This week Obama, the president of the United States, received the Nobel Peace Prize award. This is an award given to people who work for the peace of the world. But does this mean there is peace in this world? Does this mean that all the problems of the world have vanished? Does this mean that peace is as simple as winning an award through our actions? Sankara in his Brahma Sutra bhashya says that it is not so. Actions can never give us eternal bliss. Actions are born out of desires – the primary desire being the desire for perfection, satisfaction and bliss. This desire for bliss itself is caused out of ignorance, the ignorance of one’s own very nature of bliss. Therefore removing ignorance is the way out of all sufferings. But can ignorance be removed by action which is caused out of ignorance itself? Definitely no. Therefore only knowledge can get rid of ignorance and all our problems. This means that just by actions or awards, we cannot get bliss.
Though there are people like Obama and others doing very good actions for the entire world, trying to get rid of terrorists and trying to uplift people yet the world is in total chaos. Towns get submerged into water; earthquakes hit; terrorism is at its peak – thus everything is in a chaotic situation. But a sadhaka should remember that the very nature of the world is chaos – anityam asukham lokam or the world is temporary and sorrowful. Understanding this nature of the world, a sadhaka should strive for perfection through realizing blissful changeless Brahman which is the substratum of this illusory world.
The day until a sadhaka strives and achieves Brahman there will be chaos and chaos alone in the world. Even the Lord himself couldn’t avoid chaos in the form of Mahabharatha war as well as when the yaadavaas killed each other. Once a person realizes that this world is just a divine play of Brahman, there will only be bliss – externally the world will still be in chaos but life will be blissful at all times. As Sankara points out, “nandhathi nandhathi nandhathi eva” or “rejoices, rejoices and verily rejoices”. May we as ardent sadhakas strive to achieve that state of bliss amidst all the chaos of the world.
AUM NAMAH SHIVAYA
Vedanta Darshanam 1
Guru Mahima 3
Mukhya Vishayam 6
Sankshiptha Vedanta 11
Upanishad Prachaaram 17
Raga Varsha 21
Sanatana Dharma Sameeksha 34
Sanskritha shiksha 37
Vedanta Pariksha 40
Anukramaanika Nirdesham 44
Anything that we achieve in life has a set of pre-requisites to be followed before trying to achieve. Vedanta talks about the four-fold qualifications or pre-requisites to gaining knowledge as viveka (discrimination between real and unreal), vairagya (dispassion towards the world and passion towards Brahman), shamaadi shatka sampatti (the six qualities of mind – shama or calmness, dama or control of sense organs, uparathi or restraint of sense organs, titiksha or forbearance, sraddha or faith in the scriptures-guru and samaadhana or tranquility) and mumukshutva (burning desire for liberation).
We saw in the last month as to the importance of devotion towards Brahman or Ishwara. We find Siva reiterating this by saying that faith in Ishwara and Guru is essential in order to gain and apprehend knowledge to its full. This is an oft-quoted famous sloka.
Yasya deve paraa bhakthih yathaa deve tathaa gurau
Tasyethe kathithaa hi arthaah prakaashanthe mahaatmanah
Who has supreme devotion to Ishwara and similar devotion to one’s Guru, to such a person alone will the knowledge, about to be imparted, be fruitful. This is quite simple to understand – devotion can be replaced with the term of faith. We require absolute faith in someone who is going to guide us to the non-apprehensible Brahman. Even in worldly cases where we know the goal to be achieved clearly, we still need faith in whatever is guiding us whether it is a sentient being or an insentient entity like maps or itinerary etc.
In the spiritual path, the Guru who guides us and the goal of Ishwara (who guides us through everything in this world as the world is pervaded in and out by Ishwara) are very important – our faith/devotion to the Guru and Ishwara is essential in order to achieve the goal of eternal bliss or moksha. It cannot be argued that there are people who have realized without a Guru as such people either might have followed a Guru in the previous birth or are guided by Guru not in physical form but in other forms that we are unaware of. We know that there are books that at times guides us and the authors of these books instantly become our Guru during those times. Faith in Ishwara is essential as without seeking a fruit no one does any action at all – faith in Ishwara or desire for the state of Ishwara (moksha or eternal bliss) is what drives a spiritual seeker to follow the spiritual path (even as worldly people follow certain path in order to achieve certain goal).
