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#130 - December 24, 2003 08:07 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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CONTENTS - this page


1. Atha Atho/ FInally Then - Brahma Sutras

2. Mind & Knowing - Yoga Sutras

3. Waves - Science on Motion & Vibrations

4. Who Knows, Knoes Not - Skanda Purana

5. On Family Unity - Atharva Veda

6. The Religious Urge - Jnanadeva

7. The Gods Are One - Bhavisya Purana

8. Leaders Are Role Models - Bhagavadgita

9. All is Tat (That) - Yajur Veda

10. On Compassion - Ramalingaswami/Tiruvarutpa

11. Reverence is Living - Tulsidas Ramcharitmanasa

12. On Justice - Tirukural

13. Traditions & Rationality - Madhva

14. On Spiritual Determination - Buddha

15. Serene Mind - Yoga Sutras

16. Bhagavan - Vishnu Purana

17. On Sutras - Padma Purana

18. Non Sacrifice of Animals - Devi Bhagavata Purana

19. God is Within the Soul - Svetasvatara Upanishad

20. No Caste - Guru Granth Sahib

21. On Love - Tirukural

22. On Guru - Skanda Purana

23. Invocation to Earth - Atharva Veda

24. On Obediance - Kampan Ramayana

25. Desire Persists - Bhajagovindam

26. On Rishis

27. Saint Jnanadeva

28. Living & Dying - Kabir

29. Chosen for Realisation - Mundaka Upanishad

30. By Action - Bhagavadgita

31. Chaitanya

32. On the Spiritual Path - Rig Veda

33. On Enlightenment - Yoga Sutras

34. Starting Ascetic Life - Bhaudhayana Dharmasutra

35. FInal Instructions of Teacher - Taittiriya Upanishad

36. On Moksha - Padma Purana

37. Only One God - Atharva Veda

38. God is Within - Pattinatu Pillai in Siva Vakyam

39. Priorities - Aitareya Brahmana

40. Honest Advisors - Ramayana

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athAto brahmajiGyAsA

So, let us explore the knowledge of Brahman.

This is the opening line of BrahmasUtra which is reckoned as one of the
three pillars (prasthA traya) of Hindu sacred works. Its author was BAdarAyANa
It is the most fundamental treatise on VedAnta which is the most important of
all systems of Hindu philosophy. Also known as vedAntasUtra, this work presents
the essence of vedAnta philosophy in a systematic and reasoned way. For this
reason, it is also described as the nyAya-prasthAna (logical pillar).

Scholars have analyzed and given various interpretations for the word: athAtho.
What is the significance of beginning a work with the word atha atho: then
therefore? Indeed, several schools of Hindu philosophy have emerged from the
various commentaries on BrahmasUtra. The illustrious SaMkarA's bhAshya
(commentary) on the work begins with an exposition of the mAyA concept in this
context.

I am inclined to look upon the opening phrase to mean the following. The
sage BAdarAyANa tells us something to the effect: Having experienced life and
the world in its multiplicity and impressions, the time has come (must come for
all) when we say, "Well then, none of this is fully satisfying. With all our
knowledge, experience, and enjoyment, something seems to be missing. Let us go
to the root of all this." Indeed, that is the starting point in any spiritual
quest.

V. V. Raman

2-1-03

[This message has been edited by Webmaster (edited April 15, 2006).]

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#131 - December 24, 2003 08:08 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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tat uparAga apekhi vAc

cittasya vastu j˝ata aj˝atam

In this way, from the necessary coloring of the mind, a thing becomes known or
unknown.

This is sUtra 17 in Book IV of Pata˝jali's YogasUtra. The YugasUtra is not only
a treatise on yoga, it is also work that goes to the roots of human knowledge.

In the 18th century, the philosopher Immanuel Kant distinguished between tne
noumenon (the thing-in-itself or Ding-an-sich, as he called it) and the
phenomenon: the world as it appears to us. Phenomena result from the interaction
of the noumenon with the human mind. Pata˝jali recognized this centuries earlier

One of the cornerstones of modern science is its commitment to objectivity.
Objectivity refers to existence independent of the observer. Modern (quantum)
physics has revealed that existence independent of observers has no meaning in
the microcosm.

In this aphorism Pata˝jali reminds us that even at the classical (normal
everyday) level, human knowledge of anything is a function of how that thing
affects our consciousness (citta). The world of reality is essentially a
consequence of the interaction of external inputs from an object and human
consciousness (brain or mind). Without such an interaction, there might be a
world, but there certainly cannot be any knowledge of that world. That is what
is meant by the statement that whether or not something is known is a function
of whether and how the human mind is colored by it.

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#132 - December 24, 2003 08:09 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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On Waves

Let me give you my <Eurocentric> perspective on this. That is all I can
give because the notion of waves as a subtle mode of propagation
(electromagenic, sound, etc.) developed in Western science. Hindu thinkers,
scientists, yogis, etc. did considerable significant work on the nature of
thought and consciousness, but (as for as I know) they did not record or speak
of any cinta-tarang or cinta-Urmi. Nor did this idea develop in the West until
the 17th century.

The idea of thoughts being generated and transmitted as waves has been
considered by some, but as of now (as far as I know) there is not sufficient
experimental evidence for it to be regarded as an aspect of physical reality by
the international scientific community. However, there are individual
scientists, both serious and pseudo, who are experimenting with the possibility,
especially to see if such phenomena as ESP, clairvoyance, and cure through
prayer have objective validity.

But this much we know: Our world of experience is dependent upon the
functioning of the brain. That functioning involves complex electrical
activities. These in turn generate subtle electrical disturbances which were
first noticed and studied by Hans Berger in 1929. These are essentially
electrical rhythms in the brain which, when recorded by means of instruments
(called electroencephalograms or EEG) on a roll of paper, appear as complex wave
forms.

When brain waves are analyzed it is found that there are at least four
varieties of them. First there are the alpha waves which are a sort of
background pattern common to all normally functioning brains. These fast-moving
waves with not too great amplitudes are very apparent when a person is fast
asleep or just relaxing with eye closed. These have been recognized as "
sinusoidal resonance pulses in idle motor neurons." But when one is under stress
or agitated or intoxicated another type of waves, called beta waves, arises.
These waves which have still smaller amplitudes travel much faster. Then there
are the slowest eaves, known as delta, which are clearly recognizable in the EEG
when a person is in deep sleep. Finally we have the theta waves which come about
when the brain is affected in some abnormal way, through direct physical damage
or psychological shifts in personality.

A knowledge of these waves has proved to be useful in fathoming the
mysteries of the mind and thought. The patterns of brain waves in practitioners
of meditation and in scientists have been studied. As a result of yogic
exercises Swami Rama of Rishikesh produced all four brain waves simultaneously:
a remarkable feat. Aside from recognizing meditative practices as more than
exotic Eastern modes, scientific exploration of this kind exposes the physical
basis of meditation techniques. Furthermore, this knowledge is also useful in
the diagnosis of disease and wounds suffered by the brain.

Thus, waves are at the very core of our conscious existence. There is so
much rhythm in this world of ours, not just in music and in drum beats, but in
pulsating stars, in heart beats and yes, in cerebral modes as well.

V. V. Raman

January 3, 2003

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#133 - December 24, 2003 08:10 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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yasya amatam tasya matam

matam yasya na veda sah

Who thinks he knows not, he knows.

Who thinks he knows, he knows not.

These lines are from the 15,000 stanzas of Skanda PurANa which have survived.
It is stated that the original work consisted of some 81,800 stanzas.

In the KAsi KhANDa of SkandapurANa, there is a detailed description of the
temples devoted to Lord Siva (probably prior to Islamic invasions). It also
contains the famous Guru GItA which is the source of some of the important
Slokas in our worship services.

