Wednesday, 19 of December of 2018

The Self and Non-Self. Reality and the World

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Existence or consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness plus waking we call waking. Consciousness plus sleep we call sleep. Consciousness plus dream we call dream. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go. The screen is real, the pictures are mere shadows on it.

The Self and the appearances therein, as the snake in the rope, can be well illustrated like this. There is a screen. On that screen first appears the figure of a king. He sits on a throne. Then before him on that same screen a play begins with various figures and objects, and the king on the screen watches the play on the same screen. The seer and the seen are mere shadows on the screen which is the only reality, supporting all the pictures. In the world also, the seer and the seen together constitute the mind, and the mind is supported by or based on the Self.

The ajata school of Advaita says, ‘Nothing exists except the one reality. There is no birth or death, no projection or drawing in, no sadhaka (aspirant), no mumukshu (one who desires to be liberated), no mukta (one who is liberated), no bondage, no liberation. The One Unity alone exists forever.’ To those who find it difficult to grasp this truth and ask, ‘How can we ignore this solid world we see all around us?’ the dream experience is pointed out and they are told, ‘All that you see depends on the seer. Apart from the seer there is no seen.’ This is called drishti-srishti vada, or the argument that one first creates out of his mind and then sees what his mind itself has created.

To those who cannot grasp even this and who further argue, ‘The dream experience is so short, while the world always exists. The dream experience was limited to me. But the world is felt and seen not only by me but by so many and we cannot call such a world nonexistent,’ the argument called srishti-drishti vada is addressed and they are told, ‘God first created such and such a thing out of such and such an element and then something else and so forth.’ That alone will satisfy them. Their minds are not otherwise satisfied and they ask themselves, ‘How can all geography, all maps, all sciences, stars, planets and the rules governing or relating to them, and all knowledge be totally untrue?’ To such it is best to say, ‘Yes. God created all this and so you see it.’ All these are only to suit the capacity of the hearers. The absolute can only be one.

There is first the white light, so to call it, of the Self, which transcends both light and darkness. In it no object can be seen. There is neither seer nor seen. Then there is also total darkness (avidya) in which no obj ects are seen. But from the Self proceeds a reflected light, the light of pure mind (manas), and it is this light which gives room for the existence of all the film of the world, which is seen neither in total light nor in total darkness, but only in the subdued or reflected light.

From the point of view of Jnana (Knowledge) or the Reality, the pain seen in the world is certainly a dream, as is the world, of which any particular pain like hunger is an infinitesimal part. In the dream also you yourself feel hunger. You see others suffering from hunger. You feed yourself, and moved by pity feed the others whom you find suffering from hunger. So long as the dream lasted, all those pains were as real as you now think the pain in the world to be. It was only when you woke up that you discovered that the pain in the dream was unreal. You might have eaten to the full and gone to sleep. You dream that you work hard and long in the hot sun all day, are tired and hungry and want to eat a lot. Then you wake up and find your stomach is full and you have not stirred out of your bed. But this does not mean that while you are in the dream you can act as if the pain you feel is not real. The hunger in the dream has to be assuaged by the food in the dream. The fellow beings you found so hungry in the dream had to be provided with food in that dream. You can never mix up the two states, the dream and the waking state. Till you reach the state of jnana and thus wake out of maya you must do social service by relieving suffering whenever you see it. But even then you must do it without ahankara, i.e., without the sense of ‘I am the doer’, but with the feeling ‘I am the Lord’s tool’. Similarly one must not be conceited by thinking, ‘I am helping a man below me. He needs help. I am in a position to help. I am superior and he inferior.’ But you must help the man as a means of worshipping God in that man. All such service is for the Self and not for anybody else. You are not helping anybody else, but only yourself.

The book Kaivalya Navaneeta has asked and answered six questions on maya. They are instructive:

1.    What is maya? The answer is: It is anirvachaniya or indescribable.

2.    To whom does it come? The answer is: To the mind or ego who feels that he is a separate entity, who thinks ‘I do this’ or ‘This is mine’.

3.    Where does it come from and how did it originate? The answer: Nobody can say.

4.    How did it arise? The answer is: Through non-vichara, through failure to enquire ‘Who am I?’

5.    If the Self and maya both exist, does this not invalidate the theory of Advaita? The answer is: It need not, since maya is dependent on the Self as the picture is on the screen. The picture is not real in the sense that the screen is real.

6.    If the Self and maya are one, could it not be argued that the Self is of the nature of maya and that it is also illusory? The answer is: No, the Self can be capable of producing illusion without being illusory. A conjuror may create for our entertainment the illusion of people, animals and things, and we see all of them as clearly as we see him, but after the performance he alone remains and all the visions he created have disappeared. He is not a part of the vision but solid and real.

The books use the following illustration to help explain creation: The Self is like the canvas for a painting. First a paste is smeared over it to close the small holes that are in the canvas. This paste can be compared to the Antaryamin (Indweller) in all creation. Then the artist makes an outline on the canvas. This can be compared to the sukshma sarira (subtle body) of all creatures; for instance, the light and sound (bindu and nada) out of which all things arise. Within this outline the artist paints his picture with colours, etc., and this can be compared to the gross forms that constitute the world.

Vedanta says that the cosmos springs into view simultaneously with the seer. There is no creation by stages or steps. It is similar to the creation in dream where the experiencer and the objects of experience come into existence at the same time. To those who are not satisfied with this explanation, theories of gradual creation are offered in books.

It is not at all correct to say that advaitins of the Sankara school deny the existence of the world, or that they call it unreal. On the other hand, it is more real to them than to others. Their world will always exist whereas the world of the other schools will have origin, growth and decay, and as such cannot be real. They only say that the world as ‘world’ is not real, but that the world as Brahman is real. All is Brahman, nothing exists but Brahman, and the world as Brahman is real.

