Friday, May 02, 2008

Yuga dharma.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Post or two on the Ramayana - Done.
Post or two on the Mahabharatha - Done.
No more Mahakavyas. What next?

Realise a lack of more in terms of what are itihasa kavyas (historic epics) which are elevated to the level of the two mentioned above. Ulysses? No. Better stick to what I know.

Yes! A post digging for scraps from the both!
So, here goes.

Rama (the hero of the Ramayana) is one among the avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu. Krishna (the hero of the Mahabharatha) too is one among the avatars of Vishnu. Both incarnations occurred at different epochs. Ramas incarnation is set in the Treta yuga and Krishnas incarnation is towards the end of the Dwapara yuga. These epochs or yugas are huge periods of time and the intrinsic nature of these yugas give us an insight into the peoples and their psyches, their inner and outer troubles, the environment, their 'state', etc as a collective. And believe me, they are certainly varied times. Rama walked this earth in a human form somewhat (quite somewhat) earlier than Krishna and observing the parallels in the lives of these two individuals, who really are the same person, who lived in different times is a wonderful exercise. Not only does it provide the contextual difference in terms of their respective characters or their respective message to the world at large, it also gives us the influence of the actual yuga dharma or the nature of the flow of things in the different yugas.

As with everything, it is easy to look at the obvious differences than the not so obvious ' oneness'. A look at the differences then-

Rama is renowned for being the eka patni vratan or the one who is married only once and remains loyal to that one wife. Legends associated with Rama glorify this aspect of his character. Krishna on the other hand had more wives than there are days in peoples lives! Some legends hold that Krishna had 16,108 wives (this number has an esoteric significance which is not the intent of this post to hover on) and even if we ignore that view for the time being, he still had more wives than one. Krishna was married to Rukmini, Sathyabhama, Jambhavathi, Kalindi and Mitrabinda (these are all detailed in the many stories of Krishna, his life and exploits!). Even still Krishna is always associated with Radha primarily - who was his lover(oh, the taboo) and not one he married! Legends associated with Krishna glorify this aspect of his as the playboy who stole the hearts of many.

The adharma in the times of Rama is personified as the demon king Ravana who out of his lust and desire for Sita forcibly abducts her from the hermitage in the forest to his kingdom. It is this act of Ravana that served to be the catalyst for Rama to invade and attack Lanka the kingdom of Ravana. In the times of Krishna though things look different. Krishna encouraged (aided and abetted) his friend and devotee Arjuna to come to Dwaraka to seduce and steal his sister Shubadra!! Not only that, Arjuna did this job of seducing the princess Shubadra by living in Dwaraka in the guise of an ochre clad sanyasi.

The warfare in the days of Rama was governed by the rules pertaining to warfare and there was not much of the back hand and adharmic fights fought then. Rama's decision to fight with Ravana was justified and Rama did not use his sly cunning to win the war. The war was won by dharma and truth. In Krishna's time, the stories of the Mahabharatha make it evident; warfare was altogether a different affair. Most of the opponents (great heroes each one) that were defeated or slain by the Pandavas were felled by unfair means. In the slaying of Jayadratha Krishna played an important part in the unfair fight by covering the sun temporarily. Radheya (Karna), Drona, Duryodhana were all killed in unfair fights. One of the chapters of the epic also records this transition from dharma to adharma by makeing a note of the fact that the first ten days of the war (when the Kauravas fought under the leadership of the great Bheeshma) were ones of dharma. Then with the fall of Bheeshma and with the captaincy of Drona things took a turn for the wicked. Since then all the duels and the general war was dominated by adharma and underhand fighting. Krishna at the end of the war comments that the Kaurava greats could never have been defeated in a fair fight, never mind being killed, and that it was the nature of the yuga (the transition from dwapara to kali) that is seen from the sudden departure from the accepted code of warfare and dharma.

Rama spent his whole life trying to play down the fact that he was God - really! He was the personification of humility and the paragon of the virtues of the good Hindu. Always respectful towards his elders, sensitive to the needs of his subjects, aware of his duties as a son, king, husband etc. Even when the great Vasishtha began to preach the liberating wisdom to Rama in the end (yoga vashishta) it is remarkably clear that Rama is portrayed as human. Krishna on the other hand lived out his entire life (complete with all its glorious mischief making) to convey that he was God. Right from torturing his poor mother (Yasodha) by his pranks to stealing the hearts (and possibly more) of the gopikas, from the killing of Kamsa to orchestrating the whole great war, from providing yards and yards of saree material for the honour of Draupadi to revelling in his revelation of the cosmic form, Krishna's life story is a celebration of his being God.

There you go now, some of the parallels observed in the two incarnations at the two different yugas. I am sure there be plenty more we can find on even a first glance. These help to determine the ethic and the morality of the general populace at these different times and also in seeing what the yuga dharma does to influence the progress and the evolution of the world and its peoples. Now, I would like to take leave of you with a few questions.....

In the treta yuga (Rama's period) dharma or righteousness has three legs (out of four) so all is hunky dory to the most part. In the dwapara yuga (the end of which is marked by Krishna's birth and the end of the great war) dharma had but two of its four legs and things are (as we can see) beginning to wobble. In kali yuga (the current period, our period) which began at the end of the great war dharma stands on only one leg. Dharma is officially crippled! This much is yuga dharma. If Krishna incarnated to rid the earth of its demons, if his incarnation was for the destruction of adharma and the upholding of dharma, and if this his purpose was achieved by the total and all out slaughter of (nearly) all of the sixteen akshouhinis of troops and the subsequent destruction of the clan of the vrishinis, then why is the immediate birth of the next yuga (kali) one where dharma stands on only one leg??