The insightful lines may be interpreted in many ways. I like to see in it the
idea that those who imagine they know it all will not learn anything further and
will remain ignorant in their limited knowledge, whereas those who recognize
they don't know everything will have the propensity to learn more, and thus will
eventually acquire much knowledge. In this sense, this insight applies to
cultures and groups as well. Those who imagine that all knowledge and wisdom is
already contained in their holy books and in the writings of their ancestors are
less likely to be creative and productive of new things compared to peoples who
don't believe that everything that is to be known is in the thoughts and
writings of their history.

V. V. Raman

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#134 - December 24, 2003 08:10 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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mA bhrAtA bhrAtaraM dvikshanmA

svasAram uta svasA

samya˝caH savratA bhUtvA

vAcaM vadata bhadrayA

Between brother and brother, let no hatred be!

Nor between sister and sister.

Let all go together in harmony

And speak words that are kindly.

This is a stanza (III-30.3) from the atharva veda which is an anthology of
mantras (incantations). The work consists of twenty books which together contain
more than 700 hymns. According to tradition, the Atharvaveda was revealed to
the mahaRshi Atharvan, who is also regarded as a son of BrahmA.

This Sloka is a prayer for harmony and unity among the members of a family.
Families where there are no rivalries among siblings, no hatred and jealousy,
and where all are bound by love and mutual regard are the truly blessed and
happy ones. Though the Sloka seems like a simple expression of the importance of
fraternal love among the members of a family, we may also read a deeper meaning
in it. One of the tragedies that can befall a people, especially when confronted
by a enemy, is if there are internecine rivalries and conflicts. If the people
of a country (brothers and sisters) do not work in harmony and go together, an
intruding force can easily overcome and subjugate them.

V. V. Raman

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#135 - December 24, 2003 08:11 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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dekhaiM manushyajAt sakala - heM svabhAvata bhajana SIL

jAhaleM ase kevaL - mAzici ThAyIM

I see that all of humankind has by nature a worshiping quality

This happens only towards me.

These lines are from JAneshvari (4-67), a classic the work on bhakti (intense
devotion to the Almighty) by JAnadeva, the great 13th century poet-saint of
Maharashtra.

In the above lines, the saint is relaying to us the words of the Divine. Literal
translations seldom convey the essence of what is being said. What is actually
conveyed here is the fundamental truth that human beings are by nature drawn for
the transcendental. It is not which God or which religion that matters, but this
universal longing for something beyond is what constitutes the religious spirit.
As creatures bound by history, tradition, and parochial affiliations we may
consider one religion to be truer or better than another. But at the higher
awakened level, all these, and even the atheist scientist's quest for
understanding the workings of the universe, are different manifestations of
that same inner urge. That is how I interpret the vision of Saint Jnanadeva's
lines.

JnAnadevA, regarded bhakti as "that in which one thinks of nothing except God;
refuses to hear anything except His name; serves no one but God, and
contemplates on nothing except God."

Today we have books with titles like Why gods persist: a scientific approach to
religion, Why God won't go away, and The God who would be known. But the simple
lines of Jnanesvar answers such questions very simply: The search for the Divine
is imprinted in the human spirit.

V. V. Raman

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#136 - December 24, 2003 08:11 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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vishnoranyam tu paSyanti

ye mAM brahmANam eva vA

kutarka matayo mUDhAH

pacyante narakeshvadhaH

But those who see VishNu

As different from from Me or even BrahmA:

Those fools with crooked minds

Are ripe for hellish torment.

These words are attributed to Lord Siva in the Bhavikshya PurANa. Unlike most
purANas which speak of events past, this one is a prophetic work, foretelling
what is to come. The work has several thousand stanzas which deal with rites and
rituals. It is one of the purANas dedicated to Siva.

One may interpret the significance of these lines as follows: In traditional
Hindu vision, one pictures BrahmA, VishNu, and Siva as the three principles of
Creation, Sustenance, and Dissolution. And in the PuRANic worldview they have
separate imageries, each with its own identity. These lines tell us that while
such a categorization may be appropriate in certain contexts, it is a grave
error to think that there are three separate divine entities. One may go even
further and say that the multiplicity of religious paths that humamnity has
evolved over the ages as a result of historical and cultural factors should be
understood, not as leading to different gods and saviors, but to one the same
Ultimate Principle.

It is also stated that those who imagine the gods are different, differentiating
one divine manifestation from another, are not thinking right: their minds are
crooked. [It must be recalled that during the PuRAnic period of Hindu history,
there were many sectarian rivalries, one group claiming that Siva was superior
to VishNu, another the opposite, etc.] The terrible consequences predicted for
"fools with such crooked minds" may be taken as a firm reprimand of misguided
people who engage in sectarian bickering, and are unable or unwilling to
recognize that there is only ekam sad: One Essence, even if people call it by
different names in various contexts.

V. V. Raman

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#137 - December 24, 2003 08:12 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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yat yat Acarati SreshThas

tat tat eva itarah janah

Howsoever a respectable leader acts,

so indeed do the common folk.

These lines are from the BhagavadgItA (III.21).

In all cultures and at all times the vast majority the people play their
respective roles, and a small number of men and women lead the groups. Leaders
are not just people who dictate and control, but men and women who inspire and
motivate. Therefore, leaders bear a great responsibility towards the people they
lead. For example, whether violence should be the solution to a people's
problems or non-violence is often determined, not so much by what is really
better, as by the charisma of the leader who stirs the hearts of the masses.

A Sanskrit maxim says, yathA rAjA, tathA prajA: as a king is, so are his
subjects. The Latin poet Claudian expressed the same idea when he wrote,
Componitur orbis Regis ad exemplus: people are molded by the example of their
kings. In other words, leaders serve as role models. Their most effective tool
is example rather than preaching. The common people often imitate, in however
modest a way, what their leaders (and in our own times celebrities) do. This is
especially true of the young in a community, for they are inspired and motivated
by those who have attained higher stations in life. What all this means is that
there is a tremendous moral responsibility on the part of those who are in the
public eye.

V. V. Raman

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#138 - December 24, 2003 08:15 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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tad eva agnis tad Adityas

tad vAyus tad u candramAH

tad eva SukraM tad brahma

tA ApaH sa prajApatiH

Fire is of course That, the Sun is That,

Wind is That, and the Moon is That.

Brightness is indeed That, The Creator is That,

The Waters are those and He is the Progenitor of all.

This verse is from Yajur Veda (XXXII,1). The vedic seer reminds us that
ultimately, the Creator is everything. Whether it is something of immediate
relevance to our lives, like fire, sun, and the waters, or whether it is
something only of apparent secondary importance like the moon, or it is the
creative principle itself, it is all one and the same Ultimate. In a sense,
this vision of a cosmic embrace is grander than any anthropomorphic monotheism.

It may be mentioned that the word Sukra also means the star-lit sky or Venus.
This verse also appears, in a slightly modified form, in SvetASvatara Upanishad
(IV.2).

Yajus refers to the guidelines for the performance of yaj˝as. Yajur Veda is the
Veda of the Yajus. It has two collections (saMhitas) known as TaittirIya and
VAjasmeyi. According to one tradition, TaittirIya got its name from Tittiri, an
elder brother of Sage VaiSampAyana. There is also a tradition based on the fact
that tittiri means partridge. It is said that the sage YAj˝avalkya had a
misunderstanding with his guru from whom he had received this veda. In his anger
YAj˝avalkya vomited the work. Other disciples of the guru made themselves into
partridges and picked up the vomit. This is generally regarded as a play on
words which many writers in the Sanskritic/Tamil tradition enjoyed.