The Self is the one Reality that always exists, and it is by the light of the Self that all other things are seen. We forget it and concentrate on the appearance. The light in the hall burns both when persons are present and when they are absent, both when persons are enacting something, as in a theatre, and when nothing is being enacted. It is the light which enables us to see the hall, the persons and the acting. We are so engrossed with the objects or appearances revealed by the light, that we pay no attention to the light. In the waking or dream state in which things appear, and in the sleep state in which we see nothing, there is always the light of Consciousness or Self, like the hall lamp which is always burning. The thing to do is to concentrate on the seer and not on the seen, not on the objects, but on the Light which reveals them.

Questions about the reality of the world, and about the existence of pain or evil in the world, will all cease when you enquire ‘Who am I?’ and find out the seer. Without a seer the world and the evils thereof alleged do not exist.

The world is of the form of the five categories of sense objects, and nothing else. These five kinds of objects are sensed by the five senses. As all are perceived by the mind through these five senses, the world is nothing but the mind. Is there a world apart from the mind?

Though the world and consciousness emerge and disappear together, the world shines or is perceived only through consciousness. That source wherein both these arise and disappear, and which itself neither appears nor disappears, is the perfect Reality.

If the mind, the source of all knowledge and activity subsides, the vision of the world will cease. Just as knowledge of the real rope does not dawn till the fancied notion of the serpent disappears, vision (experience) of the Reality cannot be gained unless the superimposed vision of the universe is abandoned.

That which really exists is only the Self. The world, jiva (individual self) and Iswara (God) are mental creations, like the appearance of silver in mother of pearl. All these appear at the same time and disappear similarly. The Self alone is the world, the ego and Iswara.

To the jnani it is immaterial whether the world appears or not. Whether it appears or not, his attention is always on the Self. Take the letters and the paper on which they are printed. You are wholly engrossed with the letters and have no attention left for the paper. But the jnani thinks only of the paper as the real substratum, whether the letters appear or not.

You make all kinds of sweets from various ingredients and in various shapes, and they all taste sweet because there is sugar in all of them, and sweetness is the nature of sugar. In the same way, all experiences and the absence of them contain the illumination, which is the nature of the Self. Without the Self they cannot be experienced, just as without sugar not one of the articles you make can taste sweet.

The Immanent Being is called Iswara. Immanence can only be with maya. It (Iswara) is the Knowledge of Being along with maya. From the subtle conceit Hiranyagarbha rises; from Hiranyagarbha the gross, concrete Virat rises. Chit-Atma is pure Being only.

As regards the existence of pain in the world, the wise one explains from his experience, that if one withdraws within the Self there is an end of all pain. The pain is felt so long as the object is different from oneself. But when the Self is found to be an undivided whole, who and what is there to feel?

The Upanishadic text ‘I am Brahman’ only means Brahman exists as ‘I’.

Gems from Bhagavan


Akhandakara Vritti

Vritti means a whirl-pool. It is a wave of thought that arises in the Antahkarana (mind). Vrittis are modifications of the mind. They are the effect of Avidya (ignorance). When Avidya is destroyed by Jnana, Vrittis get absorbed in Brahman (Laya), just as water thrown in a heated pan is absorbed in the pan.

Wherefrom does a Vritti arise? From the Chitta or mind. Why does a Vritti arise? It is Svabhava of Antahkarana (real nature of the mind). What is its function? It causes Avarana-Bhanga (removes the veil of Sthula Avidya (gross ignorance) that envelops the objects). It helps the evolution of a man till he attains perfection (Jivanmukti). It is Vritti that opens the Kundalini in a Jnani in the Ajna Chakra and joins it in Sahasrara. This is one path.

The Chitta is the mind stuff. It is the mental substance. Vritti or thought-wave is a modification of that mental substance. It is a process. Just as waves and bubbles arise from the surface of the ocean, so also these Vrittis arise from the surface of the mind-ocean. Just as rays emanate from the sun, so also these mental rays (modification of Vrittis) emanate from the mind-sun. Just as the sun merges itself in the horizon at sunset by collecting all its rays, so also you will have to merge in that Sun of suns, Absolute Consciousness, Eternal Peace by collecting all the dissipated mental rays and dissolving the mind itself.

The function of a Vritti in the mind is to cause Avarana-Bhanga (removal of the veil of ignorance covering objects). Sthula Avidya or gross ignorance is enveloping all objects. When the veil is removed, perception of objects becomes possible. The Vritti removes the Avarana or layer of ignorance. When you pass through a big crowd or persons, you are able to notice a few persons. You do not see some persons, though they happen to come in front of you. Why? Because there was not complete Avarana-Bhanga. When this is done, the object shines before you.

According to Raja Yoga of Maharshi Patanjali, Pramana (right notion or right proof), Viparyaya (misconception), Vikalpa (fancy or imagination), Nidra (sleep) and Smriti (memory) are the five mental Vrittis or mental functions. If these five mental functions are suppressed, the suppression of desires and other functions will follow.

Vishayakara Vritti And Brahmakara Vritti

Through its own efforts, the mind assumes the shape of any object, it concentrates itself upon. If it thinks of a woman, it assumes the shape of a woman. This is termed Vritti Tadakara. If it thinks of God or Brahman, Brahmakara Vritti develops. In the former case, Rajas (passion) will be infused into the mind; while in the latter, Sattva (purity) will be infused.

