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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).
More in this segment:
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.
More in this segment:
By Nithin Sridhar
(This article was published in NewsGram on July 18, 2015)
Guru Poornima Special: Part 4
“He whom the Bhaagavatam describes as the son of Nanda Mahārāja has descended to earth as Lord Chaitanya”- Chaitanya Charitaamrita (1. 2.9)
In Bhagavata Purana (11.5.32), while speaking about how Lord Keshava (i.e. Krishna) appears in various forms in various yugas, it is said that in Kali Yuga, the manifestation of Lord Krishna will be such that, he would be always chanting the name of Krishna, and he would be of “non-blackish complexion”. In other words, Krishna will incarnate as a devotee who is always immersed in the Bhakti of Krishna.
The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition identifies this incarnation of Lord Krishna with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (also called “Gauranga” or Golden i.e. non-black in complexion) who incarnated to sow the seeds of Bhakti in all directions.
Therefore, the fourth segment of the Guru Poornima series will be dedicated to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Life and times of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
According to Chaitanya Charitaamrita, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born on 1407 of sakha era (i.e. 1486 AD) and lived for 48 years. His father was Jagannath Misra and mother Sachi Devi.
He was born in Nabadwip in West Bengal and his childhood name was Viswambar.
In his youth, he was an erudite scholar of Nyaya (Logic) and indulged in various debates and discussions. Once, during his visit to Gaya, he met his Guru Ishwara Puri, who initiated him on the path of bhakti.
This made Viswambar turn inwards and completely immerse himself in Bhakti. Later, at the age of 24, he took Sannyasa (renunciation) from Keshava Bharati and got rechristened as “Krishna Chaitanya”.
After Sannyasa he toured various parts of the country from South India to Vrindaavan and finally settled down in Puri, Odisha.
He stayed at Puri for the large part of the next 24 year and sang and danced with Krishna’s name on his lips. He finally left the world in 1534 AD.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings and legacy
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was one of the most important proponents of Bhakti (devotion) and was one of the most important teachers in Gaudiya Vaishnav tradition.
He had his initiation into mantra from Ishwara Puri who was from Madhva lineage (i.e. Dvaita/dualist philosophy) and had his initiation into Sannyasa from Keshava Bharati who was a monk in Shankara lineage (i.e. Advaita/non-dual philosophy).
But, his personal philosophy which he taught others was one that harmonized both. It is called as “Achintya-bheda-abedha”. The gist of the philosophy is that, Brahman is both dual and non-dual simultaneously and is beyond the grasp of human intellect and this Brahman itself is Lord Krishna.
Hence, he taught pure and unattached love as the ultimate means to liberation.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally wrote only one work called “Sikshaastakam”. It is a simple eight verse prayer to Lord Krishna, which also serves as instruction to the devotees and disciples.
In verse 1, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explains the importance of chanting of the God’s name or namajapa. He says that chanting of God’s name cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and grants liberation.
In verse 2, he says that the holy name of God is many, each of them is infused with Lord’s power. Further, there is no restrictions to chanting of the God’s name like proper time etc. But, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu cautions (Verse 3) that one should be very humble, forbearing and without pride while chanting God’s name.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was the driving force behind the Bhakti revival in Bengal and Odisha. He taught by example how a devotee should live and practice bhakti. He sang and danced in praise of Lord and inspired many others to follow him.
He taught his six disciples who later came to be known as Goswamis of Vrindavana, the various aspects of his Bhakti philosophy and asked them to systematically present them in their writings.
Hence, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sowed the seeds of Bhakti in Indian society, which bore fruits in the later centuries and had a far reaching influence on Indian life and practice including on spiritual stalwarts like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.
By Nithin Sridhar
(This article was published in NewsGram on July 13, 2015)
Guru Poornima Special- Part 3
The Natha (literally “lord”) sampradaya has been one of the most influential lineage of spiritual masters in the history of India. Many of the current spiritual practices including those of laya yoga, hatha yoga etc. can be traced to these masters.
Therefore, the third segment of Guru Poornima series will deal with Gorakshanatha, the second among the nine Natha’s.
His Life: According to modern scholarship, Gorakshanatha lived somewhere between 10th and 11th century. But, no definite information is available regarding his birth date, place or life events. He is considered as one of the 84 Siddha Maha-Yogis and as the founder of what later came to be known as Hatha Yoga.
Traditionally, he is considered as one among the nine immortal Nathas, and a manifestation of Lord Shiva.
Accounts about his power and miracles are heard throughout the length and breadth of the country, from Nepal in the north to Maharashtra in the south, and from Punjab in the west to Assam in the east.
