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Category Archives: Vedanta

Crazy Wisdom

1.1. Crazy wisdom is a way of teaching; and it is prevalent in almost all traditions.  It has been there for a very long-time. Crazy wisdom says, we all are, in truth, interconnected. The separations in the physical world such as human bodies, houses, communities are mere appearances.  Crazy Wisdom seeks to unearth and heal the false beliefs that people have about themselves and of the world around them. It is a means for expressing and maintaining the difference between the conventional point of view and the transcendental point of view.

1.2. The teaching might have gained that name- crazy – because its teachers were eccentrics who used their eccentricity to bring forth an alternate vision, the one that was different from the pedestrian and dogma-riddled view of existence. They were the masters of inversion, proficient breakers of taboos and lovers of surprises. They relished the delight in   contradictions and ambiguity. Sometimes they overdid and went overboard; and were mistaken for tricksters and clowns.

1.3. Crazy wisdom or holy-madness, as it came to be called, does indeed seem crazy to rational mind and commonsense. That is because it is designed, deliberately, to confront, to shock and to confuse an otherwise rational mind. The crazy teacher’s behaviour and his teachings turn the ordinary view of life upside down, and project life in a different perspective. His approach is what one might call “no-holds-bar”. The crazy teacher is willing to employ a large range of tactics and applications including , but not limited to ,provocation , insult, physical and mental abuse, humour, and credulity; and in extreme cases, it might stray in to use of alcohol, drugs and sex. All those unconventional and socially unacceptable ways of behaviour were pressed into service in order to drag the student out of the cocoon, strip him naked and bring him face to face with reality.

1.4. Predictably, such behavioural patterns create scare and conflict in the minds of even the committed followers of the path. It also brings into question, the issues of trust; and abuse of position and power. But a serous seeker will have to face those challenges and resolve the contradictions, all by himself.

1.5. The crazy wisdom or foolish wisdom is thus a two-edged sword, to be handled with extreme caution. The dividing line between wisdom and foolishness is very thin; and it is not possible to say with certainty when a fool is just a fool, or a fool graced by wisdom, or a wise person touched by foolishness.

1.6. In all such traditions, it is said, a genuine crazy –wisdom- teacher will act only in response to the needs of his student, regardless of his own discomfort and personal preferences. His main concern is the awakening of his student .But, it is   the responsibility of the student to understand and learn; and the teacher is not obliged to make it easy for the student.

1.7. It is explained, the teacher, to put it crudely, is like a dispensing machine. The student will have to come up with right questions to get the benefit of the teacher. It is the questions the student frames – internally or explicitly- and the demands he makes in seeking the answers that truly matter. He   can challenge himself to formulate a question that accurately captures the real need; and follow it with intensity. After a period of time, as he begins to endure the heat (tapa), generated by the genuine unanswered questions, the answers start appearing unexpectedly in the most unlikely places or in the most obvious places right under his nose.

That is the basis of the learning process under an Avadhuta or a Siddha or a Zen teacher or the saintly-madman (lama myonpa) of Tibetan Buddhism.

[ By the way, Aryadeva (14th century?), a Buddhist scholar, in his Chatuhsataka (four hundred verses) narrates a story to illustrate (a) madness is a relative concept; and (b) just because one is in a minority he cannot be dismissed as being wrong.

According to his story, a wandering astrologer warned a king that in a week’s time, very rain would pour down on his country; and whoever drinks that rainwater would go insane. The king took the astrologer’s warning quite seriously and ordered to get his well of drinking water well covered. His subjects, however, either lacking means or laughing at the astrologer, took no action to secure their sources of drinking water.  It did rain a week hence, as predicted; and the whole of the kingdom’s populace drank the rain water which found its way into their well and tanks. They all, promptly, went mad. The king who had protected his well was the only sane person in the whole of his kingdom.

But, the king’s subjects gathered together and laughed and jeered at the king calling him insane. After such repeated heckling, the king – the only sane person in the whole of the kingdom – could no longer endure the irritating jibes. In order to put an end to his agony, the king, at last, decides to drink the rain water. And, he promptly goes mad just as his subjects. Now, all are alike and all are happy in their madness.

Therefore, if one is the sole, single sane person, then he does not get to call the rest as insane. But, at the same time, he not wrong if he calls the rest as insane. Then, again, who will listen to him or pay heed to his words …!!

The story also illustrates how ‘madness’ is a relative concept, depending upon each one’s perspective. In the broader view, what defines madness is the social, cultural and other ways of understanding human behavior at different times and in different regions. Madness is thus a highly context-sensitive issue.]

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2.1. Avadhuta, the one who has cast off all concerns and obligations, like the Shiva himself, is the typical teacher of wisdom. He does that in a highly unconventional manner. He has no use for social etiquette; he has risen above worldly concerns. He is not bound by sanyasi dharma either. He roams the earth freely like a child, like an intoxicated or like one possessed. He is the embodiment of detachment and spiritual wisdom..

Avadhuta Gita describes him as :

Having renounced all, he moves about naked.

He perceives the Absolute, the All, within himself.

The Avadhuta never knows any mantra in Vedic meter or any Tantra. Ashtavakra Gita describes him in a similar manner:

The sage sees no difference 
Between happiness and misery, 
Man and woman, 
Adversity and success. 
Everything is seen to be the same. 

The sage is not conflicted 
By states of stillness and thought. 
His mind is empty. 
His home is the Absolute. 

Knowing for certain that all is Self, 
The sage has no trace of thoughts 
Such as “I am this” or “I am not that.” 

The yogi who finds stillness 
is neither distracted nor focused. 
He knows neither pleasure nor pain. 
Ignorance dispelled, 
He is free of knowing.
 

2.2. Among the classical  texts that describe the nature of the Avadhuta,  the prominent ones  are the Avadhuta Gita , the culminating text of the Dattatreya tradition; the Ashtavakra Gita , a text of the highest order, addressed to advanced learners and  dealing  with the means of realizing the Self( atmanu-bhuti) and  the mystic experience  in the embodied state. The third and  a comparatively a recent text is the Atma-vidya-vilasa of Sri Sadashiva Brahmendra , an Avadhuta who lived during the eighteenth century.

2.3. The other major sect is the Siddha tradition of South India. The Siddha is one who has attained flawless identity with reality.

Jainism too recognizes Siddha as an enlightened teacher. In the Tibetan Buddhism, Siddha is a yogi who has attained magical powers and the ability to work miracles.

2.4. In so far as the folk tradition is concerned, there are a number of regional groups and subgroups. The better known of them are the Bauls of Bengal; the word meaning mad or confused. They are a religious sect of eccentrics. The Baul synthesis is characterized by four elements: there is no written text and therefore all teachings are through song and dance; God is to be found in and through the body and therefore the emphasis on kaya (body) sadhana, the use of sexual or breathe energy; and, absolute obedience and reverence to Guru.

3.1. Avadhuta Gita the ‘Song of the Ever Free’ does not indulge in debates to prove the non-dual nor does it ask you to control your senses; it sees no distinction between sense perception and spiritual realization. It makes some amazing statements:

The mind indeed is of the form of space. The mind indeed is Omni faced. The mind is the past. The mind is present and future and all phenomena. But in absolute reality, there is no mind.

All your senses are like clouds; all they show is an endless mirage.  The Radiant One is neither bound nor free.I am the Bliss, I am the Truth, I am the Boundless Sky

There is neither knowledge nor ignorance nor knowledge combined with ignorance. He who has always such knowledge is himself Knowledge. It is never otherwise.

How shall I salute the formless being, indivisible, auspicious and immutable, who fills all this with its self and also fills the self with its self?
Know it firmly, freely, independently. And maintain it at all times, all conditions. That is all. Be Avadhuta Dattatreya yourself; because, you are yourself that.

3.2. In the Ashtavakra Gita, sage Ashtavakra maintains that all prayers, mantras, rituals, meditation, actions, devotion, breathing practices, etc are secondary. These distract the aspirant from self-knowledge. Knowledge/awareness is all that is required. Ignorance does not exist in itself; it is just the absence of knowledge or the lack of awareness. The light of knowledge or consciousness will dispel ignorance revealing the Self. The Self is merely forgotten, not lost.

This is not a belief system or a school of thought. This is simply ‘What Is’ and the recognition of ‘What is’.

Attachment and aversion

Are attributes of the mind.
You are not the mind.
You are Consciousness itself–
Changeless, undivided, free.
Go in happiness
Ashtavakra does not pay much heed to book learning or to the importance given to mind and its control. You are already free, what will you gain by deliberating or pondering. Remain unattached at all times from all things (including the mind). He advocates direct approach. Teachings of Sri Ramana are remarkably similar to that of sage Ashtavakra.

You can recite and discuss scripture

All you want,
But until you drop everything
You will never know Truth

Ashtavakra then attacks the futility of effort and knowing.

Being pure consciousness,

Do not disturb your mind with thoughts of for and against.
Be at peace and remain happily
In yourself, the essence of joy. 15.19

Give up meditation completely

But don’t let the mind hold on to anything.
You are free by nature,
So what will you achieve by forcing the mind? 15.20

I Am Awareness.

