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Amma’s stories on Guru, Role of Guru, Guru-disciple Relationship – Part 4 (5 more stories)

[If you have not read the previous 15 little stories of Amma under this topic,  you can read them here: Amma’s stories on Guru, Role of Guru, Guru-disciple Relationship – Part 3)

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1.  Bottled Krishna?

One day a Pundit came to see a Mahatma.

The pundit was famous for his scholarship and his knowledge of the scriptures. He was a very proud man. The pundit said to the Mahatma: “I am well versed in all the shastras of our religion. I came to you with an expectation that you may be able to teach me something extra that I don’t know of”.

The Mahatma smiled and said, “I am afraid I don’t have anything to tell you more than what you already  know.  But there is a shopkeeper in this village, who, I believe, has something to teach you”.

The pundit got curious. He inquired who the shopkeeper was and immediately proceeded to go and meet him. When the pundit reached the grocery shop, he noticed that he was in the process of supplying various grocery items to one of his clients.  He heard the shopkeeper telling the client, “You please read out the items one by one from your shopping list and my boy will weigh and pack them.”

Immediately, the Pundit understood that the shopkeeper was a simple, unlettered man. What could such a person teach a scholar like him? Anyway, having come all the way, he approached the shopkeeper and introduced himself. He said, “The Mahatma in this village asked me to meet you. He told me that you have a piece of wisdom that you can teach me”.

The shopkeeper was surprised. He said, “Revered Sir, I am an unlettered man. I have no knowledge whatsoever except selling provisions. What can I ever teach you? Anyway, having come all the way to meet me, I request you to sit with me for a while in the shop, relax yourself and then go back home”.

The Pundit sat in a chair next to the shopkeeper and looked around the shop. In one shelf nearby, there were several jars  painted  in different colors. The pundit became curious. “What do these jars contain? Why are they painted in different colors?”

The shopkeeper said, “Sir, it is for my easy identification of items, that I have colored them differently. The first jar in red contains pepper. The second one in yellow contains mustard. The third one in green contains cardamom. The next one contains cloves. The last one contains Krishna”.

What? Krishna? What do you mean?”

“Sir, actually the last one does not contain anything. It is empty. I call it the jar of Krishna”.

“Why?”

“You see, you cannot put anything in a  jar that already contains something. If you have to put something, it should be empty first. If our mind is filled with so many things, it has no space for the lord to come and reside inside. Only when we keep our mind empty without thoughts, God can come and occupy it. That’s why I call the empty jar as the jar of Krishna”.

The pundit was awestruck hearing the explanation from the unlettered shopkeeper. He immediately understood that his mind was full with ideas and concepts learned from scriptures and hence it does not have any space for God to enter and reside in him. He understood that knowing God and establishing God in his heart was far more important than stuffing himself with scriptural knowledge. He understood that he should get rid of all his pride and make his heart empty to have the vision of God.

(From Amma’s Krishna Janmashtami Satsang 10/9/2020)

2.  What you really lost

Once a group of travellers were going to a village. As they walked, they reached a place adjacent to a forest. There they saw a pond with clear water. They left their possessions at the bank of the pond and got into water to take bath. When they returned to the bank after taking bath, they were shocked to see their possessions missing. Thieves had indeed stolen them and run away.  The travellers immediately went around in search of the thieves.

They noticed a Sadhu sitting at the shade of a tree on their way. They asked him, “Did you notice any thieves running this way, carrying things? They have stolen our belongings”.

The Sadhu said, “You are all sad because you have lost your possessions. Aren’t you? Now think. You have lost your happiness now; the thieves who made you lose your happiness are outside you or inside you? Do you want only your lost possessions or want something that you will never ever lose? Think deeply on this.”

The travellers understood what the sadhu said. They understood that he was a Mahatma. They surrendered to him and requested him to take them as his disciples.

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol.1)

3.  Expansiveness matters

Once  there lived a householder who had the habit of visiting a  Mahatma frequently. He would always complain about the hardships and sorrows he was facing in his life. One day, when this devotee started to talk about his woes, the Mahatma cut him short and said, “You go and bring a glass of water and a handful of salt”.

The devotee brought them.  The saint said, “Put a  spoonful of salt in the glass of water, stir it well to dissolve it fully and then drink a little of that water”. The man did so.

“How does it taste?” asked the mahatma.

“Ah! Very salty; I can’t even swallow it” said the man.

Then the Mahatma took the man to a nearby pond. “Now put the handful of salt in the water and dissolve it fully” he said.

The man did so.

“Now taste a little of that pond water” said the Mahatma.

The man drank some water.

“Do you find it salty?” asked the Mahatma.  “No, Maharaj, not at all” said the man.

The mahatma said, “My son, the sorrows in our life too is similar to this. Pure water is ike the natural, inner joy that we all have. If a little of salt is added to a glass of water, the water turns salty and you can’t even drink it. But the same salt, if put in a pond of water, does not make the water salty. Your mind, at present, is very small, like the glass. But if you make your heart very large like the pond and awaken the bliss inside it,  then no amount of sorrow will disturb you”.

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol.1)

4.  The difference  (1)

Once a minister of a country went to meet his guru to seek advice and solace as he was highly tensed and disturbed by many problems facing the country that needed right solutions.

When he reached his guru’s ashram, one of his guru’s main disciples stopped him. The minister said, “Excuse me, I need to meet the guru very urgently to discuss on some very important matters”.

The disciple said politely, “Sorry sir, our guru is sick; he is taking rest. He has given clear instruction to me not to allow anyone to disturb him.”

The minister was in a dilemma. While he badly wanted to discuss matters with his guru, he could not argue with the disciple too to meet the guru. He stood there for a while very confused and disturbed”.

“May I know why you want to meet our guru so desperately?” asked the disciple.

The minister felt that it would be fine to share his problems with the disciple and he narrated the various serious issues that he is facing as a minister and looking for the right guidance.

The disciple too was quite a learned person and he was serving the guru since long.  So, he spoke to the minister for the next half an hour doling out advice as to how to the problems can be managed. The minister was nodding and hearing all that the disciple said, but there was no full conviction in him to accept all of them and take steps to act on them.

In the meanwhile, hearing the voice of the minister outside his hut, the guru, despite being unwell, came out. The minister was surprised and glad to see the guru and he prostrated before him. The guru asked him what his problem was. Again, the minister narrated his woes to the guru. The guru spoke to him only a few words lasting hardly for five minutes and bid him goodbye.

The minister was extremely satisfied with the guru’s advice and he left the place with mental peace and clarity. In fact, what the guru instructed was only the essence of what the disciple had already instructed in detail earlier, but the conviction came to the minister only through the words of the guru.

[Amma: “In this story, what the guru said and what the disciple told earlier were essentially same, but the words of the disciple are nothing but bookish knowledge; where as the words of the guru are based on his personal experience attained through self-realization. That’s why it creates so much conviction and trust in the listener.”]

(From Amma’s Vijayadasami Satsang on 25/10/2020)

5.  The difference  (2)

Once the king a country went to meet his guru to seek advice and solace as he was highly tensed and disturbed by many problems facing the country; he had lost all peace of mind and was gripped by a desire to relinquish the king’s role and escape from all the responsibilities. He felt if he could get some solution from his guru to enable him transfer all his responsibilities to someone else, he can have a breath of relief.

After listening to the king’s bag of woes and his final request, the guru said, “Fine. Do one thing. You make a vow to hand over the whole country to me”. The king gladly agreed and made a formal announcement to this effect.

Once it was done, the guru said, “Now, this country is mine. Now I appoint you as the caretaker of this country to govern it as my official representative.”

The king, as he was always obedient to his guru’s words, agreed. He went back to the palace and continued to rule the country. But now a sea of change had happened in his mindset. He felt a great mental relief. He was not the king any longer but only a servant to the guru who is now the real ruler of the country; he was just an instrument in the hands of his guru and felt totally free from the burden of all personal responsibilities that he was shouldering all along.

[Amma: “The sense of ownership is the cause of all tensions. If one becomes an instrument in the hands of God, then all tasks will be accomplished without mental agitation.”]

