Saturday, July 28, 2007

Guru Ashtakam - Octad to the Guru.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

The Guru Ashtakam (Octad to the Guru) along with an english translation of the content. The first eight verses form the octet and the ninth verse is the Phalashruthi or the verse describing the merits of reading the Guru ashtakam.
The Guru Ashtakam is composed by the most revered Adi Shankaracharya himself and the english translation of the content is from an online source.

Sareeram suroopam thadha va kalathram,
Yasacharu chithram dhanam meru thulyam,
Manaschenna lagnam Gurorangri padme,
Thatha kim Thatha Kim, Thatha kim Thatha kim. 1 .

One’s body may be handsome, wife
beautiful, fame excellent and varied, and
wealth like unto Mount Meru; but if one’s
mind be not attached to the lotus feet of the
Guru, what thence, what thence, what
thence, what thence?

Kalathram Dhanam puthrapothradhi sarvam,
Gruham Bandhavam Sarvamethadhi jatham,
Manaschenna lagnam Gurorangri padme
Thatha kim Thatha Kim, Thatha kim Thatha kim. 2.

Wife, wealth, sons, grandsons, etc., all
these; home, relations & the host of all these
there may be; but if one’s mind be not
attached to the lotus feet of the Guru, what
thence, what thence, what thence, what

Shadangadhi vedo Mukhe sasra vidhya ,
Kavithwadhi gadhyam , supadhyam karothi,
Manaschenna lagnam Gurorangri padme
Thatha kim Thatha Kim, Thatha kim Thatha kim. 3.

The Vedas with their six auxiliaries and
knowledge of sciences may be on one’s
lips; one may have the gift of poesy; and
may compose good prose and poetry; but if
one’s mind be not attached to the lotus feet
of the Guru, what thence, what thence,
what thence, what thence?

Videseshu manya, swadeseshu danya,
Sadachara vrutheshu matho na cha anya,
Manaschenna lagnam Gurorangri padme
Thatha kim Thatha Kim, Thatha kim Thatha kim. 4.

In other lands I am honored; in my
country I am fortunate; in the ways of good
conduct there is none that excels me - thus
one may think, but if one’s mind be not
attached to the lotus feet of the Guru, what
thence, what thence, what thence, what

Kshma mandale bhoopa bhoopala vrundai,
Sada sevitham yasya padaravindam,
Manaschenna lagnam Gurorangri padme
Thatha kim Thatha Kim, Thatha kim Thatha kim. 5.

One’s feet may be adored constantly by
hosts of emperors and kings of the world;
but if one’s mind be not attached to the
lotus feet of the Guru, what thence, what
thence, what thence, what thence?

Yaso me gatham bikshu dana prathapa,
Jagadwathu sarvam kare yah prasdath,
Manaschenna lagnam Gurorangri padme
Thatha kim Thatha Kim, Thatha kim Thatha kim. 6.

My fame has spread in all quarters by
virtue of generosity and prowess; all the
things of the world are in my hands as a
reward of these virtues; but if one’s mind
be not attached to the lotus feet of the
Guru, what thence, what thence, what
thence, what thence?

Na Bhoge, na yoge, Na vaa vajirajou,
Na kantha sukhe naiva vitheshu chitham,
Manaschenna lagnam Gurorangri padme
Thatha kim Thatha Kim, Thatha kim Thatha kim. 7.

Not in enjoyment, not in concentration,
not in the multitudes of horses; nor in the
face of the beloved, nor in wealth does the
mind dwell; but if that mind be not attached
to the lotus feet of the Guru, what thence,
what thence, what thence, what thence?

Aranye na vaa swasya gehe na karye,
Na dehe mano varthathemath vanarghye,
Manaschenna lagnam Gurorangri padme
Thatha kim Thatha Kim, Thatha kim Thatha kim. 8.

Not in the forest, nor even in one’s own
house, nor in what-is-to-be-accomplished,
nor in the body, nor in what is invaluable
does my mind dwell; but if my mind be not
attached to the lotus feet of the Guru, what
thence, what thence, what thence, what

Guror ashtakam ya padeth punya dehi,
Yathir bhoopathir , brahmacharee cha gehi,
Labeth vanchithartham padam brahma samgnam,
Guruor uktha vakye,mano yasya lagnam.

That virtuous person who reads this
octad on the Guru, and whose mind is
fixed on the sayings of the Guru - whether
he be an ascetic, king, student, or
householder, attains the desired goal, the
state which is called Brahman.

Om tat sat.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thoughts on Guru - for Guru Purnima.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

' Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu

Gurur devo Maheshwarah

Gurur sakshAt Parabrahma

Tasmai shree gurave namaha.'