V. V. Raman

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#139 - December 24, 2003 08:15 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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pasI-engira neruppAnadu EzhaigaLin dEgattuL

paTri eruginDra pOdu AgArattAl avikkiDradutAn

jIva-kAruNyam.

When the fire called hunger is raging in the body of the poor,

Quenching it with food is indeed compassion towards life.

This line is from the TiruvartpA (Verse of Sacred Grace) of Saint
RAmalingasvAmi who was one of the greatest of poet-saints in the Tamil world of
the 19th century. Of all the things one could do to alleviate the sufferings of
others, says the saint here, the act of feeding the hungry to be the noblest,
serving the needs of the poor is the highest form of worshipping the Divine.

Saint RAmalinga stressed that no amount of going to temples, doing pUjas,
and singing hymns would lead one to salvation as long as one neglects the pain
of fellow humans. He went on to preach that actions arising from compassion are
the greatest spiritual practice. He reminded the routine religionist that there
is more to religion that mantra and japa. Caring and compassion are more
important than periodic prayers to mUrtis and taking pilgrimages. This profound
spiritual insight has come down to us from many enlightened souls in the Indic
tradition, as also from spiritual masters elsewhere. Unfortunately, it has
generally received more lip-service than active adoption from the ardent
followers of religions.

V. V. Raman

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#140 - December 24, 2003 08:16 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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mAtu pita guru svAmi sikha

Siradhari kariya subhAya

lahyo lAbhatina janmakara

nataru janma jaga jAya

Mother and father, teacher and master:

To their counsel who by nature submit with reverence,

They alone have benefited by birth.

Or else, being born is in vain

These lines are from TulasIdAsa's RAmAyaN: AyodhyA, doha 70.

Scholars may argue about whether there was a historical Rama or when he lived,
but the people of the Hindu tradition have been inspired for many generations by
the epic of RAmAyaNa, quite indifferent to such issues. This great epic has
shaped the worldviews and values of a civilization more powerfully than any
other.

Among the values it instills is respect for elders, most of all reverence
towards parents and teachers. To this day, people who grow up in the traditional
Hindu framework have an almost instinctive respect for mother, father, and
teacher. The sage-poet TulasI DAs says here that this must become second
nature. He puts these words of wisdom in RAma's mouth with poetic emphasis. They
are spoken to his brother LakshmaNa. We may read the phrase, "They alone have
benifited by birth" as saying that a life without noble values which include
respect for parents and teachers is not worth living at all.

It is important to realize that culture determines much of our attitude and
behavior, and that not only religion, but also poets and writers, and the sacred
works that are part of a people, are at the basis of culture itself. As a
religion, Hinduism may not be a religion of the Book, but our great epics,
whether as books or as narration, have played a huge role in molding classical
Hindu culture

V. V. Raman

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#141 - December 24, 2003 08:16 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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tagudi ena onDRu nanDRE pagudiyAl

pARpaTTu oLugap peRin

Justice is good, if one could, in fact,

Towards every group with fairness act.

This is from the immortal TirukkuRaL, a jewel of classical Tamil literature,
which consists of 1300 pithy couplets which succinctly express human nature and
behavior, some also propounding sound ethical principles. In one traditional
Hindu classification, people are grouped into friends, enemies, and others: i.e.
those towards whom we are positively inclined, negatively inclined, or are
neutral. It is easy to be good and kind to friends and to people we love, but to
be no less caring about those we don't know at all, or who are definitely
against us, reflects character and nobility. The poet says here that true
justice implies that we must be fair towards all these groups. When Joseph
Addison wrote that "Justice discards party, friendship, kindred," we was
unwittingly echoing, many centuries later, the Tamil poet TiruvaLLuvar. Whether
such values are convenient, helpful, or even workable is a different matter. But
the sages and thinkers of a culture are the guardians of its highest values and
ideals. It is in that capacity that TiruvaLLuvar has written these lines.

V. V. Raman

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#142 - December 24, 2003 08:17 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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The philosopher Madhva wrote a work entitled ANu vyAkyAna (treatise on
atomicity). He began the book by saying the in its composition he was guided by:


Atma vAkyatayA tena Sruti mUlataya tathA

yukti mUlataya caiva prAmANyam trividham mahat

Spiritual treatises, Vedic roots, as well as the roots of reasoning:

these are the three great sources

Though the book was written in a philosophical/metaphysical context, there is a
profound insight in Madhva's statement. We may make this relevant to the world
in which we live by giving it the following interpretation. In all our
intellectual analyses of problems, especially of social and cultural matters, we
will be much enriched if we bear in mind three important factors: First, we must
remember that we are working in the framework of a tradition (corresponding to
spiritual treatises). When the tradition is ignored, culture itself gets
transfigured and eventually destroyed. Next we must remember the roots of that
tradition (corresponding to the Sruti). When the roots of the tradition are
ignored, it would be like losing our collective memory, and this too can be
harmful to a people. Last, but not the least, we must be respectful of reason.
When rationality is ignored, the most outrageous thoughts and atrocious
behavior will be allowed.

V. V. Raman

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#143 - December 24, 2003 08:17 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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'ihasAne Sushyatu me SarIram

tvagasthimAMsaM pralayaM ca yAtu

aprApya bodhiM bahukalpa-durlabhAm

naivAsanAt kAyam etat calishyati

Here on this seat my body may dry up

Let my flesh, skin and bones dissolve.

Not getting Enlightenment, (which is) difficult (to get)

after many eons,

Not indeed from this seat will this body move.

These words are attributed to the Buddha, in a work entitled Lalitavistara which
narrates the life of the Enlightened One. They express in the most power
language the determination of the sage to uncover the truth behind human
suffering which was what he set out to do. We see in this resolution that the
Buddha was aware that ultimate (spiritual) Enlightenment is not achieved by
leading a comfortable life and speculating on what life is all about, but by
intense commitment to the question, with little care or concern for one's
physical frame. Such have been the great rishis of the Indic tradition.

Whether or not we agree with everything they said, it is good to be aware of the
values and worldviews of these extraordinary personages of Indian culture who
have had tremendous impact on the development of Indic civilization. It was the
insight and teaching of personages like them that molded the thinking of million
of people over many generations, not just in India, but also beyond. Ideas and
worldviews are what make and sustain civilizations.

V. V. Raman

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#144 - December 24, 2003 08:20 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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maitrI karuNA mudita upekshANAM

sukha duHkha puNya apuNyA

vishayANam bhAvanAtaH

citta prasAdanaM

Friendship, compassion, rejoicing, indifference

for the happy, the unhappy, the virtuous and the wicked
(respectively):

on these matters, having such feelings

keep the mind in a serene state.

This aphorism is from Pata˝jali's YogasUtra (I-33). There is more worldly
wisdom here than one would expect in a treatise on yoga. But then, it is
important to remember that the goal of Yoga is to contribute to our wellbeing
on three planes: the physical/physiological, the emotional/psychological, and
the spiritual. The advice given here is meant for our mental peace. It is
difficult to go through life without interacting with and be affected by other
people. All too often, out of jealousy perhaps, people tend to keep away from
the very fortunate ones, and they have no time or interest in showing compassion
to the unhappy ones. Furthermore, one tends to be bitter about the virtues of
others and get too much engrossed in the vices of others. Pata˝jali says here
that if we would make friends with people who are happy, be caring of those who
are not happy, we should rejoice when we see good people and simply ignore that
are evil, then we can attain the elusive inner peace we are all looking for. We
are told here that friendship, compassion, rejoicing, indifference in
appropriate contexts can contribute to inner peace. Attitudes towards people
play an important role in our mental wellbeing.

