Friday, November 18, 2005

Aryan Invasion Theory, Amitav Ghosh

Now, even the BBC link seems to say so. As if someone believed in it! (link via santosh on the advaitin mailing list)

Amitav Ghosh write a very powerful and moving essay about the 1984 riots (link via Amit Verma).

Incidentally, Amitav Ghosh seems to be quite an interesting author. He is a recipient of the annual award by the Gyanpeeth (Is it the same as The Gyanpeeth award?).
updated (11/22)
Some very good suggestions on teaching about Hinduism by Rosser. Link by Shadow Warrior. Read the rest of this entry >>

Translations by Swami Krishnanada

The Divine Life Society has lots of ebooks of Vedantic texts. The translations are done by Swami Krishnananda. The translation of BrahmaSutras (PDF link) has a very informative introduction of the schools of Indian philosophy (darsana) and also of the view points of the Acharyas who wrote commentaries of the BrahmaSutras.

The BrahmaSutras are part of the prasthatraya, the three sacred texts. It is said that a person wishing to start a new school of thought must write commentaries on the prasthanatraya as every Vedantic school builds from these. The prasthanatraya consist of the Upanishads (srutis, or revelation), the Bhagavad Gita (being the most important text of the smriti, recollection) and the BrahmaSutras (being of the category sutra, system).

The word sutra itself is etymologically related to sew and thread and hence means some kind of memory aid between different texts or thoughts. The sutra from Vedantic schools does not mean sutra the way Buddhist schools mean it. The BrahmaSutras are said to be terse and initially seem to contain contradictory thoughts. Swami Krishnananda says the following about them:

Sutras are concise aphorisms. They give the essence of the arguments on a topic. Maximum of thought is compressed or condensed into these Sutras in as few words as possible. It is easy to remember them. Great intellectual people only, with realisation, can compose Sutras. They are clues or aids to memory. They cannot be understood without a lucid commentary (Bhashya). The commentary also is in need of further elaborate explanation. Thus the interpretations of the Sutras gave rise to various kinds of literary writings such as Vrittis (gloss) and Karikas. The different Acharyas (founders of different schools of thought) have given their own interpretations of the Sutras to establish their own doctrines. The Bhashya of Sri Sankara on Brahma Sutras is known as Sariraka Bhashya. His school of thought is Kevala Advaita. The Bhashya of Sri Ramanuja who founded the Visishtadvaita School is called Sri Bhashya. The commentary of Sri Nimbarkacharya is known as Vedanta- parijata-saurabha. Sri Vallabhacharya expounded his system of philosophy of Suddhadvaita (pure monism) and his commentary on the Brahma Sutras is known as Anu Bhashya.

Also the following about the need to write commentaries on the classical texts:

Those who wish to study the philosophy of Vedanta should study the Ten Classical Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras. All Acharyas have commented on Brahma Sutras. This is a great authority for every philosophical school in India. If any Acharya wishes to establish his own cult or sect or school of thought he will have to write a commentary of his own on Brahma Sutras. Then only it will be recognised.

Writing the commentaries on the PrasthanaTraya started from Sri Adi Sankara, who started the Kevala Advaitic school. Sri Swami Krishnananda uses the term uncompromising monism, though I think Advaita or non-dualism is possibly a better word. The following is also from the introduction.

According to Sri Sankara, there is one Absolute Brahman who is Sat-chit-ananda, who is of an absolutely homogeneous nature. The appearance of this world is due to Maya - the illusory power of Brahman which is neither Sat nor Asat. This world is unreal. This world is a Vivarta or apparent modification through Maya. Brahman appears as this universe through Maya. Brahman is the only reality. The individual soul has limited himself through Avidya and identification with the body and other vehicles. Through his selfish actions he enjoys the fruits of his actions. He becomes the actor and enjoyer. He regards himself as atomic and as an agent on account of Avidya or the limiting Antahkarana. The individual soul becomes identical with Brahman when his Avidya is destroyed. In reality Jiva is all-pervading and identical with Brahman. Isvara or Saguna Brahman is a product of Maya. Worship of Isvara leads to Krama Mukti. The pious devotees (the knowers of Saguna Brahman) go to Brahmaloka and attain final release through highest knowledge. They do not return to this world. They attain the Nirguna Brahman at the end of the cycle. Knowledge of Nirguna Brahman is the only means of liberation. The knowers of Nirguna Brahman attain immediate final release or Sadyomukti. They need not go by the path of gods or the path of Devayana. They merge themselves in Para Brahman. They do not go to any Loka or world. Sri Sankara’s Brahman is Nirvisesha Brahman (Impersonal Absolute) without attributes.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Who can show the right way?