(From Amma’s Vijayadasami Satsang on 25/10/2020)

Amma’s stories on Guru, Role of Guru, Guru-disciple Relationship – Part 3 (15 more stories)

1. What next?

Once a sage was conversing with a new visitor who came to meet him.

Sage: “What are you doing?”

Visitor: “I am working as a clerk in a Company”.

Sage: “If you get a promotion what will you become?”

Visitor: “I will become a Senior Clerk”

Sage: “What is the next post you will get?”

Visitor: “I will become Assistant to the Department Manager”.

Sage: “What next?”

Visitor: “If I really strive well, I can become the manager one day”

Sage: “Oh! That sounds very nice! What is the next position you can aspire to get?”

Visitor: “Oh! That is very hard to guess. Perhaps, if I have lots of luck, I may become the Vice President of the Company!”

Sage: “Wow! (He pats the shoulder of the visitor).  That will be wonderful. But still I am wondering what could be your next level…”

At this point of time, the visitor lost all his patience. In a loud and curt voice, he shot back :”If I put tons of effort, have lots of luck and  some political backing, I can become the President of the company! Enough?”

The sage did not leave him at that. “What next?” he continued.

That was the last straw. The visitor shouted: “What do you want me to become? A God?”

Now the sage laughed aloud and said, “My son! Now you have said the final and correct answer.  But there is a little difference. YOu don’t have to become God’ you are already God.  It is enough if that knowledge dawns in you.”

[Amma: “It is this knowledge that is true spirituality.  We are so much immersed in  the idea that what we call as “I” is this limited body, mind and intellect. We have to discard that idea and move forward, it will dawn to us that I am indeed that divine power that permeates everything outside and inside and we can experience the bliss of that reality.”]

(From Oliyai Nokki – Tamil – Vol 3)

2. Amma with a Vedantin

[Amma: “People can buy Books on Vedanta from Bookshop and read them. After reading them, some may declare “I am Brahman”. But Advaita Vedanta is not something contained in mere words. It is something to be experienced and then expressed in practice at every moment of life.  If someone merely repeats Vedanta verbally it is just ignorance. He is simply acting like a tape recorder or a parrot. Once one of Amma’s young disciple came to Amma and the conversation went like this: “]

Devotee: “Amma, I am a Vedantin.”

Amma said nothing.

Devotee: “Aham Brahmasmi….Aham Brahmasmi….Aham Brahmasmi”

Amma said nothing. He was silent for a while. Then

Devotee: “Shivoham…Shivoham….Shivoham”

Amma said nothing.

Devotee: “Amma, Why aren’t you saying anything?”

Amma: “Son, aren’t you the Brahman already? What is there for me to say to you?”

Devotee: “But, Amma, Why do I still have anger, hatred and desire in me?”

[Amma: “That’s the crux of the issue!  One cannot become a Vedantin by merely reading books.  Vedanta should become the lifeline in us. However, it is indeed good to read Books on Vedanta. Then one should contemplate and understand it deeply.  Through meditation, it should sink deep into our heart. With that, we should strive to get past our weaknesses like anger, desire, hatred and so on.”]

(From Oliyai Nokki – Tamil – Vol 3)

3.  Guru has his way

Once a guru and his disciple were returning to their Ashram by walk after a long and tiring pilgrimage.  They rested for a while under a tree. The guru got up and said, “Come, let us keep going; I want to reach the Ashram before sunset”.

But the disciple, who was much younger to the guru, felt too tired and dull to proceed further. He said, “Master, I am feeling too tired. I want to have a nap before we proceed further; I am left with little energy”.  But the guru was very particular to move on. He said, “Leave behind your laziness; you are young and you can definitely walk further; we are not too far from the Ashram. Come on!”

But the disciple was adamant. He lied down under the tree and said, “Master, if you want to proceed please go ahead; I will rest for a while and come a little later”.

The guru did not like the attitude of the disciple.  He walked alone. After a short while, he noticed some construction activity by the side of the road. Several men and women were working there as laborers.  A woman’s child was sleeping in a hammock under the shade of an adjacent tree.

The guru stealthily picked up the sleeping child and walked back before anyone could notice him. He went to the tree where his disciple was sleeping and left the child next to him.

He came back to the construction site, called one of the ladies working there and said, “Hello, have any one of you left your child in the hammock there? I happen to notice one young man picking up your child and rushing in this direction..” He pointed the direction where his disciple was sleeping under the tree at some far distance.

Hearing this, one woman started crying, saying that it was her child. All the laborers working in the site left their work and gathered immediately around the guru.

The guru said, “He would not have gone far off: run immediately and chase him” saying so, he coolly started walking towards his ashram.

The laborers picked up crowbars, sticks and stones and started running in the other direction. Soon they saw at a distance a man sleeping under a tree with a child next to him. Making loud cries, they started running towards the tree.
Their noisy shouts woke up the disciple. As he looked around confused, he noticed the child sleeping next to him. Then he noticed several laborers coming angrily towards him with weapons in their hands and shouting “There he is; catch him!”

The disciple immediately understood that there was something wrong and they mob was actually coming to attack him. Not thinking twice, he started running.  Before they could reach him he managed to run very fast from the place. He ran through lanes and bylanes to save himself from the fiery mob. Fortunately, the mob stopped once they saw that the child was safely sleeping under the tree.

When the guru reached the Ashram,  he chuckled within himself to see the disciple standing at the front gate sweating and panting, waiting for his arrival!

[Amma: “A guru knows the weaknesses of his disciple. He will create circumstances where in the disciple’s  undesirable tendencies are  corrected and his capabilities are stretched beyond limitations.”]

4.  Laughing at others

Once there were two disciples under a guru and both of them were very egoistic. It was their nature to speak ill of each other always.  However much the guru counseled them, there was no improvement in their behavior. One day the guru thought of a plan.

During the night, when both the disciples were in sound sleep, the guru brought some paints and painted their faces to look like clowns.

In the morning one of the disciples who got up first saw the face of the other and started laughing out loud. Hearing his laughter, the other disciple woke up. He saw the face of the first one and bursted out laughing.  Both of them continued to laugh by pointing fingers at each others’ face. One of the disciples got up and brought a mirror; he shouted it at the face of the other and said, “Look here O clown! This make up suits you perfectly!” and kept on laughing.

The other disciple grabbed the mirror and turning it at the face of the other said, “Look at your face! If you go and start performing tiger dance, you can earn lot of money!”

When it dawned to them that both of them had been painted on their faces to make them look funny, they stopped laughing instantly.

[Amma: “Children, It is always easy to laugh at the fault of others; everybody can do it. But only those endowed with the quality of discrimination can look into his own idiosyncrasies  and laugh at himself and go beyond them. Only then one can get real spiritual progress.”]

5.  Concentration

Once there was an excellent archer who participated in many competitions and won prizes. He participated in an international competition too and won the award as the topmost archer of the world.

When one of his friends came to know of this, he said, “I know a Guru who is a great exponent in archery. Only if you win over him, I can really consider as the best archer of the world”.

The archer took the challenge. His friend took him along to meet the Guru. Coming to know of his success at the global level competition, the guru congratulated him wholeheartedly.

The friend broached the subject of their visit to the guru. The guru said, “Let us first go for a walk for a while. You may please bring your bow and arrow along.

They walked together and climbed over a small hillock. Adjacent to it, there was another hillock and both were connected by a rope bridge. The guru proceed to walk along the bridge and the two men followed him. When they reached the middle of the bridge, the guru pointed out a tree on the opposite hillock and said to the archer, “Do you see a fruit hanging in that tree? Will you use your bow and hit that fruit with an arrow?”

The archer agreed. As he was taking aim at the fruit, strong wind started blowing and the rope bridge started swaying. The archer had to catch the side ropes to steady himself. The rope bridge continued to sway and however much he tried, it was difficult for him to balance himself and aim at the fruit. When he shot the arrow, it missed the target totally.

Now the guru borrowed his bow and arrow. While the bridge continued to sway wildly in the wind, the guru was totally unperturbed. He aimed at the fruit and shot the arrow. The arrow hit the fruit.

