Posted by: adbhutam | August 11, 2009

GREATNESS OF SHANKARA’S LIFE AND TEACHINGS (PART II )

GREATNESS OF SHANKARA’S LIFE AND TEACHINGS (PART II )

The Mantra Shastra speaks of several Siddhis, or supernatural
powers. One such is the ‘Paadukaa siddhi’ by which a person can
reach the place of his choice in an extremely short time by his mere
wish. Bhagavatpada reached Kalady from Sringeri, by the use of
Paadukaa Siddhi. Is this possible? Yes, we should accept the words
of those who have experienced it. My Guru has confirmed the
existence of Paadukaa Siddhi. An instance of the use of Paadukaa
Siddhi comes to my mind. There was a person who lived in Sringeri.
My Shastra teacher and that person started out together from
Sringeri by walk to go to Kigga for offering[prayers at the temple
(Rishyashringa) there. The concerned person was old and my Shastra
teacher moved a little ahead of him. There was only one road to
Kigga and so, if at any point of time that person had overtaken my
Shastra teacher, the latter would have certainly known. However,
when my teacher reached Kigga, he found that the elder person was
already there.

Bhagavatpada had Yoga Siddhi and Mantra Siddhi. However,
supernatural powers should not be used. Yet, if one abstains from
invoking them even in the exceptional circumstances in which they
should be, one would be behaving foolishly. Bhagavatpada used the
Paadukaa Siddhi rightly for the sake of his mother. Reaching Kalady
in this manner, he performed her last rites. Today, all of us
recognise the greatness of Bhagavatpada, but not many of the people
in his time did. Even those close to him had not known him properly
and as the adage goes, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. Hence, his
action was objected to by his former relatives in Kalady. They
contended that as he was a Sannyasi, he was not eligible to perform
the rites.

Bhagavatpada’s action was guided solely by the consideration that
the assurance given by him to his mother prior to his departure had
to be carried out at any cost. Aryamba attained the exalted status
that she rightly deserved. Bhagavatpada did not act out of
attachment; nor was he motivated by the desire to fulfil some
personal ends. It is true that Sannyasis are prohibited from
performing funeral rites, but Bhagavatpada was a Brahmavit, a knower
of the Truth and such knowers are beyond restrictions.

NistraiguNye pathi vicharatAm ko vidhiH ko nishedhaH

No injunction or prohibition is there for the one who treads the
path beyond Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.

A knower of Truth can accept food from a lowly one who eats dog’s
meat as well as from a Somayaji, an orthodox person engaged in
conducting the Soma sacrifice, with equal poise and without being
affected in any way. On the other hand, an ignorant man who is
supposed to observe the prescribed rules will be defiled if he
breaks the scriptural injunctions, motivated by attachment and lack
of self-control. However, in the case of the knower, no defilement
accrues. All the actions of such an exalted one take place as a
result of the Punyam (merit) earned by those around him who would
benefit from his actions. When he feels hungry, without any
attachment, merely by habit, he stretches out his hand and accepts
what is put therein, only to overcome the pangs of hunger. Thus, if
it so happens that he gets something from a lowly eater of dog’s
flesh and he consumes it, there is nothing wrong in his act. He is
beyond all distinctions and does not cognise differences between
holy and lowly ones.

[Watch here a video clipping from G.V.Iyer’s  sanskrit movie ‘Shankaracharya’ where Shankara encounters a chandala in Varanasi.  A verse from the ‘Maneeshaa panchakam’ and the ‘Kashee panchakam’ are featured here.]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewta7YJCmyw&feature=related

If some worldly restrictions were brought to his attention, he might
merely say, ‘Oh, is it so?’ The situation is entirely different
when one does something with deliberation and doership, both of
which do not apply in the case of the knower. Infants do not care
to distinguish urinating in a standing posture and in a sitting
posture. They are solely guided by their urge to urinate and they
fulfil it; none would object to the child’s conduct. The case of
the knower who ever revels in the Atma is on a similar footing.
Normal restrictions do not apply to him. Such a person does not
incur sin due to his actions. His earlier sins do not yield fruit
as they have been burnt by the fire of his knowledge of the Truth.
His subsequent actions do not touch him as he is free from the sense
of doership.

Bhagavatpada’s concern was only with regard to the fulfilment of the
promise that he had made earlier. What was the fruit of such
performance of funeral rites? There was no fruit for him as he
remained established in the Atma. It may be objected that there was
a transgression of the scriptural prohibition but this is
insignificant in his case. Indeed, it is wrong to transgress the
Shastra but in the case of a knower of the Truth, this would not be
objectionable.

Bhagavatpada, like Rama, showed by his life, what an ideal son is
like. He fully carried out the Vedic teaching: Maatrudevo bhava
(Venerate your mother as a god.)

