Though Hindu traditions celebrate the New Year at different dates based on geographical locations, and the calendars followed there, since, the adoption of the Gregory Calendar after Independence, January 1st has been observed as the beginning of the New Year for all secular purposes. And just as we have adopted this new calendar for counting the days, many of us have also adopted the western tradition of making New Year resolutions.
This does not mean that the concept of “resolution” itself is alien to Hindu traditions. Everyday people make new resolutions, start new initiatives, and decide what to do next. From as simple and secular an activity to decide, say purchase a particular cushion cover to celebrating festivals and performing Pujas for spiritual elevation, every action is rooted in mental resolution that a particular action must be performed. In the technical Hindu terminology, action is a Karma and performance of an action is the application of Kriya Shakti. This performance is in-turn rooted in mental resolution, called as Sankalpa, which involves exertion of Iccha-Shakti or will-power. In many ways, this Sankalpa is root of all life and that is why every spiritual action, be it Puja, Homa, meditation, or Svadhyaya (Self-study of scriptures) invariably starts with a Sankalpa, which usually involves an appeal to the divinity to become pleased with us and fulfill all our desires.
The New Year resolutions that people usually take range from as simple as deciding to read some books and reducing one’s weight to more substantial like getting a promotion or purchasing a house. Whether people follow it up with action till the end, or leave it mid-way is a different issue and leaving mid-way may show how their Iccha and Kriya Shakti may have been weak. But, the important point to note is, most of these resolutions could be categories into Kama and Artha, i.e. those related to mundane pleasures and mundane prosperity. A Hindu must ask himself or herself, what about Dharma?
Hindu worldview posits four goals of life: Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. Though, Moksha could be attained only at the end of the journey over many lives, to even reach that stage one must first practice the first three sincerely. Dharma has been translated variously as duty, law, righteousness, religion, etc. But, at its essence, it means “that which upholds all life”. Each individual must ask himself/herself, what is it that upholds him/her? What defines them as individual? Is it their name, family, or the possessions, which define them? Or is there a purpose in life, which would define them? Hindu scriptures call this “purpose of life” unique to each individual as Svadharma. We may understand it as pursuance of “Self-Actualization”- the actualization on the ground of the full potential of an individual.
Without aligning one’s desires for pleasures and prosperity with one’s journey towards self-actualization, one would end up unfulfilled and discontent. The life becomes wasted, a step back in the journey towards ultimate Moksha, for without self-actualization, there is no self-realization. Thus, it becomes imperative for every Hindu to take a Dharmic resolution this New Year to look inside and work towards their self-actualization. The starting steps may be as simple as say, joining a guitar class or picking up a self-learning guide to learn Sanskrit. As long as the resolution is aligned to your inner-calling, you are on the right path.
By Nithin Sridhar
This article was published in Creative India Magazine
A person’s action is directly or indirectly aimed at achieving happiness or sukha. There are two ways he can live his life. He can either spend his life pursuing desires, ambitions and happiness in the external sensory world, or he can turn-away, in search of eternal everlasting bliss.
To seek the former, people work hard, pursue careers, earn money and fame, and make a family, to lead a happy life. However, one never finds contentment, and without it, one is always running behind objects which he perceives as source of happiness. The physical-sensory world being temporary and ever changing, happiness is never accompanied by contentment. A person in this path always ends up in disappointment and sorrow (dukha). This path, leading a person to a never ending cycle of sukha and dukha, is pravrittimarga.
To seek the latter, a person develops an understanding of the external world. He understands that it is temporary in nature. It is viveka. He turns inwards in pursuance of ananda — eternal bliss. With the development of viveka, a person becomes detached and content with whatever the physical world offers him. He neither gets agitated with the dukha the world offers, nor becomes indulgent in sukha. This path, leading to ananda, is nivrittimarga.
Most people assume that pravrittimarga is the path of householders and nivrittimarga, of sanyassins (renunciates). But this may not always be so. According to shastras, there are four purusharthas (goals) of life- dharma, artha, kama and moksha. A person in pravrittimarga pursues materialistic desires (kama) and prosperity (artha), and a person in nivrittimarga pursues moksha (liberation). Dharma is the common element. A person does not become nivrittimargi just by the virtue of his giving up the external world. As long as he has the notion of I-ness (ahamkara) and mine-ness (mamah-kara), and there are traces of desires in his mind, a sanyasi will remain pravritti margi. On the other hand, a householder will become nivritti margi by giving up doership of action, even while performing worldly responsibilities. Tyaga/giving up is not “inaction”. It is performing karmas by giving up doership of such performances.