[Amma: “In this story, the guru had the ‘remote control” of his mind in his hand. He had no fear of failure nor any disturbance in concentration due to external factors. Is it possible for everyone to dance peacefully on a shaking stage? Leading a life without mental peace is also similar. The one which is ever steady and firm is God. If  we hold God as our base, then it would be like dancing on a firm dais. “]

(From Oliyai Nokki – Tamil – Vol 3)

6.  Not too far away

Once a guru and his disciple were travelling to a holy place by foot. It was a long and arduous journey and the disciple was feeling very tired. He wanted to take a long rest before continuing with the journey, but the guru was particular to reach the holy place before dark.

“The place is not far off.  We have to walk only a small distance and we will reach the destination. Then you can relax there. Come on!” he encouraged the disciple to keep walking.

They walked for another half an hour. The disciple felt exasperated. “Master, you said it is only a short distance and yet we have not reached the place despite walking for so long”.

The guru said, “I know this route very well. We are on the right path and we have to walk just a little more. We are almost there;  Come on!”

Again they kept walking. Another half an hour was gone. The disciple felt very disappointed. “No master; I cannot walk anymore. I am dead tired. Please tell me the truth. How long should we walk?”

“Ah! We have almost reached. A little more walking and we will end up there. Be cheerful!” said the guru.

After walking for another twenty minutes, they finally reached their destination.

[Amma: “Spiritual journey is never short and sweet. A seeker has to tread a long and arduous path to reach his goal of self-realization. There is every possibility for a disciple to lose heart, get disillusioned and drop out from his quest. But a Sadguru does not allow an earnest seeker to slacken his efforts upon facing difficulties. He constantly goads him to strive for more through soothing and comforting words of encouragement; he helps his disciple to stretch himself beyond his limits in order to reach his goal.”]

(from Amma’s Guru purnima message 5/7/2020)

7.  Boundless compassion

Once a good hearted man brought an young boy to meet his guru at an ashram. “Master, this boy is an orphan. None of his relatives are willing to take care of him since he is very arrogant and mischievous. May I request you to show him some way?”

The guru said he would admit the boy into the ashram and take care of him.

The guru kept the boy under his direct observation and showered lot of love and care on him. The boy however continued to be very arrogant and indisciplined. He behaved roughly with other boys in the ashram and created trouble for every one. Other inmates in the Ashram felt very annoyed and they kept on complaining about the boy to the guru. However, the guru brushed aside all their complaints and continued to shower his love and affection to the orphan boy.

A few years passed by. The boy grew up. He frequently went out of the ashram and joined evil company. He started stealing money from the ashram and spend it on smoking and drinking with his friends outside the ashram.

One night, a group of ashram inmates came to the guru and said, “That boy is hopeless.  We feel he can never be straightened. You see, he is right now lying on the road outside the ashram fully drunk. He is bringing such a disgrace to the ashram.”

The guru went out to see what happened. The boy was lying near the road under a tree.  It was pretty cold outside.  The guru removed his shawl and wrapped it around the boy. He sighed seeing the pitiable state of the boy and returned to the Ashram.

The boy woke up from his slumber a couple of hours after dawn. He noticed that he was covered with a shawl and it was his guru’s shawl. He felt deeply disturbed and moved. The thought that despite his evil behavior across all these years, the guru still loved him and took care of him when he was lying totally drunk on the roadside.

He started crying.

With teary eyes, he entered into the ashram, came to the guru’s room and fell at his feet. He cried his heart out and sought forgiveness from the guru for all his misdeeds. He promised to turn a new leaf right from that moment.

Soon a dramatic change started happening in his behavior.  Within a couple of months he turned out to be one of the best young disciples in the ashram and he could stand as an example for others.

(from Amma’s Guru purnima message 5/7/2020)

8.  Four gurus

Once a disciple asked his guru, “Master, can you tell me about your guru?”

The guru said, “I have learned from so many gurus. But four of them stand apart. I will tell you about them…” and he continued:

“My first guru was a thief. Once I stayed together with him for a few days. Every night he would promptly wake up at 2 AM and go out. He would return after a few hours. When I asked him whether he could get anything by stealing that night, he would say, “No. I am not lucky today. Let me try again tomorrow night”.

The next day too he would promptly get up at 2 AM at night and go out. He chose that odd hour because he knew that all people would be in deep sleep at that time and that would be the best time to break into houses and steal. That night too he returned empty handed. It happened so on several days.

 I asked him, “You have not been able to succeed all these days. But still you are doing it again and again. Why?”

He said, “This is what I know for earning my living. I don’t have any other skill. I have to persevere like this and I ams sure I would get a big booty one day, if I could break into a rich man’s house”.

From him I learned the importance of perseverance in pursuing one’s spiritual goal.

My second guru is a young boy. One day, I saw a boy going in the night with a lantern in hand. I wanted to tease the boy and asked him, “Do you know where from the light comes?”

He immediately lifted up the glass of the lantern and blew air into the flame. The light immediately got extinguished and it became dark. The boy said to me, “The light came from the place where it is gone now”.

I was taken aback by his brilliant retort. That day I learned that it is wrong to underestimate or disrespect anyone and even boys deserve respect.

My third guru is a dog.

One day, I was to cross a river. I noticed a dog too which wanted to cross the river. It went close to the water, looked at it and barked. Then it came back. After a while it went to the water and barked again and returned. I understood that it was looking at its own reflection and getting scared of presence of another dog in water and that’s why it barked. But after a while, it jumped into the water, swam across and reached the other bank.

This dog taught me a lesson that we should be firm on our spiritual goals even though we may get distracted by fear and loss of self-confidence. At some point or other, we should gather ourselves and proceed firmly to reach our goal.

My fourth guru was a farmer. Once I went to a village where an old farmer lived. He was revered by everyone in the village and they considered him a saint. I met him and interacted with him. I asked him, “Why are you so special that people respect you so much?”

He said, “I see goodness and hope everywhere. When I see a egg, I think of the hen inside it. When I see a seed, I think of the tree that it contains. When I see, death I see life.  When I see the diversity in the world,  I see the unity behind them all”.

From him I understood what  non-duality is.”

(from Amma’s Guru purnima message 5/7/2020)

9.  Blessings for prosperity?

Once in an Ashram, many disciples lived with their Guru.  Depending on the extent of development of spiritual maturity in them, the guru used to sent them for serving the society in suitable ways.

One day the guru chose a disciple for deploying him in some charitable activity.  Before departing, the disciple fell at the feet of the guru and sought his blessings. The guru blessed him saying, “My son, may you always get the comforts of stay in a palace, may you always be served with the foods of best taste, may you always sleep well in a bed of roses”.

The disciple was very surprised to hear such blessings from the guru. He asked, “Master, all along as we lived in the ashram, you have always professed simple living devoid of all comforts and insisted on sacrifice; now you are blessing me of all sorts of royal comforts. May I know why?”

The guru smiled and said, “My son, the true meaning of my blessings are indeed to tell you that you should progress in the path of sacrifice. When you go out and serve the world, you are most unlikely to get any form of comfortable stay. You must develop such an attitude  that you shall gladly  accept whatever meager facilities you get for your stay as if it is  a royal palace. Then you should eat food only after you feel extremely hungry. If you eat like that, whatever type of food you may get will taste delicious.  You will have to physically exert yourself so much that by the time you go to sleep, you will be so tired that you will find even a surface of rock to lie down to be a bed of roses!”

[Amma: “One can attain deathless state only through renunciation. Renunciation does not mean reducing all comforts alone. It includes serving others without any selfish motive.”]

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 2)

10. A Parable

Once the Prince of the World of Light was conquered by The Lord of Darkness and was incarcerated  in a dark cell.  The lord of Darkness arranged several security guards around him to ensure that he did not attempt to escape.

On the wall of the dark cell, there was a small hole and through the hole, sun light peeped in to the room. The light said to the Prince, “You give your royal crown and your royal dresses and jewels as bribe to the security guards. They are very greedy and they will help you to escape from this cell. Accordingly the Prince gave away his possessions and the guards helped him to escape.

