Thursday, June 29, 2006

More on Maya

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Some of you, perhaps, read and re read the story that was told through the past 3 posts. And maybe some of you noticed that the term 'Unborn' is used in quite a few places in the narrative to describe Maya. Perhaps, you questioned that in your own mind to try and ascertain the reasons for the use of such a term- and maybe you arrived at a conclusion from lots of deliberation? But, it could very well be that I am too delusional (being the romantic that I am) in expecting that! So, here is some additional context that might help in understanding the nature of Maya.
The great Maya (MahaMaya) is said to be unborn, as She is precisely that - Unborn! ''How so?'' I hear you question -
Maya is unborn because Her nature is that of the three gunas. It has been established by the learned that Prakruti is that state which is the equipoise (equilibrium) of the three gunas. In this state the activity of each of the gunas neutralize the other - i.e. the 3 gunas are present, but as they are in equilibrium nothing is produced not lost as a result of the gunas. Everything in this embodied universe (whether seen or not) is a result of the action of these 3 gunas. Thus Maya is inherent (due to Her being of the nature of the 3 gunas) in the very nature of this Moola Prakruti. Just like how in the banyan seed the size of a mustard, an immense tree is inherent (though there is no indication of that from the appearance of the seed itself). Maya (or the 3 gunas which are the components of Maya) is thus inherent in Prakruti (albeit in a latent/neutralized form).
Thus Maya is spontaneously manifest from the Unborn and eternal Prakruti, when that state of equilibrium of the 3 gunas is disturbed due to an agitation ( the nature and cause of the said agitation is for another day). Thus instantly and spontaneously many evolutes are manifest from the One cause. Hence this Maha Maya precedes all creation and as such is unborn and She forms the basis of all creation.

This nature of Maya having been established, brings before us the next question - How does this Maya operate? And what purpose does Her (Maya's) operation serve? There are many out there who would have you believe (if you gave them even half a chance) that Her chief purpose is to delude the jivas. They would paint a picture, quite terrible in nature, and quote endless scriptures to argue that Maya is the cause of all our woes. They would tell you that were it not for Maya and her deluding influence, we (humans) would always be at one with the Brahman. Furthermore, they would have it that Maya is the reason for the endless suffering in the circle of birth and death - the constantly turning wheel of Samsara.
But, ask yourself this - Would the Supreme Brahman (the root and essence of all creation), who is in the nature of Sat Chit Ananda (eternal,consciousness, bliss) and who is in the nature of Love, have it in His/Her/It's heart to delude on purpose? And what end could we assign for such delusion (of His/Her/It self)?? Why cause the birth of endless universes, all of them founded on and operating through an exquisite system of natural law (Dharma) - if the sole purpose behind is to deliver the worlds and beings so created in to an endless cycle of sorrow and delusion? It doesn't make any sense, does it?
My heart tells me that it certainly cannot be true that Maya is delusion (of a negative and misleading kind). Maya is delusion all right, I give you that, but She isn't a cruel joke played on the universe by its creator. If She is delusion, then Her purpose is to delude the Purusha (Brahman). For, when the One Being the Supreme Brahman (this Brahman is a 50 - 50 mix of Purusha and Prakruti, Siva&Shakti, consciousness & Power, Potential & Kinetic) 'desired, may I be many', then the Prakruti part of the Brahman energized herself (thereby disturbing the equilibrium state of the inherent 3 gunas). Were it not for the 'magic' of the effects of this energising of Prakruti, it would not be possible for the One Brahman (the Lord who desired to create and become manifold) to become manifest as many. This state of energized (activated) gunas is Maya and She immediately gives birth to the principal evolutes of Mahat (The Great one - which is to be understood as Manas, Buddhi and Ahamkara) and then the five Jyanendriyas(5 organs of sense perception) and the five Karmendriyas (5 organs of action) and they subsequently give birth to the 5 subtle elements from which the 5 gross elements (of ether,air,fire,water and earth) are born. The world as we know it is a gross and much later evolute that proceeded from the various combinations of the above mentioned 5 gross elements. Thus Maya precedes all and is Herself an aspect of the supreme Shakti (Para Shakti). It is through the veil of Maya that the world appears manifold and it is through the piercing of this veil that the world appears as the One Brahman. By 'piercing' I do not mean conquering or destroying etc - I mean 'piercing' or penetrating, similar to the piercing of the granthis (knots) in the sushumna by the Kundalini shakti as she ascends towards the Sahasrara.
A more detailed analysis of what has been discussed above will follow soon in another post where we will look at this aided by the Sankhya and the Tantrika points of view.
Part of this point is also touched upon by the following sloka in the Varivasya.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