V. V. Raman

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#145 - December 24, 2003 08:21 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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utpattiM pralayaM caiva

bhUtAnAm AgatiM gatiM

vetti vidyAm avidyAm ca

sa vAcyo bhagavAn iti

The origin and also the dissolution,

The coming and going of all beings,

Who knows this and knowledge and ignorance

He is said to be bhagavAn.

This verse is from VishNu PurANa (VI:,5.28). In this purANa, the sage ParAsara
explains what the duties of VaishNavas are. He begins the narration from the
time of the VarAha avatAra.

The concept of bhagavAn goes back to Vedic times. In the Rig Veda, Bhaga is the
son of the mother goddess Aditi. He was the one who gave people boons.
Eventually BhagavAn became synonym with God in the abstract. Today, when devout
Hindus think of God, it is a faceless, ornament-less, vahana-less, invisible
personage that comes to mind. The God one invokes in silent prayer or
closed-eyes meditation may not be one of the Puranic deities, nor even the
all-too-abstract Brahman, but a very real personal one who has no features or
form. If the Puranic gods are like integers from one to infinity, the personal
God of the ceontemplating Hindu is like the symbol x in algebra which could
stand for any number, yet is not any one in particular. This is bhagvAn, and in
the verse above, the VishNu purANa describes that divinity as BharmA (origin)
and Siva (dissolution) and VishNu (who knows the coming and going of all
beings), indeed as the Supreme Omniscience.

V. V. Raman

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#146 - December 24, 2003 08:21 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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alpAksharam asandigdhaM sAravadviSvato mukham

astobhamanavadyaM ca sUtraM sUtravido viduH

Few letters (brief), certainty, firm and unambiguous up front

Stating what is in the mind and wise:

Such must be both a Sutra and one who knows a sUtra.

These lines are said to be from the Padma PurANa. They describe, if
not define, what a sUtra should be. We note that aside from pithiness and
unambiguity, we are reminded that both the sUtra and those who know it should be
endowed with intelligence/wisdom (viduh).

In the treasure chest of Sanskrit literature there are many genres of
compositions. One of these is the sUtra (literally "thread"). Scholars are of
the opinion that though it was very popular between the periods 500 to 100
B.C.E., it was only from about the third century C.E. that it came to be called
by this name. A great many classical Indic texts are composed in this form, and
bear this title: e.g. kalpasUtra, gRhasUtra, yogasUtra. The main feature of a
sUtra is that it is concise and pregnant with deep meaning> this often calls for
explanations and commentaries. It is said that the various sAStras are
elaborations of earlier sUtras.

V. V. Raman

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#147 - December 24, 2003 08:22 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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dushTa-yaj˝a vighAtAya paSu hiMsa nivRttaye
bauddha rUpaM dadau yo'sau tasmai devAya te namaH

To prevent corrupt sacrifices and to restrain injury to animals
The Buddha-form was taken thus by the Supreme One.


These lines are from DevI BhAgavata which is counted among the purANas
dedicated to Siva. It is clear from this reference that in pre-Buddhist
times there used to be yaj˝as in the Hindu world in which animals were
sacrificed. [Animal sacrifice, i.e. the killing animals in the name of God,
is still going on in some Hindu temples: another matter to which
Navyashastras may wish to direct attention.] Notwithstanding the firm belief
of some modern Hindus that this was never so, and that beef was never eaten
in India in ancient times, there are references to these in canonical Hindu
texts.
It also appears from these lines that at one time Buddha was regarded by
some as a divine incarnation (one of the avatAras). What is also interesting
here is that the author regards injury to animals as wicked or corrupt
(dushTa), showing that by now there had been some commendable progress in
certain Hindu practices. This is one ancient example of changes in the
worldviews of Hinduism. Also, we are told that Divinity came in the FORM of
Buddha, suggesting perhaps that, unlike Rama or Krishna, this was a very
human mode of divine appearance.

V. V. Raman

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#148 - December 24, 2003 08:22 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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esha devo viSva-karmA mahAtmA
sadA janAnAM hRdaye sannivishTaH

That God, Creator of All, the Supreme Soul
Always in people's heart is seated and contained.

These lines from the SvetASvatara Upanishad (IV.17) expresses one of
the key insights in the Hindu vision of the Divine. One may consider God
from a great many perspectives. Indeed the various religions, thinkers,
saints, and mystics have described God in quite different ways. In the
wisdom conveyed here, no matter how we imagine, describe, and glorify God,
ultimately Divinity is present in each and every one of us, in no matter how
modest a level. Ultimate enlightenment lies, not only in realizing that I am
Brahman (aham brahmAsmi), but equally seeing that Brahman in every other
person also, indeed in everything around. This is often the testimony of
people who have had mystical experience, for they have seen the unity behind
the diversity.
The significance of the sahasranAmas is that the Divine may be
envisioned in countless ways and recognized in counteless contexts. One of
those is to feel its presence in every human being.
It is of course easy to say that God is in all people's heart because
it says so in an Upanishad. But the challenge is to internalize this. When
that is achieved, one's attitudes towards others will dramatically change
for the better. The most that ordinary people can do is to meditate upon
such spirit-elevating ideas periodically. This is bound to have a sobering
influence on our thoughts and behavior during the rest of the day even if we
have not quite reached the highest stage of spiritual evolution.

V. V. Raman

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#149 - December 24, 2003 08:23 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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jAt ka garab karno koyi
brahmana soh binde so brahman koi

jat ka garab na kar mUrg gavAra
is garb te tilhai bahUt vikAra

sAre varNa akhe sab koi
brahma binde te sab opda koi

mati ek sagala samsAra
obid bahu bidhi bhande gharre kumara
panch tatt mil dehi ta akAra

Pride of jAti (caste) let no one have!
He alone is a Brahmin who knows Brahman.

Be not proud of your caste, you ignorant fool!
Much sin and corruption comes from that pride.

All say there are these varNas (castes).
But they are all created from Brahma's seed.

From one clay was the whole universe made.
Into many vessels has the potter formed it.
By combining the five elements is the body formed.

These lines (in Punjabi) are from Sri Guru Granth Sahib of the Sikh
tradition, and are attributed to the third Guru Amar Das of the 15th-16th
centuries. We can see from them that poets and sages in India have been
speaking out against the narrowness and arrogance of the caste mentality for
very many centuries now. There is wisdom in looking upon all human beings as
from the same single Divinity, in comparing us all to pots of different
shapes and colors, fashioned from same clay (atoms and molecules). From this
perspective it is, says the sage, ignorance and foolishness that creates the
feelings of birth-based superiority and inferiority.
If orthodoxy has listened to such voices in distant times, we would not only
be having a single Indic religion today, but it would be enlightened not
only in its ideals and spiritual insights, but socially more just and
awakened. The gurus and AcAaryas of our own times must pay heed to history.

V. V. Raman

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#150 - December 24, 2003 08:23 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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anbagattillA uyirvAzhkkai vanpARkaN
vatRal maram taLirtta tatRu

Life with a heart which is love without
Is like a dried up tree which in a desert may sprout.

This is a couplet from the immortal TirukkurAaL which is regarded as
embodying Vedic wisdom in the Tamil world. It reminds us that, no matter
what our religious convictions and philosophical beliefs are, no matter what
gods we worship and what prayers we recite, if we are bereft of love in our
heart, life is not worth living. People who have no love for fellow
creatures are as pathetic as shriveled plants which may sprout here and
there in parched soil. They are deserving of more pity than contempt, for
incapacity for love is a sad ailment rather than a vice.