Al (of was intent on proving to a certain community that their thinking of "their way to God is the only way" may not be right. I asked him to stop doing so, as no ordinary person can tell another what the right way is. Also, there is a futility in trying to convince a person who is unwilling to listen.

Initially it seems that, no ordinary man can show us the right way. We feel that we are atleast better that the multitudes who did not even begin their search for realization. So we feel that, only a realized soul, one who is somehow special, can lead us. So most of the quests for realization begin with a search for the Guru. The goal is clear: the Guru, or the Prophet, can lead us by some kind of magic. (This thought is also echoed in the last pages of the The Serpent and the Rope by Raja Rao.)

After some time, it also becomes apparent that, a realized soul cannot show a man the right way, if the man is unwilling to listen, or see things with an open mind. If one realized soul cannot show a man the right way, another realized soul cannot. This is because, no realized soul is greater than another.

It also become apparent that, when a man is willing to see the point and is doing effort to search for the truth, he does not need a realized soul to show him the right way. The right way manifests itself, as it was before him all the time. The moment a man is willing to search for the truth, there comes a time when his veil of ignorance automatically falls off. A realization dawns that a Guru is not doing some magic, but helping to remove the veil.

The where the purpose of a Guru is to just quicken the process. A Guru can reduce the amount of time a yearning soul has to spend in the searching. The purpose of Ishwara is also similar. As Ishwara has control on Maya, He too quicken the process. When I say an Ishwara, I mean the different manifestations of higher powers. They could be from the six Indian theistic schools. Or, they could be the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God.

Hence the sayings of Vivekananda: God is very merciful to those whom He sees struggling heart and soul for spiritual realization. But remain idle, without any struggle, and you will see that His grace will never come.

So, once we understand all this, we have a couple of questions:

What is the right thing for an ordinary man to do with respect to his realization: Should he search for a Guru or not? Should he pray to Ishwara or not?

What is the right thing for an ordinary man to do for the realization of his peers? Should he give them the insights he got? If so, how is he to know whether they are right or wrong? Should he correct them when he feels they are wrong? How does he know for sure whether he is right or wrong? from Plato: What is Good and What is bad, do we need someone to tell us Phaedrus?

What is the right thing for a realized man to do? Is this a trick question? A realized man is beyond right and wrong. What can a realized man do for others' realization? Just guide them, if he wants to.

The Maya of a person can be removed only by Ishwara. Can the Avidya of a person can be removed by a Guru? Possibly. The distinction between Maya and Avidya is possibly quite subtle, as it has caused considerable discussion among the disciples of Sri Adi Sankara. So I will not confuse the picture by posting on them now. Read the rest of this entry >>

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Dalai Lama on Science vs. Religion

As a Op-Ed Contributor on the NYTimes, in an article titled Our Faith in Science, His Holiness Dalai Lama (who signs the article as Tenzin Gyatso) has the following to say about religion and science:

If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.

Later update (11/14): Also see the letters to the editor in which a writer points out the following:

Instead of focusing on whom to hate and what to fear, these leaders would do well to turn their attention to those "principles we share as human beings" about which the Dalai Lama writes so eloquently.

I am not a Buddhist, but I cannot help noticing how often it is the Buddhists who remind us that we do not have to demonize others in our own search for what is good.
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Thoughts about the AUEE deparment

In an excellent post, SJ recounts some of the experiences he had in the EE department of AU. That is, when the department was in its heydays. I cannot agree with the post more. Read the rest of this entry >>

Thursday, November 10, 2005

On Having No Head: Douglas Harding

I have read the book On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious by Douglas Harding, sometime back. Like many Zen concepts, the title is both mysterious and informative at the same time.

