Sunday, July 4, 2010



In the previous post, we have seen that Adi Sankara, on his way from the river Ganges and while walking on the streets of Varanasi is accosted by Lord Siva and Gauri, in disguise as a low caste couple. He instinctively utters the words – get away, get away and so on. Lord Siva in disguise asks him pointed questions on whether the physical body should get away or the all pervading consciousness in the body must get away – and asks, when the Sun and Sky make no such distinctions on the basis of caste, why should you, a learned man, with a firm belief in you being the all pervading supreme consciousness make the distinction?
Now, these extraordinary questions of such great wisdom strike the heart of Adi Sankara like lightning. Not that he was theoretically unaware of these precepts. But, in practice, he was involuntarily following the multitude, till then, as his earlier words indicate. Or at least, this is the indication, we get from the words, get away, get away.
To correct this difference between Adi Sankara’s precept and practice only – Lord Siva himself, along with his consort, Gauri had come and reiterated to him this eternal knowledge so succinctly and so pointedly.
But, Adi Sankara was no ordinary man. His was an absolutely truthful life. He realizes his folly instantly and admits the same openly. He also declares in the following slokas, that accepts any one – be he a Brahmin or a low caste man – who gives him this deep understanding of the eternal knowledge as his GURU, instantly.

Prompt comes Adi Sankara’s reply, in the next five beautiful slokas. These five are called Maneesha Panchakam.

Maneesha – signifies great firmness. Adi Sankara is now saying – these are now my firm and unwavering conviction:

1st sloka :

jaagratswapna sushuptishu sphutataraa yaa sam vidujjrimbhatae
yaa brahmaadi pipeelika anta thanushu prothaa jagat saakshinee,
saiva aham na cha drisya vastwiti drudha prajnaapi yasya asti chaet
chandaalostu sa tu dwijosthu gurur ityaeshaa maneeshaa mama.

Meaning :  Oh, that which shines in every one in all of the three states of us ; namely the wakeful, the dream and the deep sleep states and knows perfectly, every thing there is;  that which is the witness of all the worldly activity (Jagat Sakshi), being embedded in all beings from Brahma (the Creator) to the tiny ant(pipeelika); that which cannot be perceived by us as object, in spite of any amount of firm knowledge of material things; that which remains the same, and witnesses all,  the  one who inculcates knowledge of this  great concept in me is my real Guru, the preceptor,  be he a high caste dwija or a low caste one; this is my firm conviction.

Comments : We need to distinguish the two terms Brahma and Brahman here. Brahma is one among the Great trinity of - creator (Brahma), protector (Vishnu) and destroyer (Siva) who are assigned the three great tasks.
Brahman is the universal consciousness; the pure and absolute bliss which runs through the Great Trinity and through all the universe and is the only eternal entity. The great trinity derive their power – as we do – from the Brahman. Brahman is thus present in all forms, from the Great Brahma to the tiny ant and witnesses the universe in all of its activities. Brahman is the witness of all that happens in the Universe.
At the very first stroke, Adi Sankara has already corrected himself, and says he accepts the one who teaches and inculcates this great wisdom into him as his Guru, be he of a high or low caste. He has re-affirmed his firm conviction that Brahman is one entity pervading all beings and is beyond mere material knowledge.

2nd Sloka :

Brahmaivaaham idam jagachcha sakalam chinmaatra vistaaritam
sarwam chaitadavidyayaa trigunayaa saesham mayaa kalpitam,
iththam yasya dridha matih sukhatarae nityae parae nirmalae
chandaalostu satu dwijostu gurur ityaeshaa maneeshaa mama.

Meaning : The Brahman indeed is the inner Self or the “I” in every thing in this whole universe; this conscious form is perfectly unfolding itself in all the universe. All this sentient world is borne of avidya (prakriti or nescience or Maya), by the inter play of the three Gunas (or, attributes) and is apparently seen to be divided but in fact is in the mere imagination /  dream of people.
Who so ever, he may be, that person of firm conviction, who understands that the subtle Brahman remains eternally as the Supreme, as one without any contamination and as the eternal Bliss; that person, may he be a outcaste  or a learned Dwija of the high caste; my firm understanding is that the Great one who inculcates this concept is my real preceptor.

COMMENTS : “I” is none other than the Brahman (The Absolute). “I” am dwelling in the pure and infinite Brahman and I am the Brahman. But, what is the nature of this universe. Adi Sankara has given vivid description of how Universe is born of Avidyaa, or Maya, or Prakrithi. The universe goes on changing every moment. The changeless one pervading the whole Universe is the Brahman, or the “I”, when I firmly identify with the Brahman.
This universe consists of diverse and different things, born of – avidya, or Maya or prakrithi;by the interplay of the three Gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas). It goes on changing every moment – and it does so – in the presence of the Brahman.
There is detailed exposition in other texts - of what the three Gunas are – how their various combinations create various beings – and how they change our nature constantly – when their proportions in us change.
But Brahman is the eternal changeless consciousness that is pure bliss (referred as sat – chit-ananda) and is unaffected by the three  Gunas. This is the eternal wisdom.
Adi Sankara declares again - that he accepts the one who teaches and inculcates this great wisdom into him as his Guru, be he of a high or low caste.
Even the Great Adi Sankara finally needed a great Master like Lord Siva – to complete his firm understanding of this knowledge. The purport is not merely what the sloka states explicitly – but also –that, we must approach a Guru, to properly inculcate this wisdom into our self.

