Saturday, August 28, 2010
ATMA BODHA = ( POST 1) = BY ADI SANKARA = ANSWER TO THE ETERNAL QUESTION = WHO AM I?
SRI ADI SANKARACHARYA
TEXT & COMMENTARY
I hereby Salute
the Great lineage of
The Gurus starting
With the most illustrious Guru
In the middle of this lineage
And Upto my Gurus
=and seek from them
The knowledge of the SELF=
In Indian mythology and spirituality, Siva is considered the first Yogi and the first Guru who taught the ultimate knowledge of the Brahman.
In many ancient texts, Siva is stated to have revealed this knowledge first to his consort, Paravathi and thence to the ancient sages and from them to others.
Siva is himself the most profound consummation of ALL THE DUALITIES in the world. We will discuss Siva in more detail in a future blog Post.
In the great lineage of Gurus of this ancient wisdom, after Siva, the next most illustrous guru is undoubtedly the great saint, Adi Sankaracharya, who, many consider as the incarnation of Siva himself. The physical, Intellectual and meta-physical (superhuman) achievements of Adi Sankaracharya are the most astounding and unparalleled in the last 2000 years and more.
His elucidations on the Upanisads, his Prakarana Grandhas on many related topics and his Prayers and Stotrams are of such great beauty and clarity that they have become the PRAMANIC TEXTS – texts on which to rely in discussions, teaching, and living and all other purposes of importance.
“WHO AM I?” is one eternal question that has been answered convincingly in many of his elucidatory texts on Upanisads and original prakarana Grandhas for the benefit of all the seekers of liberation (Moksha). The whole of Advaitha philosophy centres around this one question.
Atma bodha is such an elucidatory text, which brings together the knowledge of the self that is available in scattered form over many Upanisads.
Great Gurus of contemporary times teach Atma Bodha, the knowledge of the SELF, to the seekers of this knowledge.
In this Blog Post and some more to come, we will consider the Pramanic text, ATMA BODHA, and strive to understand the knowledge of the self.
(KNOWLEDGE OF THE SELF)
Atma Bodha is for all practical purposes – a continuation of our ‘WHO AM I?” series of posts. As the discerning reader understands, the whole spiritual seeking revolves round this one question. There is simply no point in asking or answering other questions such as “who is God? Where is God?” and so on – until we understand our SELF.
Why is it so important to answer this particular question?
All religions of the world want us to believe that their particular teachiong has been handed down by the ALMIGHTY himself. If all of them teach the same – we may have no particular difficulty in accepting this fact and accepting what they say.
But, all of them differ from each other in a most fundamental manner in many aspects.
So, we may not find it easy to know which one to accept and which to reject, or, whether to accept all, and if so, how, since they all differ so fundamentally!
There is ONE PARTICULAR BOOK that is undoubtedly written by the ALMIGHTY himself – which no one on earth can deny!
That Book is YOU. That Book is I.
All facts of the Universe are securely hidden in the “I” and the “I” is available to us at all times for the closest possible examination.
The ancient sages have found that answering the question WHO AM I? leads us to all answers to all other fundamental questions too.
Therefore, this question occupies the utmost primacy in the Upanisads, which are therefore, so fundamentally different in their teaching methods from the VEDAS.
The teachings on WHO AM I is beyond religion, and, beyond all religions.Once this question’s answer is found, one does not have any other questions to answer! It is so fundamental and so Ultimate.
It is the only question!
It is for this reason, that we are concentrating on what the great masters have taught us on this eternal question. In this Post, we are therefore looking at what Adi Sankara himself says on this question and how he answers this question.
Atma Bodha consists of 68 slokas.
It starts with Anubandha chathustaya, the 4 closely related aspects of the subject matter of this book and ends finally with extolling the one with ATMA JNANA, the one who has attained to the knowledge of the self.
We will now start with the first sloka:
1. Tapobhih Ksheenapaapaanaam
As already said, this first sloka indicates the ANUBANDHA CHATHUSTAYAM for the knowledge contained in this Book.
In the most ancient texts of knowledge, it was customary to lay down at the very start of the book, the four important matters connected with the book, namely, (i) the subject matter of the book, (ii) its essential use or benefit (iii) the eligibility criteria for seekers of the knowledge in the Book and (iv) the relationship of the user (the seeker) to the use of the book and the subject matter in the book.
These Fourfold details are stated at the very beginning and is considered essential.
Firstly, by merely looking at the subject matter mentioned in the first sloka – you either pick up the Book or drop the Book! Either it is for you or it is not for you. You know instantly.
Secondly, the USE or benefit indicated here gives better understanding of what you will get from the subject matter. If the use or benefit mentioned is not some thing which you desire, you can safely skip the book – as the book is not for you. But if you earnestly want that benefit, then, the knowledge of the book is for YOU. Texts like Atma Bodha are not connected with earning money, wealth, enjoying worldly pleasures and so on. So, people seeking such aspects will not get any assistance from the Book.
Thirdly, the qualifications for going through a strenuous exercise of undergoing the teaching and acquiring the knowledge of a book like ATMA BODHA needs that the student (and also the teacher) must have certain necessary qualifications. The student must have these prescribed qualifications for undergoing the course of ATMA BODHA. The student must go to a teacher who has these necessary qualifications and attainments. The teachers will ensure that a desiring student acquires the necessary qualifications laid down in the book before teaching the subject matter to the eligible student. Evidently, Many people are not ripe for certain types of knowledge.