Where are principles and scriptures?
Where is the disciple or teacher?
Where is the reason for life?
I am boundless, Absolute

 

3.3. Atma_vidya_vilasa is written in simple, lucid Sanskrit. Its subject is renunciation. It also describes the ways of the Avadhuta, as one who is beyond the pale of social norms , beyond Dharma , beyond good and evil; as  one who has discarded scriptures, shastras , rituals or even the disciplines prescribed for sanyasins;one who has gone beyond the bodily awareness , one who realized the Self and one immersed in the bliss of self-realization. He is absolutely free and liberated in every sense – one who “passed away from” or “shaken off” all worldly attachments and cares, and realized his identity with God. The text describes the characteristics of an Avadhuta, his state of mind, his attitude and behavior. The text undoubtedly is a product of Sadashiva Brahmendra’s own experience. It is a highly revered book among the Yogis and Sadhakas.

One of such Sadhakas who really emulated Sadashiva Brahmendra and evolved into an Avadhuta was the 34th  Acharya , the Jagad-guru  of Sri Sringeri Mutt, Sri Chandrasekhar Bharathi Swamiji. He studied Atma_vidya_vilasa intensely, imbibed its principles and truly lived according to that in word and deed. Unmindful of the external world, he roamed wildly in the hills of Sringeri like a child, an intoxicated, and an insane; and as one possessed, singing aloud the verses from Atma_vidya_vilasa:

Discard the bondages of karma. Wander in the hills immersed in the bliss of the Self -unmindful of the world like a deaf and a blind (AVV-15)

Rooted in the Brahman absorbed in the bliss within, he for a while meditates, for a while sings and dances in ecstasy. (AVV-21)

He sees nothing, hears nothing, and says nothing. He is immersed in Brahman and in that intoxication is motionless.(AVV-44)

4. 1.The Lankavatara Sutra of the Mahayana Buddhism is another text of the “crazy wisdom” tradition.  It was the text that Bodhidharma followed all his life and bequeathed it to his disciple and successor Hui K’o . Its basic thrust is on “inner enlightenment that does away with all duality.”  One of the recurrent themes in the Lankavatara Sutra is, not to rely on words to express reality. It holds the view that objects do not owe their existence to words that indicate them. The words themselves are artificial creations. Ideas, it says, can as well be expressed by looking steadily, by gestures, by a frown, by the movement of the eyes, by laughing, by yawning, or by the clearing of the throat, or by recollection, or by trembling.

Bodhidharma instructed his disciples to: “Leave behind the false, return to the true; make no discrimination between self and others. In contemplation, one’s mind should be stable, alert and clear like the wall; illuminating with compassion. “

4.2. In Zen too, the “holy madness” is widely used by the roshi (teacher). The adepts of Zen make use of shock techniques such as sudden shouting, abuses, physical violence, hand­clapping, paradoxical verbal responses, koans and riddles in order to induce satori or enlightenment.

4.3. Tibetan Buddhism also has its share of eccentric Lamas who use unconventional methods to initiate their disciples into enlightenment. Crazy wisdom in Tibetan is yeshe cholwa, where craziness and wisdom walk hand in hand. It is craziness gone wise rather than wisdom gone crazy. Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) and Karma Pakshi the second Karmapa are the celebrated crazy-wisdom – teachers in Tibetan Buddhism. They both were regarded as being able to overpower the phenomenal world. They demonstrated that what we call crazy is only crazy from the viewpoint of ego, custom and habit. Crazy wisdom is natural and effortless; not driven by the hope and fear.

There is also another set of “mad lamas (smyon‑pa) who reject  monastic tradition, ecclesi­astical hierarchy, societal conventions, and book learning.

4.4. Crazy wisdom is also practiced in Sufism, where it is known as “the path of blame.” Some Sufi mystics –majzubs – are known for their strange behaviour as well as for their heretical doctrine of their identification with the divine. The Sufi  practitioners of “crazy wisdom” pursue freedom and humility without concern for worldly consequences.

5.1. The crazy teachers were found not just in the East. Socrates was an archetypal wise fool who claimed that his wisdom was derived from his awareness of his ignorance.  His distinctive teaching method consisted in exposing the foolishness of the wise.

5.2. Even in the Christian tradition, the absurd notion that the fool may be wise and that the wise may be foolish—has long been in existence. It is often expressed as the “fool in Christ” or the “fool for Christ’s sake”. Here, foolish wisdom, the “holy folly”, is akin to “holy simplicity” or “learned ignorance”, which is an alternate way to rekindle the love of wisdom in the hearts of men and women. It is singular and sudden; and, is in contrast with the laborious common wisdom of the learned.

5.3. Europe in the sixth century seemed to be a great period for Crazy Adepts.  For instance, there was St. Simeon who liked to pretend insanity for effect.  Once he found a dead dog on a dung heap.  He tied the animal to his belt and dragged the corpse through town.  People of the town were outraged.  But, he was trying to demonstrate the uselessness of excess emotional “dead weight” that people drag through their lives.

The very next day, St. Simeon entered a church and just as the liturgy began, he threw nuts at the congregation.  St Simeon revealed on his deathbed that his life’s mission was to denounce hypocrisy and hubris.

5.4. Another example of the sixth-century spiritual silliness was Mark the Mad, a desert monk who was thought insane when he came into town to atone for his sins.  Only Abba Daniel saw the method in the monk’s madness, and declared the monk the only reasonable man in the city.

5.5. Saint Francis of Assisi was another example of foolish wisdom. He regarded himself as a fool deserving nothing but contempt and dishonour. He is cel­ebrated for his tender love for God and for God’s creatures, big and small.

6.1. The paradoxical idea that the fool may be wise is perhaps as old as humanity itself. It is a common experience that the untutored and innocent, including children, somehow seem to grasp profound truths, while the lettered and the learned just walk past it. Jesus alluded to it  when he thanked  and praised  God  for having hidden from the learned and the clever what he revealed to the merest children (Mt 11:25).

6.2. Without love, foolishness is just foolishness; and wisdom a mere collection of inflated bits of information. Ultimately, the fool­ish wisdom is a gift, a revelation received in humility of mind and simplicity of heart; an un-bounded, luminous, loving energy. It attains the power to convince and transform, more effectively than the sword and rhetoric.

That is possible only when it is graced by tender love for the fellow beings and for the fellow seekers.

 

 

Sources and References:

 http://www.spiritual-endeavors.org/basic/crazy.htm

Crazy Spirituality

http://eapi.admu.edu.ph/eapr002/wisdom.htm

Wisdom of the Holy Fools

http://www.onelittleangel.com/wisdom/quotes/book.asp?mc=319

Avadhuta

http://www.shambhala.org/teachings/view.php?id=131

Crazy Wisdom

Ashtavakra

Sri Sadashiva Brahmendra

 Zen Stories by Sylvan Incao

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Bodhidharma, Buddhism, Indian Philosophy, Vedanta, Zen

 

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The texts that Sri Shankara relied upon

Sri Shankara described himself as a Bashyakara, one who commented on certain texts of great acclaim. Yet, his monumental work, Vedanta Sutra Bashya, a commentary on Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra is remarkable for its creative thinking, originality in approach and high literary merit. He was an original thinker. Sri Shankara’s erudition is very impressive. Though steeped in tradition he displays a disarmingly candid approach even while discussing unorthodox issues. His critics too do not accuse him of dogmatism.

He was a great logician who based his arguments on principles of logic but without contradicting intuitional revelations of the Upanishads. Scripture and reason were his two aids in his arguments. His criticism is dignified, his language restrained yet forceful and his style clear like the waters of the Ganga, as Vachaspathi Mishra describes it.

Sri Shankara’s thoughts gave a new direction to Indian philosophy. It restored the position of Upanishads as the pristine source of knowledge.

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It was Badarayana the compiler of the Brahma Sutras who initially strived to uphold the authority of the Upanishads and to place God in the center of the scheme of things. He treated the Upanishads as the most meaningful portions of the Vedas, declared them as the highest authority and the most valid means of knowing. They are Shruthis, the Revelations, the supersensory intuitional perceptions of the ancient Rishis, he stressed. Badarayana’s efforts and anxieties were driven by an urgent need to rescue knowledge and freethinking from the encircling swamp of ritualistic texts and practices; as also from the ascending atheistic tendencies. His work represents a vigorous response to the challenges and demands of his times; and Brahma Sutra achieves that task amply well.

What, in effect , Badarayana was trying to accomplish was to drive away the strangling influence of rituals, dogma and atheism from the Indian spiritual scenes; and to bring back the Upanishad spirit of enquiry , intuition, knowledge, reason , open-mindedness and its values of life. It was for that good–tradition, Sampradaya, Badarayana was yearning. Brahma Sutra was an instrument to achieve those cherished objectives. Badarayana and his efforts represent the most important phase in the evolution of the Indian philosophy.

Badarayana set in motion the process of recovering the tradition of the ancients, Sampradaya, as also of cleansing of the spiritual environment; but had wait for over 1,200 years for Sri Shankara to arrive and carry the process forward.

 

Amazingly, when Sri Shankara arrived on the spiritual scene, Dharma of the ancients was beset with similar or even worse threats than in the time of Badarayana. Dogmatism, ritualism, corrupt and abominable practices of worship had taken a strong hold on the religious life of the people. There was no credible authority to dispense Dharma and the conditions were chaotic. In addition, there were the looming shadows cast across the ancient religion by other religions and atheists.