As he came out, the Sun God presented him with a powerful sword. With that sword, the prince killed the Lord of Darkness.

He then returned to his World of Light. The aging king immediately crowned him as the new king.

[Amma: “In this parable,  the lord of Darkness is Ignorance (Ajnana).  The Sun God is the guru.  The crown and the jewels represent lust and other worldly desires. The sword given by Sun is Knowledge (Jnana).  This story tells us that by obeying the guru and relinquishing lust and worldly desires, one has to annihilate the ignorance using  the knowledge bestowed by the Guru.”]

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 2)

11. Love that too

[Amma: “If goodness exists in our hearts, then we will be able to see only goodness everywhere. When our heart is good, we will be able to enjoy the beauty of lotus flowers even if they are in a muddy pond. On the contrary, if our mind harps on the muddy pond, we won’t be able to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of lotus flowers.”]

Once a householder went to his spiritual master and paid his respects.  He wanted to speak his heart out. He said to the master: “Guruji, till this day in my life, I have never knowingly hurt any person; I have heard in my childhood a saying — ‘if your talk is good, your walk (i.e. behavior) too will be good’ and I have always followed it as a matter of principle right from my young age. I always take extra care to ensure that I don’t hurt anyone with my words…”

In order to explain how harsh words become so unpleasant to hear, he gave an example: “Master, whenever I come to this ashram and stay here, I hear lots of birds chirping in the mornings and evenings. I really enjoy hearing the singing of cuckoos and the chatting of parrots here which are so sweet to the ears. But amid all these, I also hear crows cawing and it really makes me cringe; It is so jarring to my ears and I don’t like it. So, speaking harsh words is similar to that, in my opinion…”

And he continued to speak of something that keeps disturbing him: “Master, despite my speaking nicely with others and never hurting anyone with my words, I find that my life is not smooth nor peaceful. What could be the reason for it?” He asked.

When he kept on talking, the guru, who was seated on the ground in front of him, was drawing something on the sand with his finger and patiently listening to him too.  Not lifting up his face from the picture he was drawing, the master said with a smile on his face: “I think you must try to love the crows too whose cawing  is unpleasant to you. If  your are able to like even the cawing of the crows, then you will be filled with joy in your heart. Further, you will become more eligible to receive God’s grace”.

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 2)

12. Mother is the first guru

Once a group of scholars were discussing about the best commentaries and literary works based on Ramayana. 

One of the scholars said, “I consider such-and-such person’s work on Ramayana to be the best. He has thoroughly elaborated  out the spiritual aspects of Ramayana very well”.

Another person said, “I really love so-and-so’s Ramayana because it is poetry form and it is indeed a very commendable and lucid presentation of the emotions in Ramayana”.

Some other scholars were suggesting some other names.

One scholar said, “I consider my own mother’s version of Ramayana is the best”.

Others got curious. “Has she written a book elaborating Ramayana?” they asked.

“No” said the scholar. “When I was child, she narrated the Ramayana story so many times. I used to listen to her narration with rapture. Through her narration, I received so much valuable teachings for my life — the importance of dharmic conduct, valuing truth, adhering to truth, unselfishness and sacrifice, the importance of love between family members, respecting elders, fostering good friendship, surrendering to God and so many things.  My mother did not just told me Ramayana stories but she actually lived the various values taught by Ramayana in her own life and set an example to me. That’s why I say, her version of Ramayana is the best for me”.

(From Amma’s Ramayana month Satsang – 26/7/2020)

13. Finding God

Once a there was a young boy who was deeply devoted to Devi, the Divine Mother. He had a deep longing to have a vision of the Divine Mother. He approached his guru and expressed his desire.

The Guru said, “It is possible for you to see Devi, but not really in divine form. But you can definitely see Divine Mother coming in the guise of  of a normal woman. I will tell you an identification by which you will be able to know who that woman is. She will have a mole in the little toe of her right foot”.

From that day onwards the boy started looking at the right foot of every lady he came across. He would look for a mole in their small toe. Days and months passed; yet he did not come across any woman with that identity.

One day, his mother came towards him with a vessel in hand to give him something to eat. At that time, the vessel fell down. The boy bent down to pick the vessel from the floor and at that time, he noticed a mole in her right toe. He was overwhelmed by surprise. With devotion welling up in his heart he fell at the feet of his mother and prostrated again and again with tears flowing from his eyes.

[Amma: “If  we really want to see God, we should first see God amid people who are closest to us — mother, father, guru and friends. Then we should be able to see God  in whomsoever we meet. Then we should be able to recognize God inside each and every being. We should be able to love and serve everyone. That is what is needed. If this attitude comes, then in due course, we will be able to have the vision of God in each and every being in this earth.”]

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 2)

14. Creating Heaven and hell

Once a person visiting an ashram for the first time, met the guru and asked him a question: “Maharaj, Are heaven and hell really existing?”

The guru asked him, “Who are you?”

The man said with pride: “I am a soldier.”

The guru said, “A person like you, who is essentially very cruel and animal-like, is not qualified to ask this question to me. Don’t waste my time; Go away”.

The soldier could not bear such an insult thrown right on his face. He got very angry. He pulled out his sword from the sheath hanging on his waist and was about to slice the guru in one stroke.

The guru smiled at him without a trace of fear and said,”Aren’t you overwhelmed by anger? You are right now in hell!”

Hearing this, the soldier got bewildered. He felt ashamed to recognize his own fury. He slid back his sword into its sheath and fell at the feet of guru with humility.

The guru said, “You are now in heaven!”

[Amma: “Both heaven and hell are our own creation. If the mind is peaceful, even a gory hell would be like a heaven; If the mind is agitated, even the best heaven would be like a hell. Peace, equanimity and joy are all dependent on one’s mind. “]

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 2)

15. Acceptance

Once in  village, there lived a farmer who was facing lots of hardships in life. Some f his cattles met with untimely death. His farmland was attacked by pests. Heavy floods damaged his crops once. He had several family problems too. He felt sick of his life.

In his village, there lived a rich businessman who was also considered a very wiseman in the locality.  The farmer approached him for some financial help and and also sought counsel from him. He narrated in detail about his sufferings in life.

After patiently listening to him, the businessman said, “I will give you some job for you tonight.  Please do it well and  I will give you financial help to you and also give you some useful guidelines to face hardships in life.”

The  former nodded his head.

The businessman said, “I have got 100 horses in my stable. You have to ensure that all of them lie down and sleep together. Once you have finished it, come and see me”.

The former gladly accepted the job and went to the stable.

He went around and arranged to feed them all first. He thought that once they are well fed, they will sleep peacefully. Some of the horses ate well and after a while, they lied down to sleep. But several other horses did not eat. They were simply standing. The farmer went near each horse and cajoled it to eat. Some did and some did not.  He forcefully made some horses to lie down. Some of them yielded to his commands and some did not.  Past midnight, he somehow managed to  make 60 horses to lie down but the rest were not. By about 3 AM, when majority of the horses seem to be lying down, a few horses that had lied down earlier started standing up!

Even by dawn, the farmer could never succeed in making all the horses lie down together and sleep! The farmer lost his whole night’s sleep in this process!

Early morning he came and reported the matter to the businessman: “Sir, I could not succeed in making all the hundred horses to lie down and sleep together”.

The businessman smiled; he gave some money to the farmer and said, “You see, this is is how our life too is. You can never solve all your problems fully and enjoy a trouble free life. It is just not possible. Ups and downs will always be there. You have to bear with them, manage as best as you could and lead your life to the best of your ability. That’s  the only way.”

(Amma’s Onam Satsang 31/8/2020)

The Brahma Sutras (Vedanta Sutras)

What are Brahma Sutras?

Brahma Sutras or Vedanta Sutras are very cryptic and extremely short notes written in Sanskrit to serve as points or hints to understand without conflicts the elaborate teachings available in Upanishads (Vedanta) . The word Sutra in sanskrit means an extremely short sentence containing some information in a nutshell. Another meaning of Sutra is thread/ string. The knowledge of Brahman (God) or the teachings of Vedanta are brought together like beads in a string in this scripture.