On the glory of Maya

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
-- Continued from the previous post ---
Narada said – ‘ O muni, the king was greatly astonished to see me dip in the water in a female form and get out of the tank in a male form and he thought, ‘ where is my dear wife? And how is it that the Narada muni has emerged out of the water? ' The king, not seeing his wife lamented loudly and wailed, ‘ O beautiful one, where you have gone now leaving me thus? My palace, my kingdom, my life are all quite useless now without you. What shall I do now? Why isn’t my life parting from my body, suffering thus from thy separation? My sentiment of love has deserted me forever, O sweet one, now I am left lamenting for you. Better give me your sweet reply, the love that you expressed at our first union, where has it gone now? Have you drowned in the water and have you given up your life? Or have the fishes or the crocodiles devoured you? Or have you been carried away by Varuna, the deva of the waters, much to my misfortune? O one with beautiful limbs, you are indeed blessed for you have gone away with your sons. Your affection for them was not artificial. But is it right for you to go to the heavens , attached by your affection to your sons, leaving me your distressed husband, weeping for you overcome with sorrow? I have lost both, you and my sons; yet death is not carrying me away; O! How hard is my lot! Rama is not now in this world. He knew the pain caused by the separation from one’s dearest wife. The cruel Fate has ordained very unwisely with great inconsistency the periods of parting from one another at different periods; when their minds and all other things are exactly the same in all circumstances of pleasure and pain. The practice of Sati (burning with one’s deceased husband), as ordained by the munis, is certainly for the good of the chaste women; but it would have been good no doubt, were there such practices allowed for the men to burn themselves with their deceased wives.”

Bhagavan Hari then spoke to the lamenting king in reasonable words and consoled him thus: -- “O King! Why are you thus troubling yourself with pain and sorrow? Where has your dearest wife gone? Have you not heard anything of Sastras? Have you not taken any shelter of any wise man! Who was your wife? Who are you? Of what nature was your union and disunion, and tell me, where did it take place? The union of wives and sons in this Samsara is momentary like the meetings of persons on boats, while crossing a river. O king! Now go home, there is no use in your weeping thus in vain; the union and disunion of men are always under the control of Fate, the Daiva; therefore the wise should not lament for them. O King! Your union with the woman took place here; and now you have lost that beautiful woman here also. Her father and mother you have not seen; you have got her like what is heard in the story of the crow and the Tal fruit; as you got her wonderfully, so you have lost her wonderfully. O King! Do not grieve; Time cannot be ruled over; go home and enjoy yourself subservient to Time. That beautiful woman has gone away in the manner she came to you; you ought to continue to do your stately affairs in the way you used to do before, as the ruler of all. O king, consider that if you weep day and night, that women will never return; why then are you giving vent to your sorrows in vain? Go now and have recourse to the path of the Yoga and thus while away your time. The enjoyable things come in course of time and they go away again in due course; therefore in this world of no gain whatsoever, the wise should never lament. Continuous pleasure or continuous pain does not always take place; pleasure and pain are never steady; they rotate always like a rotary instrument. Therefore, O king, make your mind calm and quiet and rule your kingdom happily; or make over the charge of the kingdom to your sons and retire to the forest. This human body is seldom obtained; it is frail; therefore getting that body it is advisable to practice the realization of the Supreme. O king, this organ of generation and this tongue reside also with the beasts, the peculiarity of the human body is that knowledge can be realized in it. Therefore leave your home, leave your sorrows for your wife; all this is the Maya of Bhagavan; by Her the world is deluded.”

Narada said – ‘ Hearing Bhagavan Hari speak thus, the king bowed before Him, the deva of devas. He then finished his bathing duties and returned to his kingdom. He then became possessed of dispassion and discrimination and making over the charges of the kingdom to his grandsons, he retired to the forest where in due course he realized the Supreme knowledge. When the king went away, Vishnu began to laugh seeing me again and again. I then told Him – ‘ O Hari, you have deceived me. I know now the greatness of the power of Maya. I now remember all that I did in my feminine form. Tell me O Hari, how did I lose my previous consciousness when I entered the tank to bathe in it.
Why was I enchanted, when I got the female form and when I got the king as my husband? The same mind I had; the old Jivatma was there and the previous subtle body was there; how then did I lose their memories? O Lord, tell me the cause of it and clear my doubts; a great doubt has arisen in my mind. I had in my female form, many kinds of enjoyment, drinking liquor and other prohibited things I tasted; O Hari, What is the cause of all these? I could not know then that I was Narada, as I now recognize clearly what I was and what I did in my female form. Enlighten me on these questions.”