Both Badarayana and Sri Shankara were responding to the exigencies, demands and challenges of their times, which, as the fate would hate have it, were astonishingly similar, if not identical. They set to themselves similar tasks and priorities; and nurtured similar dreams and aspirations. Sri Shankara made a common cause with Badarayana, his forerunner, separated by history by over 1,200 years. That is the reason many consider Sri Shankara the logical successor to Badarayana.

Sri Shankara set himself the priorities : to bring back sanity, reason and quest for knowledge into the scriptures; to lend the right perspectives of relative and Absolute existence; to set lofty goals and aspirations to human existence; And, at the same time to wipeout ignorance , to wean people away from meaningless rituals and abominable practices of worship as also from Atheism. Badarayana addressed similar issues through his Brahma Sutra. Sri Shankara followed his lead and in turn wrote a powerful commentary on Brahma Sutra. Both the sages realized, the right way to go about their task was to treat Upanishads as the crest jewels of ancient wisdom; to bring back its authority into the center of human life; and to highlight the idealism, the spirit of enquiry, emphasis on virtues of knowledge and the process of self discovery and self realization, which the Upanishads valued as the summum bonunm of human existence.

The reason that Sri Shankara held Gauda-Pada, his Parama_Guru (the teacher of his teacher) in such high esteem was because he revived the Upanishads when they had fallen on bad days. Sri Shankara regarded Gauda-Pada as the true representative of the correct tradition of Vedanta.

Sri Shankara’s commentary on Brahma Sutra, titled Vedanta Sutra Bashya (VSB) is a highly celebrated text. Shankar’s purpose in writing his commentary was to explain the traditional view. He said, the primary meaning of the word Upanishad was knowledge, while the secondary meaning was the text itself. Sri Shankara said, the purpose of Upanishads is to remove adhyasa or avidya; and once it is removed, Brahman will shine of its accord, for it is the only reality.

He regards himself as the votary of Upanishads (Aupanishada).He even calls his way of thinking or the doctrine as Aupanishadam Darshanam, the Upanishad System. He defines the Upanishads as the texts that lead the aspirants close to the highest reality. He insists Upanishads constitute the final purpose and the import of the Vedic lore; and that is the reason he chose to write commentaries on the Upanishads and on the other two texts that depend almost entirely on the Upanishads – Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita. It is therefore not surprising that Sri Shankara relied heavily on Upanishad texts to interpret and comment on Brahma Sutra.

Let us take a look at the texts he referred to in his Vedanta Sutra Bashya.

Upanishads:

He isolated the Upanishad lore from the rest of the Vedic body and narrowed it down to ten or twelve Upanishads. Even here, he did not include the ritualistic portion of the Vedas. This was in contrast to the classification followed by the later Acharyas.

Paul Deuessen the German Indologist in his work” The Systems of the Vedanta”, diligently counted the number of references made to Upanishad texts in Sri Shankara’s Vedanta Sutra Bashya. He found, Sri Shankara, in his Bashya, quoted Upanishad texts as many as 2,000 times. The Upanishads from which he quoted frequently and the number of quotes were: Chandogya (810), Brihadaranyaka (567), Taitereya (142), Manduka (129), Katha (103), Kaushitaki (88) and Svethavatara (53).

The other Upanishads he referred to were: Prashna (39), Aithereya (22), Jabaala (13), Ishavasya (8) and kena (5).

Besides he quoted from “Agni Rahasya” (Shathapatha Brahmana), Narayaniyam (Taitteriya Aranyaka) and “Pingani Rahasya Brahmana” as if to suggest they carried as much authority as the Upanishads.

Vedas:

As regards the Vedas, he referred to the Samhitha portions of the Rig Veda, Atharva Veda, the “Taitteriya” and “Yajasaneya” segments of the krshna and Shukla Yajur Vedas, respectively. But, his reliance on them is less frequent and lees pronounced.

Brahmanas:

Among the Brahmana texts, he cites the kausitaki and Aitereya portions of Rig Veda; the Shathapatha and Taitereya portions of the YajurVeda; Chandogya, Pancha Vimsa, Shad Vimsa and Tandya texts of the Sama Veda.

Aranyakas:

Only two Aranyakas are cited: Aitareya from Rig Veda and Taittereya from Yajur Veda.

Puranas:

His reliance on Puranas is meager. He cites a few from Markandeya, Shiva, Vishnu and Vayu Puranas.

Dharma shastras:

He has high regard for Dharma Shastras. He quotes from a number of these texts: Manu Smriti, Ashvalayana, Kathyayana_srauta_sutra, Apasthamba Dharma sutra and Parasara_Grihya_sutra.

Darshanas:

He is intimately acquainted with Nyaya, vaisheshika, Samkhya (of Isvara Krishna) and Yoga systems and quotes from their related Sutras.

Mimamsa:

As regards Mimamsa texts, his knowledge is extensive. He cites from Sabara’s Bashya on Jaimini, Prabhakara’s Byati and from Kumarila’s works.

Buddhist texts:

He has considerable knowledge of Buddhist texts. Dharma Kirthi was his main source. He mentions Dignaga also.

Having mentioned the sources of his references, I must add that Sri Shankara above all the scriptures , relied on experience, common as well as extraordinary to build his theory of Brahman. He gave credence to an individual’s subjective experience. He placed personal experience and intuition above all the other means of cognition. He said a person’s experience could not be disputed. He declared, “Intuition is not opposed to intellect. Reality is experience. Realizing the Supreme Being is within ones experience”.

Reference:

Sri Shankara and Adhyasa Bashya

By

Prof.SKR Rao

 
10 Comments

Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Sri Sankara, Vedanta

 

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Who was Gauda-Paada ?

Sri Shankara speaks of Gauda-Paada, his Parama_Guru (the teacher of his teacher) with enormous reverence. He regards him as Pujyabhi_pujya; the most adored among the most adored. Sri Shankara looks upon Gauda-Paada as the true representative of the correct tradition of Vedanta and describes him as Sampradaya vit, one who knows the right tradition. He accords Gauda-Paada’s work the status of a Smrti and calls it the epitome of the essential teachings of the Upanishads. The other reason that Sri Shankara holds Gauda-Paada in such high esteem is that, he revived the Upanishads when they had fallen on lean days.

Gauda-Paada was a celebrity of his period, which is estimated to be between 620 and 720 A.D.And that date (as it always happens in these cases) is tentative.  Going by the traditional faith that Gaudapada was the teacher of Sri Sankara’s teacher, one would place him not prior to about a hundred or little more years prior to Sri Sankara. And, Sri Sankara, according to many scholars, is dated around 788 to 820 AD. Following that, Gaudapada and his Karika could be placed, say, at the beginning of the seventh century. But, on the other hand, a Buddhist scholar Bhavaviveka refers to several stanzas of the Karika and even quotes some. Bhavaviveka is placed prior to 630 AD, based on the Chinese translation of his work dated around that period. Thus, Gaudapada, it seems, must date not later than seventh century. In which case, the date of Sri Sankara who is the disciple of Gaudapada’s disciple must be dated prior to his generally accepted period (c. 788).

And not much that is of historical value is known about him; and what little that is known,  is disputed .According to Anandagiri , a well known commentator of Shankara’s works, he hailed from Gauda Desha (Eastern India), did penance in the Nara_Narayana hermitage in the Badari region of Himalayas and obtained enlightenment. Another scholar Balakrishnananda Sarasvathi mentions the banks of the river Hiravathi in Kurukshetra region as Gauda-Paada’s birth place. He explains that “Gauda” was the name of the community to which he belonged and that he did penance for such a longtime that people forgot his name and called him by his tribe name. There is also a suggestion that “Gauda” refers to a school of Advaita that was prevalent in Northern region of Gauda country.

Many scholars surmise Gauda_Paada might actually have been a Buddhist. There is much debate around this issue. His works do reveal traces of Yogachara, Madhyamika and Vijnanavada Bhuddist influences.  Dr.TMP Mahadevan an authority on Gauda-Paada and exponent of Vedanta mentions that Gauda-Paada’s Karika and Nagarjuna’s Mula_Madhyamika_Karika use similar terminologies. But, he explains, they were the terminologies of the day that were commonly used by scholars of all segments.

Gauda-Paada was not a Buddhist, he was a Vedantin. He is credited with reviving the Upanishads. Further, his major work, Karika (commentary) on Mandukya Upanishad (also called Agama Shastra), which is in the nature of rediscovery of the essential teachings of the Upanishads, amply demonstrates his status.

A few other works of commentaries are ascribed to Gauda-Paada, among them are, a commentary on Ishvara_krishna’s Samkhya_karika; one on Uttara_Gita; and another on Nrusimha_tapaniya_upanishad. But, his Karika on Mandukya is the most famous and the most celebrated of them all.

Mandukya Upanishad is a very short text having just twelve stanzas; but is a very profound Upanishad. Gauda_Paada’s Karika expands on that Upanishad amazingly well. His Karika is made up of four independent treatises (Prakarana Chatustayam) each dealing with a separate issue. The four treaties were at a later time put together and made into a text under the title ”Agama Shastra”. Sri Shankara is said to have written with a commentary on Gauda_Paada’s Karika. It may not actually be Shankara’s work but ascribed to him by its real author, as an act of devotion. In fact, Shankara differs from the views of Gauda-Paada on a couple of issues. For instance, Gauda-Paada in his Karika states that the objects in waking state are as unreal as the dream objects; Shankara does not accept this extreme position and points out the experiential variations in the waking state and the dream state.