Pravrittimarga is about indulgence (bhoga/bhukti) in sensory objects, but indulgence, is within the confines of dharma (righteous duties). The actions performed here are “kamya/with specific desire”. Indulgence becomes “over-indulgence” when one forgets dharma due to his attachment (moha) for kama and artha, and this, in turn, leads one to great suffering.
Nivrittimarga is about turning away from sensory objects — towards the inner self (atman), in pursuit of jnana and moksha/mukti, while performing worldly duties in a “nishkama karma/actions without desires”.
Liberation from the cycle of birth and death (moksha) is not possible without atmajnana (self realisation). Any spiritual goal is unattainable without sadhana. A person desiring atmajnana must first develop adhikara/competencies that make him eligible to practice the sadhana. According to Adi Shankaracharya, qualities that make one eligible for the practice of jnanasadhana required to attain atma-jnana, are viveka, vairagya, shatkasampatti and mumukshutva (Vivekachudamani, Verse 17).
Viveka represents the knowledge to differentiate between nithyam (eternal) and anithya (temporary). The Brahman/God, who is Sacchidanandaswaroop, is nithya and the ever changing world, which has a srishti (creation) and laya (dissolution), the whole manifestation is anithya. A person must first learn to discriminate between the two. Vairagya refers to dispassion/detachment towards the sensory objects. When a person realises that sensory objects give only temporary happiness and not eternal contentment, he develops dispassion towards those objects. Only vairagya can make a person pursue the path towards brahman.
Shatkasampatti refers to the six-fold qualities — shama, dhama, uparati, titiksha, shraddha and samadhana. Shama refers to control of mind, and dhama, refers to control of five senses. Uparati comes when shama and dhama are perfected. Uparati is a state when the mind remains drawn away from external world and remains fixed on God spontaneously. Titiksha refers to “absence of anger/revenge”. It is a state wherein a person does not feel anger or revenge towards anybody else. This is possible only when one understands that happiness and sorrow are results of one’s own past actions, and it is futile to blame others. Shradha refers to faith in the scriptures and in one’s guru. Samadhana refers to one-pointed fixing up of mind on brahman. Finally, mumukshutva refers to the burning desire for moksha.
A person desiring to travel nivrittimarga should work towards achieving these qualities. Without it, he will not be able to achieve atmashakshatkara. He must learn to surrender the action, doership of action and the fruits of actions. Then, he must try to give up his ahamkara and mama-kara. He must recognise his dharma and perform it with nishkaama attitude. He must become a stitah-pragya, a person unaffected by external stimulus — neither by praise nor by denunciation. In other words, sincere practice of pravrittimarga by adhering to dharma would help one to slowly attain eligibility to practice nivrittimarga. If a person is neither eligible to practice nivrittimarga, nor chooses to practice pravrittimarga by adhering to dharma, and becomes instead, a slave to his senses and desires without caring for righteousness and duties, he would end up in great suffering.
To understand the working of Karma, it is important to understand what Karma is. Every action, speech, or thought constutes a Karma. Every motion,every action, every transformation, everything in this manifested universe are sustained by the Karmic cycle of action and its fruits. Thus, whatever action one performs, one will invariably face its results, the only variable is the time.
Now,let us understand Karma at individual level. Scriptures divide Karma into three categories: Sanchita, Prarabdha, and Agami. Sanchita Karma is the store house of all your Karmas performed till now but, which are yet to bear results. The actions you are performing now out of free will in this life, in present, are called as “Agami Karma” and they keep getting added to the store house of Sanchita and will bear result in future. Prarabdha Karma is those set of Karmas, which has become ripe to give fruits. It is Prarabdha Karma,which causes your current birth and determines, the body you get, family you get, your svabhava and vasanas. The Jyotishya Shastra, makes Kundali chart based on these Prarabdha Karmas, which lays out a general framework of the kind of life a person will have and the situations he/she will face. Thus, what we call fate is nothing but previous Karmas,which is giving results now. It is a reference to Prarabdha Karma. But, we have a free will to choose how we respond to the situations presented by the Prarabdha Karma. This exersion of free will is Agami Karma, which inturn will bear fruits in future.
Thus, Fate and Free Will are not two diferent things. They are not two contardictory things. Instead, they are a reference two same phenomenon: Karmas performed. The only difference is the time of performance. Fate refers to past Karmas giving fruits in present. Free will is present Karmas, which would give fruits in future.