When the mind thinks of objects and dwells on them, it assumes the shape of those objects. It is termed as Vishayakara Vritti. When it thinks of Brahman or Infinity, the Brahmakara Vritti is formed. The Sadhaka should be very vigilant and circumspect in watching the mind and its activities. He must convert Vishayakara Vritti into Brahmakara Vritti. As soon as the mind drops down from Brahmakara Vritti into Vishayakara Vritti, he should again make the mind assume Brahmakara Vritti. This is a very hard struggle, indeed.

You cannot have Vishayakara Vritti as Ghatapatadi Vritti (modification of pot, cloth, etc.) and Brahmakara Vritti (thought of Brahman) also at the same time. It is Sruti Virodha (i.e. against the utterances of the Srutis). It is against practical experience also.

It is not the object that binds you. It is Vritti and identification (Tadatmya Sambandha) with the Vritti that causes attachment and bondage. It is through Avidya or ignorance that you identify yourself with Vritti as, for instance, when you say: “I am angry.”

Kinds Of Vritti

Vrittis have been classified into five kinds: (1) Mano-Vritti, (2) Buddhi Vritti, (3) Sakshi Vritti, (4) Akhandakara Vritti and (5) Akhanda Ekarasa Vritti. No. 1 belongs to the instinctive mind. Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5 belong to the Sattvic mind. Mano-Vritti is the Vishayakara Vritti of worldlings. Buddhi Vritti belongs to Vivekins. When you identify yourself with the Sakshi Vritti, you can witness the modifications of the mind. When you try to feel that you are the Infinite Self, the Akhandakara Vritti is generated. It is also known as Brahmakara Vritti. There is no Vritti in Brahman.

From Mano-Vritti, you must jump to Viveka Vritti. Mano-Vritti concerns Manomaya Kosha. Viveka Vritti belongs to Vijnanamaya Kosha. By developing the Vijnanamaya Kosha, Mano-Vrittis are conquered. From Viveka Vritti, you must jump to Sakshi Vritti. From Sakshi Vritti, you must jump to Akhandakara Vritti. From Akhandakara Vritti, you must jump to Akhanda Ekarasa which is Brahma Svarupa. This is Kaivalya or Liberation, the final goal of life.

                                                        Courtesy: the Divine Life Society – Swami Sivananda


Tiruvoodal Utsavam

Tiruvoodal is the divine quarrel between Shiva and Parvathi and it is celebrated  in Tiruvannamalai during the month of January, the second day after Pongal. In fact there is a whole street close to the temple called ‘Tiruvoodal street’ where the main part of the festival, the divine quarrel or the Tiruvoodal itself, is enacted.

The Divine quarrel revolves around the time when one day Parvathi playfully closes the eyes of her august husband, Lord Shiva, with her hands. Utter chaos ensued. The whole universe was plunged in darkness and what was just a moment of play to Parvathi causes countless years of darkness and misery on the universe. Lord Shiva, enraged by this act of folly, punishes Parvathi which sends Her to Kanchipuram to do Tapas where She receives the assurance that after she kills the buffalo-demon Mahishasura on the slopes of Arunachala, She would subsequently regain the favour of her Lord and be united with Him in the left half of His body (Ardhanaariswara) and this is what is realised on the day of Karthigai Deepam.

It would seem that the Tiruvoodal festival is celebrated in Tiruvannamalai in order to commemorate the time when Shiva and Parvathi were in discordance. Nevertheless,  it finishes with the divine union and brings them both back together in harmony. On the first day, there are three processions of the deities starting from the big temple and going on the four streets around the temple. The Utsava Murthis are Sri Mula Nayakar (Shiva in the form of Somaskanda), Tani Ambal (the independent goddess) and Sundaramurthi Nayanar (one of the main tamil saivaite saints).

The most interesting part of the festival takes place in the evening on Tiruvoodal street. During this part, the quarrel between Shiva and His consort, Parvathi, is enacted in public on the streets and witnessed by a large gathering of devotees who are assembled there eagerly to watch the divine drama. The God and the Goddess are brought on palanquins from opposite ends of the street and then borne down to face each other. The narrative of the quarrel is chanted by an Oduvar (temple singer) in tamil lyrics. After this ensues a dramatic dancing procession. Six times the God and the Goddess are borne down at a great speed and then meet in the centre and have their quarrel. This is played out by the palanquin bearrers jumping and shaking the palanquin up and down, which makes it appear as if the deity inside is jumping up and down in a fit of rage. The temple musicians play their drums in fitting accompaniment, adding to the frenzied rantings of the gods as they are shouting at each other. After each quarrel-dance, the deities change sides and each goes off in the opposite direction from which he or she came initially. The crowds of devotees are hysterical with excitement and after each dance-quarrel, the tension mounts and so do the loud cries of fervor and devotion which increase in volume and fury.

The next day, Shiva is up at dawn and leaves on Giripradakshina during which he makes a halt at the Vedarpari mandapam where his jewels are supposedly stolen and later on he also grants salvation to his ardent devotee Kannappa. This is the reason for the Kannappa temple on that location. Shiva also grants darshan to another of his devotees the great rishi ‘Bhringi’ during this trip.  Shiva eventually completes his giri pradakshina and returns to the temple in the afternoon where he enters, dancing the dance of the Swan (Hamsa Natanam). The bearers of the palanquins have a special technique to execute this dance and it causes a type of swaying, continuous oscillation of the deity without losing balance, quite a fascinating sight!