This very short book (120 pages: with 12pt font and 1.5 spacing) talks about the experience of realization by Douglas Harding. It (the concept of realization) is explained to a modern day human being with western background using the simplest of Buddhist -- mainly from Zen -- concepts. As the title implies, the essence is in "experiencing" headlessness, with the emphasis on experience. Just like many Zen koans, the book carries the essence in the first few pages. All these reasons make the descriptions in the book simple and striking.

Though I am yet to read the book completely, I felt I need not push myself to do so. I found that couple of first chapters contain the crux of the experience of the author. (This is probably why I could not push myself to complete the book.) I also feel that the two ways of experiencing realization are when you experience zero (shunyata) or you experience infinity (purnata).

The following is the first chapter. I found that there is no point highlighting some part of the text. The text is very short, cohesive and all the text is equally important.

The best day of my life -- my rebirthday, so to speak -- was when I found I had no head. This is not a literary gambit, a witticism designed to arouse interest at any cost. I mean in in all seriousness: I have no head.

It was when I was was thirty-three that I made the discovery. Though it certainly came out of the blue, it did so in response to an urgent inquiry; I had for several months had been absorbed in the question: what am I? The fact that I happened to be walking in the Himalayas at the time probably had little to do with it; though in that country unusual states of mind are said to come more easily. However that may be, a very still, clear day, and a view from the ridge where I stood over misty blue valleys to the highest mountain range in the world, made a setting worthy of the grandest vision.

What actually happened was something absurdly simple and unspectacular: just for the moment I stopped thinking. Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down. For once, words really failed me. I forgot my name, my humaneness, my thingness, all that could be called me or mine. Past and future dropped away. It was as if I had been born at that instant, brand new, mindless, innocent of all memories. There existed only the Now, that present moment and what was clearly given in it. To look was enough. And what I found was khakhi sleeves, terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirtfront terminating upwards in -- absolutely nothing whatever! Certainly not a head.

It took me no time at all to notice that this nothing, this hole, where a head should have been, was no ordinary vacancy, no mere nothing. On the contrary, it was very much occupied. It was a vast emptiness vastly filled, a nothing that found room for everthing -- room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills, and far above them snow-peaks like a row of angular clouds riding the blue sky. I had lost a head and gained a world.

It was all, quite literally, breathtaking. I seemed to stop breathing altogether, absorbed in the Given. Here it was; this superb scene, brightly shining in the clear air, alone and unsupported, mysteriously suspended in the void, and (and this was the real miracle, the wonder and delight) utterly free of "me", unstained by any observer. Its total presence was my total absence, body and soul. Lighter that air, clearer that glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around.

Yet in spite of the magical and uncanny quality of this vision, it was no dream, no esoteric revelation. Quite the reverse: it felt like a sudden waking from the sleep of ordinary life, an end to dreaming. It was self-luminous reality for once swept clean of all obscuring mind. It was the revelation, at long last, of the perfectly obvious. It was a lucid moment in a confused life-history. It was a ceasing to ignore something which (since early childhood at any rate) I had always been busy or clever or too sacred to see. It was naked, uncritical attention to what had all along been staring at my face -- my utter facelessness. In short, it was all perfectly simple and plain and straightforward, beyond argument, thought, and words. There arose no questions, no reference beyond the experience itself, but only peace and quiet joy, and the sensation of having dropped an intolerable burden.

In the next chapters, Harding takes the concept further and gives vivid details of what happened to him after experiencing headlessness. Also he explains various levels of headless ways. The website The Headless way also has nice information about the experience. The videos are also good.