A sub-set of this Prarabdha Karma,is Rina Bandha- the Karmic bond. As I said above, a person gets a particular birth in particular body and family and surroundings based on Prarabdha Karma, as a result of past actions, which are ripe to give results. But, this understanding is incomplete without understanding the concept of Rina-Bandhana or Rinanu-Bandhana- the Karmic bond or Karmic debt. It is Rina Bandha aspect of Prarabdha Karma, that determines who one’s parents would be, whom one will marry, whom one will feel attracted etc. In other words, all human interactions, even interactions with animals,plants, and other beings like Ghosts etc. are depended on Rina Bandhana. When the Karmic debt is paid, the relationship breaks away, unless, we have already formed a strong relationship based on Love, which creates am even stronger bond by turning mere Karmic Rina into a Bond of Prema. Not just relationships, even in cases like, if we receive a charity, or if we loose money to someone else, it either indicates a performance of a fresh Karmic rina, or is a result of previous Rina connection.
Another sub-set of Prarabdha is Vasana, Samskaras, and Svabhava. One Svabhava, which is often refered to as Varna, has two compotents: one is Svabhava inherited from present parents,which in turn is governed by Prarabdha Karma and two is Samskaras and Vasanas inherited from past lives, which again is governed by Prarabdha.
Now to the question, who determines what kind of Karmas have riped and what has not riped? In other words, who is the dispensor of the fruits of Karma? The scriptures reply Brahman or God (not Abrahamic God) is the dispensor of fruits of action. Why so? Because, Brahman exists as Atman i.e. Innermost Self of all beings and objects and hence is the witness to all actions. Brahman, being, the knower of all actions, not only of a person, but of the entire Universe, Brahman alone is capable of deciding on not only the nature of fruits to be imparted but also the timing of such imparting. Not to forget the fact Karma exists at cosmic level and the entire cosmos is interlinked. Thus, it is Brahman who exists as the Self of entire Universe alone is capable of dispensing fruits of actions of not only individuals but also of objects and realms of existences. Again, who is this Brahman? Upansihads says: Know that as Brahman, from whom the Universe (not just the physical universe but all realms of Universe) has emerged, in whom the Universe is sustained, and into whom the Universe dissolves back.
The Question of Self and self
The Hindu scriptures adopt various methods to explain layers of our identity and self-hood. At the grossest level, we identify ourselves with name and form, with our physical body and physical Universe. The Physical body is called Sthula Sharira. But, physical body is not everything we have. we have the intellect, mind, and the senses, which are non-physical, and are called as Sushma or Linga Sharira i.e. subtle body. The Pranamaya Kosha, manomaya Kosha, and Vigyanamaya kosha refers to this Sushma Sharira. Then, we have the ‘Karana Sharira” or the “Causal body”, which is the source of physical and subtle body. This Causal body is nothing but the storehouse of Sanchita Karmas, refered to before. These three bodies corresponds to the state of waking, dreaming, and deep-sleep. And beyond these three body is the True Self, the innermost Self, Atman, which is ever free and free from all conditioning and is transdendent and as well as a Witness. This Atman is the true Self (capital S). Where as the ego, the Ahamkara, which is seated in Causal body and which manifests and self-identifies with Sthula and Sukshma, is the smaller self (with small s). When we speak about birth and death, or afterlife, or rebirth, etc. it is not the Atman, which is spoken, but the Ahamkara, which self identifies with body and mind. Then, there is one more term, Jivatma, which is often translated as individual soul, but is not very proper nevertheless. Jivatma is actually that ray of consciousness (Atman), which is reflected in the Jiva (stula-sukshma-Karna complex). Upanishads call it Angushta-Matra Purusha- Purusha who is size of thumb, who exists in the Hrdaya-Heart (i.e. center of individual existence, not physical heart) and controls the Jiva. But, most people when they are in their physical and subtle bodies, in waking and dream state, they are mostly unaware and ignorant about the workings of Jivatma. Thus, from the practical sense, Jivatma controls everthing indirectly (though, in truth it is the true controller). Mostly, people exist in Ahamkara and work on that plane by identifying oneself with body and mind, with Stula and Sukshma sharira.
Thus, using “individual soul” or the “soul” could be quite misleading as we do not know whether it refers to Jivatma, or Ahamkara or simply to the sukshma sharira.