Within the context of hinduism, the word/term Guru is a very special one, one pregnant with innumerable layers of meaning. It means both the Jnana (knowledge) and the imparter of such knowledge. In todays world almost all of us are aware of the word guru, we are exposed to some or other interpretation of the term. More often than not, the word guru is used to describe a persons mastery of any particular subject. However, the term has traditionally been used in a different sense.

As much as it is a noun, the word Guru is also an adjective and as such it means, 'heavy' - the opposite of laghu or light/weightless. The 'heavy' here does not describe the physical charecteristic, rather the fact that the guru is 'heavy with knowledge' or 'heavy with spiritual knowledge' to be precise.

A more esoteric interpretation of the term Guru can be understood when we observe the root syllables that make up the word. The syllable 'gu' corresponds to darkness (the darkness of avidya or ignorance) and the syllable 'ru' corresponds to the one who takes away(that darkness of avidya). This beautifully shows us the interplay of darkness and light and conveys the meaning that because of his capacity to dispel the darkness and reveal the light, the guru is called guru.

Traditionally so much has been said about the guru in the various branches of Hindu thought. Much emphasis has been laid on the guru in all the systems, even to the extent that it is generally aggreed that a guru is indispensible in the path to enlightenment or self realisation. And, believe me, not an ounce of exaggeration is there in such a statement. The guru is the embodiment of the supreme Brahman himself. As the subject (guru) is mightier than the mightiest, the ramblings of someone like me means nothing. Still, I would like to mention a few things in connection to the guru here (with Guru Purnima only around the corner). In a dialogue between Shiva and Parvathi, we can see a very deep and thorough description of the various qualities, attributes etc of a guru. From that text we find another interpretation of the term guru - the syllable 'gu' is the root representing the gunas (inherent qualities) of rajas, sattva and tamas and in this context means one who is beyond the action of the three gunas. The syllable 'ru' is the root of rupa (form) and in this context is to be understood as beyond all form. Thus Guru is someone who is capable of giving the wisdom that takes one beyond the gunas; to that transcendental place deviod of all form.

An interesting thing to note is the attitude of Hinduism towards one without a guru. Infact the word 'anaatha'/'anadhai' which is used today to mean an orphan or one without any family, actually means ''one without a guru''!! That is how important the guru is to the Hindu: that one without a guru is percieved to be very unfortunate indeed. However, a cursory reading of the text will make it exceedingly clear that it is but the highest of fortunes to have found a guru. It is not everybodys fate or destiny to obtain the grace of a guru. As the grace of the guru marks the begenning of the journey towards oneness and perfection.

The guru is capable of transmitting knowledge to the sishya (disciple) through siksha (teaching) or through diksha (initiation). The process of diksha transmits some of the gurus own spiritual powers to the disciple which will then enable the sishya to progress further on the path of realisation. In some traditions like the Srividya tradition, the guru is both the begenning and the end of the path. The guru is himself the path and the result of the path. The devata or deity and the mantra and the other methods and the guru and non different from each other. The sishya is also non different from the guru - as the sishya is but a sesha (part) of the guru and as such is non different from him. Thus the guru reveals the underlying oneness of the mantra,yantra the process (tantra), the devata (divinity) and the guru and the essential non difference of the sishya to the above mentioned.

One need not be taught what is the knowledge within, because each one is his own Guru. The sharira (body) and manas (mind), of the unit, which is known as a human being, do not realize that they have all these powers. To make him understand this, a Guru is required. That is why the Supreme Power does not teach you, only a Guru teaches you. The Supreme Power makes you feel that He is within you, but the Guru shows it to you and proves to you that He dwells within. Only when the Guru makes you realize this, you can feel it. This realization can be brought to you only by the Guru, not by God. Guru is the manifested God, Guru demonstrates the path, HE illuminates the darkness, and thereby becomes the purest reflection of one's highest aspirations. He is not the aspiration; he is the reflector of the aspiration.

The highest form of Guru is Lord Shiva Himself (Adi Dakshinamurthy), the ultimate knowledge, and the Guru is the manifestation of that knowledge. From that original guru a whole unbroken lineage of gurus have ensured the continuity and the transmission of the knowledge of the supreme Brahman. That unbroken lineage of gurus is called the guru parampara or the guru mandala. The mantras Gurumurthih, Gurumandala rupini, Dakshinamurthyswarupini, etc from the Lalitha sahsranama also illustrate that Amba Herself is in the form of the guru and the entire mandala or lineage of the gurus.