[There is also a view that the four chapters (prakaranas) of Agamashastra are not the works of a single author; but , the  works of different authors  put together. Each chapter is of a different character. Further, the second chapter (Vaithatya prakarana) states the objects of our waking state are no more real than the dream-objects ; and claims that it  is based in Upanishads (Vedanta vinischaya; Vedanteshu vichakshana)  and  handed down by ‘tradition’ (smarta).  But, it does not quote its authority. Sri Sankara differs from the view presented in the second Prakarana; and, he also does not quote or refer to Mandukya Upanishad in hisBrahma Sutra Bhashya. It is very unlikely he wrote a Bhashya on this Upanishad. ]

As mentioned, the Karika is in four chapters. The first chapter, a commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad, establishes that Advaita is supported by Shruthi and reason. The other three chapters- Vaithathya (unreality), Advaita (Unity) and Alaata-Shanthi (extinguishing the fire brand) – are independent treatises. The first chapter points out that revelation (intuition) is the only true means of understanding the Self. The second chapter explains the illusory nature of the phenomenal world by employing reasons. The third chapter propounds the view that what is non-dual (Advaita) is not illusory. And, the fourth chapter Alaata-Shanthi-Prakarana, quite distinct from the other three, defends Advaita refuting criticisms made against it. In addition, through its Mahayana Buddhist style of dialectics, explains our phenomenal experiences and establishes the Atman as the sole reality.

[There is an interesting question about the relation of the Karika to Mandukya Upanishad.  The first twenty-nine lines of the Karika, which form its First Book, provide explanations and commentary on the twelve lines of Mandukya Upanishad.   The reminder of the Karika – the other three Books – is not specifically a commentary on that Upanishad, though, in some way , related to the subject. The later scholars, therefore, tend to accept only those first twenty-nine lines alone as Sruti , the scripture.

Despite these questions, one can safely say that the Karika – particularly its second and third Books – form the earliest Advaita treatise, in some fair detail. ]

The Gauda-Paada Karika comes up with some exceedingly significant concepts that were adopted by later scholars of various Schools.

:- Gauda-Paada introduces the concepts of Relative and Absolute existence. The former refers to the common transactional day-to-day experiences that are subjective. The other dimension of existence is the one beyond the relative, beyond conflicts and duality. It is the Absolute existence.

:- The often quoted and discussed error of perception –Rajju Sarpa buddhi- of imposing the notion of a snake on a coil of rope, has its origin in Gauda-Paada’s Karika. According to him, one could see a snake while it is not there; one could impose the relative over the Absolute and mistake unreal for the Real; and one could mistake the Anatma for the Atman. All because of ignorance.

:- Gauda-Paada introduces the concept of Maya as a dialectic devise to explain the experiential variation of the One Reality as transactional (relative) and as transcendental (Absolute).

:- The other highly interesting concept is that of Ajati_Vada or the doctrine of no-origination, which states that from an absolute point of view, the idea of birth of universe is impossibility. Gauda-Paada rejects various theories of creation which assert creation as Sport of God or as His will or as expansion of God or process of time etc. He says creation is the very nature of God; it is his inherent nature; it flows from him. Even this, he emphasizes, is mere appearance and the Truth is, there is no creation at all. Gauda_Paada agrees that Buddhists might hold similar views on the subject of creation; and that does not in any manner  change the Truth.

:- Another is Asparsha Yoga or pure knowledge, which is the way to realize the Absolute, which manifests itself in three forms: As Vishva in Jagrat or waking state where it has the consciousness of the outside world and enjoys the gross. As Taijasa in Swapna or dream state where it has the consciousness of the mental state and enjoys the subtle. And, as Prajna in Shushupti or deep sleep where it enjoys the bliss of deep sleep without dreams or desires. The Absolute state is that which transcends all the three states; it is the Turiya (same as Chathrtha or the fourth_one, of the Upanishads).

Deep sleep, Prajna, is a state where there is no object; it knows nothing, neither itself nor anything else; it might be non-dual but has seeds of ignorance in it. Turiya, however, is beyond waking, dreaming or sleeping; it is self luminous consciousness, bliss; it is Ishana –all pervading and non dual. It is beyond attributes. It is the Ultimate, Brahman.

The non dual Atman is realized when the individual self (jiva) is awakened from its ignorance. Atman is unborn, dreamless, sleepless, and motionless; and is beyond duality. It is cognition at its purest. It is Brahman- Ayam Atma Brahma, this Atma is that Brahma; Thus epitomizing the core of Upanishad teachings.

:- Gauda-Paada expands further on these states of consciousness. The Self is AUM. It represents manifest and un-manifest aspects of Brahman. It is the single syllable that symbolizes and embodies Brahman, the Absolute Reality. It is the Pranava that which pervades all existence and is our very life breath.

Vaisvanara in waking state is A the first part of AUM, One, who realizes this, attains his desires.

Teijasa in dream state is U the second part of AUM. One, who realizes this, attains knowledge.

Prajna in deep sleep is M the third part of AUM, concluding the sounds of the earlier two parts. One, who realizes this, attains compressive understanding of all.

The Syllable AUM in its entirety stands for the fourth state, Turiya the one beyond the phenomenal existence, supremely blissful and non-dual.

AUM in its integral whole stands for the fourth state which is transcendental, devoid of phenomenal existence; and is the source of all existence. AUM represents Ultimate Reality.AUM is thus verily the Self itself. One who realizes this merges into that Self. Meditate on AUM as the Self.

***

It is not difficult to see why Sri Shankara had enormous regard for Gauda-Paada. Sri Shankara’s philosophical position had its base in Gauda-Paada’s thoughts. The doctrine of the Absolute Brahman, the identity of the Absolute Self with the individual self, the concept of Maya, the dual aspects of Advaita methodology-(Adhyaropa –Apavada), the relative and Absolute levels of existence, and the notion of transformation (vivarta) as against evolution (parinama); all these are present in Gauda-Paada ,  in a nutshell. Sri Shankara integrates Gauda-Paada’s views with those of Badarayana and constructs an elaborate and consistent edifice on these foundations.

Sri Shankara aptly regards Gauda-Paada as Pujyabhi_Pujya, the most adored among the most adored.

lotus

References:

http://www.cassiopedia.org/wiki/index.php?title=Gaudapada

Consciousness in Advaita by Prof.SKR Rao.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Sri Sankara, Vedanta

 

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Brahma Sutra

Continued from

Who was Badarayana?

Please read on…

Sutra literally means a thread but technically it meant in the ancient Indian context, an aphoristic style of condensing the spectrum of thoughts of a doctrine into terse, crisp, pithy pellets of compressed information that could be easily committed to memory. They are analogous to synoptic notes on a lecture; and by tapping on a note, one hopes to recall the relevant expanded form of the lecture. Perhaps the Sutras were meant to serve  a  similar purpose. A Sutra is therefore not merely an aphorism but a key to an entire discourse on a subject. Traditionally, each Sutra is regarded as a discourse rather than a statement.

Sri Madhwacharya defined Sutra as Pithy, unambiguous, laying out all the essential aspects of each topic, and dealing with all aspects of the question, free of repetitiveness and flaw.

The concept of Sutra was often carried to its extremes. It is said a Sutrakara would rather give up a child than expend a word. The Sutras often became so terse as to be inscrutable. And, one could read into it any meaning one wanted to. It was said, each according to his merit finds his rewards.

Nevertheless, reducing the main tenets of a school of thought into Sutra form by compiling it from its many acknowledged texts was a well accepted mode for rote learning and study. Each school of thought carried its Sutra compiled by a learned Sutrakara. For instance, the Nyaya School had its Sutra by Gautama; Vaisheshika School by Kanada; Yoga School by Patanjali; Mimamsa School by Jaimini and Vedanta School by Badarayana. Besides, there are a number of Sutras on various other subjects. Badarayana’s Sutra is of course the most celebrated of them all.[ of all the Schools , the Samkhya did not seem to have a Sutra of its own. ]

The style of presentation adopted by Badarayana set  a model for Sutras that followed. It involved these steps :  the statement of an objection or prima facie view (Purva_paksha); an answer or a rebuttal of that stand (Uttara_paksha); and conclusion (Siddantha).Accordingly, a topic for discussion (Adhikarana) is discussed in five steps or limbs: The formulation of the problem; a reasonable doubt about it; the prima facie view; the answer; and conclusion.

The method adopted by a Sutrakara was to refer to a specific passage in a text, say an Upanishad, by a key word, context or a hint to the topic for discussion. The Sutrakara would follow it by Purva_paksha, Uttara_paksha and his conclusion. He would also hint in a word or two , his reasoning. The genius of the commentator, the Bashyakara was to pinpoint Vishesha Vakya the exact statement in the Vedic text referred to by the sutra; to maintain consistency in treatment – in the context and spirit of the original text; to bring out the true intent and meaning of the Sutrakara’s reasoning and conclusions.

Brahma Sutra investigates the Upanishad teachings about God, the world, the individual soul and its deliverance. It attempts to remove the apparent contradictions that existed in its earlier texts and to bind the doctrine coherently. This, it aims to accomplish in almost 564 individual Sutras. The number of topics discussed (Adhikaranas) and the Sutras accepted by the different commentators vary. For instance, Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhva have each commented on 192,156 and 222 Adhikaranas out of 555,545 and 564 Sutras accepted by them, respectively. The differences might be due to splitting certain Sutras or combing certain others.