V.V. Raman

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#151 - December 24, 2003 08:24 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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"gukArstv andhakAras'ca
ru kAras teja ucyate
ajnAna grAsakaM brahma
gurureva na sams'ayah:

The part gu is (stands for) darkness; and
The syllable ru is (stands for) light;
Ignorance is swallowed by knowledge
of Guru; no doubt about this.

This apparent etymology of the word guru is given in the Skanda PurANa, and
is repeated by many exponents of Hinduism these days. It is important to
note that it does not say that "gu" means darkness and "ru" means light. In
normal Sanskrit, the word "gu" has different meanings, like "to sound" and
"cow." The list does not include darkness. Likewise "ru" has other
meanings, like breaking, cutting, and not light. The word guru means
weighty, important, and of course, a spiritual preceptor. However, the quote
is a very meaningful and succinct interpretation of this most common word in
the Hindu framework. It enables us to look upon a guru as one who removes
darkness (ignorance) and brings light (knowledge), for ultimately that is
what a guru is expected to do.
But in terms of word meanings, it is not unlike saying that "wor" stands for
"homage" and "ship" stands for god, whence worship means paying homage to
God.

V. V. Raman

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#152 - December 24, 2003 08:24 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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satyaM BRhad Rtam udraA
dikshA tapo yajGaH pRthivI dhArayanti
sA no buUtasya bhavyasya patnyuruM lokaM
pRthivI naH kRNotu

Truth, strict law dedication
Prayer, austerity, sacrifice: these support the earth.
May that earth, the governess of our past and future,
Make the world wide for us!

This Sloka from the Atharva Veda (XII.1.1) is an example of the many
invocations to Earth that we find in the Vedas. Ordinarily, people live
their lives with food and drink, performing their everyday chores. They may
think about their family, community, and country as sources of their joys
and security. They may even recognize the land and waters around them.
But it requires a leap for the reflective mind to think in terms of the
planet as a whole, as we see here. To recognize that it subsists on the
basis of immutable laws is an even greater insight. Then comes respect and
reverence for the world that sustains all life, and symbolic expressions of
our gratitude. What else is prayer if not heartfelt homage to That which
makes the life experience a possibility?
The Vedic seer also recognizes here that humanity's past and future depends
entirely on how our earth will sustain us. She is verily the mistress of our
destiny, as she has been in times gone-by.

V. V. Raman

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#153 - December 24, 2003 08:24 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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viNNum maNNum ivvElaiyum maTRum vERu
eNNum bUdam elAmazhindu Eginum
aNNal Eval maRukka aDiyanERku
oNNumO? idaRku uL azhiEl, enDRAn.


"Even if sky and earth and sea,
And all other elements perish,
Can I turn down the command of my father?
Suffer not for that," he said.

This verse is from Kamba RAmAyaNam (II.4.26).
Rama speaks thus to his mother Kausalya who is aching at the thought of her
son leaving Ayodhya as per the command of Kind Dasaratha. We all know the
story.
What is impressive here is the value so firmly expressed. Rama speaks from
an ethical framework in which unquestioning obedience to father's command is
a most venerated virtue. It does not matter what the consequences may be. It
does not matter if the whole world were to come to an end. Respect for the
father's word, which again was here the result of a promise made, is sacred
beyond any other consideration.
The Ramayana is a supreme work, not simply because it is a fascinating
narrative, not simply because it is told in beautiful poetry, but because it
conveys some of the noblest guiding principles of a grand and inspiring age
which has molded some of the deepest features of Indic civilization.

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#154 - May 06, 2004 02:47 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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dinayAminyau sAyaM prAtaH
SiSira vasantau punarAyAtaH .
kAlaH krIDati gacchatyAyuH
tadapi na mu?yAshAsvAyuH .

Daylight and the dark, twilight and dawn
Winter and spring, all come back.
Time is sporting, life goes away.
And yet, the (maddening) wind of desire does not quit.

This verse (number 12) is from SankarAcArya's Bhajagovindam, a well known
musical composition by the great mystic sage Adi SaMkarAcArya, we is often
referred to as the spiritual master of the world (jagadguru). The song is a
powerful statement of the perennial struggle in every individual to free
oneself from illusory apprehensions about the true nature of existence and
reality. In these poetic lines the sage observes that a major impediment to
breaking through the veil of mAyA is the whirlpool of desire into which one
is drawn and from which it is so difficult to escape. Desire persists until
the very last breath of mortal life.
[In the Rig Veda VAyu is the God of Wind. In the Ayurdevic framework it also
refers to a morbid affliction, sometimes as an evil principle that causes
insanity. In its in this sense that the word is used here.]

V. V. Raman

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#155 - May 06, 2004 02:49 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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On Rishis

From very remote times of India's history, seers and sages have been
speaking to the people on life and existence, on death and after-life, on
soul and god. Some of these mystic men and women acquired their insights
from years of reflection and meditation on these and other matters of cosmic
significance. Similar inquirers there surely have been in other great
civilizations also. But invariably in India, they seem to have undertaken
painful penance and austere asceticism in their efforts to grasp the elusive
answers to the many mysteries that torment the inquisitive mind.
These were not just scholars or philosophers, nor pious preachers who
advised the common folk to be good and kind. Rather, they were practitioners
of certain techniques by which they claimed to have gained a glimpse of some
higher reality behind the apparent phenomenal world. They seem to have
broken through the veil of ignorance that for ever keeps ordinary mortals in
a state of mystery. And they spoke with much exuberance and certainty about
the nature of truth and of supreme knowledge.
These were simple and serene personages, in harmony with themselves and with
the world around them, often in a state of pristine peace, and spreading
wisdom and tranquility among those that came to them. But they were also
inspired seers who enriched their revelations with music and poetry. They
composed hymns to the powers of the universe, framed rules and laws for
civilized society, discoursed on philosophy, and initiated the young into
esoteric truths.
They were extraordinary men and women in many ways, those who had explored
the human spiritual potential to its very extreme. It was such men as these
that individually and collectively laid the foundations of, and contributed
enormously to, what was to become one of the most complex and colorful
religious traditions of mankind, the one we call Hinduism. And they were the
venerated Rishis of the tradition.
As often happens in ancient history, the sheer grandeur of their spiritual
achievements rendered them superhuman in the eyes and lore of later
generations. And so, as years rolled by, the deeds and dates of these
superior humans were transformed into fabulous narratives and incredible
time spans. Their names got mingled with episodes in the epics and in
Puranic imagery, so that we of this late era of history know but little of
substance about those remarkable Rishis who once walked on the land and
dipped in the rivers of India, who first recited magnificent Vedic mantras
and performed the sacred yajnas.
Hindu sacred history is replete with the names of Rishis. Many episodes
relating to them border on the incredible. One was born of Brahma's thumb
and another had a hundred sons; one fathered a bird, and another did penance
for a thousand years; one pulverized an army by merely staring at the horde
in anger, and another made a mountain range prostrate to him in submission;
so on and on we read of what the great Rishis are reported to have done.
Those of us who are prone to skepticism may find all of this a little
difficult to believe. But no one can remain untouched by the splendid
stories relating to the Rishis. More importantly, Rishis are the backbone of
Hindu culture, not only as the authors of the Vedas and the Upanishads, of
the great epics and the Hindu law books, but equally as major characters in
the Puranic sacred history that is so much an inseparable part and parcel of
India's heritage.


V. V. Raman

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#156 - May 06, 2004 02:50 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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Saint J?deva (13th century)

J?deva was an illustrious Marathi saint who was imbued in the thoughts
and Slokas of the Bhagavad Gita. He preached the message and meaning of this
immortal work. His teachings have been collected in a book called Jnanesvari
which he is said to have completed at the age of fourteen. J?deva
emphasized the importance of austerities and celibacy for the spiritual
path, but he also declared in his commentaries that the path of action was
no less fundamental and that all action must have self-realization as the
goal.