The Question of Karmic Fruits
We previously saw, how Prarabdha Karma results in our present birth. The scriptures also deal with how our present Karmas effect our future births. Among many factors that play a role in determining the Karmas, which ripe and become Prarabdha to manifest a birth in a body, two play important role: One how we lead our present life, how we exert our free will, what Agami Karmas we performa nd how and secondly, our last thought/desire that is very strong at the time of death. You might have heard, stories about how taking the name of Lord at death, helped people attain Vaikunta etc. It is a reference to this factor. One will be having God in his mind at the time of death, only if he/she has cultivated strong devotion and surrendering throughout his/her life.
Now, coming back to the question how our present actions effect us and what kind of actions lead to what kind of birth. The scriptures speak about how, those who thoroughly live a life of Dharma and practice devotion will attain attain heaven or the realm of Deities after death, a state which is relatively more free than physical state. Similarly, how who perform predominently Adharma attain realms of Narakas, where they suffer or take birth as animals,plants, or as human families, where they undergo enormous suffering and bondage. And those people with a mixed bag of Dharma and Adharmic actions, takes birth again as a human. Thus, Dharma leads to Swarga, Adharma to Naraka, and a mixture of two into Manushya Loka. But, this is of course a outline and there are lot of nuances involved. For example, only those who perform Devotion and Upasana for a long time and have attained considerable surrendering and one-pointed cocnentration attain Devaloka at death. They will remain in Devaloka untill their Good Karmas are exhausted and then return to take birth as human. On the other hand, those who perform their duties well and live righteously and Dharmically but without performing Upasana, will travel to Pitr Loka after death. Even they return to human existence after exhaution of the Dharmic karmas. It is to be noted, existence in Devaloka is much more better and happier and lesser bondage than Pitr Loka and which in turn is always better than other realms like Narakas, which are full of suffering. And as said before, those who live Adharmically and selfishlly harming others and mindlessly pursuing desires without care for other’s welfare, will attain Narakas (temporary realms of suffering) and then take birth as animals, plant, etc. which are having more tamas and more bondage and continue to suffer, till they are Karmically ready to take a higher birth.
The Question of Ghosts
Now, continuing with what is said above, normally people who have done a mixture of Dharmic and Adharmic Karmas, with predominance of Dharmas, though at times take another birth immideately after death, mostly they first travel to Pitr Loka, stay they for a time and only then take birth as human. The rituals of Shraddha performed immidiately after death, the centralmost portion of them is aimed to help the person smoothly travel to Pitr Loka. The reason is, since, we are all attached to our physical bodies, just after death, we tend to stay close to our body, in fact the mind and subtle body will be in a consufed state immidiately after death. The shraddha rituals helps the subtle body of the departed by removing their confusion and showing them path to the Pitr loka. That is why it is said, if Shradha rituals are not done, the departed may become stuck and be roam around as “Preta” (a kind of Ghosts). This, though correct, may not be always true.If one’s Dharmic actions are very strong, then one may theoretically attain Pitr loka, even if Shraddha is not performed. But, since we humans are never perfect, Shraddha helps one to attain Pitr Loka. But, not all are able to do it. For various reasons, it may be due to too much attachment to physical body, or as a result of some grave Adharmic actions, some people after death are stuck in a state of disembodiment and there are various names like Bhuta, Preta etc. for them, each have specific meaning. For example, a Brahma Rakshasa is a spirit of a Brahmana, who willfully kept his knowledge secret from a worthy disciple. He got that state as a punishment to his Adharmic action. Thus, this should answer the quetsion why and how Ghosts are formed.
But, let us understand that it is not the Atman or Jivatman which has become Ghost as such. It is the subtle body, which after leaving the physical body, either enter the realms like Pitr Loka, )where it is assumes a stula sharira, but one which is different from human body) or Devaloka (where it exists in subtle body, but in a freeier and more happier manner), or is stuck in states like spirits (where the subtle body is disembodied, yet is full of attachment, suffering, pain, and limitations and embodied to such a state). The “I” which identifies with the state of Bhuta or Preta is the Ahamkara.
The Question of Untimely Death
Some believe that since everything is according to Karma, there is nothing called untimely death. But, when it is said, “Untimely” it is not a reference to Karmas in totality or to the Sanchita Karma. In stead, it is with reference to Prarabda Karma. As I mentioned before, Prarabdha Karma which results in a birth gives a general layout of how the person’s life would be and the situations he would face, based on which Jyotishya charts are made. But, this does not take into account Agami Karmas. Our Agami karmas, the exertion of Free will, impacts how the Prarabdha plays out and may chalk out an entirely different life. Thus, by proper and righteous exertion of Free will, a particular suffering denoted by Prarabdha can be averted and similarly, by Adharmic exertion of Free will, one may have untimely death. [Of course it is different issue, people often use untimely death simply to say a person died in young age!]