The following are a set of good "koanistic" quotations from the book:

  • Suppose a man were all of a sudden to make his appearance here and cut your head off with a sword! -- HUI-CHUNG
  • Behead yourself! ... Dissolve your whole body into Vision: become seeing, seeing, seeing! -- RUMI
  • My Soul has been carried away, and usually my head as well, without my being able to prevent it. --ST.TERESA
  • Cover your breast with nothingness, and draw over your head the robe of non-existence. --ATTAR
  • Give yourself utterly ... Even though the head itself must be given, why should you weep over it? --KABIR
  • Seeing into Nothingness - this is the true seeing, the eternal seeing. -- SHEN-HUI
  • "I think I'll go and meet her," said Alice ... "You can't possibly do that," said the Rose. "I should advise you to walk the other way." This sounded nonsense to Alice, so she said nothing but set off at once towards the Red Queen. To her surprise, she lost sight of her in a moment. -- Through the Looking Glass.
  • The soul has now no awareness of the body and will give herself no foreign name, not man, not living being, nor anything at all. -- Plotinus
  • After the body has been cast off to a distance like a corpse, the Sage never attaches himself to it. -- Sankara
  • If one opens one's eyes and seeks the body, it is not to be found anymore. This is called: In the empry chamber it grows light. Inside and outside, everything is equally light. That is a very favorable sign. -- The secret of the Golden flower.
  • Vow to acheive the perfect understanding that the illusory body is like dew and lightning. Zen Master Hsu Yun (on his death-bed, in 1959)
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Happy Birthday, Raja Rao!

Raja Rao (08-November-1908 to ?) would be 98 years today. Arguably, he is one of the greatest Indian English authors. He ranks along with Mulk Raj Anand and R.K.Narayan and the three are aptly called the original trinity. The next generation of Indian English writing had to wait for around 20-30 years till Salman Rushdie appeared. The comparision between Raja Rao with Salman Rushdie is reasonable. A better comparision of Raja Rao could be with James Joyce, as both of them created a new way of writing and then expressed themselves excellently in the new way.

His way of writing is unique. The punctuation itself is so close to the the way Indians talk and think. The following, from the preface of his first novel Kanthapura, explains about his way of writing.

The telling has not been easy. One has to convey in a language that is not one's own the spirit that is one's own.
After the language the next problem is that of style. The tempo of Indian life must be infused into our English expression, even as the tempo of American or Irish life has gone into the making of theirs. We, in India, think quickly, we talk quickly, and when we move, we move quickly. There must be something in the sun of India that makes us rush and tumble and run on. And our paths are interminable. The Mahabharatha has 214,778 verses and the Ramayana 48,000. The Puranas are endless and innumerable. We have neither punctutation nor the treacherous "ats" and "ons" to bother us -- we tell one interminable tale. Episode follows episode, and when our thoughts stop our breath stops, and we move on to another thought. This was and still is the ordinary style of our storytelling....

Beyond the use of language in style and punctuation, his scholarly way of writing can put people in his awe. I would like to think that if Sri. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan would be a novelist, he would write the way Raja Rao. Raja Rao's careful use of Advaitic concepts in The Serpent and the Rope makes it, what Arvind Sharma calls, India's most famous Advaitic novel.

Some biography snippets from the preface of Makarand Paranjape's book.

Raja Rao was born in an ancient and respected Brahmin family in Hassan, Karnataka, on 8th November, 1908. The eldest son in a family of two brothers and seven sisters, he was the centre of the family.

The Introduction chapter in the book by Shyamala Narayan gives another date of birth (the text also implies that there has been a confusion regarding the year of birth too). The following is the relevant excerpt from the book.

Raja Rao was born in Hassan, a small town in the state of Mysore (now called Karnataka). There is some confusion about Raja Rao's date of birth: his books mention it as 1909, but he was actually born on November 5, 1908, as M.K.Naik clarifies. There is an interesting story about his birth. He was born at the precise moment when his father was receiving the Maharaja, Krishna Raja Wodeyar of Mysore, at their house, So the child was called Raja and not Ramakrishna, after his grandfather. Raja Rao comes from a family of Brahmins who had been Vedantins and advisors to kings for generations. He was greatly influenced by his grandfather at Hassan, who taught him to love Sanskrit and kindled his interest in Indian Philosophy.

The date of birth given in the following link link also agrees with the one given by Makarand Paranjape.

Raja Rao was born on November 8, 1908 in Hassan, in the state of Mysore in south India, into a well-known Brahman family. ...