 

Now a ritual takes place in the southern area of the temple which covers directly the sanctum sanctorum. Sundaramurthi Nayanar first goes to warn the Goddess about the return of Shiva. Of course, She, being curious, leaves Her door open so that She can have a glimpse of the dancing arrival of Her Lord. On seeing this spectacle, however, She is so dazzled by her Lord’s beauty and splendour as He arrives majestically doing His swan-dance, that She submits to Him and wishes to be re-united. Thus the reconciliation and reunion of the gods take place and to celebrate this, both the deities are brought together and placed on the same pedestal and the priests perform an Arathi puja waving and encircling one single flame around both of the deities to signify the restoration of harmony.


on the Eve of Karthigai Deepam

It is the eve of Karthigai Deepam today and Tiruvannamalai is being battered by torrential rains since yesterday. One wonders how the Deepam flame will be lit tomorrow amidst this deluge but Light it they will come rain come sun the devotees of Arunachala have never failed to Light the Holy Beacon of Karthigai since time immemorial!

Meanwhile day before yesterday, ie on Wednesday 29 november was the day of the Maha Ratham and once again, we witnessed this awesome event with thrill and wonder! It has been 20 years since the writer settled down in this sacred place and has never ceased to be spellbound by the majestic and impressive festival- journey of this magnificent chariot of the Gods..

And here is a description of the actual event from the past:

The eight day of the Karthigai festival is the day of the Maha Ratham or the Great Chariot. On this day, the great wooden chariot which is the largest temple chariot in Asia, is taken on procession around the four streets of the temple. The main great chariot carries the stately figures of Lord Arunachaleswara and his consort Goddess Unnamulai whereas the smaller chariots which follow in retinue carry the deities of Lord Muruga, Lord Ganesha and Goddes Durga respectively.

Early in the morning, thousands of men and women flock the venue of departure in front of the Raja Gopuram, eager to pull the chains of the chariot and thus have the honour of drawing their Lord’s vehicle. The method in which the chariot is drawn goes back to ancient times. Two long chains made of iron links are connected to the chariot. Carpenters use wooden wedges as brakes to check the speed on the downward slopes as well as to stop the ratham. The signal is given to lift the chain and the devotees pick up the chain. The men hold one side of the chain and women the other. When the wedges are removed and the lever is applied at the back of the huge wheel to give the initial momentum, the second signal is given from the chariot. At once, men and women with great enthusiasm and cheering in unison “Hail to Annamalaiyar” draw the chariot with all their might. Slowly, inch by inch, the great chariot moves and as the pull increases, it gains momentum and moves faster.

It is indeed impressive to see the gigantesque, enormous wooden chariot move forth slowly and majestically, drawn entirely by man power. The chariot is made of rose wood and has beautiful carvings of divinities on its sides.  The top is decorated  attractively with silk canopies, banana and coconut fronds and flower garlands. The Temple Sivacharyas in royal attire are seated on either side like footmen to the Gods and they wave lovely peacock feathered fans to keep the Gods cool and refreshed during their procession.

And thus the great chariot winds its way down the temple streets. By the time it has reached the western street, it is evening and the sun has started to set. The golden rays of the sinking sun shine through the peaks of the Hill. With the Hill view, the golden sunset, the soaring temple towers and the Lord majestically riding on his great chariot in the centre, it is indeed a spectacular sight and one feels the presence of the Lord Himself witnessing the scene in quiet enjoyment !


The Ribhu Gita and Sri Ramana

Among the 8 scriptural works recommended by Bhagavan for spiritual seekers, the Ribhu Gita is the foremost one. Such is the power of the Ribhu Gita that Bhagavan used to say that just reciting the verses of the Ribhu Gita would itself take one to liberation ribhuwhereas with the other works, it was necessary to study and understand and practice.

When Bhagavan attained Self Realisation at the young age of 16, he had  become a knower of Brahman without even knowing the meaning of the word Brahman. It is only afterwards that he found that his experience of the Self tallied with that of the ancient sages as described in the Upanishads. Bhagavan later described his state as follows:

I did not know that there was an Essence or Impersonal Reality underlying everything and that God and I were both identical with it. Later at Tiruvannamalai, as I listened to the Ribhu Gita and other sacred books, I learnt all this and found that they were analysing and naming what I had felt intuitively without analysis or name”

Moreover Bhagavan felt that the Ribhu Gita was accessible even to ordinary people without high literary skills which are usually required for studying scriptural works.

In accordance with this Sampurnamma, a simple uneducated devotee who had the good fortune of staying at Bhagavan’s feet recalls:

“One day Bhagavan gave me a copy of Ribhu Gita and asked me to study it. I was not at all anxious to pore over a difficult text good only for learned pundits, and asked to be excused saying that I did not understand a single word of it” To this Bhagavan replied, “it does not matter that you do not understand” he said. “still it will be of great benefit to you!”

Bhagavan’s words were proved true years later when all saw Sampurnamma in the ashram as she sat silently and peacefully ever absorbed in the Truth of the Self..

Now what is this Ribhu Gita? Who is the author? The title Ribhu Gita literally means ribhu3the Song of Ribhu and the author is none other than Siva, the Supreme Lord Himself ! The Ribhu Gita comprises the sixth amsa or canto of the hundred thousand verse long epic work Sri Siva Rahasya, and it consists of approximately 2200 stanzas which sing the glory of the Self or Brahman and the unreality of the perceived world. It is a dialogue between the sage Ribhu and his disciple Nidagha.

The story of Ribhu and Nidagha   (as retold by divine life society)                                         Brahma had a son by name Ribhu. Ribhu, by his very nature, possessed a sound knowledge of Brahman. Nidagha, the son of Maharshi Pulastya, was a disciple of Ribhu. Pleased with the good qualities of Nidagha, Ribhu instructed his disciple fully in the knowledge of the Brahman. Ribhu found out that his disciple, though proficient in all the scriptures, was not steady in the knowledge of the Brahman, because he was not able to cognise the one Reality underlying the various objects of the Universe.