There can be a doubt here as to whether it is very essential to know about Guru’s Mahima. Though we saw as to how secretive this knowledge is, yet it may not be very important to know it. CIA is the most secretive organization in the world and this doesn’t make it knowable. Siva next explains in few slokas as to the necessity of this knowledge – mostly the necessity of Vedanta is by proving that moksha cannot be achieved through any others means but by Vedanta alone (tameva vidvaan amritha iha bhavathi, na anyah panthaa vimukthaye – knowing Brahman alone a person attains immortality, there is no other way to liberation).
Japasthapo vratham teertham yajno daanam tathaiva cha
Chanting, austerity, penances, taking bath in sacred places, sacrifices and donations etc. are of no use without knowing about the Guru (and his Mahima). Gurubudhyaatmano naanyat satyam satyam varaanane
Know that there is no truth other than the Guru and knowledge about the Guru is true knowledge; it is the duty of human beings to strive for this knowledge.
Knowing about the Guru alone can save us from bondage
Without a Guru it is impossible to tread the spiritual path without straying off and achieve the goal of moksha. Hence the scriptures say “aachaaryavaan purusho veda” or “only a person who has a Guru will know”. Bondages are caused because of ignorance – the ignorance that is manifested in the form of “I am the body”, “These people and objects are different from me” etc. which are all duality (duality considered real is the essence of all manifestations of ignorance) is the cause of sorrow. Duality causes a person to either like or dislike objects (and people who are different from oneself). Likes and dislikes in turn leads to attachment and aversion. Attachment and aversion in turn leads to happiness and sorrow. Happiness and sorrow in turn leads a person to do actions in order to get rid of sorrow and always be happy. Actions lead to results and results are obviously either happiness or sorrow – if results are happiness then more actions are performed in order to maintain the happiness and if results are sorrowful then more actions are performed in order to negate the sorrow, thus the never-ending chain of action and results continues (kurvathe karma bhogaaya, karma karthum cha bhunjathe – man does action for enjoyment and he enjoys in order to do more actions). Action-result chain cannot be contained in one birth and hence the chain of birth-death continues (punarapi jananam punarapi maranam punarapi janani jatare shayanam – again birth, again death and again in the womb of the mother). Thus a person suffers over and over again with no end to his suffering and no sight of eternal bliss.
Ignorance can be removed only by knowledge even as darkness can be expelled only by light. The ignorance of one’s own very nature of Self or Brahman or Ishwara is what causes one to believe one is the body and there is duality present; this can be removed only through knowledge that non-duality alone is real and duality is just an illusion in the non-dual reality of Brahman who is our very nature of pulsating “I” (totally unaffected by duality). Knowledge can be gained only from a person who already has knowledge (though learning from books is possible it isn’t possible to realize except for exceptions without the guidance of a Guru – books are indirect knowledge whereas Guru is direct knowledge and living embodiment of books). Since Guru is the way to gain knowledge and knowledge is essential to get rid of bondage, therefore Guru is essential in order to get rid of bondage.
Guru is knowledge (Guru is Brahman)
Guru has knowledge and is a living embodiment of knowledge. Hence such Guru is himself knowledge – he or she doesn’t need any book-knowledge as knowledge is not an intellectual property for the Guru but a constant living experience. Even as a person who has tasted milk has experience of milk, similarly the Guru is constantly experiencing Brahman unlike an ignorant person who might have gained intellectual knowledge but no experience of Brahman (similar to a person who has known about milk but never tasted it). Such a living embodiment of knowledge is therefore the first step towards realization. Hence we find in the scriptures all seekers trying to first find an apt Guru after creating a strong desire for liberation.
Siva through making the point about essentiality of Guru is thus telling us to seek a Guru in order to progress in the spiritual path quickly. In order for a seeker to seek a Guru, it is important to understand the greatness of the Guru (till now we have seen the greatness and essentiality of the knowledge of a Guru’s Mahima). Is there a way to understand the greatness of a Guru without even knowing the meaning of the word Guru? Definitely not and hence Siva gives a few meanings of the word Guru (defining the word Guru) which we will see in the next month before entering into the greatness of a Guru being elaborately explained.
Until then may we try to understand and convince our intellect about the essentiality of a Guru and before that the Guru’s Mahima in the spiritual path towards eternal bliss.