According to one such famous account, once, when Matsyendranatha, the teacher of Gorakshanatha, had gone into a land of women called Kadali-vana, he fell into the snares of 1600 women, and he completely forgot about his real nature and the powers he had.
At that time, it was Gorakshanatha, who went there and saved his master by reminding him his true personality. Some accounts, also believe that this whole episode was a play of Matsyendranatha to test Gorakshanatha.
Regarding the birth of Gorakshanatha, various legends have appeared. According to one such account, Lord Shiva had given prasad (food) to a woman to eat, saying she would give birth to a son. Twelve years later, when Matsyendranatha went to the woman to see her son, he was informed that, the woman had thrown the prasad upon a dung-hill. Matsyendranatha found a young boy of twelve years, near the place where the dung hill stood.
His Guru: Matsyendranatha is the founder of Kaula tradition and is first among the nine nathas. He is said to have been initiated by Lord Shiva himself who is referred as Adi Natha.
The legend goes that, Matsyendranatha was a fisherman. Once, while he was fishing, he was swallowed by a large fish. This fish went near a cave where Lord Shiva was imparting secret teachings of Yoga to Parvati. Matsyendranatha, who was in the belly of the fish, heard those teachings and practiced those austerities for 12 long years, after which he finally came out of the fish’s body. Hence, he is called as Matsyendranatha where matsya refers to fish.
His Philosophy: He was not a philosopher but was a Siddha Yogi, who taught and spread the knowledge of Yoga. The Natha’s believe that in every Yuga, Gorakshanatha appears on earth to teach Yoga.
He considered, the Brahman (Transcendent reality) as Shiva and the manifestation as Shakti. And this MahaShakti (great power) being the real inherent power of Brahman.
Hence, Gorakshanatha considered, that though Shiva has no movement and is static, he himself, by virtue of his inner Power (nija-shakti) manifests this multiplicity of universes.
He further considers a Siddha yogi, a perfected yogi as one who has realized the identity of Shiva and Shakti.
His Works: Gorakshanatha has been traditionally believed to have authored several Sanskrit treatises on various topics related to Yoga. Some of his works are: Goraksha Samhita, Siddha Siddhanta Paddatti, Viveka Maartanda, Yoga Chintamani, Jnanaamrita, Goraksha Gita etc.
His Legacy: He was one of the foremost Yogi who spread the philosophy and practice of Yoga far and wide. The system of Yoga taught by Nathas are not different from Pantanjali Yoga in general principles. But, Gorakshanatha, elaborated and enriched the system by adding various forms of Asanas (posture), Pranayaama (breath control), Mudraa (hand gestures), Bandha (body locks), Dhaarana (one pointed concentration), Dhyaana (meditation), Ajapaa (spontaneous repetition of mantra) etc.
He made unique contributions to Naada (primordial sound), which became the basis for Laya Yoga. He dealt in depth on Kundalini and gave detailed descriptions regarding various Chakras.
He is foremost among the teachers of Hatha Yoga and many consider him as its founder. His master had founded the Yogini Kaula tradition and he enriched the tradition as well.
The Nath Sampradaya, carried the legacy of Matsyendranatha and Gorakshanatha forward. They were experts at alchemy and healing.
Many consider Gorakshanatha as the most influential person after Adi Shankaracharya. What Adi Shankaracharya did to Vedanta, Gorakshanatha achieved the same for Yoga. He single-handedly spread Shaivism and Yoga through the length and breadth of India.
Hatha Yoga: A system of Yoga that mainly concentrates on perfection of physical body and is considered as the first step towards the pinnacle of Raja Yoga.
Laya Yoga: It is same as Kundalini Yoga, where a practitioner awakens his sleeping Kundalini and makes it to flow through Chakras.
Kundalini: It is the primal energy (Shakti) that sleeps at the base of the subtle spinal column.
Kaula tradition: The practitioners of a specific school of tantra.
Siddha Yogi: a perfected Yogi, who has attained the ultimate goal.
By Nithin Sridhar
(This article was published in NewsGram on July 9, 2015)
Guru Poornima Special- Part 2
“In half of a sloka I state what has been stated by millions of texts; Brahman alone is real and this jagat is mithyä, and the jiva is non-different from Brahman”- Adi Shankaracharya
When dharma declines and adharma arises, when truth and knowledge become overshadowed by ignorance and arrogance, when confusion and propaganda engulfs the society, during such a critical juncture the Lord himself takes birth as a man, in keeping with his promise (Bhagavad Gita: 4.7) to infuse life into dharma and remove the darkness of ignorance and confusion.
One such incarnation (avataara) of the Lord, was Adi Shankaracharya– a teacher, scholar, poet, saint, philosopher, yogi, bhakta, tantrika, and a jivanmukta.