Brahma Sutras are clues or aids to memory on the study of Vedanta. They can not be understood without a lucid commentary (Bhashya). The commentary also is in need of further elaborate explanation from a competent Guru/ Acharya for earnest students of scriptures to comprehend the subject matter.

Brahma Sutras are also known as Uttara Mimamsa. Uttara means the latter. Upanishads are the latter part of Vedas. Mimamsa means the investigation or enquiry into the connected meaning of the sacred texts.

What is its importance as a Hindu scripture?

Considering the importance of its contents, Brahma Sutra is one of the three prime source books of Hindu Philosophy having allegiance to Vedas. The Upanishads (Vedanta), The Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras are the three reference books and together they are called Prasthanathraya. Upanishads are known as Shruti Prasthanam (essense of Vedic knowledge), the Bhagavad Gita is known as Smriti Prasthanam. Smritis are essence of derived, secondary  knowledge from Vedas serving as guidance for practical life covering dharma shastras (teachings on righteousness), Puranas, Itihasas (mythological stories) and essential spiritual teachings. Brahma Sutras are known as Nyaya Prasthanam or Tharka Prasthanam (Logical essence of Vedantas).

When was Brahma Sutras composed? Who was its author?

Historians say that the practice of writing scriptures in the form of Sutras existed between 400 BCE to 400 CE and hence the origin of Brahma Sutras could be sometime in this period. But based on the contents of Brahma Sutra, where Buddhist and Jain philosophies too are discussed,many scholars are of the opinion that it is a work done after the period of Buddha and Mahavir (Jainism). Accordingly, some historians assess that Brahma Sutras were written some time in 2nd century CE and some say 4th Century CE.

The Rishi Badarayana Vyasa was the author of Brahma Sutra.

Vyasa is credited with compiling all 4 vedas and also authoring the epic Mahabharata and many Puranas. But the historical period of those scriptures were far earlier than the period of Brahma Sutras.

Since ‘Vyasa’ is considered a title rather than a name, it is also argued that the Vyasa of Mahabharata (known as Krishna Dvaipayana) is different from the Vyasa of Brahma Sutras (known as Badarayana).

What are the essential contents of Brahma Sutras?

Brahma Sutras essentially discuss Ontology – Nature of Man, God, Universe, life, creation and their interrelationships. It also deals a little with Eschatology — death and post-death scenario. The Sutras highlight not only on how the creation came from God (Brahman) but also how God himself is part and parcel of the created. The sutras establish that human being is essentially Atman and hint on the nature on atman and how the Atman is related to Paramatman (God, Brahman).  It gives hints on spiritual practices particularly on meditation. it also throws hints on what happens at the time of death and the post death scenario of normal mortals and how it differs from the death of realized saints.

All the notes in Brahma Sutras on the above are essentially based on the teachings available in Upanishads (Vedanta), particularly on Chandogya Upanishad and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The Sutras also touch upon other Hindus Sashtras  Mimamsa and Samkya and also on the philosophies of Buddhism and Jainism  to throw hints on how Vedanta differs from their view point.

Brahma Sutras indicate renunciation as the ultimate way to attain realization. Hence it is also known as Bikshu Sutra (Bikshu means a renunciate who eats by begging food).

The Brahma Sutras have been contained in 4  Adhyayas (chapters) and each chapter contains 4 Padas (sections) . In each Pada, there are several adhikaranas (Topics or propositions) containing the Sutras. Totally, there are about 555 Sutras , based on Sri Shankaracharya’s commentaries on Brahma Sutras.  They are grouped in 191  adhikaranas. Each adhikarana consist of five parts:—(1) Thesis or Vishaya, (2) Doubt or Samsaya, (3) Anti-thesis or Purvapaksha, (4) Synthesis or right conclusion or Siddhanta and (5) Sangati or agreement of the proposition with the other parts of the Sastra.

(The four chapters and their contents in Each Pada’s  adhikaranas in brief are given at the end of this article).

Can a person with a rudimentary knowledge on Hindu philosophies and good knowledge in Sanskrit understand Brahma Sutras? Will reading a direct translation of Brahma Sutras in other languages be helpful in understanding Hindu philosophy on God better?

No. Not at all.

The Sutras as such will be totally incomprehensible for plain sanskrit scholars.  Same is the case with direct translation too. Even with a reasonable knowledge in Hindu philosophies, one cannot make head or tail of reading Brahma Sutras directly. Brahma Sutras have to be comprehended only through commentaries (Bhashyams).

Here is a sample of  a few Sutras directly translated:

From Chapter 1, Padam (Section 2):

Sutram 1: “As this teaching is popular
Sutram 2: “As the qualities proposed match
Sutram 3: “As not matching, it is not life force with body
Sutram 4: “As Karma and doer are mentioned”
Sutram 5: “Due to difference in wording
Sutram 6: “As per Smriti too
Sutram 7: “The place is mentioned small, likewise that too is mentioned small, if cannot be God, it is not so, as it is told for meditation and as vast as sky”
Sutram 8: “If experience of pain / pleasure is present, it does not match; because of difference
Sutram 9: “God is the eater as the entire cosmos is absorbed
Sutram 10: “As it happens

Doesn’t it look extremely obvious that nothing meaningful could be obtained from these even by a scholar who knows Hindu philosophies  well?

On the other hand, if you take Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, a person with rudimentary knowledge on Hindu philosophies may  reasonably understand their direct translations even without explanations. It is quite likely that many doubts and confusions may linger, but still one can definitely grasp considerably on the subjects by reading the direct scripture (if knowledgeable in Sanskrit) or through direct translations.

It is  obviously not so with Brahma Sutras. As already mentioned and seen, the Sutras are extremely cryptic notes, serving as systematically organized and sequentialized hints to aid and rekindle the memory of the earnest students of philosophy in relating to the larger elaborations and references taught by the gurus through the Bhashyas (commentaries).

The bhashyas relate which particular verse of which Upanishad is referred to in a Sutra; or which Sankhya philosophical text is being negated in which Sutra; or which  statement from a Smriti is associated with which Sutra; what is the wholesome meaning of each Sutra or each adhikarana and so on.

If read with Bhashyams (commentaries) will the Brahma Sutras serve as an adequate source of knowledge of Hindu philosophies?

No. Brahma Sutras are NOT independent source of spiritual knowledge like Bhagavad Gita or Upanishads.

Brahma Sutras with Bhashyams, when heard through the explanations of one’s Guru, at the best serve as a guide to remove any confusions, misunderstandings and doubts on Upanishads, for those who have already studied Vedanta in depth. They can also help in clearing any added confusions on account of reading other scriptures like Mimamsa, Samkya philosophy or philosophies of Buddhism and Jainism.

Is Brahma Sutras meant more for scholars and Pundits?

Yes, more or less.

Even to understand Brahma Sutras with appropriate Bhashyams, one must have studied and reasonably grasped at least the 12 major Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita; a reasonable exposure to Purva Mimamsa, Nyaya and Samkya philosophies too are essential. In the olden days, only highly qualified and brilliant Pundits (Brahmins) with a good grasp of Sanskrit language and  keen, earnest seekers of spirituality with a thirst for grasping the highest knowledge on Brahman (also possessing the knowledge of Sanskrit) were fit for learning Brahma Sutras.

It must be noted that the Bhashyams too were only in Sanskrit and a mere understanding of Sanskrit would not just help in deciphering the bhashyams too. A qualified Guru’s teaching and explanation using the bhashyams and appropriate references to the source texts in Upanishads and other scriptures are essential.

For present day scholars and earnest seekers of core philosophy of Hinduism too, the same conditions are applicable, except for the fact that they can make good with translations of the originals from Sanskrit to their own languages. In any case, the teaching from a qualified Guru can never be dispensed with.

Are there many Bhashyams (commentaries) on Brahma Sutras?

Yes; indeed.