Autobiographical rant:

He has been of huge influence on me. My first memories of any of his works was looking at his classic book The Serpent and the Rope in my home. The cover had a picture of a beautiful European lady. Behind her was a dark man from India with a cigaratte in his hand. The background to this picture was the waters of Benares. It was one of the books that my mother used in her M.A (literature) and had since become part of the family library.

In one of the first classes of first year of engineering, one of our professors, Prof. P.V.Ratnam, who I admire a lot, had suggested us to read this book. I came home and started it right away "I was born a Brahmin. Brahmin is one who knows Brahman and all that..." The magic in the words, however, could not force me to read beyond a couple of pages and so I kept it aside. However, the book was never far away from me or my personal cupboard. I did not keep the the book away probably because I thought this was just a book like M.G.Say or Clayton-Hancock or Van Valkenburg (the classic books of EE) which needed a couple of careful readings to understand it. Alas, it did not occur to me that to understand the book, all that was needed was a mature reader. Also, that the book was recommended by Ratnam-garu made it a top of the list book.

I intuitively understood that, being unable to understand beyond a couple of pages of a novel which presupposes a good understanding of my beliefs is a serious deficiency on my part.

In the summer vacation between first and second years, I had read a couple of novels mostly R.K.Narayan (quite a few of them) and Serpent and the Rope.

When I went for higher studies to Bangalore, this was one of the books that I took with me -- inspite of the fact that I knew I may not have much time for novels -- mainly because I felt that this book had some magic in it. I was enchanted by the first lines.

Later in Bangalore, when I was in a book reading spree, I began Raja Rao with earnst. This time, I did some research and began with Kanthapura. Next I read The Serpent and the Rope. This time, the words in the book started to make sense. I continued and completed the novel. I also read another novel, The Cat and the Shakespeare. When I left to US, I still had my mother's copy with me. I read the book in the summer of 2003. I donot think I read it again in the next two years.

I began with a earnst study of Advaita as such and had read Deutsch, Arvind Sharma and some books on Ramana Maharishi.

In the Sep, OCT-2005, when I had a fracture of the hand and my movement was restricted, I read the book again, and the book made lot of sense and I could understand many of the quotations and monologues.
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Monday, November 07, 2005

How not to still the mind

Once King Janaka was sitting on the bank of a river, repeating 'SOHAM' mantra at the top of his voice.

Sage Astavakra was passing by. The sage was a knower of truth and an enlightened being. He was surprised why king Janaka was chanting the mantra in this loud fashion.

Astavakra wanted to instruct King Janaka the proper way of chanting a mantra. So, he sat down near King Janaka and chanting loudly, :' "This is my Alms Bowl and this is my Yoga Stick " so much so that Astavakra's chanting drowned the chanting of Janaka's chanting!

Now, King Janaka , not to be left behind starting chanting his 'SOHAM' mantra even louder --- this went on for some time -both vyeing with each other in this 'mantra recitation'. ...

Now, King Janaka got really annoyed and asked Asthavakra what the sage was doing. The sage replied "I am repeating - this is my Alms bowl, this is my yoga stick".

King Janaka replied, " Have you lost your mind? Who told you that the Alms bowl and the stick do not belong to you ? Why do you have to keep shouting about it.?"

Sage Astavakra replied , " O Mighty King ! It seems to me you are the one who lacks understanding. who told you that you are not 'THAT '? Why do you to go on shouting that 'I AM THAT' ? 'SOHAM' ?

When king Janaka heard this, he suddenly realized the trut. He understood that he need not go on repeating 'SoHam' mantra , he only needed to understand it and practice 'living' it!

'You are really unbound and actionless, self-illuminating and spotless already. The cause of your bondage is that you are still resorting to stilling the mind.' -- Ashtavakra Gita 1.15 Read the rest of this entry >>

Friday, November 04, 2005

Story of Sudhama as narrated by Raja Rao

The princes of Kathiawar, like the Rajputs everywhere, claimed their descent from the sun and the moon, and belonged to the clan of Sri Rama (the Ikshavakus) or of Sri Krishna (the Yadavs). For, after all, Dwaraka was just around the corner of the peninsula, and that was where Sri Krishna ruled, so that most of the princes of course belonged to the Yadavas, or so they believed. Remember, Sri Krishna married his wife Rukmini at Madhavpur, and that is just down the curve of the bay, and the Yadavs once (and remember too) on that fateful day when they went gambolling to the sacred city of Prabhas Patan and got into a fist-fight, and then to a brawl and then to a real battle, they sent for Sri Krishna.