Vishnu said - “Know, O Intelligent Narada, that all this is merely the pastime of Maya. There are many states (of awareness) going on in the bodies of all the living beings. The embodied beings have got their waking, dream, deep sleep and Turiya (beyond all the three above-mentioned) states; then why do you doubt that when there is another body, there would be also the change in the states? When a man sleeps, he does not know anything, he does not hear anything; but when he is awake, he again comes to know everything completely. The Chitta gets itself moved by sleep; then mind gets different states by dreams and there arise a variety of feelings. Thus, in dreams, there arise different mental states. Sometimes we see in dreams that our departed grandfathers have come to our houses. I am seeing them, talking with them and I am dining with them. Whatever pain and pleasure are felt in dreams, when they awake, they know of what happened in their dreams and can also describe them in detail, recollecting what had then happened. O Narada, know the power of the Unborn Maya to be incomprehensible, as the things seen in dreams cannot be known with certainty that all those are false. O muni, neither I, nor Shambhu, nor Brahma can measure the power wielded by Maya and Her three gunas, which is very hard to fathom. How then, can any ordinary mortal know them! Therefore, O Narada, none is able to fathom the Maya. This world, moving and non-moving, is fashioned out of the triple gunas of the Unborn Maya; nothing whatsoever can exist without them. The predominant guna in me is Sattva; but Rajas and Tamas exist in me; being the Lord of this world, I cannot override the three gunas. Thus your father, Brahma, is predominant in Rajo guna; but Sattva and Tamas never leave Him, Our Mahadeva is predominant in Tamo guna, but Sattva and Rajo are always with him. Therefore, no being can exist as separate from the three gunas; this point has been settled in the shruti. Therefore, O Lord of the Munis, quit this endless moha for the world, caused by Maya, very hard to get over, and worship Bhagavati, Who is of the nature of Brahman. Now you have seen the power of Maya; and you have enjoyed many things produced by Maya and you have realized the extremely wonderful nature of Her. Then why do you ask me further on this point?”

Bhole naath!
From a 1921 translation (adapted at parts verbatim at others) of the Bhagavatham.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What happened to Narada?

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
--continued from the previous post ---

Narada said - '' O DvaipAyana, when the king Taladhvaja asked me thus, I thought it over earnestly and said - '' I do not know whose daughter I am, nor do I know quite certainly where my father and mother are. Somebody placed me here by this tank and has gone away, where to I do not know. O king, being now a helpless orphan, I do not know where to go to, or what to do. Destiny is powerful and I do not have the least control over it, you know Dharma and you are a king. O king nourish me, as Iam now your dependent.''
When I spoke thus, the king looked into my eyes and became love stricken for me. he commanded his attendants to bring an excellent rectangular palanquin for me to be carried on the shoulders of four men. Instantly the servants went away and brought for me a beautiful palanquin. I got on it and the king gladly took me home. Then, on an auspicious day and in an auspicious moment, he married me in accordance with the due rites and ceremonies, witnessed by the Holy fire.
I became dearer to him than even his own life and the king with great fondness named me Saubagya Sundari. The king began to sport with me amorously according to the rules of the Kama sastra, in various ways and with great enjoyments and pleasures. He left all his kingly duties and state affairs and began to remain with me day and night, deeply immersed in amorous sports. His mind was so merged in me as a result of this love play, that he could not notice the time passing away. After drinking the Varuni wine, he began to enjoy me in nice gardens, beautiful lakes, lovely palaces, excellent mountains and enviable forest glades, and thus became completely subservient to me.