J?deva understood the fulfillment that comes from bhakti. He defined
bhakti as "that in which one thinks of nothing except of God; refuses to
hear anything except His name; serves none save God and contemplates on
nothing but God." Even the inferiority resulting from non-humanhood, caste
or sex could be overcome by bhatkti. He said, "Just as the impress of the
king's order makes a piece of paper go as silver, so also a beast, a woman
or a Sudra.... whosoever performs Bhakti, gets emancipated and reaches God."
Another major work, known as Amritanubhava (Experience of the Elixir) is
attributed to this precocious saint. The goal of this work has been
described as "the extension and diffusion of the Knowledge of God, which he
had himself gained through the unlimited magnanimity of his spiritual
teacher, to all the people in the world."

Some of the basic thoughts of the Upanishads are found here. Here again
J?deva expresses his mystic delights on singing the Lord's name. He
discusses the nature of gross ignorance of Brahman and of spiritual
knowledge. There are elements of autobiographical anecdotes in the work,
although it may be hard to believe some of the incidents and persons
mentioned in it. For example, there is reference to a 700 year old man who
wrote devotional songs about J?deva's family.

There is a genre of literature in the Marathi language known as the Abhanga.
This is pure religious lyric where love for God gushes from the heart
through magnificent words and expressions. Spiritual joy is most effectively
conveyed here, but equally the medium is used for philosophical reflection
and critical commentaries on questionable social mores. J?deva is
generally regarded as the first great writer in this mode.

J?deva is said to have performed many miracles. For example, when he was
but ten years old he is said to have declared to the village people that the
soul in his body was as divine as any other creature's, as even of the
buffalo that was standing nearby. The local pundits mocked him for his
presumed wisdom, and taunted him by asking if the beast could enunciate any
mantra. "And why not?," replied the lad and whispered "OM" in the ear of the
animal. Upon hearing this, the buffalo recited verses from the Vedas in
impeccable Sanskrit! The Brahmins were dumbstruck, and they prostrated
before the young saint.

Understandably, such episodes had great impact on the minds of the common
folk who were already much moved by the songs and sermons of the saintly
man. So, as years rolled by, his name and fame spread all through the
Maratha country and beyond. In the sixteenth century, a temple was erected
for him in Alankapur where, to this day, he is worshipped, for he was
certainly as one of the enlightened souls who have lighted up the realm of
spiritual wisdom in Hindu history.


V. V. Raman

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#157 - May 06, 2004 02:51 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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jab ham Aye jagat meM
jag hassa ham roye;
aisI karnI kar cale
jab ham jAyen jagatse
ham hasseM jag roye

When we come into the world,
The world laughed and we cried.
Such actions let us do that
When we leave the world
We'll be laughing while others weep.

These lines were spoken by Bhakta Kabir, the saint poet in the Hindu tradition
who transcended not only caste distinctions, but religions too. Born in a
Muslim family he was drawn to the Hindu world. But he said he was neither
Muslim nor Hindu, but only "a body made of five elements where the Unknown
plays."

Crass science says that the new-born cries to exercise his lungs. But in the
poetic/religious view the infant recognizes it has entered a world of woe and
chore, hence cries in sorrow. The rejoicing parents and others welcome the
little one with smiles. And when time comes for us to leave after this world,
we may die in peace and serenity. The sage-poet reminds us that we should live
in such a way that people living would be wailing while we ourselves may
smilingly slide away into eternity. In other words, let us do our best in the
time allotted to bring some joy and good to others.

V. V. Raman

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#158 - May 06, 2004 02:52 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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mAyam AtmA pravacanenu labhyo
na medhayA
na bahunA Srutena
yam evaiSa vRNute tena labhyas
tasyaisha AtmA vivRNute tanUM svAm

This self can't be attained by instruction
Nor by intellectual power
Nor even through much hearing.
He is to be attained by the one whom (the self) chooses.
To such a one the self reveals his own nature.

This Sloka from the MunDakopanishad (III.2.3.3) states two important principles
in the attainment of self-realization, and more generally, of spiritual truths.
The first is that it cannot be done through logic and argumentation. Mystics
and other spiritually awakened personages have said again and again that it is
not through debates and discourses and other intellectual modes that one
becomes aware of it is utterly useless as an instrument for achieving
self-realization. It it also suggested here that, for whatever reason, only
some people are privileged to attain ultimate knowledge of the self.
Furthermore these some are selected by a higher power. This corresponds to the
notion of grace in the Catholic tradition. It is not surprising that the world
is not teeming with saints and jnanis.

In the non-religious context, this verse may be taken to mean that there are
aspects of existence, such as, for example, compassion for all fellow
creatures, commitment to serve others, and the ability to discover complex
mathematical theorems, which cannot be traced or cultivated through logical
analysis. Rather, these are the innate capacities of some human beings,
inherited blessings, one might say, from a higher power.

V. V. Raman

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#159 - May 06, 2004 02:53 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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na karmaNAm anAraMbhAn
naishkarmyaM purusho'snute
na ca saMnyasanAd eva
siddhiM SamadhiDgaccahti

It is not by abstaining from (one's) duties
That one is freed from karmic entanglements.
Nor indeed by renunciation
Does one reach (spiritual) perfection

Many of the things we do we do affect, not only others and the surroundings,
but also ourselves in one way or another. This, essentially, is the thesis of
the law of karma. It is said that when one has attained a certain state of
spiritual perfection, this does not happen any more. That is the spiritually
evolved state in which one is freed from the entanglements of karma. This state
is known as naishkarmya, and is one of the goals of the spiritual aspirant.

This Sloka from the BhagavadgIta (III-4) tells us in no uncertain terms that
spiritual enlightenment cannot be reached by shirking one's responsibilities in
the world. The notion that simply renouncing everything and becoming a sannyAsi
one will reach the ultimate in spiritual perfection is simply wrong, we are
told here. It is very important to stress insights like this from our sacred
writings and dispel the notion that Indic civilization is concerned uniquely
with other-worldly matters. The illuminating message of Indic sages is that we
must live and work and create and participate in this material world, but never
lose sight of the fact that there is a larger cosmic spiritual backdrop to all
this. Not fully grasping this, some people become obsessed with pure
spirituality at too early a stage in life and become utterly unproductive
members of society, besides wasting away their lives. This verse from the Gita
tells such people that this is a wrong thing to do.

V. V. Raman

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#160 - May 06, 2004 02:55 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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Sri Chaitanya MahAprabhu (1485-1534)

Sri Chaitanya was an illustrious God-intoxicated personage whose impact on
the spiritual sensitivities of Bengal and Orissa may be felt to this day.
His message of pure love for God in the Krishna aspect has spread beyond the
region of his birth and travels. The spiritual sect that emerged from his
teachings is a major element in the religious life of Bengal, and it has
spread far and wide in the world. The icons of Radha and Krishna in intense
embrace and the fervent music that glorify that union are direct
consequences of this extraordinary saint of the 16th century.

Jagannatha Misra and his wife Sachi Debi of Nadiya had ten children. The
eldest was a son named Bisvarupa; the youngest one was called Bisambbar. All
the intervening daughters died when they were still young. Bisvarupa later
came to be known as Nityananda; Bisambhar as Sri Krishna Chaitanya.
Chaitanya lost his father when he was a little boy. He was married when in
his teens, wandered around in spiritual quest (during which time his young
bride died), he married once again, and later renounced it all, feeling an
intense call from divinity.

