Posted by: adbhutam | August 13, 2009


[For Parts I, II and III of this series pl. see on the right panel]

VaasudevaH sarvamiti sa mahaatmaa sudurlabhaH
(Rare is the great one, who knows, ‘Vaasudeva is all.’)

The one who realises this Truth is transformed into a totally different
person. His actions are no longer motivated by considerations of his earlier
ignorant state. Performing Sandhya Vandanam is an injunction. There is a
person who sits in Samadhi on one evening. Even after the lapse of three days,
he does not regain outward consciousness. Can he be said to incur sin for not
performing Sandhya Vandanam? No. Had he been conscious of the Sandhya period,
an objection might have been raised. But he is totally unaware of it and is
lost in bliss. Later on, if anyone were to tell him that he was in deep
meditation for three days, he would be surprised.

On the other hand, it is common knowledge that ordinary persons cannot sit
even for a minute in total concentration. For them, Sandhya Vandanam is
obligatory. The knower has transcended all such injunctions and prohibitions.
In his case, the unreality of the world is obvious. For him, the world does not
appear as apart from himself. Distinction asserts itself only when you and I
are regarded as different. It is only the One that appears as you and I. Where
then is diversity? This, in a nutshell, is the teaching of Bhagavatpada.

He did not propound any new theory. What had been existing down the ages in
the form of the Upanishadic teaching had been tainted by the ignorant.
Bhagavatpada cleansed this teaching of its impurities and restored it to its
pristine purity. He did not prescribe or impose any new deity for worship. He
only approved of the various deities being worshipped. There are sects which
don Vibhuti, sandal paste or the Namam on the forehead. Each practitioner
follows his prescribed mode of worship. One can find several such systems in
vogue in the North. There are devotees of Sri Rama as well as those of Sri
Krishna. Both adorn their foreheads with sandal paste, but differently. There
is, nevertheless, no second opinion about the need to adorn the forehead and to
not leave it blank.

Bhagavatpada solved the difficulty inherent in a variety of sects opposing
each other. If the Supreme Lord is denoted as Shiva, the adherents of the
Vaishnavite sect oppose this. Likewise, if the Supreme Lord is Vishnu,
Shaivaites are dissatisfied. Actually, Shiva and Vishnu are not different; they
are manifestations of the single Supreme Reality.

To illustrate, using pure water, one can prepare ‘Payasam’ ( a sweet drink),
‘Rasam’ (diluted soup) or a beverage of coffee. But these cannot be effectively
made with the saline water of the sea. If the Supreme actually had a name and
form intrinsic to it, such as that of Shiva or Vishnu, then it cannot be
everything. In other words, if it were Shiva, it cannot be Vishnu and if it
were Vishnu, it cannot be Shiva. Such a Brahman would be like the saline water
of the sea. On the other hand, the Brahman established by the Upanishads is
like pure water. It does not have any attributes of Its own. It is simply
Truth and consciousness, it is infinite.

It, however, appears, owing to Its power, as Shiva or Shakti or Vishnu. Which
of these manifestations can be said to be most real? Each group has it that its
own deity is the greatest. The Supreme appears differently to different
devotees, but in truth It is the Absolute. Bhagavatpada accomplished his task
of establishing the sameness by taking care to see that no devotee was displaced
and that no devotee was set up against another. The great master showed each
adherent the way to the Absolute by making him tread his chosen path without
conflict with the other paths. In effect, he did this by dotting the i’s and
dashing the t’s without radically upsetting the various systems.

He emphasised the need for worshipping the Supreme with form, for without such
a sincere worship,. the mind will continue to remain unsteady. An unsteady mind
cannot grasp the infinite attributeless Absolute. The need for meditation on
God with form was thus stressed. Madhusudana Saraswati, the famous all-knowing
author of Advaita Siddhi, has said:

DhyAnAbhyaasavashIkRRitena manasA tannirguNam niShkriyam
JyotiH kinchana yogino yadi param pashyanti pashyantu te |

‘By means of the mind brought under control by the practice of meditation,
Yogis behold the Supreme Light that is free from attributes and activity. Let
them do so.’

asmAkam tu tadeva lochanachamatkArAya bhUyAcchiram
kAlindIpulinodare kimapi yannIlam maho dhAvati ||

‘But I am quite contended with the vision of the luminous blue deity, Krisna,
who wanders about the banks of the river, Kaalindi.’

The purportoif the teaching is that one should steady the mind by resorting to
the practice of meditation on God with form. Sage Vidyaranya has mentioned in
the Panchadashi that there is a practice of worshipping the Lord as dwelling
even in the pipal and banyan trees. He cites several such cases and concludes
that even such a sincere worship is not unacceptable to those who regard the
Supreme as the attributeless reality that appears as everything.