Badarayana’s disciples must have learned and memorized Brahma Sutras and also received and absorbed the Bhashyam, to be transmitted to next generations by word of mouth. Over a period of time, Sutras  (and probably bhashyams) might have started appearing in written form in palm leaves. Across centuries, the original bhashyams too could have been lost.

The earliest available and reportedly the most authentic commentary on Brahma Sutras is from Sri Shankaracharya (788-820 CE) and his bhashyam is based on his Advaita philosophy. In the subsequent centuries, several other commentaries appeared from different Acharyas by offering their explanations of the particular school of philosophy they professed. Thus there are bhasyams written by Sri Bhaskara and Sri Yadava Prakasha (10th & 11th Century) based on Bheda-Abheda school of thought, Sri Ramanujacharya (11th/12th Century) based on his Vishitadvaita school of thought, Sri Madhvacharya (13th/14th Century) based on his Dvaita School of philosophy, Srikanta (13th Century) based on Saiva Siddhanta and so on.

Down the line of disciples of the masters (who wrote the original commentaries), across time, even comprehending the bhashyas got difficult, needing further enlightenment on the original bhashyams. Thus several additional explanations to the original teachings too came, written by latter disciples.

Why are there different schools of interpretations?  What is the impact?

The technique of Sutras served as  effective mode of teaching  in a period when propagation of Vedic knowledge was primarily through word of mouth and not through writing.

But the negative outcome of this technique could be that there was tremendous scope for losing (fully or partially) the associated teachings with the Sutras,  or distorting and twisting the original teachings associated with the Sutras, while the Sutras themselves, being brief, were memorized and transmitted reasonably accurately and in latter periods got written in palm leaves.

The original teachings contained in Upanishads are essentially non-dualistic (Advaita) in their core, which have been expressed by the rishis in poetic form directly based on their experience. They also contain metaphors, allegories and parables which give scope for different interpretations. We have seen already how the direct meaning of Sutras are so cryptic and vague; naturally, the sutras coupled with allegories in the Upanishads do provide enough scope for different interpretations.

The spiritual experiences attained by different acharyas at different periods of histories and their own convictions of their experiences to be truer than Advaitic experience of the rishis gave them the impetus to give different meanings to the sutras and also to the Upanishad statements; some upanishad statements also have the scope of differing from purely advaita point of view . Added to these is the scope available in Sanskrit language per se to spit or combine words to get different meanings.

Swami Shivananda says, “Sanskrit is very elastic. It is like Kamadhenu or Kalpataru. You can milk out of it various kinds of Rasas according to your intellectual calibre and spiritual experiences. There fore different Acharyas have
built different systems of thought or cults by interpreting the Sutras in their own ways and became founders of sects.”

Swami Vivekananda says, “...the problem gets compounded by the acharyas who wrote the commentaries. A commentator interpreting the Sutras from Advaita point of view retains phrases emphasizing the advaita angle, but distorts the meaning of certain words that seem to convey Dvaita concept. A sanskrit word meaning ‘birthless’ (ajah) gets conveniently distorted to read ajaa to mean a female goat! If not worse, at least in a similar fashion, the acharyas of Dvaita conveniently distort Vedic words and phrases conveying Advaita concept, while retaining those giving a dvaita angle of meaning!”

Added to this is another reality that the number of Sutras referred and quoted by these Acharyas too vary. While Sri Sankara’s commentary is based on 192 adhikaranas and 555 sutras, Sri Ramanujar’s is based 155 adhikaranas and 545 sutras and Shi Madhvar’s is based on 223 adhikaranas and 564 sutras.

Naturally, we get an impression that the writers of commentaries could have played with and distorted, to some extent, the original purport and conception of Sutras by Badanarayana!

For an English reader, which could be a good commentary on Brahma Sutras to read?

It is felt that Brahma Sutra commentaries done by Swami Shivananda (Divine Life Society, Rishikesh) which is based predominantly on Sri Shankara’s Bhashyam is a good one, very neatly arranged and written in an easily comprehensible style.

 

 

To give a birds eye view of what Brahma Sutras broadly contain, the chapter wise contents are given below (based on the above book):

(Note: Each bullet below corresponds to each adhikarana)

Chapter 1: Samanvaya Adhikaram

In the first chapter the author shows that all the Vedic texts uniformly refer to Brahman and find their Samanvaya (reconciliation) in Him.

(Ch. 1)  Section (Pada) 1

  1. The enquiry into Brahman and its prerequisites.
  2. Definition of Brahman
  3. Brahman is realisable only through the scriptures
  4. Brahman is the main purport of all Vedantic texts
  5. Brahman (the intelligent principle) is the First Cause
  6. Anandamaya is Para Brahman.
  7. The being or person in the Sun and the eye is Brahman.
  8. The word Akasa must be understood as Brahman
  9. The word ‘Prana’ must be understood as Brahman
  10. The light is Brahman.
  11. Prana is Brahman

(Ch. 1) Section (Pada) 2

  1. The Manomaya is Brahman
  2. The eater is Brahman.
  3. The dwellers in the cave of the heart are the individual soul and Brahman.
  4. The person within the eye is Brahman.
  5. The internal ruler is Brahman.
  6. That which cannot be seen is Brahman.
  7. Vaisvanara is Brahman.

(Ch. 1) Section (Pada) 3

  1. The abode of heaven, earth etc. is Brahman
  2. Bhuma is Brahman
  3. Akshara is Brahman
  4. The Highest person to be meditated upon is the Highest Brahman
  5. The Dahara or the ‘Small Akasa’ is Brahman
  6. Everything shines after Brahman
  7. The person of the size of a thumb is Brahman
  8. The Devas also are entitled to the study of Vedas and to meditate on Brahman
  9. The right of the Sudras to the study of Vedas discussed
  10. The Prana in which everything trembles is Brahman
  11. The ‘light’ is Brahman
  12. The Akasa is Brahman
  13. The Self consisting of knowledge is Brahman

(Ch. 1) Section (Pada) 4

  1. The Mahat and Avyakta of the Kathopanishad do not refer to the Sankhya Tattvas.
  2. The Aja of Svetasvatara Upanishad does not mean Pradhana.
  3. The five-fold-five (Pancha-panchajanah) does not refer to the twenty-five Sankhyan categories.
  4. Brahman is the First cause.
  5. He who is the maker of the Sun, Moon, etc. is Brahman and not Prana or the individual soul.
  6. The Atman to be seen through hearing etc., of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (II-4-5)  is Brahman and not Jivatma
  7. Brahman is both the efficient and the material cause
  8. The arguments which refute the Sankhyas refute the others also.

Chapter 2: Avirodha Adhikaram

In the second  chapter, alternative concepts in other Shastras are confronted and  proved that there are no conflicts in Upanishad interpretations.

(Ch. 2)  Section (Pada) 1

  1. Refutation of Smritis not based on Srutis
  2. Refutation of Samkhya Yoga
  3. Brahman can be the cause of the universe, although It is of a contrary nature from the universe.
  4. Kanada and Gautama Refuted
  5. The distinctions of enjoyer and enjoyed do not oppose unity
  6. The world (ef fect) is non-dif fer ent from Brah man (the cause)
  7. Brahman does not create evil
  8. Brahman is the cause of the world
  9. Brahman is the material cause of the universe, though He is without parts
  10. Fully-equipped Brahman
  11. Final end of Creation
  12. Brahman is neither partial nor cruel
  13. Saguna Brahman necessary for creation

(Ch. 2)  Section (Pada) 2

  1. Refutation of the Sankhyan theory of the Pradhana as the cause of the world.
  2. Refutation of the Vaiseshika view
  3. Refutation of the atomic theory of the Vaiseshikas
  4. Refutation of the Bauddha Realists
  5. Refutation of the Bauddha Idealist
  6. Refutation of the Jaina Doctrine
  7. Refutation of the Pasupata System
  8. Refutation of the Bhagavata or the Pancharatra school

(Ch. 2)  Section (Pada) 3

  1. Ether (Akasa) is not eternal but created
  2. Air originates from ether
  3. Brahman (Sat) has no origin
  4. Fire originates from air
  5. Water is produced from fire
  6. Earth is created from water
  7. Brahman abiding within the element is the creative principle
  8. The process of dissolution of the elements is in the reverse order from that of creation
  9. The mention of the mind and intellect does not interfere with the order of creation and reabsorption as they are the products of the elements
  10. Births and deaths are not of the soul
  11. The individual soul is eternal. ‘It is not produced’
  12. The nature of the individual soul is intelligence
  13. The size of the individual soul
  14. The individual soul is an agent
  15. The soul is an agent as long as it is limited by the adjuncts
  16. The soul is dependent on the Lord, when he works
  17. Relation of the individual soul to Brahman

(Ch. 2)  Section (Pada) 4

  1. The Pranas have their origin from Brahman
  2. The number of the organs (organs of knowledge and action)
  3. The organs are minute in size
  4. The chief Prana has also an origin from Brahman
  5. The chief Prana is different from air and sense functions
  6. The minuteness of the chief Prana
  7. The presiding deities of the organs
  8. The organs are independent principles and not functions of the chief Prana
  9. The creation of names and forms is by the Lord and not by the individual soul

Chapter 3: Sadhana Adhikaram

In the third  chapter, the means of attaining Brahman are described.

