Atma Swarupa" has yielded to place to Avatara. To be correct, the Samadhi state of Atma Sakshatkara is over, and the thought of having to perform a "duty" for the up-liftment of Dharma in this world for which this Avatara came makes him to sit down to write.

In that movement, the question arises, Avatara means whose Avatara. When you get the reply Siva Avatara, it follows that Avatara Siva talking about Adhara Siva does not look proper and talking about Vishnu appears more graceful, balanced and dignified. Is that not so? So it is, in the Bhashya books, the root (moola) of the causal principle of the Jagat is referred to by the name Narayana.

The supreme central meaning of these books is the Oneness (unity) of Paramatma and Jivatma, that is Advaita. In this way, the use by Siva Avatara Acharya of Vishnu's name brings in the Hari Hara Advaita - that Siva and Vishnu are one and the same. Mahavishnu has many names.

In fact, there are a thousand names. Then it may be asked why the Narayana name is chosen. The supreme astakshari mantra of Mahavishnu has the Narayana name in it.