What Bhagavatpada stressed was that while there can be no objection to
worshipping the deities that have come down traditionally to each person, the
worship of deities opposed to the Shastraic way has to be given up.

Coming to the topic of liberation, who can get it? Evidently, he who
possesses the requisite qualifications such as an ardent desire for
emancipation. He who lacks the requisite qualifications will not get it. For a
post that requires a candidate who has passed the IAS examination, a contender,
even though he may be a genius, cannot apply if he has not passed the qualifying
examination. Likewise, even though one is capable of accomplishing several
other things, one cannot hope to get liberation if one does not possess intense

Dispassion leads to mental control, control of the senses, withdrawal,
forbearance, faith, one-pointed concentration and finally intense desire for
liberation. He who has a burning desire to be free quickly realizes the Truth
and gets liberated.

Bhagavatpada taught in His Upadesha Panchakam:

Vedo nityamadhIyatAm taduditam karma svanuShThIyataam
teneshasya vidhIyatAmapachitiH kaamye matistyajyataam |
PaapaughaH paridhUyataam bhavasukhe doSho’nusandhIyataam
AtmecchA vyavasIyatAm nijagRRihAt tUrNam vinirgamyataam ||

(Study the Veda everyday. Perform well the acts enjoined therein. Give up
the thought of engaging in desire-prompted rites, Eradicate the host of sins.
Contemplate the faults in worldly enjoyments. Establish the desire for the
Self. Quickly go away from home.)

‘If these are practised sincerely’, said Bhagavatpada, ‘You can become a
Shaiva, a Shakta, a Vaishnava, etc., in the true sense of the terms’. To the
Kaapaalikas, he advised, ‘Desist from scripturally-unacceptable conduct. By all
means, meditate on your chosen deity, Bhairava, but do so in a Saattvic way.’
He taught, ‘One can attain the Highest by hearing about the Truth, by cogitating
upon what has been heard, and by focussing on what has been determined beyond
doubt by hearing and cogitation. However, it is essential that one give up
practices contrary to the scriptures and follow the scriptural path with
dispassion. One can then realise the Upanishadic Brahman as one’s own self.’

The most compassionate Guru, Sir Shankara Bhagavatpada, rendered all of us
indebted by his kind and profound teaching. Smartas, the followers of
Bhagavatpada, when questioned as to whether they are Shaivas or Vaishnavas,
reply that they are neither. They swear by the Shastra and say that they are
followers of the Veda and the Smritis. They do not follow any particular Agama.
On account of this, one should not hastily conclude that they do not belong to
any category. As they follow the Shastraic injunctions, they are certainly
followers of the Upanishadic tradtion. Those who fail to understand this, raise
irrelevant objections against them.

To illustrate, some boys showed a lot of enthusiasm for learning Sanskrit.
The teacher taught them the various shabdas like Rama,. Hari, Shambhu, etc. He
also taught them the Pitru shabda. A certain student’s father, upon questioning
his boy about the Pitru shabda, got irritated even though the boy correctly
recited the declensions (vibhakti –s). As the Pitru shabda declensions did not
follow the manner of the Rama shabda declensions, the father erroneously felt
that the boy was wrong. He scolded the boy as well as the teacher and put an
end to the learning itself. What is one to do with such persons? How can they
be corrected?

If one mistakes one thing for another and expresses his displeasure and anger,
can it be the fault of the teacher, such as Bhagavatpada? A person with a
jaundiced eye will insist that a conch is yellow, however much he is told that
it is white. Bhagavatpada’s teachings do not give rise to any kind of likes,
dislikes, delusion, envy, egotism, etc. He wants us to realize,

tadeko’vashiShTaH ShivaH kevalo’ham

(I am the non-dual, pure, absolute Truth that remains as the residue when the
cosmos is sublated.)

We, who are fortunate to be His followers, will be gravely erring if we do not
reverentially pay our obeisance to him on such an occasion. The twelfth birth
centenary of Bhagavatpada is being celebrated in a fitting manner by numerous
persons. Several deserving persons are being honoured on this occasion. I am
glad that the event has proceeded so well.

Hara namaH PaarvatI pataye Hara Hara MahAdeva |
JAnakIkAntasmaraNam jaya jaya Rama Rama ||

(Excerpted from the book ‘Divine Discourses’ published by Sri Vidyateertha
Foundation, Chennai.)

[There are several stotras authored by Shankaracharya on this page: ]
Sree sadguru charanaaravindaarpanamastu

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