Learn Isha Upanishad Online-
# The Sessions are through Email (With optional Skype sessions for clarification)
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# The sessions will aim to impart basic understanding about various philosophical and spiritual subjects that are dealt in the Isha Upanishad.
By Nithin Sridhar
(This article was published in NewsGram on July 31, 2015)
Guru Poornima special: Part 7
Today is Guru Poornima, one of the most important festivals in Hindu culture. It is a day when people worship the holy feet of their Gurus. Guru means “one who dispels the darkness and takes one towards Knowledge.”
Hence, Guru ultimately refers to one who dispels the darkness of Avidya (Ignorance) and helps one attain ultimate transcendental Knowledge – Brahma Jnana. But, even the teachers who impart us mundane knowledge on various aspects of science, ethics, morality, daily life, etc. are considered as Guru, as they also dispel ignorance regarding some particular aspect of life.
Various spiritual traditions today worship their whole Guru-Parampara – the line of Gurus who have kept the knowledge alive and have transmitted them to various people year after year for last many millenniums, if we go by modern history. Hindu Puranas, speak about how Guru’s preserve and transmit various branches of Knowledge yuga after yuga in every Kalpa.
Therefore, whatever we know today, whatever knowledge we have today, it is due to the singular efforts of various teachers and Guru whose utmost duty has been to practice, preserve and propagate Knowledge and uplift common men.
Every person must have learned from someone else, but ultimately someone must have taught the first person as well. According to the Hindu tradition that first teacher is God/Brahman itself. It is Brahman who appeared as Lord Krishna and taught Bhagavad Gita, it is Brahman who appeared as Brahmaa (one among the Hindu Trinity) and taught Manu, it is Brahman who appeared as Dattatreya and taught Parashurama. It is this Brahman who is known as “Dakshinamurthy” in his aspect as Guru who teaches all branches of Knowledge- mundane and transcendental.
Therefore, this last installment in the Guru Poornima Series will be dedicated to the lotus feet of Lord Dakshinamurthy.
Meaning of the term Dakshinamurthy: The term Dakshinamurthy can be understood in multiple number of ways. The most common meaning is “One who faces the south.” Here, Dakshina has been taken to mean south. In temples, Shiva is thus carved in a position that faces south. South denotes death. Hence, Dakshinamurthy controls death and grants immortality to people by imparting Atma-Jnana (Self Realization).
Dakshinamurthy is split as “Dakshina” and “Amurthy”. Here, Amurthy means “without form.” That is one who is without attributes like name, form, etc. The term Dakshina if understood as “right side,” the term Dakshinamurthy will refer to Formless God (Nirguna Brahman) who exists in the Hrdaya (spiritual heart) that lies at the right side of body (Krishna in Gita says, he stays in Hrdaya of all living beings).
The term “Dakshina” also means “one who has power/capacity.” Some understand this to refer to the power to create, sustain, and destroy the Universe. Hence, Dakshinamurthy is ultimate Nirguna Brahman who creates, sustains, and destroys the Universe. The “power/capacity” may also refer to capacity to impart Jnana (Self-Knowledge) and Moksha (Liberation). Hence, Dakshinamurthy is one who imparts ultimate Moksha.
If one goes deeper into Vedanta, then Dakshina refers to the Buddhi (intellect) that arises as Akhandaakaaravritti (thought pattern that perceives Infinite whole) as it also has the power/capacity to perceive the “Amurthy,” the formless Brahman.
Hence, Dakshinamurthy refers to ultimate Brahman, who creates, sustains, and destroys the Universe and who grants Atma-Jnana and Moksha to people.
Iconography of Dakshinamurthy: There are little variations in his depictions and iconographical details. A most common depiction as given in Shaiva-Karana-Agama is as follows: “Dakshinamurty has white complexion of sacred ash. He carries the crescent moon on His head. His hands have the gesture of knowledge, a rosary, a lute, and a serpent. He looks very attractive with a sacred staff called Yogapatta. He sits on a seat called Vyakhyapitha (seat of knowledge) and is surrounded by all great sages. He has a calm temperament. He is adorned by serpents and wears the skin of a deer as dress. He is very auspicious. On the right flank of the Lord, there are Jamadagni, Vasistha, Bhrigu and Narada. Bharadvaja, Saunaka, Agastya and Bhargava should be shown on the left. The lord is seated under a banyan tree in the region of the Mount Kailasha, which is populated by Kinnaras etc. He is the master of all and very calm.”