Blessed with extraordinary intelligence and capacity for intense emotional
experiences, he saw little meaning in religious rites, and less
justification for castes. All that one needed was pure love for God: a love
that transcends hair-splitting logic and routine rituals. Chaitanya
preached this simple message of the bhakti movement very effectively.
The unadulterated love for God is to be nurtured, not by discourses and
debates, not by offerings and pilgrimages, but by impassioned singing of and
dancing to the Lord's name. Music is not only soothing but instigating as
well. When godly songs and devotional dances are gradually brought to a
crescendo to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals, the participants can
lose touch with their surroundings and go into a trance of joyous experience
that is as close to contact with the Divine as one can achieve in the
physical frame. To Chaitanya is largely due the enormous popularity of
kirtans in Bengal.

In the course of his singing, Chaitanya would often swoon in his ecstatic
state. Such emotional outbursts, especially when it ignored the ritualistic
injunctions of the priestly pundits, was not looked upon with favor
initially. It has been said that "the doings of these devotees met with
scorn and ridicule, especially at the hands of the worshippers of Kali." But
Chaitanya and his followers took to the streets and carried on their rhythms
in enticing processions which stirred the onlookers also.

All this came from the conviction that total abandonment to Krishna and
Radha is the sure way to be freed from the world of illusion and realize
Vishnu who was seen as the only God. The Radha-Krishna union symbolized the
merger of the jivatma with the paramatma: the individual with the supreme
soul. Historians say that religious practice and beliefs were in a dismal
state in Bengal when Chaitanya arrived. It was Chaitanya who injected a
spirit of joy in the religious experience, and moved the masses away from
obscurantist cults and sanguinary orgies.

Chaitanya traveled to many parts of India. In Varanasi he us said to have
argued vehemently with scholars against Sankaracharya's interpretations of
the VedAntasUtra. Finally he went on to Puri, took active part in the
processions of the JagannAtha mUrti, and spent the rest of his life there.
It is said that once while he was bathing in the sea he was overcome by one
of his heightened spiritual states, and drowned in the waves. His disciples
retrieved the corpse and buried it near the famous temple in the city.

V. V. Raman

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#161 - May 06, 2004 02:58 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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svasti panthAm anucarema
sUryAcandramasAviva
punar dadatAghnatA jAnatA
saMgamemahi

The auspicious path we shall pursue
Like the sun and the moon.
With the generous, the non-injuring, the knowing:
We shall associate.

These lines are from the Rig Veda (V:51015). First we note that the Vedic
hymns are very diverse in their contents. The range of their themes is
considerable. They refer to the divine as the Supreme Architect and as the
Creator, but they also pay homage to the earth, pray for a full life, praise
heroes, and express a good deal more, such as here, a determination to
choose the ethical and the morally healthy course in life. Note the
beautiful simile of the sun and the moon to say that the path to be followed
will be unerring, like celestial bodies. The sage-poet resolves to follow
the path of righteousness, and adds at once that one would keep the company
of people with commendable qualities.

It is not always realized how the company we keep can influence our own
thoughts and deeds and life. If we are often with generous people, their
generosity will rub off on us, and if we are with mean ones we are likely to
imitate them. Likewise, if we have as friends people who shirk from doing
harm to others, we are likely to become so also. Associating with
knowledgeable persons can only enhance our own knowledge and understanding,
and so on. This is how the notion of satsanga (company of the good) comes in
the context of spiritual development.

Thoughts like these reveal a profound understanding of human nature and
psychology on the part of the rishis.

V. V. Raman

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#162 - May 06, 2004 03:00 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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anitya aSuci duhka anAtmasu
nitya Suci sukha Atma
khyAtir avidyA

The impermanent, the unclean, the painful, the non-Self
Viewing these as
The permanent, the pure, the joyful, the Self;
Is unenlightened state.

This sUtra from Pata?i's YogasUtra (II.5) expresses succinctly what is
regarded as spiritual enlightenment in the Hindu tradition. It states that
enlightenment is not so much the gaining of new knowledge as the eradication
of erroneous perceptions. In other words, it is implicit within every one of
us. It is only a matter of clearing up the dust and dirt that has settled on
the glass before we see the light rendered dull or invisible by the
obstructing layers of confusions. Though this is said about spiritual
advancement, its message may be taken in the worldly context also. We see
all around us passing scenes and trivial problems which have no long-range
significance whatever. But there are also matters of permanent value. Thus a
petty quarrel or a fashion fad is of impermanent worth, whereas a worthy
cause for peace and justice is of more lasting value. Then again, there are
things impure all around us: fattening food and intoxicating beverage,
morally corrupting influences and hurtful thoughts, and also pure entities
like healthy food, kindly thoughts, and helpful deeds. There are injurious
pleasures with painful consequences, as also the joy that comes from reading
worthwhile authors, sharing and celebrating. As long as one wallows in the
petty, the dirty, and the painful, imagining them to be the long-lasting,
the uplifting, and the joy-giving, one is in a state of abysmal ignorance.
Most of all, and this is in the spiritual dimension, to mistake this mortal
physical body for the immortal self that resides in it for a limited
time-span is, says Pata?i, at the root of the unenlightened state.

V. V. Raman

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#163 - May 06, 2004 03:01 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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prajAH svadharma prathishThApya vA
saptatyA UrdhvaM sanyAsam upadiSanti

After offspring are well established
in their own responsibilities (svadharma), or
From seventy years onwards
(People are) instructed to lead an ascetic life.

These lines are from the BhaudhAyana DharmasUtra (2-10-17).
One of the most difficult problems as one advances in age is the recognition
that the body's youthful vigor is fading away and that before long one will
have to give up all the things and people to whom one has been attached for
many years. To avoid the trauma that can come from such fears and
frustrations, and in order to live with inner peace in old age, it is made
clear right from the outset that one should develop a spirit of detachment.
That is why in traditional Hindu reckoning of the stages of life, one is
expected to live a full and active life, discharging one's responsibilities
to society and experiencing the joys of life, and it is recommended that in
the final phase, one must lead a life of ascetic simplicity. At this time,
one jas to all worldly attachments, live with a minimum of basic
necessities, and direct all thoughts and actions towards God and the
hereafter. It is stated here that one should start getting ready for this as
soon as one's children are well settled in life, and certainly by the time
one reaches the age of three score and ten. It would seem from this
statement that in ancient India many people lived hale and healthy beyond
the age of seventy.


V. V. Raman

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#164 - May 06, 2004 03:01 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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satyaM vada
dharmaM cara
svAdhyAyAn mA pramadaH
AcAryAya priyaM dhanam AhRtya
prajAtantum mA vyavacchetsIH
satyaM na pramaditavyam
dharmAn na pramaditavyam
kuSAlAn na pramaditavyam
bhUtyai na pramaditavyam
svAdhUya pravacanAbhyAm na pramaditavyam
deva pitR kAryAbhyAm na pramaditavyam

Speak the truth.
Follow the path of dharma (righteousness).
Neglect not Vedic recitation (self-study).
After fetching for the teacher a pleasing prize (fee)
Sever not the link with lineage.
Never ignore truth.
Never ignore dharma.
Neglect not health.
Neglect not prosperity.
Neglect not self-study or the teaching (of truth).
Neglect not your responsibilities to the gods and ancestors.