O Vyasa, being incessantly engaged in amorous sport with the king and remaining obedient to him, the truth about my previous body,male ideas, nothing remained in my memory. I remained always attached to him and I constantly thought ' this king is very much attached to me, I am his dearest wife and he always thinks of me, I am his chief consort, capable of giving him enjoyment'. My mind became his entirely and I completely forgot the eternal Brahmajnyan and the knowledge of the Dharma sastras. O muni, thus fixed in the various amorous sports, twelve years passed as if in a moment and I could not realize that. Then I became pregnant, and the king became overjoyed. He performed all the necessary ceremonies pertaining to my impregnation and holding of the child in my womb. The king used to ask me always about the things that I liked and tried to satisfy me. Ten months passed thus and in an auspicious lagna under a nakshatra which was favorably strong, I gave birth to a son. There were great celebrations held on the birth ceremony of the child and when the period of birth - impurity was over, the king saw the face of the child and was greatly delighted. I then became the dearest wife of the king. Two years after that, I became impregnated again and the second auspicious son was born. Thus in due course of time, I gave birth to twelve sons, to the kings great liking, and was engaged in rearing those children. And so I remained enchanted. Again, in due course, I gave birth to eight more sons and my household was filled with happiness. The king performed the marriage ceremonies of all those children in a fitting manner and our family became very big with sons and their wives.
Then I had grandsons and they increased my attachment and the consequent delusion with all their playful sports. There were times that I felt happy and prosperous and at other times I felt pain and sorrow when my sons fell ill. Then my body and mind became very much troubled with their sorrows. The quarrels amongst my sons and my daughters in law brought terrible pain and remorse in my mind. O muni, I was thus greatly immersed in the terrible ocean of these imaginary thoughts - sometimes happy and sometimes painful, and I forgot all my previous knowledge of the self and the sastras. I was merged in the thought of myself as a woman and lost myself in the everyday household duties. I began to think that ' I have so many powerful sons and daughters in law, oh, I am fortunate and am full of merits amongst women'. Thus my ego and pride increased. Never for even a moment did it even occur to me that I had been Narada and that the Bhagavan had infact deceived me with his Maya. I was deluded thus by Maya and passed away my time in the tought ' that I am the kings favorite wife, chaste and of good conduct and following good achara, I have many sons and grand children, I am indeed blessed in this samsara and am happy and prosperous'.
Once, a powerful king of a distant country turned out an inveterate enemy of my husband and came to the city of Kanuj to fight with my husband. he came accompanied by chariots and elephants and the full fourfold army. My sons and grandsons went out and fought a valiant battle, but owing to the great Destiny, the enemies killed all my sons. The king retreated and returned to his palace. Then the enemy king went back to his own country after killing all my sons and grandsons. I rushed to the battlefield, crying loudly. Seeing my beloved sons and grandsons lying on the ground in that horrible and distressed state, I became merged in the ocean if sorrow and lamented their loss by weeping loudly and wildly -' O my sons, where have you gone leaving me thus? Alas! Fate is very dominant, and very painful and indomitable. It has broken me today.'
By this time, the Bhagavan Hari came to me in the garb of an aged brahmin. His dress was sacred and beautiful to behold, it seemed that he was versed in the vedas. Seeing me weeping distressedly in the battlefield he said - '' O Devi, it seems that you are the mistress of a prosperous home and that you have a husband and sons. Why then are you weeping thus and feeling yourself distressed? All this is simply an illusion caused by your Moha (delusion), think, who are you? Whose sons are these lying here? Now think of your best hereafter, don't weep, get up and be comfortable''.
'' O Devi, to show respect to your sons and others gone to the other worlds, offer them water and Til (sesame). The friends of the deceased ought to take their bath in a place of pilgrimage, never should they bathe in their houses. Know this as ordained by dharma.'' Narada said - '' O DvaipAyana, when the old brahmin addressed me thus, the king and I and our other friends got up. The Bhagavan Hari causing this creation, in the form of a brahmana, led the way and we quickly followed him to that sacred place of pilgrimage. Thus Vishnu took me kindly to the tank named Pumthirtha (Male thirtha) and said - '' Better take your bath in this tank, forego your sorrows that are of no use, now the time has come to offer water to your departed sons. Better think that you had millions of sons born to you in your previous births and for that your millions of sons and daughters lost their lives, you had millions of fathers, husbands and brothers and you lost them again. O Devi, now tell me for whom will you grieve? All these, then, are merely mental phenomena, this world is full of delusion.''
Narada said - '' On hearing his words, I went to bathe in that Pumthirtha. Taking a dip, I found that, in an instant, I became a man. Bhagavan Hari, in His own proper form was standing on the edge with a lute in His hand. O Vyasa, when getting out of the water, I came to the bank and saw the lotus eyed Hari, pure conciousness then flashed in my heart. Then I realized '' I am Narada, I have come to this place and being deluded by Maya, I got the female form''. When I was thinking thus, Hari exclaimed, '' O Narada! Get up, what are you doing standing in the water?'' I was astonished, and on recollecting my feminine nature, very severe indeed, began to think why I was again transformed into a male form.''

To be continued...............
From a 1921 translation (adapted at parts and verbatim at others) of the Bhagavatham.

A story from Bhagavatham.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Calling Vyasa (DvaipAyana) to his side, Narada said - ' O Muni, listen attentively to the stories that you are about to hear. O great muni, this Maya and Her powers are incomprehensible to even those who are the best of the yogis and ascetics. This entire universe, moving and non-moving, from Brahma to the blade of grass, is enchanted by that Unborn and incomprehensible Maya. No one can escape from the hold of this Maya.

One day, wishing to see Hari, of wonderful deeds, I went to Shveta dvipa (where Vishnu resides) singing the beautiful Sama hymns in tune with the seven swaras. There I saw the deva of devas, Gadhadhara,the colour of newly formed rain clouds. With four arms and holding the chakra in one of his hands. He was dressed in yellow raiment, glowing with the lusture of the Kausthuba gem that he wore on His breast. Bhagavan Narayana was engaged in amorous sport with the daughter of the ocean, the devi Kamala (Lakshmi). The lovely Devi Kamala radiated youth and beauty,Her breasts were visible even through the cloth thrown over them. On seeing me, she hurried into the inner chambers of the palace. Surprised, I asked Hari, '' O Bhagavan, why has the devi, the mother of all worlds, gone away from your presence on seeing me arrive here? I have conquered my passions and have become an ascetic. Why, I have conquered even Maya. O Hari, why then has the Devi gone in, please explain this to me.''

On hearing my words expressive of pride, Hari smiled and said sweetly - '' O Narada,the wise say that the wife of any man ought not to stay before any other man other than her husband. O Narada, it is extremely difficult to conquer Maya, even those, who have by constant Pranayama, conquered their vayus,their indriyas (sense organs) and their food, even the Devas etc are not able to conquer Maya. Brahma, I, Siva and other great munis, none of us have been able to conquer that Maya. How then could it be said that you or any other man can conquer that Maya! Hear this O Narada, no embodied being, be he a Deva, human being or animal or bird, no one is able to conquer that Maya. Whoever is endowed with the three gunas,be he a yogi,or a conqueror of his passions or a knower of the Vedas, or all knowing, is not capable of conquering this Maya. Maha Kala (the great Time) though essentially formless is one of the forms of this great Maya and thus fashions this universe. All jivas are under this Kala, be he a good person, of a mediocre nature or one who is ignorant. This Kala can sometimes make even a religious man who knows Dharma to be confounded. The nature of Maya is incomprehensible and Her ways are exceedingly mysterious.''