Worship of Dakshinamurthy: An idol of Dakshinamurthy is found in almost all the temples carved on its south facing wall. Among the 12 Jyotirlinga’s, the one in Ujjain which is popularly known as Mahakaleshwar is south-facing, and it represents Dakshinamurthy.
Adi Shankara has written a famous stotra called Dakshinamurthy Stotram where he sings the glory of Dakshinamurthy and describes the tenets of Advaita Vedanta. This stotra can be utilized both for worshipping Dakshinamurthy and for studying Vedanta.
Teachings of Dakshinamurthy: Dakshinamurthy teaches through “Silence” and not through verbal instructions. According to Hindu philosophy there are four types of speech – verbal, mental, visual, and the transcendental. The verbal communication called as Vaikari is the lowest form of expression. Higher than Vaikhari is Madhyama which is non-verbal communication through thoughts. Still higher is Pashyanti which is communication through visual imagery, the person is made to “see” through the inner eye. The highest is “Para” which is “Silence,” where communication is without words, thoughts, or visions. It is kind of inner intuition without any external attribute.
It is this “Silence” that corresponds to highest transcendental Knowledge of Brahman and which is beyond the grasp of words, thoughts or visions, is taught by Dakshinamurthy in his aspect as “Medha Dakshinamurthy” that grants Moksha.
At a worldly level, Dakshinamurthy grants the knowledge of Yoga and Tantra as Yogamurthi, the knowledge of dance as Nataraja, the knowledge of music as Veenaa-dhara and the knowledge of all scriptures as Vyaakhyanamuthi.
Therefore, on this auspicious day of Guru Poornima, every seeker of knowledge must worship Dakshinamurthy and seek his blessings.
Avidya: Literally ignorance. In Vedanta, it refers to ignorance about true nature of Atman/Self that it is free and unbound and without duality. This ignorance gives rise to universe of multiplicity of names and forms.
Brahma-Jnana/Atma Jnana: Refers to God-Realization/Self-Knowledge attaining which one attains Moksha/liberation from birth and death cycle.
Yuga: It refers to four Yugas: Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali, that comes cyclically one after the other.
Kalpa: Its duration is equal to 1000 Mahayuga i.e. 1000 cycle of 4 yugas which is equal to 4.32 billion human years.
Nirguna Brahman: Brahman in its ultimate transcendent aspect is without three gunas of sattva, rajas and tamas that constitutes this Universe. Hence, Brahman is called Nirguna.
Hrdaya: Literally “Heart”. It does not refer to physical heart, but to spiritual center of Individual existence that corresponds to right side of chest in physical body.
Akhandaakaaravritti: It is a technical term in Vedanta. A person first attains one pointed concentration on an object, then he attains a state of objectless subject which is defined in yoga as chitta-vritti-nirodha. But, there is a higher state, wherein, a person perceives the subject and object as being non-different from Atman. This perception of one infinite Atman is called as Akhandaakaaravritti. This vritti/mental pattern destroys Avidya/ignorance and a person attains Moksha.
More in this segment:
By Nithin Sridhar
(This article was published in NewsGram on July 25, 2015)
Guru Poornima special- Part 6
Among the various saints and teachers that have roamed around the country, Anandamayi ma stands out as one of the few people who were completely filled with Vairagya (dispassion) and Ananda (bliss) right from their birth. And she spread this Ananda everywhere among all those who came to her.
Therefore, this sixth segment of Guru Poornima Series will be dedicated to Anandamayi Ma, the mother who filled the Hrdaya (hearts) of everyone with Ananda.
Her Life: Anandamayi Ma was born as Nirmala Sundari in a remote village of Kheora which is now in Bangladesh. She was born on 30 April 1896 to Bipinbihari Bhattacharya and Mokshada Sundari Devi, both of whom were devout Vaishnavas (devotees of Vishnu).
She was dispassionate and blissful from the beginning itself. She used to stay aloof from external happenings, but was sensitive to religious rituals that would put her into ecstasy.
At the age of 13, she was married to Ramani Mohan Cakravarti (also known as Bolanath) and she went to live with her brother-in-law’s family till she was 18.
Then, she moved with her husband to Ashtagram in 1918, and later moved to Bajitpur. The marriage was a celibate marriage. Nirmala Sundari was spontaneously dispassionate. It is said that whenever her husband felt sexual urges, her body would become weak and sick.
Slowly, Bolanath realized the true nature of his wife as being an emanation of Divine Mother, and later on took initiation from her.