Were the good slain in battle? Did dharma actually win when the kings and their armies were butchered? If those wicked souls on the path of adharma were weeded out like it is made out in the epic, why then was dharma left with such a handicap immeadiately after? Does adharma to fight adharma (for the bigger stake of dharma) make sense or is that very fact even an indicator that perhaps the means are more important than the end? Or are the means verily ends themselves? Or finally is yuga dharma akin to the proverbial ragwort (a weed) that simply rises its head above the ground no matter how many times is chopped down to the very ground?

The eight masters - mantra 67

Sri gurubhyo namaha

From this mantra we begin the fourth subdivision in the first tantra of the Thirumandiram. This section is called 'guru pArampariyam' or the hierarchy of the gurus (in the lineage of Thirumular). Please note that the mantras are now numbered in three segments (eg. 1.4.67) where the first number is the position of the mantra in the section in question. The second number is the number for the section in which the mantra occurs and the final number is the position of the mantra when counted from the very first sloka in the Thirumandiram.

After a description of Siva there followed the description of the methods through which this Siva is realised - the vedas and the agamas. Now in the fourth section the sage reveals the lineage of the gurus and their hierarchy with a view to show that the supreme Siva yoga (of which the Thirumandiram is the authority) that will be revealed in the following tantras (chapters) is something that comes directly from Siva through a successive and unbroken lineage of gurus down to Thirumular.

நந்தி அருள்பெற்ற நாதரை நாடிடின்
நந்திகள் நால்வர் சிவயோக மாமுனி
மன்று தொழுத பதஞ்சலி வியாக்ரமர்
என்றிவர் என்னோ டெண்மரு மாமே. 1.4.67
Eight Masters
Seekest thou the Masters who Nandi's grace received
First the Nandis Four, Sivayoga the Holy next;
Patanjali, then, who in Sabha's holy precincts worshipt,
Vyaghra and I complete the number Eight.1.4. 67

ComSeekest thou the Masters who Nandi's grace received When one seeks to know of the great Gurus (Masters) who have received the grace of and initiation from Nandi (Siva), (it is found that they were eight in number.) First the Nandis Four They are the four Nandis, namely Sanakar, Sanandhanar, Sanatanar and Sanatkumarar. Sivayoga the Holy next Then come the great, Sivayoga Maamunivar Patanjali, then, who in Sabha's holy precincts worshipt and the yogi Patanjali, who was graced with the vision of the Cosmic Dance of Siva in the grand temple at Chidambaram. Vyaghra Then there is the master Vyaghrapadar. and I complete the number Eight. The above mentioned seven together with me (i.e. Thirumoolar) make up the eight masters.

* The above mantra traces the lines of the (eight) masters who have received initiation from Siva Himself and clearly states the names of the eight masters. It is worthy of note that the author always uses the name Nandi to describe both Siva and the masters who received initiation from Siva. That is to say that the masters who received initiations from Siva are equal to Siva Himself. Here the core view that there is no difference between the guru and the disciple is touched on by the use of the word Nandi to refer both.

It is also worthy to note a few more things here. The four nandis - sanakar, sanandhar, sanatanar and sanatkumarar - are the mind born sons of the creator Brahma. These are the four sages that are depicted at the feet of Siva as Dakshinamurthy (the guru of all gurus). The verses to follow will elaborate this in detail.

The yogi patanjali spoken of here is the same as the author of the Yoga sutras. That Patanjali and Thirumular were contemporaries who studied under the same master is revealed here. Patanjali after the vision at Chidambaram compiled the yoga sutras and Thirumular authored the Thirumandiram conveying the same essence (of yoga/union) through a different process.

A few words here to describe the master Vyagrapadhar for those who do not know this great yogi. There was once a rishi named Madyandina whose son was a devotee of the lord Siva and worshipped Him in the form a linga in the forests (in Thillai kshetra). He was in the habit of collecting the flowers and fruits for his daily worship from the forest before daybreak each day. One day however, he found that it was too dark and as a result the flowers that were collected were impure (as there were bees polluting the flowers). This made him very sad and Siva understanding the reason for his grief gave him a boon. He gave him the eyes and limbs of a tiger to enable him to see in the dark and also to climb trees to collect the flowers and fruits!! Hence he was known as vyagrapadar (vyagra - tiger, padar - feet/limbs) and continued to live in the forest worshipping Siva.

It is said that adishesha (the thousand headed serpent upon whom Vishnu remains in yoga nidra), was very keen on seeing the supreme Thandava (dance) of Siva. He then expressed his desire to Siva who then adviced adishesha to go down to the earth and to a place known as vyagrapuram (the place where the above mentioned vyagrapadar lived) where He (siva) would be dancing His thandava sometime soon. Adishesha then went to the earth and was born as Patanjali. He then approached vyagrapadar and told him his desire to see the thandava of Siva. In due course, the supreme being Siva appeared there and bestowed His grace on the two and performed His Thandava. This story leads on to more and is also connected to the sthala purana of the chidambaram temple (where the thillai kali resides), but I do not want to digress from the verse at hand. The above story I mention only so we might know vyagrapadar and patanjali who figure at later stages.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Naan - whats in the name?

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Is it by any chance the name of the bread, NAAN, a reason for its universal spread?? Naan is the word meaning 'I' - the one principle that is best known for its thorough grip and universal spread! Naan, Naan, Naan, everything is Naan. Perhaps the bread would not be so popular if it was called Nee, chappathi, paratha or anything else for that matter.