Narada said - '' O DvaipAyana, hearing this I was astonished and asked Vasudeva, the deva of devas, '' O Lord, what is the form of Maya? How is She? Where does She reside and what is the measure of Her strength? Whose substratum is She? O preserver of this universe, be graciously pleased to describe to me in detail the glory of this Maya. I am very eager to know Her.''
Vishu said - '' Maya resides everywhere, throughout this whole universe; Her nature consists of the three gunas. She is the substratum of all, She is acknowledged by all, invisible and of innumerable and diverse forms. O son of Brahma, if you want to see Maya, come quickly and mount with me on Garuda. We will both go elsewhere and there I will show you Maya, who is invincible. But, O Narada, don't be depressed when you see this Maya.'' Vishnu then remembered Garuda and instantly Garuda came to Hari. The both of us mounted on Garuda's back and in an instant Garuda flew with the speed of wind to the forest where Vishnu desired to go. On the way we saw many beautiful forests,hills, nice lakes, towns, rivers and the beautiful hermitage of munis, till at last we came to a place close to Kanuj. There I saw a beautiful divine tank, glorious lotuses blossomed there and the bees were making an intense humming noise. Geese and other aquatic fowl were playing by the edge of the tank, the water was sweet, like milk. Seeing such a wonderful tank, Bhagavan Hari told me - '' O Narada, see, how beautiful this tank with its clear waters is. And look how it is adorned all over with lotuses. Let us bathe in this tank now and then proceed to the city of kanuj.''
So saying, He made me quickly descend from Garuda and also descended himself. Then with a smile, Bhagavan held on to my fore finger and took me to the bank of the tank. We rested for some time on the cool and beautiful bank, enjoying the fragrance of the lotuses in the water. Then Vishnu said -'' O muni, You bathe first in this tank, next I will bathe in this pool of holy water. Look, how clear the water is like the heart of a saint.'' On hearing the words of Hari, I put my lute and deer skin aside and went gladly to the water. Then after washing my hands and feet, I tied my hair lock and performed my achamana with the Kusa grass in hand. After that I began to bathe in the tank. Bhagavan Hari was looking at me bathing from the edge, and after taking a dip I realized that I had quit my male form and had instead got a beautiful female form. Hari then took away my lute and deer skin and then mounting on Garuda went in a moment to His own loka.

On getting the beautiful female form, my memory of my previous male form was lost at once. I forgot all about my lute and even forgot Hari the deva of devas. On seeing the enchanting female form reflected in the clear waters of the pool, I began to think and wonder about who I was. While I was lost in thought, a king named Taladhvaja came there all of a sudden. He came accompanied by elephants and horses, he was just entering into his youth and thus looked enchanting, like a second Cupid. The king noticed me standing by the tank and was greatly astonished by the beauty of my form and my moon like face. He then questioned me - '' O auspicious one, who are you?Your astonishing beauty makes me wonder if you are the daughter of a man or a Naga or of a Deva or Gandharva? Why are you alone here in the jungle?
Has any fortunate person married you? Or are you still unmarried? Speak all this to me truly. O enchanting one, what is your desire? Choose me as your husband and enjoy the various pleasures as you would like to.''
To be continued....
- From a 1921 translation (adapted at parts and verbatim at others) of the Bhagavatham.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Audio Sloka

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
I have added the second sloka which gives the answer to the question posed in the first sloka quoted a couple of days back. The page will now have two files, the first one you might have already listened to and the second one is newly added. Listen in for something to ponder on over the weekend!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Maya maya ellam ChAya??