Bhagavatpada mentally renounced the world at Kalady, even while he
was gripped by a crocodile. After making his promise to his mother,
he went in search of a Guru to get himself formally initiated into
Sannyasa. Now-a-days, several people take to Sannyasa but do so by
resorting not to a Guru but to a cloth shop. There, they purchase
an ochre dress. They are particular that their apparel, which
includes a shirt, be glossy and well-ironed. Tonsuring is a mere
formality to them. After donning the ochre robes, they give
themselves some new names and thereafter deem themselves to be
Sannyasis. Subsequently, such people can be seen in places like
hotels and cinema theatres. There is a prescribed way of doing
things. The Veda says:

TadvijnAnArtham sa gurumevAbhigacchet, samitpANiH shrotriyam
BrahmanishTham.
(Mundakopanishat)
A seeker of the knowledge of the Truth has necessarily to approach,
with reverence, a Guru who is a knower of the scriptures and is
established in Brahman.

If a man tries to know the Truth on his own by simply reading books,
he will not be successful. Consider the case of a person who has
approached a Guru and carried out intense spiritual discipline in an
earlier birth but failed to get the realization of the Truth before
passing away. Such a person would easily get knowledge in his next
birth. In exceptional cases, he may not even require a Guru. In
the Upashanti prakarana of the Yoga Vasishtha, there is a story
relating to how king Janaka of Videha obtained knowledge without
formal instruction from a Guru. Janaka was walking alone in a grove
near his palace, when he heard a song sung by several Siddhas. The
song propounded the Truth. For instance, one of the verses that he
heard was:

DrashtRidarshanadRishyAni tyaktvA vAsanayA saha |
DarshanaprathamAbhAsamAtmAnam samupAsmahe ||

(Renouncing the seer, the seeing and all the seen, together with all
mental tendencies, we resort to the Self which is the root
consciousness beyond objectification.)

On hearing the song, he automatically and straightaway became
enlightened. In the Veda, we hear of Vamadeva who obtained the
realization of the Truth even when he was lying in his mother’s
womb. On the other hand, we daily read the Gita, which contains a
lucid exposition of the Truth, but our activity amounts to no more
than some mumbling of words; we continue to remain ignorant. The
remedy lies in approaching the right person who has direct knowledge
of the Truth. Learning from such a one would certainly yield the
desired result but not mere study of books or argumentation. The
ideal Guru knows how to instruct the disciple according to the
latter’s capacity. That is the reason why the Sruti teaches:

TadvijnAnArtham sa gurumevAbhigacchet , samitpANiH shrotriyam
BrahmanishTham.
(For knowing that Reality, he should go with sacrificial faggots in
hand to a teacher versed in the Veda and absorbed in Brahman.)

The disciple must serve his Guru sincerely, be eager to learn from
him and satisfy him. The Guru must be a knower of the Truth. With
reference to a Guru who is not and who goes astray, it is said:

Gurorapyavaliptasya kAryAkAryamajAnataH |
Utpatham pratipannasya parityAgo vidhIyate ||

(The Guru who is defiled, does not cognise what is proper and
improper and treads the wrong path must be discarded.)

The very scripture that says that the Guru must be served with great
sincerity also says that the Guru must be discarded. It seems that
there is a contradiction. Actually, there is none. Serving and
obeying a Guru is the rule while discarding him is the exception.
We can now consider an example of a scriptural rule and its
exception.

When a person is not in a position to take a regular bath, the
Shastra permits him to don Vibhuti and to treat this act as
equivalent to a bath; this is a concession. But taking advantage of
this concession, if one were to decide to bathe only during summer
and to totally give up bathing during winter, it would amount to
misapplication of this concession. During illness, if a doctor were
to instruct a patient not to bathe and, if the patient were to
insist that he must have a bath as it is a prerequisite for Sandhya
Vandanam, the patient would be behaving like a fool. Let him make
use of the Shastraic concession and go ahead with the application of
Vibhuti as the substitute for a bath.

Another extremne case is that of a lazy man not willing to leave his
bed in winter, saying that he would happily recite the Sandhya
Vandana mantras, sitting in bed, after taking advantage of the
concessional application of Vibhuti. Is this truly an emergency
situation? No. The Shastras have prescribed concessions only after
considering several aspects. One has to carefully analyse them and
then try to ascertain the purport of such injunctions. Otherwise,
what will result is a desire-prompted misinterpretation of the
Shastra.

Bhagavatpada wanted to set an example by adhering to the scriptural
norm by approaching a Guru, receiving Sannyasa and learning at the
Guru’s feet. So, he approached sage Govindapada.

(To be continued)


Responses

  1. Very informative.


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