A teacher has a student whereas a Guru has a disciple, or a sishya. A sishya differs from the vidyaarthi (student), who goes to a teacher to attain the artha of the vidya. A sishya's place is in the heart of the Guru whereas the vidyaarthi's place is in front of the Guru. A sishya is not different from the Guru. A student is one who studies. He does not study other than what is taught, he does not know himself, he does not study his own self, he studies something else. Who would want to study? Only one who does not know. Who is that who does not know? The manas and sharira, which do not know anything, keep studying. The aathma need not be a student, because it knows everything.

There is also a difference between a teacher and a Guru. A teacher is not a Guru. The one who teaches what is taught is called a teacher. His knowledge of the taught is teaching, he has not attained it as shruthi (noble words echoed by the Supreme), he has acquired it from some book or some person. A Guru is one who leads you from darkness to light and one who transmits shruthi.

I could carry on endlessly in this vein and quote from many more texts the exalted state of the Guru. But I would rather not - instead it would be my greatest pleasure if you, the reader, could be inspired by the few things in this post to ponder on the merits of the guru in your own inner being. Though, before finishing I would like to leave you with another interpretation of the famous sloka Gurur brahma........

gurur brahma

Guru is Brahma, the creator, He creates the disciple. If there were no Guru, there would be no disciple. Gods were there and Gods will remain, but unless there is a Guru, disciples cannot be created and no one can reach God. We look at Guru only as a creator, who can give pleasures, blessings and identify him as Brahma. Most people are stuck with Guru as Brahma. They only want the Guru to create new things, they look for materialistic and spiritual benefits, they find only the glitter, and as a result only their moha (delusion) increases. Guru creates awareness of knowledge in a disciple and leads him towards it. This is Gurur Brahma.

gurur vishnu

Guru creates a disciple, gives certain intimation, warnings, tests in some ways and then vanishes. The disciple keeps on searching for the Guru, he presumes that the Guru has disappeared, as he is not physically visible. The Guru is aware that since he has created you, he also has to protect you. The disciple looks for the Guru or the knowledge, which will liberate him from the cycle of births and deaths. He looks for the Supreme Divinity, which is by no means an easy task: going through the karma yoga, the dhyaana marga, the bhakthi and the jnaana marga. The Guru has created this thought within you and in order to search for him, he makes you walk the path, clears the path, makes you experience the life and throughout the experience, he protects you. You realize that he is not merely a giver, but when you are in trouble, when you are faced with diseases and difficulties, he protects you even at the cost of his life! When all doors are closed, when there is no way out, when even God does not listen to your call, Guru Vishnu protects you! Through all the struggles, the Guru is always with you. This is Gurur Vishnu.

gurur devo Maheshwara

Ultimately you come to Lord Shiva! Guru has all the three virtues within Him. The knowledge is implanted in your mind, you are asked to contemplate, made to struggle, made to work hard, made to realize and ultimately reach the transcendental. Once you reach there, he enables your transcendence totally, he removes the veil of ignorance from you. In order to make you see your own Divinity, in order to make you understand that you yourself are the Supreme, he destroys what is not required for you. He is a destroyer because he destroys the darkness, the ignorance, the avidya from within you.
Shiva is called the destroyer, but not in a negative sense. Without destruction, there cannot be construction. Unless the dirty water is thrown out, clean water cannot be filled in that place. New is neither an extension of old nor is it an addition; old has to be destroyed so that new can be created. If he did not transcend things, Brahma would not be able to create, Vishnu would not be able to protect. At the right time, transcendence has to take place. He does not destroy, He changes the bad to good, He balances. Knowledge alone can understand when a person finishes his karmas, and needs to be relieved. The place has to be vacated so that a new creation can take place. This is what Lord Shiva does! He has been entrusted with the responsibility of transcendence. He removes the obstacles in order to create and maintain dharma. This is Gurur Devo Maheswara

Guru saakshaat Parabrahma

Who is the Parabrahma? The one who has created the universe, who has created the Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesha, is Parabrahma. After passing through all the stages, after unconditional surrender, when he reaches the stage of HE AM I, the disciple suddenly finds saakshaat Parabrahma standing there! He immediately prostrates before the Parabrahma -- Guru saakshaat Parabrahma tasmai Sri Guruve Namaha!Then you realize that the Guru is the saakshaat Parabrahma! When you reach the Brahma, then the Parabrahma is visible. Parabrahma is the Supreme Divinity. Brahma cannot create the Guru, Vishnu cannot create the Guru, Maheswara cannot create the Guru, it is only the Parabrahma who can create the Guru. All the three are merged in the Guru, enabling the powers of the Parabrahma to be transmitted to him and through him.

Guru is beyond gender, beyond form, and is the Supreme Divinity. Guru is in your heart, in the heart of all living beings.