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
If I had a cent (a rupee would do too) for each time I have heard it mentioned that all of this universe/creation is pure 'Maya' (Illusory), I would be next only to Kubera on the rich list! It is an altogether too common perspective/stand taken by the vedantis - so common infact that most Hindus today believe such a statement to have come from the Vedas. The term 'Maya' is used as casually as the word ' hallucination' when trying to talk of processes that are too complicated to deal with when using the right brain. When in an arguement/debate the vedantis cant hold their train of thought, the mighty hand of Maya is evoked to silence all further debate on the subject.
I, the mooligaisidhan however, ask you to ponder on this -
The exponents of Mayavada (the doctrine of Maya) hold that all of this creation is Illusory - that is there is never any of all this manifold universe we 'see', 'feel' and 'live in' day after day after day. They argue that all this is just one big illusion. Like how a house built in one's dream is not 'real' anymore upon wakeing, so too is the nature of this universe. The only 'real' thing according to them is the Supreme Brahman - so the Brahman is defined Sat Chit Ananda(eternal,consiousness,bliss). Everything else is just a dream waiting to dissolve when the 'avidya' or ignorance principle is rooted out. They also quote scriptures (Vedas) of authority to further strengthen their stand.
However, when one starts to analyze such a statement (as the followers of Sankya did), it becomes clear that such a view is meaningless. Here is how the theory of the illusory nature of this universe cannot be true -
* For a start the Vedas declare that the Brahman is 'real' (the only reality) and this is universally accepted by both the tantrika and the vaidika schools of thought. Then it is also declared in the Vedas that the universe is a manifestation of Brahman (refer to such verses as: He then desired, may I be many; the crores of universes were manifested from Brahman; He made man in His own image,etc) and this is also accepeted by all without dispute. So, if Brahman (who is real) created the universe out of itself, should not the universe too be real?? Infact, how could it be anything BUT real? As is made clear in the rule of the pot and clay - i.e just like the pot (product) that is made out of clay (the material cause) bears the charecteristics of the clay it is made of (though the clay is visible in the form of a pot, it still remains clay) both when being a pot and even after ceasing to be a pot (that is, when the pot is broken down it becomes clay again). Similarly, it is automatically evident that the universe (which is a product) is as real as the Brahman (the cause). Which is why the tantrika percieves this universe to be 'real', there is no doubt in fact in his mind as to the nature of this universe (it is REAL).
This point is further illuminated by the following aphorism - Then, if the one does not exist, the other does not exist, there is a void. (Sankya 1.42)
This means, if external things do not exist, then a mere void offers itself. Why so?Because, if the external does not exist, then thought does not exist; for it is intuition that proves the objective: and, if the intuition of the external did not establish the objective, then the intuition of thought, also, would not establish [the existence of] thought.
Perhaps the Maya vadin would refute the above view by saying, only the void is the reality (shunya theory). Further adding that everything that exists perishes, and all that which perishes is false, like the dream. The counter arguement for that will be - the reason assigned for the perishableness of everything that exists is that, to perish is the nature of things, but nothing continues, after quitting its own nature. Meaning, nothing can continue, if it ceased to perish:)

On deeper analysis it becomes evident that 'Maya' refers not to the nature of this manifold creation, but to the perception of duality in this universe. It is that perception of duality (of the knower and the known, of the creator and the created,etc) which is the illusion. The shakti called Maya is the basis of this perception of multiplicity as the mother of pearl is the basis of silver (illusorily percieved - i.e, when seen from a distance the shining shell of the mother of pearl resembles silver, but on closer examination we find it is only the shell). Refer also the name 735 (mithyaajagadhisthana) - meaning, the basis of the illusory universe. And the same truth is echoed in the Devi Bagavatham : '' Indeed, I am alone all this, there is never any other''.

This world is real. The universe is real. It is in the nature of the supreme Brahman. You, are no different, no less real than this Brahman. For there can be nothing apart from it.

Audio sloka1

* Sri gurubhyo namaha
A check to see how audio works for the clear understanding of mantras we discuss or wish to discuss on the blog. Please listen and let me know if it is an added advantage to have audio files. Boom.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A brief (you wish!) lesson in history.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
Deadlines are piling up here at work and require my focus(if atleast only for a while). Still, thanks to the generosity of a very close friend of mine, I have some fine herb from Rishikesh! And thanks to the herb, the tongue is loosened - if only the fingers would keep time and type out equally fast- and the mind wanders from the jobs at hand....
A few lines then to indulge the herb.