Her stay in Bajitpur was a period of intense Sadhana (spiritual effort). She spontaneously received initiation from within herself on a full moon night in 1922. In 1922, they moved to Dhaka, where Nirmala Sundari built a Kali temple and involved herself in deep Yogic and Tantric practices and meditation.
It was during this time that people began to visit her. One of her early disciples, Jyotiscandra Ray began calling her as Anandamayi ma- mother who is full of joy/bliss.
She traveled throughout India visiting various ashrams and holy places and guiding many people in their spiritual sadhanas. She finally left her body on 27 August 1982 in Dehradun at the age of 64.
Her Teachings: Anandamayi Ma never wrote anything. All her teachings have been conversational teachings imparted to her disciples and devotees.
In “From Mother as Revealed to Me” by Bhaiji (i.e. Jyotiscandra Ray) says: “The central theme of all her words and expressions is this: Life and religion are one. All that you do to maintain your life, your everyday work and play, all your attempts to earn a living, should be done with sincerity, love and devotion, with a firm conviction that true living means virtually perfecting one’s spiritual existence in tune with the universe.”
Some of the teachings imparted by Anandamayi Ma, as recorded by Bhaiji, are as follows: “With earnestness, love and goodwill carry out life’s everyday duties and try to elevate yourself step by step. In all human activities let there be a live contact with the Divine and you will not have to leave off anything. Your work will then be done well and you will be on the right track to find the Master.”
“Just as there is a definite time-table for work at school, office or the shop, so should we set apart for divine contemplation a few minutes out of the twenty-four hours of every day, preferably in the morning and the evening. One must make a fixed resolve that this little time shall be dedicated to God throughout life. During this period no worldly activity should be allowed to encroach upon the contemplation of God. A fixed time for prayer or meditation must be allotted to all the members of the family including the servants. If this practice is continued for long, divine contemplation will become a part of your nature.”
“Your earthly pension expires with your life, but the divine pension continues long, long after death. Those who amass money, store it up in a hidden chamber of their house, add to this store what they can save from time to time, and keep a constant watch over their treasure. So also reserve a little corner of your mind and heart for God and always steal an opportunity to add to your stock in the shape of the invocation of His name or some pious work or divine thought.”
She traveled extensively throughout India and sowed the seeds of devotion in people’s mind. She never formally initiated anyone and refused to be called a Guru, but she touched the hearts of thousands of people.
She became a guiding light for these people who considered her as the very emanation of Divine mother who spread joy and happiness everywhere.
Ananda: It can be translated as “Bliss or Joy.” It actually refers to a state of non-duality, which is full of joy because of absence of miseries that are rooted in duality. Anybody who can attain this state (i.e. Self-Realization/Atma Jnana) will be always filled with this spontaneous Joy. Even the common transient happiness that is experienced in daily life is derived from this ever-lasting joy.
Vairagya: It means “Dispassion.” It is non-attachment to worldly objects and pleasures that have arisen out of the understanding that they are transient in nature and true everlasting joy is possible only by renouncing them.
Hrdaya: It literally means “Heart.” But, in the context, it does not refer to the physical heart, but to the subtle Hrdaya which is the center of Individual existence.
Sadhana: Any spiritual effort that would help an individual to purify his mind and ultimately lead him to Moksha (Liberation).
Guru: It means one who dispels the darkness of ignorance. Hence, it refers to a teacher who helps his student to overcome his limitations and ignorance and hence attain Self-realization (Atma-Jnana).
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By Nithin Sridhar
(This article was published in NewsGram on July 23, 2015)
Guru Poornima special- Part 5
Vijayanagara Empire stood as a bulwark for 310 years (between 1336 CE and 1646 CE) against the Islamic invasion of South India.
The purpose of its foundation was to save South India from the conquest of Islamic rulers to save Hindu religion, culture and learning and help them to flourish, according to Dr. Krishnaswami Aiyangar, an Indian historian and academician.(1)
The inspiration and the driving force behind the establishment of Vijayanagara Empire by Harihara I and Bukkaraya was Sri Vidyaranya.
Therefore, the fifth installment of the Guru Poornima series is dedicated to Sri Vidyaranya.
His Life: No definite information is available about the date of his birth, but what is definitely known is that he was the 12th Shankaracharya of Sringeri Peetham(2) from 1380 CE to 1386 CE when he left his body, and his pre-monastic name was Madhava.
According the traditional account as accepted by Sringeri Peetham(3), he was born in present day Warangal, Andra Pradesh and was the elder brother of Sri BharatiTirtha who became the 11thShankaracharya of Sringeri Peetham in 1333CE and occupied that position till his Samadhi (i.e. left his body) in 1380 CE.