But he was not to be found -- he'd so planned as to go and lie under a tree (and had not Gandhari cursed that the race of Sri Krishna come to an end) -- and a hunter took Sri Krishna's heel for the head of a deer, and the greatest of Indians thus played the game of even death. He had planned it all, so everything happened according to his intent -- for, for him intent and action were just experience, there was none to act, as it were for he was in action as inaction and in inaction as action.

And so too was that other game of Sri Krishna. He had, while at school, a poor Brahmin companion, Sudhama was his name and he was raggedly miserable. Life had been most ungenerous to him (again it was Sri Krishna's game) -- Sudhama had a wife with a tongue of charcoal cinders and hair made as of rough hemp. When she called, even the street dogs would thgink it was one if their kind talking, and they started answering back. But Sudhama was so patient; he would always speak, when humiliated by his wife, of his friend Sri Krishna who ruled in Dwaraka. "Fine thing to have such a friend. But what does he do for you, you son of tamarind tree hag."

Hearing this morning after morning, Sudhama said one day to his wife: "I go and see Sri Krishna today, this very day."

"Oh yes you will go, you and your cononut-head and bursted-bleak belly, and seeing your tousled hair and bent back and bamboo limbs, even the guards will laugh at you."

"Perhaps you're right," said Sudhama, "but give me please a handful of puffed rice and a piece of molass."

"What for?" She asked.

"Well, when ones goes to see someone, you don't ever go empty handed, do you?"

"A beggar," declared Sudhama's wife, "has no manners," as the buffalo have no courtesies."

"Well, so be it. Give what puffed rice and molass you have to me."

Cursing her stars for such a rice miserable destiny -- that even the little puffed rice she had, she had perforce to give part of it away -- she threw a handful of it to Sudhama's dhoti-edge, broke a piece of molass from the pot, and said with wide-fingered threatening hands: "And don't you come back plain-handed, you cononut-head, after all this. I'll howl till the very spirits in the crematoriums will be frightened. Let's see what your great friend Sri Krishna is going to proclaim and perform for you. I take the name of God and tell you he will have chased out of city."

Sudhama was so accustomed to his wife's tongue and breath, it was as if he heard sound but not meaningful speech. He picked his stick from the corner, and taking the thought of Sri Krishna, he started towards holy Dwaraka. Long was the road to Dwaraka, but such sweetness of love, the trees seemed to open up and spread wide-limbed shade, and cool breezes blew from the northern mountains, and the sea seemed to churn in fervered joy. For when you take the thought of Lord true, all things that seek him rejoice in your rejoicement -- they also wave up and swell with your joy. Sudhama arrived at the city gates and these opened themeselves as if by vestal deities, and even the palace guards did not seem to mind his looks.

"Could you tell His Highness," he begged, "the Lord of Lords, his poor school fellow, the Brahmin Sudhama is at the door?"

"Be so kind as to wait here, Pundit Sir," said the guard politely, and "I'll go tell the Chamberlain."