In order to properly understand and appreciate the comments to follow on this blog, it is necessary to set the ground straight! 'Hinduism' is a very broad word, which is often unable to fully express the vastly varied (and often completely contradictory) systems of thought and practice, that are thrown in together under the one banner for ease of labeling. If we look back through the ages, it becomes instantly clear that there never was one religion called 'Hinduism'. There were many systems of thought and different philosophies (in what is today India) that were preached, developed and practiced by the different peoples. There were worshippers of Siva, Shakti (Goddess), Vishnu, Ganesha, Surya (Sun), Agni (Fire) etc. Unlike different sects as they are known today, they were more like separate religions in themselves - even a cursory reading of the different puranas (i.e. Siva, Linga, Surya, vishnu, Ganesha,etc) gives us the indication that the followers of the different gods had philosophical systems and cosmological models (describing the birth of the universe &c) which were radically different to each other at times. There seems to be very little solid ground on which the different systems were on agreement - but they co existed. Bitter debates and philosophical arguments (and contradictions) were the norm among the scholars from these diverse systems. Why, the Nyaya system (one of the Shaddarshanas) was entirely devoted to laying the rules of argument and the procedure for properly debating these extremely sophisticated (often very subtle) nuances of the 'higher' mind, consciousness, reincarnation, existence of God and other such core subjects.
One of the main points of note is that all these systems claimed to be the right one and they all attributed their origin to the Vedas! It is ironic that they often quoted from the same texts (vedic), but provided altogether different interpretations and commentaries of the quotes. As if this wasn't enough, different masters (from within the same system/school of thought) had different versions of the core principles that contradicted each other, making room for further confusion. All this changed however, with the advent of the Bhakti age (referred to as the Golden age of Hinduism) and more particularly as a result of the Herculean task of Sri Adi Shankara and his saintly contemporaries. Most of the above mentioned 'sects' were brought together under the single banner of Hinduism, based on the few beliefs that were common to them (eg. their origin being the vedas, etc). And suddenly there was this one 'religion' that had 33 million gods and goddesses!
Seeing this in the historical context of the birth and growing popularity of Buddhism (which occurred during the life, or at least around the time, of Shankara) and Jaina thought, it becomes clear why such a consolidation of the sects was necessary. This didn't happen easily - many texts and commentaries had to be re written, the few points of similarity among the sects was magnified (beyond context) and stressed, and a lot of the dis similarities had to be ironed out through excessively convoluted arguments and counter arguments, a lot of practices (some which enjoyed public popularity) had to be abolished and new practices adopted etc. For example, one of the crucial reasons for the birth and growth of Buddhist thought was the fact that Hindu ritual practices then were very complex and involved the Brahmin community and their services to 'connect' to God; this increased reliance on a middle man to commune with God left the common man bereft of substantial experiential realization of God (not to mention being bereft of money) and left the Brahmin class in a position of great power and wealth. Buddha, did away with the need for such an elaborate and 'proxy' arrangement and declared that every man was himself able to commune and be one with god. As a result, during the bhakti age, there were some great transformations in how the Hindu thought perceived itself and how it projected itself to the people (who were at that time fast being won over by the radical and minimalist Buddhist philosophy). This is obvious from the introduction of the concepts such as Ahimsa (non violence), Shunyatva(theory of voidness) which is very similar to the Mayavada of Shankara, etc - concepts that until then had no place of note in the Hindu thought. It is worthy of note that before then, most of the vedic ceremonies had sacrifices (often of animals and occasionally of even people) as a very common part. With the introduction of Ahimsa as a key concept, the fire sacrifices were adapted in such a way that the oblations were things like ghee, flowers, different grains etc. The then prevalent thought as to the nature of this universe was one of energy (where nature: prakruti was the energizing principle) and not what it is today (where the universe is seen as 'false' and 'illusory', influence of the maya vada and the shunya theory of the Buddhists, where the entire universe is seen as 'mind stuff'!)
* Keep this subject in mind as there is more to follow on from here. bhole bam!

More on Raagasvaroopapasadhyaa

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
Taking the thread of our previous discussion further, I would like to point out a couple of details with respect to the symbols used commonly in Hinduism.
As most of us would know, most of our Hindu deities (both male and female) are often portrayed with manifested attributes - like the mudras in the hands (abhaya- giving refuge to those who surrender, vara- giving boons to those who seek, etc), and other weapons that co relate to different characteristics of that particular deity. You would have noticed that quite a lot of the deities are depicted as holding (the weapons of) the pasa (noose) and angusha (elephant goad). Many justifications and explanations are given by followers of the different sects comprising Hinduism, about the meaning behind these two symbols. Here I wish to discuss them briefly....(in a manner that is suitable and supportive of my view, of course!)
Pasam (noose) - the very word noose (because of our negative associations as to its meaning and use) makes us think of something that binds in the negative way. Like the pasakayaru used by Yama when he comes to collect the soul of the person at the end of his life. It is perceived to be something that is used to catch (often irreversibly) like cowboys using the lasso to catch the cows when rounding them up to be penned. We are already afraid of the noose as we connect it to something that binds us, thus taking away the individual's freedom. But the real intent behind the use of the noose as a symbol is far from that. The pasam that is held by the various gods and goddesses is to be understood in likeness to the ''tether'' rather than the noose. The pasam corresponds to certain emotions (those of lust,desire,hunger,shyness, etc) that exhibit tendencies to keep us attached - attached to life, this world, our individual perception of it etc. This attachment allows for the continuity of this endless ocean of samsara - existence. These emotions also give rise in our minds and hearts the feeling of being safe, protected, cared for,wanted etc. Something that gives us a sense of connectedness and security (even though a false one) instead of the 'true' consciousness which is detached and quite bereft of any kind of emotion. Thus the pasam in the hands of the deities has to be understood as a boon. A manifestation of the infinite compassion (love) of God - manifested for the sole reason of comforting and protecting the devotee. Like the cowherd ties the cows in the night with a tether - he does not have any hatred towards the cows, he is not punishing them by tying them down. Infact, he ties them with a view to protect them from the dangerous animals of the night and even to an extent to protect it from its own helplessness and innocence (some say ignorance). Similarly, She exercises the use of the pasam to 'bind' those innocent jivas to help them cope with this incredibly bewildering cycle of existence. That is, the bonds of family, love, society, religion etc will be the tethers that will let the jiva operate only within a limited radius, and thus ease the level of responsibility the jiva has to take on for its own wellbeing and spiritual growth(until the jiva is ready for assuming such responsibility). It most certainly is not a noose with which to punish the transgressors - for in Her eyes all differences disappear, all are one. She only gives what we have asked Her for. No rewards and no punishments.
Angusham - (Elephant Goad) : This is also another of the most frequently used symbols. It corresponds to the emotion of anger/hatred. The shruthi explains : wrath is the elephant hook. It can be understood as follows - The jiva as we saw above is kept 'bound' by the different emotions until it is ready to be 'free' (or ready to understand its essential nature of freedom which was its nature even when it was 'perceived' to have been bound - but that's for another day!). This state of freedom is achievable when the emotion of anger/hatred is conquered. Meaning, She 'ties' the jiva on the one hand with the pasam while it is Her again who severs those very 'bonds' with the goad in the other hand(at the appropriate stage)! At a stage when pure Love is isolated and concentrated in the being after the due elimination of other impurities (attaching to that love as a result of one's vaasana and karma) - much like the process of clarification whereby the clean and pure ghee is separated from all the other constituent impurities
* Compare this to the above for additional context for paasa-
Paa - thirst , asa - hunger. This limitation of hunger and thirst belong only to the 'pasu' (literally cattle) type of person. That is, those that are devoid of the conviction/realization of non - separation (abhedajnayana). Such 'ignorant' persons are termed pasus because they possess the desire on eating and drinking only. Refer to the Shruthi which says '' the pasus understand only hunger and thirst, they do not speak of the known (Brahman), they do not see the known, they do not know the future, nor this nor the other world.''.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Desire - A power or distraction?