The topics discussed (Adhikaranas) are classified under four Chapters (Adhyayas) .Each Adhyaya has under it four parts (Paadas).

Chapter One, Samanvaya (establishing harmony) clarifies that the basic purpose of all Upanishads is to reveal Brahman and that all the Vedanta texts talk of Brahman , which is the ultimate reality. Realizing Brahman is the goal of life. It includes an account of the nature of Brahman and its relation to world and individual soul.

Chapter Two , Avirodha (non conflict) discusses and refutes possible objections against Vedanta raised by other schools of thought like Samkhya, Yoga , Vaisheshika, Buddha, Jaina and some atheist schools; and establishes Vedanta’s views. It also gives an account of the nature of dependence of the world on God; and natural evolution from and re-absorption into God. This is followed by discussion on nature of soul, its attributes, its relation to God, body and its own deeds.

Chapter Three, Sadhana (the means) describes the process by which ultimate emancipation could be achieved. A strong yearning for attaining Brahman and distancing from worldly involvements are considered essential. It declares that with right knowledge (Brahma Vidya),  Moksha can be attained here and now.

Chapter Four, Phala (fruits or benefits) talks of the fruits or the benefits of Brahma Vidya. It discusses the state that is achieved in the final emancipation. While a Saguna upasaka goes to other realms of experience, the person of true knowledge realizes his true nature right here and fulfills his life.

Badarayana commences his work with the most repeated and most discussed statement “Athaatho Brahma Jignasaha” perhaps to say ”Then, therefore let us examine the subject of Brahman”. Tomes have been written discussing the possible intent and meaning of the ordinary looking two words – then , therefore; andsetting out to postulate on Badarayana’s intent in commencing his work with these specific words; refuting explanations put forth  by other commentators ; and explaining the basis for his own reasoning. A great extents of the commentaries are , therefore, taken up, both  by the explanations on what is explicit in the Sutra, and  by elaborations on what is implied and unsaid in the Sutra.

What is remarkable about Brahma Sutra is that each commentator came up with his version of the intent and meaning of the Sutra; and differed from the views of the rest of the commentators. Eachone  declared his interpretation was the truest interpretation of them all.

Apart from issues such as the status of the phenomenal world; and the nature and means to the liberation of the individual, the moot point of disagreement among the commentators was the status and relation between the individual soul (jiva) and Brahman. The possibilities were that Brahman and jiva could be: (a) Identical; (b) Identical but qualified; (c) Not Identical and (d) Identical and yet Non Identical.

Each of these lines of possibilities (but declared by its profounder  as the only certainty ) gave rise to a school of Vedanta. Such schools sprang up and have since flourished.  This phase of development  is termed as the Scholastic Phase of Vedanta, which commenced in about Eighth century A.D. Each of these schools gave raise to  its sub classifications.

In other words, the schools of Vedanta prevalent today are of a comparatively recent origin. They started springing up about 1,200 years after Badarayana compiled his Brahma Sutra. Each school found its justification in the Brahma Sutra and yet each differed from the other interpretations.

The intervening period, from 5th or 4th centuries BCE to about 8th century AD does not appear to have witnessed such scholastic developments. It all started with Shankara and his celebrated Vedanta Sutra Bashya, a commentary on the Brahma Sutra. Most of the other schools often  appeared  to be  just reacting  to Shankara’s position on the Brahma Sutra.

The following is a very brief indication of some main schools of Vedanta, in a concise form.

Shankara: Advaita

(Identity) Brahman alone is real- One without a second- transcends all attributes. Brahman and the individual soul are essentially identical. The difference is only apparent, caused by Avidya, ignorance .World is not an illusion. It is relatively real. Brahman is absolutely real. Liberation involves in realizing one’s identity with Brahman, through elimination of ignorance. Purpose of life is to realize Brahman.

Ramanuja: Vishistadvaita

(Qualified Identity) It is oneness of God with attributes or Vishesha. Brahman is the Supreme Person Narayana endowed with all auspicious attributes. He alone exists, everything is his manifestation or attributes. Individual soul is part of Brahman and hence similar but not identical. Brahman, matter and individual souls are distinct but mutually inseparable entities. Loving devotion and surrender to Narayana is the only path to Moksha, liberation and is possible with the grace of God. Moksha consists in jiva remaining in undisturbed bliss in presence of Narayana in Vaikunta. Jiva lives in fellowship with the Lord. Moksha does not involve destruction of the individual self.

Madhavacharya ; Dvaita

(non Identity) Brahman is identified with Vishnu, the all important and Supreme One endowed with all auspicious attributes. He is not impersonal. Bedha or difference is the cornerstone of the doctrine. It is unqualified dualism. There are infinite numbers of jivas, which are point-like and each jiva is separate from the other; and jivas are separate from God and depend on God for being and becoming. Reality is described as a fivefold distinction-between God and jiva; God and matter; jiva and jiva; jiva and matter; and matter and phenomena. The cause of bondage is the Will of the Supreme and ignorance of jiva. Liberation is release from cycle of births and deaths; and is possible with devotion to Vishnu and comes through the mediation of Vayu. Liberated jiva does not lose its identity. It is entitled to serve the Lord.

Nimbaraka charya: Bedhabheda

( identity in difference, dualistic monism) Brahman is the supreme reality, one without a second, the infinite reality. The world and jiva are only partial manifestations of His power. Jiva and world are different from God because they are endowed with qualities and are limited; at the same time they are not different from God because God is omnipresent and all beings exist in God. Souls and God are closely related as waves within water or coils of rope within the rope. They are both distinct and not distinct from Brahman. Salvation is attained by real knowledge and devotion. Salvation consists in the soul realizing its true nature. It attains the state of Brahman but has NO powers of creation, preservation and dissolution of the world.

Vallabhacharya: Shuddadvaita

( Pure monism) It is Pure monism because it does not admit Maya (illusion). Brahman is personal. Krishna, Purushottama, in his Sacchidananda form is Brahman. He is ever playing sport (Leela) from Gokula which is even beyond Vaikunta. World and jiva are one with Brahman in essence and are a subtle form of God. Jiva in Reality is non-dual and it is pure. The embodied jiva is defiled and impure and it must strive towards the pure state through Bhakthi, devotion, love and grace (pusti). It calls for complete surrender to Krishna, Atma nivedana (giving up oneself). The liberated souls are of different kinds. Some dwell in the city of the Lord, while some others develop perfect love for God and become His associates.

 

References:

http://www.bharatadesam.com/spiritual/brahma_sutra/brahma_sutra_sankara_index.php

http://www.geocities.com/advaitavedant/brahmasutras2.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedanta

http://www.hinduism.co.za/schools.htm

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Vedanta

 

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Who was Badarayana?

Badarayana is a very celebrated name in the world of Indian scriptures. His name is mentioned any number of times; yet hardly anything is known about him.

Badarayana is recognized as the compiler, Sutrakara, of the Brahma Sutras (an exposition on Brahman) also called Vedanta Sutra, Sariraka Mimamsa Sutra and Uttara Mimamsa Sutra. Tradition identifies him with Veda Vyasa the compiler of the Vedas; and he is addressed as Vyasa-parasarya though there is no adequate proof to support that. According to some, since Vyasa was born on an island amidst Badara (Indian jujube) trees, he acquired the name of Badarayana as one of many names.

However the Acharyas -Sri Shankara , Ramanuja, Bhaskara and Yamuna address him as Badarayana and do not seem to associate him with Vyasa. They refer to his work as Sariraka Mimamsa or Vedanta Mimamsa. Sri Shankara  holds Badarayana in very high regard and addresses him as Bhagavan. Badarayana, it is suggested, might have lived anytime during 500 to 200 BCE.Prof. SN Dasguta opines he lived around 200 BCE.

Brahma Sutra is the most authoritative exposition of the Vedanta. But it was not the first. Badarayana cites the views of the earlier scholars such as Audulomi, Kaskrtsna, Badrai and Asmarthya. But Badarayana, undoubtedly, is the most respected exponent of Vedanta. He is the final authority on the subject; though he is interpreted variously. Each commentator interpreted according to his understanding of the text. Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra (Nyaya Prasthana) along with Upanishads (Smrithi Prasthana) and Bhagavad-Gita (Smrithi Prasthana) constitutes the Prasthana Trayi or the three cannons of Vedanta. These three texts are the pristine springs of Vedanta philosophy. No study of Vedanta is complete without the study of the Prasthana treya. Brahma Sutras should be studied after completing the study of Upanishads under the guidance of a teacher.

There is also a view that Upavarsha could be another name for Badarayana. This view is not well supported. It looks highly unlikely. In any case let us talk a bit about Upavarsha. Again, Upavarsha comes through the mists of ancient Indian traditions and not much is known of him. We come to know him through references to his views by Sri Shankara  and others. He was an intellectual giant of his times. He is credited with being the first to divide the Vedic lore into Karma_kanda (ritualistic section) and Jnana_kanda (knowledge section).He advocated the six means of knowledge (cognition) adopted later by the Advaita school. He began the discussion on self-validation (svathah pramanya) that became a part of the Vedanta terminology. He also pioneered the method of logic called Adhyaropa-Apavada which consists in initially assuming a position and later withdrawing the assumption, after a discussion. Upavarsha is also known as the author of a commentary on Brahma Sutra titled”Sariraka Mimamsa Vritti”, now lost.