Nidagha went and settled himself in Viranagar on the banks of the river Devika and began to lead an ideal life bearing in mind at all times the duties of a true householder. After the lapse of a long time Ribhu went to Viranagar with the object of seeing his disciple Nidagha. Nidagha was waiting at the gate in expectation of a guest after duly performing his daily sacrificial rites. Nidagha welcomed Ribhu warmly and took him inside the house. Nidagha duly worshipped the noble guest and humbly requested him to take his dinner.
Ribhu said, O Brahmin! Please tell me what kind of food you will serve me today. I do not relish unholy foods. Nidagha said, I have got in my house wheat-flour, maize, fruits, roots and loaves of bread. Of these whichever you like I shall be pleased to serve you with.
Ribhu said, I do not want all these useless food-stuffs. Give me good sweets, rice boiled in milk, curds, molasses and other delicious articles.

Then Nidagha said to his wife, O mistress! Soon make ready a very palatable and savoury meal for our guest today with the best of articles available in the house. According to the wishes of her husband, Nidagha’s wife prepared the dinner and he fed Ribhu sumptuously. When Ribhu had just finished his dinner Nidagha humbly requested him thus: O my venerable guest! Was the food tasty? Are you fully satisfied? Where do you live? Where are you proceeding now and wherefrom are you coming?

Ribhu replied, He who is hungry becomes satisfied when he takes a hearty meal. I was never hungry at all and why do you put me this question? When by the constant working of the Jatharagni (digestive fire) the digestive organs get tired, man feels hungry and when the water in the system gets exhausted he feels thirsty. Hunger and thirst are the Dharmas of the body and not mine. Since there is no hunger at all for me, I am always satisfied. Pleasure and satisfaction are the functions of the mind. I am not the mind too. Enquire then about these things whose Dharma is satisfaction, pleasure etc.

Now hearken to me about the other questions ‘Where do you live? Where do you go? And wherefrom are you coming?’ Atman or the Self is all-pervading like the ether and therefore these questions do not at all apply to It. The questions themselves are without basis. I do not go anywhere. I do not come from any place and I do not remain in any one place. These differences of ‘I’, ‘he’ and ‘you’ are in respect of the different bodies and not in reality. The truth is that you are not you. I am not myself nor is he another different from the other two.

A sweet thing is not always sweet. When I requested of you sweet rice etc., my intention was simply to know what you would say. For the really hungry man everything is palatable. The same food which is palatable once begins to give the reverse impression the next moment. When man has taken food to his heart’s content even the most delicious food causes retching. Thus the tasty food becomes non-tasty and vice versa. Further, is there any such food which is uniformly tasty in the beginning, middle and end? This physical body made of earth is kept up by food which is also earth particles in reality. Just as the wall built out of clay is kept strong by coating it with clay now and then, this body also remains healthy and strong by the atoms of food that we take. Barley, wheat, green dhall, oil, milk, curds, sugar, fruits, etc., are all mere atoms of earth only. Then which of these are we to call tasty and which non-tasty? Knowing thus you should educate your differentiating mind and try to see the one underlying thing in all and you should become serene. Serenity is the most important qualification for the attainment of Moksha.
Hearing these words of wisdom Nidagha prostrated before Ribhu and humbly said, O Revered sir! Be gracious unto me. Please reveal thy identity. I think you have come here to bless me with the true knowledge. by hearing your soul-elevating speech I am free from all delusions.
Ribhu replied, O Brahmin! I am your preceptor Ribhu. I came here to give you the knowledge of the Self by which you will be able to distinguish the real from the unreal. I take leave of you now. That which is true and which is fit to be known, I have already told you. Ever meditating on these truths may you find the whole world indwelt by the one Vasudeva! There is not even a grain of difference or duality in it.

Nidagha paid his due respects, worshipped his Guru and lived happily in the true spirit of the teachings of his Guru.

II
After a long number of years had rolled on, Maharshi Ribhu, in order to instruct Nidagha in the knowledge of Self, again went to Viranagar City. When he reached the city he saw that the king of the country had entered the city with a big crowd of followers. He found big crowds of men in every nook and corner of the town busily engaged in the reception of the king. Ribhu noticed Nidagha standing in a secluded place far away from the crowds with Kusa and Samidha in his hands. Nidagha was much afflicted by hunger and thirst but he could not proceed further towards his house due to the huge crowd of men obstructing his way.
Ribhu went near Nidagha and questioned him thus: Dear Brahmin! Why are you standing here alone in quite a solitary corner? Nidagha replied, Today the king of this country has come here and there is much crowd waiting upon him and I cannot push my way through the crowd. Hence I am forced to wait here.

Ribhu said, You seem to know all about this place. Please tell me who is the king and who are the others. Nidagha said, He who is seated on the huge elephant which resembles a big mountain, is the king, and the others are his courtiers who have accompanied him.
Ribhu said, Revered sir, you have described both the elephant and the king jointly and of the two I am at a loss to know who is the king and which is the elephant. You did not definitely point out or give me the description of both distinctly. That I would like to know from you. Nidagha said, Of these that which is below is the elephant and one who sits over it is the king. They have the connection of the carrier and the carried. I do not think that there is anyone who cannot understand even this.

Ribhu said, Yes, I understood that. But please tell me what the words ‘below’ and ‘above’ mean. How am I to understand which is up and which is down?

Nidagha at once got upon the shoulders of Ribhu and exclaimed, Look here, O Brahmin, hearken to me. I shall reply your query. Now I stand ‘up’ like the king and you stand ‘down’ like the elephant. This illustration I have given you practically to make you thoroughly understand what is ‘up’ and what is ‘down’.