The second part of this Guru Poornima will be dedicated to this great Acharya.
His Life: Though there is a dispute regarding the dating of Adi Shankaracharya, he is largely accepted as having lived during late 8th century.
He was born in Kaaladi, Kerala and Shivaguru and Aryaamba were his parents.
When he was eight years old, he took Sanyasa and went to the banks of Narmada, where he met his teacher Govindapada.
Govindapada instructed Shankara to write commentaries on various Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Brahmasutras,
Later, Shankara travelled far and wide and debated and discussed with large number of scholars and practitioners. He convinced them regarding the authority and true import of the Veda and Vedanta.
He established four seats of learning (Amnaya Mutts) in four directions and made his four disciples, its head.
Finally, he went to Kashmir, where he managed to establish the supremacy of Advaita Vedanta and hence occupied the Sarvajna Peetham (The Seat of All-Knowing).
By this time, he was around 32 years old, and he went to Badrinath and discarded his physical body.
His Philosophy: Adi Shankaracharya propounded the supremacy of Vedas and upheld them as the only means to attain Moksha. He propounded the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta as explained in the Upanishads.
He summarized the teachings of the Upanishads in this half verse: “Brahmo Satyam Jagat Mithyam Jivo Brahmaiva Na paraha.” It means “Brahman is real and eternal, and the world is transient and unreal. The Individual Self is actually non-different from Absolute Self.”
Adi Shankaracharya explains that, the world is full of various names and forms which is ever changing. They are transient in nature. They have a birth and a death. Hence, they cannot be called as Satyam. Satyam is that which is true always, which exists always without birth or death.
Therefore, God or Brahman which is the substratum of the universe, is alone real. The attainment of this knowledge is Moksha (Liberation).
His Works: A very long list of works dealing with variety of subjects is traditionally accepted as being authored by Adi Shankaracharya.
He wrote extensive commentaries on Brahmasutras, ten Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita. He wrote a commentary on Vishnu Sahasranaama, Lalita Trishati, and a section of Apasthamba Dharma Sutras. He wrote a vivarana (explanation) on Veda Vyasa’s commentary on Patanjali Yoga Sutras.
He wrote many independent Vedantic works for the sake of students like Upadeshasahasri and Vivekachoodamani. He wrote various stotras (hymns) and Bhakti literatures like Kanakadhara Stotram, and Bhaja Govindam, and tantric works like Soundaryalahari.
His Legacy: The life mission that Shankara took upon himself was to establish the supremacy of Vedas and to impart the teachings of the Upanishads and hence revive Sanatana Dharma.
He wrote his major commentaries to explain the true meanings of the scriptures. He wrote independent Vedanta works for imparting the Knowledge of Atman to those desirous of Liberation.
Through his works, he also gave instructions regarding daily life and how people must practice dharma. He wrote various bhakti literatures inducing devotion towards God among common people. Therefore, he taught Jnana to those who desired liberation, Karma to those who were inclined to actions, and Bhakti to those who were devotional.
He travelled extensively to the four corners of India and taught the Upanishadic teachings to everyone. He established four centers (Amnaya peetham) in four directions to propagate Dharma and Vedanta to the future generations.
He codified the traditions of Sannyasins (renunciates) and established Dashanami order, thereby reviving the order of Sannyasins.
He visited various temples and established Sri-Chakra’s in them. He thus revived the practice of Devi worship among common people.
He popularized the practice of shanmatha (six modes) system of worship thus integrating the sects of Shaiva, Vaishnava, Shakta, Ganapatya, Soura and Kaumara.
By various such measures Adi Shankaracharya accomplished to revive Sanatana Dharma and consolidate Hindu society in his short life of 32 years. He was truly a Jagadguru– a world teacher who imparted lessons to all people from learned scholars to lay men.
Brahman: God as both transcendent and immanent.
Jagat: objective universe.
Satya: permanent reality having absolute eternal existence.
Mithya: transient and unreal having apparent existence.
Dharma: duty, righteous actions.
Adharma: unrighteous actions, actions prohibited by scriptures.
Yogi: an accomplished practitioner of Patanjali yoga.
Bhakta: a devotee.
Jivanmukta: a person Liberated even when in body.
Advaita Vedanta: a school of philosophy that explains adheres to non-dual philosophy Upanishads.
Jnana: may refer to Atma-Jnana or Self Realization or to the path of vichara (Self enquiry).
Karma: refers to actions. It refers to practice of dharma and Karma Yoga.
Bhakti: refers to devotion.
Vedanta: It means “end of Vedas”. It refers to the teachings of Upanishads.
More in this segment:
Guru Poornima Special- Part 1- Veda Vyasa