Sri Sri Shankara  has great reverence for Upavarsha and addresses him as Bhagavan, as he does Badarayana; while he addresses Jaimini and Sabara, the other Mimasakas, only as Teachers (Acharya). Upavarsha’s time is surmised to be prior to that of Panini the great Grammarian, around 200 BCE.

Mimamsa was regarded one body of doctrine consisting twenty sections; the first sixteen of which named Purva Mimamsa (earlier Mimamsa) ascribed to Jaimini and the last four sections regarded as Uttara Mimamsa (later Mimamsa) credited to Badarayana. Both the compilers, most likely, were contemporaries.

There is however a sharp contrast in the emphasis, treatment and views of the two sages. Badarayana crystallizes the Upanishad thought and provides a framework for enquiry into the nature of the Absolute (Brahman). Jaimini on the other hand inquires into the ritualistic aspects of the Vedas and emphasizes that worldly well being and heavenly rewards are the objectives of a householder; and that the rituals alone lead to the attainment of that highest objective. Badarayana, in contrast, does not stress on rituals and holds the final liberation (mukthi) as the goal of the seeker.

Jaimini hardly involves God (Isvara) into his scheme of things. He clings to the prescriptive and liturgical aspects of Vedas setting aside their esoteric message. He generally ignores the Upanishads. His follower Sabara described the non-human origin of the Vedas in terms of the anonymity or inability to remember the authors of the Vedas. There was therefore a fear; the ascendency of the Mimamsa might encourage atheism.

Badarayana, on the other hand, relied primarily on the Upanishads as the most meaningful portions of the Vedas. He assigned them the status of highest authority and the most valid means of knowing. They are Shruthis, the Revelations, the supersensory intuitional perceptions of the ancient Rishis, he stressed.

It was Badarayana who initially recognized Upanishads as the crowning glory of Vedic thought and strived to uphold the authority of the Upanishads and to place God in the center of the scheme of things. Badarayana’s efforts and anxieties were driven by an urgent need to rescue knowledge and freethinking from the encircling swamp of ritualistic texts and practices; as also from the ascending atheistic tendencies. His work represents a vigorous response to the challenges and demands of his times; and Brahma Sutra achieves that task amply well.

What in effect Badarayana was trying to accomplish was to drive away the strangling influences of rituals, dogma and atheism from Indian spiritual scene; and to bring back the Upanishad spirit of enquiry , intuition, knowledge, reason , open-mindedness and its values of life. It was for that good–tradition Sampradaya, Badarayana was yearning. Brahma Sutra was an instrument to achieve those cherished objectives. Badarayana and his efforts represent the most important phase in the evolution of the Indian philosophy.

Both Badarayana and Sri Shankara  were responding to the exigencies, demands and challenges of their times, which, as the fate would hate have it, were astonishingly similar, if not identical. They set to themselves similar tasks and priorities; and nurtured similar dreams and aspirations. Sri Shankara  made a common cause with Badarayana, his forerunner, separated by history by over 1,200 years. That is the reason many consider Sri Shankara  the logical successor to Badarayana.

If Badarayana, whoever he was, set in motion the process of recovery of the tradition of the ancients, Sampradaya; it was Sri Shankara  who carried it forward. Sri Shankara  greatly influenced by Badarayana, recognized Upanishads as the summit of Vedic thought. The importance attached to Brahmanas appeared to him rather misplaced. Sri Shankara  then set himself the goal to recover the correct tradition, the Sampradaya. Sri Shankara  aptly referred to Badarayana, each time, with enormous reverence and addressed him as Bhagavan, Sampradaya_vit, (the knower of good tradition) and Vedanta _Sapradaya_vit, one who truly understood the traditional import of the Upanishads

 

Reference:

History of Indian Philosophy –vol.1

By Prof.S N Dasgupta .

********

Continued, please read next Brahma Sutra Brahma Sutra

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Sri Sankara, Vedanta

 

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Sri Sadashiva Brahmendra

The Southern India recognizes and adores Sadashiva Brahmendra as the celebrated composer of divine kirthanas; but not many may be aware he in his later years was an Avadhutha, a jeevan_muktha who lonely wandered the hills and dales, ran along the river banks, naked or semi naked, in a state of divine bliss. He unmindful of the scorching sun, pouring rain, blowing chill winds roamed in wilderness without ever uttering a word, slept under starry sky, shunned all human contact and was ever in a supreme intoxicated state. Today he is revered not merely for his musical compositions but also for his sublime Advaita text “Atma Vidya Vilasa” the most favorite spiritual text of Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi Swami the 34th Jagadguru of Sringeri Peetha. The swami , himself an Avadhuta, a week before his passing away, parted with all his meager passions but retained, on second thought, a copy of Atma Vidya Vilasa till the day prior to his departure.

Not many facts are known about his life. It is believed Sadashiva Brahmendra lived in the time of Sharabhoji, ruler of Tanjore (1712 -1728). This is based on the oral tradition that Sadashiva Brahmendra presented a copy of his work Atma Vidya Vilasa to King Sharbhoji when the king called on the Avadhuta to pay his respects.

His childhood name was Shivarama_krishna .He was the son of Somasundaram Avadhani, a Vedic scholar of Telugu Niyogi origin who lived in Madurai in Tamil Nadu.It is said Shivarama’s family name was ‘Moksham’ and his mother was Parvathy. He was born in Nerur situated by the quiet flowing Cauvery, near Karuru. He had his early education in traditional subjects under Ramabhadra Dikshitar who lived in Tiruvisai_nallur a.k.a. Shahajipuram.There the young Shivarama came under the influence of what were renowned as the triumvirate of Bhajana tradition viz.  Sridhar Venkatesha Iyer, Sri Bhodendra Sarasathi and Bashyam Gopala_krishna Sastry.

On his return, Shivarama still in his early teens was promptly married. He however, soon thereafter ran away from home never to return. He went to Tiruvisai_nallur and while wandering aimlessly in the woods nearby, he met his Guru Sri Paramashivendra Sarasvati who initiated Shivarama into sanyasa and named him Sadashiva_Brahmendra.

The identity of Sri Paramashivendra Saraswati is a matter of debate. Some say he may have been an Acharya of the Kanchi peetham , guided by the suffix ”Indra Saraswathi” to his name.But an Acharya  of that name appears in the annals  of the Kanchi tradition as the 45th Jagadguru  who presided over the mutt for 27 years from 1061 AD , that is about seven hundred years before the time of Sadashiva Brahmendra.  The 57th(?) Jagadguru Sri Paramasivendra Saraswathi II, recognized as the author of the treatise Dahara Vidya* Prakashika , presided over the mutt from 1539 to 1586; that is about a hundred years before Sadashiva Brahmendra.

[Dahara Vidya is an ancient form of meditation on Self dwelling in the small ethereal space within the heart-Chandogya Upanishad –VIII. Sri Ramana Maharshi was a great exponent of this method.]

(http://www.tamilnation.org/sathyam/east/ramana/self_enquiry.pdf)

In any case Sadashiva Brahmendra considered Sri Paramashivendra Saraswati as his Guru , named him as such in all his works and composed poetic works Navamani mala , Guru_rathna_maalika and Dakshina_murthi_dhyana in tribute to the Guru.

Sadashiva Brahmendra was an active young man , talkative and always chirping away. On one occasion his incessant talk so annoyed his Guru  that he in despair  called out “Sadashiva! When will you learn to be quiet?”. The disciple promptly replied, “Right now, Master”. He fell into silence and never talked again the rest of his life. He gradually withdrew from the world, introspected and plunged into intense penance. He discarded all norms of accepted behavior, wandered naked aimlessly in the hills and along the Cauvery. He looked wild and insane. When some one reported to Sri Paramashivendra that his disciple had gone insane, the Guru was delighted and exclaimed “Will I ever be so fortunate!” He realized that his disciple was now  an Avadhuta.

Sadashiva Brahmendra remained in that state; beyond body consciousness, not bound by ordinary social conventions and worldly concerns for a long period. A number of stories and myths grew around his mystical powers.

On one occasion when he met his past associate Sridhar Venkatesha Iyer, the later remarked that it was laudable to be a mauni in worldly matters; and questioned what prevented him from singing the praise of the Almighty. Sadashiva Brahmendra saw reason in the argument.

He thereafter created a series of musical compositions in praise of Sri Rama (Pibare Rama rasam, Khelathi mama hridaye, Bhajare Raghuveeram, Cheta Sriramam, Prathi varam varam manasa etc.); of Sri Krishna ( Smara nandakumaram , Gayathi vanamali, Bhajare Gopalam maanasa , Bhajare Yadu natham maanasa , Kridathi vanamali , Bruhi mukundethi etc.); and on Brahman (Sarvam Brahma maya re , Khelathi Brahmande Bhagavan , Manasa sanchara re , Tadvad jeevanam Brahmani etc.).

His poetic signature was “parama_hamsa” . About twenty-two of his compositions have been recovered.

Plese check here for a collection of compositions of Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra. and  their  MP3 links 

He also wrote a number of philosophical works of high quality such as Brahma sutra Vrithi, Yoga_sudhakara, Kaivalya_amrutha _bindu (based on Upanishads); Siddantha_kalpa_valli (a poetic treatise on Appaiah Dikshitar’s work), Advaita rasa manjari, Brahma tattva prakaashikaa and Mano_niyamana. His Navamani_mala, Guru_rathna_malika and Dakshina_murthi_dhyana are in praise of the Guru.