Fourthly, how are the User, the use, the subject matter and the qualifications inter-related? All these must be closely linked to each other The subject matter, the benefit intended and the qualifications prescribed must not be at variance to each other. Let us see the Anubandha chathustaya mentioned in the first sloka of ATMA BODHA:
The SUBJECT MATTER (vishayaha) in the book is ATMA BODHA, or knowledge of the self.
What is its USE (prayojanaha)? Its use is Liberation (or Moksha) from all bondages, sufferings and the cycle of births and deaths.
Who is the ELIGIBLE PERSON (Adhikaari) for this Knowledge ? One who has got rid of all of sins by great Penance (Taphaha), one who is always with a tranquil mind, one who is beyond the dualities of likes and dislikes and one who is desirous of liberation is the eligible person for this knowledge.
What is the RELATIONSHIP between the Adhikari and the Vishaya? The Adhikaari is desirous of Moksha or Liberation, and the subject matter of knowledge of self or Atma Bodha leads precisely to such Moksha or liberation, assuming that the Adhikaari has the necessary qualifications laid down for Atma Bodha.
Now, one generalized feeling in many people is that such knowledge is unnecessarily kept secret by the ancient people from the general masses.
Let us for a moment assume this to be so. As we go through the entire Atma Bodha, we will see again and again how keeping a peaceful and tranquil mind and being free from likes and dislikes is essential for Moksha or liberation. There is no way, you can take one step forward, unless you are at least willing to keep a tranquil mind and keep down your likes and dislikes.
How many of us are really ready for this? Specifically - getting rid of our LIKES and DISLIKES! How many of us WANT to go through a training and process of dropping all of our likes and all of our dislikes? Many of us may feel, our whole life goes waste! Dropping likes and dislikes involves great penance – a lifelong one at that. At the very thought of this – many people will drop off from ATMA BODHA training.
The question therefore arises – why Atma Bodha – which cannot be achieved by even one in a Crore of people?
Let us look at the other side of life. How many achieve the Olympic gold medal for 100 metres running? One in the whole world of several hundreds of Crores of people. But, many people try to achieve the necessary qualifications for it. Yet many other people enjoy watching the efforts and achievements of these super achievers, whether they win the gold medal or not. The achievers necessarily need to go through rigorous training and practice, cultivate certain life style and avoid certain life style and so on. It is much like Atma Bodha training.
Unlike the ancient days – when so many people were striving for Moksha, today, the percentage of Moksha seekers is pretty less. The TV and other media, the life style we live in and several other factors of today’s life create and sustain in us, too many likes and dislikes and a stormy, petulant, restless mind.
But, on the other and more positive side, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HUMAN HISTORY, the print media and the audio visual media bring to us the texts, elucidations etc of great knowledge from the great masters at our door step – almost for free. These are definitely not substitutes for sitting before a LIVE GURU and having his graceful guidance.
Yet, the present day books and audio visual aids do have the effect of focusing our attention on the more important goals of life and lessening the distractions to us caused by modern media, towards other, less worthy goals. It makes our life a lot more sane and meaningful.
It is said – Moksha is the goal, and we do need to understand what MOKSHA really is. But, the preparation for Moksha may go on in our life for days, months, years, or even for several births depending on the individual aspirant’s progress and his devotion.
The books and audio visual aids are also preparatory steps today and these were not available in the ancient days. One should consider himself / herself extremely fortunate – if one earnestly goes through texts like Atma Bodha and commentaries thereon or listens to them on audio visual media.
If you have come to this Blog Post, or have listened to any great Gurus, or have seriously read books, commentaries, audios, audio visuals etc on ATMA BODHA, it is not by mere chance, but, because you somehow, are a seeker of this knowledge and you somehow know that every other knowledge is not going to satisfy you.
But, to repeat a caution, none of these can be substitutes for sitting before the Guru and learning from him. However, all these of our efforts may bring the right Guru nearer to us.
Should one renounce all his earthly life and its pleasures immediately on taking up ATMA BODHA? Did Lord Krishna renounce any pleasures or any activity? Kindly see in one of the previous Posts, what Lord Krishna says. He did not renounce any thing. We just need to understand everything and play our part with the understanding of WHO AM I.
Did the great sage Vasista Maharshi renounce any thing? No, Not at all. Do you know that he lived in the deepest forests along with his wife, Arundhathi and begot one hundred children through her? And, he was the one who taught Lord Rama this essential knowledge through the famous Yoga Vasista teachings.
Did Lord Siva himself renounce them? He too hasn’t renounced any thing. In fact, there is no way you can renounce anything. Except a thing called ATTACHMENT!
You must only play your part with total awareness and self knowledge. And, your part is dictated by the moment.
Swami Paramarthananda talks of MUKTHI – as Nithya Mukthi – you get liberated as you are, where you are and there is no renouncement and running away from any where to any where! Mukthi is not after death! It is as you are- that is, even as you are alive! The most important factor is you start enjoying life much more, not less. You become the personification of joy. You come out of the influence of Maya, which is the root cause of all of your sorrows. Mukthi is when all sorrows fall off from you.
Do you want that state where you have no sorrows and you are the personification of Joy? Yes. You do. Just as I do. You and I won’t lose a thing at all in life by this knowledge of the self – except our sufferings, our sorrows, our ignorance.
Let us therefore proceed further to listen to Adi Sankara, through his Atma Bodha – from Verse.2
P.S: As always, this Blog will be extremely grateful to the readers for their suggestions, comments, CORRECTIONS and improvements - and invites the same from each reader.
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