The tradition holds that, Sri Vidyaranya took Sannyasa (renunciation) in 1331 AD from Sri Vidya Tirtha, the 10th Shankaracharya of Sringeri. Therefore, according to the traditional account, both the brothers had the same Guru, but the younger brother took renunciation earlier and hence, he succeeded his Guru as 11thShankaracharya, whereas Sri Vidyaranya became 12thShankaracharya in 1380 CE.
But, some scholars believe that Sri Vidyaranya was none other than Madhavacharya, the elder brother of Sayanacharya, both of whom were ministers in Vijayanagara court. According to this view, Madhavacharya served in the court of Harihara I, Bukkaraya and briefly under Harihara II, before he took Sannyasa in 1380 CE and occupied Sringeri Peetham under the monastic name Vidyaranya. The traditional view considers Madhavacharya who was minister in Vijayanagara court and was the brother of Sayana as being different from Sri Vidyaranya.
Founding Vijayanagara Empire (4): The exact accounts of the origins of Vijayanagara Empire is of dispute. But, it is largely agreed that Harihara I and Bukkaraya were either chiefs in Hoysala kingdom or were serving Kakatiya king in Warangal.
When the kingdoms were attacked by Muhammad bin Tughlaq, it is believed that they captured and converted Harihara I and Bukkaraya into Islam and sent them back as vassals. During that time, Sri Vidyaranya was staying at Matanga Hill and the brothers came there and met him. Under the guidance of Sri Vidyaranya, the brothers returned back to Hinduism and founded the Vijayanagara Empire.
Some consider, that these conversions may not have taken place and that the brothers fled the Islamic invasion and took refuge in Sri Vidyaranya. Some accounts, even mention that Sri Vidyaranya, gave the brothers a large hidden treasure that the saint had discovered.
Irrespective of the accounts, what is clearly known is that, Harihara I and Bukkaraya approached Sri Vidyaranya and it was under his inspiration and guidance that they decided to establish the mighty Vijayanagara Empire and managed to revive Hindu religion, culture, arts and crafts.
His Works and Legacy: Sri Vidyaranya has written a large number of books on a variety of topics like Meemaamsa, Vedanta, music, Smriti etc. Some of his important works are:
1. Shankara Digvijaya: A biographical account of life of Adi Shankaracharya written in poetical form.
2. Parashara Madhaviya: A commentary on Parashara’s Smriti.
3. Sarvadarshana-Sangraha: A compendium of views of various Hindu schools like Nyaya, Yoga, Samkhya etc.
4. Panchadashi: A very important work on Advaita Vedanta.
5. Jaimini Nyayamala Vistara: A work on Meemaamsa.
6. Sangita Saara: A work on music.
He was one of the most important writers on Advaita in post-Shankara period. His contributions to Advaita like Panchadashi and Jivanmukti-viveka is considered one of the most authentic work on Advaita philosophy.
His works like Parashara Madhaviya,Kala Madhava and Smriti Sangraha are important contributions in the field of Dharma shastras (works on law, polity, duty etc.)
His biography of Adi Shankara is held in high esteem by traditional followers and scholars alike.
In his compendium of various daarshanas (world views), he gives a systematic analysis of various schools of Hindu world view and how each of them is connected to others inspite of their differences.
Under his guidance, the commentaries on all the Vedas were undertaken and completed by Sayanacarya.
He got many temples built and renovated, and he re-started worship in many temples wherein worship had been suspended.
He was instrumental in building the infrastructure for Sringeri Peetham, which helped the peetham to sustain and spread its dharmic activities for many centuries.
Finally, he was instrumental in the building of Vijayanagara Empire, which resulted in the revival of Hindu religion and practices.
1. As quoted in Decisive Battles India Lost (326 B. C. to 1803 A. D.) by Jaywant Joglekar (2006).
2. Sringeri Sharada Peetham in Karnataka is one of the four centers established by Adi Shankaracharya.
3. The traditional account as accepted by Sringeri Sharada Peetham is briefly mentioned in their official website
3. Robert Sewell in his A Forgotten Empire, narrates many such accounts. Various historians have accepted various narratives.
1. Nyaya: A school of Hindu philosophy that deals with logic and world view established through logic.
2.Samkhya: A school of Hindu philosophy that proposes a world model based on duality of Purusha and Prakriti.
3. Yoga: A school of Hindu philosophy that deals with practical application of Samkhya philosophy.
4. Advaita Vedanta: It is a Non-dual philosophy based on Upanishads.
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