But his Atma_vidya_vilasa a true classic is the best known.

Atma_vidya_vilasa is a poetic work running into 62 verses in simple, lucid Sanskrit. Its subject is renunciation. It describes the ways of the Avadhuta, one who is beyond the pale of social norms , beyond Dharma , beyond good and evil; one who has discarded scriptures, shastras , rituals or even the disciplines prescribed for sanyasins;one who has gone beyond the bodily awareness , one who realized the Self and one immersed in the bliss of self-realization. He is absolutely free and liberated in every sense – one who “passed away from” or “shaken off” all worldly attachments and cares, and realized his identity with God. The text describes the characteristics of an Avadhuta, his state of mind, his attitude and behavior. The text undoubtedly is a product of Sadashiva Brahmendra’s experience. It is a highly revered book among the Yogis and Sadhakas.

Sadashiva Brahmendra lived in that exalted state on the banks of the Cauvery until he discarded his mortal body at its age of one hundred years or a little more, some time between 1750 and 1753. His Samadhi in Nerur, Karur district is now a shrine to a large number of devotees. His Aaradhana is celebrated annually on the tenth day of dark half of the month of Jeshta (some time during May each year).

Sringeri Jagadgurus and

Atma_vidya_vilasa

Sadashiva Brahmendra and his classic work Atma_vidya _vilasa wielded an enormous influence on the life and Sadhana of the Sringeri Jagath-gurus.

It was the 32nd Jagadguru of Sringeri Sharada Peetam, Sri Nrusimha Bharathi VIII (1817-1879) that first recognized the greatness of Sadashiva Brahmendra and arranged for the upkeep and maintenance of his Samadhi.

His successor Sri Satchidananda Sivabhinava Nrsimha Bharathi (1879-1912) made a seminal visit to the samadhi of the saint at Nerur. He became an ardent admirer and devotee of Sadashiva Brahmendra in whose praise he composed two poetic works (Sadashivendra Stava  and Sadashivendra Panchrathna stotram) .

Please visit the following link for the text and the audio rendering of Sadashivendra Panchrathna stotram

www.sringeri.net/2012/07/16/stotra/guru/sri-sadashivendra-pancharatna-stotram.htm#

Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati

He considered Sadashiva Brahmendra his ideal, tried to emulate his principles. He modeled his attitude, his ideals and his way of living in the light of Atma_vidya_vilasa. He gradually withdrew from the active administration of the Mutt starting from the year 1901and devoted increasingly to spiritual practices. Listening to Atma_vidya_vilasa and contemplating on it became a part of his daily spiritual exercise. He in his last days lived like an Avadhuta. He instructed his disciples that in the last moments of his life while he would be drawing his last breaths they should recite aloud the verses from the Atma_vidya_vilasa. He wished to die with those verses ringing in his ears. Such was his devotion to that text.

Chandrasekhara Bharti swamigal

But the one who really emulated Sadashiva Brahmendra and evolved into an Avadhuta was the 34th Jagadguru  Sri Chandrasekhar Bharathi Swami. He studied Atma_vidya_vilasa intensely, imbibed its principles and truly lived according to that in word and deed .Unmindful of the external world he roamed wildly the hills of Srngeri like a child , an intoxicated , an insane and as one possessed singing aloud the verses from Atma_vidya_vilasa:

Discard the bondages of karma. Wander in the hills immersed in the bliss of the Self -unmindful of the world like a deaf and a blind (AVV-15)

Rooted in the Brahman absorbed in the bliss within, he for a while meditates, for a while sings and dances in ecstasy. (AVV-21)

He sees nothing, hears nothing, and says nothing. He is immersed in Brahman and in that intoxication is motionless.(AVV-44)

Sri Chandrasekhar Bharathi was the living epitome of the Atma_vidya_vilasa.  He was an Avadhuta – a liberated soul, one who “passed away from” or “shaken off” all worldly attachments and cares, and has realized his identity with Self. He was an enlightened being who lived in a state beyond body-consciousness.

Avadhuta – a brief remark

Avadhuta (he who has shed everything) is a radical type of renouncer of an unconventional type. Avadhuta is one who has risen above bodily consciousness, duality and worldly concerns. He has no use for social etiquette. He is not bound by sanyasi dharma either. He roams the earth freely like a child, like an intoxicated or like one possessed. He is pure consciousness embodied.

Avadhuta Gita describes him

The Avadhuta alone, pure in evenness of feeling, Abides happy in an empty dwelling place,

Having renounced all, he moves about naked .He perceives the Absolute, the All, within himself.

 The Avadhuta never knows any mantra in Vedic metre or any Tantra.

This is the supreme utterance of the Avadhuta, purified by meditation

And merged in the sameness of the Supreme Being.

 Ashtavakra Gita describes him in a similar manner:

17.15
The sage sees no difference
Between happiness and misery,
Man and woman,
Adversity and success.
Everything is seen to be the same.

17.16
In the sage there is neither 
 Violence nor mercy, 
 Arrogance nor humility, 
 Anxiety nor wonder. 
 His worldly life is exhausted. 
 He has transcended his role as a person 

17.18
The sage is not conflicted 
 By states of stillness and thought. 
 His mind is empty. 
 His home is the Absolute. 

18.9
Knowing for certain that all is Self, 
  The sage has no trace of thoughts 
  Such as “I am this” or “I am not that.” 

18.10
The yogi who finds stillness 
  is neither distracted nor focused. 
  He knows neither pleasure nor pain. 
  Ignorance dispelled, 
  He is free of knowing. 

Not all Sanyasis are Avadhutas and not all Avadhutas are Sanyasis. Of the four types of Avadhutas, Shaivavadhuta and Bramhavadhuta need not be sanyasis they could even be householders. The Dashanami_avadhutas (those that bear names such as Vana, Aranya, Giri, Thirtha, Bharathi etc.) and Bhaktha_vadutas are the other two.

Of these, the Shaivadhutas and the Brahmavadutas indulge in Tantric practices.

The Bhaktavadutas form the prominent group. It consists Paramahamsa (fully realized) and Parivrajaka (incomplete, wandering) classes. The former is considered incarnation of Shiva. He could be a sanyasi or a householder; he could wear clothes or could be naked. He is not bound by any restrictions. He has no fixed place of stay. Practices like meditation, rituals, worship etc. are irrelevant to him. He is beyond conflicts of pain and pleasure, gain or loss, joy or sorrow. He is ever immersed in bliss of Self-realization.

Dattatreya is the supreme Avadhuta. There is a belief that Dattatreya composed the Avadhuta Gita, which describes the characteristics of an Avadhuta.

Nath Sampradaya is a sect of Avadhutas that places great importance on the Guru and on Yoga.Avadhuta Gita is its text and Sri Ghorakhnath is its prime Avadhutha.

The worship of  Datta is more prevalent in Maharashtra and North Karnataka. The Datta kshetras such as Ganagapur, Agadi and Baba Budan Giri in Karnataka are prominent centers of Datta worship.

Resource

Sahradapeetada Manukya by Prof SKR Rao

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Vedanta

 

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Ashtavakra Gita

 

The day of full moon, Purnima, in the month of Ashadh is traditionally celebrated as Guru Purnima also as Vyas Purnima.Today, 29 July, 2007 ; Sunday is the Guru Purnima.Think of the Guru.

Guru (Gu- ignorance, Ru-destroyer)is one, who removes the darkness and delusion. Purnima is the effulgentfull moon. The true Guru is in our heart. Purify the heart to let the Divinity dwell in it. Guru Purnima is an occasion for cleaning the mind to make it absolutely pure.

In what better way can we do that than by talking of Guru Ashtavakra?

One of my favorite readings is Ashtavakra Gita also called Ashtavakra Samhita. It is in the form of a dialogue between King Janaka and a brilliant but physically deformed boy genius, Ashtavakra.It comprises 298 verses in 20 chapters of varied length. It glorifies the state of Self-realization. The story of Ashtavakra appears in the Vanaparva of the Mahabharata.

The story of Ashtavakra is narrated in a simple form at

http://www.indolink.com/Kidz/ashtavkr.html .

Sri Ramana Mahrishi’s rendering of the tale is at

http://benegal.org/ramana_maharshi/books/letters/letter181.html.

John Richards’s translation of Ashtavakra Gita is simple, lucid and popular.

( http://gathering-minds.net/agita/index.php ).

The translation of Bart Marshall is  brilliant.

(http://www.dhtmlnirvana.com/downloads/Ashtavakra.pdf).

Those interested may also see the notes made by Swami Shraddhananda, a sanyasin of Sri Ramakrishna order.

(http://www.vedanta.org/reading/monthly/articles/2005/10.bio.pdf).

AshtavakraGitaCh-4Of20Slideshow

Ashtavakra Gita is an Advaita text of the highest order, addressed to advanced learners. We do not know who wrote this classic. The estimate of its date varies from third or fourth century BC to post Shankara period. The author, whoever he was, employed the King Janaka- Ashtavakra episode with great imagination and wove around it a sublime philosophical work , in simple, lucid, classic Sanskrit. The text deals with bondage and liberation, the nature of the Self, means of realizing the Self( atmanu-bhuti) , state of mystic experience  in the embodied state. This is advaita in its distilled form, devoid of stories, examples, arguments.