(Ch. 3)  Section (Pada) 1

  1. The soul at the time of transmigration does take with it subtle parts of the elements
  2. The souls descending from heaven have a remnant of Karma which determines their birth
  3. The fate after death of those souls whose deeds do not entitle them to pass up to Chandraloka
  4. The soul on its descent from the Chandraloka does not become identified with ether, etc., but attains a similarity of nature
  5. It takes only a short time for the descent of the soul
  6. When the souls enter into plants, etc., they only cling to them and do not themselves become those species

(Ch. 3)  Section (Pada) 2

  1. The soul in the dream state
  2. The soul in dreamless sleep
  3. The same soul returns from deep sleep
  4. The nature of swoon
  5. The nature of Brahman
  6. The Neti-neti text explained
  7. Brahman is one without a second
  8. The Lord is the giver of the fruits of actions

(Ch. 3)  Section (Pada) 3

  1. The Vidyas having identical or the same form found in scriptures constitute one Vidya
  2. Particulars of identical Vidyas mentioned in different Sakhas or places are to be combined into one meditation
  3. Those Vidyas with different subject-matter are separate, even if there may be some similarities
  4. It is appropriate to specialise OM by the term ‘Udgitha’
  5. Unity of the Prana-Vidya
  6. Attributes like Bliss, etc., of Brahman have to be combined into one meditation
  7. Katha Upanishad (I.3.10-11) teaches merely that the Self is higher than everything else
  8. The Self mentioned in Aithreya  Upanishad  I.1. is the Supreme Self and the attributes of the Self given elsewhere should be combined with this meditation.
  9. Only thinking water to be the dress of Prana is enjoined in the Prana-Vidya
  10. Vidyas of the same Sakha which are identical should be combined, in meditation
  11. The names ‘Ahar’ and ‘Aham’ of Brahman occurring in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (V.5.1-2) cannot be combined
  12. Attributes of Brahman occurring in the Ranayaniya Khila constitute an independent Vidya
  13. The Purusha Vidya in the Chhandogya and the Taittiriya are not to be combined
  14. Unconnected Mantras and sacrifices mentioned in certain Upanishads do not belong to Brahma-Vidya
  15. The statement that the good and evil deeds of a person go respectively to his friends and enemies is true for texts that mention discarding of such actions by him
  16. The shaking off of good and evil by the man of Knowledge occurs only at the time of his death
  17. The knower of Saguna Brahman alone goes along Devayana, and not the knower of Nirguna Brahman
  18. The passage of the soul by Devayana applies equally to all Vidyas of Saguna Brahman
  19. Perfected souls may take a corporeal existence for divine mission
  20. The negative attributes of Brahman mentioned in various texts are to be combined in all meditations on Brahman
  21. Mundaka Upanishad III.1.1 and Katha Upanishad I.3.1 constitute one Vidya
  22. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad III.4.1 and III.5.1 constitute one Vidya
  23. The Sruti prescribes reciprocal meditation in Aithreya Upanishad (II.2.4.6)
  24. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (V.4.1 and V.5.3) treat of one Vidya about Satya Brahman
  25. Attributes mentioned in Chandhyogya Upanishad  (VIII.1.1) and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad  (IV.4.22) are to be combined on account of several common features in both texts
  26. Pranagnihotra need not be observed on days of fast
  27. Upasanas mentioned in connection with sacrifices are not their parts, but separate
  28. Meditations on Vayu and Prana are to be kept separate notwithstanding the essential oneness of these two
  29. The fires in Agnirahasya of the Brihadaranyaka are not part of the sacrificial act, but form an independent Vidya
  30. Atman is an entity distinct from the body
  31. Upasanas connected with sacrificial acts, i.e., Udgitha Upasana are valid for all schools
  32. Vaisvanara Upasana is one entire Upasana
  33. Various Vidyas like the Sandilya Vidya, Dahara Vidya and so on are to be kept separate and not combined into one entire Upasana
  34. Any one of the Vidyas should be selected according to one’s own option or choice
  35. Vidyas yielding particular desires may or may not be combined according to one’s liking
  36. Meditations connected with members of sacrificial acts may or may not be combined according to one’s liking

(Ch. 3  Section (Pada) 4

  1. Knowledge of Brahman is independent of sacrificial acts
  2. Sannyasa is prescribed by the scriptures
  3. Scriptural texts as in Chhandhyogya Upanishad (I.1.3.) which refer to Vidyas are not mere praises but themselves enjoin the meditations
  4. The stories mentioned in the Upanishads do not serve the purpose of Pariplavas and so do not form part of the ritualistic acts. They are meant to euloigise the Vidya taught in them
  5. Sannyasins need not observe ritualistic acts, as Brahma Vidya or knowledge serves their purpose
  6. Works prescribed by the scriptures are means to the attainment of knowledge
  7. Food-restrictions may be given up only when life is in danger
  8. The duties of Asrama are to be performed by even one who is not desirous of salvation
  9. Those who stand midway qualified for knowledge; between two Asramas also are
  10. He who has taken Sannyasa cannot revert back to his former stages of life
  11. Expiation for one who has broken the vow of Sannyasa
  12. The life-long celibate who fails to keep up his vow must be excluded by society
  13. The meditations connected with the subordinate members of sacrificial acts (Yajnangas) should be observed by the priest and not by the sacrificer
  14. In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad ( III.5.1) meditation is enjoined besides the child-like state and scholarship
  15. Child-like state means the state of innocence, being free from egoism, lust, anger, etc.
  16. The time of the origination of knowledge when Brahma Vidya is practised
  17. Liberation is a state without difference. It is only one.

Chapter 4: Phala Adhikaram

In the fourth chapter the result of attaining Brahman is described.

(Ch. 4)  Section (Pada) 1

  1. Meditation on Brahman should be continued till knowledge is attained
  2. He who meditates on the Supreme Brahman must comprehend It as identical with himself
  3. The symbols of Brahman should not be meditated upon as identical with the meditator
  4. When meditating on a symbol, the symbol should be considered as Brahman and not Brahman as the symbol
  5. In meditation on the members of sacrificial acts the idea of divinity is to be superimposed on the members and not in the reverse way.
  6. One is to meditate sitting.
  7. There is no restriction of place with regard to meditation
  8. Meditations should be continued till death
  9. Knowledge of Brahman frees one from all past and future sins.
  10. Similarly good work do not affect the knower of Brahman.
  11. Works which have not begun to yield results are alone destroyed by knowledge and not those which have already begun to bear fruits.
  12. Permanent obligatory works enjoined by the Vedas for different Asramas are not to be given up.
  13. Sacrificial works not combined with knowledge or meditation also help in the origination of knowledge
  14. After enjoying the fruits of Prarabdha Karma the knower becomes one with Brahman

(Ch. 4)  Section (Pada) 2

  1. At the time of death the functions of the organs are merged in the mind.
  2. The function of mind is merged in Prana.
  3. The function of Prana is merged in the Jiva.
  4. The mode of departure from the body up to the way is common to both the knower of the Saguna Brahman and an ordinary man.
  5. The dissolution of fire etc., at the time of death in the Supreme Deity is only relative.
  6. The Pranas of the knower of Brahman do not depart at the time of death.
  7. The Pranas (organs) and elements of the knower of the Nirguna Brahman get merged in It at death.
  8. The Kalas of the knower of the Nirguna Brahman attain absolute non-distinction with Brahman at death
  9. The soul of the knower of the Saguna Brahman comes to the heart at the time of death and then goes out through the Sushumna Nadi.
  10. The soul of one who knows Saguna Brahman follows the rays of the sun after death and goes to Brahmaloka.
  11. Even if the knower of the Saguna Brahman dies in Dakshinayana, he still goes to Brahmaloka.