It was all as if the gods were playing a trick, the Chamberlain seemed just waiting for this event at the door, and Sri Krishna himself, when he heard the news, he had such joy, people could see tears run down his lotus eyes. "Prepare," he commanded, "water to wash my guest's feet." And as Sri Krishna clad in silken blue, his eyes clear as sleep, his gait as if made by the curvature of form when he stood, the washing-stool before him, there he appeared across the courtyard, Sudhama, his boyhood friend. In their high niches the pigeons and parrots began to coo, and the ladies peered from the top apartments at this wondrous happening [You can see this in many a Rajput miniature today.]. Krishna bade Sudhama stand on the ivory stool, and rich with jugs of silver swan-shapen and filled with water, first warm and then cold, and when these were thrown on the Brahmin's withered and dusty feet -- then did Krishna taking the silken hand-cloth from Chamberlain's arm, wipe the friends feet himself. Now Sri Krishna took his friend to the marbled court and before all his noblemen, he said, "Friend, be seated," and showed Sudhama the throne. Could a poor Brahmin occupy such an august seat? No. He would not. Krishna himself sat on a couch beside his friend. They now spoke to each other of all that happened and passed by since their boyhood. They wept and laughed but all around there was as if a wall of luminescent silence. Everything moved in the palace as usual, the noblemen retired to their afternoon siesta, the servants moved with agility and calm, from corner to corner of the palace, the nine diurnal musics sounded, the elephants trumpeted after a good feed, the cows lowed for their returning calves, and when the evening fell a great banquet was laid for the poor Brahmin, Sudhama and he ate as if he was eating his own food, at his home. For, for the first time he was at home himself. Krishna enjoyed munching the puffed rice his friend had brought, and some of it was sent upstairs to Rukmini, and all the palace was given bits of it. It tasted, did this puffed rice, as nothing one has tasted before. It had the delicate saffron smell of Sri Krishna himself. And when the night drums sounded and the meal was over, the hands were washed, the betel leaves served, a carriage was made ready, and beneath the high chandeliers, flower and fruit hangings, as Sri Krishna said farewell to his friend, he embraced him again and again, and they wept. Yes, Sudhama had to go. He had now to go back home. But he'd forgot his promise to his wife. He had asked nothing of Sri Krishna., Pray what can you ask of a friend who is King?

Yet Sudhama was so happy the very mind-picture of Sri Krishna brought him to tears. And when he came nearer and nearer his home, he began however to have fits of fearfulness. What would it be like coming back plain handed? But when the town came it was all a different -- the very walls were shining as if white-washed and much repaired, and when his carriage stopped, his wife stood, a gold plate in her hands, flowers and Kumkum water floating in it, and lighting the lamp of auspiciousness, she welcomed her lord befittingly, and fell at his withered feet. And from that day onwards the city came to be called Sudhamaputi, or the city of Sudhama, but due to the crookedness of people's speech, it became Puri, and later someone added bunder[Bunder means harbour, haven] to it so that today it's called Porbandar, Haven-city.
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Mahavakyas of Advaita or Vedanta

The Mahavakyas -- or great sayings or principal statements -- from Upanishads are said to contain the essence of the teachings of Upanishads. It is said that meditating on the Mahavakyas would lead someone towards realization.

Pranava (Aum): Pranava is said to be the fundamental (true) Mahavakya of the Vedas as established in Chapter Twelve. (details?)

For a particular Vedantic system, some of the Mahavakyas are considered more important than the others. This is inspite of the fact that all schools in Vedanta accept Upanishads and all the Mahavakyas are from the Upanishads.

According to Arvind Sharma, Sri Adi Sankara stated that four Mahavakyas are fundamental for Advaitic learning. A web search also shows that Sri Adi Sankara set up the four schools, one for each Mahavakya. (Yet to find out which school stands for which Mahavakya.) They are the following:

  1. Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma: meaning All this verily Brahman. This is from Chandogya Upanisad, 3.14.1.

  2. Aham Brahmasmi: I am Brahman. This is from Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, 1.4.10.

  3. Ayam Atma Brahma The Self is Brahman or This Atman is Brahman. This is from ?

  4. Tat tvam asi: That thou art. This Mahavakya is from Chandogya Upanisad, 6.8.7 (Tat tvam asi svetaketo, "O Svetaketo, you are that")

Additional Mahavakas from Vedanta. Some of them are:

Prajnanam Brahma: Brahman is Supreme Knowledge prajnanam brahma, This is from Aitareya Upanisad, 1.5.3.

So'ham: He am I. This is from ?? Read the rest of this entry >>

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Story of Radha, Brahmachari-Krishna and Upavasi-Durvasa: Raja Rao

One day Radha had a very possessive thought of Krishna. "My Krishna", she said to herself, as though one could possess Krishna as one could possess a calf, a jewel. Krishna, the Absolute Itself, immediately knew her thought. And when the absolute knows, the knowing itself, as it were, is the action of the act; things do not happen according to his wish, but his wish itself is his own creation of his wish, as the action is the creation of his own action.