Ribhu said, What is ‘up’ and ‘down’? They are relative terms. ‘Up’ becomes ‘down’ and ‘down’ becomes ‘up’ from different positions or angles of vision. You told me now that you were standing up like the king and that I was standing down like the elephant. Please tell me ‘who are you? who am I?’ I am very eager to know the truth of this. Hearing these words Nidagha prostrated at Ribhu’s feet and said, O Lord! You are none other than Rishi Ribhu, my beloved preceptor. No one else can speak like this. You are very intelligent. You who stand in front of me are no other than Maharshi Ribhu. Pray bless me.
Then Ribhu said, O Nidagha! Once you served me with great faith and devotion and welcomed me in your house. You bestowed on me great honour. So bound by the cords of your affection I, known as Ribhu, have come to you once again to instruct you in the knowledge of the Self. O thou of high intellect! Always behold the one reality of the Self in all objects of the world. May you see oneness everywhere and not duality. Saying thus Ribhu departed.

Nidagha contemplated over the nectar-like words of his Guru and attained union with the Para Brahman. He was never again deluded by the charms of Maya. The world of duality entirely vanished and he saw the one homogeneous essence in every object from a blade of grass to the state of the Brahman.

 

 

 

 


The Silent Look

Ramana-classicThe grace of the Guru works in different ways. In scriptures, the working of grace is compared to the ways in which fish, tortoises and birds cause their eggs to hatch. The ancients believed that the mere look of the fish was sufficient to bring life to its eggs. The tortoise, they believed, stayed at some distance from its eggs and by the power of its presence and by its intense concentration on them, caused its eggs to hatch. The third category, the birds, need to have physical contact with their eggs. Sitting on them, they incubate them by the warmth of their body. In this analogy, it is the fish which is the most powerful. By their mere look, their eggs hatch.

This is how Sri Bhagavan’s grace worked. He did not need to initiate or transmit grace by touching devotees, nor did he even seem to need to concentrate on them. A single look was often enough to transform whomever his gaze fell upon. All those who have experienced that look of grace can testify to the tremendous impact it had on them. That silent look transmitted his highest teaching.

A devotee once complained that Sri Bhagavan gave the highest teachings to everyone, irrespective of their limitations. That particular devotee thought that beginners should be given preliminary exercises, along the lines prescribed by traditional gurus. He even offered to teach these people himself and initiate them!

It is a measure of Sri Bhagavan’s greatness that he said that he was not interested in handing out half-truths and lesser teachings. What mattered to him was the dissemination of the purest truth, and for that we shall be eternally grateful.

– from Kunjuswami’s remniscences with Bhagavan as retold in The Power of the Presence


The Karthigai Maha Deepam

aru-deepam2The culmination of the glorious festival of Karthigai Deepam took place on Friday 5th December. On this day the sacred flame or the holy beacon is lit on the summit of  Arunachala hill. The prelude to the Lighting of the Great Flame started inside the big temple at 2 o clock in the morning. At this time, a Yagna or sacred fire Homa is kindled in the Mahamantapam while the Abhishekam to Lord Arunachaleswara is performed in the inner sanctum.

After the puja, Arathi is done by the priests by lighting a huge chunk of camphor on a golden plate and waving it around the Lord. The temple bells start clanging and the musicians beat on their drums. Amidst all these sounds, the temple walls resound with loud cries of devotion. The Arathi is brought outside and shown to the five lamps lit on earthen plates for which the Yagna has been going on. This is Bharani Deepam, the prelude to Karthigai Deepam. Its significance is that the universal Lord manifests as the five elements during the day and in the evening He again becomes the One Absolute Being and shines as Tejolinga when the Deepam is lit on the Hill. (Bharani is one of the 27 stellar constellations through which the moon is believed to pass through successively each day and according to the hindu almanac, Bharani precedes Krithika which is the constellation of Karthigai Deepam).

The earthenware lamps of Bharani Deepam are taken in procession around the temple. A fire torch is lit from the fire of these lamps and taken to the Hill top. Here on the summit there is a huge copper cauldron filled with ghee (poured in by devotees) and a wick made from many metres of cotton cloth rubbed with camphor after being steeped in the ghee. Millions of people have already arrived since morning and start walking giripradakshina around the Hill. The roads are packed with an ocean of people still increasing as the day goes by.

Around sunset, at 6 p.m. to be exact, the deity of Lord Ardhanaareeswara is brought out ceremoniously andDeepam 2014 installed in the DeepaMantapam in the big temple, facing the Hill. After Arathi is shown to the Lord, a thundering blast of fire crackers gives the signal to the men on the summit of the Hill to light the Flame. It is a Full Moon night and as the sun sets in the western sky and the beautiful full moon rises in the east, the flames of the Maha Karthigai Deepam spring forth into the sky on top of Arunachala, creating a wave of ecstatic devotion among the people. A tremendous roar of “Annaamalaiyurukku Haro Haraa” is heard from all directions. The Deepam burns brightly and fills our hearts with the powerful and vibrant presence of the Lord. Everyone stands awe-stricken in front of this splendid sight and thousands fall down on their hands and knees doing Pranaam to the Great Lord. And thus the great festival of Deepam is completed.

However, True Completion happens when it is not only outside with the Lighting of the Flame on the Hill but also inside when the Flame of Jnana is lit correspondingly in the Heart of each being.