This offering brings the radiance of illumination to a greater enhancement. We knock on many doors in search of a Guru and return disappointed, we search for eternal love but it eludes us, we hunt for money and fame but it is only a temporary quest and even after attaining it, we are still dissatisfied and discontented. All these create the fear of losing; association with the Guru removes all illusions and thereby the fear of losing. A quote from the Baja Govindam- '' Satsangatve Nissangatvam - Sat sangatve - through the company of the good (the guru), Nissangatvam - (there arises) non-attachment.Nissangatve Nirmohatvam- Nissangatve - through non-attachment, Nirmohatvam - (there arises) freedom from delusion.Nirmohatve Nischalatattvam - Nirmohatve - through the freedom from delusion, Nischala - Immutable, Tattvam - Reality. Nischalatattve Jeevanmuktih - Nischalatattve - through the Immutable Reality, Jeevanmuktih - (comes) the state of 'liberated-in-life'.'' We attain peace and moksha when we do not have desires, when we do not have the fear of losing.

Meditate on all that the Guru has given you, on all that he has revealed, on all that he has removed and on all that he lived for; this Guru Purnima. Give thanks (a hundred million of them!) for his immeasurable compassion and his boundless wisdom. Revere the entire lineage, the guru mandala, going up from your own guru through to his guru and then to the gurus gurus guru and so on till the original Guru Dakshinamurthy. It is only as a result of the unbroken tradition of these self realised masters that we the people of todays world have any connection at all to the 'reality' of the spirit. May the grace of the Guru and the great gurus of the past flow like a mountain river to you and through you to the world around you.

Shree guru padhukam dhyayami pujayami namaha.

To Be or not to Be??

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

It must be the deep mystical vibrations of the approaching Guru Purnima that has me like this. The last week or so has been quite a time for my unlettered mind - deep discussions, arguments and counter arguments, dialogue, metaphysical enquiry..... From the sounds of it you might think that I have been having many satsangs, but no, its all been in my mind. Diving head first in the pursuit of more and more subtle reasoning's, I came to a familiar thought pattern. That of the intrinsic differences between the system called Tantra and the rest of the Hindu systems (dominated for the most part by Brahmin orthodoxy). The differences are many, the similarities many too. Yet, in the perception of the hindu society or the individual hindu mind, the social and cultural taboos present a serious impediment in the thorough analysis of the philosophies behind the above mentioned systems. It is almost necessary to step outside the folds of ones own religious indoctrination to 'see' things for what they are.

Here I come back to a point originally touched in a previous post some time back (Women aren't dragons) - that of the precept ion of samsara as something to be greatly feared and avoided at all costs. Just yesterday I was speaking to someone about the fears that arise when we let go of the various things we hold so desperately onto and that conversation led to the content of this post.
Most of the Hindu philosophical and psychological systems (however varied and virulently disagreed they might be on other aspects) agree in asserting that our real world is but a meaningless illusion, that the mental play of various forms which we call our experience of life and the world are utterly without value. Further, they stress that entanglement in such 'play' is the sure way to go rapidly downhill. They show that all the experiences that we normally cherish, like the love for our lovers, family, children, food, sex, the joy of nature around us, why even the adoration we may feel for our ishta devata, are all traps. And the sole intent of the wise person should be to pry loose their grip on us. And according to such systems, when we finally manage to stay permanently in a state of undivided attention to the undivided whole (i.e. Supreme Brahman) and become totally absorbed in that abstract state, we obtain Release.

To achieve such insight and absorption, one needs to dwell on the misery of the human condition. To spur a feeling of detachment (when such a feeling is not 'natural') one needs to dwell on the agonies, despair and the crimes (of which there are plenty as we well know). Further one needs to focus ones mind on the distasteful and disgusting aspects of ones own body and those of others. Thinking and perceiving them to be nothing more than transient bags of phlegm and shit! When this sort of view takes hold, it becomes easy to say 'no' to the world and pleasures enjoyed by such a body. The self of such a one can deny the claims of all apparent (physical) but vanishing possessions. The most beautiful lover, thus dissolves into a temporary illusion. And slowly there comes a state where even though others might see a physical body moving about, there will be no man in it. It remains like an empty shell or an empty nest when the bird has flown. It will then continue to exist only till the last few remaining impulses are finished. This core perception has shaped almost all of the Brahminic philosophical systems and thus no matter where one is always given many words of caution as to the transient nature of this world reality. Thus, there is a feeling of utter disgust, repulsion and a constant undercurrent of fear and paranoia of the endless cycle of life and death.