3rd Sloka :

saswan naswaramaeva viswam akhilam nischitya vaachaa guroh
nityam brahma nirantaram vimrisataa nirwyaaja saanta atmanaa,
bhootam bhaavi cha dushkritam pradahataa samvinmayae paavakae
praarabdhaaya samarpitam swavapur ityaeshaa maneeshaa mama.

Meaning :  This whole universe is apparently continuing permanently but is perishable and impermanent as per the decisive declaration of the Great Gurus(of the knowledge aforesaid).
Brahman only is permanent and undifferentiated.
If we analyze carefully with an untainted, unaffected, peaceful mind, Our physical bodies are the products of all of our previous sinful deeds, pertaining to the past, present  and the future.
The one who  reduces these sinful deeds (prarabdha etc) to ashes in the  fire of this firm knowledge of the Brahman - that one only is of perfect and true understanding. This is my firm conviction, says Adi Sankara.

COMMENT : Adi Sankara reiterates another tenet of Advaita here. This entire universe, though apparently looks as continuing and permanent, is constantly changing and is actually perishable and impermanent. This has clearly and decisively been stated by the Great Gurus. Brahman only is unchanging and eternal. We need a very clear and firm understanding of what is permanent and what is impermanent. Adi Sankara calls this understanding as “nitya – anithya vasthu vivekaha” in his another text called Tathva Bodha.
Why are we born and die again and again? These are because of our good and bad deeds for which we take the credit/ownership. They are called prarabdha karma (sanchitha karma etc.). Our bodies are the results of our Past actions – good and bad both. Our past and future actions ensure that we are born again and again – to taste their fruits.
The cycle of Births and deaths will continue endlessly – until we come to a firm understanding of our innate nature as Brahman and we burn away our past and future actions or karmas in the flames of that firm understanding. This requires cool, calm meditation on the nature of these physical bodies.
The one who perfectly reduces these past and future actions or Karmas in to ashes in the flaming fire of the knowledge of Brahman -  is really the one of perfect understanding. This is my perfect conviction, says Adi Sankara.

4th sloka :

yaa thiryagnara dhaevathaabhirahamithyamthah sphutaa grihyathae
yadhbhaasaa hridhayaaksha dhaehavishayaa bhaanthi swatho chaethanaah,
thaam bhaasyaih pihithaarkamandala nibhaam sphoorthim sadhaa bhaavayan
yogee nirvrithamaanaso hi gururithyaeshaa maneeshaa mama.

Meaning : That which very clearly is perceived as the 'I'  within all the animals, the human beings and the gods too is the inner consciousness in us. By the effulgence of this inner consciousness, the sense objects are perceived by the mind, the body and the sense organs.  The same mind, body and sense organs though illuminated by the consciousness, apparently cloud this consciousness, just as the shining Sun is concealed by the clouds caused by the sun itself.
That Yogi, with perfect realization and complete and clear understanding due to his wisdom, always meditates on this in his mind.
My firm understanding is that the one with this firm understanding is the real preceptor.
COMMENTS : How come this “I” is never in my understanding and becomes obscure from my self? “I” am in fact the pure, eternal consciousness principle pervading all the bodies of all animals, human beings and gods alike. By its sheer presence, this consciousness makes the mind, body and sense organs, as sentient, though these are otherwise insentient. But, why do I identify with the body, mind and sense organs most often – than with the eternal consciousness that is the real “I”. Why do I go after impermanent sensual objects and suffer? This is another critical question that advaita seeks to effectively answer for all of us.
The mind, body and sense organs, acquire their intelligence – through the reflection of this pure consciousness which is the “I” (or the Brahman). They perceive other external objects by virtue of this reflection. But, the very same mind, body and sense organs then tend to conceal the pure consciousness illumining them, even from themselves, and search for such bliss in other objects and beings. It is just like, the Sun is concealed by the clouds after they are created by the Sun self.  For this very reason, the great yogis always keep this perfect realization and wisdom (of this phenomenon of false attraction to other sensual objects when the reality is the I principle) by always meditating the mind on the permanence of the supreme consciousness (as the “I”). Such a Yogi of perfect understanding is my Guru, the real preceptor. This is my perfect conviction, says Adi Sankara. The delusion happens to the very best of the yogis also – when they fail to so meditate – say some of the great texts of advaita philosophy.