So, Durvasa the great Sage was announced.

"He is on the other side of the river, Lord", spake the messengers, and "and he sends his deep respects".

Then Krishna went into the deep chambers and said to Radha, "Radha, Durvasa the great Sage is come, my dear. We must feed him".

"Oh, then I will cook the food myself" said Radha, and Krishna was very happy at this thought. So he went back to the Hall of Audience, and not long after, Radha came in with all the cooked food. "Yes, the meal is ready my Lord. And I will take it myself to Sage Durvasa".

"Wonderful, wonderful!" exclaimed Sri Krishna, pleased with the devotion of his wife to the Sages.

"I'll go and come," said Radha, and hardly had she gone to the palace door when she remembered the Jumna was in flood. No ferryman would go across. She came back to Krishna and begged, "My Lord, how can I take the food? the river is in flood".

"Tell the river," answered Krishna, "Krishna the brahmachari [The celibate, or who has taken the vow of celibacy] wishes that the way be made for you to pass through."

And Radha went light of heart, but suddenly bethought herself it was a lie. Who better than she to know whether Krishna be brahmachari or not? "Ah the noble lie, the noble lie," she said to herself, and when she came to the river, she said, "Krishna, the Lord, the brahmachari, wishes that way be made for me to pass through".

And of course the river rose high and stood still, but suddenly opened out a blue lane, small as a village footpath, through which Radha walked to the other side. And coming to the opposite shore, she thanked the river, and saluting the great Sage Durvasa, in many a manner of courtesies and words of welcome, spread the leaf and laid him the food.

Durvasa was mighty hungry and he ate the food as though the palm of his hand went down his gullet. "Ah, ah," he said and belched and made himself happy, with curds and rice and many meats, perfumed and spiced with saffron, and when there was nothing left in leaf or vessel, he rose, went to the river and washed his hands. Radha took the vessels to the waters, too to wash, threw the leaf into the Jumna and stood there to leave. Then it was she who remembered, the river was in flood. Sri Krishna had told her what to say while going and not what to utter while coming back.

Durvasa understood her question before she asked - for the sages have this power too -- and he said, "Tell the river, Durvasa the eternal upavasi [He who fasts] says to the river, 'Open and let Radha pass through to the other shore.'"

Radha obeyed but she was more sorrowful. "I have seen him eat till his palm enter his gullet, and he has belched and passed his hand over his belly with satisfaction. It is a lie, a big lie," she said, but she went to the river thoughtful, very thoughtful. "River," she said, "Durvasa who is ever in upavasa says open and let me pass."

And the river opened a lane just as wide as a village pathway, and the waves held themselves over the head, and would not move. She came to the other shore and returned to the palace in heavy distress. "Yes, nature is a lie, nature believes and obeys lies. Lord, what a world," She said to herself and going into the Hall of Sorrowing, shut herself and began to sob. "Lord, what a lie the world is, what a lie."

Sri Krishna knew the cause and cadence of this all, and gently entered the Hall of Sorrowing. "Beloved, why might you be in sorrow?" he said.

"My Lord," she answered, "the river believes you are a brahmachari, and after all who should deny it better than me, your wife? and then I go to Durvasa and he eats with his palm going down his gullet, and he says, "Tell the river, Durvasa who is ever in upavasa asks you to open and let Radha pass." And the river opens herself, makes a way large as a village pathway, and I pass over to this side. The world is a fib, a misnomer, a lie."

"The world, my dear, is not a lie, it is an illusion. Besides, tell me, is my body your husband, Radha?"

"No, my Lord."

"Is my mind your husband, Radha?"

"No, my Lord."

"Then what is it when you say to yourself, 'Krishna, my husband?'"

"Assuredly something beyond the body and beyond the mind -- the Principle."

"And tell me, my love, can you possess that, can you possess it?"

"No, my lord, how can I possess the Absolute? The I is the Absolute." And she fell at the feet and understood, and lived ever after in the light of the Truth.
Read the rest of this entry >>


Via Atanu, A very very cool illusion!! It is difficult to believe what is it that we see. Read the rest of this entry >>