Sri Gurubhyo Namaha.
I often spend a lot of time deliberating on this one. Even after many years of looking at it from different view points (inspired of course, by many a herbal mix) and thoroughly studying the various texts and scriptures in relation to the subject of desire, I must confess that there is still a lot left to be understood as to its 'true' nature.
Many unnecessary modifications have been attached to the subject of desire in the various interpretations of vedic texts and upanishadic thoughts of latter day Hinduism. And quite a lot of these modifications in the actual interpretation is due to the ever changing 'morality' of the Hindu people, as we progress through time. What was perfectly acceptable practice only 200 years ago, could land you in jail today. Thus, in trying to understand desire (or anything else for that matter) in the right context, a lot of veils have to be pierced or downright removed. Here are a couple of interesting arguments taken from different texts of authority. Let me know how you get on with the piercing of the veils!

* When there is passion, or dispassion, there is concentration, [in the latter case, and] creation, [in the former]. Sankhya Aphorism - book 2, aph 9. (of Kapila)
The above is an aphorism from the Sankhya system of thought (one among the six systems of thought in Hinduism- collectively known as the Shaddarshana). Speaking on the subject of creation &c in connection to the supreme Soul (Purusha), the author Kapila, makes it clear that passion/desire (the field in which the rajas guna is active) is responsible for creation. That is, only Prakruti (Nature - the primordial Nature and not the natural world around us which is but a later evolute) because of the dominance of passion in it has the power to manifest this extended creation. While the Purusha (supreme Soul) exuding pure dispassion (the state acchieved through the dominance of satva guna over the other two) is in concentration. That is, the Purusha (Soul) abides in its own nature. Without modifications of the thinking principle.
Is then this passion/desire a power (to create and fulfill) or is it a distraction (to concentration)??

* Raagasvaroopapaasaadhyaa - Lalitha Sahasranamam, 8th name.
In the 1000 names of Lalitha, after describing the birth of the supreme Goddess and Her physical appearance (with 4 arms), it is mentioned that She is ' holding the noose of desire' (in Her lower left hand) as one of Her weapons.
Sometime back, I was in the company of some holy men who were of the view that desire was but an obstacle to overcome in one's path to knowledge (not that it is a rare view point, why, its the most prevalent attitude in modern day Hinduism). To further strengthen their argument, one of them quoted the above mentioned name from the sahasranamam - describing that desire had been equated to a noose, with which the lower beings were kept in bondage! That is to say, those unable to rise above their desires were in bondage (unconsious of their true nature).
But to one with even the slightest bit of knowledge, it is obvious that the above mentioned name is conveyed in an altogether different sense. Desire (Raaga) is a mental modification, it is a wish (iccha). This desire is the supreme Vaasanaa (latency) form, one that is incredibly powerful. The noose is the gross form of the same. That can be understood as follows, desire corresponds to iccha shakti (the power of will), without which there can be no creation.
The above name is explained in even more depth by Bhaskararaya (in his commentary Sowbagya Bhaskara) - however, you will need a bit more than a few herbs to understand this!! He says that the above name contains in it the secret weapon mantra. The word Raagasva can be divided into ra+aga+sva. Aga means mountain, sthanu (post), i.e. it represents Siva (as sthanu is one of the aspects of Siva). The letter of Siva is ha. Sva is said to mean i(ee) the bija of desire taken with the bindu(m). Thus the subtle and hidden form of the noose is the mantra that is formed by combining ha, ra and i (ee)with the bindu (m) - i.e. Hrim.
I did tell you that you will need a bit more than a few herbs to understand it ;)

Sidhanaa Pithanaa?

Shi gurubyo namaha.
I start with my humble and reverent praise to the holy feet of my Guru and Sri Tripurasundari, much like others before me.

My laptop has replaced the treated palm leaf and the internet has opened up an entire community of bhaktas to enjoy (?)my deluded rantings.The path has opened up and the journey begins. Oh, child of this universe,rejoice!Rejoice,for the great Goddess is Herself Love.