The Origin of Karthigai Deepam

 The festival of Karthigai Deepam which is approaching soon is the one of the oldest living festivals in India. It takes place in theArunachala_Deepam-58 Tamil month of Karthigai when the star Kirthiga is on the ascendant and usually occurs on a full moon day. In ancient tamil literature, the oldest available work Tolkappiyam which dates back to 2500 B.C. carries a marked reference to this festival. In another ancient Tamil classic, the Kalavazhi Naarpadu, dating back to the third Sangam period (around 1000 B.C.), the poet writes, “In the battle, the blood oozing out from the dead soldiers’ bodies is like the red coloured flame of the light lit on Karthigai Deepam”. Another song in Sambandar’s Thevaram says that the Lord is verily the Deepam (lit during the Karthigai festival)

Everyone knows that Karthigam Deepam is the lighting of the flame on the summit of Arunachala on Karthigai day but not many people know about why this festival is celebrated. Readers may remember the legend of the Navaratri festival in earlier posts about how Goddess Parvathi having incurred the wrath of her husband, LordArunachala_Deepam-40 Shiva, came to the holy hill of Arunachala to do Tapas and regain the favour of her Lord. And so, after a long period of arduous Tapas which the Goddess Parvathi performed with great devotion and strength, Lord Shiva’s wrath was appeased and He came down to Arunachala to take her back. When He arrived, Lord Shiva was so moved by the strength and force which emanated from the Goddess as a result of her Tapas that he decided that She was his equal in every way. Therefore he granted her half his body so that the Two would become totally united in One form. This was the birth of Ardhanareeswara. Physically It signifies the Divine Union of Shiva and Parvathi. Spiritually it signifies the divine union of Advaita. Not two but One. Shiva and Parvathi are not two but One. Man and God are not different but united as One in the non-dual Self, the Absolute Consciousness!

Arunachala_Deepam-60This momentous event is believed to have happened in the month of Karthigai on the day of Kirthiga Nakshatra and that is why till today the flame is lit on the summit of Arunachala in memory and honour of this wonderful Union which unite Man and God.

When Sri Muruganar asked Bhagavan Ramana about the significance of the Karthigai Deepam festival, Bhagavan composed a stanza of four lines in which He says,The true significance of the Karthigai Deepam festival is to turn the intellect inwards and have it fixed in the Heart, thereby merging it with the indweller of the Heart


Navaratri

navaratri1The grand festival of Navarathri is in full swing in the Ashram of Ramana. Traditionally this is a time of worshipping the Goddess Parvathi in all her different forms notably Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi.

As the name denotes, Navaratri is a festival of nine nights dedicated to the Goddess Shakthi (Parvathi or Amba) in her different manifestations. The legend of Navarathri starts with the penance of the Goddess on the slopes of Arunachala. Separated from her Lord (due to having playfully closed his eyes with her hands), the Goddess yearns to be reunited with Him. The great sage Guatama advises her to perform penance on the slopes of the holy Hill Arunachala and accordingly she comes here and sits in Tapas (penance). She follows the various scriptural injunctions and exhibits her devotion to the Lord in various ways. During the nine days of penance she manifests herself each day in one of her different forms. On the tenth day she assumes a terrifying form of Mahishasura Mardhini, slayer of demons and vanquishes the evil demon Mahisha on the slopes of Arunachala. Thus this festival is of particular significance in Tiruvannamalai since it was here, millions of years ago, that the first Navarathri actually happened.

In Ramanashram, the Navaratri festival is celebrated elaborately. On the night of Mahavalya Amavasya, the goddess Yogambikanvt7 is brought out of her niche in the Mother’s shrine and taken on procession around the Samadhi of Ramana. After this, she is installed in a beautiful decorated pedestal behind the Nandi of the Mother’s shrine. Every night for nine days, the goddess is decorated splendidly in silk attire, gold jewels and flowers, depicting each day a different aspect. After the Alamkaram, arathi puja is performed by the priests in an elaborate manner. Hundreds of devotees from all over throng the new hall every evening to witness this spectacle.

nvt9It will be interesting to see what Bhagavan Sri Ramana had to say about this celebration. In Letters from Ramanasramam, Suri Nagamma recounts to her brother in a letter dated 27th January 1946. “You have seen the decorations made in the shrine of Mathrabhutheswara on the Ramana-classicfirst day of Navarathri festival last year. There was a different type of decoration every day in accordance with the puranic story that Amba went out to do Tapas as she could not bear the separation from the Shiva. So the idol of Amba was decorated suitably and was put in the shade of a tree. After the night meal was over that day, Bhagavan was taken to that place and was shown that idol. Next morning in the hall, while talking about the ornamentation in the temple and in this shrine, Bhagavan said, “Yesterday’s ornamentation was intended to show that Amba was doing Tapas. Unable to bear the separation, she goes out to do Tapas (penance) here. But Parvathi is depicted as sitting in a stylish pose under a tree to do Tapas, wearing a silk sari, gold jewels and flower garlands! What our people do is always like this. Tapas means meditation connected with the practice of self-denial or bodily mortification, does it not? Amba is reported to have closed the eyes of Shiva with both her hands for fun and to expiate that sin, Parameswara asked her to perform penance, and so she left her husband, went to a lonely place, and in self-mortification, forgot about her body, became weak and with great austerity, performed Tapas. But see the way Amba is now decorated to depict that story. She is dressed like a Maharani with diamonds and emeralds and gold ornaments and wearing a silk sari and flower garlands!”