We are told in the TaittirIya Upanishad (I.11.1) that these are the final
instructions that the teacher gives to his pupils at the completion of his
course. This Upanishad is part of the TaittirIya BrahmaNa. The quote is from
SikshAvallI or Chapter on Instruction.We note here the value that is placed
on truth which has always been regarded as the highest ideal in human
existence. Indeed, in the Hindu philosophical framework Truth and God are
one and the same. Literally, svAdhyAyAn means daily recitation of Vedic
mantras by oneself. In an extended sense it could mean any self-study. A
good deal of what one learns beyond the classroom is by self-study. We see
here a reminder to the student that he/she owes something to the teacher.
The student is asked not to sever his connections with lineage, meaning that
one should have progeny. This may also be interpreted as one's commitment
for the continuance of one's heritage. We note the emphasis on health and
prosperity: the mundane dimensions of living. The student is asked never to
stop studying and also to propagate knowledge. Finally he/she is told not to
neglect responsibilities towards the divine, i.e. never to forget one's
relationship with the Cosmic Whole; and to one's ancestors, i.e. to be
grateful to past generations which have made our current existence possible.

V. V. Raman

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#165 - May 06, 2004 03:03 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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mokshasya na hi vAsosti
na grAmAntaram eva ca
aj? hRdaya granther nASo
moksha iti smRtaH

moksha is not a dwelling place.
It is not being in a village.
It is the decimation of knots of ignorance in the heart.
Thus must moksha be borne in mind.

This Sloka is from the Siva GIta of Padma PurANa (13.32.) In common parlance
one sometimes associates moksha with heaven and naraka with hell. Here we
are reminded that attaining moksha is not like moving to another place to
reside. Rather, it is a state in which all the (spiritually) ignorant forces
of darkness and confusion are completely eradicated. Heaven and hell are not
locations in cosmic geography, but states of mind and heart that are free
from notions and convictions that chain us in our moral and spiritual
development. It is important to recognize that in the sacred literature of
India there are many references, direct and oblique, to spirituality in
terms of values and feelings which are of relevance to life here below,
rather than simply as metaphysics and transcendence which are of importance
in the hereafter.

V. V. Raman

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#166 - May 06, 2004 04:45 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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nAshTamo na navamo daSamo nApyucyate
na pa?o na shashThaH saptamo nApyucyate
na dvitIyo na tRtIyaS caturtho nApyucyate
ya etaM devam ekavRtaM veda
sarve asmin devA eka vRto bhavanti
sa sarvasmai vi paSyati yacca prANati yacca na.

Not even eight or nine or ten, He is said to be
Not even five nor six nor seven, He is said to be
Not two nor three nor four, He is said to be
There is but one God for him who knows.
All are one God, they have with resolution become:
He watches over everything that breathes
and that does not (breathe).

These lines are from the Atharva Veda (13-4-15-20).
The Abrahamic traditions proclaimed explicitly that there is but one God.
When people of that tradition came to India, they were shocked and surprised
by the many names and mUrtis which are worshiped by the people of the land.
So they concluded that the Hindu world is polytheistic: an erroneous
impression that persists to this day. It is true that in representations of
worship, in symbols for the divine, and in names for the Unfathomable, the
Hindu world is rich as few others are. But at its doctrinal core, Hinduism
is a sophisticated and enlightened form of monotheism. It is sophisticated
because it recognizes that the Infinite cannot be grasped by the Finite
except through various mental constructs. We cannot experience music except
through particular songs and melodies that bring us joy. It is enlightened
because while knowing the Divine to be One, it states right away that people
give It different names.

It is in this subscript to the Monotheistic understanding that Hinduism
differs from the Abrahamic religions. The latter add, after saying there is
but one God, "And that one God is MY God," implying "Not the one YOU
worship." Hinduism says, "There is but one God, but people call that one God
by different names."

In this verse, the Vedic sage says poetically, that the single Omnipotent
Divinity oversees the entire cosmos of living and non-living also. Thus God
is not there just for humans or just for all living things: another
sophisticated and enlightened vision.

V. V. Raman

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#167 - May 06, 2004 04:46 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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My God is not a sculptured stone
Nor a polished block of lime.
Nor an idol that is made of bronze
And cleaned from time to time.

To icons such I cannot pray,
But this I'll say with pride
That in my heart are the golden feet
Of the God who is my guide.

With me He is, what else I need?
My God is here and there,
He's within and beyond us all
My God is everywhere,

In holy books, in the depths of night,
In the sky that's dark and blue
In the heart of all who know the truth,
And of the faithful few.

My God is there in all of these,
But how can He be led
To murtis made of simple stone
Or copper dark and red!

These are the first five stanzas of poem (which I have translated in
rhymes) composed in Tamil by the saint-poet known as PaTTinattu PiLLai who
probably lived in the 14th century C.E. (?) in KaverippUm PaTTinam. His
actual name was Tiru VenkaTa CattiyAr. He is said to have been a very
wealthy merchant who attained spiritual enlightenment. He was, as may be
seen here, a very unorthodox saint. The poem speaks for itself: It is an
inspired declaration to the effect that those who feel the omnipresence of
God in the core of their being cannot confine Him to mUrtis in temples,
because they feel His presence everywhere.

The work is part of the Saiva poets of whom MANikkavAcakar is the foremost.
This work is part of what is known as Siva vAkyam (Siva's word) in the
tradition.

V. V. Raman

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#168 - May 06, 2004 04:47 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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kiM tu malam kim ajinam kimu SmaSrUNi kim tapaH
putram bhrAhmaNa icchadhvam sa vai loko'vadAvadaH

But what is this wish for dust, animal-skin, matted hair, austerities?
For a son, oh Brahmana, wish! This indeed is worldly wisdom.

These lines are from Aitareya BrAhmaNa. In the Rig Veda, BrAhmaNa refers to
the priestly class, just as today we refer to people associated with
universities as academics. The term is also used for a number of
compositions associated with the four Veda, mostly compendia of rules for
rites and rituals. The Aitareya BrahmaNa is appended to the Rig Veda.
The author of these lines is clearly addressing pre-mature ascetics. It
would seem that in those days a number of young initiates were so drawn to
spirituality that they gave it all up too early in life to become ascetics,
deer skin and all. The sage reminds them that they should first seek to have
a son.

What this means is that it is important to first lead a house-holder's life,
discharge one's responsibilities to society, and having done that, one
should proceed to the sannyasin stage of life.

One may take inspiration from this in the context of Hinduism today. The
acetic mode may be compared to excessive preoccupation with ancient Hindu
modes. Desiring a son is equivalent to bringing India into the modern world.
The latter is more urgent.

V. V. Raman

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#169 - May 06, 2004 04:47 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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sulabhAH purusha rAjam satataM priya vAdinaH
apriyasya ca pathyasya vaktA SrotA ca durlabhaH

It is easy, O king, to find people who always pleasantly speak.
Who speaks unpleasant but salutary words, to listen to him is difficult.

These words are spoken by RAvaNa's advisor MArIca when the former was about
to launch his unethical, unfortunate, and disastrous adventure against
RAma's consort SItA. RAvaNa's other advisors, as much out of fear of the
powerful king as from misguided intentions, had encouraged, instigated or
acquiesced to the evil project. But MArIca gave RAvaNa wise counsel, urged
him not to do it because the consequences would be terrible. It was in this
context that these words were spoken.

It is remarkable how insightful these words are: Most often, people who
wield power get advice from their counselors that is only palatable.
Especially in the context of an obsession which prompts a momentous decision
of the one in power. Had RAvaNa listened to MArIca, he would have refrained
from his undertaking.

These lines, written by sage VAlmIki (AraNya KANDa, XXXVII-2), perhaps more
than three thousand years ago, sound very current and relevant in today's
world when the leader of a superpower is poised to make what could turn out
to be a most disastrous decision. He too has his MArIcas in the form of
advisors and protestors who are against the impending war. It is not yet
clear if he would pay heed to them, or give a deaf ear to them as RAvaNa
did.

V. V. Raman.

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