Though tantra does not dispute the fundamental truth of this position, it has a particular wisdom of its own. It believes that the methods used are absurd (as mentioned above). Crucially, it declares that there is absolutely no need for such a desperate upstream (and unnatural) struggle to reach the shore. Further it notes that such an ideal of life produces a dreadful world for those as yet unreleased! In a complete contrast to the strenuous NO that the Brahmin traditions said to the world, Tantra proclaims an emphatic YES. It stresses that instead of suppressing pleasure,vision and ecstasy, they should be cultivated and used. The principle underlying this is the observation that sensation and emotion are the most powerful human emotive forces and that they should be harnessed to the goal rather than being crushed underfoot. When properly channeled, sensation and emotion can provide an inexhaustible source of energy and aid in bringing about plenty of benefits to society as a whole while constantly increasing ecstasy for the individual. For advancing this end the physical body needs to be cared for and cultivated and thus the kaya siddhi and kaya kalpa became intrinsic steps. Tantrikas understand the no sayers to be at worst ones with a dangerous self indulgence and at best to neglect their fellow creatures.

At its very heart, Tantra deals with Love and Love needs objects. It is self evident that one cannot love nothing as love means care. And care carried out to its highest limit is probably the ultimate social virtue. Having said that, it becomes very important to observe that the different tantras cultivated extremely elaborate frameworks of qualification and complex ritual procedure to make sure that its adherents did not fall into complacent ways of self indulgence as it is so easy to do so. Millions and millions of us do so, all the time - seek pleasure, even ecstasy and make nothing of it; apart from leaving them as dead experiences in ones own past. The tantrika perceives oneness even in the everyday love and life. However, it does draw sharp distinctions between the beast like man who lives in bondage to his appetites, who seeks pleasure only for the sake of experiencing the ecstasies it may offer and the committed tantrika who treats his senses and emotions as if they were prized assets to be used as spiritual currency. Though it does not deny that our fragmented experience of reality is intrinsically of no value, it does have the courage to see that our life does contain many positive experiences which can be put to use for the pursuit of the ultimate goal. Thus is perceives everything, including the disgusting and fearsome aspects of our life experience as the interplay (or love play) of the supreme Goddess and Her consort.

Thus it happens that tantra is primarily an experiential process, one of sadhana and one of constant experience. When the yantras and other mystical rituals and accessories are viewed within the context of tantra it becomes clear that they are rooted in the realities of experience. That is to say, even the most obliquely metaphysical iconography and ritual can only mean anything at all by virtue of its semantic reference to the realities of human experience. While a glib verbalism can flatter the sense of achievement without actually committing oneself to real effort. It is by virtue of this core difference in the world view of the two systems (while the ultimate transcendental reality is the same in both) there arise the different types of sadhana and the differences in world view. One leaves a void behind as a result of the pursuit of the ultimate void while the other leaves behind the experience of fullness as a result of the pursuit of the ultimate whole.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Seek Him through Love - mantra 31

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
The thirty first mantra of the first part of the Thirumandiram speaks about the love and devotion that are sure methods to reach Shiva who is in the nature of nada.

மண்ணகத் தான்ஒக்கும் வானகத் தான்ஒக்கும்
விண்ணகத் தான்ஒக்கும் வேதகத் தான்ஒக்கும்
பண்ணகத்து இன்னிசை பாடலுற் றானுக்கே
கண்ணகத் தேநின்று காதலித் தேனே. 31.
31: Seek Him In Love
Of the Earth is He, of the sky is He! Well He be!
Of the Heaven is He, of truest Gold is He! Well He be!
Of sweetest song's inmost rapture is He!
Him my love besought, from heart's central core.
Com - Of the Earth is He The Lord manifests Himself in human form to grace the beings of this earth (Bhuloka) of the sky is He He manifests Himself as the Light shining in the Akaashaa mandala to grace the beings of the skies (Bhuvarloka) Of the Heaven is He He manifests Himself in His shining Godly form to grace the beings of the heavens (Suvarloka) of truest Gold is He He manifests Himself as a Siddha (fully accomplished being) to those that seek Siddhi’s (miraculous powers). Of sweetest song's inmost rapture is He In the contented mind which is in rapture, He manifests the Nada (sonic vibration, referred to here as the sweetest song). Him my love besought, from heart's central core To Him, I stand forever close, loving Him from the very core of my being, as if He were my very eyes (by the mind being in inseparable union with Siva – like the eyelid and the eye).

* The supreme Siva who is of the nature of Nada should always be kept very dear to the heart and be approached with love and devotion. The above mantra mentions the three worlds (bhu, buvah, suvah) that are manifest for the different kinds of beings and that Shiva is the one light that shines constant in all the worlds.