Janaka, here, unlike Arjuna is not a confused person. He is not seeking refuge from despair or delusion.Janaka is mature and knowledgeable, an earnest seeker. The Guru did not have to go through the preliminary exercise of convincing the disciple of the futility of pursuing after objects.

Sage Ashtavakra says that the Self alone exists and all else within the mind-senses vortex is unreal. He draws his disciple’s attention to his restlessness, despite being a model king. This, Ashtavakra recognizes as Janaka’s yearning for truth.

Ashtavakra maintains that all prayers, mantras, rituals, meditation, actions, devotion, breathing practices, etc are secondary. These distract the aspirant from self-knowledge. Knowledge/awareness is all that is required. Ignorance does not exist in itself; it is just the absence of knowledge or awareness. The light of knowledge or consciousness will dispel ignorance revealing the Self. The Self is merely forgotten, not lost, not to be attained. This is not a belief system or a school of thought. This is simply ‘What Is’ and the recognition of ‘What is’.

Admittedly this stringent approach is not suitable for all. A  sharp , discriminating and inward-looking mind is required for understanding Asthavakra’s teaching. Perhaps due to its  rigor , the text has not been popular

It starts with the King Janaka asking the sage Ashtavakra how he can attain knowledge, detachment and liberation. It quickly becomes a guru-disciple dialogue; however, after Janaka realizes his true Self, they get into an Advaitic discussion of the highest caliber.

The sage instructs:

1.2

To be free,

Shun the experiences of the senses

Like poison.

Turn your attention to

Forgiveness, sincerity, kindness, simplicity, truth.

1.11

It is true what they say:

“You are what you think.”

If you think you are bound you are bound.

If you think you are free you are free.

1.15

You are now and forever

Free, luminous, transparent, still.

The practice of meditation

Keeps one in bondage.

1.16

You are pure Consciousness—

The substance of the universe.

The universe exists within you.

Don’t be small-minded.

1.17

You are unconditioned, changeless, formless.

You are solid, unfathomable, cool.

Desire nothing.

You are Consciousness.

The technique of Jnana used here is that of Vichara usually translated as self-enquiry but it signifies examination, reflection, or looking within.Sri Ramana Maharishi was the greatest exponent of this method in recent times. In other types of spiritual practices, the mind is assumed to be an independent entity and therefore efforts are made to control it, purify it and channel it towards the Godhead. Ashtavakra preaches that mind has no existence of its own. It is a bundle of thoughts, he says, take the direct path and plunge into consciousness. A conscious bliss ensues when one abides in Self. Sri Ramana Mahrshi echos these thoughts in his Upadesha Saram (verses 17-21 and 28).

Ashtavakra suggests that there is in reality only the Self and that it is all- pervasive. Just as waves, bubbles or foam have no existence without the sea, so too everything in experience is a phenomenal manifestation of the one great spiritual reality. Ashtavakra speaks of the rising of the winds of the mind and says the worlds are produced, as waves on the sea. He suggests it is the mental activity that gives rise to our experience of the world.

2.23

In the limitless ocean of Myself

The winds of the mind

Roil the myriad waves of the world

Upon hearing the Guru, Janaka is enlightened. He bursts into joy and wonder of his new-found state.Ashtavakra is pleased but notices inconsistencies in Janaka’s approach and lets out a series of confrontational verses about attachment to objects. He questions at the end:

3.13

Why should a person of steady mind,

Who sees the nothingness of objects,

Prefer one thing to another ?

Janaka defends by saying

4.1

Surely one who knows Self,

Though he plays the game of life,

Differs greatly from the world’s

Bewildered burdened beasts.

4.6

Rare is he who knows himself

As One with no other—

The Lord of the Universe.

He acts as he knows

And is never afraid.

Ashtavakra does not disagree; but in a terse four verses points to the next step—dissolution

5.1

You are immaculate,

Touched by nothing.

What is there to renounce?

The mind is complex—let it go.

Know the peace of dissolution.

5.2

The universe arises from you

Like foam from the sea.

Know yourself as One.

Enter the peace of dissolution.

5.3

Like an imagined snake in a rope

The universe appears to exist

In the immaculate Self

But does not.

Seeing this you know: “There is nothing to dissolve.”

5.4

You are perfect, changeless,

Through misery and happiness,

Hope and despair,

Life and death.

This is the state of dissolution.

Ashtavakra makes a remarkable statement; the world however turbulent it may appear is within the infinite being and that it cannot alter the fundamental nature of the Self. He says, it is in the infinite ocean of myself that the mind-creation called the world takes place. I am supremely peaceful and formless and I remain as such.

7.3

In me, the shoreless ocean,

The universe is imagined.

I am still and formless.

In this alone I abide.

Janaka says “I know that already,” matching him in style and number of verses Janaka goes on to further describes his enlightened state.Still hearing too much “I” in Janaka’s language, Ashtavakra instructs him in the subtleties of attachment and bondage.

Ashtavakra said:

Bondage is when the mind longs for something, grieves about something, rejects something, holds on to something, is pleased about something or displeased about something. 8.1

Liberation is when the mind does not long for anything, grieve about anything, reject anything, or hold on to anything, and is not pleased about anything or displeased about anything. 8.2

Bondage is when the mind is tangled in one of the senses, and liberation is when the mind is not tangled in any of the senses. 8.3

When there is no “me,” that is liberation, and when there is “me” there is bondage. Consider this carefully, and neither holds on to anything nor rejects anything. 8.4

Ashtavakra goes on to annihilate the false sense of identification of the Self with the mind, saying that “it is bondage when the mind desires or grieves at anything, rejects or accepts anything, feels happy or angry at anything..” In a movingly simple verse, he sums up a free and fearless soul as one who has renounced desire, for “the renunciation of desire alone is renunciation of the world”.

Ashtavakra continues to describe the way of true detachment and stresses the folly of desire—no matter how elevated or subtle. Ashtavakra further describes the state of desireless-ness to which he points

11.6

“I am not the body, nor is the body my possession—

I am Awareness itself.”

One who realizes this for certain

Has no memory of things done or left undone.

There is only the Absolute.

Janaka says he understands what Ashtavakra is saying and summarizes his exalted state with calm indifference. Ashtavakra is impressed but tells the disciple he is not there yet.

15.5

Attachment and aversion

Are attributes of the mind.

You are not the mind.

You are Consciousness itself–

Changeless, undivided, free.

Go in happiness

15.15

Leave behind such distinctions

As “I am He, the Self,”

And “I am not this.”

Consider everything Self.

Be desireless.

Be happy

Ashtavakra then attacks the futility of effort and knowing.

Being pure consciousness, do not disturb your mind with thoughts of for and against. Be at peace and remain happily in yourself, the essence of joy. 15.19

Give up meditation completely but don’t let the mind hold on to anything. You are free by nature, so what will you achieve by forcing the mind? 15.20

16.1

You can recite and discuss scripture

All you want,

But until you drop everything

You will never know Truth.

Ashtavakra does not pay much heed to book learning or to the importance given to mind and its control. You are already free, what will you gain by deliberating or pondering. In other words, remain unattached at all times from all things (including the mind). He advocates direct approach. Teachings of Sri Ramona are remarkably similar to that of Ashtavakra.

Ashtavakra then goes on to describe the nature of a wise person or yogi (chapters 17 and 18) .The characteristics of the true knower as outlined by Ashtavakra are very similar to that of a sthitha_prajna described in Bhagavad-Gita Gita.

17.15

The sage sees no difference

Between happiness and misery,

Man and woman,

Adversity and success.

Everything is seen to be the same.

17.16

In the sage there is neither

Violence nor mercy,

Arrogance nor humility,

Anxiety nor wonder.

His worldly life is exhausted.

He has transcended his role as a person.

17.18

The sage is not conflicted

By states of stillness and thought.

His mind is empty.

His home is the Absolute.

18.9

Knowing for certain that all is Self,

The sage has no trace of thoughts

Such as “I am this” or “I am not that.”

18.10

The yogi who finds stillness

is neither distracted nor focused.

He knows neither pleasure nor pain.

Ignorance dispelled,

He is free of knowing.

In a final flurry of questions pointing only at their own meaninglessness, Janaka bursts forth into inspired poetry and burns off the last vestiges of personhood and enters dissolution (chapters 19 and 20). He ends with: “No more can be said.” Ashtavakra smiles, nods approvingly, and says no more

Using the tweezers of the knowledge of the truth I have managed to extract the painful thorn of endless opinions from the recesses of my heart. 19.1

20.11

Where is illusion?

Where is existence?

Where is attachment or non-attachment?

Where is person?

Where is God?

I am Awareness.

Where are principles and scriptures?

Where is the disciple or teacher?

Where is the reason for life?

I am boundless, Absolute.

20.14

Where is existence or non-existence?

Where is Unity or duality?

Nothing emanates from me.

No more can be said.

 

*******

The approach and treatment of   Ashtaavakra are logical and precise like mathematical equations.Yet, the Ashtaavakra Gita may not be read at a streatch , in one straight reading. It is preferable the verses are read few at a time , on a daily basis, and reflected upon .

One rarely comes across a Guru-disciple association as that of Sri Ashtavakra and King Janaka, a mature disciple. To such Sri Guru, who is the parabrahman, I offer my salutations, on this Guru purnima !

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