(Ch. 4)  Section (Pada) 3

  1. The path connected with the deities beginning with that of light is the only path that leads to Brahmaloka.
  2. The departing soul reaches the deity of the year and then the deity of the air.
  3. After reaching the deity identified with lightning, the soul reaches the world of Varuna.
  4. Light, etc., referred to in the text describing the path of the gods mean deities identified with light, etc., who conduct the soul stage after stage till Brahmaloka is reached.
  5. The departed souls go by the path of gods to Saguna Brahman.
  6. Only those who have taken recourse to the worship of Brahman without a symbol attain Brahmaloka.

(Ch. 4)  Section (Pada) 4

  1. The liberated soul does not acquire anything new but only manifests its essential or true nature.
  2. The released soul remains inseparable from the Supreme Soul.
  3. Characteristics of the soul that has attained the Nirguna Brahman.
  4. The soul which has attained the Saguna Brahman effects its desire by mere will.
  5. A liberated soul who has attained Brahmaloka can exist with or without a body according to his liking.
  6. The liberated soul which has attained the Saguna Brahman can animate several bodies at the same time.
  7. The liberated soul which has attained Brahmaloka has all the lordly powers except the power of creation.

To read the complete elaboration of the above subjects, here is the link to the site: Brahma Sutras (Swami Sivananda)

The pdf format of the book is also available for free download:  Click here

References:

  • Brahma Sutram (Tamil) By Swami Asuthoshananda (By Ramakrishna Math Chennai, Year 2013)
  • Deivatthin Kural (Tamil) – Part 2 (compilation of talks of Sri Kanchi Paramacharya) – Vanathi Publications, Chennai.
  • Upanishad Saram (Chandogyam, Brihadaranyakam and Brahma Sutra saram) By Sri Anna Subramaniam – Tamil – Ramakrishna Math Chennai (10th Edition 2016)
  • Brahma Sutras – Swami Sivananda – Divine Life Society

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upanishads – Vedanta

What are Upanishads? Where are they?

Upanishads are the concluding parts of the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas); they are also known as Vedantas (Veda+anta = end of Vedas). They are also known as Aranyakas, that which were taught at forests.

The contents of each Veda are classified into two portions – the Karma Kanda and the Gnyana Kanda. The Karma kandas are the first part of Vedas and they contain  hymns, procedures and instructions regarding rites and ceremonies, rules of conduct and  mantras and verses with intonations etc connected with doing Vedic karmas and fire ceremonies. The second, ending portions called the Gnana Kanda are the Upanishads that contain the quintessence of Vedic spiritual knowledge about God – Jnana.

What does ‘Upanishad’ mean?

Upanishads contain the core spiritual teaching of Vedas and are taught by Rishis to their deserving and spiritually earnest disciples in seclusion.  The word Upanishad in Sanskrit means “sitting down by the side” which actually relates to hearing the teachings of the saint by sitting close to him. Its another meaning is secret doctrine. It also said to mean the knowledge of Self/ Brahman (Atma Vidya/ Brahma Vidya).

Why Jnana Kanda (Upanishads) considered the Ultimate of Vedic knowledge?

The earlier Karma Kanda part of Vedas was essentially to do with hymns, prayers, rituals and rites to please the celestial Gods for getting worldly life with desires and wants fulfilled. But, by doing the rites and fulfilling the worldly desires, several questions also came in the minds of rishis — are they really fulfilling? Are they able to solve all problems? Why wants, suffering, sorrows and pains in life do not seem to get eradicated totally from life simply through the path of conducting vedic rites? Is there some Supreme Truth behind the celestial Gods who are pleased by Vedic ceremonies and other Gods (Eswaras) of creation, sustenance and destruction?

Having  understood the benefits as well as the limitations of totally relying on vedic karmas, there were indeed such doubts and questions in the minds of the rishis. Vedic procedures were too many, disciplines were too demanding, material needs to conduct rites were imposing and there could be so many lapses leading to failure of the intended purposes of conducting yagas. Desires don’t seem to get satiated, expectations are not always met and dissatisfaction still remains in life.

The rishis of yonder started thirsting for better spiritual knowledge; through deep meditation, they  inquired into the cause of birth, death, jiva (soul), God, how God is related to soul, what is the true nature of living and non-living beings, human mind, intellect, ego, the connection between the creation and the creator (God) and so on. Through their tapas, the rishis acquired the supreme knowledge related to all these queries. They experienced that God called by them as Brahman is beyond name and form but inclusive of everything in the creation. It is not just a theory but something experienced and never explicable by words.

 What do Upanishads contain?

It is in the Upanishads that the concept of God beyond name and form called Brahman find explanation in so many ways. The advaita concept of Brahman (or parabrahman — universal soul) and atman (Self) being one and the same is explained. Upanishads in fact appear to be a labor of love of the great seers to explain the inexplicable — Brahman who is beyond all names forms, beyond the conception of the mind, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, smaller than the atom but larger than the largest, all inclusive but not not bound by anything, not perceptible to the senses, mind or intellect and yet experienced without doubt by the single minded devotion and meditation of the earnest seeker.

The rishis tried their best to teach this transcendental experience of Brahman in whatever best way they could — by verbose explanations, through poetically expressed hymns, by cryptic but grand statements (maha vakyas), through examples and similes, through stories, prayers,  conversations, arguments, questions and answers and so on.  Such part of the Vedic knowledge, the concluding documents of Vedas is Upanishads or Vedanta.

Upanishads thus form the very core and crux of the highest knowledge of spirituality in Hinduism. They are one of the three authentic philosophical reference scriptures of Hinduism viz Prasthana Triya (Brahma Sutra and Bhagavad Gita are the other two).

Despite the various styles, methods and flows with which the different Upanishads speak, the common thread of knowledge carried by them is the knowledge about Brahman and Atman and the unity between the two.

Thus, Upanishads ascertain monotheism. That One God beyond name and form, being omniscient and omnipotent, can come assuming numerous names and forms to reach His devotees who, based on their tastes, temperaments and conceptions tend to worship him in various names and forms. Whatever different God forms that various Puranas (in Smritis) glorify as the Supreme Gods are none other than Brahman, the Ultimate Truth behind Upanishads.

How many Upanishads are there?

It is said that there are 108 Upanishads. However, the following 10 upanishads are acknowledged to be the most important and comprehensive ones (for study in the order given below), by great Spiritual masters like Sri Shankaracharya:

1) Isa Upanishad   (in Shukla Yajur Veda)

2) Kena Upanishad (in Sama Veda)

3) Katha Upanishad (in Krishna Yajur Veda)

4) Prasna Upanishad (in Atharva Veda)

5) Mundaka Upanishad (in Atharva Veda)

6) Mandukya Upanishad (in Atharva Veda)

7) Taittriya Upanishad (in Krishna Yajur Veda)

8) Chandogya Upanishad (in Sama Veda)

9) Brihadaranyaka upanishad  (in Shukla Yajur Veda)

10) Svetasvatara Upanishad (in Krishna Yajur Veda)

Three more Upanishads namely, Aithereya Upanishad (in Rig Veda), Kaushitaki Upanishad (in Rig Veda) and Maitrayani Upanishads (in Krishna Yajur Veda) were also included by later scholars into the fold of principal upanishads, taking the total count to 13.