God is beyond words

Ramana_Maharshi-18
God is beyond words. No words would ever be able to describe Him. He can only be felt. How? The test is simple. One would feel total peace an indescribable peace, by being with Him. In His presence, no questions, doubts and thoughts would distract one’s mind. Further, the peace secured is beyond words and makes one fulfilled and consumed. In that situation one feels kritkritya, there being no need for any thing more to be achieved in life. Here are a few statements about the Godhood of Sri Ramana, made by those who had the good fortune of being in His presence, according to their capacity to find words to record their experiences:
Paul Brunton: The Maharshi emanates the perfume of spiritual peace as the flower emanates fragrance from its petals The peace overwhelms me. I know that there is nothing further that I shall ask from life ¦In the extraordinary peace, I find a sense of exaltation and lightness. Time seems to stand still. My heart is released from the burden of care.
Justice Sundaram Chettiar: His very presence generates an atmosphere of peace.
Grant Duff: The moment he looked at me, I felt he was the Truth and the Light. I was in direct contact with one who has passed beyond the boundaries of senses and was merged in the Absolute.
Justice Chandrasekhar Aiyar: The Maharshi was the veritable storehouse of spiritual energy. He radiates shanti or peace. To be in his presence is by itself a stirring experience in the elevation of the soul.
Eleanor Pauline Noye: When He smiled it was as though the gets of Heaven were thrown open ¦At His feet happiness garlanded me.
Ella Maillart: He implants a lasting peace in the centre of every heart He is a link between the unknowable ultimate and man.
Duncan Greenlees: My mind was caught and held in that peace in a blissfulness it had never known before. He is greatness incarnate.
Balarama Reddy: Just to think of him or sit in his presence used to rouse us to higher levels of blessedness The Divine power of his presence was something remarkable, entirely outstanding.
S.S. Cohen: Joy and peace suffused my being. Never before had I such a delightful feeling of purity Ramana_Maharshi-19and well-being at the mere proximity of a man. He was a beacon light in an impenetrable darkness.
K.K.Nambiar: I felt an indescribable sense of calmness settling over me He was a mighty spiritual magnet, Divinity in human form.
Arthur Osborne: The Maharshi was Divine Grace in human form. For the first time in my life I understood what the grace and blessings of a guru could mean.
Prof. G.V. Subbaramayya: As our eyes met, there was a miraculous effect on my mind and I felt as if I had plunged into a pool of peace. I sat in a state of ecstasy for nearly an hour.
Major Chadwick: It is impossible to describe or even believe what the Maharshi was, unless you have seen it yourself.
Prof. K. Swaminathan: The pure happiness I enjoyed was that of a child when it sits securely in its mother’s lap.
Akilandamma: The gracious power that prevailed in that holy place numbed the mind so effectively that the visitors to Bhagavan’s room were automatically silenced.
Swami Madhavatirtha: While in the presence of the Maharshi, my breath seemed to stop for a while and my mind was elevated into some spiritual realm of unutterable peace and happiness.
Kunju Swami: As Bhagavan’s gracious look was fixed on me, all my confusions ceased and I experienced a peace and bliss, I had never experienced before.
Chhaganlal V. Yogi: The light of the Maharshi’s eyes was suffusing my consciousness. Even without being aware of it, his silent gaze brought about a subtle but definite transformation in me.
Viswanatha Swami: In the Maharshi’s presence the unique bliss of peace was directly experienced.
Walter Keers: The light radiating from the Maharshi filled my being, sweeping away all my darkness in one stroke. His presence alone was enough to evaporate the usual mental flow of thoughts, ideas and problems.
Mouni Sadhu: Being near the Maharshi one feels the presence of God as a matter of course, no arguments or proofs are necessary.
Pascaline Mallet: To look into his eyes was to be caught up into bliss that is beyond understanding.
M.A. Piggot: When he smiled I felt as if all the flowers in the world had poured their fragrance into our midst.
Ramanadasa Sadananda: Contagious was his bliss! He sends forth beams of light of jnana by his mere proximity and fills even the unhappy with joy and peace by his very presence.
F.H. Humphreys: The Maharshi’s body was not of man; it was an instrument of God from which God was radiating terrifically.
Dr. P.V. Karamchandani: The vibrations which emanated from the Maharshi were heavenly. His spirituality completely enveloped us and our minds attained a state of blissful meditation.
V.Kameshwar Rao: When I sat before the Maharshi, I felt that I was in the presence of God.
T.K.Sundaresa Iyer: A life-giving current flowed from the Maharshi, charging all those nearby.
N.O.Mehta: In the presence of the Maharshi, we were in a world totally different from the one we had left behind.
Santha Rangachary: There was an irresistible and indefinable spiritual power about the Maharshi, which completely overwhelmed me.
Srimat Puragara Parampanthi: The Maharshi’s spiritual presence was dynamic and clearly perceptible. It touched me and I felt suddenly the presence of a spiritual power taking me to a higher plane.
RONA019PN. Ponniah: Nothing seemed more enjoyable in this world than to sit in silence in the holy presence of the Maharshi. I felt a sort of electric charge an unusual vibrating sensation.
Morarji Desai: One gets transformed by his very presence.
T.S. Anantha Murthy: Sri Ramana was Brahman in human form. Spiritual illumination was enshrined in him.
Suzanne Alexandra: The Maharshi is a king of yogis. The splendour of his Realisation radiates like a sun. He lifts you far above the world.
K. Vithoba Kamath: The Maharshi radiated spiritual splendour through sublime silence.
Atmakuri Govindacharyulu: The Maharshi is an ocean of peace. He rules all through silence.
Shanti: In the Maharshi’s presence, the mind becomes calm and tranquil of its own accord. Doubts and questions become few and finally vanished.
Words would fail to grasp the greatness of Sri Ramana the Supreme incarnate in human form, who always kept an appearance of a humble and run-of-the-mill person. Grant Duff, a British scholar, noted in 1935: “Never in world history was the Supreme Truth placed within such easy reach of so vast a multitude. We bow to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.”
Source: Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, a publication of Sri Ramana Kendram, Hyderabad)