5th sloka :

yathsaukhyaambudhi laesalaesatha imae sakraadhayo nirvrithaa
yachchiththae nitharaam prashaanthakalanae labdhvaa munirnirvrithah
yasmin nithya sukhaambudhau galithadheer brahmaiva na brahmavidh
yah kaschit sasuraendhra vandhithapado noonam maneeshaa mama

Meaning :  The Brahman is the eternal ocean of Supreme Bliss. A very small and minute fraction of this supreme Bliss is adequate to satisfy the great Indra (the king of celestial beings) and all other celestial beings.
Great Sages experience fulfillment by meditating with a perfectly calm mind only on this Bliss Supreme and not by any other special means.
The one, whose mind (intellect) is ever identified with this eternal ocean of the Bliss Supreme, he is not a mere knower of the Brahman, but is the Brahman itself.
Such a person whosoever he may be, his feet are  worthy to be worshiped by the Indra (King of Gods and and all other gods). This is my firm understanding.

COMMENTS : Why are we becoming sorrowful and How do you become blissful? After all,  our life’s goal – seems to be blissful all the time. The Self (Same as Brahman) is the eternal ocean of Supreme Bliss. It is itself the source of all bliss. Even the heavenly gods are easily satisfied with a small portion of this supreme bliss. It is often said – that even their knowledge of Brahman is partial but, in that knowledge, they achieve great joy.  It needs meditating with a perfectly calm mind on this Bliss Supreme, and not by any other special means, for experiencing fulfillment. So, the sages meditate with such a calm mind and partake of this bliss. A person who always meditates on and whose intellect is ever unified with the Bliss Supreme, he is not a mere knower of the Brahman, but he is the Brahman itself. He is worthy of worship by all, including the heavenly gods. Adi Sankara affirms for the fifth and the final time that - this is my firm understanding.

The Epilogue :

daasaste.aham dehad r^ishhtyaa.asmi shambho
jaatastem.asho jiivad r^ishhtyaa tridr^ishhte
sarvasyaa.a.atmannaatmadr^ishhtyaa tvameve
tyevam me dhiirnishchitaa sarvashaastraih

Finally Adi Sankara salutes his Guru as below :
O! Lord Siva, the three eyed one; the knower of the past, present and future! In the form of this physical body, I am your servant and so, of all. In the form of the life with in me, I am a part You and so, of all. In the form the soul, You are within me and in every other human being, animal or thing that I see. I am of this firm conclusion - after thorough reflection in my intellect – and being thoroughly illuminated by all the scriptures.

COMMENTS : After thus accepting that any one of such great knowledge , be he of any origin, is his Guru – Now, Adi Sankara straightaway addresses him as Lord Siva, and says, I am your servant as this physical body of mine. You are the consciousness principle in this physical body and in all such beings. The scriptures have thus enlightened me thoroughly and my own intellect is now firm on this conclusion.
Advaita / Vedanta philosophy lays great stress on acceptance of 2 things (i) the scriptural conclusion of the Brahman principle and (ii) the Guru’s expounding of the scriptures – without which there is no way of understanding thoroughly the oneness of Brahman in all beings.
Each of the 4 Vedas contain a Maha Vakyam – which affirms this oneness principle.
   1. Prajnanam Brahma - "Consciousness is Brahman" (Aitareya Upanishad 3.3 of the Rig Veda)
   2. Ayam Atma Brahma - "This Self (Atman) is Brahman" (Mandukya Upanishad 1.2 of the Atharva Veda)
   3. Tat Tvam Asi - "Thou art That" (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7 of the Sama Veda)
   4. Aham Brahmasmi - "I am the Brahman" (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 of the Yajur Veda)
There are others like – Sarvam khaluvidam Brahma (the Universe is Brahman), so ham (He is I). Thus, all the scriptures affirm the oneness of the Brahman in all of us. These are aptly called “maha vakyams” or  the great truths.
Thus, the advaita philosophy arises out of these scriptural pronunciations of the one great truth about us – and Adi Sankara is reiterating the same in Manishee Panchakam.
If the Scriptures pronounce the oneness of Brahman in all of us, and Lord Siva himself teaches the same to Adi Sankara – 1200 years ago, why it that we continue our differences even till this day?
This nagging question needs a firm answer. Maneesha Panchakam itself answers it succinctly. Our senses, our mind and body are constantly directing their attention towards sense objects outside in the universe, and concealing from themselves, the inner radiance of the CONSCIOUSNESS. These create a delusion for themselves and get lost in the jungle of the sensual objects and get steeped in - sorrow now, happiness then, then again sorrow and so on – instead of permanent joy.
Firm meditation on the oneness of Brahman in all of us – alone removes this ignorance from us. Else, our attachment to sensual objects will always continue; our birth-death cycle will continue; and our sorrows will not leave us due to the prarabdha karma  which we continue to incur in this cycle.
Under the Lord Siva as his Great Guru, Adi Sankara removes thus the last vestiges of his ignorance  or Avidya – and becomes thoroughly enlightened with this wisdom.

May Jagadguru Adi Sankara and his Great Guru, the Lord Siva, therefore confer on all of us the thorough knowledge of this great, oneness (advaita) principle.

Maneesha Panchakam  concludes here.

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